Fun Times

Block out some time, because we've got a big one for you today, a long interview with Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez conducted by Dan and myself and Frank Santoro. Both Gilbert and Jaime were on that morning, and willing to talk about anything and everything. Here's one exchange taken more or less at random:

HODLER: I might be misremembering, but I believe I read an interview with you where you said that when you create stories, you kind of work at the beginning and the end and the middle all at the same time.

GILBERT: It’s different all the time. That’s probably most of the way I worked. Sometimes, I would just draw the last page real sloppy because I’m tired, I’ll do that as I start the story, and if I know what the ending is, I rarely know what the ending is, but I’ll draw the last page early on if I know what it will be. Like, Marble Season, my Drawn & Quarterly book, I drew the last page when I was halfway done with the book, because I didn’t want to get to that last page feeling, “I’m tired, I don’t wanna draw this page!” [Laughter.] That lesson came from one of the early Barry Smith Conan stories, it was “Red Nails.” Was it the end of the first chapter, or the whole…? The page where you can tell, Barry Smith, it was probably 4 in the morning, and he just couldn’t do it much justice.

JAIME: I thought the whole second issue was …

GILBERT: I think it was the last page of the first chapter, ’cause the first part was real intense and Conan gets chased by the dinosaur and he has to carry Valeria; and then at the end, it was the last page of the chapter, it looked like Smith handed it to Vinnie Colletta to finish.

NADEL: Oh, Colletta finished it?

GILBERT: No, it looks like it. Or Pablo Marcos.

NADEL: Oh. [Laughter.]

GILBERT: I can tell because it looks like Barry Smith was fried at 4 in the morning, and he's gotta get it into the office and it’s not done. I don’t wanna do that, so the trick is to do that page before you get to the end. Yeah. And the sloppy page might be in the middle of the story now, instead of the very end but not a lot of people notice. It’s very telling when it’s at the end.

I learned from those mainstream guys, that’s one thing. And I think a lot of indie artists don’t. And that’s why they can’t freakin’ tell stories or structure stories or have stories, ‘cause you gotta learn from the mainstream, the nuts and bolts of putting a comic together, anyway. Like Dan Clowes said, “You watch enough episodes of Mannix and The Twilight Zone, you learn how to structure a story.” These guys don’t. You know, story structures. I mean, they might be talented in their own way, but you’re not getting stories there. And I think that’s what makes our comics kind of awkward in the indie scene, ‘cause they’re actually stories. No plots, but stories still.

In other news:

—The Eisner Awards judges have been announced.

—In Buffalo, a mysterious illegal mural has appeared, celebrating the work of the late Spain Rodriguez.

—Tom Spurgeon clarifies a recent organizational news release from the CBLDF.

—Chris Ware appeared on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Brooklyn magazine has a tour of Gabrielle Bell's apartment.

—Jenna Brager at the Los Angeles Review of Books reviews Hope Larson's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.

The New Statesman has a slew of comics coverage out right now, including among other things Colin Smith interviewing 2000 AD's Al Ewing and Henry Flint, and TCJ's own Hayley Campbell on the UK comics boom.


Twelve Twelve

On the site today:

I'm pleased to welcome writer Rudy Rucker to the site. His most recent novel is Turing & Burroughs. (Described as: "What if Alan Turing, founder of the modern computer age, escaped assassination by the secret service to become the lover of Beat author William Burroughs? What if they mutated into giant shapeshifting slugs, fled the FBI, raised Burroughs's wife from the dead, and tweaked the H-bombs of Los Alamos?"). So who better to review the two new Burroughs-centered releases, Observed While Falling: Bill Burroughs, Ah Pook, and Me and The Lost Art of Ah Pook: Images from the Graphic Novel. And so:

The results are staggering—the best pictures of dicks that I’ve ever seen.  I think in particular of an image in The Lost Art of Ah Pook Is Here, showing a Mayan musician with an epic hard-on that reaches up to the strings of his electric guitar. A little insect-man with a curled proboscis and a dangling ball-sack stands on the neck of the guitar.  Wonderfully jagged fields of force trail from the guitar to the musician’s hand.  This design was made for a 1978 Burroughs-inspired “Cumhu T-shirt.” Cumhu is a Mayan character in Ah Pook.  If and where this T-shirt was ever marketed isn’t explained.  In any case, McNeill and Fantagraphics should consider reissuing reissue this transgressive T.


Some videos now (thanks GB): Here's comics-relevant artist Jim Shaw on the occasion of his retrospective at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

And here's Justin Green in Portugal.

Holiday shopping alert: Noel Freibert posters. I love the wonky geometry of these designs.

Hey it's Brother Voodoo.

And Robin McConnell talks to Ruppert and Mulot.


Large Print

It's Tuesday, which means it's Joe McCulloch talking about the new comics day. This week, he's also takes a long look at the latest comic book from Stammerin' Steve Ditko:

Tucked away in the midst of all this meaningful mayhem is a six-page chiller that could have come straight out of The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves, had that august forum abandoned the supernatural entirely for a hardcore focus on psychological distress. Nobody in American comics has ever mastered the art of people freaking the fuck out like Steve Ditko, and that's what we get in this Poe-like flyover of a thief who can't stop believing that all eyes are upon his guilty brow.

I tend to find these kinds of stories the most humanizing of Ditko's works; for all his invocation of the excellent potential of the human mind, the visceral kick of his art comes from his profound sensitivity to anxiety, obsession, self-loathing: the mess of human living in a damned fallen world. Looks at that guy's head *splitting in half* in panel 4 - is that a photocopier effect? Definitely it seems like a foreign technological incursion; all those broken sentences read otherwise like the collapse of language in the face of unutterable realizations, words transformed into marks in perfect parity with the lines that compose the bodies of every Ditko hero and villains. These are stories where everybody says what they mean, and... what they mean... is...

Well, you can read it, right? Can't you see? With your own eyes?

And again, we've added another round of tributes to the Spain Rodriguez post. If you haven't checked it out for a while, it's worth doing so. New contributors include Sharon Rudahl, Craig Fischer, Charles Dallas, and M.K. Brown.

Also, Fantagraphics has a post giving us all a sneak peek at the upcoming print issue of The Comics Journal, and it looks pretty amazing.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—Speaking of Steve Ditko, he's still corresponding with fans.

—Chris Ware is here to help you with your holiday shopping, both with a long list of his favorite gift books, and a blog post about the books he most enjoyed reading this year.

—Steven Weissman goes comics shopping with Mario Hernandez.

—And I haven't had a chance to listen to this yet, but it's got to be good on some level: Josh Simmons interviewed by Dean Haspiel.



Dan is unavailable to blog right now, so I'll be your replacement host this morning. Today on the site, our columnist Shaenon Garrity makes a long-awaited return with a new piece on three genres of webcomics that are surprisingly underproduced.

Around the time my webcomics reading list included one comic about two married female itinerant laborers in space, one about eighteenth-century Bavarian religious politics, one that was at the time devoted to drawing gag strips based on Nancy Drew book covers, and one with a holiday installment entitled “The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas”, I started to suspect that Rule 34 had officially extended from pornography to webcomics, and there was now a webcomic on literally every subject conceivable to the human mind. That was two whole years ago.

And yet, despite all the thousands of comics knocking around in the tubes, some genres remain surprisingly underrepresented.

We have also continued to add new additions to our Spain Rodriguez tributes post, including a contribution from Kim Deitch.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Wired has a lengthy excerpt from Alan Moore's introductory essay for the Occupy Comics project.

—Sean Kleefeld has pulled out a bit from Sean Howe's Marvel Comics history worth remembering whenever the Pearl Harbor anniversary comes around.

—And I missed this earlier this year, and can't remember where I finally learned about it, but someone at Drawger has posted the entire contents of Frank Tashlin's How to Create Cartoons.


Express Train

A faulty alarm clock means this post is getting written fast, faster than any post has been written before. Expect cleanup soon, after I take a break to ride a train for a while...

Today on the site, Tucker Stone and Abhay Khosla take on the comics and news of the day in their usual over-the-top fashion.

—I guess some extramarital love letters of Charles Schulz are going on auction. I feel gross just reporting that, but I guess it's newsworthy on some level.

—How about something a bit less vampirish? Rob Clough draws attention to a new proposed project by comics journalist Dan Archer.

—Bob Heer reports that Steve Ditko has written an essay addressing the claims that Jack Kirby had a hand in creating Spider-Man.

—The Boston Phoenix has a long interview with Sean Howe about his Marvel Comics history.

—Kailyn Kent writes about "art vs. comics" anxiety she has found in recent discussions of Saul Steinberg.

—I haven't had a chance to read this yet, but am curious about any kind of academic article comparing an old Captain Marvel story to The Master.

—This video about selling all of your old comics & just getting it over with? Maybe, today this is sounding good.


Money in the Pocket

Well, so far here in Miami Art is winning against Comics. Last night I saw some fine Copleys and the best Picabia painting David Salle never painted. But not a back issue in sight. Where's a Frank Santoro when you need him? This is, in fact, seven years to the week that Frank and I flew on down to Miami and heard the alarming news that one artist friend had a stash of weed strapped to his scrotum. Alarming, but somehow not discouraging. Yes, in those halcyon days one could glimpse a Paper Rad skate ramp made from cardboard amidst the Miami glitterati. Also: People now dead that were then alive. Anyhow! I finished my installation this evening and I'm all set. So, on to the internets.

Today on the site we have a profile of John T. McCutcheon by R.C. Harvey. Harv! Tell us what you know:

Newspaper artists furnished all the illustrative material for the papers of the day. The halftone engraving process for reproducing photographs had been perfected in 1886, but it was not adapted successfully to the big rotary presses until the New York Tribune did it in 1897.  Until the turn of the century, newspaper sketch artists were graphic reporters, covering all the events that photographers were to cover later. McCutcheon drew pictures of everything. He illustrated major news events, often working from sketches made on-the-spot. A typical day might include a trial in the morning, a sporting event or crime scene or a local catastrophe in the afternoon, and an art show opening or a flood or fire in the evening. When not dashing from event to event with a pad of paper under his arm, he worked in the office, doing portraits of politicians and dignitaries, and decorations for a variety of columns and stories. At the beginning, he was more illustrator than cartoonist, and he also wrote occasional feature pieces and newsstories.

What else is happening? I don't really know, but here goes:

Sean Howe keeps delivering the goods. Here he is on Ms. Marvel.

I'm one of the only people I know who likes George Wunder. So I guess this is made for me. Wunder drew the oddest faces this side of Boody Rogers and did paintings of early American history for a book in the 1970s. Those are weird weird weird. I love them.

Slow links day? Maybe. I'm on the run, though, so I ask you to ponder George Wunder until the next one of these rolls around.



Eyes on the Back of Your Head

Today we have Rob Clough's review of Julia Wertz's latest book, The Infinite Wait, a very funny book which probably hasn't received enough attention. Here's how he opens it:

In a sense, the heart of each of the three short stories in Julia Wertz's memoir The Infinite Wait is the impact that discovering comics has had on her life. Ostensibly, the book is broken up into "Industry", a chronological account of her life as seen through her job history; "The Infinite Wait", her account of learning that she suffered from chronic systemic lupus; and "A Strange and Curious Place", a love letter to the first public library she haunted as a child. While each story can be read as discrete narratives, the truth is that this book is a sort of recapitulation and revisitation of the themes and events she explored in her first three books (The Fart Party Volumes 1 & 2; Drinking At The Movies). There's a deeper level of narrative, thematic and emotional complexity that becomes more apparent as one reads the book for a second time. Wertz doesn't exactly disown her earlier works in this book, but she goes into detail as to why each of them makes her uncomfortable from her current perspective.

We are still continuing to add new contributions to our page of Spain Rodriguez tributes. Since Monday, Art Spiegelman, Gary Groth, Noah Van Sciver, and Sam Henderson have joined the ranks. We are still waiting on a few more, so don't forget to check back in every now and again. We are also posting another short interview with Spain conducted by Gary in 2001, and regarding his then-unusual foray into the world of online comics.


—Speaking of comics that deserve more attention, Boing Boing has gathered a bunch of comics figures' recommendations for best-of-the-year lists. I don't agree with all of the choices, and think there are many titles that belong on those lists that didn't make it, but still ... there are a lot of decent or better comics coming out these days.

—Which leads us nicely to Ng Suat Tong's review of Mattotti and Zentner's Crackle of the Frost.

—Words Without Borders has a new webcomic from David B. and Hervé Tanquerelle.

—ICv2 has a two-part interview with the perennially underrated Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

—Finally, here's a new (to me) Tumblr devoted to terrible editorial cartoons. (via)


Gourmet Burger

I'm in Miami this week for the art fairs and, in particular, the NADA Art Fair, which is suddenly a family affair. If you're in Miami, come on by. Alas, I will not be trying to sell Real Deal back issues to contemporary art collectors, but I'll be hungry for some good comics talk. I can see you a Boody Rogers if you'll raise me a Dori Seda. Or you can always place your ace in the hole: Dick Ayers. Bring on the comic book gabbing. Maybe I'll finally get to the bottom of that comics vs. are conflict I hear so much about. I'll take a survey. Maybe I'll solve it while balancing 3 mojitos on my nose. Who knows.

Well anyway, all of this is to say two things:

1) If you know of some awesome back-issue joint in Miami Beach, let me know.

2) My blogging this week will be ever even worse than usual.

Ok, it's today:

In addition to the usual comic book opining, Joe McCulloch has some thoughts on Alan Moore's foray into short filmmaking.


The big news is that Karen Berger is resigning from her position as Executive Editor & Senior Vice President at DC's Vertigo imprint. She's made quite a legacy there. More details as they're available.

Here's CNN on manga artist Takehiko Inoue of Slam Dunk notoriety.

This looks interesting -- an iPad and/or PDF periodical of journalism in comics form called Symbolia. 

Steve Heller highlights a kind of hilariously modernist (thought though beautiful) design by the great Bradbury Thompson for the Famous Artists Schools 1963 annual report.

And best of all, here's Seth on the demise of Bazooka Joe.