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Telling You, Man

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey presents a piece from his vault — his account of, and interview with, cartoon editor Michelle Urry.

Harvey:Did you have anything to do with Harvey Kurtzman?

Urry: I did. For a little while, I was the intermediary between Hef and Harvey. Harvey and Hef worked out their deal together originally, and they drove each other a little crazy— and whoever was functioning as their intermediary.Harvey would submit his ideas, and Hef would send it back with comments, and—

Harvey: They strike me as both being very exacting people.

Urry: They were— very specific. And they were very different, each in his own way. But I think they loved each other for a long time, and then Harvey became a little more conservative. Perhaps he played it a little safer than he really should have. While he was doing Mad magazine, he was as zany as could be. And he started doing his own thing, and then he got into Hef’s turf.

Harvey was interested in satire and wit, political and social commentary. So Harvey started doing political and sexual humor. And Hef knew a lot about the sex part, and Harvey didn’t. Harvey was married and had kids. Hef had lots of ideas, and Harvey would go to the Mansion and look at the hot tubs. There was a slight discrepancy between life styles. Harvey lived in a suburban house. And Hef was constantly pushing him. Harvey would say— There’s too much sex; and Hef would say— More sex. Harvey would say, Less sex. Hef would say, More sex. And they’d go back and forth. But Harvey— Hef found him early and they bonded, and nobody could really get in the middle of that.

Harvey: How about Will Elder?

Urry: He went along. He contributed his talent and did what Harvey wanted. I’m not saying he wasn’t brilliant and didn’t contribute to that strip. He was and he did. That strip cost a bloody fortune! All the people working on it— all the inkers. They always had three or four or five people on it. Always. It was like producing a small book every time they would do it. Brilliant work. Absolutely brilliant.

Harvey: Too bad it’s not there anymore.

Urry: Too bad Harvey’s not here anymore. People say, Why don’t you get somebody else to keep it going? That’s like saying, Get somebody else to do Pogo.

Elsewhere:

My Favorite Thing is Monsters reviewed at Hyperallergic.

A truly rare thing: a new comic book store is opening up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

 

Dance Dance Dance

Today on the site we have two reviews for you. First, Rob Clough writes about Foggy Notions, a collection of autobiographical humor comics by November Garcia.

Garcia is funny because she zeroes in on the weird, the inappropriate and the extreme–and that’s just with regard to her own behavior. There’s a hilarious sequence where she’s at a house party with her musician boyfriend, and she starts swigging whiskey like it’s beer when he starts playing. In a real-life version of The Hangover, she spends the rest of the story going through her post-bender protocol (assessing damage to herself and others as well as seeing what might be missing) and then tries to recreate the events of the evening. One of Garcia’s strengths as a storyteller is escalating the stakes of a story while maintaining an even keel as a narrator. Her increasingly poor decision-making is exacerbated by she and her future husband Roy getting spotted by the cops (who at first threatened to run in Roy and then Garcia) before finally making it home–when she drunkenly proposes to Roy, calls him chicken when he hesitates, and then does a chicken dance to drive home her point. It’s a story that’s equal parts distressing and hilarious, as even Garcia starts to think she may be drinking too much.

Then Annie Mok is here with a review of Jen Lee’s Garbage Night.

Jen Lee’s characters, like Pinocchio or a Dickensian hero, are always hungry. The title Garbage Night refers to the hallowed night that three teenage animals wait for, but never comes because all the humans in the neighborhood have moved on. It’s a dystopian, possibly post-apocalyptic cartoon setting. Soon the dog-deer-raccoon trio meet a scroungy dog named Barnaby, who promises a shortcut to a town where humans still reside. Bright colors and bouncy drawings carry this story of friendship, trust, and fear.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The nominations for this year’s Eisner Awards have been announced, and as always (for almost all awards), they’re the usual mix of solid, semi-solid, and WTF. Sonny Liew’s Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye earned six nominations, and among publishers, Fantagraphics and Image led the field, with 20 and 17 nods respectively.

Former New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff has accepted a similar position at Esquire, which is good news in terms of opening one more potential major market for cartoonists. In an interview with Michael Cavna, says that in his new job, he will completely abandon the selection process he used at The New Yorker for two decades.

“That selection process,” Mankoff tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “is delusional.”

That’s right — as much as he relied on this gags-in-hand approach, the veteran editor is convinced that it wasn’t the best system for consistently developing the best humor. Each line drawing effectively only got an instant audition, so even promising gags that didn’t quite “sing” right then and there were quickly shown the stage door.

He says that his new collaborative approach wouldn’t have made sense in the “context” of The New Yorker, but it’s not clear from this piece exactly why…

—Interviews & Profiles. Quill & Quire profiles Katherine Collins of Neil the Horse fame.

When I visited Collins in February, a pile of original art spread out on the dining-room table was the only visible evidence that this 69-year-old woman with perfect pitch once was the cartoonist Arn Saba, creator of Neil the Horse, a rubber-band-legged character drawn in a style reminiscent of early Disney cartoons and best remembered for a unique 15-issue run during the black-and-white-comics boom – and bust – of the 1980s. Saba spent more than 15 years combining his love of cartooning with his love of music to produce the adventures of Neil and his friends: Soapy, a feline grifter, and Mam’selle Poupée, a living doll in search of true love. Collins had dusted off the large boards and sheets of film in preparation for a collected Neil the Horse volume Conundrum Press will publish this spring, the first time the character will appear in print in nearly three decades.

Adolescent has a short video interview with Ginette Lapalme.
The most recent guest on Process Party is Julia Wertz.

 

Broadcasting Humor

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch brings us the first new comics list of May. It’s a new month! And John Kelly previews Drew Friedman’s new exhibition, which opens Thursday here in NYC.

Elsewhere:

Hillary Chute has an insightful and wide-ranging review of Guy Deslisle new book, Hostage, at the NYR Daily.

Gengoroh Tagame previews his new book, My Brother’s Husband (which Joe also writes about this week), over at Vice.

I could read Todd Klein writing about logo design and lettering pretty much all day long. 

This footage of Marvel and DC in the 1970s is pretty incredible. I love that Steranko plays “Steranko”. I love how casually original art is handled. I love it all.

 

Chimney Climb

Today on the site, Alex Dueben talks to David Wiesner.

Of all your picture books I really love The Three Pigs. Could you just explain what you did with the story?

There are all these different threads that have been floating in and out of my work since I was a kid. The idea of alternate realities, the multiverse, is one of those motifs. The first place I encountered this idea was in a Droopy Dog cartoon – for the longest time I thought it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon – where the character is running running running and then skids right out of the film. You see the sprockets on the edge of the film frames and the white space behind it. The character then runs back into the cartoon and keeps running. I loved that there was a world, a seemingly blank world, outside the reality of the cartoon. Duck Amuck is another classic where the hand of the animator comes in and is messing with the actual cartoon. There are of this idea examples in MC Escher and Magritte. I was always drawn to that visual representation of looking behind what seems to be reality.

I thought about how I could do that in a book form. I had all these cool ideas about things that could happen visually, but I needed a story. I began thinking that I’d have the characters come out of the story. I began by trying to write that story, but that didn’t work, because no one – including myself – would know what that story was and who the characters were. It was very confusing. At some point when I was drawing in my sketchbook I drew a few well known characters, and I thought, what if I start with a story that as many people as possible would know. That way you can just forget about it because you already know the characters and what happens.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Jia Tolentino has written a very fine profile of G. Willow Wilson for The New Yorker.

Wilson’s introduction to comics came in the fifth grade, when she was given an anti-smoking pamphlet featuring the X-Men. Later in the school year, she asked to join a group of boys who were playing mutants on the playground during recess—the “X-Men” cartoon on Fox had become her favorite show. They didn’t want a girl in their group, but she told them she could play the glamorous mutant Storm, who, in the comics, is the daughter of a Kenyan princess and an American photojournalist, and can control the weather. “It speaks to the power of women done well in this kind of role,” she said. “Those boys didn’t care much for girls but they really cared for Storm.”

Two years later, Wilson’s family moved to Boulder, Colorado. She was a goth teen—“black eyeliner, corsets, magenta hair, the whole thing,” she said. “There was lots of going to concerts and sitting in the under-twenty-one balcony, lots of tabletop role-playing.” She continued to devour comics, tracking down issues of “Shade, the Changing Man” at a local shop called Time Warp. Wilson’s parents were secular liberals who had left Protestant churches during the sixties. To them, God was a “bigoted, vengeful white man,” she writes in “The Butterfly Mosque,” and atheism was “not just scientifically correct, it was morally imperative.” Wilson had other instincts. When she was a sophomore in college, she started suffering severe adrenal problems, which helped spark a search for God—an experience she recounts in the memoir using language that wouldn’t be out of place in a superhero’s origin story…

The RiYL podcast’s most recent guest is R. Sikoryak, and the CBLDF podcast returns from a long hiatus with guest Katie Skelly.

—Commentary. The cartoonist Steve Bell has written The Guardian’s obituary for Leo Baxendale.

The cartoonist Leo Baxendale, who has died aged 86, created many of the characters that form the backbone of the Beano comic. He introduced Little Plum – Your Redskin Chum in April 1953, followed by Minnie the Minx (a female version of Dennis the Menace) that September, and the Bash Street Kids, the strip that began life as When the Bell Rings, in October. Their success was spectacular and Leo began working for DC Thomson, the Dundee-based publishers of the Beano, full-time in November 1953. He and his young family lived for the next 10 years in Dundee, where he produced work of such detail, such comic intensity and such concentrated anarchy that it will surely live on for ever.

For the Times Literary Supplement, Nicola Streeten writes about comics and history.

Maus had even earlier forebears, as becomes clear from a new exhibition at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, Shoah et bande dessinée, in which we see that Spiegelman was not the first person to use cartoon animals to convey the inhumane treatment of Jews. The comics on display here, from 1940 onwards, often draw on animal motifs to depict the Jewish genocide. The result is a powerful, moving and sometimes difficult experience.

The curators have set out to showcase the representation of Jews in the Holocaust. While their aim is to demonstrate how the comics form can successfully depict serious subject matter, it is also to highlight how comics functioned to silence the Jewish voice for a thirty-year period, from 1945 to the late 1970s, through a lack of Jewish representation. The exhibition is, in effect, divided into before and after Maus. A large room following on from the display of Spiegelman’s own artwork pays homage to the influence he had on the development of comics, displaying a vast and diverse array of artworks. But the exhibition opens with direct visual testimonies from witnesses of the Shoah, underlining the strength of the comics form in providing a narrative for the Holocaust right from the beginning. The first item on display is a tiny illustrated booklet of fifteen watercolour-and-line drawings dated 1942, entitled: “Mickey AU CAMP DE GURS”. Produced by Horst Rosenthal, a Jewish prisoner at Gurs internment camp in southwest France, this booklet may not strictly be a comic, but it is certainly a version of the form, combining text and image. One page shows a drawing of Mickey Mouse, hands outstretched, with an expression of incomprehension, standing before a French camp officer. Rosenthal, narrating as Mickey Mouse, is able to relate the unfathomable stupidity of camp life through his depiction of everyday detail. (The guard asks Mickey for papers that do not exist.) Gurs was not a concentration camp, which perhaps explains how Rosenthal was able to access drawing materials, though the dimensions of the booklet suggest it was something he had to keep hidden. The booklet’s cover reads: “PUBLIÉ SANS AUTORISATION DE WALT DISNEY” – a joke thrown into sharp relief when we learn that Rosenthal was, in that same year, transferred to Auschwitz and killed on his arrival.

 

Late late late

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Tracy Auch’s Necrophilic Landscape.

Tracy Auch’s necrophilic landscape is a combat zone, the site of a schism between adults and children. The story’s kids, dissidents behind “the blight of child crime,” have started using vessels in the shape of adult bodies to infiltrate the adult world. Lucas Barrette, an ace detective, responds in kind; he opts to be divided at the waist before he enters a child stronghold. Barrette’s body is split into autonomous halves and placed atop pairs of prosthetic legs, so that he better resembles (twice over) the vessels of the child criminal element. Barrette’s head tops one of the new entities, and his genitals top the other. This process marks the end of the comic’s prologue; it’s a memorable start to a demanding, singular story.

Tracy Auch has created work under a few different names (e.g. her contribution, as “Hennessy,” to Austin English’s Tusen Hjärtan Stark #2), though The Necrophilic Landscape may be her most visible piece of cartooning, given the growing profile of its publisher, 2DCloud. Even so, a couple of years removed from the comic’s release, there’s not much writing on Landscape, which could be a function of Auch’s opting out of typical brand-building or of Landscape as a challenging work.

Elsewhere:

Longtime cartoonist and publisher Paul Lyons could use your help getting through a medical crisis. I just donated. Please consider doing the same.

The Guardian has an obit for Leo Baxendale and here is a sampling of work by the great cartoonist.

 

Of Sea and Jungle

Today on the site, Frank Santoro continues his series on Risograph printing in comics, interviewing the undersung John Pham.

Tell me about this legend I’ve heard: you created your own brushes for your process? You may be giving away trade secrets with this answer – however, I’m curious: Can you walk a layperson through your process of “Photoshop and the risograph talking to each other” or at least the process that Ben Jones refers to in this interview?

It’s pretty simple and 100% super boring. I basically examined scans of a lot of my wet-media-type pen and ink drawings and tried to reproduce them faithfully as Photoshop brushes. I have sort of an insane comics process in that I can only take sips and fragments of work time whenever I can because of my ridiculous day job and personal life. I do a lot of the work digitally wherever I may be. So it’s important to me to have Photoshop tools that still feel like I’m drawing using a rapidograph or hunt 102 dip pen on bristol board … and now you’re falling asleep.

As for how I get the color mixing and “airbrush” effects, it’s all a combination of adjustment layers (which I learned from working in animation); a p-shop airbrush set to “dissolve” (which I learned from Dan Zettwoch who I think might’ve gotten it from Chris Ware) and converting all my solid colors to diffusion dithered bitmaps. It gets a little involved and would probably require its own sort of tutorial lesson, but that’s essentially it. And of course these are just tools and techniques anyone can learn – what you do with it is something else entirely.

When I got my first GR it really was much more of a challenge getting my files and my Riso to talk to each other, and I think that’s what Ben’s referring to. This was about 6 years ago and I had to do a lot of experimenting and trial and error to figure it out. The solution ended up involving connecting my RIP (even getting the RIP was a challenge) with an older version of my Mac’s OS (which had to be run through an emulator), with the appropriate postscript driver file. All really exciting stuff! But it worked, and that’s the workflow I ended up using for the first issue of SCUZZI and Epoxy 4. Anyone out there still awake?


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

I’ve been enjoying Gloria Rivera’s guest posts at Comics Workbook, including her most recent, a guide to the comics her parents read growing up in Mexico.

I’ve been meaning to write something about these comics since I found out about them a year ago. Before this I never knew my parents read comics in their youth. They both grew up in Mexico (b. 1964 and 1966) in small pueblos, and left their houses at 14 and 19 to work.

I was so curious as to what interested them enough as kids to capture their attention week after week. What captivated them had to actually interest the town as a whole in order to be read. They explained that children in the pueblos were poor and could only afford an issue here and there, and swapping comics with other kids was the only way they could finish the adventures. Even more removed – they paid to read to whichever child in the pueblo had the issue they needed to read next.

For Vice, Nick Gazin talks to Lawrence Hubbard about Real Deal.

VICE: What’s it like to have this hardcover collection of your comics after all these decades?
Lawrence “Raw Dog” Hubbard: “What’s it like?” It’s a feeling of euphoria, of validation. Thinking of all of the hard work, hours of drawing and creating Real Deal and wondering, Does anybody give a shit about this?

All of the times me and H.P. McElwee took Real Deal directly to the people, the fans, they loved it! But at the same time when we went before the gatekeepers of the industry—publishers, distributors, shop owners—they said, “No! Why don’t you come up with a new superhero?” The best way to look at this is to never give up! If you love something and have a passion for it, stick with it! And whatever happens will happen!

Ha ha ha ha.

 

Support People

Today on the site, Matthias Wivel joins us for a thorough critical discussion of last year’s George Herriman biography, Krazy. This is our final piece on the book. Read other takes here and here

 

Michael Tisserand’s long-awaited, magisterial biography of Herriman, Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White, cogently points us in a compelling direction, however, by framing the art in terms of the artist’s ethnic identity. Since the discovery in 1971 of George Joseph Herriman’s 1880 birth certificate, on which he was categorized as ‘colored’, it has been well known, at least to comics cognoscenti, that the light-skinned Herriman spent his life passing as ‘white,’ kinky hair hidden under his ubiquitous Stetson. Tisserand is cognizant that his take is not new, but he digs much deeper than before attempted, taking us back to Herriman’s birthplace in the Tremé section of New Orleans in the last decades of the nineteenth century, as post-Reconstruction segregation laws were formally gutting the promise and practice of emancipation. His research here is rich in the way it conjures up a quintessentially American family history as it unfolded against the fraught and complex tapestry that was, and remains, American racial relations.

Elsewhere:

The Wall Street Journal profiles former Vertigo founding editor Karen Berger as she prepares to embark on a new line of comics.

John Porcellino is raising money to publish The Complete Strange Growths, 1991-1997, by Jenny Zervakis. A very very worthy cause for an excellent and little-seen comic.

And finally, Edward Gorey’s collections, examined.

 

Smaller Size

Joe McCulloch is here this morning with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, pointing out the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. Spotlight picks this week include two must-read titles: Sammy Harkham’s Crickets #6 and Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons. Joe also talks a little about Frédéric Coché.

I’m not excitable enough to declare anything the reprint of the year in April, but let’s just say I was VERY glad to discover Frémok has issued a new edition of Hortus Sanitatis, a rare early work from the artist Frédéric Coché – early enough that its 2000 initial edition was specifically published by Fréon, the Belgian art comics concern which subsequently merged with the French publisher Amok to form Frémok. I first discovered Coché’s work through Frémok’s 2005 release of The Hero’s Life and Death Triumphant, a very mysterious and unsettling bilingual French-English graphic novel formed from titled sequences of metal engravings. Hortus Sanitatis, its title taken from a natural history encyclopedia with origins in the 15th century. functions in much the same way, though its story is completely wordless.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. AIGA profiles Eleanor Davis.

Sketchiness, though, is integral to the impact of the work. The loose hand echoes the movement of Davis on her bike: her outlines are like that of a cyclist passing you by—fast, evocative, and a quick impression of shape and energy. As Davis’ recent comics deal with themes of sadness and mental health—her lauded 2014 How To Be Happy is an abstract collection of short stories that explore depression’s many forms—there is also something freeing in the looseness of the sketches in You & A Bike & A Road. In the story, Davis addresses the fact that the journey is, in part, a way to keep depression at bay. “I was having trouble with wanting to not be alive. But I feel good when I’m bicycling,” she writes on one page. The form of her drawing, its lightness, seems to reject the weight of crippling sadness, just as the process of cycling does for Davis.

The Wall Street Journal profiles former Vertigo/new Dark Horse editor Karen Berger.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Josh Bayer, and the latest on Process Party is Keith Knight.

—Reviews & Commentary. Bob Temuka writes about the latest Love & Rockets.

The smaller format means there is a smaller chunk of story, and Love and Rockets Magazine #2 features bite-sized slices of both brothers’ ongoing sagas, taking a few steps forward and underlying the slightness of the plotting with a couple of devastating emotional truths. So, same as it ever was, then.

Attempted Bloggery has posted a New York Times article first published twenty years ago, when Bob Mankoff first took over as the magazine’s cartoons editor.

At the same time, the definition of a New Yorker cartoon has changed over the last decade. Its principle characteristic, what has been called a kind of “wink-slash-smirk” humor tailored to Manhattan sensibilities, has been transformed into something a little more generally accessible.

And, some critics say, while New Yorker cartoons of past decades can still elicit grins, many recent ones are so dependent on the moment that they may not last.