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The God Of Single Combat

Today at TCJ, we've got that review action that rumors say you crave. This Tuesday, it's our first piece from young firebrand Nathan Chazan, who is here to take on Die Laughing, a collection of André Franquin's comics recently published by Fantagraphics. Here's Chazan's opener, the "Chazaner", if you will:

A haggard, silhouetted man stumbles across a snowy landscape. The terrain is vastly black, a blank white curve of snow accentuated by black night sky only a solid layer of ink can provide. The stumbling man casts a more energetic figure as he crests the seemingly endless snowbank. The lively and frantic mark-making that composes his form wobbles with a will to live, yet these fragile splotches also droop and fray with exhaustion like broken twigs or maybe frozen snot dribbling out of the cartoon guy’s big schnozz. Our unnamed hero curses of his inevitable death in the ice hell that is his life, when in the distance, bright lights appear that suggest an end.  Our man rejoices – could this be civilization? No. The lights are a pack of hungry wolves, whose jet black bodies replace the dark of night in a brutally minimal panel, our small man cowering in the corner of the frame. Horrible death cannot be avoided, and dreaming otherwise will only worsen the punishment –a charming gag. It’s meant to be funny, which you can tell because these are cartoon characters, appearing in a funny book.

Meanwhile, on the free comics front, we've got Day Two of Colleen Frakes' Alaskan Adventure. (We asked her to officially call it that, but received no response). In today's installment, we find out that science behind Frakes desire to take a plane (almost) all the way to where Santa lives.

Elsewhere, I liked this Venom review because it's a stone cold assessment of the moving target nature of making an appealing super-hero comic when the publisher keeps restarting the book for "new readers", while picking up twenty year old character threads to appeal to the people who might watch an upcoming movie that's based on said twenty year old threads, while also trying to acknowledge what happened in the last seven years because people seemed to dig it even though it will make zero sense to the imagined hordes that Marvel thinks Tom Hardy will be roping in, while also slapping a second number on the book to appeal to middle aged readers who have stuck it out for an even longer period of time and might be aware how many times a new number one has been pasted on the title.

Over at That Groovy site where I keep spending all my time, you'll find a list of covers that never got used in glorious black and white: it's a treat, and I recommend do it.

Here's the cover to the first magazine sized issue of The Comics Journal, which featured photos of the Superman movie, "First Photos" at that. Rest in peace, Margot Kidder: you never took it easy, but you sure seemed to have it figured out by the end.

 

 

Billions of Years of Unspoiled Nature

Today we bring you the conclusion to Rob Clough's epic, career-spanning interview with a pivotal figure in modern comics, John Porcellino.

How do you compare the experience of taking acid with your later practice in Zen Buddhism?

A lot of people in the modern world, and probably the pre-modern world too, came to a spiritual sensibility through drugs. When I first took acid, I was a deeply conflicted, miserably self-loathing person, riddled with existential anxiety. I had found different ways of coping with it, or transmuting it -- like punk rock, for example, or art. Acid released me in a large part from that anxiety of self. It was a major turning point in my life. I don’t want to be a guy who suggests to people that they do drugs. It’s a tricky road with lots of danger for bad detours. But for me I have to admit it was a turning point.

Now, I should also say, I wasn’t a guy who took acid and was like, “Hey, let’s get groovy.” It was a sacrament to me. I took it seriously, as seriously as one can take something like that. Well, not like it was a church or some hippie thing. I wanted to be free. Acid was a tool for investigating consciousness, for breaking down that little self, the barriers I had erected between myself and others, myself and the world. I would say I took it twelve times. The last time I took it, I remember right away, I intuitively thought, “I don’t need to do this anymore.” So that was it. It was maybe like ‘89-’91. Acid opened my heart. Instead of fearing the world, I began to love it.

