Oh boy, another big day here. First, we have a previously unpublished roundtable conducted in 2012, all about the intersections between fine art and comics, as discussed by four artists with intimate understandings of both worlds: Marc Bell, Esther Pearl Watson, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams.

DOOLEY: OK. Now let’s hear from Robert. [Chuckles.] I think you have one or two thoughts about what constitutes fine arts. So share them with us.

ROBERT WILLIAMS: Well, it’s kinda hard to follow Joe there, he’s a hard act to follow. Supposedly art is culturally the highest pinnacle of expression. And the word fine makes a big difference and that’s the big phony bone of contention. That word “fine” is supposed to imply sophistication. So sophisticated art. And this is a word that’s been around for a long, long time culturally and it’s a big selling point over a couple hundred years now. Just stick that word “fine” on it. It’s dribbled through our Western culture for a long time and you watch these revolutionary art movements come out of the late nineteenth century and then the period of the first world war. Then somehow they got to the top. The thing is, art is not just run by a few people. It’s run by schools and institutions and foundations and museums and art dealers. And the artists play a small part in that art thing and it’s unfortunate. You see artists get really famous and you wonder, “Well how’d that guy get so famous? That thing looks kinda goofy to me.” And it’s just that he was selected by this group, that this is gonna be what they were gonna push. Every new revolutionary form of art tries to violate that established situation. You can see that. You look at Van Gogh and you understand that if Van Gogh was born in the 20th century, he would have been an underground cartoonist. There’s no question about that. You look at that stuff and it’s calligraphy-dependent, it’s dependent on the drawn line. I know underground cartoonists that were comparable to that. So the question of “fine,” you know everyone wants to just tack that on them.  People building model airplanes wanna tack that on.  The thing is when nouveau riche people come into the buying market, dealers jump on these ignorant people and guide them.  So they guide them to what’s pretty much easily established. So since the end of World War II, abstract expressionism kind of took over. Europe was really down on its luck and New York became the world’s art capital. It was a couple of New York art critics that pushed Jackson Pollock and he was in Life magazine and just busted this thing wide open. So nonobjective art just completely took over. And for nonobjective art to really get a good handle, these two art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, instigators in this, kind of inferred that, if you visually depended, mentally depended on three-dimensional representation, you were kind of ignorant and you just didn’t have the sensitivity to appreciate two-dimensional and nonobjective art.

So that’s been kind of the mantra here in the last 50 years. It’s gone from abstract expressionism into pop art and to conceptualism. And you think, “Well wait a minute. You said pop art. That’s realistic stuff.” Well yeah, but it’s total appropriation. That’s like going to the 99¢ store and going up to the first shelf and grabbing something off the shelf and taking it over to one of these places that makes art for artists and say, “Can you make this about 20 feet tall for me?”

Over the coming days and weeks, we'll be following up with individual interviews that Michael Dooley conducted with each artist.

Greg Hunter is also here today, with a review of Michael DeForge's latest collection, A Western World.

The stories that populate A Western World, a collection of Michael DeForge’s recent short comics, make for troubled residents, concerned with the mutability of bodies, the relationship between body and self, and how technology affects intimacy—some of the same notions found throughout DeForge’s larger body of work. Readers fond of DeForge but new to these pieces won’t find major departures in the book, but that’s only one measure of the collection and perhaps not the best one. DeForge has long since found his themes and a sensibility with which to approach them. The pleasure of A Western World is the pleasure of seeing him return to these concerns from new angles.

The collection is a book of gradients, of pieces about bodies and societies rendered with different hues, in different keys, through different lenses. Within a sort of prevailing aesthetic (flat colors, limited hatching, figures and backdrops made of a few defining shapes), DeForge adopts a range of styles throughout the collection and manages to adjust his approach from story to story while remaining recognizably himself. For converts, the appeal here may be in the details, the minor changes, in addition to what concerns of theirs they find reflected. For newer readers, the book makes a fine introduction to a cartoonist who expertly blends form and subject.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC continues to make changes, following Diane Nelson's resignation with news that "chief creative officer" Geoff Johns will be leaving that position to take on a new role as "writer/producer." DC publisher Jim Lee will take over as chief creative officer.

The moves come in the wake of last week’s exit of Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment’s president, to whom Johns reported, and occurs the day before a judge’s decision will be announced in the high-profile antitrust trial between the U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T, which is seeking to merge with Time Warner, the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC.

It also takes place as Warners’ movie division is in the midst of a transition as Walter Hamada, who was installed as president of DC-based films at the studio by Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich in January, begins to shape the superhero slate in the post-Justice League era.

Yesterday, of course, we learned that the judge in question has approved the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, another huge step in the concentration of corporate among a very small number of media and communications companies.

