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Treescape

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey continues his ongoing series on the legendary feud between Ham Fisher and Al Capp. Here he comes to the climax of the tale, when Fisher went too far even for his fellow cartoonists, and the terrible consequences that ensued.

In due course, the Ethics Committee voted to call Fisher to account for his conduct. Although there was no hard evidence to link Fisher to the alleged forgeries, the cartoonists decided after examining the drawings that Fisher had indeed been the person who had circulated them. Weiss said it was Fisher’s handwritten comments in the borders of the pictures that gave him away: “They saw that this was Ham’s handwriting.” Moreover, all the other surrounding circumstances led to a conclusion that Fisher had in fact done the dirty deed — the long-running feud, Fisher’s almost irrational animosity toward Capp, the episode of the annotated Li’l Abner strips that were circulated to editors a few years before, Fisher’s preoccupation with the alleged pornography in Capp’s work.

On Jan. 24, 1955, Fisher was summoned to a special meeting of the Society’s Board of Governors to hear the charges presented by the Ethics Committee. The Committee charged Fisher with doctoring the drawings and circulating the forgeries to discredit Capp — acts which had the effect of endangering the creative well-being of every other cartoonist. In submitting the drawings to the New York State Joint Committee on the Comics, Fisher had subjected the profession undeservedly to scrutiny by a body that was actively considering measures that would restrict every cartoonist’s freedom of expression. Fisher’s conduct, the Ethics Committee concluded, was “in violation of the entire spirit of the Society and the purposes for which it was established,” reflected “discredit upon the Society and the entire profession of cartooning,” and was “unbecoming a member of the Society.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At Publishers Weekly, Brigid Alverson profiles Spike Trotman.

The mission statement and identity of Iron Circus is “strange and amazing comics,” and Trotman says her goal is to publish unique, unexpected books that wouldn’t find a home anywhere else. Her first step away from doing everything herself came when she started crowdfunding her publishing on Kickstarter soon after the platform launched in 2009. Her first big success was crowdfunding $83,000 in 2012 to publish Smut Peddler, an anthology of erotic comics geared to modern sensibilities, which is now a yearly series. In 2015 she began publishing work by other creators, starting with a print edition of E.J. Weaver’s webcomic The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, again funded on Kickstarter, this time raising $65,000 to publish.

Later that year, PW chose her as one of its Star Watch Honorees. By 2017 Iron Circus and Trotman had raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter to fund about 14 book projects.

—Matthew De Abaitua writes about Alan Moore and Alan Davis's Captain Britain comics.

The crossover with Doctor Who put the strip into the canon of British psychedelia alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor Who. If this Captain was to assemble a team of British Avengers, they would consist of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, Jerry Cornelius, Emma Peel, Sergeant Pepper and Joanna Lumley’s Sapphire from Sapphire and Steel.

—John Holbo writes about Art Young and his connection to wider art history.

Some folks say Expressionism starts, treescape-wise, with Klee’s “Virgin In A Tree” (1903). Some folks might point to earlier, French influence on later German work. The same year Young was caricaturing Bougeaureau, van Gogh was painting “Pollard Willows At Sunset, Arnes” [scroll down].

The correct answer is: the answer is simpler. Expressionism is a caricature style. It grows out of caricature. It grows alongside stuff you see in German satirical magazines – in Simplicissimus, say. Which starts in 1896. But all that hearkens back to earlier, French and English work. To Daumier, especially.

There is a tendency to downplay this, on behalf of the art ‘ideology’ of Expressionism. (I know, I know, it’s not like there was one party line. I’m oversimplifying for blog post purposes.) It was opposed to realism and naturalism, also to Impressionism (allegedly, the way light and color ‘really appears to us’). Expressionism self-styles as ‘inner’ – self-expressive. (Hence the name.) This style of self-advertisement discourages attention to two really rather obvious features.

 

Cordell

Today at the Comics Journal, we're jumping into Wednesday with a look at the past. We're pleased to share Dan Mazur's extensive look at the work of Ibrahim Njoya who has been called "the first African comics creator". Based off the research Mazur's assembled, the claim fits.

Looking further back, however, the story of sub-Saharan comics in the first half of the 20th century -- during the colonial era -- seems a sparse and rather dreary affair. Published histories present the same few examples of newspaper strips and magazine panels that almost always reflect the racist, paternalistic attitudes of the colonialist or missionary publications in which they originally appeared. These comics were, for the most part, created by non-Africans, and their graphic style derived entirely from European models.     And then there’s Ibrahim Njoya.

Over at Words Without Borders, you'll find a preview of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim's Grass, an upcoming Drawn & Quarterly graphic novel to be released this June.

Over at Sequential.ca, there's a whole new magazine to be found about Canadian comics--reviews, interviews and the like. The first issue being offered up on a pay-what-you-will model. It's been put together by "volunteer writers who are passionate about Canadian comic books and want to see the community grow and connect", and edited by Brendan Montgomery, whose previous work includes the Sequential Blog and the Canadian Independent Comic Book Wiki.

Over at Amazon, you can click on the "see inside" feature to get a little taste of Marc Singer's recently released Breaking The Frames, an academic look at the current state of comics studies. For those of you who crave the red meat of conflict, there's some familiar names to be found.

Over at Bleeding Cool, they've got an excellent example of how the revolting manner in which super-hero artists are treated often doesn't end even when the artist passes away.

Over at Bookriot, Jessica Plummer runs through all the reasons why Guy Gardner is the only Green Lantern worth caring about in a column whose only flaw is that it describes his outfits as "fashion disasters".

Over at Comicosity, Véronique Emma Houxbois goes deep into a Marvel comic I still like, Nextwave, while also remarking upon the often unremarked fact that nobody really talks about Warren Ellis anymore. Especially Warren Ellis. He used to talk about himself all the time!

Over at The Believer, there's a whole crop of new comics content--a comic from Gina Wynbrandt that's about as raw as raw can get, a comic about the impact of #metoo in Sweden from Emei Olivia Burell, "Cayo Cruz" from Alexandra Beguez and an interview with Lauren Weinstein.

 

Couch

Today on the site, Kim Jooha returns with the third installment of her series on the contemporary Toronto comics scene. This time around, she interviews the artist, cartoonist, and jewelry maker (among many other things) Ginette Lapalme.

Did you watch anime? Or manga?

I watched Sailor Moon. It was on TV. It was dubbed in Canada. I was into Reboot. I don’t know if you’ve seen that before, but it was an early 3-D cartoon about beings who lived in a computer. There were a lot of really good cartoons when I was growing up I think, so I was just way into cartoons. Apart from Sailor Moon, I didn’t see too much anime. I think I caught a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z, but it didn’t feel like it was for me.

Reading manga, I never really had any access to it. My sister was super into it anime; she was into Inuyasha and all these other cartoons that were airing when I was in high school, and I didn’t like those. Even now, I don't tend to pick up too much mainstream manga. I really like My Love Story. It is about a giant high-schooler boy who thinks that every girl that he has a crush on actually likes his best friend instead, because his best friend is super cute. He saves this girl from a subway from a sexual harasser, and they slowly fall in love. Maybe not slowly, but — At first, he has a crush on her, and she has a crush on him. But he doesn’t believe it. He thinks that she’s been wanting to be his friend to get close to his cute best friend. But, they’re actually in love. It’s super innocent. The first three or more of the volumes, they don’t even hold hands. Eventually, that happens, and they make a big deal out of it. Eventually, they kiss each other. It’s very repressed. [Laughs.] But it’s super cute, the way it’s drawn. There’s a lot of funny pages and good expressions. I was into it. It’s also drawn very simply, in a way I like. There are these weird little emoticons-type pages, but I don’t know if I can find those.

Where did you find it at The Beguiling?

I was working at Page and Panel at the time I started reading them. There are only thirteen volumes in the series so it seemed manageable for me.

Only thirteen volumes. [Laughter.]

I know thirteen seems like a lot, but I don’t know.

For manga, it’s not.

Right? There are such longer series that even if they were great, I cannot stay that devoted to it. I was enjoying the first few volumes of 20th Century Boys but when I realized how many there were I gave up pretty early, ha ha.

But it’s a weird pick. Is this the only manga you like?

It’s the only series I’ve read through. [Laughter.] So, I don’t know. I’ve read a few Sailor Moon volumes, but I never picked up all of them.

Also, the editors of the print edition of The Comics Journal have asked us to pass along the following message:

Thank you for your subscription (and your patience). Please send any mailing address updates to customer service at FBI Comix (fbicomix@fantagraphics.com). We will be shipping your copy of The Comics Journal #303 out of our warehouse.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Caitlin McGurk about an exhibition at the Billy Ireland museum featuring the work of New Yorker cartoonist Barbara Shermund.

The museum has had amazing exhibits and as you mentioned you have a lot of work from a lot of great people. Do you and others see your role and the role of the museum in doing exhibits like this one with Shermund that it’s important to not just display the work of famous artists, but to explore and reframe the history of comics?

That’s exactly what it is. Believe me, we did not think that when we announced a Barbara Shermund exhibit people would be knocking down the door to buy tickets to come to Columbus to get here. No one knows who that is. That’s part of the point. One of the things that we planned early on when we were moving into this new facility about five years ago was that if we were doing an exhibit of a major artist to try to balance that out in the other gallery with an exhibit of a lesser known artist. For example, the previous exhibit I curated was a Koyama Press exhibit. We did that at the same time as a Mad Magazine exhibit. The general public definitely knows Mad Magazine, but they don’t necessarily know who Annie Koyama is. It was amazing because it brought in these people who were here to see Mad who ended up discovering this whole other thing. That’s always been part of our effort.

The National speaks to French historian Louis Blin, author of a new study of Tintin and the Arab world.

By the time of 1950's Land of the Black Gold, which began serialisation in 1948, Herge was already beginning to be something of a political outlier when it came to interpretations of regional events. “It happens in Saudi Arabia, and it's focused on the Jewish/Palestinian question,” says Blin. “He was paying attention to this question long before anyone else was thinking about it, and he even linked it to oil, which wasn't even a big thing at that time in this region. All the oil was [perceived to be] in Central Asia and Iran.”

Despite pressure from his publishers at various points in his career, Herge was himself largely apolitical, even an anarchist according to Blin, and this was evident in Land of the Black Gold. “He didn't take any sides in the book. There were Jews in it, and there were Arabs in it, but there were no good guys or bad guys. That wasn't Herge's way.”

Unfortunately for Herge, it was the way of publishers in the mid-20th century. When the book was sent for English publication, the British publisher insisted that Jews had to be “good guys,” and that Palestine should be substituted with a fictional country. Rather than compromise his political neutrality, Herge opted to undertake a complete rewrite and remove all the Jewish characters from the English translation. Subsequent French editions have also been based on the English version, and only a few copies of the original, French language, first edition remain. This is surely one of the least publicised cases of historical revisionism in the literary world.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Liana Finck.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Atlantic, James Parker writes about Mark Dery's Edward Gorey biography.

Gorey comes sliding down the banister of Mark Dery’s Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, not in a tutu but bejeweled, multi-ringed, otter-fur-coated, Lear-ishly bearded, crazy for the New York City Ballet and definitely wanting to live his life this way. “I tend to think life is pastiche,” he said once, or possibly more than once. “I’m not sure what it’s a pastiche of—we haven’t found out yet.”

What shall we call him? A children’s writer who didn’t particularly like children? Gorey produced small illustrated books, booklings, more than 100 of them: black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings of serrated quaintness, elaborately crosshatched, with accompanying text—some prose, mostly verse. Children suffer greatly in these works. They are sold on the street or carried off by eagles. As in Lear’s limericks, many of which function like little torture machines (Till at last, with a hammer, they silenced his clamour), absurdist violence is everywhere.

Chris Mautner reviews Saul Steinberg's The Labyrinth.

Perhaps the thing that defines Steinberg more than anything is his sense of play. Take, for example, the manner in which he constantly turned words and language into visual objects. A man contemplatively holding a question mark. The word “help” perilously falling off the edge of a pier. A lanky, mobile “yes” coming up against a brick-like, thick “no.” This is not a text as we traditionally think of in comics, even when considering the sound effects and onomatopoeia that dot superhero comics. Words gain a concrete heft in Steinberg’s world but in service to a simple idea or even straight-up gag. Sometimes the joke is elusive and ethereal — known perhaps only to Steinberg himself — but it is always clear to the reader that the joke is there. You might just not be getting the subtext.

—Misc. Françoise Mouly and Genevieve Bormes spotlight the work of Sergio García Sánchez.

When Sergio García Sánchez, a Spanish comic-book artist, was given the opportunity to fill a whole room in a museum, he turned to his iPad and decided to sketch, in black-and-white, a single day in a bustling city. The result, produced entirely on an iPad, stretches almost a hundred feet long by five feet high, and just opened at the Centro José Guerrero, in Granada, Spain.

Comics Kingdon has begun Popeye's Cartoon Club, a new online strip featuring a rotating slate of artists, including so far Liniers, Roger Langridge, and Sandra Bell-Lundy.

At Print, Steven Heller shares a short preview of Bill Griffith's new Nobody's Fool.

 

Today

Today at the Comics Journal, we're launching our week by sharing an extensive look at the collected Windowpane, from Breakdown Press and Joe Kessler.

Over the weekend, multiple contributors to this site contacted both Tim and I regarding a review we published last Thursday. Many of the complaints directed towards us were around the reviewer's use of the word "gynocentrism" to describe certain aspects of the book's narrative. At the time of publication, I myself was ignorant of the word, and assumed (based off what I now realize was extremely too casual googling of the word's most basic definition) that it fit the reviewer's general point. However, due to the amount of feedback we have received and the actual research that I should have done in the first place, it has become clear that the word has been adopted by some mysogynistic hate groups and incel clubs as a way to dismiss and demean women, and while I have spoken with the reviewer and absolutely believe that he was unaware of those connotations and did not intend for the word to have the result it did--that wasn't his job. It was mine, as the editor of said review. My ignorance of the word's adoption in no way lessens the effect it has had, nor does it dismiss my responsibility. I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. I should not have published a review that included that kind of language. The review has been edited to remove the usage of that word, and a note has been attached to reflect those changes.

 

TBA

Today on the site we have a preview of the new and long-awaited issue of the print edition of The Comics Journal, an excerpt from Gary Groth's career-spanning interview with the great Tomi Ungerer.

GARY GROTH: Do you prefer your writing to your drawing?

TOMI UNGERER: Yes. Definitely, by far. I’ve never been really satisfied with my drawing. It’s always so scattered! I’m a jack of all trades. What am I? I should have just picked up one style and developed it. My drawing is all right. I know I’m known for that, but I would say I prefer my writing the last five or eight years.

You’ve talked about how there’s no demarcation between your writing and your drawing.

No, there isn’t. This is why I always tell to young people who are illustrating children’s books, I always tell them, “Please, just write your own stories, or take a story which exists and rewrite it.” All famous children’s books which have remained have been written and illustrated by the same person. That’s a fact.

Don’t you think that when you’re drawing, in a way you’re also writing?

Yes, definitely. In German, aufzeichnen is taking notes and zeichnen is to draw. And so, I said, “OK, translate it in English, that’s my answer.” I draw what I write and I write what I draw.

That seems imperative.

When you see my sketches, I do a sketch in my sketchbook and then all the lines and the things. And when I write, strange little aphorisms and stories, they’re completely unrelated. I jump from one language to another, from one subject to the other. You would think, “This is impossible that this was written within the last five minutes.” It’s completely unrelated. I don’t know where it’s coming from, I’ve no idea. It just comes and hits me. Pop and voilà!

Craig Fischer is here, too, with a review of the first two issues of Pat Palermo's Live / Work.

I discovered Palermo only last year, even though he’d won a Xeric award in 2006 for his comic Cut Flowers, and self-published the first issue of Live / Work in 2012. But I’m relieved I’ve found him now. In a market ruled by manga-influenced YA graphic novels, “mainstream” superheroes, and minimalist art comix, Palermo’s heavily-plotted, narratively compressed, naturalistic, lushly-drawn serial ensemble comedy feels refreshingly new, but only because too few cartoonists make comics like this anymore.

Palermo’s narrative focuses on three characters in their twenties and early thirties. The first introduced is Rich, a skinny-pants hipster who read too much Baudrillard in art school, and whose current job is procuring pop culture objects for collectors—and for artists looking to incorporate a little kitsch into their installations and canvases. (He also has a strong contrary opinion about the most influential Pylon song.) Next is Mike, a whiskey-drinking Sluggo in a black hoodie who does freelance grunt work for upscale Manhattan artists. And there’s Abi, an energetic would-be painter pining for her absent girlfriend. In her position as the administrative assistant for an influential and obliviously callous sculptor, Abi meets Rich and Mike and inadvertently sets in motion the events—which converge at the end of Live / Work #2—for the trio to become roommates.

But Palermo’s ensemble is much broader than these three main characters. One metaphor for Live / Work’s expansive cast is the cover to issue #1, where the faces of Rich, Mike, and Abi are hidden by Palermo’s circular composition. But we can see the profile of Veronica, a gallery receptionist and aspiring painter, next to the open-mouthed shock of an obsessive portraitist named Ben as everyone looks down at a broken statue.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The French artist Alex Barbier has died. More later.

El Museo de Barrio has cancelled an upcmoing exhibition of Alejandro Jodorowsky's work after concerns were aired about a passage in 1972's El Topo: A Book of the Film.

In that account, the director said that he and an actress had gone into the desert to film a scene, taking with them only a photographer and technician.

The Telegraph said that Mr. Jodorowsky had instructed the actress to begin striking him and then cited the book, which says: “After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed.”

The whereabouts of the actress could not be ascertained, and no record that she commented publicly on the scene described in the book could be found.

Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, Jodorowky's wife, issued a statement Wednesday defending him, saying that “Words are not acts" and claiming that Jodorowsky “never raped anyone.” Jodorowsky has repeatedly denied that the passage was factual in the years since its publication.

—Reviews & Commentary. In an interview with the New York Times, author Marlon James repeatedly extols comics.

Growing up in Jamaica in the ’70s and ’80s, I never had the privilege of discriminating against books. I grabbed whatever I could borrow, steal or get for free. My sci-fi cinematic universe was not made up of films at all, but film novelizations of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” I read whatever my friends’ parents tossed out, from Leon Uris, to John le Carré, to James Clavell, to my beloved Jackie Collins. I didn’t even realize I was supposed to view “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as a different kind of work from Gilbert Hernandez’s “Palomar” until I entered a lit class. The distinction was and is a stupid one, but it might explain why not nearly enough readers know that “Palomar” is the best American novel of the past 35 years.

Brian Nicholson writes about Saul Steinberg's The Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth is an art book somewhere between a monograph and a sketchbook, edited and ordered for maximum readability as sets of ideas are explored. Many of those ideas are about drawing, and the drawing often feels close to doodling, as many pieces explore what you can do with a single line without removing pen from paper. It is arguably “not comics,” in that there isn’t a story you read from panel to panel, but the relationship to comics is pretty clear. If you are a maker of “avant-garde” or “art” comics, this book would be as informative to your process as reading E.C. Segar’s Popeye* would be for someone who writes Iron Man. Originally published in 1960, it was recently reprinted by NYRB, although not through their comics imprint, which has published artists whose work is prefigured here. Certain drawings seem to outline ideas that would be elaborated on in Pushwagner’s Soft City (drawn in the seventies, and published by NYRB a few years back), and drawings of people playing music, where the sound is rendered as various abstractions, bring to mind stuff in Blutch’s Total Jazz, published by Fantagraphics in 2018, though NYRB handled an English-language version of his book Peplum in 2016.

—RIP. Dick Miller.

 

Sacrifice Your Daze

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got our first Alex Dueben interview of 2019--it's with Nicole Hollander, who released her first memoir with Fantagraphics late last year. 

Do you enjoy creating but having this give and take as part of the process, whether with an editor or designer or your friend?

I do, because you’ve written something that’s completely yours and then you try to make it into a story that two people can read on stage. It has the same theme, but it’s not the same story at all. That’s really fun because some things happen that you don’t know are going to happen. She also worked as an editor so she would go through it. I’ve made up forms of grammar that don’t exist so something has to watch me. [laughs] My possessive plural are not always accurate.

But similar to how you wanted to tell this memoir, you don’t like being constrained by form, but you also need someone to go, maybe do this, or that works better.

Yes. "Why don’t you just take a second look at that?" [laughs]

I may even be wrong about this, but the graphic novels that I’ve looked at seem to be constrained by those panels. They have lines around them. They have spaces between the panels. It seems very tight to me.

Today's review comes to us from Jake Murel, and it's of Carolyn Nowak's Girl Town, one of 2018's most warmly received comics.

In this way Girl Town is characterized by what its back cover describes as Nowak’s ability to “capture the spirit of our time.” Each included comic explores the human longing for connection amidst an ever increasingly technological age faced with the inverse decline of real-world social capital. “Diana’s Electric Tongue” portrays this most literally in that Diana purchases a robot lover to cope with the termination of a significant relationship. In other comics, the connection to technological development is less overt, even non-existent, but the undergirding cultural tenor of felt isolation despite increased potential for social connectivity remains. Nowak’s protagonists stand in the grips of harrowing emotional solitude. All attempt, and some succeed, to find connection with both an internal self and others by learning to love and let themselves be loved in return. This emphasis on self-love combined with the yearning for unconditional acceptance in the face of emotional insulation stands as a hallmark of the millennial zeitgeist. Nowak’s ability for capturing this generational spirit may be her chief appeal.

In the go to another website category, I thought it was interesting to find out that one part of the comics industry--the part where they put single issues of super-heroes in plastic shields which then have numbers written across the top--regularly destroys any really nice copies of a comic book beyond a certain, agreed-upon-in-advance quantity so that they then can legitimately say "these are the only copies of said quality of really-nice-ness". At the end of the day, nearly everybody has a stupid job, a job that takes them away from the people they love for longer than is desirable and is often only in service of helping companies generate income they will not share with anyone but those who do not need it. But even by that metric, the metric wherein one extreme is washing the cracked lips of the suffering and the other is...podcasting at Engadget, or whatever, editing TCJ, sure--destroying copies of shitty comics so that the undestroyed leftovers can have more fake value in a fake economy has to be one of the dumbest ways to spend ones life in this sullen year that is 2019. The worst part of extreme climate change is going to be the part where my daughter doesn't get to live past the age of...23, probably?...but the second worst part is that I don't get to be there watching when somebody's entire collection of Mike Mayhew variant covers bursts into flames due to a wind chill of 146 degrees above Celsius.

In the interesting writing about Breccia category (a category we dominate, thanks to Seneca and Suat), Dominic Umile has decided to make a play for the title. See if you can spot the part where he blinks.

In the why do I care, I'm embarrassing myself category, I came across these images of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle in DC's most recent piece of shit comic by Tom King and have to register my dismay that they brought back Ted Kord's unexplainable six-pack. Newsflash, buster: the jokes weren't what sold those characters back in the Giffen/Maguire days. The jokes were a byproduct of the characters themselves--they were the result of showing two people who had no real use in the narratives they were thrust into, and simply letting those characters react to that odd insertion over time. The organic development those characters were allowed to have (a development that came to be by allowing the same creators to take their time and play long, languid games) is what gave them life. Ted Kord's post JL reality--getting paunchy, and eventually abandoning costumes to hang out in a lab and platonically flirt with Oracle--that was the kind of arc that DC used to let these off-brand oddball characters have. That simplicity and kindness was the reason it was so gross to kill him in the gonzo way Geoff Johns did back in another of piece of shit comic that DC came out with in their never-ending attempt to dumb-up themselves. Kord wasn't an interesting hero--but he was a hell of a stand-in for readers, and he became the crows-feet on an aging father's smiling face. Watching him develop was watching the comic book personification of growing old gracefully--and that's the main thing that DC seems completely terrified of doing, over and over and again.

 

Political Madness

Today on the site, Rob Clough is here with a review of Sergio Ponchione's comics-history fantasia Memorabilia.

Some European cartoonists are attracted to the myths of America. For example, Moebius was fascinated by the mysticism of Native American culture in the later Blueberry comics. Then there's Belgian cartoonist Morris and his long-running Lucky Luke. More recently, Christophe Blain's Gus and His Gang pays tribute both to the Western and the tropes created by its comics adaptation.

Ponchione, on the other hand, is attracted to the myths (and realities) of the American comic-book creator. Memorabilia is an expansion of a comic book he did for Fantagraphics a few years ago, where Ponchione plays the role of mysterious and vaguely discomfiting mentor, much like his own Mr. O'Blique character. The comic opens with Ponchione welcoming a young cartoonist into his home, one who has had some strange dreams. That leads to the meat of the matter: Ponchione's tributes to his cartooning heroes. He begins with Steve Ditko, in a story called "The Mysterious Steve". In the wake of sometimes weird, intrusive attempts to contact the reclusive Ditko before his death and the focus on his reclusive nature after he died, Ponchione's tribute is simple and respectful. Imitating Ditko's shadowy, distorted style, he indulges in drawing some of Ditko's best-known characters when he imagines what it's like behind his apartment door. But he leaves the story with the simple, basic truth: he was a solitary man who expressed all he had to say to the world through his stories, every day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Longtime New York City retail landmark St. Mark's Comics announced on Facebook yesterday that they are closing down.

EV Grieve has a short interview with owner Mitch Cutler (via Heidi MacDonald):

In a brief phone conversation this afternoon, longtime owner Mitch Cutler said that a variety of factors, from increasing rents to changing consumer shopping habits, played a role in his decision to close up shop here at 11 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

"There are a number of things that contributed to [the closing]. I have been working 90 hours a week for 36 years, and I no longer have the wherewithal to fight them — all of these various reasons," Cutler said. "It is challenging to have a storefront business in New York City for a number of reasons ... it is challenging to keep and maintain a retail storefront and there are enough impediments now that — like I said, I'm exhausted and can't fight them anymore."

At Apollo, Martin Rowson writes about Saul Steinberg.

Far more compelling is the way that [his aesthetic] was underpinned by a mash-up of Balkan orientalism, flight, fear and murderous political madness. For decades, Steinberg was lauded for his contribution to this aesthetic, often by the kind of European modernist he had been forced to leave behind. Le Corbusier told him ‘You draw like a king’; he was praised by Ernst Gombrich, Italo Calvino, Eugène Ionesco and Roland Barthes, attaining a cultural superstardom rare for cartoonists. Even more than Ronald Searle and Ralph Steadman, Steinberg closed the gap between what ‘cartooning’ is often assumed to be – cheaply reproduced, silly scribbles knocked out to make you laugh – and ‘art’, which is supposedly so much nobler.

 

Returners

Today's Comics Journal features the latest installment in R.C. Harvey's serial column, Hubris and Chutzpah. In this installment, Harvey covers some of the nastiness that occurred on the way towards a syndicate-enforced truce between Al Capp and Ham Fisher.

FISHER’S QUARREL WITH HIS ONE-TIME ASSISTANT continued and became an obsession, and that, coupled to his own oft-trumpeted self-importance, made Fisher a colossal boor. It also made him the perfect target for any number of practical jokes staged by other cartoonists, most of whom by this time had little regard for him.

Once, as reported by Bob Dunn in Cartoonist Profiles #40 (December 1978), when Fisher threatened to derail a charity luncheon at “21” from its purpose by usurping the agenda to attack Capp, one of the group slipped out and recruited a comely young woman to deliver Fisher’s comeuppance.

Unannounced, she walked into the third-floor private room and made straight for Fisher. She was good-looking enough to stop conversation; everyone watched her progress in silence. Giving Fisher a brilliant smile, she handed him a piece of blank paper and asked for his autograph. Almost certainly dazzled by her beauty and flattered by the obvious adoration of such a gorgeous creature and gratified by thoughts of the envy her admiration must inspire in those around him, Fisher drew the face of his famous character and signed it “with all good wishes from Joe Palooka and Ham Fisher.”

The girl took the paper and stared at it in frowning perplexity. Then, tearing the paper twice and dropping the pieces on the floor, she exclaimed, “You’re not Al Capp? I wanted Al Capp’s autograph!” She turned on her heels and strode away.

Today's review comes from Keith Silva, and it's a look at one of the more critically lauded mini-comics of recent memory, Richie Pope's That Box We Sit On. Silva's into it:

The obvious (and most important?) question—“What if the box is just a box?”—becomes the narrative’s penultimate question, a saving throw for enlightenment, truth. At the top of page fourteen, in the upper-right-hand panel, Pope draws the box from the inside, nominal lines that look like an internet ‘hamburger menu’ preside over a jumble of paper, balls and scraps suspended in an ebony void. One boy reckons, “All the pieces of paper we slip in the box vents are still inside it.” The adjoining panel shows the outside of the box complete with a near swear, smiley and “Cool S.” Pope beats the box up some, it’s not straight-line precise, there’s a bend in the seam to reinforce how long the box has been around, perhaps as long as humans have been turning these sorts of boxes over in their minds. The graffiti and the scraps of paper form a palimpsest of existential ills, stops and starts. The middle left-hand panel looks like a how a kid would pull-off (or imagine) drawing a cube in two-dimensions. While on the right-hand side the box unfolds, the top or lid of the box ascends to possibly reunite with the mothership … of boxes. The boy says, “The sides of the box are just the sides of the box and that’s it.”

I'm returning from ALA Midwinter, which was more strongly attended than was anticipated this year. It also had a heavier comics presence than in previous years, in part because of the proximity of Fantagraphics & Image to the Seattle location, in part because of the growing numbers of comics readers within the ALA organization. In celebration , I joined other comics industry folks for a screening of the motion picture Glass, after we heard about how prominently the movie featured comics criticism as a plot point. It was not as good as Aquaman, but I'll admit that I am biased heavily towards any movie which features Julie Andrews playing an immortal multi-tentacled Dunwich Horror-inspired hellbeast.