Today at The Journal, we've got your very own Joe McCulloch, here with a review of the first volume of Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction, the newest Viz release by Inio Asano. We'll have an excerpt from the title later this week!
The premise of the series is this. Not long ago, an enormous alien spacecraft appeared above Japan, causing some amount of property damage and loss of life as it maneuvered itself into a low hover. A perhaps more serious incident subsequently occurred when United States military aid resulted in the irradiation of Tokyo via an advanced weapon, but people don't talk about that so much because the effects of A-rays aren't scientifically proven, and anyway the presence of aliens has supplied a new excuse for profitable militarization in Japan, to say nothing of the political benefits of patriotism. On the day of the invasion -- which, doing the math from this series' 2014 serial debut in Japan, places it in 2011, conspicuously the same year as the Tōhoku earthquake and the resultant Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster -- young Kadode Koyama's father was either killed or took the opportunity to abandon his family. Three years later, Kadode's mom, a political radical, is a hypochondriac mess of anxiety who wants the nearly-graduated teen Kadode to join her and her boyfriend off the grid in a clean-living commune. Kadode doesn't want to go; she mostly just wants to hang out with her pal Oran, a manic girl with massive twintails who's deeply invested in online first-person shooter video games, but not because she loves warfare. In fact, Oran is disgusted by the hypocrisy and superficiality of society, so she trains herself for domination in a coming world where humankind is rightly brought low: standing tall at the bottom of the drain.
Meanwhile, over at The Beat, James Romberger got his signals crossed and sent a story about Ramona Fradon to somebody besides me, a guy who has spent more time tracking down old Metamorpho comics than is socially acceptable. To add insult to an already unforgivable injury, The Romberger Report also delivers the official final word on which artist was responsible for that classic civil rights comic, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story: Sy Barry. It's a great piece of detective work by James, and he should be applauded for his work.
And then there's Alenka Figa at Women Write About Comics with the first loud proclamation of "this one, y'all" around Michael Deforge's Leaving Richard's Valley, which reached conclusion yesterday.
But that's not the only comic you can read on the web, thanks to Kevin Huizenga, who has his 2010 Marvel Strange Tales contribution up at his blog. It features Wolverine fighting the Silver Surfer.
I remember the manic hype around Homestuck during its original run online (between 2009 and 2016), which easily consumed the attention on anyone within five or six degrees of it. The oversaturated presence of the webcomic and its rabid fans exhausted me before I even had a chance to want to read it on my own terms. On top of that, it was overwhelming to even think of diving into if you weren't already on the wagon during the first year, and I had missed that cut-off point. The jagged pixel artwork, the torrential updates, and the copious walls of colorful chat conversations were turn-offs for me, and the buzz about it was deafening. The webcomic became a magnetic field that you were either completely absorbed by or fully repelled by. No in-betweens, no casual readers. This sort of fandom environment was the quintessence of the decade. The early 2000s felt to me like everyone was completely in thrall to their particular media fandom (RIP SuperWhoLock) and then something happened in the early 2010s and the open manic enthusiasm started to fade out. Avid fandoms are still around of course, but I think the proliferation of social justice discourse began heavily permeating online social media at this point and readers became more careful as to what and, more importantly, who they wanted to stan for publicly. This is all to say that the virtual participatory fan culture around Homestuck, its generation, and consistent fervent popularity has been my only point of engagement until now, an interesting but distant vantage point.
Now to the brick of a book at hand. Homestuck, Book 1: Acts 1 & 2 is an interesting but overall redundant artifact. Homestuck follows a small group of tweens as they chat online, avoid their guardians, and watch their homes get destroyed by meteors before getting sucked into a video game. In his preface, Hussie is quick to point out that most of the first three acts were influenced by reader submissions and that the virtual locus of Homestuck is crucial; seeing it in static book form means readers miss out on the dynamism its digital nature provides. These books are meant to be supplementary at best. As someone reading it for the first time in book form, this made me less than excited to read further.
The common defense of Apu is that The Simpsons has many stereotypes (the Italian Fat Tony, the sometimes-Jewish Krusty the Clown, the Scottish Groundskeeper Willy). But none of these characters exist in a cultural reality where they are the only representative of their ethnicity: there are myriad Italian-American and Jewish characters on TV, but for many years, Apu stood as a singular representative of desi culture. That’s slowly starting to change with shows like Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, but these programs haven’t yet had the cultural impact of The Simpsons.
There’s a big difference between the self-deprecating ethnic comedy of Kondabolu and Kaling, which belongs to a tradition of Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld, and having a white man do an Indian accent (as Hank Azaria does for Apu). As Kondabolu argues in a conversation with Whoopi Goldberg, there’s an undeniable element of minstrelsy in Apu.
As the spouse of one of my closest friends, Chip Kidd, I got to know Sandy McClatchy as one might know, well, a friend’s spouse. Chip and Sandy met in the early nineties, Chip and I having been friends for a few years before and I first learning of Chip’s infatuation when he mailed me a color-xeroxed eight-by-ten-inch publicity photo of Sandy with the words PROPERTY OF C.K. written diagonally in red across its lower quadrant like bubble letters on a school spiral notebook. Though I felt like I’d been passed a secret note in math class, I offered up my heartiest of congratulations because Chip had been single for a while. Privately, however, I was worried: Chip and I really only talked about comics and dumb stuff; this guy was a poet and opera librettist. What do poets and opera librettists talk about? What was I going to talk about if I ever met him? ...
—Interviews & Profiles. For the NYRB, Claudia Dreifus interviews Art Spiegelman.
I take it that you are no fan of Schindler’s List?
I think of it as the feel-good version of that S&M cult classic The Night Porter. There’s a scene in Schindler’s List in which the commandant played by Ralph Fiennes is in bed with a woman, and he takes his handgun and shoots some Jew he sees out the window. The message there, inextricably linked, is that all sex leads to holocausts. They are somehow joined at the hip: the two concepts.
As troubling was the Best Foreign Film in 1999, Life Is Beautiful. It said, ultimately, that if only the victims could just have taken it all with a song in their hearts and tap-danced their way, Chaplin-like, through the barbed wire, then “life” would be “beautiful.” I read somewhere that the director said he’d been inspired by Maus. If that’s true, I would have liked to go back in time and yank the book out of his hands!
I feel like some people are marathon runners, some are sprinters, and some are in between. As a cartoonist, I’m a marathonist. My normal format when I’m working on books, left to my own devices, is making longform works. When I’m asked to do shorter form work, for me the idea of putting a narrative on a single page is like, How would I even…? I love writing long dialogue. I’m kind of a maximalist, so the idea of trying to fit any kind of a narrative in that small of a space — I know it’s possible and there are people who do it beautifully — but how would I fit a story on a single page? It just seemed overwhelming. It made more sense to me to do… it’s obviously not a gag comic but it’s more of a… I don’t know!
Great Big Story has a short video interview with Daniel Clowes:
News. The New York Times has followed up on The Hollywood Reporter's recent story alleging that Stan Lee may be a victim of elder abuse.
For four decades, Mr. Lee has lived in a relatively modest two-story house in the middle of what has become some of Los Angeles’s most valuable real estate. Dr. Dre is a neighbor, and Leonardo DiCaprio lives down the block, on a street where houses can list for north of $30 million.
Inside the suburban-style home, a nurse and a maid bustled in the kitchen. Although Mr. Lee seemed at ease, the armed guard lent an air of surveillance that made it difficult to entirely relax.
The house is a time capsule of late 1970s Hollywood. Decorated by his late wife, it is dotted with ceramic animals, carved figures in African and Asian styles, and large gilt-framed mirrors hung on mirrored walls. Empty hooks surrounded by dusty outlines sit amid prints and original works by noted artists — Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí and Roy Lichtenstein — suggesting a home being slowly eroded.
“My wife, she’s the only person in the world that I would know of who would put a big mirror on top of a big mirror,” Mr. Lee said. “And when she was here, she had so many paintings, all over. Most of them have left now. My daughter took a lot of them, and a lot of them have gone elsewhere.”
On Friday, Lee filed suit against his former business manager, Jerardo Olivarez.
Following The Hollywood Reporter’s investigative piece on Lee being a potential victim of elder abuse by his inner circle, the comic book icon filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Jerardo Olivarez is only one of the “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists who saw a chance to take advantage of Lee’s despondent state of mind, kind heart and devotion to his craft” after the death of his wife in 2017. Lee, whose time working at Marvel in the 1960s led to the creation of characters such as Spider-Man and Iron Man, alleges that by managing his affairs, Olivarez caused him to lose “a tremendous among of money as money and assets were being transferred to Olivarez by Lee without Lee being aware these actions were being taken.” The amount of money the suit claims was transferred from Lee’s Merrill Lynch Account without permission was approximately $4.6 million. The suit even claims that Olivarez orchestrated a scheme to sell Lee’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas without his permission.
Today at the Journal we've got the conclusion of Alejandra Gutiérrez' Cartoonist Diary. Someone--I wish I could give them credit, but I don't know who it was--liked a Twitter post that featured a brief diary comic by Alejandra online, and I emailed her immediately to ask her to do one of these weekly stints based off that one image. She offered to cover the week she would be attending a porn shoot, and the result has been something even better than I had anticipated. She's an extremely talented cartoonist, and I hope you've enjoyed her work this week as much as I have.
And that's not all, of course. Today we've also got that hot review action for you that I know you crave. Today's is on Bodie Troll, by Jay Fosgitt. Irene Velentzas has the verdict...and the verdict is that it's good.
Fosgitt’s character, Bodie, is reminiscent of a six-year-old hyperactive kid brother who straddles the line between grossing you out and warming your heart with his naïve innocence. Bounding out of his dark hole under the bridge in the opening pages, a fearsome, towering, troll overturns the idyllic pastoral landscape of Hagadorn, vaulting and roaring at any passersby who dare set hoof on his bridge. The page layout itself becomes off-kilter, frantically trying to accommodate a monster that is ultimately no larger or less adorable than a baby goat.
And elsewhere? Well, if you're still hungry, Jessa Crispin has a piece up at In These Times on John Porcellino's most recent book with Drawn & Quarterly that I thought was pretty interesting. The Comics MNT team has been posting some useful and intelligent pieces on their recently inaugurated site, this Ariell Johnson interview is a great example. In press release news, Jason from Floating World didn't just provide a great interview on Wednesday to this very website, he also announced that he would be publishing Zack Soto's Secret Voice sometime next year. Why didn't Jason mention that? Is he just that humble? Maybe he's embarrassed? No, it's gotta be humility! Well, as a friend of Zack's, I couldn't be happier for him. I know, I know, Secret Voice has been published 7 different times by 13 different publishers over the last twenty years, but something tells me that this partnership is the one that will finally convince Zack to do something else with his time.
You can also go and google about all the various job changes that have occurred at various comics publishers, and then speculate as to why those changes were made, and how that will impact the publishing of the comics those publishers make. Some of those websites will have some good gossip to go on, others will be written by people who are better at guessing than others, and some will just be bitter, weird sniping from people who don't understand why they haven't been asked to go work at those places, despite how good they are at imagining ways to fix the Transformers or "the direct market" or whatever. As an alternative to doing that, you could watch a video of the guy who owns Diamond tell all the comics retailers nervous about Marvel tanking their business to have a positive attitude and read The Secret (yeah).
Or you could bounce all this shit and read a comic. I'd recommend it be a 1980's comic by Keith Giffen.
Roman Muradov's comics are often viewed as being cryptic, but they appear much less complicated if you take a closer look at what the artist is driven by: topics mainly revolving around duality, depicted in a style which simultaneously assembles and disassembles spaces.
If you're openly emphasizing your disregard of conventional narratives – or any narrative at all – by provocatively toying with your tinder status between you, a.k.a. the author, and the reader, then you might either be concealing the fact you are unable to come up with something being worth telling, or you're Roman Muradov, who did exactly this when estimating the comparability between his work and its readers at 0.12% on the final page of The End of a Fence, his 2015 debut within the Latvian kuš!-mono series.
But as much as this kind of understatement is an aspect of the persona Muradov has cultivated, it was also an indispensable component of the story Muradov is telling in that book: An extrapolation of human relationships in the wake of dating simulations (like the aforementioned tinder app) situated under the influence of extremely contrarian scenarios like The Atrocity Exhibition and Vermilion Sands, both of which are written by British science-fiction author James Graham Ballard. While borrowing its frayed-out structures from the first collection of short stories and adding the elegiac decadence from the latter, both find their match in sentences collapsing after an erratic downhill race into all-devouring sandy oceans of wordplay, visually manifesting as infernal landscapes painted in interwoven streaks of carmine red at The End of a Fence's final.
—The Hollywood Reporter has a lengthy, sad story about Stan Lee's recent life, and claims of elder abuse.
Back in early February, fighting what he later called "a little bout of pneumonia," 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.
The comic book legend — whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics beginning in New York in the early 1960s spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men and laid the foundation for superhero dominance in Hollywood that continues with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War — sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration.
The Feb. 13 document, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. "It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more," the document states. It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — "which is often" — she "typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate."
—Salon has published a short excerpt from Harvey Kurtzman biographer Bill Schelly's new memoir, Sense of Wonder.
There are ... ways in which the appeal of superheroes is different for a homosexual male than for a heterosexual male. My straight friends like comics featuring what collectors call “good girl art,” that is, comics that feature the female form prominently and use sexual titillation to at least partly generate sales.
For gay comics fans like myself, virtually all superhero comics feature “good guy art.” Obviously straight guys notice the prominence of the male physique in comics; they just don’t experience it as anything sexual. For gay comic book readers, superhero comics had always presented that extra frisson of the male body drawn as if covered but delineated in ways to reveal the hero’s every rippling muscle.
The Millions has an excerpt of its own, from Genevieve Hudson's new book on Alison Bechdel, A Little in Love with Everyone.
“Your father has had affairs with other men,” her mother tells Bechdel later on the phone. This is the first time Bechdel has heard anything about her father’s bisexuality. In this series of panels, Bechdel’s character is first shown sitting on the floor with the phone pressed to her ear. Her eyes are wide with shock. She moves into what looks like a fetal position. In the corner of one panel, Bechdel has drawn the book Sappho Was a Right-On Woman, filling in the small queer details that had begun to infuse her life. Her mother’s disclosure sheds some light on why it might have been difficult, perhaps even painful, for her to hear that her daughter was a lesbian. Her mother’s relationship with Bruce, the other queer person in her life, had been associated with secrets, lies, and even cruelty. It was not a good precedent for what a queer life could be. When Bechdel asks her mother why her father isn’t the one telling her this stunning information, her mother responds: “Your father tell the truth? Please!”
Today at the Journal, we've got the first installment in our newest column: Retail Therapy. Appearing biweekly, this column will spotlight the people and stores working in comics retail. There's a long history to the relationship between The Comic Journal and retail, and we're glad to be reopening a window to that part of the world at a time when things seem to be changing on a near-constant basis. This time around, the hot lights are focused on Jason Levian, whose Floating World Comics has become a formidable publisher--but the retail roots run deep.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the comics were better than the movies (or video games or whatever cartoon tie ins). The comics represented limitless imagination and freedom and innovation in storytelling. They delivered an addictive mind blowing experience.
Now it seems like the movies are the main attraction and the comics are… above average. I can actually read some of them cover to cover and share that opinion with you. They’re okay.
Someone is like “Oh I loved this Marvel Disney movie what should I read next?” And the answer is too often, well that was it. You saw the movie and that was the thing. Here are some comics where for $4 each you don’t really get much. The movie was actually the best version of this thing.
But that's not all--we've also got Today's TCJ Review, and it's all about The Pervert, from Michelle Perez, Remy Boydell and Image Comics. According to Carta Monir, this is one book you shouldn't pass up.
The Pervert, written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell, is that big, difficult, trans, queer-as-shit, pull-no-punches sad fucking comic that I’ve been waiting for. And now it’s here, out from Image, shipping now. You need to read it. Unless you’re a trans woman, in which case you might have already basically lived it.
Cathy, Cathy Guisewite’s eponymous chronicle of one woman’s struggles with the “four guilt groups: food, love, family, and work,” ends not with a bang, but a simper. She visits her mom, claiming to have news. Mom shores up the strip's feminist bonafides: “You’re an incredible woman from an incredible time for women! You have to know anything’s possible!” She is visibly anxious. She is preparing for the worst. But there is no need to worry: Cathy, hand on belly, is pregnant. The fetus emits a single, pink “Aack” from within the womb. At last, she has it all.
Despite this attempt to encompass both domestic bliss and feminist ambition, Cathy’s 2010 end seemed to please no one. In a piece for The New Yorker entitled “The Demise of Cathy,” Meredith Blake lamented that, like Family Circus, Cathy is “hopelessly out of fashion.” “Perhaps Cathy spoke to the women of the seventies and eighties,” she allowed, “but nowadays the strip feels, well, cartoonish. The facile jokes about feminine neuroses are the essence of everything that people have come to dislike about chick lit.” Over at The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman was markedly more positive, deeming the strip “groundbreaking” and remarkable for validating the lives of single women. But still, she protested: “I’m not saying the “Cathy” strip was particularly feminist, because it wasn’t: the character was obsessed with finding a husband and watching her weight.” It is “kinda outdated… and certainly it’s still stereotypical and annoying.” The Los Angeles Times criticized Cathy for “starting to feel a bit old,” and compared it unfavorably to Sex and the City, Melissa Banks’s The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. Feministing.com was more measured, recalling that “from what I heard, during her inception in the 1970s, she was actually a breath of fresh air.” But still, the boom was lowered: “I don’t know what happened. It seems that Cathy went from Everywoman to a giddy, whiny, chocolate-eating woman that seems to have no sense of self.” Even the Jezebel community mustered little fondness: The top comment beneath “Cathy’s Last Act Ack” excoriates Guisewite for undermining the strip’s message with a comfortably patriarchal ending.
Beneath this intellectual crust, however, lies the bubbling magma of Cathy-anger. The Observer chronicled the GoComics.com commenters who cheered the end of such a “neurotic wimp,” the Democratic Underground forum threads “for all those who hate the comic strip Cathy,” the blogs that replaced Cathy’s captions and word balloons with expletives and fat jokes. The roundup remarked, with a blinkered sort of innocence, “people really hate this comic!” Look up #WaysCathyShouldEnd on Twitter, and you’ll find a snapshot of 2010 vitriol: “Hoarding experts arrive too late to find Cathy flattened under a heap of diet aids, cats and dating books,” “In a fit of self-loathing, Cathy performs at-home liposuction with a carving knife and a dustbuster; dies of sepsis,” and, perhaps most emblematically of all, “just like Sylvia Plath did.”
—Profiles & Interviews. At Hazlitt, Matthew James-Wilson interviews Anna Haifisch.
I think when Drawn & Quarterly came to me I said, “That book is gone, but I have this other book. Do you want to have a look at this?” I just sent over a PDF of it with the English translation in the comments. Then after that they picked it up.
I didn’t expect this to be happening. I was just like, “Ah, let’s see what happens,” and when they came back and said, “We actually want to do it!” my heart just skipped a beat while I was in front of the computer. I just started gasping and I hit the desk really hard with my hand out of pure joy and almost broke my finger. It was on my left hand, which is my drawing hand, so I was like “Fuck!” But really, it’s a big thing for me since it’s a big publishing house. I’ve always admired Drawn & Quarterly. The German publishing house Reprodukt picks up so many titles from them, so they’re very present here. I grew up with them! I read Julie Doucet in my teenage days.
The Ace Rock’n’Roll Club, the series that caught Moore’s eye, were beautifully formed slices-of-life which introduced, as a part of the supporting cast, Alec McGarry. Alec was a cipher for Campbell, a fictional avatar through which Campbell could filter his own life, ranging from his punk years in Scotland to his sojourn on England’s south coast, to his first marriage and life in Australia. “His appreciation for the sensory phenomena of ordinary existence, as rich as Henry Miller’s, made his autobiographical narratives into instant classics, streets ahead of the largely self-absorbed comic-strip memoirs that were to follow,” says Moore.
Consider Warren Craghead, the TrumpTrump author, who draws in a style that’s vaguely reminiscent of the gonzo mode of Ralph Steadman (best known for his work with the journalist Hunter S. Thompson). Craghead, like many cartoonists, does use Trump’s tweets and speech as source material, but he could not possibly be mistaken for a collaborator. He turns Trump’s words against Trump’s person. For instance, in one of his drawings, Trump is shown as a sweaty, fat, hairy man with saggy breasts, and this image is humorously paired with one of Trump’s own insults: “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
Do you feel that there’s much different of a reception when you release something to a German market versus to an American one?
In Germany, I toured Von Spatz when that came out, and it caught some attention, that’s for sure, but Germany’s very conservative in the reception of comics, or like even visual work in general. It was only when The Artist went on Vice that, back home, people responded to it like, “Ah, okay, the North Americans obviously liked it so it must be good for some reason.” It’s a bit strange to feel that, I mean it doesn’t feel like a rejection or something, but I think without Vice, for example, The Artist or Von Spatz wouldn’t have been so interesting to anybody.
And that's not all! Starting today, The Journal is excited to release an all new Cartoonist Diary--this week, you'll be riding shotgun with Alejandra Guitérrez as she makes her way to a movie shoot. An adult movie shoot, that is. In today's installment, it's all about trip prep.
Elsewhere: I got an "elsewhere" for you. Go dip into this website for a while and get back to me. My current favorite part is the video, which I've embedded below, because it was in watching said video that I found out that one of the things that is now labeled "diverse" is when you make a superhero into a white guy with a beard and a stupid hat, but he still wears a super-hero costume?
In the first place I should probably say that when I was younger and getting sporadically published in The Journal during roughly the last quarter of its initial print incarnation – a healthy run by any stretch as a semi-regular contributor – I never imagined I would be published one day in those same pages (albeit virtual), singing the praises of Crisis on Infinite Earths! I thought for sure and for certain I’d spend the rest of my life publishing sober analyses of all the latest impenetrably minimalist monographs produced by extraordinarily talented but also minutely obsessive middle-aged craftsmen with the time, resources, and patience available to design a single book to within three tenths of a micron of its life. But alas.
Crisis on Infinite Earths is a book that many people have read, many more people have discussed, but apparently few people have ever actually enjoyed. I’ve seen younger fans approach the idea of reading Crisis for the first time as if it were some sort of chore or obligatory duty – yeah, yeah, if I like DC comics or want to understand Final Crisis or maybe just check another one off the proverbial “1001 Comics To Read Before You Die,” I have to at some point wade through this monster. And I have never understood that attitude, I find it completely alien. Incomprehensible!
This comic also does the always-irritating thing of having a character use "Google" as a verb in a fictional world where the Google-type service is later shown to be called something else arbitrarily; here, the search engine is called "Soosle." Why?
There's also a point where a character says "Time for some exposition" as the author's self-aware joke, that seems unaware of how much stuff has already felt plainly expository, when the reader has been waiting, endlessly, for something to instead be evocative or atmospheric or thrilling. The comic has no style, despite the fact that it clearly wants to be something where its style overcomes its lack of substance. It has polish, but anything it's been applied to it's eroded.
The first moment where the story does breathe, and you see what might be underneath the whole thing, is a fight scene. It's clearly indebted to Street Fighter, or the impossible physics of similar fighting games, and it was so dumb I had to put the book down. I hadn't realized I hated the book yet, because it hadn't slowed down enough for me to see what it was even trying to do. That was the point where I realized the book was mortifyingly shallow, and that the scene of the main character playing video games was meant for a reader to identify with it, so they would be into the fight scenes with a Street Fighter vibe.