Weekend Over

Today on the site, Alex Dueben returns to interview webcomics creator and CCS graduate Sophie Goldstein, author of the new graphic novel The Oven. Here is an excerpt:

In The Oven, I would argue that most of the story could have been set in the present and done in a realistic fashion with only a few changes.

It’s funny—I had the thumb-nailed script for the whole book and I asked Jason Lutes to take a look at it. He had some feedback and then he asked me, why is this science fiction at all? It doesn’t have to be. You could set this in the contemporary world.

I didn’t really have a good answer for that except that I like science fiction. It feels right to me. Once you set things in the real world you have limits—settings need to be accurate and plausible. I’m just not interested in that. I like to be able to make shit up.

For instance there’s a lot of drug use in the comic but instead of having the characters smoke pot or shoot heroin they’re eating these weird butterfly-like bugs. That, for me, was way more fun to draw and a much richer visual metaphor for the comic. I remember reading a Jason (the Norwegian cartoonist, not Lutes) comic where instead of having cars all the characters were peddling around on unicycles. For no real reason, he just didn’t want to draw cars, I assume. That’s just brilliant.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Of course the big news this weekend mostly came in the form of Star Wars rumors and superhero movie trailers at Comic-Con. The event also saw the announcement of the Eisner award winners. The Tamaki cousins' This One Summer won best graphic album, Saga and Lumberjanes did extremely well, Raina Telgemeier is having a very good year.

Berkeley Breathed announced on Facebook that he is going to be making new Bloom County strips.

—Interviews. Tom Spurgeon talks to Sammy Harkham about the Kramers Ergot announcement.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sheila Heti writes about Tove Jansson.

At the New York Times, Faith Erin Hicks has nothing but good things to say about Noelle Stevenson's Nimona.

—Misc. Lithub shares an early example of "terrible writing" by Daniel Clowes, along with his commentary on creating it.

Tips for serialized comics on Tumblr.


It’ll Come Around

Today on the site, Andre Molotiu examines a cartoon controversy around the confederate flag.

Two weeks ago, a little three-act drama was enacted in the world of online political cartooning. On Friday, June 26, just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges was released, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted on Facebook a five-panel strip showing the Confederate flag coming down and a rainbow flag taking its place on the same pole. No artist was named, and the strip had as sole attribution Daryl Cagle’s website. On that day full of rainbow-colored profile pics, the post proved wildly popular: as of the evening of Monday, June 29, it had received 230,488 likes and 192,197 shares, mine among them. Facebook doesn’t seem to keep track of such things, but judging by my news feed, quite a few people set up the strip as their Facebook profile cover image. At the time, I went over to Daryl Cagle’s page to ask him who had drawn the strip, only to see that the question had already been asked and he had not answered it.


Here's a rarte interview with pioneering comics historian John Lent.

Vanity Fair profiles Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Charles Hatfield has announced a major Jack Kirby exhibition.

Department of me: Here's a nice summary of my panel discussion with members of the Hairy Who. And here I am blabbing on about more of the same. You can now see a good bit of the show online and my Hairy Who book itself will be in stores in September.


World Don’t Deserve

Sorry about the delayed blog -- technical difficulties. Yesterday, as you hopefully noticed, we published a great, feature-length Joe McCulloch review of Junji Ito's Fragments of Horror. Here's an excerpt, but really if you are at all interested in manga or horror, read the whole thing:

First, the elementary. Every story in this book deals with an encounter with a character who represents the horrific. Perhaps they are supernatural. Perhaps they are merely eccentric. Perhaps there is a scientific explanation for everything that happens, and the "character" is merely an expression of some fevered and guilt mind. What is important is that they are all blatant and disquieting impositions on the common expectation for order. Also, all of the horrific characters, i.e. those given primacy over supplemental ghouls or spirits or beasties or doodles, are depicted as female. They are a diverse lot, with vivid faces and unique bodily characteristics. In contrast -- at least in the seven stories prepared for Nemuki+ -- Itō draws the women among his protagonists as variations on a Standard Female Character, as if the same exhausted actress has been given different haircuts for individual shoots in which she is playing essentially the same role.

She always exists in proximity to a man, and that man always betrays her.

Twice, the woman is named Madoka, and the man is named Tomio. In “Futon”, the story that caused Itō and his editor such grief, Tomio is most often shown buried under the eponymous bedding, babbling to Madoka, the household's sole provider, about dark spirits that only he can see. Four pages later, Madoka is seeing them too, menaced on her own futon by all manner of viral ghouls and infectious devils, purportedly led into the house by a nude witch with a curvy skin tail: Tomio's extramarital lover! The heroine flees, returning a month later to find her man barely alive and fused to the bedding with hallucinogenic mold; as it turns out, the syphilitic sorceress was only a product of Tomio's guilt over fucking (or just intending to fuck) a presumably non-diabolical partner - a misogynistic scapegoat at which he could point his finger while the rot of his infidelity tainted dear Madoka as well.

And today, we have a new episode of Mike Dawson's TCJ Talkies podcast, this time featuring two great cartoonists, Tom Hart and Dylan Horrocks, discussing Joe Chiapetta's Silly Daddy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Delcourt just signed a major deal to bring translated comics to Comixology.

—Reviews & Commentary. For TNR, Jeet Heer writes about Chris Oliveros and Drawn & Quarterly.

Colin Smith reviews Kiki De Montparnasse.

Hillary Brown reviews Sylvie Rancourt's Melody.

—Interviews & Profiles. Time magazine talks to Kate Beaton.

Priceonomics profiles Dan Piraro.

—Misc. The entire print run of '70s punk magazine Slash is now online, and you can find a lot of early Gary Panter work inside.

The Paris Review on Stanley Mouse.

Trevor Alixopulos redraws Bob Lubbers.

Tom Tomorrow has a Kickstarter.


Pine Tree

Hi there, today it's Tuesday and Joe's day as well. Here's the week in comics.

Today I am opening an exhibition in all three Mathew Marks Gallery spaces on 22nd st. here in New York, and tomorrow I'm interviewing the Hairy Who. Come on out.

In comics news, my hometown comic book store owner, very first employer, and conveyor of the Gospels of Rick Griffin and Dean Cornwell, get the profile celebration treatment.

Grant Morrison's career gets even worse, as becomes the new editor of Heavy Metal, which would be funny and "out there" if it wasn't also true. Everyone knows that Heavy Metal was only good for the French stuff and Richard Corben, and that's all gone. It's a pretty lousy brand, which I think the ad nicely exemplifies.

Paul Karasik has a new piece of comic strip reportage for you.

That is all!


Well, Look Here!

Today on the site, Ron Goulart has provided our official obituary for Leonard Starr, the creator of Mary Perkins, On Stage, who is also well-known for his continuation of Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, his Kelly Green graphic novel series with Stan Drake, and the '80s television show ThunderCats.

It was the ambition of many comic book artists to move up to a newspaper strip and several of his contemporaries had made the transition, among them Ken Ernst, Stan Drake and Dan Barry. Finally in 1957, after several earlier strip submissions to syndicates, he sold Mary Perkins, On Stage to the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. The title of the strip alludes to two of the most popular radio soap operas of the time—Mary Noble, Backstage Wife and Ma Perkins. Starr had long been a theater buff and the new strip would deal with “the glamorous New York theater world.”

His style had changed, moving toward what has been called photographic realism. He was influenced by what Alex Raymond had done on Rip Kirby and what Dan Barry had done on the daily Flash Gordon in the early 1950s. Starr has been called “a man with a superlative ink line.” His staging of the events in the life of Mary Perkins as she conquers Broadway, TV, and the movies and finds love is very good and he alternated light continuities with some dark and unsettling ones. The National Cartoonist Society gave him the Best Story Strip Award in 1960 for On Stage and in 1965 a Reuben as Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

We also have Mark Connery's short interview with Marc Bell (Shrimpy and Paul) about his new book, Stroppy.

Mark Connery: Hey Marco, so Stroppy is a very beautiful book, a real treat for the eyes, and also your first graphic novel. It's also one of your easiest-to-read things. How long were you working on it? Was there a challenge in finding a groove to make the story move at the right pace?

Marc Bell: I was very slow to begin actual work on this book. I did want to make things clearer story-wise because I was sick of being talked about as the guy that makes no sense. I even read a few books about writing storyboards for films and TV to get myself going. I think it did end up clearer than my other works but it also seems it is very hard to escape this piling on in the narrative that usually happens with things I make. So, that's how it goes! I suppose it took three years but only a third of that was making the actual book, drawing it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. If you read the two reviews of the Airboy revival I posted to last week, you know there was a fair amount of controversy regarding the title's portrayal of transgender women. Writer James Robinson has released a statement.

Tokyopop is planning to relaunch its manga publishing program. (In 2011, Sean Michael Robinson reported on Tokyopop's closing, and some of the controversy surrounding it.)

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Cremins reviews Keiler Roberts's Miseryland.

Martin Dupuis has a long piece on Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Killing Joke.

Mike Sterling reflects on Rerun from Peanuts.

Andy Oliver writes about William Cardini's Vortex.

—Misc. Have we already linked to Dame Darcy's new Patreon?

Box Brown is having an original art sale.


Good Hang

Today we have:

The first installment of Greg Hunter's new podcast, Comic Book Decalogue has arrived and it's a doozy of a talk with Josh Simmons.

We also have an appreciation of the late Leonard Starr from Howard Chaykin.


Good interview with the inimitable Ben Jones over here.

Jessica Abel adds her voice to the growing dialogue about making a living in comics.

Nice interview with Marc Bell over here.

Here's a review of the Harvey Kurtzman biography.

Here's a great image gallery of work by Marvel comic book artist Billy  Graham.

We are now off for the long weekend. Have a good one.


Corporate Comics Still Suck

Today, we are proud to present a new and wonderful piece by our Monsters and Critics columnist, Craig Fischer. This time, he has written a lengthy consideration of one of the last few years' most popular and acclaimed superhero comics, Matt Fraction and David Aja (and co.)'s Hawkeye. Here's how he begins:

I was part of the Mighty Marvel Boycott, and there were at least twenty of us who put morality ahead of fanboy pleasure and brought Marvel Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, to its multinational knees. (Because of us, The Avengers made $249 less at the box office.) When Marvel settled with the Kirby family in September 2014, I was finally free to watch the Avengers eat schwarma, but the bombast of the 45 minutes before that scene left a bad taste in my mouth. Guardians of the Galaxy couldn’t compete with repeat viewings of my Robert Bresson DVDs—because, of course, the only kind of stuff we discerning boycotters watched during our self-imposed exile were art films like Pickpocket and Mouchette. More recently, I enjoyed the early episodes of Nexflix’s Daredevil for its noir aesthetics and fight choreography, but its brutality keeps me from finishing the series; it’s too early to reboot the Abu Ghraib franchise, too soon for me to celebrate torturers and applaud the Chicago Police Department’s black sites. Movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron are more innocuous; I saw Ultron a month ago, I don't remember it at all, and I'm not sure I ever need to see a Marvel movie again.

And the comics? I’ve only read a few of the comics. When social media brings me news about Marvel characters—Wolverine’s dead, Iceman’s gay, and Daredevil’s wisecracking again!—I respond as I would to rumors about a branch of the family in the Old Country: mildly interested, but I haven’t seen those folks in decades. I do feel perturbed over this year’s Marvel event, the resurrection of Secret Wars, only because my twenty-two-year-old self found the original Secret Wars the worst comic he’d ever read. (I might still agree with him, if I could bear to reread it.) If Marvel had any shame, they’d send agents to all known comic shops to buy and destroy, Mr. Arkadin-style, every copy of Secret Wars they find.

But don’t burn Hawkeye. Read and appreciated by a horde of fans before me, Hawkeye—written by Matt Fraction and often drawn by David Aja—is worth our attention.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Leonard Starr, the highly respected cartoonist probably most famous for his strip Mary Perkins, On Stage, has passed away. We will have more soon. In the meantime, here are two memorial posts by David Apatoff and Mark Evanier.

The Hollywood Reporter is all over DC's move to California, if that kind of thing interests you.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Chicago Tribune has an interview with Daniel Clowes about The Complete Eightball (registration required).

The Beat talks to Michel Fiffe.

—Reviews & Commentary. James Robinson and Greg Hinkle's unusual-sounding Airboy revival for Image is getting some strong negative reactions, for reasons aesthetic and political.

NPR appreciates the new Drawn & Quarterly tribute book.

Professional cartoon gag-writer Helene Parsons (Dennis the Menace, The Lockhorns, The New Yorker) has begun a blog on gag-writing. This inspired Michael Maslin to write a short history of gag-writing (as separated from drawing) at The New Yorker.

—Misc. The New Yorker's website is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Drawn & Quarterly by reprinting publisher highlights. So far, they've spotlighted Debbie Drescher and R. Sikoryak.

Frank Santoro is holding another Comics Workbook Composition Competition.

Jane Mai has a report from ELCAF in comics form.

Eight cartoonists on the recent Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

I can't bear to look into it any closer myself, but I really hope Grant Morrison's dark, "sexy" Santa Claus reboot comic is a joke.



Another day another dollar, right? That's what Joe McCulloch is always writing about in his weekly summaries.


Tom Spurgeon rounds up some recent discussions around money and comics, two things usually thought to be incompatible.

Here's a 2006 interview with Marc Bell over at Vice, back when Vice was still "Vice", more or less. "Trigger" alert!

A very young fan received a letter from Steve Ditko. Kinda great.

Jason T. Miles posts some inspirational images for his new comic.

Britain's National Archives hold some good old comics that also happen to have been at the root of a government investigation.