When All Else Fails

New to the site: Hayley Campbell joins the Journal team with a review of Kiki de Montparnasse.

Also, five new issues are up for viewing in the archives. Check them out now before they go up behind the subscriber paywall.

Issue 42 features an interview with Stan Lee.

In issue 43, Gary Groth meets Neal Adams.

Issue 44 finds Kim Thompson talking to Marv Wolfman (and an enjoyable pan from Gary on Sabre--funny how having standards can pay off in unexpected ways thirty years later).

Issue 45 features Marilyn Bethke interviewing Joe Staton.

And in issue 46, Will Eisner talks to Cat Yronwoode.

Dig in while you can.

Elsewhere on the webonet:

“Lichtenstein did no more or less for comics than Andy Warhol did for soup.” I don't remember coming across that Art Spiegelman quote before, but it's nice in that it does a lot of work in not so many words. Ernesto Priego dug it up for a traditional (but not philistine) comics vs. pop art post.

The cartoonist, editor, and, um, enthusiast (?) Sammy Harkham is good at pretending to be excitable and aggressive during interviews, and his recent Comix Claptrap appearance is no exception. It's all an act, folks. Honestly, what I really appreciate in Harkham's public appearances is his willingness to be candid—a surprisingly rare trait among cartoonists, as you'd think it would go hand in hand with a talent for the form. (The Claptrap is also one of a very small handful of comics interview podcasts worth following, so get on it already.)

Jeremy Sheldon wrote an online essay for the "Aliens" issue of Granta — as far as I can tell, it's the only content in the journal about, like, real aliens (meaning the outer-space kind). Otherwise, it's all immigration issues and such. In the essay, Sheldon discusses the deep meaning of science-fiction book covers, and draws much inspiration from the fact that the big alien monster at the end of Watchmen looks like human genitalia.

Our own Kristy Valenti writes about the artist Mike Kelley's take on the bottled city of Kandor here. If you don't know Kandor, that was a shrunken city from the planet Krypton that Superman kept around in his house. Whenever he got really lonely, he'd occasionally shrink himself down and hang out with the little people inside. Most comics theorists will tell you this is a metaphor for something or other. Schizophrenia?

For CCCBC members only: The occultist Kenneth Grant, whose work played a key role in Alan Moore's recent Neonomicon series, has died.

As has been mentioned a few times here on the blog (and in the site's comments), former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter has recently published a series of rather dubious claims regarding the infamous Marvel/Jack Kirby artwork debacle. For those of you unfamiliar with this history, Rodrigo Baeza has gathered together much of the relevant information into one place. Is it depressing that this recent Shooter activity is sparking so little discussion?

The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction recently held an industry day, and there are three big reports online about it: here, here, and here. (I particularly recommend Tom Spurgeon's.) It still amazes me that the CCS exists, even now that it's nearly reached the status of a institution.


Last Night on Gossip Girl…

Just kidding, I'm writing this before watching the new Gossip Girl, and it's a repeat anyway. But if demand warrants it I can try to convince Tim to let me run weekly recaps. If not, well, I'll just do so on my own time.

Well, well there is much to discuss, isn't there? For one thing, new to the site are full length interviews from the archive with Aline Kominsky-Crumb (from 1990, and by Peter Bagge) and Lynda Barry (from 1989 -- before many of you were born!). So go enjoy those, my friends. Spend the day, even.

Let's take a trip together around the internet, OK?

* Steven Heller calls our attention to a new traveling project from the great British pop artist Peter Blake.

* From WonderCon comes news that IDW will be releasing oversized editions of classic Marvel comics reproducing the original art. This is good news, I think, and points to a much-needed recognition by Marvel of the aesthetic value of this work and willingness to hand over material to a smaller publisher perhaps better equipped to handle this kind of project. The series begins with Walt Simonson's Thor. I'm curious where it'll go from there.

* Speaking of IDW, it's also releasing a deluxe edition of Darwyn Cooke's Parker material, to which I have a severe allergy. That said, This is a pretty wonderful memoir of hanging out with Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark, complete with photos of men with beards.

* This new profile of Moebius alludes to problems with the artist's vision, as well as a booming business in privately commissioned paintings. I'd be curious to see some of those pieces.

* Speaking of Moebius, and those who love him, Inveterate phone-talker Sammy Harkham lays it down on tape over at Comix Claptrap.

Finally, for you Facebook fanatics:

* Here is a fabulous selection of Out Our Way panels by J.R. Williams. Even in the current strip boom, Williams remains overrated underrated. I love his natural, easy-does-it drawing style and acute regional observations. Here's a project that could keep Jeet busy: "Great Regional Cartoonists of the 1920s". And not "midwest" or anything too easy. Oh no, I wanna see it state-by-state. Get a WordPress account and get started, Jeet!


Monday Monday

Dan spent some time with Ben Jones last week, and interviewed the man in anticipation of tonight's Cartoon Network premiere of Problem Solverz.

Our man in Scandinavia, Austin English, turns in his first review for the new CJ, looking at John Mejias's Paping Teacher's Edition.


Paul Gravett turns in an Angouleme report.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Wilfred Santiago.

Sammy Harkham interviewed by James Romberger.

Over at HiLobrow, our own Matt Seneca uses a panel from Weird Mystery Tales to explore Jack Kirby's depiction of women. "He was never meant to draw the average action comic’s shrinking violet of a 'gal.'"

HiLobrow seems to be upping their comics coverage in general, actually, and today also sees the first post in a week-long collaboration with 4CP's John Hilgart.


Contracts, Contacts, Comments

Our header image is by Frank Robbins. His gestural inkwork in the 1970s looks better than ever these days. In its day, it couldn't have been a stranger fit, but now... now it looks like something I'd publish. Ha! Of course I love the 1950s and '60s work, but there's something about the wild line and off-kilter perspectives that just does it for me here.

On the site today: Brandon Graham Day 5! Thank you Brandon for an excellent week together. I feel we've become closer, learned things about each other, and bonded in unexpected yet pleasurable ways. Wait, that was my week with my puppy. What were we talking about? Brandon! Tim and I have been thrilled to host Brandon, as we both admire his work and vision. Follow him some more over at Royal Boiler.

Your links, madam:

• I enjoyed this piece on Bernard Baily by Ken Quattro. The more in-depth, "how they lived" style pieces on cartoonists that appear, the richer the general history becomes. Baily is someone whose early work on The Spectre stands out for me for it's hazy gloom.

* Daniel Best has multiple transcriptions of the parts of some of the depositions made public thus far in the ongoing Kirby v. Marvel case. These are text versions of the PDF documents available online at Justia. Following on that, Sean Howe focuses on the publication of Steve Gerber's 1977 contract with Marvel for Howard the Duck. If that's not enough Howard for you, click over to TCJ #40 and check out the Howard newspaper reprints from that issue.

* Related: New Steve Ditko book ready for shipping.

* Unrelated: The Dallas Observer takes a closer look at the Dark Knight Returns page being offered for sale by Heritage Auctions.

* Baseball and Comics Dept.: Huizenga, May, and Zettwoch each take on opening day over at Leon Beyond. Tom Spurgeon interviews Wilfred Santiago.

Have a good weekend.


The Sense That There Are Invisible Forces

New feature up today: Tara Sinn introduces (and interviews) the mysterious Japanese poster artist Aquirax Uno, and day four of Brandon Graham's diary.

"My inspiration for these stories simply comes from the strangeness of life and the the sense that there are invisible forces behind things, and things happen for reasons we can't fully understand." Am I the only person who missed this brief but very well done video interview with Jim Woodring?

This one-question interview with Johnny Ryan kills my lonely fantasy that Prison Pit's plot was maybe, kind of, sort of a loose remake of Robert Sheckley's The Status Civilization. I guess it was always kind of more obviously inspired by the story in the back of Real Deal #1, anyway. (Prison Pit fans who haven't read that issue better get on it.)

A nice, and surprisingly informed, short tribute to Captain Marvel artist and former Journal columnist C.C. Beck appeared on The New Yorker's website yesterday.

Do you know anything about 1940s cartoonist Ann Roy? If so, current Journal columnist Ken Parille needs your help.

Another current Journal columnist, Jeet Heer, turned in a solid review of two recently reissued (and near canonical) comic histories for Publishers Weekly. I haven't yet read the Jerry Robinson book, but I agree with Jeet about the value of Brian Walker's collection.

Offhand, I can't think of any epistolary comics, but it's a great idea, with a lot of unexplored potential. Aidan Koch and Jaakko Pallasvuo are giving it a try right now.

We will review Jacques Tardi's Arctic Marauder soon, I promise. In the meantime, Craig Fischer has a smart-as-always response to the book here.

Finally, Comics Alliance has gathered several videos from French television featuring the likes of Moebius, Hugo Pratt, and Joe Kubert in action.


Maximum Meat Flavor For Minimum Money

That's right, I'm in Chicago for less than hours. Came out to see the Jim Nutt retrospective at the MCA, "Coming into Character." Scandalously, it is not traveling outside of the city -- through know fault of the show itself -- amazingly (or actually not, if you're familiar with recent programming decisions by other major museums), no other institution would take it. I'll keep it simple: If you can, go see this show. It's the best single-artist retrospective I've seen in a very very long time. Maybe since Dieter Roth at MoMA - PS1 in 2004. Watching Nutt tighten his focus to intensely rendered and detailed imagined portraits is riveting. These are paintings that can be looked at for hours -- worlds of brushwork exist within each area of these images. Every mark builds on the next, and the intersecting planes and surfaces build to multiple crescendos. Nutt is a real modern master, and one whose early language in the 1960s was highly involved with flat, comic-strip/advertising rendering. He's very far away from that now, though one can still see a bit of the diagramatic Gould grotesque in him if you squint just right.

Not that it's all culture here -- when I come to Chicago I roll with pal Ethan D'Ercole, who started me out with tacos, moved along to hot dogs, and finished off with deep dish pizza (the kind with the sauce on top, and, in a unique twist, a crust wrapped with carmelized cheese -- delightful).

Anyhow, it's a quick blog from me today, since I'm traveling and also in a food coma.

And your links:

* Amy Poodle on Batman Incorporated #4.
* This story is just sad, but obviously also infuriating and dangerous to the creators involved. Sad.
* This is fun: A bunch of prelim and promo art for Marvel's Strange Tales II.
* Bob Powell: A damn fine journeyman. Here's a 1944 war comic starring "The Spirit of '76".

On the site:

Tucker Stone on Jason Shiga's latest.

And with that, kind people, I go back to digesting.


My Dinner without Andre

It is easy to pick a side in the long-running debate between Garfield Minus Garfield and the original Silent Garfield. The latter reveals a bleak hidden dimension to the original strip, and enlarges our understanding by offering a new way to read it. The former simply relies on a cheap gimmick that reveals nothing other than the banal observation that if you remove one character from a dialogue, the remaining figures will look foolish. Take Andre Gregory out of My Dinner with Andre and you'll make Wallace Shawn look weird, too. So what? (I'd like to call dibs on that YouTube edit, by the way.) After all, it's no surprise that Garfield Minus Garfield got official approval and a book, while Silent Garfield quietly disappeared.

These thoughts are prompted by the new popular "viral" comic-strip edit, 3eanuts. The idea here is simple, too. As the site says, "Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all." You could perform this trick with most stories too—lop off the ending of anything from Psycho to Romeo & Juliet or Goodfellas, and you'll get a radically different tone and impression. So in a sense this is another facile experiment, but at least it illuminates something about how powerfully an artist's editing choices affect the reader. (via)

Today on TCJ:

Don't miss Jog's latest column, Shaenon Garrity's long-awaited return to the Journal with a review of the latest volume of Finder, and day two of Brandon Graham's diary.

More links:

Philip Nel brings us Crockett Johnson's first strip.

Jim ("Our Nixon") Shooter is still blogging, and just put up a post about how he became editor-in-chief of Marvel while he was still in his twenties.

The comments thread after this typically terrific Glenn Kenny post on Taxi Driver sees various of his readers getting back into the old argument over whether the main character of Scorsese's Raging Bull is "identifiable" — a debate that always seems to flare up around Scorsese and Coen Bros. films, and which also brings to mind last year's back-and-forth on more or less the same topic regarding Daniel Clowes's Wilson. Both sides of the character debate are represented well on the Kenny thread.

Joanne Siegel's letter to the head of Time Warner from shortly before her death is a must read (Spurgeon explains), and very sad.


Monday Madness

First, some office work.

Earth people, send us your event listings. As you may have noticed, we are publishing event listings. We wish to fill them up. So, direct your listing news to:

We have uploaded issues 37 and 39-41 of ye ol' TCJ. Only 260 more to go. Almost there! But these issues are chock full of goodness. Issue 40, for example, has an interview with a young-ish Jim Shooter, just a little while before he was branded "Our Nixon." Kim Thompson, meanwhile, contributed a piece about Tom Sutton, and the great John Benson has an early (and very prescient) overview of Art Spiegelman's work. TCJ and Tom Sutton: A long term love affair. Issue 39 has a long piece on the now-infamous 1978 DC Comics contraction, a lengthy report on the then-comatose underground comics scene, and in the reviews dept., we have Kim giving Marvel 1970s-era Kirby a tough talking to, while Groth takes on Superman vs Muhammed Ali. And then issue 41 breaks open the Steve Gerber controversy, with a report and an interview with the man himself. The archive is still free for a little longer.

And new content today and from the weekend. In his first piece (of many, we hope!) for us, Tom De Haven takes on the upcoming Gilbert Hernandez book; meanwhile Frank Santoro brings it for the third week in a row. His best layout piece yet. By the by, if, during the week you long for Frank, as Tim and I often do, you can click over to his Tumblr and check in on him.

And now, onto links.

Most of you have probably already seen this NY Times piece on Marvel's publishing program. A little more business-y than I would've expected, the takeaway here seems to be that, uh, Marvel is trying... something, and that something is directed from the editors through the writers. The visuals in this visual medium aren't mentioned much, and neither are any particular creative strategies. Me, I'm still waiting for that New Universe revival.

Via pal Dash Shaw we have two delights. First is this animated film by the great illustrator James McMullan, who taught Dash at SVA, along with a few other generations of other artists. His drawing lessons are actually online at the New York Times. His languid, elegant figures are just astonishingly well painted. More McMullan can be seen at Container List. Second, here's an online exhibition of the Art of Akira, along with commentary.

Contributor Chris Mautner takes us to Comic Book College in the area of Frank Miller. This is a good start in some choppy waters. I'm glad Chris recommends The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is my favorite Miller work, post-1990 division. Also, he reminded me that Miller actually wrote Robocop vs. Terminator. I can't believe there's not a movie of that already. I'd go see that. Thrice! Dapper Dan's Movie Review would have a field day!

Finally, Harry Mendryk goes what we, around the "office" call "deep Santoro" with part one of an analysis of the Simon & Kirby colorists. And Joshua Glenn's HiLobrow continues to focus on Kirby with this fine piece by Adam McGovern.