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.



Today we bring you a classic: The Fiore/Pekar Blood and Thunder letter exchange of 1989 and 1990. Publishing this chestnut feels like watching Scrooged on Christmas. Kristy Valenti gives us some context:

The grand tradition of the flame war as a snapshot of the pressing issues of the day and as a catalyst for criticism that has its own literary worth is not new. (For the 1730s version, check out Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s “The Reasons that Induced Dr S to write a Poem call’d the Lady’s Dressing room.”) At its best, before the Internet was widespread, The Comics Journal letter pages, dubbed “Blood and Thunder,” served essentially as a message board for the comics community. It was a forum where cartoonists, fans, critics and professionals debated and dissected every development — aesthetic and commercial — in the medium at the time, whether it was the formation of the Direct Market, Creators’ Rights, “writing for the trade,” or “craft is the enemy of art” (or simply trolled each other: The insults in the great R. Fiore/Kenneth Smith showdown got positively Shakespearean).


I have a softspot for 1987's Return of  the Skyman, drawn by Steve Ditko. This issue contains Ron Frantz's account of searching for Skyman-creator Ogden Whitney. Most of what Ron found remains all we know of Whitney. Ogden Whitney and Steve Ditko: The only cartoonists I'd like to have met.  Anyhow, Bob Heer kinda likes it, too.

It's cartoonist and TCJ-contributor Eddie Campbell talking over at The Beat.

And to send you merry into the weekend, "The Perils of Pauline," Renata Adler's 1980 take-down of Pauline Kael. I'm not sure if this piece has just been posted online to coincide with the reissue of her novels, or if it's been up awhile. Whatever. She has so much to say about critical writing, all of it worth considering.




Today marks the return of Sean T. Collins with a review of Julia Gfrörer's popular webcomic, Black Is the Color. Here's Sean:

As befits a comic that mostly takes place in a rowboat going nowhere in the middle of the ocean, Black Is the Color frequently collapses time and space into one another. Often its two-panel rows, or indeed entire pages, will depict a contiguous space split between the panels, the passage of time conveyed by the movement of your eye from one panel to the next within that space. Clouds drift and morph; a lonely cabin looks out over the sea; a storm descends over multiple pages, dwarfing a lone doomed ship; merfolk make idle chatter while watching men burn and drown; a mermaid descends through fronds of seaweed after leaving her dying lover to the daylight.


—The same Sean, inspired by the recent Diary of a Teenage Girl film teaser, resurrects his 2003 interview with Phoebe Gloeckner. Among her other accomplishments, you can definitely list memorable conversationalist.

—Grant Morrison always gives good interviews, too, though I have to say that the example he uses here to argue for how comics alone can accomplish things impossible in other media (having Superman break the fourth wall to talk to the reader about the devil) is rather depressingly unambitious — not to mention not hard at all to imagine being done in other media.

—Chris Randle's interview with Geneviève Castrée at Hazlitt about her debut graphic novel ends our comics discussion trio nicely.

—Paul Gravett writes a long essay on Roy Lichtenstein, his recent show at the Tate, and his legacy as it relates to comics. (Dave Gibbons makes a guest appearance.)

—Michael DeForge's Lose #4 is reviewed by Ale Hern at The New Statesman.

—I don't know Dorothy's last name, but I really enjoy her series of super-short Nancy appreciations at Comics Workbook, and am glad she put up a new one this week.

—Via reader e-mail comes this article I missed on Josefina Larragoiti’s Editorial Resistencia, a publisher trying to establish a market for serious comics in Mexico.

—Has any other publication boasted a dream team of cartoonists to beat the old Chicago Tribune? Not many... (via)


Robustly Simple

Today on the site... well, I wrote about an unusual comic/narrative/art project called The Magician.

Byrne’s succinct description of The Magician (published in an edition of 20 by Marquand Books) is: It’s set in a public bathroom. The Magician is this character that goes through and reconciles opposites. Every misunderstanding I have about the universe is documented in these objects. And creation myths, too. But it’s all tongue-in-cheek.” The Magician takes different forms. He is a sleeping figure. He is a hand. He is sperm. He is a cape.


Truman Capote and New Yorker cartoons.

Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth and Drew Friedman discuss Harvey Kurtzman on the Leonard Lopate Show.

This article on the publishing biz and technology was zooming around the web yesterday.

From R. Fiore comes Petra Haden singing the Superman theme.

And here's one I knew nothing about: A teaser for a film version of Phoebe Gloeckner's The Diary of a Teenage Girl.


How Do You Like This?

Today Joe "Jog" McCulloch is here again with another column on the Week in Comics, to which he has attached an essay on the great and mysterious Gerald Jablonski. I'll leave it to Joe to explain Jablonski, other than to say that reading his work will cure the attentive reader of any certainty she might possess about "rules" that must be followed when creating comics. And also that there are very few times I have laughed as hard as I have when reading Cryptic Wit #2 out loud.


—As you no doubt have heard, last week a dispute erupted over whether or not the Chicago public school system would be pulling Persepolis out of 7th grade classrooms. Here is an article at the Chicago Tribune, and here is a recent roundup of reaction at Robot 6. Search around if you want more -- there's plenty of commentary out there, though it's pretty repetitive. Usually in these cases I can sort of understand the rationale for censorship, even while almost always disagreeing with it, but this time around, I'm at a total loss.

—In the department of reaction to The Comics Journal: Glen Weldon raves at The New Republic over issue 302's Maurice Sendak interview, and a reviewer at the A.V. Club uses the occasion of a Fantagraphics-published book on popular music to flail at a tiny straw statue of Gary Groth he'd apparently built for himself in the early '90s.

—Stephen Bissette and Richard Gagnon are trying to use media coverage of the next Spider-Man movie to draw attention to Marvel's treatment of co-creator Steve Ditko.

—Lisa Hanawalt racks up an unusual accomplishment for a cartoonist: being nominated for a James Beard Award.

—Gil Roth interviews Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist Matt Wuerker.

—Chuck Austen tells his fellow Tokyopop creators to "move on."

—Finally, via the entire internet, a short PBS video on webcomics: