REVIEWS

Visually delightful, structurally complex, narratively satisfying

«Intellectual art at its visceral best. This stuff kicks you in the gonads, and then slaps your brain around. It’s raw, and difficult to apprehend straight-on. Best to FEEL this piece. And let the thinking happen in the cracks. I loved it. Bravo.» (Roy Blumenthal)

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Now Read This!

NeMo Balkanski’s FIB Chronicle

Some creators seduce and beguile but others choose to inform and affect with confrontational shock tactics…

The most wonderful thing about the comics medium is the limitless ways stories and art can be combined to educate, elucidate and entertain. For every Hergé there’s a Harvey Pekar, for every Alfred Bestall a Johnny Ryan (and John Ryan too) and so on, and there are comic strips to suit literally every age and temperament.

Some of the most evocative and addictively uncompromising efforts that I’ve seen in quite a while appear in this collection from Belgrade émigré Nemanja Moravic Balkanski, whose stunningly disturbing spoofs and edgy cultural pastiches have been gathered into a magnificent oversized full-colour hardback FIB Chronicle.

Balkanski was born in Belgrade in 1975 and, after mastering a multitude of artistic disciplines from comics to graphic design, theatre arts to film-making, and poetry to performance, emigrated to Vancouver 2007. Much of this vintage material contained here (also available as an app) come from his Balkan days, represented in this disquietingly substantial and blackly comic tome under the guiding conceit that the individual escapades of a nightmarish cast of distressing ne’er-do-wells and uncanny outcasts have been gathered into a damning dossier thanks to the scurrilous non-efforts of the far-from-intrepid clandestine agents of the Fabulous Investigation Bureau.

The result is a selection of their most atypical observations – presumably leaked here as a wake-up call to unwitting and complacent humanity…

The iconoclastic strips gathered here date from 1998-2005 and, supplemented by new bridging material in a staggering variety of artistic styles, describe a dark and disturbing underworld of barely perceived and unwisely ignored peril and surreal threat wrapped up in careful pastiche and savage parody…

US cop dramas come under the cosh when corruptly hip detective Cash Money experiences ‘Hair Fear’ and tackles feminist terror in ‘W.T.N. Griffit’ whilst tragic, plucky waif Boy Lyndo gets his shot at a happy ever after in ‘The Final Episode’ and the bizarre habits of a cult of Mel Gibson impersonators is exposed in ‘Gipsons vs Graduates’ after which gay lovers walk hand-in-hand down the wrong street in the weird war story ‘Jelly & Butter’ – a yarn conceived by Balkanski’s long-time collaborator Vladimir Protic.

A theatrical slasher-killer appears in ‘Space (the Final Frontier)’ and scatological stoner anthropomorph ‘Bud Bunny’ plays not-so-nice games with the other animals before fashion-plate Eau de Cologne falls foul of the harpy-ish harridans known as the BigDos in ‘Trigger’ and we are exposed to ‘Johnny McWire Getting the Beating of his Life’ and ‘Mr. Friday Night’ goes home alone yet again…

Booze and Balkan warriors come under the microscope one more in ‘Galactica, the Space Bottlesip’ (based on Branimir “Johnny” Štulić’s poem “Sons of Bitches”) after which the file devotes a lot of crazed and crucial pages to cybernetic dreamer Digital Standstill’s climactic confrontation with ‘BigDo’s’ before we observe a salutary encounter with the ‘Psycho from 134th Street’ (scripted by Protic).

The battle against creeping communism is examined in the uplifting tale of ‘Little Mexico: El Dentista’, the nature of modern relationships in ‘It is My Friend’ and the value of introspection in ‘Sam Lr. Stag: His Life was a Drag’ before the life of a fascist monster is dissected in ‘Shalken Rösse’ and we are treated, in conclusion, to the meteoric rise and political acumen of the transcendent of ‘Melon Pig’, courtesy of Protic and Balkanski…

With additional articles, ‘Declassification Files’, a glossary of new words and expressions and even a few game-pages for the strong-stomached, this tainted love-affair with life’s moist and fetid underbelly is a dank graphic delight that not even every mature and cosmopolitan reader will enjoy: but for those with just the right blend of world-weary insouciance and malignant, undemanding innocence the words and pictures married together here will strike an unforgettable chord.

