Meatballs and Beer

Today on the site, Alex Dueben catches up with Sophie Campbell.

Do you have an ending in mind for Wet Moon?

It keeps changing! I was going to do one certain ending, but then I wanted these two particular characters to stay together instead of breaking up and so I’m overhauling Volume 7 and scrapping all this stuff that I drew before. Because of all that, now the original ending I had doesn’t work anymore. Maybe eight or nine will be the last book? I thought I might periodically come back and do a short Wet Moon story here and there, that would be really fun. Just short little fun stories about whatever characters I felt like working on at that particular time. One thing I’ve been joking about for years is Wet Moon 2099. I could end the current series at Book 8 or 9 and come back a few years from now and do Wet Moon 2099. [laughs]

And today also marks the long-awaited return to TCJ of Ng Suat Tong, whose review of the new ABC News/Marvel collaboration, “Madaya Mom”, is as provocative as his writing always is.

The joke goes that the difference between consumers in authoritarian states like China and those in the U.S. is that readers in America sometimes like to believe that they are getting impartial truth from the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, or The Guardian. The Chinese have no choice but to believe that it’s all excrement. But that’s only because the Chinese government is so abysmal at this game. It took years for their state-owned conglomerates to figure out that they even needed to talk to the press, much less shape its message.

When Marvel-Disney contributes a free war comic to an American audience you can be sure that the propaganda is safe, conservative, and in line with the inclinations of the powers that be.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Forbes talks to manga editor and publisher Kazuhiko Torishima.

After all this study and analysis, Torishima had a very important revelation about manga itself, as he explains, “Once I’d read a lot of manga I came to realize that there are two main types, the first is easy to read and the other is hard to read. To explain, when it’s easy to read the pages just flow through your fingers. When it’s harder, you have to go back a few pages to check what was happening. As such, I discarded all the manga I thought that fell into the second, harder to read, category. This only left the easy to read manga and the best one was Ore wa Teppei by Tetsuya Chiba.”

Comics Alliance talks to Kyle Baker.

I started my career designing books for Milton Glaser’s studio. We did educational books for Barron’s. I had also done some newspaper advertising for the Columbia Record club. In the advertising and book publishing business, we always employed the latest technologies, whether it was photostat machines, typesetting machines, Pantone film, art projectors, Airbrush machines or computers.

Now I use the same technology that is standard in the world of commercial graphics. I use 3D, motion capture, desktop publishing, inkjet printing — and anything else that helps me do better work. Most entertainment is distributed electronically, whether via TV, web, or phone, so it just makes sense to create the work that is most compatible with the delivery system.

An excellent Vulture interview with Jonathan Lethem about his new novel includes some interesting exchanges on comics.

Since you’re interested, Professor Lethem will now continue the lecture: I have a very strong belief that superhero movies have nothing to do with comic books. And that this is the case at a deep formal and structural level. What makes a page of a comic book a deep and mysterious artifact is the stillness and the blank space between the panels, the gutters as they’re called. Comics have an extremely baroque relationship to the idea of time, because a page is a series of static moments that have to be activated by the reader in the blank space between the panels. And it’s really in the blank space, in those gutters, where the action is. That’s where the mind is going.

On Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane talks to Edward Sorel and Jules Feiffer.

—Commentary. For Comics Workbook, Sacha Mardou reports from this year’s CXC.

I get in on Thursday night and head to the President’s Reception feeling very wallflowerish as I know literally no one except through Facebook and Instagram. First off I meet Tom Spurgeon (finally!), Jeff Bone and his lovely wife Vijaya, Caitlyn McGurk, and Robin the Inkstud. I nervously nurse my wine and then I am rescued by Sergio Aragonés, who sits next to me with a plate of meatballs and a beer. I’m a vegan but I don’t even care about the meatballs! It’s Sergio Aragonés and I proceed to fannishly monopolize him for the next hour. Sergio! I’ve loved his comics in Mad Magazine since I was eight years old.

