Today, Brandon Soderberg interviews Raw Power creator Josh Bayer about covering ROM Spaceknight, this spring's Tumblr controversy, Retrofit, working with his music-video director brother, and the overrated nature of originality. Here's a sample:

SODERBERG: Basically, covering Rom allows you to do autobiographical comics that don't suck? Issue one has a frame of Seth reading Rom, and issue two has a back-up story that focuses on Seth at school.

BAYER: Yeah, doing the Rom cover comics is just some weird device that measures how uncomfortable I am with telling a real autobiographical story. Each time I do a Rom story, I let whatever fragments I remember from around that time enter the story. But not like an episode of Seinfeld where everything ties together. More like an Italian neorealist movie, where it’s just two pieces standing side by side – the comic and life during that time periods – and readers can make the connections. So, if I did an issue from 1985, I'd probably write about something that happened when I was 15 years old. Originally, when I was working on this issue of Rom, I wanted to write about December 1980 when John Lennon was killed, because that was a really weird period of my childhood. But the longer I worked on issues #31 and #32, the more I felt like I needed the whole thing to come together on every level. Even that conceptual level of having the fact and fiction match up chronologically. And the issues I was covering came out in 1983. I couldn't have "Seth" reading that issue in 1980. Even though most people wouldn't know or care, it would bother me.

We also have Robert Kirby's review of the crowd-funded anthology The Big Feminist BUT!, which features Gabrielle Bell, Vanessa Davis, Barry Deutsch, Justin Hall, Angie Wang, and Lauren Weinstein. Here's a bit of that:

The Big Feminist BUT: Comics About Women, Men, and the Ifs, Ands and Buts of Feminism features comics touching on a wide spectrum of contemporary feminist issues. The title is a clever play on two familiar caveats: “I’m not a feminist, BUT…” and “I’m a feminist, BUT…” Editors Shannon O'Leary and Joan Reilly make it clear that feminism isn't solely concerned with women’s issues, but rather promoting and embracing gender equality for all. The comics here take on gender roles, sexual identities, body image, marriage vs. singlehood, polyamory, motherhood and parenting, domestic responsibilities, and self-defense and safety, among other subjects. Some creators take a subtle, naturalistic approach (Barry Deutch, Vanessa Davis with Trevor Alixopulos, Joan Reilly w/ Suzanne Kleid), while others are direct, even polemical, addressing feminism head on with all its gender and identity complexities (MariNaomi, Angie Wang, and Andrice Arp with Jesse Reklaw).


—Festivals. While I was away, I missed Rob Clough's report from the first Autoptic festival. Lilli Carré writes about her experiences at the Helsinki Comics Festival. Chris Butcher has a lengthy wrap-up of TCAF 2013 and announcements for next year's festival.

—Those of you who can't attend SPX this weekend can console yourself with Top Shelf's annual $3 sale.

—Derf is auctioning off an appearance in a future strip, with proceeds going to Parkinson's research.

—Reviews & Criticism. Tom Spurgeon reviews Humbug #9. Dangerous Minds notes the William S. Burroughs Ah Pook Is Here books. Jeff Newelt picks Heeb magazine's best comics of 5773. Richard Baez on the underappreciated Pete Morisi. Michael Vassallo previews the Atlas-era Venus Vol. 1.

—Interviews. Inkstuds welcomes back Josh Simmons. One of the all-time great interviewees Daniel Clowes does it again in a short one with Cotton Candy Magazine. And Frank interviews Wowee Zonk member Chris Kuzma.

—The Beat catches that Bob Layton has also settled with Marvel.

—Calvin Reid has a short profile of Josh Frankel's upcoming Z2 Comics.

—Illogical Volume at Mindless Ones takes on the Jason Karns comments-thread kerfuffle.


Stifle It

Today on the site:

Frank Santoro reports on his Comics Workbook contest and Tumblr in general.

And Chris Mautner reviews Russ Manning's Tarzan.


A Kim Thompson remembrance from Robert Boyd.

The Atlantic excerpts a passage on the iconic New Yorker 9/11 cover from Jeet Heer's new book on Francoise Mouly.

Glen Weldon on Superman and 9/11.

There's a new resolution in the Marvel/Ghost Rider case.

Sarah Horrocks interviewed.

Sean T. Collins on an older bootleg Batman comic.

Alan Moore's Fashion Beast, reviewed.

And a new Lisa Hanawalt web comic debuts.



Talk Talk Talk

Today we bring you Adam Smith's interview with Wally Fawkes (a/k/a Trog), the British cartoonist behind the long-running strip Flook, and who had a parallel career as a jazz clarinetist. Here's an excerpt:

Did you find it a challenge to draw a week’s worth of Flook strips while regularly playing jazz gigs?

Keeping the playing and the drawing together, that really became more difficult. There was a time in ’54 when I had an offer to go to Geneva to play with Sidney Bechet with a Swiss band, and to produce a stockpile, because that was about three or four weeks, everybody was filling in--I was doing the outlines, and everybody was filling in, like Neb, [Ronald Niebour]. They all got together and supplied me with a stockpile of strips so I could go away to Geneva and play with Bechet. Then from about ‘55, our band became more and more successful, the touring increased, there were continental tours, and I was heading towards a nervous breakdown, the strain of it all was just too much, and I knew what I had to do. I knew I wouldn’t make any money out of playing; unless you’re a bandleader, you just don’t. And to keep the music, which I loved, safely on one side and really concentrate on the drawing. Which was a very good decision. So I left Humph in ’56.

The sleeve of The Troglodytes’ 1960 EP “Flook Digs Jazz”

The sleeve of The Troglodytes’ 1960 EP “Flook Digs Jazz”

Have you toured since then?

For a while I had a band called the Troglodytes. We did the occasional tour up north; it wasn’t really touring, just the occasional weekend, like a Saturday night gig. The Trad Jazz of Chris Barber was sweeping, and you had to have banjo. We got a bit tired of that noise, and we were trying to move away from that painting-by-numbers school of music. Gradually it came back to the pub, and I’ve spent the rest of the time playing in pubs. The occasional concert, but now I’m not really playing at all--I decided to quit while I was still at the bottom!

Then we get to George Melly, who took over from Humphrey Lyttleton...

The different writers brought different things to it. Well, Flook became George.

And we also have the return of one-time site regular Matt Seneca, who does his best to convince the unfaithful of the merits of Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's much-maligned Jupiter's Legacy:

If there’s something serious on display here, it’s Millar’s critique of superheroes themselves. The challenge he’s chosen to throw at his band of costumed adventurers is one that nobody on earth has managed to figure out, and given that none of these characters is being presented as much more than a low-watt bulb, there isn’t a lot for our heroes to do once they figure out their interpersonal drama but lose. That alone is reason to keep reading, given the extreme rarity of seeing the heroes of a big event comic go down in defeat, and the generally more-interesting stories that happen when they do (see Watchmen, The Winter Men, et cetera). Millar’s no Alan Moore as far as any question of craft or quality is concerned, but Jupiter’s Legacy has a hint of Watchmen’s timeliness, showing the impotence of superheroes as they take another step down the intra-comics popularity ladder. There’s a very fun metafictional layer to this stuff for all you elitist asshole Comics Journal readers out there: after 75 years of reigning supreme in the wake of the Great Depression, the clock’s run out for the cape and cowl crowd, whose kids would rather party and do drugs and have bed-ruining sex, like they do in (shudder) alternative comics. Millar might be going for an obvious metaphor in linking the fall of superhero sales to the waning of market capitalism’s successes, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch the dominant powers of our lifetimes dither as they wither. Here more than anywhere else, superheroes are revealed as an outmoded idea, one whose time has well and truly passed.


—I'm still catching up to some things I missed while away, so excuse the few links that may seem old or familiar, please.

—Reviews. Tom Spurgeon's roll continues, with two more reviews this week, one of Peyo's Benny Breakiron and one of Detective Comics #23.1/Poison Ivy #1 (that seems like a potentially confusing title). Neil Cohn reviews a year's worth of comics theory books, from Thierry Groensteen to Hannah Miodrag. Bob Temuka reviews Marc Sobel and Kristy Valenti's The Love and Rockets Reader. Zainab reviews Christophe Blain's In the Kitchen with Alain Passard, a profile of the famous chef which is a much stronger, more insightful book than I expected, and one I'd recommend to anyone who cooks regularly (though it certainly doesn't break Wivel's "certain tendency in French comics" theory). Kevin Huizenga reviews Ron Rege's Cartoon Utopia, which I am ashamed I was too daunted to read and shelved it after looking but not really reading. Huizenga convinces me that was a mistake (which I already suspected, thus the shame). And Richard Baez begins an interesting series on superheroes with a look at Greg Sandowski's continually rewarding Supermen.

—A senior vice president of HBO and co-founder of HBO Go has joined comiXology as the company's CTO. Calvin Reid has a report. This seems like a potentially signal development.

—Marvel has settled its lawsuit with Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich.

—Samsonia Way has an interview with Toronto political cartoonist Shahid Mahmood about how he ended up on the "no-fly" list. (Via CBLDF.)

