Useless to a Reader

Today on the site, Frank Santoro remembers Tim Corrigan's 1980s minicomics zine, Small Press Comics Explosion, and the lost world it came from. Looking back over its pages, he also finds an early appearance by a young Scott McCloud.)

According to The Minicomix Revolution 1969-1989 by Bruce Chrislip, Corrigan "soon started distributing SPCE through the direct market chain of comic book shops and the print run quickly increased from 200 copies to 2,000 copies." Chrislip explains that Corrigan would review just about anything. Soon "it became a tabloid [...] and an avalanche of hundreds of small press comix showed up in his mailbox. So much so that it would be impossible to do a complete history of every minicomic published from 1986 on. There were thousands of different issues. Some were fantastic, but many were crude first attempts by fledgling cartoonists." (Emphasis in the original.)

It's true. So much of it looks like dreck, and sounds worse when described in eloquently baroque micro-blocks of text. It was, it seems, the real full flowering of xerox machines becoming widely available, and SPCE documents that perfectly.

And then we also have Day Four of Aidan Koch's week creating A Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Amid the Angoulême Grand Prix controversy, another political controversy involving the festival seems to have been resolved. Over the past two years, organizers protested the involvement of the Israeli company Sodastream as a sponsor (partly because of a factory located in the occupied territories of Palestine), and gathered public support from artists including Alison Bechdel, Jaime Hernandez, Tardi, Lewis Trondheim, Kate Beaton, and others. This year, Sodastream seems to have ceased its involvement with Angoulême, and the protesters have released a celebratory press release.

In censorship news, Facebook removed a 2009 political cartoon critical of Israel drawn by Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff and temporarily suspended the account of the Palestinian news site which hosted it.

Two cartoonists involved in a Charlie Hebdo-related exhibition being held in Tel Aviv's French Embassy have alleged that their work for the show has been censored, apparently because of their depictions of Muhammad.

—Interviews & Profiles. Brigid Alverson interviewed former D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros about his new graphic novel, The Envelope Manufacturer.

Why did you decide to self-publish 'The Envelope Manufacturer'?

I thought it would be a conflict of interest if D+Q published it. Even though I am no longer the publisher, there still is that connection that spans decades, and so I felt that if I somehow joined the roster it would only be because I had the special key for the secret side entrance to get in.

And Artinfo interviews Matthew Thurber about his new Artcomic, art comics in general, and art critic Jerry Saltz.

Jerry Saltz is supposedly an art critic, but he has no opinions. In his essays he never takes a side, or really says anything besides “I’m Jerry Saltz, look at me.” His self-absorption makes him kind of useless to others, and useless to a reader. I think a critic should have some sort of logic, some kind of philosophy behind their writing. If you don’t agree with Clement Greenberg about the flatness of the picture plane – that’s okay, at least he has expressed an opinion that you can think about or argue with. With Saltz, it’s just “The new Whitney is great!!! Although maybe it’s not! Did I tell you I used to be a truck driver?”


Floor Protection

Hi there,

Today on the site we bring you day 3 of Aidan Koch's diary. 

And Cynthia Rose reports on a major retrospective on the work of Claire Bretécher: 

The new retrospective of Claire Bretécher opened five days after the last Paris attacks. It was a moment when locals were longing to hear from two parts of the populace. One tribe, of course, was philosophers and professional thinkers. But the other group was les dessinateurs – the artists behind popular comics, caricatures and press cartoons.

Bretécher’s work helps explain their expectations. She is a virtuoso and a national treasure, an artist whose work explodes with style, wit – and creative complaining. Although both her visuals and storytelling are exceptional, Bretécher’s humour exceeds the sum of their parts. She is not someone who depicts “slices of life” nor does she create gags just to end in a burst of laughter. What interests her are the common threads of our existence and what she has to say is always present tense.


Here's a nice write-up on White Boy over at the New York Review of Books.

Zainab Akhtar interviews Michael DeForge at Inkstuds.

Gil Roth interviews Molly Crabapple.



Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the most interesting-sounding new comics in stores, and this week, he goes on to write about Hiroya Oku’s Inuyashiki.

Inuyashiki ... hails from Kodansha’s biweekly seinen magazine Evening, home of the lattermost chapters to Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm (“Battle Angel Alita” if you’re nasty), an MMA serial by Hiroki Endō of Eden: It’s an Endless World! and various prequel installments of the Shima Kōsaku salaryman soap opera. I think the magazine skews a little older in seinen terms, and I think Inuyashiki panders good and hard to that sort of demographic, presenting an aging man, disrespected by all, who is accidentally annihilated by powers from beyond the stars and hastily rebuilt using weapons technology fit to obliterate the Earth. However, the old man is a good man, and sets about defending the helpless from rapacious younger persons by embodying the qualities of courage, sacrifice and honor so often absent from our low and selfish contemporary age.

This is classic reactionary superhero stuff, but the way its mounted suggests a very particular association for English superhero readers. Avoiding any suggestion of costume or genre glamour in favor of an icily sensational ‘cinematic’ approach booming with wide splashes, Oku’s approach is remarkably close to that of the millennial Marvel comics associated with the executive tenure of Bill Jemas.

Also, we are proud to present Day Two of Aidan Koch's week-long tenure producing our Cartoonist's Diary feature. (If you missed it, don't forget to start with Day One.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Montreal Gazette profiles former D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros, and also publishes a short preview of his self-published graphic novel, The Envelope Manufacturer.

Mind you, this is no typical self-publishing scenario. The author’s name is so strongly associated with D & Q that having it on the cover is practically its own imprimatur. It’s a connection Oliveros is clearly comfortable with, having maintained close ties since handing the company reins over to Peggy Burns and Tom Devlin.

“I still go the office about once a week, and that’s good, because a clean break after 25 years would have felt really strange.”

Alex Dueben talks to the legendary cartoonist and animator R.O. Blechman, who has a new book coming out this month.

I have an ongoing argument with Gene Deitch, the director [of The Juggler]. He thought that he had proposed Boris Karloff as the voiceover but I know that it was my idea because it was not my idea, it was the idea of William Goldman, my former classmate. He said, what about Boris Karloff doing the voiceover. Sorry, Gene Deitch. We differ there. But we’re going back more than a half century, so it’s understandable.

—A/V. The Comics Alternative podcast talks to Rosalie Lightning creator Tom Hart.

Françoise Mouly appeared on PRI to discuss The New Yorker's post-Charlie Hebdo cover.

On C-SPAN, Ann Telnaes and Signe Wilkinson also discuss that magazine and the anniversary of the attacks on it.

R. Crumb made an appearance on the American Routes radio show, in which he talks about some of his favorite music.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nick Francis Potter reviews Sam Alden's New Construction in comics form.

For Vice, Nick Gazin published his top ten comics of 2015.

—David Bowie. He didn't make comics, but comics meant a lot to him (Raw, Beano, and Viz all made his list of 100 favorite books), and he meant a lot to many cartoonists and comics readers, with his records making prominent cameo appearances in books from major artists like Charles Burns and Chester Brown, among others (Sean T. Collins asked cartoonists to sketch David Bowie at conventions several years ago, and posted the results on Flickr). I've seen it written that Bowie was one of our time's "least relatable" stars, but the outpouring of grief over the last few days seems to disprove that. Bowie constantly took risks, but he didn't made it look easy. He was inspirational for many reasons, but for me, that may be the most important.


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.