BLOG

To Be Cont.

Today on the site, Alec Berry files an update on the ongoing Cody Pickrodt lawsuit, which now involves a counterclaim filed by Whit Taylor.

Cartoonist Whit Taylor, one of the 11 defendants named in a defamation lawsuit brought by small-press publisher Cody Pickrodt, has filed an answer and counterclaim, making an allegation in civil court that the plaintiff raped her in New York City in December 2013.

Her response, submitted on Nov. 5, 2018 in Nassau County, NY, arrived with answers from cartoonists Hazel Newlevant and Morgan Pielli, who each assert more than 30 affirmative defenses. Eight other defendants offered a motion for dismissal, which questioned the court’s jurisdiction due to their residencies in other states, their lack of business within New York and their having been in other states when the allegedly defamatory statements were made. However, this motion has been withdrawn.

Defense attorney Aurore DeCarlo of C.A. Goldberg, who represents all 11 defendants, submitted the stipulation to withdraw on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 after Pickrodt’s attorney, Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law, amended his client’s complaint to address the defense’s Nov. 5th filings. DeCarlo described the action as a formality. The motion to dismiss had addressed the contents of the original complaint. A new motion must now be filed to meet the amended version.

The deadline to file a new motion is Jan. 4, 2019, according to the stipulation.

We also have a review of the new Sunday Press collection of E.C. Segar's prep-Popeye Thimble Theatre strips, written by Frank Young.

Christmas came early with the welcome arrival of this new tome from Peter Maresca’s Sunday Press, an important and joyous addition to the comics canon. One of comics’ greatest storytellers, Elzie Crisler Segar created a thoroughly American icon with the addition of the Spooneristic, squinty Popeye the Sailor. Popeye’s 1929 entrance in the daily Thimble Theatre marked a literal sea change in a decade-old strip.

In its first tenyears, Segar’s strip focused on the risible relationship of Ham Gravy, his sweetie Olive Oyl, and her brother Castor. He mined sublime comedy from this trio, but Popeye gave the strip star quality. His quirky can-do mindset was manna for Depression-era America. When the Fleischer brothers’ animated studio began Popeye cartoons in 1933, the mumbly tar overtook Mickey Mouse as the nation’s top cartoon character.

Because most of these pre-Popeye strips haven’t been reprinted, only those with access to the chipping, crumbly original newspaper pages or the courage to squint at microfilm are familiar with much of this work. This 13” x 17” hardcover restores to public circulation an unsung epic of 20th-century cartooning. For two years, Segar took Castor Oyl (and, later, Ham Gravy) out West, in a rowdy, atmospheric narrative that, like its desert landscape, is full of peaks and valleys. Segar wasn’t alone in achieving these mega-stories. Rube Goldberg did a similarly long sequence in his contemporary Sunday strip Boob McNutt—another marathon episode that deserves reprinting.

This sequence marks Segar’s rise as a master fabulist. As Paul Tumey notes in his informative introduction (one of three top-flight pieces in this book), Segar entered comics as a lesser light, and had the good fortune to develop his populist art on the clock. From its inception in January 1925, six years after the daily strip’s debut, the Sunday Thimble Theatre was a down-to-earth, rough-edged physical comedy, shot through with its creator’s school-of-hard-knocks philosophy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Lion Forge, which has repeatedly made waves with prominent hires and deep pockets, is restructuring, and confirmed to Publishers Weekly that it has laid off twelve employees.

In an interview with PW in September, Lion Forge founder David Steward II said the house had about 60 employees and planned to publish about 130 titles this year.

In a prepared statement, the company said, “We are restructuring from the top down, and across departments to ensure that our organization’s size and structure remains in line with our sales, as well as providing support for future increase in title output."

Former New Yorker editor and founder of the Cartoon Bank Bob Mankoff has launched a similar new site, CartoonCollections.com. It is being billed as "a way to spotlight and monetize thousands of works published in the New Yorker, Esquire, National Lampoon, Playboy and Barrons."

Cartoon Collections will also curate from the half-million works from the library of the recently acquired CartoonStock.com.

Mankoff says he is drawing upon years of hard-won lessons to try to create a destination site as part of a larger licensing business.

“The market for cartoons is large but widespread and dispersed,” Mankoff tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “It needs a central place where anyone who needs one for any purpose can find what they need.

“Cartoon Collections will be that place,” he adds, “as it aggregates cartoons as Getty or Corbis aggregates photos.”

—Reviews & Commentary. Apollo Magazine has an appreciation of Charles Schulz's Peanuts, to coincide with a London exhibition of art inspired by it, which is also discussed.

In a Peanuts strip from March 1962, Charlie Brown and Linus discuss the nature of criticism. Linus was the strip’s intellectual: a gentle, fragile child, the stripes on whose T-shirt were almost as wispy as the hairs on his head, and whose security blanket D.W. Winnicott wanted to use as an example of the transitional object. The two boys are leaning on a wall, as they often do when waxing philosophical. ‘Of course I realize there will always be criticism,’ Linus concedes. Television in particular and even ‘higher arts’ such as theatre can come in for a rough press. ‘The most recent criticism is that there is too little action and far too much talking in the modern day comic strip. What do you think about this?’ ‘Ridiculous,’ replies Charlie Brown.

Mark Dery's biography of Edward Gorey continues to attract review attention, including new pieces at the New York Times and the New Republic.

One of the virtues of Dery’s book is its reminder that Gorey’s art was far more subtle, diverse, formally inventive, and just plain weird than his reputation for sinister whimsy suggests. In the 100-odd books that he published during his lifetime—books with three-word titles like The Fatal Lozenge, The Pious Infant, The Blue Aspic, The Disrespectful Summons—he experimented promiscuously with format. He crafted abecedaries (alphabet books), postcard sets, pop-up books, “slice books” (in which the reader can mix and match portions of an image to create new ones), and even a variant of the choose-your-own-adventure story (from 1987’s utterly confounding The Raging Tide: “Hooglyboo crammed Figbash inside a vase. If this strikes you as clever, turn to 11. If all this seems too terrible to contemplate, turn to 29.”)

—Interviews & Profiles. GoComics.com talks to Tom the Dancing Bug creator Ruben Bolling.

GoComics: When did you develop an interest in politics? When did you decide you wanted to be a political cartoonist?

I still haven’t decided to be a political cartoonist! Since the rise of Trump, I feel like I’ve been temporarily conscripted into service. Tom the Dancing Bug began as an apolitical comic strip, and I was fairly uninterested in politics when I started it. At some point, I realized that politics is another subject I can use to come up with my weekly idea — one more thing I can try to be funny about each week. As I introduced more and more politics in the strip, I got more attention, and I started to get more personally interested and invested. It’s reached a fever pitch right now, but I still hold out hope that someday soon the comic will start to reach a different equilibrium.

 

Surf’s Up Pal

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share Patrick Dunn's in depth conversation with Ellen Forney about Rock Steady, her self-help (non)graphic novel manual for those living with mental illness.

My personal stories and my personal point of view, that’s coming directly from me. But I did a ton of research that’s available to anyone, really. It’s just really dry. You’d have to do a lot of work. Like, who wants to read those studies? I was a psychology major, so I find it really fascinating, I love that kind of thing. But it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to appeal to the general public, or people who read for pleasure, or for that matter have a mood disorder and are in an emotionally stimulated state. It’s hard to focus when you’re manic, it’s hard to focus when you’re depressed, it’s hard to focus when you’re anxious.

One of the things that is a strength of comics is that words and pictures engage your brain in a different way – I would say maybe in a more thorough way. I’ve heard from people who were bipolar who said that Marbles – and Rock Steady, for that matter – is the first book that they’ve read cover to cover in years. And I think it’s because of the power of comics. It’s specifically a self-help manual for when you’re feeling emotionally rocked. You’re not in balance and you need to soothe yourself or figure out what to use. Then you can go to a comic, or go to a self-help manual that’s in words and pictures. You can understand the information better.

Our review of the day is from Tegan O'Neil, and it's all about Winsor McCay...after a fashion. Out of all the non-Garth Ennis comics released this year, there's no better example of Jeet Heer clickbait than this McCay, from Titan Comics.

Winsor McCay as he appears in Smolderen and Bramanti’s account appears almost to be sleepwalking through the narrative of his own life. The most consequential thing that McCay does is draw, after all, and that takes up most of his time (which, to be fair, it does for most cartoonists). But as with his real life, the slightly fictionalized McCay we meet here also meets the likes Houdini, William Randolph Hearst, and George Herriman. Honestly, the narrative through-line is a bit difficult to follow without already knowing the contours of McCay’s career, so if you don’t remember which years he worked for which tabloid you will probably need a refresher.

But that points back to the weaknesses of the present volume, which can probably best be summed up by referring back to the book’s significant ambitions. McCay wants very badly to be a worthy tribute to one of the great cartoonists, one of the very founders of the modern art form. However it is also built around a plotline where Winsor McCay learns how to harness his psychic powers and travel in and out of the fourth dimension, AKA the dimension of dreams. In order to solve a crime involving ghost anarchists. Whether or not you appreciate that kind of fantastic insertion will indicate whether or not you finish the book or throw it across the room in disgust, but it is pervasive.

Over at AV Club, the list season has begun--and the AV Club is one of the first out of the box, and they're going hard. There's some good write ups to be found here, friendo. 

 

Fire Drill

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews David Small about Home After Dark, his recent followup to the very popular Stitches.

It started with my friend Mike telling me stories about his youth. Mike is my same age, so we both experienced the culture and the styles of the 1950s, but from different parts of the country, he from then-rural Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and I from industrial Detroit. 

One morning, over coffee, Mike began reminiscing, in particular about one bucolic summer he spent with two buddies, all of them free of parental influence. They built a tree fort in the woods and, there, did guy things, smoking their first cigarettes, getting drunk, playing games in a junk-filled gully and hanging around the local soda joint watching the older teens, to see what lay in their future. To me all of this had a kind of legendary Huck Finn, quintessentially-masculine quality. I wanted to have been that kind of boy having those kinds of experiences, with that kind of freedom. So, I listened with a kind of hazy, inattentive envy until a little psychopath came into the story. At that point I sat up, paid closer attention, and taking notes. Because, I mean, who isn’t interested in psychopaths?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Abraham Riesman interviews Nancy's "Olivia Jaimes."

About how long had you been putting comics online by the time you started doing “Nancy”?
I’ve been making comics in one form or another for so long. Ten years. Because, basically, as soon as I got on the internet, I just started putting things online. I mean, it might be like one thing a year. Not regularly, but for that long.

At what point in that ten years did it start to become an obsession where you started doing it pretty regularly?
I don’t know, maybe never. I mean, doing “Nancy” is the most regular I’ve ever been with comics.

That’s a big step up, if you’re all of a sudden doing a daily strip. How did you get from not doing “Nancy” to doing “Nancy”?
[Editor] Shena [Wolf] called me and was like, “Do you want to try out for ‘Nancy’?” And I was like, “Hahahaha, no way.” Not that I wouldn’t want it — it just seemed fake. And then I’m drawing the comics to submit for the test to be like, “Here’s a couple weeks.” And as I’m doing it, I’m like, “Hahahaha, no way, no way.” In a very Nancy move, it wasn’t like I was like, “No way they would pick me.” I was just like, “Obviously they would pick me, if they have any taste at all, because these jokes are so great.” But it didn’t really even feel real as I was signing the contract. I was like, “Hahaha, what a funny joke this is.” But, yeah, it worked out pretty good, and they’ve been really quite good in easing me into it, and giving me feedback, and having me go from not being a regular comic-maker to being “make one every day.”

The New York Times has an interview with Roz Chast, who has a new retrospective up in Manhattan.

The show includes some of the first cartoons you published, in a gay men’s magazine called Christopher Street, in 1977, right after you graduated from art school. How did you start publishing there?

When I got out of RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], I never thought I’d be able to make a living as a cartoonist. I didn’t really know where I would fit in: What I did wasn’t really underground, and it wasn’t really New Yorker-like either. I was living with my parents in Brooklyn, and I would take around a portfolio of illustrations. I got a bit of work, but I just thought, ‘God, I hate this.’ I didn’t want to be an illustrator. It’s going to sound so corny, but I was looking for some kind of sign. And then one day I found a copy of Christopher Street on the subway. I saw they used cartoons, so I called them up, and started selling them cartoons, for 10 bucks each.

The aforementioned Alex Dueben speaks to Ali Fitzgerald about her recent book, Drawn to Berlin.

A historical perspective is definitely necessary for understanding the complex political underpinnings of most countries, Germany included. For example, the rise of nativism in Germany is strongest in former G.D.R. areas, where the educational perspective on World War Two was not one of acknowledgement and atonement – students there were taught that the nazis were “other” while West German students used the word “we” when speaking about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The fact of the matter is that Germany (and Berlin in particular) has always been a site of migration – and I use the journalism of Joseph Roth from the 1920’s to explore this in the book. A greater understanding of transience as cyclical allows us to have greater empathy for those fleeing war now.

The Jewish Ledger profiles Liana Finck.

Her latest book, Passing for Human, is more personal, a “graphic memoir” in which she focuses on the experiences of the women in her family. In the whimsical yet serious memoir, each woman is born with a shadow that guides her life. But as they age they eventually lose the shadow. The book, published in September, features a main character, Leola, who looks for her own shadow and the shadows of her female relatives.

“It’s half about me and half about my mom, and the thing we have in common is that we are women and we are artists, so that’s what it’s about,” she says.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Leif Goldberg, and the most recent guest on Comics Alternative is Liz Prince.

—RIP. The creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, died this week at the age of 57.

 

Isle of the Cheetah

Today at The Comics Journal, we're taking a look at Nick Thorburn's Penguins, thanks to Nate Patrin. It's a doozy!

That might be part of why Penguins, the graphic novel debut by singer/musician Nick Thorburn (Islands; The Unicorns), initially seems to operate from a basis of familiar shorthand. During a brief phone conversation with Thorburn, I picked up on the notion that his artistic influences and technique share a common lexicon with the last few decades' worth of indie and alt comics. There's the usual suspects in Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Joe Matt, and so forth, paralleling a teen-years interest in making DIY Xerox zines and following a childhood interest in the gag-driven simplicity of Archie comics. That's fairly unsurprising, given what emerges in Penguins -- a blend of juvenilia and melancholy that's grown into a default setting for a significant cohort that grew up in the same context.

To dig further down into what that common experience actually translates to on the page, then, takes more than just an interrogation of influences and comparisons. And if Penguins proves anything, it's that Thorburn has taken well to the narrative potential and visual simplicity of a mute, almost-faceless character going through physical mayhem in ways alternately (or concurrently) amusing and despairing. "I wanted to be as low-res as possible," Thorburn explained, "and have these characters that weren't quite human, weren't quite penguin, had no facial expressions, didn't speak… to me, having it be flattened like that made it all the more cruel." The old Mel Brooks line about the difference between tragedy ("when I cut my finger") and comedy ("when you fall into an open sewer and die") is blurred when the characters all look largely identical and it's unclear, save your own perspective and whatever mood strikes you at the moment, whether you're supposed to empathize with them or laugh at their misery.

Our review of the day comes from Ryan Carey, and it's of Becca Tobin's Understanding, which recently made its way into the world thanks to the Retrofit crew.

The relentless pursuit of diversion and distraction undertaken by Tobin’s protagonists can be an exhausting thing to witness, but it’s certainly never dull, narratively or visually : largely-borderless panels coalesce into intriguing page layouts that are never less than equal parts absolutely inventive yet intuitively easy to follow, while the characters themselves morph into unusual shapes and formations that are somehow consistently recognizable as being the same individuals that they were before. By and large they’re not doing anything you wouldn’t see in, say, your average Cathy strip, but Tobin (thankfully) disposes of that comic’s garden-variety neurosis and replaces it with explosions of vibrant color (okay, fair enough, except in the two-tone strips, but those are still quite effective in their own right) that reflect the deliberately, one could even argue aggressively, unconcerned outlook of the denizens of planet blob. Think of it, then, as Cathy with the consumerism dialed up to 11, then fed a couple hits of purple microdot.

Over at Popula, Lauren Weinstein's dropped her latest Normel Person. On Facebook, Mardou got into her home life.

Over at Talkhouse, Mudhoney's Mark Arm talks about the many side gigs he's taken on over the years, including a stint at Fantagraphics.

Over at Diamond, Craig Thompson's upcoming serialized comic series, Ginseng Roots, was discussed

 

Tummy Ache

Welcome back to the funny pages. This morning, R.C. Harvey returns with a look at the life and work of early comics master Art Young.

ABOUT THE SAME TIME as his marriage was dissolving, Young's political views were taking their final shape. In 1902, Young had returned to Wisconsin briefly to lend his pen to Robert La Follette's Progressive (Republican) campaign to be re-elected governor. But by 1905, Young had rejected the Republican politics of his heritage— including "all bourgeois institutions." And he had resolved never again to draw a cartoon whose ideas he didn't believe in.

Not all of Young’s cartoons were “political cartoons” in the current sense. He also drew cartoons that were simply humorous. And even his political cartoons were seldom of the modern sort, skewering politicians by name. Not at first. Instead, Young sent out barbed shafts aimed at general targets: bloated businessmen who ignored the plight of their workers. And it was for these that he declared his independence from any imposed point of view.

“I would no longer draw cartoons which illustrated somebody else’s will,” he wrote. “Henceforth it would be my own way of looking at things—right or wrong. I would figure things out for myself. If success came, well and good; but to win at the price of my freedom of thought—that kind of success was not for me. Though I perceived that much of life was compromise, in dealing with world affairs or with my own, I would have to sink or swim holding on to my own beliefs on questions of vital importance.”

In 1906, he graduated from Cooper Union where he had been taking courses in debate and public speaking. And in 1910, he realized that he belonged with the socialists "in their fight to destroy capitalism."

“Speakers for the Social Democratic party provided me with much food for thought,” Young wrote. “They attacked the whole capitalistic system, showed how its different units combined to exploit the producing masses to the nth degree, and how the press distorted or suppressed news to protect this system, of which it was a part.

“Listening to lectures on the class struggle (after I discovered that such a struggle had been going on for ages), I found that I had a great deal in common with the everyday workers. ... I was living in a world morally and spiritually diseased, and I was learning some of the reasons why.”

Matt Seneca is back, too, with a review of Shintaro Kago's Dementia 21.

For a mangaka whose work has just begun edging into official English translation, Shintaro Kago is in the rare and enviable position of needing little introduction. If you're reading about comics on the internet (you are), you've probably seen his art somewhere - that Flying Lotus album, old issues of Vice, random can't-unsee-it images on tumblr, or any one of numerous scanlations. It's actually somewhat surprising that Kago books haven't had a longtime presence in the comic stores of the West. I don't know that guro manga has a particularly large fandom here numbers wise, but it's certainly got a passionate one, and after Junji Ito and maybe Hideshi Hino, Kago is one of the idiom's biggest names. At its best (and especially when it's in color), his imagery transcends simple grossness for the truly uncanny, opening page- or screen-sized portals into a world that's impossible to get your head all the way around.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Gasoline Alley. This weekend saw the 100th anniversary of Gasoline Alley, which, at least in the original incarnation drawn and written by Frank King, is one of a small handful of works that could plausibly be held up as the greatest comic strip ever created. We've covered it many times in the Comics Journal, and today's a good day to look back at a few highlights, including R.C. Harvey's history of the strip's early years, a conversation with Jeet Heer about the recent Drawn & Quarterly reprint series, and Frank M. Young's review of a recent Sunday Press collection of Frank King work.

—News.
Abrams Books has cancelled a forthcoming book by Jack Gantos and Dave McKean called A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, after widespread criticism online.

The graphic novel, written by the Newbery medal-winning author Jack Gantos and illustrated by Sandman artist Dave McKean, follows a young, brown-skinned would-be terrorist. It was due to be released in May 2019.

“When a young boy enters a library wearing an explosive vest hidden underneath his lovely new red jacket, he has only one plan on his mind. But as he observes those around him becoming captivated by the books they are reading, the boy can’t help but question his reason for being there,” reads a description from its publisher, Abrams.

Comics publisher Zainab Akhtar described the comic on Twitter last week as dealing with “an illiterate brown Muslim boy who goes into a library with a suicide bomb only to start having second thoughts because people seem so into the world of books and if only he could read”.

“Because reading will help the ignorant brown Muslim boy question/renounce his beliefs, you see, in addition to being some vague kumbaya about how a specific interpretation of culture will save the barbarian,” she wrote.

—Interviews. On last week's episode of Behind the News, Doug Henwood interviewed Mark Dery about his new biography of Edward Gorey, Born to Be Posthumous. The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Tom Tomorrow.

—RIP. Nicolas Roeg

Bernardo Bertolucci

Ricky Jay

 

Grave Grove

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got our latest installment in Retail Therapy: and we're close to home on this one, with Larry Reid from the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery!

What do you wish more publishers knew about comics retail?

I don’t order through the customary “direct market” distribution channels.  I always thought that model was unsustainable – even when I worked as Marketing and Promotions Director for Fantagraphics in the early to mid-90s. There were about a half-dozen direct market distributors then; now there’s only one, so I suppose that assessment was correct. I have a great deal of respect for retailers that can work within that complex system. I’m reminded of the perils whenever I visit mainstream comics shops and find hundreds, if not thousands, of comic books in the discount bins.

In keeping with the theme, our review of the day is of Bastard, the latest book from the prolific Max de Radigues. J. Caleb Mozzocco has the score:

It’s an admirable level of restraint on the artist’s part, making literature out of what could so easily be a generic genre story, partially by choosing what to show and what not to, even if what doesn’t get shown also tends to be the stuff that would likely have been the most fun to draw.

Instead, we watch the pair live their lives on the road, surviving off fast food and diners, scamming the cops and authorities, fighting off rivals and accepting help only when desperate, sometimes from a friend who turns out to be an enemy, sometimes from a stranger who turns out to be a kindly ally. While it would be wrong to call this a coming of age story for Eugene, it does chronicle a sort of end of childhood, as the idyllic but tenuous life he shares with his mom starts to come to  a close, and a new chapter for them both begins.

Over at Vent Scene, they're digging into Josh Pettinger's Goiter and getting pretty aggro about auteur theory.

Over at Bleeding Cool, they've got the latest on another comics related lawsuit, which involves a bar that made a comic book about mixology, which is one of those words completely identified with an unlikeable subculture that, in a twist of fate that never fails to impress, is completely unaware of how unlikeable its members are and would be incredulous to discover that the world rolls its eyes every time they open their mouths to talk about bringing back mint juleps, or whatever.

Over at Comicosity, Mark Peters put together a Jack Kirby post about big drawings just because it made him feel better. I can totally rep for that.

The US holiday of eating and buying shit begins tomorrow: your Comics Journal returns on Monday!

 

Sea of Tapioca

Austin English is here with the latest installment of his column, in which he wrestles with the difficult-to-explain legacy of Stan Lee.

When Lee passed away last week, non-comics world friends reached out to me to express condolences. They knew I loved comics and that I'm interested in the history of the medium... Clearly, this was a loss, right? A melancholy day? When I responded by trying to explain what a strange and confounding figure Lee was, and that he didn't exactly create the characters the media was saying he did, I found myself at a loss to explain why. Lee wasn't standard, he didn't just take credit for something that he had nothing to do with, so it couldn't be explained in a black and white way. He did have a large role in what Marvel was (and is), much of it positive. Why was he not what he claimed to be? It wasn’t easy to summarize and it felt exhausting, even ridiculous, to try.

My genuine love for people like Kirby and Ditko made that confusion seem cruel, intentional, a lasting way to obscure the work of actual creativity in the collective consciousness—a comic-book-villain type of crime. To get at the subversion, one had to bring up the 'Marvel Method,' which no one with a passing interest in these things should be expected to understand (although journalists covering Lee's passing could certainly do a little research). The Method is an odd system to base a major media company on, and yet the strangeness of it, the counter-intuitiveness involved, served Lee well in regards to his legacy. I’m sure, at the outset, it was simply a way to produce comics faster and cheaper by letting the artists be cartoonists. But no one really understands what cartooning is, and so Lee becomes a figure in people’s minds, the idea of the absolute heights a comic book can contain. True embodiments of the forms potential, Wood or Everett, exist as cultural foot notes in comparison, as if André Derain is the first name and Matisse the second.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Françoise Mouly talks briefly to Roz Chast about her recent Thanksgiving cover for The New Yorker.

I grew up in an apartment in Brooklyn. My mental image bank is basically lamps, sofas, wallpaper, dishware, TVs and accessories, an infinite number of tchotchkes, books, household appliances. My nightmare is having to draw something like “the woods” from memory. Not enough tchotchkes.

At Civlized, Ben Hicks profiles the infamous Air Pirates.

...this certainly wasn’t the Mickey Mouse club. This was the 'Air Pirates'—the notorious group of underground cartoonists who took on one of the largest media corporations in history…and lost. Kind of.

It begins with a boy—Dan O’Neill, who, at 21, became one of the youngest syndicated cartoonists of all time with his strip "Odd Bodkins," which began its run in 1964. Over time, however, O’Neill’s sensibilities began to shift as he became more politically and socially involved in the emerging counterculture scene, leading to more pointed and subversive material in the strip. The audience, he told Civilized, loved it. The syndicate? Not so much. "There were three firings," he said. "By the last one I knew I was finished, so I thought I might as well try and get my copyright back."

He figured that if he engaged in copyright infringement, the syndicate would surrender the strip back to him out of fear of a lawsuit. So, he incorporated nearly 30 characters into the strip "before they brought the hammer down." It didn’t work. The paper let him go, but opted to retain the copyright anyway.

Mike Lynch points to a recent interview with Liza Donnelly:

—Misc. Lynch also found a speech by Signe Wilkinson.

And Ben Towle writes about the influence of Steve Ditko.

A large part of any artist’s legacy is their effect on the art and artists that follow them–their influence–and indeed the headline from that NY Times obituary refers to Ditko as the, “Influential Comic Book Artist.”

But here’s a curious thing: the word “influence” or “influential” appear five times in that article, but in every instance other than its use as a general accolade in the headline, they all refer to people who Ditko was influenced by–Ayn Rand, Mort Meskin–not anyone being influenced by Ditko.

Compare this, for example, to the NY Times obituary of Ditko’s contemporary, Jack Kirby, who died in 1994. In just the first few paragraphs there are specific mentions of things Kirby influenced–how superhero comics post-Kirby are different than superhero comics pre-Kirby. Indeed, Kirby’s aesthetic influence on superhero comics is as ubiquitous as it is self-evident. Grab any modern superhero comic off the rack at your local comics shop and you’re looking at something that’s been shaped by Kirby’s influence.

A casual flip through a few issues of a contemporary superhero comic, though, is unlikely to yield any sign of Ditko’s visual style. Why is this? I think, because despite the tremendous regard in which Ditko is held by most comics people (myself included) his stylistic influence–such as it is–falls outside the genre in which Ditko’s best-known work falls. If you want to see Steve Ditko’s stylistic influence on comics you need to look not at superhero comics, but at indie comics–specifically indie comics of the late 1990s.

 

Brand Force Trauma

Today at TCJ, it's time for the latest installment in Michel Fiffe's ongoing evaluation of his inspirations: The Fiffe Files. This month's chapter is on The Flash, as depicted by a motley crew led by Mike Baron and William Messner-Loebs. 

"Random weirdness" --! His Flash is definitely a weird read, but you gotta lock into it. You have to be open to unsentimental, almost disjointed storytelling. Baron packs the book with new concepts, but not in a flimsy way, like emptily sprinkling scenes with ideas to show how clever he can be. Baron actually tries to get in there and explore some of those ideas. Having Guice be the straight man who only draws what is required with no fluff, no fanfare, no oomph is a good balance.

Our review of the day comes via Jake Murel, and it's of Nora Krug's remarkable (and demanding) new book, Belonging. Is it a comic? A visual memoir? What does all that stuff mean, anyway? Jake's on it:

But her diverse assortment of visual material raises a question about Belonging’s connection to comics and the nature of comics writ large. In short, is Belonging a “comic?” The back cover—at least of my review copy—advertises the book as a “visual memoir,” a term I initially assumed to be a semantic device for distancing an essentially comic text from the supposed low-brow, commercial escapism often attributed to comics. But the more I read, the more I wondered whether this might be a valid distinction. Is Belonging distinct from comics, not because of its content, but its form? It utilizes few structural elements typically of comics, such as panels or word balloons. Krug includes several interstitial comic sequences throughout her book, but she tells the majority of her narrative through stylized, handwritten text accompanied by an array of images. Though every page contains some sort of image, nearly all of the pages are so text dense that the singular included image could be removed and not much would be lost in the reading experience. The images become little more than decorative illustrations, a feature that opposes what most cartoonists and comics scholars consider (good) comic art.

And that's not all--not by a long shoot. Dig in, because we've got a rock solid interview with Stan Lee, from 1968, which we originally published in Comics Journal #181. There's a whole lot of meat on this one, friend. Here's a taste.

WHITE: Well, you’re getting more competition all the time, of course. New companies keep coming into the superhero field all the time. There are the Tower people … and Harvey Comics … Those are the most flagrant imitators. How do you feel in general about the imitators?

LEE: I wish they would peddle their papers elsewhere. The flattery kick — we’ve gotten over that years ago. We realize that we are rather popular now. We appreciate it. But the thing that bothers me … corny as it may sound … We really are trying to make comics as good as comic can be made. We’re trying to elevate the medium. We’re trying to make them as respectable as possible. We … our goal is that someday an intelligent adult would not be embarrassed to walk down the street with a comic magazine. I don’t know whether we can ever bring this off, but it’s something to shoot for. At any rate, we try to do this. Now when other companies come out, and they try to make their books seem like our book as if they’re all in the same class, the same milieu … and yet the quality is inferior, the art is inferior, the writing is inferior, the plotting is inferior. I feel this does nothing but hurt us. The adults who don’t read comics, but who … whose youngsters try to convince them that comics are really pretty good. You know, who may read ours and like them, say “Why don’t you read one? They’re really good.” And the people who are uninitiated but who have heard about comic and might want to pick up one of those imitations, look at them and say, “Aw, I knew it That fellow who told me comics are good is really an idiot. They’re as bad as they ever were.” In this way, I think we can be hurt by imitators.

WHITE: The imitators make themselves look so much like your line that many readers may think they’ve gotten hold of a Marvel comic.

LEE: Exactly. Now … silly as this may sound, or hard to believe as it may sound, I wish our competitors did better books … If they put out books of comparable quality to ours. Now, I don’t like this to sound as if I’m an egomaniac, but I think you see what I mean. If … if I felt myself that the art and stories were as good as our books, I would be happier because I would feel that we’re all elevating the field … and we’re all going to benefit by it.

WHITE: It would put more pressure on you to get even better …

LEE: Right. But as it is, at this particular moment, I still think that we are doing the only somewhat significant work in this field. There’s the occasional exception.

That's a great fucking interview. Thanks, 1968 TCJ contributors!

Over at Women Write About Comics, Wendy Browne has the most detailed write-up on Library Journal's Virtual LibraryCon, which took place a few weeks ago. I also attended that event, and my main takeaway was that there's probably going to be a lot more of those types of online conventions to come--the structure and interface of the whole thing has a very clear appeal to a type of fan who is only becoming more and more common. 

Over at Popula, they continue to publish comics by a murderer's row of recognizable names, like Mimi Pond, Lauren Weinstein, Meghan Lands, Tom Hart & Trevor Alixopolus.

Over at the New York Daily News, they've got the latest update on the bribery trial involving an ex NYPD officer, who recently testified he got a gun permit for Ike Perlmutter in exchange for tickets to Marvel movie premieres. I love reading about this story and don't care how true it is or not: who doesn't want to read a screwed up news story about dumb nonsense that doesn't correlate to hyperclimate chaos or hardcore alt-right racism or anything other than some rich creep allegedly getting a gun permit he couldn't possibly need from some rando goon who isn't creative enough mentally to say "give me a lot of money" but instead says "I want to be the first in my circle of friends to see a Benedict Cumberbatch motion picture". There's so many awful, upsetting reasons people get in trouble and so many awful, upsetting people who get away with trouble: it's always a treat to see assholes being roasted in public for the dopey things that assholes do. 'Nuff said!