Strident, cruel, sardonically whimsical, overwhelmingly clever and bleakly hilarious in a Kafka meets Steven Wright channelling Bill Hicks kind of way, this absurdist, hauntingly affecting and astonishingly illustrated book is a uniquely entertaining read the brave and bold and reasonably old won’t dare to miss…

by Win Wiacek.

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CBMR

FIB CHRONICLE – A COMIC ON THE RUN

Have you ever been hounded before? Persecuted? Scared for your very life? Due to Capri of fate, or big men with bigger sticks? My artistic buddy, Nemo, has. But do you know how he battles against this source of oppression? No? Me neither. Even after we had a chat just the other day, whilst hiding in a cave, talking about his comic of revolution and mirth.

In your own words, how would you describe your comic, FIB Chronicle?
It presents a truth about ordinary people and their life that became dull because of global changes.

What are your own origins Nemo, and what was the path you took to get where you are today?
I was an agent. Now I’m marked as a traitor and I’ll have to hide for the rest of my life, otherwise, I’ll have to uncover and destroy FIB in order to live as a free man.

How would you describe the style and the tone of your website, fib.thepublishingeye.com, and how did it come into existence?
The website is just a way to disseminate the truth (as for the book and the iPad app), another step towards freedom.

What piece of music, movie, or object, would you say your comic was like, and why?
It could be a joint, a doobie or a blunt, because it needs to be passed in many hands. Its content can be perceived as illegal by some, and it’s got a soothing and pondering effect. To quote a good friend of mine, Bud Bunny, “Pass the Kutchie bro”! (Something you pass around)

Do you have any amusing stories about your wares? Also, have you had any media recognition.
No, no one recognizes anything nowadays. Nobody’s ready for the truth.

Your style of art has a lot of depth to the composition compared to it in content, and it is very contrasting as well. Can you explain the reason behind this please?
I was hired as an agent because of my drawing skills. Then I just had to detail the specific atmosphere around the investigated suspect. There’s nothing else to it.

Who are your inspirations? Both artistic and story wise.
Colonel Life (cf. FIB Chronicle) because the world needs more rebels to replace the lost ones (RIP Moebius).

If your website was a ‘singleton’ looking for a ‘date’, who would that date be and why?
Actually, it is a hermaphrodite, and can reproduce itself. Though, it’s also of easy virtue and would gladly date any other independent and impertinent counterpart, Last Gasp for instance!

If your comic has a message behind it, what would it be, and why would you want to convey it?
I just want to be a free man and live in a free world.

Bless you Nemo, you are one wild crazy cat. Meow! So there you have it folks, a comic primed for revolution. When you have the chance, please give fib.thepublishingeye.com a click. It’s one of those happenings, like… Give Peace a Chance.

interview by Jay from Comic Book and Movie Reviews.

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A Study on Life through the Eyes of a Madman

FIB Chronicle is an independent graphic novel that pushes the boundaries of reality and shows a gritty, bitter side of life. It is not for sensitive viewers. It is not for people with conservative ideologies. It will offend you, and if it doesn’t there may be something wrong with you.

It is hard to review this app when it is the complete opposite of the kind of digital book reviews we normally write. I was tempted to pass on it altogether, but I appreciate the painfully raw content for its artistic value, so I will just warn you of its somewhat adult nature first.

I’ve been to my share of “Sick and Twisted” midnight cartoon screenings. I embrace lowbrow art as some of the finest. I was not the least bit shocked to see a drunk police detective, pooping in an alley while a criminal was about to assault a screaming woman. I was, however, offended by often-used derogatory terms for women and homosexuals. The writer was likely intending to use those words as a means to convey a message about tolerance, but quite honestly, it was hard to tell.

Each vignette of the book is only a page or two long. The stories are disjointed and confused. My uncle suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the dialog in these comic strips reminded me of the way he talks. I don’t mean the content, but the broken, stream-of-conscience, delivery of thoughts that this book seems to have.

Why, you may be wondering, am I even writing a review about this app then? Because it is beautiful and painful, artistic and sad. It evokes emotion in its reader. As I swiped from page to page, I felt anger and unrest. Some pages almost seem like diary entries of an abused child, while others seem like the doodles of a psychopath.

While the content is brash and unnerving, there is a sort of beauty hidden in the pages of the FIB Chronicle. It is not unlike an artwork by Marcel Duchamp, or a film by David Lynch.

What I liked: The book stirred up feelings in me that were both confusing and upsetting. I appreciate that a comic strip can cause so much emotion.

What I didn’t like: The writer’s decision to use offensive names without taking a stand on whether he considers them good or bad was an unnecessary shock tactic.

To buy or not to buy: I cannot recommend this book to everyone, or even most people. There are some out there who will understand the complexity of the gritty content and appreciate it for its rawness. To those people, I say, buy it.

by Lory.

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Comic Syrup

FIB Chronicle was created by writer and artist Nemo Balkanski of Vancouver, BC and formerly of Belgrade, Serbia. It was published by Vancouver based and recently launched multi-media publisher, The Publishing Eye, whose mission is to produce “visual culture for the conscious mind”.

This is certainly evident in FIB Chronicle which is a collection of comics featuring thinly veiled spoofs and criticisms of political and socially recognizable figures as well as the failings of society itself. Each comic features a distinctive character and is usually no longer than two or three pages. By the end of the book there is a large collection of heroes and anti-heroes. Mostly anti-heroes.

Although many adult comics have been described as gritty, Nemo’s writing style definitely creates a real friction. The yellow tape across the front cover repeats “This is not for children” and for good reason. Many of his most villainous characters are made up of distinctly human characteristics causing them to be all the more loathsome. The comics, meant to expose and to educate, incite feelings of sadness, irrationality, fear and dark humour that are common within the human psyche, and are therefore more effective in creating the dark and shocking tone Nemo is aiming for. For example, a man graciously holds the elevator for a woman with groceries. When they are inside he pulls out a knife an tells her about his unstable behaviour.

Despite the hard stories within the comics, it is hard not to be impressed by the breathtaking artwork which is mostly done in ink and water colour. Balkanski’s stylistic creativity is showcased throughout the book and his compositions complement his stories fantastically.

The book is also produced with very a high production quality which adds to the glamour but contributes to the shock of the offensive but excellent stories within. To get a sampling of the book, check out this trailer. But be careful, child or not, these stories will turn your head.

by Rachel Peabody.

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visceral

Recently my friend Jerome Bacconnier launched The Publishing Eye, a multimedia publishing operation that styles itself “visual culture for the conscious mind.” But this is also a visceral art that is emphatically affective and immediately appeals to (or rather, assaults) the physical senses. It is equally, then, visual culture for the embodied mind.

Take the Publishing Eye’s most ambitious undertaking to date, a hardback comic book by NeMo Balkanski called The FIB Chronicle. This is a beautiful object, with high production standards: glossy paper, robust binding, clean and crisp images. Perhaps then this is why the front cover has to be wrapped with police-style crime-scene tape warning that “this is not for children.” “Beware,” it seems to be saying: “Don’t let a pretty cover fool you.”

Indeed, on second glance the cover is not quite so pretty. What seems at first to be simply a generically noirish scene turns out to be the depiction of an interrogation with strong undercurrents of torture. A cartoonish pig is trussed up, its eyes black and blue and its face bloody, while all around, much more realistically drawn, are the shadowy figures of men in suits and uniforms. It’s as though the cute little animal of some classic children’s story has unexpectedly wandered into a darker and more violent world.

Or perhaps the cover is an indication that the conventions of the comic genre itself are to be mistreated and abused. Is the point that they will “squeal” and tell us what they know? Or are we just to glean some guilty enjoyment out of the exercise?

What follows, within the book’s elegant covers, are a series of short strips (each usually no more than a couple of pages long) that raucously parody popular cultural genres such as the police procedural, the private eye, the war story, or the fairy tale. The loose frame is the notion that these are secret files from the clandestine “Fabulous Investigations Bureau.” But the common theme is a scabrous anti-humour that effects a kind of scorched-earth assault on the very enterprise of drawing comics.

The very first story, for instance, features a “Detective Harddick” who while taking a shit in a back alley accidentally interrupts a man attacking a scantily-clad young woman. Somewhat to the detective’s surprise, the would-be killer runs of and his victim is saved. “Oh, How can I ever repay you?” she asks the cop in the final frame. “Well, how about a blow job?” he replies as they walk off arm in arm.

