February is usually the heart of a long cold Winter here in the American Snow Belt. As this article is being written we are having an unusually warm season with temperatures hitting the mid 50s! Regardless of the April in February weather, the Comics Shots team is dedicating this month to drinks that warm the body and the soul.
For those of us that live in parts of the world where the cold winds blow and the snow piles up, warm Winter drinks are a welcome way to find some enjoyment amidst the frigid temps. On a snowy evening, Coffees, Teas and Hot Cocoa are all great when you want to curl up on the couch and read a good comic. Each of those is even better with the addition of something from the liquor cabinet. My personal favorite is a twist on a traditional drink that has long been a Winter staple as well as a remedy for the unavoidable seasonal sniffles. The Hot Toddy.
My version is a little (OK, a lot) larger than your normal Toddy. I also use a slightly different mix of ingredients. Just like a Bloody Mary, a Hot Toddy can have a million variations without any of them being wrong. A Hot Toddy is basically a warm drink with some kind liquor to help warm the bones. A common variety is made with Irish Whiskey, boiling water, honey and lemon. It’s very good, and the basis for my:
To make your Giant Sized Rye Toddy, start by filling and heating a tea kettle. While the water in the kettle is heating up, you can get everything else ready. In your Giant Mug, add 1 tps of Brown Sugar and 2 shots of Rye Whiskey. Cut a 1/4″ slice of Lemon and stick a clove into each section and add clove side up to your mug. When the kettle is ready, pour the boiling water in the mug and let the clove spiked lemon steep while the mixture cools. You may need to stir the Toddy slightly to make sure the sugar and Rye are well distributed.
I like Rye Whiskey for my Hot Toddy because it adds a little hint of pepper to the drink. Rye’s have a touch of spice that other whiskeys lack, so I enjoy them when I want a little back end burn. That’s perfect for a Hot Toddy when you want to help shake a cough or just warm the pipes. The brown sugar can easily be replaced with honey. The key is to steep the lemon and cloves with boiling water and make sure that everything is working together to produce the hot, soothing drink.
Now go grab a blanket and your new favorite comic about Victorian Era Icepunk adventuring…
The Arctic Marauder
Writer & Artist: Jacques Tardi
Fantagraphics has been doing the English reading comics world a great service by releasing much of Jacques Tardis’ work in newly translated and wonderfully packaged collections. Tardi is probably best known for the graphic albums that chronicle Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec OR The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. If you haven’t read the two Fantagraphics volumes, or seen the movie adaptation, they are all highly recommended. In addition to those collections, A Sniper Lining Up His Shot, It Was The War In The Trenches, West Coast Blues & You Are There are all more than worthy of a spot on your bookshelves.
For this comic book/beverage pairing we’re going back to some of Tardi’s earliest published work with1974′s Le Démon des glaces OR The Arctic Marauder. Long before the term Steampunk was coined, Tardi was making his own comics of high science and exploration during the Victorian Era. The Arctic Marauder is set in 1889 and follows the adventures of Jerome Plumier as he explores the icy North Atlantic and later investigates the mysterious death of his uncle. Along the way there are Ghost Ships, submarines, laboratories, giant sea monsters, monkeys in jars, flying machines and secret government agents. Everything a great comic should have and more.
There is a wonderful sense of youth in Plumier as he explores the unknown and searches for the answers to his uncle’s demise. The turn of the century, in fact and fiction, was full of pioneering spirit and that is reflected in Plumier. It’s an exciting time of discovery and Plumier wants to be a part of that. While not a Man of Action, he will do what he must to bring the world knowledge. The adventure is only necessary to finding the answers.
The Arctic Marauder is certainly a quirky story. There are times when the plot is traveling down a well worn path and just when you get comfortable it swerves onto a road you didn’t expect. Plumier is eventually faced with the realization that the world may not reward him for his efforts in the ways he wants. Seeing a bitter and near-defeated future vision of himself creates consequences the reader may not expect. Assuming that the character you’re following in a story is ultimately “good” is usually a given. Tardi throws those rules out the window. By raising the question of why explorers and scientists search for knowledge, Tardi looks at the heart of Men and what truly motivates them. And there are giant mechanical icebergs!
While reading this, you may want to remind yourself that story is almost forty years old. Tardi was defying comics stereotypes in France in ways that were both similar and different to what Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin and others were doing in American mainstream comics at the time. Questioning what “The Hero” was and making the reader think about their own views of right and wrong. Where many Bronze Age comics have some trouble appealing to the modern pallet, Tardi’s work may just be odd enough to be timeless. Being translated from French might be one of the ingredients that makes all of this this work so well. The ideas are amazing, and the translated dialog feels odd but not dated.
The art of The Arctic Marauder is Stunning. With a capitol S. Tardi’s clean line style is augmented with bold blacks that give this tale an atmosphere of brooding dread. Everything looks slightly surreal and dreamlike. The scenes in France feel chilled and damp, while the scenes in the North Atlantic call for another sip of that Hot Toddy. If you are a fan of Mignolas’ Hellboy universe, you understand how much the atmosphere of a comic can enhance a story. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find that The Arctic Marauder was an influence at some point for Mignola.
Tardi’s characters have a cartoonist touch, but his environments are incredibly detailed. The integration of the styles create a stunning (there’s that word again) contrast of the real and imagined. Many of the pages in this collection demand that the reader stop and gaze at the intricacy of design and illustration. One image of a ship perched atop a skyscraper-esque iceberg might make the $16.99 price tag worth it all by itself. Tardi’s layouts change from page to page as he switches from rigid grids to almost architectural designs that utilize circular and curved portals into the world of The Arctic Marauder. And that really is how the book feels; like a glimpse into another world. Isn’t that what comics should always do?
Jacques Tardis is a master storyteller, and The Arctic Marauder is a great place to start reading his work. If you’ve ever had an interest in expanding your comics enjoyment to European comics, this may be the book for you. But only if you like beautiful, smart and imaginative stories of high adventure.
Chris Neseman is the host of The Around Comics Podcast and a co-host of the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and suggest a cocktail or comic of your own, because good drinks and good comics should be shared. Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy only the amount of comics that you can until your wife or significant other threatens to throw things away.