Down the Avenue

On the site today we present the entire Alison Bechdel interview by Lynn Emmert from TCJ 282 (April 2007). We'll cover her new book, Are You My Mother?, shortly. For now, enjoy this comprehensive conversation. As ever, Joe McCulloch treats us to the new, the newsworthy and the necessary (to some).

Joe has also apparently been holding out on us. Here's proof: A blog post described as follows:

Being a series of comments on Episode 0.1 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt SenecaTucker Stone and myself.

Is this mutiny? We'll work to bring you the answer.

Frank M. Young delivers unto us answers about John Stanley in reference to questions you didn't know you had, and we should thank him for that. This kind of deep comic book archeology is needed. It gets to the weird smudgy bottom of aesthetic developments. So here's Young on proto-Tubbys.

Here's a funny thing: A group of documents containing an alternate plot point for The Little Prince was recently sold at auction. It sounds interesting:

In this version of the story, after visiting six planets, the little prince arrives on an alternate-reality earth. One particular line reads as an homage to the melting pot of New York City: "If you brought together all the inhabitants of this planet close together as if for a meeting, the Whites, the Yellows, the Blacks, the children, the elderly, the women, and the men, without forgetting a single one, all of humanity would fit on Long Island."

Not comics, but TCJ: Tim has a great short interview with novelist Richard Ford, whose new book I'm greatly looking forward to.

And finally, in case you missed it: Chris Ware's Building Stories is going to be an incredible object.


Ain’t No Mountain

R.C. Harvey profiles V.T. Hamlin, creator of the classic caveman comic strip Alley Oop. An excerpt:

Hamlin kept up a merry round of madcap adventures in Moo for the next five years before beginning to feel constrained by the narrow range of story possibilities imposed upon him by his chosen locale. Then Dorothy again supplied a vital prompt: remembering a story her husband had written in high school, she suggested introducing a time machine. If Alley Oop and Ooola could travel through history, stopping here and there wherever a good story seemed likely, the story possibilities would be limitless.

Hamlin’s interest in prehistory had by this time broadened considerably into ancient history (as it would eventually into all history), and time travel enabled him to pursue this interest in the strip. He went to the syndicate editors in Cleveland immediately and, after “the best part of a week” of persuading and pleading, got permission to change the strip, a violent wrench of a change, something no other strip at the time had managed.

On April 6, 1939, Oop and Ooola suddenly fade from our sight in the Moovian jungle; and two days later, they materialize in the laboratory of a twentieth century scientist, Elbert Wonmug (a punning last name celebrating science’s most famous theorist, “en stein” being German for “one mug”). Wonmug has invented a Time Machine, and, seeing the rugged resourcefulness of the prehistoric pair, he subsequently sends Alley and Ooola on “fact-finding” missions through the ages: they become time travelers and have adventures in every famous epoch in history.

Frank Santoro's back in Pittsburgh right now, and shares Bill Boichel's new theory about Frank Frazetta.

And Jeet Heer reviews the new IDW collection of Otto Soglow comics. I'm kind of surprised I haven't heard more about this book. Soglow is hilarious. Here's an excerpt from Jeet's review:

One of the great strengths of Cartoon Monarch is that it gives us a very generous sample of Soglow’s work from many facets of his career so that we can see that the clear line style was a hard won victory for the cartoonist. Rather surprisingly, Soglow started off as a student of such Ash Can School masters as Robert Henri, George Luks, and John French Sloan. Like them, he specialized in charcoal-dark representations of urban squalor (some of which appeared in radical publications like The New Masses).

Soglow’s move to the clear line wasn’t a complete break from his earlier art since he continued to do anecdotal art about urban life, but his art started to become more line-focused and less shadowy as he became a fixture in The New Yorker, where the Little King first appeared in 1930. I’d speculate that Rea Irwin was an influence. Contractual wrangling with the New Yorker seems to have prevented Soglow from immediately moving the monarch to newspapers when the Hearst Syndicate hired him in 1933. As a stop-gap measure, Soglow created The Ambassador, who was the Little King in everything except title and facial features (the Ambassador had a bulbous nose and a walrus moustache).

Elsewhere on the internet:

—Your regular dose of Alison Bechdel profiles/interviews can be taken at both The Guardian and Comic Book Resources.

—By all accounts, the star-studded, Hilary Chute-organized "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" conference held this weekend at the University of Chicago was a huge success. Many of you hopefully found some time this weekend to watch the live streaming video of various panels, but if not, know that many of them will soon be archived at this page at the Critical Inquiry site.

—Creators' rights issues make their way into the Washington Post by way of Michael Cavna's interview with Roger Langridge about his decision to no longer work for Marvel or DC.

—Joe Sacco has a short story, "Kushinagar", in the New York Review of Books(!). (Am I right in thinking this is the first comic strip ever published in that magazine?)

—Talking to The Guardian, Dan DiDio tries to justify DC's decision to create Watchmen sequels, and responds to Alan Moore's stated opinions on the matter: "Honestly I can understand why he [Moore] might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him. He has such a long and illustrious career and he's been able to stand behind the body of work he's created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself."

—Ron Goulart takes a look at Jack Cole's Betsy and Me.

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Faith Erin Hicks.

Conan artist Ernie Chan passed away last Wednesday.

—Jason Thompson's manga column, always worth reading, concerns Cromartie High School this time around.

—And finally, assuming those of you who are interested didn't already see this at one of the many, many places that linked to it over the weekend, Neil Gaiman gave the commencement address at the University of the Arts:


Cattle Call

Welcome to the end of the week. We are veritable volcano of content today, all crammed in on this mid-May day for a variety of time-based reasons.

First let me say this:

If you are a TCJ print subscriber and would like unlimited access to the online archive, please e-mail our customer service department: fbicomix@fantagraphics.

Please put "TCJ Online Archive" in the subject heading and request unlimited access to the archives in the body of the message. Also, please include your name, username and e-mail address (if you've already made an account; if you haven't, an account can be created for you).

If you have questions about the above, do not post them here. Rather, email the above address. Thanks!

And now, on the site today we have Tom De Haven's commencement address for the Center for Cartoon Studies. Thanks to James Sturm and Michelle Ollie for this. Tom discusses his own comics education, as well as that of others, and drops this fine story:

The lessons of the Famous Cartoonists School were written by (or ostensibly written by) such luminaries as Al Capp, Milt Caniff, Rube Goldberg, Willard Mullins, Whitney Darrow Jr., Gurney Williams and Virgil Partch. Of course, I sent away for the informational material, but the cost was prohibitive. My mother worked in a bank and brought home less than $45 a week.  It was crushing blow, although (and this such was a wonderful thing, for which I’m still grateful) my mother looked around on her own and found a far less expensive illustration and cartooning home-study course, the Washington School of Art, out of Port Washington, New York. And she signed me up for it. Twelve booklets and an impressive, to me, box of supplies consisting of two pencils, one brush, one pen staff with three different nib points, a fabulous soft blue eraser, a few charcoal sticks, a Conte crayon, a bottle of ink, and a T-square. I  took that course, imperfect as it was, and I wish I still had all my returned artwork with their taped-on see-through overlays with corrections made in red pencil. Unfortunately, for me, only two of the lessons pertained specifically to making comics, but even so, it was realinstruction–and there were real teachers telling me what I’d done right, and what I’d done wrong and how to correct it.

In less happy news, Steve Ringgenberg contributes an obituary of Tony DeZuniga. Additionally, we have Brad Mackay on The Art of Daniel Clowes and, as ever, and thank heavens, Tucker Stone on the global comic book trend.

I suppose it's possible you will want to go elsewhere for yet more comics content, in which case you might  be overdoing it. Still, I feel compelled to guide you:

Is there anything more awesome than a Gilbert Hernandez comic book called Fatima: The Blood Spinners? Of course not. Read what the man himself has to say about it.

Thank you, Warren Ellis. Keeping it real.

I also love Frank Robbins. In fact, I love the whole dang Caniff-school of comic drawing. Lee Elias, William Overgard, et al. So good. But Frank Robbins in the '70s was hallucinatory and great. Milo George has a great appreciation here.

Oh, and I can't believe I'm missing this. Luckily we have embedded a TCJ correspondent on the ground to bring back all the dirt.


Book ‘Em

Today, R. Fiore returns to our shores with a report on graphic novelist/animator Mark Kalesniko, as well as an extended look at the history of animated film by way of UPA. An excerpt:

No one who’s seen the internal strife on the macro level portrayed in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty would doubt the verisimilitude of the fictional office politics on the micro level of Freeway. Kalesniko never quite puts his finger on the factor that made for the difference between in animation from the 1930s through the 1950s and of today, and that is the phenomenon of seven minute theatrical animated short subject. The contemporary animated feature is a massive undertaking along the lines of an aircraft carrier or a cathedral. Each individual picture is a do or die effort costing in the hundreds of millions and needing to rake in hundreds of millions more to pay out, and a failure can crush the career of the people in charge. Even the vaunted Pixar will pull a project out of the hands of the director who instigated it if the investment appears threatened. Feature length requires characters who engage the emotions of the audience in a way that throttles the anarchic spirits of the form.

Elsewhere, there are many things to read & ponder.

Journal columnist Tucker Stone reviews Jean-Perre Filiu & David B.'s Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, and at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Boxer writes about George Herriman's Krazy Kat (and explores why critics have had such a hard time talking about it).

—ICv2 has an interesting three-part interview with Image publisher Eric Stephenson about everything from digital publishing to creators' rights. ("If Image comics had been around when Allen Moore and Dave Gibbons wanted to do Watchmen, they would have had someplace else they could have gone to do that type of work. The situation that developed out of what did or didn’t happen with those contracts would have been irrelevant because they would have had a deal that offered them 100% creator ownership.")

—Speaking of creators' rights, the recognition of Jack Kirby's accomplishments in mainstream media continues to slowly grow, with an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, featuring input from Glen David Gold and Rand Hoppe.

—People seem to really be enjoying this "oral history" of DC's semi-recent series Countdown to Final Crisis, but I found it too depressing to get very far.

—Blown Covers posts the old form rejection letter from RAW, which is amazing.

—Milo George inaugurates a series at Study Group honoring Dennis the Menace artist Al Wiseman.

—Boing Boing has a nice short profile of the Herblock Prize-winning political cartoonist Matt Bors.

—Have we already mentioned the "master class in comics narrative" Paul Karasik is going to be teaching in Vermont this August? If not, we should have.

—Closed Caption Comics has the penultimate TCAF report, with karaoke photos. Chris Butcher has the ultimate one.

—Steven Brower takes a look at changing reproduction strategies for reprinting old comics.

—And finally, Robot 6 has found something of interest for 20th Century Boys fans: Naoki Urasawa singing "Bob Lennon".



Today on the site:

One of the great comics historians, Ron Goulart, begins a new column for us. Remembrance of Comics Past will feature Ron's correspondences with cartoonists, beginning this week with Howard Sherman. As he explains:

Over the years I persisted, writing to comic strip artists, comic book artists and a few sports cartoonist. I heard from Bill Everett, Bob Lubbers, Will Eisner, Bart Tumey, Norman Maurer, Frank Godwin, George Storm and a host of others. Being a packrat by nature, I held onto the all the letters and drawings that I got. Tacked many of them on my bedroom walls, until I moved across the Bay to play the ad game at a San Francisco agency when I was 22. By the time I left advertising in the late 1960s, I had gathered a substantial collection of letters.

It's an honor to have Ron aboard.

And Brandon Soderberg reviews the new Conan the Barbarian series from Wood and Cloonan.


-A very intriguing account of stolen Joe Simon art.

-Drew Friedman opened an art show in Brooklyn.

-I agree, this is a gorgeous comic book cover.

-Jack Kirby: Dance!

-The time NYC was briefly not in love with Milton Glaser.



Making It

Today, Ryan Holmberg offers another installment of his essential, endlessly fascinating history of alternative manga. This time, he tackles two big, big topics: Osamu Tezuka and Mickey Mouse. An excerpt:

From his arrival in Japan in the early '30s, Mickey Mouse was an icon of humor. To some, he was also ambassador of American ingenuity and American quality in production. But thanks to lax copyright protections for foreign properties, and his rendition by goods-makers that did not necessarily privilege the faithful or even skillful reproduction of his image, Mickey also became in Japan an icon of appropriation and its side effects, like modified personality and degraded design. This continued into the early postwar period. But towards the end of the Occupation, a series of forces colluded to “correct” Mickey’s image. Amongst them was Tezuka Osamu. For Tezuka, rectifying Disney went hand in hand with a number of things. It meant denying the akahon rodent of his roots and the production ethic on which its inventiveness fed. It meant recalling Mickey from appropriation and putting him back in the hands of authorship. It meant repositioning Disney as a light of genius and industriousness, against a mainstream that viewed him primarily as a talented showman and joker. It meant seeing himself more and more in the image of Disney. It meant expelling the rodent from the classroom, however much he had been there for the professor in his youth, and teaching straight from the Mickey on the board.

Joe McCulloch refrained from exploring the swamplands this week, and has his usual Tuesday report on the most interesting-looking new comics ready to go.

And Rob Clough continues his tour through the output of Nobrow Press with a review of Jesse Moynihan's Forming.

Also, we have continued to add new Maurice Sendak tributes to our page for him, many of which you may not have seen if you haven't looked at the post since last week. Some of the more recent contributors include Megan Kelso, Dylan Horrocks, Cathy Malkasian, and Victor Kerlew.

And of course, the tributes to Sendak have continued to grow everywhere else on the internet, too. Some highlights not previously noted in this space include Chris Mautner at Robot 6, Ellen Handler Spitz at The New Republic, Neil Gaiman at The Guardian, and a whole slew of artists at the New York Times (don't miss the attached slideshow at that link). Philip Nel, who of course wrote an excellent Sendak obituary for us, has penned another short remembrance at his own site, at the end of which he has also gathered an extremely thorough collection of links to the best and most informative memorials.

It also just came to my attention that Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze's Tell Them Anything You Want, their 2009 documentary on Sendak, is available for viewing at Hulu:

—Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, the esteemed cultural critic Mark Dery writes about a recent collection of Edward Gorey's correspondence.

—Roger Langridge has revealed a little more of what was behind his recently announced decision no longer to work for DC or Marvel.

—Derik Badman uses a critical roundtable on Wonder Woman as an excuse to take a closer look at the overlooked, underdiscussed importance of style in cartooning.

—Tom Spurgeon has the first (that I've seen) big interview with Joseph Remnant, the collaborator on Harvey Pekar's Cleveland who has taken a lot of people by surprise.

—Blake Bell continues to cater to that small part of the Venn diagram where superfans of Steve Ditko and superfans of Dave Sim meet.

—Leonard Pierce writes about Pogo.

—And finally, via Mike Lynch, Jules Feiffer reads from "Boob Noir":


Michael Jasorka’s December 3rd, 1967: An Alien Encounter

Until a few months ago, L.A.-based illustrator Michael Jasorka's awesomest project was "Roller Dames," his series of va-voomy (yet somehow also sweet) portraits of roller derby skaters. But that was before he self-published December 3rd, 1967: An Alien Encounter, a 56-page comic that decribes the night a Nebraska cop named Herbert Schirmer was abducted by aliens. This is not fiction but Schirmer's own story, which made headlines back in the '60s. In fact, the book's dialogue, which looks a bit stiff at first, turns out to be the direct transcript of an informal talk Schirmer gave at a UFO conference in the 70s, complete with ums and stutters. The book comes with a CD so you can listen to the man tell his story as you read along, which is nifty, of course, but also touching, even haunting. Plus, Jasorka's drawings have a Tomorrow Land quality that suits the era and subject matter well. Probably the most striking thing about this project is how respectful and unironic Jasorka is about his subject. His intro reads, "Dedicated to Herbert Schirmer, whose story I believe."



It’s a New World

Hi there,

On the site today we have a preview of Gary Groth's expansive interview with the late Maurice Sendak. It will see full publication this autumn in TCJ 302. And yesterday Frank Santoro reported back to us from deep within cartoonist Jim Rugg's Pittsburgh-area home. Frank is embedding himself in different locations.

The big story of the moment is perhaps the news that longtime independent cartoonist Roger Langridge, who recently wrote, among other comics, a very popular Thor series, has announced that he will not work for Marvel and DC any longer due to ethical concerns. Langridge currently writes Popeye for IDW besides doing his own comics.

There's been a whole slew of book previews:

-Eric Reynolds writes about a project he's very happy with -- Significant Objects.

-Gilbert Hernandez's upcoming Fatima: The Blood Spinners looks pretty great.

-Drawn & Quarterly has a very handsome new petit livre on the way.

-And finally, closest to my heart: There's yet another new Wally Wood collection coming.