Is That a Shadow?

Hi there. Frank Santoro's column this week looks at two very different artists: Marc Bell and Jason Karns.

Elsewhere online:

Lauren Weinstein has a masterpiece of a comic on Mutha Magazine. She may be on vacation with my co-editor, but that's great work.

There was a lot of Jack Kirby birthday activity. Scott Dunbier shares a story. Chris Sims shows off a Kirby-character sketchbook. And Tom Spurgeon posts his annual array of great images.

Michael Cavna talks to Oni Hartstein.

Darryl Ayo Brathwaite answers a question posed by David Brothers.

And advice from Bill Watterson in comics form.


Sing That Song

Today on the site, Robert Steibel makes debuts a new monthly column devoted to the story texts Jack Kirby wrote on the margins of his pencil art. It's predictably epic.

For the last three years I’ve been doing a daily weblog about Jack Kirby called Kirby Dynamics which was my version of the Daily Show meets Saturday Night Live focused on the life and work of Jack Kirby — I covered news stories and analyzed the history while also trying to have fun along the way. For a bunch of reasons I decided to pull the plug on that project, but as we move towards Jack’s 100th birthday I still wanted to keep my toe in the water, so my thanks to the editors of The Comics Journal for giving me a chance to do a monthly column I’m calling “Jack Kirby: Behind The Lines.” It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to honor Jack’s career here at The Comics Journal. As long as comics are being written and drawn I’m sure TCJ will be at the vanguard of comics scholarship and comics journalism.  I’ll try not to ruin their website.

The reason I picked the over-used cliché “behind the lines” for this series is probably going to be pretty obvious. Each month I’m going to take a look at Jack Kirby original pencils and examples of Kirby original art — images that reveal information not in the final newsprint publications. I may also take a look at some scans of Jack’s pencils from the 70s and compare those to the printed books. Mainly I want to focus on Jack’s famous margin notes from his 1960s work so we can get a glimpse into the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee collaboration.

I’m also calling the column “behind the lines” because Jack literally fought behind enemy lines during the second world war. Jack served in the 3rd army, 5th division under General Geroge S. Patton. Here is a photo of Jack at basic training in Camp Stewart, Georgia, July, 1944.

Elsewhere online:

Speaking of Kirby, MTV Geek has a week devoted to his characters.

I can't resist this. (Sorry).

Shaenon Garrity on

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More audio: The Joe Shuster Awards from last weekend.

This Kickstarter campaign looks intriguing...


Mensa Level

Well, Tim is on vacation this week so I'll try to steer this ship solo. Today on the site Joe McCulloch will regale you with tales of new comics along with a sure-footed digression.

Elsewhere on the internet:

An interview with British cartoonist Chris Reynolds.

Comics-related: The New Yorker rounds up vintage typography blogs.

Comics-related-more-or-less: This collection of reactions to a new Batman actor is pretty funny. Funny that's it serious, I mean.

USA Today on Top Shelf PR for John Lewis' book.

And some rules by Tom Spurgeon: Immortalized in comics.


Gallons to Go

Today on the site:

R.C. Harvey profiles and interviews longtime, multi-career cartoonist Dick Locher. Here's Locher on the beginning of his time with Dick Tracy:

Harvey: What did you do on the strip?

Locher: I did all the backgrounds. I was with him for four-and-a-half years, and in the last year, his wife Edna came to him and said, We’re going to Hawaii. And he said, No, I’m not. He never took a vacation.Never. He’d take a day off, but no vacation. She says, We’re going to Hawaii. And he says, No, we’re not.And she says, Dick’s going to put in the figures for you. And he said, No, he isn’t. [Laughter] He never let anyone touch the figures. And she insisted. So I did the figures while he was gone for a week. And he came back, and he looked at ’em like that [over his glasses], and he took a razor blade and scraped a lot of them off and said, Naw, that’s not right. But he didn’t scrape all of them off. He liked some of my drawings. And he let me do more and more. His brother did all the lettering. Ray. And I did all the backgrounds and helped with story. He used my story about Tracy stranded in the canyon with Professor Whitehall from Scotland Yard. He liked that story.

Harvey: Oh, was that the one where they were stranded on an island in a canyon with steep, unclimbable walls, right?

Locher: Yes. His theory, and I give him a lot of credit for this practice, was, Let’s put Tracy’s ass in jeopardy. And I said, Let’s have him on a deserted island. Good idea, he said—I haven’t done that before.How’ll we get him there? Well, I said, let’s have him on a plane with a hijacker who makes him jump. And he said, Fine. It was his idea to put Whitehall there. He’d been there for a long time and he’d lost weight.He was skinny, had a white beard, long white hair. Now, Gould says, how are we going to get him out of here? That was right about the time the U.S. Army was doing a lot of missile firing, so I said, Let’s have a wayward missile land in the canyon and the army will follow it, find Tracy, and take them out of there. So that’s what we did. It was fun. I was sitting on a cloud.


Tom Spurgeon talks to Daniel Clowes Reader-editor and TCJ-contributor Ken Parille.

Lisa Hanawalt interviewed about some funny logos.

And: Comic book pages photographed.



Today on the site Carter Scholz returns to review Dash Shaw's New School.

The most radically innovative feature of New School is its thick overlays of color that at times all but obscure the drawing and lettering underneath.  There is a definite vocabulary to these overlays.  They’re entirely absent from the New Jersey chapter, except for a dark blue/ochre mix used to signify Danny’s precognitive dreams.  (He dreams blockbuster movies yet to be released: Jurassic Park and X-Men.)  A variety of palettes and patterns occupy the other chapters, with less clear significance; sometimes they’re clearly reflective of Danny’s mood, but it’s hard to say why chapter 4, for instance, favors dots, plaids, and checkers.  In the last two chapters, photos are used, which creates a more direct counterpoint between the two layers of images.


The Secret Acres gang has a comprehensive Autoptic round-up.

The latest on the newest iteration of Wonder Woman.

And iPads and publishing visual books.


The Shallow End

Today in Riff Raff, Frank Santoro explains what will happen when you try to sell your comic book collection.

Louie was astonished. He showed us old X-Men comics that had $15 price tags on them. Comics that had $20 price tags on them. Lots of them. Spahr looked up one of the comics on eBay. X-Men #137. The death of Phoenix. The last copy, in a similar condition, went for $2. Shipping was more expensive than the book itself.

Then Rob Kirby reviews Julie Delporte's Journal:

Over the span of roughly a year (Feb 2011 to Oct 2012), Delporte chronicled the emotionally chaotic, physically taxing aftermath of a breakup, examining and illustrating her emotions, flights of fancy, memories, and ups and downs in quick but minute detail. With her poetic visual acumen, Delporte takes you places you may have been before, but makes them all a lot prettier. Unlike the effectively stark black and white panels of fellow Koyama Press author Jane Mai, who delineates her bouts with anxiety and depression in Sunday in the Park with Boys, Delporte’s pages are gorgeously rendered in soft, radiantly colored pencils that belie the quiet grief at their core.


—Ng Suat Tong writes about Randall Munroe's "Time".

—I missed this Chris Ware live webchat with Guardian readers.

—I also missed this short update/profile of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, now living in exile in Kuwait.

—Laura Sneddon writes for The New Statesman about the political dimension of recent comics, talking to Joe Sacco, Stephen Collins, Paul Cornell, and Grant Morrison. And then she talks to Morrison again for The Guardian, but this time focuses primarily on his upcoming Wonder Woman.

—Those who like web fights might want to check out Heidi MacDonald's post on the gory variant covers of certain Avatar comic books.

And now I'm off for a week's vacation, leaving you in Dan's ever-steady, responsible hands.


Trash Fun

Today on the site Tom Scioli rejoins us with a close look at Silver Surfer #1 (1968):

Silver Surfer #1 is a comic worth examining closely. It has a lot of things colliding at once. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back in Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s working relationship. The Silver Surfer series is possibly John Buscema’s finest moment. It’s Stan Lee’s first big self-conscious stab at creating something ambitious and meaningful. It’s also a good example of what Lee’s writing is like when you subtract Kirby or Ditko from the equation. There are some interesting narrative flourishes, but also a leaden storytelling instinct and deep misunderstanding of his own co-creations.

This isn’t the first time I read this comic. It’s the second. My copy is coverless and was previously owned by David Hazelwood who signed it. I wasn’t about to shell out big bucks for the comic that made Jack Kirby leave Marvel.

And elsewhere... four links that will take you places to look at things. And that should hold you over if nothing else.

Early 1970s Bill Everett inky depths.

Johnny Ryan's latest masterpiece.

Sister Corita Kent gets a new monograph.

Providence newspaper Mother's News goes the route with its, uh, archive.


Travel Time

First thing this morning, take an astral trip to tomorrow's comic shop new-releases shelf with Joe McCulloch, who will point out the most intriguing titles and tell you a little about them. Before that, he will try to buttonhole you with a mini-essay on webcomics. Your call on whether or not to listen (no one can see you through your computer -- or at least we can't), but I've found it's almost always a rewarding experience.

After that, you're going to want to get some place comfortable and block out some time to read, because Jeff Trexler is here with a massively informative article, "Taking Back the Kirby Case", which not only recaps the recent Marvel v. Kirby ruling, but takes you through the whole judicial history of work-for-hire and explores a long-shot legal strategy that might get the Kirbys their copyrights. This is highly recommended:

[As] I re-read last week's opinion affirming that Jack Kirby's Marvel material was work made for hire, I started noticing certain aspects of the three-judge panel's reasoning that made me wonder if there were more to this case than just another reason for creators to feel discouraged. For example, in her 2011 summary judgment opinion against the Kirbys, Judge Colleen McMahon began with a most unusual disclaimer, all but apologizing for the fact that her ruling was grounded in law, not fairness. The appellate court made no such distinction. Instead, its Marvel v. Kirby opinion sent the clear message that its ruling was fair and just.

This face-off over fairness was both a challenge and a clue. Could it be that the case has exposed fundamental problems not merely with how Marvel treated Kirby, but with the law itself?

The answer to this question could determine whether the Kirby family has any chance of having the appellate court ruling reversed. Unlike the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court does not have to rule on every case submitted for review. Instead, it grants certiorari to — that is to say, it accepts — only a small percentage of the thousands of petitions it receives every year. Its basis for choosing a particular case typically goes beyond a factual dispute, such as whether Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Steve Ditko deserves the most credit for creating Spider-Man. Instead, the Court looks for a legal issue on which appellate courts disagree or that raises important constitutional concerns.

The following analysis is one possible approach.


—There are a of UK-based links right now, probably due to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Guardian has a profile of Anders Nilsen, and samples from the sketchbooks of Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Rutu Modan, and Chris Ware.

There are also videos from Ware and Joe Sacco's appearances at the festival, which I found via FP.

—Also from across the Atlantic, the Glasgow Herald-Scotland has a list of the "50 greatest graphic novels of all time". It's a weird but solid list, in that I don't think many would pick these fifty books in this particular order as their own top 50, but the books are worth reading, so it is more useful than a lot of these lists.

—Also in list news, Spin has declared that two of the worst cultural moments of the '90s were related to comics.

—The New Yorker blog has seven cartoons from Egypt.

—Graeme McMillan tells the readers of Time about Jack Kirby, and Douglas Wolk goes to Slate to tackle that old, old playground debate: who's better, Marvel or DC?

—The CBLDF has posted the speech Charles Brownstein gave on manga freedom in Tokyo.

—The L.A. Times reviewed the new Optic Nerve from Adrian Tomine.

—Joe McCulloch and Janean Patience have part three of their Marshal Law conversation.

—And finally, Chris Butcher talks a little bit more about DC's Villains Month cover promotion.