Eleanor Davis is back again today, with the third entry in her Cartoonist’s Diary series. If you haven’t been reading along, catch up now.
Also, Rob Clough is here with a review of a NSFW collaboration between Brontez Purnell and Janelle Hessig, The Cruising Diaries. Here’s a sample of what to expect:
The format of the book is text from Purnell on the left-hand pages and an illustration (sometimes in comics form) from Hessig on the right-hand pages. Each anecdote concerns young Purnell’s anonymous sexual exploits “told in the style of anti-erotica.” Each encounter has a title; the first is called “Sweet Talker”, and it ends with the following three sentences: “I went to his house where he had pictures of his wife and kids everywhere and every solo-male jerk-off film ever. We spent three hours in the shower pissing on each other and he bought me a burrito later. PERFECT DATE.” This gives the reader a pretty good idea of what they’re in for: total honesty and a heaping of irreverence.
Jules Feiffer’s Kill My Mother has one of the oddest back cover blurb-fests ever. At this time in graphic novel publishing we can pretty much expect most of these usual suspects, but rarely all in one place. Stan Lee AND Chris Ware? But best of all Legion of Superheroes writer Paul Levitz, who continues his remarkable transformation from corporate comics apologist and perennial punchline to grand old man of comics. That aside, does anyone outside the superhero comic book industry even know who Paul Levitz is? Fascinating times we live in.
Still further into space:
I love no comedian more than I love Gilbert Gottfried. Drew Friedman shares my love, and writes about him here on the occasion of his appearance on Gilbert’s podcast. Also very much worth your time: An amazing article on the comedian by the great Jay Ruttenberg, who has interviewed Friedman for TCJ. See how it all goes round and round?
And one of the only reasons I look at Facebook is that sometimes something like this happens: Robert Boyd’s impromptu story of working for Roger Corman’s comic book line.
Today is Jules Feiffer day here at the Journal, starting with a new interview with the legendary cartoonist by Greg Hunter, in which they discuss crime fiction, long-form storytelling, politics, and background-drawing. Here is a sample:
Did drawing Kill My Mother force you to do anything as a cartoonist you hadn’t done before
It was a complete revolution for me, in my way of thinking, in my way of approaching art and toying with it. I spent over forty years doing Village Voice strips, almost never doing backgrounds, because the characters were the prominent thing and the conversation was the prominent thing. I thought backgrounds would be distracting, and in addition, I didn’t know what anything looked like that wasn’t a human figure.
I’ve never had an eye for the inanimate. And so I never drew cars or planes—all the things that boys generally love to do. They were totally foreign to me, alien to me. Buildings, bridges, all of that stuff. And noir, if you take a look at any of the movies—Double Indemnity , Maltese Falcon , any of them—they’re full of atmosphere. And atmosphere is backgrounds, reflected light, shading. All that stuff that I had perfectly no experience in drawing or in thinking about. So I had to completely rethink my entire approach to drawing, at the age of eighty.
Feiffer has frequently voiced his envy for the drawing abilities of noir guys like Eisner and Milton Caniff. Personally, I love Feiffer’s drawings. Eisner and Caniff draw like they’re looking at film stills, while Feiffer draws like he’s sketching from the front row of a play. He draws dancers and his drawings themselves are live performances. They only move forward. It would be difficult to retake or remove a single stroke. If you follow the line of a Feiffer leg down, it flies from the front of the thigh to the back of the calf. It travels through the body like muscles, or fabric. Think of artists comparable to Feiffer. Quentin Blake might look like Feiffer on first glance, but Blake’s legs and arms are more tube- or stick-like. They don’t have a gesture sweeping through them. Another comparable post-Steinberg smart drawer is Tomi Ungerer, but Feiffer acts faster and freer. Feiffer’s women dance; Ungerer’s are tied up. If you copy a Feiffer drawing, at some point you’ll think, “This is like a scribbly Al Hirschfeld drawing!” Al Hirschfeld, of course, has a deep love of the theatrical that Feiffer shares.
And we’ve excited about the latest artist who has agreed to contribute a Cartoonist’s Diary to the site, Eleanor Davis. Don’t miss it; this is going to be a good one.
—Feiffer. If you want more Feiffer, he’s also been interviewed by Carolyn Kellogg at the L.A. Times, by Michael Mechanic at Mother Jones, and reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on NPR.
Ahead of next week’s publication of Kill My Mother, we have Jules Feiffer’s introduction and afterword to his landmark bookThe Great Comic Book Heroes.
Self promotion alert: I curated this show opening September 18th at the RISD Museum of Art. Also, there’s a 368-page catalog I put together with texts from faves Nicole Rudick, Naomi Fry, among others. The show attempts to create an alternate lineage from 1960 to the present and includes comics people Jack Kirby, Gary Panter, Mat Brinkman (and Forcefield) alongside the Hairy Who, Christina Ramberg, Elizabeth Murray, Destroy All Monsters, Joan Brown, Peter Saul and others. You’ll hear more about it as it goes. 10 points if you can name both objects on the cover of the book.
Speaking of Rudick, Tim and I tried to draw her into a contentious email discussion about whether or not Santa Claus is a super hero, as so named in this article. To my dismay she refused to respond!
I got this Multiversity comic book thing in the mail and tried to read some of it this morning because I am a masochist, but was baffled. This annotated guide may help me, but I may also never read it or the comic itself.
Sean T. Collins is bringing back the column in which he investigates the work of up-and-coming artists, and today he’s introducing the Brooklyn painter turned cartoonist Meghan Turbitt. Here’s a sample:
You were doing fine art back then.
I was doing large-scale oil paintings of geishas incorporated with Catholic imagery—prayer cards and rosaries. I was also using the image of the Virgin Mary and other female saints as inspiration for making large-scale geisha prayer card portraits. I also painted directly onto Catholic prayer cards, turning the saints into geishas. I became obsessed and made over one hundred of them. I incorporated Japanese culture into my work. In school I also became interested in Jenna Jameson, started listening to Howard Stern, and really was exploring my sexuality. I painted myself as Jenna Jameson and did collages of myself using porno mags and birth control pills. Lol.
What was the connection you saw between the saints and geishas? Did the cultural familiarity of saints give you an entry point into a less familiar culture?
I was rejecting my upbringing and culture, and wishing I was anything else — and, probably, being a bit disrespectful. I think I even told my mother and grandmother that I wished I was Japanese at one point, which is something a ten-year-old would do. I remember being intrigued by the fact that the geishas and the female saints were wearing very similar outfits, even though they were such different ladies.
And now that you’re making comics rather than fine art, have your underlying ideas about this changed along with your medium of choice?
In Lady Turbo and the Terrible Cox Sucker, my sidekick is a geisha named Brent, a friend in real life, so I guess I’m still using geisha imagery now. I’m just more interested in making work that’s funny and a commentary on how ridiculous my life is right now, and I think I’m less angry at my family, so I’m making work that’s less an “F U” to them.
—Profiles & Interviews. Sean Howe has a nice, long profile of Frank Miller for Wired, and it’s easily the best, most thorough one I’ve seen in this latest round of media for the artist.
Amazon interviews editor Chris Duffy about his recent anthology of comics based on WWI poetry.
Harper Harris talks to Farel Dalrymple about The Wrenchies, which I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about.
—Reviews & Commentary. Aaron Noble has an in-depth analysis of Jack Kirby art, comparing a 1950s Boys Ranch spread with a similar 1970s spread from Mister Miracle.
—Misc. I think it’s kind of hilarious that iO9 thinks it’s necessary to repeatedly inform its readers that Michael DeForge’s “Canadian Royalty” story is “fake.”
Today on the site we have more coverage of Brian Evenson’s book on Ed the Happy Clown, this time via an excellent conversation with our own Mike Dawson. Why? Because there can never be enough discussion of great comics. And great comics is Chester Brown. Or Chester Brown is great comics. Whatever. You know what I mean. Every cartoonist I respect is intimidated by Chester’s work. That’s a good thing.
Gabrielle Bell, another amazing cartoonist, is selling her journal comics day-by-day on eBay.
Here’s another Frank Miller piece, this time an interview with Playboy in which Miller sounds exactly like the guy who draws Sin City should sound. That’s not a good thing. But! Miller’s work was inventive and interesting for many years… I still like that DK2 book. Or at least I like my memory of it.
Today, before laying out a guide to this week’s new comics releases (with spotlight picks from Raina Telgemeier and Ed Piskor), Joe McCulloch writes about one of the manga giants still largely unavailable to Anglophone readers: Leiji Matsumoto.
I was very much struck yesterday by Ryan Holmberg’s characterization of the manga studies terrain as “a field dotted with crumbling edifices and surrounded by vast tracts of virgin territory.” Specifically, it appealed to the conservationist in me to check after the health of the edifices.
Is Leiji Matsumoto an edifice? I’d argue he’s barely a foundation right now; in spite of the enduring success of animated iterations of his works, dating from Star Blazers in the 1970s to last year’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock CG movie, the sum total of his officially translated manga oeuvre consists of a single short story (“Ghost Warrior”) printed in Frederik L. Schodt’s Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics in 1983, and five volumes’ worth of a 1990s revival of his Galaxy Express 999 manga published by VIZ 17 years ago in conjunction with the release of various anime. There may be more pages of licensed Matsumoto tribute comics from the ’80s and ’90s like Comico’s Star Blazers and Eternity’s Captain Harlock series than there are actual Leiji Matsumoto comics accessible in translation.
—News. The latest slate of Ignatz Award nominees were announced yesterday. Read and enthuse/grow despondent, as is your wont.
MariNaomi is making a database of cartoonists of color. She has instructions on submitting names and other FAQ here.
I’m behind on both listening and linking to podcasts, but recent episodes of possible interest include the aforementioned Jacobs on Make It Then Tell Everybody, Rob Liefeld on Inkstuds (with guest cohost Brandon Graham), and Aron Nels Steinke on Comix Claptrap.
In my opinion, the social and cultural value of contemporary art is grossly overblown. I am not saying that I think contemporary art is bunk. There is an amazing amount of imaginative and thought-provoking work out there. Simply that the amount of capital invested in it, the amount of press coverage it is given, and the claims made for it within curatorial statements and critical essays are all so utterly inflated that it actually does most artists a disservice. The lucky few are rewarded with fame and fortune. But the vast majority is stuck in a web of puffery that effectively cuts artists off from meaningful feedback and meaningful relationships with a wider public. This has created a situation in which one has to be wealthy not only to buy art, but also to afford the education required to understand art, and moreover to afford the social privilege of maintaining oneself in a community that does not ask too many fundamental questions about the actual social, political, or intellectual worth of contemporary art. Such questions are necessary for any field’s long-term health, and of course there are people asking them. But my general sense — as someone who has had extensive contact with the art world in New York, Tokyo, and Mumbai, who writes art reviews with fair frequency and tries to keep up with what’s published in the field — is that contemporary art is suffocating on its own hot air.
And here’s a link to recent writing by Kevin Huizenga on Saul Steinberg. After years of sustained interest in Steinberg, I’ve somehow lost interest in his work. It’s smart and frequently beautiful, but the symbology became formulaic after a while, and the flavor of his intelligence somehow became less intriguing to me. I don’t think it’s a reflection of the work itself, but rather my own changing taste. It’s like I don’t want it all quite so spelled-out for me, and I want a little less of that analytic New York feel. It’s also possible my taste is just degenerating. Ha.