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Ever Heard of Calvin and Hobbes?

Today, Rob Clough is here with a long, detailed look at cartoonist (and sometime TCJ.com contributor) Rob Kirby’s latest comics anthology, QU33R. Here’s a brief excerpt:

What’s interesting about Kirby is that while he’s been a prominent queer cartoonist and editor for nearly twenty-five years, he also sees himself and the artists he publishes as part of the greater alt-comics scene. The queer alt-comics scene is one that has evolved parallel to the straight underground scene, with surprisingly little crossover or awareness between the two audiences. Of course, that’s never been the case for Kirby himself, who grew up reading Weirdo and worked to have John Porcellino distribute his comics through Porcellino’s Spit And A Half. It’s always been part of his mission to find ways to connect the two communities without compromising the identity of the queer community. This is one reason why the 2012 Justin Hall-edited No Straight Lines was such a landmark. While that totally uncompromising survey of queer comics not only won a Lambda Literary award, it was also nominated for the (quite mainstream) Eisner Award. Kirby’s new anthology QU33R is very much a reaction to and extension of No Straight Lines. If the latter collection represents the past of queer comics (including the very notion of what it is to be queer in the modern day), Kirby wanted to assemble an anthology that provides a snapshot of its present.

Today also marks the return of TCJ all-star Bob Levin, who reviews Adam, the debut prose novel from longtime cartoonist Ariel Schrag, who, Levin says, previously “produced the most compelling rendition of adolescence by an adolescent I have ever read.” Here’s a snippet from Levin’s review:

…Schrag ceased creating graphic novels. (She wrote, in Likewise, that the comic had overtaken her life. Her daily experiences were being shaped by a “predetermined” view of how they would fit into her book-in-progress. Perhaps, that is why.) She graduated from Columbia, in 2003. She wrote for the television series The L Word and How To Make It In America. She did some stories in comic form. But after publicly chronicling the most intimate details of her life, she was essentially quiet. Now Schrag has returned with a “non-graphic” (in the pictorial sense) novel, Adam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Again, her protagonist is a Bay Area teenager. Again, sexual exploration is her major concerns. But now her major figure is male, Adam Freeman (a risky name choice, granted; but if repeated rapidly a dozen times, immunity can be acquired to its bludgeoning “Get-it?” aspect). Now his quest relocates quickly to New York City and is complicated by his exposure to the crossed-over (MTF and FTM), those who remain in-transit between arrival, and those at play with the varied permutations spread upon the table.

And finally, Dan forgot to mention in his blog post last Friday that we had published the latest review from Greg Hunter, this time on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s very popular Sex Criminals. And here’s a bit of that:

The world literally stops for Suzie and Jon when either of them has an orgasm. These characters can temporarily move around while everything around them remains frozen in time. In One Weird Trick, the two find each other. Not long after Suzie and Jon hook up, the couple decides to rob banks during this post-orgasm “Quiet” time. But even before the robbery scenes, Fraction and Zdarsky use their conceit to examine the different roles sex plays in the lives of ordinary people. In the story’s first installment, Suzie tells readers how alone she used to feel when the rest of the world froze—a sideways depiction of the failure of sex alone to complete a person. And an anecdote in which Jon describes his orgasm-power learning curve reads like a true account of puberty writ large. Even if genre comics have used the emergence of superpowers as a stand-in for adolescence since 1962 or so, the mix of excitement and confusion in these scenes is recognizable and vivid.

For much of One Weird Trick, Suzie acts as a guide to the reader, relaying the story’s events in the first person. If the comic’s overarching metaphor is strong, the line-by-line narration of Sex Criminals is the book at its weakest. Although Suzie isn’t likely to wind up in Avengers Tower before Sex Criminals ends, her narration resembles the self-conscious quippiness of Fraction comics like Marvel’s Hawkeye. In lines like the following, Fraction writes Suzie as if she’s fiction’s first self-aware narrator: “That [question] was rhetorical. You don’t need to answer. We couldn’t hear you anyway, this is a book and you are a person and that’s not how it works.” This performed cleverness is a feature of Fraction’s writing across his body of work, and here as in elsewhere, it distracts from the actually clever moments throughout the story.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Bill Watterson’s Return to Comics. So this of course was the biggest recent news around: Calvin & Hobbes creator Watterson returning from his longtime retirement from comics to ghost-draw parts of last week’s Pearls Before Swine strips. Pearls creator Stephan Pastis explains how it happened here. Michael Cavna has more from both artists at the Washington Post. Apparently, Watterson and Pastis plan to eventually auction off the original art to help Team Cul de Sac fund the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Chris Sparks has more about that here. And our own Joe McCulloch had the best Twitter response to all this that I saw.

—Interviews. CBR’s Alex Dueben talks to the great Gabrielle Bell. The Comics Tavern talks to Jim Rugg. And The Guardian talked to Alan Moore and others to try and get more details on the recently announced Electricomics app.

—Reviews & Criticism. When Jesse Jacobs’ Safari Honeymoon gets review treatment at The New York Review of Books, and no one blinks an eye, it feels like we’ve really turned a corner. At Hazlitt, Chris Randle takes on Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer. At his own blog, Rob Clough looks at the work of Luke Pearson. And Ladies Making Comics has a post suggesting various women they believe could have been included in Drew Friedman’s upcoming Heroes of the Comics.

—Misc. For the first time, DC is giving Batman co-creator Bill Finger cover credit on a special issue of Detective Comics #27. (You may recall Finger’s granddaughter’s statement last month — I’m not sure if there is any connection.)

Finally, anyone who’s been involved in comics for more than a few years is likely to find something they can relate to in this recent blog post from Jason Shiga titled “Webcomics, a Young Person’s Game?”

 

Your Post, My Post

Hey it’s Friday. To sing out of the week is Mike Dawson with guest Sarah Glidden, who he spoke to about Joe Sacco.

Elsewhere:

Here’s John Pham on Inkstuds.

I always like a good cartoonist conspiracy theory.

Another thing I like: 1940s Al Jaffee art.

Also enjoyable is the Comics Club Tumblr.

And here is something else to like, and carry into your weekend: Early Japanese animation.

 

 

 

 

Thought Bubble Burst

Frank Santoro’s here with his latest Riff Raff column, discussing new work by Malachi Ward. Here’s an excerpt:

… We see a flashback of “what went wrong” in the city 62 years earlier. (Is it the same woman at a younger age? It’s hard to tell only because she has a different nose but the same tattoo under her eye.) Ward switches from a six-panel grid to a three-tier set up with either nine or six panels to “open up” the flashback section. We see a young woman make her way through a large agitated crowd and lots of cops in riot gear. She and a young man make their way to the front line where the cops are. It’s political rally or a speech by the President. Everyone is yelling. The crowd and the cops square off. I was impressed at how fast this transition from open seaside cliffs to crowded city riot worked visually within so few pages. Ward is able to use a combination of layout shifts and color accentuations to reinforce the scene visually. The cops are all darker in value on the page and the way they are shown in counterpoint to the rest of the crowd rendered in lighter colors is very well executed. Crowd scenes are the types of things most cartoonists avoid so I enjoyed staring at the details in this scene. Then the layouts shift back to the six-panel grid to end the flashback. That’s solid comics-making in my book.

And we also have Craig Fischer’s review investigating the latest Pascal Girard book via its connections with the great filmmaker Eric Rohmer.

A key to unlocking Pascal Girard’s Petty Theft is the book’s French title, La Collectionneuse (“The Collector”), a title shared with a 1967 film by New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer. Girard may have borrowed this title as a way of announcing a creative debt to Rohmer: both Rohmer and Girard are low-key, naturalistic artists who specialize in stories about self-conscious male protagonists navigating thorny romantic relationships. Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse is an entry in his “Moral Tales” cycle of films—called “moral” not for ethical reasons, but because the term moraliste in the Gallic cultural context refers to those writers (such as Stendahl) who take the interior lives of men and women as their primary subject. Rohmer himself described his characters as people who like to bring their motives, the reasons for their actions, into the open. They try to analyze; they are not people who act without thinking about what they are doing. What matters is what they think about their behavior, rather than their behavior itself. They aren’t films of action, they aren’t films in which physical action takes place, they aren’t film in which there is anything very dramatic, they are films in which a particular feeling is analyzed and where even the characters themselves analyze their feelings and are very introspective. That’s what Conte moral [moral tale] means.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:


—Reviews & Criticism.
Dana Jennings at the Times reviews the new “Artist’s Edition” of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. TCJ regular Sean Rogers briefly addresses new work by Jaime Hernandez, Jesse Jacobs, and Mariko & Jillian Tamaki. Rob Clough writes about Gilbert Hernandez’s Maria M.

—Commentary. Heidi MacDonald writes about the online controversy over SDCC’s harassment policy. James Heartfield thinks the British Library’s Comics Unmasked exhibit features too many superhero deconstructions and too little funny stuff. Mike Sterling thinks that DC’s New 52 logos and numbering makes their covers confusing. Peter Huestis has problems with the new Random Acts of Nancy feature.

—Awards. The Shuster Awards have announced this year’s nominations. Alison Bechdel and Nicole Georges won Lambda Awards. If you’re eligible, don’t forget to vote for the Eisners.

—Misc. Publishers Weekly profiles Roz Chast, and Joost Swarte starts a new Dutch comics publisher.

 

Expensive Art

Today on the site: Ryan Holmberg gets back into Matsumoto Katsuji’s work.

Last time, I provided a brief overview of Matsumoto Katsuji’s early career, in honor of an excellent retrospective at the Yayoi Museum in Tokyo. I argued that Matsumoto’s famous Kurumi chan (b. 1938), oftentimes seen as one of the first commodity icons of Japanese kawaii, was probably based on a mix of Grace Drayton’s New Kids dolls and American jazz age cartooning. This time I want to focus on The Mysterious Clover (Nazo no kurobaa), a sixteen-page comic published as a premium insert furoku for “a girl’s best friend,” the magazine Shōjo no tomo, in April 1934. There’s a buzz around the manga’s formal innovations, and in a future article I will add my two cents about them. First I think it useful to see how Clover introduced a novel character type – a type reminiscent of the athletic and righteous young man described above, and thus more in line with stereotypes of proper Japanese boyhood than those of prewar shōjo culture, even though the character is a girl. It was a type, as we will see, that additionally reflects the influence of a specific form of American masculinity.

Elsewhere:

Artforum’s new issue has a comics-focus. TCJ and I both make appearances in this article by curator Fabrice Stroun, who has also done great work on Jim Shaw.

Gil Roth interviews Katie Skelly.

Caitlin McGurk has a brief CAKE report over at The Comics Reporter.

 

Doctor Doom Does As He Pleases

As usual on Tuesdays, Joe McCulloch is here to offer a guide to the most interesting-sounding new comics available in stores this week. Highlights this time include books by Willy Linthout and Robert Crumb. But first, Joe has also begun to explore the comics of Hong Kong, and more specifically, the artist Li Chi Tak.

[He] is only known in English as a name in the credits to a movie: the 1996 Jet Li vehicle Black Mask, which was based on the artist’s comics. Wendy Siuyi Wong, in her 2002 survey Hong Kong Comics: A History of Manhua, notes that Li-the-artist was once heavily influenced by the Japanese mangaka Katsuhiro Ōtomo; his work in this 1996 book, Tiān Yāo Jì (created with Yuen Kin To), seems slightly more comparable to brawny action specialists like Takehiko Inoue or Kentarō Miura, though Li himself has cited influences ranging from Suehiro Maruo to Minetarō “Dragon Head” Mochizuki.

We also have James Romberger’s review of IDW’s third and final volume of their Alex Toth retrospective, Genius, Animated, edited by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell. Romberger has great respect for Toth, but not so much for this book. An excerpt:

Let me just say upfront that the production values in the now-complete three-volume biography of the cartoonist Alexander Toth are beyond reproach. Visually, [it] compares favorably to IDW’s other collections that I own and admire regularly, such as their exemplary Milton Caniff collections. One can quibble with the editors’ selections and the books’ design and I will—-but all of the art is shown in a generously proportioned format and the printing is very sharp and clear.

But for a series that claims to be the definitive statement on Toth, it falls short, because the text does not do justice to its subject. As biography, the account it presents feels skewed against the artist. Further, because of the books’ tendency to highlight the least interesting and most conservative aspects of what he did while ignoring or misunderstanding or failing to communicate in any meaningful way what makes Toth’s work so exciting and innovative, what is established is that Toth was a contentious man who became a particularly boring and cranky old fart.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews. Phil Nel reviews Richard Thompson’s Complete Cul de Sac, calling it “one of two comic-strip masterpieces of this century.” Douglas Wolk reviews several new graphic novels in the New York Times. Martin Steenton on Jesse Moynihan’s Forming II.

—Spending Opportunities. Hunt Emerson has a Kickstarter going.

—Interviews.
Joost Swarte explains the New Yorker cover he just drew. The Collected Comics podcast talks to Don Rosa. Dave Sim has his own internet.

—Misc. R. Sikoryak drew the cover for the New York Times Book Review’s summer reading issue. BuzzFeed has been reduced to reproducing old TCJ message-board threads. Forbidden Planet notes an interesting-looking Vietnam travel book by Lorenzo Mattotti. Charles Hatfield is blogging his summer comics course. Binding comics seems like so much work, but I like looking at Michel Fiffe’s posts about it.

—Funnies. Speaking of the Times, this week’s strip by Michael Kupperman and David Rees was rejected by editors there, because of “too sensitive” subject matter, according to Kupperman. He’s posted the rejected strip online here. As always, read the comments at your own risk.

 

Ignore

It’s a new week. Ken Parille leads us in with an essay on one of my favorite comic book artists: Pete Morisi.

Although many artists struggle with the comic page’s limitations as a static, silent surface, Morisi harmonizes with newsprint’s inert pulp essence. His peculiar genius lies in the way he seems to disrupt our desire to glide across a page. While it’s hard to talk about the specific effect that images have on us, many of his panels feel calming, almost a little hypnotic and “sculptural” to me, working against the animation that Seth rightly sees an important feature of narrative comics.

In fact, Morisi’s characters often resemble a drawing of a sculpture of a person, rather than a “direct” representation; and many of his horror comics feature sculptures in the panels’ backgrounds and margins.

Elsewhere in the world:

Tom Spurgeon interviews Noah Van Sciver.

The ebook comics company Graphicly has been folded into the print-on-demand service Blurb, leaving some questions.

Will Eisner’s M-16 manual.

David Carr at the NY Times on the ongoing Hachette/Amazon stand-off.

Not-comics: Critic and poet Rene Ricard’s memorial gathering.

 

A Bit of a Manga

First, we have the great Bob Levin here with us today, bringing the story of publisher Malcom Whyte to the masses. Everything Levin writes is worth reading.

Whyte had been an admirer of underground comix since the afternoon he had walked into Gary Arlington’s tiny store in San Francisco’s Mission District and been introduced to a tall, skinny fellow named Bob Crumb, who sold him a handful of first edition “ZAP” Number Ones for a quarter apiece. Whyte, as a married man with three children, who had been into, he recalls, “drinking martinis and not eating dope” had missed out on the early days of rock poster collecting, immediately recognized he was being invited into the ground floor of the latest exciting development in the graphic arts. He would stop by Arlington’s once-a-week, buy comix, meet artists, and acquire work from them. “They were interesting guys,” he says, “doing wonderful work, and I was in awe. I’d just go ga-ga.”

They were also artists whose choice of content had limited their audience and restricted their possibilities. By the mid-nineties, most of them worked in relative obscurity. Now, he hoped to bring them at least some of the attention and rewards they deserved.

Meanwhile:

—Interviews. The 2D Cloud site has a short talk with the pivotal former cartoonist (and new publisher) Julie Doucet. Make It Then Tell Everybody has a very worthwhile interview with Christopher Butcher, cofounder of TCAF. (I miss Butcher’s blog.)

Speaking of TCAF, here is video of the panel featuring Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton:

—Awards. The Society of Illustrators announced the winners of its first Comics and Cartoon Art Annual.

—Funnies. Study Group has a preview of Mark Connery’s Rudy.

Also, this really is one of the greatest comic-book covers ever. (I’m not exactly out on a limb there.)

—Misc. Robin McConnell has a photo diary of the first leg of his and Brandon Graham’s Inkstuds tour. And Travel + Leisure has gathered mostly the usual suspects into their list of the United State’s best comic-book stores.

—Misguided Editorials. This anti-self-publishing editorial in The Guardian is fascinating, not because I can’t follow the logic, but because its conclusions do not in any way match up with my own experiences with self-published zines and comics.

And probably the less said about Amity Shlaes’s slapdash National Review editorial calling for conservative graphic novels the better. I say that not because of her political stance, but because of her lazy ignorance: she seems entirely unaware of the many right-wing(ish) cartoonists, including pantheon figures from Chester Gould and Harold Gray to Steve Ditko and Chester Brown; she credits Edward Said as co-author of Joe Sacco’s Palestine; and thinks “manga” is a synonym for “fantasy,” which leads to bizarre nonsensical sentences like this: “This attitude, high-minded though it be, is itself a bit of a manga.” Readers of this site may enjoy her characterization of the cartoonists at White River Junction, though.

 

Crowds

Today: Frank Santoro on Julie Delorte’s new book.

I’ve been following Julie Delporte’s comics work for a few years now. I enjoyed Journal, her first book. I like seeing fragments of her work floating around online. Her handmade graphic approach is very refreshing to me and I think her work often looks particularly striking online. Journal was good, but it became slightly repetitive as a comic book. Each entry had its own strengths and sometimes the pieces seemed to not hang together all that well to make a cohesive narrative. (I get that it wasn’t a narrative and that it is a diary–I’m just saying the book’s strength was not in its structure.)

So I was slightly hesitant to check out Delporte’s new book, Everywhere Antennas, only because I figured it would be another diary. Even when I was flipping through it at first it looks like a diary that is going to stick to a certain layout and a certain way of delivering information: one or two drawings floating amongst some text. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the “information delivery” varied from section to section. For the most part it is a diary; however, there is a part in the middle which utilizes more of a traditional comics approach. I like the tension between this section (that is rendered in gray) and the rest of the book (that is in color).

And some links:

Great cartoonist (Quadratino!) and design and illustrator Antonio Rubino spotlighted at 50 Watts.

TCJ-contributor Nicole Rudick on Karen Green’s poetry/art -blend book Bough Down.

This link made me think of Dash Shaw, though he’s not to blame for that.

Apparently a comic-con in Toronto was not very good.

A lengthy examination of the Howard the Duck/Steve Gerber/Marvel legal fracas of decades ago.