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The Sense That There Are Invisible Forces

New feature up today: Tara Sinn introduces (and interviews) the mysterious Japanese poster artist Aquirax Uno, and day four of Brandon Graham’s diary.

“My inspiration for these stories simply comes from the strangeness of life and the the sense that there are invisible forces behind things, and things happen for reasons we can’t fully understand.” Am I the only person who missed this brief but very well done video interview with Jim Woodring?

This one-question interview with Johnny Ryan kills my lonely fantasy that Prison Pit‘s plot was maybe, kind of, sort of a loose remake of Robert Sheckley’s The Status Civilization. I guess it was always kind of more obviously inspired by the story in the back of Real Deal #1, anyway. (Prison Pit fans who haven’t read that issue better get on it.)

A nice, and surprisingly informed, short tribute to Captain Marvel artist and former Journal columnist C.C. Beck appeared on The New Yorker‘s website yesterday.

Do you know anything about 1940s cartoonist Ann Roy? If so, current Journal columnist Ken Parille needs your help.

Another current Journal columnist, Jeet Heer, turned in a solid review of two recently reissued (and near canonical) comic histories for Publishers Weekly. I haven’t yet read the Jerry Robinson book, but I agree with Jeet about the value of Brian Walker’s collection.

Offhand, I can’t think of any epistolary comics, but it’s a great idea, with a lot of unexplored potential. Aidan Koch and Jaakko Pallasvuo are giving it a try right now.

We will review Jacques Tardi’s Arctic Marauder soon, I promise. In the meantime, Craig Fischer has a smart-as-always response to the book here.

Finally, Comics Alliance has gathered several videos from French television featuring the likes of Moebius, Hugo Pratt, and Joe Kubert in action.

 

Maximum Meat Flavor For Minimum Money

That’s right, I’m in Chicago for less than hours. Came out to see the Jim Nutt retrospective at the MCA, “Coming into Character.” Scandalously, it is not traveling outside of the city — through know fault of the show itself — amazingly (or actually not, if you’re familiar with recent programming decisions by other major museums), no other institution would take it. I’ll keep it simple: If you can, go see this show. It’s the best single-artist retrospective I’ve seen in a very very long time. Maybe since Dieter Roth at MoMA – PS1 in 2004. Watching Nutt tighten his focus to intensely rendered and detailed imagined portraits is riveting. These are paintings that can be looked at for hours — worlds of brushwork exist within each area of these images. Every mark builds on the next, and the intersecting planes and surfaces build to multiple crescendos. Nutt is a real modern master, and one whose early language in the 1960s was highly involved with flat, comic-strip/advertising rendering. He’s very far away from that now, though one can still see a bit of the diagramatic Gould grotesque in him if you squint just right.

Not that it’s all culture here — when I come to Chicago I roll with pal Ethan D’Ercole, who started me out with tacos, moved along to hot dogs, and finished off with deep dish pizza (the kind with the sauce on top, and, in a unique twist, a crust wrapped with carmelized cheese — delightful).

Anyhow, it’s a quick blog from me today, since I’m traveling and also in a food coma.

And your links:

* Amy Poodle on Batman Incorporated #4.
* This story is just sad, but obviously also infuriating and dangerous to the creators involved. Sad.
* This is fun: A bunch of prelim and promo art for Marvel’s Strange Tales II.
* Bob Powell: A damn fine journeyman. Here’s a 1944 war comic starring “The Spirit of ’76”.

On the site:

Tucker Stone on Jason Shiga’s latest.

And with that, kind people, I go back to digesting.

 

My Dinner without Andre

It is easy to pick a side in the long-running debate between Garfield Minus Garfield and the original Silent Garfield. The latter reveals a bleak hidden dimension to the original strip, and enlarges our understanding by offering a new way to read it. The former simply relies on a cheap gimmick that reveals nothing other than the banal observation that if you remove one character from a dialogue, the remaining figures will look foolish. Take Andre Gregory out of My Dinner with Andre and you’ll make Wallace Shawn look weird, too. So what? (I’d like to call dibs on that YouTube edit, by the way.) After all, it’s no surprise that Garfield Minus Garfield got official approval and a book, while Silent Garfield quietly disappeared.

These thoughts are prompted by the new popular “viral” comic-strip edit, 3eanuts. The idea here is simple, too. As the site says, “Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters’ expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all.” You could perform this trick with most stories too—lop off the ending of anything from Psycho to Romeo & Juliet or Goodfellas, and you’ll get a radically different tone and impression. So in a sense this is another facile experiment, but at least it illuminates something about how powerfully an artist’s editing choices affect the reader. (via)

Today on TCJ:

Don’t miss Jog’s latest column, Shaenon Garrity’s long-awaited return to the Journal with a review of the latest volume of Finder, and day two of Brandon Graham’s diary.

More links:

Philip Nel brings us Crockett Johnson’s first strip.

Jim (“Our Nixon”) Shooter is still blogging, and just put up a post about how he became editor-in-chief of Marvel while he was still in his twenties.

The comments thread after this typically terrific Glenn Kenny post on Taxi Driver sees various of his readers getting back into the old argument over whether the main character of Scorsese’s Raging Bull is “identifiable” — a debate that always seems to flare up around Scorsese and Coen Bros. films, and which also brings to mind last year’s back-and-forth on more or less the same topic regarding Daniel Clowes’s Wilson. Both sides of the character debate are represented well on the Kenny thread.

Joanne Siegel’s letter to the head of Time Warner from shortly before her death is a must read (Spurgeon explains), and very sad.

 

Monday Madness

First, some office work.

Earth people, send us your event listings. As you may have noticed, we are publishing event listings. We wish to fill them up. So, direct your listing news to: events@tcj.com.

We have uploaded issues 37 and 39-41 of ye ol’ TCJ. Only 260 more to go. Almost there! But these issues are chock full of goodness. Issue 40, for example, has an interview with a young-ish Jim Shooter, just a little while before he was branded “Our Nixon.” Kim Thompson, meanwhile, contributed a piece about Tom Sutton, and the great John Benson has an early (and very prescient) overview of Art Spiegelman’s work. TCJ and Tom Sutton: A long term love affair. Issue 39 has a long piece on the now-infamous 1978 DC Comics contraction, a lengthy report on the then-comatose underground comics scene, and in the reviews dept., we have Kim giving Marvel 1970s-era Kirby a tough talking to, while Groth takes on Superman vs Muhammed Ali. And then issue 41 breaks open the Steve Gerber controversy, with a report and an interview with the man himself. The archive is still free for a little longer.

And new content today and from the weekend. In his first piece (of many, we hope!) for us, Tom De Haven takes on the upcoming Gilbert Hernandez book; meanwhile Frank Santoro brings it for the third week in a row. His best layout piece yet. By the by, if, during the week you long for Frank, as Tim and I often do, you can click over to his Tumblr and check in on him.

And now, onto links.

Most of you have probably already seen this NY Times piece on Marvel’s publishing program. A little more business-y than I would’ve expected, the takeaway here seems to be that, uh, Marvel is trying… something, and that something is directed from the editors through the writers. The visuals in this visual medium aren’t mentioned much, and neither are any particular creative strategies. Me, I’m still waiting for that New Universe revival.

Via pal Dash Shaw we have two delights. First is this animated film by the great illustrator James McMullan, who taught Dash at SVA, along with a few other generations of other artists. His drawing lessons are actually online at the New York Times. His languid, elegant figures are just astonishingly well painted. More McMullan can be seen at Container List. Second, here’s an online exhibition of the Art of Akira, along with commentary.

Contributor Chris Mautner takes us to Comic Book College in the area of Frank Miller. This is a good start in some choppy waters. I’m glad Chris recommends The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is my favorite Miller work, post-1990 division. Also, he reminded me that Miller actually wrote Robocop vs. Terminator. I can’t believe there’s not a movie of that already. I’d go see that. Thrice! Dapper Dan’s Movie Review would have a field day!

Finally, Harry Mendryk goes what we, around the “office” call “deep Santoro” with part one of an analysis of the Simon & Kirby colorists. And Joshua Glenn’s HiLobrow continues to focus on Kirby with this fine piece by Adam McGovern.

 

 

Potpourri

As Jog noted in his column this week, the final issue of Neonomicon just came out, so now I have to figure out whether or not it’s worth resurrecting the Comics Comics Comic-Book Club one more time, possibly in mutated form. Those of you who were reading along, stay tuned — I’ll figure something out.

