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Mostly Old Stuff. Some New.

Black Cat Mystery #45 "Colorama" preliminary by Warren Kremer, 1953.

Herewith my attempt at something Tim tells me is called “link-blogging”. Look for a lot more of this in the future. Don’t all cheer at once.

My Wally Wood obsession knows no bounds. I might also note that the Wood catalog published in Spain really is worth the money.

Zom, of The Mindless Ones, who have been kind enough to lend us Amy Poodle, takes a look at The Killing Joke, with typically thought-provoking results.

Allan Holtz brings us Old Boy Binks, a deeply obscure 1915-16 strip by the great Ed Wheelan, whose strip Minute Movies is a favorite of mine for its intense compression and flippant drawing. In his 1940s less-than-salad days Wheelan also drew for comic books, and must’ve wondered how the hell he got there, amidst all those amateurs.

 

This link is old for the internet, but I only just saw it: Gill Fox cover roughs and color guides over at Comic Book Attic. Fox, along with Harvey’s Warren Kremer, was a great golden age workhorse, who could produce a package from the inside out. His production is, in some ways, as impressive as his artwork. Also, this is more evidence of what we might call the “Heritage Effect“, because the auction house continues to uncover deeply obscure items — things otherwise left in filing cabinets and certainly not available to gaze at in deep digital detail — everything from Kremer cover roughs to Dave Berg unpublished comic strips. I don’t think it’s rewriting history, but in providing a somewhat random resource of unseen ephemera, it’s deepening it significantly. I have to say I sometimes forget it’s an auction house in the business of selling art, not necessarily archiving it. Oh, and fun fact: Gill Fox drew the classic pizza box art of the 1970s and ’80s.

Today’s content:

R.C. Harvey’s monthly column, Hare Tonic, make its debut with a profile of Dick Locher, whose final Dick Tracy will appear on Sunday. I’m fond of Harv’s take on newspaper strip cartoonists — he gets at the day-in, day-out grind of it, and in this piece manages some great Chester Gould anecdotes, to boot. Vanessa Davis’ final diary entry. Thank you Vanessa: You have set the standard by which all cartoonists must now procrastinate productively. And finally, Matt Seneca reviews City Hunter by C.F. Two in one week from the Seneca. We hope he never grows old and tired like the rest of us.

And this weekend: Watch out for Frank Santoro’s TCJ debut!

 

We’re Going to Do This Every Day?

This could get old real quick. I am lucky, though, because Dan neglected to mention our most recent published items, which gives me a few more work-free links.

Columns:

First, R. Fiore continues his long-running “Funnybook Roulette”, with an entry regarding Sylvain Chomet’s recent animated film based on an unproduced Jacque Tati script.

Ken Parille offers what may be the most exhaustive look at a Moto Hagio story yet written in English.

The universally loved Joe “Jog” McCulloch turns in his first weekly report from the comic-shop front line.

And Vanessa Davis continues her week’s worth of diary entries.

Reviews:

Tucker Stone joins the Comics Journal team, and offers his take on the British war comic, Johnny Red: Falcons’ First Flight.

Chris Mautner reviews the first three volumes of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman.

In other TCJ-related news, I forgot to link to possibly the most thorough take on the recent relaunch, from Sequential. (Thanks to Tom S. for the reminder.)

And Abstract Comics editor Andrei Molotiu posted a lengthy remembrance of his own experiences with this site’s late (and apparently not entirely unlamented) message board.

Also, the RSS feed(s) should be working properly again, so subscribe away if that’s your thing—and did you know that the Journal is on Twitter and Facebook? It is, and Dan and I are not exactly masters of the social media arts, so some of the more sadistic among you may enjoy “friending” and “following” and such, if only to watch us flounder.

In non-TCJ news, The Panelists has begun an interesting series on Eddie Campbell and Daren White’s The Playwright, featuring comments from the man himself.

Blog 2 Comm digs up Fredric Wertham’s forgotten paean to fandom, The World of Fanzines. (Ignore the weird Archie opinions up top.) This reminded me of Wertham’s rebuffed letter of enthusiasm to Graphic Story Magazine — the Bad Doctor had an ironic and too-little-remembered third act.

The novelist Charles Baxter wrote a compelling recent essay on bad reviewers, with several passages that called to mind a lot of what currently passes for online comics criticism.

For example, “To say that something is ‘boring’ is not a statement about a book, although the speaker may think that it is; it’s a statement about the reader’s poverty of equipment.”

And: “A reviewer is entitled to any opinion at all, but he or she earns that opinion based on a description and a judicious citation of evidence. Otherwise, the reviewer is the literary equivalent of Michelle Bachmann, making outrageous statements simply in order to become famous. Is it too much to ask of a reviewer that he should know what he’s talking about?”