Filmmaker Frank Henenlotter has launched a Kickstarter to fund a new documentary about Mike Diana.


Long Straight Path

Today, we are happy to republish Ken Parille’s 2014 essay on Abner Dean, with a new introduction.

I can rarely remember where I was when I discovered any of my favorite cartoonists. But Abner Dean is different. On a summer afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia, I went to a used bookstore near the University and headed, as always, straight to the cartoon/humor section. An oversized book’s black hardcover spine sporting the title Abner Dean’s Naked People stuck out from a shelf filled with beat-up paperbacks and small hardcovers with torn dust jackets. (It’d be cheesy to say that the book was “calling” to me, though that’s how it felt, or at least how I remember it). Opening the volume, I was instantly amazed — and puzzled. The drawings employed an elegant style I’d seen in pre- and post-WWII American magazines, but everything appeared strangely skewed, with nude yet de-sexualized characters, washed-out black and gray dystopian settings, and cryptic captions. The work radiated a peculiar aura, blending funny and sad with smart, provocative, and (oddly) inspirational. I quickly paid the seven dollar price penciled inside, left the store, and read it on the walk home.

Rob Kirby is also here, with a review of Walter Scott’s artworld satire, Wendy’s Revenge.

Walter Scott’s first book, Wendy (2014, Koyama Press), was an out-of-left-field surprise. Having never encountered the series before, I was delighted by Scott’s razor-sharp satire of the twenty-something art-hipster milieu, and the layers of truth and emotion that rise in bas-relief from the often absurd shenanigans of his artist heroine and her friends. For most of them, life consists of stumbling through a myriad of roommate-swaps, relationship drama, spur-of-the-moment hook-ups, grant-chasing, and professional jealousy, all interspersed with partying—lots of partying. “My life is a mess, like always,” Wendy says. The humor and poignancy of the story is that Wendy’s messes are generally self-inflicted.

Wendy’s Revenge expands upon the saga and heightens the absurdity of our heroine’s adventures. As the book opens, Wendy moves briefly to Vancouver, where she takes part in a group show (this goes badly), goes to see a psychic, nabs a residency in Yokohama, and later travels to LA to attend a gallery opening and indulge in some stressful intrigue with some shady art people. Through it all, we are privy to her hopes, her dreams, and her ever-present anxieties. She truly suffers for her art, even if we don’t see her make any. Wendy spends so much of her time living The Artist’s Life that she doesn’t really have a lot of time to actually do art. At one point in the story, an acquaintance asks Wendy exactly what kind of art she creates. Wendy’s reply: “Uh—it’s a secret.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Henry Jenkins interviews comics scholar Bart Beaty.

Some have worried that a core canon (Spiegelman, Ware, Bechdel, Satrapi, Gaiman, Crumb, Moore, Sacco) has emerged in comics studies prematurely — that too much of the early writing defining the field circles around a small number of writers and works and as a consequence, we are constraining our methodologies and theories to reflect that limited sample. Would you agree?

This is the subject of so much of what Benjamin Woo and I wrote about in our book The Greatest Comic Book of All Time!, and I absolutely do agree. In our first chapter we attempted to put some data behind what seems to be a pretty common understanding about comics studies: that it has been thoroughly concerned with a small handful of creators and works published over the past thirty years. In the book we surveyed the field of scholarly publishing on comics in order to demonstrate just how narrow the work being done can be. What we found is that comics studies is disproportionately concerned with a very small handful of creators and texts in comparison to cognate fields. So, yes, I absolutely agree with that.

The Guardian talks to Dash Shaw about his new movie.

The whole film looks like your work. How much of it did you draw?

That’s a good question and it’s hard to answer. There are other people involved – Jane Samborski is the lead animator on it. For some sequences she’d pencil the figures and I would ink. For others, maybe it’s all my drawings but she’s compiled it into aftereffects. So it’s a lot of my drawings. I storyboarded the whole movie, and so there are kind of indications of how the whole thing would look. It was kind of a collage – replacing temporary elements with better elements and adding more elements. I can’t really give you a percentage.

Crockett Johnson biographer Philip Nel explains How to Read Harold.

Thanks to the stylistic consistency of Johnson’s clear line, Harold and his artwork all inhabit the same reality. Their shared aesthetic allows Johnson to convince us that, for example, oscillating between two and three dimensions is perfectly normal. Or, at least, this oscillation — which begins at the moment when Harold draws the path — convinces most people. It puzzled both of Johnson’s editors. Looking at Johnson’s dummy, his editor Ursula Nordstrom said, “I found myself asking such dumb questions — like where did he draw the moon and the path and the tree?” First among a list of “The parts I am not too sure of,” Harper reader Ann Powers also named “the pathway at the beginning (too strange?).” It may be strange, but when Harold is standing in an empty void, it also makes sense for him to draw a “long straight path.” It’s practical. It anchors him. It also creates the illusion of three dimensions in what has — up to this point — been a two-dimensional space. Unlike most pre-schoolers, Harold understands the vanishing point.


R for Rocket

Today on the site, Kevin Huizenga interviews the inimitable Ben Katchor.

I’ve heard you are running a good comics department over there at Parsons. How is that going?

We teach comics and animation within the Illustration program at Parsons. A student can minor in Comics and Graphic Narrative. We have many people on our faculty who work with text and image: Matthew Thurber, Bob Sikoryak, Lauren Redniss, Nora Krug, Steven Guarnaccia, Mark Newgarden, Josh Bayer, Henrik Drescher, Lale Westvind, Neill Swaab, James Romberger and some interesting animators: Ted Wiggins, Ana Mouyis, Motomichi Nakamura, Gary Leib and others. We’d like students to think of themselves as artist/authors working on self-initiated projects.

Parsons is unionized, right? 

Only the part-time faculty are unionized at Parsons (SEIU); the full-time faculty are considered part of the administration and are not unionized. The part-time faculty union contract forbids them from striking. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

For Print, Michael Dooley talks to four artists participating in a tribute exhibition to Osamu Tezuka, currently showing at Gallery Nucleus in Los Angeles.

Michael Dooley: How did this exhibition originate?

Chogrin: Osamu Tezuka’s artwork is one of the biggest influences in my art style and work ethic. Any time I do an interview I always cite Tezuka. Tezuka was very prolific and kept working until his last breath. I think that says a lot about somebody, and it is amazing how much of a legacy he’s left behind. His art style has a very innocent aura, while his storylines are sometimes very grounded by the realities of life, which I think is a rare combination. He was never afraid to explore new themes and subject matters. Really a true artist that the world will talk about, analyze, and pay tribute to for centuries to come.

For Thrillist, Sean T. Collins reveals the 33 books he thinks are the best graphic novels of all time. It’s a strong, obviously personal list that will provoke plenty of argument, and doesn’t lean on too many of the usual suspects. Phoebe Gloeckner makes the list twice.

A work of such profound empathy that it almost feels like a hole in the world, [Carol Swain’s] Gast is a gentle yet ultimately unforgiving look at the ways in which the world can break down those who cannot quite bring themselves to fit in. It follows an 11-year-old girl named Helen on a trip to the Welsh countryside, during which she discovers she can talk with the wild and domesticated animals that populate its rolling landscape — all of whom speak to her of the death of a “rare bird” who lived near by. This turns out to be a farmer named Emrys, whose gender dysphoria (he wore women’s clothing and ostentatiously dyed his hair, but kept to himself out of fear of reprisal and continued to identify as male) and failing fortunes led him to suicide. Gast functions like a murder mystery with no real killer and no real victim; the investigation itself is the point, as Helen learns about this sad and secretly much-loved person’s life, and about life and death themselves in the process. Swain’s soft charcoal artwork, the unusual and descriptive angles of her drawings, and her willingness to take things slowly make for an utterly unique reading experience.

Bob Heer looks back at Dylan in the comics.

When I first read WATCHMEN, I thought the most unrealistic thing was that Bob Dylan licensed one of his most iconic protest songs to a perfume company. But then, decades later, Dylan licensed that very song for a bank commercial. And then he appeared in a lingerie ad with another of his songs. And I think the song even appears in the movie which shares a name with the book.

Alan Moore does, indeed, know the score.



Joe McCulloch is here as usual with his guide to the best-sounding releases new to comics stores this week, and his highlight picks this time include books by Los Bros Hernandez and Al Columbia. He also writes at length about a Finnish comic he picked up at SPX.

I was not familiar with [Anna] Sailamaa prior to this, but something about the book compelled me to pick it up entirely on a whim. Perhaps the winding, sinister title lettering reminded me a bit of Julia Gfrörer — you don’t see very many comics reminiscent of hers — though Sailamaa works in a much more removed, rather formalistic approach. The book is split into three parts (“Cleanliness”, “The Wound”, “The Clean-up”), each covering a portion of one day in the lives of young girls who live in a highly metaphorical group home environment, seemingly devoid of adult supervision. Text introductions to each section describe the characteristics of the house in great detail, both its physicality and the eternity of the space which it occupies – nothing truly changes in this place. Observational drawings of stones, water and plants accompany these preludes, as if from a science textbook, and Sailamaa maintains this aloof and observational stance as the sections play out. “Cleanliness” begins with the faces of every girl sleeping, in full splashes and four-panel grids. As they away the perspective shifts between extreme closeups of parts of their bodies, especially their hands, and side-profile images of their faces, to which most of the dialogue is attached.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Liza Donnelly.

—News. The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has been barred by police from leaving the country, a decision the artist has vowed to fight.

Even though I am facing nine charges under the Sedition Act, I am still not convicted since my case shall only start on the 22nd of November this year. This clearly shows gross abuse of power and blatant violation of human rights by these individuals.

Matt Furie is teaming up with the ADL to help reclaim Pepe the Frog from hate groups.

The [ADL} announced on Friday an experiment to try and reform the image, working with its creator, Matt Furie, who will create “a series of positive Pepe memes and messages” to be promoted on social media with the hashtag #SavePepe.

The winner of this year’s Emerging Artist award at CXC was Kevin Czap.

—Reviews & Commentary.
John Adcock and Huib van Ostal disagree as to whether or not A.B. Frost is responsible for some illustrations.

I’m quite sure now that all of the illustrations on all eight pages are the work of one cartoonist, probably A.B. Frost. Co-editor Huib van Opstal disagrees and believes they are simply clumsy copies, “in no way are these pen and ink drawings ever made by A.B. Frost himself.”


Thanks, Tone!

Today on the site, Aug Stone interviews the Dutch comics legend Joost Swarte, who is launching his first magazine in 40 years at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

AUG STONE: Where did the idea for Scratches come from?

JOOST SWARTE: Well… (laughs) I must dig in my memories. I always have liked the idea of doing a magazine again. I started Modern Papier when I was 22. It was my first magazine, a small underground publication. We did a print run of about 1000-1500. Artist friends joined in, Peter Pontiac and people from the Dutch underground who were involved with the magazine Tante Leny Presenteert. And then in 1973 there was a publisher who wanted to reach a younger audience so I proposed to make Cocktail Comics, a magazine presenting the new generation of Dutch comics artists. It wasn’t too much of a commercial success although all the artists were paid a professional rate and that was already far better than with the smaller underground publications. And we had the same freedom as with the underground publications, so that was quite good. But then I got a lot of attention from friends and publishers to publish my work so I left the whole magazine idea aside. Until two years ago, when the new publishing house Scratch was founded in Amsterdam and they asked me to be an advisor.

