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On the site today…

Your weekly comics from Jog, in which he deals with the issue of weight in comics. Or heavy comics. Something heavy!

And Rob Clough reviews Keith Knight’s Too Small to Fail.

The big “elsewhere” news is Grant Morrison’s unintentionally hilarious interview with Rolling Stone. Morrison, who really does believe the hype (in his book, Supergods, he plays himself as a brilliant hero of comics, always at the ready to tap into the zeitgeist) loves to make big statements, like this doozy about his favorite hobby horse, Alan Moore:

We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

This is right after [update for clarity/boneheadedness] on the heels of his defense, in Supergods, of the now infamous rape-scene-as-plot device in Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, which he calls “Joycean,” “heart stopping,” and “orchestral”. Seriously. I will admit, as Morrison totally predicted (tra la la, we’re all pretty predictable), that I found Supergods mostly not so great. Not because I didn’t understand what he was trying to do (superheroes as modern myth, how the genre can have personal meaning) — I did. I even fully go in for the idea that there’s great life in the genre and that fantastic work has been and will be made. And on some subjects Morrison is great. His explanations of what makes Jim Starlin, Don McGregor, and other writers of the 1970s great is smart and concise. And his description of Image Comics and its place in the larger culture is the best I’ve ever read. But too often it comes back to new age silliness (Captain Marvel as “alchemical” hero) and self-aggrandization (his relative fame, his oedipus complex with Moore) and then, finally, a long patch where he reels off his fave superhero movies (he was the only guy that liked Daredevil! Cool!). It is also is a book profoundly ignorant and dismissive of the actual circumstances under which his favorite toys were created, and the fates of the toymakers. That said, I think it’s especially ironic that in the interview he randomly harps on Chris Ware and TCJ (of course he’s right that we are smart asses) in economic/class terms. For someone so interested in class and vibes and making the world a better place, one might ask: Gee, Grant, what have you done to help out the economic situations of creators whose shoulders you stand on? Oh right. Nothing. [update: Not that this matters — critiquing art by arguing that an artist should drop the thing you disapprove of and go do something you do approve of is inane. But Morrison brought it up, so why not go down his logic road?]. Here’s the beauty:

I can appreciate someone like Chris Ware for his artistry, which I think is beautiful, but I think his attitude stinks, it just seems to be the attitude of somebody really privileged, and honestly, try living here, try living on an Indian reservation and shut up, and really seeing all that nihilistic stuff, it really makes me angry, it’s unhelpful to all of us, and it’s coming from people who have money and success to talk  like that and bring those aspects of the way we live in favor of all the  others, and it’s indefensible.

So I never liked that stuff, I  always thought that I had a real Scottish working class thing against  the fact that these were done by privileged American college kids, and  they were telling me the world was flat. “You’re telling me the world is  flat, pal?” And it’s not helpful, it doesn’t get us anywhere. OK, so it  is, then what? What are you going to do about it, college kid? My book wasn’t academic. I can’t take on those Comics Journal guys, they flattened me, as they did, it’s just defensive, smartass kids.

My favorite thing about the above is that he assumes Ware (and I suppose Clowes, whose Death Ray, arguably the seminal superhero comic of the last decade, Morrison ignores in his history of superhero comics), Brown, et al are somehow rich college kids looking down at him and casting bad vibes his way. This coming from the guy who endorsed superhero rape in his superhero history. Bad vibes I guess are only ok if they involve Elongated Man? Grant, baby, it’s not a class thing and it’s not about nihilism. It’s just a different, more complex worldview, that’s all. Plus, his assessment of Ware’s work simply shows he hasn’t read it. Morrison is too smart to have read it and come away with that conclusion. And TCJ certainly hasn’t flattened him. In fact, aside from a brief mention from Tim, Supergods hasn’t been covered here yet. But we did cover, at length, and positively, The Invisibles. Alas.

Anyhow, that interview is just plain sad. Morrison’s a creative guy who has written some excellent comics, but here and in Supergods he seems out of touch, casting about, and adrift in what he more or less admits is his most sustained creation: The character of “Grant Morrison” itself.

 

Dreamland

On the site today:

We bring you the latest installment of Richard Gehr’s mindblowingly great series Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists. This time it’s Richard going toe-to-toe with Lee Lorenz. Lorenz is a fascinating artist. Did you know that he was taught by Philip Guston? Me neither.

Philip Guston was one of my teachers at Pratt and became a very good friend. He was best man at my wedding. I’m a great admirer of his work, especially after he turned his back on what became “classical” abstract expressionism. He started doing what people would later call “cartoon figures,” not really cartoons. I had lunch with him one day when I was feeling down, because I hoped I would make some sort of career as a painter. He said, “Let me see what you’re doing.” Well, the cartoons I was doing were certainly not good or very interesting graphically. He told me, “You shouldn’t feel that way. This is a really vital and interesting art form. You should be pleased you can do this.” I thought he was pulling my leg, but he utilized a lot of cartoon clichés himself many years later. This was long before he had that epiphany and changed his whole approach to his art.

Frank is on the road and he’s drinking beer and giving out hugs. He will break down your reserves; he will talk to you about comics. He is Frank, and I am glad. Related: Last night I dreamt that SPX had moved to London, and that upon my arrival to London (on a tour bus with CSN & Y and assorted members of Wilco — Stephen Stills was talking to himself in my dream) I discovered Frank there with boxes, while Jim Rugg told me that Ben Jones had a table, too. Then I woke up, realized this post was overdue, and here I am. Phew.

And elsewhere:

A chain of comic book stores is closing. Tom Spurgeon has the report.

A match made in heaven: Drew Friedman on Plop!

This looks to be some sort of film about men wearing plastic laminates? I’m confused.

 

Don’t Give a Hang

Kim Deitch returns with the seventh part of his memoir-via-music, which continues telling the story of his time as a student at Pratt, and covers Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Jody Garland, and Eartha Kitt:

I’m lucky I got through the following twenty years with most of my whole hide. I am very humbly grateful to the man upstairs for that, too. I’ve always had the feeling that there was some kind of good angel watching over me. Take that any way you want. I’m just trying to tell the truth here as I see it. I don’t give a hang about trying to cut some sort of cool figure. I actively hate that kind of shit and there is altogether too much of it running around loose in this world. What I am trying to do is to do my best to pay off my unusually good luck by living a useful life. I may be some kind of a jerk (I guess it runs in the family), but I mean well.

And fan favorite Tucker Stone returns to the site with a review of Ryan Cecil Smith’s bizarro sci-fi adventure comic, SF #1:

Smith first came to my attention due to familiarity–not with him, but with Kazuo Umezu, whose story “Blood Baptism” had served as inspiration for an exercise in adaptation that Smith has published in two parts so far. That series, “Two Eyes of the Beautiful”, remains one of the most unnerving pieces of fan-art I’ve read–beyond the plot, Smith’s panels in and of themselves read like adaptations of Umezu’s tempo and pitch, copying the emotional noise that Umezu’s work resonates with, all while ignoring the obvious temptation to directly clone his cartooning.

Elsewhere….

1. John Porcellino drew a tribute comic to the German publisher Reprodukt. If you ever get a chance to look at some of Reprodukt’s books, I highly recommend it —they publish a lot of beautiful stuff.

2. The Ignatz Award nominees have been announced.

3. I don’t think we’ve yet mentioned that the Staten Island branch of Jim Hanley’s Universe suffered from pretty severe flooding earlier this week. Jim Hanley’s is one of the best comic stores I’ve ever been to, and worth supporting if you are able to do so.

4. The Graphic Novel Reporter interviews Neil Egan, book designer for AbramsComics.

5. Matt Seneca is clearly wrong to call a particular movie trailer “comics”, but it’s the kind of “wrong” that hurts no one & helps many to clarify their thoughts. (Full disclosure: I’ve been similarly wrong myself.)

6. Dana Jennings (a former TCJ contributor!) writes at The New York Times about the latest wave of comics-related art books, and includes a mini-gallery of examples, comparing comics artists to their more highbrow brethren. Comparing Alex Toth to Matisse? Maybe, at least in that particular cover image. Jim Lee as “Dürer on steroids” is slightly tougher to swallow.

 

Lapping

Keeping it short today, for lack of time.

Tom De Haven rejoins us for an examination of the textual components of archival editions of old comics. I just made that sound incredibly boring, when in fact it’s a great and valuable look at the different approaches to the medium’s history. And really, you can’t afford not to read anything Tom writes about comics. So there.

That’s all I have, folks! Dig in.

 

Becalmed

Today on the site we bring you the most recent episode of TCJ Talkies, in which host Mike Dawson talks to Lisa Hanawalt about writing funny and drawing at parties.

Also, Rob Clough reviews I Will Bite You, a story collection from up-and-comer Joseph Lambert.

1. Retailer/blogger/TCAF organizer Chris Butcher asked comics creators what they would change about conventions (of the SPX, MoCCA, Stumptown variety) in order to make the artists more money, and got a ton of answers.

2. In the mid-1970s, U.S. copyright laws regarding music publishing were seriously revised, and now for the first time, musicians will legally be allowed to regain control of their songs 35 years after their initial appearance. The artists have to apply for the rights two years in advance, and people like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Loretta Lynn, and Tom Waits all filled out paperwork regarding music from 1978, per the New York Times. Apparently, the record labels apparently aren’t going to give up the rights without a big legal battle, so this will probably play out for a while.

Anyway, interesting stuff to keep in mind when thinking about creator rights in comics. It also can’t help but make me imagine a world in which pop music was an industry dominated by nothing but songs featuring characters from old Springsteen tunes. Too ridiculous to be believed, I guess.

3. Over at the Mindless Ones, the Doubtful Guest does a little agitation work. I personally find the whole “thrill-power” argument he uses a little doubtful to say the least (as if E.C. Segar alone doesn’t prove that a solo artist can provide all the thrills a reader can handle), but your mileage may vary, and the important thing is that another member of a prominent online forum has joined the Marvel boycott.

4. Gary Panter wants to convert you to Peter Saul-ism.

5. I think the people over at the Fantagraphics office need to lay off the Welsh rarebit.

6. Darryl Ayo thinks out loud about representations of race in comics.

7. I haven’t read the anthology under review by Craig Fischer, but I have seen the “Hipster Hitler” stuff before, and Fischer’s right on.

 

2,000 Words of Amnesia

I found an old, small piece of myself last month that I didn’t even know I’d lost. And the tale of what I misplaced is a fable about mortality, the raw power of trauma, the whim of memory — and The Comics Journal.

This is what was unexpectedly returned to me: a 2,000-word article that I wrote more than 25 years ago for The Comics Journal that I can’t recall writing, that I never saw in print.

It wasn’t like the hundreds of articles I reported and typed in a frenzy when I started out as a punk reporter in rural New Hampshire. This was a magazine article written for a national publication (modest, yes) back when I considered every 250 or 500 words sold another brick in the potential cathedral of my career.

But there it sat — 2,000 words of prime amnesia.

The article lurks in The Comics Journal No. 94, printed on the cheap paper of its day that, in its dotage, carries the sweet reek of decaying pulp. My article was about Futuropolis, a Paris publisher then of vintage American comic strips like Segar’s “Thimble Theatre”, Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” and Eisner’s “The Spirit”.

And there it waits, on Page 56 of The Comics Journal No. 94. It bears my name, the words sound like me, but I don’t recognize it. And reading it makes me feel queasy, as if  I’ve stepped sideways and backwards into some Philip K. Dick mind-scape.

I retrieved this fugitive in a thoroughly modern manner. As I scanned the The Comics Journal web site recently I noticed the article index. I did remember an article on Will Eisner and the Angouleme, France, comics festival I wrote that appeared in The Comics Journal No. 89 — and I was thrilled to get the byline and the $35. I keyed in my name.

Up popped No. 89 … and the wholly uncanny No. 94. I clicked to Amazon right away, snagged a copy for three bucks — and that’s how the article ghosted into my possession. When I glanced at the cover (Moebius, Crepax, Kojima and more) then read the article, all it did was make my head hurt. It wasn’t until I saw the magazine’s date — October 1984 — that I finally understood.

1984, the year I turned 27, was a tough one. A manageable case of ulcerative colitis, diagnosed two years before, turned feral. I kept working — writing and editing — but in a colitis-induced fog.

When I think about 1984 I recall the betrayal of my immune system, of my body undone by pain and blood loss. Ultimately, in October, I ended up in the hospital — my lips blue, my ribs stark against skin as pale as skim milk. I spent six week in the hospital, got 27 pints of blood, and had my entire colon cut out. Then I convalesced at home for another three months.

What’s an article in the face of eternity … of mortality?

This is what I think happened. As sick as I was in early ’84 I soldiered on — a deadline is a deadline, after all — wrote my article, mailed it off and forgot about it as I worried about my health. Serious illness brings clarity, burns away the underbrush of your life.

I wasn’t fretting over my meager words and The Comics Journal. In October 1984 I grappled with the power of physical trauma and wrestled for my future. As for copies of No. 94, maybe The Comics Journal forgot to mail them to me, or they might’ve got dumped in the trash. But I never saw them, never got my memory — overwhelmed by sickness — jogged by their presence.

Then, as I recovered, I looked straight ahead. My wife and I were ready to start a family. I needed to write another draft of my first novel, there were articles to be written and edited — a career to chase once more.

I put 1984 behind me, save for the sharp memories from the country of near-death. And my 2,000 words about Futuropolis got abandoned, got stuck in that year. My memory — as traumatized as my body  — let that tiny part of me go, ceded a small death.

Staring at that Comics Journal article from 27 years ago now, I still feel wary, somehow unmoored in time. But, too, I realize, I’m looking at other unlikely survivors — article and magazine — from October 1984.

 

Rainy Days

Today on the site:

Writer Dana Jennings discovers a piece of himself in an old issue of The Comics Journal.

Up popped No. 89 … and the wholly uncanny No. 94. I clicked to Amazon right away, snagged a copy for three bucks — and that’s how the article ghosted into my possession. When I glanced at the cover (Moebius, Crepax, Kojima and more) then read the article, all it did was make my head hurt. It wasn’t until I saw the magazine’s date — October 1984 — that I finally understood.

Reliably, today our man Jog brings you the week in comics.

And, elsewhere around town, it’s all about lawsuits and masked men:

The estate of Bob Montana is suing Steve Geppi for non-payment for a massive artwork sale. But the story gets weird from there. It’s an intriguing one, with wider (though at this point, just rumored) implications for Geppi’s Diamond.

And, as expected, the Kirby heirs are appealing the recent summary judgment against their claims.

Paul Tumey has a great Jack Cole Midnight story posted, with analysis.

 

Ten Thousand Doors For Men to Take Their Exit

Kim Thompson remembers Francisco Solano López:

Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three).

Frank Santoro’s back in full storyteller mode, talking about his recent trip to New York to collaborate with Dash Shaw. (There’s another bonus Michael DeForge cartoon, too.)

One night I, Dash, Dan Nadel, and David Mazzucchelli went out to dinner. Dan and Dash have been around David enough times that they don’t get starstruck – but I still do. It’s embarrassing only because I drink too much and start yelling and Dan has do that hand gesture thing where he is saying calm down when Mazzucchelli isn’t looking. Whatever. I was having fun.

John Hilgart of 4CP fame reviews Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta’s Starstruck. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Now raise your hand if you […] imagined that Starstruck must be either a campy sci-fi gender parody or a didactic exploration of how things would be different if women were in charge of the galaxy. The fact that it is not remotely either of these things is one of writer Elaine Lee’s greatest accomplishments. She pulls off the coup, engineers the genre sex-change, without our even noticing. She realized that she didn’t need to do much more than change who got the close-up; instead of Luke Skywalker, it’s the pilot of the fighter off to his left, who actually turns out to be the important one. Lee’s characters have long been there in science fiction; she simply makes them the protagonists and extrapolates from there. Starstruck’s feminism is both as invisible and as pervasive as air, and therefore an accomplishment in its own right.

Most readers of The Comics Journal have probably already seen Tom Spurgeon’s essay from this weekend, explaining that his recent hiatus was due to a life-threatening illness. It’s a moving and candid reflection on mortality, family, and life in the comics industry. (And the Green Lantern movie!). If you haven’t taken the opportunity to look at it yet, you should. A must-read of the week, month, year:

If I learned anything that first 48 hours awake, it was to focus on the next event: the next breath, the next five minutes, the next question written on the notepad, the next time someone might come into the room. To my surprise, after a life of avoidance I’m not that bad at taking things as they come. Although come to think of it, no one carves time like an unproductive writer.

In the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, Robert Crumb wrote an open letter explaining the recent cancellation of his trip to Australia:

Sorry, folks. I do feel bad, as I hate letting people down. But I decided I’d rather bear the pain of letting people down than subjecting my long-suffering wife to a 10-day period of dread and anxiety for my well-being. She’s been awfully nice to me since I told her I wasn’t going! She baked a chocolate cake even!

I know, I know, it’s galling to give the Sunday Telegraph sleazeballs the satisfaction. ”Ha ha, we scared him off.” But they have already got what they wanted out of me anyway, which was to use me to make the City of Sydney look bad.

The worst part is the apparent irresponsibility of these cynical media hacks. What if I’d gone there, and what if some Mark Chapman-type person who’d read that article decided the world needed to be cleansed of scum like R. Crumb? (Mark Chapman shot John Lennon.) This possibility worried Aline deeply.

More on the decision here. And the Daily Telegraph (the tabloid that initiated the whole thing) responds here.

Finally, Eddie Campbell bought the recent Bill Mauldin collections, and writes about some observations that occurred to him while reading the cartoons in chronological order for the first time:

The first is that I am surprised to find that there is no break between the war cartoons and the post-war cartoons. They are continuous. The second is that in the middle of 1944 Mauldin appears to have decided to stretch the proportions of his figures from a normal height of seven or eight ‘heads’ to as many as ten heads (previously I presumed variations might be explained by pressing circumstances).