Today, Robert Kirby reviews the new collection of MK Brown comics, Stranger Than Life. An excerpt:
Brown reveals a more serious side to White Girl in the masterful twelve-page “White Girl Dreams”, where White Girl has bizarre flights of fancy, imagining among other things, “soaring with others in the night, dancing though my face is someone else’s.” In it, Brown blends middle class ennui with surrealist tropes to create an ultimately rather poignant, fragmented portrait of a day-to-day existence suffocated by rules, traditions, and obligations, where the good, pleasurable flights of fancy are shunted off to some forgotten, subterranean part of the brain. White Girl yearns for those good dreams, telling us, “I always get the other kind.” The other kind are the ones in which an annoying “perfect stranger” comes home and regales her with endless obnoxious, husband-to-subservient-wife questions (“What’s for dinner? When do we? Why aren’t there any?” and so forth). She also tells us, understandably, "I hate this dream.” Without making any fuss, a feminist viewpoint clearly surfaces throughout the swirl of fantastical, kaleidoscopic imagery. It may indeed be that the dream White Girl hates is her actual life, a take that gives the piece its particular edge. Exploring the very nature of dreams vs. reality and what one makes of the difference, the story rewards multiple readings.
—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Diane Obomsawin. ("When was it -- before I even knew I was attracted to women -- that I knew, unconsciously. It goes back very far, to the age of six or seven. Also I was curious about my friends and their stories. That was my question for them: What was your very first attraction?")
13th Dimension has a two-part interview with MikeMignola. ("I was listening to the 8 billionth comment about H.P. Lovecraft and I said, 'Yeah, that stuff is in there, but I think that the bigger, fundamental structure of the Hellboy stuff came from pulp magazine guys like Robert E. Howard and Manly Wade Wellman.'")
Noam Cohen at the New York Times has a brief profile of xkcd's Randall Munroe. ("Though the book won’t appear for six months, What If? quickly reached No. 2 on Amazon’s best-seller list on the strength of pre-orders, trailing only a history book from Rush Limbaugh.")
Whit Taylor interviewed Mike Dawson. ("This was the first time I've ever gone into writing a story with a publisher already in mind. [...] There were pros and cons to it.") —Reviews & Commentary. Old TCJ hand Jared Gardner reviews Julia Gfrörer, Isabel Greenberg, and Cole Closser. ("Here I want to focus on the recent debut work of three young cartoonists that are inspired not by the inward gaze but instead by myth, legend, and a pure, unadulterated love of visual storytelling as an end in itself.")
Jacob Covey discusses how his views on S. Clay Wilson changed while he helped design Patrick Rosenkranz's new book on the artist. ("His is not the art of an innocent kindergartner who draws fanciful anatomy in a surreal landscape but that of the self-realizing, hormone-raging, unclean middle-beast that is boys who are becoming men. He still draws like a kid, just not the kid we romanticize about. At a time when most of us become self-conscious and begin self-censoring Wilson did not.")
Illogical Volume reviews Über, Pretty Deadly, Three, and Zero. ("There’s a certain punitive/educational value in amplifying and expanding on the staggering brutality of our recent past, but the danger of reducing it to gory spectacle haunts every page of this comic.")
Richard Bruton reviews Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse's The Bojeffries Saga. ("Funnier than the hilarious D.R. & Quinch? Definitely. Better than Watchmen? Oh yes. Better than V For Vendetta? Yep. Better than Miracleman? Without question. Better than From Hell? Hmm… depends on my mood, but right up there.")
While writing about the film criticism of Manny Farber, David Bordwell discusses Farber's work on comic strips, too. ("Silly Milly is drawn in typical McGovern style, as though by a wind current, and has a prehistoric animal for a hair-do, a very expressive, giant-size eye, and a perfectly oval profile. It is one of those comics with animated décor, like Smoky Stover, with adjoining family portraits shaking hands, and one that tries for laughs in every part of the box.")
—News. Rich Warren at the Chicago Tribune profiles the Billy Ireland library. ("Veneration isn't stretching it as a term to describe what visitors might feel in these galleries. When they first step inside, most visitors are stunned at the sheer size of the illustrations, which are matted, framed and hung like paintings — like the works of art they are.") Incidentally, I am looking forward to Frank's column this week.
—Funnies. Roz Chast previews her upcoming book in The New Yorker.
—Video. Via Robert Boyd, here's the trailer for a new documentary on the Hairy Who.
Of all the significant comic book artists of the twentieth century, George Carlson has been among the most magical and yet the most mysterious. Accomplished critics and historians including Harlan Ellison, Franklin Rosemont, Bill Blackbeard, Martin Williams, Ron Goulart, Martin Gardner, Gary Groth, Art Spiegelman, and Dan Nadel have championed George Carlson’s comic book stories. He’s been widely regarded as a master of Golden Age comic book art and graphic storytelling.
His imaginative, trippy work has been associated with various art and literary movements, including Surrealism, Dada, Art Deco, and Absurdist. Carlson’s stories have been compared to the works of literary masters Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. Miscellaneous reprints, all drawn from the 39 extraordinary comic book stories that originally appeared in Jingle Jangle Comics between 1942 and 1949 have kept the flame of interest in Carlson’s work alive over the last three decades.
Despite all this, information about the life and work of George Carlson, as well as any additional art beyond the Jingle Jangle stories, has been frustratingly skimpy.
Even as Scene But Not Heard is confined to rigid set of what’s usually 16 panels per page in this 6” X 9” book, Sam Henderson’s hilarious strip swirls and sputters uncontrollably, percolating with riotous energy and wordless pandemonium. The 128-page collection mines back issues ofNickelodeon Magazine, to which the New York-based cartoonist began contributing in 1993 under comics editor Anne Bernstein. Henderson’s work ran in the magazine until 2009, when the nationally distributed Viacom-owned kids publication abruptly folded. While he freelanced for Bernstein and subsequently for co-editors Chris Duffy and Dave Roman, the Scene But Not Heardcreator also snagged a full-time day job as a writer and storyboard director on the immensely popular television seriesSpongeBob SquarePants beginning in 2001 (Duffy would go on to helm the print comic property), and earned an Emmy nomination for his efforts. Sandwiched between contributions from Craig Thompson, Art Spiegelman, Ellen Forney, and more, Henderson’s Scene But Not Heard was the longest-running strip in Nickelodeon Magazine’s 159 issues.
Today, the cartoonist Sam Henderson is here with a review of a retrospective of the work of the mid-century gag cartoonist he says he's more often compared to than anyone else, Vip: The Mad World of Virgil Partch. Here's how Sam starts:
A doctor has his nurse hand him instruments to operate on a set of paper dolls. A man working out in a gym crashes through a wall when the springs on his weightlifting machine backfire. A man working in the basement says to his kid, “Run up and ask Mother to turn off the iron”—as a hot iron burns through the ceiling dangling by its cord. None of these descriptions do the work justice, or even make any sense when described. But the work is familiar to you, whether you know it or not.
One of those cartoonists whose works I spent my twenties tracking down in countless dusty old used-book bins, Virgil Franklin Partch a/k/a VIP has now had his work collected in Vip: The Mad World of Virgil Partch. It's one of many coffee-table books being printed now collecting rare out-of-print artifacts which, if I had known back then that they would be reprinted eventually, I might not have wasted all that time trying to find them.
—News. The South Carolina House of Representatives doubled down on their decision to cut funding to two colleges for recommending books with gay-themed subject matter (including Fun Home).
I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it many times again, but one of the joys of webcomics is their ability to cover every possible subject and fill every conceivable niche. Say, for example, you’re into early Irish literature and you want to read it in comics form. Webcomics are happy to help you out. At this very moment, in fact, there are at least two ongoing webcomics based on the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or Cattle Raid of Cooley, the central epic of the Ulster cycle: Patrick Brown’s The Cattle Raid of Cooley and M.K. Reed’s About a Bull . Thank you, webcomics! You’ve justified the existence of the Internet yet again!
Tuesday is Joe McCulloch day, in which he not only previews the most interesting-sounding new comics releases of hte week, but also writes a short essay on the autobiographical manga of Moyoko Anno:
This is not the Harvey Pekar tradition of American alternative comics, and I doubt it will appeal to those who value autobiographical comics primarily for their arrangements of unvarnished life. On the contrary, this is an extremely varnished life; H. Anno, in an afterword of sorts, advises that M. Anno would rearrange events to make them funnier, even allowing her husband to check the finished pages and suggest additional jokes and references. Indeed, the book’s English-exclusive annotations run a spectacular 30 pages, so dense are these vignettes with geek speak, at times venturing into Poto and Cabengo territory as H. Anno is depicted communicating in verbalized manga sound effects, apart from whole passages consisting of seemingly nothing but quotes and allusions to/from beloved anime and tokusatsu shows.