Freshly Showered

Today Jeet Heer pay us a visit to look at some issues surrounding Jill Lepore's much-discussed book about Wonder Woman. Here's a bit:

The major problem with the book is it’s unwillingness to engage the rich existing literature on Wonder Woman (in particular) and comic book history (in general). Lepore has written a narrative history, which means her extensive footnotes are largely devoted to giving the sources for her facts. She doesn’t feel the need to argue with earlier scholarly excavations and interpretations. This has the distorting effect of making it seem like she’s the first person to tell this story. Many innocent readers will think that everything in the book is Lepore’s discovery. Yet the broad outlines of Marston’s life – his work inventing the prototype of the lie detector, his polyamorous relationship with Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne, his ties through his lovers to the feminist and birth control movement – have been known for at least two decades or more. In a very real sense, Lepore is working on the foundations built by scholars like Geoffrey Crinson Bunn, Lillian Robinson, and Francine Valcour. (Bunn and Valcour wrote important doctoral theses which are as yet unpublished. The late Lillian Robinson was the author of the 2004 book Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes) All of these scholars go unmentioned, which is a troubling omission. Particularly objectionable is the erasure of Bunn (whose scholarship was pioneering) and Robinson (whose theoretical approach would have enriched Lepore’s book). Other, more recent books that take up Wonder Woman – notably Ben Saunders Do the Gods Wear Capes? (2011) – are also ignored. Ignoring these scholars is especially troublesome because of the power dynamics at work. Lepore has a lot of institutional strength: she teaches at Harvard, her book is published by Knopf, and was excerpted by The New Yorker. By contrast, Lillian Robinson was for much of her career a nomadic scholar, moving from one adjunct job to the next. Despite her precarious status in academia, Robinson wrote many important books. It seems churlish of Lepore to write Robinson out of history.

Jeet's is the third and, I think, final piece we'll run on the book. Here's Ron Rege, Jr.'s interview with Lepore and Sarah Boxer's review.

And we are pleased to have Simon Hanselmann is joining us for the week with a Cartoonist's Diary. Here's day 1.


Zoe Taylor interviews Seiichi Hayashi.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Zak Sally.

I always enjoy "behind the cover" features about the New Yorker, and this one's no different.

TCJ-contributor Sean Rogers recommends three recent graphic novels. Roberta Smith recommends my very own What Nerve! in the NY Times. The same "gift suggestions" section of the Times includes the usual deplorable suggestions from Captain Fanboy George Gene Gustines (I refuse to link to it), who manages to make one of the best eras in comics mostly about complete junk. It's as if the Times film coverage was devoted exclusively to Michael Bay pictures. Weird, depressing and embarrassing. Grow up, George! And Dana Jennings is ecstatic over the new giant Marvel book from Taschen. I have spent some time with the book, and it does feature a ton of great art -- no real discoveries or anything you haven't seen, but it's nicely reproduced, and certainly treats the art better than Marvel itself ever has. But ultimately it's a very expensive corporate brand book. It faithfully sticks to the script regarding the company's "fun" and "greatness", which I'm sure was the mandate. Of course the company's deplorable treatment of its artists is nowhere to be found, and no real history is done here. That's not what this book is about. The artists are mentioned and given short profiles, but they are always secondary to the product. Why would Marvel do anything else? So, you get what you pay for here -- it makes perfect publishing sense (i.e. a gift book about a "beloved" company) but little moral or aesthetic sense. There are plenty of other books out there that cover the artists, but it is sad that writers and researchers like Roy Thomas and Michael Vassallo, among others, would participate in this kind of whitewash, or the idea that Marvel is "beloved" or a "myth maker" or in the business of anything other than making money.


Time: Part II

Before we head out for the Thanksgiving holiday, we have a few last things for you. First, R. Fiore is here with the latest installment of his Funnybook Roulette column. This time, he tackles Joe Sacco's return to underground comix-style satire, Bumf, and comes to terms with his political nemesis, Ted Rall. Here he is on the Sacco:

If Bumf doesn't garner the sort of broad attention and acclaim that Sacco's previous works have it won't be because of any lack of passion, imagination, or artistry, but because it's expressing something that's genuinely painful.

And Sarah Boxer has our review of Jill Lepore's Secret History of Wonder Woman:

Lepore makes the case that Wonder Woman, which began in the early 1940s, is feminism's “missing link,” a vital connector in a “chain of events that begins with the woman suffrage campaigns of the 1910s and ends with the troubled place of feminism fully a century later” (yes, there's still no Equal Rights Amendment!). But what really sticks in the mind is how tightly bound this feminist superhero and her creator were with the art of bondage and submission. Marston, a walking talking contradiction, battled for women's liberation while conducting scientific studies to prove that women enjoyed bondage and beating other women with sticks. He declared that any woman could have it all, but it was he who had two or three women at the same time – one to support him and his family (Sadie Holloway), one to raise his children and write gushing reviews of his psychological work (Olive Byrne), and one to take care of the incense burning and the “love binding” in the attic (Marjorie Huntley).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Johanna Draper Carlson writes about that massive (and massively unsuccessful) Tezuka Kickstarter from a few weeks back.

Marc Singer has broken his internet silence to review Grant Morrison and Fran Quitely's Pax Americana.

Ben Towle reviews recent books about comics.

—News. Stan Sakai's wife Sharon has passed away, as Sakai revealed on his Facebook page. Like her husband, she was a beloved figure, and in recent years, many in the comics community had rallied to her support through various efforts.

Tom Hart and Leela Corman's SAW is having its annual fundraiser.

A Hugo Pratt watercolor has been auctioned off for a record price.

Interviews. Gil Roth talks to Mary Fleener.

Whit Taylor talks to Dog City Press.



Today Joe McCulloch fills your belly with the next best thing to turkey: comic books!

The big news is that Tom Spurgeon is moving to what has become the comics capital of North America, Columbus, Ohio, to become Festival Director of a brand new comics fest called Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, which is linked both to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Columbus Cultural Arts Center. This is great news all the way around: Incredibly smart people (Spurgeon, Lucy Caswell, Jeff Smith, Vijaya Iyer) linked to a major institution taking this kind of initiative is very heartening. I can't wait to see what they do.

Comics writer, historian and former TCJ editor Frank Young has announced the release of a three-volume John Stanley bibliography, thus shedding definitive light on the career of the one of the best and most hidden (in plain sight) cartoonists of the 20th century.

Here's a fine review of an exhibition every cartoonist in New York should see: Gladys Nilsson. And here is our own Nicole Rudick interviewing the artist herself.

Paul Gravett interviews the excellent Spanish cartoonist Max, who has a beautiful new book out called Vapor.

And here's a photo set of Pakito Bolino's Heta Uma exhibition in France. I have a more narrow vision of Heta Uma than Pakito, but I'm glad to see King Terry, Ebisu and Nemoto in there.



To commemorate the release of the new Comics Journal Library volume collecting Zap interviews, and the release of The Complete Zap, we are posting a lengthy, previously unpublished interview with late Spain Rodriguez, conducted by Patrick Rosenkranz in 1998. (It doesn't appear in the Zap Interviews book.) Spain had some stories:

ROSENKRANZ: When did you realize there was such a thing as an underground press?

SPAIN: It was The Militant, which was a Trotskyite newspaper, which had been around. You could also pick up The Weekly People, which was on a lot of the corner sidewalk newsstands, which is the newspaper of the Socialist Labor Party, a real old party, a pre-Marxist Party that comes out of the 1800s. The layout of the newspaper was always great, because you could always get into an argument with somebody. The newspaper was about this big and with those big block letters and the arm and hammer, which is some association with Armand Hammer’s father, who was a socialist. There was a connection between that Arm & Hammer logo and the Socialist Labor Party, which is from the turn of the century. They had this great logo. You’d just sit over there with the newspaper and somebody would give you an argument about it.

ROSENKRANZ: Did you consider that an underground paper?

SPAIN: It was an alternative paper. It wasn’t really underground. The first underground newspaper in Buffalo, we did. We put out something called Pith. The guy who really got it together worked at some silkscreen place. It was a silkscreen newspaper that we put out that had all this wacky stuff in it. I don’t know where he got the title. It was a pithy title. He was a strange guy. A story that says everything about him is: One time he was going to New York. He was a strange-looking guy, even by today’s standards. He looked a little like Orson Welles. He had a beard and had loud rose-colored glasses and would wear this hat. It was a New Year’s hat and it was spray-painted black, with an Italian flag sticking up. He wasn’t Italian. He was a big guy. He had this sweater that hadn’t been washed in a long time and it had these little beads on it: these pants that came up to here and sandals.

Some guy like that, especially in 1965, would attract a lot of cop attention. It was about four o’clock in the morning we’re going through or around Schenectady, where the cops were known for being nasty. The cop pulls us over and sees him and … Hey, man! The head guys from every police department around there. Here would come the state cops and different cops. He had this way of talking. He would say this strange stuff but in a conversational tone. They started talking to him and he was saying all this weird stuff and after a while they just start walking away. He was the editor of Pith. His name was Gary Stevens. Unfortunately, he committed suicide. They entrapped him in some drug bust and he was facing time. The sad thing, in Buffalo — I wasn’t there at the time — I think if they had gotten enough community support behind him, they might have helped him to stave off that kind of depression about the jail time. Or brought him out here. He killed himself. He was a real strange guy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Morton at the literary site The Millions has an interesting, ambivalent take on the Scott McCloud volume of Best American Comics, saying that comics have divorced themselves from irony.

Inés Estrada presents her idiosyncratic take on the year in comics.

Richard Metzger enthuses over The Complete Zap.

Robert Boyd reviews a bunch of minicomics he picked up at this year's CAB.

Tim Callahan is excited about Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison's Pax Americana.

—Interviews. Frank Quitely himself gives his views on that comic in an interview with Newsarama. (Colorist Nathan Fairbairn discussed the comic, too, at his own blog.)

Chris Arrant talks to Derf Backderf.

—Misc. Frank Young shares a bunch of one-page pantomime Little Lulu strips from John Stanley.

The PEN American Center is auctioning off classic or important books that have been annotated by the authors. One volume that may be of interest to our readers is a copy of David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik's City of Glass.


Bass Speakers

Happy Friday. Today we have Jeff Trexler weighing in on the Kirby settlement.

On Veterans Day Marvel celebrated Jack Kirby’s military service with photos and recollections from Kirby’s son Neal. Does this collaboration prove that the Kirby heirs triumphed in their fight for justice, or did their settlement betray creator’s rights?

A little over a month ago, the Supreme Court was on the verge of giving new life - or dealing the final blow - to the attempt by Jack Kirby’s son Neal and daughters Barbara, Lisa and Susan to claim the copyright such iconic characters as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers. What the Court would have decided we may never know for sure, since the company and the family settled just days before the scheduled date for the Court to decide whether to take the case.


Here's one-time  underground cartoonist and founding Screw art director Steve Heller on Zap.

TCJ-diary contributor Kayla E. has launched a Kickstarter for the anthology she co-edits, Nat Brut, and she's such a good thinker and the new issue certainly sounds promising enough for me to briefly set aside my aversion to Kickstarter.

Hey, I was on NPR on Wednesday talking (with Norman Hathaway) about my new book, Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream.

Book industry: Ursula K. Le Guin is awesome (I mean, I knew that already, but this is extra).


It Was Someone Else

Frank Santoro has a new column for us following up on his experience at CAB, but this time he focuses on how the market for the back issues he sells has changed.

The most interesting thing to me is how sets of the original issues (of a series) are nearly impossible to sell. For years I had a set of the original Black Hole issues for sale. It never sold. Charles Burns himself would stop by the table, at different shows in different cities to see if it sold. I just couldn’t move it. At cover price alone (for all the issues together) it was more than double the cost of the collection. I finally took it out of circulation because Mr. Burns’s stare was too much. (I had a set of the original appearances of The Rocketeer in Starslayer but Chris Oliveros broke up the set 'cause he was only interested in one of the issues that had a Steve Ditko Missing Man back up and asked me to cut him a deal.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Consortium has begun distributing for Secret Acres and Alternative Comics.

Jillian Tamaki has won the Governor General Literary Prize.

—Interviews. Virtual Memories talks to Jules Feiffer.

—Commentary. Jared Gardner looks at recent developments in funny animal comics.

—Misc. Zainab Akhtar has a report from this year's Thought Bubble.

Master letterer Todd Klein is six entries in to a history of digital lettering.

David Brothers has ended his popular decade-old group blog, 4thletter!

—Video. There's a short documentary online for the new Art of Richard Thompson book:

The Art of Richard Thompson from GVI on Vimeo.


No More Openings

Today we have Gary Groth's 1991 interview with Robert Crumb, part of our ongoing spotlight on Zap.

GROTH: Don’t you think that representations of sex in the media can affect people, just like 40 years of being indoctrinated bPlayboy can affect people?

CRUMB: I think anything that is propaganda or panders to people is definitely not good for them. They’re just pandering to people’s weaknesses, and trying to undercut the next guy in the competitive marketplace. But that’s anything; you can say the same thing about breakfast cereals with a lot of sugar in them.

GROTH: Yes, but misogynistic work could be pandering to the misogynistic impulses of misogynists.

CRUMB: But pandering cannot be truthful. There’s a dif­ference. You’re trying to appeal to a market in order to sell something.

GROTH: So in assessing a work you’re really relying heavily upon the motives of the artist.

CRUMB: Absolutely.

GROTH: But most of the time you really don’t know what those motives are.

CRUMB: But honesty rings true. Of course it takes somewhat of an educated taste, or a certain cultivation, to see what’s true and what isn’t — which means you have to look at a lot of work and make comparisons over a period of time. As a kid you don’t perceive those things quite so much. Kids can’t be expected to see what’s truth and what’s pandering. Kids are much more susceptible to victimization by marketing schemes and aggressive sales.

And Greg Hunter on Fukitor:

Fukitor is a collection of rebellious gestures performed on repeat. The book, a bellwether title for Fantagraphics’ F.U. Press imprint, brings together entries from cartoonist Jason Karns’s series of the same name. The individual stories are genre pastiches of about five-to-ten pages in length. They typically feature murderous ghouls or hyperviolent men of action or both. They are designed to accommodate as many instances of bloodshed and rape as possible. Much of the advance buzz surrounding Fukitor took the form of a debate concerning Karns’s depictions of sexual violence and his use of ethnic caricature. Some aspects of this conversation are larger than Fukitor, and if the book represents failures of empathy within the comics community, people besides Karns share responsibility for those lapses. But Karns alone is responsible for his book’s failures of imagination.

And elsewhere:

A piece on a new Richard Thompson documentary, and the trailer here:

And here's a Jillian Tamaki interview:

Good news: Sean Howe has a new book on the go, and it's comics-adjacent. Check out the news here.

Here's a Nate Powell interview in comics form.

And here's an interview with manga artist Hiroaki Samura.


License Revoked

Joe McCulloch has your weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics out in stores this week (spotlight picks from Lynda Barry and Régis Loisel), but starts things off by looking at a fairly obscure collection from Blutch:


This too is part of the character of the work - I'd argue more prominently so than Blutch's carefully parceled marshaling of sonic lines. No, the Jazzman strips are often jokes, and this is an old-but-good one: the too-cool yé-yé singer is unmoved by booze, smoke and sex, but throw on some Duke Ellington and he is open-mouthed and post-coitally limp. It's like a Carl Barks gag page, though Blutch takes different strips in different tonal directions. A horn player is seen beating a woman bloody, then rolling out to the club to reduce the audience to tears. A black superstar basks in the public adulation of Paris, only to spy provincial women grimacing at him behind his back. A promoter lazes through a parade of sub-par players, only to perk up at the sound of truly great playing, then scowl and storm away upon discovering the musician is a woman. Lee Morgan is shot dead by his lover, prompting a bassist to kiss his long-suffering wife. A harried woman in a nightgown, cleaning up after her unconscious husband, stares at a shirtless man practicing in a window across the way, and she lays down satisfied.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna talks to Flemming Rose, the Danish newspaper editor who commissioned the most controversial cartoons about Islam of all time. Rose has a new book coming out.

Andrice Arp has ten questions for Simon Hanselmann.

—News. The third annual British Comics Awards were announced, with Isabel Greenberg taking Best Book, and Posy Simmonds making it into the Hall of Fame.

Richard McGuire did the cover for the latest New Yorker in the style of Here.

Add W. C. Fields to the list of wannabe cartoonists.

Also, The New Yorker has its special "Cartoons of the Year" issue out now. Looks like it might be worth picking up for the two-page Paul Karasik article on a Charles Addams gag alone.