As far as drugs and Zen, this has become a somewhat controversial topic in Zen circles lately. Some people look at Zen, like -- I’m free! I’m Zen! It’s all good, bro. That what the Japanese call Buji Zen. It’s a false free ticket toward doing what feels good. That’s not Zen. The Buddha, in the Ten Grave Precepts, the moral core of his teachings, includes Not to Indulge in Intoxicants. Western people don’t like that because they have a lot of hangups about Christianity and rules and commandments. The Precepts are not commandments—“Do this or else”—they’re guideposts for practitioners. They’re the natural state of an enlightened person. An enlightened person does not indulge in intoxicants. It’s something to shoot for. Anyhow, some people in the west, they look at drugs as kind of an express bus to enlightenment. Well, maybe they can open a door, but they can’t do the hard work for you.

We also begin a new Cartoonist's Diary. Our diarist this week is Colleen Frakes. Day One finds her on the way to an artists' retreat.

Finally, Martyn Pedlar is here with a review of a new nonfiction comic by Ellen Forney, Rock Steady.

In Ellen Forney’s Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life, you’ll learn how to make a game of taking your meds by swallowing them all at once; how to reframe yourself as mysterious when you’re not feeling socially capable; and how to cry inconspicuously in public. Most importantly, you’ll learn about “SMEDMERTS”, which translates to “Sleep Meds Eat Doctor Mindfulness Exercise Routine Tools Support system.”

The fact that SMEDMERTS is pictured as a friendly little monster gives you an idea of the tone of the book. Psychological coping tools are presented as a kind of Batmanesque Utility Belt. A quote from “Fluffy” Flaubert shows him as a cartoon rabbit. Yet Rock Steady is careful and precise, too. It knows no amount of fun diminishes the amount of work mental stability can take. “Getting stable is really tough,” writes Forney. “Maintaining stability over the long term is a whole other challenge. Ideally, it’s less dramatic, but it’s just as demanding.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. At this weekend's TCAF, the Doug Wright Awards were announced: Sami Alwani, Jesse Jacobs and Jenn Woodhall.

—Interviews & Profiles. Connor Willumsen gave a great short interview to CBC.

"Do you have pets? Do they keep you company while you write?"

No they don't because no I don't have any, though I would love for there to be an animal in my life to keep company with while working. It might be telling of the expectation of living standards in my field to say that I consider the possible situation where I can responsibly adopt a dog into my life to be an upper-tier signifier of success and security.

Paul Gravett talks to Chris Reynolds.

I so enjoyed our evening wander along the seashore in Bournemouth when I visited you in 2012. You told me about your reactions to Seth’s analysis of your work in The Comics Journal. And how he seemed to have understood what you were doing and saying, perhaps more fully than you did yourself?

Yes, Seth looks at me and knows what I’m doing. Seth’s article in the Comics Journal, I thought, drew a line under what I’d been doing with Mauretania Comics. He’d found all the themes and neatened-off everything into a plausible-sounding package, and I thought, “That’s it. That’s what I did. I didn’t know, but I can rest now,” which was lovely for a bit. Seth was dead right in his Comics Journal essay about Monitor having come from somewhere else. It’s been great having had Seth’s support over the years. It’s great having had everyone’s support over the years. My family, Mrs Wood, John Parke, Paul Harvey, Robert Blamire, you and Peter, Ed Pinsent, Mark Baines, Cheryl Blundy, and everyone who’s helped.

—Misc. The New York Times writes about the faded mural at The Overlook.

This crumbling, beer-splotched wall in the back of a sports bar on East 44th Street is one of New York’s more neglected cultural treasures. Created in the 1970s, it is a veritable Sistine Chapel of American comic-strip art: the 30-some drawings across its face were left by a who’s who of cartooning legends, including a Spider-Man by Gil Kane, a Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker, a Dondi by Irwin Hasen, a Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff, a Hagar the Horrible by Dik Browne, and a Dagwood Bumstead by Paul Fung Jr. There’s also a self-portrait by Al Jaffee, a doodle by Bil Keane, and a Mad magazine-style gag by Sergio Aragonés. Old regulars are familiar with the wall’s past, and comic book scholars make occasional pilgrimages to the bar, but the Overlook’s cartoon mural remains largely unknown and untended.

—RIP. Adam Parfrey.

 

Exhibiting or Characterized by Torpor

Today at the Journal, we've got that Tegan action you crave. This time around, it's...another column on a DC Comics crossover? Hey, don't get mad at us! It's not our fault Marvel hasn't done any crossovers since Siege launched their hugely successful Heroic Age story arcs back in 2010. As soon as they do one, we promise, we'll ask Tegan if she has any interest.

Metal is the story of –

Well, that’s a problem. Because Metal is a story about a bunch of things. It might actually be about too many things. A lot happens in these six issues, and half the things that happen happen in other comics, which is terribly inefficient. 

A series like Metal is usually designed one of two ways: a crossover with a main series and multiple crossovers can either keep the crossovers separate and distinct, or incorporate as many of the crossovers as possible to tell a part of the main story. Metal goes the latter route, which is problematic if you’re coming in late to the party and your editor thinks that sending you issues one through six of a six issue limited series is any way to actually get the whole story. I mean, come on, let’s be reasonable.

Of course, if you prefer your comics to be a little less of a team effort, you might want to take a look at what Koyama Press had delivered--it's by some cartoonist named Michael DeForge. Seems like a pretty talented guy, he might just have a future at this thing.

And speaking of, or let's make that "with", talented guys, here's another one: Tom Kaczynski, who once got flat out tackled by Greg Hunter when Greg got all worked up in a pick-up basketball game, has forgiven the man and they're here to talk comics. It's your latest episode of Comic Book Decalogue, and it's a pressure cooker.

If this annoying tone of voice i've adopted for today's blog post hasn't driven you away, well, good for you--because that means you won't miss Marc-Oliver Frisch's review of Death Or Glory #1, a comic by Rick Remender and Bengal. Frisch was able to find a couple of things he liked about the experience, although it appears one of those things was the fact that he was able to finish reading the comic rather quickly.

Death or Glory starts out on a five-page sequence set at a burger joint in “Yuma, Arizona,” populated by two white-trash employees and a lone customer. They’re about to close, and Curtis, mopping the floor, wants to call it a day soon because he’s got a date with Susie who “works down at the HoJos.” Ken, however, who sports a mullet and operates the cash register, reminds Curtis he’s “on trash duty tonight,” and proceeds to taunt his colleague about Susie. “Wouldn’t dare put my pecker in that,” Ken says, but he does suggest Susie has performed oral sex on him—he illustrates the act for Curtis using his tongue and fingers—and he claims “Scotty down at Firestone” can corroborate “she’s a butt-licker.”

It’s not a very original first page, in other words, nor one that’s particularly pleasant unless you’re really, as a matter of principle, into trite stock characters or displays of good old-fashioned President-of-the-Locker-Rooms-of-the-United-States-style workplace harassment and sexually degrading remarks about women.

While you're taking suggestions, the squad at 2dcloud have a preorder thing going on for their next season, with a pretty extensive list of titles up for the asking

Abhay Khosla had a characteristically amusing recap on what it's like to go to the comiXology website without a specific plan in mind.

One of the greatest hooks of all time. RIP Big T.

 

 

Very Crude

Today on the site, Edwin Turner returns with a review of Dave Cooper's long-anticipated return to comics, Mudbite.

In Mudbite, Dave Cooper conjures a perverse and lurid dreamworld that seethes and wriggles with its own nightmare logic. The erstwhile hero of this world is Eddy Table, an apparent alter-ego for Cooper himself. Mudbite collects two new Eddy Table adventures, "Mud River" and "Bug Bite", abject fantasias of intense sexual anxiety rendered in Cooper's compellingly repellent style.

The two tales are bound tête-bêche; after you finish "Bug Bites", you can flip the book over and read "Mud River." Or maybe you'll read the stories in the other order. Mudbite's playful design invites the reader to participate in ordering the relationship between the stories. Cooper's inimitable aesthetic unifies the project's themes of aberrant sexuality and libidinal anxieties. His art also unifies the collection's dominant tone, a queasy grappling of the relationship between comedy and horror. Cooper's tone and themes inhere through both tales, despite a few superficial differences.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles the 2018 Herblock winner Ward Sutton.

“My parents gave me Herblock’s autobiography as a gift years ago,” Sutton tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “Although I’d surely seen cartoons of his before that, this was my first big introduction to his work. I love his drawing — his Joe McCarthy and [President] Nixon caricatures are especially cutting — his ability to make clear points so succinctly and, of course, his bold stands, many of which seem timeless.”

In recent weeks, Sutton has been revisiting that book and appreciating the photos and stories of Herblock “interacting with presidents, movie stars and other notables — as well as not interacting, such as the time when [President] Reagan singled him out and refused to invite him to a White House event because of his unflattering cartoons,” Sutton says.

Alex Dueben interviews Zack Soto about the Kickstarter he's running for his fantasy comic, The Secret Voice.

I think Fantasy is a genre that comics sort of has a hard time with. At least straight up, “Capital F” Fantasy. As a kid I read a lot of stuff like D&D/Dragonlance type comics, Conan, stuff that might pop up in Heavy Metal magazine, the Myth Adventures comics, things like that. The Elflord issues that Dale Keown inked had something going on. The 80s and early 90s were great for a lot of B&W explosion fantasy comics with 1-5 issues. Stuff like Guy Davis’s first comic The Realm, which was a weird mish mash of the D&D cartoon plot with 80’s anime aesthetic. Honestly, I mainly read a crap-ton of mostly not super great Fantasy novels as a kid, repeatedly watched Beastmaster and things like that. Lots of comics that are not-quite Fantasy made an impact, like Corben’s DEN & Mutant World. There’s no doubt going to be stuff that I’m forgetting and will slap my forehead over when this goes up. Most modern Fantasy comics drive me crazy with how generic they seem.

And Soto's own podcast Process Party interviews Alex Degen.

—Reviews & Commentary. For Tablet, Rachel Shteir writes about the work of Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

I worry that Kominsky-Crumb will be considered too forthright for this moment. By which I mean too Jewish. A caption in one panel in “My Very Own Dream House,” announcing “no matter what remote corner of the world you go to—you’ll always find a crazy Jewish woman there. Probably true and I’m proud to be one!” may be familiar to (as well as discomfiting to) women who came of age in the second half of the 20th century but I’m not sure it resonates in the tepid, politically correct, 21st.

I also worry about sexism. Even readers swooning over Art Spiegelman and Ben Katchor’s profound, dark works about Jewish identity may spurn Kominsky-Crumb, who names the feminist expressionist Alice Neel and the angry Jewish comedians Joey Bishop, Alan King, and Jackie Mason as influences. Who brags about her “independent Jewish monster temperament” and hates Jewish men. (They like shiksas.) I worry that while Kominsky-Crumb has inspired graphic novelists like Alison Bechdel and Phoebe Glockner and maybe even female performer-writers such as Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham, she will be niche, this too Jewish elderly female comic artist drawing her neuroses, her Holocaust stories, her wacky polyandrous marriage, and her sexcapades.

Charles Hatfield takes issue with the editorial direction of a podcast episode about Jack Kirby he recently appeared on.

IMO the show gets bogged down at the intersection of Kirby bio and Marvel movie IP, and the cost is obscuring history. You would never know from this ‘cast that Simon and Kirby scored other big hits besides Captain America in the WWII years, such as The Boy Commandos. You wouldn’t know that comic book sales peaked in the early Fifties, after the heyday of the superhero, or that superheroes were not the barometer of the industry’s health. You’d never know that Kirby did his most lucrative, and one of his most influential, genres, romance, from the late Forties through late Fifties. (I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: you cannot explain the Marvel superheroes of the Sixties, with their domestic melodrama and expanded though sentimental women’s roles, without the influence of romance comics.)

 

Boxer’s Fracture

Today at the Journal, we've got our latest installment of Retail Therapy, this time with Jenn Haines. There's a lot of things I agree with Jenn about, but the main one this week is that I also think that Barrier comic from Marcos Martin is gonna rule. 

We have a very specific mandate: exceptional products and service for everyone. This means we are very family-focused, and welcoming of people of all ages, genders, and abilities. As a result, there are publishers, such as Zenescope and Avatar, that are special order only. We have a huge commitment to kids books, and I'll pretty much try any graphic novel that's intended for kids. And we are focused on providing a wide range of books to meet the tastes of our very diverse customer base. 

Beyond that, we really just look at our customers' buying habits and see where their interests lie. For example, we don't carry collections of older material or any new hardcovers, as they've traditionally gathered dust. Instead, we want to give customers the chance to find things they won't usually find elsewhere. We order a lot from smaller publishers and self-published material direct from creators, as a result. Sometimes, a popular creator, or a really great publishing mandate, like that of Lion Forge, will get us to take risks on new series. And sometimes, it's just that I like the look of something. However, I've learned the hard way over the years that what I like is not what sells! 

But of course, we've also got that TCJ Review for you: today, it's Patrick Kyle's Everywhere Disappeared, and it's being covered by Cartoonist Diary alum Tom McHenry. Yes. Yes indeed.

A palpable joy in the act of drawing is consistent throughout Kyle's work, and it's invigorating to look at. Linework, after all, is just another way of tracing how a mind thought about something, and Kyle's mind chooses just what's needed to propel the story, then embellishes the rest or not, seemingly at a whim. When a character needs a hand and arm to pick up an object, that arm and hand will appear -- frequently exaggerated to maximize visual effect -- and as soon as that hand is no longer needed, the next panel will show the same character as a torso with feet. Why waste time on the uninteresting when your reader will fill in missing arms for you? It's the same principle that saves comics artists from drawing every single frame in between two panels, and Kyle experiments with the mind's ability to fill in gaps on figures, faces, even the physical spaces the characters reside in.

The more of these blog posts of old super-hero comics with rad covers I find, the better it makes me feel about the future, because if there is a future, i'm going to buy some of these old super-hero comics, and I'm going to make my own blog posts about them. Coincidentally, the one I just read two days ago was one the Punisher comic above, whose cover would have fit perfectly with the linked article's theme.

And finally, if you haven't read Peggy Burns on Love That Bunch, the Love That Bunch tour, and the cartoonist behind those comics, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, it's high time you remedy that. I'd call it image heavy, but there's a lot of weight in those sentences as well. Is it positive day? I guess it's positive day. 

 

Jury Duty

Oh boy, Matt Seneca's back with my new favorite reviews column, Search and Destroy (tied with Comics Dragnet). This time, he takes six books found at a dying bookstore's going out of business sale, and scries what he can from the remains...

I became part of the problem, and descended on the going out of business sale at the store I'd never much shopped to grab up the discounted comics that had found their level in the market here. Namely: inventory items that contributed not to the store that carried them’s year-plus in operation, but to its ultimate failure. In most mediums, that status would speak to a majority of these products’ quality, mark them out as simply inferior. But American comics is home to the creative world’s most chauvinistic fan community and most predatory distribution monopoly, not to mention a greater percentage of product whose motivating factor for existence is corporate greed than just about any other. In American comics, a going out of business sale is as likely a place, percentage wise, to find something good to read as a thriving concern is. I spent just under 30 bucks and got these six books to show for it, each of them showing off something worth a reader's while: unique modes of artistic expression, or legitimate innovation, or a lesson about the form's history, or a look at paths left untaken, or a hilarious level of badness that provides its own justification, or simple brilliance. 

And then Katie Skelly arrives too, with a review of Ryan Heshka's Mean Girls Club.

