My favorite part of the “Grant Morrison Vs. The Word Aspiring” section was Morrison declaring, “I was even a guest on panels at comics conventions”, referring to a UK comic convention that took place somewhere between 1979 and 1982. We’ve all lived long enough where admitting you attended a comic convention in the UK between 1979 and 1982 is a strategy for winning an argument, and not character evidence being used against someone accused of interfering with preschoolers. Bam Pow.
You all know by now the sad news: underground comics legend Spain Rodriguez died yesterday at the age of 72. Patrick Rosenkranz has written our obituary for the artist, a Buffalo native and member of the Zap Comix Collective. Here's an excerpt:
He was born and raised in Buffalo, a blue-collar city in upstate New York, where his colorful and formative upbringing provided a wealth of anecdotes and legends for his later comic stories. He picked up the nickname Spain at around 12 years old, when he heard some kids in the neighborhood bragging about their Irish ancestry. He defiantly claimed Spain was just as good as Ireland, so they began calling him that. It stuck.
The usual suspects often criticized him for his depiction of violence and sexual activity, but he didn’t really care. “I’m just a crude dude in a lewd mood,” he would reply. Comics were his chosen medium of expression and he wielded his pen and brush with impunity.
“It seems to refer to the core of the American vision or the democratic vision, that there’s an aspect of yourself that you owe to your society in terms of omission and commission, but there’s an aspect of your life that you don’t owe to anybody. This is something that there’s a constant fight over. In terms of underground comix they certainly broke through that fifties fantasy that conservatives are so dedicated to maintaining, despite that fact that it was a fantasy in the fifties, and now it’s an absurd charade. Comic books are really something that are part of some core of this country. And that’s the struggle. Liberty and justice for all should mean you can say what you want. Unless you can show some tangible harm I’m doing to somebody, fuck off. That’s the battle line I want to be on. I intend to remain here until they carry me away on my back. If it doesn’t sound too grandiose, I think the undergrounds were really a continuation of the American Revolution. Hell, it sounds too grandiose, but so what?”
Rosenkranz visited and profiled Spain this spring, in conjunction with his most recent book, Cruisin' with the Hound (which was reviewed by Jeet Heer for this site in June). In honor of Spain's legacy, we have reposted Rosenkranz's article, as well as a two-part interview conducted by Gary Groth in 1998. We will also be publishing a collection of tributes to the man, starting with a beautiful comic strip from Bill Griffith, along with remembrances from Gary Panter and Mario Hernandez. We plan to add to that post throughout the following days, as more come in.
It can be a bit daunting to engage with these sorts of comics; they demand that you accept them on their own terms or not at all. They can be difficult to adjust to as a reader. But once a reader has locked into this style, the stories become impossible to put down. It doesn’t hurt that Juliacks has excellent compositional chops as a cartoonist, seamlessly assembling a number of complicated images on each page. Her figure drawing is simple and usually displays a somewhat primitivist technique, but it’s not unusual to see her go a bit more abstract in her character representations.
The Boston Phoenix has cancelled Karl Stevens' comic strip, Failure, after an installment insulted the paper's advertisers. Stevens announced it, and then told some more, on his Facebook page.
Comic book writer and editor Bob Greenberger discusses Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, and while I don't agree with his take, I do like that he shells out some more minutia, because, hey, I re-read old TCJ Newswatch columns for fun.
Brandon Graham's second issue of Multiple Warheads is previewed at Comics Alliance.
You know what Tuesday means: Joe McCulloch is here to tell us all about the newest and most interesting looking comics being sold in stores. He is also very likely appending a fascinating and thought-provoking little mini-essay about some strange or overlooked or otherwise forgotten old comic that he bought at a flea market or maybe obtained via Cyber Monday or something.
Elsewhere, there are other things to read and ponder online, including:
—Two graphic novels (Joff Winterhart's Days of the Bagnold Summer, and Bryan & Mary Talbot's Dotter of Her Father's Eyes) have been nominated for the Costa award, a fairly prestigious literary award previously given only to books without so many drawings.
—I probably don't link to Inkstuds as often as I should, because I assume most everyone reading this who's in the market for comics-related podcasts already keeps tabs on it, but the show has recently posted its annual year's end critics' roundtable, which this year features two Journal columnists, Jeet Heer and Joe McCulloch, and a former editor of the magazine, Tom Spurgeon. (Also, I really enjoyed some of the photos in Robin McConnell's just-posted BCGF report.)
Ken Parille returns with an excellent multi-level historical reading of the first two panels from Charles Burns' excellent new book The Hive. Ken's essay nicely exposes the multi-layered nature of the book, which Grace Krilanovich nicely sussed out on this site. Here's Ken:
In a graphic novel, each panel participates in a complex dialogue with other panels. It’s also part of a larger historical conversation involving hundreds of similar panels from earlier comics. These contexts — the comic itself and the comic-in-history — lend each image interpretive resonance and possibility.
The internet was ablaze over the weekend with Grant Morrison's point-by-point commentary on an article that mentions how he and Alan Moore don't like each other. Or something like that. If you're still reading this blurb then you probably already know if you want to click through, in which case, hey, you'll soon know more than I do about the whole thing. It made for entertaining reading in the sense that I find relationships played out at comic book conventions and in letter columns pretty entertaining! In fact, I sort of wish more cartoonists would settle personal relationships in public. It used to be commonplace at ol' TCJ, but now we have to rely entirely on the over-50 crowd (like our man Dave Sim) to re-up on the personal public drama. Ah well. A boy can dream.
Still further into the internet we find an interview with BCGF partner and now new publisher Bill Kartalopolous.
In other publishing news, as you probably know, Arthur Magazine is coming back, and now the web site is back online.
There are not enough comics equivalents to the kind of books mentioned in this essay about "supplemental work", and I love them all. Off the top of my head I can pine for books collecting essays and miscellany by Patrick Rosenkranz, R. Fiore, Carter Scholz and so many others. Basically TCJ functions as one giant supplemental work which we can never seem to mine enough.
Finally, I like the frequency with which I see new material from Simon Hanselman. It means not all of it has to be great and I can just enjoy the ongoing process in real time. Very satisfying.
If you're American, as Dan and I are, as well as most of the Journal's staff and readership, today is not a day for digging into comic-book news; it's a day to travel vast distances and prepare your appetite for an over-large Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe there will be a bit of drinking for some folks to help them cope with unpleasant relatives; maybe there will be tears. Good times are in store for many, too. Strong, loving families seen too rarely. In any case, there is no place for comics gossip today or tomorrow or the next day. So we will save our links 'til Monday. (I apologize to our non-American readers for the interruption.)
But if you absolutely need some kind of comics-related material to make it through, perhaps to read on a plane or train, or simply to keep you occupied, we have decided to reprint Gary Groth's 1994 interview with Jeff Smith, the incredibly successful self-publisher and creator of Bone and (later) RASL. Here's an exchange from relatively early in the interview:
GROTH: So what year did you finally get to Ohio State?
SMITH: 1982. I said to myself, “OK, am I really going to work in factories for the rest of my life? No, I think I’ll go back to college.” So I enrolled at OSU, and one of the reasons I went was because sometime in there I got really hooked on Doonesbury. I had decided I wanted to take a shot at newspaper strips. I carried around these three giant treasury-size editions, almost like Bibles. I thought they were the next evolution after Walt Kelly, for me. That was the most popular strip on campus at the time too. So I picked OSU mostly because they had the Lantern, which was a daily newspaper. It had a circulation of 50,000. In my mind, that was exactly the tool I needed to practice my vocation. I had come to the realization that I wasn’t going o be able to go to school to get taught how to do this, so the only thing I could do was find somewhere I could practice. So I took one journalism class in order to be on the paper and I enrolled as a fine arts student, then submitted some Thorn strips to the Lantern and they accepted them, and off I went.
GROTH: So you actually enrolled with the explicit thought of having a strip in the paper.
SMITH: Yes, absolutely. In art school, they explained to me that cartooning was just a complete bastard child of the arts and wasn’t real. That was kind of shocking to an 18-year-old. “Oh my God! You mean I’m not allowed to be a cartoonist? Is that what you’re trying to say to me?” So immediately I began looking for ways to use this system that didn’t accept me in ways I could at least use it. I went to 3-D concept classes, then went home at night and would start my comic strip about 9 o’clock at night, finish by 2 at the latest, and I did that every day for four years.
GROTH: So you’re an incredibly disciplined individual.
SMITH: It sounds that way when you say it … [Laughs.]
Hey guess what: It's a holiday week. So we're going to bring you Jog (or rather, we'll ride on his endless coattails) today, and then tomorrow we'll toss an archival interview at you, and then, fair warning, we're gonna take Thursday and Friday off. Let's all take this opportunity to read back issues and catch up on Floyd Gottfredson archive books. Just stick to comics.
Well, this sure seems like a lot of dough to spend on Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson held onto his originals, so there aren't many of these on the market. Combine that with a generation regarding the strip as iconic, and that generation now in a position to act on that regard and... well... it's still a ton of money. More than a McCay or a Herriman, but less than a McFarlane. What a world.
Tangentially comics-related (she was instrumental in Maus being published by Pantheon): Graphic designer Louise Fili has a new monograph out.