No Good Reason

Today on the site Tucker Stone, who recently told me "Everything's coming up roses for Tucker Stone", and then sold me some Punisher comics, is sticking to his "positivity" vibe, and also ropes in Tim O'Neil to tell us more.

And our fearless leader, Gary Groth, interviews Gilbert Shelton in this video straight from the streets and alleys of SDCC.

And now, instead of a buncha links, I have to get something off my chest. I am irritated by this Kickstarter project for a Garo tribute book called SP7: Alt. Comics Tribute to GARO Manga, edited by Ian Harker and Box Brown. Here's why...

This is some of the pitch:

The concept behind SP7 is to contextualize the post-manga wave in western art-comix within the broader history of manga itself by paying tribute to the ground-breaking publication GARO. In short, we feel as though the GARO phenomenon of personal, idiosyncratic, and experimental manga is re-manifesting itself within contemporary art-comix due to the residual influence of the 2000’s manga boom in America.

-It's deeply stupid about history. Yes, Garo contained plenty of avant-garde work, but, as anyone who has read any of the work therein would know, that was more than equally balanced with genre historical fiction; sentimental memoirs; literary fiction, etc, etc. The editors would also know that if they'd actually stopped to consider the material they're claiming as their own, or, hey dipped into any random hundred words written on this web site over the past year by Ryan Holmberg. He also wrote a book on the subject! It amazes me that even now, in 2012, with all the resources available, that people supposedly engaged in the medium aren't actually curious about it. They're far more entrenched in making it reflect themselves than in actually learning something. It's just a lot easier to just grab something (Rob Liefeld! Garo!) and make it your "thing" than to actually carve out an identity or do some research.

This passage is particularly silly:

What EC was to the Undergrounds of the late-60’s/early 70’s, Manga is to today’s most interesting underground cartoonists.

Here manga suddenly comes to mean the same as Garo, and Garo the same as manga. That would mean that the less-than-a-dozen books in the US containing Garo-related material somehow equals all of manga. Manga has been an influence on a generation of cartoonists, from Bryan Lee O'Malley (Underground? Art? I have no idea) to Brandon Graham to Dash Shaw to C.F., but it's not primarily Garo so much as the overwhelming mass of manga that hit these shores over the last decade.

And what the fuck is "underground comics" in 2012? I literally have no idea. I mean, not so underground that it's not being promoted on an web site? Worse yet, the writers don't even know their US-comics history/theory. EC was a comic book company. Manga is the Japanese term for comics. Garo was an anthology. Three very different things. But let's just follow this windy logic -- Sure, EC was important  to 1960s-70s underground comics as a liberating influence, but was equally a weight to get out from under. Just ask Bill Griffith, who decried its pervasiveness. Many of the best of those cartoonists (Crumb, Spiegelman, Green, Kominsky, Noomin, Wilson, et al) show no influence by EC at all.

By featuring the works of these western artists together in a traditional right-to-left/newsprint/pulp-manga format we hope to engender discussion about the trans-national influence of manga on the broader world of art-comix.

-Ok, we're back to manga again. From Garo to manga. How does a format engender a discussion? You know what engenders discussion? Intelligent writing or informed art on the subject. And if you want to make a groovy anthology just make it -- don't latch onto something you don't understand (in the slightest) to make your point. It's sleazy. Stand on your own. Then again, maybe it's time I got around to my "Metal Hurlant Tribute Anthology". Wait a minute...

-And what the fuck does art-comix even mean? People call what I publish "art-comix" and I  look over my shoulder as though someone called me "Mr. Nadel". I don't understand. What is art-comix? Different than regular comics? I like comics. I also liked the zine I Like Comics. But I don't think I like "comix". Garo contained comics, right? Was there an "x" involved? I doubt it. Was Winsor McCay "art comix"? If you make comics, make comics.

-And finally, Kickstarter. Guess what? You don't get to call yourself underground if you're on Kickstarter. Guess what else? You don't get to call yourself a publisher either; you're just someone who pays a printing bill. Take pre-orders on your site. Sell your boots. Do what you have to do. But don't go begging for money so that you can then give 5% of it to, which is actively trying to put you (!), and the stores you hope to shove this shit into, out of business. I'm all for raising money for art, but it would be nice if there was some sense of proportion. No one needs this anthology but it might do fine "in the market". I'm so sick of seeing perfectly viable (viable, but not smart or interesting; viable) comic book projects on there. People can do what they want, but when you're out there hustling dough for your movie-ready zombie-baseball graphic novel, or fucking Cyberforce, or your poorly thought through Garo book, you just look like a schmuck.

I realize there are seemingly bigger problems in the comics world, but I guess I'm thinking locally.

Ok, have a great weekend!

p.s.: Frank Santoro is having another big back issue sale this weekend in NYC!



Today we bring you Chris Mautner's lengthy interview with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden about everything from their new book, Mastering Comics, to navigating collaboration as a married couple to the vagaries of style to moving to France to the difficulties inherent in teaching cartooning:

ABEL: Talking about writing, it’s a thing that’s really difficult in the context of the process that we teach. It’s really difficult to teach explicitly.

MAUTNER: Why is that?

ABEL: There isn’t time. We’re trying to get through all of this stuff, all of the basics of cartooning – how to write a page, how to do lettering, how to make a thumbnail, how to whatever – and a lot of this stuff, we teach it somewhat Socratically. It happens in the context of critiques and so on. But we’re not drawing out and talking explicitly about principles of writing.

MADDEN: To interject, at SVA, we teach a fifteen-week semester of three-hour studio classes. Which sounds like a lot of time but it goes by really quickly and it’s usually barely enough. You take attendance, collect homework, and all of a sudden the class is halfway over. It’s very hard to get in-depth, especially when you’ve got a class of fifteen kids or more.

ABEL: Often our classes are in the twenty-student range and if you’re going to be critiquing a comic for each of those students, it’s gonna take the whole class period.

Jessica and I teach a full-year class together called “Storytelling” where a lot of the activities and ideas in the book either come from or are test-run there. But even in that class we never do a lesson on composition and things like that. That’s all stuff that has to come out inductively through the teaching process, where we can observe the individual panels. It’s another reason we wanted to have the book handy — so you can have all this stuff written down and read it separately. That was one of our practical reasons for doing the book in the first place, for teachers to have all this extra stuff, all the real stuff there that in practice most of us don’t really get around to teaching in class.


—Kiel Phegley at Comic Book Resources has a new interview with Grant Morrison that's been linked to pretty much everywhere this week. In it, Morrison reveals that he is going to stop writing DC superhero comics for a while (Phegley unfortunately never pressed Morrison on his feelings about recent creators' rights controversies around the company). [UPDATE: I've been told the issues are raised in a later, not yet published part of the discussion.]

—The cult cultural critic Erik Davis (Techgnosis) delivers a two-part examination of underground pioneer Rick Griffin at HiLobrow.

—An old BBC interview with a seven-year-old Neil Gaiman has recently surfaced and been republished at the Village Voice. I'm personally less interested in the fact that Gaiman was talking about Scientology than I am in how assured he is as a seven-year-old.

—At Comics Grid, Kathleen Dunley interviews Seth about his philosophy of book design and the use of computers, among other things.

—There's a new online issue of the academic journal ImageTexT up, with an article from David Kunzle about Carl Barks, along with a John Porcellino illustration and lots of interesting looking reviews. Worth checking out for the more scholarly among you.

—Paul Slade has a massive article up devoted to Reg Smythe and Andy Capp.

—Heidi MacDonald at Publishers Weekly reports that Alternative Comics is relaunching, under the new leadership of Marc Arsenault (Wow Cool), and will be publishing work by Sam Henderson, James Kochalka, Ted May, and Karl Stevens, among others.

—Old school comics blogger Alan David Doane has relaunched his old site, Comic Book Galaxy.

—Michael Kurfeld interviews Robert Crumb for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

—Maira Kalman talks about the meaning of art and life:

—And finally, via Milo George, someone has unearthed and reposted the old Fort Thunder website.


On the Run

Today on the site we have another SDCC panel, this time The Auteur Theory of Comics, in which Arlen Schumer and Randolph Hoppe theorize that comic-book artist Jack Kirby was a de facto co-creator and co-author, with the credited writer, of his work: with John Morrow and TCJ contributors Charles Hatfield and Craig Fischer. And Brandon Soderberg reviews The Furry Trap, by Josh Simmons:

If the stories in Simmons’ new collection The Furry Trap, were designed to simply freak readers out, they would end in a page or two. But Simmons sticks with his ugly ideas, until the fucked-up-ness is no longer scary or even funny, and just kind of sits there to turn over in your brain. Shock seems besides the point.

I second that thought, except I've found the book frightening in the long term. It's a brilliant and brave book.


Tablet Magazine compares the depictions of Jerusalem in recent books by Harvey Pekar and Guy Delisle. Bleeding Cool hilariously calls out Tom Devlin's true nature in this summary of the Drawn & Quarterly / Fantagraphics panel at SDCC.

And this blog looks to be very promising: Terry Gilliam's daughter is chronicling her father's accumulation of stuff.


The Power of the Red Pen

It's Tuesday, which means it's time to take comics-buying advice from Joe McCulloch. (Also featured: Chris Foss.) Things look a little lighter than usual this week, so it might be a good time to go back into the archives and look at some of Joe's earlier columns, to be reminded of opportunities missed. The important thing is never to go a week without buying something, whatever it is.

We also have Rob Clough's review of the latest Dupuy & Berberian Monsieur Jean volume, The Singles Theory, this time published by Humanoids.


—The great Justin Green gives advice on breaking into cartooning, in what appears to be an excerpt from a longer text about the field. I had no idea he was writing such a book, but can't wait.

—Dave Sim is in the midst of a week-long, question-a-day interview over at A Moment of Cerebus, which describes it as "a grilling that would make even The Comics Journal wince." So far, it's mostly just been a chance for Sim to rehearse his tiresome, self-inflicted martyr routine, but now that that's out of the way, I imagine the questioners will move on into more interesting territory.

—Bill Moyers invited journalist Chris Hedges onto his program last weekend, to discuss his latest book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which was created in collaboration with Joe Sacco. The episode also features a visit to Sacco's studio:

—Robert Boyd revisits an old Love & Rockets post to honor the title's 30th anniversary.

Cheers & Jeers Dept. Cheers: The Guardian invited a whole slew of cartoonists, including Gabrielle Bell, Tom Gauld, Ivan Brunetti, Kate Beaton, Lilli Carré, and Nicholas Gurewitch, to create comics strips presenting their worldview.

Jeers: The Guardian invited Dan Clowes to participate in an interview, then edited his answers down to the point of actively misrepresenting his words.

Diamond Digital launched, which apparently allows customers to buy digital comics through their local comic shop's website. Noted for further research.

—The San Diego Union-Tribune interviews Andrei Molotiu about abstract comics and that terrible Slate series that ran during Comic-Con.


Carrot Soup

OK, it's really summer -- slow news, hot days, etc. etc. Weekend readers may have found Frank's latest New Talent Showcase, this one featuring Alex Schubert, Matt Seneca and Jaakko Pallasvuo. Frank has also started a Tumblr called Comics Workbook. He's busy! And coming up on today we have the complete footage of another panel, as arranged by the mighty Kristy Valenti. This one is called Comics and Journalism in a New Era and finds PW Comics World co-editor Calvin Reid talking to Susie Cagle, Andy Warner, Stan Mack, Ed Piskor, Dan Carino, and Chris Butcher about using the comics medium for journalism. Filmed by Justin Bloch and David McCloud.

And elsewhere the pickings are slim:

Speaking of SDCC, Jamie Coville has the audio for a number of panels.

Tom Spurgeon graces us with an interview with Jessica Campbell, who is leaving Drawn & Quarterly after over half a decade. I am, as some know, a very grumpy, some would even say "savage" presence at comic book conventions/festivals/whatever but not Jessica. She would roll off an all-night bus, set up, have snacks, make fun of Devlin, and generally be better than me in all ways. Well, good luck Jessica -- and bless your heart for escaping comics. You've done what so many of us have tried and failed to do. See you in Chicago!



Off Topic

Today is the day for Comics of the Weak, and this time, Tucker Stone & Abhay Khosla team up to co-write the column, which is interrupted by convention news, and introduced with a true-life tale:

Perspective--the kind of perspective that will prevent someone from overreacting to a stranger's opposing reaction to an incredibly successful piece of corporate produced entertainment that is in no danger of disappearing in your lifetime, the kind of perspective that will keep you sane. I, personally, cannot honestly admit to possessing this perspective, as evidenced by my near-death experience not but two nights past, wherein I looked directly at a red light and confusedly said to myself "red light means keep going" and was only saved from the wheels of an oncoming vehicle because of a combination of their extraordinary instincts and an excellently tuned set of brakes and not in the least by my own dumbfounded, wide-eyed "what have I done" momentary incapacitation.

We also have video from one of the panels that took place at San Diego last weekend: Gary Groth's interview with Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez for the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets. So that's 90 minutes of my day planned out...

Also on the site, but somehow lost in the blog shuffle and never linked to this week:

—Rob Clough's review of Jon Chad's formally innovative Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth.

—Sean T. Collins's review of Batman: Earth One.

Elsewhere, the post Comic-Con hangover seems to have slowed down the normal news cycle, but you can't go wrong reading the aforementioned Jaime Hernandez's memories of San Diego past ("I remember when every panel ended up 'How can we get comics into book stores?'").

—Seth has a new comic strip out, related to that barbershop we told you about last week.

—Jessica Abel reports from the recent Chicago Comics: Philosophy & Practice symposium, in comics form.

—And the only-sorta-comics must-read of the week comes in the form of Tom Spurgeon's notes on his recent 200+ pound weight loss. It's a great read, and even better is the news (if I'm understanding correctly) that he is developing the classic Comics Journal essay these notes are a thematic sequel to ("Comics Made Me Fat") into a book.


The Client is Always Right

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey bring us a slice of Milton Caniff history, namely a time when he ran afoul of his public's taste.

Caniff included a woman in virtually every story for the obvious storytelling reasons: not only does a damsel in distress give a hero a mission, but relations between the sexes are central to the human condition. A man-woman situation enhances the drama of any high adventure, giving it an added human dimension. Since Terry’s early days, Caniff acknowledged the sexual aspects of his storytelling. His erotic or titillating allusions were undertones, but they were evident enough to those who could recognize them. In such man-woman relationships, Caniff once remarked, there should “always be the feeling of potential rape in the air—legal or otherwise.” Words and pictures usually convey this feeling, but not in tandem.

A mark of Caniff’s sophistication as a cartoonist is that when the dialogue dilates with double entendre, the women in the accompanying pictures are typically demurely dressed, softening the suggestive import of the language. When the women slip into something more comfortable, they talk like choir boys. Adjusting his pictures to temper subtly his suggestive words, Caniff controlled his medium masterfully. The sexual connotations of Delta’s backseat struggles would be intolerable for most readers if she wore skimpy clothing. But Caniff dresses her in a conservative skirt and sweater. Admittedly, she fills them amply, but she keeps her knees out of sight most of the time. Caniff focuses our attention on Delta’s dilemma not on her sexuality. Caniff’s treatment of Madame Lynx illustrates the reverse effect. In the absence of verbal reminders of Lynx’s sexual role, the pictures remind us. In this case, however, Caniff for once misgauged his audience and went too far, upsetting the delicate verbal-visual counter-balance.

And in other parts of the internet...

There is more legal maneuvering to report on the Superman copyright case. There's a summary here, with more detail and the relevant documents here.

Sean T. Collins has an epic series of posts honoring the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets. Go read them and then check out his updated reading guide to the series as well.

Jillian Tamaki chronicled the trash on her block for Print magazine and the full piece is online.

Hey, what does Milo George think about the new Batman movie?



Bad Guys

Today, we bring you the inimitable Bob Levin's review of the newly collected cartoons of the great writer Flannery O'Connor. He wasn't wholly satisfied:

Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons acts as if there was no mystery as to how she managed. It proceeds as if Step One is "Teach a chicken to walk backwards"; Step Two "Mock Physical Fitness Day"; and Step Three... BANG! You have bumped noses with Hazel Motes. It makes nothing of the newt eyes and bat claws bubbling within O’Connor’s cauldron: prematurely deceased father; controlling, disapproving mother; not entirely chosen celibacy; lurking, potentially fatal genes. It overlooks the gasses fermenting in this mix: frustration and fright, bitterness and pain, grief and rage. All brewed while she drew her way through GSCW. All foretold unseen vistas, untasted spice, unheard notes, unscented perfumes, uncaressed flesh. Only her imagination could compensate. Only it could lead her on. And cartoons only carried her so far. She required a greater conveyance to discharge what she held within.

O’Connor would not encourage this type of analysis.

Off-site, I recommend reading the following, among other links I have surely missed or forgotten:

—An article on Dan Dare and Eagle written by the eminent comics historian Paul Gravett to accompany a British museum exhibition. Gravett's always worth reading.

—Rafael Medoff writing for the Jewish Journal about a 1942 cartoon drawn by Theodore Geisel (that's Dr. Seuss), the only cartoon in which he ever explicitly addressed the Holocaust. (via)

—Robin McConnell, the host of the popular comics radio show Inkstuds, has launched Canadian Comics Archive, an online repository for rare and unusual Canadian comics.

—Noel Murray writes about Comic-Con for the A.V. Club, in which he plausibly claims we are currently going through something of a "golden age" of comics. I think this is arguably true. What puzzles me about Murray's article is that he claims this to be the "legacy of Comic-Con" itself, but never really explains why this particular convention is responsible. I think the efforts of historians like Bill Blackbeard, publishers like Fantagraphics and D&Q and IDW, editors like Spiegelman and Mouly, and scores of individual cartoonists have far more to do with the current renaissance than did any particular movie-promotional event, no matter how visible it is. And they would have done it with or without—and maybe even did it despite—things like Comic-Con. But aside from that flaw, Murray's impressions as an intelligent outsider are worth reading, and make me wish I'd attended.

—Jim Emerson writes about the dumb morality of superhero stories. This just one of dozens of these kinds of stories that have been written over the past few years. I am not linking to it for any other reason other than that I enjoy the idea that the bread and butter for decades' worth of TCJ reviews and articles has now become the most popular hobbyhorse of movie critics instead.

—At the Hooded Utilitarian, Ng Suat Tong reviews Joe Sacco's Journalism, and Marguerite Van Cook ponders the "postmodern sublime" she finds in cartoonists like Ben Katchor and Mark Newgarden.