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Sneaking to Bronx

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Drew Friedman’s More Heroes Of The Comics.

In many respects, More Heroes Of The Comics is more in line with Friedman’s traditional interest in b-grade, obscure, and discarded American culture than the first volume. That first book, which had 83 illustration plates, included Friedman’s heroes from EC Comics and a number of obvious choices like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Bob Kane, etc. He threw in a few more obscure choices in an effort to make the book more than a line-up of dead white men, but the history lessons came more from Friedman’s visual interpretation of each artist through his portrait/caricature than via the accompanying text, even if Friedman took great pains to have his biographical copy reflect the controversies that might have surround each subject, especially with regard to issues like exploitation. In this new book, Friedman tackles one hundred subjects, and has the luxury to go in some offbeat directions.

For example, the Three Stooges-obsessed Friedman includes Norman Maurer, a cartoonist who happened to marry Joan Howard, the daughter of Moe. A couple of years later, he wrote and drew the first Three Stooges comic book (featuring Friedman favorite Shemp) and later worked on early 3D comics, including the Three Stooges in 3D. Maurer’s portrait is a profile shot at his drawing desk of an unassuming young man with the typically slicked-back hair of the era. Also featured in the book are Hy and Bill Vigoda, brothers of the well-known actor (and another Friedman favorite) Abe. They are featured not just because of Friedman’s fan interests, but rather because they represent something that Friedman repeatedly makes a point of emphasizing: people who worked in the industry for a long time, on comics that aren’t lionized today in the same way that popular culture has seized upon superheroes. The Vigodas, for example, after working in some of the early comics sweatshops, went on to long careers working in Archie comics.

I loved this book. It’s so much fun, and like Rob notes, full of oddities and never-beens. The true heroes.

Some links:

Glen David Gold reviews Michael Tisserand’s Krazy.

Leslie Stein perfectly sums up the holiday spirit right here.

 

I Drink Your Milkshake

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the best-sounding books new to stores. Spotlight picks this time include Michael Tisserand’s much-anticipated George Herriman biography and a new collaborative effort from Stanislas Barthélémy and journalist Laurent Rullier. Joe also writes about a Disney comic by Lewis Trondheim, Nicolas Keramidas, and Brigitte Findakly.

The album is technically part of a line of artist-driven Mouse comics at Glénat, with additional contributions by Régis Loisel (who’s done work for Disney’s animated films) and “Tébo” (also the writer of Keramidas’ Alice au pays des singes series with Glénat) — along with a book by Bernard “Cosey” Cosendey that IDW also plans to release — but really it’s part of Trondheim’s continuing project of summoning works and traditions from comics’ past and making them his own.

However, I am at a disadvantage. For one, I’ve not read what I suspect is this book’s closest relation, the 2010 Spirou et Fantasio sub-series album Panique en Atlantique, which Trondheim wrote for artist Fabrice Parme with purportedly similar throwback flair. Moreover, I *have* read this very good review of the Mickey book by Jonathan Bogart, whom I fear has plumbed all the depth this piece has to offer. Of particular note, Bogart reads the book’s central conceit — that the comic we’re seeing was not really created by Trondheim & co., but found by them in a hidden stash of regional European Disney comics from the ’60s, serialized at only one page per issue by anonymous talents — as a means of re-framing Mickey Mouse and all his baggage as something suddenly native to the small-format serialization of Franco-Belgian children’s comics: a truly BD Disney at last.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. James Yeh reviews Richard McGuire’s new book of New Yorker spot drawings/comics for the Times.

As in his loudly (and deservedly) praised 2014 graphic novel “Here,” McGuire’s singular, virtuoso approach to storytelling is again the star. Whereas “Here,” with its static living room scene and bold leaps forward and backward in time, explores a simultaneous vision of space and history, “Sequential Drawings” takes a more playful, spare and gag-like approach, wordlessly shuffling between imaginings of the secret lives of diner condiments (“Scenes From a Table”) and stylish insects (“Insect Fashion”), inventories of funny hats (“Hats”), obstructed faces on the subway (“Subway”) and ice (“Ice”).

