—And Matthias Wivel has a lengthy rant against what he considers to be the mediocrity of New Yorker cartoons. Although some of his complaints are valid (especially about the recent years), I rarely find myself disagreeing with one of Wivel’s pieces as often as I did on this one. Anyway, Wivel’s always worth reading. All the same, I recommend Richard Gehr’s column for this site as an antidote when you’re done.
Well, you could help us determine if we’ve set some kind of commenting (or really any kind of) record for the ongoing group therapy session once called a “negotiation”. Or you could better spend your time reading about Percy Crosby and the great comic strip “Skippy.” Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:
He learned something else from his keen observations of his parents in the present as well, something that makes its way only quietly around the edges of Skippy. In many ways Skippy Skinner was, as almost every profile of Crosby would insist, a semi-autobiographical portrait of the artist as a young rapscallion. His boss at Life magazine, the legendary artist and editor Charles Dana Gibson, would routinely refer to Crosby as “Skippy himself.” But in some important ways this was not quite the case. Skippy Skinner was the child of a physician, his mother a stylish hostess and socialite. Skippy was raised comfortably in the Protestant Church and his “Americanness” was never in question. Percy Crosby’s childhood was necessarily a more complex story. While Crosby would be largely raised Protestant under his mother’s guidance, Catholicism remained a vital part of the family’s spiritual fabric—not least in the form of the family whose visits so ruffled his mother’s feathers. And of course Percy did not grow up the son of a successful town doctor, but the son of an art supply dealer, one whose economic fortunes were far from stable.
Birthday parties for three-year-olds are exhausting. So is moderating certain comment threads. So it’s nice to get a chance to sit back and read Joe McCulloch’s always entertaining, always informative field-report on the Week in Comics. (In this edition, Joe smuggles in a review of the new Judge Dredd adaptation, which I meant to bring up at some point in the blog myself, since I felt a little bad for mocking it briefly a few weeks back, before I watched it and discovered that it was actually a pretty solid little action movie.)
We also have the second installment of Mark Siegel’s Cartoonist’s Diary. In this one, he takes us through a day at First Second, with a few special guests.
Elsewhere on this great internet:
—First, there are two new Chris Ware interviews in anticipation of his new Building Stories, one from Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly, and one from Teddy Jamieson at the Herald Scotland. (I get the feeling we’re going to be reading a lot of “…in a box” puns over the next few weeks.)
—Tom Spurgeon has a good long interview up with Adrian Tomine, for his new book, New York Drawings. Here he talks about the movie-review illustrations he drew for The New Yorker:
Most of those movie things I was working from very limited reference material. Most of those were done pretty much before the Internet had entered into my life in an everyday capacity. I didn’t get to see the movies. A lot of the time they would send me a Fed Ex package with a few stills from the movie. On some of them the deadline was so tight they even faxed over [laughs] photos, and I had to decipher the image on this crinkly fax paper. [Spurgeon laughs] I think if I were working that assignment now it would be a little easier, because you could type in “James Gandolfini” and find every type of image and photo of his face. The hardest ones of those when they were having me draw those were the good-looking but sort of hard to distinguish celebrities. The last one that I did was supposed to be the actor Ryan Phillippe, who I just couldn’t make look both handsome and recognizable as him. It was like I could do a caricature, but it won’t look good, or I could draw a handsome blond-haired, blue-eyed guy, but it won’t be… it was difficult. They eventually came to their senses and moved me on to other kinds of assignments. [laughs]
New Treasure Island is one of those books that everyone has heard of but few have actually read. Until a facsimile edition published in 2009, the legendary manga was largely inaccessible even in Japan, general readers having to settle for (and many critics often unwisely relying upon) a top-to-bottom rewrite from 1984. Furthermore, so much attention has been paid to its opening sequence, showing its little boy hero Pete racing in his roadster to the wharf, that most of the rest of the book has been ignored. In a future article, I will offer my own reading of those famous first pages, which are based on a second Disney comic book. In this post, I want to look instead at how New Treasure Island was, as its title advertises, a rendition of “Treasure Island.”
And we welcome TCJ-diarist and FirstSecond Editorial Director Mark Siegel.
TCJ-contributor Chris Mautner takes us to Comics College. His subject: David B.
-This is a nice blog post about the great British artist Michael “Mick” McMahon, who is perennially under-appreciated.
It’s Friday, which means it’s Tucker Stone day. This week, Abhay Khosla takes on Grant Morrison, Tucker Stone takes on Grant Morrison (and David Hine taking on Morrison), and Michel Fiffe takes on the portrayal of Cubans in Garth Ennis’s Nick Fury series.
—Video of the panels from this year’s SPX are already showing up on YouTube. So far we’ve got the Frank Santoro-moderated Jaime Hernandez panel:
And the Dan Clowes panel, featuring Ken Parille and Alvin Buenaventura:
—Various artists, including Clowes and Adrian Tomine, discuss what inspires them with the New York Times. (And surprise—in both cases, it’s neither Hemingway nor even Fitzgerald!)
—Speaking of inspiration, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez appeared on NPR’s Alt.Latino and talked at length about their favorite music.
Thoroughly researched enough to belie its “graphic novel” self-descriptor, The Carter Family is also an ill-fated love story set mostly in the southern United States during the years leading up to and following the Great Depression. Its subtitle – Don’t Forget This Song – bears witness to the rich, ever-changing river of folk culture in which its principals – not to mention its creators themselves – flourished.
Top of the internet today is TCJ’s own Sean T. Collins’ excellent Rolling Stone roundtable with Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. Sean really coaxed an excellent exchange out of this lot, including this:
There’s been a revival among alternative-comics circles toward a new pantheon of sci-fi/fantasy stuff, like old Heavy Metal comics.
Ware: I was not aware of this.
Gilbert: I have to toot our horn again: They don’t have any personality! You’re not really talking about anything but escapism. That’s fine, I’m all for escapism, but the reason we do alternative comics is because it’s all totally from our personality.
Clowes: I have to say I have a recently rediscovered fondness for Heavy Metal. That was a big deal when it came out: “Wow, you can draw robots with tits!” It has a certain charm to it, especially the really weird, unpleasant stuff in it. All that Richard Corben stuff was so disturbing.
Gilbert: You can tell the difference between artists: Who’s the madman, and who’s the guy just doin’ it? That’s why guys like [Joe] Kubert and [John] Buscema and John Romita, who were really amazingly skilled artists, there’s just nothing there other than they’re just really skilled artists. Then you see Crumb, who was just a complete nut.
Clowes: Or [Jack] Kirby, who was the opposite.
Gilbert: Or [Steve] Ditko. They’re crazy men. “Who let them do this?” [Laughter]
Ware: When you talk about a pantheon . . . When I went to art school and I went to the art history classes, we were taught this very specific progression of where art came from and where it supposedly was going. It was almost like these pills you had to swallow that had been established by art critics and art writers. One of the things that appealed to me most about comics was that you can pick the ones you like and build your own personal pantheon. I’ve never met these younger kids who are more interested in – I just said “younger kids.” I can’t believe that. [Laughter] Younger artists are interested in Heavy Metal – that’s great. That’s something else completely to start from.
Gilbert: That’s what was missing from alternative comics after us: The art got less and less good.
Jim Rugg has an excellent report on his most recent zine, which is more like an elaborate comic book history project. Best seen to be believed. One of Jim’s favorite comics, Real Deal, gets profiled over at the Stussy site — artist Lawrence Hubbard collaborated with the brand.
And finally, apropos of our ongoing role of negotiations-host for Dave Sim and Fantagraphics, Bill Kartalopolous reminded me that he posted a great piece about Cerebus by Adam White on Indy Magazine back in 2004.
He began to contribute to the Communist weekly New Masses. His first cartoon, published 17 April 1934, mocks self-professed experts on communists. In a cartoon published three months later, he goes after not only the rich in general, but President Roosevelt in particular. Billionaire industrialist J. P. Morgan reclines on a luxury liner’s deck chair. “CORSAIR” on the life preserver links Morgan to piracy, likening the captain of industry to the captain of a pirate ship. A young man delivers a message: “Radiogram, Mr. Morgan. The White House wants to know are you better off than you were last year?” Johnson suggests that President Roosevelt is more concerned with the wealthy than the needy, implying that, yes, the rich are doing fine, but how about everyone else?
In 1932 and 1933, 24 percent of Americans were unemployed, up from 3.2 percent in 1929. Though the unemployment rate would drop to 21 percent in 1934, the nascent New Deal had yet to produce major results. It was a time when people went on hunger marches, when police shot strikers, and when general work stoppages shut down major U.S. cities. As Michael Denning writes, “The year of the general strikes—1934—was also the year young poets and writers proclaimed themselves ‘proletarians’ and ‘revolutionaries.’” In his cartoons, Johnson announced his sympathy with proletarians and revolutionaries.
He signed his first cartoons simply “Johnson.” By August 1934, he began signing them “C. Johnson,” sometimes reverting to “Johnson” and once to “C. J. Johnson.” Whatever name appeared on the image itself, New Masses nearly always printed his byline as “Crockett Johnson,” the public debut of his pseudonym. The first cartoon to bear that name was published on 7 August 1934 and showed a wealthy capitalist wife complaining, “Just because your greedy workmen decide to go on strike I can’t have a new Mercedes. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair.” Thoughtful, soft-spoken art editor Dave Leisk had become radical cartoonist Crockett Johnson.
Elsewhere on the site, the ongoing Dave Sim/Kim Thompson negotiations have made a lot of progress, but also reached an apparent possible impasse, revolving around the best place to start the potential reprints. Sim’s latest response, as of around noon yesterday, can be read here, and Kim’s can be found here. Many, many people have stopped by to add their two cents, including but not limited to Ed Brubaker, R. Fiore, Gary Groth, Jeet Heer, Eddie Campbell, Sammy Harkham, Brian Hibbs, Eric Hoffman, Chris Duffy, and Leigh Walton. Tom Spurgeon has some commentary on the apparent bottleneck on his own site. Graeme McMillan of Robot 6 has used the occasion to reflect on reprints and comic-book history in general.
—It’s Winsor McCay’s 143rd birthday, and the Billy Ireland Library is celebrating.
—Charles Hatfield read a lot of comic books this summer, and has thoughts about them.
—Warren Ellis looks at Darwyn Cooke’s use of infographics in his Richard Stark/Parker adaptations.
—The Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore lawsuit over The Walking Dead has ended in a settlement.
—And finally, a Not Comics item, prompted by all the Ernest Hemingway talk hereabouts lately:
Rick Veitch’s career spans from the underground to the self-publishing movements. Jeremy Pinkham talks to him about being in the first class at the Joe Kubert school, working on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and his personal take on the superhero genre. Continue reading →