As much of the comics world heads to Angouleme we are here in New York holding down the fort, bringing you Cynthia Rose on Chloé Cruchaudet’s Mauvais Genre.

The cover of Chloé Cruchaudet’s Mauvais Genre ("Trashy Types") from Delcourt makes you think it's a story about stylish lesbians. Yet the French bestseller – which won both the critics' Prix ABCD and last year's Angloulême's Prix du Public – takes place during and just after World War I. The couple on its cover are in fact working-class Parisians, Louise Landy and Paul Grappe, whose strange story is actually true.

Married to Louise on the eve of World War I, Paul was a draftee who deserted the ranks. He spent ten years hiding in plain sight – by living with Louise as a woman called "Suzanne Landgard". Less constrained than freed by his female identity, Paul took to cruising after dark in the Bois de Boulogne. (Eventually he also pimped his wife to other park habitués). In 1925, when the French offered deserters an amnesty, "Suzanne" dumped the dresses and returned to a life as Paul.


Ah, a new comic from Kevin Huizenga is always cause for happiness.

John Hodgeman name checks Jeet Heer in this Twitter-essay on "political correctness", inspired in part by various reactions to Charlie Hebdo.

A documentary about the National Lampoon magazine which shares the titles of, if it's not based on, Rick Meyerowitz's excellent book, Drunk, Stone, Brilliant, Dead, is headed to theaters. I really wish someone would put together an anthology of the best Lampoon comics. There is so much rich material there.

And finally, there's this fascinating press release from the Portuguese publisher Marco Farrajota  about a new edition of TinTin in the Congo, with a distinct twist, debuting at Angouleme. TintinAkeiKongo[cover]I'm posting the press release verbatim because it's fascinating theory and history, not to mention the commentary on Herge, which is not especially new but still somehow fresh. Also, the subject matter brings me back to one of the very best graphic novels of the decade, Arsene Schrauwen. Also, I'm just fucking relieved and heartened that a group of people was courageous and dedicated enough to do this and then write the below. Not much of that full throated activity going around North America these days. Anyone with more info (like, who is "the artist") or better yet, an actual copy of the book, please drop me a line: dan (at) tcj (dot) com. I also wonder if this is related to the all-cats version of Maus that appeared at Angouleme a few years back. Anyhow, here it is:


Tintin Akei Kongo (2015)

Tintin au Congo (1931) is the second volume of the famous comics  series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It was commissioned by the conservative Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle and tells the story of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who are  sent to the Belgian Congo to report on events in the country.  Although it came to be a commercial success and became a defining  work of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition, it came under harsh criticism for its perceived racist colonial attitude to the Congolese, portraying them as backwards, lazy and in need of European mastery. Although Hergé might not have been more racist than the average Belgian, his main charge was to persistently align his views with the lowest common denominator without never questioning racial consensus and colonialist politics that were overtly criticized by other contemporary French artists and intellectuals.

Tintin Akei Kongo is the translated version of Tintin au Congo in lingala, the official Congolese dialect. The translation was commissioned by the artist and has been conducted in a collaboration with a certified translator during a prolonged art residency in the island of Ukerewe in Tanzania. This translation belongs in the lineage of similar rip-offs, such as Katz, Noirs or Riki Fermier, books presumably made by Ilan Manouach. The artist, well aware of the material properties of the original edition, replete with its own signifying potential, made explicit his faith in the societal forms of this commodity: the new book is an exact facsimile of the original edition and follows the industrial standards and layout of classical comics. The goal of this endeavour was not simply to construe the artist's tasks through a redefinition of the possible interventions, by commissioning a translation himself; neither to emphasize the importance of  discursivity and self-referentiality as a way to address comics both as a language and a form of logic.

The goal is neither to fill a historical error by making accessible this work in the language of the mainly interested, the oppressed, the insulted. One should never forget the implicit consensus that stands behind the choice of languages for translated works. Isn't it surprising after all, that “post- colonial” Africa is still using French and English as official  languages, for education, legislation, justice and administration? Tintin au Congo reflects the opinions of Belgian bourgeoisie of the 30s. This conception of Congolese people, niggers like big children, is a part of the History of Congo in the same way as The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, are part, as a popular false anti-Semitic propaganda, of the History of Jews. Tintin au Congo should have been translated in Lingala.

National identity is not only built by an internal crystallization process, a constant consolidation of the national and cultural feeling, but is mainly defined by external pressures. Tintin au Congo, the original version in french language, is still,  disturbingly, one of the most popular comic books in Francophone Africa. The fact that it hasn't found its way to the African  market with a Congolese edition, reminds the reader of Tintin Akei Kongo that distribution of cultural products is not solely governed by profit and market values. Adding lingala to the 112 different translations of the Tintin Empire, Tintin Akei Kongo reveals blind spots in the expansion of the publishing conglomerates.

Tintin Akei Kongo will be presented during the International  Comics Festival of Angoulême.




False Start

Today, Ken Parille brings the finale of his large and idiosyncratic two-part essay on the best comics of 2014, old and new... sort of. Here are two selected randomly from the middle:

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Simon and Schuster, 2014)
Horror comics can gross me out, but they seldom scare me. This anthology’s comics are genuinely scary and disturbing — and a few are gross, too. Yet, in terms of coloring, paper, and printing, the book’s aesthetic is the antithesis of gross: it glows, with glossy paper and colors ranging from hushed browns and grays to electric blues and reds.


In every story, a page’s art or colors bleeds to the book’s edge: the horror is not confined in the way it might be in a conventional comic-book, with a grid layout that’s bordered by bright white margins. On the back cover, the publisher directs readers to its teen website, but I hope this doesn’t scare any adults away from this collection. “A Best of 2014.”

Tomahawk #116 (DC, 1968)
I can’t recall seeing a mainstream Silver Age comic with this peculiar feature: twice in the story, artist Fred Ray shifts page orientation, moving from the traditional comic-book “portrait” alignment to “landscape,” a tactic that requires readers to change the book’s physical position.


In fact, I’ve seldom seen this mode of widescreen reorientation used pre-2000, let alone used as well as Ray does; all of his scenes have a disturbing, visceral quality, communicated by the characters’ thickly-inked grimacing faces.


(A recent series of Darwyn Cooke covers for DC takes this inverted approach — but it’s weirder when used inside the narrative. And the master of unusual panel dimensions and page orientation certainly must be Chris Ware.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. SPX has posted an explanation of their exhibitor lottery process. Alternative Comics and 2D Cloud have both announced their 2015 spring lineups. 2D Cloud is also expanding hiring a new publicist (Melissa Carraher) and a new marketing director (Blaise Larmee!).

Gary Groth is collecting and posting drawn responses from Fantagraphics artists to the Charlie Hebdo killings. Gary writes a little bit about his thinking, too. Jason and Arnold Roth are the first two contributors.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ng Suat Tong has compiled his annual best online comics criticism post. The Telegraph has a short profile of caricaturist Mark Boxer up in conjunction with a London exhibition of his work. Abhay Khosla writes about Batman. Jake Austen at the Chicago Tribune reviews a handful of new comics.


Early closing

Yes, it's the blizzard of 2015, and I'm hunkered down with my laptop and my dictionary and I'm ready to do some blogging! But I bet Joe McCulloch will top me as usual, because no natural (or otherwise) force can keep him from bringing you the week in comics.

But elsewhere:

Hollywood Report has a long piece on the just-debuted film version of Phoebe Gloeckner's contemporary classic, Diary of a Teenage Girl. Phoebe deserve all the recognition and success in the world. Stone cold brilliant cartoonist.

Ng Suat Tong puts forth his annual Comics Criticism list but found the year pretty lacking.

Alex Dueben interviews Lewis Trondheim.

Pam Butler has posted an amazing cartoon cutout photo on her blog. What a room.


The Calm

Today on the site, the great Nicole Rudick has a thoughtful, extensive review of The Complete Zap Comix. Here is a sample:

American culture was only just waking up to graphic nudity in its publications, underground or otherwise. Playboy and Penthouse readers were well-versed in the female form, but pubic hair didn’t appear in adult publications until 1970 (though those magazines were showing teasing wisps in 1969). Zap’s clits, tits, and dicks may have been drawn, rather than photographed, but the contexts in which the nudity appeared, particularly in the work of Crumb, Williams, and Wilson, was sexually explicit and, in that sense, freshly subversive. “Anything before that was just some secret thing,” Williams says of Zap’s groundbreaking foray into nether anatomy. In 1969, Bhob Stewart curated an exhibition (the unfortunately titled “Phonus Balonus Show of Some Really Heavy Stuff”) for Walter Hopps at the Corcoran Gallery, in Washington, D.C., and included work by Crumb, Rodriguez, and Shelton. If some of the imagery in Zap had only just been introduced to men’s magazines, then its very public presence in a national museum was astonishing. Williams may have said it best: “They weren’t showing cunts and dicks back in 1970 at a major museum. What the hell?” Hopps’s recognition of Zap’s significance, not retrospectively but when the series was in its prime, testifies to the fact that it wasn’t merely a product of its era but defining force. Rodriguez likened Zap’s importance, and that of underground publications as a whole, to the American Revolution: the “anything goes” attitude, the “fuck you” attitude.

Given Zap’s longevity and its stunning level of influence on individual cartoonists as well as its fearless approach to subject matter, it’s amusing to consider retrospectively the judgment handed down during the 1969 obscenity trial on the East Coast over the sale of Zap #4: that the court was unable to understand how “the cartoonists were ‘original,’ or how they were ‘influencing a new generation of cartoonists’ or how they showed ‘enormous vitality.’” The details of the trial itself occasionally have the flavor of a comic book: the clerks and booksellers accused of dealing the work were discovered by the so-called Morals Squad, and the court declared the magazine a part of the “underworld press.” “It is hard-core pornography,” the court concluded, adding, “perhaps that type of obscenity contains its own antidote and eventually becomes a repetitious bore.” There is some truth to this observation. Though Zap ran for another four decades, it could not maintain the kind of shock in, say, 1994 that it perpetrated on readers in 1969. The years since Zap’s inception have seen a proliferation of graphic and illicit comics, films, novels, and other materials; one wonders if we are capable of being shocked in the way we were forty years ago.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Benoît Crucifix talks to Olivier Schrauwen. The Toronto Star profiles Michael DeForge.

Via Tom Spurgeon, I learned of this interesting Miami New Times piece on the family of Batman co-creator Bill Finger's quest to earn their forebear recognition.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Cremins takes a close look at Zak Sally's Recidivist Vol. IV, following thoughts laid down by Joe McC. on this site. The Washinton Post's Alyssa Rosenberg writes about webcomics and alcohol.

Nina Martyris writes about Auden, Rabelais, and Charlie Hebdo. Adam Thirlwell looks at Pussy Riot and Charlie Hebdo, and wonders if art can still shock. Read Nicole's piece again after going through those.

—Misc. Bin Crawler is a fun comics Tumblr. (Discovered by way of Kevin H.)

Twenty-six years ago, Alan Moore told our sister magazine Amazing Heroes the twenty-four comics he was looking forward to.


Drop It

Today on the site Ken Parille brings us part one (of two) of his 2014: Comics, New and Old.

While not quite a “year in review,” this two-part column looks at forty comics I read in the closing months of 2014, books that inspired some end-of-the-year reflection on “The State of American Comics,” present and past. These graphic novels, online comics, comic books, and comics tracts — a third of which appeared in 2014 — represent a range of genres: horror, memoir, religious, superhero, children’s, travel, propaganda, hate, and more. In some entries, I review the comic and in others I use it as an occasion to explore issues such as comics theory, critics vs. fans, feminism, narrative instability, “pop art,” and the “holistic interpretation” fallacy. I include my “2014’s Best” and wonder if we’re really living in, as everyone proclaims, a “New Golden Age of Comics.” (Part II will appear soon.)


The great Dutch underground cartoonist Peter Pontiac passed away this week. He was not well-known here, but was an active cartoonist since the 1970s. Artist Marcel Ruijters has an appreciation here. Pontiac's web site is here.

The Rumpus interviews Tomi Ungerer.

I enjoyed this gif-report from Bruce Bickford's studio.

Michael Dooley on provocative graphic art.

And a tour of a ADHD, creative home to Ben Jones.

TCJ-contributor and Vice comics editor Nick Gazin's recent Run the Jewels logo is discussed over here.


Waiting for the UFOs

Matthias Wivel is working on an in-depth piece about Charlie Hebdo, the attack on its offices two weeks ago, and the many issues surrounding it. First, though, today he has a review of the most recent issue of the satirical magazine, for which a reported seven million copies were printed, and sold out, certainly placing it among the biggest-selling comic books of all time. Here is a sample of Matthias's analysis:

The cartoonists who are still alive have the advantage of being able to respond to the tragedy; this has yielded some decent cartoons, or as decent as one could have hoped from the decimated staff working under what must have been a state of shock.

Luz, Coco, Catherine Meurisse, and Loïc Schwartz all contribute reportage from the mass demonstrations in Paris on January 11, with David Ziggy Green providing a British perspective from Trafalgar Square. These strips as well as the attendant columns are characterized by mixed feelings. On the one hand gratitude for the massive turnout, on the other disgust with parts of their newfound support from people such as Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, and Front National leader Marine Le Pen. “I vomit on all our new friends,” as cartoonist survivor Willem so eloquently put it a few days after the massacre. Also, much mirth arises from the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger, inexplicably, has become a subscriber.

The best cartoons are the ones that, like the cover, manage poignantly to straddle the divide between reflection and provocation. Syrian-French cartoon superstar Riad Sattouf contributes an installment in his ongoing strip La vie secrète des jeunes, which is based around (allegedly) overheard conversations between young people. A French Arab tough hangs at a corner in Paris’ tenth arrondissement discussing the massacre on his cellphone. He assures his interlocutor that he "could give a fuck about Charlie Hebdau," but that you simply do not kill somebody because they say something you do not like. Street-level Voltaire wittily written in sociolect.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Charlie Hebdo. In one of the more informative pieces on Charlie Hebdo, Josselin Moneyron analyzes the last year's worth of that magazine's covers.

Charlie writer and recovering attack survivor Philippe Lançon released an account of recent events.

Ex-Charlie staffer Zineb el-Rhazoui responded in 2013 to the Olivier Cyran letter I linked to last week.

Christopher Lydon's Radio Open Source has an interesting episode devoted to Charlie featuring Arthur Goldhammer, Juan Cole, Michael Kupperman, and Lila Azam Zanganeh.

Jen Sorenson drew a cartoon attempting to present a possible Muslim perspective to recent events. Matt Taibi is 100% Charlie.

Newsweek spoke to Ralph Steadman about offensive drawings.

Tim Parks writes at the New York Review of Books about the limits of satire.

On Monday, a high-school student in France was reportedly arrested for posting an cartoon mocking Charlie Hebdo on Facebook.

—News. The Washington Post has an extensive article on the return of Milestone Media, which is very welcome news.

More than 80 cartoonists, critics, and comics-industry workers, including Lewis Trondheim, Jacques Tardi, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel, and TCJ contributors Rob Clough, Sean T. Collins, and Jeet Heer, signed an open letter to the Angoulême festival asking the event to drop the Israeli company Sodastream as a sponsor.

Darling Sleeper, a new site devoted to comics and analysis, has launched on Medium, and looks to be of potential interest to many TCJ readers.

—Interviews & Profiles. Georgia Webber talks to Aisha Franz. Hillary Brown speaks to Michael DeForge. Laura Hudson profiles Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin on the release of the second volume of March.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson offers his top ten print comics of 2014. Phoebe Salzman-Cohen has a long review of Farel Dalrymple's The Wrenchies. Paul Karasik has a late but welcome CAB report.


Interior Spaces

I goofed and forgot to blog yesterday, but here I am now. So, today pretend it's, uh, earlier! Yesterday Joe McCulloch bestowed upon you his week in comics. Today we bring to you George Elkind's interview with Dash Shaw, who is responsible for about 75% of the best comics of 2014.  Cosplayers 2 and 3, along with Doctors, were stunning achievements and yet casual and unflashy in their brilliance. No other cartoonist in the world published this much strong work last year. Here's a bit of the interview:

I want to ask a little about Cosplayers in terms of structure. I see each issue of Cosplayersas (among other things) a chance for you to play with the structure of a comics issue in different ways—with “pin-ups,” interstitial materials, and different kinds of story structures. So I see a connection to that notion of comics as collage there, but can you talk more about how that idea or premise plays out within those stories? I think of page design most immediately, but I really mean on any level.

It’ll be most explicit in the next issue, which has cut-up comic collages inside of it, but, I can try to come up with an answer, sure. One way to answer is that I drew the first story and kept adding stories, without a plan. I didn’t envision a pamphlet at the beginning. First I had one story, then those characters asked for a second story, then I drew pin-ups of cosplayers. I came up with some one-panel gags and collaged them over the pin-ups. The content/subject matter asked to take the form of a pamphlet comic. Then, the idea of doing a second issue that takes place entirely at an anime convention was a no-brainer. It grew organically, piece by piece.

Drawing a cosplayer is interesting because you’re drawing Wolverine and you’re inking him with a brush and it’s computer-colored like how real Wolverine comics are, but we know it’s a cosplayer. It doesn’t look like Jim Lee’s Wolverine. I wanted them to look like real cosplayers. A guy will dress up like Batman but he won’t look like Christian Bale’s Batman, you know? Maybe he got the bat sign a bit wonky, or he doesn’t have Batman’s body type. That’s part of what I love about cosplay. Fandom is wider and more inclusive and humanistic than most of the stories/characters that the fans are fans of.

Different people like cosplay for different reasons, so these decisions obviously just reflect what I personally like about it.

I’m cosplaying too, in a way, by dressing in this format and inking and coloring in a way that I’m not natural at. I’m like the guy wearing the Batman suit realizing he’s not the real thing, but embracing who he is, play-acting, and strutting out there. So it’s sort of like I’m collaging myself onto the spinner rack next to the real Batman. It’s a merging of the unreal with the real which, also, is part of what cosplay means to me.

Of course there are a lot of cosplayers now who combine different characters to make their own, like the Boba Fett/Snow White creation, but that isn’t in my comic.

And conventions are collage-like environments, in that you have Link from Legend of Zelda talking to Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead and all of these pop culture characters are occupying the same physical space. It’s like the Werner Herzog quote that I put on the back of the Tezukon issue: “the collective dreams all in one place.” It’s similar to the Philip José Farmer series Riverworld, where everyone who has ever lived is resurrected alongside the same river and they’re all the same age. It’s an excuse to have all of these people he’s interested in interacting with each other, like the girl who inspiredAlice in Wonderland talking to Jack London. Gary Panter’s Dal Tokyo is another story where characters/things that the author is interested in are all put together in the same sandbox. I reference those creators not to compare myself to them, but to illustrate a way of looking at comic conventions. A person’s mind is filled with these things… It’s natural to throw a party and invite them all to meet each other.


Charlie Hebdo: An app has been launched by the magazine. The Hooded Utilitarian has a year's worth of covers.

Gil Roth interviews the great Jim Woodring.

I've haven't anything like this in a while: A partially completed set of Landon Course of Cartooning.

Not Comics: Finely decorated Grateful Dead mailorder ticket envelopes.


Pall Bearers

Today on the site we have Greg Hunter's review of Mana Neyestani's graphic memoir, An Iranian Metamorphosis. Neyestani was sent to prison in Tehran after publishing deemed offensive. Here's a bit of Greg's review:

In 2006, protests broke out among Iran’s Azeri peoples based on a perceived slight in one of Mana Neyestani’s newspaper cartoons. The Iranian government’s response to the situation involved a series of interrogations and imprisonments for Neyestani. An Iranian Metamorphosis (Une Métamorphose Iranienne in its original, overseas edition) is Neyestani’s first book-length comics narrative and a memoir of his time as a captive and later a refugee. The work reads like that of a cartoonist unsure which tools to use in the reconstruction of his story but willing to try all sorts of things. It is eclectic and sometimes frustrating.

An Iranian Metamorphosis features many plot-level details that bring to life the prison experience: a guard consenting to pass along soccer scores; the onset of psychological isolation even while sharing a cell; the workings of an intra-prison black market. Neyestani even gambles with his readers’ sympathies to portray the range of his ordeals: A particularly uncomfortable scene shows him becoming a sort-of informant, as he provides benign information about fellow cartoonists that (we understand) Iranian intelligence officials could still distort for their purposes.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Charlie Hebdo. Articles and editorials worth reading continue. One of the murdered cartoonists, Tignous, was buried in a coffin covered in cartoons and graffiti.

Sigolène Vinson, a writer who survived the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, describes what happened.

I know I've linked to a lot of people defending or attacking the tenor of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, but here are two more worth reading, and two of the best so far. Taking the defense is Leigh Phillips at Ricochet, and on the prosecution is ex-staff-member Olivier Cyran. The Turkish Muslim cartoonist M.K. Perker also defends CH.

And two longer articles about the political angle of these cartoons come Farhang Jahanpour and Jonathan Guyer.

—Profiles & Interviews. Jeet Heer writes a piece for The Paris Review about the late John Updike's relationship to cartooning.

The New Yorker interviews Adrian Tomine about his just announced upcoming book, Killing and Dying.

—News. Star Clipper, a great comics store in St. Louis (and my own favorite local comics store back in my college days) is going out of business.

Somehow we missed this Montreal Gazette story celebrating Drawn & Quarterly.

—Reviews & Commentary. The novelist Neel Mukherjee includes Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot's Sally Heathcote, Suffragette in a list of the ten best books about revolutionaries.

For Dissent, Paul Buhle reviews Richard McGuire's Here.