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Community-Building Exercise

Lining up for comic book reviews

These have been trying times. It is probably not too much to compare our recent internet problem’s effect on readers as akin to that of the Great Depression on our ancestors. Reports continue to trickle in from loyal followers, anxious about the missing hours of TCJ.com. Some people—you may know them—are still unable to access their site from their computers, or at least are unable to do so while sitting at their work cubicles. For some, despair has begun to set in.

But like those Depression survivors, TCJ.com readers are showing a surprising, even inspiring resilience. At first, the messages we received were ones of dismay, even panic, but as time went on, something strange began to happen: across the globe, people who were joined together by nothing more than a shared interest in a minor art form began gathering into groups, sharing laptops and iPhones, and excitedly reading favorite stories from the site to each other. According to reports, TCJ.com reading parties have started sprouting up spontaneously in homes, bars, churches, and community centers across the country. Will “bowling alone” finally become a thing of the past? Who knows? But if you know someone unable to read TCJ.com on their own computer, why not invite them over to share in the fun?

Such as:

The third installment of Ryan Holmberg’s epic and essential “What Was Alternative Manga?” column. Today’s topic is Takao Saito and the “Gekiga Factory.” There’s nowhere else you can learn this stuff in English.

The hardest working man in comics reviewing, Rob Clough, talks about Melvin Monster: Volume 3.

And Dustin Harbin’s latest diary comic!

Also, there is news on the print Comics Journal front, along with a big back-issue sale. Here’s Mike Baehr with the word:

We are victims of our own success! Demand for The Comics Journal #301 is greater than we estimated and advance orders for the issue exceeded what we printed, so we have gone immediately back to press for a second printing. Since we couldn’t fill all the orders from the first printing and didn’t want to short any one segment of the market — comics stores, bookstores, subscribers — we decided to wait until we receive the second shipment before releasing the book, resulting in a 3-4 week delay, pushing the release to early July. It’s been delayed so long already, what’s another month? The lucky dozens who have managed to buy advance copies from us at MoCCA and TCAF will tell you, it’s worth the wait!

This also gives you some extra time to get on board with a money-saving 3-issue subscription, which also gets you access to the online TCJ back-issue archives at TCJ.com!

And speaking of back issues, to help the wait for the new issue pass a little bit faster, save up to 50% off all TCJ back issues, Special Editions and Library editions through next Wednesday, May 25 2011!

Go here for more information.

Elsewhere on the internet, the aforementioned Rob Clough’s efforts can not be contained within this site. He’s got a slew of reviews up on his own blog, including takes on Joe Ollmann and Pascal Girard, Aaron Cockle, Colleen Frakes, Joe Daly, Steve Seck, and minicomics out of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

I forgot to link to this rather perverse Mother’s Day webcomic written by Paul Slade, drawn by Hans Rickheit, and based upon one of the great David Attenborough’s nature stories.

1-800-Mice cartoonist Matthew Thurber will want to know about this: apparently, you can now read the entirety of Elfquest for free online.

Via Tom Spurgeon comes links to two recent stories about the first manga books restricted under the new Japanese legal situation.

Via everyone, there’s finally a trailer for the upcoming animated Tintin film. Attention Dapper Dan.

I really am going to stop posting TCAF reports, but I’ll put in one more, just because Kevin Czap has written the one thing I’ve been missing this time around: an old-fashioned haul report.

Finally, the US government is now recognizing video games as a legitimate art form, allowing them to be eligible for NEA grants. I couldn’t remember offhand, but maybe some of you readers can: has a cartoonist or graphic novel ever been awarded funding from the NEA?

 

And He Cooks, Too!

Well, Tim and I were heartened to know so many of you missed us for the 7 or 8 hours the site was down. We didn’t know anyone was reading. Tim actually had me convinced that the current TCJ only appears on my screen in Brooklyn and one special, child-proof screen in New Jersey (not even in Tim’s house, but just somewhere in New Jersey!). I suspected he was lying, so I feel vindicated now and maybe I’ll tell my parents about this thing! They’ll be so proud of my new life in comics.

Anyhow, insert your transition here, on the site today:

-Dustin Harbin: Day 2. I’m really glad to have Dustin’s specific take on the Doug Wright Awards, and just glad to be working with him. The one time I went down to Heroes-Con in 2007 with Frank and Tim we really had a blast. Everyone did, including Brian Ralph, who may or may not have ever really recovered from it.

-Joe McCulloch heroically turns in yet another week in comics. The man is not human!

Oh, and what is that lead-in image, you might ask? Why it’s a Neal Adams drawing from The Cartoonist’s Cookbook, publishing in 1966. This tome, which has an intro from unsung early comics historian Stephen Becker, is pretty damn amazing, replete with, food memories and recipes by cartoonists famous and (now) obscure. Richard Gehr, of Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists fame, gave me a copy last night when we went to see Lee Lorenz play some damn fine jazz at Arthur’s last night. Yes, this Lee Lorenz. Blows a mean coronet.

Here’s Neal Adams, who talks lovingly about his wife cooking Chinese food.

And if this is not one of the best photos of a cartoonist, ever, then… well, then I guess I’m wrong.

Ladies and gents: Bill Holman!

The facing page has this priceless quote: “Holman says he never did an honest day’s work until he sold 96,000 gag cartoons.” And: “He has a reputation about money somewhat similar to Jack Benny’s”. Who’s Jack Benny? Oh! Min! Plop!

And elsewhere online:

Tom Spurgeon has your answers regarding the out/sold out/out status of TCJ 301, not to mention our brief outage yesterday, complemented by a photo of me giving my “intense dude” stare. That’s what I look like right now. OMG.

Comics Alliance has a preview and appreciation of Jacque Tardi’s The Arctic Marauder.

Sean T. Collins looks into the comic/film synergy at Marvel Comics. Dapper Dan, meanwhile, is holding out hope for the Green Lantern movie.

 

The Eleventh Week

So that didn’t work. Sorry about the disruption this morning. Apparently the e-mails sent out to remind us to renew our domain name were sent to the inactive address of a person who no longer works at Fantagraphics. It seems to be all fixed now, though, and shouldn’t be a problem ever again. Though keep track of this date a year from now, and we’ll see.

Okay, and we have two new prose columns up. First, R.C. Harvey is back with more thoughts about Bill Blackbeard.

[Bob] Beerbohm’s question hangs in the air: Why did no one know that Blackbeard had died? The man whose passion for collecting comic strips had launched hundreds of reprint projects slipped away without anyone knowing? “Why is that?”

And Frank Santoro posted his most recent Layout Workbook Sunday. This time, the topic was Asterios Polyp. (Have you been following along with this stuff? The sheer mass of evidence Frank has laid out so far is pretty impressive.)

Once I was teaching a class in my studio and I would randomly open Asterios Polyp to a spread and diagram it from the center out. The folks in the class practically fainted when they would see a random spread “line up” right in front of their eyes with a few twists of a compass. It’s fun! Try it at home!

Austin English reviews a book likely to be one of the year’s major releases, Lorenzo Mattotti’s Stigmata.

Often, in a comic, if the reader is unsure of how to react to a particular character’s physicality, it’s due to the poverty of the cartooning (or the imaginative breadth of the story). But with Stigmata, the portrayal of the main character is so sophisticated that it defies us to size him up.

Finally, Dustin Harbin is our newest diarist. He went to TCAF, and drew a week’s worth of cartoons about it. Entry one is up now.

Dustin isn’t the only one filling out their convention reports a little late, and it’s understandable if you’re TCAF’d out by now. All the same, two recent posts on the show are still worth a look: Dylan Williams’s (especially in light of the far less sanguine takehe offered after this year’s MoCCA and Stumptown festivals), and Tom Devlin’s, just because he may be the funniest tour guide in comics.

In Jeet Heer news, he reviewed Chester Brown’s Paying for It in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and does so from a personal angle.

And now his daughter is getting into the comix tawk game.

Tom Hart, the best-liked man in comics, is holding a fundraiser for his Sequential Artists Workshop. Go here for more info.

Finally, Bhob Stewart has dug up a can’t-miss oddity, with a back story involving Doug Moench, Robert Roger Ebert, and Vampirella.

 

Take a Trip to the Past

Welcome back. On the site today:

* A fond farewell to Joyce Farmer! Here’s Day 5. Thanks, Joyce!

* Wrapping up our week of Chester Brown we have Scott Grammel’s 1990 interview with the artist in its entirety! Compare and contrast! Let’s look back for a second on our Chester-ness. We have: Sean Rogers’ interview; R. Fiore’s meditation; Naomi Fry’s essay; and Ed Park’s notes. Spend the weekend with ‘em all!

Anyhow, by the time you read this I will have gone to the opening of Zap: Masters of Psychedelic Art, 1965-1974, curated by Gary Panter and Chris Byrne. Lucky for you went by the gallery on Wednesday to check in on it. Drawn from Glenn Bray’s collection, the show is what you think it is: a few dozen excellent examples of work from the Zap artists from the comic book itself and contemporaneous collections. There are full stories by Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton, and R. Crumb, and enormous pages by S. Clay Wilson, Rick Griffin and Spain (two panoramic scenes by Spain are particularly striking), as well as a wonderful page by Moscoso — the first original of his from that period that I’ve ever seen. I gotta say, seeing a sequence of Williams pages in person made me remember what a phenomenal draftsman he is. The hot-rod honed precision rendering plus a phenomenal ability to work multiple figures on a single plane makes him look pretty damn great these days. Reproductions don’t really do justice the sheen of his pen line. Plus, the guy worked only slightly larger than reproduction-size. Jeezuz. Anyhow, it’s good to see these artifacts all gathered in one place. Some work better as “drawings” than others, but as a 360-degree view of that art, this is hard to beat. Plus, of course, I love that Panter, who has for the past few years been doing a sort of “my art history lineage” lecture, is curating this particular segment of his influence cloud. Seeing it through Gary’s eyes deepens the choices and the work itself.

Sayeth Gary on his blog:

The accompanying cover of ZAP comix number one which appeared in microscopic form as an item in the Electric Last Minute, the fold-out poster calendar that came free in every issue of EYE magazine back in the late  sixties, blew my mind. It was familiar and foreign– backward-looking AND forward-looking. The tiny cover, pictured, reminded me of old Popeye comics or of the Nutt Brothers by Gene Ahearn, the last of the really old-timey looking comics in the newspaper. It was a year or so before I got my hands on a Zap, which by the way is a trademarked logo and the rights are shared by the aforementioned Zap group of artists, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a high level of skill, experimentation and a rabid interest in pushing the limits of allowed content and social critique. Some of the artists I had seen before: Rick Griffin’s work had appeared in surf mags; I looked forward to Robert William’s complex and disturbing, hence exciting, ads for Ed Roth monster shirts in various hot rod mags; Wonder Wart Hog I had seen in hot rod cartoons magazines and in his own short lived magazine; plus, I had been magnetically drawn to the funny greeting card racks in drug stores by the commercial illustrations of Robert Crumb. Something amazing had happened! A bunch of edgy cartoonists that I was already watching had grown their hair out, formed an experimental drawing club, teamed up with more insane drawers and moved to San Francisco to be hippie cartoonists and poster artists. WOW! That premise was exciting enough, but when I finally got my hands on an issue of Zap I was ecstatically pleased to see that the drawing was of such a high, controlled, inventive, diverse order and that the disparate approaches, experiments and stylizations were somehow successfully fused into soupy collaborative drawings, just… well, it was a lot to consider.

Well anyhow, I’ll post some pix from the opening and such next week, I suppose. Should be a hoot. The catalog, by the way, is a mammoth affair: 14″ x 16″, 48 pages, showcasing the artwork larger than it’s ever been printed, I supposed. [PLUG ALERT!] In about a week PictureBox will be exclusively carrying the thing. It’s a run of 1000, so you’ll wanna get ‘em while you can.

Now, onwards, to something else.

* Bleeding Cool gets a comment from Bill Sienkiewicz on a 2005 proposal for a Wonder Woman series he wanted to do with Frank Miller. As the world’s only human who prefers DK2 to the original, I would have liked to see that series. That reminds me, does anyone out there know if  Sienkiewicz, who at one point shared a studio with Stan Drake, worked on the latter’s Kelly Green series? Kelly Green! Overlooked graphic novel of ’80s.

* Heidi MacDonald went to see Steranko, Simonson and Quesada talk and has a report.

* Oh man, that is one bad-ass cover on the upcoming Marti book.

* This is a great little mystery over at Stripper’s Guide.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

TCAF, Schmeekaff

Chester Brown Week continues today with a review from Naomi Fry:

What does good sex consist of, exactly, for a straight man? I’ll admit, in the spirit of full disclosure, that this might not the most apt question to be puzzling out in my current state as a bloated, fatigued, 39-weeks-along pregnant woman, but let’s give it a try anyway…

And Joyce Farmer is back with another diary entry. In this one, she reflects back on an earlier portion of her life:

Thus began my radicalization. I was astounded that I had to prove to the state that I was suicidal, when all I wanted was an abortion, clean and safe.

Elsewhere:

Ed Champion interviews Daniel Clowes for his popular podcast series.

Forbidden Planet reports on the wrap party for Alan Moore’s Dodgem Logic.

There are two recently published articles on race and superhero comics getting lots of attention on the internet this week. This one is better than the other.

The history of the “Bechdel” rule told through links.

Also, apparently one of Harvey Pekar’s final projects may be having publication problems, though it is difficult for me to see what exactly is going on, if anything.

Finally, here’s a couple of the better TCAF reports I’ve seen going around:

A nice one from Secret Acres. (And I agree with what they say—the new Koyama Press releases are impressive.)

And a two-parter from John Porcellino.

And Jeet Heer e-mailed me a few more photos from the convention:

Peter Birkemoe with National Post editor Mark Medley.

Brad Mackay and his sister-in-law Brenda at the Doug Wright Awards.

Chester Brown listens intently, as Dan sinks into reverie. (In the mirror, Tania Van Spyk and Pascal Girard.)

Chester Brown eats paper off-stage

 

Photo Bungling

Happy Wednesday. On the menu today:

* Ed Park joins us for our week of Chester Brown with the somewhat self-explanatory and can’t be described anyway, Notes to a Note on the Notes of Chester Brown.

* Mike Dawson returns with his latest TCJ Talkie (yes, I named it that. Proudly!) with guest Josh Cotter.

* Joyce Farmer, Day 3.

* TCJ related: Apparently Randy Chang is the best boyfriend ever.

Meanwhile, elsewhere online we have:

* Jeet Heer’s appreciation of the the Doug Wright Award-winning Spotting Deer.

* Daniel Best has put together a kind of “Don Heck In His Own Words” from various interviews, which are not sourced on the site itself — hopefully he’ll add some sources soon in the interest of giving credit where credit is due. In any case, it’s a great read, as Heck, while somewhat of a hack (ok, more than somewhat) did have some bright spots and comes off as a smart and earnest guy. I especially like the grounded-ness of moments like this:

I used to like Iron Man in the beginning, because of the characterization I could get into. Like when I had Happy Hogan, and Pepper Potts. When I was doing Pepper, I was thinking of Schultzie, who was the secretary on the Bob Cummings Show.  In other words, she was the girl who never quite got the date with the boss; he’s always watching all those good-looking girls. But they were characters, in a certain sense of the word. Happy Hogan was an ex-fighter. I think they were fun to do. They had personalities you couldn’t miss. I did the first Iron Man story. They have it listed that Jack Kirby did the breakdowns, but that’s not true. I did it all. They just didn’t bother to call me up and find out when they wrote up the credits. It doesn’t really matter. Jack Kirby created the costume, and he did the cover for the issue. In fact the second costume, the red and yellow one, was designed by Steve Ditko. I found it easier than drawing that bulky old thing.

* Tucker Stone digs into some recent comics and some shit-talking theory over at The Factual Opinion.

And now, kind people, my last bit about TCAF: Some blurry iPhone pix! Chris Ware actually explained to me that the new iPhone photo software is worse than the old, and so I’ll hold onto that as I reveal my poor photography skills.

Tom Scioli had a table behind me -- he was drawing this awesome picture of Thor for a chunk of Saturday.

 

Chris Ware, Brad "Mr. Doug Wright Awards" Mckay, and David Collier (in full uniform)

 

Tom Spurgeon had to lean very far back to get ALL of Michael Deforge's awesome pompadour in the shot.

 

The gorgeous, Seth-designed Doug Wright trophies.

 

Ware, Seth, Chester Brown, John Porcellino and Adrian Tomine, just before our panel Friday night.

 

Oh no, Tom Devlin is shouting at me to stop! I'm done! I'm done!

 

RAOR!

Another big day at the Comics Journal East.

First, Chester Brown Week continues with a new column from the inimitable R. Fiore:

I like to imagine the Canadian Council for the Arts anticipating what that fine young fellow Chester Brown is going to follow Louis Riel with. Something about the Manitoba Schools Question, perhaps. Oh, it’s called Paying for It, eh? Well, that sounds more like the Klondike Gold Rush. Bit of a hackneyed subject, but the lad is bound to have found a novel approach . . .

