Looking at the Stuff

Welcome back. It's a busy week here!

Here's one I'm excited for Arthur Magazine's Jay Babcock interviewing Ron Rege Jr. about Ron's latest book, The Cartoon Utopia. I interviewed Ron for TCJ almost 10 years ago, and the time spent since then has been fruitful for the artist. It's unusual to see a cartoonist translate metaphysics to the page with so much wit, poetry and clarity.  Jay does a great job here sussing out Ron's process and studies.

JB: Where do you see your personal spiritual practice going, outside of art?

RR: I don’t know right now. I’m at a point of mystery with it, at this exact moment.

JB: But you don’t find yourself drawn to a certain school, or lineage? Or… ‘you know what, I think it’s really the Alchemists for me.’

RR: No, I don’t.

JB: Like, ‘Now I really want to head to the east…’ Or, I want to go deep on this one.

RR: No, I don’t think there’s any one in particular that I want to delve more into. I wanna keep being open to all of the different aspects. I didn’t attach to any one. I’m not like gonna get into Zen now, or any particular one. From what I know, there’s probably even more obscure aspects that I’d like to look into, but I still am very generally fascinated by the wide gamut of everything. And I want to keep that enthusiasm. To me, it’s important to not pick one little thing. If anything, it’s about the unity of everything and everyone into one thing. It’s weird to me to go and talk to somebody who’s into one thing and doesn’t know about another thing. To be like this weird little section. Which seems weird because it’s all so interconnected.

JB: What about going beyond belief and speculation? What about practice?

RR: That’s something that I definitely struggle with. I don’t have a very great practice of anything. My practice has come through my personality and the way that I approach other people, and deal with other people, and then issues with my life. I’m very interested in my dream practice right now: the differentiation between waking life and sleeping life.

JB: You have a strip in there about the Tibetan dream yogas.

RR: Yeah. But… I definitely am going through a period of really ultra fascination with everything. Life seems like — and I don’t know if it’s the life that I’ve created for myself, or if it’s just experiences that I have — I’m just fascinated all the time. The lights look brighter. The colors on the trees look more green. The things that people say seem way more significant. The vibes that I’m getting from people…the give-and-take, the push-and-pull with other human beings. And then I’m just amused and fascinated by they way that people act. Usually if I go out in a social situation, at one point during the night I’ll be just like, ‘Humans are ridiculous creatures! Just ridiculous!’ And I’ll think about all the interplay in social structures, different people I know — just what we’re eating and drinking, and the way that we’re… I feel like I’m a squirrel [watching the humans]… Suddenly I have this weird awareness of how utterly ridiculously fascinating everything that we’ve created is.

-Over the weekend we posted Tucker Stone's "19 Best Comics of 2012". It's a healthy and eclectic list that, whatever you agree or disagree with, is pretty reflective of the incredibly broad spectrum of the medium right now.

-We've posted the 2003 TCJ interview with Keiji Nakazawa by Alan Gleason.

-And today Gabrielle Gamboa begins her week-long residence as our cartoon diarist.


-Tom Spurgeon interviewed Sammy Harkham.

-The calculus here is simple: Bob Oksner art + "The Brat Finks" = Gold. We have no Bob Oksners anymore, though Johnny Ryan is close, and so, it turns out, is Benjamin Marra.

-And now I want you to hold your breath, count to 20 and watch this film by Yellow Submarine co-director (Heinz Edelmann never gets enough credit for his directorial role) George Dunning.



Shiny & New

Ah, a new year, and another opportunity to take an arbitrarily determined change of calendar and use it as an excuse to get out of ruts. My personal biggest resolutions mostly have to do with replying to e-mails more consistently. In the meantime, I've spent most of the past two weeks offline, so there's a ton to catch up on.

First, Tucker Stone does have a column for us today, but is running a bit late, so check in in a few hours for that. [UPDATE: Make that twenty-four hours—it's up now.]

We also have Rob Clough's first review of the year, his take on Ed Piskor's Wizzywig:

Piskor clearly has his work cut out for him in drawing a book that features a lot of sitting around. He always has the reader in mind when illustrating a scene, breaking the book up into easy-to-digest vignettes, man-in-the-street features, look-ins on other characters, and flash-forwards to Phenicle's prison experience and railroading by the justice system. [...] Piskor is mostly about moving along the story. That said, he always adds a certain decorative touch even in talking head scenes; he always goes the extra mile to give us interesting people to look at. I especially like the way he draws hair--scraggly hair and beards on men, odd curls and swoops on women. He revels in the grotesque, creating characters with slumping postures, unkempt hair, shaggy eyebrows, and bad skin.

And Jay Kinney has turned in a late contribution to our page of Spain Rodriguez tributes, and explains the reason for its tardiness therein.

And here is a brief list of highlights from elsewhere on the comics internet over the past couple weeks:

—Jacques Tardi refused the Legion D'Honneur.

—Paul Karasik ate some Fletcher Hanks cookies.

—Bright Lyons took pictures of Brian Chippendale's studio in Providence.

—Maurice Sendak was profiled in the New York Times.

—Paul Gravett wrote about Diabolik and other comics in the Italian "fumetti neri" tradition.

—Interviews were given by Jamie Hewlett, Nate Bulmer, Charles Burns, Dean Haspiel, Matt Kindt & Brian Wood, Heidi MacDonald, Jenny Robb, Rob Clough, Mark Siegel, Marc Sobel, Alex Cox, Derf, J. Caleb Mozzocco, and Ellen Forney.

—Abhay Khosla summed up the year in comics as only he can.

—Jeff Trexler speculated on the state of Marc Toberoff's Siegel case.

—Comics writer Peter David had a stroke on vacation. His wife Kathleen David has been posting updates as to his condition.

—Pappy posted an old ACG comic story that features (my favorite) writer/editor Richard E. Hughes as an actual character.

Dylan Williams's 1994 interview with Chris Ware, right after the release of Acme Novelty Library #1, was reposted.

—Mary and Bryan Talbot's Dotter of Her Father's Eyes won the Costa award, and The Guardian awkwardly stretched for ways to use "graphic" instead of comics. Hayley Campbell talked about it all for Channel 4.

—Michael Cavna wrote a great piece about Richard Thompson.

—Chris Ware drew a New Yorker cover, and described the inspiration he drew from recent horrific events.


Welcome back. We're planning a packed 2013 on the site. So we hope you enjoy the year with us.

First up -- while we were on vacation the sad news came that Keiji Nakazawa, known for his Barefoot Gen graphic novels, passed away. Matt Thorn wrote an impassioned obituary.

It is important to remember that when Nakazawa came to Tokyo, he did so with the dream of creating boys’ manga in the simple, cartoonish style that was popular in the early 1960s. Although he occasionally slipped into a more “adult” gekiga style, it was the style of the children’s adventure he was most most comfortable with, and virtually all of his anti-war works from “I Saw It!” onward adhere more or less to this style. The effect when applied to the most extreme horrors of real war is jarring and haunting, and arguably more powerful than a more realistic or slick drawing style would be, and in this sense can be said to be precursor to such works as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

And today Joe McCulloch catches us up on this and last week's releases, including work by Herriman, Wood, and, a collection of the mostly forgotten 1970s serial, El Cid.

As Consulting (reprint) Editor Dan Braun notes in his foreword to this 96-page Dark Horse hardcover, El Cid — published in 1975 and 1976, mainly in a single dedicated special issue of Eerie (#66) — was among Warren’s responses to the popularity of the Conan magazines and other fantasy comics of the time. Interestingly, unlike some of the Warren serials, El Cid boasted a dedicated artist: the supremely gaudy Gonzolo Mayo, whose decorative, ultra-’70s edge-of-comprehension style lends a rare flamboyance to scripts plotted out by seemingly everyone in the Warren offices (if always dialogued by publisher mainstay Budd Lewis).


Tom Spurgeon posted a ton of interviews over the holidays and capped it all off with 50 Comics Positives. He's a machine! I particularly enjoyed his interview with Carol Tyler.

Comic book writer Warren Ellis has published a novel, and the NY Times liked it very much.

You know when it's a new era when you turn on the radio and there's a piece on Jacques Tardi. A good one, too!

Self-promo alert: Robot 6 previewed the Blutch book I'm releasing, So Long, Silver Screen.

And I'll leave you with a clip of the animated Barefoot Gen.


The End of the World Again, and It Can’t Come Too Soon

It's the final regular day of original content for 2012 here on, other than a year-end post next week, and I for one am ready for less blog and more eggnog. We close the year out with Tucker Stone's column, which this week includes his take on the controversial Spider-Man 700. Here's a bit from when he's really got going:

... no sane human being with a passing interest in Amazing Spider-Man comics reads the repetitive idiocy of us comic-book bloggers and reacts to it in a public fashion: they just read the fucking comic book. And, regardless of whatever this website or Boing Boing or whatever other hipster anti-super-hero-comic website tells you, Amazing Spider-Man comics, like the core Batman title over at DC, is and pretty much always has been designed to be readable completely outside of the context of whatever submental clusterfuck epic crossover storyline Marvel happens to be publishing, and when it does happen to bump into that horseshit, the people at the helm work to get it out as quickly as possible. Spider-Man is a firewall book: despite its torrid, ungainly history of shitty, shitty stories, it's made for Spider-Man fans first, and Marvel Comics fans second: and while there's a ton of assholes online, in the flesh, Peter's people seem to be as close to meat and potatoes as you can get, short of actual meat and potatoes people, who in reader have zero interest in reading and spend most of their time watching some show where a decrepit Mark Harmon acts like a joke from Reader's Digest.

We also have short but sweet review of Josh Simmons's latest minicomic from Sean T. Collins.


James Kochalka talks to Robot 6 as he begins to close down his long-running American Elf.

The New York Observer has another in-depth review of the new Saul Steinberg biography (our review should run in the new year).

—Domingos Isabelinho weighs in on the ongoing Tintin in Congo controversy.

—Tom Spurgeon continues his year-end series of interviews by talking with Scott Snyder, Sean Ford, and Ellen Forney.

—David Irvine collects and comments on Milton Caniff's Christmas strips.


Pots and Pans

Well, this is my last blog post of the year. I know you'll miss my begrudging, skimpy link-blogging for the next week or so. But I'll be back! And we're leaving you with some goodies.

We have Tim's interview with cartoonist and Uncivilized Books publisher Tom Kaczynski:

Uncivilized was at first created mainly as a self-publishing vehicle. At some point, I was talking to Gabrielle [Bell], because she was coming to Minneapolis for the Rain Taxi Festival, and we decided to do this mini-comic together. It was just a one-off for this show, but it went really well, we got some good feedback on it, and we decided to make more of them. In the meantime, I thought, “Well, it’s kind of fun to do other people’s books.” So I started adding other artists to the mix, with Jon Lewis and Dan Wieken, who’s an artist in Minneapolis. At some point Gabrielle decided not to do The Voyeurs at Drawn & Quarterly, and asked me if I wanted to do the book. At that point I was just a mini-comics publisher. It took me a while to think about it. To really do justice to that book, I would have to become a proper publisher. That’s where it started snowballing. Once I said yes to that book, I was like, “Okay, distribution, I gotta figure that out. I gotta figure out where this is gonna get printed, I gotta figure out all that stuff.” Started making a plan to become a publisher, which is where I’m at now, I guess.

And we here's Hayley Campbell with an essay on complaining, awards, and women in comics:

i. that the British comics industry (in particular) will whinge (an English, whinier version of whine) itself out of existence, and ii. that WOMEN IN COMICS (campaigners, agenda-ers) are ruining it for women in comics. Hey wait, come back. Let me bend your ear a second.


The late John Updike on Big Little Books.

Those Burning in Hell boys on Mike Mignola.

And via R. Fiore, "the Terrytoons version of The Juggler of Our Lady, from 1958, which was probably Deitch's second best picture after Munro. This is a pan-and-scan version, but I've seen it a couple of times in full size Cinemascope. It was designed by Blechman [from Blechman's graphic novel] and narrated by Boris Karloff, which might have given Chuck Jones ideas."



Winding Down

Today we have a review by Doug Harvey of a new book collecting the Dick Tracy-quoting collages of the San Francisco artist Jess. Here's the review's opening:

Even among those familiar with contemporary art history, the relationship between comics and so-called “high art” is often limited to a few superficial talking points, boiling down to the early token recognition of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat as great art and the wholesale and arguably condescending swipes of the Pop artists – particularly Roy Lichtenstein. Fortunately for all involved, the story is more complicated than that. Artists like the late Swede Oyvind Fahlstrom or Scotland’s Eduardo Paolozzi created complex works that honored original comic creators while looking to the medium’s innovations in pictographic language as extensions of the parameters of Modern Art. Europe was way ahead of America in recognizing the medium’s legitimacy, in a broad popular sense as well as in academia and the art world.