Now, to the links:

Multiple birds killed with one stone in this brief review. A model of the short form.

Richard O’Connor digs up an old George Plimpton introduction to a Bill Plympton collection.

I suppose now that we’ve made the move to the Journal, I no longer am obligated to bring to your attention all news on Steve Gerber. But old habits die hard. Here’s a Scott Edelman interview with the writer. The audio’s a little poor, unfortunately, but Gerber is a good talker.

Carol Tyler is more charming when she gets purist about comics terminology than John Byrne is. Big claim, I know,

Speaking of Byrne, Roberto Batuel at the Comics Grid offers a short and perhaps slightly too reverential take on the infamous blank pages of Alpha Flight issue 6.

Normally I like to leave comic-book movie news to Dapper Dan, but just this once: the producers of the new live-action adaptation of Akira are reportedly hoping to cast white actors as the main characters (and change the location from “Neo Tokyo” to “New Manhattan”). Some are complaining, but they are probably forgetting how well Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla came out.

You’re probably seen word going around about the shirts Daniel Clowes designed for Stüssy. (Interview here.) They’re beautiful, as were the ones the Hernandez Bros did a while back, but I have to wonder: Am I the only one who would have trouble wearing a shirt with a Stüssy logo that big? I guess I’m just getting old.

For the Utne Reader, Joe Sacco goes to New Jersey.

 

On Top of Blueberry Hill

I’m here in St. Louis at Washington University on a fine spring day.

Naturally any trip to the Gateway City must include beers with Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch. Duh.

But the big news was a fine trip I took with Kevin to go see an archive of work by Harry Tuthill, of Bungle Family fame. And here is the thing, as evidenced in this archive, between 1924 and 1930 Tuthill hand-painted every single one of his Sunday pages. I don’t mean color guides — I mean fully painted pages. One after the other. The only thing we can figure is that he simply liked to do it, as stats couldn’t have been shot from the painted pages. That would have caused too much line distortion. Plenty of cartoonists hand-colored their pages, but usually (or maybe only) to give as gifts. I can’t think of anyone who did it seemingly just for themselves, with no obvious purpose in sight. If anyone knows different, please let me know.

Have a look:

And a close-up:

An excellent panel:

Here’s another:

These pieces are just stunningly beautiful, and the attention Tuthill paid to fashion is remarkable. He had a loose, calligraphic line — unfussy but in complete control. And, it turns out, a helluva way with color. Anyhow, more on this later. And yes, there’ll be a book in it sometime.

Ah, ok, since you asked, here’s one more:

And don’t forget:

Meanwhile, just a couple of links today, as I’m on the run:

* Matt Seneca on Dash Shaw at Robot 6.

* Not comics, but highly relevant: Artist Richard Prince lost a lawsuit over an appropriated photograph — the judge ruled that essentially the resultant artwork was not transformative, and thus not “fair use”. Faire use is always a tricky thing, and these days, as so much artwork is based on the digital or photographic manipulation of extant imagery, it’s getting trickier. And before I hear a word about Lichtenstein and Warhol, those works were obviously a whole other kettle of fish: painted and/or screened,  significantly altered, and recontextualized in scale and production. The Prince case is a mildly manipulated photograph of a photograph. Anyhow, it’s interesting and the article at the link is a thorough investigation.

Finally, hot new content today:

Ryan Holmberg digs in deep and comes up with revelatory ideas and facts about late 1960s manga. Get in there and read.

 

Question Time

First of all, an announcement that may be of interest to those of you who live in the New York area, or who plan to visit the city during this year’s MoCCA Festival. The Journal will be participating in an all-day event at the famous Strand bookstore on April 8th:

STRANDICON presents a Celebration of The Comics Journal: A Conversation with Gary Groth, Kim Deitch, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel

April 8: 7:00PM – 8:00PM

The Comics Journal has been the leading voice in comics criticism for nearly four decades. It launched its first full-fledged website in March 2011, and in celebration its editors, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel, will lead a discussion on the history of the magazine and the medium of comics criticism with founding editor Gary Groth and longtime cartoonist and TCJ interviewee Kim Deitch.

The bookstore will feature artist appearances and signings by throughout the day. More information here.

***

And now on to random links. The weird thing about doing this every other day is that it tends to mean that a portion of the links are a little out of date, at least in internet time. (What’s that, you say? I should share links I find with Dan? I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.) But maybe that’s okay. These links may not be brand new, but they are tried and tested, each one worthy of clicking. Or at least that’s the hope. Anyway…

*In Bible scholarship news, according to Discovery, new evidence has come to light supporting the idea that the Old Testament may have been edited to remove traces of a female god. Interesting in light of some of the similar scholarship Robert Crumb relied upon while creating his version of Genesis. (via)

*Here’s a review I never expected to see: the often astonishing novelist William T. Vollmann writes about the Library of America’s recent Lynd Ward collection in the latest Bookforum. Unlike the typical literary type slumming in the cartoon world, he even manages to take the form seriously enough to think out loud about how it works: “Graphic novels sometimes require of us the willingness to see and remember without comprehending right away.”

*Luc Sante also wrote about the collection, in Harper’s. I let my subscription to that magazine lapse, so I can’t read it until I pick up a copy, but Sante’s always worth reading.

*It’s hard to believe that Chris Ware’s daughter is already old enough to be writing record reviews—if you haven’t clicked on the many links to Clara Ware’s take on Tiny Tim for Roctober (complete with illustration and afterword from her father), you really should. (via)

*Eddie Campbell’s one of the greatest talkers in comics — and just might be interviewer-proof. Matthias Wivel’s no slouch in his own right, and their resulting conversation is predictably solid.

*Journal columnist Sean T. Collins points us to an interview with Phoebe Gloeckner, which contains a lot of new information on just what she’s up to in Mexico over the last several years.

*I remember seeing this once. I thought it was a dream.

*Hans Rickheit would like your help.

*A short radio interview with New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren. (Thanks, LP.)

*Finally, another story that’s been going around, but that you might not have read yet. You have to, though. I won’t ruin it by telling you anything beforehand. Just make sure you get far enough to understand about the frogs. (Thanks, ER.)

 

The Day After

I will be on my way to St. Louis as your read this. I’m lecturing and doing critiques, etc., at my alma mater, Washington University, and also spending some time at The Modern Graphic History Library looking at Al Parker, Robert Weaver,  and other greats of 20th century illustration. Plus, Kevin Huizenga and I will be embarking on a secret historical mission deep in the county. Exciting!

But you don’t care about me. What you care about is that I remind you again (until we get our FAQ page online) about our spiffy new comments policy. We realize there is no right fit for everyone, but we’re reading your comments and discussing it all — we’d like to maintain what we have, with these rules in place, for a little while. If we need to make changes, we certainly will. Thank you all for  your interest.

And you also care about links. Glorious, highlighted links!

At the top of my list is Tom Spurgeon’s eloquent case for voting Bill Blackbeard into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Without Blackbeard, comic strip history as we know it would be greatly impoverished. He pioneered the collecting and archiving of newspaper strips by literally driving a truck around North America and grabbing newspapers before libraries threw them out. His holdings supplied the bulk of the material we all now write about (and as Spurgeon noted, his generosity was unparalleled). Plus, his Smithsonian Anthology remains a cornerstone not just of comic strip culture but of visual culture in general. So, this is one time when it really matters. Give the man his due.

Via Jeet comes this blog post about the discovery of a previously unknown George Herriman strip that may well be his very first.

Some historical treasures to imbibe courtesy of Ger Apeldoorn: Mort Meskin’s Vigilante and the always amazing Italian cartoonist Jaccovetti.

Sean T. Collins reports on a good ol’ fashioned DC vs. Marvel war of words.

Here’s a semi-revealing post on Comets Comets from the fake CF twitter guy, recounting his travails somewhat obliquely. Ironically, this matches nicely with a New Yorker article this week on a guy named Dan Bejar who imitated the musician Dan Bejar. Fake CF didn’t share CF’s name, but… well, fakery and imitations — always more enlightening for the imitator than the subject of the “experiment”.

And finally, TCJ contributors Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch present: Black Swan. Not comics, unless you count Darren Aranofsky’s love of the medium and his killer collection of Hernandez Bros. art.