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Row Row Row Your Boat

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews the latest comics biography by Peter Bagge, Fire!!

Since ending the regular run of his seminal series Hate!, Peter Bagge has been experimenting with all sorts of different genres. He wrote an all-ages series with Yeah! (drawn by Gilbert Hernandez), wrote and drew some of a hilarious comic about a conservative daily strip cartoonist and his “assistants” with Sweatshop, did an amusingly unsettling post-apocalyptic story with Apocalypse Nerd, crafted a Second Life satire called Other Lives (which dated very quickly), and another book that touched on identity and technology, Reset. None of them had a lot of commercial success, but Bagge hit on something with a backup feature in Apocalypse Nerd called Founding Fathers Funnies. It was an accurate yet highly irreverent take on the Founding Fathers of the United States, a subject he clearly found fascinating. He also clearly had a knack for zeroing in on certain details while creating a lively narrative.

That seemed to stem in part from his years of doing reportage and commentary for the libertarian magazine Reason. Despite whatever point of view he had going into a story, he always did a lot of research, was open to listening to the views of others (no matter how kooky), and brought a surprising amount of objectivity and empathy to the table. In other words, he did a far more effective and compelling job than most “real” journalists. Bagge is also far from being in lockstep with all of his party’s platforms. His ability to bring both clarity and a strong narrative angle to events made Founding Fathers Funnies effective as a straightforward history and series of mini-biographies, and his no-bullshit sensibilities made it funny. Plus, there’s the matter of his art. He never changes it one whit no matter the subject matter at hand.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Hogan’s Alley has reprinted a speech Charles Schulz gave to the National Cartoonists Society in 1994, and also a 2010 interview with Cathy Guisewite.
—Caleb Orecchio writes about the recent Alan Moore collection, Brighter Than You Think.

Something I find very interesting about Moore is his awareness of the artist. He seems to know how to “use” an artist better than any writer I know of, which, to me, aids him in diversifying the types of stories he can tell. He uses them like a solo cartoonist might pick a color to evoke mood, or use a certain brush to evoke a certain era of comics’ past. Using an artist like Mark Beyer can help to abstract a story and give it a heightened sense of reality and playfulness, whereas using an artist like Stephen Bissette can help ground a story to real-life and make a comic more like a documentary. If you’re writing a story for Peter Bagge, the writing is funny and whimsical (Moore’s ability to write comedy is WAY under appreciated in my opinion); and you write strange stories of flight and fantasy for Rick Veitch.

 

Director

What a week. On it goes. Today on the site:

Robert Boyd reviews Pat Palermo’s Galveston Diary series.

But for the past year, Palermo has been in Galveston, Texas, doing a year-long residency at the Galveston Artist Residency. The residency, which comes with an apartment and a large studio, has freed him up to do work in addition to continuing LIVE/WORK. Palermo gave himself a challenge: to draw and post a page of comics every day. That’s the kind of project you would expect to last a month or so before the artist gets tired of the grind. But Palermo has managed to do it every day since August 2016.

The pages are drawn in a small sketchbook in pencil, scanned, and published online. They have an immediacy that his more considered comics work lacks. He makes the most of his Brooklyn fish-out-of-water perspective, and the work paints a very particular portrait of the weirdness that is Galveston. But because it was also an eventful period in our county’s history, the world of politics takes on a great deal of importance as the daily comics diary progresses. Trump is elected and Palermo’s relates his crushing despair, anger, and his subsequent activism, surprisingly—considering his lack of local roots—in the realm of local politics, both municipal and state-level. That said, the strip continued to have a lot of autobiographical material, especially about Palermo’s encounters with Galveston’s barflies.

Elsewhere:

Chris Mautner has a persuasive and enticing review of Alan Moore’s now complete Providence, which we’ve also covered on this site via Craig Fischer’s examination. 

Michael Tisserand writes about the influence of Mark Twain on the work of George Herriman

And this weekend is the CAKE festival in Chicago, featuring lots of good guests and events. 

 

Baby

Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews a graphic memoir by Nicole J. Georges, Fetch.

Nicole J. Georges’ followup to 2013’s Calling Dr. Laura continues her coming-of-age graphic memoir, this time focusing on Georges’ relationship with her dog, Beija. A unique mix of Shar-pei and Dachshund, Beija has a very difficult personality, which includes hating almost all males on sight and lunging at children. But Georges loves her unconditionally. It’s a love that sustains them both through housing problems, bad relationships, and the general life upheavals that punctuate Georges’ maturation from teenager to adult. During her years with Beija, Georges learns to hone her strengths and recognize her weaknesses, eventually learning to live life on her own terms, eschewing templates. With its theme of the deep relationships between people and their pets, Fetch has obvious appeal for animal and dog lovers. But this bildungsroman should also interest a broader audience.

Fetch takes us back to Georges’ teenage years, with occasional, further flashbacks to her as a young child. Raised by a loving-but-dysfunctional, frequently absent mother, and an aggressively “manly” stepfather, Georges learns to channel her loneliness, energy, and affections towards animals. At sixteen, she acquires Beija from the dog pound as a gift to her boyfriend, Tom. But Beija proves to be a handful from the beginning, a “bad dog” who repulses both Tom’s parents and Georges’, and she is ultimately the catalyst for the young couple to move away to Portland, Oregon. Both take to Portland right away: “Dirty and quirky. It felt like home.”


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown talks to Eleanor Davis, about her new travel book and politics.

It feels very good to be more active. I’ve only become more active because of this really awful thing that’s happened, and I wish it hadn’t happened, but being active itself feels good. There is a clarity now that I didn’t have before. Before things seemed complicated. Now they are simple. It is very easy to see that we just need to fight as hard as we can, in every way that we can.

I have learned a lot about government—federal and state and local. I’ve learned it’s not the end of the world to talk with someone who disagrees with you or who thinks you’re stupid or who thinks you’re wasting their time. I’ve learned a lot about immigration issues. I’ve learned I’m not afraid to get arrested; in fact, I felt very proud. I’ve learned about all the vital work local groups and activists are doing every day. I’ve learned that I guess I should just go ahead and start calling myself a socialist. I’ve learned about my community, and the people who live here, and what they need and what they have to offer. I’ve learned a lot of good chants. I’ve learned that I am smarter and braver and more powerful than I thought I was, but that I’m smaller and more foolish than I thought I was, too.


—Reviews & Commentary.
At The Cut, Jillian Tamaki walks readers through one of her stories.

This is a drawing of a photo I found at a flea market in Williamsburg a million years ago. I think it looks like a fashion show, or maybe it’s a Wiccan thing. Either way it looked ritualistic to me, so I used it to illustrate a passage about rituals. Our lives are full of them — from skin care to packing a suitcase a certain way — because they make us feel safe and in control. I used a lot of found images for this story because I wanted to create a collage effect by illustrating a wide spectrum of people and giving no explanation of their relationship to the text.

Tahneer Oksman writes about Dominique Goblet’s Pretending is Lying.

Pretending is Lying was first published, in its original French, 10 years ago by the renowned French publisher L’Association. L’Association is known for releasing experimental, quality comics — in the English-speaking world, some of the best-known translated works that originated with them include Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and David B’s Epileptic. This is Belgian cartoonist and visual artist Goblet’s first English translation (done in collaboration with cartoonist Sophie Yanow), though she is already known in the Franco-Belgian comics world for her many experimental publications, including a number of collaborations. In a brief preface to the book, Jean-Christophe Menu, one of the founders of L’Association and the editor of the original addition, as well as an “exceptional friend” to the author (as she puts it in her acknowledgments), describes how the book took Goblet 12 years to write: “There were other books, expositions, trips; the autobiography returned, left again, returned.” Traces of this postponement appear in the book itself, most notably in the yellowed pages of the scenes composed early on.

 

Still Be

Today on the site, Bill Kartalopoulos brings us an interview with Geoffrey Hayes, who passed away suddenly last week. 

BK: What were the kinds of children’s books at the time in the sixties that would have served as some kind of model?

GH: Well, it started out, I think, when we were kids. The books that we had that I think really inspired me the most were the Little Golden Books. Even though I had read a lot of other things. I read the classics like Charlotte’s Web and Doctor Doolittle and all of those kinds of books. The ones, I would say, because they had such bright illustrations, were the Golden Books that were the most inspiring.

And then as I got into high school I became aware of Maurice Sendak, and I’m trying to think who else at that time I really liked. I had always liked Garth Williams and… I think those were the two main illustrators, but there were other illustrators that I gravitated toward and liked.

BK: Thinking about Williams and Sendak, that’s kind of two models in the sense that, from what I know of Williams’s work, he was mainly illustrating text by other people, whereas Sendak, although he started out drawing books written by others he quickly moved over to writing and drawing his own picture books. Did you think that one or the other was going to be a more likely career or path for you?

GH: Even at that time I think Sendak illustrated more books by other authors than he wrote himself. I would say that how I differed from the two of them is I definitely knew I had a lot of stories to tell and the writing became as important to me as the art. So in that sense I would probably say somebody like Carl Barks was more of an influence in the sense of someone who just had a very fertile imagination, and who told his own stories as well as illustrated them.

BK: Now, I assume that while you were looking for work and while Rory was starting to get published, you were keeping tabs on what he was doing and what was happening in San Francisco in the underground comix?

GH: Yes, yes, definitely. Especially in those days… When he went right back to San Francisco and he had his first comic published, yes, I was very aware. And then I actually ended up coming back to San Francisco myself for a couple of years, so I was with him. Not necessarily living with him, but we were together right when his career was really starting to take off.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a preview of a new book of drawings by Jodorowsky. It’s raining Jodorowsky art suddenly. 

 

Only Developments

Joe McCulloch is here as always this Tuesday with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! His spotlight picks this time include new titles by David Hine & Shaky Kane and Elise Gravel. He also has some unkind words for the New York Times Magazine’s all-comics issue.

Predominantly, it’s the stories that hold prominence in these comics, and I’m not convinced that becoming comics does them many favors. Take Enemies Among Us (drastically reformatted for the online version, fyi), in which Marvel/DC/Archie veteran Francesco Francavilla draws a tale of WWII-era intrigue centered around ferreting out (German) terrorists who’ve slipped into NYC’s immigrant community. This is a very hotly politicized topic, no doubt disinterred from 2002 for the purposes of new relevancy, but while prose could at least theoretically tease out nuance from the account, what emerges from out under the lacquer of Francavilla’s four pages of backlit noir illustration is nothing more trying than a warm bath of civic flattery – one of the terrorists maybe becomes “affected” by the city life (no conclusions), and turns in the rest of them, his reward deportation over execution. I [heart] NYC too, but these tiny vignettes playing at resonance aren’t helped by the translation to comics, and ‘comics’ is helped even less. This is not a testament to comics’ sophistication, of its parity with nonfiction in prose; this is comics as a novelty act, rightfully dismissed the week after so that real work ostensibly can begin again.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. The most recent guest on Process Party is Katie Skelly.

—Commentary. The Ignorant Bliss podcast posted an episode with various critics and comics figures (J. A. Micheline, Darryl Ayo Brathwaite, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jonathan W. Gray, and Ronald Wimberly) discussing the controversial cover for Island #15.

So when the last issue of the anthology comic Island was released and people saw the cover by the artist Dilraj Mann of a black woman rendered all in absolute black with red lipstick and door knocker earrings hit the internet it caused quite a stir. … So I gathered some voices from the online debate and some others we knew to have a conversation about his cover, art, editorial practices in comics and voices of black women within the comic industry.

—Misc. Ethan Rilly has contributed a guest post to the AdHouse blog on the occasion of the upcoming release of Pope Hats #5.

Whenever I’m pushing into the final stretch of a project I get oddly superstitious. Every day I need to wear the same shoes, same watch, eat the same shitty snacks. Weird random stuff. And then there’s a list of normal human tasks that I have to keep on the back burner. It’s an extreme, productivity-based version of “Let’s not jinx this.”

 

Adding More

It’s been a long few days. On the site:

Eleanor Davis interviews Jillian Tamaki:

ED: What story of yours have you found people respond to the most strongly? And what was your response to their response?

JT: Well, obviously the strongest reaction I have had to A Book has been This One Summer, which is a collaboration. [This One Summer, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, was the ALA’s most challenged book of 2016 – ED]. It’s interesting, for the interviews for Boundless thus far, people have wanted to discuss “The ClairFree System.” Which is slightly surprising.

ED: I experience the clearest emotional arc reading it. Not intellectual clarity, but emotional, with the conditional intimacy of the final moment.

JT: I’m trying to think of their “reaction” though. I feel like they want to hear me talk about it. It feels very mysterious and strange to them, I guess? It’s not a typical image-text pairing. I mean, it’s about The Economy, which I think about constantly.

ED: I read that comic as both a feminist critique, and defense, of Capitalism. I LOVED it, obviously.

 JT: I had forgotten: that story was sparked by learning that some of my friends in my hometown had gotten into what they called a “Skin cult.” Which is maybe a pyramid scheme? You made commissions off of selling to your friends. But on the other hand, it just seemed like Mary Kay or Avon for the millennial set. And it was bizarre because I was like, oh, I remember Avon and these suburban selling-parties when I was a kid. But now I’m on the flip, the adult, and the moms needed CASH.

Elsewhere in comics-land:

Geoffrey Hayes, cartoonist, illustrator, and brother/collaborator of Rory Hayes has passed away.

Last week Drawn & Quarterly announced a book by the cartoonist Berliac. There was an immediate reaction online, as cartoonists and readers pointed to public statements about transgender people made by the cartoonist, some aggressively aimed at artist and TCJ-contributor Sarah Horrocks, who unpacked her interactions and thoughts on Twitter. After two days of research and thinking, D&Q, which like many small publishers, is based on fairly intimate relationships with its authors, no longer felt it could support Berliac given his behavior. The company’s statement is here. Berliac’s statement is on Facebook. 

The New York Times Magazine this week was given over to cartoonists, most notably David Mazzucchelli, Sammy Harkham and Kevin Huizenga, who drew versions of stories taken from the Metro Desk of the paper.

And finally, Robert Storr writes about Raymond Pettibon at NYRB.

 

Dog

Today on the site, Alex Wong talks to Guy Delisle about his latest book, Hostage.

From that conversation, how did it take another decade and a half for this project to reach its conclusion?

I did a first version actually a while back of 12 pages which I showed my editor. He was very excited, but then I had work, and I was only working on comic books on the side at the time. A few years later, I came back to it and I didn’t like the first version of the book anymore. I kept postponing it. I went to North Korea. I had a kid in 2003. We went to Burma. I was always postponing it, and I needed to travel to France to talk to Christophe. I think I must have been afraid to work on this book because it was something else who had to talk about their story. It was a different process. And then, suddenly, I wasn’t traveling anymore and I realized it had been 15 years. I still had the recordings I did with him in 2002, and I worked with that. I’d phone Christophe once in awhile for small details. He would read the pages as I was doing them. I didn’t want any surprises, bad surprises, for him when the book finally came out. I wanted him involved in the process so it could be as close to the real story as possible.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
The sf novelist Charlie Jane Anders writes about Wonder Woman comics.

For all their problems and dated elements, those early Wonder Woman comics have a poetry that sticks in my mind all these years later. In Marston’s telling, the Amazons were tricked by Hercules and his men, who enslaved them until they were saved by the goddess Aphrodite. The bracelets that all the Amazons wear, including Wonder Woman, are a reminder that they have been subjugated before, and that this must never happen again. So when Wonder Woman does her famous trick of deflecting bullets with her bracelets, she’s using the symbol of remembrance of slavery to defend herself. But meanwhile, if any man chains her bracelets together, she loses her superpowers.

Sam Ombiri reviews Joe Daly’s undersung epic, Highbone Theater.

The dialogue is so natural, and the way Daly guides you through what’s being said seems like it’s collaborating with life. It’s so mundane that it becomes all too real. It seems like it’s way more dense than it is really, because of the size of the book, but it’s so rhythmic, and it sucks the reader in so that you barely even notice that you’re flipping the pages. You start it, and you keep going, and you don’t feel the big obligation to take note of anything. Or that may be inaccurate, since you are supposed to, as a reader, take note of what’s happening in the narrative. I didn’t catch so much that the colored pages were adding an extra meaning to the atmosphere changing, other than, something’s up, tonally and design wise. Color is the equivalent of sound design.

It isn’t about comics, but Martin Scorsese’s editorial in the Times Literary Supplement on the overvaluation of single images when discussing cinema is obviously easily applicable to them.

It’s also important to remember that most of these images are actually sequences of images: Peter O’Toole blowing out the match followed by the sun rising over the desert, the baby carriage rolling down the steps amid the chaos and brutality of the attack by the Cossacks. And beyond that, each separate cinematic image is comprised of a succession of still frames that creates the impression of motion. They are recordings of instants in time. But the moment you put them together, something else happens. Every time I get back into the editing room, I feel the wonder of it. One image is joined with another image, and a third phantom event happens in the mind’s eye – perhaps an image, perhaps a thought, perhaps a sensation. Something occurs, something absolutely unique to this particular combination or collision of moving images. And if you take a frame away from one or add a couple of frames to the other, the image in the mind’s eye changes.

—Interviews & Profiles. Laura Knetzger is the latest guest on Inkstuds.

—Misc. Lynda Barry writes about becoming a character in Jeff Keane’s Family Circus.

I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house but we did have the daily paper and I remember picking out Family Circus before I could really read.

There was something about the life on the other side of that circle that looked pretty good. For kids like me there was a map and a compass hidden in Family Circus. The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. Their home was stable. It put that image in my head and I kept it.

—Crowdfunding. Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox have co-edited an anthology of abortion-rights-related stories called Comics for Choice, featuring 60 contributors. They are crowdfunding via indiegogo now, with the proceeds going to charity.

Cartoonists and illustrators have teamed up with activists, historians, and reproductive justice experts to create comics about their diverse personal stories, the history of abortion, the current politics, and more. Proceeds will be donated to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Together with 70 member funds around the country, NNAF works to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access, so that everyone can have full reproductive choice.

 

Gold Peak

It’s June! Can you believe it? I cannot. Today on the site: 

Rob Clough reviews Sunburning by Keiler Roberts.

Keiler Roberts’ newest volume of loosely assembled memoir strips, Sunburning, is a more assured, confident, and cohesive collection than her prior work. While Roberts displayed a distinct authorial voice, a refreshing lack of fussiness with her blunt and direct pencil drawings, and a powder-dry sense of humor in her past comics, everything comes into tighter focus in this book. She tackles all of her usual topics: life as a working mother and artist; the continued growth and delightful agency of her daughter, Xia; her relationship with her husband Scott, her parents, and others in her life; how she deals with being bipolar as well as other various neurological and chiropractric ailments; and general observations about life.

Elsewhere:

I continue to be amazed by the drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King, who is opening a show in London now.

Here’s a profile of the very influential illustrator Bernie Fuchs.

And here’s a link to the latest Steve Ditko Kickstarter.