But there were pockets of brilliance in the USA too. One of the greatest-ever fine art interrogations of the funny pages has to have been Tricky Cad, created by the San Francisco artist Jess (Collins) between 1952-1959. An eight-episode series of cut-ups made entirely out of fragments of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, the five known extant collages have been collected and reproduced at a legible size for the first time ever in O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica edited by LA-based art writer Michael Duncan and published by Siglio Press -- who also released a stellar 2008 collection of NY artist Joe Brainard’s decades-long body of work deconstructing Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy.

And as the year (possibly the world?) winds down, so shrinks the comics internet bubble:

—Tom Spurgeon has begun his annual year-end series of interviews with comics figures, this time starting out with Alison Bechdel, one of a small handful of artists who dominated the news this year. It's a good interview too, and a great way to start off a series.

—The mega-popular site The Awl has an interview with Sean Howe, whose history of Marvel Comics was another of the year's big books.

—Douglas Wolk reviewed a whole slew of comics for the New York Times.

—And finally, Spider-Man writer Dan Slott has reportedly been deluged with death threats via social media sites after the leak of an upcoming plot twist involving Doctor Octopus. This is depressing on several levels.



Well, last night we said goodbye to Gossip Girl. I was heartened when I recently met someone in his 50s who also likes the show. It means I'm not nearly as much of a loser as I could be. Also, I bet someone up north is softly weeping into his bound editions.

Today Joe McCulloch brings us his final comics list of the year.

And elsewhere:

Following on Tim's entry yesterday, here's more R.O. Blechman -- this time his classic take on Eustace Tilley.

Hey, why not spend your holiday season with Jack Cole? Don't answer that. But go check out two rare cover images and follow along for the duration.

No more pulp heroes at DC Entertainment. The over-90 crowd will be heartbroken.  More importantly: No more Spirit archives in print. Huh.

Not comics: The landmark magazine/edition Aspen is the subject of an exhibition in London. Nice piece on it here. Worth a look for the book-as-object crowd. (via). And this, too. More England. More book design quandaries to think about.

My gift to Tim this holiday season.




Today we have the final 2012 column of Sean T. Collins, in which he says hello to Aidan Koch, creator of The Whale and The Blonde Woman. Here's an exchange from their discussion:

Are you content with tone coming through even if the transmission of the narrative is incompletely received? Is the tone the important thing to you?

Oh absolutely. I mean, think about the idea of studying literature and the hundreds and thousands of students that have to pull theses and hypothesize about symbolism and undercurrents. I think it's fair to say that sure, those authors probably didn't intend the majority of what people speculate, and yet we recognize it as a valid undertaking. I think what's important is what the author does give us is a basis or guideline to such speculation. I'd much rather create work that's dynamic and compelling than overly explanatory or simply "readable." In comics especially, there is so much the artist has to work with in their favor between the written, visual, and sequencing. It's kind of like how film is to photography, comics are to drawing/painting. It's about the immersive experience.

Elsewhere, in no particular order:

—The Comics Reporter republishes a very funny Noah Van Sciver comic about traveling back to early '90s Seattle and applying for work at Fantagraphics.

—This piece at The Scotsman about the rise of graphic novels isn't anything new really, except perhaps in tone.

—Hogan's Alley republished an interview with the late Bud Blake.

—The Guardian has another long profile of Alan Moore, of the kind they seem to run every fortnight or two, but this is an unusually good one covering lots of new territory.

—There's a forthcoming biography of Ward Kimball that's apparently run into trouble with Disney.

—Milo George has transcript of a 1955-era Orson Welles talking about horror comics.

—James Romberger reviews a slew of comics. I always enjoy reading his take on things.

—I missed this studio visit with the publisher, cartoonist, and occasional TCJ contributor Austin English.

—MoCCA &The Society of Illustrators has announced the formation of a new steering committee.

—Finally, a couple videos from 1966. First, the legendary Gene Deitch's test film for a never-made version of The Hobbit (via):

And second, a vintage CBS Christmas message from R. O. Blechman (via):