Today, Greg Hunter is here with a review of the latest issue of Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats, which sounds like a significant departure from earlier installments.
The new issue may initially disappoint readers who were expecting further adventures of Frances and Vickie; it’s centered not around a cast of characters but around a set of themes. (Although issues one through three also included some standalone vignettes, they read as peripheral to the Frances and Vicki pages.) Rilly maintains the neat classicism of his linework, but he’s a cartoonist with new preoccupations. His gentle looks at millennial malaise are absent. Instead, Rilly turns toward cases of outright alienation. Issue four is not as fun as previous installments—it’s a demanding work, by comparison—but the comic is also earnest and engrossing.
Although Rilly’s Frances character works on the margins of her profession, assisting a series of high-powered attorneys as an entry-level law clerk, the earlier issues of Pope Hats present her as a thoroughly relatable figure—someone who reminds you of, if not yourself, than a friend or a neighbor. But Pope Hats #4 belongs to some real outsiders. “The Hollow” is a science-fiction story featuring a mid-level space surveyor, a smartest-guy-in-the-room type who underperforms and clashes with his coworkers. Rilly manages to both follow this character and also create distance between the surveyor and the reader, employing a slightly queasy yellow palette and a series of claustrophobic grids (about sixteen panels per page, on average).
—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Ware wrote a short essay on the video game Minecraft, to go along with his latest New Yorker cover. This cover inspired a lot of very negative reactions on social media, which fascinates me, especially now that Ware has revealed more of the thinking behind the image. Ware’s work almost always attracts a larger-than-average number of detractors (as well as unusual amounts of praise, of course), much of which is either obvious kill-your-daddy stuff or stems from transparent jealousy, but some of which seems to stem from genuine antipathy to his subject matter and approach. Even some people who generally seem to enjoy Ware’s work have reacted badly to Ware’s recent covers for The New Yorker, all of which feature what would seem to be characteristic seasonal New Yorker cover scenes, only with a lot more smartphone usage. What interests me about the negative reactions is not so much their content—critics have called these covers “trite” and “obvious”—so much as their vehemence, and the apparent assumptions that underpin them. I get why people would react to these with indifference; I’m having a harder time understanding the outright hostility and anger.
An increasingly common critical error in recent years has been the confusion of artistic depiction with the artist’s approval. In this case, however, the detractors seem certain that Ware’s depictions are always meant as disapproval. Ware’s essay, which is at least ambivalent about Minecraft, and even fairly positive about the game (“If architecture somehow mirrors the spaces we carve in our memories and make in our minds, then something pretty interesting is going on here”), shows that assumption to be wrong, at least in this particular case.
We have all had it beaten into our heads not to put too much stock into artists’ intentions, so set that aside for now. The point is that the cover image shows a scene that everyone agrees does happen all the time. “Trite,” “boring,” “Luddite,” “technophobic,” etc.: these are the common attacks on Ware’s New Yorker covers. One thing I haven’t heard said about them is that they are inaccurate or unrealistic. Kids do play Minecraft on sunny days. Parents do watch their children’s talent shows through their smartphone cameras. Families (not mine) do spend Thanksgiving in front of the television. If Ware’s cover showed the two girls playing outside with a ball instead of playing video games on a computer, it would have been just as common and well-rehearsed an image as the one he actually drew — actually, it would have been a scene depicted far more often over the centuries. People might not have liked that more traditional and Rockwell-esque cover very much, but my guess is the responses would have been more in the line of bored shrugs than angry Facebook rants. For some reason, this particular topic is one that some people really don’t want to see explored. This is a scene that it seems some believe should simply not be depicted, no matter how objectively. I wonder why.
Leela Jacinto reviews Riad Sattouf’s Arab of the Future.
—Interviews & Profiles. Jules Feiffer talks to The Wall Street Journal.
Alex Dueben speaks to Peggy Burns about her new role at D&Q, among other things.
I don’t know why this Greek blues site keeps talking to prominent cartoonists, but I’m glad they are — here’s Gary Panter.
Alexander Lu talks to Brandon Graham.
Joe Matt is more Joe Matt than ever in his 10-question interview with the Comics Tavern.
Vice talks to Nina Bunjevac.
Michael Hill of the Kirby Museum has gathered many quotes from Jack Kirby interviews in an attempt to show that the stances Kirby took in his famous TCJ interview were consistently held.