Gold Peak

It's June! Can you believe it? I cannot. Today on the site: 

Rob Clough reviews Sunburning by Keiler Roberts.

Keiler Roberts’ newest volume of loosely assembled memoir strips, Sunburning, is a more assured, confident, and cohesive collection than her prior work. While Roberts displayed a distinct authorial voice, a refreshing lack of fussiness with her blunt and direct pencil drawings, and a powder-dry sense of humor in her past comics, everything comes into tighter focus in this book. She tackles all of her usual topics: life as a working mother and artist; the continued growth and delightful agency of her daughter, Xia; her relationship with her husband Scott, her parents, and others in her life; how she deals with being bipolar as well as other various neurological and chiropractric ailments; and general observations about life.


I continue to be amazed by the drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King, who is opening a show in London now.

Here's a profile of the very influential illustrator Bernie Fuchs.

And here's a link to the latest Steve Ditko Kickstarter.



New York Moonlight

Today on the site, we present Rina Ayuyang's interview with Eric Haven, the creator of Tales to Demolish and the upcoming collection, Vague Tales.

After three issues of Angryman, I learned the hard truth: I’d never make a living in the comic business. I gave it everything I had, even quit my day job at the sake factory in order to fully commit to the art. But when I received the royalty check for the first issue - the princely sum of $100 - I realized my folly. In addition, seeing my comics out in the world started to fill me with dread. All I could see were the mistakes and the awfulness.

I stopped trying to produce comics for publishers at that point. Instead, I made mini-comics. That way I could still make terrible comics, and nobody but a few friends would see them. I could spend time flailing around and experimenting without fear of judgment. It was almost 10 years of mini-comics making before Tales to Demolish came out.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The National Cartoonists Society announced the winners of the annual Reuben Awards. Among others, Ann Telnaes won outstanding cartoonist of the year, and Lynda Barry won the Milton Caniff lifetime achievement award.

The Montreal webcartoonist Sophie Labelle was forced to cancel a promotional event and go into hiding after a series of transphobic threats.

“This kind of thing happens to any trans person who’s visible and trying to raise awareness of trans issues,” Labelle, 29, said by phone from an undisclosed location on Friday. “In this case, the organizers had received threats that people would come and disrupt the event, so we decided to be on the safe side.”

Something used with particular virulence against Labelle has been the practice of doxxing. One of those cyberspeak words that is rapidly entering the general vernacular, it refers, in Labelle’s words, to “having personal information leaked with the purpose of undermining somebody. In the past I have exposed some of the groups that have been posting threats on my Facebook page, and Facebook has deleted most of them, and I think that’s what made it escalate to the point where they doxxed me and published my home address. They hacked into my website to get that information.”

—Commentary. Chris Ware writes about Saul Steinberg.

As a cartoonist myself, I am dismayed that there’s little in the show I can steal, the crossover in the Venn diagram of the image-as-itself versus as-what-it-represents being depressingly slim. I am painfully aware that in comics, stories generally kill the image. But Steinberg’s images grow and even live on the page; somewhere in the viewing of a Steinberg drawing the reader follows not only his line, but also his line of thought. Describing himself as “a writer who draws,” Steinberg could just as easily be considered an artist who wrote; as my fellow cartoonist Lynda Barry puts it, his “drawing went not from his mind to his hand but rather from his hand to his mind.” Or as Steinberg himself declared at the beginning of a 1968 television interview, “[my hand explains] to myself what goes on in my mind.”

The UK cartoonist Hannah Berry writes about her decision to leave comics (or at least graphic novels) due to financial considerations.

To make a graphic novel takes me three years of blinkered, fanatical dedication, and I realised while working on Livestock that I just can’t do it again. I’m done. I’m out. And from quiet talks with many other graphic novelists, ones whose books you know and love, I can tell you that I’m far from being the only one.

This is the problem with making graphic novels in the UK today, and it’s one we need to address: the numbers do not add up.

Douglas Wolk reviews a slew of new books for the NYT Book Review's Summer Reading issue, including comics by Emil Ferris, Jason Shiga, Gabrielle Bell, Igort, Guy Delisle, and Jillian Tamaki.

If Tamaki (the illustrator of the Book Review’s By the Book feature) has a favorite storytelling strategy, it seems to be dreaming up some kind of odd artifact of mass culture and then examining the way people react to it. “Body Pods” concerns a cult movie adored by some of the narrator’s friends, and their reactions as its stars begin to die. “Darla!” is an oral history of a (nonexistent) short-lived pornographic sitcom from the ’90s. (“It was a different time,” the narrator deadpans. “You could never make something like it now.”) And the Borgesian “1. Jenny” begins by imagining a “mirror Facebook” whose users’ profiles begin to diverge from their real-world counterparts,’ and goes on to follow one woman’s obsession with her alternate self’s love life.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Millions talked to James Sturm about a new edition of his 2001 book, The Golem's Mighty Swing.

Most of the book’s Jewish characters are immigrants or first-generation Americans — they fled from pogroms, hostile empires, and emerging nations. They desperately wanted to believe in the ideals of America. For the team’s black player, Henry Bell, his view of America is far different — his family came to America in chains. A baseball story set in the 1920s is especially susceptible to evoking that rose-tinted strain of American nostalgia. I did want the book to challenge this view. I keep coming back to the present political moment and this creepy notion of “making America great again.” Talk about rose-tinted glasses! Who was it great for? And if so, on whose backs was that “greatness” generated?

Pedro Moura interviews comics scholar Maaheen Ahmed about her new book, Openness of Comics: Generating Meaning within Flexible Structures.

I did indeed deliberately avoid titles that had already been well analyzed, but I also wanted to try and get a more transcultural perspective on comics by including works from different regions and genres. Since I also wanted to better understand the rise and establishment of the graphic novel phenomenon, I thought it might be more productive to start with Eisner’s Contract with God which can be said to bridge the more mainstream idea of comics and the basic implication of a graphic novel as being a novel. This was also the reasoning behind including Pratt’s long, novel-like Corto Maltese adventure, The Ballad of the Salt Sea as a European counterpart to Eisner’s graphic novel to start the next section.

I did indeed want to include more works (e.g. Aristophane’s Faune from 1995 and only recently re-issued by Frémok, to name only one of the many fascinating, experimental comics published in Belgium). Their absence however is due to more practical concerns of space (since the analyses are kept descriptive in order to provide a well-rounded ‘picture’ of each comic) and structure (of the book itself). I would’ve also liked to include a much larger section on the relationship between (experimental) comics and artists’ books – so much still needs to be done in that area!

The CBLDF podcast speaks to Gilbert Hernandez, Virtual Memories talks to Seth, and Process Party talks to John Porcellino.


Actually Kind Of

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics, with a special focus on Steve Ditko's latest.


Our parent company Fantagraphics has announced a new comics anthology called Now

The cartoonist Maggie Umber wrote a very frank account of the end of her marriage and the toll publishing can take on a relationship.



Used in Media

Today on the site:

Rob Clough looks at Study Group Comics through the prism of genre comics. 

The website of Study Group Comic Books has a button on their menu bar labeled “Genres.” It speaks volumes about the publishing mission of Zack Soto—the choices range from familiar genres like “Fantasy,” “Horror,” and “Crime” to “Abstractions” and “Trippy.” No alternative comics publisher is as explicit in its interest in genre comics as Study Group, both on the website and in paper form. Soto is also the rare publisher that still releases single-issue comics as part of a larger series as opposed to focusing on full-length books. Soto exhibits a voracious appetite for absorbing and understanding comics of all kinds, and that’s also reflected in the Study Group Magazine that he publishes with editor Milo George and art director Francois Vigneault.

Study Group is far from the only alternative comics publisher that deals with genre, but they focus on them more than any other. That said, their output look less like the sort of genre comics one might see from larger publishers and more like the kind of gritty, idiosyncratic comics associated with minicomics scenes like Providence in the late 1990s. Manga and other genre influences like EC horror comics can be widely seen in some Study Group releases. Let’s take a look at their output from the last couple of years.


The longtime Spirou-contributor Pierre Seron has died. 

Comics-related: Jane Mai and An Nguyen discuss "Lolita Fashion"

Not comics: "The Berlin Painter" offers some visuals that we could learn from.


Beware of the Blob

Today on the site, Aug Stone reviews a new edition of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess's comic for children, The Magical Twins.

The Magical Twins (Les Jumeaux Magiques in the original French) was the first collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess. It was originally published in 1987 in the French comics magazine Le Journal de Mickey. Although ostensibly intended for young readers, The Magical Twins contains all the imaginative transformation we expect from a book written by Jodorowsky.

The book opens on a magical bird, Lyrena, a distant cousin of The Incal’s Deepo, racing to deliver an urgent message to Kether, the “city of the pure spirit” at the center of the kingdom. In Kabbalah, Kether (meaning "crown") is the highest sphere of the Tree of Life -- the “source of all light,” as the comic says. This very first panel wonderfully shows us what a master Jodorowsky is -- creating a world for children but refusing to water down any of the story, knowing that they will "get it." This is mirrored in the structure of the story itself, as the young royal twins, Mara and Aram, slowly learn along with with reader what is needed to save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Asher Elbein at The Atlantic has a surprisingly spot-on story on Marvel's recent sales slump. the aftermath of Marvel’s rocky first quarter—and with the controversial Secret Empire now in full swing—it’s clear the publisher’s problems run more deeply than an ill-timed storyline or public-relations fumbles. Audiences are drifting away. New fans feel ignored. Despite movies that dominate the cultural landscape and regularly clear millions of dollars, the entire edifice of corporate superhero comics represented by both publishers has been quietly crumbling for years, partially due to Marvel’s own business practices. Marvel can’t seem to actually sell comics, diverse or not—and the company only has itself to blame.

—Douglas Wolk is insane.

—Kilgore Books is Kickstarting its spring/summer line, which includes new titles by Glynnis Fawkes, Tim Lane, Leslie Stein, Noah Van Sciver, and others.

As you may know, we've been publishing quality independent comics since 2009, and in that time we've produced 26 comics, three prints, and a feature-length documentary.

Our goal is to help new(er) cartoonists reach a wider audience by ensuring their books stay in print, they get royalties in advance, and they get hooked up with new distribution paths. We tend to specialize in literary and humor comics, though anything that catches our eye is fair game.

—After years (decades?) of complaining endlessly (and not entirely baselessly) about the embarrassing childishness of most comics canons, the always intriguing, always frustrating comics critic Domingos Isabelinho plans to write about his 25 favorite comics.

—Michelle Hart writes about Kristen Radtke's Imagine Wanting Only This:

On its surface, Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This is a book about grief. When Radtke was in college, her uncle, a man whose presence in her life is something between a father’s and a brother’s, dies from a rare genetic heart condition. The sudden death of uncle Dan and the possibility that the same condition could be present in her own DNA create in Radtke a desire to explore ruins and abandoned cities, to explore, physically and philosophically, life’s impermanence.

Illustrated in stark and often-gorgeous shades of gray, the book looks the way Radtke feels: at once benumbed and dreamy. The cleanliness of the linework augments the melancholy of the narrative, a technique that calls to mind Adrian Tomine, another significant chronicler of urban solitude. The simplicity of the people in the book is contrasted with the staggering complexity of the environments. In one stunning two-page spread, Radtke looks out at an Icelandic vista; Radtke is small, occupying only the bottom-right corner of the page, with the sky large and enveloping. Despite the book’s compositional wizardry, however, Radtke remains committed to understatement.


How Great It Is


The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum's Caitlin McGurk talks to Noah Van Sciver about his excellent new Fante Bukowski 2, as well as their shared homebase of Columbus, Ohio, and other sundry comics matters. 

Stephen Bissette told me you were one of the hardest working people he’s seen up there. How do you feel about the CCS program, if you’re willing to share that? I know they have more and more competition these days, with comics programs popping up all over the country.

It can be a good, helpful experience for people. If you’re serious about being a cartoonist and learning as much as you can, you’ll get a lot out of it. But you’ll also see people who get caught up in the drama that’s created in such a small community. That’s what you have to avoid.  Artists arrive to find that they’re no longer the best in their town, and others become more excited about being around other weirdos that working on their comics takes a back seat to hanging out and having parties. 

In Fante Bukowski Two, our man lands in Columbus. This conveniently coincides with your relocation to, as Fante says, “the artistic GALAXY that is Columbus Ohio”. My question is basically, “why here, why now” for both you and Fante. What brought you to Columbus, how has it been for you this past year, and was bringing Fante here a creative decision out of sheer convenience of familiarity, or something more?  

When I moved to Columbus last summer I came with about 20 finished pages for Fante Bukowski Two, and I didn’t really have a story in mind other than Fante has spent a year traveling around the country and has decided to try his luck in Columbus, OH, as I was about to. It worked well because as I was figuring out the city I could have him do it right along with me. Maybe it was a way of helping me feel more comfortable. My past year here has had it’s ups and downs, but a lot of that comes with trying to create a life in a new city alone and the anxieties that come with that.


The influence of Dungeons & Dragons on the last 20 years of comics has been pretty huge but mostly unexamined. That may not change, but here's a preview of David Kushner and Koren Shadmi's upcoming biography of D&D creator Gary Gygax.

Over at Comics Workbook, RM Rhodes offers commentary on The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner and Ruben Pellejero.

Not comics: I didn't know about this huge digital trove of Sister Corita Kent imagery. Amazing.


Trashman Lives

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding releases new to stores. This week's highlights include memoirs by Gabrielle Bell and Jason.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—I can't even summon the energy to read this National Review attack on comics being studied in college (apparently 'cuz they're dumb and they turn kids into pinkos or something), much less argue against it. But it's the controversy du jour.

—The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Keiler Roberts, and the most recent guest on RiYL is David Lloyd.



Today on the site, Frank Santoro continues his journey into risograph printing with an interview with Panayiotis Terzis.

What is your risograph origin story? I assume you were interested in printmaking before you discovered risograph printing. You’ve been making interesting color work for as long as I’ve known you. How has the risograph changed your process?

When I was in undergrad I had discovered and cycled through all of the traditional forms of printmaking – etching, lithography, screenprinting etc. I was making paintings, drawings, installations and comics, and printmaking was where everything came together. David Sandlin‘s class was monumental for me in terms of challenging myself technically and aesthetically. His work was so ambitious and beautiful that I think it made everyone in his class work their asses off to even be worthy of being there. It was inspiring to be around an artist who made comics but who also had carved out a place for himself in the art world without any contradiction between the two. He was also a living connection to various legendary creative worlds I’d been reading about: the East Village scene in the 1980s, all the people who had been involved in Spiegelman’s RAW. Around this time I had also discovered Fort Thunder, Space 1026, and Paper Rad, and all of the other little versions of those phenomena that were unfolding in small cities all over the country and in Europe too. Using print media, making cheap multiples, making posters for events — all of this felt very fresh and democratic, and part of a creative outlook that demolished the barriers between contemporary art, music, performance art, zines, books, comics, painting, and commercial art.


The longtime Marvel and DC cartoonist Rich Buckler, now best known for co-creating Deathlok, has passed away at the age of 68.  Here is a fond remembrance from a longtime fan.

Here's a good piece on Samuel R. Delany's recently published diaries.