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.



Today on the site, Frank Santoro comes to us with an interview with Manuele Fior, a cartoonist Frank only just told me about, but who looks very exciting.

How has the evolution of Italian comics affected your work? Because I think, if I am not mistaken, you really began to make it as a comics maker in France. And Italian comics have their own pace and their own crisis and their own moments when they have slow down so it’s not a business anymore so you have to look for alternatives. How do you think being part of comics both in Italy and France has influenced your work?

I think it influenced me 100%. I see myself belonging to a certain Italian tradition of comic makers. The maestro for me, the reason I chose to make comics is Lorenzo Mattotti, maybe he is not so well known here in South America but when I read Fires, a Lorenzo Mattotti graphic novel from 1986, I decided to push for this job. And of course Lorenzo Mattotti comes from some comic artists in between Italy and also South America, Argentina, like Alberto Breccia, José Muñoz, Hugo Pratt. You know, comics in Italy have a very schizophrenic story: they were very popular in the ’70s when Hugo Pratt made Corto Maltese, Guido Crepax made Valentina and in the end of the ’70s beginning of the ’80s there were two groups that revolutionized the comics world: Valvoline, the group of Mattotti, Igort, and Charles Burns, who was living in Italy at the time, and the other one was Ranxerox, with [Tanino] Liberatore, [Stefano] Tamburini, and Andrea Pazienza. When I read some comics of Andrea Pazienza and Mattotti it was clear that something changed forever. They opened a door I could never shut. It’s like the first time you see Moebius, you put some books in the box then you put some new books on the shelf, a new story opens its wings. That for me was Mattotti and Pazienza. So I am definitively sticking to it but of course I am living in France so I am very influenced by a lot of people, by the work of L’Association, the work of David B, we are sponges so we take a bit of everything so we make the best out of it.


Via Francoise Mouly, here's a gallery of Chris Ware New Yorker covers. I like these very much. And on that front, I wanted to make a special note that the great Lorenzo Matotti is making a rare NYC appearance on Saturday at McNally Jackson for his book Hansel and Gretel, which is spectacular looking.

Bill Kartalopolous has written a comics primer over at the Huff Po.

Everyone should check out this original art auction from the legendary Jay Lynch. The man should be paid for the description alone.

It looks like Stan Lee finally beat Stan Lee media.



Hands Up

Today, Greg Hunter reviews the new Humanoids edition of Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella, paying particularly close attention to the way Kelly Sue DeConnick's adaptation of the text differs from previous versions. Here's a short sample, but read it all:

Forest couches the sexual aspects of the Barbarella stories within a thoroughgoing cheekiness, and in fact he was ambivalent about how readers received his comics. (From Gravett: “Where I saw humor and the expression of liberty, all they saw was ‘la fesse’ [literally, ‘the butt’].”) But if Barbarella is a figure of freedom, that freedom does not exceed the bounds of Forest’s fantasies. The stories don’t pathologize her actions or frame a dangerous circumstance as the outcome of those actions. And yet it’s never difficult to remember that these comics are the creation of a dude.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Movies News.
Seemingly every site on the entire comics internet (not to mention non-comics cultural sites) is extremely excited about the latest casting and scheduling announcements about movies potentially being made featuring characters who originated in comic books. I guess most of those places are really more about enthusiasm for superheroes (or "geek culture" in general, ugh) than about comics per se, so it's not out of line for them to spend so much time covering movies instead of comics (I'm sure it helps the bottom line in terms of traffic, too). But it also reveals how far comics really do still have to go. Twenty years ago, people who liked comics and believed in what they could be would defend the medium by comparing it to film, and saying, "Imagine what people would think about movies if almost all of them were about superheroes." That hasn't quite happened yet, but it's not a crazy thought any more. But the comics press is largely still mired in the same superhero-centric, fannish magical thinking as ever. Imagine if every literary publication you could think of ran lengthy, anticipatory celebrations of every announced cinematic adaptation of a book, dissecting the possible casting choices, etc. Wait a second, I just remembered the last few years' worth of arguments over the 50 Shades of Grey and Harry Potter and Hunger Games movies. Never mind. It's actually spreading. I guess it's nice to know it's American culture in general that's regressing and not just comics in particular.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Believer Logger, Adrian Hill has published the first of a three-part exploration of the artistic collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Malcolm Mc Neill (Ah Pook is Here).

Over at Hazlitt, Jeet Heer reviews the new Wonder Woman history by Jill Lepore.

J. Hoberman has a rave at the New York Review of Books about Dan's What Nerve! show.

Marc (Not the Beastmaster) Singer emerges from retirement to take stock of the latest Grant Morrison comics.

John Adcock looks at soap opera strips.

Jonathan Jones remembers Marie Duval.

Brian Hibbs notes a baffling Wonder Woman cover-marketing decision.

Neel Mukherjee writes about the conclusion of Charles Burns' recent trilogy.

I admire Tom Spurgeon's positive attitude, particularly as my response was more just that old people like to complain and still send letters to the editor.

—Interviews & Profiles. The aforementioned Jill Lepore was a guest on NPR's Fresh Air.

Via video, the New York Times profiles Lalo Alcaraz.

The great New Yorker cartoonist Sam Gross was a guest on the Virtual Memories podcast.

Rob Kirby talks to Cara Bean.

Blexbolex talks process.


I Can’t Believe

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch has your week in comics.


This is the ultimate fanboy comic book porn. And I love it.

As usual Grantland has a nice history of a Marvel character followed by the casting news itself.

Richard Gehr points to the unlikely meeting of Frank Zappa and Mary Worth.

I love a good collection dump.

This list of "scary" comics is only notable for its omissions.


Don’t Look at It

Welcome to the week. Chris Mautner is with us this morning, bringing along a lengthy interview with Michel Fiffe, the cartoonist creator of Copra and Zegas who has recently begun a side-career as a writer for Marvel. Here's a sample of their talk:

Was Zegas received well online or in the Act-i-vate Primer at all?

The Act-i-vate Primer was ignored and the Zegas stuff that was online didn’t make a dent, either. My friends liked it a lot, but it never clicked beyond that. That same story, “Birthday”, was then relaunched for MTV Geek, a site which reportedly got millions of hits a day. Not a peep from that. I knew that the platform wasn’t necessarily the problem, it was the work. It just wasn’t clicking with an audience. During this entire period, I would also occasionally make sample pages for mainstream publishers, just to exhaust every possible avenue in order to try and get paid to do this comics thing. Nothing came of that, either. It was a frustrating period.

So how did you move beyond that?

I thought making better work would take care of everything, I thought that really taking stock of what I wanted from comics would lead me to the answer. I felt like time was running out but I still had this desire to make comic books that hadn’t diminished after all this time and thought that was worth something. Plus I was getting tired of huffing barge at my day job.

“Huffing barge”? What exactly was your day job during this period?

I built props and costumes for sports teams and Broadway shows and for parades. It was a fun job, a creative, challenging job, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for more than a couple of years. I was there for seven.

So how does that lead to “huffing barge?” I apologize for the segue, but I’m intrigued by the euphemism.

Barge is the highly toxic adhesive that we used to assemble many things. We used respirators and ventilators and all that, but it’s a little much sometimes. We also worked with latex a lot. We made rubber molds, sculpted puppets. It was definitely a career, but I didn’t want it to be my career. I wanted comics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Roz Chast was one of three winners of the first annual Kirkus Prize.

In support for the Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart's legal problems, Martin Rowson has been recruiting cartoonists to draw caricatures of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Seth Kushner's cancer is no longer in remission. His family's gofundme page.

That extremely ambitious/expensive Tezuka Kickstarter I mentioned last week has drawn criticism from fans. Deb Aoki has the best rundown on the controversy I've seen.

Alexis Deacon has won the first Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize.

—Reviews & Commentary.
In a surprise move, John Adcock compares Chester Gould with the Canadian painter Alex Colville.

Here's a post gathering a lot of old illustrated Paramount Records advertisements, which were very influential on R. Crumb's blues comics.