The Linchpin

As on every Tuesday, Joe McCulloch has This Week in Comics!, your annotated list of the most interesting new comics being released this week.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—The Building Stories juggernaut is rolling along. Here's Paul Gravett's review, here's a critical back-and-forth at A.V. Club between Noel Murray and Tasha Robinson, and here's a short Q&A Chris Ware gave to the Guardian. (I have a feeling they were more careful with editing Ware after what happened to Dan Clowes.)

—The Guardian also has an interesting interview with Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group, regarding Sweden's controversial recent decision to reshelve some Tintin books due to racist elements.

—The great manga blog Same Hat is back after a way-too-long absence, with scanned images from a 1971 issue of Concerned Theatre Journal, packed with underground Japanese comics, and arguably the first manga translated into English. It includes the legendary Yoshiharu Tsuge story that would later be retitled "Screw-Style." Same Hat also thoughtfully provides a complete pdf of the issue for free download!

Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson underwent brain surgery over the weekend, and convinced his doctor to let him draw during the procedure. Thompson explains over here.

—Laura Siegel Larson, daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, has released an open letter regarding her family's longtime battle with Warner Bros./DC over the rights and profits due from Superman, and talks specifically about allegations made against attorney Marc Toberoff.

—Sean Howe, occasional TCJ contributor and author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, is interviewed about his book by Salon.

—Drew Friedman is selling prints of Al Jaffee.

—And finally, another of the SPX panel videos has been released. This time, it's Sammy Harkham, interviewed by your co-editor, Dan.



Today on the site we have the next Building Stories essay, this time by series editor David Ball:

How does this concentrated exploration of failure shape our understanding of these artists’ accomplishments, as well as their relationship to their own work? What Ware holds in common with these and other literary antecedents is the conviction that failure is a creative and generative force in artistic production, that it allows us a lens through which to discover human narratives that resist our peculiarly American insistence on success at all costs (viz. Ware’s rejected Fortune cover, one of the most pointed critiques of the global financial mess we continue to inhabit). Before him, Melville famously wrote that “failure is the true test of greatness,” and Faulkner claimed that he would be judged ultimately on “his splendid failure to do the impossible.” Ware’s rhetoric of failure, I argued in 2010, was an explicit look backward to these earlier, literary claims of productive failure; indeed, he cited the essay from which Melville talked about failure as the true test of greatness when composing his thumbnail history of literature for the cover of a VQR special issue titled “Writers on Writers.” Such failures might be more profitably read as the laments of literary experimentalists straining to break with artistic convention, the protests of those not inured to the ethical disorientation of America’s economic determinists and free-market fundamentalists, or the chronicles of a human condition straining against the inevitable cliff’s edge of mortality. Failure, these artists remind us, is what drives our stories, defines our ambitions, makes us most keenly human.

And elsewhere it's an orgy of interviews. We have your "Quotable Chris Ware" at The New Yorker and your "Rock Star" cartoonist Adrian Tomine at the LAist.

Jim Rugg brings us Matt Furie via Jim's podcast, while Tom Spurgeon does one of his nifty page-by-page interviews with The Carter Family's David Lasky and Frank M. Young. And finally, here's a good interview with longtime Marvel man Chris Claremont.


Suggested Reading Order

Our Building Stories celebration continues with another contribution from our David Ball-organized team of authors. Today's essay comes from Daniel Worden. Here's an excerpt:

Building Stories finds a curious paradox embedded within loss. In one large, newspaper-sized component of the text, "loss" describes both the death of a close friend, and the triumph of shedding a few pounds; one of these losses is tragic, the other desired. This duality gives Building Stories a complexity that is rare and profound. Loss in Building Stories is a condition of life, yet it is never complete. That is, no matter who dies or what is removed, every loss leaves behind a remainder in Ware’s world. This is perhaps most visible in Building Stories’ female protagonist, who loses the lower half of her leg as a child in a boating accident. While the leg is gone, it remains as an absence on the three inter-related large drawings of the protagonist’s body in a hardback book within Building Stories. The reader cannot help but notice the leg as absence, and the absence registers, itself, as a presence, a marker of individuality. What is lost, remains.

Rob Clough's High-Low column is back, too, with an enormous spotlight on several relatively new (or recently revived) small press publishers, including Koyama Press, Hic & Hoc, Conundrum Press, 2D Cloud, and Alternative Comics.

Tucker Stone had to call in sick with his column this morning, unfortunately, but if it's Tucker you want, you can always check in with the weekly podcast he does with fellow Journal regulars Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, and Matt Seneca. Last week, they devoted most of an episode to Love & Rockets, and Tucker made a point about Jaime Hernandez's comics in particular that is often obscured: it doesn't really matter what order you read them in. Partly this is due to the way the stories skip back and forth in time, but primarily it's because of the way Jaime tells his stories: even if you read every comic and story he's written in order of its publication, you're still going to feel like you're missing some of the backstory, because a lot of it still has never been revealed. Even when he introduces brand new characters, such as Tonta in the latest issue, he usually starts in media res, and it can feel as if you've joined the story after a long series of chapters have already been missed. Strangely, this replication of the effect you can get from reading old contextless comic books is also one of the most "realistic" aspects of Jaime's comics.

It's not that far off from what Ware's doing with Building Stories, actually, and speaking of correct "reading orders," Joe McCulloch has decided to suggest his own for that book. I haven't gone through his suggestion carefully to see how it works, so I'm probably wrong, but I'd suggest reading it in any order you want, then going back and doing it Joe's way the second time around. Part of the fun of Building Stories is knowing that your own experience with the book, right down to the order in which you read it, is likely to be unique.

—Ng Suat Tong has just announced nominations for the third quarter of his 2012 best online comics criticism search, and is looking for more. He's got a pretty good list going there now.

—Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have moved with their family to Angoulême, and Abel's published an enormous post about the move well worth reading.

—More podcast news: Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez are guests on the Bat Segundo Show, and Adrian Tomine and Joshua Glenn co-hosted an episode of Boing Boing's Gweek.

—Tom Hart has released an online comic about his late daughter, Rosalie Lightning. Be warned, it's genuinely heart-breaking.


Metal Burger

Today we have the first installment of Matthias Wivel's new column, Common Currency, which will focus on European comics. Matthias looks at the latest volume of Fabrice Neaud's diary comics, which uses American superheroes in an unusual fashion:

What we have here, then, is something almost unthinkable in American comics, at least until recently: an artist working at the most personal level, taking reality-based comics as far as anyone, and in doing so invoking the power of Galactus. And not the palatable original version from the work of the character’s creators, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but rather the one made by Byrne, an artist almost uniformly (if unfairly) reviled in American alternative comics. (Neaud also brings in Jim Starlin’s ’90s work, which is held in even lower esteem.) “Denis” goes on to tease out the meaning of the blank, white panel backgrounds used as often by Byrne as almost to constitute an auteurial signature. He describes this “plane of manifestations,” in which the celestial entities of the Marvel Universe occasionally appear, as a space “before creation”—a potent metaphor for pre-conceptual reality that Neaud, as explained, attempts subtly to harness in how he writes his life in comics.

And elsewhere:

Congrats to Lowlife cartoonist Ed Brubaker on selling a couple of TV pilots. Kidding aside, I really enjoy his comics writing and it'll be nice to see his sensibility in a different medium.

Monster Rally!

And odd news: Stan Lee Media, which the man himself is no longer involved with, is suing Marvel for ownership of various characters. Good times, everyone!

Here are some beautiful costume and period studies by classic illustrator E.F. Ward.

Steve Bissette shows us what's been on his drawing board.

And it's old pal Jon Vermilyea showing his stuff on the Juxtapoz site.


Rabbit Holes Everywhere

Chris Ware week continues, and so far it's much more pleasant to moderate than the unexpected Dave Sim month we just had ... go figure. This morning brings another installment of our David Ball-organized multi-author symposium, this time by Katherine Roeder. An excerpt from her essay:

I previously wrote about Ware’s facility with art historical conventions, which are once again on display here. The Renaissance system of linear perspective, use of symmetry, repetition of geometric forms and motifs, along with a resounding clarity of both color and line brings unity to the disparate pieces. This visual precision and orderliness sharply contrasts with the inherent messiness of his characters’ emotional lives. His main character is a woman who perceives herself as a failed artist; her tender drawings forming a counterpoint to the stark linearity of Ware’s compositions. In the smaller of the two included bound books, his cutaway views of her apartment building recall the tradition in seventeenth century Dutch genre scenes that depicted domestic interiors from the perspective of an unseen observer.

We also have an interview with Ware conducted by Chris Mautner. Here's a bit from that:

Having a family answered pretty much every question and problem I ever thought I had in life; it’s made me a much better person, I think, or at least I hope it has. Though it can’t solve one’s problems if one isn’t already somewhat stable, it can be the final catalyst towards the necessary firming up, or maturation, of the spirit (though America keeps assuring one that this is completely avoidable, if one prefers). I cringe with embarrassment when I think of my pioneer great-great-grandmother Clara F. Abbott and the privation and grimness she endured on the 1850s Nebraska prairie so I could … what? Draw comic books?

Elsewhere on the internet:

—There's plenty more Ware, including another interview conducted by the New Statesman, a registration-required selection of six favorite comics at the London Times, and a collection of interesting posters celebrating local Chicago history.

—But let's go back to Dave Sim for a moment. As many of you probably heard, over the weekend, IDW announced a deal to publish a collection of Sim covers. (This soon turned out to mean not just one volume but "three or four"; Sim-related ventures tend to get complicated.) Yesterday, IDW made another announcement, that they had signed a $30,000 deal to publish something called the High Society Audio Digital Comic Store Collected Edition. (This all happens, of course, in the context of the recent public negotiations with Fantagraphics.) This second deal I find much harder to understand, but presumably what exactly that euphonious title means will be made clear in time. In fact, I think it is likely that Robin McConnell of Inkstuds fame asked about it during his interview with Dave Sim last night. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but it's one of the first things I plan on doing today.

—A couple of Daniel Clowes links. First, a pretty fun Tumblr devoted to Clowes fan art, and second, his official website has launched a new "oddities" section, starting with a pair of Ditko and Kirby pages inked by a young Dan Clowes.

—Over at Slate, James Sturm writes a brief tribute to Matt Groening, and provides examples of cartoons from a poster his CCS just gave Groening in honor of Life in Hell's end. (The artists include Alison Bechdel, Sammy Harkham, and Tom Tomorrow, among others.)

—I feel like a jerk linking to Sean Howe's Marvel Tumblr all the time, but he keeps posting incredible things, so I can't help it. Today, he's got a pretty amazing 1971 debate in which Stan Lee bitterly criticizes the comics industry's treatment of creators, and says, “I would tell any cartoonist who has an idea, think twice before you give it to a publisher.”

—Paul Gravett writes about Asterix in Great Britain.

—Glyn Dillon gave a really good interview to Mark Kardwell for Robot 6.

—Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine has garnered a fair amount of attention for his recent statements on the future of newspaper strips—and the difficulty in making money cartooning online. Everyone who talks about online publishing makes sense to me, whether they're totally for it or totally against it.

—Matt Madden and Jessica Abel have announced the complete list of "Notable Comics" from this year's Best American Comics collection. They are also hosting a giveaway.


Tappy Toes

Today on the site:

We have an excerpt from TCJ-contributor Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which is out today. I recommend the book very highly -- it's deeply researched and vividly written. Sean successfully weaves together a fascinating and detailed history of the company with evocative portraits of the people who drove it. The hippy 1970s and flat-out bizarre '80s, are particularly well done. Basically it's the book I always wanted to read about Marvel. Anyhow, we pick up the story in the '90s.

And Joe McCulloch is here with thoughts on Ware, Chaland and the best photo of Building Stories yet published.


Speaking of Joe, he and Tucker Stone must be happy about the news of a Garth Ennis crime comic. Ennis is like a one-man pulp line.

Here's an interview (on his own site) with Allan Holtz, longtime historian and author of the recent American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide.

I haven't seen this before, though it's a few weeks old: An oral history of SpongeBob SquarePants by Tom Heintjes.

Not comics, but close enough: A series of stunning Seymour Chwast-designed advertisements.




Today we are bringing you the first installment of a multi-author feature. To mark the release of Chris Ware’s decade-in-the-making Building Stories, we are featuring a series of essays from the contributors to the 2010 volume The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking. Each contributor is revisiting the argument they made in that edited collection two years ago in light of the newly released work, speaking to the ways in which Ware’s comics have either transformed in that time or are returning to the themes of his earlier publications. First up is Martha Kuhlman, with "The God of Small Things". We will continue with other installments over the next few weeks.

The Journal's own Jeet Heer has already weighed in on Building Stories for the Globe and Mail.

—I don't think it's talking out of school to say that Jeet has been really excited about some of the recent Judge Dredd discussions that have been going on on the site. One thing I meant to link to but neglected to was that longtime 2000AD writer/editor Pat Mills has recently started a blog, and is recounting the story behind the character's origins.

—Another Jeet favorite, Seth, recently spoke to the Moscow Times about his work on a new edition of Chekhov. (The paper also spoke to Maurice Vellekoop about what Seth was like in the early years.)

—Slate has announced a new annual Cartoonist Studio Prize, presented in conjunction with the Center for Cartoon Studies.

—Xavier Guilbert at du9 interviewed Anton Kannemeyer of Bittercomix, and very pleasantly for American monolinguists, the conversation has been translated into English.

—Two more interviews: Dane Martin at Murdering the Magic, and Tom Spurgeon at Virtual Memories.

—Another SPX panel has been posted on YouTube. This time, it's Gilbert Hernandez, interviewed by our own Sean T. Collins:


Happier Times

Good morning. Tucker and Abhay and Joe McCulloch are here to discuss Marvel, old comics, at least one web comic, and something about Daredevil. Here's a bit on Tezuka:

Do people who make contemporary comics read this guy? (This has nothing to do with that “make Morrison read Powr Mastrs” meme from a few irritating interviews back.) Or is Tezuka like Fugazi sort of became, an example that people are more comfortable envying than imitating. It’s not that Message to Adolf is some mind-blistering perfect thing–although it is very, very good in parts–but that it, like so many other Tezukian examples, does so much. There are so many different sorts of things covered within, not just the long string of genre mash-ups and contemporary movie references that predate today’s culture, but visual weirdness, moments where the guy fills the page with intricate, breath-caught-in-chest cartooning, drunken pages full of detail and line, pages where you start to wonder if he had something to prove or just plenty of extra time or maybe, and this is my preference, he just got lost in the build phase and woke up hours into going too far.

Mark Siegel closes out his diary. Thank you, Mark.

And, well, we closed down the Dave Sim/Fantagraphics thread, but Dave was still writing, so here's his latest response.

Elsewhere online:

-H.M. Bateman was really a wonderfully genteel and skilled cartoonist. Funny, too.

-Hey, Gabrielle Bell is on tour.

-Sean Howe has a Dave Sim response of his own.

-Brecht Evens designed a mural-comic in Antwerp.

Have a good weekend.