Cat, Bag

Today on the site, Sean Rogers has a lengthy review of Ben Katchor's latest book, Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, which collects over a decade's worth of color strips from Metropolis magazine.

Few books are as communal, as catch-all: every page a new hero, a new tale, a new voice. Or, rather, the same voice, a collective voice: Katchor yanks at his sentences with his characteristic taffy-pull between narration and dialogue, so that each merges into and props up the other, so that each person talks like the rest, and everyone contributes to the same conversation. A strip that begins with a narrator pondering the “velvet rope and stanchion” as “that most pernicious symbol of corporate greed,” accompanied by a management figure extolling the system’s virtues, soon opens its ranks to welcome in people off the street—“middle-aged men with hernias, unwed teenage mothers and tattooed first offenders”—who stage small, symbolic acts of rebellion, ducking under the ropes, violating the inflexible rules of the queue. “The physical expression of our free will,” they say, as Katchor draws them teetering, acrobatically off-kilter but assured in their acts of defiance. The effect is bathetic, of course—a bold “act of transgression” turned quixotic, the body awkwardly contorted to ridiculous effect and little gain—and yet Katchor, and the people who populate his America, will find their triumphs where they can.

And Lucy Knisley continues her week here with day three.

Elsewhere.... it's kind of a slow new day, aside from various PR blasts. So, really you oughta just read Sean's piece, above, but if you must leave this site, well here you go: The Decadence crew from the UK is discussed in this podcast. Hey, it's Billy Possum! This is a classic "Oooooh Comics" story. And the great Dylan Horrocks is having an art sale with amazingly affordable prices.


We’re Sunk

As on every Tuesday, today is the day that Joe McCulloch gives you his rundown of interesting-looking comics new in stores.

And it's also day two of Lucy Knisley's week as our cartoon diarist.


Bob Clarke, RIP. Tom Richmond and Mark Evanier have reminiscences. I'm sure more are to come. Clarke was one of the great finds of the Feldstein era of MAD, with a gift for pastiche that helped him create many memorable covers and parody ads into the '90s.

Here's a Peanuts parody by Clarke from around 1961 (found here):

—Another sad death: Paul Williams. He has no direct connection to comics that I am aware of, but as the founder of Crawdaddy (the first serious magazine of rock criticism) and as a promoter of (and later literary executor for) Philip K. Dick's writing, his cultural impact looms large. (Here's his 1975 Rolling Stone article on Dick that really got the ball rolling.)

—Stefan Kanfer writes about George Herriman and Krazy Kat for City Journal, and Robert Boyd reviews six semi-recent comics on his art blog.

—Sean Kleefeld posts an old Life magazine story explaining why Al Capp finally decided to let Lil' Abner get married.

—If you frequent more superhero-centric parts of the comics internet, you may have heard that Valiant is planning to relaunch the old Quantum & Woody series, without the original creators' involvement. Prompted by this, V.R. Gallagher reposted some old thoughts of Q&W writer Christopher Priest, and offered some of her own on working in superhero comics as a minority.

—Chip Kidd has created some images to use as memes in support of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis in the ongoing Chicago schools case.


Tapestry Marple

Well it's a new day here, but hey, let's take a walk around memory lake with R. Fiore, who does not have fond memories of his decades-past debate with Harvey Pekar, which we recently posted.

I committed myself to several positions that I realized were ill-advised, but rather than pulling back on them I doubled down. On top of that I was in a savage mood generally, for reasons that had nothing to do with Harvey Pekar or his ideas. It had to do with a premature return to the world of dreary but remunerative work after a couple of years of working at a fun job with Fantagraphics, due to some very poor decisions I had made. In retrospect my performance in this conflict reminds me of nothing so much as that fight where Mike Tyson got frustrated and bit a piece of his opponent’s ear off.

And cartoonist Lucy Knisley, author of Relish, begins her week-long Cartoonist's Diary.

And elsewhere around the web:

Let's pop around and look at some comic book conventions. Here's a super-depressing panel at WonderCon: The Creator's Role in the Future of Comic Publishing. More and more comics is just a buncha different worlds, with no shared knowledge and zero historical awareness. Its like the '80s never happened.

If there was historical awareness you might find the idea that Ben Jones was on a WonderCon panel about Axe Cop pretty funny. There's a victory there of some kind. Times sure have changed. I wish there some more Bobby London in this Quick Draw post, but I'll take what I can get. And Ann Nocenti was in the spotlight at the big Con. She remains a nostalgic favorite for Daredevil. On the other coast, Gil Roth goes to the Asbury Park Comic Con.

There's something about The Phantom. Just like Tarzan, but that purple and weird colonialism. I always want to read it but am mostly content remembering it projecting onto it.

Oh, and here's a two-part video interview with Alan Moore.

And finally, it was just that kinda night (nsfw)


Only One You Get

First off, after a month or so off not sleeping and cleaning up strange liquids all over his home, Tucker Stone has finally returned. And he's brought his old pal Abhay Khosla with him. This column, it's all catch-up reading, and Gaiman vs. McFarlane.

Elsewhere, the news is a little light this morning:

Hogan's Alley interviews Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen about their new Al Capp biography, and CBR interviews Jim Rugg.

—Jason Lutes and several CCS students have an interesting looking Kickstarter project.

—Stephen Bissette has started a series of posts chronicling the history of the 1980s activist "prozine" WaP!

—The Beat as a group is spotlighting various artists for 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists.


Crushed V-8

R.C. Harvey returns today with a look at the great Virgil Partch.

The extravagance of his graphic inventions inspired similar excess among those who attempted to describe what they saw going on in front of them. In Newsweek: “The line drawings of Partch’s angular and rectangular characters have something in common with the tragic figures of Picasso’s Spanish War ‘Guernica’ … But Partch’s men, with their bushy or bald heads, pop eyes, bird-beak noses and cavernous mouths have their own particular brand of frenzied insanity, which makes them funny in almost any situation.”

Partch’s cartoons, said Goldstein, “made a style of drawing and thinking, with roots in cubism, surrealism and dada, part of America’s daily life.”

And Collier’s movie scribe Kyle Crichton thought Partch’s work “revealed plain signs of a pathological condition.”

The anonymous author of the Partch entry in Current Biography (1946) noted that “a Vip character sometimes wears an expression of dazed or wondering imbecility, but more often is glaring at some person or thing with fanatic intensity. … One Partch admirer has said, ‘the cartoons are funny if you enjoy remembering your nightmares.’” But it is not recommended, according to another critic, that Partch’s cartoons “be probed and examined for deep hidden meanings.”

And around the web:

Joanna Draper Carlson writes about her approach to crowd-funding comics.

Over at the CBLDF site: A capsule history of obscenity rulings.

The mighty SPX is expanding due to exhibitor demand.

Apropos of nothing, Jay Babcock's uncut first five years of the band Black Flag.

And this is a fine looking poster.



“Ah. Me.”

We've got a double shot of bande dessinée for you this morning, with two reviews of Humanoids releases. First, Joe McCulloch on the wandering American Terry Dodson's Muse:

Reverie is critical to Muse -- originally titled Songes, or “Dreams” -- a new collection of bandes dessinées drawn by Terry Dodson, a prolific 20-year veteran of the American superhero scene. It is fruitless to summarize such a long career in just a few sentences, but I think it’s fair to suppose that an artist who’s titled his homepage “The Bombshellter” is best known for his drawings of women, specifically the kind of top-heavy heroines who all but erupt, at times, from their tight ensembles, bounding into action with a twinkle and grin. But unlike the similarly-interested examples of Guillem March (who faced a terrific blowback over a Catwoman cover last year) or Adam Hughes (widely admired yet also prominently criticized), Dodson has evaded any wide denunciation for sins of depiction. He is one of "the good ones" - the girlie artists whose commitment to high-quality drawing supersedes more fundamental qualms over their aesthetics.

And then newcomer to Daniel Kalder on District 14:

Picking up District 14, I was mildly concerned. The first couple of pages show an elephant disembarking at Ellis Island, taking a shower, and then getting ripped off by corrupt officials who want to seize his mysterious seeds. The elephant makes a break for it, fleeing directly into a crime scene where a stag-headed mobster is delivering a suitcase with a severed chicken’s head in it to a man in a black suit. Shots are fired; the elephant meets a plucky news photographer with a beaver’s head; hi-jinks ensue.

Shite, I thought. Is this going to be completely trite Euronoir like Blacksad, a pile of clichés enlivened only by the gimmick of giving stock characters animal heads?


—LitReactor has a brand-new interview with Phoebe Gloeckner; Chris Mautner has an interview with a top recent contender for the title of most likeable person in comics, Rina Ayuyang; Mark Kardwell at Robot 6 talks to 2000 AD "reprographics droid" Kathryn Symes; and Nick Gazin drops in super-short interviews with Ben Jones and my colleague Dan Nadel in the middle of his latest Vice column.

—If you prefer your interviews multimedia, then Inkstuds talks to the cult-artist Sadler brothers here, and Jared Gardner talks to Ed Piskor there:

—The Reuben Awards announced the rest of this year's nominees.

Ben Katchor's latest is reviewed in the L.A. Times.

—Jeet Heer drew my attention to the following George Herriman panels from the March 25, 1931 Krazy Kat daily strip, which seem relevant to the case currently being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jeet came across the image at Michael Tisserand's Facebook page, who suggested their relevance. Jeet wrote about another possible connection between Krazy Kat and gay culture in a blog post about a DC-area Krazy Kat nightclub.



It's Jog-day today, as he brings us his week in comics.


It's an interview with Katie Skelly over at Tell Me Something I Don't Know.

An interview with the organizer of the Asbury Park Comicon.

Christoph Niemann made an app and then made a great visual narrative about making the app.

These Ron Rege Jr. illustrations are pretty divine.

This is an aptly named article about DC Entertainment. I'm interested in how far a major publishing company can take its "we're a buncha dicks" image. Pretty wild.




Good morning. Today we bring you Zachary Sachs's report from the recent Robert Weaver celebration at The New School in New York City, featuring Ben Katchor among others. Here's an excerpt:

In 1972 Weaver commissioned four artists associated with the Terry Ditenfass Gallery to make comics for an issue of Graphis magazine focusing on comics (he is nicely bracketed by contributions from Alain Resnais and Milton Glaser). In his accompanying essay, "Experiments in Time-Art", Weaver dilates on the power of the strip to transform visual art: "The artist working in the narrative strip medium can extend the single instant backward or forward in time. Not only can he move slowly or suddenly or not at all, change his mind, hold his audience in suspense, sustain a mood, surprise or destroy; he can virtually wire his pictures for sound."

We also have Sean T. Collins's review of Michael DeForge's online Ant Comic:

Ant Comic, Michael DeForge's magnum opus (so far; give him time), tackles the big issues—sex, war, parenthood, family, labor, love, the Other, death—with such brio and ease that it's more like a shopper methodically checking items off his grocery list in a supermarket he knows like the back of his hand than an artist grappling with the stickiest issues imaginable. That's because, in this story about a handful of insects living in a black ant colony that makes a disastrous decision to go to war with the red ants who live nearby, he's found the perfect vessel for all his preexisting preoccupations as a cartoonist.


—Department of Interviews: The Beat talks to Bob Fingerman, The AV Club talks to Douglas Rushkoff (who talks comics, among other things), Mono.Kultur talks to Chris Ware, and Gainesville Today talks to Tom Hart (about SAW).

—Department of Criticism: The Village Voice talks about Michael Kupperman and the new Al Capp bio, Illogical Volume of the Mindless Ones talks about Grant Morrison's Action Comics run, and John Adcock talks comics criticism in general (and recent events in particular). (I'm not touching that last one; there is plenty to correct or dispute, but personally, I'm done swimming in that particular tar pit.)

—Department of News Updates: The Jerry Siegel court case appears to be close to the end, and the Chicago Persepolis controversy lingers.

—Department of Random Items: The Doug Wright Awards blog has posted Seth's inaugural speech from 2005, Neil Cohn talks the science of reading comics, and Dash Shaw shares his e-mail inbox.