Philip Glass, Knife Collector

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got a lovely interview with one of my favorite artists, Roman Muradov. I wish I could take credit for setting this up, but it was presented on a platter by Aug Stone. Picking a favorite passage was easy: here's Roman on how The Fall influenced his work and taught him English.

I started listening to The Fall when I was about 18, when I couldn’t really speak English particularly well. I sort of learned English through The Fall (laughs). A bit of an abstruse route. I realize that a lot of my pronunciation is from The Fall and that Mark E. Smith’s actually not pronouncing very well so...(laughs) They were possibly my earliest artistic influence in my entire life, and also the most lasting. Because English is my second language I had the benefit of experiencing The Fall as a pre-linguistic awakening. I would listen to it and not understand 90% of the things he’s saying (laughs). But there was a force to it that really appealed to me, and it’s the same force that I recognize in, say, James Joyce, who I also couldn’t understand, because my English wasn’t up to the task. But I could still feel it in my guts. And it’s this very primal feeling, words connecting, sending a shiver down your spine—the whole idea that the sound of the words is actually much more meaningful than their meaning—and that’s something I’ve carried through my entire work. And with The Fall there are many other things. First of all, they had this whole amateurish approach to art-making. I change my style quite a lot as I’m sure you’ve noticed, so when I decide ‘ok, the next one will be in paint’, there’s a voice inside me that goes ‘hang on, you can’t paint’. But then there’s a little Mark E. Smith in my head that says ‘well, it doesn’t fucking matter. Get these three random tubes of paint and start painting. You’re not going to take classes or lessons. That is not how it’s done.’ So in a way I treat myself like he treats his musicians (laughs). Of course it’s even more unhealthy, I am my own tyrant and my own servant.

That's not all though! Today we've also got Mindy Rhiger's first piece for The Comics Journal, a review of Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker, a new graphic novel for younger readers published by First Second.

It may not begin with the words “Once upon a time,” but The Prince and the Dressmaker is a fairy tale through and through. From the prince looking for a wife (sort of) to the magical transformations (in a manner of speaking), the story blends elements of a traditional tale with modern ideas and sensibilities in a way that is every bit as charming and cinematic as the animated fairy tales many grew up watching. Perhaps this is a fairy tale that will speak to a new generation.


Busy Day

Today on the site, Tegan O'Neil returns with a review of Sarah Graley's Kim Reaper.

I’ve been sitting here trying to decide what I wanted to say about Sarah Graley’s Kim Reaper, the first volume of which – aptly titled Grim Beginnings – was delivered to my address by anonymous courier. I like the comic: I want to get that out of the way right up front. It’s not a perfect comic but it’s really solidly put together and very cute. Oops! Did I say cute? I didn’t mean to say cute.

In an Irish Lit seminar in college our professor informed us that “cute” was an Irish insult. Even over here in the wilderness cute can be a kiss-off. I try to remember the Irish definition whenever I use the word. It’s not a word I want to abuse in any way. I’d certainly never wield it as invective, because not only do I respect the idea of cute, but as an aesthetic mood I consider it a virtue worth promoting.

There’s nothing at all ironic about being cute in 2018.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The New York Review of Books has published an excerpt of Eleanor Davis's Why Art?

—Caleb Orecchio writes about Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte.

This encounter and subsequent reading of the issue reminded me of Doucet’s intensity as a cartoonist. An unfettered intensity and earnestness in both narrative and drawing. A simultaneity that basically went unrivaled among her comics graduating class (the exception probably being Chester Brown). Even in our current comics community, I am hard-pressed to think of any cartoonist that revels so deeply and gleefully in one’s day-to-day routine of life, fantasies and bodily functions—and in a completely fun and personal way.

—Boy, this CBLDF instructional comic for yesterday's gun protests sure seems concerned with teaching kids not to cause any kind of disturbance or distress to authorities and institutions. Is civil disobedience supposed to be disruptive and society-changing, or just a lifestyle signifier?

—RIP Stephen Hawking


The Blood and The Father

Today at the Journal, we've got a review from Alex Hoffman, who, in a turn of events that interest the 163,377 people who have registered as commenters on this site, is making his very own transition from their ranks of toil to Official TCJ Contributor with this very review. It's on a book called Eternal Friendship, which was published last year to almost no comics acclaim whatsoever--because the publisher decided to call it something else. Alex takes issue!

Originally published in France as Amitié Éternelle, and translated by Elizabeth Zuba, Durand uses official and personal photographs from Albanian state photographers to create a story of friendship, politics, and totalitarian power.

The strange nature of this print object is apparent even at first glance. Eternal Friendship is a narrative work comprised primarily of photographs and text. But Eternal Friendship is not traditional photo comics or fumetti. There are no word balloons, no dialogue, none of the ephemera associated with the conventional conservative definition of comics. And this is apparent in the way that Siglio Press markets the book, as a “photo-novel,” a term that is as much a hedge as it is a recognition that Eternal Friendship does not easily fit in the lines we draw around narrative form. Still, despite Siglio Press’ hedging, Eternal Friendship is clearly a comic. It is a combination of image and text used to tell a story that only works with both parts intact.

And that's not all--it's the day after Tuesday, which means that a new TCJ newsletter went out. You can read it here. And then, if you dug it, you can subscribe to it here. And if you didn't dig it, subscribe to it anyway, that way you can respond to it negatively when it shows up in your inbox, thus guaranteeing that you're ruining one (or both) of our day with your venom and bile! 

Speaking of venom and bile, I received an email while composing this blog post that referred to this old comments thread as having "invented 2017". It's possible!



Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews the new Josh Simmons collection, Flayed Corpse.

[It] is a splendid collection of solo stories and collaborations with other notable cartoonists, most previously published in anthologies and zines like Mome, Intruder, Rough House, and Habit; also included are various unpublished drawings and odds and ends, all created from 2010 to 2017. The book is carefully curated, highly enjoyable, and more fun than Simmons's harrowing, almost nihilistic Furry Trap collection from 2012—though it is not without its upsetting moments (you wouldn’t expect any less from Josh Simmons, would you?). Working with other artists has only added further dimensions to his oeuvre.

Simmons's work has always presented a particularly unsettling aesthetic. His stories take place in an universe with an entirely indifferent moral structure, where life can be brutally snuffed out at any time, for no reason other than bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The brief title story, "Flayed Corpse", sets up this ferocious tone. In it, a group of medical forensic experts discuss the state of mind of a dead man at the time of his demise. What they ultimately decide offers no comforting view of death as a final peaceful departure into the ether: “He died terrified, in agony. And it echoed out and was absorbed into a cosmos already sick with pain.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—JHU Comic Books is hoping to stay in Manhattan, and raising money via GoFundMe in order to do so.

JHU Comic Books have been serving comic book fans in New York City since 2013 (and the owners worked at the legendary Jim Hanley’s Universe, which originated on Staten Island in 1985, before that). We opened our current store on 32nd Street after Hurricane Sandy, and now after 5 years, we lost our lease, and we need to move.

We have found a great new (and affordable) space a few blocks from our current location, in a residental neighborhood. We will be moving from a highly commerical area, and are looking to reestablish ourself as a mom and pop shop. However the new space needs some major work. Floor, lights, bathroom, an awning and more. This is where we need your help.

—Matthew Thurber brings us Military School:



Look What You Made Me Glue

Today at the Journal, two of your trustiest souls return to these pages. The first is Marc Sobel, with a nice long read to start off your week. It's a deep dive into Yukinobu Hoshino's 2001 NightsThis piece has a bibliography, pal. Does your piece have a bibliography?

2001 Nights is the story of humanity’s exploration of the universe. Told in a series of nineteen episodes, each successive “night” represents a milestone in the gradual journey. As the title implies, the series borrows its narrative structure from 1001 Nights, a collection of Islamic folk tales from the 7th Century, and its epic scope, which spans several centuries and thousands of light years, was also inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix series.

Then we've got RJ Casey. The last time he was around these parts, he was pleased with his reading assignments, this time around? Well, this time around he took a look at the latest comic book launch of a Robert Kirkman intellectual property: it's called Oblivion Song, and RJ wasn't a fan.

I’m never sure if writers like Kirkman create comics like these to appeal to their predominantly white male fan bases, or, even when given a clean slate by Image, this is literally all they can imagine. And which one of those is worse? Every criticism of this comic (and I’m sure a television show is right around the corner) will be met with defenders rallying behind the idea of "escapism." But when brutal tragedies are actually happening and not merely plot points, it shouldn’t be too much to ask writers and artists to take a step back and reflect for one goddamn minute. If your escapism does not reflect those that are oppressed, harassed, and victimized—in short, people who need escape—then something is very, potentially harmfully, wrong.

Elsewhere, you'll find a lot of Stan Lee pieces going up regarding his current living & financial situation, with the Daily Beast being the most extensive and recent. It's a developing situation and an ugly one. 


Lurking in Paradise

Greg Hunter's here with a review of two recently translated Chinese comics from a very small publisher.

Migraine by Woshibai and Two Stories by Gantea mark the first entries in a series of contemporary lianhuanhua translations from Brooklyn micropress Paradise Systems. Both artists are from China, the lianhuanhua tradition’s place of origin—Woshibai from Shanghai; Gantea from Beijing, by way of Urumqi—and both comics observe some of lianhuanhua’s historical conventions. Migraine and Two Stories feature one scene (or panel) per page, a horizontal orientation, and a pocket-ready trim size. Reading lianhuanhua in large quantities, the effects of this format surely vary. (Lianhuanhua of the past encompassed many genres and sensibilities, including “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” a publisher’s note in each volume informs readers.) In the case of Migraine and Two Stories, the format supports, even underscores, feelings of stillness and ambivalence. Taken together, the comics also demonstrate how different two comics sharing these feelings can be.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—History. The indefatigable Sean Howe writes about Marvel artist Billy Graham for the New York Times.

Last summer, Shawnna Graham fired up Netflix in her Williamsburg, Va., home and looked for her grandfather’s name in the closing credits of “Marvel’s Luke Cage.” It was nowhere to be found.

It was a surprise. After all, the Harlem-based comic book artist Billy Graham had worked on the first 17 issues of “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire,” and even had a hand in writing a few of them. He’d been the only African-American person working on what was the first African-American superhero comic book series.

In fact, he was the only African-American person working for Marvel, period.

Broadly looks at the career of Jackie Ormes.

Fashion and politics are rarely represented alongside each other in a smart way, but cartoonist Jackie Ormes, the first American Black woman to have a syndicated comic strip, consistently married the two with ease. From the 30s through the 50s, her Torchy Brown and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger comics featured clever, independent women with a taste for chic clothing and sharp political commentary.

—News. DC has announced a new imprint called Black Label featuring creators such as Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., and the DC debut of Kelly Sue DeConnick.

—Interviews. Vice talks to a slate of cartoonists, including Brandon Graham, Mimi Pond, and R. Sikoryak, about their comics careers. Here's Pond:

I don't know if you're familiar with Clay Felker. He started New York magazine. He was very supportive of women writers, and of women in general in publishing, and he was doing a magazine called Manhattan Inc., and he asked me to do a cartoon about the problems women face in the workplace—sexual harassment in the workplace. This is 1986 or something. First of all, I said no. I've made it my life's work to avoid working in an office, so I don't even know what office life is like. He said "No, no, no, you do it. You have to do it."

So I talked to all my friends who worked in offices, and they would tell me these stories about being made to feel very uncomfortable in all these different ways. One of the big ones was guys telling dirty jokes just to make them uncomfortable. So I showed him this pencil rough that's got a woman surrounded by a group of men by the water cooler, and one of them has just told the punchline to a dirty joke, and all the men are laughing, and the woman says, "That reminds me of a joke my gynecologist told me the other day while he was giving me a pap smear," and they all turn white. And I showed it to Clay Felker, and he just said, "This is disgusting!" I said, “Yeah, I know.” And he made me redo it. It just felt to me like the first one was dead on.

Eddie Campbell launched a new website, as mentioned the other day, and is now a guest on the Library of American Comics podcast.


The Finest in Grog

Today at The Journal, we've got a double shot from some new contributors. First you'll find Sara McHenry holding court on Twisted Romance, a recent release from Image Comics featuring not one, but two Journal contributors. It seems to have struck a nerve!

Still, there’s a lot to like here: a goth vampire boy donning his sunglasses and black parasol to interview small-town folks about wendigo murders is extremely charming. A vampire and a hunter falling in love and going to karaoke bars in the American south, where being gay can be as dangerous as being a monster? I’m so here for that. They even have a Chihuahua named Dominique!

And we've also got an interview with Taneka Stotts about her approach to webcomics, seeking a voice outside of editorial, and her history in poetry, courtesy of Ardo Omer!

Do you find that how you receive feedback or how you work with creatives, your current view on both of those things, were because you started out as an editor?

