BLOG

Eggs and Toast

Today we have a previously unpublished interview with the late Dick Ayers.

AYERS: I came out of the war, and I was going to art career school on 23rd Street, I think it was. It was the first skyscraper! There was 23 floors, on which the last floor … You took the elevator, it only went 22 stories. [Clancy laughs.] Then you walked up the last, and you got to the school. Now, it wasn’t till many years later when somebody — when I was at a show — he spoke to me, and said” “Oh, that’s nice. You get paid for doing that. Doing those drawings on airplanes.” [Casey laughs.]

I got a kick out of that, because it’s really a nice, modern building now. So that went along and it was mostly doing commercial drawings, which I wanted to do: but I kept hoping I would find somebody that would get me more into the comic strip line — for which, it turned out, I realized, there WAS none! Nobody was teaching how to write and draw comic-book stories. I read a poster on a subway wall, and Burne Hogarth was starting a school. It was the beginning of the School of Visual Arts.

I was about a month late. The school had already started in September, and I was about October. I got to be interviewed by Burne, which made me just thrilled! He was my big idol at that time! We got going, and he said something to the effect that, “Your samples have only comic book art. There’s much more to it than that.”

I said, “Yeah, but I don’t like the idea of drawing the same character week in and week out. I’d like to have it so I do a cowboy this week, and a soldier the next week, and like that.” He admired that.

He started a course in writing that started me learning to write, which I’d never touched before, the schematics of doing the story and writing it. It came along fine. We did great, and I think I was the first student in his school to get work at it.

As I’m going into my class for about the first evening, there’s a fellow and on his notebook is “Bache.” Bache is MY middle name. So that made me stop and talk to him. I got more interested, and then I found out he worked for Joe Shuster right nearby, and then would go to the school there, too … which is what I did for quite some time. I penciled Funnyman.

Elsewhere:

Ooooh, new Julia Gforer. I’m a believer.

Sorta comics, but not really, but still… the original Disneyland prospectus.

More new Benjamin Marra is always good news.

I like this comic about a house.

Love this newspaper clipping about legendary comics publisher “Busy” Arnold.

Definitely not comics, but incredibly awesome: Takeshi Murata’s (comics readers can see his work in Kramers Ergot 8) stunning sculpture, which debuted a week ago at Frieze.

 

Big Bold Pictures

Joe McCulloch wants you to know what new comics sound interesting this week, and he’s here to tell you. Alex Toth and I.N.J. Culbard titles loom large.

Elsewhere:

—Ben Towle wants us to stop relying so heavily on film terminology when discussing comics. ["When we talk about and think about comics using film terminology, we’re not only confining ourselves to only engaging with certain aspects of the medium, but (for those of us who make comics) we’re confining ourselves to only telling stories in certain ways."]

Twenty-five years of King-Cat!

—Rob Clough reviews minicomics by Sumida, Alexander, and Shively.

—Johanna Draper-Carlson notices some confusing aspects to the way the Diamond Previews catalog has chosen to celebrate “Women in Comics Month.”

—Ed Piskor channels Rob Liefeld.

—Only Comics If You Squint. How Akira Kurosawa used storyboarding to refine his ideas.

 

Gee

Today on the site Karen Peltier profiles Lale Westvind, whose comics I admire more a lot.

Westvind primarily focuses on the potential madness of futuristic and alien worlds. Often depicting simultaneous perspective and motion, her characters bounce and blast their way through desolate deserts and impenetrable tangles of organic and mechanic matter. Departing from exploration of material worlds, Now and Here explores the liminal space of her protagonist’s psyche, simultaneously stretching infinitely while locked within the confines of thought.

Now and Here is a creation born out of the act of creating. Admiring her prep drawings for an upcoming animation called Cunt Eyes, Westvind wanted a vehicle for those images to be appreciated as static, allowing the viewer to soak them up to the fullest. “It was like making a comic backwards,” she recalls. “I picked the ones I liked and rearranged them, tried to put them in an order that might make narrative sense and wrote something describing each image. I had a vague idea of how I wanted it to work, but I definitely didn’t know what it was going to be about or what was going to happen until I was finished. In that way, my subconscious wrote it.” Now and Here captures the subjective nature of thought in a material way; it confronts the reader with the process of taking in visual information and assigning meaning through thought and the new visualizations those thoughts take on.

Hey, you’d think my being best friends with Santoro would entitle me to know there’s a new Comics Workbook mag out in the world. But, like the rest of you poor slobs I found out via the internet.

Tom Spurgeon reports back on TCAF. Boy I don’t miss going to festivals (yet). I don’t know how Spurgeon does it. I mean, how does he talk to all those people? I would never be able to write up that kind of report without casting judgment against at least half of those people. Good lord. Spurgeon! What are you made of? Festivals. Oh boy. All except Lucerne. That I’ll always miss.

Nice Barry Windsor Smith process post here. His revival of Pre-Raphaelite image-making is of a piece with other 1970s revivals (deco, for example), as well as the general ’70s glittery excess. Sometimes it has an almost disco sheen, like it’s one step removed from fashion illustration of the time. Hot kitsch.

Good to see some TCJ pieces featured in this Slate list of long form writing about comics.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Stop Can’t Stop

In today’s installment of her regular column, Shaenon Garrity takes a look at how the major comics awards have handled webcomics.

In the 2000s, webcartoonists struggled to be treated with the level of respect and critical recognition given to print cartoonists, which is the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. For many creators and fans, this involved a push to include webcomics in comics industry awards. There were also efforts to create an awards system specifically for webcomics, most notably the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards, which ran from 2001 to 2008.

Nowadays, of course, the struggle is over and webcomics are respected by all. Although they still lack their own industry awards, most or all major comics awards now include a webcomics or digital comics category. Some have been recognizing webcomics for well over a decade. That can mean only one thing: it’s time to start nitpicking and judging them. How successful have webcomics awards been at singling out the best in webcomics?

And then, Brandon Soderberg reviews the new collection of Bobby London’s remarkably weird take on Segar’s most famous creation, Popeye:

About halfway through Popeye, The Classic Newspaper Comics — Volume One: 1986-1989, underground comix boundary pusher turned syndicated strip jobber Bobby London’s aggressively contemporary take on our beloved sailorman, we find the Sea Hag (frequent nemesis to Popeye since 1929) turning Popeye’s rickety hometown of Sweet Haven into a bougie tourist trap. The whole thing probably goes on a little too long (at about the point where an orphanage is closed and replaced with an arcade, the message is loud and clear), but then you recalibrate, lower the stakes, and think what in the hell, you’re reading a fairly sprawling Popeye narrative that appeared in mainstream newspapers in the mid-’80s that’s about gentrification, and well, how did this even come to be?


Elsewhere:

—News. The South Carolina/Fun Home controversy has a new dumb compromise. Laura Hudson reports on Patreon, the latest crowdfunding craze. Our boss Gary Groth has been nominated for Seattle’s Genius Award. (He got a cake.)

—Misc. Derf says his goodbyes to his long-running strip The City. Deb Aoki wonders how to make manga more appealing to new readers. Colson Whitehead recommends a comic to Barack Obama. The New Yorker has images from Lynda Barry’s show at the Adam Baumgold gallery. This year’s Eisner judges talk about the nomination process. These may be collectors’ items some day.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Washington Post talks to Roz Chast. The L.A. Weekly profiles Jaime Hernandez. The Village Voice talks to Mimi Pond. Alex Dueben interviews Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman on the 35th anniversary of their political anthology, World War 3 Illustrated. Chris Mautner talks to Noah Van Sciver. A Melbourne-based podcast interviews Simon Hanselmann. Make It Then Tell Everybody interviews Sam Alden. The Inkstuds road tour interviews begin with Mike Allred talking about eternity.

—Reviews & Criticism.
Rich Barrett reviews a bunch of comics. Jared Gardner ponders three semi-recent comics about food. Rob Clough looks at the first books of new publisher Ray Ray. Domingos Isabelinho catches Hector German Oesterheld borrowing from John Ford. John Adcock reviews the new Gasoline Alley Sundays collection.

Paste has chosen the 100 “best” comic book characters, which revealed to me that this way of interacting with comics is completely foreign to the way I do. I like Batman as much or more than the next person, but is he a good character? If I think about him as a person for more than ten seconds, I get a headache. His most basic motivation — that his parents being killed by a mugger and a bat flying through his window inspired him to dress like an animal and beat up criminals on the street at night — is opaque and unconvincing. I suppose this is simply a leap of faith the reader is forced to make in order to enjoy Batman stories, but it is a leap which simultaneously makes Batman unintelligible as a human being. Which doesn’t mean he hasn’t been involved in a lot of very fun comic-book stories; I just am not sure he’s a very good “character.” Daniel Clowes’s Wilson, on the other hand, much decried as a “jerk” on his eponymous book’s release, still lives in my head years later as a three-dimensional, multi-faceted person. Ask me how he’d respond in any given situation —including the murder of his parents or a rodent infestation—and I’d have a pretty good idea. I haven’t read that comic since it came out. Time to rectify that.

—TCAF. I hate most convention reports, but I don’t hate this Secret Acres report of TCAF. Maybe because they made a bunch of it up reads like it’s too funny to be true. And I don’t hate anything Joe Ollmann writes.

—Video. Here’s the annual “roast” video from this year’s Doug Wright Awards:

And oh man, do I want to see this show:

—Finally. Dan made a big deal about what he called the dumbest press release ever a while back, in which he inadvertently revealed that he deletes most of the press releases he gets in his e-mail book every day without reading them. Because take a look at this. I won’t bore you by copying & pasting the whole thing, just know that it involves the audio-only version of a Princess Diana comic book.

 

Efficiency Today

On the site:

R.C. Harvey, who wrote the introduction to the forthcoming Barnaby Vol. 2, looks at all things Barnaby:

Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, like Krazy Kat, appealed to a smaller audience than most comic strips.  Comics historian Ron Goulart says it appeared in only 52 newspapers in the U.S. at its height. But the strip’s readers were an appreciative elite.  Barnaby hove into public view a scant two years before the demise of the intelligentsia’s first love, Krazy Kat.  Beginning April 20, 1942, the strip lasted into the early fifties. It was revived on September 12, 1960 and ran until April 14, 1962, but many of the stories were retooled from the first run of the strip, which ended February 2, 1952. By that time, both Pogo andPeanuts were on the scene.

The brief decade of Barnaby’s first run was brilliant. Among its passionate fans was Dorothy Parker who wrote a mash note about the strip when she reviewed a Holt book of reprints in October 1943: “I think, and I am trying to talk calmly, that Barnaby and his friends and oppressors are the most important additions to American arts and letters in Lord knows how many years.”  She admitted that her review was not a review:  it was a valentine, she said.

And Fantagraphics has given us another kind of valentine with the inauguration of its planned complete reprinting of the strip, Barnaby: Volume One, 1942-1943 (320 7×10.5-inch landscape pages, b/w; hardcover, $35) with prefatory essays by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer; Afterword and appendix by Philip Nel, Johnson’s biographer.

Elsewhere:

The Beat has a roundup of audio from various TCAF panels. And Chris Randle has an excellent diary of his TCAF experience.

This is an excellent idea for, well, anything!

Kate Reynolds on what the Image Humble Bundle might mean for comics.

 

Do You Know What Illuminates the Night?

Today on the site we have Art Lortie’s obituary for the prolific comics artist Dick Ayers. Ayers worked on many of the most iconic Marvel titles and characters. Anyone who wants a vivid first-hand account of the comics business from the ’50s through the twentieth century could do a lot worse than picking up Ayers’s unusual three-volume comics autobiography, The Dick Ayers Story. It’s too rough and disjointed to find a widespread audience, but it’s a heartfelt and consistently surprising account of the creative life. (Once we get the Comics Comics site archives up and running again (a development that looks imminent) I’ll try to share my review of that book.)

Elsewhere:

—At RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny has written the kind of guide to comic book movies I can get behind. Kubrick, Godard, Melville, etc. The Jack Kirby/James Cameron connection is obvious as soon as you see it.

—Marc Meyers writes about Vince Guaraldi and how he attempted to translate Charles Schulz’s Peanuts into jazz. That post also features a fascinating brief clip from the 1963 documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

—Speaking of Schulz, now is the time to buy his old Minneapolis house.

 

Wrap it Up

Today on the site Joe McCulloch has words of wisdom for us all.

Elsewhere:

Paste has made a list of the 100 Best Comic Characters.

Your Max und Moritz award winners.

Here’s topical post of cartoons about Putin’s Russia.

And Ng Suat Tong on Ms. Marvel.

Not comics: An interesting piece on the problem of too much work by one critic in a single book.

 

Why Tempt Fate?

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Box Brown’s new biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Here’s a sample:

Brown has done a fine job of aggregating anecdotes about his subject; this is a telling of the Andre the Giant story that requires little prior knowledge of the person or his profession. He also mediates his many sources through a controlled, consistent aesthetic. Brown works with a thick, black line; minimal hatching; and a manner of depicting characters, even the massive ones, as sets of soft contours. One of the book’s successes is Brown’s design for Andre himself—the wrestler looks at once like a flesh-and-blood human and like an icon. Brown examines Andre’s interiority less well.


Elsewhere:


—Reviews.
Rob Clough takes on Lance Ward’s (Lance Ward is an) A-hole. Whit Taylor reviews Seo Kim’s Cat Person.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Chris Mautner talks to Fantagraphics’ latest announced artist, Ed Luce. Box Brown and his book are profiled in traditional Times-style comix-ain’t-just-about-capes fashion by George Gene Gustines. Tom Spurgeon talks to Box Brown. Terry Gross talks to Roz Chast.

—Commentary.
NCS president Tom Richmond responds to the New York Post’s decision to drop its comics page via an open letter. Sean Kleefeld also has thoughts on the move.

Paul Gravett explains who invented the graphic novel.

—News. The Doug Wright Award winners were announced at TCAF, with Michel Rabagliati, Steven Gilbert, and Emily Carroll receiving honors.

A potential compromise in the Fun Home/South Carolina college-funding controversy has been suggested. Writers including Junot Diaz, Richard Ford, Dennis Lehane, and Emma Donoghue have joined a campaign against the funding-cutting legislators.

—Misc.
Photographer Seth Kushner needs help finding a marrow donor.

Bushmiller collectors: Fantagraphics needs your help finding some Nancy clippings.