BLOG

Lines and Color

Today Annie Mok reviews Compass South.

Compass South is a YA adventure graphic novel, a genre I’m happy to see revived in comics. While the story shows its influences to a distracting degree (Tintin, et al), it’s an entertaining, suspenseful tale, albeit with a bit of a slow start. Author-illustrator Hope Larson writes, coming off the heels of her well-received comics adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, and the star cartoonist and illustrator Rebecca Mock draws (credited with the possibly demeaning billing of “Illustrations by”). It follows Dickensian adolescent twins Alex (disguising himself as “Samuel”) and Cleopatra (becoming Patrick, a boy), who “fink” on a pirate, and then disguise themselves as a rich man’s lost twins to try to get some money. The gender play is handled subtly, with the story suggesting that Patrick is more comfortable presenting as a boy.

Elsewhere:

This looks like a good show in Basel, Switzerland, of Aline and Robert Crumb’s collaborative work.  I think it’s probably hard for people in retrospect to appreciate how radical a cartoonist Aline Kominsky was when she began. If you look at that work, and look at everything around it in comics, there’s just no precedent. Rory Hayes was “crude” but nevertheless working within established EC genres in one way or another. Aline was just off on her own, channeling other modes of modern drawing into cartoon form. And that’s just the form. The content was a whole other kind of break from convention. Amazing, amazing work.

Whatever it looks like (and I don’t much care), I’m disappointed that George Lucas’s proposed museum for narrative art didn’t find a home in Chicago. It would have been a great resource for the city’s cartooning community, given the substantial holdings of, well… no one really knows, but rumored major holdings of Herriman, Foster, Wyeth, Rockwell and lord knows what else. Lucas has been a major collector of comic art since the 1970s. I hope it lands somewhere! Here’s a summary of the various battles/cock-ups along the way.

 

Night School

As usual, Tuesday brings us Joe McCulloch’s always handy guide to the Week in Comics, pointing out the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. This week, his spotlight picks include new works by Gary Northfield and Tom Scioli.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—People Asking for Help. The cartoonist and publisher Zack Soto and his wife Krista are raising funds to help with their son’s genetic retinal disease.

It’s been about a month since we learned about Caspian’s diagnosis. We’ve been holding it pretty close to the vest because we were still processing ourselves but also because we didn’t want to have to talk about it all the time. Caspian is an incredible, inquisitive, sweet, super smart, musical being. In talking about it all the time it becomes more about his diagnosis and less about him. It’s about him. It’s about how can we make his life as awesome as it can be. It’s about how can we help him reach his full potential and not let this disease be an obstacle.

Linda Medley of Castle Waiting has started a Patreon.

Several years ago I was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, and took some time off from creating artwork to rest, and adapt to new modes of working. Although my convalescence took longer than anticipated, I’m currently hard at work on Castle Waiting Volume 3 and hope to have the first 150-page installment ready for publication next year…but I’ll need your financial help to be able to continue working on it.

Joyce Brabner is raising money to create a “comixcast” from this year’s Republican convention.

A “comixcast” is a live feed of political comics and YouTube videos, in this case live from the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland by people who detest everything Donald Trump stands for. Yup, activists with pens and brushes mightier than his decayed sound bites.

—Interviews. On the new episode of Inkstuds, guest host Sean Ford talks to Gabby Schulz.

 

Today’s News

Today on Greg Hunter’s Comic Book Decalogue our host talks to Dean Haspiel about “the dual impacts of Jack Kirby and Prince, as well as his new serial, The Red Hook.”

Elsewhere:

 

Hard to compete with Brexit. Here are some light amusements for your Monday… Love and Rockets is returning to comic book form in a new series to be released a few times a year.

Jessica Campbell remains very funny.

I ran across this Charles Rodrigues gag on Heritage and it just cracks me up. Simple, classic non-sequitour joke.  It doesn’t need this level of skillful inky drawing — the oddball darkness that was this cartoonist’s trade. I love the depth of space, the care put into the references, and the sack-like shapes of the janitors. Just great. Published in Cracked, apparently, mid-1970s. Fantagraphics has published a couple of Rodrigues collections. 
lf (2)

 

Gags

Today on the site, we have Chris Mautner’s review of the limited-edition release of Tim Hensley’s Sir Alfred No. 3, a comics sort-of biography of Alfred Hitchcock, and the final product of the late Alvin Buenaventura’s Pigeon Press, now being distributed by Fantagraphics.

With its above-average size and slapstick gag format, Sir Alfred evokes both the movie magazines and the humor-based comic books of mid-20th century America, especially titles that drew on established celebrities, like The Adventures of Bob Hope. Even the title is a sly wink to periodicals past, a teasing suggestion of an ongoing Hitchcock series, though, of course, no first or second issue exists.

Hensley’s biggest aesthetic influence here, though, is John Stanley, with Hitchcock drawn to resemble a middle-aged Tubby. It works better than you would imagine — there always was a cartoonish aspect to Hitchcock’s public persona, right down to the anecdote (shared in the comic) that he wore identical basic black suits for most of his career.

Along the way, however, Hensley takes a moment or two to ape cartoonists such as Robert Ripley, Milt Gross, Don Martin, and Jaime Hernandez. Hensley has proven himself to be a formidable mimic, and perhaps most impressively, he uses this talent not to show off as much as to underscore the comic’s theme (or service the gag at hand).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The hardest-working interviewer on the comics internet, Alex Dueben, talks to Simon Hanselmann for The Beat.

Dueben: You mentioned the last time we spoke that you had years of stories in mind and that you saw this as a long term project. Is that still your plan or has your approach changed?

Hanselmann: Oh yeah, that’s the plan. I’m Love and Rockets-ing this shit. I have piles and piles of outlines for future episodes. It takes so long to paint all these pages. I’m very far ahead in terms of mapping and planning. All other plans for comics that aren’t Megg and Mogg based have gone out the window. I just want to draw Megg and Mogg. I love them. Forever and always.

—Etelka Lehoczky writes about Lisa Hanwalt’s Hot Dog Taste Test for NPR.

Hot Dog Taste Test overflows with colorful oddities. Hanawalt, who’s the production designer and producer of the Netflix cartoon BoJack Horseman, draws yuppie songbirds, bananas worn as shoes, a neurotic toucan, “a pinch of stir-fried dirt,” the latest trends in menstrual huts, sexualized kiwi birds and an array of otters in lavender swimsuits and matching caps. She reflects endlessly on how to violate food taboos in the weirdest way possible, even musing on the greatest food taboo of all: The matter of when and how it comes out the other end. She designs a straw toilet (so people grossed out by public restrooms can sit on nests instead) and depicts herself peeing.

—Maria Russo writes about James Sturm’s wordless children’s book Birdsong for the New York Times.

We learn in an afterword that Sturm, the author of the Adventures in Cartooning< series as well as the “Ape and Armadillo” picture books, was inspired by the Japanese tradition of kamishibai, or “paper theater.” Building on a Buddhist practice of telling stories using picture scrolls, performers in the 1920s would bicycle from village to village with wooden boxes holding stacks of images from stories inspired by the silent films of the West. As they rotated through the images, the performers provided dialogue and sound effects to enthralled children — then sold them candy.

—Mike Lynch has resurrected a 1961 guide to gag cartooning, How to Create 1000 Gags a Year.

006

Huh.

 

Don’t Change a Thing

Today on the site, it’s Richard Gehr on Michael Maslin’s recent Peter Arno biography. Richard of course is the author of the fantastic book about New Yorker cartoonists, I Only Read it for the Cartoons. Here’s a bit of the review:

Beginning with his first New Yorker drawing in the magazine’s eighteenth issue (dated June 20, 1925), Peter Arno would manifest Ross’s ideal of a magazine that would celebrate the new postwar freedoms of the Jazz Age while gently mocking upper-class pretensions. In Arno, he found an artist who embodied both guises – artist and aristocrat – in one brilliant, handsome, and self-contradictory package.

In the first book-length biography of Peter Arno, New Yorker cartoonist – and invaluable New Yorker cartoonists blogger – Michael Maslin delivers a meticulously researched account of the enigmatic, and often angry, Arno. In fact, what appears at first glance to be a throwaway subtitle – “The Mad, Mad World of THE NEW YORKER’s Greatest Cartoonist” – hints at the gas that fueled the dapper drawer’s particular genius. As he told Joseph Mitchell in 1937, “You don’t do good work of this sort unless you’re mad at something.”

Elsewhere:

Dave Sim’s Cerebus is apparently returning in a new comic book series. Which reminds me that I was reminded at, appropriately enough, the Kramers Ergot signing last week of this splendiferous comments thread between Kim Thompson and Dave Sim here at TCJ in 2012. The last of the great threads? Perhaps so. Oh, and I did really enjoy the Kramers signing last week at Desert Island. Got to see people I hadn’t seen in a while. Was happy to see such a nice turnout, got new comics from Kevin H., Frank, and via Sammy, Jon Pham (Thanks all). Caught up with Sean Collins, who I hadn’t seen in at least a year. A nice time followed by a good dinner the next night with Sammy and Kevin, in fine form. Vague enough for you?

That’s all I have, folks. These days I’m really hung up (still!) on Alex Raymond and Wally Wood. I’m blocked! I just love thinking about all those lines filling up those forms. I think it’s like counting grains of sand. Meditative.

