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My Turn

Hi, today it’s Brian Nicholson interviewing Connor Willumsen:

So I really like that comic Swinespritzen a lot, which reminds me of Philip Guston a lot and Ben Jones also, so I’m sort of interested in new influences, but there’s also that quote someone said about Guston, “a mandarin pretending to be a stumblebum,” as he made the transition from abstract expressionism to the more cartoony figures, and I was wondering if, when you draw in more straight-forward or cartoony, or dumbed-down style, especially since Swinespritzen is about art and trying to draw, do you find it preferable, or do you find it “cheating,” like it’s using a shortcut, or is it faster, in any way?

No it’s not really any of these things to me. I definitely don’t qualify it in relationship to something I’ll do like an underdrawing for. I don’t qualify it as faster or dumber. I’m not intentionally trying to do something “stupid” when I make it. The way that particular comic looks is more of a result of how I draw it and where I chose to draw it. It’s more of a result of circumstances than it is a decision to be or think in a certain way. That comic was drawn on loose-leaf tear-out pages from a drug store notebook that was quite thin with a thin ball-point pen. That alone had an effect on the way it looked because I was restricted from being able to do certain things. It was less flexible. So I had to make deliberate movements that would accomodate that surface, which tended to be simplistic in profile. At times I would get in trouble with space organization and I’d have to overlap things. and I couldn’t be too clever about making things clear I had to be more blunt. The result of that is a more naive appearance at times but I made no effort to diminish technical prowess or whatever it is the quality distinction we’re making between that and something that looks more conventional or commercial or whatever.

What are your tools generally?

Well I have them here. It’s pretty simplistic. I try to use simple paper as much as possible. Inexpensive materials, loose papers. I use this little ballpoint pen here, that’s more thin than a normal ballpoint pen. This is the pen I did Swinespritzen in. Thin line pencils. Really simple. What I do and how it looks is a result of making my studio space as portable as possible. I’d like all of my supplies to fit into a relatively small backpack, if possible.

Elsewhere:

The filmmaker Susan Stern has revived her late husband Spain’s classic character Big Bitch for a series of animated shorts.

Anne Ishii has gathered a pretty hilarious group of quotes from Japanese cartoonist Jraiya during his visit to the US.

And, via Kim Deitch comes this amazing bit of early Disney animation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H58meqbp5Ps&list=PL1FEC991B4F3ACBCF&feature=share

 

Kilroys Were Here

It’s the day of the week when Joe McCulloch brings us all his guide to the Week in Comics!, with spotlight picks from Étienne Davodeau and Hiroaki Samura.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At The Paris Review, Nicole Rudick has a typically great interview with the Zap cartoonist and poster artist Victor Moscoso. (And if you missed it, Nicole wrote about Zap for us earlier this year.)

And The Beat talks to Hope Larson about adapting Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

—News. The parent who initially complained about Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar being shelved at the Rio Rancho High School library is appealing the recent decision to retain the book.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sarah Horrocks wrote about Sam Alden’s Hawaii 1997, and Berliac wrote another piece in response.

Hayley Campbell gives her time as a comic-shop employee the BuzzFeed treatment.

—Misc. Discussing his reading history with the Globe & Mail, novelist Tom McCarthy praises Hergé.

 

Niceties

Welcome to the working week. Today we have Gary Groth in conversation with Irwin Hasen for what was his final extensive interview.

GROTH: Any other stories from the old days you want to tell?

HASEN: I went to a whorehouse one night. I came back to my buddies and said, “You bastards, I got laid.”

GROTH: How old were you?

HASEN: Around 17 or 18. A prizefighter took me up there. The gangsters sent me up there. I mean it. [When] I worked for a boxing magazine called Bang Magazine, gangsters were all over. One day I’m sitting at a typewriter while the boss is in bed with some woman, and this guy comes into the office, wearing a gray suit. That was Bugsy Siegel’s partner. I’m sitting at the typewriter. He’s a famous murderer. Forgot his name. How quick you forget famous murderers. And as he’s leaving he turns around to me and tells Billy Stevens, my boss, he said, “The kid’s got pimples, get him laid.” [Groth laughs] And he turned around and left. Izzy Singer was a prizefighter—right there, his picture’s up on my wall [pointing to a photograph]. He was sitting and reading the comics and my boss says “Izzy, here’s ten bucks, get the kid laid. Take him uptown.” He took me uptown and I’m shaking like a leaf, I’m 17. I felt like I was gonna crap in my pants. Izzy Singer took me uptown on the subway and he takes me to an apartment building up on 97th Street. I’ll never forget it: whorehouse. And a girl opens the door and says, “What’s this?” “Billy wants to get him fixed up.” And she took me into her room—and a gentle lovely lady, it could’ve been worse. I’ll never forget her, and she says, “Take it easy, relax.” And I got through and it was a gentle sex thing for a young kid. I go up to my buddies who were playing cards on the floor in their home. And I come into the room with them sitting there, and I’ll never forget their look, I said, “You sons of bitches, I got laid this morning.” This is from the gangster. He’s a tiny guy, murderer. One of the worst murderers—I forgot his name. So that’s what happened.

