Trash Fun

Today on the site Tom Scioli rejoins us with a close look at Silver Surfer #1 (1968):

Silver Surfer #1 is a comic worth examining closely. It has a lot of things colliding at once. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back in Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s working relationship. The Silver Surfer series is possibly John Buscema’s finest moment. It’s Stan Lee’s first big self-conscious stab at creating something ambitious and meaningful. It’s also a good example of what Lee’s writing is like when you subtract Kirby or Ditko from the equation. There are some interesting narrative flourishes, but also a leaden storytelling instinct and deep misunderstanding of his own co-creations.

This isn’t the first time I read this comic. It’s the second. My copy is coverless and was previously owned by David Hazelwood who signed it. I wasn’t about to shell out big bucks for the comic that made Jack Kirby leave Marvel.

And elsewhere... four links that will take you places to look at things. And that should hold you over if nothing else.

Early 1970s Bill Everett inky depths.

Johnny Ryan's latest masterpiece.

Sister Corita Kent gets a new monograph.

Providence newspaper Mother's News goes the route with its, uh, archive.


Travel Time

First thing this morning, take an astral trip to tomorrow's comic shop new-releases shelf with Joe McCulloch, who will point out the most intriguing titles and tell you a little about them. Before that, he will try to buttonhole you with a mini-essay on webcomics. Your call on whether or not to listen (no one can see you through your computer -- or at least we can't), but I've found it's almost always a rewarding experience.

After that, you're going to want to get some place comfortable and block out some time to read, because Jeff Trexler is here with a massively informative article, "Taking Back the Kirby Case", which not only recaps the recent Marvel v. Kirby ruling, but takes you through the whole judicial history of work-for-hire and explores a long-shot legal strategy that might get the Kirbys their copyrights. This is highly recommended:

[As] I re-read last week's opinion affirming that Jack Kirby's Marvel material was work made for hire, I started noticing certain aspects of the three-judge panel's reasoning that made me wonder if there were more to this case than just another reason for creators to feel discouraged. For example, in her 2011 summary judgment opinion against the Kirbys, Judge Colleen McMahon began with a most unusual disclaimer, all but apologizing for the fact that her ruling was grounded in law, not fairness. The appellate court made no such distinction. Instead, its Marvel v. Kirby opinion sent the clear message that its ruling was fair and just.

This face-off over fairness was both a challenge and a clue. Could it be that the case has exposed fundamental problems not merely with how Marvel treated Kirby, but with the law itself?

The answer to this question could determine whether the Kirby family has any chance of having the appellate court ruling reversed. Unlike the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court does not have to rule on every case submitted for review. Instead, it grants certiorari to — that is to say, it accepts — only a small percentage of the thousands of petitions it receives every year. Its basis for choosing a particular case typically goes beyond a factual dispute, such as whether Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Steve Ditko deserves the most credit for creating Spider-Man. Instead, the Court looks for a legal issue on which appellate courts disagree or that raises important constitutional concerns.

The following analysis is one possible approach.


—There are a of UK-based links right now, probably due to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Guardian has a profile of Anders Nilsen, and samples from the sketchbooks of Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Rutu Modan, and Chris Ware.

There are also videos from Ware and Joe Sacco's appearances at the festival, which I found via FP.

—Also from across the Atlantic, the Glasgow Herald-Scotland has a list of the "50 greatest graphic novels of all time". It's a weird but solid list, in that I don't think many would pick these fifty books in this particular order as their own top 50, but the books are worth reading, so it is more useful than a lot of these lists.

—Also in list news, Spin has declared that two of the worst cultural moments of the '90s were related to comics.

—The New Yorker blog has seven cartoons from Egypt.

—Graeme McMillan tells the readers of Time about Jack Kirby, and Douglas Wolk goes to Slate to tackle that old, old playground debate: who's better, Marvel or DC?

—The CBLDF has posted the speech Charles Brownstein gave on manga freedom in Tokyo.

—The L.A. Times reviewed the new Optic Nerve from Adrian Tomine.

—Joe McCulloch and Janean Patience have part three of their Marshal Law conversation.

—And finally, Chris Butcher talks a little bit more about DC's Villains Month cover promotion.



I'm sort of back from a sort-of vacation. A vacation from this site, at least. So I welcome myself back with Eddie Campbell, here today reviewing Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life.

The title I take to be a no-confidence vote in the concept of tomorrow, which might be ironic since the style is forever finding hope and a passing joy in details such as the way the author observes to her own healthy fleshiness. The back cover blurb helpfully leads us to believe it is a ‘coming of age novel.’ While this cannot be said to be untrue, the term always leaves me with the feeling that I just witnessed some ‘potted thinking.’ It implies a coming to terms with the expectations of the adult world. The whole project, again, is at odds with this. There’s a feeling that the protagonist would as soon set it, the conventional world, on fire, though the author may be more accommodating. There is a rejection of the organization of the world, from organized faith to organized crime. It is about the pursuit of nihilism as a route to integrity. Ulli Lust has the intelligence to look at her life and make a book of it.


Tim certainly has been thorough in my absence, and even attempted a mean-spirited rant. He's just too good a person.

Here's Rob Clough with an excellent analysis of New School, probably my vote for most-ambitious and rewarding comic of the year so far.

So I have a few things here... It's our friend Abhay on writing about (or, rather, not writing about) the art in superhero comics.

Dean Haspiel pens a tribute to Howard Chaykin.

The VQR on non-fiction comics.

Nice art.

I liked Simon Reynolds' book Retromania. Here's an application of it to geek culture.


Sell Your Brains

Today on the site Tucker Stone, who recently told me, “Everything’s coming up roses for Tucker Stone”, and then ordered some terrible vegetable fries he soon regretted, is sticking to his critical vibe, reviewing a new edition of Lone Wolf and Cub, Paul Pope, Adrian Tomine, Prophet, and Kick-Ass 3.

And now, instead of a buncha links, I have to get something off my chest. I am irritated by this Ignatz nomination for a Garo tribute book called SP7: Alt. Comics Tribute to GARO Manga, edited by Ian Harker and Box Brown. Here’s why…

No. I don't care one way or the other about that. I would really like to recreate Dan's "sell your boots" moment, and even asked around to try and find appropriate targets for a rant—I received suggestions ranging from Craig Yoe's reprinting of John K's Comic Book to a recent Steve Geppi Facebook posting—and for a while I even considered just writing a terribly inflammatory essay and posting it as if it was written by Dan, but I think it's better not to force it right now. I will deliver my "surprise" at a moment when it isn't expected...

No, wait. I am pissed off about something completely inconsequential: that stupid Peanuts/Smiths mashup Tumblr that so many soul-dead people are linking to and reblogging and acting like they are actually amused by instead of admitting that it's the most obvious and tired concept possible. In fact, the internet in general and the comics internet in particular is filled with worthless trivia and vaguely clever amusements to distract cubicle slaves from their empty existences, and they aren't working any more. The worst thing about this particular example is that it isn't actually that terrible; its biggest offense is just the vague feeling it inspires of Didn't somebody do this already? Far worse are all the people linking to it and praising it to the skies and just the general culture these days of everything being utterly wonderful or totally worthless. Obligatory two-minute hate followed by obligatory two-minute adoration, followed by the predictable backlash and then the backlash against the backlash. The internet age was supposed to deliver the publishing means of production to the masses and allow a billion different voices to flourish, but it sometimes feels like North American culture is more conformist than ever.

If this is getting incoherent—"these people like something I don't" doesn't match well with "everyone is exactly the same"—then so in some ways was my model. But it occurs to me that this rant still isn't going to work, because I didn't pick an appropriately polarizing target. I will try again a bit later. In the meantime, here's a buncha links.

—News. As alluded to above, the nominations for the Ignatz Awards have been announced. Many people have already noted the fact that all five nominees in the Outstanding Graphic Novel category were created by women--notable on top of that is how natural-looking a list it is; of the four books I've read, not one is a token.

Archie artist/writer Dan Parent has revealed that a story involving Archie characters taking a trip to Russia has been rewritten in protest against recent anti-LGBT actions in that country.

—Interviews & Profiles. NEA Arts magazine interviews Dan Clowes. Laura Sneddon recaps panels featuring Chris Ware and Joe Sacco at the Edinburgh book festival.

Here's a couple things I never thought I'd see: Molly Crabapple interviewing Warren Ellis for The Paris Review, and an interview with Crabapple herself at Talking Points Memo. (Actually the second one doesn't seem so strange, considering her recent politically oriented work.)

—Reviews & Criticism. Matthew Wolf-Meyer reviews the Avengers: West Coast Avengers Omnibus for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Chris Mautner reviews John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell's March for Robot 6, and J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews">Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro for the same site.

—A category allowing me to perpetuate the same kind of bullshit I was ranting about earlier. This newspaper mix-up of Far Side and Dennis the Menace captions has been going around for years—I think I first saw it over a decade ago—but it's going around again for some reason, and it's still funny to me.

I had zero interest in seeing the R.I.P.D. movie until I learned that Jeff Bridges based his character on Jim Woodring's Frank! Now I would like to see the three-minute YouTube video showing evidence of this that gets made about a month or two from now.

Adrian Tomine went to the White House.

Orson Scott Card rants
aren't as much fun now that the whole world knows about them. Apparently I'm now so old that the only thing I can be a hipster about is weird political creeps. I have to admit that Card's kept the quality up.


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: