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.



Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch has his weekly words of wisdom;Noah Van Sciver joins us for Day 2 of his diary; and Sean T. Collins reviews Sophie Yanow's In Situ.


More on Joe Kubert today: Tom Spurgeon has a lengthy obituary and a still growing link round-up. And here's a great romance comic from 1949.

-The Ignatz Awards nominees were announced.

-Josh Simmons made a movie. It will scare you.

-I didn't know about this upcoming Kyle Baker/Image project. Via.

-And Paul Tumey has a typically excellent post up about Milt Gross.


Sad Day

We have sad news for you this morning, as the seemingly universally well-liked cartoonist Joe Kubert has passed away. Kubert's biographer Bill Schelly has written the artist and Kubert School founder's obituary for us. An excerpt:

Born Yosaif Kubert on September 18, 1926, in what was then southern Poland (now Ukraine), his family emigrated to America when he was an infant. The Kuberts settled in a Jewish ghetto in Brooklyn known as East New York. Inspired by the colorful Sunday newspaper strips, Kubert decided at an early age that he wanted to be a cartoonist, and by 1939 he was working in the comic book production shop of Harry “A” Chesler in Manhattan.

Kubert received his only formal art training at the High School of Music and Art in New York City, a school for artistically gifted youths. Most of his training was “on the job” from such legendary comic book artists as Mort Meskin, Charles Biro, Irv Novick and others. At 14, Kubert was assisting on “The Spirit” in Will Eisner’s studio in Stamford, Connecticut.

There are many memorials to the man already posted, and more to come. Mark Evanier and Stephen Bissette have two of the more substantial up right now, and Tom Spurgeon has collected just about everything in his usual "Collective Memory" feature.

This is also the first day on the site for our latest Cartoon Diarist, Noah Van Sciver. Entry one is here.

And Sean Michael Robinson reviews Shigeru Mizuki's NonNonBa.


—I know I promised to weigh in on Dan's controversial Kickstarter/SP7 blog post, but it seems to me that at this point, more or less everything to be said on the matter has been said. I finally did find a comic that more or less perfectly encapsulates my views on the whole thing, though.

(I actually do have an opinion, but it's a boring one: Dan's thoughts on the historical problems evident in that Kickstarter pitch were right on, but it would have been a more effective example if he could point to the finished product. Some of the rhetoric was over the top, but obviously so, because it was meant to be funny. The "comix" paragraph should have been cut. That people often "look like schmucks" in their Kickstarter pitches shouldn't be a controversial position. Otherwise, I have no real problem with crowdfunding other than to think it's worth exploring options before starting one, and it does seem like it's become a bit overdone. I don't feel so strongly enough to write a rant about it, though. And I think that's it.)

Finally, Matt Bors discovers a crowdfunding campaign bound to give anyone pause.

—Curator Sara Duke gives a short online tour of the Library of Congress's I'm sure amazing cartoon collection.

—Marc Tyler Nobleman appeared on the NPR radio show All Things Considered to discuss his new book arguing that Bill Finger deserves more credit as Batman's co-creator.

—Abhay Khosla has one of his typically insane comics reviews up, this time of Brandon Graham's Prophet.

—Paul Gravett looks at the under-loved comics publisher, ACG. Its most popular character, Herbie, of course deserves all the attention he gets, but there are lots of little-known gems in that company's back catalog, and man are they easy to get cheap in back issues. Wait, what am I complaining about?


Accent Fingers

It's Friday morning, so why not dive into the weekend arm in arm with Tucker Stone and friends? This week it's new comics (natch) and the excellent duo of Garfield and Rob Liefeld.

Elsewhere online:

I didn't know that the band The Teardrop Explodes took its name from a line of dialogue in a Daredevil comic. Here the band, the Daredevil team and others remember how it all happened.

Another new one -- a Tumblr devoted to comics Australia and New Zealand -- great Stanley Pitt work here.

Sean Witzke and Matt Seneca continue their duet on the series Solo, this time it's Paul Pope's turn.

Should you need more Tucker in your life, along with Jog and Mautner, here's the latest Comic Books Are Burning in Hell. It's mostly about Garth Ennis, so you can expect a high degree of passion.

Hey, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez are going on a proper tour in September. Good news.

Finally, as proof of my continued cliquishness and editorial malfeasance, I present you with the news that erstwhile columnist Frank Santoro is having yet another comic book sale tomorrow, this time with sales assistants Ben Marra, Jonny Negron, Lala Albert and Aidan Koch.

Enjoy the break.


Moving Forward

Today, we bring you Michael Dean's report on the Society of Illustration's recent purchase of MoCCA. An excerpt:

Asked who approached whom, [MoCCA President Ellen] Abramowitz told the Journal, “They approached us about eight months ago just about shared memberships and things like that and we had a few friendly meetings. Then, our lease was coming due for renewal at the end of July. I thought, 'MoCCA needs to go to the next level. If these are our goals and I don’t see them happening and I can’t do this with one person, do we really want to sign a new lease at this location?' Our debt wasn’t high. What hurt us was we had rent. I called them [in late June] and proposed the transfer and they very quickly said yes. They agreed to everything we wanted and even things we didn’t ask for. Some [MoCCA] trustees were initially upset, but it was a unanimous vote by the board.”

And my wife forgot to buy new coffee yesterday, and I'm not about to try and address anything more complicated than that without caffeine.

Here are a few links:

—Tom Spurgeon is trying to start a conversation about crowdfunding, and Anne Hambrock compares Kickstarter to Indiegogo from a practical standpoint (without getting into the more controversial areas).

—Matt Madden drew a much-linked-to six-panel history of American comics to illustrate an essay on the same by academic Paul Lopes. The article is a more-or-less solid bit of history, though little of it will be new to Journal readers, and he makes a few questionable assertions (such as his claim that manga saved the American graphic novel in the 2000s).

—Cecil Adams at the Straight Dope tracked down the first person to use the letter "Z" to indicate snoring during sleep—it was a cartoonist, as you might expect, considering the fact that I'm mentioning it here. (via)

—Steven Heller briefly interviews Blab editor Monte Beauchamp.

—And Noah Van Sciver provides a "Directors Commentary" to the Forbidden Planet blog.