—Interviews & Profiles. Robert Newman profiles Drew Friedman.

Years ago it could be a little nerve-racking if the phone wasn’t ringing with work as much as I’d like, but now I basically decide what I want to create. I make my own hours and for the most part decide what I want to work on. The solitude isn’t a problem because my MacBook is right by me at the desk, so I’m never really alone for too long—I’m always connected with my fellow travelers, that is, if I wanna be.

The New York Times interviews Zunar.

I’m facing so many laws three laws have been used against me so far. But one thing I keep in my mind — one very, very important thing — is that the biggest enemy for anyone in the world is self-censorship. For me, talent is not a gift but a responsibility. People ask, do I have fear? Yes, I have fear, I’m human. But responsibility is bigger than fear. So I don’t want to really think what the government will do next to me. I just concentrate on what I’m supposed to do. That can help me continue and draw more cartoons. If I start to think about law, I start to think about prison, I start to think about government action, I will definitely start to practice self-censorship — and this is no good. So I will draw as usual.

The most recent guest of the Process Party podcast is Rina Ayuyang.

—Misc. 2dcloud has launched a Kickstarter to fund their fall 2016 lineup, including new books from Sab Meynert, Tommi Parrish, and Jake Terrell.

We’ve been using Kickstarter as a mechanism for pre-orders and curated book bundles since 2010. This is our 8th Kickstarter. It’s been a powerful tool allowing for discovery, discussion and distribution.

Our Kickstarters are simply put, how we keep the lights on for our company. Think of them as NPR style fundraisers operating as a way to sell small curated book bundles.

This is the final week of the Kickstarter to fund a new documentary about the aforementioned Drew Friedman.

For years, artist Drew Friedman has chronicled a strange, alternate universe populated by forgotten Hollywood stars, old Jewish comedians and liver-spotted elevator operators.

Vermeer of the Borscht Belt is an in-depth documentary tracing Friedman’s evolution from underground comics to the cover of the New Yorker.

Friedman grew up in the New York literary scene of his father, writer Bruce Jay Friedman, but he was more at home with the Three Stooges, Car 54 and MAD magazine. Vermeer of the Borscht Belt traces fifty years of American popular culture through the unique lens of Drew Friedman.

 

Model Building

Today on the site, we revisit Dana Gabbard’s 1989 interview with Don Rosa, whose Disney Duck work is presently being reprinted by Fantagraphics.

GABBARD: There’s a lot of pacing, suspense and detailing. Very vivid and very immediate is how I would describe your work.

ROSA: One problem I’ve always had is when somebody has invited me to speak at some school about creative writing or to give a lecture on this or that, I’ve always refused because I don’t consider myself an expert on this stuff. I don’t know what I’m doing — I just do it! I’ve never tried to figure out what my style is. I just sit down and do it. My training came from not trying to please anybody — just to do it for the fun of it. I made comic books for myself when I was little. And I just did it the way it seemed it should be done. I’m not saying this is the right way to do it. I just never thought about it and just sat down and started doing it.

And I never concentrated on developing any particular art style, since I wasn’t planning on doing it for a living. If I had, I’d have tried to learn how to draw a bit more in a Disney style rather than something that comes out looking like Robert Crumb. But I know where that comes from. Once I started doing stories for Gladstone, people said “they look like a cross between Carl Barks and Will Elder.” And there’s a lot to that. Because when I was little with all those Dell Comics my sister had, the only ones I really liked were Barks’ ducks and the Little Lulus. It’s much more difficult to explain to somebody what’s good about Little Lulu. I mean, what’s good about Carl Barks’ ducks is pretty evident. It stares you right in the face. The artwork is good, the stories are complex. More than anything else, I liked Barks’ style. But Little Lulu is a bit more elusive to explain … Anyway, after that I moved right into Mad Magazine (1957-1958) because my sister was in high school in those days and that’s probably what she started bringing home instead of Dell comics. So I was just a Mad Magazine fanatic for the next seven or eight years. I went right from Carl Barks to Will Elder and Basil Wolverton. I am a Robert Crumb fan. Of the so-called “underground” artists, he’s one of the only ones I really liked. But I never tried to imitate his art. I’m sure whatever drawing style I had must have developed by the time I first saw Crumb’s comics. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Sometimes I try to explain it to myself, that neither I nor Robert Crumb took the stuff seriously. So we didn’t try to make it look pretty — we just started putting all that noodling little cross-hatching in there. From what I’m learning in the Robert Crumb sketchbooks and Complete Robert Crumb stuff from Fantagraphics, he used to make all these comic books for himself, too, just like I used to do. All sons of silly stories.

(Ooops, that wasn’t quite ready yet).

At the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Boxer reviews Krazy.

Great interview with cartoonist Laurenn McCubbin over at the LARB.

The great French cartoonist Gotlib has passed away.

 

 

No That Doesn’t Work

Today on the site Alex Dueben brings us an interview with creative duo Kerascoët.

Your publisher sent me a copy of your new children’s book, Paul and Antoinette. How did this come about?

Sebastian:  We started to work with Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency in New York. She contacted us a few years ago. She was building her own little agency and she looked all over the world for people she wants to represent in the US. So we said, okay, why not.

Marie:  She showed our art book to Claudia [Zoe Bedrick] and she fell in love with a character we made a few years ago–this pig with the big glasses. She asked us to make a story about him and that’s how it started. We want to make more and more children’s books. For me it’s the holy grail of fiction. I’m so happy to see it.

So you had Paul and then gave him a sister.

Marie:  Yes, she said how about make a couple? We thought a strange couple. He looks very clean and strict and so we gave him a sister. [Sebastian] has a sister and I have a brother and when you are two you are very different roles. As a child my brother had glasses and was strict and everything was perfect in his room. I went to his room when he wasn’t there and just opened the door and closed it and when he came back he knew I had opened the door. I don’t know how because I didn’t touch anything. I liked gross things a lot. I ate the grease, the disgusting part of the meat, just to watch him react. I loved the pleasure of watching him react.

Sébastien:  It’s also a way to talk about accepting different people, and accept that people who aren’t like you can bring you something else in your life.

Marie:  I’m so happy with what she did with the book. It’s a beautiful book.

I gave the book to a few people to read who commented that they liked how the typical gender dynamic–that the girl would be neat and the boy would be messy–was flipped.

Marie:  Thank you.

Sébastien:  Most of our characters are female. We like strong female characters. Like Miyazaki.

Elsewhere:

I am an enormous Mark Alan Stamaty fan, and here’s an all-too-rare interview with great (Who Needs Donuts?) cartoonist and illustrator.

My pal Anya Davidson gets the Inkstuds treatment. 

And here’s a solid profile of cartoonist and educator Tom Hart. 

Trina Robbins resumes blogging with a post about Wonder Woman and pantsuits. 

 

Finally, I enjoyed this look at the making of a local bookstore in Brooklyn — another branch of Greenlight, one of the best stores around.

 

Katana

RJ Casey is back to day with a review of Tommi Parrish’s Perfect Hair.

You’re at a party and someone is telling you all about their new job, new significant other, new something. You’re trying to listen, but all you can concentrate on is making eye contact, like you’ve been taught. Don’t look over their shoulder or at their moist mouth. You try staring at the left eye. Then the right. It’s not possible to split focus on both eyes, is it? You start fixating more on the performative act of communication than the actual practice. That zone right there — where you’re half-listening and fraught and floating with self-consciousness — that’s the feeling Tommi Parrish explores in Perfect Hair: a book that may not make you happy to be alive, but sure will make you glad you’re a comic reader.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Brian Nicholson has a couple of interesting reviews up, of Tristan Wright’s Low Light and Mark Wheatley & Rick Burchett’s 1991 Black Hood.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was a kid, not being a sociopath, while the image of a man with a gun might have been compelling, I felt no desire to project myself into it, as a fantasy, the way I felt with the idea of flight. That image, though, was everywhere. I was a child during a time when there were four ongoing Punisher comics, and Robocop and The Terminator, despite their origins in rated-R movies, were common sights in toy stores.

Reading comics from fifty-cent bins, where a comic shop’s cast-offs from the year or two before went, I encountered the early issue of the Impact Comics line. I didn’t realize until much later that this line of comics was designed specifically for children, that the teenager protagonists were meant to be relatable or aspirational. At least, I didn’t think of them as being intended for children any more than the other comics I read were. The Black Hood was the line’s take on the simplistic stripped-down concept, of a vigilante with firearms. He was introduced initially as a guest star in the line’s first four books, before being given his own title, the fifth to debut. Reading that series now, what’s striking about them is how focused they are on the dismantling of a dangerous notion. It seems like it’s taking the responsibility of a young audience seriously, to parody ideas too many people a few years older were taking completely seriously.

—At the Criterion blog, Eric Skillman writes about Paul Pope and Ron Wimberly’s work on the packaging for the new Lone Wolf and Cub box set.

The Lone Wolf and Cub film series has its roots in the Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s seminal manga of the same name, which was itself a major influence on western cartooning and illustration in the 1980s. It felt only natural to pay homage to that connection in our design. We brought in Paul Pope, an American artist whose work is heavily influenced by Japanese brushwork and manga styles.

—The latest Comics Workbook roundup post has a lot of good stuff in it.

 

More Less

Today we have George Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand with an exclusive image feature about Herriman and Hal Roach. Here’s a bit:

The party began on Thursday evening, December 7, 1933, and lasted until the next morning. Five hundred invited guests joined Roach at his studio in Culver City to celebrate his twentieth year as a studio head, with thousands more listening to an NBC radio broadcast of the proceedings. “Memory Lane was all lighted up with electrics,” reported Grace Kingsley for the Los Angeles Times. “The place had been fitted up like a palace.”

It’s likely, but not certain, that George Herriman was among those in attendance.

Elsewhere:

A short interview with Zunar in the NY Times.

Sammy Harkham has made an enormous print of one of Chester Brown’s finest sequences. 

 

Getting Through

Joe McCulloch is here as always on Tuesdays with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding books new to stores. Spotlight picks this week include a new volume of Schuiten & Peeters, and a tribute to Wally Wood.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. NOLA.com talks to Michael Tisserand about his George Herriman biography, which is looking likely to be the book-on-comics of the year.

After 10 years of scouring microfilm archives, yellowed newspapers and public records, Tisserand has pieced together Herriman’s journey from his humble birth in the Treme neighborhood to heights of fame in Jazz-era New York and Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy.

“I had to teach myself to be an historian,” Tisserand said. “I didn’t anticipate the amount of difficulty it would be finding Herriman’s work.”

Dylan Horrocks is a guest on the Radio New Zealand program Nine to Noon.

The latest episode of Process Party features Tom Kaczynski.
—Reviews & Commentary. Douglas Fratz reviews a newly revised biography of EC Comics (and science fiction) writer Otto Binder by Bill Schelly.

Binder’s story provides many insights into the history of science fiction and comics as well as his own work. His greatest strength as a writer was the ability to channel his inner youth, writing in a mode that communicated a wide-eyed innocence that resonates with the 8-year-old in all of us. This was best exemplified in his Captain Marvel family comics in the 1940s through the early 1950s but can also be seen in his pulp science fiction stories. The most poignant moments of the Adam Link series are established by Binder’s ability to characterize the robot as a brilliant but innocent youth who must survive in an adult world he has difficulty understanding.

—News. The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested on another sedition charge.

It’s been an eventful weekend for Zunar, the Malaysian political cartoonist facing nine separate charges of sedition which could net him up to 43 years in prison. First, on Friday his new cartoon exhibit was stormed by an angry mob of government supporters displeased by his frequent criticism of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Riot police were called in to disperse the crowd, but yesterday representatives of the ruling party UMNO lodged a formal complaint against Zunar, who was then arrested on yet another sedition charge as well as a charge of “intentionally humiliating a person.” He has now been released after posting bail.

Uncivilized Books has launched a Kickstarter to fund a new imprint of children’s comics, including work by Kickliy, Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kołomycka, and others.

We need your help! We’ve just worked with French publisher Dargaud to bring the beautiful children’s comic Musnet to American kids. Working with Dargaud is an exciting opportunity that lowers our overall production costs. However, it also brings some hurdles: to co-print the books, we need to work according to their release schedule, which is faster than ours. That means our books will need to wait for a few months before they can be released through our American distributor. It will be difficult for us the absorb the printings costs on books that can’t be sold until much later. Without co-printing, we will need to find another printer, at much higher printing prices.

 

Oinks

Hi there, 

Today on the site we have the second part of Paul Tumey’s enormously interesting chat with George Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand. Michael’s book, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, is coming out December 6th. Here’s the first part of the chat if you want to catch up. And here’s some from today:

Paul Tumey: I was struck by how slight and skinny he was. And how his shoulders really do look his portrayal in that Tad boxing-in-the-office cartoon, large and rounded.

Michael Tisserand: And how big his hands appear to be!

Paul Tumey: Yes, those hands of Herriman’s look magical. So that’s a good segue into Herriman’s later years. It seems, after all those years of hanging out with fellow artists and colleagues, maybe dating a hootchie kootchie dancer at Coney Island, and travelling all the southwest, Herriman became somewhat reclusive in his later years. Is that right — and if so, why?

Michael Tisserand: He did. Undeniably. His granddaughter commented on it. So did Boyden Sparkes and Segar. There were bouts of reclusiveness before those final years too. His friend Harry Carr wrote to the Wetherills about how he couldn’t get George to go to Arizona, and how much it would help if George would go.

Shortly after Herriman’s wife died, an artist arrived to paint Bobbie’s picture. In her memoir, she said that it was the car crash that killed Herriman’s wife that had made Herriman so isolated and depressed. She actually wrote that Herriman was consumed with guilt because he was driving the car, but this is contradicted by family stories and all the news accounts of the accident, and so it doesn’t ring true to me.

He also suffered from bad health, including debilitating migraines. Remember that he was making cartoons about suffering rheumatism when he was barely thirty years old.

Paul Tumey: I know that in some cases arthritis can lead to depression, which can certainly cause one to become isolated.

Michael Tisserand: I never want to diagnose Herriman. When I read a modern diagnosis in a biography of a historical figure, I start to think more about the biographer and less about the subject. But certainly it seems he was depressed in some fashion. And his contemporaries specifically talked about Herriman having an inferiority complex. In letter after letter, he disparages his work, or at least its lack of popularity. And yet, the work itself is uncompromising, and so confident in its own beauty.

Paul Tumey: I agree – it is dangerous ground to psychoanalyze a person from the past. But in those letters and accounts, if nothing else, Herriman seems to have been very self-effacing. That aspect of his personality comes through in your book.

Michael Tisserand: Yes, and racial passing actually means to literally self-efface. To remove a face. Again, I try very hard to not try to say what is going on inside Herriman’s head. My goal really was just to tell his story as accurately as possible.

Slow links weekend. The most relevant one is info on Resist, a free cartoon newspaper being put together by Francoise Mouly, Nadja Spiegelman and Gabe Fowler.