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Bend Your Head

Start your week off right with Mark Newgarden's talk with Mark Dery, author of Born to Be Posthumous, the recent biography of Edward Gorey.

One of the things I admired about Born To Be Posthumous was the careful attention paid to the individual books themselves. While stylistically of a piece, they’ve always struck me as a powerfully diverse body of work, often incorporating perverse and ingenious formal goals. What were you able to you glean about the ways that Gorey ideas gestated and Gorey books took shape?

Only what I was able to piece together through guesswork, since few interviewers ever thought to ask Gorey how he hatched ideas. He kept a little pad with him at all times, more for jotting down ideas for books or adding to his vast store of obscure or sesquipedalian words. It’s important to remember that he considered himself a writer first. (He once called his highly compressed narratives “Victorian novels all scrunched up.”) He was a devout fan of the Times crossword and an obsessive collector of archaic or arcane words or those he just found delicious. In The Nursery Frieze, he sets one of his word lists to visual music, so to speak, a procession of unrelated words marching across its pages in rhymed couplets.

But Gorey was a bona fide polymath whose encyclopedic erudition and sweeping art-historical literacy often fed his imagination: The Object-Lesson was directly inspired by the 18th-century dramatist Samuel Foote’s nonsense poem “The Grand Panjandrum”; The West Wing nods to Magritte and Ernst’s collage novels and the Egyptian Book of the Dead; he got the idea for his unfinished book, The Interesting List, from the fictitious taxonomy cited by Jorge Luis Borges in his essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”; The Pious Infant is a deadpan parody of Puritan children’s literature, specifically A Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children (1671–'72) by the Puritan divine James Janeway; The Hapless Child was inspired by L’Enfant de Paris (1913), a silent movie by the French director Léonce Perret, which as I noted in the book Gorey saw just once, at one of the Museum of Modern Art’s Saturday morning screenings. (He had a remarkable visual memory; it seems to have been photographic, or close to it—he claimed to be able to watch, in his head, any of the New York City Ballet performances he’d ever seen, and he saw thousands in the course of his nearly three decades of ballet-going.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Angoulême festival has announced this year's winners. The Grand Prix went to Rumiko Takahashi, and the Fauve d'Or to Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

The huge staffing cuts at Gannett last week claimed hundreds of newspaper jobs, including those of cartoonist Charlie Daniel and Pulitzer winner Steve Benson.

Benson is a veteran of the Republic, joining the paper in 1981. He won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993 and was a finalist for the award in 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1994. Although most of his career has been in Arizona, he did a brief stint at the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington in the early ’90s.

Republic executive editor Greg Burton deferred questions to a Gannett spokesperson. The spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

—Reviews & Commentary. Louis Proyect comments on a new collection of the Gilbert Shelton-edited Radical America Komiks.

Turning to the actual work in Komiks, you will find much of it a lot rawer than what you might have expected in a comic book put out by the Trotskyists or the CP (not that these sects would have ever thought outside the box.) The old left esthetic was very much in the agitprop vein, with clearly delineated heroes and villains—the working class on one side of the barricades and the bosses on the other.

—Interviews & Profiles. Françoise Mouly speaks briefly to Tom Gauld about his new New Yorker cover.

I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to grow anything indoors. I like the idea of gardening but never get around to actually doing much. When I conceived this image, I was thinking of my uncle’s house when I was a child. We lived in the countryside with a big garden surrounded by fields and forests, but he lived in the city in a small house that was completely stuffed with plants. It made a real impression on me, and I can clearly remember sleeping there once with a big plant looming over me.

 

Seattle Bon

Today at The Comics Journal, we're sitting down with Sarah Horrocks, the prolific cartoonist (who also writes comics criticism on the side, including some that she writes with us). She's here to speak with Nate Chazan about her most recent work, an adaptation of Euripedes' Bacchae

Is this more textured style something you’ve always wanted to achieve in your art? Is there anything particular to this work that prompted these stylistic changes?

I’ve always been interested in more textural work. It was work like Sienkiewicz’s Stray Toasters that made me want to be a comic artist in the first place--and Alberto Breccia is a huge influence as well. I love texture because it gives you more dimensions to work in, and allows me to communicate my emotions as an artist behind the story or page. And I just think it looks cool.

I also had a revelation while reading Zanardi by Pazienza, that no matter what style I worked in, it would always look like me, so the coherency of a page can just simply be my inclinations as an artist. What communicates the emotion of this panel, of this page; what makes this composition right--and not: “well I drew that character like that in the previous panel, so I should keep with it”--to me the consistency is that it’s all coming out of my pen/brush. 

As for anything prompting any change. I think Bacchae looks how it looks, because I’ve been working in black and white on Goro for a year, and wanted to do something in color again.  But also that’s just kind of how I saw it in my head. Each comic should look the way that works best for what it is.  So across Leopard, Goro, and Bacchae my style shifts wildly--but you can see this in my old old anthology work too where styles would shift radically between stories.  I always see these things, and then do my best to put them out in front of me, even if it requires me to work differently than I ever have previously. If I had a comic that I thought I should do in watercolors, I would just learn how to do watercolors. That’s my approach to comics as an artist. I’ll never limit the stories I can tell by what I think I can or can’t achieve as an artist, for better or worse.

Our review of the day comes to us from Ryan Carey, who has been keeping up with the Black Hook releases of Dokudami Tenement, and has some thoughts on the third volume.

It’s not enough, however, to propel it beyond the realm of the ultimately exploitative, and playing a lot of Franky’s mannerisms and modes of self-expression for laughs certainly doesn’t help, but the character is at least allowed the dignity of being something other than a simple one-note cipher, and there is an acknowledgement on Fukutani’s part that their struggle for acceptance (both from themselves and others) is not only valid in a more general sense, but also crucial to their emotional and psychological survival. Unfortunately, Fukutani has a persistent habit of trying to pull  cheap and easy punch-lines out of Franky’s trials and tribulations, and this consistently pushes the proceedings back down to something just slightly above gutter level --- but there’s an attempt at something more here, even if the narrative can never seem to allow itself to achieve it.

Multiple comics sites published articles in the last couple of days regarding DC Comics, which has begun the process of firing people in an attempt to restructure the company into one that appears more profitable via the easiest method possible. This round up of reactions to Mark Chiarello's firing is pretty spot on--regardless of my continued middle-aged spurred disinterest in basically everything DC publishes that isn't a reprint of something from the 1980's, Mark did good work at that company. (Here's an old Comics Alliance article by some familiar names on one of the best pieces of that work.) The past few weeks have seen more than a handful of concerned to furious articles about the current state of this part of the comics business--which is not to say that there haven't been some pretty hopeful ones too--but the timing of these firings, and the lack of any concrete sense that DC has any real plan doesn't instill a lot of confidence. Hope ain't a tactic, y'all.

 

Ring Ring

Today on the site we have the final (for now?) episode of Greg Hunter's excellent podcast, Comic Book Decalogue. Appropriately, he goes out with an important guest, Carol Tyler. Greg plans to continue contributing to the site from time to time, but his podcast will be much-missed.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—As mentioned last week, John Porcellino has launched a new weekly strip at The Chicago Reader. Melissa Mendes has started one, too.

—The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards have been announced. One of the contenders in the autobiography section is Nora Krug's Belonging, and, refreshingly, I haven't noticed anyone making a big deal about a comic being named.

—Gordon Dahlquist recommends Walt Kelly's Pogo.

The material is both arrantly silly and satirically sharp. Walt Kelly’s insistent lampooning of McCarthyism takes a place next to The Crucible as far as artistic stands of the American 1950s, but political commentary is only a grace note to the fullness of this world. The detail and depth of the art, the whimsical quasi-Southern dialect (and spelling, and lettering), and the expansive range of characters (and characterizations) are equally singular. Kelly lays out a crackling music-hall sensibility of routines, equal parts word-play and slap-stick, self-consciously old-fashioned and slyly up to the moment. Though it’s impossible to imagine strips like Doonesbury or Bloom County without it, Pogo is like nothing before or since in the newspapers.

 

Whoopsy Hate-sy

Today at TCJ, we've got a nice, deep dive into...The Teen Titans? Yup, you read that correctly. Michel Fiffe's Fiffe Files returns with its monthly does of dusty longbox-ing. But..the Titans?

Aw, but that's too many comics to look for and collect and read. Who has the time? C'mon, it's not that much to collect... at least it's not Claremont-written mutant titles. Well, I just cleared 5 longboxes full of unread stuff from my studio... it got overwhelming and literally in the way. Okay, but this would only be one longbox, tops. Yeah, but I know Teen Titans is gonna disappoint me, though... it's not their fault but it will fail to deliver what I need at this moment. I know it will. It happened with John Byrne's Namor, Jim Valentino's Guardians of the Galaxy, Dwayne McDuffie's Deathlok (that one kinda broke my heart), Firestorm/Hawkworld/Eternal Warrior by John Ostrander, New Warriors by Nicieza and the Bag Man... it goes on and on. As if binge reading automatically unlocks magical qualities. Is it a quest for exciting new stories that drives me, or is it just an excuse to nurture this neurosis? Might be both! I hate this habit of mine, this hungry and impatient consumer-monster with an optimistic streak driving my decisions. Clearly, the rush is in the hunting, the amassing, the checklist fetish, the sense of completion. But it's never complete, is it? That hole you want to fill just keeps getting as big as your tolerance lets it. Hey, maybe if I stuff this terrible meal down my throat I'll grow to love it. It never works.

It. Never. Works.

Our review of the day comes to us from Chris Mautner--he's taking a look at Tinderella, M.S. Harkness's debut graphic novel, which was published by Kilgore Books last year.

The most interesting thing about Tinderellais its sudden and sharp shift in tone about two thirds of the way through. Prior to that moment, the book appeared to be an entertaining if rather familiar look at the trials and tribulations of modern dating. But Harkness reaches for something deeper and more emotionally resonant towards the end, both strengthening the book and suggesting that she is a more thoughtful author than first glances would imply.

Over at The MNT, there's a solid interview with a couple of comics retail mainstays, James Sime & Ryan Higgins. 

 

Walk Away and Leave

Welcome back from the three-day (US) weekend. Robert C. Harvey is here today with the fifth installment of his series on the legendary feud between Al Capp and Ham Fisher. This week, World War II begins, and shots start flying at home too.

Fisher’s actions speak volumes about how unsure of himself he was. He sought the company of famous people. He went to great lengths to associate himself with them. He courted celebrities by depicting them in the strip. He recognized consciously that he too was a famous person, but unconsciously, he wasn’t sure. He had to be convinced. To shore up his own opinion of himself, he needed the reassurance he could feel if he were in the company of the people he regarded as famous. If he associated with famous people, surely he too was famous. His vanity — not to mention the very vitality of his self-esteem — was fed by his proximity to the famous.

And Fisher was unquestionably vain. He tooted his own horn. He carried around lists of all the newspapers that subscribed to his strip and would proudly produce them at the slightest provocation. Few major figures in cartooning ever make an exhibition of themselves like Ham Fisher did — proclaiming his own greatness to his peers, who all knew, as no other assembly of persons could, just how great he was.

They didn’t need Fisher to tell them about Fisher. They knew and appreciated his achievement. But they were turned off by his loud and boorish displays of self-adulation. And they saw through his obsequious servitude in the bar of the Illustrators clubhouse: They knew he was courting the favor of those whom he regarded as great. The rest of the company — the cartoonists whom Fisher did not see as very famous — Fisher ignored. And those cartoonists resented it. Resenting it, they were receptive to tales that revealed Fisher as they saw him. The story of Fisher’s treatment of Rube Goldberg, for instance.

At one of the early meetings of the Society, Weiss said, Fisher buttonholed Goldberg, telling him how much he, Fisher, admired his work, how great Goldberg was, and so on. Later, Fisher confided to another cartoonist that it was “too bad” about Goldberg: The man was a has-been, he opined, over the hill. Goldberg heard about this. And it galled him. And it irked others who learned of it. The episode confirmed them in their low opinion of Fisher. Fisher, they could see, was a self-serving blow-hard, willing to advance himself at everyone else’s expense whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Tahneer Oksman talks to Julie Doucet.

I quit comics, but I kept on drawing. Drawing and making all sorts of different things. And then I did this project with Michel Gondry [My New New York Diary, a book accompanied by a short film on DVD, published by PictureBox in 2010]. I love his films and all that, so I just said yes. But I was already not that much into drawing. And it was quite a lot of work. It was really just supposed to be a tiny project, like trying something, but it ended up being, not big, but quite a lot of work.

That’s when I had burnout, and after that I just couldn’t draw anymore. Because the film with him involved drawing and at that point I didn’t really feel like drawing, but it was just impossible to say no.

I had burnout, and I just couldn’t draw anymore. Or, I could draw, but it was really on automatic pilot. Not really anything creative.

