Random Article

Event News

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: The Realist OGN – Humor in the Midst of Chaos!



Story by: Asaf Hanuka
Art by: Asaf Hanuka
4.5/ 5

User Rating
4 total ratings



A look on Israeli life from an Israeli artist; beautifully colored and fantastic artwork; cultural and superhero referenced; highly imaginative in the midst of trouble


Some mature and disturbing contents; no endnotes for a brief Israeli socio-cultural explanations

To sum it all up..

What is the true potential of the comics as a medium? Seriously, the answer with this rather simple question can lead to more complicated and dynamic discourse that proceed to more engaging ways on how to expand the medium itself beyond its current form. That is what the Israeli-based work entitled THE REALIST by Asaf Hanuka […]

Posted March 21, 2015 by



What is the true potential of the comics as a medium? Seriously, the answer with this rather simple question can lead to more complicated and dynamic discourse that proceed to more engaging ways on how to expand the medium itself beyond its current form. That is what the Israeli-based work entitled THE REALIST by Asaf Hanuka tries to do.

Comic strips are a daily staple in periodicals, both in print and the internet versions. Naturally, nothing compares to the old-fashioned printed version and more refreshingly convenient, enjoyable and rewarding when the strip(s) concerned ends up collected, compiled, and either chronologically or themed arranged into graphic novel format. We have our won share for this ever growing phenomenon in the comic industry. For the past twenty-five years, influential cartoonist Pol Medina continues releasing his long-running comic series Pugad Baboy even after he left the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Manix Abrera and Lyndon Gregorio follow Medina’s trade with their Kiko Machine and Beerkada, respectively. In the age of Printed Graphic Illustrations, more and more artists find their respective creations to willing publishers to the printed form, both the trade paperback and/or the hardcover editions, in which this is the case of The Realist.

Despite the nature of the comic strips, particularly the obvious limited space and the installments necessary to complete a story arc if that is the initiative of the creators (this is so true in the cases of Medina, Abrera and Gregorio), the artists in that situation try their best to explore themes to their liking and abilities, and execute their brand of aesthetic sense, style, and the message they want to convey and/or point out. Upon reading and trying to sense with this avant-garde visual literature, I feel like I’m inside the mind and soul of an Israeli artist whose existence revolves around his usual life in the nation’s capital Tel-Aviv, alongside his family and social lives. This is nothing novel at all. Originality is an overrated (and virtually impossible) goal of every artist to achieve. No look further in the seminal works of Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelmann, Daniel Clowes, and even our very own artists, most especially Pol Medina. They drew/draw strips or works that deal with the trivial, mundane, the sense of ordinary and everyday struggles, and their own outlooks in various areas of the so-called LIFE. Indeed, Asaf Hanuka outlines his thoughts, experiences, struggles, triumphs, and musings in this stunning compilation.

What grabs my attention here is his down-to-earth, honest, and colorful views inside Israel. On the personal level, I only know that country through encyclopedia, Asia and World History classes, and one of Philippines’ closest allies. Of course, I am aware of Israel’s continuing conflicts with other Middle Eastern/West Asian nations, particularly with the Palestinians who are still at odds with them (curious readers are suggested to read Joe Sacco’s The Palestine for the Palestinian perspective and the Israeli-Arab conflicts as well). In this new graphic novel, I see a different Israel from what I usually see, read and hear from various news channels, periodicals and other media outlets. Granted, Hanuka shows a number of illustrations, moments, and criticisms about the tensions, violence, and conflicts between two polarized groups. He makes neither distortions nor contradictions on the already given in his nation’s inherent generational struggle. Yet, as said above, the beauty of this nearly two hundred page visual literature is the writer’s views of his life, his family, his work, his rare successful (and relieving)moments, and his caricatures and critical outlooks on what he thinks deserve to criticize.


The Realist does not follow a natural sequential flow in the strictest sense. It focuses on the everyday activities within Tel-Aviv and the author in the random basis. The creator though follows a strict nine-panel flow in most of the book. There are times that he does splash pages for perhaps dramatic effects and trying to encapsulate the entirety of the perspective or perspectives he wants to express. Life being an artist is no walk in the park. What more when one has a family to take care with, and other matters involving expenses, bills, child-rearing, deadlines, holidays and vacationing, and maintaining a healthy and stable relationship (no easy tasks indeed)? He chronicles these as if he is trying to release his big frustrations, anger, anxiety, and other depressing stuffs from his chest. One can say he might want to give an advice or two for readers on how to deal with these upcoming or soon-to-be struggles once they want to enter that next phase/level of their lives.

