Also, in big news that didn’t make as much of a splash as I would have expected (maybe some magic spell fogged the public consciousness): The real life alter ego of Doctor Strange was revealed last week.
This morning we have an exclusive preview of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American. As Dan writes in his introduction to the excerpt, Fighting American was “Simon and Kirby’s Cold War parody of their own Captain America, in which they still had some stake—though how much, and when they realized that, is a little unclear.”
And Joe McCulloch has his report on the week in comics, as always. Despite the Memorial Day holiday, comics shops should be selling new titles today, but some stores may be waiting until tomorrow.
The Countdown is Over!
There probably isn’t a comic book store in North America that isn’t anxiously awaiting August 31, after yesterday’s announcement about changes at DC Comics—namely, a “historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues,” and “day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.”
This is potentially a very big deal, and all of the usual suspects have commentary on the announcement. Tom Spurgeon’s initial reaction: “This sounds completely idiotic.” The prominent retailer (and one of Spurgeon’s frequent debate opponents) Brian Hibbs, on the other hand, believes that it is “FUCKING insane.” Hibbs doubts that the market can handle a move of this magnitude in the current economy. Fellow retailer Mike Sterling is similarly worried about the impact, but cautions that it is “a bit early to enter panic mode.” Tim O’Neil is organizing drinking games.
And there’s a lot more of course. I’ll just point out a few landmarks of possible interest. JK Parkin at Robot 6 wraps things up here. TCJ columnist Sean T. Collins writes about the pros and cons, and says that “the most important question to [him] is ‘Will this yield more good comics?'” [My guess: not likely.] Jim Smith ponders the same question. The Beat collects various creators’ reactions on Twitter here, and an updated roundup of media speculation here. Elsewhere, Graeme McMillan catches a particularly pointed tweet from Brian Michael Bendis. That’s probably enough to get you started. I am sure there will be further updates and discussion in all of the normal places, so if you want to spend a lot of time thinking and arguing about the comic book business, the next few days are going to be heaven for you.
I don’t make any claims for myself as an industry analyst, but to my thinking, the “historic renumbering” of DC’s superhero titles (which seems to have garnered the lion’s share of commentary) isn’t nearly as big a deal in the long run as the announcement that DC will be selling all of the titles digitally on the same date as their print publication. It is hard to believe that this isn’t going to be a huge blow to the direct market’s sales. On the other hand, this development has seemed more or less inevitable for a few years now, and while people may not have expected the switch to day-and-date digital to happen this summer, everyone knew it was coming eventually. I guess I’d say to you that if you really like your local comic store, now is the time to frequent it — before it goes the way of your favorite local record shop.
Frank Young finds some more hitherto uncredited John Stanley stories, and elaborates a bit on his search methodology.
And finally, Despot of The Fletcher Hanks Fan Association Paul Karasik wrote in last week with following argument, buttressed by visual evidence:
I am afraid that I must respectfully disagree with Ken Parille’s assessment that Chris Ware is the heir to Jack Kirby, whose, “Allegories of creation often involve the rhetoric of sexual reproduction”. This torch has been passed to Sammy Harkham.
– Sean T. Collins reviews the latest book from the Closed Caption Comics crew, whose work is always worth keeping up with. Rumor has it they’re soon releasing a porn comic compilation, which I look forward to.
Conflict of interest, but fuck it: I’m thrilled that mother company Fantagraphics is releasing two graphic novels by the great French artist Guy Peelaert, The Adventures of Jodelle (1966) and Pravda (1967). Peelaert’s books are part of an underexplored genre of European cartooning in the late 1960s: Pop-inflected, often psychedelic comics with female leads.
The Adventures of Jodelle, whose voluptuous title heroine was modeled after French teen idol Sylvie Vartan, is a satirical spy story set in a Space Age Roman-Empire fantasy world. Its then-revolutionary clashing of high and low culture references, borrowing as much from Renaissance painting as from a fetishized American consumer culture, marked the advent of the Pop movement within the nascent “9th art” of comic books, not yet dignified as “graphic novels” but already a source of great influence in avant-garde artistic circles. Visually, Jodelle was a major aesthetic shock. According to New York magazine, its “lusciously designed, flat color patterns and dizzy forced perspective reminiscent of Matisse and Japanese prints set a new record in comic-strip sophistication.”
Guy Peelaert, circa Pravda-era, late 1960s. Courtesy Dan Donahue.
Peelaert later adopted a photo-realist style for album cover work, but in these two books and countless illustrations he was right in line with Peter Max, Heinz Edelmann, Keiichi Tanaami, Tadanori Yokoo and even Milton Glaser in his clean-line, pop style. Here we had the more traditionally rendered adventures of Phoebe Zeitgeist, Little Annie Fanny, Wicked Wanda, and a couple others, but nothing like the pop/psych explosions in France (Barbarella, of course), Italy, Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere. These comics even sometimes crossed into groovy fashion spreads, like this one:
Image courtesy Dan Donahue
Well anyway, should be interesting to see these books come out, and I hope to see more!
This morning on the site we have Jeet Heer’s interview with the important animator and cartoonist, R. O. Blechman.
But before you get to that, there’s some important news on the print front for the Journal, namely, that the legendarily elusive issue 301 is finally about to ship, and is available for pre-order now. As I’ve actually held a copy in my own hands, I can vouch for the physical existence of the issue. Very soon, you will see for yourself. Here’s a video with more proof:
-Sophie Yanow’s interview with Brecht Evens on his work and geography. Here’s a taste of what I think is a fine contextualization of Evens:
Evens is hesitant to call himself a part of a “scene,” citing his international outlook. However, this outlook seems to characterize a group of young, upcoming Belgian cartoonists, whose work is cross-pollinated by many art forms and locales: Evens’ former classmate and friend Brecht Vandenbroucke has found an international presence online and in various publications through the likes of England’s Nobrow Press and the Latvian anthology KUS!
Tom Spurgeon contributes a thoughtful obituary of the French comics giant Paul Gillon, and provides a link to a fine appreciation, to boot. I can’t figure out how Tom writes these things so well and so fast.
TCJ contributor Chris Mautner scoops us with this incisive interview with Dave McKean on the artist’s new book, Celluloid. We’ll have a review soon, just you wait. I’ve read and puzzled over the book. I’m curious what readers will make of it.
The New York Times on Paying for It, or as Jeet wrote to me, “The NY Times referred to Chester Brown as looking like ‘a praying mantis with testicles.’ That has to be the first reference in the Times to a cartoonist’s genitals.” I hope it’s not the last!
I’m very pleased a book is being planned about the great Don Donahue. There aren’t really any comparable figures, and he sure was involved in a lot of important culture outside of comics.
Over on his own site (sniff, we miss you), Dustin Harbin expands on his thoughts about comic book awards, sparked by his Cartoonist’s Diary stint last week. The comments here have some good back and forth.
The New Yorker has a video up of someone you never hear much about — Tom Bachtell, who does the Talk of the Town spot illustrations. It’s a pleasant diversion and insight into a very specific craft.
And, just for kicks, here’s an article I enjoyed about the Warhol market at New York magazine.
Good morning. Today we present an obituary of the much-admired artist Jeffrey Jones, as well as Joe McCulloch’s latest column on the week in comics.
Jean-Christophe Menu, outspoken co-founder of the prominent French publisher L’Association, has apparently left the company. Tom Spurgeon and Bart Beaty have the available information and a bit of analysis here and here.
Robert Crumb gives a weird interview to his own website, in which he briefly comments in sometimes surprising ways on various public figures, such as Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, Obama, Bob Dylan, and Tommy James and the Shondells (he’s a fan!).
Bill Rechin, creator of the comic strip Crock, has passed away.
The eminent British comics critic Paul Gravett picked his top five political graphic novels for CNN. None of them are bad books, but a few of them don’t strike me as very political, except in the broadest sense.
Our own Rob Clough writes about the minicomics of Susie Cagle.
As allegorical fantasies, Kirby’s galactic operas were as interested in 1970s America as in imaginary goings-on in deep space. Yet Kirby’s greatest theme was even closer to home: his own power, his imagination, and his process of creation.
* And in that spirit, we present the complete text of Gary Groth’s 1989 interview with Jack Kirby. This was quite controversial at the time of its publication, with many complaining that Gary had let Kirby talk too much, and make overreaching claims. But to my mind, it’s a fascinating record of the artist in twilight, weary of his battles and fed up with getting so little credit. If he overreached in places, one can hardly blame him. In any case, here it is, and it’s worth reading in light of this summer’s movies.
I themed the collection around a set of eight Asian archetypes — the ones that remain most iconic and resonant with perceptions of Asian Americans even today… The archetypes are obviously negative ones, given the timespan of the archive. But their repeated appearances in the comics ends up being an amazing launchpad from which to explore the historical pressures and precedents that led to their inception.
Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ passing has been noted several places. The best piece I’ve seen is Tom Spurgeon’s, in which he examines the larger context for Jones’ life and work. Here’s Tom on the “Studio” period:
The legacy of that much talent doing what was collectively very good work at a point of almost monolithic and degrading corporate influence over the kind of art they wanted to do has provided The Studio with a legacy that can be embraced even by those that didn’t particularly care for the artists’ output.
And David Apatoff takes a close look at a single painting.