Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Nick Drnaso's Beverly.

A cover blurb from Chris Ware reads: “A debut book by a young writer-artist who has not only absorbed but also advanced beyond the comics which have preceded him. Beverly is the finest and most electrically complex graphic novel I’ve read in years.” This is an effusive endorsement from one of the greatest cartooning talents living or dead, and damning in its own way. What book could live up to those words, from that artist?

At minimum, Beverly is a work that many of Chris Ware’s readers will warm to, in part because it shares the cool temperament of Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan and Rusty Brown stories. And although Beverly doesn’t have the symphonic qualities of those works or the sheer technical virtuosity, that’s not really the point. If Ware weaves a tapestry of despair for his readers, Drnaso has opted to smother them with a gloom pillow. It’s a valid, effective approach, though it leaves Beverly open to similar critiques.

And we have the final day of Ginette Lapalme's tenure creating our Cartoonist's Diary. Thanks, Ginette!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Brenda Cronin at the Wall Street Journal writes about the career of longtime New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno.

—Interviews & Profiles. Pedro Moura conducts a somewhat academically oriented interview with Nick Sousanis.

Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve played Unflattening against conventional comics at all – especially not the ones you cite. As I say on that page, I do prefer to call them “comics,” and I think my work very much fits in the comics tradition from Batman to McCloud to Vaughn-James. There are some things that I do that are perhaps unique to me (lack of direct narrative and recurring characters) which should be the case with every author at some level, but I see it as a comic that happens to be presented in a different forum. A Duchamp-ian urinal perhaps!

Forge magazine interviews Patrick Kyle:

—Misc. Guinness has named Al Jaffee the holder of a new world record with the world's longest professional career as a cartoonist: currently at 73 years and 3 months!

—Not Comics. Rolling Stone has named Brian Chippendale as the 91st greatest drummer of all time.

And this isn't comics at all, but if you remember that bonkers Robert Crumb interview in the Observer last year that Crumb ended up publicly disavowing, then the latest nutso article from the same interviewer may seem familiar in its methods.

And if you're in New York, tonight Alex Dueben (who put together the amazing oral history of Wimmen's Comix we began publishing yesterday) will be speaking to Reinhard Kleist at the Goethe-Institut. Kleist will also be creating a live drawing.



Today on the site we have an obituary of Jess Johnson, written by former TCJ-editor Robert Boyd.

And we're pleased to have part one of a two part oral history of Wimmen's Comix, the complete run of which has just been published in a great two-volume set by Fantagraphics. Alex Dueben's interviews with many of the key cartoonists (Trina Robbins, Sharon Rudahl, Barbara Mendes, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Diane Noomin, Phoebe Gloeckner, et al) covers a ton of new territory, not least of which is each contributor's fascinating paths to the medium, as well as publishing biz history, tons of context about the sexual politics of the time, and so much more. With a few exceptions, these cartoonists are rarely interviewed. Earth people, here's an open call: I want feature length interviews with everyone in this oral history. Let's open up the history of underground comics. Email me.

Here's a bit:

Trina Robbins:  I get to San Francisco and I discover, isn’t this wonderful we’re all here doing underground comics–well, it wasn’t. The guys didn’t include me. Later there were so many [cartoonists] but in the very early seventies, the first few years, it was a small group of guys and they all knew each other. It was a clique. Most of the comics in those days were still in anthology form so if they were going to do a comic, they’d call each other up and say, I’m going to do a comic, do you want to contribute six pages or four pages? Nobody called me. Nobody invited me into their books. Nobody invited me to their parties. The underground newspapers in the Bay Area were still carrying comics and they were a whole other group. They were much more open and that was wonderful because I wanted to draw comics for somebody. Underground newspapers had just started and if they were going to do an article, I’d read the article and on the spot, draw an illustration for it. I was getting published and I was drawing for people who wanted me to draw for them.

