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Grabbing It All

Hard to say much about the major cultural news of yesterday. But there are comics to be discussed, so off we go.

Tim Hanley is back with us for a review of the long-awaited Wonder Woman graphic novel written by Grant Morrison. Here’s a bit:

Marston was a psychologist who believed that women were superior to men and would soon take over the world, and he created Wonder Woman so that young readers, especially boys, could get used to the idea of powerful women and prepare to submit to the loving authority of the coming matriarchy. He and Peter used bondage as the central metaphor for his theories. There was a definite aspect of kinky fetishism therein, but the metaphor largely holds. Among the Amazons, with women in charge, bondage was fun and pleasant for all involved, but when men were in charge, whether it was Hercules, Axis soldiers, or Dr. Psycho, bondage was unpleasant and often rendered women powerless. Morrison was inspired by this unconventional approach, and has been talking about bondage and sexuality in the original Wonder Woman comics in nearly every interview in which he’s discussed Wonder Woman: Earth One over the past several years.

Morrison and Paquette continue their critique of patriarchal society when Wonder Woman first arrives in the outside world. She’s appalled by everything about modern society, no more so than when she sees elderly women in the palliative care ward of a hospital and exclaims, “Our sisters, dying? Their lives, their wisdom — lost forever, unrecorded? What world is this where women perish alone… afraid…” It’s a powerful scene, and the military hounding her and clearly having designs on the mysteries of Amazonia further underscores the critique of our society.

The book delves into the utopian side of Marston’s beliefs as well with the advanced matriarchal society of the Amazons. Their home is beautifully illustrated by Paquette, a dazzling city of unique architecture and advanced technology that marries the classical and the futuristic wonderfully. They live in peace there, jousting on kangas and riding flying motorcycles for fun with no disease or death because of their purple healing ray, an invention of Marston and Peter. Without men to get in their way, the Amazons have created a paradise.

Elsewhere:

The Paris Review has Matthew Thurber’s amazing comic take on his surname, excerpted from Kramers Ergot 9. The great Joe McCulloch will bring us a review of KE9 soon enough.

Here’s a review of Mary Wept Over the Feet Of Jesus over at Boing Boing.

I recently just stumbled over a pretty rich web site for the underground culture chronicler Clay Geerdes, best known to comics readers for his early coverage and publishing of underground comics and mini comics.

And finally, here’s Sophie Goldstein interviewed at Inkstuds.

 

For Some Reason

Today on the site, Tahner Oksman reviews The Complete Wimmen’s Comix.

…it is the very unevenness of the resultant collection that makes this publication worthy of its new, reprinted form. Reading through the eighteen issues, which span twenty-two years in all, including a notable seven year gap between issues seven and eight, one gets the sense of a somewhat diverse body of women trying to navigate individual artistic modes, to find their voices and styles, while continually bumping up against what it means to be published in a venue that, by its very name, suggests marginality and difference. This collection is as much a historical document as anything else, tracing late-twentieth century representations of women’s issues – health, relationships, sexuality – as they are shaped by the times. In the first eight issues, for example, around the wake of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, we get a number of sometimes pedantic, sometimes more artful accounts pivoting around women choosing to get legal or illegal abortions, and experiencing the consequences; following Stonewall and the early LGBT movement, we get stories of coming out, romances blossoming and sexual explorations thriving alongside newfound political consciousnesses, activist stirrings. In these issues, we also see early works by women who would come to dominate parts of the landscape of contemporary comics – short pieces by Diane Noomin, Roberta Gregory, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Joyce Farmer, Lee Mars, and Sharon Rudahl (the list, as you might imagine, goes on).

And Frank Santoro is here with a write-up of Simon Hanselmann’s latest collection.

The episodes on this collection take place during Megahex (according to the title page), and like the first Fantagraphics collection, the styles subtly change. I think it was smart to shuffle the on-model-ness of the episodes. What it does, I think, is give Simon the freedom to alter the style or approach as the episodes progress and the series expands. Time is less linear and more simultaneous. It’s like an early episode of The Simpsons—when you see the early character designs you don’t necessarily think it is happening at the beginning of Simpsons history. So regardless of when an episode in the Megahex and now Amsterdam collections were made, they all sort of jigsaw together into a refreshing smoothie on a summer day. And even if one episode sort of informs the following episode in terms of linear time, the ordering of the episodes in the new collection echoes my memory of the other episodes and feels expansive and so there’s room for surreal character displays that aren’t set there to drive the plot. The style sifts are not jarring and in fact help set each episode apart.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Via a press release to CBR, DC has announced the “restructuring” of their Vertigo imprint, as well as the dismissal of editor Shelly Bond.

Bond has been with DC Comics and specifically Vertigo since 1993, the same year the imprint was formed. In her time at the company, she’s worked on some of the most celebrated comics of the era including “The Sandman,” “Sandman Mystery Theater,” “The Invisibles,” “Fables” and “iZombie.” In 2012, Bond became Executive Editor of the Vertigo line, following the departure of longtime Vertigo head Karen Berger. Last year, Bond made the move with many of her colleagues to the west coast, as DC’s editorial operations shifted from New York City to Burbank, California.

Nick Sousanis has won the Lynd Ward Prize for Unflattening.

“‘Unflattening,’” the jury noted, “is an innovative, multi-layered graphic novel about comics, art and visual thinking. The book’s ‘integrated landscape’ of image and text takes the reader on an Odyssean journey through multiple dimensions, inviting us to view the world from alternate visual vantage points. These perspectives are inspired by a broad range of ideas from astronomy, mathematics, optics, philosophy, ecology, art, literature, cultural studies and comics.”

—Commentary. Paul Karasik pays tribute to the recently departed New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton.

The caption reads, “For some reason, we weren’t appealing enough to those awful little bastards everyone hates.”

The craft of gag cartooning often overlooks the workmanship of the caption. In this case the whole amalgam of drawing and words is ignited by three words: “for some reason”.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ruben Bolling talks to children’s book author and cartoonist Mo Willems about a new exhibit of his work.

“On one level, I want it to be established and proved that this work is art: legitimate, difficult, non-accidental. And on the other hand, I want to inspire kids to see that is achievable, easy, and worthwhile,” he explains. “The exhibit is not the point. The point is when the kid goes home and starts drawing his own drawings.”

And The Stranger profiles Simon Hanselmann.

I asked him how his year was going, and he said he’d been through some shit. He said he’d just gone through the “horrendously horrible” and lengthy visa process. Hanselmann was in a noise-music band called Horse Mania (“Horrible name,” he said), but two weeks after Hanselmann got to Seattle, his bandmate of 10 years died. His art dealer, Alvin Buenaventura, died two weeks after that. “It’s been a weird fucking time,” he said.

He continued: “And my mom’s got cancer. She told me a week before I moved. She’s like, ‘Don’t feel guilty—don’t stress about moving away.’ But she clearly wants me to come back. I’ve just buried myself in work.”

 

Myopia

Welcome to Wednesday. Today we have Annie Mok reviewing fellow TCJ-contributor Mike Dawson’s book Rules for Dating My Daughter.

Mike Dawson delivers an uneven collection of personal essay-style memoir comics, occasionally thoughtful, but often thoughtless in its concern for others. The stories, culled mostly from The Nib, Kickstarted to fund production, and now published by Tom Kaczynski’s Uncivilized Books, focus on parenting in a hyper-masculine, capitalist, culturally volatile age. While I enjoyed some elements of the book, many rattled me (I’ll get to those in a moment).

One comic essay has Dawson looking at his daughter’s infatuation for a Disney princess show called Sofia the First. Dawson wonders: what does the show’s implicit acceptance of a ruling class mean for his daughter, taking that in taking in these stories?

Elsewhere:

The good people at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum blog about another new acquisition. 

I’m fascinated by the new talking points that have sprung around R. Crumb, straight from his gallery’s press releases. Theoretically and economically moving him out of a comic book context is key to establishing a more robust primary market for whatever he still has to sell. So on comes the talk of media and selfies and the like. Fine by me. Lord knows the discourse around him in comics hasn’t exactly been interesting. Funny to watch.

This sounds like a great exhibition over in Australia.

The 2016 Eisner Award nominees have been announced. Frank Santoro offered his commentary here. Me, I’m holding out for a No-Prize.

 

 

Most importantly: Hillbilly comics!

 

Essential

Joe McCulloch is here with your usual guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting the most interesting-sounding new titles in stores. This time, the spotlight picks include Kramers Ergot 9 and Corey Lewis’s Sun Bakery #1. He also writes about Yo-Kai Watch 3 for some reason…

Yo-Kai Watch 3, you see, has several of its major characters exploring the exotic and fanciful world of the United States of America, complete with “Merican” (メリケン) versions of several familiar and easily-merchandised yōkai spirit creatures previously established by the franchise, as well as some new faces. However, the North American localization of the Yo-Kai Watch games, cartoons and manga thus far have elected to shift *everything* to a vaguely American locale, complete with less ethnically distinct names for many characters (“Keita” becomes “Nate”, for example). At the beginning, the cartoon style of the character designs facilitated such national (and, unavoidably, racially-tinged) modification, but now there is clash – witness above the debut of Tomnyan, the Merican version of the series’ superstar character, Jibanyan, a red cat yōkai. Tomnyan is exactly the same character, but blonde-haired and blue-eyed; what will this mean in a localization where we’ve been coaxed into thinking that everyone is maybe sorta white? My personal guess is that they’ll end up splitting hairs between regions of the U.S., that helpful melting pot. Tomnyan… Tomcat… Tom Cat. Tom Sawyer, cards, dice – he’s a riverboat gambler!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The Guardian has published Barack Obama’s introduction to the final volume of the Complete Peanuts.

That’s what made Charles Schulz so brilliant – he treated childhood with all the poignant and tender complexity it deserves. He gave voice to all its joys and anxieties – a spectrum of emotions that run from the start of a new baseball season to the anguished “Augh” that comes with losing the big game. He explored the emotions that we too often forget kids feel until we’re reminded that we once felt them ourselves.

Bart Beaty points out where Artnet goes wrong talking about R. Crumb’s art-world profile.

The article evinces a significant myopia that might be all too typical of parts of the artworld. Artnet alleges that “it wasn’t until his solo exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2005 that the artist gained mainstream recognition”. Where to begin?

Kate Beaton takes on Cloak and Dagger.

cloakdagger

Sean Rogers writes about Blutch, Julie Doucet, and Simon Hanselmann.

Freely adapting passages from Shakespeare’s Caesar and Petronius’s Satyricon, Blutch draws cities like Grosz, atrocities like Goya and gardens like Matisse. Peplum’s broad strokes may thus seem familiar – the hero undergoes an odyssey where he is beset by pirates, bound by barbarians, ravaged by an Amazon and tempted away from his prize by a comely boy-servant – but the execution is all Blutch’s own, confounding and febrile, like some dream version of myth.

—Interviews & Profiles. CBR talks to Chester Brown.

In “Mary Wept,” I’m saying that I think Jesus approved of prostitution, not that the men who wrote the Bible did. While those men usually disapproved of women engaging in non-marital sex, they weren’t writing simple morality stories, so there are instances where individual “sinners” seem to escape negative repercussions. One shouldn’t mistake that for approval of “sin.”

Benoit Crucifix talks to Adrian Tomine about editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

I began the project purely for a selfish reason : I wanted to read more of Tatsumi’s stories. I’m not at all a historian with regards to Japanese comics, and I’m reluctant to make any claims about Tatsumi’s place in comics history. I just know that his work resonated with me in a way that other comics from Japan hadn’t, and I’m very glad that he found a broader readership.

 

Back in Town

Hello there, I’m back from not being here. Looks like the place is still in one piece and all that. Today on the site we have Frank Young with a look at the joy and madness of 1950s Dick Tracy. I’m happy to see someone getting at the sheer strangeness of the strip.

What made—and makes—Chester Gould’s work so damned compelling? There is much about Dick Tracy that has long been taken at face value, and never deeply explored. Gould’s aggressive, angular art style, and his off-kilter visual juxtapositions, have gotten lip service from the art world, and from a handful of writers on comics whose viewpoints can outwit the trap of nostalgia. Its gallery of stylized caricature-villains is always mentioned, in mass media, with a mixture of awe and condescension.

There is much more going on in Gould’s work—but it requires a devoted scrutiny. It asks its reader to pay close attention, to notice small, seemingly unimportant details and to accept and process arcane information, some of it inexplicable. Its voice is hugely eccentric, didactic and arrogant in its self-righteousness.

Elsewhere:

On Friday the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum announced the acquisition of Jay Lynch’s archives.  This is great news, and I hope will lead to other cartoonists of that era doing the same — there’s not a lot of first person archival material in public collections, so the more the better in terms of really understanding the history of the medium.

Carol Tyler posted a brand new comic strip, which is always good news. It’s on Facebook. 

Matthew Thurber uploaded a fine new video over the weekend:

Truly amazing dept: Andy Warhol in conversation with Herge in 1977. I was just looking at the newish Herge book from Rizzoli and there’s a nice section on his surprisingly diverse art collection.

Here’s an excellent Alex Toth 1950s story.

Sort of comics: Those Sea-Monkey ads in 1960s-70s comics? Here’s a NY Times article about a current battle over the property, which sure sounds familiar.

Not comics: Psychedelic beehives!

 

 

The Devil’s Chessboard

Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews the latest slate of Kuš! minicomics, including books from Ingrīda Pičukāne, Tara Booth, Hanneriina Moisseinen, and Aisha Franz.

The latest quartet of Kuš! minicomics (pronounced “koosh!”) offers up yet another excellent sampling of the many and varied comics dished out by this Latvian art-comics publisher. For production value and design, the mini Kuš! series represents the pinnacle of what the minicomic art form can achieve. Of note: it wasn’t until several days after I’d first read them that I realized that all four comics were by women (the mini-Kuš! quartet of issues 30-33 were also all-female creations).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The CIA agent turned political caricaturist Vint Lawrence passed away. (The New Republic has gathered some of his work.)

Vint Lawrence, a CIA para­military officer who helped organize a secret war in the jungles of Laos before becoming a critically acclaimed artist and caricaturist, illustrating wild-eyed literary giants and wide-eared politicos for such publications as the New Republic and The Washington Post, died April 9 at a hospital in New Haven, Conn. He was 76.

—Interviews & Profiles. Noel Murray talks to Dan Clowes.

Clowes started Patience when his son was barely out of preschool, and now he finds himself the father of an 11-year-old — which is itself a weird kind of time travel. “Parenthood changed the way I view characters,” Clowes says. “And the way I view humanity. I would’ve thought that you have a lot more input into raising a child, into how they turn out, then you actually do. The best you can do is sort of help them realize who they are, and not dissuade them. It’s not as interesting in a way to be a writer when you come to grips with that. You want to believe characters are controlled by the events in their lives, but that happens so much less than you’d think.”

Lucy Davies conducts a brief interview with Robert Crumb on the occasion of a new gallery show in London. (T Magazine has a preview.)

I try to meditate for 35 minutes every morning but don’t always succeed. I’ve learned that I need meditation to keep life from overwhelming me, to maintain some calm and detachment. As [Charles] Bukowski once wrote, “When I bend down to tie my shoes in the morning I think, ‘Christ almighty, what now?’”

Alex Dueben spoke to Al Jaffee for his 95th birthday.

I walk everywhere, I work five or six days a week, and I still get plenty of ideas. I won’t live long enough to get to all the ideas that I’ve put into files. I think it’s very important to work, to have something important to do, when you’re old. Just sitting around watching television or rocking on a porch is just inviting the grim reaper sooner.

 

After the Water, Fire

Today on the site, Ron Goulart returns with his column about Connecticut Cartoonists. This time, he focuses on three: Leonard Starr, Warren King, and Gil Kane (his collaborator on Star Hawks).

A time when adventure strips were dying and funny ones were filling their slots was probably not an ideal time to try to peddle a jumbo one. But, since it had long been my ambition to write a comic strip, I did not share my thoughts with Flash Fairfield. I did, however, suggest that instead of a Raymond idolater, NEA hire a popular contemporary comic book artist who was steeped in science fiction and drew in an up-to-date manner. Specifically, Gil Kane. Nobody at NEA had ever heard of him, but when they saw samples of his work and learned that he’d drawn Spider-Man, they were impressed. NEA and United Features had a dinner for all their Connecticut artists, writers and executive. After the dinner Gil and I were invited to have drinks with some of the visiting executives. One of them asked Gil if he could send him a drawing of Spider-Man for his grandson. And he said, “My boy, I’ll draw it for you right now” and turned over the large paper place-mat and drew a complex drawing of Spidey swinging through a Manhattan nightscape. The executive was obviously delighted. And I thought, “We’ve got a deal.” And we did.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Biographer Michael Maslin talks Peter Arno.

Q: It’s hard to imagine the magazine without Peter Arno. How responsible was he for the development of the modern New Yorker cartoon?

A: Ross called Arno the New Yorker’s “first pathfinder”; it’s true that Arno was, in those early years at the magazine, finding his way, along with Ross, and Rea Irvin, to what we now recognize as the New Yorker Cartoon. Could the New Yorker Cartoon have happened without Arno? His two peers at the top of Ross’s ranked artists, were Gluyas Williams and Helen Hokinson — both incredible artists, both well represented in the magazine. Their work was graphically opposite Arno’s: gentler; their captions subtle. Arno’s work hit hard and fast. He wanted the readers to experience an instantaneous connection: drawing, caption, Bam! Had his work not been in the mix, who knows if the magazine’s cartoons would’ve headed where he took them.

The Guardian talks to Simon Hanselmann.

When not putting himself in mortal danger, Simon Hanselmann is responsible for the cult comic series Megg, Mogg and Owl. “If I don’t do stupid things every now and then, I will run out of stupid things for Megg and Mogg to do,” he says. “If I stop being a fuck-up, then Megg and Mogg will soon just be about managing European translations and Skyping with network executives.”

—Commentary. Longtime Mad editor Nick Meglin remembers the magazine’s art director, Leonard Brenner.

During one long, boring cover conference going nowhere, Lenny finally stood up and with a colorful display of profanity stated that he had had it and was going to lunch. Seizing a similar escape route, I followed, flashing a middle-finger salutation saying, “Here’s our next cover idea, guys — MAD, The Number One Magazine of Good Taste,” and exited.

When everyone cracked up, Lenny did an about face and declared, “Now, that’s a great cover idea!” He was dead serious and so insistent that several of creative team started to lean in his direction. I pleaded, “Hey guys, it’s just a joke, let it go,” but despite my protestation, the group voted to show the mock layout to our publisher, Bill Gaines, the final arbiter of covers (his one editorial involvement in the magazine’s content).

Bill asked incredulously, “Do you really want to do this?” I said, “Not me, Bill!”, prompting Lenny to describe me in a volley of adjectives of which “chicken-hearted bastard” was the most complimentary and mentionable in mixed audiences. He ended his tirade with, “…and people will be talking about this cover for years to come.”

—Misc. Frank Santoro is auctioning off Chris Ware art to raise funds for the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency.

 

Mental Crockery

Today, we are very pleased to present Charles Hatfield’s review of Chester Brown’s latest book, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, which melds Brown’s interests in Biblical interpretation and sex work.

Tacking back and forth between comics and apparatus, I see a kind of detective story taking shape, starting from the Gospel of Matthew’s unexpected inclusion of women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary—in the genealogy of Jesus, then chasing clues from there. Brown interprets the Matthew genealogy as a kind of coded hint meaning that Mary was a prostitute. A good chunk of Mary Wept—almost a hundred pages—is devoted to retelling the stories of these Biblical women, in the order they are named in Matthew. Each has a chapter of her own. A further chapter, the seven-page “Mary of Bethany,” tells the story of Jesus’s anointing by a woman, perhaps Mary Magdalene, perhaps a prostitute—an incident recounted in all four Gospels. That anointing, Brown reminds us, literally “made Jesus a christ” (183); that is, the ceremony of anointing identified Jesus as messiah. (The Greek Khristos arose from a verb meaning to anoint, used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ, mashiah.) Brown speculates that the ceremony may have had a sexual dimension. Ultimately he stresses a heretical, law-defying point: that a woman who was very likely a prostitute “had the spiritual authority to anoint Jesus as a christ” (252).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Salon talks to Brown about his new book.


Have you discussed your ideas with mainstream Christians and gotten a sense of how it strikes them? Have people gotten angry as you’ve talked about it?

I’ve really only talked about it with friends of mine, and most of my friends are not that religious. I do have one very good friend who is a Christian, who is obsessed with the subject, as I am too… When I told her about the idea of the book, she was very offended, which is not surprising. When I was done the book, before it was published, I gave it to her… She was very offended, and found it blasphemous. But for some reason we’re still friends anyway.

The Spanish publisher of Richard McGuire’s Here has produced a video of the artist:

"Aquí", de Richard McGuire from Salamandra Graphic on Vimeo.

The Beat talks to Sonny Liew about The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

I mapped out a timeline of Singapore’s history alongside major comics works and creators. For example, I would look at the year 1961, when Marvel came out with Fantastic Four and juxtapose it against what was happening in Singapore at the time. Aside from a chronological matchup, you also had to find the stories and styles that would fit the narrative needs. Like the section about Malaysia and Singapore’s merger and separation– to me, the politicking involved had an air of childishness about it, so Peanuts or Pogo seemed like plausible vehicles. I picked anthropomorphic animals in the end because they seemed to provide the right flavor to the narrative.

The Washington Post talks to Grant Morrison about his new take on Wonder Woman.

Another twist in Morrison’s Earth One tale is the revelation that Wonder Woman already has an Amazonian lover — a fact she’s open about. Morrison views that turn as logical after, in his story, a barbaric act by Hercules plays a part in isolating Paradise Island from men.

“Women living on an island for 3,000 years together — you don’t give up sex just because you gave up men,” Morrison said. “And [sexuality] certainly is part of this culture. I’m sure they would explore sexuality, so all we did was we made a little bit more explicit. We talk about it.”

—Commentary. The Paris Review has posted an essay by Edward Gauvin about Blutch’s Peplum. (They’ve also posted a preview.)

“I’d had enough of parodies, the constant nods to this and that, the innuendo and authorial winks,” Blutch remarked, “all the mental crockery and referential baggage, the byzantine architecture of humor. I needed to do something pure, stripped down, fresher and more direct.” What better source than antiquity? Blutch set out to create the sequel to a beloved book he’d “never wanted to end”: the Satyricon. Already a motley tonal medley—prose and verse, comedy and tragedy, romance and satire—Petronius’s novel has survived only in fragments, a condition Blutch found conducive to leaving his artistic mark. “The people were all naked; all I had to draw was bodies moving through space. Peplum paved the way to a kind of musical physicality for me, a path I’ve been following ever since.”

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rebecca Wanzo reviews Ramzi Fawaz’s book of superhero scholarship, The New Mutants.

DC comics most often embraced becoming or being seen as normal. In his discussion of DC’s Justice League stories from the 1960s, Fawaz looks at the team’s embrace of a universal human rights model, with its heroes epitomizing cosmopolitan citizenship. However, these characters were so often aligned with state interests that it undercut the series’ claims to advocate for a global constituency. Moreover, in their embrace of liberal individualism, these stories eschewed otherness. In a fabulous reading of a 1965 story, “The Case of the Disabled Justice League,” Fawaz recounts how the heroes become temporarily disabled after visiting some disabled boys. The superfast runner, the Flash, finds that his legs are glued together. Hawkman develops asthma and finds that flying requires too much exertion. The Green Lantern, who needs the power of clear speech to call on the power of his ring, begins to stutter. Green Arrow, the archer, finds himself without arms.

What is striking about these disabilities is that they go to the heart of what allows the heroes to have powers.