Stand By

Technical difficulties are keeping Dan offline, so this is an "emergency" blog posting. We have one or two pretty big features coming up this week, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Eric Drooker briefly comments on his recent cover for The New Yorker.

—Alex Carr at Omnivoracious has a short but solid interview with Daniel Clowes.

—Paul Gravett writes about Karrie Fransmann.

—The Oxford English Dictionary now includes the word "comix."


TGI Blogday

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose writes about two shows in London and Paris focusing on Napoleonic art, and what it means to look at caricatures of Bonaparte nearly two centuries after his death.

The upstart Napoleon quickly drew the cartoonists' interest. At first, the British were simply impressed by his exploits then, eventually, worried about the threat he posed. But his reign saw incredible work from London's sharpest pens: Thomas Rowlandson, Richard Newton, George Cruikshank and the great James Gillray.

Bonaparte and the British has their finest efforts on show. But among all of them, it is James Gillray whose work retains an undeniable power. The son of a soldier who had lost one arm to the French, Gillray became the consummate editorial satirist. Many modern cartoonists, including the Guardian's Martin Rowson, cite his famous "The Plumb-pudding in danger" (1805) as "the greatest political cartoon ever drawn."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Annie Mok interviews D&Q publisher Peggy Burns for The Hairpin.

Dan Berry interviews Jordan Crane for Make It Then Tell Everybody.

—Reviews & Criticism. Ken Parille has written a typically idiosyncratic response to that Chris Ware New Yorker cover I talked about last week. You may or may not agree with Parille's interpretation, but it's rich and thought-provoking, both traits more important in criticism than whether or not the reader agrees with every opinion. I'd like to read some negative responses to Ware's tech covers that are this full.

Sean Rogers reviews new books from Marc Bell, Andy Burkholder, and Jason Little.

In a recently republished review from 1979, Greil Marcus discusses a Donald Duck book by Carl Barks.

—Funnies. Eleanor Davis has a story at Hazlitt.

—Misc. Medium's new The Response features a roundtable of seven cartoonists reacting to the recent horrifying massacre in Charleston.


Don’t Take Pictures

Today on the site, Robert Kirby on Blobby Boys 2.

Just in case you haven’t seen them in the pages of VICE: The Blobby Boys is a band composed of three slimy green guys who may be mutants… or possibly aliens. There’s Max on guitar, whose head is shaped like a toy top; Adrian, the drummer, distinguished from Max by his cyclopean eye and Bugs Bunny-like buck teeth; and Kristof, also on guitar, whose heart-shaped head is always framed by a red ascot. The Blobbys are a violent trio who kill rival bands without a second thought and don’t take kindly to prying detectives or worshipful fans. All three carry knives, drop acid, and have generally bad attitudes. Basically, you wouldn’t want to mess with The Blobby Boys. But Alex Schubert’s second collection of their misadventures is a lot of fun, a sort of weird synthesis of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Sid and Marty Krofft kids’ shows, channeled through a stoned Johnny Ryan-like sensibility. And maybe with a little of Kaz’s great Underworld comics in there, too (minus the anarchic exuberance). And yeah, as noted by others, there’s a Gary Panter-ish vibe thrumming through as well. Still, even with all those echoes, Blobby Boys 2 feels fresh and original.

I'm traveling at the moment and nothing seems to urgent on the internet, so you're on your own!


Floating Heads

Today, Rob Clough is here with a review of Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger's The Late Child and Other Animals.

The Late Child and Other Animals is simultaneously Marguerite Van Cook's biography of her mother and her own autobiography, detailing five crucial turning points in both their lives. Written and expressively colored by Van Cook and illustrated by her husband James Romberger, these turning points are captured as a series of five poetic but emotionally restrained vignettes. That restraint was certainly a learned behavior, given that for her mother and herself showing emotion and breaking down was a sign not just of weakness, but the very difference between life and death.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Etelka Lehoczy has a good review of Daniel Clowes's Complete Eightball for NPR.

—Rachel Cooke writes about the 25th anniversary of Drawn & Quarterly for The Guardian.

—Peter Huestis shares some of the college art of Mort Walker.



It's Tuesday and so it's time for Joe to tell us about the week in comics.


Our own Frank Santoro was profiled by the Carnegie Museum of Art. I love Frank's house.

Speaking of pals, Ben Jones is opening a show in LA on July 11. It is many thousands of square feet, this show. I have seen a chunk of it, and it's a mindblower.

Enjoyed yesterday's interview with Leslie Stein and want to read her newest right now now now? Here it is.

Justin Green stained glass? Yes please.

Passings: The great old pulp and super hero painter Earl Norem and the ingenious art director Frank Zachary.



Broken Glass

Welcome back to the internet. Today on the site, ace interviewer Gary Panter talks to Leslie Stein about her latest book, Bright-Eyed at Midnight.

We both have nocturnal lifestyles, which is great for making work, because the incoming people information slows down. You earn a living tending bar? Do you like it? And the solitude?

I do. I realized early on I wasn’t going to make a living drawing comics so I went for a job where I could make a lot of money in a short period of time so I could draw most of the time. It’s a very strange dynamic, spending most of my time alone with my thoughts and then suddenly being thrown into a situation where I have to talk to 100 different people a night. That was a huge part of me starting this project, feeling like I was giving away all my energy to strangers, and then being awake all night alone with no one to talk to. So I started drawing about my days, or nights, rather, and just threw them into the void with the idea that no one would really read them.

The rendering of your character self is very childlike and the color is a blazing flower corridor which adds up to the whole thing coming across as very hopeful and vulnerable yet dealing with adult issues. Like life, the whole deal is kind of heart breaking and yet tough.


I feel like the toughest thing to do in life is to give oneself over to vulnerability. I was having a difficult time during the year I made these, and I didn’t even really write about a lot of what was actually happening, but I feel like it’s in the open spaces. Really, why one is feeling any certain way doesn’t really matter, because whatever causes emotional pain doesn’t really exist, but whatever lingering emotion that comes from these events are reality, and are tactile in a way. I’m always more interested in exploring emotion over anything else. I have nothing to say, no social or political agenda. My art is graffiti. “We express whatever, whatever it is.” - John Coltrane

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For Rolling Stone, our own Sean T. Collins spoke to Alison Bechdel on the Fun Home musical's Tony wins.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ben Schwartz writes about the paternal dynamic in Frank King's Gasoline Alley for The New Yorker.

John Adcock writes at length and in depth about the French editions of Krazy Kat.

Robert Boyd has posted an online version of "Comixploitation!", a slideshow talk he recently gave about the superhero comics industry's historical mistreatment of its most prominent creators.

Brian Nicholson reviews Gilbert Hernandez's Blubber.

—Funnies. Slate has republished a 1990 Lynda Barry story (originally from Raw) to celebrate Drawn & Quarterly's 25th anniversary.

—Misc. Caitlin McGurk at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library notes that several recent strips being sold on eBay as if they were Bill Watterson originals were actually fake, as the museum holds the originals.


Future Gee

Today on the site it's Matt Seneca review Sammy Harkham's Crickets #4.

It’s been about five years since the last issue of Crickets dropped, but one look at the surface of this one and all the giddy anticipation the new issue of a good superhero monthly invokes comes rushing in. Crickets 4 is an easy pick for Harkham’s best cover ever, pulling off the difficult trick of making small figures against a big background pop with ease and grace. The back cover’s even better, a piece of Technicolor randomness that may be the best single page comic of the year. But it’s the guts that count, so in we go: Crickets 4 continues “Blood of the Virgin”, a graphic novel that began serialization in the previous issue -- though if you didn’t know that you wouldn’t be lost for a second, so plainly stated and immediate is the way the story lays itself out. It follows the making of the titular movie, a low-budget ‘70s exploitation thing, and the studio-employed hacks spread thin between making art and making sausage in the process. The main character is Seymour, a slightly schmucky writer angling for more control and better aesthetics, all too aware that his chances for both are slim. Still, even commercial art has to carry some grain of inspiration in it somewhere, and Harkham, a committed acolyte of the kind of movies his story’s about, goes to great lengths to show the real workings of creativity that even the crappiest art project needs to power itself across the finish line. In page after tightly gridded page, we get the nitty-gritty of movie making, well researched and beautifully shown. Moments of individual genius push against the tight rein of the studio bosses; then costs overrun or somebody forgets to show up on set and the real world pulls right back. And in the balance something is born.


I can't stand looking for links these days, so instead I present you with another installment of stuff I've been reading. Not as DIY a list as last time (hey kids, send me your comics! I don't ever go to stores or anywhere really besides the playground -- someone could make a lot of money selling "zines", "vinyl records" and cool "lit" books in the parks of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn), but here goes...

I Hope This Finds You Well
Dan Stafford
Kilgore Books

This is a really lovely collection of Stafford’s “handwritten interviews” project. The interviews run from 2003 through 2014, each providing a decent snapshot of a particular time in each artist’s career. Adrian Tomine is still in Berkeley. It’s 2003 for Crumb, not yet grand-old-man time; Peter Bagge is just beginning his Sanger book. Stafford’s form letter style questions level the playing field so somehow Ian MacKaye and Jeffrey Brown exhibit the same amount of energy, for better or worse.

Gilbert Hernandez

Gilbert is the cartoonist most deserving of a MacArthur Genius Grant and along, with his brother Jaime and Dan Clowes, one of the top three comic book artists working today. And in the midst of publishing a ton of graphic novels he's dropped this comic book containing a handful of riffs on gender, genitalia and money told in the artist’s scat-poetry style featuring various races of monsters. They are master classes in storytelling and psychological depth. Gilbert has become, in a sense, a minimalist -- using spare lines and ample white space to convey feeling. Gilbert’s only equal in this kind of free form mode is Robert Crumb circa early 1968-1974.

A Body Made of Seeing

This comic belongs to a sub-genre I’ve been noticing online and at festivals -- the interior identity exploration monologue (long term for a genre, but who’s counting?) that is perhaps influenced by Edie Fake.  This comic uses pink and blue forms to explore a very young person struggling with his/her body/gender. The accompanying prose can be a little precious (“I pray there is magic in this sickness”), but I chalk it up to inexperience.

3 Books
Blaise Larmee
2-D Cloud

The new comics “personalities” like Blaise Larmee seek out attention in a way previous generations of cartoonists did not, which has led, in some cases, to the persona overshadowing the work. Here Larmee has attempted to make a book about the persona. This volume contains three bodies of work. It is formatted like a contemporary art theory book published by Berlin-based art publisher Sternberg Press, which is a little like a graphic novel packaged as a New Directions paperback: It telegraphs intent and desperation and courts exactly the kind of criticism that follows. 3 Books purports to tell three stories (and whether they're fiction or non-fiction is irrelevant. They're dull in either case): The first is the story of multiple sexual encounters between a fan and the author; the second a nude Skype session with a fan; the third a catalog of paintings that represented the author’s fictional “big break” in the art world. I guess this is supposed to comment on the power of the male author and be a send-up of the “the art world” or something, but it’s all so silly. The cartooning is mediocre photo-based drawing. The conceit of Larmee’s ascent in contemporary art is poorly sourced-- he goes on a bender at the Chateau Marmont! He sells all his paintings! He’s been blacklisted from galleries! The paintings look like Jerry Moriarty paintings! If you’re going to satirize comics and art expectations via format and content you have to get the details right. Here Larmee comes off like a message board troll -- raving about things and exhibiting no real knowledge, but giving off enough of an air of authority that people in the basement fest subculture of comics might just believe him. Lowest common denominator "smart" culture.



Today, Greg Hunter is here with a review of the latest issue of Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats, which sounds like a significant departure from earlier installments.

The new issue may initially disappoint readers who were expecting further adventures of Frances and Vickie; it’s centered not around a cast of characters but around a set of themes. (Although issues one through three also included some standalone vignettes, they read as peripheral to the Frances and Vicki pages.) Rilly maintains the neat classicism of his linework, but he’s a cartoonist with new preoccupations. His gentle looks at millennial malaise are absent. Instead, Rilly turns toward cases of outright alienation. Issue four is not as fun as previous installments—it’s a demanding work, by comparison—but the comic is also earnest and engrossing.

Although Rilly’s Frances character works on the margins of her profession, assisting a series of high-powered attorneys as an entry-level law clerk, the earlier issues of Pope Hats present her as a thoroughly relatable figure—someone who reminds you of, if not yourself, than a friend or a neighbor. But Pope Hats #4 belongs to some real outsiders. “The Hollow” is a science-fiction story featuring a mid-level space surveyor, a smartest-guy-in-the-room type who underperforms and clashes with his coworkers. Rilly manages to both follow this character and also create distance between the surveyor and the reader, employing a slightly queasy yellow palette and a series of claustrophobic grids (about sixteen panels per page, on average).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Ware wrote a short essay on the video game Minecraft, to go along with his latest New Yorker cover. This cover inspired a lot of very negative reactions on social media, which fascinates me, especially now that Ware has revealed more of the thinking behind the image. Ware's work almost always attracts a larger-than-average number of detractors (as well as unusual amounts of praise, of course), much of which is either obvious kill-your-daddy stuff or stems from transparent jealousy, but some of which seems to stem from genuine antipathy to his subject matter and approach. Even some people who generally seem to enjoy Ware's work have reacted badly to Ware's recent covers for The New Yorker, all of which feature what would seem to be characteristic seasonal New Yorker cover scenes, only with a lot more smartphone usage. What interests me about the negative reactions is not so much their content—critics have called these covers "trite" and "obvious"—so much as their vehemence, and the apparent assumptions that underpin them. I get why people would react to these with indifference; I'm having a harder time understanding the outright hostility and anger.

An increasingly common critical error in recent years has been the confusion of artistic depiction with the artist's approval. In this case, however, the detractors seem certain that Ware's depictions are always meant as disapproval. Ware's essay, which is at least ambivalent about Minecraft, and even fairly positive about the game ("If architecture somehow mirrors the spaces we carve in our memories and make in our minds, then something pretty interesting is going on here"), shows that assumption to be wrong, at least in this particular case.

We have all had it beaten into our heads not to put too much stock into artists' intentions, so set that aside for now. The point is that the cover image shows a scene that everyone agrees does happen all the time. "Trite," "boring," "Luddite," "technophobic," etc.: these are the common attacks on Ware's New Yorker covers. One thing I haven't heard said about them is that they are inaccurate or unrealistic. Kids do play Minecraft on sunny days. Parents do watch their children's talent shows through their smartphone cameras. Families (not mine) do spend Thanksgiving in front of the television. If Ware's cover showed the two girls playing outside with a ball instead of playing video games on a computer, it would have been just as common and well-rehearsed an image as the one he actually drew -- actually, it would have been a scene depicted far more often over the centuries. People might not have liked that more traditional and Rockwell-esque cover very much, but my guess is the responses would have been more in the line of bored shrugs than angry Facebook rants. For some reason, this particular topic is one that some people really don't want to see explored. This is a scene that it seems some believe should simply not be depicted, no matter how objectively. I wonder why.

Leela Jacinto reviews Riad Sattouf's Arab of the Future.

—Interviews & Profiles. Jules Feiffer talks to The Wall Street Journal.

Alex Dueben speaks to Peggy Burns about her new role at D&Q, among other things.

I don't know why this Greek blues site keeps talking to prominent cartoonists, but I'm glad they are -- here's Gary Panter.

Alexander Lu talks to Brandon Graham.

Joe Matt is more Joe Matt than ever in his 10-question interview with the Comics Tavern.

Vice talks to Nina Bunjevac.

Michael Hill of the Kirby Museum has gathered many quotes from Jack Kirby interviews in an attempt to show that the stances Kirby took in his famous TCJ interview were consistently held.