 

Graprefruit Juice

Ron Goulart returns with another entry in his biographical series on Connecticut cartoonists. This time, his focus is on Walt Kelly.

Years later Kelly expressed some doubts on the value of the classes he had attended [at Walt Disney Studios], but he was considerably tipsy on that occasion and his negative side took hold of him. His thoughts on that topic emerged at the November 1969 National Cartoonists Society annual banquet, in an interview by Gil Kane with a large group of his fellow cartoonists in the audience. After getting a few sullen and whimsical answers, Kane stopped in the middle of his fourth question and said, “This isn’t going to work.” But Kelly replied, “You said you has a hell of a lot of good questions to ask me and I want to hear one of them.” Reluctantly Kane continued and asked, “I was wondering if there was some turning point, something that influenced your very substantial attention to craft. No kidding, now.”

Kelly’s response was ambivalent. “Hunger. I mean, here you were starving to death, working for Disney. Disney was a good training school in that the people he had working for him the best cartoonists that I have ever seen in a group….[But] even out there, not all of them were good. Some of them were terrible.”


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Claire Napier writes about misandry in the comics of Julia Gfrörer.

Sometimes in Gfrorer’s work, men are raped. This is something that happens in life with tragic frequency, but it is not something depicted in art or media too often, or too well. Of course the rape of women by men is very common, and in art and media too. We are not afraid to suggest women are victimised by men. When man’s rapes feature, the rapist is often a fellow male and the victim commonly queer; otherwise he may be a heterosexual who becomes subject to fears about their own sexuality subsequent to their rape by a man. In this way, fictitious rape of men is often kept reserved from a reader’s ideas about men’s heterosexual relations. Gfrorer prefers to consider rape of men directly within the realm of heterosexual intimacy; Gfrorer’s art contrarily positions women and vaginas as potentially rapacious, and the heterosexual, male penis as their prey.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Rookie, Rachel Davies talks to Lisa Hanawalt.

If I really want to get my shit together and impress someone, I can make a gnocchi from scratch. I can follow a recipe and sometimes get it right, but in my day-to-day life, I don’t cook that much. I have a couple of dishes I make over and over again. I’ll throw stuff in the rice cooker, but I eat more to just fuel myself. My boyfriend makes fun of me because for lunch I’ll just have a hard boiled egg and some crackers and a hand full of olives and a pickle. He’s like, “You’re eating like a baby.”

For Paste, Julia Wright talks to Gina Wynbrandt.

I tried to tweet my comics about him at [Justin Bieber], but basically I didn’t want to turn my Twitter into a spam account. He has so many followers, the chances of him seeing it would be super low. But he does share fan art! Only most of the time, and it’s done by, like, a really adorable 13-year-old fan, and honestly the art is really shitty. So I get mad he hasn’t shared what I’m doing in, like, art college.

My mom tells me I’m going to be really famous and “we will meet and work together as peers.” [Laughs]

Jessica Voelker talks to Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth about Comic-Con.

We go because we’d be conspicuous by our absence, and we have fans who really do appreciate us being there. We’re sort of an oasis in this sea of shit.

For Print, Michael Dooley talks to Tosh Berman about his father Wallace Berman, and the importance of Flash Gordon to his art.

It’s a generational thing. A lot of artists in my dad’s generation loved comics, and I think not really the comic book, but the comics that appeared in the newspaper. All those artists are basically the same generation, so the main medium was the comic strip.

I think one can argue the influence of the comic strip on a lot of artists, but especially on artists from a certain era and time, and maybe place. Warhol, I’m sure, felt the same way about comics as my dad. Kenneth Anger again, same generation. I don’t think the comic strip would be that great of an influence if the artist was born in the 1950s. So, right time, right place for these particular artists.

And finally, our own Joe McCulloch took over guest-hosting duty at Inkstuds to interview hte ’90s “bad girl” artist Trevlin Utz.

 

Such An Interesting Guy

Hey there,

Today Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics, with bonus Avatar press diversion.

The chain of events is like this. I wrote a review of the Avatar Press anthology Cinema Purgatorio where I suggested that despite the much-heralded participation of Alan Moore, the project was better understood in terms of its publisher’s tendencies. That, however, made me paranoid that I didn’t have an adequate enough grasp of Avatar’s history, which led me to cataloging most of the artists who worked for them in the 1990s, which naturally (NATURALLY.) led me to tracking down many related comics from the 1990s horror/goth/’Bad Girl’ comics scene. By chance, and through an enormous outlay of generosity, I also recorded an episode of the Inkstuds podcast with one of those artists, Trevlin Utz, which went up yesterday; let the emphasis lay on the fact that *I* recorded it, because the audio gets weird and out of sync at parts, a significant flaw entirely attributable to me.

And Rob Kirby reviews Talk Dirty to Me.

Talk Dirty to Me opens with its protagonist, Emma Barns, nervously interviewing for a job as a “sex hotline” operator. The interviewer, a middle-aged man, assures her that she doesn’t need to be “amazing” or give him a lot of backstory. “All I need to know,” he concludes bluntly, “is if you can sound sexy enough to make a guy cum over the phone.” Emma gets the job, and this sets the narrative in motion: Will its forbidden allure satisfy Emma’s inchoate yearnings? And are those yearnings of a sexual nature or something more elusive?

Rather than offering up Trina Robbins-style role-model feminism, Talk Dirty to Me presents a shaded, unglamorous mini-portrait of a woman’s life via her sexual history, and examines how those experiences have shaped her current liminal state. Emma’s story, in fact, is a conduit to a larger subject: the boundaries our culture places around sexual agency and notions of desirability, and the impact of conforming to and/or challenging those boundaries.

Elsewhere:

A new feature over at Comics Workbook looks to be featuring images from Carol Kovinick Hernandez’s archive. Here’s a great one of the brothers playing barbies.

Here I am discussing comics-related artist Susan Te Kahurangi King at Modern Painters.  

And, in case you were curious, Captain Britain would oppose Brexit.

 

 

Was Ist Das?

Today on the site, Jeanette Roan is here with a nice, long, career-spanning interview with Jason Shiga, the creator of Fleep, Bookhunter, and the already infamous webcomic Demon, which will soon come out in collected form from First Second.

[First Second is] also going to put it out as four books. Why not just one giant one? Didn’t you say you wanted to make Demon one page longer than Craig Thompson’s Habibi?

Yes! I don’t know why First Second is doing it in four volumes, you’d have to ask them. I’m a little bummed that Craig Thompson will have a larger book than me. I might hire a bookbinder to take all four volumes and stick it into one hard cover. Actually, I might have them make two, one for myself and then one I can mail to Craig Thompson.

Do you have a little rivalry thing going with Craig Thompson? Does he know about this?

Yeah, I told him. He knows my plans.

I saw that you recently put out a question on social media about whether you should dedicate Demon to your son. Have you come to a decision yet?

I want to, but my wife is against it. The day I put it out to Facebook was the same day Jimmy and Hunter were having their naked sex fight in the webcomic. So that didn’t help. In my defense, however, I want to say the cum shank sequence was very tastefully done. You never actually see Jimmy ejaculate. It’s all done off-camera, through implication.

What about the naked sex fight scene?

OK, that maybe not so much.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Sean T. Collins interviewed Lisa Hanawalt about her new book Hot Dog Taste Test for the Observer.

How do you balance your “day job” working on Bojack Horseman with continuing to do comics?

I’m glad it seems like I’m balancing those things, because I’m always in a panic over not doing enough. It is what it looks like: I’m often spending 8-10 hours at work and then doing more work after I get home. I pushed really hard to complete this book while working full time on the third season and had a flare-up of gut problems — ironic, given the theme of the book — which I’ve always had issues with, but get really bad when I’m stressed. So I’m not currently supposed to eat hot dogs. Isn’t that funny?

—Alex Dueben talks to MariNaomi about her book Turning Japanese for CBR.

I feel like a lot of people are trying to pander to an audience. Unless you’re really into telling a story, there’s no point to telling it. I mean, I guess stuff like that sells — vampires are hot, so let’s write about vampires — but I don’t feel like that kind of stuff really stands the test of time if you’re not super-passionate about something. Especially with comics. Best case scenario, you’re never going to be a millionaire. [Laughs]

I was talking to Box Brown recently, when I was on tour in Philadelphia, and we were talking about best case scenarios for writers versus best case scenarios for cartoonists, and man, it’s pretty dismal. [Laughs] Best case scenario for writers is like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Best case scenario for cartoonists are, I don’t know, Art Spiegelman? Alison Bechdel? The top tier of comics is not quite Stephen King-level. [Laughs]

—BBC Radio 4 has a half-hour documentary on Charles Schulz available online for the next few weeks.

—They’re making a movie from Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? Oder Theater?

The 2D feature will be mainly based on Charlotte Salomon’s “Life? Or Theatre?” — an autobiographical series of 769 paintings which the young artist created between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France, where she lived before she was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 26.

“Staying true to Charlotte’s spirit and body of work, our film will be punctuated with fantasy, dream-like elements and the animation designs will be minimalist, in a similar vein as (Remi Chayé’s) ‘Long Way North.’ We’ll be animating and interpreting her paintings, placing the emphasis on the story which is extraordinarly moving,” said Bergeron.