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.


Kilroys Were Here

It's the day of the week when Joe McCulloch brings us all his guide to the Week in Comics!, with spotlight picks from Étienne Davodeau and Hiroaki Samura.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At The Paris Review, Nicole Rudick has a typically great interview with the Zap cartoonist and poster artist Victor Moscoso. (And if you missed it, Nicole wrote about Zap for us earlier this year.)

And The Beat talks to Hope Larson about adapting Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

—News. The parent who initially complained about Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar being shelved at the Rio Rancho High School library is appealing the recent decision to retain the book.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sarah Horrocks wrote about Sam Alden's Hawaii 1997, and Berliac wrote another piece in response.

Hayley Campbell gives her time as a comic-shop employee the BuzzFeed treatment.

—Misc. Discussing his reading history with the Globe & Mail, novelist Tom McCarthy praises Hergé.



Welcome to the working week. Today we have Gary Groth in conversation with Irwin Hasen for what was his final extensive interview.

GROTH: Any other stories from the old days you want to tell?

HASEN: I went to a whorehouse one night. I came back to my buddies and said, “You bastards, I got laid.”

GROTH: How old were you?

HASEN: Around 17 or 18. A prizefighter took me up there. The gangsters sent me up there. I mean it. [When] I worked for a boxing magazine called Bang Magazine, gangsters were all over. One day I’m sitting at a typewriter while the boss is in bed with some woman, and this guy comes into the office, wearing a gray suit. That was Bugsy Siegel’s partner. I’m sitting at the typewriter. He’s a famous murderer. Forgot his name. How quick you forget famous murderers. And as he’s leaving he turns around to me and tells Billy Stevens, my boss, he said, “The kid’s got pimples, get him laid.” [Groth laughs] And he turned around and left. Izzy Singer was a prizefighter—right there, his picture’s up on my wall [pointing to a photograph]. He was sitting and reading the comics and my boss says “Izzy, here’s ten bucks, get the kid laid. Take him uptown.” He took me uptown and I’m shaking like a leaf, I’m 17. I felt like I was gonna crap in my pants. Izzy Singer took me uptown on the subway and he takes me to an apartment building up on 97th Street. I’ll never forget it: whorehouse. And a girl opens the door and says, “What’s this?” “Billy wants to get him fixed up.” And she took me into her room—and a gentle lovely lady, it could’ve been worse. I’ll never forget her, and she says, “Take it easy, relax.” And I got through and it was a gentle sex thing for a young kid. I go up to my buddies who were playing cards on the floor in their home. And I come into the room with them sitting there, and I’ll never forget their look, I said, “You sons of bitches, I got laid this morning.” This is from the gangster. He’s a tiny guy, murderer. One of the worst murderers—I forgot his name. So that’s what happened.


Charlie Hebdo Scoop: "From April Fool's day,” a source at Charlie Hebdo told TCJ, "using an international team, the weekly will also boast an English-language version. After issue #1179 (25 February), we debuted a digital version designed for smartphones and tablets. Now, starting with CHARLIE #1184, every week's paper will appear in English. Our application is available on iPhone and iPad, for Android tablets and smartphones and for Windows 8.1. The application is free, but each issue will cost €2.99 (euros). Subscriptions, via, are also available. Francophone fans abroad will still have the digital option."


Palomar has passed a review and will remain in the Rio Rancho, NM libraries.

It's new Peter Bagge!

The sex-comic/Spider-Man connection continues: Bill Ward assisted John Romita in the 1960s.