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News from West

Hi there, today on the site is RJ Casey’s interview with Carel Moiseiwitsch, who is known to comics audiences for her work in Twisted Sisters, Wimmen’s Comix, and Weirdo, among other publications. 

In Twisted Sisters 2, you have a story called “Impasse”. The story is set in Morocco …

Yes, I spent quite a long time in Morocco. I was very influenced by the French bande dessinée after I spent some time in Paris. I loved the French cartoonists’ work and thought their drawings were so incredible. I was very influenced by the French graphic artists. Someone said to me, “Why don’t you just do an autobiographical piece, since you never do that.” I used to just find stories and newspapers and things like that. But I thought, OK then, so I did that one.

Was that story done with etching or some sort of stamp-making?

I was using scratchboard with razors.

That style seemed to be way more popular amongst artist in the ’80s and ‘90s than it is now. You did it so well, and Penny Van Horn, but you don’t see it too much anymore.

Right. It’s seemed to have fallen out of style. One of the reasons I don’t use that style anymore is because I can’t get the good scratchboard anymore. I used to get that from England and it was really good. I can’t get the right ink because it’s all acrylic based now. It just doesn’t look right, so I had to give it up and I was really good at it. I tried looking for all the materials in England. I tried ordering it. It never worked, so I just gave up. It needs to come back! It’s a good medium.

In “Impasse”, the story’s all about anxiety and issues regarding commitment. Are these things that you still deal with or suffer from?

Good question. That certainly is true of me. I finally met the guy who is able to withstand my anxiety and I’m still with him. [Laughs] He’s a very brave man.

Does this anxiety stem from art or …

Just life in general. The art scene has contributed to it though, especially in Vancouver. I just couldn’t stand it. And I’m also always involved politically, so sometimes I get a lot of harassment for that. I still do my own work, but I stopped trying to show it and just stopped … just stopped.

Did you ever feel like you were part of an art scene? Or always outside those scenes?

I was somewhat involved. Not that involved, but somewhat. I really liked that I was welcomed to comics. And those women and guys, I liked them. It was really fun to get involved, because I felt a bit rejected after trying to make it in Vancouver. In London, when I lived there again, I started to get somewhere, but my son became ill, so I came back to help him. I lost that momentum. I’m really just a loner, though. An outsider.

Elsewhere:

I don’t usually link to PR, but Moebius news is a little different for me, so here’s some good news.

Glen Weldon on Cathy Malkasian’s Eartha.

And congrats to our contributor and friend, Dash Shaw, on a string of premiers for his excellent film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. Check this site for dates in a city near you. 

 

Bomb Squad

Joe McCulloch is here as usual with his indispensable guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding releases new to stores. Spotlight picks this week include new titles by Anna Hafisch and Eric Kostiuk Williams.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart has been indicted for “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member,” and faces up to 29 years in prison for his anti-Erdogan cartoons.

His work is often critical of Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian regime, but also of Fethullah Gülen, the alleged leader of last summer’s attempted coup, and of terrorism and extremism in Turkey overall. The substance of his work belies the government’s contention that he’s a Gülen Movement or PKK stooge.

Jim Morin of the Miami Herald has won this year’s Pulitzer for editorial cartooning.

Marvel continues its PR hot streak with the news that Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf planted coded references that have been commonly interpreted as having anti-Christian and anti-Semitic connotations. Marvel has said that it will remove the artwork from future printings of the comic, and that some form of disciplinary action will take place.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Archinect, Julia Ingalls talks to Ben Katchor.

“The strips are kind of written in a half-dream state,” Ben tells me over the phone. “I’m not fully asleep when I’m writing them, but I’m somewhere in between. A lot of them have this free-associative kind of quality as when I’m in a dream, but then I’m awake and I can edit them, make them coherent in some way.”

Tom Spurgeon talks to Jim Blanchard.

I rarely read comics nowadays. Occasionally I’ll re-read an old R. Crumb comic or Kirby-era Fantastic Four reprint or something like that. But, I’m not drawn to them, so I don’t really have any needs to be served by the comics industry. I see Fantagraphics’ output when I visit their wonderful store in Georgetown, but that’s about it. Most of the modern “indy/alternative” comics I see from the U.S.A. don’t engage me. Too self-conscious and niceity-nice. There are a few exceptions. It seems like comics in America stopped evolving around the same time rock music did in the ’80s and ’90s, but I’m out of the loop so I could be wrong. To me, the last great comics generation was the group that came up in the early-mid ’80s: Clowes, Bagge, Kaz, Friedman, Hernandez Bros., Burns — all with amazing, unique artistic chops and all on a par with the best of the previous generations’ cartoonists.

New podcasts include Frank Stack at RiYL and Gabby Schulz at Comics Alternative.

—Reviews & Commentary. LARB has been running a lot of comics writing lately, including Brad Prager’s review of Pushwagner’s Soft City

DAWN BREAKS over a modern apartment complex in the very first pages of Hariton Pushwagner’s dystopian graphic novel Soft City. The sun peers back at the reader from a single eye at its center. Its hundreds of fine, radiating lines call to mind a wild mane, the strands of which resemble heads of hair in William Blake’s work — paintings such as The Ancient of Days (1794), or any of a number of plates from The Book of Urizen, published in that same year. Pushwagner’s eye of providence invokes an array of eschatological meanings. The divine watches us with an organ akin to our own.

and Lily Hoang’s review of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

Ferris’s genre-bending narrative is part horror story, part noir. Karen makes herself into a detective — donning a trench coat and hat to fulfill the stereotype — when her upstairs neighbor Anka is found dead. Although there is no explicit evidence of foul play, Karen devotes her time to searching for clues that might support her suspicion that Anka was murdered. As an amateur sleuth, Karen patches together a retrospective narrative of Anka’s enigmatic life.

 

What will it take.

Today on the site, Richard Elder returns with part 3 of his examination of Ernest Hemingway appearances in comics. 

When the Comics Journal ran the first two parts of this series (which you can read here and here), we asked for readers to help us find other appearances of Ernest Hemingway in comics history. They didn’t disappoint.

The first two parts chronicled the author’s colorful appearances in Superman, Shade: The Changing Man, Cerebus and 40+ other appearances. In the selections below, readers directed us to Hemingway references, adaptations and homages across the comics publishing landscape.

Samurai Crusader (1996)
Reader Phil Rippke pointed out Hemingway’s appearance as the sidekick in Samurai Crusader, a manga series by writer Hiroi Oji and artist Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman and Mai, The Psychic Girl).

“The titular character is visiting Europe and meets the burly, two-fisted adventurer Hemingway and together they try to foil a plot to start a World War. Viz translated it into English and published a three volume series from the 90s,” Rippke wrote. “It’s definitely worth tracking down.”

Elsewhere:

Drew Friedman writes about his New York Observer encounters with presidential son-in-law  Jared Kusher. The fun of this piece is so much in Friedman’s particular “who me” wise-ass tone in his prose. 

Tom Spurgeon interviews longtime Washington state illustrator/cartoonist Jim Blanchard. 

Not-comics: Raconteur Glenn O’Brien passed away on Friday. He was influential in art, style and prose, and had long career in publishing (Interview, High Times, etc) and writing (Artforum, GQ), as well as a prolific life in advertising. Worth reading about to think about if you find valuable what he represented.

 

Clean-Up

Dash Shaw wrote a “filmmaker’s letter” for Landmark Theatres about how he created the original comic story that became My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (and includes a pdf of the comic).

When I was a high school student, in the nineties, there were two main schools of comic books: autobio comics on one end and adventure comics on the other. I liked both of them. The idea behind this short story was to combine these two opposing schools; so I had a character named Dash, and it was based on real feelings and experiences, but it was thrown into a boy’s adventure-style action comic. Whatever’s true in it has been warped to favor the main character’s perspective, which is often how autobio stories are. It’s also a joke about how most stories are; like how we know Indiana Jones is George Lucas’ fantasy, and it’s based on his real interest in archaeology and history, but it’d be sort of sad and pathetic if he just named the character “George Lucas.”

RJ Casey wrote about contemporary sports art (with a look back at cartoonist Willard Mullin) for The Classical.

Mullin acolytes and understudies carried this style forward in the 1950, ’60s, and ’70s. Murray Olderman penciled and shaded photo-realistic renderings mostly of football and tennis players. He then filled the frame with highly-stylized gags full of stats and jokes. He was—is now, in his late 90s—a polished polymath and pioneer in the field, an original whose only critique is that he maybe slummed it up in caricature work a bit. Olderman more than made up for that with his productivity and in the fact that he was also an accomplished journalist in his own right; he had a hand in creating the MVP trophy in many of the professional sports leagues.

For The Guardian, JA Micheline writes about Marvel, diversity, and the company’s self-inflicted wounds.

Marvel is a business, but it’s a business that attempts to sell comics to a demographic that has demonstrated a categorical, historical (and ultimately violent) disinterest in anything that is not built explicitly for them, rather than seeking to expand by making concerted efforts to entice other people into the fold. Marvel is certainly subject to the demands of capitalism, but it sets its attempts at inclusivity up for failure when it continues to push white men as its “real audience” and makes them the metric for success.

The Doug Wright Awards have announced that Katherine Collins will their 2017 Hall of Fame inductee.

Collins is the creator of Neil the Horse, one of the handful of comic book series published during the 1980s in English Canada. The book was a whimsical throwback to the world of pre-World War II cartooning and popular culture, starring the titular Neil, a rubber-limbed horse drawn in an Ub Iwerks style, in a series of fantasy adventures alongside his best friends, a cigar-smoking cat and a sexy animated marionette, trying to make it as song-and-dance hoofers in the world of musical comedy.

The Comics Alternative podcast interviews Peter Bagge.

 

Big Opinion of Himself

It’s another day here in New York. Today on the site, Irene Velentzas reviews Jeff Lemire’s Roughneck. 

The story begins effortlessly with the simplicity of Lemire’s inside cover page, a single image that adeptly introduces the remainder of the text. With such images Lemire demonstrates his candid ability to say so much with so little. A sparse tree, off-centred, standing in a bank of snow, alone in the dead of winter. The tree is naked and vulnerable, it stands prey to and yet against the elements, it reveals no answers. How big is it? A towering tree, a young sapling? It’s impossible to know. It is simultaneously natural and unnatural in its composition. It conveys, ever before the first question of the text “That him?”, the inscrutability, the barrenness, the isolation of Derek Ouellette. Asking the reader to come along on a journey through Pimitamon’s barren landscape and Derek’s mind to find beauty in the wild and stubborn nature at the heart of this man and the environment that shapes him.

Links:

Jonathan Chandler has a fine online comic over here.

The Baffler looks at Iron First and finds some pathways to a larger and sadder thing. Think pieces like this don’t interest me that much, but this one’s alright. The Marvel diversity story (summary here) is likewise not that interesting in the sense that expecting entities with a history of questionable racial/sexual/economic politics to act in some way progressive is like hoping Fox News will do the same. It’s just not built that way. I would like for that not to be the case, because kids love superheroes and there should be more diversity there. But until the current craven white guys are not in power there, it’s gonna be a slog, and I suggest reading something else entirely. I’m actually a little surprised that Disney wants to endure so much bad PR again and again. At some point they’ll look at the tiny blip on their balance sheet and think, “gee, we should step into the 21st century”. But that’s a long shot. 

 

Haters Get Thirsty

Today on the site, the great Naomi Fry returns to interview the great Vanessa Davis.

Did you have a fantasy that publication would change everything about your life?

I mean, sure I had that fantasy, but I also couldn’t imagine in what way it would. Nothing really changed. Well, that’s not true. I definitely had a lot more exposure to other cartoonists and I got a lot of really good feedback and I enjoyed being the new pony [laughter] and it was like a party. I got a lot of attention and that was really fun, and that was pretty much it. I didn’t really know how to parlay that into the next thing. And I started dating Trevor [the cartoonist Trevor Alixopulos], my boyfriend, right after the time that Spaniel Rage came out, and so that was also a big disruption, where I was like, “What am I going to do about that?” because he lived in California and I lived in New York. I wasn’t really making ends meet in New York, and I wanted to be more serious about comics, whatever that meant, and I was still so young that I could just see what unfolded. And when I visited Trevor he was living in Santa Rosa, which is—compared to New York—a smaller town, and you could work half-time. And it seemed like you could afford to be an artist there in a way that you couldn’t in New York. And so it was sort of this practical and romantic thing where I was embracing both Trevor and comics: like everything would become more serious by moving out there.

Did your work developed in different ways, because the pressures of making a living in New York and space and so on were now slightly eased?

Yeah, they were definitely eased, but then also moving and having a serious boyfriend and making friends in a new town took up some of the attention that I was giving to working. But then in comics, basically what I was OK with happening was Spaniel Rage got a little attention. And so I got to be in some anthologies; like, in Kramers Ergot they needed something in color, so I was like, “OK, that’s a challenge to attack, how will I do comics in color, in ink?” And then in another anthology I had to do a six-page story, and I had never done that before. So I felt like I was in a position where I was getting to do new projects that would stretch my abilities. So I spent a lot of time in that place. I knew that even though I had this book published, I was new to this form, and kind of didn’t really know what I was doing and was open to seeing where it went. But then, shortly after I moved to California, Alvin and I kind of fell out, and Alvin, to a large extent, was my conduit to fancier, more ambitious projects. And so even though I had a good reputation independently, I has living out in the boonies, publishing-wise, and I had lost my hip publisher contact, so I sort of languished in a really pleasant kind of slow, goalless development for a long time.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, still playing catch-up:

—Reviews & Commentary. Roger Gathman considers superheroes.

American comics generally participate in an ideology which radiates out from a central preoccupation with crime. And not any crime. The two great crimes are jewel robberies and bank robberies. There’s a reason for that: these crimes make the rich the victim.

Kim Jooha’s favorite comics of 2016.
The Chester Brown/Dave Sim debates have been ongoing.

I had planned to address a few other things that Dave wrote that Deutsch hadn’t dissected but, having written the above, I’ve decided not to bother. When applied to fictional invention, the extreme nature of Dave’s thinking makes for interesting reading. But that extreme nature, when applied to real-world problems, results in opinions that almost no one can take seriously.

—Interviews & Profiles. Tom Spurgeon talks to K. Thor Jensen.

SPURGEON: Can I ask why you self-published this one? I think the last one was one of the last works to squeak from the old Alternative Comics, or at least found purchase with one of the Alternative Comics refugee homes. Correct me if I’m wrong there. But there seem to be a number of small houses; were those an option, or was it self-publishing all the way?

JENSEN: Alternative is still going! Under the fine auspices of Marc Arsenault, who will be handling the Diamond distribution and digital for Cloud Stories because I am bad at that stuff. For me, I just had no idea if anybody on Earth was going to be interested in this book, and Kickstarter seemed like a workable financial model for somebody like me with a fanbase that would be comfortable in ponying up $20 up front. I really like what Spike Trotman — who has been insanely successful on that platform — says: if your Kickstarter failed, take that as a blessing because you dodged a bullet not printing something the market didn’t want. I was incredibly gratified to see the project funded with lots of small pledges, and then proceeded to deliver the book three years late like an asshole.

The latest guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is the brilliant novelist and occasional comics writer Samuel R. Delany.

My co-editor Dan linked to several of them, but there have been an enormous amount of Daniel Clowes interviews lately, most of them linked to on The Daniel Clowes Reader Tumblr.

—Misc. Tucker Stone.

 

Wakey Wakey

Today on the site, Joe brings us into April with comics and more comics.

Elsewhere:

Attention Ryan Holmberg fans: He is speaking at Baruch College tomorrow. 

 

Tim is back, and with him some balance has been restored. Maybe. In honor of his return, I will unfurl some deep thoughts…

This past weekend I visited the Raymond Pettibon exhibition at the New Museum, which served as an excellent reminder that I don’t like Raymond Pettibon’s artwork very much. I have enjoyed his zines, and I think he’s fine, but the stuff never reaches past itself. It’s a 40 year slog through various parts of American culture (surfing, baseball, hippies, religion, murder, etc.) that manages to never rise above or offer any perspective on it. His text, embedded in numerous drawings, is never more than on-the-nose and pat. In a way the show is like a three-floor installation of a Graham Ingels or Frank Frazetta (two obvious influences): It shows us plenty of “awesome” things but it’s just that thing and only that thing, and I find that ultimately dull in a museum context. As a 16 page zine, yes, ok. Or even seeing, as I have, a half dozen drawings on a wall. But he’s just not an interesting enough mind or hand to sustain three floors. I prefer the Mike Kelley dive into the same material — the transformative approach rather than regurgitation.    

 

Eyes Will Roll

Ah, what a relaxing two weeks of child care and Olympian detachment from the comics internet. I wonder what’s been going on in my absence?

Ha ha ha. Good cop/bad cop works again.

Elsewhere on the site, R.C. Harvey is here with a new column on Gluyas Williams.

Williams was soon also a regular contributor to The New Yorker, which had been launched by Harold Ross in February 1925. Although Ross began soliciting cartoons from Williams almost at once, the cartoonist did not produce anything for the magazine until 1926. “Ross would write,” Williams told Marschall, “but I’d say that I was based in Boston and I didn’t know enough about New York to be of any use. And then he finally sent me a cartoon idea about the house wrecker who has the wrong address.

“I did it and sent it over, and Ross sent it back and said that it won’t do: he said to get more fun into it—have a woman taking a bath while they’re taking the bathtub out and like that. [Cartoons with women in bathtubs were standard fare in the Ballyhoo magazine comedy of the period, but I doubt Ross thought along those lines. He did, however, make suggestions that Williams couldn’t accept, whatever they were.—RCH]

“Ross said to change it and put those things in it, and he’d buy it. I sent it back just as it was and said, ‘No, I wouldn’t touch it because my idea of humor was understatement rather than slapstick.’ And Ross wrote—oh, how I wish I’d kept that letter!—it was a wonderful letter, saying, ‘You’re perfectly right. I’m going to change all my ideas on drawings. Of course that’s much subtler your way and better.’

“And after that letter,” Williams concluded, “I thought to myself that this was an editor I’d like to work for.”


Meanwhile, elsewhere, there are too many links I’ve missed, so I’ll dole them out.

—News. Longtime great New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler has passed away. Here is the NY Times obituary.

Some of Mr. Ziegler’s subjects were recurring ones, like the Lone Ranger, hamburgers and comic-book characters.

Superman appeared more than a dozen times. Mr. Ziegler depicted him changing his clothes in a telephone booth while a cat (or is it Batman?) surreptitiously watched from a nearby window, going to therapy to face intimacy issues with Batman, and being forced to hand in his cape after testing positive for anabolic steroids.

Mr. Ziegler was not a big fan of the Man of Steel, he wrote in a New Yorker blog in 2013, but “he’s a guy in a cape and a body stocking and he can fly, which makes him amusing and fun to draw.”

Richard Gehr interviewed Ziegler for this website in 2013, and their conversation is well worth revisiting.

I went to the Fillmore a few times and saw the Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and…I don’t know if we actually saw Quicksilver. There were a couple of concerts in Golden Gate Park. The last apartment we had in San Francisco was on Stanyan Street, right across from the park, so we used to be there quite a bit. That’s when I started doing cartoons and figured I should move back East if I wanted to be serious about this.

I also took six months off to try to write. I completed this novel I thought was good when I was writing it, but turns out it wasn’t.

While I was doing this writing, or trying to be a writer, Brian [McConnachie] was in New York and he was also trying to be a writer. He was also doing cartoons on the side, but he can’t really draw. He’s a terrible artist but he has funny ideas, so he started selling stuff to National Lampoon. And he said, “I can’t even draw and I’m selling cartoons. You can actually draw. Maybe this is something you might wanna think about.” So I did. I started kind of fiddling around with it, and then I found that I really enjoy doing it. I mean, I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I found I could do it. So I started doin’ that and then thought maybe this would be a way to make a living without having to sell my soul in some awful job.

I was doing a lot of cartoons in San Francisco. I think I sent some stuff out and it all got rejected. Then I thought maybe I should go to New York and actually visit some of the magazines and do an in-person thing. So I went to New York for like a week, and stayed with Brian and his wife. That’s when I decided we should move back there. If I’m ever gonna make this work, it’s not gonna happen in San Francisco. We packed up the bus again, got a U-Haul, and attached the bus to the back. Jean-Anne and I had a kid at that time – the first kid, Jessica. They flew back to Chicago and I drove from San Francisco to Chicago and met them there, spent a weekend, and then drove the rest of the way to New York. Once I got settled in New York, they took a plane and followed. It was just me and Blanche, the dog, in the truck. That was a good trip.

Marvel sales VP David Gabriel gave an interview to ICv2 in which he blamed falling sales of Marvel titles on reader disinterest in diversity.

What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

Check that same link for Marvel’s later scramble to clarify Gabriel’s comments and reverse the PR damage.

This of course sparked a lot of outrage in various corners. I’ll share just one viral response (to another response), G. Willow Wilson’s.

If you’re going to write a smug thunk-piece about the “failure” of “diversity” in comics, maybe don’t use the cover image of a book that’s had 4 collections on the NYT graphic books bestseller list, won a Hugo and cleaned up at Angouleme. Just because you HOPE it’s on the chopping block, oh Riders of the Brohirrim, doesn’t mean it is.

There’s much more out there.

I don’t believe Dan linked to the Bloomberg profile of Dilbert creator (and Trump-whisperer) Scott Adams a couple weeks back, but it’s a must-read if you missed it.

Adams’s house is a shrine to the cartoon character that made him rich. One section, visible from the pool area outside, clearly resembles Dilbert’s head, with two oval windows for eyes, connected by a thin line that suggests spectacles. “They look out from the cat’s bathroom upstairs,” Adams told me. The structure is full of indulgent quirks. In the kitchen, Adams installed three microwaves so he “can make a lot of popcorn at once.” Nearby, he transformed a bar area (Adams doesn’t drink) into a display case for Dilbert books and paraphernalia. Other features include a 10-seat movie theater, a gym, and a room filled with beauty salon equipment, where his ex-wife (now Adams’s personal assistant) used to host spa days for friends. Off to the back is an indoor tennis court.

Slate announced the nominees for its annual Studio Prize.

Alison Bechdel was named Vermont’s latest cartoonist laureate.

Okay, there’s a baby spitting up in the corner I have to attend to, so that will have to be enough links for today…