Spring Forward

Today on the site, we present the third installment of Ron Goluart's Connecticut Cartoonists series. This time, he writes about Quality Comics -- and Jack Cole.

In 1940, publisher Everett M. “Busy” Arnold moved his Quality Comics line (Crack Comics, Smash Comics and other percussive titles) from New York City to Stamford, Connecticut and brought a band of cartoonists with him. Among them were Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Reed Crandall and Gill Fox. The major characters that his magazines would deliver to the nation’s newsstands were Plastic Man, Blackhawk, The Spirit, The Human Bomb and, eventually Torchy.

Arnold had worked in printing since graduating from college. He was involved in printing the comic books that Cook and Mahon had begun since leaving the fold of the pioneering Major Malcolm-Wheeler Nicholson. This line included such winning titles as Funny Pages, Funny Picture Stories and Keen Detective Funnies. Busy had been following the lack of success of these comics, so he decided to start his own line and hook up with some affluent partners. He made a deal with The Register & Tribune Syndicate, owned by the affluent Cowles family, and acquired two more well-connected partners. He started with Feature Funnies, a simulacrum of the pioneering Famous Funnies, which reprinted newspaper comic strips. Soon after the advent and impressive sales of Superman, Busy realized that superheroes were selling better than reprints of Joe Palooka and Dixie Dugan. Changing the name of the magazine to Feature Comics, Arnold set about acquiring his own stable of super humans.

We also have the first day's installment of a new Cartoonist's Diary. The artist this week is Jen Lee.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Benôit Crucifix talks to Peter Maresca of Sunday Press.

After the publication of Little Nemo in Slumberland, So Many Splendid Sundays there was no real future imagined for Sunday Press. I had accomplished what I could not get a “real” publisher to do — create a fully-restored, full-size edition of the Winsor McCay classic — and I planned to continue to work at my “regular job” in digital entertainment. But the success of the book was rapid and widespread and after a few months I started thinking about another project, and when Chris Ware approached me to work with him on a similar volume for Gasoline Alley Sunday pages, I could not turn down that opportunity. After Sundays with Walt and Skeezix and McCay’s Sammy Sneeze I apparently was an actual (albeit accidental) publisher and then kept going. Looking back, I wish, as would anyone, I knew then what I know now about the process. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal on restoration and color as well as what makes a good book, and I think the latest, Society is Nix and White Boy display that education.

—Commentary. Ta-Nehisi Coates previews and writes about the creation of his upcoming run on Black Panther.

Ideally, the writer offers notes in his script on how the comic book should look. This requires thinking with intention about what a character is actually doing, not merely what he is saying. This is harder than it sounds, and often I found myself vaguely gesturing at what should happen in a panel—“T’Challa looks concerned.” Or “Ramonda stands to object.” I was lucky in that I was paired with a wonderful and experienced artist, Brian Stelfreeze. Storytelling in a comic book is a partnership between the writer and the artist, as surely as a film is a partnership between the screenwriter and the director. Brian, whose art is displayed here, doesn’t just execute the art direction—he edits and remixes it.

—Not Comics, But Close Enough. Edward Carey writes briefly about writer/illustrators such as William Blake, Thackeray, and Alasdair Gray.

William Makepeace Thackeray may not be thought of as an artist, but he was a very fine one. He longed to illustrate Dickens, but when he was turned down he wrote his own novel, “Vanity Fair,” partly so he could illustrate it himself.

—Misc. I didn't realize Miranda July's parents published Phoebe Gloeckner's Diary of a Teenage Girl.


Enter Here.

Today on the site:

We're proud to excerpt Tahneer Oksman's new book“How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs, which looks at the works of seven women cartoonists. Here's a bit, beginning with Vanessa Davis.

Published in 2005, Spaniel Rage is a collection of what Davis describes, on one of its title pages, as “diary comics and drawings that I made in sketchbooks from 2003 to 2004.” Assembled in a thin, soft-cover book about 10 inches tall and 7 1/2 inches wide, the text can most accurately be categorized as a graphic diary or journal. In this chapter, like autobiography theorist Philippe Lejeune and others, I do not distinguish between the diary and the journal. Some critics make a debatable distinction by correlating journal writing with an intended public audience and content that is less so-called personal. This distinction sets up a hierarchical dynamic—with the diary often cited as a “feminine” and the journal as a “masculine” form—between two modes of writing that have, despite their differing histories and genealogies, become otherwise indistinguishable.


TCJ designer and illustrator Mike Reddy and TCJ writer Jay Ruttenberg have teamed up in the most delightful way: An illustrated guide to "Musicians You Should Know."

Slate has published Colson Whitehead's introduction to the New York Review's edition of Agony.

Broken Frontier on Patience. 

Here's a very brief profile of the fascinating Dorothy Woolfolk, an early editor at DC Comics involved with, among other things, Wonder Woman.



Me Me Me

Today, Tasha Robinson returns to The Comics Journal to interview the popular cartoonist and podcaster Alex Robinson (no relation) about his new graphic novel, Our Expanding Universe.

I had done Too Cool To Be Forgotten, and at one point I hit a rut with that, so I did this Lower Regions story, which was just fun to draw. There’s no dialogue, it’s just straight-up pantomime adventure. I had so much fun doing that, I was just like, “That’s it, no more people sitting around talking about their feelings. My next book is going to be a fantasy D&D type book.” Like most of my books, I set out with a vague idea and just started improvising from there. I got about 80 pages in, complete penciled and inked pages and everything. This one had dialogue.

And I just stalled out on it. I realized I don’t read fantasy novels, and I have a hard time taking it seriously enough to write a legitimate story about it. I could write the other story because there was no dialogue. It was very simple. The protagonist fights a monster, kills the monster, moves on to the next one. But any time I started having dialogue and characters, and “Okay, what’s this character’s motivation, and how are they relating to each other,” the whole thing just fell apart. It really rattled my confidence. I think that made starting another book extra difficult: “Oh my God, what if I start working on this and I flame out again?” I think that slowed me down at first. There came a point where the story kind of clicked, and I worked a little faster after that, but I was very gun-shy at the beginning.

Rob Clough is back, too, with a review of Whit Taylor's Ghost.

As in Tom Hart's Rosalie Lightning, there is no pat ending with everything magically made better. Instead, there are affirmations of humanity and the power of creativity (it is implied that the two interstitial stories in this book, both regarding loss, were created when she chose to be treated at an inpatient facility), as well as a willingness to confront feelings of loss.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth interviews Glenn Head.

I’d always been really wowed by the idea of artistic freedom, but that was all just an idea and not a reality. Actually being on the street and talking about artistic integrity is a joke. It’s a joke that’s laughing at you.

Neil Patel speaks to the Swamp Thing and Miracleman artist John Totleben.

[Swamp Thing's look] evolved. I had a better handle on how the way how he should looked right from the start. I’ve been a fan of the original series right from the beginning. I introduced Steve [Bissette] to the series when we were in the Kubert School. He’d never seen it before. We were trying to come with our own thing, but I’ve got to say Swamp Thing is a hard character to draw. For one thing, he’s a difficult character to catch I think a lot of times.

—Reviews & Commentary. Susan Karlin writes about the decision to cut cartoons from the revamped Playboy.

"I think it’s a stupid move," says Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who drew for Playboy in the late 1950s to early 1960s. "If it’s simply a matter of rebranding, why not just change the type of cartoons they run? There are more and better cartoonists today writing in alternative media and graphic novels. It’s a whole new golden age for cartoonists."

Chris Ware writes about the inspiration behind his latest New Yorker cover.

Most mornings, after I drop my eleven-year-old daughter off at school in Oak Park, Illinois, I drive my wife to the west side of Chicago, where she works as a teacher in a public school. Along the way, we’ll frequently pass a few of her students waiting for the bus, huddled in hoodies with their backward backpacks and my wife—it’s against Chicago Public School policy for a teacher to offer rides to students—will recognize and wave at many of them, citing an affectionate anecdote (“He’s one of the smartest students I’ve ever had”) or a bracing detail (“She beat up her boyfriend”) or a horrifying story (“His brother got shot”).

For Today's Inspiration, Joseph V. Procopio writes about the Italian pinup cartoonist Niso Ramponi.

—Misc. Retrofit has launched a Kickstarter for their 2016 lineup of books from Eleanor Davis, James Kochalka, Leela Corman, and other creators.



Today on the site, Anya Davidson reviews Dan Clowes' long-awaited Patience. 

The male ego gone awry has been a theme in Dan Clowes’ work since the beginning of his long and spectacular career. One thing that makes his best work so indispensable is his rigorous examination of the topic from many perspectives, both male and female. Even very troubled characters become sympathetic thanks to his uncanny ear for dialogue and his trenchant sense of humor.

And RJ Casey profiles the prolific young cartoonist Adam Buttrick. 

Buttrick is a 31-year-old Michigan native who for the past three years has made his home in Columbus, Ohio. He is married and studied Japanese and history in college. He has been drawing comics “in one form or another since childhood,” but says that he didn’t become serious about it until 2009, when he first attended, and was inspired by, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. In just a few short years, he has garnered tremendous praise and appreciation: a “Notable Comics” recognition in The Best American Comics 2014, an Igantz Award nomination, a 17-page spread in The Best American Comics 2015, and an invitation to contribute in the next installment of Kramers Ergot.


I want to remind everyone again about the Queer Japan Kickstarter.

I also want to remind everyone to support National Treasure Ron Rege. Subscribe to his offering. 

The NYT covers the NY Review Comics imprint. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Marvel CEO and renowned nice man is involved in something...weird.


There’s No Problem

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics -- highlighting all the most interesting-sounding new books in stores. This week's spotlight picks include books by Carlos Giménez and Jeff Nicholson.

Also, Brian Nicholson writes about Conor Stechschulte's Generous Bosom #2.

Currently at the halfway point, even the relationships between characters still remain deliberately muddled. In some ways, the only certainty is of a single sex act, but only one character's motivation for participating (it had been a while for the man, whose name is Glen), is 100% certain. The first issue primarily concerns itself with the recounting of this encounter, told by one man to another, with certain details left out. Visually, Stechschulte depicts a flashback to things as they actually occurred, a framing device that highlights the embarrassment felt by the protagonist by calling attention to the lies he tells.

The second issue is more opaque.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Longtime Marvel artist Paul Ryan has passed away.

—Interviews & Profiles. At Vice, Nick Gazin interviews Peter Bagge, primarily about Hate.

Tell me about Buddy's love of yellow food. This is one of my favorite details of Buddy's personality.
My wife actually used to make fun of my "all-orange lunch" when I first met her: A carrot, an orange, and those orange-colored peanut butter and cheese flavored crackers that I'd buy from SVA's vending machines.

At Rookie, Rachel Davies talks to Aidan Koch.

[Collaboration] is not something I could imagine happening, really. I have done a little bit of adapting other people’s work into a comic. That’s something that I find really exciting and cool because you’re working with someone who doesn’t have the same vision of it, or visuals associated with it. Whereas if you’re working with another visual artist, they’ll always have a certain design aesthetic that would be harder to compromise with—or at least I’d be harder to compromise with.

The Hollywood Reporter talks to Frank Miller.

It's a little early to take [the presidential campaigns] seriously. I think it's going to be a great time to be a cartoonist. You can't come up with a greater buffoon than Donald Trump. The fact that he thinks he can be president of the United States is one the best jokes I've read in a long time. At least I hope.

The Comics Alternative podcast speaks to Evan Dorkin.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner writes about the career of Michael DeForge.

Characters sweat a lot in Michael DeForge’s comics. Not the kind of flop sweat that traditional cartoon characters exhibit, with water droplets literally flying off the body in a halo formation, but beads of perspiration that cascade down the character’s face in such a plentiful supply that you sometimes wonder why there isn’t a puddle around the character’s feet.

What makes them sweat so much? Oh, you know, the usual. Your organs and flesh are slowly turning into leather and spikes. You had to join a secret mafia club in order to get your niece’s beloved clarinet. You’re an ant that’s overwhelmed by the meaningless of it all.

—Misc. The New York Times writes about the final volume of The Complete Peanuts, which is being introduced by President Obama.

“We’re an independent publisher: We have no backers, no investors. We have only the books we publish and our wits to fall back on,” Mr. Groth said. “We found ourselves in periodic financial crises. We published the ‘Peanuts’ right in the nick of time. It changed the fortunes of the company by allowing the company to continue to exist.”

Robert Beerbohm is holding an auction via Russ Cochran in order to raise funds for his daughter's medical expenses.

—Video. Nicole Rudick interviewed Daniel Clowes at The Strand last week, and here's the video:



Today on the site we have Zack Davisson on his process and philosophy of manga translations.

I’ve found out on Twitter than not many people know what a manga translator does. (Twitter was actually the genesis of this article. I thought a little education was in order.) People get caught up in industry terms like “translation” and “localization,” which are different in theory, but less so in practice. Many assume the editor does the heavy lifting, and all the translator does is provide a rough breakdown of vocabulary. But that’s not my experience. The main role of the editor is to chose the translator, manage the project, and then tidy up the finished comic. Never underestimate the importance of that first part. It’s probably the single most important decision that will be made once a comic is licensed. 

When they chose the translator, editors are choosing what kind of comic will eventually be made. Many readers don’t realize the amount of influence translators have over the finished comic. It’s true that some companies hire adapters to assist in the dialog. And there’s nothing wrong with that; Kelly Sue Deconnick got her start as a manga adaptor. But I don’t think it’s a common practice. I’ve only personally used an adaptor once, and most translators I know deliver a finished script that goes straight onto the page.

My job as a translator is to take all that context and language and reshape it into something that reads as if it was originally written in English. The Japanese script is my raw material. Along with translating the words on the page, I add context and create bridge sentences that might not have been in the original. I fill in gaps that would have been apparent to Japanese readers. And sometimes I rewrite things entirely. 


There's no more important, responsible and relevant funding project right now than Queer Japan, from my pals and geniuses behind Massive Goods. 

For fun, and to brighten your day here's Alex Kotzky.

Comics related: A fine group show in LA with work by Ben Jones, Jessica Ciocci, Andrew Jeffrey Wright, and others.




On the Wall

Today, Ron Goulart returns with the second installment in his "Connecticut Cartoonists" series, this time turning to the men behind Superman.

...[Wayne] Boring stayed on and became the chief artist on Superman. By the 1950s, he was allowed to sign his work. He drew many covers, did about half the comic book stories (with Al Plastino imitating him on quite a few others) and also did the newspaper strip until the late '60s. Editor-in-Chief Mort Weisinger, a man not especially well-liked by many of his employees, was in charge of all things Superman. Boring told me that one day Weisinger called him into his office and fired him on the spot. A bit later, Stan Kaye, who was his primary inker, was also let go. Boring was one of the artists who initiated the trend for superheroes who looked like they worked out at the gym and certainly did a lot of weight lifting. Jim Steranko praised him in his history of comic books.

Boring then became a non-person as far as the then administration of DC was concerned. A hardcover book, Superman: From the 30s to the 70s, was published in 1971 and his well-known hands-on-hips portrait of Superman was used on the cover. There were also over eighty pages of his work in the compilation. But he was not mentioned at all, however, and neither were Siegel and Shuster. A rather strange omission. At a lunch with some Connecticut cartoonist, I brought my copy of the book to show Wayne. He never even knew about it. He went through it, talking about the cartoonists whose work was also included—Paul Cassidy, Leo Nowak and John Sikela. That evening he phoned to say that he was very upset about the fact that he got no credit for his work and nothing in the way of compensation. I suggested he might want to talk to a lawyer.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Craig Hubert talks to 2D Cloud cofounder Raighne Hogan.

Initially it was mostly just Maggie Umber and myself leading this vehicle from 2007-2010. Justin Skarhus, while with us from the beginning, became more involved over time. Roles have been sorta liquid. For our current incarnation, there’s sorta five of us — but we work very directly with the artists we sign, if that makes sense? Like, they work with us on production, marketing, social media, etc — we want them to be part of the conversation with these types of things. It’s important that their voice is a part of the process.

Andy Oliver interviews Austin English.

I also missed any distinction between comics and art books as I was growing up—my mom gave me Tintin, but she also had Matisse monographs laying around which she really loved. Books in general with images in them were very comforting to me as a kid, and somewhere along the line the two worlds blurred for me. I accept that for people in art and people in comics there are very clear borders, but I just never saw it that way.

April Kilcrease profiles Dan Clowes.

On a Sunday afternoon in 2010, the Oakland-based cartoonist Daniel Clowes wanted to watch a movie. But not just any movie. As he described it in a recent phone interview, he wanted to see one of "those weird science fiction movies" that they used to make in the Sixties and Seventies "that were sort of heady and cerebral," like the Russian space station movie, Solaris, which probes ideas of memory, identity, and what it means to love someone, or The 10th Victim, a dystopian Italian film that mixes Pop Art decor with a plot centered on a televised assassination game. "I began thinking, 'I wish there were more of those that I could rent,'" he said. "'I guess I'll do my own.'"

For The Paris Review, Sam Smith explores the history of Alfred E. Neuman.

For the half-length color painting of their red-haired mascot, [Al] Feldstein told Mingo that he didn’t want the boy to “look like an idiot—I want him to be lovable and have an intelligence behind his eyes. But I want him to have this devil-may-care attitude, someone who can maintain a sense of humor while the world is collapsing around him.” MAD insiders referred to the kid by various names—Mel Haney, Melvin Cowsnofsky—but when the magazine won legal rights to the face, he was officially christened Alfred E. Neuman. A pseudonym without a specific host, it was one of many counterfeit names used as running gags in the magazine.

Kim Janssen at The Chicago Tribune visits Quimby's Bookstore.

Even as Amazon has driven far larger bookstore chains into bankruptcy, Quimby's this year celebrates its 25th anniversary as the thriving hub for a community of self-publishers, a handful of whom were devoted enough to work on their zines at the store's annual overnight "Zlumber Party."

"Nobody here is about to become a millionaire," said longtime store manager Liz Mason, 42, who describes the sleepover as her favorite event of the year. "But there are people who come to us from all over the world. They tell us they have a two-hour layover in Chicago and it's just enough time to hop on a train and come down here. We're a destination stop for cool people."

—Funnies. Richard Sala recently began posting a new online series, The Bloody Cardinal. I love his serial work.


Made Myself

Today on the site: Monica Johnson on what she sees missing in current feminist comics. 

We seem to be experiencing a moment when all it takes for a comic to be classified as “feminist” is a woman author who tells her own story, or when female characters embody male-centric tropes of strength and power. That’s pretty limited criteria. I want better feminist comics than that, and that means demanding more complex and challenging narratives and characters. I don’t want feminist characters to read as “angry women” or “violent women,” but self-aware, articulate women who laugh, fart, and give birth way more often than they roundhouse kick.


Here's an account of Carol Tyler's recent event at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Philip Nel points out some recent Dr. Seuss footage that's popped up online.

A tribute to Arnold Drake over at Comics Alliance.

Here's a rare interview with veteran Swamp Thing veteran artist John Totleben.