Then Joyce Farmer continues her week of diary entries. Today‘s for the pen-and-ink enthusiasts, nothing but materials talk:

Crow quill pens are in a class by themselves, the nibs are round and the penholders are short and cut to accommodate the round nib. Anyone who masters crow quill is a genius and I give him or her my utter respect.

And of course, just like every other Tuesday, Joe “Jog” McCulloch brings you the week in new comics, with a little something extra for your reading pleasure:

I wasn’t planning on writing about my Free Comic Book Day experiences; frankly, I didn’t expect anything of note to happen.

Elsewhere:

Martin Wisse digs up an image of and information about an amazing-looking new comics museum in China.

I think Tom Spurgeon’s rambling convention reports may be my favorite recurring feature at the Comics Reporter. He went to TCAF this weekend, so I’m in luck.

Matt Seneca writes about some of his favorite comics that also work as criticism. He uses a definition of criticism broad enough to include straight-up parodies, but that’s okay with me—I try not to be a purist about such things. Anyway, he picks out a great, overlooked Spiegelman piece, and forgets all about Harvey Kurtzman, an oversight I hope will be corrected in a part two or three somewhere down the line.

Here‘s a super-short interview with Chris Ware from an apparently new Greek comics site. The intro’s in Greek, but the discussion itself is in English. The part about superheroes and science fiction is interesting, in light of the amazing science fiction story he created for Acme Novelty Library 19.

Finally, Matthias Wivel’s been blogging up a storm this week, republishing an Andreas Gregersen essay on Ice Haven and The Death Ray, as well as his own (relatively) negative take on Mister Wonderful, plus a brief appreciation of Dominique Goblet.

 

Paid in Full

Before I dive into TCAF and such: We are pleased to begin our week of coverage of Chester Brown’s new book, Paying for It. Leading things off is an interview with Brown by Sean Rogers. Later in the week we’ll post Scott Grammel’s 1990 TCJ interview. Also on tap are pieces by R. Fiore, Naomi Fry, and Ed Park.

In non-Canadian TCJ news: Please welcome Joyce Farmer to the Cartoonist’s Diary stage. And Frank Santoro’s Layout Workbook part 9 went up yesterday. Frank’s back-issue box was much missed this weekend.

Anyhoooo, I’m just back from TCAF, where, fittingly enough, the fest was gripped by Chester Brown mania. The lines for his signings (he stands and then signs on a cardboard box) were as long as I’ve ever seen for anyone. The festival was, as usual, quite a lot of fun — well attended, brisk sales, and good vibes. Most of what I saw and did during TCAF was at night, as I was manning ye ol’ PictureBox table both days. But from what I can gather, the buzzy books included DeForge’s Lose #3, the Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collection, Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme, and of course, Paying for It.

Upon landing on Friday I embarked on a high-powered TCJ meeting with Jeet Heer, during which we discussed such weighty topics as: the proper reproduction techniques for ben-day dots; “photo-realism” and the comic strip; and who’s right and who’s wrong. Many problems were solved. Then I moderated a conversation with Adrian Tomine, Seth, Chris Ware and Chester Brown. The room was packed and the artists were in great, chatty form. That night there were yet more high-powered TCJ tet-a-tets tête-à-têtes with Canadian correspondents like Sean Rogers and Chris Randle. I witnessed no dancing, per se, though Brecht Evans Evens as in attendance.

The Doug Wright Awards happened Saturday night. It was, as usual, an entertaining and enjoyable ceremony. Best book went to Bigfoot by Pascal Girard (best known, of course, as a TCJ diarist). Alex Fellows was given the Best Emerging Talent award for Spain and Morocco; and Michael DeForge is now a two-time DWA-winner, having received the Pigskin Peters Award (Given to non-traditional and avant-garde comics) for Spotting Dear, though surely his greatest honor will be as an upcoming TCJ diarist! The ceremony also included a witty, buoyant conversation between Seth and Reid Fleming cartoonist David Boswell, who was inducted into the Giants of the North Hall of Fame.

A few links for kicks:

-Your “1970s Marvel stars” beginnings and endings links:

*Dark Horse is canceling Jim Shooter’s much lamented reboots of Magnus: Robot Fighter, Turok: Son Of Stone, Doctor Solar: Man Of The Atom. I hope this means it’s finally time for C.F., Gary Panter, and Frank Santoro to have their shots.

* Jim Starlin wants to tell you about Breed III.

-And finally, I always have time for a Mort Meskin Vigilante episode.