Everything is Synced

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch's latest news about life in comics.

I raced through CAB on Saturday with just 2.5 hours of free childcare courtesy of my mom.  My faves were Lale Westvind's latest publications, Breakdown Press (New Ines Estrada, Lala Albert, Conor Stechschulte, Connor Willumsen), Noel Freibert and the unstoppable Leon Sadler, briefly ported over from England and having the great American adventure.

And there are some art/comics articles on the internet worth checking out:

James Ensor looks like CAB, or CAB looks like James Ensor.

Via Bill K., A Finnish animation.

Jeet Heer wrote a great Twitter essay on Steve Ditko, Ayn Rand and Spider-Man.

And here's a good evaluation of the problematics and politics around the acceptance of the work of comics-influenced artist Allen Jones.

Now watch this, all of you, and despair...


Ups and Downs

Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the oral history of Zap Comix compiled by scholar Patrick Rosenkranz for the forthcoming collection of Zap.

In September 1969, the Berkeley police raided the Print Mint warehouse to seize all their copies of Zap #4, but owner Don Schenker had been tipped off and had moved their stock to another location. When they saw bookstores and distributors getting busted, the Zapsters suspected they might be next.

[ROBERT] WILLIAMS: We just thought we were all going to get arrested somewhere down the line, because there had never been material like this. Remember, 1969 is when the first adult magazines ever came out that showed pussy and asshole, and this was just flipped, to actually have this in a printed magazine that went through a printing press. You know, anything before that was just some secret thing.

[ROBERT] CRUMB: There was an organized, systematic, repressive action taken against every aspect of that outburst against the system, including alternative print media, by the powers, agencies, and institutions of the corporate state. It is not paranoia, but the fact of history to say these things. They didn’t sit back and passively watch while Abbie Hoffman and Huey Newton strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage. They had their think tanks staying up nights plotting and scheming new techniques to squash, neutralize, and co-opt this threat to everything they held dear. They constructed sophisticated strategies for instilling fear into the general population. You could watch it happening all through the ’70s and into the ’80s. Fear was a weapon the bastards used very effectively.

[GILBERT] SHELTON: There was a lot of pressure at the time. I guess a lot of people have forgotten how paranoid everyone was, that we were either going to be rounded up and all put in prison camps, or just shot down on the streets by the forces of reaction. Things didn’t look so good in ’68 and ’69.

WILLIAMS: There was a shaky period there in ’70–’71, where we thought the government was going to clamp down. There was a chance there that the country could have swung to the right. We know for a fact that they were reconditioning internment camps in Eastern and Southern California and Arizona where they put the Japanese in, and there were remarks about doing it from the government. We stuck our necks out already so we might as well stick them out all the way and violate everything.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Ware writes about the story behind his latest New Yorker cover.

Rachel Cooke at The Guardian briefly reviews Joe Sacco's Bumf (which is very much in the tradition of Zap, and which I predict will blow a few of his more recent readers' minds) and Jean-Pierre Filiu & David B's Best of Enemies.

Zainab Akhtar reviews newish work by Rob Davis, Stephen Collins, and Hermann.

—News. Koyama Press is going digital via Sequential.

Jim Woodring receives the Lynd Ward Prize.

No one writes catalog copy like Zak Sally.

FAIR WARNING-- please DO NOT send it back for any of these reasons:

it is physically difficult to read.

yup. there are literally MILLIONS of books that are very easy to read, physically. this is not one of them (but maybe if you get through it you can find out why). [Etc. ...]

—Interviews & Profiles. Here is a transcript of Alan Moore biographer Lance Parkin's live interview with Moore, conducted a few weeks back for the UK publication of Parkin's book.

—Controversies. Russ Heath recently wrote and drew a strip for Hero Initiative about Roy Lichtenstein's use of a Heath panel for one of his most famous paintings. As the mention of Lichtenstein in comics circles usually does, this quickly spurred a lot of vehement and largely predictable arguments online (although noted Before Watchmen participant and apologist Darwyn Cooke doing the strip's lettering added an ironic new sideshow to the main event). The issue of whether or not Lichtenstein exploited cartoonists' work for his paintings is in my opinion more complicated and less clear-cut than either side will usually admit, but however you feel about Lichtenstein, it's important to remember (as Evan Dorkin pointed out on Twitter) that his paintings only affected a relatively small number of artists -- the comics industry as a whole exploited many, many more.

Second, after nearly a week of nonstop debate over the recent James Sturm strip, I don't think anyone needs my take on things, but there are still a few things I think worth saying that I haven't seen said. Tom Spurgeon had what I thought was a reasonable response last Friday, if you aren't familiar with the controversy. And Brandon Graham drew a very effective response strip of his own, depicting a version of the story in which the characters react in a positive manner instead of a negative one. It's a fun strip, and I can see why it's so popular, but I wonder if people would have liked it so much if the Sturm strip wasn't already there for context and comparison. That may seem obvious, but what I mean by that is I'm not sure stories in which the main characters always do the right thing make for the best, most lasting art.

Let me be clear here if I can. I think the debate over the strip's perceived sexism is largely a healthy, useful, and important thing, even though I don't fully agree with that reading. (I think any reading of the strip that doesn't include its premise -- that envy and fear of a (female) fellow artist's perceived success is akin to a pointless, harmful, and debilitating addiction -- is at the least incomplete. I also think that if a reader isn't already familiar with the culture surrounding 12-step recovery programs, that central premise is clearly a lot harder to discern.) There are always multiple competing valid readings for any work of art, and everyone is entitled to their own response. Discussions about the political implications of any work of art can only be enriching, assuming they are entered into honestly, and people don't have to agree on every particular to learn from each other's perspectives.

But there has been another popular response to the strip that I think is far less defensible, and much less healthy, and that's the apparent belief that artistic depiction of bad behavior necessarily equals endorsement. (Obviously not every detractor of the strip falls into this trap.) While Graham's strip is excellent as a response to Sturm's, I think if Sturm's initial strip had taken the same tack as Graham's, it would have been much less effective, and frankly, unmemorable. It doesn't take too long imagining the application of this approach to other stories before you can see why. Suddenly the three little pigs all responsibly build their houses out of bricks. When the witch in the wood meets Hansel and Gretel, she feeds and comforts them for the sake of kindness rather than cannibalism. Macbeth chooses to set his ambitions aside, and the jury in To Kill a Mockingbird quickly agrees to Tom Robinson's acquittal. Obviously we would have to lose a great many stories.

Sometimes art provokes uncomfortable responses. Kafka, who wrote better uncomfortable fiction than just about anybody, once famously said, "A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." I don't think I'd claim so much for Sturm's strip, but the fact that it explores discomfiting territory is a point in its favor. The same is true of the debate it inspired.

(By the way, this little-noticed tweet provides interesting context to the whole business.)



On this exciting comic book convention weekend we present Matthew Thurber's Letter to a Young Cartoonist.

What is the meaning of the Internet? And what can be done about it? I am 36. Like Virgil in Dante’s Inferno I come from Another Time, the pre-Internet era, to guide you, Young Cartoonist through the architecture of Hell. Young Cartoonist, born in 1990 (shudder!!!) I ask you, what does the Internet mean to you? Is it your preferred medium? Is it your Life? Is it your Wife? An altar of sacrifice, at which you offer up your artwork, hoping to feel like someone cares even tiny bit? Even one Like?

Historically cartoonists drew on paper. Why? Only because it’s available and cheap. People who draw will also draw on tables, on their clothes and shoes, on walls, and on bathroom stalls. People will draw with sparklers and with lawnmowers to create crop circles. People will draw with invisible lines to connect the dots in the Milky Way. It is evident that people who want to will draw in any available format, whether it is a beautiful sheet of hot-press watercolor paper or a virtual 3D space in Google Sketchup or the skin of a water buffalo. The desire to make marks comes with no predetermined appropriate surface.


I'm pleased to report that I have seen a copy of Frank Santoro's new comic, Morgan, and it rules very hard. Go forth and acquire it at CAB! Also, be sure not to miss Leon Sadler and Lando's table, as well as the Breakdown Press table, which has some fine debuts from Inez Estrada, Antoine Cosse and Ryan Holmberg's latest vintage manga publication by Matsumoto Masahiko.

In NYC for the CAB? I suggest you visit Tomato House tonight for Anya Davidson's art show, as all as Takeshi Murata's Om Rider at Salon 94 on Bowery at Stanton.

A graphic novel account of union negotiations at NYC's beloved Strand bookstore has just been published. More here. 

The Beat has a round-up of people misunderstanding James Sturm's very funny and accurate comic strip.

Steve Heller previews the new Ed Emberley book.



Sidetrack City

Today, Dan Nadel interviews the great Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti about his newest book, Hansel & Gretel, and many other things. Here's a small sample of their conversation:

Are these all the images you created or are there some left out?

No, normally I use everything. I did maybe two or three more images for this main subject. I did three versions. One I put inside and the other one I only used for myself. It’s incredible how this work came out. It came in a very natural way. I ‘d like to make all the books like this.

(laughs) I was just going to ask. Is that unusual for you? Is it usually more organized?

No, I’m quick for my kind of images. For my research, for my paintings. Normally, I’m quick. I make many, many images with the pen and also the brush. For my personal drawings and paintings, I’m very quick. I like illustrations I can do in two days, one day. Luckily, I’m quick. But for some books, I take my time. I do after I think after I do. And for my stories in comics, for my stories I’m very slow. For other stories like Jekyll and Hyde, I’m much more quick.

Hansel and Gretel was just one or two weeks?

More or less. Maybe less.

That’s fast.

After Hansel and Gretel, I decided that I was really interested in this kind of method, so I started to make other images in a very free way. Only black and white. There was not a story, but there was a sort of an evocation of a story. I did an exhibition in Bologna of 50 or so of these works.

We also have Robert Kirby's review of the last eight minicomics releases from Kuš!, the Latvian publishing effort. Here's his introductory paragraph:

Kuš! (pronounced "koosh"), the Latvian Comics anthology launched in 2007, recently sent me their eight most recent minicomics, half of which were released in late 2013, the rest earlier this year. Each 24-page mini is a solo effort from a different creator in their growing stable of Latvian and international artists. Each creator employs elements of fantasy or magical realism in his or her stories, with one piece being flat-out science fiction (albeit in a very whimsical fashion). Even the one comic that appears to be a straightforward, grounded-in-the-real-world story—Oskars Pavlovskis' Lucky—dips into the Twilight Zone before the final page. The comics and artists featured by Kuš! often work in an elliptical fashion; the stories revel in ambiguity, traffic in surreal imagery and storylines, and are frequently grounded in the conceptual rather than the concrete. Each mini has a brief, well-written synopsis on the back cover, which can help the uninitiated suss out some of the more abstract tales. They are all 4" x 6", in color, impeccably designed and produced, making them collectible little art objects.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Biographer Lance Parkin has posted the final interview he conducted with subject Alan Moore in four parts so far.

In advance of CAB in Brooklyn this weekend, Al Jaffee.

Peggy Roalf at DART interviews cartoonist/illustrator Jonathon Rosen.

The latest guest on Anshuman Iddamsetty's Arcade podcast is Nina Bunjevac.

Alex Dueben talks to Copra creator Michel Fiffe.

Zainab Akhtar talks to Swedish cartoonist Erik Svetoft.

Tom Spurgeon talks to comiXology's Chip Mosher about their Submit program.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Nicholas Lezard writes about Hunt Emerson's Calculus Cat.

Martin Wisse writes about the online controversy surrounding the James Sturm comic Dan linked to yesterday.

Ruth Margalit writes about the disturbing messages of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

—News. As just about everyone reported yesterday, Bill Watterson has released the poster he has drawn to promote the next Angoulême festival, and announced via interview that he won't be attending the event. Because hers was the first post I saved, let me send you to Brigid Alverson for the details.



Today on the site, Sean T. Collins on The Basil Plant.

When considering a comic this simple in form, the natural assumption is that function will follow. Panel by panel, page by page, the story will proceed in linear fashion, building meaning like a block tower. It’s comics as a solidly written college essay, or even just one paragraph therein, each sentence serving just enough of a purpose to connect its neighbors, the whole equalling the sum of its parts precisely. That’s how it seems The Basil Plant will operate—at first. First-person narrative captions float above a series of self-portraits, describing a method of anxiety management that’s novel, though not dramatically so: “When my anxiety is too great to bear, I sit in the sun and eat a pear. “I can’t remember how I got to this method, but it works.” There are flourishes here that might cause your ears to prick up a bit — that rhyme in the first panel, or the way Lannes situates herself on a park bench with no visible means of supporting itself, floating in midair as if existing for no reason other than to support her.


James Sturm has a pretty funny comic online that addresses a very common cartoonist's disease. I guess people are mad about this comic, but I can only find "So and so is mad about this comic" type messages. I dunno, seems like a pretty dead-on satire to me.

The best news of the upcoming weekend is Anya Davidson's solo exhibition in Brooklyn at Tomato House.

Here's a bit of a Renee French interview.

I'm inexplicably glad to know about this DVD release. Also, when is someone smart going to write the Bob Kane story. The contracts, the clown paintings, the ghosts, Hollywood, etc! My favorite kind of cartoonist story.

And something is a'brewing at Angouleme with new Bill Watterson art, thus sending all of the comics internet into a tizzy.


It’s Complicated

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics in stores. Before he gets to that, he also takes a look at the time Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) wrote an American Wolverine comic:

X-Men Unlimited #50, marking the one and only appearance of Kazuo Koike as writer for an American comic book. Koike was actually a Marvel superhero veteran of a sort, having worked on a Hulk series way back in the early ’70s at the time of the publisher’s first effort at cracking the manga market via Kodansha (the same effort that led to Ryōichi Ikegami on Spider-Man), but he only became well-known in English-speaking environs via Frank Miller’s boundless enthusiasm for Lone Wolf and Cub, the popular swordsman series Koike wrote for Gōseki Kojima. Miller, of course, had gotten to indulge his Japanese fascinations through a very prominent 1982 Wolverine miniseries with Chris Claremont, so the character’s relation to manga stuff had been at least somewhat well-established already.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth talks to frequent TCJ writer Richard Gehr about his new book on New Yorker cartoonists.

Alex Dueben speaks to Jill Lepore, the New Yorker writer behind the new Wonder Woman/William Moulton Marston book.

Hogan's Alley has republished a profile of Hy Eisman, a prolific ghost artist for decades of comic strips, including Bringing Up Father, Smokey Stover, Tiger, Blondie, and more.

—Reviews & Commentary. Robert Boyd reviews books by Charles Burns and Dylan Horrocks.

For Bookslut, Brian Nicholson reviews Marguerite Van Cook & James Romberger's The Late Child and Other Animals, as well as Aisha Franz's Earthling.

At Slate, Glen Weldon reviews the Jill Lepore book mentioned earlier.

Brian Cremins has a fun personal essay on The Curse of the Werewolf.

Publishers Weekly has announced their best comics of 2014.


Bad Move

Today on the site: Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash sit down (virtually) with Philip Nel to talk about their long-awaited new children's book, Bow-Wow's Nightmare Neighbors, debuting Saturday at CAB. I'm a huge fan of these books and these artists, so all of this is a real treat.

Philip Nel: First there was Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, and then the six Bow-Wow concept books (2007-2009). Now, five years later…Bow-Wow returns! Where has he been? (Since I know you both, I have some sense of why the long-awaited Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors [2014] was so many years in the making. However, on behalf of Bow-Wow fans everywhere, I had to ask…)

Mark Newgarden: There were several reasons for the gap between books. First, it took us awhile to come up with another long-form story that we felt was as strong about as Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug. Secondly, our original editor Tamson Weston (as well as the marketing and sales team) left Harcourt when that company was in flux and it made sense to move on to another publishing house. Fortunately Bow-Wow was adopted by Neal Porter and installed at his new kennel in the Flatiron building at Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan. Thirdly, Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors grew into a much more involved and time-consuming project than any of our other books. At 64 pages, over 100 images and 0 words, this is far from a typical picture book.

Megan Montague Cash: And lastly, we have had some serious interruptions by some real-life nightmare neighbors. We live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which now seems to be ground zero for all the new “luxury housing” in the universe. Dealing with a troublesome development project next door stole a great deal time away from our book (as well as the rest of our lives). These problems are a lot worse than Bow-Wow’s and so far, there is no real-life resolution like the one that we were able to imagine for him and the ghost cat mob from across the street.

Nel: I hope your happy ending also involves a long nap.

Newgarden: It will!


On the other side of the spectrum, here's a lengthy profile of the upcoming Zap box set over at the NY Times.

And here's a good excerpt from TCJ-contributor Richard Gehr's excellent new book, I Only Read it for the Cartoons -- a chapter on Roz Chast.

This is a rather remarkable story, with accompanying visuals, of a trove of recently saved newspapers.

In honor of Steve Ditko's 87th birthday yesterday Tom Spurgeon posted links to various Warren stories by the great artist.

And finally, I enjoyed this article on Gilbert Hernandez and the depiction of time in comics.


That Time of Year

Today we are publishing my interview with Charles Burns, in which we discuss Sugar Skull, his slow working methods, learning not to censor himself, and much more. Here's a sample:

That was another thing [Todd] Hignite included in that In the Studio book — it has a bunch of different drafts you did of a picture of a ghoul, I don’t know what it actually is.

Sure, yeah. That’s it, I forgot. That’s actually a fairly good — that’s just a single image for a cover, but it would be similar for working a page. Breaking down a page and figuring it out. But that’s kind of the way I work.

What was amazing about to me was how much it changed and it’s not like it ever was a bad drawing, but in some ways the early version was just so different and so less interesting than where you ended up at in the end. I know that’s the goal, but it still almost feels like you have to have faith in your own ability to eventually get it right – you don’t worry about too much at first.

That’s something really important, for me anyway. And that’s the way that I write as well. It’s not sitting down at a keyboard and writing a script and thinking, oh shit, what’s the next line? I sit with cheap notebooks or cheap sketchbooks and just fill them up with ideas and maybe pieces of dialogue and bits and pieces. I keep circulating through all those notes. Go back to those notes. So nothing feels cut in stone or permanent. It all feels like it’s open and I can move in any direction that I want.

It’s starting with a lot of information and slowly, slowly distilling it down to something that’s concrete. So maybe that says something about my personality that I’m very cautious and very careful about all that stuff, but I don’t have the kind of brain that can sit down and write beautiful dialogue and a beautiful story. There’s people who certainly can do that work really quickly and just do amazing work, but I don’t have that facility unfortunately. I wish I did, but I don’t.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. In a move that presumably stems from the recent legal settlement, Marvel has begun printing creator credits for Jack Kirby on many of its titles.

J. David Spurlock The Wallace Wood Estate is suing Tatjana Wood over the possession of some Wally Wood art.

—Interviews & Profiles. Aeon has a lengthy profile of Alan Moore.

Alex Dueben interviewed both MariNaomi and Simon Hanselmann.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the NYRB, Sarah Kerr reviews the big two recent books on Wonder Woman.

For Hyperallergic, Dominic Umile reviews the new Tim Lane collection.

—Funnies. Study Group has published a whole slew of Halloween-related webcomics.