News:

Charlie Hebdo Scoop: “From April Fool’s day,” a source at Charlie Hebdo told TCJ, “using an international team, the weekly will also boast an English-language version. After issue #1179 (25 February), we debuted a digital version designed for smartphones and tablets. Now, starting with CHARLIE #1184, every week’s paper will appear in English. Our application is available on iPhone and iPad, for Android tablets and smartphones and for Windows 8.1. The application is free, but each issue will cost €2.99 (euros). Subscriptions, via http://charliehebdo.fr, are also available. Francophone fans abroad will still have the digital option.”

Elsewhere:

Palomar has passed a review and will remain in the Rio Rancho, NM libraries.

It’s new Peter Bagge!

The sex-comic/Spider-Man connection continues: Bill Ward assisted John Romita in the 1960s.

 

Swiss Bank Account

R.C. Harvey is here today with an obituary for Roy Doty, grand old man of the NCS. Here is how Harvey begins:

Roy Doty’s line is immaculate, naked and unadorned and therefore vulnerable. With a more complex line—one that waxes and wanes with great flexibility, say—little mistakes in the drawing are overlooked, ignored amid the flash and filagree of virtuoso linear flourishes. But with a “clear line,” there’s no room for mistakes. A clean, uncluttered line is unforgiving: every tiny flaw in composition or anatomy leaps out, shrieking for attention. But the pictures Roy Doty drew are silent and well-behaved. No shrieks. Just sheer unadulterated competence.

Doty, too, was unadulterated. But not silent. In declining health since suffering a stroke late last year, he died March 18, defiant, I like to think, to the very end.

He was 93. He always scoffed at the idea of retirement. “Retire from what?” he’d say. “You have to have a job first.”

He was a proud freelancer and had been all his working life. “I have an unblemished work record,” he’d say. “I have never held a job in my life, and I intend to keep it that way.” He was a cartoonist, artist and illustrator, creating humorous pictures in books and magazines, packaging, advertising, comic strips and television.

We also have Rob Clough’s review of the most recent Eric Haven book, UR:

Ur has two meanings: it is a reference to an ancient Sumerian city, and also a word indicating that something is the most original, basic or primal form of something. In Eric Haven’s comic UR, he gets at the dark and primal portions of his own imagination, as attractive bartenders are actually reptilian monsters and the world can crack in half at any time. It’s also a reference to the sort of comics that clearly influence him, especially Marvel comics from the 1960s. It’s not so much the stories that seem to interest him but rather the trappings: the weirdness, the emotional exaggerations, and the frequent stiffness of the art. His goal is not to imitate it nor even parody it, but to celebrate it in the most absurd and strange manner possible.

Above all else, and despite the fact that it’s listed as “Mature/Adventure/Superhero/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror” on the back cover, UR is at its heart humorous. Darkly humorous at times, to be sure, but there are dozens of superb punchlines to be found here. Take “The Equestrian”, for example. This is a plotless story about the titular character (a ghoulish, near-skeletal jockey) intent on destruction for its own sake. First she uses her riding crop to smash a lighthouse, causing a ship to run aground. Then she takes out an airplane’s engine, causing it to crash. Then she strikes the ground twice and destroys the earth. The end. Haven perfectly gets down that EC Comics-style appearance minus the explanatory narrative and builds the story up in a rhythm that escalates the action until it reaches an over-the-top ending. It’s not funny, per se, but it has the rhythm of a joke and embraces its own silliness.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Dorian Lynskey has an article at The Guardian about recent more woman-friendly titles (and recent controversies) at Marvel and DC. It upholds the proud tradition of headlining all articles on comics with the word “Kapow,” and is obviously very superhero-centric, but is otherwise a fairly solid piece.

—Interviews. At The Beat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has begun another one of his regular, highly readable, multi-part interviews with Alan Moore.

—Crowdfunding. Julia Wertz is looking for funding for a followup to Drinking at the Movies, but is doing it on her own site rather than through Kickstarter or Patreon. (She also has a three-page story up on The New Yorker‘s website, about the lost decades when pinball was an illegal activity in NYC.)

I don’t think we’ve previously mentioned that Michael DeForge is on Patreon now, but if we have, it’s still worth repeating.

—Funnies. Ger Apeldoorn has posted some Roy Doty Laugh-In strips.

 

Set Up

Today:

Ryan Holmberg returns with a look at an interesting comics initiative in Mumbai.

Recently Dharavi [an area in Mumbai] midwifed an interesting comics project. There are more than a hundred NGOs active in Mumbai’s slums, engaged in issues ranging from tenancy rights and access to potable water to literacy and social tolerance. The one that concerns us isSNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education, and Health Action), based primarily in Dharavi and dedicated to women’s and children’s health. According to the organization’s website, “SNEHA targets four large public health areas – Maternal and Newborn Health, Child Health and Nutrition, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Prevention of Violence against Women and Children. It recognizes that in order to improve urban health standards, its initiatives must target both care seekers and care providers. It works at the community level to empower women and slum communities to be catalysts of change in their own right and collaborate with existing public health systems and health care providers to create sustainable improvements in urban health.”

Elsewhere:

Here is the video of Norman Hathaway’s superb interview with Victor Moscoso a few weeks back.

The late editor Archie Goodwin gets a deserved hometown tribute.

Comics adjacent: Nayland Blake talks sculpture.

Totally not comics: Luc Sante can write about anything and do it really, really well.

 

A Lot of Tomorrows

Today, we are happy to present the Comics Journal debut of Tasha Robinson, who has conducted a lengthy interview with Scott McCloud about the ending of The Sculptor, which she believes is “easily its most controversial and difficult element.” If you don’t like spoilers, avoid this interview until you’ve read the book. Here’s a short sample of their talk:

You said you don’t mean for his final work to come across as a masterpiece, though it’s hard to see that from the story.

No, I don’t. Though I don’t want to say one way or another. I don’t even think it’s an interesting question. [Laughter.] How it stands up as art is completely beside the point. He’s keeping a promise, and creating something that can’t be ignored in the bargain. But almost accidentally. Almost as a proxy for her.

The proxy aspect is bothersome. It feels like David’s trying to recreate Meg, as he has at so many other points in the story, for various reasons. And his last act is looping back to this thing he’s done multiple times in the past. It feels like after all the growth he’s been through, he still hasn’t learned much.

I don’t think that’s true. I think he’s learned quite a lot. But what he chooses to make—it’s two things. It’s her, and we’ve established that he has this preternatural memory for detail, so we hope he would have the chops to do this. That was important from the get-go. But in the end, all he can do is honor his promise to her. And what he chooses as an image is something from their recent past, when she’s outside St. Patrick’s cathedral, tossing the baby in the air. But it’s also about what she said to the baby in that scene. That’s his way of also acknowledging that it’s all down here.

It’s hard for me to explain why, for me, it feels like the right image. But I think he’s learned a lot. The only problem is that he can’t apply it all. He can’t apply the acceptance he’s learned, because that’s been taken away from him. I suppose he’s going to a smaller place inside his mind, of just being with her. It’s one last communion, one last message, one last interaction with her, almost to the point where she still exists for him. She’s still there, suspended in that moment. Something he’s been doing all along is to try to stop time, to stop the clock. This time he’s just stopping it on her. He knows he can’t bring her back. He can honor a commitment, he just can’t conjure her back to life, any more than Harry could. But he can at least, in his last moments, go back to a place where she’s still there.

We are also publishing Brandon Soderberg’s review of the new Guy Colwell collection, Inner City Romance:

The sociopolitical parables of Inner City Romance, an underground comic published between 1972 and 1978 are pure, uncut products of cagey, post-Sixties radicalism. Across five issues,  cartoony-photorealist from the Bay Guy Colwell shakes off his free love hangover and wrestles with the disillusionment that pops-up once idealism hits a wall. More often than not, an Inner City Romance story ends with a shocking moment of politically loaded brutality that acknowledges how much work still needs to be done. There’s no other underground comic quite like this one.

Let’s start with Colwell at his most successfully blunt: “Sex Crime,” a didactic stunner from issue #5. We witness a woman raped in an alley by a white man, only to be stopped by another white man who also takes it upon himself to assault her. She shoots the second rapist, and then, an African-American man, dressed in a Black Panther turtleneck comes to her aid after hearing the shots and the woman shoots and kills him without hesitation, a big bullet hole blasted through his chest. The whole thing is drawn in a reedy, EC Comics pop-expressionist style, but devastating in its neorealist moralizing. And although this black character is a clear cut, tragic victim of circumstance, Colwell still doesn’t indulge the idealizing-the-underclass-and-minorities hippie-dippie nonsense common amongst even engaged white outsiders. Spending nearly two years in prison for non-cooperation during the draft presumably added a lived-in pragmatism to his characterizations.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Two Turkish cartoonists, Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, have just been sentenced to 11 months in prison over a magazine cover that supposedly “insults” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The CRNI has more background on recent government attempts to persecute Turkish cartoonists.

