Ear to the Street

Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch kicks of 2016 as anyone should: With comics!

The Guardian has a good new summation of the way in which Charlie Hebdo has been misrepresented.

Here’s an overview of Tunisian comics. 

Via Robert Boyd, here’s an excellent and early article on comics as a medium from the great literary critic Leslie Fielder.

Jonathan Chandler on Inkstuds.

Art in America’s new issue is comics-themed, with a piece by our own Ryan Holmberg and, I gotta say, having read it in draft form, the best formal analysis, in terms of contemporary and modern art, of Jack Kirby I’ve ever read, by the great Alexi Worth. In fact I’d say it’s the first serious analysis of Kirby-the-artist that I’ve read. No surprise that strong writing on Kirby would come from outside of comics. I could say more, but in 2016 I’m trying to figure out (well, Tim and I both) the balance between just ignoring things rather than commenting and burning bridges (people are awfully sensitive) and just saying whatever is on my mind. Still can’t decide which way to go.


Golden Years

Welcome to 2016 at Before we get to all-new comics news all the time, we’ve got a few pieces lined up on the year past. Today, columnist Paul Tumey offers his personal favorites from 2015.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The cartoonist and columnist Julia Gfrörer has had her account on Twitter (@thorazos) suspended, for extremely dubious and infuriating reasons. Meghan Turbitt posted a brief IM conversation including Julia’s explanation. If you want to help, contact Twitter support and ask that her account be reinstated.

The Library of Congress has named Gene Luen Yang as the new national ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

This literary ambassador program was created in 2008 “to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to literacy, education and the betterment of the lives of young people,” according to its organizing bodies. With that in mind, Yang tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “One of the things I’m supposed to do as ambassador is promote great books, and because I’m from the world of graphic novels … I have to give them a little bit of an extra push.”

—Reviews & Commentary. At Comics Alliance, Jennifer de Guzman writes about harassment issues in comics.

Harassment and assault have long been a specter in the comics industry. Reports of groping, inappropriate emails, aggressive drunks, sexual propositions, unsolicited pornographic text messages, meetings held in strip clubs, and abuses by management are shared by word of mouth or in private forums and groups. Sometimes dependent on hearsay and short on specifics, anecdotal warnings are still very much necessary to help newcomers and veterans alike navigate an industry in which personal and professional lines often blur, and networking often takes place in hotel bars at the end of convention days.

Occasional TCJ contributor Brian Nicholson writes about his favorite comics of the year. Sarah Horrocks, who wrote for us last year (and I hope we can convince to do so again) posted her list of favorite comics too.

The Comics Studies Society has published its first newsletter.

Shawn Starr reviews comics by Maggie Umber, Aidan Koch, and Lala Albert.

For The Guardian, Noah Berlatsky writes about the recent controversy over Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s revival of Wonder Woman, defending the bondage scenes in it as faithful to the original comics created by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter.

Wonder Woman was Marston’s vision of a perfect love leader. Her magic lasso – originally a lasso of command, not of truth – was, in his own words, “a symbol of female charm, allure, oomph attraction” and of the power that “every woman has …over people of both sexes.” In fact, the bondage games in Wonder Woman, a comic for children published in the 1940s, are in many ways more explicit, and more startling, than those in Morrison and Paquette’s 2016 reboot for grownups. In one sequence from the original comics, Wonder Woman’s Amazon sisters on Paradise Island engage in a game where some dress as deer, and the others pretend to hunt them, tie them up by their feet and then eat them. In another memorable bit, Wonder Woman is trapped in a gimp mask and breaks free while providing some historical info about bondage. “The French girls who wore this contraption must have had weak teeth,” she muses.

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Lee Marrs, one of the founding members of the Wimmen’s Comix collective.

When I was in college, Herblock [Herbert Lawrence Block] — who was the Washington Post cartoonist, a famous guy then — had already seen my work. I went to college at American University in Washington, DC. He had said to the editor of the school newspaper, have this guy see me when he graduates.

Having Lee as a first name became useful. [Laughs] So I went to see him, and he was very shocked that I was a girl. We had lunch and he looked over my stuff. He said, what you should do is go back to your hometown and get work on the paper and then do cartoons on the side until they see how good the cartoons are. That’s the way most people do it. I said, well, my hometown is Montgomery, Alabama. Herb was shocked and said, don’t go back to your hometown! [Laughs]

For HiLobrow, Adam McGovern interviews Michael Allred about his latest title, Art Ops, the meaning of fiction, and religious scripture.

Now, let’s jump ahead to the recent century and take a look at The Da Vinci Code. There are people who think that work of fiction is packed with well-researched fact. Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard wrote science-fiction. Fiction that created a recognized tax-exempt religion. Let’s go back just a couple centuries with The Book of Mormon? I love it! Inspired a great musical! If true, then a lost record of a thousand-year period between 600 BC and 400 AD revealed to the world proving that Christ came to the Americas as a resurrected being. If fiction, then some powerful storytelling there by a great artist. Some would say “con” artist.

I feel that anyone who doesn’t open their mind to the possibility that all scriptures of every faith are imperfect, if not outright fictional, are doing themselves a disservice. IF you take the leap of faith that something is true and worthy of your devotion, then it should also be able to take the “stress test.” If God exists and gave us brains to utilize intelligence then we absolutely should use that intelligence to its fullest and always question what is true, what is art, and can something true also be art? The [concept] of “what is art” is almost too broad to be defined.


2015 in Review

By Mike Reddy.

By Mike Reddy.

It’s that holiday season time, and so it’s our tradition to run down some the year in TCJ. Go in and enjoy some reading material. We’ll be back on January 4th, 2016.


Anne Ishii on the olds vs. the youngs.

Ken Parille on superheroes and solitude.

Ryan Holmberg on Sasaki Maki (twice) and Tezuka.

Paul Tumey on Clare Dwiggins and Basil Wolverton. 

Dan on ZAP.

R. Fiore on comics snobbery.

Craig Fischer on Hawkeye.

R.C. Harvey on Otto Soglow.


Jim Shaw on Comic-Con.

Kevin Huizenga on Autoptic.

Sara Lautman on the Queer Comics Conference.

John Kelly on alt-weekly comics.

Cynthia Rose on Belgian comics history.

Frank Santoro on the Lakes International Comics Festival and diving in dollar bins.


We’ve had some great interviews this year with the likes of Adrian Tomine, Kate Beaton, Sammy HarkhamJillian Tamaki, Jon Chandler, Yumi SakugawaDan Clowes, Jane MaiAnders Nilsen, Dash Shaw, Sophie Goldstein, and Bill Griffith.


Nicole Rudick on The Complete Zap Comix.

Paul Karasik on Harvey Kurtzman.

Leslie Stein on the film version of Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Sarah Horrocks on OMWOT.

Annie Mok on two by Michael DeForge.

Chris Mautner on Stroppy.

Eleanor Davis on Futchi Perf.

Monica Johnson on Honor Girl.

Matthias Wivel on the D&Q 25th anniversary tome and The Arab of the Future. 

Rob Clough on Bright-Eyed at Midnight.

Brian Nicholson on Blubber.

Naomi Fry on Melody.

Tim Hanley on Lois Lane: Fallout.

Rob Kirby on Shirtlifter #5.

Katie Skelly on Wendy.

Bob Levin on Fogel’s Underground Price Guide.


We had great cartoonist’s diaries this year, including Jeremy Sorese, Rina Ayuyang and Aron Nels Steinke. 


Sheigeru Mizuki

Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Irwin Hasen

Herb Trimpe

Leonard Starr

Dennis Eichhorn

Murphy Anderson

Michael Gross




Exciting and New

Today we break with tradition, as Joe McCulloch is moving house and cannot file his usual report. Good luck, Joe! Instead we bring you a special holiday feature by John Kelly: A look at Seattle alt-weekly The Rocket’s tradition of holiday covers, featuring everyone from Lynda Barry to Ed Roth to Milton Glaser.

In the spirit of the New Year, and in an effort to further explore some historical connections between comics and other forms of popular culture, today we will be focusing on some of the Christmas-time covers done by an extraordinary group of cartoonists and illustrators for Seattle’s The Rocket, a magazine that helped launch the the careers of many rock musicians, cartoonists and graphic designers.

The Rocket was an extremely influential music/art/political alternative monthly (later, bi-monthly) magazine/newspaper that happened to be located in Seattle during a key moment of that city’s comics, and pop culture generally, history.  The Rocket existed from 1979 to 2000, a period in which Seattle became the home of Fantagraphics, Peter Bagge moved to town and became editor of Robert Crumb’sWeirdo, and the whole “grunge music” thing happened.

“For a lot of people, the only place you could get any attention or any action or get published was in The Rocket,” said Art Chantry, whose latest book is Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.  “So it served a the hub of a wheel.  It was a very important magazine for a lot of things.  Sub Pop Records actually started as a column in The Rocket.  Bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden actually met each other through the classified ads in The Rocket.  It was that kind of a hub to what was happening there.  And of course, it pissed people off all the time so it’s been kind of erased from the history books.  But as a place for the illustrators and cartoonists, it was a place for people to start doing their work and developing their voice.  It was interesting and fun to work with a lot of these people and watch them develop very rapidly into what they became.”



The Panelological Pantheon has returned — a favorite old comics blog of mine, and should of yours, too!

I’m not sure why these photos of Buster Keaton and George McManus delight me so much, but they really do.

Raymond Briggs is a lovable curmudgeon.



Enough Hollering

Today, we have Rob Kirby’s last TCJ review of the year, a piece on Glenn Head’s graphic memoir Chicago:

Chicago is also an intricate, literary story, with a protagonist whose motivations are often opaque and with outcomes that are anything but expected.

As Phoebe Gloeckner points out in her eloquent introduction, the story begins and ends in a graveyard. The specter of death haunts the edges of this tale, unusual in a coming-of-age memoir. Throughout, Glenn Head’s protagonist “Glen” (one ‘n’ missing, likely allowing for some artistic license regarding “truth”), skirts the limits of mortality, stepping deliberately into dangerous situations for reasons that remain hazy, even to himself.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Paul Gravett interviews Miriam Katin.

I truly did not think about catharsis as I even hate the very word being waved around at the present time. But actually, before the book, if someone asked me how we survived, I would choke up and not be able to talk. I would make an excuse for some other time. After the book I noticed that I can deal with the subject. On the other hand I created Letting It Go with the enormous need to deal with my trauma of my son moving to Berlin. The process was very difficult but most helpful. I poured my anger and fears into the story.

Sean T. Collins talks to Heather Benjamin for Adult magazine.

Now I’m making less explicit, less fully pornographic work, because it’s not the dynamics of fucking that I’m grappling with on a daily basis. I’m less interested in how other people made me feel as a result of being involved with them——unlike in Sad Sex, when I was using text in some pieces, like “you make me feel special” or “I masturbate thinking about your boyfriend,” making really blatant statements about how relations between myself and various people affected my self-perception and my experience. I’m now more interested in my own singular experiences with, and within, myself, not those that are explicitly being generated by other people in the present. It’s more introspective and nostalgic, and less about depicting something generating panic and emotion in the moment. This obviously still has a lot to do with sexuality and physicality, but less to do with sexual acts, unless they’re being performed on oneself, or are being looked back on in reflection and anxiety.

—Reviews & Commentary. I don’t know why I link to things like this guide to “getting into highbrow comics” at The Guardian. Presumably everyone reading already knows most of this material… I suppose it’s a way to gauge how the larger world evaluates the form.

—Misc. Finally, if you’re a free-jazz musician, don’t expect R. Crumb to get it:

I finally gave a listen to those LPs and the CD you sent me, of your own saxophone playing and some Swedish modern jazz. I gotta tell you, on the cover of the CD of your sax playing, which is black and has no text on it, I wrote in large block letters, in silver ink, “Torturing The saxophone—Mats Gustafsson.” I just totally fail to find anything enjoyable about this, or to see what this has to do with music as I understand it, or what in God´s name is going on in your head that you want to make such noises on a musical instrument. Quite frankly, I was kind of shocked at what a negative, unpleasant experience it was, listening to it.


Gamble the Gobble

Today on the site:

Alex Dueben speaks to the artists behind the Lebanese anthology Samandal, a project for which they were punished by their government.

I’m sure some readers know of Samandal, but I wondered if you could say a little about how it began and what you were trying to create?

Omar Khouri: When I first came up with the idea for Samandal in 2006, the political climate of Lebanon was extremely polarized. I felt that each publishing house that I might work with would pigeon-hole me into the political allegiance of that publisher. I had a comic book I wanted to serialize called Salon Tareq el Khurafi, which was quite political in nature, but dealt with more general themes than the local discourse was willing to accept at the moment. I was also craving a regular, periodic local comics production, and couldn’t believe that it didn’t exist here. I figured the best course would be self-publishing, but always preferred the Japanese manga magazine format to the single-issue Western one. I also wanted to include work from all over the world because I felt that being able to interact with international artist from countries that have stronger comics traditions would be beneficial to the development of the local comics scene. I was sure that there were other hidden writers and artists out there that felt the same frustrations I did, so I reached out to some friends (Tarek Nabaa, Hatem, Lena and Fdz) and they were very excited, so we went for it. Though Samandal has evolved so much in the past 9 years, and our team has grown, it still retains the spirit of everything we wanted to do at the start.

fdz: Samandal grew out of a the desire of a bunch of people (Omar, Lena, Hatem & Fadi) who were raised on comics and wanted to publish their own spin on the medium. We didn’t really think it was something that would catch on because we didn’t really think there many people out there like us. The smartest thing we did was open up the publication to submissions from other contributors because pretty soon we discovered that everyone wanted to take Samandal out for a spin.

Could explain exactly what you were convicted of?

fdz: a) Inciting sectarian strife b) denigrating religion c) publishing false news and d) defamation and slander.

Defamation and slander have become the standard accusation with the recent rise of legislation in Lebanon, where the accusing party enjoys some kind of political power and uses the legal system to exercise it. In the recent protests of the summer in Lebanon, the country saw a surge in various slander and libel cases issued by political personalities and parties against individuals.


The aforementioned Alex Dueben also has an interview up with Riad Sattouf.

Hyperallergic on Archie Rand’s picture story of the 613 Jewish commandments.

Steve Heller has a well-timed look at Arthur Szyk.




Manifestations of Destiny

Today, Kristy Valenti is here with a look at Will Eisner’s forgotten (until now) 1978 humor misfire, Star Jaws:

1978 was a big year for Will Eisner. He invented… that thing where you take a massive pop culture hit, and lazily sort of mash it up with another massive pop culture hit. (He didn’t really invent that. Or the graphic novel.)

sharkStar Jaws is a bunch of black-and-white, one-page “gags” about space and giant fish, squarely aimed at kids-those-days (looks like Scholastic distributed it, or helped), packaged in a mass market paperback. It was created during Eisner’s American Visuals Corporation period, when he was contracted to do PS Magazine and other commercial art projects. Keith Diaczun and Barry Caldwell assisted.

The “jokes” are often-incoherent placeholders for “cop writing a ticket” or “the teen wrecked the car” one-liners. The drawings themselves aren’t funny either; gag cartooning is not in Eisner’s range. What Eisner does manage to catch is a bit of the texture of 1975’s gritty, water-dappled Jaws, the “dirty spaceship” look of 1977’s Star Wars (which was partially inspired by Eisner’s junior, Wallace Wood).

We also have a new episode of Mike Dawson’s TCJ Talkies. This time, he talks to Sam Alden and Sophia Foster-Dimino about two comics by the mysterious cartoonist known only as GG.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben interviews Arab of the Future creator Riad Sattouf.

Inkstuds talks to Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T.‘s Ben Marra.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the L.A. Times, Caroline A. Miranda spotlights five “comics artists to watch” found in the most recent volume of Best American Comics: Matthew Thurber, Henriette Valium, Gina Wynbrandt, David Sandlin, and Andy Burkholder.

TCJ’s own Rob Kirby presents his picks for the thirty best comics (and comics-adjacent things) of 2015.

For Vulture, Abraham Riesman chooses his ten best graphic novels of 2015.

Michael Cavna previews the forthcoming “posthumous manifesto” written by murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Charb.

Jon Vinson looks back at Josh Simmons’ notorious Batman minicomic.

Ta-Nehisi Coates continues to write about his experience on Black Panther:

The black diaspora is terra incognita for much of the world. […] I would not have always considered this an advantage. When I first started writing, I was anxious that I would be pigeon-holed into the “race-beat.” Eventually I realized that the “race beat” was actually the “humanity beat,” and that questions about “racism” are really questions about the exercise of power. Perhaps more importantly I realized that “race” was an essential thread of American society, and questions about race were questions about the very nature of the Western world. I wasn’t pigeon-holed, I’d fallen into a gold-mine. America is the most powerful country in the world. You simply can’t understand how it got that way without understanding “race.”



Today on the site Ryan Holmberg looks at Sasaki Maki and Hayashi Seiichi’s relationship in comics.

As copies of Sasaki Maki’s Ding Dong Circus and Other Stories, 1967-1973 trickle out into the world, Breakdown Press and I are finishing the next volume in the series, Hayashi Seiichi’s Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970.

Like the Matsumoto Masahiko and Sasaki Maki books, Red Red Rock is kindly sponsored by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, England. Over 200 pages, it collects most of the rest of Hayashi’s work from the late 60s (thirteen works, all but two from Garo), from his earliest Pop-influenced allegories about postwar Japanese identity in light of the Vietnam War to the experimental homages he made to the Nikkatsu universe just prior to commencing Red Colored Elegy (1970). It also includes a lengthy essay by me (written while on a Hakuho Foundation Japanese Research Fellowship) trying to make sense and order out of an eclectic and deeply culturally embedded body of work, placing Hayashi’s experiments in relationship to the contemporary avant-garde art scene in Tokyo.

It’s obviously appropriate that Sasaki and Hayashi books should follow one upon the other, since the two artists were the original representatives of Garo as house of avant-manga. Their work provided the magazine an incredible balance. Shirato Sanpei’s old school leftwing epic of peasant resistance, The Legend of Kamuy, held down the first 40-100 pages of most issues. Filling out the middle was a neo-kashihon gekiga tribe of idiosyncratic talents, including Mizuki Shigeru’s yokai parables and further adventures of Kitaro, Tsuge Yoshiharu’s mystery-cum-travel tales, Tsurita Kuniko’s off-kilter stories about youth and counterculture, and Tsuge Tadao’s anti-cathartic portraits of urban working life. When it came to Sasaki and Hayashi, some people weren’t sure whether their work should be called manga. Their work introduced cutting-edge Pop and avant-garde sensibilities into the comics medium, and created bridges between manga and the wider artistic counterculture of late 60s Japan.


The best part of the consumer holidays is Leif Goldberg’s annual silkscreen calendar! Get yours now. 

My ongoing obsession with Alex Raymond is kicking into high gear, folks! Watch for some really weird musings in the future. For now, kick back and read this old article.