Moldy Books and Odd Endorsements

Hi there,

Today we have Cynthia Rose on the four-volume graphic novel series PABLO.

Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie’s PABLO tackles something big: what – and who – turned a young Spanish painter into Picasso? Set between 1900 and 1909, their four-volume series covers Picasso’s earliest years in Paris. It’s a true story, but one whose details are largely forgotten. Birmant presents it with sympathy for the elements at its heart: youth, love, friendship and artistic transformation.

Anglophones may know Oubrerie’s art from the Aya series (published by Drawn and Quarterly in the US and Jonathan Cape in Britain). Birmant, who penned 2010′s Drôles de Femmes (“Curious Women”), works in both television and live theatre. Together they introduce us to a Bohemian, fin-de-siècle Paris. Here, the population is eccentric: a bearded chap whose pet donkey learns to paint and ‘sing’, drug-fuelled anarchists and plenty of girls who will pose in the nude. But some of its figures – like Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Gertrude Stein – make lasting contributions of their own to art.

And elsewhere:

The best-ever film about comics, Artists and Models, gets some love at the AV Club.

The book jacket designer Peter Mendelsund has been getting a ton of press for his two new books. Deservedly so. He's actually a good designer, not an illustrator pretending to be a designer.

It still cracks me up when Image is cited as a mecca for "creator-owned" books. I love that that's a thing stupid people think. I mean, you'd have to be basically an idiot? I guess? Here's one of those people talking about one of those things in Wired, which seems to specialize in overawed coverage things of comics with little merit. In case I need to say it clearer: Ownership and character diversity in comics has existed for over 50 years. Nothing new here. Move along.

Here's a review of a graphic novel by an artist I've never heard of. In the New York Times. Scooped! The comics world is just that big now.

I wonder if this documentary about The Million Year Picnic will also interview that many publishers and artists the store never paid. I'm available. It remains sad and funny to me how you can totally fuck people over in comics and get away with it. It's in the DNA of the medium, and it helps that we eat our own. Kim Deitch wisely wrote about this recently on Facebook and the reaction was predictably not in his favor, because, y'know, artists should shut up and stop whining.

Speaking of real talk, Abhay Khosla has a couple of responses to Mike Dawson's recent writing about his own career.


Horse Puppet

Today Joe McCulloch welcomes August with a merry list of comics and ideas.


The great National Lampoon art director Michael Gross has announced he has terminal cancer, and this profile is worth a read.

Mike Dawson wrote a very candid post about the economics of his cartooning life, which is instructive also of a possible dilemma for a lot of graphic novel-only cartoonists (i.e. almost everyone under 35).

There's more information now on Studio Ghibli -- it looks to be not a full closure, but a shrinking/hiatus.

TCJ-contributor Chris Mautner interviews publisher Ryan Sands.

This drawing will make your day better.

A new small press comics festival has been announced in LA.


Demands Met

Today on the site R.C. Harvey remembers Etta Hulme:

Etta Hulme is an icon in editorial cartooning, a trailblazer for women cartoonists. She was a full-time editoonist on the staff of a major metropolitan daily newspaper before any other woman cartoonist was; she was widely syndicated at a time when no other woman cartoonist was. And she is also a treasure—short and gray-haired grandmotherly in appearance, witty and waspish in her opinions and deft in her drawing. I liked her a lot and admired her skill and talent, both as a thinker and as a cartoonist.

For 36 years, she drew editorial cartoons for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where she was a decisively liberal voice on a conservative newspaper. Her last cartoon was published in December 2008, one farewell poke at two of her  favorite targets—President George W. Bush and his cohort, Dick Cheney, the president of vice—as they left office.

The National Cartoonists Society twice named her best editorial cartoonist of the year—for 1982 and for 1998 (this last, mind you, when she was 75, long past everyone else’s retirement age; but then, Etta never really retired).


Apparently Studio Ghibli is closing down. Not much info yet, though.

Gabrielle Bell is now posting new diary comics again. This is very good news. A daily dose of masterful comics.

Celebrate Jack Kirby's upcoming birthday with Kirby beer.

Psychology Today (?!) on a Gahan Wilson documentary.

Three for the movie crowd: Here's an interesting piece about the authorship of the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, getting at gender issues therein as well. And the New York Times recommends some related comics to the movie. Over at the AV Club, a look back at how bizarre the last round of Batman movies became.

I've never seen this Mort Drucker horror comic. It's wonderful.

Animation dept: This new DVD set looks incredible.


Dance to the Go-Go’s and Bow Wow Wow

Today, Whit Taylor files a report of her experiences at the 2014 Comics & Medicine Conference in Baltimore, a gathering of academics, health professionals, and cartoonists (Ellen Forney, James Sturm, David Lasky) discussing the special issues involved with creating medical comics. Here's an excerpt:

That night at dinner, a small group of us discussed our backgrounds and initial thoughts on the conference. One medical professional was interested in developing health education comics for her clients. She planned on doing formative research before embarking on a project and wanted to know what “us cartoonists had to say.”

We debated the usefulness of creating a health comic that was targeted towards a specific population versus creating one with “universal” appeal. Would a comic book protagonist need to be ethnically and culturally ambiguous enough to translate to various groups “successfully?" I had never discussed comics in such a calculated way before.

“I have a question,” she asked. “How do you read comics? From left to right?”

I was taken aback. “Yeah… generally. Um, do you not read comics?”

“Not really, I just find them to be stressful.”

And Greg Hunter reviews the Holden brothers' Detrimental Information:

Detrimental Information collects entries in the Holden brothers’ zine of the same name, spanning 2001 to the present. The book is perhaps best read in installments—readers will encounter enough anuses and severed limbs to derail a sustained read. Even so, Detrimental Information’s segments have an undeniable cumulative power. Taken together, they form an unsettling portrait of Catholic boyhood and a life beyond it.

The Detrimental Info collection is coy about the division of labor between John Holden and Luke Holden. According to 2D Cloud, John writes all of the zines’ stories, while Luke hand-letters John’s prose and contributes illustrations. The Holdens have a narrow shared range, tonally and visually—again, reading Detrimental Information as a single discreet work is only for the brave—but they also work nimbly within their limitations. John and Luke’s approach throughout the collection (and across the years) brings to mind John Peel’s old quote about The Fall: “They are always different; they are always the same.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein has joined the representation of Jack Kirby's family in the Kirby vs Marvel case which may or may not soon go before the Supreme Court.

—Profiles & Interviews.KQED profiles Janelle ("The Real Janelle") Hessig. Susie Allen interviews Hillary Chute. So does Kim O'Connor.

—Reviews & Commentary. Steven Heller praises Drew Friedman's Heroes of the Comics. Tim O'Neil makes the case for Jim Starlin's cosmic Warlock comics. Rob Clough wonders about the propaganda aspects of Li Kunwu's A Chinese Life.

National Review's most recent cover story says liberals are nerds, and nerds are liberals, and—it's a problem, guys.

—Giving & Spending Opportunities.
Nick Bertozzi is crowdfunding a new issue of Rubber Necker.


Never Enough

Jeet Heer is back with a nice, typically penetrating essay on the Toronto cartoonist Nick Maandag, focusing primarily on his recent Facility Integrity, which concerns a business so concerned with productivity that its management begins restricting employee bathroom time. Here's a sample:

Facility Integrity is rich in treats. Maandag does a pitch perfect parody of the jargon found in the corporate world: the bullying bluster of the CEO addressing cronies, the slippery euphemism of memos, the gung-ho pep talk of a shareholder’s meeting (“In the fourth quarter we prioritized our pursuables, pursued our priorities, penetrated our eligibles, and rammed our desirables!”)

The ritualized social interactions within the corporate hierarchy are examined with anthropological coolness: the CEO Mr. Aswype is not just a nastily domineering but also a figure of pathos because he is cut off from any frank and honest communication with other human beings. His underlings are mostly apple-polishers but one of them (Bobby Dextrose) is also being groomed for leadership, so acts like the cock of the walk. A middle-manager peeps over a cubicle divider, embarrassed at explaining the new policy limiting the period employees will be allowed to defecate. The employees (nicely described as “associates” – a common bit of corporate blather) hate their job but their resistance takes the form of futile fantasy (buying lottery tickets) or inept attempts to work around the rules. In sum, we’re giving a harrowing picture of a hellish social structure almost without hope (it is notable that the one figure who does fight back is an outsider, an immigrant from an unknown land with no ties to his fellow workers).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Hillary Chute reviews Julie Doucet's great New York Diary for Artforum. Chris Mautner has a very strong, on-point review of the collected Witzend. He's right that it's extremely uneven, quality-wise, but there's something fascinating about it on a historical level: some of the very greatest comic-book artists of its time, finally creating comics without any commercial restrictions and allowed to follow their ambitions wherever they lead, and they mostly came up with variations on classic genre adventure cliches... It's not so far from there to some of the "creator-driven" works praised so highly these days.

Also, Dominic Umile writes about Dan Mazur & Alexander Danner's new comics history. Mark Frauenfelder on Glenn Bray's Blighted Eye. Seo Kim pays tribute to Graham Falk.

Paul Constant thinks that the Nerd World Order may have made the San Diego Comic-Con irrelevant. David Brothers is still enthusiastic.

—Misc. Alison Bechdel is one of many to appear in this video supporting Palestinian rights.

NPR remembers Jackie Ormes.

The Wall Street Journal looks at NYC restaurant choking posters created by cartoonists & illustrators like Alex Holden and Meghan Turbitt.

This listicle of Jim Davis trivia is pretty silly, but I don't think I ever heard the Charles Schulz/Garfield story before.

—Interviews. Beck Cloonan discusses her early career with the AV Club. Off Life talks to Annie Koyama. Kevin O'Neill talks about the time his artwork was declared unfit by the Comics Code with CBR.

I'm not normally a fan of listening to podcasts of live events, but the Inkstuds special at Meltdown with Bryan Lee O’Malley, Jaime Hernandez, Tom Herpich, and Pendleton Ward is pretty charming, as unpolished and dude-heavy as it may be.

—Giving Opportunities. I've previously mentioned Root Hog or Die, the documentary in the works on John Porcellino, but I don't think I've linked to its Kickstarter. Some nice incentives there.


Double Threat

Today, Shaenon Garrity returns with the latest installment of her ever-popular webcomics capsule reviews. This time, she discusses comics by Matthew Melis, Shaindle Minuk, Andi Santagata, and Drew Weing:

...this is a flat-out fantastic looking comic. The busy, bright-colored city streets and spooky building interiors are inhabited by pug-nosed kids, bug-eyed adults, and huge, snaggletoothed, Totoro-like monsters. Weing's art has gotten looser and more cartoony over the years, trading the cool clean-line perfection of Pup for a scribbly expressiveness reminiscent of Joann Sfar. The story is lively enough to match; I like the cleverness of having the kids work out their differences with the monsters instead of fighting them, and Charles has the nebbishy pragmatism of a Daniel Pinkwater protagonist. (Comparing a writer to Daniel Pinkwater is the highest compliment I have to give.)

And then Sean T. Collins is here with a look at Aidan Koch's digital comics project, "Configurations". Here's a sample:

Comics are whatever you put into them, and "Configurations," certainly a comic, puts in plenty. But it feels less like a strip you read and more like a participatory event. It's the rare experimental work that makes you feel as though you're there in the lab with its creator, conducting that experiment yourself.

Though it's in no way apparent at first glance, these 19 three-panel pencil-drawn strips, which you click through one at a time, comprise three distinct movements. (It's interesting, to me at least, that the musical term sprang to mind here, rather than "three-act structure.") The first opens with two minimalist hill-and-mountain landscapes flanking the classically inflected faces of an embracing couple. Koch places the title, "two doves", to the right of the three panels; almost immediately the eye wanders back to the start to re-read and recontextualize with this new information in mind, though in this case the relationship between the text and the images is apparent enough. The font is a butterknife-blunt digital script that borders on bubble letters; it's sensually ingenuous, but when combined with the quotation marks placed around each title, David Bowie/"Heroes" style, the effect is intriguingly distancing.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Cremins has a strong piece on the cartoons of novelist Charles Johnson.

Randi Belisomo reviews Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Sara Lautman reviewed Ariel Schrag's Adam in comics form.

A snapshot of Gilbert Hernandez's acceptance-speech notes.

And this is a great Eisner announcement.

—Misc. Sean Michael Robinson, who occasionally contributes to this site, is currently heavily involved with the digital restoration of Dave Sim's Cerebus, and is looking for help from those who own original art.

Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit, animated.

Ed Piskor participated in the AV Club's recurring "HateSong" feature.

And finally happy birthday in absentia to Dan Nadel.



Hello friends. As always, Tuesday means that Joe McCulloch is here to prep you for the week's new comics reading, highlighting all of the best-sounding books available through the direct market tomorrow. This week's spotlight picks are by Carol Swain and Eleanor Davis. First, he writes a little about the BDSM comics of Eric Stanton.

And as you may have noticed, I'm not Dan. He and Kristy are both on vacation this week, so I'm flying solo, and hopefully there won't be any problems too big to handle. I thought for a second there might be yesterday, when I saw the comics internet suddenly fill with waves of angry tweets directed at Frank Santoro. Oh oh, what did Frank say this time? Then I found his post on Tumblr, and was (a little) surprised it had provoked such a response, because it didn't seem like a particularly big deal. Here's what Frank wrote: "I’m done reading people who write about comics who don’t make comics." Obviously, I don't share Frank's opinion, but I also don't see why anyone should feel threatened by a statement like that; everyone comes to criticism with different concerns and perspectives. My own version of the same thing would probably be something like, "I'm done reading people who write about comics who don't read comics." (There are more non-readers of comics out there writing about them than you might think.) Frank's a practitioner of comics, and most of his own recent criticism is largely directed at the concerns of comics-makers; "the grid" is more important to someone creating comics than it is to someone just reading them. Technical knowledge can certainly enrich the reader's experience but it isn't necessary to it. Likewise, criticism that is more reader-oriented probably won't be as useful to someone who is more interested in technique and practice than in plot evaluation that largely ignores the way visual information is relayed. There are many ways to perform criticism and many ways to read it, and the way an artist responds to criticism may need to be more directed than the response of a general reader. So it's weird to get bent out of shape over someone else's tastes/needs!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—ComiXology. One of the bigger stories out of San Diego Comic-Con this year was the announcement that comiXology has begun offering DRM-free downloads from certain publishers, including Image, Top Shelf, Zenescope, Thrillbent, Dynamite and, Monkeybrain. Matthew Bogart explains some of the positives of the new deal.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Rob Clough reviews Pascal Girard's Petty Theft, and Andrew White finds the narration in Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds clunky.

—Misc. Renee French is the guest on Make It Then Tell Everybody. You have less than a week left to subscribe to the Australian Minicomic of the Month Club. I continue to be a Grant Morrison skeptic, but the Mindless Ones come as close as anyone can to making excitement over his work contagious.


Celebrity Sightings

Today, we have Cynthia Rose's report from "Comics Unmasked: Art & Anarchy in the UK", Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning's exhibition on British comics. I believe they call this counter-programming. Here's a taste:

Britain was the home not only of Hogarth and Gillray, but also Punch and Judy, Charles Dickens and Cruikshank. In terms of narrative satire and storytelling, work by figures like these has profoundly shaped British perceptions. Maybe critic Thierry Smolderen is right that comics are all anarchic. But Comics Unmasked confirms that the British comics tradition, at least, has structural roots in rebellion.

From mischief-making in kiddie strips to chronic debunking of order and class; from satire about the opposite sex to mockeries of manners and style, the British definition of "anarchy" asks that its viewer question everything. This is illustrated over and over throughout the show – from The Magic Beano Book's Snitch and Snatch in '49 to Tank Girl in the '90s or 2010's Kick-Ass. But nowhere is it more intriguing than in the forgotten characters Gravett and Dunning have brought out of the UK's past.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Eisner Awards. The winners were announced this weekend, and Rutu Modan took the top new graphic novel prize. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez both won their first Eisners. On the other hand, The Oatmeal won best webcomic, so The Balance between Order and Chaos has been maintained.

—SDCC. It's harder to avoid San Diego coverage than it is to avoid it, so I'll keep links selective. I enjoyed Philip Nel's reports, and Abhay Khosla and Brian Nicholson independently raise some good questions about coverage from the more excitable members of the comics press.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Gary Panter honors Jesse Marsh. Jared Gardner pans Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds. Paul Buhle looks at World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-2014. And Rob Clough reviews Jacques Tardi's Goddamn This War!