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Walk the Walk

Today on the site:

Julia Gfrörer brings us a new column on three different comics: Untitled by Andrew Pannell; “A Happy Death” by Cathy G. Johnson; and “Semi-Vivi” by GG.

Elsewhere:

A big congratulations to our publisher and editor-in-chief Gary Groth for winning The Seattle Stranger’s Genius Award. Well-deserved and may this be the first of many.

Here’s a conversation between A.O. Scott and Marjane Satrapi.

Hey, I didn’t know the transcript of that juvenile delinquency hearing in 1954 was online.
Comics-adjacent: A Gerhard Richter profile. I say comics adjacent because in 1962 young Gerhard completed a Steinberg-esque picture story that was only published this year and attributed to “Gerd Richter”. It’s very much in the vein of Steinberg’s books, which were available in German, as well as the work of other influences on German visual culture like Andre Francois, Robert Osborne, and others from a mostly (lately) unmentioned generation of “illustrators”.

This “most powerful in comics” list is wonderfully dated. History can be so cruel!

And finally, I don’t think I could love this painting more. A masterpiece.

 

The Sweats

Today on the site: R. Orion Martin on lianhuanhua, or Chinese pulp comics.

Most of the lianhuanhua that can still be found in China were printed in the late 1970s and 1980s during the last heyday of pulp comic publishing, but their history reaches back much farther. The lianhuanhua industry began in Shanghai during the 1920s and 30s, though some scholars trace the origins of the format to Song Dynasty scrolls. Using newly imported printing techniques, publishers began releasing periodicals that contained stories and illustrations. They called these works “lianhuanhua” (linked images), though there were various regional names. Some of these stories were text accompanied by images while others used speech bubbles or text inserted into the image. The most popular series from the magazines were reprinted in palm-size paperbacks, and before long rental shops sprung up in alleyways throughout the city. For a few coins, patrons could sit down on wooden stools and read several dozen lianhuanhua.

Elsewhere:

Visits: Lena Dunham’s illustrator of choice, Joana Avillez, is interviewed over at the SVA blog. Heeb Magazine chats with Art Spiegelman while Grant Morrison gets the Interview Magazine treatment.

Fun: Great Spanish pulp covers of the previous century!

Less fun but more important: A “Gamergate” primer at NY Mag.

 

Odd Things

Today on the site:

Michael Tisserand joins us to profile comic strip artist Austin “Pete” Peterson, one of our last living links to the pre-WWII newspaper pages. 

When the Great Depression put cartoonists’ jobs on the block, Jimmy Swinnerton, a friend to William Randolph Hearst who had the Chief’s ear, lobbied for his colleagues. Occasionally, he was successful. In November, 1930, Swinnerton reminded Hearst that Jimmy Hatlo, creator of the panel They’ll Do It Every Time, was a “big shot on the paper and might have his financial rash cured by some salve but not too much.” Swinnerton’s plea worked; Hatlo received a raise and kept drawing his popular comic for Hearst’s King Features.

Yet even Swinnerton was unable to help his young protege, a Los Angeles Herald cartoonist named Austin “Pete” Peterson. Swinnerton and Peterson were close; Peterson had even dated Swinnerton’s daughter, until the girl threw him over for a college boy. Swinnerton once had stepped in to help Peterson find work with Hearst, and in November, 1930, he stepped in again to help Peterson keep his job on the Los Angeles Herald’s sports page.

Elsewhere:

The New Yorker looks at The Best American Comics 2014.

Nick Gazin wraps up the New York Artist Book Fair.

Blaise Larmee interviewed in a good format.

PW does a NYCC round-up.

A look at Christie Scheele’s Marvel coloring in the 1980s.

A Quimby’s-related “what’s on their shelves” feature.

 

Setting Sun

Well, I’m back from the Frankfurt Book Fair. One whole week. I saw some comics, but not as many as I would’ve liked. More on that soon. With DAP I was in the art book section, so a little removed from the comics sections. Anyhow, on to the post. Today we have an interview with Ryan Cecil Smith by George Elkind.

George Elkind: S.F. #3 come out not so long ago from Koyama Press. That’s your first work with a publisher aside from anthologies, right?

Ryan Cecil Smith: Yeah, that’s right.

I can tell from the production work you put in [via design, printing, etc] that self-publishing seems to be its own sort of passion for you, even aside from the cartooning element.

Yeah, I think so—sometimes I think that I should only care about the story and I should only care about the [narrative] content of a book, but from where I come from [Ryan studied printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art] they’re wrapped up in each other. You know, the production and the cover and the way you come into a book and the way everything is presented… to me that’s all wrapped up in your experience of it. So, yeah, it’s hard for me to separate the production from the [narrative] content. Usually when I make a thing—I mean, this could change, but usually I have a real clear picture of how I want it to appear to the reader.

So in the case of the self-published books… since I’ve lived in Japan, I haven’t had access to really nice screen-printing equipment, like I had while I was in college. And man, if I had that now? Especially since as a student you can get into the studio for free and use all their stuff? Of course you’re paying for it, but that’s still really nice. But since I’ve been in Japan, I guess I’ve relied on “printo-gocco” or “Gocco Printer?” The homemade screen-printing kit. And that’s how I used to print my covers to my books. But it’s hard, it’s very time-consuming, and it’s not even that high-quality of a print. So I stopped doing that and I just used Risograph printing. Risograph machines are very common here. And I mean, or I guess… I just think about how it’s gonna get printed when I make the book. And I like the effect that a Risograph gives. But at the same time, when you’re dealing with Risograph you are kind of dealing with knowing the quality level that it’s gonna give you—and it’s nice knowing, with this last one [with SF#3], that the print is gonna be smooth and of good quality, and also that I can add a flourish or two—and that it’s gonna look like a real book.

Elsewhere:

Here’s an interview with Chris Wright.

Alex Buchet has a TCJ cover gallery over at The Hooded Utilitarian.

And here is a very speculative take on the Kirby family/Marvel/Disney outcome. We will have an in depth look at the case soon.

And I like Jim Aparo’s gnarled lines and figures. Here’s some.

And more speculation here — a look at the incredible price appreciation of one Christopher Wool painting. There’s some kind of relationship to comic book pricing here, but only barely. Mostly it’s just interesting.

 

Reverse the Polarity

Joe McCulloch would like to help those of you planning to purchase new comic books this week with an annotated list of the most-interesting-sounding comics to be released in stores tomorrow. His spotlight picks include new books from Sergio Toppi and Joe Sacco.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews.
Hillary Brown in Paste has a nice, strong interview with series editor Bill Kartalopoulos about the process of putting together this year’s Best American Comics anthology.

John Porcellino is the latest guest on Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Ng Suat Tong compares Lob & Rochette’s comics version of Snowpiercer with its film adaptation. Rachel Cooke at The Guardian liked Charles Burns’ Sugar Skull.

—Misc. Katy Waldman at Slate has a long piece on comics and the portrayal of mental illness. It’s aimed more at casual comics readers than serious enthusiasts, but quotes people like scholar David Ball and Ellen Forney, and is generally fairly interesting. It also includes what I’d call an intellectually indefensible argument from an academic named William Kuskin: “You can’t separate graphic novels from their superhero roots. That origin story—the broken protagonist who transforms himself—is the true meaning of the genre.” Maybe his words were taken out of context or his meaning was in some way distorted, but otherwise, that represents some marked theoretical confusion.

I missed the recent Eleanor Davis drawing marathon to raise funds for a young man’s wheelchair van, but it’s not too late to help out. Robot 6 has more.

 

Documentary Evidence

Today, Alex Dueben interviews Jeet Heer, mostly about the recent Walt Before Skeezix collection, but also touching on his book on Françoise Mouly, independent comics scholarship, and other topics. Here’s a short bit:

How did you first get involved in this project?

Drawn & Quarterly had this yearly anthology in book form and they had reprinted fifty pages of the color strips along with Chris Ware doing the cover of the book doing an homage to Frank King. I reviewed that for the National Post where I was doing other writing on comics. Through that Chris Oliveros became aware of my work and I met Chris Ware when he was on tour for Jimmy Corrigan. We knew each other and hit it off so when the time came to do the book it all came together.

There’s an earlier pre-history of all this where a big figure is Bill Blackbeard who in the 1970s had co-edited The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics. That book was very influential in reviving Frank King because it included six of the Sunday strips, very well selected and reproduced, which was not common in 1970s books. Chris Ware, Joe Matt, and I all read the Smithsonian book growing up and those six pages really sparked in all of us an interest in Frank King. Joe Matt is the real unsung hero of this. He started collecting Frank King dailies and Sundays and amassed a huge collection. Chris Ware had his own collection. I know that Bill Blackbeard died a few years ago but I always want to mention his name because he really planted the seeds that made the Walt and Skeezix books possible. Not just those books, but the whole age of reprinting comics that we’re going through is really a product of Bill Blackbeard.

What was the thinking behind collecting the daily strips but not the Sundays?

That’s Chris Ware’s intervention. When we first started doing it I thought we were going to do the Sundays. Chris and Joe Matt were more aware of the dailies than I was and those guys had an understanding that King’s genius was in the dailies, in the accumulation of stories and having the characters age in real time. That was something I was only vaguely cognizant of, but thanks to Chris and Joe we made the right decision.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Etelka Lehoczky at NPR reviews John Porcellino’s Hospital Suite. Rob Clough writes about the new documentary about Porcellino, Root Hog or Die. Nicole Rudick talks about John McNaught’s Dockwood.

—Misc. Speaking of Porcellino, Tom Devlin shares some memories of his long friendship with the artist.

Sean Howe shares (and provides some context) for some video from Marvel creator Mark Gruenwald’s old public-access television show.

 

Set Up a Folding Table

Today, we are happy to publish the transcript to “Sex, Humor, and the Grotesque”, a panel discussion that took place at this year’s SPX, moderated by Katie Skelly, and involving the work of Eleanor Davis, Julia Gfrörer, and Meghan Turbitt. Here’s a bit of their conversation:

Skelly: Julia, what drew you to comics? Why are you doing this?

Gfrörer: Looking back on it, I drew comics when I was younger, but when I went to art school I wanted to be a fine artist like Egon Schiele, and I was still doing comics on the side. When I moved to Portland I met all these comics people, and I met Dylan Williams and he asked me to do a book for Sparkplug and refined how it should be, and then that book became more popular than I’d anticipated. The positive reinforcement just kept me coming back.

Turbitt: I am funny, so comics are great for people who are funny. That’s why I do it. And also because I like to be gratified easily and very quickly, and when I was painting for years, it would take me months to finish a painting, and now it’s easy to finish one page a day in a couple of hours and feel good for forty-five minutes. And then you’re like, “Oh god, what am I gonna do next?”

And then the whole cycle starts again.

Davis: That’s a good forty-five minutes, though.

Also, we have Rob Clough’s review of T. Edward Bak’s Island of Memory.

Bak’s Wild Man series initially ran in the pages of the anthology Mome. In this first volume of his story about the German naturalist and explorer Georg Steller, he’s altered the format and some of the content considerably than what was published in Mome, and created a far more coherent and powerful experience. On the surface, a historical comic about Steller and the Second Kamchatka Expedition and the harsh winter conditions he and his team faced is a fairly straightforward idea. Bak is not interested in a straightforward presentation, however, and instead carefully uses a number of techniques to expand on his themes.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Shannon Maugham at Publishers Weekly has a nice piece on Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash and their upcoming children’s book, Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors, which is essentially a 64-page wordless comic, and one likely to be worthy of interest to comics enthusiasts of all ages.

Jed Oelbaum has a strong interview with Art Spiegelman at Good magazine, primarily focused on his Wordless! show.

Michael Cavna has another strong interview, this time with Scott McCloud about guest-editing the most recent Best American Comics anthology.

Series editor Bill Kartalopoulos talks about the same book with Graphic Novel Reporter.

Anne Ishii has posted the first of a two-part interview with Jillian Tamaki.

William Nericcio celebrates Jaime Hernandez’s birthday by way of an anecdote about an academic pursuit in the late ’80s.

—Reviews. Paul Gravett takes on a variety of recent graphic novels.

—Conventions. 2D Cloud has a report from APE. Linework NW has announced they will expand their show to two days next year.

 

Spliced at the Bottom of the Sea

Frank Santoro’s back with another Riff Raff column this morning, this time chronicling his time teaching a comics class in Denmark this summer. Apparently, Denmark didn’t agree with him quite as well as Colombia did:

People laughed at me everywhere I went. Schoolchildren ran away when I approached. I guess I do look like Bob from Twin Peaks some days. The airline lost my luggage though, so maybe that was it. I was wearing the same clothes from the flight when I met the students and faculty on the second day I was there. And I was jetlagged. Going from the States to Europe is the worst jetlag to cure. Takes days. After the orientation one of the students asked me if I was okay. I went to my little room and slept it off.

My luggage arrived on the third day, thankfully. The director of the graphic storytelling program, Peter Drying-Olsen, told me that there may be a curse on American cartoonists who come to teach there, because Paul Karasik and Matt Madden had also had their luggage lost. At least I was in good company.

And we have Sean T. Collins’ review of Céline Loup’s Honey.

Honey is set among a group of worker bees on a mission to collect pollen outside their hive that brings them into contact with other, rival species, namely butterflies and wasps. And simply on the “huh, what a good idea” level, this is Loup’s most striking and entertaining innovation: They’re pretty much just human women. The stripes on the jumpers worn as uniforms by the bees are as much of a nod in the direction of insectoid features as Loup gives them — no wings, no antennae, no stingers. The wasps are a bit creepier, more stylized, but this broadcasts their villainy, not their bug-ness; their sleek black bodysuits, wrap-around shades, tight black ponytails, and towering height make them look like the Terminator. Only the butterflies retain any characteristics of their real-world counterparts, but their gossamer wings are joined with long serpent tails that end in a fish’s tail-fin, which together with their bare breasts and their fangs evokes a mermaid, a siren, a harpy; the bees seem to see them as animals, and they look the part. Like a bizarro Maus — Art Spiegelman gave his characters animal heads but in every way intended them to be seen as people; Loup draws her characters as people but intends them to be anthropomorphized animals — Honey is pushing at the boundaries of the funny-animal form. Quite independently of whatever else is going on in either of these comics, watching artists roll up their sleeves and say “okay, let’s see what else this thing can do” before tackling a genre is an entertaining proposition.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Al Jaffee and Drew Friedman were on the Leonard Lopate radio show yesterday (hear it here) to discuss Friedman’s Heroes of the Comics.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Boing Boing has excerpted Bill Watterson’s foreword to a collection of cartoons from Puck.

Rob Clough is looking at comics related to political activism this week, with Peter Kuper, Ethan Heitner, Kevin Pyle, and Greg Farrell covered so far.

—Misc. Bill Kartalopoulos has posted the contents list from the new edition of Best American Comics, along with a list of notable comics from the year covered.

I believe we have neglected to mention that Gabe Fowler has announced the extremely impressive guest list for this year’s CAB, as well as the fact that the festival is adding a second day, which will apparently be reserved for talks and interviews.

Speaking of conventions, Martin Wisse has an interesting response to the Chris Butcher post about convention culture I mentioned on the blog earlier this week, calling out for more fan-run conventions and wondering if “perhaps the dismal state of mainstream comics cons is due to the dismal state of the (supposedly mainstream) superhero comic.”

Just one week left for the Last Gasp Kickstarter.