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Today on the site, Joe McCulloch, fresh from SPX, gives us the week.

Elsewhere:

TCJ-contrib Katie Skelly and Sean Witzke talk movies over at Travis Bickle on the Riviera.

More audio: The CBC remembers a 1974 comic book convention.

Paste Magazine features Ben Katchor.

And Benjamin Marra’s full Marra is on display in this short interview.

 

 

Fun Times

Today, Greg Hunter returns with a review of Tom Gauld’s stylish Mooncop.

Like so many much-loved science-fiction stories, Tom Gauld’s Mooncop seems to be about this, but it’s really about that. In the case of Gauld’s comic, the this is a cop on the moon, and the that includes isolation, monotony, and obsolescence. As with Mooncop’s predecessors, a reader helps create these deeper meanings; the story’s rewards increase with a person’s level of engagement. So, potentially, do the disappointments.

Gauld draws comics in a singular, instantly recognizable manner, with linework that’s borderline cutesy (Mooncop occasionally reads like it ought to have been crocheted rather than printed) but also elegant and the result of clear technical control. As a storyteller, his pacing is deliberate and his affect his flat by design. Wes Anderson is an easy comparison but a fitting one; both artists mix melancholy and knowing understatement, whimsy and compositional tightness. And as with Anderson, it’s not always obvious whether the artist’s carefully-rendered world contains real insights or merely signifies insightfulness.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Tom Spurgeon talks to the very funny Jessica Campbell about her new book, Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists.

Anyway, the idea for the book really came from two experiences. The first was that, when Cy Twombly died, I was still working at D+Q and Lynda Barry sent me an email that just said (facetiously) “Cy Twombly when he was my boyfriend” and included a picture of a handsome young Twombly. The second was that my former coworker in Chicago, a painter named Katherine Harvath, and I would gchat at work and at some point started asking each other to guess if certain male painters were hot and then would find images to prove/disprove each other’s theory. There’s a really nice nude pic of Frank Stella with one of his paintings that sort of kicked the whole thing off.

Michael Cavna talks to Matt Bors about The Nib.

We left Medium last summer and officially relaunched under First Look Media in July, but we’ve been working with them since January — on the building of the site and commissioning work in anticipation of the relaunch. Comics and websites both take some time to create, it seems.

—News. The Ignatz Awards were given out at SPX this weekend.

—Misc. The Chicago episode of PBS’s Art21 features Chris Ware.

 

Hands Across Atlantic

Today on the site, Annie Mok reviews the wondrous Meat Cake Bible by Dame Darcy.

Fantagraphics has just released a collection of comics from Dame Darcy, the Mermaid-identified cartoonist and sometime reality show star, in the form of The Meat Cake Bible. Ornately designed by Keeli McCarthy, the die-cut hardcover opens to a scene of Dickensian magical realist debauchery, featuring some of Darcy’s core cast of characters, such as Strega Pez, Effluvia the mermaid, and Wax Wolf. They all live in Sobriety Straight, a Victorian hellscape/dreamscape, wherein the dozens of short stories from the Meat Cake comics took place, published by Fantagraphics from 1993-2008. The strips reflect the giddy viciousness of the best Riot Grrrl art and music from the early nineties, with a collection of mostly (white) women characters as cackling demonesses, taking up space and being loud.

We’ll have Ron Rege’s interview with Dame Darcy soon enough.

Elsewhere:

It’s SPX weekend! You won’t find me there (though I wish I was going). All your info is here. Instead you can find me at the New York Art Book Fair on Sunday at 1 pm, interviewing Suellen Rocca of Hairy Who fame.

SPX recommendation: Do yourself a favor and buy Anya Davidson’s Band for Life. I’m in the middle of it now and it’s incredibly warm, funny and brilliant cartooning.

Here’s a cool-sounding event about underground press in Oregon.

The great store Quimby’s gets the local legend treatment in the Chicago Tribune.

And here’s our own Robert Boyd on Trenton Doyle Hancock.

 

It’s Not Easy

Today we have two pieces for you. First, R.C. Harvey on the late Alex Raymond and a new book on the Flash Gordon artist by Ron Goulart.

Among the achievements for which Alex Raymond is noted in histories of this oft-abused artform is that he drew three nationally syndicated comic strips simultaneously. Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon, both of which began January 7, 1934, and Secret Agent X-9, which began two weeks later on January 22. Given the high quality of the illustrative evidence available, Raymond’s achievement seems all the more remarkable. To do such good work on three comic strips at the same time attests, we are tempted to say, to Raymond’s towering graphic genius.

Before surrendering to the temptation, however, we might take a moment to reflect, and in that moment, remember that Secret Agent X-9 was a daily only comic strip and Jungle Jim and Flash Gordon appeared only on Sundays. Moreover, Jungle Jim was the “topper” for Flash Gordon—a one- or two-tier strip that filled out a single page, with Flash occupying the bottom two-thirds. The two Sunday-only strips made up a single page of the funnies, just as Bringing Up Father and Snookums or Blondie and Colonel Potterby and the Duchess did. Raymond may have drawn better (more illustratively, in greater detail), but he did no more strips in an average week than George McManus did with Jiggs and Maggie or Chic Young with Blondie and Dagwood. Six daily strips and one Sunday page.

And we also have Robert Boyd’s review of Gilbert Hernandez’s new Biblical adaptation, Garden of Flesh.

Can the Bible be made more interesting by the addition of huge amounts of explicit sex? Gilbert Hernandez’s Garden of the Flesh suggests that the answer is no. The first thing you notice is the beautiful package and design. The size of the book (6 x 4.75 inches), the lovely leatherette cover, the attractive debossed cover type—the title is surrounded by a beautiful garland of leaves—promises great things. The designer should be singled out for praise. His name is “J. Feeli Pecker.” Kudos Mr. Pecker!

It starts off promisingly enough. In the Garden of Eden, we see the primeval Earth disturbed, and on the 4th page Adam’s erect cock pierces through crust of the Earth as he is born into the world. The tumescent Adam announces his own existence and observes that he is alone, lacking “a companion like myself.” He lays on his back and jerks off, spewing splooge onto his ribcage, whence Eve is born. Regretfully, that’s the cleverest part of the book.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. A few days ago, a writer at Hillary Clinton’s official website wrote a hilarious, inaccurate “explainer” about the origins of Matt Furie’s Pepe character (without ever mentioning Furie’s name), who has been unfortunately appropriated by some rightwing Twitter racists.

That cartoon frog is more sinister than you might realize.

Though that particular piece has still not been corrected, Furie has since given several interviews clarifying that Pepe is not a Trump supporter, including at the Daily Dot

It’s just a phase, it’s not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil, and no one will care about it come November. I predict that his sly, lovable, and charming status will be intact as early as next week.

and at The Guardian:

Beyond Boy’s Club, I think it’s even more familiar as a meme for youth culture and teenagers. It’s weird that people are saying he’s been “a longtime white supremacist meme”. If anything he’d be part of the Green party. He’s a frog, why would he support white supremacists? That doesn’t make any sense.

At Loser City, RJ Casey writes about the National Lampoon comics of Claire Bretécher:

Bretécher explores a unique form of late ’70s arrested development in each of her one-page stories. Her characters aren’t afraid to grow up; in fact they’re fully embracive of this stage of their lives. The step from one phase to the next though, it’s a doozy. In one story, Bretécher has three zenned-out suburbanites argue about Christmas traditions at a Buddhist meditation camp. Another sees a woman unknowingly transition from counterculture hellion to helicopter mom. Bretécher’s characters, for our sake and amusement, seesaw between being uneasy and unself-aware. The only solution to their problems is to “talk it out.”

—Interviews & Profiles. Emily Buder interviews Dash Shaw about his new animated movie.

When I started making this movie, I thought that [my experience in comic books] would be more applicable than it was. I thought, well, I can draw and tell a story, and I’ve created a lot of characters. I can scan it just like I would scan my comics, only now it’s going to go into After Effects. I thought it would be a much smoother transition. But when I was in it, I realized that there were so many things that I had no experience with.

The movie does have a dry humor that is like my books, but in film—in some kind of bizarre, magical way—you can have people say one thing but it means something completely different based on how they say it, which is obviously something that you don’t get from just reading words. Things are more powerful when the literal words that [characters] are saying aren’t what’s being communicated.

And for The New Yorker, Sarah Larson writes about Raina Telgemeier.

Telgemeier’s realistic, sometimes autobiographical books have helped popularize graphic novels for middle-schoolers, in a big way. Her past three books, “Smile,” from 2010, “Drama,” from 2012, and “Sisters,” from 2014, were all No. 1 Times best-sellers. She has won two Eisner awards and many other distinctions. This morning, “Ghosts” was already No. 13, out of all books, on Amazon’s best-seller list.

 

Two Down

Today on the site:

Cartoonist Wren McDonald, author of Cyber Realm, began a diary for us but it went into another realm, so here we publish it as… a comic!

And Rob Clough reviews Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac.

The first thing one notices about Nina Bunjevac’s work is its density. Her cross-hatching and stippling pounds the reader, letting them know that these images are not going to let them go easily. Her skill as a draftsman is astounding, especially given the labor-intensive methods she chooses to employ. In her first book, Heartless, Bunjevac combined a heavy use of blacks with a cartoony line that was both whimsical and sinister. Her character design was cute, but her characters lived in a grim and unforgiving world. I noted in a review that her comics were a combination of Drew Friedman’s early pointillism, Kim Deitch’s oddly cartoony characters, and Phoebe Gloeckner’s hyperrealism. Her new book,Fatherland, is an expansion on one of the stories from Heartless titled “August, 1977”, about the accidental death of her father, who happened to be a Serbian royalist terrorist, and a letter her mother wrote her after she took two of their children with her when she left.

 

Elsewhere:

TCJ contributor John Kelly has been named Executive Director of the ToonSeum, a comic and cartoon art museum in Pittsburgh. Congrats to John.

Here’s an interesting look at the inroads one studio is making with VR technology, something that seems very much at the forefront of various animators minds.

Skip Williamson documentary coming right up!

 

Fear of a Black Penis

Every Tuesday brings Joe McCulloch with his guide to the Week in Comics! This installment’s highlights include new books by Moto Hagio and Maré Odomo.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At Slate, Katy Waldman reviews Nadja Spiegelman’s memoir, I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This, which is largely about her mother, Françoise Mouly.

Spiegelman has mapped not only her own inner landscape, with all the mom-shaped craters and streaks of ash, and not only Mouly’s, but also that of her maternal grandmother Josée—an equally fascinating, tempestuous figure. The book draws on hundreds of hours of interviews with both women. (After speaking to Françoise, Spiegelman flew to Paris to get Josée’s side of the story.) It shares DNA with Maus, the Pulitzer Prize–winning comic by Nadja’s father, Art Spiegelman, Part II of which is dedicated to then-baby Nadja. It is extremely similar to and extremely different from that work in the exact, vexing way that children are at once deeply like and deeply unlike their parents.

—News. March: Book 3, from John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, has been longlisted for the National Book Award.

IDW has signed a trade bookstore distribution deal with Penguin Random House.

With a client roster that now includes five of the top ten comic publishers in the direct market, plus book channel powerhouse Kodansha, PRHPS may now be the biggest graphic novel distributor to the book channel, if it wasn’t already. PRHPS graphic novel publisher clients include Archie Comics, Dark Horse Comics, DC, Kodansha, Legendary, Titan Books, and Vertical. Its last major client acquisition was Dark Horse Comics, three years ago.

After receiving complaints on Twitter, SPX has withdrawn a proposed badge for convention staff and volunteers which had been drawn by Keith Knight. The offended parties said the image’s implied male nudity was “triggering” and/or inappropriate for an all-ages show. Knight seems to be taking the controversy in stride.

keith

—Interviews & Profiles. Vulture interviews Alan Moore on the occasion of his long-awaited novel, Jerusalem, and asks him about the occasional criticisms he’s received about the depictions of sexual violence in his work.

In V for Vendetta, there’s a part where the female character is saying she was going to be “ruh ruh” and she’s not even able to say the word “rape.” That was as close as you could get at the time to the subject. Having to do that made me think about the issue and ways in which I could actually improve. When we did Lost Girls, which is an erotic work, there was a point in the plot that one of the characters is raped. That happens completely offscreen because we didn’t want to confuse people. We didn’t want to suggest that we find rape erotic. As you progress through these different works, your thinking hopefully becomes more sensitive. I’m probably not where I should be on the subject yet.

—Misc. On Facebook, Sonny Liew opens up about the financial side of publishing The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

That translates into, over 24 months, about 2.5k/month
Which is not such a bad thing if you think of it in terms of “doing something you love”, but quite sobering when compared to other endeavours, from teaching to engineering or management, medicine etc etc.

Kevin Huizenga is teaching three comics courses at MCAD this semester, and promises to post content from them on Tumblr.

 

Juice

Today on the site, cartoonist Noah Van Sciver interviews Tom Gauld about Gauld’s new book, Mooncop.

What does a typical day go like for you? Are you drawing everyday?

I share a studio with six other illustrators and designers, in a building with lots of other creative types. I work best in the morning so I try to get to my desk for 8.30am, the studio is usually very quiet until 10am so I try to get stuck into drawing straight away. People will filter into the studio throughout the morning and I chat a bit, but I try and focus on work in the mornings. We often go out for lunch at a local cafe. Sometimes I think I’d get more done if I was locked away in a room on my own, but I do enjoy the company. In the afternoons I’ll draw some more and aim to finish by 5pm so I can get home to the family. If I’ve got a lot to do I might draw a bit more at home in the evening or make a few notes about an idea.

I aim to draw every weekday, but sometimes I get caught up in admin or emails or orders and the day gets away from me. When that happens I’m always a bit annoyed with myself because I know I should have done an hour’s drawing at the beginning of the day when my mind was clear.

When you’re working on a story how much of it is open to improvisation? I mean do you tightly script everything out before drawing the final comic and stick to the script, or are you ever drawing the final comic and thinking “Oh yeah, and then that’d be funny if this happens…”

I do quite a lot of planning but I don’t write out a whole movie-style script at the beginning.  Mooncop started as a tiny 20-page mini comic which I drew in pencil in an afternoon. I liked it but thought I could make more of the story and setting. So then I started sketching my ideas about the characters and the setting and writing scenes, sometimes typing on the computer and sometimes as scribbly writing and thumbnails.  When I felt I had enough scenes I drew the whole thing in pencil and had a few people read it, then I edited it a bit and then inked it all. All through the process I was tweaking and changing and adding, but not really improvising. 

I’m not sure that this is the best technique for making a graphic novel, I feel like for my next book is like to have a bit of a looser process. Though I don’t know quite how.

Elsewhere:

Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is getting lots of attention for its Toronto debut. Here’s a fine profile.

Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Ghosts, is covered on NPR.

Alan Moore recommends books over at the NY Times Book Review.

I’m missing yet another SPX this year, unfortunately, but Frank Santoro isn’t, and he’s offering workshops with some of the festival’s special guests. 

 

Kong

Today, comics historian Ron Goulart is here with the eighth installment of his column on Connecticut cartoonists. This time around he focuses on a Oskar Lebeck and a trio of cartoonists all working for Whitman/Dell.

Oskar Lebeck, editor, writer, cartoonist, settled in New York’s Westchester County, just across from the Connecticut border, along with his family, in the late 1930s. And he, with help from some neighboring young cartoonists, developed some of the bestselling comic books of the 1930s and ’40s. These included Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories, The Funnies, Looney Toons and Merry Melodies, Popular Comics, Crackajack Funnies, Super Comics, Little Lulu, Animal Comics and Fairy Tale Parade.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For The New Yorker, Nat Segnit profiles Alan Moore.

Now that revisionist interpretations of the superhero genre are the Hollywood norm (in large part thanks to Moore), he has abandoned the form. “I would rather do things that nobody wants,” he said, of his decision to spend the past decade on a metaphysical, postmodern novel. “It’s the most interesting thing to do, to find the areas of culture that are not being paid attention to.” Characteristically, with “Jerusalem,” he has refused any intervention from his publisher. “What I wanted was to do something that was so completely unmediated and undiluted. I thought, I don’t want anybody making helpful suggestions.”

Incidentally, Moore claims to be retiring from comics. (Again.)

Over at CBR, Alex Dueben talks to Melissa Mendes.

When I was a student at [The Center for Cartoon Studies], I tried to get fancy with layout sometimes, but soon I realized that’s not for me and it doesn’t make sense to do that with the stories I do. I let go of that and started just following my instincts. It’s kind of like when you’re writing prose and you know when to end a paragraph. The panels are as much a part of the story as the drawings and the words are, and they all have to work in harmony, otherwise I think the reader gets taken out of the story. “Lou” wouldn’t make sense with lots of fancy shaped panels and grids because there are a lot of just regular everyday moments, and I try to be very straightforward and real in my stories. “The Weight” and “Freddy Stories” are the same.

—Reviews & Commentary. For The Nation, David Hajdu reviews Daniel Clowes’s Patience.

The plot, like that of a vintage Hitchcock thriller such as Vertigo or Rear Window, is fairly complicated, tightly planned out, and ultimately incidental to the psychological content. There are two main characters, each nicely developed and flawed but also sympathetic: Patience, a young wife and mother with a sordid past, who is murdered by page 13 of the 180-page book; and Jack, the young husband and father who starts the story as a weak-willed loser, lying to his wife about being promoted to a dispatcher’s job when he’s really handing out porno flyers on the sidewalk. The second chapter jumps ahead 17 years, to a time that Clowes neatly evokes with the retro-future shorthand of elevated trains, women with blue skin, and men in caped outfits straight out of one of artist Al Plastino’s visions of the 30th century in the Legion of Super-Heroes comics from Clowes’s youth.

For Comics Workbook, Sacha Mardou writes about the transgressive openness of Julie Doucet.

When I was in high school a girl from another grade bled through her skirt and obliviously walked through the teenage crowd. A female teacher came up behind her with her sweater outstretched, tied it around the unsuspecting girl’s waist and hustled her away. There it was the biggest fear in all my years of high school in plain sight. I saw it! It happened to that girl I saw, it can happen to you too, teenage female! Never relax, never let down your guard! And…OH JULIE, you can’t do that! You can’t grow to King Kong proportions and drown the streets in your inky period blood whilst on the rampage for a box of Tampax. You just can’t do that!