Back from the Swamp

You already know the saddest, most important news of the week: the great Maurice Sendak died yesterday morning. As a still relatively new parent myself, I've read one or more of his books almost every day for the last year or so. There is something about having a child in your lap, and seeing how she reacts to the book as it is read (and how more intense that reaction is than to other books), that really makes your appreciation for his accomplishments grow. There are few artists of any kind as influential and intensely loved as Sendak.

We will have much more to say about him in the following days, but in the meantime, Margalit Fox's obituary of Sendak in the New York Times is very good, as is the Fresh Air interview with Sendak from last December (which made my wife cry even back at the time). Blown Covers re-published a comic collaboration between Art Spiegelman and Sendak that is very much worth reading. The Guardian has a slideshow of his life in pictures. And Jeet Heer reminded me of an excellent critical look at Sendak that he found a few years ago from Hilton Kramer, of all people. There is much, much more, and we will have further coverage of Sendak's life and influence up on the site very soon.

On the site today, we present the first installment of John Hilgart's very thorough multi-part interview with Starstruck creators Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta, about the very strange and unique history of that project. (You may, or at least should, know Hilgart from 4CP.)

Joe McCulloch escaped Louisiana to bring us his column on This Week in Comics!, a little late but no less essential.

And Sean T. Collins reviews Arne Bellstorf's Beatles book, Baby's in Black.


A Mile End

Well, it's looking like Tuesday, and for the first time since 1922 there is no "This Week in Comics" from Joe McCulloch. Joe would like his faithful readers to know that his absence is due to his being trapped in a swamp in Louisiana, but that we shouldn't worry about him. He'll be fine.

But on the site today we have Nicole Rudick's interview with the great Diane Noomin, whose collection of thirty years of her stories, Glitz-2-Go, is out now and a great read.

Elsewhere all around:

TCJ-contributor Chris Mautner on why he isn't seeing The Avengers.

Timothy Callahan has a MoCCA Festival round-up with a list of promising new books.

There are some very psychedelic and deeply strange Edgar Allen Poe illustrations by the pulp artist Harry Clarke over at 50 Watts.

Design and illustration historian Steve Heller is interviewed at Design Matters.

And finally, just what you've always wanted: Early Dave Berg!


Too Many to Count

Whoa-kay, lots of links today. First off, Frank Santoro has his latest travel report, in which he makes some announcements anyone in the NY area is going to want to hear.

Then, we present a preview of Dan Zettwoch's new Birdseye Bristoe, which feels to me like a potential breakout book. I have always really enjoyed Zettwoch's work, and the way he tirelessly experiments with formats, panel breakdowns, and storytelling techniques of all kinds. What's also nice is that his stories work. (Some cartoonists who create "experimental" comics don't seem to notice or care when their experiments fail, and just publish the results no matter what. This might be the correct response if comics was a science instead of an art.)

We also have Rob Clough's review of the latest Jason collection, Athos in America.

—Speaking of Jason, the National Post has a short profile of the Norwegian cartoonist.

—The Doug Wright Awards were announced, with Kate Beaton, Ethan Rilly, and Michael Comeau taking the top prizes. (For those who like comparing and complaining about comics awards, it is worth noting that Best Book winner Hark! A Vagrant was not nominated for an Eisner this year.)

—Speaking of Canadians, Tom Spurgeon has a long interview with Jam creator Bernie Mireault.

Octopus Pie creator Meredith Gran talks to Gary Tyrrell.

—Newspaper History department:

1. Frank King explains where he got his characters for Gasoline Alley.

2. Peter Huestis has posted a whole bunch of difficult-to-find old Jimmy Hatlo cartoons.

—Adrian Tomine immediately jumps to the head of the list of cartoonists who have created covers for Thomas Pynchon novels.

—Chris Mautner has a photo diary of the MoCCA festival.

—James Romberger has a new online strip.

—Jason Thompson provides an excellent in-depth overview of Shigeru Mizuki, the artist responsible for Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. You should know about him.

—Daniel Best continues to do the Lord's work, gathering and posting legal documents related to the Superman case. The latest is a letter from attorney David Michaels, who had been previously been suspected of stealing various documents from Marc Toberoff and leaking them to DC. He gives his side of the story in the letter at the link.

—For a certain kind of person, the next two links—blog posts written by Steve Ditko biographer Blake Bell about his relationships with Ditko, Dave Sim, and Jesus Christ—will be the most interesting things they read all day.

—And finally, via Mike Lynch, a documentary about the infamous Jack Chick, posted in its entirety:



As Tom Spurgeon notes, TCAF is an ideal occasion to enjoy not just a superb comics festival but also a great city. So here’s a tip for Toronto visitors who want to see a little bit more of the city’s culture, while also enjoying a  comics-related jaunt: take some time out to go to the Tony Calzetta exhibit at the De Luca gallery (217 Avenue Road – about a ten minute walk from the main TCAF building).

Calzetta cartoons on the canvas, which puts him in a now venerable tradition of comics-inspired painters. Unlike Roy Lichtenstein, Calzetta doesn’t do cool, detached appropriations of illustration images from romance comics or war comics. Rather, Calzetta is closer in spirit to Philip Guston, doodling with his paint brush to evoke the warm, scribbly free-spirited iconic forms of early 20th comic strips. But where Guston’s stubbly, cluttered paintings called to mind the slightly-claustrophobic world of Mutt and Jeff, Calzetta’s open  spaces and bold colors evoke the antic play of George Herrimans's Krazy Kat.

Having spent a happy afternoon with Calzetta’s paintings, Herriman was never far from mind. Partially it was a matter of capering shifty shapes that are never content to settle down but are always transforming themelves before your eyes – the stumps that could be elephant feet or steep desert mountain, the upside down umbrella which could also be a ship or a mushroom, the trees that weirdly have branches growing at right angles making them at times look like chimneys with blowing smoke. Herriman’s also present in the way Calzetta stages his paintings – often putting a not-quite-rectangular border within the painting itself, calling to mind Herriman’s play with panels and placing of his characters in a proscenium theatre within the strip (and indeed in earlier painting Calzetta placed his images within a proscenium theatre). And of course, there are the colors – often circus bright in the foreground but set against a darker background.

Beyond all these surface similarities, there is also the feel of Calzetta’s work. Like Herriman, he’s an artist who makes me cheerful even when the work deals mournful themes of loss and separation. The joy that these artists provoke is not a naive pleasure and doesn’t come from the denial of pain. Rather, they have the special gift of returning art in its primordial roots of childhood play even as they grapple with adult concerns.

To say that Calzetta is a Herriman-esque artist is very high praise, but I think anyone who sees his work will realize that he deserves it.

(Calzetta's paintings will be available for viewing on Friday May 4th and Saturday May 5th).



Hysterics Among Us

It's hard to take you seriously when you're foaming at the mouth.

Anyhow, you may have noticed TCJ was offline for a bunch of hours yesterday. Sorry -- the Internet broke for a little while. Then it was fixed.

So: on the site today:

We have a recording of an April 12th discussion about comics at The Art Institute of Chicago featuring Neal Adams, Ivan Brunetti, Geof Darrow, and J.J. Sedelmaier , moderated by Richard Holland. That is one very diverse line-up. Please note that the audio is a bit soft, so we recommend head phones and concentration for this one.

And like every Friday, Tucker Stone brings sunshine to your morning with his prose report on all things comics. This time we get a little extra helping of Moebius and depravity, too.

Elsewhere in our great web nation:

-I always have time for Wilhelm Busch.

-I also always have time for these illos by Takeo Takei.

-Ray Johnson is also someone I have time for. Special guest appearance by Karl Wirsum doesn't hurt.

And that's really all I have time for.



Today, we have the third and final installment of our Jeet Heer-run Jack Kirby/Hand of Fire roundtable, featuring contributions from Jonathan Lethem, Glen David Gold, Sarah Boxer, R. Fiore, Doug Harvey, and Dan Nadel. In this installment, some of the notable topics include William Blake, romance comics, and Kirby vs. Ditko. I know some people get tired of hearing about Jack Kirby, who sometimes seems to be discussed to the exclusion of all other cartoonists, but even for skeptics, I think this roundtable will prove worth reading -- it's certainly one of the best things we've yet published online.

Apart from that, there are almost too many links to link.

—Secret Acres has their now-traditional semi-disheartened wrap-up of this year's MoCCA festival.

—Paul Gravett takes a look at the recent Madrid career retrospective of Spanish cartooning legend Max (and interesting read in conjunction with our Berenguer obituary from yesterday).

—In Alison Bechdel news, John Horgan has another interview with her, and Dwight Garner reviews her new book for the New York Times.

—BK Munn had a really good May Day-related post featuring Dr. Wertham and Ernie Bushmiller the other day.

—In Salon, Steven Brower writes about the generation of comic-book artists who switched to advertising.

—Print has another gallery of Françoise Mouly's collection of rejected New Yorker covers.

—And finally, Vice visits Johnny Ryan in his home:


To the Rooftops

Well ok, it's a new morning here. We're taking a breather from the Hand of Fire/Jack Kirby roundtable. The third and final part will post tomorrow.

In the meantime, Hernan Migoya (with translation help from Eric Reynolds) was kind enough to pen an obituary of his friend Josep Maria Berenguer, the legendary editor and publisher of El Vibora and the La Cupula. Bernguer sounds like a rare kind of publishing raconteur, and Migoya's obit along with Eric's tribute, make me wish I'd met him. Meanwhile, Sean T. Collins has a review of Benjamin Marra's Night Business #4, concluding our Marra twofer, as promised yesterday by Tim.

Elsewhere around the way....

-The great Bob Levin writes about Willie and Joe: The WW II Years. This would be your essential comics read of the day.

-You can view the CSS comics anthology, The Cartoon Crier, right here.

-Robot 6 has a UK comics news round-up.

-Gavin Lees reports back from Stumptown and reviews a bunch of new small press titles.

-And Jen Vaughn has a MoCCA report over at The Beat.



Today we have part two of the sprawling Jack Kirby/Charles Hatfield roundtable organized for us by Jeet Heer. Featured participants include Jonathan Lethem, Glen David Gold, R. Fiore, Sarah Boxer, David Harvey, and Dan Nadel. Things really get going in this installment, as Hatfield's book comes into clearer focus—plus, there's a pretty wonderful digression into Philip K. Dick analysis.

Joe McCulloch stops in with his weekly roundup of the most interesting-sounding new comics. And longtime readers of Joe's will be happy to see the return of one of his more idiosyncratic enthusiasms.

Finally, Matt Seneca reviews the latest from cartoonist Benjamin Marra, Lincoln Washington: Free Man. Another writer for us, Sean T. Collins, independently sent in a review of a different Marra comic that we will run very soon. Marra's work is very appealing on different levels, but it is interesting and somewhat surprising to me how uniformly positive and celebratory the response to Marra's work has been. I don't think I have yet read a negative review! I'm not trying to criticize the books myself—I have enjoyed all of the comics by him I've read (I haven't yet read the title under review today)—but Marra's work touches on a lot of extremely sensitive issues, and it's not hard to imagine a less sanguine reaction. Maybe it's just that the kind of people who read these kinds of comics are generally speaking also the kind of people who are hard to offend. Though Johnny Ryan ... And here the suicide note ends in a scrawl.

The first MoCCA festival I've missed in something like a decade was held in New York this weekend, and from all reports I've heard, went pretty well. One panel I regretted missing was this one featuring local retailers, in which Comics Journal columnist Tucker Stone revealed that Bergen Street Comics is not planning to stock Before Watchmen. Which seems like a pretty gutsy move. I wonder if any other stores will follow suit.

And now for a few quick hits:

The Paris Review excerpts Kelly Gerald on Flannery O'Connor, cartoonist.

Moto Hagio has become the first manga artist to receive the Japanese Medal of Honor.

Noel Murray interviews Guy Delisle, and Michael Cavna interviews Marjane Satrapi.

Rob Clough reports on a recent Joe Sacco appearance at Duke.

And Françoise Mouly selects and discusses ten of her favorite rejected New Yorker covers, including the R. Crumb gay marriage image that made a bit of news last year.