Pittsburgh editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers has had nearly a dozen finished cartoons spiked this year.

So just what is going on? Why are so many of Rogers’s cartoons suddenly being spiked?

“I can only speculate,” the left-leaning cartoonist says. “While most of the killed cartoons or ideas were [directly] critical of President Trump, there were also some dealing with the NFL kneeling policy, issues of racism and the FBI.” More broadly, most of the spiked cartoons satirized issues on which Trump has taken a stance or that reflect the larger partisan divide in the Trump era.

Meanwhile, John Robinson Block, the Post-Gazette’s publisher and editor in chief, tells The Washington Post in a statement: “This is an internal, personnel matter we are working hard to resolve. It has little to do with politics, ideology or Donald Trump. It has mostly to do with working together and the editing process.”

The New York Times has published its obituary of longtime Mad editor Nick Meglin.

As Mad’s editor from 1985 to 2004 — a position he shared with John Ficarra — Mr. Meglin became a major figure in the magazine’s long history, along with Harvey Kurtzman, who founded it as a comic book; William M. Gaines, its Falstaffian publisher; and Al Feldstein, who ran Mad from 1956 to 1985.

“Feldstein was a smart editor, but he was a hard taskmaster,” Al Jaffee, the cartoonist who, at 97, still devises Mad’s back-page fold-ins, said in a telephone interview. “Nick, on the other hand, was simpatico to the contributors, which made us all want to be better.”

—Interviews. The Gothamist talks to Julia Wertz.

I quit drinking in my late 20’s, and got really interested in urban exploring. (Exploring abandoned places.) I guess I replaced my obsession with drinking with an obsession with history and buildings. I quit doing comics for two years, and focused all my energy on exploration, photography and research. 90% of the work I did during those years didn’t appear in my NYC book, but it did pave the way to getting into making art about history.

Then I met Roz Chast. I’d been a fan of hers for forever. It turned out she was a fan of mine as well, so we ended up becoming friends, and she got me a meeting with Bob Mankoff at the New Yorker. Bob wanted me to do gag cartoons, gags are not my forte, so I pitched him comics about NYC history, and those ran online for about a year before I got a book contract. Then I got evicted, moved back to California, finished the book, and got back into making autobiographical comics. I still love the city, and I love history, but I burned out making comics about it all. I was doing 16 hour days, seven days a week, drawing elaborate architectural stuff. I think maybe I went insane but I didn’t really know it.


They Called Her Viking

Today at TCJ, we've got an interview for ya: a doozy it is. We've had such a good time as of late smashing two cartoonists together and letting them get into it, we thought we'd do it again. And this time around, it's Michel Fiffe and Chuck Forsman.

Forsman: That’s something we bonded over, the work ethic. And that ties into how critical we are of ourselves. If I stop working for too long, I’ll convince myself that all my work is shit and I shouldn’t be doing this stuff. I won’t be able to move again. I think that part of it is wanting to keep a monthly deadline, always producing work. That’s one of the reasons I do it, because I’m scared of stopping. I mean, you get that momentum and you don’t wanna stop. You know what it feels like when you’re not working.

Fiffe: Are we covering up for something?

Forsman: On the flipside, I’ve recently been thinking that all my stuff is getting bad because I’m sticking to the schedule and I keep pumping out work, I feel like I’m not taking enough care in my work. Part of me wants to pull back and take a break and start on something completely new that I’ll work on in a vacuum. That’s super counter to the mode I’m been working in. Basically, I can find a way to insult myself in any scenario.

Fiffe: I’ve come to discover that while we like those old comics and the breakneck speed they were produced at, we don’t necessarily have to operate that way. We can channel that energy and that spirit, but we’re not factories. We don’t have to churn this stuff out. We can self-motivate, but quality control is important, too.

Not enough? Hungry for more? We've got you covered on that front as well, with a TCJ Review. In the dubiously named (you'll have to click through to find out why) Algeria Is Beautiful Like America, Keith Silva found himself with praise and complaint...but were they in equal measure?

Algeria is Beautiful like America is autobio comics at their autobio-i-est, with Olivia (she omits her surname throughout the narrative) on a hyper-personal existential quest to interrogate her family’s Algerian past for herself. The word ‘Algeria’ in the title is arguably circumstantial to the text itself (ditto for the word ‘America,’ more on that later). Yes, this is a story about a white French women of some means searching for her family history -- specifically on her maternal grandmother’s side -- in an African country, so yes, Algeria is important to the story, however; what Olivia craves is the one treasure left in our current culture, authenticity. She doesn’t want memories or recollections. She wants to put her finger in the holes left by the nails; she wants the facts, the truth—nowadays that’s as seditious and rebellious as it gets.

