Old Days

Today on the site Joe brings you a batch of new comics.

And no links today. Instead, a walk down publishing lane. Chris Oliveros is retiring from D&Q at age 48. For you kids out there, 48 is really young! D&Q began, as the best comic book companies have, as one person's vision of the medium. Chris is a comics guy. He knows his Joe Sinnotts from his Vince Collettas. Back issues. Long boxes. I like talking comics with Chris. The really great publishers of comics of the last 40 years (and I can count them on one hand) know the medium deeply. You kinda have to in order to have a vision that extends beyond your immediate times and allows you to recognize and nurture talents others might dismiss and put your money where your mouth is. That's the job, and that's what Chris did.

Chris gave a home to some of the most important talents of his (or any) generation: Julie Doucet, Chester Brown and Seth, among others. Moreover, Julie and Chester were, like Dan Clowes and Peter Bagge, deeply connected to '90s indie culture, which was, you know, a thing that counted. Companies from that era were taste driven (Drag City and Merge records come to mind as examples) and thus tended to live and die with their proprietors. But it's good that Chris is letting it live without him, and it's also in keeping with his natural modesty. He's not someone who would ever think that somehow this thing couldn't survive without him and, yet (I guess) he understand how important it is for it to exist as a home for the medium. As a publisher I really liked knowing Chris was out there, and on a few occasions he gave me really important advice and encouragement.

Anyhow, a little more history here...back in the '90s and early '00s D&Q was a genuine alternative to the older and more entrenched Fantagraphics both aesthetically and in terms of the actual physical objects. It was striking at the time -- the actual visuals were often more elegant, more in tune with what was happening in illustration and design. The books were the first in comics to really dovetail with quality trade publishing standards -- french flaps, quality hardcovers, matte lamination. No one else in comics was doing that. It might seem trivial, but look at the publishing landscape today and Chris seems awfully prescient.

Later, via the anthologies he introduced a lot of us to the work being published by Cornelius and L'Association in France. But for whatever reason, my first thought upon hearing about the retirement was the insane Doug Wright art book that D&Q published -- Chris followed his passions in publishing, even if it was down the manhole. I love that book a lot -- it's one of my favorites -- but, oof, not an easy sell. Anyhow, it's a different company now, of course, so it makes sense that he could leave it in Peggy Burns' hands -- with Chris she has expanded the company's purview to encompass a broad range of work in comics and visual culture in general. Anyhow, thanks Chris. Welcome to the other side.



Preparing the Contracts

Today, we have a special piece for you, and one that is essentially unexcerptable here in this blog post: Paul Karasik has reviewed Bill Schelly's new biography of Harvey Kurtzman, and done so in a formally inventive way, superimposing his writing over the classic Kurtzman story, "Big 'If'!"

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Probably the biggest news this TCAF weekend was the announcement that founder Chris Oliveros is stepping down from his role at Drawn & Quarterly, with Peggy Burns taking over as publisher, and Tom Devlin becoming executive editor. The news was first published in this Toronto Globe & Mail profile of the company on its 25th anniversary. Oliveros reportedly intends to focus on his work as a cartoonist. We'll have more on this soon.

The Doug Wright Awards were announced, and the winners are Nina Bunjevac, Meags Fitzgerald, and Connor Willumsen.

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize was announced. The winning book was the Tamakis' This One Summer, and the honoree Richard McGuire's Here.

Today is the last day to submit nominations for the Harvey Awards.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jeet Heer has an interesting piece on what he calls "the aesthetic failure of Charlie Hebdo" at the New Republic. Also worth reading are Kunwar Khuldune Shahid at The Nation.

We almost never link to superhero movie stuff, but this James Rocchi essay on the "Marvel-Industrial Complex" earns an exception.

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna spoke to Baltimore's Kal right before he was given the Herblock Prize. He also spoke to Darrin Bell, who just won the RFK prize.

The Millions talks to Daniel Clowes. I love Clowes interview season.

Alex Dueben interviews Seth as he returns to Palookaville.

Time talked to Art Spiegelman about Charlie Hebdo's PEN award controversy and Pamela Geller.

—Funnies. Pascal Girard has drawn a comics history of the first 25 years of Drawn & Quarterly.


Summer Friday?

Nothing new today, good people. It's just one of those days. Instead, busy yourselves with these delightful links!

Via the author, Tales from Greenfuzz issue 1, by the great Will Sweeney, is now online in its entirety.

Like many things in comics (well some things, and almost never the things comics people think of. Any "art and comics" panel discussion bears that out), if Richard Corben existed now as a young artist in the right circles he would be hailed as a genius and included in shows at the New Museum and Kunsthalles up and down Switzerland. As it is, he has this fan site.

Children's book author and artist Lane Smith is releasing a prose novel.

And finally, Steve Lieber unravels the Calvin and Hobbes mystery that ripped through the internet yesterday.

Have a good weekend.




And So On

We have two Rob Clough reviews for you this morning. First, he writes about a collection of Eric Orner's Completely Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green:

Getting [this] published in one volume is an important step to building continuity in the history of gay comics. Once a widely-distributed strip in gay-oriented publications, the comic became popular and significant enough to inspire a film adaptation. As noted in the foreword, the strip ran from 1989 to 2005, produced more than 300 strips, and appeared in more than eighty publications at its height. This volume collects all of those strips and adds some new material as well, giving the hero of the strip something of a happy ending (or perhaps more accurately, a happy beginning).

Visually, the strip is highly uneven. Orner's drawing style changes a couple of years in and becomes denser, filled with zip-a-tone effects, cross-hatching and a greater dependence on spotting blacks to add atmosphere. The most recent strips looked like they were drawn and colored on a computer, which was jarring to say the least. These strips didn't look nearly as polished as the earlier strips, and the garishness of the color detracted from some of the content. The use of color also seemed arbitrary at times. It's obvious that Ethan Green was Orner's laboratory for becoming a cartoonist, and not every experiment was a success.

And then we have his take on Scott McCloud's The Sculptor:

I have three fundamental difficulties with Scott McCloud's years-in-the-making opus, The Sculptor. First, the way the female love interest is portrayed betrays a staggering lack of nuance regarding mental illness and borders on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope that plagues a certain kind of romantic drama. Second, the pacing of the book is herky-jerky, with little in it justifying its extreme length. Indeed, the book is repetitive and often tedious in exploring its main characters. The final "action sequence" is laughably silly in light of the rest of the book. Third, the essentialist nature of McCloud's stances on art that are on display in his famous Understanding Comics also hold sway here, a bias that I found tremendously tedious and distracting.

Let's unpack these critiques in light of the story and McCloud's long career. ...

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Charlie Hebdo/PEN. This phase of 2015's never-ending debate is probably winding down now, since the actual PEN gala in which CH was given its award has now taken place. (Boris Kachka reports from the scene here.) This has been exhausting for some on both sides of the argument (not to mention those somewhere in the middle), but these are issues that every cartoonist has to deal with at one level or another, so it's important to think it through, and to keep engaging with alternate viewpoints. Some of the remaining stories and essays worth reading include this report of a panel in which two of CH's editors participated, Christopher Beha at Harper's, Keith Gessen at n+1, Arthur Goldhammer at Al Jazeera, and Laura Miller's interview with table host Neil Gaiman. Michael Cavna at The Washington Post solicits opinions from comics-world figures ranging from Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly to Gene Luen Yang to Liza Donnelly.

—Interviews & Profiles. Jillian Tamaki is interviewed by both Publishers Weekly and The A.V. Club.

—Commentary. Bully continues to look at cartoonists breaking the rules of narrative visual logic.



Today on the site:

Robert Kirby on Kieler Roberts' Miseryland.

Miseryland, Keiler Roberts’ third paperback collection of autobiographical comics from her zine, Powdered Milk, is an invigorating blend of observational comedy, quiet domesticity, and existential angst, captured in realistic line drawings that have a slightly rough, appealingly improvised feel. Though delightfully funny, these stories have a melancholy running underneath, a sense of the fragile order of existence and how quickly emotional equilibrium can be upset by small incidents, unwanted exchanges, doubt, or self-recrimination. With a keen ear for dialogue and nuance, Roberts captures human nature in all its quirky contradiction.


The New York Times chats with Daniel Clowes about The Complete Eightball and, most importantly, drops tidbits on his upcoming graphic novel.

Alison Bechdel explains her reasons for attending the controversial PEN Gala, which Tim updated you all on yesterday. As for me, I've rarely seen so many people whose work I admire make such boneheaded arguments (I'm looking at you, Rachel Kushner). As Tim pointed out, this whole controversy is also indicative of how little the various lit establishments (still!) regard the medium of comics that most dismissed the Charlie work without actually having read it. Amazing.

Gil Roth interviews Jonah Kinigstein. I love this work, and published it back in 2004, but I'm interested that so far it's only gotten play in the comics and illustration world, which still thrives on a reverse snobbery about modern and contemporary art. A lot of what Kinigstein says is right on the money, but a lot of it is simply spleen-venting by an artist who sees only a monolithic "art world". I'd love to see an art writer (not me) engage with this material.

Finally, I missed this lovely little PDF from 2D Cloud documenting the publisher's experiences at this past MoCCA, a festival about which I saw astonishingly little. I was also out of town, so maybe I missed a weekend of furious tweeting. Who knows.



Run from Love

It's Tuesday, and Joe McCulloch is here to prep you for the Week in Comics, and also to tell you about his experiences at this past weekend's Free Comic Book Day:

"So what do you think of Convergence?"

"It's a piece of shit."

We were almost 90 minutes into our first stop, and Chris had begun making small talk with a local man of his acquaintance. There's no shortage of conversation on Free Comic Book Day; the store -- a mainline, 'full-service' comic book shop on a busy highway -- was absolutely packed. Costumed stormtroopers patrolled the parking lot as a line for free items stretched down the facade of the entire strip mall. It was sunny, and dime bins were set up outside. Local artists drew sketches and signed books, and I personally rescued a Stephen R. Bissette Tyrant print from blowing away with the springtime breeze. "Don't want this to leave again," I joked, and there were people around who understood my joke, which is unusual and nice.

If you're wondering why retailers put up with FCBD, it's because if you put a lot a effort into presentation, local hype, sales, etc., it becomes something akin to a Black Friday for comics, complete with a sizable outlay of browsers who don't often visit Direct Market establishments, and do indeed often buy stuff on top of the giveaway items. At least that's what I've been told - anecdotally, but consistently.

Meanwhile elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Pauline Kal-el reviews an old Catwoman issue, and in the process gets sidetracked on why there hasn't been a Tolstoy of comics:

To imagine this mythical comic book that’s as good as War And Peace, you have to try to imagine the Leo Tolstoy of comic books. Who is this guy, who’s capable of making a 10/10 comic? The intellectual and bearded patriarch willing to spend a decade pouring his epic and expansive take on history and philosophy into the graphic format. If this dude is so smart, why’s he choosing a medium where artists work every hour god sends and are barely compensated for their efforts? Daniel Clowes once calculated that if he divided the hours he spent making comics against money he received, he worked for less than the minimum wage. You’d have to be crazy in a way Leo definitely wasn’t.

You soon realise that this guy, the comics Tolstoy, could never exist. Not just because of the money, either—Chris Ware calculated the ratio of an average novelist’s annual output to an outstanding cartoonist’s life’s work is 1:1. So you’d need six lifetimes to produce what the real Leo made in 6 years. It’s literally impossible for the human body to produce a comic of the depth and complexity of a War and Peace.

Bully notices a few recent comics in which the creators ignore or break the rules of visual storytelling.

Tom Spurgeon is a guest on the Comics Alternative podcast, in which they discuss this year's Eisner nominees.

—Charlie Hebdo/PEN: Most readers of this site are probably either obsessed with this controversy and have already read everything I will now link to, or are exhausted by the whole thing, and would prefer not o read another word. But here are some of the more important or interesting things that have been written since last week. Andrew Solomon and Suzanne Nossel, who lead the PEN American Center, explain why the organization plans to honor Charlie Hebdo. The journalist Masha Gessen (brother of protest letter signee Keith Gessen) argues that the award is appropriate. Jon Wiener at The Nation argues that it is not. This New York Times piece does a good job at reporting the award opponents' views at their strongest. On Twitter, Dylan Horrocks compares the controversy to the Salman Rushdie/Satanic Verses affair. On video, Philip Gourevitch is interviewed by France 24 about the controversy. Caleb Crain has video of and translates Christiane Taubira's speech at one of the Charlie cartoonists' memorial service. (Taubira is the French minister of justice, and the person depicted in one of the most controversial covers.) Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, and Neil Gaiman have agreed to host tables at the PEN event to replace some of the boycotting writers.

—Misc. The Nancy strip Peggy Olsen taped to her office door.

And last, but not least: Samplerman.


Red Room

Welcome to the new week. Today we have Mike Dawson and Dustin Harbin talking about Batman: Year One.


I am on my way back from a brief visit to LA, where pals Jim Drain and Peter Saul both opened stellar shows. Comics nerd alert: Jim's show includes a wall-sized print of the Fort Thunder phone list. Also got to spend time with Ben Jones, who remains surprising. Of course there's the TV show, video art, etc., but also now pizza boxes (at last!) and signage for Jon and Vinny's. And I am typing this on Sammy Harkham's computer, with access to all his files and his secret terrifying opinions of your work, but perhaps more importantly, his Moebius collection. Sammy's new issue of Crickets is, as I've mentioned, totally incredible. Get it.

There is a new issue of Bobby Madness's zine, Fluke, which makes me happy

And finally, more criticism of the dourness of DC Entertainment comic book movies.


Too Many Links

We have two reviews for you today. First, Rob Kirby writes about Daryl Cunningham's The Age of Selfishness, which finds the roots of the 2008 financial crisis in the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Simultaneously enlightening and depressing, The Age of Selfishness is a powerful example of the aptitude of the comic art form for cogent and potent polemic. The book deftly sums up the shaky state of the economy both before and after the huge financial downturn of 2008. Cunningham traces the origins of the crisis to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and how its embrace by the powerful and privileged helped wreak havoc—and the threat that allegiance to this philosophy and its convictions still poses today. Examining Rand’s life and legacy, Cunningham offers, above all, a cautionary tale of the perils of self-certainty and blind orthodoxy.

And then, in something of a departure for this site, Tim Hanley reviews a "young adult" prose novel, Gwenda Bond's Lois Lane: Fallout, tying it to DC's efforts to broaden its female readership:

The past decade has not been a great showcase for Lois. The focus of her comic book appearances shifted from the Daily Planet to her home life, and she was often sidelined during big events because Superman wanted to protect her. She occasionally got to cover a big story or have a fun adventure with Superman, but spent most of her time in the background. Or dead. Several different storylines involved Lois "dying" in order to emotionally manipulate Superman, and not just in the comics world. The plot of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us was rooted in the Joker tricking Superman into killing Lois, and for real this time. The New 52 relaunch hasn't given Lois much more to do. Her marriage disappeared and Wonder Woman took her place as Superman's lady friend, relegating Lois to sporadic appearances across the Superman line.

While the comic book world hasn't done a lot with Lois as of late, she's now jumped to a different medium where she can finally have a starring role. Lois Lane: Fallout is a new young adult novel by Gwenda Bond that follows a young Lois' high school adventures in Metropolis. Bond is the acclaimed author of The Woken Gods, Girl on a Wire, and more, and specializes in young, tough female protagonists. She's also a Lois Lane enthusiast, and pursued a journalism degree in part because of her love of the character.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Atlantic, Steven Heller writes about Harvey Kurtzman, and Bill Schelly's new biography of the artist. Greil Marcus has reposted his own appreciation of Kurtzman.

Marc Singer writes about the Mark Waid era of Daredevil.

While shopping for books, Jonathan Lethem recommends Richard McGuire's Here:

Charlie Hebdo/PEN. So much has been written about the PEN/Charlie Hebdo controversy over recent days that it would be difficult to sum up quickly. Boris Kachka at New York does a good job of reporting how the situation first arose, talking to some of the instigators, and including the full text of the official protest letter from writers unhappy that Charlie Hebdo is to receive a special award.

Writers who have weighed in on the debate include Katha Pollitt from The Nation, Caleb Crain, Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker, Francine Prose, Dorian Lynskey, Eliot Weinberger, Justin Smith, and Charlie staffer Robert McLiam Wilson. Dylan Horrocks has addressed the situation on Twitter.

—News. The University of Chicago has acquired Daniel Clowes's papers.

This year's Russ Manning Award nominees have been announced.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ray Pride has a great long interview with Daniel Clowes, ostensibly focusing on his time in Chicago but expanding every which way.

For The Hairpin, Annie Mok talks to Jillian Tamaki.

Alex Dueben speaks to Nina Bunjevac for CBR.

His new local alt-weekly interviews Tom Spurgeon of the Comics Reporter.

Connor Willumsen is the latest guest on Inkstuds, and Robert Williams is on WTF.

Stuck in Vermont follows Alison Bechdel to Broadway:

Gary Groth talks Fantagraphics:

—Misc. Time has some photographs used by R. Crumb in famous stories.

Herb Trimpe's last comics work was apparently a collaboration with Josh Bayer.

A short documentary about Jonah Kinigstein:

The Emperors New Clothes: A profile of artist agitator Jonah Kinigstein from Gretchen Burger on Vimeo.