Off to the Zoo

When Dan isn't deliberately provoking everyone in the reading audience with dumb and/or pointlessly offensive arguments (I prefer his smart & pointedly offensive ones), he can perpetrate some pretty good comics talk. Today he's got a nice short and sweet interview with Ron Regé, Jr., regarding his recent self-published Diana, an underground reimagining of early Wonder Woman. Here's Regé:

In my exploration of the misfits and freaks of history that comprised much of The Cartoon Utopia, I had originally wanted to include the Marstons, as the whole bondage/plural marriage/lie detector aspect of their story was something I hadn't heard of until recently. It changed my whole outlook on her as modern character.

Elsewhere on the comics internet:

—Reviews & Commentary. The great Ray Davis writes about M.K. Brown (and Ed Bluestone). Sean Kleefeld questions the conventional wisdom that size prevents modern comic strip artists from making interesting visuals. Rob Clough reviews a slew of books. So does Abhay Khosla. Sean T. Collins wonders if comics has a "Netflix effect." We should all listen to Julia Gfrörer.

—Funnies. The Guardian just published a large special edition including comics from novelists A.M. Homes, Gillian Flynn, Margaret Atwood, Michael Faber, and Dave Egger created in collaboration with cartoonists Frazer Irving, Dave Gibbons, Roger Langridge, and Christian Ward.

—Interviews. Xavier Guilbert interviews Tom Gauld. The Ink Panthers talk Mike Dawson's Angie Bongiolatti. Make It Then Tell Somebody interviews Box Brown. Sophie Yanow was interviewed at The Comics Reporter. Publishers Weekly talked to Keith Knight.

—Sales & Spending Opportunities.
AdHouse is having a big sale this month, as is was Dark Horse Digital. Josh Bayer is in the last week of his Suspect Device 4 Kickstarter. Dave Sim has launched another Kickstarter of his own, I think? (I couldn't quite follow that one.)

—News. In possibly the first sign of Amazon-related changes, comiXology announces changes to their iOS and Android apps. JK Parkin at Robot 6 has some analysis. Jim Woodring's Fran won the Lynd Ward prize. Al Jaffee, Ed Sorel, and Alex Raymond are new members of the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame. Zak Sally has started a new school. Jane Asselin writes about her recent experiences at XOJane.

—Misc. They apparently do Moomin differently in Japan. Alan Moore, writer of open letters. Slate ponders Rube Goldberg.



Hi, happy Friday. Looks like we've fixed the problem with this site. If you're still having trouble please let us know. Hopefully you're not, and so you'll be excited that Paul Tumey is here with a piece on the Seattle comic book scene.

Seattle has a new underground comics scene. One is tempted to say “again,” recalling the boom of the 1990s with Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring, and the like. More accurately, the scene has endured. For a while now, participation in the Seattle comics scene has not been dependent on being a published cartoonist. Rather, it’s something one does, at one’s own level and the hell with commercial or social restraints. This attitude has nurtured a vibrant sub-culture that is only just now emerging. What we are seeing in the last year or so is the latest natural engorgement of talent and effort coalescing and expanding, like a pustule that could someday pop in goopy glory (goop is a quality that frequently occurs in the work of a cluster of the emerging new Seattle cartoonists who seem to delight in grossness and disfigurement, perhaps inspired by the twisted, organic forms found in the comics of  Bagge, Woodring, and Co.).


Ralph Steadman profiled at the AV Club.

Leon Sadler continues to be the best young cartoonist in England. When will people catch up with Leon? Hard to say. I hope soon. Beats the shit out of anything else, short of James Jarvis (speaking of new books) and Will Sweeney.

New comic from Lala Albert.

Sophie Yanow, interviewed.

Stefano Raffaele interviewed by Alex Dueben.

I think Sean Collins is involved in this Tumblr? It's interesting.

My first thought when I got this press release (below) in my inbox was "are these people retarded"? They know there was an actual sculptor named David Smith, right? Was that before or after the New York Times mentioned it? It's like naming your protagonist Franz Kline and then pretending it's a coincidence. And there's PR and then there's lying: Scott McCloud's first fiction graphic novel was published in 1998. It's here.

My favorite part of the release is the transparent pandering of the plot. He can do anything, but what will he do? OMG! And there's a GIRL involved? Booooonnnnnneeeerrr! A deal with DEATH? Wasn't that the plot of Bill & Ted's part 2? Or some Swedish shit? I'm surprised McCloud didn't squeeze in a zombie to complete the marketing potential. And gee, that palette sure seems familiar. Oh man, comics is such a fucked up medium right now, one in which artists who are supposed to be "smart" construct incredibly dumb books to appeal to some invisible marketing demographic. Well, I'm sure this'll make a great TED talk. So, without (much) further ado, here in all its glory is the stupidest press release of 2014. Have a good weekend. Try to forget about this part of comics (y'know, where it's become really safe and dumb). Order an actual good comic book from 2014 instead.


 The New York Times has the official announcement and a piece of excerpt artwork:

The Sculptor will be on sale on February 3rd, 2015.

“I've wanted to tell the story of The Sculptor since before writing Understanding Comics, and the book's creation has turned into an incredible learning experience for me and, I hope, an exciting READING experience for comics-lovers. It took me five years to write and draw, and I promise I used every single minute to make it the best book I can,” says Scott McCloud.

In The Sculptor, David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn't making it any easier!

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world's greatest city. It's about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

“To work with Scott McCloud on any project of his choosing was a long held hope of mine. But to join him as he sheds the theorist and embraces ambitious, adult fiction—that's a dream come true. Scott is one of the hardest working authors I know, and he has tasked himself with a very tall order on The Sculptor. The result soars beyond my shamelessly high expectations,” says McCloud’s editor, First Second Editorial Director Mark Siegel.

Scott McCloud is the award-winning author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Zot!, and many other fiction and non-fiction comics spanning 30 years. An internationally-recognized authority on comics and visual communication, technology, and the power of storytelling, McCloud has lectured at Google, Pixar, Sony, and the Smithsonian Institution. His online thoughts, stories, and inventions can be found at


Gina Gagliano

First Second Books


Bowled Over

Daniel Kalder reviews Frederik Peeters' Pachyderme.

Peeters' dream-surrealism has a different texture than Lynch's; the flowering vagina wall, talking corpse, phallic-nosed secret agent, and mysterious cold war sub-plot are all his own. The dead elephant recalled for me the funeral scene for the pachyderm in Jodorowsky’s berserk movie Santa Sangre. At the same time, given that Peeters is working in a Swiss/Central European context, there are undoubtedly other contributing factors to the narrative and art that many Anglophone readers will be oblivious to; literary, cinematic and other seeds Peeters is planting most of us will not pick up on. For instance, in an interview cited by his (skilled) translator Edward Gauvin, Peeters stressed the influence not of Lynch but rather the Austrian author Stefan Zweig: “I wanted to make it exotic. I thought a lot about Stefan Zweig’s novella ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman.’” Pachyderme is also more elegantly structured than Lynch’s movie: the realistic scenes set outside the hospital, occurring at strategic points in the narrative, hint at what lies behind the fugue state and establish an added layer of mystery/tension that draws the reader forward.


—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough likes Mimi Pond's Over Easy. David Kipen at the Times reviews Liana Finck's A Bintel Brief.

—Interviews & Profiles. We missed this recent Publishers Weekly profile of Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

Tell Me Something I Don't Know has a funny interview with Nicole Georges.

Sean Howe has been finding lots of weird Marvel-related stuff lately, like this Stan Lee interview conducted by Marc Bolan (!) and this public-access tv interview with Walt Simonson.

—Things I'm Not Sure Whether or Not We Already Posted, But Don't Mind Repeating If We Did. The Doug Wright Awards are halfway through their crowdfunding effort. New Powr Mastrs. Gary Panter gives a lecture at the Hammer Museum in 2010.

—Misc. Jules Feiffer has been named a member of the American Academy Fellows.

The Washington Post has a good followup story on the Fun Home/South Carolina controversy.

Justin Green reveals the most astonishing secret art history/comics coincidence since the great James Ensor/Al Jaffee find of 2009. (We've got to get those Comics Comics archives fixed.)

Finally, via Ben Schwartz, a short British Pathé film from 1962 showing a Punch editorial conference.



Today on the site Mat Colgate profiles the British comics collective known as Decadence:

Reading through their releases you get the feeling that both artists are asking the same questions of the same situations but that they are speaking in different languages.  Their work reads beautifully together, one almost completing the other. Both are pure sci-fi artists – if by sci-fi you hold to that old chestnut about it being set in the future but dealing with the now – but their approaches differ. Crudely, where Lando is the apocalyptic futurist, dealing with the nuts and bolts of worlds in strife and the realities of survival in far off lands, Tsemberlidis is the mystic – concerned with humanity’s evolution and possible escape routes from a destructive manichean present in which it is imprisoned within false divisions. If this sounds like some hippy throwback, well, perhaps it is, but the execution is sharp and unsentimental. There is no easy-way-out spirituality being offered here. Both artists are aware that hard choices need to be made if we are to escape the mess we have made for ourselves and that large parts of our way of living will have to be jettisoned. In the words of mathematician and philosopher Alfred Whitehead, words which could stand as a masthead on every Decadence release (and were later appropriated by Brit space-cadets Hawkwind), “It is the business of the future to be dangerous”.

And Rob Kirby reviews Mimi Pond's Over Easy.

And elsewhere:

Tim mentioned yesterday that we now have all 300 issues of TCJ available for digital and print subscribers. Dig in.

Congratulations to Dash Shaw on being awarded a Cullman Center Fellowship by the New York Public Library. Related artists who have been fellows include Gary Panter and Ben Katchor.

Paul Gravett has a nice profile of Oscar Zarate.

Here's a very early article on Wacky Packages.



Rise of an Empire

As many of you know, ever since this site relaunched three years ago, Kristy Valenti and her team have been diligently working behind the scenes to upload back issues of The Comics Journal to our digital archives. Today, we are pleased to announce that every issue of the original print magazine up to #300 is now available online to subscribers. This really is the deal of the century for anyone interested in the contemporary history of comics -- if you want to understand how we got where we are today, there is no better place to look than The Comics Journal.

Complete access to our archives is available both with a subscription to the magazine's print edition, and via digital-only subscription.



Joe McCulloch is here today, as he is every Tuesday, with a guide to the best-sounding new comics in stores (with spotlight picks by Mimi Pond and Evan Dorkin), as well as part one of a series of essays on pre-WWII manga, starting with the old-old-old-school giant-"robot" manga Tank Tankuro. (It probably says something bad about my parenting skills or my four-year-old daughter's future ability to fit in at school that this book is the one she most frequently asks to take with her to bed at night.) Here's a sample:

It is difficult to remain annoyed with Tank Tankuro, however; it is far too valuable a book. Other manga releases have afforded readers translated access to the comments of Japanese writers and critics, and not a few 'historical' releases append supplemental texts by western experts, but this one sees editor/co-translator Shunsuke Nakazawa offering a a rare and extensive overview of the pre-Tezuka eon, from the formative influence of Punch and Puck on Meiji period artists through the popularization of newspaper cartooning, the rise of children's entertainment magazines, the development of emonogatari and the proliferation of akahon - all rushing towards the cataclysm of World War II, through the American occupation and into the midst of the Tezuka phenomenon.

Running parallel to this is the life of Sakamoto himself, who offers additional, personal testimony (penned in 1964), as does his son, Naoki (new to this edition). Sakamoto, we learn, was a trained painter and advisee of emonogatari progenitor Ippei Okamoto, whose dissatisfaction with a children's samurai comic he'd been drawing for a newspaper company ultimately led him to Kodansha's Yōnen Club magazine -- yes, the same Kodansha which publishes Attack on Titan today -- where he cut loose with an imaginative serial about a strong boy inside an iron ball who can produce any item necessary ("like a chest full of toys," declares the artist) to defeat villains. Tank Tankuro was a big success, enough so that Sakamoto adapted some of the comics material into an experimental emonogatari variant format he dubbed manga-dōyō, with uniform rhyming text accompanying dialogued panels (see above, and note the lack of English-equivalent rhyming). Then, of course, came a collected book edition, the texture of which Presspop perhaps means to suggest through its own deluxe slipcased hardcover production.

This looks like one you're going to want to bookmark.


Jen Sorensen and Angelo Lopez won editorial cartooning awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Hugo Award nominations were announced, and included comics such as Saga, xkcd, and Girl Genius (and incidentally, this year's slate kicked up an awards controversy that makes comics seem mature).

—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd writes about Mimi Pond's Over Easy. Leo Carey at The New Yorker talks late Tintin (Flight 714). Rob Clough tackles recent Ryan Cecil Smith. At The Beat, Jessica Lee reviews selections from the spring "Oily bundle." Alicia DeSantis reviews Philip Guston's Late Works.

—Subscriptions & Spending Opportunities.
Up-and-coming publisher 2D Cloud has begun offering full-year subscriptions to their lineup. The Study Group 2014 subscription crowdfunder is now into stretch goals. Julian Darius wrote an essay complaining that crowdfunding for comics is "broken" that I don't really understand, but I do know that people in comics love to argue about Kickstarter, so maybe some of you will.

—The Recent Troubles. Janelle Asselin has written a followup post regarding the fallout from her recent review of a Teen Titans cover, which led to violent threats from fans. Will Pfeiffer, the writer of the comic in question, spoke out against this response and asked fans not to threaten her any more. It is depressing that any of this needs to be said out loud to adults, but I guess it does.

—Interviews. R. Crumb and the East River String Band appeared on Soundcheck. Paul Gravett profiles Oscar Zarate. The Schulz Library Blog talked to Montreal's Julie Delporte. Gil Roth talks to comics librarian Caitlin McGurk. Paul Levitz interviewed Neal Adams for the 2013/2014 Taschen catalog. The New Yorker gives Jesse Jacobs a preview and the shortest profile possible.


Eight is Great

Today on the site we welcome new contributor John Seven with his review of Beautiful Darkness.

Accentuating the “grim” in “Grimm” for both laughs and shudders, French comics writer Fabien Vehlmann and married illustration team Kerascoet – the pen name of Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset – take the precious trope of tiny fairy-like people wandering the land of giant people, and turn it on its own violent head, snapping its neck and leaving it to decay. It’s like the Borrowers found themselves stranded in Lord of the Flies, without either canceling out the essence of the other.


It's been a while since a Comics Books Are Burning In Hell podcast, and I'm relieved to link to a brand new installment!

Here's an overview of recent Oily Comics releases.

The great Ross MacDonald, interviewed.

An interview with Bob Fingerman by Brian Heater.

Finally, this is excellent advice on the business of being a cartoonist.



R.C. Harvey is in fine argumentative form in his latest column, in which he reviews various recent graphic novels including Bohemians, Darwyn Cooke's Slayground, Jules Feiffer's Kill My Mother, and the Italian SuperZelda. Here's how he begins:

As the humble comic book has graduated from the denigrated throw-away periodical to the esteemed and culturally significant “graphic novel,” the shelves of the nation’s bookstores have been increasingly polluted with the works of ambitious well-meaning comics enthusiasts who don’t understand the medium and whose perversions of it not only threaten the form but indoctrinate an audience with false perceptions: readers of such lame endeavors will have a skewed understanding of what graphic novels are and what the cartooning arts are capable of.

And SuperZelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald by Tiziana Lo Porto with drawings by Daniele Marotta; translated from Italian by Anthony Sugaar (176 6x8-inch pages, b/w with second color; 2011 One Peace Books paperback, $16.95) is a poster boy bad example of this defilement of the visual-verbal artform. We must stop praising such enterprises because they seem to elevate the form and start condemning them for demeaning it.

And it's the fifth and final day of Tessa Brunton's week of diary comics. Today, she leaves Disneyland and contemplates the "death zone."


—Brian Hibbs has an editorial warning against the possible negative outcomes of the Amazon/comiXology deal. ["There is not, I suspect, any reason to think that Amazon will not try to use their newly-increased leverage to squeeze out the largest profit margin that they can at the expense of publishers. This is a long historical pattern for them. Obviously, an Amazon-powered comiXology has far more leverage to do so than comiXology ever could have on its own. Because Amazon can now add its combined share of the print and the digital businesses to the negotiating table."]

—The New York Times has a short piece about the Off Broadway production of the Fun Home musical planning shows in South Carolina at the College of Charleston, which as most readers already know, has been recently threatened with budget cuts for including Bechdel's book in a reading program.

—Finally, we've probably been remiss in not drawing attention earlier to the recent outcry surrounding the response to this Janelle Asselin review at Comic Book Resources, in which she criticized the sexualized portrayal of a teenage superheroine. Asselin wrote a post on her Tumblr describing some of that response, which apparently has included threats of rape and other forms of violence. Heidi MacDonald has more on the situation in general. And Asselin has posted a survey for comics professionals and fans about their experiences with sexual harassment. The discussion of the problem has since expanded. It seems obvious that this kind of behavior is fundamentally wrong, and it's shameful and embarrassing for comics to be associated with it.