—Adrian Tomine did the latest cover for The New Yorker, which has a short interview with him here.

—The Comics Workbook Composition Competition winners were announced.

—Marc Singer's pretty close to done with DC.

—Two SPX preview/advice posts, one for guests from Rob Clough, and one for first-time exhibitors.

—Sort of Comics: The New York Times has a story about Jeffrey Babbitt, a New York-based longtime comics fan who was apparently randomly killed last week, and who had strong ties to Forbidden Planet on Broadway.


Orange Flames

Joe McCulloch is here today to walk us through this week's new releases, with a pleasant detour along the way.


Frank Santoro's Comics Workbook contest has reached its close. Here are links to all the entrants. Lotta good work there.

Laura Sneddon on Melinda Gebbie.

James Romberger on the movie Argo and its use/misuse of Jack Kirby.

On NOT talking about Marvel and DC.

This looks promising as yet another primer to the world of the Hernandez Brothers.

And here are some fine photos of cartoonists in Helsinki.


Forget It, Jake

Today, Ryan Holmberg continues his exploration of comics in India with an interview with Kailash Iyer, co-founder of Comix.India, an independent comics anthology.

Issue six came out last year. Will there be a seventh?

I don’t think so. The books aren’t selling well. Indie comics in general in India don’t have much of a market, and even within that context, Comix.India hasn’t sold much. We are not seeing a return on the investment of even the effort put into getting the books out. Secondly, we are having a problem with Pothi. The first two issues are out of print. Despite being a print-on-demand, you can’t order them anymore. I am not sure if it’s a printer issue or whether Pothi is no longer interested. If there is going to be another issue, my plan is to put it up as a free download. Since it’s not selling, you might as well give it away for free, so at least the contributors get exposure. I will check with Pothi again whether there is a chance that the books will be made available again. If there’s not, I want to release them as free pdfs, if the contributors are willing.

It seems that today, unlike when I first came to India five years ago, or even three years ago when I first read Comix.India, there are a number of groups doing indie comics, like Manta Ray in Bangalore, or the Pao Collective in Delhi. New artists potentially have other venues now.

Yes, artists and writers do have more options, but most of the Indian labels are still rather small, so they only have limited openings for unproven talent. I also believe most publishers source out and invite people to collaborate, rather than having open submissions, because most of them have a specific focus.


—The 2013 Harvey Award winners were announced this Saturday in Baltimore. Saga continues its streak this year. Robot 6, with which we share several writers, won an award, too. For some reason, the Harvey site hasn't yet published an official list of the recipients, but you can find them on their Twitter page.

Disney apparently won a legal battle with Stan Lee Media (not Stan Lee) over the rights to various Marvel characters.

—Steven Heller at Print interviews Peter Kuper, Noncanonical interviews Johnny Ryan, and Hillary Chute talks to Jules Feiffer.

—Rachel Cooke reviews Joe Sacco's The Great War, Bob Temuka reviews The Daniel Clowes Reader, and Abhay Khosla reviews a bunch of different comics.

—Sorta Comics. Edward Carey lists his ten favorite writer/illustrators, including such as Tove Jansson, William Blake, Maurice Sendak, and Edward Gorey, most of whom are cartoonists by one definition or another.

Penny Arcade is obviously a comic strip, but I'm not sure it makes sense to say that its regular Penny Arcade Expo is a comics convention. Still, this editorial by Rachel Edidin explaining why she will never return to the event is worth pointing out here. Really, some of the worst aspects of internet, video game, and comics culture all rolled up into one ball.

—History. Frank M. Young has another excellent post up on his Stanley Stories blog, this time exploring early work by Stan Lee which seems to be heavily influenced by John Stanley. Michael Vassallo has his own excellent post on Noel Sickles.


All Those Dollars

Today on the site Tucker Stone ushers us into September.


Heidi MacDonald and many commenters weigh in on our recent kerfuffle. Warning: I am mentioned. So's a book I published.

More on the recent Batwoman creator dispute.

My book of the week, Reggie-12, reviewed.

And our parent company, Fantagraphics, announced it will publish Don Rosa's stories of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and co.



Not Making Sense

Frank Santoro's here with a column on the formal properties of a forgotten John Buscema comic. It's the kind of Frank column that includes things like this:

The "correct" way to read this two-page spread, of course, follows the traditional left-to-right zigzag down the left-hand side of the spread and up to the right and back down. [But] I think they can be understood visually by reading them "incorrectly"--by beginning in the top left and then going across the center dividing line of the center.

Rob Clough is back, too, with a review of Gilbert Hernandez's Marble Season. Here's a bit of that:

Gilbert Hernandez's quasi-autobiographical Marble Season is a remarkable work of verisimilitude as well as a gift to his long-time fans. The snapshot he provides of his brothers and neighborhood friends growing up is filled with the kind of detail and emotional truths about how children relate to one another one would expect from the man behind Palomar. What's interesting in this book about the rituals and social interactions of about fifty years ago is how Hernandez subtly brings up the ways in which pop culture became a pervasive force that was unifying in some ways but also homogenizing. In the early '60s, every little kid was affected by the power of radio, TV, and comics. Even the cover suggests a Jack Kirby-esque clash between titans. The more widespread availability of TV, the dominance of rock music on the radio, and the new wellspring of popularity that comics enjoyed made negotiating one's cultural environment a dizzying feat.

Elsewhere, I'm finally starting to halfway get into the swing of things, link-wise:

—Michael Cavna at the Washington Post profiles living comic-strip legend Mort Walker for his 90th birthday.

—The film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum is always good on Robert Crumb, and he has recently posted his original review of the Terry Zwigoff coumentary. Bobsy at the Mindless Ones has a take on Crumb's Genesis that doesn't match up with mine (I wrote about it a million years ago in TCJ 301), but which is smart and certainly worth taking on board. The kill-your-father anti-Crumb wave of late among younger cartoonists and comics critics is very odd to me (it hardly seems to notice, let alone account for, vast swathes of his work, not to mention his deep influence on nearly every aspect of the medium) but I guess unsurprising. [I'm not really meaning to implicate Bobsy in that last sentence, by the way. It's simply a general observation. Poor writing on my part.]

—Chris Mautner reviews Reed Waller and Kate Worley's Omaha the Cat Dancer, Rob Clough reviews Jason's Lost Cat, and I guess Tom Spurgeon's going through one of his bursts of reviewing energy (not that I should talk) and he's got two new ones: Justice League 23 and Love and Rockets: The Covers. [That's a good thing.]

—The Economist's More Intelligent Life has a short but nice profile of Chris Ware, and the mothership visits Ralph Steadman's studio.

—Matt Bors has found a new fulltime gig.

—Frank Santoro's the latest guest on Tell Me Something I Don't Know.

—Jeffrey Gustafson, in an otherwise not entirely unreasonable essay, is the latest in a long, long line of comics fans to take offense at Alan Moore saying modern mainstream comics stink without offering any specific counter-examples. Wonder why that is? He also seems to think "Sturgeon's Law" is an actual law.


On the Road Again

Today on the site:

The "Anti-War" comics of Harvey Kurtzman by Bob Levin.

Kurtzman stood somewhat apart at EC. He considered horror comics “immoral.” (What he thought about the others was probably not much more positive.) His reputation today primarily rests upon his having created, edited and written the first twenty-four issues of the satiric humor comic MAD, whose impact on a generation used to the cozy cliches and platitudes of the Eisenhower Age was immeasurable. (After leaving EC, Kurtzman launched three unsuccessful humor mags, TrumpHumbug, and Help, before settling in at Playboy, where he created and wrote “Little Annie Fanny” for twenty-one years, providing stimulation of a different sort.) But before any of this, at EC, Kurtzman produced what have been recognized as the first “anti-war” war comics. With them, the novelist/ newspaper columnist Pete Hamill once wrote, Kurtzman “revolutionized the form…. (His) combat stories were hard, bleak, free of rah-rah patriotism. They were about men, not costumed superheroes.”


People, people, the great Brian Ralph is on tour for Reggie-12, which is a great oversized collection of the excellent comic strip. Go get the book. Go see Brian.

SEATTLE, WA: Saturday September 7th, 6pm

Fantagraphics Bookstore, 1201 South Vale St. (at Airport Way S.)

PORTLAND, OR: Sunday, September 8th, 6pm

Floating World, 400 NW Couch St.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Tuesday, September 10th, 6pm

Mission: Comics and Art, 3520 20th St. Suite B

LOS ANGELES, CA: Wednesday, September 11th, 7pm

The Secret Headquarters, 3817 W Sunset Blvd

BETHESDA, MD: Saturday September 14th and Sunday September 15th

Small Press Expo, Bethesda North Marriott Hotel, 5701 Marinelli Rd.


The Sequential Arts Workshop announces its low residency program.

Johanna Draper Carlson on Polly and Her Pals.

Evan Dorkin on some personal icons.

A visit to the Stan Lee Papers in Wyoming.

And interview with Gene Yang.

And finally, fittingly, an asteroid has been named for Alejandro Jodorowsky. Well alright.