The first installment of Bart Beaty’s monthly column, The Dr. Is In. Bart will be writing about academic publishing around comics — he kicks it off with Hillary Chute’s recent book.
And Sean Rogers weighs in with a review of Dan Clowes’ Mr. Wonderful.
Your daily links…
This went around the Twitter-sphere yesterday afternoon — it’s pretty great. Cartoonists talking about the tools of their craft in a promotional video for TCAF.
I’ve never been to the FLUKE comics fest, but it sounds like it was fun, and I like spending time in the South, so…
John Adcock takes a look at Bill Blackbeard’s non-fiction and pulp writing.
Michael Barrier has been posting some great old interviews on his site. Here’s one with animator and funny animal cartoonist Lynn Karp.
J. Caleb Mozzocco looks at Matt Howarth’s new book, The Downsized. Howarth is one of those cartoonists who remains pretty much unexamined, and he sure was prolific throughout the 1980s and early ’90s.
I enjoy looking at the sporadically updated Frank Bellamy Checklist blog. Bellamy is a standard bearer for ye’ ol’ stiff upper lip British realist comic, which I have some weird weakness for looking at. Anyhow, this latest installment has some images that would not seem out of place on a 1970s Brian Eno record cover.
And finally, the old pro Murphy Anderson — the cleanest surface around. Here’s an oldie.
Second, we introduce an audio component to our multimedia empire: TCJ Talkies, a new biweekly podcast series hosted by Mike Dawson. (Dan came up with the name, I hasten to add.) The first episode‘s guest is world-class ranter Evan Dorkin.
And if you haven’t checked in to our post gathering tributes to Bill Blackbeard in a while, it is probably worth looking at again. We have been adding new material all week, including writing from Gary Groth, Michael Tisserand, Peter Maresca, Trina Robbins, and updated thoughts from Jeet Heer.
Your Daily Links:
Kim Thompson has been working on a big upcoming collection of Joost Swarte material for Fantagraphics, and has two greatposts on the translation issues involved.
Robot 6 found a striking early Charles Schulz strip going up for bid at Heritage Auctions, which features characters eerily similar to Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Peanuts before Peanuts.
There’s a good short interview with Shaun Tan at literary website The Millions.
I can’t remember why I saved this link to Tucker Stone’s most recent roundup of superhero comics “reviews.” Maybe just because we haven’t linked to his blog before? Anyway, for those still caught up in the weekly capes grind (or who enjoy following it from a discreet distance), Tucker’s stuff is a constant sharp reminder that doing so isn’t much more worthwhile than just burning your money.
Bob Temuka compares the 3-D movie fad to the original graphic novel boom, and doesn’t have very kind words about either.
Charles Kochman at Abrams (the Smithsonian collection’s publisher) offers his own praise for Bill Blackbeard. (via)
Finally, I leave you with an old quote from Philip Roth making the internet rounds. I don’t want to put my finger on exactly why, but it somehow seems appropriate:
“Had I been away twenty years on a desert island, perhaps the change in intelligent society that would have most astonished me upon my return is the animated talk about second-rate movies by first-rate people which has almost displaced discussion of any such length or intensity about a book, second-rate, first-rate or tenth-rate. Talking about movies in the relaxed, impressionistic way that movies invite being talked about is not only the unliterate man’s literary life, it’s become the literary life of the literate as well.”
* Tom Spurgeon has a great round-up of thirteen tributes to Bill Blackbeard. I second his recommendation to race over to read Dylan Williams’ fantastic post, which contains the longest interview with Blackbeard ever published.
* So Gary Panter (with Chris Byrne) has curated an exhibition on Zap opening on May 12 in NYC. I’ve seen the original pages selected: it’s a killer show. Great generational combo.
* Here’s an incredibly enjoyable con report over at The Mindless Ones. Frank and Jog: Meet your British counterparts.
* Via Top Shelf, the much-talked-about French graphic novel by Ludovic Debeurme, Lucille, has a preview up at Pen American Center.
* At HiLobrow: A selected series of posts by Adam McGovern on various aspects of pop culture, including some comics of interest.
* A random note: I know this is conflict of interest and blah blah, but damn the new Hate Annual 9 is good. Bagge knows his characters so well, and he never goes for the easy gag. Just great suburban American comedy. Also, if I had some dough, I’d race over to Scott Eder’s site and buy some originals by Bagge. There are some killerpages on there.
And coming up tomorrow: Matt Seneca contributes a great interview with Shaky Kane and David Hine on the occasion of their newly released book, Bulletproof Coffin. It’s fantastic to see Kane, in particular, getting some attention from the general comics universe. Just five years ago Frank Santoro was a lone voice in the wilderness talking about his work, and it was some effort to track him down for a Comics Comics cover feature. Always a deeply idiosyncratic artist, Kane seemed, well, maybe lost to history or something — his work residing primarily in back issues of Deadline and a handful of small press British comics. Anyhow, sounds like we’re going to get to see some more, so that’s a good thing.
