Macintosh’s Waterproof Life Preserver

Today we bring you Robert Kirby's review of the new Ulli Lust book, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, which has proved itself very popular in my household. Here's a bit of Robert's review:

Thus begin her adventures as a 17-year-old Austrian punk rock girl ambling her way across Italy in the summer of 1984 with her newfound friend in tow, a tall, gangly girl named Edi. With no money or passports they forge ahead by sheer force of will, armed only with the invulnerability of the young and rebellious. Though Lust’s youthful exuberance and energy are severely tested by the inevitable pitfalls an attractive young woman will encounter hitchhiking in a country bound by traditional (i.e. highly sexist) cultural mores and traditions – and by the personal betrayals of certain fair-weather friends – this is no glib Live-and-Learn morality tale. One of the reasons the book is so successful is that Lust let the experience gestate over years, allowing for a certain distance and detachment. She captures perfectly and without judgment the complex social, cultural, and personal maelstrom she willingly entered into that summer, offering readers a wonderfully vicarious thrill in the process - especially readers like me, whose travelogues are generally limited to the “what I ate that time I went to Reykjavik” category.

I spent a very long day yesterday in Storybook Land, New Jersey, so may have been too discombobulated when I got home to recognize interesting news, but in any case I wasn't able to find quite as many links as usual. Here's what I've got:

—As you may have heard, a group of scholars have changed their minds about which is the first "true" graphic, now nominating something called the Glasgow Looking-Glass from 1825 Scotland (and thus prior to Töpffer's Obadiah Oldbuck). Here's a selection of images from the publication.

—Hogan's Alley has a ton of photos from the most recent Reuben Awards.

—A promotional video for Art Instruction, Inc. featuring a cameo from Charles Schulz.


Either Way

We hope you're following the ongoing Kim Thompson tributes. Here's a new one by Jeet Heer about Kim the critic.

The mark of strong critics is that you take their views seriously even when you most sharply disagree with them. Or as F.R. Leavis once said, the essential critical sentence is “Yes, but—“ There were many occasions where my own impressions diverged sharply from Kim’s. I’ve tried to like Dave Sim’s Cerebus because of Kim’s eloquent advocacy, but I’ve never been able to quite see in that work what Kim did. Kim was also dismissive of Jack Kirby’s 1970s work in ways that I thought were unfair. (! generational divide might be at work here. In my experience it helps to be born after 1965 and not grow up with Stan & Jack era Marvel comics to appreciate 1970s Kirby). The mental arguments I’ve had with Kim are as much a part of my education as the words he wrote.

And Chris Mautner brings us an interview with Carol Tyler.

Loss is a very big part of the book and I experienced loss while finishing the back part of the book. I think one of things I’ve learned this year — I’ve never seen anyone . . . I watched my mother die this year, being attentive to the end of her life and now my sister’s got this disease. When I drew “The Hannah Story,” I had just lost my job. The emotion of loss is powerful and one of things I recently come to realize. You actually do go through a period of mourning that’s physical.

There were lots of other losses too. In fact, last year was the suckiest year ever! I had to put my dog down. You name it. All the worst shit you could deal with I had to go through. Everything from my house being robbed twice to my daughter’s car being stolen. Justin & I got invited to [Europe] and I got sick on the trip. Some weird virus that lasted two months. Twenty-two days of fever and being bedridden, unable to move. I had a reaction to the virus and ended up with reactive rheumatoid arthritis. I couldn’t move. It traveled around different joints in my body. Couldn’t roll over. Couldn’t walk. I remember when I could finally move my foot one day, “Wow. There’s hope.” After the fever broke, I had lost 25 pounds and weighed 119. This was in November.


Ben Schwartz remembers Kim Thompson at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Hey, new books in the works from Jim Woodring and Dan Zettwoch, respectively.

An NPR review of Rutu Modan's The Property and a CAKE post from her publisher, D&Q.

And finally, an interview with Benjamin Marra.



Masses of Powers

Tuesday is the day before new comics come out, and Joe McCulloch has your weekly guide to the most interesting-sounding new releases.

We are continuing to add to our collection of tributes to Kim Thompson. New additions include those of Mike Catron, Helena G. Harvilicz, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and Tony Millionaire.

We also have a ten-minute video from the 2001 San Diego Comic-Con, in which Gary Groth, Kim Thompson, and Mike Catron discuss the early days of Fantagraphics.

—A nice off-site tribute to Kim Thompson from Matthias Wivel and a very funny one from the inimitable Bully.

—Greg Hunter at Big Other reviews David B's Incidents in the Night, and Impossible Mike at HTMLGiant reviews CF's Mere. It's nice to see some of the smaller literary sites engage with more ambitious comics instead of just slumming.

—Chicago Weekly interviews Ivan Brunetti, Gil Roth interviews both Brunetti and Michael Kupperman, Inkstuds interviews Cathy Malkasian, and Tell Me Something I Don't Know interviews John Porcellino.

Dan Clowes draws Chicago, and explains the picture.

—Mark Waid explains why he isn't getting any money for the incredibly successful Man of Steel movie, which apparently uses some ideas from comics he's written.

—I don't advertise too many of these kinds of thing on here, but tomorrow Last Gasp is having a huge underground comics sale.


Paying Homage

Today we have tributes to Kim Thompson from David B., Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Al Columbia, Mark Evanier, R. Fiore, Sam Henderson, Paul Hornschemeier, Eric Reynolds, Joe Sacco, and Chris Ware. Here is Daniel Clowes:

Kim had, from my vantage, what appeared to be an enviable life: a happy home, and an unending pride in his calling. He was truly a gentle, kind soul, though he always thought of himself as a bit of a punk, I think. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry, and he treated even the lowliest of adversaries with good-natured acceptance. Dave Sim has probably lost his only sane defender. Kim knew he and Gary had done something beyond what anyone could have ever imagined and he seemed continually giddy over what turned out to be an astounding and indelible achievement.

And we've also dug up his original review of Ronin from The Comics Journal #82 (July 1983).

Elsewhere in comics:

Tom Spurgeon offers a Kim Thompson primer and 5 for Friday.

Stefan Kanfer on Will Eisner.

And an interview with Jim Rugg by TCJ-contributor Chris Mautner.


A Great Loss

Today we bring you Michael Dean's affectionate, funny, moving obituary for Kim Thompson.

[Gary] Groth and Michael Catron had formed Fantagraphics in late 1974 and had begun editing and publishing The Comics Journal out of Groth’s apartment in College Park, Md., in 1976.

“Within a few weeks of [Thompson’s] arrival,” Groth said, “he came over to our ‘office’ — which was the spare bedroom of my apartment. It was a fan-to-fan visit. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day, as scary as that might sound.”

Thompson not only stepped into the breach of the ongoing workflow, he bailed the company out of the first of its occasional financial crises by turning over a $1,000 educational nest egg from his grandparents. According to Catron, “I’m sure we were up to our eyebrows in bills as usual, and he offered to tap this fund to get us out of it. I’ve never thought of it as Kim’s buy-in of the company.” He was already working for free and when he perceived that the magazine needed the money to survive, he handed it over, no strings attached.

It was soon clear that Thompson had become an integral part of the Journal and Fantagraphics. Groth said, “At some point, maybe a year after he arrived, we simply gave him a third of the company. I remember the three of us discussing it in the living room of my apartment. He was putting in as many hours as we were and was as fully involved in the magazine as we were. He was, as [Joseph] Conrad, said, one of us.”

I met Kim Thompson a few times, but mostly only knew him through e-mail, and through the many, many amazing books he edited, translated, and/or championed. For the most part, it has been a wonderfully convenient thing that Dan and I have been able to edit this site from our homes on the East Coast, but at the same time, I have always regretted not being able to work with the team at Seattle more directly, especially Kim, one of my earliest publishing heroes and someone whose wise and cant-free advice and opinion has always been extremely influential on me; even when I disagreed with him I learned a great deal from how he expressed himself. I always assumed I'd have the chance to get to know him better. Over the past couple of days, as Dan and I have been exchanging e-mails with Gary, Kristy, and others back in Seattle about how to cover Kim's passing, I kept irrationally wanting to wait and see what Kim would have to say...

Kim changed the life of everyone involved in comics for the better, in ways large and small, direct and indirect, and many tributes and remembrances to him have been published online. I am sure I have missed many, but a few that have stuck out to me include those of Blake Bell, Robert Boyd, Rob Clough, Simon Hanselmann, Charles Hatfield, Domingos Isabelinho, Jason, Chris Mautner, Heidi MacDonald, Dean Mullaney, Chris Oliveros, Ken Parille, and James Vance. This does not include the many words on Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms, too many to sift through. It looks like Tom Spurgeon, who wrote some particularly touching words about Kim on Twitter himself, is collecting some of the most notable Twitter and Facebook entries here.

We are gathering tributes of our own to post on the site soon, as well as some of the highlights from Kim's writing for the Journal over the years. In the meantime, a few examples were published on the old incarnation of this site: Kim's excoriation of Don McGregor's Detectives, Inc., and a roundtable on translation that he participated in. I also love this e-mail debate between Kim and Gary Groth over the merits (or lack thereof) of Dilbert, which is actually very revealing about the differing, complementary attitudes that made the Kim/Gary team such a formidable and well-rounded editorial collaboration. And it makes me laugh.

By coincidence, our other offering for you today is an excerpt from Incidents in the Night, the new book by David B., one of many cartoonists who Kim helped introduce into English. His legacy lives all around us.


Editor’s Notes

Jaime Hernandez said it best yesterday on Twitter:

"While Gary's the in-your-face ballbuster, Kim was the quiet ballbuster. Both were needed to save comics. Good job, Kim."

Kim Thompson passed away yesterday. He'll be sorely missed. Kim's contributions to comics, not to mention to TCJ, are too numerous to list here. We'll have much more writing about him in the days to come. For now, I urge you to check out a great series of blog posts he ran over at the Fantagraphics site. These "Editor's Notes" are invaluable mini-essays on European comics. Here he is on Gil Jordan. And on Trondheim's Approximate Continuum Comics.  And on Marti's The Cabbie. Finally, check out the two best English-language essays on Jacques Tardi (and read his TCJ interview, too)

Would any other publisher write like this about his own books? No, not really. Kim's devotion and articulate passion set him apart.  There's more on the FB site. Just click his name and read on.  There is also a nice interview with him about European comics over at Inkstuds.

Today on the site we have Tom Scioli's look at the very first published comic book work by Jim Steranko. Tom investigates the story panel by panel like a comics archeologist.

According to the Grand Comics Database there is one story in issue #1 of Double-Dare Adventures, "The Legend of the Glowing Gladiator," that at one point was credited to Steranko. The database has since been corrected by "Manny Lunch". Now the story is credited to Red Skull co-creator Eddie Herron and penciller Bob Powell .

I'm not interested in making the case that these two men did not work on the story. In the multiple-hands assembly line of comics production, I don't doubt that these seasoned professionals did their part. The case I'm making is that this work bears the indelible mark of one Jim Steranko, and is the first published comic book story he wrote and drew.

And elsewhere:

This has been circulating around the web: Milton Glaser and Lee Savage from 1968. Check it out while you can.


Kim Thompson, RIP

Kim Thompson passed away this morning. He was an immensely important figure in comics history. On a personal note, he was very supportive of me and Tim, and we were thrilled to know him just a little bit over the last couple of years. We'll miss him. Gary Groth wrote his friend and partner's obituary at the Fantagraphics site.



The Noble Hotel

Today, we bring you part two of Zak Sally's enormously entertaining interview with Peter Bagge. This time around, they talk Bagge's recent work, politics, piracy, and how selling convention sketches resembles prostitution. Here's Bagge on editing Weirdo:

While I was the managing editor of Weirdo for that brief period, the harshest criticism I got was from the other contributors, who would be offended by the work of other artists I ran. For example, I reprinted a three-page comic strip by S. Clay Wilson that originally ran in Screw magazine. Screw magazine probably told him, "Be your S. Clay Wilson-est, go crazy and break every taboo." So he just went nuts, drawing the most sexist and racist and scatological comic he could possibly think of. He really went overboard, and I loved it. [Laughs] So I reprinted it.

You see, one of the things that was great about early underground comics is the way they gleefully and compulsively broke every societal rule imaginable. It was very cathartic to see that, and it was one of many things that helped loosen up our culture. But by the '80s, those rules started to tighten up again, largely from the left, surprisingly, and under the guise of political correctness. The false notion of direct causation—that, say, a depiction of rape causes someone to commit rape—was gaining a lot of traction again, which made it easy again for people to demonize and ban material that they didn't like.

The S. Clay Wilson strip was obviously meant to fly in the face of this new political correctness, yet artists who were offended by it kept saying, "It's been done before, time to move on." To which I said, "No, it's obviously time to do it again." [Laughs]. I felt that critics of the strip were being disingenuous when they said "Wilson isn't funny anymore," since I don't think they ever thought he was funny. They simply felt that now was the time to say it out loud, and over and over again. A number of artists said they'd no longer contribute if I ran a strip like that again. So I ran another strip by Wilson that was even more offensive. [Laughs] That may sound childish and spiteful on my part, which it was to some degree, but I also thought those strips were very, very funny, so it wasn't solely about making a point.


—Missed it: Mark Millar got an MBE.

—Gilbert Hernandez's Marble Season was reviewed in The Guardian, and Jaime Hernandez was interviewed at the BD and Comics Passion festival.

—Tom De Haven has reposted a 1986 essay on Dick Tracy he wrote for Nemo.

—Anne Ishii profiles Taiyo Matsumoto for the Japan Times.

—Darryl Ayo starts a rambling but interesting and probably necessary discussion on the state of independent comics and who exactly is reading them, anyway.

This is still a hoax, people.

New Al Columbia!