The Water at Night

It's been too long since we've been able to offer you a new installment of Richard Gehr's great column, Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists. Today, he's back, with a profile of Zachary Kanin. This is an excerpt from Richard's new book collecting and expanding upon his column, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker's Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists, which will be available at bookstores tomorrow. Here's a bit from the middle of the Kanin piece:

A week before graduation, a human resources person from The New Yorker called the [Harvard] Lampoon office to inquire if anyone might be interested in becoming cartoon editor Robert Mankoff ’s assistant. "I answered the phone, so I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’" Kanin recalls. His interview with Mankoff consisted of the editor talking to him "for like an hour and a half, and then he was like, ‘I didn’t ask you any questions. Go write an essay.’" Kanin’s response included a section analyzing successful and unsuccessful drawings from the magazine’s cartoon archive.

At the time, the assistant art editor’s duties consisted of reading the mail and sorting out submissions from regular contributors. Kanin would then go through the hundreds of unsolicited submissions the magazine received each week and pick out anything showing promise amid the slush. Another large part of the gig involved sifting through the thousands of weekly Caption Contest entries, which took him two or three days. Other administrative duties included answering phone calls and e-mails, and he provided quality control for images and links on the magazine’s early website.

Kanin began submitting his own cartoons his second week at work. Technically, he’d mailed his first New Yorker submission to Tina Brown when he was but in second grade: "Hey, Tom," says one hunter to another while standing over Donald Duck lying in a pool of blood, "I think you'd better take a look at this one." His earlier rejection behind him, Kanin sold his first cartoon in September 2005. His timely rendition of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin Olive Oil," as its interior caption reads, consists of a half-empty uncorked bottle with flies buzzing about it. "It’s not one for the ages, but I was happy about it," he declares.

Mankoff offered his assistant a cartooning contract during the editor’s 2006 Christmas party. "I called my parents after the party, and I was really excited. My mom shook my dad awake and told him, ‘It’s like winning an election!’"

(As noted at the beginning of his column, I will be appearing with Richard at BookCourt in Brooklyn this Sunday afternoon, where Richard will give a presentation about his book and answer questions, and I will attempt not to accidentally short-circuit the sound system or knock down all the shelves or burn down the store.)

We also have Rob Kirby's review of Jesse Jacobs' Safari Honeymoon:

Safari Honeymoon is essentially a three-character adventure tale. The plot is simple: a newly married man and woman spend their honeymoon on safari in a mysterious jungle with a young man acting as their guide. The guide was first seen in Jacobs' gripping, compact eight-page mini from last year, Young Safari Guide, fighting to survive the attack of the ferocious spawn of a dreadful crawly creature. By the time he reappears in Honeymoon, the young man has become grimly expert and efficient at staying alive in the wild, knowing the habits and tricks of various parasitic, monstrous creatures infesting the jungle, creatures that forever await their chance to find new hosts, new sustenance.

The safari starts out idyllically enough, with the guide showing the couple myriad exotic sights and sounds of the jungle, waiting on them hand and foot. But he makes no bones about the ever-present danger all around them. After he pulls a hideous centipede-like creature out of the husband’s ear, he explains: "The creature will penetrate any orifice. Most likely it passed through your rectum while you slept.” He cautions them further: “Have you folks been wearing your butt plugs?” Clearly, one needs to be prepared for what this particular jungle has in store.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Renée French.

—Chris Mautner reviews a bunch of new books.

—And Ed Piskor visits his childhood home:



Today Rob Clough looks at comics published by Pikitia Press.

I was happy to run into Matt Emery at SPX 2013, who handed me a pile of comics that he had published. His Pikitia Press is located in Melbourne, but Emery is a New Zealand native and unsurprisingly publishes the work of a number of Kiwis as well as Aussies. There’s a scene there that’s always been small but feisty; however, it seems like the alt-comics scene has grown dramatically in the past five to ten years. Here’s a look at Pikitia’s offerings.


The Boston Herald racist cartoonist controversy continues.

Ben Katchor writes about an exhibition in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Steve Heller tells us a bit about some Time Magazine covers by the great Artzybasheff.

And finally, you know you grew up as a comics fan if you were just a bummed out by this announcement.



Today, Frank Santoro returns to his Riff Raff column, after a few months traveling the world as an ambassador of comics. Now, he's back,and talking about his most recent trip, to the Entreviñetas Festival in Colombia:

I think, for me, what was most exciting about Entreviñetas was that the audience in Colombia seems hungry for comics—and are coming to the table with very few pre-conceived ideas as to what comics are and who they are supposed to be for. There were lots of younger people. During a panel discussion on the topic of what the “graphic novel” term means, a teenager asked, “Doesn’t graphic novel just mean 'more expensive?'” I had to laugh. It made me think about all the “Comics versus Art” discussions in the States over the last thirty years as somewhat meaningless. I mean, I guess if a kid in the U.S. asked the same question at a panel I might think the same thing—but listening to the question translated from Spanish into English into my earpiece, I just burst out laughing.

And Paul Tumey is here to talk about Patrick McDonnell, with a review of The Mutts Diaries. Tumey admires the strip, but is disappointed by the book:

Mutts, Patrick McDonnell’s sweet, smart comic strip has joyfully chased its tail across the funny page sections of newspapers and book collections for the last two decades. The strip, written and drawn by a cartoonist who co-wrote a deeply admiring biography of George Herriman (Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman, 1986), has functioned both as a daily treat and as a deconstructed, minimalist heir to Herriman and Krazy Kat.

Even though Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comic strip is sublimely designed to work on multiple levels, it comes perilously close to losing its charms in the dumb, exploitative packaging employed in The Mutts Diaries, a collection that Andrews McMeel Publishing has created to launch its AMP! Comics for Kids imprint (what amperage or amplifiers has to do with comics, I’m sure someone will let me know). The mid-sized, cheaply priced trade paperback is, as the accompanying press release informs us, “a collection tailored for middle-grade readers.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Oliver Sava conducted a super-enjoyable, lengthy interview with Simon Hanselmann.

Michael Cavna spoke to New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly about nominated for the Thurber Prize.

Alex Dueben talked to Charles Burns.

—Reviews & Commentary. MariNaomi, who recently put together the Cartoonists of Color database, has written an article for cartoonists who want to include characters of (a different) color into their work, and talked to artists like Keith Knight, Whit Taylor, and Elisha Lim about their own thoughts on the matter.

James Romberger reviews a slew of comics he found at SPX. Rob Clough looks at Koyama Press's new kids' comics.

—Kirby vs. Marvel. A few of the stronger analyses of the recent settlement and its implications so far (we will have our own soon) have come from Charles Hatfield, Alison Frankel at Reuters, and Kurt Busiek.

—History. Smithsonian magazine has another big article about Wonder Woman and William Moulton Marston written by Jill Lepore.

Phil Nel visits the home of Crockett Johnson.

Scholar Frank M. Young remembers researching comics history back in the days of microfilm.

—Misc. Finally, and for some of you maybe most importantly, Jack T. Chick has released an app.


The Judge

Well today we have Cynthia Rose on the work of Nine Antico, who will soon have her first English-language book out towards the end of the year.

Working with a novel-like accumulation of detail, Antico tells their stories using cinematic ploys. Her books move via close-ups and long shots, establishing frames and jump cuts. She also plays with narrative structures and often shifts our point of view, pulling back in order to reveal that things were not what they seemed. Although her characters are drawn realistically, sections of their faces, figures or surroundings are missing. She handles everything to do with her art, including the color, herself.

And Hazel Cills reviews Mis(h)adra.

“No way. This can’t be right,” Mis(h)adra’s protagonist, Isaac, wonders ominously in a flashback, “This is me?” It’s a scary question to contemplate for someone experiencing an epileptic seizure for the first time. Iasmin Omar Ata’s comic Mis(h)adra is a story about the daily life and struggles of Isaac, a college student who’s just trying to get through parties, midterms, and his struggles with epilepsy. 


Slow news day....

I saw bits of this, but this might be the first complete listing of the ICAF / OSU schedule. Sounds good.

As long as Gabrielle keeps making comics I'll keep linking to them. And this one is really good.

This Ryan Cecil Smith mini-comic sounds cool.



Today, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual buyer's guide for the Week in Comics, with spotlight picks from John Porcellino and Dash Shaw.

Sean T. Collins is here, too, with a review of Sophia Foster-Dimino's "Sex Fantasy". Here's an excerpt:

Her line is clear, clean, and precise, ideal for her geometric interpretations of the human face and figure. Her intrapanel layouts emphasize the diagonal, creating a sense of dynamism-in-stasis that largely abrogates the need for panel-to-panel continuity of motion or setting; she can draw what she needs to, and only what she needs to, to get her point across. She repeatedly nails gestures: A panel from issue #1 uses a pair of faces (one upturned and downturned), a blocked-black head of hair, hunched shoulders sloping down, long legs reaching up, and an arm the eye follows downward like a child on a slide to emphasize an outstretched hand gently proffering a much-needed tool as though it's a drawing of the Childlike Empress giving Bastian the grain of sand that is all that is left of Fantasia. Her clothing and prop designs are inventive and singular, yet observed and easy to parse and contextualize. It's hard to be this easy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Spending Opportunities. Last Gasp is crowdfunding their fall publishing lineup. And Sparkplug Books has just a couple days left on its Kickstarter, and is just a couple thousand short right now. Both of those publishers are well deserving of your support.

—Reviews & Commentary.
David Ulin wrote about Porcellino's Hospital Suite at the LA Times. Ruben Bolling likes the John Severin EC collection. Bob Temuka reviews Gilbert Hernandez's Bumperhead.

—Profiles & Interviews.
Prominent book-world interview Robert Birnbaum talks to Roz Chast, and is surprised she's content to identify herself as a cartoonist.

Steven Heller has a profile of Richard McGuire and his upcoming Here at The Atlantic.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Dan Steffan, the comics retailer and filmmaker behind the new John Porcellino documentary.

—History. The New York Times published a bizarrely ahistorical article about New Yorker covers, acting like the shift to topical covers just happened rather than starting way back in the Tina Brown era. Spurgeon takes this in stride like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye ("It's okay with me"), and maybe that's a wise reaction, but this is really shockingly ignorant coming from the Times and I can't figure out how the editors let it by.

Finally, if you're Facebook-compliant, Eric Reynolds has your time machine to the Fantagraphics van from twenty years ago.


Surrogate Phone

Today Bob Levin visits us with one feature comprised of two book reviews, both on under-recognized cartoonists: R.L. Crab and Erik Nebel.

R.L. Crabb, an ex-newspaperman and rock band lyricist, the author of about 20 comix, and a contributor to a dozen others, is a word guy. Scablands, his latest, is available from the author (P.O. Box 313, Nevada City, CA 95959).

Crabb is writing in the present, but a spat of recent deaths has led him “to gather up the fragments of my life.” Most tellingly, his parents, who had been secretive about their life, had passed, leaving an unfillable hole in his and motivating his wish “to lea ve something of myself behind.” The result is an assemblage of stories, most of which occur in eastern Washington state 20 years ago but enlivened by rollicking recollections of the Bay Area, between 1984 and 1990, and Atlanta in 1973. Star-quality pizzaz is achieved by references to gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, porn film moguls Jim and Artie Mitchell (none of whom actually appear), and that “shadowy figure of myth and legend,” the cartoonist Dan O’Neill, who does. Spiritual depth is provided through dippings into, extractions from, and reflections upon Drummers and Dreamers, the tale of Smowhala, a 19th century prophet among the Wanapuni Indians.

And George Elkind reviews The Bad-ventures of Bobo Backslack.


The big news is that, in something of a surprise, Marvel and the Kirby family have reached a settlement. The story, what little there is, is here. And Tom Spurgeon reacts. We will have our own coverage shortly. Here's a great tribute to Kirby's DC work of the 1970s via this post of Forever People original art.

In yet more art showcase news, here's Jamie Hewlett's uncollected and perhaps final comic strip series, Fireball.

Another nice comic over at The Nib, making great use of the screen scroll format.

Scroll into the comments of this Facebook post for some fine John Porcellino commentary. And look out for our forthcoming interview with John by Sarah Boxer.

Finally, hey, another Steve Ditko Kickstarter. I love Steve Ditko, but does it strike anyone else as odd that these publishing efforts rely on from-scratch crowd-funding each time? Usually a sound publishing model allows for future books to be planned. But hey, sound business and comics usually don't go together. Sadly.


That Oughtta Hold the Little Bastards

Today, Nicole Rudick is back with a review of Anya Davidson's School Spirits, which so far hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. (Rob Clough wrote about it for us this summer, if you want to compare notes.) Here's how Nicole begins her review:

Anya Davidson has described School Spirits as a book about female friendship. And it is: Oola and Garf are the Maggie and Hopey of death metal, best friends who weather the storms of high school, petty crime, and youthful infatuation together. Still, that’s a bit like saying Moby-Dick is a book about a whale. Their friendship, like all deep friendships, is foundational; it is a fact through which Davidson examines aspects of gender from a specifically female perspective. What’s refreshing about School Spirits, and what keeps it from feeling didactic, is that Davidson doesn’t try to tackle stereotypes head-on; it’s not the point of the book. Instead, the notion that gender isn’t represented by a set of characteristics is woven into the fabric of the story. It’s a given in all of Davidson’s work to date that typical male and female roles aren’t simply reversed or questioned but utterly dismantled.

