Art Fishing

Today Joe McCulloch brings you the comics of the week.


The illustrator and illustration historian Walt Reed, best known for The Illustration House gallery and his essential and unmatched the Illustrator in America, 1860-2000, has passed away. DB Dowd has a lovely appreciation up on his blog.

Dangerous Minds has a preview of a book I'm much intrigued with: Pulp Macabre: The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era, which collects the great pulp artist's work from the late 1960s and 70s. These spare and terrifying drawings, which call to mind contemporary artists like Noel Freibert and Carlos Gonzales, were published mostly in fanzines and small press books during the tail-end of the great rediscovery of pulp art. This was an effort led by and large by fans, with no real support except each other. It's an amazing thing... people tracking down beloved artists, many no longer producing and coaxing them back to the drawing board. Pulp history, like comics history, was largely the invention of "fans", without whom we simply wouldn't have...  history. In Coye's case the results were stunning: minimal drawings of fallen flesh, demons and torture in stark black and white. Remarkable stuff.

Speaking of history, this is a remarkable memoir of Gilbert Shelton and the Texas comics scene which I'd somehow passed over.

And yesterday's Marketplace discussed the business machinations behind the current crop of Marvel movies.


Shelving Situation

Today on the site, we bring you a John Kelly report on the new Society of Illustrators "Alt-Weekly Comics" show. Here's a bit from the piece:

By appearing in the alt-weeklies, several generations of talented cartoonists gained access to audiences well beyond the world of fans of college papers, mini comics and zines. Their work was brought to the attention of alternative music and other fringe culture fans, especially in Seattle, where it’s two weeklies, The Rocket and The Stranger, thrived during the rise and fall of that city’s grunge era. And like the underground cartoonists of the 1960s and '70s (but to a lesser degree) some of the alt-weekly cartoonists literally became as big as the rock stars whose albums and concert posters their work appeared on.

“There’s a way in which the animation culture of the 90s and 2000s and what goes on now with Adult Swim and all that [has its roots in] the strips in the alternative-weeklies the same way National Lampoon was to early Saturday Night Live,” said Michael Grossman, former art director for The National Lampoon, The Village Voice and Entertainment Weekly.  “It was sort of this thing that was going on and the exploded into something else that left the original behind.”

More than 100 examples of work of that initial burst of energy are on display at the SOI show, ranging from little seen examples of the original artwork for the strips to pages literally torn from the old newspapers. It is also significant to note that the show takes place at the venerable Society of Illustrators, not somewhere like the CBGB Gallery or Max Fish, places where such exhibits took place during the alt-weekly heyday. Additionally, the show received an enthusiastic endorsement from no less that The New Yorker.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Longtime Mad writer Lou Silverstone has died.

—Interviews & Profiles. Shawn Starr interviews Raighne Hogan of 2D Cloud.

Matt Emery talks to Emory Liu about designing books for Fantagraphics.

Reaxxion listens to Erik Larsen explaining his side of the controversy that exploded after his recent comments on superhero costume design on Twitter.

Panel Patter checks in with Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

CCS talks to Scott McCloud about process.

Paul Gravett introduces Scottish cartoonist Malcy Duff.

Anodolu Agency speaks briefly to the French cartoonist Zeon, who was arrested this month for cartoons deemed anti-Semitic.

—Reviews & Commentary. Caroline Wazer shares and writes about the caricatures of Punch cartoonist John Leech used to illustrate The Comic History of Rome, sort of a "for Dummies" book from the 19th century.

Panel Patter looks at Corinne Mucha's Get Over It.

John Adcock writes about the history of "chalk talks."

—Funnies. Responding to Ronald Wimberly from last week, Connor Willumsen has his own comic at The Nib about editorial tinkering at Marvel.

—Video. Maclean's visits the home of Seth (via):


Beto Rules

Today on the site: James Sturm and Marek Bennett have organized a roundtable about "applied cartooning" for us, and the results are fascinating. Here's a bit of the intro:

The graphic novel boom of ten years ago coincided with the bottom dropping out of the publishing industry and lifted the fortunes of too few cartoonists. Working on a graphic novel for three years with only a $10,000 advance (if that much) is not going to work. As a teacher I try to fully support my student’s artistic and career ambitions but at the same time I have a responsibility to help prepare them for the reality of the marketplace.

So what’s a cartoonist to do? One positive sign is that comics are quickly branching out into other fields like education/visual literacy, graphic medicine, comics journalism, and graphic facilitation. Last summer, Marek Bennett and I created a comic, The World is Made of Cheese, The Applied Cartooning Manifesto that grew out of conversations we were having about forging a life in comics beyond the traditional publishing model. I always admired Marek’s cartooning career because he has done just that.

“Applied Cartooning” is jargon to be sure, but I hope it can become useful jargon. The idea is to better position cartoonists in the marketplace so our expertise is recognized and we are compensated more fairly for the skills we bring to the table.


Well, I, along with Tucker and Jog, am disappointed in this news.

Here's a nice profile of the LA gallery Dem Passwords, which has hosted shows by the likes of Frank Santoro, Ron Rege, Jessica Ciocci and Lee Perry. Long ago Santoro and I went and got very high in the mountains of Switzerland with Lee Perry under the auspices of Sebastien, co-owner of this very gallery. Frank and Lee jammed on a Batman drawing that I deeply regret not taking with me. We also climbed a small snow drift. That was fun!

Also, let's pause for a moment and remember that Gilbert Hernandez is one of the greatest cartoonists of all time and has mercilessly unleashed more work than even I can keep up with lately. This page is from a Wonder Woman comic that was apparently released by DC on mobile devices this year, and which I've not seen. The drawing here is stunning -- deceptively simple pen-lines delineating forms that make no claim on reality. That's the brilliance of Gilbert's approach -- like his fellow greats Ditko and Kirby, he has a language of forms that he can apply to any given situation. Wonder Woman's bulbous body, the robots, even the oscillating machine all signal a Gilbert Hernandez visual world. And what's more, there's no fuss -- it is comic book economy storytelling at it's best -- taking the reader through the action without any unnecessary diversions, and yet... the details are so compelling -- Wonder Woman's hair is a repeating wave pattern (shades of Karl Wirsum) and her face a mask of stoicism; chains fall without incident, and yet perfectly curved motion lines indicate the force of her arms. It's happily more a Gilbert Hernandez comics than a DC comic -- Wonder Woman being a way for him to exercise this mode of storytelling and this particular kind of drawing. This is just superb comic book art by one of the few geniuses to grace the medium.



Humpty Dumpty

Today on the site, French cartoonist Émilie Gleason and the American cartoonist Gina Wynbrandt, both of whom have upcoming books being published by 2d Cloud, interview each other. Here's some of that:

Gina: Do you think the personality traits associated with your zodiac sign are an accurate representation of you?

Émilie: I’m a balance; this zodiac sign was the first excuse to justify my youth bipolar disorder. Now it’s like, “Mm, am I hungry? Am I not? Urrh, life!"

Gina: What's your favorite French idiom or phrase that might not translate well in English?

Émilie: Well I always heard Anglophone people envy us the word dépayser. It is actually one of my favorites. Everybody once must have lived a dépaysement, when absolutely nothing looks like what you know, where you live, or like what you eat daily (on trips, or in jail, for example). Some people are in desperate search for the place that will break their routine; some others use this word to explain their homesickness.

Also, Rob Clough reviews Steve Lafler's Death in Oaxaca #1. Here's a sample of that:

It's only fitting that a veteran of the '80s black & white publishing boom should put out another standard-issue comic book in 2014. Steve Lafler, known primarily for his magazine-sized, surreal quasi-autobio series Dog Boy and his psychedelic anthropomorphic jazz series Bughouse, is back again. He's kept his hand in comics, mostly by self-publishing, since Top Shelf published the final Bughouse volume. In many of his comics, Lafler has explored the relationship between life and death, of art and commerce and of purpose and aimlessness. The shifting nature of identity is another regular theme, especially plays on superhero costumes in real life being a form of drag. All of these themes are explored in his new series with Alternative Comics (themselves back from a along hiatus with a new publisher in Marc Arsenault), Death In Oaxaca.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Bart Croonenborghs reviews Paris Revisited, the latest collaboration of Schuiten and Peeters, and Andy Oliver looks at Noel Freibert's Old Ground #1.

Dan Priepenring writes about Roz Chast's new gallery show of painted eggs.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Seattle parenting website ParentMap interviews Megan Kelso.

The Jewish Review of Books has a nice profile of Joann Sfar.

—News. Roy Doty has passed away.

Dave Sim is reportedly recovering from surgery well.

According to a CBC report, a Winnipeg branch of Chapters temporarily removed Hergé's Tintin in America from its shelves following a customer complaint about its depiction of Native Americans.

On the news that Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims had been hired to write an X-Men comic for Marvel, comics blogger/writer/editor Valerie D'Orazio has written a widely shared post claiming that Sims once engaged in and instigated online harassment against her, harassment intense enough that she was later diagnosed with PTSD. Sims does not dispute her account, and explained why he never apologized in a blog post of his own. He apologized more specifically and fully in his regular column. Comics Alliance, which has established itself as a prominent anti-harassment voice, released a
statement about the situation, alleging that this news broke because Sims and Comics Alliance have been targeted by anti-feminists associated with GamerGate. This struck some as irrelevant if the charges are true (as Sim admits), prompting former Comics Alliance editor Laura Hudson to weigh in in support of CA herself.

