The Opposite of What You’d Expect

Good morning, everyone. Today, we are republishing "50 Years of Mediocrity", a controversial 1998 article written by the cartoonist Sam Henderson, about his disappointment as a student at School of Visual Arts in New York, prompted by a celebratory issue of the alumni magazine:

Now we get to the work of students past and present. “A Day in the Night of a Comic Book Artist” is a portfolio of the best from Joe Orlando’s class. Orlando asked his students to show themselves at their drawing board, and his example can be seen. A young man looks in a mirror above his drafting table trying to get the right face for the page he works on. He is surrounded by tools, and in the background are visions of superheroes, aliens, and spaceships. The results are basically other versions of the same drawing. Most students draw the same lamp and chair but add slight variations like different angles or the ultimate SVA cartooning major’s wish-fulfillment fantasy— a bed nearby with a girl sleeping in it.

Fifteen years later, Henderson has a few regrets about how that story panned out, and so we also have a new article from him talking about how his attitude towards SVA has changed. Here's a bit:

I heard secondhand how pissed off some people were about the piece. One faculty member (whom I didn't know) apparently told his students not to read it. I trashed one artist who supposedly told someone at the comic store he worked at that he'd kill me if he ever met me. I knew a couple teachers socially who thought I was throwing them under a bus.


—Interviews with Superhero Creators. Grant Morrison talks at length with USA Today about the end of his Batman run and the beginning of his work on Wonder Woman. Also, longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont talks to Sean Howe about the new Wolverine movie, and not getting a mention in the credits.

—The Funny Pages.
Derf wrote a longer update about his previously mentioned firing by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and the end of his long-running strip, The City. Which led to a truly inspired rant on the Comic Strip of the Day site about the current state of newspaper publishing. Matt Bor continues his doom-'n-gloom tour, talking to Truthout about what he believes is the dying art of editorial cartooning.

—Money. Jim Keefe, artist on the Sally Forth and Flash Gordon strips, talks about how cartoonists should price their work. Gary Tyrrell talks about the latest Kickstarter controversies.

—Heidi Macdonald does a end-of-show recap of the winners and losers of Comic-Con, and catches the welcome and imminent re-publication of Katherine Collins's Neil the Horse.

—Tim Kreider writes about designing book covers.

—A South Carolina Christian advocacy group has attacked the College of Charleston's choice of Fun Home as one of several books recommended for incoming freshmen, calling it "pornographic."

—Ben Towle enthuses about the French cartoonist Chaval.

—Tom Spurgeon has a very strong short review of Geneviève Castrée's Susceptible.

—Jason T. Miles writes about the origins of his upcoming horror anthology Insect Bath (and has set up a preview Tumblr for it, as well).

—The Los Angeles Review of Books has a video interview with Sammy Harkham.



Today on the site, the incomparable Jog discusses new comics and Jae Lee:

Deservedly or not, Lee is infamous for his slow production of pages, and like the similarly-drubbed Frank Quitely, his emphasis on placing bodies in relation to one another in sparse environments — and Lee is very much a stronger communicator of spatial relations than physical contact — can easily be read as handing over a bunch of work to the colorist; I don’t expect the original pencils for this one consisted of much more than the panel borders and a pair of Bat-smears of varying distinction. That said, I am not reading Jae Lee’s original art, but instead laboring under a helpful fiction that when I refer to “Jae Lee” I am hopefully restricting myself to considerations of his drawings and layouts, with the understanding that the wholeness of the page is attributable in large part to June Chung.


The New York Times on the "creator participation" model of comics-to-movie biz.

Tom Spurgeon on Before Watchmen.

I missed this Ronald Searle exhibition fundraiser. Seems worthy.


Inflected Lines

Today, we bring you the Comics Journal writing debut of a mysterious character named Waldo, who volunteered to review Kim Deitch's new book, The Amazing, Enlightening, and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley. It's an unusual review for many reasons, and here's a sample:



—There are several noteworthy comics notices out there, including Rookie founder Tavi Gevenson's review of The Daniel Clowes Reader for the Chicago Tribune, Roctober magazine's short but intense review of comics by Mickey Z and Michael DeForge, Daniel Kalder's review of Igor Baranko's Jihad, Noah Berlatsky's look at a zen strip from John Porcellino, and three recommendations from Jeff Smith.

