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Can You Read Me?

Today on the site we have Annie Mok's review of Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld. 

I smiled weakly a couple of times. Gauld’s ultra-minimal drawing style seems developed to showcase the words, but the words fall limply. In small doses, in a newspaper, these cartoons may have offered some amusement, but put all together, the effect is stifling.

Elsewhere:

Gary Panter is opening an exhibition in NYC on Thursday. It's something new for the Gary man, and from what I've seen, it'll be a great experience. 

Comics Workbook has a CXC 2017 report.

I perversely loved this 2017-like-its-1977 report on Continuity Studios. Disappointed not to hear more about Ms. Mystic.

RC Baker at the now online-only Village Voice revisits Fredric Wertham.

Shannon Wheeler is the latest guest on Virtual Memories.

 

Ventriloquism School

It's been just more than a month since Joe McCulloch was last with us, but it feels like years. But he's back now with a review of Berserker #1, a new magazine from Breakdown Press, and suddenly the world feels all right again.

As far as first impressions go, this new comic book-format Breakdown Press magazine is a total success. You can't tell from my scan at left, but the cover stock is so extremely thin and glossy as to seem perpetually wet; running your fingers up and down the surface, prints trailing, you can almost feel the slime on the skin of that Robert Beatty alien, his Martian sky moist from evening humidity, prison brick wall dripping from new-sprayed paint. Yet this is not a soft world - the interior stock, non-glossy, is quite heavy and firm, so that one senses not only flesh from touch, but the easy peeling of such skin from bone: a hardness only suggested by Beatty's painting, but vivid in your hands. Who picked out the paper? Was it Joe Hales, the print producer? Someone at Hoddesdon's Crystal Press? They did a wonderful job.

Reading the magazine is not so uncomplicated a pleasure, though at least it has cohesion of its side. The editors are Tom Oldham, a Breakdown co-founder, and Jamie Sutcliffe, a writer-on-culture and one of the operators of Strange Attractor Press, a house devoted to books on marginal and esoteric subjects, among them several fictions by the magician and comics writer Steve Moore, who (among other things) devised the "Future Shock" format for twist ending short stories in the UK's venerable genre comics weekly 2000 AD. And -- beginning on the inside-front cover, where we approach the "Nerve Centaur" to encounter Low Priestess Kleax Nix Vizz, the magazine's maniacal host -- it is clear that Berserker wants to evoke the immediacy and thrill-power of Britain's history of serial comic venues, if in part, one guesses, as conceptual binding. Or, to hear it from Oldham: "There’s a lot of people producing comics who are working in genre, whether that’s formally or in terms of content. There’s also a lot of contemporary art floating around that’s sort of mining genre narrative and genre narrative aesthetics. We just wanted to do something that presented that work, and the format and mode that we chose to present it in was that of a European science fiction anthology comic à la 2000 AD."


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Roz Chast appears on Fresh Air this week. She also talks to the New York Times about her reading habits.

The last book that made you laugh?

“Trashed,” the graphic novel about a garbage collector that I mentioned before. At one point, the garbage collector is taunted by a jerky kid. Later that day while on his route, he sees that kid from behind and throws a bag of garbage at him. When the kid turns around, he realizes it’s just some poor bespectacled shlub who happens to be wearing the same shirt as the taunter. He muses about how, for the rest of his life, that kid is going to wonder why a trash collector threw a bag of garbage at him.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Gene Luen Yang.

In the mid- to late ’90s, Yang hadn’t seen a viable career as an illustrator, and instead became a computer programmer, then a teacher, after graduating from UC Berkeley. The comic book industry was threatened with collapse as Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy. “So I just thought, ‘Some people spend money on golf to relax. I will spend money on making comics,’” Yang says.
As a child, Yang read comics in secret, hiding from disapproving parents, sneaking out of the library with a friend to a nearby comic book store. “We’d check out these coffee-table size books that we could sneak our comics home in,” he recalls.

Curbed briefly talks to Julia Wertz and excerpts her new book.

Wertz hesitates to categorize the book as any one genre; though it has elements of a guidebook, or a memoir, and (most notably) a history of the city, she says it’s really “a canonization of my obsessions in New York City.”


—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd writes about the painter (and former PictureBox artist) Trenton Doyle Hancock, and the connections between artists, comic books, and recurring characters.

For Hancock, the idea of making characters involves the whole universe of modern capitalist trademarked characters. That includes making toys of characters; Hancock is a devoted collector of toys.

As I talked to Davenport, we both realized that for most of art history, artists had a bunch of characters they could use over and over. Biblical characters are obvious choices, and mythological characters, and historical figures. What is different about those characters and modern corporate characters is that no one owned Jesus or Zeus. Disney owns Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man. Warner Brothers owns Batman and the Teen Titans. And artist can use these characters once or twice, but if they try to create involve bodies of work using these characters, they'll get legally shut down. Spider-Man is just too valuable to Disney to let Trenton Doyle Hancock or any other artists to do with it whatever they want.

—Misc. The Washington Post writes about a new Charlie Hebdo initiative to cover the United States for an American audience. It looks so far to be a great deal less caustic than the magazine's traditional product.

On Wednesday, the newspaper released a lengthy report in English on the so-called American resistance, with a particular eye to what remains of the U.S. left. The project, titled “Feeling the Burn: The Left Under Trump,” will appear online in weekly installments in the form of a graphic nonfiction novel, which will permit the newspaper to continue with its visual trademark: caricatures and cartoons.

The online Paris Review has a story about an impromptu sorta-collaboration between children's book author Sandra Boynton and New Yorker cartoonist George Booth.

This past August, Boynton, sixty-four, wound up in Brooklyn at a block party with bipedal George Booth, the legendary New Yorker cartoonist, ninety-one-years young and known, among other things, for cartoons of dirty garages and pets forced to endure lunatic owners. He spent that afternoon parked in a folding chair drawing cartoons for the neighborhood children. As Motown music played, the nonagenarian quickly sketched a couple hapless dogs on a piece of printer paper—one sitting down, one mid-twirl on one leg—and gave them to Boynton as a gift. On the car ride home to Connecticut, with the drawings on her lap and the music playing in her head, Boynton conceived of the whole story.

Lynn Johnston does an "unboxing" video (!) to mark the first volume of IDW's complete For Better or Worse.

 

Years and Years Ago

Today we bring you the tangled tale of the invention of that now utterly outmoded icon of patriotism, Uncle Sam. RC Harvey brings you the goods.

“Uncle Sam” meaning the United States appeared in newspapers from 1813 to 1815; in 1816, he appeared in a book in that symbolic role. By the 1820s, “Uncle Sam” was often being used as a term for the United States. The Sam Wilson connection seems a little shaky to me, but Congress passed a resolution in 1961 that recognized “Uncle Sam” Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol.

The visual representation of Uncle Sam, a tall man with a white goatee wearing a top hat, swallow-tail coat and striped trousers, evolved from pictures of an earlier symbolic figure—Brother Jonathan.

Until the Civil War, goateed and top-hatted Brother Jonathan in striped pants often stood for the United States even though the cartoon character initially represented just New England. The term Brother Jonathan originated across the Atlantic during the English Civil War (1642-1651) between the Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and the Royalists (“Cavaliers”) as a somewhat derogatory name for the Puritan Roundheads, and then the name was also applied to the New England colonists, who were also mostly Puritans who also supported the Parliamentarians in the mother country. By this route, Brother Jonathan became a stock character that good naturedly lampooned Yankee acquisitiveness and other crafty peculiarities attributed to citizens of the region. 

Elsewhere:

I always like to see more Jim Flora. 

Little Orphan Annie and Banned Books Week.

 

 

Choose Your Own Apocalypse

Today on the site, Alex Wong talks to Tillie Walden about her new memoir, Spinning, her relationship with figure skating (the book's subject), the importance of representation in the comics industry, and her affinity for Studio Ghibli movies.


Have your parents read Spinning and what’s been the feedback and conversations you’ve had?

I get that question a lot. I get a lot of questions about how people in my world have reacted to the book, and I always have the same answer, which is, that is between me and the people in my life. As a memoirist, people are very eager to hear more about my story. There’s a lot of my story that I’m willing to talk about, but I have to draw clear lines to keep some of my life to myself, because so many people think that just because you’re a memoirist, you’re a very public person. In reality, I think I’m a pretty private person, and I control what I let out about myself, and in this book, I obviously let out a lot.

There is often this expectation from people that when you do something personal, they just expect you to be an open book.

I find that a lot of people expect it to be a continuing conversation, and in my mind, it’s like, no, everything I had to say about my life and my story is in that book. Outside of that, sure, there’s tidbits I’d be happy to talk about, but no, it’s not a continuing conversation. That book is it. That’s what I’m putting out, the rest of my life is for me and my loved ones.

I always use Instagram as an example. People can share personal things on there, but they’re not there to have a conversation about those moments.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by like-sharing, especially with social media. You really have to control your own flow of information.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Rebecca Shuh talks to Eli Valley (Diaspora Boy) about making political comics in the Trump era.

RS: You talk in the book about backlash you got at different points for the comics. Do you have any memorable stories about an incidence of that backlash?
EV: There were so many. The main one that changed a lot of things for me was the one where I positioned Abe Foxman as an anti-semite. I talk a lot about how he waged this war on The Forward until they stopped running me. The Forward didn’t want to make an immediate cut because they didn’t want to make it look like they were bowing to McCarthyite pressure, so they did a slow, don’t accept his pitches, we’ll take a smattering, but it’s over. I was able to get in three or four over the course of the next year, I don’t remember exactly how many, but…it really left me…it wasn’t a great experience.

—News. Ramón Esono Ebalé, a political cartoonist in Equatorial Guinea, was arrested two weeks ago and remains detained without charges today.

Human rights advocates initially feared that authorities intended to charge Ebalé with criminal defamation for his often-lewd caricatures of Equatorial Guinea’s dictator Obiang, who has ruled the small country on the west coast of central Africa since 1979, earning a reputation for brutal repression of journalists, dissidents, and political activists. In recent years the crackdown has also spread to artistic domains including theater and popular music. Reports that they instead appear to be drumming up charges of money laundering against him are likely even worse news for Ebalé, who could be sentenced to many years in prison.


—Misc.
Best American Comics series editor Bill Kartalopoulos has published the list of "notable comics" that came out during the period covered by the latest volume. This is always a reliable, thorough guide to noteworthy work.

 

Even the Losers

The country/world is going to shit, and I'm pretty sad about Tom Petty's passing. I saw him play in July and it was a great, rave-up style concert. Just phenomenal. 

And today on the site, we have Annie Mok interviewing Iasmin Omar Ata’s on her debut graphic novel Mis(h)adra.

MOK: So the story follows Isaac, this young man who’s in college, and you said the story is semi-autobiographical? How would you categorize it as, what’s its relation to your life story?

ATA: It’s very similar. Pretty much everything that’s happened in the book, with some exceptions and rearranging has happened to me. This is all sort of a re-versioning and in my own way a processing of these events that have happened to me. Some details are changed, and some characters represent people but aren’t real people in my life, represent concepts and things I’ve interacted with. It’s just in the avatar as Isaac.

MOK: What was it like to go with Isaac and to kind of repurpose your life into this other purpose.

ATA: I’m not actually very good at talking about myself directly, so it was really hard for me to try and figure out a way to process all this stuff through art. I felt that to have it go through a character who isn’t quite me, is very similar, in that way I was able to distance myself. Get a perspective on events that I was writing, not be 100% in my own head to have a character that was representative of me. Look at things in a new light. That was helpful to recontextualize things I was going through, but also help me get comfortable writing about things that happened to me. Because it wasn’t just my face looking right at the reader, it gave me a safer or more comfortable place.

Elsewhere:

Roz Chast on NPR yesterday.

 

Beam Forming

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews the latest from Jeff Lemire, Roughneck.

In Roughneck, the latest graphic novel from Jeff Lemire, violence begets violence, the sins of the father are visited upon the son, and various other truisms apply. Lemire has returned to rural Ontario, but he’s visiting harsher places than those found in Essex County, his series of understated, beautifully rendered portraits of working-class life. Few of Lemire’s stories in the years since Essex have had the same poignancy, and while the environs of Roughneck are dingier, the book doesn’t cut as deep. Lemire’s lead, Derek Ouelette, is an ex-hockey player and a small-down nuisance. He spends his days drinking and fighting until the reappearance of his sister, an Oxycontin addict with an abusive partner, forces him to face his demons. The book is well intentioned but obvious; it has the ambition of a great work but a fixation on familiar tropes.

Roughneck seeks to examine the effects of violence—how it travels down generations, how violence directed outward also impacts oneself. Derek’s father pushed a toxic notion of manhood on Derek the youth, encouraging an aggressive streak that eventually caused the end of Derek’s NHL career. Derek spends his life after hockey being provoked and lashing out, again and again. It’s worthwhile subject matter, and the book would be a welcome addition to the literature of masculinities—especially given Lemire’s parallel career as a writer of superhero books, a comics tradition that tends to depict violence without so much ambivalence. But from beginning to end, Roughneck is too formulaic to shake up anyone’s preconceptions.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Buried in the Paris Review's weekly staff picks, Nicole Rudick reviews Patrick Kyle's Everywhere Disappeared.

In some stories, Kyle marries geometric precision with surrealist accumulation (and occasional painterly marks), meaning that those panels are disordered with orderly elements. That appealing chaos creates a unique architecture within and between pages and gives an elasticity to the way the narratives progress. Often, those narratives involve circularity or refraction: one story proposes the idea of art as “a communicative invention used to encourage the layman to feel” and then offers a white painting that allows one “to look into nothing and forget.”

At Comics Workbook, Bill Boichel reviews John Hankiewicz's Education.

A tour de force of comics formalism, John Hankiewicz’s graphic novel, Education is a bolt from the blue. Hankiewicz’s comics work is perilously difficult to describe, but we’re going to take a moment to get our thoughts in order here at Copacetic… and make an attempt to back up our encouragement to any and all takers to tackle the challenge proferred by Education, through highlighting its artistic virtues, as it is a work that will offer rewards more than commensurate with the efforts made to come to terms with it.

At LARB, Nathan Scott McNamara writes about Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim's Poppies of Iraq.

The rich effect of Poppies of Iraq, written and co-illustrated by Findakly and her husband Lewis Trondheim, comes from the manner in which the sweet and domestic rests alongside horror. The book is packed with reminiscences that are part wholesome — playing on ancient monuments and going on class field trips — but that are scorched by political violence. ISIS soldiers destroyed those ancient monuments with dynamite and bulldozers. On some of those field trips, students were persuaded to publicly cry for dead generals, or to salute new ones. In 1964, Findakly’s nine-year-old brother and his classmates were taken by bus to see the hanging dead bodies of Baathist militiamen.

—Interviews & Profiles. Xavier Guilbert talks to Ed Piskor.

I’m really fascinated by just the stories of actual human beings, who do amazing and interesting things. That excites me. It’s kinda hard to stay in the drawing chair all day, grinding away, making these pages, so I’m a constant junkie for inspiration : I need it, every day, I need to see that there are people out there doing really, really cool things. These works that I made with Harvey Pekar, I would consider those to be some kind of informal art school, or comic-book-making school that I went through. In fact, Macedonia, I would call that like a “army book camp”, because after — I did some American Splendor stuff, and Harvey asked me if I wanted to do a bigger work. I said “absolutely,” then he kinda explained that it was Macedonia, and I thought it was going to be about like Alexander the Great conquering the world, or whatever. And he’s like : “no, it’s about the geopolitical destabilization of the Balkan region, and its relationship with the ethnic minorities, etc.” So I was just like : “Okay, I’ll draw that. Sure.” I learned a lot from the way that he paces his stories, the way that he structures the stories, and I do not see him as infallible, and I saw flaws in the structure, so I wanted to — very often, you could learn what not to do from somebody as well, you know.

Shea Fitzpatrick talks to Kim Jooha of 2dcloud (and sometimes TCJ).

After I joined 2dcloud, and after I started thinking about asking artists [to publish with us], I realized that a lot of artists I want to contact don’t have enough material for hundreds of pages of books or graphic novels. And lots of great publishers, like Koyoma or Fanta or us, are focusing on publishing books, not zines. Also, some of [the artists] I like, but I think their next works would be better. They’re in their growth. I was trying to contact this artist, [and I thought], maybe I should contact this artist when their really great work comes up next year or month, because this artist has been getting better. But at the same time, I worried, what if this person leaves comics? That’s happened so many times before, and so many artists I discovered recently left comics a year or so ago, and I didn’t want that to happen. That’s the reason why I wrote that Instagram post.

The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Shannon Wheeler.

 

Let the Poison Out

Tim has told me at least once, but it feels like more than once, though it's probably just once: Let the poison out. And I infer his meaning to be: just say the bad thing you need to say so that it doesn't poison you. Now, of course, Tim is a nice man and isn't encouraging bad behavior. I, as many of you know, am not as nice a man as Tim. And so: I lay on my couch on Tuesday, home from work with a nasty cold, and read Last Girl Standing, the new memoir by Trina Robbins, the longtime artist and advocate for female cartoonists.  I'd looked forward to this for a while, because, while I've found her to be a sloppy historian (at best) and a mediocre cartoonist (ditto), she is a "figure" in comics: A survivor who carved out a place for herself in a medium and a business that was and (a few pockets of the biz aside) remains inhospitable to anyone who is not white and male. Surviving is not nothing.

But this book is, I'm actually sad to report, barely a book at all. More like a loosely ordered collection of memories that haven't been interrogated and display a startling lack of self-awareness, There is information here, but it's buried and mostly lacking dates. Some figures appear without explanation (Fascinating cartoonists like Sharon Rudahl, Lee Mars, Willy Mendes, et al, come in and out, but we never know anything about their backgrounds or existence outside of passing in front of the author's eyes) while others are given far too much time (pages are dedicated to Robbins' affair with Jim Morrison, which reads not like her "friend" Eve Babitz consciously fucking her way to fun and writing beautifully about it, but rather like someone who was lost and just getting fucked). There was so much room to go into the chronological details of Robbins' publishing career, but instead just five pages are devoted to Wimmen's Comix. Fewer still to It Ain't Me Babe and other fairly legendary titles. That's less space than is given to Jim Morrison, and fewer than to making clothes for celebs on the Sunset Strip. And none of this would be a big deal in a book by a different author, except that lots and lots of people made groovy clothes and fucked rock stars. That part of Robbins' story is categorically generic and dull. But very, very few women had solo underground comics and edited anthologies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

There is much score-settling here, all of which makes Robbins look petty. There is a list (seriously), of all the men Robbins could have, but did not, "sleep with." There is a desultory mention (and reprinting) of Robbins' brief career in nude modeling for men's magazines. There is a bizarre recounting of her 40 year-long non-friendship with cartoonist Diane Noomin, which culminates in a cringe-inducing confrontation; much saber rattling at Aline Kominsky-Crumb; a raw and vicious chapter on her relationship with Kim Deitch; and an accounting of every time Roger Brand slighted her. Roger Brand! And there is a steady drum beat for every time Robbins was not included in various anthologies. Good lord. What's lacking entirely is any serious reflection on Robbins' life in the medium, or those of her colleagues. It's just list after list; lament after lament. 

I mentioned all of this to a friend and realized that Robbins' book is essentially like a TCJ message board thread, or a Dave Sim editorial. So, read that way -- as the ramblings of someone you're stuck in an elevator with -- it's grotesque fun! As a memoir by someone who lived through and participated in underground comics, it's a startling disappointment. This book is just inconceivably sloppy. It reads like an unfinished book proposal that someone accidentally printed. Ironically, but perhaps not coincidentally, this is not dissimilar to what happened with the recent S. Clay Wilson book. There is art throughout the book, placed in proximity to the text it refers to, but no dates or captions, so we are left to puzzle out when/where/why any given thing was made/published/printed. The front cover photo is pixelated and then printed in reverse in the interior of the book. There is no bibliography or even a modest list of the books Robbins has published. There is no timeline. What a missed opportunity this is. As the baby boom generation gets older, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to chronicle their history. And in this case, all it would have taken is a dogged editor to take some time and ask details, dates, etc. And short of getting all of that, said editor should have saved Robbins the humiliation of this book and simply not published it. But so it goes in comics. Still. 

For a sunnier view of the book, here's Paul Buhle's review.

That's what I have for the day. Have a great weekend!

 

Who Knows?

Today on the site, Annie Mok interviews Sofia Foster-Dimino.

ANNIE MOK: The title Sex Fantasy seems a little bit like a feint, because the book is kind of about sex and kind of not about sex.

SOPHIA FOSTER-DIMINO: Yeah, for real [laughs].

MOK: How did you come to this title?

FOSTER-DIMINO: When I picked the title, I didn’t even know I was gonna make it a series. But I wanted something that was striking and intriguing, and maybe a little misleading. People who have read my work closely and have followed along with the whole series are like, of course it is about sex fantasies for sure, even the non-explicit ones. And there are undercurrents of that, like issue 5 is about two women going on a date for maybe the second or third time, so there’s tension and then issue 8 is sort of this intense sexualized dominant-submissive dynamic between two people in a grocery store. And then in the last issue, I wanted to full-on address the concept of sex fantasies, so that’s probably the most direct take on the concept. For the other ones, that are more subtle, I wanted to explore ideas about self-expression and identity. How people change the way they conceive of themselves whether they’re alone or with people they trust, people they just met or people they know really well… So those pressures can change how we see ourselves, which ties into those sex fantasies. The idea of a sex fantasy is you’re imagining a person who you might not know very well and what they’re like and how they get along with you, but you’re also imagining a more perfect embodiment of yourself, a scenario where you can be the person that you truly want to be.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Hugh Hefner, the Playboy founder and failed cartoonist, died yesterday at 91. Through his magazine and various other ventures, he published many of the best comics artists of the last century, including Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman, Gahan Wilson, B. Kliban, and many others, though few of them did their best work under his patronage. It's an undeniably important but contested legacy. The New York Times obituary is here.

As a child, Mr. Hefner spent hours writing horror stories and drawing cartoons. At Steinmetz High School, he said, “I reinvented myself” as the suave, breezy “Hef,” newspaper cartoonist and party-loving leader of what he called “our gang.” At the University of Illinois, after serving in the Army, he edited the humor magazine and started a photo feature called “Co-ed of the Month.”

[...]

Meanwhile he was plotting his own magazine, which was to be, among other things, a vehicle for his slightly randy cartoons. The first issue of Playboy was financed with $600 of his own money and several thousand more in borrowed funds, including $1,000 from his mother. But his biggest asset was a nude calendar photograph of Marilyn Monroe. He had bought the rights for $500.

—Interviews & Profiles.At du9, Xavier Guilbert interviews Simon Hanselmann.

You know, I’m still learning, I still feel like a terrible cartoonist. A few months ago, I had a big artistic crisis, and just thought all the Megg, Mogg and Owl was shit and just like garbage. But you know now I am back to thinking like “it’s okay, it’s fun”. But I think that’s death for an artist when you say : “yeah, this is awesome, I’m the best, you know, this is perfect.” You always need to grow and change and try to be better.
I should point out, I don’t use tumblr anymore, really. Tumblr’s garbage now, it really is — tumblr’s dead. I use Instagram, that’s much better, everyone migrated to Instagram. I feel guilty that I don’t update my tumblr much anymore. But you know, it was a good tool, and Instagram now is a good tool for just, like you said, throwing out sketches and different shit. I like to try and post something everyday, if I can, just to keep people interested. A long time ago, American cartoonist Sammy Harkham told me just this : you’ve gotta take every interview, keep on getting shit out there, keep in the public eye, because otherwise people will just forget about you (laugh). So there’s that paranoia in me that just has to keep producing, I have to keep putting this out. And I make a living from this now, I used to scrap birdshit out of aircraft hangars and work at McDonald’s — I don’t want to do that anymore, I’m very selfish and I just wanna draw comics all day. I wanna do what I wanna do, and the rest of the world can just fuck off (laugh). So, you know. You just have to keep pushing it, you can’t be lazy. If you wanna be successful, you can’t be lazy. This applies to anything, just like being an electrician, or being in the Navy or whatever. If you wanna have success, you have to work hard, you can’t fuck around.

WBUR talks to comics scholar A. David Lewis about Muslims in superhero comics.

There have been many, going as far back as our research finds to 1944, a character who's dear to me, Kismet, Man of Fate, first appeared in Bomber Comics, No. 1 in 1944. He has slight, small premonitions of the future, and he uses that to fight Nazis in wartime France.

This is your good Muslim, and you get the sense that absolutely no Muslims were involved in the writing or illustrating of this character, not surprising, this was 1940s New York.

The Deconstructing Comics podcast talks to Derf Backderf.

—Reviews & Commentary. In a review of three recent books on Korea, Charles Montgomery writes about Yeon-Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily.

The artwork, which the back cover describes as ranging “from the gently pastoral to the surreal and harrowing,” has similarities to that of Lynda Barry in its simple depiction of people and Shigeru Mizuki in its mix of realistic and impressionist elements in the landscape and background. The translation, by Californian cartoonist Hellen Jo, is perfect for the cartoon format. Uncomfortably Happily is clever, charming, and worth a look if you are interested in a droll family story, graphic novels, or an introduction to a wide range of Korean modern culture in a primarily visual format.

—Not Exactly Comics. At 4Columns, Ed Halter writes about the pornographic art of former underground cartoonist and filmmaker Mike Kuchar.

Here, in a show simply titled Drawings by Mike!, are twenty-two neatly framed ink-and-felt-tip-pen cartoons of tousle-haired Caucasian bohunks engaged in a variety of joyously, nakedly homoerotic situations: skinny dipping, crotch grabbing, pec rubbing, tit sucking. Their bare asses are, without exception, spheric and shiny, like the juiciest apple you’d ever hope to bite. Their sparkling eyes appear glazed over, staring into daydreams even as the men lick and paw at one another’s brawny bodies. Their expressive dicks are thick and veiny: some half-tumescent flesh-tubes flop lazily downward; others stab at the air, yearning toward some object of desire, dribbling semen like a salivating predator.

And J. Hoberman writes about a show featuring Peter Saul's new paintings about Trump.

Saul, now eighty-three, has been categorized as a political pop artist and a proto-punk neo-surrealist, although he has as much in common with the grotesque Mad magazine cartoonist Basil Wolverton as with any American painters. He’s done Nixon and Reagan (both as governor and president) as well as George W. With candy colors placed in the service of gross physical distortion and blandly offensive savagery—crucifixions are common, the electric chair is a frequent prop—his unnaturally festive work would scarcely seem out of place on the wall of a Venice Beach tattoo emporium. “Not to be shocking means to agree to be furniture,” he once said. Still, Saul’s portraits of Trump are relatively naturalistic—though the impossible settings in which the president is placed are not.

—Misc. New York readers of this site might want to go to Desert Island tonight for the release party of Mirror Mirror II, the anthology edited by two frequent TCJ contributors, Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins. Several artists from the book, from Aidan Koch to Al Columbia, will be signing.