Eyes on the Back of Your Head

Today we have Rob Clough's review of Julia Wertz's latest book, The Infinite Wait, a very funny book which probably hasn't received enough attention. Here's how he opens it:

In a sense, the heart of each of the three short stories in Julia Wertz's memoir The Infinite Wait is the impact that discovering comics has had on her life. Ostensibly, the book is broken up into "Industry", a chronological account of her life as seen through her job history; "The Infinite Wait", her account of learning that she suffered from chronic systemic lupus; and "A Strange and Curious Place", a love letter to the first public library she haunted as a child. While each story can be read as discrete narratives, the truth is that this book is a sort of recapitulation and revisitation of the themes and events she explored in her first three books (The Fart Party Volumes 1 & 2; Drinking At The Movies). There's a deeper level of narrative, thematic and emotional complexity that becomes more apparent as one reads the book for a second time. Wertz doesn't exactly disown her earlier works in this book, but she goes into detail as to why each of them makes her uncomfortable from her current perspective.

We are still continuing to add new contributions to our page of Spain Rodriguez tributes. Since Monday, Art Spiegelman, Gary Groth, Noah Van Sciver, and Sam Henderson have joined the ranks. We are still waiting on a few more, so don't forget to check back in every now and again. We are also posting another short interview with Spain conducted by Gary in 2001, and regarding his then-unusual foray into the world of online comics.


—Speaking of comics that deserve more attention, Boing Boing has gathered a bunch of comics figures' recommendations for best-of-the-year lists. I don't agree with all of the choices, and think there are many titles that belong on those lists that didn't make it, but still ... there are a lot of decent or better comics coming out these days.

—Which leads us nicely to Ng Suat Tong's review of Mattotti and Zentner's Crackle of the Frost.

—Words Without Borders has a new webcomic from David B. and Hervé Tanquerelle.

—ICv2 has a two-part interview with the perennially underrated Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

—Finally, here's a new (to me) Tumblr devoted to terrible editorial cartoons. (via)


Gourmet Burger

I'm in Miami this week for the art fairs and, in particular, the NADA Art Fair, which is suddenly a family affair. If you're in Miami, come on by. Alas, I will not be trying to sell Real Deal back issues to contemporary art collectors, but I'll be hungry for some good comics talk. I can see you a Boody Rogers if you'll raise me a Dori Seda. Or you can always place your ace in the hole: Dick Ayers. Bring on the comic book gabbing. Maybe I'll finally get to the bottom of that comics vs. are conflict I hear so much about. I'll take a survey. Maybe I'll solve it while balancing 3 mojitos on my nose. Who knows.

Well anyway, all of this is to say two things:

1) If you know of some awesome back-issue joint in Miami Beach, let me know.

2) My blogging this week will be ever even worse than usual.

Ok, it's today:

In addition to the usual comic book opining, Joe McCulloch has some thoughts on Alan Moore's foray into short filmmaking.


The big news is that Karen Berger is resigning from her position as Executive Editor & Senior Vice President at DC's Vertigo imprint. She's made quite a legacy there. More details as they're available.

Here's CNN on manga artist Takehiko Inoue of Slam Dunk notoriety.

This looks interesting -- an iPad and/or PDF periodical of journalism in comics form called Symbolia. 

Steve Heller highlights a kind of hilariously modernist (thought though beautiful) design by the great Bradbury Thompson for the Famous Artists Schools 1963 annual report.

And best of all, here's Seth on the demise of Bazooka Joe.


Hi Rez Lo Rez

Today, Craig Fischer turns in an essay, "The Lives of Insects", reflecting on photography, comics, and Eddie Campbell. Here's an excerpt:

In many of his recent books, Campbell combines changes to his visual style with stories about the satisfactions and challenges of being an artist. Fate of the Artist is all about Campbell losing himself as a cartoonist, father and man; on the first full story page of the book, Campbell declares (in third person) that “the artist has come to despise his art, his self and his readers.” “You can all go to fuck,” he says to us while in bed, exhausted, lying in a pose that echoes Henry Wallis’ famous painting The Death of Chatterton (1856) and the rest of Fate is an assemblage of vignettes and narrative games that display the symptoms of Campbell’s mid-life crisis, including hypochondria and writer’s block. Fate ends with Campbell’s adaptation of an O. Henry short story, “The Confessions of a Humorist” (1903), where a successful humor writer, a twin for Campbell himself, grimly strip-mines his family and friends for ideas (“I became a harpy, a moloch, a vampire”). The humorist only finds peace when he quits writing and takes a new job as an accountant for a mortician, and it’s clear that Campbell wants a new job too: he’s tired of exploiting his family for material, tired of being a comic book auteur, tired of being.

The tributes to Spain Rodriguez continue to pour in. Some of the new contributors include Trina Robbins, Carol Tyler, Glenn Bray, Joe Sacco, Mary Fleener, Justin Green, R. Crumb, and Lorraine Chamberlain. More are still on the way, so stay tuned. We have also posted a Spain sketchbook selection originally published in The Comics Journal in 1992.

There are many, many links to get to, so here goes:

—First, two more sad deaths to report: Jeff Millar, the 70-year-old writer of Tank McNamara (and popular movie reviewer), and Josh Medors, who passed away from spinal cancer at the age of 36.

—Good interviews with interesting comics-related people include: Chris Ware at Rookie, Julia Wertz at the L.A. Times, David Hine at the Graphic Novel Reporter, and Paul Krassner at Print.

—Apparently, there will be no more Bazooka Joe comics.

—A former cartoonist turned neuroscientist is studying the effects of reading comics on the brain, and his work has been profiled in Discover.

—Jeff Trexler speculates about the possibility of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons regaining the copyright of Watchmen as early as next year.

—Printer problems led to the loss of many of Colleen Doran's negatives, and she is looking for help in restoring A Distant Soil.

—Sean Howe catches a nice bit of red-pencil work in Stan Lee's introduction to Origins of Marvel Comics.

—Laura Sneddon reports and adds her own thoughts to a discussion about gender-balance issues at this year's first installment of the British Comic Awards.

—At a formal event in Montreal, Alejandro Jodorowsky was given the title of "Grand Rectum."

Wired has an unsummarizable story up about Portland cartoonist Chad Essley and his relationship to the fugitive software mogul John McAfee, currently "sought for questioning in a Belizean murder case."

—Our own Joe McCulloch writes about the late director Tony Scott at film site Mubi, which naturally leads to a lot of Jack Kirby discussion.



Today on the site:

We will continue to post tributes to the late Spain Rodriguez as they come in. And Tucker, Abhay and Nate bring an extra-long version of the column. Tucker has many comics reviews and Abhay explains Grant Morrison for the un- (or just under-) initiated.

My favorite part of the “Grant Morrison Vs. The Word Aspiring” section was Morrison declaring, “I was even a guest on panels at comics conventions”, referring to a UK comic convention that took place somewhere between 1979 and 1982. We’ve all lived long enough where admitting you attended a comic convention in the UK between 1979 and 1982 is a strategy for winning an argument, and not character evidence being used against someone accused of interfering with preschoolers. Bam Pow.

See? You have your Friday all set now. Elsewhere:

-The Washington Post on Spain.

-Chris Ware gets the lengthy New York Review of Books treatment. Plus bonus Gore Vidal quote.

-The late 19th/early 20th century German magazine Jugend held many comic and illustration treasures. Here are some.

-Dan Zettwoch on holiday time.

-The latest episode of Comic Books Are Burning in Hell is up. Good news: Punisher is discussed.

-To play you into your weekend: It's The Hulk on drums.


Trashman Lives

You all know by now the sad news: underground comics legend Spain Rodriguez died yesterday at the age of 72. Patrick Rosenkranz has written our obituary for the artist, a Buffalo native and member of the Zap Comix Collective. Here's an excerpt:

He was born and raised in Buffalo, a blue-collar city in upstate New York, where his colorful and formative upbringing provided a wealth of anecdotes and legends for his later comic stories. He picked up the nickname Spain at around 12 years old, when he heard some kids in the neighborhood bragging about their Irish ancestry. He defiantly claimed Spain was just as good as Ireland, so they began calling him that. It stuck.


The usual suspects often criticized him for his depiction of violence and sexual activity, but he didn’t really care. “I’m just a crude dude in a lewd mood,” he would reply. Comics were his chosen medium of expression and he wielded his pen and brush with impunity.

“It seems to refer to the core of the American vision or the democratic vision, that there’s an aspect of yourself that you owe to your society in terms of omission and commission, but there’s an aspect of your life that you don’t owe to anybody. This is something that there’s a constant fight over. In terms of underground comix they certainly broke through that fifties fantasy that conservatives are so dedicated to maintaining, despite that fact that it was a fantasy in the fifties, and now it’s an absurd charade. Comic books are really something that are part of some core of this country. And that’s the struggle. Liberty and justice for all should mean you can say what you want. Unless you can show some tangible harm I’m doing to somebody, fuck off. That’s the battle line I want to be on. I intend to remain here until they carry me away on my back. If it doesn’t sound too grandiose, I think the undergrounds were really a continuation of the American Revolution. Hell, it sounds too grandiose, but so what?”

Rosenkranz visited and profiled Spain this spring, in conjunction with his most recent book, Cruisin' with the Hound (which was reviewed by Jeet Heer for this site in June). In honor of Spain's legacy, we have reposted Rosenkranz's article, as well as a two-part interview conducted by Gary Groth in 1998. We will also be publishing a collection of tributes to the man, starting with a beautiful comic strip from Bill Griffith, along with remembrances from Gary Panter and Mario Hernandez. We plan to add to that post throughout the following days, as more come in.

Also worth a look is the short documentary, Trashman: The Art of Spain Rodriguez, directed by the late artist's wife, Susan Stern:


Spain Rodriguez 1940-2012

Very sad news today: Manuel "Spain" Rodriguez passed away at 7:00 this morning from cancer-related causes. He was 72 years old.

Spain was one of our all-time great cartoonists, and one who was still making first-rate work. Earlier this year he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition  at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in his hometown of Buffalo. His most recent book, Cruisin' with the Hound, contained some of his very best work and was released just 7 months ago and reviewed on this site by Jeet Heer.

We will have ongoing coverage of Spain's work, but in the meantime here's his two-part interview with Gary Groth, and here's Patrick Rosenkranz's affectionate profile from earlier this year.

He'll be sorely missed. Our condolences to his friends and family.


Taking Requests

Today on the site Rob Clough reviews Swell/Invisible Forces by the artist and performer Julliacks.

It can be a bit daunting to engage with these sorts of comics; they demand that you accept them on their own terms or not at all. They can be difficult to adjust to as a reader. But once a reader has locked into this style, the stories become impossible to put down. It doesn’t hurt that Juliacks has excellent compositional chops as a cartoonist, seamlessly assembling a number of complicated images on each page. Her figure drawing is simple and usually displays a somewhat primitivist technique, but it’s not unusual to see her go a bit more abstract in her character representations.

The Boston Phoenix has cancelled Karl Stevens' comic strip, Failure, after an installment insulted the paper's advertisers. Stevens announced it, and then told some more, on his Facebook page.

Comic book writer and editor Bob Greenberger discusses Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, and while I don't agree with his take, I do like that he shells out some more minutia, because, hey, I re-read old TCJ Newswatch columns for fun.

Brandon Graham's second issue of Multiple Warheads is previewed at Comics Alliance.

It's animated Kirby machinery. Two-second diversion alert.



Back on the Street

You know what Tuesday means: Joe McCulloch is here to tell us all about the newest and most interesting looking comics being sold in stores. He is also very likely appending a fascinating and thought-provoking little mini-essay about some strange or overlooked or otherwise forgotten old comic that he bought at a flea market or maybe obtained via Cyber Monday or something.

Elsewhere, there are other things to read and ponder online, including:

Gabrielle Bell talking to Bill Baker at the Morton Report.

Chris Ware talking to Touré on MSNBC!

—An interview with the Belgian composer Walter Hus, who has adapted Ware's Lint into an "opera."

—Two graphic novels (Joff Winterhart's Days of the Bagnold Summer, and Bryan & Mary Talbot's Dotter of Her Father's Eyes) have been nominated for the Costa award, a fairly prestigious literary award previously given only to books without so many drawings.

—Paul Gravett has written a mini-profile of Jodi Bernet.

—Jason writes about Wally Wood's EC work ("Let the page breathe a bit").

—R. Sikoryak appears on Gil Roth's Virtual Memories podcast.

—I probably don't link to Inkstuds as often as I should, because I assume most everyone reading this who's in the market for comics-related podcasts already keeps tabs on it, but the show has recently posted its annual year's end critics' roundtable, which this year features two Journal columnists, Jeet Heer and Joe McCulloch, and a former editor of the magazine, Tom Spurgeon. (Also, I really enjoyed some of the photos in Robin McConnell's just-posted BCGF report.)

—The CBLDF blog is another place I probably should link to more often, and their recent roundup of posts on historical examples of comics censorship is a good excuse.

—At the New York Times Book Review, Deborah Solomon reviews Deirdre Bair's new massive doorstopper biography of cartooning great Saul Steinberg.

—And finally, Quentin Blake talks to the Tate (via):