Less Boring Things

On the site this day:

Patrick Rosenkranz on the late cartoonist Alan Shenker AKA Yossarian:

His friends described his lifestyle as a “flaneur” or a “downtown habitué.” “He did what all New Yorkers do,” said Maryann. “He complained about everything. He sat around drinking coffee at cafes. He talked to everyone. He was totally righteous and he never sold out.”

His old friend Rex Weiner, who co-founded the New York Ace with “Honest Bob” Singer, relates an anecdote about his old friend in an obituary in The Paris Review. He describes how the East Village Other was on its last legs in 1972 and the Ace was the new kid in town. Yossarian drew a cover for the new paper showing a meat cleaver chopping an eyeball in half.

“With this cover he’d created especially for us, Yossarian was declaring his allegiance to the ACE, betraying EVO, to which he’d contributed many cover illustrations, and its paternal leader,” said Weiner in the obit. “EVO’s logo was the all-seeing eye, and for our cover Yossarian had placed an eyeball on a chopping block split by a butcher knife, as if to say, “EVO … You’re DEAD!”

And Abhay Khosla steps in for Tucker to wrap up what felt to me like a long week, with a lengthy imagining of the most important event of the week.


Marjane Satrapi is following Bernie Krigstein's lead: into painting. And Arnold Roth is staying the course with an exhibition at MoCCA/The Society of Illustrators.

After this I can only hope for the Tekno Comics True Hollywood Story (see above).

Bob Oksner. Never enough Bob Oksner. Some fine narrative drawing here. Or as I like to call it: Cartooning.

Have a good weekend!



Sean T. Collins checks in with another installment of his Say Hello! column, in which he interviews up-and-coming artists. Today, he talks to Heather Benjamin, and as the initiated might guess from the review we ran a few weeks back, the interview is NSFW. Here's a brief exchange:

There are times when I look at your work and it feels like a really explicit and direct response to depictions of women by your peers. Sexuality has returned in a big way in alt/art comics over the past three years or so—are you seeing stuff you particularly like or dislike as you look around?

Yeah, I started noticing more and more explicit material in art stuff recently. I love a lot of older art involving sexuality, but as far as work being made currently, I honestly don't particularly even gravitate towards art that includes sexuality; that's just what I personally draw. I don't have a huge interest in seeing drawings of naked people and dicks and tits and cum over the place, and I'm really not necessarily psyched on seeing it becoming more of a trend, either. If it's done well, of course I enjoy it—you know, if it seems like there's another element to it that I can get down with, that it goes deeper than just being a weird empty porn drawing because that's "shocking"—but that particular subject matter isn't something I feel really strongly about seeing and reading and whatever else. I feel pretty indifferent about it, unless it's saying something extra or if I think the drawing is gorgeous, but I'll love a drawing if I think it's done beautifully no matter what the subject matter is.


—Nicole Rudick reviews Gary Panter for the LARB.

—Jim Rugg is not just a quality cartoonist and excellent podcaster, he's also a very good comics blogger when he puts his mind to it. In his latest, he compares Hellboy on paper to Hellboy digital.

—Interviews Dept. Brandon Graham times two. Annie Koyama. And Weekly Shonen Jump editor Andy Nakatani talks to Deb Aoki.

—Kyle Baker put a metric ton of his comics online and available for download, totally free. (!)

—Matt Madden delivers his first quarterly report from Angoulême.

—Finally, a short video presentation on racism in early comic books from historian Darren R. Reid (via):


Give it up.

Well, I wanted to interview TCJ and Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth about the new EC line, and began by asking him to respond to a review. Gary turned in a fine essay on the subject instead, with both close readings of some comics and a broader aesthetic investigation of the publishing company.

The question of how artistic values apply to comics was rarely ventilated by its practitioners in the first 50 years of the comic book and for good reason: the entire context of the comic book was devoid of self-understanding or self-reflection. The wider culture never took comics even as seriously as it took its movies, never demonstrated any appreciation for it, never rewarded achievement in any way — because the wider culture never saw an achievement there worth rewarding or cheering, and mostly for good reason.

The artists toiling in comics who cared about such matters were few and far between and usually at the level of craft, not art. The few artists who did have a sophisticated grasp of the concept, or the integrity to implement their beliefs, toiled in obscurity (such as Barks or Stanley) or were marginalized (like Kurtzman and Krigstein). There was no place for them. (The cultural context of newspaper strips was entirely different, but the cartoonists in that area still thought of themselves as something less than artists — as newspapermen, cranking out dandy entertainments to build readership — of which Caniff was probably the nonpareil practitioner and proponent. Although George Herriman thrived in this context, thanks to the patronage of Hearst, the absence of a genuine aesthetic context had its drawbacks — just as our more self-conscious age of artistes has its own set of drawbacks.)


The underground illustrator and cartoonist Yossarian has passed away. We'll have an obituary shortly.

Auction sites have become of the best places to trip over unexpected visuals. Here's an illustration sale. Check out the William Steig drawings.

This article made people mad on the internet.

Sean Howe posts information about a sale of original Marvel artwork that may have taken place during a time, the company used to maintain, that no artwork was being sold.

A list of notable manga covers of 2012. Via.



Advertisers Don’t Care About Moral Indignation

The three-day weekend is over, and Joe McCulloch is here with another of his weekly looks at the new comics in stores, and — oh no! He's talking about Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss 2!

Fast-forward to 2012, and Black Kiss 2, the prequel/sequel to Chaykin's 1988-89 LA adult noir, and the bleakest comic he has ever made. This whole post is inspired by Tom Spurgeon, who, after expressing disturbance at the lack of online conversation about the series, declared it "almost ruthlessly unpleasant" and, ultimately, "the anti-life" - he's not wrong, this is a sordid comic almost beyond compare, but what fascinates me is Chaykin's misanthropy not so much directed at his fellow human beings, but against art. Specifically, the cinema.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Lilli Carré talks to Robot 6 and Janelle Hessig talks to Amanda Verwey.

Dylan Horrocks on Creative Commons, Creative Commons on Dylan Horrocks.

—Paul Gravett remembers Les Coleman.

—Editorial Cartoons: The New York Times reviews an exhibition devoted to how cartoonists of the time covered the Holocaust, and NPR talks to current cartoonists about how they draw Barack Obama.

—Dave Sim has a long update on how the funding for his Strange Death of Alex Raymond is going.

—Dave Weigel at Slate crafts a paean to Rob Leifeld, and the recent reboots of his comics by other artists.


First Things First

Pressing matters kept Tucker Stone from being able to finish his column for this morning, but he says it's on its way, so check back in a day or so, and it may be here.

In the meantime, we have an excellent new review for you: the great Eddie Campbell on Matt Baker. Here's an excerpt:

Baker was the master of a stylistic phase of comic books in the late 1940s, wedged in between the superhero and the horror comics, known to the fans and collectors as "good girl art," which is to say comics that constituted a kind of narrative version of a pin-up. That’s likely to put it more in the realm of kitsch than art, like a lower-brow version of girlie calendars. I’m sure it is to be explained sociologically as a form of reading that fed the tastes of a generation of young returning servicemen who were reading comic books when they were sent away and who weren’t sure what they were supposed to be reading when they were sent back except that they were now interested in sex. Why comic book fans might be fond of it sixty years later would take too long to figure out. The best one can say is that the period look gives it more of a charm than its more recent equivalent, but then that would be admitting that it looks dated. [...]

The more interesting, I would say mature, phase of Baker’s work falls between 1949 and 1955, during which time he specialized as a freelancer in romance for St. John’s line of comics.

I am glad that Campbell is spending more time with his own comics, but oh how I miss his blog!


—Heidi MacDonald reports on the ongoing troubles at Scott Rosenberg's Platinum Studios. Where comics are king.

—Editorial cartoonist and editor Matt Bors writes about plagiarism (self- and otherwise) in editorial cartooning, and includes examples.

—A throwaway 1977 story from Joe Kubert on how DC and Marvel comics are made.

—Brandon Graham knows how to blog.

—Reviews: Dustin Harbin on Ruppert & Mulot's Barrel of Monkeys, Christopher Stigliano on Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, and Jason Dittmer on Brubaker & Davis's Captain America.

—Finally, a couple of videos for your weekend: Quentin Blake on creating a story on the page (which I can't figure out how to embed here), and Bruce Parsons' short documentary on Jeffrey Brown:


Sis Boom Bah

We're back again. Here's R.C. Harvey weighing in on 94 years of Gasoline Alley, which now has multiple volume series collecting different eras of the strip. Who would've ever thought, just ten years ago? Anyhow, no matter how many times I read the basic contours of the history, it's worth it for these kind of bits:

King, according to the legend, held that anyone could learn to draw, and to prove his point, he bet a few of his cronies in the Tribune cartooning suite that he could teach the mailroom delivery boy, Perry, to be a cartoonist. According to report, he gave young Perry a pad and pencil and sent him out into the world to draw everything he saw. After a while, Perry could draw, and in 1926, King took him on as his assistant, from which lowly station, Perry eventually graduated to do the Sunday Gasoline Alley.

Much of that is true, but what is usually left out is that Perry, in addition to being the mailroom boy, was at the time helping Carl Ed on the Harold Teen comic strip; he was scarcely an untutored drawing novice. At the time Perry took over the Sunday Gasoline Alley, he was doing a Sunday strip of his own, Ned Handy, Adventures in the Deep South, which he’d launched in 1945 while continuing to assist King but gave up when he went solo on the Sunday Alley.


This article wins the "not-a-dream-not-a-hoax" award. I bet this not as uncommon a story as one would think. It's about an artist named Arthur Ashod Pinajian, who drew comic books in the 1940s and created "Madam Fatal, the first cross-dressing superhero, for Crack Comics", and then... read on.

Entertainment Weekly offers a substantial preview of Paul Pope's long-awaited Battling Boy graphic novel.

And two for the fun pail: Jim Rugg in on a serious roll. And our man Kim Thompson finds the naughty in Foster.


Kinda Nuts

It's been too long since our last installment of Richard Gehr's excellent "Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists" column, but now the long wait is over, and Richard is back interviewing Jack Ziegler, who's been published in the magazine for nearly 40 year, and now lives in Kansas. Here's a brief excerpt:

GEHR: Did you read The New Yorker at home?

ZIEGLER: No. It was in my friend’s home. [Laughs.] We had Life, Look, Time, and The Daily News. My father didn’t like The New York Times. I had the feeling he might’ve been a Republican, but we never talked about that.

GEHR: Was it [television writer] Brian McConnachie's parents who bought The New Yorker?

ZIEGLER: Yeah. I’ve known him since we were six years old, probably. His parents always got The New Yorker. So it was always at his house. His mother was kinda nuts. [Laughs.] She was an ex-showgirl. And his father had a small company in New York that made industrial films. Brian lived about a mile and a half away from me. We used to walk and meet each other halfway. Then we’d wander off somewhere.


GEHR: McConnachie has said you used to visit the homes of cartoonists like Basil Wolverton and Bernie Krigstein.

ZIEGLER: Not Basil Wolverton. We used to look for the addresses of comic-book artists in the phone book. Krigstein lived in Queens off of Queens Boulevard, not far from where we lived, so we visited him one day. And once in the city we went to EC Comics and met a few people there. I remember one visit to Atlas Comics, which became Marvel, eventually. The people there were very nice, very tolerant of these little kids coming in all excited. It was fun. I remember visiting the guy who drew Blackhawk and watching him actually draw a page. It was really quite something. I had totally forgotten about that until right now.


—The Toronto Comics Art Festival just announced the guest list for this year's show, and it's some lineup! Perhaps most impressively, they're hosting the North American debuts of Taiyo Matsumoto, Gengoroh Tagame, and Blutch. What with the similarly ambitious recent guest slates at SPX and BCGF, it feels like we're in a sort of golden age for this kind of show. I wonder how long it can last?

—Interview Dept.: Tom Kaczynski talked to The Rumpus, and Roger Langridge (Popeye) talked to School Library Journal.

—Paul Gravett has a long, thorough "best of 2012" list up, filled with comics that didn't get a lot of attention.

—Aspiring cartoonists should definitely take the time to read this career advice passed along by Kate Beaton, at least if they haven't already seen it through the million other websites who linked to it earlier.

—Alan Gardner rounds up recent controversies around political cartoonist Bill Day, alleging plagiarism and self-copying.

—I'm not the world's biggest fan of Max Allan Collins's crime fiction, but his newest pulp novel is set against the 1950s comic-book hearings and features a thinly veiled Fredric Wertham stand-in.

—Caitlin McGurk at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library has a nice post with a gallery of Richard Guindon cartoons.


All In

Joe McCulloch as your week in new releases, with a hardy detour into The Flowers of Evil.


If you're in LA and you like comics, go see the great Carol Tyler at UCLA on January 31st.

Here's Tom Spurgeon with a Collective Memory for Keiji Nakazawa. Boy, it's slim pickings out there for him. There's so much in the comics internet and yet so very little.

Don Lawrence + The Bible. Oh the British photorealistic style. How I used to hate it. How I love it now. Not love it like I need to own it, but love it like I'm so glad the aforementioned comics internet exists so that I can look at it for a few minutes.

NSFW: Wally Wood's Malice in Wonderland. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think Wood's admittedly really sad final years produced some visceral, gnarly and altogether fascinating work. It's gutbucket stuff and I wouldn't make claims for its greatness, but it's good comics. Clear, natural storytelling unencumbered by... I dunno... ambition or something.

In advance of an exhibition, the illustration blogger David Apatoff is posting some thoughts on the course of 20th century illustration. Helpful hint: He thinks it went downhill. I disagree, but I always like reading about Howard Pyle and the rest of the gang.

Here is some fine official information on the comic book artist, packager and publisher Charles Biro.

I've never heard of this series of books from the 1980s packaged by Byron Preiss. Nice line-up and, bonus, the late Lebbeus Woods designed the logo. Huh.

Finally, I enjoyed this round-up post by TCJ-contributor Sean T. Collins.