That Oughtta Hold the Little Bastards

Today, Nicole Rudick is back with a review of Anya Davidson's School Spirits, which so far hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. (Rob Clough wrote about it for us this summer, if you want to compare notes.) Here's how Nicole begins her review:

Anya Davidson has described School Spirits as a book about female friendship. And it is: Oola and Garf are the Maggie and Hopey of death metal, best friends who weather the storms of high school, petty crime, and youthful infatuation together. Still, that’s a bit like saying Moby-Dick is a book about a whale. Their friendship, like all deep friendships, is foundational; it is a fact through which Davidson examines aspects of gender from a specifically female perspective. What’s refreshing about School Spirits, and what keeps it from feeling didactic, is that Davidson doesn’t try to tackle stereotypes head-on; it’s not the point of the book. Instead, the notion that gender isn’t represented by a set of characteristics is woven into the fabric of the story. It’s a given in all of Davidson’s work to date that typical male and female roles aren’t simply reversed or questioned but utterly dismantled.

School Spirits is divided into titled chapters, and the stories feel like interconnected vignettes. The book opens with Oona and Garf trying unsuccessfully to score tickets to a Hrothgar concert from a radio show, and then follows them through a day of school, hanging out with friends, perpetrating criminal mischief, and, finally, attending the Hrothgar concert. Oona and Garf are “weirdo girls,” as Davidson has described them; their appearances and behavior don’t hew to conventional notions of femininity. Oona resembles a gangly Tintin with a reverse quiff and spends a good part of the book on a wild, desperate tear through the city with a security guard hot on her heels. Garf is more sanguine than Oona, but resolute in her sense of self, as when she castigates her friend Inga for prioritizing her looks: “You’re a math genius, Inga,” she cries. “Stop trying to pretend you’re normal … You’re a freak like us!”

Also, today is sadly the final day of Kayla E.'s week running our Cartoonist's Diary feature. It's been one of the most inventive takes on the column yet, so I hope you haven't neglected reading it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
At The Point, Merve Emre and Christian Nakarado write about the comics of David Mazzuchelli and Chris Ware from an architectural perspective.

Paul Gravett on the history of Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella.

Laura Tanenbaum at Dissent writes about Alison Bechdel, motherhood, and psychoanalysis in the age of the memoir.

Domingos Isabelinho considers Chester Brown as a Gothic artist.

Dan's "What Nerve!" show gets a rave by The New York Times' Ken Johnson.

Brad Mackay writes about appearing in, and later watching, the new documentary about Seth, Seth's Dominion.

—Comics-Adjacent Books. Kevin Kelly picks out a fascinating-looking collection of drawings from the Soviet gulag created by a 1950s prison camp guard.

And somehow until I missed that there's a newly translated novel by the great Julio Cortázar, Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires, in which he imagines his life as it intertwines with the plot of a (real) comic book.

MoCCA's moving to Chelsea.

On Monday, the Supreme Court is due to decide whether or not they will hear the Kirby v. Marvel case. [UPDATE: Now it's being reported that there has been a settlement agreement.]

—Misc. Nicole Rudick (again) makes an entertaining visit to Gary Panter's studio.

Zainab Akhtar gets a photo-tour of Sam Alden's comics collection.

Antonin Baudry (Weapons of Mass Diplomacy) is opening a bookstore in NYC's French embassy.

2D Cloud has another photo-heavy SPX report.

—Interviews. The New York Times catches up with Richard McGuire as his Here is put on exhibit at the Morgan.

Paddy Johnston talks at length with Ken Parille about The Daniel Clowes Reader.

Alex Dueben talks to Gilbert Hernandez about Bumperhead and the Eisners.

—Kim Thompson. Yesterday would have been his 58th birthday. Eric Reynold remembers him via a photograph. Marc Arsenault remembers him by way of an issue of Zero Zero they worked on together.

Anders Nilsen created a comic for the New York Times.


That’s What That Is

On the site:

Here's Richard Gehr on the excellent new Gilbert Hernandez book, Bumperhead. I love seeing Hernandez work in all his modes. I can't think of a more diverse and in the pocket cartoonist right now, and this is really an excellent book.

Gilbert Hernandez nails his title character’s emotional essence in the very first panel ofBumperhead, the prolific cartoonist’s hormonally overdriven anatomy of adolescence. Fatefully named and thoroughly pissed off, a preadolescent Bobby Numbly stares defiantly at the reader as childish taunts ­– “There’s a bump bump bumperhead here! Thumpin’ bumpin’ bumper! El Bumpo!” – join background clouds in a perfectly weighted composition filling two-thirds of the page. His tormentors are a couple of neighborhood boys in Oxnard, California – Los Bros Hernandez’s own hometown. Presumably less “semi-autobiographical” than last year’s bittersweet Marble Season, Bumperhead looks at sex, drugs, and rock with as much knowing sympathy as its predecessor explored childhood mysteries, obsessions, friendships, and disappointments.

Kayla E. visits us with Day 4 of Cartoon Diary.


This is an interesting interview with Kelly Sue Deconnick about her adaptation of the Barbarella translation for the new Humanoids edition of the classic graphic novel. It's always been a funny read for me -- verbose, tangled dialogue to my ears, but wonderful drawing and storytelling. I'm looking forward to reading it again.

I'm always poking around comic and illustration art auction sites. I see very interesting glimpses into visual culture and, sometimes, the sensibility of a collector. So this Ray Bradbury estate auction is pretty intriguing. It's everything from his art collection (including some very fine Foster and Capp originals) to his personal awards to his ties to his LPs. Take a trip. (via PT)

I love this story about the animator Frank Moser, maker of high velocity drawings.

And there's no more Marvel for Milo Manara.


Two-Way Radio

Oboy, R.C. Harvey on the late, great Edward Gorey! This should be fun:

Gorey’s 200-year-old house at 8 Strawberry Lane in Yarmouthport was built by a sea captain, Nathaniel Howes. A conventional two-story structure originally, it was modified by extensive alterations in Victorian times and gradually assumed a distinctive aspect all its own. Subsequent developments have only added to its unique appearance. With its flaking exterior paint and a vine that had invaded the premises through a crack in the wall, the place embodied its bachelor occupant’s eclectic enthusiasms and eccentricities. Its walls were festooned with bookshelves, which were jammed with books, videotapes, CDS, and cassettes; and the floors were littered with stacks of the same as well as finials of all description, occasional lobster floats, cat-clawed furniture, an old toilet with a tabletop, and a small commune of cats.

A compulsive collector and consumer of every aspect of the culture in which he was immersed, Gorey was a man of enormous erudition whose tastes and interests ranged from cultivated esoterica to trashy television, all passionately studied in an effort, he told [Stephen] Schiff, to “keep real life at bay.” In her book about Gorey, Karen Wilkin asserted that “he appears to have read everything and to have equal enthusiasm for classic Japanese novels, British satire, television reruns, animated cartoons, and movies both past and present, good and not so good.”

And Day Three of Kayla E.'s week making the Cartoonist's Diary. Hers are like no other Diaries we've run so far.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Misc. In 1947, Life magazine asked ten cartoonists (including Frank King, Chic Young, Milton Caniff, and Chester Gould) to close their eyes before drawing their own characters.

In the wake of the Spider-Woman controversy, Marvel has apparently decided to cancel several upcoming Milo Manara covers.

The winners of the 2014 Comics Workbook Composition Competition have been announced.

Ryan Sands has another strong SPX report.

—Interviews. Mark Voger at talks to Drew Friedman about his comics history/portraits book, Heroes of the Comics.

For Banned Books Week, Print's Michael Dooley talks to Keith Knight about his own experiences with censorship

Brian Cremins talks to Marnie Galloway.

Jillian Tamaki is a guest on Make It Then Tell Everybody.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ng Suat Tong writes about Luke Pearson's Hilda comics.


Goodbye Eric

Because he is unstoppable, Joe McCulloch is back with the week in comics. And Kayla E. returns with her second installment of her cartoonist's diary.


Lauren Weinstein has a great new comic strip online.

This is a fascinating conversation about the mechanics of independent publishing, as seen through the microcosm of small magazines. this kind of frank discussion of the economics of culture publishing. (via NR)

Oh goodness, this is quite a crew in the limo. Al Jaffee content inside.

This is a great set of original pages by Mort Meskin from 1950 or 1951. Stellar ink work and some truly odd perspectives on the fourth page.

Finally, here's a great 1961 early Seymour Chwast cover.



First off, Whit Taylor is here with a report from SPX, including an account of her visit to the Library of Congress and a peek behind the scenes of the Ignatz jury process. Here's a sample:

As everyone continued to look at the art, I sat down with Warren to talk to him about the show. Warren started volunteering at SPX in 2002 and eventually became the executive director in 2011. For him, coming from the corporate world and managing “large multimillion-dollar projects,” running this show was a lot less stressful, and an avenue for exercising his creativity. He noted that he and his staff received no compensation for SPX, explaining that because there was no personal monetary gain their motivation for running the show was intrinsic. Warren’s goal for SPX was to “provide a low-cost event for people with the understanding that the economy is tough for people in their twenties and thirties.” He proudly mentioned that SPX had booked the Marriott until 2016, so that hotel rates would not go up for participants for a few more years.

Warren’s business savvy has been noted as a large reason for the SPX’s relatively smooth sailing and operation. But it’s been less publicly apparent that Warren’s attention and interest in comics’ past, as well as the current comics landscape, is what keeps the show both honoring comics history as well as keeping it relevant to the emerging generation of younger cartoonists.

And if you missed it, please don't neglect to go back and check Joe McCulloch's SPX report from last Friday, which was posted too late to be excerpted on this blog but definitely deserves your attention:

I wasn't seeing any "SPX people." There's usually not a lot going on in Bethesda, at least in the area surrounding the Marriott, so you can generally spot a potential attendee by their mohawk as soon as you're off the highway, but this Saturday there was nothing. It was raining. The TopatoCo van, smiling bravely in the parking lot, was the only clue that the con was even happening.

Immediately upon entering the hotel -- and this was not an impression that subsided as I collected my badge, chuckled at Mr. Wheeler's good humor, and entered the show floor -- I noticed that the crowd seemed more diverse than ever before, and by that I don't just mean there were as many women as men (although that, as usual for SPX, was true); there were a *lot* of younger teens, kids with parents. Attendees over the age of fifty. Average folk. Usually, in spite of my attendance at the show for nine years' running, I'd expect to feel at least a little out of place, given my tragicomic haircut and the oversized long-sleeved shirt I'd grabbed at random when I'd noticed it was chilly that morning, giving everyone pause for a moment to ascertain whether I'd come to the show in literally my pajamas, but by god I suddenly felt normal.

As a result, I immediately wondered if alternative culture was dead.

And also, today is the first day of a new artist's take on our Cartoonist's Diary feature. This week, it's Kayla E., and I won't describe her first entry except to say there's a George McManus connection...

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. The Wall Street Journal talked to Roz Chast about her NBA nomination. Vulture talked to Alison Bechdel about her MacArthur grant (and her disinterest in film). Fumetto Logica has a lengthy interview with Adam Hines.

—Even More Convention Reporting. Derf Backderf reports from SPX, and Chris Mautner and Brigid Alverson discuss what it all meant.

Deji Bryce Olukotun interviews the co-founder of the Lagos Comic Con, which just held its third year in Nigeria.

—Reviews. Oliver Sava writes about Gilbert Hernandez's new Bumperhead.

—News. Brian Michael Bendis has shut down his long-running message board.


Here We Go

Today on the site, we present Chris Mautner's interview with the young British cartoonist Luke Pearson, and they discuss everything from Scandinavian folklore to the potential perils of being typecast as a kids' cartoonist. Here's a sample:

Many of the Hilda books thus far, especially the new one, involve creatures and characters that seem menacing or meddlesome at first but turn out to be harmless or beneficial. I was wondering how conscious you were of this theme and how it ties into your desire to have Hilda avoid violence.

I'm very conscious of it and worry about how quickly that could (has?) become trite. I suspected that people might roll their eyes and take a stab at the ending as soon as the Black Hound even appears. So I try to make the details and the unfolding of that outcome as interesting and unexpected as possible. It's definitely connected to avoiding violence but also to avoiding antagonists in general. I don't particularly want to pit a little girl against some supernatural villain who's out to get her. That would change the tone of the series completely. I have one real "bad guy" in mind that could potentially come in towards the end of the series, but really I think any true antagonist of Hilda's would just be some other kid. I'm not against depicting violence or anything and it does occur to some extent. The Nisses are pretty violent towards each other, the elves trash Hilda's house. I tried to show that the Hound is dangerous; it's not a misunderstanding or anything. I'm inclined to finish each book on a positive note because they're standalone stories and everything needs to be resolved in some way. I just don't want the resolution to ever be Hilda bashing some evil creature's head in and for that to save the day.

Also, Joe McCulloch has the first of our two planned SPX reports. Here's Joe, in his inimitable style.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. A parent protested the availability of Persepolis to high-school students at an Oregon school board meeting. (Via)

Popular comics blogger and retailer Mike Sterling has decided to open his own comics store.

Bleeding Cool has a story about a petition signed by cartoonists including Art Spiegelman, Lewis Trondheim, Mattotti, and Posy Simmonds regarding the treatment of former Angoulême director Gilles Ciment.

—Interviews & Profiles. J. Caleb Mozzocco has a short profile of Gilbert Hernandez (who already has another book coming out) over at the Las Vegas Weekly.

Until recently, I missed that the often excellent Canadian literary site Hazlitt has a podcast, which often interviews cartoonists. This week, its guest is Michael Cho.

—Reviews & Commentary. Collectors Weekly has a lengthy piece on pioneering female cartoonists.

Tim O'Neil and Oliver Sava roundup recent releases at the AV Club.

Rob Clough offers his thoughts on how SPX has changed during the Warren Bernard era.

Dan linked to this Alexander Chee piece at Salon yesterday, and I've seen a lot of comics people posting it on social media approvingly. In it, Chee talks about the Roz Chast National Book Award nomination and the Alison Bechdel MacArthur grant and discusses how often literary award jurors express difficulty with knowing how to evaluate comics in a literary context. While I absolutely agree that many cartoonists (including those two) produce work at least as artistically complex and worthy of celebration as that of the prose works nominated for awards, I also think those nameless jurors have a point: comics is a different art form than prose. In a sense, nominating a graphic novel in a category dedicated to prose novels is like nominating a film in an award category devoted to live theater. Chee elides that point and attacks only the straw-man argument as to whether or not comics are worthy. I want to be clear here that I do not in any way think Chast is unworthy of nomination (I haven't read the other books nominated, but bet hers would be one of my favorites if I did), and the Bechdel award is obviously okay considering the eclectic nature of the MacArthur grant. But there is something odd about a comic competing against prose books—they work in extremely different ways—and I don't think it does anyone any favors to pretend people who notice that are somehow ignorant. It's ignorant to pretend otherwise. Chee undoubtedly knows this on some level, as is indicated by his remark implying that someday comics should have award categories of their own. Until that happens, confusion is going to be impossible to avoid.



Today on the site, Max Robinson on The Auteur Vol. 1.

The Auteur is a comic concerned with the process of the creative process. And not in the way that Oscar-bait movies about movies tend to be. The Auteur’s philosophies about the birthing of art are largely merciless in their honesty. For Nathan T. Rex, creative conception is selfish, even violent. When a starlet he hired purely based on the caliber of her breasts refuses to do a nude scene, T. Rex feeds her a bunch of manipulative BS about the power of art. “Good art is never easy. Creativity takes courage. To become truly immortal, an artist must escape all human limits.” For Nathan T. Rex, making art is not a righteous act, it’s often a criminal one as he finds himself ditching a growing pile of human remains into the ocean.

And elsewhere:

It was a big day yesterday for awards: Roz Chast was shortlisted for a National Book Award for her graphic novel Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and Alison Bechdel won a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called "Genius" grant. Congrats to both! Here's Alexander Chee at Salon on how/why comics fit into the cultural awards process. 

Publishers Weekly has a SPX round-up here, and R. Sikoryak posted his funny panel doodles from the weekend.

Sort of comics: The great Jim Shaw talks about his spectacular painting show (featuring some familiar Silver Age characters) on view at Metro Pictures in NYC right now.

And dept. of self-promotion: Artinfo on the catalog for my show, What Nerve!, which opens tonight at the RISD Museum of Art.


By A Nose

Today on the site, in honor of the release of Sugar Skull, we're happy to republish Darcy Sullivan's comprehensive (then) 1992 interview with Charles Burns. Here's a taste:

SULLIVAN: What other markets were you breaking into at the same time? You did get into Heavy Metal. When did that take place?

BURNS: Around 1982 or ’83. It didn’t pay great, but it paid, so that was nice. The El Borbah strips were serialized in there, and at that point I was starting to take the strips that appeared in Raw and sell them in European markets. That was where my other income was coming from. But it was a trickle, it was very, very gradual. I was trying to get a strip in The Village Voice, and I had a little one-panel strip that appeared in the The Rocket [a Seattle-based rock tabloid] for awhile. A couple of them got reprinted in that “Raw Gagz” [#8]. They were dumb one-shot gag cartoons. I wasn’t very comfortable with that, to tell the truth. I had made up a bunch of samples, and I was supposed to get this space on the back of The Village Voice, because supposedly whoever was doing that was going to be booted out or something. There was something weird there. I was talking to the editor about it, and he was encouraging, but I was never very happy with what I had come up with.

At that point Art Spiegelman was working for Playboy, and that was really big bucks. I remember trying to create a one-page strip for Playboy. It was kind of a romance throwback. I just never could get it. Art was trying to help me: “You’ve just gotta think about what Hugh would like.” And I never could figure out what Hugh would like. My stuff was still much too weird for them. I had a strip called “I Married a Maniac,” about some woman who’s chained to the bedpost, and she’s washing dishes. Their response was, “Uh, Charles, you’re not quite getting it. The guys who’re reading Playboy don’t want to think of themselves as sexist pigs. They’re not going to think that’s too funny.”

SULLIVAN: You were critiquing the Playboy ideal.

BURNS: Yeah. Then I was trying to throw in this sexy humor, but I just could not get with it. It was really lame.

SULLIVAN: Lots of big, buxom gals, though?

BURNS: Well … I was too embarrassed. I ended up doing stupid stuff. A woman comes home and her husband’s in a giant bunny outfit, and he says, “Come on, honey, can’t you get in the mood?” Just real stupid.

SULLIVAN: How did Art feel about working for Playboy and trying to meet that Playboy ethic?

BURNS: He was doing it for the money. It was one of the games in town. He was smart enough to figure out how to play by their rules, and did it. I think it was fairly painless for him. But it was pretty painful for me.

We also have Daniel Kalder's review of The Final Incal.

The original Incal is a tough act to follow- so esteemed in some quarters that Humanoids were recently able to charge $79.95 per volume (that’s for 48 pages of art in their luxurious “coffee table” format) and find an audience for it. That’s almost $500 for six books, which have been published many times before over the last three decades. But Final Incal is also a damn entertaining read, with pretty spectacular artwork by Ladrönn, and quite good artwork by Moebius. (The aborted volume of After the Incal is appended at the end, cleverly giving the book the same circular structure as the original Incal series.)


The longtime editorial cartoonist Tony Auth has passed away at the age of 72.

Heidi MacDonald has a story and video about/of Simon Hanselmann's "marriage to comics".

Here's the latest interview with Drew Friedman over at Gil Roth's site.

Pretty interesting piece here about an old Canadian comic book coming back into print, and with a rather illustrious artistic lineage, too.

Finally, here are some thoughts on Jerry Moriarty, who is often worth thinking about.