If you were intrigued by Joe McCulloch's review of Inio Asano's Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, you now have the chance to read a little of it for yourself. Or rather, a lot of it, as VIZ was very generous in allowing us to preview a whole sixty pages. It will only be up on the site for a limited time, so don't delay.
Let me attempt to begin with a joke. So Walt Disney, Saul Steinberg, and Tomi Ungerer walk into an insane asylum. No wait, I'm telling it wrong. Walt Disney walks into his therapist's office. The therapist says, "Why the long beak?" Because in this story, Walt Disney is depicted as a bird. I'm kidding; I wasn't really attempting to tell a joke, but summarizing the basic plot and visual sensibility of Anna Haifisch's Von Spatz, where Steinberg is a cat, and Ungerer's a mouse, but no one preys on one another. They are all in rehab due to the psychic toll being artists has taken on them.
This is not one of those comics where the biography of an artist is depicted in a cartoonist's approximation of their style. Haifisch has chosen as her subjects three people whose commonality is that they are all cartoonists of one sort or another, and she depicts them in her own cartooned style. The characters are simply delineated, essentially stick figures, distinguished from one another by their animal heads, but the backgrounds pop with color. Trained as a printmaker, Haifisch uses black lines and limited colors to convey pictorial depth and depth of feeling equally adroitly. There's respect for these artists, and affection for them as characters, but they exist on her terms: It's fiction, not biography. Not only did this never happen, there are many ways in which it never could have happened. Anachronisms and shifting contexts form the core of the book's sense of humor. A few moments suggest cartoon characters might be staying at the clinic as well as cartoonists. The book is a deadpan delight, as the logic, or illogic, of its world is slowly charted. The whole thing proceeds with a "ha ha what?" tension, not quite cohering into something that makes sense, and obliquely suggesting the nature of the characters' breakdowns. The tone is absurd but conveys a tired malaise, like a Steven Wright one-liner, or Zach Galifianakis at his most despondent.
Curiously, the type of genre material that keeps industries alive in other countries is virtually nonexistent in German film and comics. Sure, foreign genre work is being translated and distributed en masse, but most German-language genre work—the kind of commercial work that won’t require public funding to be viable—faded away throughout the 1980s, and the industries that produced it never came back. As a work of genre, Endzeit happens to be a niche project, in comics as well as in the film industry. Vieweg wonders whether that’s another part of the legacy left behind by the Nazis, and by the public outrage and legislation against “trash” and “filth” that followed in the 1950s.
“People still think this way even today,” she says. “Comics are for children and for stupid people. And genre movies like Godzilla didn’t find any recognition, either.” Vieweg points out that some of the seminal horror films of the 1920s, such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, were made in Germany—just like the frequently horrific fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, which continue to be well-regarded to this day.
“So what the devil happened there?!”, she wonders.
And on the TCJ Review front, we've got a review of a super-hero comic from DC that's written by Kurt Busiek. You'll have to click through to find out which Intellectual Property it is, but i'll give you a hint: the review is written by Noah Berlatsky, and Noah wouldn't know who to enjoy an issue of Suicide Squad even if our decade long relationship depended on it. (It did, and we're through!)
Harry Peter's art occupied an odd middle ground between Henry Darger, Beardsley, and Victorian children's illustration; his stiff figures and fluid lines lent a cheerfully quivering eroticism to images of battle kangaroos, women bound, pink ectoplasmic goo and more women bound. Together, Marston and Peter created enormously popular, sexually adventurous comics for eight year olds, as well as a brief for third-wave sex-positive feminism before the second wave had gotten off the ground. Superhero comics would never be as weird, as daring, or as beautiful again.
Elsewhere, the Doug Wright Awards were announced. It's a fine list of comics and creators, and, if history repeats itself, will probably result in a fine list of winners. And just a reminder to those of you who don't like it when art is ranked against each other, you're absolutely 100% correct. However, caring about that particular argument is boring, and no one likes listening to you talk about it.
