Watch Your Wallet

It's Thursday for Nathan Gelgud's Cartoonist Diary, and things are getting serious.

Today at TCJ, Paul Tumey is digging deep into the All Time Comics titles for his Framed! column. These are the ones that Fantagraphics used to publish that then moved over to Floating World and feature a massive amount of cross-generational play. We're actually coming up on our one year anniversary of our All Time focused interview with the great Trevor Von Eeden. Very cosmic stuff. Anyway, back to today, here's Paul:

Josh Bayer, who co-founded the series with his brother Sam and co-wrote Zerosis Deathscape with Simmons (as well as contributing some fascinatingly stylized art), commented on the series by drawing a parallel with another band having fun: “These comics aren’t designed to reform or resurrect the face of superhero comics. These books aren’t gonna be the first Ramones album. They’re more like the ‘Acid Easters’ album they made in the late 80s. It’s the Ramones checking out what they sound like when they play Eric Burden songs or Pete Townsend and Beach Boys songs.”

You ever read about what Jeff Bezos does with all his money? Like the stuff he buys, the things he occupies his time with? What a snooze! You'd expect a sociopath to have more interesting hobbies. At least Bill Gates is trying to make Dune style stillsuits, so that we can all drink our urine in the future while wearing black leather in 160 degree heat.  

Today's review is from Tegan, she's here with a look at a collection of Judge Dredd comics drawn by Chris Weston.

Weston distinguishes himself here with a depth of field and eye for material texture that speaks as much to the continent as to his native tradition. Straight up I tell you true, it looks like he has spent a lot of time studying Moebius. That’s not a name I’d drop under most circumstances as that’s not really a comparison most people could weather. Weston, like Ladronn before him, proves that even just being able to draw a tiny bit like Moebius takes twice the talent as most artists in the history of the medium have ever possessed.

Check it out: Todd McFarlane bullshit with Pearl Jam bullshit! The above is coming via IDW, it's 200 pages about a twenty year old music video that, according to the press release, is more relevant now than it was when it came out. (I disagree!) Above, you can see Eddie Vedder and Todd McFarlane hanging out together. There's no link, they emailed me about this one. Hopefully they'll have a Freak On A Leash book next. Hopefully Chris Ryall wasn't the guy with all the great taste, and that chapter of of comics history will not go ignored.

Elsewhere: Here's a quirky round-up of times when hip-hop albums have enlisted comics artists to draw their album art, perfect for viral pleasures. I didn't realize how many Sienkiewicz had drawn, but the hits keep coming the more you scroll. Site is NeoText, author is Paco Taylor. Neotext is a new site that launched this week--more information on it is here. They've already got a handful of comics pieces up, including a long look at Judge Dredd and an interview with Howard Chaykin, who will be writing for the site. The sites owners include a guy who worked for NATO and the dude who produced Capone!


Get You One

It's day three for Nathan Gelgud on Diary duty-today, he's grappling with what the pandemic is doing to his upcoming freelance gigs by reading a book.

Today, Helen Chazan goes long on the work of Kuniko Tsurita, whose comics have arrived via Drawn & Quarterly, Mitsuhiro Asakawa & Ryan Holmberg in the collection of The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud. Helen was originally going to review the book, but her piece expanded over the course of writing it. I'm glad that happened, as it gives us the opportunity to put out another piece on the book next week. It's excellent, fascinating work, and one of the most rewarding comics I've read this year. We should write about it every single day. Here's a bit of Helen for you:

Tsurita’s comics dwell on death and self-annihilation, isolation, dysphoria and longing. Her protagonists are often trapped in their bodies, constrained by an inner decay even as their surroundings may seem invitingly open, full of possibility and negative space. They are trapped by society, they are trapped by their partners, they are trapped by minds and bodies that cannot perform. Nonsense and Calamity both focus on men falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death, suggesting Kafkaesque parables and functioning as such in broad strokes, yet far more evocative as expressions of the panicked despair of existing in a society that vilifies people incapable of conforming to its expectations, expectations that I would note include being able-bodied, neurotypical, and not prone to suicidal ideation. Her later stories expand more overtly on this subtext as overt imagery, often of drowning -- the titular wife of My Wife is an Acrobat sinks into her bath, declaring herself “dead and pickled in alcohol”; the heroine of the adult fairy tale Sea Snake and the Big Dipper freezes to death on the ocean’s surface, content to gaze upon the constellations which she cannot reach.

Today's review is of the first two issues of Aorta, by Sarah Horrocks. Sarah's growth as a cartoonist over the last few years has been exciting to watch, and Tom Shapira's a fan:

It doesn’t really matter what genres Horrocks works in, be it the trashy melodrama of Goro or the horror-romance of “Red Medusa on the Road to Hell” (her short story from the Twisted Romance anthology, probably the standout work of that outing in the sheer craft of it). She always jumps into the deepest waters of the concept, going straight for the raw emotive core. "Red Medusa” was a stand out piece in terms of the pure poetic force of it, reading like some black metal album blasting into your soul with the howls of a thousand damned. While Aorta is slightly more normalized in terms of presentation, there’s still the same heightened quality to it; you read it and you hear the music playing the background.

Elsewhere, Graeme McMillan has a nice piece of journalism for the Hollywood Reporter on the recent Eisner voting mishaps, which should probably be an Eisner voting scandal, and, considering what some people like to do when they find other people's home addresses, could have been an Eisner voting tragedy. Initial reactions on Twitter have been pretty clear: these Eisners are always going to be suspect.

It's not comics, but one of this website's former contributors, Brandon Soderberg, has a pretty big deal book out this week. Website's here, it's a nonfiction book about a bunch of corrupt cops that actually got some level of consequence for their misdeeds, and he wrote it with Baynard Woods. I was going to ask Brandon if he'd want to review Garth Ennis' Red Team comics as a way to promote the book, but I was able to realize that was tasteless before reaching out. It'll be our little secret, blog reader!

Also, heads up:

I've never been more interested in Archie comics in my entire life, except for that time before I edited TCJ when the site ran a giant roundtable on kid's comics that Art Spiegelman contributed to and Seth randomly started talking about how much he loved Archie rip-off comics, which is such a specific thing to be into, such a wonderfully curious thing to have awareness and affection for, that it completely changed my reading of his work. It's not hard to be a Star Trek nerd, or to know a lot about video games--being a fan doesn't require legwork anymore, you just have to be willing to stay inside and google shit. But having an eyeball that seeks out Archie rip-off comics and can tell who made them by the line of "Barchie's" spit-curl? That's deep cut shit that cannot be imitated, and I am here for it in a way I never will be for buying t-shirts. (Unless it's a limited edition Spawn The Movie Soundtrack t-shirt). Anyway: I realize that the above is just cool kid internet manipulation, and that whoever runs the Archie twitter is just working my middle-aged feelings, but this one worked for me in a way that thing where Steak-Ums pretending to be a Marxist totally failed.


Using The Accessory Wall Strategically

Today at TCJ, Nathan Gelgud's Cartoonist's Diary continues, with more Trader Joe's action.

Also: Ryan Holmberg is back with the second installment in his look at how manga artists (amongst others) have been responding to the coronavirus. The first part ran last week, in case you missed it.

I visited Saitō Pro in 2011 in order to interview Saitō. If the place looks and operates now like it did then – crowded, airless, and hyper analog – and it appears it does, disbanding the studio was indeed a wise choice. Of course, though an economic division of labor has been central to the mythos of Saitō Pro since the ‘60s, studio production methods for making manga have never been specific to “gekiga.” It is the rare manga artist today that doesn’t use some kind of studio method. “The physical presence of the staff is indispensable” to the creation of serialized manga, assert Saitō Pro and Big Comic. But ever since the advent of quality drawing and graphics programs, that is obviously not true. 

These days, you have to pay good money to get a Holmberg essay (his excellent use of Instagram notwithstanding), albeit one that often comes bound with 200-300 pages of comics that are oftentimes the most interesting thing you will have read in a while. His particular career--that of advocate, translator, historian and critic--is one of the few career paths that should be worshipped and emulated. 

Today's review comes to us from another individual that would be worth cloning: Joe McCulloch is here, with a long look at Adrian Tomine's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, which will hopefully serve as a healthy dose of upset for those who insist on repeating some version of the mantra that comics is the best artform you could be involved in, full of wonderful people etc.

CUT TO: the 1995 San Diego Comic-Con, where a grown Tomine, basking in the glow of the acclaim that followed his early work in minicomics, receives a rude awakening in the form of The Comics Journal #179, in which Jordan Raphael graced the magazine's "Shit List" column with a bellicose takedown of the first Drawn & Quarterly issue of Optic Nerve, written with that special blend of enormous self-confidence and just enough imprecision to assure readers that the critic has not wasted too much of his valuable time on obvious trash. CUT TO: a Comic-Con afterparty, where Tomine seeks the fraternity of fellow artists, but instead finds himself roasted by peers for the similarities of his work to that of Daniel Clowes. The evening ends with our man upbraided at length by a fellow attendee for self-interested careerism in failing to place Optic Nerve with a smaller publisher.

Outside of this, amidst the daily chaos intended to numb you into thinking there is nothing worth caring out, TCJ contributor Brian Nicholson has done as direct a job as any explaining measures you can take to combat the government's attacks on the US Postal Service, one of the few institutions that impacts indie comics publishing in such an integral way that losing them would have an immediate negative financial impact.


Expired Blog Titles

Good week coming at TCJ. More Ryan Holmberg, more Jog, more Tegan. A Cartoonist's Diary from Nathan Gelgud all week. Reviews. Etc. So far, we've heard from one former TCJ editor (Frank Young, September 91-93) talking to another former TCJ editor (Dan Nadel, 2011-2017) about a book published by another acronym, NYRC: Return To Romance

With the Ogden Whitney book (Return to Romance! The Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney, co-edited with Frank Santoro, New York Review Comics, 2019), the intention was to show, in a focused way, that there could be this idiosyncratic vision within the style of a craftsman. And I’m supposed to be shilling for it this whole interview, but you started me rattling on about Crumb!

I'm going to leave our Brownstein piece that Michael Dean busted his ass on up on the front page, just to annoy his friends who sat on their hands for the last 14 years. Fun sidenote: it stands alone as the only piece of Comics Journal content my father has ever read! His take on it was that he asked me whether I had considered quitting this industry entirely, as it seems like a gross place to work, full of gross people. "That guy sounds like a monster", he said, "but how come nobody did anything about it?" I assured him that people did try to do something: they tried to blame it on the victims. "Trying goes both ways", I said! 

Second fun fact: I was only supposed to edit TCJ solo for six months, and hey, it's been a full year! (That's more the pandemic's fault, though.) In celebration of that momentous occasion, here are the draft titles of all of the blogs I have decided not to publish because I got too angry to finish writing them over the last twelve months that Tim Hodler has not been here. Feel free to imagine the worst case scenario for what kind of writing these drafts contained, and multiply that by 37, it'll still be more obnoxious. They were all bad!

These Stupid Blogs
A Home For The True God
Wednesday Warriors
Monday Blog
Why I Don't Care About Dan Didio (And Why You Shouldn't Either)
Mutant Brain
Jeet Heer Doesn't Deserve The SnyderCut
12 Months of TCJ
Wednesday Blog
A Christmas Present For The Graphic Novel Community
Get Some

Anyway. Most of the above don't go anywhere--they include links to that day's articles, which are up at the same time as the blog post, and then they include links to other websites, usually things that I like, and then random riffing off of something that is annoying, frustrating, etc. "PUNS" was an attempt to review every Punisher comic I was reading during a period in my life where I read a Punisher comic every single morning, which was actually less depressing than the stuff I'm reading now. While the main reason the blogs don't get posted anymore is that Tim isn't here doing them on the off days, which made me feel guilty that I wasn't, it's also that that I hated reading the websites you have to read to find content for the blog posts. Now that I'm using Twitter again, it's a little easier to weed ones way through all the various comics sites that I hate, which is all of them, I hate every single one of them. Of course, some of those feelings may come from social media's express train design to escalate conflict, inflame rhetoric, and all the rest of the Cal Newport stuff, all of which are true--social media sucks, bro! Keen insight here on today's blog post.

BUT: it has also been an engine for legit real world actual justice for the past few weeks, the kind of justice that the Journal has historically craved and called for, a general leveling of the table, plus fairness, maybe some punishment, hopefully some retribution. It's provided a chance for people who wanted to make art that wasn't merely part of a consumable corporate engine to generate a fanbase and monetize that fanbase into creative freedom, without compromising their vision--to draw and create and publish comics that the creators owned, to sidestep a system of exploitation (or if not, to at least name those systems of exploitation for what they are publicly, so that their peer generation would know exactly what was on really on offer). Social media, for all its miserable by-design failings, for all its hysterically bad taste, shitposts, trolls--has also made it possible for those who were victimized in comics to name their abusers and, in some cases, to bring some kind of consequence to bear, even if that consequence is belated and often meager. It's made those who suborned and ignored that behavior embarrassed and ashamed in a way that nothing before ever had, would or did. Twitter, more than anything else, has given volume to the voices comics has strived to ignore, and it has put under the spotlight the abusers that have been permitted to flourish. And while some of that has spawned journalism of the kind that is necessary (this Asher Elbein piece being a prime example) so that perpetrators can be remembered as the news cycle moves on, another development--a new form of collectivist online action, created and controlled by those who had been ignored for so long has started to appear as well. The question of how to fix the problems that are clearly endemic in comics, both as an industry and culture, has been asked so often and so frequently that the asking of it tends to become the preferred cycle of maintaining it--to stay endlessly on the first step of acknowledging the problem, all the while watching as piles of comics edited by Eddie Berganza, written by Brian Wood or--whatever Scott Allie and that haircut was doing--showed up every Wednesday, and a whole bunch of people shrugged and said they just didn't know what else they could do, when the simple reality was that it wasn't impacting them, and they didn't really care. (Thankfully, one of the bright spots of the most recent onslaught of callouts on Twitter has included people noting that an apology that comes years late doesn't mean much--if we're going to let people slide, at least we can force them to slither.)

Over the past few days, it has started to happen again: this time, because Dynamite Comics was publicly called out for doing what they have doing all along: supporting comics creators aligned with people who identify as being members of something called Comicsgate, or people who use the hashtag Comicsgate--a group of nobody losers who are coping with the continued obsolesce of single issue genre books as being tied into the fact that the companies who manufacture those comics are concerning themselves with a variety of issues loosely classified as "social justice" issues, a bunch of moving target style complaints designed, like all toxic aspects of internet looneybin bullshit, to keep one consistently engaging with an array of Youtube channels, endless Twitter screeds and all the rest, despite the fact that none of it has anything to do with the comics you read or care about and is not a real thing--it's just a weird club you join so you can harass people online (usually women) and blow your money on crowdfunding campaigns.

Anyway! That's nothing new. The only thing that has changed with Comicsgate in the past however long it has been is that some of the guys who run the crowdfunding scams have, unsurprisingly, started fucking each other over. And yes, it turns out that the people at Dynamite Comics--a company who is notable for publishing The Boys (after Paul Levitz ditched it) and for convincing a generation of people who out to know better that their repulsive Vampirella comics are somehow empowering to women by their clever use of variant covers where Frank Cho types hide vaginas behind spoons--have been working with them ever since it became profitable to do so. All of this came to light because of a tweet from Dynamite Comics that tied a notable Comicsgate creator to one of their variant covers (something that Dynamite has actually been doing for a long time), which resulted in a weekend of people who liked Dynamite Comics but had somehow failed to pick up on the fact that a healthy chunk of what the company publishes is directly in line with what Comicsgate dipshits think makes for "good reading" being justifiably upset that they could no longer ignore this connection, followed by multiple creators bailing on the projects they were working on with them, until today, when the company sort of apologized, and said they didn't realize what they were getting into. After a few hours of letting them swing, Ethan Van Sciver (one of the first comics creators to realize he could swap "making comics" for "being a Youtube personality" and live directly off the wallets of his idiotic fans without the middlemen of publishing standing in his way) twisted the knife further by letting everybody know that, actually, Dynamite has been in bed with him for even longer than anyone realized, and in fact "taught me everything I know so far about publishing", thus ensuring at least another few thousand dollars on his next crowdfunding adventure, which will probably involve a CIA frog that can suck its own dick.

Welcome back!


Clean Shirt

Today at TCJ, Leonard Pierce is here with a look at Fire On The Water, Gary Dumm & Scott MacGregor's graphic novel inspired by "one of America’s earliest man-made ecological disasters". It's got some of Leonard's fave topics in it, but will that be enough to push it over the line into "good"? Ask him!

If the book has a hero – and to its credit, it avoids the obvious pitfall of making its story about exceptional and morally uncompromised heroes – it is Benjamin Beltran, an itinerant African-American inventor who has trouble selling a helmet he designed that allowed rescue workers to resist the dangers of smoke inhalation because no one wants to purchase or advertise a product made by a black man. Beltran isn’t a real person, but he’s based on the actual black inventor Garrett Morgan, whose life is described in a text addendum to the book. He’s a perfect example of how the stories of working-class struggles are always intersectional; the white workers were considered disposable because of their poverty, and Beltran’s life-saving device is considered worthless because few whites can credit a black man with having invented something so useful. Like the victims of the Erie tunnel disaster, Morgan was largely forgotten by a history written for the elevation of white elites.]

Richard Sala has passed away. Michael Dean has our obituary on the cartoonist. Cartoonist and longtime friend Daniel Clowes wrote a remembrance of Sala as well. Darcy Sullivan's excellent 1998 interview with Sala is here
Tim Hodler's also excellent 2016 interview with Sala is here.

Richard Sala, whose tongue-in-cheek mystery/thriller comics — including The Chuckling Whatsit, Cat Burglar Black and Evil Eye — were like nothing else and everything else in popular culture, was found dead in his Berkeley, California, home last week. Sala was 65. No cause of death was announced and no information was available as to how long Sala had been dead before his body was discovered. His last Tumblr post was April 29: the beginning of a new serialized webcomic called Carlotta Havoc Versus Everybody. The webcomic had been announced on an Apr. 18 post at Sala’s blog, called Here Lies Richard Sala.

My first experience with comics are biographical cliches so routine that they can be covered in a parenthetical (The Far Side, Justice League Detroit, Batman), but it struck me over the weekend how much one other institute of pop culture influenced my interest away from those books: Liquid Television, an early 90's animation and weird puppetry program that ran on MTV late at night. It's a solid link in the chain towards the kind of "let's try to upset people who are up late, stoned" programming that's on Adult Swim these days, but not a show I have thought of in years. 

But I thought about it a lot this weekend, after I got the call about Richard's death. Sala is a cartoonist whose work I have enjoyed for years, and I had first discovered him back on Liquid Television, where one of his comics stories was adapted and expanded in the show's first season. Like everything else that I ever saw on Liquid Television, I experienced Sala's work out of order and removed from any context, catching bits of it whenever I would be up late and happen across the show. I never looked up where it came from, I never took the time to find out that it was him that made it, and while I'm sure i've seen the whole thing, I can only recall fragments of it. But the seeds that program sowed--with its mix of perversion, obscenity, humor, atonal deadpan idiocy and offense--found purchase years later, when I finally came across comics that trafficked in the same.

And there, again, was Sala. And then again. And again. He was a cartoonist whose work I have consistently read and consistently admired, and yet I think the entirety of my conversations about his work consisted of talking about it with the cartoonist Mike Cavallaro over the years that the two of us worked together in a comics store and realized we shared the interest. Looking at our TCJ obituary and reading his Wikipedia page, I'm struck once again by how impossible it is to ever do justice to the artists of this medium--degrees of difference, sure, and Sala was able to experience a career that many cartoonists would dream of having, in terms of opportunities to pursue creative expression, in terms of freedom to create what he liked--but it's so wearisome how exhausted this current process has become. Another talent lost, remembered by a handful of websites who are already preparing to remember another passing, immortalized in work that is actually only available in fits and starts via digital formats that only the most craven would claim are doing them any aesthetic favor. I got to know Richard over the last few years via, what else, social media, and I never took the time to say a single nice word to him about all the comics he had done that I loved, and now he's dead, and I'm still using those same social media outlets primarily to make myself even angrier than I already am. What a stupid, dumb way this is to live. 

It's tempting to cut that end there--to fabricate some mood and hack out some mention of how we can all go down to our metaphorical basements and grab the output of our dead, where their art will live forever--but I spend my non-TCJ time watching this dumb empire fall. I would have preferred to endure that collapse with more of Richard's work on hand. 



The Prestige

Today at TCJ, we've got a conversation with SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard. Like all festivals and conventions, SPX has been having internal conversations regarding the safety and feasibility of a 2020 installment. Currently, the plan remains for SPX to take place this September--Warren spoke with Michael O'Connell to get a lay of the land.

Is there a way to do a smaller show for 2020?

The problem with the smaller show is that we've already got a contract with guarantees in it. There are penalty clauses and all kinds of other stuff like that. I don't want to get into the legal aspects of it. But, the bottom line is, if Montgomery County or the state of Maryland doesn't want groups of 250 or more, 500 or more or 2,000 or more to get together, it's not going to make much sense for us to even do a reduced show. Because then you have the whole problem of, in this reduced show, let's say I do cut it back. We have about 280 tables in the room. Let's say I cut it back to a quarter of that. We’ll use a quarter of the ballrooms, that’s 70 tables, who do I choose? So there's this other operational thing that says, 'OK, if we're going to reduce the show, who are we going to have? What special guests are we going to have?' There's this other thing that says if I do cut it down, what do I cut it down to? And then how do you make those decisions? And I don't have an answer for that at all.

Our review for Monday is of Second Coming, a comic book series featuring a Superman type character who lives with Jesus Christ. The comic was originally to be published by DC Comics, and then was given back to the author when the publisher got cold feet, whereupon they took it to a company called Ahoy Comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco is here with a report on whether any of that backstory is more interesting than the actual product.

Last week, an illustrator named Lucy Halsam began a thread on Twitter regarding issues related to the ELCAF festival. On Friday, a tweet in the thread regarding the publisher Nobrow resulted in an outpouring of comments from illustrators, former employees and others regarding their feelings and experiences with the publisher. Multiple other threads have sprung out of that conversation, and over the weekend, TCJ was contacted questioning how I planned to cover this. My answer is this: as someone who worked in a full time capacity in the US office of Nobrow & Flying Eye Books for four years prior to joining The Comics Journal as editor, it would be ethically inappropriate for me to be directly involved in this unfolding story. As such, Comics Journal co-founder Gary Groth will be supervising all coverage of this issue for this website.


I Agree With Sluggo

It's Monday, the first one since officially hearing from Donald Trump that the best case scenario in the US will be the deaths of 200,000 people. There's nothing that can be said here that isn't going to change that, but there's also very little reason to act as if the only things that can be said or written should be words intended to change that. You, like me, are probably inside your home for the rest of this month, and you've probably been there for a while already. You're probably not a health care worker, because if you were, you'd be spending your non-saving-lives time sleeping. If you're checking this site now, you're stuck inside and enduring one of the worst experiences of your life, but you still have enough interest in comics to keep showing up. Here's what we've been doing lately, and what we're working on today:

Clark Burscough joined the team, and will be checking in on a weekly basis with a round-up of comics news and comics reviews. Last week you saw him twice, with his first go-round is focused on COVID-19 and how efforts to combat the spread have impacted the business of selling and making comics, and then again on Friday with his take on our regular link round up. He's back at it again today, with his second COVID-19 focused column. Sites like The Beat and Bleeding Cool are putting in a heroic effort to keep up with this sort of news on a more as-it-happens basis--both Heidi and Rich are doing a fine job. 

Last week, Keith Silva took over the reins of our Retail Therapy column to give a more concentrated window into how individual comics retailers are dealing with the multiple blows facing their businesses. First up was Legend Comics & Coffee, a Nebraska based store.

When did you close your store and what factors went into your decision?

We went into lock down I believe on March 18. The biggest thing we considered was how much of our industry involves touching things: back issues, trades, comic issues, they're all getting touched all the time, and apparently COVID-19 lives on the surface of things for at least 48 hours. There's no way Legend could guarantee the safety of our customers and we consider our customers our extended family.

We also unleashed one of my favorite "this has been sitting in the drafts section too long" pieces, a fascinating roundtable discussion on race and comics spurred by the graphic novel BTTM FDRS, featuring Ron Wimberly & Tanna Tucker alongside the creators of BTTM FDRS, Ezra Claytan Daniels & Benjamin Passmore

Ron: This discussion was originally proposed with an Afrofuturist prompt attached. I thought that was strange. It played into my general suspicion that Afrofuturism has become a sort of catchall for “weird nigga shit;” anything from Afro-space helmets, to Octavia Butler, to that African cosplay you see at Afropunk. Do you feel or did you intend for this horror comic to be Afrofuturist or have a dialogue with Afrofuturism? Just out of curiosity, what do you see being the formal qualities of Afrofuturism, the general ethos?

Ben: Is this where my light-ass gets in trouble for expressing a hard skepticism for Afrofuturism and its popularity?

Ezra: Calling BTTM FDRS an Afrofuturist book in marketing materials was 100 percent Fantagraphics using a buzzword to sell books. But it never really bothered me because, to be honest, at the end of the day, I’m trying to sell books, too, and I do consider myself a tangentially Afrofuturist artist — just not so much in the comics I’ve made, as of yet.

I made an experimental, animated Afrofuturist short with my partner, Adebukola Bodunrin, that was part of the first Black Radical Imagination program. We sat on countless panels and had countless conversations about Afrofuturism with incredibly brilliant artists like Terence Nance, Cauleen Smith, Robert Pruitt, Jacolby Satterwhite, and D. Denenge Akpem, who actually stars in the film. I started that journey with only a vague idea of what Afrofuturism was. Eventually, these discussions brought me to a clear understanding of what Afrofuturism meant, at least to me.

The reviews have been coming in hot, and today's is no different, with Chris Mautner swinging by with a look at Kim Deitch's Reincarnation StoriesHe dug it, which is the proper response to any major work coming from Deitch at this point in his career.

One of the most interesting things about Deitch’s work is the way he blends fact and fiction. As with Gabrielle Bell, he starts from a recognizable reality, and makes sharp left turns into bizarre, elaborate fantasy, until you start questioning what is and isn’t actually “true”. It is true, for example, that Deitch had eye surgery. And real-life characters like fellow cartoonists Spain and Jay Lynch, as well as cowboy actors like Buck Jones and Jack Hoxie. There is even, apparently, a plot “genie” that was designed to help writers come up with story ideas. 

The last week has seen the passing of Juan Gimenez. Best known to American readers for his excellent work on the Metabarons saga, which he illustrated, Gimenez passed away due to COVID-19 at the age of 76. More here.

Dale Crain--former archive editor at DC Comics, and, in the words of TCJ's publisher Gary Groth, "the guy who revolutionized our design at Fantagraphics" passed away while in Vietnam, and his family have organized a GoFundMe to repatriate his remains to the US.

The cartoonist Herman "Hy" Fleishman also passed away, on April 1st. We'll have an obituary up on him later today. 

Good luck this week. We'll be back tomorrow, with our next installment of Retail Therapy and more!


Too Much Tuesday

Today at TCJ, Tegan is here with a look at the first two issues of The Resistance, the launch title for AWA Studios "shared universe". As Tegan points out, the plot of The Resistance would be called prescient if our current crisis weren't so horrifying as to make praising J. Michael Straczynski's remix of a rehash completely repellent.

Anyway. This is ostensibly the beginning of a new superhero universe. The gimmick is that after the virus recedes it is discovered that, of the roughly 5% of patients who survive the plague, some of them develop superpowers. Some of those superpowers last only a brief time, leaving their host dead once they burn out. It’s stated but not developed (yet) that the virus was of extraterrestrial origin. Which means it’s only really a little different from George R. R. Martin’a long-running Wild Cards shared universe. And of course any resemblance to Marvel’s Strikeforce: Morituri is surely purely coincidental. Or Charles Soule’s Letter 44, for that matters

While AWA Studios (the acronym stands for Artists Writers & Artisans, presumably they are going to be making chairs at some point) is technically a "new" publisher, the company is one run by two old heads--Bill Jemas, whose historical proximity to Marvel Comics surviving bankruptcy often results in him garnering a healthy credit for that company's recovery despite the needling fact that every decision he has made since that time has been extraordinarily dumb, Axel Alonso, a guy who I like because he helped Garth Ennis make Punisher comics--and Jonathan Miller, one of Rupert Murdoch's former underlings. I'm sure he's a great guy, most of the people who collected paychecks for Murdoch were all great guys. There was that one who hacked the dead lady's phone to make fun of her with more personal details, but I'm sure they were an outlier.

It'll be interesting to see how a company like that handles the other news of the day, which is that Diamond comics will cease delivery of new comics at the end of March. The news was publicly announced yesterday via email following some private communications between Diamond and some of their key business partners--announced so suddenly that Diamond was still in the process of pitching advertising placements for their Previews catalogs only a few hours before they went public--and any attempt to encapsulate the impact here in this blog would fall short. Around the same time the Diamond news was spreading, Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool ran a piece on the three-week shuttering of Canadian printer Transcontinental Printing, which dramatically impacts DC Comics output--Steve Geppi's letter makes no mention of this, but as the weekly delivery of comics remains heavily dependent upon the two major super-hero publishers, it certainly could have contributed to the decision.

The Diamond news has been met with no small amount of panic, glee, concern, and told-you-so-ing, primarily on social media. I get it: my dealings with Diamond outside of TCJ as a publisher, retailer and advertiser have been one of the least fun parts of the decade, and there have been plenty of times when my irritation with the company has had me wishing they'd catch one in the teeth. But the reality is that this is a massive hit upon an industry that will primarily be felt by its smallest actors, not its biggest. Companies like AWA (that are built off the funding of ex-execs from companies like Fox News) can probably pivot to Amazon's comiXology platform without too much of a loss--if you had an illusion that a title like Resistance was somehow intended to be a massive print seller in retail, well, okay--because their business model, like the rest of these johnny-come-vampires, was never to make comics in the first place, but to use comics, comics retail and vocal online comics fans so as to win the lottery ticket of film and television exploitation. Diamond shuttering for any length of time will skew the statistics of this particular gamble, and some of these companies won't have the nerve to stay at the table, but a decent amount of them will--if one thing has proven itself impossible to kill in this current climate, it's rapacious greed. It's the rest of comics who are going to suffer from Diamond, and as of right now, the extent of that suffering remains completely unknown.

Also announced in the last few hours was the passing of Asterix co-creator, Albert Uderzo. According to news reports, Uderzo died at home from a heart attack, unrelated to COVID-19. Our obituary will follow later this week.

Reminder: it's Tuesday.