BLOG

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Welcome back. This blog space has been inactive since last Wednesday, due to the American Thanksgiving holiday, so there’s a lot to catch up on.

First, today we bring you an obituary of Al Plastino, one of the iconic Superman artists, written by Bob Hughes.

We also have arranged the publication of two key excerpts from Last Superman Standing: The Al Plastino Story, a forthcoming biography of the artist written by Ed Zeno. Here’s a bit from that:

Al Plastino was impressed with Wayne Boring’s art: “They gave me some of his pencils to ink early on. This helped give me a feeling of how Wayne drew Superman.” He occasionally saw the older man (born in 1905) in the art room at DC, though not too often, since most of the guys worked from home. The two artists got along fine. “Wayne had really tight pencils.”

Nevertheless, Plastino had mixed feelings while under his senior’s shadow. When he looked at “The Three Supermen from Krypton!” from Superman #65 (JulyAugust 1950) from today’s perspective, Plastino noted: “That is crap, because I was still influenced by [him]. But at least you can follow the story. My faces were lousy, but they were consistent.” When asked why he broke from following Boring’s lead, Plastino said, “No one said change it. Wayne’s work was really clean cut and professional, though the characters were a little stiff. It almost hurt me to draw like him. I tried to keep the look consistent, but it gradually did change.”

Because Jack Schiff was handling Wayne Boring’s work, he was also Plastino’s first boss at DC Comics. The goal was to maintain Superman’s artistic continuity. “Jack was one of the editors for Superman. He was a mild guy, very shy and gentle, nothing like Mort Weisinger. Jack was not a good idea man, unlike Mort, who was a great idea man. He would just say, ‘Here is the story, Al.’ He wouldn’t give directions, per se. I started working with Mort a little later.”

Last week, we were gone, but our columnists kept going. Frank Santoro turned in a short post on sexism last Thursday, and Tucker Stone and Abhay Khosla turned in a much longer column offering advice to young men aspiring to work in a sexist comics industry. Here’s a snippet from that column’s legal disclaimer:

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This week’s column is not referring to any specific individual, entity, person, event, or thing that exists or has ever existed or that may exist, that is either living or dead or neither, that is even a thing that has been contemplated as a possibility of a thing living or dead or neither. It refers to nothing. As an example, if this column should refer to the disastrous employment practice reputations of any company in the comics field, any resemblance of the company that is described to any company that actually exists in reality, including but not limited to, as a wholly random example, DC Comics, it is wholly coincidental and unintentional on the part of the authors as well as The Comics Journal — any comic company described in the column should be understood to have no real-world significance and the column itself should be understood to be at most a shoddy work of fiction or some lesser form of random typing that should be given by this or any other reader even less weight than fiction. Indeed, the fact that the mere letters utilized resemble words that are understood by the reader should be seen by the reader more often than not as an unpleasant coincidence. Nor should the timing of this particular column be understood to be referring to any real world events, including but not limited to any news items that may have appeared either on this site or any other site, anywhere in the known universe, this year or any other year in the past or in the future, in perpetuity. [And so on...]

Elsewhere:

—News. [UPDATED TO ADD: My co-editor Dan Nadel has announced that his company PictureBox will no longer be releasing new titles as of December 31. He gave further details and explained the move to the Comics Reporter.]

The New York Times also published an obituary of Al Plastino. Mark Evanier comments on how unlikely such an article would have been only a few decades ago, and also airs some skepticism regarding the timing of the Superman/JFK story that has been in the news lately due to an ill-fated Heritage auction (detailed in both the Times and the TCJ obituaries).

The political cartoonist Ted Rall claims that he was asked by an administrator of Daily Kos to stop posting cartoons that depict President Obama as “ape-like.” Rall (and fellow cartoonist Ruben Bolling) plausibly argue that Rall depicts most of his characters that way. Rall and Bolling describe this as a case of censorship.

Usagi Yojimbo
creator Stan Sakai and his wife Sharon are reportedly facing tremendous financial bills to deal with medical issues. You can learn how to help through the Cartoon Art Professional Society here. Mark Evanier has more details here.

Tom Spurgeon reports from the Billy Ireland opening weekend, and Richard Bruton reports from Thought Bubble 2013.

—Interviews.
Salon talks to Joe Sacco about The Great War. Alex Dueben at CBR talks to Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch about Leon Beyond. NPR’s On Point featured Neil Gaiman. Inkstuds had on Hellen Jo. Comics Bubble talks to Paul Gravett.

—Reviews & Criticism.
Kevin Huizenga likes Jim Woodring’s Fran. Whit Taylor writes about Charles Forsman’s Teen Creeps. The Chicago Tribune reviews Cole Closser’s Little Tommy Lost. Ben Towle takes issue with the coloring in Fantagraphics’ recent Harvey Kurtzman EC collection. J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about the Paul Buhle-edited Radical Jesus. Jessica Lee reviews Leah Wishnia’s Gut Feelings. Jack Turnbull reviews Simon Hanselmann’s Life Zone. Bob Temuka appreciates Larry Gonick. Sarah Horrocks does the same for J.H. Williams III. Rob Kirby picks his top twenty self-published comics of 2013.

 

Dessert Is Good

Today on the site we have what’s called a “Double Mautner”. This is a technical term for when we publish not one but two pieces by our friend in Pennsylvania, Mr. Chris Mautner. First up is his interview with Gene Yang.

Tell me about the research you did. Ho much did you have to dive into to learn about this time period?

I definitely still feel like I have a lot to learn about research. I’m not very good at it. This is the first time I’ve done historical fiction and I started by just setting aside a few hours every week, I would go to my local university library for a few hours every Tuesday or Wednesday and just read. I would try to read as much as I could get my hands on about the Boxer Rebellion and also about China during that time. There were a few books that were helpful to me. The one that was especially helpful was called Origins of the Boxer Uprising by a man named Joseph Esherick. I relied heavily on that book, especially for the Boxer side. And then I was able to get other books as well. There’s a book put out by the Catholic church in Taiwan a brief biographies of each of the canonized saints. I was able to go to a Jesuit archive in a French city and there they had these letters and photos sent in by missionaries to China. I wasn’t able to use a lot of the letters because ethey were in French but the visual reference was amazing. I took a whole bunch of photos and brought them home and that served as the basis of my visual refernces for the book.

And here he is on Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel.

Bagge doles out Sanger’s life in short, episodic fashion, with each page or two chronicling a significant episode in her life. It might be a bit too cursory for a reader used to 1,000-page biographies, but the book’s hectic pace effectively mirrors Sanger’s own frantic work ethic (at one point her son compares traveling with her to “chasing a hurricane”). More to the point, Bagge’s book is clearly designed not only to refute some of the nastier claims made about her by pro-life forces (namely that she was a bigot who supported eugenics and the KKK) but to also serve as a re-introduction to Sanger’s life and times (I for one had only the barest knowledge of her significance before reading this book).

Elsewhere on the internets:

Stan Sakai and his wife could use your help.

A couple of pieces on the late Al Plastino. One on his tryout for Peanuts and one from The Beat.

Brian Doherty on a new Siegel and Shuster bio.

The AV Club on a bunch of comics.

Heidi MacDonald on comics criticism.

Do you like to look at other humans at events? Well, here’s a photoset from the Art Spiegelman opening, and one from the Billy Ireland opening.

Finally, Mould Map is a really fantastic and, in the present, essential anthology. They’re Kickstarting the next edition, which looks great. Oh yes, I know the irony. I’m OK with it. Anyhow, I suggest supporting this worthy effort.

 

Church

When Tuesday comes around, you know it’s time for Joe McCulloch to highlight the most-interesting sounding new releases of the Week in Comics, and this time, he also has a bit to say about a comic that just won a British Comics Award, Garen Ewing’s Complete Rainbow Orchid, which he describes as…

a glossy evocation of mid-20th century Belgian bande dessinée, as wedded to the ripping yarns of H. Rider Haggard and the golden age of silent movie comedy. North American iPad owners can purchase the book through the Sequential app, although no such print publisher has picked the material up for distribution; you’ll have to import Egmont UK’s 9″ x 12″ softcover album, or any of the three component albums which the same publisher has been releasing since 2009, though the origins of the work date back to 1997, with magazine serialization, self-publication and webcomic avenues duly explored. To outside observers, it may seem the classic overnight success of 15 years’ making, though I know Ewing had also been active in the UK fanzine and small press scenes for a while.

I first learned about The Rainbow Orchid though Forbidden Planet’s terrifying suite of Best of 2012 lists, though my appetite was really whetted by learning about the artist’s influences; no simple Hergé devotee, Ewing counts Edgar P. Jacobs as a crucial motivator, while also maintaining a keen interest in Yves Chaland, one of my own personal favorites. It was Chaland, in fact, which raised certain expectations about the work – perhaps unfairly, in retrospect.

We also have Robert Kirby’s review of Treasury of Mini Comics, the first in a series of anthologies to be edited by Michael Dowers. Here’s a sample:

There are some excellent excursions into surrealist realms here from Roberta Gregory, Fiona Smyth, and Max Clotfelter with Marc Palm; a good dose of “Cynicalman” hilarity from mini-comics great Matt Feazell, an amusing tribute to Beatrix Potter from Mark Campos, a nicely-made Mixtape from Nate Beaty, and some charming early work from John Porcellino. The collection would not have felt nearly as complete without the inclusion of these small press mainstays. Within Treasury there is also the joy of discovering (for me) heretofore unfamiliar talents, such as Peter Thompson, with his strikingly presented I’m the Devil, Mark Connery with the awesomely stoopid humor of Rudy (if you like the comics of Liz Hickey you’ll like this), and Karl Wills, whose art puts me in mind of Joost Swarte, in his tale of mean girl vs. mean girl, “Jessica’s Good Deed”. I could read a cart-load more of comics by all three of these creators.

And yesterday, we published a review by Paul Buhle of Dark Horse’s Original Daredevil Archives, featuring anti-Hitler comics from the Biro/Wood studio.

Michael T. Gilbert, himself a professional cartoonist of many years standing, has written a very fine, thoughtful introduction—unlike the occasionally mediocre of the introductions to the reprints written on the fly, or without much historical knowledge beyond the names of the artists.

Gilbert does a fine job of leading us through the saga, especially highlighting the weirdos who made the pages sparkle. Take Charles Biro, who would shortly emerge as a major artist for Crime Does Not Pay, the noir classic or exploitation-fest, however one wishes to see the violence of the most popular comic in the postwar 1940s. Gilbert shrewdly notes that when it came to drawing, Biro would never be a master of the field. But when it came to weaving a story, he could hardly be matched. His criminal characters almost invariably proved the most exciting, in the way that the Devil got the best parts in Milton.


Elsewhere:

—News. Mark Evanier reports that Al Plastino has died. We will have more on that later. As alluded to earlier, the British Comics Awards were announced. Here’s a solid roundup of the recent Apple/Sex Criminals fracas. Tom Spurgeon has a massive post recapping his experiences at CAB. Jeff Smith’s new webcomic has just launched.

—Spending Opportunities. Drawn & Quarterly is having a major holiday sale, with 40% off all everything on their web store. Rina Ayuyang’s auction/fundraiser for typhoon relief (which features lots of really impressive art) is in its final stretch this week. You should really check it out.

—Reviews & Commentary. Hillary Brown at Paste looks at Frank Santoro’s Pompeii. Emily Thomas takes issue with Glyn Dillon’s Nao of Brown. And one more early best-of-the-year list, put together for the Washington Post by Michael Cavna. Bully talks comics numbering.

—Interviews. Alan Moore is in fine form talking to The Guardian, mentioning in passing (again) that he doesn’t think much of superhero comics, and in the process angering (again) a bunch of superhero fans on the internet. (This routine has gone on so long that it started out as funny, gradually became less and less funny, and has now gone around to being funny again.) The same paper also talks to Neil Cohn about his upcoming book, The Visual Language of Comics. And there’s a really short interview with Tom Gauld at The New Yorker regarding his first cover for the magazine.

 

Boss

Today on the site:

Alex Dueben interviews Zeina Abirached.

Alex Dueben:  Often when I’ll do an interview I’ll ask the artist to give some background information about the setting of their book, but I know that we could be here for a day or two talking about the origins of the Lebanese civil war. You were born during the war; what is your earliest memory of it?

Zeina Abirached:  I have a very striking memory of the first time I crossed the green line and went to West Beirut (It is not my earliest memory of the war, but it was an experience that helped me to become aware of a lot of things).

It was in the early nineties, at the end of the war, at the time the war was essentially in the eastern part of Beirut where I used to live. I remember we had to leave our flat in a hurry and run away in our car to a more secure place. My parents decided to go to West Beirut for a while to be safe and make plans. I remember that the first things I saw in that part of my town I didn’t know yet–I was ten years old–was people in the streets, lights, animation, and the calm Mediterranean sea.

I felt like I was in a foreign country. I just couldn’t understand I was still in Beirut! I remember the first two days I couldn’t speak Arabic or French–which are my two mother tongues–I could only use the only foreign language I knew at that time: English.

Elsewhere:

Leif Goldberg has released his 2014 calendar. You should really buy it.

A look back at an attempt to make an underground newspaper supplement.

Ken Tucker reviews a bunch of comics at the NY Times.

Lots of End of the Year lists are appearing. Here’s Filth and Fabulations. And here’s Michael DeForge. Sean Rogers has a good one, too.

Here’s our own Jacq Cohen on Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.

Oh Frank Robbins, how I love the way you slathered ink all over the page like you owned the joint.

And amazingly enough, all of The Wiggle Much is now online.

 

Where Does It Hurt?

Hello, friends. Today on the site Dan Nadel writes a review of the Art Spiegelman “Co-Mix” career retrospective being shown at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Having a good pair of eyes sifting through the archive is essential. Just when you think you have Spiegelman nailed down, he kind of slips away again. Oh, there’s a Viper page, and there’s a Maus print I hadn’t seen, and, oh, those Boris Vian covers… And this is thanks largely to the efforts of Rina Zavagli-Mattotti, the owner of Galerie Martel in Paris. Zavagli-Mattotti curated the original exhibition, which opened nearly a year ago in Angouleme. With Spiegelman, she selected the work for that show and each iteration thereafter (it has made stops at the Pompidou in Paris, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Vancouver Art Gallery). So, yes, the “hits” are all here, but so are lesser known pieces, including the largest showing of underground work yet (certainly more than I’ve ever seen in an official compilation) and a fascinating set of layout progressions for Spiegelman’s Raw #7 cover. Maus is rightly given pride of place, and beautifully installed, with Spiegelman’s nearly frantic preliminaries occasionally jutting out from the finished pages like word balloons.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews. Joann Sfar went on Inkstuds. Georgia Webber shares her bookshelf to Hazlitt. Adrian Tomine talks about New York with British GQ. Rian Hughes answers questions from Steven Heller. Alex Schubert talks for two seconds to something called B Rad. Box Brown talks wrestling with Grantland.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Murphy at Broken Frontier reviews Gilbert Hernandez’s Maria M. Mike Lynch shares strips from Chester Gould’s pre-Dick Tracy career. Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin reviews the new Asterix story set in Scotland. Dylan Williams wrote about Mort Meskin in 2003.

—News. According to Deadline, Warner Brothers has won another (and possibly final) major decision in its legal battle with the estates of Siegel and Shuster. Charles Hatfield reports from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library opening weekend. Gary Tyrell writes about some pretty sleazy behavior from PC Magazine, regarding a webcomics listicle. Maggie Thompson is selling a big chunk of her comics collection.

Finally, researchers at the University in Calgary are conducting a study of working conditions in comics. If you are involved with comics creation, you may want to participate in this survey.

 

Heavyweights

On the site today: Frank Santoro talks tour swag. The endless tour swag. Swag!

And Sarah Boxer on Joe Sacco’s The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme, an Illustrated Panorama

In the history of comics, Sacco’s Great War lies somewhere between two other near-silent comic-like narratives:  the medieval Bayeux Tapestry, a 230-foot-long piece of embroidery showing the Norman Invasion of England in 1066 (which Sacco cites as an influence), and Building Stories, Chris Ware’s giant box of comic-book-like objects. But for sheer silence these two can’t compete with The Great War. After all, the Bayeux tapestry has embroidered captions that tell you what’s going on, and Chris Ware allows his characters occasional grunts and sniffs. Here Sacco, the cartoonist of human speech and argument, has banned all words.

Elsewhere:

No links today. Instead let me digress for a second.

It’s been a good autumn in New York for those interested in comics and comics-related art. There were shows by three Chicago masters: Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum and Art Green; a small but potent show of Peter Saul paintings a A fine exhibition by Seth. And there is, of course, the terrific Art Spiegelman retrospective, about which more later. And now there’s an Ad Reinhardt show at David Zwirner (home also to R. Crumb and Raymond Pettibon). Yes, Ad Reinhardt, king of the all-black painting. An unlikely man to make comics. And yet there it is. The Reinhardt show is not just any exhibition though: It features a complete run of his comics work for P.M. (for which Crockett Johnson, among others, also drew) and ARTnews in the 1940s and ’50s. And to top it off, Zwirner has published an absolutely killer book of these comics: How to Look: Art Comics. Oversized, impeccably designed and printed, it’s my favorite surprise of the year. One of those books you dream of but never imagine really happening. It belongs with the recent Jess book, as well as the Joe Brainard Nancy book (both from Siglio Press), to a now-growing shelf of comics that exist outside both the comic and art narratives. An odd shaped history into which you might also throw the 1960s Hairy Who “comic books”, various works by Dieter Roth, a ton of books by Dorothy Iannone, and all sorts of other odds and ends. a

How to Look: Art Comics is an oversized hardcover with a superb essay by Robert Storr, none of which would matter if the comics weren’t so damn good. These are more like visual essays in the Peter Blegvad-sense than the newspaper comics of the time, but what else could they be, really? Each comics page is a collage of paste-up imagery and often-punning, always cunning, words, commenting on, well, art. From “The Insiders” to “How to Look at Iconography” to “How to Look at a Mural” (Guernica, of course), Reinhardt winkingly guides viewers through art as he knew it. Along the way there are many now-forgotten artists, critics, curators and galleries, and many still known. But trace-the-reference is only part of the fun. The elegance of Reinhardt’s compositions, the deftness with which he juxtaposes text and image, and his infrequent, but jarring use of hand-drawn cartooning make each strip a gem. This work should be brought into comics proper, and perhaps viewed as paradigmatic examples of the comic-as-diagram or the comics-as-explanation, much as Scott McCloud and Dan Zettwoch have used it. Anyhow, all of this is to say: Go out and see the show if you’re in NYC, and get the book in any case. It’s an education in art and cartooning.

a1

a2

 

 

No, Seven

Today we should keep you busy. First, Bill Kartalopoulos has a report from the grand opening of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum last weekend:

This calendar year has seen no shortage of comics-related events and exhibitions, but the occasion most likely to have a long term impact for comics is the opening of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio. The unveiling of the new dedicated museum and library space is the culmination of founding curator Lucy Shelton Caswell’s thirty-five-year vision and sets a new high water mark for comics-related institution building in North America. The ribbon-cutting of the new facility and the opening of its first exhibits was marked with a two-day academic conference, followed by a weekend of public events featuring artists including Matt Bors, Eddie Campbell, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, and many more. The event also served as the site of major announcements from the BICLM itself, as well as from other organizations represented there including the Center for Cartoon Studies and the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF).

And then we have Ken Parille, with the second part of his column exploring the use of dialogue and narration in comics. Here’s a sample of that:

After Byrne’s super-villain introduces himself in 1986’s Superman #1, Lois Lane goes on the attack: “’Metallo’? You have got to be kidding. Where the heck did you pick up a cornball name like that?”

RU1

The trope of a character calling a villain’s shtick “corny” pops up repeatedly in ‘Silver Age’ comics (c. 1956 -1970), particularly those scripted by Stan Lee, one of Byrne’s major influences:

RU2

The Amazing Spider-Man #13 (1964). Dialogue by Stan Lee; Art/Plot by Steve Ditko.

If you know it’s corny, then why do it? Perhaps Byrne sees no other option: such names are part of the fantasy world he operates in. But admitting to foolishness rather than quietly playing along makes it worse — can you really write something corny and then act like you’re above it? I think “Metallo” is a solid villain name and needs no apology.


Elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
Timothy Callahan reviews three new comics and one old issue of Lloyd Llewellyn. Chris Mautner lays out six comics he found at Comics Art Brooklyn. Then James Romberger beats them all by reviewing eight comics from CAB. [UPDATE: I stupidly missed this extremely harsh takedown of the Art Spiegelman Co-Mix show written by Jed Perl at The New Republic.]

—Interviews & Profiles. Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Boxer has a great interview with Françoise Mouly. At one of The New Yorker’s blogs, Mouly herself presents an interview with Joe Sacco. Paul Gravett profiles Algerian cartoonist Sofiane Belaskri. Neil Gaiman talks about Sandman: Overture.

—News.
I can’t imagine people interested in the ongoing Brian Wood/sexism-in-the-comics-industry conversation haven’t seen most of these links already, but just in case, a second woman came forward with claims about Brian Wood, and a blogger has made a timeline of the controversy and its coverage.

Reports that filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki plans to make a samurai manga in his retirement have some visual confirmation now.

Finally, cartoonist and Yam Books publisher Rina Ayuyang has started an online art auction and book sale to raise funds for the victims of the Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan disaster in the Philippines. Participating artists include Kevin Huizenga, Dylan Horrocks, Vanessa Davis, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez, and more.

 

It’s a Six

It’s Tuesday so that means Joe McCulloch has stayed up late to deliver you the finest new releases of the week.

All around the internet:

A-J Aronstein on Daniel Clowes, with a diversion into comics criticism.

Bob Mankoff at The New Yorker issues a mea culpa and follows a nice history trail.

The great Michael Doret on working on a DC Comics history book logo.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted his introduction to the phenomenal new Peanuts Sunday strips collection.

Glen David Gold has posted a mini-essay on a stunning new Jack Kirby art acquisition.

Sit back and enjoy the Shigeru Sugiura mash-up video.

And here’s another damn video. This one of the new Ruppert and Mulot book, which must be ripped to be read.