The longer pieces in the book tackle tough emotional matters head-on. He talks in detail about his repetitive behaviors, thinking about it from the point of view of what his neighbors might say. He feels bad for his dad that he has to pull the plug on his brain-dead uncle, but is brutally honest in revealing that he has no feelings about his uncle whatsoever. He accidentally breaks a picture when he gets angry about not being invited to go out to a bar and chastises himself for that reaction. Really, the only thing that breaks up the monotony of his daily existence in the book is his traveling to comics shows. These are like palate cleansers, forcing him to abandon habits and reach out to others. He later gets into a long-distance relationship and pulls away yet again. He finally faces up to his depression and gets a new therapist.
This volume is unrelenting in its honesty and in Budnik's need to expand on his fears, feelings, and hopes on every page. This is the ideal version of a cartoonist not censoring themselves on the page, only instead of drawing lurid power fantasies as a way of concealing what really drives him, Budnik is willing to make himself look fragile. He's not just "spilling some ink" (as Rob Kirby and I refer to autobiographical cartoonists digging deep in telling their stories), he's knocked over a whole bottle. That metaphor is especially applicable to Budnik, who compulsively cleans as a way of controlling his environment. He has the option of concealing his feelings and symptoms, yet he chooses not to. I don't get the sense that he's doing this because he's being an emotional exhibitionist. Rather, it seems to go back to that idea of "telling on your secrets" as a way of loosening their power and the sense of shame they bring, even if he gets little immediate relief from this.
Printed images — and the comic book medium’s unique presentation of them — are at the heart of this feature. We have set out to trace the evolution of American comics by looking at 100 pages that altered the course of the field’s history. We chose to focus on individual pages rather than complete works, single panels, or specific narrative moments because the page is the fundamental unit of a comic book. It is where multiple images can allow your eye to play around in time and space simultaneously, or where a single, full-page image can instantly sear itself into your brain. If there are words, they become elements of the image itself, thanks to the carefully chosen economy of the writer and the thoughtful graphic design of the letterer. In the best pages, one is torn between staring endlessly at what’s in front of you or excitedly turning to the next one to see where the story is going. When comics have moved in new directions, the pivot points come in a page.
The weird thing is that for the most part the explanations that follow tend not to focus on the pages themselves, and seem more about the comics as a whole. Which is fine, but why not just make it most influential comics? It is also a lot more superhero-heavy than I think it should be, but that's a matter of taste. Anyway, an interesting experiment in any case.
Cartoonists who draw and invent stories each day—be it George Herriman, of “Krazy Kat,” Charles M. Schulz, of “Peanuts,” or Saul Steinberg, at The New Yorker—get to tap their subconscious for our delight. In “Why Art?,” the audience is buffeted by the constant back and forth between Davis and her art, but we’re allowed, for an instant, to linger in the liminal space between created and creator. It’s a rare and perfect vantage point.
When I pointed out that one can see parallels between the climax of “Master Race” and the Bruce Wayne origin sequence, Miller cut us off. “Oh, it’s not a parallel,” he said with a little chuckle. “He came first and I imitated him.”
Today at The Journal, we've got your very own Joe McCulloch, here with a review of the first volume of Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction, the newest Viz release by Inio Asano. We'll have an excerpt from the title later this week!
