A Continent to Despoil and Poison

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.]

GROTH: But in reality you’re lazy!

SMITH: Yeah!

Okay, everybody, have a good Thanksgiving!


Funny Like That

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.

Another early 20th century humorist to think about.

-The Peacemaker!

-I am thankful for Gene Ahern, above many, but not all things. Gene Ahern. Would've liked to have asked him some questions, mostly about beards and pot.


Turkey Shoot

A short American holiday week begins with Rob Clough and his review of Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo, the story of a relatively undersung portion of Abraham Lincoln's young life, and a book that I think rightly made a lot of people reevaluate Van Sciver. Good stuff. Here's a bit of Rob's review:

Van Sciver's greatest achievement in this book is his storytelling restraint. He lets his cross-hatching gets across the grime of a Springfield that wasn't as civilized as its inhabitants might have thought. He wants to show the reader a different side of the Lincoln we grew up reading about in the history books, but also wants the reader to connect this younger man to the future president. More than anything, he wants to show Lincoln as in some ways a very typical young man: he makes stupid decisions, is fickle in his attentions (Lincoln falls for Todd's younger sister), and has no idea what to do with his life (while knowing he wants to do something great), and even engages in cruel humor at someone else's expense.

Elsewhere, there are lots of things to read.

—Tom Spurgeon interviews the great Howard Cruse.

—Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb (and scholar Roger Sabin) are interviewed for a comics-related podcast at The Guardian.

—Chris Ware is interviewed in a shortish, written-through piece by Mike Doherty at the National Post.

Publishers Weekly has a starred review of the newly released new edition of Jon Lewis's True Swamp. I don't normally flag PW reviews like that, but this is an interesting book to get this treatment in the sense that it's a reprint from a time in comics that's gone relatively underappreciated, and is maybe due for a revival.

—I've been seeing this photo passed along as depicting Picasso dressed up as Popeye. (The page itself says as much.) But that can't be right—Popeye doesn't have a beard! Isn't he really supposed to be dressed as Captain Haddock? Of course, neither Popeye nor Haddock wore glasses that I can recall...

—I always enjoy the guided tours Chris Mautner leads through publishers' catalogs. Here's his spring 2013 D&Q.

—Patrick Dean has a photo-filled post regarding the opening of the Jack Davis exhibit he curated at the Georgia Museum of Art. (via)

—Somehow I missed this: Marvel and DC are no longer delaying the release of their digital comics until after the print versions have been released in stores. This is not an unexpected development, but it is possibly a consequential one.

—I guess reviews-in-the-form-of-comics are a genuine Thing now. Vera Brosgol reviews David Nytra in the New York Times. (via)

—Sam Gaskin and Simon Hanselmann had a discussion on Facebook, which later moved to Tumblr.

—Pádraig Ó Méalóid finishes up an in-depth three-part exploration of the alleged influence of Robert Mayer's mostly forgotten 1970s novel Superfolks on the writing of Alan Moore, with an epilogue devoted to Moore's relationship with Grant Morrison. One, two, three.

—Only sorta comics: Robert Boyd writes about the comics-influenced work of artist Trenton Doyle Hancock.



Good morning to you and to Tucker Stone and friends. It's been a very busy week in comics and I'm looking forward to a detailed report on BCGF fashion and personalities.

What else is online?

The historian and publisher Ray Zone has passed away. He was known to comics readers for the numerous 3-D comics he produced, particularly in the 1980s, but he also published some great 2-D comics, including the excellent mini comic series (and later collection) Zomoid Illustories. Mark Evanier has a remembrance. And here is Ray Zone's web site and wikipedia entry.

Artist (and occasionally comics maker) Jim Drain has our best perspective on the philosophy of Garfield. He also has a beautiful show up in Los Angeles.

Jonathon Keats writes about Art Spiegelman's eclecticism for Forbes.

Alan Moore will soon release a short film. Here's a preview.

Jim Rugg has posted a time-lapse video of one of his astonishing ballpoint pen drawings.

Here's an overview of Shakespeare adaptions in comics from American Theatre.

I plunged into this array of adapted Shakespeare as a fan of the plays but no expert, and as a novice in the world of comics and graphic novels. My interest emerged from my own experience, at age eight or nine, during Nixon’s first term, of reading The Iliad and A Tale of Two Cities, not in their original versions, but via the series of comic books called Classics Illustrated. Although they ceased publication in 1962, my brother and I scavenged barely vintage copies from paper drives and tag sales and secured them in a tin breadbox (also found curbside); we would withdraw them from their cask on a narrow loft in our garage to read about Sydney Carton and Helen of Troy. Why we required an aerie for this I don’t know—our schoolteacher mother wasn’t likely to have objected. As a result, I am no snob when it comes to this form, but rather a childhood fan looking to see how it has developed.

Speaking of accessibility issues, here's comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick on the gender gap in comic books.

And here's an audio recording of a panel discussion this year's CAKE about women and graphic autobiography with Rina Ayuyang, Julia Wertz, Leslie Stein, Marian Runk, Keiler Roberts and Lucy Knisley.



Toss ‘n’ Turn

Today we have Sean Michael Robinson's lengthy interview with David Lasky, the veteran alternative comics artist who just put out his debut graphic novel, The Carter Family (which he created in collaboration with Frank Young). Lasky discusses many things, from his plans to write comics about bread delivery to his multiple attempts to do justice to James Joyce in comics form. He also talks a little about why it took him so long to put out a full-length book:

When it’s a minicomic you can take certain risks and there’s no danger. It’s a low-budget operation. But when it becomes a book some publisher is putting up a lot of money and then it’s out there in bookstores and libraries and it’s representing alternative comics to the world. And if it’s not a very good book, I cringe. “Oh, why did they put that out?” I’m not saying that my peers put out a lot of bad books. I think there’s a lot of great books. But if I put out a book I want it to be my best thing possible. So I have had publishers express interest, but ... partly I wasn’t ready, partly I felt they were maybe just overeager, or maybe were gonna put out something that wasn’t my best material.


—Adrian Tomine's been on a roll lately, media-wise (and here on the blog), but it's all good stuff. He talked again to The New Yorker about how he creates cover images for the magazine, and I missed earlier this great episode of Too Much Information, which features a very good audio interview with Tomine about surviving superstorms. (It also features another guest telling an incredible (in both senses of the word) story about the teenaged Mitt Romney meeting Guy Debord in Paris, 1968.)

—I said I was done reading BCGF reports, and that's mostly true, but I'd be remiss not to mention at least two more, from Robert Boyd and Rina Ayuyang, two supersmart comics people who had very different experiences.

—I am also going to steal Tom Spurgeon's link to a story I unfortunately missed myself last week, to Tablet's article about Paul Reinman. Read it.

—Finally, is it necessary for someone here at to address the recent cosplay "controversy?" I hope not, because it's really obvious who the cretins are in that back-and-forth, and I don't feel like dealing with it. You don't see a lot of cosplay related to the kinds of comics we mostly cover, anyway, though the way things to go with The Young People™, I'm sure that will change sooner than I expect. There will probably be a lot of "sexy" Tux Dog outfits at the BCGF of 2020.


The Well

Today we have R. Fiore on Sean Howe's book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Fiore lived through a chunk of this story as a critic for TCJ. Here he is:

Howe’s story has four phases: (1) The Golden Eggs Are Laid, and Now They Belong to the Farmer; (2) Stan’s Not Here; (3) It’s Jim Shooter’s Universe, We Just Live in It; and (4) Strip Mining. Though the first phase is the most creative period in the history of Marvel Comics, it’s actually the least interesting part of Marvel Comics. This is in the first place because it is not Untold but told many times, and in the second place because there was actually very little human interaction. After the purge the Goodman comics operation was reduced to little more than Stan Lee in a bleak corner of the office, far from the window and close to the draft. The comics were produced by a handful of stalwart, high output freelancers led by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, who might come into the office once a week to discuss new assignments. In shifting their focus from monsters to men of steel they were, in true Magazine Management fashion, imitating a DC’s semi-successful initiative of reviving costumed characters.


Here's a fine interview with Jim Woodring on the subject of visions.

Timothy Callahan writes about 11 comics he brought back from BCGF.

Wow, this is really gorgeous skeleton-inflected Milton Glaser work.

A very unusual story involving the cartoonist Paul Reinman. Via.

Not comics: This is a good Philip Roth fantasy.


Don’t Want to Talk About It

It's Tuesday, which means it's Joe McCulloch day, and this week his column's a doozy, featuring copious images from and commentary on three untranslated manga magazines Joe bought while in New York recently.

I love Big Comic. Established in 1968, it's among the oldest seinen manga anthologies still going today, 300+ pages for ¥300, delivered every two weeks to a particularized audience of guys facing, experiencing, or at least contemplating middle age. "Comics for Men" means 'old souls only,' and that credo often seems to extend to the contributors, many of whom have known many decades of service to Japan's storied comics industry. This aspect helps me maintain perspective as a non-Japanese reader; half the fun of 'reading' untranslated manga for me is pouring over the internet for elusive bits of information on semi-familiar titles, validating that yes - that's the guy I thought it was, the mangaka everybody used to talk about in North America, who seemed to drop off the face of the Earth. He's still working, still knowing a circulation of maybe half a million... but foreign appeal is a capricious thing.

He also previews the week's new releases, of course.

The reason Joe was in NYC isn't hard to guess: he was here for the BCGF. Unexpected family obligations meant I couldn't go this year, but from all accounts, it went pretty great. Fantagraphics has a photo report here, and Tom Spurgeon turns in his traditional recap here. I'm sure many other reports are on their way, but honestly, I don't want to read anything about the show, which you can safely put down to sour grapes.

In the course of his column, Joe also discusses the horror manga artists Junjo Ito, who is also the focus of a recent post by Noah Berlatsky.

And Jeet Heer writes a really nice tribute to the beloved Toronto comic store The Beguiling for the National Post on the occasion of the store's 25th anniversary.

Okay, and otherwise, it's interview city lately. Here are a bunch of cartoonists worth listening to:

Quentin Blake at Metro.

Gabrielle Bell at the Paris Review.

Ethan Rilly at Robot 6.

Maurice Sendak at The Believer. (missed this one.)

—Adrian Tomine for the Los Angeles Review of Books:


Substitute Pepperoni

It's been a weekend all right. BCGF 2012 went off without a hitch and now it's all over but the blogging.

Today on the site:

Cartoonist, writer and educator Paul Karasik pens a 14-part review of Chris Ware's Building Stories. I loved publishing Paul on TCJ. He is the very first cartoonist I ever interviewed, way back in The Ganzfeld 1. Here's a sample thought from the review:

Real Estate ad:

This 14-story charmer is built to exacting standards. Solidly constructed by master craftsman yet luxurious and appealing. Many distinctive features. Easy access to visual cortex. Some TLC needed. Must be seen to be believed.

Patrick Rosenkranz, the foremost chronicler of underground comics, recently visited S. Clay Wilson and has a report on the artist's condition, as well as some thoughts on Wilson's art and context.

Wilson’s favorite word is still “No!” He used to be a motor mouth but now he’s mostly monosyllabic. After a long life dedicated to being the baddest boy in comix, he’s become a grand old man, but he’s no longer in his right mind. He used to be able to out-talk, out-booze, out-cuss, out-draw, and outrage almost anyone but he doesn’t drink, smoke, snort or draw dirty pictures any more. He doesn’t walk much either and seldom leaves the house, and only in a wheelchair. He used to start each day answering a stack of correspondence with a variety of pens, rubber stamps and assorted collage materials, and then spend each day listening to talk radio while diligently drawing comics and commissions in his small home studio. Now he watches movies on TV while lying on the couch or in his hospital bed.

And in comic book link news...

An essay by Emily Cooke about writers she calls "The semiautobiographers", including Alison Bechdel. (via KH)

All of these writers — the new semiautobiographers, you might call them —  reject privacy and propriety for openness and provocation. In their novels-from-life they aim for a synthesis of the personal and the intellectual on the one hand, and the fictional and the nonfictional on the other.

In related news, the complete Shazam live action series is on DVD and here's a substitute for ever having to watch it (or an enticement to watch it, depending...)

 More artwork from the Joe Simon estate, including a really beautiful Mort Meskin page.

And finally, here's preview for the English language release of Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat animated film.