Display Copy

Good morning, everyone. Today we are very proud to publish Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith's tribute to the late Bil Keane:

... I also remember Bil Keane’s talk to the assembled crowd. It was flavored by what his generation would call “pretty salty language.” For the creator of such a family-friendly strip, his comments were a surprise–and a pleasant one. I began to realize these “old-timers” were not at all like the characters in their G-rated comics; they were people like me. Well, sort of.

Also, Sean T. Collins turns in a review of Megan Kelso's re-released Queen of the Black Black.

And Frank Santoro recruits John Porcellino to contribute a scene report from South Beloit, Illinois.

Speaking of Keane, Jeet Heer passes along this short profile of the man from a 2006 issue of the Tucson Citizen, which is sad but well worth reading.

At Robot 6, Kevin Melrose highlights another heartbreaking story, an insurance magazine profile describing the late-life plight of longtime comic-book writer Bill Mantlo, now in a nursing home, and never really fully recovered from the hit-and-run that injured him two decades ago.

Kate Beaton was featured on a CTV news story last week. There's always something pleasantly surreal about seeing cartoonists on television.

Paul Gravett profiles and interviews David B.

Matt Seneca interviewed Yuichi Yokoyama.

A cartoon Miller posted on his site last year: "Krypto-Fascist"

And of course, the big comics-related news going around the internet this weekend was the reaction to Frank Miller's pathetic commentary on the Occupy Wall Street movement. (A choice bit of Miller's wordplay: "HAH! Some 'movement', except if the word 'bowel' is attached.") In one of those rare moments where I strongly disagree with him, Tom Spurgeon wrote a brief post calling the whole thing "deeply silly" and basically seeming to imply that Miller's words were better left undiscussed. (Though it's possible I'm misreading him, and Spurgeon just finds the whole situation distasteful, a position it's hard to argue against.) In any case, all of this sort of thing is fair game in my book. And while individual cases of embarrassing statements from major creators might disappoint me (not this time—while a lot of his early work still holds up well, I gave up on Miller years ago), overall, it's good to know more about where they're coming from. Kim Thompson wrote Spurgeon a letter taking strident issue with him about a different matter, Tom's characterization of Miller's politics. And if you haven't yet had your fill of the matter, the writer David Brin has used this occasion to publish a long explanation of everything he thinks is wrong (historically and politically) with Miller's 300.

48 Responses to Display Copy

  1. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I thought I was reasonably clear. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t discuss whatever they want to discuss, or politics generally, nor am I saying that the whole thing is distasteful. I just think Miller’s statement was boring and stupid, more stupid than boring, and the response is mostly boring and stupid, more boring than stupid.

    It’s boring because it’s unsurprising that someone older than 40 with a bit of money is conservative and expresses conservative views. Kim’s smart letter pointing out he’s always been conservative makes it *more* boring to me. “Conservative Says Conservative Things.” Like I said, people can discuss whatever they want without the permission of a fat guy with a blog, but I don’t have to find it interesting. The majority of what they’re saying is “what a douchebag” over and over, plugging into really standard, trite talking points provided to them by the current political set-up, and/or taking broad shots at his work.

    It’s stupid — at least for me — because I couldn’t possibly give a shit about what Frank Miller writes, says or thinks about OWS unless those statements were interesting in and of themselves, which in this case, except for the odd employment of the word “louts,” wasn’t. I don’t care what Jaime Hernandez thinks about trade policy, I don’t care what Frank Mangiaracina thinks about solar power initiatives, and I don’t care what Paul Levitz thinks about our nettlesome relationship with Pakistan, either. I just don’t.

  2. Ian Harker says:

    Steve Ditko has made some equally batshit political statements through his work yet it’s nearly impossible to dislike Spider-Man. I gave up on Miller years ago as well but I’ll always love Ronin for being one of the first truly transnational comics. The way he synthesized what was going on with American, Japanese and European genre comics with Ronin heralded what lied ahead for comics of all sorts.

    He’s not the only batshit-crazy crank out there. I tend to agree with Tom that it isn’t worth much thought. We on the left have been equally unfair with our characterizations of right-wing populists. We love to hate the Tea Party the same way those on the right love to hate the OWS.

  3. Frank Santoro says:

    You can have radical politics but what we are all doing is just talking. I may be batshit crazy for living off the grid but I’m trying to DO something. Stop talking! Do something!

  4. Kim Thompson says:

    TCJ writers are enamored of the word “strident” this month, aren’t they?

    I think a major cartoonist saying batshit crazy things is always interesting, be they about OWS or plate tectonics. (It is also legitimately interesting in that it casts a light on aspects of his work that apparently people have been misreading for decades under the “oh, he’s just being satirical/provocative” rubric.) The fact that people are interested in it means it’s interesting, and writing blog posts about how uninteresting it is seems inherently self-contradictory, like a front-page article in THE NEW YORK TIMES on why we should start ignoring Kim Kardashian. This I say pitching my voice two octaves lower, to avoid stridency. I would never be strident at Tom Spurgeon, whom I love like a brother. A brother who is wrong once in a while.

  5. Tim Hodler says:

    Ha ha. I was wondering if anybody was going to notice that. Other than your implicit criticism of my word choice, I agree with all of this. Actually, I agree with your implicit criticism of my word choice, too. I had meant to go back and revise it, but it’s too late to get away with that now.

  6. Tim Hodler says:

    Thanks for responding, Tom. Obviously you don’t have to be interested in anything you don’t want to be — and I haven’t read the vast majority of responses to Miller more or less for the reasons you lay out: I am sure they are mostly stupid, over-the-top exercises in group validation — but I do think an artist’s political views are often interesting, and often even illuminating, especially when the artist in question includes political commentary in their own comics. I mean, if Jaime Hernandez wrote stories about trade policy, then his views on the subject might prove revealing. And since in his comics, Frank Miller has written often about political repression and censorship and war and revolutionary sentiments and the like, I think his views on those subjects outside of comics are relevant, too.

    But agreed on the “louts” thing.

  7. patrick ford says:

    Kim: “TCJ writers are enamored of the word “strident” this month, aren’t they?”

    Yes, “verisimilitude” is just so common these days, it’s become a “trope.”

  8. R. Fiore says:

    Frank Miller’s web post just makes me think how rational and sensible Dave Sim is.

  9. Alec Trench says:

    “I’ve got memes, memes to rememberr…”

    ~ Otis Redding.

  10. Lou Copeland says:

    Miller’s, Sim’s, & Ditko’s more controversial actions in their middle aged years seem to me to be willing and conscious acts of “career suicide.” Bob Dylan’s career is littered with acts like this. It only causes me to speculate why artists who experienced such unprecedented levels of success in their youth feel the need to tear away at their audience as they get older.

  11. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I wrote out a long explanation twice that a) I never blogged about my disinterest, I responded here in those terms and b) of course aspects of it are of interest, c) I’m flattered anyone would compare a blog post that took me 11 minutes to write and was the second piece down on an illness-curtailed Sunday to a NYT front-page story, but this site destroyed both of them and now I’m due at the gym so let me say instead that everyone that disagrees with me is wrong.

  12. Elgin says:

    It is continually amazing how many commentators here assume that everyone sane is leaning heavily to the left. The man seems exactly correct to me. When refuting him please explain how he is wrong rather than calling him names. My guess is that virtually no one here has spent extensive time living with people that exist under a differing system Than our own. Try it for a year or two then think about it for a short time and I guarantee you will see his rational.

  13. patrick ford says:

    Miller is correct. I just went in my bedroom, and wouldn’t you know it! There was a Muslim hiding under the bed with a scimitar clenched between his teeth.

    You know part (the 100% part) of me thinks this “War on Terror” is just some bogeyman cooked up by the same people who sold us the Cold War, and laughed out loud when they heard the “Peace Dividend” briefly mentioned.

    That Peace Dividend was their three quarters slice of the pie.

  14. Allen Smith says:

    Yes. Eisenhower told us fifty years ago what to watch for, but greed and fake patriotism have won out. When I hear someone spout stuff about having to go to war to protect this or that, I check my wallet.

    Allen Smith

  15. patrick ford says:

    Lou: “Miller’s, Sim’s, & Ditko’s more controversial actions in their middle aged years seem to me to be willing and conscious acts of “career suicide.”

    There is also the example of Chester Gould who in 1973 decided to give Dick Tracy a “porn-stache.”

  16. Kim Thompson says:

    I think Miller, Sim, and Ditko’s political wackiness is completely heartfelt and earnestly expressed and has nothing to do whatsoever with any type of “career suicide,” and I also think that the downswing in Sim and Ditko’s careers has very little to do with this and everything to do with simpler failures of craft. (In fact Ditko’s career suffered not at all after his initial burst of Objectivist work, partly because it was actually some of the best work of his career.) Miller’s failure to secure another movie to direct after THE SPIRIT likely has everything to do with its awfulness (both critical and box-office), and I’m pretty sure he could walk into DC or Marvel or Dark Horse and get whatever deal he wanted tomorrow, because he exists in a realm of superstardom that supersedes any craziness or creative bankruptcy (see: Neal Adams).

  17. Kim Thompson says:

    No. No political discussions here. Period. Take it to or something if you must.

  18. Kim Thompson says:

    Anyway, going crazy-right-wing is hardly career suicide these days. Look at Dennis Miller.

