We have continued to add tributes to the late Yoshihiro Tatsumi to our memorial post.

Rob Clough reviews the first three issues of the group anthology, Maple Key Comics. Here's how he begins:

Maple Key Comics is a Mome/Shonen Jump style anthology, with each issue containing a single chapter of a longer serial (usually three to six chapters). Each issue also contains shorter, self-contained stories as well, from a mix of CCS grads, students, and others. Editor Joyana McDiarmid goes for a wide net in terms of genres, visual styles, and levels of polish. The serial nature of each issue can lead to some rockiness as a reading experience, but it's also unearthed some real gems. Rather than evaluate each issue on their own, I'm going to review the first three issues together, while evaluating them artist-by-artist. Each issue features several serials, a few one-offs, and a "star artist" one-off feature.

Jon Chad (star artist, issue one). His "The Surena Grant" uses sci-fi as a horror vehicle, rather than as an expression of pure joy and learning as in his books for kids or as a celebration of genre excesses in Mezmer. Here, the horror of apathy permeates this story about a group of scientists who investigate the weird deaths of a local animal species, only to become victims of the same extreme apathy that overtook the animals. Chad's detailed line, usually used to emphasize excess, is effective here because he understood that restraint was the order of the day for getting across the emotional punch of this story, both from a visual and narrative perspective.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Reporters With Borders spotlights eight cartoonists around the world who are being threatened or persecuted for their work. Cracked, in that ineffable Cracked prose style that you either hate or tolerate, spotlights five cartoonists who have died for their work.

A variety of groups supporting free expression, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the CBLDF, have written a letter to the Rio Rancho school superintendent asking that Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar be allowed to stay on shelves.

On Facebook, Al Plastino's daughter, MaryAnn Plastino Charles, calls for DC to give her father credit for his creations, and asks for reader support.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Salkowitz reviews Todd Allen's Economics of Digital Comics. Adam McGovern reviews Eric Stephenson & Simon Gane's They're Not Like Us.

J. Caleb Mozzocco looks at a few Julia Gfrörer pages.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Billy Ireland library previews a short excerpt from their new lengthy and rare interview with Bill Watterson. (Michael Cavna has more on the book that will include the whole thing.)

Paul Morton at The Millions talks to Scott McCloud. He's a good talker, whatever you think (or don't think) of The Sculptor.

Copra creator Michel Fiffe answers ten questions for Comics Tavern.

Bart Croonenborghs interviews Belgian artist Ben Gijsemans.

—Video. John Lewis just appeared on The Daily Show to support the new volume of March.




Today on the site we begin a tribute post to the great Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who passed away over the weekend. Adrian Tomine, who brought Tatsumi to Drawn & Quarterly, begins, followed by Anne Ishii.

We also have Gary Groth's 2006 interview with Tatsumi, the longest English-language interview with the cartoonist ever published.

GROTH: You were a manga publisher in the ’50s, so naturally, I want to know how that came about. Did that come after you moved to Tokyo? And what kind of manga did you publish? Gekiga, or Tezuka’s kind, or some other kind?

TATSUMI: After I moved to Tokyo, I was essentially out of work. So I started my own publishing company out of necessity, primarily so I could continue publishing my own work. As I said before, a person who was running a vegetable stand could start a publishing company, so it didn’t require very much capital, and it so happened that at the time I had a friend who moved out from Tokyo who had just sold his house, so he was willing to put up the kind of start-up costs for a publishing company. I started a publishing company to continue to publish my works for the rental comic-book industry. But eventually, there weren’t any comic-book rental stores, so obviously, there was no distribution route left for me to use. Then  I started to publish books that would be sold at regular retailers.

Maybe I didn’t touch on this, but the rental-books industry and the regular publishing industry had completely different systems set up. Different distributors. So I started to work with one of the major sales distributors, for publishing works in Tokyo, which also distributed all the mainstream publications. That meant I was publishing in larger numbers, but it also required more capital investment on my part. As they were publishing for mainstream distribution routes, and publishing in larger quantities, I could no longer afford to run the publishing business just by selling my own works. That’s when I started to ask other authors to contribute works. I would offer up collections of works by popular authors, other work that they had published in magazines. But this also meant because they were popular authors that I had to pay them quite a large sum of money for their works, so I went further and further into debt. I published books for about seven years. I went further and further into debt, and I was really at a point where I could not continue to run the business any more, but it was right around that time that the major comics magazines started to solicit work from me, like Shonen magazine and big comics. I think that in some ways those weeklies had seen the books that I was publishing and had evaluated them positively. So in the seven years, I published about 200 paperbacks, and of those, maybe 30 were my own works. And the rest were probably by about 20 different authors.

