Hi, I'm back, too. Tim decided not to trap me in 2013 forever, so here I am in 2014 feeling... pretty much the same. So, on the site today we have:

Marc Sobel interviewing Ulli Lust.

SOBEL: Did you plot the story out from the beginning, or did you write it as you were going?

LUST: I brainstormed from the beginning to the end. I wrote down everything that I remembered in a book, but I didn’t do a storyboard for the whole book because that would have bored me. A lot of ideas come during the drawing.

SOBEL: I’ve heard a lot of artists say that the best drawing is the first drawing.

LUST: No, not with me. I always start with something simple, you know, the first idea which comes to my mind, and most times that idea is ok. Then I start re-doing it and it gets better and better all the time. (laughs)

SOBEL: So was that your typical process as you were drawing it?

LUST: I’d do the sketches in the evening, in bed… like little sketches just for the next scene.

SOBEL: You did it in sequential order?

LUST: Yes. That’s very important, it was in chronological order. That’s a very important point. Maybe if you do a storyboard, you don’t need that, but without storyboards, it’s extremely important because of the flow, you know? Also to build the tension and make it stronger and stronger. I think it’s very important to be in the timeline.

So I’d draw the sequence in the scene, and then I’d read it, and then I’d redraw it, and then I rearranged stuff, and then finally, when I liked it, I would make the final drawings. Sometimes I also redrew the scene but not too often.

Paul Tumey on Art Spiegelman's book, Co-Mix.

Co-mix is not light reading, although it contains a great deal of humor. These are comics that use — among other things — sex, drugs, funny talking animals, and well-crafted comics to encourage one to think harder. A joke in a Spiegelman comic is rarely just that, being more often an inquiry: why is this funny? About ten years into his career, Spiegelman began to figure out ways to cram more and more information into his verbal-visual matrices, so that a medium supposedly for beginning and semi-literate readers actually tasks — and rewards — as much as art and literature. In addition to the high density of information contained in Spiegelman’s comics, there is also a moral stance, fiercely taken, that challenges us to go beyond the escapist qualities of comics as entertainment. In some sense, Maus can only work at its deepest level when we constantly see past the animal masks, and refuse to de-humanize. In his work, he questions everything: culture, art history (including comics), and politics. Often, his work co-mixes what we might consider extreme opposites — comics and genocide (in the 1970s, this was a radical idea for mainstream America), jazz and politics, the Crucifixion and taxes, hard-boiled detective fiction and Cubist art, to name just a few of the heady concoctions. While there is a certain amount of formal experimentation in Spiegelman’s comics, there is also a tremendous personal investment that makes the work relevant and worthwhile. Spiegelman’s comics may not be light reading, but they are enlightening.

And elsewhere:

The Shia Labeouf story just gets better and better. I mean, now that we're past the "he did something immoral and illegal" part (which is actually the only important part), it's just like watching TMZ, but in some bizarre and goofy microcosm. I hope it goes on for all of 2014 and beyond. I can't get enough of this guy. He's the lesser James Franco. Or maybe he's the better James Franco. Who knows! He loves Jeff Koons. He's got big, undergrad ideas about authorship swiped from Richard Prince. I love it. He's not what comics deserves, but he's everything the comics internet deserves. Anyhow, here's an incredibly awesome interview with him.

Shia is alllllmmmmost like a character out of INFOMANIACS -- almost a creation of the internet. And here's Matthew Thurber at The Paris Review to tell you about all things INFO.

This story about Captain America confused me, but that's cool.

I enjoyed these holiday comics by Julia Wertz and Leslie Stein, respectively.

Robert Boyd explains about Kus.

Gregory Benton interviewed.

Dominic Umile on some recent comics.

And this story about Jim Starlin is kinda funny and kinda sad. Just read the text sideways.


A Formal Welcome to 2014

It's a brand new year, and here at TCJ (Internet division) we have a brand new attitude. Dan and I are well-rested and have spent our web-free days meditating on how to provide better criticism and coverage of the art of comics. I think it's fair to say that 2014 will likely be the best year here yet. So prepare yourself.

To start things off, we have Joe "Jog" McCulloch, who has a recap of his own personal experiences with the last two weeks of comics. (This has been a trying fortnight for Joe, who has been e-mailing us regularly to see if he might be allowed to post during the holiday hiatus. I'm feeling a little guilty now, seeing what he Joe resorted to reading during his imposed vacation.)


Comics websites and writers of all kinds have been posting end-of-the-year ruminations and summations of all kinds, including Robot 6's list of favorite 2013 comics, The Beat's annual comics-creator-survey, Tim Callahan's best-of-2013 list, Nick Gazin's top ten list, Abhay Khosla's best/worst-of-entertainment list, Jeff Smith's favorite comics, and Rob Clough's typically exhaustive list.

—News. Marvel has decided to stop selling individual issues of their comics in traditional bookstores. Columbia University's library has received the Kitchen Sink archives.

—Funnies. Kate Beaton went home for the holidays and posted a slew of comics about her visit. Joe Ollmann on the job. Sean T. Collins has started a new Tumblr called Comics Democracy reposting only the most popular webcomics, without commentary. He explains his reasons here.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Paul Gravett on Leo Baxendale. Chris Mautner talks to Anna Bongiovanni. Emine Saner talked to G. Willow Wilson about the new Muslim Ms. Marvel. Chris Sims talks to Michel Fiffe. Tom Spurgeon interviewed many people, too many to link to, but you can figure out how to find them. The latest talk was with Ed Piskor.

—Reviews & Commentary.
J. Hoberman reviews Peter Maresca's Society is Nix. Bob Heer reviews the Chris Duffy-edited Fairy Tale Comics. Becky Cloonan wrote an essay on self-publishing.

Don't Feed the Troll.


See You Next Year

Well, this is it for us for 2013, everyone. Click on over to our TCJ year-in-review and read yourselves silly.



Down to the Wire

Well,folks. R.C. Harvey is here this morning, with a column on George Baker and Sad Sack:

A few months following the Sack’s debut in Yank, Baker was transferred to the staff of the magazine, and he served there for the duration of World War II. Yank sent Baker to military installations all over the world to expose him to every possible phase of Army life in order that he might reflect it in the cartoon. In the early months of Yank’s run, Baker also distributed subscription blanks wherever he went. Eventually, the magazine acquired a circulation department, which involved Baker only to draw promotional posters. One of these gave the cartoonist “the first tangible evidence” that the Sack was a success. The poster said: “Subscribe to Yank and see the Sad Sack every week.”

Baker shouldn’t have worried. As perennial low man on the regimental totem pole, the Sad Sack was popular from the very start. He epitomized the frustrations and disappointments of Everyman, dragged somewhat reluctantly into a military bureaucracy he didn't understand and could never master. The Sack's adventures took place entirely in pantomime; each cartoon was a series of eight-to-ten borderless pictures that progressively depicted the cascading persecution of the week. Like some dumb animal being inexplicably punished for behaving in a perfectly natural way, the Sack was all the more pitiful for being mute.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Fast Company talks to Neil Cohn about his research into the visual grammar of comics. Ruben Bolling and Vanessa Davis are guests on the latest Gweek. Jesse Reklaw was on Inkstuds. Comics Journal regulars Joe McCulloch and Sean T. Collins talk about the business of alternative comics with Tom Spurgeon. I love both those guys, but that is a very odd and even skewed discussion to read, at least from my perspective. (I'm probably too close. Maybe they're too close, too.) One thing I do think is worth saying is that given that the closing of PictureBox was a personal decision and not one forced by economics, it probably shouldn't be overinterpreted; if Dan was a slightly different guy, or in slightly different circumstances, it would still be running. And I don't agree with Sean's comment that it's hard to "imagine another 30-year anniversary of an alt-comix publisher after Drawn & Quarterly has theirs, maybe ever again." Top Shelf is more than halfway there. AdHouse could easily make it, if Chris Pitzer wants to do it. If anything, there are more stable or semi-stable small publishers around right now than at any time I can remember... A thirty-year-plus run in independent publishing has always been the anomaly. Those guys are always worth listening to, though, so go to it.

—News. Stumptown is merging with Rose City Comic Con. The comics writer Scott Lobdell has admitted to being the mystery aggressor in MariNaomi's xoJane story, and has given a statement to Heidi MacDonald. Screw publisher Al Goldstein, who employed many prominent cartoonists in his day, has died.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough looks at the perennially underdiscussed Mineshaft. Paste picks the 13 best webcomics of 2013.

Zak Sally shares the history of La Mano.



Today on the site: An anonymous (by request) article recounting one female cartoonist's experience with being made to feel uncomfortable by unwanted attention.

I don't normally feel like being a woman in this field is enough to justify having to answer questions about it all the time, most frequently: "What is it like to be a woman cartoonist?" Let's face it, this is not dangerous work.  This is not even physically demanding.  I am not a police officer, I am not a fireman, I am not in the army.  I don't put my life on the line every day.  Hell, I don't even work in an office where some asshole could potentially pinch my butt.  I work from home!  I am practically a housewife. So please, stop asking that question.

And Frank is here with his final column of the year: Best of Greatest Hits 2006-2012.


In related news, the cartoonist MariNaomi has also just posted an article on XOJane about being harassed on a comic convention panel.

The Shia LaBeouf craziness continues. The Beat has an update, and I'm in the absurd position of reporting that it's been brought to my attention that, yes, yours truly was also plagiarized by young Shia. Seriously. The "about" page of his publishing company is lifted from the "about" page for PictureBox.

Here are my words:

Why is PictureBox? Because I love the things I love and I want to champion them. I tend toward outliers and I'm obsessed with the history of visual culture writ large and small. But look, ostensibly PictureBox is a publishing company. I publish around 10 books a year (graphic novels, prose, design, art, etc.) as well as assorted specialty items like DVDS, CDs, and prints. Each project comes from my own tastes and relationships, and are rooted in what I believe in.

And here's Shia:



Pretty amazing. And sad.

I should also note that this site reviewed LaBeouf's comic books (since discovered to also contain lifts). We have amended the reviews.

Otherwise, let's see... here's an interview with Jesse Reklaw on Inkstuds, and Tom Spurgeon talks to Paul Pope.

Zak Sally has begun writing a history of his publishing company, La Mano.

Couple of end-of-the-year announcements: Columbia University has acquired the collected papers of Kitchen Sink Press.  And TCAF has announced the first of its 2014 guests.

And... the most unusual R. Crumb appearance I've seen yet:


A Quick One

Today, Rob Clough has his last column of 2013, with an enthusiastic introduction to the gay/wrestling/death-metal humor comics of Ed Luce:

Luce's storytelling structure is far more loose, and in some ways, far more self-indulgent [than Bryan Lee O'Malley's]. I mean this in the sense that Luce simply writes about everything that interests him and throws it into one big stew. He's a huge music nerd and manages to throw in references to everything from death metal to dance music to Morrissey to punk. He's a knowledgeable fan of professional wrestling, so of course his lead character Oaf is a former pro whose nom de ring was Gote Blud. Luce can't help but throw in musical puns and references, as Oaf's finishing move involved him wearing a goat horn mask that spewed fake blood and was called "Raining GoteBlood"--a reference to the band Slayer. Luce is fascinated by cats, and so the cats here have weird fantasy lives of their own. And of course, Luce is gay and writes extensively about gay culture, particularly what he refers to in the comic as "oafs and bait"--big, frequently muscular and sometimes fat men (popularly known as "bears," though Luce puts the kibosh on that term here) and their smaller lovers. There are elements of magical realism and just plain weirdness at work here, such as when the cat's hair sometimes take on a life of its own or a future story where Oaf is the savior of the new cat race.


—Rob Clough takes to his own blog to review comics by Jonathan Baylis, Matt Runkle, and Jason Martin. Chris Randle has a really strong take on Gilbert Hernandez's Maria M.. Jason Heller of the A.V. Club appreciates a Carl Barks Christmas story. Impossible Mike at HTMLGiant reviews the much-anticipated reprint of Martin Vaughn-James's The Cage. And Bobsy, one of my favorite Mindless Ones, did a best-of-2013 via Twitter.

—Also, Paul Gravett has profiled Yves Chaland, and Sean Witzke interviews Michel Fiffe.


Save the Day

Hey, it's Tuesday on this web site and that means Joe McCulloch is here to tell you about the week in comics.

And elsewhere in the world:

-The big news is that actor Shia LaBeouf has allegedly plagiarized a Daniel Clowes comic for a short film. Buzzfeed has the story. This is a weird and sad one.

-The writer about comics Sarah Horrocks has posted a link, with commentary, to her 2013 writing.

-And a couple over at Vice: Molly Crabapple talks to Art Spiegelman and Nick Gazin has a roundup.


Speed Savage

Today, John Hogan examines the hidden connections between conceptual art and gag cartooning through a comparison of Mark Newgarden and Richard Prince:

Whereas Newgarden’s humor manifests as functional jokes about how jokes are created, Prince's jokes are simply defused and deconstructed, and his humor remains more withholding. The jokes he appropriates are unfunny borscht-belt groaners. Gags like a woman catching her husband in his office with his secretary on his lap become vaguely disturbing and sad without the levity of an appropriate zinger attached. According to Nancy Spektor, in her essay for his 2008 recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, this is Prince “bring[ing] to the surface the hostility, fear, and shame fueling much American humor.” (Spektor, p.37)

In the conceptual art mindset, the humor must be obfuscated and neutralized before the nastiness beneath it can be revealed. I would argue as much shame, fear, and hostility are evident and made obvious in Newgarden's work, and with a functional sense of humor intact.

The comedic motivation behind pairing tired jokes with tired imagery on a large canvas is blatantly nihilistic. The failure of the jokes and gags are built in to the composition of the work, relegating humor into a subject rather than a tool for communication. These neutered sex cartoons are incapable of triggering any honest laughter, and thereby reinforce the objecthood of the painting and its status as painting as painting --art as art-- thereby keeping it firmly entrenched in a tradition of the avant-garde and safe from being confused with entertainment.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jeet Heer reviews George A. Walker's wordless graphic bio of Conrad Black. Bob Heer reviews Matt Kindt's MIND MGMT. Steven Heller puts together a slideshow of design and comics books for the Times. Corey Blake looks back at Miracleman. Julian Darius at Sequart does a more expansive look at Miracleman coloring & reprinting than Robot 6 did last week. Rob Clough reviews Faction.

—Interviews. Jim Woodring was a guest on the Gweek podcast. The other Boing Boing podcast has had two interesting recent guests, Ed Piskor and printmaker Joe Lupo.

—News. Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience is expanding to a second store. I can't believe we neglected to link to this New York Daily News story about accusations against Archie's Nancy Silberkleit last week.

—Hmm. Hmm.

—Video. James Sturm at ESAD Art+Design:

Ed Piskor at the Chicato Humanities Festival:

And Lynda Barry at the National Book Festival: