The Masters

It's Friday, which means it's Tucker Stone day. This week, Abhay Khosla takes on Grant Morrison, Tucker Stone takes on Grant Morrison (and David Hine taking on Morrison), and Michel Fiffe takes on the portrayal of Cubans in Garth Ennis's Nick Fury series.

—Video of the panels from this year's SPX are already showing up on YouTube. So far we've got the Frank Santoro-moderated Jaime Hernandez panel:

And the Dan Clowes panel, featuring Ken Parille and Alvin Buenaventura:

—Various artists, including Clowes and Adrian Tomine, discuss what inspires them with the New York Times. (And surprise—in both cases, it's neither Hemingway nor even Fitzgerald!)

—Speaking of inspiration, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez appeared on NPR's Alt.Latino and talked at length about their favorite music.

—Drew Friedman draws and discusses Bernie Krigstein.

—Paul Constant interviews Ellen Forney on the occasion of her winning the Seattle Stranger's "Genius" award.

—Joe McCulloch has some words for Milo Manara.

—As part of Boing Boing's series on "great graphic novels", Douglas Wolk talks up Lynd Ward's God's Man, and Jim Woodring touts Steve Lafler.

—Old Marvel coloring lore.

Get the look. (Sammy Harkham.)


Here They Are.

Here on the site...

The esteemed Richard Gehr takes a break from his Know Your New Yorker Cartoonist duties to turn a review of The Carter Family, Frank Young and David Lasky's eagerly awaited graphic biography.

Thoroughly researched enough to belie its “graphic novel” self-descriptor, The Carter Family is also an ill-fated love story set mostly in the southern United States during the years leading up to and following the Great Depression. Its subtitle – Don’t Forget This Song – bears witness to the rich, ever-changing river of folk culture in which its principals – not to mention its creators themselves – flourished.

Top of the internet today is TCJ's own Sean T. Collins' excellent Rolling Stone roundtable with Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. Sean really coaxed an excellent exchange out of this lot, including this:

There's been a revival among alternative-comics circles toward a new pantheon of sci-fi/fantasy stuff, like old Heavy Metal comics.

Ware: I was not aware of this.

Gilbert: I have to toot our horn again: They don't have any personality! You're not really talking about anything but escapism. That's fine, I'm all for escapism, but the reason we do alternative comics is because it's all totally from our personality.

Clowes: I have to say I have a recently rediscovered fondness for Heavy Metal. That was a big deal when it came out: "Wow, you can draw robots with tits!" It has a certain charm to it, especially the really weird, unpleasant stuff in it. All that Richard Corben stuff was so disturbing.

Gilbert: You can tell the difference between artists: Who's the madman, and who's the guy just doin' it? That's why guys like [Joe] Kubert and [John] Buscema and John Romita, who were really amazingly skilled artists, there's just nothing there other than they're just really skilled artists. Then you see Crumb, who was just a complete nut.

Clowes: Or [Jack] Kirby, who was the opposite.

Gilbert: Or [Steve] Ditko. They're crazy men. "Who let them do this?" [Laughter]

Ware: When you talk about a pantheon . . . When I went to art school and I went to the art history classes, we were taught this very specific progression of where art came from and where it supposedly was going. It was almost like these pills you had to swallow that had been established by art critics and art writers. One of the things that appealed to me most about comics was that you can pick the ones you like and build your own personal pantheon. I've never met these younger kids who are more interested in – I just said "younger kids." I can't believe that. [Laughter] Younger artists are interested in Heavy Metal – that's great. That's something else completely to start from.

Gilbert: That's what was missing from alternative comics after us: The art got less and less good.

Also chatting is Art Spiegelman in Germany.

Jim Rugg has an excellent report on his most recent zine, which is more like an elaborate comic book history project. Best seen to be believed. One of Jim's favorite comics, Real Deal, gets profiled over at the Stussy site -- artist Lawrence Hubbard collaborated with the brand.

And finally, apropos of our ongoing role of negotiations-host for Dave Sim and Fantagraphics, Bill Kartalopolous reminded me that he posted a great piece about Cerebus by Adam White on Indy Magazine back in 2004.


Oh! Oh!

Good morning. Today we have a biographical essay on the pre-Barnaby Crockett Johnson, excerpted and adapted by Philip Nel from his new book, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature. This section focuses particularly on Johnson's early politics. Here's an excerpt:

He began to contribute to the Communist weekly New Masses. His first cartoon, published 17 April 1934, mocks self-professed experts on communists. In a cartoon published three months later, he goes after not only the rich in general, but President Roosevelt in particular. Billionaire industrialist J. P. Morgan reclines on a luxury liner’s deck chair. “CORSAIR” on the life preserver links Morgan to piracy, likening the captain of industry to the captain of a pirate ship. A young man delivers a message: “Radiogram, Mr. Morgan. The White House wants to know are you better off than you were last year?” Johnson suggests that President Roosevelt is more concerned with the wealthy than the needy, implying that, yes, the rich are doing fine, but how about everyone else?

In 1932 and 1933, 24 percent of Americans were unemployed, up from 3.2 percent in 1929. Though the unemployment rate would drop to 21 percent in 1934, the nascent New Deal had yet to produce major results. It was a time when people went on hunger marches, when police shot strikers, and when general work stoppages shut down major U.S. cities. As Michael Denning writes, “The year of the general strikes—1934—was also the year young poets and writers proclaimed themselves ‘proletarians’ and ‘revolutionaries.’” In his cartoons, Johnson announced his sympathy with proletarians and revolutionaries.

He signed his first cartoons simply “Johnson.” By August 1934, he began signing them “C. Johnson,” sometimes reverting to “Johnson” and once to “C. J. Johnson.” Whatever name appeared on the image itself, New Masses nearly always printed his byline as “Crockett Johnson,” the public debut of his pseudonym. The first cartoon to bear that name was published on 7 August 1934 and showed a wealthy capitalist wife complaining, “Just because your greedy workmen decide to go on strike I can’t have a new Mercedes. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair.” Thoughtful, soft-spoken art editor Dave Leisk had become radical cartoonist Crockett Johnson.

Elsewhere on the site, the ongoing Dave Sim/Kim Thompson negotiations have made a lot of progress, but also reached an apparent possible impasse, revolving around the best place to start the potential reprints. Sim's latest response, as of around noon yesterday, can be read here, and Kim's can be found here. Many, many people have stopped by to add their two cents, including but not limited to Ed Brubaker, R. Fiore, Gary Groth, Jeet Heer, Eddie Campbell, Sammy Harkham, Brian Hibbs, Eric Hoffman, Chris Duffy, and Leigh Walton. Tom Spurgeon has some commentary on the apparent bottleneck on his own site. Graeme McMillan of Robot 6 has used the occasion to reflect on reprints and comic-book history in general.


—It's Winsor McCay's 143rd birthday, and the Billy Ireland Library is celebrating.

—Charles Hatfield read a lot of comic books this summer, and has thoughts about them.

—Warren Ellis looks at Darwyn Cooke's use of infographics in his Richard Stark/Parker adaptations.

—The Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore lawsuit over The Walking Dead has ended in a settlement.

—And finally, a Not Comics item, prompted by all the Ernest Hemingway talk hereabouts lately:




Ok, it's Tuesday and so you know Joe McCulloch has new comics on the brain as well as some 90s goodies for you Seattle-philes.

And elsewhere:

Drawn & Quarterly goes to New York. Blogging ensues.

This is something: Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli and Jasen Lex back issue-diving in a giant comic book warehouse basement about an hour from Pittsburgh

-I have love for early Dave Berg.

-That Walking Dead lawsuit is now settled.

-Comic book writer Greg Rucka has left DC Entertainment and has some choice words on the matter. All these public splits -- it's like the 1970s over there.



Big Things

Today we publish one of the pieces I have been most excited about since Dan and I began editing this website, the return of the great Carter Scholz. Longtime readers of this magazine will know that name well, but for those who don't, Scholz was one of the great Comics Journal writers, and to my mind one of the greatest science fiction critics in any publication. Perhaps his most famous essay for TCJ was his "Seduction of the Ignorant", in issue 80, but he wrote a lot more than that. If you're a subscriber, and don't know his work, head to the archives immediately. In more recent years, he is better known as a fiction writer, and his novel Radiance is strongly recommended. Now Scholz is back, with a review of Gary Panter's long-awaited Dal Tokyo collection. Here's an excerpt:

...[Think] of it as a comic strip, a periodic commitment. A blog before and after its time, a day book spanning three pitiless decades. Each strip of the first series is time-stamped, by hand, to the minute, testimony to Panter’s living and working and recording in the here-and-now of it.

Not that there is ever (but once) anything like direct comment on our own here-and-now; Dal Tokyo is set on “Mars.” From Panter’s preface: “Jimbo and my other cartoon characters live on Mars in a well-established planet-wide sprawl of a city that was founded by Japanese and Texans.” The first four pages of the “story” are a beautiful set of overlay maps with these titles: Tokyo rail system 1930; Upper Triassic; Texas highways; Lowell Observatory 1896 (a map of Percival Lowell’s fancied “canals” of Mars).

So yes, we could pretend that Dal Tokyo is “science fiction” set on a terraformed Mars settled by Japanese and Texans, with some dinosaurs (they did roam in Texas) thrown in — and I’d vote for it in an instant in the Hugo or Nebula awards — but it’s more fundamentally a construct in the surreal obsessive-compulsive imagination of Gary Panter, a longtime occupant, a lifer, on our own Planet Xtinction, as astute and ornery and doomed as William Burroughs before him — another refugee from the flat middle of the country where you can see what’s coming for you a long way off — with a febrile subconscious informed by the relentless boombox of American empire, corruption, hypocrisy, media, and the manifold collisions that ensue.

Elsewhere on the internet, there is plenty to read, but very little as fine as that. Let's do the roll call all the same:

—This weekend saw the publication of the final syndicated Cul de Sac strip from Richard Thompson. Michael Cavna at the Washington Post has gathered comments on the strip's end from cartoonists ranging from Bill Watterson to Lynn Johnston.

The Guardian has the first formal review of Chris Ware's awe-inspiring Building Stories I've seen. I'm about halfway through the book myself, and it's already clearly an astounding achievement, and a certain landmark for what can be accomplished in comics for decades if not longer.

—Darryl Ayo shares some misgivings about Benjamin Marra's comics prompted by our recent interview with the artist.

—Big Other has an interview with Gabrielle Bell.

—Alan Moore made his first convention appearance in a very long time at an event called N.I.C.E. Bleeding Cool reports on his Q&A session, in which he apparently made some intemperate remarks about Stan Lee. [UPDATE: Stereoket has audio of the whole thing.] Coincidentally (probably), Sean Howe republished the first part of a long essay Moore wrote about Stan Lee in 1983.

—There are still a few straggling SPX reports worth reading coming in from such as Dustin Harbin, Rob Clough, and (again) Tom Spurgeon.

—Finally, Jim Rugg demonstrates how to make a zine.


Walking Talking

On the site today:

Tucker Stone returns with some Daredevil, some Love and Rockets, some Abhay and some new comics, too.

And in case you haven't been following along, yesterday Dave Sim responded to Kim Thompson's thoughts over in our comments section. There will be more.


Tom Spurgeon brings us a definitive SPX recap.

And... links are dull today. Let me instead recommend a comic to you: Leslie Stein's epic story "Jonathan Part 1". Briefly, a single mother and her two children visit a friend and her child at the beach. The children play. The mother meets a man, Jonathan, and becomes involved. It's a seemingly casual tour of a very rocky emotional landscape (childhood, parents and parental figures, illness), drawn with a care and devotion I hardly ever see anymore. Leslie's pointillist panels reveal a ton but never impede the story -- and instead kind of float along as the weight of the characters accumulates. That's kind of what I mean by "epic" -- this comic brings you through multiple stations of life in just 17 pages, compressing tumultuous child and adult needs and emotions into a handful of events. Anyhow, there's your weekend reading.



Moving Fast

Today, we have Rob Clough's review of this year's big Joe Sacco collection, Journalism.

Most of Sacco's stories are bleak, but there's often a small kernel of hope. Things might get better for the downtrodden, war might end, tyrants might fall, freedoms might increase. This doesn't usually happen or guarantee happiness, but sometimes a new steady state emerges that doesn't always produce misery. In Sacco's last story in the book, "Kushinagar", there is no hope, in part because the steady state is so thoroughly entrenched. Sacco visits a number of small villages in the titular region of India and spends time with Musahars, the lowest of the low in India's caste system. While there is misery and squalor depicted in each of Sacco's stories, this one details actual starvation and true deprivation. The Musahars cannot find employment in an increasingly mechanized system of agriculture. They cannot usually raise crops on their tiny plots of land, especially since they have to sell that land to pay off debts to banks they had to take out to pay off loan sharks to buy food on credit. The many government subsidy programs are hopelessly corrupt, with money and supplies going to village chiefs and siphoned off for the profit of higher caste members. Some Musahars described digging around in rat holes to get the grain that they steal in order to survive.


—Three publishers known for their excellent post-con blog reports have posted post-SPX blog reports: AdHouse, Fantagraphics, and Secret Acres. Especially that last one. Usually the royal we gives me hives, but somehow they always pull it off.

—The L.A. Review of Books' coverage of comics has slowed down, but it's not gone completely. This week, they published F.X. Feeney on Walt Kelly's Pogo.

—Marc Sobel, whose upcoming Love & Rockets book I'm greatly looking forward to, has penned two pieces for Comics Forum on lesser-known Alan Moore stories.

—I don't know what to think about this study claiming that fat guys who dig Batman have better self-images than fat guys who don't (besides the obvious fact that just one study like this basically proves nothing), but there you go.

—Junot Diaz, whose love of comics is obvious from his own fiction, took Vol. 1 Brooklyn to St. Mark's Comics to talk about his favorite titles.

—A couple of columnists have joined the Hooded Utilitarian hatefest: Shaenon Garrity on assorted titles, and Craig Fischer on David Small's Stitches.

—And Stephen Bissette's ongoing, enjoyable series on Steve Ditko moves on to tackle how Ditko is portrayed in Sean Howe's new Marvel history.



Today on the site:

Matt Seneca sits down for an in-depth interview with the cartoonist (Night Business, Gangsta Rap Posse) and publisher Benjamin Marra, who has carved out a fascinating body of work with deep roots in genre comics and an articulate, idiosyncratic worldview. I'm glad Matt asked him about some of his more controversial material. Here's a bit:

SENECA: I remember when people saw Night Business, everyone was saying that this was the fucking Paul Gulacy comic. How conscious were you of that influence?

MARRA: I mean, Gulacy was influential in a similar way to Laming and Stokes. It wasn’t as direct, but one thing I loved about Gulacy was just the attitude that he brought to drawing figures, it was just so intense, the way that he drew. Some of those Master of Kung-Fu issues, it’s the most intense comic book art I’ve ever seen. There’s one of them specifically, number 40, that blows my mind every single time I look at it. It’s the best comic book ever illustrated, in my opinion. I mean, as far as a total body of work goes, Kirby is the best. But this one issue, the emotional intensity that he had when he was drawing, it overrides any mistakes or lack of drawing ability. It’s sort of like Giotto in a way; the emotional intensity he brought to the images is so powerful it makes up for any drawbacks or flaws he might have as an image maker. Gulacy’s stuff is a little off, but it doesn’t matter because he’s just so committed to it. That’s what I wanted Night Business to feel like, one of the Master of Kung-Fu issues that Gulacy drew. It’s stuff he drew when he was probably like 19 or 20, so it kinda has that teenage mentality to it, you can tell it means so much to him even though it’s just this Bruce Lee knockoff comic, you know? It’s just capitalizing on this craze from that time! It doesn’t matter! But to him, it’s everything. And that’s what I wanted. It’s just so intense that you could feel it by looking at it.


-Eric Reynolds has an SPX photo round-up.

-Molly Crabapple tweeted about her arrest during an OWS protest on Monday.

-A Bernie Fuchs sketchbook.

-Ohhh, William Overgard.

-And finally, an interview with Adam Kubert in which he addresses the future of his father's school.