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Entomology

Joe McCulloch has the highlights from the Week in Comics for you today, attached to an essay on two comics he picked up in Brooklyn last weekend.

Elsewhere:


—Reviews & Criticism.
Martin Wisse looks at Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell’s Glory. Janean Patience continues his series on Matt Wagner’s Grendel. Richard Bruton on Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Bob Temuka looks at the new Sandman. Wait, what decade is this?! Pádraig Ó Méalóid plumps for Lance Parkin’s new biograpy of Alan Moore, Magic Words. Finally, Ng Suat Tong entertainingly comes out against plumping in all forms, making his customary move of preceding one of his own brief reviews with a lengthy list and condemnation of other critical takes on the same subject. This time, it’s Michael DeForge. He definitely has a valid point or two: I was just coincidentally thinking myself the other day that there had been much less in-depth criticism of DeForge than you’d expect, given his stature; and the tendency for reviewers of all kinds to use language reminiscent of publicity blurbs has been rightly lamented for a century. That said, it is amusing to note that once again, Suat is undisturbed by imagery that literally every other human commentator finds gross, and then blithely assumes that their disgust must be feigned. Different strokes indeed. Anyway, I always enjoy and learn from Suat in myth-puncturing mode, no matter how clinically, narrowly he practices his iconoclasm.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Matt Bors, the preeminent political cartoonist of his generation (and about whom I expect a consensus-skewering examination from Ng Suat Tong any day now, gets a short tribute at Time magazine. Joseph Glass talks to Paul Pope. The New Yorker blog talks to Gene Luen Yang. Tom Spurgeon talks to Gary Groth about the Fantagraphics Kickstarter.

—Unclassified. On her blog, Alison Bechdel responds to the recent stories about four Swedish movie theaters instituting an official version of the Bechdel test.
—Miscellaneous.

 

That’s It

Today on the site:

A 2006 interview with the late Joey Manley by Dirk Deppey.

DEPPEY: You started with Modern Tales and you’ve got a core of, I believe, four or five sites, depending on how you want to classify Webcomics Nation, but I’m not really sure how. Is it more of a portal, or is it a service to cartoonists?

MANLEY: Webcomics Nation represents me trying to get out of the middleman business and get into the service-bureau business, because it’s (A) more profitable, (B) less work and (C) more useful to more cartoonists. Modern Tales was constructed along traditional magazine-publishing lines where, you know, there’s an editor who selects content, pulls it together in a meaningful package and then charges customers to read it and takes the money that the customers pay and splits it among the creators. Now, that last part is a little untraditional because a traditional magazine just pays a flat rate for the use of something. But the Modern Tales model is a lot of work, a lot of accounting and managing and picking and poking, especially because the business grew much more quickly than I ever thought it would, and became a much more important part of everybody’s life who is involved with it than I ever expected. The day before we launched, I hoped that maybe we would have 150 subscribers in the first year. We had 700 subscribers at the end of the first week.

DEPPEY: Really?

MANLEY: Yeah. It’s not growing at anything like that pace anymore, for a lot of reasons having to do with the price of bandwidth dropping, and with the explosion of more comics. You know, when I launched Modern Tales, it was still possible to name all the creators who were doing high-quality, interesting work online within a 10-minute period. That’s no longer possible. There’s been this explosion. So the elitism of the Modern Tales brand isn’t really sustainable in the current environment, which is why we’re shaking things up again. The Webcomics Nation model works much better in the new environment — there doesn’t have to be this middleman in there touching everything all the time, cartoonists can just do their thing. Modern Tales couldn’t possibly grow as fast as webcomics is growing. Webcomics Nation can.

And Dominic Umile reviews The Fifth Beatle.

Brian Epstein glides about in artist Andrew C. Robinson’s era-appropriate composite of cinematic framing and psychedelic overtones, clad in conservative blue or brown pinstripe suits. Each panel’s impossible Valley of the Dolls-like gloss — occasionally dressed in an effect that reproduces a color camera filter — owes to Robinson’s paint-first, digital studio-second methodology. He sets Northern England in a striking rain-blanketed swirl of blues, mossy green, and unfriendly damp alleyways, and The Fifth Beatle’s first few pages unfurl near the River Mersey, where an early Beatles gig is cross-cut with a harrowing encounter along the Liverpool South Docks. Epstein approaches a young seaman under the misconception he’d been flirted with and is “beaten…badly,” as recounted in the novel. Robinson’s whirlwind of punches and sharp kicks comes to a head with Epstein limping away, bleeding all over a discarded issue of Mersey Beat.

Elsewhere:

Well, it was a busy CAB weekend and I’m exhausted. I had a good show. It was smooth and sales were solid. There are a couple of brief reports up here and here. And here’s Tom Spurgeon on the highlight of the weekend for me: Art Spiegelman’s retrospective exhibition.

Self-interest alert: Brian Nicholson on INFOMANIACS.

Philip Nel on the Fantagraphics Kickstarter campaign.

And here’s another worthy Kickstarter campaign: Mould Map 3.

 

 

 

Train I Ride

Joe McCulloch is back for another round this week, with a lengthy interview with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, the comics writer and co-founder of Métal Hurlant and Les Humanoïdes Associés. They discuss the gamut of his career. Here, Dionnet discusses the very early days of Métal Hurlant:

So suddenly, everybody in a new generation is connecting. I didn’t know that a new generation was waiting to do the next thing. They came from everywhere. As said the Nietzschean philosopher Bruce Willis, about his movie Die Hard, you only come at the right place, at the right moment, one time. An all-new generation, mostly in science fiction at the beginning, but after, some of them were singers, artists, whatever. Some came with dirty drawings, and I took them the same way I used some sex to sell; then we stopped showing sex, because we knew it was suddenly okay – we were kids. Some were waiting for the flying saucers to come to earth.

Me, I had no point of view. In my head, I was like Elric of [Michael] Moorcock, a servant of the chaos. Some were communists, but they were Stalinians. Some were near the right – I mean the extreme right, but not in what they brought me. It was funny. So my idea was that my taste was not important. What was important was that the stories were well done, that those people were convinced – I would publish them. The tone of the magazine would come from a mix of everything.

And here’s where he discusses how US editors adapted Métal Hurlant into Heavy Metal for the American market:

I made a big mistake, because I said I don’t want to colonize America, so let’s say that it would be good if you can put some American stuff in also, maybe 10 or 20 percent. What I didn’t know is that all the editors – Julie Simmons was the daughter of [National Lampoon co-publisher] Matty Simmons, and Ted White – were great with science fiction, but had very bad taste in art, like a lot of science fiction people. They began to have stories by people I don’t like. Aside from [Richard] Corben, who I published first. Aside from Kaluta. I was very naïve, I’d say maybe you could give stories to Spiegelman, to Crumb, to Moscoso. And they didn’t want to work with those people. Art was starting RAW at the time, and didn’t need to, but I think that most of them would have accepted to have, let’s say, a comics section in Metal at the time.

One fun thing to do with this interview is to count the number of actual questions Joe asks. This is great stuff.


Elsewhere:


—Interviews.
The San Francisco Gate talks to Joe Sacco about The Great War. Paul Gravett talks to Hong Kong alternative cartoonist Chihoi. Dan Wagstaff talks to Gene Luen Yung. Mike Lynch interviews Brian Moore. At CBR, Paul Pope talks Battling Boy. Ryan Cecil Smith stops by Inkstuds.


—Reviews.
Sarah Horrocks reviews Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’s Pretty Deadly. Tom Spurgeon reviews Hellen Jo in Frontier #2. Colin Smith lists 27 comics that fail the Bechdel test.

—News. Tom Spurgeon asks some questions regarding Fantagraphics’ first digital-only comics release, Richard Sala’s Violenzia. Middle East scholar Juan Cole ponders the possibilities of Marvel’s planned reboot of their Ms. Marvel character into a Muslim-American superhero.

[UPDATE: It is being reported that Joey Manley, the founder of Modern Tales, passed away last night. Many people are leaving tributes on his Facebook page. Shaenon Garrity wrote about her own experiences with Modern Tales on this site earlier this year.]

That’s it for today. Time for CAB.

 

Vacation?

Oh my goodness it’s a busy day here.

We have Frank Santoro with an abbreviated column. Then on to Shaenon Garrity with a full column of web comic capsule reviews, and then Dominic Umile with a review of Look Straight Ahead:

The Canadian comics writer and artist began putting rough concepts together for a webcomic before she was awarded one of the last self-publishing grants from the Xeric Foundation, which has since shifted from bestowing grants upon the comics community to a strict diet of charity donations. In her now-print story, Will follows seventeen year-old budding artist Jeremy Knowles through the halls of his high school, where he battles a swiftly deepening identity crisis, hallucinations, and the detrimental sense of ignorance of his mental illness that awaits him at every turn. Owing to the struggles that Will has experienced since she was a kid, the wealth of hurt in Look Straight Ahead gathers like a storm in the frames dominated by Knowles’s shouting, frustrated father and in his dealings with typical schoolyard bullies. “It’s bad enough that everyone I go to school with hates me and wants to kill me,” Jeremy explains when finally ushered to a medical facility. His serial defeats, under the great weight of a disorder, are palpable and heartbreaking while Will’s pens dazzle.

Phew. What else is out there?

The Fantagraphics Kickstarter as covered by The New York Times and some commentary on it from Tom Spurgeon.

Sean T. Collins on a page from a comic by Leah Wishnia.

A nice think piece on digital lending and Charles Burns.

Thoughts on Alan Moore from his biographer, Lance Parkin.

Here’s a good list for any purpose — this one for what to look for at the upcoming Short Run Festival in Seattle.

Incidents in the Night reviewed in The Washington Post.

Finally, a bit about The Brownies.

 

 

 

Show & Tell

Today, we have Bill Schelly’s obituary for Nick Cardy, the artist perhaps best known for his work on Aquaman and Bat Lash. Here’s a sample:

Probably Cardy’s most critically lauded work was for the Bat Lash series from DC, launched in Showcase #76 (August 1968) and Bat Lash #1 (November 1968). The unorthodox Western series was conceived by editorial director Carmine Infantino, editor Joe Orlando, former editor Sheldon Mayer, and cartoonist Sergio Aragonés. The protagonist of the tongue-in-cheek series was a self-professed pacifist, ladies’ man, and gambler, so Cardy adopted a looser visual style to better accommodate the pronounced humorous elements in the book. (Some have compared it to the James Garner episodes of the TV series Maverick.) The stories, dialogued after the first issue by Denny O’Neil, were engaging, and immeasurably enhanced by Cardy’s inventive story-telling techniques (experimenting with the way the pictures flowed from panel to panel) and expressive inking. Produced when Cardy was 48 years old, Bat Lash benefited by work by an artist with decades of experience, who was also able to bring a remarkably youthful spirit to the pages. It represented a creative peak, and cemented Cardy’s position as an important interpreter of the sequential art form.

We also have the most recent column from Rob Steibel (not long after the comments-thread war from his last column finally died). This time, he looks at documents uncovered by Sean Howe, the author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

Throughout the entire letter notice Lee emphasizes the fact that they are all under crushing deadline pressure. I think that’s true and I’m sure it was hard work, but I bet making comics sure beat working in a coal mine. Joe Sinnott was actually a real coal miner at one point in his life.


Elsewhere:

—Kickstarter & Criticsm. Probably the first thing worth noting today is the Kickstarter fund-raising event announced by Fantagraphics in order to support its 2014 spring season. As of this writing, the effort has reached nearly half of its $150,000 goal. Gary Groth explained the decision in more detail to Kiel Phegley at Comic Book Resources.

Since this site is published by Fantagraphics, I don’t know that any further comment is appropriate here (other than to say that some of those rewards are pretty amazing), but I have noticed a few commenters here and there online either amusedly or angrily referencing my co-editor Dan’s famous blog rant from a year or so back regarding the Retrofit Kickstarter for Secret Prison 7. (Phegley asks Groth about it, too.) I have two things to say about that: 1) It’s important to note that there’s nothing monolithic about The Comics Journal. Gary is fairly hands-off regarding the day-to-day operations of TCJ.com, and except when we ask for his opinion or advice (or on special occasions such as our tributes to Kim Thompson earlier this year), Gary is rarely directly involved with the articles and reviews we publish on the site. He undoubtedly disagrees with and/or rolls his eyes at multiple things we publish every month. For that matter, I do too. In my mind, TCJ is ideally a place where questions about comics as an art form and a business are debated, not answered definitively. The point is that readers shouldn’t assume that any particular point made on the site by one writer is something agreed to by other writers and editors here; it just as likely isn’t. 2) People forget that there were multiple angles to Dan’s anti-SP7 rant. Some of it was about using Kickstarter, but the more cogent part of his argument (as I wrote at the time) regarded their announcement’s slapdash appeal to poorly explained and misunderstood manga history. When the book finally came out, it was clear that Dan had hit the right nerve, because the editors made an obvious effort to strengthen the historical foundations of their argument, which in turn strengthened the book as a whole. The uproar from Dan’s post also seemed to lead directly to increased donations to Retrofit’s fundraiser. So in the end, the outcome of the exchange was elevated publicity and funding and a more solid final editorial product. Criticism should always be so productive.

This is one reason why I am not too dismayed by the multiple articles and flame wars appearing online this week attacking this site and its writers over Sean T. Collins and Frank Santoro’s discussion about comics criticism. (For those curious, two of the most noteworthy come from Ng Suat Tong here and Heidi MacDonald here.) It is important to recognize what we are doing wrong (and hear what readers perceive as us doing wrong) in order for us to improve, and to the extent that the critiques are legitimate they can only guide us in our our attempts to do so. (I do wish that more effort was taken by critics to accurately assign responsibility for arguments and decisions—just as Gary might not agree with any given argument made on TCJ.com, Dan and I have nothing to do with editing the print version of TCJ, and Frank and Sean have even less—but that’s a minor issue.)

—News. Diane Nelson takes to the Wall Street Journal to explain the reasoning behind DC’s move to California. Publishers Weekly profiles the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Bleeding Cool reports on a baffling Apple decision. At Print, Michael Dooley talks to a cartoonist in a trademark dispute with Starbucks. Believed Behavior, an intriguing looking new art-comics subscription service has been launched.

—Interviews. On Too Much Information, Benjamen Walker will get you psyched up for this weekend’s CAB show in Brooklyn (the Gabe Fowler-run successor to BCGF), interviewing Fowler, Art Spiegelman, and Peter Bagge. Memoirist and star Twitter-er Rob Delaney explains his admiration for Phoebe Gloeckner. D&Q creative director Tom Devlin shares some of his favorite books. Frank Santoro talks to Chris Mautner at Robot 6. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know features Farel Dalrymple as a guest.

—Reviews & Comment. Chip McGrath explains Joe Sacco’s The Great War. The New York Times compares online comics reading services. Jared Gardner reviews Dash Shaw’s New School. (People coming to New York for CAB might want to visit the show at Adam Baumgold which is featuring Dash Shaw among many other artists, by the way. Art Spiegelman also has an exhibit up at the Jewish Museum, which is previewed here at the Times. And Charles Burns is being shown at Desert Island.) The Guardian reviews Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Janean Patience revisits Matt Wagner’s Grendel. Finally, this Huffington Post best comics of the year list is weeurd.

 

Take Credit

Hello! Today is the second day of the working week and so we bring you Joe McCulloch for his first of two contributions this week. What’s the second one? That’s a surprise.

Kristy Valenti brings us a recording of a recent discussion at Geek Girl Con with Donna Almendrala (Bingo Baby), Jen Van Meter (Black CatHopeless Savages), Jen Vaughn (Cartozia TalesAdventure Time) and Karin Weekes (Bioware: Dragon AgeMass Effect)

And Rob Clough reviews Zak Sally’s Sammy the Mouse vol. 2.

What all this means for Sally in this volume is the possibility of action and motion. These are all cartoon characters, after all. They’re all living in the same city as every cartoon character ever, and that city is grungy, strange, and not all that friendly. So when Feekes hops from bar stool to bar stool and then “sproings” up to sit next to Sammy, it’s a perfectly natural Looney Tunes sort of moment. That sense that every cartoon character from Dr. Seuss to the present is reinforced when Peter Bagge’s Goon on the Moon pops up at the bar to annoy Sammy and when Kim Deitch’s Waldo is the one who pays Urbanski (a sort of grown-up version of Charlie Brown, down to the zig-zag-striped shirt). The world of Sammy the Mouse is not unlike Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: What are the characters doing when they’re not in adventures? What are they doing on their days off? I imagine for Sally, a former professional touring musician, this had to be a question that constantly dogged him. That’s why this comic feels so personal, even as it’s filtered through an anthropomorphic comics lens that bends reality when the narrative needs it to be bent.

And a load of links to be found around town:

Steve Bissette on an early encounter with Fletcher Hanks.

Kim Deitch interviewed.

DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson on the company’s move to Burbank.

 

The aforementioned Mr. McCulloch, along with TCJ-contributors Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and Matt Seneca perform the latest Comic Books are Burning in Hell podcast.

Here’s a nicely psychedelic Steve Ditko strip.

It continues to warm my heart that Arnold Roth has a blog.

The Huffington Post has a slightly wonky Best of 2013 post up.

The time Little Orphan Annie discussed the comics.

And School Spirits author (ahem, a PictureBox book) Anya Davidson interviewed at CBR.

 

When the Sea Dies

Hello, friends. Today, Chris Mautner is here, catching up with Bone creator Jeff Smith on the occasion of the final, full-color collection of his sci-fi noir followup, RASL. Here’s an exchange:

When you started RASL you had a couple different publishing things going. You had the pamphlet, you had the oversized collections and you had the pocket collections. Why so many different versions? What worked, what didn’t work and what did you take away from that experience?

The reason we did more than one version, quite honestly, is that RASL didn’t get a lot of traction after the initial burst of publicity that “The Bone guy is going to do something new!” It was not really taking, I could tell. So we got the first oversized trade out, that was the size I wanted to do it in, but again, I didn’t really feel like it was getting traction. I didn’t hear it being talked about or hardly even being reviewed.

This is one of the advantages of being a self-publisher: You can move fast on your feet. You don’t have to give up. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to fix it. So we thought maybe that first trade has 115 pages in it but it might not be enough of the story. Maybe we should have waited until we had a little more story. So that’s why we did the pocket book version, which was – it wasn’t the size we were interested in. We wanted to get two of the larger books, so we’d have double the story and see if that would catch people’s attention. And that in fact did work. We started seeing reviews and began to get a bit of traction.

And then, o boy, Dan Nadel himself has decided to open his trap and opine on the first issue of Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III’s The Sandman: Overture. Has his old love stayed true? I don’t want to spoil things, so I’ll just share his review’s first observation: “It’s an awfully well-constructed comic book.” Later, he says this: “This is pedantic and cloying prose.”

Elsewhere:

—First, the sad news: Silver Age artist Nick Cardy passed away last night at the age of 93. Mark Evanier has an early memorial. A lot more are sure to follow, including a full obituary from this site.

—Reviews & Criticism. Adam McGovern reviews Frank Santoro’s Pompeii for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Rob Clough is using the month of November to profile a different CCS-affiliated cartoonist every day. Ng Suat Tong reviews a child’s comic available on online auction and compares it to later art comics.

—Interviews. Tom Spurgeon has a long interview with Jeet Heer, regarding his recent monograph on François Mouly, and a recent critical anthology he co-edited. On a comedy podcast that I haven’t listened to yet, the always-funny Julia Wertz is a guest.

—News. Anyone aspiring cartoonist who hasn’t yet read Megan Rosalarian Gedris’s explanation of why she’s taking down her popular Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space webcomic really ought to. Via Kevin Melrose comes news that a family in Kitchener, Ontario complained to the press after their 3-year-old daughter received Jack T. Chick comics for Halloween.

 

Discourse

Tucker is here to ease you into the month of November.

Elsewhere online:

Julia Wertz is interviewed on a podcast.

Hey, that American Masters Charles Schulz episode is now online.

Various comics reviewed at the AV Club.

Lots of press for the Sandman prequel. Here’s an interview with Neil Gaiman and one with artist J.H. Williams.

Paul Levitz does a brief Q &A over here.

Nice local piece on the new digs for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.