It’s Only Comic Books

Well, today on the site we have the full complement of Tucker Stone content. I look forward to your complaints. And Sean T. Collins reviews The Walking Dead #100:

When you pick up an issue ofTWD, there’s no telling who’ll be left when you put it down. Your odds of any given issue featuring that kind of shock to the system may be low, but they exist (especially for the milestone issue numbers), which is more than you can say for all but probably under half a dozen monthly comics total. Despite, or because of, the increasing wait between payoffs, Kirkman finds a way to make them worth it, frequently far enough beyond worth it and into gobsmacking awe that he went there that it doesn’t seem like a wait at all.

It's Friday and there's a full weekend of Comic-Con ahead of some of you. The news out of the con thus far is almost completely irrelevant to anything I'm interested in. And yet I can't look away! There's stuff about "dark" things and stuff about "IP" and other stuff. For you TCJ readers demanding things of traditional TCJ interest, you'll be heartened to know that Art Spiegelman's monograph, Co-Mix, named for the now-deceased cutting edge tween culture blog, is coming out from Drawn & Quarterly. Despite his stature, Spiegelman's work remains scattered across decades and mediums, so it'll be nice to have a selection in one book. Anyhow, our man Eric Reynolds has the perfect antidote to all this news: Memories! Sweet, sweet memories from a man who has had waaaay more fun at comic conventions than I ever have.


If you can't get enough of Tucker, Jog and the gang, here, listen to their voices!

And if you like comics, you can read about Dennis the Menace here!

And... I bet there will be so much more, so very very soon. But for now, kind people, there's little other comics news. It's all over... there.



La Jolla Won’t Annoy Ya?

For those of you who miss the days when Ken Parille wasn't obsessed with super-powered fights, you're in luck. His new close-reading column is in, and he's set the New 52 issues aside to focus in on John Hankiewicz’s “The Kimball House”. (He also includes a pdf of the comic in question, so as to make it easier to follow along with his formal analysis.) Parille brings it this time. Here's a taste:

Without necessarily knowing the terminology, readers instinctively understand the distinction between a comic’s diegetic and non-diegetic elements. A diegetic element is one that is (or could be) experienced by the story’s characters. A non-diegetic element is not part of their world. For example, a word balloon represents language that characters hear, but the balloon itself is not present; it exists at a level above/outside the narrative. In “The Kimball House” Hankiewicz takes conventional non-diegetic comic book elements and transforms them into diegetic elements. Thus, in panel 2, a thought balloon’s bubble tail (which comes after the command “Think”) becomes a physical object, casting a shadow on the ground. In the next panel, these circular shadows reappear as another form central to comics: the ellipsis. [...]

While the comic’s human characters — the Kimballs and the roofer — are confined to embedded pages, the other ‘characters’ —forms like the ellipsis —appear throughout the comic. “The Kimball House” plays with a limited set of geometrical shapes that function as reoccurring characters: rectangle (as pane, panel, page, house), triangle (as rooftop, arrow top), circle (dot, ellipsis, thought balloon tail bubble, star), along with other main characters — the asterisk (star) and cloud (narration balloon).

Everyone involved in comics seems to be at San Diego right now, so news is relatively light. But there are a few things to read while we wait for the great comics journalists of our time to deliver breathless reports on all of the upcoming movies!

—There are two big interviews with Darwyn "Before Watchmen" Cooke out right now, one on everything Parker/Richard Stark at the Violent World of Parker, which is exhaustive and worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the Stark novels, whether or not you dig Cooke's particular take on the material, and another on superheroes at the A.V. Club, which includes his soon-to-be-(in)famous take on the Watchmen controversy:

In all honesty, I didn’t expect, “Poor Alan Moore.” I just didn’t expect that. So that sort of took me by surprise. I certainly expected people to have an opinion about whether this beloved material should be explored any further, and I believe that that’s a question, but it’s also a challenge that I’m happy to meet. All the stuff with Alan, I didn’t count on that or really give it much thought.

He also maintains that participating in the project isn't as bad as forcing children to starve. Which is true, but maybe setting the bar a little low?

The Guardian has a report on the great illustrator/cartoonist Quentin Blake's recent work for hospitals.

—Will Brooker, a British academic who specializes in Batman, recommends five comics-related books to The Browser. These are superhero-centric but not stupid choices.

—Tucker Stone previews the next few months of comics releases for Flavorpill.

—And apparently it is comics blogger Heidi MacDonald's thirtieth anniversary as a writer on comics. Torsten Adair has gathered up tributes.


Back East

On the site today:

Michael Dean has a report on the news of sudden closure of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art's Soho location. And Craig Fischer brings us video arguments for the Jack Kirby family. Something to keep in mind as the megalith of Comic-Con rumbles to life. And Sean T. Collins reviews the first issue of Gilbert Hernandez's new series, Fatima the Blood Spinners.


-Kevin Huizenga, whose Gloriana (one of the all-time great comics) was recently reissued in hardcover, is interviewed at the AV Club and PW.

-Here's a guide to the Love & Rockets 30th anniversary celebrations at Comic-Con.

-TCJ-contributor Sean T. Collins has a cartoon collaboration with Jonny Negron over at Studygroup.

-I've enjoyed comics by lots of these people, so this Oily Comics subscription seems like a good deal.

-Huh, Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy briefly had a comic strip in 1987.

-Finally, here's a mess of Edgar Rice Burroughs covers, just because.




Advertising Looks and Chops a Must

Today Joe McCulloch brings us news of the Week in Comics, and extends his recent streak of being especially amazing with a look back at a little remembered Alan Moore Vampirella story from the late '90s. Here's an excerpt:

Moore, in keeping with the genre, plays up the sexual aspects of these encounters, with a queasy emphasis on acts of violence inflicted upon the sexual-and-therefore-lethal women populating his story; a two-page sequence preceding the image above sees Jack’s slaying of Dracula’s wives intercut with the vampire bursting in on disaffected Lucy & Mia (“So what? I mean, it’s that kind of world these days. I read about Bosnia or Romania, or wherever, and I’m just, like, bored, you know?”), seizing them by the face and hair and ‘taking’ them in a shadowed but distinctly connoted manner not unfamiliar to several Alan Moore works. Yet as Jack gradually reveals to the reader that he’s aware of how shallow this little update seems to be, Moore’s true target comes into view: the purposeless banality of modern society and its pop culture, a full 15 years before the similarly situated The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, except with an American focus, and the tv sensation Friends standing in for Harry Potter as avatar of all that’s hopelessly shit.

Also, Rob Clough reviews Karrie Fransman's The House That Groaned.


In less welcome news, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art has abruptly closed its doors and canceled many of its upcoming events, so far limiting its public discussion of this development to a brief notice posted on its Web site and Facebook page. Here is the full text of the announcement:

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA), New York City’s only cultural institution dedicated specifically to celebrating the comics medium, will be closing its physical location effective immediately.

The SoHo museum, currently at 594 Broadway, recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. While the physical space is closing, plans are afoot to continue MoCCA in a new and exciting incarnation. An announcement of MoCCA’s future arrangements will be forthcoming by the end of July.

Current memberships will be honored at the new venue, as will table renewals for MoCCA Fest 2013.

They have also claimed on Twitter that they will announce a new venue by the end of the month. (via)

Michael Dean recently reported on the museum's status for its tenth anniversary on this website. Obviously these new developments bear watching.


—The cartoonist Seth has recently branched out into barber-shop design, mapping out the look for his wife Tania Van Spyk's new Guelph establishment, Crown Barber Shop. Bryan Munn and Brad Mackay have photos.

—Barry Moser's essay on Flannery O'Connor's cartoons has been excerpted in The New York Review of Books.

—Mark Waid talks to the A.V. Club about his new digital comics venture.

—Robert Boyd, who was recently named the best arts blogger in Houston (he'd certainly have been my vote), has just posted reviews of the latest books from Joe Sacco and Joost Swarte.

—James Romberger has just penned (or keyboarded) a post briefly reviewing a whole slew of books, including titles featuring Mort Meskin, R. Kikuo Johnson, Richard Corben, Brandon Graham, Michael DeForge, and Josh Bayer.

—The Mindless Ones have posted their third and final marathon group reading of Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009.

—I don't post links to webcomics very often on here, but I'll always make an exception for Justin Green.


Goodbye Captain

Welcome to the new week. Over the weekend, Frank Santoro posted an interview with Ed Piskor, author of Wizzywig. And we're leading off with the great Bob Levin. Join him as he revisits Ed the Happy Clown:

Drowse-inducing scholarship aside, footnotes can be fun. They can provide hilarious counterpoint to the text (Will Cuppy), an entire alternative narrative (Vladimir Nabokov), the ruminations and reflections of an over-flowing intelligence (David Foster Wallace), or the opportunity to shoehorn in anecdotes one can’t find space for otherwise (Not infrequently, me). In Louis Riel, Brown’s footnotes amplified his text, explained his choices between competing “facts,” afforded voice to others’ differing views, and revealed what he had made-up, overlooked, exaggerated, got wrong, guessed at, can’t explain, and flat-out falsified, wonderfully illustrating the unreliability of historical “truth.” I hoped Ed’s footnotes would provide insight into Brown’s magic. I wanted his thoughts on from where those pygmies and perversions,  plot loops and dimension jumps had come. I hoped to have his genius, wars-and-all, self-investigated.


Frank Santoro is giving a talk tonight at 7 pm in NYC as part of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium.

Tom Spurgeon has an interview with Rob Salkowitz, who wrote a book about Comic-Con and the pop culture biz.

Here's an interview with cartoonist Jason Karns, who we featured early this year.

Fred Guardineer did some awfully nice work back in the 1940s.


Damp Squibs

Why does a week that's so short feel so long? Holidays on Wednesdays are just wrong. In any case, we have a your standard comic-book-related Friday distraction for you, with Tucker Stone's weekly column. His guests this week include regulars Nate Bulmer and Abhay Khosla, along with a special visit from this week's holiday-defying MVP, Joe McCulloch! Here's Joe on the old (and new) Ozymandius story:

It’s a commentary on very act of staring into multiple television screens, positing a means of discerning some meaning from contemporary media overload; William Burroughs’s cut-up technique is cited, and, insofar as a wall of television screens is analogous to the stern grids of artist Dave Gibbons’s page layouts, the alert reader is duly congratulated for having sifted through the unorthodox POV shifts and fragmented character histories of the past ten issues to arrive at this point of a nefarious master plan’s gala revelation, though [Alan ]Moore, being Moore, slips in a final puckish joke through the issue’s title: a statement of bravado which the English majors among the readership will know is the last-standing legacy of a doomed ruler’s supreme plans. Basically, Moore is giving away the book’s ending, beyond even the seeming ambiguity of the famous corporate-owned ketchup dripping onto the world-renowned corporate-owned smiley face t-shirt of that fat guy whose childhood I am dying to explore.

Len Wein, in contrast, spends his opening page basically explaining the concept of ambiguity to the slower readers, via a block of metafictional rib-nudging wherein Ozy goes on about how very nearly flawless his crazy plan is, though history will be the judge in the end — because his plan totally might not stand up to history at all, that was the ending of the original book, remember? It’s dramatic irony!

Elsewhere on the internet, many things have been posted. Including...

—Our own Tucker Stone again, this time gushing over Carl Barks.

The New York Post tracked down Steve Ditko for an article, in which he makes it clear that he has not shared in the profits for the gajillion-dollar Spider-Man juggernaut:

“No,” he tells The Post, when asked if he was paid anything for the four recent Spider-Man movies.

“I haven’t been involved with Spider-Man since the ’60s.”

Whatever the case, the artist doesn’t seem much interested in money. Although he could make thousands doing commissions for fans, he consistently refuses. Instead, he forges ahead on black-and-white, self-published books with titles like “The Avenging Mind.”

“I do those because that’s all they’ll let me do,” he tells The Post, suggesting big publishers aren’t interested in his work anymore.

—The regular Alison Bechdel links are slowing down from daily to weekly, but here's an interesting one: Lee Konstantinou at The New Inquiry.

—Your regular Jack Kirby link comes by way of Rodrigo Baeza's look at Kirby's Davy Crockett strips.

—Daniel Best has posted the transcript to an entertaining (as always) 1979 interview with Jim Steranko, which includes the new (to me) information that Steranko designed the sets and production for an unfinished Alain Resnais film!

—The magazine Guernica has an excerpt from Harvey Pekar & JT Waldman's Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me.

—Donna Barstow is braver than I am. [I'm not taking a side on the argument, for the record.]

—Chris Pitzer has announced that AdHouse will no longer be in the distribution business.

Part two of the Mindless Ones' extraordinarily thorough crosstalk on Moore & O'Neill's LOEG: Century.


Grand Designs

Welcome back. While you were having weenie roasts and throwing firecrackers at neighborhood children, Joe McCulloch was sweating over his computer to bring us a Richard Corben interview and preview of the artist's upcoming projects. Here's Corben on his recent process:

I had been drawing some Hellboy projects and it dawned on me that if I ever wanted to do some projects I wanted, it was time to do it or forget them completely. I decided to promote projects of my own design or choice. I wanted them to have a good start which meant a good writer. Margopoulos’ ideas about Poe horror and mine no longer seemed to mesh well. Jan Strnad would be an excellent choice. I told him I wanted a Poe-esque story that could be a one shot. He agreed and Ragemoor was the result. It came out well, but now it’s over and I wanted more. And to have more control, I would have to do more. Doing a short adaptation of a Poe story wasn’t too difficult and it was a sample of my goals. This and a project outline was sent to Dark Horse and they accepted.

Elsewhere, as you might imagine, it's been slow, but here goes:

-Here's Tim Marchman attempting to talk to Len Wein about Before Watchmen. Marchman found the Ozymandias comic book more interesting than I did. I mean, they're all incredibly dumb, but that one, with it's bullying tropes, faux-risque sex, and barely-there artwork, was allllmost as bad as Silk Spectre, which was the worst (that Darwyn Cooke thing is technically probably the "best" but also the worst because he tries so hard with the cutesy 1950s bullshit that it just seems sad. Loosen those drawers, son! In fact, maybe pity is the new anger in reaction to BW. Like, holy shit, this stuff is so bad it's sad? No, I know, the moral aspect trumps all. Just trying it out.) But then again, they were all "better" than the last DC comics I read -- all of the 52 first issues. But all much worse than any given run of, I dunno, Power Man and Iron Fist. Basically just bad comics. Oh wait, I forgot, I also read (perversely) Batman Earth One, which I guess is some sort of practical joke? Right? Someone dared someone else to make a movie pitch into a book, and include lots of bromancing and Deer Hunter stuff, right? Because I've never seen bromancing like that before. Oh, and yes, I will read superhero comics that arrive in the mail. Dog-like behavior, I know.

-And here's a palette cleanser: A fine C.F. interview on Inkstuds.

So, I swear, that's all I have. It's all I should have. It's that kind of week. And really, all I can say about yesterday is contained in this video of Albert Brooks exploring our national heritage.

I'm not sure how I got from there to here, but nevertheless, here's a video of a Commodore 64 Howard the Duck video game. Huh.



It's a holiday week. Fair warning: We are taking the day off tomorrow. Bank holidays are TCJ holidays. Speaking of... us... we're very happy to have received a Harvey nomination for Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation. Thanks very much.

Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch brings us The Week in Comics, because that's his job.


-Bookslut interviews TCJ-contributor Michel Fiffe about fan fiction and his Suicide Squad comic.

-Comix Claptrap features an interview with Dan Zettwoch about his new book, Birdseye Bristoe.

-I've enjoyed Ed Piskor's Wizzywig in its various iterations. I'm really glad it's getting a full release.

-The Believer has an interview with Brian Chippendale on music and comics and art, many months in the making.

-In the history column, Bhob Stewart takes a look at the transforming daily comics page while Daniel Best examines some recent Superman-related legal developments.

And finally, Frank Santoro writes about an Aircel comic. Y'know, it's a funny thing, the surge in interest in 80s-glut action/superhero comics. Surge might even be an exaggeration. In this Twitter/Tumblr feedback loop it's hard to tell what's actually generating lasting interest and what's just a passing click. Anyhow, the point is, most of this interest is from artists -- and really, that's almost the only way these things can be enjoyed -- as material for influence. Frank writes:

The stuff that holds up, to me, sometimes reads like some gang slang. Kinda cool. I'm not trying to convince anyone that these "throwaway" comics are actually any good. I just really like them for the airbrushed tones - real airbrush, none of this Photoshop airbrush crap [...] I doubt any of it is future Art Out of Time material but it is interesting. Even if only for historical reasons. And airbrush coloring.

He's right, it's probably not future Art Out of Time for material, in the sense that it won't, like a lot of the AOOT stuff, broaden and enrich the "canon" (if you'll forgive the term. It's late.). These aren't lost masterpieces, but they contain blips that are almost best seen through, say, Frank's eyes. They're almost impossible to enjoy as they were meant to be enjoyed -- as comics. I mean, they might provide a visceral thrill, but the function has changed. Now they're repositories of technique and attitudes, and ones that have mostly been left unexamined, like a lot of 1980s independent comics, both because of how close we are to that period and because comics was supposed to have transcended that stuff, too. I'm sure there are analogies to be drawn between these comics and z-level horror/SF movies, of course. And... that's all I have on the subject for the moment.