Unexpected Delays

Frank Santoro returns this week with a tour diary packed with adventures.


As usual, D&Q does travel reports in the very best way.

A new David Mazzucchelli short comic previewed over here.

TCJ-contributor Ken Parille's The Daniel Clowes Reader, reviewed.

More on Frederic Wertham from Michael Dooley at Print.

Apparently yesterday was National Comics Book Day.



Head Full of Snot

Today, we bring you Gary Groth's 1991 interview with with one of the truly great raconteur cartoonists, Arnold Roth. Here's one of many excellent exchanges:

ROTH: I wanted to do humor. I was frothing at the mouth to get in The New Yorker and they were very interested in what I had. An editor there went through my stuff, sort of giving me a critique. Finally, he said, “You know you keep making wise cracks. Are you sure you understand what I’m telling you?” I said, “Well, I think you’re telling me I should draw more like Cobean.” Sam Cobean was a terrific New Yorker cartoonist who had recently died in a car crash. He said, “You have to make up your mind if you want more than anything in the world to be a New Yorker cartoonist.” I said, “No, I want to screw and drink and smoke and cock around.” He looked at me and he was really serious. He repeated the question. I told him no and I never went back. That was the end of me, there.

GROTH: Why did you do that instead of giving him the “right” answer which would have been, “Yes, sir.”?

ROTH: I knew what their system was and I knew it was a system I didn’t like. I don’t like to do sketches. I don’t like to do things over and over. I don’t like it when they say things like, “If this guy’s finger was a little blunter, or this eye was straight …” I don’t work well under those circumstances. That doesn’t mean that I’m always right and they’re always wrong — but it’s my work. I have to make my mistakes my way, and when I make it good, make it good my way. Other people can work that system and they do terrific work. I would be miserable. I’d rather work in a grocery store — but I’d like to say where the cans go. [Laughter.]


—Lots of great-talker cartoonist interviews out right now, actually. Los Bros Hernandez talked to Bleeding Cool. Evan Dorkin & Peter Bagge talk to TMSIDK. I haven't read it yet, but Colleen Coover talked to Toucan.

—A truly enthusiastic Charles Hatfield is something to see. Here he enthuses about the upcoming anthology Cartozia Tales.

—Bart Croonenborghs compares Judge Dredd to Lt. Blueberry. Tom Spurgeon reviews Monster 2013 and Ullman & Brown's Old-Timey Hockey Tales.

—Only Tangentially Comics. The idea of "geek" or "nerd culture" may be the most purely corrosive force posed against us in the battle for truly relevant comics. Though their argument doesn't approach the idea from that angle, on the leftist journal Jacobin two writers are having a debate on the larger politics of geek culture.

—Not Comics. I missed this, but Lynda Barry reviewed Kathryn Davis's Duplex for The New York Times Book Review. She is as individual a critic as she is a cartoonist.



Today on the site Joe McCulloch will lead the way with a discussion of this week's funny book delights.


Plug alert: Tonight I'm interview Art Spiegelman live on stage at Housing Works in downtown NYC. It kicks off at 7 pm and Art will be signing books afterwards.

A report from the Jeff Smith/Paul Pope/Faith Erin Hicks panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Michael Dooley on Frederic Wertham's source material.

Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid's latest More To Come podcast is up, this time from SPX.



Today we bring you Rob Clough's review of Leslie Stein's second volume of Eye of the Majestic Creature:

Leslie Stein's fastidious, beautiful line continues to be put to good use in the second volume of her loosely connected semi-autobiographical stories, Eye Of The Majestic Creature. Indeed, this book is simply a collection of individual issues, though many of them were never actually published prior to this book. Stein works best in a short-story rhythm, and the covers and other artwork for individual issues work nicely as natural stopping points. For a work of magical realist autobiographical comics, having that kind of break makes sense for the reader. However, there are themes and through-lines in the book that make this collection a surprisingly coherent single package, documenting Stein's restlessness and search for identity.


—Reviews & Criticism. Chris Randle reviews the recently reissued keystone text Martin Vaughn-James's The Cage. Rob Clough looks at minicomics from Cara Bean. Brian Berger takes a short, sharp look at Drew Friedman.

—Interviews. Kim Deitch speaks. Alex Dueben talks to recent Ignatz winner and Oily Comics founder Charles Forsman.

—Festivals. Tom Spurgeon has turned in his usual report from SPX in twenty-six volumes. Bully the Stuffed Bull restrains his report to a few paragraphs. MIX is coming up this weekend, and video from some of last year's panels just went online. Here's Charles Hatfield talking Jack Kirby:

—Robert Boyd wonders why there isn't a comics department at MoMA.

—John Porcellino found some stuff in a box.

—Tom Devlin on Peter Bagge: now that's how you promote a comic on a promotional blog! Frank M. Young is no slouch on John Stanley, either.


Double Trouble

Walter Biggins reviews two recent Rocketeer books and how looks at how they expand on the original.

For all of The Rocketeer’s failures as a comic, it’s perhaps the most successful icon of the 1980s creator-owned boom. There’s so much promise and pizzazz in that chrome mask and jaunty pose that cartoonists return to Steven time and time again. Stevens built his comic on a flair for nostalgia—for a past that never was—which is a heartache that artists and readers have and long to feed. The nostalgia, I think, helps us glide over the comic’s narrative gaps and characterization issues. Those caesuras allow room for others to fill in the iconography with their own visions. The Rocketeer’s incompleteness and flaws become, then, a boon to a talented writer/artist team.

That leads us, finally, to the newbies: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom and Roger Langridge and J. Bone’s The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror. These Rocketeer graphic novels extend the brand—and what is an icon but a really successful brand, after all?—by improving on the source. These teams have fashioned two remarkably rewarding adventure comics, and honor Stevens’s creation by bettering it.


The Beat has a report on the SPX "Influence" panel.

Alan Moore on the BBC.

And Iron Bound reviewed at Paste.




Frank Santoro is all about SPX this week:

I've read a bunch of reports that point out how there are smaller scenes within scenes. A show for every taste. I think this feels new. Or newer. As someone who has done the show every year since 2005 that part is different. It was usually the usual suspects with some slow growth. For the last two or three years though we've seen things spread out and multiply. Exponentially. Not just more people but more representation from different genres of comics. League expansion. Like I said, a ton of new faces.

And all that is good. Great. However, I did have some conversations with smaller publishers and retailers about whether there may be a glass ceiling of sorts. Meaning there are more people vying for eyes and dollars from the same relatively small readership. Let's remember the number one buyers of small press comics are small press makers. Those new faces may be making but they all might not be buying, know what I mean?

We also have the latest High-Low column from Rob Clough, who's devoted his space this month to the work of students during the first year of the Sequential Artists Workshop:

The Sequential Artists Workshop, or SAW, was founded just over a year ago by Tom Hart. After a long stint at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he struck out on his own to Gainesville in order to start teaching workshops as well as a year-round curriculum. In a small, intimate setting with a teacher as passionate about the art as Hart, his first class of students became akin to a comics tribe. Indeed, many of the artists went out with Hart to get SAW tattoos! As at the Center for Cartoon Studies and many other comics schools that don't focus on mainstream comics, there's an emphasis on self-publishing. Hart sent me a variety of minicomics from four of his students.


—Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat talks to REORIENT. Paul Gravett talks to relatively new British cartoonist Isabel Greenberg.

—I'm not completely sure why this open letter to DC from an unhappy fan is resonating so strongly on the internet, as little of it is really new, but for whatever reason, whether good timing or good writing, it's struck a real nerve, and might strike yours too, if you haven't been paying attention already.

—Gilbert Hernandez has won an award for Outstanding Body of Work from PEN Center USA.

—Something that happened at SPX: Kate Beaton and Jeff Smith discovered they may be related. Also, Smith talked to Galleycat about self-publishing comics.

—For Hazlitt, Jeet Heer looks back fondly at Ron Mann's documentary Comic Book Confidential.

—Ben Towle reviews three semi-recent comics biographies. I can't believe I still haven't gotten to that Capp bio.

—Brad Mackay and Seth discover what may or may not be Jack T. Chick's first published cartoon.

—The Hooded Utilitarian is having a good week, with a nice recap of SPX and an interesting contra-Morrison reading of The Killing Joke.

—Finally, Samuel R. Delany and Mia Wolff at the Strand, talking about their collaboration on the recently re-released Bread and Wine:


Here It Is

Ken Parille has a new column focusing on mini-reviews of twelve comics:

The internet tells us that comics criticism and reviews typically ignore a comic’s art, focusing only on the story. Even if this is true (and I’m not sure it is), I see even less talk about words. This neglect should surprise us given that definitions of ‘comics’ almost universally grant text and image equal billing: e.g., ‘comics is a medium of words and pictures.’ The great cartoonists — George Herriman, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and many others — have been masters of language. So why give words short shrift? Are plot and pictures truly King?

In Part I of this review survey, I look at twelve comics, most of which were published in 2013. Many are great, a few are not, and several are included because they use words in interesting, if not always successful ways. Though I often discuss the comic’s text (i.e. narration and dialogue), I also consider drawings, plots, characters, color, productions methods, text/image interaction, and anything else that seems worthwhile.


It's still SPX-fever out there. Secret Acres has a report and so does Mike Dawson. The Beat has a round-up.

And Sean Howe points out a rare Vaughn Bode / Marvel connection.




Addicted to Outrage

It was SPX last weekend, and our own Joe McCulloch was there, on assignment from the Library of Congress. He's got a report on his progress for you, plus notes on the week's most interesting-sounding new releases.

The suggestion had been made some time prior to SPX that I would succeed Rob Clough as guest curator for the Library of Congress, in accordance with a partnership facilitated between the entities in 2011, "where representatives from that institution would comb the floor and select[] minicomics, self-published comics, original art, flyers, Ignatz Award nominees and other publications that otherwise would skip the LOC and be lost forever after their initial print run." I greatly admired this impulse, the idea of preservation - for a long time, that was a stated goal of scanlators, of pirates, of varied unscrupulous types on the internet who'd 'curate' selections of lost, gone comics, without permission, for the edification of all. Now, of course, everyone excerpts images on Tumblr and reblogs them all over, the process having gained legitimacy by honing itself down to details tiny enough to curl within some community understanding of fair use.

In contrast, I can scarcely imagine anything more legitimate than the Library of Congress. So legitimate, in fact, that the first time I entered the LoC's hotel suite, I (not literally) (mercifully) ran into an interview in progress with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Congress itself was right there!

We also have a review from Joe's predecessor, Rob Clough, of Anna Bongiovanni's Out of Hollow Water.

Her work is an exemplar of a style of cartooning that's dense, dark, scratchy, and unflinching in its willingness to confront pain, trauma and horror. The obvious comparison for Bongiovanni is Julia Gfrorer, who in fact blurbed this book. They tap into different emotional and psychological veins in their work, even if their styles and rawness are similar. Both frequently make comics set in a timeless, nameless forest environment where darkness and the supernatural are real, lurking concerns; it's just that the two set their comics in different parts of that same, primal forest.

Out of Hollow Water explicitly deals with the trauma of violation, as well as the reality of surviving that trauma, in each of its three stories. While Bongiovanni has noted that these comics are personal and a way of working through her own issues, she's also careful to make the stories vague enough that one can fill in any number of blanks as to both precisely what happened and what each person is doing as a result. That's why using a fantasy/mythological setting makes so much sense, because it provides a buffer between real life while simultaneously creating a larger-than-life sense of dread and even suffocation on the page.

—Speaking of SPX, the links related to it are flying thick and fast and will probably continue to proliferate over the coming days. I'll spare you most of the con reports and direct you to Tom Spurgeon's usual Collective Memory post gathering them. Bleeding Cool of all places has the best panel coverage, with reports from the panels for Jeff Smith, Gary Panter, Frank Santoro/Dash Shaw, and Michael Kupperman/Sam Henderson, among others. Michael Cavna at the Washington Post wrote a brief write-up about the Ignatz Awards, which were hosted by Liza Donnelly (and in which Michael DeForge dominated, pulling off three separate wins).

—Interviews. Just before SPX, Mike Rhode interviewed local cartoonist Michael Wenthe. Tom Spurgeon talked to show attendee Warren Craghead. The National Post talked to our own Jeet Heer about his new book on Françoise Mouly. NPR talked to Art Spiegelman about his new book. Steven Heller talks to Randall Enos. And James Sturm did one of his CCS "exit interviews" with outgoing Fellow Connor Willumsen.

—And the Rest. Lynda Barry did a comic on reading for the Washington Post. (Warning: An annoying commercial may automatically start playing when you hit that link.) The New York Times did a lengthy profile of the popular children's book artist Sandra Boynton. HiLobrow did an extremely short profile of Seth. And Dave Sim once wrote in to The New Yorker to take issue with an Art Spiegelman piece pitting Bernie Krigstein against Will Eisner. (FYI, as many Cerebus fans maybe already know, Sim's co-artist Gerhard is currently selling prints.)