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.








Rough Numbers

Today on the site we have Rob Clough's extensive interview with cartoonist and Oily Comics publisher Charles Forsman, focusing mainly on his publishing experiences, and including a lot of surprisingly frank talk on money:

How much do you make, in both of terms gross and net, from Oily during a month from subscriptions and/or online purchases alone? How much do you make per show? How much of this gets back to the artists? In general terms, do you make enough money from Oily to partly support yourself, or does the money simply get channeled back into publishing to keep it afloat?

So I can give some very rough numbers. I think my gross is probably somewhere between $1200-$1500 per month. Take out about $500 for printing, shipping, and royalties, and I think I am left with 700 to 1000 dollars. This seems high to me as I say this. And to be honest I am a little embarrassed. It just seems weird to be making any money off of mini comics. But I have to remind myself of how much work I am putting in. If I wasn’t doing this I would be working a job making the same amount of money and Oily wouldn’t exist. This money basically helps me eat and put gas in the car. Oh, and go to the movies. Melissa and I are young and live as cheaply as we can. I feel really blessed at my current status and I do my best never to take it for granted.

I pay the artists in copies of the comics that they can sell for themselves and a 10% royalty on every copy I sell of their book. When I started I was paying a quarter to the artists, but I quickly figured out that wouldn’t work in the long run. Ten percent is pretty comparable to what most publishers pay their authors in royalties. It’s pretty funny that even at such a small scale I found that number to work. I wish I could pay them more. What publisher doesn’t want that, though? I think most of them are pretty surprised that I am paying them anything. It’s not a ton of money, but it is something. I hope to figure out a way to pay them more in the future.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—Several interviews for you, including Ron Regé at Expanding Mind, Joe Sacco at the Comics Reporter, Dan Slott at the Village Voice, Jay Kinney at Print (complete with a ton of illustrations), and Arthur Jones at Study Group Comics.

—Jeff Trexler susses out some of the meaning behind last week's Superman legal rulings.

—Chris Mautner picks out six "criminally ignored comics" from last year, and I agree with most of them. (Though I do feel obliged to point out that the review we ran of the Burroughs Ah Pook books, by Rudy Rucker of all people, was criminally ignored itself, at least within comics circles.) The really sad thing is that Chris's list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many noteworthy comics being released these days. We hope to continue improving in our coverage of them.

—Anders Nilsen has a new short comic online which is getting a lot of deserved attention.

—The World Socialist Web reviews a bunch of contemporary superhero comics, from an unsurprisingly political angle.

—Sean Kleefeld has interesting commentary regarding the recent announcement of Jennifer Holm to the CBLDF's board last week.

—Here's a spot for my periodic reminder that if you are a fan of the aforementioned Rob Clough's work, he has a ton more of it on his own site. Today that includes notices of three new autobio minicomics, from MariNaomi, Whitney Taylor, and Margo Dabaie.

—Domingos Isabelinho reviews Fred's Le Petite Cirque, and one of the great literary bloggers, M.A. Orthofer (who is more or less comics-averse), reviews the new edition of Osamu Tezuka's Message to Adolf.


One for the Books

Today on the site:

Tucker Stone rolls in with his weekly bundle of comics.

Gabrielle Gamboa wraps up her week-long diary for us with a photo & drawing narrative combo. I've enjoyed having Gabby's beautiful watercolor work grace our site.


This will, I'm sure, be sussed out in the coming days, but the Siegel family lost a major ruling in the Superman litigation.

Oldster corner: Vintage Swedish posters for Hollywood films. And some fine work by John Held Jr., who is always better than I remember him. Sometimes in my foggy brain I think "oh, the flapper stuff", but then I see something and it's sharp and he worked with such range. Nice examination of a Kirby/Fantastic Four sequence here.

In more current biz, Tom Spurgeon interviewed Mark Waid. And Nick Gazin does a best-to-worst round-up. I like a "Best of" list that proclaims itself the best "Best of" list. And it's really a good list.

I am, like a few other people I know, excited for the return of Girls. And here's Lena Dunham's ideal bookshelf, complete with Doucet (underrated choice) and Clowes, as every bookshelf should be. I'll always have a soft spot for her work since she featured Multiforce in Tiny Furniture. What can I say.


And Another One Gone

Today on the site we bring you a review by David Mandl of the new collection of Jay Kinney and Paul Mavridres's Anarchy Comics. It looks fascinating -- I'd read most of the contributors on anything.

Kinney and Mavrides’s creation brought together an irreverent-bordering-on-nihilistic punk sensibility, serious (but never dry or pedantic) lessons in anarchist history, freshly illustrated texts by such infamous revolutionaries as Emma Goldman and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and that favorite anarchist sport, satirical potshots at mainstream leftists.

Anarchists have always prided themselves on their internationalism—not surprising, since being anti-government is about the only thing all anarchists agree on—and Kinney took that attitude to heart, assembling a far-flung coterie of artists for his comic and emblazoning the catchphrase “International Anarchy!” (or “International Comix!”) on the front cover of every issue for good measure. In its lifetime Anarchy Comics featured contributors from the Netherlands, Germany, England, France, and the US, including Clifford Harper, Spain Rodriguez, the team of Yves Frémion and François Dupuy (aka “Épistolier and Volny”), Gary Panter, Ruby Ray, Gilbert Shelton, Donald Rooum, Melinda Gebbie, and more than twenty others. The majority of the work appearing in the comic was original, but Kinney also commissioned translations of several pieces not previously published in English—most notably the series “Liberty Through the Ages” by Épistolier and Volny.

We also have day four of Gabrielle Gamboa's Cartoonist's Diary of her recent residency at ACA in Florida. Today's entry involves a road trip to Gainesville and SAW.

Elsewhere, as usual, there is more comics-related material to read and listen to on the internet than is good for you.

—The aforementioned Jay Kinney appears on Boing Boing's Gweek podcast.

—Other cartoonists whose interviews you can read or listen to include Jaime Hernandez at EW, Steven Weissman at The Writing Disorder, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story author Sean Howe at The Comics Reporter, and Chris Wright (whose Black Lung was one of last year's best surprises) at Inkstuds.

—Yesterday brought the announcement of the end of the Comics Buyer's Guide after 30+ years of publication. John Jackson Miller has commentary. Longtime readers of the Journal will know that there's a lot of history between CBG and this magazine; if you're a subscriber, today might be a good day to read our very first issue in the archives, which includes a long attack from Gary Groth on CBG and its founder Alan Light. (Actually, Gary himself warns in his recent introduction to the issue that it "should only be read by those with a borderline pathological interest in the histories of comics fandom, The Comics Journal, Fantagraphics, or me; may there be few such unfortunate souls out there." So use your best judgment.)

—In other news I'm not sure what to make of, Brigid Alverson reports that Tokyopop has relaunched its website, and Bart Beaty passes comment on a new presidential selection procedure introduced for the Angoulême festival.

—Misc.: Gary Panter writes a brief appreciation of Dick Briefer, Dangerous Minds resurrects a sadly prescient 20-year-old New Yorker cover from Art Spiegelman, and Eleanor Davis wins a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators.


It’s a Test

Today on the site, Matthias Wivel writes about Norwegian comics group Dongery, which have recently released an enormous collection of its publications. That book is a site to behold and a thumper of a book.

Now, since it’s been, what, fifteen years?, the originators have somehow managed to rope in what may be Norway’s friendliest comics publisher to collect more or less every scrap and scribble ever made by the Dongery hive mind into two huge volumes, slipcased and extensively annotated, retailing at a price point over $100. To recap: some 1,400 pages of improvised nonsense, with nothing redacted, given the full luxury treatment. I’m tempted to say, only in Norway.*

But wait, it has actually done really well! Released in the spring, it sold out quickly and it is now making waves in its second printing. OK, I should think that’s because these comics are actually a ton of fun—it seems to me a confirmation that Dongery has been on to the right idea from the beginning, even if the scuzzy fanzines they were hawking in 2004 or whenever didn’t in themselves necessarily suggest so.

And Gabby Gamboa continues to chronicle her residency in her Cartoonist's Diary.


Tom Spurgeon interviews Shannon Watters of BOOM!

You know it's a new generation when First Kingdom gets a shot. What's First Kingdom? My first thought was that only Joe McCulloch, the man who reads comics I only own and stumble over some time, must've written about it. But I can't find a trace of that. Joe! You failed me. Luckily here's Derek Badman on the case.

Here's an interview with the great Jon Lewis, whose True Swamp is back in print.

It's Douglas Wolk on Peter Bagge's Reset over at The Washington Post. Bagge remains an MVP cartoonist for me, so I'm glad to see his new work getting some attention. We're behind on that.

And, great comic book store and publisher Floating World posts a most popular comics of 2012 list.



Look It Up

And now 2013 has begun in earnest. Joe "Jog" McCulloch is here with another peek into the comic-shop window to see this week's new books, prefaced by a typically unexpected comparison between the work of Aidan Koch and Sergio Toppi:

Toppi, of course, is a fairly prolix narrator, while Koch avowedly considers "what is the minimum information needed to move the story along?" Here, we see a rather cinematic pull-back from a darkened window, although it's as impossible a portal as Toppi's hanging tower. Shoots of vegetation grow around it, and we enjoy an isolated image of the greenery as the Blonde Woman's telltale hair sweeps by again, accompanied by her lingering night. I find this beautifully evocative of movement, though not depictive of such; rather, the juxtaposition of images details those sensory pickups -- nature's little "cues" -- that approximate the interior and exterior stimuli of motion.

Gabrielle Gamboa is back again too, with the second day of her week writing the Cartoonist's Diary column.

And finally Kristian Williams is here with a review of the first volume of The Graphic Canon.


7 Miles a Second creators James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook get profiled over at Publishers Weekly. One interesting thing to note is that Van Cook, who worked as a colorist on the book, is given equal billing on the new edition. James e-mailed me to point this out, saying, "I fought very hard to get Marguerite co-author status; which I have finally accomplished with this edition. I came up against a lot of resistance to the idea that the work of a colorist in comics could deserve co-authorship status." (Related: I missed this Romberger interview regarding his Post York at CBR last month.)

—The same New Year's e-mail and link cleanup that brought to light that last link also reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Dueben's short essay on the eclectic nature of Art Spiegelman's career, published by Fortune magazine.

—Which leads me to this recent review of Scene of the Crime, a Brubaker/Lark/Phillips crime comic, which appeared in The New Statesman, and is notable mainly simply for being quite obviously the work of a writer deeply familiar with the publication status of various cultish comics, and unafraid to display that insider's knowledge in an article aimed at mainstream readers. No big deal -- it just struck me for some reason.

—I know that Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy has often been touted as the dictionary definition of the comic strip, but I didn't know that this was ever in fact literally the case.

—Daniel Best has reprinted "Truth, Justice, & the Corporate Conscience", a long essay on Siegel, Shuster, and creators' rights written by Steve Gerber in 1975 for Rolling Stone magazine (which never ran it).

—Huib van Opstal wrote a long illustrated piece for Yesterday's Papers about the early international history of comics.

—Paul Gravett interviewed Nina Bunjevac, and Tom Spurgeon interviewed Tom Hart.

—Finally, Matthias Wivel points us to a short profile of Shigeru Mizuki, which includes a translated reprint of a major story, "War and Japan".