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Today at TCJ, Paul Tumey is here with a look at The Pits of Hell by Ebisu Yoshikazu, which Breakdown Press put out last year. It's an excellent book, and Paul turns his entire Framed! column over to going after why

I have a new love: The Pits of Hell by Ebisu Yoshikazu. This collection of surreal and savage manga stories drawn in a naïve art style vibrates on my bookshelf and issues forth the sounds of thumping pachinko machines, clattering speedboat motors and roars of rage so intense there is no doubt in my mind they have the power to rip my head off. These stories are screwball, haunting, mystical, shocking, hilarious, frightening, and sad—usually all at once.

Today's review comes to us from Anya Davidson, who is here with a look at the first three issues of Ginseng Roots by Craig Thompson.

Ginseng Roots, his latest book, serialized in about 12 installments, the first 3 of which are currently available from Uncivilized Books, chronicles his experiences as a child harvesting ginseng with his family in Marathon, Wisconsin, a small town that, during the ginseng boom of the 1980’s, when the dried roots were fetching up to $65 a pound, was flourishing thanks to an influx of cash from buyers in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. Thompson began working in the ginseng fields, weeding around the valuable roots, when he and his sister and brother were 9, 8 and 6 respectively (The author made a creative decision to omit his sister from Blankets, but she appears as an ancillary character in Ginseng Roots.) In need of supplementary income, their parents put all three children to work during the Summer at an age when most children are attending camp or simply lying around all day. In scenes set in the present day, the siblings candidly share their thoughts and feelings of deprivation and resentment, while acknowledging the complexity of their childhood situation.

I'm currently at the ALA Midwinter show, which has had no small measure of drama, and I'll be honest: I've already had my fill of drama this year so far. I started off 2020 enjoying some time reading Justice League Europe comics with small children (the Giffen/Sears ones, not the ones by the child porn guy!), and then flew off to a work conference at the beach. Unfortunately for me and a few thousand other people, that conference was in Puerto Rico, and the earthquakes that occurred throughout that time period made it all but impossible to keep up with the various comics news that has kept on rolling for the past few weeks. I'm grateful to Alec Berry for his work behind the scenes to keep posts alive, terribly sorry to the contributors who have been waiting for me to write them back, and super pumped about the massive amount of great writing that has been lurking in emails and dropbox folders while I've been out of action. I am glad to be someone back to my version of normal, and am hopeful that the people of Puerto Rico, who were so kind and gracious to me and all of the other visitors are back to something like that as well. 

Also, don't fly home into a tornado, but if you're going to, do it after a bunch of earthquakes. It doesn't feel as scary at that point. 

It's impossible for me to wrap my head around whatever went on at The Beat last week, but it seems like things over there may be a return to The Beat of old--less movie and TV stuff, more Heidi writing? I wish her the best. It is hard to imagine a future where there are more comics sites coming, and very easy to imagine one where the ones that exist go the way of websites The Dissolve or Deadspin. I'm glad she got a redesign out of that relationship. Hopefully this means they'll be a nice big oral history on Lion Forge down the line, courtesy of all the people that they hired for various periods of time over the last few years. Did you ever hear that rumor about how they tried to buy Drawn & Quarterly? That's a good one. 

 

 

Kick Off My Shoes, and Swim Good (This Week’s Links)

When I embed Instagram and Twitter posts in "This Week's Links," and you're into 'em, I hope you're clicking through and liking (and subscribing, you guys.) Are you? Will you? It would mean a lot to me. 

Get your appreciation thumbs ready — today's list is bottom heavy that way.

 

• Koyama Press and its publisher Annie Koyama have launched a new initiative, Koyama Press Provides, "a monthly program of giving." Also, a profile of KP (and its impending closure) appeared on TVO.org, the website of Ontario's public educational media organization.

 

• Mike Lynch dug up a 1980s video interview about W*TCHM*N with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons! There's a good bit of talk in here about the nine panel grid, which is always oddly amusing. Towards the end the interviewing host reveals that Moore has recommended some comics to read...Chester Brown, Julie Doucet and two more. (You wanna know, you better watch!) And then the host discusses a Watchmen movie that's been optioned, and even casts it with 1980s stars. And THEN you get to the end and you see it's a production of TVO — as in the TVO that ran the piece up there about Koyama! The whole thing is a real trip.

 

• In a few weeks, Daniel Clowes will have a party and public conversation (talking with cartoonist Rina Ayuyang) in San Francisco to celebrate his big ol' Original Art book.

 

• But before that, Nick Drnaso will be giving a lecture about the creation of his book Sabrina in Chicago.

 

• For TCJ, Gary Panter annotated 29 of his most Panterish drawings, all of which were recently on display in an exhibit of his work.

