More Data, More Data

Today on the site:

Chris Mautner talks to Mimi Pond.

Can you walk me through the gestation period? Why did it take so long for it to come out?

After I left the restaurant I moved to New York and became a cartoonist and was making a good living doing that. At that point no one was talking about graphic novels. I always thought it should be a movie. I thought about doing it as a screenplay.

We moved to L.A. and I lived there long enough that I realized just how horrible Hollywood is and even if I did write it as a screenplay it could be taken away from me at any time and ruined. And I wanted to make sure that it got told the right way. So then I thought, “Graphic novel? That’s way too much work. I could never do that. That’s ridiculous.” I thought, “I’ll just do it as a regular fictionalized memoir.”

I fictionalized it because there was just too much stuff in real life; there were too many people who passed through there, too many personalities. It had to be winnowed down into a dramatic story. I wanted to catch the essence of what that time and place was and who those people were, but I didn’t want to have to stick to the facts.

It wasn’t until my son was born in 1992 and suddenly being a mother for the first time that a light bulb went off in my head that Lazlo, the real-life version of him, was everyone’s groovy beatnik dad. He had his own family. And yet he was hanging out with a bunch of twenty-something kids instead of spending time with his family. And I was like, “That’s not right.” (laughter) In his own way he was as good a father as he could be but l feel like he failed to protect his family. He put them through things … I don’t want to get into it in the [book] because I didn’t want to get that personal, his wife and kids are still around, and I didn’t want to make it about that as much as I wanted to focus on the restaurant.

When you’re in your twenties, it doesn’t occur to you to think about things like someone’s responsibilities and parenthood. You’re not thinking that way. I realized this character is much more complex than I had even thought. In some ways he was a wonderful person and an extremely important person for me because he was telling me and anyone else who was there that while this is what we’re doing right now, we’re just playing a part, and we’re going to do other things and we have to keep notes, because this is a story and it has to be told. Working in a restaurant is just a role we’re cast in the moment, but we’re going to go on and do bigger things.

And Robert Kirby reviews the long-awaited collection of Mark Connery's Rudy, one of my all-time favorite comics.

Enter Mark Connery. His minicomic Rudythrows all that comics pedantry out the window in a cheerfully anarchic spirit. Intuitive and spontaneous rather than practiced and formalistic, his hilarious, doodled-in-a-notebook-style comics emerge triumphantly from the id. It’s no wonder the tagline “Comics and Fun” accompanied many of the original minicomics collected here. Among the other taglines are “Zooty Comics for Grog Dogs” and “Bourgeois Entertainment for Stalinist Motherfuckers.” Welcome to the world of Rudy.


Here's a lengthy interview with the late Dick Ayers conducted by Roy Thomas.

Tom Spurgeon has publishing news about Study Group.

And here's Ed Piskor on video for Time.



No Respect

Ken Parille is here with his thoughts on five recent books from Koyama Press. Jesse Jacobs, Michael DeForge, Seo Kim, Jon Vermilyea, and Ryan Cecil Smith are the artists in question. Parille: "I searched for a shared quality I could label The Koyama Aesthetic. Couldn’t find it. Each of the five books I discuss is ‘its own thing’ — and each deserves your consideration."

And then Paul Buhle is here with a review of The Best of Comix Book. For those who don't know, Comix Book is one of the more curious titles in comics history, an anthology of underground cartoonists (Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Skip Williamson, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, etc.) put out under the aegis of Stan Lee himself.

[Denis] Kitchen badly wanted a breakthrough, and he always Thought Big. In those days, before multiplying big-budget superhero films, no one was bigger in comics than Stan Lee. Kitchen's idea was to get Marvel on board as publisher and distributor of what was, in fact, a stepchild of the Undergrounds. And probably just in time because the cops were hovering over the head shops that sold comix; worse, the counter-culture generation was steadily less counter, the former hipsters’ culture more mainstream. Time was actually running out, although that only become abundantly clear and final a few years later. Lee had also sought to lure Kitchen to New York and mainstream comics a couple times, and no doubt that smoothed the way to a business partnership of sorts.