—The Funnies. Ronald Wimberly's "Lighten Up" at The Nib.


Gene Jeans

Today on the site it's Bob Levin on Inner City Romance.

The collected ICR takes a sustained, unflinching look at lower depth America through a variety of lenses. In issue one, three newly released convicts explore their post-prison options.

For two the choice is easy, sex and drugs; but the third is tempted by armed struggle. By ICR’s second issue (1972), Colwell had become part of the collective putting out the San Francisco Good Times, an underground newspaper. If the city had been ground zero for the counter-culture’s explosion, its Hall of Justice was where some of the most lethal fall-out was contained. Colwell served as his paper’s sketch artist for the criminal trials of members of AIM, the White Panther Party, and the Soledad Brothers. He also covered anti-war demonstrations which ended with the police firing tear gas or charging on horseback, swinging batons. And he authored a comic strip, written in verse, “Radical Rock,” about a neighborhood rallying against police violence, which, after the Times folded, he completed in his book. (While I found the verse to distract from, rather than enhance the drama, it did contain one compelling rhyme, which I doubt either Cole Porter or Bob Dylan could have managed: “bum their scene” and “Thorazine.”)


Always good news when a new Mineshaft comes out. Great covers on this one.

Paper Rad member Jacob Ciocci has a new way to show work online. Intriguing.

I dunno, I could read interview with Peter Max for a while. He's a great huckster of our time.

More on Milestone comics by Noah Berlatsky.



When Tuesday rolls around, you know it's time for Joe McCulloch's guide to This Week in Comics! This entry highlights new titles from Julia Wertz and Kyle Starks.

We also have Greg Hunter's review of the new relaunch of Howard the Duck, with writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones trying to fill the shoes of Steve Gerber and Frank Brunner/Gene Colan. Here's Greg on how the title fits into the modern Marvel universe:

Several years ago, Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals collaborator Matt Fraction scripted a brief, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-style run on Punisher War Journal in which the lead character prowled the fringes of whatever “event” storyline was taking place. A few years later, Jeff Parker and Kev Walker took a similar approach with Marvel’s Thunderbolts series, dispatching a band of super-convicts to fight the minor battles of recent major events. Howard 2015 suggests the limitations of this storytelling style. Howard’s as suited to it as any other Marvel character, but the new series arrives at a time when Marvel’s properties—always the contents of a shared universe—have been so thoroughly integrated as to contain Iron Man, Spider-Man, and a few thousand Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns. The first issue’s tagline reads, “Trapped in a world he’s grown accustomed to,”[3] but this world has also grown accustomed to a figure like Howard. His role as a witness to costumed absurdity has become increasingly common.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Miami Herald reports on Xavier Bonilla, the Ecuadorian cartoonist who has been persecuted by his country's government and who recently received a death threat from a person claiming to be a member of the Islamic State.

Dave Sim has checked into the hospital with stomach cramps

The longtime Mandrake the Magician cartoonist Fred Fredericks has passed away.

DC has cancelled a controversial variant cover for an upcoming issue of Batgirl, at the artist's request, following many reader complaints. Ardo Omer explains some of the issues fans had with the artwork here. As with a few other recent controversies, whether or not you think the fan critiques are legitimate, it seems wrong to decry this move as censorship, as some have; this seems more like a corporation trying to please a book's fan base.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Murphy writes about Dylan Horrocks's Sam Zabel and the Magic Pencil.

Abhay Khosla writes about meta-superhero exhaustion by way of reviewing Multiversity: Mastermen and Supreme: Blue Rose.

Sophia Foster-Dimino initiated a Twitter discussion on the alleged unpopularity of autobio comics which attracted many cartoonists, and which has now been Storified. I remember when I used to "hate autobio" (even while I read a ton of it); it seems to me this is something people tend to say for reasons that aren't always rational.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Beat talks to James Kochalka.

Black Girl in Media has an interview with Cheryl Lee, the blogger and Ormes Society founder.

—Funnies. Dane Martin has published many of his recent comics on Tumblr.


So Cute

Irwin Hasen, the Dondi and golden age comic book cartoonist, has passed way. Steve Ringgenberg has our obituary.

Hasen’s earlier experience depicting boxers would stand him in good stead when he teamed up with Batman co-creator Bill Finger to dream up Wildcat, a heavyweight boxing champ who moonlighted as a costumed hero, initially to clear his name after getting entangled with organized crime, and whose only superpower is the cat-like “nine lives” power he had bestowed on him by magic. He also possesses extreme strength and vigor even at an advanced age. Although he has no real superpowers, his toughness and boxing skills enabled him to survive many perils in the pages of Sensation Comics (debuting in issue #1 alongside Wonder Woman, eventually becoming the second-most popular feature in the title) and All-Star Comics, where he was a member of the Justice Society of America. Wildcat trained Batman, Black Canary, and even Superman in the pugilistic arts. Wildcat was Hasen’s best-known creation in comic books, though during this period, he also did stories starring The Green Lantern, succeeding original artist Martin Nodell.

