Making the Sausage

Today on the site: Matt Seneca interviews Guy Colwell.

MS: Comics is such a natural refuge for figurative art that it’s makes sense you’d end up there. But Inner City Romance also incorporates a lot of abstraction, both in the visuals and the plots, such as they are. What appealed to you about the long dream/hallucination/fantasy sequences in the book?

GC: Well, down underneath the activist social surrealist there is still a dormant abstract expressionist lurking. For the twenty years I was into fine art painting before prison, I was primarily an abstract painter. I did many purely decorative explorations of form and color and if it had not been for the radicalizing processes of prison, that might have been my life work. It peeks out from time to time in groups of experimental drawings and paintings that usually do not get seen by anyone because the social surrealism is more prominent. The acid trip in Inner City Romance #1 was sort of a last gasp of the old abstract/fantasy vein I was in just before prison, based, as I said, on drawings I did in late ‘67 and early ‘68. Recently I did a series of small abstract oil paintings just because I can’t keep this tendency totally suppressed all the time. But, as I expected, this side trip got pushed aside by some new social surrealist painting ideas that took over, such as my new picture of an Ebola treatment center and one I’m working on now of a cute couple with a small child walking through what appears to be violent battle scene.

Of course another aspect of the dream sequences is to explore the inner life of a mind as inspired by the hallucinatory effects of LSD. The trips I took set off a lot of visual experiments because seeing the inner productions of the brain was so incredibly fascinating, colorful and visual that I felt I should attempt to capture some of it in drawings and paintings. There was an explosion of this kind of work in all creative fields in the ‘60s, as you know. Rock posters, rock and roll music, literature and fine art were all hugely moved by the psychedelic experience, just as I was.


More real estate news: Al Hirschfeld's home is for sale, insanely great mural included.

I didn't know that Ralph Bakshi was posting short vintage clips on Facebook, did you?

I normally ignore the superhero movie thing, but the general disorganization of the DC attempt to do a "universe" is interesting/funny. In a counterpoint to that, here is Gerry Conway (mentioned twice in one week -- a TCJ record) on the company's latest move to avoid paying creators.


Erasing Memory

R.C. Harvey is here with the latest installment of his Hare Tonic column. Today, he shares with us a conversation he held with the late Roger Armstrong, who seems to have worked in nearly every aspect of the comics, cartooning, and animation fields. Here's a brief excerpt:

Roger loved to talk. He loved to tell stories about his life in cartooning and some of the legendary but now mostly forgotten people he’d worked with in the early days, and when he got going, he seemed figuratively to hug himself with barely suppressed glee in anticipation of savoring, as he told of it once again, some obscure moment in the lore of the craft, its business, and its practitioners. Typically, his tales wandered a good bit as he pursued anecdotal bypaths that invariably tempted him from the main thoroughfare of his narrative: a description of Clifford McBride’s studio led Roger to McBride’s concert piano, at which, Roger averred, McBride was adept, and from there, to a spaghetti dinner served by a Japanese houseboy. None of these apostrophes, on the bald surface, belonged together—Japanese house boy? concert grand piano?—but Roger, his eyes impishly a-twinkle, made each shed light upon the other, creating an illuminating glimpse of the creator of that giant cartoon dog, Napoleon.

Roger drew cartoons more ways than most. A stylistic virtuoso, he drew comic books in the styles of Disney, Warner Brothers, and Hanna Barbera. He drew comic strips as disparate in manner as McBride’s classic Napoleon, Marge’s Little Lulu, Disney’s Scamp, and Ella Cinders, a soap opera continuity.

At this point, logic wavers. Armstrong also worked in animation as in-betweener, animator, and story director. An accomplished painter in watercolor and oil, he served as director of an art museum, and he held an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the Art Institute of Southern California.

We also have Rob Clough's review of Stephen Collins's The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. Here's how Rob begins:

Stephen Collins's fable about a tidy society menaced by the otherness of a man's beard that mysteriously would not stop growing, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, is notable for the extreme dryness of its wit, the detailed but lively nature of the drawing, and the nihilism at its center. It follows an unfortunate turn of events for Dave, a typical worker on the island of Here, a land known for its fastidious attention to order, detail, cleanliness, and predictability. To do otherwise would be to invite the unknown, specifically the unknown chaos of There, the dark and frightening land beyond the sea. One day, Dave woke up with a beard that will not stop growing. All efforts to curb it, first by himself and then by exploitative researchers and the government, fail. Here's stylists are conscripted to shape the beard in a series of scaffolds, another initiative that fails--hair does what it wants to do, after all. Finally, with their society starting to break down a little, they attach the beard (and Dave) to a series of balloons that float away over the sea. Everyone learns to accept a little bit of chaos in their lives.

Meanwhile, elsewhere (I'm still catching up from last week):

—News. According to this New York Times report, as part of an effort to rid Russia of pro-fascist imagery, all books with swastikas on their covers have been removed from display in stores, including Art Spiegelman's Maus. The Guardian approached Spiegelman for comment: "It’s a real shame because this is a book that is about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory."

The Broadway musical made from Alison Bechdel's Fun Home received 12 Tony nominations yesterday. (I happen to have seen the show last weekend. It's good, especially in terms of inventive staging and some of the performances, and it was obvious watching it that it will be enormously popular. But it is also, perhaps inevitably, a crowd-pleasing simplification of the original book. Many of the nuances, ambiguities, and layered references have been stripped away. Still, it's well worth seeing.)

Last week, Evan Serpick, the editor of the Baltimore City Paper, wrote an essay explaining why he decided to drop Tony Millionaire's Maakies, which had run in the alt-weekly for fifteen years:

Then we got this week's comic. Yeah, it's a "joke" about a woman filing for divorce because she is "on the rag." She has her period! So she mad! I sent it around to the staff, suggesting that we finally can "Maakies." Everyone who responded agreed.

I missed this Time report from two weeks ago that featured Punisher creator Gerry Conway lamenting the way it has been adopted by militia in Iraq:

"I was an anti-war person. I argued against it and certainly wrote against it," says Conway who was 21-years-old when he invented the character. At the time he filed for conscious objector status before being excused from the draft for the Vietnam War on medical grounds. "We’d probably be considered the weak-kneed hippies they’d want to punch out."

It was also reported last week that San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum will be moving.

"It’s the same story as just about every move like this in the Bay Area right now," said Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum. "The price per square foot is going to more than double, and that's just not viable for us. The landlords are giving us what considerations they can, but ultimately it's a business decision."

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian talks to Cece Bell, the creator of the Newberry-winning graphic novel El Deafo. (My daughter loved this book.)

—Reviews & Commentary. On his own site, Rob Clough reviews the newly released Trash Market from Tadao Tsuge, as well as Seth's Palookaville 21 and 22.

Domingos Isabalinho has published the second and third parts of his review of Jan Baetens and Hugo Frey's The Graphic Novel: An Introduction:

There're so many wrong ideas above that I don't even know where to begin! Let's just say that "superheroes" and "intelligent adult book buyers" in the same sentence is an oxymoron (but, then again, there's Watchmen, so, one never knows). In any case I doubt that intelligent adult book buyers touch superheroes with a ten-foot pole (and I mean sociologically).

—Festivals. Registration is open for the Queers & Comics festival being held in NYC in a few weeks. Bechdel and Howard Cruse will be keynote speakers.


A Guy Like You

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch reports on this week's bounty.


Six writers have withdrawn as hosts of the annual PEN gala after the organization announced it was giving an award to Charlie Hebdo.

The New Republic has a nice piece about the physicality of books.

Tom Spurgeon reports back from Linework NW.

This vintage cartoon night sounds fun.

This new Alan Moore series about Providence might bring me back to regular comic books, but only if Joe and Tucker say I have to.


Nite Laffs

Today, Greg Hunter is here with a review of the Jillian Tamaki issue of Youth in Decline's excellent artist-spotlight series, Frontier:

Although Youth in Decline’s Frontier series is an artist-showcase anthology, with each issue a standalone story, Tamaki’s “SexCoven” complements Emily Carroll’s story in issue six. These books are forming constellations in their own right. Carroll traced the origin and growth of a bloody urban legend—a study in pre-Internet virality. Tamaki’s entry covers various points in the history of a sound file—“a wordless, six-hour atonal drone”—that induces hallucinatory sensations in its listeners and inspires cult-like behavior. The paths of the sounds are Tamaki’s subject, and her comic presents the experiences of some individual listeners without reducing the story to any one incident. (The comic does eventually foreground the account of one particular listener, but in a manner that further expands the scope of the story.) While arranging these different plot points, Tamaki also finds a balance between coherence and uncertainty—the lack of information—that makes “SexCoven” a satisfying suspense comic.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, I have a bit of catching up to do:

—News. Adam Zyglis of the Buffalo News won the Pulitzer Prize last week.

Ty Templeton writes about recovering from a massive heart attack.

—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Randle talks to the aforementioned Jillian Tamaki for The Guardian, and focuses on the new collection of her teen strip, SuperMutant Magic Academy:

“I’m totally fascinated by the interior versus the exterior,” Tamaki said. “That’s why I think it connects with that time in your life where it’s just a monsoon happening inside, and everything is fucking going crazy, but from the outside you’re just a zitty teenager. Other people are left to put the pieces together, what you’re presenting versus what is reality, what you think it means and what it actually looks like.” Or, she added, your base desire crashing against your intellectual structures. “Wanting to be kissed is the most natural thing in the world.”

Jed Oelbaum talks to Françoise Mouly for Good:

[It’s] a good message to have, to make people realize how much images matter. Images tend to be dismissed by many people, like, ‘it’s just a cartoon,’ or ‘it’s just a picture.’ As if that was something lesser than other kinds of information. My understanding and contention in everything that I’ve experienced is that when it’s done well, a cartoon can actually be not a reduction, but a summation and a distillation of complex ideas. And because they need to be read and interpreted in a specific way by readers, they can open up many doors.

—Reviews & Commentary. Matt Cheney writes about the 20th anniversary of Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby:

I've had a weird relationship with Stuck Rubber Baby over the course of its lifetime: I looked through it when it was first published and decided it wasn't for me; I read the whole book sometimes in the early 2000's and liked it but didn't really engage with it; I recently read it very carefully and closely, which led to something like awe. (The last time I had as powerful a reading experience was when I read J.M. Ledgard's Submergence over a year ago.)

Michael Barrier writes about the decline in Walt Kelly fandom and Peter Schilling's recent book on Carl Barks:

When I wrote about Donald's mutability in Funnybooks, I invoked Montaigne ("Each man bears the entire form of man's estate"), but I wonder if what John Keats called Shakespeare's "negative capability" might be even more to the point.

What Keats meant by that phrase, as far as anyone can tell, is that Shakespeare left no traces of himself in his characters; that is, the characters are not assertions of the writer's ego but have independent existence. Barks did something similar, the difference being, of course, that all of the highly varied characters that held center stage in his best stories were called "Donald Duck" (and looked like Donald Duck, too). I don't think it will do to describe Donald as an "actor," as Schilling does; that would mean there is a single "real" Donald at the heart of all those performances, and what makes the stories so good is that there isn't one. Donald is "real" in those stories, to be sure, but differently each time.

Charlie Hebdo & Satire. Garry Trudeau appeared on Meet the Press this weekend, to defend his recent speech attacking the French satirical magazine whose staff members were shot to death earlier this year.

In response, Ruben Bolling of Tom the Dancing Bug posted a series of tweets expressing disappointment in Trudeau.

Last week, in the Washington Post, Ann Telnaes also argued against Trudeau's speech.

For Al Jazeera, Jordan Fraade argues that the "punch-down" theory misunderstands satire, and often backfires:

The second problem with punch theory is that it also leads to the silencing of satirists themselves. The most famous example is Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian satirist who has fiercely mocked every Egyptian government since the 2011 revolution. Youssef was arrested in 2013 on the charge of “insulting Islam,” part of Mohammed Morsi’s broader crackdown on political dissent. During his tenure, Morsi was careful to stress tentative support for free speech. But as he famously said during a speech to the United Nations, sacrilege was different, “an organized campaign against Islamic sanctities.” The reasoning is remarkably familiar: In order for satire to deserve protection, it must punch in the right direction, which Youssef failed to do.

The Independent has published an excerpt from a book Charlie Hebdo editor Charb was working on before he was killed, about Islamophobia and racism.

There are a lot of good and/or promising cartoonists sharing work on the new zcomx site.

And Carol Tyler has started a Beatles blog, apparently including excerpts from the book she is currently drawing.


Well Deserved

Today on the site:

Reaching way back to 1992, here's a vintage Daniel Clowes interview, in anticipation of his Complete Eightball.

GROTH: Eightball is so completely different from Lloyd, because first of all you have the “Velvet Glove” serial, then you have these short strips that range all over a number of subjects, but there’s a consistent tone throughout the entire book. Was this a carefully calculated strategy?

CLOWES: [laughs] Yes, it was a carefully calculated strategy to sucker the masses into buying my comics, into swallowing my destructive philosophy … No, not at all. I wanted to basically do a title like Humbug or Help!, or Mad or something, but it would all be done by one person. It was like I wanted to do an anthology — it’d be more like a Weirdo — I wanted to do an anthology comic, but it’s all by me. I’ve always felt that I had all these different, very unrelated parts of my personality, and I wanted to be able to do stories with each of these different parts of my personality in the same book, and then have somebody else look at it and go, “OK, I sort of understand what this guy is all about.” But I was really worried that people would see the first issue and think that there was just no consistency at all and say, “This is just all over the place, and I have no idea what this guy is going for.” So I guess there is more cohesion to my thinking than I realized.

GROTH: The “Velvet Glove Cast In Iron” title, although it’s mentioned in Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat, actually appeared earlier as a phrase in a hard-boiled detective novel?

CLOWES: Yeah, I’ve seen it a couple places actually, and it’s in a couple of slang dictionaries. Because when I heard it in the Russ Meyer film, I thought, “What the fuck does that mean?” I still really don’t understand what it means. There’s another phrase, “like an iron fist in a velvet glove,” or something like that. It basically means it’s something that’s couched in femininity, but it’s actually very tough and masculine, that kind of thing. But I just thought it was a very evocative phrase.


Congrats to the great Roz Chast on her Heinz award. Chast's recent immense success gives me faith in humanity.

Great Geoff Darrow interview here, including the welcome news that Bourbon Thret will be released in English.

This amazing discovery of outsider-ish drawings is, well, really cool.

Finally, Jonathan Winters: Cartoonist!



That Tune

Today on the site:

Frank Santoro does some Spring cleaning.


The Eisner Award nominations were released yesterday. Congrats to my pal Tim on our own nomination. Oh yes, and the rest of you, too.

Critic Ta-Nehisi Coates on the mass culture entertainment domination of superhero comics. If I hadn't been down this road a million times before, I'd try the comics he recommends. But every time someone recommends some "no, really, it's great" Marvel comic to me I'm disappointed, mostly because they are so much like "quality" TV. I'd rather watch Justified, you know? It's free and the acting is better. How much can one person consume?

Hey, Jim Woodring's house is for sale and it looks pretty awesome.

Alex Dueben interviews comics vet Tom DeFalco.


Looking Out

Today on the site, Mike Dawson talks to Katie Skelly about Tezuka's the Book of Human Insects. 


Lauren Weinstein is chronicling her spinal condition in picture-story form on Tumblr. Lauren, aside for being kind enough to marry Tim, is one of our finest cartoonists.

Juxtapoz has a rather lengthy feature on Chris Ware.

This is some fine Ken Reid 1970s underground work.

Dan Clowes interviewed at The New Yorker.

Hey, treat yourself right today and gaze at these Joost Swarte prints. 


Ready? Ready

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch talks tough about comics.


Jet-lag got the better of me yesterday and I didn't mention Jaime Hernandez's well-deserved win of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his stunning graphic novel The Love Bunglers.

Trina Robbins talks about her new book about female comic heroes during WWII.

The NYT reviews Fun Home the musical. 

I had no idea that a Hugo Pratt exhibition had opened at the Society of Illustrators. Looks good.

And finally, Bill Schelly talks Harvey Kurtzman, this subject of his new and definitive biography.