—More Reviews. Tom Spurgeon has thoughts about Jesse Jacobs, too.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Roz Chast on NPR. Steve Morris interviews Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. Brian Nicholson has a short piece on Conor Stechtschulte at Splice Today. Colleen Doran talks about her restoration progress.

—Disputes. The uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger's family is not "all good" with DC, according to his granddaughter and despite DC assertions.

Avi Arad wants more credit for Marvel's movie success. [I'm putting a "rabbit hole" alert on that link for anyone who actually tries to understand it.]

—Misc. Drew Friedman has an outstanding photo recap of his show (and associated panels) at the Society of Illustrators.

—Video. Finally, here's Jen Sorensen's Herblock Prize acceptance speech:



Today on the site we have we a pre-TCAF special: Cartoonist Est Em, who is a guest at the festival, interviewed by translator Joceylne Allen.

ja: That’s great. …So why the pen name “est em”?

ee: (Laughs) Well, I came up from Boys’ Love, so I was against using my real name, and there’s actually another manga artist named Maki Sato. The kanji’s different, of course, it’s spelled differently.

ja: Sure, but the pronunciation is the same.

ee: The pronunciation’s the same, and both Sato and Maki are incredibly common names, so I figured my real name wouldn’t have any real impact. And I was playing around a little when I made my BL debut, I thought est em worked somehow.

ci: I said she should use “Sugar Roll”.

ee: “Sato” is “sugar” and “Maki” is “roll”, right?

ja: (laughs) I love it!

ee: Sugar Roll.

ja: So I’d be calling you “Roll” now.

ee: Yeah, “Roll”.

ja: I can’t even imagine! Roll, tell me about your career!

Elsewhere... here in New York the city is battening down the hatches for a massive amount of art fairs this weekend. Why, you can even find me slinging books at Frieze from Friday to Monday. Come talk to me about Atlas-era Gene Colan and watch as my co-workers stare in disbelief.

There have a few tributes to Dick Ayers. Michael Cavna has one at the Washington Post. And here is Ayers in conversation with Mark Evanier and Joe Sinnott.

One of my favorite periods of his work can be seen here and here.


Paul Gravett on curating the largest show of British comics ever mounted.

Tim O'Neil has begun writing comic book reviews for the AV Club, and starts off nicely.

Here is some news about the upcoming Columbus, Ohio Clowes invasion.


Flame On!

Joe McCulloch is back with another of his weekly guides to the best-sounding new comics in stores. He also reports back from this weekend's Free Comic Book Day:

Being that my local shops had maintained their unbroken streak of never, ever, ever ordering the 2000 AD sampler, I decided to give this one [The New 52: Future's End #0] a shot; lots of people had been complaining on Twitter that it embodied everything wrong with DC superheroes, and, well - I was curious to see why. Immediately, I noticed that a crew of at least 14 people -- 4 writers, 8 line artists, an "art consultant," an undisclosed number of studio colorists, a letterer and a cover artist (which adds up to more than 14, since some of them perform multiple roles) -- was assembled to produce these twenty pages of comics, but that doesn't really bother me in and of itself; Future's End is going to be a weekly series, and if you were to specify all of the uncredited parties who work on the average weekly manga serial, including editorial, you'd probably get a similar-ish number. Hell, I *suspect* Keith Giffen (a credited writer and the aforementioned art consultant) is functioning in a manner not unlike a manga editor, supervising the page breakdowns with an eye toward clarity and consistency.


—News. Another important comics figures has passed away, this time the artist Dick Ayers, just a few days past his 90th birthday. Ayers is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Jack Kirby on The Avengers and The Fantastic Four, but Westerns and war comics were his personal favorites. Ayers also published a three-volume graphic memoir of his life in comics in the 2000s. Comics historian Blake Bell remembers visiting his home here. We will have more coverage here soon.

The Doug Wright Awards Kickstarter is almost over...

—Interviews. Françoise Mouly talks about the expansion of Toon Books into older markets. Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins talk about In Pace Requiescat, their porn adaptation of Poe.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Di Filippo ponders the changing context of Calvin & Hobbes. Michiko Kakatuni reviews Roz Chast. Joe Gross at Rolling Stone has a mostly solid list of the top 50 non-superhero graphic novels. It's always fun to argue about those. Andrew Hickey writes about Dave Sim's early Cerebus. Robyn Chapman on seriously being a micropublisher. The old-school nerd argument about what killed Gwen Stacy has made it to New York magazine. The old-school Wertham debate has made it to BuzzFeed.

—This Is an Actual Quote. From Kevin Smith's paean to Batman in The Hollywood Reporter. "We won't let Batman go because, for such a ridiculous notion, he's so easy to believe in."


Time for Time

Well, it's Monday and we have a full week for you here.

First up, we have added Steve Ringgenberg's 1995 interview with Al Feldstein to the archive. We also have two appraisals by Craig Fischer and Mark Newgarden, respectively.

And John Seven reviews Alec Longstreth's Basewood.


Jerry Beck on the latest Floyd Gottfredson collection.

Aidan Koch has started a new series over at Comics Workbook. That's good news.

And here are some beautiful Sea Devils pages.


Tardy Pass

Today is a busy day here at at the Journal (and this week has been a busy week). First, we have Steve Ringgenberg's obituary of Al Feldstein. Here's a sample:

Gaines made Feldstein an assistant editor and, later, an editor. But it wasn’t Feldstein’s title that mattered. It was the personal and professional relationship that he and Gaines shared — a unique creative symbiosis that developed a remarkable way of working together to turn out a complete comic book every week, as required by EC’s schedule. It was, by the accounts of both men, a hectic, joyful, and creatively satisfying partnership.

Gaines saw it as his job to be the “springboard man.” He was taking prescription amphetamines at the time in an effort to curb his appetite and lose weight. He suffered insomnia as an unfortunate side effect, so he spent his sleepless nights reading horror and science fiction stories. A lot of them.

As he read, he’d jot down “springboards” — short, one- or two-sentence story ideas that he could pitch to Feldstein in the morning. As Gaines humorously recounted in EC Lives!, the program book for the 1972 EC Fan Addict convention, “after he [Feldstein] had rejected the first 33 on general principles, he might show a little interest in number 34. I’d then give him the hard sell […] He would normally write the story in three hours, breaking it down as he wrote it right onto [the art boards]. Meanwhile, I’d sit there … with a nervous stomach because I never knew if and when Al would come bursting back in and say, ‘I can’t write that goddamn plot!’”

Feldstein remembered it this way: “I used to drive him nuts because we would plot these together and I would say, ‘No, no, no, Bill, that just doesn’t work.’”

Still, it must have worked most of the time, because Feldstein wrote four scripts a week for more than four years, becoming, in the process, the most prolific scriptwriter EC ever had. The demands of his editorial and writing duties, however, forced Feldstein to forgo drawing stories around the middle of 1951. He continued to draw covers, though, for EC’s science fiction titles, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, and their combined successor, Weird Science-Fantasy.

Today also marks the return of Mike Dawson, with a new monthly version of his TCJ Talkies podcast. In this rebooted reality, Dawson interviews cartoonists about books, but this time, they aren't their own!:

I was pleased to welcome Tom Hart onto the show for my inaugural episode, to discuss Craig Thompson's Habibi. I'd read Habibi a few years ago (in preparation to interview him on this show), but hadn't looked at it since then. My memory of it was that while the subject matter was dark, there was something about Thompson's artwork that made it still feel light-hearted.

I don't know where I came up with that impression, because that wasn't my takeaway from the book the second time around.

And Dan wasn't able to mention it yesterday on the blog when it first went up, but Frank Santoro turned in a Riff Raff column that hearkens back to his classic Comics Comics days, contemplating the influence of internet scrolling on the act of reading comics, among other things. Here he talks about Shel Silverstein:

Ever read The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein? It’s horizontally formatted scroll which is presented as a book. The format uses the periodicity of the book’s left side/right side spread for reveals. Each spread is one panel of a sequenced comic strip that goes on for about 100 pages or 50 spreads. Each spread has it’s own 1, 2 left side, right side rhythm and the “1” unity of each spread as one image. (It’s a great book, I think, because it is so simply presented as image and text.


—Al Feldstein. Mark Evanier remembers the editor/writer, as does Evan Dorkin and Christopher Bonanos.

—News. Naif Al-Matawa, creator of The 99, writes about receiving a fatwa from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.

Jonah Weiland has written an open letter explaining his decision to take down the old Comic Book Resources message board and start again from scratch, citing harassment and online trolling as reasons.

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times visits the home of Roz Chast.

Brian Michael Bendis talks about diversity and Spider-Man with Vulture.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ray Davis has continued his posts on M.K. Brown all this week.

J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about the recent Vertigo/Joe Keatinge flareup.

—Upcoming Events. Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, which is to most readers of this site what St. Patrick's Day is to alcoholics. Tonight, if you're in New York, is Fresh Meat at SVA.

—Misc. Michael Dooley follows up a panel in L.A. featuring Mimi Pond, Vanessa Davis, Ben Katchor, and Anders Nilsen.

—Catching Up with Contributors. Stories I neglected to link to in a timely fashion: Rob Kirby interviews Whit Taylor, Alex Dueben talks to Stefano Raffaele, and Daniel Kalder on Retroworld.



Al Feldstein has passed away at the age of 88. The longtime artist/writer/editor is perhaps best known for his long run (1956-1984) as the editor of Mad, but he was also a notable science fiction artist, and was a key editorial force at EC Comics, writing the now-famous Bernie Krigstein-drawn story "Master Race". We will have a full obituary shortly, as well as archival features. In the meantime, you can get a great feel for his talents by reading this 2013 Bob Levin essay.

We have also posted what may have been his final interview -- the uncut version of his February 2013 conversation with Gary Groth, an abridged version of which was used published in Feldstein's Child of Tomorrow, published by Fantagraphics.

Also on the site is Frank Santoro, with his newest column - this one with some thoughts on comics formats.

Elsewhere online:

Mark Evanier and Evan Dorkin each have tributes to Feldstein. You can see read a handful of Feldstein work over here and here are some great covers he drew.

Michael Dooley reports on a panel discussion featuring Ben Katchor, Vanessa Davis, Mimi Pond and Anders Nilsen.

Comics-related: You can now read David Wojnarowicz's journals, among other things, online.

50 Watts has a great look at Japanese illustrator Rokuro Taniuchi (1921–81).

And finally, Mimi Pond did a Reddit AMA.


Grazing Fees

Joe McCulloch has heroically managed to turn in his regular weekly column on the best-sounding new releases in comics shops, despite an unfortunate lack of dependable internet access. He still won't tell us where he is, but using a few computer tricks I picked up during an internship for a private investigator, I think I've tracked him down to somewhere in rural Nevada. What could he be doing out there?

Also, Rob Clough is back with a review of Katie Skelly's Operation Margarine.

If Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse represented a young artist stretching her limits in her first major work, then her follow-up book, Operation Margarine, sees Skelly working more in her comfort zone. There were times in Nurse Nurse when it seemed that Skelly wasn’t entirely comfortable drawing certain aspects of her Barbarella-inspired space fantasy. She simply didn’t have the chops to convey some aspects of the story, which led to some whiplash narrative shifts. That said, she still followed through and worked around her limitations as best as she could. Cartooning can be seen as a series of problem-solving exercises, and Skelly presented herself with a high degree of difficulty with her first book.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Ng Suat Tong reviews Inio Asano's Nijigahara Holograph. Matt Leines reviews Brecht Vandenbroucke's White Cube. Whit Taylor reviews Michael DeForge's A Body Beneath. Gareth Branwyn writes about Anders Nilsen's Big Questions. Paul Gravett reviews a bunch of books. So does 2D Cloud's Justin Skarhus.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Michael Cavna profiles Herblock winner Jen Sorensen. Kickstarter interviews Josh Bayer. NPR does Ralph Steadman. Alex Dueben talks to Richard Thompson.

—Misc. Rant fans might enjoy these responses to the recent Amazon/comiXology changes.

Relatedly, Marvel seems to be making moves that may hint at an Amazon escape plan.

—Video. Finally, somehow I missed this video earlier in the month, but here's Tucker Stone interviewing Nick Abadzis: