That’s What I Thought

Today at The Comics Journal, we're roaring into Wednesday with a full satchel of comics content. First up, it's the latest installment of Retail Therapy, our recurring interview series with those individuals who have chosen comics retail as a career. This time around, it's Gabe Fowler from Desert Island in the hot seat. And he's got some things on his mind, the rascal!

What do you wish more customers knew about comics retail?

Retail stores are not a photo opportunity to improve your Instagram feed. If you like a store, if they offer you anything in the way of discovery or entertainment, even if it's just a cute place to meet up with your tinder date, lay down your hard-earned cash and contribute to their existence.  

Our comics excerpt train also stops in with a look at another Koyama title--Nathan Gelgud's House In The Jungle

And of course, there's a review. Today's comes from Josh Kramer, and he's turned his eagle eye to Tillie Walden, who just released On A Sunbeam through First Second & Avery Hill, depending on which country you're in, following the book's serialization online.

Mostly, dear reader, you want to find out. OAS features some genuine, interesting sci-fi world-building that sparkles and intrigues, like the deep space planet called The Staircase. Different readers value different aspects of stories, and I know that some readers care about characters above everything else. But I do enjoy the small details, and in some parts of OAS they fell flat for me. We never really get a good look or understand any of the work anyone is doing, despite a lot of talk about it. Desirable resources are described as “healing rock.” That's not terrible, but it's not terribly interesting.

Over at The Comics Reporter, you'll find that Tom Spurgeon is the latest to praise Lauren Weinstein's tremendous Frontier #17. I'm with Tom--I spoke to a class of seniors at MCAD yesterday and Lauren's work in that issue was my go to example for why 32 page bangers have nothing to be ashamed of in the face of the onslaught of heavy tomes. While I respect Tim's desire to keep some semblance of professionalism around here, I'm under no such obligation: it's the best thing I've read this year.



Today on the site, cartoonist/scholar Mark Newgarden returns to interview another great cartoonist/scholar, Eddie Campbell. Campbell's latest book, The Goat Getters, is a uniquely innovative history of the hidden origins of newspaper comics.

I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for years and have developed my own concept of the history of cartooning, of which "comics" is just one aspect. In my head I have always had a sense of the story in it, but I tend to groan when all those "History of Comics" come out and as time has moved along they have got narrower in their focus. I felt it was time to get back and look at the actual material and not just all the history books that have accumulated, in which more often than not the writer is reiterating the conventional old narrative of the previous one. Also, when some of these histories get to joining up the dots, they are seeing only the dots in a narrow window and thus missing the real connections that are invisible to them. So there was a pressing need to see the old comics and cartoons in their context, to see the newspaper as a holistic environment in which cartoonists could be moving this way and that and working in several sections of the paper at the same time and not just the comics pages. If you go at it all without the usual prejudices, a quite different story can be drawn out. Indeed many different stories present themselves.
at love-making, meaning courtship back then, should be taught in schools.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Daily Beast has a deeply sad interview with the 95-year-old Stan Lee and his daughter J.C., regarding the many allegations against various figures surrounding the man.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there have been stories out, and at least one upcoming story with allegations of elder abuse on you by your daughter.

STAN: I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC.

J.C. LEE: [Interjecting] He wishes everyone was so abusive.

STAN: She is a wonderful daughter. I like her. We have occasional spats. But I have occasional spats with everyone. I’ll probably have one with you, where I’ll be saying, “I didn’t say that!” But, that’s life.

Keya Morgan has been going on to me, and other reporters, about how abusive J.C. is to you. I know he was with you up here for a good amount of time. He claims he was with you for ten years.

J.C.: No. He was with him for six months—that period of time. And a year or two before.

STAN: As Joanie says, he was with me for about six months. I found out that he wasn’t really what I signed on for. So, I let him go.

Does it surprise you that, now that he’s banished from your life, he’s leveling all these accusations at your daughter?

STAN: I don’t know that he was. But it wouldn’t surprise me, no.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Jason Lutes. Lutes was also interviewed on Vermont Public Radio.

I believe we may have mentioned this before, but it's worth reiterating that SPX has posted video from many of this year's panels.

—News. This year's Harvey Award winners have been announced. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress was the winner of the biggest prize.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ariel Dorfman writes about co-authoring the Marxist comics-crit classic How to Read Donald Duck, which is being newly republished.

I should not have been entirely surprised when I saw How to Read Donald Duck, a book I had written with the Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart, being burned on TV by Chilean soldiers. It was mid-September 1973 and a military coup had just toppled Salvador Allende, the country’s president, terminating his remarkable experiment of building socialism through peaceful means.

I was in a safe house when I witnessed my book – along with hundreds of other subversive volumes – being consigned to the inquisitorial pyre. One of the reasons I had gone into hiding, besides my fervent participation in the revolutionary government that had just been overthrown, was the hatred the Donald Duck book had elicited among the new authorities of Chile and their rightwing civilian accomplices.

We had received death threats, an irate woman had tried to run me over and neighbours – accompanied by their children – had stoned the house where my wife, Angélica, and I lived in Santiago, shouting: “Long live Donald Duck!” It was later discovered that the 5,000 copies of the third printing of the book had been taken from a warehouse by the Chilean navy and cast into the bay of Valparaíso.


Permanent Emergency

Today at The Comics Journal, we're ready to turn the spotlight on Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons. Finally! It's Marc Sobel with that long look back at Give Me Liberty.

Despite its long gestation period, Give Me Liberty was actually conceived in the summer of 1988 at the height of the Watchmen and Dark Knight hysteria. As Miller explained, “Dave and I were at the San Diego convention, walking around the San Diego Zoo, and we started talking about working together. He had just finished Watchmen, I had just finished Dark Knight—I suspect we were both taking our press awfully seriously and had yet to calm down.”

But despite their initial enthusiasm, the series was shelved for a couple years. Miller recalled that he was “just writing scenes at random” without a clear idea of what he wanted to say and, eventually “Dave quit.” “It was originally going to be a huge portentous series of 150-page graphic novels, the first of which I scripted (but) the wind just went right out of our sails. We lost interest.”  

Our review for today comes from Patrick Dunn, and he came away pretty pleased with the recent Image Comics horror book Infidel, from Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell.

Infidel’s plot revolves around two lifelong friends and women of color, Aisha and Medina, who both live in an apartment building where a mysterious bomb blast recently killed several people. Both grew up in the Muslim faith, but have taken different paths in adult life. Aisha still dons a hijab, takes comfort in prayer, and makes excuses for the casually racist opinions espoused by Leslie, her boyfriend Tom’s mother. Medina is more overtly radical. “Racism’s a cancer that doesn’t get cured,” she tells Aisha. “The best you get is remission.”

This past weekend saw a healthy percentage of the comics world descend upon New York City's Jacob Javits Center for New York Comic Con, and multiple announcements regarding the next batch of DC, Marvel & Image Comics were announced. For more detailed coverage of that show, I'd recommend Bleeding Cool's coverage. Over the weekend, I received multiple texts from people attending the show, none of which were positive.

Prior to the show, Oni Press launched a free all-ages webcomics site. At this point, the site has a small number of books, but multiple titles are planned for later release on the site. It's an interesting venture, and part of what looks to be a continued redefinition of the Oni brand.





Speed Round

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck about her new memoir.

At what point did you start to write about your parents because the book is about you, but it’s also about the context of your life, in a sense.

It started out about me. I think the first fully formed part that I wrote was about me being a weird kid. After that I wrote the part about my parents. I don’t remember why I brought them into it. I feel like a shadowy echo of my mom sometimes.

Honestly, I wrote the part about me being a weird kid before I had a feminist awakening and then I wrote the mom part while I was having the awakening. I didn’t see my story as being a feminist story until I realized how women’s lives are shaped by being female. Then I started to feel how my mom’s story was really similar to my story. My mom’s story was of quitting her career to not have a career and have her art in the context of being a wife and mother and what it meant to pour all her art into not professionally ambitious things. How it succeeded for a while, but then didn’t have enough roots to sustain her for a long time.

You said that you had a feminist awakening. Could you talk about that and what that meant for you?

I think it happened the moment I stopped having writers block, which at least in my case was extreme self-consciousness about making things that other people would see. I would draw the same thing over and over and over again so at the end of a year I would have one drawing done a million times instead of a million drawings, or a hundred drawings. I think all the anger and scrutiny I had been putting on myself I started putting on other people. [laughs] It coincided with a breakup that made me remember past breakups. It coincided with me finally realizing how much I hated being catcalled and things like that. All the unfairness that I’d been living with for so long but I was so busy feeling like I wasn’t good or human and that I couldn’t be angry at the world for anything suddenly left. It was very freeing.

We also have Tegan O'Neil's review of the book in question.

Liana Finck draws like someone who has spent a great deal of time unlearning how to draw. She describes the process herself while watching on & off boyfriend Mr. Neutral at work: “When I watch you draw, I get a glimpse of what it would be like – if I could still draw the way I was a kid. If I’d met you when I was younger, I bet I wouldn’t have stopped drawing.” Situated at the beginning of the narrative, that statement lays out a map for much of the territory that follows in Passing for Human, Finck’s memoir of her and her family’s history of strangeness.

