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Taking Things for Granted

Okay, first, if you haven’t yet made time to read the obituaries and tributes for Bill Blackbeard we published yesterday, written by R.C. Harvey, Jeet Heer, and others, you really should do so at your earliest convenience. It would be difficult to overstate how great a debt anyone interested enough in comics to be reading this site owes to Blackbeard. It is easy to take for granted the state of things as they are, and think that it’s entirely natural for bookstore and library shelves to be groaning with beautiful archival reprints of classic comic strips, but if not for Blackbeard, it is very unlikely we would be living in such a world. It is both frightening and motivating to think about how much can come down to one dedicated person. (Two off-site tributes worth reading come from Dylan Williams and Tom Spurgeon.)

New to the Journal today are Dan’s interview with Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, regarding their upcoming Alex Toth book, Rob Clough’s review of Noah Van Sciver’s Blammo, and the latest column from Joe McCulloch, with the highlights of the week for newly published comics—and another in-depth look at late Steve Ditko.

Elsewhere, lots of links this morning:

Timothy Callahan has been reading old issues of the Journal and getting inspired. You can too.

Adrian Tomine is selling art to raise funds for Japanese disaster relief.

For those buried under a rock, new art from Bill Watterson has surfaced.

Ben Katchor brings us drawing-as-writing from both Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky! (In appreciation for these great finds, I ought to link to Katchor’s recent interview with the A.V. Club.)

The film writer Richard Harland Smith interviews one of the great comics talkers, Drew Friedman.

James Romberger just posted an interview with Gene Colan. As you may know, Colan’s health situation isn’t very good right now. You can learn one way to help here.

The Point has published a nice, thoughtful review-essay based on Chris Ware’s latest volume of Acme Novelty Library.

The popular literary weblog HTMLGIANT does the same for CF’s City-Hunter.

Robert Boyd organized a show in Houston featuring the work of Jim Woodring and Marc Bell. He revisits it in words and video. Both artists (and JW’s famous giant pen) make appearances.

I imagine this must be a very common experience, but having a kid recently, and being “forced” (she isn’t that strong) to read the same books over and over again nightly, has given me immense new respect for the artistry of figures like Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. Sendak was feeling ill when he granted a Philadelphia reporter a brief, bracing set of quotes.

 

The Collector

I’m very sad over the passing of Bill Blackbeard. My experiences with Bill Blackbeard are much the same as many other people’s: I “met” him through his books, which provided the best exposure I had to comic strips. His emphasis on personal taste — which he confirmed to me the one and only time I spoke with him — as a guide for shaping foundational history was an inspiration as well. I mean, he emphasized the good stuff. I’m sure there was plenty I’d disagree with him on, but he would fight for difficult strips — like The Bungle Family — and also advocated for the sheer poetry of, say, Roy Crane. His tenacity and taste were formative for all of us. And, as Jeet convincingly argues, without Blackbeard comic strip history as we know it would more or less not exist. What Blackbeard did for the medium goes past anything I can really imagine: I think it is without question that by virtue of saving and then sharing its history, he was one on the most important men in the history of comics. Period.

R.C. Harvey has written an obituary, and Jeet Heer an appreciation. Let’s honor Blackbeard’s memory by continuing his good work.

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Just a handful of links for you today:

I really enjoyed this Douglas Wolk pieces on Howard Chaykin, which comes from a reading of the recently released (and highly recommended) book Howard Chaykin: Conversations. Chaykin is, in a lot of ways, the last of his kind — an autodidact who will slog through a shitty script because he felt like drawing horses that month. Like his mentor Gil Kane, he produces excellent work in a shitty field. He also did create a couple of pretty great graphic novels, to boot. Really worth reading.

Tom Spurgeon has a typically excellent interview with Joe Daly over at The Comics Reporter. I’m a fan of Daly’s Dungeon Quest series.

I completely relate to Dylan Williams’ assessment of his recent convention experiences. Sigh.

And, randomly, from another conversation, Jay Babcock reminded me of this interview he conducted with Alejandro Jodorowsky that covers his comics work. Also, an excuse to link to this piece on his collaborations with Moebius on his aborted Dune film, and a blog with his 1960s psych comics.

