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.



New Record

Today on the site, Hazel Cills interviews Jillian Tamaki about the cartoonist/illustrator's new book, SuperMutant Magic Academy.

You started SuperMutant Magic Academy as a web-comic back in 2010. What initially inspired you to create this comic?

There were a few things. I had actually done the Marvel Strange Tales comic, which is where they got indie cartoonists to do Spider-Man or characters in the Marvel Universe. And I don’t really know anything about that world but I asked them if there was a female superhero that everyone hates and everyone said, oh, Dazzler! She was totally a marketing tie-in with super lame powers, so I thought I’d do something with her. I did a comic with that and it was fine but it was my first foray into a superhero genre. She does end up beating up some villain but I was more interested in the fact that she had an older lover, you know what I mean? I was more interested in her day job than the fact that she had superpowers.

I think at that point Harry Potter was also winding down as well. I also think I had just finished Skim, which had been a big book, and I just wanted a project that was fast and immediate. So much of my work as an illustrator and someone who makes graphic novels it’s making it look nice and making it look perfect and publishable. I just wanted to give myself a project that could allow myself to practice writing and developing characters that didn’t have to look nice or pretty or anything like that.


The American Book Review has a comics-focused issue with fine writing by TCJ-contributors like Nicole Rudick and Matthew Thurber.

The Paris Review has a selection of illustrations by the recently passed author Gunter Grass.

Artist and teacher Micol Hebron has been tallying the male/female ratio on Artforum covers and it's as one might expect.

And hey, Gary Panter and I will be talking about all things Hairy Who following the NYC premier of the truly excellent documentary Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists. 7:30 pm at the Nitehawk in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This is really a phenomenal piece of scholarship and documentary filmmaking. Even a die-hard like me was blown away by the footage. Also, given the incredible important  to comics of Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum and the rest of the gang, really I think the TCJ-readership will be fascinated.



High Adventure

Steven Ringgenberg has written our obituary for the well-loved artist Herb Trimpe. Here is how he begins:

Herbert W. (or “Happy Herb” as he was frequently identified in comic book credits) Trimpe died suddenly this week at the age of 75 from a heart attack while he was out jogging. Trimpe had not been ill, and his death was a shock to his family and army of fans. Trimpe, a long-time Marvel Comics artist began working for Marvel in the production department in the mid-'60s, and began drawing comics in 1967. He eventually found lasting fame as the penciller of <em>The Incredible Hulk</em> in an almost unbroken string of issues from #106-142, and #145-193, as well as drawing issues 204, 355, 393, and annuals #6, #12, (which he both penciled and inked), and #16. He earned latter-day fame (and became a much sought-after convention guest as a result) as the first artist to draw the Wolverine, a character who debuted in <em>Incredible Hulk</em> #180 as a villain and has since gone on to become one of the best-known and most popular Marvel Comics characters after being added to cast of the new X-Men during the Byrne-Claremont era, appearing in numerous miniseries, and becoming one of the stars of the many X-Men films, and even several solo film adventures.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Sean Kleefeld also writes about Trimpe, focusing on how ageism may have affected his later career.

Paul Gravett looks at Dell Comics.

Sean T. Collins has a longish piece at the Observer on the "four worst kinds of television critics." TV and comics are different games, obviously, but there's enough overlap that his piece should be of interest to anyone who spends too much time reading about comics on the internet.

—News. According to posts on Tony Millionaire's Facebook page, his Maakies strip has been dropped from the Baltimore City Paper, apparently due to a joke deemed offensive in his most recent strip.

—Interviews. Grace Bello conducted a solid, career-spanning interview with Françoise Mouly for Guernica.

—The Funnies. Dash Shaw's "remastered" BodyWorld is now online in full.

Leela Corman has contributed a strong, affecting piece on the effects of PTSD to Nautilus.

—Not Comics. Splitsider looks at Ben Jones's latest television project, Stone Quackers.


Hole in the Ground

Rob Clough's latest High-Low column finds him exploring the relatively new publisher, Centrala:

Centrala is an interesting new publishing concern that's part and parcel of the growing expansion of Baltic and Eastern European comics into English-speaking markets. Indeed, even though most of its artists are Polish, Centrala itself has an office in London and publishes books in both Polish and English. It's also a key player in Ligatura, the annual art-comics festival in Poland. This edition of High-Low will survey Centrala's early and recent output, which ranges from all-ages material to autobio to stuff that's far stranger. While there's a provincial quality to many of these books, they also frequently hit notes that will be familiar to fans of American and other European art comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob's had a busy week in general, putting up two posts on his own blog about student work from Duke University, and the latest Jacques Tardi Jean-Patrick Manchette adaptation, Run Like Crazy, Run Like Hell.

Bart Beaty is also having a busy week. The Walrus has published an excerpt from his latest book, Twelve-Cent Archie. It's titled "Betty Cooper Is a Psychopath". He has also published another long post on his new group project, What Were Comics?, looking at an unusual paneling choice in an old issue of Jungle Stories.

Ken White has issues with Garry Trudeau's recent speech on satire and Charlie Hebdo.

I almost never link to articles about superhero movies or TV shows, but Jeet Heer's talking about the anti-gentrification subtext of Daredevil at The New Republic, and I miss the days when he was a more regular presence on this site.

Those of you who do Facebook might be interested in this discussion started by Stephen Bissette about cartoonists who feel excluded by conventions.

—Interviews & Profiles. Sean Nelson at The Stranger has a nice talk with Daniel Clowes on the 25th anniversary of Eightball, and the upcoming publication of its complete collection.

Paul Mavrides guests on Inkstuds.

Zainab Akhtar has asked Jesse Moynihan to give a guided photographic tour of his bookshelves.