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Exhumation

To commemorate the release of the new Comics Journal Library volume collecting Zap interviews, and the release of The Complete Zap, we are posting a lengthy, previously unpublished interview with late Spain Rodriguez, conducted by Patrick Rosenkranz in 1998. (It doesn’t appear in the Zap Interviews book.) Spain had some stories:

ROSENKRANZ: When did you realize there was such a thing as an underground press?

SPAIN: It was The Militant, which was a Trotskyite newspaper, which had been around. You could also pick up The Weekly People, which was on a lot of the corner sidewalk newsstands, which is the newspaper of the Socialist Labor Party, a real old party, a pre-Marxist Party that comes out of the 1800s. The layout of the newspaper was always great, because you could always get into an argument with somebody. The newspaper was about this big and with those big block letters and the arm and hammer, which is some association with Armand Hammer’s father, who was a socialist. There was a connection between that Arm & Hammer logo and the Socialist Labor Party, which is from the turn of the century. They had this great logo. You’d just sit over there with the newspaper and somebody would give you an argument about it.

ROSENKRANZ: Did you consider that an underground paper?

SPAIN: It was an alternative paper. It wasn’t really underground. The first underground newspaper in Buffalo, we did. We put out something called Pith. The guy who really got it together worked at some silkscreen place. It was a silkscreen newspaper that we put out that had all this wacky stuff in it. I don’t know where he got the title. It was a pithy title. He was a strange guy. A story that says everything about him is: One time he was going to New York. He was a strange-looking guy, even by today’s standards. He looked a little like Orson Welles. He had a beard and had loud rose-colored glasses and would wear this hat. It was a New Year’s hat and it was spray-painted black, with an Italian flag sticking up. He wasn’t Italian. He was a big guy. He had this sweater that hadn’t been washed in a long time and it had these little beads on it: these pants that came up to here and sandals.

Some guy like that, especially in 1965, would attract a lot of cop attention. It was about four o’clock in the morning we’re going through or around Schenectady, where the cops were known for being nasty. The cop pulls us over and sees him and … Hey, man! The head guys from every police department around there. Here would come the state cops and different cops. He had this way of talking. He would say this strange stuff but in a conversational tone. They started talking to him and he was saying all this weird stuff and after a while they just start walking away. He was the editor of Pith. His name was Gary Stevens. Unfortunately, he committed suicide. They entrapped him in some drug bust and he was facing time. The sad thing, in Buffalo — I wasn’t there at the time — I think if they had gotten enough community support behind him, they might have helped him to stave off that kind of depression about the jail time. Or brought him out here. He killed himself. He was a real strange guy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Morton at the literary site The Millions has an interesting, ambivalent take on the Scott McCloud volume of Best American Comics, saying that comics have divorced themselves from irony.

Inés Estrada presents her idiosyncratic take on the year in comics.

Richard Metzger enthuses over The Complete Zap.

Robert Boyd reviews a bunch of minicomics he picked up at this year’s CAB.

Tim Callahan is excited about Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Pax Americana.

—Interviews. Frank Quitely himself gives his views on that comic in an interview with Newsarama. (Colorist Nathan Fairbairn discussed the comic, too, at his own blog.)

Chris Arrant talks to Derf Backderf.

—Misc. Frank Young shares a bunch of one-page pantomime Little Lulu strips from John Stanley.

The PEN American Center is auctioning off classic or important books that have been annotated by the authors. One volume that may be of interest to our readers is a copy of David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik’s City of Glass.

 

Bass Speakers

Happy Friday. Today we have Jeff Trexler weighing in on the Kirby settlement.

On Veterans Day Marvel celebrated Jack Kirby’s military service with photos and recollections from Kirby’s son Neal. Does this collaboration prove that the Kirby heirs triumphed in their fight for justice, or did their settlement betray creator’s rights?

A little over a month ago, the Supreme Court was on the verge of giving new life – or dealing the final blow – to the attempt by Jack Kirby’s son Neal and daughters Barbara, Lisa and Susan to claim the copyright such iconic characters as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers. What the Court would have decided we may never know for sure, since the company and the family settled just days before the scheduled date for the Court to decide whether to take the case.

Elsewhere:

Here’s one-time  underground cartoonist and founding Screw art director Steve Heller on Zap.

TCJ-diary contributor Kayla E. has launched a Kickstarter for the anthology she co-edits, Nat Brut, and she’s such a good thinker and the new issue certainly sounds promising enough for me to briefly set aside my aversion to Kickstarter.

Hey, I was on NPR on Wednesday talking (with Norman Hathaway) about my new book, Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream.

Book industry: Ursula K. Le Guin is awesome (I mean, I knew that already, but this is extra).

 

It Was Someone Else

Frank Santoro has a new column for us following up on his experience at CAB, but this time he focuses on how the market for the back issues he sells has changed.

The most interesting thing to me is how sets of the original issues (of a series) are nearly impossible to sell. For years I had a set of the original Black Hole issues for sale. It never sold. Charles Burns himself would stop by the table, at different shows in different cities to see if it sold. I just couldn’t move it. At cover price alone (for all the issues together) it was more than double the cost of the collection. I finally took it out of circulation because Mr. Burns’s stare was too much. (I had a set of the original appearances of The Rocketeer in Starslayer but Chris Oliveros broke up the set ’cause he was only interested in one of the issues that had a Steve Ditko Missing Man back up and asked me to cut him a deal.)


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Consortium has begun distributing for Secret Acres and Alternative Comics.

Jillian Tamaki has won the Governor General Literary Prize.

—Interviews. Virtual Memories talks to Jules Feiffer.

—Commentary. Jared Gardner looks at recent developments in funny animal comics.

—Misc. Zainab Akhtar has a report from this year’s Thought Bubble.

Master letterer Todd Klein is six entries in to a history of digital lettering.

David Brothers has ended his popular decade-old group blog, 4thletter!

—Video. There’s a short documentary online for the new Art of Richard Thompson book:

The Art of Richard Thompson from GVI on Vimeo.

 

No More Openings

Today we have Gary Groth’s 1991 interview with Robert Crumb, part of our ongoing spotlight on Zap.

GROTH: Don’t you think that representations of sex in the media can affect people, just like 40 years of being indoctrinated bPlayboy can affect people?

CRUMB: I think anything that is propaganda or panders to people is definitely not good for them. They’re just pandering to people’s weaknesses, and trying to undercut the next guy in the competitive marketplace. But that’s anything; you can say the same thing about breakfast cereals with a lot of sugar in them.

GROTH: Yes, but misogynistic work could be pandering to the misogynistic impulses of misogynists.

CRUMB: But pandering cannot be truthful. There’s a dif­ference. You’re trying to appeal to a market in order to sell something.

GROTH: So in assessing a work you’re really relying heavily upon the motives of the artist.

CRUMB: Absolutely.

GROTH: But most of the time you really don’t know what those motives are.

CRUMB: But honesty rings true. Of course it takes somewhat of an educated taste, or a certain cultivation, to see what’s true and what isn’t — which means you have to look at a lot of work and make comparisons over a period of time. As a kid you don’t perceive those things quite so much. Kids can’t be expected to see what’s truth and what’s pandering. Kids are much more susceptible to victimization by marketing schemes and aggressive sales.

And Greg Hunter on Fukitor:

Fukitor is a collection of rebellious gestures performed on repeat. The book, a bellwether title for Fantagraphics’ F.U. Press imprint, brings together entries from cartoonist Jason Karns’s series of the same name. The individual stories are genre pastiches of about five-to-ten pages in length. They typically feature murderous ghouls or hyperviolent men of action or both. They are designed to accommodate as many instances of bloodshed and rape as possible. Much of the advance buzz surrounding Fukitor took the form of a debate concerning Karns’s depictions of sexual violence and his use of ethnic caricature. Some aspects of this conversation are larger than Fukitor, and if the book represents failures of empathy within the comics community, people besides Karns share responsibility for those lapses. But Karns alone is responsible for his book’s failures of imagination.

And elsewhere:

A piece on a new Richard Thompson documentary, and the trailer here:

And here’s a Jillian Tamaki interview:

Good news: Sean Howe has a new book on the go, and it’s comics-adjacent. Check out the news here.

Here’s a Nate Powell interview in comics form.

And here’s an interview with manga artist Hiroaki Samura.

 

License Revoked

Joe McCulloch has your weekly guide to the best-sounding new comics out in stores this week (spotlight picks from Lynda Barry and Régis Loisel), but starts things off by looking at a fairly obscure collection from Blutch:

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This too is part of the character of the work – I’d argue more prominently so than Blutch’s carefully parceled marshaling of sonic lines. No, the Jazzman strips are often jokes, and this is an old-but-good one: the too-cool yé-yé singer is unmoved by booze, smoke and sex, but throw on some Duke Ellington and he is open-mouthed and post-coitally limp. It’s like a Carl Barks gag page, though Blutch takes different strips in different tonal directions. A horn player is seen beating a woman bloody, then rolling out to the club to reduce the audience to tears. A black superstar basks in the public adulation of Paris, only to spy provincial women grimacing at him behind his back. A promoter lazes through a parade of sub-par players, only to perk up at the sound of truly great playing, then scowl and storm away upon discovering the musician is a woman. Lee Morgan is shot dead by his lover, prompting a bassist to kiss his long-suffering wife. A harried woman in a nightgown, cleaning up after her unconscious husband, stares at a shirtless man practicing in a window across the way, and she lays down satisfied.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna talks to Flemming Rose, the Danish newspaper editor who commissioned the most controversial cartoons about Islam of all time. Rose has a new book coming out.

Andrice Arp has ten questions for Simon Hanselmann.

—News. The third annual British Comics Awards were announced, with Isabel Greenberg taking Best Book, and Posy Simmonds making it into the Hall of Fame.

—Misc.
Richard McGuire did the cover for the latest New Yorker in the style of Here.

Add W. C. Fields to the list of wannabe cartoonists.

Also, The New Yorker has its special “Cartoons of the Year” issue out now. Looks like it might be worth picking up for the two-page Paul Karasik article on a Charles Addams gag alone.

 

Blue Rooms

Today Julia Gfrorer, who just released an excellent and terrifying new comic with fellow TCJ-contributor Sean T. Collins, brings us a column about Aidan Koch’s recent work, first serialized over at Comics Workbook. Aidan has also just released a new book I’m quite fond of entitled Impressions.

Some languages depend more heavily than others on sequence to convey meaning. Word order in Latin is fungible because each word in a sentence is inflected to denote its role: “Agricolam amat puella” and “puella amat agricolam” are the same, since the accusative “-am” ending indicates the recipient of the verb’s action. In English, word order is more important: “the girl loves the farmer” and “the farmer loves the girl” describe different matters entirely. The syntax of comics is expressed through order, proximity, and repetition: we learn what an image is doing on the page almost entirely by examining its position among its neighbors. Not all cartoonists draw attention to this–in fact many labor to make the psychological interval between each panel as unobtrusive as possible. In Aidan Koch’s “Configurations”the interval is central, impossible for the reader to ignore, and in a sense that’s what this comic is actually about: the struggle to glean narrative significance amid disparate objects and incidents, the search for a meaningful story arc within seemingly random events.

Ok, what else?

If you’re in NYC tonight, come see me and Norman Hathaway at 7 pm at The Strand. We will chat about our new book Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream, in which we document the life stories of two fantastic modernist designers responsible for everything from The Cubs uniforms to Wrigley’s Gum packaging to Catalina Island. Dorothy Shepard was the first major female modernist designer in North America. Experience the love! Need more convincing? Here’s the best piece I’ve read about what we were trying to do with the book, courtesy of our pals over at The Paris Review.

More Paris Review: TCJ-contributor Nicole Rudick on Megahex.

Nice interview and article on Zap over at the Chicago Tribune.

I like this series on digital lettering by lettering maestro Todd Klein.

And here’s a fine interview by Tom Spurgeon with the perennially underrated cartoonist Eric Haven, who has a new book out from Adhouse.

