What’s Happening

Today on the site, Frank Santoro is back with another of his Riff Raff columns. This time, he writes about a new zine created by Jim Rugg, in which he apparently collages together various panels and images from old '80s black-and-white indie comics to create a new story:

The narrative is: kill, kill, kill. Antiheroes standing on rooftops surveying cities. At night. Speaking to themselves in poor grammar with lots of spelling errors. Deals with the devil. Equipment diagrams and editorial delusions of grandeur. Often on the same page. What Jim did was group certain generic genre moments together and then sequence them as one story. An antihero from one comic will appear early in the sequence and then reappear later and sort of comment on the action that’s taken place in between. The zine reads as one story if you let it, the one story that every B+W explosion comic seems to tell: This is my city and THEY have taken it away from me and I must fight to save myself and my loved ones and I must fight and why doesn’t she understand me but it doesn’t matter because I will fight and by destroying the world I will remake it for her and for us and she will see and THEY will suffer and this is the stark future so GET READY because NEXT MONTH the final BATTLE WILL BEGIN AGAIN!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Now that you've read our own interview with Richard Sala from 1998, you might want to see what he's up to lately. Electric Literature talks to Sala here.

Chris Randle at Hazlitt has a good interview with Simon Hanselmann.

I'm late to this, but here is a conversation between Naoki Urasawa and Hisashi Eguchi about '70s and '80s manga.

Michalis Limnios talks to Bill Griffith.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough reviews a slew of new minicomics.

Publishers Weekly has a pretty solid list of recommended LGBTQ comics.

While writing about the Fun Home musical, Francine Prose also briefly comments upon Alison Bechdel's original graphic novel.

—Funnies. Boing Boing has an excerpt from the Drawn & Quarterly anniversary book, the first Joe Matt comic in a long time. (Commenters who have never Matt's work before are predictably bemused.)


No Goal

Today on the site:

We have a great 1998 interview with the also great Richard Sala, who remains a favorite of this site's editors. Here's a bit:

SULLIVAN: You talk about subtext and what’s behind things, yet it’s all done at the level of the images and the symbols, because you employ characters who are always two-dimensional. That is, if they’re not one-dimensional. You don’t seem interested in telling stories about people with varied sides to their personalities.

SALA: Well, to be honest, I’m not, you know, all that interested in characterization.

SULLIVAN: You say it like it’s a dirty word, like of course you hate characterization! Who wouldn’t hate characterization?

SALA: What I’m writing are fever dreams. One person thrashing about in a world he doesn’t understand. Don’t bother searching for anything resembling a folly-rounded character. Don’t bother looking for any situation that has anything to do with reality. In other words, characterization is subordinate to plot and atmosphere. I’ll sacrifice characterization in a second for atmosphere. I don’t care what the character had for breakfast.

I mean, these stories are basically extensions of my own personality. People used to ask me, “Why don’t you do autobiographical comics?” And I would say, “I’ve been doing them. These are my autobiographies.” That’s why I did that one comic as a joke, “All About Me” — it couldn’t be less about me.


Some very nice Tove Jansson paintings here.

Gil Roth interviews Lorenzo Mattotti.

Drew Friedman recounts his time at the NCS Awards.



Joe McCulloch is here as always this Tuesday morning, to guide you through the week's most interesting-sounding new comics releases. He also writes about some of the manga included in the new 25th-anniversary tribute book to Drawn & Quarterly.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The young Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to over 12 years in prison for drawing a cartoon mocking some of her country's politicians over a vote on restricting birth control.

Over the weekend, Matt Bors made an official announcement about changes at The Nib. It is not entirely clear to me what these changes entail, other than a reduced staff, the cancellation of the regular weekly strips, and apparently a larger focus on "the network aspect" of the site. Does that mean more focus on contributions from unpaid volunteers?

—Reviews & Commentary. Alex Witt is not a fan of Ales Kot & Will Tempest's Material #1. Stephen Burt at the New York Times has mixed feelings about Scott McCloud's The Sculptor. The Herald Scotland is really into the 25th anniversary Drawn & Quarterly book.

Paul Berman writes about the protest against the Charlie Hebdo PEN award, and why France's most important anti-racism organization defends Charlie.

One of the PEN protesters, novelist Jennifer Cody Epstein, has since recanted, and written a letter explaining why.

Marc Singer writes about the G. Willow Wilson/Jill Lepore dustup.

—Interviews & Profiles.Alex Deuben talks to Ed Luce.

J. Caleb Mozzocco talks to Jillian Tamaki.

Ilan Stevens talks to Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Oliver Sava talks to Dustin Harbin.

—Misc. Ben Towle explains the Leroy Lettering Set -- which was used to create the lettering in the old EC comics.

Whoa — Aidan Koch did the cover to the new issue of The Paris Review?


Panda Visits

Hey it's Paul Tumey and Tom Van Deusen on Yuichi Yokoyama's Garden, which I published what feels like an age ago. Good to see it still being discussed.

Paul: To start, I’d like to tell how this idea of discussing Garden with you came about. Tom, you and I are Facebook friends, and I posted a photo of one of my bookshelves. You made the comment: “Garden!” I was impressed that, out of all the great books on that shelf (Rube Goldberg,TinTin, Kliban, Tatsumi, etc.), you singled out the very one I would have mentioned if the situation were reversed. When I first read Yuichi Yokoyama’s Garden, about a year and half ago, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t think that it was possible for me to have a new experience reading comics – and yet, Garden was just that. As fresh as a spring flower. I have read it many times since, as well as some of Yokoyama’s other books and I have become convinced it is an important book – not just in comics, but in art and literature and culture. When we step through the break in the fence on the first page, it’s like sliding down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. After I read Garden, the world seemed different to me.


Michelle Robinson Brand, an early underground cartoonist and later a colorist for various comic book companies, has passed away. I haven't seen anything other than Stephen Bissette's Facebook thread, unfortunately. She seems like a fascinating person.

Douglas Wolk covers a bunch of recent comics for the NY Times.

And Robert Crumb looks back on the places he's lived for the Wall Street Journal.



Today, we have a new episode of Mike Dawson's TCJ Talkies podcast. In this episode, he has two guests, Annie Mok and Kris Mukai, and they discuss two books: Michael DeForge's Ant Colony and John Porcellino's Hospital Suite.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Nib, the popular comics site edited by Matt Bors for Medium (and one of the few online gigs for cartoonists that regularly pay fair wages for comics work) is apparently undergoing some changes, according to blog posts such as this one by Nib cartoonist Ruben Bolling. My understanding is that an official announcement will be made in the very near future. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably report that my wife has occasionally sold work to The Nib.)

Earlier this week, Art Spiegelman posted a preview image of a cover he created for a special free-speech issue of The New Stateman, guest-edited by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Yesterday, Spiegelman announced on his Facebook page that he has decided to pull the cover from the issue, after the magazine's regular editors decided not to run a Spiegelman strip on being a "First Amendment fundamentalist" (which has previously been published in The Nation).

Fantagraphics has redesigned its website.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian has the latest in a string of entertaining Daniel Clowes interviews tied to the new Complete Eightball.

At Comics Bulletin, Eric Hoffman has a three-part interview with Mark Badger.

Charles Hatfield remembers the recently departed David Beronä.

—Funnies. Two strips run just this week by The Nib include this by Eleanor Davis and this by Mike Dawson.

In other parts of the internet, Sarah Glidden drew a strip on international forms of greeting for The Guardian, and Ed Piskor drew a strip on EC comics.

—WTF. This is an embarrassment.



Today on the site Cynthia Rose on the cartoonist Luz's book Catharsis, out this week in France, about the aftermath of the murder of his colleagues at Charlie Hebdo.

The cartoonist Rénald “Luz” Luzier, a Charlie Hebdo staffer, was born on January 7– the moment for eating a French cake called the ‘galette des rois’. This year, Luz spent the evening before it with his analyst. Thinking about his birthday, he told her, made him a little bit blue. Year after year, the day unrolled in a pattern. It started with parental phone calls and finished with a “surprise” dinner.

In between would come the year’s first meeting at Charlie Hebdo. To that, being a birthday boy, he had to bring a galette. In 23 years, he grumbled, nothing ever changed. His “special day” was one of hopeless predictability.

In his new book Catharsis (Futuropolis), Luz recalls this chat. But the memory comes after 114 pages of blood, phantoms, police, guns, media and hallucinations. Frenetic sex alternates with bewilderment and sudden rages flame up before they shrink back into shudders. All this tumult is pictured in different styles, sometimes with anarchic scratches and other times in orderly sequences.

The book is, of course, about how everything changed on Luzier’s birthday. But his confessional volume should have a wider interest. That’s because its subtext is the artist’s secret fear of an unforeseen loss of inspiration.

Luz describes it in a little preface. “One day, drawing left me. The same day as a bunch of good friends. The only difference was that the drawing returned, little by little. Both darker and more light-hearted. With this returning ghost, I talked, cried, laughed and screamed… This book is not a testament, even less is it a comic. It’s the reunion of two friends who almost never met again.”


Just two fine links for you today. First is the latest Dan Clowes interview, and second if a fine video interview with Gabrielle Bell.


Roy G. Biv

Today, we are happy to present an extensive interview with Anders Nilsen, the ambitious and innovative cartoonist behind Big Questions and Dogs and Water, conducted by Marc Sobel. Here's a sample:

Sobel: There’s a whole theme about faith and religion [in Big Questions] that comes through with Charlotte and Betty, and their ideas about the bomb. Do you see that as a commentary on organized religion?

Nilsen: It is sort of a commentary on organized religion, but it’s more a commentary on certainty, and people that want to be certain about their interpretations. Whether that’s religion, or politics, or whatever, I always rebel against that idea... although, it was important to me in the book to give it a little bit of credit, too, because I think that people who have a lot of certainty about stuff can often get a lot more done, maybe for worse, but sometimes for better, too.

Sobel: What do you mean?

Nilsen: I’m actually working on a piece right now about optimism in which I’ve come to the conclusion that optimism, whether there’s good reason for it or not, is beside the point. It doesn’t matter. It’s just something you either have or you don’t.

There’s a couple of quotes by Winston Churchill that I came across while working on this piece, one of which is “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” That is a great quote and it’s totally true. If you’re optimistic, you figure out how to make the best of any situation, which is really helpful, but if you look at Winston Churchill, yes, that philosophy helped him get through World War II, and helped him shepherd the nation through the blitz and win the war. On the other hand, he was the architect of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, which was a complete and utter failure. Based on his great optimism, he managed to convince people through his charisma and will that if they put all the pieces in place, they could bust through the straits of Gallipoli, and, I don’t know, tens or hundreds of thousands of people died because he had this faith and this certainty that it was a good idea. Certainty and optimism can get a lot done, but not necessarily in a predictable direction.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At the Critical Flame, Kurt Klopmeier writes about comics and time, focusing on Richard McGuire's Here.

Emily Greenhouse at The Nation is the latest to review Jill Lepore's Secret Life of Wonder Woman.

Botswana Beast reviews Material #1.

Brian Nicholson recommends the work of JT Wilkins.

At du9, Pedro Moura also writes about McGuire's Here.

—Interviews & Profiles. Also on that site, Xavier Guilbert talks to McGuire about returning to his original story 25 years later.

Jules Feiffer was a guest last week on NPR's All Things Considered.

At Vulture, Abraham Riesman interviews Geof Darrow.

Connect Savannah profiles Dame Darcy, who has apparently launched a new local television show.

Lala Albert gives Zainab Akhtar a photographic tour of her bookshelves.

—News. The comics historian David Beronä, who focused his studies on wordless comics, has passed away. Matthew Cheney has an appreciation here.

As Robyn Chapman reports, Printed Matter in NYC is moving locations, and could do with some help.


Rabbit Hole

Today on the site Joe brings us the week's picks.


Roz Chast was the big winner at this past weekend's Reuben Awards.

More on that data analysis of the demographics of New Yorker cartoons.

History news dept.: The Chicago Tribune's archives are now online and searchable. Here's a great piece on Chester Gould. There's a lot of comics history in there. Also, you can obsessively read the daily comics page for decades. Become a shut-in!

And here's a look at the recent record-setting art auctions, with some discussion of how, or how not to deal with giving "royalties" to artists based on profit margins. This discussion has been ongoing since the early 1970s but is at fever pitch now as the money just gets bigger and bigger. There're some lessons for thinking about "moral" rights in comics here as well.