Okay, first, if you haven’t yet made time to read the obituaries and tributes for Bill Blackbeard we published yesterday, written by R.C. Harvey, Jeet Heer, and others, you really should do so at your earliest convenience. It would be difficult to overstate how great a debt anyone interested enough in comics to be reading this site owes to Blackbeard. It is easy to take for granted the state of things as they are, and think that it’s entirely natural for bookstore and library shelves to be groaning with beautiful archival reprints of classic comic strips, but if not for Blackbeard, it is very unlikely we would be living in such a world. It is both frightening and motivating to think about how much can come down to one dedicated person. (Two off-site tributes worth reading come from Dylan Williams and Tom Spurgeon.)
The film writer Richard Harland Smith interviews one of the great comics talkers, Drew Friedman.
James Romberger just posted an interview with Gene Colan. As you may know, Colan’s health situation isn’t very good right now. You can learn one way to help here.
The Point has published a nice, thoughtful review-essay based on Chris Ware’s latest volume of Acme Novelty Library.
The popular literary weblog HTMLGIANT does the same for CF’s City-Hunter.
Robert Boyd organized a show in Houston featuring the work of Jim Woodring and Marc Bell. He revisits it in words and video. Both artists (and JW’s famous giant pen) make appearances.
I imagine this must be a very common experience, but having a kid recently, and being “forced” (she isn’t that strong) to read the same books over and over again nightly, has given me immense new respect for the artistry of figures like Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. Sendak was feeling ill when he granted a Philadelphia reporter a brief, bracing set of quotes.
I’m very sad over the passing of Bill Blackbeard. My experiences with Bill Blackbeard are much the same as many other people’s: I “met” him through his books, which provided the best exposure I had to comic strips. His emphasis on personal taste — which he confirmed to me the one and only time I spoke with him — as a guide for shaping foundational history was an inspiration as well. I mean, he emphasized the good stuff. I’m sure there was plenty I’d disagree with him on, but he would fight for difficult strips — like The Bungle Family — and also advocated for the sheer poetry of, say, Roy Crane. His tenacity and taste were formative for all of us. And, as Jeet convincingly argues, without Blackbeard comic strip history as we know it would more or less not exist. What Blackbeard did for the medium goes past anything I can really imagine: I think it is without question that by virtue of saving and then sharing its history, he was one on the most important men in the history of comics. Period.
R.C. Harvey has written an obituary, and Jeet Heer an appreciation. Let’s honor Blackbeard’s memory by continuing his good work.
Just a handful of links for you today:
I really enjoyed this Douglas Wolk pieces on Howard Chaykin, which comes from a reading of the recently released (and highly recommended) book Howard Chaykin: Conversations. Chaykin is, in a lot of ways, the last of his kind — an autodidact who will slog through a shitty script because he felt like drawing horses that month. Like his mentor Gil Kane, he produces excellent work in a shitty field. He also did create a couple of pretty great graphic novels, to boot. Really worth reading.
Tom Spurgeon has a typically excellent interview with Joe Daly over at The Comics Reporter. I’m a fan of Daly’s Dungeon Quest series.
I completely relate to Dylan Williams’ assessment of his recent convention experiences. Sigh.
And, randomly, from another conversation, Jay Babcock reminded me of this interview he conducted with Alejandro Jodorowsky that covers his comics work. Also, an excuse to link to this piece on his collaborations with Moebius on his aborted Dune film, and a blog with his 1960s psych comics.
Pascal Girard takes a somewhat melancholy taxi ride in his final diary entry this morning, and it is similarly bittersweet to bid him farewell. How did the week fly by so quickly?
Katie Haegele brings us a short profile of the young Swedish cartoonist Naomi Nowak.
The great Tom De Haven returns, with a review of Jerry Robinson’s re-released history, The Comics.
And Jeet Heer makes the case for S. Clay Wilson as the central figure of underground comics in his latest column. (Incidentally, congratulations are in order to Jeet, to whom a daughter was born this week. He is actually the secondJournal contributor to father a child since the site relaunched. Maybe there’s something in the ink…)
A few quick orders of business: 1. Some readers reported having trouble with pre-orders of issue 301 on Amazon yesterday. We are aware of the problem, and looking into it. In the meantime, we apologize for the confusion. 2. Some of you may have noticed that the comments are a little wonky, with reader comments sometimes appearing over in the left “recent comments” sidebar on the front page, but not underneath the story in question—and vice versa. We are working on this one as well. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be happening all that frequently, but we still hope to have it fixed soon. Thanks for your patience.
I liked Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life better than he does (maybe it helps to read it? the art definitely isn’t the main attraction), but Nick Gazin’s latest review column for Vice is pretty good, and opens with a nice rant on the sad sack foundation of the funnybook business. I think the Chris Ware stuff here seems off, too, as I don’t remember him ever idealizing himself—I may be forgetting something, but the only “Chris Ware” in his comics that I recall turns him into a lecherous, pretentious, and pony-tailed high school art teacher. Gazin’s reviews will be too sloppy (& occasionally too fake-dumb) for some of you, but here are the things I like about them: 1. They are funny. 2. They are unpredictable. 3. They reflect a seeming fearlessness about who will be pissed off. 4. I strongly agree—and strongly disagree—with at least one thing in his reviews each time, and they’re often points I haven’t seen articulated by anyone before.
On the exact opposite side of the writing-about-comics spectrum, Neil Cohn has discovered comics-related lectures available at the Semiotics Institute Online that may be of interest to more academically oriented readers.
Friday Fun Time: If Joe McC’s recent essay got you interested in watching Frank Miller’s The Spirit (and I hope for your sake that it didn’t, because that movie will drain you of all self-respect—no offense, Joe), then (via Sean Howe) the script Miller wrote for a never-completed film version of Elektra has turned up. It seems to be the antediluvian Miller, too.
That’s right, muckraking tyro Gary Groth has turned in his first dispatch for the new TCJ, and it’s a doozy — a lengthy refutation of Jim Shooter’s recent forays into autobiography. Note that the episode Gary is recounting here (i.e. Jack Kirby’s treatment by Marvel) remains one of the most important moments in contemporary comic book history, one that again exposed the shameful history behind so many “beloved” properties, and the complicity of an industry that still needs them to keep afloat. Given the two movies coming out this summer, anyone interested in pop culture would be wise to check out the current piece. In the coming months we will also be posting an older TCJ interview with Kirby, as well as other coverage.
* This slipped by me: Matt Seneca writing about Chip Kidd and Art Spiegelman’s Jack Cole book from 2001. I don’t agree with all of Matt’s conclusions (especially the bit about the best duos of the 2000s), but it’s a thoughtful piece on an important and, at the time, controversial book. Now, I gotta say, their choice to reprint the comic book as “objects” looks prescient (and good) — but at the time I remember much hand-wringing over the interventions performed and image types used. It remains a damn good book.
* HiLobrow is running a series of essays about… oh, I can’t summarize it: “using Battlestar Galactica as a lens through which to view museums’ challenge to create and retain relevancy within a difficult economic climate.” I’m enjoying this series, and since TCJ used to have a Star Trek column, and even covered Battlestar Galactica back in the day, it’s all fair game. Plus! We comics types should have a more informed dialogue about museum culture. Oh look at me, I’m all preachy today. Ugh, shut up already, Nadel!
* Via Forbidden Planet: An audio interview with British comics greats Pat Mills (the writer responsible for some of the best and strangest SF comics) and Bryan Talbot.
We have a ton of new material for you today. We’re gonna have to slow down soon, I think. Geez.
First up, a one-week-only preview of Shigeru Mizuku’s first book in English-language translation, his 1973 WWII classic, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. As Dan writes in his online intro, Mizuki is a “giant of manga,” and this is reputed to be one of his greatest works. I haven’t read the untranslated material, but this book is strong stuff, with a tone that veers between comic absurdity and violent anger at loss and stupidity. Read the excerpt here.
J. Caleb Mozzocco brings in his first contribution to the new Journal, a feature on Columbus, Ohio’s just-about-to-premiere stage adaptation of Joshua Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest.
The internet agrees: Pascal Girard is killing it with his Cartoonist’s Diary entries this week. Today is day three, with plenty more MoCCA madness & cameo appearances.
On the review front, we have two new ones for you. First, our own editorial coordinator Kristy Valenti reviews the much-anticipated Lychee Light Club. Second, Sean T. Collins brings us his take on Gilbert Hernandez’s Love from the Shadows. We hadn’t planned on running two reviews of the book, but an accident of scheduling occurred: Sean actually turned in his review a few weeks before we published Tom De Haven’s very different piece on the same subject. In any case, this is undoubtedly going to be the kind of book that provokes strong reactions among readers, and our error of planning turned out to be kind of fortuitous.
Finally, we’re entering the eighties in the archives, with eleven new issues (52 through 62) up and ready to read. We’re into prime-era Journal now, folks, days and days — if not weeks and months— of stellar reading material. If you’ve fallen behind, make some time to check these out before it’s too late. Remember: once the team in Seattle puts the paywall in place, only subscribers will be able to access these issues.
In the meantime, we will try to identify some of the archival highlights for you in future posts, to point out some of the best material. For now, know that the Blood & Thunder columns are reliably entertaining, an that issue 53 has a rather famous interview with Harlan Ellison. Google it if you haven’t heard.
Oh, and non-Journal-related (unless you count Dan’s upcoming ramblings on dumb comic-book movies), Sean Howe unearthed an article about one film adaptation that was blessedly never released: Nancy: The Movie. A taste of what we narrowly missed: “But wait. Nancy won’t be a kid. She’ll be 35 and a record company executive – ‘No. 2 at a record label,’ said [producer Peter] Muller from his New York office. “‘She’ll have the same hair and polka dot dress, but she’ll be intelligent, sensitive and driven. She realizes she can have it all.'”
Also, Kevin Czap reports on every comic shop in the Cleveland area. I wish someone would do this for all the major cities. It took me years of living in New York before I even heard of Roger’s Time Machine. I could have wasted a lot more money if I’d known about it sooner.