Ends & Odds

Robert Kirby is here this morning with a review of the collection of Jillian Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy.

The complete collection of Jillian Tamaki’s popular webcomic SuperMutant Magic Academy, which she drew over four years beginning in 2010, melds a satire of Harry Potter-type magical fantasy tropes with real-world teenage drama and observational comedy, shot through with dreamy, poetic surrealism, straight-talking truths, and existential angst. That’s quite a mix of genres and tonal qualities; the fact that it all works so seamlessly is a testament to Jillian Tamaki’s great skills as a writer and artist. Tamaki channels the everyday concerns of teenage years with hilarity, heart, and deadly accuracy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Roger Cohen at Vanity Fair has a lengthy profile of Charlie Hebdo, focusing on the problems presented when an anticapitalist publication is suddenly infused with enormous amounts of money.

It is of course easier to take a detached or critical view of money when one does not have any. With millions have come machinations. Charlie Hebdo is now 40 percent owned by the parents of the paper’s murdered editorial director and cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, or “Charb.” Laurent Sourisseau, the writer and cartoonist known as “Riss,” owns another 40 percent. Eric Portheault, the finance director, owns the rest. Their shares, once worth little or nothing, are suddenly worth a lot.

Many Charlie staffers are unhappy at this tight concentration of newfound wealth. In an extraordinary manifesto published by the daily Le Monde in late March, they declared, “We refuse that a handful of individuals take control, either total or partial, in absolute contempt for those who make and support” the paper. The 15 signatories asked, “How are we to escape the poison of the millions that, through exceptional sales and also donations and subscriptions, have fallen into the pockets of Charlie?”

Heidi Macdonald at The Beat reports on a new arrangement between SPX and Nickelodeon in which convention attendees will have the chance to be evaluated for a potential animation deal.

—Interviews & Profiles. Paul Gravett writes about Keiji Nakazawa, creator of the great Barefoot Gen. (Coincidentally, Last Gasp has just launched a Kickstarter in the hopes of publishing a new hardcover edition of Barefoot Gen.)

Emily Neuberger at Word & Film interviews Phoebe Gloeckner, just as the film adaptation of her Diary of a Teenage Girl is about to be released.

W&F: Few works in any medium chronicle the awakening female sexuality. Did you want specifically to address this?

PG: Frankly, I've never written a book or a story or drawn a picture with the idea of addressing anything in particular. The confusions and emotions engendered by experience are what drive me to create.

Alex Deuben talks to Eddie Campbell about his return to Bacchus.

—Podcasts. The two most recent episodes of Inkstuds feature Marc Bell and Emma Rios. The two most recent episodes of Make It Then Tell Everybody feature Simon Hanselmann and Ryan Sands. Comic Books Are Burning in Hell returns from a long hiatus to discuss new comics by Gilbert Hernandez and Adrian Tomine.


Next Page

Today, we have a new episode of Mike Dawson's TCJ Talkies podcast. This time around, the great cartoonist/editor Sammy Harkham talks about an under-the-radar European import from a few years back, M. Tillieux's Murder by High Tide.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. A site called has a lengthy, career-spanning interview with the most prominent cartoonist in South Africa, Zapiro.

I applied to, it was accepted, at the school of visual arts [sic] in Manhattan – it was my first choice. And that was because Art Spiegelman, the great Art Spiegelman who did Maus, the Holocaust story in graphic novel form – about his own relationship with his father and his father and mother survived Auschwitz, and this had also changed my life to read that book, so that’s where I went. And a weird thing happened – on the day I arrived, I went to sign up, and that was the thing of course I was the most excited about. And they said: “Oh, Art Spiegelman? He kind of hasn’t taught here for about a year.”

Oh dear.

So I was devastated for about a day and then regrouped, and thought there happened to be Will Eisner and Harvey Kurzman – two absolute giants of cartooning who are teaching here, so I’ll go to their classes and I loved that, and after a year of study there – I was doing really well now, really nailing all the courses and the school gave me a huge exhibition in New York and at a place that they normally reserve for the alumni of the school. And the head of the school happened to be named Rhodes, by the way, he comes up to me and he says is there anybody you’d like to meet. And I say: “Well there is, come to mention it.” And I told him the story about Spiegelman and he was very, very embarrassed and he immediately set up a meeting and I ended up doing an independent study with Spiegelman for a semester.

For The Guardian, Cece Bell talks at illustrated length about how she made her children's graphic novel, El Deafo.

—Misc. The next volume of Best American Comics will be guest-edited by Jonathan Lethem, and will feature a cover by Raymond Pettibon. Pretty solid choices there.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough reviews Sarah Laing's Let Me Be Frank.

At Comics Alliance, writer J. A. Micheline announces a personal boycott of Marvel, based on recent controversies and longstanding minority representation issues. Leaving rhetoric aside, her stated demands—Marvel hiring three Black writers and using three LGBTQ lead characters—don't seem unreasonable as personal cut-off points, especially considering Marvel's size and cultural footprint.


Online Access Restored

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual Tuesday-morning guide to the week in interesting-sounding new comics. He also expounds at length about one my own favorite manga titles: Kōji Aihara & Kentarō Takekuma's Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga. An excerpt from the middle:

In this way, Monkey lacks the call to arms or the righteous sarcasm you might expect from an American satire; instead, its characters accept the terrain as given, and move to analyze it, without any gesture toward affecting change. It is, nonetheless, not a kindly study: the core joke of Monkey is that manga, as a commercial art, can be understood fully -- indeed, mastered -- through the adept clicking together of pre-made commercial parts; there is no shame in swiping poses or ideas from other artists, as comics is fundamentally a language of shared symbols, which can only realize meaning through simple variations on repetitious usage. This is illustrated most vividly through likening the desirous components of "ladies' comics" (from which josei would later distinguish itself as a less porny manifestation) to falling Tetris blocks, but the machinations of shōjo romance are likewise compared to the rigid formalities of sumo wrestling, while the sexual conquests of a seinen erotic comedy hero are presented as conveyer belt sushi - very mechanical! With the wave of a finger, Takekuma observes that no other type of young men's manga is relevant: everything boils down to the immediate gratification of desire by the most streamlined means.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. A Moment of Cerebus republishes an essay by Bill Watterson on George Herriman's Krazy Kat.

Duncan Mitchel writes about the exploration of stereotypes in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

RJ Casey writes about Dan Zettwoch.

—Interviews. CBR talks to Kate Beaton.

—Misc. There's a new issue of the UK-based comics magazine Off Life available, in both print and digital form.

Joost Swarte did the cover for the latest New Yorker. He is also apparently launching a new magazine of his own.

—Video. Alison Bechdel appeared on the Seth Meyers late-night talk show last week.


Hammer Meet Nail

Today on the site Brandon Soberberg reviews Gilbert Hernandez's most recent comic book, Blubber.

This brutal little one shot from Gilbert Hernandez constructs a libidinous circle of life via six loosely connected strips of blackly comic body horror, creepily cute animal weirdness, and nightmarish nature documentary deadpan, occupied by spindly creepazoids and bowling pin-shaped monsters. A few strips seem to reference, riff on, and playfully jab the work of alt-comics big guns like Michael DeForge and Johnny Ryan and overall, it reads like an unimpeachable indie veteran giving the comix scene the business. It's a head scratcher and a reactionary work.

Slow news weekend, I think...

Here's Variety on Dave Cooper and Johnny Ryan's TV show, Pig Goat Banana Cricket.

And I wrote about Suellen Rocca, of the Hairy Who, over at Hyperallergic.

That's about it from here!



Oh Why Bother

Today on the site, R. Orion Martin explores the world of Chinese web comics, interviewing two artists who publish primarily via online social media, due partly to the country's tightly controlled publishing environment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The always controversial political cartoonist Ted Rall has been fired by the Los Angeles Times over a disputed story about a 2001 jaywalking incident. The Times explains here, and Rall defends himself here. [UPDATE: Rall has another post up today, with an "enhanced" version of the audiotape evidence of the 2001 encounter.]

Bluewater Entertainment, the schlocky publisher of hacked-out biographical comics on people like Sarah Palin and other flashes in the pan, has changed its name to the most preposterously idiotic thing it could: StormFront. As most people know, and the briefest Google search would have revealed to the comics publishers in question, "Stormfront" is also the name of one of the most prominent and notorious White supremacist websites in the world (no link). Any bets on how long it will be before they change their name again? I'm surprised they've made it three days....

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough takes a hard look at Dustin Harbin's Diary Comics.

At Paste, Shea Hennum has a good piece on how many big comics-news sites have endlessly and breathlessly plugged sales news on the Marvel Star Wars tie-in comics while ignoring the more impressive sales of Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan. I do think it is worthwhile to note that while I have no doubt that cultural bias plays a role in this, it is also true that many of those sites, while nominally about comics, in actuality devote an enormous and ever-expanding amount of space to movie and toy news. They aren't exactly trying to capture the art form in its essence; they're trying to get clicks from a certain demographic. This doesn't invalidate Hennum's analysis in the slightest, of course.


What If?


Greg Hunter talks to cartoonist Caitlin Skaalrud (Houses of the Holy)


Lauren Weinstein posted one of the best short stories I've seen since, well, her last post earlier this year. Lauren's on a roll, and good on our pal Nicole Rudick for publishing this amazing piece of art at the Paris Review.

Phoebe Gloeckner is having another well-deserved moment in the sun, via the film adaptation of her masterpiece The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Ines Estrada calls attention to this book she co-edited about Mexican zines, a topic about which I know nothing. The book looks great. Gimme!

Here's are two questions for the peanut gallery which will do nothing for my reputation:

1) Does anyone remember which issue of the Fantastic Four opened with a splash of The Thing making/admiring an anchovy pizza? Here's a free idea for all your movie execs: A solo Thing movie in which he roams around "New Brooklyn", raging against micro brews and condo developments! Furious about pour-over coffee! Take it, it's yours.

2) Remember What If? Who has a favorite What If issue? What a funny premise for a comic that I took so seriously as a kid. I wish it still existed, but for ALL comics (What If Louis Riel was Immortal? What if Chunky Rice was a Wolf?) and that Daniel Clowes wrote them ALL and Rick Altergott drew them ALL. Dream team! Youth! Happiness!


Now or Never

Today on the site, Naomi Fry returns with a review of Sylvie Rancourt's Melody, an autobiographical comic about Rancourt's time as a young stripper in Montreal. Here's an excerpt:

It’s not that Melody isn’t introspective, exactly, or that her feelings and opinions aren’t strong; it’s that they are often in flux, and reversible. In his introduction to the book, Chris Ware suggests that Melody’s protagonist is childlike, but I’d argue, rather, that her sensibility is much more that of a very young woman—mostly powerless, occasionally powerful, with the work of stripping not necessarily situated at one definitive end of that spectrum. The sensations of the body before, after, and during its ritualistic unveiling consistently fluctuate, with Rancourt’s bare-bones drawings surprisingly capacious in their ability to convey those sensations. Melody writhing on stage, her face screwed up in enjoyment or disgust at her less agreeable clients (“Come back! We’re not done smelling your wonderful scent!”); with her mouth twisted into a grimace (“I’m yelling because I’ve had enough! I don't like this bullshit and I want to go home right now, got it?”); or sighing in delight as Nick sucks on her nipple (“Oh sweetie”).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Misc. Michael Cavna reports on the opening of Harvey Pekar Park in Cleveland Heights.

Neal Adams: filmmaker?

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson writes about various Image comics.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Vice Sean T. Collins talks to Boy's Club's Matt Furie.

CBR talks to Jason Lutes about nearing the end of Berlin.

Shawn Starr talks to Steve Blatchford of comics sharing site


Green Juncture

Today on the site it's Joe and the comics of the week.


Here's Jeet Heer on Ted Cruz and Rorschach, which is like having Stanley Crouch write about Kenny G. We miss you, Jeet.

Here's our own Sean T. Collins on Hellboy.

And here's Tom Spurgeon on various comic book industry stuff.

There are some nice reviews of my show What Nerve! in The New Yorker and Artspace. the show, as I've mentioned, contains work by  various people who have also made comics. I should note, and you heard here it first, that the Collected Hairy Who Publications book that accompanies the show should rewrite the history of underground comics. It won't, because comics people never look at art, but it should. We've reached a funny point in the culture where art is very interested in comics, and comics just won't play ball. It's "funny".