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On the Margins

Kim Jooha returns today with a look at the work of Stefanie Leinhos, which Jooha considers to be a kind of "conceptual comics" akin to conceptual art.

The impression of eternity generated by the repeated image appears again in The Long Goodbye (2014, Printed by Stephan Rosentreter & Photo by Peter Hermans). The "long" in the title acknowledges the endlessness. The forever departure has another conceptual meaning in addition to the appearance of the work. According to the artist:

The drawings … were made directly on the zinc plates and only existed for the time being of the printing process itself. The plates were washed out afterwards and handed over to the next user.

Say Goodbye to the original drawing and Hello to the original print!

The original is destroyed, and the reproduced becomes (the nearest to) the original. In The Long Goodbye, Leinhos literally erases the privilege of the original.

And we have day four of Jesse Reklaw's week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Wiley Miller has issued an apology for the anti-Trump message found in a recent strip, which led to a number of newspapers cancelling Non Sequitur.

Remorse is an understatement. I'm gutted by my own poor judgment.

"Non Sequitur" has been my pride and joy, as well as livelihood, in a cartooning career that has spanned 42 years. The strip has been in print 27 years, and garnered many awards. During that time, I've drawn just shy of 10,000 strips, and not a single one contained such a vulgar, foolish, unprofessional "venting."

CRNI has written a letter to the Supreme Court of California defending Ted Rall in his recent case against the Los Angeles Times.

Of course we recognize that Mr Rall’s case differs in the scale and gravity of the alleged criminality at its heart, (neither jaywalking nor the allegedly exaggerated blog post are acts of sedition) but the intent and effect of the ensuing events have produced alarmingly similar results. That a freelance cartoonist could be expected to pay the legal fees of one of the country’s largest and most powerful news outlets seems an injustice so skewed as to be clearly intimidating to other writers and artists. That the incident involves the police could be construed as a further warning against challenging the authorities. Those in positions of power have seized upon an opportunity to silence a critic and serious, perhaps irreparable, damage has been done to the career of a popular and acclaimed cartoonist.

—Interviews. I missed this recent interview with Yoshiharu Tsuge at Zoom Japan.

Starting in 2019, your work will be translated into both French and English. It was quite a long wait, though.

T. Y.: You wonder why it took so long?… It’s hard to explain… For a long time I tried to escape other people’s attention. I’ve never liked to be put under the spotlight. I only wanted to lead a quiet life. In Japan we say ite inai, which means living on the margins, not really being engaged with society, trying to be almost invisible if you like.

 

Beginnings

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got another go round with Josh Kramer--today, he's speaking to James Sturm about all the various life experiences that ended up getting poured into the creation funnel on the way towards the creation of Off Season, his most recent graphic novel with Drawn & Quarterly.

This is kind of a different mode for you to work in. So many of your books are set in the past, in America or Eastern Europe. How did it feel to be working in a contemporary setting?

I liked it. I liked that it reengaged me to my surroundings. That car that Mark drove, I’ve sold it since then, but it was my car at the time. That house that he’s doing construction on is basically my house. The snowstorm, the streets, those are all Upper Valley. The tire place, etc. I really enjoyed that.

I remember, within a week or two of the election, talking to the cartoonist Summer Pierre and both of us expressing a visceral need to just draw things in front of us. That was that big question after the election: why weren’t we paying attention? And it was my big question, after being conned. This need to just kinda ground yourself, as opposed to all the online stuff, and even doing historial stuff, you are pulling resources offline and looking in archives.

For another taste of contemporary life, we've got Jesse Reklaw with the second day of his Cartoonist Diary. Today, he's using one artform to describe another!

My apologies for today's late and abrupt blog entry. It's my daughter's sixth birthday, and we have brownie sundaes to eat.

 

How to Make God Laugh

Today on the site, Greg Hunter concludes his two-part look at how the character of RoboCop was used in comics, and whether or not the satire and social commentary of the original film survived its adaptations...

After departing Dynamite, RoboCop found his next home at Boom!, which adopted an approach similar to Avatar’s, bringing in Steven Grant to adapt Frank Miller’s unused screenplay for the third RoboCop film, this time with artist Korkut Öztekin. The result, the RoboCop: Last Stand mini-series (2013), is a diminished work, even by the measure of Frank Miller’s RoboCop (Avatar). Whereas Miller’s original screenplay for RoboCop 2 managed to approximate RoboCop’s post-human manneredness, the Miller script Grant uses for Last Stand gives the character stock noir dialogue. The story’s take on a corroded Detroit is also more perfunctory; when readers see a commercial for something like the forced reprogramming of rude children, it has a direct link to Last Stand’s larger plot. The work here resembles The Spirit (2008), a film in which unchecked Millerisms smother the identity of its source text.

Last Stand begins with RoboCop in hiding, framed for a series of murders but committed to protecting Detroit’s most vulnerable. The city’s police force has collapsed, and RoboCop is effectively at war with OCP, aided by a rogue engineer and RoboCop super-fan named Marie Lacasse. Battles rage within OCP as well, allowing Faxx, a scheming researcher, to rise to the top. Faxx, whose work involves “molding [a person’s] existing personality to a more socially acceptable matrix,” is a character nearly identical to Margaret Love of Frank Miller’s RoboCop, down to Last Stand’s irony-free attempts at titillation. These resemblances occur often throughout the series; it’s a wonder Boom! had any confidence Last Stand might stand on its own. The comics read not just like an echo of the film RoboCop 3 or Grant’s Miller adaptation at Avatar but also of Miller’s other works.

Jesse Reklaw is here, too, with the second day of his Cartoonist's Diary.

And Josh Kramer has a review of Lucy Knisley's pregnancy memoir, Kid Gloves.

Before I get into reviewing Lucy Knisley’s new book, Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, I need to own up to something. Until giving Kid Gloves a serious read, I thought of Knisley solely as a memoirist. Her five autobiographical graphic novels recall the mostly charmed twenties of a middle class American white woman.

Knisley has long acknowledged her privilege. "I am lucky. I am aware of that," she writes in 2014’s An Age of License. "Yes, I make work about food and art & travel BUT THERE IS MEANING IN IT if to no one else but me."

And clearly others have found meaning in her work as well. Knisley is an award-winning and New York Times best-selling author. She attended both the School of the Art Institute and The Center for Cartoon Studies. [I did also but we did not cross paths.] Six books by age 34 is no small accomplishment. But here’s the thing — I was wrong about her.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This weekend brought the announcement of one of our greatest living cartoonists, Gahan Wilson, is suffering from dementia, and in need of help with funds for medical care. His stepson has set up a GoFundMe site here.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother's passing, the facility is about to discharge him. We must find him a memory care facility immediately.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on RiYL is Mimi Pond, and the most recent guest on Virtual Memories is James Sturm.

 

No Ledge

Today at The Comics Journal, we're starting up another Cartoonist Diary--this time, it's with Jesse Reklaw. His week starts off with Tai Chi! I'm already at superfan level.

That's not the only thing we're launching--today also sees the first installment of Greg Hunter's two-part study in Robocop comic books. Young people may only have heard of Robocop via a series of Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials featuring the character, but prior to those appearances, the character was featured in multiple comic books. Mr. Hunter, please to enjoy:

Numerous iterations of RoboCop after 1987 exist outside of comics: two film sequels, a reboot, and multiple television series, none of which benefited from Verhoeven’s black humor or the push into the grotesque he gives eighties action-violence. Even a couple of the non-comics spin-offs have a notable sequential connection: Frank Miller. Coming off the success of The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Miller turned to Hollywood, with mixed results. Although he received a story and a co-screenwriting credit for RoboCop 2 (1990), the final film is far afield from Miller’s vision for the sequel. Miller returned to work on RoboCop 3 (1993), again receiving a story and a co-screenwriting credit, with the finished movie again disappointing him. “Don’t be the writer,” Miller later said of the experience. “The director’s got the power. The screenplay is a fire hydrant, and there’s a row of dogs around the block waiting for it.”

The experience may have slowed Miller’s cinematic rise, but it did not mean a break with the RoboCop character. Before the release of the third film, Miller scripted perhaps RoboCop’s best-known comics appearance, the RoboCop Versus the Terminator mini-series (Dark Horse, 1992). At this stage, Miller maintained much of his deftness as a comics writer. He neatly combined the two franchises through the premise that RoboCop’s merger of human and machine supplied the self-awareness necessary for the eventual robot takeover of the Terminator films. (At first, the story’s Terminator machines seek not to destroy RoboCop but to defend him from a time-traveling revolutionary.) Miller also writes for his artist, Walter Simonson, a heavy hitter in his own right.

Our review for the day is of the first volume of Mob Psycho 100, courtesy of Tom Shapira. He's on the fence, but leaning pleased.

ONE’s other major effort is Mob Psycho 100, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and is just now being published in English translation. Looking at the surface it would be easy to criticize Mob Psyco 100 as derivative of the author’s previous work; the focus of the first volume is on ghosts and psychic powers instead of superheroes but otherwise much is the same: like Saitama the protagonist of the story, Shigeo Kageyama AKA Mob (as in ‘one of the mob,’ not a gangster) is overtly powerful in a way that allows him to end any conflict easily; like Saitama his biggest issue is his passivity which allows the danger to flourish until he finally arrives to deal with it; just as in One Punch Man there is a con-man who uses the hero’s powers to advance his social statue. Both series seem to exist as an inversion of popular shonentropes – in series such as DragonballBleach and Naruto the hero must become stronger through a series of fights, life as endless struggle that demands constants self-improvement. Both One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 start with hero already the strongest one there is and work from there.

Yet despite these similarities it would be wrong to brush aside Mob Psycho 100 as a case of second album syndrome. First, because even if it operates within the same perimeters they are narrow enough to make it feel unique compared to other works; second, because we often allow beloved creators to offer a corpus of work that is undeniably of similar bent; and third, because Mob Psycho 100 is just good; which probably trumps all other arguments. 

RIP Keith.

 

Bah

Big day on TCJ today. First, we have Alex Dueben's interview with Silver Age cartoonist Joe Giella.

You mentioned talking with Whit Ellsworth. Over the years did you have a lot of interaction with writers?

No, absolutely not. My relationship in comics was with the editor. I worked with Julie Schwartz for 45 years. He was a tough guy to work with but he was fair. We became very good friends right to the end. He was a tough editor. You tell him you’re going to deliver and if you didn’t deliver, you were finished. One time he said he could set his clock on me because I was never late. The one time I knew I was going to be late was when my dad passed away, but I alerted Julie and Julie understood.

So you would work more with Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger than the writers.

Oh god, Mort Weisinger. [laughs] He may have been a very talented writer but it was not easy working with Mort Weisinger. I quit the Batman strip twice after he offered it to me. For Mort it was a feather in his cap if he could go to DC and say, I got Joe to do the strip for only X amount of dollars. I would have been making less than I did in the comics – and I had to do carpentry work to make a living at the time. At that time doing a syndicated strip was the pinnacle for an artist. I really wanted to do it, but not on his terms.

The other person people ask me about is Carmine. He’s the one I collaborated with on The Flash and a few other characters. Carmine was an excellent – and underline excellent – layout man. His style was to draw this way and his concentration was on the layouts. That’s what he excelled at.

Glynnis Fawkes is here with the fifth and final day of her tenure creating our Cartoonist's Diary.

And finally, we also have a Tegan O'Neil's review of Corto Maltese: Secret Rose.

The Secret Rose should probably not be anyone’s first exposure to Hugo Pratt. This is later Pratt at his most esoteric, clogged to the arteries with ambiguous literary references masquerading as pointedly elliptical conversation. A gripping mens’ adventure yarn in the mood of Caniff? Certainly not! A trip to visit Herman Hesse in the Swiss countryside of 1924, that sounds more the ticket. At times, this album seems to live down to certain stereotypes held in English-speaking precincts regarding Eurocomics conventions - behold a tough guy stereotype from American adventure stories, your cowboy or your back robber or sea captain, sipping his drink at the bar before slipping out with the shadows to desultorily sock some local toughs on the jaw. But first he’s got some wry comments to make about Malraux, and doesn’t that woman have large breasts in the most literary way?

You can see the traces of early and consistent Caniff worship in Pratt’s faces, horizontal smears of ink to indicate mouths. Corto Maltese is always smiling but it’s a feline smile, the corners of the line of his mouth just barely creased. The smallest flick of the artist’s wrist. The present volume offers less of Corto Maltese socking local toughs and more an extended dream sequence wherein the protagonist undertakes a quest for the Holy Grail after falling asleep reading a copy of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth century romance Parzifal. As one does. He wanders through a dream landscape inspired by certain American movies that hadn’t been produced yet in 1924, such as King King. More importantly he wanders into long and subtle dialogue with figures from medieval illustrations. The subject of these deliberations for much of the colloquy is a figure named Klingsor, a marginal figure in Arthuriana who serves as a foil for Parzifal, but who is also alluded to in Hesse’s “Klingsor’s Last Summer.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer has been jailed again, after being arrested for allegedly taking photographs of a young boy at a doctor's office.

Kramer pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation in 2013 and was sentenced to an aggregate of 20 years, with the first five to be served in home confinement. He is no longer on house arrest, but still wears an ankle monitor.

On his Facebook page, cartoonist Milton Knight has reported being the victim of a hate crime.

The cops came. I went to the hospital. Cuts, a broken nose and more. He went to the same hospital; he had busted a fist!! I pressed charges; he went to jail for battery.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson writes about Segar's Popeye.

While other masterpieces of the first half of the twentieth century comics page, like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat or Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo are definitely acquired tastes, Popeye was not only popular enough to make its creator a rich man back in the day, it remains functional as populist entertainment today. I feel pretty “what’s not to like?” about it, and would recommend it to whoever. It’s funny, the characters are good, there’s adventures. The humor is three quarters sitcom style character work and one quarter the sort of silliness that verges on absurdism.

 

Blade, Blade, Also, Blade

Today at the Comics Journal, it's time for our monthly visit to the Fiffe Files. This time, Michel is taking a look--a bit under protest, initially--at the Justice Society of America, and in doing so, he thinks he might have discovered a whole new style of reading.

It made me see "the page" differently. I didn't look at it with the expectation of natural transitions and "realistic" dialogue, I saw it as a map of information. Some of those panels are stuffed to the gills with characters in motion, bumping into one another, spouting battle cries and plot beats with identical vigor. Little of it makes sense -- visually or narratively -- if you apply a traditional read.

In today's installment of A Cartoonist's Diary, Glynnis Fawkes gets explicit about the costs--today for a family and tomorrow for us all--of short-sighted education cuts. I saw a thing last week on another comic site (a site that should know better) dismissing comics on topics like these as being slice-of-life trifles. I couldn't disagree more.

Today's review sees Nate Chazan falling pretty hard for Joe Kessler's Windowpane.

Windowpane, Joe Kessler’s debut graphic novel from Breakdown Press, collects four stories from the one-man anthology of the same name. However, rather than taking the form of a compilation for those who missed the single issues, the stories in Windowpane are deliberately arranged to speak to each other and continue into a larger thematic story, at once aesthetic and humane. As in James Joyce’s Dubliners, the disparate people in Kessler’s world constitute a grander narrative from youth to maturity. Kessler explores perspectives on experiences from different angles to attain a profound insight.

While I do wonder what sort of long term damage Douglas Wolk is doing to himself via his All The Marvels project, his struggle continues to bear some pretty ridiculous fruit.

Bleeding Cool picked up on the comics connections that Variety ignored in a story about Chris Fenton, one of those ancillary parasites who put in time at various comics companies trying to squirt movie deals out of whatever intellectual properties haven't already been beaten to death. Allegedly put in time. I hope he wins all the money in the world, i'm sure he'll use it for something really cool.

I'd always wondered why my pal Dominic Umile leaves his byline at TCJ out of his bio, and now I know: he was angling for some of that sweet LA Times money. His first piece with them, on Brian Fies A Fire Story, is up now.

Over at The MNT, Claire Napier lays the case out against DC for their de-prioritization of artists in some of their upcoming titles in the DC Zoom & DC Ink line. It's an area DC has failed in before--and as Napier points out, it's a failure whose impact doesn't end with the artist. 

 

Never Dreamed He Could Do This

Columnist Ken Parille is here today, and lately he's been feeling old.

I’m in my fifties, which, according to some, makes me old. Given that “50 is the new 40” (or "the new 30” or whatever), perhaps I’m not quite “senior” (though a few months ago, I got a senior discount on auto parts). They say you’re only as old as you feel — and I feel old. Especially when I enter that dangerous territory known as “online comics criticism.” As a part-time “comics critic,” I’m part of a world that worships the young. It’s fine, I suppose, to venerate youth; I certainly wish mine wasn’t receding into the past with such debilitating speed. What’s weird to me is that many of comics’ enlightened thinkers — critics and cartoonists who say they reject discriminatory rhetoric and its binary logic — eagerly use age categories as weapons. For them, young is good, old is bad. Put a little more directly, the online world of comics criticism is ageist AF.

Perhaps nowhere is this ageism more visible than in commentary surrounding the new Nancy comic strip. If you like it, great. But if you don’t, prepare to receive the absolute sickest of burns: “You are old.” Originated by Ernie Bushmiller in 1938, Nancy was recently revived by a cartoonist using the pseudonym “Olivia Jaimes.” I like most of Jaimes’s new daily and Sunday strips a lot. Others are solid, a few are bland, some are repetitive (too many cell phone gags), and some I just don’t get (likely ’cause I’m old). If you think the new Nancy is, like her pal Sluggo, “lit,” I’m perfectly ok with that (and if you haven’t read the comic, I recommend it). If you hate it and think it was only good when Bushmiller did it, I'm fine with that, too. I might have some trouble with anyone who thinks Guy Gilchrist is the best Nancy cartoonist. But even then, whatever.

Glynnis Fawkes is here, too, with the third installment of her Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Mo Willems has been named the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' first Education Artist-in-Residence.

Throughout the two-year residency, Willems and the Kennedy Center will develop new works for children, former children, and their families; curate collaborative experiences across artistic genres that spark creativity and invite hands-on, multigenerational audience engagement; and consult with the Center's Education division, which serves students, adults, and communities nationwide.

The New York Review of Books has named its new editors, Emily Greenhouse and Gabriel Winslow-Yost. I don't know if the same is true of Greenhouse, but Winslow-Yost will be probably the most comics-conversant editor of a prestigious literary magazine since Nicole Rudick was at The Paris Review.

—Interviews. At The New Yorker, Emily Allen interviews Mort Gerberg.

The show encompasses not just your single-panel gag work for The New Yorker, but reportage, syndicated strips, drawings for short animations. How and why did you develop such a diverse practice?

I think there were two main reasons. One was to produce an income. And secondly was because I was following some natural interests. In regard to the first part, when I started doing cartoons, which I guess technically was in the early sixties, and I was working my way up, the smaller magazines that were first available to me were paying maybe five, ten, twenty-five dollars. That meant I had to do a lot of drawings, make a lot of sales. Then, gradually, I worked my way up the ladder—Saturday Evening Review, Saturday Post, Look magazine, Esquire, then I sold to Playboy, and then, finally, a few years later, started to sell to The New Yorker. But still, and I think this is true for all cartoonists, it was just not possible to make a really decent living by selling to one or two magazines, even if you’re selling to The New Yorker. You needed something else.

 

Nobody Cares, Pal

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got the latest installment in Glynnis Fawkes' Cartoonist Diary. In today's installment, Fawkes makes her way to one of the parenting rites of passage few come home cheering about. A surprise, however, was in store.

That's not all. Today also sees an update from Alec Berry on the latest developments in the Cody Pickrodt lawsuit that we've been covering since last year. 

According to the office of Judge Thomas Feinman of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, a motion to dismiss eight of the 11 defendants from small press publisher Cody Pickrodt’s defamation lawsuit is under review.

The judge’s decision will be made within the next 60 days. The process started Feb. 19, 2019.

If in favor of the defense, the decision will discharge cartoonists Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore; publisher Josh O’Neill; comics critic Rob Clough; and cartoonists and publishers Jordan Shiveley and Tom Kaczynski/Uncivilized Books from a $2.5 million dispute.

While we usually leave the product announcements up to those sites who enjoy trawling through those emails, you'd be hardpressed to find a more welcome home than TCJ to the news that IDW is going to be A) releasing some kind of Clue mini-series written and drawn by Dash Shaw and B) graced with the presence of Stan Sakai, whose Usagi Yojimbo comics is the only living competition John Wagner has in the what-a-hell-of-a-run department. 

Over at Women Write About Comics, Brandi Estey-Britt drills down into Monstress, one of the more well-regarded Image Comics of the last few years, to look into one of the comic's major point of focus, female pain, and how rare it is to find that topic dealt with as intelligently as the Monstress team has.

I try to steer clear of Scott McCloud related topics, as criticizing that guy on a random podcast back when he was a New York Times Bestseller ended up causing me no end of annoying professional conversations with people who should come up with real things to be scared of, like bears, or typhus, but I made an exception for this piece at Lithub. It's good!

There's one article I look forward to every year, an article that signals, for me, the conclusion of the previous: and that's Shannon O'Leary's survey of comics retail, which popped up at Publishers Weekly last week. (I had been wondering where it was, and now I know: it was already here!) While portions of the article can always be pulled to prove whatever point someone wants to make at the time, it's best read in its totality

Over at Popula, Nate Powell has released a weird, poorly structured, rambling piece of random, almost trivia-focused scholarship, that functions as op-ed, autobiography, and call to arms. It's excellent. I think something like this--had it been more focused, and less of an anything-goes piece by somebody who is as scared by recent developments as any sane observer would be--is a perfect argument for a part of politicized webcomics that has always been promised but rarely delivered. It's too long for print, where it probably would've ended up being edited down into a more specific, trackable argument (something with two, obvious sides), nor does it read with the type of here's-what-just-happened quality that alt weekly comics used to traffic in. It doesn't play like the type of thing you'd find at a site like The Nib, a site whose brevity often turns their comics into Rorschach tests for pre-existing arguments. No, this piece is long enough, and so all over the place, that it can't help but become the best kind of non-fiction comic--one that exists purely as the exercise of one artistic mind cruising around an argumentative prism created by its cartoonist. Unlike the ugly, dogmatic op-eds currently churned out by newspapers in search of the clicks that the internet will ultimately deny them, Powell's comic is resolutely his, one stuck in an argument that's quite clearly consumed him. Following him around, being forced to interpret how a bit of learned history leads to his personal truths, filtering into observations backed by emotion, and then concluding with a pleading, sincere concern--it's a tremendously unique experience unvarnished by any attempt to score points or short circuit a criticism. I'm down for more.