"You're cute, like a velvet glove cast in iron. And like a gas chamber, Varla, a real fun gal," Lori Williams tells Tura Satana in Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! A director who created his own language of sexploitation and menace, Meyer used film to skate a thin line between titillation and disorientation: a black-and-white world with its own ferocious logic and bone-cracking justice, delivered by women whose bodies visually dominate the frame and whose lawlessness excite the imagination. To love this type of exploitation is to get sucked into its world: asking questions and dragging your feet is not only futile, but makes its antagonists only that much more vicious.

Ryan Heshka’s Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn creates a perfect extension of one of Meyer’s black-and-white worlds, adding feverish pinks to the mix. Serving up full throttle exploitation with its eponymous gang, Heshka swerves into pop surrealism and sly satire, touching on both the gorgeous and grotesque with equal ease. The comic opens in a haze of “mid-century madness,” with a melee shootout between the girls and the authorities. The gang--Sweets, Wanda, Wendy, Pinky, Blackie, and McQualude--are fighting an eternal battle against the corrupt Mayor Schlomo and his evil cronies, which include a perpetually drunk judge bent on frying the girls and a perverse priest/nun duo aiming to turn the youth into sex zombies. Roxy, one of the few pure souls in the town, is at one point pitted against the girls by Mayor Schlomo so she can finally collect a long overdue paycheck from him.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. First Second's Gina Gagliano is moving to Random House to direct a new imprint of children's graphic novels.

Random House Graphic will specialize in titles for children and young adults with a list focused on both commercial and literary graphic works. The new imprint will assemble its own dedicated staff to produce and market the imprint’s titles.

The new Random House Graphic publishing program will look to extend a growing list of graphic works already being published by Random House Children’s Books, including such popular works as Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm, Rickety Stitch and the Gelantinous Goo by Ben Costa and James Parks, and 5 Worlds by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, with art by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun.

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown talks to Vera Brosgol about her new graphic novel, Be Prepared.

Paste: Can you talk a little bit about the process of creating the visuals for this book? You went back to the campsite, right?
Brosgol: Haha, I sure did. I wanted to get the details as specific as possible and my memory is garbage, so I stalked the camp’s Facebook page till there was an open house and flew across the country for it (and to visit my mom, hi Mom!). I thought it was kind of an alumni event but it turned out to just be parents visiting their camper kids. Oh well, I guess I’m old enough to pass for a mom? I snuck around taking pictures and sketching, and a counselor was curious about my drawings. After I explained the project to her she was awesome enough to email with me and answer my boring questions about camp rank, insignia, routine, etc. I owe her big. I could’ve made everything up but I think you can taste the reality baked in somehow. And nobody could ever make up that horrible outhouse.

The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Roz Chast, and the most recent on RiYL is Adrian Tomine.

—Commentary. Douglas Wolk recently started a new series of posts on artists inspired by Jim Steranko.

 

The Reign Dancer

It's time for a new week of TCJ, people. What better way to start it off than a meaty interview with influential cartoonist John Porcellino? Wait--how about if this was only the first part of said meaty interview? It's time to get your long read pants on, pal. John and Rob have a lot to talk about!

Your style underwent a dramatic change from the beginning of your career to your more mature style. What led you to decide to strip down your individual images?

It was never a conscious choice or decision, it was just how things organically developed. That was something that I emphasized to myself from the beginning of King-Cat -- I wanted it to be what it wanted to be. I didn't want to have a preconceived notion of what my comics, my zine, should be. I tried to get out of the way of my creativity, to allow what was inside to come out unobstructed.

Always, I saw the comics in my head and tried to put that down on paper as accurately as I could. Over time, the way I saw them in my head changed. They became pared down, I tried to let go of lines that were inessential. At some point when I was drawing a night scene it became redundant to me to fill in that black night sky with ink. It was already night, night is dark, why do I have to draw it? That black sky was inherent in the act of drawing “night.”

Did I say meat? Then I guess we have a theme going here, because we've also got a Monday surprise for ya: Joe McCulloch is here, and he's brought a fascinating dive into Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, which, as Joe points out, has been consistently showing up for a quarter of century. Here's one of the many factoids Joe tracked down for you:

*Various real Toronto locations are introduced, climaxing in a bit where much of the incidental characters' scene-setting dialogue is copy-pasted directly from Wikipedia; Malcolm is confused by this. He also fights a series of monster-of-the-month-type villains, all of them with sympathetic backstories: a toxic sludge monster out to kill its wealthy boss; a group of hacked, possibly sentient sex dolls who rip off men's cocks during coitus (the sound effect for a severed penis hitting the ground is also "SQUIT!") before taking their money; a teleportation vigilante who murders the prominent man who molested him and his sister. This last villain also informs Malcolm during their fight that Americans lack moral authority to lecture foreign people on matters of justice, given their own state of affairs; he is killed when one of his teleportations abruptly terminates inside of Malcolm's body, leaving his cadaver lodged inside the hero's torso. (#229-232)

On the crowdfunding front, Women Write About Comics is prepping to move their site to a hosting service that can handle their expanding size and popularity and they've issued a call for financial help to assist in the transition

While my favorite Joe Kubert comic is currently an issue of Punisher where he inked his son so well I achieved self-actualization, it's going to be very difficult to keep maintaining that claim now that Diversions of the Groovy Kind has rounded up of a bunch of his Unknown Soldier covers. Look at the way the Soldier presses his right hand into his face, the bend at the wrist, the delicate balance between depicting the pressure of his fingers to his face and allowing for the it to appear like the hand is about to get yanked away to reveal what was to be hidden by bandages. I've never wanted to be a cartoonist, but goddamn, if I could draw like that!

While I should probably do some more research before proclaiming my whole hearted support for the group of Columbia students demanind that they get a tuition refund for their Visual Arts MFA program, I'm just going to go ahead and nod my head vigorously until somebody tells me otherwise.

Sometimes life is a meritocracy, but that's rarely true in comics, where champions die blind & impoverished while greedy liars die rich and unpunished. So let me follow that terrible prelude by recommending that we celebrate Ruben Bolling, who won the 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Book & Journalism in the Cartoon category for  Tom the Dancing Bug, a comic that has maintained a consistent level of ferocious quality that's really remarkable.

 

Anything That’s Here

Today on the site, the irreplaceable Ryan Holmberg returns with a new installment of his What Was Alternative Manga? column. This time, he publishes a newly translated 1969 interview between manga legend Tsuge Tadao and an editor from Garo.


TS: The first story you published in Garo was “Up on the hill, Vincent van Gogh...” (“Oka no ue de, Vincento van Gohho,” December 1968). Was that something you had wanted to draw from before?

TT: The original plan was to write it as a prose novel. I did some research on Van Gogh and wrote things up as a proper text, but then I thought it’d be interesting as a comic, so I drew that. It was something I wanted to draw regardless...

TS: Was the prose version the same as how the manga turned out?

TT: No, they were totally different.

TS: For you, is there any difference in writing something as prose versus drawing it as a comic?

TT: Not really.

TS: When I first saw that work [Takano was managing editor at Garo at the time], I thought about how much it read like a novel. It also felt like someone’s “final work,” and I remember that making me shudder. Like, once an artist goes this far, what else is there left for him to do? Even if he had other stories in him, could he draw them?

TT: That story was something I was happy working on a little at a time. If Garo had rejected it, that would have been fine with me too. I had a full-time job at a company, so I worked on it slowly after coming home from work. That sure was a strange way of working.

TS: It’s not like the young man in the story is super serious or anything, and the work also has its humorous moments. However, precisely because of that, it gives the story this heavy crushing feeling. You know in the last scene where he lights a cigarette? It’s too quiet. The emptiness consumes everything... In pursuing Van Gogh, it’s like he said everything he could about himself, like it was all out in the open. That’s why it felt like a “final work.”

TT: A friend of mine who is a schoolteacher read that story and said, “Damn, that’s bleak.” I took it as a compliment.

Of course, we also have Day Five of the Cartoonist's Diary of Fiona Smyth. She rounds out the week with a trip to two-floor Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

Finally, we have Tegan O'Neil's review of the expanded reprint of Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage.

As a genre travel narratives are both necessary and problematic in equal measure. Necessary because human beings need to understand one another, and anything that bridges those gaps is worthy of celebration. Problematic because there are so many ways to communicate difference in ways that hinder rather than enable understanding. For centuries books very similar to Thompson’s Carnet were able to define the parameters of the non-English speaking world more or less arbitrarily based on poor and often malicious transliterations of cultural practices in one part of the world to another part of the world.

Thompson is aware of this, to the extent that thinking through these problems also became central to Habibi, the book that followed Carnet and inherited from the earlier volume Thompson’s interest in North African culture and design. There’s a Catch-22 here and it’s central to the book and most books like it: young men who go overseas to gain a bit of maturity from a more worldly perspective sometimes learn that real maturity only begins with the insight that other peoples’ countries weren’t created to be backdrops for the musings of sensitive young men.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The Paris Review excerpts Ed Park's introduction to a new collection of the comics of Chris Reynolds.

Eight decades after the RMS Mauretania’s maiden voyage, Chris Reynolds, a Welsh-born artist in his mid twenties, embarked on what would be his life’s work, a beguiling series of loosely connected stories that he called Mauretania Comics. The work had nothing to do with that remote place or with seafaring vessels of yore, and the name was just one of its many elusive mysteries. The stories were and are easy to consume but tantalizingly difficult to characterize. Droll dialogue gives way to utterly melancholy voiceover; locales like “The Lighted Cities” and “Mouth City” are mapped on the same imaginative terrain as some version of England, one where a blasted figure out of J. G. Ballard might run across Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. Monitor, Mauretania’s signature character, always dons a helmet with a striplike visor masking his eyes. (Today he wouldn’t look so out of place: it resembles nothing so much as a virtual-reality headpiece.) The architecture alone is worth the trip: lipstick-shaped temples of music, a house like a geodesic dome crossed with a web made by a spider on acid.

At The Smart Set, Chris Mautner writes about the work of Yvan Alagbé.

The cover of Yellow Negroes and other Imaginary Creatures by Yvan Alagbé shows the profile of a young African man with his eyes closed. A pair of light-skinned hands encircles his neck. On the back cover, we see an older, seemingly Caucasian man, balding and with a mustache, his mouth ajar. A pair of dark-skinned hands lies on the man’s shoulders (perhaps belonging to the figure on the front) suggestively seeming to also be inching their way up to the neck.

These two men are Alain and Mario, respectively, the two central figures in the book’s title story. This pair of images might suggest that within lies an overly simplistic story of racial animus, but “Yellow Negroes” (or “Negres Jaunes” in French) is far more complex and haunting than that fleeting impression would suggest. The story has long been regarded as a masterwork in Europe, one of the seminal French comics of the 1990s. Now it’s available in English for the first time, and, despite the considerable span of years and cultures, it — along with the other stories in this slim volume — remains as trenchant and relevant as when it was first published.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb has begun the North American promotional tour for the new edition of Love That Bunch, and has interviews everywhere, including Publishers Weekly, the Montreal Gazette, and SF Weekly. Here's a bit from Leela Corman's talk with her in PW:

“My grandfather was a great raconteur, and when I was a kid, he took me to see Jackie Mason and Joey Bishop and Henny Youngman and Don Rickles and everybody, and that's why I ended up being a cartoonist. I learned that sense of humor from them, and then from him. I was steeped in it, and I never realized what a gift it was until I sat down to try and tell my story, and all of that humor was in there.”

Kominsky-Crumb recently encountered one of her early inspirations, the veteran Jewish standup comedian Jackie Mason, on a Miami street. Starstruck, she summoned up the courage to approach him and express her appreciation of his career: “Jackie Mason, I can't believe you're just here standing here on Lincoln Road!” Mason's reply: “What, I should be lying down?

Finally, the Comics Alternative podcast talks to Hazel Newlevant.