Joe McCulloch goes all (or part) Memento on us in his latest guide to the Week in Comics! The last shall be first and all that. But he has his reasons, in this case, a particular Diamond policy …
—News. Amnesty International has expressed support for jailed Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani and her lawyer as her trial begins.
This is why you should be careful selling your comics through Craigslist.
Julia Wertz shared one of her personal experiences with online harassment on Twitter.
—Commentary. Chris Mautner and the aforementioned Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner talk about this year’s SPX.
—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth spoke to Scott McCloud on the Virtual Memories podcast.
Brooklyn magazine talks to Lucas Adams, one of the instigating forces behind a much-anticipated upcoming comics imprint, New York Review Comics.
Assembling and mounting the first serious institutional retrospective exhibition in America examining the art of Jack Kirby is a task fraught with contradictions. On the one hand, Kirby is universally recognized within the comics community as one of the greatest innovators of the medium, the first comic book artist to achieve celebrity status, and the primary architect of the superhero mythology at the very center of contemporary human culture. As far as comic book aficionados go, you’re preaching to the choir.
If, on the other hand, you are a normal person, chances are you’ve never heard of Kirby. If I were writing this review for a mainstream magazine – even one devoted to the visual arts – I would be obliged to devote several paragraphs explaining the long and complex arc of Kirby’s career and its reflection in the evolution of the medium and industry — particularly his iconic role in the struggle for creative autonomy and artists’ intellectual property rights.
I would also have to flesh out the scope of Kirby’s vast output – the few people who could identify Kirby as the co-creator of the Marvel Universe would have no idea about his Golden Age collaborations with Joe Simon, their invention of the romance comic genre, or his wildly inventive post-Marvel tenure at DC. “Kamandi? What the hell’s a Kamandi?!”’
Elsewhere, an unusually busy comics weekend…
Frank Santoro calls our attention to the Emerging Cartoonist Award given at the first edition of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, this past weekend. Katie Skelly (also a TCJ contributor) was the very deserving recipient of the award and a substantial $7000 cash prize. I have to say, the idea of a no-strings-attached cash prize based on merit in comics, judged by smart, knowledgeable people, is ground-breaking. In the video Tom Spurgeon says something about investing in the future of comics, which is a great way to think about helping to build an infrastructure inside (or next to) the business. This kind of thing is a major step forward, in my mind — showing that, like the other arts, there can be unencumbered institutional support for advanced comics. Congrats to Tom and the CXC crew on doing something great for the medium.
Today, when you’re ingesting the latest whirl of supremely controlled, cold-as-ice pages from Michael DeForge, or finding yourself having lost forty-five minutes cracking up knowingly while scrolling down Kate Beaton’s Tumblr, it may hit you how strangely natural this feels. You might also look in the mirror and catch a fleck of gray hair, and then perhaps experience a residual sense of alienation.
Because, yes, it has been about twenty-five years since those heady days of comics suddenly—again—appearing like they were all promise. Yes, there had always been great comics and much ground had been broken in previous decades, but there was a crackle in the air in the early nineties. A sense, when you opened a new comic, not so much of a blank slate, but rather that those clear lines, those scruffy hatch marks were composed fractally of unrealized potential. At that moment, everything seemed (theoretically) possible. Precariously, but exhilaratingly so.
And yes, Chris Oliveros’ Drawn and Quarterly was there, somewhere near the center of this breaking kaleidoscope. A fledgling publisher in hip Montréal, sufficiently shrewd—and lucky—to launch out with a handful of the finest cartoonists of their generation: Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. It may be obvious today, but the gauntlet they threw in the face of comics was radical at the time: a look at real life.
It did garner the publisher a reputation among reactionaries for publishing exclusively navel-gazing autobiography, which it took more than a decade to shake, but that was less due to any real predictability in their publishing line than it was to the shock of the new. Autobiography and other reality-based approaches to comics became the natural locus of the quiet explosion of tradition that was happening in comics.
—News. Yesterday, Janelle Asselin published a report on harassment and assault allegations against Dark Horse editor Scott Allie. In particular, writer Joe Harris stepped forward to claim Allie both groped him inappropriately and bit him at a party during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. An unnamed witness backed up his account. Allie has since issued an apology for his behavior. Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson has also issued a statement on the situation.
Transformations and power imbalances guide DeForge through Lose #7, the new issue of his one-person anthology comic; and Dressing, a collection of shorts and a successor to his 2013 collection Very Casual. Both come from DeForge’s regular publisher Koyama Press, and the crisp printing comes as a relief after the fuzzy image quality on DeForge’s Lose collectionA Body Beneath. Dressing sports textured cream paper in a pink hardcover, looking like an answer to DeForge’s precious salmon-colored D+Q book First Year Healthy. Its small size comes with the drawback of unnecessarily tiny text, but one story in the letter-sized Lose shares the same problem.
To say that political cartoonist Ted Rall is provocative is much like saying the Empire State Building is a pretty tall building or Mount Everest is quite a big hill. Rall often is, simply and unabashedly, extreme and outrageous, caustic sarcasm oozing from every panel of his cartoons. I usually agree with him—although at somewhat fewer decibels per utterance. And when his ire is aroused, as it has been lately, he can exaggerate the situation that irks him—he is, after all, a cartoonist—and maybe even stretch the truth a tad. So when he first began claiming that he’d been “fired” by the Los Angeles Times for spurious reasons, I paused before climbing on his bandwagon. For one thing, he couldn’t be “fired”: he freelances with the Times, contributing both cartoons and opinion columns.
It soon developed that not only had the Times resolved not to use any of Rall’s submissions in future (effectively “firing” him), but the paper announced its decision to the world on its website, a suspicious act on its face: Why would a newspaper feel compelled to make a public proclamation that it was no longer going to use the contributions of a freelancer? When a writer makes factual errors as the Times says Rall did, isn’t the usual journalistic practice to issue a correction? But the Times went far beyond this, and the extreme to which the paper went is highly suspicious. Why make such a public big deal about it?
The Times announcement continued, justifying its decision to drop Rall by claiming that a recent Rall column played fast and loose with the facts, thereby smearing his professional integrity as a reporter and commentator. And that, like the announcement itself, seemed a little extreme. Not only was the Times “firing” Rall in public, but it was sabotaging his reputation so he wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere else.
This is serious stuff. Deadly serious. No wonder Rall was pissed.
I have a different perspective on these events than Harvey does, largely because despite listening to Rall’s “enhanced” audiotape multiple times, I have never been able to hear many of the key things Rall says are there. But Harvey’s account is still well worth reading; there are important issues involved, and the facts at the bottom of the story are murky.
—This Friday will see the opening, at the Turchin Center of the Arts in Boon, NC, of “At the Junction of Words & Pictures”, an exhibition celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Center for Carton Studies curated by TCJ columnist Craig Fischer. Featured artists include Ariel Bordeaux, Chester Brown, Charles Burns, Sophie Goldstein, Kevin Huizenga, James Sturm, and Sophie Yanow, among many others.
I was one of the lucky 400 who got this limited edition risograph comics anthology. I was excited. It is ironic then, that it would appear at same time as Mould Map 4, which makes Lagon irrelevant. For all its bluster (from the intro: “In the depths of the ocean, under the blue Lagon, an island was waiting to rise to the surface.” Guess what’s on the island guys? Comics!) and preciousness the book is basically a rehash of Mould Map #3 and various issues of Kramer’s Ergot, right down to the obligatory historical piece (Fletcher Hanks, guys!). What’s odd about this lavish production is that it’s filled with imitators of other people in the actual book. CF, Negron, Yokoyama — their influences dominate to an almost hysterical degree. Like, what the fuck? Or as Jeff the Drunk would say, Chelllllllo?! I guess what I’m looking for now in a comic (since you asked) is strangeness or authenticity. Give me one or the other or both (Koch, Benjamin, Davidson, Marra, Chandler below all have it in spades). In any case, Lagon is not strange or even unusual. It feels like a luxury good and thus like the end of something. It’s co-sponsored by by Agnes B., whose other offenses include Harmony Korine’s career. I don’t want art that has been digested already. Obviously I’m not being fair to it. Everyone worked hard, etc. But if you’re gonna do it, don’t fuck around with bullshit. On the other hand, man, this one contributor, Alexis Beauclair, is really excellent. He or she has taken the lessons of Yokoyama and Schrauwen and made a lot of fascinating comics in which you kind of activate them by touch. It’s hard to explain. Check it out. Better than you think.
—Michael Lorah at CBR talks to Adrian Tomine about his upcoming collection.
—Mark Medley at the Toronto Globe & Mail profiles Kate Beaton.
—Comics Enriched Their Lives! #135: In this lost and only recently published book review of Alfed North Whitehead, T.S. Eliot takes his title metaphor from the funny pages.
Well, Mothers News, the great newsprint periodical out of Providence, home to some excellent writing and some fine comic strips, is closing its doors after half a decade. Celebrate it by stocking up on back issues while you can.