Eleven staff members of Charlie Hebdo are asking for stock options in the magazine.

Zunar has announced he will seek legal action against Malaysian police for returning damaged art.

After a recent controversy about shelving Tintin in America in a Winnipeg branch of Chapters, the same book has now been pulled from the Winnipeg public library system, pending review.

—Interviews & Profiles. The always great conversationalist Dylan Horrocks is the latest guest on Inkstuds.

Kaulie Lewis spoke to Alison Bechdel shortly after her MacArthur grant win.

Alex Dueben talks to Stan Sakai about his planned return to Usagi Yojimbo.

Zainab Akhtar talks to Jen Lee about her upcoming Vacancy.

—Reviews & Commentary. June Chua has a short look at Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy, a new documentary showing at the Toronto film festival this weekend.

At The Guardian, Jennifer Lucy Allan writes about her personal relationship with the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Frédérik Sisa reviews Noah Berlatsky’s Wonder Woman book.

 

Art Fishing

Today Joe McCulloch brings you the comics of the week.

Elsewhere:

The illustrator and illustration historian Walt Reed, best known for The Illustration House gallery and his essential and unmatched the Illustrator in America, 1860-2000, has passed away. DB Dowd has a lovely appreciation up on his blog.

Dangerous Minds has a preview of a book I’m much intrigued with: Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye’s Final and Darkest Era, which collects the great pulp artist’s work from the late 1960s and 70s. These spare and terrifying drawings, which call to mind contemporary artists like Noel Freibert and Carlos Gonzales, were published mostly in fanzines and small press books during the tail-end of the great rediscovery of pulp art. This was an effort led by and large by fans, with no real support except each other. It’s an amazing thing… people tracking down beloved artists, many no longer producing and coaxing them back to the drawing board. Pulp history, like comics history, was largely the invention of “fans”, without whom we simply wouldn’t have…  history. In Coye’s case the results were stunning: minimal drawings of fallen flesh, demons and torture in stark black and white. Remarkable stuff.

Speaking of history, this is a remarkable memoir of Gilbert Shelton and the Texas comics scene which I’d somehow passed over.

And yesterday’s Marketplace discussed the business machinations behind the current crop of Marvel movies.

 

Shelving Situation

Today on the site, we bring you a John Kelly report on the new Society of Illustrators “Alt-Weekly Comics” show. Here’s a bit from the piece:

By appearing in the alt-weeklies, several generations of talented cartoonists gained access to audiences well beyond the world of fans of college papers, mini comics and zines. Their work was brought to the attention of alternative music and other fringe culture fans, especially in Seattle, where it’s two weeklies, The Rocket and The Stranger, thrived during the rise and fall of that city’s grunge era. And like the underground cartoonists of the 1960s and ’70s (but to a lesser degree) some of the alt-weekly cartoonists literally became as big as the rock stars whose albums and concert posters their work appeared on.

“There’s a way in which the animation culture of the 90s and 2000s and what goes on now with Adult Swim and all that [has its roots in] the strips in the alternative-weeklies the same way National Lampoon was to early Saturday Night Live,” said Michael Grossman, former art director for The National Lampoon, The Village Voice and Entertainment Weekly.  “It was sort of this thing that was going on and the exploded into something else that left the original behind.”

More than 100 examples of work of that initial burst of energy are on display at the SOI show, ranging from little seen examples of the original artwork for the strips to pages literally torn from the old newspapers. It is also significant to note that the show takes place at the venerable Society of Illustrators, not somewhere like the CBGB Gallery or Max Fish, places where such exhibits took place during the alt-weekly heyday. Additionally, the show received an enthusiastic endorsement from no less that The New Yorker.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Longtime Mad writer Lou Silverstone has died.

—Interviews & Profiles. Shawn Starr interviews Raighne Hogan of 2D Cloud.

Matt Emery talks to Emory Liu about designing books for Fantagraphics.

Reaxxion listens to Erik Larsen explaining his side of the controversy that exploded after his recent comments on superhero costume design on Twitter.

Panel Patter checks in with Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

CCS talks to Scott McCloud about process.

Paul Gravett introduces Scottish cartoonist Malcy Duff.

Anodolu Agency speaks briefly to the French cartoonist Zeon, who was arrested this month for cartoons deemed anti-Semitic.

—Reviews & Commentary. Caroline Wazer shares and writes about the caricatures of Punch cartoonist John Leech used to illustrate The Comic History of Rome, sort of a “for Dummies” book from the 19th century.

Panel Patter looks at Corinne Mucha’s Get Over It.

John Adcock writes about the history of “chalk talks.”

—Funnies. Responding to Ronald Wimberly from last week, Connor Willumsen has his own comic at The Nib about editorial tinkering at Marvel.

—Video. Maclean’s visits the home of Seth (via):