No Xomics

Welcome back. Tucker Stone has granted himself a vacation, so you'll have to live without his sweet, sweet kisses for another week. Instead we bring an interview with Bianca Stone by Alex Dueben. Stone occupied a niche in the small but growing area of poetry comics, which she explains as:

Sequential art that uses poetry as the text. But there are so many variations. Some examples are very abstract, some more traditional and more obvious they comic strips/graphic novel, with text that is clearly poetry (sometimes well-known published poetry). I use that term because it fits the best with what I’m doing. An artist named Dave Morris has been doing them for a long time, and actually published a book “Poetry Comics.” I was excited to find that, but it’s a much different thing than I was doing. I like how everyone who does it is very different. I use the term Poetry Comics for a much broader sense. I’m very interested in pushing against the limits of what a comic can be. There are so many aspects of the comic book, and the comic strip, that offers itself so readily to poetry. Things like panels, gutters, lettering; the conscious choices made regarding empty space on the page vs. the text; timing, line breaks, condensed language, etc. There’s so much to play with.


-Bart Beaty talks about his new book, Art vs. Comics. I'm betting on art.

-An unpublished 1970 interview with the late Joe Kubert.

-TCJ Diary all-star Pascal Girard is teaching a course about comics.

-A New Yorker post in which we learn things about the sacred origins of New Yorker cartoons from deep within the New Yorker.

-More cartoon secrets! This time about John Stanley's comics within comics.

-I can't take it anymore, there are so many secrets: Rob Liefeld is revealing his hidden thoughts about DC Entertainment. More entertainment in these tweets than in those comics.

And the most horrible secret of all: The time Stan Lee got naked. Warning: This photo will fuck you up for life.



Talking ‘Bout

Today, Rob Clough's High-Low column returns in an installment about Stanford University's Graphic Novel Project. An excerpt:

The noticeable rise of comics as a viable field of instruction at art schools, as well as the rise of comics-only art schools, has been well-documented over the past decade. What has been less discussed is the pedagogy of comics at traditional four-year colleges, though there have been a few schools here and there who have made the study and/or creation of comics a priority. Ohio State's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has made the school a center of comics research. The University of Florida has held symposiums about comics for some time now. Duke's extensive collection is notable for its focus on zines and the small press as well as mainstream comics. The University of Cincinnati has Carol Tyler on their faculty in the fine arts department. However, I've yet to see any school with such a particular and exhaustive focus as Stanford, with its Graphic Novel Project.


—Department of Interviews with Guys Named Matt. Editor & Publisher talks to Life in Hell creator Matt Groening, The Beat talks to Boy's Club creator Matt Furie.

—Department of Manga-related Interviews. Anime News Network interviews both the man behind Pluto and Monster, Naoki Urasawa, and hentai pioneer (he's often called the creator of tentacle porn) Toshio Maeda.

—Department of Comics Academic Interviews. Comics Grid talks to former Comics Journal columnist Bart Beaty on the release of his new, much-anticipated book, Comics vs. Art. I haven't read it yet, but anticipate that this book is going to spark a fair amount of debate during the rest of 2012.

—Department of Your Regular Check-in with Alison Bechdel. The Burlington Free Press has you covered this time around. It's a good one, though.

—Department of Sorta Comics-Related. Frederik Pohl remembers his longtime friend Harry Harrison, and his own role in convincing Harrison to leave his art career behind for prose.

—Department of Barely Comics-Related At All. Am I the only one who didn't know that Whit Stillman started out as an agent for cartoonists? And why does that blow my mind so much? It seems exactly the kind of job one of his characters might have.


Choking Hazard

Today on the site:

RC Harvey profiles Richard Thompson in light of last week's news.

Like all cartoonists—and everyone who draws—Thompson is forever engaged, drawing by drawing, in a continual search for the perfect line. Says he: “The perfect line would be some combination of Ronald Searle and George Herriman. But then, that line would be so perfect, it wouldn’t be human.”

In the age of the emerging stick figure, it is refreshing—invigorating—to see actual drawing skill lauded so loudly. But Thompson’s talent doesn’t end with his drawing ability: his lines, interesting and sublime in their simplicity and complexity, merely visualize the world he has created in Cul de Sac, which Cavna describes as “a sly, whimsical skip through suburban life with Alice Otterloop, her friends Beni and Dill, elder brother Petey and her classmates at Blisshaven Academy preschool. It’s all about sidewalk discoveries, childhood invention, parents and other authority figures who are one step behind the children’s antics. At summoning our early years, Watterson says, ‘The strip depicts all kinds of moments than ring true.’”

-The Italian cartoonist and illustrator Sergio Toppi has died. He was renowned for his sense of design and his precise, electric line. Lambiek has the best English-language summary of his career.

-Here's news of a newly discovered run of Jack Kirby daily comic strips.

-A nice local story about cartoonists Joe Giella and Al Plastino.

-Really good shapes in these old Beetle Bailey strips.

-It's Ed Piskor on the Gweek podcast.



Loose Change

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for Joe McCulloch to guide you through the new releases at your local comic shop. It's the only weekly consumer guide worth reading even if you don't plan on buying any comics.


—Last Friday of course brought the heartbreaking announcement that Richard Thompson plans to shut down his much-loved comic strip Cul de Sac, due primarily to Parkinson's related medical issues. Michael Cavna at the Washington Post has whole story. Our own Craig Fischer has posted an appreciation of the strip and Thompson. Stacy Curtis, the artist who took over inking duties on the strip this spring, talks about his experience working with Thompson.

—As you probably remember, last week also brought news that long-running British comics weekly The Dandy will be shutting down its print operation. Charlie Brooker, not a fan, thinks the decision was long overdue. (His analysis of what's going to happen with the digital edition seems a bit unlikely to me.)

—I usually don't like to run too much coverage of movies based on comic books, but when one of the filmmakers is the actual original cartoonist, I'll make an exception. Marjane Satrapi talks to NPR about Chicken with Plums.

—At least two new Joe Kubert appreciations deserve your attention: Rick Veitch remembers working with Kubert on Sgt. Rock backups, and analysis from our own Matthias Wivel.

—Mike Lynch has posted a nice collection of Bill Mauldin photos.


Chasing Waterfalls

Here's what we have for you today: Ryan Holmberg has left Japan, but luckily Japan has not left him. Here is his latest column, written as he was leaving Tokyo -- a look at his favorite place in all of Manga Land: The Aomushi Showa Manga Library.

Housed in a former wood frame church, Aomushi is a spacious and atmospheric treasure house of manga from the postwar 1940s, 50s, and 60s. It is a pain to get to, but the returns for the manga lover – and even more for the researcher – far exceed all the museums combined. Mandarake might have more manga, but not as many gems, and besides you have to buy them to browse their insides. The museums might have fetish objects like Tezuka’s beret or Fujiko Fujio’s pipe, but since we are not talking about the Shroud of Turin, who really cares about relics. Only at Aomushi can you read old and rare manga freely (though not for free) and voluminously, since unlike at the Diet Library you can pull the books off the shelf yourself and unlike at the Naiki Library in Tokyo (a.k.a. Gendai Manga Toshokan) you do not have to pay for each and every book. And even more, you can take photographs (within limits), whereas everywhere else Xerox copying is not cheap and what you can copy is limited.

And Rob Clough reviews Joseph Lambert's Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. This is a really remarkable book -- Lambert's cartooning actually takes you inside the sensory experiences in a concise and subtle way.

Elsewhere online:

-Tom Spurgeon has a pair of interviews with Richard Thompson: one from 2008 and one from 2010.

-Jeet Heer reviews Joe Sacco's Journalism.

-A look at Shirato Sampei.

-Here's a fine appreciation of Brandon Graham's Prophet comic book series.

-And a couple of posts about newspapers... one about the slow disintegration of The Village Voice and another about the purported very last handwritten paper.



Waddaya Know

It's Friday, which means it's Comics of the Weak day, which means that Tucker Stone is reviewing comics, Nate Bulmer is drawing one, and Abhay Khosla is reporting on the recent news involving them. In this case, that's mostly DC's unfortunate initial statement regarding the death of Joe Kubert.

We also have the fifth and final day of Noah Van Sciver's Cartoonist's Diary for you, in which our own Fearless Leader makes a cameo. Thanks for doing this, Noah!

Elsewhere, the comics internet (or at least that part of it I pay closest attention to) seems to be in a lull right now, the kind that if life was a bad movie, would make someone say that it seems "quiet, too quiet." Since life isn't a bad movie, the more sensible reaction should be that it's August. But there are a few things worth noting.

—Kevin Melrose at Robot 6 caught a recent report in Variety announcing that a federal judge can be expected to make a ruling on the Shuster/Superman rights case at any day now.

—Dept. of Notable Interviews.: Paul Gravett talks to Shaun Tan, Paste magazine talks to Jeff Smith, and Newsarama talks to Thomas Herpich.

—If you know Danish, Matthias Wivel has written notes on the early, controversial Tintin albums that I'm sure are worth reading (if only because the notes he writes in English are).

—And, as those of you who follow the world of Reg'lar Book reviewing know, there's been another of those perennially recurring "debates" going on about whether or not it reviewers are too nice, or too mean, and the general value or lack thereof of negative reviews. Dwight Garner's piece in the Times is the most recent entry in the back-and-forth, though this has been going on via Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand webzines and blog posts for a few weeks now. Anyway, I only bring it up so as to point out that the comics world may seem particularly tiny, insular, and thin-skinned about criticism, but really all kinds of people participating in and following all kinds of media like to complain about bad reviews -- at least when the reviews are targeting their own pet projects.


It’s a Riot

It's a busy day here at TCJ HQ. First up we have Sean T. Collins' interview with Uno Moralez, a Russian artist whose web presence has generated a tremendous amount of interest and admirers (myself among them). Here's a bit:

CollinsSince you’re drawing digitally and publishing primarily through the digital medium of the web, I find your work more frightening than I would if it were in print. It feels like the horrors you depict in your illustrations and comics are a part of the web itself — like they’ve infected the page on which they are hosted. Do you feel publishing on the web gives your work any advantages it would not have in print?

Moralez: It’s an interesting point of view. If you start to think, “What is the Internet?”, pretty horrible thoughts can get into your head. I see the Web as an electronic prosthesis which replaces the mental link between people on the planet. But the thought of the Internet having an autonomous mind warms my imagination.

Actually, I publish my work on the web because it looks like it was planned and created there—in its original form, in other words. Furthermore, it’s available for maximum number of people.

Those are just my thoughts. Maybe the Internet Mind will just laugh at me.

Also, Noah Van Sciver marches forward into Day 4 of his diary. And, as we attempt to polish off our SDCC videos, heeeeeere's Archie!

Elsewhere online:

Harry Harrison, longtime SF writer and editor, has passed away. He was known in comics circles for his EC work and his early partnership with Wally Wood. I've always loved his freewheeling 1972/3 interview with Bill Spicer, which covers much of his comics years. Here's an appreciation at i09, and Tom Spurgeon has a solid obituary.

Harry Harrison and Wally Wood, Vault of Horror #12, 1950

Also of interest is this lengthy and very personal essay on autobiographical comics at The Awl. I'm intrigued by Alison Bechdel being the central subject here (5 years ago that would not have been the case), and the recent University of Chicago gathering being such an important touchstone. I suspect that booth will loom large for some time, which is a good thing.

And finally, I've been hearing about versions of this TV show for years, so I'm glad to see it alive and (almost) happening. Ron Rege fans rejoice.




As you may have already noticed, yesterday we reposted Gary Groth's career-spanning interview with the late Joe Kubert, from a 1994 issue of this magazine. Here's an excerpt:

GROTH: Now, during the ’40s when you were doing this, I’m curious as to what the general attitude of all the artists was. I mean, the attitude today, even among artists who work on the same kinds of comic characters you worked on, is that they regard themselves as Artists, with a capital A. They have the sense that they are producing “art.” Now, did you have that sense, that you were involved in a burgeoning art form?

KUBERT: I never even thought about it. I know that I loved and enjoyed what I was doing. I got a thrill out of seeing a good piece of artwork. When I saw stuff that Lou Fine or Will Eisner did, it would raise the hair on the back of my neck. I kept saying to myself, “If these guys can do this kind of work, then maybe I’ll be able to be that good — or better.”

It never intimidated me — just the opposite. It gave me more incentive to go ahead and do my own stuff. But an art form, or a lower form of art? I never thought of that. I just loved to do it.

GROTH: You didn’t sit around and theorize about it.

No. And neither did the guys I knew.

GROTH: Was that a generally held —

I think that it was a generally held feeling. Where questions as to art quality came up was when someone gained an opportunity to make more bucks. When someone had the chance to go into advertising or illustration, he’d take it. Most didn’t do it because of the art. In fact, I think most would have stayed with comic books if they could make an equal amount of money.

GROTH: Because it was more enjoyable.

KUBERT: Right. Because comic books is rather singular in that it allows you to take chances. It allows you to make mistakes. In a 16-page story, all of it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can really go out on a limb and take chances. And, sometimes, those chances work great! And that makes you feel good. If it fails, fine. The majority of the effort does work OK. So it encourages you to take more chances and a lot of guys were able to do exceptionally good work in that way. Comic books also gives you a bigger canvas upon which to work. ’Cause when you’re doing syndication or advertising, there are six guys sitting on your back giving their suggestions. “Turn this a half an inch,” or, “Move this figure to the-left about three inches.” That’s what they’ re getting paid for and that’s what they’re gonna do. But there isn’t enough time for those small changes in comic books. So you had more freedom. To let your imagination run. I find that there is no other area in commercial art that allows you this kind of freedom. To design pages. To design complete books. To generate emotion into a story.

And you find out later that somebody read that story and actually felt the thing that you drew. When I first came into this business, I never dreamed that my work was read beyond the next block. I was doing it because I loved to do it. I really like to see the characters in my head appear in graphic and pictorial form. And when I learned that people around the world get the same effects, it was like having whipped cream put on top of the cake.

We've also begun to resume posting video from this year's San Diego Comic-Con, today featuring a panel called "Graphic Novels: The Bookstore Crowd", moderated by Tom Spurgeon and including participation from Kate Beaton, Alison Bechdel, Jason Shiga, Brecht Evens, Jennifer & Matthew Holm, and Nate Powell.

Also, Noah Van Sciver's week of Denver-style Cartoonist's Diaries continue.


—People continue to remember the late aforementioned Joe Kubert. Some worth reading if haven't already seen them include the New York Times obituary, longtime Vertigo editor Karen Berger's reminiscence, and further thoughts from Stephen Bissette, posted on the Schulz Library blog.

—James Romberger interviewed Gabrielle Bell for Publishers Weekly in anticipation of her new book.

—According to a report in The Guardian, the UK's oldest children's comic, The Dandy, may finally be shutting down after 75 years, due mostly to declining circulation.

—Ng Suat Tong and Robert Boyd, among others, discuss the original comics art market and museum acquisitions of same.

—And finally, in your scholarly link of the day, Janine Utell looks at the use of James Joyce in father-daughter graphic memoirs from Alison Bechdel and Mary Talbot.