BLOG

Piano Player

Rob Clough is here today with a review of a recent comic by the German artist Nadine Redlich.

This is her third collection of strips and drawings. Her first, Ambient Comics, established her as an artist who loves to use the grid to play with time and set up subtle jokes. Ambient music is designed to relax someone with a series of sounds aimed at different kinds of brainwave activity, and so too seem her ambient comics about following images through a grid. There's a candle melting, an inchworm moving, and a shadow moving. However, Redlich starts to slowly subvert these images in funny ways. In one, there are six panels of the earth taken from space, where there is no doubt a great deal of change going on on the planet in each of the six panels, but it's so far away that we only see the same image six times. The best example is the image of an alpine mountain peak, with an avalanche forming over the six panels. The irony of meditating and being in the present with destruction is exactly the kind of paradox that informs her work. Her second book, Paniktotem, does something similar, this time pairing extremely cute images with scenarios related to anxiety, frustration, and meaninglessness.

I Hate You – You Just Don't Know It Yet is a mixture of comics, doodles, scrawled aphorisms, and scorched earth destruction of romantic cliches.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Criticism. Jillian Steinhauer at The Nation reviews Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

Writers weighed in on all sides [of a debate on whether female literary characters needed to be likable]: The New Yorker’s ”Page Turner” blog convened a “forum on ‘likability’”; Jennifer Weiner went to bat for likable female characters in Slate; months later, Roxane Gay published an essay about the value of unlikable female protagonists in BuzzFeed. The debate dismantled the double standard that women should be pleasant and agreeable, even when they’re fictional creations. Despite being outdated, the idea was clearly still present—an old wound whose scab was due to be picked once more.

It was maddening, but also comical, to watch the argument rage on, as if the work of some of the best female creators wasn’t a ready-made rebuttal to this myth. Aline Kominsky-Crumb, for one, has devoted her career to breaking down the expectation of women’s propriety, often with humor. In 1972, she contributed a story, “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman,” to the inaugural issue of the groundbreaking underground magazine Wimmen’s Comix. Her first published work, “Goldie” is these days considered the first autobiographical comic created by a woman. The five-page piece is a sort of dreamlike narration of how Goldie—a stand-in for the author, who draws herself with a big nose and even bigger hips—rediscovers her pride after puberty and an extended period of sleeping around have ruined her self-esteem. It’s a tale that Kominsky-Crumb would go on to retell many times in her work.

—Interviews & Profiles. Newsday talks to Jules Feiffer on the publication of his third noir graphic novel.

In “The Ghost Script,” when you look at Sen. Joseph McCarthy's communist witch-hunt and the fear and paranoia in American society at the time, you can't help but think about the toxic political atmosphere today. Was that parallel in your mind at all?

It was not a parallel at the time. First of all, I write the script long before I illustrate it. At the time I was writing it, I was in Berlin, at the American Academy in Berlin. It was way before Donald Trump; it was way before any speculation about Donald Trump. When I began the series, with “Kill My Mother,” I had no intention of being political. I just wrote, and let it take me where it took me, and it took me in this direction. I wanted to show that the blacklist was an attack on our entire civilization, on our notion of ourselves as a country, by people who were trying to save it for themselves and only themselves. That's the parallel to the age of Trump. But the age of Trump hadn't descended upon us yet.

Willamette Week profiles the late cartoonist John Callahan, the subject of Gus Van Sant's latest film.

For 27 years, if you opened Willamette Week, you'd find one of his cartoons, needling polite society with jokes about feminists, lesbians, nuns, doctors, lawyers, the homeless, conservatives, liberals and his fellow "quads."

Callahan pissed off many in his day. The cartoonist, who was paralyzed in a car accident at age 21, made a career of pushing buttons, testing boundaries and immolating all notions of good taste with the belabored stroke of a pen. Advertisers complained, and there were occasional boycotts. But none of that prohibited him from becoming, at one point, one of the most visible cartoonists in America.

Wander around Northwest Portland and chances were you'd run into him, or he into you, as he blitzed up the sidewalk at speeds that rendered his electric-orange hair a tangerine blur.

Hyperallergic talks to Vanessa Davis about her work in painting.

—Misc. Two comics-related publications of possible interest launched crowdfunding attempts recently. First, The Nib is starting a quarterly print version, and has already reached its $50,000 goal. On the smaller end of the spectrum, the leftist video-game podcast No Cartridge is attempting to launch a series of politically oriented comics criticism zines.

 

Brothers In Closure

Today at TCJ, we've got a look at Reid Psaltis' Kingdom/Order, courtesy of Ryan Carey. It's a good one:

Eric Drooker’s groundbreaking Flood comes to mind throughout this book, not only because both are entirely “silent” works, but because Psaltis often veers into Drooker-esque woodcut-style illustration, yet the focus here is tighter, although arguably no less ambitious. One could even argue that the plethora of socio-economic problems Drooker touches upon in his book all stem from the separation of man from the natural world that Psaltis explores in the pages of his. Indeed, I’m sure someone of the “Green Anarchist” political persuasion would say precisely that, and Psaltis’ thick, expressive, detailed line manages to convey a lot of the universality he’s aiming to imbue his story with. When his protagonist is curious at the outset, it shows in every facial expression, every “tic” of his body language, and the same holds true when his feelings “evolve” into fear, complacency, happiness, and finally into aggression. You know right where our man is every step of the way here, emotionally as well as physically, and that’s all down to the power and precision of Psaltis’ rich, nuanced illustration.

In satellite Journal contributions, Tom Kaczynski followed up his recent Eddy Current column with a series of tweets on American superhero comics, urbanization, architecture & more. You start here, and yes, it has numbers

While this weekend's San Diego Intellectual Property Convention is sure to release its fair share of comics adjacent news, you would have a very hard time convincing me that there will be any greater and more up-my-alley advertisement for a Marvel property than this sixteen second video of Paul Rudd & Michael Douglas hamboning back in 2015. I have liked loved hamboning far longer and with more consistency than I've loved reading, and while this video is a bit too short and would have benefited from a longer build, it's still mainstream hamboning that may introduce it to a wider audience, thus ensuring a future full of hamboning.

 

 

Tough Love

Today on the site, Annie Mok returns to interview Ronald Wimberly, the creator of Prince of Cats and Black History in Its Own Words, about his new magazine, art school, animation, and Walt Disney.

ANNIE MOK: In LAAB #0, you use Mickey Mouse a couple of times as a richly layered visual motif. On the cover, a poster in a NYC street scene shows a group of men tearing down a Mickey statue like it's a war monument. In another image, you layer Mickey's face over Jean-Michel Basquiat's, but obscure the eyes with Barbara Kruger-style typography. Can you break down why you used Mickey in this way, including how Mickey's origins and influences may have factored into your playing with this corporate icon?

RONALD WIMBERLY:
LAAB #0 deals with the political unconscious in pop culture aesthetics. These images are meant to provoke thought. Honestly, they seem embarrassingly didactic as is, a bit on the nose; describing my intention defeats the purpose of looking at the work. So instead of answering your question directly I’m just going to give some more context to the information about the subjects in the pictures and let people contemplate the images.

Mickey Mouse, as readers may know, is the flagship character and brand icon of Walt Disney Corporation. Mickey Mouse is recognized around the world. Mickey Mouse was designed by Ub Iwerks; I think a lot of what Disney is can be summed up in this first relationship between Walt and Ub.

I would encourage readers to look up the Disney animators strike of 1941.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. TCJ's own Greg Hunter weighs in on one of the most acclaimed books of the year, Nick Drnaso's Sabrina.

Drnaso makes comics of acute psychological realism that approach their subjects from an almost anthropological remove. An easy comparison is Chris Ware, with his clean-lined compositions and stories of the lonely, the stunted, and the mistreated. But unlike Ware, who enacts these scenarios with complex, formally dynamic layouts, Drnaso’s stories are tidy, unadorned, and judicious in their limited emotional range. The effects of this approach, and possible explanations for it, are numerous.

