Don’t You Understand—You’re Me!

Ken Parille is here today with another installment of his close-reading column. This time, he examines the work of Ivan Brunetti and Charles Schulz, in terms of "sentimental romance" and how time is indicated through backgrounds. Here's a sample:

The over-sized head of Brunetti's heroine recalls the art of one of his heroes: Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. Both artists frequently return to images of solitude, examining the value (and danger) of self-reflection and self-absorption. The following Schulz strip belongs to a curious — to me at least — subset of Peanuts strips. While many feature a single location (a stone wall, living room, baseball diamond), others, like this one, portray a solitary character in a different setting in each of the comic's panels. cb
This creates an interpretive quandary. Typically, we determine the approximate duration of a comics sequence by comparing it to reality: roughly how long, for example, would a given cartoon monologue or conversation last if it occurred in the real world? The flow of the dialogue in the above strip suggests a short passage of time, maybe less than ten seconds. Yet the shifting locations may complicate this approach. As Charlie Brown moves to a new location, he takes — off the page in the comic's gutter — an invisible, undefined pause between each line of dialogue. Or perhaps Schulz leaves some of the character's monologue un-narrated. Though we never hear it, as Charlie Brown walks from place to place — from panel to panel — he meditates aloud on ideas about punishment, adult-child relationships, and the inevitability of his own disciplining. (In many Peanuts strips, the only actions are walking and/or talking — and the walking here is off the page, until the final panel.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The well-liked artist Herb Trimpe, probably best known for his work for Marvel drawing the Hulk and co-creating Wolverine, passed away Monday night. We will have more here on the site soon. In the meantime, you should read the moving journal-like Times piece he wrote in 2000, about his attempt to reenter the real world after being fired by Marvel at 56. Tom Spurgeon has posted several of his representative Hulk covers and Bob Heer has chosen some less well-known personal work. Sean Howe has posted a photograph of Trimpe from the Marvel bullpen in 1970, and an excerpt from an interview with Trimpe, conducted in 2001, about his experiences at Ground Zero after the WTC attack.

—Interviews & Profiles. Bart Croonenborghs talks to Bastien Vivès about his new Last Man series.

Michael Cavna interviewed Raina Telgemeier and CBLDF exec director Charles Brownstein about the ALA list of most-challenged books. Cavna also asked 15 editorial cartoonists to respond to Garry Trudeau's recent speech calling for "red lines" in satire.


Donc Je Ne Suis Plus!

It's Tuesday, and as usual, Joe McCulloch is here to give you a guided preview of tomorrow's best-sounding new comics releases.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Michael Cavna at The Washington Post interviews 2015 NAACP History Maker Keith Knight.

—News. As you may have seen elsewhere, the American Library Association's annual list of the ten most-challenged books this year includes three works of comics: Satrapi's Persepolis, Vaughan & Staples's Saga, and Telgemeier's Drama.

—MoCCA. For those of you who like reading festival reports, here are a few early MoCCA ones from Heidi MacDonald, Conundrum Press, and Joe Ollmann.

—Reviews & Commentary. Joshua Glenn pays birthday tribute to Daniel Clowes.

Kenan Malik takes strong exception to the anti-Charlie Hebdo speech from Garry Trudeau.

Domingos Isabelinho writes about the Italian artist Stefano Ricci's La storia dell’Orso.

Ken Parille has "translated" an excerpt of an obscure academic text describing a certain kind of comic-book critic the supposed authors call "The Anti-Nostalgic."


Je Pense

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews Miss Lasko-Gross. Here's how their talk begins:

How do you describe [your new book] Henni?

The adventures of a dangerously curious young girl/cat, who's desire for truth exposes some truly unsavory secrets. Henni is forced to flee her insular village to avoid death by stoning and venture out into an unknown and hostile world. It's a bit of a fairy tale as well as an allegory about the dangers of fundamentalism.

I was inspired by Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel to consider what life would be like in a world with an extreme paucity of natural resources. What direction would social evolution take with no domesticated animals, extremely limited metal and communication options. It's a very post modern fantasy, instead of adding magical or romantic elements, I've subtracted many of the casual miracles which have driven our history.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I was working on a pretty grim piece of non-fiction–about a friend of mine who was injured in an explosion–and started Henni as a side project for the House of Twelve Comixology app. I had only meant to do the bare minimum for the app, but as I worked the story began flowing and expanding into a complete book.

Graphic novels take years to complete, and there isn't much sustainable money in it, so there's really no reason to labor on anything you're not passionate about. Henni is the kind of story I've always loved as a reader, kinetic, strange and full of juicy little surprises. So, basically, I abandoned the other project and threw myself into Henni with no regrets.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Funnies. Alison Bechdel has drawn and published online a "coda" to Fun Home, just as the Broadway adaptation is about to premiere.

—Interviews & Profiles. talks to Kitchen Sink Press founder Denis Kitchen. Inkstuds talks to Lale Westvind.

—Reviews & Commentary. While accepting the George Polk Career Award, Garry Trudeau delivered a speech criticizing Charlie Hebdo.

For Artforum, Kaelin Wilson-Goldie has a long, somewhat complicated take on satire, caricature, and censorship in the cartooning cultures of both France and the Middle East.

Domingos Isabelinho was disappointed by Jan Baetens & Hugo Frey's new The Graphic Novel: An Introduction, from Cambridge University Press.

For The Guardian, Rachel Cooke reviews Julie Birmant & Clément Oubrerie's Pablo. At Broken Frontier, Tom Murphy looks at the first two issues of Ley Lines (featuring Annie Mok and Warren Craghead).

—News. Richard McGuire and Winston Rowntree have won the Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize.


Flummoxed Lummoxes

We've got two reviews for you this morning. First up is Bob Levin writing about the first three issues of Aaron Lange's fairly scabrous-sounding Trim. Here's a sample of Levin:

Since 2013, Lange has been on a comic-a-year jag with Trim (The Comix Company), a 28-page, five-and-a-half-by-eight-and-a-half-inch, color-covered, black-and-white of, to use his word, “transgressive” humor, which reads like a 3AM walk down a back alley, with windows you didn’t expect opening into shops you can’t quite believe were licensed, and from whose contents you slightly recoil, only to recognize enough relief at their public availability that, while stepping faster to flee, you stare more intently at each one. Then you turn around to check you weren’t mistaken. (Trim’s predecessor, Romp, reads like an alley you – unless your sensibility comes more sturdily carapaced than mine – step into, and then withdraw to spend twenty minutes scraping your shoe clean on the curb. Romp is an – okay, perhaps necessarily boundary-busting – exercise in its gleeful expression of effrontery; but I found it a positive for Lange’s maturation that, with Trim, his characters no longer discharge bodily fluids upon their sexual partners as tokens of their affections.)

Lange, though, still displays a uniquely configured, mind, capable of scooping from the cultural souk references to and “appreciations” of such figures as Damien Hirst, Georges Bataille, William Burroughs, Zoe Lund, Elliot Rodgers, and Slavoj Zizek, which, you have to admit, is quite a collection of cats to stuff into one sack. (Reading Lange, it helps to keep Wikipedia handy. Me, I knew two of those six, unassisted.)

Next we have Rob Clough's review of the first two issues of Ink Brick, an anthology of comics-as-poetry. Here Rob goes:

The subgenre of comics-as-poetry has been exploding of late, with an anthology of that name being published a couple of years ago and several artists forming collectives such as Team Weird Comics as both a collaborative and motivational measure. Still, it wasn't until the first issue of Ink Brick came out in 2014 that a regularly scheduled publication devoted solely to comics-as-poetry emerged. Ink Brick casts a wide net on comics-as-poetry, including the sort of experimentation for its own sake that I feel falls outside of poetry as well as some instances of mere illustrated poems. For the most part, however, the submissions here are great examples of combining word and image in immersive and evocative ways as well as creating worlds both abstract and concrete.

The editors-in-chief are Alexander Rothman and Paul K. Tunis, with Gary Sullivan and Bianca Stone being listed as editors. Rothman's own comics work has advanced quite a bit since he first began; he has moved beyond simply illustrating a poem and improved his line such that it can now carry the poetic narrative almost entirely on its own. His use of negative space in his poem "Keeping Time" helps create that sense of heat, of time clicking by slowly, while bees devour sugar from a nearby soda can as a hot summer day bursts open with rain.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Bart Beaty again at the What Were Comics? site with a strong post on the formal properties of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. I hope they can keep up the momentum there; it's a very promising site.

Brian Nicholson writes about Devin Flynn's Hawd Tales, and ponders the reviewer's responsibilities when writing about an artist tackling tricky subject matter.

As previously mentioned in our comments section, DVD Talk has a review of the new digital "motion" version of Dave Sim's High Society.

Rob Clough catches up to recent work by the prolific Noah Van Sciver.

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times profiles Alison Bechdel again, just as the Broadway version of her Fun Home is about to debut.

Heidi MacDonald talks to Comix Experience owner Brian Hibbs about his San Francisco store's new graphic novel club and why he's felt compelled to start it. (He attributes it to a minimum-wage hike.)

Darwyn Cooke continues to avoid (or be in denial about) the actual issue people have with his involvement in Before Watchmen.

—Publishing News. Koyama Press has announced their fall 2015 lineup; it's typically very strong-looking.


Not Me

Today on the site Frank Santoro brings us up to date on the world of back issues.

Went to the dollar sale out at the secret spotMeJim Rugg and Jasen Lex. It was three different buildings. An old GC Murphy store, a VFW hall, and an old smallish storefront.

I’d never been in the VFW before. Despite the warm weather outside it was freezing inside because the place hadn’t been heated all winter. We only stayed for a few minutes. I found a Frazetta romance reprint.

Over at the main building we waded through the crowded aisles and dug for hours. Then Lex and I found a stash of coverless romances from the 1940s and 50s. It was like leafing through a dank basement if such a thing could be materialized as a pile of comic books. They just stank and little bits of dried newsprint would flake off all over us when we looked through one. But it was worth it. I scored a half dozen Simon and Kirby romances and a stack of really bizarre Charles Burns-esque looking material. I never see old cheap romances anymore ever. So I was fine with smelling like a sewer for them. 


Drawn & Quarterly previews its massive anniversary book.

Sammy Harkham announces pre-orders for his newest issue of Crickets. I have read chunks of this issue and it's sure to be the best narrative comic you'll read this year. Masterpiece level.

Michael Barrier's DELL book, reviewed by Paul Gravett.

The NY Times on a spate of new, internationally-focused Pop art exhibitions, taking in oft-forgotten greats like Erro.

Finally, there is this great video by Lale Westvind for the stellar new Lightning Bolt record:



One and Done

Today on the site, Jay Ruttenberg (who many of you may know from The Lowbrow Reader) interviews musician/cartoonist Jeffrey Lewis about his dual career. Here's a small sample of that.

You found an audience for your music fairly quickly, right?

I had been making the rounds with my comic books, doing the rejection letter thing. Meanwhile, while I was getting rejection letters for my comic books, I was getting more and more acceptance for the music and ended up with Rough Trade Records signing me. It was this incredible, bizarre thing to happen. I had never sent my music to record labels or to clubs the way I was sending my comics and getting rejection letters! With music, everybody was coming to me. Bands started asking me to go on tour with them. I was like, “This is great. I don’t have to get a day job—this will be great for drawing my comics.”

And how’d that work out?

It didn’t! The amount of time it takes to book concerts and all that stuff is all-consuming. So I probably draw less comics than ever. But I just managed to do two more issues of Fuff. And my album packaging is always some kind of elaborate design. Look at this packaging [2007’s 12 Crass Songs CD]—I should have won a Grammy! See, there’s a disconnect between the realms. When the label sends out the CD to reviewers, it’s in some blank slipcase. So none of the reviewers know that I put more time into the packaging than I put into the recording.

When you started, how much of a lark was music?

It was not a career goal at all. Which is not to say that I didn’t think the songs were really good. I knew I couldn’t sing and I knew I couldn’t play. But I also knew that I was expressing things in a way that affected me and felt powerful to me. And in some ways, it was a comic-book aesthetic. Joe Matt’s Peepshow comic was as much an influence on my songs as any songwriter.

How so?

Just the idea of, Okay, your life is crap. But if you can express that, it’s so funny. It’s just a way to turn tragedy—all of your loneliness and terrible habits—into comedy. Today that’s a bit of a cliché. Oh great, another confessional comic or songwriter—spare me. But at that time, it was a revelation to me. And it fed into my songs, which are more influenced by Joe Matt and Chester Brown than by Bob Dylan or what-have-you. There’s a huge amount of comic-book stuff in my head that feeds into the way I think of language and pacing in the songwriting.

—Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The LA Times talks to Scott McCloud and the Chicago Tribune talks to Lucy Knisley.

—News. Prominent SF retailer Comix Experience is launching a graphic novel club to increase business, and attributing the need for the move to a local recent hike in the minimum wage.

—Commentary. Bart Beaty is trying to decide if The Spirit counts as a comic book.

—Not (Exactly) Comics.
Fans of the aforementioned Lowbrow Reader may not yet know that its cover artist John Mathias had a book come out recently, a collaboration with writer Brian Abrams called Party Like a President; it includes many Mathias cartoons.

—Video. This is the weekend of the MoCCA festival in New York, and Friday night marks the debut of Tough Being Loved by Jerks, a new documentary on Charlie Hebdo:


Cough Cough

It's Tuesday, so Joe has recovered from his 2000 A.D. journey and is here to bring you the week in comics.


The biggest news on the comics internet is the announcement of Dan Clowes' next graphic novel, albeit obliquely and without any details. But a very fine teaser indeed. Kudos to corporate overlords Fantagraphics for bringing him back in the van.

Speaking of Fanta, Eric Reynolds tweeted out this amazing Zippy strip. Heh.

I don't think I've ever seen a photo of this long-rumored Percy Crosby mural, and it's better than I hoped.

And, not comics here: A fine interview on criticism with Robert Storr.



The Ski Slide

Today, Frank Thorne and Hy Eisman share their memories of Fred Fredericks, the cartoonist who drew the Mandrake the Magician strip for half a century. Here's an excerpt from Thorne:

Fred was the fastest ink-slinger in the West in that he treasured the old Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers movies, but also was the fastest comic artist alive. Period. And his stuff always displays a stunning freshness. I’d seen his work, admired it, but never thought we’d have him living just a few miles from us in Gillette, NJ. “Burial place of the MGM lion!” Fred would boast. How Fredericksian! Of course, Franny would shoot him down with “The lion was buried somewhere in Sterling!” (The adjoining town.) Actually, over the years, town fathers, visualizing a lucrative tourist attraction, have been trying to locate the grave, turning to trans-mediums, mystics and dowsers. They thought they’d found the bones in one location, but they were remains of a dead whale. It was positively identified as once belonging to a traveling carnival. The leviathan died en route to Gillette and the carcass began to stink, so the roustabouts dubbed it “Smelly Dave.” The boney mass still lies beneath an isolated greensward on the edge of town. The locals say that on steamy summer nights the odor of old Smelly still lingers.

In the late ’50s, just before we met, Fred and Franny were a newly married couple living the Bohemian life in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. Fred was fresh from a three-year service in the Marine Corps, most memorably under the gimlet eye of General “Chesty Puller,” a name that always brought a scalding laugh from Franny, who often belittled his Marine service in casual conversation. Fred often quoted Fran’s remark when they visited the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.: “There’s all these Marine heroes, and then there’s you.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Doug Wright Awards have announced their nominations.

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was charged last Friday with nine counts of sedition.

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna talks to Robert Russell, executive director of CRNI (Cartoonists Rights Network International).

Part II of Pádraig Ó Méalóid's latest long interview with Alan Moore covers Crossed and H.P. Lovecraft.

Youth in Decline has posted four interviews with creators featured in their Frontier series: Hellen Jo, Sascha Hommer, Ping Zhu, and Sam Alden.

—Reviews & Commentary. D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros remembers Yoshihiro Tatsumi for The Paris Review.

Steven Heller previews the republication of Milt Gross' New York. Here's hoping editor Craig Yoe doesn't draw all over Gross's pages.

Comics writer Joshua Hale Fialkov says that comics artists work harder than writers, and should be rewarded accordingly.