Touch the Sky

Today on the site: Part two of Paul Tumey's epic exploration of the life and work of George Carlson.

George Carlson’s sensibility comes not from comic books, nor from newspaper comics – but instead from a rich mix of early 20th century commercial art, book/magazine illustration, game design, and advertising. Much of Carlson’s work is primarily concerned with appealing to and nurturing the minds of children with an emphasis on stimulating the imagination.

Generally, when we read golden age comic book stories, we have – I think – a predisposition toward a certain context that one could say mainly revolves around the myth of the hero’s journey, issues of morality and justice, and the shadow side of sexuality – a context that is very much alive and well in current American culture.

This 1917 war-time poster by George Carlson shows a mastery of early twentieth century graphic design styles

The “quirky” Carlson’s “genyoowine” sensibility emerges from a completely different context, one that is grounded both in early twentieth century graphic design and in classic children’s literature from Lewis Carroll to Edward Lear to Mark Twain (all of whom Carlson illustrated). What seems quirky in the world of comics is utterly mainstream in the larger world of classic children’s literature. It makes perfect sense, then, that Art Spiegelman said that Carlson’s work was one of the raisons d’etre for the creation of the TOON Treasury, a book that is intended to frame kid’s comics as part of the continuum of “classic” children’s literature.

The only other early comics work I know of that shares Carlson’s grounding in children’s classics is the late 1930’s comics published by David McKay, who published such literary giants as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and Beatrix Potter. Founded in 1882, David McKay’s Philadelphia-based publishing house was rooted in a different context than most comic book publishers based in New York.


Forbidden Planet reviews Love & Rockets: The Covers.

Gil Roth interviews Peter Bagge. Brian Heater interviews Kim Deitch.

A nice photoset from last weekend's APE.

Two reports on NYCC. One from The Beat and one from Wired. And further reporting on harassment incidents at NYCC from The Beat and commentary from Tom Spurgeon.

Chris Mautner reviews three recent books.

And here's a video of the Jeff Smith Q&A from this year's SPX.



I Awaken to Darkness

Joe McCulloch is back with the Week in Comics column, in which he highlights the week's most interesting-sounding new releases, and this time, he warms up by putting on his movie-reviewer hat (and shoes and cape):

Contrary to popular belief, I don't just sit around watching cartoons all day; sometimes, I watch live-action films that are sort of about cartoons. You may have heard of writer/director Randy Moore's Escape from Tomorrow - it was a *huge* thing in movie critic circles at the Sundance Film Festival, insofar as much of the film was shot in secret at Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland Park in Anaheim via actors performing their scenes in the midst of actual crowds, filmed with concealed cameras at certain preplanned times of the day to ensure adequate lighting. Nothing quite aggravates the hothouse scene of a film fest like a movie that looks like it might find itself suppressed outside of Park City, and hype built accordingly. However, Disney has not made any legal challenge to the film, which seems to have performed rather poorly on its formal release this past weekend, grossing less than 1/10th of its $650,000 production budget.


—Interviews. Chris Ware talks to The Guardian, and Maria Scrivan talks to Mike Lynch.

—Reviews. Abhay Khosla doesn't like Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus. Rachel Cooke loves Isabel Greenberg's Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Amelia Moulis reviews Rutu Modan's The Property. Chris Mautner mini-reviews Ed Piskor, A Treasury of Mini-Comics, and Bill Everett. Rob Clough reviews so many comics. Cefn Ridout reviews Ben Katchor and Gilbert Hernandez.

—Misc. Jason T. Miles shares many things.

And finally, Dash Shaw:



Today on the site it's R.C. Harvey profiling the great Sergio Aragones.

Astonishingly, he draws directly on the paper with a pen, relying upon barely penciled roughs for only the vaguest guidance. And he seldom re-draws anything: “I see the gag in my head and it goes directly to the finished drawing stage.”

Again and again he successfully pulls the same stunt: he presents a puzzle, often building it in a succession of pictures in strip form, and then, in the last picture, he “explains” the puzzle. And we laugh at the ingenuity of the contrivance.

Sometimes though, he draws a picture that is, simply, in-and-of-itself, funny. The people in the picture look funny: Sergio’s typical humanoid begins with a big-nose visage and doodles down through a squat body to the stilt-like legs that seem grafted on at the bottom of the body, all balanced on flat not necessarily large feet. His anatomy is cartoon anatomy, but his cartoony people are doing ordinary human things, and they are being forever fooled and flummoxed by their fellow creatures or by circumstances over which they have absolutely no control. And we laugh at their endless frustrations. And then, a second or so later, we realize that we’re laughing at ourselves.

Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan has been reported killed.

Anya Davidson interviewed at Bad at Sports.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Ben Catmull.

Paul Gravett interviews Enki Bilal.

A Joe Sacco primer.

And a fascinating glimpse at the problems entailed in writing about Shel Silverstein for an academic press.






Today, for any of you tired of the Lee/Kirby debate that continues to rage, Rob Kirby (no relation, I assume) tells us all about the Latvian comics anthology, š! #14. Here's a sample of his presentation:

The theme for this latest issue is sports, which at first seems surprisingly conventional, coming from an anthology with past themes such as “Female Secrets” and “Midnight Sun.” Happily, the comics inside are anything but ordinary. Many of the š! creators seem to delight in presenting warped or heightened realities that veer from lighthearted whimsy to dark and downbeat.

I’ve slowly become familiar with the work of many of the contributing artists, some of whom have become favorites. It’s a treat to see König Lü. Q. and Lai Tat Tat Wing included here (I believe the former is in every edition), two artists who couldn’t be more dissimilar in style and content. Lü. Q. traffics in silly or non sequitur one-page strips with simple, childlike drawings, a type of comics I’ve always found irresistible. His “Real Quidditch” strip is a deadpan take on the Harry Potter series sans the “magic.” Meanwhile, “Taken” by Lai Tat Tat Wing, features another of the artist’s delightfully trippy identity-swapping, reality-changing narratives, drawn with a playful rather than stuffy formalism. His work would have fit neatly in RAW back in the day, no problem.


—Interviews. Jeet Heer appears on Inkstuds to discuss his monograph on Françoise Mouly. The Guardian interviews Joe Sacco about his new WWI book, The Great War. (They have a preview of the book, too.) And Michael Cavna at the Washington Post asks Jeff Smith about his new place on the CBLDF board.

—History & Profiles. BK Munn writes an obituary for the Canadian editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson. Mike Lynch has a few links regarding a new book on Archie cartoonist Bob Montana. Daily Ink has a short post on Mandrake artist Phil Davis. And I don't know why, but I'm getting major deja vu vibes off this Slate article on the history of swearing in comic strips.

—Other Stuff. Tom Spurgeon reviews the new Bill Everett collection. It is fun to read an article in mainstream media going on and on about how well comic books handle ethnic and sexual diversity compared to movies. If true, this is kinda hilarious, too, though in a different way. Finally, Rob Kirby, today's reviewer, is trying to fund a new LGBT-themed anthology via Kickstarter.


Admit It

Frank Santoro files his column from the road.

And James Romberger reviews In the Days of the Mob.


A new book on Bob Montana outside of Archie. Mike Lynch's announcement of the book includes this quote, which is the best I've read about comics in a long while:

"Bob didn't want his friends to think he was all about the comic strip," said Anderson. "One of his friends told me that he used to say, 'What kind of person would you think I was if my ego and self worth were wrapped up in a comic strip?'"

What kind of person indeed?

Comics repression in Egypt.

Writer-about-comics Gene Kannenberg, Jr. podcasts.

A preview of Brandon Graham's new Multiple Warheads rarities collection.

Darryl Ayo Brathwaite on cartoonists as human beings.

Rob Liefeld on the halcyon days of the X-Men.

More love for Ed Piskor from his hometown paper.

Not comics: The great film critic Stanley Kauffmann passed away and James Wolcott and David Denby pay tribute to him.



Big Books

Paul Tumey is back today with a new column trying to make sense of the long and varied career of George Carlson. Here's a snippet:

In the year 8113 A.D., the most remembered cartoonist of our time may not be any of our currently revered comics creators. Not Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, or Chris Ware. As incredible as it may seem, long after the last comic books of our time have crumpled into dust, the cartoonist of our era that People of The Future will dig (perhaps literally) could be a guy named George Carlson -- an under-appreciated, largely overlooked cartoonist, illustrator, game designer, and graphic artist extraordinaire who will finally get his due with the forthcoming release of Perfect Nonsense: The Chaotic Comics and Goofy Games of George Carlson by Daniel Yezbick. The spirit of George Carlson's playful, surreal world can be seen in everything from Pee-wee's Playhouse to 24-hour comics.

People of the distant future may know about Carlson not because of Yezbick’s book (although it’d be nice to think so), but more likely because of the Crypt of Civilization, a room-sized time capsule that lies underneath what is currently known as Oglethorpe University, in Atlanta, Georgia.

When future human beings pry open the rusty door of the Crypt, they will see plaques on the walls created by George Carlson. The bold, Art Deco graphics on the plaques, barely visible in the photograph of the Crypt’s interior, are presented in a manner that looks back in time to the hieroglyphs seen on the walls of ancient Egyptian burial chambers. In 1940, the Crypt’s creator, Oglethorpe University president Dr. Thornwell Jacobs set the year for the time capsule’s opening at 8113 A.D. - exactly the same amount of years into the future as the number of years spanning backwards in time from 1940 to the oldest known Egyptian tomb.


—Profiles & Interviews. Steven Heller profiles Sunday Press publisher Peter Maresca. Rebecca Meiser at Cleveland magazine profiles Joyce Brabner about her handling of Harvey Pekar's legacy, her sometimes prickly relationships with collaborators, and her own upcoming work. I can't wait to listen to Gil Roth's interview with Drew Friedman. Missed this earlier, but Last Gasp has begun a series of Weirdo: Where Are They Now? mini-profiles of Weirdo contributors.

Fangoria's Philip Nutman, who also worked as a comics writer and editor, has passed away.

—JC Menu has sent in his tribute to Kim Thompson. We've added it to the Thompson tributes page here on the site.

—Anime News Network reports on the cancellation of Barefoot Gen translator Alan Gleason's appearance at a Japanese school, apparently partially due to ongoing political controversy over Keiji Nakazawa's work.

—Jessica Abel & Matt Madden have released the longlist of Notable Comics for Houghton Mifflin's Best American Comics of 2013.

—The Columbus Dispatch reports on the expansion of the Billy Ireland museum.

—Tom Spurgeon has posted an early review of Joe Sacco's The Great War.

—And finally, Peggy Burns and the D&Q store appear briefly in this video:


Contradictory Impulses

It's Tuesday, so Joe McCulloch is here to give you the goods on the week's more interesting releases.

Guess who has a Tumblr? The aforementioned Mr. McCulloch, that's who.

I didn't know about the YouTube channel for the forthcoming book The Secret History of Marvel Comics.

The great Al Jaffee's archives are going to Columbia University.

Tom Spurgeon reviews The Best of EC volume 1, Artist's Edition. And Treasury of Mini-Comics, reviewed.

Finally, we've all felt this way.



Today our webcomics columnist Shaenon Garrity writes about a new favorite of hers, Dana Simpson's Heavenly Nostrils.

Elsewhere, the comics internet is filled almost entirely with interviews.

Prairie Dog talks to Jeet Heer about his new book on Françoise Mouly:

I wrote an article for the National Post about 10 years ago where I was trying to describe Art Spiegelman’s career as an editor. I had written: ‘Leaving Françoise Mouly aside for a moment, Art Spiegelman’s achievements are blah, blah blah’. My partner, quite rightly, called me on that, and asked ‘Why are you leaving Françoise Mouly aside? She was as important at RAW magazine as Art Spiegelman.’ And that really got me thinking because I had been aware of Françoise my whole life, and respected her and the magazine that she did, but I’d never written about her. For every one article that anyone has ever written about Francoise, there are at least 500 to 1,000 articles written about her husband.

Alex Deuben at CBR talks to Rutu Modan and Ramona Fradon.

Here's Fradon:

I believe that Marie Severin and I were the only women drawing superheroes at the time. It's funny that she was drawing Sub-Mariner while I was drawing Aquaman. People always used to ask me if I knew her, but I didn't meet her until years later, at a convention. I didn't work in a bullpen like Marie did so, aside from being uncomfortable with male fantasies and the violent subject matter. I never really experienced what it was like being the only woman working in a man's world.

The School Library Journal talks to Hope Larson. And CBC talks to Miriam Katin.

And Michael May at Robot 6 had the bright idea of talking to retailer Mike Sterling in the aftermath to DC's Villains Month:

I was generally okay with it, with my reaction split between the comic fan in me (“Oh, those sound like fun!”) and the retailer in me (“Gee, great, can’t wait to figure out my order numbers on these”). That latter reaction sounds more serious than I actually felt. It’s more like, well, there go the publishers, making my life more difficult again! Whaddaya gonna do?