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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Word Ballon: Sky Doll

Hey all,

With this month's Word Balloon I thought it was time for a trip across the pond to look at a great foreign language book, specifically Soleil Book's Sky Doll, by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa. Comics are truly a worldwide currency for art in all of its forms. There is a huge market for books in France and Italy, as well as the entire Manga phenomenon in Japan. What's great about books from other countries is the different types of works that get published.

As a long time reader of comics, I start to look for books that set themselves apart from the field. In America, Superheroes are the rule of the day and most of the books that publishers put out dominate the shelves. That's why I look for great publications from indie publishers or DC Comics Vertigo Imprint. They realize that while many American readers hold capes and cowls close to our hearts, a meal with only one course gets stale. That's what I look for in a book. Sure I want superheroes, but I also want something that challenges the norm.

Soleil is a publisher from France who specializes in publishing large scale works in graphic novel form. They are not so much concerned with publishing a monthly comic, but with creating works with high production values and grand ideas. While most of their better known work is aimed at an older audience rather than kids, they produce a variety of titles under their banner.

Sky Doll is by far their most famous publication. It is set in a science fiction based future world where religion and the effects of mass media rule the day. Two missionaries named Roy and Jahu have been dispatched to uproot a growing heretical religion from the governing religious body, led by a woman named Lodovica. Along the way they meet a Sky Doll, a life like android female who is designed to do whatever work the state mandates. The Sky Doll, named Noa, befriends the innocent and trusting Roy, who helps her escape her crooked master with the begrudging help of the distrustful Jahu.

As the missionaries arrive on the planet to stop this new growing religion, a change begins to happen, not only to Roy, but Noa, who may be more than just a simple Sky Doll. Behind all this is the ruling papacy, Lodovica, who we learn has taken over ruling with the death of her sister Agape. Lodovica is a ruler through the effects of playing the masses through the media, and is not as truly loved as her sister Agape. In the end, the effect of Noa begins to change the way people view the world.

Sky Doll is a book of lofty themes, the duality of the spiritual versus the physical. Especially in shining a light on the effect the media has in creating figures of worship. How the right path isn't always he easy path and the value of believing in yourself despite what the masses say.

The world that the creators have instructed is a cross between Rome and Star Wars, filled with fantastic creatures and planets, starships and galaxies. On the home world it resembles a future Rome, a mix of Baroque era architecture and imagry that somehow seemingly blends the fantastic with the old world. Somehow starships and alien life looks perfectly natural in a world that could be in our future.

The art itself is simply spectacular, a blend of smooth clean lines and vibrant colors, it may be visually the most visually impressive overall presentation to a book I have ever seen. I first "read" Sky Doll as an import from Soleil in a series of beautiful hardcovers. I say read because the book was an import and all the text was in the creators native Italian. It didn't matter that I couldn't read the words, because visually it was a masterful piece of story telling. I didn't need to know what they were saying, the story was in the pictures, whose vibrant hues seemed to leap off of the page.

Recently Marvel Comics, in conjunction with Soleil Books, have begun English language translations of some of Soleil's best titles, the first of which they produced was Sky Doll itself. I now got to read the story to go with the words I had been looking at all these years. While I think some of the impact IS lost in the ranslation, the visual cues are still as powerful as ever. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a visual treat and who is ready for a book that transcends standard superhero fare.

Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa currently has three finished volumes, all of which are available in Marvel's recently collected graphic novel of all three chapters, or from Soleil in their single volume formats without translation. I have also read that a forth volume is currently in the works. I said before that comics are a worldwide currency, do both of us a favor and check out the exchange rate of this great series.

Oh, as a bonus, my good friend and roommate just finished a Sky Doll head shot of Noa on his blog, click the Idle Hands link and check out a glimpse of what your in for! I think he really captures the smooth essence and clean look that the series is known for.

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