Not Fit

Richard Gehr is here with an obituary of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti.

Charles Barsotti – or “Charley,” as nearly everyone called him – was born September 28, 1933, in San Marcos, Texas. “Everything down there either had thorns on it or bit,” he said of his hometown when I interviewed him in January 2013, “and that includes the adults.” Howard, his father, sold furniture in San Antonio, where Charley was raised. His mother, the delightfully named Dicey Belle Branum, was a schoolteacher. Barsotti credited his hard-working parents with inspiring his own determined work ethic. “That, and fear,” he added.

And John Seven reviews Gabrielle Bell's new book.

Bell’s encounter with Dominique Goblet at Fumetto-Internationales Comix Festival in Switzerland gives insight to what Bell sees beneath the surface of her autobiographical work. Through lectures and conversations, Goblet unveils an autobiographical goal for Bell, an understanding that “there is no trueness,” in Goblet’s words, “just facts and the links that connect the facts.”

It gets to the heart of what Bell has done naturally in her autobiographical work before and strives to do more purposefully as she continues. Why does she challenge herself to these diaries when she also often mentions how dissatisfied she is by the prospect of doing them? What is she trying to attain by sharing these works that could easily function as private, daily exercises in cartooning of no interest to anyone else but the cartoonist? Is this part of Bell’s pursuit of a phantom called objective truth? Or is it her acknowledgement that we fashion our own truth, and her way of doing so is within panels on paper?


There's been a major development in the Kirby vs. Marvel legal case.

The Society of Illustrators is holding its Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend. Nice to see Ed Sorel and Al Jaffee on the list. Sorel is one of the all-time great illustrators, and one whose work is always worth a second and third look.

An interview with the authors of a new play about Jack Kirby.

And here's an author-centric look at the current Amazon wars.



Today on the site we have Rob Clough's review of Sophie Yanow's War of Streets and Houses. Here's a sample:

Sophie Yanow's autobiographical series In Situ reveals an artist whose understanding and experience of art, philosophy, politics and daily life are all inextricably bound together. Her new book, War of Streets and Houses, is a fascinating study of protest, privilege, self-awareness and political frustration. It's an eyewitness account of being part of the tuition strike at a Montreal university in 2011 as well as a meditation on what it means to protest, both on a personal and global level. It's also a philosophical and historical examination of the history of counter-protest and counter-revolutionary actions on the part of governments. Indeed, the comic's title refers to an infamous pamphlet written by a French officer named Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, whose co-opting of houses in Algiers proved to be a key strategy in defeating separatists in the 1840s.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Chris Mautner talks to Lane Millburn. 13th Dimension interviews Larry Hama about working with Wally Wood.

—Profiles. Crime novelist James Sallis pays tribute to the French crime writer (and Jacques Tardi collaborator) Jean-Patrick Manchette. Mike Sacks talks to Tales from Times Square author (and Drew Friedman collaborator) Josh Alan Friedman.

—Reviews & Criticism. The NY Times reviews Nick Bertozzi's Shackleton. Rob Clough looks at recentish Box Brown minicomics. Benjamin Rogers is thinking about the format of concertina comics.

Leah Wishnia has a strong, impassioned report of her disillusionment following a recent visit to a comics show at the Scott Eder Gallery in New York.

I don't know if everyone will be able to read it, but David Heatley has a long post on his Facebook page making public his thoughts on his comics career, his relationship with and admiration for Chris Ware, and internet criticism.

—Misc. Bob Mankoff remembers Charles Barsotti. Jeff Trexler gets into the legalities of things like that recent Clickhole Calvin & Hobbes parody. Will Dinski drew a comic about going to see Art Spiegelman talk. Ben Towle remembers Chris Reilly. Calvin Reid profiles Conundrum Press.


Sounds Like Fun

Busy day here today:

Rob Steibel is here with his final Kirby column for TCJ.

Jack did not need to put that much detail into a piece like this. A few very simple lines would have given his inker Vince Colletta enough to go on. So why did Kirby pack so much detail into an image like this, using thousands of pencil lines to provide shading for the illustration, especially considering he worked under such crushing deadlines cranking out an average of three entire comic books a month? I suspect that Jack Kirby was very passionate about his work. I think he was a perfectionist, and I think he enjoyed illustrating a page like this. He was finding the image throughout the illustration process, experimenting, and interestingly that quest for perfection is similar to the journey Jack talks about in his directions for Stan Lee on this page: the “trail may lead to ends of infinity – but he can only redeem himself through this assignment.” And that’s what many artists do, yes they make a living if they are lucky plying their craft, but the process of creating imagery on a blank page can be an adventure into your own imagination and a great excuse to study history and art.

And Richard Gehr reviews Roz Chast's new graphic novel.

Like much of Chast’s work, Can’t We Talk is a formal triumph that at first glance looks somewhat a mess.The New Yorker‘s most stylistically experimental cartoonist, Chast draws single-panel cartoons and multipage nonfiction narratives for the magazine in addition to creating monumental lists, typologies, calendars, archaeologies, fake publications, and real children’s books. Chast rarely makes do with a single gag. Her cartoons are often mini-multiples. From the rocky collection of “little things” (“chent,” spak,” “kabe,” etc.) that comprised her first TNY cartoon, she has been the magazine’s preeminent underpromiser/overdeliverer. She also happens to be one of the magazine’s best writers, and the book gives her the space to expand on funny, anxious, and often infuriating things that happen in her cartoons when she wants to convey the full weight of the Chast clan’s considerable neurotic karma.


The great New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti has died. Richard Gehr interviewed him for this site just last year.

Cartoonist Matthew Thurber's excellent play Mining the Moon, which I saw and loved, gets a very nice review over here.

And I'm always happy to see more Blobby Boys.


Burnt Offerings

Quick, quick! Joe McCulloch is giving a guided tour of the most interesting sounding new comics in stores this week. His spotlight pick is the collection of Wally Wood's Witzend, which really is an amazing object I've been spending a lot of time with myself over the last few weeks. A fascinating historical document, with lots of great comics, too.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. SpyVibe talks to Richard Sala. Tom Spurgeon talks to Mike Dawson.

I try not to link to podcasts I have not yet had the time to listen to, but here are several that I am guessing are worth it, based on past performance: Gil Roth talks to Seth. Dan Berry talks to Jason Shiga and John Martz & Dustin Harbin.

—Reviews & Criticism. Rob Clough writes about Chris Wright's Black Lung. Susan Burton reviews the Tamakis' This One Summer as a children's book in the NY Times. Gabriele Di Fazio writes about Sam Alden. Zaina Akhtar writes about Gipi.

—Misc. SPX has announced another impressive guest list. Michael Cavna of the Washington Post won well-deserved awards from the Society for Features Journalism.


Figure That Out

Today on the site: I had a back-and-forth with Hillary Chute about her new book, Outside the Box, among other things.

I wondered if you could, for the record, restate your response to the criticism of the Chicago symposium. I think your defense is important — do you worry about canonization and exclusion? It’s a function of any event that not everyone gets invited, but are the ramifications of such groupings of concern to you?  It was, I think, the whiteness of the panel, omission of Hernandez Bros, and the idea that it was a conservative canon-making. And finally, what’s next?

About the whiteness of the conference (and it wasn’t entirely white, but largely so): I appreciated Keith Knight’s comments a lot, and I also appreciated, in the follow up, his thoughts on how diversity in the comics field is growing.  The conference website (for which all of the editorial content was written by me) states that the conference “brings together 17 world-famous cartoonists whose work has defined contemporary comics.”  That is a true statement, in my opinion, for everyone who was invited. But it doesn’t mean that I think they are the only cartoonists whose work has defined contemporary comics, by any means.  It would have been fabulous to have more people up there, and more non-white faces up there.  If I could have gotten the funding to pull off an even bigger conference and invite more people, I would have!! I asked people I knew, who I had worked with or interviewed or met before. It’s a pretty white crowd, but not intentionally so!


Kim Deitch aired some concerns about Alvin Buenaventura's business practices over the weekend. It's all on Facebook here, here and here.

Here's something I've rarely seen: An English-language profile of the French cartoonist Gotlib.

Richard Brody on screenwriting vs. writing over at The New Yorker.

And Craig Fischer is organizing a big panel for Heroes Con, and he'd like to tell you about. Link is here, and text is below:

Comics Regulation, Comics Censorship: Past and Present

For their 2014 mega-panel, cartoonist Ben Towle and writer Craig Fischer team up with a cadre of expert commentators to examine those moments when political and public outrage over the content of comic books disrupted the body politic. The panel begins with a discussion of the recent South Carolina Fun Home controversy, where legislators in the House of Representatives tried to reduce state funding to the College of Charleston as a penalty for using Alison Bechdel’s lesbian-themed graphic novel in a campus program. Present for the Fun Home discussion are Dr. Consuela Francis, a comics scholar and professor in the English Department at the College of Charleston, and Christopher Brook, the Legal Director of North Carolina’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Then we’ll reconsider one of the most controversial figures in comics history: Dr. Fredric Wertham, author of 1954’s Seduction of the Innocent (published 60 years ago) and outspoken critic of what he considered the negative effects of comics on children. We’ll be joined via video by Dr. Bart Beaty (the author of Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture [2005]) and Dr. Carol Tilley (the author of an article about distortions in Wertham’s research) to chart the latest developments in “Wertham Studies.”

Finally, Craig will conduct a career-spanning interview with legendary industry figure Denis Kitchen. We’ll zero in on the censorship hassles Kitchen tackled as a publisher and distributor of underground comix, on his role in the founding of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in 1986, and on his involvement in the CBLDF’s highest profile case, the arrest and conviction of artist Mike Diana for obscenity in 1994 (20 years ago!). Join us for a thought-provoking exchange of ideas…and for a cake decorated to look like the seal of the Comics Code Authority!

This panel is sponsored by the ACLU of North Carolina.




When She Woke

R.C. Harvey is here with a report from this year's Reuben Awards. Here's a sample:

The formal climax of the evening is the presentation of the Reuben, the name of the trophy given to the “cartoonist of the year.” By the custom of the awards banquet, the Reuben is presented by the oldest Reuben recipient present—for years, that’s been Mort Walker (who won in 1953 for Beetle Bailey), but he was unable to attend this year; hence the next in age and dignity, Mell Lazarus (who won in 1981 for Momma and Miss Peach), presented the trophy this year to Wiley Miller, whose unique achievements in on the funnies pages of the nation’s newspapers exceed even the customary high standards set by previous Reuben winners, as we hope to convince you in a subsequent Hare Tonic PROfile of Wiley (his signature name).

Taking the podium to receive the trophy, his cherubic face aglow, Wiley began a graceful acceptance speech by noting that it was “a once-in-a-lifetime award.” He probably thought he was speaking figuratively, but it is also true literally. Only a handful of cartoonists have won twice (Milton Caniff, Dik Browne, Charles Schulz, Pat Oliphant, Jeff MacNelly and Bill Watterson), and after Watterson won in 1986 and 1988, NCS adopted a “one to a customer” policy. Never again will two Reubens decorate the mantlepiece of some cartoonist’s domicile.

And we also have John Seven's review of Conor Stechschulte's The Amateurs. Here's a sample of that:

Stechschulte spoke at the New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium about his influences in crafting The Amateurs, a mix of various heady ideas spurred on by a passage in a Werner Herzog book about the filming of Fitzcarraldo that relates a bloody scene involving some bumbling butchers in India in a bloody scene of carnage. This is directly reflected in Stechschulte’s story, a gruesome slapstick, as are the other influences he mentioned in the talk, including the film writings of Kaja Silverman, particularly in regard to disconnection, and the horror of Lovecraft. All these concerns, though, are filtered through Stechschulte’s personal approach and tempered by the most overt presence in the entire book — absence. Not just absence of memory, but absence of context, as if Stechshulte has stripped away explanations in order to focus his study on results. A sense of foreboding dominates the book, but foreboding of what? Nothing set the foreboding in place and there are no promises of solid reasons to explain the unease.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Criticism.
Matt Kuhns looks more closely at Seth's Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, and realized it was much more nonfictional than he'd previously realized.

—News. Brigid Alverson delves into the fallout of the sale, interviewing creator Dave Dellecese about alleged payment problems, among other issues. There will be a bone marrow drive in support of Seth Kushner at this weekend's New York Comic Fest.

—Interviews & Profiles. Paul Constant writes a mini-profile of Seattle Genius nominee and Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. BuzzFeed talks to Sam Alden.

—Misc. Luke Pearson, book cover designer. looks into the history of the "official" map of Gotham City.

—Funnies. Comics Alliance has a preview of the upcoming, long-awaited new collection of Jim Woodring's Jim. And Emily Carroll has up a new webcomic, The Hole the Fox Did Make.


Don’t Hang Up

Today on this site, here's Chris Mautner interviewing Katie Skelly, author of Nurse Nurse and Operation Margarine.

Both in Nurse Nurse but especially in Operation Margarine you’re drawing to a large degree on a certain kind of pulp comics and cinema that trade heavily on sex and exploitation. Despite its influences, Margarine avoids any overt sexualization of its characters, for romantic purposes or otherwise. Is that simply because you felt that element didn’t fit within the structure of the book or was there a more considered, deliberate or even political reason?

I think to this point I’ve tended to compartmentalize sex in my work; like, if I’m going to have sex in a comic, I just want to do a sex comic, even then it tends to stay on the cheekier side of X-rated (for instance the comic “Breeding Season” in Thickness #1 and the Agent 8 series I’m doing for I haven’t really found a way to work sex into my longer stories that feels natural yet, you know? There’s a little vignette where Gemma is post-coital in Nurse Nurse, but I think having sex removed from the equation in Margarine adds to the sense of detachment in that story. I mean sure, I took inspiration from Russ Meyer, but more the spirit than the letter. I think the character Margarine is so detached from her body that sex wouldn’t really enter her universe right then, and it’s implied that Bon-Bon gets used as a side piece, but it doesn’t do very much for her. I saw someone on tumblr say they thought there was room for romance between Margarine and Bon-Bon in the story, which I thought was an interesting way to read it.


Paul Karasik deconstructs a Peter Arno New Yorker cartoon on the... New Yorker site. Which reminds me of this photo of Arno, which remains very very strange.

Jesse Moynihan is on Inkstuds.

Here's a particularly nice Leslie Stein cartoon.

Photos from the Dan Clowes opening at Ohio State.

And here are some oddball examples of mid-80s underground art up for auction, including some Clowes work.







Rods & Cones

Today, historian and filmmaker Patrick Rosenkranz (whose own much-anticipated bio of S. Clay Wilson is imminent), writes about the art and comics collector, Glenn Bray, whose collection is featured in the recent Blighted Eye. Here's a brief sample:

Bray is listed as author, but [Lena] Zwalve contributed as much to the book as he did, he insists. “During production she said you don’t have to put my name on it, because I’m all over the book already, but now she says she’s kinda sorry she did not take more credit.” She does get star billing in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, with the inscription: “Lena Zwalve, to whom my love and this book are dedicated.” Not the same as a shared byline, but he spelled her name right. Zwalve was the founding mother of Tante Leny Presenteert, a Dutch underground comic series from the 1970s.

Their home is not a museum, says Bray, a retired hardware store proprietor. “We live here. And we don’t charge admission.” He does rotate the exhibition periodically, and many visitors have asked to bring friends to view their wide-ranging artistic accumulations. Bray’s taste runs to the satirical and the surreal, mostly by artists from the second half of the 20th century, but also embraces the current crop of cultural curiosities. Harvey Kurtzman’s comic pages are well represented in this collection, along with fellow MAD artists Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, and Basil Wolverton. The underground cartoonists have a large presence, especially Robert Williams, Rick Griffin, Robert Crumb, and S. Clay Wilson. More recent alternative cartoonists are also in the mix, including Dan Clowes, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Chris Ware, Gary Panter, and Johnny Ryan. Several illustrators and fine artists from the early 20th century are represented, including Gluyas Williams, Virgil Finlay, Alan Odle, and the focus of his current fascination, Art Young.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Granta talks to Adrian Tomine. The Quietus talks to Alan Moore, primarily about the influence on him of writer Iain Sinclair. Hogan's Alley has posted their lengthy interview with Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis.

—Reviews & Criticism. Tom Gill continues his examination of Tsuge Yoshiharu. NPR looks at Frank King's Walt Before Skeezix. Dominic Umile writes about I.N.J. Culbard's Celeste.

—Misc. There are only a few days left to vote for the Eisner Awards. The Daniel Clowes Reader site has found some old OK Cola ads.

Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal (Google Cache here) doubling down on the call for "conservative" comics written by their collaborator Amity Shlaes the other week. I will resist the urge to pontificate here, but will note that it's strange how they elide over the fact that Superman's most common early foes were ubercapitalist businessmen abusing labor...

Finally, the comics writer/editor/scholar (and contributor) Paul Buhle talked about his most recent book with Rick Perlstein on C-SPAN.