Today on the site, Eddie Campbell says some things I'm glad he's saying in: The Literaries. I look forward to the inevitable comments that ignore anything substantive and focus entirely on Stan Lee.

In the wake of the comics medium’s forty-year hike to serious acceptance, the chances are that now a person won’t get laughed out the room for putting them on a par with Literature. The flipside of the medium having gained this kind of recognition is that it has also acquired a new species of critic who demands that comics be held to the standards of LITERATURE. Since the invasion of these literaries, I have been observing a tendency to ask the question: if this weren’t a comic would it stand up? Would the story be any good if it were prose and in competition with the rest of the world’s prose? If we take away all these damn pictures, would the stuff that is left be worth a hoot?

And because TCJ 302 is hitting some contributor mailboxes now, here is a post you should refer to while reading the actual issue: Warren Bernard cites his sources for his Comics Journal #302 article, "Bloody Massacre: How Fredric Wertham Public Backlash and the 1954 Senate Delinquency Hearings Threw Comics on the Bonfire" and provides documents from the recently opened Frederic Wertham papers that shed new light on the Senate comic book Hearings of 1954.

With the opening of the Fredric Wertham papers at The Library of Congress, researchers finally have access to Wertham’s side of the affair, including Wertham’s hand-written notes of his telephone calls as they related to the Senate hearings.  The records of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held at the National Archives also held previously unseen documentation. Combined with the power of such newspaper search sites as Proquest Historical Newspapers and, both available at the Library of Congress, this allows us for the first time to understand the full story of how the Senate comic book hearings came to be.


This looks like an article on the "dirty" work of Angouleme Grand Prix winner Willem. Anal Symphonies, which I bought from the man himself some years ago at SPX (!) really is about as fine an anally-fixated comic as there's ever been. I mean, for consistency (and ruling out Ed the Happy Clown).

Here lies the LA Art Book Fair. Scroll down for some choice words from Ben Jones. For those of you interested in the boring old "Art vs. Comics" thing, Ben's kind of a good example, albeit somehow not often cited.

Hey it's an announcement of a new Shaky Kane/David Hine project.

And here's a preview of the classic French pop comic The Adventures of Jodelle.



It's Tuesday, which means that Joe McCulloch is here with another of his weekly guides to the best-sounding comics new to comics shops tomorrow, which this time around also includes a possibly NSFW closer look at a new Euro-softcoreporn anthology from Humanoids:

I don't know what the critical consensus is on this Argentinian stylist -- and yes, I'm starting the Eurocomics post with an American, ha ha -- but I do know that Heavy Metal once devoted an entire special issue (Spring '00) to his short erotic comics, probably because they bought the rights to one or more album compilations they had to blow out somehow, but also, I suspect, because Altuna's idealized 'realist' style evokes the enduringly popular Milo Manara to a considerable degree. All it takes is a good look at the curvature of his female forms to tell - and several generous looks are provided throughout his two contributions to Eros Gone Wild.

But I like Altuna in the ways he isn't Manara. The first of his stories here, Holiday Hostages, is a dreary bit of male fantasy, seeing a hopeless nerd approaching a glamorous, lonely actress for an autograph, only for a Black Street Thug to 'force' him to have sex with the woman at gunpoint. The racial dynamics are sour as can be, but while the experienced Manara reader can mentally insert the obsessive and vindictive qualities il maestro might project onto the scenario, Altuna hones in on the satisfaction all three parties derive from this little encounter. He's the light Manara. The 'comedy' Manara. This perhaps makes the gross aspects of his storytelling more risible for their purported sweetness, but I see it as an artist who can't quite commit, fundamentally, to nastiness.

The collection doesn't sound like my scene, at all, but Joe knows a lot so give him a listen.

Rob Clough knows a lot, too, as does Sam Henderson, whose most recent issue of Magic Whistle Rob reviews this morning. As Rob suggests, it's been too long.

Elsewhere, there is too much to link to and read, so bear with me.

—Awards News: The Eisner judges have announced the slate of nominated figures eligible for the Hall of Fame, and it's a very strong list, with some hard choices for voters to make. The judges have already made two of the easiest and best choices for us, by plugging Mort Meskin and Spain Rodriguez directly into the Hall of Fame themselves. Also, Slate has announced the shortlist of the ten graphic novels and webcomics eligible for their Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—New Journals Dept.:
Words Without Borders has released their February issue, which is devoted to graphic novels. It features a section on Oubapo comics, apparently edited or curated or at least translated by Matt Madden. Also, a new journal devoted to the work of women cartoonists, inkt|art, has launched with the seeming imprimatur of Nicole Hollander.

Somehow I missed Evan Dorkin talking to Christopher Irving. Steve Bissette is on Inkstuds. And a rare 1987 French interview with Alan Moore has come to light.

—The Outside World: The CBLDF has more on the Missouri man imprisoned for the possession of comics deemed obscene. World War 3 Illustrated is highlighting a lot of work devoted to the late NYC mayor Ed Koch.

—Cyber-Mania!: CNN profiles The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman, comiXology goes to Europe, and Saturday's Doonesbury annoyed a lot of webcartoonists (who, as we all know, are notoriously thick-skinned).

—Theory Dept.: Andrei Molotiu continues his series of "Might As Well Be Abstract" comics posts.


Cactus Face

I'm on my way back from L.A., so this'll be short.

Today we begin our previews of TCJ #302, in stores very soon. So here's a snippet of Kim Thompson's Jacques Tardi interview.

THOMPSON: You haven’t worked with gray screens for a long time. You did a lot of it in the 1970s and ’80s, but in the last 15, 20 years much less so. You’ve either used simple black line-work, or color.

TARDI: Mmmm. Well, it’s necessary in this case, because I need to set the moods. Black-and-white drawings … I was going to say that after a certain point they end up being tedious, but that’s true of gray tones as well — I mean, it’s not exactly resplendent colors

There is a lot of text, so I worry that … Because it really is one guy’s impressions, day-to-day life, the showers, the food, the reveille, the work. He ended up working on a farm for a while, because he was hungry. At the time he was a junior officer, so in principle he wasn’t supposed to work, but he let them take him anyway because he thought he’d be able to find something to eat at the farm where he’d be sent to work, he figured he’d kill a chicken or find an egg somewhere. Which turned out not to be the case at all. So that’s what it’s about: Hunger, these guys’ daily problems, dreadful things that were done within the camp, even among people who are in the same straits … and then, afterwards, as the war wound on, the arrival of the Russians after the end of the German/Soviet [Non-Aggression] Treaty, because they were right next door, and then this departure at 30 below zero, in the snow. We were talking about movies earlier — imagine the cinematic possibilities inherent in that kind of situation!

And, of course, they’re the losers. They are not given a particularly warm welcome by the American soldiers. Things would get better later on, but initially they aren’t welcomed very well at all, and as he put it, that makes perfect sense! That makes sense: we were the losers, we were nothing, we hadn’t put up much of a fight.

THOMPSON: And Americans do have a fixation on winners and losers.

TARDI: Right. So my father was convinced they had far more respect for the Germans than for the camp’s prisoners. Also, during that return trip, led by the German soldiers, they kept a list of the towns they’d crossed through, along with the distances traveled, in a little notebook — along with the food problems, what they’d eaten, how long they’d stayed, etc. And tracing it on the map, you realize that the itinerary they pursued was totally disjointed, they went in circles, etc. At that time the Germans had gotten into their heads, or someone had put into their heads, that they would now be charging the Russians alongside the Americans. That idea didn’t last very long, but that explains why they didn’t turn themselves over as prisoners right away. And during that journey there were still guards, who were vicious. The war was over for them, but right up to the end they were beating the prisoners with rifle butts, and one day my father said, “OK, enough of that, we can’t take it any more,” and the prisoners took five German soldiers, disarmed them, and hanged them on the side of the road. [Pause.] That was probably just days before the end of the war. And again, why did they hang them? They’d disarmed them, why didn’t they just shoot them in the head, why hang them? It seems complicated. Maybe they wanted them to be seen, because he said that when they saw them, the other guards took off and were never heard from again.

When they linked up with the American soldiers, it happened in a town in Germany, and there was a field in which the weapons that had been seized from the Germans were stockpiled. Specifically cannons — small-caliber ones, of course — with matching ammunition, and right away, I don’t know whether it was the French, the Belgians, or who — maybe the Americans — they used those cannons to bombard, to raze part of the village and shoot at the column of Germans who were fleeing the combat zones. It was the end of the war, these were the horrors of war, there was nothing glorious about it, but you have to understand their state of mind. They weren’t exactly living a passionate love story with Germany right at that moment.

So there you go. I think all of these stories need to be told, because these people have not been talked about much. And when French cinema took on those subjects, it was always with a slightly comedic edge, portraying the Germans as big dopes, gluttons, sauerkraut- and potato-eaters, and the French of course were clever, etc.

Also, Craig Fischer is here with a column on nostalgia, change, and the challenges and beauties of serialized comics:

On Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents. I bought my parents a microwave, thinking that it would make it easier for my mom to cook one-armed, and she was ecstatic. Then mom and dad handed me my gift: the deluxe, polybagged version, complete with black armband, of Superman #75 (January 1993), the infamous “Death of Superman” issue. Of course, my parents knew that I read comics—though they didn’t realize that by 1992 my tastes had migrated to Eightball, Hate, and other black-and-white alternatives—and they saw and heard the publicity barrage surrounding Superman’s death. On the day the comic came out, my dad drove my sick, frail mom (who never had a driver’s license) to a local shop, where she stood in line for two hours (mostly with investors, I think) to get a copy.

Angouleme! It happened. Tom Spurgeon has the prize winners (Willem, the great cartoonist and master of scatological drawing, won the Grand Prix). And Paul Karasik has footage of artist Joost Swarte in performance.

Warren Ellis on the Instagramming of Books.

Not comics, but close enough because Peter Mendelsund has designed some excellent Tezuka covers. James Joyce.


Weird Week on the Ward

Tucker Stone closes out your comics week with a traditional up-and-down reviews column.


—Reviews: Illogical Volume on Eddie Campbell's Lovely Horrible Stuff, Richard Baez on Ruppert and Mulot's Barrel of Monkeys.

—Interviews: Hawkeye writer Matt Fraction talks to L.A.'s Hero Complex about the positive benefits of making comic books "less comic-y", and writer-of-everything Max Allan Collins talks to CBR about his crime novel set in the Wertham era of the comics industry (apparently the first in a trilogy).

—News: ICv2 reports that Missouri man Christjan Bee has been sentenced to three years in prison for the possession of obscenity in the form of comics; indie comics artist Ray Felix is in a legal dispute with DC/Marvel over the use of the term "superhero"; Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers is being turned into a symphony. (The second link was stolen from CR.)

—Old News: Winsor McCay was once the target of an extortion sting. (via)

—I sometimes find it interesting to see the writing-about-comics that becomes popular outside the comics-blogosphere "walls", if only to compare and contrast concerns and approaches -- this week, it was Marie-Catherine Caillava's essay on "Magneto the Jew".

—Uncanny Comics: Josh Alan and Drew Friedman's comic from a 1983 issue of Weirdo (thanks, Jeet).


Relax, Don’t Care

Today on the site: R.O. Blechman remembers his friendship with Maurice Sendak. TCJ 302, which we'll preview next month, contains a lengthy interview with Sendak conducted by Gary Groth. Leading up to that, here's the great Blechman. We hope to publish more of Blechman's chronicles of his life and those of his colleagues and friends.

His [Sendak's] turf could not have been more different than what passed for style in 1950s New York. Back then, walls were stripped down to the raw brick, lamps were Noguchi parchment globes, candles were stuck in  wax-encrusted wine bottles, and  occasionally, for somebody in the graphics business, there was a floor-to-ceiling cork wall. That was how we escapees-from-home lived in the ’50s. But not Maurice. He lived in a 19th Century  duplex on West Ninth Street. Dark and redolent with age, the décor was Jamesian—appropriately. His polished mahogany bookcases were lined with volume after volume of  first edition Henry James. His collection was second only to that of Leon Edel, the  eminent James biographer.

And elsewhere... I'm in Los Angeles this week for the LA Art Book Fair. I landed at noon yesterday and picked up my customary tiny rental car, though I somehow missed my customary stop at Randy's Donuts.

First stop was the Ben Jones exhibition, The Video, at MoCA. It is a doozy. Ben commanded the space by installing massive video paintings and projections. It's a meditative psychedelic experience.

Next stop was the Chateau Marmont for a meeting with the artist Wes Lang, who has taken up residence there for a spell. That's a good kind residency.

And finally I landed at Sammy Harkham's house, my home base in L.A. and favorite reading room. And so I'm here.

Now it's off the fair to set up. I'll be there the whole weekend. Booth S01. Ben Jones' book is debuting, with accompanying events (a conversation on Saturday at 1 pm), and I'll have plenty of other goodies. Come on by.


Under the Weather

A while back, bravest person alive Shaenon Garrity offered to review webcomics sent to her via e-mail. Now we have a second installment of her evaluations, and they're worth reading even if you never look at online comics:

One thing I love about webcomics is that there’s a comic for virtually every audience imaginable. Kickstand Comics, which started in 2008 and ended just recently, is a daily strip for cycling enthusiasts. And we’re talking serious enthusiasts, the kind of people who care about the ideological battles between classic bikes and road bikes, urban biking and “race and rec,” who hold strong opinions about bike lanes, and who, above all, despise cars. The central character, beardy bike shop worker Yehuda Moon (the strip also sometimes runs under the title Yehuda Moon), describes his job as “deploying ground troops in an unpopular war.”

We also have Sean Rogers' review of Tom Kaczynski's Beta Testing the Apocalypse:

But one of the pleasures of reading Beta Testing, as in other watershed collections like Caricature, Curses, or Everything Together, lies in watching a cartoonist become less mindful of his precursors, less rote in his treatment of subject matter, both freer and more assured. As the book progresses, Kaczynski sloughs off influence, just as his characters slip away from civilization. A breakthrough story like 2008’s “Million Year Boom” nearly brings the book to a halt halfway through with its impressive and authentic weirdness, yet still retains the stamp of millenarian systems novelists, still partakes of the old dead-eyed Clowesian aloofness. By the time we reach the concluding story, “The New”—at once an ode to modernist architecture and an allegory literalizing the decline of the west, created uniquely for this volume—Kaczynski’s layouts have exploded into space, cities and buildings splayed out on the page in startling and diagrammatic splashes.

I haven't been feeling well the past couple days, so I haven't spent much time online, and have only a few links for you.

—TCAF has announced another slew of impressive guests.

—Architecture critic Martin Filler has a lot of kind words at the New York Review of Books for Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor's Batman: Death by Design.

—Here's a report from the Zadie Smith and Chris Ware panel at the New York Public Library.

—And here is an online fundraiser for an interesting looking documentary about the late artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones.


Well all right, here we are again.

It's Joe McCulloch on the case of Shonen Jump. Also, new comics.

Chris Mautner on six under-appreciated anthologies. I still think Weirdo is underrated. I mean, the letter columns alone... so good.

Joe and Chris would also like it if you'd listen to them talk about comics. Reading is for dummies.

Ben Katchor's new book collects his vibrant and funny strips for the architecture magazine Metropolis. And the linked-to article drops the bomb that Katchor draws digitally now. That's funny and great for all the reasons you're thinking of right now.

Richard Sala has wound down a gorgeous series of drawings.

And in random Twitter news, William Gibson on Katushiro Otomo is a good thing:


No Sleep Till Naptime

Today on the site, Marc Sobel interviews Wizzywig creator Ed Piskor. Here's an excerpt from their conversation:

MARC SOBEL: I know you went to the Kubert School for a year, but are you mostly self-taught?


MARC SOBEL: Talk to me about how you learned to draw. You started to touch on it when you mentioned all the free time you had, but can you give me a little more detail?

ED PISKOR: Yeah. I relate hip hop culture a lot with my learning to draw because… There’s this certain mind frame. All through school I was definitely one of the worst people at most things, but with drawing I could at least hold my own. There was no way I was going to be able to beat anybody in any kind of organized sport or anything like that but I was at least a contender in the drawing thing. And the hip hop mind frame helped because people would snap on my work. They’d say something like ‘That sucks, man. I can’t believe you drew that,’ or, ‘do you need glasses?’ Shit like that. We would just bust on each other for being able to draw. So that provided a natural incentive to do better work because I thought, ‘oh man, I have to blow these dudes’ minds next time.’ Of course that never happened. Even when I got to a point where I was reasonably sure that I was better than them, they could still cut me down, which was cool. It was character building.

MARC SOBEL: So you were putting drawings in front of all your friends on a regular basis?

ED PISKOR: Yeah, we all were. When I was in sixth grade, there was this weird period where comics were really popular with everybody. Even a lot of the jocks were into them. This was after the “Death of Superman” and the first coming of Image Comics.

Everyone was buying these things, even football players, but most people were never looking at them. A lot of dudes would have Comic Buyer’s Guides, the new ones, or their Wizard Magazines in class all the time and they would be calculating their wealth. <laughter> It was like, ‘oh man, I’m worth $15,000 this month.’ So the cool people were into this shit for a brief time and it was really a cool thing to do.


—Tom Spurgeon takes the initiative and interviews First Second senior editor Callista Brill, who wrote that online essay about when cartoonists should give up that got up so many people's noses. They discuss that post and a lot of other First Second business as well.

—In another post that has spawned a lot of angry arguments, colorist Jordie Bellaire writes about an unnamed convention that refused to invite colorists. I'm not sure I understand her stated reason for not naming the convention, as I think they're more likely to change their policy if public pressure is brought to bear, but it's possible there are other factors I don't get.

—The wonderful Same Hat blog has video and images from a televised jam-comic competition between Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino!

—Philip Nel talks about annotating Crockett Johnson's Barnaby.

—Jeff Trexler is almost always worth reading on the Siegel/Shuster/DC legal battles.

—The great Bobsy Mindless is somewhat surprisingly disappointed with Grant Morrison's latest Batman Incorporated.

—Stephen Bissette raves about a new history of post-'50s horror comics.

—Adam McGovern concisely explains Frank Miller.

—Adrian Tomine made a recent appearance at Skylight Books, which is now on YouTube:

—Not Comics: Today is the final day the PBS website is offering free streaming of a documentary about the artist and designer Wayne White, which may be of interest to readers of this site for its interviews with Gary Panter and Matt Groening:

Watch Beauty Is Embarrassing on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.