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Five Flags

It’s the second day of the week, which is the day that Joe McCulloch runs down the most interesting-sounding new comics set for release in comics-specialty stores this Wednesday. The title for this recurring feature is This Week in Comics! His spotlight picks this week include the end of Joe Casey & Tom Scioli’s Gødland and another of Darwyn Cooke’s Richard Stark adaptations.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Mautner has a brief interview with Gilbert Hernandez about his about-to-be-reprinted Grip: The Strange World of Men. Tom Spurgeon talks to academic Benjamin Saunders about an expansion of the comics studies program at the University of Oregon. Paul Gravett profiles Jaime Hernandez.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Dana Jennings reviews The Art of Rube Goldberg. A grateful and relieved Rob Clough reviews Jesse Reklaw’s Couch Tag. Jason Heller reviews Lance Parkin’s new biography of Alan Moore. Michael Dooley of Print lists his favorite books of 2013.

—”News”?
J. Caleb Mozzocco grieves for PictureBox. Chris Mautner recommends six PictureBox titles. And Heidi MacDonald invites comment from several comics retailers over the question of serialized comics vs. original graphic novels.

—Giving & Spending Opportunities. Zak Sally is holding a 21st anniversary of La Mano sale. Julia Wertz is selling art, photos, and books (with today the last day for Christmas delivery on photo prints). I used to only rarely post links to sales and fundraisers but they have become so common now that I guess my policy has changed. Please feel free to contact me if I’ve missed an important one. I won’t promise to list every one I get, but I haven’t been looking for these carefully up until now so I’m sure a few have slipped by unnoticed.

 

Smiley

Today on the site:

James Romberger interviews Paul Kirchner, of “The Bus” and “Dope Rider.”

Paul: Don’t worry, I don’t feel bad about my association with High Times, really. If I did I suppose I’d refuse to have the work reprinted, or condemn it like someone who’s had a religious conversion and renounces his past.

Dope Rider originated because when I showed my samples to Dennis Lopez, the editor of Harpoon, he liked a surrealistic Western story I had drawn but said I should do a similar story and make it drug-themed. The drug element was necessary to have the surrealism make sense to most readers. Because of the drug element, High Times wanted to run it, and I had no qualms about working for a drug-oriented magazine if it provided an outlet for the kind or art I wanted to do.

I have always been interested in the conflict/connection between the “real” world–the world of material things, orderly transitions, and logical, predictable outcomes–and the other world, the world of spiritual forces, visions, dreams, and delusions, that follows illogical and unpredictable rules of its own. I’m not sure that latter realm is any less real in our lives.

Elsewhere online:

My favorite comic strip in America, True Chubbo, has moved to its own site.

Robert Crumb interviewed at, uh, Red Bull Academy.

The great psychedelic artist Martin Sharp, who I wrote with Norman Hathaway for our book Electrical Banana, has passed away. Here’s a solid appreciation of his early cartooning in Australia and London.

Paste has a top ten list. I’m really glad to see Dash Shaw’s New School getting some play on these lists. That’s a my personal favorite (ahem, non-PictureBox) comic of 2013.

I somehow missed the fact that classic 90s comic Big Mouth is being featured over on Boing Boing.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Karl Stevens.

Jeez, this Kim Deitch artwork is gorgeous.

I was very flattered and grateful for these appreciations of PictureBox, one from the boys at Comics Books Are Burning in Hell and one from Frank at The Washington Post. It’s nice to read eulogies while I’m still alive.

 

Cats

Today, after nearly three years of virtually no comics convention coverage on this site at all, we present our second full report in a row. This time, it’s columnist Paul Tumey on the Short Run festival in Seattle. Here’s a bit of what Paul had to say:

Short Run was created in 2011 by two talented, crafty, artistic friends who love D.I.Y. publishing – Kelly Froh and Eroyn Franklin (Janice Headley became an organizer in 2013). It makes sense that this would eventually happen. SPX (Small Press Expo) has been going on for years, New York’s MoCCA and Chicago’s Cake Alternative Comics Expo are well-established. Seattle, which may well have more cartoonists per square inch than any other city in the world, seems a natural for a small press festival. The first Short Run Small Press Fest, funded by bake sales and the organizer’s bank accounts, featured exhibitors and drew 800 people.

Insert a narration box at the top of the next panel that reads “Three years later…” and Short Run (this time partially funded by grants from Humanities Washington and 4Culture) 2013 drew about 1700 attendees and featured 120 beautifully mad people makin’ copies, comics, zines, prints, and doodads for sale and trade. This year, Short Run took a long sprint across the entire month of November, with such events as November 9th’s Rookie Yearbook 2 signing party with editor and fashion sensation Tavi Gevinson, the small press art show at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, and November 29th’s Read/Write event that featured a panel, an interactive performance with David Lasky and Greg Stump, a silkscreen workshop with Eric Carnell, and much more.

Also, we are republishing a rare, comprehensive interview with Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, conducted by Richard Samuel West in 1989 and published in issue 127. Here’s a sample:

WEST: Let’s talk about Hobbes a little bit. He seems to be older and wiser than Calvin, but not much. Which of the following more accurately describes him: a pet, a brother, a friend, or the father that Calvin never had?

WATTERSON: Hobbes is really hard to define and, in a way, I’m reluctant to do it. I think there’s an aspect of this character that’s hard for me to articulate. I suppose if I had to choose from those four, the brother and the friend would be the closest. But there’s something a little peculiar about him that’s, hopefully, not readily categorized.

WEST: Well, in a way that says more about Calvin than Hobbes because Hobbes is implicitly, explicitly just a product of his imagination.

WATTERSON: But the strip doesn’t assert that. That’s the assumption that adults make because nobody else sees him, sees Hobbes, in the way that Calvin does. Some reporter was writing a story on imaginary friends and they asked me for a comment, and I didn’t do it because I really have absolutely no knowledge about imaginary friends. It would seem to me, though, that when you make up a friend for yourself, you would have somebody to agree with you, not to argue with you. So Hobbes is more real than I suspect any kid would dream up.

WEST: Well, at the risk of getting into psychobabble, a lot of psychologists would say that children create imaginary friends to play out family dramas. So an argument can be just as much a part of an imaginary world as, you know, a sort of sentimental, gooey friendship can be.

WATTERSON: Yeah, well, I would hope that the friendship between Calvin and Hobbes is so complex that it would transcend a normal fantasy. The resolution of the question of whether Hobbes is real or not doesn’t concern me or interest me, but, hopefully, there’s some element of complexity there that will make the relationship interesting on a couple of levels.


Elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
There have been a few more articles and testimonials written about PictureBox, including from Corey Blake at Robot 6, Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly, and George Elkind.

Our own Rob Clough has reviewed Peter Bagge’s Margaret Sanger bio Woman Rebel, and completed his thirty-day examination of figures connected to CCS. Paul Morton reviews Jon Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell’s March.

There are more best-of-2013 lists coming out too. Here are two from Douglas Wolk at Time and Hillary Brown & Co. at Paste.

Finally, one of the best retailer-run comics bloggers around, Mike Sterling, just celebrated his tenth anniversary.

—Interviews. Xavier Guilbert interviews John Porcellino at du9, Michael Cavna interviews Ed Piskor at the Washington Post, and Michael Dooley interviews Ted Rall at Print.

—Giving Opportunities.
In Wednesday’s post, while listing a slew of people and organizations looking for help (most of which are still ongoing), I neglected to include this indiegogo fundraiser for Tom Hart & Leela Corman’s worthy SAW. Also, many cartoonists of interest to readers of this site are involved in Providence’s Mothers News, which is currently raising money via subscription for 2014.

 

So It Is!

Today Zainab Akhtar covers the UK festival Thought Bubble.

Conventions are generally a whirlwind of events, but this year was even more hectic than usual: I was working, helping to man the OK Comics (the fab comics store at which I work) tables with the guys, was conscious of doing this write-up and so attended panels for due diligence (panels are deathly boring, yo) as well as having a list of things on my “to buy” list and people I wanted to see. The guys had done the hard work lugging all the books to the Armouries in a van and setting up, so by the time I strode in with a packed lunch of Irn Bru and Jammie Dodgers on Saturday, the queue was happily snaking around the building in the cool sunshine. I knew we were sharing table space with publishers SelfMadeHero, but it’s still pretty daunting to have one of your favorite cartoonists- Frederik Peeters- in much closer proximity than imagined. I had a plan, right? At some point in the day, I’d just naturally strike up a conversation, and we’d talk like normal people, but then the kindness of others resulted in the world’s most awkward handshake and introduction, a complete lack of eye contact and brain freeze on my part, which in turn meant I had to ignore him the rest of the weekend. Peeters has a proper superstar air about him. I don’t mean that he’s haughty, but that he has a tangible presence. That presence was keenly felt on Saturday, as he spent most of the day arms folded, stalking up and down two meters of tight area as he waited for copies of his new book, Aama, to arrive, which didn’t happen until the last 15 minutes of the evening. He was calmer on Sunday.

Bob Levin covers Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend.

Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend, edited by Bob Fingerman and Gary Groth, is a 184-page collection of Rodrigues’s most scabrous work, all of which seemingly ran in the “Lampoon” between 1978 and 1989.  I say “seemingly” because the book omits any delineation of which appeared when as though to keep all statutes of limitations on the table as potential defenses against any group libel claims from the tissue-skinned.

The volume contains four narrative pieces,  20 to 84 episodes in length, and several more abbreviated efforts.  (A collection of Rodrigues’s gag cartoons is slated for future release.)  They seemingly – there’s that word again – appeared, one installment per issue, in primarily nine-panel, single-page strips, with story lines that could shift as abruptly as a dirt track Chevy.  The strips do not build to a single, concluding laugh but pull smiles and chuckles at disparate points en route.  Rodgrigues works like a silent film comedian, choosing a situation and wringing as many laughs as he can from it before moving on, like Charlie Chaplin starving in a cabin or Harold Lloyd climbing a building, though Rodrigues’s situations are more likely to produce an uplifted eyebrow or sharply sucked in breath: rooming with a corpse; a private detective in an iron lung; the ugliest little girl in the world.

Elsewhere:

And the lists are coming in like crazy right now. Here’s one from Comics Alliance. And here’s another from NPR. Here’s a nicely illustrated one from Ryan Cecil Smith.

Tahneer Osman on Co-Mix. Kevin Huizenga on page layouts. Sean T. Collins on Fantagraphics and PictureBox.

 

Dere’s Only One Way to Quit Dis Gang

Today, we have another of R.C. Harvey’s portraits of cartoonists from years past. This time, he tells us about Marty Links (aka Martha Arguello), the creator of the teen-girl comic strip Bobby Sox. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Readers sending her letters usually began “Dear Martin.” Links, responding to such letters, usually added “a little note at the end,” she explained, “saying that I’m not Mister Links but the mother of several children. For many years,” she added, “the National Cartoonists Society [which, until assaulted by Hilda Terry, had been an men-only club] sent all my letters addressed ‘Mister Links.’ I finally sent them an announcement that I’d just had a baby.” (Links was one of the first women admitted to NCS, and other accounts of her encounters with the Society’s sex-myopic bureaucracy report that her response was to offer to send them her bust size.)

[...]

In the 1960s, Links began to get letters from feminists. “They’re against Emmy Lou,” she said, “because Emmy is shown sitting by the phone, waiting for a boy to call. They say I’m perpetuating a custom that’s been going on for generations and that it’s wrong. But I feel that I’m just reflecting what’s still happening. I see my own kids doing it, and I’ve done it myself, I’m sorry to say, even at my age. It seems to me that we women are still not [in 1976] in a position where we can just call whomever we want to. However, I try to get in touch with these feminists who write because I’m very much in sympathy with what they’re trying to do.”


Elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. James Vance discusses Will Eisner. Kevin Huizenga reviews Jesse Reklaw’s Couch Tag. Salon picks “ten unforgettable graphic novels of 2013.” Noah Berlatsky discusses the Ted Rall/Daily Kos controversy, prompting Rall to call for his firing. Long-timers may find the comments section, which includes a debate between Rall and nemesis Danny Hellman, will bring back some vivid memories. Mahendra Singh talks about draftsmanship. Tom Spurgeon has collected Twitter reactions to the PictureBox announcement. Brian Nicholson responds to the same news.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Joe Procopio profiles Matt Baker. Alex Dueben interviews the great Richard Sala.

—News. The Guardian reports that Albert Uderzo has sued his daughter for “psychological violence.”

—Giving & Spending Opportunities. Comics Journal regular Rob Clough is raising funds. The Fantagraphics Kickstarter is only hours away from being finished. Rina Ayuyang’s typhoon-relief auction is in its final days. Mark Newgarden & Megan Montague Cash are holding a sale to raise money. Ryan Sands is offering subscriptions to Youth in Decline. Drawn & Quarterly has extended its holiday sale. PictureBox is having a 50% off everything sale.

 

Golly

So, what’s going on? I had quite a day yesterday. No more PictureBox new releases. You can read about it over at The Comics Reporter.  People said very nice things on Twitter. Thank you all for that. But really, you’re here for other things. Like Joe McCulloch who has something a little saucy for you to start off the month.

Elsewhere, it’s all coming up lawsuits:

More drama over at Archie.

Dragon-Con co-founder Ed Kramer will not go to prison.

And finally, enjoy these goopy covers from Charlton.

 

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Welcome back. This blog space has been inactive since last Wednesday, due to the American Thanksgiving holiday, so there’s a lot to catch up on.

First, today we bring you an obituary of Al Plastino, one of the iconic Superman artists, written by Bob Hughes.

We also have arranged the publication of two key excerpts from Last Superman Standing: The Al Plastino Story, a forthcoming biography of the artist written by Ed Zeno. Here’s a bit from that:

Al Plastino was impressed with Wayne Boring’s art: “They gave me some of his pencils to ink early on. This helped give me a feeling of how Wayne drew Superman.” He occasionally saw the older man (born in 1905) in the art room at DC, though not too often, since most of the guys worked from home. The two artists got along fine. “Wayne had really tight pencils.”

Nevertheless, Plastino had mixed feelings while under his senior’s shadow. When he looked at “The Three Supermen from Krypton!” from Superman #65 (JulyAugust 1950) from today’s perspective, Plastino noted: “That is crap, because I was still influenced by [him]. But at least you can follow the story. My faces were lousy, but they were consistent.” When asked why he broke from following Boring’s lead, Plastino said, “No one said change it. Wayne’s work was really clean cut and professional, though the characters were a little stiff. It almost hurt me to draw like him. I tried to keep the look consistent, but it gradually did change.”

Because Jack Schiff was handling Wayne Boring’s work, he was also Plastino’s first boss at DC Comics. The goal was to maintain Superman’s artistic continuity. “Jack was one of the editors for Superman. He was a mild guy, very shy and gentle, nothing like Mort Weisinger. Jack was not a good idea man, unlike Mort, who was a great idea man. He would just say, ‘Here is the story, Al.’ He wouldn’t give directions, per se. I started working with Mort a little later.”

Last week, we were gone, but our columnists kept going. Frank Santoro turned in a short post on sexism last Thursday, and Tucker Stone and Abhay Khosla turned in a much longer column offering advice to young men aspiring to work in a sexist comics industry. Here’s a snippet from that column’s legal disclaimer:

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This week’s column is not referring to any specific individual, entity, person, event, or thing that exists or has ever existed or that may exist, that is either living or dead or neither, that is even a thing that has been contemplated as a possibility of a thing living or dead or neither. It refers to nothing. As an example, if this column should refer to the disastrous employment practice reputations of any company in the comics field, any resemblance of the company that is described to any company that actually exists in reality, including but not limited to, as a wholly random example, DC Comics, it is wholly coincidental and unintentional on the part of the authors as well as The Comics Journal — any comic company described in the column should be understood to have no real-world significance and the column itself should be understood to be at most a shoddy work of fiction or some lesser form of random typing that should be given by this or any other reader even less weight than fiction. Indeed, the fact that the mere letters utilized resemble words that are understood by the reader should be seen by the reader more often than not as an unpleasant coincidence. Nor should the timing of this particular column be understood to be referring to any real world events, including but not limited to any news items that may have appeared either on this site or any other site, anywhere in the known universe, this year or any other year in the past or in the future, in perpetuity. [And so on...]

Elsewhere:

—News. [UPDATED TO ADD: My co-editor Dan Nadel has announced that his company PictureBox will no longer be releasing new titles as of December 31. He gave further details and explained the move to the Comics Reporter.]

The New York Times also published an obituary of Al Plastino. Mark Evanier comments on how unlikely such an article would have been only a few decades ago, and also airs some skepticism regarding the timing of the Superman/JFK story that has been in the news lately due to an ill-fated Heritage auction (detailed in both the Times and the TCJ obituaries).

The political cartoonist Ted Rall claims that he was asked by an administrator of Daily Kos to stop posting cartoons that depict President Obama as “ape-like.” Rall (and fellow cartoonist Ruben Bolling) plausibly argue that Rall depicts most of his characters that way. Rall and Bolling describe this as a case of censorship.

Usagi Yojimbo
creator Stan Sakai and his wife Sharon are reportedly facing tremendous financial bills to deal with medical issues. You can learn how to help through the Cartoon Art Professional Society here. Mark Evanier has more details here.

Tom Spurgeon reports from the Billy Ireland opening weekend, and Richard Bruton reports from Thought Bubble 2013.

—Interviews.
Salon talks to Joe Sacco about The Great War. Alex Dueben at CBR talks to Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch about Leon Beyond. NPR’s On Point featured Neil Gaiman. Inkstuds had on Hellen Jo. Comics Bubble talks to Paul Gravett.

—Reviews & Criticism.
Kevin Huizenga likes Jim Woodring’s Fran. Whit Taylor writes about Charles Forsman’s Teen Creeps. The Chicago Tribune reviews Cole Closser’s Little Tommy Lost. Ben Towle takes issue with the coloring in Fantagraphics’ recent Harvey Kurtzman EC collection. J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about the Paul Buhle-edited Radical Jesus. Jessica Lee reviews Leah Wishnia’s Gut Feelings. Jack Turnbull reviews Simon Hanselmann’s Life Zone. Bob Temuka appreciates Larry Gonick. Sarah Horrocks does the same for J.H. Williams III. Rob Kirby picks his top twenty self-published comics of 2013.

 

Dessert Is Good

Today on the site we have what’s called a “Double Mautner”. This is a technical term for when we publish not one but two pieces by our friend in Pennsylvania, Mr. Chris Mautner. First up is his interview with Gene Yang.

Tell me about the research you did. Ho much did you have to dive into to learn about this time period?

I definitely still feel like I have a lot to learn about research. I’m not very good at it. This is the first time I’ve done historical fiction and I started by just setting aside a few hours every week, I would go to my local university library for a few hours every Tuesday or Wednesday and just read. I would try to read as much as I could get my hands on about the Boxer Rebellion and also about China during that time. There were a few books that were helpful to me. The one that was especially helpful was called Origins of the Boxer Uprising by a man named Joseph Esherick. I relied heavily on that book, especially for the Boxer side. And then I was able to get other books as well. There’s a book put out by the Catholic church in Taiwan a brief biographies of each of the canonized saints. I was able to go to a Jesuit archive in a French city and there they had these letters and photos sent in by missionaries to China. I wasn’t able to use a lot of the letters because ethey were in French but the visual reference was amazing. I took a whole bunch of photos and brought them home and that served as the basis of my visual refernces for the book.

And here he is on Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel.

Bagge doles out Sanger’s life in short, episodic fashion, with each page or two chronicling a significant episode in her life. It might be a bit too cursory for a reader used to 1,000-page biographies, but the book’s hectic pace effectively mirrors Sanger’s own frantic work ethic (at one point her son compares traveling with her to “chasing a hurricane”). More to the point, Bagge’s book is clearly designed not only to refute some of the nastier claims made about her by pro-life forces (namely that she was a bigot who supported eugenics and the KKK) but to also serve as a re-introduction to Sanger’s life and times (I for one had only the barest knowledge of her significance before reading this book).

Elsewhere on the internets:

Stan Sakai and his wife could use your help.

A couple of pieces on the late Al Plastino. One on his tryout for Peanuts and one from The Beat.

Brian Doherty on a new Siegel and Shuster bio.

The AV Club on a bunch of comics.

Heidi MacDonald on comics criticism.

Do you like to look at other humans at events? Well, here’s a photoset from the Art Spiegelman opening, and one from the Billy Ireland opening.

Finally, Mould Map is a really fantastic and, in the present, essential anthology. They’re Kickstarting the next edition, which looks great. Oh yes, I know the irony. I’m OK with it. Anyhow, I suggest supporting this worthy effort.