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Today on the site , Joe McCulloch on the week's comic book offerings from all your favorite publishers.


Old pal Kayla Escobedo sent along this link to a fine online mag, Nat. Brut, with work by Mark Newgarden and Gary Panter, among others.

Female cartoonists write about drawing themselves in the nude.

Here's a good, brief discussion of the idea of "literary comics" by Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone, and Ryan Cecil Smith.

Project alert: I want to see more photographs of Tove Jansson's world.

Not comics but why the hell not: George Plimpton's plaster head!


On and On Coeurl Prowled!

Okay, back from vacation and ready to go. First up, Rob Kirby is here with a review of the third collection of Esther Pearl Watson's strip Unlovable. Here's a sample:

Unlovable, which has been running for over a decade in Bust magazine, is based on an actual diary Watson found, apropos, in a gas station bathroom. It follows the travails of Tammy Pierce, an overweight, generally unlovely high school sophomore in a small Texas town, circa 1988-1989. Though Watson illustrates Tammy's life in excruciating, embarrassing detail to often-hilarious effect, her clear affection and empathy for her subject shines through. She universalizes Tammy's experiences, taking us back to relive our own tortured, giddy, deadly serious, horny, boring, and horribly self-conscious teenage years. Tammy is like the heroine of a John Hughes flick, minus the forced happy ending or the perfect Prince Charming (Tammy’s prince calls her "Puke Face," among other things).

This third volume of Unlovable opens at the start of summer vacation. Tammy’s adventures are presented in vignettes, touching on both the big events and quotidian details of teenaged life. In between laying out in the front yard for 40-minute sessions and visits to Collin Creek Mall, Tammy goes to summer school (bummer!), and hangs out with her skanky, big-haired friend Kim, whose boyfriend Erick Tammy eternally pines after (and he’s by no means her only heartthrob). Tammy is the third wheel of the group, but she remains undaunted: “Sometimes Erick tries to get me to do degrading things. But I would still go out with him.” Despite the pain of her unrequited crush, Tammy manages to have some fun times with Kim and Erick, especially making mischief, like when Erick shaving-cream-bombs a car full of screeching girls, or when they toilet-paper the yard of mean girl Courtney Brown on the night of her big party (to which they pointedly weren’t invited).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. RIP, Dana Crumb.

Amazon has expanded its battle with Hachette, and is now also taking on Disney.

The original art for the Stephan Pastis/Bill Watterson Pearls Before Swine strips raised over $74,000 for Parkinson's Disease research.

For perspective, the original art for the infamous Brian Bolland page depicting the shooting of Batgirl also just went on auction, and sold for more than $107,000.

—Reviews & Commentary. Gary Panter on Victor Moscoso's poster designs. Kevin Huizenga has started an ongoing project involving Saul Steinberg. Rob Clough reviews David King's Crime World. Abhay Khosla looks at the end of Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, & Elizabeth Breitweiser's Fatale. Tim O'Neil ponders the Marvel Miracleman reprints.

—Profiles & Interviews. Chris Ware gives a funny interview to Dazed Digital, in which he reveals the time the police let him off with a warning after he was recognized as "that alternative cartoonist." Heidi MacDonald interviews Mike Dawson about being a midlife cartoonist. Paul Gravett profiles Matilda Tristram.

—Misc. Jerry Moriarty has a Tumblr.


Young Nerds in Control

Today we have Bob Levin on J.T. Dockery's Despair Vol. 2.

J.T. Dockery has been at it most of his thirty-eight years. He is from Grey Hawk, in rural eastern Kentucky, baptized at eight, out of the church by ten, diagnosed at twenty with psoriatic arthritis, caged within its pain since. Heavy drinking was replaced by heavy reading, when his liver quit on the former. The tuburcular novelist Hubert Selby, Jr. became an inspiration, the noir-enraptured author Nick Tosches another, the manic depressive, psychobilly one-man band Hasil Adkins, a third. Dockery draws, writes, and plays in garage bands. He has said, "(T)he only gods I believe in are concepts of endless mystery, endless questions, and guiding precepts of love, compassion and forgiveness..." He has been to Berea College, UK, and Morehead State and, after a lengthy stop in White River, VT, lives in London, KY.


Remember: Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit is also a cartoon you can watch.

Chip Kidd talks Batman to Comics Alliance.

Nice to see old highlight from the Sparkplug Books list.

Informational comics over heeeaaaahh.

Here's a video of the always entertaining Rob Liefeld.

And finally, a cool process post on Saul Bass.



Emotional Friendship

Today on the site we have Sean T. Collins on Kjersti Faret's Danny Boy.

Why is a comic a comic and not some other thing? This question tends to get brandished most frequently in the direction of high-concept genre comics that one suspects were created because access to the big-budget filmmaking industry eluded their authors. But it's worth asking about most any comic, no matter the form of artistic expression that comes to mind when contemplating the alternatives. Is it a series of astutely composed images separated from illustration only by a sketched-in narrative skeleton? Is it an essay in comics drag, the art that should carry it serving as little more than glorified gutters between panels of the text where the authors' attention truly lies? Does it describe a thought the intensity of which masks its banality -- the kind of thing better left a private journal entry than offered for consumption as a comic to the world?

In creating Danny Boy, a comics adaptation of the lilting Irish ballad -- its melody the traditional "Londonderry Air" from present-day Northern Ireland, its lyrics written by English barrister Frederick Edward Weatherly in the 1910s, its presence ubiquitous among communities of Irish ancestry throughout the English-speaking world -- cartoonist Kjersti Faret makes the implicit argument that the comic serves a purpose the song does not or cannot. That, of course, is a tough row to hoe.

And elsewhere:

The New York Times on Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen and the rights issues around superhero films.

The great artist Jess, known to comics people for his Tricky Cad series, was born yesterday. Here's a good place to start.

-Cranky art critic alert! I love cranky people. Another cranky person: artist Randy Queen, who is doing battle with Tumblr critics.

-Here are some really fantastically repulsive comics from the Children of God church.

-I wonder if anyone at Marvel thought this tweet might be, I dunno, totally offensive given Brian Wood's self-confessed sleazy/actionable behavior? Whatever, it's cool, bro! 


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.