Secure Professionals

First, Jeff Trexler sums up the latest moves by Marvel and provides legal analysis of the Kirby family's Supreme Court filing. (As always with such things, it is important to remember that what is legal and what is moral are often two different things.) Here's how he begins:

On Monday, July 14, Marvel filed its response in the Kirby family case, and the main points were rather predictable — in fact, this article is an updated version of an unpublished draft from last week, and there wasn’t much new to add. In short, Marvel makes a standard procedural argument aimed at disqualifying the family’s new legal claims, while the rest of the brief contends that the Second Circuit applied long-established law regarding work made for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909.

As noted in my previous post, Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff's Supreme Court filing and the supporting amicus briefs are not immune from such attacks, and to get a fuller sense of what the Court may do next we’ll explore not just Marvel’s brief, but additional means by which the Court itself could trump the Kirby family’s central arguments. But before we begin, a quick caveat: this article is not a prediction that Marvel will win, though the odds are decidedly in its favor. Betting on a Supreme Court case is like betting on the World Cup - the arguments you like may seem perfectly reasonable on paper, but you could just as easily lose in a historic blow-out.

And Rob Kirby reviews Mike Dawson's Angie Bongiolatti:

Angie Bongiolatti follows a group of twenty-something New Yorkers in 2002, most of whom work at an "e-learning" start-up, as they confront, explore, argue over, and try on for size an array of personal and political belief systems, credos, and values. Dawson juxtaposes the group’s groping-for-answers with illustrated excerpts from the writings of Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian-British writer and journalist with a very definitive worldview. In one manifesto Koestler states: "there is little difference between a revolutionary and a traditionalist faith… all true faith is uncompromising, radical, purist." He paints true faith in absolute opposition to the status quo. Angie Bongiolatti, the still center of this motley crew, seems to embody this statement.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The always bewildering Harvey Awards nominations have been announced.

Heidi MacDonald is attempting to crowdfund The Beat, and that site's Brandon Schatz analyzes Image's new retailer incentives.

Alan Moore is expanding his efforts to disrupt profits for terrible comic-book movies.

Uncivilized Books has introduced its new Uncivilized Books Lab.

—Bryan Lee O'Malley is interviewed on Inkstuds, and his new book Seconds is reviewed by Douglas Wolk and Abhay Khosla.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rebecca Traister addresses the move to temporarily make Thor a woman in less than a dozen words inside a much, much longer essay on media sexism in general, which seems about the right estimate of its significance.

Chris Mautner picks six of his favorite 2014 books so far, and Rob Kirby rounds up some minicomics.

—Misc. The Onion takes on today's entitled young cartoonists.

Tom Scioli talks to CBR about quitting comics and coming back.

Bully highlights one of the many times Kim Thompson was right.


Press Pause

Hi there,

Today on the site Frank Santoro presents an interview with Twelve Gems author Lane Milburn by Ben Humeniuk. Twelve Gems is an excellent new space opera graphic novel that highlights Lane's goofy sense of humor, lush drawings, and cosmic character and scenerio designs. Anyhow, here's a taste:

How does a painterly approach translate to meticulous black-and-white linework like in Twelve Gems? Do you try to maintain the same mindset when you’re relying on hatching and spotted blacks as when you’re working with a range of values and tones? Is there any frustration in that process?

I do try to maintain the same mindset as with painting though it’s translated into the realm of black ink and print.  I think it all comes down to my love of texture.  In a painting you can give the surface a rich physical texture and I try to translate that effect into my comics through the use of stippling and hatching.  I was home in Kentucky recently and I saw one of my old paintings on the wall.  The paint was daubed on just like stippling!  I love how these realms bleed together.

Did you conceive it as one big book or as serial installments? Didn’t you publish the first chapter in an issue of CCC?

Yeah, I drew a sort of preliminary story in CCC 9 featuring two of the main characters.  When I started working on the book I had envisioned it as a series, and now it’s hard for me to imagine why.  I feel it works just fine as a standalone graphic novel.  Sometimes I envision projects that just go on and on and on and on… maybe one day I’ll do a series, who knows?

And Max Robinson reviews James Stokoe's Wonton Soup.

The premise of Wonton Soup is familiar by design; culinary prodigy-turned-slacker Johnny Boyo and dreadlocked, sex-craved sidekick Deacon Vans carry exotic freight across the galaxy, stumbling into adventures and generally trying to put some distance between them and their respective homeworlds. The book exists in the background of universes like Dune or Alien, it’s Star Wars if The Empire Strikes Back spent its run time following that  Ice Cream Machine Guy in Cloud City instead of Luke and Leia.

Elsewhere in the internet cosmos:

Here's a good review of the new S. Clay Wilson book, which deserves all good things.

TCJ-contributor Bob Levin has his very own web site now. Go and spend time with Bob.

Speaking of Bob, he recently reviewed Ariel Schrag's new novel, Adam. The author herself talks about here.

There are a ton of wonderful new comics on Believed Behavior. Go and enjoy.

Jared Gardner on a handful of otherwordly graphic novels.

And Publishers Weekly has a Fall 2014 books roundup, including one I'd not heard about: a Puck collection from IDW.



There are a lot of Bryan Lee O'Malley interviews out there in support of his new Seconds, but don't miss the one we're publishing today, conducted by Dash Shaw. Here's a sample exchange:

Do you think of yourself as combining Canadian cartooning like Seth with Japanese cartooning like Rumiko Takahashi?

I don't know what I think of my work, and I'm sure Seth would bristle at any comparison (ha ha) but sure, that's a cute notion. My trajectory as a reader in the 90s took me from superheroes to manga to American indies like Bone, and then belatedly discovering Seth and Chester [Brown] was the last piece of the puzzle for me. They brought the world of comics basically to my doorstep. I don't think the notion of a story like Scott Pilgrim would have crossed my mind before I read It's a Good Life if you Don't Weaken, just based on setting alone. It was a real "duh" moment for me.

If you showed the Bryan Lee O'Malley of 2004 who just drew Lost At Sea a copy of Seconds, what would he think? What would surprise him about the work he'd do ten years later?

Since I had Scott Pilgrim going, and the idea for Seconds was already in my head, I don't think 2004 me would be too surprised by 2014 me's work. I think the story of my work in the past ten years makes sense and is exactly what I set out to do. Most of those influences were already in place, except maybe Tezuka, who I didn't get heavily into until around 2007. But overall I'm just really happy with Seconds and pleased with the state of my drawing and writing and the whole thing. Maybe that's simple- minded, but it's the first time I've felt that way about my work.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Anthony Meloro illuminatingly compares a spread from a 1970s action comic to one from today. Dana Jennings responds to Witzend. Rachel Cooke reviews Roz Chast. This Austin English review in comics form of the new Tamaki & Tamaki book is fruitful to think about. Martin de la Iglesia compares early English and German manga translations.

—Interviews. Emily Yoshida interviews Bryan Lee O'Malley for Grantland. Mimi Pond is a guest on Bullseye. Alex Dueben talks to Katherine Roeder about her new Winsor McCay book.

—Misc. Per Martin Wisse, it looks like the comic store Lambiek may have to move locations or worse. Joyce Brabner is auctioning off many of the late Harvey Pekar's jazz CDs to help raise money for a local Cleveland family. Here is a gender breakdown of contributors to Houghton Mifflin's Best American Comics series. Sam Adams has a bit more on that Charles Burns Black Hole appearance in the latest Planet of the Apes movie. This Tumblr has a lot of good underground comix images. Does anyone know where to find a YouTube clip of the time Marvel went on Merv Griffin to announce that Thor was turning into a frog?


The Big D

Today on the site it's Joe McCulloch to bring you good tidings and cheer. Also: comics.


New Gabrielle Bell comic and interview. Today is a good day.

I was reminded by a friend of the great zine-maker Jeff Zenick. He has a web site that's pretty fun to explore.

Here's a piece rear-guarding the forthcoming George Lucas museum. That guy has a lot of important illustration and comic book art, from Herriman to Kirby to Rockwell. What he shows and he shows it could be fascinating. Lord knows there are plenty of other rich guys naming museums after themselves with a lot worse taste.

Oh that Captain Marvel!

I don't know why I actually read this. I didn't know Hellblazer had sex in or out of the comics. But some version of 16 year-old me was intrigued. Fire hands! In more showbiz newz, Charles Burns apparently is to thank for human-ape peace.

Apparently Archie is being killed. I would feign outrage, but if you care you are doing it wrong.


Great Pain

Annie Murphy is here today with an interview with the preeminent creator of true crime comics, Rick Geary. Here's a bit of their discussion:

Sherlock Holmes is pretty big right now—as are detective stories in general. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who similarly laid out all of the information for the crime buffs, his glory was to wrap it all up in the end and tell you the answers. He let the reader feel smugness at their own correct conclusions, and shock at the surprises. Whereas, you leave your stories open-ended. What is it about this that appeals to you?

I guess it's just the way my sensibility goes. I like questions more than answers. And I like mysteries more than solutions. I'm a big reader of mystery fiction as well. And I find, in a lot of them the solution is kind of a disappointment. I like being carried along by the mystery of it. Because there's so much in life that's mysterious and I like the idea of laying out all the elements of a case, all the clues, and making that aspect of it as clear as possible. And still it's a mystery. I don't know, my mind just kind of falls in that direction. I don't know how else to explain it.

Well, I consider comics a subjective medium. If it's one creator, they are creating the story, characters, narrative arc, and all of the images. But I've noticed in your books that you do quite a good job maintaining an objective perspective. Is that something you value highly?

Yeah, I try to maintain a kind of journalistic distance. But at the same time, it can't help but be subjective. Because I decide what details to include and what to leave out, what to emphasize. In fact, the very first two books that I did, the first two graphic novels in the series, the one on Jack the Ripper and the one on Lizzie Borden, they were told from within a fiction framework. I don't know if you read those, but--

I did, but it's been a while...

They're both kind of told by this fictional person. The Jack the Ripper book is in the form of a journal being kept by a fictional English gentleman. And then the Lizzie Borden one is from the point of view of this woman I made up who was supposedly a neighbor of the Bordens, a friend of the Bordens, who was telling the story. And after that one my publisher came to me and said: “This is kind of a problem. It makes the books fall into this crack between fiction and nonfiction, and they don't know how to classify them.” So from then on I adopted more of a journalistic outlook. Or as close as I could anyway; more of an objective viewpoint.

AND A QUICK NOTE FROM MICHAEL DEAN: If your name is Bob White and you took a photo of Robert Crumb and Gary Groth in the Journal's offices in California circa 1985, please contact The Comics Journal at dean "at" Thanks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Annie Koyama is a guest on the Make It Then Tell Everybody podcast. Jaime Hernandez and Frederik Peeters are two of the most recent guests on Inkstuds. Pádraig Ó Méalóid talks to Kate Charlesworth, collaborator on the most recent book by Mary and Bryan Talbot. 13th Dimension interviews Jim Chadwick about the new digital editions of Jiro Kuwota's Batman manga.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd has not one but two of his infrequent comics-related posts up, one on two recent books of comics history by Thierry Smolderen and Dan Mazur & Alexander Danner, and another on the comics issue of Artforum and the artist Erró's appropriation of Brian Bolland artwork. Tom Spurgeon reflects on Walt Before Skeezix and the new collection of early Bungle Family strips. (When I accused Dan this weekend of disliking every comics-related book published since the shutdown of PictureBox, he cited two books that he liked, one of which was The Bungle Family.) Tezuka biographer Helen McCarthy reviews Jonathan Clement's Anime: A History. Mark Fraenfelder recommends R. Crumb's The Weirdo Years.


Serious Charges!

Some site news: We're going to keep the comments on this site, moderate them with much more rigor (as we've been doing the past 10 days or so, with good results), and eliminate the "Blood & Thunder" box on the homepage. Comments will now only be seen underneath the posts. We're also fixing that nesting system. We may still be making a few additional changes based on reader suggestions, and are looking into the logistics for all of this. Thanks for all your feedback. It was very helpful.

Today Rob Clough talks to comics retailer and owner of Chapel Hill Comics Andrew Neal, who, as of today, is retiring from the business.

Was running the store starting to become a bit of a grind or boring? Given that you have a number of potential projects lined up but nothing definitive, I was wondering if there was something you felt you were missing out on as a result of the effort it took to run the store. Was there any event or trend in particular that encouraged you to sell?

I wouldn’t say that running the store had become boring, but it was definitely a grind. The weekly nature of comics retail is a double-edged sword. It ensures that customers return to the store on a regular basis, but it also means it’s hard to take a break, especially for people like me, who aren’t great at delegation.

I have loved running the store, but I’m ready to try something else. I think the simplest way to put it is that I still love comics, but I’m kind of burnt out on retail. Dan, the previous owner, pointed out to me that we each sold the store after twenty years of involvement, so maybe that’s when Comics Retail Burnout occurs?

I don’t know that I ever felt like I was missing out on anything, though. I feel exceptionally lucky and grateful to have been able to work with this medium that I love, to meet customers, retailers and creators, to use comic book money to pay the bills, and then to cash in the business. How many other people get to say anything like that about their lives?


In more news about ourselves, Comics Comics has been restored to its former self after a nasty hacking incident. So go forth and read us when we were young and excited.

Meanwhile, here's a nice long interview with Francoise Mouly over at The Rumpus.

On the other end of the spectrum is this post about Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1. Along those lines is this nice image-heavy birthday tribute to Murphy Anderson.

Hey, Jim Rugg has a handsome new zine for sale.

Not even close to comics: I loved this piece about an exhibition at The Jewish Museum. The last paragraphs are particularly wonderful as we think about what we exhume from history and what we don't. Wait, it's probably too late to think about that now for some of us, but for you kids out there, think about it.

And finally, I could watch Terry Gilliam talk about animation for a long time.


Step Eight

Rob Clough has a review of Anya Davidson's School Spirits, which wasn't given enough attention when it came out last year:

In her debut book School Spirits, Anya Davidson carries over the raw energy and power of her zines into a longer loose narrative. Following a few days in the high school lives of best friends Oola and Garf, the book is immediately remarkable for the surprisingly fluid (if sudden) transitions between ragged slice-of-life naturalism and over-the-top, surreal, metal-inspired fantasy craziness. Davidson's project here seems to be a complete demolition of rigid gender roles, as her alienated but fiercely feminist duo battle against conformity, misogyny, and boredom while also grappling with more familiar issues like identity and love.

On the page, these battles often play out in a literal sense. Oola is kind of a doom metal Walter Mitty, transforming her immediate surroundings into stream-of-consciousness fantasy

And yesterday, we published Sean T. Collins's review of Eleanor Davis's How to Be Happy. A sample of that:

The first moment -- but certainly not the last -- that made me stop reading How to Be Happy, turn back the pages, and immediately re-read them came early. "In Our Eden", the lead-off piece in Eleanor Davis's masterful new collection of short stories, concerns a back-to-nature commune driven to dissent and dissolution by its founder's purity of vision. Some members chafe at the convention by which every man is called Adam, every woman Eve. Others fall away when the leader, a towering and barrel-chested figure with a ferocious black beard like something out of a David B. comic, takes away all of their prefab tools. The rest depart when he insists they neither farm nor kill for food, literalizing and reversing the Fall's allegory of humanity's move from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies. At last it's just this one Adam and the Eve he loves. By the next time we see them, Adam's gargantuan physique has been pared away, his ribs visible, his nose reddened for a sickly effect, demonstrating Davis's remarkable ability to wring detail and expressive power out of the simple color-block style of the piece. He comes across Eve, nude and stork-skinny, washing her long hair in a river. He goes to her, nude himself. "I'm ready for the bliss to come," he says right to us in one of the recurring panels of first-person narration that have been peppered through the comic. They embrace. "I'm ready for the weight to lift." They kiss.

—Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—After public outcries, DC has decided to allow the use of the Superman logo for five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin's memorial after all.

—Bernie Wrightson was reportedly hospitalized after suffering a series of small strokes. His wife Liz Wrightson explained his situation on Facebook.

—Many readers have likely already encountered this story, but over the last week, Clarence creator Skyler Page was fired by Adult Swim after an investigation into allegations of sexual assault.


It’s Impossible

Yes, we're still sorting out the comments thing. Soon, we promise!

Meanwhile, today on the site:

Alex Dueben on Macanudo vol. 1.

Just to start with the book itself, Enchanted Lion and its designer Sarah Klinger did an excellent job with the hardcover collection, keeping the fairly standard size for comic strip reprints with three strips on each page. In this case the hardcover has a great wraparound cover and endpapers that show off Liniers’ inventiveness with dozens of takes on the character of Fellini–a house cat–in a variety of poses.

Describing the strip itself is a challenge. “Macanudo” doesn’t revolve around a series of characters, but neither is it a series of one-off strips. Structurally, the closest match to an American comic strip would be Wiley’s “Non Sequitur” which most days consists of one off comics while others involve a recurring cast of characters. It’s not a very good comparison as the two strips are very different in just about every other respect.


Here's a good piece about thinking about writing comics criticism.

I don't think I knew that the famed Kelly Collection of American Illustration Art had a web site. Now we both know.

Nice post, with good comments, about a Muñoz and Sampayo graphic novel.

And Eleanor Davis has some lovely illustrations over here.