Gym Time

Robert Steibel is back with another installment of his column about Jack Kirby: Behind the Lines. Here he looks at pencils from Fantastic Four # 61.

I’d like to do a little group participation experiment with you first. Let’s go ahead and look at an enlarged scan of each Kirby penciled panel one-by-one in sequence (I broke one horizontal panel in half so each image has the same size). When Stan Lee received this entire 20-page story (plus the cover) this is how the art would have looked to him before he added text to Jack’s story – first Stan would read Jack’s entire book (looking at Jack’s art and referring to Jack’s directions in the margins to get the gist of the entire book) then in the next phase Lee would go back and add his own text to Kirby’s story. You can see when these photostats were made Lee had already completed that phase of the process – notice where Lee added empty word balloons. The letterer would have worked off a Lee type-written script and filled in those spots.

I encourage you to look at Jack’s artwork and read Jack’s notes for yourself; think about how you would add text to this imagery if you were the “Guest Editor of the Week” when this book was published in 1967. Or better yet, imagine Marvel is reprinting this material in 2014 and you won a contest and have been selected to add the captions to the story for a nice pile of money. Reflect on how long it takes you to come up with the captions for each panel, and you can compare your own ideas to Lee’s text later.


Tom Spurgeon on MIX 2013.

A good "where are they now" blog on the great Weirdo magazine.

Two from Chris Randle. First on Co-Mix by Art Spiegelman and then on the anniversary of Comic Book Confidential.

Denis Kitchen on Gweek.

Nobrow is opening a US office and has a mission statement.

And MTV Geek, which covered a good amount of comics, has closed its doors.



Gonna Get Better Some Time

Ryan Holmberg attempts to uncover the roots of the word "Garo", the title of perhaps the most important underground manga anthology:

Not ten years ago, manga and film scholar Yomota Inuhiko noted that it was regional dialect for kappa, a water imp who abducts children and horses and drowns them in the river.

Speaking with Japanese fans and scholars, it seems that many accept Yomota’s theory. I’m not sure why. While indeed “garo” can be found in books dealing with the kappa – it is derived from “kawa tarō,” River Tarō, the latter half a generic boy’s name – none such that I have seen were published prior to the naming of Garo in 1964. Of the major sources on the Japanese supernatural that would have been available to Shirato at the time – the writings of Inoue Enryō, Yanagita Kunio, Ishida Ei’ichirō – in none of them is that specific pronunciation for kappa to be found. Of course, it is always possible that Shirato heard it directly from someone from the countryside. Or perhaps from a colleague more versed in Japanese folklore, like Mizuki Shigeru. After all, Mizuki did publish an eight-volume rental kashihon series between 1961 and 1962 titled Sanpei the Kappa (Kappa no sanpei), about a human boy that looks like a kappa and as a result has serial run-ins with yōkai. Towards the end, his kappa stand-in is named “Kawa Tarō,” but no “garo.” The title of the manga might seem suggestive, but Sanpei is a common enough name for it to have nothing to do here with Shirato. And since Garo was Shirato’s magazine, not Mizuki’s, it seems to me highly unlikely that the former would title his greatest publishing venture after a creature that has (as far as I can recall) never made an appearance in his work. Shirato was greatly indebted to Japanese myth and folklore. But the cosmologies of ghosts and monsters are at best minor ones in his pantheon.


—As you're probably noticed from links on this blog and elsewhere, this week is "Banned Books Week". The CBLDF's Charles Brownstein talked about it with a radio show called Project Censored. And here is a map of post-war comic-book burnings in the United States.

—Reviews & Criticism. Comics of the Weak may be on a short hiatus, but Abhay Khosla's still thinking comics, and reviews a slew of them over at Savage Critics. Dave Coates has a profusely illustrated post on Pat Oliphant. Rob Clough takes on Jim Rugg and Supermag. Tom Spurgeon reviews Sam Gaskin's Goblins. This guy loves the Fantastic Four.

—Interviews. Dan Wagstaff talks to Luke Pearson. J. Caleb Mozzocco talks to Chris Duffy about his new fairy-tales anthology.

—Fantagraphics unearths an unmissable note from Kim Thompson to a printer.

—Sean Howe puts some recent Rob Liefeld tweets about Marvel in context.

—It's the last day of the Top Shelf $3 sale.


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: