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Yes, Of Course!

Today on the site, Annie Mok chats with Gabrielle Bell on the occasion of the release of her new book, Everything Is Flammable.

MOK: Self-talk and metacognition play a big role in your comics. In one part [of Everything Is Flammable] you’re like, “One night I got the shame attacks. ‘I’m such a jerk. Stop calling yourself a jerk, you jerk!’” How does this kind of self-talk find its way into your comics?

BELL: It’s just a learned behavior. In that particular story, it was me and my mother trying to deal with things that is really a kind of man’s world, dealing with negotiations and business and planning to build this home. Both of us have relied on men in the past and it’s kind of gotten both of us in trouble. It’s put us in this sort of helpless situation. So we were out of our element. And I think, being women too, there’s a husband or the father in our heads saying we’re doing it all wrong. In the story, my way of coping was to sort of flirt with the guy, and manipulate him in my way, while he’s sort of manipulating me. I am trying to play up this vulnerable female role with him and my mother, putting on this image of “We’re just helpless females, we don’t have any money.” “We don’t have these skills of being assertive and manly [laughs] and the art of the deal. So we work with what we have.” The shame attacks at the end just came from feeling ashamed of myself for being manipulative and also just relying on other people, like my friend Sadie, to stay at their houses. I mean, this is all normal stuff. People rely on each other and help each other out. But in this story we were both being forced to get out of our comfort zones.

MOK: There’s a lot in the story about men, and you talk about how in films mothers are portrayed in a negative light. You say, “Mine exists outside of that continuum.” You talk about navigating those kind of liminal spaces.

BELL: I’m very sensitive to mother-blaming. I think the most liberal among us… And father-blaming to. I did that too when I was younger, thinking “I didn’t get what I deserved” and stuff, and now… I’m very sensitive to people complaining about their moms not doing enough for them. Because of the difficulties that any mother has, we should be grateful that they were there at all. I mean, I know some people who had really abusive mothers, that’s sort of different.

Elsewhere:

Hazel Cills has a particularly well-sourced and researched piece on the gender dynamics of the New Yorker cartoon world, and the comics world in general. 

And at the LA Review of Books, Brian Selznick talks about his career and latest project.

 

Mysterious Universe

Huh, this is odd. Somehow my blog entry from Monday seems to have disappeared entirely, so I’ll re-link to Monday’s story. It featured the debut of new TCJ contributor Alex Wong, who interviewed the French cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu about her latest graphic novel, its subject (Cass Elliot), and the Smurfette Syndrome.

The neglect and disrespect Elliot dealt with throughout her career is something that Bagieu can tangentially relate to. Bagieu, who was born in Paris and now resides in Brooklyn, New York, remembers a decade ago when she, along with a fellow writer, pitched a female superhero story idea to a major publisher. Bagieu remembers the male publisher suggesting that their superheroes could have superpowers that would allow them to get the cheapest clothing at sale time, and to always have the perfect shoe even if there was one size left. “I really wanted to slap him in the face,” Bagieu says. “I was so humiliated.”

The comic book industry has presented its own sets of challenges for Bagieu. “For female cartoonists, you have to be quiet,” Bagieu says. “You have to either do girl stuff. In France, we call it the The Smurfette Syndrome. You’re a token. It’s not neutral, we don’t make up half of the cartoonists. You’re just the girl. You have science fiction comic book writers, action comic book writers, and, oh, here’s the girl.”

And then today, we have Chris Mautner’s review of Joe Ollmann’s graphic biography, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook.

I was completely unaware (as I suspect most of you were) of Seabrook’s existence before reading this biography, but it’s easy to see why Ollmann was drawn to him. He not only traveled the world and wrote about non-Western cultures with (for the times) measured respect and appreciation, he also dabbled in the occult, hobnobbed with famous folk like Man Ray, was a horrible alcoholic, had a predilection for BDSM, committed himself to an asylum, and wrote about all of this in a confessional manner that would make the most shameless autobiographical cartoonist squirm with envy. Oh, and he once ate human flesh.

More to the point, he’s also, as I noted earlier, largely forgotten, at best a footnote for introducing the word “zombie” into the American lexicon. Ollmann seems fascinated by how such a unique literary figure as Seabrook, who at one time was quite well-known and well-regarded, could sink into obscurity. And if Seabrook’s descent into irrelevance should conjure any thoughts of the myriad number of worthwhile cartoonists that have been forgotten or discarded by the passage of time, well, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Gloria Rivera reviews Zhang Leping’s manhua The Wandering Life of Sanmao.

The drawing of the original black and white comic is superb, and though never published in the US is completely readable through images alone. Except for signage and a handful of panels, the bulk of the comic is pantomime. Even the dialogue expressed between characters is drawn and not written! Although the relationship between words and pictures in comics should never be debased (as it may be in the show-don’t-tell school of comics) the silence experienced in this comic is unbreakable, and this is a comic that keeps you within its timing, only refraining for pauses of humor, a softness. Leping’s work is noble, leaving his reader in awe of how a man who has experienced so much can describe innocence as he does. This particular collection of comics has been adapted into color comics, animation, film and even live theater productions over the span of 80 years.

—The always strong Doug Wright Awards have announced their finalists.

—The Chester Brown/Dave Sim debate on prostitution continues, though Sim seems to have retired his side.

My March 28th post about Dave Sim’s body-camera proposal has been put up on A Moment Of Cerebus. Dave has been having computer problems and so has been unable to respond. (Perhaps he hasn’t even read the post.) But other A-M-O-C readers have commented. I notice that NONE of them defended Dave’s body-cam idea.

 

Magical World Link

Today on the site, our friend Joe McCulloch would like to mention some comic books, including the latest issues of Ganges and Berlin.

Elsewhere:

The excellent Heather Benjamin gives a good long interview over at the Vans web site.

On Sunday my wife and I had the distinct pleasure of babysitting for Dash Shaw and Jane Samborski. That is one cute and well-mannered baby. I love babies. Though my son is only five, having a baby strapped to my chest was still pretty novel. We strolled around the neighborhood. I talked to her about bricks. Old people looked kindly at me again. We tried to teach her the cha-cha. We got all the fun with none of the trouble. Who knew that her father once took shrooms and watched anime and  has now written about it in a public forum. Sigh. 

What else… Simon Hanselmann’s new zine, Portraits, arrived in the mail. I like that Simon is chronicling the mostly-inane comics subculture that he’s a part of, partly because he’s getting at various “issues” that have been around whatever-we-call-this-comics-world for a while (and which used to be discussed on members-only message boards), like (not) Nobrow’s alleged behavior or the intentional misreading of Robert Crumb. And partly because he tells familiar anecdotes (creepy festival organizers; self-aggrandizing hacks) but doesn’t spare himself. His earlier Truth Zone comics were like talk show panels… here it’s more anecdote and story-based. I like seeing this kind of thing because, well, few people are keeping track of what’s going on now. I would like to see it to cut deeper, to not spare his friends for a gags, and, as he did in TZ, name names, which is something really only artists can get away with. It’s refreshing. 

 

 

Another Game

Today on the site, Dash Shaw reports on his selections for the great Metrograph theater store in NYC. The Metrograph is hosting Dash’s film, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, this weekend. 

The animated movie I wrote and directed, My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, opens this weekend in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. The Metrograph theater in New York let me decorate their walls with original artwork from the film, and I also curated their small upstairs bookstore, which carries rare DVDs, film-related books, and issues of Cahiers du Cinéma. They asked me to pick books and DVDs that felt related to my movie, or that a cinema-going audience would be interested in. Here are some of the things I selected, and why.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a German animated film by Lotte Reiniger done in cut-out silhouettes against color fields. Made in 1926, it’s likely the first feature-length animated film. Although it’s well known, I’m always surprised how few people have actually seen it. Reiniger’s silhouette work was a key inspiration for Kara Walker. This movie is the perfect embodiment of “independent cinema”—the means/budget is tied to the aesthetic. It’s more powerful because it’s minimal. This is truly an “auteur” movie, much more so than the larger-scale collaborative films of the French New Wave that defined the term. The silhouette sequence in High School Sinking is an homage to this movie.

 

Elsewhere:

Here’s a look at the growing Pittsburgh comics world from the perspectives of longtime mainstream comic book store Phantom of the Attic Comics and Tom Scioli.

The Doug Wright Award nominees have been announced.

Interesting looking word/picture book Playground of My Mind is discussed at Hyperallergic.

 

Not with a Whimper

Today marks the TCJ debut of cartoonist and writer Sloane Leong, who reviews Josceline Fenton’s webcomic, Hemlock.

While many of the main cast members, including Baba Yaga and her three servants, hail directly from old folklore and communicate with some of the lyrical syntax of their traditional origins, Lumi and Tristan provide a more contemporary entry point for readers with their modernized witty language. Tristan’s constant anxiety and Lumi’s melancholic but outspoken personality combine into a charming rapport that complements the comic’s unhurried pace. Slow pacing and indulgent, unnecessary scenes are a common pitfall in webcomics, given that they’re frequently created and updated in real time, without time to reassess and edit, and often with little or no buffer. Hemlock doesn’t stagger but keeps a steady, measured pace. Still, the lack of intensity and unchanging tempo make for a sometimes tedious narrative simmer. This pace is no doubt intentional on Fenton’s, mirroring the storybook mood of Lumi’s wistful but tense and long-lived life.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News.
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer has topped the latest ALA list of most-frequently banned and challenged books.

“I think there is clearly a general theme relating to sexuality that certain people are uncomfortable with in books for young people,” Mariko Tamaki told the National Post by email.

“So if your book contains any mention of sexuality, it’s likely to end up in this list.”

[ALA representative James] LaRue chalked up This One Summer’s detractors to being “Velcro parents” — a kind of supercharged version of the helicopter parent.

“I think it falls back into this terrible fear that many parents have that their children are growing up,” he said.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Fandor movie site talks to Dash Shaw.

If I do want to place myself somewhere, it’s with cartoonists who make animation. I don’t want to compare myself to him, because I think he’s the greatest ever, but I’d pick something like the first Astro Boy series created by [Osamu] Tezuka. That’s a case where he was a comic-book artist who wanted to make animation. He relied on his skills as a cartoonist to make cinema. You don’t need to know that to enjoy his work, but for me, it was definitely inspiring. I got a Fandor subscription because they had those kind of unusual animators, and I’m a million times more inspired by that than any animation in TV or contemporary movies. I basically just watched those kinds of avant-garde shorts and anime made before 1990.

DW talks to Guy Delisle about his latest book, Hostage.

We wanted the book to be an immersive experience for the reader. I wanted to enter [kidnaping victim] Christophe [André]’s mind and, and to the best of my ability, recreate what he went through. I guess I wanted to know what I would have done or felt if I had been in his situation.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Jonah Kinigstein.

 

News from West

Hi there, today on the site is RJ Casey’s interview with Carel Moiseiwitsch, who is known to comics audiences for her work in Twisted Sisters, Wimmen’s Comix, and Weirdo, among other publications. 

In Twisted Sisters 2, you have a story called “Impasse”. The story is set in Morocco …

Yes, I spent quite a long time in Morocco. I was very influenced by the French bande dessinée after I spent some time in Paris. I loved the French cartoonists’ work and thought their drawings were so incredible. I was very influenced by the French graphic artists. Someone said to me, “Why don’t you just do an autobiographical piece, since you never do that.” I used to just find stories and newspapers and things like that. But I thought, OK then, so I did that one.

Was that story done with etching or some sort of stamp-making?

I was using scratchboard with razors.

That style seemed to be way more popular amongst artist in the ’80s and ‘90s than it is now. You did it so well, and Penny Van Horn, but you don’t see it too much anymore.

Right. It’s seemed to have fallen out of style. One of the reasons I don’t use that style anymore is because I can’t get the good scratchboard anymore. I used to get that from England and it was really good. I can’t get the right ink because it’s all acrylic based now. It just doesn’t look right, so I had to give it up and I was really good at it. I tried looking for all the materials in England. I tried ordering it. It never worked, so I just gave up. It needs to come back! It’s a good medium.

In “Impasse”, the story’s all about anxiety and issues regarding commitment. Are these things that you still deal with or suffer from?

Good question. That certainly is true of me. I finally met the guy who is able to withstand my anxiety and I’m still with him. [Laughs] He’s a very brave man.

Does this anxiety stem from art or …

Just life in general. The art scene has contributed to it though, especially in Vancouver. I just couldn’t stand it. And I’m also always involved politically, so sometimes I get a lot of harassment for that. I still do my own work, but I stopped trying to show it and just stopped … just stopped.

Did you ever feel like you were part of an art scene? Or always outside those scenes?

I was somewhat involved. Not that involved, but somewhat. I really liked that I was welcomed to comics. And those women and guys, I liked them. It was really fun to get involved, because I felt a bit rejected after trying to make it in Vancouver. In London, when I lived there again, I started to get somewhere, but my son became ill, so I came back to help him. I lost that momentum. I’m really just a loner, though. An outsider.

Elsewhere:

I don’t usually link to PR, but Moebius news is a little different for me, so here’s some good news.

Glen Weldon on Cathy Malkasian’s Eartha.

And congrats to our contributor and friend, Dash Shaw, on a string of premiers for his excellent film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. Check this site for dates in a city near you. 

 

Bomb Squad

Joe McCulloch is here as usual with his indispensable guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding releases new to stores. Spotlight picks this week include new titles by Anna Hafisch and Eric Kostiuk Williams.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart has been indicted for “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member,” and faces up to 29 years in prison for his anti-Erdogan cartoons.

His work is often critical of Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian regime, but also of Fethullah Gülen, the alleged leader of last summer’s attempted coup, and of terrorism and extremism in Turkey overall. The substance of his work belies the government’s contention that he’s a Gülen Movement or PKK stooge.

Jim Morin of the Miami Herald has won this year’s Pulitzer for editorial cartooning.

Marvel continues its PR hot streak with the news that Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf planted coded references that have been commonly interpreted as having anti-Christian and anti-Semitic connotations. Marvel has said that it will remove the artwork from future printings of the comic, and that some form of disciplinary action will take place.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Archinect, Julia Ingalls talks to Ben Katchor.

“The strips are kind of written in a half-dream state,” Ben tells me over the phone. “I’m not fully asleep when I’m writing them, but I’m somewhere in between. A lot of them have this free-associative kind of quality as when I’m in a dream, but then I’m awake and I can edit them, make them coherent in some way.”

Tom Spurgeon talks to Jim Blanchard.

I rarely read comics nowadays. Occasionally I’ll re-read an old R. Crumb comic or Kirby-era Fantastic Four reprint or something like that. But, I’m not drawn to them, so I don’t really have any needs to be served by the comics industry. I see Fantagraphics’ output when I visit their wonderful store in Georgetown, but that’s about it. Most of the modern “indy/alternative” comics I see from the U.S.A. don’t engage me. Too self-conscious and niceity-nice. There are a few exceptions. It seems like comics in America stopped evolving around the same time rock music did in the ’80s and ’90s, but I’m out of the loop so I could be wrong. To me, the last great comics generation was the group that came up in the early-mid ’80s: Clowes, Bagge, Kaz, Friedman, Hernandez Bros., Burns — all with amazing, unique artistic chops and all on a par with the best of the previous generations’ cartoonists.

New podcasts include Frank Stack at RiYL and Gabby Schulz at Comics Alternative.

—Reviews & Commentary. LARB has been running a lot of comics writing lately, including Brad Prager’s review of Pushwagner’s Soft City

DAWN BREAKS over a modern apartment complex in the very first pages of Hariton Pushwagner’s dystopian graphic novel Soft City. The sun peers back at the reader from a single eye at its center. Its hundreds of fine, radiating lines call to mind a wild mane, the strands of which resemble heads of hair in William Blake’s work — paintings such as The Ancient of Days (1794), or any of a number of plates from The Book of Urizen, published in that same year. Pushwagner’s eye of providence invokes an array of eschatological meanings. The divine watches us with an organ akin to our own.

and Lily Hoang’s review of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

Ferris’s genre-bending narrative is part horror story, part noir. Karen makes herself into a detective — donning a trench coat and hat to fulfill the stereotype — when her upstairs neighbor Anka is found dead. Although there is no explicit evidence of foul play, Karen devotes her time to searching for clues that might support her suspicion that Anka was murdered. As an amateur sleuth, Karen patches together a retrospective narrative of Anka’s enigmatic life.

 

What will it take.

Today on the site, Richard Elder returns with part 3 of his examination of Ernest Hemingway appearances in comics. 

When the Comics Journal ran the first two parts of this series (which you can read here and here), we asked for readers to help us find other appearances of Ernest Hemingway in comics history. They didn’t disappoint.

The first two parts chronicled the author’s colorful appearances in Superman, Shade: The Changing Man, Cerebus and 40+ other appearances. In the selections below, readers directed us to Hemingway references, adaptations and homages across the comics publishing landscape.

Samurai Crusader (1996)
Reader Phil Rippke pointed out Hemingway’s appearance as the sidekick in Samurai Crusader, a manga series by writer Hiroi Oji and artist Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman and Mai, The Psychic Girl).

“The titular character is visiting Europe and meets the burly, two-fisted adventurer Hemingway and together they try to foil a plot to start a World War. Viz translated it into English and published a three volume series from the 90s,” Rippke wrote. “It’s definitely worth tracking down.”

Elsewhere:

Drew Friedman writes about his New York Observer encounters with presidential son-in-law  Jared Kusher. The fun of this piece is so much in Friedman’s particular “who me” wise-ass tone in his prose. 

Tom Spurgeon interviews longtime Washington state illustrator/cartoonist Jim Blanchard. 

Not-comics: Raconteur Glenn O’Brien passed away on Friday. He was influential in art, style and prose, and had long career in publishing (Interview, High Times, etc) and writing (Artforum, GQ), as well as a prolific life in advertising. Worth reading about to think about if you find valuable what he represented.