We will publish a recent and candid interview with Gary Groth very soon.

And Doug Harvey reviews The Sculptor by Scott McCloud.

Having somehow acquired two university degrees in Painting and spending the subsequent 20 years as a professional artist, curator, and critic, I am as sensitive as the next artworld insider to the ways in which art schools, gallery scenes, and the state of contemporary art are depicted in popular narratives. They usually get it embarrassingly wrong.

The medium of comics seem particularly susceptible, riddled as it is with whining fanboys traumatized to learn in their art school foundation year that the drafting chops that kept them from being beat up since the third grade haven’t been considered relevant since 1837. Even brilliant social satirists like Dan Clowes and Chris Ware can miss the mark by aiming at straw men patched together from sitcom stereotypes anhat I approached The Sculptor, Scott McCloud’s first substantial foray into graphic narrative practice after decades devoted to graphic narrative theory, with his inescapable Understanding Comics and its sequels.


Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson remembers Hasen.

Sarah Boxer on the Charlie Hebdo - Charlie Brown connection.

Matt Groening and Lynda Barry take New York.

The David Boswell renaissance continues with a documentary.


Wolf Ticket

Today on the site, we present Shaun Clancy's interview with former National Lampoon art director Michael Gross. Here's a sample exchange:

CLANCY: But how did you land that National Lampoon job?

GROSS: Well, my assistant at Family Health was looking for a job—nice guy—and he got called up to Lampoon. He came to me and said, “You know, I got called up but I’m not right for it and they know I’m not right for it but you might be the right person to do this!” And I’d read their Time magazine parody and I said, “You know, I looked through the magazine and it’s a complete mess.” So my wife looked at it and she said, “Why would you want to work on that rag? This is terrible. I thought we were trying to get Esquire one day or, you know, Vogue! You were going to be a major player in the publishing world. This is a piece of shit.” [laughter] I said, “I think I know what I can do with that magazine.” So I applied. I went in for an interview. The story I tell is basically, Doug Kenney asked me—You gotta remember, Doug Kenney had just come out of college. So they didn’t know how to run a magazine! They were brilliant, but they didn’t even know what an art director did. And they hired an underground studio, because they thought, we’re not Mad so we’ll do the contemporary version which would be largely like underground comics. Now, I went in there and said, “No, no, no. You’re doing this all wrong. Matty Simmons, the publisher, was looking for a new art director because he couldn’t get advertisers with that look to the magazine. They wanted to be slick. That’s his only answer. So I was called in, and Doug Kenney was probably told they had to replace the art director but I’m not really sure and I sat with Kenney and I remember distinctly that they did a series of postage stamps.

I said, look at these stamps, you did these postage stamps. They’re very funny. But their drawings are by underground comic book artists on every stamp. I said, this is like Mad magazine, where they have Mort Drucker do every drawing. This is not the same. The way that this will pay off is if they look like real postage stamps. Then the humor is doubled. And they got that and that’s what I hoped. And that changed the magazine. It was a reflection of my vision.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere:

—News. Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? has won the National Book Critics Circle award for autobiography. The NBCC is one of publishing's biggest prizes, and arguably has a stronger track record of consistently rewarding real achievement than either the Pulitzers or the National Book Awards.

Bernie Wrightson's wife has posted an update on the artist's post-brain-surgery health on Facebook.

Paul Gravett writes about recent comics auctions in the UK and France.

—Interviews & Profiles. Multiversity talks to Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds about the parental complaint lodged in New Mexico against Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar.

Abraham Riesman conducts an entertaining interview with Art Spiegelman and Philip Johnston about their Wordless! show, and discovers that Spiegelman has significantly softened on his anti-Kirby stance.

Ward Sutton talks to Warren Bernard and Bill Kartalopolous about the Alt-Weekly Comics show they curated for the Society of Illustrators in New York.

The Montreal Review of books has a short, funny conversation with Joe Ollmann.

Ginnis Tonk interviews romance-comics blogger Jacque Nodell.

Broken Frontier talks to James Kochalka about his new project.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Hyperallergic reviews the Victor Moscoso show up in NYC right now (which Dan co-curated).

Boing Boing has published another excerpt from Peter Schilling Jr.'s Carl Barks' Duck.

Neil Cohn has presented new information on reading navigation in comics.

—Crowdfunding. Here are two projects worth highlighting for a moment. Hazil Newlevant has put together an already successfully funded Kickstarter for Chainmail Bikini, an "anthology of women gamers," and Stefan Vogel is attempting to fund a graphic novel called The Illegalists, about a gang of anarchists in early twentieth-century France. Letterer Todd Klein makes a case for that project here.