GROTH: The work of your own that you initially published for the rental market, was that gekiga?

TATSUMI: Yes, yes.

GROTH: Was that well received at the time?

TATSUMI: Well, the popularity of gekiga really declined along with the popularity of the rental comic-book business. So in those seven years that I was publishing, which mainly took part after the rental industry had started to collapse, most of the works I had published were not in the gekiga style.

GROTH: That you drew yourself?

TATSUMI: So now, my works were in the Gekiga style, but the majority of the works I published were by other authors, and so they encompassed works for kids that would be published in these weekly magazines for boys; there were also girls’ comics. So the majority of works were not gekiga, but my own work was.

And Joe McCulloch will entertain and inform you with his week in comics.

And elsewhere:

Sam Simon, who was crucial to the first few seasons of The Simpsons, has passed away.

Paul Gravett reports on the Sotheby's comic art auction.

The New York times profiles a local comic book store owner.

Cartoonist/illustrator Liniers on his New Yorker cover.



Today on the site, Robert Loss writes about the work of Bianca Stone, and poetry comics in general.

In the past three years, discussions about poem comics have sprung up at The Comics Journal, the comics blog The Hooded Utilitarian, Comics Forum, Poetry magazine and The Atlantic. Taken as a kind of critical chapbook, these articles and interviews point to the growing awareness of poem comics as an art form (if also to recurring issues of cultural turf and the challenges of definition and terminology). They also expose a lack of critical engagement with specific works like Bianca Stone's I Want to Open the Mouth God Gave You Beautiful Mutant, Warren Craghead's "A Flame Expelled," and Derik Badman's series MadInkBeard. We haven't been paying enough critical attention to poem comics.

Why? If "the language of comics criticism is still young and scrawny," as Douglas Wolk has written, then comics scholars have been bulking up in a number of ways, but our general regimen is the narrative. This emphasis may owe to comics studies' emergence from the fields of English and film studies, both of which are highly invested in narrative; the terminology of film has been useful if inadequate in describing how comics work. And then there's semiotics. Since the publication of Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art and Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, greater attention has been paid by cartoonists, critics, and scholars to the formal dissection of comics, a venture wrapped into the larger expedition that is the burgeoning discipline of comics studies. The influential work of Thierry Groensteen in The System of Comics and, recently, Narration and Comics, has truly pushed formalist comics studies into the realm of semiotics, which has helped to reestablish the importance of the image. This is seen as a corrective to the past emphasis on comics as literature, which I'm not sure is entirely fair, but that seems to be the thrust of things. Oddly, though, this work in semiotics has focused almost exclusively on narrative comics. Most comics are narratives, but then again, we used to say that most visual art was either painting, sculpture, or architecture. If we're going to define what comics are, then we have to account for non-narrative work. Poem comics are comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, I got locked out of the server somehow last week, so a lot links got built up...

—Yoshihiro Tatsumi. The legendary cartoonist and gekiga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi has passed away at the age of 79. Paul Gravett was the first to report this in English, as far as I can tell. We will have more soon.

—News. The shortlists for the Slate/CCS Cartoonist Studio Prize have been announced.

The National Cartoonists Society has announced the Reuben Award nominees: Roz Chast, Stephan Pastis, and Hilary Price.

Nilah McGruder has won the first annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. Hero Complex has more on that.

The L.A. Times Book Prize finalists have been announced.

KAL has won the Herblock Prize.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon seems to have gotten energized by his recent move to Ohio. I always enjoy it when he's on a roll. Here he is on recent moves at DC and reviewing RL Crabb's Scablands.

Shaenon Garrity reviews the manga Apocalypse Meow (aka Cat Shit One). Tim O'Neil lays into Scott McCloud's The Sculptor.

Zainab Akhtar lists ten under-appreciated female cartoonists.

Christopher Stigliano catches up with recent Steve Ditko.

Johannah King-Slutzky reviews Bitch Planet.

Liza Donnelly writes about a cancelled cartoonist's symposium in France, and being a cartoonist in a post-Charlie Hebdo-attacks world.

Christopher Caldwell appreciates Calvin & Hobbes for the Wall Street Journal.

Whit Taylor shares what she's learned by making autobiographical comics.

—Interviews & Profiles. Timothy Shenk interviews Wonder Woman scholar Jill Lepore for Dissent, about her Wonder Woman book and about more general feminist topics.

Comics Alternative has a nice, long talk with the always funny Joe Ollmann.

At the Toronto Globe & Mail, Alexandra Molotkow has a short profile of Wendy creator Walter Scott.

Spurgeon again, talking to Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller.

—Misc. Kelly Thompson at Comics Should Be Good is attempting to list every woman involved in the comics field, and requests readers' help. The same site is also running a poll on the top fifty female cartoonists and comics writers of all time. It might be nice if artists like Shary Flenniken, Lynda Barry, Phoebe Gloeckner, Julie Doucet, etc. got on that list somewhere (superhero stuff is sure to dominate), so vote for whomever you appreciate if you feel inclined.

A Case for Pencils is a newish site, devoted to the tools and materials used by various cartoonists.

D&Q has a preview of some new Joe Matt work which will be in their upcoming anniversary book. I sometimes wonder how Peepshow would have been received if it had debuted in the Tumblr era.

—Not Comics. At NYRB, Robert Storr writes about every art cartoonist's favorite painter, Philip Guston.


Old and Out of Touch

Today on the site:

Morten Harper joins us to write about Spanish cartoonist Paco Roca.

Even though English translations are few and far between, graphic novels from Spain have lately become increasingly more visible across the main European comics markets in France, Germany and Italy. The poignant Wrinkles, about Alzheimer’s disease and day-to-day life in a retirement home, is at the crest of this new Spanish wave.

Wrinkles (in Spanish: Arrugas) was a huge commercial breakthrough for Paco Roca when it was published in Spain in 2007. The protagonist is a retired bank manager who has Alzheimer’s disease and moves to an institution. Roca convincingly portrays the rituals of the retirement home, and how this man gradually recognizes and attempts to handle the disease. The book has been adapted to an animated feature movie, with an award winning script by Roca himself.

The book became a bestseller, acclaimed by critics and has won all there is of Spanish comics awards.Wrinkles became in many ways larger than itself, and was received as the frontrunner of a new wave of Grafica Novellas. To quote a newspaper headline: “The new superheroes are elderly with Alzheimer.”

Roca together with Miguel Gallardo released a book, Emotional World Tour, about the fuss surrounding the original releases of Wrinkles and Gallardo’s autobiographical María y yo (Maria and I) about his daughter’s autism. The two books were promoted with the slogan “cartoons and social reality”, and Roca and Gallardo jointly travelled on countless festivals and book signings.


I have mentioned this before, but hey, tonight is the opening: Victor Moscoso: Psychedelic Drawings, 1967-1982 is opening tonight. I co-curated the show, which features over 30 examples of Victor's work, including the complete original art for classic Zap strips like Luna Toon, Camel and Hocus-Pocus. These are among the finest original drawings for comics that I have ever seen (I'd rank them with McCay and Panter in terms of ink-on-board precision and power). Straight-up masterpieces of comic art, and never open to public viewing until now. There will not be a better comic and poster art show in New York this year, and probably not this decade. Oh yes, and there is a catalog which will be available at better bookstores and online in a couple of weeks. Anyhow, the opening is 6 to 8 pm. Victor will be in attendance. So will I. Ask for "the cone".

Deb Aoki has a good summary of, and take on, a web comic controversy that blew up yesterday.

Hmmm, what else can this old and out of touch person think of? I know, more from the past! If I have done nothing else in my life, I did publish the best Batman comic of the 21st century (other than DK2).

Smoke Signal is having a fun-sounding release party on Saturday night in NYC.


Good Buyer

Hi there, today we a have R.C. Harvey on the long-forgotten Winnie the Wac and Vic Herman.

“I never thought in the beginning that I’d be a cartoonist,” he told me when I visited him in December 1993. “I was interested in drawing, but I wanted to capture what I saw realistically.  And my realistic side shows the Spanish influence.  I don’t do cartoons on Mexico and Spain.  That’s pretty serious.”

Herman’s father, eager to advance his son’s various aspirations, arranged for the boy to have the run of Fox Studios.  Young Vic learned about casting, characters, scripts, costumes, color, camera angles and distance, timing, staging, and so on.  Watching movies being made, he gained some understanding of the ways visual, literary, and musical elements could be combined into a unified whole.

When Herman was about eleven, his mother, also an artist, helped him to an apprenticeship with the Yale Puppeteers, a marionette team then producing shows at the Teatro del Toro (Theater of the Bull) on Olvera Street in the Mexican district of Los Angeles.

Herman’s parents divorced in 1931, and in 1933, Herman and his mother moved to Bayonne, New Jersey, to live with her parents.  By this time, Vic, fourteen years old, was an accomplished puppeteer, managing a repertory cast of 35 puppets, which he had made himself out of wood with wires for joints.  He staged puppet shows in “El Teatro Pequeno” (The Little Theater), the basement of his grandparents’ home.  He produced four shows:  Pinocchio, Treasure Island, Cinderella, and Uncle Tom’s Shack (“shack” rather than “cabin” to avoid payment of royalties; entrepreneurial cunning came early).

A fifth show was a Hollywood revue, with a variety of entertainment-world characters—a talking monkey, a dragon that belched fire, and a Pagliacci clown (crying on the inside while laughing on the outside), a boop-boop-a-doop girl, a trained dog (reminiscent of Rin Tin Tin), one of the dwarfs from Rip Van Winkle, and so on.


Heidi MacDonald on the strong showing by women in 2014's Bookscan numbers.

Off Life features an interview with Ed Piskor.

The feud over the Walt Disney family fortune is explore in depth by The Hollywood Reporter.

This multi-media comics fest in France sounds fun.

And finally, I can always look at Kevin Nowlan process posts.



Today on the site is Joe McCulloch's week in comics.

And elsewhere:

Here's a fine interview with the great Peter Saul. 

Tomi Ungerer is enjoying a well-deserved round of press, lately. Here's a profile related to his retrospective at The Drawing Center.

That new-ish graphic novel about Robert Moses is previewed over at Hyperallergic.

And Steve Brodner has a nice new comic up about Sholem Aleichem.


Mind Touch

Today, we are republishing an interview with the inimitable Dame Darcy, conducted by Darcy Sullivan, which originally ran in issue 171, from 1994. Here's a sample exchange, in which they discuss her experiences with spirits:

DARCY [SULLIVAN]: Did you still see ghosts when you were 12?

DAME DARCY: OK, here’s what happened. There was this old woman’s barn across the alley and we had this clubhouse up there. The ghosts were living in the barn. See, they weren’t living in the barn until I called them into the barn, and then they wouldn’t go away.

DARCY: What would they do?

DAME DARCY: They would make the room ice-cold in the middle of the summer, when it was like 90 degrees. It would be like a freezer! Because ghosts are freezing cold. I’d opened a porthole for them to come through, and now they’d come through and I didn’t know how to handle it. I was only 11 and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Later on, when I was 17, they tried to possess me. It was really scary. [Laughs.] See, I constantly see and hear things, and some people might say that I’m crazy and I’m delusional. But I am not. They are always there, it’s just that some people can see them and some people can’t.

DARCY: Were these ghosts dead people?

DAME DARCY: Of course. They were children who had died early.

DARCY: They were all kids?

DAME DARCY: They were between 4 and 13. One of them tried to make my lungs stop one time and that was really scary. The ones that tried to possess me later weren’t the same ones. The four-year-old told me that if I stood with my back to her and took a mirror and looked over my shoulder, I would see her reflection in the mirror, and that way not only could I hear her but see her. I didn’t do it, because I was too scared.

I found out this later: Where I would hear them talking was in the back of my head, not the front of my head, where your thoughts are. At school I found out that’s where the [sense of] sight is. I found this out when I was 14 and I said, “Oh, my God, that makes so much sense!”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Darling Sleeper has a little talk with Simon Hanselmann.

—News. A parent in Rio Rancho, New Mexico has complained to school officials after her son checked out Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar from his high school library. The CBLDF has more.

Philip Nel guides you through a bunch of recent news regarding Dr. Seuss.

—Reviews & Commentary. Eric Liebetrau writes about Roz Chast's Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Jacque Nodell looks at Jack Kirby's unpublished Black romance comic, Soul Love.

Brigid Alverson reviews Matt Madden's new formalist experiment, Drawn Onward. Rachel Cooke looks at Andy Hixon's dystopian Lucia.

I haven't listened to the Comics Burning in Hell episode about Scott McCloud's The Sculptor yet, but based on what I've heard from Tucker Stone, it should be a particularly entertaining one.

Mike Sterling looks at how the DC Star Trek comics handled the absence of Spock between movies. RIP Leonard Nimoy.

For Playboy, Matt Wayne writes an article commemorating Dwayne McDuffie.

Rufus Dayglo remembers Brett Ewins.



Today on the site, Greg Hunter interviews Peter Schilling Jr., the author of Carl Barks' Duck, a new book on the Disney artist's classic work. Here's one exchange from it:

I’m glad you mentioned Barks’ framing of his stories as stage plays or novels, because you made a decision to put your own frame on the work, but at the same time, you do some biographical criticism of the work. You talk about his financial struggles, his divorces. How did you decide what from Barks’ life or from his stated views was most worth accounting for?

The one I thought was most worth accounting for was definitely his struggles with money. He had a real work ethic. It could have been driven by the fact that, I think at one point, he got eight-hundred dollars for one of his comics, which I think represented three one-hundredths of a dollar per comic sold. Ridiculous, even for the time. And work means a lot to the character of Donald Duck.

An early analysis that I was going to pursue was that Donald really does personify a lot of the things the American middle class were struggling with in the wake of World War II. We’ve got this American dream of having a job, having a house, living a life, and Donald has all these mishaps in going about his daily business. So it’s Carl Barks’ own struggles with work. Listing off Donald Duck’s jobs, they go to ridiculous extremes—he’s a falconer at one point. But then you have Carl Barks’ own list of jobs. It’s crazy too.

Yeah. I was not familiar with the chicken rearing.

And the weird thing is that with Barks being an egg farmer, there’s a ton of stories that include eggs. One I don’t talk about in the book is called “Omelet”, and it involves Donald having a chicken farm that produces this huge sea of eggs that he’s trying to hold up with a wall. For some reason, he has this chicken farm up on a hill, and millions of eggs descent on the town below, and the only way they can clean up is to burn the city, which will cook the eggs so they can haul ’em out and rebuild the town. It’s a really nicely laid-out story.

And yesterday, we published Rob Kirby's review of the latest Michael Dowers-edited anthology, Treasury of Mini Comics Volume Two. Here's how Rob starts:

In the introduction to the third and final volume of his tribute to the mini-comics art form, editor Michael Dowers traces the wide-ranging scope of the entire collection, which began with Newave!: The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s and Treasury of Mini Comics Volume One. He follows the form from little-known antecedents in the early half of the twentieth century to the ragged, pre-photocopier obscurities of the late sixties and seventies, on to the boom of the Reagan years and the Generation X era, up to today’s meticulously crafted, colorful art objects, sometimes risographed or featuring fancy silk-screened covers. Volume Two wraps up the trilogy with some quite sophisticated works, such as the full-color minis Spithouse #1 by Leah Wishnia and 5/4 by Nick Bertozzi, both light years from the unassuming work of earlier decades. Minis have come a long way, with their fascinating, previously secret histories still being revealed.

As with the prior installments, Volume Two has its peaks and valleys. Dowers states he wants the series to showcase a wide variety of comics, including “good art, mediocre art, and bad art,” clearly embracing the democratic, all-are-welcome ethos of important '80s-era minis publisher Clay Geerdes (profiled in Newave!). The chronology of featured work is somewhat loose. Rather than following the '80s-themed Newave! with work from the '90s in Volume One and then comics from the '00s and beyond in Volume Two (which I would have preferred, for the sake of clarity), he has opted to include comics of all eras in both Treasury books, which admittedly allows for on-the-spot comparing and contrasting of styles and content from different periods.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Society of Illustrators has announced the winners of its second annual Comics and Cartoon Art Annual competition. Gold medalists include Bianca Gagnarelli, Lauren R. Weinstein, Roger Binyone, Olivier Schrauwen, Roger De Muth, and Maëlle Doliveux.

The CBLDF talks to Jarrett Dapier, the student who used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover Chicago Public Schools officials' role in a classroom ban of Persepolis.

The Wall Street Journal reports on internal discord within the Charlie Hebdo staff on how to proceed editorially, post-massacre and post-massive cash infusion.

Editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes writes about a planned cartoonists' conference in France this April, which was cancelled due to security concerns.

—Interviews & Profiles. Mustard has published an enormous interview with Alan Moore on everything from movies to the effect of drugs on his work to magic.

—Comics History. At Print, Michael Dooley talks to our own R.C. Harvey about the work of the pioneering Black cartoonist and illustrator E. Simms Campbell.

Sean Kleefeld looks at Marvel's practice of recoloring background characters to change their ethnicity in some of their reprints.

Shea Hennum at Paste writes about recent alternative manga publishing attempts from Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, PictureBox, etc.

—Reviews & Commentary. I believe we forgot to previously link to Paul Gravett's annual survey of the best international comics of the past year (part one, part two).

Justin E.H. Smith has a strong essay defending satire in the Chronicle of Higher Education, worth reading even if you're tired of reading essays on satire this year.

David Carter at The Beat looks at the declining fortunes of DC's Vertigo line.

Marcus Farrajota introduces Portuguese comics.