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Flame On!

Joe McCulloch is back with another of his weekly guides to the best-sounding new comics in stores. He also reports back from this weekend’s Free Comic Book Day:

Being that my local shops had maintained their unbroken streak of never, ever, ever ordering the 2000 AD sampler, I decided to give this one [The New 52: Future's End #0] a shot; lots of people had been complaining on Twitter that it embodied everything wrong with DC superheroes, and, well – I was curious to see why. Immediately, I noticed that a crew of at least 14 people — 4 writers, 8 line artists, an “art consultant,” an undisclosed number of studio colorists, a letterer and a cover artist (which adds up to more than 14, since some of them perform multiple roles) — was assembled to produce these twenty pages of comics, but that doesn’t really bother me in and of itself; Future’s End is going to be a weekly series, and if you were to specify all of the uncredited parties who work on the average weekly manga serial, including editorial, you’d probably get a similar-ish number. Hell, I *suspect* Keith Giffen (a credited writer and the aforementioned art consultant) is functioning in a manner not unlike a manga editor, supervising the page breakdowns with an eye toward clarity and consistency.

Elsewhere:

—News. Another important comics figures has passed away, this time the artist Dick Ayers, just a few days past his 90th birthday. Ayers is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Jack Kirby on The Avengers and The Fantastic Four, but Westerns and war comics were his personal favorites. Ayers also published a three-volume graphic memoir of his life in comics in the 2000s. Comics historian Blake Bell remembers visiting his home here. We will have more coverage here soon.

The Doug Wright Awards Kickstarter is almost over…

—Interviews. Françoise Mouly talks about the expansion of Toon Books into older markets. Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins talk about In Pace Requiescat, their porn adaptation of Poe.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Di Filippo ponders the changing context of Calvin & Hobbes. Michiko Kakatuni reviews Roz Chast. Joe Gross at Rolling Stone has a mostly solid list of the top 50 non-superhero graphic novels. It’s always fun to argue about those. Andrew Hickey writes about Dave Sim’s early Cerebus. Robyn Chapman on seriously being a micropublisher. The old-school nerd argument about what killed Gwen Stacy has made it to New York magazine. The old-school Wertham debate has made it to BuzzFeed.

—This Is an Actual Quote. From Kevin Smith’s paean to Batman in The Hollywood Reporter. “We won’t let Batman go because, for such a ridiculous notion, he’s so easy to believe in.”

 

Time for Time

Well, it’s Monday and we have a full week for you here.

First up, we have added Steve Ringgenberg’s 1995 interview with Al Feldstein to the archive. We also have two appraisals by Craig Fischer and Mark Newgarden, respectively.

And John Seven reviews Alec Longstreth’s Basewood.

Elsewhere:

Jerry Beck on the latest Floyd Gottfredson collection.

Aidan Koch has started a new series over at Comics Workbook. That’s good news.

And here are some beautiful Sea Devils pages.

 

Tardy Pass

Today is a busy day here at at the Journal (and this week has been a busy week). First, we have Steve Ringgenberg’s obituary of Al Feldstein. Here’s a sample:

Gaines made Feldstein an assistant editor and, later, an editor. But it wasn’t Feldstein’s title that mattered. It was the personal and professional relationship that he and Gaines shared — a unique creative symbiosis that developed a remarkable way of working together to turn out a complete comic book every week, as required by EC’s schedule. It was, by the accounts of both men, a hectic, joyful, and creatively satisfying partnership.

Gaines saw it as his job to be the “springboard man.” He was taking prescription amphetamines at the time in an effort to curb his appetite and lose weight. He suffered insomnia as an unfortunate side effect, so he spent his sleepless nights reading horror and science fiction stories. A lot of them.

As he read, he’d jot down “springboards” — short, one- or two-sentence story ideas that he could pitch to Feldstein in the morning. As Gaines humorously recounted in EC Lives!, the program book for the 1972 EC Fan Addict convention, “after he [Feldstein] had rejected the first 33 on general principles, he might show a little interest in number 34. I’d then give him the hard sell […] He would normally write the story in three hours, breaking it down as he wrote it right onto [the art boards]. Meanwhile, I’d sit there … with a nervous stomach because I never knew if and when Al would come bursting back in and say, ‘I can’t write that goddamn plot!’”

Feldstein remembered it this way: “I used to drive him nuts because we would plot these together and I would say, ‘No, no, no, Bill, that just doesn’t work.’”

Still, it must have worked most of the time, because Feldstein wrote four scripts a week for more than four years, becoming, in the process, the most prolific scriptwriter EC ever had. The demands of his editorial and writing duties, however, forced Feldstein to forgo drawing stories around the middle of 1951. He continued to draw covers, though, for EC’s science fiction titles, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, and their combined successor, Weird Science-Fantasy.

Today also marks the return of Mike Dawson, with a new monthly version of his TCJ Talkies podcast. In this rebooted reality, Dawson interviews cartoonists about books, but this time, they aren’t their own!:

I was pleased to welcome Tom Hart onto the show for my inaugural episode, to discuss Craig Thompson’s Habibi. I’d read Habibi a few years ago (in preparation to interview him on this show), but hadn’t looked at it since then. My memory of it was that while the subject matter was dark, there was something about Thompson’s artwork that made it still feel light-hearted.

I don’t know where I came up with that impression, because that wasn’t my takeaway from the book the second time around.

And Dan wasn’t able to mention it yesterday on the blog when it first went up, but Frank Santoro turned in a Riff Raff column that hearkens back to his classic Comics Comics days, contemplating the influence of internet scrolling on the act of reading comics, among other things. Here he talks about Shel Silverstein:

Ever read The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein? It’s horizontally formatted scroll which is presented as a book. The format uses the periodicity of the book’s left side/right side spread for reveals. Each spread is one panel of a sequenced comic strip that goes on for about 100 pages or 50 spreads. Each spread has it’s own 1, 2 left side, right side rhythm and the “1” unity of each spread as one image. (It’s a great book, I think, because it is so simply presented as image and text.

Elsewhere:

—Al Feldstein. Mark Evanier remembers the editor/writer, as does Evan Dorkin and Christopher Bonanos.

—News. Naif Al-Matawa, creator of The 99, writes about receiving a fatwa from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.

Jonah Weiland has written an open letter explaining his decision to take down the old Comic Book Resources message board and start again from scratch, citing harassment and online trolling as reasons.

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times visits the home of Roz Chast.

Brian Michael Bendis talks about diversity and Spider-Man with Vulture.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ray Davis has continued his posts on M.K. Brown all this week.

J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about the recent Vertigo/Joe Keatinge flareup.

—Upcoming Events. Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, which is to most readers of this site what St. Patrick’s Day is to alcoholics. Tonight, if you’re in New York, is Fresh Meat at SVA.

—Misc. Michael Dooley follows up a panel in L.A. featuring Mimi Pond, Vanessa Davis, Ben Katchor, and Anders Nilsen.

—Catching Up with TCJ.com Contributors. Stories I neglected to link to in a timely fashion: Rob Kirby interviews Whit Taylor, Alex Dueben talks to Stefano Raffaele, and Daniel Kalder on Retroworld.

 

Passing

Al Feldstein has passed away at the age of 88. The longtime artist/writer/editor is perhaps best known for his long run (1956-1984) as the editor of Mad, but he was also a notable science fiction artist, and was a key editorial force at EC Comics, writing the now-famous Bernie Krigstein-drawn story “Master Race”. We will have a full obituary shortly, as well as archival features. In the meantime, you can get a great feel for his talents by reading this 2013 Bob Levin essay.

We have also posted what may have been his final interview — the uncut version of his February 2013 conversation with Gary Groth, an abridged version of which was used published in Feldstein’s Child of Tomorrow, published by Fantagraphics.

Also on the site is Frank Santoro, with his newest column – this one with some thoughts on comics formats.

Elsewhere online:

Mark Evanier and Evan Dorkin each have tributes to Feldstein. You can see read a handful of Feldstein work over here and here are some great covers he drew.

Michael Dooley reports on a panel discussion featuring Ben Katchor, Vanessa Davis, Mimi Pond and Anders Nilsen.

Comics-related: You can now read David Wojnarowicz’s journals, among other things, online.

50 Watts has a great look at Japanese illustrator Rokuro Taniuchi (1921–81).

And finally, Mimi Pond did a Reddit AMA.

 

Grazing Fees

Joe McCulloch has heroically managed to turn in his regular weekly column on the best-sounding new releases in comics shops, despite an unfortunate lack of dependable internet access. He still won’t tell us where he is, but using a few computer tricks I picked up during an internship for a private investigator, I think I’ve tracked him down to somewhere in rural Nevada. What could he be doing out there?

Also, Rob Clough is back with a review of Katie Skelly’s Operation Margarine.

If Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse represented a young artist stretching her limits in her first major work, then her follow-up book, Operation Margarine, sees Skelly working more in her comfort zone. There were times in Nurse Nurse when it seemed that Skelly wasn’t entirely comfortable drawing certain aspects of her Barbarella-inspired space fantasy. She simply didn’t have the chops to convey some aspects of the story, which led to some whiplash narrative shifts. That said, she still followed through and worked around her limitations as best as she could. Cartooning can be seen as a series of problem-solving exercises, and Skelly presented herself with a high degree of difficulty with her first book.


Elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
Ng Suat Tong reviews Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph. Matt Leines reviews Brecht Vandenbroucke’s White Cube. Whit Taylor reviews Michael DeForge’s A Body Beneath. Gareth Branwyn writes about Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions. Paul Gravett reviews a bunch of books. So does 2D Cloud’s Justin Skarhus.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Michael Cavna profiles Herblock winner Jen Sorensen. Kickstarter interviews Josh Bayer. NPR does Ralph Steadman. Alex Dueben talks to Richard Thompson.

—Misc. Rant fans might enjoy these responses to the recent Amazon/comiXology changes.

Relatedly, Marvel seems to be making moves that may hint at an Amazon escape plan.

—Video. Finally, somehow I missed this video earlier in the month, but here’s Tucker Stone interviewing Nick Abadzis:

 

Legit?

Though it is Tuesday, Joe McCulloch is not here. We understand that he is trapped somewhere in America without internet. This is every man’s nightmare.

Luckily we instead have Kristy Valenti’s Women and Autobio Comics Roundtable with Raina Telgemeier, Megan Kelso and Ellen Forney.

VALENTI: One thing I’d like to talk about — and this is a word you’ve all used — accessibility, and style. Do you think, in general, women cartoon more accessibly?

[Pause.]

 KELSO: Well, I don’t know if I can answer that fully, but one thing that I think about is that, when you see little kids with drawing and writing, it does seem like young girls are far more concerned with what their handwriting looks like than little boys. And, young boys that grow up to be cartoonists may be the exception to that. [Laughter.] In elementary school, it was almost like there was this competition to have the most beautiful, perfect, girly handwriting. And I’ve often wondered if that is connected somehow to the sort of comics and the approach to comics that women take as they become cartoonists. I think you could argue, women’s or girls’ fine motor skills often tend to develop more quickly than boys’, and so they are able to form, you know, uniform, attractive letters faster. And often — just what I’ve observed with my daughter too — a lot of girls seem a lot more interested in drawing early on than boys. But then, another generalization that I’m willing to hazard is that guys tend to be more interested in virtuosity, often, than communication.

I wonder if the stereotype of the male cartoonist with the absolutely diamond, precise style — like Charles Burns is the perfect example, clearly he developed this virtuosic approach to comics that is really separate from the drive to communicate. Because, as we’ve all established, comics work as a form of communication in a variety of drawing styles. And that you don’t have to draw in this almost machine-made perfection of the Hernandez brothers, or Charles Burns, or Chris Ware, in order to communicate, and I do wonder if that accounts to some degree to differences you see in the way men and women draw. This is a generalization, but women just being a little less concerned with virtuosity.

FORNEY: One thing that that makes me think of is Phoebe Gloeckner, because her comics work is kind of rough, you know? Bodies are distorted. And then you see her medical illustrations, or the pieces of art that she does that are kind of … just that she does in that style, are like really precise.

TELGEMEIER: Yeah, they’re totally virtuosic.

FORNEY: Exactly. And so, I imagine that that’s a choice that either comes intuitively, or she made a conscious decision to have that difference in the presentation of her narratives.

The Wall Street Journal looks at DC Entertainment.

TCJ-contributor Dominic Umile on Gabrielle Bell’s upcoming book.

A nice local profile of Jason Lutes.

The Guardian published a weekend comics supplement. It’s reviewed here.

Not comics: A reminder — Robert Weaver was a wonderful and now mostly forgotten illustrator. His lines are casually electric, and very few other illustrators were as adept at blending realist figuration with abstract areas of space. Check him out. We ran a piece about him last year.

Not comics: Remember index magazine? Here’s a little refresher. I still can’t decide if I liked it or not.

 

Off to the Zoo

When Dan isn’t deliberately provoking everyone in the reading audience with dumb and/or pointlessly offensive arguments (I prefer his smart & pointedly offensive ones), he can perpetrate some pretty good comics talk. Today he’s got a nice short and sweet interview with Ron Regé, Jr., regarding his recent self-published Diana, an underground reimagining of early Wonder Woman. Here’s Regé:

In my exploration of the misfits and freaks of history that comprised much of The Cartoon Utopia, I had originally wanted to include the Marstons, as the whole bondage/plural marriage/lie detector aspect of their story was something I hadn’t heard of until recently. It changed my whole outlook on her as modern character.

Elsewhere on the comics internet:

—Reviews & Commentary. The great Ray Davis writes about M.K. Brown (and Ed Bluestone). Sean Kleefeld questions the conventional wisdom that size prevents modern comic strip artists from making interesting visuals. Rob Clough reviews a slew of books. So does Abhay Khosla. Sean T. Collins wonders if comics has a “Netflix effect.” We should all listen to Julia Gfrörer.

—Funnies. The Guardian just published a large special edition including comics from novelists A.M. Homes, Gillian Flynn, Margaret Atwood, Michael Faber, and Dave Egger created in collaboration with cartoonists Frazer Irving, Dave Gibbons, Roger Langridge, and Christian Ward.

—Interviews. Xavier Guilbert interviews Tom Gauld. The Ink Panthers talk Mike Dawson’s Angie Bongiolatti. Make It Then Tell Somebody interviews Box Brown. Sophie Yanow was interviewed at The Comics Reporter. Publishers Weekly talked to Keith Knight.

—Sales & Spending Opportunities.
AdHouse is having a big sale this month, as is was Dark Horse Digital. Josh Bayer is in the last week of his Suspect Device 4 Kickstarter. Dave Sim has launched another Kickstarter of his own, I think? (I couldn’t quite follow that one.)

—News. In possibly the first sign of Amazon-related changes, comiXology announces changes to their iOS and Android apps. JK Parkin at Robot 6 has some analysis. Jim Woodring’s Fran won the Lynd Ward prize. Al Jaffee, Ed Sorel, and Alex Raymond are new members of the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame. Zak Sally has started a new school. Jane Asselin writes about her recent experiences at XOJane.

—Misc. They apparently do Moomin differently in Japan. Alan Moore, writer of open letters. Slate ponders Rube Goldberg.

 

Jive

Hi, happy Friday. Looks like we’ve fixed the problem with this site. If you’re still having trouble please let us know. Hopefully you’re not, and so you’ll be excited that Paul Tumey is here with a piece on the Seattle comic book scene.

Seattle has a new underground comics scene. One is tempted to say “again,” recalling the boom of the 1990s with Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring, and the like. More accurately, the scene has endured. For a while now, participation in the Seattle comics scene has not been dependent on being a published cartoonist. Rather, it’s something one does, at one’s own level and the hell with commercial or social restraints. This attitude has nurtured a vibrant sub-culture that is only just now emerging. What we are seeing in the last year or so is the latest natural engorgement of talent and effort coalescing and expanding, like a pustule that could someday pop in goopy glory (goop is a quality that frequently occurs in the work of a cluster of the emerging new Seattle cartoonists who seem to delight in grossness and disfigurement, perhaps inspired by the twisted, organic forms found in the comics of  Bagge, Woodring, and Co.).

Elsewhere:

Ralph Steadman profiled at the AV Club.

Leon Sadler continues to be the best young cartoonist in England. When will people catch up with Leon? Hard to say. I hope soon. Beats the shit out of anything else, short of James Jarvis (speaking of new books) and Will Sweeney.

New comic from Lala Albert.

Sophie Yanow, interviewed.

Stefano Raffaele interviewed by Alex Dueben.

I think Sean Collins is involved in this Tumblr? It’s interesting.

My first thought when I got this press release (below) in my inbox was “are these people retarded”? They know there was an actual sculptor named David Smith, right? Was that before or after the New York Times mentioned it? It’s like naming your protagonist Franz Kline and then pretending it’s a coincidence. And there’s PR and then there’s lying: Scott McCloud’s first fiction graphic novel was published in 1998. It’s here.

My favorite part of the release is the transparent pandering of the plot. He can do anything, but what will he do? OMG! And there’s a GIRL involved? Booooonnnnnneeeerrr! A deal with DEATH? Wasn’t that the plot of Bill & Ted’s part 2? Or some Swedish shit? I’m surprised McCloud didn’t squeeze in a zombie to complete the marketing potential. And gee, that palette sure seems familiar. Oh man, comics is such a fucked up medium right now, one in which artists who are supposed to be “smart” construct incredibly dumb books to appeal to some invisible marketing demographic. Well, I’m sure this’ll make a great TED talk. So, without (much) further ado, here in all its glory is the stupidest press release of 2014. Have a good weekend. Try to forget about this part of comics (y’know, where it’s become really safe and dumb). Order an actual good comic book from 2014 instead.

FIRST SECOND WILL BE PUBLISHING SCOTT MCCLOUD’S FIRST FICTION GRAPHIC NOVEL THE SCULPTOR IN FEBRUARY 2015

 The New York Times has the official announcement and a piece of excerpt artwork:

The Sculptor will be on sale on February 3rd, 2015.

“I’ve wanted to tell the story of The Sculptor since before writing Understanding Comics, and the book’s creation has turned into an incredible learning experience for me and, I hope, an exciting READING experience for comics-lovers. It took me five years to write and draw, and I promise I used every single minute to make it the best book I can,” says Scott McCloud.

In The Sculptor, David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world’s greatest city. It’s about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

“To work with Scott McCloud on any project of his choosing was a long held hope of mine. But to join him as he sheds the theorist and embraces ambitious, adult fiction—that’s a dream come true. Scott is one of the hardest working authors I know, and he has tasked himself with a very tall order on The Sculptor. The result soars beyond my shamelessly high expectations,” says McCloud’s editor, First Second Editorial Director Mark Siegel.

Scott McCloud is the award-winning author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Zot!, and many other fiction and non-fiction comics spanning 30 years. An internationally-recognized authority on comics and visual communication, technology, and the power of storytelling, McCloud has lectured at Google, Pixar, Sony, and the Smithsonian Institution. His online thoughts, stories, and inventions can be found at scottmccloud.com.

Gina Gagliano

First Second Books