 

Another Day, Another Deluge

Pascal Girard takes a somewhat melancholy taxi ride in his final diary entry this morning, and it is similarly bittersweet to bid him farewell. How did the week fly by so quickly?

Katie Haegele brings us a short profile of the young Swedish cartoonist Naomi Nowak.

The great Tom De Haven returns, with a review of Jerry Robinson’s re-released history, The Comics.

And Jeet Heer makes the case for S. Clay Wilson as the central figure of underground comics in his latest column. (Incidentally, congratulations are in order to Jeet, to whom a daughter was born this week. He is actually the second Journal contributor to father a child since the site relaunched. Maybe there’s something in the ink…)

A few quick orders of business: 1. Some readers reported having trouble with pre-orders of issue 301 on Amazon yesterday. We are aware of the problem, and looking into it. In the meantime, we apologize for the confusion. 2. Some of you may have noticed that the comments are a little wonky, with reader comments sometimes appearing over in the left “recent comments” sidebar on the front page, but not underneath the story in question—and vice versa. We are working on this one as well. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be happening all that frequently, but we still hope to have it fixed soon. Thanks for your patience.

Off-site:

I liked Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life better than he does (maybe it helps to read it? the art definitely isn’t the main attraction), but Nick Gazin’s latest review column for Vice is pretty good, and opens with a nice rant on the sad sack foundation of the funnybook business. I think the Chris Ware stuff here seems off, too, as I don’t remember him ever idealizing himself—I may be forgetting something, but the only “Chris Ware” in his comics that I recall turns him into a lecherous, pretentious, and pony-tailed high school art teacher. Gazin’s reviews will be too sloppy (& occasionally too fake-dumb) for some of you, but here are the things I like about them: 1. They are funny. 2. They are unpredictable. 3. They reflect a seeming fearlessness about who will be pissed off. 4. I strongly agree—and strongly disagree—with at least one thing in his reviews each time, and they’re often points I haven’t seen articulated by anyone before.

On the exact opposite side of the writing-about-comics spectrum, Neil Cohn has discovered comics-related lectures available at the Semiotics Institute Online that may be of interest to more academically oriented readers.

Friday Fun Time: If Joe McC’s recent essay got you interested in watching Frank Miller’s The Spirit (and I hope for your sake that it didn’t, because that movie will drain you of all self-respect—no offense, Joe), then (via Sean Howe) the script Miller wrote for a never-completed film version of Elektra has turned up. It seems to be the antediluvian Miller, too.

 

The Boss is Back

That’s right, muckraking tyro Gary Groth has turned in his first dispatch for the new TCJ, and it’s a doozy — a lengthy refutation of Jim Shooter’s recent forays into autobiography. Note that the episode Gary is recounting here (i.e. Jack Kirby’s treatment by Marvel) remains one of the most important moments in contemporary comic book history, one that again exposed the shameful history behind so many “beloved” properties, and the complicity of an industry that still needs them to keep afloat. Given the two movies coming out this summer, anyone interested in pop culture would be wise to check out the current piece. In the coming months we will also be posting an older TCJ interview with Kirby, as well as other coverage.

Anyhow, that said, onto the links:

* Joanna Draper Carlson has a few more thoughts on Tokyopop.

* This slipped by me: Matt Seneca writing about Chip Kidd and Art Spiegelman’s Jack Cole book from 2001. I don’t agree with all of Matt’s conclusions (especially the bit about the best duos of the 2000s), but it’s a thoughtful piece on an important and, at the time, controversial book. Now, I gotta say, their choice to reprint the comic book as “objects” looks prescient (and good) — but at the time I remember much hand-wringing over the interventions performed and image types used. It remains a damn good book.

* Over on Hooded Utilitarian, our own Ryan Holmberg has commented on Ng Suat Tong’s criticism of Tatsumi. Makes for interesting reading.

* HiLobrow is running a series of essays about… oh, I can’t summarize it: “using Battlestar Galactica as a lens through which to view museums’ challenge to create and retain relevancy within a difficult economic climate.” I’m enjoying this series, and since TCJ used to have a Star Trek column, and even covered Battlestar Galactica back in the day, it’s all fair game. Plus! We comics types should have a more informed dialogue about museum culture. Oh look at me, I’m all preachy today. Ugh, shut up already, Nadel!

* Via Forbidden Planet: An audio interview with British comics greats Pat Mills (the writer responsible for some of the best and strangest SF comics) and Bryan Talbot.

 

Holy Gimoley!

We have a ton of new material for you today. We’re gonna have to slow down soon, I think. Geez.

First up, a one-week-only preview of Shigeru Mizuku’s first book in English-language translation, his 1973 WWII classic, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. As Dan writes in his online intro, Mizuki is a “giant of manga,” and this is reputed to be one of his greatest works. I haven’t read the untranslated material, but this book is strong stuff, with a tone that veers between comic absurdity and violent anger at loss and stupidity. Read the excerpt here.

J. Caleb Mozzocco brings in his first contribution to the new Journal, a feature on Columbus, Ohio’s just-about-to-premiere stage adaptation of Joshua Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest.

The internet agrees: Pascal Girard is killing it with his Cartoonist’s Diary entries this week. Today is day three, with plenty more MoCCA madness & cameo appearances.

On the review front, we have two new ones for you. First, our own editorial coordinator Kristy Valenti reviews the much-anticipated Lychee Light Club. Second, Sean T. Collins brings us his take on Gilbert Hernandez’s Love from the Shadows. We hadn’t planned on running two reviews of the book, but an accident of scheduling occurred: Sean actually turned in his review a few weeks before we published Tom De Haven’s very different piece on the same subject. In any case, this is undoubtedly going to be the kind of book that provokes strong reactions among readers, and our error of planning turned out to be kind of fortuitous.

Finally, we’re entering the eighties in the archives, with eleven new issues (52 through 62) up and ready to read. We’re into prime-era Journal now, folks, days and days — if not weeks and months— of stellar reading material. If you’ve fallen behind, make some time to check these out before it’s too late. Remember: once the team in Seattle puts the paywall in place, only subscribers will be able to access these issues.

In the meantime, we will try to identify some of the archival highlights for you in future posts, to point out some of the best material. For now, know that the Blood & Thunder columns are reliably entertaining, an that issue 53 has a rather famous interview with Harlan Ellison. Google it if you haven’t heard.

Oh, and non-Journal-related (unless you count Dan’s upcoming ramblings on dumb comic-book movies), Sean Howe unearthed an article about one film adaptation that was blessedly never released: Nancy: The Movie. A taste of what we narrowly missed: “But wait. Nancy won’t be a kid. She’ll be 35 and a record company executive – ‘No. 2 at a record label,’ said [producer Peter] Muller from his New York office. “‘She’ll have the same hair and polka dot dress, but she’ll be intelligent, sensitive and driven. She realizes she can have it all.’”

Also, Kevin Czap reports on every comic shop in the Cleveland area. I wish someone would do this for all the major cities. It took me years of living in New York before I even heard of Roger’s Time Machine. I could have wasted a lot more money if I’d known about it sooner.

 

Fans and Fanatics

Welcome to Tuesday. Or as I know it, the day after Passover, when I eat bread anyway.

On the site today: Pascal Girard’s Cartoonist’s Diary Day 2, this time starring Joe Ollman.

Now, onto the day’s headlines…

This lengthy piece on The Atlantic about book publishing since 1984 does some great history and also entombs it.

Rosebud Archives is releasing a sequence of Percy Crosby’s Skippy accompanied by an expose on Crosby’s sad decline, which, at least in the press materials, is positioned as a mob/political takedown of a patriotic American. Should be interesting because of Crosby’s notoriously right-wing politics and, more crucially, due to his overlooked, virtuosic talent.

Man of the moment George R.R. Martin on comic books. At the NY Times. Yes, I watched Game of Thrones on Sunday night because, well, I don’t know why. I think I like Richard Corben’s version more (sorry, Sean!).

Robert Boyd (an upcoming contributor to this site) is curating a two-person show in Houston featuring Marc Bell and Jim Woodring. It’s a rather ingenious pairing — two drawing and narrative based fantasists, both perfectionist draftsman driven to very different results.

Over on Facebook, Jay Lynch is posting some great artifacts, including this killer 1965 collaboration with Art Spiegelman.

And in truly odd comics news, did you know about this funky conflict with Dilbert’s Scott Adams? Hard to ignore, given that he/it is a cultural phenomenon. Anyhow, Adams was caught posting on various forums posing as his own biggest fan, and he’s since posted a response on his own web site. Check out the Gawker article first, follow the links to Adams’ pretty funny postings, and then enjoy his angry response. Good times, entertainment lovers!

 

A Pesach Miracle

Good morning. First things first: The Strand has posted video of the Comics Journal panel that was held there on April 8th, in which Dan and I asked Gary Groth and Kim Deitch various questions. Here is part one:

Parts two through four (and related Strandicon videos) can be found here.

Lots of new stuff on the site. First, the latest installment of Frank Santoro’s pretty amazing Layout Workbook series went up yesterday. If you haven’t been following along, and are either an artist or anyone else interested in the formal side of cartooning, I couldn’t more strongly recommend going back and starting from the beginning.

This morning, Ken Parille brings us a new interview with Ivan Brunetti, whose cult classic textbook Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice has just been republished.

Finally, Pascal Girard has graciously agreed to be the latest artist to contribute a “Cartoonist’s Diary” to the site, and today brings his debut post. (This is the first delivered in cartoon form.)

It’s been a tough day on the New Jersey Turnpike, so let’s go to other news:

Tokyopop is closing down its manga line. Not long ago, this company and others like it were sometimes pointed to as the future of comics publishing. I suppose they still might be.

Frank M. Young and Paul C. Tumey address Bill Everett’s Atlas work in typically exhaustive fashion.

Paul Gravett interviews the great Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti (also the guest on a recent episode of Inkstuds).

Which reminds me: By way of reviewing an excellent history of Italian comics, Craig Fischer points to one of the more lackluster categories of Eisner nominations. Whether or not you agree that it makes sense to add an academic writing award, good work is definitely going overlooked.

 

I Fought Through

Hello again!

I bet you’re wondering where Tim has been since Monday? Well, I’ll tell you: Sunday night I was so worn down (read: horrifically hungover) from MoCCA (read: I sell 4 food) that I called ol’ Tim and begged — begged! — him to handle Monday, and promised in return I’d take the rest of the week. He obliged, like the gentleman he is. And so, here we are friends, it’s Friday and I’ve made it!

Here are some things of interest:

Why do I so enjoy this blog entry by Rob Liefeld about doing layouts for Mike Mignola? Dunno. Maybe because I used to love both artists, and it somehow reminds me that they were both, as Frank might say, on the same team once. Also, I can totally see a Sammy Harkham’s drawing in that last panel on the right. That bike just scooting over the ground — that’s a classic cartooning lick — I still enjoy Mignola, but I think I liked him most in this slightly more linear, less formal period.

* Our feature image comes courtesy of Hooray for Wally Wood. Never seen this painting before, and love how clearly it’s swiped from a film still, but somehow tilted just wrong… like a statue on the verge of tilting…

* The very fine Paul Gravett writes about Renee French at Art Review (posted on Paul’s site).

* I always enjoy reading what Austin English has to say, and here he is at The Panelists.

* Rob Clough rounds up some recent web comics over at his own blog, High-Low.

Panels for Primates seems like a web-based comics project worth checking in on. It’s hosted by Act-i-Vate and has thus far included Rick Geary, Rich Tommaso and Colleen Coover, among others. It’s free for viewing, but meant to encourage readers to donate to Primate Rescue Center.

* Finally, head on over to 50 Watts and dig into a lengthy sequence of images by the Danish artist Palle Neilsen from his 1959 book Orfeus og Eurydike. Neilsen was profiled in TCJ 244 by our own Matthias Wivel, so look for that if you get intrigued. Apparently his 1980s North American publication, Scenario, is available via used bookstores.

Have a good weekend.