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Don’t Stop Can’t Stop

In today’s installment of her regular column, Shaenon Garrity takes a look at how the major comics awards have handled webcomics.

In the 2000s, webcartoonists struggled to be treated with the level of respect and critical recognition given to print cartoonists, which is the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. For many creators and fans, this involved a push to include webcomics in comics industry awards. There were also efforts to create an awards system specifically for webcomics, most notably the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards, which ran from 2001 to 2008.

Nowadays, of course, the struggle is over and webcomics are respected by all. Although they still lack their own industry awards, most or all major comics awards now include a webcomics or digital comics category. Some have been recognizing webcomics for well over a decade. That can mean only one thing: it’s time to start nitpicking and judging them. How successful have webcomics awards been at singling out the best in webcomics?

And then, Brandon Soderberg reviews the new collection of Bobby London’s remarkably weird take on Segar’s most famous creation, Popeye:

About halfway through Popeye, The Classic Newspaper Comics — Volume One: 1986-1989, underground comix boundary pusher turned syndicated strip jobber Bobby London’s aggressively contemporary take on our beloved sailorman, we find the Sea Hag (frequent nemesis to Popeye since 1929) turning Popeye’s rickety hometown of Sweet Haven into a bougie tourist trap. The whole thing probably goes on a little too long (at about the point where an orphanage is closed and replaced with an arcade, the message is loud and clear), but then you recalibrate, lower the stakes, and think what in the hell, you’re reading a fairly sprawling Popeye narrative that appeared in mainstream newspapers in the mid-’80s that’s about gentrification, and well, how did this even come to be?


Elsewhere:

—News. The South Carolina/Fun Home controversy has a new dumb compromise. Laura Hudson reports on Patreon, the latest crowdfunding craze. Our boss Gary Groth has been nominated for Seattle’s Genius Award. (He got a cake.)

—Misc. Derf says his goodbyes to his long-running strip The City. Deb Aoki wonders how to make manga more appealing to new readers. Colson Whitehead recommends a comic to Barack Obama. The New Yorker has images from Lynda Barry’s show at the Adam Baumgold gallery. This year’s Eisner judges talk about the nomination process. These may be collectors’ items some day.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Washington Post talks to Roz Chast. The L.A. Weekly profiles Jaime Hernandez. The Village Voice talks to Mimi Pond. Alex Dueben interviews Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman on the 35th anniversary of their political anthology, World War 3 Illustrated. Chris Mautner talks to Noah Van Sciver. A Melbourne-based podcast interviews Simon Hanselmann. Make It Then Tell Everybody interviews Sam Alden. The Inkstuds road tour interviews begin with Mike Allred talking about eternity.

—Reviews & Criticism.
Rich Barrett reviews a bunch of comics. Jared Gardner ponders three semi-recent comics about food. Rob Clough looks at the first books of new publisher Ray Ray. Domingos Isabelinho catches Hector German Oesterheld borrowing from John Ford. John Adcock reviews the new Gasoline Alley Sundays collection.

Paste has chosen the 100 “best” comic book characters, which revealed to me that this way of interacting with comics is completely foreign to the way I do. I like Batman as much or more than the next person, but is he a good character? If I think about him as a person for more than ten seconds, I get a headache. His most basic motivation — that his parents being killed by a mugger and a bat flying through his window inspired him to dress like an animal and beat up criminals on the street at night — is opaque and unconvincing. I suppose this is simply a leap of faith the reader is forced to make in order to enjoy Batman stories, but it is a leap which simultaneously makes Batman unintelligible as a human being. Which doesn’t mean he hasn’t been involved in a lot of very fun comic-book stories; I just am not sure he’s a very good “character.” Daniel Clowes’s Wilson, on the other hand, much decried as a “jerk” on his eponymous book’s release, still lives in my head years later as a three-dimensional, multi-faceted person. Ask me how he’d respond in any given situation —including the murder of his parents or a rodent infestation—and I’d have a pretty good idea. I haven’t read that comic since it came out. Time to rectify that.

—TCAF. I hate most convention reports, but I don’t hate this Secret Acres report of TCAF. Maybe because they made a bunch of it up reads like it’s too funny to be true. And I don’t hate anything Joe Ollmann writes.

—Video. Here’s the annual “roast” video from this year’s Doug Wright Awards:

And oh man, do I want to see this show:

—Finally. Dan made a big deal about what he called the dumbest press release ever a while back, in which he inadvertently revealed that he deletes most of the press releases he gets in his e-mail book every day without reading them. Because take a look at this. I won’t bore you by copying & pasting the whole thing, just know that it involves the audio-only version of a Princess Diana comic book.

 

Efficiency Today

On the site:

R.C. Harvey, who wrote the introduction to the forthcoming Barnaby Vol. 2, looks at all things Barnaby:

Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, like Krazy Kat, appealed to a smaller audience than most comic strips.  Comics historian Ron Goulart says it appeared in only 52 newspapers in the U.S. at its height. But the strip’s readers were an appreciative elite.  Barnaby hove into public view a scant two years before the demise of the intelligentsia’s first love, Krazy Kat.  Beginning April 20, 1942, the strip lasted into the early fifties. It was revived on September 12, 1960 and ran until April 14, 1962, but many of the stories were retooled from the first run of the strip, which ended February 2, 1952. By that time, both Pogo andPeanuts were on the scene.

The brief decade of Barnaby’s first run was brilliant. Among its passionate fans was Dorothy Parker who wrote a mash note about the strip when she reviewed a Holt book of reprints in October 1943: “I think, and I am trying to talk calmly, that Barnaby and his friends and oppressors are the most important additions to American arts and letters in Lord knows how many years.”  She admitted that her review was not a review:  it was a valentine, she said.

And Fantagraphics has given us another kind of valentine with the inauguration of its planned complete reprinting of the strip, Barnaby: Volume One, 1942-1943 (320 7×10.5-inch landscape pages, b/w; hardcover, $35) with prefatory essays by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer; Afterword and appendix by Philip Nel, Johnson’s biographer.

Elsewhere:

The Beat has a roundup of audio from various TCAF panels. And Chris Randle has an excellent diary of his TCAF experience.

This is an excellent idea for, well, anything!

Kate Reynolds on what the Image Humble Bundle might mean for comics.

 

Do You Know What Illuminates the Night?

Today on the site we have Art Lortie’s obituary for the prolific comics artist Dick Ayers. Ayers worked on many of the most iconic Marvel titles and characters. Anyone who wants a vivid first-hand account of the comics business from the ’50s through the twentieth century could do a lot worse than picking up Ayers’s unusual three-volume comics autobiography, The Dick Ayers Story. It’s too rough and disjointed to find a widespread audience, but it’s a heartfelt and consistently surprising account of the creative life. (Once we get the Comics Comics site archives up and running again (a development that looks imminent) I’ll try to share my review of that book.)

Elsewhere:

—At RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny has written the kind of guide to comic book movies I can get behind. Kubrick, Godard, Melville, etc. The Jack Kirby/James Cameron connection is obvious as soon as you see it.

—Marc Meyers writes about Vince Guaraldi and how he attempted to translate Charles Schulz’s Peanuts into jazz. That post also features a fascinating brief clip from the 1963 documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

—Speaking of Schulz, now is the time to buy his old Minneapolis house.

 

Wrap it Up

Today on the site Joe McCulloch has words of wisdom for us all.

Elsewhere:

Paste has made a list of the 100 Best Comic Characters.

Your Max und Moritz award winners.

Here’s topical post of cartoons about Putin’s Russia.

And Ng Suat Tong on Ms. Marvel.

Not comics: An interesting piece on the problem of too much work by one critic in a single book.

 

Why Tempt Fate?

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Box Brown’s new biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Here’s a sample:

Brown has done a fine job of aggregating anecdotes about his subject; this is a telling of the Andre the Giant story that requires little prior knowledge of the person or his profession. He also mediates his many sources through a controlled, consistent aesthetic. Brown works with a thick, black line; minimal hatching; and a manner of depicting characters, even the massive ones, as sets of soft contours. One of the book’s successes is Brown’s design for Andre himself—the wrestler looks at once like a flesh-and-blood human and like an icon. Brown examines Andre’s interiority less well.


Elsewhere:


—Reviews.
Rob Clough takes on Lance Ward’s (Lance Ward is an) A-hole. Whit Taylor reviews Seo Kim’s Cat Person.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Chris Mautner talks to Fantagraphics’ latest announced artist, Ed Luce. Box Brown and his book are profiled in traditional Times-style comix-ain’t-just-about-capes fashion by George Gene Gustines. Tom Spurgeon talks to Box Brown. Terry Gross talks to Roz Chast.

—Commentary.
NCS president Tom Richmond responds to the New York Post’s decision to drop its comics page via an open letter. Sean Kleefeld also has thoughts on the move.

Paul Gravett explains who invented the graphic novel.

—News. The Doug Wright Award winners were announced at TCAF, with Michel Rabagliati, Steven Gilbert, and Emily Carroll receiving honors.

A potential compromise in the Fun Home/South Carolina college-funding controversy has been suggested. Writers including Junot Diaz, Richard Ford, Dennis Lehane, and Emma Donoghue have joined a campaign against the funding-cutting legislators.

—Misc.
Photographer Seth Kushner needs help finding a marrow donor.

Bushmiller collectors: Fantagraphics needs your help finding some Nancy clippings.

 

More Data, More Data

Today on the site:

Chris Mautner talks to Mimi Pond.

Can you walk me through the gestation period? Why did it take so long for it to come out?

After I left the restaurant I moved to New York and became a cartoonist and was making a good living doing that. At that point no one was talking about graphic novels. I always thought it should be a movie. I thought about doing it as a screenplay.

We moved to L.A. and I lived there long enough that I realized just how horrible Hollywood is and even if I did write it as a screenplay it could be taken away from me at any time and ruined. And I wanted to make sure that it got told the right way. So then I thought, “Graphic novel? That’s way too much work. I could never do that. That’s ridiculous.” I thought, “I’ll just do it as a regular fictionalized memoir.”

I fictionalized it because there was just too much stuff in real life; there were too many people who passed through there, too many personalities. It had to be winnowed down into a dramatic story. I wanted to catch the essence of what that time and place was and who those people were, but I didn’t want to have to stick to the facts.

It wasn’t until my son was born in 1992 and suddenly being a mother for the first time that a light bulb went off in my head that Lazlo, the real-life version of him, was everyone’s groovy beatnik dad. He had his own family. And yet he was hanging out with a bunch of twenty-something kids instead of spending time with his family. And I was like, “That’s not right.” (laughter) In his own way he was as good a father as he could be but l feel like he failed to protect his family. He put them through things … I don’t want to get into it in the [book] because I didn’t want to get that personal, his wife and kids are still around, and I didn’t want to make it about that as much as I wanted to focus on the restaurant.

When you’re in your twenties, it doesn’t occur to you to think about things like someone’s responsibilities and parenthood. You’re not thinking that way. I realized this character is much more complex than I had even thought. In some ways he was a wonderful person and an extremely important person for me because he was telling me and anyone else who was there that while this is what we’re doing right now, we’re just playing a part, and we’re going to do other things and we have to keep notes, because this is a story and it has to be told. Working in a restaurant is just a role we’re cast in the moment, but we’re going to go on and do bigger things.

And Robert Kirby reviews the long-awaited collection of Mark Connery’s Rudy, one of my all-time favorite comics.

Enter Mark Connery. His minicomic Rudythrows all that comics pedantry out the window in a cheerfully anarchic spirit. Intuitive and spontaneous rather than practiced and formalistic, his hilarious, doodled-in-a-notebook-style comics emerge triumphantly from the id. It’s no wonder the tagline “Comics and Fun” accompanied many of the original minicomics collected here. Among the other taglines are “Zooty Comics for Grog Dogs” and “Bourgeois Entertainment for Stalinist Motherfuckers.” Welcome to the world of Rudy.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a lengthy interview with the late Dick Ayers conducted by Roy Thomas.

Tom Spurgeon has publishing news about Study Group.

And here’s Ed Piskor on video for Time.

 

 

No Respect

Ken Parille is here with his thoughts on five recent books from Koyama Press. Jesse Jacobs, Michael DeForge, Seo Kim, Jon Vermilyea, and Ryan Cecil Smith are the artists in question. Parille: “I searched for a shared quality I could label The Koyama Aesthetic. Couldn’t find it. Each of the five books I discuss is ‘its own thing’ — and each deserves your consideration.”

And then Paul Buhle is here with a review of The Best of Comix Book. For those who don’t know, Comix Book is one of the more curious titles in comics history, an anthology of underground cartoonists (Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Skip Williamson, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, etc.) put out under the aegis of Stan Lee himself.

[Denis] Kitchen badly wanted a breakthrough, and he always Thought Big. In those days, before multiplying big-budget superhero films, no one was bigger in comics than Stan Lee. Kitchen’s idea was to get Marvel on board as publisher and distributor of what was, in fact, a stepchild of the Undergrounds. And probably just in time because the cops were hovering over the head shops that sold comix; worse, the counter-culture generation was steadily less counter, the former hipsters’ culture more mainstream. Time was actually running out, although that only become abundantly clear and final a few years later. Lee had also sought to lure Kitchen to New York and mainstream comics a couple times, and no doubt that smoothed the way to a business partnership of sorts.

Elsewhere:

—More Reviews. Tom Spurgeon has thoughts about Jesse Jacobs, too.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Roz Chast on NPR. Steve Morris interviews Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. Brian Nicholson has a short piece on Conor Stechtschulte at Splice Today. Colleen Doran talks about her restoration progress.

—Disputes. The uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger’s family is not “all good” with DC, according to his granddaughter and despite DC assertions.

Avi Arad wants more credit for Marvel’s movie success. [I'm putting a "rabbit hole" alert on that link for anyone who actually tries to understand it.]

—Misc. Drew Friedman has an outstanding photo recap of his show (and associated panels) at the Society of Illustrators.

—Video. Finally, here’s Jen Sorensen’s Herblock Prize acceptance speech:

 

Gifts

Today on the site we have we a pre-TCAF special: Cartoonist Est Em, who is a guest at the festival, interviewed by translator Joceylne Allen.

ja: That’s great. …So why the pen name “est em”?

ee: (Laughs) Well, I came up from Boys’ Love, so I was against using my real name, and there’s actually another manga artist named Maki Sato. The kanji’s different, of course, it’s spelled differently.

ja: Sure, but the pronunciation is the same.

ee: The pronunciation’s the same, and both Sato and Maki are incredibly common names, so I figured my real name wouldn’t have any real impact. And I was playing around a little when I made my BL debut, I thought est em worked somehow.

ci: I said she should use “Sugar Roll”.

ee: “Sato” is “sugar” and “Maki” is “roll”, right?

ja: (laughs) I love it!

ee: Sugar Roll.

ja: So I’d be calling you “Roll” now.

ee: Yeah, “Roll”.

ja: I can’t even imagine! Roll, tell me about your career!

Elsewhere… here in New York the city is battening down the hatches for a massive amount of art fairs this weekend. Why, you can even find me slinging books at Frieze from Friday to Monday. Come talk to me about Atlas-era Gene Colan and watch as my co-workers stare in disbelief.

There have a few tributes to Dick Ayers. Michael Cavna has one at the Washington Post. And here is Ayers in conversation with Mark Evanier and Joe Sinnott.

One of my favorite periods of his work can be seen here and here.

And:

Paul Gravett on curating the largest show of British comics ever mounted.

Tim O’Neil has begun writing comic book reviews for the AV Club, and starts off nicely.

Here is some news about the upcoming Columbus, Ohio Clowes invasion.