The premise of the series is this. Not long ago, an enormous alien spacecraft appeared above Japan, causing some amount of property damage and loss of life as it maneuvered itself into a low hover. A perhaps more serious incident subsequently occurred when United States military aid resulted in the irradiation of Tokyo via an advanced weapon, but people don't talk about that so much because the effects of A-rays aren't scientifically proven, and anyway the presence of aliens has supplied a new excuse for profitable militarization in Japan, to say nothing of the political benefits of patriotism. On the day of the invasion -- which, doing the math from this series' 2014 serial debut in Japan, places it in 2011, conspicuously the same year as the Tōhoku earthquake and the resultant Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster -- young Kadode Koyama's father was either killed or took the opportunity to abandon his family. Three years later, Kadode's mom, a political radical, is a hypochondriac mess of anxiety who wants the nearly-graduated teen Kadode to join her and her boyfriend off the grid in a clean-living commune. Kadode doesn't want to go; she mostly just wants to hang out with her pal Oran, a manic girl with massive twintails who's deeply invested in online first-person shooter video games, but not because she loves warfare. In fact, Oran is disgusted by the hypocrisy and superficiality of society, so she trains herself for domination in a coming world where humankind is rightly brought low: standing tall at the bottom of the drain.
Meanwhile, over at The Beat, James Romberger got his signals crossed and sent a story about Ramona Fradon to somebody besides me, a guy who has spent more time tracking down old Metamorpho comics than is socially acceptable. To add insult to an already unforgivable injury, The Romberger Report also delivers the official final word on which artist was responsible for that classic civil rights comic, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story: Sy Barry. It's a great piece of detective work by James, and he should be applauded for his work.
And then there's Alenka Figa at Women Write About Comics with the first loud proclamation of "this one, y'all" around Michael Deforge's Leaving Richard's Valley, which reached conclusion yesterday.
But that's not the only comic you can read on the web, thanks to Kevin Huizenga, who has his 2010 Marvel Strange Tales contribution up at his blog. It features Wolverine fighting the Silver Surfer.
I remember the manic hype around Homestuck during its original run online (between 2009 and 2016), which easily consumed the attention on anyone within five or six degrees of it. The oversaturated presence of the webcomic and its rabid fans exhausted me before I even had a chance to want to read it on my own terms. On top of that, it was overwhelming to even think of diving into if you weren't already on the wagon during the first year, and I had missed that cut-off point. The jagged pixel artwork, the torrential updates, and the copious walls of colorful chat conversations were turn-offs for me, and the buzz about it was deafening. The webcomic became a magnetic field that you were either completely absorbed by or fully repelled by. No in-betweens, no casual readers. This sort of fandom environment was the quintessence of the decade. The early 2000s felt to me like everyone was completely in thrall to their particular media fandom (RIP SuperWhoLock) and then something happened in the early 2010s and the open manic enthusiasm started to fade out. Avid fandoms are still around of course, but I think the proliferation of social justice discourse began heavily permeating online social media at this point and readers became more careful as to what and, more importantly, who they wanted to stan for publicly. This is all to say that the virtual participatory fan culture around Homestuck, its generation, and consistent fervent popularity has been my only point of engagement until now, an interesting but distant vantage point.
Now to the brick of a book at hand. Homestuck, Book 1: Acts 1 & 2 is an interesting but overall redundant artifact. Homestuck follows a small group of tweens as they chat online, avoid their guardians, and watch their homes get destroyed by meteors before getting sucked into a video game. In his preface, Hussie is quick to point out that most of the first three acts were influenced by reader submissions and that the virtual locus of Homestuck is crucial; seeing it in static book form means readers miss out on the dynamism its digital nature provides. These books are meant to be supplementary at best. As someone reading it for the first time in book form, this made me less than excited to read further.
The common defense of Apu is that The Simpsons has many stereotypes (the Italian Fat Tony, the sometimes-Jewish Krusty the Clown, the Scottish Groundskeeper Willy). But none of these characters exist in a cultural reality where they are the only representative of their ethnicity: there are myriad Italian-American and Jewish characters on TV, but for many years, Apu stood as a singular representative of desi culture. That’s slowly starting to change with shows like Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, but these programs haven’t yet had the cultural impact of The Simpsons.
There’s a big difference between the self-deprecating ethnic comedy of Kondabolu and Kaling, which belongs to a tradition of Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld, and having a white man do an Indian accent (as Hank Azaria does for Apu). As Kondabolu argues in a conversation with Whoopi Goldberg, there’s an undeniable element of minstrelsy in Apu.