 

The Prehistoric Animal in the Room

Jill Lepore has gotten a lot of attention and given many interviews for her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, but I don’t think anyone has asked her the kind of questions that occurred to cartoonist, Wonder Woman enthusiast, and occultist Ron Regé, Jr. Here’s a sample of their discussion:

Can you tell us anything about Marjorie Wilkes Huntley that might not have made it into your book? Her presence in this story is a bit mysterious, and seems almost secretly pivotal. She enters Marston’s life at such an early stage, and remains involved with the family until the very end. She was an early suffragist, and visited Ethyl Byrne. Did she first introduce this idea of plural relationships? I was halfway through preparing this interview when I noticed your footnote that explained that Elizabeth Marston told her children that “everything was explained in a box of documents that were in a closet in Huntley’s home” and that Huntley had later burned the box saying that “the world isn’t ready for this, I have to destroy it.” For all the “incense burning” feminist fans of Wonder Woman, what more can you tell us about her? I’d like to note that as a cartoonist, as well as a magical thinker, the fact that Huntley actually helped ink and letter the comics is pretty significant!

I am frustrated that I was able to discover so little about Huntley. She died alone, in a nursing home, and she had no children. So far as I can tell, she left no papers, and, as you point out, I did come across evidence that she may have destroyed them. I was thrilled to find some correspondence from her in Gloria Steinem’s papers at Smith. And there were other treasures, here and there. I was especially intrigued by a photograph that I found—it’s reproduced in the book–of all three women, sitting on a garden bench: Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Holloway Marston each hold an infant; Huntley holds a baby doll. For the record, I am unconvinced that Huntley actually burned her papers, and I would not be at all surprised if, one day, they turned up.

We also have Rob Kirby’s review of Spankies, a collection of internet-addicted art school grad humor comics from Nick Sumida. Here’s how Rob begins:

In the prologue to his debut book, Nick Sumida receives an online game called Snackies. He describes it to his roommate: “You play this narcissistic millennial with an art school degree and an addiction to outside validation.” Various parts of the gameplay involve putting cookies over your eyes to avoid seeing a deluge of student loan bills, and experiencing a nervous breakdown in a café while thinking about death. Sumida apologizes that it’s not multiplayer while his roommate remains unimpressed: “What a weirdly specific and boring game.” Welcome to the Snackies universe.

In Sumida’s world it is imperative to hide your slightest flaws and insecurities from the world, lest you be made vulnerable. Your suspicion that the future might be a bleak, existential black hole may well be true, and pretending you have even a chance at a fulfilling relationship is a big fat cosmic joke – at your expense. But Snackies is no nihilist vision; the book is the work of a delightfully demented, wonderfully imaginative humorist and satirist.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. I think we missed this interview with Seth from the London Yodeller last week. He’s having some year.

Alex Dueben talked to Aisha Franz for Comic Book Resources.

—News. A sedition investigation has been opened against the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar. Three people were arrested for selling his books last week.

—Reviews & Commentary. Hillary Brown reviews Walter Scott’s Wendy strips. That’s some funny stuff.

Rob Clough is about halfway through a month-long look at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Zainab Akhtar looks at Darryl Seitchik’s Missy.

Dominic Umile has what I believe is the first review I’ve seen of Richard McGuire’s expanded Here, which I’m guessing may cause a bit of a stir upon release.

—Misc. I know it’s harmless, but something about the fact that they’ve begun selling adult Underoos makes me sad.

 

Human Be-In

Hey, it’s Thursday! Today we have Frank Santoro, with whom I spent a quiet Sunday evening discussing the finer points of “liking” vs. “really liking” things. It was a warm autumn evening and we were hippies. Anyhow, here he is on CAB, the comic book convention held last weekend here in Brooklyn.

I had fun. Good sales. Same as last year. Which was great. It felt less crowded however maybe that was good? It was so packed the last couple years that often you couldn’t see anything so I dunno when I came up with the same numbers as last year I was fine with it being less crowded. You could actually walk around. Anywhere else it would be a blockbuster but in Brooklyn it felt like we were all talking about how “slow” it was. So that’s something to chew on.

Lala Albert’s Janus has to be the book of the show. At least for me. Lala can fucking draw. And this new story is a killer “identity” riff that feels so timely and NOW. Exciting stuff. Check it out!

Elsewhere:

Here’s The Japan Times on a film called Tatsumi, which animates the titular author’s works.

Hey it’s Jim Drain, sometime-cartoonist, all-the-time artist, on his week in culture.

As a kid I was fascinated and thought this scene was pretty much the coolest thing in the world.

Oh the glory of Drag Cartoons!