BLOG

Burn Rate

Joe McCulloch returns today with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics!, pointing out the most interesting-looking new releases in stores. His spotlight picks this week include two science fiction anthologies, one from Retrofit and the other from Humanoids.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. AI-AP profiles Eleanor Davis.

I started drawing comics when I was very young.

My parents were shamefully indulgent. I also went to a hippie school growing up. They let you get school credit for making zines about fucking the establishment.

Valerian co-creator Pierre Christin talks to Die Welt about how his comics influenced Star Wars.

In the 80s, particularly in France, people were convinced that George Lucas had stolen from Valerian. This particular drawing [of Valerian and Laureline sitting at a table with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia] was our way of addressing the question in a satirical manner. In general, all you hear from the US in reply to such allegations is that French comics are barely known and not successful at all on that side of the Atlantic – which, on the whole, is true. Nevertheless, the few people in the US who do know French comics fairly well are Hollywood’s art directors and storyboard artists. They might not be able to read the magazines, but they still flick through them now and then in search of ideas. That’s what French film-makers who’ve been to Hollywood have told me: They happened to have seen piles of French comics in the creative departments of various film studios.

Alec Hudson talks to the comics editor (and occasional TCJ contributor) Paul Buhle about Kate Evans’ new comics biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Red Rosa.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Karasik reports from Angoulême.

The only notable difference between this year and past years when I attended is the presence of Security Forces everywhere. Two gendarmes stand at the entrance to each tent to check backpacks and wand bodies.

The psychological effect of this is hard to assess, but the physical effect is painfully apparent. Checking backpacks and wanding bodies takes time hence the lines to get into any tent have become sluggish, especially on the final day of the Festival. Throw some ink-wash gray drizzle on top of this and the mood is far from festive.

Matt Madden writes on Facebook about the most recent Angoulême awards debacle.

So let me make this clear: the #FauxFauves joke was a bad idea, badly executed. It is NOT a matter of artists being thin-skinned, the prank was mean and ill-conceived and its own creator acknowledges as much. And neither was it just “a few authors and publishers” (“une partie de la profession” according to FIBD) who took offense: as far as I can tell, EVERYBODY who was there or heard of it thinks this was an indefensible gag and it’s all ANYONE talked about anywhere I went for the rest of the festival (and it continues to reverberate).

Furthermore, no: this controversy is not simply a product of the Twitter age (another of Bondoux’s deflections). Even 20 years ago this prank would have caused a scandal. So WHY does the festival, in its “Précision” (“clarification,” not “apology”), downplay the screw-up so defensively and so unrepentingly? Why do they condescendingly explain snarky humor as if we’d never seen Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes (where, by the way, he makes fun of rich and powerful narcissists, not struggling cartoonists and their publishers)?

 

Make an Offer

Welcome back to the week. It’s already February. Oh my. Here comes Paul Tumey with a look back at the (recent) history of mini-comics, which dovetails nicely with Frank Santoro’s recent thoughts on the category. Paul has taken his usual deep dive and surfaced with some wonderments. Take it away, Paul:

During its roughly 45 years of existence, the modest minicomic has nurtured numerous notable creators, including: Peter Bagge, Donna Barr, Lynda Barry, Marc Bell, Chester Brown, Kevin Eastman, Brad Foster, Rick Geary, Justin Green (often credited as the inventor of the minicomic), Roberta Gregory, Bill Griffith, Matt Groening, Wayne “Wayno” Honath, Peter Laird, David Lasky, Bill Loebs, Jason Lutes, John Porcellino, Ronald M. Regé, Jr., Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, Colin Upton, Jim Valentino , Joe Zabel, and Dan Zettwoch, to name a few from mostly the first decades of the minicomic’s history. Some of these folks have dabbled in the form; others have made it a core part of their repertoires.

Among the minicomix of visual storytellers and outrageous gagsters like Mark Campos, Max Clotfelter, Clark Dissmeyer, Matt Feazell, Par Holman, David Miller, J. R. Williams, Steve Willis, and Jeff Zenick (to name some personal favorites of mine that aren’t – but should be – widely celebrated), one finds pockets of cloistered coolness that, once absorbed, can expand and transform ideas about comics.

Elsewhere:

The big and almost impossible to believe news this weekend was the fake prize ceremony over at Angouleme. That’s right, the tone deaf organizers held an entirely fake awards ceremony, which most in attendance were convinced was entirely real. After giving out the prizes to deserving artists (like Olivier Schrauwen) it was announced it was all a gag and the real awards would now begin. Confusion, hurt feelings and really, really bad publicity ensued. Maybe time for a change in the administration, no? Otherwise, maybe the artists should just not attend Angouleme, period. Google translate over here and you’ll get the picture. Most of the reaction has been on Facebook, which I’ve clipped and placed below:

 

  • Angoulême is abuzz again. I have endured some fairly awful Prize Ceremonies at Angoulême over my 30 plus years but last night’s sounds like that absolute nadir. To declare winners, making them and their publishers elated, sparking social media tweet storms, etc, and then to announce that they are not the true ones, utterly deflating them, and go on to award someone else, is about as crass, UNamusing and low as any prize ceremony can go. No comedian with any wit would go through with this. No person in charge with any basic common sense and sensitivity would agree to this.
    M. Bondoux (or ‘Good Gentle’ in French), festival director, explains that the idea for this ‘came from the MC, Richard Gaitet. It’s in the tradition of clowns like Antoine de Caunes at the Cesar film awards. Everything was very exaggerated and clearly humorous. And the comics world has a big capacity for self-parody.” How has at least part of this Festival become so out of touch? Is no one daring to speak up and question these decisions? One can only assume that after the Grand Prix Fiasco, the festival’s “professional” directors and PR people have decided that the only publicity worth going after is bad publicity. In all this mess some good books were awarded, thank goodness. 

  • Angouleme has officially jumped the shark. 1) they nominate no women 2) they organize a “women in comics” panel except there are no women on the panel, so they must scramble to invite some 3) and then this, the Faux Fauves, such incredibly bad taste.

  • This is simply unbelievable. None of the Angoulême prizes have any legitimacy at all now. The Grand Prix was inexcusable ignorance but this is deliberate cruelty. Shameful.

Update: The actual jury of the actual Fauve prize has issued a statement:

We, the members of the Grand Jury for this year’s Angoulême International Comics Festival, had an amiable meeting during which we chose the winners of the “fauves” in perfect harmony. We were surprised to be left out of the awards ceremony and then alarmed to hear the MC, whom we’ve never met, claim that we’d gone through contentious deliberations. By the end we were stupefied by the cruelty and vulgarity of the ceremony as a whole. The announcement of fake awards, which broke the hearts of numerous authors, publishers, and readers, in addition to the sexist and off-color remarks of the MC are beneath the dignity of a festival that remains an internationally respected flagship event in the world of comics. We are happy to have had the chance to make a contribution by awarding radical, unique works that will mark the history of the Ninth Art.

Antonin Baudry
Laurent Binet
Nicole Brenez
Philippe Collin
Véronique Giuge
Hamé
Matt Madden

Not much can top that… but I would like to congratulate the great Ken Parille on 15 years of his indispensable Daniel Clowes Bibliography. He reflects a bit here.

 

 

Need a New Drug

Today, RJ Casey joins us with an interview about comics and sports with Sloane Leong, the From Under Mountains and Maps to the Suns artist.

This leads to a question that constantly bothers me — why are there no good sports comics? You mentioned a few manga series, but North American comics seems completely devoid of the genre.

I have no idea why. I tweeted last month asking for any Western sports comics people knew of and ended up with Roy of the Rovers, Look Out for Lefty, and Toth’s Hot Wheels comics, all of which are pretty old. The only new sports comic I’m aware of is by Ngozi Ukazu called Check, Please! — it’s very cute and follows a university hockey team. Beside myself, though, there are a few other women comic artists that are planning on storming the new year with sports comics, so I’m stoked about that. The sports genre seems like such a rich place to work in, so it’s strange to me that it’s still so desolate.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The CBC talks to Canadian cartoonists including Julie Doucet, Lynn Johnston, and Julie Delporte about sexism in comics.

“Everything in history has been shaped by men,” [Julie Delporte] says. “If everything is chosen by men, and read by men, of course men’s works will be more appreciated.”

Delporte sees inequality in Canada’s comic scene, too. She points to a recent study that shows female visual artists in Canada earn 35 per cent less income than their male counterparts (the overall income gap between men and women, according to the study, is 31 per cent). She also senses resistance within the upper echelons of the comic world.

Speaking of Angoulême, the Belgian cartoonist Hermann was the eventual winner of the Grand Prix.

—Interviews & Profiles. Julia Wertz tells Studio 360 about her discovery of comics.

Wertz grabbed a copy of Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary on a whim during a library visit. And when she opened the graphic novel, the black-and-white drawings seemed immediately familiar. “She’s kind of surrounded by her own squalor,” Wertz says. When she first read it, Wertz realized she was sitting in a room that was almost as messy as the illustrations.


—Reviews.
Dominic Umile writes about Hilary Chute’s new book on historical and journalistic comics, Disaster Drawn.

“In its succession of replete frames,” Chute writes, “comics calls attention to itself, specifically, as evidence.” She explicitly connects Spanish painter Francisco Goya (identified as a “foundational artist-reporter”) and his spellbinding series of prints “The Disasters of War” to comics, and places both within the “traditions of drawn witnessing.” Goya’s 19th-century depictions of rape, mutilation, and civilian death are widely understood as a method of war reporting that emphasizes the impact of conflict on individuals.

—Misc. Mike Lynch posts a selection of comic strips from Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans.

Didn’t expect this: CARtoons is back.

 

What a Cover

Chellllloooo! Today on the site we have the first of an ongoing series of columns by historian Ron Goulart entitled Connecticut Cartoonists. That’s right, a whole raft of posts devoted to those groovy 1950s-70s ink slingers up in beautiful Connecticut. We begin with a colorful account of Alex Raymond and his circle.

Connecticut became state back in January of 1788. By the 20th Century it was a haven for artists, writers, actors—and cartoonists.

One of the earliest cartoon settlers was Art Young, very liberal fellow, a socialist and an admirer of Eugene Debs. Around 1900, Young who drew political cartoons for the socialist magazine, The Masses,purchased four acres of farmland in Bethel, Ct. His drawings making fun of bankers and Wall Street brokers got him in trouble with the government and charges of sabotage during the World War One years. But he went on to have a long career and sold cartoons to more acceptable magazines like The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post.

By the 1920s, the towns that comprised Fairfield County, the county closest to New York City, which was the East Coast center of book publishing, newspaper syndicates, magazines and the theater. Towns like Westport, Norwalk, Stamford and Fairfield were still relatively cheap to live in, they had rural charm and quiet while yet offering access to the nearby metropolis of Manhattan.

Residents included John Held, Jr., the glorifier of the Twenties flapper, Henry Raleigh and Harold Von Schmidt, magazine illustrators, Perry Barlow (of the brand new The New Yorker.), Garrett Price (The New Yorker) and Robert Lawson, author and illustrator of The Story of Ferdinand.

Elsewhere:

Comics and academia: 2 LEGIT 2 QUIT.

Paul Karasik’s adventures in Angouleme.

Charles Hatfield recommends Rosalie Lightning.

 

Okay with Me

Greg Hunter’s here today with a review of Suzette Smith’s elliptically told minicomic, Ce/Ze.

Suzette Smith’s Ce/Ze, an entry in the Sparkplug Books Minis Series, follows two adolescent girls with a possible psychic link, both convinced they knew one another in a past life and both troubled by flashes of a fateful car crash. The comic’s cover features the girls, Amelia and Honey, on its back and the girls’ earlier incarnations as “Ce” and “Ze” on its front, with the spheres that contain each pair overlapping along the comic’s spine. This quality, or experience, of doubling extends to the reading of Ce/Ze. The book’s most satisfying and most vexing aspects can be explained in similar terms, though the measure of the best parts is likely to stay with readers longer.

Ce/Ze is the type of work that prompts questions about how elliptical a story should get, and what amount of meaning a storyteller can expect her readers to create. Smith’s comic takes a number of leaps and includes a few gaps as it depicts Amelia and Honey’s pursuit of understanding. Near the beginning of the story, Amelia speculates that they might be aliens, but when a later page hints that fairies might have a part in the girls’ backstory, the reader may wonder if he or she has missed a step. The upside of this is the comic’s ability to surprise readers from beginning to end; it’s unpredictable and associative at all times.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Ursula Lindsey reviews Riad Sattouf’s popular memoir, The Arab of the Future, focusing on the political controversies surrounding it.

Asking Sattouf to provide the French public with a corrective vision of Arab culture seems an unfair burden to place on the author of one memoir in comic-book form. This sort of tiresome debate surrounds almost any work with Arab roots that is successful in the West: The very fact that a book or film gains an audience makes it suspect. For example, the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s novel The Meursault Investigation, which brilliantly plunders, interrogates, and expands upon Camus’s The Stranger, has been faulted by some for its debts to a colonialist literary legacy. It’s a double bind: Arab authors are burdened with the responsibility of representing entire countries, cultures, and religions, then criticized for not representing them “correctly.”

Paul Mirek reviews Carlos Gonzalez’s Test Tube.

…we’re aware from the first page that this isn’t a world that plays by the usual rules. Strange shapes and magazine clippings occupy the universe, seemingly unnoticed by its inhabitants. The effect is somewhat similar to Steve Ditko’s psychedelic interpretation of Dormammu’s Dark Dimension in early episodes of Doctor Strange – one of the many artistic icons brought to mind by Gonzalez’s style and content. In addition to echoes of other ’60s wunderkinds, Test Tube shares DNA with more modern talents such as Gary Panter and Dash Shaw.

—Interviews & Profiles. Carol Tyler appears on the Virtual Memories podcast, talking about Soldier’s Heart.

I couldn’t solve my dad’s problems. I couldn’t solve him.

Tom Hart appears on the Comics for Grownups podcast, talking about Rosalie Lightning.

Gilbert Hernandez answers ten questions from the Comics Tavern.

My mom doesn’t look at my stuff but she’s happy that I’ve done something with my life. My stuff is too harsh sometimes for most people. Ok with me.

—News. Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani has been acquitted of “illegitimate relations” for shaking hands with her lawyer, though she still remains imprisoned for her drawings of politicians. The CBLDF has more.

Plans for a Maurice Sendak museum continue to his snags.

The Sendak Foundation,which gives grants to artists and numerous other causes, is now defending itself in probate court in an action brought by the Rosenbach, which contends that some of Mr. Sendak’s rare books promised in his will to the library — by William Blake and Beatrix Potter, editions worth millions of dollars — are being withheld. The foundation has also faced questions from some who worry that Mr. Sendak’s longtime home, which has been preserved almost exactly as he left it, may be too remote to serve as the site where his legacy is honored. “I really don’t know who’s going to go there,” Judy Taylor Hough, Mr. Sendak’s longtime British editor, said in 2014. “It’s in the middle of nowhere.”

 

High Pitch Arrest

Today of course Joe McCulloch brings us a snow-free comics week.

Here’s a look inside Julia Wertz’s fun-looking apartment. 

Here’s a look, via the artist’s Twitter, at CF’s installation in “Providence” at MIAM in France.

Good lord, it’s Rory Hayes’ final sketchbook, featuring Pac-Man. 

 

Frozen

Paul Tumey returns this morning with an article meaty enough to occupy even our most snowbound readers, about Sunday Press’s long-awaited collection of the complete run of Garrett Price’s legendary White Boy.

White Boy in Skull Valley, a large, handsome volume published by Sunday Press in December 2015, collects the complete series for the first time. It is now possible to absorb the full span of the White Boy trilogy, and to understand both the brilliance and shortcomings of this extraordinary, exquisitely crafted comic strip.

White Boy in Skull Valley presents the comics in their original sizes and colors. This is a critically important feature. Like any good comic strip artist, Price designed his pages to be seen at a particular size. An accomplished painter, Price also put a great deal of inspiration and craft into designing his strip’s colors. To reprint his strip, as is often done, in a smaller size, and/or re-colored, would be to greatly reduce the artistic and historic value of the reprint project. Savoring these lovely pages in their original sizes is a world of difference. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Dylan Horrocks is selling original art. If you’re a fan, you should jump on that.

 

We All Tried

Today on the site we’re happy to feature an interview with Emily Flake, New Yorker cartoonist and author of Mama Tried and Lulu Eightball, by Richard Gehr.

GEHR: Do you get many editorial notes from The New Yorker?

FLAKE: I get notes every once in awhile. I am often told to make my people less fat.

GEHR: Interesting. I wonder if, say, Zach Kanin gets those.

FLAKE: I wonder if he does too! I think the justification there is whether or not the drawing is about a fat person. You might also ask whether or not a certain cartoon is about the people in it being non-white. I think sometimes a person in a cartoon can just be fat, or a woman, or black, or whatever! That might speak a little to the pandering question. Simply assuming that the cartoon norm is a thin, affluent white person is a structure that I think deserves to be questioned and altered when and where it can be.

GEHR: Which leads to the question of whether or not we’re living in hypersensitive times, too.

FLAKE: In some ways, yeah. But in other ways I feel like we have to be a little hypersensitive. I do a lot of eye rolling at things. But forty years ago I might have been eye rolling at things that have directly benefited me as a woman. 

GEHR: Such as?

FLAKE: Like the whole feminist movement of the sixties and seventies. So I feel like I have to watch myself if I’m looking at kids on campus agitating for something. Because my knee-jerk reaction is like, “Oh, you fucking babies! Get it together!” You know? But as someone who has directly benefited from cultural agitation, it’s a little more my duty to be like, alright, what are they upset about? I don’t like reactions that limit speech. I find trigger warnings and the like infantilizing, and I think they have a chilling effect on speech and expression, etcetera. There should always be room for people to vigorously disagree. But I am totally OK with buildings not being named after Woodrow Wilson anymore.

And Annie Mok reviews Carol Tyler’s Soldier’s Heart.

Carol Tyler’s Soldier’s Heart collects her trilogy You’ll Never Know, which tells the story of how her father’s PTSD from serving in WWII reverberated throughout three generations. The narrative jumps between “Dad’s Army Scrapbook and Tour of Duty Highlights” and Carol’s account of the time spent making the books. During the 8-year stretch, she worked as a substitute teacher, was a semi-single mother, and slept on a mat on the floor. She mentioned in a 2012 Comics Reporter interview that she got by during this time with food stamps. (The harsh economics of cartooning makes me wonder whose stories we’re losing to time and resources, especially as deep racial and gender biases remain intact within comics institutions, as the recent Angoulême Grand Prix news illustrates. By the way: fuck the Angoulême Grand Prix.)

Elsewhere:

-Bart Beaty ponders the relative importance of Angouleme itself.

-A reminder that the great Kevin Huizenga‘s Ganges 6 is available for pre-order, and of course there’s more Kevin H available if you follow the link.