Passing By

Today on the site John Kelly looks at the highly racist and rich (literally) in coding comic strip, Ching Chow.

While a whole book could focus on the stereotypical treatment of Asians in this and other comics, that’s not our goal here.  Instead, we’ll focus on Ching Chow’s “secret” legacy, as a de facto encrypted tip sheet for gambles who played the horses and numbers games.

A bit of clarity on this is provided via author Nick Tosches’ 1988 novel Cut Numbers (Little, Brown and Company): “In his youth, he had watched his elders pour over ‘Ching Chow’ in the Daily News. This little cartoon, which occupied a two-by-three-inch space every day near the racing charts, was believed by many of those elders to contain the key to the next winning Brooklyn number. By counting the buttons on Ching Chow’s mandarin jacket, by noting how many of his fingers were extended and in which direction they pointed, by adding and subtracting blades of grass or the drawn lines of this or that, by studying Ching Chow’s aphorism of the day—by these and assorted other hermeneutic methods, people sought to decipher the secret information they believed was hidden there daily. In retrospect, it was always there: If 321 was the winning Brooklyn number, a look back at that morning’s ‘Ching Chow’ surely would reveal three buttons, two pointing fingers, and a lone bird flying overhead. If the number was 749, a look back—discounting, of course, the buttons, fingers and bird—would reveal seven pebbles, four sunrays, and nine words in the aphorism. It was widely held that this secret information was conveyed to the artist by an unknown but actual Chinaman who had grown fabulously wealth from his occult knowledge of numbers and who now, in his old age, wished to impart hat knowledge in his own inscrutable way.”


Today's header image is one of those Superman comic strips that Wayne Boring sold himself. When Superman wasn't in the strip, he offered to draw him in. That, to me, is the best thing in the world. I've never seen one of these in person, but I need to. I really do. Wayne Boring. He ruled.

Publisher Chris Oliveros and translator Zack Davisson remember Shigeru Mizuki.

Kelly Sue Deconnick on the work and life balance.

No one talks much about the Wizard of Id, but I sure love it. Here are some Sundays. 


The Long View

Joe McCulloch is here as usual this Tuesday morning with your essential guide to the Week in Comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Shigeru Mizuki, the artist probably best known to English-language audiences for comics published in recent years by Drawn & Quarterly (Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Showa, etc.) has passed away at the age of 93. We will have a fuller obituary soon.

—Misc. Chris Ware not only drew a new cover for The New Yorker, he also made a brief animated film (with the help of the great unsung John Kuramoto). He writes about the project here.

Youth in Decline has begun its 2016 Frontier subscription drive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Bob Heer reviews the long-awaited collection (and completion) of Murphy & Zulli's Puma Blues.

Brian Nicholson has mixed feelings about the new collection of The Zines of Paper Rad.

Michael Cavna writes about the year in graphic art inspired by terror attacks in Paris.

—Interviews. Rose Marthis at 417 Magazine talks to Cole Closser.

Finally, here's a short television interview with Best American Comics series editor Bill Kartalopoulous and contributors Gabrielle Bell, Julia Gfrörer, and Anders Nilsen at the 2015 Miami Book Fair:



Today on the site:

Mr. Matthew Thurber gives us much to be thankful for in his review of Adult Contemporary by Bendik Kaltenborn.

The amazing cover image of Bendik Kaltenborn’s Adult Contemporary depicts a ‘man’ in a pink suit with a elegant line that becomes bolder as it leads your eye down to his ochre paws. This man is a fancy blonde. He is made up with a circle of dark blue eye shadow and a delicate lipsticked frown surrounded by a thin Van Dyke. Their sex unclear, they nevertheless comport themselves with absolute dignity…

The book’s french fold reveals a white kid glove, pearls and cigarettes, the luxurious accessories of this post-gender businessperson.

On the flip side of the french flap we behold, from the viewpoint of a frightened bumpkin, a huge Ogre, also blonde, lips covered in blood (another kind of lipstick?) as he munches on a severed human leg. The Ogre’s huge wang dangles.

Definitely a male.

With these first images, in his first solo book for an English language market, Kaltenborn signals his main themes: masculinity, role playing, culture and savagery. This book is about surfaces — of society, of business, of the costumes we wear and the language with which we try to disguise our foolishness. To be an Adult Contemporary is to act a charade in Kaltenborn’s world. The performance can be dignified, silly, or both. But the flip side of the man… is the Beast!!!

Elsewhere, odds and ends abound, I guess.

I'm kind of obsessed with this story, which has nothing in common with comics besides neglect and awesomeness.

A comic strip goes up on a wall in the Bronx to comment on/protest against gentrification.

I enjoyed Heidi's report from a new New Jersey comic book convention. I miss going simple cons like that, and I especially miss the old cons at the Penn Hotel maybe... 10 years ago? Even that recently you could walk around and there'd be Dick Ayers across from S. Clay Wilson in an empty room.

Good little report here on what is, indeed, a gem of a museum in downtown NYC.




Turkey Time

We're about to go on break for American Thanksgiving, but before we go, John Kelly has some preview clips of upcoming visits with Bill Griffith and Steve Cerio. You know all about Griffith already (or if you don't, start with Chris Mautner's great interview earlier this week). Cerio is a cartoonist and musician perhaps "best known for his ABC Book: A Drug Primer, his comic PIE, and his work with the legendary avant-garde music/art collective The Residents, with whom he's created films, posters and a series of toys which are now in the Permanent Collection of the Museum of Modern Art."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The good news is that Zunar is receiving a CPJ Freedom of the Press Award. Michael Cavna spoke to him about it here.

The far less happy news is that Algerian cartoonist Tahar Djehiche has been convicted for insulting the president, and sentenced to six months in prison.

—Reviews & Commentary. Somehow we seem to have missed posting this Chris Ware review of Adrian Tomine's Killing & Dying...

Tom Spurgeon reflects on the end of long-running comic strip, Apartment 3-G.

At Publishers Weekly, Rob Salkowitz wonders if streaming services are about to transform comics as they already have music and film.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Wall Street Journal talks to Ben Katchor.

The New York Times Magazine talks to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff.

Gil Roth's latest interviewee is Posy Simmonds.

—Misc. The Society of Illustrators has begun accepting entries for their annual Comic and Cartoon Art Competition.


Taking it to the Streets

Today on the site Joe McCulloch brings us an appropriately bountiful selection of books and a fine swerve into the work of Chantal Montellier. I, for one, hope to read some Eternaut this holiday weekend.


The story behind Charles Berberian's New Yorker cover.

The Mindless Ones on Jon Chandler, Lando and others.

I enjoyed this Nathan Gelgud visual essay on Wood Allen.  


Everybody’s Talking at Me

Welcome back. Chris Mautner is here today with an excellent, in-depth interview with Bill Griffith about his new graphic memoir, Invisible Ink. This discussion took place at this year's SPX in Bethesda. Here's an excerpt:

Chris Mautner: So to start with, this is an image you sent me from a 1974 issue of Young Lust with a page you did where you’re portraying an affair between a cartoonist and a woman. Obviously this is something that had been percolating in your head since you first learned of it. But what was the point where you said, “I have to tell this story, not just come at obliquely, but I have to directly tell my mother’s story?

YL4page copyBill Griffith: Well the trigger for it was a visit to my uncle. My uncle is my mother’s brother and still alive at 91. Three and a half years ago – this is in the book, this is how the whole thing started – he sent me a letter hinting that he would like me to come visit. And I did. I thought, "He’s getting old, I’m not going to see him a lot in the future and this is a good time to visit."

In the course of the visit one evening, his wife, my aunt, said, "Do you think your mother ever had an affair with—"­ ... she said a name. And I said, "Not too likely, he was our neighbor. But of course she did have a long affair with Lawrence Lariar." And both my uncle and my aunt said, "Who? What?" And I explained, and they were kind of OK with it. And I thought, "Wow, I thought they were going to be outraged." These are conservative people. But underneath all conservative people is a not-so-conservative person and that came out.

I was staying at a hotel nearby. My aunt was very sick, so I didn’t want to stay with them and bother her. So I went back to my hotel that night with this conversation in my head and the book was born in about a four-hour frenzy. I was up 'til three in the morning just scribbling notes, going online, looking up this guy who I had never researched at all. I knew when I was a kid that my mother worked for him as a secretary. And I knew he was a famous cartoonist. But I only had one meeting with him, which is in the book also. So my relationship to him was very slight.

But when I did the research I said, “Oh my god, this guy has done everything in comics”. He worked for the very first comic book, New Fun, in 1934. He had four daily strips. He wrote three how-to-draw cartoon books. He wrote gag cartoons for every magazine from the 1920s to the 1970s – a huge career that’s been completely forgotten. [To audience:] Anybody every heard of Lawrence Lariar? Anybody? [A few people raise their hands.] OK, If this was 1953, you would have said, “Oh yeah, that guy.” He was in Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Look. He was primarily a gag cartoonist. So this book just sort of blossomed out of that meeting with my uncle and aunt.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Daily Mail has continued a very un-proud tradition in cartooning.

Another cartoonist arrested in Iran for shameful reasons.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jared Gardner writes about medicine in comics, including recent books by Katie Green and Porcellino.

—Interviews & Profiles. Drew Friedman gave a big interview to that Greek blues site that's been interviewing American cartoonists...

Aintitcool talked to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff.

—Misc. Congratulations to Robin M on ten years of Inkstuds.


Long Week

Today Annie Mok returns with an interview with Jeremy Sorese, whose diary we ran last week to a great response. Jeremy debuted his first graphic novel just two weeks ago at CAB.

MOK: Curveball is set in the future, and its protagonist Avery is pining over Christophe, this sailor boy that they like and used to have some kind of a relationship with. Everyone around Avery is kind of nurse-maiding them. When you talk about this age… it seemed strange to me that everyone was catering to Avery and really checking in on them about their heartbreak, because Avery’s pining. I was like, oh, what age is Avery? Their friends, housemates and coworkers are a little older than them, and they’re concerned that Avery is making a mess of theirself. Can you talk about that place in your life, or in Avery’s life?

SORESE: It’s the first attachment in life, where you don’t have the skill set yet that you build up over time from other relationships to rationalize what you’re going through and what you’re feeling. It’s not teenagery, because it’s a first taste that is more substantial than teenagery, the phase where people are like, “This is my soulmate, this is where we’re going to get married, we’re so lucky, I found someone.” And you’re a tiny baby, but you just have to go through that time in your life, and everybody can tell you that it’s going to get better or easier or you’ll meet someone better, and you won’t even care about this person in five or six years. You can’t know that until you actually do it. Avery knows better, and they’re very aware that that they know better, but they can’t emotionally feel that yet, and they have to go through the paces. So the book is a lesson in that, seeing someone have to painfully drag it out of them and then move on.


MASSIVE partner and gay manga expert Graham Kolbeins is profiled.

Sean Michael Robinson excerpts a longer work on Cerebus: Church and State I.

Paul Constant continues the string of interesting reviews of Benjamin Marra's great new book, O.M.W.A.T.

Jared Gardner writes about illness in comics. 

Only on Facebook, but Kuti Kuti is re-publishing Jodorowsky's legendary comic strips from the 1960s with an English translation.


Long One

Here's Frank Santoro and John Kelly back again with more about CAB:

Soon it was after 11am and I noticed people were shopping now so I had to get out of the way and Connor Willumsen take center field. I’ll tell ya, that kid can draw. Holy smokes. He can draw circles around just about everyone in the game. A natural if I ever saw one. He had his Breakdown Press published, Treasure Island for sale. Both volumes. The green one and the red one. No more rounded corners though on the reprint of issue one. Only collectors like me care or even know what I’m talking about. Sorry. Apparently, number three will be done toute suite. Connor showed me the new stuff he has been working on and suffice to say it is some next level shit. He’s a monster. A very handsome and at times cute and cuddly monster. But a monster all the same. Go find out more about his work here.

I had the pleasure of catching up with the also monstrously talented Aidan Koch. She had original pages from her fantastic book The Blonde Woman for sale as well as alternative versions of her Paris Review cover. “The made me redo it a bunch of times,” she laughed. I bought one of the alternate versions for Nicole Rudick who needs a parade down Fifth Avenue for managing to get stuffy literary types to take a good long look at Aidan’s work. I hear the summer Paris Review issue with Aidan’s cover and portfolio inside was a popular smash hit. Hopefully, Aidan will be the vertical invader we art comics people have all been waiting for. She can invade the literary comics world and teach them comics poetry. If anyone can storm the castle, it’s Aidan. She and Connor made handsome tablemates.


Here's Paste on the extremely good looking Eternaut.

This 1981 book about rock looks awesome.

Frank Miller is really on the promo trail, and here's a good interview at NY Mag.