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The Dream

Frank Santoro announced the winners of Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2015 Winners. A truly astounding comic by John Brodowski got a special mention.

Well, Mothers News, the great newsprint periodical out of Providence, home to some excellent writing and some fine comic strips, is closing its doors after half a decade. Celebrate it by stocking up on back issues while you can.

Another venerable institution of the underground, Tomato House, is now distributing hand-painted Caroliner posters, which is pretty exciting.

 

Visible Ink

Today Annie Mok returns with another interview. This time, she talks to Jane Mai, whose latest book is Sunday in the Park with Boys:

MOK: I talked to Corinne Mucha once when she was developing her book [Get Over It!], the one about the breakup, and she said that autobio comics are a weird thing, because you’re deciding what to keep hidden. It’s this illusion of revealing all.

MAI: It’s true. I also have this weird thing, where—there’s two Jane Mais, there’s the blond one—well, there’s three, there’s too many to keep track of. And even though they’re based on me, I don’t consider them representative of me. They’re like these side characters that do stupid things.

MOK: In the beginning you make a main character list, the main characters being you and your friends: you, Greasy, Paril, and your best friend Evelyn. There’s Jane Mai who’s blond, Jane Mai with dyed black hair, Jane Mai with an eyepatch, and “Nurse Janey, a fictional character.” Aside from Nurse Janey, who seems to be used in more fantastical situations—or maybe not. There’s the one where Nurse Janey’s working with the vet to take care of the guinea pig’s terrible poop sickness, and it feels in fantastical because you’re not a nurse in real life. But then in some way, it’s “Well, this doesn’t seem like a very outlandish problem. Maybe Jane dealt with this IRL.” Can you talk about these different characters, and how they maybe have an intuitive separation for you between the four of them?

MAI: Nurse Janey is supposed to be more fantastical, even though I did do the guinea pig thing, and it was horrible.

MOK: It seemed based on real life.

MAI: Yes… I had some mini comics that I had done that were more fantastical, monsters and weird stuff, about Nurse Janey and Dr. Paril. They were these stupid little things I was doing for fun, and no one liked them! [laughs] So I stopped doing them, even though I’d like to get back into it. She’s a really fringe character for more exploratory, monster stuff. I feel like nurses and doctors are respectable positions to have, and I’m not [laughs] a really respectable person, so I made her a nurse. She’s not idealized, but she’s supposed to be almost a regular person. Except that she lives in a fantasy world with monsters and stuff.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
As you’ve no doubt heard, Marvel has announced that the next writer of Black Panther will be Ta-Nehisi Coates. At The New Republic, Jeet Heer writes about how this relates to the superhero industry’s various diversity problems.

Ace comics reviewer Sean Rogers writes about new books from Jessica Abel, Cole Closser, and Michael DeForge.

Inkstuds has posted a critics’ roundtable episode, with guests Joe McCulloch, Zainab Akhtar, and Tom Spurgeon.

—News.
Via the CRNI comes reports that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan likely died in government custody two years ago, possibly after being tortured.

—Interviews & Profiles. Laura Hudson interviewed Kate Beaton for Wired.

Davey Nieves talks to Glenn Head for The Beat.

—Misc. Entertainment Weekly has a preview excerpt from Bill Griffith’s first comics memoir, Invisible Ink.

Forbes ran an SPX report(!), focusing primarily on diversity.

Michael Dooley at Print shares images and brief excerpts from the Comic Book Apocalypse Jacky Kirby catalog.

 

Down Count

On the site today we have Katie Skelly reporting on the long-awaited re-release of the 1973 film Belladonna of Sadness. Long-awaited because I’ve been hearing about this all year and I’m really quite excited to see it. I also know of a related book that is supposed to come out in 2016. A good time for psychedelia, kids!

The 1973 adult animation feature film Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Beradonna) was birthed into the world by Mushi Productions, the animation production studio founded and eventually abandoned by Osamu Tezuka after the commercial failure of his own adult animation feature, Cleopatra(1970). In the 90-minute film, directed and co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto, the virginal protagonist Jeanne lives a peaceful, humble life in her feudal village until a sadistic baron violates her by rule of droit du seigneur on the eve of her wedding. The destitute Jeanne begins to experience visions of a phallic demon, who strikes a deal with her and brings her closer to power through manipulation of nature and magic.

Belladonna, like Tezuka’s Cleopatra, was a commercial failure and remained unseen by wider audiences for years after its initial release. However, its lurid themes of eroticism, explicit sexuality, and witchcraft—the film takes cues from Jules Michelet’s 1862 treatise Satanism and Witchcraft—combined with its eye-watering psychedelic stills garnered steady interest in the age of the internet. After over 40 years of obscurity (and endless low-quality versions surfacing online), Belladonna of Sadness recently received a 4K restoration by Los Angeles-based post-production company Cinelicious. Having recently seen the restoration myself after years of anticipation, I was thrilled by its slow and steady animation style, reminiscent of the language of comics, its thumping soundtrack and painterly style, which I had never seen in animation prior.

And Rob Clough reviews Leslie Stein’s Bright Eyed at Midnight.

Leslie Stein is part of a new strain of autobiographical cartoonists who inject a strain of magical realism into their work. That’s been true for her book/mini series Eye of the Majestic Creature, where she refers to herself as Larrybear and lives with anthropomorphic musical instruments. Her technique is fanatically labor-intensive, as she uses a stippling method to go along with lissome lines in creating a highly detailed but fanciful version of her mostly nocturnal existence. Her new book, Bright-Eyed at Midnight, is a sort of strange, inverted version of her other comics. Her usual work is in black and white, but her new book is structured around her use of watercolors and colored pencils. Her old work was heavily line-dependent, but her new work is built around color formed around the wisps and hints of lines, using negative space to nudge the reader into creating fully-textured drawings. Finally, while she put up a fictive veil in EOTMC, she rips that barrier away in BEAM, using the structure of the daily journal comic’sin media res qualities to more directly engage her own personal narrative.

Elsewhere:

A few things… let’s remember Frank Santoro’s crowd-funding campaign for his school. The link is here. Rewards are awesome.

Oh, and may I mention again how incredible Mould Map #4 is? It’s incredible. And yes, I am still due for a report on NYABF. I just need to, uh, write it.

Still more… longtime romance comic artist and illustrator Jay Scott Pike passed away last week. Mark Evanier has a brief obit.

Tom Spurgeon reports back on SPX. 

 

Again

Joe McCulloch has your usual guide to the Week in Comics here for you this morning, along with a short review of a new Dennis Eichhorn collection.

And Rob Clough reviews Leslie Stein’s Bright-Eyed at Midnight.

Her new book, Bright-Eyed at Midnight, is a sort of strange, inverted version of her other comics. Her usual work is in black and white, but her new book is structured around her use of watercolors and colored pencils. Her old work was heavily line-dependent, but her new work is built around color formed around the wisps and hints of lines, using negative space to nudge the reader into creating fully-textured drawings. Finally, while she put up a fictive veil in EOTMC, she rips that barrier away in BEAM, using the structure of the daily journal comic’s in media res qualities to more directly engage her own personal narrative.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. A Pizza Island mini-reunion occurs when Lisa Hanawalt interviews Kate Beaton.

R.W. Watkins talks to J.R. Williams.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rob Clough looks at recent children’s comics, including several Toon Books titles.

Not 100% comics: Philip Nel writes a manifesto on reading children’s literature.

—News. Mark Evanier remembers Jay Scott Pike.

DC is now giving Bill Finger on-screen credit on some Batman adaptations, including Gotham and Batman v Superman.

Rob Kirby reports from SPX.

A mural of imprisoned Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani in Brooklyn has been repeatedly vandalized.

—Misc. Vulture has posted an excerpt of a comics-like art book by Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon.

 

Awards

Hello again,

Today on the site:

Paul Tumey on comics as a self-aware form of art:

Perhaps comics tend to be self-aware because the very act of making a comic requires intense focus on the building blocks of the form. Anyone who has sat down to create a comic knows there is a surprisingly complex decision tree that must be worked out.

It can go something like this: What’s my story? How do I break it down into little pieces? How many pages? How many panels per page? Will they all be the same size and shape, or different? Will I tell the story with narration, or dialogue, or a mixture of both? How is it going to be printed? What size should I draw it at? Will I use a computer to letter or color, or touch up the art? Which of the hundreds of drawing tools available should I use? That’s just for starters. The list can go on and on.

Part of the greatness of a particular comic has to do not with how well the artist can draw, but with how thoughtfully and creatively they have worked with the formal elements. As with artists in other mediums, accomplished and dedicated comics artists assemble their own unique combinations of these building blocks – and that’s called style.

 

Elsewhere:

It was a very busy weekend for east coast publishing: The Brooklyn Book Fair, The NY Art Book Fair, and SPX. The biggest news came out of SPX with an historic Ignatz awards sweep by all female cartoonists. Your winners are below in bold:

Outstanding Artist

  • Emily Carroll – Through The Woods
  • Ed Luce – Wuvable Oaf
  • Roman Muradov – (In a Sense) Lost and Found
  • Jillian Tamaki – SuperMutant Magic Academy
  • Noah Van Sciver – Saint Cole
  • Drawn and Quarterly, 25 Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels, edited by Tom Devlin, Chris Oliveros, Peggy Burns, Tracy Hurren, and Julia Pohl-Miranda
  • An Entity Observes All Things by Box Brown
  • How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
  • Pope Hats #4 by Ethan Rilly
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Outstanding Graphic Novel

  • Beauty by Kerascoët and Hubert
  • The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
  • Rav by Mickey Zacchilli
  • Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver
  • Wendy by Walter Scott

Outstanding Story

  • Doctors by Dash Shaw
  • “Me As a Baby” from Lose #6 by Michael DeForge
  • “Nature Lessons” from The Late Child and Other Animals by Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger
  • “Sex Coven” from Frontier #7 by Jillian Tamaki
  • Weeping Flower, Grows in Darkness by Kris Mukai

Promising New Talent

  • M. Dean – K.M. & R.P. & MCMLXXI (1971)
  • Sophia Foster-DiminoSphincter; Sex Fantasy
  • Dakota McFadzean – Don’t Get Eaten by Anything
  • Jane Mai – Soft
  • Gina Wynbrandt – Big Pussy

Outstanding Series

  • Dumb by Georgia Webber
  • Frontier edited by Ryan Sands
  • March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
  • Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly
  • Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino

Outstanding Comic

  • Borb by Jason Little
  • The Nature of Nature by Disa Wallander
  • The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
  • Pope Hats #4 by Ethan Rilly
  • Weeping Flower, Grows in Darkness by Kris Mukai

Outstanding Minicomic

  • Devil’s Slice of Life by Patrick Crotty
  • Epoxy 5 by John Pham
  • King Cat #75 by John Porcellino
  • Sex Fantasy #4 by Sophia Foster-Dimino
  • Whalen: A Reckoning by Audry

Outstanding Online Comic

Many of these works and authors have been covered here at TCJ, including: Sophie Goldstein’s interview appeared here a couple months back. Sex Fantasy was reviewed by Sean T. Collins last year, and Sean also interviewed Emily Carroll a few years back. Jillian Tamaki was interviewed by Hazel Cills last Spring; and Eleanor Davis published my all-time-favorite Cartoonist’s Diary here last summer.

I’ll have some New York Art Book Fair thoughts later, but more importantly this weekend I read Mould Map 4. It’s the most urgent, bracing and shocking comic book-thing I’ve read in long while. It’s new. Finally. No anthology has been his new and important since Kramer’s #4. It’s in control of its own identity, aesthetic and politics. It is entirely concerned with Europe in crisis, and the comics address this, but never didactically. More like flurries of articulately expressed visual howls. As with the last issue, it’s almost claustrophobically colorful, with an emphasis on high-gloss screen-like visuals. The design blends early 21st century Dutch protest graphics and “bad” digital FX pharmaceutical advertisements. It successfully included a few historical pieces which serve to contextualize Mould Map itself, including an authoritative English-language history of the late 1970s and early ’80s radical Italian comics scene around Frigidaire. As for the comics. It’s the “Euro-Zone issue, so it’s an all European group of contributors. There are no imitators here and no one from any dominant lit European cartooning tradition. None of the L’Asso preciousness or the Belgian twee — more like trash cartooning from The Beano and comparable humor and adventure kids mags. And that’s just natural, not referenced. There’s not a drive to be “artistic” but rather, artful. I happily imagine this work to be (ironically, but truly) unable to assimilate. The authentic cartooning of this group is merged with a radical awareness of the economic and political crises around it. Reading it this weekend, after weeks of the refugee crisis… it’s just incredible. Incredibly powerful and jolting. There is no more important book of comics in sight. Not even close.

 

 

Textured Paper Backgrounds

Most of the east coast comics world is descending on Bethesda, Maryland today for SPX. Here on the internet, we have two new reviews by two new contributors. Jason Overby writes about a comic debuting at SPX, Maggie Umber’s Time Capsule.

Unlike traditional comics, Maggie Umber’s Time Capsule isn’t engaged with constructing a narrative. Umber is observing the natural world (flora, fauna) and building internal connections, but she isn’t creating her own world or forming a story. There’s a homemade quality to the drawings that makes them feel like they are about the process of putting pen to paper. These are human drawings, not perfectly crafted objects.

I like the theory that our brains are restrictors of sensory inputs from the world. Comics, to me, have always seemed about classification and organization of data. Time Capsule both embraces and evades this idea. There is the process of collection of visual information and an organization of it, but it is not working toward a sort of plastic linearity. Time is all at once and everywhere.

And then RJ Casey joins us with a review of a paperback crime comics collection from Dark Horse, Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s Lady Killer.

I can just see the pitch meeting now. “You know all those hot-button articles posing the question ‘Can Women Have It All?’ They always ask, ‘Should ladies have to choose a life devoted to their family or their job?’ Well, what if their job was being a hired killer?”

Dark Horse gave the nod and here we are, with one volume collecting the first five issues of Lady Killer. It’s not a good book, but the problem is that it’s not bad enough to be tossed aside as schlock either.

The first issue begins with Josie Schuller, green-eyed and sharply dressed, posing as an Avon lady at the door. We very soon find out that Josie peddles death along with makeup and her assigned hit, Doris, has let her inside the house. Doris’s real name is Ms. Romanov (because of course it is), and it’s not long before she takes a butcher knife to the clavicle for … well, we never really find out, but mission accomplished I guess. Josie returns to her nice home, where she lives with her working-class husband, two daughters, and a nosy mother-in-law. Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, the writers of this comic, really want to push their protagonists double life to the forefront. Can this manicured assassin put out hits during the day and be home in time to put out casseroles? It’s not altogether a poor concept, especially in the early format in which Josie gets a new assignment each issue. However, the execution (pun intended!) is lacking.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Joshua Barajas at NPR talks to Kate Beaton.

—Dan Zettwoch has a nice process post.

—The next season of Koyama Press looks pretty impressive.

—R. Sikoryak is posting his latest, strangest comics adaptation yet.

—Tom Bondurant has posted his final “Grumpy Old Fan” column at Robot 6.

 

Looking Into It

Today on the site we welcome new contributor Annie Mok, who interviews Liz Suburbia, author of the the book Sacred Heart. Here’s a bit:

MOK: There’s also [gender] stuff going on with Otto. There’s this scene where Otto offers to take Ben to the dance, and he says he’ll dress up, too. Then [when Ben comes to get him] he shows up to the door in a prom dress and a cute flower barrette and makeup, and he’s like, “Pretty hilarious, huh!” And she’s like, “Yeah, uh, it’s nice, it’s a nice dress.” He quickly realizes that it’s not “Ha-ha, weird thing,” and it gets real for him very quickly. They go and get booze and ice cream, and Otto’s eating this crappy 7-11 ice cream cone, and smiling with lipstick on. And then that’s the moment when they hook up for real. They’re sitting next to each other [on the car hood], and Ben stares at his cleavage-ish poking out of his dress, and Ben kisses his shoulder. Then there’s this moment later in the story when they’re sort of breaking up. Otto’s sitting at home watching the end of the second Kill Bill, and he sees this vision of this male-assigned person in lingerie, and the person looks like him. Can you tell me about that scene?

SUBURBIA: Well, some background on Otto’s gender identity first… Otto’s a character I identify with, and I put a lot of myself in. In the course of the story, we see him kind of cast a wide net as far as sexual and gender exploration goes, and doing some things that are kinda creepy, like hanging out under the bleachers to look at girls’ shoes and legs. He’s got something inside him that he doesn’t understand yet, which is something that I relate to. I’m assigned female at birth, and I’m married to a cis man, and we walk down the street and it looks… When you’re growing up in a religious environment and a narrow cisnormative and heteronormative world, you just think of yourself as the default even though the signs are all there. Like you said, that point of view shot from Ben, she thinks of herself as straight, but maybe she’s a little more queer than she realizes. None of these characters are aware of this stuff yet. They’ve all got bigger things on their mind. I guess this is a spoiler, that Otto survives the book.

MOK: Yes!

SUBURBIA: I didn’t conceive of him as a closeted trans woman, but I’m still thinking about where the character’s gonna go. He’s a fluid person, and I guess we’ll see how that solidifies as his life goes on.

MOK: “Closeted” is such insufficient language sometimes, right? In this case, and as was the case for me, it wasn’t so much that I was closeted growing up as I just did not realize what was going on. I never really had a period of being closeted, because as soon as I identified as trans, I told the people I was close to. The way that this vision of a person that looks like him appears to Otto, free of context and in a high stress moment, a moment of loss, mirrors my experience. It points out how nonverbal, how elemental and primal this experience is for Otto.

SUBURBIA: It goes back to the horror references, where it’s kind of a ghost moment: he sees this apparition. I’m very aware of the kind of privileges I have, as someone who’s female assigned at birth, who considers themselves gender neutral but doesn’t present in any kind of way that trips anybody’s alarms. So I wanna be really careful with the gender stuff in Sacred Heart.

MOK: Can I ask what pronouns you use?

SUBURBIA: “She,” “her.” It’s as good as any. [laughs] I use “she” for my dog, too. She probably feels as much like a girl as I do. It’s something I wanna treat sensitively. And I have a lot of fears about doing it wrong, because I come from such a place of privilege in relation to existing power structures. But it’s also really important to me not to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a rare look at a Metal Hurlant precursor, Snark.

Yesterday’s feature subject, Yumi Sakugawa, is reviewed over at the AV Club.

 

Kid. Scram.

Today on the site, Greg Hunter returns with the third episode of his podcast, Comic Book Decalogue. I hope you guys have been checking out this series; it’s great. Today’s episode poses ten questions to Yumi Sakugawa (I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You, Ikebana), who talks about meditation, Megahex, and linework as handwriting.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Kate Beaton has a new collection of Hark! A Vagrant out, and is doing lots of interviews. This one in The Guardian is particularly strong, and she also spoke to Autostraddle and Vulture.

Everyone’s favorite comics person, Annie Koyama, shares five books from her collection.

John Semley at The Walrus looks behind the mask of Sex Criminals artist Chip Zdarsky.

—Misc. Michael Vassallo posts Sunday strips from the end of the famous 1962-’63 newspaper strike.

—Awards. Zunar has won the CPJ’s International Press Freedom award.

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona has made the longlist for the National Book Awards in the young people’s literature category, and is apparently the first webcomic to make it this far.