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The Morning News

Good morning. Today we present an obituary of the much-admired artist Jeffrey Jones, as well as Joe McCulloch’s latest column on the week in comics.

Elsewhere:

Jean-Christophe Menu, outspoken co-founder of the prominent French publisher L’Association, has apparently left the company. Tom Spurgeon and Bart Beaty have the available information and a bit of analysis here and here.

Robert Crumb gives a weird interview to his own website, in which he briefly comments in sometimes surprising ways on various public figures, such as Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, Obama, Bob Dylan, and Tommy James and the Shondells (he’s a fan!).

Bill Rechin, creator of the comic strip Crock, has passed away.

The eminent British comics critic Paul Gravett picked his top five political graphic novels for CNN. None of them are bad books, but a few of them don’t strike me as very political, except in the broadest sense.

Our own Rob Clough writes about the minicomics of Susie Cagle.

Sometimes I read Tucker Stone’s column and I am so so glad that I have no idea what he’s talking about.

 

We Survived

Nice to see all of you.

So, on the site today:

* Ken Parille writes on Jack Kirby and Chris Ware:

As allegorical fantasies, Kirby’s galactic operas were as interested in 1970s America as in imaginary goings-on in deep space. Yet Kirby’s greatest theme was even closer to home: his own power, his imagination, and his process of creation.

* And in that spirit, we present the complete text of Gary Groth’s 1989 interview with Jack Kirby. This was quite controversial at the time of its publication, with many complaining that Gary had let Kirby talk too much, and make overreaching claims. But to my mind, it’s a fascinating record of the artist in twilight, weary of his battles and fed up with getting so little credit. If he overreached in places, one can hardly blame him. In any case, here it is, and it’s worth reading in light of this summer’s movies.

Elsewhere:

Interesting exhibition opening this week curated by William F. Wu: Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in American Comics, 1942-1986. The curator notes:

I themed the collection around a set of eight Asian archetypes — the ones that remain most iconic and resonant with perceptions of Asian Americans even today… The archetypes are obviously negative ones, given the timespan of the archive. But their repeated appearances in the comics ends up being an amazing launchpad from which to explore the historical pressures and precedents that led to their inception.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ passing has been noted several places. The best piece I’ve seen is Tom Spurgeon’s, in which he examines the larger context for Jones’ life and work. Here’s Tom on the “Studio” period:

The legacy of that much talent doing what was collectively very good work at a point of almost monolithic and degrading corporate influence over the kind of art they wanted to do has provided The Studio with a legacy that can be embraced even by those that didn’t particularly care for the artists’ output.

And David Apatoff takes a close look at a single painting.

 

One More Day

I heard from this guy on the subway that May 21 is the day the Y2K bug finally strikes. I may be a pessimist but I don’t think our new robot rulers are gonna let us spend much time sitting around reading about comic books (was Monday’s outage a preliminary attack?), so get your kicks in now. We’ll all be working in the coltan mines soon.

Some ways to while away your final hours:

Dustin Harbin says goodbye to the Doug Wright Awards with one last diary entry. It has been fun to see the rolling waves of pleasure and argument getting started after each entry went up.

And Richard “Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists” Gehr weighs in with a review of Leslie Stein’s new Eye of the Majestic Creature.

Oh, and did we forget to mention that issue 301 made New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix? It did.

Elsewhere on the internet:

A great profile of Richard Thompson from the Washington Post. (Bill Watterson alert.)

Video footage has arisen from the 2010 APE interview Dan Clowes gave to Dan Nadel. (One of the reasons I like this interview is that before the show, Frank Santoro and I send Dan our most shameless comics-fan questions, and then he actually asked most of them.) [via]

TCAF has been getting all the glory, but Eric Reynolds went to the Swedish SPX festival in Stockholm, along with former TCJ.com diarist Vanessa Davis, Gabrielle Bell, Trevor Alixopulos, Dash Shaw, Brent Warnock, and many others. Check out his photos here.

Tom Devlin, Chris Oliveros, and John Porcellino took a trip with Chester Brown to visit his childhood environs. Tom Devlin Chris Oliveros has the photos (and their comic-panel equivalents from Brown’s work) in a great post over here.

Joakim Gunnarsson didn’t like the reproductions used in the recent Buz Sawyer book, and explains why here. The book’s editor, Rick Norwood, shows up in the comments to defend himself.

Conflict of interest alert: Sammy Harkham announces the next edition of Kramers Ergot, and Dan’s his new publisher:

Mondo (Alamo Drafthouse) is releasing a limited-edition screen print of Chris Ware’s poster for the film Uncle Boonmee, going on sale this morning.

Finally—and “not comics”—an item for those into hand-wringing discussions about criticism only: This post about the lack of negative jazz criticism is really interesting for the way it corresponds (and doesn’t) with the state of comics criticism. (It was more interesting before that site switched to TypePad last night and lost all its comments in the process.)

 

Jeffrey Catherine Jones, 1944-2011

We’ve just learned that painter and cartoonist Jeffrey Jones has passed away. According to a post on the artist’s Facebook page:

JEFFREY CATHERINE JONES passed away today, Thursday May 19, 2011 at 4:00 am surrounded by family. Jeffrey suffered from severe emphysema and bronchitis as well as hardening of the arteries around the heart. Jeffrey’s dear friend Robert Wiener reported that there was a no resuscitation order as Jeffrey was weak from from being severely under weight and had no reserves with which to fight. In accord with Jeffrey’s wishes Jeffrey will be cremated. We have yet to hear details for a memorial service. Jeffrey was one of the greatest talents and sweetest souls we have ever been blessed to know. Rest in Peace, dear friend.

We’ll have a formal obituary online as soon as possible. For a brief biography, click over here. My favorite work of Jones’ remains the comic strip Idyll.

 

Twittering Away the Day

Oh it’s been busy here.

On the site today:

*Dustin Harbin’s suddenly, semi-controversial reportage about the Doug Wright Awards returns with Day 4.

*More Canada! More! Jeet Heer’s new column is online and it’s about Paying for It. Deal with it! We’re not giving up until we set a record for the most coverage on any web site about a comic book about prostitution. Stay with us, people!

In related news, cartoonist Sammy Harkham took some time away from the telephone to do some tweeting about Paying for It. Here’s my favorite part, but really, there’s so much more. Some people can tweet. I’m not one of them, but Sammy has found a higher calling here. A real kibbitzer, this guy.

In non-Canadian news, here are a couple of very interesting things:

-Here’s a conversation about repro techniques in the new Buz Sawyer book between writer Joakim Gunnarsson and the book’s editor, Rick Norwood. This is a good peek behind the curtain about how decisions are made in relation to the material available. (via JT)

-Over at Vice, Nicholas Gazin has posted another good column, including brief interviews with Peter Bagge and, uh, yours truly. And he’s gone weekly. Beware!

-And finally, this is an incredibly well researched article (thanks, SH) about Orrin C. Evans, a writer and publisher who was responsible for the first African-American comic book, All-Negro Comics. Completely new, fresh territory mined here:

All Negro Comics # 1 is a good read. More thought went into the stories than I can briefly recap. Ace Harlem works as a detective story, the dialog is realistic and the incidentals of the story, the root doctor and the juke box playing ‘Open the Door Richard’ reflect the culture of the creators, as do Sugarfoot and Hep Chicks. Lion Man, a character surprisingly like Lee and Kirby’s Black Panther, is a well thought out concept, born with a secret laboratory and a pesky junior sidekick and ready for some good ol pulpy jungle action. The book reads and looks pretty much the same as a Fox, Iger or Chesler book of the same time period.

Go check it out.

Oh, and does anyone have a copy of this? Seriously. I didn’t know existed until Sean Howe pointed it out.

 

Community-Building Exercise

Lining up for comic book reviews

These have been trying times. It is probably not too much to compare our recent internet problem’s effect on readers as akin to that of the Great Depression on our ancestors. Reports continue to trickle in from loyal followers, anxious about the missing hours of TCJ.com. Some people—you may know them—are still unable to access their site from their computers, or at least are unable to do so while sitting at their work cubicles. For some, despair has begun to set in.

But like those Depression survivors, TCJ.com readers are showing a surprising, even inspiring resilience. At first, the messages we received were ones of dismay, even panic, but as time went on, something strange began to happen: across the globe, people who were joined together by nothing more than a shared interest in a minor art form began gathering into groups, sharing laptops and iPhones, and excitedly reading favorite stories from the site to each other. According to reports, TCJ.com reading parties have started sprouting up spontaneously in homes, bars, churches, and community centers across the country. Will “bowling alone” finally become a thing of the past? Who knows? But if you know someone unable to read TCJ.com on their own computer, why not invite them over to share in the fun?

Such as:

The third installment of Ryan Holmberg’s epic and essential “What Was Alternative Manga?” column. Today’s topic is Takao Saito and the “Gekiga Factory.” There’s nowhere else you can learn this stuff in English.

The hardest working man in comics reviewing, Rob Clough, talks about Melvin Monster: Volume 3.

And Dustin Harbin’s latest diary comic!

Also, there is news on the print Comics Journal front, along with a big back-issue sale. Here’s Mike Baehr with the word:

We are victims of our own success! Demand for The Comics Journal #301 is greater than we estimated and advance orders for the issue exceeded what we printed, so we have gone immediately back to press for a second printing. Since we couldn’t fill all the orders from the first printing and didn’t want to short any one segment of the market — comics stores, bookstores, subscribers — we decided to wait until we receive the second shipment before releasing the book, resulting in a 3-4 week delay, pushing the release to early July. It’s been delayed so long already, what’s another month? The lucky dozens who have managed to buy advance copies from us at MoCCA and TCAF will tell you, it’s worth the wait!

This also gives you some extra time to get on board with a money-saving 3-issue subscription, which also gets you access to the online TCJ back-issue archives at TCJ.com!

And speaking of back issues, to help the wait for the new issue pass a little bit faster, save up to 50% off all TCJ back issues, Special Editions and Library editions through next Wednesday, May 25 2011!

Go here for more information.

Elsewhere on the internet, the aforementioned Rob Clough’s efforts can not be contained within this site. He’s got a slew of reviews up on his own blog, including takes on Joe Ollmann and Pascal Girard, Aaron Cockle, Colleen Frakes, Joe Daly, Steve Seck, and minicomics out of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

I forgot to link to this rather perverse Mother’s Day webcomic written by Paul Slade, drawn by Hans Rickheit, and based upon one of the great David Attenborough’s nature stories.

1-800-Mice cartoonist Matthew Thurber will want to know about this: apparently, you can now read the entirety of Elfquest for free online.

Via Tom Spurgeon comes links to two recent stories about the first manga books restricted under the new Japanese legal situation.

Via everyone, there’s finally a trailer for the upcoming animated Tintin film. Attention Dapper Dan.

I really am going to stop posting TCAF reports, but I’ll put in one more, just because Kevin Czap has written the one thing I’ve been missing this time around: an old-fashioned haul report.

Finally, the US government is now recognizing video games as a legitimate art form, allowing them to be eligible for NEA grants. I couldn’t remember offhand, but maybe some of you readers can: has a cartoonist or graphic novel ever been awarded funding from the NEA?

 

And He Cooks, Too!

Well, Tim and I were heartened to know so many of you missed us for the 7 or 8 hours the site was down. We didn’t know anyone was reading. Tim actually had me convinced that the current TCJ only appears on my screen in Brooklyn and one special, child-proof screen in New Jersey (not even in Tim’s house, but just somewhere in New Jersey!). I suspected he was lying, so I feel vindicated now and maybe I’ll tell my parents about this thing! They’ll be so proud of my new life in comics.

Anyhow, insert your transition here, on the site today:

-Dustin Harbin: Day 2. I’m really glad to have Dustin’s specific take on the Doug Wright Awards, and just glad to be working with him. The one time I went down to Heroes-Con in 2007 with Frank and Tim we really had a blast. Everyone did, including Brian Ralph, who may or may not have ever really recovered from it.

-Joe McCulloch heroically turns in yet another week in comics. The man is not human!

Oh, and what is that lead-in image, you might ask? Why it’s a Neal Adams drawing from The Cartoonist’s Cookbook, publishing in 1966. This tome, which has an intro from unsung early comics historian Stephen Becker, is pretty damn amazing, replete with, food memories and recipes by cartoonists famous and (now) obscure. Richard Gehr, of Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists fame, gave me a copy last night when we went to see Lee Lorenz play some damn fine jazz at Arthur’s last night. Yes, this Lee Lorenz. Blows a mean coronet.

Here’s Neal Adams, who talks lovingly about his wife cooking Chinese food.

And if this is not one of the best photos of a cartoonist, ever, then… well, then I guess I’m wrong.

Ladies and gents: Bill Holman!

The facing page has this priceless quote: “Holman says he never did an honest day’s work until he sold 96,000 gag cartoons.” And: “He has a reputation about money somewhat similar to Jack Benny’s”. Who’s Jack Benny? Oh! Min! Plop!

And elsewhere online:

Tom Spurgeon has your answers regarding the out/sold out/out status of TCJ 301, not to mention our brief outage yesterday, complemented by a photo of me giving my “intense dude” stare. That’s what I look like right now. OMG.

Comics Alliance has a preview and appreciation of Jacque Tardi’s The Arctic Marauder.

Sean T. Collins looks into the comic/film synergy at Marvel Comics. Dapper Dan, meanwhile, is holding out hope for the Green Lantern movie.

 

The Eleventh Week

So that didn’t work. Sorry about the disruption this morning. Apparently the e-mails sent out to remind us to renew our domain name were sent to the inactive address of a person who no longer works at Fantagraphics. It seems to be all fixed now, though, and shouldn’t be a problem ever again. Though keep track of this date a year from now, and we’ll see.

Okay, and we have two new prose columns up. First, R.C. Harvey is back with more thoughts about Bill Blackbeard.

[Bob] Beerbohm’s question hangs in the air: Why did no one know that Blackbeard had died? The man whose passion for collecting comic strips had launched hundreds of reprint projects slipped away without anyone knowing? “Why is that?”

And Frank Santoro posted his most recent Layout Workbook Sunday. This time, the topic was Asterios Polyp. (Have you been following along with this stuff? The sheer mass of evidence Frank has laid out so far is pretty impressive.)

Once I was teaching a class in my studio and I would randomly open Asterios Polyp to a spread and diagram it from the center out. The folks in the class practically fainted when they would see a random spread “line up” right in front of their eyes with a few twists of a compass. It’s fun! Try it at home!

Austin English reviews a book likely to be one of the year’s major releases, Lorenzo Mattotti’s Stigmata.

Often, in a comic, if the reader is unsure of how to react to a particular character’s physicality, it’s due to the poverty of the cartooning (or the imaginative breadth of the story). But with Stigmata, the portrayal of the main character is so sophisticated that it defies us to size him up.

Finally, Dustin Harbin is our newest diarist. He went to TCAF, and drew a week’s worth of cartoons about it. Entry one is up now.

Dustin isn’t the only one filling out their convention reports a little late, and it’s understandable if you’re TCAF’d out by now. All the same, two recent posts on the show are still worth a look: Dylan Williams’s (especially in light of the far less sanguine takehe offered after this year’s MoCCA and Stumptown festivals), and Tom Devlin’s, just because he may be the funniest tour guide in comics.

In Jeet Heer news, he reviewed Chester Brown’s Paying for It in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and does so from a personal angle.

And now his daughter is getting into the comix tawk game.

Tom Hart, the best-liked man in comics, is holding a fundraiser for his Sequential Artists Workshop. Go here for more info.

Finally, Bhob Stewart has dug up a can’t-miss oddity, with a back story involving Doug Moench, Robert Roger Ebert, and Vampirella.