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The Rundown

This week, Sloane Leong continues her series of interviews with fellow artists-in-residence at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, France. This time, she spoke with Josune Arrutia about cancer, Susan Sontag, and the growing interest in what's being called "graphic medicine."

Josune Urrutia: The project has no title yet. It’s about six women artists that lived with cancer and decided to make work in order to re-signify the surroundings and meanings of cancer through art.

And so what motivated you to write that sort of story?

It’s been almost ten years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and in a way it changed my life.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, I first made the Brief Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary of MY Cancer at the end of 2017. It’s not a comic, it’s actually an alphabet that approaches cancer from different points of view, territories, genres and languages, attempting to understand the universal reality of cancer based on my personal experience with cancer and illness.

[...]

What type of cancer did you battle with?

Ovarian. So this is the first thing I made related to cancer and illness. The Brief Dictionary has been germinal for other projects like the comic I’m working on here at MdA, or the one with Art Center La Panera and the Radiation Oncology Unit of the public Hospital in Lleida, Catalonia. We are working on a collective illustrated publication about cancer. It’s a participatory project where all the hospital community takes part: the team of radiotherapy oncology, doctors, technicians, patients, family expansive, etc. It’s like my Brief Dictionary, but collective.

The great Joe McCulloch returns with a review of panpanya's Invitation from a Crab.

Despite the terrific influence Japanese comics have had on small-press and online-focused cartoonists here in the English-speaking west, it's still pretty rare to encounter the Japanese equivalents of those none-too-mainstream artists in translation. Much of what is presented as 'manga' to overseas readers is very much commercial entertainment - because Japan's industry of comics is comparatively very healthy, there are many more professional working cartoonists, and a wider net can thus be cast into the stream of popular genres and topics; it's more akin to cable television than anything familiar to English-language comics. As a result, even if you stick to the biggest publishers and the more formulaic titles, 'manga' will appear to be more diverse. But smaller manga do sometimes get through. Just last month, the Tokyo bookstore and art gallery Popotame put out an English-translated selection of comics titled Popocomi, for release at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. This follows a 2016 English edition of the Japanese indie manga anthology USCA from Diorama Books, and 2018's š! #32, a Latvian-assembled showcase for Japanese artists. Among larger publishers, we must not forget that Kabi Nagata's hugely-acclaimed memoir My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (published in English by Seven Seas) began its life as a personal webcomic, or that the popular ESPer mayhem series Mob Psycho 100 (published in English by Dark Horse) is from an artist, ONE, who made his name doing similarly lo-fi online work.

Into this scene drops An Invitation from a Crab, a year-one release for the new manga-in-English publisher Denpa, as translated by Ko Ransom. The collection itself is not a small-press item; it was first released in Japanese in 2014 by Hakusensha, the same publisher that handles Berserk, and parts of it appeared beforehand via Rakuen, a mainline comics magazine marketed to women. However, the artist, panpanya, has deep roots in Japanese small- and self-publishing, particularly as it relates to Comitia, a seasonal convention dedicated to original works (as opposed to the fanfiction-heavy tables of the larger Comiket). Considerable domestic acclaim followed the 2013 release of Ashizuri Aquarium, a first-ever arrangement of the artist's theretofore self-published comics, as released by January and July, a book publisher-cum-anime goods merchant; An Invitation from a Crab is thus panpanya's wider-release sophomore collection - a major-label second album, albeit the first to appear in English.

And Toussaint Egan reviews Sharpe & Goodrich's Viewotron.

When it comes to reading Viewotron No. 1, the inaugural volume of Sam Sharpe’s ‘one-or-more-person comics anthology’ co-created with Peach S Goodrich, it’s all a matter of perspective. In the volume’s second comic, ‘The Secret Origins of Viewotron’, the eponymous thingamabob is revealed to have been a literal ‘deus ex machina’ created by Sharpe and Goodrich back in 2005 as a prop for an impromptu sci-fi film the two had been working on at the time. “It’s a machine whose purpose is unclear,” Sam confidently states, whose only explicit function being to reveal something “different” to whomever looks into it. When asked what exactly the Viewotron shows to the person peering through it, Sam simply replies, “Whatever your character needs to see.” This concept, of a tool facilitated to reveal the unseen and essential truth of one’s lived experiences through the animating spark of their subjectivity, is carried through to the color scheme of Viewotron itself: an mock-analyphic red and cyan composition evoking comparisons to the earliest forms of commercial 3D imagery. What at first is mundane can turn out to be revelatory, if viewed with the proper mindset. It’s an appropriate context for a disarmingly pleasant collection of stories that tackle everything from the anxiety of subjective experience, misplaced expectations, mortality, loneliness, and the aimless struggle to find one’s sense of place and meaning in the world.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The New York Times has decided to end their publication of all political cartoons, several weeks after the controversy over a syndicated anti-Netanyahu cartoon in its international edition. Times cartoonist Pat Chappette writes about the decision:

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they'll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon - not even mine - that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world. [...]

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie's infringement suit against InfoWars has ended with Furie receiving a $15,000 settlement.

The InfoWars lawsuit, filed last year, centered on a poster sold by InfoWars featuring Pepe alongside Trumpworld personalities like Roger Stone, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and pundits “Diamond & Silk.”

Before settling, InfoWars tried a novel legal strategy of suggesting, without evidence, that Furie had actually based Pepe on an Argentinian amphibian cartoon character named “El Sapo Pepe.” But on Tuesday, InfoWars agreed to destroy all remaining copies of the poster, and pay back the $14,000 it made from the poster sales—along with an additional $1,000.

—Commentary. Ross Trudeau writes about his father, Garry Trudeau.

Dad only ever seemed to shut the studio door on Fridays. His slate of six dailies and one nine-panel Sunday strip were due to the inker by 6:00 P.M., and he rarely finished a minute before. And just as his professional anxiety reached its weekly zenith, we three children would burst back into the pre-war Central Park West co-op with typical weekend-anticipatory zeal. The few times my father could have been said to have snapped at me unfairly occurred at the threshold of his studio, in mid-afternoon on a Friday: deadline day (or, as my sister called it, “Daddy’s Mad Day).

At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton writes about the online furor that recently erupted around Chelsea Cain and her current Image series, Man-Eaters.

It’s not breaking news that Chelsea Cain, author of Marvel’s Mockingbird, has seen her share of criticism lately for her new comic, Man-Eaters, published by Image Comics. Hailed by some as feminist critique, numerous aspects of Man-Eaters have also been slammed by critics for being insensitive to various groups of people. Cain has acknowledged these critics in the past, going so far as to publicly pledge to do better.

The very premise of the book — a mutation causes menstruating women to turn into dangerous were-felines — has been criticized for being gender essentialist and ignoring the existence of trans people, despite Cain’s claims otherwise. (It also features a plot point where estrogen is added to the water, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of real life fear-mongering about the trans community.) Additionally, more recent issues of the comic have featured (white) women in concentration camps and being forced to drink out of different water fountains than men, garnering criticism that she’s being hypothetically alarmist about things that have actually happened (and are, in fact, still happening) to people of color.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Bill Griffith, the most recent guest on Chapo Trap House is Alan Moore, and the most recent guest on RiYL is Jim Rugg.

Also, Henry Chamberlain interviews R. Sikoryak:

—RIP. Bushwick Bill.

 

Three to Go

If you haven't had the chance yet to dig into yesterday's Clyde Fans roundtable, I highly recommend it. In it, seven comics scholars and Seth experts—Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Martha Kuhlman, Daniel Marrone, Barbara Postema, Candida Rifkind, Tom Smart—discuss in depth Seth's twenty-years-in-the-making signature work. Here's a bit from Hatfield's introductory remarks:

From the sound of it, Clyde Fans should be an epic: a mid-twentieth-century family story spanning some four decades in the life (and death) of a company inherited by two sons from a wayward father, a business vulnerable to technological and social change and thus ultimately made obsolete. Firmly set in postwar to late-century Ontario, and rooted in certain kinds of Ontarian landscape and a (then optimistic, now pitiable) commercial culture of nonstop go-getting salesmanship — an eager, scurrying, small-time capitalism — Clyde Fans seems determined to chart how a changing world looks from a particular vantage point. Culturally, it’s very specific, and there is so much that might be done to show how various people lived in and made that culture. The lives of Abraham and Simon Matchcard, mismatched brothers working for one too-long lived business, would seem to be an apt vehicle for depicting change in the world (or at least the Ontario) at large. Though mundane, Clyde Fans covers so many years, and has taken so very many years to complete and collect in book form, that the temptation to greet it as Something Big, a monumental work, is hard to resist.

The thing is, the collected Clyde Fans, to me, despite its physical heft, feels like a small story, or rather a meditative visual poem. It doesn’t feel big. It’s intimate. In fact, it’s more than intimate: it’s a closed world, a microcosm, much like the Clyde Fans building that encloses so much of the action. Seth, in rounding off the story, does what the Matchcard brothers do: he turns inward, tightening scope, excluding much of the social world whose changing nature might lead us to expect, well, an epic. This is a story about two recluses, each clinging to the Clyde building for his own reasons, one a go-getter perhaps tragically replaying the sins of his hated father, the other nursing their dying mother and embracing darkness and solitude as a relief from the world’s pressure, but both crawling inside themselves and seeking or succumbing to oblivion. The book itself mirrors their retreat, winding down and disappearing down its own ostrich hole, ending with a rejection of the larger world that ambiguously teeters between tragedy and affirmation.

Today, Alex Dueben returns to interview webcartoonist Kat Verhoeven.

At the start you were thinking of other webcomics like Octopus Pie and Girls with Slingshots.

Absolutely. I get the Octopus Pie comparison fairly often which I think is a compliment. It’s the same format and it was a really big inspiration to me at the time. When I describe the comic I say, it’s like the TV show Friends but sadder. [laughs]

[laughs] I like that. But why did you decide to use a horizontal page design?

I had started working in different printing presses, which is still the day job that I have. I was beginning to get into that work and had started to learn more about paper sizes and page sizes. I was thinking about comic books on shelves and so I mostly did it to try to stand out. Not a lot of comics are done in a horizontal format. Not a lot of long form print comics are done that way. It’s sort of it’s been a bit of a regret actually. As I’ve learned more about webcomic formatting and how to build an audience and make a comic more accessible across different devices, a landscape comic is the worst way of reading that you can have. But it was fun. I wouldn’t do it again but I’m glad Meat and Bone exists in that format. It will stand out on the shelf, I think.

And of course, we also published Days Four and Five of AJ Dungo's Cartoonist's Roundtable.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The nominees for this year's Russ Manning Awards have been announced.

—Cartoonist and community fixture Dustin Harbin had a serious bicycle accident and is raising funds for medical expenses.

—RIP. Dr. John.

 

Amazing Adult Fantasy

Today on the site, we present an excerpt from AJ Dungo's In Waves.

Dungo, of course, is the artist for this week's Cartoonist's Diary. Day Two and Day Three are up now.

Yesterday, we published the most recent R.C. Harvey column, which this time focused on Eric Stanton, fetish artist, Steve Ditko studio-mate, and possible co-creator of Spider-Man.

In 1951, Stanton married Grace Marie Walter on October 20; they had two children, both boys. The same year, Stanton enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School founded by Burne Hogarth. Stanton took courses from Hogarth and from Jerry Robinson, and in Robinson’s class, he met Ditko and Eugene Bilbrew, an African-American artist who Stanton would introduce to Klaw. As Eneg (“Gene” spelled backwards), Bilbrew, like Stanton, would pursue a career in fetish art.

Ditko, asked years later how he and Stanton met, said, “I liked the way he drew women.” More about their relationship anon.

Over the years, Stanton would produce work for several merchants of fetish art: Edward Mishkin, who ran a store near Times Square (in those days, the neighborhood of sexploitation with dozens of stores selling girlie magazines, photographs, movies, and smut); Leonard Burtman, publisher and merchandiser; Max Stone, publisher of fighting female serials; and Stanley Malkin, also a Times Square entrepreneur, who would hire Stanton, putting him on salary, to do covers for his magazines—Stanton’s longest salaried situation as a fetish artist, 1963-68. Malkin also furnished and paid all the expenses for a small apartment for Stanton.

All, plus Klaw, were eventually arrested, tried and convicted of trafficking in pornography (“printed circulars, pamphlets, booklets, drawings, photographs and motion picture films, which were non-mailable in that they were obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, and filthy”). After serving their sentences (usually payment of a fine), all returned to their businesses under different names—except Malkin, who gave it up in 1969.

Edwin Turner is here, too, with a review of the latest from Jaime Hernandez.

Hernandez's art is as impressive as ever. His Pop style is deceptively simple, with bold lines and controlled patterns reminiscent of Kirbyesque romance comics or Archie classics---but let's be real---nearly four decades in, Hernandez's work is its own idiom. His command of facial expressions is particularly praiseworthy. In one priceless panel, a teenage Hopey overhears herself being insulted. Her aghast frown is worthy of a dozen paragraphs of interior monologue (and far more economical). It's fascinating too to see how naturally Hernandez has realized the aging of his characters, as if they were not drawings on a page, but rather real people.

Is This How You See Me? is ostensibly the sequel to 2014's The Love Bunglers, a graphic novel that retold Maggie's childhood in a startling and impressionistic manner. Together, these novels make a nice introduction to Love & Rockets to anyone perhaps daunted by the series' long history and large cast. Both volumes show an author who cares deeply about his characters, and loves Maggie in particular. Reading Is This How You See Me?, one realizes that Hernandez could go on writing about Maggie for another three decades---and that she would continue to change and fascinate both her readers and her creator.

And Sean Witzke writes about Warren Ellis and Jason Howard's Cemetery Beach.

So this Warren Ellis comic that is indistinguishable from the last Warren Ellis comic I read (which would be a solid 7, 8 years ago), where the characters start explaining their predicaments before panel one and never stop explaining their predicaments until the 162nd page… there's obviously someone who wants this. But I don’t even know if Warren Ellis likes this style of writing. He’s done it, certainly, since the beginning; but his science fiction comics were often dialog-driven polemics, and his action comics usually providing some interesting visual elements while scaling the talk way back. I’m thinking of something like Global Frequency, or more recently his Moon Knight comic that was just a comic book version of the staircase scene from Tony Jaa’s The Protector. A bunch of somethings that a comics writer has very little say in whether or not it’s executed well, beyond teeing up and hoping a good artist will show off.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tommi Parris's The Lie and How We Told It won this year's Lambda Literary Award for graphic novels.

—At The New Yorker, Dan Piepenring writes about Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's How to Read Donald Duck.

Among North American audiences, Disney was most famous for its films and theme parks, but, abroad, Disney comics had a robust readership, and legions of freelance artists tailored them—or rewrote them—to international tastes. In Chile, Donald Duck was by far the most popular Disney character. But Dorfman and Mattelart argued that Donald was a conservative mouthpiece, dampening the revolutionary spirit, fostering complacency, and softening the sins of colonialism. What kind of a role model was he, this eunuch duck, who sought only fame and fortune, who ignored the plight of the working class, who accepted endless suffering as his lot? “Reading Disney,” they wrote, “is like having one’s own exploited condition rammed with honey down one’s throat.”

“How to Read Donald Duck,” published in 1971, was an instant best-seller in Chile. But, in 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power from Allende, in a violent military coup; under Pinochet’s rule, the book was banned, as an emblem of a fallen way of thought. Donald and Mickey Mouse became champions of the counter-revolution. One official pasted their faces on the walls of his office, where, under his predecessor, socialist slogans had once hung. Dorfman watched on TV as soldiers cast his book into a bonfire; the Navy confiscated some ten thousand copies and dumped them into the bay of Valparaíso. A motorist tried to plow him down in the street, shouting “Viva el Pato Donald!”

 

C – M – C’

Today on the site, Sloane Leong returns with the latest of her series of interviews with fellow Angoulême residents. This time, she talks to Kathrine Avraam.

You have a very distinct textural style that's all very gestural. How did you develop it?

I always switch from analog to digital and the main reason is precisely in search of good graphics that goes with what I want to tell. The place of the texture thus becomes crucial in this game. Younger, I felt frustrated in front of any tool (charcoals, acrylics, pastels etc) and the idea that there are so many techniques of paintings that I do not know and that  I will never be able to control. Now my goal is to draw the best of all these two worlds, the spontaneity of analog and digital freedom. And then the role of the texture, unlike the line, is not descriptive but rather revealing! Revealing the emotional state to which I push my reader.

H.W. Thurston is here with her review of B. Mure's Terrible Means.

I feel somewhat guilty writing a lukewarm review of Terrible Means, and I’ve been trying to understand why. It is after all a professional, purchase-able comic, so to have an attack of taste or conscience on this front runs a risk of sounding condescending. But different artworks are offered up to the world with different attitudes and those attitudes affect the kind of criticism that feels appropriate. I’d never bust onto someone’s personal Instagram, or fan art blog and complain about how they’re taking pictures of their family and drawing their favorite characters and what about what I want to see, huh? There’s an understanding that those creations are the artist experimenting or expressing themselves, not things that are making a case for how good they are. They were created to be either enjoyed or ignored. By comparison, there are works that clearly have a goal, and invite you to judge them by their success at achieving it. I’d have no guilt about disparaging a given Netflix Original or Star Wars outing, because those things claim to be entertaining, and try to earn the mass-adoration (well, patronage) of their audiences. I might not think that judging those things is particularly worth my time, because trying to convince a major studio that their art is bad is like trying to earn the affection of someone who hates you. But I’d definitely feel allowed.

And AJ Dungo begins his week creating out Cartoonist's Diary.

We closed out last week with Steve Ringgenberg's obituary for the significant portrait painter and comics artist Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Everett Raymond Kinstler, who died on May 26 at the age of 92, occupied a unique position among all comics artists. No other artist went from drawing for the pulps and comic books to painting presidential portraits. And not just one or two, but eight presidents sat for him, including Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, both Bushes and Donald Trump. His paintings of Reagan and Ford are the official White House portraits. In addition to his presidential portraits, Kinstler went on to become the portrait painter of society’s elite, painting more than 1,200 portraits that ranged from depictions of astronauts, to captains of industry, to movie stars like John Wayne, James Cagney, Gene Hackman, Christopher Plummer, Clint Eastwood and Katharine Hepburn. Additionally, he painted such prominent public figures as Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, John D. Rockefeller III, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Harry Blackmun, plus six U.S. governors, four secretaries of state and the presidents of numerous educational institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Smith, Wellesley and many others. During his long career, Kinstler painted portraits of more than 50 cabinet officers, more than any other artist. He also turned his hand to painting portraits of authors like Ayn Rand, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Tom Wolfe.

Jake Murel reviewed Ali Fitzgerald's Drawn to Berlin.

Drawn to Berlin is Ali Fitzgerald’s first book-length comic. As a drawing instructor at one of Berlin’s bubble shelters during the height of the 2015 European refugee crisis, the social power of images is one of her central concerns. From German typography to caricatures circulated in anti-immigration propaganda to the self-portraits she drew for refugees passing through shelters, Fitzgerald recognizes the potential of images, and more specifically comics, as a force for good or ill everywhere. Her work tells not only her own story, but the stories of a displaced people longing for home. For Fitzgerald, then, the ethical dimension of comics, far from being some abstract philosophical or political question, is of deeply personal concern.

In fact, Fitzgerald records the personal struggle involved in crafting Drawn to Berlin. As a comic journalist, she finds herself torn between the desire to give voice to the voiceless and the fear she may inadvertently colonize already marginalized people by sensationalizing their lives as a “crisis comic.” Near the book’s end, Fitzgerald overtly addressees these worries when she tells an unnamed character, “I just...don’t want to colonize people’s stories,” to which her acquaintance responds, “But this is your story too, isn’t it?” This panel summarize not only a central tension in Drawn to Berlin, but the whole work’s genre-blending approach. Blending categories of graphic memoir, comics journalism, and historical overview, Fitzgerald records her own life alongside the lives of those she seeks to help as well as the life of the city in which they live. For her, none of these stories can be considered in isolation, like a panel in the comics sequence.

And on Friday, Melanie Gillman completed their two-week residency creating our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At the Spectator, Hermione Lee talks to Posy Simmonds.

Starting with Gemma Bovery, her witty update of Flaubert in 1999, her graphic novels came out just as the genre itself was becoming increasingly respected — culminating in the first Man Booker prize longlist nomination for a graphic novel last year (Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso). Simmonds acknowledges how far the genre has come. Women, she says, were ‘accused of muscling in on a scene that was male, particularly the superhero scene in the US, but now there’s a whole generation of women who are completely uninhibited and drawing just as themselves…. Still,’ she grins, ‘people think you’re probably drawing bears in pinnies. You’re often asked, “And do you ever do any proper writing?”’

—RIP. Roky Erickson

 

Four to Go

Today on the site, Austin English returns with a piece in which he asks nine different cartoonists the same twenty questions, about their methods, their philosophies, their materials, and their working spaces.

7. Do you read a lot of comics? Are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics, or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

I read less than I ever have these days. When I was working almost full time on comics, I was definitely reading more. I was also going to fests more then which exposed me to great new books. I’ve been out of the circuit the last couple years dealing with other ventures and projects. I really appreciate comics but they’re rarely where I’m pulling my motivation or inspiration from.

8. Do you make comics for a living? If not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics-making process?

I haven’t produced a new book in a while so basically am not making any income from comics at the moment. That’s not to say though I don’t use narrative formats in other work or am not selling work that relates to my history and context within comics. I do live on my art, of which I’d say there are significant connections between all of my practices.

9. Do other art forms often seem more attractive to you?

I don’t think I could only do one practice ever. I like to be stimulated by different contexts and ways of thinking. I need comics, I also need to make installations and work in spaces. I’m attracted to the image of being a painter and a writer in a very classical romantic way, but I also recognize that’s not not what I do.

We have posted Day Eight and Day Nine of Melanie Gillman's Cartoonist's Diary.

And yesterday, we posted the latest installment of our Retail Therapy column, this time featuring responses from Wayne McNeil, the owner of Generation X in Dallas-Fort Worth.

What do you wish more publishers knew about comics retail?

The lack of information makes it really difficult to make decisions. Too many "Whole New Era" and "Everything Changes" as a way to hint that SOMETHING is happening. And then when the event turns out to be minor then the decisions become even more difficult for next time. Plus, telling stores that a big event (like a marriage) was going to happen and then pulling it back makes the STORES look stupid, not the publishers. Finally, having multiple event books every year means fewer and fewer people care about any one "event."

I would also like to see consistent placement of issue numbers and barcodes. Trying to ring up a customer and having to continually hunt the front and back of each comic for each barcode is time consuming. And having issue numbers in wildly inconsistent places on the cover frustrates many customers who are trying to fill in their collection.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Comics Workbook has an interview with Niall Breen.

KUNV Las Vegas talks to Charles Hatfield about his book on Jack Kirby.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Eric Kostiuk Williams.

 

Ribs Hangover

This week, Melanie Gillman sets a record by being the first cartoonist to follow up one week of a Cartoonist's Diary with a second week. Here are Day Six and Day Seven.

Nicholas Burman is here, too, with an interview with the British comics writer Mary Talbot.

In your comics you've gone from writing about yourself (alongside a historical figure), a fictional figure, and a biography. What, if any, differences did you apply to the writing process when piecing these stories together? Were you asking yourself any ethical questions around portraying the story of Louise Michel, for example?

While I was working on what became Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, I was moved by the tragedy of Lucia Joyce’s story and I was keen to write about that in some way. For a long time I saw my own little story solely as a means to explicate hers. It shocked me that Lucia seems to have been a kind of casualty of modernism. Her father is this stellar modernist figure, with ‘advanced’ views about marriage and so on, yet the Joyces had pretty bourgeois notions about women and these eventually crushed the life out of Lucia. It was only when I could see that my idea of presenting two parallel lives was working well that I finally overcame my diffidence about memoir writing. Once I started to work on the two interweaving plot lines I could see how it would work as a single story. Then I was completely comfortable with the memoir aspect. I did ponder the birth scene quite a lot before adding it, though. I had to do masses of research into Lucia’s life. The final section about her was painful to write. In fact, I found I was starting to well up with tears every time I read through that part. I took it as a good sign, as far as the book was concerned; if it affected me so much, then surely it would do something for readers. Writing about my own past was a different matter. Obviously it’s familiar to me and the most recent event recounted (my mother’s death) was thirty years ago. The next two books seemed more straightforward, presumably because they were far less personal. I do recall that, in the case of The Red Virgin, I had to think very carefully about how to represent the ghastly ‘Bloody Week’ massacre, to neither sensationalize nor downplay. I think I got the tone about right. Conversely, with Sally Heathcote: Suffragette I wanted to make a prison force-feeding scene as gruesome as possible, so that the reader would appreciate what an appalling procedure it was.

We also have Oliver Ristau's review of Zac Thompson and Arjuna Susini's The Replacer.

The Replacer is a comic book – or as Aftershock's bureau of public relation affairs calls it, a “64-Page Graphic Novella” – that deeply immerses the reader into the daily affairs evolving around a medical patient's history proceeding from a vascular cerebral incident. So the subhead placed beneath a cover that's imitating the outlook of an old VHS tape shouldn't read, “Home is where the horror is” but “People taking care of you is where the horror is.”

Its topic is basically similar to the recently released Dementia 21 by Shintaro Kago, who also visited the area of taking care of others, but for Kago the chosen subject matter of elderly care management offered an opportunity to stage a black comedy, not a journey through the monstrous challenges for one caught in the treadmill of continuous care – though sometimes grim truths can't be suppressed, hence Dementia 21's jungle war episode, in which protégés turn into perfidious booby traps.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For the London Evening Standard, Susannah Butter profiles Posy Simmonds.

Simmonds doesn’t usually show anyone her sketches. “A French journalist recently asked me what my motivation was,” she says, amused. “I just do it.” But she has recently returned to her archives in the lead-up to a retrospective of her work at the House of Illustration in King’s Cross. It will include her childhood creations, cartoon strips for The Guardian and illustrations from her children’s books such The Chocolate Wedding and Fred, which became an Oscar-nominated film.

She shows me how Bovery evolved from photos of Princess Diana, who Simmonds drew from all angles “to bring her to life”. Simmonds double-checked that all movements were realistic by looking in the mirror. “I rather liked the way Princess Di looked under her fringe, that gave me the idea for Gemma’s face,” she says.

Rob Clough interviews Whit Taylor.

I was considered “artistic” in elementary school. And I remember one day these folks came to our school to assess for artistic ability. I took some sort of “drawing test” and they concluded that I had no technical ability but was good as a freehand drawer. Being judged that early stuck with me and probably charted much of the course of my art career. I took an art class in high school and didn’t continue because I didn’t like my art teacher (she wasn’t particularly nice). I pretty much stopped drawing in high school and focused my attention on stage crew/musicals, sports, and playing music.

When I got to college, I took a studio foundation course at Brown, as well as screenwriting and some film classes. At the time, I wanted to make socio-cultural documentaries. I wanted to get into RISD courses because my school had an arrangement with them, but those classes were almost impossible to get into, so I never took any. During my studio foundation course though, we were required to go to a talk at RISD, where I saw Roz Chast speak. That was a game changer for me. Harvey Pekar also came to visit Brown to talk about the American Splendor movie. I met him and talked with him a bit too and he encouraged me to make comics. After those experiences, I started drawing again.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson reviews the first issue of Dash Shaw's Clue: Candlestick.

This comic is insane. In adapting a game about psychology, it’s about this simplified and transparent version of the same. Formally, it then becomes about depicting thought processes, essentially. Shaw has a long-time interest in comics and the language of depicting the invisible, so we get a more heightened version of that. From the first page, it’s working at a very high level to create a visual language to describe how perception works. There’s this sort of meta awareness of itself and what it’s doing and the need to explain that that then transfers to the reader. I texted multiple people while reading this comic to say how good it was, as I could barely believe it, could only understand it by communicating it to others.

[In the interests of disclosure, I should say that I contributed a short ancillary essay to this issue.]

 

Five to Go

Today, on the site we have a new installment in Sloane Leong's series of interviews she's been conducting with fellow residents of Angoulême's Maison des Auteurs. This week, the subject is Pam-Pam Liu.

You’ve drawn very raw autobio comics about yourself and your family. What is the process behind choosing what to share publicly? Do you worry that the people you depict will read them and possibly get offended? How does drawing these comics affect you?

I was studying in London in 2012 when the paper was about autobiographical comics, and I was addicted to: James Kochalka and Harvey Pekar.

Of course, watching other people's works is completely different from the feeling of hands-on records. I began to record life in the form of pictures and cartoons. The life at that time was very boring. I just wanted to give myself a small goal of daily creation. But after a few days after starting this project, I found a thief when I went home. A lot of things have been stolen. From then on, I discovered that the mystery of life and time is that it is impossible to master. As long as you wait quietly, there will always be some small things that can be recorded in life, whether it is boring or a major piece, when they are assembled into a visual form, they have different meanings.

I don't know if it is the difference between Eastern and Western cultures. From the beginning of my work on the Internet to record life, there are many Western readers who use "honest" to describe my work. For my work, this is a brand new. The point of view, because this is the way I create things in my perspective. And, very importantly, readers won't know if my work is completely honest.

Melanie Gillman delivers Day Four and Day Five of their Cartoonist's Diary.

We also have an excerpt from artist (and TCJ columnist) Austin English's work-in-progress, "Meskin and Umezo".

Also, Tegan O'Neil reviews Maia Kababe's Gender Queer.

Something about being non-binary which you might not really get unless you are, in fact, also non-binary: there’s not just one way to be non-binary, but as many different ways to be non-binary as there are non-binary people. Other than sharing the general sensation of being outside the gender binary - hence the “non,” naturally - the ways in which we conceptualize, discuss, and present ourselves as non-binary are perforce bespoke. The precedents for our lives are those we find along the way: hidden, eccentric, and eclectic. There were no non-binary celebrities when I was a kid. Before just a few years ago I had never even heard of “non-binary.” I discovered the word not that long before I discovered it applied to me, in the grand scheme of things.

The sensation of catching up late seems fairly common, at least. Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer approaches the subject with an eye towards the lay reader. The story begins with Kobabe’s childhood and advances methodically through eir life, showing step by step the ways in which the author discovered for eirself that conventional gender just wasn’t going to work. No one is born knowing this stuff, after all, especially given the cultural amnesia that hovers around all queer subjects. It makes sense for Kobabe to think that e might be a trans man, and many of the signs of eir’s early investigations point in that direction. But for various and sundry reasons its not quite right - close but no cigar, as they say. “My deepest emotional relationships have always been with women,” e says, “did that mean I was a lesbian? But my sexual fantasies involved two male partners. Was I a gay boy trapped in a girl’s body? The knowledge of a third option slept like a seed under the soil.”  

And Frank M. Young reviewed the second volume of Jacque Tardi's I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB.

An element of resigned fatalism shrouds both volumes of this work—it’s serie noire-worthy in its bleakness and frankness. Often, while reading both books, I was reminded of the great French films of the period just after the war ended. Working without censorial restraint, filmmakers such as Jacques Becker, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Robert Bresson expressed a grim vision of an immoral world. Perhaps the wartime experience of French prisoners-of-war (and those who struggled to survive during the German occupation of France) hard-wired this outlook into the culture’s films and novels. Jacques Tardi (and his father) deliver a comics narrative that is black to its core—yet defiantly composed of a blunt optimism. The books’ beleaguered, abused, starved, and diseased POWs stoically endure privation. They may bitch about it when things get ridiculously bad, but their response to much of the worst of mankind is a hard-nosed shrug.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The local-newspaper chain GateHouse Media has announced a round of layoffs, including cartoonists Nate Beeler and Rick McKee.

—Crowdfunding. We're into the final two weeks of the 2dcloud Kickstarter.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon previews Frank Santoro's Pittsburgh.

It's beautiful: in the artist's always assured approach to color, in the meticulous, old newspaper strip like scene-setting (Captain Easy could brawl across these working-class yards and street corners with aplomb) and the heartbreaking depiction of people made unhappy by the inevitable damage from of a lifetime of resentment locking glacier-like into place. Santoro himself is a character, a child and then a young man attracted to seeing his own life as a continuity of narratives that were building and shifting and falling apart before he was born. Santoro plays it with admirable restraint, bruises rather than bullet-holes but 1000 instances of that yellowing skin. He's as doomed as they are. We're as doomed as he is.

 

Treacle

Today on the site, Kim Jooha takes a look at the dialectical foundations of comics in her latest column.

Many fundamental elements of comics constitute dialectic relationships. Dialectic means that opposite or conflicting relations that result in a new form: thesis x antithesis → synthesis.

For example, comics typically consist of words and pictures. The actions upon them, reading and seeing, are both executed by the eye. This leads to conflict and makes the relationship dialectic.

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan

A dialectic related to reading and seeing is that between page and panel. When reading comics, first you ‘see the whole page’ and then you 'read the panel.’ Here, the page is the whole, while the panel is the part. We can see this dialectic working on the pages of Jimmy Corrigan.

Also, Melanie Gillman brought in Day Two and Three of their Cartoonist's Diary.

And yesterday, we published Alex Dueben's interview with Paige Braddock of Jane's World.

Jane’s World started in 1991 as a single-panel comic, do I have that right?

It was called See Jane. I was trying to play with this idea of not having a set cast of characters. It was just random thoughts, standalone gags – and I found I’m not very good at that. Some of them were okay, but I think my strength is more in characters in conversation with each other. The humor came out through character interplay. I had these three or four characters who kept showing up more often. That’s when it changed from a single panel to a comic strip with a regular cast of characters.

So you were making Jane’s World the comic strip for a few years before it launched online on whatever GoComics was then.

I pitched it to some syndicates and of course the storyline back then wasn’t overtly gay but it seemed too gay to conservative newspaper editors. I just started publishing it online in 1995. That was about five years before comics.com which then got taken over by GoComics. I like to say I had a webcomic back when people didn’t really know what the web was. [laughs] 1995 was like the dark ages.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Guardian, Jonathan Jones (who appears to enjoy riling up comics fans, based on his previous comics-focused pieces), tears apart a new manga exhibition at the British Museum.

Manga can be translated as “pictures run riot” and that is a beautiful description of these late 19th-century masterpieces. The trouble is that, on the evidence of this very odd exhibition, a lot of the riotousness has gone out of Japan’s graphic art since the 1880s. Today’s manga comics may be hugely popular in Japan and have a growing worldwide fanbase, but, as art, they don’t come near the verve and audacity of Kyōsai or Yoshitoshi.

Next to Yoshitoshi the curators display Inoue Takehiko’s manga series Vagabond, a martial arts adventure story about a swordsman called Miyamoto Musashi. We’re supposed to see a connection – and a curator who showed me round presented it as a comparison of equals – but, artistically, the images from Vagabond are internationalised and all too familiar. The hero looks like a Jedi knight and, with their slick style, these could easily be production drawings for the next Star Wars film.

Brian Nicholson writes about a selection of comics he's recently purchased from the bargain bin.

The New World by Ales Kot and Tradd Moore. Credit where it’s due, this was not only a lot better than the last comic by Ales Kot I read, it was maybe the best thing I pulled out of a bargain bin. This is largely due to Tradd Moore’s art. His art is slick, sort of in the vein of James Harvey. There’s this sort of HD sheen to it I assume comes from working digitally, where the characters don’t lose definition as they’re drawn smaller. This cartoonishness stops the book and its overt politics from lapsing into pretentiousness or didacticism. It does make the book feel very cute, where even as the narrative seems like it’s copying Transmetropolitan it feels like it’s for younger millennials or Gen Z. For a book taking place in the future, the young protagonists sure do relate to their parents in a very 2018 way, and it kind of feels like YA. It seems as if the author’s optimism about the future comes from certain trends among current youth, though in turn I find the protagonists annoying.

Chelsey Johnson pays homage to Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For.

I first encountered Dykes to Watch Out For in the mid-Nineties in the Oberlin College library. Alison Bechdel’s comic strip was still ongoing then, periodically collected and published in horizontal paperback books with bright covers. I flipped through them in the stacks, but as with real live dykes, I was too intimidated to check one out and bring it home. I had a massive case of imposter syndrome regarding my sexuality. Just because I wanted to be queer didn’t mean I was, right? I mean, I also wanted to be a writer. I had once wanted to be a jockey. I had wanted to be a singer. I had wanted to be all kinds of things there was no guarantee I had the mettle or capacity for. So I paged through these books fascinated by the stories they told about a group of queer women (and a man or two) who are friends and lovers and exes, and also a bit despondent about how far that was from my life. Bechdel herself had attended this school, but most of my friends there were straight or at best heteroflexible; it wasn’t until I graduated and left that I truly joined the gays.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Nina Bunjevac.