 

• Here are the top 100 comic books and top 100 graphic novels ordered through the North American direct market from 2010 to 2019. You gotta be impressed with the staying power of some of those GNs.

 

• Tony Millionaire drew the cover and chapter headers for the final, posthumous Anthony Bourdain book.

 

• At The A.V. Club, graphic designer Tom Muller shows his process for creating the new Best of 2000AD logo. I eat this kind of stuff right up. We also get to see variant covers for the series' first issue from the no-joke lineup of Becky Cloonan, Charlie Adlard, Erica Henderson, Annie Wu and Glenn Fabry.

 

• At The New Yorker, cartoonist Summer Pierre created a comic strip review/appreciation/personal memoir about musician Patti Smith and her books.

 

• Kim Deitch was profiled on amNewYork, and they even got a few quotes from him.

 

• Speaking of K.D., get a load of this from Columbia U's Karen Green:

 

•••••
INTERVIEWSAMUNDO

Art Zone with Nancy Guppy
• Artist Gina Siciliano (creator of I Know What I Am)

TCJ
Daniel Clowes by Bill Kartalopoulos (from 2014, but published outside of France for the first time)
Grease Bats creator Archie Bongiovanni by Annie Mok

7.30 with Leigh Sales
• Editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant

Blockhead! podcast
• Cartoonist Rick Stromoski  (creator of Soup to Nutz, former National Cartoonist Society president)

Word Balloon podcast
• Comic book writer Jim Zub

Smash Pages
• Writer Danny Fingeroth by Alex Dueben
•••••

 

• This is certainly something different: new comics site Solrad has spent this week publishing "The Hard Tomorrow Book Club" — five different critics diving into Eleanor Davis' latest book.

 

• Y'all like Liana Finck, yeah? Here's a video of how she lives her life and makes her art.

 

• It's the prequel you didn't know you definitely didn't want: The Bristol Board shared a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story from 1962's Strange Tales #97 featuring Peter Parker's Aunt May and Uncle Ben and their "niece" — a full two months before Spidey-Mane debuted!

 

• Well, here's a fine thing: BookRiot lists five "must-read" comics from the Philippines.

 

• Fantagraphics honcho Gary Groth wrote about publishing the work of writer Stephen Dixon.

 

The New York Times used an Evan Cohen comic to introduce/illustrate an op-ed piece on climate change.

 

• Bluestockings Bookstore in New York is launching "In the Gutter," a monthly comics reading event showcasing the work of queer and trans creators.

 

• Siobhán Gallagher has a new piece at The New Yorker: "Lessons I’ve Learned in My First Six Months of Freelancing." All too relatable!

 

• Drawn & Quarterly shared a preview of Tian Veasna's Year of the Rabbit.

 

•••••
REVIEWSARUNDO

The Washington Times
Paul C. Tumey's Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Michael Taube

Pop Matters
Yoshiharu Tsuge's The Man Without Talent by Chris Gavaler

 The Beat
GG's Constantly by John Seven
Owen D. Pomery's British Ice, also reviewed by Mr. Seven
Yoshiharu Tsuge's The Man Without Talent by Morgana Santilli

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse
Elise Dietrich’s Making Time
Diana Chu’s Rodin Du Jour

Broken Frontier
Best of 2000AD #1 by Andy Oliver

Multiversity Comics
Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage and Pete Woods' Iron Man 2020 #1 by Alexander Jones
•••••

 

• The Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted 90 years ago; The Daily Cartoonist has the first week's worth.

 

• Canadian graphic novels are now eligible for The Great White North's $100,000 Scotia Bank Giller Prize.

 

Broken Frontier would like you to know about "Six Small Press Creators to Watch in 2020." Some cool work featured here.

 

• Image publisher Eric Stephenson thinks there are too many new comics on sale each week.

 

• Recently on Cartoonist Kayfabe: flipping through the DVD booklets for the Criterion Collection editions of Ghost World and the Crumb documentary, and a recap of the 1989 Bill Watterson interview in The Comics Journal.

By the way, CK has a newsletter. I didn't even know.

 

Daryl Seitchik started a new IG comic: "there are bunnies on the moon and their stories must be told."

 

Paste made a list of 100 of the Best Horror Comics of All Time.

 

• Cartoonist Sam Spina let us know what it's like in the trenches of animation storyboarding, with a 12-part comic on Twitter:

 

• Meanwhile, the mighty Jeremy Sorese has posted a new comic on Instagram:

 

Jilliam Tamaki is also posting fantastic comics on Instagram:

 

• And so is Gabby Schulz:

 

Jesse Jacobs is posting parts of comics, you know where:

View this post on Instagram

Baby in the Boneyard 🍖 @hollow_press

A post shared by Jesse Jacobs (@jacobs_comics) on

 

And finally, probably about as perfect a comic strip as I've seen in the post-newspaper era, below from Alex Norris.

