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Modern Thinking

It’s been a good week for alumni of The Panelists; first, we posted Charles Hatfield’s very nice review of Battling Boy on Monday, and now Craig Fischer hits it out of the park with a piece you could call twenty-six short essays on Dave Berg. Dave Berg, of course, is the cartoonist behind Mad magazine’s time-defying “The Lighter Side of…” feature, and Fischer’s article examines him from multiple angles, in fact one angle each for every letter of the alphabet:

Happiness

The characters in a typical “Lighter Side” strip believe themselves to be normal and well-adjusted, with personalities and behaviors that remind me of Eric Wilson’s description of Americans in his book Against Happiness (2008): “They tilt their heads to the side, feign amusement, and nod knowingly. They clinch their eyes in looks of concern. They blink a lot, bewildered. They murmur truisms about overcoming adversity. They say that they love their parents and puppies and all babies. They devour bestsellers about the wisdom of children or coaches. They can be smarmy war-mongering conservatives or passive-aggressive peace-loving liberals. They can be Christians hiding their meanness or New Agers hungry for power. They adore the Lifetime channel. They are happy campers. They want God to bless the world. They want us to ask them about their children. They believe that a hug is an ideal gift; one size fits all. They think that kind words make good echoes. They join Book-of-the-Month clubs and identify with sympathetic characters. They sign their e-mails with chirpy icons. They swear by the power of prayer. They swear by the power of positive thinking. They dream of having Norman Vincent Peale as a dinner guest. They would eat Jell-O and Cool Whip. They would eat turkey too and make an endless Thanksgiving.”

And they are, of course, all hypocrites. “The Lighter Side” was a central reason why teenagers love MAD: teens realize that all adults are two-faced, and saw that fundamental truth in Berg’s cartoons.

Elsewhere:

—Talk. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Jim Woodring. Alex Deuben has an interesting report from a panel featuring Jules Feiffer and Darwyn Cooke at NYCC. Michelle Pauli interviews Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, the creative team behind the relaunched Asterix series. And talking to the New York Times about books, J.J. Abrams elaborates on his enthusiasm for Chris Ware (and Mo Willems).

—Criticism. Ware gets the academic treatment as Paul Williams at Comics Forum compares his work to literary modernism. Rob Clough briefly reviews three independent adventure comics.

—News. The CBLDF blog reports on a Kickstarter-funded anti-military comic book being refused by multiple UK printers. I missed this Jonathan Guyer piece on “blasphemous” cartoons in Egypt.

—Misc. J.J. Sedelmaier shares a huge gallery of Mad paperback images. Herb Trimpe on 9/11. And finally, I didn’t realize this Osamu Tezuka documentary was online. It’s well worth watching. (via)

 

Views

Today we re-present Gary Groth’s 1998 interview with Peter Bagge.

GROTH: Well, we don’t know for sure what the demographics of people reading alternative comics are. I mean, we’re guessing between 18 and 25 predominantly, but it’s hard to say with any certainty.

BAGGE: I would say with considerable certainty that our readership drops off fast once you get beyond age 25. But I have some ideas of how we could at least try to reach older readers. One idea is to format it like the [Fantagraphics Books] catalogue, and I wanted to do everything that we can to sell as many via mail order, and really play it up on the Net, which is something that we haven’t really tried yet. I’ve been intending for like a year to get a web site going, that’s where people do a lot of their “shopping and strolling” these days, on the Internet. The Journal and the Fantagraphics web sites haven’t been up that long, but it’s a pretty sizable number of people who have at least checked it out. So as long as it’s on there, there are people who would still be buying our comics, except for the fact that they’ve got families and careers. They can’t be bothered to go all the way down to the “hip” comic shop and pay for parking, or find a parking space, but if they see the stuff on the Net, or get it into their hands somehow, maybe even sending it out mail order. You know, like maybe putting out one, a test one, that is most like a catalogue. Or we could take one issue of the Fantagraphics catalogue and kind of introduce “Let’s Get It On!” within the pages of that, because the problem of why people buy comic books, and why they don’t is logistical. I think it’s a geographic problem, as well as a cultural one.

GROTH: Is it your opinion that people drop off from reading alternative comics at a certain age, that they just move into other things at a certain point of their lives —

BAGGE: Yeah, I think that what’s going on in their lives has a lot to do with it, then it just carries on physically and time-wise. Takes them away where they just can’t afford to invest the time and money —

GROTH: But they don’t stop watching movies, or stop watching TV —

BAGGE: No, that’s right, because you can do that without leaving your home.

And elsewhere, the world spins ’round:

Tom Spurgeon has commentary on the latest Kirby estate legal go around. And more commentary is at The Beat.

Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, excerpted on Flavorwire.

I missed this Brendan McCarthy interview last month. Here it is.

Robert Boyd writes about Zinefest Houston 2013.

Robert Stanley Martin has published the second part of his examination of his Jim Shooter: A Second Opinion.

Matt Madden spends a week in Helsinki.

Yet more of an interview with Alan Moore on Miracleman.

 

 

Hello, Dear

It’s an unplanned theme, but today appears to be all about political activism on TCJ.com. First, Ryan Holmberg has an interview with Vishwajyoti Ghosh, the cartoonist behind Delhi Calm, set during India’s “Emergency” of 1975 to 1977. Here’s an excerpt:

It seems like you have always been interested in political topics.

I just find myself drawn to them. I don’t claim that I have a particular interest in politics, but I find myself very drawn to discussing issues in a visual framework. I have never been a big fan of speculative fiction or science fiction. Most of my comics haven’t moved beyond the twenty meters of my own universe. I find that universe itself quite enough to deal with.

If that’s true, your personal universe includes more political and historical issues than most other cartoonists. One could say that a lot of people who draw graphic novels or manga-style comics are focused on their immediate universe, their everyday life, but devoid of politics and history.

Well, in my case, even when I do something not political it gets perceived as political. The moment I open my mouth, everyone thinks it’s political. But that might not necessarily be the case. I did a comic two years back for Time Out, a special issue on food. I did a piece about an Iraqi restaurant in Delhi, just a nice conversation piece with the Iraqi manager of the restaurant. The way the magazine put it out made it sound like it had less to do with food and more with politics.

Rob Kirby is also on the site today, with a review of John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell’s March.

Presenting the story in the form of a graphic novel makes it that much more accessible and immediate for the targeted YA audience; March is a showcase example of the power of the comics medium as an educational tool. As a teenager himself, Lewis drew great inspiration from a ten-cent comic book called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, published in 1956. He recently told an interviewer that this humble comic was “like a Bible” for him and his fellow activists back then, an indispensable tool for learning how to implement non-violent activism and protest techniques such as passive resistance and sit-ins. Though March deals with important, weighty themes, it never feels didactic, remaining immediate and engrossing throughout. Lewis and his co-writer, congressional staffer Andrew Aydin (who convinced Lewis to present his narrative in the comics format), keep the proceedings simple and linear.

Elsewhere:

—Criticism. Joe McCulloch and Janean Patience finally present the fourth and final part of their long, fascinating dialogue on Mills & O’Neill’s neglected Marshal Law. Tom Gill writes about a hard-to-find collection of newly translated Tatsumi stories.

—History & Background. Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean tell The Guardian how they made Sandman. A selection of New Yorker cartoonists reveal the autobiographical basis of some of their cartoons. MLive has a short profile of Randy Scott, the man who oversees the largest library comic-book collection in the world.

 

Accounts

It’s that time in the week when we break and say hello to Joe McCulloch.

Elsewhere:

Hey, Bob Fingerman is bringing back Minimum Wage through Image. Here’s an interview.

Johnny Ryan has Ten Rules for Drawing Comics he’d like to share with you.

Reprints of Miracleman are coming to Marvel, sans Alan Moore’s credit (at his request), so here’s Moore on his history with the character at The Beat.

And finally, Tom Spurgeon comments on his group-think list of under-appreciated 2013 releases.

 

Capitale

Today, Charles Hatfield tells readers about Paul Pope’s long-awaited Battling Boy:

I’ve always enjoyed Pope’s cartooning (his series THB was one of my happier comic shop discoveries of the nineties), but haven’t always been on the side of Pope the writer, who has sometimes succumbed to dithering or affectation. Reading Pope has been a matter of seesawing between grateful wonder and head-scratching befuddlement. I confess I’ve often thought that his writing couldn’t keep up with his drawing: his habit of lovely, obsessive, kinetic mark-making, all swoops, flecks and spatters, whirling, febrile, alive. Often I’ve enjoyed the voluptuous style, the grotty worlds and gorgeous characters, without liking the ways the stories turned, or sputtered, or collapsed. I’ve dug his wild flights without thinking he had a solid book-length story in him. Battling Boy promises to prove me wrong.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews. Xavier Guilbert at du9 talks to Jaime Hernandez. Michael Cavna talks briefly to Bill Watterson and Richard Thompson about their upcoming show. Steven Heller talks to Seymour Chwast. And Will Self (!) interviews David Shrigley:

At art school, the stuff I was excited about was by Duchamp, Warhol and many others, but it was ideas-based art, and that’s where you find my form of ideas-based art. When I left, I didn’t have a studio, and it was just a practical thing: I thought: “Maybe I should just focus on these drawings, because I actually like doing these a lot more than trying to make the difficult sculptures and doing the large-format photography that I’d made at college.” I felt I could say what I wanted to on a sheet of paper, sitting in my shared flat. And I thought: I’ll make a book, so I just made the book on a Xerox machine and gave it out at the pub, and that’s how it all started.


—Reviews & Criticism.
Rob Clough reviews groups of new minicomics here and here. Qiana Whitted has an interesting post and inspired an good comments discussion on race & cartooning at the Hooded Utilitarian.

—Miscellaneous. As many of you probably know, Marvel has finally decided to start re-releasing the Alan Moore-written Miracleman comics, and are honoring his apparent request to keep his name off the books. But a credit for “The Original Writer” isn’t all that’s strange about the reprints, and retailer Mike Sterling ponders other aspects here. Luke Pearson shares info & art from his participation in a Hari Kunzru-inspired group show at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Yesterday’s Papers has a nice selection of Frans Masereel. And finally, I know Dan already linked to this Jeet Heer profile on Friday, but he neglected to mention the writer’s wonderful headline calling him “the Derek ‘Jeet’er of comics”, and I think it is important that we recognize that happened and hold it close to our hearts.

 

The Light

Tucker Stone returns to our little web site today, and not a moment too soon. He’s retitled his column. Let it now be known as “The Corrections.”

Elsewhere online there’s all sorts of stuff percolating:

The big comics story of the day is a new interview with Bill Watterson, previewed over here.

The full programming slate for Comic Arts Brooklyn has been announced, and it’s a doozy.

TCJ-contributor Jeet Heer’s In Love With Art is profiled.

Chris Randle on Battling Boy.

Peter Bagge gets the local-paper treatment.

Comics Alternative looks at Comics and Narration by  Thierry Groensteen.

I always love a Dan Zettwoch process post.

And in business news, the publisher IDW is expanding into television and movies.

 

Mm

Frank Santoro’s on deck today, with another diary from the road of his Pompeii tour. This week, he visits the legendary Fantagraphics office in Seattle, and then heads up to Vancouver. Here’s a sample:

Then we drove up I-5, got off at exit 171, made a couple turns…and thar she blows! Ye olde warship known as the Fantagraphics office. There is an “art installation” next door – and I mean that respectfully (seriously). There is this awesome older woman who has decked out her house and yard in a way that makes it a very satisfying “art experience” (below):

DSCN1619

And then we have Rob Clough’s review of the anthology Black Eye 2:

Black Eye 2 is an almost painfully personal statement by its editor, Ryan Standfest, despite the fact that very few of the pieces present in the book are his. The first volume of this anthology was outstanding in a number of ways, but it also felt flabby and self-indulgent at times. In some ways, that first volume was Standfest’s personal manifesto regarding Black Humor and comics in general, and his desire to draw a line between EC horror comics, Black Humor, and today’s cartoonists saw him tenuously stretch those connections. The second volume feels tighter and sharper. There’s less of an editorial preoccupation on telling the reader what Black Humor is and more of an interest in actually showing them.


Elsewhere:

—Interviews. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Paul Pope on the occasion of his new Battling Boy. Bleeding Cool talks to Nobrow co-founder Alex Spiro after they opened up their New York office. Laura Hudson talks to Kate Beaton about her new fat pony project.

—News. PRI reports on Syrian cartoonist Akam Raslan, who was recently reported dead by other outlets. PRI says that his death is currently impossible to verify.

—Reviews & Comment. Probably the must-read for today is Charles Hatfield’s very disappointed take on the bad history in PBS’s Superheroes documentary. Mike Rhode also writes about the documentary, in three parts. Then, Rob Clough reviews Ulli Lust, Sean T. Collins reviews Cameron Hawkey’s Nux Yorica, and Neil Cohn reviews Hannah Miodrag’s Comics and Language.

—Finally.
A newish site called 10 Rules for Drawing Comics collects cartooning codes from cartoonists like Mike Allred and Lucy Knisley.

 

Touch the Sky

Today on the site: Part two of Paul Tumey’s epic exploration of the life and work of George Carlson.

George Carlson’s sensibility comes not from comic books, nor from newspaper comics – but instead from a rich mix of early 20th century commercial art, book/magazine illustration, game design, and advertising. Much of Carlson’s work is primarily concerned with appealing to and nurturing the minds of children with an emphasis on stimulating the imagination.

Generally, when we read golden age comic book stories, we have – I think – a predisposition toward a certain context that one could say mainly revolves around the myth of the hero’s journey, issues of morality and justice, and the shadow side of sexuality – a context that is very much alive and well in current American culture.

This 1917 war-time poster by George Carlson shows a mastery of early twentieth century graphic design styles

The “quirky” Carlson’s “genyoowine” sensibility emerges from a completely different context, one that is grounded both in early twentieth century graphic design and in classic children’s literature from Lewis Carroll to Edward Lear to Mark Twain (all of whom Carlson illustrated). What seems quirky in the world of comics is utterly mainstream in the larger world of classic children’s literature. It makes perfect sense, then, that Art Spiegelman said that Carlson’s work was one of the raisons d’etre for the creation of the TOON Treasury, a book that is intended to frame kid’s comics as part of the continuum of “classic” children’s literature.

The only other early comics work I know of that shares Carlson’s grounding in children’s classics is the late 1930’s comics published by David McKay, who published such literary giants as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and Beatrix Potter. Founded in 1882, David McKay’s Philadelphia-based publishing house was rooted in a different context than most comic book publishers based in New York.

Elsewhere:

Forbidden Planet reviews Love & Rockets: The Covers.

Gil Roth interviews Peter Bagge. Brian Heater interviews Kim Deitch.

A nice photoset from last weekend’s APE.

Two reports on NYCC. One from The Beat and one from Wired. And further reporting on harassment incidents at NYCC from The Beat and commentary from Tom Spurgeon.

Chris Mautner reviews three recent books.

And here’s a video of the Jeff Smith Q&A from this year’s SPX.