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.


Electric Meat

Today on the site, Dan Nadel has a brief interview with the cartoonist and musician Brian Chippendale, who will forever be associated with Fort Thunder. They mostly talk about his latest musical project, Black Pus:

Dan Nadel: I know that Lightning Bolt songs evolve out of long jams between you and Gibson, or at the very least from sending your respective parts back and forth. But there's no "other" in Black Pus, so how do these songs take shape? I ask because they definitely have "shape." Layers, lyrics, and beginnings and ends. But it's all you, and it's a lot of sound material. What's the process on, for example, Total Eclipse? Walk me through it.

Brian Chippendale: Black Pus music generally comes from the same process as Lightning Bolt music does. I jam, but with myself. I record everything and generally have at least one good idea every time I play. A lot of times the songs appear during the act of playing fairly fleshed-out with a few different parts, generally by adding and subtracting complexity as I jam. Having the basic ability to craft songs through jamming seems like a skill that just comes after all the years of doing it. I also, when playing alone, try to play long enough or hard enough that I get lost in it so that surprises can happen. You sing funny interesting melodies when you are exhausted.

Also, Sean T. Collins has returned to the fold with the first of hopefully many reviews. First he looks at Sorry Kid, Katrina Salinder Clark's unusual minicomic (for lack of a better word) which debuted at this year's CAKE:

I'll admit it: Sorry Kid caught my eye because it was the first comic I'd seen on display with a trigger warning. "Contains themes of family loss" read the sticker on the display copy on artist Katrina Silander Clark's table at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo a few weeks ago, if I'm remembering right. What grabbed me about this was the obvious empathy it entailed: Whatever Sorry Kid was about, it was raw enough that Clark didn't want people vulnerable to that kind of pain exposed to it accidentally.

Sorry Kid folds out like a 22x17 broadsheet. When examined closely, it reveals itself to be two 11x17 pages, their surface murky with black xerox ink, joined together by sparkly rainbow-silver tape. This juxtaposition in its construction encapsulates the eight-page whole, which sees Clark alternate heartrending grappling with the overpowering grief of her father's death and small welcome gestures in the direction of comfort.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Philip Nel explores the complicated connections between Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat and the cultural heritage of blackface and minstrelsy. SF creator Ryan Cecil Smith looks back at Gary Groth's legendary, contentious interview with Todd McFarlane, and takes McFarlane's side. And Rob Clough looks at Anouk Ricard's new Benson's Cuckoos.

—News. Sean Howe among others has posted what appears to be DC's newest royalty payment plan (though DC uses the term "participations" rather than "royalties"). Paste magazine talks to Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Cullen Bunn about what it calls a "renaissance" of creator-owned work coming from publishers like Image.

—Interviews. Simon Schama talks to Quentin Blake. Meg Lemke at The Paris Review website talks to Esther Pearl Watson.

—Misc. Sam Henderson made a video of Looney Tunes characters shooting themselves in the head and inspired a classically contrarian Slate article.

—Spending $. This Little Nemo revival will probably be fully funded by the time this post comes online.

—Video. Here's the first trailer from an upcoming documentary about John Porcellino, debuting at this year's SPX. More info here.



It's the second day of the week, so Joe McCulloch is here to invite you to read the comics of today.


Good news for London: Seiichi Hayashi will be there (or here, if you're reading this there) in London next week to celebrate the launch of his new publication from Breakdown Press, shepherded and translated by TCJ-contributor (and so much more) Ryan Holmberg. The cover is below.


The events are:

Artist Talk: Hayashi Seiichi
July 1, 6:30 PM, Japan Foundation, London

A Listening Party with Hayashi Seiichi
July 2, 7:30 PM, Gosh! Comics, London

Hayashi Seiichi: Manga-Anime vs Japanese Art
July 3, 6 PM, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture, Norwich

Also note these days is U.D.W.F.G. (underdarkweirdfantasyground), a six-month long project with the same five contributors to each issue, including the first new comics from Mat Brinkman to see print in a while. Also: Tetsunori Tawaraya, Miguel Angel Martin, Ratigher, Paolo Massagli.


Still elsewhere in this world, the notable links for the day comics The New York Times, a newspaper I love to read (Make all the snarky jokes you want about the Times, but it's an awesome machine.), but which continues to publish comics news items only a Comics Buyer's Guide fan could read. John Romita Jr! A Dick Tracy/Little Orphan Annie crossover! That is some weird, subterranean shit.


Nothing to Say about Kelsey Grammer or Rosario Dawson

New week, new TCJ. Mat Colgate writes in with a report from a crowded-sounding ELCAF:

The East London Comic and Arts Festival (ELCAF) is now in its third year (but its first time at the Oval Space, which might explain the capacity difficulties). Organized by the good folk of Nobrow press – they of plush and colorful releases from artists such as Jesse Moynihan, Kyle Platts and Blexbolex – it aims to “showcase the plethora of talent in the comics and graphic art scene in London and the UK and also to bring something fresh to our locals by drawing talent from abroad to take part in the event.” On the evidence of last week's show it was mission accomplished: the exhibition space was heaving. Bodies jostled against each other politely in the near tropical heat, fingering sweat fogged pamphlets, queueing for autographs from, amongst others, Seth and Chris Ware, both of whom gave talks later on in the day. The crowd were young, oft bearded and wearing some frankly baffling t-shirts, and if there's a better advert for the vitality and vigor of the underground comics scene then I've never seen it. It was a heart-warming sight, only slightly tempered by the sheer amount of folk one had to squeeze past to get to the tables. But, hell, I'd sooner have a bit of mare because of overcrowding than a total downer due to lack of interest.

And the great caricaturist and cartoonist Drew Friedman is here with a short essay explaining how he chose his subjects for his upcoming book of portraits, Heroes of the Comics. Here's a sample:

The series kicked off with the great comics artist Will Elder and evolved from there. Shortly after Will died, his son-in-law Gary contacted me and asked if I would create a portrait of Will as a gift for Will’s daughter, Gary’s wife Nancy. They were very pleased with the result, (which is included in the book), so I decided to create a companion piece, a portrait of Will’s long time collaborator, the brilliant creator of MAD, Harvey Kurtzman, who had been my instructor at the School of Visual Arts. I was happy with the portrait and a limited edition print was made, which quickly sold out. I felt I might be on to something and decided to paint portraits of all the original MAD comic book artists including Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and John Severin, and also planned to release them as prints. I then added all of the EC artists (I’m a lifelong EC fan), and I realized I had the possible makings of a book, The Legends of EC Comics. It soon became apparent that depicting only EC artists would be too limited, so I expanded the idea to portraits of Legendary Comic Book Artists, centering on the early pioneers of comic books, those who entered the field during the first twenty years of its existence (mid-1930s to mid-1950s), and were virtually responsible for inventing the medium.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Mimi Pond makes an appearance on The Bat Segundo Show. Mike Dawson talks to Chris Mautner at Robot 6. Tom Spurgeon discusses matters with Dustin Harbin.

—Misc. Brandon Graham has posted a translated version of Moebius's 18 tips for artists. DMC likes Pearl Jam.

And last but also least, some comics people are arguing about this article making the case for "more shit-talking" in comics. I don't know the full context, so I am probably missing something important, but it seems to be burying a worthy and unexceptionable point (comics professionals should be openly self- and industry-critical) under a mountain of ego gratification and eye-roll-prompting boneheadedness, starting but not ending with the initial premise of "embracing [shit-talking] as a label" as if it was the same thing as the LGBT community reclaiming the word queer or something, as opposed to a distracting way to (inadvertently?) make your own arguments look pointlessly idiotic and not worth paying attention to. Again, the point that creators and industry figures should be willing to take and make intelligent critical comments seems inarguable; the question is whether you want the criticism to prompt positive change or whether you'd rather just enjoy starting a bunch of unproductive internet drama while stroking yourself. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what's going on, but that way of framing things guarantees that I won't be the only one to do so.


Not Fit

Richard Gehr is here with an obituary of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti.

Charles Barsotti – or “Charley,” as nearly everyone called him – was born September 28, 1933, in San Marcos, Texas. “Everything down there either had thorns on it or bit,” he said of his hometown when I interviewed him in January 2013, “and that includes the adults.” Howard, his father, sold furniture in San Antonio, where Charley was raised. His mother, the delightfully named Dicey Belle Branum, was a schoolteacher. Barsotti credited his hard-working parents with inspiring his own determined work ethic. “That, and fear,” he added.

And John Seven reviews Gabrielle Bell's new book.

Bell’s encounter with Dominique Goblet at Fumetto-Internationales Comix Festival in Switzerland gives insight to what Bell sees beneath the surface of her autobiographical work. Through lectures and conversations, Goblet unveils an autobiographical goal for Bell, an understanding that “there is no trueness,” in Goblet’s words, “just facts and the links that connect the facts.”

It gets to the heart of what Bell has done naturally in her autobiographical work before and strives to do more purposefully as she continues. Why does she challenge herself to these diaries when she also often mentions how dissatisfied she is by the prospect of doing them? What is she trying to attain by sharing these works that could easily function as private, daily exercises in cartooning of no interest to anyone else but the cartoonist? Is this part of Bell’s pursuit of a phantom called objective truth? Or is it her acknowledgement that we fashion our own truth, and her way of doing so is within panels on paper?


There's been a major development in the Kirby vs. Marvel legal case.

The Society of Illustrators is holding its Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend. Nice to see Ed Sorel and Al Jaffee on the list. Sorel is one of the all-time great illustrators, and one whose work is always worth a second and third look.

An interview with the authors of a new play about Jack Kirby.

And here's an author-centric look at the current Amazon wars.



Today on the site we have Rob Clough's review of Sophie Yanow's War of Streets and Houses. Here's a sample:

Sophie Yanow's autobiographical series In Situ reveals an artist whose understanding and experience of art, philosophy, politics and daily life are all inextricably bound together. Her new book, War of Streets and Houses, is a fascinating study of protest, privilege, self-awareness and political frustration. It's an eyewitness account of being part of the tuition strike at a Montreal university in 2011 as well as a meditation on what it means to protest, both on a personal and global level. It's also a philosophical and historical examination of the history of counter-protest and counter-revolutionary actions on the part of governments. Indeed, the comic's title refers to an infamous pamphlet written by a French officer named Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, whose co-opting of houses in Algiers proved to be a key strategy in defeating separatists in the 1840s.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Chris Mautner talks to Lane Millburn. 13th Dimension interviews Larry Hama about working with Wally Wood.

—Profiles. Crime novelist James Sallis pays tribute to the French crime writer (and Jacques Tardi collaborator) Jean-Patrick Manchette. Mike Sacks talks to Tales from Times Square author (and Drew Friedman collaborator) Josh Alan Friedman.

—Reviews & Criticism. The NY Times reviews Nick Bertozzi's Shackleton. Rob Clough looks at recentish Box Brown minicomics. Benjamin Rogers is thinking about the format of concertina comics.

Leah Wishnia has a strong, impassioned report of her disillusionment following a recent visit to a comics show at the Scott Eder Gallery in New York.

I don't know if everyone will be able to read it, but David Heatley has a long post on his Facebook page making public his thoughts on his comics career, his relationship with and admiration for Chris Ware, and internet criticism.

—Misc. Bob Mankoff remembers Charles Barsotti. Jeff Trexler gets into the legalities of things like that recent Clickhole Calvin & Hobbes parody. Will Dinski drew a comic about going to see Art Spiegelman talk. Ben Towle remembers Chris Reilly. Calvin Reid profiles Conundrum Press.