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Who Knows?

Today on the site, Annie Mok interviews Sofia Foster-Dimino.

ANNIE MOK: The title Sex Fantasy seems a little bit like a feint, because the book is kind of about sex and kind of not about sex.

SOPHIA FOSTER-DIMINO: Yeah, for real [laughs].

MOK: How did you come to this title?

FOSTER-DIMINO: When I picked the title, I didn’t even know I was gonna make it a series. But I wanted something that was striking and intriguing, and maybe a little misleading. People who have read my work closely and have followed along with the whole series are like, of course it is about sex fantasies for sure, even the non-explicit ones. And there are undercurrents of that, like issue 5 is about two women going on a date for maybe the second or third time, so there’s tension and then issue 8 is sort of this intense sexualized dominant-submissive dynamic between two people in a grocery store. And then in the last issue, I wanted to full-on address the concept of sex fantasies, so that’s probably the most direct take on the concept. For the other ones, that are more subtle, I wanted to explore ideas about self-expression and identity. How people change the way they conceive of themselves whether they’re alone or with people they trust, people they just met or people they know really well… So those pressures can change how we see ourselves, which ties into those sex fantasies. The idea of a sex fantasy is you’re imagining a person who you might not know very well and what they’re like and how they get along with you, but you’re also imagining a more perfect embodiment of yourself, a scenario where you can be the person that you truly want to be.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Hugh Hefner, the Playboy founder and failed cartoonist, died yesterday at 91. Through his magazine and various other ventures, he published many of the best comics artists of the last century, including Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jules Feiffer, Art Spiegelman, Gahan Wilson, B. Kliban, and many others, though few of them did their best work under his patronage. It's an undeniably important but contested legacy. The New York Times obituary is here.

As a child, Mr. Hefner spent hours writing horror stories and drawing cartoons. At Steinmetz High School, he said, “I reinvented myself” as the suave, breezy “Hef,” newspaper cartoonist and party-loving leader of what he called “our gang.” At the University of Illinois, after serving in the Army, he edited the humor magazine and started a photo feature called “Co-ed of the Month.”

[...]

Meanwhile he was plotting his own magazine, which was to be, among other things, a vehicle for his slightly randy cartoons. The first issue of Playboy was financed with $600 of his own money and several thousand more in borrowed funds, including $1,000 from his mother. But his biggest asset was a nude calendar photograph of Marilyn Monroe. He had bought the rights for $500.

—Interviews & Profiles.At du9, Xavier Guilbert interviews Simon Hanselmann.

You know, I’m still learning, I still feel like a terrible cartoonist. A few months ago, I had a big artistic crisis, and just thought all the Megg, Mogg and Owl was shit and just like garbage. But you know now I am back to thinking like “it’s okay, it’s fun”. But I think that’s death for an artist when you say : “yeah, this is awesome, I’m the best, you know, this is perfect.” You always need to grow and change and try to be better.
I should point out, I don’t use tumblr anymore, really. Tumblr’s garbage now, it really is — tumblr’s dead. I use Instagram, that’s much better, everyone migrated to Instagram. I feel guilty that I don’t update my tumblr much anymore. But you know, it was a good tool, and Instagram now is a good tool for just, like you said, throwing out sketches and different shit. I like to try and post something everyday, if I can, just to keep people interested. A long time ago, American cartoonist Sammy Harkham told me just this : you’ve gotta take every interview, keep on getting shit out there, keep in the public eye, because otherwise people will just forget about you (laugh). So there’s that paranoia in me that just has to keep producing, I have to keep putting this out. And I make a living from this now, I used to scrap birdshit out of aircraft hangars and work at McDonald’s — I don’t want to do that anymore, I’m very selfish and I just wanna draw comics all day. I wanna do what I wanna do, and the rest of the world can just fuck off (laugh). So, you know. You just have to keep pushing it, you can’t be lazy. If you wanna be successful, you can’t be lazy. This applies to anything, just like being an electrician, or being in the Navy or whatever. If you wanna have success, you have to work hard, you can’t fuck around.

WBUR talks to comics scholar A. David Lewis about Muslims in superhero comics.

There have been many, going as far back as our research finds to 1944, a character who's dear to me, Kismet, Man of Fate, first appeared in Bomber Comics, No. 1 in 1944. He has slight, small premonitions of the future, and he uses that to fight Nazis in wartime France.

This is your good Muslim, and you get the sense that absolutely no Muslims were involved in the writing or illustrating of this character, not surprising, this was 1940s New York.