    We should set up a betting pool on how many hours before Frank Miller shows up on HANNITY or THE O’REILLY FACTOR being treated like a truth-telling martyr nailed to a cross by the Islamofascist-defending liberal media. (I’ll bet 48.) Also, a betting pool on which similarly-minded cartoonist is first to rise to Miller’s defense: Sim, Batton Lash, the crazy guy writing those awful Batton Lash internet comics whose name eludes me, or Doug TenNapel.

  19. Alec Trench says:

    Anyone who’s seriously into superheroes is going to tend towards screwed up politics, if any at all, aren’t they?

  20. Rob Clough says:

    **hangs head in shame**

  21. DerikB says:

    I think Miller and Sim are pretty different cases. Miller is espousing a pretty common ideology (albeit the radical version of it), while Sim’s ideology is really idiosyncratic. Miller/Ditko seems closer.

  22. patrick ford says:

    If Holy Terror spells career suicide for Miller it will only because Miller’s apparently thinks he’s bigger than Batman.

    If Miller does fade as a superstar his odyssey may spiral back to Batman, just look at Neal Adams.

  23. patrick ford says:

    Tim (reply to Kim): “Actually, I agree with your implicit criticism of my word choice…”

    Tim, If I may be so bold; I would suggest “batshit” be substituted for strident.

  24. Tim Hodler says:

    Whoa! Nice suggestion, but it wouldn’t work—I thought Kim was correct. However, “batshit” is a good word, and I will try to introduce it again at the right moment.

  25. Lou Copeland says:

    Well yeah, their actions were heartfelt, and yeah their popularity was/is on the decline… I’m still convinced these artists were well aware that their behavior would marginalize them even further. I have to ask why, after maintaining a certain level of restraint their entire careers, they would intentionally let loose at a time when they’re at a popular and critical low point.

    If I screw up an important job at work, I’m not gonna take the opportunity to come in drunk the next day and pinch the receptionist’s ass on my way in.

  26. Kim Thompson says:

    I’m not sure Sim isn’t doing much more than articulating a view of gender politics that the far right wing actually more or less agrees with but is smart enough not to push because it’s outside the bounds of what is considered civilized discourse nowadays. (Which is itself sort of mind-boggling.) Certainly every time it’s discussed there’s a flurry of messageboarders who pop up and agree with it. But yes, Sim is definitely loopier, and say what you will about Miller and Ditko, they didn’t invent their own religion. (Although Neal Adams did invent his own laws of physics.)

  27. Kim Thompson says:

    In fact, go back and look at the comments thread on the Miller blog. QED. I don’t think anyone wants a flurry of posts of left vs. right accusing each other of being “rascist.”

  28. Jeet Heer says:

    Sim also invented his own laws of physics. Somewhere near the end of Cerebus he offers a new unified theory of the universe that supposedly achieves the synthesis that eluded Einstein and Stephen Hawkings. Or to quote the immortal words of Tim Kreider: “At the beginning of The Last Day, Cerebus has a dream in which Dave Sim presents the final and definitive version of his cosmogony. This dream, which occupies the first 40 pages of the volume, is told in faux-King James prose, printed in a tiny, eye-prickling gothic font, and heavily footnoted. In this passage, Sim apparently believes he has formulated the Theory of Everything, unifying relativistic and quantum mechanics, that’s eluded physics’ greatest minds for decades. Sim is genuinely disappointed that the scientific world has not hailed him as a genius on the order of Einstein and Newton, attributing his lack of recognition, once again, to our pussywhipped society’s prejudice against anti-feminists, rather than to the fact that his hypothesis makes Louis Farrakhan’s theories about Sun People and Ice People look like an impeccably sourced, rigorously peer-reviewed piece of research.”

  29. Lou Copeland says:

    The point I’m trying to boil it all down to is that the artists I mentioned, for different reasons, all seemed to willingly make a break from a substantial portion of their audience. That’s an odd thing to do.

  30. Elgin says:

    How are the comments of the artist and all of the above comment NOT political, or do I completely misunderstand your use of the term.

  31. R. Fiore says:

    The unique thing about the incident is that Miller is about as much a crossover figure as there is in comics, so this is getting play beyond the fields we know. A quick Googling reveals the story has been picked up by, among others:

    The Wall Street Journal


    The Atlantic

    New York Daily News

    The Huffington Post


    The Hollywood Reporter

    Reason refers to the blog post as an “essay”, but then Frank has been dealt with generously by the press. If anything was going to kill his career you’d think it would be doing shitty comics for 20 years.

  32. patrick ford says:

    You’re right, it’s a bad fit. Strident would indicate a high degree of passion with which a view is opined, where as “batshit” would describe the intellectual basis of said opinion.

    Perhaps “slapdick” would be the proper word in place of “strident?”

