Oh Why Bother

Today on the site, R. Orion Martin explores the world of Chinese web comics, interviewing two artists who publish primarily via online social media, due partly to the country's tightly controlled publishing environment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The always controversial political cartoonist Ted Rall has been fired by the Los Angeles Times over a disputed story about a 2001 jaywalking incident. The Times explains here, and Rall defends himself here. [UPDATE: Rall has another post up today, with an "enhanced" version of the audiotape evidence of the 2001 encounter.]

Bluewater Entertainment, the schlocky publisher of hacked-out biographical comics on people like Sarah Palin and other flashes in the pan, has changed its name to the most preposterously idiotic thing it could: StormFront. As most people know, and the briefest Google search would have revealed to the comics publishers in question, "Stormfront" is also the name of one of the most prominent and notorious White supremacist websites in the world (no link). Any bets on how long it will be before they change their name again? I'm surprised they've made it three days....

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough takes a hard look at Dustin Harbin's Diary Comics.

At Paste, Shea Hennum has a good piece on how many big comics-news sites have endlessly and breathlessly plugged sales news on the Marvel Star Wars tie-in comics while ignoring the more impressive sales of Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan. I do think it is worthwhile to note that while I have no doubt that cultural bias plays a role in this, it is also true that many of those sites, while nominally about comics, in actuality devote an enormous and ever-expanding amount of space to movie and toy news. They aren't exactly trying to capture the art form in its essence; they're trying to get clicks from a certain demographic. This doesn't invalidate Hennum's analysis in the slightest, of course.


What If?


Greg Hunter talks to cartoonist Caitlin Skaalrud (Houses of the Holy)


Lauren Weinstein posted one of the best short stories I've seen since, well, her last post earlier this year. Lauren's on a roll, and good on our pal Nicole Rudick for publishing this amazing piece of art at the Paris Review.

Phoebe Gloeckner is having another well-deserved moment in the sun, via the film adaptation of her masterpiece The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Ines Estrada calls attention to this book she co-edited about Mexican zines, a topic about which I know nothing. The book looks great. Gimme!

Here's are two questions for the peanut gallery which will do nothing for my reputation:

1) Does anyone remember which issue of the Fantastic Four opened with a splash of The Thing making/admiring an anchovy pizza? Here's a free idea for all your movie execs: A solo Thing movie in which he roams around "New Brooklyn", raging against micro brews and condo developments! Furious about pour-over coffee! Take it, it's yours.

2) Remember What If? Who has a favorite What If issue? What a funny premise for a comic that I took so seriously as a kid. I wish it still existed, but for ALL comics (What If Louis Riel was Immortal? What if Chunky Rice was a Wolf?) and that Daniel Clowes wrote them ALL and Rick Altergott drew them ALL. Dream team! Youth! Happiness!


Now or Never

Today on the site, Naomi Fry returns with a review of Sylvie Rancourt's Melody, an autobiographical comic about Rancourt's time as a young stripper in Montreal. Here's an excerpt:

It’s not that Melody isn’t introspective, exactly, or that her feelings and opinions aren’t strong; it’s that they are often in flux, and reversible. In his introduction to the book, Chris Ware suggests that Melody’s protagonist is childlike, but I’d argue, rather, that her sensibility is much more that of a very young woman—mostly powerless, occasionally powerful, with the work of stripping not necessarily situated at one definitive end of that spectrum. The sensations of the body before, after, and during its ritualistic unveiling consistently fluctuate, with Rancourt’s bare-bones drawings surprisingly capacious in their ability to convey those sensations. Melody writhing on stage, her face screwed up in enjoyment or disgust at her less agreeable clients (“Come back! We’re not done smelling your wonderful scent!”); with her mouth twisted into a grimace (“I’m yelling because I’ve had enough! I don't like this bullshit and I want to go home right now, got it?”); or sighing in delight as Nick sucks on her nipple (“Oh sweetie”).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Misc. Michael Cavna reports on the opening of Harvey Pekar Park in Cleveland Heights.

Neal Adams: filmmaker?

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson writes about various Image comics.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Vice Sean T. Collins talks to Boy's Club's Matt Furie.

CBR talks to Jason Lutes about nearing the end of Berlin.

Shawn Starr talks to Steve Blatchford of comics sharing site


Green Juncture

Today on the site it's Joe and the comics of the week.


Here's Jeet Heer on Ted Cruz and Rorschach, which is like having Stanley Crouch write about Kenny G. We miss you, Jeet.

Here's our own Sean T. Collins on Hellboy.

And here's Tom Spurgeon on various comic book industry stuff.

There are some nice reviews of my show What Nerve! in The New Yorker and Artspace. the show, as I've mentioned, contains work by  various people who have also made comics. I should note, and you heard here it first, that the Collected Hairy Who Publications book that accompanies the show should rewrite the history of underground comics. It won't, because comics people never look at art, but it should. We've reached a funny point in the culture where art is very interested in comics, and comics just won't play ball. It's "funny".


The Eye

Today on the site, Ryan Holmberg is here with another of his invaluable columns on the secret history of manga. This time, he opens with a more-personal-than-usual essay on his connection with the avant-garde mangaka Sasaki Maki, and reprints his 2009 contribution to Japan Today on the same artist. Here is an excerpt from that article:

In the spring of 1969, the manga author Sasaki Maki (b. 1946) was invited to publish work in the gravure pages of the Asahi Journal, a popular weekly of leftwing orientation. The commission lasted for forty-one issues between June 1969 and March 1970, resulting in a series of three-page works – most manga, some photocollage, some of mixed media – that provided coded comments on recent political history through the experimental use of the representational conventions of manga. An art of the sequential panel frame, manga is also a medium in which the speech balloon and the graphic representation of speaking bodies are central.

It is thus not altogether surprising that a number of manga artists, particularly those who did not take representational convention for granted, came to thematize in their work of the latter 1960s and early 1970s a widespread crisis of the spoken word. The work of Sasaki Maki was at the center of this inquiry.

One work from his Asahi Journal series sets out the core issues in an interesting if elaborate manner. It is titled ‘The dog goes’ (Inu ga yuku), published in January 1970. In the last panel of this short, three-page work, a dog dies, expiring a speech balloon. No graphic content is placed inside. An arrow designates this blank speech balloon as ‘nansensu’, the Japanese transliteration of the English ‘nonsense’, but a word with a different semantic compass than that from which it was derived. The proposition is thus: this, the indicated thing, is or has the qualities of nansensu. The blank speech balloon is nansensu.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Randle, who's one of the best contemporary writers on comics around, writes about Junji Ito's horror manga for The Guardian, and speaks to our own Joe McCulloch.

—History. Michael Hill has a lengthy explanation of the original "Marvel Method," as seen from Jack Kirby's perspective.

—Misc. Megan Cerulla at the Vineyard Gazette writes about New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, subject of a new documentary, Very Semi-Serious.

In the same publication, Paul Karasik has a comic about how not to sell cartoons to The New Yorker.

—Contests. The Guardian has announced #OpenComics, a competition looking for "interesting untold stories from around the world." Joe Sacco and Paul Gravett are two of the judges. I see no mention of payment for entries.


Asparagus Yes

Today on the site we have Marc Bell in conversation with Joe Hale:

Marc: We discussed how it might be important to provide a little context for this book. Can you talk a little about when and where this work was made?

Joe: I made this work between the ages 19 and 22, mostly in Montreal, some of it in Toronto. I was an enthusiast of the underground comic medium and wanted to contribute to the practice. In the 90’s Montreal had a flourishing underground comics culture, so I positioned myself there to create this material.

M: Also, I was wondering if you could describe the point of view of the material. You have said to me that these comics are not autobiographical but did you intend or enjoy the fact that these might appear to somebody as autobiographical material?

J: I wanted to satirize the autobiographical format, and present a character named Joe Hale who came from a world of unimaginable dysfunction. The formula for the humor in this collection is very dark, which is objective, my natural humor is much less offensive and more zany than morbid. I also wanted to portray the human character as extremely ugly, something not so much worthy of love and forgiveness. For the audience who thought it directly related to my life, well, that was an inside joke. I couldn’t help such an uncritical and undiscerning audience to begin with, so, I guess I didn’t really care.

And we fake posted Matt Seneca's Archie #1 review yesterday, but now here it is FOR REAL.

It’s impossible not to admire Archie Comics, both the books and the brand. If you think superhero nerds are the apex of slavish devotion, you haven’t been checking out the unbridled loyalty that the Andrews-Cooper-Lodge folie a trois has kept boiling in the world’s elementary schoolers since your grandma was prowling the newsstands clutching dimes. Instead of clinging to a single group of ever-aging consumers that grows ever more Nixonian in their reactionary tastes (like superhero comics have for the past 40 years), the good folks at Archie have had the common sense to stick to a single demographic, like comics used to do when they actually sold. Kids from 6 to 11 read Archie now just like they always have, and the seeds of nostalgia those goofy little books implant are so fertile that they’re the only books in the store a large percentage of parents will even attempt to grapple with. Archie is the Pixar of comics, a bona fide multi-generational consumer bauble that pumps out pabulum so smooth and generic that all the captive audience can do is beg for more of the same.



True crime and comics: An unbeatable combo.

Kurtzman and Hefner: A beatable combo.

Rob Clough on MarcBell. 



Bob Levin is back today with a review of a rather odd consumer reference, Fogel’s Underground Price & Grading Guide. An excerpt:

... [Isn’t] the collecting of UGs a blasphemous affront to the spirit of their creation? Cheap, trashy, mass-produced, they were meant for “the people” to paw through and drool over, between trips to the barricade, or while spaced out, stoned, on the water bed. To proclaim these books' worth diminished each time a page is turned seems a surrender to the capitalist lackey running dogs they warred against.

And once you have them, what do you do with them? Shelved, like rare books, they have no spines facing outward, trumpeting their envy-arousing, status conferring presence. I suppose you can follow the advice of the informational-like collaborative contribution to FUGG of Howard Gerber and Certified Guaranty Company: seal them in plastic and hang them on your walls. But then you might as well collect front covers only, which actually makes sense, for that would free the contents for the enjoyment for which they had been intended.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Per the Wall Street Journal, Charlie Hebdo's owners plan to reinvest much of the magazine's profits back into the company after several recent employee disputes.

The Verge has a long true-crime story about comic books and con artists. I haven't been able to read this entire article yet, but it looks very promising.

—Interviews & Profiles. Oliver Ristau & Shawn Starr interview Alex Degan Degen, and the results are very funny and smart (it's okay to edit, though, guys).

—Reviews & Commentary: Sean T. Collins has a piece comparing the Hellboy Mignolaverse with the rest of superherodom at Grantland.

Rob Clough reviews Marc Bell's Stroppy.

The AV Club has an aggressively random guide to comics that will "get newcomers hooked."

Both the AV Club and The Guardian enthuse wildly about recent work by Ales Kot, in a way that seems out of proportion to me based on the only issue of his writing I've read (Material #1), but maybe this deserves more investigation.

—Misc. Tom Spurgeon has started a Patreon for a new monthly comics news magazine that will be affiliated with Comics Reporter, which I encourage everyone interested in comics to check out.


Hagglers Welcome

Today we welcome cartoonist Kevin Huizenga to the site with the first of what we hope will be an ongoing series of reports from his cartooning life. This time it's all about the Autoptic festival in Minneapolis.


It's a stretch, but those interested in sequential narratives could do well to look at Jacob Lawrence's incredible Migration Series, now on view at MoMA and written about here.

I would have to look closer to really decide if I still like it (maybe not?), but the return of Bloom County, and now in color, really pings my 10-year-old self. And good for Breathed for just going for it and using the old person's platform to do so. Whatever!

I really want to read Dave Sim's Alex Raymond book, so this is good news, I guess? I really would like to read, generally speaking, an unvarnished account of Raymond's life...