Furthermore, he presents a stark portrayal of a continuing divisiveness between different colors despite the fact that he is an Israeli citizen (he is “half-Iraqi” upon answering his son’s inquiry of skin color). More so his facial structure is more susceptible to the eyes of the Israeli militants, military and secret agents (there are some events that he and other co-patriots undergo some nasty experiences from these government agents due to their color and/or stereotypes). I find many places so real and believable even though the creator has artistic license to do what he is entitled to do within the boundary of artistic acceptability, considering the country’s notorious Mossad and its reputation to the secret service around the world). He even portrays a sense of normalcy by highlighting a couple of cultural-socio activities within the capital, particularly during the holidays, vacations, and family gatherings. Additionally, he presents his personal background that traces his roots, educational snippets, dating, his twin brother who is also an artist in the United States, and his beloved grandmother.


The most sensitive parts in this deconstructive piece of literature are his thoughts on Israeli holidays and the corresponding cultural practices and legacies he and his family confront. A mixture of nostalgia, loss (please be reminded of the conflicts Israel confronts since the late 1940s), and coping mechanisms the characters portray and display which he truly captures these, warts and all. What really stand out here in The Realist are his surreal, deconstructing and a bit meta-narrative approaches he presents most of his panels, especially the splash pages. Even though the nature of the graphic novel seems towards the autobiographical approach (no authors-creators-writers-artists live in the vacuum or the so-called “void”), he injects playful and colorful imageries in the topics that are supposedly so graphic, violent and equally so bloody to begin with. Take the case of an entry entitled “The Alternative Ending”. He commits “suicide”, but instead of the brutal take of brains exploding and scattering with blood and parts splattered around, the most colorful part and amusing portion are the rainbow-colored candy varieties and other tube-like stuffs released at the other side of the head. Another thing is the last page when he calls his wife about his current whereabouts in the not-so-distance future. His head is shown in cube-like shape, dividing into tiny bits, similar a child dismantling a Rubik cube due to frustration and pain.

Another thing worth mentioning here is the artist’s love of the superhero genre that he neatly incorporates to his supposed hectic and a bit troubling existence. Many references of the Marvel and DC superhero characters, especially The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, a the certain Man of Steel, and even an awesome nod to the epic Watchmen, are represented in his dreams/daydreams/illusions to cope with his trivial but difficult ordeals. So, take a moment of pacing yourselves with this graphic novel to find these Easter eggs around. In short, The Realist is homage to the ever increasing influences of the superhero genre to our daily lives.


The coloring is equally superb and it maximizes the space and utilizes on contrast whenever the mood and ambiance demand to greater effects. In “Memorial Day”, for example, he and his wife own itineraries mark the application of contrast and bright colors to convey the emotional spectrums and settings of the characters and the surroundings. Even so in other splash pages that combine primary and the dark palettes that project a mixture of fun, anxiety, frustrations, craziness, troubles, and stoicism of the creator and the rest of the family. His eldest son is a benefactor of the coloring department for it (or he) signifies the emotional setups and charms of the creator’s equilibrium and focus, including the general view of the Israeli society as well (the boy loves toy guns!). Thus, colors set the pace.

If there is a caveat in this graphic portrayal of Israeli-semi-autobiographical narrative, it should be treated with care and context in dealing with some of Asaf’s sensitive matters regarding the Israel’s conflicts and the political and cultural nuisances that could misinterpret by foreign eyes. It could have included a brief footnotes or an anecdotal notes as a guide to non-Israelis and other nationalities to put things into proper perspective. But, the creator is very good with deadpan humor and dark comedy in somewhat explaining in pictures/symbols he puts in.
This is another proof that the comic medium can go beyond to its limit. The Realist is one of the few gems that illuminates in the midst of pessimism and cynicism that we are witnessing nowadays. It demands to be read outside the usual stories we hear and read from the heavily biased Western media. A well-done collected compilation that taste like a good medium-rare steak!

THE REALIST OGN HC will be featured as a trim size of 6.875 x 10.1875 and containing 192 pages, The Realist original hardcover graphic novel arrives in comic shops from Archaia on April 22nd with a cover by creator Asaf Hanuka for the price of $24.99

Paul Ramos



Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response