The Shape

Paul Karasik has dropped by to review Carol Swain’s 2014 book, Gast. We ran an excellent Sean T. Collins piece about the book back then. More the merrier, I say.

Gast  does what good literary fiction does, it transports you to a specific location, introduces you to specific characters, and takes you to unexpected and very satisfying conclusions…and it does so with spare text and precise pictures. Swain is a keen observer and a stringent editor; every panel is intentionally composed and framed, every word balloon lean and to the point. But the effect is the opposite of being left with a sparse, cold, shorthand. Her charcoal and ink drawing is lush and textured. In paring down the exposition, the reader is asked to work a bit harder than in the typical graphic novel, and that extra bit of work is part of the pleasure of reading Gast.

Links today are all publishing previews!

Moebius at Dark Horse in detail at last — sounds OK.

Chester Brown’s new book at AV Club.

Grant Morrison’s debut issue of Heavy Metal.



Mama Tried

Today we bring you Aug Stone’s interview with the Dutch artist Hanco Kolk.

“So we were at a great secondhand bookshop by Pier 7 and Peter [de Wit] hands me Al Hirschfeld’s Show Business Is No Business. And I said, ‘Woah, I’ve never seen this before!’ I immediately fell in love with his lines, his fluidity. I wanted to master the same simplicity, the seemingly simple drawings. I did my own version and worked on it with a brush until I got that line. Years later I saw a Hirschfeld original and it appears that he didn’t do fluid lines at all! He made them little by little with his pen. But he got me to find this line that I have and it’s served me well.”

Served him well it has. Kolk has forty books to his name, a handful of album covers, and his long-running daily strip S1ngle was even turned into a television show. This year he’ll be releasing The Man Of The Moment as well as a new S1ngle book, drawing his version of Spirou (“I was really proud they asked me”), and making the posters for the Stripdagen festival in Haarlem. Comics, it seems, was always in the cards for Kolk.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. There is too much Ta-Nehisi Coates hype to keep track of right now, (I haven’t read Black Panther #1 yet but I would be amazed if it lives up to a fraction of the hoopla — and I am a Coates fan) but a couple of items that stand out include Evan Narcisse’s profile at Kotaku and J.A. Micheline’s interview at Vice.

At Comics Alliance, Caleb Mozzocco interviews James Sturm for the 10th anniversary of First Second.

—Commentary. Bill Boichel talks about Jackie Ormes.

—Misc. The University of Chicago Library is currently showing an exhibit of Daniel Clowes’s creative process, and many of the images are online.

Gabe Fowler isn’t sure whether or not there will be a CAB festival in New York this year.

Tom Kaczynski appeared in a Levi’s 501 ad in the early ’90s. “Tom, he’s cool.”

Julia Wertz has been evicted from her NYC apartment, and is selling lots of stuff (art, books, etc.) before her move.

Today is the last day to vote for the Eisner Hall of Fame awards.



Today on the site: The second and final part of the Wimmen’s Comix Oral History is here.

Roberta Gregory:  I went up to the Bay Area a couple of times to visit the Wimmen’s Comix “wimmen” but I didn’t really feel all that much different than them. I wanted so much to move up to the Bay Area, even going so far as to apply for jobs there, but it never seemed to work out. I think of it to this day as my “real” home. But I also made friends with Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli, who published several comics under their Nanny Goat Productions imprint in Southern California, and they were a big help and inspiration to me. I think their Tits and Clits first issue came out just a bit before the first Wimmen’s Comix, if one wants to sound competitive, but there were so many wonderful creative breakthroughs for women in the 1970s, culture, music, arts, any possible boundaries never seemed to matter.

Shary Flenniken:  Becky Wilson [who co-edited #6] asked me to do something and I was like oh, color, that’s fun and I can just do a one off joke? I was in other comics when people invited me. I did a sex education comic for Lora Fountain. She’s a wonderful person and she was very involved in important issues.

Jennifer Camper:  Each issue had different editors, and a theme, which could be interpreted broadly. I was contacted by the editor by mail. The only guidelines I recall were the page size and a deadline, I suppose it was implied that the work shouldn’t be sexist or racist or stupid. I mailed in veloxes of my work. We signed contracts from Rip Off Press, and the page rate was $25.

Leslie Ewing:  The experience provided an opportunity to learn how to create comics that could either be funny first and activist second–or, the other way around, depending on the situation. The experience helped me solidify my identity as an activist cartoonist.

Mary Fleener:  This was in the pre-Internet Age, so everyone wrote letters and postcards and everyone talked on the phone a lot, and as a result, you get to know people. That was the best thing I got from being in Wimmen’s, meeting whomever was the editor for that particular issue. Even though the hub and scene was in San Francisco, I felt like I was part of something that was exciting and interesting.


Peter Arno, who is the subject of an upcoming biography by, is profiled by Ben Schwartz.

Comics-related: famed publisher (Grove Press) the late Barney Rosset’s long-in-the-works autobiography is on the way. 

Here’s a nice and heavily illustrated history of early Canadian comics.



As always, Joe McCulloch is here to improve your Tuesday with his indispensable guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting all the best-sounding comics new to stores this week, with special spotlights on books by Ta-Nehisi Coates/Brian Stelfreeze and Guy Adams/Jimmy Broxton. He also writes a memorial to the recently departed mangaka Mikiya Mochizuki:

This past Sunday saw the death of Mikiya Mochizuki, a manga pro for over half a century, best known for the energetic and bullet-riddled motorcycle action series Wild 7. Debuting in 1969, and continuing in various media forms well into the 21st century — there was a live-action film in ’11, though older Japanese audiences would better remember a ’72-73 television drama — the series concerned the activities of a group of criminals recruited to battle yet-worse crime in a semi-official capacity, thus evading the needless restrictions of legality. It is not especially well-known in English, with only a 1994-95 anime video series and seven volumes of the earliest manga (via the now-defunct ComicsOne) officially released.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Sharon Eberson profiles Bill Griffith.

“All life is a blur of Republicans and meat” has proved to be one of his most popular catchphrases — and one of the best-sellers on T-shirts and other merchandise sold on the artist’s website.

“It seems nonsensical, but not when you think about it,” Mr. Griffith said. “There’s a joke about French humor, that it exists on 17 levels, and Jerry Lewis was the 18th level, he was so deep. I think Zippy is on multilevels. Some people get the first level, some the third and some all 17, and I’m happy when they do.”

And here Griffith is again, shopping for “beatnik” comics:

Bill Griffith Searching for Beatnik Comics from John F. Kelly on Vimeo.

Tripwire has re-published its 2006 interview with Dave Gibbons in three parts.

Actually all the constraints I put on myself, and I was very happy and comfortable drawing Watchmen like that. It simplifies things from the point of view of storytelling to have the shape and number of panels of a page preset, and also you become very expert as a result of composing a picture in a very familiar space. You know where the hotspots are, and how much detail it can take, and the exact effect it’s going to have in context. I think most artists would tell you that restrictions enhance creativity. You can be told that the art can be any size, any format, and then be told that “it’s got to be this size, now do it” – that’s what really gets the juices flowing.

Gil Roth interviews Phoebe Gloeckner.

And The New Republic talks to the aforementioned Ta-Nehisi Coates about his new Black Panther.

Earlier versions of T’Challa gave you the romance of monarchy without any account of the horrible things that monarchs actually do. So I wanted to think this through. Don’t get me wrong, I like T’Challa but that’s the point. So often it’s not evil people, it’s the system.

I know there are limits in art, but I reject them as long as I can.

—Commentary. Copacetic Comics owner Bill Boichel explains Harry Lucey:

The recent controversial editorial from Riss in Charlie Hebdo is not strictly speaking a comics story, but Adam Shatz has written a very good piece on what’s so disturbing about the essay.

Aside from ageing veterans of the French-Algerian war, no one in France talks about ‘the Arabs’ any longer. Instead they speak of ‘the Muslims’. But France’s Muslims are the descendants of that Arab peanut vendor – and, all too often, targets of the same racist intolerance. Like the racism [James] Baldwin encountered among his Parisian friends, it often wears an ennobling mask: anti-terrorist, secular, feminist.

—Spending Opportunities. Only a few days left on the Retrofit Kickstarter.

—News. Valnet has purchased the prominent comics news site, Comic Book Resources.



Today on the site, Greg Hunter brings us the eight installment of Comic Book Decalogue, in which Gabrielle Bell discusses Ulli Lust, This Dog Barking, and we get a cameo from Aidan Koch.

Anyhow, it’s been a strange blustery weekend here in New York. I read Kramers Ergot 9, which features the best Matthew Thurber story… ever; a sustained moment of cartooning genius by Dash Shaw that demonstrates his intense and shocking level of control over the medium and the reader; Jesse Marsh-level brilliance from Steve Weissman; brilliant philosophy from Anya Davidson; all-out-20th century jams from John Pham. Also, one goddamn good Tux Dog page from Ben Jones, who rides in to remind everyone that he’s still the funniest guy in the room. Overall this is a decidedly cartoony issue — much more about about the goofy cartoon curve, the flick of the wrist, and nearly Seattle-in-the-early-1990s levels of ironic humor. It’s great to see all this work between two covers — only pal Sammy could pull something off this comprehensive without it being heavy-handed. Plenty of surprises and new voices. That’s all I’ll say for now… I have other thoughts, but please go out and get this book — whatever you think you know, you need it, trust me.

Also, because I have so little to link to, I might add that Tim and I went to see Batman vs. Superman last week and while Tim loved it more than me initially, I have since grown to love it a lot. It’s a totally bonkers romantic comedy. Definitely not good, but also perhaps somehow “beyond good and evil” (get it???). I highly recommend it, and I really wish I had gotten stoned beforehand, because that would have made it even more awesome. I feel totally superhero satisfied and don’t need to look at superhero comics now for a long time. Dapper Dan over and out!

Oh, here’s a link: The Paris Review’s continuing series of Lydia Davis adaptations is here with the latest by Hallie Bateman.




Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Nick Drnaso’s Beverly.

A cover blurb from Chris Ware reads: “A debut book by a young writer-artist who has not only absorbed but also advanced beyond the comics which have preceded him. Beverly is the finest and most electrically complex graphic novel I’ve read in years.” This is an effusive endorsement from one of the greatest cartooning talents living or dead, and damning in its own way. What book could live up to those words, from that artist?

At minimum, Beverly is a work that many of Chris Ware’s readers will warm to, in part because it shares the cool temperament of Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan and Rusty Brown stories. And although Beverly doesn’t have the symphonic qualities of those works or the sheer technical virtuosity, that’s not really the point. If Ware weaves a tapestry of despair for his readers, Drnaso has opted to smother them with a gloom pillow. It’s a valid, effective approach, though it leaves Beverly open to similar critiques.

And we have the final day of Ginette Lapalme’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary. Thanks, Ginette!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Brenda Cronin at the Wall Street Journal writes about the career of longtime New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno.

—Interviews & Profiles. Pedro Moura conducts a somewhat academically oriented interview with Nick Sousanis.

Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve played Unflattening against conventional comics at all – especially not the ones you cite. As I say on that page, I do prefer to call them “comics,” and I think my work very much fits in the comics tradition from Batman to McCloud to Vaughn-James. There are some things that I do that are perhaps unique to me (lack of direct narrative and recurring characters) which should be the case with every author at some level, but I see it as a comic that happens to be presented in a different forum. A Duchamp-ian urinal perhaps!

Forge magazine interviews Patrick Kyle:

—Misc. Guinness has named Al Jaffee the holder of a new world record with the world’s longest professional career as a cartoonist: currently at 73 years and 3 months!

—Not Comics. Rolling Stone has named Brian Chippendale as the 91st greatest drummer of all time.

And this isn’t comics at all, but if you remember that bonkers Robert Crumb interview in the Observer last year that Crumb ended up publicly disavowing, then the latest nutso article from the same interviewer may seem familiar in its methods.

And if you’re in New York, tonight Alex Dueben (who put together the amazing oral history of Wimmen’s Comix we began publishing yesterday) will be speaking to Reinhard Kleist at the Goethe-Institut. Kleist will also be creating a live drawing.



Today on the site we have an obituary of Jess Johnson, written by former TCJ-editor Robert Boyd.

And we’re pleased to have part one of a two part oral history of Wimmen’s Comix, the complete run of which has just been published in a great two-volume set by Fantagraphics. Alex Dueben’s interviews with many of the key cartoonists (Trina Robbins, Sharon Rudahl, Barbara Mendes, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Diane Noomin, Phoebe Gloeckner, et al) covers a ton of new territory, not least of which is each contributor’s fascinating paths to the medium, as well as publishing biz history, tons of context about the sexual politics of the time, and so much more. With a few exceptions, these cartoonists are rarely interviewed. Earth people, here’s an open call: I want feature length interviews with everyone in this oral history. Let’s open up the history of underground comics. Email me.

Here’s a bit:

Trina Robbins:  I get to San Francisco and I discover, isn’t this wonderful we’re all here doing underground comics–well, it wasn’t. The guys didn’t include me. Later there were so many [cartoonists] but in the very early seventies, the first few years, it was a small group of guys and they all knew each other. It was a clique. Most of the comics in those days were still in anthology form so if they were going to do a comic, they’d call each other up and say, I’m going to do a comic, do you want to contribute six pages or four pages? Nobody called me. Nobody invited me into their books. Nobody invited me to their parties. The underground newspapers in the Bay Area were still carrying comics and they were a whole other group. They were much more open and that was wonderful because I wanted to draw comics for somebody. Underground newspapers had just started and if they were going to do an article, I’d read the article and on the spot, draw an illustration for it. I was getting published and I was drawing for people who wanted me to draw for them.

