Coffee Time

Matthias Wivel is here with a review of the giant Drawn and Quarterly 25th anniversary anthology:

Today, when you're ingesting the latest whirl of supremely controlled, cold-as-ice pages from Michael DeForge, or finding yourself having lost forty-five minutes cracking up knowingly while scrolling down Kate Beaton's Tumblr, it may hit you how strangely natural this feels. You might also look in the mirror and catch a fleck of gray hair, and then perhaps experience a residual sense of alienation.

Because, yes, it has been about twenty-five years since those heady days of comics suddenly—again—appearing like they were all promise. Yes, there had always been great comics and much ground had been broken in previous decades, but there was a crackle in the air in the early nineties. A sense, when you opened a new comic, not so much of a blank slate, but rather that those clear lines, those scruffy hatch marks were composed fractally of unrealized potential. At that moment, everything seemed (theoretically) possible. Precariously, but exhilaratingly so.

And yes, Chris Oliveros' Drawn and Quarterly was there, somewhere near the center of this breaking kaleidoscope. A fledgling publisher in hip Montréal, sufficiently shrewd—and lucky—to launch out with a handful of the finest cartoonists of their generation: Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. It may be obvious today, but the gauntlet they threw in the face of comics was radical at the time: a look at real life.

It did garner the publisher a reputation among reactionaries for publishing exclusively navel-gazing autobiography, which it took more than a decade to shake, but that was less due to any real predictability in their publishing line than it was to the shock of the new. Autobiography and other reality-based approaches to comics became the natural locus of the quiet explosion of tradition that was happening in comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Yesterday, Janelle Asselin published a report on harassment and assault allegations against Dark Horse editor Scott Allie. In particular, writer Joe Harris stepped forward to claim Allie both groped him inappropriately and bit him at a party during this year's San Diego Comic-Con. An unnamed witness backed up his account. Allie has since issued an apology for his behavior. Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson has also issued a statement on the situation.

—Reviews & Commentary. Howard Chaykin, Gary Groth, Mike Catron, Larry Hama, and a bunch of other people discuss the work and legacy of Wally Wood.

Bart Croonenberghs writes about Philippe Druillet's 6 Voyages of Lone Sloane.

—Misc. The New York Times visits with Betty Tokar Jankovich, a onetime girlfriend of Bob Montana and apparent model for Betty from the Archie comics.



Today we have Annie Mok reviewing two new Michael DeForge books.

Transformations and power imbalances guide DeForge through Lose #7, the new issue of his one-person anthology comic; and Dressing, a collection of shorts and a successor to his 2013 collection Very Casual. Both come from DeForge’s regular publisher Koyama Press, and the crisp printing comes as a relief after the fuzzy image quality on DeForge’s Lose collectionA Body Beneath. Dressing sports textured cream paper in a pink hardcover, looking like an answer to DeForge’s precious salmon-colored D+Q book First Year Healthy. Its small size comes with the drawback of unnecessarily tiny text, but one story in the letter-sized Lose shares the same problem.

And elsewhere:

Jeet Heer has written a great article, with extensive new research, about Roy Crane's ties to the US military.

In a really smart and prescient movie move, The Lucas Museum has acquired the original art for R. Crumb's Genesis.

Comics related: The great cartoon-inflected painter Nicole Eisenman has been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Grant. Here's a good interview with her.



Today, R.C. Harvey is here with an exhaustive report on this summer's Ted Rall/Los Angeles Times/LAPD controversy.

To say that political cartoonist Ted Rall is provocative is much like saying the Empire State Building is a pretty tall building or Mount Everest is quite a big hill. Rall often is, simply and unabashedly, extreme and outrageous, caustic sarcasm oozing from every panel of his cartoons. I usually agree with him—although at somewhat fewer decibels per utterance. And when his ire is aroused, as it has been lately, he can exaggerate the situation that irks him—he is, after all, a cartoonist—and maybe even stretch the truth a tad. So when he first began claiming that he’d been “fired” by the Los Angeles Times for spurious reasons, I paused before climbing on his bandwagon. For one thing, he couldn’t be “fired”: he freelances with the Times, contributing both cartoons and opinion columns.

It soon developed that not only had the Times resolved not to use any of Rall’s submissions in future (effectively “firing” him), but the paper announced its decision to the world on its website, a suspicious act on its face: Why would a newspaper feel compelled to make a public proclamation that it was no longer going to use the contributions of a freelancer? When a writer makes factual errors as the Times says Rall did, isn’t the usual journalistic practice to issue a correction? But the Times went far beyond this, and the extreme to which the paper went is highly suspicious. Why make such a public big deal about it?

The Times announcement continued, justifying its decision to drop Rall by claiming that a recent Rall column played fast and loose with the facts, thereby smearing his professional integrity as a reporter and commentator. And that, like the announcement itself, seemed a little extreme. Not only was the Times “firing” Rall in public, but it was sabotaging his reputation so he wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere else.

This is serious stuff. Deadly serious. No wonder Rall was pissed.

I have a different perspective on these events than Harvey does, largely because despite listening to Rall's "enhanced" audiotape multiple times, I have never been able to hear many of the key things Rall says are there. But Harvey's account is still well worth reading; there are important issues involved, and the facts at the bottom of the story are murky.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Chip Zdarsky has refused to accept a Special Award for Humor from the Harvey Awards, arguing that it makes no sense for only him to be nominated for the award, considering Sex Criminals writer Matt Fraction's contributions.

In Playboy, Noah Berlatsky exaggerates the merits of Randall Munroe's XKCD, which is a good enough strip that it doesn't really need the hyperbole. (Not that overstating things online is a crime.)

Rob Clough reviews the latest volumes of the Complete Peanuts, as that project nears its end.

This Friday will see the opening, at the Turchin Center of the Arts in Boon, NC, of "At the Junction of Words & Pictures", an exhibition celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Center for Carton Studies curated by TCJ columnist Craig Fischer. Featured artists include Ariel Bordeaux, Chester Brown, Charles Burns, Sophie Goldstein, Kevin Huizenga, James Sturm, and Sophie Yanow, among many others.

Gabe Fowler of Desert Island:


Dealing with Hair

Today Joe brings us the week in and the week out.


Goodbye to Bergen Street Comics. 

Local news dept: This cracked me up.

Finally, here I am this past summer talking Hairy Who with most of the HW themselves...


Foxy Grandpa

Today, Dan writes about a slew of comics he's read recently, including work by Aidan Koch, Anya Davidson, Benjamin Marra, Heather Benjamin, S. Clay Wilson, and Hugo Pratt, among others. Here's an excerpt, in which he reviews the new anthology, Lagon:

I was one of the lucky 400 who got this limited edition risograph comics anthology. I was excited. It is ironic then, that it would appear at same time as Mould Map 4, which makes Lagon irrelevant. For all its bluster (from the intro: “In the depths of the ocean, under the blue Lagon, an island was waiting to rise to the surface.” Guess what’s on the island guys? Comics!) and preciousness the book is basically a rehash of Mould Map #3 and various issues of Kramer’s Ergot, right down to the obligatory historical piece (Fletcher Hanks, guys!). What’s odd about this lavish production is that it’s filled with imitators of other people in the actual book. CF, Negron, Yokoyama — their influences dominate to an almost hysterical degree. Like, what the fuck? Or as Jeff the Drunk would say, Chelllllllo?! I guess what I’m looking for now in a comic (since you asked) is strangeness or authenticity. Give me one or the other or both (Koch, Benjamin, Davidson, Marra, Chandler below all have it in spades). In any case, Lagon is not strange or even unusual. It feels like a luxury good and thus like the end of something. It’s co-sponsored by by Agnes B., whose other offenses include Harmony Korine’s career. I don’t want art that has been digested already. Obviously I’m not being fair to it. Everyone worked hard, etc. But if you’re gonna do it, don’t fuck around with bullshit. On the other hand, man, this one contributor, Alexis Beauclair, is really excellent. He or she has taken the lessons of Yokoyama and Schrauwen and made a lot of fascinating comics in which you kind of activate them by touch. It’s hard to explain. Check it out. Better than you think.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

The Harvey Awards were given out at the Baltimore Comic-Con.

Michael Lorah at CBR talks to Adrian Tomine about his upcoming collection.

Mark Medley at the Toronto Globe & Mail profiles Kate Beaton.

—Comics Enriched Their Lives! #135:
In this lost and only recently published book review of Alfed North Whitehead, T.S. Eliot takes his title metaphor from the funny pages.


The Dream

Frank Santoro announced the winners of Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2015 Winners. A truly astounding comic by John Brodowski got a special mention.

Well, Mothers News, the great newsprint periodical out of Providence, home to some excellent writing and some fine comic strips, is closing its doors after half a decade. Celebrate it by stocking up on back issues while you can.

Another venerable institution of the underground, Tomato House, is now distributing hand-painted Caroliner posters, which is pretty exciting.


Visible Ink

Today Annie Mok returns with another interview. This time, she talks to Jane Mai, whose latest book is Sunday in the Park with Boys:

MOK: I talked to Corinne Mucha once when she was developing her book [Get Over It!], the one about the breakup, and she said that autobio comics are a weird thing, because you’re deciding what to keep hidden. It’s this illusion of revealing all.

MAI: It’s true. I also have this weird thing, where—there’s two Jane Mais, there’s the blond one—well, there’s three, there’s too many to keep track of. And even though they’re based on me, I don’t consider them representative of me. They’re like these side characters that do stupid things.

MOK: In the beginning you make a main character list, the main characters being you and your friends: you, Greasy, Paril, and your best friend Evelyn. There’s Jane Mai who’s blond, Jane Mai with dyed black hair, Jane Mai with an eyepatch, and “Nurse Janey, a fictional character.” Aside from Nurse Janey, who seems to be used in more fantastical situations—or maybe not. There’s the one where Nurse Janey’s working with the vet to take care of the guinea pig’s terrible poop sickness, and it feels in fantastical because you’re not a nurse in real life. But then in some way, it’s “Well, this doesn’t seem like a very outlandish problem. Maybe Jane dealt with this IRL.” Can you talk about these different characters, and how they maybe have an intuitive separation for you between the four of them?

MAI: Nurse Janey is supposed to be more fantastical, even though I did do the guinea pig thing, and it was horrible.

MOK: It seemed based on real life.

MAI: Yes… I had some mini comics that I had done that were more fantastical, monsters and weird stuff, about Nurse Janey and Dr. Paril. They were these stupid little things I was doing for fun, and no one liked them! [laughs] So I stopped doing them, even though I’d like to get back into it. She’s a really fringe character for more exploratory, monster stuff. I feel like nurses and doctors are respectable positions to have, and I’m not [laughs] a really respectable person, so I made her a nurse. She’s not idealized, but she’s supposed to be almost a regular person. Except that she lives in a fantasy world with monsters and stuff.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
As you've no doubt heard, Marvel has announced that the next writer of Black Panther will be Ta-Nehisi Coates. At The New Republic, Jeet Heer writes about how this relates to the superhero industry's various diversity problems.

Ace comics reviewer Sean Rogers writes about new books from Jessica Abel, Cole Closser, and Michael DeForge.

Inkstuds has posted a critics' roundtable episode, with guests Joe McCulloch, Zainab Akhtar, and Tom Spurgeon.

Via the CRNI comes reports that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan likely died in government custody two years ago, possibly after being tortured.

—Interviews & Profiles. Laura Hudson interviewed Kate Beaton for Wired.

Davey Nieves talks to Glenn Head for The Beat.

—Misc. Entertainment Weekly has a preview excerpt from Bill Griffith's first comics memoir, Invisible Ink.

Forbes ran an SPX report(!), focusing primarily on diversity.

Michael Dooley at Print shares images and brief excerpts from the Comic Book Apocalypse Jacky Kirby catalog.


Down Count

On the site today we have Katie Skelly reporting on the long-awaited re-release of the 1973 film Belladonna of Sadness. Long-awaited because I've been hearing about this all year and I'm really quite excited to see it. I also know of a related book that is supposed to come out in 2016. A good time for psychedelia, kids!

The 1973 adult animation feature film Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Beradonna) was birthed into the world by Mushi Productions, the animation production studio founded and eventually abandoned by Osamu Tezuka after the commercial failure of his own adult animation feature, Cleopatra(1970). In the 90-minute film, directed and co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto, the virginal protagonist Jeanne lives a peaceful, humble life in her feudal village until a sadistic baron violates her by rule of droit du seigneur on the eve of her wedding. The destitute Jeanne begins to experience visions of a phallic demon, who strikes a deal with her and brings her closer to power through manipulation of nature and magic.

Belladonna, like Tezuka’s Cleopatra, was a commercial failure and remained unseen by wider audiences for years after its initial release. However, its lurid themes of eroticism, explicit sexuality, and witchcraft—the film takes cues from Jules Michelet’s 1862 treatise Satanism and Witchcraft—combined with its eye-watering psychedelic stills garnered steady interest in the age of the internet. After over 40 years of obscurity (and endless low-quality versions surfacing online), Belladonna of Sadness recently received a 4K restoration by Los Angeles-based post-production company Cinelicious. Having recently seen the restoration myself after years of anticipation, I was thrilled by its slow and steady animation style, reminiscent of the language of comics, its thumping soundtrack and painterly style, which I had never seen in animation prior.

And Rob Clough reviews Leslie Stein's Bright Eyed at Midnight.

Leslie Stein is part of a new strain of autobiographical cartoonists who inject a strain of magical realism into their work. That’s been true for her book/mini series Eye of the Majestic Creature, where she refers to herself as Larrybear and lives with anthropomorphic musical instruments. Her technique is fanatically labor-intensive, as she uses a stippling method to go along with lissome lines in creating a highly detailed but fanciful version of her mostly nocturnal existence. Her new book, Bright-Eyed at Midnight, is a sort of strange, inverted version of her other comics. Her usual work is in black and white, but her new book is structured around her use of watercolors and colored pencils. Her old work was heavily line-dependent, but her new work is built around color formed around the wisps and hints of lines, using negative space to nudge the reader into creating fully-textured drawings. Finally, while she put up a fictive veil in EOTMC, she rips that barrier away in BEAM, using the structure of the daily journal comic’sin media res qualities to more directly engage her own personal narrative.


A few things... let's remember Frank Santoro's crowd-funding campaign for his school. The link is here. Rewards are awesome.

Oh, and may I mention again how incredible Mould Map #4 is? It's incredible. And yes, I am still due for a report on NYABF. I just need to, uh, write it.

Still more... longtime romance comic artist and illustrator Jay Scott Pike passed away last week. Mark Evanier has a brief obit.

Tom Spurgeon reports back on SPX.