Dan is lost in Japan without internet access, apparently, and can’t contribute to the blog while he’s there—or so he told me in an e-mail very late last night. Hey, wait a minute! That doesn’t make sense. I think I’m getting played… Anyway, once more into the breach.
Ryan Holmberg does it again, turning in another essential entry in his “What Was Alternative Manga?” series. Everything you never knew you wanted to know about Japanese mid-century crime and pulp fiction—and their relation to manga.
Ken Quattro at the Comics Detective used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain FBI material regarding their investigation of Lev Gleason, and his possible ties to the Communist party. And he lays it all out for us here. (Thanks, RB.)
Over at the Guardian, six big-name cartoonists—Peter Kuper, Bryan Talbot, Posy Simmonds, Ariel Schrag, Martin Rowson, and Lynda Barry—name and discuss their own personal favorite comics artists. Their comments are brief, but sometimes surprising. Rowson and Barry’s commentary in particular might be considered fighting words in some households.
Rob Clough writes a ginormous survey covering the entire range of Swedish comics published by Top Shelf a few years ago.
Finally, Matt Seneca attempts his version of a Tucker Stone special, writing rapid-fire on the latest superhero shenanigans.
We’re slowing things down a little for you this week, which is probably good considering the torrent of long articles we’ve been publishing lately. Also, a breather is probably necessary before the next flood.
This morning, Sean T. Collins reviews the first issue of Ryan Standfest’s Black Eye. I’ll agree that book is a little uneven, but I liked a lot more than it looks like Sean did. That may be at least partly due to a lingering soft spot I retain for this kind of self-published heart-on-its-sleeve anthology, in which the editors’ excitement at getting their ideas into print is both palpable and inspiring. This is a dangerous weakness for a Comics Journal editor to have — I promise to rid myself of it asap.
It seems like a slow week elsewhere on the comics internet, too. Journal contributor Matthias Wivel has written a review of Chester Brown’s Paying for It, if you aren’t worn out on discussing that book by now. And Journal editorial coordinator Kristy Valenti concludes her series on Kate Beaton for comiXology. Otherwise, things seem eerily quiet right now.
Hayley Campbell starts the week off with a review of David Hahn’s All Nighter.
Even when Frank’s taking it easy with his column, he manages to drop some knowledge about Gray Morrow and Carl Barks you couldn’t get from anyone else.
Sean T. Collins returned with the second installment of his “Say Hello” column on Friday, this time featuring the popular illustrator and web cartoonist Emily Carroll.
And Rob Clough reviewed the latest anthology in the Sunday series, which grew out of its editors’ time at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
Recent Journal interview subject Jim Woodring gives a young aspiring cartoonist some advice in a letter from 1993. (via)
So far, July has been a very good month for reading Gabrielle Bell’s comics online. (She’s going for one a day all month.)
Jeet Heer, take note: The Panelists dig up a fascinating quote from Walt Kelly regarding the use of racial caricature by cartoonists of his time.
Some people have trouble understanding the humor in New Yorker cartoons, others, well … have you ever had trouble getting the jokes in Beetle Bailey? Mort Walker explains what’s funny about selected strips in a series of videos.
The New York Timestalks to Jules Feiffer and others regarding The Dancer Films, an adaptation of selected strips from Feiffer’s long-running strip in the Voice. Will this movie break the Green Lantern box office curse, and make the world safe for comic book movies again?
R. Fiore’s Funnybook Roulette returns, with a classic-style roundup of reviews of recent-ish comics by Winshluss, Jean-Claude Carrierre, Pascal Girard, Jason Shiga, and Jeffrey Brown, among others. A sample:
No fair observer would deny that it takes more than one book to fully explore the absurdity of the Transformers concept.
We also bring you Katie Haegele’s review of It Is Almost That, an anthology of text-driven artworks (& art-driven texts) created by female artists. It begins:
It Is Almost That is not an anthology of comics. In fact, most of the work in the collection has no narrative in any traditional sense. But the 26 works collected here all use words and visual art and combine them, in some way, to tell a story. As editor Lisa Pearson writes in her afterword, “…texts do not always appear on pristine white fields; images are not illustrative and language does not explain; stories do not unfold in predictable ways—and yet every page is meant to be read.”
Finally, Darryl Ayo voices a frequently heard complaint about the unsatisfactory nature of many comics when read as individual issues. It’s difficult not to sympathize.
Two things come to mind in reaction to this. 1: DC recently (sort of) announced that they were going to start addressing the issue, by no longer padding out stories with filler to bring them up to collection-length. We’ll see if that actually happens. Padding may be a hard habit to break.
And 2: In an interview conducted by Matt Zoller Seitz, David Simon (co-creator of The Wire and Treme) responds to similar complaints about the perceived unsatisfactoriness of Treme episodes, and how that show’s writing staff writes with the eventual DVD set in mind, not weekly viewers:
The measure that I care about is not the episodic. I just don’t care about evaluating these things by episodes. It’s like I’m building a house, and you’re telling me, “I really like the stairwell, but I don’t like the balustrade.” Well, great, thanks, y’know? What do you think of the house? When you get to the end [of a season], did it feel like she got where she was supposed to go, and that she really experienced these eight months as an ordinary human being would? That’s the real challenge, because film is a shorthand for everything.
[…] I don’t care about the thrills you get in every episode. I want it to be resonant at the end, in a cumulative way. Eric feels the same way. We feel we’re writing a singular, elemental thing.
[We’re] writing the show for people who have a complete season DVD set in front of them, or who are watching the show via HBO On Demand, or who can otherwise absorb it all as a piece, and watch [the episodes] all in a row.
That being said, every Treme episode I’ve seen contains an enormous amount of narrative detail in comparison to your average issue of Flashpoint, so keep in mind that by bringing these two together, I’m comparing apples to ham sandwiches.
-Hayley Campbell wrote in to note that the great London comic book store Gosh! is moving after 25 years in the same spot, and too a bigger location, to boot, which the store is celebrating with some killer sounding events.
-Cartoonist Tim Hensley is putting elderly videos and music on his Tumblr. This is a must.
-Evan Dorkin discusses the process of securing a film version of his and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden.
-I’m not sure what this is, but it seems intriguing.
Chris Mautner’s written another solid entry in his recurring Comics College feature, this time on the most essential cartoonist of them all, George Herriman. I endorse Mautner’s recommendations on this one.
The New York Times came up with the bright idea of commissioning the famous activist and former sex worker Annie Sprinkles to reviewPaying for It. It’s a fun, short read, but more interesting for sociological reasons than as a piece of criticism.
And finally, the nominations for this year’s Harvey Awards have been announced.