The “correct” way to read this two-page spread, of course, follows the traditional left-to-right zigzag down the left-hand side of the spread and up to the right and back down. [But] I think they can be understood visually by reading them “incorrectly”–by beginning in the top left and then going across the center dividing line of the center.
Gilbert Hernandez’s quasi-autobiographical Marble Season is a remarkable work of verisimilitude as well as a gift to his long-time fans. The snapshot he provides of his brothers and neighborhood friends growing up is filled with the kind of detail and emotional truths about how children relate to one another one would expect from the man behind Palomar. What’s interesting in this book about the rituals and social interactions of about fifty years ago is how Hernandez subtly brings up the ways in which pop culture became a pervasive force that was unifying in some ways but also homogenizing. In the early ’60s, every little kid was affected by the power of radio, TV, and comics. Even the cover suggests a Jack Kirby-esque clash between titans. The more widespread availability of TV, the dominance of rock music on the radio, and the new wellspring of popularity that comics enjoyed made negotiating one’s cultural environment a dizzying feat.
Elsewhere, I’m finally starting to halfway get into the swing of things, link-wise:
—The film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum is always good on Robert Crumb, and he has recently posted his original review of the Terry Zwigoff coumentary. Bobsy at the Mindless Ones has a take on Crumb’s Genesis that doesn’t match up with mine (I wrote about it a million years ago in TCJ 301), but which is smart and certainly worth taking on board. The kill-your-father anti-Crumb wave of late among younger cartoonists and comics critics is very odd to me (it hardly seems to notice, let alone account for, vast swathes of his work, not to mention his deep influence on nearly every aspect of the medium) but I guess unsurprising. [I'm not really meaning to implicate Bobsy in that last sentence, by the way. It's simply a general observation. Poor writing on my part.]
—Jeffrey Gustafson, in an otherwise not entirely unreasonable essay, is the latest in a long, long line of comics fans to take offense at Alan Moore saying modern mainstream comics stink without offering any specific counter-examples. Wonder why that is? He also seems to think “Sturgeon’s Law” is an actual law.
Kurtzman stood somewhat apart at EC. He considered horror comics “immoral.” (What he thought about the others was probably not much more positive.) His reputation today primarily rests upon his having created, edited and written the first twenty-four issues of the satiric humor comic MAD, whose impact on a generation used to the cozy cliches and platitudes of the Eisenhower Age was immeasurable.(After leaving EC, Kurtzman launched three unsuccessful humor mags, Trump, Humbug, and Help, before settling in at Playboy, where he created and wrote “Little Annie Fanny” for twenty-one years, providing stimulation of a different sort.) But before any of this, at EC, Kurtzman produced what have been recognized as the first “anti-war” war comics. With them, the novelist/ newspaper columnist Pete Hamill once wrote, Kurtzman “revolutionized the form…. (His) combat stories were hard, bleak, free of rah-rah patriotism. They were about men, not costumed superheroes.”
People, people, the great Brian Ralph is on tour for Reggie-12, which is a great oversized collection of the excellent comic strip. Go get the book. Go see Brian.
Well, I’m back from the wilds of Maine, and it seems like the site is more or less intact. I guess I missed another comments-thread tempest, but, without having had time to really look at the discussion closely, the arguments seem somehow less inherently divisive (with some obvious exceptions) and more like talking past each other (with other obvious exceptions). It would take more time and thought and close attention to respond as fully as I probably should, but the main issue at hand isn’t going anywhere, and will and should be addressed on this site in the future. The overwhelmingly white demographics of North American independent comics creators, when mixed with a very strong tradition of intensely personal comics in which many of the most celebrated works deal in provocation and even deliberate rudeness, unsurprisingly leads to various artistic and social tensions, possibly irresolvable. One reason for hope might be found in noting how the typical depiction of women has changed in comics since the heyday of the undergrounds—sexism is clearly still a live issue, but things aren’t what they used to be, and I have no doubt that the increased and increasing prevalence of female creators [and readers, editors, publishers, etc.] is a big part of that. Anyway, complicated issues here, and ones that likely aren’t going away any time soon, with or without deliberate action—but deliberation rarely hurts.
Joe McCulloch is here, as he is every Tuesday morning, with his indispensable weekly report on the most interesting-looking new titles available in direct-market stores.
After having spent a week without access to the internet, I am way behind on links, but here are a few I noticed while I am catching up:
—Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement from feature film-making. His Nausicaä of the Vally of the Wind still seems to be to be one of the great achievements in comics.
—Jeet Heer’s In Love with Art: Françoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman is previewed by Anne Kingston at Maclean’s.
The greatest value of a book like Society Is Nix is that it gives us the work of forgotten cartoonists of the past who were so different — and so good — that they shock us into meeting their work in the moment, without any cultural preconceptions.
For example, consider Kate Carew.
Born Mary Williams, she traveled in the 1880s from California to New York City where she landed a job as a writer-cartoonist with Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, the New York World as a writer and cartoonist. Rewind that sentence. Think about it.
One of Kate Carew’s “Carewatures” – this time with John Barrymore and herself
A woman. Traveled across country (alone?) to the biggest, most vital city in the world at the time. Got a job on a paper run and staffed by men. Cartooned. She did all this in the 1880s through the early teens. American women got the right to vote in 1920. Got it? Okay, let’s go on.
Mary Williams adopted the name “Kate Carew” and wrote candid, witty interviews with luminaries of the day, including Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso, and the Wright Brothers. She adorned her interviews with her unique “Carewatures,” and often drew herself into the scene. Imagine Oprah Winfrey as a liberated woman caricaturist-interviewer in 1900 and you have an idea of who Kate Carew was.
Her sole comic strip was the splendidly idiosyncratic The Angel Child, which ran in the World’s color Sunday supplement from 1902 to 1905, and featured a spirited and independent little New York girl who is a forerunner of the famous Eloise. A splendid example of The Angel Child can be found on page 99 of Society Is Nix: Gleeful Anarchy at the Dawn of the American Comic Strip 1895-1915, edited by Peter Maresca and published by Sunday Press (which is basically Peter Maresca).
Today on the site, Robert Steibel makes debuts a new monthly column devoted to the story texts Jack Kirby wrote on the margins of his pencil art. It’s predictably epic.
For the last three years I’ve been doing a daily weblog about Jack Kirby called Kirby Dynamics which was my version of the Daily Show meets Saturday Night Live focused on the life and work of Jack Kirby — I covered news stories and analyzed the history while also trying to have fun along the way. For a bunch of reasons I decided to pull the plug on that project, but as we move towards Jack’s 100th birthday I still wanted to keep my toe in the water, so my thanks to the editors of The Comics Journal for giving me a chance to do a monthly column I’m calling “Jack Kirby: Behind The Lines.” It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to honor Jack’s career here at The Comics Journal. As long as comics are being written and drawn I’m sure TCJ will be at the vanguard of comics scholarship and comics journalism. I’ll try not to ruin their website.
The reason I picked the over-used cliché “behind the lines” for this series is probably going to be pretty obvious. Each month I’m going to take a look at Jack Kirby original pencils and examples of Kirby original art — images that reveal information not in the final newsprint publications. I may also take a look at some scans of Jack’s pencils from the 70s and compare those to the printed books. Mainly I want to focus on Jack’s famous margin notes from his 1960s work so we can get a glimpse into the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee collaboration.
I’m also calling the column “behind the lines” because Jack literally fought behind enemy lines during the second world war. Jack served in the 3rd army, 5th division under General Geroge S. Patton. Here is a photo of Jack at basic training in Camp Stewart, Georgia, July, 1944.
Barry Windsor-Smith talks to Gary Groth about transitioning out of the X titles into his own creator-owned work, Jack Kirby, subverting genre and the aesthetic state of the industry, ca. 1996. Continue reading →