BLOG

Monday Madness

First, some office work.

Earth people, send us your event listings. As you may have noticed, we are publishing event listings. We wish to fill them up. So, direct your listing news to: events@tcj.com.

We have uploaded issues 37 and 39-41 of ye ol’ TCJ. Only 260 more to go. Almost there! But these issues are chock full of goodness. Issue 40, for example, has an interview with a young-ish Jim Shooter, just a little while before he was branded “Our Nixon.” Kim Thompson, meanwhile, contributed a piece about Tom Sutton, and the great John Benson has an early (and very prescient) overview of Art Spiegelman’s work. TCJ and Tom Sutton: A long term love affair. Issue 39 has a long piece on the now-infamous 1978 DC Comics contraction, a lengthy report on the then-comatose underground comics scene, and in the reviews dept., we have Kim giving Marvel 1970s-era Kirby a tough talking to, while Groth takes on Superman vs Muhammed Ali. And then issue 41 breaks open the Steve Gerber controversy, with a report and an interview with the man himself. The archive is still free for a little longer.

And new content today and from the weekend. In his first piece (of many, we hope!) for us, Tom De Haven takes on the upcoming Gilbert Hernandez book; meanwhile Frank Santoro brings it for the third week in a row. His best layout piece yet. By the by, if, during the week you long for Frank, as Tim and I often do, you can click over to his Tumblr and check in on him.

And now, onto links.

Most of you have probably already seen this NY Times piece on Marvel’s publishing program. A little more business-y than I would’ve expected, the takeaway here seems to be that, uh, Marvel is trying… something, and that something is directed from the editors through the writers. The visuals in this visual medium aren’t mentioned much, and neither are any particular creative strategies. Me, I’m still waiting for that New Universe revival.

Via pal Dash Shaw we have two delights. First is this animated film by the great illustrator James McMullan, who taught Dash at SVA, along with a few other generations of other artists. His drawing lessons are actually online at the New York Times. His languid, elegant figures are just astonishingly well painted. More McMullan can be seen at Container List. Second, here’s an online exhibition of the Art of Akira, along with commentary.

Contributor Chris Mautner takes us to Comic Book College in the area of Frank Miller. This is a good start in some choppy waters. I’m glad Chris recommends The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is my favorite Miller work, post-1990 division. Also, he reminded me that Miller actually wrote Robocop vs. Terminator. I can’t believe there’s not a movie of that already. I’d go see that. Thrice! Dapper Dan’s Movie Review would have a field day!

Finally, Harry Mendryk goes what we, around the “office” call “deep Santoro” with part one of an analysis of the Simon & Kirby colorists. And Joshua Glenn’s HiLobrow continues to focus on Kirby with this fine piece by Adam McGovern.

 

 

Potpourri

As Jog noted in his column this week, the final issue of Neonomicon just came out, so now I have to figure out whether or not it’s worth resurrecting the Comics Comics Comic-Book Club one more time, possibly in mutated form. Those of you who were reading along, stay tuned — I’ll figure something out.

Now, to the links:

Multiple birds killed with one stone in this brief review. A model of the short form.

Richard O’Connor digs up an old George Plimpton introduction to a Bill Plympton collection.

I suppose now that we’ve made the move to the Journal, I no longer am obligated to bring to your attention all news on Steve Gerber. But old habits die hard. Here’s a Scott Edelman interview with the writer. The audio’s a little poor, unfortunately, but Gerber is a good talker.

Carol Tyler is more charming when she gets purist about comics terminology than John Byrne is. Big claim, I know,

Speaking of Byrne, Roberto Batuel at the Comics Grid offers a short and perhaps slightly too reverential take on the infamous blank pages of Alpha Flight issue 6.

Normally I like to leave comic-book movie news to Dapper Dan, but just this once: the producers of the new live-action adaptation of Akira are reportedly hoping to cast white actors as the main characters (and change the location from “Neo Tokyo” to “New Manhattan”). Some are complaining, but they are probably forgetting how well Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla came out.

You’re probably seen word going around about the shirts Daniel Clowes designed for Stüssy. (Interview here.) They’re beautiful, as were the ones the Hernandez Bros did a while back, but I have to wonder: Am I the only one who would have trouble wearing a shirt with a Stüssy logo that big? I guess I’m just getting old.

For the Utne Reader, Joe Sacco goes to New Jersey.

 

On Top of Blueberry Hill

I’m here in St. Louis at Washington University on a fine spring day.

Naturally any trip to the Gateway City must include beers with Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch. Duh.

But the big news was a fine trip I took with Kevin to go see an archive of work by Harry Tuthill, of Bungle Family fame. And here is the thing, as evidenced in this archive, between 1924 and 1930 Tuthill hand-painted every single one of his Sunday pages. I don’t mean color guides — I mean fully painted pages. One after the other. The only thing we can figure is that he simply liked to do it, as stats couldn’t have been shot from the painted pages. That would have caused too much line distortion. Plenty of cartoonists hand-colored their pages, but usually (or maybe only) to give as gifts. I can’t think of anyone who did it seemingly just for themselves, with no obvious purpose in sight. If anyone knows different, please let me know.

Have a look:

And a close-up:

An excellent panel:

Here’s another:

These pieces are just stunningly beautiful, and the attention Tuthill paid to fashion is remarkable. He had a loose, calligraphic line — unfussy but in complete control. And, it turns out, a helluva way with color. Anyhow, more on this later. And yes, there’ll be a book in it sometime.

Ah, ok, since you asked, here’s one more:

And don’t forget:

Meanwhile, just a couple of links today, as I’m on the run:

* Matt Seneca on Dash Shaw at Robot 6.

* Not comics, but highly relevant: Artist Richard Prince lost a lawsuit over an appropriated photograph — the judge ruled that essentially the resultant artwork was not transformative, and thus not “fair use”. Faire use is always a tricky thing, and these days, as so much artwork is based on the digital or photographic manipulation of extant imagery, it’s getting trickier. And before I hear a word about Lichtenstein and Warhol, those works were obviously a whole other kettle of fish: painted and/or screened,  significantly altered, and recontextualized in scale and production. The Prince case is a mildly manipulated photograph of a photograph. Anyhow, it’s interesting and the article at the link is a thorough investigation.

Finally, hot new content today:

Ryan Holmberg digs in deep and comes up with revelatory ideas and facts about late 1960s manga. Get in there and read.

 

Question Time

First of all, an announcement that may be of interest to those of you who live in the New York area, or who plan to visit the city during this year’s MoCCA Festival. The Journal will be participating in an all-day event at the famous Strand bookstore on April 8th:

STRANDICON presents a Celebration of The Comics Journal: A Conversation with Gary Groth, Kim Deitch, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel

April 8: 7:00PM – 8:00PM

The Comics Journal has been the leading voice in comics criticism for nearly four decades. It launched its first full-fledged website in March 2011, and in celebration its editors, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel, will lead a discussion on the history of the magazine and the medium of comics criticism with founding editor Gary Groth and longtime cartoonist and TCJ interviewee Kim Deitch.

The bookstore will feature artist appearances and signings by throughout the day. More information here.

***

And now on to random links. The weird thing about doing this every other day is that it tends to mean that a portion of the links are a little out of date, at least in internet time. (What’s that, you say? I should share links I find with Dan? I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.) But maybe that’s okay. These links may not be brand new, but they are tried and tested, each one worthy of clicking. Or at least that’s the hope. Anyway…

*In Bible scholarship news, according to Discovery, new evidence has come to light supporting the idea that the Old Testament may have been edited to remove traces of a female god. Interesting in light of some of the similar scholarship Robert Crumb relied upon while creating his version of Genesis. (via)

*Here’s a review I never expected to see: the often astonishing novelist William T. Vollmann writes about the Library of America’s recent Lynd Ward collection in the latest Bookforum. Unlike the typical literary type slumming in the cartoon world, he even manages to take the form seriously enough to think out loud about how it works: “Graphic novels sometimes require of us the willingness to see and remember without comprehending right away.”

*Luc Sante also wrote about the collection, in Harper’s. I let my subscription to that magazine lapse, so I can’t read it until I pick up a copy, but Sante’s always worth reading.

*It’s hard to believe that Chris Ware’s daughter is already old enough to be writing record reviews—if you haven’t clicked on the many links to Clara Ware’s take on Tiny Tim for Roctober (complete with illustration and afterword from her father), you really should. (via)

*Eddie Campbell’s one of the greatest talkers in comics — and just might be interviewer-proof. Matthias Wivel’s no slouch in his own right, and their resulting conversation is predictably solid.

*Journal columnist Sean T. Collins points us to an interview with Phoebe Gloeckner, which contains a lot of new information on just what she’s up to in Mexico over the last several years.

*I remember seeing this once. I thought it was a dream.

*Hans Rickheit would like your help.

*A short radio interview with New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren. (Thanks, LP.)

*Finally, another story that’s been going around, but that you might not have read yet. You have to, though. I won’t ruin it by telling you anything beforehand. Just make sure you get far enough to understand about the frogs. (Thanks, ER.)

 

The Day After

I will be on my way to St. Louis as your read this. I’m lecturing and doing critiques, etc., at my alma mater, Washington University, and also spending some time at The Modern Graphic History Library looking at Al Parker, Robert Weaver,  and other greats of 20th century illustration. Plus, Kevin Huizenga and I will be embarking on a secret historical mission deep in the county. Exciting!

But you don’t care about me. What you care about is that I remind you again (until we get our FAQ page online) about our spiffy new comments policy. We realize there is no right fit for everyone, but we’re reading your comments and discussing it all — we’d like to maintain what we have, with these rules in place, for a little while. If we need to make changes, we certainly will. Thank you all for  your interest.

And you also care about links. Glorious, highlighted links!

At the top of my list is Tom Spurgeon’s eloquent case for voting Bill Blackbeard into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Without Blackbeard, comic strip history as we know it would be greatly impoverished. He pioneered the collecting and archiving of newspaper strips by literally driving a truck around North America and grabbing newspapers before libraries threw them out. His holdings supplied the bulk of the material we all now write about (and as Spurgeon noted, his generosity was unparalleled). Plus, his Smithsonian Anthology remains a cornerstone not just of comic strip culture but of visual culture in general. So, this is one time when it really matters. Give the man his due.

Via Jeet comes this blog post about the discovery of a previously unknown George Herriman strip that may well be his very first.

Some historical treasures to imbibe courtesy of Ger Apeldoorn: Mort Meskin’s Vigilante and the always amazing Italian cartoonist Jaccovetti.

Sean T. Collins reports on a good ol’ fashioned DC vs. Marvel war of words.

Here’s a semi-revealing post on Comets Comets from the fake CF twitter guy, recounting his travails somewhat obliquely. Ironically, this matches nicely with a New Yorker article this week on a guy named Dan Bejar who imitated the musician Dan Bejar. Fake CF didn’t share CF’s name, but… well, fakery and imitations — always more enlightening for the imitator than the subject of the “experiment”.

And finally, TCJ contributors Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch present: Black Swan. Not comics, unless you count Darren Aranofsky’s love of the medium and his killer collection of Hernandez Bros. art.

 

New Rules

Well, our e-mailboxes are full, and the results are clear: No one is happy! It seems like for one reason or another, everybody is upset about the comments section these days. Some people want us to ban a few perennially controversial commenters, others want us to stop deleting their “entirely tame” comments, and still others want us to shut the whole thing down entirely, possibly to replace it with an edited letters column. That last option sounds potentially appealing, but if possible, we’d like to keep the comments around. Because when comments threads really work, they offer one of the few genuinely unique pleasures of the internet, a dynamic conversation that can’t be replicated with overly edited content. However, the threads haven’t really been working quite that well so far. Because of generally good experiences in the past, we’ve probably been a bit too lenient with our moderation here, and have erred on the side of inclusion even when it has allowed a few notable threads to descend into name-calling and blatant trolling. There is probably no way of avoiding annoying or useless comments altogether, but maybe putting a few policies into writing can help a bit with our signal-to-noise ratio.

So starting today, the following commenting rules are under effect:

1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.

2. Comments which are racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive will be deleted.

3. Comments which stray too far from the topic at hand (especially when of a promotional nature) have a very good chance of being deleted. If you want to share a link, send it to Dan or myself, and maybe we’ll post it. Otherwise, it better have something to do with the post or resulting discussion.

4. Comments designed to start or prolong unnecessary, unpleasant, and/or just plain ugly arguments (i.e., trolling) will be deleted.

5. Commenters who repeatedly post comments that are deemed abusive in one of these ways will be warned via e-mail. If they continue to post comments of an unwelcome nature, they will be given a week’s suspension. If a third warning is necessary, the commenter in question will be banned pending further review.

That’s it for now, though we reserve the right to add new rules if and when they become necessary. Remember, debate and discussion are welcome, but is important that these arguments stay civil. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or via e-mail.

 

Live from Little Torch Key

As evidenced in my last post, when you’re “in comics” there really is no escaping “comics.” In “the biz,” this is the phenomenon we call “Comics!” So who else resides on this tiny little island where I’m vacationing with my Rachel and her family? None other than Dean Mullaney, late of Eclipse Comics and now the man behind The Library of American Comics, who I met for lunch yesterday at Parrotdise, just down the road and around the corner. Anyhow, we’re hoping to expansively feature some of Dean’s upcoming books (his astounding Polly and Her Pals volume, complete with a killer essay by Jeet, was one of my top ten for 2010) in the very near future. Comics!

Speaking of which, as some of you know, Facebook is one my favorite places for off-the-cuff remarks by cartoonists young, old, and middle-aged. Facebook: It’s a hole you must fill. You type and it appears. Facebook! Like going to the comic book store and talking to the shop owner, but without ever having to get dressed, go the comic store, and spend money. Jeet (Him again?! Oh Jeet!) tipped me off that on Facebook Joe Matt has had some words about Chester Brown’s forthcoming book, Paying For It (hype alert: soon to to be the subject of major coverage here in May). Jolly Joe says:

In his latest book, my good friend Chester becomes a whore-monger…which is fine. My only problem (after reading an advance copy) was an inference that the only reason I don’t follow him down the same whoring path is because I’m too cheap…. An implication that is unequivocally UNTRUE!! Yes, I’m cheap (rephrase: careful with my money), but I’ve also dropped somewhere between $15,000-$17,000 on a near complete collection of Frank King’s fantastic comic strip, GASOLINE ALLEY, in the form of old newspaper clippings. (Sundays and dailies 1919-1951!) That being said, I’m also an extreme voyeur, lover of porn and compulsive masturbator. (Like I need to tell YOU!) I’m also (and I don’t consider this a contradiction) a totally monogamous, hopeless romantic. (Just ask the ladies! Either of them!) I’ve never even ENTERTAINED the idea of frequenting prostitutes! I don’t even want to meet or get near my favorite beloved porn stars!! No…just let me snuggle with my girlfriend, while reading Popeye and drinking an Americano, and I’m fine. ♥

Note that all of the people who commented on the post AND who have read the book (including the great Dylan Horrocks) disagree with Joe, which seems to have made him feel better.

Speaking of the oldest profession, comics, and Facebook, as you might know, the “great” Atlas/Seaboard properties are being brought back. Finally, more Wulf the Barbarian in stores. Phew. In honor of this ongoing occasion I bring you this choice quote from artist Alan Kupperberg, who worked in the Atlas/Seaboard office:

The publishers used to buy hookers for the distributors. One time, still at Marvel, Martin [Goodman] was down in Florida and Chip [Goodman] got ahold of Martin’s little black book. He called a couple of the girls and said he wanted some freebies or the old man wouldn’t employ them any more. The girls called Martin and finked out Chip. Who received a spanking when daddy returned home. A putz.

Like I said: Comics!

And now, a few links for your Friday:

National Lampoon has been on our minds again lately thanks for Rick Meyerowitz’s excellent tome Drunk Stone Dead, and now comes news that the current owner of the franchise has been arrested for a 200 million-dollar ponzi scheme. Comics! I believe over at Comics Comics we once listed books we’d love to see from Nat Lamp. Top o’ the list is Shary Flenniken. Well, Rick tells me that a Charles Rodrigues book may be in the offing from a publisher familiar to you and me. I would buy that. Twice!  Also at the top of my personal list: A Bobby London Dirty Duck book, a Jeff Jones Idyll book (seriously, people, put aside your preconceptions — that strip is rad), and a nice tidy collection of all the Russ Heath Lampoon work. (People: Remember Russ Heath. He’s in tough shape. Think about buying a book or commissioning a drawing.) Sigh. Being a publisher and a historian and a blogger is a deadly combo for you, dear reader, since I spend a lot of time just dreaming up books. Luckily our patrons here at FB will be doing Nuts by Gahan Wilson, so that’s good.

From Tim’s comments yesterday I am stealing this link to a new Alan Moore interview. Alan Moore: The man you want to sit next to at a bar and talk about life with AND the man you want to talk about Ogden Whitney with (sorry Frank, it’s true: at this stage I would rather talk to Alan Moore about Ogden Whitney. But you’re still my man for Harry Lucey, Pete Morisi, and Marshall Rogers. Don’t worry).

And that is all. I am now returning to my vacation. Please don’t bother me. Unless it’s you, Alan Moore, wanting to talk about Ogden Whitney.

 

The Man o’ Steel’s Hawaiian Vacation

First, a little cinematic/literary/comic-book mystery. Most of you will remember this scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2:

As everybody “knows,” this whole dialogue was stolen nearly beat for beat from Jules Feiffer’s comics-crit classic, The Great Comic Book Heroes. (I said so myself, back in one of the very first posts I ever wrote for Comics Comics — kinda embarrassing to re-read for multiple reasons, lo so many years later.)

Or so it always seemed. Now things aren’t so clear. As old CC readers will remember (and as one light-hearted fan will be particularly delighted to recall), I’ve been reading a lot of Pynchon lately. This binge didn’t end with Gravity’s Rainbow, but has now continued into Slow Learner and Vineland. (After 1200+ pages, I’m ready to take a break, so don’t worry about me sharing whatever comic-book references may be found in Mason & Dixon until at least 2012.) Though there are certain very broad similarities in the way they both re-use tropes taken from popular and pulp genres, Quentin Tarantino’s never struck me as the Pynchon type (he seems more like a Leslie Charteris man). However, the resonance between certain sections of Vineland and Kill Bill is startling. Namely, there’s Vineland‘s blonde female ninja assassin DL Chastain, who can end a man’s life by using an esoteric technique called the Vibrating Palm, or Ninja Death Touch—the victim doesn’t feel it, “but a year later they drop dead, right when you happen to be miles away eating ribs with the Chief of Police.” I’m not the first to notice these similarities, but one particular superhero-related congruence seems to have gone unremarked. You see, after this very Blood-spattered Bride-like figure is sent on a mission to kill a man who wronged her (and many others) years ago, she decides (à la Uma) that she’d rather just drop out of the whole assassin biz and start a new, less glamorous life. As she does so, she remembers an old, and eerily familiar, conversation:

“Superman could change back into Clark Kent,” she had once confided to Frenesi, “don’t underestimate it. Workin’ at the Daily Planet was the Man o’ Steel’s Hawaiian vacation, his Saturday night in town, his marijuana and his opium smoke, and oh what I wouldn’t give….” An evening newspaper … anyplace back in the Midwest … she would leave work around press time, make a beeline for some walk-down lounge, near enough to the paper that she could feel vibrations from the presses through the wood of the bar. Drink rye, wipe her glasses on her tie, leave her hat on indoors, gossip in the dim light with the other regulars. In the winter it would already be dark outside the windows. The polished shoes would pick up highlights as the street lamps got brighter … she wouldn’t be waiting for anybody or anything to happen, because she’d only be Clark Kent. Lois Lane might not give her the time of day anymore, but that’d be OK, she’d be dating somebody from the secretarial pool. They’d go out for dinner sometimes to this cozy Neapolitan joint down by some lakefront, where the Mussels Posillipo couldn’t be beat. “So instead of being able to fly everyplace,” her friend had replied, “you’d have to climb into some car you’re still making payments on, drive on out, you, Clark Kent, to the scene of some disaster, blood, corpses, flies, teen technicians wandering around stoned, eyewitnesses in shock…. Superman never has to get involved with any of that. Why should anybody want to be only mortal? Better to stay an angel, angel.” DL, more generous in those days, only thought her friend had missed the point.

So it’s tough to figure out, right? Did Tarantino steal the dialogue from Feiffer, or Pynchon, or both? Or is it all just a set of crazy coincidences? I mean, David Carradine’s original monologue is very close to Feiffer’s, but connecting the Clark Kent/Superman idea directly to a blonde female ninja assassin seems so, um, unintuitive that it’s remarkable that both Pynchon and Tarantino did it. My current theory is that Tarantino must have read this part of Vineland, then remembered the somewhat different Feiffer/Superman riff, and combined them together, but — that’s kind of complicated and implausible, and alternate suggestions are welcome. Figuring this out would be a good use of your time.

On to Comics Journal news:

Yesterday, Dan reviewed David Collier’s Chimo, and Rob Clough introduced the latest incarnation of his “High-Low” column by looking at two recent releases from Revival House Press.

Today, animator Richard O’Connor turns in a review of the new Bill Plympton book, Independently Animated.

Also, don’t miss designer Eric Skillman’s behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming issue 301, which will be out very soon.

Elsewhere:

Thomas Pynchon isn’t the only novelist who takes inspiration from the comics. Ishmael Reed, author of the essential Mumbo Jumbo, has a new book coming out next month, which sounds interesting. As he puts it in a recent profile: “Since I don’t like the modernist novel in which the omniscient narrator smothers his characters to death with psychoanalysis, they called my characters cartoonish. So I made this new character of mine a cartoonist. I’ve always been in a dialogue with my critics.”

So, as is probably obvious to many of you, we aren’t above a little light theft ourselves, an kind of stole the idea of “A Cartoonist’s Diary” from a recurring feature on The Paris Review‘s website. Now they have cruelly snatched the idea back, and this week, they are featuring New Yorker cartoonist Zachary Kanin. (Day two is here.)

And finally, another video: