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Actually Kind Of

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics, with a special focus on Steve Ditko’s latest.

Elsewhere:

Our parent company Fantagraphics has announced a new comics anthology called Now

The cartoonist Maggie Umber wrote a very frank account of the end of her marriage and the toll publishing can take on a relationship.

 

 

Used in Media

Today on the site:

Rob Clough looks at Study Group Comics through the prism of genre comics. 

The website of Study Group Comic Books has a button on their menu bar labeled “Genres.” It speaks volumes about the publishing mission of Zack Soto—the choices range from familiar genres like “Fantasy,” “Horror,” and “Crime” to “Abstractions” and “Trippy.” No alternative comics publisher is as explicit in its interest in genre comics as Study Group, both on the website and in paper form. Soto is also the rare publisher that still releases single-issue comics as part of a larger series as opposed to focusing on full-length books. Soto exhibits a voracious appetite for absorbing and understanding comics of all kinds, and that’s also reflected in the Study Group Magazine that he publishes with editor Milo George and art director Francois Vigneault.

Study Group is far from the only alternative comics publisher that deals with genre, but they focus on them more than any other. That said, their output look less like the sort of genre comics one might see from larger publishers and more like the kind of gritty, idiosyncratic comics associated with minicomics scenes like Providence in the late 1990s. Manga and other genre influences like EC horror comics can be widely seen in some Study Group releases. Let’s take a look at their output from the last couple of years.

 

The longtime Spirou-contributor Pierre Seron has died. 

Comics-related: Jane Mai and An Nguyen discuss “Lolita Fashion”

Not comics: “The Berlin Painter” offers some visuals that we could learn from.

 

Beware of the Blob

Today on the site, Aug Stone reviews a new edition of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess’s comic for children, The Magical Twins.

The Magical Twins (Les Jumeaux Magiques in the original French) was the first collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess. It was originally published in 1987 in the French comics magazine Le Journal de Mickey. Although ostensibly intended for young readers, The Magical Twins contains all the imaginative transformation we expect from a book written by Jodorowsky.

The book opens on a magical bird, Lyrena, a distant cousin of The Incal’s Deepo, racing to deliver an urgent message to Kether, the “city of the pure spirit” at the center of the kingdom. In Kabbalah, Kether (meaning “crown”) is the highest sphere of the Tree of Life — the “source of all light,” as the comic says. This very first panel wonderfully shows us what a master Jodorowsky is — creating a world for children but refusing to water down any of the story, knowing that they will “get it.” This is mirrored in the structure of the story itself, as the young royal twins, Mara and Aram, slowly learn along with with reader what is needed to save the kingdom.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Asher Elbein at The Atlantic has a surprisingly spot-on story on Marvel’s recent sales slump.

…in the aftermath of Marvel’s rocky first quarter—and with the controversial Secret Empire now in full swing—it’s clear the publisher’s problems run more deeply than an ill-timed storyline or public-relations fumbles. Audiences are drifting away. New fans feel ignored. Despite movies that dominate the cultural landscape and regularly clear millions of dollars, the entire edifice of corporate superhero comics represented by both publishers has been quietly crumbling for years, partially due to Marvel’s own business practices. Marvel can’t seem to actually sell comics, diverse or not—and the company only has itself to blame.

—Douglas Wolk is insane.

—Kilgore Books is Kickstarting its spring/summer line, which includes new titles by Glynnis Fawkes, Tim Lane, Leslie Stein, Noah Van Sciver, and others.

As you may know, we’ve been publishing quality independent comics since 2009, and in that time we’ve produced 26 comics, three prints, and a feature-length documentary.

Our goal is to help new(er) cartoonists reach a wider audience by ensuring their books stay in print, they get royalties in advance, and they get hooked up with new distribution paths. We tend to specialize in literary and humor comics, though anything that catches our eye is fair game.

—After years (decades?) of complaining endlessly (and not entirely baselessly) about the embarrassing childishness of most comics canons, the always intriguing, always frustrating comics critic Domingos Isabelinho plans to write about his 25 favorite comics.

—Michelle Hart writes about Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This:

On its surface, Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This is a book about grief. When Radtke was in college, her uncle, a man whose presence in her life is something between a father’s and a brother’s, dies from a rare genetic heart condition. The sudden death of uncle Dan and the possibility that the same condition could be present in her own DNA create in Radtke a desire to explore ruins and abandoned cities, to explore, physically and philosophically, life’s impermanence.

Illustrated in stark and often-gorgeous shades of gray, the book looks the way Radtke feels: at once benumbed and dreamy. The cleanliness of the linework augments the melancholy of the narrative, a technique that calls to mind Adrian Tomine, another significant chronicler of urban solitude. The simplicity of the people in the book is contrasted with the staggering complexity of the environments. In one stunning two-page spread, Radtke looks out at an Icelandic vista; Radtke is small, occupying only the bottom-right corner of the page, with the sky large and enveloping. Despite the book’s compositional wizardry, however, Radtke remains committed to understatement.

 

How Great It Is

Today:

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum’s Caitlin McGurk talks to Noah Van Sciver about his excellent new Fante Bukowski 2, as well as their shared homebase of Columbus, Ohio, and other sundry comics matters. 

Stephen Bissette told me you were one of the hardest working people he’s seen up there. How do you feel about the CCS program, if you’re willing to share that? I know they have more and more competition these days, with comics programs popping up all over the country.

It can be a good, helpful experience for people. If you’re serious about being a cartoonist and learning as much as you can, you’ll get a lot out of it. But you’ll also see people who get caught up in the drama that’s created in such a small community. That’s what you have to avoid.  Artists arrive to find that they’re no longer the best in their town, and others become more excited about being around other weirdos that working on their comics takes a back seat to hanging out and having parties. 

In Fante Bukowski Two, our man lands in Columbus. This conveniently coincides with your relocation to, as Fante says, “the artistic GALAXY that is Columbus Ohio”. My question is basically, “why here, why now” for both you and Fante. What brought you to Columbus, how has it been for you this past year, and was bringing Fante here a creative decision out of sheer convenience of familiarity, or something more?  

When I moved to Columbus last summer I came with about 20 finished pages for Fante Bukowski Two, and I didn’t really have a story in mind other than Fante has spent a year traveling around the country and has decided to try his luck in Columbus, OH, as I was about to. It worked well because as I was figuring out the city I could have him do it right along with me. Maybe it was a way of helping me feel more comfortable. My past year here has had it’s ups and downs, but a lot of that comes with trying to create a life in a new city alone and the anxieties that come with that.

Elsewhere:

The influence of Dungeons & Dragons on the last 20 years of comics has been pretty huge but mostly unexamined. That may not change, but here’s a preview of David Kushner and Koren Shadmi’s upcoming biography of D&D creator Gary Gygax.

Over at Comics Workbook, RM Rhodes offers commentary on The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner and Ruben Pellejero.

Not comics: I didn’t know about this huge digital trove of Sister Corita Kent imagery. Amazing.

 

Trashman Lives

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding releases new to stores. This week’s highlights include memoirs by Gabrielle Bell and Jason.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—I can’t even summon the energy to read this National Review attack on comics being studied in college (apparently ‘cuz they’re dumb and they turn kids into pinkos or something), much less argue against it. But it’s the controversy du jour.

—The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Keiler Roberts, and the most recent guest on RiYL is David Lloyd.

 

Him

Today on the site, Frank Santoro continues his journey into risograph printing with an interview with Panayiotis Terzis.

What is your risograph origin story? I assume you were interested in printmaking before you discovered risograph printing. You’ve been making interesting color work for as long as I’ve known you. How has the risograph changed your process?

When I was in undergrad I had discovered and cycled through all of the traditional forms of printmaking – etching, lithography, screenprinting etc. I was making paintings, drawings, installations and comics, and printmaking was where everything came together. David Sandlin‘s class was monumental for me in terms of challenging myself technically and aesthetically. His work was so ambitious and beautiful that I think it made everyone in his class work their asses off to even be worthy of being there. It was inspiring to be around an artist who made comics but who also had carved out a place for himself in the art world without any contradiction between the two. He was also a living connection to various legendary creative worlds I’d been reading about: the East Village scene in the 1980s, all the people who had been involved in Spiegelman’s RAW. Around this time I had also discovered Fort Thunder, Space 1026, and Paper Rad, and all of the other little versions of those phenomena that were unfolding in small cities all over the country and in Europe too. Using print media, making cheap multiples, making posters for events — all of this felt very fresh and democratic, and part of a creative outlook that demolished the barriers between contemporary art, music, performance art, zines, books, comics, painting, and commercial art.

Elsewhere:

The longtime Marvel and DC cartoonist Rich Buckler, now best known for co-creating Deathlok, has passed away at the age of 68.  Here is a fond remembrance from a longtime fan.

Here’s a good piece on Samuel R. Delany’s recently published diaries. 

 

Tell Us About It

Greg Hunter’s here today with a review of Jason’s first comics memoir, On the Camino.

Before the release of On the Camino, few cartoonists seemed less likely to publish a memoir than Jason. The Norwegian artist has spent decades creating deadpan genre stories defined by slapstick and muted emotions. 2013’s Lost Cat, for instance, approaches noir storytelling as if it were a mindfulness exercise, sticking to a rigid four-panel grid and a single repeating spot color. It’s a good book but not a warm book, and it conveys little about its creator beyond general impressions of his taste and sensibility. This makes On the Camino, Jason’s first autobiographical work, a major departure, and yet it retains most features of his previous comics—most notably the use of animal figures in place of people, including a dog’s likeness for Jason himself.

A reader might take the dog avatar as a sign the artist hasn’t abandoned the devices that earned him a cult following. Another reader might take it as a reason not to expect new emotional directness from Jason. They’d both be right. But if Jason appears to approach autobiography from a position of relative safety, On the Camino soon reveals itself to be a book about the distances between Jason and other people.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Sean Rogers at the Globe & Mail profiles publisher Annie Koyama.

“I respect how Annie has built her publishing company carefully over time,” said Bill Kartalopoulos, the series editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual Best American Comics series, who collaborated with Koyama Press on Aidan Koch’s poetic, painterly After Nothing Comes. “[Annie’s] always focused on her core interests, never overextending herself, slowly developing step by step to create a stable and vibrant independent publishing house with a strong identity that is built to go the distance for her artists.”

But more than a decade ago, creating that publishing identity was far from Koyama’s mind. She was thinking instead of her globetrotting dreams. “I was going to drop everything and travel,” she recalled of her plans to escape an increasingly numbing career in advertising. Having made a lot of money in the industry – “because I didn’t put it all up my nose” – she’d set aside a sum to fund her travels. Then illness waylaid her.

—The cover art for R. Crumb’s Ballantine-published collection of Fritz the Cat comics has set a new original-comics-art auction record, selling for $717,000, the highest ever for American comics.

The record price for a piece of comic art anywhere in the world is still over $3.5 million for the flyleaves/end pages for the Adventures of Tintin albums, by Herge.

—Amnesty International UK has released a podcast telling the story of Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani in her own words.

More than a year and a half after she was first arrested, and after a huge international campaign for her release, Atena was freed from prison on 3 May 2016. Her 12 year and 9 month sentence had been reduced to 18 months, after an appeal. The charge of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ with her cartoon was upheld, though it was decided she had already served time for this.

 

Existing Biz

Today:

Irene Velntzas reviews Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless. 

Tamaki applies her narrative voice and style to both human and natural subjects, resulting in a formlessness, or perhaps an erasure, between human and natural subjects. Lines such as “I get stronger with every passing day” are difficult to attribute to the water depicted in the scene or the person swimming within it. Similarly, affirmations such as “And I’m going to be respected” create a curious relation to either the worker shown carving a tree or the tree itself. This fluid relationship between Tamaki’s words and images provoke a captivating plurality, one that tumbles down one vertical double-page spread to another. At times, the human is relegated to the periphery of the page, clinging to subjectivity in the face of sprawling nature across the two-page spread; at other times, the reverse is true, with the human form clinging to its subjectivity while it views the world from a liminal position in Tamaki’s text. With each page, humanity and nature vie for a balanced co-existence.

Elsewhere:

Douglas Wolk writes about Captain America and politics.

Vice has a good and frank article about the financial life of a young cartoonist.