Finally, a word of warning to any excitable cartoonists out there, before they react to a negative review that we run.

Ok, we’ll get better at this — stay with us.

 

I Work Here, Too!

I’ve been quiet (read: frantic) these last couple days, but Tim tells me it’s my turn on “The Blog.” I hope everyone is enjoying the old advertisements in issues 27-38 of the Journal. Comics used to be cheap. What? There’s other stuff on this site? No one told me.

House cleaning dept: We’re having a little trouble with our RSS feeds, but these are the links.

Blog: http://www.tcj.com/category/blog/feed/
Features: http://www.tcj.com/category/features/feed/
Columns: http://www.tcj.com/category/columns/feed/
Reviews: http://www.tcj.com/category/reviews/feed/?post_type=reviews
TCJ Archive: http://www.tcj.com/category/tcj-archive/feed/

They’ll be more obviously accessible very soon.

As Tim mentioned, we’ll be using this space for all kinds of things. But today I want to mention some things that have run across my desk.

Paul “Pops” Karasik sent me a link to this hot new game inspired by a certain cartoonist whose work he poured his heart and soul into. Missing the point doesn’t even cover it. But it takes all kinds, I guess. Rumor has it that the Nancy book PK is working on with Mark Newgarden is quickly taking on the properties of a masterpiece of comics theory and history. My very first interview in this hoary field was with Paul (and edited by Tim, of “Tim Hodler” fame, along with pal Patrick Smith), and that split my brain in two. It was through Paul that I met Mark, who then turned my brain to dust, and thanks to Mark that I met Gary Panter, who gently released said brain dust over a field of aging newsprint. So, really, my present state of mind is basically Paul’s fault. All this from a link he innocently sent to me. Well, he’ll never do that again.

Speaking of Gary, he needs help identifying an artist. I’d asked him who I should write about next, and, well, I’ll let him explain: “There was another artist, lost to time, whose work looked like Jack Davis combined with Don Martin. Very crude yet confident. Maybe it was one of them but I think not. His monster comics occasional appeared in early ’60s monster mags like Castle of Frankenstein. Maybe a Spanish name. Never saw the work again.” He has me stumped, but I bet someone out there knows the answer. Have at it, people.

Anyhow, onwards: Did you know that Ben Katchor has a blog and a Twitter account? The blog is of particular interest because he seems to be posting his research into 19th and early 20th century picture stories. He’s kind of publicly charting his own literary/aesthetic history. More, please, Ben!

In the credit-where-credit-is-due dept., Doug Harvey takes a look at a new claim on the origins of the iconic Rat Fink character, which, according to a recent book, was not, in fact, first drawn by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. The Rat Fink is one of the earliest icons of commercial cartoon grotesque — right up there with Basil Wolverton’s Lena Hyena cover for Mad.

I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting you’re not following the excellent series of Jack Kirby panel examinations over at HiLobrow, but Glen David Gold’s installment on Journey into Mystery #72 looks at a rare bit of comedic absurdity on a Kirby monster page.

Be aware dept: Maira Kalman is opening a retrospective at the Jewish Museum on Friday. Kalman being the wry and funny New Yorker cover artist, children’s book author and rather brilliant picture story maker. I kinda think she figured out web comics pretty damn well. As Tom Spurgeon might say, everyone claims Maira Kalman except for comics.

And finally, conflict of interest alert (I publish Ben’s work, but I’m not involved in this property): The Ben Jones animated TV show, Problem Solverz, will debut on the Cartoon Network in April. Here’s a fresh trailer for it. I mention this because Jones is probably the first “underground” cartoonist of my generation to make this transition: A full fledged season of his own show.

 

The Day After

Welcome back! As you can see, the site is continuing to grow—check in frequently to see what’s new. Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s look into things a little deeper.

For example, this blog: it’s a work in progress. The current plan is for Dan and I to switch off days, usually highlighting content from the site at large, and linking to various posts of interest at other sites. Also, from time to time, guest bloggers will show up to post items that don’t fit comfortably in any of the site’s more formal categories. It should be fun. Let’s find out.

First of all, don’t miss Tom Spurgeon’s lengthy interview with Dan and myself—it covers a lot of ground, in typical Spurgeon fashion.

For those of you who can’t enough TCJ talk, more reaction on the site’s makeover can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In regard to that last link: We appreciate the feedback we’ve received as to the perceived dearth of female contributors to the new TCJ.com. We’re sensitive to these concerns, and simply ask that our readers not rush to judgment. We are still in the confirmation process with many great potential writers. Over the following weeks and months we will be publishing lots of content about female and male artists, written by both female and male contributors. As we said in our interview with the Comics Reporter, one of our stated goals for TCJ.com is to make the site “a place for a plurality of real, idiosyncratic, and conflicting voices.” Obviously we can’t have that without diversity in the genders of those voices. (By the way, if you have a suggestion for a contributor you’d like to see here, of any gender, please feel free to contact us at editorial@tcj.com. The e-mailbox is always open.)

Okay, time for a tour of the site’s new content. (Some of this is repeated from yesterday, but none of it should be missed.)

Features:

The inimitable Bob Levin writes at length about Frank Frazetta and family.

Patrick Rosenkranz chronicles the history of autobiographical comics, from Justin Green to Gabrielle Bell.

We present an exclusive preview of Seth’s forthcoming graphic novel, The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists.

Amy Poodle gives Grant Morrison obsessives what they want, with a meditation on The Invisibles and hauntology.

Columns:

Richard Gehr inaugurates his column with a can’t-miss interview with the legendary New Yorker and National Lampoon cartoonist Sam Gross.

Ryan Holmberg debuts the first of many entries chronicling the history of alternative manga. This promises to be amazing.

Vanessa Davis helps launch our Cartoonist’s Diary series.

Reviews:

Sean Rogers compares Johnny Ryan to Jack Kirby.

Matt Seneca writes about Roy Crane and Buz Sawyer.

Sean T. Collins reviews Ben Katchor’s Cardboard Valise.

Chris Mautner doesn’t like Daytripper all that much.

That’s it for now, but look around—as mentioned earlier, there’s new content every day!

 

Welcome to the New Comics Journal

Hi there, and welcome to the new online Comics Journal.

So, what’s the deal here, anyway? First, let’s be clear: We’re editing the online incarnation of this magazine only. Gary Groth is the editor of the annual print edition (issue 301 in stores soon!), and Kristy Valenti is our editorial coordinator at the Fantagraphics home office. Michael Dean will be contributing to the site, and helping Gary with the print magazine. Our goal is to produce an online magazine about comics as a living medium. And yes, we’re closing Comics Comics. Or rather, we’re putting it into cryogenic storage. It still lives where it always lived. The Comics Journal was a huge influence on both of us, and when Gary offered the opportunity to help shape it, the challenge was too good to pass up. So here we are.

This site is divided into several sections which will continue to grow over the days and weeks and months to come: Feature articles, including lengthy interviews, investigative journalism, and long-form critical and historical essays; regular columns on a variety of subjects; a steady stream of book reviews; thorough and easily navigated event listings; an ever-growing archive of The Comics Journal‘s thirty-plus years as a print magazine (by the end of 2011, each and every issue will be online)—this will be available in full to magazine subscribers only; and of course this daily blog, which will be a catch-all for short items, selective link-blogging, and a forum for guest voices and bad jokes.

We’re happy to announce all of our Comics Comics cohorts have come along with us. Frank Santoro’s regular column, Riff Raff, will debut this weekend; Jeet Heer’s Comics Chronicles later this week. Joe “Jog” McCulloch will continue covering This Week in Comics in his own inimitable style, and Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, and Jason T. Miles will also be contributing content in the coming months.

Our other columns include Grid by Ken Parille; What Was Alternative Manga? by Ryan Holmberg (first installment up now); Say Hello, by Sean T. Collins; High-Low by Rob Clough; Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists by Richard Gehr (also up now, and featuring a tremendous Sam Gross interview); Hare Tonic by R.C. Harvey; Funnybook Roulette by R. Fiore; and finally, A Cartoonist’s Diary, in each installment of which a guest cartoonist will invite readers in to observe five days in a working artist’s life. (Vanessa Davis is up first.) We’re thrilled we are able to launch with such a talented bunch. Upcoming contributors to the site include Andrew Leland, Naomi Fry, Jesse Pearson, Tom De Haven, Shaenon Garrity, Matt Seneca, Chris Mautner, Tucker Stone, and Hillary Chute, with more to come.

As you can see, we already have some lengthy articles online (such as Bob Levin on Frank Frazetta, and Patrick Rosenkranz on the story of autobiographical comics), an exclusive preview of Seth’s upcoming graphic novel, a batch of book reviews, and a ton of archival features, such as a selection of the magazine’s greatest hits (which will continue to grow in the weeks and months ahead), and, for a limited time only, free access to scans of the magazine’s very earliest issues—don’t miss the new introduction Gary has written for the first issue. There’s a lot more than that here, so … look around for yourself!

Not to be too obvious about our ambitions, but we want TCJ to be the best source for tough-minded writing and thinking about the medium and we think we’ve assembled a team that can make that happen.

We’d like to thank Gary, Kristy, Michael Dean, Jacq Cohen, and everyone at Fantagraphics for taking this leap with us. Keep reading.

 
Dan and Tim

 
P.S. The old TCJ.com’s content is safe and sound, and will be up and available again in the very near future.

UPDATE: You can find all the old TCJ.com material at classic.tcj.com.