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.


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: