Rewards Points

Today we have a double-shot of columns for you. First comes the long-awaited return of our European correspondent, Matthias Wivel, who writes about the winners of the main categories at this year's Angoulême festival—Christophe Blain and Willem—and what their respective books say about the current state of French cartooning and satire:

Blain is no doubt one of the most talented draftsmen in comics today, his line and color always exquisitely tasteful on the page. Eye candy. But he convinces less as a cartoonist. His facility seems to affect his panel-to-panel storytelling, in that it comes so easy that he never appears to think much about the choices he makes. It reads clearly enough, but the narration is gassy and distended—it seems as if he lets one panel follow the next without much premeditation, an easy overflow. This results in endless sequences of talking heads, with each panel showing only limited invention in terms of carrying the dialogue (some of which could easily have been cut in the first place). And although his dashing interpretation of de Villepin has iconic qualities, his limits as a caricaturist are revealed in his more true-to-life approximations of such central players as George W. Bush and Colin Powell, who are stilted and jarring in the company of their eloquently rendered co-stars.

Look, the French are justified in being proud of their government’s stand on the disastrous war in Iraq, but does it need any more vindication? Ultimately, Quai d’Orsay is little else than an attractive-looking stroke book for the French national ego. A cinch to get rave reviews, sell out print runs, and win the award for best comic at the biggest French comics festival, but hardly worth the attention of anyone genuinely interested in the politics it claims to lampoon.

Then comes Frank Santoro with a Riff Raff riff on comics made by fine artists—Katherine Bernhardt, Gary Panter, and Matt Leines, to be precise. A sample:

Matt Leines can draw his ass off. He can fill a gallery full of drawings and paintings and make solid artist's books: zines, mini-comics, the usual. That's fairly uncommon, I think. To be able to do both so well. I don't know many mini-comics or zine makers who can scale up and present their work in a gallery setting. A few. But not many.

This untitled booklet of drawings is essentially a comic because the images unfold in sequence. Each spread is one drawing. It moves forward similarly to, say, Moebius's 40 Days in the Desert. If you've seen that book then you know that the images sort of repeat and change as they fade into each other as we, the reader, turn each spread. A familiar but fairly uncommon way of doing comics.


—Interviews. Alex Dueben talks to Dash Shaw, Zack Smith talks to Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel about Barnaby, and Robin McConnell talks to Sam Henderson. Also, Dan Casey talks to Brian Michael Bendis and Josh Fialkov, with Bendis revealing he's now an Adrian Tomine and Michael DeForge fan.

Sean T. Collins writes about Boulet's The Long Journey. Bully undertakes a too-rare bit of extended analysis comparing the recent Age of Ultron Marvel "event" unfavorably to a promotional Avengers comic given away at Wyndham hotels. And then Alison Hallett at Slate reviewed Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be, the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style Hamlet adaptation that raised more than $580,000 on Kickstarter. (Warning: that last review is very Slate-y.)

—News. New Republic pinup Mark Millar is shutting down Clint magazine. Ahmad Akkari, one of the leading critics of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's decision to publish caricatures of the prophet Muhammad seven years ago, now says he was wrong. As he's also apparently no longer a fundamentalist, and his former colleagues are unrepentant, this is perhaps more of a personal story than a sign of anything large, but it seems worth noting.

—Miscellaneous. The just-announced deluxe edition of Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her features illustrations from Jaime Hernandez. Some chain of links I no longer remember led me to a June Bookforum interview with the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. In it, Knausgaard compares his acclaimed autobiographical novel series My Struggle (Mit Kamp) in both theme and approach to feminist women writers from the 1970s. Which reminded me of this Gabrielle Bell strip from just a week earlier, which references Knausgaard. The two dovetail together nicely.


One Man War

“At first,” Lynde said when I interviewed him in 1992, “the strip [Rick O'Shay] was something of an anachronism. It dealt with the twentieth century intruding upon this sleepy little Montana town. But the readers tended to want their West to be the Old West. And I kept hearing that, and finally, I thought to myself, that’s what I want too. So in the late sixties I adopted a centennial theme: if it was 1969, it was 1869 in the strip. And I kept that going. Once we were in the Old West,” he continued, “I felt I had to be authentic about it. Charlie Russell sort of set the standard.”

Montana’s Charles M. Russell, the cowboy artist, is celebrated for the fidelity of his portraits of the Old West. “Painters of the West today are locked into doing it very authentically;” Lynde said, “—you don’t find much successful impressionism of Western subjects.”

Through his art, Russell “has achieved the status of sainthood in Montana," Lynde went on. "No politician can succeed in Montana unless he's for Charlie Russell and against gun control," he added with a grin.

That's R.C. Harvey, in his fine obituary for the late Western cartoonist and novelist Stan Lynde, who passed away last week. The piece is packed with information, but those who want to know more should refer to Harvey's last piece on Lynde, published on this site in February.


—Reviews of All Kinds. Dominic Umile writes in the Chicago Reader about John Lewis and Nate Powell's March. Douglas Wolk writes in the Washington Post about Jason's Lost Cat. Cara Ellison writes in the New Statesman about Brandon Graham's Prophet. Tom Scioli writes in Comics Alliance about four semi-random superhero back issues. Joe McCulloch talks with "Janeane Patience" at length about Kevin O'Neill and Pat Mills's Marshal Law. (Part one of that conversation can be found here.)

Koyama Press has announced its spring 2014 lineup.

I'm interested to see how the Matt Bors/BuzzFeed dispute pans out.

This kind of social science study is notoriously tricky, but it matches up with my own experience (but then I would think that) and could be applied to comics and so...

—The Comics Undressed documentary fundraiser from Ladydrawers has four days left, if that's a project you'd like to support.


Touching Up Iron Man

My therapist insists that my desire to 'read' comics in a language I cannot understand is indicative of a conflict-adverse pattern: if I can never *completely* read something, I can evade the disagreements that arise from adopting a firm position on matters of taste, thus avoiding pain. Likewise, the act of composing a dubious metaphoric 'response' to the week's Mark Millar controversy allows me to benefit from the cheap heat generated by a goofy-ass New Republic profile -- one not concerned with (or cognizant of) Millar's forebears enough to note that a SIICKKKK idea like "What if the U.S. government started giving away superpowers as a recruitment tool?" was straight-lifted from the likes of Marshal Law -- while foreclosing on the complexities of direct confrontation with touchy emotional and political issues, thus avoiding pain.

That's Joe McCulloch talking, and his therapist sounds pretty smart. This week, before offering his customary roundup of the highlights of the Week in Comics, follows his neuroses while providing a tour of unusual manga and comics moments which Mark Millar's recent New Republic profile, like a nibble of Proust's Madeleine, has conjured in Joe's mind.

As the more astute readers among you will have noticed by now, Dan is on holiday, and so you'll have to bear with me on the blog all week. Last summer, when I took a vacation, Dan seized the opportunity to crack the internet in half by way of an unexpected rant, coining a minor catchphrase in the process. I don't have any similar plans, but it would be nice to have some kind of surprise waiting for Dan when he returns, so I'm open to suggestions...


—Jillian Kirby, Jack Kirby's granddaughter, takes to the L.A. Times to launch and explain a new Kirby4Heroes fundraising campaign for the Hero Initiative:

One example of my grandfather Jack’s charitable nature can be seen in an anecdote my father shared with me on many occasions. It took place during the Bar Mitzvah of my grandfather’s nephew in a Lower East Side Manhattan synagogue in the early 1960s. After the service, his nephew’s family, being of modest means, had just a simple buffet served in the large entrance foyer of the synagogue. Noticing a homeless man standing in the open doorway, just looking in at the celebration, my grandfather Jack immediately walked over to the man, took him by the arm, led him into the room, sat him down at a table and served him a plate of food. Not a word was spoken between the two men.

My grandfather, himself having grown up in poverty, knew hunger. This act of kindness, typical of my grandfather, inspired me to raise money and awareness for the Hero Initiative, because a charity that helps others in the comic book community and gives aid to those in need exemplifies the devotion my grandfather Jack always had for his fellow man.

—The late, great Bill Blackbeard on Harry Tuthill's The Bungle Family:

As a work of narrative comic art, The Bungle Family effectively went unseen over its quarter-century span except on the daily and Sunday comic pages of American newspapers, with no shelvable record or cinematic adaptation of any kind. Yet the strip appeared in hundreds of papers with virtually no drops from its early years through the ’40s, when Tuthill closed it down to almost universal protests from readers and editors, yielding to their entreaties once for a revival run of a few years, then retiring it firmly in 1945 for good. (For two more decades, Tuthill lived quietly as the wealthy squire of tiny Ferguson, Mo., relishing his days away from drawing-board demands, never knowing the attention that still unborn comic-strip fandom would have brought him from the ’60s on—and perhaps not caring.)

—Sequential Highway interviews publisher Annie Koyama, and Paul Gravett talks to artist Gareth Brookes.

—Chris Randle writes about Suehiro Maruo's Strange Tale of Panorama Island for Hazlitt, and Rob Kirby rounds up recent-ish queer comics and zines of note at his blog.

—Frank Santoro told me to link to this Faith Erin Hicks comic, and I always follow Frank's advice (within reason).

—Finally, in this video, Richard Lea of The Guardian visits the 2000AD offices.


A Wise Bird Making a Change

Today brings the return of one of our most popular recurring features, Richard Gehr's "Know Your New Yorker Cartoonist" column. Today, he talks to George Booth, and here's a sample:

GEHR: Tell me how you came to work on Leatherneck while you were in the Marines.

DIONE BOOTH: I think you could title this piece, "Always Faithful."

BOOTH: Just like I wanted to please my folks with that clarinet, I worked at the print shop until I left Fairfax and went into the Marine Corps. My folks stood with me in June of ’44, when I volunteered. I’m signing the contract and staff Sergeant Harry K. Bottom…

GEHR: Unfortunate name.

BOOTH: I don’t have any trouble remembering it. Harry K. Bottom asked, "What do you want to do in the Marine Corps?" We were fighting Japan at the time, and I said, "I want to draw cartoons." Logical thing. And he wrote it down; he had to. Two years later, I’m out in Pearl Harbor waiting to go home after VJ Day, because every G.I. in the world is going home. I'm sitting in the Quonset hut, and a telegram came to headquarters saying that PFC Booth can come to Leatherneck magazine as staff cartoonist. They were losing all of their staff, and they'd looked in the file and saw that I wanted to draw cartoons. They said I could come to Washington provided I reenlist at the end of the war. Well, I could go back to Fairfax, too. But I knew what that was like: I would go back there and get a job in a printin’ office, operating a linotype, and probably never get out of there for the rest of my life. So I said I’d reenlist. And the other Marines would bring their buddies back, six and seven at a time, to look at the geek who was going to reenlist. They stared at me like they couldn't believe anybody would do that. They were so sick of the war. So I gambled and went to Leatherneck. I was recalled in December of ’50. I went to Camp Pendleton again, and Commandant Shepherd called me back to Leatherneck a second time. So it paid off for me. It was my education.

DIONE: It was a gamble, though.


—Tom Spurgeon remembers Stan Lynde.

— columnist and noted Kirby scholar Charles Hatfield writes about the latest Kirby/Marvel court decision:

Here is the basic, bare-knuckle truth, not to be parsed out of existence by legal hair-splitting or the revisionist application of a law that postdates the works at issue: there is nothing in work-for-hire law that can account adequately for the facts of Jack Kirby’s foundational, indispensable, and still generative contributions to Marvel.

—I don't follow retailer issues as closely as I should, but it seems noteworthy that prominent retailer Brian Hibbs, in the comments to the angry-at-DC post I linked to last week, has announced his resignation from ComicsPRO, related directly to their handling of "recent DC moves". Another retailer with a popular online presence , Michael Sterling, has a note on his experiences with the DC 3D-cover allocation here.

—Tom De Haven writes about the 75th anniversary of Action Comics #1:

In the early years, in the years when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster shaped his adventures, Superman contended with, and blocked, corrupt politicians and lobbyists, venal munitions dealers, cynical manufacturers of unsafe automobiles, greedy exploiters of mine workers and factory workers, and the tormentors of ordinary working men and women driven to the brink of despair and suicide by the seemingly untouchable forces of Big Money. But even though his social activism was toned down later, by corporate fiat, Superman has continued to practice philanthropy, not for the tax deduction but for the satisfaction of helping others in need. Period. And I feel sure he’d be mortified and embarrassed by any offers of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

—Siegel & Shuster biographer Brad Ricca offers evidence that Joe Siegel used at least one ghost writer to help in the early years of Superman.

—Gerry Conway clarified and expanded upon his recent panel comments about sexism in the comics industry.

—Rob Salkowitz comments on last week's somewhat unsettling profile of Mark Millar in The New Republic.

—Artist Tom Scioli reflects on the end of GØDLAND.

—J.J. Sedelmeier has a bunch of early Dr. Seuss work.

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Steven T. Seagle.

—Matt Haig at The Guardian reviews Ellen Forney's Marbles.

—Finally (via CW), Jean Giraud and Jijé:



Today on the site Rob Clough reviews The End Of The Fucking World.

Originally published as a series of short minicomics through his own Oily Comics micropublishing concern, Chuck Forsman’s The End Of The Fucking World (TEOTFW) is an incredibly assured debut for an artist who’s been making huge strides since graduating from the Center for Cartoon Studies. Given how many excellent minicomics he’s made (especially in his Snake Oil series), I hesitate to call this book a “debut”, yet for many it will be their first exposure to Forsman’s work. Forsman’s main storytelling interests revolve around the aimless, most especially teenagers as they react to their parents. He has a knack for giving voice to a certain sense of ennui and desperation for connection and meaning, yet manages to do so in a way that avoids navel-gazing and static storytelling.


Marvel won a summary judgement against the Jack Kirby heirs.

This article is a depressing reminder of a vastly popular corner of comics, and its attendant opinions.

And in better news, musician and really great, overlooked cartoonist Michael Hurley is getting  voluminous coverage in the new issue of Arthur. It's good to see something like this happen, and a reminder that there are still "discoveries" to be made.

Have a good weekend.


Color Blind

It feels good to have Frank Santoro back on the case. Today he continues to cover comics that have fallen through the cracks, and finding valuable material about the technical aspects of comics production even for those who might not be interested in these particular comics on their own. He also takes a look at early, indie-era Ed Brubaker:

I think the Beto and Chester influence in Brubaker's early work is cool. I'm not trying to make a joke here. Have you ever read Lowlife? It's interesting to see Brubaker change as he was making this early work. It's like you saw the writer in there but weren't sure how all that was going to come out. Brubaker seemed to work through his influences and then found his own voice on the other side - he didn't try and sidestep them.


Rick O'Shay creator and Western cartoonist Stan Lynde has passed away. The Washington Post has an obituary. We should have more coverage soon.

—Lots of DC-based discussion out there right now. J. Caleb Mozzocco gathers up recent reviews and think-pieces on the company's current creative direction. Robot 6 picked out the perfect quote ("We publish comics for 45-year-olds" -- so that's why I'm not into them lately -- I thought I grew out of them, but they outgrew me!) from Paul Pope's appearance at San Diego. Retailer Brian Hibbs is angry, and goes on at length, about the "staggering incompetence" of DC's cover promotion for their upcoming "Villains Month". For more vintage DC talk, see Marc Nobleman's just-posted 2006 interview with the late Batman artist Lew Sayre Schwartz.

—In non-DC superhero news, The New Republic has an informed profile of the you-say-provocateur-I-say-troll comics writer and Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar. Noah Berlatsky comes around to at least one of Daniel Clowes's comics: The Death-Ray. And Sarah Horrocks writes about how the state of the industry has affected professional colorists for the worse.

—I missed Hillary Chute's essay comparing comics to poetry in Poetry magazine.

—Deb Aoki flagged a video of Osamu Tezuka biographer Helen McCarthy giving an 8-minute lecture on the history of manga.

—Chester Brown's Paying for It features pixilated genitalia in the Indian version, and Devika Bakshi explains why in Open magazine.

—Jeffrey Gustafson writes about the ambitious "Time" webcomic from Randall Munroe.

—Columbia librarian Karen Green talks about her experience teaching a comics-as-literature class.

—And academic Paddy Johnston has a video slideshow examining the digital comics of Chris Ware (via):



Today Paul Tumey continues his deep dive into the Lost Comics of Jack Cole.

As he was making his regular rounds in 1937 to the offices of various New York magazine publishers, selling a few cartoons here and there, Jack Cole may have begun to realize he needed to widen his scope in order to make it as a cartoonist. Fortunately for Cole, he was in the right place at the right time. A massive new market for cartoonists was opening up – the comic book. Originally a re-formatted book-like pamphlet reprinting of Sunday newspaper comics, the success of the idea generated such a growing demand that savvy entrepreneurs began to supply comic book publishers with original material.

One of these entrepreneurs was Harry “A” Chesler. His quirky, quotation-framed middle initial was an affectation, designed to make him sound more important. It’s said that Chelser sometimes told people the “A” stood for “Anything.” In 1935 or 1936, Chelser began congregating artists and writers into rented studio spaces and paying them small amounts of money to create material that he could then sell to comic book publishers, including Centaur, MLJ (later known as Archie Comics), Street and Smith, Fox and Fawcett. Some of the writers and artists who worked in the Chelser shops at one time or another went on to become legends in comics: Jack Binder (who later opened up his own shop), Otto BinderCharles BiroCarl BurgosLou Fine, Creig Flessel,Gill FoxFred GuardineerPaul Gustavson,Carmine InfantinoJoe Kubert,  Roy Krenkel,  Mort MeskinMac RaboyGeorge TuskaBob Wood, and – of course – Jack Cole.

Elsewhere, many things at once:

I liked this post about the perpetually underrated Chris Reynolds.

Paul Karasik's graphic reporting has been very rewarding, like this one.

Don Simpson covers our own Frank Santoro.

Benjamin Marra has announced a new, very fun looking comic.

And Mick McMahon is my favorite 2000 AD artist, in case anyone asks.






Beneath His Powdered Wig

Today it's time for Joe McCulloch's helpful guide to the Week in Comics. As usual, before he gets to the service-oriented portion of his column, Joe takes the time to examine one of the more esoteric byways of comics history, and this time, he goes even deeper into the weeds than usual:

Published in 2007 by the Arbor vitae in association with art agency Taktika Muzika -- an exhibition of the 322 photographs taken for the book toured at the same time -- Cecil's Quest is a very lovely 10.5" x 8" landscape-format hardcover, probably conceived as an art book as much as a comic, though it is certainly not a mere catalog of photographs. I am unaware of any prior comics works by Skála, though he has illustrated some children's books, and is doubtless aware of the storytelling capacity of images arranged in a sequential manner. He appears to have done basically everything involved with the creation of the book alone, from the building of models to the shooting of photographs, probably including the English-language lettering, although a translator (Robert Russell) is credited, as well as a lithography studio which aided in the graphic design and (presumably) the physical development of the photographs.

Elsewhere, there are ten million links:

—Interviews. Alex Deuben interviews Kim Deitch, Inkstuds interviews Dash Shaw, Hero Complex interviews Wolverine co-creator Len Wein about the new movie, the New York Times asks New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff about his cultural interests, Houstonia magazine talks to Terry Moore, Benoit Peeters and François Schuiten talk to Naoki Urasawa (!), and the Paris Review blog talks to Lisa Hanawalt. Whew.

—News. The Billy Ireland Library has announced a potentially major new comics show, and the Sequential comics app from the UK has now launched in the U.S. and elsewhere.

—Uncategorizable. Faith Erin Hicks draws a diary strip from her time as a guest at Comic-Con, noted garbologist Tom Devlin digs through Michael DeForge's trash, Tom Scioli revisits the work of Barry Windsor-Smith, Sam Henderson relaunches his website, Chris Mautner reviews the latest Mickey Mouse collection, and Frank Zappa collaborates with Robin, the Boy Wonder.