Today on the site, we present RJ Casey's interview with Nick Drnaso, whose debut graphic novel Beverly recently hit stores.

Do you think geometry is part of your style?

I've fully embraced rigidity. There’s simplicity in it, I think. At a certain point I realized that stripping away was more effective than going in and adding things — at least for Beverly. I wanted to tear things down to their essence. Before I worked on these stories, and in an art school kind of way, I was searching for a style and hiding behind overly hatching things. I used to use wild angles and spend hours and hours crosshatching.

I don’t think there’s any crosshatching in Beverly.

I’m more concerned now with solid cartooning and transitioning from one panel to the next. If I was spending all that time drawing tiny hatches, my hand would hurt and I would get lost in all the meaningless details. With minimal amounts of detail, I want to worry about the story and the flow — what’s really important. The dialogue and if I can somehow make characters contradict themselves — those types of things are much more interesting to me than hatching for five hours.

We also have Rob Kirby's review of the latest from Derf Backder, Trashed, a fiction/nonfiction hybrid about a group of garbagemen, and American garbage more generally.

Though J.B. and Mike are at the forefront of the narrative, their inner lives are only hinted at, and we don’t get to know them very well. Their antics serve best to illustrate the nonfiction portions of Trashed–where Backderf, a master of comics journalism, really gets to show off his chops. He begins with a brief tour through the history of garbage, offering several enlightening factoids, such as the fact that the first garbage dump was created in 3000 B.C. in the city of Knossos on Crete. We also learn that in pre-Civil War America, pigs were used to remove garbage on city streets: “New York City had so many free-roaming hogs that Charles Dickens in ‘American Notes’ begged city fathers to rid the metropolis of the ‘ugly brutes.’” Turns out that when Patti Smith sang, “The transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest preoccupation of man,” she wasn’t kidding.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Virginia Paine has announced that over the next year, she will be shutting down Sparkplug Books, the publishing company started by the late Dylan Williams which made a deep impact on many of the independent comics artists of recent generations.

—Interviews & Profiles. Abraham Riesman at Vulture interviews Brian Chippendale about the new collection of Puke Force.

You do more gallery-style visual art, too. What can comics do that other mediums can’t?
The idea is that you have these sequential frames, so they're really good for storytelling. You can follow a conversation or follow a movement through a page. They're built to tell stories. For me, for a piece of fine art, if you're looking at a flat surface, you can also tell stories, but I think they can be built to do other things, like to play with the medium, or to show one moment instead of a drawn-out amount of moments. Comics are good for narratives, and fine art is good for a moment.

The artist Jason has posted translated excerpts from four interviews previously published in Spanish.

I like melodrama. With the exception of Hey, Wait... I think there's been a gun in all of my books. I like writers like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. But if I use those kind of characters, I put them in other stories. Possibly he's a divorced alcoholic, but at the same time he's fighting monsters from Mars or zombies. I like that mix of everyday reality and fantasy. And I improvise my stories, so I don't know where they will end up.

—Commentary. Regular TCJ contributor Ken Parille has posted a tribute to Alvin Buenaventura.

In early 2001, I lived on eBay, bidding on anything that had Daniel Clowes art on it: comics, LPs, t-shirts, etc. Every week I’d win several auctions, always defeating a bidder who went by “totoroar.” It wasn’t long before I started to feel bad; after all, we were fellow collectors, fellow obsessives. So, in an uncharacteristic act of generosity, I contacted totoroar and offered to give them a few Clowes-related things I had. Totoroar turned out to be someone named Alvin Buenaventura, a name I assumed was fake. I sent Alvin some comics and then we exchanged numbers. He eventually told me he planned to start his own press, asking if I’d help. I said “Sure.” And I can say — without the slightest exaggeration — that meeting Alvin fundamentally changed my life.


Day’s End

Today on the site, Anya Davidson has an in-depth look at Brian Chippendale's incredible new book, Puke Force. I'm so pleased this project came to fruition, and happy to have been a part of it. Brian is on tour for the book, and you can catch him tonight in Toronto at The Beguiling and tomorrow at Desert Island. Here's a bit from Anya:

In his fourth graphic novel, Puke Force, Brian Chippendale bravely tackles the perils of modern American life. The book begins where the action in his earlier book, Ninja, left off.  In Ninja, a group of friends and the titular ninja fight to prevent an evil arms manufacturer from setting up shop in their beloved city of Grain. Chippendale drew the book in the wake of the gentrification of Olneyville, his neighborhood in Providence Rhode Island, and I assume Grain to be an alternate universe manifestation of that city. The oversized pages of Ninja writhe with dots, dashes and lines. Characters rendered in thick brush strokes emerge from dense thickets of very fine line, to dizzying effect. Reading it again, I was overwhelmed by the sheer density and cinematic scope of that book. Panel backgrounds often remain static while characters traverse them, calling to mind animation as much as classic cartooning. On one page I counted fifty individual panels. It’s one of those comics that, in its ambition and urgency, seems to have practically erupted from inside its creator.


Well, tomorrow I'm opening an exhibition of 40 years of Gary Panter's publications at Printed Matter. This is unfortunately the same time as Chippendale at Desert Island. Ah well. We'll all be wherever we are not in spirit.

Links: A nice local profile on Chicago's Quimby's Bookstore. And the ever naughty British magazine Viz has been cut off from Facebook.



Today, this week's MVP, Joe McCulloch, is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, exploring the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. He writes a bit about Kevin Huizenga's Ganges, too.

Broadly, Ganges is the story of a man, Glenn Ganges, who wants to go to sleep, but cannot. But it's also about remembering days in the past and flashing forward to days in the future, about processing history through video games and capturing conflict in art, about reading books and also the recollection of having read books, and the myriad alternate realities we warp our minds into while attempting to navigate the present. In an essay I wrote for the Drawn and Quarterly 25th anniversay book -- where I think I brought a real sense of gravitas to pgs. 380-382 -- I suggested that the core of Huizenga's work is in the interaction of the conscious and subconscious; not as a latent characteristic of the comics form, but as an explicit and literal visual/narrative focus, as a means of communicating the process of ascertainment. In this way, he continues the work of Chris Ware, though Huizenga's emphasis falls less on plumbing the mindset of his characters than riding with them as they encounter the coexistence of the natural and the artificial, the superstitious and the scientific - never at Manichean odds, but observed in states of coexistence.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Alvin Buenaventura. Daniel Clowes and Jonathan Barli have written posts in memory of the publisher. Those who usually avoid the comments may want to make an exception for our obituary of Buenaventura.

—News. Playboy has reportedly decided to stop publishing cartoons. Obviously in recent years (or should I say decades?) the magazine hasn't been a major part of the cultural conversation, but it was one of only two major American magazines to still prominently feature cartoons and pay well for them, and was a home to artists from Gahan Wilson to Jack Cole to Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.

—Reviews & Commentary. Bob Temuka writes about Love & Rockets #8.

It would be so easy for them to just do more and more stories about Luba and Maggie, and just tell stories of these weird and wonderful women, and their fabulous friends and family, and just focus on that. Building up a body of work like that, creating a small and personal mythology, is a worthy goal in life.

Or, you could do what the brothers do best, and go wherever their whims take them, with goofy, energetic and slightly disturbing new stories that are as good as any of their classic work, while still making room for catching up with old friends.

Domingos Isabelinho writes about connections between conceptual art and comics.

Matthias Wivel writes about Daniel Clowes's Patience, which came out early in Denmark.

Rachel Cooke reviews Stéphane Heuet's adaptation of Proust.

In an illuminating introduction to his translation, [Arthur] Goldhammer suggests that those who know and love the novel are likely to regard Heuet’s adaptation as “a piano reduction of an orchestral score”; he writes convincingly of the way the ruthless compression of the comic strip form sheds a “revealing light on the book’s armature, on the columns, pillars, and arches that support the narrator’s resurrected memories as the columns of the church in Combray support the stained glass and tapestries that transport visitors into the past they represent”. As for those who, like me, don’t know the novel, this strikes me as a good and gentle place to start.


Long Weekend

As we headed into the long weekend we got word that Buenaventura Press and Pigeon Press publisher Alvin Buenaventura had passed away. Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner wrote our TCJ obituary and spoke to some of the publisher's close friends. Tim Hensley has a personal remembrance here.

Joe's column will be back tomorrow. Today we also have an overview of the seminal NYC newspaper, The East Village Eye, courtesy of John Kelly.

Lower New York has been the scene for numerous “art movements,” and the decade between the mid-70s and mid-80s sure was one of them, especially for the convergence of comics, “art,” and punk rock.  In 1976, the first issue of PUNK appeared, creating a forum for the transformation of music and popular culture that was happening each night at the Bowery’s CBGB.  Both PUNK and CBGB found their home–and their attitude–in the barren Hell that was then New York’s East Village and were fueled by the community of young artists drawn to the area in search of artistic freedom and cheap rents.  A few years later, the first issues of both World War Three Illustrated and RAW appeared in East Village shops and while neither was a “punk” publication per se, they carried punk’s DIY approach of tearing up the established norms in an attempt to create something new and different.  And then there were all the arty papers that sprung up as competitors of, or alternatives to, the long-running Village Voice.  And, best yet, most of them carried great comics.

“The early to mid-80s were a great time for alternative publishing in NYC,” said Bob Newman, former art director and editor of Seattle’s The Rocket and art director of The Village Voice.  “In addition to the NY Rocker there was the Soho Weekly News, East Village Eye, and Paper, which was just starting up, and was being published in all black and white as a giant fold-out. And also NYTalk, which must have started back then as well. I’m sure there were more, too, that folks will remember.”

Today we will take a look at one of those papers, the East Village Eye, where a number of seemingly divergent worlds came together in one publication.  From 1979 to 1987, the East Village Eye chronicled the rise and fall of the East Village art, music, fashion and cultural scene and remains a record of the period’s mixture of punk, no wave, graffiti, Latin music, and hip-hop.  Among many other things, the Eye also published the first, or very early, work by a number of notable cartoonists.  It also ran the first-ever interview with filmmaker David Lynch.  It even coined the term “hip-hop.”

See you tomorrow.


Leftover Hot Takes

Today is the final day of Abhay Khosla's four-part year-end wrapup of 2015 in comics, covering September through December, and ending up with a personal summing-up of the issues threaded throughout the year:

In 2015, if nothing else, at least one argument, the most common argument, no longer makes sense: “It’s just comics.

Look at DC’s statement on the Batgirl situation: “threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society.” But after what happened last January, can anyone saying “comics or society” really be said to be paying attention? What boundaries between those two spheres do people think exist?

Terrorists blew those boundaries up. They kept blowing up for the rest of the year.

That was ultimately the persistent lesson of 2015, the one story that recurred over and over. Outraged, outraged-at-outrage, either way, we’re stuck with each other, the train conductor jumped off miles ago, best hope it’s a sweet ride when this all derails. Nothing's slowing down! Louder! LOUDER! Escapism was just what they put on the brochure to sucker us in-- but this is all society now, more and more everyday (and society, god help us all, is becoming comics more, too).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Matt Bors has brought The Nib to First Look Media, which you may know as the company behind The Intercept.

The cartoonist, SAW co-founder, and highly regarded educator Tom Hart has posted an online class on creating graphic novels.

For Publishers Weekly, Grace Bello interviews Daniel Clowes.

The cartoonist, Domino Books publisher, and occasional TCJ contributor Austin English has started a personal comics review site.


Quick Fast

Today we continue Abhay's year in review as he marches through July and August with a special focus on some wondrous racial gaffes. Mark Waid will be particularly delight to be mentioned again.

July brought news of a truly exciting new comic. “[Mark] Waid and [J.G.] Jones should make room on their mantles for some Eisners,” trumpeted CBR over the hit feel-good series of the summer, Strange Fruit, from Boom Studios.

Strange Fruit tells the story of white characters in a small Mississippi town, struggling with the effect of the historic and deadly 1927 flood on their community. Also: there’s a naked silent black man wandering around having flashbacks about spaceships. His sassy black sidekick calls him Johnson, because “white folk ain’t much gonna cotton to yo’ running ‘round with yo’ JOHNSON hanging’ out!” But mostly it’s about damp white characters. There’s the evil white Klansmen, and then all the other articulate white characters who all seem like swell folks and sure don’t like those Klansmen, no sir.

Yes, the first issue of Strange Fruit tells the grippingstoryof race in America: the noble battle between enlightened white people and less-enlightened white people. How exciting it must have been for black people to have been on the sidelines of that battle, and gotten to watch all that unfold for them, the lucky sons of guns!

The n-word gets used a lot for a Boom Studios comic, but not as many times as that comic where the Lumberjanes meet Lil Wayne. Who knew that Lil Wayne could tie so many different kinds of sailing knots? And who knew that those Lumberjanes were ride-or-die racists??

But as Waid explained to Newsarama, before the release of Strange Fruit #1, “It’s all in the delivery, and I’ve no doubt our readers will let us know if we err.”


Hey, so I curated an exhibition that opened last night here in NYC, so guess what, aside from chuckling at the angry reactions to Abhay on Twitter, I'm ignoring comics! Next week my Gary Panter publications show opens, so... busy busy bee bee.


Downhill From Here

Today, Abhay Khosla continues his four-part, month-by-month takedown of 2015 comics culture. This time, it's April through June, highlights of which include Frank Cho's Spider-Gwen, all-male women-in-comics panels, multiple public apologies, and the "Killing Joke" Batgirl cover.

Despite Batgirl co-creator Cameron Stewart himself stating, “It’s not censorship. We the creative team never wanted [the cover],” Gamergate insisted that comics were being “censored.” As per Gamergate standard operating procedure, deranged arguments ensued that anyone who didn’t like the cover wasn’t a “true comic reader” (even though any “true comic reader” could spot the problem with the cover in a half-second)... as did online threats of violence-- SURPRISE!!

Even DC Comics, a company with a long history of courting a middle-age Juggalo audience with images of sexualized violence, were shocked enough to mention the threats in their statement on why the cover was being pulled: “Regardless if fans like Rafael Albuquerque’s homage to Alan Moore’s THE KILLING JOKE graphic novel from 25 years ago, or find it inconsistent with the current tonality of the Batgirl books - threats of violence and harassment are wrong and have no place in comics or society.” Even DC! (It later had to be clarified that the person receiving threats was not Albuquerque, but those objecting to the cover.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Alan Moore talks at length (as he does) about his participation in a new horror anthology, Cinema Purgatorio, and also holds forth on anthologies and black-and-white art more generally:

While the massive improvement in comic-book colouring, printing, and production techniques over the last thirty or forty years has led to some exemplary pieces of work it has also given artists a lot of places to hide their flaws, in the same way that rambling continuities have provided a lot of cover for the shortcomings of writers. In America particularly, with its tradition of dividing up the pencilling and inking chores, this has seemingly led to a deficiency of artists with the abilities of, say, an Al Williamson, or a Wally Wood, or a Jack Kirby. These were all artists who were fluent in the use of blacks or in their deployment of shading techniques, all the hatching and feathering that exemplified the work of that classic generation of American craftsmen. What I’m concerned about is that abilities are being lost here, and if the comic medium is to genuinely progress and to be adequate to the coming century then I can’t help but think of that as a bad thing.

Kriota Willberg, dancer and author of the immensely useful-to-artists minicomic, (No) Pain!: A Guide to Injury Prevention for Cartoonists, is on the most recent episode of Virtual Memories.

People don’t realize they need to pay attention to their bodies when they’re drawing, until they have an injury.

—News. Jillian and Mariko Tomaki's This One Summer has been pulled from two Florida school districts' libraries.

After a local television news station picked up on an Amazon review that called the book “practically porn for kids,” the school district removed This One Summer from its high school libraries as well.

[Middle school librarian Esther] Keller thinks that’s going too far. “It could have been a ‘mea culpa,'” she said. “‘We missed this and should have not put it in an elementary collection.’ But instead the district has gone a little crazy and is pulling it from high school collections too. And that’s the real censorship to me.”

—Reviews & Commentary. The Atlantic has published a very long article wondering if Superman can be fixed? It's a smart piece, but seems to me to be missing the forest for the trees. Superman is very, very old and stale. The only way to fix him is to take ten or twenty years off and then go back. Or even better, just stop. We don't really need any more Superman stories. No one's trying to "fix" Leopold Bloom.

—Misc. This Ohio exhibit examining Carol Tyler's creative process looks pretty great.

The Comix Creatrix exhibit in the UK also looks worthwhile (despite the off-putting name). Sequential is temporarily offering a free 200+-page selection of art and information from the show.


Ad Hom

Well folks, this is the week we break the comics internet, which is actually not very hard, but...uh, here we go.

Today Abhay Khosla initiates a four-part examination of the year 2015. Get into it. Here's a taste related to the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

Away from the internet, this was an utter tragedy, a despicable outrage, nothing but a horror show. Online, however, the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo was followed by something nearly as troubling: otherwise rational people stating on the internet, quote, I think the Hooded Utilitarian is making a good point here, unquote. [shudder]

After the shootings, many had been moved to tweet “je suis charlie” — French for “I kiss the bibliotheque”, according to Google Translate. People plainly hoped to express unanimity with the fundamental precept that people are only civilized if allowed to express themselves without fear of violent retaliation. But in response, the Hooded Utilitarian was quick to publish “In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Mot Mean Freedom From Criticism”.

Yes, apparently gunmen wielding assault rifles, submachine guns, pump-action shotguns, etc. were all engaged in an avante-garde act of comics criticism. I’d always wondered why Tom Spurgeon carries around that butterfly knife– I guess the rest of us have been insufficiently armed this entire time. Quick! To the armory!

And of course, not to be outdone, Joe McCulloch is here to suggest your buying patterns for the week. You know what's weird? Now that Bergen Street Comics is gone, there is nowhere for me to go and look at new comic books in all of South Brooklyn. Desert Island is very far away from me. Some enterprising, childless, and well-heeled human should open a store, or a store within a store! Or something.

And we also have Greg Hunter reviewing Jacob Canfield's new comic, I Fell Asleep.

“I Fell Asleep”, a scrolling, online-only comic from Jacob Canfield, takes on the perspective of a young woman approaching a potentially life-altering confrontation—or at least potentially approaching it. The character, Erica, is wasting time on the Internet while her boyfriend is out, and contemplating an end to the relationship. The comic documents either Erica’s first step toward independence or her usual step before rationalizing the relationship’s problems. “I Fell Asleep” scrolls, an intuitive format for Canfield’s subject matter, encouraging readers to construct the tension and hesitation of Erica’s evening in.

Elsewhere... oh gee, I dunno, there's only so much to point to on the internet. There's this typically silly piece at The Guardian on edgy new comics. I have read most of these comics, and they're like on par with one of those USA TV shows like White Collar. Not Justified over on FX, but just OK entertainment, usually with incredibly bad drawing. That's fine! There's equally bad work being touted all around everywhere! Bye for now.