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.



On the site:

Ryan Holmberg has written a comprehensive obituary of the great Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I'm grateful to Ryan for turning this around so quickly.

Tatsumi is famous as the artist who helped fashion a new style of manga known as “gekiga” (dramatic pictures), a term he coined in 1957. He played a major role in broadening the possibilities of the medium to accommodate mature-reader genres like mystery, action, and horror, oftentimes in 100-plus-page, single-story books that predate the advent of the “graphic novel” by many decades. Though there was hardly a genre Tatsumi didn’t try his hand at, he is best known for the stories he created in the late 60s and early 70s about the bleak lives and perversions of aging white-collar and low-level blue-collar workers. French and Spanish translations of these stories in the early 80s first introduced Tatsumi’s work to an outside audience. But the artist’s star took off like a comet only with new and expanded editions of this material in Japanese and English in 2004-05. A Drifting Life (2008-09), his massive 850-page autobiography in comics form, cemented Tatsumi’s reputation as one the comics medium’s most important artists. Late in life, Tatsumi was awarded three of the industry’s top awards: the Angouleme (2005), the Tezuka (2009), and the Eisner (2010).

Frank Santoro returns with some thoughts on a recent trip to NYC (I make a guest appearance) as well as the relationship between comics and music.

Something I like to think about a lot is how music influences the organization–or the arrangement–of my comics. All the elements are like an orchestra and I’m the conductor who also writes the arrangement and plays all the instruments. I felt all this intuitively for years. There really wasn’t any “science” to it–or so I thought until I began investigating the connection between what is intuitive and what is measured.

Dan Nadel called Fort Thunder “the antithesis of rules and restraint.” Leif Goldberg said “The Fort was really open but also had rules. There are always rules of some kind. Unwritten rules that guide you.”

Indeed. I’m not a musician but I listen to music all day, everyday (I’m slowly learning my way around a piano). I believe the music creates a sense of order which my thoughts and creative activity can “jump” into/onto at any moment. Basically it’s a daily diet of classical works and jazz (many jazz musicians don’t call it jazz anymore –like cartoonists may or may not use the term “comics”–it’s art–it’s music–’nuff said). The orchestration of classical and the improvisation of jazz truly fascinates me. It connects directly to my brain without translation. Music is the universal language. I can feel it even if I can’t play it. I know there are rules in music. For some they are unwritten and for some they are written. Regardless, there was a time when music did not have a notation system yet the rules still applied.


Diana Schutz is leaving Dark Horse after 25 years. She's had a long and good career in comics, and talks about it to CBR. We profiled Schutz back in 2011.

Here's an interview with Mad Magazine Art Director Sam Viviano.

And the great animator Jeff Hale, of Sesame Street, has passed away.




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.