As the spouse of one of my closest friends, Chip Kidd, I got to know Sandy McClatchy as one might know, well, a friend’s spouse. Chip and Sandy met in the early nineties, Chip and I having been friends for a few years before and I first learning of Chip’s infatuation when he mailed me a color-xeroxed eight-by-ten-inch publicity photo of Sandy with the words PROPERTY OF C.K. written diagonally in red across its lower quadrant like bubble letters on a school spiral notebook. Though I felt like I’d been passed a secret note in math class, I offered up my heartiest of congratulations because Chip had been single for a while. Privately, however, I was worried: Chip and I really only talked about comics and dumb stuff; this guy was a poet and opera librettist. What do poets and opera librettists talk about? What was I going to talk about if I ever met him? ...
—Interviews & Profiles. For the NYRB, Claudia Dreifus interviews Art Spiegelman.
I take it that you are no fan of Schindler’s List?
I think of it as the feel-good version of that S&M cult classic The Night Porter. There’s a scene in Schindler’s List in which the commandant played by Ralph Fiennes is in bed with a woman, and he takes his handgun and shoots some Jew he sees out the window. The message there, inextricably linked, is that all sex leads to holocausts. They are somehow joined at the hip: the two concepts.
As troubling was the Best Foreign Film in 1999, Life Is Beautiful. It said, ultimately, that if only the victims could just have taken it all with a song in their hearts and tap-danced their way, Chaplin-like, through the barbed wire, then “life” would be “beautiful.” I read somewhere that the director said he’d been inspired by Maus. If that’s true, I would have liked to go back in time and yank the book out of his hands!
I feel like some people are marathon runners, some are sprinters, and some are in between. As a cartoonist, I’m a marathonist. My normal format when I’m working on books, left to my own devices, is making longform works. When I’m asked to do shorter form work, for me the idea of putting a narrative on a single page is like, How would I even…? I love writing long dialogue. I’m kind of a maximalist, so the idea of trying to fit any kind of a narrative in that small of a space — I know it’s possible and there are people who do it beautifully — but how would I fit a story on a single page? It just seemed overwhelming. It made more sense to me to do… it’s obviously not a gag comic but it’s more of a… I don’t know!
Great Big Story has a short video interview with Daniel Clowes:
News. The New York Times has followed up on The Hollywood Reporter's recent story alleging that Stan Lee may be a victim of elder abuse.
For four decades, Mr. Lee has lived in a relatively modest two-story house in the middle of what has become some of Los Angeles’s most valuable real estate. Dr. Dre is a neighbor, and Leonardo DiCaprio lives down the block, on a street where houses can list for north of $30 million.
Inside the suburban-style home, a nurse and a maid bustled in the kitchen. Although Mr. Lee seemed at ease, the armed guard lent an air of surveillance that made it difficult to entirely relax.
The house is a time capsule of late 1970s Hollywood. Decorated by his late wife, it is dotted with ceramic animals, carved figures in African and Asian styles, and large gilt-framed mirrors hung on mirrored walls. Empty hooks surrounded by dusty outlines sit amid prints and original works by noted artists — Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí and Roy Lichtenstein — suggesting a home being slowly eroded.
“My wife, she’s the only person in the world that I would know of who would put a big mirror on top of a big mirror,” Mr. Lee said. “And when she was here, she had so many paintings, all over. Most of them have left now. My daughter took a lot of them, and a lot of them have gone elsewhere.”
On Friday, Lee filed suit against his former business manager, Jerardo Olivarez.
Following The Hollywood Reporter’s investigative piece on Lee being a potential victim of elder abuse by his inner circle, the comic book icon filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Jerardo Olivarez is only one of the “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists who saw a chance to take advantage of Lee’s despondent state of mind, kind heart and devotion to his craft” after the death of his wife in 2017. Lee, whose time working at Marvel in the 1960s led to the creation of characters such as Spider-Man and Iron Man, alleges that by managing his affairs, Olivarez caused him to lose “a tremendous among of money as money and assets were being transferred to Olivarez by Lee without Lee being aware these actions were being taken.” The amount of money the suit claims was transferred from Lee’s Merrill Lynch Account without permission was approximately $4.6 million. The suit even claims that Olivarez orchestrated a scheme to sell Lee’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas without his permission.
Today at the Journal we've got the conclusion of Alejandra Gutiérrez' Cartoonist Diary. Someone--I wish I could give them credit, but I don't know who it was--liked a Twitter post that featured a brief diary comic by Alejandra online, and I emailed her immediately to ask her to do one of these weekly stints based off that one image. She offered to cover the week she would be attending a porn shoot, and the result has been something even better than I had anticipated. She's an extremely talented cartoonist, and I hope you've enjoyed her work this week as much as I have.
And that's not all, of course. Today we've also got that hot review action for you that I know you crave. Today's is on Bodie Troll, by Jay Fosgitt. Irene Velentzas has the verdict...and the verdict is that it's good.
Fosgitt’s character, Bodie, is reminiscent of a six-year-old hyperactive kid brother who straddles the line between grossing you out and warming your heart with his naïve innocence. Bounding out of his dark hole under the bridge in the opening pages, a fearsome, towering, troll overturns the idyllic pastoral landscape of Hagadorn, vaulting and roaring at any passersby who dare set hoof on his bridge. The page layout itself becomes off-kilter, frantically trying to accommodate a monster that is ultimately no larger or less adorable than a baby goat.
And elsewhere? Well, if you're still hungry, Jessa Crispin has a piece up at In These Times on John Porcellino's most recent book with Drawn & Quarterly that I thought was pretty interesting. The Comics MNT team has been posting some useful and intelligent pieces on their recently inaugurated site, this Ariell Johnson interview is a great example. In press release news, Jason from Floating World didn't just provide a great interview on Wednesday to this very website, he also announced that he would be publishing Zack Soto's Secret Voice sometime next year. Why didn't Jason mention that? Is he just that humble? Maybe he's embarrassed? No, it's gotta be humility! Well, as a friend of Zack's, I couldn't be happier for him. I know, I know, Secret Voice has been published 7 different times by 13 different publishers over the last twenty years, but something tells me that this partnership is the one that will finally convince Zack to do something else with his time.
You can also go and google about all the various job changes that have occurred at various comics publishers, and then speculate as to why those changes were made, and how that will impact the publishing of the comics those publishers make. Some of those websites will have some good gossip to go on, others will be written by people who are better at guessing than others, and some will just be bitter, weird sniping from people who don't understand why they haven't been asked to go work at those places, despite how good they are at imagining ways to fix the Transformers or "the direct market" or whatever. As an alternative to doing that, you could watch a video of the guy who owns Diamond tell all the comics retailers nervous about Marvel tanking their business to have a positive attitude and read The Secret (yeah).
Or you could bounce all this shit and read a comic. I'd recommend it be a 1980's comic by Keith Giffen.
Roman Muradov's comics are often viewed as being cryptic, but they appear much less complicated if you take a closer look at what the artist is driven by: topics mainly revolving around duality, depicted in a style which simultaneously assembles and disassembles spaces.
If you're openly emphasizing your disregard of conventional narratives – or any narrative at all – by provocatively toying with your tinder status between you, a.k.a. the author, and the reader, then you might either be concealing the fact you are unable to come up with something being worth telling, or you're Roman Muradov, who did exactly this when estimating the comparability between his work and its readers at 0.12% on the final page of The End of a Fence, his 2015 debut within the Latvian kuš!-mono series.
But as much as this kind of understatement is an aspect of the persona Muradov has cultivated, it was also an indispensable component of the story Muradov is telling in that book: An extrapolation of human relationships in the wake of dating simulations (like the aforementioned tinder app) situated under the influence of extremely contrarian scenarios like The Atrocity Exhibition and Vermilion Sands, both of which are written by British science-fiction author James Graham Ballard. While borrowing its frayed-out structures from the first collection of short stories and adding the elegiac decadence from the latter, both find their match in sentences collapsing after an erratic downhill race into all-devouring sandy oceans of wordplay, visually manifesting as infernal landscapes painted in interwoven streaks of carmine red at The End of a Fence's final.
—The Hollywood Reporter has a lengthy, sad story about Stan Lee's recent life, and claims of elder abuse.
Back in early February, fighting what he later called "a little bout of pneumonia," 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.
The comic book legend — whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics beginning in New York in the early 1960s spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men and laid the foundation for superhero dominance in Hollywood that continues with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War — sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration.
The Feb. 13 document, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. "It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more," the document states. It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — "which is often" — she "typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate."
—Salon has published a short excerpt from Harvey Kurtzman biographer Bill Schelly's new memoir, Sense of Wonder.
There are ... ways in which the appeal of superheroes is different for a homosexual male than for a heterosexual male. My straight friends like comics featuring what collectors call “good girl art,” that is, comics that feature the female form prominently and use sexual titillation to at least partly generate sales.
For gay comics fans like myself, virtually all superhero comics feature “good guy art.” Obviously straight guys notice the prominence of the male physique in comics; they just don’t experience it as anything sexual. For gay comic book readers, superhero comics had always presented that extra frisson of the male body drawn as if covered but delineated in ways to reveal the hero’s every rippling muscle.
The Millions has an excerpt of its own, from Genevieve Hudson's new book on Alison Bechdel, A Little in Love with Everyone.
“Your father has had affairs with other men,” her mother tells Bechdel later on the phone. This is the first time Bechdel has heard anything about her father’s bisexuality. In this series of panels, Bechdel’s character is first shown sitting on the floor with the phone pressed to her ear. Her eyes are wide with shock. She moves into what looks like a fetal position. In the corner of one panel, Bechdel has drawn the book Sappho Was a Right-On Woman, filling in the small queer details that had begun to infuse her life. Her mother’s disclosure sheds some light on why it might have been difficult, perhaps even painful, for her to hear that her daughter was a lesbian. Her mother’s relationship with Bruce, the other queer person in her life, had been associated with secrets, lies, and even cruelty. It was not a good precedent for what a queer life could be. When Bechdel asks her mother why her father isn’t the one telling her this stunning information, her mother responds: “Your father tell the truth? Please!”
Today at the Journal, we've got the first installment in our newest column: Retail Therapy. Appearing biweekly, this column will spotlight the people and stores working in comics retail. There's a long history to the relationship between The Comic Journal and retail, and we're glad to be reopening a window to that part of the world at a time when things seem to be changing on a near-constant basis. This time around, the hot lights are focused on Jason Levian, whose Floating World Comics has become a formidable publisher--but the retail roots run deep.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the comics were better than the movies (or video games or whatever cartoon tie ins). The comics represented limitless imagination and freedom and innovation in storytelling. They delivered an addictive mind blowing experience.
Now it seems like the movies are the main attraction and the comics are… above average. I can actually read some of them cover to cover and share that opinion with you. They’re okay.
Someone is like “Oh I loved this Marvel Disney movie what should I read next?” And the answer is too often, well that was it. You saw the movie and that was the thing. Here are some comics where for $4 each you don’t really get much. The movie was actually the best version of this thing.
But that's not all--we've also got Today's TCJ Review, and it's all about The Pervert, from Michelle Perez, Remy Boydell and Image Comics. According to Carta Monir, this is one book you shouldn't pass up.
The Pervert, written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell, is that big, difficult, trans, queer-as-shit, pull-no-punches sad fucking comic that I’ve been waiting for. And now it’s here, out from Image, shipping now. You need to read it. Unless you’re a trans woman, in which case you might have already basically lived it.