An uncharitable take on Drnaso would go something like this: the distance in his comics is a way to safeguard the work, even the artist’s ego. Such a measured style reduces the risk of being perceived as sentimental. It avoids any flourishes that may be seen as overreaches or miscalculations. It’s an eminently — even excessively — adult and respectable approach to comics fiction.

And Tom Kaczynski cannibalizes what should have been his next TCJ column for a Jeet Heer-style tweetstorm on "architecture, urbanism, Capitalism, suburbanization, and American superhero comics."

8/ America has a love/hate relationship with the city. Metropolis & Gotham are the yin/yang of the city, each representing a way America thinks about New York, Chicago, etc.

9/ Noted Batman writer/editor Denny O’Neil famously said that Gotham City is New York below 14th Street, Metropolis is New York above 14th Street.

—Interviews & Profiles. Also at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Tahneer Oksman talks to Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

This collection seems very complete. I feel a great sense of relief that it exists. It covers a lot of territory, and it’s a good representation of my career as a cartoonist.

It’s not like there’s a direct evolutionary line. It goes all over the place, and keeps going back to things. There’s a period of time where you feel better, a period where you feel worse. Where you’re fatter, where you’re not in touch with your body, where you’re drinking too much, doing too many drugs, whatever it is. And I think the work reflects those different periods, but I think there’s a general trend toward fulfillment and self-awareness. Some of the early images are really out there — I was so crazy then, I was just trying to rebel against my upbringing completely. I had so much pain and so much anger. Those stories are very painful, very anger-driven. Some of the later stories are not quite so full of venom as the earlier work.


—Misc.
A new journalist-run website Popula launched last week, and under editors Vanessa Davis and Trevor Alixopulos already has a strong comics presence, with regular comics by Ron Regé, Lauren Weinstein, and Ben Passmore, as well as a recurring Sunday strips package featuring Steven Weissman, Karen Sneider, Jon Lewis, Megan Kelso, and Tom Hart.

 

To Sedate As Humour Dies

Thanks for starting off your week with TCJ: why not take a look at this roundtable conversation between Ellen Forney, Megan Kelso & Raina Telgemeier, spurred in part by Trina Robbins’ Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896–2013? Here's a taste:

RAINA TELGEMEIER: After Smile, I was really surprised by the reaction that book got. I thought it was my little autobio story and that my friends would read it, and I would get a few readers who’d nod their heads and say, “That was cool,” but, what I got was thousands of 9-year-old girls emailing me to ask me, “When’s the sequel coming out?”

I was like, you don’t understand, this was a true story and I managed to condense four-and-a-half years of my life into a package with a beginning and a middle and an end, and you can’t just do that, that has to exist, that has to be a part of your life that you feel comfortable compartmentalizing, and I don’t feel that way about any other aspect of my life. And they were like, “Well, that’s nice, but when’s the sequel coming out?”

Elsewhere, you'd be hard pressed to convince me there's a better blog post on one's influences out there then this one by Michel Fiffe.

And then there's this: Comichron & ICv2 released their most recent report on comic sales, which are down (with some caveats). You can read the report here, or watch a video of it below.

 

 

Geeks Be Gone

Today on the site, we present our usual (near-) weekly excerpt. This time, it's Kingdom/Order, the new graphic novel by Reid Pslatis.

We also have the fifth and final day of Sarah Horrocks's tenure as our Cartoon Diarist. Thanks, Sarah!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Matt Furie has continued his legal battle against white supremacists attempting to appropriate his comics work, and has now forced the Daily Stormer to remove all images of Pepe the frog from its website.

The site, which has been called the "top hate site in America," has been online and offline repeatedly lately. It was taken down briefly last year following protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. It reappeared under a new Russian domain but went offline again after internet security provider Cloudflare dropped support for the site. A version of the site then moved onto the darknet.

That made sending DMCA takedown requests to the Daily Stormer difficult, said [Louis] Tompros, one of Furie's lawyers at law firm WilmerHale. By the time their letter had gone through one web host, he said, the Daily Stormer was on to another one.

Tompros said they identified about 25 instances in which Pepe was used on the site. The lawyers never heard back from the Daily Stormer after sending their takedown requests, but kept checking the site to see if the posts were taken down. On July 2, they noticed some of the images were down. By the next day, he said, they were all down.

—Interviews. Aline Kominsky-Crumb made a guest appearance on Kurt Anderson's Studio 360.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson didn't much like a recent comic by Lewis Trondheim.

I understood perfectly the relationship between the two main characters: It is based on a comedy routine no one finds funny anymore, where a man’s obsessive love for a woman is undaunted by her contempt and disinterest for him. The storytelling choices are visually boring most of the time and unclear during action sequences. The coloring is overrendered, and while the art is probably printed too small in the serialization that doesn’t really matter. (The proportions of a standard U.S. comic are larger than the English-language edition of Christophe Blain’s Gus And His Gang, and while I would love to have a larger printing of that book, the small size doesn’t obscure the fact that it fundamentally works.) I doubt you would want to pay more for the larger size I assume the collections will be printed at.

—Misc. The San Diego bar The Smoking Gun accidentally upset a bunch of nerds.

 

It Tastes Horrible

Today at TCJ, we're pleased to share the newest installment in Tom Kaczynski's line-in-the-sand study of what he's calling "Event" comics--this column sees him focusing on Eddy Current, by Ted McKeever.

Gritty, deliberately grotesque, messy, and challenging; these days you don’t see comics like Eddy Current. Many comics from the time of the Event had this quality. It was a deliberate distancing from the dominant styles established between the 50’s and 70’s, from the tight, abstract, dynamic pulp modernism (Kirby), and the elongated slickness of pulp neorealism (Neal Adams). In the 80’s, McKeever—along with his peers from that era, Kevin O’Neil, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Howard Chaykin, Keith Giffen, and others—were developing new stylistic innovations that mapped closely to what was going on elsewhere in culture and art: postmodernism. Many comics of the Event share many qualities with this much maligned & misunderstood movement (whether intentionally or not). This pulp postmodernism (for lack of a better term) was still redolent of pulp and serialized entertainment, but it questioned all established comics hierarchies.

Today's Cartoonist Diary sees Sarah Horrocks dropping some sportscasting for all y'all soccer fans.

And for your daily review, Leonard Pierce is here with his take on Running From The Devil, a memoir recently published by Markosia. Lukewarm responses were had.

Steve Kissing—who, according to his biography, is a sought-after motivational speaker and public relations executive—has a similar problem in his sometimes charming but overall flat adolescent memoir, Running from the Devil. Kissing grew up in Cincinnati as a smart and determined kid, motivated to excel and dedicated to his Catholic faith. Like, well, pretty much every American boy in the late 1970s, he told wild stories, drank, and lusted after every pretty girl in his class; but unlike most kids, he was visited by disturbing and sometimes terrifying visions that only he could see. Not realizing that he was, in fact, subject to frequent seizures and accompanying hallucinations, he attributed these visions to something that made plenty of sense to his religiously trained mind: the sinister hand of Satan.

The folks at Back In The Bronze Age have another one of their cover challenges up and running: I found it very entertaining. Prior to this one, they also ran a rare (for these sorts of enthusiast blogs) post where they looked at covers they didn't care for. It's also a good time. 

While I'm randomly linking to blog posts featuring covers, Kevin Huizenga's intermittent blog happened upon a couple of good looking oldies as well. John Severin! Save that horse!

 

Prickly Hypersensitivity

R.C. Harvey is here today with a lengthy review of The Goat Getters, the latest book from the cartoonist Eddie Campbell, in which Campbell explores the early history of the comics strip, and makes the case that the form was born in the San Francisco sports pages.

THE BOOK IS METICULOUSLY RESEARCHED and scrupulously referenced throughout in captions and footnotes. An impressive achievement. In his final edit, Campbell was clearly working from page proofs: he alludes to other aspects of his subject by quoting page numbers fore and aft.

His purpose, Campbell says, is to show “how and why” the sports page was the logical place for comic strips to begin “and, more specifically, why San Francisco was the place it had to happen.”

Not being an American, Campbell sees things that have long evaded our attention. And that’s invaluable in an enterprise such as this. But he also sees things that aren’t worth seeing. Goat getters, for instance.

Campbell explains the book’s title: “To get a person’s goat, meaning to aggravate and upset them, originated in the custom of keeping a goat in a racehorse’s stable to calm the horse.” Unscrupulous personages, aiming to affect adversely the horse’s performance, would steal the goat and “thus unsettle the horse in order to gain a betting advantage in the next day’s race.”

The phrase, Campbell says, was coined on the sports pages where it was a fad for a few years until it eventually entered common parlance. All that is true, but I don’t think “getting someone’s goat” is as common an expression as Campbell thinks it is. Not common enough, say, so that cartoonists can be described as “goat getters”—although that is what some cartoonists assuredly do. They get the goats of those they satirize thereby unsettling them.

We also have Day Three of Sarah Horrocks providing our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The most interesting reading I've seen yet on Steve Ditko is this unfinished Daniel Clowes strip on the artist, which was rejected by The New Yorker.

Stephen Heller writes about Tom Wolfe's side career as a cartoonist.

His pictures were inspired by the turn-of-the-century German Jugendstil (“youth style,” or Art Nouveau), graphic artist provocateurs who regularly outraged both bourgeois and aristocratic Junker classes by poking holes in their masks and debunking their pretensions in the notorious weekly satirical journal Simplicissimus (also known as Der Simpl in the 1940s). He also owed a debt to his favorite visual trickster, Ronald Searle, whom Wolfe praised as a “giant of the graphic netherworld” on the front page of a 1981 Times Book Review. Wolfe surprisingly identified as much as a cartoonist as he did a writer, and many of his drawings were captioned. In 1979, the same year that “The Right Stuff” was published, he wrote the introduction to an exhibition catalog I edited on Simplicissimus. “Caricaturists, as any caricaturist can tell you,” he wrote, “live, work and die in a shantytown scarcely visible from that monumental Brasília known as the world of art.”

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Fiona Smyth.

 

Children Of Cough Syrup

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got an interview with Rob Guillory, who is about to begin his newest project with Image Comics following the conclusion of Chew, a well regarded series he created with John Layman. He spoke with Alex Dueben about his new book, and why he's moved into writing as well with his new book, Farmhand.

I think I needed the distance from my work. Working solo as a writer/artist, I don’t have the luxury of having that creative partner to bounce things off of. It’s just me, my wife, and the few trusted friends I occasionally show these early scripts off to. So some of this was just me trying to get far enough from my work to see if it’s any good. And some of it was just me wanting the peace of mind that comes with having a bunch of scripts in the can. Honestly, in a perfect world, I would’ve loved to have finished the entire story before drawing one page. But that just isn’t realistic.

And that's not all. Today is also Day Two of our Cartoonist's Diary, courtesy of Sarah Horrocks. She's out there making the case for the latest show from the Ryan Murphy universe: Pose, hmm?

But of course, that isn't all: today's review is courtesy of Tegan O'Neil, who got ahold of Seekan Hui's A Projection, and she came away with some comic book criticism for all to see.

Hui’s art rests in that niche between sinister and unsettled. Her art is dominated by her expressionistic character designs. For example: Cecilia has two heads, one on top of the other. The two heads talk to each other. The other characters notice this – one of the kids asks “Y do u have 2 heads?” on a piece of toilet paper passed under the door. But it doesn’t seem any more unusual than the fact that the kids are ladybugs. Hui’s style doesn’t always work that well in some instances. It’s hard at times to follow precisely who is who when, from a distance, the children can appear as angry squiggles.

Over at The New Yorker, they've got a nice piece (with little John Elway style onscreen markups) by Paul Karasik on a rarely seen mural by Charles Addams. Why wasn't this brought to our attention by either of our two Pennsylvania based contributors? Reader, I don't know.

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, Nick Hanover delivers a deep dives into Tom Kaczynski & Clara Jetsmark's excellent Cartoon Dialectics #3, one of the strongest single issues of the year.