  33. Jack says:

    His tough-guy schtick is pretty grating. Imagine Scott Olsen reading that post–“Hmm, this multi-millionaire Hollywood creampuff who’s probably never been in a fight thinks that I’m just a whiny brat.”

  34. patrick ford says:

    Oh, I see in looking back at the post it wasn’t Miller’s blog post being described as strident.

    Kim’s comment would be something like “erudite” wouldn’t it?

  35. Kim Thompson says:

    Oh, 17 or 18 at most, give him credit for the half-decent earliest SIN CITYs.

  36. Kit says:

    The first, and only half-decent, Sin City, ran in DHP in 1991. 20 years is fair.

  37. patrick ford says:

    Ditko was mentioned here, and it just happens I saw this link today:
    The article is by Bob Heer, who I assume is Jeet Heer’s brother?

    It’s an article which deserves some attention because Bob counters a widely distributed story about Ditko first told by Greg Theakston. Greg claimed Ditko was using some of his Silver Age artwork as a cutting board. I think most people who are interested in Ditko at all are familiar with the story, because it spread like wildfire.

    Bob points out Greg made a lot of assumptions in telling the story. Mainly Greg DID NOT see Ditko use artwork as a cutting board, and Ditko didn’t tell Greg he was using the artwork as a cutting board. Bob speculates Ditko having a badly cut up piece of his old artwork is an indication that Ditko brought home and saved even a badly damaged piece of his old artwork, maybe something he’d been able to rescue out of the production department trash at a time when publishers weren’t returning artwork. Bob also points out Ditko showed Greg a shelf stacked high with original art, and that Ditko doesn’t sell his originals.

  38. michael L says:

    That David Brin article was pretty good, but your link is messed up.

  39. Korla Pundit says:

    And if you have misunderstood them, doesn’t this further prove that we must dismantle the tax-sucking Department of Education?

  40. Alec Trench says:

    I don’t think anyone wants a flurry of posts of left vs. right accusing each other of being “rascist.”

    …Let alone so many levels of nested replies that the accumulated indent squeezes the lines to two characters wide.

    Is that why there’s a limit here? I can’t seem to reply to anything beyond the second level.

    I am using IE8 though, so I don’t expect much.

  41. Kim Thompson says:

    Elgin, which part of “this argument is over” is confusing to you? There are a zillion other websites where you can go and pound your breast about the evil libruls and the wicked Muslins and how misunderstood Frank Miller is. This just isn’t one of them. Game over. Go away. Thank you.

  42. Elgin says:

    Excuse me, THIS is not political commentary. You have the right to control your site but control yourself as well.

  43. Ian Harker says:

    I’d like to see more batshit leftism in comics. The best thing we’ve got going is Gabby Schulz’s twitter feed. What’s the best batshit leftist comic of the last 10 years? Maybe Brian Chippendale’s NINJA? (Either way I think it’s maybe the best comic of the last 10 years.) I thought about doing a special OWS edition of Secret Prison a month ago but honestly I wouldn’t even know who to put in it

    On the career suicide point, there certainly is an element of lookyme-ism to Sim, Miller and Ditko. BTW, are they now officallt the holy trinity of batshit? Or perhaps we should do a Mount Rushmore and throw Al Capp in there for the ol’ timers?

    On the batshit point, what’s been the best batman/batshit pun going around so far?

  44. Mike Hunter says:

    Re Miller’s commentary, a line from a Jaime Hernandez character comes to mind:

    “Do you know that whenever you open your mouth, gigantic turds fall out?”

  45. Jim Kingman says:

    An angry man without compassion is just another angry man. Bill Mantlo’s story breaks my heart.

  46. BVS says:

    I suspect Frank’s just jealous, he’s always dreamed of being a political agitator and longed for a chance for his work to ruffle the feathers of mainstream media. the V for Vendetta mask is clearly fashionable at the occupy protests. I don’t see any one wearing any home made Martha Washington shirts or anything miller based. thus Alan Moore, not Frank Miller is the one who gets to claim cred that his 80’s paranoid comic book vision of vigilante justice has made an impact on reality. no matter what frank says or does his work is stuck in the ghetto of the American book shop and will be promptly ignored by the mainstream media..

  47. Jack says:

    You know, I’ll bet anything that Ditko is at hard at work on an essay, if not both an essay and a comic, attacking Occupy Wall Street as we speak. Hippies with no respect for private property or free enterprise have always been his favorite whipping boys, and since he likes capitalism a lot more than war, I bet OWS protesters irritate him way more than the anti-Vietnam protesters did. “These smashers, value-harmers of the deserved, non-unearned seek to destroy, anti-create all individualism/rationalism creation-logic (A=A, private property, DDTs kill mosquitos, drum circles are annoying, etc.).”

  48. Jack says:

    (Not that I’m confident I could win an argument with Ditko or any other reasonably informed libertarian.)

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