The Deconstructing Comics podcast talks to Derf Backderf.

—Reviews & Commentary. In a review of three recent books on Korea, Charles Montgomery writes about Yeon-Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily.

The artwork, which the back cover describes as ranging “from the gently pastoral to the surreal and harrowing,” has similarities to that of Lynda Barry in its simple depiction of people and Shigeru Mizuki in its mix of realistic and impressionist elements in the landscape and background. The translation, by Californian cartoonist Hellen Jo, is perfect for the cartoon format. Uncomfortably Happily is clever, charming, and worth a look if you are interested in a droll family story, graphic novels, or an introduction to a wide range of Korean modern culture in a primarily visual format.

—Not Exactly Comics. At 4Columns, Ed Halter writes about the pornographic art of former underground cartoonist and filmmaker Mike Kuchar.

Here, in a show simply titled Drawings by Mike!, are twenty-two neatly framed ink-and-felt-tip-pen cartoons of tousle-haired Caucasian bohunks engaged in a variety of joyously, nakedly homoerotic situations: skinny dipping, crotch grabbing, pec rubbing, tit sucking. Their bare asses are, without exception, spheric and shiny, like the juiciest apple you’d ever hope to bite. Their sparkling eyes appear glazed over, staring into daydreams even as the men lick and paw at one another’s brawny bodies. Their expressive dicks are thick and veiny: some half-tumescent flesh-tubes flop lazily downward; others stab at the air, yearning toward some object of desire, dribbling semen like a salivating predator.

And J. Hoberman writes about a show featuring Peter Saul's new paintings about Trump.

Saul, now eighty-three, has been categorized as a political pop artist and a proto-punk neo-surrealist, although he has as much in common with the grotesque Mad magazine cartoonist Basil Wolverton as with any American painters. He’s done Nixon and Reagan (both as governor and president) as well as George W. With candy colors placed in the service of gross physical distortion and blandly offensive savagery—crucifixions are common, the electric chair is a frequent prop—his unnaturally festive work would scarcely seem out of place on the wall of a Venice Beach tattoo emporium. “Not to be shocking means to agree to be furniture,” he once said. Still, Saul’s portraits of Trump are relatively naturalistic—though the impossible settings in which the president is placed are not.

—Misc. New York readers of this site might want to go to Desert Island tonight for the release party of Mirror Mirror II, the anthology edited by two frequent TCJ contributors, Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins. Several artists from the book, from Aidan Koch to Al Columbia, will be signing.

 

Some Guys

Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim about their collaborative book, Poppies of Iraq.

 

In the book, you convey very well the overall experience of growing up as an Orthodox Christian in Iraq. How would you describe that experience now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on it?

Brigitte Findakly: I didn’t think about it. I just grew up thinking I was a normal little girl. Life in Mosul was very calm. Our neighbours were our best friends and they were Muslim. When there was a coup d’etat, the only perceptible consequence was that we wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. I never saw hangings, dead bodies or any sort of war scene. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this book, to show that Iraq in the 1960s was different from the place we’ve heard about on the news for so many years.

There’s a lot in the book about the history of Iraq juxtaposed against your own experiences living there.

I learned Mesopotamian history in school by heart. For the book, I really wanted to juxtapose my family’s personal history with the larger sweeping headlines from political and historical events. I was hesitant to delve too far into the past. I wanted to stay in my area, beginning in the 1950s. I would have loved to be able to talk about other older facets of history in Iraq. I think Americans would see a different side of the country if they knew that it was the birthplace of beer (Not Budweiser, of course, but just beer in general).

I especially loved the “In Iraq” interludes in the book where we get to learn about traditions and customs of the country.

Brigitte Findakly: Those pages gave us the chance to talk about the culture of Iraq and things that were true to most people who grew up there. It was important to me that this could be seen as a history of many of the millions of Iraqis who exist, and that I wasn’t just telling my story.

There are social customs in Iraq that are specific and different from many other cultures. Specifically, you mentioned in the book about marriages and relationships, that 95 percent of marriages in Iraq are arranged. Did that shape the way you approached relationships at all growing up?

My parents did not have an arranged marriage so I knew I wouldn’t end up in one, even before we left for France. I think my parents were much braver than I was when it came to this. I am and have always been puzzled that my family continues to believe in the practice of arranged marriages. I’ve become pretty fatalistic about this position, though of course everyone is certain their way of being is the right and only way.

Elsewhere:

Hey, the CXC festival starts tomorrow. That's a thing I'd like to attend sometime. 

Sometimes I get excited about some new comics release. Such is the case with D&Q's upcoming Anna & Froga collection. These comics are so sturdy and enjoyable.

Great book over here.

 

You Varmint

Today on the site, Greg Hunter returns with the latest episode of the greatest comics podcast available, Comic Book Decalogue. This time, his guest is Gina Wynbrandt, and Someone Please Have Sex with Me creator talks Phoebe Gloeckner, Truth Zone, Chewing Gum, and more.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Steven Heller interviews Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden about their long-awaited and highly anticipated book, How to Read Nancy.

You have an incredibly smart way of deconstructing the comic by breaking down the three panels into major themes like Gag, Last Panel, Dialog, each character (Nancy and Sluggo) and many, many more attributes and props, then you define each into Context, Text and Moral. How does this deconstruction work? Why does it work?
Some people like to take apart car engines. Some people like to take apart strands of DNA. We like to take apart the Saturday, Aug. 8, 1959 episode of Nancy.

Where did this insane quest begin? We originally met as students of Art Spiegelman at SVA in the early 1980s. Through our continued association with Art and RAW magazine we were exposed to a mind-altering frame-by-frame deconstruction / analysis of Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe by experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs—that literally lasted for weeks. This event provided the impetus for our original short essay in Brian Walker’s essential 1988 book The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy. Decades later, as our essay found its way into comics curriculums around the globe, we decided it was time to take a look at how much was left in that randomly chosen strip to deconstruct. And we wanted to learn more about the man behind the work.

For du9, Mola Lontes talks to the Swedish cartoonist Max Andersson.

I was a socially inept and shy teenager, compensating by drawing, living in my own world a lot. I went to high school in a small town on the Swedish mainland, where anything out of the ordinary was treated with suspicion or outright contempt. As soon as I could, at eighteen, I moved on my own to Stockholm and got a job in a hospital. When I worked in the hospital at 18, I was mainly in the cancer ward, where I had to deal a lot with death. Often patients died alone, with no relatives or friends present, and it was part of my job to keep them company. Afterwards I took care of the corpses, cleaning them and preparing them for autopsies or transportation. It was all very physical and practical, no big mystery at all. Mostly through my interest in punk and post-punk music I met people who were involved in bands and alternative culture in general. I soon learned to embrace my own “strangeness” instead of struggling unsuccessfully to fit into the norm, and ever since then I’ve been quite happy with myself.

The most recent guests on the Virtual Memories podcast are the political cartoonists Ann Telnaes and Matt Wuerker.

 

Pastel Cookies

Today on the site, Matt Seneca visits us with a review of Windowpane 4. 

With this year’s Windowpane 4, Kessler trains his newfound sense of narrative focus on a higher plateau. Tipping the scales at 82 pages, the issue could easily have been marketed as a complete graphic novel, but Kessler retains his admirable commitment to the single-issue format, complete with staples and everything. The untitled story trades in the quotidian world of “Goodbye Strongbody” for something more akin to a modern fable, in which a lone man seeks shelter and escape from societal oppression. Is he a criminal? A dissident? A heretic? A minority? We never find out, and it doesn’t make a difference. The story is about repression in general, about the other shoe dangling and then dropping, about the difficulty of life on the run. It is split into three parts, the breaks telegraphed by changes in the risograph printing process.

Elsewhere:

The great Marc Bell has started a Patreon.

Noah Van Sciver interviewed Peter Bagge over at Comics Reporter.

 

 

Oy

Today, Frank Young is here with an extended look at the most "meta" sequences of Chester Gould's career.

The Gravies appeared only in the Tribune through its six-year run, which ended January 26, 1964. At first signed “Chet,” the early run of the strip is often solo Gould, with loose-limbed linework, sloppy lettering and other evidence of a tightly wound cartoonist blowing off steam and amusing himself. Gravies later credits the first names of Team Gould: Al Valanis, Chester's brother Ray Gould, Dick Locher, Jack Ryan and Rick Fletcher. The single-tier strip grew in 1958 to a double-decker approximately a third of a page in size.

Skewed comedy was hard-wired into Dick Tracy from its 1931 start. Gould’s fight-and-flight narratives of doomed criminals, hurtling toward claustrophobic doom, can be gripping, grotesque and deadly serious. Humor elbowed its way into the darkest storylines. Eccentric supporting characters, settings and casual commentary on current fads and foibles informs the strip. Post-war Tracy, until the end of the decade, stressed comedy over crime-solving. The popularity of the hillbilly family of B. O. Plenty, his wife, Gravel Gertie and their daughter, Sparkle Plenty (the focus of a merchandising blitz in the late ‘40s) threatened to crowd the no-nonsense Tracy out of his own strip.

The hit-and-miss humor of The Gravies was no surprise to Tracy’s Chicago readership. In the past year, they’d read a long narrative with the enigmatic Mumbles, a revived villain from a 1947 sequence, paired with a physical-culture fanatic and his feral offspring—acrobatic twin tots who vex the criminal with their anarchic slapstick mayhem. And though 1956’s Tracy narratives (which I wrote about in this essay) represent a peak year in the strip’s darkness and drama, there are also occasional moments of screwball comedy.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. For The Paris Review, Trina Robbins writes about Neil the Horse.

Unique among the black-and-white comics of the 1980s and, in fact, unique from any comic ever published, Neil the Horse is the world’s first and only all-singing, all-dancing comic book. Each issue includes sheet music and lyrics—you can play the songs on your piano!—and along with the lyrics, some evocative poetry that is not set to music, all by Arn, who truly lived up to Neil’s motto: “Making the World Safe for Musical Comedy.”

Anders Nilsen writes a personal, persuasive essay on the importance of access to affordable health care.

This afternoon I wrote postcards to seven US senators asking them to vote NO on Graham-Cassidy, the latest Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare and rob people of their health care. I'm not usually that vocal in public about my politics. Social media generally makes me slightly queasy, even if it is the water we all swim in these days. But the issue of health care feels urgent to me.

—Interviews & Profiles. Pádraig Ó Méalóid finally publishes the third part of the enormous "Christmas" interview with Alan Moore, in which among other things, he reveals his recipe for rarebit pasta.

...Mix the breadcrumbs and the extra grated cheese together, and then cover the top of the pasta and sauce with the resultant crumbly mixture. Dot the halved baby plum tomatoes over the whole surface area, stick the casserole dish into the moderate oven, and then go and smoke the joint while reading, say, a short David Foster Wallace essay or story, and by the time you’re done with that your dinner should be ready.

—Misc. Lynda Barry has inaugurated an advice column at The Paris Review.

Dear Pissed,

Pee hoarding isn’t as uncommon as one may think. Type that term into a search engine and be amazed. It’s not about being too lazy to pee in the toilet. It’s about something else that usually has long roots going back to childhood. I knew kids who did this, who saved jars of pee and lined them up in corners of garages or in bushes. I’m sure pee hoarders have their reasons. ...

 

Happiness Pursuit

Today on the site,  Robert Kirby reviews Language Barrier.

Language Barrier is a collection of four one-off full-color zines that Hannah K. Lee, a talented Korean-American Brooklyn-based artist, created from 2012 to 2017. Each of the zines has a different focus, though all carry Lee’s playfully ironic aesthetic. The zines are presented in the following, non-chronological order: Hey Beautiful (2017), Shoes Over Bills (2012), Everyone Else is Younger and More Talented (2014), and Close Encounters (2015). There’s a nice trajectory from the relatively straightforward comics that open Hey Beautiful to the typography-based poster-style visuals of Close Encounters. Thoughtfully curated and presented, Language Barrier is a groovy, pocket-sized little handbook for self-doubting, conflicted artists (and other assorted human beings) everywhere.

Elsewhere:

Alex Dueben has taken on a regular feature at Smash Pages. Here's the lot, which is a good bunch.

More on the Village Voice -- this time a history of its art direction, which was crucial to comics and illustration. 

And a remembrance of Greg Escalante.

 

I Hope They Ask for a Lot of Money

Today on the site, North America's favorite manga scholar Ryan Holmberg returns with the second part of his essay on Yuichi Yokoyama and "audiovisual abstraction" in comics.

When it comes to figures of size, Yokoyama clearly favors bigness. His earliest manga, the building narratives in New Engineering (2004), feature gigantic landworks and monumental fantasy structures. Travel (2006) promises an entire long-distance train trip. Garden (2007) features hallways that extend into infinity and giant maps that describe an entire territory in detail. After Garden, I recall Yokoyama saying he wanted to make a 1000-page book depicting war, though he never did.

In all such cases, however, Yokoyama packs bigness into smallness. His books are rarely longer than 300 pages, and often much shorter. Like any comics author, he has to work with a finite number of small panel frames – which would be a meaningless observation were there not indications that Yokoyama has been interested in this aspect of comics-making on a figurative level. For example, the endless hallway in Garden turns out to be a library filled with wordless picture catalogues, suggesting that the entire universe can be condensed, quasi-wordless comics-like, into an accumulation of printed pictures without help of the written word. The horde of photographs dropped from the air and assembled into a map in Garden suggest a similar idea: when a large set of pictures/panels is properly ordered, they can recreate, even if the individual units are small, the world in near whole. Likewise, Travel might be ambitious as a comics project, but it also harbors within it the humble desire of the armchair traveller that the world be adequately contained and enjoyed vicariously through books, screens, and other domesticated media. As encyclopedias are vast by virtue of being compact, so Yokoyama has explored monumentality, infinity, and comprehensiveness through figures and practices of miniaturization, division, and containment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The Chilean cultural critic and playwright Ariel Dorfman writes about the origin of his famous 1970s critique of Disney comic books, How to Read Donald Duck.

If there was a single company that embodied the overarching influence of the U.S. -- not just in Chile but in so many other lands then known as the Third World -- it was the Walt Disney Corporation. Today, in addition to the many amusement parks that bear its name, the Disney brand conjures up a panoply of Pixar princesses, avatars of cars and planes, and tales of teen-age angst and Caribbean piracy. But in Chile, in the early 1970s, Disney’s influence was epitomized by a flood of inexpensive comic books available at every newsstand. So Armand and I decided to focus on them and in particular on the character who then seemed to us the most symbolic and popular of the denizens of the Disney universe. What better way to expose the nature of American cultural imperialism than to unmask the most innocent and wholesome of Walt Disney’s characters, to show what authoritarian tenets a duck’s smiling face could smuggle into Third World hearts and minds?

We would soon discover what an attack on Disney would be met with -- and it wasn’t smiles.

—News. As reported in Vice, Matt Furie is stepping up his legal actions against the rightwing provocateurs coopting his Pepe the Frog character.

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property."

The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear—stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Mimi Pond.

J.A. Micheline talks to Tillie Walden.

“I thought about my own memories,” Walden says, “not necessarily in terms of content but in terms of the space. Where I was when something happened and how did my emotions affect how I remember that space? In certain instances in the book, I would realise: ‘OK, during this competition, I was feeling horrifically restricted and sad and that emotion was growing inside me.’ So I would have this space that would suddenly grow bigger and become more cavernous.”

—Misc. Juan Fernandez writes about a fascinating old French television show based on the idea of the exquisite corpse game, and featuring artists such as Jean-Claude Forest, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, Moebius, and Johnny Hart(!), among many others.

The concept was simple, efficient, and allowed for many variations: A huge, blank white page and cartoonists equipped with just a simple marker. A theme was proposed (ex. invasion or pursuit), sometimes a visual starting point (simple line, spiral, circle), and the authors improvised, either collaboratively with their peers, or in a duel facing off against their opponents. The result was often far more than a juxtaposition of drawings, it was often a real visual dialogue between cartoonists.

 

Class Trip

Today on site, perhaps inspired by the comments section on this very site, Matt Seneca returns to review PayWall:

In his new graphic novel PayWall, Kelly pays down the promissory note of that Mould Map piece. Handsomely printed by Mould Map editor Hugh Frost’s publishing boutique Landfill Editions, it is work so relevant and contemporary that it seems to belong in a completely different ballpark than the rest of what comics has on display right now. Set in an English coastal city ten years from now, PayWall depicts a society in which rising seal levels threaten human survival, parking lots full of live-in port-a-potties are replacing apartment blocks, and the federal government and military have been torn to pieces and swallowed by a rabid pack of competing corporations. 

At its heart, this is an entry in that most recognizable of comic book genres, the hero’s origin story. Rather than create his hero as a slightly more ridiculously costumed version of a police officer, though, Kelly looks for inspiration at the real heroes of today’s world: the scared, angry young people pulling on masks and taking to the streets to put their bodies on the line against governmental and societal oppression. PayWall‘s hero team is a cell of militarized anarchists, its villains a loosely knit cabal of rich corporate dickheads who have reformed the world in their image, and its protagonist a regular working dude who is radicalized by the radical situation he finds himself in.  

Elsewhere:

Here's Steven Heller interviewing Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik on their upcoming book, How to Read Nancy.

Another deep dive into the data of cartoonists -- this time one of my favorite categories: Letterers.

And there's an SPX wrap-up over at The Beat.