Don't forget to lurk and circumscribe! 

 

 

 

 

Freelance Publicists

Monday at TCJ, Aug Stone caught up with Elsa Charretier, the artist currently legitimizing Matt Fraction (I kid!) on an Image book called November, which looks great. Elsa is coming off a successful Kickstarter for a new art book, and she and Aug got into all of it.

I drew a little bit as a kid, like most kids do. But by the time you’re a teenager you forget the things you used to love as a kid. So I stopped drawing for a long time. How I got back into drawing is a funny story. I was an actress, or I was trying to be. I was more like a waitress, though actress was the idea. But it wasn’t working out, I wasn’t happy, and I decided to stop. I didn’t know what to do with my life then. At that time my boyfriend, Pierrick (Colinet) wanted to write comics. I personally didn’t know anything about comics, I knew they existed but I didn’t read them. I read French comics growing up but I wasn’t aware of what happened at all in American comics. So Pierrick wanted to write comics and Charlie Adlard was visiting France for a signing. This was at the very beginning of The Walking Dead when it started becoming really big. My boyfriend told me ‘I would like to go see him and maybe talk to him about a pitch, see if he can give me advice’. So we met Charlie and he said ‘email me, I’ll answer you...lalala’ . We emailed him and he didn’t answer. Which was to be expected, I mean the guy’s busy. A couple months later though, Charlie emailed saying ‘I’m gonna be in France in two weeks. Would you like to come to the signing and show me your pitch?’ So yeah, that was fun. Except! My boyfriend didn’t have an artist, so he didn’t have pages, he didn’t have anything. He had bluffed his way into meeting with Charlie and didn’t have anything to show at this opportunity. So he asked me if I wanted to learn how to draw a few pages. It’s a ridiculous story but that’s how I started drawing and how I started reading comics and falling in love with it.

I remember thinking ‘this is interesting, I could see myself doing this for a living’. But for a long time I didn’t like drawing. I like beautiful things, and I knew that what I was doing wasn’t beautiful. I liked the process, but it felt excruciatingly hard and I was so frustrated by the results...I liked art and the act of drawing but the frustration was so intense that I had to force myself to draw more pages.

I like that quote. I like knowing there's people like Elsa in the world who just tear into the idea of drawing like that, because somebody throws the idea their way. More lines like that to be found in the rest of the piece.

Grandville caricatured by Benjamin (Joseph Germain Mathieu) Roubaud in his "Panthéon Charivarique"

I was away last week, but set up Cynthia Rose's excellent piece on J.J. Grandville and the exhibition of his work that is currently taking place in Paris at Maison de Balzac through January 13th. If you didn't catch it due to your New Years festivities, please do so now.

But, well before the Association, Grandville incurred his own problems with the law. The worst of these followed two of his best-selling prints.

The first was entitled L'Ordre règne à Warsaw ("Order Prevails in Warsaw") and it was published on September 20, 1831. The drawing's title quoted Louis-Philippe's Foreign Minister hailing a notorious bloodbath of the Polish-Russian War. This had ended a Polish bid for independence partly inspired by the July Revolution. Because the Poles' rebellion had support in Paris, the French king's opposition of it caused local riots. These were brutally quelled by Parisian police. On September 25, 1831, Grandville portrayed this, too, in a print called L'Ordre public règne aussi à Paris ("Order Also Prevails in Paris").

Both depict cruel officers with disdain for their "foes". In Grandville's Polish print, one has severed a head. In its French companion work, a policeman wipes blood from his sword. This pair of prints flew off the shelves and, three months later, both were still on sale.

The consequences were immediate. Coming home one night, Grandville was mugged in his own building. A crew of thuggish policemen had lain in wait and the artist was saved only by Gabriel Falempin. His neighbour owned a pair of pistols, with which – while haranguing them – he succeeded in running off the gang.

Grandville refused to be intimidated. Instead, he replied with a print called Oh!! Les vilaines mouches!! ("Oh!! These nasty flies!!"). It shows him at the studio window, confronting a swarm of wasp-like flying policemen. While they have stinger-like swords, he has just a pencil. Grandville signed this print "Victor Larangé" which, phonetically, means "Victor the Spider". He also filed criminal charges alleging his home had been invaded.

Today, we're unleashing R.C. Harvey and his Hare Tonic column upon the subject of Cecil Jensen, previously covered in these digital pages by our own Frank Young. Your cup, she runneth over!

Jensen occupies a fond niche in my memory for his creation of the world’s stupidest comic strip hero in the eponymous Elmo. Nadel supplies the tidbit that Jensen created the strip in response to a challenge from his executive editor, Basil (Stuffy) Walters, to whom Jensen had confided that “the comics in the News smell.” To which Walters responded, “All right — you draw a strip.” And so, Jensen did.

The late Ed McGeean, a cartoonist friend of mine who worked at the News for years, once told me that Shoes had no faith in Cees’s creation. He told Jensen that Elmo wouldn’t succeed because the protagonist was too stupid. Maybe Shoes never heard of Li’l Abner. Then again, Elmo was stupider than Abner. When asked how Elmo would be different than other comic strips, Jensen retorted, “The strip is supposed to be funny.” And I thought it was, hilariously so.

Our first review of 2020 comes via Hillary Brown, and it's of Gabrielle Bell's delightful My Dog Ivy comic. As someone who spent time sleeping in the same room Bell describes with those same cats and that same dog, I'm all in on this one. 

Gabrielle Bell has been drawing daily comics in July for something like 10 years now, all in a format she’s perfected: one-page, six-panel strips three high by two wide, black and white. My Dog Ivy collects the ones from 2017, when she animal sat for cartoonist Tom Kaczynski and his partner Nikki. Kaczynski owns Uncivilized Books, which put out this book in October of this year. He also owns Ivy, and the title of the book is followed by an asterisk, which indicates “It’s not my dog.” Like all of Bell’s work, it is surprisingly immersive and affecting, but why? How does she do it?

Our second review of the year is from the unflappable Greg Hunter, and he's here with a look at Bloody Stumps Samurai, another of 2019's Ryan Holmberg translations. Holmberg's seemingly tireless efforts to deliver as much of this stuff as he can for as long as the many publishers he's working with on these projects will support their release is one of the most impressive feats that comics has. The last few months of comics has been laden with proclamations of support for the artform, often delivered in the most hysterical and overwrought fashion--but that is all they have been: empty screeching, complete with posture. Meanwhile, Holmberg has consistently been involved in some of the most challenging and fascinating books of the last ten years--titles that will burn and fester their way into the landscape of the future just as many of them once did upon their release in their native language. His books have shown up so frequently and been so good that they've shown time and again how light the bench for English language manga coverage actually is. There's more of them than any site can handle, which is why most of them have given up and reverted to bringing in whatever resident moron they have to regurgitate choice bits of Ryan's own historical essays like some version of found footage criticism. "What a time you chose to be born", he says, quoting the pop culture manga character as popularized by the 90's hip-hop album. What a time indeed! Greg's got complaints about this one though, go figure. The irony!

 

Eve Of The Fireball

Today, at TCJ, Matt Seneca is here with a look at Criminal #11, the most recent issue of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips long-running company-hopper of a book. Check it out, then circle back here for more TCJ updating:

I was worried I'd be lost coming in so cold, but Brubaker's frequent, terse, and declarative narration pulls all the weight of situating readers comfortably in the middle of his story's action. This being said, it does have a puzzling tendency to switch back and forth between past and present tenses whether or not there's a flashback sequence going on, and if anything, Brubaker does his job too well. There's not much in this issue, at least, that indicates why its content exists as a comic and not a novel - a cardinal sin in my book, even if its creators still manage to put forth a pleasant read. It's even more confusing given that the whole point of Criminal as an enterprise is comic-izing a form whose prose existence is so robust. Each page is laid out in the three-tier/widescreen template that's been stale since the moment Darwyn Cooke finished codifying and perfecting it in New Frontier, and the interplay between words and pictures makes no attempt to move past Comics 101. Brubaker tells us some crooks change into phony security guard uniforms and Phillips shows us beefcakes buttoning shirts and donning ballcaps; Brubaker tells us they walk across the parking lot and there Phillips shows them going between cars, in the same two-shot framing as before. The substance of it does nothing to get your blood moving, even if it does a good job of proceeding apace.  

It's Christmas Eve! Regardless of whether or not you celebrate this, the apex of the world's one true religion (rampant hyper-consumption), the impact it has on one's ability to get to the grocery store is felt by all, provided you are lucky enough to live in a country that has grocery stores, provided as well that said country is not on fire. Let's assume then that if you've got time to read these TCJ blog entries--few and far between as they may be, then you're someone not feeling the impact of a collapsing economy, a terrifying political climate, freakish, life-decimating weather patterns, but are instead blessed with the free time to keep up with us over here at The Comics Journal as we clear the decks and prepare for 2020, a year which, by even the most optimistic accounts, is sure to be the most obnoxious one in recorded history. As well as the hottest? Probably.

This week, we'll be ladling out our Best of 2019 posts--one focusing on the comics that various contributors felt earned the name, and one where we look back on the pieces those contributors wrote. My feeling on these lists is that they're a good test of whether or not a house of criticism has done its job: namely, that your Best of Year list should be the least surprising thing you do all year, because every first-time-mention on that list is a book that should've been looked at earlier. It's a public report card, often reflecting an editor's failings, and while I'm not looking forward to it, I can't wait for other people to do so. Look for those pieces to go up on Thursday and Friday of this week. (There may be other surprises this week as well).

Last week was a syrupy one, as any week with a new Bob Levin should be. Monday, he took a classic Levin look at J.T. Dockery & Sexton Ming's Kenttucky Pussy, published by Ohio's own Nix Comix. I like that Nix guy, he's a good dude. Bad graphic design on those Nix comics though. Put that on the 2020 bucket list, Ken!

His relationship with Dockery had begun in one of those but-for-that moments which Goshkin treasured. He had acknowledged in-print the influence on his prose of the not-exactly-of-the-canon Nick Tosches, whose story “Spud Crazy” Dockery just happened to be adapting for a comic. Dockery and Goshkin had progressed into praising each other’s work in publications that reached audiences not much larger than those which filled Ming’s pubs. Now, an hour before typing that sentence, his daily doppio barely begun, Goshkin had read Tosches’s obit, in which he’d been quoted as saying “one of the rewards of being 50” was the right to wear leopard-skin loafers.

For Goshkin, 77 had meant eel-skin boots.

Everything connects.

Tuesday, Marc Sobel returned to The Book Nook, an Atlanta staple that should be the second place you go on any trip to the South, the first being Bizarro Wuxtry. He found and bought some old Steve Bissette as all good heroes should:

Bissette has long been a champion for sophisticating the horror genre in comics, but in these early works, he had a very different agenda. These stories were obviously geared toward Scholastic’s juvenile readership, however, for Bissette, they served a greater purpose than simply providing momentary diversions from the drudgery of schoolwork. Having grown up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bissette was a huge fan of science fiction and horror from a young age. In his Afterword in Fear Book, he recalls being inspired by everything from classic monster movies to the Mars Attacks! trading cards to Aurora model kits. As for comics, he mentioned Kirby’s Atlas books, the Warren magazines, various Charlton and ACG horror anthologies, and the seminal first issue of Ghost Stories by John Stanley, though undoubtedly this is an abbreviated list. However, as a young man in the ‘70s, he was frustrated with the deluge of graphic, adult-oriented bloodbaths which had come to dominate the horror genre. He lamented what he referred to as a dearth of “innocent horrors.” Thus, he viewed his work in Weird Worlds not just as a professional gig, but also as an opportunity to introduce “a new generation of young readers” to his beloved genre.

Wednesday, Austin Price took a nice long look at Taiyo Matsumoto's Cats of the Louvre, the latest affectionately received Matsumoto title to make it to English. Look for bonus Jog content in the comments section!

But if Cats is deeply preoccupied with death and critical of escapism it’s not lacking for humor, or for warmth; it’s hardly what might be described as grim. There’s something moony about Matsumoto’s approach to our inevitable end that removes it of its sting. This might be easily attributed to the prominence of the cats. Here as in life it’s the contrast between their cool remove, preening stylishness, and obvious foolishness that makes Matsumoto’s felines such a joy to follow; there’s an observed quality to their play, their fights, even the aforementioned frivolity they display in the face of death that captures so much of their appeal. Anyone who’s spent long enough around a pack of cats or even an afternoon (a Caturday?) browsing cat-themed videos on Youtube knows how arbitrary their moods, how particular their politics, how engaging their dramas can be, but we’ve so long emphasized the cuteness of these idiosyncrasies that we forget how bizarre they must seem to somebody on first encounter. Not Matsumoto, whose decision to emphasizes just how truly strange these animals are gifts the book an absurdity that mitigates against its more dour inclinations.

Over at Chimera Obscura, podcaster Gil Roth shared the audio of remarks made Tom Spurgeon's memorial service, which took place on December 14th in Columbus, Ohio. It was a moving event, well attended by Columbus friends, Spurgeon's family, and a healthy contingent of those who came to know him online. 

 

Mondaze

Our obituary of Tom Spurgeon is here, written by Michael Dean. Tom's loss is and will continue to be felt by us for a very long time. Hopefully some of the pieces we will be publishing this week will help readers and friends process their own grief. It is doing that for me. Last week's blog post will continue to serve as a "Collective Memory" of Tom Spurgeon related pieces for as long as those pieces arise.

Today, Edwin Turner reviews Chris Ware's Rusty Brown for us--and next week, we'll hear a different take on the book, that one from Tegan O'Neil. Today though, it's Turner time:

Rusty Brown is a sprawling story about memory and perception, about minor triumphs and chronic failures, about how our inner monologues might not match up to the reality around us. In Ware's world, life can be blurry, spotty, fragmented. His characters are so bound up in their own consciousnesses that they cannot see the bigger picture that frames them.

Appropriate to this theme, Ware frames his novel as a day of network television programming, beginning with the beautiful program "Snow" (aka "Our Science Minute"). The two-page chapter is a brief, simple meditation on snowflakes. Can we be so sure that no two are truly alike? the cursive-voiced narrator wonders. The final paragraph of "Snow" subtly announces one of Rusty Brown's major themes:

Like the growing rings of a tiny hexagonal tree, billions of water molecules spin around and around, each finding the closest, easiest, and most comfortable bond (just as people, who seek the companionship of like minds and bodies, cannot simply be thrown together and expect to thrive)...

The characters of Rusty Brown are stuck in miserable "easy" bonds; thrown together, they do not thrive.

Elsewhere, a review: Here's an Abhay Khosla review on Scott Snyder and Charles Soule's comic they did with Giuseppe Camuncoli  for Image Comics. Come for the part where Abhay describes a thing that sounds professional but lousy, but stay for the part where the comic ended and becomes a no-shit advertisement for DARPA.

Elsewhere, a review: Ryan Carey takes a look at Tad Martin, from Casanova Frankenstein. 

Elsewhere, a comic: Michael Kupperman showed up at Harpers with a comic reminding us that 1989 was a formidable year for cinema. 

Rambling: When I first started up with Tim here at TCJ, one idea I had--I probably should put quotation marks around the word idea there--was that we should have a week where we get the absolute best minds of comics criticism, including all the in retirement or no-longer-willing-to-talk-to-TCJ-types, the fun academics, maybe Jeet Heer and his sister, the whole wrecking crew, all to write about some old issue of Daredevil that I had just read for the first time. Tim didn't shoot the idea down--in my experience, that wasn't how Tim did things--but he did just look at me quietly for a second, which is always long enough for one to realize that the other person hates the idea you've just proposed, you don't look cool in the shirt you've asked them about, and that hairstyle is for somebody who has a different, better face. Then he just said--"Okay. Why, though?" 

I didn't have an answer to that question, so I moved on. I am reminded of this moment only now because Amy Garvey wrote about that exact issue of Daredevil for Women Write About Comics and while it is not everything I hoped it would be--simply because it is one single article, and my hope was for as many articles about this single issue as there are hot takes on impeachment hearings--Amy's work is the first step towards a utopian future, wherein the only super-hero comic we talk about is Daredevil #261. I want the good recaps from the recap factory, as much as I want the overly obsessive panel dissections where they draw Microsoft Paint arrows on stuff but the arrow goes in the wrong way. I want to inhale some misspelled ramble that discloses way too much personal information about the writer, I want the overly politicized readings that conclude in mangled quotes of Adorno, I want to hear from the kind of comic book critics who have rearranged their collection to be alphabetical by title, than writer, than artist, than given up. I want to read the wet boyz who are just gonna plagiarize Zainab Akhtar, because that will also mean there is a Zainab take on Daredevil #261 to plagiarize. I want to read those yokels who goes way overboard talking about who the colorist is, one of those writers who you can go through their entire catalog of reviews and see, time and time again, how they write the same sentences over and over again about how this color made them feel a certain way, how these same sentences always show up midway through the final third of the review, right before they insert the staple line about the lettering being "excellent". Does blue make you feel cold, you stupid piece of shit? I love you, you dumb fucking moron: but how did all the red make you feel? I want all the takes! Let Amy lead the way out of this depressed world, towards a world where every episode of Cartoonist Kayfabe is a 24 hour livestream of Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor talking about what Ann Nocenti meant to them, but only in the context of this single issue of Daredevil that has way too much of the Human Torch, the favorite super-hero of people who wish they could be served oatmeal instead of rice when they go to chain restaurants.

Tom, this isn't going to be as much fun anymore.

 

Collective Memory

Social media and text messages spread Wednesday evening announcing the passing of Tom Spurgeon, a former Comics Journal editor, the founder and overlord of The Comics Reporter, an excellent critic, a insightful interview, a fine writer, a smart, funny person. His brother Whit confirmed the terrible news on Facebook

There will be no small amount of remembrances of Tom, as there are many--myself included--who have been given platforms and audiences due to the attention he bestowed. For decades, Tom's attention to comics, the artists who create them, the critics who write about them and the fans who read them helped build an online infrastructure where this artform could be loved, discussed, worshipped, argued about, reviled, consumed, created, magnified. There are a handful of people who built a "comics internet" that was more than just places to talk about new products to be consumed. Tom was and has remained one of that handful. There was no part of comics that did not interest him, and yet he never stopped being his own person.

This is a bad day for comics, and every other time there has been one of those, heading over to the Comics Reporter and refreshing it until he had his own take on the badness helped put it all together. It is hard to believe that I won't ever get to do that again. 

[Links, will be updated, feel free to email editorial@tcj.com with yours]

Obituary at The Comics Reporter, by Douglas Wolk.

Obituary at the The Columbus Dispatch, by Erica Thompson.

Our obituary of Tom Spurgeon, by Michael Dean.

Obituary at The New York Times, by George Gene Gustines.

There will be a public memorial on December 14th at 5:00PM, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. More information is here at Facebook.

A Special Five For Friday at The Comics Beat.

Brigid Alverson at Smash Pages.

Chris Arrant at Newsarama.

Bart Beaty at What Were Comics.

Benjamin Birdie at Multiversity.

David Bitterbaum at The Newest Rant.

Christopher Brayshaw at VanAnoydyne.

Ryan Carey at Four Color Apocalypse.

Henry Chamberlain at Comics Grinder.

Rob Clough at High-Low.

Sean T. Collins at Attention Deficit Disorderly.

Brian Cronin's obituary at CBR.

Oliver East at Patreon.

Warren Ellis at his site.

Erik at Disney Weirdness.

Mike Evanier at News From Me.

JP Fallavollita at Biff Bam Pop.

Brian Fies at The Fies Files.

Dan Gearino at his site.

Randall Golden at Midlife Crisis Crossover.

Milton Griepp at ICv2.

Simon Hanselmann's classic riff.

Dean Haspiel at Man Size.

Charles Hatfield at Kindercomics.

Glenn Hauman at ComicMix.

Christian Hoffer at Comics MNT.

Domingos Isabelinho at The Crib Sheet.

Rich Johnston's social media round-up at Bleeding Cool.

Sean Kleefeld at Kleefeld On Comics.

Austin Kleon at his site.

Joshua Leto at Medium.

Mike Lynch at Mike Lynch Cartoons.

Heidi MacDonald at Comics Beat.

Tim Midura at Comics Pit.

J. Caleb Mozzocco at Every Day Is Like Wednesday

Nick Mullins at nijomu.

Brian Nicholson at Longbox Coffin.

Nealalien at Nealalien.

Kim O'Connor at The Shallow Brigade.

Kelsey Painter at Word of the Nerd.

Ken Parille at Blog Flume.

Summer Pierre at Paper Pencil Life.

Chris Pitzer at Adhouse.

John Porcellino at Maybe Blogging Will Help.

Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly.

Mike Rhode at Comics DC.

Gil Roth at Virtual Memories

Gil Roth's 2012 Conversation with Tom Spurgeon (with New Introduction) at Virtual Memories.

Brian Salvatore at Multiversity.

Brett Schenker at Graphic Policy.

Alex Schumacher at his site.

"Scoop" at Diamond's Previewsworld.

Alex Segura at The Sunday Longread.

Mark Seifert's obituary at Bleeding Cool.

Jeff Smith at Boneville.

Mike Sterling at Progressive Ruin.

Bob Temuka at The Tearoom of Despair.

Steve Thompson at Booksteve's Library.

Obituary at Tripwire.

Jay Yaws at Comics Now.

 

Travel Day

I'm sitting in the airport in Austin, trying to ignore the gnawing sensation that I've made many terrible mistakes, a sensation that has come about because I decided to spend the 4AM hour reading this long article about Michel Haneke's earlier films. Austin is a fun town, although there is a certain point where you get tired of seeing all the drawings of guitars on everything. I don't want to take a dump in a guitar, thank you! You can put my water in a cup!

Thankfully, the site can continue apace regardless of me and my feelings. Starting off, we've got an interview with Kelsey Wroten, thanks to our old pal Annie Mok. It's a good one, and I share Kelsey's desire for more speed-based acclaim for cartooning types. Has anyone topped Kyle Baker's Dick Tracy pace while maintaining legibility?

As far as other thematic inspiration goes, I was exploring the notoriety aspect of creative work. If a person is an athlete it is easy to understand why one is greater at any one thing. If a person is the fastest there's nothing to debate. Creative work is somehow devoid of those external markers. It's experiential. It's like instead of being the fastest, a work is on the racetrack of trying to make someone feel something, whatever that comes to mean. The work that does that best is given a prize. This all seems well and good, but it also plays into other factors, like market saliency, accessibility, audience, and zeitgeist to name a few, all having nothing to do with the content of the work at all. Caroline is a 4 on the Enneagram test. She needs external validation for her internal life, which is setting herself up to fail from the start.

Today's review is from Leonard Pierce. Leonard didn't ask to be the Monday critic anymore than Hillary asked to be the Friday closer, but it certainly has been nice having that system in place. Leonard's looking at Luke Healy's new book with Nobrow, Americana, about his experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. My sister hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago, and the main thing I remember was when she had to stop and go to an emergency room in the middle because she got this psychotic spider bite and walked around with what looked like a tennis ball of infected flesh stuck to her body. Around the same time her husband woke up with spiders inside his ears! Leonard doesn't focus on those kind of gross-out elements of Luke's book in his review, which is why Leonard is a pro.

Artistically, Americana is a quite lovely book; though Healy is not a traditional illustrator of nature, his skill in conveying both the glory and the tawdriness of wild places is effective and compelling. There are long passages of text, a device that I normally don’t care for and which I find disrupts the flow of comics as a visual medium, but Healy loads in a lot of background that would make the story unwieldy if it were drawn. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but to leave this important material out entirely would be a huge loss, so I’m more kindly disposed towards it than I ordinarily might be. One of the charms of the book is how it draws you in to the argot of the trail and the distinct characters of those who follow it, and Healy’s medium-shot caricatures of oddly nicknamed fellow travelers (Spreadsheet, Craftsman, Secret Squirrel, Centerfold) gives you a real sense of their personalities as the drop in and out of his long quest along the trails. It’s an absolute fish-hook of a read, burying itself in you right away; Healy meets with constant travails and setbacks and always presses on, and I found myself pushing forward with him on every page. Putting the book down seemed like a surrender.

Time to go home! By way of Detroit?

 

Jawbone

It's Tuesday here at TCJ central, and we're charging forward with our week, which will see me returning to my birth state of Texas for the second time this year. I know you don't care: but these intro sentences need something for a focus, buster. Yesterday, Katie Skelly filed a conversation with Kate Lacour, a cartoonist whose work I fondly remember being picked up in zine form by people who often thought they were getting something cute, only to discover they had entered the raw: as today, as forever, she did not disappoint.

It’s a strange thing, you know -- your pupil looks black because it’s a hole. Physiologically, it’s a dark tunnel filled with transparent jelly, and at the end of that are the nerves straight to your brain. You see with it, but you can’t see it, just the empty dark space. Light goes in, hits the fovea, and doesn’t come out, the same as a black hole. When you look into the center of your face, the center of your eye, you’re seeing the darkness inside your head. It’s spooky. You know it’s emptiness, but there’s an unshakeable feeling of presence.

So this piece relates to a single experience, the one time I did ketamine, which is a horse anesthetic, back when I was 16 or 17. I took a dose -- too much, as it turns out -- and was suddenly sliding down this black tunnel and then just complete obliteration. Absolutely without time or physicality, totally without self. And in that non-space, there was this presence, if I can call it that. Utterly without form or qualities, this deep substrate. It seemed to go on forever.

Today, we're welcoming Qiana Whitted to these august pages for a look at Hot Comb, a collection of comics by Ebony Flowers that Drawn & Quarterly put out earlier this year.

In Hot Comb, hair is the visual narrative’s barometer of the self. The eight interlocking black-and-white stories use the social, historical, and economic politics of hair to chart the different phases of African American girlhood and illustrate how ideas about racial identity, trauma, beauty, sexuality, and power pass from one generation to the next. Some of the stories appear to draw on Flowers’ personal experiences as the basis of character and conflict, while a few shorter pieces read like journal entries of conversations in which hair is the main provocation. In the salon or at the kitchen stove, the intimate relationships that develop in these black women-centered spaces are cultivated to safeguard and to equip mothers, sisters, and daughters against the dangers beyond.

Reviews? We got those too. So far this week, Leonard Pierce has swung by for a look at The Hard Tomorrow, which is another D&Q release--this one, by Eleanor Davis. Leonard was feeling this one, y'all:

Books sometimes come around at such a timely moment, and speak to you in such a precise way, that it’s almost alarming. The trick of speaking to one’s current moment is to make what you’re saying immediate and meaningful to your audience without making it so specific that it will seem dated within a short period of time, and seeing the main character of a book pick up her phone and smash likes for DSA chapters and extremely online leftists was so close to home I almost dropped The Hard Tomorrow in shock twenty pages in. 

And today, our pal Frank Young delivers his take on Brain Bats of Venus, the second volume in Greg Sadowski's much-appreciated retrospective look at Basil Wolverton. Frank's into it:

Sadowski’s compelling text makes keen use of Wolverton’s papers to tell his story. His tone is clear, level-headed and objective. The book’s hundreds of illustrations, many sourced from original art, show Wolverton trying different methods, including a short-lived detour into airbrushing. His working methods are seen via rough drafts, hand-written notes and story breakdowns. It’s a pity that no complete “Powerhouse Pepper” stories were included, but that is possibly due to rights issues. The reader gets an eclectic dose of Wolverton’s work over this decade. As with the first volume, I’ll often dip back into this one when I need a dose of homespun madness.

And that's it for the week so far! Thanks for sticking with us through the previous weeks of technical difficulties.