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.


Laying Around

Today on the site, Frank Santoro reflects on his house and its spaces:

I moved some boxes around the other day but it just felt like I was playing Tetris for an hour and I gave up. It’s frustrating to remember what this house looked like before I took over. My grandparents must have had more possessions than me. Yet it doesn’t feel as spacious in here. I’ve tried confining all the boxes to one room, thinking it will seem more open in the rest of the house. It works until I start dragging boxes back out of the room to look for something. Then eventually putting the box back is like another round of Tetris.

And Tessa Brunton visits us with Day 4 of her diary.


Substitute comic book artists and collectors with musicians and record collectors and what you have here is comics-appropriate. Also, there is a Crumb connection! Even if not, it speaks so much to how our history has been found and written, and how much more there is to go.

This Pat Boyette strip is really killer.

The first issue of the classic British comics mag The Beano is up for auction.

This Blobby Boys video is very entertaining.



Today, in an excerpt from his new book, The Conscience of a Cartoonist: Instructions, Observations, Criticisms, Enthusiasms, the great cartoonist Jeff Danziger shares his thoughts on the art of political cartooning. Here's how he begins:

Political cartoons are the final word in man’s search for metaphor. Writers, the poor dears, struggle for the right words to make the reader see a situation. A writer might labor with the joke that George Bush swung from trees, proving Darwin was right — we are descended from apes — or refer to the White House as a petting zoo. An economist might dramatize his predictions, saying we are indeed balanced on the knife-edge of a fiscal machete. Political analysts describe verbal pictures to make their concepts clear, to illustrate while they explain. All these metaphors, and their illegitimate spawn, similes, exist to make readers remember a vision drawn from something they have actually seen physically. We hear of corporations and the stock market getting a “haircut” when they give up a portion of their earnings. We hear of real estate being “under water” if more is owed than anyone would pay.

A political drawing dispenses with the search for words. It goes right for the main receptor of metaphor: the eye. A Wall Streeter is missing part of his hair, or suffers a major trepanation from the brow line up. A house is drawn with fish swimming by. If a family is sitting down to dinner inside, the effect is even stronger. The poor suckers obviously don’t know how bad things are.

Art Lorte has our obituary of the great Golden Age cartoonist Fred Kida.

And, of course, Tessa Brunton has the third day of her Cartoonist's Diary. She's finally reached Disneyland.


—News. The Eisner Award nominations have been announced. Congratulations to all the nominees, especially columnists Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, and Paul Tumey, past contributors Marc Sobel and Zainab Akhtar, and our editorial coordinator Kristy Valenti, who was nominated for both the print version of The Comics Journal and The Love & Rockets Companion (co-edited with Sobel). As per tradition, there are fine honorees and odd omissions throughout all the categories, but analysis can come later. (Congrats, too, to all those nominated with us in the "Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism" category.)

Michael Cavna talks to the winner of the latest Pulitzer for cartooning, Kevin Siers.

USA Today interviews Mimi Pond.

The Schulz Library blog talks to professor/cartoonist/CCS graduate Beth Hetland.

—Reviews & Commentary.
I initially misread the headline of this Rachel Edidin piece on the Amazon/comiXology deal to mean Amazon has ruined a lot more than just comics.

Gene Luen Yang writes an essay wondering if the pursuit of art is a selfish one. (It dovetails a little with Mike Dawson's recent Cartoonist's Diary on this site.)

J. Caleb Mozzocco compares the film version of Darren Aronofsky's Noah with the earlier produced graphic novel based on an earlier draft of the script.

Adventure Time isn't exactly comics, but so many prominent or up-and-coming cartoonists work for the show that this long piece on it by Maria Bustillos may be of interest to many of you.

Chris Randle chooses the ten "sexiest" anthropomorphic animals in comics.

James Bacon reviews Charley's War, and Bob Heer reviews a slew of comics.

—Funnies. I neglected to link to Chris Ware's new strip in the recent New York Times Book Review. Here are two early Bill Watterson cartoons.


Get Out of Here, Bauhaus!

Joe McCulloch is here with your week in comics. And Tessa Brunton presents Day 2 of her diary.


First thing's first: This interview of Victor Moscoso by Norman Hathaway is the best in existence. This is your must-watch of the week.

These stamps have made the internet rounds. Best news of the week.

Ng Suat Tong on Margaret Sanger.

Business Insider on Comixology/Amazon.

Alec Longstreth interviewed on Inkstuds.



This morning, we have the first entry from Tessa Brunton's week here at the helm of the Cartoonist's Diary column. Today, she rests up for (and worries about) a trip to Disneyland.

And we also have Paul Tumey's review of the new collection of WWII-era Superman newspaper strips. Here's an excerpt:

The Sunday newspaper comics collected in the handsome new IDW collection, Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1943-1946, mostly deal with Superman’s involvement in World War Two, and chart not only the war years of the classic newspaper comic, but also the inevitable (and entertaining) trivializing of the Superman concept that would lead to a 1945 comic book cover in which the Man of Steel used his super breath to defrost Lois Lane’s refrigerator.

The problem was that, in the four-color world of the 1943 Sunday newspaper comic, Supes could conclude World War II in a single strip, but the war would still rage on in reality – and the fantasy would be broken. In fact, Superman did end the war in 1940 (fictionally speaking), in a two-page story that appeared in the February 27, 1940 issue of Look Magazine, in which he scooped up Hitler and Stalin and turned them over to the League of Nations. (This feature was created nearly two years before American entered the war and it shows Hitler and Stalin on the same side. Germany violated a pact with Russia in 1941 and Stalin joined the allies.) This Superman story, however, was only a hypothetical fantasy-within-a-fantasy story (the first of many to come) -- and therefore had no lasting impact on the actual Superman universe.


—News. Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly has more on the Amazon/comiXology deal. Rob Salkowitz has more analysis.

Ulli Lust and Gene Luen Yang were the big comics-related winners at this year's Los Angeles Times Book Award.

—Interviews. Book designer Jacob Covey talks about the Popeye books. Comics Alliance talks to editor Spike Trotman about her extremely successful Kickstarter for the porn comics anthology Smut Peddler 2. CBR talks to Gene Luen Yang.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon recommends ten old comics books that are cheap on eBay. Rob Clough reviews Vehlmann & Kerascoet's Beautiful Darkness.

Sean Michael Robinson details his own abortive attempt to create a graphic novel.

—Spending Opportunities. The Doug Wright Awards have launched a Kickstarter. Conundrum Press has announced its fall lineup. Ron Regé Jr. has a new online store.


Options for Pat

On the site:

Rob Steibel on very early Jack Kirby work.

Years ago Greg put out a CD that had a PDF file featuring some of Jack’s very early comics work. Recently it looks like Greg has put out a 160-page book featuring much of that material called Comic Strip Kirbyfeaturing 375 examples of Jack’s newspaper syndicate work from 1937-39. I need to pick up a copy of that, but for today, let’s go old school: I thought it might be fun to look at a few of the comic strips collected on the Theakson Comic Strip Kirby CD which is an 80-page PDF file. I want to give you a taste of Jack’s early work, so if you want a more comprehensive look at it, I encourage you to pick up Greg’s books. In the introduction of the PDF, Greg writes:

These are Jack Kirby’s earliest published works. Most were taken from a scrapbook kept by Ma Kirby. While far from complete, this is the most comprehensive collection of his strip work ever produced. I’ve looked around for years, and these are the only copies I’ve ever seen, and now you can see them too!

If this scrapbook still exists (which I obviously hope still does) I hope at some point someone can take photographs or make scans of each page so we can see what the original faded piece of newsprint looks like. I hope someone has this scrapbook, and I hope it’s in a nice cool place for safe storage. It’s difficult to decide which comics to choose to highlight here, I’ll go ahead and pick about twenty that I think will give you a nice overview of Jack’s early work. Greg has a lot of Socko the Sea Dog strips in this collection as well, but I won’t look at those for now, maybe in the future I’ll do an article on that material.


Well, the big news is that Amazon has acquired Comixology. This means Amazon is now the biggest player in digital comics and gives them yet more leverage over the relevant publishers. I'm sure we'll have links to commentary as it comes.

On the other hand, here's an interview with Dame Darcy on Comixology. Two strange things in one day. One bad, one good.

Katie Skelly interviewed about her new project over at Robot 6.

Hey, Richard Sala is serializing a new story on Tumblr. Thanks for the reminder, Tom Spurgeon.

The panel excerpted here reminds me of Mike Judge's Silicon Valley.


It Continues

Frank Santoro is on a brief hiatus, so instead of your usual Thursday Riff Raff column, we've got two reviews for you. First, Brandon Soderberg tackles Robin Bougie's Sleazy Slice #7. Very little of that review is safely quotable on this family-friendly blog portion of the site, so don't read this if you're one of the youngest members of your family:

It probably doesn't matter much to Sleazy Slice artist/editor Robin Bougie, who proudly categorizes his nervy work as "filth," but his seven years-running porno comics anthology hasn't ever really received the credit it deserves.

See, long before art-porn that's as much porn as it is art got absorbed into the post-Tumblr alt-comix scene, Bougie had already handed pages of his anthology over to Josh Simmons (including The Furry Trap standout "Cockbone"), published rarely translated oddities from artist Shintaro Kago, and investigated bizarre fuckbook ephemera like a deeply offensive sixties curiosity titled, "Squaw Cunt." Certainly, something like Thickness could not have made the game-changing entrance it did without the obnoxiously un-P.C. and oft-troubling groundwork already laid down by Sleazy Slice.

Our other review is from new contributor, the cartoonist Whit Taylor, who offers her thoughts on Simon Hanselmann's "Life Zone":

“Life Zone” revolves around four main characters: Meg, Mogg, Werewolf Jones, and Owl. Meg, a witch, and the only female in the group, is an insecure, self-conscious, and self-medicating witch who is unknowingly the object of the other three’s affection. She is one of those people who does not realize her true value. Mogg, her cat partner, is your “typical” stoner who puts minimal effort into everyday activities. He is nonchalant, easy-going, and self-assured. Werewolf Jones, their raucous neighbor, is in constant party mode, instigating debaucheries wherever he goes. He’s also an aggressive bully at times. The most markedly different character is housemate Owl, a neurotic, yet impressionable character who is easily persuaded to go along with the rest of the characters’ intoxicated escapades. One of the reoccurring comedic gags throughout the story is him being beat up in various situations, usually due to his misjudgment, self-righteousness, and bad luck.


—News. RIP Fred Kida. More on the site soon.

—Interviews & Profiles. Margaret Wappler at the Los Angeles Times has a profile of Mimi Pond. ["{Tom} Devlin speculates that Pond isn't as well known as she should be because her former works — illustrated books on style, and cartoons for magazines — didn't play into the collector mentality."]

Erstwhile TCJ podcaster Mike Dawson appeared on Make It Then Tell Everybody, and Tom Hart, the closest thing we have to a comics saint, appeared on Inkstuds.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Cremins has a valuable response to the controversial Walt Kelly portion of R. Fiore's most recent column. ["As I read these remarks, I began to wonder, what would a 'context-conscious reading' of this sequence look like? And is Fiore correct? Would it reach a different conclusion than the one in Andrae’s introduction?"] Then Jeet Heer, who left insightful comments under both the Fiore and Cremins pieces, composed an essay-via-Twitter on it all. ["There's a good argument to be made that Kelly's intent in those early Pogo comics were progressive, but they smack of blackface now."]

Rob Clough reviews Jon Vermilyea's Fata Morgana. ["Anthropomorphic slices of pizza drip cheese in a menacing and disturbing fashion, while anthropomorphic breakfast foods get into brutal fights."]

—Misc. Osamu Tezuka gets a Google exhibit.

—Funnies. Julia Wertz on dreams.