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Sidetrack City

Today, Dan Nadel interviews the great Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti about his newest book, Hansel & Gretel, and many other things. Here’s a small sample of their conversation:

Are these all the images you created or are there some left out?

No, normally I use everything. I did maybe two or three more images for this main subject. I did three versions. One I put inside and the other one I only used for myself. It’s incredible how this work came out. It came in a very natural way. I ‘d like to make all the books like this.

(laughs) I was just going to ask. Is that unusual for you? Is it usually more organized?

No, I’m quick for my kind of images. For my research, for my paintings. Normally, I’m quick. I make many, many images with the pen and also the brush. For my personal drawings and paintings, I’m very quick. I like illustrations I can do in two days, one day. Luckily, I’m quick. But for some books, I take my time. I do after I think after I do. And for my stories in comics, for my stories I’m very slow. For other stories like Jekyll and Hyde, I’m much more quick.

Hansel and Gretel was just one or two weeks?

More or less. Maybe less.

That’s fast.

After Hansel and Gretel, I decided that I was really interested in this kind of method, so I started to make other images in a very free way. Only black and white. There was not a story, but there was a sort of an evocation of a story. I did an exhibition in Bologna of 50 or so of these works.

We also have Robert Kirby’s review of the last eight minicomics releases from Kuš!, the Latvian publishing effort. Here’s his introductory paragraph:

Kuš! (pronounced “koosh”), the Latvian Comics anthology launched in 2007, recently sent me their eight most recent minicomics, half of which were released in late 2013, the rest earlier this year. Each 24-page mini is a solo effort from a different creator in their growing stable of Latvian and international artists. Each creator employs elements of fantasy or magical realism in his or her stories, with one piece being flat-out science fiction (albeit in a very whimsical fashion). Even the one comic that appears to be a straightforward, grounded-in-the-real-world story—Oskars Pavlovskis’ Lucky—dips into the Twilight Zone before the final page. The comics and artists featured by Kuš! often work in an elliptical fashion; the stories revel in ambiguity, traffic in surreal imagery and storylines, and are frequently grounded in the conceptual rather than the concrete. Each mini has a brief, well-written synopsis on the back cover, which can help the uninitiated suss out some of the more abstract tales. They are all 4″ x 6″, in color, impeccably designed and produced, making them collectible little art objects.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Biographer Lance Parkin has posted the final interview he conducted with subject Alan Moore in four parts so far.

In advance of CAB in Brooklyn this weekend, Al Jaffee.

Peggy Roalf at DART interviews cartoonist/illustrator Jonathon Rosen.

The latest guest on Anshuman Iddamsetty’s Arcade podcast is Nina Bunjevac.

Alex Dueben talks to Copra creator Michel Fiffe.

Zainab Akhtar talks to Swedish cartoonist Erik Svetoft.

Tom Spurgeon talks to comiXology’s Chip Mosher about their Submit program.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Nicholas Lezard writes about Hunt Emerson’s Calculus Cat.

Martin Wisse writes about the online controversy surrounding the James Sturm comic Dan linked to yesterday.

Ruth Margalit writes about the disturbing messages of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

—News. As just about everyone reported yesterday, Bill Watterson has released the poster he has drawn to promote the next Angoulême festival, and announced via interview that he won’t be attending the event. Because hers was the first post I saved, let me send you to Brigid Alverson for the details.

 

Bases

Today on the site, Sean T. Collins on The Basil Plant.

When considering a comic this simple in form, the natural assumption is that function will follow. Panel by panel, page by page, the story will proceed in linear fashion, building meaning like a block tower. It’s comics as a solidly written college essay, or even just one paragraph therein, each sentence serving just enough of a purpose to connect its neighbors, the whole equalling the sum of its parts precisely. That’s how it seems The Basil Plant will operate—at first. First-person narrative captions float above a series of self-portraits, describing a method of anxiety management that’s novel, though not dramatically so: “When my anxiety is too great to bear, I sit in the sun and eat a pear. “I can’t remember how I got to this method, but it works.” There are flourishes here that might cause your ears to prick up a bit — that rhyme in the first panel, or the way Lannes situates herself on a park bench with no visible means of supporting itself, floating in midair as if existing for no reason other than to support her.

Elsewhere:

James Sturm has a pretty funny comic online that addresses a very common cartoonist’s disease. I guess people are mad about this comic, but I can only find “So and so is mad about this comic” type messages. I dunno, seems like a pretty dead-on satire to me.

The best news of the upcoming weekend is Anya Davidson’s solo exhibition in Brooklyn at Tomato House.

Here’s a bit of a Renee French interview.

I’m inexplicably glad to know about this DVD release. Also, when is someone smart going to write the Bob Kane story. The contracts, the clown paintings, the ghosts, Hollywood, etc! My favorite kind of cartoonist story.

And something is a’brewing at Angouleme with new Bill Watterson art, thus sending all of the comics internet into a tizzy.

 

It’s Complicated

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics in stores. Before he gets to that, he also takes a look at the time Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) wrote an American Wolverine comic:

X-Men Unlimited #50, marking the one and only appearance of Kazuo Koike as writer for an American comic book. Koike was actually a Marvel superhero veteran of a sort, having worked on a Hulk series way back in the early ’70s at the time of the publisher’s first effort at cracking the manga market via Kodansha (the same effort that led to Ryōichi Ikegami on Spider-Man), but he only became well-known in English-speaking environs via Frank Miller’s boundless enthusiasm for Lone Wolf and Cub, the popular swordsman series Koike wrote for Gōseki Kojima. Miller, of course, had gotten to indulge his Japanese fascinations through a very prominent 1982 Wolverine miniseries with Chris Claremont, so the character’s relation to manga stuff had been at least somewhat well-established already.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth talks to frequent TCJ writer Richard Gehr about his new book on New Yorker cartoonists.

Alex Dueben speaks to Jill Lepore, the New Yorker writer behind the new Wonder Woman/William Moulton Marston book.

Hogan’s Alley has republished a profile of Hy Eisman, a prolific ghost artist for decades of comic strips, including Bringing Up Father, Smokey Stover, Tiger, Blondie, and more.

—Reviews & Commentary. Robert Boyd reviews books by Charles Burns and Dylan Horrocks.

For Bookslut, Brian Nicholson reviews Marguerite Van Cook & James Romberger’s The Late Child and Other Animals, as well as Aisha Franz’s Earthling.

At Slate, Glen Weldon reviews the Jill Lepore book mentioned earlier.

Brian Cremins has a fun personal essay on The Curse of the Werewolf.

Publishers Weekly has announced their best comics of 2014.

 

Bad Move

Today on the site: Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash sit down (virtually) with Philip Nel to talk about their long-awaited new children’s book, Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors, debuting Saturday at CAB. I’m a huge fan of these books and these artists, so all of this is a real treat.

Philip Nel: First there was Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, and then the six Bow-Wow concept books (2007-2009). Now, five years later…Bow-Wow returns! Where has he been? (Since I know you both, I have some sense of why the long-awaited Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors [2014] was so many years in the making. However, on behalf of Bow-Wow fans everywhere, I had to ask…)

Mark Newgarden: There were several reasons for the gap between books. First, it took us awhile to come up with another long-form story that we felt was as strong about as Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug. Secondly, our original editor Tamson Weston (as well as the marketing and sales team) left Harcourt when that company was in flux and it made sense to move on to another publishing house. Fortunately Bow-Wow was adopted by Neal Porter and installed at his new kennel in the Flatiron building at Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan. Thirdly, Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors grew into a much more involved and time-consuming project than any of our other books. At 64 pages, over 100 images and 0 words, this is far from a typical picture book.

Megan Montague Cash: And lastly, we have had some serious interruptions by some real-life nightmare neighbors. We live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which now seems to be ground zero for all the new “luxury housing” in the universe. Dealing with a troublesome development project next door stole a great deal time away from our book (as well as the rest of our lives). These problems are a lot worse than Bow-Wow’s and so far, there is no real-life resolution like the one that we were able to imagine for him and the ghost cat mob from across the street.

Nel: I hope your happy ending also involves a long nap.

Newgarden: It will!

Elsewhere:

On the other side of the spectrum, here’s a lengthy profile of the upcoming Zap box set over at the NY Times.

And here’s a good excerpt from TCJ-contributor Richard Gehr’s excellent new book, I Only Read it for the Cartoons — a chapter on Roz Chast.

This is a rather remarkable story, with accompanying visuals, of a trove of recently saved newspapers.

In honor of Steve Ditko’s 87th birthday yesterday Tom Spurgeon posted links to various Warren stories by the great artist.

And finally, I enjoyed this article on Gilbert Hernandez and the depiction of time in comics.

 

That Time of Year

Today we are publishing my interview with Charles Burns, in which we discuss Sugar Skull, his slow working methods, learning not to censor himself, and much more. Here’s a sample:


That was another thing [Todd] Hignite included in that In the Studio book — it has a bunch of different drafts you did of a picture of a ghoul, I don’t know what it actually is.

Sure, yeah. That’s it, I forgot. That’s actually a fairly good — that’s just a single image for a cover, but it would be similar for working a page. Breaking down a page and figuring it out. But that’s kind of the way I work.

What was amazing about to me was how much it changed and it’s not like it ever was a bad drawing, but in some ways the early version was just so different and so less interesting than where you ended up at in the end. I know that’s the goal, but it still almost feels like you have to have faith in your own ability to eventually get it right – you don’t worry about too much at first.

That’s something really important, for me anyway. And that’s the way that I write as well. It’s not sitting down at a keyboard and writing a script and thinking, oh shit, what’s the next line? I sit with cheap notebooks or cheap sketchbooks and just fill them up with ideas and maybe pieces of dialogue and bits and pieces. I keep circulating through all those notes. Go back to those notes. So nothing feels cut in stone or permanent. It all feels like it’s open and I can move in any direction that I want.

It’s starting with a lot of information and slowly, slowly distilling it down to something that’s concrete. So maybe that says something about my personality that I’m very cautious and very careful about all that stuff, but I don’t have the kind of brain that can sit down and write beautiful dialogue and a beautiful story. There’s people who certainly can do that work really quickly and just do amazing work, but I don’t have that facility unfortunately. I wish I did, but I don’t.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. In a move that presumably stems from the recent legal settlement, Marvel has begun printing creator credits for Jack Kirby on many of its titles.

J. David Spurlock The Wallace Wood Estate is suing Tatjana Wood over the possession of some Wally Wood art.

—Interviews & Profiles. Aeon has a lengthy profile of Alan Moore.

Alex Dueben interviewed both MariNaomi and Simon Hanselmann.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the NYRB, Sarah Kerr reviews the big two recent books on Wonder Woman.

For Hyperallergic, Dominic Umile reviews the new Tim Lane collection.

—Funnies. Study Group has published a whole slew of Halloween-related webcomics.

 

Shirts

Today on the site, Frank Santoro comes to us with an interview with Manuele Fior, a cartoonist Frank only just told me about, but who looks very exciting.

How has the evolution of Italian comics affected your work? Because I think, if I am not mistaken, you really began to make it as a comics maker in France. And Italian comics have their own pace and their own crisis and their own moments when they have slow down so it’s not a business anymore so you have to look for alternatives. How do you think being part of comics both in Italy and France has influenced your work?

I think it influenced me 100%. I see myself belonging to a certain Italian tradition of comic makers. The maestro for me, the reason I chose to make comics is Lorenzo Mattotti, maybe he is not so well known here in South America but when I read Fires, a Lorenzo Mattotti graphic novel from 1986, I decided to push for this job. And of course Lorenzo Mattotti comes from some comic artists in between Italy and also South America, Argentina, like Alberto Breccia, José Muñoz, Hugo Pratt. You know, comics in Italy have a very schizophrenic story: they were very popular in the ’70s when Hugo Pratt made Corto Maltese, Guido Crepax made Valentina and in the end of the ’70s beginning of the ’80s there were two groups that revolutionized the comics world: Valvoline, the group of Mattotti, Igort, and Charles Burns, who was living in Italy at the time, and the other one was Ranxerox, with [Tanino] Liberatore, [Stefano] Tamburini, and Andrea Pazienza. When I read some comics of Andrea Pazienza and Mattotti it was clear that something changed forever. They opened a door I could never shut. It’s like the first time you see Moebius, you put some books in the box then you put some new books on the shelf, a new story opens its wings. That for me was Mattotti and Pazienza. So I am definitively sticking to it but of course I am living in France so I am very influenced by a lot of people, by the work of L’Association, the work of David B, we are sponges so we take a bit of everything so we make the best out of it.

Elsewhere:

Via Francoise Mouly, here’s a gallery of Chris Ware New Yorker covers. I like these very much. And on that front, I wanted to make a special note that the great Lorenzo Matotti is making a rare NYC appearance on Saturday at McNally Jackson for his book Hansel and Gretel, which is spectacular looking.

Bill Kartalopolous has written a comics primer over at the Huff Po.

Everyone should check out this original art auction from the legendary Jay Lynch. The man should be paid for the description alone.

It looks like Stan Lee finally beat Stan Lee media.

 

 

Hands Up

Today, Greg Hunter reviews the new Humanoids edition of Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella, paying particularly close attention to the way Kelly Sue DeConnick’s adaptation of the text differs from previous versions. Here’s a short sample, but read it all:

Forest couches the sexual aspects of the Barbarella stories within a thoroughgoing cheekiness, and in fact he was ambivalent about how readers received his comics. (From Gravett: “Where I saw humor and the expression of liberty, all they saw was ‘la fesse’ [literally, ‘the butt’].”) But if Barbarella is a figure of freedom, that freedom does not exceed the bounds of Forest’s fantasies. The stories don’t pathologize her actions or frame a dangerous circumstance as the outcome of those actions. And yet it’s never difficult to remember that these comics are the creation of a dude.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Movies News.
Seemingly every site on the entire comics internet (not to mention non-comics cultural sites) is extremely excited about the latest casting and scheduling announcements about movies potentially being made featuring characters who originated in comic books. I guess most of those places are really more about enthusiasm for superheroes (or “geek culture” in general, ugh) than about comics per se, so it’s not out of line for them to spend so much time covering movies instead of comics (I’m sure it helps the bottom line in terms of traffic, too). But it also reveals how far comics really do still have to go. Twenty years ago, people who liked comics and believed in what they could be would defend the medium by comparing it to film, and saying, “Imagine what people would think about movies if almost all of them were about superheroes.” That hasn’t quite happened yet, but it’s not a crazy thought any more. But the comics press is largely still mired in the same superhero-centric, fannish magical thinking as ever. Imagine if every literary publication you could think of ran lengthy, anticipatory celebrations of every announced cinematic adaptation of a book, dissecting the possible casting choices, etc. Wait a second, I just remembered the last few years’ worth of arguments over the 50 Shades of Grey and Harry Potter and Hunger Games movies. Never mind. It’s actually spreading. I guess it’s nice to know it’s American culture in general that’s regressing and not just comics in particular.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Believer Logger, Adrian Hill has published the first of a three-part exploration of the artistic collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Malcolm Mc Neill (Ah Pook is Here).

Over at Hazlitt, Jeet Heer reviews the new Wonder Woman history by Jill Lepore.

J. Hoberman has a rave at the New York Review of Books about Dan’s What Nerve! show.

Marc (Not the Beastmaster) Singer emerges from retirement to take stock of the latest Grant Morrison comics.

John Adcock looks at soap opera strips.

Jonathan Jones remembers Marie Duval.

Brian Hibbs notes a baffling Wonder Woman cover-marketing decision.

Neel Mukherjee writes about the conclusion of Charles Burns’ recent trilogy.

I admire Tom Spurgeon’s positive attitude, particularly as my response was more just that old people like to complain and still send letters to the editor.

—Interviews & Profiles. The aforementioned Jill Lepore was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Via video, the New York Times profiles Lalo Alcaraz.

The great New Yorker cartoonist Sam Gross was a guest on the Virtual Memories podcast.

Rob Kirby talks to Cara Bean.

Blexbolex talks process.

 

I Can’t Believe

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch has your week in comics.

Elsewhere:

This is the ultimate fanboy comic book porn. And I love it.

As usual Grantland has a nice history of a Marvel character followed by the casting news itself.

Richard Gehr points to the unlikely meeting of Frank Zappa and Mary Worth.

I love a good collection dump.

This list of “scary” comics is only notable for its omissions.