At about the same time I heard of the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the biggest in the world. The guests of honour at their 2016 Fair are the Low Countries, Holland and the Belgians, with whom we share our language. And I thought it’s a good idea to not only present the literature of our countries at the Book Fair but also the comics. So I started to talk with people from the literary funds in Holland and in Flanders. And they got interested and supported this idea. That was the start of the magazine. It’s intended to give an international podium to Dutch and Flemish comics artists. We’re doing it in English with the hope that they will also have future publishers abroad.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
The NPR Illustration blog talks to Daniel Clowes.

LA: Your new book Patience deals with time travel as a way to fix your life. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give 20 year old Daniel? Would you change anything?

DC: I thought about that a lot working on this book because this book really is about the dialogue between the older version of a person and the younger innocent naive version of that person. But I don’t know, I think things sort of fell into place in this miraculous way in my life, so I would hate to upset that. And anyway I would hate to say, “Don’t do that, that’s stupid!” because that might have been the fulcrum that everything hinged on that allowed me to be still drawing comics at 55 years old.

I just remember what an awful person I was, and everybody is, when they’re in their early twenties. They just don’t know how self focused they are. Maybe it’s just because I’m reflecting on how I was at that age, but I was so incredibly living in my own head, completely unaware of how much of an effect I have on other people. It was just all about my own tortured soul at that young age, and it’s hard to look back on your early work and not see that and think, “Oh come on man, get over that.”

For The New Yorker, Sarah Larson talks to Ward Sutton about the new collection from The Onion‘s great political cartoonist, Stan Kelly.

Articles have been written about how it’s hard to tell whether the Kelly cartoons are a parody or not. “There are people who take it at face value, even though it’s in the Onion, which always surprises me,” Sutton told me. “On Facebook, someone posted a Kelly cartoon that was saying that vegetarians were the inhumane ones, because they were stabbing cattle farmers in the back,” he said. “People were just indignant about it.”

—Reviews & Commentary.
For Time, Matt Furie writes about his attempt to reclaim Pepe.

I have a stack of Pepe fan art sent to me by school children. Moms write me to say how much their kid loves Pepe. Kids write me to ask how his name is pronounced (Peep? Pee-pee? Pep-pay?). As the copyright owner, I was licensing a bunch of things like indie video games, card games; making official clothes, a plush toy; and I was excited by my plans for the future. I was thinking, Memes rule!

—Misc. I always forget Chris Ware’s Heavy Metal days.


Record Holding

Today on the site:

R.C. Harvey on Al Smith, of Mutt and Jeff anonymity:

Smith, like Jones, is a name so plentiful in English-speaking countries that it achieves virtual invisibility and thereby anonymity. And the only Al Smith who ever broke free of the amorphous mob of Smiths is the one that was a picturesque governor of New York: he attracted enough notice that he was able to run for President of the U.S. against Herbert Hoover in 1928 and lost because he was Catholic, voters of the day being provincial enough to believe that if a Catholic was in the White House, the Pope would be running the country.

Our Al Smith, the nearly unknown cartooning one, wasn’t even a Smith at first: he was born March 2, 1902 as Albert Schmidt in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Henry Schmidt and Josephine Dice. Eventually, he “Americanized” his name to Smith. We don’t know when he did this, but it was done by the time he was signing one of the most famous comic strips in the history of the medium, 52 years after he was born. He continued signing Mutt and Jeff  for 27 more years before retiring. By then, Al Smith had been producing the same daily comic strip for almost 50 years, at the time, a world record.

Supplying autobiographical information for the membership “album” of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) in 1960, Smith wrote: “Born in Brooklyn, I became an orphan at age four. My boyhood was like an Horatio Alger story. Shoeshine boy after school, made 60 cents a week. Quit that to become butcherboy at $1 a week. Loved to draw and make people laugh. Could not afford lessons. Loved vaudeville. Might have tried acting career if I hadn’t married. … I was too young for the First World War and too old for the Second.”


It’s a big weekend for comics festivals:

Cartoon Crossroads Columbus has begun… get your details over here. And The Lakes International Comics Festival is on now.


It Pays to Rent

Today on the site, Chris Mautner reviews the latest Fuzz & Pluck book from Ted Stearn, The Moolah Tree.

The world of Fuzz and Pluck is populated with deluded and frustrated characters and abounds in disturbing dreams and odd transformations. At one point in their quest to locate the tree, Fuzz and Pluck come across a swarm of angry bees, which ends with Fuzz covered in mud and Pluck swollen to twice his size in stings. There’s a frightening dream sequence early on where Pluck cuts off his legs in an attempt to make bait for fish and then Fuzz is torn by two stray threads asunder, until nothing is left of him but two eyeballs.

That Fuzz would have such an unsettling nightmare should should not be surprising to those who have read their previous adventures. Both Fuzz and Pluck and >Fuzz and Pluck: Splitsville had an element of horror to them, however slight. Think of their initial appearance with the cheesecake character that everyone ends up devouring. Or the creepy half-grapefruit villain in Splitsville. Or the little girl’s toys that tear off a duck’s wings in order to attach them to Fuzz (also from Splitsville).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Sam Thielman at The Guardian speaks to Ben Katchor.

I was looking at 17th-century draftspeople and not comics. [Nicolas] Poussin, and Rembrandt, and the whole other world of anything but commercial art. I grew up reading comics, but then I discovered a whole other world of picture-making. They didn’t all make comics, but they made heavily narrative pictures. Poussin was a philosopher-painter, he wasn’t just a painter, so there was a big literary angle to these images. So I looked at that. That’s what was always interesting work.

You can’t keep recycling what’s happening. The critique was that I didn’t like how most comics were drawn and I had to draw differently than they did. If you don’t have a critique of what you’re doing, you may as well not do it. Just go on and be an apprentice to somebody and do what they do. That’s a pretty deadly direction to go in. Robert Crumb was looking at Albrecht Dürer, and looking at Doré and these incredible draftsmen of the 19th century. He was looking at early newspaper comics.

The AV Club talks to Ed Brubaker about his comics and his work on the new HBO show, Westworld.

When I first came here, I had done a couple TV pilots, and a friend of mine wanted to leave comics and come work in Hollywood, and I said, “Well, you’ve got to understand that when you sell a TV pilot, imagine if you turned in the best issue of Batman ever, and DC was like, ‘Well we love this, but we can’t publish it because we have to publish this other thing by this other person.’ There’s always room for a great issue of Batman at DC Comics, but networks have a limited amount of shows they can put on. You could do a pilot that is everyone’s favorite pilot at the network and they all say, “Yeah, but who’s going to watch this?” They’re not just judging shows on, “Is this good?” They’re judging it based on how many people will want to see this in our estimation. The odds are really long on getting anything made, so if you come from comics and you’re still making a living in comics, that really helps because you’re not desperate for someone’s permission to write for a living.

Mike Dawson has put TCJ Talkies into hibernation and started a new podcast with fellow cartoonist Zack Soto called Process Party. The guest on the first episode is Vanessa Davis.

The RIYL podcast’s latest guest is Dash Shaw.



Today on the site:

We are lucky to have Ron Rege interview Dame Darcy on the occasion of her essential new book, Meat Cake Bible. It’s a doozy.

Rege: This is not a graphic novel by any means. You’re a cartoonist from the pre-graphic novel era, which isn’t that long ago.

Darcy: Yeah, and all the kids do this manga thing now. Everyone does anime and this anime style. It’s fine, especially in my genre, Gothic Lolita. It’s all this anime goth. I’m Gothic Lolita too, but I have nothing to do with anime. All the millennials are super into anime and they need to expand on that, you know. 

Rege: I think eventually they’ll absorb it and do it in their own style or something like that.

Darcy: I hope so because I’m kind of getting sick of it. You know, you’re drawing really great, but you’re drawing just like anime. Come up with your own thing guys! I’m going to do a skill share video series teaching how to self-publish and do your own comics, and coming up with your own style is the main part of it! [laughter]. You’re not learning anything if you do that. You gotta go into your soul and come up with your own look!

I taught sequential art at the School of Visual Arts, and I’ve done lectures with PNCA and SCAD and Columbia and stuff like that, and one off things at public schools. I’ll volunteer. I did a little comics course for kids in the inner city schools in LA. I did it here for summer camp in Savannah. I’m all about it. One of the first things I say is, ‘Okay what’s you’re spirit animal? What’s your favourite stuff? What’s your favourite colour? What’s your favourite food? Combine it all in to a character, that’s where you’re going to get your style!’

Rege: That’s cool.

Darcy: Yeah, they come up with the cutest, hilarious stuff. I just love teaching people how to tap into their pathos. That’s what it’s really about. Just inspiring people with your work to be themselves, and to tap into their pathos. Like, be yourself so brazenly!

I love how when Obama became president he was like ‘yeah, I know there’s never been a black president before, but my reality and my confidence is so strong that I changed reality. I made it so there was a black president even though there’d never been one. In my world there could be one, and so now there is.’ I love that! That’s the key to manifestation and magic. Just alter reality so that it becomes your reality!

Rege: Oh my god.

Darcy: Seriously. I wanna be as big as Snoopy or as mainstream as Hello Kitty or some shit. Really I do.


Monday night I attended Dash Shaw’s NYC premier of My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, which I absolutely loved. It’s beautiful to look at, funny, and suspenseful. I was blown away, really. There are visual effects in there that I’ve just never seen before. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go see it.

I also wanted to mention, since I’ve gotten a few emails asking about it, that all the installation photos from the Ben Jones exhibition at The Hole are now online. Ben’s new show was fascinating because it was a rare instance of a cartoonist making comics that function as narrative drawing in a contemporary gallery space. These are not enlarged images (e.g. Shrigley), murals, or groups of drawings (Pettibon), but rather straightforward canvases that take a new approach to the comic medium. The show consists of oil stick-on canvas 3 by 3 foot cartoon panels assembled into narrative blocks (or 6 by 9 foot “pages”). They manage to feel as intimate as his notebook-sized comic strips and yet take on a new, somewhat ominous meaning — their dumb subject and large size a visual equivalent to, say, the comedy of Eric Andre or Will Ferrell. On a technical level, the work functions because his line is distinctly warm, his cartoon forms basic, and his sense of space and scale adaptable to large spaces. 

There’s a strange and digressive history of how comic art has been shown in museums and galleries (this is leaving aside cartoonish art, like Peter Saul). Usually a cartoonist like Clowes or Barry or Crumb exhibits the original drawings for their publications. Every so often (particularly in the 1940s and 50s) a cartoonist will make paintings or, in the case of a young artist like Aidan Koch, sculpture.

But mostly it’s original pages on a wall. Even Jim Shaw generally shows his “dream” comic book pages as if they were made for publication. And of course there’s the legacy of Pop: It’s rote by now to discuss Roy Lichtenstein’s use of comic book panels as material for paintings. Less well known is that contemporaneous cartoonists, notably Al Capp (Li’l Abner) made “pop art” prints of their own work, complete with enlarged ben-day dots and the like, as if to compete with the men they considered “thieves”: Lichtenstein, Mel Ramos, Erro, et al. And younger contemporary artists have toyed with the comic strip as a source for material, like Jayson Musson, who exhibited his own versions of Nancy-cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s renditions of modern art, circa mid-20th century. 

That’s all. Just a few thoughts on this great show.

Still more:

Speaking of art and comics, here’s a full look at the Mould Map show.

BK Munn sketches out a history of the Cartoonist’s Guild, which I hope he expands on.

I always like to link to Leslie Stein’s latest.

I may have posted this many years ago, but I ran across it again. The classic live cartoon/art film, Fat Feet.

Here’s Jim Rugg over at Clocktower radio.

It looks like SPX has posted quite a few videos from last month’s programming.

Here’s Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez interviewed by Bill Boichel: