Boil Water Advisory

Sorry about this week's Hurricane Irene-related delay in comic-book coverage. Other than the contaminated Essex County water supply, it looks like pretty much everything related to the East Coast branch of the Journal is back on track now. We hope all of our affected readers came out okay.

Today in his column, Ryan Holmberg takes a break from documenting the history of alternative manga, and focuses on the immediate and lasting effects of Japan's massive tsunami and earthquake on the manga industry, both in the form of manga reportage about the events, and the actual physical destruction of manga. A sample:

Fans searched Tohoku high and wide to read the newest chapter of One Piece in the March 19 issue of Jump. To find a copy, one man drove from Sendai to Yamagata (over an hour by car when roads are clear and fuel plentiful), bringing it back to Sendai, and lending it to a bookstore owner, who posted on his shop window a sign saying “Read it here!! Shōnen Jump March 19th issue, no. 16. One copy available.” Word spread quickly. Kids biked in from over 10 kilometers. More than 100 kids came to read that single issue.

And Mike Dawson returns with another episode of his podcast series, this time interviewing the cartoonist and publisher Tom Kaczynski.

Links-wise, I'm a little behind on my internet reading, but here are a couple to tide you over until I get back up to speed.

1. Elsewhere on the internet, the indefatigable Rob Clough reports and provides commentary on his top fifty comics of 2010. Always solid stuff, and plenty of titles that almost anyone not named Rob Clough probably missed.

2. Some lucky ones among you will already own copies of the minicomic in which these mutated strips originally appeared, but the rest have only read about them.

3. Comment 53.


Sunny Daze

It's Tuesday. Summer is coming to a close, which means, at least for me, a return to the Fall book fair circuit. In honor of that, and to explain a significant new move by the Library of Congress, we have an interview with historian/collector/SPX-maestro Warren Bernard.

Also on the site, the Hurricane-proof Joe McCulloch's week in comics.


Continuing today: If you're in Portland, please go buy some comics and books and whatever from Floating World for the its Dylan Williams benefit sale.

Ed Piskor has a wonderful comic strip version of the day Jay Lynch and Robert Crumb met Chester Gould.

And, via MG comes this link to some funny/disturbing paintings.



Hurricane Delay

Hi there,

If you're seeing this it means that both Tim and I are without power temporarily. Regularly scheduled posting will resume... shortly!

-Ye Eds



Today we bring part 8 of Kim Deitch's memoir. This is the best one yet and Kim promises it's only getting better. Here's a bit:

The concert was mayhem. You literally could not hear the band. I didn't really know what I was going to do with myself now that I was back, but I was sure I did not want to go back to art school. I wasn't even sure I wanted to be an artist anymore. After drifting through a couple of low-end jobs, I somehow ended up working for a posh nut house in White Plains: New York Hospital. I could write a whole book about that place. Suffice to say, if this is what things were like in a high-end laughing academy, I'd sure hate to see what was going on in a low-end one!

And Sean T. Collins reviews Kevin Mutch's Fantastic Life.


-Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat was beaten and his arm broken by security forces on Thursday. The Washington Post has coverage.

-The web site Bleeding Cool released the rather odious terms ComiXology is asking retailers to agree to in exchange for the use of its platform. It's yet another example of the industry killing itself from within, one that dovetails with this interview with Jim Lee and Dan DiDidio at which, shows the clueless cynicism at work in the company.

-And the store Floating World Comics is staging a benefit this weekend for Dylan Williams. There will be great art and books to buy and all the profits are going to help with Dylan's treatment. Tom Devlin summarized why so many other publishers and editors respect Dylan and Sparkplug. Go read that and then go buy some comics.


Show and Tell

Ken Parille is back with another entry of his Grid column today. Topic: Independent-era Steve Ditko. An excerpt:

We have yet to appreciate Ditko the philosopher, Ditko the comedian. Many readers lament the artist’s move away from the formulaic superhero story into the uncharted terrain of the philosophical comic. “Why couldn’t he do something more like, maybe, Spider-Man or Doctor Strange?” wonders the bemused fan when confronted with medium-reinventing works like 1969’s “The Avenging World” or 1975’s “Premise to Consequence.” Readers puzzled by Ditko’s independent work or frustrated with its Ayn Rand-based politics should take a hint from the spirit of these comics: read them with a black sense of humor.

Also, Matt Seneca reviews the first issue of Michel Fiffe's Zegas:

Main character Emily Zegas opens the book by telling us, “I realized the apocalypse wasn’t a romantic concept.” She makes a good point, but we’re forced to take it with the gargantuan grain of salt that the accompanying picture provides: hand-painted waves of ochre and magenta swirl majestically over a flooding cityscape, masses of tiny featureless human figures gesture skyward, and the heavens split with beams of brilliant rose-colored light. It’s about the most romantic rendering of the apocalypse imaginable, not to mention a bold declaration of visual purpose.

1. James Sturm writes for Slate about the process of trying to get cartoons (examples given) into The New Yorker.

2. Drew Friedman curates an online mini-gallery of Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood covers for Plop!

3. The Harvey Award winners were announced.

4. Dan filled in for me earlier this week, so I didn't have to comment on Grant Morrison's Rolling Stone interview. His comments on Chris Ware and the Comics Journal were baffling, though I feel like others have done a solid job making sense of them, mostly by squinting, switching around adjectives and proper nouns that aren't there, and being generous. But really, generosity is probably the way to go with a dumb phone interview like that, that shows some signs of heavy-handed and possibly meaning-altering editing anyway. Even if not, it was obviously tossed off.

Still and all, in light of the interview, Rodrigo Baeza dug up a pretty funny blurb from GM's past, and then goes on to rightly point out that Morrison's comments on the treatment of Siegel and Shuster, in his new book and in repeated interviews, are both more considered and more disturbing than anything in this particular sideshow.

5. Finally, John Porcellino draws a page of Kirby/Lee's Fantastic Four, and shares what he learned from doing so.


Better Days

Today on the site, a true meeting of the minds: Joe McCulloch interviews Alejandro Jodorowsky. Sample:

Yes I collaborate in the foundation of Metal Hurlant with my ideas and revolutionary texts like “The sexual life of Superman” where I was describing the Superman ejaculations so strong that the sperm going through the woman vagina, the whole body, the head and went away exploding the head and destroying a skyscraper.

Yep, you'll want to read that.


The great Dylan Williams, a comics stalwart for nearly two decades, and a real inspiration for all of us small publishers, could use some help to pay for his cancer treatment. I'm sure the attention is mortifying, but let it be said that Dylan and his company, Sparkplug, have quietly kept the DIY spirit alive. As a publisher you look for other publishers to, well, look up to. Dylan is one of those people. Dylan is also an incredible comics historian whose work on Mort Meskin, Alex Toth, Bill Blackbeard and others has been groundbreaking. So, go buy a ton of books from Sparkplug. They're affordable and they're damn good.

I can recommend the following:

The Heavy Hand by Chris Cilla: One of my absolute favorite graphic novels of the last few years. Fucking brilliant and damned brave. Essential to any comics library. Seriously.

Service Industry by T. Edward Bak: Formally inventive, funny, wrenching, personal comics.

Fleep by Jason Shiga. Just plain brilliant on every level. Shiga at his confounding best.

Windy Corner, edited by Austin English: Wonderful, heartfelt zine on comics.

Orchid by Huizenga, May, et al. One of my very favorite anthologies of all time.

It Lives by Ted May: It's Ted May. That means laughs and perfect cartooning.

Tales to Demolish by Eric Haven: Absurdist adventure comics lushly rendered.

Go. Buy. Good. Comics.


Cloud Cover

On the site today...

Your weekly comics from Jog, in which he deals with the issue of weight in comics. Or heavy comics. Something heavy!

And Rob Clough reviews Keith Knight's Too Small to Fail.

The big "elsewhere" news is Grant Morrison's unintentionally hilarious interview with Rolling Stone. Morrison, who really does believe the hype (in his book, Supergods, he plays himself as a brilliant hero of comics, always at the ready to tap into the zeitgeist) loves to make big statements, like this doozy about his favorite hobby horse, Alan Moore:

We know Alan Moore isn't a misogynist but fuck, he's obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

This is right after [update for clarity/boneheadedness] on the heels of his defense, in Supergods, of the now infamous rape-scene-as-plot device in Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, which he calls "Joycean," "heart stopping," and "orchestral". Seriously. I will admit, as Morrison totally predicted (tra la la, we're all pretty predictable), that I found Supergods mostly not so great. Not because I didn't understand what he was trying to do (superheroes as modern myth, how the genre can have personal meaning) -- I did. I even fully go in for the idea that there's great life in the genre and that fantastic work has been and will be made. And on some subjects Morrison is great. His explanations of what makes Jim Starlin, Don McGregor, and other writers of the 1970s great is smart and concise. And his description of Image Comics and its place in the larger culture is the best I've ever read. But too often it comes back to new age silliness (Captain Marvel as "alchemical" hero) and self-aggrandization (his relative fame, his oedipus complex with Moore) and then, finally, a long patch where he reels off his fave superhero movies (he was the only guy that liked Daredevil! Cool!). It is also is a book profoundly ignorant and dismissive of the actual circumstances under which his favorite toys were created, and the fates of the toymakers. That said, I think it's especially ironic that in the interview he randomly harps on Chris Ware and TCJ (of course he's right that we are smart asses) in economic/class terms. For someone so interested in class and vibes and making the world a better place, one might ask: Gee, Grant, what have you done to help out the economic situations of creators whose shoulders you stand on? Oh right. Nothing. [update: Not that this matters -- critiquing art by arguing that an artist should drop the thing you disapprove of and go do something you do approve of is inane. But Morrison brought it up, so why not go down his logic road?]. Here's the beauty:

I can appreciate someone like Chris Ware for his artistry, which I think is beautiful, but I think his attitude stinks, it just seems to be the attitude of somebody really privileged, and honestly, try living here, try living on an Indian reservation and shut up, and really seeing all that nihilistic stuff, it really makes me angry, it's unhelpful to all of us, and it's coming from people who have money and success to talk  like that and bring those aspects of the way we live in favor of all the  others, and it's indefensible.

So I never liked that stuff, I  always thought that I had a real Scottish working class thing against  the fact that these were done by privileged American college kids, and  they were telling me the world was flat. "You're telling me the world is  flat, pal?" And it's not helpful, it doesn't get us anywhere. OK, so it  is, then what? What are you going to do about it, college kid? My book wasn't academic. I can't take on those Comics Journal guys, they flattened me, as they did, it's just defensive, smartass kids.

My favorite thing about the above is that he assumes Ware (and I suppose Clowes, whose Death Ray, arguably the seminal superhero comic of the last decade, Morrison ignores in his history of superhero comics), Brown, et al are somehow rich college kids looking down at him and casting bad vibes his way. This coming from the guy who endorsed superhero rape in his superhero history. Bad vibes I guess are only ok if they involve Elongated Man? Grant, baby, it's not a class thing and it's not about nihilism. It's just a different, more complex worldview, that's all. Plus, his assessment of Ware's work simply shows he hasn't read it. Morrison is too smart to have read it and come away with that conclusion. And TCJ certainly hasn't flattened him. In fact, aside from a brief mention from Tim, Supergods hasn't been covered here yet. But we did cover, at length, and positively, The Invisibles. Alas.

Anyhow, that interview is just plain sad. Morrison's a creative guy who has written some excellent comics, but here and in Supergods he seems out of touch, casting about, and adrift in what he more or less admits is his most sustained creation: The character of "Grant Morrison" itself.



On the site today:

We bring you the latest installment of Richard Gehr's mindblowingly great series Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists. This time it's Richard going toe-to-toe with Lee Lorenz. Lorenz is a fascinating artist. Did you know that he was taught by Philip Guston? Me neither.

Philip Guston was one of my teachers at Pratt and became a very good friend. He was best man at my wedding. I’m a great admirer of his work, especially after he turned his back on what became “classical” abstract expressionism. He started doing what people would later call “cartoon figures,” not really cartoons. I had lunch with him one day when I was feeling down, because I hoped I would make some sort of career as a painter. He said, “Let me see what you’re doing.” Well, the cartoons I was doing were certainly not good or very interesting graphically. He told me, “You shouldn’t feel that way. This is a really vital and interesting art form. You should be pleased you can do this.” I thought he was pulling my leg, but he utilized a lot of cartoon clichés himself many years later. This was long before he had that epiphany and changed his whole approach to his art.

Frank is on the road and he's drinking beer and giving out hugs. He will break down your reserves; he will talk to you about comics. He is Frank, and I am glad. Related: Last night I dreamt that SPX had moved to London, and that upon my arrival to London (on a tour bus with CSN & Y and assorted members of Wilco -- Stephen Stills was talking to himself in my dream) I discovered Frank there with boxes, while Jim Rugg told me that Ben Jones had a table, too. Then I woke up, realized this post was overdue, and here I am. Phew.

And elsewhere:

A chain of comic book stores is closing. Tom Spurgeon has the report.

A match made in heaven: Drew Friedman on Plop!

This looks to be some sort of film about men wearing plastic laminates? I'm confused.