Yes and no. This kind of goes back to slam poetry a little bit. Back in the day, there are things called group pieces [and] also duos which [are] literally when two creative artists or a group of artists sit down, write a poem, kind of like a song, spitting out little words here and there to one another [and] seeing how it flows with the group. Or taking someone’s piece, deconstructing it so that a group can read that piece on stage. So it might’ve already existed, and this poet might have already read it quite a few times, but they’re going to break it down into sections of four so that they can all read it together, give it more emphasis and bang, and then watch it, you know, perform on stage, and how it hits an audience.

ALSO, but elsewhere: The Graphic novel nominations for the Lamda awards are up, and it's nice to see them abandon the tradition of giving a sympathy position to a lousy super-hero comic by a straight dude with an earring just because it features a side character who likes to reminisce about Will & Grace in between poorly drawn fight scenes. It's great that those things exist, because it isn't really progress until everybody gets their own shitty super-hero comic to call their own, but it was consistently annoying how often those things earned some kind of acclaim while there was, you know, absolutely anything else to have as an option.


Let It Snow

Today brings another two-fer. First, Matt Seneca reviews the latest from the enigmatic Blexbolex, Vacation.

Blexbolex has cracked the code. The French cartoonist with the name that sounds like a friendly robot has worked in a wide variety of styles, from the simple interlocking blocks of bright color seen in his kid's books People and Seasons, to the whirls of limited-palette decoration in his very not-kid's books No Man's Land and Dogcrime. His most recent book, the truly all-ages fable Ballad, added a profusion of neon dot screening to the mix. Through it all, the constant is that his imagery bypasses people's critical faculties and hits them right in the pleasure centers, from page directly into eyes and usually from there to the wallet. Putting a Blexbolex book right by the tiller was a great way to grab add-on sales when I was working comics retail. He makes stuff that people want before they even know what it is, just because of how good it looks.

And then Irene Velentzas returns with a take on Joseph Remnant's art world graphic novel, Cartoon Clouds.

What’s the point of making art in a technological era? This question, and variations of it, make up the heart of Joseph Remnant’s first longform graphic narrative, Cartoon Clouds. Clouds follows freshly minted art school graduate Seth Fallon through insecurity, uncertainty, poverty, and the pretentious Cincinnati art scene. A small nexus of art grads trying to “make it” as serious artists in an increasingly pop-culturized contemporary market succeed to various degrees — or get stuck in the cogs of unrelenting capitalistic machinery. The tale focuses on the humdrum futility of this post-grad life and the very real choice perhaps all young adults must make: to either follow or abandon their idealistic dreams. What prevents Remnant’s narrative from becoming a rote run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale is the caricatured portraits cropping up throughout the text of newly-divorced art professors, established but jaded artists, and culture-vulture branders. These character sketches speak to Fallon’s artistic sensibility: art is capable of capturing a side of people that they cannot see in themselves.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Ward Sutton has won the 2018 Herblock Prize.

Matt Furie has filed a copyright suit against Alex Jones's InfoWars for its use of his Pepe the Frog character.

The lawsuit pinpoints one poster in particular as a source of copyright infringement. The poster features Pepe alongside InfoWars founder Alex Jones, President Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Roger Stone and others with the text "MAGA," short for Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Furie, represented by attorney Rebecca Girolamo at Wilmer Cutler, says he didn't authorize such use of Pepe. He alleges the poster is being sold by InfoWars in its online store.

This week features a silent auction to fund the Columbia College Chicago student anthology Linework. The auction is to help with the publication costs of the eighth and final issue, and features original Ivan Brunetti artwork (a rare page from Schizo and one from Kramers Ergot), as well as original art from several noteworthy Linework alumni (Nick Drnaso, Onsmith, David Alvarado, and others).

—Reviews & Commentary. The music site Aquarium Drunkard reviews the new Blutch collection, Total Jazz.

Jazz has long represented the very idea of “cool.” But while Blutch’s art is frequently elegant and sensual, some of the best stories here reflect not the effortlessness of jazz, but rather the intensity required to create it. In “Sonny Sharrock,” Blutch presents the enormous guitarist in the midst of his time with flutist Herbie Mann’s smooth jazz combo (long before he’d provide the indispensable soundtrack for Space Ghost Coast to Coast). Thick, jagged black lines hover above him, his hands a whirr of furious action, illustrating the incongruity of the late Sharrock’s violent playing on Mann’s pillowy records. In “Five Solos (A Selection),” pianists Jaki Byard and Don Pullen’s become blurs of motion; Sun Ra’s fingers become exaggerated apparitions and Charles Mingus’ hands are presented impossibly enlarged, heavy like stones — French pianist Martial Solal stares in disbelief at each, and then at their gravestones.