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:



Though it is Tuesday, Joe McCulloch is not here. We understand that he is trapped somewhere in America without internet. This is every man's nightmare.

Luckily we instead have Kristy Valenti's Women and Autobio Comics Roundtable with Raina Telgemeier, Megan Kelso and Ellen Forney.

VALENTI: One thing I’d like to talk about — and this is a word you’ve all used — accessibility, and style. Do you think, in general, women cartoon more accessibly?


 KELSO: Well, I don’t know if I can answer that fully, but one thing that I think about is that, when you see little kids with drawing and writing, it does seem like young girls are far more concerned with what their handwriting looks like than little boys. And, young boys that grow up to be cartoonists may be the exception to that. [Laughter.] In elementary school, it was almost like there was this competition to have the most beautiful, perfect, girly handwriting. And I’ve often wondered if that is connected somehow to the sort of comics and the approach to comics that women take as they become cartoonists. I think you could argue, women’s or girls’ fine motor skills often tend to develop more quickly than boys’, and so they are able to form, you know, uniform, attractive letters faster. And often — just what I’ve observed with my daughter too — a lot of girls seem a lot more interested in drawing early on than boys. But then, another generalization that I’m willing to hazard is that guys tend to be more interested in virtuosity, often, than communication.

I wonder if the stereotype of the male cartoonist with the absolutely diamond, precise style — like Charles Burns is the perfect example, clearly he developed this virtuosic approach to comics that is really separate from the drive to communicate. Because, as we’ve all established, comics work as a form of communication in a variety of drawing styles. And that you don’t have to draw in this almost machine-made perfection of the Hernandez brothers, or Charles Burns, or Chris Ware, in order to communicate, and I do wonder if that accounts to some degree to differences you see in the way men and women draw. This is a generalization, but women just being a little less concerned with virtuosity.

FORNEY: One thing that that makes me think of is Phoebe Gloeckner, because her comics work is kind of rough, you know? Bodies are distorted. And then you see her medical illustrations, or the pieces of art that she does that are kind of … just that she does in that style, are like really precise.

TELGEMEIER: Yeah, they’re totally virtuosic.

FORNEY: Exactly. And so, I imagine that that’s a choice that either comes intuitively, or she made a conscious decision to have that difference in the presentation of her narratives.

The Wall Street Journal looks at DC Entertainment.

TCJ-contributor Dominic Umile on Gabrielle Bell's upcoming book.

A nice local profile of Jason Lutes.

The Guardian published a weekend comics supplement. It's reviewed here.

Not comics: A reminder -- Robert Weaver was a wonderful and now mostly forgotten illustrator. His lines are casually electric, and very few other illustrators were as adept at blending realist figuration with abstract areas of space. Check him out. We ran a piece about him last year.

Not comics: Remember index magazine? Here's a little refresher. I still can't decide if I liked it or not.


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.