Okay with Me

Greg Hunter's here today with a review of Suzette Smith's elliptically told minicomic, Ce/Ze.

Suzette Smith’s Ce/Ze, an entry in the Sparkplug Books Minis Series, follows two adolescent girls with a possible psychic link, both convinced they knew one another in a past life and both troubled by flashes of a fateful car crash. The comic’s cover features the girls, Amelia and Honey, on its back and the girls’ earlier incarnations as “Ce” and “Ze” on its front, with the spheres that contain each pair overlapping along the comic’s spine. This quality, or experience, of doubling extends to the reading of Ce/Ze. The book’s most satisfying and most vexing aspects can be explained in similar terms, though the measure of the best parts is likely to stay with readers longer.

Ce/Ze is the type of work that prompts questions about how elliptical a story should get, and what amount of meaning a storyteller can expect her readers to create. Smith’s comic takes a number of leaps and includes a few gaps as it depicts Amelia and Honey’s pursuit of understanding. Near the beginning of the story, Amelia speculates that they might be aliens, but when a later page hints that fairies might have a part in the girls’ backstory, the reader may wonder if he or she has missed a step. The upside of this is the comic’s ability to surprise readers from beginning to end; it’s unpredictable and associative at all times.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Ursula Lindsey reviews Riad Sattouf's popular memoir, The Arab of the Future, focusing on the political controversies surrounding it.

Asking Sattouf to provide the French public with a corrective vision of Arab culture seems an unfair burden to place on the author of one memoir in comic-book form. This sort of tiresome debate surrounds almost any work with Arab roots that is successful in the West: The very fact that a book or film gains an audience makes it suspect. For example, the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s novel The Meursault Investigation, which brilliantly plunders, interrogates, and expands upon Camus’s The Stranger, has been faulted by some for its debts to a colonialist literary legacy. It’s a double bind: Arab authors are burdened with the responsibility of representing entire countries, cultures, and religions, then criticized for not representing them “correctly.”

Paul Mirek reviews Carlos Gonzalez's Test Tube.

...we’re aware from the first page that this isn’t a world that plays by the usual rules. Strange shapes and magazine clippings occupy the universe, seemingly unnoticed by its inhabitants. The effect is somewhat similar to Steve Ditko’s psychedelic interpretation of Dormammu’s Dark Dimension in early episodes of Doctor Strange – one of the many artistic icons brought to mind by Gonzalez’s style and content. In addition to echoes of other ’60s wunderkinds, Test Tube shares DNA with more modern talents such as Gary Panter and Dash Shaw.

—Interviews & Profiles. Carol Tyler appears on the Virtual Memories podcast, talking about Soldier's Heart.

I couldn’t solve my dad’s problems. I couldn’t solve him.

Tom Hart appears on the Comics for Grownups podcast, talking about Rosalie Lightning.

Gilbert Hernandez answers ten questions from the Comics Tavern.

My mom doesn’t look at my stuff but she’s happy that I’ve done something with my life. My stuff is too harsh sometimes for most people. Ok with me.

—News. Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani has been acquitted of "illegitimate relations" for shaking hands with her lawyer, though she still remains imprisoned for her drawings of politicians. The CBLDF has more.

Plans for a Maurice Sendak museum continue to his snags.

The Sendak Foundation,which gives grants to artists and numerous other causes, is now defending itself in probate court in an action brought by the Rosenbach, which contends that some of Mr. Sendak’s rare books promised in his will to the library — by William Blake and Beatrix Potter, editions worth millions of dollars — are being withheld. The foundation has also faced questions from some who worry that Mr. Sendak’s longtime home, which has been preserved almost exactly as he left it, may be too remote to serve as the site where his legacy is honored. “I really don’t know who’s going to go there,” Judy Taylor Hough, Mr. Sendak’s longtime British editor, said in 2014. “It’s in the middle of nowhere.”


High Pitch Arrest

Today of course Joe McCulloch brings us a snow-free comics week.

Here's a look inside Julia Wertz's fun-looking apartment. 

Here's a look, via the artist's Twitter, at CF's installation in "Providence" at MIAM in France.

Good lord, it's Rory Hayes' final sketchbook, featuring Pac-Man. 



Paul Tumey returns this morning with an article meaty enough to occupy even our most snowbound readers, about Sunday Press's long-awaited collection of the complete run of Garrett Price's legendary White Boy.

White Boy in Skull Valley, a large, handsome volume published by Sunday Press in December 2015, collects the complete series for the first time. It is now possible to absorb the full span of the White Boy trilogy, and to understand both the brilliance and shortcomings of this extraordinary, exquisitely crafted comic strip.

White Boy in Skull Valley presents the comics in their original sizes and colors. This is a critically important feature. Like any good comic strip artist, Price designed his pages to be seen at a particular size. An accomplished painter, Price also put a great deal of inspiration and craft into designing his strip’s colors. To reprint his strip, as is often done, in a smaller size, and/or re-colored, would be to greatly reduce the artistic and historic value of the reprint project. Savoring these lovely pages in their original sizes is a world of difference. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Dylan Horrocks is selling original art. If you're a fan, you should jump on that.


We All Tried

Today on the site we're happy to feature an interview with Emily Flake, New Yorker cartoonist and author of Mama Tried and Lulu Eightball, by Richard Gehr.

GEHR: Do you get many editorial notes from The New Yorker?

FLAKE: I get notes every once in awhile. I am often told to make my people less fat.

GEHR: Interesting. I wonder if, say, Zach Kanin gets those.

FLAKE: I wonder if he does too! I think the justification there is whether or not the drawing is about a fat person. You might also ask whether or not a certain cartoon is about the people in it being non-white. I think sometimes a person in a cartoon can just be fat, or a woman, or black, or whatever! That might speak a little to the pandering question. Simply assuming that the cartoon norm is a thin, affluent white person is a structure that I think deserves to be questioned and altered when and where it can be.

GEHR: Which leads to the question of whether or not we’re living in hypersensitive times, too.

FLAKE: In some ways, yeah. But in other ways I feel like we have to be a little hypersensitive. I do a lot of eye rolling at things. But forty years ago I might have been eye rolling at things that have directly benefited me as a woman. 

GEHR: Such as?

FLAKE: Like the whole feminist movement of the sixties and seventies. So I feel like I have to watch myself if I’m looking at kids on campus agitating for something. Because my knee-jerk reaction is like, “Oh, you fucking babies! Get it together!” You know? But as someone who has directly benefited from cultural agitation, it’s a little more my duty to be like, alright, what are they upset about? I don’t like reactions that limit speech. I find trigger warnings and the like infantilizing, and I think they have a chilling effect on speech and expression, etcetera. There should always be room for people to vigorously disagree. But I am totally OK with buildings not being named after Woodrow Wilson anymore.

And Annie Mok reviews Carol Tyler's Soldier's Heart.

Carol Tyler’s Soldier’s Heart collects her trilogy You’ll Never Know, which tells the story of how her father’s PTSD from serving in WWII reverberated throughout three generations. The narrative jumps between “Dad’s Army Scrapbook and Tour of Duty Highlights” and Carol’s account of the time spent making the books. During the 8-year stretch, she worked as a substitute teacher, was a semi-single mother, and slept on a mat on the floor. She mentioned in a 2012 Comics Reporter interview that she got by during this time with food stamps. (The harsh economics of cartooning makes me wonder whose stories we’re losing to time and resources, especially as deep racial and gender biases remain intact within comics institutions, as the recent Angoulême Grand Prix news illustrates. By the way: fuck the Angoulême Grand Prix.)


-Bart Beaty ponders the relative importance of Angouleme itself.

-A reminder that the great Kevin Huizenga's Ganges 6 is available for pre-order, and of course there's more Kevin H available if you follow the link.



Frank Santoro is back this week with a column about Pittsburgh real estate and crowdfunding.

The rite of passage which is moving to a big city and "slumming it" is something we all have heard of or experienced. I did it. I moved to the big city thinking I'd never go back home to Pittsburgh. I never understood why the locals in the Tenderloin of SF or in NYC's Little Italy talked to me the way they talked to me. I was too dumb and young and naive to understand that I was just passing through and they knew it. That rite of passage was important to me because I realized that I didn't belong there. Trouble was, I didn't really belong here at home either. I'd moved away and so no one knew my face and I was treated like locals here treat the transient university population: we ignore them. It wasn't until people on my street saw me with my Mom that they put it together who I was and that I was back. It might sound corny, but it's like my Godfather said, "I had to go travel around for awhile to realize that where I liked it best was right here. But I didn't know it 'til I didn't have it."

And we also have the seventh episode of Greg Hunter's Comic Book Decalogue podcast. This time, he talks to Inés Estrada talks about Amanda Vähämäki, Crumb, and Bryan Lee O'Malley, and then gives a short preview of 2016 in comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

The three finalists for the controversial Angoulême Grand Prix have been announced: Alan Moore, Hermann, and Claire Wendling. As Bart Beaty notes, both Moore and Hermann have previously said they will decline the award if they happen to win.


East West

Hi there, today Ryan Holmberg brings us thoughts on the early history of artist interviews in manga, and the first translation of a complete 1969 Garo interview between great Sasaki Maki and Seiichi Hayashi.

The Goal and Purpose of Manga

Sasaki: I had previously published “A Familiar Topic” (“Yoku aru Hanashi,” Garo, November 1966) and “An Unknown Star” (“Mishiranu hoshi,” Garo, February 1967), but I feel with “A Dream in Heaven” (“Tengoku de miru yume,” Garo, November 1967) that I reemerged reborn. That’s why I think of “A Dream in Heaven” as my first work.

Hayashi: I’ve made a living in animation, when all of sudden I wanted to start making manga. Maybe it’s that I wanted to say whatever it was that I had wanted to say. I wasn’t really thinking of what the goal or purpose of manga was. I don’t think that’s changed even now.

Sasaki: When manga is used for satire, manga is being used as a means. Manga isn’t the goal. It’s the means by which to create a tangible effect. Thus, after a certain amount of time has passed, that purpose comes to an end. I respect that kind of manga. At the same time, I also respect manga that is part of the wider field of using images (eizō). Right now, I’ve ended up putting more emphasis on the latter.

Hayashi: In my case, if you ask me why I make manga, it’s simply because there was something I wanted to draw so I drew it. If you force me to explain it, I think I’d say that drawing manga is a kind of “violence.” Giving “birth” to something is violent, right? If you asked me why I gave birth to something, I’m not sure I could answer that.

I'm looking forward to reading more about this smart-sounding exhibition of African American art, comics, illustration, and other printed material. The variety of mediums and genres and the intense amount of historical works are both really intriguing.

The British cartoonist and illustrator who went by the name Andy Dog has passed away, according to Paul Gravett on Facebook.

Forbes looks at the entertainment properties created by Jack Kirby, and gets into the Marvel settlement.

The great Peter Bagge has started a new comic strip over at Vice.


Married to Comics

Joe McCulloch is here this morning with the Week in Comics, his indispensable guide to the most interesting-sounding comics in stores. Spotlight picks this week include new titles by Chris Oliveros and Tommi Musturi.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:
Kayla E at Nat. Brut asked ten female and non-binary creators, including Carol Tyler, mickey z, Edie Fake, and Lauren Weinstein, to comment on the recent Angoulême Grand Prix controversy.

I created an iconic self portrait in the style of Queen Elizabeth I. It was an oil painting made with the most expensive and luscious pigments on Earth. In the royal balloon above the Queen’s (my) head, it says, “I am married to comics.” Elizabeth I once said that she was “married to England” as a way of creating the identity of Great Britain, which reminded me of my full commitment to the form, like nuns who become Brides of Christ. This painting, with all its symbolism, became my manifesto.

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown at Paste talks to Tom Hart about Rosalie Lightning, his memoir about the death of his daughter.

I wrote notes incessantly for five weeks after [Rosalie died]. I knew I would have to create a book, to help these emotions find form. I stopped taking notes when they began being repetitive, but also after the final incident detailed in the book. I felt, I had been presented with all the material to heal with. Then I had to go through the work of internalizing that healing. Drawing it took roughly three and a half years. I felt I was experiencing the aftermath again. It was hard, but it was my new reality. I couldn’t deny that reality. The work of drawing it was turning my face to it to acknowledge it.

Sam Thielman at The Guardian talks to Jim Woodring about his new book, Frank in the 3rd Dimension (which is pretty stunningly effective).

There’s just a lot of stuff I’ve decided not to do because either I don’t understand it or I can’t handle it. I don’t have much to do with sex in my work because it seems to me that sex takes everything out of the realm of thought and into the realm of passion and that’s not what I’m trying to depict. And I try to avoid things that are seriously disturbing.

I wrote that passage after I did a realistic charcoal drawing of my father standing at a workbench wearing a blood-spattered apron smashing up babies with a single-jack sledgehammer. I just did it to see if I could do it, and when it was done I showed it to my girlfriend at the time who was generally supportive of me, but when she saw that she just said, basically, “You’ve brought something of such unspeakable ugliness into the world, and I don’t know how you can justify it.” [...] what she said resonated with me and I didn’t want to be the author of something that would make people feel so bad.

—Craft. Comics writer Kieron Gillen created a master post containing all of his advice on scripting comics.

Charlie Hebdo. Last week began another Charlie Hebdo controversy, this time over a cartoon that many interpreted as racist and anti-immigrant. Tom Spurgeon gathered up some of the original commentary and provided his own. Apparently, the version of the cartoon that was spread on Twitter and social media was missing a headline and partner images that changed the context of the cartoon, though most likely this won't convince everyone. One of the most interesting responses I've seen came from the French media critic Dan Schneidermann, who wrote an open letter to Riss, the cartoonist behind the image, making the point that whatever Riss and Charlie Hebdo's point may have been, in the current situation, with Charlie's heightened profile, and the way its cartoons are now shared and read online, the magazine should adjust their approach if they don't wish to be misunderstood.



Today on the site, Mike Dawson and Alex Robinson talk Jim Starlin's Warlock.

And Aidan Koch finishes up her week with us. Thanks to Aidan!


Bill Griffith has been posting photographs related to his book, Invisible Ink, over on his Facebook page. It's really worth a look -- the story deepens -- and if you haven't read the book, the photos themselves are good enough to merit some attention.

Eleanor Davis gets a nice profile in Columbus. 

And either it's new or I never noticed it before, but Tom DeHaven has posted notes on the final novel of his great fictional "Dugan" trilogy about a comic strip/book character.