Do You Know What Illuminates the Night?

Today on the site we have Art Lortie's obituary for the prolific comics artist Dick Ayers. Ayers worked on many of the most iconic Marvel titles and characters. Anyone who wants a vivid first-hand account of the comics business from the '50s through the twentieth century could do a lot worse than picking up Ayers's unusual three-volume comics autobiography, The Dick Ayers Story. It's too rough and disjointed to find a widespread audience, but it's a heartfelt and consistently surprising account of the creative life. (Once we get the Comics Comics site archives up and running again (a development that looks imminent) I'll try to share my review of that book.)


—At, Glenn Kenny has written the kind of guide to comic book movies I can get behind. Kubrick, Godard, Melville, etc. The Jack Kirby/James Cameron connection is obvious as soon as you see it.

—Marc Meyers writes about Vince Guaraldi and how he attempted to translate Charles Schulz's Peanuts into jazz. That post also features a fascinating brief clip from the 1963 documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

—Speaking of Schulz, now is the time to buy his old Minneapolis house.


Wrap it Up

Today on the site Joe McCulloch has words of wisdom for us all.


Paste has made a list of the 100 Best Comic Characters.

Your Max und Moritz award winners.

Here's topical post of cartoons about Putin's Russia.

And Ng Suat Tong on Ms. Marvel.

Not comics: An interesting piece on the problem of too much work by one critic in a single book.


Why Tempt Fate?

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Box Brown's new biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Here's a sample:

Brown has done a fine job of aggregating anecdotes about his subject; this is a telling of the Andre the Giant story that requires little prior knowledge of the person or his profession. He also mediates his many sources through a controlled, consistent aesthetic. Brown works with a thick, black line; minimal hatching; and a manner of depicting characters, even the massive ones, as sets of soft contours. One of the book’s successes is Brown’s design for Andre himself—the wrestler looks at once like a flesh-and-blood human and like an icon. Brown examines Andre’s interiority less well.


Rob Clough takes on Lance Ward's (Lance Ward is an) A-hole. Whit Taylor reviews Seo Kim's Cat Person.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Chris Mautner talks to Fantagraphics' latest announced artist, Ed Luce. Box Brown and his book are profiled in traditional Times-style comix-ain't-just-about-capes fashion by George Gene Gustines. Tom Spurgeon talks to Box Brown. Terry Gross talks to Roz Chast.

NCS president Tom Richmond responds to the New York Post's decision to drop its comics page via an open letter. Sean Kleefeld also has thoughts on the move.

Paul Gravett explains who invented the graphic novel.

—News. The Doug Wright Award winners were announced at TCAF, with Michel Rabagliati, Steven Gilbert, and Emily Carroll receiving honors.

A potential compromise in the Fun Home/South Carolina college-funding controversy has been suggested. Writers including Junot Diaz, Richard Ford, Dennis Lehane, and Emma Donoghue have joined a campaign against the funding-cutting legislators.

Photographer Seth Kushner needs help finding a marrow donor.

Bushmiller collectors: Fantagraphics needs your help finding some Nancy clippings.


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.