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...



This morning, Joe McCulloch got a little carried away with his usual Tuesday column and wrote so much about Japanese children's comics and games that he wasn't able to get his usual spotter's guide to new comics finished. If you look at it from the right angle, thi is a good thing, as Joe will add that sometime tonight, and that means we all get a double dose of McCulloch today.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Comics artist Alan Kupperberg has passed away from thymus cancer.

Last week, Matt Bors left his position at Medium, and took The Nib with him. There's an ongoing Kickstarter for a book collection with 300 pages of comics from The Nib's first incarnation.

—Interviews & Profiles. Maisie Skidmore interviews Drawn & Quarterly executive editor Tom Devlin.

For the Paris Review, I spoke to the cartoonist and academic Nick Sousanis about his recent book, Unflattening, and visual language.

Amanda Moon moderates a conversation with historian Ari Kelman and artist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm about their Civil War book, Battle Lines.

Both Brigid Alverson and Tom Spurgeon interview Guy Delcourt about the French publisher's recent announcement that it will begin selling translated titles through comiXology.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon writes about this year's Comic-Con.

John Firehammer reviews Russ Manning's Tarzan.

David Brothers had a strong, well-argued response to recent remarks by Tom Brevoort regarding Marvel's hip hop cover variants, and the company's dearth of Black artists and writers.

Alex Witcher writes about a new biography of Al Hirschfeld.

Jeet Heer argues in The New Republic that superhero comics (and movies) should be for kids. I don't think I agree with the essentialist part of his argument, but I do agree that a lot of the stuff he's talking about truly does stink, so maybe it doesn't matter.


Donnie the Dweeb

Today on the site:

Matthias Wivel on L'Arabe du Futur:

In L’Arabe du Futur (‘The Arab of the Future’), the French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf remembers an errant childhood spent in France, as well as—and notably—the Libya of Muammar Gaddafi and the Syria of Hafiz al-Assad. His tone is mordantly critical, not just towards his egotistical idealist father who is the direct reason for the family’s various displacements, but more profoundly the culture he represents.

It is a great success in France, the first two volumes each having sold in excess of 200.000 copies and having received massive media coverage. The first volume furthermore won the award for best comic at this year’s Angoulême festival, and it has already been translated into several languages with an American edition due this Fall from Metropolitan Books.

And because of some tech trouble we posted Tim's stellar interview with Daniel Clowes a bit late on Friday. So don't forget to check it out.

So many of these stories have been reprinted in various books: Ghost WorldLike a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, etc. It’s interesting to revisit them in their original context, with the ads and the backup stories and the letters. It kind of changes the way you read it. 

Yeah. That was what Kim convinced me was the valid reason for doing it. I never looked at those comics after I finished them. I just stuck ‘em in my closet. To go back and kind of read through them you really get a sense of how the issues themselves were something very different than the stories that came out of them.

Were there any sort of things that you were really happy to revisit or surprised by or anything you’ve cringed at?

You know, luckily it’s all so old that I’m just beyond the cringe era. I find there’s about a ten-year window of cringing, and then it just become part of my juvenile work. You’re able to separate yourself at a certain point. I mean, there are certain things, certain drawings I look at and I know that at the time I knew that I should fix it and just didn’t have time. I regret any time I let some ridiculous, arbitrary deadline dictate the way that the artwork looks. Back in those days you had really no reason to get it out by a schedule [laughter] but Kim was always like, “We’ve got to get it out for the Dallas Fantasy Fair!” [Hodler laughs.] He always had these arbitrary deadlines and you’d go there and you’d sell twelve copies and think why did I cut all those corners to get it out for this? [Laughter.]

Do you miss the days of going to the Dallas Fantasy Fair? 

I kind of do. That was kind of the greatest comic convention, ’cause for some reason they would fly me, the Hernandez brothers, Peter Bagge, Robert Crumb, everybody that you wanted to know to Dallas, where there would be no fans [laughs] so we would just talk to each other. It was like being trapped. It was like the comic-book cruise I didn’t go on where you were trapped in a hotel. I don’t remember ever leaving the hotel the whole time when we were in Dallas.

Yeah, why would you?

Yeah, it was like 300 degrees outside and—Dallas.



Sincerest Form?

Today we have:

Rob Kirby on Shirtlifter #5

There is a wide variety of gay male comics to choose from these days: erotica, humor, sometimes a combination of the two, and an increasing selection of fantasy- and genre-based titles, not to mention idiosyncratic offerings like the “Disco Grindcore” romantic comedy of Ed Luce’s Wuvable Oaf series. Inhabiting its own little niche is the quiet, compelling realist drama of Steve MacIsaac’s Shirtlifter series, which combines literary qualities with explicit sexual content, and examines how contemporary gay men live their lives.

MacIsaac debuted Shirtlifter in 2006, after winning the Prism Queer Press grant. He went on to publish the second issue with the help of a Xeric grant in 2007. With the third issue released in 2008, he began serializing his graphic novel Unpacking, the concluding chapters of which make up the bulk of this fifth issue. (In the interest of full disclosure, Steve and I are friends and colleagues; he has contributed work to several recent queer comics anthologies I have edited.)


And elsewhere there is all this:

Publishers Weekly on Comic-Con.

Jamie Coville has published his annual round-up of audio from SDCC panels, etc.

Buzzfeed on the new Leah Hayes book.

This CAA decision regarding fair use is good news for comics scholars.

Finally, a belated congrats to Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor on their Eisner awards. Those guys are comic book lifers who really deserve recognition and success. Here's some more Ed.


Center Part

Chris Mautner returns to the site today with a review of one of the last still titles standing in the single-issue Kwality Komix game, Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve #14.

Tomine has long trafficked in stories about shame, embarrassment, and awkward relationships, but never in quite so stellar a fashion as he does here.

Part of that is because of the way “Killing and Dying” is laid out. Tomine holds to a tight 20-panel grid and tries to keep his characters in midframe and in the center of these small panels as often as possible. This does two things. Firstly, it helps create a sense of constriction and claustrophobia, which is important in a story where characters are willingly and unwillingly humiliating themselves in front of others. Secondly, and perhaps somewhat conversely, it gives Tomine room to draw out the dialogue, allowing for awkward pauses, subtle changes in facial expression, and significant gestures, all of which goes a long way towards increasing our affection for and identification with these characters.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Harvey Award nominations are in.

—Interviews & Profiles. Jezebel talks to Kate Beaton about her new children's book.

Sequential State interviews Kevin Czap and L. Nichols about the Ley Lines series of single-artist showcases.

Marc Maron talks to Bob Fingerman and Robert Kirkman.

Gil Roth interviews Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins).

—Reviews & Commentary. Colin Smith writes about the earliest Superman stories.

Warren Peace reviews Love & Rockets: New Stories #7.

Alexandra Molotkow reluctantly loves <em>Ghost World.

J.A. Micheline is not a fan of Mark Waid and J.G. Jones's Strange Fruit #1.

—Misc. Mental Floss looks at the bad blood between J. Edgar Hooover's FBI and Mad magazine.

Animation Resources brings you Basil Wolverton on cartoon sound effects, originally from the late, great Graphic Story Magazine.

Kevin Huizenga thinks out loud about narrative.

—Not Comics. Talking to the Associated Press, actor Jesse Eisenberg took a heel turn, comparing Comic-Con to genocide (and referring to journalists as pariahs), and a bunch of people pretended (or maybe really!) got upset. I love that some comic sites felt the need to tell their readers that Eisenberg was using hyperbole.


Bonus Deal

It's the week in comics from Joe McCulloch.


Tom Spurgeon lays out the news from Comic-Con.

An interview with Guy Delcourt about his company's recent digital initiative.

Good news for Seymour Chwast fans: He's opened a store.