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.



Slow Burns & Petty Frustrations

Hello friends, fans, professionals, and hate-readers-- I'm back from five days in Canada, where apparently data plans work differently, and I was unable to access the internet for more than a minute or two at a time. As best as I can tell I've missed three comics-related Twitterstorms of varying seriousness and magnitude, and half of a comments-related mini-controversy here. I have to say, it was nice to take a break from soaking in outrage.

Anyway, today we have a new column from the one man in comics too kind and gentle to ever inspire anger in anyone, Joe McCulloch, even though he covers obscure, potentially offensive comics from history like the one he uncovers this week, the "experimental horror" comics of David Britton:

To understand Lord Horror #7, aka Hard Core Horror #5, aka King Horror: Zero, copyright 1990, it is crucial to know that David Britton had been to jail once, in 1982, and would be jailed again in 1993, both times for selling obscene material; Savoy's bookshops had been raided by police on a steady basis since '76, the year Britton began publishing. Most infamously, a 1989 raid seized copies of Britton's debutante prose novel, Lord Horror, a surreal conflagration of fascistic exaggeration loosely based on the WWII persona of William Joyce -- dubbed "Lord Haw-Haw" by the British Press -- an Irish-American resident of England turned naturalized German who helmed British-targeted propaganda broadcasts with a sneering, mocking glee which rendered him something of an evil celebrity among the aggrieved. Britton had debuted his "Lord Horror" variant on a 1986 Savoy-published New Order/Bruce Springsteen cover record, the sleeve of which depicted James Anderton, the severely religious chief constable of the area, uttering racial slurs whilst the back of his head exploded.

We also present the debut of Luke Geddes, who reviews Peter Bagge's latest collection of Buddy Bradley stories, Buddy Buys a Dump. Here's a sample:

Creators like the Hernandez brothers and Frank King get all the credit for showing us comics’ especial capacity for real-time storytelling, the emotional power of their work derived from the fact that their characters have been granted the privilege of growing, aging, producing offspring, and dying. But Bagge, too, deserves respect as an under-appreciated master practitioner of real-time storytelling. The success of much of his work, especially this book, owes itself to his willingness to take the risks that such a farsighted approach demands. Think of this: Buddy Bradley first appeared in 1981’s self-published Comical Funnies, predating even Love and Rockets. And because Bagge hasn’t been nearly so prolific in his output, Buddy Buys a Dump serves as the culmination of a more accessible—but no less impressive—paragon of expansive, real-time comics narrative. Even more relevantly, it demonstrates how remarkably well Bagge’s commitment to the long form suits his observational adeptness, acuity of insight, and his idiosyncratic comedic prowess.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News & Opinion. The Globe & Mail reports that DC has refused to allow the Superman logo to appear on a planned monument for a boy who died tragically. Copyright is an insidious thing. At The Guardian, Lauren McCubbin writes about the arguments swirling around Wonder Woman and feminism last week.

—Reviews & Commentary. The film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted his introduction to Peanuts Every Sunday, in which he compares Charles Schulz to Yasujiro Ozu. Sadly, Frank M. Young has posted what may be the last entry on his excellent Stanley Stories blog devoted to John Stanley, one of the best comics-history sites in the English language. It is well worth going back through the archives there if you never have (or revisiting if you have). Michael Cavna looks back at Seth's Palookaville 21.

Tim O'Shea talks to Eleanor Davis. Paul Gravett talks to German comics biographer Reinhard Kleist.

—Misc. In a recent interview, producer Joel Silver remembers how Terry Gilliam planned to end his never-completed film adaption of Watchmen.



Well, we're still working on the comment conundrum, and all of your feedback has been most appreciated. More soon. I want to address one thing quickly: I have been deleting most Kirby-related comments because most of the commenters can't seem to make a point without becoming apoplectic, unhelpful and ultimately flooding the site with paranoid garbage. If you think I'm referring to you then I probably am. Knock it off.

