I will be on my way to St. Louis as your read this. I'm lecturing and doing critiques, etc., at my alma mater, Washington University, and also spending some time at The Modern Graphic History Library looking at Al Parker, Robert Weaver, and other greats of 20th century illustration. Plus, Kevin Huizenga and I will be embarking on a secret historical mission deep in the county. Exciting!
But you don't care about me. What you care about is that I remind you again (until we get our FAQ page online) about our spiffy new comments policy. We realize there is no right fit for everyone, but we're reading your comments and discussing it all -- we'd like to maintain what we have, with these rules in place, for a little while. If we need to make changes, we certainly will. Thank you all for your interest.
And you also care about links. Glorious, highlighted links!
At the top of my list is Tom Spurgeon's eloquent case for voting Bill Blackbeard into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Without Blackbeard, comic strip history as we know it would be greatly impoverished. He pioneered the collecting and archiving of newspaper strips by literally driving a truck around North America and grabbing newspapers before libraries threw them out. His holdings supplied the bulk of the material we all now write about (and as Spurgeon noted, his generosity was unparalleled). Plus, his Smithsonian Anthology remains a cornerstone not just of comic strip culture but of visual culture in general. So, this is one time when it really matters. Give the man his due.
Via Jeet comes this blog post about the discovery of a previously unknown George Herriman strip that may well be his very first.
Sean T. Collins reports on a good ol' fashioned DC vs. Marvel war of words.
Here's a semi-revealing post on Comets Comets from the fake CF twitter guy, recounting his travails somewhat obliquely. Ironically, this matches nicely with a New Yorker article this week on a guy named Dan Bejar who imitated the musician Dan Bejar. Fake CF didn't share CF's name, but... well, fakery and imitations -- always more enlightening for the imitator than the subject of the "experiment".
And finally, TCJ contributors Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch present: Black Swan. Not comics, unless you count Darren Aranofsky's love of the medium and his killer collection of Hernandez Bros. art.
Well, our e-mailboxes are full, and the results are clear: No one is happy! It seems like for one reason or another, everybody is upset about the comments section these days. Some people want us to ban a few perennially controversial commenters, others want us to stop deleting their "entirely tame" comments, and still others want us to shut the whole thing down entirely, possibly to replace it with an edited letters column. That last option sounds potentially appealing, but if possible, we'd like to keep the comments around. Because when comments threads really work, they offer one of the few genuinely unique pleasures of the internet, a dynamic conversation that can't be replicated with overly edited content. However, the threads haven't really been working quite that well so far. Because of generally good experiences in the past, we've probably been a bit too lenient with our moderation here, and have erred on the side of inclusion even when it has allowed a few notable threads to descend into name-calling and blatant trolling. There is probably no way of avoiding annoying or useless comments altogether, but maybe putting a few policies into writing can help a bit with our signal-to-noise ratio.
So starting today, the following commenting rules are under effect:
1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.
2. Comments which are racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive will be deleted.
3. Comments which stray too far from the topic at hand (especially when of a promotional nature) have a very good chance of being deleted. If you want to share a link, send it to Dan or myself, and maybe we'll post it. Otherwise, it better have something to do with the post or resulting discussion.
4. Comments designed to start or prolong unnecessary, unpleasant, and/or just plain ugly arguments (i.e., trolling) will be deleted.
5. Commenters who repeatedly post comments that are deemed abusive in one of these ways will be warned via e-mail. If they continue to post comments of an unwelcome nature, they will be given a week's suspension. If a third warning is necessary, the commenter in question will be banned pending further review.
That's it for now, though we reserve the right to add new rules if and when they become necessary. Remember, debate and discussion are welcome, but is important that these arguments stay civil. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or via e-mail.
As evidenced in my last post, when you're "in comics" there really is no escaping "comics." In "the biz," this is the phenomenon we call "Comics!" So who else resides on this tiny little island where I'm vacationing with my Rachel and her family? None other than Dean Mullaney, late of Eclipse Comics and now the man behind The Library of American Comics, who I met for lunch yesterday at Parrotdise, just down the road and around the corner. Anyhow, we're hoping to expansively feature some of Dean's upcoming books (his astounding Polly and Her Pals volume, complete with a killer essay by Jeet, was one of my top ten for 2010) in the very near future. Comics!
Speaking of which, as some of you know, Facebook is one my favorite places for off-the-cuff remarks by cartoonists young, old, and middle-aged. Facebook: It's a hole you must fill. You type and it appears. Facebook! Like going to the comic book store and talking to the shop owner, but without ever having to get dressed, go the comic store, and spend money. Jeet (Him again?! Oh Jeet!) tipped me off that on Facebook Joe Matt has had some words about Chester Brown's forthcoming book, Paying For It (hype alert: soon to to be the subject of major coverage here in May). Jolly Joe says:
In his latest book, my good friend Chester becomes a whore-monger...which is fine. My only problem (after reading an advance copy) was an inference that the only reason I don't follow him down the same whoring path is because I'm too cheap.... An implication that is unequivocally UNTRUE!! Yes, I'm cheap (rephrase: careful with my money), but I've also dropped somewhere between $15,000-$17,000 on a near complete collection of Frank King's fantastic comic strip, GASOLINE ALLEY, in the form of old newspaper clippings. (Sundays and dailies 1919-1951!) That being said, I'm also an extreme voyeur, lover of porn and compulsive masturbator. (Like I need to tell YOU!) I'm also (and I don't consider this a contradiction) a totally monogamous, hopeless romantic. (Just ask the ladies! Either of them!) I've never even ENTERTAINED the idea of frequenting prostitutes! I don't even want to meet or get near my favorite beloved porn stars!! No...just let me snuggle with my girlfriend, while reading Popeye and drinking an Americano, and I'm fine. ♥
Note that all of the people who commented on the post AND who have read the book (including the great Dylan Horrocks) disagree with Joe, which seems to have made him feel better.
Speaking of the oldest profession, comics, and Facebook, as you might know, the "great" Atlas/Seaboard properties are being brought back. Finally, more Wulf the Barbarian in stores. Phew. In honor of this ongoing occasion I bring you this choice quote from artist Alan Kupperberg, who worked in the Atlas/Seaboard office:
The publishers used to buy hookers for the distributors. One time, still at Marvel, Martin [Goodman] was down in Florida and Chip [Goodman] got ahold of Martin's little black book. He called a couple of the girls and said he wanted some freebies or the old man wouldn't employ them any more. The girls called Martin and finked out Chip. Who received a spanking when daddy returned home. A putz.
Like I said: Comics!
And now, a few links for your Friday:
National Lampoon has been on our minds again lately thanks for Rick Meyerowitz's excellent tome Drunk Stone Dead, and now comes news that the current owner of the franchise has been arrested for a 200 million-dollar ponzi scheme. Comics! I believe over at Comics Comics we once listed books we'd love to see from Nat Lamp. Top o' the list is Shary Flenniken. Well, Rick tells me that a Charles Rodrigues book may be in the offing from a publisher familiar to you and me. I would buy that. Twice! Also at the top of my personal list: A Bobby London Dirty Duck book, a Jeff Jones Idyll book (seriously, people, put aside your preconceptions -- that strip is rad), and a nice tidy collection of all the Russ Heath Lampoon work. (People: Remember Russ Heath. He's in tough shape. Think about buying a book or commissioning a drawing.) Sigh. Being a publisher and a historian and a blogger is a deadly combo for you, dear reader, since I spend a lot of time just dreaming up books. Luckily our patrons here at FB will be doing Nuts by Gahan Wilson, so that's good.
From Tim's comments yesterday I am stealing this link to a new Alan Moore interview. Alan Moore: The man you want to sit next to at a bar and talk about life with AND the man you want to talk about Ogden Whitney with (sorry Frank, it's true: at this stage I would rather talk to Alan Moore about Ogden Whitney. But you're still my man for Harry Lucey, Pete Morisi, and Marshall Rogers. Don't worry).
And that is all. I am now returning to my vacation. Please don't bother me. Unless it's you, Alan Moore, wanting to talk about Ogden Whitney.
First, a little cinematic/literary/comic-book mystery. Most of you will remember this scene from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 2:
As everybody "knows," this whole dialogue was stolen nearly beat for beat from Jules Feiffer's comics-crit classic, The Great Comic Book Heroes. (I said so myself, back in one of the very first posts I ever wrote for Comics Comics -- kinda embarrassing to re-read for multiple reasons, lo so many years later.)
Or so it always seemed. Now things aren't so clear. As old CC readers will remember (and as one light-hearted fan will be particularly delighted to recall), I've been reading a lot of Pynchon lately. This binge didn't end with Gravity's Rainbow, but has now continued into Slow Learner and Vineland. (After 1200+ pages, I'm ready to take a break, so don't worry about me sharing whatever comic-book references may be found in Mason & Dixon until at least 2012.) Though there are certain very broad similarities in the way they both re-use tropes taken from popular and pulp genres, Quentin Tarantino's never struck me as the Pynchon type (he seems more like a Leslie Charteris man). However, the resonance between certain sections of Vineland and Kill Bill is startling. Namely, there's Vineland's blonde female ninja assassin DL Chastain, who can end a man's life by using an esoteric technique called the Vibrating Palm, or Ninja Death Touch—the victim doesn't feel it, "but a year later they drop dead, right when you happen to be miles away eating ribs with the Chief of Police." I'm not the first to notice these similarities, but one particular superhero-related congruence seems to have gone unremarked. You see, after this very Blood-spattered Bride-like figure is sent on a mission to kill a man who wronged her (and many others) years ago, she decides (à la Uma) that she'd rather just drop out of the whole assassin biz and start a new, less glamorous life. As she does so, she remembers an old, and eerily familiar, conversation:
"Superman could change back into Clark Kent," she had once confided to Frenesi, "don't underestimate it. Workin' at the Daily Planet was the Man o' Steel's Hawaiian vacation, his Saturday night in town, his marijuana and his opium smoke, and oh what I wouldn't give...." An evening newspaper ... anyplace back in the Midwest ... she would leave work around press time, make a beeline for some walk-down lounge, near enough to the paper that she could feel vibrations from the presses through the wood of the bar. Drink rye, wipe her glasses on her tie, leave her hat on indoors, gossip in the dim light with the other regulars. In the winter it would already be dark outside the windows. The polished shoes would pick up highlights as the street lamps got brighter ... she wouldn't be waiting for anybody or anything to happen, because she'd only be Clark Kent. Lois Lane might not give her the time of day anymore, but that'd be OK, she'd be dating somebody from the secretarial pool. They'd go out for dinner sometimes to this cozy Neapolitan joint down by some lakefront, where the Mussels Posillipo couldn't be beat. "So instead of being able to fly everyplace," her friend had replied, "you'd have to climb into some car you're still making payments on, drive on out, you, Clark Kent, to the scene of some disaster, blood, corpses, flies, teen technicians wandering around stoned, eyewitnesses in shock.... Superman never has to get involved with any of that. Why should anybody want to be only mortal? Better to stay an angel, angel." DL, more generous in those days, only thought her friend had missed the point.
So it's tough to figure out, right? Did Tarantino steal the dialogue from Feiffer, or Pynchon, or both? Or is it all just a set of crazy coincidences? I mean, David Carradine's original monologue is very close to Feiffer's, but connecting the Clark Kent/Superman idea directly to a blonde female ninja assassin seems so, um, unintuitive that it's remarkable that both Pynchon and Tarantino did it. My current theory is that Tarantino must have read this part of Vineland, then remembered the somewhat different Feiffer/Superman riff, and combined them together, but -- that's kind of complicated and implausible, and alternate suggestions are welcome. Figuring this out would be a good use of your time.
On to Comics Journal news:
Yesterday, Dan reviewed David Collier's Chimo, and Rob Clough introduced the latest incarnation of his "High-Low" column by looking at two recent releases from Revival House Press.
Also, don't miss designer Eric Skillman's behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming issue 301, which will be out very soon.
Thomas Pynchon isn't the only novelist who takes inspiration from the comics. Ishmael Reed, author of the essential Mumbo Jumbo, has a new book coming out next month, which sounds interesting. As he puts it in a recent profile: "Since I don't like the modernist novel in which the omniscient narrator smothers his characters to death with psychoanalysis, they called my characters cartoonish. So I made this new character of mine a cartoonist. I've always been in a dialogue with my critics."
So, as is probably obvious to many of you, we aren't above a little light theft ourselves, an kind of stole the idea of "A Cartoonist's Diary" from a recurring feature on The Paris Review's website. Now they have cruelly snatched the idea back, and this week, they are featuring New Yorker cartoonist Zachary Kanin. (Day two is here.)
Yes, I'm STILL on vacation. Or supposed to be anyway.
First some housecleaning. TCJ print edition subscribers take note:
-Login/passwords: Currently your pre-3/7/11 login and password info is not in our new system; it will be moved over very shortly. If you wish to comment within the site, please login via your own wordpress or intensedebate account, or just use the "open login" option.
-What's my subscription get me? Well, at the moment, the print edition archives are open to all. But soon, very soon, they will be subscriber-only. At that point we'll post weekly updates about which issues are available. Presently issues 27-36 and 38 are available. If you want to see what's available for yourself, you can click over to the table of contents for each issue. If it has a link to the print layouts, then it's available. If not, then it doesn't. But we'll update you as it evolves.
That is that. On to more pressing matters. Comics culture is alive and well down here. The Miami Herald Tribune is currently offering this fantabulous umbrella, spotted Sunday at the "Marathon Seafood Festival".
Also at the festival: The Saddest Garfield I've Ever Seen.
Last night in Key West there were numerous Spider-Man sightings. It seems Broadway has taken its toll on our hero, and he's now soliciting for tips. Tips for what? Whatever you want, man...
Apparently Spidey will take a beating for money. This, I think might be related to a Harmony Korine/James Franco film now in development.
And finally, in an odd attempt to appeal to hippy culture, Spidey is now also playing the sitar. Brendan McCarthy, please take note.
Now, your daily links:
Doug Wright Award nominees announced. This is the best awards presentation I've ever attended. For anything. Worth the trip to Toronto alone. Never mind the awesomeness that is TCAF. Also, Marc Bell is a juror, which means that for a few hours, in one city, all is right with the world.
If I dropped out of publishing and moved into, um, I dunno, anything else, the first thing I would do is buy this Justin Green drawing for sale via one of the causes of my current poverty. Reminder: Justin Green has a motherfucking blog. Now featured are three of his New Yorker comic strips. Green (can you tell I think he's one of the greatest living cartoonists in the world? I do.) also has this new site, which appears to be serializing fresh work, and an older site recently updated with an appreciation of the late comedian Chris Farley. If Justin Green is an avid Tommy Boy fan, then, well, I would put him at the #1 slot. "Dapper Dan's Movie Madness" alert: Chris Farley always makes me remember that David Spade used to not be annoying. He's pretty irritating now, but you gotta hand it to him for still having a career after all these years.
In new TCJ content today, we have a double dose of Joe McCulloch—not just the latest installment of his "Week in Comics" column, but also a lengthy review of cult legend Alejandro Jodorowsky's latest (if not necessarily greatest) addition to the Incal universe: Weapons of the Metabaron.
Jeet Heer has been spending time trawling through our archives over the past week, and reports back: "The early issues are a bit dry and ad-heavy but there are some gems in their like Carter Scholz's essay on Harlan Ellison, which is simply the best criticism of Ellison I've ever seen, admiring but not blind to HE's faults." Remember, unless you're a subscriber, access to the archives won't last forever.
New (to me) academic comics site The Comics Grid continues to publish worthwhilecontent you wouldn't find elsewhere online.
A spy sends word (and evidence) of an unexpected comics-related media appearance.
Congratulations to Amy Lockhart for meeting her Kickstarter goal, and thanks to all of you who contributed. This means more Dizzler for the rest of us.
David Collier's Chimo (and a related exhibit) is discussed in the McGill Daily. (Thanks again, Jeet!)
For those who take it personally when they hear people make fun of movies like The Dark Knight: Lance Mannion admits that he knows nothing of current comic books, but explains why he's somewhat leery about them, particularly in relation to his kids. Interesting in a reading-the-tea-leaves of public sentiment way, but unlikely (and not really designed to) change minds.
This is everywhere, but well worth your time: Seth dissects a segment of Ben Katchor's Cardboard Valise (and reviews the whole thing).
Finally, in non-comics news, Richard Harland Smith provides a guided tour through some of the best-known work of virtuoso movie poster artist Frank McCarthy.
Chris Mautner brings our attention to the end DC's Plastic Man archives, and asks a damn good question: When will we see more Cole reprints? DC and Mavel's treatment of their respective legacies seems to be a topic of much discuss these days. Sometimes it appears better, as with July's Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol. 1 from DC, and sometimes worse, as with this announcement. I really wish they, like Disney, would hand over certain properties to smaller publishers who are focused on publishing the history in a considered fashion. I know it'll never happen, but a guy can dream of a "Mort Meskin's Vigilante" book, can't he?
Speaking of things not-well reprinted: Here's some John Severin work in the EC style for Atlas.
I am an unabashed fan of Dungeon Quest, so this interview at (conflict alert!) Flog, was a pleasure.
John Hilgart concludes a month's worth of Jack Kirby posts at Four Color Process with a short essay.
And on this very site:
Do not miss Jeet Heer's debut of his column Comics Chronicles. And also, everyone should really be reading Jeet's introductions to the one trillion reprint books he writes for. Most recently, his Buz Sawyer intro explored the business behind Roy Crane's 1940s decisions. His quality actually manages to outstrip his quantity. It's scary. Put this man in a glass box for observation!
You missed him, didn't you? Admit it. So did we. He's back. Frank Santoro's Riff Raff began yesterday with a deep look at paper sizes, including demos from the man himself. Actually, put Frank in a glass box next to Jeet's for further observation. They can communicate with each other via 1930s Captain Easy Sunday pages.
Finally, Naomi Fry takes a look at the latest volume of Peanuts. May I be so bold as to recommend Naomi's September 2010 essay on Brett Easton Ellis over at N+1? It's a knockout.
Black Cat Mystery #45 "Colorama" preliminary by Warren Kremer, 1953.
Herewith my attempt at something Tim tells me is called "link-blogging". Look for a lot more of this in the future. Don't all cheer at once.
My Wally Wood obsession knows no bounds. I might also note that the Wood catalog published in Spain really is worth the money.
Zom, of The Mindless Ones, who have been kind enough to lend us Amy Poodle, takes a look at The Killing Joke, with typically thought-provoking results.
Allan Holtz brings us Old Boy Binks, a deeply obscure 1915-16 strip by the great Ed Wheelan, whose strip Minute Movies is a favorite of mine for its intense compression and flippant drawing. In his 1940s less-than-salad days Wheelan also drew for comic books, and must've wondered how the hell he got there, amidst all those amateurs.
This link is old for the internet, but I only just saw it: Gill Fox cover roughs and color guides over at Comic Book Attic. Fox, along with Harvey's Warren Kremer, was a great golden age workhorse, who could produce a package from the inside out. His production is, in some ways, as impressive as his artwork. Also, this is more evidence of what we might call the "Heritage Effect", because the auction house continues to uncover deeply obscure items -- things otherwise left in filing cabinets and certainly not available to gaze at in deep digital detail -- everything from Kremer cover roughs to Dave Berg unpublished comic strips. I don't think it's rewriting history, but in providing a somewhat random resource of unseen ephemera, it's deepening it significantly. I have to say I sometimes forget it's an auction house in the business of selling art, not necessarily archiving it. Oh, and fun fact: Gill Fox drew the classic pizza box art of the 1970s and '80s.
R.C. Harvey's monthly column, Hare Tonic, make its debut with a profile of Dick Locher, whose final Dick Tracy will appear on Sunday. I'm fond of Harv's take on newspaper strip cartoonists -- he gets at the day-in, day-out grind of it, and in this piece manages some great Chester Gould anecdotes, to boot. Vanessa Davis' final diary entry. Thank you Vanessa: You have set the standard by which all cartoonists must now procrastinate productively. And finally, Matt Seneca reviews City Hunter by C.F. Two in one week from the Seneca. We hope he never grows old and tired like the rest of us.
And this weekend: Watch out for Frank Santoro's TCJ debut!