Today, Frank Santoro explores the work of his friend and comics mentor Bill Boichel:

BEM was Bill's first comic-book shop. It was called "The Store" really. BEM was named after the Gilbert Hernandez story of the same name that ran in issue one of Love and Rockets. So, BEM, or "bug-eyed monster," was the machine that ran the store. The store's early logos said, "Coming to Grips with the Machinery." It meant the machinery of art and commerce together--comic books. It was high concept for a comic book store in a rundown post-industrial Rust Belt neighborhood like Wilkinsburg, just outside the city limits of Pittsburgh, PA. Somehow it all worked. Like a machine.


Boichel also made a ton of fliers for the store--check those out here. And he made a ton of variations on his store's logo--check those out here. So, it seemed really natural when he started making these wacky mini-comics. He'd make the comic at his desk and then print it up in the basement on the xerox machine and then give it away or sell it upstairs on the new comics rack. It was a way for Bill to be fully in the "machine" that was BEM. It was also a way for Bill to produce art like a machine. All of the comics Bill made at this time are credited to BEM which was, of course, the name of the store.

And Paul Buhle reviews the new collection of Gilbert Shelton's Wonder Wart-Hog:

Shelton's famed Texas-style characters, the Freak Brothers, were unique, and their Austin-ness was little grasped elsewhere in the country. But Shelton was also unique in his story-telling genius. Because the sense of opposition to the existing society was so unquestioned in the underground genre, satire often overwhelmed the storylines. The dopey ambience of the protagonists, frequently stoned-out, didn’t help either.


—Interviews. du9 talks to James Sturm and Rich Tommaso. Underwire talks to comiXology's David Steinberg. Art Spiegelman talks about his new show. The CCS blog interviews TCJ columnist Rob Clough. Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins discuss their Massive gay manga project.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner reviews Dennis Eichhorn's Real Good Stuff. Sean Rogers has expanded his excellent top 5 of 2013 list to a top 20. Atomic Books is posting various "best of 2013" lists from people like Liz Prince, J.T. Dockery, Box Brown, Kelly Froh, etc.

—Giving Opportunities. There's one week left for the Sequential Artists Workshop fundraising campaign.

—History. 2014 is the centennial year for Tove Jansson, so expect a lot of coverage of the Moomin creator for a while. The Guardian reviews a new Jansson biography. Zak Sally continues to document the story of La Mano. Mindy Kaling was a cartoonist in college.

—The Funnies. Julia Wertz has a long autobio comics/prose piece on And I can't believe I forgot about Peter Maresca's "Origins of the Sunday Comics" feature at GoComics. (via)



Today on the site Chris Mautner interviews Paul Pope.

MAUTNER: Listening to you talk I get the feeling that you’ve had a very valuable relationships with your editors. 

POPE: Yeah, by far.

MAUTNER: Is that something you look for now? Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve gained? There are plenty of cartoonists that just want to be left alone to do their own thing.

I did that also. The first seven years of my career was working as a self-publisher. The only input I got was letters from readers. There was no editor on THB. There was no editor on the Ballad of Doctor Richardson or any of that stuff. The first time I had an editor was when I worked on the One-Trick Rip-Offwith Bob Schreck and then subsequently Batman Year 100. I was getting a lot of complaints from people before that, where they’d say, “Oh the drawings are good, but the stories are kind of light” or “They don’t go anywhere.” That was frustrating because I wasn’t trained as a novelist or a storywriter. I was trained first as an artist working in different disciplines whether it’s art history or studio art. And then as a printer, where I was doing everything from working in a commercial printing house doing web-set printing, printing magazines and menus and things like that. So working with editors was the first time I had to get muscular, in terms of writing.

MAUTNER: But you feel like those relationships have helped you as a writer and storyteller?

POPE: Yeah. I think I would take it a step beyond that and say it’s more primal to have [that] rapport. Your editor is like your Virgil. You need to be able to have a guide or at least a companion when you walk through Hell. With Mark Seigel at First Second, we’re taking it to a different level, where we just got off a multi-city [tour]. We’ve been on the road together, we go to bed at the same time, we get up at the same time, we’ve eaten every meal together, we’re on trains and planes and automobiles together – we’re pretty much together constantly on this junket. Now that Book One’s done we took a train back from DC a couple days ago and we spent the entire time thumbnailing out [what] I need to get done when I get back from Toronto. In a sense, it’s sort of like a creative marriage. He’s a coach, he’s a cheerleader, he’s a taskmaster, he’s a friend and a sounding board. I think ideally that’s the most harmonious relationship between the editor and the artist.


Michael Dooley on banned comics.

There's a comics round-up over at the AV Club.

Eleanor Davis has a pie blog.

The Beatles in comics.

And Batman in the funny papers.



Feeling Cramped

Joe McCulloch is here with his latest This Week in Comics! column, a buyer's guide to the most interesting-sounding new comics available in stores as of tomorrow. He also writes about a little-noticed recent comic from Akira Toriyama:

Okay, show of hands – how many of you even *knew* Akira Toriyama not only released a totally new 217-page comic last year, but that it was published near-simultaneously in English? I ask because the Festival de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême is nearly upon us again, and last year’s festivities were marked by hints of conflict in the Grand Prix voting, which purportedly resulted in popular candidate Toriyama receiving an ad hoc commendation for the occasion of the show’s 40th anniversary while another cartoonist was selected for the top honor. Truthfully, this situation summarizes Toriyama’s present status in North America as well – unavoidable in terms of legacy, but rarely all that immediately accessed.


—Reviews & Criticism. The academic journal PS: Political Science & Politics has a symposium on superheroes and politics in its latest issue, available free online through the end of the month, if I understand correctly. Ace designer Jacob Covey reviews Michael DeForge's Very Casual. Craig Fischer writes about the gender politics of B.P.R.D. Rob Clough on Kent Olsen & Sabine ten Lohuis's Life Through the Lens. Lots of angry commentary out there on Alan Moore's interview from last week; I found this the most thoughtful by far.

Comics Bulletin released their top 10 of 2013. Robert Boyd has some comics content on his top ten art list.

—The Funnies.
Michael Kupperman and David Rees just started a recurring political strip at the Sunday New York Times. Maria Popova has reposted Ralph Steadman's illustrations from a 1973 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Tom Spurgeon talks to Jesse Reklaw. Bleeding Cool talks to Brandon Graham.

—History. Sean Howe has begun posting outtakes from his Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. First up is a story about Barry Smith and Tom DeFalco from Terry Kavanagh. Tom De Haven has posted a short essay he wrote about Yellow Kid creator Richard Outcault (who figures largely in his Derby Dugan novels). Ron Goulart on Jefferson Machamer's Gags & Gals. John DiBello (aka Bully the Stuffed Bull's friend) is now writing regularly about comics for 13th Dimension. His first piece is about the history of Miracleman.


Small Rooms

Well, let's do some shilling right at the top here: The TCJ archive is now available by subscription for just $30! That's right: You get access to nearly the entire run of the print TCJ (we're almost done posting it) for a measly $30. Lose days or weeks or months bing-reading Gary's old editorials and News Watch columns about people you've never heard from again (these are two of my most favorite activities in the world).

And speaking of losing yourself... Today on the site:

An unexpected treat: Bob Levin on Guy Colwell's comic book series Doll.

Doll (Rip Off. 1989-95)[1] was written with a consciousness that remained engaged with and troubled by the world.  At the time, Colwell was living in a second-hand mobile home in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas and working part-time as a typesetter and graphic artist. He had been through one marriage and several short term relationships.  Now, he announced in his introduction to the first issue, personal experience had led him to explore “sex… desire… greed… caring (and)… especially loneliness.”


The LARB on Feminism in Comics.

Finally some good movie news. Phoebe Gloeckner's all-time great graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl has been cast and is moving into production.

TCJ-contributor Sean Rogers on the reissue of the classic Canadian graphic novel The Cage.

NPR on race and identity in superhero comics.

TCJ-contributor Alex Dueben talks to Chris Claremont about some less-discussed aspects of his career.

Over at The Paris Review, TCJ-contributor Nicole Rudick wrote about Jeet Heer's (another TCJ-contributor) In Love with Art.


Don’t Look Back

Today, Katie Haegele is here with a review of Jesse Reklaw's unusual Couch Tag.

The first part—the book’s five sections are described by Reklaw as novellas—is told as a series of stories about each of the pet cats his family had throughout his childhood. There were thirteen of them, and they all met a bad end—by dying of distemper, having too many litters, getting run over, or just running away. They were given names like Paranoid and Dead Duck by Jesse’s dad, and tripped with fishing line by Jesse himself on a day when he was feeling mean. Reklaw’s drawing style has a rounded softness to it, and the cutesy lettering of the chapter titles belies a nastiness underneath these stories. In this clever way, Reklaw manages to impart a queasy but subtle sense of unease and instability. If this is what became of the cats, what was life like for the kids?


—Internet Controversy du jour.
Alan Moore has been enraging the Twitter masses on a regular basis for years now, usually through offhand interview comments dismissing superhero comics, superhero comics readers, and/or superhero movies, but this time is on another level. Pádraig Ó Méalóid asks Moore about some of the criticisms that have dogged his work over recent years and Moore responds in essay form, addressing topics such as, yes, his aversion to superhero comics, but also accusations of racism, rape fixation, and more. There's a lot to unpack, and I will leave it for interested readers to judge how convincing his arguments are. Much though not all of it seems reasonable to me (I continue to think that while Moore and collaborator Kevin O'Neill's intentions were clearly benign, their handling of the golliwog character in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was ill-advised), but his manner of presentation seems unlikely to win over skeptics. It also would have been nice if there were more followup questions on the points where his arguments are less than air-tight.

Moore then goes on to fire back at some of his critics, including journalist Laura Sneddon, Dez Skinn, someone "whose name escapes me but who is evidently pleased to identify himself as a Batman scholar," and Grant Morrison, whom he insults at length, only stopping just short of comparing him to Shia LaBeouf. Moore also declares this to be something like his final interview, at least of this nature that he will be dramatically decreasing the amount of interviews he gives from now on, so longtime fans (and detractors) should not miss this one. Those not well-versed in the background may find the reading unpleasantly bitter.

—News & Profiles.
Calvin Reid profiles international comics agent Nicolas Grivel (who represents artists like Ulli Lust, Blutch, and Dylan Horrocks). The Eisner Awards are currently accepting submissions. The Image Expo is currently going on, and those interested in upcoming announcements from that company should check in with more mainstream-oriented comics sites today. The New York Times reported on one such announcement, a new deal with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The CBLDF reports on a New York district court ruling upholding the government's right to search laptops at the Canadian border. Tom Spurgeon interviews Gilbert Hernandez.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough writes about Julia Gfrörer's Black is the Color. Neil Cohn comments on the non-universality of some visual imagery. The Gilbert Hernandez interview linked to above led to a brief but interesting discussion between Andrew White and Frank Santoro on how much influence "classic" American comic-book aesthetics should have on current artists.


Country Club Sales

Hi, it's Thursday. Frank Santoro is here with a post about old comics that just won't sell, darnit!

I have certain comic books for sale that just won’t sell. Ever. No matter how much I slash prices. I can’t give ‘em away!

Yet many of these comics are good. Or have a good page or two in them. They’re worth keeping around just for conversation sake. I call them “clunkers”. I can’t sell them but I can’t bring myself to throw them out.

You see comics like this over and over again in the back issue bins. The same ones. A certain era–1983 to 1992–is always well represented in almost every comics shop in North America. (Was it because they overprinted runs back then?) Most folks flip right by these clunkers because they look like garbage–and they usually are. However, some of them are worth a second look. Here are 9 of them.


Tom Spurgeon interviews Lucy Shelton Caswell.

A look at Jack Kirby's great 2001 comic.

This is so nuts looking that I can't resist linking to it.

Elfquest: The Conceptual Angle.

And... that Shia story has now jumped the shark. Somewhere on Twitter Jeet Heer suggested that perhaps Shia was behaving just like a Clowes character might, which made me feel happy/sad/weird.



Today, Zainab Akhtar returns to the site with an interview with 16-year-old wunderkind Anatole Howard. Here's a snippet:

I don't know when I actually got into comics, since as a kid they were just like any other book to me. I really liked Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2, but they never excited me as much as they do now. Back then I was way more interested in anime instead of manga/comics. Like a lot of people the idea of a western comic that wasn't Superman was an idea that never crossed my mind. My dad was really into old underground comics and he introduced me to Robert Crumb (he had a Crumb biography which I read without his permission), and discovering the alternative scene was great. When I started to explore comics on my own it was still mostly manga that I found appealing, with only a few western titles mixed in. Comics that had deep narratives, little dialogue, and lots of art were my favorite for a long time.

Yeah. It’s interesting how kids don’t really view comics as separate from other literature. That’s learned. It's only when you get older that you become aware that they’re viewed separately. It's cool you had your dad to guide and encourage you. Is he into comics? Did you have them around the house, or were they something you actively sought out?

No comic books were in our house besides the ones that I had checked out from the library, and so all the comics I read were ones I picked up on my own with some inspiration from my dad. He told me about how he used to buy underground comics like "Pudge Girl Blimp" but that he had lost them all, so later on he and I visited a con where he was able to buy a new copy. Later, I went to a bookstore and stood alongside him and bought a copy of Fantagraphics’ reprint volumes of Robert Crumb and kept looking at him saying, "Should I get this? Would you want this?" Whenever I discovered somebody or something new, I would always tell him about it. But Crumb is what bonded us as two people who knew about comics; Crumb always shows up in every small talk we have about them.

Daniel Kalder weighs in on last year's "lost" David B. book, Incidents in the Night:

... David B. awakens to realize he has acquired the power to assume four different forms; he can be a shadow, a skeleton, a paper man, or human, four versions of his self which he depicts sitting on an eight-pointed wheel, a symbol suggestive of various mythologies. From a very simple starting point—the dream of a book—we have rapidly entered exceedingly imaginative, fantastical, esoteric territory, shifting from dream to “reality” to humorous fantasy, back to dream and then back to “reality.” Borders are blurred, the lines between realities are crossed freely, and yet the book has hardly started. And from this point, it only gets more baroque.

And for those of you who missed it, Joe McCulloch has updated the buyers' guide portion of his column from yesterday (spotlight picks: Gregory Benton and Bob Fingerman), which had been delayed due to technical difficulties.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—News. Matt Bors has launched an impressive new lineup of cartoonists and comics content at The Nib, featuring too many names to mention here quickly. The American woman known as "Jihad Jane" has been sentenced to ten years in prison for her part in a plot to murder one of the cartoonists who drew Muhammad.

—Interviews. ICv2 has posted the first two parts of a three-part interview with Marvel exec Dan Buckley. Dan Berry talks to Emily Carroll for Make It Then Tell Everybody. Chris Ware discusses his latest cover for The New Yorker.

—Funnies. First-time-in-a-long-time comics from Julia Wertz for the holidays (1, 2, 3). Mike Dawson on Sofia the First.



It's that time we all look forward to: Tuesday with Joe McCulloch. The buyer's guide portion of the column will go up tonight.

And Katie Skelly reviews one of my very favorite books of 2013: Jodelle.

Elsewhere online:

The Beat names Kim Thompson person of the year for 2013.

Tom Spurgeon interviews political cartoonist Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher.

Liza Donnelly has a good comic up.

Zainab Akhtar reviews a handful of comics.

Comic Book Resources names its top stories of 2013.

The Mysterious Underground Men, reviewed. The Guardian on Women Rebel.

Korean Air goes Popeye?

And I don't think I've ever seen this alphabetical guide to Don Martin sound effects, but I'm glad I did. Via.