The anthology is successful on a number of levels, but its surface aesthetics are one of the most significant. In a book with 23 different stories and a wide variety of visual approaches, Stotts cleverly uses a single spot color (red, for fire, of course) in a book that's otherwise black and white. Sometimes red is used with overwhelming force in the course of a story and other times there are simply wisps and hints of the color. This smart editorial decision gives each story a common visual language, unlike anthologies where every single story look the same, both in terms of subject matter and technique. That was one of the biggest problems I had with the old Flight anthology series.
While some of the artists in the book work in animation, this anthology is also unlike Flight in that the focus is much more on the stories than the visuals. This is an anthology by cartoonists (some of whom happen to be animators), rather than an anthology by animators dabbling in cartooning. Elements: Fire has a nice rhythm thanks to its stories being around ten pages apiece, with some exceptions. Stotts follows some of the longer stories with two-pagers as a sort of aesthetic palate cleanser before transitioning back to longer stories. Stotts arranges the stories such that no two stories that looked alike follow each other. For example, Kou Chen's slowly-paced, naturalistic story about two tribes merging in fire to survive is followed by the cartoony, frenetic story from Maddi Gonzalez about a young witch. The former story is notable for its gray wash and subtle use of reds until the very end, while the latter is pretty much drowning in red thanks to its young firestarters.
—The annual Comics Workbook Composition Competition winners have been announced.
Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to break up the last few weeks of bad news with some good: after twenty years, Jason Lutes monumental Berlin project sees publication this week from Drawn & Quarterly. He spoke with Josh Kramer about what it was like to commit so hard to something, the man he became over the decades of work he put into it, how he grapples with cultural appropriation, and what he thinks about when he watches the news.
I had some highfalutin ideas about what I was going to get across, what I was going to "lay down." And I also wanted to explore as much of the kind of spectrum of human experience as possible using this medium. One of my goals was to see what I could do with comics. How do you convey emotion? How do you convey something like the sense of taste or smell? How do you tackle these sensory things? Every medium has its own challenges as far as those things go. And I was really curious about what I could do with comics. The conscious part was this weird combination of, "here are some big themes I want to address and here is the formal stuff I want to tackle with this medium."
And then I got, you know, 24 pages in and thankfully, once I was in that story and I had these characters and I was paying attention to them as characters, those bigger ideas just kinda dropped away. And I was just dealing with the people. So any time I wrote a scene I would just imagine being each of the characters in that scene and imagine how they would interact with one another. And then I would look after I drew, I would look at the actual, physical space they were in. Sometimes that would trigger the next part of the story. Even though I was drawing everything and thinking of everything myself, I wanted it to be a kind of lively and active environment where I could pay attention to anything I wanted to. And in the beginning of the book there's this scene with a police officer in a traffic tower. The first traffic light in Europe. And that just came out of me actually drawing that. I drew that street scene and I drew that traffic tower and after I drew it I thought, "Well, who's in that?" So I had a little one-page digression where we go in there and pay attention to that guy and that couldn't have happened if I hadn't drawn the physical space and then considered my relationship to it or the relationship of the characters to it.
And we've also got a classy coincidence, if your definition of classy involves the artist Simon Bisley: two different reviewers, one book. It's TMNT Bodycount, newly re-released by IDW, and we've got the words fromMatt SenecaAND J. Caleb Mozzocco. And yes: it's that J. Caleb Mozzocco, who is joining the squad in the most traditional of fashions--being inadvertently tacked into a stunt simply because he picked the one random old Simon Bisley comic to submit to us the same day that I asked Matt Seneca to write about because I thought it was high time Matt read a Turtle book. Welcome aboard, Caleb! And yes: next time we doubleteam, it'll be on a book that deserves the scrutiny.
Thinking back on the EC period, who were the artists you liked best to color? I’m not asking you to name favorites, but who did you find the most interesting? And challenging?
Oh. The most challenging ones were Woody and Krigstein.
For two different reasons. With Krigstein you knew that there was a distinct design and plan in mind. And I didn’t color many of his. I think he colored his own. On some of it, like that one with the Nazi in the subway …
“Master Race.” I know on that story Krigstein chopped up the boards and spread out the word balloons so he could pace the storytelling according to his own instincts.
Yeah, right. I would only see the artwork at the tail end. I wasn’t involved in any of the black-and-white stuff at all. See, now some of the artwork is touched up in the ‘80s. We touched up art when I was on staff at Marvel. In those days, we had tremendous respect. And also we’d come in and that was it, unless there was something very, very wrong. You came in and that was it. Everybody was saying, “Oh, wonderful!” Woody was very satisfying, but you would sweat over his artwork.
Was he hard because of the delicacy of some of the figures?
Yes. I remember he did one on Tecumseh. And, Woody was very much like Kirby in that in one panel he would have three belts on a character and in the next panel he would have one belt on. Then it was across the other shoulder but you were looking at all this other glamorous stuff he was doing, so it didn’t bother you if the guy’s straps were all mixed up and he had a different gun. And of course, it wasn’t that important to Woody’s method of storytelling. But on somebody else’s method of storytelling, I’m more this way myself and so is John I believe. And I’ve never seen John mix anything up.
As far as his costuming details?
Yeah. I mean he’s so involved with that person, he’s that person, then he’s that dog, then he’s that archway; he never forgets what he’s doing. He’s building it.
Does John take a meticulous approach to what he’s doing?
I guess so.
I mean compared to other people.
Oh, gee, today? Look at guys like Bernie Wrightson. I was just looking at his Frankenstein book. I’ve got it. I’ve got to start throwing comic books out. And I’m saying “I can’t throw this away! Wonderful!” There’s so many today. ... A lot of them think they are. But, they’ll learn. Some guys start out picky. John started out picky. [Laughs.] He liked to have his weapons and all his boats and his tanks and everything just the way it was. He’s an illustrator.
What does Lion Forge look like in five years? What are your goals in terms of where you're headed?
From a direct market standpoint, we want to be either the third or fourth largest publisher in the next five years. I would like us, definitely, to be in the top five on the bookstore side of the market, as well. I'd like us to be a thought leader in terms of bringing new readers into the marketplace.
You know the numbers. Our general market growth, if you look at everything, is anemic right now, especially when you balance that against the popularity of the content itself and how it's been utilized by Hollywood and video games and everybody else.
Originally, Coyote was going to be a male character, and then you changed that. What made you decide to make the character female?
It’s weird, when I first started writing it, I was like, “he, he, he, Coyote Doggirl is a boy.” And then I started drawing it, and I don’t know when, but I thought, “Why am I defaulting to male? Is it because every Western I watch, except for maybe True Grit and that one with Sharon Stone, star men? And all the cartoons I grew up watching star male characters?” It’s weird how that becomes my default, even though I’m a woman, and you’d think I would be thinking about these things more all the time. So I threw a sports bra on top of her and made her a lady. But it’s weird that even I have to consciously think about decisions like that all the time.
Alex Dueben talks to comics scholar Bill Schelly about his memoir on fandom, Sense of Wonder.
I[Fandom's] very different. Nowadays, I don’t find fans – even my friends – interested in corresponding. In the old days, when long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive, I corresponded with a number of fans, writing letters that were often two or three pages long. Today, even with email, peoples’ attention spans are shorter. And they want to talk on the phone, not write. Of course, blogs have replaced the old printed fanzines. That’s cool. And fans still get together at comicons. It’s still a place that’s accepting of all kinds of people, whether they be queer, or physically challenged, or what-have-you. The main thing, which I’m sure will never change, is its ongoing appreciation of comic art itself, whether in the form of modern graphic novels, or comics of the past in all the reprint editions. I don’t know how much interest still exists for the comics being turned out by Marvel and DC, but if it’s waned, there are plenty of other comics to read and enjoy.
Their friendship began in 1901 and didn’t end until Dorgan died in 1929. Its greatest test came in 1910, when Johnson, then world heavyweight champion, was in a contest with a former champion to hold onto the crown. His opponent, Jim Jeffries, was white, and following Johnson’s victory, jubilant black fans would be attacked and even killed in cities across the country.
