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A Wet University

If it’s Tuesday at my house, that means it’s time for the latest installment of Monica Gallagher’s Assassin Roommate. I’m a little annoyed with recent developments in the series–like the rest of you, i’m not at all interested in what goes on with the “Assassin” stuff, as it gets in the way of the “Roommate” portion–but I’m not bothered enough to go somewhere else for my when-will-these-two-people-get-it-on fix, not when we seem so close to the finish line.

Of course, you’re not at my house, are you? No, of course not. You’re at The Comics Journal on a Tuesday morning, which means you’re waiting for the newest chapter in the story of The Hardest Working Man in Comics: Joe “Jog” McCulloch. Well, he’s here, and he’s got a doozy for you. Dig in, use a spoon.

ELSEWHERE

A social media campaign intended to promote women comic creators rose up throughout Twitter yesterday, with this Huffington Post piece being the most complete explanation of the action. It seems to have exceeded its creators expectations; irregardless, it was pretty impressive.

Over on Facebook, you can (hopefully) keep up with one of the best comics developments of 2017: the team up between Olivier Schrauwen and Ruppert/Mulot. They haven’t posted about it since June 28th, but when they did, they described it as “A book about alcoholism.”

While the main focus of Alex Deuben’s excellent interview with Maggie Umber is her recent graphic novel with 2D Cloud, Sound of Snow Falling, I doubt I’m the only one who breathed a sigh of relief upon reading about how much happier she is (and more secure financially) since the publication of her “Getting Divorced In Comics” essay back in May. I also liked the part where she shot down Alex’s attempt to compare her to Vera Nabokov. Anyone who has ever spoken to Alex knows that he has a tedious tendency to bring up Nabokov comparisons, regardless of whether they fit or not, and they never do.

The Paris Review launched a Gabrielle “The Greatest” Bell webcomic on Monday–unsurprisingly, it’s excellent.

Fake Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his manga. Real Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his satin jackets.

The most interesting thing about Mark Millar’s Millarworld company was that story regarding John Romita, Jr.’s paycheck for Kick-Ass (not the movie, but the first comic series) being bigger than every paycheck he’d had up until then, after a storied career that included an issue of Punisher War Zone where Frank tortures a guy with a popsicle and imagination. That isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed some of those comics in the same mindless way that I have, in fact, enjoyed quite a few of Mark Millar’s comics–say what you will about his plotting, but he’s the only guy who consistently seems capable of writing action comics that actually manage to have exciting action sequences in them–but that the mechanics of Millarworld only seemed to be of note when the artists were making bank. The comics themselves–riffs on Flash Gordon, riffs on Batman, riffs on Ocean’s Eleven, riffs on being a nerd AND a racist or just riffs on knowing a lot about riffs–were, like almost all the comics that ex-super-hero guys start to make when they realize that they need a better 401K than the Hero Initiative, pretty shallow. By that token, I can’t imagine a better place for them then television, namely the kind of television you plow through over the course of two bloodshot evenings instead of having sex with your significant other. Congratulations, guys! (They’re all guys).

AND FINALLY

I don’t care if they build another place in New York City where old people in jean jackets stand around worshipping super-hero comics pages from the ’70s, but I’m gonna share this Neal Adams “personal call” nonetheless, because I know it’s what Dan would have done if only to marvel at this Trump-ian quote.

“Ask anyone who’s been here… it’s a beautiful gallery. There’s no modern art, super-realists, or anything that is tremendously sophisticated. It’s comic-book art beautifully framed, beautifully displayed, beautifully presented. If you don’t come and see it, you’re crazy. There are over 50 pieces and it’s all comic-book art. Periodically the exhibits change but that’s to be expected.”

Awesome. Sounds great. I hope the bathrooms are just holes in the floor. Nothing alienates us regular folk like “tremendously sophisticated” toilets made out of porcelain. I hope there’s a food court and everybody has to eat with their fingers. If one more person tells me about that Green Lantern comic where they rode around in pick-up trucks while black people pretended to respect Oliver Queen, I’m gonna saw off my hands.

 

Don’t Go Into The Marsh

Today at The Comics Journal, you’ll find a spot on review of George Wylesol’s Ghosts, Etc from our very own Greg “Bobby” Hunter. 

Wylesol’s work keeps one eye on the past, contemplating abandoned spaces and repurposing discarded aesthetics. But these are unsentimental comics—more forensic than nostalgic, and fit to disturb.

You’re not misreading anything, by the way: I’m neither Dan nor Tim. I’m your sabbatical-loving Tucker Stone, former columnist for the Journal coming out of the cave all fathers of young children go to for a while. I’m here for a one-week tour of duty as your Comics Journal Guest Editor. My goal this week is to get these blog posts up and running on time, track down some news you can use, and alienate a smaller number of readers than Dan would, but more than Tim. You know how the guy always has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? 

I’m aiming for the part in the middle.

ELSEWHERE:

This POV piece by Peggy Burns about the recent San Diego Comic Con is primarily a work of enthusiasm and optimism, but the core message that Burns inadvertently puts across–that commentaries focusing on the oft-derided changes in Comic-Cons should also mention the many benefits that such changes have brought about–is one that I don’t think I’ve seen put in such a succinct, inarguable fashion. It’s reminiscent of those articles that The Economist occasionally write where they examine human progress solely by whether the global infant mortality rate has declined, which is a pretty good guide, regardless of how you feel about The Punisher. 

It made sense for Publishers Weekly to cover Meltdown Comics’s unique decision to accept Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency, back in 2014–it’s an unusual choice for any retail store to make, much less a comic book retail store, whose small profit margins are exactly the kind that could be easily punished by Bitcoin fluctuations. Covering the three-year anniversary (leather or crystal, depending on how you celebrate) to say that Meltdown is still the only comic book store that accepts Bitcoin seems a bit superfluous. Subtitling the article with a cliched “Future of Retail?” goes a bit beyond mundane page filling though–while one can parrot all the generic arguments for cryptocurrency until they’re blue in the face, the article’s description of Bitcoin’s existence at Meltdown makes it sound like little more than a hyper specific kind of tchotchke.

Back on July 4th, a blog called Helvetica Scans posted a translation of an article reportedly written by mangaka Shuuhou Satou (Japanese readers can find that original text here) that consists of Satou’s thoughts after being asked “When attempting to serialize a new work, what is the market rate for a standard serialization, and what kinds of contracts will I require?”. While the article doesn’t get into Satou’s fabled pricing battles with Amazon that have recently resulted in him retitling his work Say Hello To Black Jack into the more musical sounding Say Hello To Black Jack’s Penis, hopefully that will appear in a follow up. (Thanks to Laika for the heads up!)

Rich Tommaso’s Facebook post about low initial orders for his new Image book Spy Seal has already been linked to here, but the past week has seen more reaction pieces go up. One consists of axe-grinding and self-quoting, which makes sense if you feel like the Spy Seal situation isn’t particularly unique, another consists of a random claim that the book should sell well in other countries, because The Walking Dead has made a path to market for books that might remind people of Tintin, but the last one is my favorite, because the last one straight up says that Rich Tommaso’s work doesn’t sell well because “neither he nor his work have been a subject of conversation among journalists or publishers very often.” Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

 

Credit Control

Today on the site Irene Velentzas reviews Mimi Pond’s new book, The Customer is Always Wrong.

Mimi Pond’s previous book, Over Easy,shows her fictionalized autobiographical self, Margaret, coming into her womanhood in the crude but charming Imperial diner. Her new book, The Customer is Always Wrong, picks up midstream in the Imperial’s day-to-day life where a now competent Margaret easily slides through the diner’s usual routine: sex, drugs, and coffee-slinging. Early in Customer, Margaret sets up the conventional expectations of adulthood – going to college, getting a house, marrying your high school sweetheart, and popping out a lot of kids – then thwarts these expectations at every turn in a quest not just to come of age but to find her identity. The diner’s colorful backdrop – an operatic theater set for high drama, as she refers to it – sets Margaret on track to exploring every last inch of her alter ego, Madge, and defy such conventional life choices: “I went out and slept with the first wacked out hippie I could find.” Pond’s Customer asks: What is right or wrong for our lives, and who decides? What’s the difference between what you think you want and you really need? Right or Wrong, those decisions make up our story.

 

Elsewhere:

Here is absolutely amazing essay by Cullen Murphy about the cartoonist-haven of Fairfield County, CT in the 1950s and 60s, where the author grew up with a cartoonist father. This is an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir of the time and place. 

Unlike actors or sports figures or reality-TV stars, they were never stopped on the street. They didn’t have a “gal” to protect them or “people” to speak for them. Semi-domesticated, they depended heavily on their families, especially wives, who in many ways held the entire enterprise together, from basic finances to rudimentary social cues. (Joan Browne would say “Xyz” to Dik whenever he emerged from the bathroom—“Examine your zipper.”) Life was interrupted mainly by mundane chores. More than a few collectors have bought original comic strips and found notations like “prescription ready” or “diapers, bologna, Chesterfields” in the margins. The working environment of the studio was a private place that tended to take on the idiosyncrasies of the occupant. There was always a lot of headgear strewn about. Mort Walker kept his old army helmet on a shelf, and on the wall hung a map of the United States with pins for all the papers that published “Beetle.” Dik Browne sometimes wore a papier-mâché Viking helmet made by one of his sons (and he looked like Hägar even without the helmet). Those who drew dramatic strips, like “Rip Kirby” or “Brenda Starr,” as opposed to the humorous bigfoot strips like “Hägar” and “Barney Google,” generally kept a lot of costumes around, along with filing cabinets full of scrap—pictures, torn from magazines, of cars, horses, swords, Arabs, sportsmen, guns, swank apartments, and memorable faces (Auden, Arendt, Dirksen, Hepburn) or extreme states of emotion (anger, agony, insanity, sorrow). To capture specific poses of people in action, my father bought a Polaroid Land camera in 1949—the sole instance in his life when he was an early adopter. He took thousands of pictures of himself, his family, and any neighbor you’d look twice at, directing each tableau like a backyard auteur. (“That’s not ‘happy.’ I want to see ‘happy.’ Let’s do it again. HAPPY!”)

And finally, Matthew Thurber has released the final issue of his five-issue epic, Art Comic!

 

Hurry-Up Complex

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews The Black Hood, an anthology of comics dealing with depression and related issues.

The Black Hood: An Anthology of Depression and Anxiety is a frequently brutal but ultimately illuminating take on mental illness, something experienced by a number of artists. Editors Josh Bayer (who published the book) and Mike Freiheit (who designed it) did a remarkable job of finding a number of veteran cartoonists and younger talent willing to spill a lot of ink in their personal depictions of mental illness. From E.A. Bethea’s almost entirely textual approach to Haleigh Buck’s dense, inky and naturalistic account of a panic attack, there’s a wide variety of styles to be found in the book. However, they are all raw, honest, and vulnerable in how they present themselves. As I have often found in confessional stories about difficult topics, one can sometimes sense an almost palpable sense of relief on the page as the artists have finally told their stories.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman share a small selection of the work of one of America’s greatest political cartoonists, Art Young.

Political cartoons usually have the shelf life of yogurt, yet many of Art Young’s drawings from the early twentieth century remain fresh and hilariously witty—they seem to have been hatched just this morning. Young, one of the core editors and artists of The Masses, a socialist bohemian publication, didn’t get lost in the trivia of daily news; he kept his eyes on the big drama of the ninety-nine per cent versus the one per cent. A jovial man who even had empathy for his enemies, Young had a winning sense of humor as well as a strong sense of social justice—some of his funniest drawings are about Hell. During the First World War, when Young was tried for treason alongside John Reed and Max Eastman, his colleagues at The Masses, the prosecuting attorney couldn’t help stating, in his otherwise excoriating summation, that “everybody loves Art Young.”

—Sarah Horrocks writes about the Italian insanity that is RanXerox.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has ever read RanXerox to hear it described as grotesque. The artists Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini, in the spirit of the times, created a world of murderous mutant sex junkies and set them loose upon a futuristic Rome and New York. The stories focus on the intersections of art, exploitation, violence, and degradation. They are libertine in every sense of the word. Murderous robot mutant Ranx teams up with his prepubescent looking love interest Lubna to maraud across two cities.

—For The Atlantic, Jonathan Guyer writes about recent events in the Middle East as depicted by local cartoonists.

Across the inlet, Saudi cartoonists known for their inventive gags and veiled criticisms of authority have taken clear sides. Take Abdullah Jaber, who draws for the newspaper Mecca and has faced censorship in the past. Recently, Jaber has depicted Qatar as pugnacious, deceptive, and back-stabbing. In one of his several anti-Doha drawings, a blonde man wearing a shirt with Al-Jazeera’s logo and holding a saw cuts the Qatari peninsula off from the Gulf region; adjacent to him, another man wearing the distinct cap and gray, fuzzy beard of the Muslim Brotherhood sits on Qatar, paddling off into the Gulf, suggesting that the Qatari state is merely doing the Islamist party’s bidding. Saudi cartoonist Khaled Ahmed went even further with a drawing of a Qatari sheikh flinging bills at a belly-dancing terrorist who dons a black mask and a suicide vest. Such bellicose cartoons replicate the rhetoric of Saudi officials.

—Zainab Akhtar is raising funds for the second issue of her comics & criticism anthology, Critical Chips.

 

Double Calzone

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews José Muñoz.

Were you always interested in crime stories? What did you read or watch?

Well, from my side, during my adolescence and early youth, we – Oscar Zárate and myself – lived mainly in the cinemas watching many international films, looking at and reading historietas, books—but never as many as Carlos Sampayo— always being in a lot of high, middle and low tragicomic narratives with words and images, only with words, only with silent or isolated images, sometimes falling down into a word that could be read as a constellation of meanings. I was interested in shapes, cities, white lights and black blacks, fog. Gifted German and Middle Europeans people arrived in the USA escaping from Hitler’s madness and, with their darker expressionist mood, aggravated the light and shadows of Hollywood’s minds. This cruel world enriches our figurative, narrative talents with the lack of meaning of the script of life. At that time the USA saved those people; many, many thanks, truly. Your country, you also, saved them, and they gave you their talents.

In South America we have nothing to thank your military-industrial politics for, nothing at all. Instead, we have been systematically molested by the imperial programs, ignorance, and paranoias of the United States. In my late twenties, coming from politics, before the organized South American killing of lives and hope — Allende, Pinochet, Kissinger the killer, Videla, etc — I began to focus my horrified interest on crime stories because they look just like reality. And, now with some distance, I could say that for the same reason, this too has led to my horrified lack of interest today.

Elsewhere:

I saw hints of this on social media, but this article is all I’ve seen that recounts the awful recent harassment by “fans” of female Marvel employees. 

Great post here on a rejected Ronald Searle cover.

Gyna Wynbrandt is the latest guest on Process Party.

And Gary Groth is interviewed on KCRW.

 

From Hell’s Heart

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics (new titles by John Hankiewicz and the Hernandez Bros.) and tops it off with an extended pictorial essay on Geoff Darrow.

Some may have gotten hold of La Cité Feu (“City of Fire”), the image suite he drew that was inked by Moebius, or the big Bourbon Thret album released in France, both in the mid-’80s. In English, there was one Bourbon Thret story published in Heavy Metal (Mar. ’85), and another published in Dark Horse Presents (#19, July ’88), but for myself and I suspect a many U.S. readers it was the 1990-92 series Hard Boiled, a collaboration with Frank Miller, that introduced Darrow’s approach. What you see above is what I think is most readily associated with “Geof Darrow” comics – a scene teeming with hundreds of small events, marks of life: from people to advertisements to cracks on the wall to litter on the street. The main ‘event’ of the page, a car crashing through a wall and careening toward an orgy, the book’s protagonist clinging to the front end, is given relatively slight prominence in comparison to its surroundings; there’s a word balloon, and a flash of yellow, contrasting with the rest of the image to draw the eye, but as Darrow himself is photographed distinctly amidst his studio, so does the action of this splash seem to occur as only one thing among many in the comic’s existence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The most recent episode of the best and least frequent non-TCJ-affiliated comics podcast on the internet, Comic Books Are Burning in Hell, is all about Hellboy.

—At the also too infrequent Mindless Ones site, Illogical Volume reviews the work of Julia Scheele.

For all that it’s a hip, well-designed package, capped off by a picture of a rakish girl Robin smoking like the baddest kid in school, IDLMHN#1 isn’t exactly short of drama. The first story ‘Positive‘, written by Katie West, deals with a panic about an affair and the pregnancy that might follow, and the rest of the strips that follow is of a piece with this opening.

Scheele’s flair for making her design tell the story impressed me to the extent that I was too busy looking at what she’d done to actually see it. Perhaps you will understand why I became such a poor reader if you observe the way ‘Positive’ moves from dreamy blues to raw autumnal colours, and overlays its action with graphical representations of the child that could yet be, literalising the protagonist’s idle speculation.

—Graham Nash is auctioning off his underground comics art collection, including the cover to Zap #1.

—This Facebook post (and subsequent ones) by Rich Tommaso on the dangers and difficulties of making a life’s career as a cartoonist is generating much-needed conversation.

 

Bluesy

Today on the site, Bob Levin reviews Purgatory (“A Rejects Story”) 

From the art, the uniform of Frankenstein’s father reveals him as a policeman. The depiction of Frankenstein’s mother reveals her to be white. Through the art, Frankenstein’s subjective sense of the world is expressed. In the locker room, one of the (modestly) prose-described “overly-aggressive… athletes” becomes a KKK-hooded nightmare. The class-room “beasts” are all snouts and gaping, sharply fanged mouths.

Then there is Frankenstein’s portrayal of eyes. Especially his. Haunted. Dreamy. Startled, Scared. Windows to the soul, I’ve heard. Sometimes his eyes are simply lovely, the promise in them immense. Then, at the end, the author’s photo shows them opaque, sealed behind Steampunk shades, above – is it? – a Mona Lisa smile.

Elsewhere….

Longtime Mad writer Stan Hart has passed away.

RM Rhodes features Druillet over at  Comics Workbook.

Good looking new comic from Seth online. 

PW looks at the most recent SDCC.

I enjoyed reading this lengthy piece about the author’s friendship with Flo Steinberg.

 

Sich Lengwidge

Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews Jonny Sun, the artist/author and Twitter personality, about putting together his first book, aliens as listeners, art as therapy, and deciding to stop being anonymous.

You’ve mentioned that putting this book together helped you figure out some things personally too.

It was huge. When I started thinking about the book, I was in the most insecure point in my life, it was definitely the most difficult point in my life. I started a doctorate program, and I was in a lab doing work that was not interesting to me. I felt very intimidated and had imposter syndrome. I didn’t know what I was doing there. I felt like I had no control of what I was doing.

Whenever I get in situations like that, I turn to creative work. It’s something you can control and I know what I’m doing. The book originally started as this small piece of creative therapy, and that’s when I really grappled with the idea of mental health and realized that maybe what I’m going through here isn’t what everyone is going through. I started realizing I had anxiety and depression, and started seeing a therapist.

The actual experience of going to therapy played into the book’s narrative. I see the alien character as a listener, someone who is more quiet. I think my relationship with my therapist informed that a lot. I was just thinking a lot about how I felt better after going to therapy, and what exactly that meant for me. This book became this metaphor for therapy but also another way for me to work out ideas and thoughts, and to put things to images.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Howard Cruse writes about his experiences cartooning for Playboy.

Giving four whole pages to an unknown newbie was apparently too much for Hefner to swallow. But despite that rejection, though, Michelle thought I still had a good chance of cracking “Playboy Funnies,” especially if I came up with more comic strip parodies. Not multi-page ones, maybe; ones that could slip smoothly into the small spaces that would be allotted to strips in“Playboy Funnies.” She was confident I would make the cut, but my first step would be to go home and work up sketches.

Not all of them would need to be parodies, she explained, but some should be. They could be sexually randy; Playboy was a magazine for grown-ups, after all. But they would need to be acceptable for newsstand display.

In practical terms that meant that, while naked females and sexual innuendo would be welcome, practically de rigueur, I should not take my freedom too far. No erections and no penetration, she explained, was the rule at Playboy.

As a cartoonist with roots in uncensored underground comix, I was fine with being funny about sex. Eager, even. Compared to undergrounds, mainstream comic strips were relentlessly prim. That primness was what I was being invited to parody, and I considered that sexlessness overdue for roasting. My point of view was: What would it be like if sex were matter-of-factly embraced by our cartoon favorites instead of being invisible?

Comical incongruities came to mind effortlessly.

—At The Guardian, James Reith writes about Maurice Tillieux’s Gil Jordan comics.

Tillieux took Hergé’s “clear line” drawing style and muddied it; where Tintin’s world is clean and sparse, Jordan’s is grimy and littered. The same can be said for the storytelling. Whilst critics adore Tintin for its conceptual complexities, Hergé’s stories are often straightforward adventures peppered with throwaway gags. But for Tillieux, gags have consequences: what you might think is a joke will turn out to be a crucial plot point. Tillieux took familiar comic tropes – then complicated them.

—And it’s hard to believe that July is almost over, and we haven’t linked to Gabrielle Bell’s annual month-long July Diary comics yet.