Ryan Holmberg continues his essential column on the history of alternative manga today with an introduction to the concept of batakusai (which means "butter-stinking," or in other words, overly Westernized) and its usage within the context of manga.
This term supposedly dates back to the Edo period, when visiting English and Portuguese traders were derided for their strong body odors thought to be caused by a fat and butter-rich diet. Most Japanese did not eat “four-legged creatures” until the latter nineteenth century, due to a combination of religious prohibitions and prejudices. Milk and milk-skin products had been consumed by royalty and aristocrats since the seventh century, but dairy was still regarded an oddity by Japanese in contact with foreigners during the Edo period. “Cheese” had been reported in Japanese markets by Jesuit missionaries as far back as the sixteenth century. But since there was no cheese in Japan at the time, they were probably misidentifying blocks of tofu.
A collection of early comics drawn by the late Ronald Searle during his time in a Japanese POW camp (see Warren Bernard's bio of Searle for more details) has just been discovered.
Here's a short article on Foo, the fanzine of Robert and Charles Crumb, once again coming to the conclusion that at least in their childhoods, Charles was the better artist. By the way, early Crumb fanatics may not have heard that the upcoming new edition of volume one of the Complete Crumb will include a newly discovered complete 1962 issue of Arcade. We'll have an expanded look at the new material on the site soon.
Bart Beaty wrote an interesting short take on the Katz/Maus controversy yesterday. For inexplicable reasons, this somehow spilled over into the comments section of this site, and Dan gave more of his views here. I haven't seen the Katz book myself (for those of you too lazy to click on the links above, it's a repurposed version of Maus, in which the contents of the book are apparently unchanged, except that the heads of all characters within it have been turned feline), but it sounds like I'd agree with both Beaty and Dan, contradictory as that might initially seem. I have no thoughts on the legality of the situation, not knowing a single thing about French or Belgian copyright law.
Robert Boyd remembers Dale Yarger, a former designer of The Comics Journal, among many other Fantagraphics projects.
Steven Brower discusses the covers of recent Jack Kirby books, and the trend of using artists other than Kirby for them. (Basically, he's against it.)
Today on the site we have: Steve Ringgenberg's obituary of Sheldon Moldoff; And Ken Parille, who swears he's not writing a superhero column, turned in a piece about superhero bodies and costumes. Ken is the co-editor of the forthcoming (and excellent, but more on that in another post) book The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist. That same book holds a very funny and insightful essay by Chris Ware, whose home is examined in photographs over at Trip City. Yesterday, in a link to Joe McCulloch's incredible post, Tom Spurgeon mentioned a possible shift in how comics history is being built these days. I think he's right. Part of the impetus for ye ol' Comics Comics six years ago was to reshape the way we thought about the cartooning lineage, and I think it's gone even further than we ever imagined. The surge in interest in things like Heavy Metal, and the corresponding HM-link comics being published now is a real generational shift. How it plays out is anyone's guess, but if I was still in the writing-books-about-comics-history biz I'd be looking over my shoulder. Speaking of which, here's Michel Fiffe on the mostly forgotten series Wasteland. For some "trad" comics history here's a mysterious Joe Simon publishing discovery.
An unplanned and prolonged visit to the ER on a neighbor's behalf (nothing serious) means that there's a pretty good chance I missed something this morning. So please forgive me that.
This morning, we are reposting the 1999 Comics Journalinterview with the late Sheldon Moldoff (most well-known for his work on Batman) conducted by Steve Ringgenberg. Here's an excerpt:
No, I never had any story credit or anything on it. Everything is Bob Kane. And I say it would have been nice, if at some point, he would have said, "Shelly, I'm really famous now and it's time to say thanks to a couple of people." Jerry Robinson, other people, give us a word of thanks. It would have made him a bigger person. It wouldn't have hurt him any to say, "These people helped me."
Also, this morning, it looks like Joe McCulloch has finally gone insane, using his weekly guide to new comics to write a nearly book-length treatise on a 1980 issue of Métal Hurlant. It's a good kind of insane, though, featuring his thoughts on Pratt, Chaland, and Druillet, among others.
And Jesse Pearson reviewsKingdom Come, J.G. Ballard's final novel, just published for the first time in the United States.
Elsewhere, my confrère Dan Nadel finally broke down and started a Tumblr. If you like a good rant, ask Ray Sohn his thoughts on Tumblr some time.
As has been noted many places, a new small batch of Penguin Graphic Classics covers has been released. Mike Mignola's cover for Heart of Darkness is getting the most attention. It's a striking image, and Mignola is a master, but something about it sits wrong to me—it's too cartoonish an image of evil when compared to the horrors of the novella. It may work better in person, though. Ross MacDonald's cover for Robert Graves's Greek Myths (a truly great book) is amusing, but bugs me if only because it furthers the idiotic notion that superheroes are our modern mythology. I know, I know, it's a joke.
I'm not familiar with Hannah Eaton's work, but this preview/interview over at Forbidden Planet blog looks promising.
I recently asked artist David Mazzucchelli about the forthcoming reprint of Batman: Year One, set for release March 14 from DC. David told me the following:
DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it. I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition ofBatman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.
I asked if he'd contacted DC, and David explained that he "wrote letters and sent emails to the president, both publishers, and the editor in charge of special editions. No response." I asked about his forthcoming Artist's Edition of his Daredevil work, and he replied, "Scott Dunbier has been in touch with me from the beginning; I supplied all the scans of the artwork."
This seems like a ridiculous and avoidable mistake by DC since, indeed, they had a willing collaborator in David, but somehow it's not terribly surprising.
Comic book veteran and the last surviving artist to have been published in Action Comics #1, Sheldon Moldoff, has passed away. We'll have his TCJ interview and an obituary online later this week.
Tom Spurgeon (him again!) has a great interview with Charles Hatfield about his book Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby. TCJ is working on a roundtable discussion of Hatfield's excellent work.
And finally, a handful of mid-1980s video interviews with comic book artists have popped up on YouTube, courtesy of an organization called Big City D2D. Particularly noteworthy is the Marie Severin piece in which she talks about creating characters and is extremely funny, to boot.
Say a fond farewell to Emily Flake, whose final diary entry is up today. Thanks, Emily.
And now to links, almost all of which turn out to revolve around political questions, coincidentally enough.
First, Brandon Graham gives good interview. In this one, he speaks (as a sometime comics porn creator himself) about what comic books get wrong about sex.
Speaking of what comic books get wrong about sex, Tom Spurgeon pulled out a recent Newsarama interview with Catwoman writer Judd Winick in which the former Real World star pulled a Nigel Tufnel and acted as if the reason people were up in arms about his run on the title is because it was too "sexy." Well, maybe he was acting—Tom expresses justifiable amazement at Winick's ability to remove the nuance of this discussion. Based solely upon the utter insipidity of all the Winick work I've read, I'd say it's an open question whether he's cynically and intentionally pretending not to understand the underlying issues, or that he's just actually not smart enough to get it. Of course, I guess it could be a combination of the two.
This is old (in internet time) but still relevant.
Matt Seneca has an essay on Crepax's Valentina, possibly his favorite comic of all time. (Incidentally, for at least the first hour of that Inkstuds roundtable I linked to the other day, the main subject Matt, Joe McCulloch, and Tucker Stone discuss is European erotic comics and the portrayal of rape therein. That kind of work is not my bag, but it's an interesting if uncomfortable talk nonetheless.)
James Romberger writes about the male perspective, too, in a roundup of brief reviews of comics by Alex Toth, Adrian Tomine, Joost Swarte, and Jim Steranko, among others. He also slams Chester Brown's Paying for It hard, ultimately finding the whole thing "fucking depressing." I don't dispute many of James's points, but Brown's book has only grown in my estimation over the past year— it truly supports multiple valid perspectives on what it's up to in a way that only the best art does. Try finding a non-risible interpretation of the Catwoman comic mentioned earlier.
And then of course there's the way comics portray race. The Forbidden Planet blog alerts us to an impassioned take on the recent Tintin in the Congo written by the novelist China Miéville, arguing on the side of Bienvenue Mbutu Mondondo instead of Hergé's publishers. It's worth reading, if for no other reason then that intelligent arguments from Mondondo's point of view have gotten precious little attention. (Incidentally, in the course of his essay, Miéville links to a lengthy series of blog posts denouncing Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's use of the "golliwog" character in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)
And there's lots of video for you to watch on a lazy Friday afternoon:
This may or may not be news: The 1987 documentary The Masters of Comic Book Art is now on YouTube in its entirety. I suggest skipping to the 20 minute mark to listen to Steve Ditko explain Mr. A. I forgot about this section, and I really enjoyed listening to his voice. Moebius is at the 38 minute mark. This is just a pretty fine glimpse at these artists in the flesh. It's also so very funny to think how different the canon was.