Big Day

Today on the site, Robert Kirby gives his overview of the past year in LGBTQ comics. That he is able to do so at length without even mentioning Alison Bechdel's MacArthur "genius" grant shows just how strong a year it's been. Here is how Rob begins:

No doubt about it, 2014 was a banner year for queer alternative/art comics. In this sub-scene of a sub-scene a wildly varied, thematically rich range of subject matter issued forth from alt-presses, micro-presses, and self-publishers. There was something for everyone, or at least a good number of everyones, queers and non-queers alike.

One hallmark of the year was the continued so-called Queering of the Mainstream (or Mainstreaming of the Queer), a phenomenon increasingly noted since the breakthrough of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home in 2007. Justin Hall, in 2011's No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics , asserted that queer comics had traditionally “existed in a parallel universe alongside the rest of comics,” but that just as queer culture in general had begun to leave the gay ghettos and spread into the larger culture, queer comics were beginning their own infiltration into the larger comics arena. I’d initially maintained a healthy skepticism to this notion; not questioning its veracity, but wary of the trend’s ability to make any but the smallest cracks in the glass ceiling against which so many of us queer cartoonists have bumped our heads over the years. I’ve since concluded that yes, this movement—this big amorphous queer thing—is having an impact as it continues to grow and spread itself around; to what degree remains to be seen.

We also have Sean T. Collins with a review of Annie Mok's multimedia online memoir, "Worst Behavior":

How do you take something as complex and confounding as the most tumultuous time in a person’s adult life and make a concise and compelling short story out of it? Annie Mok’s solution: Echo the tumult. In as-below-so-above fashion, Worst Behavior, an illustrated memoir for the “Dedication”-themed January issue of the online magazine Rookie, utilizes a hybrid format to describe and analyze a three-year period during which a host of issues that by rights would be overwhelming individually pulled Mok’s life in a dizzying number of directions. She uses prose, comics, illustration, hand lettering, sampled/disassembled/reassembled passages from her previous work, and quotes from the artists who’ve inspired her along the way to harness that onslaught in an act of creative judo, simultaneously communicating its power and demonstrating her artistic, emotional, and intellectual ability to best it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Charlie Hebdo. Today marks the release of the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the attack on its offices last week. The print run was reportedly raised to three million copies. The Wall Street Journal has a report from the magazine's press conference yesterday about the new issue.

A helpful website called Understanding Charlie Hebdo has been launched, which goes through some of the more controversial cartoons from the magazine one by one, explaining the symbolism and satiric intent.

Scott Sayare at The Atlantic has written one of the more convincing negative assessments of Charlie Hebdo's use of satire.

Jeet Heer wrote a 45-part Twitter essay tracing the connections between Charlie Hebdo and the American underground comics tradition.

Dennis Perrin, who wrote the biography of Michael O'Donoghue, one of last century's most brilliant and influential satirists, writes about American antipathy to satire. Caro writes about her own discomfort with the sometimes cruelty of satire.

—Interviews & Profiles. Tom Spurgeon speaks to comics scholar Susan Kirtley. Paul Gravett talks to Dylan Horrocks.

—Reviews & Commentary. Philip Nel looks at how the legacy of racism manifests itself in children's literature.

Ben Towle picks his favorite comics of 2014.

Dirty Fractals has a review of Lala Albert's Janus.

Abhay Khosla reviews Bitch Planet #1 and Rumble #1.

David Brothers has a moving piece on how minority voices can be marginalized in comics culture. He's always worth reading on this issue (among others). I have to say it disturbs me that he implicitly links that marginalization to Ken Parille's column on this site from last Thursday, especially since he doesn't explain why he's doing so; I don't think a fair reading of the piece supports that link. But I could be wrong, and because he's a smart thoughtful guy whose views I respect, I invited David last week to write an essay about Ken's column for TCJ, explaining where he thinks Ken went wrong. That offer is still open. I'd be interested to read it whenever and wherever he publishes it, even if it's just my email inbox.

—Misc. Michael Kupperman writes about clashes with the New York Times over the strip he and David Rees contributed to the paper last year, which he chalks up to editorial cowardice and stupidity.

Here is correspondence between R. Crumb and Woody Gelman.

If you're in New York, tonight there is an opening reception at the Society of Illustrators for a Gary Groth-curated exhibit on the work of Jonah Kinigstein.


New Productions

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch on the week in comics, with a side dish.

And Tim Hanley reviews Noah Berlatsky's book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism.

Noah Berlatsky loves Golden Age Wonder Woman comic books, to the exclusion of all others. His new book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948, is a detailed and often fascinating look at this era, and his appreciation for the work of William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter is evident throughout. Many historians see early Wonder Woman comics as an oddity, an interesting but bizarre run laden with mixed messages about feminism and fetishism. Berlatsky sees them as brilliant works of art.

More on Charlie Hebdo today (and I'm keeping these links limited because we're still in the quick reactions phase and Tim did such a great job of tracking the various strands of thought yesterday):

The remaining editorial staff is preparing a new issue, and this is the cover.

Tim Kreider writes eloquently about the power of cartooning for the New York Times.

Ruben Bolling contributes more thoughts on the matter.

In other news, a few pleasant diversions:

Here's a nice local paper story on D&Q's Moomin publishing initiative.

A couple episodes of the very bizarre 1970s Japanese Spider-Man television show are now online.

The longtime cartoonist Jack Katz is trying out a fundraiser for his new comic.


Imperfect Tenderness

"Satire, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness." —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

First, go here, and watch a short five-minute documentary. It captures the February 2006 editorial meeting at which the editors of Charlie Hebdo decided whether or not to put an image of Muhammad on their next issue's cover. Some of the people you will see in that video were murdered last week.

They are remembered in this interview by their friend Nicolas Demorand, the former editor of Libération, the leftist French newspaper who lent the Charlie Hebdo staff office space after the magazine was fire-bombed in 2011. (Libération is lending CH office space again right now, in order to allow the magazine to release a new issue on January 14. They reportedly plan to print one million copies.) Here is Demorand, remembering 2011:

Charb [Charlie Hebdo editorial director Stéphane Charbonnier], who was killed today, was under police protection. It was a really strange moment. A newspaper isn't a military place. We had policemen in the newsroom during that time. In the first few hours we were quite scared. But after that it was really normal life. Everybody was laughing. These guys were the kindest guys. They were really teenagers. Even if they were 70 or 80 years old. They were teens. They were happy to live. They were just doing funny stuff. And it's horrible to think that they have all been killed today. You know, I'm 43. I cried like a child all day long. It was a horrible day. A horrible day in Paris. Horrible day.

Now read this interview with surviving Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz, who is also very good at expressing the human side of this tragedy: "The media made a mountain out of our cartoons, when on a worldwide scale, we are merely a damn teenage fanzine. This fanzine has become a national and international symbol, but it was people that were assassinated, not the freedom of speech! People who sat in an office and drew cartoons."

Many cartoonists have reacted to the attack, too many to gather here. Some of the more notable responses come in the form of an ambivalent strip on Charlie's satire created by Joe Sacco, a short video interview with the British political cartoonist Steve Bell, and this drawing by Robert Crumb. Crumb explained the reasoning behind his cartoon in an interview with the New York Observer:

I showed it to [my wife Aline], and she said, “Oh, my God, we’re going to have to go into hiding.” [Laughs.] So, then Aline had this idea for another cartoon, which we also sent to Libération, a collaboration, that’s showing her looking at the drawing saying, “Oh, my God, they’re going to come after us! This is terrible…I want to live to see my grandchildren!” And then she has me saying, “Well, it’s not that bad. And, besides, they’ve killed enough cartoonists, maybe they’ve gotten it out of their system.”

Matt Madden, who currently lives in Angoulême, wrote a moving blog post.

Less impressive and less subtle was this drawing released by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo.

So why did the attack happen? Much important historical context can be found in this magazine's 2006 article, "Cartoons of Mass Destruction", an in-depth report written by Michael Dean and R.C. Harvey on the Danish cartoon controversy of that year, which not only fills in many of the historical blanks, but also provides a multitude of perspectives worth considering. It is fascinating to see how much has changed in just nine years, and how much remains the same. (Note that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper at the height of the original controversy, and Charlie Hebdo are very different in terms of editorial approach.)

[Matthias] Wivel was not impressed with the [Danish] cartoons. “With the exception of three or four of them, I think they are rather inferior cartoons,” he said. “The take on Islamism is pretty hackneyed, the jokes are largely quite stupid, and most of them are badly and uninspiringly drawn.”

“I think Jyllands-Posten were inconsiderate and boorish in publishing these cartoons as a single, unified, insulting statement, but am not sure the cartoonists themselves can be accused of anything else than trying their best to exercise their métier within the often rather limited scope of their talent.”

Wivel saw the cartoons as an attempt to inflame the anti-immigration sentiments simmering in Danish politics. “It should be stressed here that the decision by Jyllands-Posten to publish these cartoons more than likely was motivated by the political climate of Denmark, where Muslims are constantly the object of negative discourse, where immigration laws have developed to become the most draconian of the [European Union] and where there’s a lot of popular support for the kind of hard-line thinking that has prompted this development. It was an asinine, cheap shot at an already marginalized minority. Preaching to the choir, in other words. What no one could have foreseen was the extent to which globalization has changed the way these things work.”

Also back in 2011, The Nation interviewed Art Spiegelman and Joe Sacco about the Danish cartoons. These are two highly intelligent artists sophisticated in both politics and satire, and they don't quite see eye to eye on these issues. It too is worth returning to. (As Dan mentioned last week, Art Spiegelman also recently discussed satire and Charlie Hebdo on Democracy Now.)

As almost all readers surely know, in the wake of last week's attack a widespread campaign was launched, promoting unified mourning and identification with Charlie Hebdo, and according to reports, #JeSuisCharlie quickly became one of the most popular global Twitter hashtags ever. Some, uneasy with the offensive imagery used in many CH cartoons, have been keen to distance themselves from the magazine. Satire presents some of the thorniest political issues it is possible for an artist to depict or confront, which is both its attraction and its danger. It is almost impossible to evaluate satire outside of the very specific context of the events or figures it is targeting, especially by those who share neither the language nor the cultural background of the artists. And so for those who lack that language and/or background, it may be helpful to try to get a fix on what the CH artists were attempting to do, and how they were attempting to do it, before one ultimately decides to celebrate or condemn their work.

Now, before I go on, let me add that I myself am not an expert on the political culture of France, and do not myself claim that the cartoons were well-executed satire. I am going to link to a few people below who do make that claim, but I myself know very little of the contexts in question. In fact, I have only ever read one issue of Charlie Hebdo, over a decade ago. My French is so rudimentary that saying I "read" it is probably overstating things. This took place before 2006, so I had no preconceptions. I thought some of the cartoons were funny, and some crude and vulgar. There were no racial caricatures that I can recall, but it's been a long time. I didn't get most of the jokes in any case. In its informality and personal nature, it reminded me somewhat of a zine, an alternative weekly from back before the alternative press was neutered, or a group blog. In any case, I say all this to make it clear that I am only going to make claims about satire in general, as I believe myself unqualified to judge the Charlie Hebdo cartoons myself at this time. And none of this is meant to imply that the cartoons should not be criticized. If anything, satire, which when accomplished trades in quite subtle ideas, benefits from and requires criticism more than most kinds of art.

Satire is an unusual art form, in that it is designed to be misunderstood. If you respond to it with horror or disgust, that was likely the artist's goal. The satirist attempts to mimic the view of his or her enemy, often using the same kind of language and imagery as that opponent would, but doing so ironically, and taking it so far into the absurd that the entire moral basis for the enemy's position collapses. I think the way the philosopher Robert Paul Wolff explains irony may be helpful:

Irony is a mode of discourse that presupposes a double audience -- an apparent audience and a real audience. [...] When a statement is uttered ironically, the speaker intends to convey two meanings that are related as appearance to reality. The apparent meaning is heard by the first, or apparent, audience, which mistakenly thinks that it has understood everything that the speaker means to communicate. The deeper, real, meaning is heard by the real audience, which also hears and understands the apparent meaning. The real audience also knows that the apparent audience exists, and has heard only the apparent meaning, which it has mistaken for the real meaning. Thus, one might say, the ironic utterance is a private joke between the speaker and the real audience at the expense of the apparent audience. It is this complex structure of the communicative situation that distinguishes irony from ambiguity or mere confusion. [All emphases Wolff's.]

The classic example of satire, the one everybody knows, is Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal", in which the English social engineer's faith in mechanistic solutions to Irish poverty are ultimately shown to be monstrously anti-human. Swift eventually takes the premises so far that the essay's apparent meaning (that the children of the poor should be served as food to relieve hunger and suffering) eventually gives way to its real meaning. When an Anglophone reader unfamiliar with the original French political context reads the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, only their apparent meaning can be seen.

The odd thing about satire is that, in one sense, it sometimes works even when it is not understood. If a reader never understands that the narrator of Swift's essay is not serious, she will still ultimately be horrified by the "modest" proposal, and will from then on associate Swift's opponents, who use the same blandly reassured language and argumentative style as the narrator of his essay, with the cannibalism implicitly hidden beneath their rhetoric. But it takes thick skin to be a satirist, to know that one will be misunderstood as a monster. There's a reason Swift published anonymously.

Jeet Heer, in an updated version of his Globe & Mail story from last week, presents the history and complexity of French satire in a manner that those on both sides of the debate over Charlie Hebdo's alleged racism should be able to appreciate. The self-described "Frenchman and militant leftist" Olivier Tonneau full-throatedly defends the magazine in an open letter to British critics, explaining what he believes they misunderstand about CH. Tonneau claims that CH is not only not racist, but "the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism." Ruben Bolling, the cartoonist behind Tom the Dancing Bug, also claims that the CH cartoons have been misunderstood. Chad Parkhill explains some of the specific images in question. Here is a small collection of some of Cabu's explicitly anti-racist, anti-colonialist cartoons from Charlie.

Regardless of whether or not one is convinced by these defenses, one shouldn't lose sight of the wider political implications and background of the attack. Cartoons aren't going anywhere, but this is a dangerous moment for Europe. This is not the site to go to for political analysis, but it is impossible to avoid altogether. The following views I am linking to are incompatible with each other in some ways, but not in all. There are many other essays, some of them undoubtedly better, but this is a start. Juan Cole had one of the most cogent early responses, and is still worth reading if you missed it. At The New Yorker, the novelist Teju Cole notes that while the outpouring of grief for those killed in Paris is noble and encouraging, many other people around the world die every day, just as shockingly, and go unmourned. Kenan Malik writes about the implications for free speech. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Javaria Akbar and Aurelien Mondon explain why it would be a mistake to conflate the attackers with Muslims at large, and why it is foolish and wrong to hold the Muslim community as a whole responsible. (And for those of you who do Slavoj Žižek, here's Žižek.)

To go back to comics for a moment, some are upset that people they considered allies or friends are unwilling to fully stand behind the murdered cartoonists and their work. This should be kept in perspective. Satirists are always unpopular. The murdered cartoonists and staff knew that many believed their views to be racist, and if they were here to weigh in, I imagine that while they would undoubtedly be upset about their bodies being torn apart by bullets, they probably wouldn't care too much about a little negative verbal feedback. Politicians from across the spectrum, including many who were among the magazine's most frequent targets, are now attempting to use public outrage over last week's attack for their own purposes, which is far more important than the immediate reputation of a few cartoonists on Twitter.

This is one reason it was so refreshing to hear the response of Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Willem over the weekend: "We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin. It really makes me laugh. Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place. [...] We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends," Willem said. "They've never seen Charlie Hebdo."

For those who believe in the power of cartooning, it will be interesting to see the response to the contents of Charlie Hebdo's next issue.


And on the site today, we have a new piece by our frequent legal correspondent Jeffrey Trexler, who is taking a short break from his work on an upcoming piece on the Kirby/Marvel case to discuss an American precedent to Charlie Hebdo.

Free speech is a topic that isn’t exactly new to the comics world. The subject is perhaps most familiar from discussions of obscenity and the 1950s comics scare, with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund being the best known institutional expression of the ideal. However, if we go back further in our history, we can find an equally robust debate over comics as a satirical form. The early years of the medium in the U.S. brought forth a number of cases in which people argued that cartoons went too far, and their creators or publishers did not always win.

The fundamental parameters of the debate were established in the very first reported court opinion to use the word “cartoon,” the Supreme Court of Louisiana’s ruling in State ex re. Liversey et al. v. Judge of Civil District Court, 34 La.Ann. 741 (1882). The newspaper that gave rise to this landmark case a New Orleans satirical broadsheet called The Mascot.

A local writer and photographer named Sally Asher has recently provided some fascinating historical background about The Mascot, which as it turns out has other tangential connections to l’affaire Charlie Hebdo. For one thing, like its French counterpart The Mascot was a recurring target for violence by those it offended, such that at one point a newspaper artist was attacked because a mob mistakenly suspected that he drew cartoons for The Mascot. In what is perhaps the most outrageous Charlie Hebdo analogue, a few years after the lawsuit in question two local officials went to the paper’s office and attempted to murder both its publisher and its engraver. In the ensuing scuffle, one of the officials was himself shot to death in self-defense. The intended Mascot victims were acquitted in their murder trial, but so too was the surviving state official ostensibly compelled to kill by their offensive publication.


More Resistance is What We Need

First an update on on the attack on Charlie Hebdo:

Here are Art Spiegelman and Tariq Ramadan discussing Charlie and satire.

And here is Tom Spurgeon's evolving coverage and thoughts on the attack.

On the site, Cynthia Rose has a written a personal account of her experience on Wednesday in Paris.

Yesterday afternoon I walked to the Picasso Museum, walked because I wanted to try and avoid the gendarmes, flashing lights and soldiers. Nevertheless, I could hear the sounds of emergency all over Paris. While I crossed street after street, police motorcycles flew by

I was out because in my purse I had the invitation to a special event. It was a “concert with live drawing”, a celebration scheduled to link the Musée Picasso and the graphic novel PABLO. (A best seller in France, PABLO is soon due out in English from Blank Slate Press). I love this four-volume series and wanted to see its authors in action.

Yet how could creators Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie be expected to “perform”? Ever since 11:30, when five of the most beloved artists ­in France were gunned down at their work – along with seven colleagues – the capital had been in both shock and semi-lockdown.

The perpetrators were on the run and still out there somewhere. All over France, landmarks, schools and transport were on full alert.

And in more usual affairs, we have Katie Skelly reviewing In Clothes Called Fat.

In the world of In Clothes Called Fat, also as in Helter Skelter, a beautiful appearance isn’t just something to strive for; it determines your lot in life. Enter Mayumi, the office sweetheart, who threatens Noko’s already precarious sanity. Beloved in the office despite her questionable work ethic, Mayumi is always flocked by her admiring colleagues and outside of the office men constantly pester her. Her hair is perfect and her underwear is La Perla. Mayumi makes little secret with the rest of the office ladies about her affair with Saito; Noko overhears Mayumi recount their sexual escapades (“vanilla”) while hiding in a bathroom stall eating a candy bar. In this scene, the difference between Noko and her female colleagues is severe in Anno’s hands: while her “normal” (thin, pretty) coworkers are drawn as Anno’s signature wide-eyed waifs, Noko is both inflated and flattened at once, as abstracted as the Michelin man. Here, Noko’s appearance is not just a disruption in her office life, but also a formal disruption of Anno’s joseifashion-plate aesthetic.

Also, Tim and I both forgot to mention Greg Hunter's review of the new edition of Frontier.

And finally, we have corrected an error in Whit Taylor's CAB report. I should've caught this initially, but the sequence of events from BCGF to CAB was misrepresented. The correct sentences now read:

"After a four-year run, Nadel and Kartalopoulos dissolved the show, and Fowler launched a new convention using the same model, with a new name: Comics Art Brooklyn. He asked Paul Karasik to coordinate programming."

Thanks to Bill for pointing this out.
Let's all hope for a peaceful weekend.



No Words

Obviously and sadly, the major comics-related news today concerns the attack yesterday morning on the Paris headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. According to reports, masked gunmen entered the building and killed twelve people, including four cartoonists (Cabu, Tignous, Wolinski, and editor Stephane Charbonnier), and critically wounded at least four others. The attackers are still at large, but two of them have been officially identified by police. [UPDATE: The names of all twelve victims have now been released, and a fifth cartoonist was one of them: Honoré.]

It is still difficult to express the shock and dismay this event has provoked. We express our condolences and support to the family, friends, and colleagues of the victims.

Both the National Cartoonists Society and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists have released statements about the attack.

There has been much good reporting on the event. The Guardian in particular has extensive, regularly updated coverage.

Bart Beaty has an excellent short piece on Slate called "What It Means to Be a Cartoonist in France". In the same magazine, Joshua Keating reports on the history of the publication and the likely context informing the attack.

There have been too many noteworthy responses to the attack to list them all here, but a few that stood out so far include pieces by Zunar, Jeet Heer, Arthur Goldhammer, Domingos Isabelinho, Matthias Wivel, Zainab Akhtar, and Ted Rall.

There is a lot we still don't know. We will have more coverage soon.


Today, on the site we are publishing Ken Parille's first column of 2015, in which he names his choice for comics critic of the year. Last time he did this, Parille counterintuitively honored Fredric Wertham. Who's the winner for 2014?

The Internet seems to have brought into being a new type of critic: The Millennial Literalist. A product of the 21st-century’s asphyxiating instantaneous reaction culture, the ML’s motto is Read then Rant. They’ve been trained to see immediacy as an unquestioned value. (Think about how anxious we get — even pissed off — when someone doesn’t reply to our text within ten minutes, especially since we always reply to them in like under a minute!) Why reread, reflect upon, and reconsider our reactions to a work of art, all of which take precious time and may lead to mixed-up feelings and queasy uncertainty, when we can trust — and immediately globally disseminate — our first instincts? “The now” of unfiltered passion always indicates authenticity, and that’s what the world needs more of, right?

Unsurprisingly, immediacy generates a number of casualties. When MLs go after an online comic, for example, they trample over the hard to describe, not always obvious qualities that make it art in order to reduce it to an easy-to-attack message. MLs often interact with a comic as if it’s an expository prose essay expressed in a neutral, legalistic tone. Since it’s hard to pontificate in the presence of ambiguity, the ML ignores complexity, irony, playfulness, narrative perspective, drawing style, tone, etc., flattening art into ‘mere rhetoric.’ If not quite art’s enemy, the ML is, at best, its fair-weather friend. If a comic expresses their opinions in the correct way — the way they want and need it to — they’ll hype it on Twitter. But if not, watch out, artists! (If you’re a non-Millennial, don’t worry. This practice really isn’t the province of any ‘demographic.’ In this new century, with computers always in our back pockets, anyone can be a literalist.)

This will be a good one for the people who like to read skim quickly for the parts they can get outraged by without even attempting to empathize with the writer's viewpoint. Should be fun for Ken online today!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—More Best of 2014 Lists. These haven't slowed down much yet. This time, I have lists from Paul Gravett, Nerdist, and a variety of different comics folks recruited by Zainab Akhtar.

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown has a strong interview with the always fascinating Dylan Horrocks. Tim O'Shea talks to Mike Dawson.

—Reviews & Commentary. Panel Patter looks at Dash Shaw's coloring strategies. Ben Marks notes the publication of volume 3 of Walt Kelly's Pogo, in which we enter the strip's most famous era.

—Misc. Over the holiday, I missed this great Ivan Brunetti post about attempting to fill Ernie Bushmiller's shoes on Nancy. The critic Robert Boyd remembers his own youthful attempt to become a cartoonist.

—Podcasts. I missed many of these over the holiday break. At Inkstuds, I liked the interview with Tom Spurgeon. I haven't listened to the episode where Brandon Graham, Ed Piskor, and Joe Keatinge discuss the work of Rob Liefeld yet, but since I called for just that kind of thing from Liefeld fans a while back, I feel obligated to link to it and plan to listen soon. (I'm hoping none of them held my request against me...)

Make It Then Tell Everybody hosted Kevin Huizenga, Hope Larson, and Josh Bayer.

At Comic Books Are Burning in Hell, Once, Current, and Future TCJ contributors Tucker Stone, Joe McCulloch, Chris Mautner, and Matt Seneca discuss their favorite comics of 2014.


Spinning Top

Good morning. I wrote about Zap, finally. Take it as it is.

The Complete Zap Comix came and went a couple months back, selling out at the distributor level within a week or so of its release. For such an event, there was little discussion about it aside from laudatory news articles and the occasional interview (my own contribution to said genres, an interview with Robert Crumb, will be published in the February issue of The Believer). So, I wanted to mention a few things and then maybe we can all discuss Zap.

I tend to agonize over what is being looked at and what is not, and if there’s one thing I have noticed these last few years of the proliferation of comic book conventions is that the various constellations of influence and adulation have shifted a lot. One could argue that the main source of influence is the convention itself, but that’s a different discussion. All this to say is that there is now a notable lack of interest in Crumb (and a fair bit of antipathy, as well, but hey, he can take it) and a near-total disinterest in underground comics in general. There was a time, oh, 15 years ago let’s say, when Crumb and Zap remained the gold standard. This was reinforced by Dan Clowes and Chris Ware, who brought together the RAW and Weirdo strands of influence into a briefly coherent history in which Art Spiegelman, Crumb, and Gary Panter, all loomed large. This time has passed. Things are far too fractured now to nail down any dominant lineage in comics, and Clowes and Ware have withdrawn from their more public efforts at history making, having thankfully accomplished a ton. (Though I still long for Clowes in particular to take a more active role in publishing the oddities of comic book history, but hey, he’s busy. We’re all so fucking busy after the age of 35. Who has the time?) There are so many strains that have sprung up in the last ten years – thanks in large part to the availability of manga, the ongoing reprint boom, and most especially the web, and Tumblr in particular. Nothing is just a straight line anymore, if it ever was. I mean, if you’d told me ten years ago that the figures looming largest in comics today (at least from what I can tell at festivals and online) are Osamu Tezuka, Moebius, and Alison Bechdel I’d have laughed you out of the room. Quality lit comics might still sell the best (think Roz Chast, Bechdel, and of course Ware), but that does not equal influence. Yeah, so this is the odd situation we find ourselves in, wherein the medium of comics is being so thoroughly explored and mined for new streams that once unavoidable figures and events like Crumb and Zap can simply be ignored. This is good and bad. It’s good that there is such a plurality now, but bad that the rise of the plurality means there’s a lot of noise to cut through to get to the good stuff.

And elsewhere:

[UPDATE: An attack by gunmen on the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has resulted in the deaths of at least twelve, including several cartoonists. Here is a report from the BBC.]

The big news yesterday was IDW's acquisition of Top Shelf, publisher of Hey, Mister, among other titles. I'm just glad we can all stop pretending Top Shelf was somehow still the same company it was 10 years ago, or even related to that company. So yeah, into the blue sky! Here's Tom Spurgeon, who has more positive thoughts on the matter.

I enjoyed this profile of the "lost" cartoonist/illustrator Eugene Bilbrew.

Alex Dueben talks to the great Sam Glanzman, cartoonist of all-time-great comic book Kona.


For Real This Time

Shuddering wheezingly back to life, time waits for no one, and Joe McCulloch is here with his weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics available in stores. Devoted readers of the comics form will know what to do.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, an incomplete collection of links from the past two weeks:

[UPDATED TO ADD:] —News. This morning, IDW announced their acquisition of Top Shelf. More on this soon.

—Best of 2014 Lists. These of course proliferated recently, and I only collect a few of the ones which have appeared during our break. Some are interesting either because the recommendations are actually solid, personal lists, others merely for helping to gauge the online zeitgeist. In no particular order: Michael Dooley at Print, Nick Gazin at Vice, Brian Cremins, a slew of lists collected by Forbidden Planet, various contributors at Robot 6, Comics Alliance, Wired, Marc-Oliver Frisch. There are surely more of these to come. Also, the Beat polled comics industry professionals and named Raina Telgemeier as the person of the year.

—Interviews and Profiles. Tom Spurgeon got his annual holiday interviews slate going with Jesse Jacobs. Noah Berlatsky spoke to Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger. Brigid Alverson talked to Ryan Sands about his rotating-artist anthology series Frontier.

—Funnies. Anders Nilsen on optimism. Connor Willumsen's "Sunset People". Gabrielle Bell's "The Dishrack".

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Karasik analyzes a classic Charles Addams gag. Tim O'Neil hopes you don't overlook Jules Feiffer's Kill My Mother (and is himself deeply confused about Crumb's Genesis). Michelle Dean reviews Jeet Heer's new essay collection, Sweet Lechery. Abhay Khosla looks at The Valiant #1.

—News-ish. Speaking of Valiant, Abraham Riesman profiles the company for Vulture.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the expanding and diversifying readership of comics.

SAW has added some nice rewards (4CP cards from John Hilgart, etc.) to its fundraising campaign.


Young Man

Hi, welcome back. We've crossed into the new year. And Ryan Holmberg is starting us off right with an article about an early episode of Osamu Tezuka's career that Ryan calls The Fukui Ei’ichi Incident and the Prehistory of Komaga-Gekiga.

Though generous to his fans, and generally warm with his peers, Tezuka Osamu (1928-89) was not above letting professional jealousy get the best of him. The first time this trait reared its head in public was in 1953, when, in a series about comics-making and comics aesthetics for Manga Shōnen, the new prince of manga took a swipe at his foremost competitor, Fukui Ei’ichi (1921-54), who was older than him by seven years.

The series in question, Manga Classroom(Manga kyōshitsu), had begun serialization the previous year. It was partially modeled after Manga College (Manga daigaku), the best-selling tutorial Tezuka had created in 1950 for the Osaka publisher Tōkōdō.

After dominating the Osaka akahon market, Tezuka had only recently begun working for Tokyo magazines. The legendary Jungle Emperor (Janguru taitei, 1950-54), published in the same Manga Shōnen, was one of his first such serials. Manga Shōnen was famous not only as the home to this proto-Lion King title, but also as a venue to which young cartoonists could submit short four-panel work for review by Tezuka or the magazine’s editors or other contributing artists. Select submissions received critique within the magazine’s pages. The best received a small pin badge as award. Amongst the youngsters who got sucked into a life of cartooning through this exchange were Ishinomori Shōtarō, Akatsuka Fujio, both halves of Fujiko Fujio, Tatsumi Yoshihiro, and Sakurai Shōichi.

And elsewhere:

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the continually growing market for women readers of comics.

Chris Randle interviews Anne Ishii about Massive, among other topics.

Tom Spurgeon has a running list of "50 Comics Positives for 2014".

Chuck Forsman writes a revealing essay about his 2014 as a cartoonist.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum has acquired the Jeff MacNelly collection.

And here is a video of Matthew Thurber's Mining the Moon musical as performed last year.