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Roof Damage

Well, it’s Monday and so I’m back. Hi. Today we have the indefatigable Paul Tumey on one slice of the giant cake that is all things Rube Goldberg.

The current dusty, dim current understanding of Rube Goldberg and his work is evident in the comics history books and websites that mention him. Sadly, many of these are riddled with errors. Peter Marzio’s 1973 biography, Rube Goldberg: His Life and Work contains a error-filled list of his cartoon series that has led subsequent scholars into fields of confusion.1 Marzio’s book also asserts that the first full-fledged Goldberg invention cartoon was published November 10, 1914, an incorrect statement that has been repeated in numerous articles, books, and websites for the last 40 years. In actuality, it appears that Goldberg published his first invention cartoon July 17, 1912 — more than two years earlier.

The first known Rube Goldberg invention cartoon, originally published July 7, 1912

The first known Rube Goldberg invention cartoon, originally published July 7, 1912

The errors about Goldberg’s work have, on occasion, been off not just by a couple of years, but entire decades. For instance, Brian Walker’s comprehensive and authoritative survey of the history of the American newspaper comic strip The Comics: The Complete Collection (Abrams ComicArts 2011), reprints a Goldberg invention cartoon from 1930 with the dating “c.1910s.” It’s also identified as a “daily panel,” when it actually was from a biweekly series that appeared in a nationally distributed magazine, Collier’s Weekly.

In all fairness to hard-working cultural historians, getting one’s arms around the scope and particulars of Rube Goldberg’s career is no easy task. Rube, that cartoonist with the mind of an engineer, was more interested in the next idea than he was in drawing a concept out, exploring every nook and cranny. Thus, for most of of his career as a newspaper humor comic strip creator from 1909 to about 1938, Rube made a new and different comic strip every day. He had several series, like Foolish QuestionsSilly Sonnets, and I’m The Guy which he randomly returned to as he pleased.

Elsewhere:

The great Anya Davidson has a new ongoing comic over at Vice.

Tom Spurgeon on the recently deceased writer-about-comics Bill Baker.

Paul Pope talks about his forthcoming Escapo reprint.

Nice Lynch art, Tom K.

I used to like to collect issues of Ballyhoo. Here’s a particularly racy edition.

 

Problem

Server problems this morning prevented me from completing today’s usual blog posting, but we have reposted a classic interview of Shary Flenniken, conducted by Robert Boyd and originally published in issue 146 from 1991. Here’s a sample:

BOYD: You told me that the underground comics didn’t pay any money, that National Lampoon paid good money.

FLENNIKEN: They paid $25 a page, similar to what Fantagraphics is paying now.

BOYD: I know. Although they sold a lot more than we sell.

FLENNIKEN: It’s really sick, isn’t it?

BOYD: Well, I don’t know if anyone was getting rich off of it.

FLENNIKEN: Back then?

BOYD: Yeah. There’s no underground comics millionaires or anything.

FLENNIKEN: Robert Crumb would have gotten rich if he hadn’t been such a bozo.

BOYD: And Gilbert Shelton … what I mean is, I don’t think there’s someone getting rich off of other people’s labors.

FLENNIKEN: No. Gilbert had a thriving business, as far as I know. He was using his own ability as a base. I think it was great. I’m sure that there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know about, how they ran their business, the fact that they bought that web press …

BOYD: Yeah, that is insane.

FLENNIKEN: And they had a real business. They had a bunch of people who were employed and motivated, and Gilbert was consistently wonderful. A bunch of great people who all got along and were wonderful people. And the whole thing functioned so well! They were buying houses, which was pretty good, especially at that time.

BOYD: I was just saying that it’s not like people at Print Mint or Last Gasp became millionaires printing comics and paying starvation wages.

FLENNIKEN: No, it wasn’t that, but there was definitely … I never did like the artiste attitudes. I disagreed with that. It was mostly people with outside incomes saying that your art has to remain pure, don’t think about money. Which is like saying, “You can’t join our club if you care about how much you’re getting paid.” This is a real thing.

BOYD: It’s a real thing now, believe me. It’s not gone away.

FLENNIKEN: Yeah, and there’s Artie Spiegelman, who — and he still does this, and I really like this guy — yet he makes his money from Topps gum cards and tells people that they should work for him for free to stay pure. I think, as a feminist, I just don’t believe in volunteer labor. That’s just the way it is. See, I come out of all this political stuff and … the whole communist ethic, this whole ethic … it’s not like I was in a serious communist situation, but I hung out with people who felt that you should be fed by the state, and you should work because you love your work. My feeling is that if you really love comics and cartoonists, and you really believe that comics are art and comics have value, then you will try to do what is best for everybody. You don’t ask people to starve for their art. My Air Pirates buddies said, “You gotta go out and get a book deal. You’ve gotta go on your own, you know.”

 

Deep Blip

Today on the site our friend Ryan Holmberg is back with a look at an unexpected body of comics work.

Even if you know only the first thing about postwar Japanese art, the name Shinohara Ushio (b. 1932) should be familiar. He’s the spunky bantam-weight with the mohawk who, in the early 1960s in front of flashing cameras and copy-hungry journalists, interpreted action painting as a sport, wrapping sodden rags around his fists like boxing gloves to decorate sheets of paper and cloth swatches with a series of oversized black and white splats. The “rockabilly painter,” as he was called, was featured many times in tabloids and on television as a representative of the new wave of Japanese youth.

Elsewhere:

Here’s an excerpt from a rare profile of Mark Beyer.

This is a cool post about Spanish comics.

I’ve never seen these Moebius/Dune storyboards.

The LA Times Book Prize nominees have been announced.

There’s some kind of kerfuffle with a Denver comic book convention.

Lock up your long boxes: Frank Santoro is headed to Columbus in March.

Hey, good ol’ Desert Island is having a 6th anniversary party here in Brooklyn.

 

So Much Talking

Today, John Hilgart of 4CP is here with a review of Blake Bell and Dr. Michael Vassallo’s Secret History of Marvel Comics, which looks both fascinating and strange. Here’s an excerpt:

Fate introduced a wildcard: Certain comic book creations became national and global myth- and cash-machines, something no one could have anticipated, least of all Martin Goodman. Captain America was just a wartime knock-off of The Shield (the original patriotic comic book superhero), with Goodman bowing to legal pressure from his former co-worker (now competitor) to change Cap’s shield to a different shape. The Human Torch and The Submariner were both accidental Goodman purchases, when he requisitioned content from a third party vendor, due to the popularity of comic books (See Marvel Comics #1).

Yes, Jack Kirby and others turned out to be the Toulouse Lautrecs of their day, undervalued and underpaid. They got shafted by their own youthful engagement with the work-for-hire arrangement, and by the undervaluing of comic books for several decades. There’s no denying that many comic book creators’ grandchildren should now be rich.

But if you accept this book’s thesis that Martin Goodman didn’t give a crap about content, yet was a hoarder and re-purposer of any intellectual property that he possessed – anything that might sell a few thousand more bundles of paper next month – then this is largely a story of two worlds colliding at a very human level. A man built a widget factory that accidentally produced some Stradivarius violins. He didn’t really understand violins, but he understood that they were his, and that they had value.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
ABC talks to Mad magazine’s Al Jaffee. Tom Chesek talks to Drew Friedman. The Vermont Digger talks to New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren. Alex Dueben talks to Isabel Greenberg. Paul Gravett talks to Hungarian cartoonist András Baranyai. Ideas Tap talks to Dave McKean about the covers he created for Sandman (via).

Here’s Kim Deitch interviewed by Caitlin McGurk at CAKE (via):


—Reviews & Commentary.
Matt Madden ponders the comics seen in François Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451. Vanessa Davis talks about Maus. Ada Palmer writes about manga’s place in the weird horror tradition. J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half-Century War.

—Funnies. Alan Gardner has posted rare images of some of Bill Watterson’s high school cartoons. 13th Dimension looks at John Lennon as a cartoonist.

—Process.
Jessica Abel has written posts discussing how she uses InDesign and Scrivener to help her make comics.

 

Donesville

Welcome to the short week. As per usual, Joe McCulloch has your weekly need-t0-knows, this week with a side dish of recent French language manga releases.

Elsewhere:

Chester Brown has been named a Canadian who changed the world. Like.

Variety talks French comics film/TV adaptations.

Take a look at these pristine Gasoline Alley proofs for sale.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Joe Casey.

This is interesting. It’s the first time in over a decade that one of the big two auction houses has gotten involved in comic book art.

The UK’s Thought Bubble comics festival announced its 2014 preliminary line-up.

The great NYC gallerist Hudson passed away last week. He is notable in comics circles for having been one of the first in the U.S. to exhibit the work of Tom of Finland consistently, and was definitely the first to show Gengoroh Tagame.

Mr. Velcro.

 

Slush

We’re closing out the week with Joe McCulloch’s massive tour de force review of UK indie anthology Mould Map 3, which gathers work by cartoonists such as Sammy Harkham, Simon Hanselmann, Aidan Koch, Blaise Larmee, and co-editor Leon Sandler, among many others. Here’s an excerpt:

The terror of Mould Map 3, then, is the terror of options: of the necessity of change, and the uncertainty behind anyone’s ability to guide it. I am reminded again of a Sammy Harkham anthology, this time 2011’s Kramers Ergot 8, a book which all but palpably shuddered with anxiety and despair, surveying the path of comics with a regret born sadly of wisdom, and seeking, futilely, to imagine a future that won’t merely reprise the ills of the past. It was comprehensively different from prior installments of that series, down to its physical characteristics: smaller in size; fewer artists; longer pieces.

The same is true for this book. Vols. 1 & 2 of Mould Map (“culture as the physical residue of civilisation and a virally exploding population,” per Frost) were 12- and 20-page pamphlets, 11.75” x 16.5” both, allowing no contributor more than two pages to deliver an image, a story fragment, a revelatory semi-fossil; anything. Editors Frost & Sadler drew inspiration from the zines and anthologies of Hendrik Hegray & Jonas Delaborde: Nazi Knife and False Flag, books of images which stood apart from the gnarled Gallic tradition of Le Dernier Cri by swapping out screen printing and other feats of hand-design for low-fidelity monochrome reproductions of color photographs and drawings that seemed less apocalyptic than severely drowsy. Frost & Sadler brought in heavy color as a unifying factor — Mould Map 2 remains among the *loudest* comics I own — but retained a scattered, enigmatic quality: easily dismissible, to be blunt, for those eager to have stories enunciated by their pictures.

Mould Map 3, however, adopts not the production characteristics of Kramers Ergot, or Nazi Knife, or LDC’s pus-smeared Hopital Brut, but a properly mainstream Japanese art book: 8.25” x 11.75”, with heavy, glossy paper throughout (some exceptions apply). If you’ve ever bought anything luxurious from UDON Entertainment, particularly the anime/manga/gaming production art-flavored anthologies Robot or APPLE, you’ve basically seen Frost’s & Sadler’s approach here; even the 60 USD-ish suggested cover price is competitive with most of what you’ll find on the applicable shelves of your local Kinokuniya. Where Mould Map 3 departs is in periodically inserting smaller booklets into the larger book — a Le Dernier Cri trademark — and marshaling all manner of attentive care after the reproduction of wildly varying visual approaches: some burning and fluorescent, others photographic, or heavy with slime.

Elsewhere:

—News. Irwin Hasen, Sheldon Moldoff, and Orrin C. Evans have been selected for the Eisner Hall of Fame, and the Eisners have announced the nominees and opened online voting for the next round. At Publishers Weekly, Brigid Alverson reports on an apparently declining manga market in France.

—Interviews. CBR talks to the founder of IDW, Ted Adams, on the 15th anniversary of his company. Bookworm’s Michael Silverblatt speaks to Jaime Hernandez (and novelist Junot Diaz). The Hundreds talks to Night Business creator Ben Marra. Kiel Phegley interviews Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson about the company’s stated intention to expand their creator-owned lineup. In the process, Phegley calls Dark Horse the “original home of creator-owned comics”, which seems to ignore a lot of history before the company, but any emphasis on creator ownership is a good one.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Matt Fraction breaks down a Miller/Mazzucchelli issue of Daredevil. Harry Backlund reports on Art Spiegelman’s Wordless! stage show in Chicago for the online Paris Review.

 

Relax

Frank’s back from France with a full report on all-things Frank and France and such matters.

Elsewhere in our little confined internet space:

Mike Dawson (come back to us, Mike) and Alex Robinson posted their final Ink Panthers episode.

Alex Dueben interviews Jed McGowan.

Mike Vosburg remembers working with Howard Chaykin.

This New Yorker article about Amazon.com is a must-read for those of us that are in the book business.

Comics Alliance announced the results of its Reader Choice Awards.

And hey, Modesty Blaise!

 

 

 

Brilliant Disguise

Today we introduce new contributor Greg Hunter and his review of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Death of the Family, in which he finds the critical response to the comic nearly as disturbing as the book itself:

Since at least Fredric Wertham’s accusation that the Caped Crusader and his Boy Wonder were sleeping together, Batman stories have lent themselves to queer readings. In interviews at the start of Grant Morrison’s multi-title Batman run, the writer even teased “the gay Batman” as an aspect of the series he hoped to revive. Perhaps Snyder sought to explore this feature of the character with the best intentions. But Death of the Family is more reactionary than radical, and Snyder has been the beneficiary of low expectations in the comics press.

The culture of superhero comics encourages repetition; Marvel and DC creators recycle tropes, story structures, and approaches to characterization. Inasmuch as readers approach these comics with certain expectations—to see the last-minute return of a believed-dead hero, the dissolution and reunion of a superteam, etc—this isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s something of a social compact. But the traditionalist character of these comics means creators often recycle the comics’ worst elements too. And in the case of Snyder and Capullo’s Joker, the comics press has signed off on this recycling process.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews.
David Brothers has taken over the Inkstuds podcast for the month of February, and has already posted three interviews, with cartoonists Jimmy Robinson and Whitney Taylor, and the scholar Qiana Whitted. A podcast called the Artist as Entrepreneur has posted an interview with publisher Annie Koyama.

—Reviews & Commentary. Impossible Books has a fun mini-appreciation of Laura Park. Bob Heer reviews the new collection of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s BoJeffries Saga.

—Funnies.
The New Yorker has a longish preview of Jules Feiffer’s upcoming graphic novel, Kill My Mother. This Noelle Stevenson comic on Tumblr about why she doesn’t like to shop at comics stores has struck a nerve. Evan Dorkin celebrates the comics press.

—News. Garry Trudeau is going on another Doonesbury hiatus, this time to work on his television show Alpha House. Tom Spurgeon has an obituary of Cambodian cartoonist Ung Bun Heang. Hic & Hoc has announced its 2014 lineup. The Autoptic Festival has announced its 2015 date.

—A/V. Charles Schulz gave a speech at UCLA in 1971 (via):

And here is the awards ceremony from this year’s Angoulême. American comics awards aren’t like this. Several English-language creators pop up, including presenter Dash Shaw, whose Tumblr I found this at.