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.

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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.



Survival Tactics

Today, we are republishing a 1987 Q&A with Maurice Sendak that first appeared in TCJ #140. Here's an excerpt:

SENDAK: I think we assume that only children have this incredible flexibility — they talk to newspapers; they talk to tablecloths; they talk to bowls of water; and we say, “How charming, how cute.” We do it, too, but we don’t do it aloud. Because we have grown up and we have gray in our beards and we’re supposed to be adults and we’re all just nervous wrecks, basically.

Children have the privilege because we have endowed them with the privilege of having this fantasy life. So they move in and out of fantasy all the time. But, I think, people always say how wonderful that you can do books for children; you have your childhood intact. They give me this really ridiculous sentimental aspect, because I think we all do; I think it’s a survival tactic; if we didn’t live in fantasy most of the day, we’d all be off your famous [Golden Gate] bridge over here, for the most part.

So I think this trick you’re talking about is no more than the observation of real life.

QUESTION: I was referring, though, to how you can have that baby talk but make it believable. Some of the editors would say, “Well, this is a little contrived to think that a fish can rescue a jade bracelet.”

SENDAK: Well, this conviction has to come from you. If your fish is talking, then it’s got to be a perfectly reasonable thing that your fish is talking. If your fish is talking and it doesn’t come really from you, then your editor is correct. That’s a contrivance. Children will know instantly. Kids know instantly when you’re patronizing them, when you’re giving them ersatz fantasy or it’s coming genuinely from the middle of your gut; they know. They are not impressed with the fact that you’ve won the Caldecott Award or that you like Mozart or any of those things; they could not care less. The book goes flying across the room. You notice from their letters; “Dear Mr. Sendak: I hate your book. I hope you die soon. Cordially…”

We also have the latest column from Tucker Stone on the world of genre comics, which this week includes a report from Abhay Khosla on fans' reactions to a tepid review of their new favorite movie. Pretty horrifying stuff.

And we've finally convinced Dash Shaw to join our roster of contributors. Today he reviews Jeffrey Brown's cat comics, which gives him the opportunity to discuss what he calls "cat appreciation art" in general.

And of course, there are things on the internet that aren't on this site.

—Mark Evanier reports the death of Jonah Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga.

—Another day, another set of Alison Bechdel interviews, this time a brief one in the New York Times, and another on the Paris Review's website.

—In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Michael Tolkin, Dallas Clayton, and Howard A. Rodman offer their memories of Maurice Sendak.

Speaking of whom, Stephen Colbert has released more outtakes from Sendak's excellent appearance on his show:


—Matt Seneca has just launched a new weekly column over at Robot 6 in which he plans to list and discuss what he considers to be the "greatest comics of all time." First up: Kirby and Lee's Thor #160.

—Drew Friedman is interviewed by Ralph Gardner at the Wall Street Journal, on the occasion, though I don't think the article actually mentions it, of Friedman's newly republished Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Coincidental (co-written by his brother Josh). It's a beautiful book, and I've been thinking a lot about it recently. There's a certain brand of mean-spirited, petty humor that's been pretty popular over the last few decades, in which the main point seems to be laughing at some celebrity or another who no longer has a thriving career. As if failing to maintain A-list status in as fickle and luck-dependent as Hollywood was a valid reason to be mocked. At first glance, some of Friedman's work, with its cast of has-beens and never-weres, can seem to be another example of this kind of comedy, but it isn't--most of these strips cut a lot deeper than that. The reader feels the sting and pain of failure and despair too strongly to feel superior. In other words, we're all Rondo Hatton.

—The movement to properly honor Jack Kirby for his achievements grew a little wider this week, stepping its toes into the mainstream with an Alex Pappademus profile of Stan Lee for Grantland, and a Ruben Bolling strip revealing the plot of the next Avengers film.

—Andrei Molotiu echoes 1965 Susan Sontag with an interesting (if somewhat vague) wish for more demanding, worthy, and artistically innovative comics.

—And finally, Jeet Heer discussed the politics of comics, at a panel with Sean Carleton and Franke James at the LeftWords festival. You can listen to it here.


On Our Travels

Today on the site we remember and pay tribute to Maurice Sendak. Philip Nel has written a comprehensive obituary. Nel has also posted a personal reminiscence on his blog. And we've begun a series of tributes from Sendak's colleagues, which we will continue to update in the coming days.


Aaron Renier posted a moving tribute to Sendak on his site.

In Marvel news, Tom Spurgeon writes about donating to the Hero Initiative in light of the Avengers movie. And Rob Steibel digs up a 1968 Stan Lee interview from Castle of Frankenstein #12. A relative rarity from the days before the hype vibe completely calcified.

Daniel Clowes is having a busy couple months. Here's a fine Artforum interview with him, focusing on his current retrospective, by TCJ-contributor Naomi Fry. And now he has a YouTube channel, too!

Speaking of motion, apparently Jodorowsky is crowd-funding his next movie. And Wired asks and answers "how the streaming revolution is changing the Japanese animation industry".