School Spirits is divided into titled chapters, and the stories feel like interconnected vignettes. The book opens with Oona and Garf trying unsuccessfully to score tickets to a Hrothgar concert from a radio show, and then follows them through a day of school, hanging out with friends, perpetrating criminal mischief, and, finally, attending the Hrothgar concert. Oona and Garf are “weirdo girls,” as Davidson has described them; their appearances and behavior don’t hew to conventional notions of femininity. Oona resembles a gangly Tintin with a reverse quiff and spends a good part of the book on a wild, desperate tear through the city with a security guard hot on her heels. Garf is more sanguine than Oona, but resolute in her sense of self, as when she castigates her friend Inga for prioritizing her looks: “You’re a math genius, Inga,” she cries. “Stop trying to pretend you’re normal … You’re a freak like us!”

Also, today is sadly the final day of Kayla E.'s week running our Cartoonist's Diary feature. It's been one of the most inventive takes on the column yet, so I hope you haven't neglected reading it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
At The Point, Merve Emre and Christian Nakarado write about the comics of David Mazzuchelli and Chris Ware from an architectural perspective.

Paul Gravett on the history of Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella.

Laura Tanenbaum at Dissent writes about Alison Bechdel, motherhood, and psychoanalysis in the age of the memoir.

Domingos Isabelinho considers Chester Brown as a Gothic artist.

Dan's "What Nerve!" show gets a rave by The New York Times' Ken Johnson.

Brad Mackay writes about appearing in, and later watching, the new documentary about Seth, Seth's Dominion.

—Comics-Adjacent Books. Kevin Kelly picks out a fascinating-looking collection of drawings from the Soviet gulag created by a 1950s prison camp guard.

And somehow until I missed that there's a newly translated novel by the great Julio Cortázar, Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires, in which he imagines his life as it intertwines with the plot of a (real) comic book.

MoCCA's moving to Chelsea.

On Monday, the Supreme Court is due to decide whether or not they will hear the Kirby v. Marvel case. [UPDATE: Now it's being reported that there has been a settlement agreement.]

—Misc. Nicole Rudick (again) makes an entertaining visit to Gary Panter's studio.

Zainab Akhtar gets a photo-tour of Sam Alden's comics collection.

Antonin Baudry (Weapons of Mass Diplomacy) is opening a bookstore in NYC's French embassy.

2D Cloud has another photo-heavy SPX report.

—Interviews. The New York Times catches up with Richard McGuire as his Here is put on exhibit at the Morgan.

Paddy Johnston talks at length with Ken Parille about The Daniel Clowes Reader.

Alex Dueben talks to Gilbert Hernandez about Bumperhead and the Eisners.

—Kim Thompson. Yesterday would have been his 58th birthday. Eric Reynold remembers him via a photograph. Marc Arsenault remembers him by way of an issue of Zero Zero they worked on together.

Anders Nilsen created a comic for the New York Times.


That’s What That Is

On the site:

Here's Richard Gehr on the excellent new Gilbert Hernandez book, Bumperhead. I love seeing Hernandez work in all his modes. I can't think of a more diverse and in the pocket cartoonist right now, and this is really an excellent book.

Gilbert Hernandez nails his title character’s emotional essence in the very first panel ofBumperhead, the prolific cartoonist’s hormonally overdriven anatomy of adolescence. Fatefully named and thoroughly pissed off, a preadolescent Bobby Numbly stares defiantly at the reader as childish taunts ­– “There’s a bump bump bumperhead here! Thumpin’ bumpin’ bumper! El Bumpo!” – join background clouds in a perfectly weighted composition filling two-thirds of the page. His tormentors are a couple of neighborhood boys in Oxnard, California – Los Bros Hernandez’s own hometown. Presumably less “semi-autobiographical” than last year’s bittersweet Marble Season, Bumperhead looks at sex, drugs, and rock with as much knowing sympathy as its predecessor explored childhood mysteries, obsessions, friendships, and disappointments.

Kayla E. visits us with Day 4 of Cartoon Diary.


This is an interesting interview with Kelly Sue Deconnick about her adaptation of the Barbarella translation for the new Humanoids edition of the classic graphic novel. It's always been a funny read for me -- verbose, tangled dialogue to my ears, but wonderful drawing and storytelling. I'm looking forward to reading it again.

I'm always poking around comic and illustration art auction sites. I see very interesting glimpses into visual culture and, sometimes, the sensibility of a collector. So this Ray Bradbury estate auction is pretty intriguing. It's everything from his art collection (including some very fine Foster and Capp originals) to his personal awards to his ties to his LPs. Take a trip. (via PT)

I love this story about the animator Frank Moser, maker of high velocity drawings.

And there's no more Marvel for Milo Manara.