Party People

Hi there,

Today Bob Levin joins us for a look at the Texas history comics of seminal underground cartoonist Jack Jackson. This is about as much as you're likely to read about Jack Jackson anytime soon, so read on!

Jack Jackson, aka “Jaxon, was a first-generation underground cartoonist. (In fact, with “God Nose,” which he self-published in 1964, he may have been the first UG cartoonist.) He was a fifth-generation Texan, born May 15, 1941, in Pandora (est. pop. 125). He died from a self-inflicted gunshot, on June 8, 2006, atop his parents’ grave in Stockdale (est. pop. 1519). He had diabetes, prostate cancer, and a neural disease which had left his hands too shaky to draw.

In 1966 Jaxon had come to San Francisco. He spent two years overseeing the posters for  rock concerts promoted by the ex-Texan Chelt Helms, and then founded, with two other Lone Star ex-pats, the UG publisher Rip Off Press. After returning to his home state in the early ‘70s, Jackson began a chronicling of its past in comic form that would win him acclaim as a Lifetime Fellow of the Texas Historical Society and member of the Texas Institute of Letters. Posthumously, he was inducted into the comic industry’s Hall of Fame.

In 2012 Fantagraphics published in one volume “Los Tejanos/The Lost Cause,” two of Jaxon’s previously published graphic histories. Recently, with the presence of those Texans wrestling in the mud of the Republican presidential nomination process in my thoughts – and not unmindful of what what other Texans had done for the nation in the last 50 years — I read it.

And Aidan Koch is beginning a week-long Cartoonist's Diary with us. Today finds her in Key West.


The Angouleme debacle has simmered down a bit, but The Guardian has a well-sourced article by Laurenn McCubbin on the history of the history of women in comics.

Here's a new interview with Seth, which delves into his own feelings on cons and the youngs.

Just Indie Comics has a nice list up of good 2015 comics, most of which I even agree with.


Tap Tap Tap

Today on the site, Luke Geddes reviews the first collection of Tom Neely and Keenan Michael Keller's The Humans.

Keller mines a similar pop cultural detritus as contemporaries like Ben Marra and Johnny Ryan, whose comics revel in seemingly dumb, confrontationally unironic set pieces of hyper-violence and vulgarity. (One member of The Humans is even named after Marra, and both Marra and Ryan provide pinups in the book’s supplementary pages.) However, this is not to undermine Keller’s craft. His approach to this milieu is tonally intricate. Narratively Johnny’s post-war trauma is played with a straight face, the depiction of Vietnam-era societal turbulence as harrowing as the kind of thing you’d find in an old issue of Inner City Romance, but it’s all painted with the same gleeful, candy-colored exhibitionism the book applies to biker movies clichés. Sure, the Viet Cong are portrayed as snub-nosed monkeys and the American troops as chimps, but a spiritual successor to Maus this is not.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. As Dan mentioned in an update to the blog yesterday, in response to the growing boycott of the Grand Prix, the Angoulême festival has decided to withdraw its list of nominees and leave the Grand Prix award to be freely chosen by festival attendees. Brigid Alverson has a good explanation and the relevant links.

Bart Beaty wrote about all of this for his new group blog, The Greatest Comic Book of All Time, and goes into some of the history of how the award nominees have historically been chosen.

The Grand Prix at FIBD is generally considered the most prestigious prize in all of comics. It is a lifetime achievement award. The Grand Prix winner is announced in a place of honor (this has varied over time – some years it was announced at midnight on the Saturday from the balcony at town hall, more recently it has become the final prize awarded during the closing ceremonies on Sunday) and the recipient becomes the honorary President of the FIBD the following year, with an exhibition consecrated to his or her work. The President also chairs the prize jury.

Note that I said “his or her” work is exhibited. This is technically true, but only barely. The prize has been awarded forty-two times since Angoulême began in the 1970s, and it has gone to forty-two men (Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian shared the award in 2008) and one woman (Florence Cestac).

Cartoonist Liza Donnelly weighed in about the controversy for the Washington Post.

It takes effort to find good work that is being created, and it is not always the obvious artists who are doing the best work, but are instead the names already on everyone’s lips. Then we, as a society, repeat the same biases, over and over again. It’s time to interrupt that trend.

John Porcellino, the indispensable creator of King-Cat Comics and Spit and a Half distribution, has launched a Patreon.

—Reviews & Commentary. Longtime Comics Journal contributor Chris Mautner has launched a column at The Smart Set, and his debut review is of Dark Knight III: The Master Race.

Despite his recent perceived failures, the possibility of another Dark Knight sequel had many Batman and [Frank] Miller fans buzzing. That initial excitement was muted considerably when it turned out that Miller would be collaborating with writer Brian Azzarello — who, apart from the crime series 100 Bullets, is perhaps best known for helping pen the completely unnecessary and utterly dispiriting Before Watchmen prologue — and artist Andy Kubert. Further interviews revealed that Miller’s contributions would be minimal at best.

The resulting comic is depressingly average and dull.

Charlie Hebdo One Year Later. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the mass-murder of eight Charlie Hebdo staff members in Paris.

Literary Hub has published Adam Gopnik's foreword to Charlie editor Stéphane Charbonnier's posthumous Open Letter.

The crucial distinction we must defend is that between acts of imagination and acts of violence. The imagination sees and draws and describes many things—pornographic, erotic, satiric, and blasphemous—that are uncomfortable or ugly. But they are not actually happening. The imagination is a place where hypotheses and conditionals rule, and where part of the fun, and most of the point, lies in saying the unsayable in order to test the truths of what’s most often said. An assault on an ideology is not merely different from a threat made to a person; it is the opposite of a threat made to a person. The whole end of liberal civilization is to substitute the criticism of ideas for assaults on people.

Kenan Malick has also written a long essay on the anniversary.

The charge of ‘hate speech’ or of ‘punching down’ or in Garry Trudeau’s words, of ‘attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority’, has constantly been used as a way of silencing artists whose work challenges what some regard as unviolable ideas or beliefs. Critics of Salman Rushdie branded The Satanic Verses as ‘hate speech’. So did Sikh critics of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti. As did many Jewish critics of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children. (Trudeau himself was accused of anti-Semitism and of ‘maligning Judaism’ by the Anti-Defamation League for one of his Doonesbury cartoons, which makes his condemnation of Charlie Hebdo both ironic and troubling).

The cover of the anniversary issue of Charlie Hebdo depicts a blood-stained picture of God with a Kalashnikov on His back, captioned “One year on: The murderer is still out there.” And the Vatican newspaper has decried it as unfair and prejudiced against religion.

—Misc. Finally, this is the first and probably last time I most a gif that's going around, but this seemed like one almost everyone in comics will be able to appreciate:


Me and I

Hi there,

Frank's back with a good think piece about Herriman and history, with a grumpy cameo by yours truly.

Many links today. At the top of it all is the ongoing controversy around the Angouleme Festival's all-male Grand Prix nomination list. Bart Beaty has a good summation and following Jessica Abel's feeds on Twitter and Facebook is a good way to get updates. Not much for me to say in the way of commentary other than being glad that so many cartoonists have boycotted the prize. It looks like the festival will add female names to the list now, but somewhat grudgingly. It's a bit too little too late.

UPDATE: Now there's no nomination list at all.  Paul Gravett writes:

It's a brand new day! Angoulême has made the best possible decision for its Grand Prix. No list, no nominees, an open vote for the French profession to choose whoever they want. They did this twice before and the results were Goossens and then Crumb, both great choices. It will be exciting to see who emerges this year.

Tom Hart speaks to New York Magazine about Rosalie Lightning.

Charlie Hebdo marked a year since the attacks and the NY Times reports.

That Kirby essay I gave love to on Tuesday is now online.  I've seen some responses around Facebook and from Kirby "biographer" Mark Evanier, which are mostly of the "wait, what about me?" variety. Evanier's quibbles, with one exception, come down to a matter of interpretation (it's possible that the artist was influenced by his own 3-D work, just as it's possible he didn't anticipate the extent of his immortality -- no one really knows). I have sometimes found Evanier to be a useful resource over the years and he's undoubtedly been a champion of the work itself, but ironically he seems to have no real insight into Kirby's work, only anecdotes and oddly firm opinions about what Kirby would and wouldn't think (which should be an alarm bell for any reader of a biography). I also found it grimly humorous that Evanier ends his cutesy commentary with a "I welcome other voices" type thing, since he refuses access to Kirby's papers (which should really be in a proper archive) to every researcher I've ever spoken to (myself included) in the name of writing, Joe Gould-style, a prose biography. His one and only book on Kirby was a rehash of blurbs in nice large type that featured a centerfold by Alex Ross and that champion of good cartooning Neil Gaiman. Huh.

The NYPL has made a huge amount of images available online for all. 

Finally, here's a comics-adjacent interview with Carroll Dunham.


Quelles meufs?

Rob Clough is here with his thoughts on Raina Telgemeier's blockbuster Sisters (and her earlier career).

[Smile], an autobiographical account of Telgemeier's painful and complicated history of dental problems along with other personal anecdotes, touched a nerve with a number of younger readers, and especially girls. Telgemeier's understanding that the more specific one gets in telling one's story, the more relatable it becomes gave the work an authenticity that struck a chord. When one throws in a smooth, pleasant drawing style that's equal parts Bill Watterson, Keiji Nakazawa, Bill Amend, and Lynn Johnston, you've got an artist who knows how to appeal to a wide audience without specifically adhering to a particular visual aesthetic. That said, if this was another era, Telgemeier would have no doubt been a successful syndicated cartoonist.

Instead, in this era, she merely has six of the top ten books on the New York Times' Paperback Graphic Books list.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The biggest news of the week so far came shortly after the announcement of the nominees for the Angoulême Grand Prix, perhaps the most prestigious award in comics. All thirty of those named were men. In response, the Collectif des créatrices de bande dessinée contre le sexisme has called for an official boycott. (Jessica Abel has translated their announcement into English.)

At the time of this writing, three of the Grand Prix nominees—Daniel Clowes, Riad Sattouf, and Joann Sfar—have asked to be withdrawn from award consideration, in support of the boycott. [UPDATE: Milo Manara, Etienne Davodeau, Charles Burns, Christophe Blain, Pierre Christin, Chris Ware, and Brian Michael Bendis have also withdrawn their names from consideration.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: Angoulême has made an announcement agreeing to add women to the list of nominees, but their statement is remarkably tone-deaf and unlikely to soothe anger, to say the least.]

In happier and unrelated news, the cartoonist and TCJ columnist Julia Gfrörer's Twitter suspension, reported here on Monday, was lifted later that day.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Heidi MacDonald talks to Jason Shiga about Demon, possibly the most out-of-character First Second project yet.

I penciled all 750 pages of it before inking the first panel. I know this sounds completely overboard but once you read “Demon” you’ll understand why. There’s no other way it could have been constructed! It’s basically a 3 player chess match that pivots into a series of 7 concentric escape puzzles, briefly turns into a meditation on existence before pivoting back to the chess match which itself is contained in 2 more layers of puzzles.

Alex Dueben talks to Richard Sala about his new Violenzia collection.

The direct inspiration was a 1968 Gil Kane comic called "His Name Is Savage," which was ridiculously violent for its day. In fact my original title was "Her Name Is Violence." But I was also thinking a lot about Golden Age comics like, say, Plastic Man, as well as the many lesser, more primitive ones. I like that energy. It's the same kind of delirious energy you find in the original Spider pulps, or Republic serials, or even Westerns, where whatever plot there is just acts as a bridge between outbursts of sudden violence, but violence that is stylized and choreographed and a million miles from any actual horrific real life violence.

NPR talked to New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik about the posthumous manifesto of slain Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier.

I don't think there's any question journalists have become targets, but then I think that - that anyone who tries to practice liberty becomes a target of fanatics. And it's not Islamic fanatics alone, though it certainly includes Islamic fanatics. We've had mass shootings in the United States in the part of violent antiabortion protesters, in the part of violent pro-ISIS militants. The trick and the trap and the horror is not faith, Scott. I think the trap and the horror is fanaticism. And fanaticism comes in as many flavors as there are human beings. And I think the worst thing we can do is to concede to fanaticism its devotion, say, 'Well, you have to understand, these people are really fanatics, so we should back down from them.' I think if journalists start doing that then they won't be practicing journalism. If satirists start doing that then they won't be practicing satire.

For Bitch Media, Amy Lam speaks to Sparkplug artist Ebin Lee.

In dealing with this tension and weirdness and I decided, "Fuck it, I'm just going to do it because it's never going to go away. Why not? This is what I'm dealing with. This is what I feel more passionately about." I think a lot of white people think people of color just cop out with race art because it's "easy" and people are going to feel bad. That is racism right there. They don't understand how much of a day-to-day experience it is. It's not like, from 3-5pm, all people of color and Black people experience racism. It's from morning till night, it's every single thing. You can develop entire pathologies of the mind that don't go away due to this. I don't understand why it's a "cop-out," it's actually really hard.

The most recent guest on Gil Roth's Virtual Memories podcast is Keith Knight.

The comics industry needs to catch up to its audience, because the creative side is not as diverse as their readers.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Zunar wrote an editorial about political censorship in Malaysia for the Washington Post.

I’m a cartoonist in a country where cartooning can be a crime. Under my pen name, Zunar, I expose corruption and abuses of power by the Malaysian government. As it happens, I have a good deal of material to work with. For instance, Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently facing questions about a $700 million “donation” made to his personal bank account.

Last February, police raided my home in the middle of the night and hauled me off to jail. I was handcuffed for eight hours and thrown into a cell with all the other criminal suspects. I managed to avoid telling my cellmates what I was in for: using Twitter.


Ear to the Street

Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch kicks of 2016 as anyone should: With comics!

The Guardian has a good new summation of the way in which Charlie Hebdo has been misrepresented.

Here's an overview of Tunisian comics. 

Via Robert Boyd, here's an excellent and early article on comics as a medium from the great literary critic Leslie Fielder.

Jonathan Chandler on Inkstuds.

Art in America's new issue is comics-themed, with a piece by our own Ryan Holmberg and, I gotta say, having read it in draft form, the best formal analysis, in terms of contemporary and modern art, of Jack Kirby I've ever read, by the great Alexi Worth. In fact I'd say it's the first serious analysis of Kirby-the-artist that I've read. No surprise that strong writing on Kirby would come from outside of comics. I could say more, but in 2016 I'm trying to figure out (well, Tim and I both) the balance between just ignoring things rather than commenting and burning bridges (people are awfully sensitive) and just saying whatever is on my mind. Still can't decide which way to go.


Golden Years

Welcome to 2016 at Before we get to all-new comics news all the time, we've got a few pieces lined up on the year past. Today, columnist Paul Tumey offers his personal favorites from 2015.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The cartoonist and columnist Julia Gfrörer has had her account on Twitter (@thorazos) suspended, for extremely dubious and infuriating reasons. Meghan Turbitt posted a brief IM conversation including Julia's explanation. If you want to help, contact Twitter support and ask that her account be reinstated.

The Library of Congress has named Gene Luen Yang as the new national ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

This literary ambassador program was created in 2008 “to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to literacy, education and the betterment of the lives of young people,” according to its organizing bodies. With that in mind, Yang tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “One of the things I’m supposed to do as ambassador is promote great books, and because I’m from the world of graphic novels … I have to give them a little bit of an extra push.”

—Reviews & Commentary. At Comics Alliance, Jennifer de Guzman writes about harassment issues in comics.

Harassment and assault have long been a specter in the comics industry. Reports of groping, inappropriate emails, aggressive drunks, sexual propositions, unsolicited pornographic text messages, meetings held in strip clubs, and abuses by management are shared by word of mouth or in private forums and groups. Sometimes dependent on hearsay and short on specifics, anecdotal warnings are still very much necessary to help newcomers and veterans alike navigate an industry in which personal and professional lines often blur, and networking often takes place in hotel bars at the end of convention days.

Occasional TCJ contributor Brian Nicholson writes about his favorite comics of the year. Sarah Horrocks, who wrote for us last year (and I hope we can convince to do so again) posted her list of favorite comics too.

The Comics Studies Society has published its first newsletter.

Shawn Starr reviews comics by Maggie Umber, Aidan Koch, and Lala Albert.

For The Guardian, Noah Berlatsky writes about the recent controversy over Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's revival of Wonder Woman, defending the bondage scenes in it as faithful to the original comics created by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter.

Wonder Woman was Marston’s vision of a perfect love leader. Her magic lasso – originally a lasso of command, not of truth – was, in his own words, “a symbol of female charm, allure, oomph attraction” and of the power that “every woman has …over people of both sexes.” In fact, the bondage games in Wonder Woman, a comic for children published in the 1940s, are in many ways more explicit, and more startling, than those in Morrison and Paquette’s 2016 reboot for grownups. In one sequence from the original comics, Wonder Woman’s Amazon sisters on Paradise Island engage in a game where some dress as deer, and the others pretend to hunt them, tie them up by their feet and then eat them. In another memorable bit, Wonder Woman is trapped in a gimp mask and breaks free while providing some historical info about bondage. “The French girls who wore this contraption must have had weak teeth,” she muses.

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Lee Marrs, one of the founding members of the Wimmen's Comix collective.

When I was in college, Herblock [Herbert Lawrence Block] -- who was the Washington Post cartoonist, a famous guy then -- had already seen my work. I went to college at American University in Washington, DC. He had said to the editor of the school newspaper, have this guy see me when he graduates.

Having Lee as a first name became useful. [Laughs] So I went to see him, and he was very shocked that I was a girl. We had lunch and he looked over my stuff. He said, what you should do is go back to your hometown and get work on the paper and then do cartoons on the side until they see how good the cartoons are. That's the way most people do it. I said, well, my hometown is Montgomery, Alabama. Herb was shocked and said, don't go back to your hometown! [Laughs]

For HiLobrow, Adam McGovern interviews Michael Allred about his latest title, Art Ops, the meaning of fiction, and religious scripture.

Now, let’s jump ahead to the recent century and take a look at The Da Vinci Code. There are people who think that work of fiction is packed with well-researched fact. Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard wrote science-fiction. Fiction that created a recognized tax-exempt religion. Let’s go back just a couple centuries with The Book of Mormon? I love it! Inspired a great musical! If true, then a lost record of a thousand-year period between 600 BC and 400 AD revealed to the world proving that Christ came to the Americas as a resurrected being. If fiction, then some powerful storytelling there by a great artist. Some would say “con” artist.

I feel that anyone who doesn’t open their mind to the possibility that all scriptures of every faith are imperfect, if not outright fictional, are doing themselves a disservice. IF you take the leap of faith that something is true and worthy of your devotion, then it should also be able to take the “stress test.” If God exists and gave us brains to utilize intelligence then we absolutely should use that intelligence to its fullest and always question what is true, what is art, and can something true also be art? The [concept] of “what is art” is almost too broad to be defined.


2015 in Review

By Mike Reddy.

By Mike Reddy.

It's that holiday season time, and so it's our tradition to run down some the year in TCJ. Go in and enjoy some reading material. We'll be back on January 4th, 2016.


Anne Ishii on the olds vs. the youngs.

Ken Parille on superheroes and solitude.

Ryan Holmberg on Sasaki Maki (twice) and Tezuka.

Paul Tumey on Clare Dwiggins and Basil Wolverton. 

Dan on ZAP.

R. Fiore on comics snobbery.

Craig Fischer on Hawkeye.

R.C. Harvey on Otto Soglow.


Jim Shaw on Comic-Con.

Kevin Huizenga on Autoptic.

Sara Lautman on the Queer Comics Conference.

John Kelly on alt-weekly comics.

Cynthia Rose on Belgian comics history.

Frank Santoro on the Lakes International Comics Festival and diving in dollar bins.


We've had some great interviews this year with the likes of Adrian Tomine, Kate Beaton, Sammy HarkhamJillian Tamaki, Jon Chandler, Yumi SakugawaDan Clowes, Jane MaiAnders Nilsen, Dash Shaw, Sophie Goldstein, and Bill Griffith.


Nicole Rudick on The Complete Zap Comix.

Paul Karasik on Harvey Kurtzman.

Leslie Stein on the film version of Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Sarah Horrocks on OMWOT.

Annie Mok on two by Michael DeForge.

Chris Mautner on Stroppy.

Eleanor Davis on Futchi Perf.

Monica Johnson on Honor Girl.

Matthias Wivel on the D&Q 25th anniversary tome and The Arab of the Future. 

Rob Clough on Bright-Eyed at Midnight.

Brian Nicholson on Blubber.

Naomi Fry on Melody.

Tim Hanley on Lois Lane: Fallout.

Rob Kirby on Shirtlifter #5.

Katie Skelly on Wendy.

Bob Levin on Fogel's Underground Price Guide.


We had great cartoonist's diaries this year, including Jeremy Sorese, Rina Ayuyang and Aron Nels Steinke. 


Sheigeru Mizuki

Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Irwin Hasen

Herb Trimpe

Leonard Starr

Dennis Eichhorn

Murphy Anderson

Michael Gross




Exciting and New

Today we break with tradition, as Joe McCulloch is moving house and cannot file his usual report. Good luck, Joe! Instead we bring you a special holiday feature by John Kelly: A look at Seattle alt-weekly The Rocket's tradition of holiday covers, featuring everyone from Lynda Barry to Ed Roth to Milton Glaser.

In the spirit of the New Year, and in an effort to further explore some historical connections between comics and other forms of popular culture, today we will be focusing on some of the Christmas-time covers done by an extraordinary group of cartoonists and illustrators for Seattle’s The Rocket, a magazine that helped launch the the careers of many rock musicians, cartoonists and graphic designers.

The Rocket was an extremely influential music/art/political alternative monthly (later, bi-monthly) magazine/newspaper that happened to be located in Seattle during a key moment of that city’s comics, and pop culture generally, history.  The Rocket existed from 1979 to 2000, a period in which Seattle became the home of Fantagraphics, Peter Bagge moved to town and became editor of Robert Crumb’sWeirdo, and the whole “grunge music” thing happened.

“For a lot of people, the only place you could get any attention or any action or get published was in The Rocket,” said Art Chantry, whose latest book is Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.  “So it served a the hub of a wheel.  It was a very important magazine for a lot of things.  Sub Pop Records actually started as a column in The Rocket.  Bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden actually met each other through the classified ads in The Rocket.  It was that kind of a hub to what was happening there.  And of course, it pissed people off all the time so it’s been kind of erased from the history books.  But as a place for the illustrators and cartoonists, it was a place for people to start doing their work and developing their voice.  It was interesting and fun to work with a lot of these people and watch them develop very rapidly into what they became.”



The Panelological Pantheon has returned -- a favorite old comics blog of mine, and should of yours, too!

I'm not sure why these photos of Buster Keaton and George McManus delight me so much, but they really do.

Raymond Briggs is a lovable curmudgeon.