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.


On Fire

I never should have doubted it. Today, at along last, Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch present some kind of overview of of 2000 A.D. I hope this serves as... who knows? I don't go to comic book stores anymore! If one opened up again in my neighborhood, I'd probably start reading Matt Fraction comics. Anyhow, I'll let Joe explain:

The Comics Journal has looked at 2000 AD before, and interestingly enough for a magazine now mostly (and not undeservedly) associated with elitism, it looked upon 2000 AD and the reprinted classics with no small measure of affection. During the time period when Brian Bolland was composing new covers for the Quality reprints of Dredd and other semi-popular stories, the 122nd issue devoted itself almost entirely to British Comics. Behind a Brian Bolland cover that represents both how America views itself as well as how much Britain likes to yank its chain for being so serious about everything, the Journal pretty much stuck to praising the comic, remarking that it was pretty much the best thing that the Brits had produced. They weren’t wrong to do so at the time, and while the art and alt comics scene has certainly become a force to reckon with, 2000 AD is still a thing that the Redcoats (whatever) can hold up as a sterling example of comics as pure entertainment.

Beginning in 2010, Simon & Schuster took over the role of publishing collections of 2000 AD material in hopes of reaching a U.S. audience. What follows is an attempt to give this work some measure of context, review, discussion and/or responsssssssss *ss*sSSsssssssss*ss*SsssssSssssssssSsSss*ssSs*SSsSSSSss
ss ss ss
SSsSSSSssSSsSSSSssSSsSSSSssorry about that. 

Hi, this is Joe McCulloch. You might know me from the treasures of wisdom I impart each and every week in the shopping list column elsewhere on this site, but today I am addressing you from the crossroads of time! To the best of my knowledge, the preceding text was written by Tucker Stone at some point in 2011; at that time, Tucker was not yet an active columnist for the Journal, though his keen interest in 2000 AD — coupled with his formidable work as a blogger and outside columnist — had led the editors of this site (then not yet a year into its present incarnation) to suggest he write an overview of the 2000 AD collected editions which Simon & Schuster had begun releasing in North America the year prior. This publishing endeavor remains a work in progress – as did this essay, until earlier this week.

I had initially entered the picture in 2013, when Tucker had approached me with the idea of turning his overview into a dialogue between the two of us. I didn’t (and don’t) own many of the S&S books — which, for the purposes of clarity, are sometimes new collections of 2000 AD comics released especially for the North American market, but more often are simply slight variants on UK editions printed in (or sometimes just distributed to) the United States — but I had read many of the component parts. I do not know if this was intended to speed up the process, but suffice to say involving me in something like that is not so much leaving a fox to guard the henhouse as actually cooking the chickens for the fox and then fastening a bib around its neck. For months (years) we picked at a Google doc, while Simon & Schuster kept publishing books. Lest we forget, 2000 AD itself continued to publish a new issue almost every week. Tucker suspended his Journal column, became a comics publisher, accepted an industry job and his family grew; life took over. As luck would have it, however, *I* remained in complete personal and professional stasis, which made me the ideal candidate for posting something resembling a finished product on for all of you to enjoy. Everything written by me appears in italics, while everything by Tucker will look normal.

And that's going to have to be enough! It's a day off today!


Professor Crocodile

Mike Dawson returns with a new episode of TCJ Talkies, in which he and Zack Soto discuss Mark Waid and Alex Ross's Kingdom Come.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Mad writer Tom Koch has passed away. Paul Levitz remembers Lobo co-creator Roger Slifer. BK Munn has an obituary for Canadian Dell artist Mel Crawford.

Malaysian satirist Zunar will reportedly face sedition charges tomorrow.

—Audio/Video. There's a lot of new comics-related podcasts out there. Drew Friedman just appeared on WTF. Ed Luce is on Inkstuds. (Robin McConnell of Inkstuds just launched a Patreon site, by the way.) Josh Bayer is a guest on Comics for Grownups.

Comics Studies Society has just posted a video of a lecture Bart Beaty gave earlier this year, "Qui Est Charlie Hebdo?"

—Reviews & Commentary. Jonathan Guyer at Nieman Reports takes a long look at the world of political cartooning and how it has dealt with various recent events.

Scott Cederlund reviews the newest Love & Rockets.

Bart Croonenborghs reviews the Christin & Balez Robert Moses book.

—Interviews & Profiles. ComicsDC has posted a new excerpt from The Art of Richard Thompson, featuring a conversation between Thompson and Bill Watterson.

JT Dockery talks to Gary Panter about Philip K Dick.

Tom Spurgeon talks to Jen Vaughn, who's leaving Fantagraphics to go freelance.

Brigid Alverson talks to Spike Trotman about making money out of comics (which she knows how to do).

Canadian Art interviews Wendy creator Walter Scott.

CBR talks to Don Rosa about Carl Barks and Donald Duck.

The Philly Voice profiles several local female cartoonists.

—Misc. Secret Acres has their first con report of the year, from RIPE.

This Vox list of 50 comic books that explain comic books is only good if you're trying to explain comics to an monolingual American who is a little freaked out by comics that don't feature superheroes (and if you don't read the captions).

CBR finished posting the results of their poll on the 50 best female comic book writers and artists. It too is very superhero-centric, as you'd expect considering the CBR readership. Also, I understand why they split it into writer and artist categories, but I think that led to some skewed results. If Carol Tyler can't crack the top 50, the list is bunk.

Paste has their own list of women who changed the comics industry.

I don't understand this Nudes Reading Minicomics Tumblr. [UPDATED TO ADD: Jinx.]


My Turn

Hi, today it's Brian Nicholson interviewing Connor Willumsen:

So I really like that comic Swinespritzen a lot, which reminds me of Philip Guston a lot and Ben Jones also, so I’m sort of interested in new influences, but there’s also that quote someone said about Guston, “a mandarin pretending to be a stumblebum,” as he made the transition from abstract expressionism to the more cartoony figures, and I was wondering if, when you draw in more straight-forward or cartoony, or dumbed-down style, especially since Swinespritzen is about art and trying to draw, do you find it preferable, or do you find it “cheating,” like it’s using a shortcut, or is it faster, in any way?

No it’s not really any of these things to me. I definitely don’t qualify it in relationship to something I’ll do like an underdrawing for. I don’t qualify it as faster or dumber. I’m not intentionally trying to do something “stupid” when I make it. The way that particular comic looks is more of a result of how I draw it and where I chose to draw it. It’s more of a result of circumstances than it is a decision to be or think in a certain way. That comic was drawn on loose-leaf tear-out pages from a drug store notebook that was quite thin with a thin ball-point pen. That alone had an effect on the way it looked because I was restricted from being able to do certain things. It was less flexible. So I had to make deliberate movements that would accomodate that surface, which tended to be simplistic in profile. At times I would get in trouble with space organization and I’d have to overlap things. and I couldn’t be too clever about making things clear I had to be more blunt. The result of that is a more naive appearance at times but I made no effort to diminish technical prowess or whatever it is the quality distinction we’re making between that and something that looks more conventional or commercial or whatever.

What are your tools generally?

Well I have them here. It’s pretty simplistic. I try to use simple paper as much as possible. Inexpensive materials, loose papers. I use this little ballpoint pen here, that’s more thin than a normal ballpoint pen. This is the pen I did Swinespritzen in. Thin line pencils. Really simple. What I do and how it looks is a result of making my studio space as portable as possible. I’d like all of my supplies to fit into a relatively small backpack, if possible.


The filmmaker Susan Stern has revived her late husband Spain's classic character Big Bitch for a series of animated shorts.

Anne Ishii has gathered a pretty hilarious group of quotes from Japanese cartoonist Jraiya during his visit to the US.

And, via Kim Deitch comes this amazing bit of early Disney animation.