BLOG

Shop Talk

Today on the site, Martyn Pedler talks to Charles Forsman.

You often use teenage protagonists in your work. What’s so appealing about writing teens?

Yeah. It comes down to when I was a teenager. I was pretty depressed. I became disengaged from school and, you know, I got really cynical about life. I’m not special in this. The one big thing that happened was when I was 11, my dad died from cancer, and that was such a changing moment in my little world. It made me grow up a little faster: life is not always running around in the suburbs, riding bikes, and having fun.

There’s a part of me that wants to constantly relive that because when you’re a teenager your emotions are so raw. You think you have everything figured out, but you’re also so lost and frustrated. I just find it fascinating, and I’m trying to organize that time of my life on paper. Figuring out how to get it out, to communicate these feelings. Because it can be pretty complex, and I’m not the best speaker. Comics is how I’m most comfortable.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna at The Washington Post spoke briefly to Adrian Tomine.

“I think that becoming a parent was by far the biggest influence on me while I was working on ‘Killing and Dying,’ ” says Tomine, who will be speaking Saturday at 6 p.m. at Washington’s Politics & Prose at the Wharf.

“When I finished my previous book, ‘Shortcomings,’ I honestly felt like I’d painted myself into a corner in terms of subject matter and tone and style, and I was kind of stumped about how to escape,” Tomine tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs.

The most recent guest on RiYL is Emil Ferris, and the most recent guest on Process Party is Michel Fiffe.

—Misc. Ken Parille remembers Alvin Buenaventura.

Alvin Buenaventura left us two years ago. On the day he died, I had been thinking a lot about calling him, but decided not to. Unless we were in the midst of a comics project for his press, Alvin, ever elusive, often didn't pick up. In the fourteen years we were friends, if I wanted to get in touch with him, I knew what to do: Call him a few times over the course of a few weeks and he’d eventually get back to me, whispering in his almost imperceptibly soft monotone, “Hey Ken, I saw you called.” When this tactic wasn't necessary — when I called and he answered — I felt lucky. I had someone smart, someone engaged to talk comics with. ...

John Jackson Miller writes about the end of DC's newsstand editions.

A moment in comics history passed without any fanfare at all in the summer of 2017. It went unnoticed for several weeks — and while it's been discussed online in the months since, I was evidently the first person to ask the publisher directly about it, more than five months later. And now the confirmation is official: DC ended its newsstand editions of its comics as of the end of August 2017.

See this issue on eBay"DC discontinued much of its newsstand distribution in late 2013 and early 2014," Vice President - Specialty Sales James Sokolowski told me today. Marvel had pulled out of newsstand distribution completely in 2013, but while DC's titles left most independent wholesalers then, the company had continued to distribute a limited slate of returnable titles through Ingram Content Group, which served Barnes & Noble, and Media Solutions, which served Books-a-Million.

 

Another Tryst Opportunity

Today at the Journal, we've got Rachel Davies and Tommi Parrish talking about The Lie and How We Told It, their most recent release via Fantagraphics, the consequences of youthful indiscretion, the Australian comics scene, and the delights of bookmaking.

I think I’m just trying to make more interesting stuff. I think also my life might be a little bigger than it was before. I’m just more interested in talking about other people’s stories, than like constantly writing about feeling sad. I think it’s totally just a,[product of] maturing as a writer. I was starting to feel frustrated with what my work was looking like––I mean I’m still frustrated with my work, but I was starting to feel frustrated with constantly making the same thing. That’s how it felt, anyway.

That's it for today. There's so many reviews that are coming up this week, from so many great writers! I'm currently in Denver for ALA Midwinter. It's a massively different show than it was last year, when it was held in Atlanta during Trump's Inauguration, the Women's March and an Atlanta Falcons playoff game. The only thing I remember at that show was how March won every award that it was eligible for and how completely empty the room was when all the women walked out of the convention hall. This year, a snowstorm has kept a lot of attendees from being able to make it to the show, which has made the attendees who are here even more curious than they usually are, which is pretty curious. It's the opposite of a fiscally driven consumer show, where the ultimate aim is to conclude any conversation with the sale of a product--here, it feels more about finding the way in which the thing you're speaking about can become part of the catalog of things that these people are going to be speaking about when they return home. How can your work get on board with the conversation that's already happening, that will continue with or without you, and will last after you're gone? Often times, it feels less and less like the place I used to live in comics is still there--a place where multiple strands and styles and genres lived amongst each other. But then you go here, and so few of those prejudices have survived the trip. Comics are back to just being an artform, a style of communication, something that can tell a whole nest of stories, or explore not telling a story at all. The idea that any one publisher or genre or style of art would be enough to fill a library branch with everything their patrons need is so absurd that it doesn't even come up as a concept in a discussion--it would be like saying you can only have yellow boxes at a grocery store, or any other dumb analogy. Here, it's a bunch of people happily embracing the impossible task of trying to please everyone--of trying to return to their homes armed with what they need to entertain and educate, and who don't have the time or luxury to adopt a bunch of grievances they'd have to read actual back issues to have an opinion about in the first place. It's a challenge just to keep up.

 

Why Would You Even Bring That Up?

Today on the site, we have two reviews for you. First, Tegan O'Neil returns with an assessment of Box Brown's latest comics biography, Is This Guy For Real?

Andy Kaufman was around for just long enough to ensure that people are going to be writing about him for a long time to come. There’s something sticky about his story in the mind, despite (or because of?) its brevity. Box Brown’s new biography of Kaufman, Is This Guy For Real? – The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman is careful to trace the means by which Kaufman’s lifelong obsession with wrestling informed his approach to comedy and performance. Wrestlers adopt larger-than-life personas, complete with accents and backstories – just like Kaufman, who sometimes pretended to be a lounge singer named Tony Clifton, sometimes pretended to be Elvis Presley, and sometimes a raging misogynist. Kaufman plays every role completely straight in the moment, leading to a tendency to be confused with his characters. He played the part of a meathead chauvinist challenging women to live wrestling matches a bit too well. Clips from his wrestling appearances reveal a focused performer who learned to relish negative attention from his audience.

The approach seen here is similar to Brown’s previous comics biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. That book was effective because it focused on the tendency of its titular figure to accrue anecdote and story. Is This Guy For Real? charts more ambitious territory. It attempts to tell the story not merely of Andy Kaufman’s life and career from an early age through to his death, but the story of the Memphis professional wrestling scene in general and Jerry Lawler in particular. Whether or not you think this is an effective book will probably depend on the degree to which you think dozens of pages have to be spent on Lawler’s early career but a few panels spread across the book for Kaufman’s career on Taxi.

And we also have Edwin Turner, proprietor of Biblioklept, who makes his TCJ debut with a review of Paul Kirchner's Awaiting the Collapse.

In "Highwire", the opening entry in Paul Kirchner's new collection Awaiting the Collapse, a tightrope walker navigates the skyway of a busy metropolis. The walker's magical high wire takes him over skyscrapers and into offices, dinner parties, supermarkets, and the homes of the gray citizens who, for panel after panel, fail to look up and see the miracle above them. In the comic's final panels, however, a man gazes up at the high-wire walker in a moment of recognition.

The gazer below, stocky, bald, and garbed in a trench coat and tie, bears more than a passing resemblance to the hero of Kirchner's cult classic The Bus. He strips away his business attire to reveal circus garb beneath and launches after the tightrope walker on his own marvelous trapeze. Thus Kirchner ushers us into the ultravivid, kaleidoscopic world of Awaiting the Collapse. Here, the miraculous is always potential, even in our mundane, mechanized workaday world---we simply have to look up to see it.

This insight---that a more colorful, more surreal world is available to us via imaginative perspective---is threaded throughout Kirchner's cult classic strip The Bus, which originally ran in Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1985. The Bus, which centered on a mundane hero's fanciful duel with the banality of everyday existence, found a second life on the internet through pirated copies---grainy, incomplete versions that hipped a new audience to Kirchner's fabulous comics.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The latest guest on RiYL is Joseph Remnant.

And this isn't comics-related, but Jeannie Vanasco at the Los Angeles Review of Books has a conversation with one of the great writers on comics of our era, Daniel Raeburn.

The story of an essay or a memoir is really the story of thinking, of your own consciousness. Which requires you, as narrator, to be self-conscious, but not too self-conscious. Not completely self-absorbed. You’re walking a tricky balance beam. There are other paradoxes too, like narrative tone. You have to be confident in your telling of what happened, but not too confident about what it means. You have to have confidence in your own doubts, if that makes sense. They’re what propel personal narratives.

That’s why it’s probably best to err on the side of those doubts. A good rule of thumb comes from Kafka, who said, “In the struggle between you and the world, you must side with the world.” Another good line came from my friend Mark Slouka. After he read an earlier draft of Vessels, he called me and said, “Less knowing, more wondering.” As soon as he said it I knew he was right. I’d been trying to sound wise.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Sam Ombiri writes about Nick Drnaso's Beverly.

Nick Drnaso gives a very specific amount of detail, and the stories move along rather rapidly – my eyes automatically go from panel to panel, as the story is so clearly laid out. It might even be my hundredth time reading the story, but it keeps me engaged every time. I can jump into any section, and it’s just as easy for me to recapture the essence of each moment as when I read it the first time. It’s clear that Beverly was made to be enjoyable to read, and the success of the comic is, for lack of a better term, almost severe. It’s strengths are obvious when you read it, so I don’t need to go on praising it. You don’t have to believe the stories in the book, because the book believes them for you.

And Jonathan Rosenbaum remembers the man who may have been the most valuable comics critic of the last century, Donald Phelps.

In some ways, the saddest deaths are those we only hear about accidentally. For me, Donald Phelps was one of the very greatest of American critics — not just literary critic and film critic, but comics critic as well — even though only two collections devoted solely to his written work exist (see above). I would love to imagine that many more will follow, because it’s clear that anyone who tracks down obscure journals, including his own (For Now), looking for Phelps’ insightful and highly original prose, will discover an unending bounty. But it seems like he never had much money, and even before the advent of Trump, Phelps appears to have lived his entire life in the shadows.

 

Le Baiser Mortel Du Dragon

Today at The Journal, we've got cartoonist and critic Katie Skelly interviewing comics writer Alex de Campi about the Twisted Romance comic series that launched via Image this very week. 

Sentimentality is a desperately under-used weapon in comics. So much of it is about the widescreen explodo. But ultimately, you never remember the explosions. You remember the stories that made you cry. That should be every writer's objective going into every story they write: make 'em cry once, make 'em gasp once, and try to give them some pants feelings at some point. William Mortensen, in his wonderfully kooky The Command to Look, paraphrases Cecil B DeMille about the three things you need for a successful picture: sex, sentimentality and spectacle. You can make do with two, for a mediocre story. And you can be macho as fuck and sentimental at the same time: I present to you the entire cinematic oeuvre of Sam Peckinpah, the man who, with Naoki Urasawa, taught me how to hold a reaction shot. 

And then, for something completely different, we've got Frank Young on Frank King--a review of the latest giant sized tome from Sunday Press. It's an excellent review that I feel the need to cheapen by pulling the one quote where he mentions Jake Gyllenahaal. 

Photographs of the young Frank King bring to mind the actor Jake Gyllenhaal, circa 2004. One can see a similar glint in King's eye, a brashness in his smile and an undisguised enjoyment of his life and work. King was at first in the shadow of the Tribune's master editorial cartoonist John T. McCutcheon. As one of the lower-status Trib cartoonists, King soldiered through spot illustrations for news stories, feature article illustrations and the occasional comic strip.

ELSEWHERE? Today, the thing I'd recommend you take a look at is Michel Fiffe's recently published posts on a re-reading of the Titans, part one being here, part two being here. For years, the Titans seemed like the only thing DC had that could outsell Marvel (if you only paid attention to single issue sales--Marvel still can't seem to manage to find perennial selling trades like Batman Year One, and when they do, they tend to let them fall out of print endlessly), and I enjoyed Fiffe's attempt to dive so wholeheartedly into a series that, like the X-Men, tends to reward and repel in equal measure, at an increasingly heightened rate, the longer you expose yourself I also have a lot of affection for Titans Hunt, one of those genuinely exciting who-fucking-knows extended storylines that consists of loading up as many spinning plates as possible, up until you just go fuck it, let's add a vampire from a dystopian future, nothing can stop us. 

 

Droning

Today on the site, we have an excerpt from Kate Polak's Ethics In The Gutter: Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics, published by Ohio State University Press. This particular section deals with a storyline from Hellblazer.

“The Pit” opens with a panel depicting several British soldiers standing atop a trench, text boxes overlays explaining that “Every night they dig the pit. They dig it for the first time. Its sides almost vertical. Stakes just below the edge, pointing down, to stop anyone from climbing out” (121). This first panel already gestures towards what is ventured in the plot: the conflation of temporalities and the crucial dimension of point-of-view. In terms of temporality, while this is a fictionalized account of a past event, it is recounted by a nameless, third-person narrator in the present progressive tense, indicating a continuous action. The narrator aligns herself with neither the soldiers nor the Aborigines, referring to both as “they,” while the reader views the ditch from inside, looking upwards towards the men standing at the top edge, already ensconced within the potential victim’s perspective. The second and third panels show the Tasmanian Aborigines being forced down into the pit from holding pens, the narration shifting in focus between panels. The second panel shows the Aborigines from the perspective of the British soldiers, the point-of-view including their shadows as they look down into the holding pens, the external focalizer remarking that “they say to the prisoners ‘move quickly, jena, jena. We’re taking you to a new place’” (121), while the third panel depicts the Aborigines being forced down into the pit. The narrator tells us that “They don’t want to go down that steep slope. But there’s a wall of men with guns” (121). The shifting point-of-view in the first three panels coupled with the externally focalized narration destabilize the reader’s identification with characters at the outset. Rather than offering an individual’s perspective of the massacre that is represented, the images are framed by a textual recounting. The pictorial element serves to illustrate the textual, but simultaneously, through perspective, offers brief windows into a variety points-of-view.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
All Ben Katchor interviews are good interviews, and this new one is no exception.

At the end of such a successful life, Katchor ought to be happy, right?

"I feel like we're replaying World War I, with the Espionage Act being revived and journalists being threatened for merely doing their jobs," he tells me. "And on top of that, the ecosystem is collapsing. It's a nightmare, quite honestly. It would be one thing to have a dictator in power ... but unbreathable air on an overheated planet? There's no escape."

This was not the Ben Katchor I had expected to interview.

The most recent guest on the Ignorant Bliss podcast is Whit Taylor.


—Reviews & Commentary.
On the occasion of a new collection of Philip Guston's Nixon drawings, Chris Ware writes about the artist's "graphic novel" for the New York Review of Books.

What surprises me most about all of the “Poor Richard” drawings is not their recognizable imagery, their directness, or even their satirical and political subject matter, but the fact that Guston apparently intended them to be assembled as a book. He even put together “large black pocket binders” with Xeroxes of the drawings to schlep around to potential publishers. Philip Guston was working on a graphic novel?! Well, not really. Though it tells a story, loosely threading together vaudevillian gags about Nixon’s coming of age (both he and Guston were born in 1913), Nixon’s college years, early political career, his “Checkers” speech, disappearance/reinvention, and election, his trip to China (with it all petering out somewhere in Asia with the characters pictured as spongecake and cookies), one passes through the images much as one might flip through an illustrated children’s book—without actually reading the text. The earliest frontispieces (Guston tried different versions—the original title was “Satirical Drawings”) show a hairy ink bottle with a Nixon-genie rising out of its uncapped top, highlighting it as a collection of cartoons. Perhaps later, after he got into it, he seems to have gone back and drawn something that focuses on his cast of characters qua characters: Nixon, Spiro Agnew, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger reclining on a Florida beach surrounded by the paraphernalia of American idleness. (“Reclining” might be too generous of a description, too, since only Nixon himself has a body; Agnew and Mitchell are lumpy, dumpy heads and Kissinger appears simply as a pair of thick glasses; he is the “eyes” of Nixon throughout the latter part of the story, seeing him to ruin.)

Françoise Mouly presents and writes about a selection of Lorenzo Mattotti's New Yorker covers.

Lorenzo Mattotti’s covers for The New Yorker are featured in an exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute, which runs from February 6th through March 8th. The artist’s covers are created using oil pastels, his medium of choice. The pastels’ bright colors reproduce well—which is important for a magazine that prints more than a million copies weekly. They also create a texture that helps viewers to imagine the artist’s hand layering color over color. All of Mattotti’s images pack the graphic punch of a poster by expressing a strong idea through a perfectly poised composition. A viewer’s eye is skillfully directed to a snowball, or a central figure, or a road that winds through a colorful landscape.


—News.
Drawn & Quarterly has announced a new publishing fellowship program, beginning this summer.

Drawn & Quarterly is pleased to announce a publishing fellowship that will focus on all facets of the book business: editorial; production and design; marketing and sales; and retail. The paid position will be in the company’s Mile-Ex office in Montreal, Monday through Thursday, 32 hours a week, 9:30-5:30. The fellowship will be offered biannually: a winter fellow (mid-January through mid-June) with an application deadline of October 1; and a summer fellow (mid-July through mid-November) with an application deadline of March 1. The fellow will interact with all departments and be invited to sit in on meetings.

 

The Bocce Ball Boys

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got Noah Berlatsky stopping by to interview Dr. Kate Polak about her recently released book of essays examining comics of the historical fiction bent. We'll be running an excerpt from the book tomorrow that focuses on a portion of Hellblazer that I read on my honeymoon, because for some reason I wanted to bring Mike Carey's run of Hellblazer with me to the beach instead of a swimsuit. For those of you who are wondering why Noah is here--for those of you working in the Fantagraphics office, for example--him remembering my fondness for Mike Carey's Hellblazer comics and then manipulating me through that memory is in no small part. 

In your discussion of J. P. Stassen's comic Deogratias about the Rwandan genocide, you say that the comic through point of view makes it difficult to empathize with Deogratias, the main character who participated in the genocide. Is denial of empathy a denial of ethical investment? Don't we need empathy in order to have a moral commitment?

No! (laughs) No! I go a little bit into this in the book. I don't buy empathy as anything related to morality. Empathy is consonant with immorality. It has no ethical valence.

Torturers are great empathizers because they know what's going to make that person hurt the most. People who are highly manipulative are very good at empathizing because they're very good at getting into your head and figuring out how you feel about something and able to take advantage of you. That's empathy.

We like to think of empathy as this pop psychology term, where if only we felt like another person feels then we would behave differently. But I don't think that's true.

My little personal old home week continues, with a review of Nobrow's latest installment in the Geis series by Brian Nicholson. Anyone who believes that I can tell Nicholson what to think clearly doesn't know how violently I disagree with his (very wrong!) opinions about Copra though, so feel free to drink in his praise for Alexis Deacon without the slightest concern that my memory of paychecks has somehow infected this excellent review.

What a relief for the reader to take in the pages of Alexis Deacon's fantasy series Geis. Deacon is primarily a children's book illustrator, and the Geis series constitutes his first graphic novels. Here the painted color and soft pastel palette seem natural to the story's setting within the past. It feels like the light is pouring through castle windows, or supplied by candles. The relief is not just in the way the palette soothes the eye. As we see these things that never existed, we are convinced that this is how they should look. The art makes such a strong case for its aesthetic choices as to convert those who might be skeptical of subject matter of sorcery and curses, castles and kingdoms. Looking at the pages, I feel none of the revulsion I so often feel when looking at fantasy images. There are neither dragons nor elves, and there are no over-sexualized figures coexisting alongside anthropomorphic animals. Just robes and complicated hats as far as the eye can see.

ELSEWHERE: You motherfuckers into donuts? In the lead up to the launch of Andy Diggle's Shadowman #1, Valiant Comics hopes the answer is yes. If you're interested in checking out these official Shadowman donuts, you'll have to make your way to the upcoming ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting for Valiant's presentation on their upcoming titles. The donuts will be made available then, t0 all who are interested in finding out whether or not Andy Diggle is alive, and if he is, what comics he is writing. You can see an official picture (from the press release) of what the donuts will look like below. 

 

Fun Time

Today on the site, Sloane Leong is back with a second round of Comics Dragnet, gathering up webcomics and genre adventures and critiquing them with an artist's eye. One of the comics this time is The Firelight Isle:

A fantasy coming-of-age story set in a pseudo-South Asian-ish culture that follows a pair of childhood friends undergoing their first adulthood rites. It feels like I've been checking in on this webcomic for over a decade but its only been around for a handful of years in existence. Sixteen chapters have been drawn but the story doesn’t seem to have progressed beyond an unaffecting first act. I'm all for taking your time with your work but that remoteness, especially online, can take a heavy toll, both on the reader and the comic itself with the energy waning into a dull fizzle despite Firelight just hitting its first larger narrative development recently. The idea of perfection in comics is often a creative red herring, something to distract you from getting to the truth of your story. If you don’t have truth or beauty, then what is there? I don’t inherently dislike all meticulously rendered art in comics but something about succinct, vivacious, definitive linework has always translated truth and beauty better in comics than micromanaged complexity, which usually falls short of the baroque, and ends up in some awkward in-between state.

...

And Leonard Pierce is here, too, with a review of Tommi Parrish's The Lie and How We Told It.

The Lie and How We Told It draws its name from a song by Yo La Tengo, and the comparisons kept nagging at me while reading the book:  with that particular band, you were always taking a chance whether, in performance, you would get them at the height of their expressive powers or a night of feedback-drenched noise that was only enjoyable to them.  This was especially pronounced by the 2000s, when they settled into a comfortable haze of soundtrack albums and cover songs, some of them made for the film genre suitably known as mumblecore.  For those who don’t remember that particular eructation of American cinema, it mostly revolved around middle-class white people who had a very difficult time making their feelings known to one another, to the detriment of everyone else around them.  Despite it being a decidedly acquired taste, the genre has been oddly persistent and has lately turned up in quantity on second-tier television networks.

Reading through The Lie, it’s almost impossible not to notice its deeply 2000s-ish feel, and while it dresses up its relationships in the complexities of a genderqueer woman and a man in deep denial about his own conflicted sexuality, it’s still that same old story of people who spend all their time not being able to say what’s on their minds.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Paul Morton writes at length about Jules Feiffer and his editorial relationship with Hugh Hefner.

Hefner, himself an aspiring cartoonist in his youth, had wanted to make Playboy a showcase for cartooning talent comparable to The New Yorker. Still, Feiffer’s work didn’t fit with that of other artists Hefner was recruiting at the time. A typical Playboy cartoon featured an unattractive male and a cartoon version of a Playboy model. If the reader recognized himself, he recognized his imperfect body. On the one hand, the cartoons poked fun at the reader’s low physical status. On the other, they indulged his fantasies, his belief that beautiful women were a right to enjoy as much as good food, books, and music. The magazine’s bullpen in the late 1950s included Jack Cole, most famous as the creator of Plastic Man, and the Mad genius Harvey Kurtzman. Cole and Kurtzman’s lusciously colored cartoons for Playboy indulged their adolescent souls. Their work had little in common with Feiffer’s black-and-white sequential narratives, energetic dialogues, and twisting monologues.

From Hefner’s letters, it seems Feiffer was a hard get. The magazine celebrated a materialist, swinging culture that divorced aesthetics from morality. Feiffer’s work did not. Hefner assured Riley that Feiffer would not have to change his point of view. He only asked that Feiffer agree to not publish at any magazine that could be considered a Playboy competitor. He could keep his strip in the Voice. Feiffer agreed.

Brian Nicholson reviews Rich Tommaso's Spy Seal.

Rich Tommaso has been publishing comics for over twenty years, but by his own account, he never got as strong and immediate a response to his work as he did when he posted a little sketch of Spy Seal, a character he had created as a child, to social media. Fans did cosplay, animation studios offered development deals if a comic could demonstrate proof of concept. Tommaso launched the series through Image Comics, who had previously put out the crime and horror comics he had made, and pretty immediately a panic set in, as serialized installments did not actually sell that well. There was a discrepancy between the “popular demand” as the author imagined it and what the Image audience was willing and prepared to pay for. People assured him: It’s not a book for the comic shop market. It’s a comic that, when completed and in bookstores, would find its ideal audience. That book now exists, printed at the dimensions of a Tintin book, and we can now all collectively discover what it is that Spy Seal actually is: The comic is an outgrowth of a sketch, which seemed to imply a world and a tone, but how exactly do those things manifest in an actual narrative with a beginning, middle, and end?

The Onion profiles a local man who prefers comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about government-engineered agents of war.

Local man Jeremy Land reportedly voiced his preference Thursday for comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about people forced to undergo body- and mind-altering experiments that transform them into government agents of war. “I’m tired of simply trying to enjoy escapist stories in which people are tortured and experimented upon at black sites run by authoritarian governments, only to have the creators cram political messages down my throat,” said Land, 31, who added that Marvel’s recent additions of female, LGBTQ, and racially diverse characters to long-running story arcs about tyrannical regimes turning social outsiders into powerful killing machines felt like PC propaganda run amok.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Library of American Comics podcast is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library's Caitlin McGurk, and the latest guest on Inkstuds is Eric Reynolds from Fantagraphics.

 

Carved out, in the giant landscape of broken rocks

We started this week with our Mort Walker obituary, and we're closing it out with RC Harvey's Mort Walker interview from 2009. You couldn't ask for a more immersive dive into the man's life than the one Harvey took--make the time for this one, you won't regret it.

That was funny. Not so long ago, I had an exhibit at the State Department, and Colin Powell said he wanted to meet me, so Cathy and I were introduced to him in his office. He was so friendly and everything. He said, “I read your strip.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “Oh yeah. I remember when Lt. Flap came in, the first strip. The first thing he said was, ‘How come there are no blacks in this honky outfit?’” He laughed and laughed. [Harvey laughs.] So I was very flattered to know that Colin Powell had read the strip and was interested in it. So we had a good time talking about it.

That's not the only look back we've got for you, of course--it's time for your weekly dose of Tegan O'Neil. This week, she's got the latest installment of Ice Cream For Bedwetters, with a deep dive into the rarely talked about era of Green Arrow when the longtime liberal character turned into...well, something else. 

All well and good, as far as it goes. There’s no arguing that the direction was a productive one for the character, as much of it stuck to this day. The Oliver Queen on the enduringly popular Arrow TV show owes more to Grell’s version of the character, certainly, than Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams “socially conscious” version from the 60s or Jack Kirby’s sci-fi Batman interpretation from the 50s. The main difference between Green Arrow and Marvel’s Hawkeye was always that Hawkeye was a dude whose main power was bluffing, and that’s how he stands shoulder to shoulder with Thor and Captain America. Green Arrow, though, was out of place next to Superman and the Flash, and the reason why is that subsequent generations of creators told us so all the damn time. He sometimes served as the conscience for the Justice League, pointing out that they should be doing a better job by the little people they were ostensibly protecting. But you can only hector Superman for not caring about the little guy so many times before he loses his super-patience and puts you out an airlock of the satellite, because Starro’s coming over and a guy whose main power is righteous indignation is of limited utility against the fury of the Star Conqueror. 

Ah, but as we come into the weekend, let's get locked back into the future--at least for a bit. And we'll do that with Aug Stone's review of Mister Morgan, a recent graphic novel release from Conundrum by Igor Hofbauer.

Hofbauer is also a master of presenting many different psychological aspects at once. This occurs even in the shortest stories but is particularly true of the two major works in this collection, ‘Olympia’ and ‘Plastika’. Each a tour de force, these two vast worlds complement each other like shadows. Both are meditations on the interaction and interconnection between artists and their publics. And like the rest of Hofbauer’s work, what lies only millimeters beneath the already darkened surface is sinister and gruesome.

To creepy? I feel ya. Why don't you kick back and read about Andy Kaufman, who has risen from the dead in the graphic novel form, via Box Brown and First Second. Box Brown? Box Brown, indeed.

And finally, because it was interesting to find out: NPD Bookscan is going to start running four monthly graphic novel bestseller list over at ICv2, in what many--well, me, I think this--are interpreting as a bit of a response to the loss of the NYT Bestseller list that used to cover that same categories. The four lists will cover Superhero, Manga, Kids and Author, and anyone can read the charts. If you want to see the actual numbers of copies sold, you'll need a Pro Account for that. (Or you can use an NPD account and see everything, including the numbers of copies sold or not sold by people you're obsessed with out of spite.) It'll be interesting to see  the data used by people as a point of reference when writing about how the thing they like is better than the thing they think you like.

Wait, will that be interesting?