Today on the site Jeet Heer visits us with a discussion of Harold Gray and race, excerpted from forthcoming Complete Little Orphan Annie Volume 10 (IDW). Here's a taste:

To twenty-first century eyes, Harold Gray was an unlikely racial progressive. He was famously reactionary, for most of his life on the far right of the Republican party. In private correspondence, he said he thought Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a communist. Gray gave ample expression to his anti-liberal politics in Little Orphan Annie, which was an allegory about how the poor (in the form of the heroine) are best aided by their own gumption as well as the occasional helping hand by the rich (in the form of Annie’s adopted father “Daddy” Warbucks as well as other benign representatives of the .01%). While Annie and Warbucks are always trying to overcome adversity through self-help, they have to fend off a wide array of leftist villains (corrupt and communist union leaders, snooty professors, meddling social workers, and demagogic politicians preaching income redistribution). Annie, a prepubescent girl, is always trying to work for a living but is often hampered by odious child labor laws enforced by officious bureaucrats.


The Cartoon Network has fired the creator of Clarence after sexual assault allegations surfaced.

A few Amazon links: Here's The Guardian on bestsellers vs. self publishers, and here's Anders Nilsen making the case more personal.

Paul Karasik contributes another great graphic report for his hometown paper.

I love this Bobby London post.

I liked this comic.

Alan Moore speaks out about a local art deaccession.


Short Time

Frank Santoro is here with advice for cartoonists struggling to find their way in (and out of) the convention circuit. A sample:

One of the things I’ve heard younger makers talking about is how they can’t get in to certain shows. SPX. CAB. TCAF. Then they talk about how they “did” a certain show because they could get in. Or they talk about shows they are going to “do” (some of which I haven’t even heard of) because that’s a show they could probably get in to if they apply early enough. However, many of these shows are in smaller, out of the way markets and often the expense involved – travel, hotel, table fee, etc. – to set up there is not proportionate to the social benefits and sales that come from attending; perhaps that money could be better spent fostering and/or bolstering your local scene.  Just saying.

And that's not all. We also have the great comics writer Bob Levin on the great cartoonist S. Clay Wilson, by way of reviewing Patrick Rosenkranz's new Pirates in the Heartland. Here he goes:

Wilson had come to prominence as one of the underground cartoonists of the late 1960s, who transformed comic books into a medium where artists could express themselves without limitation. Among these boundary breakers, Wilson was the most destructive. Among these taboo defiers, he was the most unabashed. Sex’n’violence – always grotesque and always comic – was his metier.

He "liberated underground comix," his colleague Robert Williams said. He "blew the doors off the church," according to Victor Moscoso. Spain Rodriguez felt "pushed" by Wilson’s example to reach for "things that were on the edge of my consciousness." And Robert Crumb said Wilson possessed "a nightmare vision of hell on earth never so graphically illustrated in the history of art.... (After him) I no longer saw any reason to hold back my own deranged id."

Kathy Acker, William Burroughs, and Ken Kesey sought Wilson to illustrate books. Robert Hughes was a fan. Sir Kenneth Clark compared him to Hogarth. Museums displayed his work beside Hieronymous Bosch. If Giotto deserves acclaim for opening Renaissance art to naturalism and Edouard Manet the Paris Salon to modernism, Wilson deserves it for opening graphic art to... Everything.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics is trying to raise money to keep his business afloat via GoFundMe.

—Shaenon Garrity writes about the return to public life of Bill Watterson.

—Sean Rogers reviews Gabrielle Bell, Julie Delporte, and Roz Chast.

—This isn't really news per se, but I'm proud of Joe McCulloch.

—And finally, tomorrow is Independence Day, which means we'll see you on Monday.


We Asked For It

Hey, today on the site we have a lengthy interview with one of the best cartoonists alive, Kevin Huizenga. Whenever I think of a new Kevin comic I get happy at the prospect. Anyhow, here's a snippet.

Sobel: Why did you decide to redraw the first issue of Kona and what was the experience like?

Huizenga: It was a great experience because for a couple weeks I didn’t do anything except redraw those pages, and there wasn’t much to think about. I hadn’t felt that simple joy of just drawing comics without thinking about it too much in a long time. I’d love to do much more of that but there’s just not enough time. I have so many ideas for things.

Sobel: Was there a reason you chose that particular issue of Kona?

Huizenga: Well, ideally I would redraw the entire first ten issues. That’s a great run of a crazy comic. Jason Miles turned me on to it, but I guess everybody knows about it. They’re great. For me it’s not the art so much as the writing. The writing is crazy. The art is crazy and great, too, but I feel like the writing should get more attention. I feel that way about a lot of old comics.

Sobel: Who was the writer?

Huizenga: That’s a whole mystery because he wasn’t credited and for a long time nobody knew who it was. Now somebody thinks that they’ve established that it was this mystical rabbi in New York. It almost sounds too good to be true, like a comic book plot itself. I think they’ve got good evidence that it was this guy. Lionel Ziprin was his name. I haven’t checked into it too deeply.

But I feel like there’s a lot of love for the artists of old comics, but you don’t hear people talking much about the old writers. I mean, it’s complicated. There’s good writing and then there’s writing that is so crazy that’s it’s fun to read. It’s like with cult films, which can get tricky. But I think one way to point to some of that old comics writing is to redraw them in your own style so you take away the focus on the art but keep the weird writing.

Sobel: Did you reproduce the writing exactly?

Huizenga: I fixed a couple things for the sake of reading, but that’s it. And like I said, the first ten issues are all awesome and it would be a dream project of mine to somehow draw all those, but it’s totally impractical. I have no time for that. Unless I could get paid good money for it somehow.

Sobel: How was it copying the panels?

Huizenga: It was a good exercise. I changed around panels that I didn’t like. I think it helped me learn to draw hands and bodies better. I should do more of these. I’m working so hard on Ganges #5 right now and sometimes when I think about how little I can get done in a week it’s just depressing.


Well, we certainly got a lot of comments about our comments. Here's what we're going to do until Monday, which will satisfy no one but ourselves: We will now moderate all comments and filter out anything we don't find in some way productive or entertaining. We will be stringent about this, and thus will delete many of the types of things (Lee/Kirby nonsense, obvious bad-faith arguments, blatant trolling) argued against on the thread. Take into account that we are both devoted Howard Stern listeners (for you non-Americans, Howard Stern is a figure of wisdom and devotion who functions for many of us as a kind of benevolent spirit guide), so our standards are pretty enlightened. After Monday we'll either decide to continue this policy or shut down the comments all together. How's that for an anti-climax?

Good lord, still elsewhere on the internet:

Sarah Boxer on the early and frequent deaths of cartoon mothers.

Comics-related: A new web site from MoMA dedicated to Ray Johnson's print design work has launched and it is spectacular. Ray Johnson, besides being a Nancy enthusiast and mail art correspondent with the likes of Karl Wirsum and Gary Panter, made wonderful objects and books. His correspondence is collected here and this is a reissue of a great artists' book.

Finally, here's an interview with one of my favorite humans and cartoonists, Lauren Weinstein.


Talk Back

Yesterday we published the latest in Ryan Holmberg's consistently excellent series of columns exploring under-known aspects of manga. This week, he delves into the pop-music manga of Hayashi Seiichi:

One finds an entirely different way of exploiting female tears, and an entirely different kind of gender-crossing, in Hayashi’s work of the late 60s. The work cannot be classified as shōjo manga, published as it was in the male-dominated and male-targeted Garo, and treating as it does women’s emotions and experiences, not young girls’. Furthermore, while heartbreak and depression and crying recur, one cannot exactly describe his stories in the terms of psychological depth and intensity used in manga for female teens and young women especially after the emergence of the Shōwa 24 Group in the early 70s. Emotion is strong in Hayashi’s work, but it is almost always expressed, and self-consciously so, through popular culture clichés, whether they stem from woodblock prints, folktales, children’s literature, film, or music. In the case of “Flowering Harbour” (“Hanasaku minato”) -- the focus of this essay -- first published in the May 1969 issue of Garo, the primary such medium is enka, a genre of music that is sometimes referred to in English as Japan’s “country music,” sometimes as “Japanese blues.” There are numerous rock and roll manga from the late 60s and early 70s, and later decades would bring manga about enka stars, real and fictional. But Hayashi appears to have been the first and one of the very few to try and embody the aesthetics of the music in comics form. In the 70s and 80s, he also designed not a few enka record covers.

And then this morning, we have the latest column from Joe McCulloch, who not only recommends the best-sounding comics newly available in stores this week, but first goes deeper than anyone else would think to go into the obscure Jademan line of comics from Hong Kong:

I’ve written about this before, but not in detail. From 1988 to 1993, the monolithic Hong Kong comics publishing entity Jademan (Holdings) Limited, which once claimed to control 80% of its domestic comics market, released 300 individual publications to North American comic book stores. Many of them were 64 pages in length, to account for the huge amount of translatable material at hand; it was by far the largest English translation effort undertaken for manhua at that time, and the thousands upon thousands of resultant pages of art still command fascination from back-issue specialists and Asian comics aficionados.

But where there is fascination, there is also intimidation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Chris Mautner talks at length with the Barnaby reprint co-editors Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel. Tim O'Shea, on the other hand, talks to Eleanor Davis. Chris Roberson talks to Allison Baker about her new position as director of operations for IDW.

—Misc. A Portuguese beverage company seems to have shamelessly plagiarized its package design from Charles Burns. The new issue of Artforum looks like it is worth picking up. Tom Spurgeon reports from HeroesCon.

—Spending Opportunities. This is the last day to participate in Zak Sally's Kickstarter for his Schoolhaus project, which is just about $1000 away from being funded as of this writing.

—Funnies. As I'm hardly objective, I try not to link to my wife Lauren Weinstein's comics projects, but since Robert Krulwich at NPR is writing about it, I guess it's safe for me to do too.

—No More Comments? We are strongly considering shutting down the comments section on this site. Reader response and back and forth are obviously very important to this publication's history, but we are thinking that we might get a higher signal-to-noise ratio by publishing letters to the editor instead. If you have an opinion on this you'd like to share, pro or con, please take this opportunity. And feel free to send us e-mail on this topic if you'd prefer not to say anything publicly.



First, today we have the third part of Paul Tumey's excellent series on the forgotten comics of Jack Cole:

As Cole stepped up his game, probably for economic reasons as much as artistic, his stories became increasingly weird (and therefore, entertaining) expressions of a singular world view – one that had both genuine mirth and lengthening shadows that hinted at a dark side to the prankster inventor.

Consider his manic four-page screwball farce published in the March 1939 issue of Funny Pages (Volume 2, #2) entitled “The Fatal Suicide." This story appears to be the first of perhaps dozens of instances in which suicide appears in his work. When one knows that Jack Cole took his own life in 1958, it's impossible to escape the ominous foreshadowing presented by the shrill suicide gags in this story. "I'm tired o' just killin' time," the seemingly murderous villain cackles on page one, amid nighttime rain, lightning, and thunder.


One must be careful not to read too much into such things, but a smiling, suicidal man with a a dagger in his heart and a comic book in his hands undeniably resonates with what we know of the man who created this story. A black and white complete version of "The Fatal Suicide" can be found in The Best of Jack Cole, edited by Greg Theakston (Pure Imagination Publishing, 2006).

Yesterday, we also posted Brian Nicholson's review of the very interesting-looking QCHQ, by Jordan Speer:

...Nowadays it takes a small army to manufacture a blockbuster: Thousands working to render a spectacle of explosions and violence at a scale impressive enough to dwarf a sense of the human, and so satisfy a mass audience's adjusted-for-inflation sense of what is expected for their ticket price. In times like these, one talented person working with diligence can use tools widely available and create work unimaginable at any point prior in human history. Such work feels subversive just by existing in dialogue with the world. While early Pixar shorts were demonstrations of the software they had available to them, designed to seek investors, Jordan Speer is able to work on his own, and use the smooth plasticine surfaces provided by CGI to critique the corporate culture that maintains its power through computer technology, and fills the world with plastic.

And today we have a new review, George Elkind on Billy Mavreas's Tibonom:

[It] is one of those works of art determined to move beyond its own bounds—casting, through mood, tone, and implication, a specific kind of spell. The collection of silent strips, serialized mostly in a yoga magazine some years back, is held together in each installment less by narrative than through an air of formal consistency and thematic focus: the title character, labeled "boy priest," seems to be a kind of tweenage druid, and navigates the world alongside a faceless, catlike creature referred to in Joe Ollmann's introduction as Lifeform.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. On Twitter, Jeet Heer put together an intuitively plausible hypothesis regarding how Steve Ditko's didactic stories may have been a response to his work for the mafia-tied Charlton company.

Richard Thompson talks about creating characters.

Abhay Khosla writes about a stack of 15-year-old comics, Rob Clough writes about Diane Obomsawin's On Loving Women, Hillary Brown writes about Gabrielle Bell's Truth is Fragmentary.

—News. Ted Rall has been abruptly fired from Pando Daily less than a month into his employment there.

—Crowdfunders. Todd Allen's book on the economics of digital comics has already met its Kickstarter goal but may be of interest to some readers.

—Interviews. Paul Hornschemeier talks Hollywood in the latest episode of Tell Me Something I Don't Know.


Got Me Swinging

Today on the site, in case you were concerned that we would slack off on our Jack Kirby coverage, Jeff Trexler explores the most recent developments in the Kirby legal battle.

On Monday the Supreme Court announced that yet another brief has been filed in support of the Kirby family’s attempt to regain the copyright to key Marvel properties. Have these briefs truly made it all but certain that the Court will not just agree to hear the case in the 2014-15 term, but rule that Jack Kirby’s creations were not work for hire?

To get the full significance of these filings it can be helpful to understand what they are. The technical term for the briefs that were filed is amicus curiae (plural: amici). This is Latin for “friend of court,” a description reflecting the fact that the person filing such a brief is not a party to the case.  Amicus briefs have become rather popular in recent years, and it’s not uncommon to read reports about how a particular brief is destined to change the world forever. This might be true in some instances, but such reports can also be the sign of a legal Funky Flashman — attorneys, academics and interest groups often use such briefs to promote their causes or themselves, and it is not uncommon for the filing of an amicus brief to be accompanied by an aggressive PR outreach.  This can serve any number of purposes, such as drumming up business, fundraising, pacifying members, or building a lobbying campaign for legal reform. Making an effective case for those with the most to lose may be beside the point.

As a result, the ABA Journal notes in a recent articlethe filing of amicus briefs is not in itself a sign of momentum for either side. The Court can receive anywhere from several dozen to over a hundred amicus briefs on a single case, and some Justices view these filings as little more than flies in the judicial chardonnay. While having a respected author can increase the likelihood that the clerks and Justices might at least take an amicus seriously, that will not save it if the argument contains mistakes or merely repeats what the parties have already said.

And Brian Nicholson reviews QCHQ.

The book looks exquisite. The art is beautiful, brightly colored, and feels smooth to the eye, with its primary palette based around the bright orange of the Nickelodeon logo and the pinks and turquoises of fluorescent neon gels. Anyone who has been looking for a heir to Paper Rad’s approach to color and settling for Brendan McCarthy comics or Lynn Varley’s work in The Dark Knight Strikes Again can breathe a sigh of relief. Here is a step forward that operates on a level of artistic awareness, rather than just playing with various effects filters. Speer’s work embraces the aesthetic appeal of gloss but seems aware that “rendering” refers not just to the time it takes a computer to create a viewable form of an effects-laden image, but also to the industrial processing of lard.


You know it's not George Gene Gustines writing when there's a culturally relevant story about comics in the New York Times. So naturally it's Guy Trebay on my pals Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbein's MASSIVE operation. I can't think of a happier comics story of late: Good things happening for good people serving good art.

Here's a fine interview with Sam Alden.

Hey, why don't you go over here and read about Jeff Koons. It's a pretty good piece by Jerry Saltz that takes in the meaning behind the art and money. This has little or nothing to do with comics, but something to do with "comics" in the Koons approach to appropriation, which is about as interesting as all discussions of appropriation are: Not that interesting. Wasn't someone talking recently about comics as a middle-class proposition? Read about Jeff Koons and try to imagine anything even 5% comparable in comics, in terms of financial and cultural support/power. Our major distribution network for new work is a series of gymnasiums across the country. One of our two major collecting institutions actually (proudly!) dedicates resources to Elfquest and Chris Claremont. It's hilarious and yet still better than it used to be. At least there's more and better work than ever before. That's a bonus. One such new work is Dash Shaw's Cosplayers 2, which everyone on earth should buy. It's nice that one of the best living cartoonists in the world releases total gems of comic books like it's no big thing.