Sam Alden is among the most gifted of the young cartoonists I’ve come across in recent years. He has already established a sizable, rabid fan base through his Tumblr and deservedly won the Promising New Talent nod at last year’s Ignatz Awards, amidst a strong list of nominees. The two stories featured in It Never Happened Again display Alden’s impressive strengths as a visual storyteller. They feature completely different settings and characters, but have in common protagonists in search of things ineffable—perhaps unattainable. Each story casts its own strange sort of spell, making for a very strong debut book.
You’ve probably already read about it on Twitter and Tumblr and the other comics sites out there, or maybe right on this page a few moments ago, but nevertheless, we are proud to announce that the title to this blog post will be Movies V Television: Dawn of Comics. I don’t want to reveal too many plot details (hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake!) but the basic premise is that those two great audience favorites, Movies and Television, are inherently superior to comics. Here’s the twist: now that they are featuring characters and situations associated with comics, they simultaneously herald the triumph of the comics form! The more movies and television borrow ideas from comics, and the more we divert our coverage of comics proper to movies and television featuring comics-associated properties, the more comics wins! And then, and again, I don’t want to get into details, but down the line, Movies and Television come into conflict and have a fight. This is a great comics tradition, and shows how the very best elements of comics can easily be transferred into other media.
There are rumors afloat that Video Games may appear in this blog post at some point, too. We may have some speculation regarding its possible box art costuming for you later on…
Frank Santoro is here today his latest Riff Raff column, which goes heavy on the grid.
A Japanese artist friend once looked at one of my “wordless” comics in a grid. He asked, “Which way do I read it?” because there was no clear motion sequenced out across the page. It was more of a collection of still landscapes. I said “any order” and he smiled.
And then Paul Buhle reviews a new book by Kevin Pyle and Scott Cunningham, Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!
For a book aimed at kids, this one is chock-full of information, but presented so well in comics (and also charts and info-graphics) that the details are destined to move easily, and usefully, into young minds. At least this (old) reviewer’s mind thinks so.
—Movies. I don’t see the new direction of this site so much as a reboot as a reimagining, and so let’s reimagine that the most important thing for a comics site to spend a lot of time discussing today is that a somewhat transparently cynical movie producer made “controversial” [i.e., “baiting in an entirely transparently way”] comments regarding a not-very-popular female superhero character, and then went on to associate comic-book fans with wholesome chastity, and that this performance achieved its goal and got a group of beleaguered and very righteous comics fans on the internet talking about his movies. (No links.) [ADDED FOR CLARITY: Obviously the sexist aspects of the comments are worthy of condemnation. On the other hand, getting bent out of shape over things like whether or not the Hulk and She-Hulk are cousins is playing right into his hand.]
—Misc. A New York Times report on the Tom Wolfe archives resurrects the time Wolfe appeared in a cameo with the Hulk. (More here.) Joe Alterio on Kim Deitch. Michael Dooley talks to the cartoonists (and more importantly for our purposes, storyboard artists) Aaron Sowd and Trevor Goring.
AYERS: I came out of the war, and I was going to art career school on 23rd Street, I think it was. It was the first skyscraper! There was 23 floors, on which the last floor … You took the elevator, it only went 22 stories. [Clancy laughs.] Then you walked up the last, and you got to the school. Now, it wasn’t till many years later when somebody — when I was at a show — he spoke to me, and said” “Oh, that’s nice. You get paid for doing that. Doing those drawings on airplanes.” [Casey laughs.]
I got a kick out of that, because it’s really a nice, modern building now. So that went along and it was mostly doing commercial drawings, which I wanted to do: but I kept hoping I would find somebody that would get me more into the comic strip line — for which, it turned out, I realized, there WAS none! Nobody was teaching how to write and draw comic-book stories.I read a poster on a subway wall, and Burne Hogarth was starting a school. It was the beginning of the School of Visual Arts.
I was about a month late. The school had already started in September, and I was about October. I got to be interviewed by Burne, which made me just thrilled! He was my big idol at that time! We got going, and he said something to the effect that, “Your samples have only comic book art. There’s much more to it than that.”
I said, “Yeah, but I don’t like the idea of drawing the same character week in and week out. I’d like to have it so I do a cowboy this week, and a soldier the next week, and like that.” He admired that.
He started a course in writing that started me learning to write, which I’d never touched before, the schematics of doing the story and writing it. It came along fine. We did great, and I think I was the first student in his school to get work at it.
As I’m going into my class for about the first evening, there’s a fellow and on his notebook is “Bache.” Bache is MY middle name. So that made me stop and talk to him. I got more interested, and then I found out he worked for Joe Shuster right nearby, and then would go to the school there, too … which is what I did for quite some time. I penciled Funnyman.
Joe McCulloch wants you to know what new comics sound interesting this week, and he’s here to tell you. Alex Toth and I.N.J. Culbard titles loom large.
—Ben Towle wants us to stop relying so heavily on film terminology when discussing comics. [“When we talk about and think about comics using film terminology, we’re not only confining ourselves to only engaging with certain aspects of the medium, but (for those of us who make comics) we’re confining ourselves to only telling stories in certain ways.”]
Westvind primarily focuses on the potential madness of futuristic and alien worlds. Often depicting simultaneous perspective and motion, her characters bounce and blast their way through desolate deserts and impenetrable tangles of organic and mechanic matter. Departing from exploration of material worlds, Now and Here explores the liminal space of her protagonist’s psyche, simultaneously stretching infinitely while locked within the confines of thought.
Now and Here is a creation born out of the act of creating. Admiring her prep drawings for an upcoming animation called Cunt Eyes, Westvind wanted a vehicle for those images to be appreciated as static, allowing the viewer to soak them up to the fullest. “It was like making a comic backwards,” she recalls. “I picked the ones I liked and rearranged them, tried to put them in an order that might make narrative sense and wrote something describing each image. I had a vague idea of how I wanted it to work, but I definitely didn’t know what it was going to be about or what was going to happen until I was finished. In that way, my subconscious wrote it.” Now and Here captures the subjective nature of thought in a material way; it confronts the reader with the process of taking in visual information and assigning meaning through thought and the new visualizations those thoughts take on.
Hey, you’d think my being best friends with Santoro would entitle me to know there’s a new Comics Workbook mag out in the world. But, like the rest of you poor slobs I found out via the internet.
Tom Spurgeon reports back on TCAF. Boy I don’t miss going to festivals (yet). I don’t know how Spurgeon does it. I mean, how does he talk to all those people? I would never be able to write up that kind of report without casting judgment against at least half of those people. Good lord. Spurgeon! What are you made of? Festivals. Oh boy. All except Lucerne. That I’ll always miss.
Nice Barry Windsor Smith process post here. His revival of Pre-Raphaelite image-making is of a piece with other 1970s revivals (deco, for example), as well as the general ’70s glittery excess. Sometimes it has an almost disco sheen, like it’s one step removed from fashion illustration of the time. Hot kitsch.
In today’s installment of her regular column, Shaenon Garrity takes a look at how the major comics awards have handled webcomics.
In the 2000s, webcartoonists struggled to be treated with the level of respect and critical recognition given to print cartoonists, which is the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. For many creators and fans, this involved a push to include webcomics in comics industry awards. There were also efforts to create an awards system specifically for webcomics, most notably the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards, which ran from 2001 to 2008.
Nowadays, of course, the struggle is over and webcomics are respected by all. Although they still lack their own industry awards, most or all major comics awards now include a webcomics or digital comics category. Some have been recognizing webcomics for well over a decade. That can mean only one thing: it’s time to start nitpicking and judging them. How successful have webcomics awards been at singling out the best in webcomics?
And then, Brandon Soderberg reviews the new collection of Bobby London’s remarkably weird take on Segar’s most famous creation, Popeye:
About halfway through Popeye, The Classic Newspaper Comics — Volume One: 1986-1989, underground comix boundary pusher turned syndicated strip jobber Bobby London’s aggressively contemporary take on our beloved sailorman, we find the Sea Hag (frequent nemesis to Popeye since 1929) turning Popeye’s rickety hometown of Sweet Haven into a bougie tourist trap. The whole thing probably goes on a little too long (at about the point where an orphanage is closed and replaced with an arcade, the message is loud and clear), but then you recalibrate, lower the stakes, and think what in the hell, you’re reading a fairly sprawling Popeye narrative that appeared in mainstream newspapers in the mid-’80s that’s about gentrification, and well, how did this even come to be?
Paste has chosen the 100 “best” comic book characters, which revealed to me that this way of interacting with comics is completely foreign to the way I do. I like Batman as much or more than the next person, but is he a good character? If I think about him as a person for more than ten seconds, I get a headache. His most basic motivation — that his parents being killed by a mugger and a bat flying through his window inspired him to dress like an animal and beat up criminals on the street at night — is opaque and unconvincing. I suppose this is simply a leap of faith the reader is forced to make in order to enjoy Batman stories, but it is a leap which simultaneously makes Batman unintelligible as a human being. Which doesn’t mean he hasn’t been involved in a lot of very fun comic-book stories; I just am not sure he’s a very good “character.” Daniel Clowes’s Wilson, on the other hand, much decried as a “jerk” on his eponymous book’s release, still lives in my head years later as a three-dimensional, multi-faceted person. Ask me how he’d respond in any given situation —including the murder of his parents or a rodent infestation—and I’d have a pretty good idea. I haven’t read that comic since it came out. Time to rectify that.
—Video. Here’s the annual “roast” video from this year’s Doug Wright Awards:
And oh man, do I want to see this show:
—Finally. Dan made a big deal about what he called the dumbest press release ever a while back, in which he inadvertently revealed that he deletes most of the press releases he gets in his e-mail book every day without reading them. Because take a look at this. I won’t bore you by copying & pasting the whole thing, just know that it involves the audio-only version of a Princess Diana comic book.
R.C. Harvey, who wrote the introduction to the forthcoming Barnaby Vol. 2, looks at all things Barnaby:
Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, like Krazy Kat, appealed to a smaller audience than most comic strips. Comics historian Ron Goulart says it appeared in only 52 newspapers in the U.S. at its height. But the strip’s readers were an appreciative elite. Barnaby hove into public view a scant two years before the demise of the intelligentsia’s first love, Krazy Kat. Beginning April 20, 1942, the strip lasted into the early fifties. It was revived on September 12, 1960 and ran until April 14, 1962, but many of the stories were retooled from the first run of the strip, which ended February 2, 1952. By that time, both Pogo andPeanuts were on the scene.
The brief decade of Barnaby’s first run was brilliant. Among its passionate fans was Dorothy Parker who wrote a mash note about the strip when she reviewed a Holt book of reprints in October 1943: “I think, and I am trying to talk calmly, that Barnaby and his friends and oppressors are the most important additions to American arts and letters in Lord knows how many years.” She admitted that her review was not a review: it was a valentine, she said.
And Fantagraphics has given us another kind of valentine with the inauguration of its planned complete reprinting of the strip, Barnaby: Volume One, 1942-1943 (320 7×10.5-inch landscape pages, b/w; hardcover, $35) with prefatory essays by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer; Afterword and appendix by Philip Nel, Johnson’s biographer.
Today on the site we have Art Lortie’s obituary for the prolific comics artist Dick Ayers. Ayers worked on many of the most iconic Marvel titles and characters. Anyone who wants a vivid first-hand account of the comics business from the ’50s through the twentieth century could do a lot worse than picking up Ayers’s unusual three-volume comics autobiography, The Dick Ayers Story. It’s too rough and disjointed to find a widespread audience, but it’s a heartfelt and consistently surprising account of the creative life. (Once we get the Comics Comics site archives up and running again (a development that looks imminent) I’ll try to share my review of that book.)
—At RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny has written the kind of guide to comic book movies I can get behind. Kubrick, Godard, Melville, etc. The Jack Kirby/James Cameron connection is obvious as soon as you see it.
—Marc Meyers writes about Vince Guaraldi and how he attempted to translate Charles Schulz’s Peanuts into jazz. That post also features a fascinating brief clip from the 1963 documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
In this interview from The Comics Journal #146 (November 1991), Shary Flenniken talks about running away from home, the Air Pirates, editing National Lampoon, Trots and Bonnie, and more. Continue reading →