“Strangeness” is her word, not mine, used to describe what she refers to a variety of terms. In a section on her father, who seems to have shared a similar or related strangeness, she states, “nowadays, if you don’t know how to act around people, you might be labeled ‘mildly autistic.’” But the book isn’t about labels, and there’s really only one part it’s even mentioned. As she states: “The labels set you apart from the world, but they also give you a place in it. They make you feel more different, but less alone. In those days, though [her father’s youth] there were no labels.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Three straight days stranded for hours on NJ Transit have conspired against my usual thoroughness, but I still have a few links, and will catch up next week.

—News. Jillian Tamaki has been nominated for another Governor General's Literary Award.

—Reviews & Commentary. Charles Hatfield enthuses over L. Nichols' Flocks.

Nichols creates his own vocabulary of visual metaphors and devices even as he traces the story of finding, and declaring, his own best, truest self. His story explores and celebrates the paradoxes of self-in-community, the complex comforts of faith, and what it means to be alienated from the very things that support you, or supported by the very things that alienate you—that is, what it’s like to live a tangled human life among distinct, and in some ways opposed, communities, and how to find grace in that most delicate, ever-shifting position.

Dominic Umile writes about David Sandlin.

Artist David Sandlin had only been in New York City for a couple of years when he was plastering downtown Manhattan’s concrete building facades with graphic silkscreened posters to promote his solo exhibition at Kwok Gallery in 1982. But at that point he’d already won five hundred bucks in an art contest, played a role in a wholly rambunctious countercultural art collective, and worked as a studio hand for Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, and others.

—Interviews & Profiles. The editors of the new print TCJ, Kristy Valenti and RJ Casey, are the latest guests on Inkstuds.


He Has Nothing You’ll Want

Today at TCJ, we're pleased to bring you Joe McCulloch, who has returned from SPX with a frenzy in his heart. That frenzy has a cause:

While ostensibly the first part of a continuing series -- published as a slightly-taller-than-square softcover by Chicago's Perfectly Acceptable Press, which excels at daredevil feats of very fancy risograph printing -- Grip stands alone as a remarkable statement, one in which the artist's own hands seem to hold the entirety of American comic book history. If Westvind's Kramers story was wordy, sunburnt and hungover like a horror short running unsupervised off the Charlton press, Grip hearkens back to an even earlier time: it's like a Golden Age comic, its hero manifesting fabulous powers seemingly at random and immediately going about accomplishing mighty feats, because that's what you ought to do. It's a comic that feels like it was born unconcerned with the schematics and the expectations of comics, and therefore occupies itself with demonstrations of bravura sensation - Pure Comics Power.

The Guardian goes long on Berlin, Anne Frank and Nora Krug's new one. It's Ger-mania!

Berlin isn’t the only new comic to take on Germany and its wartime politics. This autumn also sees the publication of a graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s Diary adapted by Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky, the Israeli pair best known for the 2008 Oscar-nominated film, Waltz With Bashir; of the remarkable Heimat, a memoir by Nora Krug, a German-American illustrator who teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York; and of The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, a biography of the German-born Jewish philosopher by Ken Krimstein, a Chicago academic whose cartoons have appeared in the New Yorker. Is this a coincidence or does it have a wider significance? Though he has not yet read the other books, Lutes believes it does. “It’s so interesting,” he tells me. “On some profound level, we are all connected to this deeper thing. We are all processing, consciously or subconsciously, our world and having tapped into something that’s in the air, our books have bloomed simultaneously.”

Julia Alekseyeva also goes long, but her focus is on Tom Kacyznski's Cartoon Dialectics series.

In the volumes, Kaczynski frequently returns to a critique of modern life. In the tradition of theorists such as aesthetic philosopher Walter Benjamin and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, Kaczynski considers both the wonders of modernity and the despair of late capitalism. Subjects in Cartoon Dialectics are frequently isolated from others, trapped in a metaphorical (or literal) dystopia. It takes a glitch in the system—an ecological catastrophe, a blackout—for them to find meaning.

Rocko Jerome has that Olivia Jaimes coverage you need regarding the cartoonist recent panel at CXC

Olivia spoke about how the function of Nancy as a comic is problem solving. There’s a challenge of some kind, and Nancy has to find a way to overcome it. She said that one of her favorite Bushmiller strips was the one where Nancy shifts the whole panel to straighten a picture on the wall (Which I know that I’ve seen, but now can’t find to show you).

-She’s into Sudoku and said that a lot of the same principles of that applied to the layouts of Nancy.

-She mentioned that Nancy and Sluggo’s relationship is quite platonic. Words to the effect of “People ship them hard…they’re eight.”


Better Jokes Than These

Today on the site, R. C. Harvey retells the story of underground comics, to mark their fiftieth anniversary.

This year is the 50th anniversary of underground comix. The official beginning was the publication in February 1968 of Zap Comix No. 1, which was sold out of a baby carriage on the streets of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. But the underground was surfacing elsewhere—in Greenwich Village, in Chicago, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the unlikeliest of places, Austin, Texas. America culture as a whole was experiencing events as upending and disruptive as anything in revolutionary comic book format, whether ending with an x or not.

The ongoing Vietnam War-inspired protests that spread beyond the campuses where they started into politics and the wider society. As Jackson Lears outlined in The New York Review of Books (September 27), 1968 was the year of “the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the anti-war candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King, the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence in most major cities; the police riot against antiwar protesters (and anyone else who got in their way) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the emergence of right-wing candidates— George Wallace, Richard Nixon—appealing to a ‘silent majority’ whose silence was somehow construed as civic virtue. ...”

The radical protests featured unknown entities who soon became famous—Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Panthers, the Maoists, the Yippies, the devotees of Che.

In the midst of this surging social disruption, underground comix were a logical development—however illogical (even demented) and anti-social their content seemed. And they were cropping up everywhere in and around 1968.

Courtesy of NBM, we also have an excerpt from Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock's new Silent Invasion: Red Shadows.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Series editor Bill Kartalopolous has posted the contents to this year's Best American Comics, guest edited by Phoebe Gloeckner. He also includes a linked list of Notable Comics that weren't included.

—Reviews & Commentary. Over at The Guardian, Ian Dunt pays tribute to Carlos Ezquerra.

Ezquerra started his career drawing war comics in Barcelona before moving to the UK and working for the anthology 2000AD and others. He brought the iconography of fascist Spain to Dredd’s extremely weird and vivid design and combined it with his experiences of living in Croydon through the 70s and 80s: the punk movement on his doorstep and TV images of policemen charging striking miners.

The eagle motif and helmet were drawn from fascism, the permanently drawn truncheon from police on the picket line, the zips, chains and knee pads from punk. “I was living in Franco’s Spain,” he told an interviewer last year, “but also I was living in Mrs Thatcher’s England.”

Over at Print, Michael Dooley looks back at the time Blazing Combat was banned from U.S. Army bases.

Each of the seven or so Blazing Combat depicted a variety of clashes from the battle of Thermopalye through the American Revolution to the Korean conflict, with one always set in present-day Vietnam. “Conflict,” with art by Colan, is a compelling examination of discrimination against Asians and blacks. The others were drawn by Joe Orlando, who’d worked on EC’s science fiction and horror titles and eventually rose to become Vice President of DC Comics. His “Viet Cong,” the lead story in the very first issue, depicted barbarous atrocities being committed by the South Vietnamese army, who were our allies. Sales of that issue were decent, but some began to resent what they perceived as the comic’s dangerously incendiary anti-American attitudes.

Karen Berger writes about publishing Anthony Bourdain's comics.

Tony’s early connection to comics goes back to the glory days of Marvel. Like many boys growing up at that time, he was enthralled by the creative genius of Jack “The King of Comics” Kirby. And though he was too young to have read 1950s EC horror comics in their prime—he devoured the visceral, over-the-top gore and violence when he was a little older. He also discovered the work of R. Crumb and the underground comics scene of the 1960s. The raw, druggy, satirical, socially and politically rebellious material, I’m sure in part, helped inform his outlier sensibility. It certainly motivated his desire to become a comics artist, which he pursued for a while, but was told by several people that his art wasn’t good enough.

—Misc. R. Sikoryak sketched the CXC Olivia Jaimes panel.


Blue Flowers

Today at TCJ, we'll turn the reins over to Daniel Best, who has delivered an extensive obituary on his friend, the comic book artist Norm Breyfogle.

Norm always had a temper. He was passionate about social justice and hated the way the Right would look down upon the Left, and the poor, with disdain and disgust. Norm would engage in debate with anyone and everyone, debates that turned into on-line fights. Norm couldn’t allow anyone to get the last word and it was one night when, while arguing yet again, he smashed his fist into his computer monitor. Instantly he felt a searing jolt up his arm and believed he’d been electrocuted. He could barely move and speak. He managed to call for an ambulance and was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that he’d suffered a serious stroke. Only the fact that he was in peak physical condition had saved him from being a fatality. But survival came at a cost – his left side was now paralyzed.

Today's review comes to us from Shea Hennum, who is here to talk Jesse McManus' most recent release, The Whistling Factory.

Jesse McManus comics are like a fever dream. That is, they are at once grotesque and lucid, operating with a world that exists in the coherent (if disorienting) shadow of our own. Combing the cutesy-macabre aesthetic of Al Columbia with the frenetic grotesquerie of a Ren & Stimpy close-up, The Whistling Factory is no different. Composed of stories of varying lengths, and brief, punchy interstices, the collection resists the coherence of something like a short story cycle without diffusing into the incoherence of the anthology format. Generically, it rejects comporting with anything that might be familiar, but it isn’t so scattershot that it cannot be encountered as a unified thing.

The latest defamation lawsuit: Richard Meyer, a youtuber behind the Diversity & Comics channel, has sued Mark Waid for defamation and tortious interference regarding incidents surrounding the cancellation of a graphic novel Meyer was working on with the publisher Antarctic Press. While Gina Gershon dominates the term "tortious interference", nobody has seen fit to put her explanation of that term from The Insider on Youtube. So here's the guy from Last Boy Scout showing you how to wait for it.



Late Day

Today, on the site, Mark Newgarden returns with his second photo tour to the old days of cartooning legend at The Inkwell in New York City.

Open for business at number 693 (between 43rd and 44th Streets) The Inkwell catered to an elite clientele of cartoonists, newspapermen, photographers, models, actors and all manner of other 20th-century media workers (plus thirsty curiosity seekers.) It was celebrated in its heyday for its pork chops, raucous Thursday night theme parties, and after hours jam sessions — but above for all its unique décor, courtesy of some of the greatest cartoonists of the era.

Robert Kirby is here, too, with a review of the most recent slate of Kuš! comics.

Portugal-based [Mariana] Pita delivers this funny tale featuring a childlike protagonist and her acerbic dog, presented in a dreamy mix of watercolors and colored pencils. Things begin with the girl seeing an online plea for giving blood: "Be a hero." This sounds like just the thing to her, so she leashes up her dog (though he tells her he has a game that night and needs to be home by a specific time) and sets out on the journey to the donor offices. Along the way, they stop and let the dog take care of his business (he helpfully cleans up after himself), figure out the subway route, observe the people around them (“So many thrashy people,” she comments), and stop for a snack. The amusing and occasionally snarky interplay between the two feels authentic (despite the fact that one of them is, you know, a dog). When they finally reach their destination, things don't go quite as planned, but the girl remains philosophical: “It’s ok, being a hero isn’t easy.” Pita judiciously anchors her very watery watercolors with colored pencils, with red (especially for the blood) being particularly effective. Her visuals, including the hand-drawn, cursive text, have a fresh, freewheeling feel, happily taking readers along with the protagonists on their journey. Day Tour could have come off as overly twee, but in Pita’s deft hands it’s an oddball charmer from start to finish.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The 2000AD stalwart and Judge Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra has died of cancer.

Ezquerra, who lived in Andorra, began his career in British comics in 1973, after initially working on Spanish war and western comics. He found work on the war comic Battle Picture Weekly, drawing the adventures of the Dirty Dozen-inspired Rat Pack and later the strip Major Eazy, before editor and writer Pat Mills, who launched 2000AD in 1977, asked Ezquerra to come up with character designs for Judge Dredd.

Dredd’s helmet, knee-pads and eagle-motif shoulder decoration were instantly iconic, as were the cityscapes Ezquerra developed for Dredd’s beat, the sprawling, dystopian Mega-City One. Dredd debuted in the second issue of 2000AD, but was not drawn by Ezquerra, despite his crucial role in the character’s design. Ezquerra returned to drawing for Battle for a few months, then teamed up with original Dredd writer John Wagner to create what many fans consider the quintessential period of the character.

Archaeologists in Jordan have found ancient art that some scholars say resemble an early form of comics.

Painted on the walls inside a 2,000-year-old Roman-era tomb, Ariel David at Haaretz reports that there are nearly 260 figures featured in narrative scenes, with many speaking via comic-style speech bubbles.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner reviews new books by Edie Fake and L. Nichols.

While at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Md., earlier this month, I attended a panel entitled “Trans Memoir.” During the program, a small group of transgender cartoonists talked about how comics provided them with a mode of self-expression in which they could delineate their best, ideal selves and talk about issues and emotions — often difficult to articulate — that come with being trans.

Two recent books from the small press publisher Secret Acres — Flocks by L. Nichols and Little Stranger by Edie Fake — underscore what those cartoonists were saying. Both books examine the struggles of being transgender and dealing with dysphoria, albeit from very different perspectives and sense of aesthetics.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Nora Krug.