Meredith Kurtzman:  I was at the School for Visual Arts. I had one comic published in The East Village Other, but that was it. I can’t remember how I got involved with It Ain’t Me, Babe. My father knew Trina and Kim Deitch and I remember visiting them when they lived in a storefront on Ninth Street. We weren’t great pals or anything, it was more my father knowing all the underground comics people. They’d come to our house for dinner sometimes. I don’t think there was anyone else in that first issue who I really knew.

Trina Robbins:  Someone showed me what must have been the first issue of It Ain’t Me, Babe, which I had always thought was the first feminist newspaper on the West coast, but I later learned that it was the first feminist newspaper in America. I phoned them and said, I’d like to work for you. There was a be-in at Golden Gate Park and we met at the be-in and I wore a t-shirt that I had designed that had this strong and angry looking heroine and said under it “super sister.” They thought it was wonderful. They were in Berkeley so after that every three weeks or so I would show up at Berkeley and be doing drawings for them. I was also doing a lot of their covers and a comic on the back page. After working with them for a while, they gave me the moral support to say, I can put together a comic book.

Lisa Lyons:  As I remember, Trina called and asked if I’d be interested in taking part in It Ain’t Me Babe. No email or texting back then. How did she hear about me? I don’t know. Everybody knew everybody, or at least everybody knew somebody who knew somebody else on the Left in the Bay Area. I was a political cartoonist for the Independent Socialist Club and its newspaper Workers Power, and did work for many anti-war, civil rights, and social justice organizations, including the Black Panther Party, the Free Speech Movement, SDS, the Farm Workers, and the Peace and Freedom Party. My work appeared regularly in Liberation News Service. I illustrated Barbara Garson’s MacBird, which was translated into many languages and became a stage play.

Also today, Ginette Lapalm's cartoonist diary, day 4.


On a related note, Rachel Miller wonders about one of the cartoonists in It Ain't me Babe.

Sean Howe on another mystery: What has become of the Comic Magazine Association of America files?  It's possible these are gone forever, but it's equally possible some collector acting as a "historian" has them and is "saving them for a book." I've heard that a lot about a lot of stuff.

Frank Santoro's Comics Workbook is aggregating news over on its web site. Check it out.

Over on Facebook, here's a look at the great Spain Rodriguez's last freelance job.



Dance Theater

Today, we are publishing an English-language version of an article that originally appeared on the Italian comics website Fumettologica. It's a roundtable discussion featuring colorists from various countries, talking about their process, how digital tools have changed the profession, and more.

Matt Hollingsworth:
I think there's a fundamental historical misunderstanding of what was going on with coloring when the transition to digital was happening. At the time before I made the transition myself, I was doing mostly color guides, like most colorists. These color guides were just that, guides. These were handed in and then handed off to someone else to interpret. Earlier on, this process was more primitive. But around the time Oliff was doing his thing on Spawn, the people interpreting our color guides were called separators and they were doing that work on computers, same as Oliff. So, we basically had a middle man between us and the final colors, and they more often than not ruined our work. Oliff had fantastic artists doing his separations. They were amazing colorists in their own right. A lot of other seps studios had technicians and not artists and they often did a bad job on the seps. This is not to say all separators were bad, but the vast majority of them were. Some pages would come out great and you could tell that that separator was good and an artist. Most of us made the switch to computers so that we could do our own separations and avoid having other people destroy our work.

We also have day three of Ginette Lapalme's Cartoonist's Diary of her trip to Tokyo.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
The Johns Hopkins Hub talks to Ben Katchor about comics, politics, and cities.

In New York, at least when I was starting out, it was possible to live cheaply. That made a big difference in the amount of free time I had to make not overtly commercial comics, things that you just wanted to make and get into the world. So that's probably easier to do in a less-expensive real estate market. That's basically what cities have become—they're attractive entertainment places for affluent people. If you don't have money, you may be better off in a little town with a garden and less of a crushing overhead.

The Guardian talks to Daniel Clowes.

His characters also often miss things that the careful reader can see. “A lot of what I write about is what someone wants to present to the world, and then what they really are,” Clowes says. “What I play with a lot is the text, which is a lie, and then the image is the truth.”

When asked why he wanted to spend so much time on a single project – the book [Patience] is also his longest, at 180 pages – Clowes is frank: “I did not want to.”

The Huffington Post talks to Austin English.

From the start, it was clear to English that his style diverted greatly from the classic comic book formula. The artist explained to me that the first rule of cartooning, to his understanding, is that the characters must look consistent from panel to panel, from beginning to end. When making his own images, though, English couldn’t resist changing figures from one panel to the next, turning over the visual guidelines he’d just established. “The urge to break the rules is completely irresistible,” he added. “When I draw the comic for a second time I want to make a larger stomach or bigger feet.”

—Misc. For The Paris Review, Aidan Koch adapts a Lydia Davis story.



Joe McCulloch would like to tell you about the week in comics, and has added an appreciation of the late Jess Johnson to his usual column.

When most readers think of Johnson, they think of “For Fuck’s Sake”, from the Fanta/Eros anthologyDirty Stories. A sprightly nightmare of self-loathing annihilation, in which malevolent teen girls and their Beagle Boy lovers torment a frail boy in ladies’ underwear — culminating with a rifle blast into the rectum — the story anticipates the inflamed cruelties of artists like Josh Simmons, though Johnson often gives the impression of working in raw-nerved imaginative memoir.

And Ginette Lapalme returns with the second day of her diary.


Here is an Inkstuds interview with Jess Johnson.

Hyperallergic has a fine short text on Puke Force.

Gil Roth speaks to Tom Tomorrow.



Train I Ride

Ken Parille, probably the leading scholar of Daniel Clowes's work today, writes a new column about his latest book, Patience, with loads of extra commentary and annotations on its allusions and themes.

In 2011, as Clowes was writing Patience, he was reading about Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, a late nineteenth-century group of mystics, paranormal investigators, seekers, and crackpots. Blavatsky (who believed in time travel) created her own religion. She assembled the belief system described in her treatise The Secret Doctrine by gathering concepts central to many religious and philosophical traditions, especially Eastern mysticisms. Clowes has said that Patience is his attempt “to create [his] own religion,” and the book is propelled by a mystical world-view embodied in its time-travel circularity, a vision of a cosmic order that lies just beyond our perception, recognition of the interconnectedness of all things, and embrace of contradiction. Patience believes that opposing impulses — whether ideological or aesthetic — can live side by side, yet somehow (perhaps only through the magic artifice of fiction) be absorbed into a larger, coherent whole. Clowes’s comic is disconcertingly violent yet contemplative, brightly colored yet psychologically dark, grounded in genre conventions yet not a genre comic, visually cartoony then hyper-realistic, horrifying and affirming. It upholds Clowes’s belief, rooted in his interest in artists like Hitchcock and Nabokov, that a work of art can be a universe and a religion unto itself. (As our world turns increasingly virtual, Clowes makes his cartoon worlds more material. With thick pages and sturdy cover boards, Patience proudly asserts its existence. It’s a heavy book.)

Today is also the first day for a new edition of A Cartoonist's Diary. This week's Cartoonist is Ginette Lapalme, and she shares her impressions of a trip to Tokyo.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Rachel Cooke at The Guardian profiles Riad Sattouf.

Sattouf, who drew a regular strip for Charlie Hebdo until a few months before the attacks, is not only half Syrian, the son of a Sunni from a village near Homs; he is also the author of a celebrated graphic memoir, whose title is The Arab of the Future. Whether he likes it or not, the media is quite determined to enlist him as a spokesman on Syria, if not the entire Islamic world.

