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.


Ding Dong Daddy

Dylan Horrocks continues his week of Diaries for us. Today, he includes everything he drew during a single day, and dreams.

Joe McCulloch has the word on this week's comic books, plus a short look at David Hine and Shaky Kane.

And Rob Clough reviews the latest issue of the surprisingly under-discussed Mineshaft, still possibly the best-kept secret in comics.

Elsewhere, I'm a big fan of most everything Tom Spurgeon writes, but even if all he ever did was put together his signature, unending bullet-pointed convention reports, like the one he just made for the Emerald City Comicon, I'd be happy.

Finally, over at the Hooded Utilitarian, Ng Suat Tong is taking nominations for the best online comics criticism of the year so far, and also explains that last year's survey didn't happen mostly because of a lack of energy among the participants. (I was wondering what happened.) I served as a judge in Suat's survey for 2010, and although I wasn't completely enamored with all the winners, I found it to be an overall enjoyable experience. It makes sense to open nominations to everyone—if I recall correctly, that seemed to be the weakest link in the survey the year I participated: most of the judges' choices were obvious last-minute picks, often not-so-coincidentally published a few days before our nominations were due (and thus, easier to remember). Anyway, Suat runs a good survey, so if you enjoy this kind of thing, I recommend it.

Suat also offers a typically bleak (though not necessarily wrong) assessment of online comics criticism today, along with mostly kind words about this site. As Suat isn't one to mince words, the compliments are appreciated. He also worries that perhaps the online comics commentariat has grown too monolithic. I suppose he has a point. But six years ago, Dan, Frank, and I felt the same way, and started Comics Comics to do something about it. There's nothing stopping anyone else from doing the same thing now. It isn't exactly expensive to run a blog. And there are ten thousand people just waiting to link to or read something, anything intelligent about comics.


Shuffle Feet, Shuffle

First of all, congratulations are in order. Dan is now a new father, and the curse of fecundity continues. Welcome to the world, Henry!

And now, your daily comics reading: In his most recent column, Frank reviews new books from wunderkinds Michael DeForge, Jesse McManus, and Charles Forsman.

The great Dylan Horrocks has accepted our invitation to join our pantheon of contributors to A Cartoonist's Diary. His first entry is online today.

There's a really nice, substantial profile of Dan Clowes in the New York Times, coinciding with his first museum exhibition at the Oakland Museum.

And here's video footage of a recent interview Clowes gave at Kadist in San Francisco:

Slate has excerpted Art Spiegelman's introduction to a new book on the Garbage Pail Kids, in which he relates part of the story of their creation.

And here's Charles Burns talking for an hour-plus! (I haven't been able to watch this yet, but it's first on my to do list when I get some spare time.)


Our own Chris Mautner has a "Comics College" entry on Scott McCloud.

The graduating students at my alma mater (and Dan's, come to think of it) are underwhelmed to learn that a cartoonist has been chosen to be their commencement speaker. Normally, I'd consider that to be amusing news only to me and a very small group of others, but since Alan Gardner's writing about it, I guess the universe does revolve around me and my interests.

Per Mark Bode, thirty-five years after raising eyebrows with Wizards, a movie with a style and characters that seemed to closely ape Vaughn Bode's, Ralph Bakshi has called up and apologized.

Alan Moore's Neonomicon is the first graphic novel ever to be given a Bram Stoker Award. In his acceptance speech, he notes, rather interestingly for those who have read the book: "As is often the case when one’s work crosses personal boundaries, I spent a long time in fretful deliberation over Neonomicon and six months after finishing the work was still uncertain as to whether it was good or even publishable."

And finally, Andrei Molotiu takes (or follows) Jack Kirby to the art museum.



Hopefully, you've all gotten a chance to read Michael Dean's assessment of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art's accomplishments yesterday. Today, we have the promised supplementary feature: Dean's interview with Lawrence Klein, MoCCA's founder. Here's an excerpt:

DEAN: Do you ever feel frustrated with some decisions being made? Like, “Why is this thing being done that way?” or “Why didn’t they consult me about this?”

KLEIN: I don’t look at it like that, because I don’t want them consulting me! I don’t want to be bothered! [Laughs.] No, I want to give it a chance to grow and be what it is. Sure, there’s a time or two where I’ll say, “Huh, interesting decision. I’m not sure why they did it, but they must have felt that it was the right thing to do.” I haven’t seen anything outrageously crazy that would make me say, “I’ve got to step in and end this, or I’ve got to step in and take over.” But one of the things I tried to do with MoCCA was, in essence, to be a benevolent dictator. Listen to everybody and get everybody involved, but make the final decisions. To do what we did, at the time we did it, you needed focus. A strong focus. There were so many things that everybody wanted to do, but we couldn’t do everything. We wanted focus, and we wanted me to lead based on that focus. And that needed to happen.

And then, of course, we have the latest installment of Tucker Stone's Comics of the Weak column. Can you believe it was only three weeks ago he started doing this? I can. I'm still not used to getting up this early in the morning to edit.

Elsewhere, John Hilgart of 4CP fame has inaugurated a new column of his own over at HiLobrow, revealing the mysterious sources for his previous work.

Robert Boyd reviews Kramers Ergot 8.

Robert Birnbaum has a great, lengthy, meaty interview with Ben Katchor up at the Morning News.

David Chelsea has posted a part two for his post on perspective and Ivan Brunetti from last week.

And the Wright Awards nominations have been announced.