—Portland's crowd-funded comics convention, The Projects, is in the final days of its Kickstarter drive, and hasn't made its goal yet.

—Tom Spurgeon has a nice, long interview with Charles Forsman.

Gary Groth as a young fan.

—For Comics Forum, Andrei Molotiu gathers a list of terms useful for comics studies, from action-to-action transition to word/image irony, and provides illustrations here.


Weather Report

Tucker returns today with a full dose couldn't make it today, but we have two reviews for you. First, Robert Kirby on Graham Chaffee's Good Dog:

I confess unfamiliarity with Graham Chaffee’s prior work. According to his bio he authored a 2003 comics collection, The Most Important Thing and Other Stories, then took a detour into tattoo art before completing this comeback effort. His drawings are appealing throughout Good Dog. He may not have the instantly recognizable, idiosyncratic style of a Theo Ellsworth or a Michael DeForge, being more of a solid craftsman along the lines of say, Dean Haspiel or Josh Neufeld, but his skills are undeniable. His dog drawings particularly shine. He deftly captures their body language and emotional states without undue anthropomorphizing; dog-loving readers will recognize that he clearly gets the whole dog thing—from the scratching of an itch to the quizzical cock of an ear, to the forlorn, tentative quality of a stray meeting a seemingly kind stranger. His human characters are also finely rendered, especially his more stylized drawings of the pool hall owners. Chaffee is also adept at using the art of comics to create some beautiful scene transitions and character arcs; at the peak of the story, one character greets his destiny in a grandly executed, poetic sequence that left me with a lump in my throat.

And Daniel Kalder on Alejandro Jodorowsky and Olivier Boiscommun's Pietrolino:

Pietrolino abounds in things that Jodorowsky loves. But the book is radically different from all his other comics in its unprecedented levels of restraint and even good taste. There is hardly any violence, precious little sex, no taboo breaking, barely any mystic-religious stuff, the plot is straightforward, and Jodorowsky dials down the symbolism. The tone is wistful, reflective, nostalgic, gentle, and melancholy. Pietrolino suffers, but his suffering is depicted without Jodorowsky’s tendency to abrupt tonal subversion; there are no sudden beheadings or wisecracks, there is no explicit parent-child sex. It’s the kind of Jodorowsky book you could show your mother, or a priest, or even a little girl, his equivalent of The Straight Story, David Lynch’s gentle yarn about an old codger riding a lawn mower to see his estranged brother one last time. And yet as with all—or nearly all—of Jodorowsky’s works, Pietrolino is at its core the tale of a wounded individual seeking healing, so it nevertheless fits neatly into his oeuvre.


Glen David Gold on corporations and Comic-Con. Always fun: D&Q at Comic-Con.

Robin McConnell interviews Phil McAndrew, while Laura Hudson profiles Neil Gaiman and looks at his upcoming return to comics.

Finally, it looks like Desert Island is putting on a comic book festival on November 9th, with Paul Karasik as programming director. Good news.


The Wind That Shakes the Blogosphere

It's great to have Frank Santoro back, writing his Riff Raff column. This week, he writes about Chris Ware's Building Stories in his inimitably specific style:

I appreciate the way Ware is using the center of the page and sometimes the spread to focus the eye. Again, this is something that he's been doing forever — it's just that he is expanding his use of it and because of the assembly of Building Stories, the contrasting use of the center in each format really came through. The "all at once" reading of the spread feels more approachable within the framework of the whole. Meaning some issues of Acme start with "all at once" reading or start with "traditional" reading; there have always been different approaches to reading in his work. Yet with the structure of Building Stories I often found myself starting in the center of the spread or page, depending on where my eye took me, and would just go with it instead of stopping myself and starting in the upper left hand corner. Even if I was fast forwarding the story it didn't feel "wrong" like I was reading the last lines of a novel first & spoiling the ending.

One sequence that comes to mind is when our hero is drawing the landscape out her window. ...


—Comics & Politics. I missed it, but Matt Bors was interviewed about the state of political cartooning on CNN:

Derf Backderf, who isn't precisely a political cartoonist but often tackles politics in his work, announced via Twitter that he's been laid off from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

And Hayao Miyazaki has been criticized in Japan because his new film has been deemed by some to be insufficiently patriotic.

Gabriel Winslow-Yost writes about CF's new Mere for the New York Review of Books. Nicky Tiso writes about Lisa Pearson's It Is Almost That> at HTMLGiant.

—Conventions. The New York Times came back from Comic-Con with a report on the rise of digital publishing companies like comiXology. Rob Salkowitz, who wrote a book on Comic-Con, comes back from this year's show believing its cultural impact may have plateaued. Gabe Fowler's Desert Island Tumblr page is hosting an announcement.

—Interviews. Michael Cavna at the Washington Post interviewed Joe Sinnott after he entered the Eisner Hall of Fame. Marc Singer reports on a Grant Morrison public appearance in Scotland he helped host.

—Culture. Domingos Isabelinho writes about a special comics-focused 1971 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture. Scott Esposito writes about the recent rediscovery of John Williams's novel Stoner in a way that will likely resonate to many comics fans.


It’s a Gas

Today on the site: Listen closely to the SDCC panel on music and comics with David Lasky and William Stout.


I've completely missed this very funny Tumblr site by Zohar Lazar: Ignatz is Unfunny.

The Forward on Bob Fingerman's opening at MoCCA.

Here's a review of a book I'm looking forward to reading: The Strange Tale of Panorama Island.

I like this gallery of images from the last day of Comic-Con. And here are Tom Spurgeon's final thoughts on SDCC 2013.

And Doug Aitken interviews Raymond Pettibon.


Challenging the Concept of Free Content

It's the time of the week when Joe McCulloch tells us about all the newest, most interesting comics coming out in stores tomorrow.


—Deb Aoki, formerly of, has launched a brand-new site this morning, Manga Comics Manga.

Here are the winners of the 2013 Eisner Awards. Building Stories and Saga did especially well.

—I'm probably not going to link to a lot of Comic-Con reports this year, but I liked this one from Philip Nel.

—If your interest was at all piqued by the announcement of new S. Clay Wilson books on the way, please go to Justin Green's blog entry passing a message from Wilson's wife Lorraine Chamberlain about Wilson's current health and financial situation (you may remember he received a traumatic brain injury a few years ago), and information about how you can help (Green's offering an incentive of his own for doing so).

—This sounds interesting. Starting this August, Tom Hart's SAW will be offering an online comics history course.

—Tom Spurgeon interviewed Chris Roberson and Allison Baker on the one-year anniversary of Monkeybrain Comics.

—Sarrah Horrocks writes about Red Sonja.

Jim Rugg inks John Buscema.



Today on the site:

R.C. Harvey profiles Helen Hockinson:

Parker and Hokinson shared an admiration for the redoubtable editor of The New Yorker. “We set great store by the judgment of Harold Ross,” Parker wrote, adding Hoky’s opinion: “When he pencils ‘Not funny’ in the margin of a drawing and I look at it later, I generally realize to my horror that it isn’t,” she said.

Although her relationship with the magazine and its editor was, for the most part, “extremely happy,” as Parker reported, there was an occasion of unhappiness when she discovered that Peter Arno was being paid more for his cartoons than she was for hers. This discrepancy doubtless arose because of Ross’s labyrinthian pay scale that resulted in higher pay for full-page cartoons—and Arno was diligent in opting for full-page ideas every time. But Hoky, put out by the perceived inequity, refused to send in any more drawings until the playing field was leveled. Ross promptly did the right thing.

Hokinson kept her pocket-sized sketchpad with her at all times, and once, at least, after her celebrity as the creator of the Hokinson Woman was established, her habit of drawing wherever she was gave her a chuckle. She was sketching at a flower show when she overheard a broad-beamed woman saying to her friends, “Watch out. I understand Helen Hokinson comes here for material.” Hoky, who was at that very moment unobtrusively drawing the speaker, giggled to herself but didn’t miss a stroke of the pencil.



That enormo Comic-Con over on the other coast generated some news. Tom Spurgeon kept a good running commentary. The Beat already has some panel summaries.

The New Yorker on Rube Goldberg.

And Harlan Ellison profiled by New York magazine.