Red Rover


My conversation with cartoonist Gabrielle Bell, whose The Voyeurs was one of my favorite books of 2012 and remains lodged in my brain. Gabrielle's matter-of-fact tone just burrows in deeper with each reading. Anyhow, here a bit where I berate her for how she spends her time:

NADEL: What have you been doing?

BELL: I don’t even know. [Laughter.] I’ve been doing portraits on the Internet.

NADEL: Right, the Skype portraits.

BELL: And that takes a lot of time. And that’s pretty much it.

NADEL: And that was just straight up, you needed rent?

BELL: Yeah. Also, I just wanted to try it. Seemed like I was broke, and I had this idea, and I saw that nobody else was doing this on the Internet, and I was like, “Maybe I can corner this market.”

NADEL: Why Skype?

BELL: Last year I did it from photographs. That just didn’t work for me. It was just — I worked too hard on each one, and they always came out feeling stiff and awkward. Maybe because I’m not formally trained as an artist. I just don’t know what I’m doing. And then it took so long, and then the same thing is happening with the Skype project, but I like them a little better.

NADEL: But what’s the difference between a Skype image and a photograph?

BELL: Well I guess, for one thing, everybody is in the same position. I like drawing people’s portraits. So I guess the idea is that I’m sitting on a street corner doing portraits, only it’s on the Internet, in the comfort of my own home. That was the idea.

NADEL: And it’s like 40 bucks a shot?

BELL: 35, but —

NADEL: That’s cheap!

BELL: I know.

NADEL: You’re not charging enough!

BELL: That’s what people say, but —

NADEL: You need a business manager.

BELL: [Laughs.] I need a lot of things. And a lot of people.

Also, here's another preview of TCJ 302, this time featuring the Toon Treasury Think Tank.


It's digital vs. print over at Tom's place.

Nick Abadzis names his desert island comics.

Neal Adams is doing an awesome job of being Neal Adams.

You can now download Reid Fleming comics and pay what you wish. That's a fine comic.

These days I hesitate to mention Jack Kirby on this blog since it inevitably leads to a deluge of bizarre outpourings/Tourrets-like symptoms/cries-for-help, but I can't resist. Here is the original art for 16 pages of a 1966 Thor story, and, yep, it's pretty great to look at. Just spend some time looking at all those scale shifts.

Finally, this is a good idea and an excellent online exhibition for a project commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Armory show, in which even some cartoonists exhibited.


Is There a Fly In Here?

We've got two things for you this morning. First, a rare interview with the underground legend Gilbert Shelton, creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, providing something of a casual snapshot of his current Paris life. Here's a bit:

How long does it take you to do a page?

Oh, I don’t know. Forever.

One of the things I’d heard you say is that when you moved to France, you were able to finally tell people what you did. That there was a prestige afforded to comics that you didn’t find in America.

Yes. I used to tell people that I’m in the publishing business. But here I can probably say that I’m a cartoonist, or a "dessinateur de bande dessinée."

Did they know your stuff well here?

Yeah. It’s well known. It’s been around for a while. The problem is that the French comic book industry publishes around four thousand new comic books every year. That’s more than a hundred a week. And the bookstore owners can’t cope with that. They know the Freak Brothers and they know they can sell some, so they can order that.

We also have your usual Friday installment of Comics of the Weak. Somewhat disturbingly, Tucker Stone continues to mellow.


—The Orson Scott Card/Superman controversy continues, with an official response from DC, editorials and reports about the matter reaching The Guardian and The Huffington Post, and various comics figures holding forth on the subject.

—Drawn & Quarterly has a late but strong entry in the Angoulême festival report race.

—Ryan Sands announces a new book, and, very promisingly, a new quarterly comics zine and publishing house.

—William Mesner-Loebs needs help.

—Jeet Heer pointed to this short take-down of Watchmen from The American Conservative. There's some smart pushback in some of the comments.

—And here's a video essay on the Scott Pilgrim movie that talks about the formal challenges of adapting comics to film:



Today Ken Parille looks at the "elegantly bleak, un-cinematic minimalism" of Harvey Comics:

In Casper the Friendly Ghost, for example, Casper’s repeated attempts at friendliness are thwarted by his ghostliness—he accidentally scares would-be companions. The company’s visual strategies are equally basic: this page from “Search Party” consists of sparsely-filled, same-sized panels all drawn as ‘wide shots’ (showing the full character and his environment) and colored with a limited flat palette. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Harvey’s reliance on a few narrative ‘blueprints’ guarantees an uninteresting comic or reflects an unexceptional design sensibility. The more we look (or at least the more I look) at this page, the more carefully organized and attractive it becomes.

And Rob Clough reviews Windowpane.


Only comics by way of baseline ideas: TCJ-contributor Naomi Fry on the power of teenage artifacts, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and other matters.

Here's a big and fun blog account of this year's Angouleme from Drawn & Quarterly.

Maurice Sendak will have a school named for him Park Slope, Brooklyn, just around the corner from me.

Here's a delightful cave-boy strip (cave-man culture is always a winner) by the man better known for lettering for Milton Caniff: Frank Engli.

TCJ-interviewee Ed Piskor on his upcoming residency in Ohio.

Cartoonist Marian Churchland buys an apartment, draws beautiful tree-dwelling.

And finally, TCJ-columnist R. Fiore needs a little visual aid assistance. He asks if you can locate this image on this here Internet: "there was a panel from a DC comics story that showed up on a number of blogs. It was the character Darkseid sitting in a chair in a hotel room or something like that, chatting with another character. I think it showed up repeatedly because it just looked so weird to have Darkseid sitting in a normal chair like a normal person, when he actually ought to be on a throne in a cave."


Print Condition

Today, we're keeping the Bob Levin train going with another preview from issue 302 of the print Comics Journal: an excerpt from his article on R. Crumb and the lawyer Albert Morse:

On Dec. 21, 2005, Robert Crumb filed suit in United States District Court, Western Division of Washington, against The suit alleged that Amazon had infringed upon his copyright of his famed “Keep on Truckin’” cartoon by using it to encourage customers to continue searching when initial book searches failed. He wanted Amazon permanently enjoined from further infringements. And he wanted its profits from this one, plus compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The suit startled people in the comic-book world. (Presumably, it also startled Amazon, which yanked the cartoon from its website.) As far as these people knew, Crumb had lost the rights to “Keep on Truckin’” long before 2005. The source of this belief was Crumb himself. He had been strikingly clear about it. He had blamed that loss on his former lawyer, Albert Morse.

And out of the archives, we are bringing back Gary Groth's 1999 interview with Megan Kelso, from issue 216. Here's a bit from that, on Kelso's early years as a self-publisher:

GROTH: What kind of orders did you get? Do you remember?

KELSO: Well, I did six issues, and I never got more orders than 1,000. I don’t even think I got to 1,000. I was always hovering... orders for #1 were at 850, then they went down like they always do, then they went back up again. I was always hovering between 800 and 1,000.

GROTH: Well, that’s not bad.

KELSO: And then, you know, all hell broke loose. Capital and all the other distributors went away, the whole thing was so depressing... I think I self-published for longer than any of the other boys who got Xeric Grants...

GROTH: You probably did.

KELSO: But by the end I was just so over it.

GROTH: What did you find unpalatable about self-publishing?

KELSO: It makes me feel kind of schizophrenic: you have to be doing your comics and be all artistic on one hand, and then a hard-assed business person on the other, because they all want to fuck you. They don’t want to pay you, and you deal with printers who mess up your cover or whatever and they don’t want to admit it, you just have to be a hardass with everybody. Well, I’m sure you know that.

GROTH: Of course.

KELSO: And then you have to exert all this energy trying to promote yourself, which I never had any energy to do. I mean, I had all these great ideas, and I never did any of them, because I just didn’t have any energy left for it.

GROTH: Were you a good hardass?

KELSO: Yeah! I have a job where I have to be a hardass, but I actually think I learned to be a hardass from self-publishing.

GROTH: What is this job where you have to be a hardass?

KELSO: Well, it’s only recently, really, that I’ve had to be a hardass. They have an art collection that they exhibit at SeaTac airport, and for years I’ve been the maintenance person, cleaning the art, installing exhibits, stuff like that. Recently I’ve been scheduling, coordinating who’s going to be exhibiting, moving art around, so I’m not just the janitor any more. I’ve been there for about six years.


—I don't think we've mentioned it previously, but as many readers are probably aware, DC Comics recently announced that the science fiction writer Orson Scott Card was going to be writing for a new digital Superman comic, and after word spread of some of Card's past comments on homosexuality and gay marriage (among other things), a popular backlash began. There is currently an online petition against his hiring with over 7,000 signatures, and at least one Dallas retailer has announced they won't be carrying the print version of the comic.

The Guardian has a preview gallery from Maurice Sendak's last book.

—Nick Gazin's latest you-either-love-it-or-hate-it-or-both comics column at Vice includes a short interview with Gary Panter.

—Bob Temuka writes a blog post about being alternately fascinated and utterly exhausted with the online overhyped "feud" between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and having similar feelings after reading and following a bunch of arguments chronicled in old issues of the Comics Journal. I have a lot of thoughts about this, especially after the last couple years.

—And finally, via, here's Stan Lee on a 1971 episode of To Tell the Truth:



Joe McCulloch marks the start of the real comics week here.


Ng Suat Tong responds to Eddie Campbell's essay from last week.

Continuing a flurry of research into Frederic Wertham in recent years (including TCJ's Warren Bernard in issue 302), here is news that Wertham reportedly distorted his findings to suit his thesis, according to scholar Carol Tilley:

As she pored over his files, she began to recognize the case notes of children referred to in “Seduction,” and typing their quotes into her laptop computer. But when she returned to her hotel room and compared her notes to Wertham’s book, she found numerous inconsistencies. “I thought well maybe I’ve missed something, maybe I typed incorrectly,” Tilley said. So she began photocopying portions of Wertham’s files and comparing them closely to his book. “That’s when I realized the extent of the changes.”

Here's a lengthy series of remembrances of the late artist Yossarian.

Not comics, but why not: I don't buy the thesis that this artist is terribly revolutionary (market success is sometimes mistaken for innovation), but the ideas discussed here vis-a-vis e-book possibilities are applicable to comics.

Jim Rugg and co have launched a new podcast. First up is our own boss, Gary Groth.



You’ll Eat It & You’ll Like It

Big day here today. First, we complete our (unplanned) trilogy of articles on EC Comics with a new piece by the great Bob Levin, with the perhaps unexpected title, "Let Us Now Praise Al Feldstein". Here he goes:

I have no major disagreement with Gary Groth’s recent remarks. I applaud his formulation that a comic’s value is "intrinsically literary." I swallow, with only a slight gulp, his recognition that EC’s prose was often cliche-ed, formulaic, "overwrought and fatuously earnest." But as one who had his world rocked by – and sped to the newsstand each Tuesday and Thursday to skim the cream from its most recent deliveries – I take umbrage ("Take my umbrage... Please!") at his equating ECs to "decent" noir B-movies.

You think Lee Marvin tossing hot coffee in Gloria Graham’s kisser was something? You ought to see that ranch hand after its owner smote him with her branding iron. You consider "Kiss Me Deadly" perversely erotic? How about that cheating wife and her lover whose heads were transplanted onto each other’s body by her cuckolded husband?

Decency, as Mae West might have said, had nothing to do with it.

Sure, with ninety-minutes at their disposal, B-movies may have deepened and shaded characters more than EC could in a six-to-eight-page story. And maybe this time allowed movies to present more disturbing world views. (Or maybe not. EC damn well frequently disturbed me.) But in two areas critical to the interests of red-blooded American boys, EC kicked the ass of anything 1950 Hollywood films – A, B, C, or D – could offer.

I am talking SEX and VIOLENCE.

We also have another preview for issue 302 of the print edition of this magazine, available this month from fine stores everywhere. Today, it's another extract from Gary Groth's long talk with Maurice Sendak, the last major interview of Sendak's career:

SENDAK: ... It’s what you see as a child, it’s what you notice. It’s like when I was … the man who wrote a book that said Hauptmann was not the killer of the Lindbergh baby … and that’s bad. He made the terrible mistake of talking about his book at the Richfield Library. Richfield, this is the most right-wing, goyish a county that could ever be. And I went to the lecture, about eight people there — Who wants to hear about the Lindbergh kidnapping? — I kept raising my hand saying, “No, no you got that wrong, you got that wrong,” and afterward … he came over to me and said, “Can we have coffee? You seem to know an awful lot about his case.”

And I said, “I know when you made a mistake. You really haven’t done your homework carefully enough.”

So we went out for coffee and he said, “What is it about his case that … Why are you so involved in it, even now?”

And I said, “Because when I was child, and I was shopping with my mother and she was holding my hand because I was a very little boy, and I passed the newsstand, and I saw a picture of the baby dead in the woods with an arrow pointing down to show it had to be him, and I took my mother to see it. And apparently nobody but me saw it.” So I was convinced that I was crazy and that I saw a dead baby in the newspaper. And I said, “It’s only in the past few years that I realized Colonel Lindbergh was enraged that that picture was used and it was taken off the afternoon edition; I saw the morning edition.”

I spent my whole life believing I saw that picture. But that to me is why children are so important: they see these things.

And then you have a mother who says, “You didn’t see that, that’s disgusting! Why do you think of such things?”

And I told my father and he says the same thing, “I don’t want you to talk about that!”

But see, children see those things. And when you take away the truth from them, you take away everything from them. And one of the passions I have about children is, we don’t know what they see, we don’t know what they really hear. And occasionally they are polite enough to let us in.

And we also have a review from Chris Mautner, of Régis Hautière and Renaud Dillies's Abelard. He doesn't seem to have liked it much:

Seemingly bereft of parents and living in a bucolic, mostly female-free marsh, Abelard is astoundingly naïve. Seriously, no one over the age of ten is as clueless as this kid appears to be. How clueless is he? So clueless that, when he falls hopelessly in love with a young woman visiting the marsh, he decides to travel to America so he can hop in one of those new fangled flying machines (the story seems to be set in the early 20th century) and give her the moon. He does this after a passer-by suggests offering the girl the moon is the best way to win her love and Abelard is obviously a very literal-minded person (we’ve already been treated to a winsome sequence of him attempting to reach the moon via ladder).


—Don Rosa wrote a must-read essay on why he quit drawing his duck comics, which Disney did not allow to appear in its licensed editions of the complete Don Rosa.

—Conundrum Press provided the internet as a whole's favorite English-language Angoulême report.

—The never-ending Stan Lee authorship controversy has made its way into The New Republic.

—What curator just said this?: "The illustrator I chose to represent sequential art is Mort Drucker from MAD Magazine. He is hardly the flavor of the month, or even the flavor of last month, when it comes to sequential art such as graphic novels or internet comics. But there is an awful lot of lame artwork appearing in graphic novels today, no matter how moving or profound the text might be. If I knew of a current graphic novel artist who came anywhere close to the talent of Drucker, I would have used them. The interesting thing is, when you talk with a more fashionable artist in the show, Phil Hale, who does dark, obscure oil paintings 5 feet tall to illustrate psychologically complex Joseph Conrad novels, he'll tell you that his ambition in life was once to go work with Drucker at MAD."

—Johanna Draper Carlson explains why she's no longer serving as a Glyph awards judge.

—Seth, circa 1987.

—Paul Gravett on Frederik Peeters.

—Did Charles Schulz invent *sigh*?


History Beckons

Hey it's Tucker with some comic book reviews spanning the decades!


Your must read of the day is Joe McCulloch's piece on his online writing history, philosophy and practice. It was in response to something that erupted on Twitter, but which I entirely missed, in response to Eddie Campbell's essay here on Wednesday. Anyway, since this is so much in my house I ought to have some thoughts on it. I don't, really, except to agree and nod gratefully. Joe's point about writing about those things he wants to write about not implying that other things are less important is very important. If I can follow on his lead about Art Out of Time, the point was to broaden the discussion, not replace a canon or anything of the sort. I'd like to think ye ol' Comics Comics and now TCJ is in much the same spirit, though obviously nothing can be everything to everyone. I should follow what people are saying about us more closely -- I don't know the reputation of Comics Comics (I do know that we had fun, we ran some good work, PictureBox lost some money. The rest... whatever.) to which Joe refers, and it's hard for me to decipher what TCJ's rep is, either, except that we run too much on Chris Ware or not enough. Or too much on EC or not enough.

Anyhow, how about some more links?

-Dash Shaw takes a break from writing for TCJ long enough to produce a huge graphic novel that will blow your minds. That's my official blurb, from having read a chunk of it in draft form. See, I like young cartoonists. I even love some. Anyhow, here's a preview.

-Bart Beaty brings us his final report on Angouleme 2013. No spoilers! Blake & Mortimer reviewed.

-Related to comics in the 1980s sense: Dave Sim is auctioning off some original art. I see a trend developing here. Investor's tip: Wait a while and watch the prices get lower and lower.

-Related to comics in the 1940s sense: A profile of female pulp write C.L. Moore.


The Stuff

Today we present another excerpt from the latest issue of this magazine's print incarnation, Lew Sayre Schwartz's interview with Roy Crane! A snippet:

I was going to ask you what you thought was the reason that the circle has been completed, 360 degrees, and we’re back to the joke strip. I would assume, and you can comment on it for me, size and the television too, obviously the squeezing down of the comic, the dimensions of the television screen, are given as reasons for this decline in the adventure strip. And it’s probably quite true. But what are your feelings about this?

Well, I feel that continuity strips, at least my strip, Buz Sawyer, which I started during the war, that adventure strips were never stronger than they were during the war. And that certainly goes for [Milton] Caniff, who had his stories tied together and he got quite a lot of impact out of it. But now, the jokes that came after the war, the types of gags that were used in The New Yorker, changed the type of humor.

It became more sophisticated.

Yes. And, Chic Young certainly came out with a different way of telling a story, then. He would have his maybe four pictures and the third one would be his gag thing, and then in the fourth picture, he would give the reaction of the people, which is in [John] Gallishaw’s book on how to write a short story. Now that was picked up by a lot of people. I did it in Sunday pages and the like, where you maybe had humor and everybody else did.

Sean T. Collins is here this morning with a review of Johnny Ryan's fourth volume of Prison Pit:

Prison Pit has always been gross, but this volume, in which the unstoppable protagonist Cannibal Fuckface attempt to break free of the subterranean psychemechanical prison ship he was stranded in last time around, was the first that made even a seasoned hand at the rough stuff like me emit weary moans of repulsion and disgust with seemingly each new pustule-encrusted beast that appeared.


—News Dept.: Bill Schanes is stepping down as VP of Purchasing at Diamond distribution after 27 years. And the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library announced its new Guide to Multicultural Resources.

—Opinion & Gossip:
Paul Constant is a little skeeved out by Neil Gaiman's new campaign for BlackBerry; former Premiere editor Glenn Kenny gives the back story on how someone like David Mamet gets a cartooning gig at a major magazine.

—Interviews: Tom Kaczynski talks to Comics Bulletin, and James Kochalka talks to Panel to Panel.

Somehow I missed that Lynda Barry is using her Tumblr to post resources and videos and notes for her ongoing class, "The Unthinkable Mind".

Mark Evanier talks about "Alfred" Astaire; the Library of American Comics blog compares the size of a 1928 Gumps strip to an entire comics page from 2013. Also, a picture of Nicholas Ray, reading: