Making a Stand

Today Tucker Stone is back with another look at the best/worst/most otherwise notable genre comics of (his) reading week, and this time he wonders when superhero comics starting revolving so much around emotional breakdowns?

Off-site you can find:

—A double-dose of Eddie Campbell, both in an interview about his upcoming Lovely Horrible Stuff, and in Bob Heer's review of the recently released iPad app version of Campbell's Dapper John.

—A recently discovered 1963 audio interview of the then-88-years-old Jimmy Swinnerton!:

(Thanks, Jeet!)

—Joe Sutliff Sanders wondering about the prevalence of lowbrow allusions in comic books.

—Tom Hart, the beloved Hutch Owen cartoonist and SAW co-founder, has revealed that he is the mystery man behind the recent Shit My New Yorker Cartoons Tumblr, and he explains his motivation here.

—Finally, the cartoonist Dustin Harbin has reposted the Doug Wright Awards comic diaries he did for this site last year, along with an enormously long manifesto about the changes he would like to make to the Eisner Awards. If you are the type who likes to argue about award nominating processes, this will provide a motherlode of things to agree and/or argue about.


Out of a Catalog

Today on the site, Rob Clough weighs in on Tom Neely's self-published art-book/graphic-novel hybrid, The Wolf.

Today off the site, you can read the following:

—For the Financial Times, D'arcy Doran profiles Drawn & Quarterly, with an emphasis on the renaissance it's gone through over the last four years.

—Chris Arrant catches the very welcome news that industry mainstay Bud Plant is back in business. Readers under thirty or so will never understand what the Bud Plant catalog used to mean.

—Another day, another Dan Clowes interview. Luckily, they're almost always entertaining, even when they go over familiar ground. This time, Casey Burchby talks with Clowes about his new art book, his first museum exhibition, and current projects.

—Howard Chaykin gave a refreshingly blunt short interview to Comics Anonymous, saying things like the following: "Since [my '80s/'90s peak] I’ve done nothing that I’m ashamed of. I did plenty of work I’m ashamed of before that but nothing since. I did some shit stuff because I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Inadequacy is often its own reward. I did the Star Wars comic in the '70s and if I’d have know It was going to be as big a hit I would have done a better job.”

—Today is interview day, I guess. Daniel Best has republished a super-entertaining 1975 talk with Jack Kirby. Sample quote: "World War II lent itself to good dramas. The whole thing could have been written by some hack out at Warner Brothers. It was a black and white issue with a villain who was so completely evil that it was just made to order. Anything you did in World War II was an act of nobility. If you hung Hitler or killed hundreds of Germans, you were on the side of the Angels. I once got a letter from a Nazi who told me to pick out any lamppost I wanted on Times Square because, when Hitler arrived, they'd hang me from it. It was typical of a genre of fans who have long since died out."

—The latest Alan Moore interview for British television that's been going around is now on YouTube.

—And finally, Colin Smith puts a lot of thought into the best ways to hook the unconverted into superhero comics, and all I can wonder is why would you want to do that to people?



One of the last true gag cartoonists standing, Magic Whistle's Sam Henderson, walks us through his process, which involves a lot more preparation and revisions than many might expect.

And Kent Worcester reviews a cultural history of British comics written by James Chapman. An excerpt:

The best-selling comics magazine Viz, launched in 1979 (and reaching sales of 1.2 million in the 1990s), is very much in the juvenile-yet-class-conscious tradition of The Beano, even if its scatological joke-telling goes way beyond anything that would be allowed in titles published by either D.C. Thomson or the Amalgamated Press, the “big two” oligarchs of British cartooning. The names of Viz’s most popular characters – Johnny Fartpants, Buster Gonad, Billy Bottom, and Sid the Sexist – probably convey better than anything else the magazine’s distinctive brand of humor. In discussing Viz’s meteoric rise, Chapman usefully quotes from George Orwell’s famous essay on seaside postcards: “it will not do to condemn them on the ground that they are vulgar and ugly. That is exactly what they are meant to be. Their whole meaning and virtue is in their unredeemed lowness, not only in the sense of obscenity, but lowness of outlook in every direction whatever.”

Over the barricades—

—Neal Kirby remembers growing up with Jack for the Los Angeles Times:

There were a lot of cigar-chomping characters in Marvel Comics and Dad was one of them — he and other writers and artists popped up in stories in a quirky trademark of the “House of Ideas,” as it was called in the 1960s. Personal parts of his life often crept into his work too. When recounting the creation of the Fantastic Four, for instance, he laughingly confessed that Sue Storm was named for my sister, Susan, and the “Storm” could be considered a bit of personality commentary. When he saw the expression on my face he appropriately apologized for the fact that he never got around to making Neal the name of the Human Torch, an Inhuman or even some low-ranking Skrull.

This is a good one. Don't miss it if you like Kirby.

—Charles Forsman has created a new website called Muster List, intended as a comprehensive directory for finding mini-comics and sending visitors to the best online sources for purchasing them. (via)

—Illogical Volume at the Mindless Ones takes a thorough look at the reprinting controversy du jour, the recoloring of Flex Mentallo.

—And finally, Daniel Clowes interviewed by Mark Frauenfelder at Meltdown (via everybody):


Village of the Damned

R.C. Harvey stops by this morning with one of his inimitable forays into comic-strip history. This time, he writes about Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, and the semi-secret cult still surrounding it. An excerpt:

Bushmiller worked nights mostly. He began about two o’clock in the afternoon and sat at his drawing board into the wee hours and often into the morning of the next day. “I work on a schedule that produces six daily Nancy and Sluggo strips between Sunday and Tuesday evenings,” he wrote in a autobiographical article in Collier’s (September 18, 1948). “The Sunday page evolves after I’ve taken Wednesday and Thursday off. If this sounds confusing, then you have a fairly accurate picture of a newspaper cartoonist’s life. Unlike other strip cartoonists, I draw the last picture first and work back to toward the beginning, which is exactly the opposite of the way you read it (I hope). I know a guy who draws his cartoons upside down, so I don’t worry much about drawing backwards.”

In conjuring up jokes, Bushmiller came to rely to a great extent upon props, and in so doing, he gave the strip its unique flavor. Describing his method, Bushmiller said: “I jot down items such as toaster, leaky roof, folding chair, mail box, windy day—anything that comes to mind. Looking at the advertising in a magazine also helps, or a Sears Roebuck catalog. When I find an item that seems likely, I start to kick it around in my mind to see if I can work out a funny situation. Let’s say I see an ironing board. I start to think about what can be done with an ironing board, and I pretty soon get an idea.”

Joe McCulloch is around again, too, with his weekly look at the most interesting new comics in stores—plus an online bargain you might be interested to see.

Elsewhere, Journal contributor Nicole Rudick has a review of Kramers Ergot 8 at Hyperallergic.

Darwyn Cooke talked to Rolling Stone about his participation in Before Watchmen, which has predictably led to a lot of online derision. I do think it's kind of interesting that he shrugs off the immorality of working on this particular title by pointing to the larger ambiguous morality of working on non-creator-owned comic books in general. That's not the hill I'd choose to die on but he has a point. (Also, it's funny that he describes himself as being "dragged kicking and screaming" into the project, but then admits that some time after he first declined to participate, he called Dan DiDio up and and said he hoped there was still room for him to join in. A strange form of kicking and screaming, that.)

Via Mark Evanier's blog comes this video of a 1983 visit to the Mad magazine offices:

As you've probably read in one of the five hundred comic sites that have run with it so far, artist/conman Thomas Kinkade has passed away, and the animator Ralph Bakshi (who gave Kinkade his start) has released a statement about it. Here's a brief excerpt:

As far as the art world, the CRITICAL ones shrugging Tom off, as they sell a shark in oil, and polka dots in 12 -- count them, 12 -- galleries at once in one opening, and all the other mindless hype...

They miss the true brilliance that is Kinkade.

Kinkade painted the brilliant landscapes of the religious right, the Tea Party and all the other Rush Limbaughs in America. He's selling back what Americans want. This is the most homespun vision of the distorted right and nostalgia-looking Americans reaching for purity without knowing what it really is -- all through his landscapes.

IT'S BRILLIANT, and goes by every art critic and major museum in the world. I love it. And it's just that that [which] I made my movies about -- the blind, pretentious and ugly.

Heidi MacDonald called this a "touching tribute," which isn't exactly the phrase I'd use... I suppose it is a bit more nuanced than the take on Kinkade Bakshi gave to Vulture in 2008:

He's a good painter, and he did a spiel. He made all these deals. How he went out and did what he did is beyond my understanding now. He's very, very talented, and he’s very, very much of a hustler. Those two things are in conflict. Is he talented? Oh yeah. Will he paint anything to make money? Oh yeah. Does he have any sort of moralistic view? No. He doesn't care about anything. He's as cheesy as they come.


I Can’t Post, I’ll Post

As longtime readers know, Frank Santoro's Riff Raff column has taken many forms over the last year (if you started following this site more recently, it's worth going back to the beginning), and now he continues its latest incarnation: the "New Talent Showcase". This week, he covers Noel Freibert, Zak Sally, and Olivier Schrauwen.

Also, noted Game of Thrones enthusiast Sean T. Collins contributes a review of the new graphic novel adaptation of the George R. R. Martin novel. Excerpt:

“Catelyn! What are you doing?” Lord Eddard Stark asks his wife. “Lighting a fire,” she replies on the other side of the panel. In that panel she is putting on a robe.

Nothing I could come up with on my own would better communicate the clumsiness of this well-intentioned but nevertheless egregious misfire of a comic.

Unforeseen circumstances have detained Dan's return to the site, so I will be your solo host/guide a while longer. My apologies for not having many links this morning.

The aforementioned Zak Sally was interviewed by Chris Mautner over at Robot 6.

And Paul Gravett has a nice, long rambler of an interview with Robert Crumb.


A Day Like No Other

It is with red and brimming eyes that we must say goodbye to Dylan Horrocks today, who has turned in his fifth Cartoonist's Diary entry for us.

Tucker Stone seems a little out of sorts himself this morning, though for his own reasons (read: he spends too much time thinking about superhero comics). Experience his crackup in real time in the latest installment of Comics of the Weak.

And Matthew Thurber and Rebecca Bird team up to join our stable of reviewers, with a jointly written appraisal of Bill Griffith's mammoth retrospective, Lost and Found.

Elsewhere, new dad Dan Nadel has an article on David Shrigley for the Brooklyn Rail.

BK Munn entertainingly argues with the cover feature from the latest issue of Broken Pencil, which itself is an attempted take-down of "high-art" zines from the likes of people like Marc Bell and Amy Lockhart.

Brandon Graham always gives good interview.

Finally, and not really comics, the online reaction (shock, outrage, supreme umbrage) to this fan- and critic-baiting New York Times interview with The Wire creator David Simon reminds me more than a little of whining and hurt feelings that appear whenever Alan Moore gives a cranky interview dismissing dumb comic books. I don't think I will ever understand why people take these kinds of comments from artists personally. Simon got up peoples' noses by saying that it is impossible to accurately judge a television show's success until the whole thing can be seen. This is true. Critics get mad because what are they supposed to do? Wait five years before reviewing a series? What they are supposed to do is not care what David Simon thinks about them. You aren't writing for the artists, you're writing for yourself and your readers. And that goes double if you aren't even a critic. The only reason to care if Alan Moore thinks you're too dumb to read his comic is if you have a sneaking suspicion he may be right. In which case, go hit the library or take a class or something. Jeez.

Happy Pesach and/or Easter, et cetera.



Today, we bring you the long-awaited return of Jeet Heer! (May it be a harbinger of things to come.) Yes, our Canadian friend is back with a thorough and revealing look at the newly re-published and expanded edition of the first volume of The Complete Crumb Comics. Here's an excerpt:

The Complete Crumb Comics Volume One: The Early Years of Bitter Struggle, a 1987 book now republished in an expanded edition, gathers together the earliest surviving examples of the great cartoonist’s juvenilia taking him from age 14 or 15 to 18 years old. The high school scribbler that we meet in these pages is a very callow Crumb indeed: Crumb before he had sex, Crumb before he dropped acid, Crumb before he was adopted as a hero of the counterculture, Crumb before he honed his satirical stance on modern life, Crumb before he became the most radical, polarizing and influential cartoonist of the late 20th century. Yet in the lanky and awkward body of the teenage Crumb we can see the outlines of the substantial artist he would become.

Dylan Horrocks, the man from New Zealand, is back again, too, of course, with another day of a week in his life. This time around, he struggles with writing a book review. I wish he would stay and keep doing these diaries forever.

Over the barricades, life is stirring. First, the Eisner award nominations were announced yesterday. You can see the list here. Based on a fairly casual appraisal, it seems to be a relatively solid list as these things go, aside from a few exceedingly odd titles and names conspicuous by their absence (cough cough Love and Rockets). In any case, congratulations to all the nominees.

Terry Gilliam gave an interview to Vulture about a new Monty Python app (or something) and spent a surprising amount of its time talking about comics, from his problems with England ("The first thing that bothered me was that the English didn’t have a tradition of comic books here.") to superhero movies ("Irony comes to play here: I’m stuck in England while Hollywood is doing what I wanted to do 30 years ago. [...] But they’re becoming repetitive for me. I’m getting bored with them, frankly. I just want to see something different. What I loved about comic books is that comic books were outsider art, and so they could say and do things that were much more punchy. But that’s not what Marvel is up to at the moment.") to Moebius ("Extraordinary stuff! Beautiful looking, funny, sharp, sci-fi on a level that you really want to work at."), among other things.

In McSweeney's, Robb Fritz has a long essay about the meaning of Snoopy. (via)

Journal columnists news update: Tucker Stone reviewed Derf's My Friend Dahmer for Comixology, and Frank Santoro is selling pages from Kramers Ergot 8.

Robin (Inkstuds) McConnell has an Emerald City Comicon photo-report up if you didn't get enough from Tom Spurgeon's earlier this week.

And finally (and only tangentially comics-related): Chip Kidd talks book design at TED:



Slow Day

Dylan Horrocks is here with day three of Cartoonist's Diary. Today, he teaches a class, and ponders how many cartoonists there are whose work he's never read.

And Sean T. Collins reviews the most recent Jaime Hernandez Love & Rockets digest, Esperanza. An excerpt:

The central storyline of Esperanza's first half isn’t Izzy’s downfall at all, but Maggie’s struggle to account for the discrepancy between the woman she is now — a responsible professional with professional responsibilities, who likes to stay out of trouble, who maybe wants more out of her best-friend-with-benefits Hopey than the friendship and the benefits, and who can’t tell if that relationship is the exception or the rule with regards to her sexuality — and the girl she was when she first came to define herself as a person — a carefree hellion whose folie à deux with Hopey was, as best she could tell, the center of everyone’s universe.

Outside our compound walls: I don't know how I missed this earlier, but Journal columnist Craig Fischer recently started a blog, Fischer on Comix, which seems to be both a repository for older work needing a home and a few new posts as well. His recent essay on Taniguchi is a highlight.

It's also been a while since we've linked to Journal columnist Rob Clough's personal site. If you like the comics he reviews here, you really should bookmark or subscribe to Clough, because he's one of the few reviewers out there really devoted to consistently covering these small-run, obscure, and usually deserving works. He's been in a posting frenzy over the last few weeks, so there's lots there to read if you haven't visited in a while.

Finally, David Brothers has the visual proof of Marvel's priorities in terms of creator credit.