Oh Good

Well la dee da. It's Friday. Today on the site we have James Romberger interviewing Tonči Zonjić.

I first noticed Croatian cartoonist Tonči Zonjić only recently, when his work appeared in the Image comic Zero, which is written by Ales Kot and drawn by a different artist every issue. Among quite an interesting and eclectic group of artists, Zonjić’s cover and interior art for Zero #9 stand out as informed and moving expressions of the effects of warfare on the country of his origin.

I contacted Zonjić online and began to correspond with him; meanwhile I began tracking down his previous work in various comics. I found an early smattering of superhero work for DC and Marvel and he just completed his third storyline for Dark Horse’s Lobster Johnson. Done with co-writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and colored and lettered by the usual highly effective Mignolaverse team of Dave Stewart and Clem Robins respectively, “The Burning Hand”, “Get the Lobster”, and the one-shot “Caput Mortuum” all display Zonjić’s classic comics sequencing and concise drawing.

What really strikes me, though, is the elegant realism and assured, gripping storytelling of his two Image series with writer Nathan Edmondson about a renegade CIA analyst and his ghostly psychic remote-viewing guardian angel, Jake Ellis.


Here's a nice write-up of an Alison Bechdel exhibition.

I didn't know about this Chester Gould documentary, apparently airing (at least in Woodstock, NY) on Sunday.

Jack Hanley Gallery here in NYC has a nice show up of original George Carlson puzzle pages.

John Adcock on the 1920s Circulation magazine.

And hey, here's more art and comics, this time with me, Chris Ware and Karl Wirsum blabbing about it:





Today, we bring you an excerpt from Peter Schilling Jr.’s forthcoming book on the duck stories of Carl Barks, the second of the series of critical monographs being published by Uncivilized Books. (The first was Brian Evenson's take on Ed the Happy Clown.) Here's a sample:

Carl Barks consistently referred to “Lost in the Andes” as his finest work, but I would counter with “The Golden Helmet.” “Helmet,” with its almost zen-like appraisal of a peaceful life, its condemnation of greed and avarice (not to mention lawyers), a story that has humor but not too much, that actually takes itself somewhat seriously, is his finest effort, at the very least in terms of writing (though the art is brilliant as usual). Barks’ claimed that the gags in “Andes” were executed perfectly, the repeating jokes of the gum bubbles and the square eggs, etc., and this is true—but “Helmet,” whose themes run smoothly through this story, is less reliant on knee-slapping gags. “The Golden Helmet” isn’t just a story of adventure, a story of humor, or even bravery (though those traits exist here.) “The Golden Helmet” is Barks’ most somber effort, a story of evil, the evil that lurks in everyone. Even children.

Barks’ visual style in “The Golden Helmet” seems to also suggest that we’re in for a more sobering ride. Gone are the crazy splash panels of “Vacation Time” (or any of the other stories mentioned here, almost all of which have a bent panel or two at least). For the opening scene, as with the rest of this tale, there will be not one skewed panel. Splash panels vanish until twelve pages in, and even then there will be only four of them.

We also have Katie Skelly's review of the art-world satire Wendy, by Walter Scott. Here's a sample of that:

When the idealism of college short circuits after graduation, the question of how to use one’s potential becomes an existential crisis. It’s a crisis both self-important and preposterous enough to provide fertile ground for character development and disillusionment, as well for critical engagement with generational divides (see the television series Girls, films like The Graduate, etc.). What separates Walter Scott’s comic Wendy, serialized in Random House Canada’s literary digital magazine Hazlitt, is the backdrop of the contemporary art world, which its titular character never quite penetrates but believes herself to operate in nonetheless. We follow young artist Wendy as she sets out to define the parameters of just what to do with all the newfound freedom and agency of adulthood. Throughout her journey, she forges new friendships, fucks up, learns about herself, and ultimately figures out something about what she can (not should) be, even if it’s not wholly defined by the time we leave her.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown has a good talk with Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. Sequential State talks to Katie Skelly. Comics Tavern talks to Marian Churchland.

Scott McCloud talks to Vulture and Comics Alliance.

June Thomas reports from the recent live appearance of Matt Groening and Lynda Barry.

Derf remembers the late David Carr.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Smart Set, Stefany Anne Golberg writes about the "wordless novels" of Frans Masereel.

At the New Statesman, Yo Zushi reviews Scott McCloud, Richard McGuire, and Joe Sacco, and actually pays a bit of attention to form in the process, refreshingly so for a mainstream article.

Andy Oliver reviews the wrestling comics anthology Screwjob. Mark Frauenfelder plugs the new edition of Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book.

Zainab Akhtar applies the AV Club Primer concept to comics, with solid results. Her first subject is a good one, Fabien Vehlmann.

—News. The Tanzanian government shut down a 20-year-old newspaper, The EastAfrican, apparently largely on the basis of a political cartoon critical of the current president.

Police confiscated copies of Malaysian satirist Zunar's new book prior to its launch event.

Jill Lepore's Secret History of Wonder Woman has won the American History Book Prize.

Mac McClelland has a long and absorbing reported piece on the police response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last month.

—Misc. Julia Wertz shares a great Roz Chast story.

Finally, this is really only comics-adjacent, but in this interview, writer Frederic Tuten (author of the novel Tintin in the New World) discusses the inspiration he derived from his longtime friend Roy Lichtenstein.


Kittens in a Basket

On the site: we are reprinting a 1988 panel about the viability of satire in editorial cartooning, featuring Jules Feiffer, Chuck Freund, Brad Holland, David Levine and Peter Steiner, which was originally published in TCJ #119:

PETER STEINER: [...] Satire is an outlaw genre. Given the difficult choice between being a success and doing a really lethal piece of art, we are for the most part no different from the rest of society. We’re like court jesters. Now, it seems to me that being a court jester can be an honorable profession. Court jesters can be witty, intelligent, insightful, and funny. But they can’t be satirists if they want to keep their jobs. By the same token, we can’t be the uncompromising champions of virtue from our positions of privilege. We will always be compromised by our ambitions and our fear. Cartooning that sincerely attacks the folly of our age must come from elsewhere. [Applause] Would anyone like to respond?

DAVID LEVINE: When I talk to a group this large, my tendency is to revert to my old flaming liberal form and start out by saying “Comrades!” Something was said yesterday — I didn’t go to it, so I didn’t get the exact quotation, but it was said to you by your leader. Ronnie said, “You keep us here in Washington from taking ourselves seriously.” He thanked you for that. And I think the fact that you were all there, and were talked down to that way is essentially the problem: that you are keeping everybody from getting serious about it rather than fighting for a position on the editorial page, which is equal to the columnists and is not questioned by the editor. Until you reach that status, you’re really just the wagging of the tail by the editor. [Applause]

JULES FEIFFER: I’d like to second what David said. When cartoonists, editorial and otherwise, are not berating their status as second class citizens of the arts, they go around demonstrating why they continue to be and why they should be. It’s one thing to go as a group of adversarial artists to the White House to scope out the land, but to, as number of you did last time when you went to lunch at the White House, or as even more of you did yesterday when you were a part of the president’s act, and help take the heat off him. [See sidebar.] I think you’re doing yourselves and any seriousness you can be taken with, a grave offense. I see no point to it. The fact that you not only go, but that you’re glad to go, and you’re glad to have the invitation, and you’re thrilled by it, and you chuckle about it, shows to me a real problem with image and real problem with your sense of your own craft, and it embarrasses me, and I think it should embarrass you. [Applause]


Sad news that Brett Ewins has passed away. The 2000 AD and Johnny Nemo artist was hugely influential in British comics and, more recently, in the US due to renewed interest in his dynamic drawing mode and design chops.

I don't think I've seen this production art for a David Mazzucchelli cover before.

This Wally Wood art I could look at for a long time.

And I leave you with this short video by CF. Long live good art.


Anointed in Perfume

Today, as on every Tuesday, the inimitable Joe McCulloch is here with his weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics in stores—and a look back at some of the comics being promoted as the best of the '80s.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

On Saturday, shots were fired into a Copenhagen cafe during an event titled "Art, Blasphemy, and the Freedom of Expression", killing one and wounding three others. It is believed to have been an attempt on the life of Swedish artist Lars Vilk, who drew a caricature of the prophet Muhammad in eight years ago. The suspected gunman (who also attacked a synagogue on the same day) was later killed by police.

Sepideh Jodeyri, the Iranian poet who translated Julie Maroh's Blue is the Warmest Color into Persian, claims she has been the target of a smear campaign for her "support" of homosexuality. “An event organized [in Tehran] for my recent poetry collection And Etc was cancelled," Jodeyri told The Guardian. "The organizer was sacked from his job, my publisher was threatened with having his license suspended and interviews were withdrawn, all because of the negative publicity in the conservative media around my translation of Maroh’s book.”

—Publishing. Horizontal Press, a new very small publisher of contemporary, updated Tijauna Bibles, launched this Saturday.

—Interviews. Darling Sleeper talks to the cartoonist and publisher Zack Soto.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Randle is typically excellent in this piece on Richard McGuire's Here.

Paul Gravett writes about his favorite Jack Kirby story, "The Girl Who Tempted Me!"

Duy Tano compares Osamu Tezuka with Carl Barks.

I don't know why longtime comics critic Illogical Volume is pretending not to be a comics critic in this review of Sarah Horrocks' "Bruise", but I am probably missing something.

Bob Temuka reviews the new issue of Love & Rockets.

For some reason, a lot of comics people online got really mad about this admittedly dumb little piece in The Guardian claiming that there haven't been any good cartoonists since Crumb. It's such an inconsequential and flimsy thing that I find the outsize displays of rage in response a little baffling—are comics people that insecure? Or is it just a Twitter magnification effect?

Anya Davidson is a force for good.

—Crowdfunding. Amalgam Comics, a proposed comics store promoting diversity, appears to be a project worth supporting, especially if you live in the Philadelphia area.


What the—

Today, Matthias Wivel rejoins us for his third and final report on this year's Angoulême festival. In this installment, he takes a wider look at the festival as a whole, covering everything from the Charlie Hebdo exhibits to the meaning of Otomo's Grand Prix to attendance controversies. Here's a short sample:

As has been the case in the past, the festival once again this year provided the perfect platform for comics professionals to air their grievances with aspects of their industry. This year a particularly visible manifestation took place on Saturday, when some 500 cartoonists and writers representing the newly-formed comics subsection of the writers and composers’ organization Syndicat National des Auteurs et des Compositeurs (SNAC) marched through the streets of Angoulême to protest the disadvantageous conditions under which comics makers work.

The specific occasion was a recent reform of the French pension system for authors and artists. From January 1, professionals in this sector are obliged to submit 8% of their income to a pension fund, whereas before the required percentage was less than half of that. Effectively, this means being forced to give up what amounts to a month’s salary a year for their retirement.

Such government-mandated pension systems are quite normal in Europe and one would think this one fairly sensible in terms of the amount it reserves. The problem in this case is that French comics makers are surprisingly badly paid. [...]

Much more at the link.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Chicago Reader reports on how emails discovered through a FOIA request have revealed the role of Chicago Public Schools officials in the removal of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis from classrooms, despite previous public denials.

Michael Davis writes rather cryptically about why he's not involved in the relaunched Milestone.

The story of Diplo's unapproved use of Rebecca Mock art, and his ill-advised and moronic responses on Twitter after being called on it, has unsurprisingly gone viral. Obviously, this is interesting in light of other recent stories about "appropriation," too.

—Crowdfunding. As always, there are several crowdfunding efforts of interest going on right now, including an Indiegogo campaign from Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), a Kickstarter for another Jackie Estrada collection of convention photos, and the final week or so of the Indiegogo drive for a new graphic novel from cult cartoonist Jack Katz.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tim O'Neil looks back at an early Grant Morrison/Klaus Janson Batman story.

The A.V. Club has a strong slate of reviews, and I believe this is the first week featuring new contributor Zainab Akhtar.

Over at the Nib, Renee French shares her sketchbook.

The most recent issue of the UK online magazine Five Dials includes a whole bunch of preliminary art and background information on the creation of Richard McGuire's Here. And it's free to download.


City Kitty

Today on the site, Frank Young joins us to discuss some of John Stanley's lesser-known 1950s comics.

In the research for my three-volume bibliography of John Stanley’s comics work, the ‘50s was the most problematic period. It’s surprising how prolific Stanley was in that decade. His Lulu work—which soon included a satellite title, Tubby—is a staggering aggregate. Each year he wrote, in storyboard form, a dozen 36-to-52-page monthlies, four quarterly Tubbys, and, from 1955 to ’58, one or two 100-page annuals.

This work is built on a series of story formulas. After 1954, the formulas become more mechanical, and thus more obvious. Like George Herriman, John Stanley had the skill and wit to milk a set of stock scenarios for every possible (and impossible) variation. By 1951, Stanley knew the Lulu cast so well he could spin these stories seemingly without effort.

In the high-performance vehicle of Lulu, Stanley’s fail-safes guaranteed finesse by clockwork. At best, Stanley simply picked one of his formulae, did a mix-and-match of characters and narrative stakes, and had a likable, amusing story. At worst, late in the Lulu game and through much of his subsequent work on Nancy and Sluggo, Stanley seems exhausted of joy but determined to soldier on.

A lifelong sufferer of depression, in the pre-Prozac days when self-medication, via tobacco and booze, was a daily norm, Stanley was as much workaholic as alcoholic.

In his non-Lulu 1950s comics, Stanley tests untried concepts, characters and theories. The best of this material presages Stanley’s auteur comics of the 1960s, Thirteen Going on Eighteen and Melvin Monster. It shows that Stanley had the first inklings of his finest ideas while Truman was in the White House—comedic notions Lulu couldn’t accommodate.


Long live Bin Crawler, especially for this Pete Morisi bit.

An interview with Taylor McKimens on the occasion of his first solo exhibition in NYC in 7 years.

I love Wonder Warthog! Might need to really get to work on that.


Making It

Today, Rob Clough returns with lists. Lists of his thirty favorite long-form comics of 2014, and his thirty favorite minicomics of 2014. Here is his #1 long-form comic:

1. Recidivist IV, by Zak Sally (La Mano). A difficult, powerful, and personal work, this comic represents Sally's exploration of the ideas of inhabiting a space. Whether depicting invisiblity, haunting a space, obsessing over a space, or abandoning a space, Sally merges these ideas with pen-and-ink drawings that are not only totally immersive, but at at times deliberately difficult to read without great effort, in the right light, and at the right angle. This is not a gimmick but rather an amplification of the theme of unearthing that which has been buried. It's Sally at his best, abandoning any and all commercial pretenses for a frightening and fascinating object that demands multiple rereadings.

And here is his #1 for minicomics:

1. Art Comic #1, by Matthew Thurber. While one might think this vicious spoof of art school culture to be a bit too "inside baseball," Thurber's comic timing, funny drawings and embracing the utterly absurd transcend the specific details of the art world he describes, yet having knowledge of that particular scene is nonetheless highly instructive.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar has been arrested again. Zunar had tweeted that the Malaysian judges who sentenced opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on controversial sodomy charges looked "proud" and so "the rewards from their political masters must be lucrative." Zunar apparently had already agreed to give a statement about his tweet before the police decided to jail him anyway. This Agence France-Presse story has more.

Scribd has announced a deal adding comics from Marvel, IDW/Top Shelf, Archie, and others to their ebook subscription plan (which charges $9/month to users).

—Reviews & Commentary.
Quincy Rhoads writes about the duck comics of Carl Barks for Uncivilized Books.

—Interviews & Profiles. For the Washington City Paper, Mike Rhode talks to "cartoonist for the CIA" Chip Beck. Unfortunately, he isn't able to get Beck to talk much about what that CIA cartooning work entailed. One cartoon from his civilian work used to illustrate the article mocks former CIA director George H.W. Bush in about the softest terms imaginable.

—Publishing. Uncivilized Books and Retrofit have both announced subscription plans, and Sparkplug has announced their 2015 publishing lineup.

—Misc. This Tumblr appears to be either run by or associated with Ivan Brunetti.


Double Cheese

Hi. I'm back from Chicago, which was swell. As usual, fine hamburgers and tacos made me happy and I'm told my panel with Chris Ware, Karl Wirsum and Robert Cozzolino will be online in the next couple weeks.

And Jog is here to tell you about the week of funny books.


Good news for me and you: Ben Jones' Stone Quackers television show is now on Hulu. This is some of Ben's best work. More good news: Fellow Hall-of-Famer, New Englander and LA-transplant Ron Rege, Jr. has a brand new comic book out. I ordered mine. Now it's your turn.

Here's an interview with Miss Lasko-Gross on her new graphic novel. Here's one with A. Degen. And here's Jim Rugg talking Street Angel.

Not comics: I like this new web site from Siglio Press: The Improbable. It compiles book reviews written by proprietors of independent store just for the site. It's a nice way to stumble across gems.