The latest episode of RiYL is Georgia Webber.

—News. Four new members have been selected for the Eisners Hall of Fame: Jim Aparo, June Tarpé Mills, Dave Stevens, and Morrie Turner.

—Reviews & Commentary. Prominent retailer Brian Hibbs thinks the comics direct market is finally really dying.

Really, there aren’t a ton of “name” retailers, stores that might register with an average comic book reader, but I think Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics might be one of them. Chuck posted to Facebook “I fervently believe that the economics of comics publishing simply no longer allow smallish neighborhood comics shops to be successful”

If that wasn’t horrifying enough, Chuck went on in his recent newsletter that Mile High, one of the largest and most successful retailers in the country, was reacting to the new realities of publishing in the DM with this: “If you are a fan who wants to just browse the racks in our stores each week, however, you are most likely going to be sorely disappointed if you do not come in to one of our locations on Wednesday morning. We will definitely still be ordering copies of many new releases for speculative sale on the racks in our retail stores, but in such small quantities that we will be almost certainly sell out by the first weekend”

One of the most successful stores in the world is saying that they’re cutting bait on most new releases because they can’t stock them profitably. Think about that a second.

 

Secret Briefings

Today on the site, Annie Mok returns with a very fun email interview with Space Academy 123's Mickey Zacchilli.

I think a lot of burgeoning cartoonists see you as something of an artistic hero. Have you seen or heard about your influence on other cartoonists and their work? Are there artists you, in turn, have work you’ve been influenced by?

Uhhh I haven't heard this, about me being an artistic hero haha. There are a lot of artists and works I'm influenced by, of course! Jillian Tamaki and CF, as I mentioned above. Brian Chippendale has certainly been an influence on me but please don't ever talk to me about Fort Thunder. I'm always inspired by Michael DeForge (SA123 wouldn't exist were it not for Leaving Richard's Valley, which was Michael's daily Instagram comic that inspired me to start my own) and lately I've been reading the Naruto manga which has been really inspiring, for like, life in general haha, also watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (about to start Legend of Korra) which has been similarly inspiring and energizing in lots of ways. It feels stressful to make a list of people who inspire me right now because I'm really bad at recalling things off the top of my head and might forget to include a person that is particularly inspiring to me or something!!! So i'm not gonna do that. But there are so many amazing cartoonists working today! I feel inspired just thinking about reading comics. I just really like comics right now I guess!

One of your signatures is speech balloons with the tails connecting right to the speakers’ mouths, and hand-lettering with a lot of flair and personality. The decision, of course, makes no more or less sense than any other of the visual languages comics has developed over the last century, but it’s striking. When I read your comics, this touch makes me think about how the characters are communicating, how they may sound when they talk, in a way I may not get from more traditional speech balloons and lettering. How did you come to these approaches to balloons and letters?

I started doing the word bubbles that way because I used to not be so good at anticipating the layout, so I would just have to squeeze the bubbles in wherever, and sometimes it would be really confusing as to who was speaking if the bubble didn't connect directly to their mouth haha. So, it came about out of necessity. I still do it because I think it's way easier to understand that way, and it always felt kind of weird to me that the word bubbles are often added after the drawing is done, just overlaying the drawing, like they aren't an integral part of the comic?

Also I found I could break up the bubbles (sometimes a character will have two or three bubbles coming out of his mouth in the same panel) which allowed me to control the pacing of the speech -- so I was able to deliver it to the reader in a more specific manner, like in a movie! Hope that makes sense. I guess you can do that with regular word bubbles too!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Hannah Berry talks about the financial difficulties of life as a graphic novelist. (Via The Beat.)

Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? We’ve come this far together, let’s not get all coy about the financial side of things:

As a comicker I’m extremely fortunate to be published by Jonathan Cape, who as part of Penguin Random House are able to afford a bigger advance than a lot of other publishers of graphic novels. Specifically, for Livestock mine was £10,000. (NB never ask a prose novelist about their advances at similar points in their career because it will keep you up at night.) You only get a portion of this advance on signing the contract, though - the rest you get on delivery of the final thing and on publication. My editor is a kindly man, and so he arranged for the portion on signature to be £5,000.

Fortunately the Arts Council also offer grants under their Grants for the Arts scheme, and I made a successful bid (fourth time lucky) for just over £10,000. The various bits of freelance work I did on the side amounted to maybe another £9,000. Altogether that makes an income of approximately £24,000 over three years.

—Angouleme has named its Grand Prix nominees: Emmanuel Guibert, Rumiko Takahashi, and Chris Ware.

 

What About The Feelings

You may think you're at The Comics Journal, but that's where you're wrong, Buster. Today, you're at the Ariel Schrag Journal. We're starting things off with a nice long interview, courtesy of Schrag Superfan, Noah Berlatsky. In this section, Ariel talks about some of the complaints she faced after the release of her novel, Adam.

So I guess the thing after- after that was Adam, which we talked about a little bit. I guess I was curious with Adam, what kind of feedback you’ve gotten from trans readers.

Well I’ve gotten- well there’s personal feedback I’ve gotten from friends of mine who are trans and then there’s the internet, which is a whole other level of feedback.

Were people very critical?

Are you not aware of the extreme backlash that the book received?

No, I’m not.

Oh, yeah. There was a lot of criticism of it. For various reasons. It kind of turned into a bit of a wildstorm where many people who just hadn’t even read the book but just didn’t like the premise, you know, would go online and be like “this is the worst book I’ve read the synopsis of."

So, the book isn’t perfect or anything and if somebody is pissed off or reads it and has a critique then I’m interested in that but it’s kind of hard, at least on the internet- it’s kind of hard to find that within the barrage of people who haven’t read it or who skimmed it or who just want something to be angry about.

But most people- I have a lot of trans friends who have read it, and there are a lot of reviews by trans people that were positive and some that are negative. As long as somebody put thought into it I’ll pay attention. But, the main thing that people took issue with were that they don’t like the idea that a lesbian would date a trans man because that means she’s not a lesbian. Which is the point of the book.

There's also a lot of difficulty with people understanding the difference between showing a character doing something bad and condoning that behavior. But they also don’t like it because it promotes incest, because Adam watches his sister have sex. It’s just weird to me. It’s not how I’ve ever experienced media-

You didn’t get these kinds of criticisms for Awkward and Potential?

No, but I don’t think as many people have read those so maybe they would- there’d be more-

Let's not stop there. Move right on into our review of the day, which is of the Parts of It collection mentioned by Ariel in the interview. Nate Chazan, take the wheel:

Autobio comics trick you into having empathy. When we read comics, we articulate voices and imagine their utterance, and on some level I think we convince ourselves we understand the emergence of thoughts and feelings onto the page. In autobio, our reading enters us into role-play as the author, and without realizing it we begin to view their perception of the world as normal. The talented artist of autobio have the power to make something particular appear universal, to make us take the truth of an experience for granted before we even construct it as an experience. (This power can also be abused -- the reader of recent Chester Brown or an irritating self-help webcomic[1] alike will often find themselves asking, “who let you into my head?”)

Over at The Guardian, you'll find an extensive look at the 2019 comics most likely to be reviewed by major media outlets, courtesy of that white guy with the beard who wears sweaters and handles basically 94% of comics related publicity

Over at The Beat, they've got their final installment in their annual Creator Survey results, which focuses on their Comics Industry Person of the Year. (You get one guess, although you'll need two). The survey goes on past the top line to touch upon various creators and titles, with special admiration reserved for the Publisher of the Year: Annie Koyama.

 

Meat-Heavy

Today on the site, Rob Clough's High-Low column returns with a look at the comics of E.A. Bethea.

E.A. Bethea's comics read as detailed, confessional fever dreams. Her comics have the cadence of poetry, the text and images coalescing into commentaries on visual detritus, hilarious observations, charged and frequently sexual memories, and fascinating personal and cultural details. She's been fairly prolific of late, and Domino Books published a collection of her work titled Book of Days Daze. It is unfortunately printed on cheap newsprint instead of the thicker paper stock she's used in self-published comics like Faded Frankenstein and All Killer, No Filler. That said, those latter two comics had limited print runs, so the Domino edition is most people's best chance to read Bethea's work. Despite its limitations in this format, it is my choice for the single best single-issue minicomic/zine of 2018.

Faded Frankenstein, from 2016, is my favorite of her collections. Bethea ranges from nine to twelve panels per page, shakily hand-drawn as though she had no time to indulge in precision. There's a furious flow to her writing that makes it seem as though it's bursting out of her pen, each page a separate explosion of images and memories that demand to be expressed. Sometimes a page will have a single image. Other pages are illustrated text in an open-page format. Some of her stories have a conversational feel, as though she was confessing them to the reader at one of the hole-in-the-wall bars that she favors. Others are directly poetic, didactic or purely observational. All of them are dense and immersive, demanding a reader's full attention.

We also have a preview excerpt from Alexander Utkin's The Water Spirit.

Finally, one correction. As a reader kindly pointed out, an apparent excess of eggnog and fruitcake during the holiday season led to tabulation errors when we tallied votes from participants' lists of the best comics of 2018.

The actual combined votes lead to the following consensus list for 2018:

1. Jason Lutes, Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly), 16 votes
2. Julie Doucet, Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly), 13 votes
3. Eleanor Davis, Why Art? (Fantagraphics), 12 votes
4. Lauren R. Weinstein, Frontier #17: Mother's Walk (Youth in Decline), 11 votes
5. (tie) Tommi Parrish, The Lie and How We Told It (Fantagraphics), Tillie Walden, On a Sunbeam (First Second/Avery Hill/self-published), and Lale Westvind, Grip Vol. 1 (Perfectly Acceptable Press), 9 votes each
8. (tie) Yvan Alagbé, Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures (NYRC), Nick Drnaso, Sabrina (D&Q), Hartley Lin, Young Frances (AdHouse), Olivier Schrauwen, Parallel Lives (Fantagraphics), Noah Van Sciver, One Dirty Tree (Uncivilized), and Jim Woodring, Poochytown (Fantagraphics), 8 votes each

Note: If all votes for works by Olivier Schrauwen, Noah Van Sciver, and Lauren R. Weinstein were added together (each artist received multiple votes for multiple works), the list would have been somewhat different. The top 13 artists of 2018 would then be 1. Lutes, 2. Van Sciver, 3. Weinstein, 4. Doucet, 5. Davis, 6. Schrauwen, 7. (tie) Parrish & Walden & Westvind, and 10. (tie) Alagbé & Drnaso & Lin & Woodring.

Apologies to all affected artists and publishers.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. David Foster Wallace biographer D.T. Max profiled Nick Drnaso for The New Yorker.

Drnaso is as composed as his panels, which are rendered in crisp, almost rigid lines. He had only complimentary things to tell me about other cartoonists, and insisted that he wasn’t bothered by the fact that Drawn & Quarterly, which specializes in indie comics, had greatly underestimated the demand for “Sabrina.” “I don’t care in the least,” he said. “I never thought there was some sales goal I needed to hit.” He is so modest that, at one point, he offered an apology for his modesty, observing that “self-deprecation can be a little bit overbearing on the person who is forced to listen to it.” The only time I saw him express an impolite emotion was a few weeks after the book fair, when we were in a minor car accident on Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago. He was taking me on a tour of Logan Square, a fast-gentrifying neighborhood about which he has “mixed feelings.” It is not far from where he lives with his wife, Sarah, and their three cats. We had just eaten a meat-heavy breakfast at a favored diner—“It does the job,” he commented—when a minivan rear-ended us. Drnaso’s car had barely budged, but he was clearly upset. “What the fuck was that?” he said.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Peter Kuper.

—Reviews & Commentary. Gary Panter celebrates the comics of Gene Ahern.

Some things don’t become particularly interesting until they’ve survived their own era, outlasted the competition; they’re bizarre remnants. In the early ’60s, among the Sunday comic strips abandoned at the local laundromat that I most enjoyed reading were reprints of Gene Ahern’s Our Boarding House (1921–1936) and Room and Board (1936–1953). I found the prehistoric quality of these strips, both of which were set in dumpy boarding houses featuring patched couches and worn-out lamps, and a cast of layabouts who looked like beaten boxers with misshapen noses, very compelling.

Brian Nicholson looks back at the Batman comics of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle.

The Breyfogle stuff is so dynamic, and the plotting is so straightforward that publishing it alongside an annual by different people and a 16-page “Bonus book” that tried out new creators is basically only useful as a point of contrast, but everyone reading this collection will be immediately aware of much better the Grant/Breyfogle stuff is compared to pretty much everything else without needing any help. (Good lord, imagine someone who willingly reads the Batman comics DC currently puts out monthly reading this!)

—Misc. John Porcellino has launched a new weekly strip at The Chicago Reader.

And Michael Kupperman gave a presentation for Google: