Today on the site, the great cartoonist Mark Newgarden interviews comics historian and Harvey Kurtzman biographer Bill Schelly about his writing, and his latest book, which focuses on the legendary John Stanley.
Who was John Stanley? Can you describe some of the inherent difficulties you encountered in researching the life and career of this significant, yet (nearly) anonymous mid-20th century multi-mass-media worker?
John Stanley was born in 1914, a son of Irish immigrants who was brought up in the Bronx, and lived in New York City environs all his life. He died in 1993. He only gave three interviews in his life, two of them being question-and-answer sessions on panels at NewCon 1976, the only comicon he ever attended. He shunned the limelight, largely because of his natural reticence plus an extremely self-deprecating attitude about his work, and a career that ended badly. In contrast, Harvey Kurtzman must have given forty or fifty interviews, many of them extensive.
By 2014, when I starting doing my research, virtually all his colleagues and friends, not to mention his birth family and wife, had passed away. Only a few had been interviewed about him. His son Jim Stanley, the chief caretaker of his father’s legacy, was born in 1962 and he was still a child when his father quit comics in 1970. So putting John’s story together, and tracing how one event led to another, was a challenge. I’m happy with the way it turned out. I was able to unearth a lot of previously unknown stuff.
—Interviews & Profiles. Paul Morton interviews Guy Delisle.
This is the longest graphic narrative I can think of that takes place in a single room for most of it. There are a lot of movies that do the same, recently Room, but also Lifeboat and any number of adaptations of plays. Did you look to those films to develop any strategies?
No. I saw Lifeboat a very long time ago. I didn’t see Room. I saw part of it on the airplane. Movies are very different from comic books even though they look alike. I kept my drawing very simple. It’s a real-life story. The more you put special effects in a real-life story, the less it’s going to look like a real-life story. It’s going to look like a Hollywood blockbuster. I didn’t need to reference movies that are so different.
Tom Heintjes has reposted excerpts from several 1980s interviews he conducted with C. C. Beck.
—News. Tom Hart’s Sequential Arts Workshop is now offering online courses for aspiring cartoonists, including various classes taught by Hart himself, as well as gag cartooning by Emily Flake and perspective drawing by Jason Little.
—Crowdfunding. Golden Age comics legend Sam Glanzman has entered hospice care. There is currently a crowdfunding effort geared towards both publishing a tribute book to Glanzmann and helping the artist and his family with medical and other expenses.
In 1939, while still a teenager, Sam Glanzman produced his first professional comic book art (under the tutelage of his older brother, Lew Glanzman). A few years later he entered WWII, serving in the pacific theater, as a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Stevens. After the war, Glanzman began drawing comics again and never looked back! Not only was he prolific, producing thousands of pages of art over the decades, but he showed himself to be a true storyteller. This can be seen best within the panels of the 4-5 page U.S.S. Stevens stories, based on his real life experiences -and those he served with- during WWII. These stories also happen to contain some of the first biographical work EVER done in comics. Along with speaking frankly about the horrors of war, Glanzman also bravely addressed issues of race and homosexuality, at a time when those things were simply not part of the conversation in mainstream comics.
It is the final day for the Comics for Choice anthology crowdfunder, co-edited by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox.
Comics for Choice is anthology of comics about abortion. Cartoonists and illustrators have teamed up with activists, historians, and reproductive justice experts to create comics about their diverse personal stories, the history of abortion, the current politics, and more. Proceeds will be donated to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Together with 70 member funds around the country, NNAF works to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access, so that everyone can have full reproductive choice.
—Reviews & Commentary. Former cartoonist Tim Kreider writes in favor of artists being allowed to satirize presidential assassinations.
Americans who take their kids to Saw and Alien movies still seem oddly shocked by violent imagery in political satire, maybe because most mainstream American editorial cartoonists have turned in such lazy, gutless, Donkeys-&-Elephants hackwork for the last half-century or so. Their British counterparts have always been crueler and funnier — possibly because they have a history of literal, rather than symbolic, beheadings in managing transitions of power. Crude images of sex and violence, gluttony and flatulence, dismemberment and cannibalism recur in the cartoons of Gillray and Cruikshank, and persist in the work of their successors, like Ralph Steadman, who drew Nixon as a malignancy being excised from the heart of the Republic, and Steve Bell, who draws President Trump’s head as a toilet.
Michael Dooley writes about Steve Ditko and shares a selection of his art.
Looking back, we see that he’d been conjuring up his hallucinatory images a full decade earlier than Dr. Strange, not to mention him being around 15 years ahead of Jim Steranko’s pseudo-psychedelic Dali riffs in his Nick Fury. And these images are all the more exceptional in their stunning transformations of traditional genre narratives—often hacked-out schlock—into startling, phantasmagoric apparitions.
—Misc. Comics historian and Crockett Johnson scholar Phil Nel is looking for some help with his latest batch of Barnaby annotations.
At the back of each book, I provide a catalogue of the comic strip’s many allusions — some of which are topical, and others of which reflect Johnson’s wide range of interests. For those unfamiliar with it, I should add that Barnaby (1942-1952) mixed fantasy and satire in its many stories of its five-year-old title character and Mr. O’Malley — Barnaby’s loquacious, endearing con-artist of a fairy godfather. Read all about them in the first three books! :-)
For Volume Four, here are a few allusions that elude me. Any thoughts? Any who help will of course be credited in the published book, of course.