The victory in the boxing ring would also mark Johnson in the eyes of the law. Yet for Dorgan, watching from ringside as his smiling friend sent Jeffries into the ropes, it was a reminder of all the reasons why he admired this man, and why that morning he had delivered one of the most startling sports predictions ever offered in print:
“World War II did not really end for the Japanese until 1952, and the years of war, defeat, and occupation left an indelible mark on those who lived through them,” writes the historian John Dower in Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. This was certainly so for the manga artist Tadao Tsuge (born 1941), who made a gritty fantasy world out of post-surrender retrospection, filling his story-vignettes with landscapes and characters derived from the war’s ruins and the black markets and slums that flourished around them.
While Tadao’s work is a unique intervention into the literature of war memory, it also speaks to issues of class, geography, and the built environment. The artist’s apathy toward political organizing was overt. Nonetheless, his late Sixties and early Seventies comics were fairly close in spirit to the work of labor activists, anarchist writers, and photojournalists who were concerned about the neglected armies of men who manned the lower echelons of Japan’s booming construction, manufacturing, and energy industries, often via yakuza-mediated day-labor markets in big cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka.
The Iowa native kicked off his career with the successful and unexpected series The Changers while living in Portland; he moved to Chicago following its success and has been a figure of great interest in the city’s arts community, focusing his attention from one medium to another – animation, music, film, music, and video, among others, always with intriguing results – before setting to work on Upgrade Soul, a project over a decade in the making that has finally made it into traditional graphic novel form after a long stretch as an immersive digital app. In some ways, the decision to release the book in a standard publishing format is a step back to more pedestrian means of production than we’re used to from Daniels, but the end result is a work of such profound impact and originality that it can’t be argued with.
JONES: What made you decide to re-enter the comic book field?
HEATH: Number one, the money is a lot better than it used to be. That’s if the book sells well. Since I’ve been working almost exclusively in animation since 1978 a lot of new comic readers do not know my work. Going back to the ’70s, when I was doing war books, a lot of readers who read comics would not read them, the Vietnam conflict being so unpopular at the time. When the Shadow book comes out the readers who don’t know my work will say — “Who is this guy, Russ Heath?” And the ones who knew of my stuff will say, “My god, Russ Heath, is he still alive?” I hope working on a book this popular will lead to new recognition in a short time.
Steve Leiber shared an excellent anecdote about Heath alongside some very striking examples of Heath's incredible skill. I won't spoil it.
The past months have hit multiple comics professionals hard, as anyone with access to social media is well aware. But this extended reminiscence from Roy Thomas on his friendship with Gary Friedrich is in a class all its own. Bleeding Cool has the scoop.
In late 1965, ensconced at Marvel, I convinced Gary to come to New York to join me, partly to get him away from his drinking buddies in Missouri. It didn’t work, of course. Gary continued drinking more than was good for him for some years, but he was never a sullen or nasty drunk… it just wouldn’t do him any good, that’s all. I told him that we could work together on some comics, and convinced Dick Giordano at Charlton to give him a shot… but Gary took to comics writing like Donald Duck to water, and I never had to help him in that department. Matter of fact, when he went on his (2nd) honeymoon for a week and I tried writing a Charlton romance story to help him out, I froze up and couldn’t finish it. Gary had to complete it when he came back. Soon, though, when there was a vacancy at Marvel (probably after the very brief employment of a young playwright named Ron Whyte who thought a lot more of himself than I ever thought of him–or him of me), I had Gary take a Marvel writing test and he was soon employed on staff as well as doing freelance writing.
Anytime you can link to a nice meaty chunk of an obsessively organized dive, you link to that shit immediately: here's Claire Napiermaking the case that you should read the Valiant Comics. (All of the Valiant Comics, in fact).
Then, in 1997, came the real term two: the real Valiant at Acclaim Comics. Fabian Nicieza, coming off a brief stint at DC and some long years at Marvel, joined Valiant at Acclaim in 1996 as Editor in Chief and Senior Vice-President, and from 1997 oversaw absolute reboots of all remaining Valiant titles. Premises changed, and characters and character designs changed. They called it “VH2,” which retroactively termed the Shooter-defined Valiant history “VH1,” which is a stupid thing to do as that’s already a whole other thing. They did it anyway, which was “very Acclaim,” honestly.
Today's main feature is Michael Dean's extensive obituary on Marie Severin, who passed away this week.
Severin’s 1967 run on Doctor Strange continued until Strange Tales #160. She drew Incredible Hulk in Tales to Astonish from issue #92 to #101, including the crossover issue with the Submariner series, and went on to draw the Hulk in his own 1968 solo title, issues #102-105, as well as the 1968 Incredible Hulk annual #1. She was a mainstay artist for the entire 13-issue run of Not Brand Echh.
But these runs were exceptions. Severin was given no signature series and had no opportunity to create a series from scratch. Instead, throughout her career at Marvel and elsewhere, her talent, speed and energy were used to save her employers’ bacon. She was a go-to emergency responder whenever a regular artist unexpectedly left a job or missed a deadline. Whenever spot illustrations were needed for letters pages, fan-club materials or ads, Severin was brought in to do the job in a manner that was both quick and faithful to the house style established by Marvel’s more celebrated artists. She was a frequent inker and was Marvel’s head colorist until 1972, but most of her work was uncredited: roughing covers, fixing faces, redrawing panels, adding bridging sequences and making corrections to the art of the credited artists. She eventually came to fill John Romita’s role as cover designer, but was never offered Romita’s art-director title — a classic case of a female “hidden figure” whose contributions remained in the shadow of her male colleagues.
Along with Severin (and Russ Heath earlier), the longtime Marvel Comics writer Gary Friedrich passed away this week. We will publish an obituary on him in the coming days.
That self-reflexive shallowness is indicative of Thummler's graphic novel as a whole, for better and worse. Thummler is a young creator, but she's already gotten a number of high profile gigs, including drawings for the New York Times and Washington Post. Her skill, when utilized as here in the interest of an unambitious narrative, can come off as glib. But Thummler's also attuned to the limitations of the comics form in a way that adds resonance to a story about grief and loss. Sheets is a comic that doesn't quite connect, while also using comics as a metaphor for the things you wish you could touch, but can't.
Wendy: Well explain what you mean, politically incorrect. You mean because I told women to stand up for themselves? I’m not backing off of that position.
I was wondering if you had anymore thoughts now that the #MeToo movement is really taking off, and—
Wendy: The #MeToo movement is no joke; it’s absolutely real. I still I entirely advocate that women help each other in learning how to stand up to harassment and bullying. I still find that some women, for reasons I can’t figure out, if they are harassed by a guy or guys, they will just back up and get upset about it. Rather than… there’s nothing that turns a guy off more than a direct stare, and there are girls who haven’t learned the direct stare yet, and I advocate that they do.
Another rock solid interview subject? Lisa Hanawalt. She's over at Jezebel, talking all things Coyote Doggirl.And also this:
I am wondering, though, what you think of the bizarre fascination with all these young women who become obsessed with horses. I don’t know if you consciously thought of past representations of women and horses in media when you were writing this, but how did you incorporate that into the story?
I didn’t think about it too much, because I was just trying to think from my own perspective: what I think about when I’m riding a horse. But I feel like people who aren’t into horses have a tendency to sexualize that relationship because they don’t understand it, and they’re like, “Oh it’s definitely a sex thing, ‘cause women and horses.” But it’s way more complicated than that. Obviously, I don’t like horses because I want to fuck one; that’s just stupid. But I don’t know, there is something to little girls controlling this big, powerful beast that is so intuitive that it listens to them. You can sort of tell a horse all your secrets. And in some ways, I think it is a surrogate for a relationship. But it’s emotional; it’s not sexual.
I've never seen any of Sequart's documentaries, but they recently uploaded two of them to Youtube. Of the two, the Grant Morrison one is the more frequently talked about.
Buz Sawyer offered Crane a new beginning and a grueling workload. In later years, Crane groused in later years about having to do a comic strip without assistance. His righthand man on Tubbs, Leslie Turner, stayed with the strip, which he continued through the end of the 1960s. Sawyer’s first full year is more of the same—brutal war narratives occasionally leavened with slapstick humor.
Its main character was no rootless soldier of fortune. John S. Sawyer had a small-town family background in Texas, and was a seemingly well-balanced, ideal red-blooded American boy. A college football hero, he had a wealthy girlfriend back home, Tot Winters, whom he seemed destined to marry. During a home visit in late 1944, Winters’ father takes Sawyer aside and intimates that he’ll have a cushy postwar job in the Winters underwear company.
Tot is arrogant and petulant. Her encounters with Buz never feel warm or welcoming. Buz feels obliged to marry Tot but has obvious misgivings about his future. On December 29, 1944, Christy Jameson literally rides into his life—on horseback—and begins one of comics’ few mature, reasonably realistic domestic relationships.
And Karl Stevens is here with Day Four of his Cartoonist's Diary. Today it's off to the beach.
—Interviews & Profiles. At Please Kill Me, Alan Bisbort interviews Bill Griffith.
My character Zippy was, in name and personality, a byproduct of photographs I saw from the old Barnum and Bailey Circus sideshow of a character they called “Zip the What Is It?” and sometimes Zip the Pinhead. Zip’s real name was William Henry Jackson or William Henry Johnson [1857-1926], depending on what source you cite. I prefer Jackson because that’s my name William Henry Jackson Griffith. I was named after my grandfather William Henry Jackson, who was a renowned photographer of Western landscapes. He was one of the top sideshow performers in the country. I found that out about Zip years later, looking through some books at [cartoonist] Kim Deitch’s house. Zip was a pretend pinhead. He was not a real pinhead. Back then being a “pinhead” was an expression meaning someone with nothing upstairs.
HILOBROW: Eternity Girl is like reading a mandala. How did you harmonize the simultaneous actions, the grand patterns and granular details in these radial or dispersed compositions?
VISAGGIO: Anything about the visual composition of the page was largely Sonny [Liew]. Sonny was kind of notorious for ignoring stage directions and doing his own thing, and he was very much correct to do so; I was always real eager to see what he would do. The cover that he did for the second issue was sort of the introduction of that. I started writing things saying, “if you want to do something here like that, I think that would work.” But mostly he just did whatever he thought would elevate what was happening in the moment. Sonny is really an extraordinary artist, and he always found a way to make the page do more work than I was asking him to.
I previously missed this recent Breakdown Press interview with Jon Chandler.
Describe yourself with one word or short phrase
The UK’s most isolated cartoonist, so they say.
Is there a personally relevant quote or statement that you find agreeable?
“Waking, a half mat. Sleeping, one mat. Rule the nation, a fistful of rice”
“When we die, a fistful of ash… That’s all we are.”
Headless Sakon from Lone Wolf & Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.
Elsewhere, the developments in the ongoing social media annoyance/terrorism campaign grouped under the term #comicsgate continues to showcase more of what seems like a near infinite supply of the same brand of knuckle-dragging stupidity that goes along with any campaign whose only real message is one of whining complaint. Be it a harassment campaign circling around Darwyn Cooke's widow, multiple con-artist-led crowdfunding campaigns for comics no one will ever enjoy, an endless cycle of arguments that demand one immerse themselves in never-ending strings of social media updates, unreadable blog posts & supremely boring youtube videos involving people who are indistinguishable from an eye-rolling 9-year-old simply so you can understand what in the fuck they're all talking about and, most recently, a guy sending a picture of his asshole to another guy he dislikes online.
I agree with Tom on this one--there isn't much to say about the people involved in this particular subset of "the culture". Like the gamergaters that seem to have served as their inspiration, comicsgate is the last cry of a dying breed. They've already been replaced by the millions--not hundreds of thousands, millions--of children who have been reared on Raina, Yang & Kibuishi, by the tweens and teens who bleed Viz. They're going to be offensive, hateful, and annoying while they sink, but even the most lazy of searches of their hashtags sees each of their attempts at insurrection drowned out by a chorus of people who, while they occasionally seem to only marginally care about comics and art, at least recognize that racism and homophobia behaviors to be shamed. This has been coming for a while, this reckoning--and it will probably be a little bit louder, and a lot bit stupider, while people like Ethan Van Sciver and Richard Meyer bleed it for whatever money it has left.
For what it's worth? More power to them. The sooner those guys burn out the financial core of this dipshit movement, the better. None of this has resulted in better comics, better writing about comics, or any good jokes. It's just eaten up lives, time and talent that could've been spent doing absolutely anything else, while ensuring that a large portion of interesting people spent way too much time online being batted around by a firehose of annoyance. And no, just to be clear, I don't mean the recent string of second-tier superhero freelancers, end-of-career bloggers and Image pitchmen who have made copy and pasting empty platitudes their latest attempt to brand themselves in a more appealing fashion so they won't be swept out of the door with the creeps when all those aforementioned millions who are growing up on comics, manga & middle-grade fiction that actually treats them like human beings with lives of value start deciding what the next wave of art is supposed to look like. The interesting people are the critics who didn't try, the artists who walked away, and the collaborations between groups that couldn't happen because of the constant poisoning of the well that comes from being a part of an industry that waits until the last minute, every fucking time, to get off its ass and make a moral choice to tell these losers to go a long time ago.
Another big day on TCJ. First up, Cynthia Rose returns with an excellent and thorough look at the life and career of Peyo, best known as the creator of the Smurfs.
The Smurfs are global stars as big as Tintin. Like him, too, they're a merchandising miracle. Yet even Hergé told their author he should forget about doing comics. So how did a dreamer with no obvious talents end up fathering world-famous icons? That's the secret revealed in Peyo, currently on show in Paris.
The Smurfs were invented by Pierre "Peyo" Culliford (1928-1992). Though he was born outside Brussels, both his father and his grandfather were English. Their family tree had one exotic sprig – an 18th-century pirate by the name of Robert Culliford. But Pierre's own father, naturalized a Belgian, was thoroughly bourgeois. He installed his wife and three children in a spacious home, shared with not one but both sets of grandparents.
Pierre was the family's youngest son, initially known as "Pierrot." But an English cousin mispronounced this nickname into "Peyo." Peyo was a sociable child who loved sports and storytelling. Every Sunday, after lunch, he would stage a play for his family. These productions always had historic themes, inspired by Hergé's Tintin or the U.S. comics in Mickey and Robinson.
Yet there was something sinister in the Culliford home. Peyo's father was suffering from a mystery illness which, over several years, slowly paralysed him. One night when he was seven, Peyo was called to tell him goodbye. As the boy kissed his father's face, he realized it was cold.
He looked for solace in music, drawing, and the Boy Scouts. But while the Scout choir was happy to make him a soloist, Peyo's art teacher told him he had "no talent at all."
We also have the second day of Karl Stevens's tenure creating our Cartoonist's Diary. This installment features a terrible joke.
—Interviews & Profiles. For Smash Pages, Alex Dueben talks to Geof Darrow.
It’s nice to have an open horizon. I can do anything. Once I’ve committed myself, that fantasy goes away. I’m so easily distracted. I’d never seen Game of Thrones, but when my daughter was home from school this summer we started watching. I wanted to draw Game of Thrones. Then I saw John Wick and was like, I want to draw John Wick. Mad Max will be on and I want to draw Mad Max. That’s why I stay away from the Marvel movies. I’m afraid if I watch them I’ll want to draw Thor. If they’d let me. Once I start a comic I go, I wish I’d decided to do that John Wick idea instead. [laughs]
“Comics shape time by arranging it in space on the page in panels, which are, essentially, boxes of time. … Panels are how the cartoonist gets to experiment with presenting time, with duration and motion. … McGuire multiplies and layers panels, each of which represents a different time frame, within the same space on every page, opening up dimensions of time. One page depicting 1949, which is about breaking as a general matter, features a spatialized smattering of verbal insults from the 1940s to the 1980s and also, terrifyingly, water pouring into the room’s window, suggesting a totally destructive natural disaster in the year 2111.”