So far, he has proved resistant to their efforts. It’s true that from the moment the demonstrations against Assad began in 2011, he was filled with foreboding: “I was sure there would be a war, and I was convinced it would lead to the complete destruction of the country.”

But this is as far as he will go. “Nice try!” he’ll say, asked a question he’d rather avoid.

Gil Roth talks to political cartoonist Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow).

We live in a world created by 21-year-old coders with no life experience, and we’re trapped in their little brains now. It’s like that Harlan Ellison story, "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream".

At The A.V. Club, Shea Hennum interviews the aforementioned Dan Clowes.

Every time I see a blockbuster movie, I find myself wondering about the guy in the background who got shot. [Laughs.] I think it’s that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall—where he does that thing we had all been waiting our whole lives to see, which is: There’s a shootout and Schwarzenegger just holds a random bystander in front of him to block the bullets. And that’s always the thing that everyone thought of as a kid, “Why wouldn’t somebody do that?” And then when he finally did it, it was such a mass relief to the audience. [Laughs.] But I remember days after thinking, “I would almost rather see the movie of that guy”; you know, that guy gets up and goes to work and gets on an escalator and then all of a sudden he gets killed. What a weird day for that guy! [Laughs.]

—Misc. Jaime Hernandez drew the cover for the new New Yorker and talks briefly about hot dogs.


Fewer Piles

Today on the site, Mat Colgate interviews Dan White, comics critic and cartoonist:

What was the first comic you published?

There were a few abortive attempts. I tried working with friends to write stories and quickly realized that working from another person’s script is difficult, but that working from a script from someone who doesn’t know how to tell a comic story – even though they might be a fan – is even more problematic, because you’re being asked to do something in a panel and you’re like “I can’t do that, that’s eight different things you’ve asked me to do”.

The big break through was when I moved to Brighton after university and picked up a couple of local self-published comics by Danny Noble and Paul O’Connell. I thought “I’m going to give this a go”, so I did a comic called Beau And Me. It was about a guy in his 20s and was infused with my experiences of  living in a city. It was real world storytelling but I made the main character a little wolf guy and his friend look like something out of a Ralph Bakshi cartoon. So these cartoon characters are telling a slightly bittersweet tale of 20-something angst. What an original idea! But it was liberating and it worked. I just kept doing it until it was done, and then I got it printed up and started selling it.

What was it that was so liberating about going for that approach rather than just going straight in and doing a sci-fi epic, for example?

I had big plans about doing certain comics, but then you realize that your artistic skill set isn’t suited to the 12 part mega-epic involving drawings of other planets. Also I’ve always been a fan of Raymond Carver, who could carve out intensely meaningful moments from the everyday without going into soppy sentimentalism. I realized that by having a fantastical element I could satisfy my interest in drawing weird things, but that welding that to the mundane meant that I could also look into what it’s like being a person and living now. It was a practical decision, but I found the alchemy of it really appealing.


Comics-vid: It's Bill and Frank talkin' Bob Powell.

Comics-crit: Nick Gazin reviews the hits and misses of late.

Comics-adjacent: Here's a good look at the influence of the Pee-wee's Playhouse aesthetic.

Comics-movies: I'm a sucker for Valerian and Luc Besson, so here's a look at the director's upcoming movie.

Comics-cash-in: Here's the NY Times on Glen Weldon's history of Batman.



Back to the Beach

Today on the site, we present a new episode of Mike Dawson's TCJ Talkies podcast. This time around, cartoonist/publisher Austin English and editor/scholar Bill Kartalopoulos discuss Daniel Clowes's Patience, but they do it the long way around, via a 1963 issue of Superboy, and a reprint of Blutch's Peplum.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Daniel Clowes is all over the internet these days, including a profile by alum Sean T. Collins at The Observer.

“I haven’t been in a fight in a long time, but as a young man…” He pauses. “I can’t say I was ‘in a fight,’ but I got the shit beaten out of me several times. I remember the feeling of when you get hit in the head, and it flashes to white and you’re just like—” He makes a sound like a zombie in the process of being brained. “It’s just this jarring shock: Boom, there it is, and then it’s over and you’re sort of lost afterwards. I really wanted to capture that.

Jessica Gross interviewed him, too.

There’s also something about saying the names of your own characters that is really embarrassing, I’ve found. I was talking to another cartoonist about this and we realized we never say the names of our characters unless we have to. You just say, “the guy in the story.” There’s something deeply embarrassing about thinking, I just made up this character and now we’re talking about him.

Tripwire talks to Howard Chaykin:

Whereas Gil [Kane] demonstrated, albeit with a skepticism borne out of having spent his entire adult life in the field, that a career in comics could be at least somewhat rewarding, [Wally Wood] was so profoundly self loathing and self destructive that by the time I met him he was a ghost, a feeble echo of the towering talent he’d been throughout the fifties and early sixties. He was still breathtakingly proficient with a brush, however – able to transform my barely creditable effort, not to mention the work of at least one non-artist who simply traced stuff, into his own recognizable style.

So I wanted to be Gil Kane when I grew up, but I lived in terror of ending up like Wallace Wood.

—Commentary. Artist Matt Jones writes about six things he learned putting together his recent book, Ronald Searle's America.

Searle’s prolific output was driven by a genuine love of drawing and a rigid work ethic. He kept a meticulous deadline chart on his studio wall detailing the multiple assignments he was juggling at any given time. Art directors attested to his unfailing ability to meet deadlines and thorough exploration of the brief. He often submitted multiple finished variations on a theme for them to choose from. Even in his late-eighties he continued to work diligently. His wife, Monica, complained that she never saw him as he spent up to 11 hours a day in his studio.


Betty Boop Backgrounds

Today on the site, we're thrilled to have Peter Bagge interviewing Kaz, focusing mostly on the early years. Great, great stuff from two giants of the medium.

BAGGE: Almost all of your work is set in a rundown, urban residential landscape – not unlike Hoboken or Jersey City, though more depressed than those places are now. Might this be the Hoboken of your youth permanently planted in your psyche? Or perhaps because you moved back there when you started doing comics in earnest?

KAZ: Yes, Hoboken and Jersey City did look like Betty Boop backgrounds back in the 60’s. It’s perhaps a psychic space that reflects my own run down mind. But the simple truth is that I like drawing depressed backgrounds and interiors as well as weird architecture. 

BAGGE: Your interiors always include naked light bulbs, pealing wallpaper, broken plaster, torn shades and wobbly floorboards. You should have been an interior decorator! Ha ha. And the exteriors include abandoned littered sandlots and people going in and out of sewers. Stuff that kids are fascinated with, actually (or at least when we were kids).

KAZ: Yes, sewers are fascinating. I love the idea that there’s an underground world connecting the whole city. I lost a lot of Spalding rubber balls down sewers. My brother Vincent accused our mom of shoving his dog, Zero down a sewer after she was sick of taking care of it. He claims a friend saw her do it. When he confronted her she denied it. The dog just disappeared. Zero the sewer dog.   

BAGGE: I just heard Zero’s echoing, ghostly bark!  Since you mentioned Betty Boop, I’m guessing those type of backgrounds also evoke cartoons and comics from the 30s and 40s that clearly had a huge influence on you. Were you always drawn to that old-timey stuff, or did it start to grow on you once you were out on your own?

KAZ: I think I always liked it. I never considered it old timey. Just different. The underground comics that influenced me the most had the same feeling. Robert Crumb and Kim Deitch. But yes, I was drawn to them because they looked like Hoboken. I found drawing plain suburban houses, storefronts, and strip malls pretty boring at the time. 

Here's a fine documentary on the cartoonist Richard Thompson.

Steve Wozniak brought a comic con to San Jose -- crowds ensued.

A handy guide to the Batman / Superman relationship over the years.