Meredith Kurtzman:  I was at the School for Visual Arts. I had one comic published in The East Village Other, but that was it. I can’t remember how I got involved with It Ain’t Me, Babe. My father knew Trina and Kim Deitch and I remember visiting them when they lived in a storefront on Ninth Street. We weren’t great pals or anything, it was more my father knowing all the underground comics people. They’d come to our house for dinner sometimes. I don’t think there was anyone else in that first issue who I really knew.

Trina Robbins:  Someone showed me what must have been the first issue of It Ain’t Me, Babe, which I had always thought was the first feminist newspaper on the West coast, but I later learned that it was the first feminist newspaper in America. I phoned them and said, I’d like to work for you. There was a be-in at Golden Gate Park and we met at the be-in and I wore a t-shirt that I had designed that had this strong and angry looking heroine and said under it “super sister.” They thought it was wonderful. They were in Berkeley so after that every three weeks or so I would show up at Berkeley and be doing drawings for them. I was also doing a lot of their covers and a comic on the back page. After working with them for a while, they gave me the moral support to say, I can put together a comic book.

Lisa Lyons:  As I remember, Trina called and asked if I’d be interested in taking part in It Ain’t Me Babe. No email or texting back then. How did she hear about me? I don’t know. Everybody knew everybody, or at least everybody knew somebody who knew somebody else on the Left in the Bay Area. I was a political cartoonist for the Independent Socialist Club and its newspaper Workers Power, and did work for many anti-war, civil rights, and social justice organizations, including the Black Panther Party, the Free Speech Movement, SDS, the Farm Workers, and the Peace and Freedom Party. My work appeared regularly in Liberation News Service. I illustrated Barbara Garson’s MacBird, which was translated into many languages and became a stage play.

Also today, Ginette Lapalm’s cartoonist diary, day 4.


On a related note, Rachel Miller wonders about one of the cartoonists in It Ain’t me Babe.

Sean Howe on another mystery: What has become of the Comic Magazine Association of America files?  It’s possible these are gone forever, but it’s equally possible some collector acting as a “historian” has them and is “saving them for a book.” I’ve heard that a lot about a lot of stuff.

Frank Santoro’s Comics Workbook is aggregating news over on its web site. Check it out.

Over on Facebook, here’s a look at the great Spain Rodriguez’s last freelance job.



Dance Theater

Today, we are publishing an English-language version of an article that originally appeared on the Italian comics website Fumettologica. It’s a roundtable discussion featuring colorists from various countries, talking about their process, how digital tools have changed the profession, and more.

Matt Hollingsworth:
I think there’s a fundamental historical misunderstanding of what was going on with coloring when the transition to digital was happening. At the time before I made the transition myself, I was doing mostly color guides, like most colorists. These color guides were just that, guides. These were handed in and then handed off to someone else to interpret. Earlier on, this process was more primitive. But around the time Oliff was doing his thing on Spawn, the people interpreting our color guides were called separators and they were doing that work on computers, same as Oliff. So, we basically had a middle man between us and the final colors, and they more often than not ruined our work. Oliff had fantastic artists doing his separations. They were amazing colorists in their own right. A lot of other seps studios had technicians and not artists and they often did a bad job on the seps. This is not to say all separators were bad, but the vast majority of them were. Some pages would come out great and you could tell that that separator was good and an artist. Most of us made the switch to computers so that we could do our own separations and avoid having other people destroy our work.

We also have day three of Ginette Lapalme’s Cartoonist’s Diary of her trip to Tokyo.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
The Johns Hopkins Hub talks to Ben Katchor about comics, politics, and cities.

In New York, at least when I was starting out, it was possible to live cheaply. That made a big difference in the amount of free time I had to make not overtly commercial comics, things that you just wanted to make and get into the world. So that’s probably easier to do in a less-expensive real estate market. That’s basically what cities have become—they’re attractive entertainment places for affluent people. If you don’t have money, you may be better off in a little town with a garden and less of a crushing overhead.

The Guardian talks to Daniel Clowes.

His characters also often miss things that the careful reader can see. “A lot of what I write about is what someone wants to present to the world, and then what they really are,” Clowes says. “What I play with a lot is the text, which is a lie, and then the image is the truth.”

When asked why he wanted to spend so much time on a single project – the book [Patience] is also his longest, at 180 pages – Clowes is frank: “I did not want to.”

The Huffington Post talks to Austin English.

From the start, it was clear to English that his style diverted greatly from the classic comic book formula. The artist explained to me that the first rule of cartooning, to his understanding, is that the characters must look consistent from panel to panel, from beginning to end. When making his own images, though, English couldn’t resist changing figures from one panel to the next, turning over the visual guidelines he’d just established. “The urge to break the rules is completely irresistible,” he added. “When I draw the comic for a second time I want to make a larger stomach or bigger feet.”

—Misc. For The Paris Review, Aidan Koch adapts a Lydia Davis story.