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:


Discount Taste

Today on the site we bring you Ryan Holmberg and his tales of bird poo Indian comics.

I had been under the impression that Comix India, inaugurated in 2010, was the first amateur comics magazine in India. It might have been the first with significant heft and geographical reach. Chronologically, however, there is at least one precedent.

Out of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University in 2009 came Drighangchoo. It only lasted three issues. It is a pamphlet affair in black and white. The first issue is half prose, but by no. 2 Drighangchoo is a robust comics magazine. It is printed cheaply but the artwork can be as good as what one finds in the luxurious mini-comics from Manta Ray in Bangalore. And dealing as some Drighangchoo comics do with harder social issues, it is generally a meatier magazine than its more polished peers. It definitely feels like something produced on a university campus, due to its jocular but palpably self-conscious editorial commentary, peppered with baroque self-deprecations and mocking academy-ese. But the evident earnestness of the project and the increasing quality of the contents and production from issue to issue suggest that, had it lived a bit longer, Drighangchoo might have become a standard-bearer in amateur comics publishing in India, or at least in Bengal.


I am so baffled by all the year-end list and how they don't coincide at all with my experience of the comics-reading year, and yet I can't look away. I'm fascinated. Why here's the Montreal Gazette. Here's part four of Comics Alliance. This one from the Village Voice is incredibly confusing and yet alluring in its singularity. Naturally I approve of this take on Pompeii. That confuses me not. Had enough? I might've.

Also bizarre is the first paragraph of this Gilbert Hernandez profile. Read it and then think about the last half-decade in comics. Then read it again. Strange, right?

Here, go cleanse yourself with this funny Steve Brodner list. Have a good weekend.


Up Java!

Today, Shaenon Garrity has a column exploring the way cartoons and comics are shared online, often without their original creators being credited.

[T]he uncredited versions of comics often spread more quickly than the credited versions. After all, the sites and individuals sharing the uncredited versions are likely to be less ethical about how they use the art. While the credited version may be reposted by fans sharing it with a small circle of friends, the uncredited version can wind up on a series of image-sharing sites dedicated to spreading maximum content for maximum hits.

“In some cases, an individual edits out attribution in order to pass the work off as their own,” says [Rachel] Dukes. “More frequently, attribution is edited out by staff of meme-based websites like 9GAG that profit off of ad revenue. The reason that they do this is because they want readers to stay on their website, clicking from image to image, for a long period of time. That’s how they make their ad revenue.” The last thing these sites want is for users to leave their site to look at an individual artist’s website instead.


—Reviews & Commentary. Art Spiegelman on Ad Reinhardt. Françoise Mouly on Ad Reinhardt. The cartoonist and critic Derik Badman writes about a slew of comics. I like Badman's writing partly because though his tastes are sometimes baffling (to me), he is always upfront and forthcoming about them, and doesn't seem to be posturing or rancorous. Sean T. Collins has moved all of his Vorpalizer webcomics reviews to a new location. Kevin Melrose compares the coloring of the new Marvel reprint of Miracleman with the Eclipse originals.

—Best of Lists. The A.V. Club's list includes some interesting choices. The Comics Alliance list is occasionally weird, superhero-heavy, and published in multiple parts annoying for linkblogging, but some of the entries are written by strong reviewers familiar to readers of this site. (1, 2, 3). Whitney Matheson at USA Today and Publishers Weekly also have lists.

—Interviews. Alex Dueben talks to Jennifer George, Rube Goldberg's granddaughter and the editor of about the new book celebrating his work. Bryan Munn asks Jeet Heer about his new endeavors as a comic-strip writer. Former DC publisher Jenette Kahn was interviewed at the Chicago Humanities Festival:

—News. Forbes takes a look at how the growing popularity of tablets may affect the comics business. NPR's All Things Considered devoted a segment to the Billy Ireland library. Bleeding Cool has promoted Hannah Means-Shannon to editor-in-chief. That site's coverage of alternative and independent comics has improved measurably since she started writing for it.

—Random. Brandon Graham continues to be a good blogger.


Data Bees

Hi there,

Today on the site Rob Steibel returns with a reading of Fantastic Four Annual 6.

Over the years plenty of writers have discussed Jack’s work from a feminist perspective, many criticizing what they consider his lack of strong female characters. Hundreds of articles have been written about the role of fictional women characters in comics so I don’t want to go off on a long tangent, but I do want to say although I understand Sue not running around beating up bad guys when she’s 9 months pregnant, I am disappointed that Crystal doesn’t take a more active role in these books and in FF Annual # 6, it would have been great to see her kick some ass in the Negative Zone. It is also noteworthy that around the time of the birth, Alicia Masters all but disappears, and Crystal is relegated to the sidelines, standing by Sue’s side worrying. It’s a strange decision: here’s an online conversation where the topic is touched on.

Here’s my guess as to why Jack did this: I think Jack wanted to make FF Annual # 6 about the four original members of the team. There was no X-Men to save them, no Avengers to save them, no Hulk, no Thor, no Nick Fury — the FF had to rely on themselves to get out of this jam. That’s why Crystal is pretty much nothing more than a cheerleader. It keeps the story simple, and it shows you the stability of the Fantastic Four family unit – the core of the team is still the same. Crystal can’t replace Sue. The story ultimately is about the four adventurers who started the journey together. Everyone else is a minor supporting player. You could also argue FF Annual # 6 is just another stereotypical testosterone-driven superhero story where the men do all the fighting and rescue the damsel in distress, but as soon as the baby is born Crystal takes a far more active role in the stories while Sue spends time with the newborn.


Andrew Farago interviewed about the upcoming Bobby London Popeye book. It's good news that work will again see print.

Our own Paul Tumey on Ving Fuller, entertainer.

And in more TCJ-contributor news, Jeet Heer is now writing a comic strip drawn by the very talented Ethan Rilly.

Finally, enjoy this video by the great Leif Goldberg. Over and out.



Five Flags

It's the second day of the week, which is the day that Joe McCulloch runs down the most interesting-sounding new comics set for release in comics-specialty stores this Wednesday. The title for this recurring feature is This Week in Comics! His spotlight picks this week include the end of Joe Casey & Tom Scioli's Gødland and another of Darwyn Cooke's Richard Stark adaptations.


—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Mautner has a brief interview with Gilbert Hernandez about his about-to-be-reprinted Grip: The Strange World of Men. Tom Spurgeon talks to academic Benjamin Saunders about an expansion of the comics studies program at the University of Oregon. Paul Gravett profiles Jaime Hernandez.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Dana Jennings reviews The Art of Rube Goldberg. A grateful and relieved Rob Clough reviews Jesse Reklaw's Couch Tag. Jason Heller reviews Lance Parkin's new biography of Alan Moore. Michael Dooley of Print lists his favorite books of 2013.

J. Caleb Mozzocco grieves for PictureBox. Chris Mautner recommends six PictureBox titles. And Heidi MacDonald invites comment from several comics retailers over the question of serialized comics vs. original graphic novels.

—Giving & Spending Opportunities. Zak Sally is holding a 21st anniversary of La Mano sale. Julia Wertz is selling art, photos, and books (with today the last day for Christmas delivery on photo prints). I used to only rarely post links to sales and fundraisers but they have become so common now that I guess my policy has changed. Please feel free to contact me if I've missed an important one. I won't promise to list every one I get, but I haven't been looking for these carefully up until now so I'm sure a few have slipped by unnoticed.



Today on the site:

James Romberger interviews Paul Kirchner, of "The Bus" and "Dope Rider."

Paul: Don’t worry, I don’t feel bad about my association with High Times, really. If I did I suppose I’d refuse to have the work reprinted, or condemn it like someone who’s had a religious conversion and renounces his past.

Dope Rider originated because when I showed my samples to Dennis Lopez, the editor of Harpoon, he liked a surrealistic Western story I had drawn but said I should do a similar story and make it drug-themed. The drug element was necessary to have the surrealism make sense to most readers. Because of the drug element, High Times wanted to run it, and I had no qualms about working for a drug-oriented magazine if it provided an outlet for the kind or art I wanted to do.

I have always been interested in the conflict/connection between the “real” world–the world of material things, orderly transitions, and logical, predictable outcomes–and the other world, the world of spiritual forces, visions, dreams, and delusions, that follows illogical and unpredictable rules of its own. I’m not sure that latter realm is any less real in our lives.

Elsewhere online:

My favorite comic strip in America, True Chubbo, has moved to its own site.

Robert Crumb interviewed at, uh, Red Bull Academy.

The great psychedelic artist Martin Sharp, who I wrote with Norman Hathaway for our book Electrical Banana, has passed away. Here's a solid appreciation of his early cartooning in Australia and London.

Paste has a top ten list. I'm really glad to see Dash Shaw's New School getting some play on these lists. That's a my personal favorite (ahem, non-PictureBox) comic of 2013.

I somehow missed the fact that classic 90s comic Big Mouth is being featured over on Boing Boing.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Karl Stevens.

Jeez, this Kim Deitch artwork is gorgeous.

I was very flattered and grateful for these appreciations of PictureBox, one from the boys at Comics Books Are Burning in Hell and one from Frank at The Washington Post. It's nice to read eulogies while I'm still alive.



Today, after nearly three years of virtually no comics convention coverage on this site at all, we present our second full report in a row. This time, it's columnist Paul Tumey on the Short Run festival in Seattle. Here's a bit of what Paul had to say:

Short Run was created in 2011 by two talented, crafty, artistic friends who love D.I.Y. publishing - Kelly Froh and Eroyn Franklin (Janice Headley became an organizer in 2013). It makes sense that this would eventually happen. SPX (Small Press Expo) has been going on for years, New York's MoCCA and Chicago's Cake Alternative Comics Expo are well-established. Seattle, which may well have more cartoonists per square inch than any other city in the world, seems a natural for a small press festival. The first Short Run Small Press Fest, funded by bake sales and the organizer's bank accounts, featured exhibitors and drew 800 people.

Insert a narration box at the top of the next panel that reads "Three years later..." and Short Run (this time partially funded by grants from Humanities Washington and 4Culture) 2013 drew about 1700 attendees and featured 120 beautifully mad people makin' copies, comics, zines, prints, and doodads for sale and trade. This year, Short Run took a long sprint across the entire month of November, with such events as November 9th's Rookie Yearbook 2 signing party with editor and fashion sensation Tavi Gevinson, the small press art show at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, and November 29th's Read/Write event that featured a panel, an interactive performance with David Lasky and Greg Stump, a silkscreen workshop with Eric Carnell, and much more.

Also, we are republishing a rare, comprehensive interview with Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, conducted by Richard Samuel West in 1989 and published in issue 127. Here's a sample:

WEST: Let’s talk about Hobbes a little bit. He seems to be older and wiser than Calvin, but not much. Which of the following more accurately describes him: a pet, a brother, a friend, or the father that Calvin never had?

WATTERSON: Hobbes is really hard to define and, in a way, I’m reluctant to do it. I think there’s an aspect of this character that’s hard for me to articulate. I suppose if I had to choose from those four, the brother and the friend would be the closest. But there’s something a little peculiar about him that’s, hopefully, not readily categorized.

WEST: Well, in a way that says more about Calvin than Hobbes because Hobbes is implicitly, explicitly just a product of his imagination.

WATTERSON: But the strip doesn’t assert that. That’s the assumption that adults make because nobody else sees him, sees Hobbes, in the way that Calvin does. Some reporter was writing a story on imaginary friends and they asked me for a comment, and I didn’t do it because I really have absolutely no knowledge about imaginary friends. It would seem to me, though, that when you make up a friend for yourself, you would have somebody to agree with you, not to argue with you. So Hobbes is more real than I suspect any kid would dream up.

WEST: Well, at the risk of getting into psychobabble, a lot of psychologists would say that children create imaginary friends to play out family dramas. So an argument can be just as much a part of an imaginary world as, you know, a sort of sentimental, gooey friendship can be.

WATTERSON: Yeah, well, I would hope that the friendship between Calvin and Hobbes is so complex that it would transcend a normal fantasy. The resolution of the question of whether Hobbes is real or not doesn’t concern me or interest me, but, hopefully, there’s some element of complexity there that will make the relationship interesting on a couple of levels.


—Reviews & Commentary.
There have been a few more articles and testimonials written about PictureBox, including from Corey Blake at Robot 6, Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly, and George Elkind.

Our own Rob Clough has reviewed Peter Bagge's Margaret Sanger bio Woman Rebel, and completed his thirty-day examination of figures connected to CCS. Paul Morton reviews Jon Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell's March.

There are more best-of-2013 lists coming out too. Here are two from Douglas Wolk at Time and Hillary Brown & Co. at Paste.

Finally, one of the best retailer-run comics bloggers around, Mike Sterling, just celebrated his tenth anniversary.

—Interviews. Xavier Guilbert interviews John Porcellino at du9, Michael Cavna interviews Ed Piskor at the Washington Post, and Michael Dooley interviews Ted Rall at Print.

—Giving Opportunities.
In Wednesday's post, while listing a slew of people and organizations looking for help (most of which are still ongoing), I neglected to include this indiegogo fundraiser for Tom Hart & Leela Corman's worthy SAW. Also, many cartoonists of interest to readers of this site are involved in Providence's Mothers News, which is currently raising money via subscription for 2014.


So It Is!

Today Zainab Akhtar covers the UK festival Thought Bubble.

Conventions are generally a whirlwind of events, but this year was even more hectic than usual: I was working, helping to man the OK Comics (the fab comics store at which I work) tables with the guys, was conscious of doing this write-up and so attended panels for due diligence (panels are deathly boring, yo) as well as having a list of things on my “to buy” list and people I wanted to see. The guys had done the hard work lugging all the books to the Armouries in a van and setting up, so by the time I strode in with a packed lunch of Irn Bru and Jammie Dodgers on Saturday, the queue was happily snaking around the building in the cool sunshine. I knew we were sharing table space with publishers SelfMadeHero, but it’s still pretty daunting to have one of your favorite cartoonists- Frederik Peeters- in much closer proximity than imagined. I had a plan, right? At some point in the day, I’d just naturally strike up a conversation, and we’d talk like normal people, but then the kindness of others resulted in the world’s most awkward handshake and introduction, a complete lack of eye contact and brain freeze on my part, which in turn meant I had to ignore him the rest of the weekend. Peeters has a proper superstar air about him. I don’t mean that he’s haughty, but that he has a tangible presence. That presence was keenly felt on Saturday, as he spent most of the day arms folded, stalking up and down two meters of tight area as he waited for copies of his new book, Aama, to arrive, which didn’t happen until the last 15 minutes of the evening. He was calmer on Sunday.

Bob Levin covers Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend.

Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend, edited by Bob Fingerman and Gary Groth, is a 184-page collection of Rodrigues’s most scabrous work, all of which seemingly ran in the “Lampoon” between 1978 and 1989.  I say “seemingly” because the book omits any delineation of which appeared when as though to keep all statutes of limitations on the table as potential defenses against any group libel claims from the tissue-skinned.

The volume contains four narrative pieces,  20 to 84 episodes in length, and several more abbreviated efforts.  (A collection of Rodrigues’s gag cartoons is slated for future release.)  They seemingly – there’s that word again – appeared, one installment per issue, in primarily nine-panel, single-page strips, with story lines that could shift as abruptly as a dirt track Chevy.  The strips do not build to a single, concluding laugh but pull smiles and chuckles at disparate points en route.  Rodgrigues works like a silent film comedian, choosing a situation and wringing as many laughs as he can from it before moving on, like Charlie Chaplin starving in a cabin or Harold Lloyd climbing a building, though Rodrigues’s situations are more likely to produce an uplifted eyebrow or sharply sucked in breath: rooming with a corpse; a private detective in an iron lung; the ugliest little girl in the world.


And the lists are coming in like crazy right now. Here's one from Comics Alliance. And here's another from NPR. Here's a nicely illustrated one from Ryan Cecil Smith.

Tahneer Osman on Co-Mix. Kevin Huizenga on page layouts. Sean T. Collins on Fantagraphics and PictureBox.