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Married to Comics

Joe McCulloch is here this morning with the Week in Comics, his indispensable guide to the most interesting-sounding comics in stores. Spotlight picks this week include new titles by Chris Oliveros and Tommi Musturi.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:
Kayla E at Nat. Brut asked ten female and non-binary creators, including Carol Tyler, mickey z, Edie Fake, and Lauren Weinstein, to comment on the recent Angoulême Grand Prix controversy.

I created an iconic self portrait in the style of Queen Elizabeth I. It was an oil painting made with the most expensive and luscious pigments on Earth. In the royal balloon above the Queen’s (my) head, it says, “I am married to comics.” Elizabeth I once said that she was “married to England” as a way of creating the identity of Great Britain, which reminded me of my full commitment to the form, like nuns who become Brides of Christ. This painting, with all its symbolism, became my manifesto.

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown at Paste talks to Tom Hart about Rosalie Lightning, his memoir about the death of his daughter.

I wrote notes incessantly for five weeks after [Rosalie died]. I knew I would have to create a book, to help these emotions find form. I stopped taking notes when they began being repetitive, but also after the final incident detailed in the book. I felt, I had been presented with all the material to heal with. Then I had to go through the work of internalizing that healing. Drawing it took roughly three and a half years. I felt I was experiencing the aftermath again. It was hard, but it was my new reality. I couldn’t deny that reality. The work of drawing it was turning my face to it to acknowledge it.

Sam Thielman at The Guardian talks to Jim Woodring about his new book, Frank in the 3rd Dimension (which is pretty stunningly effective).

There’s just a lot of stuff I’ve decided not to do because either I don’t understand it or I can’t handle it. I don’t have much to do with sex in my work because it seems to me that sex takes everything out of the realm of thought and into the realm of passion and that’s not what I’m trying to depict. And I try to avoid things that are seriously disturbing.

I wrote that passage after I did a realistic charcoal drawing of my father standing at a workbench wearing a blood-spattered apron smashing up babies with a single-jack sledgehammer. I just did it to see if I could do it, and when it was done I showed it to my girlfriend at the time who was generally supportive of me, but when she saw that she just said, basically, “You’ve brought something of such unspeakable ugliness into the world, and I don’t know how you can justify it.” […] what she said resonated with me and I didn’t want to be the author of something that would make people feel so bad.

—Craft. Comics writer Kieron Gillen created a master post containing all of his advice on scripting comics.

Charlie Hebdo. Last week began another Charlie Hebdo controversy, this time over a cartoon that many interpreted as racist and anti-immigrant. Tom Spurgeon gathered up some of the original commentary and provided his own. Apparently, the version of the cartoon that was spread on Twitter and social media was missing a headline and partner images that changed the context of the cartoon, though most likely this won’t convince everyone. One of the most interesting responses I’ve seen came from the French media critic Dan Schneidermann, who wrote an open letter to Riss, the cartoonist behind the image, making the point that whatever Riss and Charlie Hebdo‘s point may have been, in the current situation, with Charlie‘s heightened profile, and the way its cartoons are now shared and read online, the magazine should adjust their approach if they don’t wish to be misunderstood.

 

Flying

Today on the site, Mike Dawson and Alex Robinson talk Jim Starlin’s Warlock.

And Aidan Koch finishes up her week with us. Thanks to Aidan!

Elsewhere:

Bill Griffith has been posting photographs related to his book, Invisible Ink, over on his Facebook page. It’s really worth a look — the story deepens — and if you haven’t read the book, the photos themselves are good enough to merit some attention.

Eleanor Davis gets a nice profile in Columbus. 

And either it’s new or I never noticed it before, but Tom DeHaven has posted notes on the final novel of his great fictional “Dugan” trilogy about a comic strip/book character.

 

Useless to a Reader

Today on the site, Frank Santoro remembers Tim Corrigan’s 1980s minicomics zine, Small Press Comics Explosion, and the lost world it came from. Looking back over its pages, he also finds an early appearance by a young Scott McCloud.)

According to The Minicomix Revolution 1969-1989 by Bruce Chrislip, Corrigan “soon started distributing SPCE through the direct market chain of comic book shops and the print run quickly increased from 200 copies to 2,000 copies.” Chrislip explains that Corrigan would review just about anything. Soon “it became a tabloid […] and an avalanche of hundreds of small press comix showed up in his mailbox. So much so that it would be impossible to do a complete history of every minicomic published from 1986 on. There were thousands of different issues. Some were fantastic, but many were crude first attempts by fledgling cartoonists.” (Emphasis in the original.)

It’s true. So much of it looks like dreck, and sounds worse when described in eloquently baroque micro-blocks of text. It was, it seems, the real full flowering of xerox machines becoming widely available, and SPCE documents that perfectly.

And then we also have Day Four of Aidan Koch’s week creating A Cartoonist’s Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Amid the Angoulême Grand Prix controversy, another political controversy involving the festival seems to have been resolved. Over the past two years, organizers protested the involvement of the Israeli company Sodastream as a sponsor (partly because of a factory located in the occupied territories of Palestine), and gathered public support from artists including Alison Bechdel, Jaime Hernandez, Tardi, Lewis Trondheim, Kate Beaton, and others. This year, Sodastream seems to have ceased its involvement with Angoulême, and the protesters have released a celebratory press release.

In censorship news, Facebook removed a 2009 political cartoon critical of Israel drawn by Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff and temporarily suspended the account of the Palestinian news site which hosted it.

Two cartoonists involved in a Charlie Hebdo-related exhibition being held in Tel Aviv’s French Embassy have alleged that their work for the show has been censored, apparently because of their depictions of Muhammad.

—Interviews & Profiles. Brigid Alverson interviewed former D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros about his new graphic novel, The Envelope Manufacturer.


Why did you decide to self-publish ‘The Envelope Manufacturer’?

I thought it would be a conflict of interest if D+Q published it. Even though I am no longer the publisher, there still is that connection that spans decades, and so I felt that if I somehow joined the roster it would only be because I had the special key for the secret side entrance to get in.

And Artinfo interviews Matthew Thurber about his new Artcomic, art comics in general, and art critic Jerry Saltz.

Jerry Saltz is supposedly an art critic, but he has no opinions. In his essays he never takes a side, or really says anything besides “I’m Jerry Saltz, look at me.” His self-absorption makes him kind of useless to others, and useless to a reader. I think a critic should have some sort of logic, some kind of philosophy behind their writing. If you don’t agree with Clement Greenberg about the flatness of the picture plane – that’s okay, at least he has expressed an opinion that you can think about or argue with. With Saltz, it’s just “The new Whitney is great!!! Although maybe it’s not! Did I tell you I used to be a truck driver?”

 

Floor Protection

Hi there,

Today on the site we bring you day 3 of Aidan Koch’s diary. 

And Cynthia Rose reports on a major retrospective on the work of Claire Bretécher: 

The new retrospective of Claire Bretécher opened five days after the last Paris attacks. It was a moment when locals were longing to hear from two parts of the populace. One tribe, of course, was philosophers and professional thinkers. But the other group was les dessinateurs – the artists behind popular comics, caricatures and press cartoons.

Bretécher’s work helps explain their expectations. She is a virtuoso and a national treasure, an artist whose work explodes with style, wit – and creative complaining. Although both her visuals and storytelling are exceptional, Bretécher’s humour exceeds the sum of their parts. She is not someone who depicts “slices of life” nor does she create gags just to end in a burst of laughter. What interests her are the common threads of our existence and what she has to say is always present tense.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a nice write-up on White Boy over at the New York Review of Books.

Zainab Akhtar interviews Michael DeForge at Inkstuds.

Gil Roth interviews Molly Crabapple.

 

 

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the most interesting-sounding new comics in stores, and this week, he goes on to write about Hiroya Oku’s Inuyashiki.

Inuyashiki … hails from Kodansha’s biweekly seinen magazine Evening, home of the lattermost chapters to Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm (“Battle Angel Alita” if you’re nasty), an MMA serial by Hiroki Endō of Eden: It’s an Endless World! and various prequel installments of the Shima Kōsaku salaryman soap opera. I think the magazine skews a little older in seinen terms, and I think Inuyashiki panders good and hard to that sort of demographic, presenting an aging man, disrespected by all, who is accidentally annihilated by powers from beyond the stars and hastily rebuilt using weapons technology fit to obliterate the Earth. However, the old man is a good man, and sets about defending the helpless from rapacious younger persons by embodying the qualities of courage, sacrifice and honor so often absent from our low and selfish contemporary age.

This is classic reactionary superhero stuff, but the way its mounted suggests a very particular association for English superhero readers. Avoiding any suggestion of costume or genre glamour in favor of an icily sensational ‘cinematic’ approach booming with wide splashes, Oku’s approach is remarkably close to that of the millennial Marvel comics associated with the executive tenure of Bill Jemas.

Also, we are proud to present Day Two of Aidan Koch’s week-long tenure producing our Cartoonist’s Diary feature. (If you missed it, don’t forget to start with Day One.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Montreal Gazette profiles former D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros, and also publishes a short preview of his self-published graphic novel, The Envelope Manufacturer.

Mind you, this is no typical self-publishing scenario. The author’s name is so strongly associated with D & Q that having it on the cover is practically its own imprimatur. It’s a connection Oliveros is clearly comfortable with, having maintained close ties since handing the company reins over to Peggy Burns and Tom Devlin.

“I still go the office about once a week, and that’s good, because a clean break after 25 years would have felt really strange.”

Alex Dueben talks to the legendary cartoonist and animator R.O. Blechman, who has a new book coming out this month.

I have an ongoing argument with Gene Deitch, the director [of The Juggler]. He thought that he had proposed Boris Karloff as the voiceover but I know that it was my idea because it was not my idea, it was the idea of William Goldman, my former classmate. He said, what about Boris Karloff doing the voiceover. Sorry, Gene Deitch. We differ there. But we’re going back more than a half century, so it’s understandable.

—A/V. The Comics Alternative podcast talks to Rosalie Lightning creator Tom Hart.

Françoise Mouly appeared on PRI to discuss The New Yorker‘s post-Charlie Hebdo cover.

On C-SPAN, Ann Telnaes and Signe Wilkinson also discuss that magazine and the anniversary of the attacks on it.

R. Crumb made an appearance on the American Routes radio show, in which he talks about some of his favorite music.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nick Francis Potter reviews Sam Alden’s New Construction in comics form.

For Vice, Nick Gazin published his top ten comics of 2015.

—David Bowie. He didn’t make comics, but comics meant a lot to him (Raw, Beano, and Viz all made his list of 100 favorite books), and he meant a lot to many cartoonists and comics readers, with his records making prominent cameo appearances in books from major artists like Charles Burns and Chester Brown, among others (Sean T. Collins asked cartoonists to sketch David Bowie at conventions several years ago, and posted the results on Flickr). I’ve seen it written that Bowie was one of our time’s “least relatable” stars, but the outpouring of grief over the last few days seems to disprove that. Bowie constantly took risks, but he didn’t made it look easy. He was inspirational for many reasons, but for me, that may be the most important.

 

Party People

Hi there,

Today Bob Levin joins us for a look at the Texas history comics of seminal underground cartoonist Jack Jackson. This is about as much as you’re likely to read about Jack Jackson anytime soon, so read on!

Jack Jackson, aka “Jaxon, was a first-generation underground cartoonist. (In fact, with “God Nose,” which he self-published in 1964, he may have been the first UG cartoonist.) He was a fifth-generation Texan, born May 15, 1941, in Pandora (est. pop. 125). He died from a self-inflicted gunshot, on June 8, 2006, atop his parents’ grave in Stockdale (est. pop. 1519). He had diabetes, prostate cancer, and a neural disease which had left his hands too shaky to draw.

In 1966 Jaxon had come to San Francisco. He spent two years overseeing the posters for  rock concerts promoted by the ex-Texan Chelt Helms, and then founded, with two other Lone Star ex-pats, the UG publisher Rip Off Press. After returning to his home state in the early ‘70s, Jackson began a chronicling of its past in comic form that would win him acclaim as a Lifetime Fellow of the Texas Historical Society and member of the Texas Institute of Letters. Posthumously, he was inducted into the comic industry’s Hall of Fame.

In 2012 Fantagraphics published in one volume “Los Tejanos/The Lost Cause,” two of Jaxon’s previously published graphic histories. Recently, with the presence of those Texans wrestling in the mud of the Republican presidential nomination process in my thoughts – and not unmindful of what what other Texans had done for the nation in the last 50 years — I read it.

And Aidan Koch is beginning a week-long Cartoonist’s Diary with us. Today finds her in Key West.

Elsewhere:

The Angouleme debacle has simmered down a bit, but The Guardian has a well-sourced article by Laurenn McCubbin on the history of the history of women in comics.

Here’s a new interview with Seth, which delves into his own feelings on cons and the youngs.

Just Indie Comics has a nice list up of good 2015 comics, most of which I even agree with.

 

Tap Tap Tap

Today on the site, Luke Geddes reviews the first collection of Tom Neely and Keenan Michael Keller’s The Humans.

Keller mines a similar pop cultural detritus as contemporaries like Ben Marra and Johnny Ryan, whose comics revel in seemingly dumb, confrontationally unironic set pieces of hyper-violence and vulgarity. (One member of The Humans is even named after Marra, and both Marra and Ryan provide pinups in the book’s supplementary pages.) However, this is not to undermine Keller’s craft. His approach to this milieu is tonally intricate. Narratively Johnny’s post-war trauma is played with a straight face, the depiction of Vietnam-era societal turbulence as harrowing as the kind of thing you’d find in an old issue of Inner City Romance, but it’s all painted with the same gleeful, candy-colored exhibitionism the book applies to biker movies clichés. Sure, the Viet Cong are portrayed as snub-nosed monkeys and the American troops as chimps, but a spiritual successor to Maus this is not.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. As Dan mentioned in an update to the blog yesterday, in response to the growing boycott of the Grand Prix, the Angoulême festival has decided to withdraw its list of nominees and leave the Grand Prix award to be freely chosen by festival attendees. Brigid Alverson has a good explanation and the relevant links.

Bart Beaty wrote about all of this for his new group blog, The Greatest Comic Book of All Time, and goes into some of the history of how the award nominees have historically been chosen.

The Grand Prix at FIBD is generally considered the most prestigious prize in all of comics. It is a lifetime achievement award. The Grand Prix winner is announced in a place of honor (this has varied over time – some years it was announced at midnight on the Saturday from the balcony at town hall, more recently it has become the final prize awarded during the closing ceremonies on Sunday) and the recipient becomes the honorary President of the FIBD the following year, with an exhibition consecrated to his or her work. The President also chairs the prize jury.

Note that I said “his or her” work is exhibited. This is technically true, but only barely. The prize has been awarded forty-two times since Angoulême began in the 1970s, and it has gone to forty-two men (Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian shared the award in 2008) and one woman (Florence Cestac).

Cartoonist Liza Donnelly weighed in about the controversy for the Washington Post.

It takes effort to find good work that is being created, and it is not always the obvious artists who are doing the best work, but are instead the names already on everyone’s lips. Then we, as a society, repeat the same biases, over and over again. It’s time to interrupt that trend.

John Porcellino, the indispensable creator of King-Cat Comics and Spit and a Half distribution, has launched a Patreon.

—Reviews & Commentary. Longtime Comics Journal contributor Chris Mautner has launched a column at The Smart Set, and his debut review is of Dark Knight III: The Master Race.

Despite his recent perceived failures, the possibility of another Dark Knight sequel had many Batman and [Frank] Miller fans buzzing. That initial excitement was muted considerably when it turned out that Miller would be collaborating with writer Brian Azzarello — who, apart from the crime series 100 Bullets, is perhaps best known for helping pen the completely unnecessary and utterly dispiriting Before Watchmen prologue — and artist Andy Kubert. Further interviews revealed that Miller’s contributions would be minimal at best.

The resulting comic is depressingly average and dull.

Charlie Hebdo One Year Later. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the mass-murder of eight Charlie Hebdo staff members in Paris.

Literary Hub has published Adam Gopnik’s foreword to Charlie editor Stéphane Charbonnier’s posthumous Open Letter.

The crucial distinction we must defend is that between acts of imagination and acts of violence. The imagination sees and draws and describes many things—pornographic, erotic, satiric, and blasphemous—that are uncomfortable or ugly. But they are not actually happening. The imagination is a place where hypotheses and conditionals rule, and where part of the fun, and most of the point, lies in saying the unsayable in order to test the truths of what’s most often said. An assault on an ideology is not merely different from a threat made to a person; it is the opposite of a threat made to a person. The whole end of liberal civilization is to substitute the criticism of ideas for assaults on people.

Kenan Malick has also written a long essay on the anniversary.

The charge of ‘hate speech’ or of ‘punching down’ or in Garry Trudeau’s words, of ‘attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority’, has constantly been used as a way of silencing artists whose work challenges what some regard as unviolable ideas or beliefs. Critics of Salman Rushdie branded The Satanic Verses as ‘hate speech’. So did Sikh critics of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti. As did many Jewish critics of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children. (Trudeau himself was accused of anti-Semitism and of ‘maligning Judaism’ by the Anti-Defamation League for one of his Doonesbury cartoons, which makes his condemnation of Charlie Hebdo both ironic and troubling).

The cover of the anniversary issue of Charlie Hebdo depicts a blood-stained picture of God with a Kalashnikov on His back, captioned “One year on: The murderer is still out there.” And the Vatican newspaper has decried it as unfair and prejudiced against religion.

—Misc. Finally, this is the first and probably last time I most a gif that’s going around, but this seemed like one almost everyone in comics will be able to appreciate:

 

Me and I

Hi there,

Frank’s back with a good think piece about Herriman and history, with a grumpy cameo by yours truly.

Many links today. At the top of it all is the ongoing controversy around the Angouleme Festival’s all-male Grand Prix nomination list. Bart Beaty has a good summation and following Jessica Abel’s feeds on Twitter and Facebook is a good way to get updates. Not much for me to say in the way of commentary other than being glad that so many cartoonists have boycotted the prize. It looks like the festival will add female names to the list now, but somewhat grudgingly. It’s a bit too little too late.

UPDATE: Now there’s no nomination list at all.  Paul Gravett writes:

It’s a brand new day! Angoulême has made the best possible decision for its Grand Prix. No list, no nominees, an open vote for the French profession to choose whoever they want. They did this twice before and the results were Goossens and then Crumb, both great choices. It will be exciting to see who emerges this year.

Tom Hart speaks to New York Magazine about Rosalie Lightning.

Charlie Hebdo marked a year since the attacks and the NY Times reports.

That Kirby essay I gave love to on Tuesday is now online.  I’ve seen some responses around Facebook and from Kirby “biographer” Mark Evanier, which are mostly of the “wait, what about me?” variety. Evanier’s quibbles, with one exception, come down to a matter of interpretation (it’s possible that the artist was influenced by his own 3-D work, just as it’s possible he didn’t anticipate the extent of his immortality — no one really knows). I have sometimes found Evanier to be a useful resource over the years and he’s undoubtedly been a champion of the work itself, but ironically he seems to have no real insight into Kirby’s work, only anecdotes and oddly firm opinions about what Kirby would and wouldn’t think (which should be an alarm bell for any reader of a biography). I also found it grimly humorous that Evanier ends his cutesy commentary with a “I welcome other voices” type thing, since he refuses access to Kirby’s papers (which should really be in a proper archive) to every researcher I’ve ever spoken to (myself included) in the name of writing, Joe Gould-style, a prose biography. His one and only book on Kirby was a rehash of blurbs in nice large type that featured a centerfold by Alex Ross and that champion of good cartooning Neil Gaiman. Huh.

The NYPL has made a huge amount of images available online for all. 

Finally, here’s a comics-adjacent interview with Carroll Dunham.