The drawing here is in the manner of Robert Crumb–an artist who is not exactly kid’s fare, but who is never quite so abrupt or so scathing. Instead of Crumb’s stoner antics or (increasingly) world-weary reflections on everyday life, Balkanski gives us psychopathic violence and institutional incompetence, sleaze, and corruption, leavened only by the toilet humor of public defecation. Nice, it isn’t.

One of the book’s very last strips also deals with the topic of an unexpected salvation with a bitter aftertaste. Here, the drawing style is closer to the tradition of surreal or stylized European animation. Jan Švankmajer, say. The setting is an un-named and undated war: it could be World War II, it could be the more recent Balkan conflicts; an epaulette suggests the Croatian flag. An executioner and his sidekick are about to cut a man’s throat. But the trace of a “small ray of innocence” induces madness and allows the would-be victim to go free. Striding off, the reprieved man shouts out “Eat Shit and Die.” The end.

I can’t say that this is exactly my cup of tea, but that’s not really the point. It’s not supposed to be anybody’s cup of tea. Some, however, will take to it more easily than others. At times the stories seem to blur the line between a critical parody and indulgent fantasy. Or rather, this isn’t a critique: it’s an attempt to provoke revulsion; the danger is that the reader may be tempted to identify with (or rather, not to disidentify from) some of the many sad passions that the book lays bare. A parody of (say) misogyny or homophobia can be uncomfortably close to the real thing.

Still, this is an undoubtedly brave first “Publishing Eye” venture. It probes the limits of the comic-book form, and if it makes its readers squeal then I think that Jerome will be happy enough.

by Jon Beasley-Murray.

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NeMo Balkanski’s adults-only comics

The faux-police tape across the cover of comic book FIB Chronicle saying “THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN” is kind of an understatement. No matter how old you are, there are plenty of sick and twisted comics in between the covers of Vancouver-based Publishing Eye’s latest release.

Not only is Belgrade-born/Vancouver-based artist NeMo Balkanski’s ass-crack dark satire not for children, but if you’re sickened by the idea of a nippled-ballsack wearing an army helmet, then this book probably isn’t for you either.

FIB Chronicle is a slick hardcover book with 17 filthy comic strips, assembled almost schizophrenically. Holding everything together is the premise that each strip acts as a “case file” used by a clandestine organization – the titular Fabulous Investigation Bureau – that control society’s perception of reality. Or something.

Did I already mention the part about the nippled-ballsack wearing an army helmet? Because there’s also a story about a corrupt, deadbeat cop that pees himself and looks like Nick Nolte’s character from 48 Hours. There’s a homicidal cult that answers to Mel Gibson, and a tale about a talking pig with a pumpkin for a body and a heavy political message.

The book is a perfect showcase for Balkanski’s schizophrenic, ultra messed-up imagery and allows him to show his range and many influences – from Ralph Steadman to surrealist painters to filthy underground comix.

by Ryan Ingram.

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FIB Chronicle

We are delighted to have NeMo Balkanski’s FIB CHRONICLE. One of the most imaginative comic books we’ve ever had on our shelves. THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN is plastered all over the cover (no really, it is, in police WARNING yellow tape like style) and it definitely is not for children or the faint of heart.

In FIB Chronicle, artist/writer NeMo Balkanski (and his sometime collaborator, Vladimir Protic) deliver a unique graphic album of darkly delicious treats that walk the line between the mature graphic traditions of Europe and the edgy/cheeky heritage of North America’s great Underground cartoonists, such as Robert Crumb or Canada’s own Rand Holmes. Balkanski’s works collected here show a startlingly diverse range of styles in multiple tales that stretch from one to multiple pages, almost giving the reader the impression of reading an anthology by a number of creators.

Characters like ‘Cash Money’ and ‘Gipsons’ are well-known celebrities in an almost Mad Magazine-esque way but even darker. ‘Boy Lindo’, as another example, tells the story of a little boy who finds a way to escape from his oppressive urban surroundings, while ‘Jelly & Butter’ portrays the plight of gay lovers in a time of war. Many other short works provide various characterizations like ‘Melon Pig’ in edgy and challenging tales while some characters like ‘Bud Bunny’ offer fairly straight-forward stoner laughs.

by Ken Boesem.

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«Just finished going through my copy and I will be opening it over and over again. The drawings are beautiful and I love that there are so many stories and characters… Beautiful comic book, a keeper!» (Émilie)


[ copyright © nemo balkanski and the publishing eye, 2011-2012. all rights reserved.

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