While Olivia does the work to unfold her past, she can only go as far as her arms can reach or her itinerary takes her. Issues of immigration, colonialism, xenophobia, social and religious tolerance are all filtered through her lens. She provides snapshots, misses the bigger picture and leaves it for the reader to piece it all together.

Ah, but you need more reviews, you've got a taste for them now. Fine! Head over to Publishers Weekly and take a look at their starred one for Young Frances, by Hartley Lin.

What? Another one? Sure. Here's one by Robin Enrico at Broken Frontier, on that Box Brown biography of Andy Kaufman, Is This Guy For Real? 

Ah, but there's also this: they're gonna start selling comic books at Gamestop? Based off this article, they're attempting to paper over lost video game sales with the top Diamond sellers. I'm sure it'll work out well.


Grilling in the Rain

Today on the site sees the long-awaited return of Ken Parille with his latest Grid column. This time around, he considers "the plight" of contemporary superhero comics.

The “comic-book movie” is perhaps our most significant form of mass entertainment. Superhero movies generate fan obsession, extensive media coverage, lots of think pieces, and tons of money. The comic book itself — a humble medium of ink, paper, and staples — has fared less well. Once the home of million-selling issues featuring an array of realistic and fantasy genres, it now serves mainly as an antiquated delivery system for formulaic tales about super-beings read by a dwindling audience of devotees.

When compared to its film offspring, the superhero comic book, though certainly not dead, feels a little exhausted. Writers and artists fight with the genre’s core clichés, unsure how to play things: serious and relevant (superheroes, they say, are essential myths for our time), or cutesy and comedic (if the genre is tired, let’s just have some fun with it!). Visually, the superhero comic has been struggling against its format for decades, but never more so than now. Many artists suffer from “film envy”: though confined to little boxes on small pages, they try (and inevitably fail) to capture big-screen-style drama. With limited distribution, weak sales, and the growing possibility that a comic may lead to a lucrative TV or movie deal, the safe bet is on the familiar: crank out another high-drama fable, reboot or revive a character, rewrite a classic, etc., etc.

Satisfied with narrative, visual, and verbal tropes stale since the early 1960s, most superhero comics have no interest in testing the genre’s boundaries. But several writers, artists, and cartoonists — some working for corporations and some independently — are self-consciously breaking from the past. They twist standard plots, reimagine superhero visuals by way of an underground aesthetic, embrace new kinds of characters, or blend genres in strange ways. In the midst of so much aggressive mediocrity, their work offers hope for a troubled genre.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Hogan's Alley talks to the post-retirement Cathy Guisewite.

Tom Heintjes: So, how does it feel to have gone from AACK to AARP?

Cathy Guisewite: [Laughter] I don’t think I’ve heard anyone refer to it quite like that.

Heintjes: Has the reality of retirement set in?

Guisewite: The shocking thing to me is that there’s still plenty of AACK in my life [laughter], despite the fact that I’m now into the AARP phase. There’s just an endless amount of stuff that fills up the time I used to spend being panicked about the strip. Now I feel panicked about other things. The big thing, though, is that doing a strip really sets the rhythm of the week. There was a very specific rhythm, from mild hysteria to complete hysteria [laughter] to 15 good minutes at the end of the week, after I’d sent everything in, and then the gentle hysteria would set in again. So that rhythm is gone, it was extremely disorienting. I’m not whining—believe me. That would be repulsive to anybody reading this. But it was very disorienting not to have that rhythm of panic guiding my every moment.

Heintjes: What have you found to make you feel less unmoored?

Guisewite: One of the reasons I retired from the strip was that my daughter was starting her last year of high school. And I also really wanted to spend more time with my parents, who live in Florida. I wanted the experience of being a real, full-time mom for one year of my daughter’s life. And I did exactly what I set out to do in that way. I’ve been present for both my parents and my daughter in a billion ways that I wasn’t before, and it’s honestly been a really, really happy and fulfilling year, and I’m unbelievably grateful that I’ve been able to do it. I feel that this year with my daughter has been priceless. She actually leaves the week after next for college. There was a lot I missed with her because I was always worrying about my deadlines, so I’ve tried to smash 19 years of stuff we didn’t do into the last year, and it’s been great

The New York Times profiles Gabe Fowler's Desert Island in Brooklyn.

Experimental and underground artistry is the norm at Desert Island. Look through the Williamsburg store’s plywood shelves and you’ll find glossy paperbacks as well as photocopied-and-stapled booklets with a D.I.Y. aesthetic. Surrounded by ice-blue stalactite sculptures and tapestries, regulars, travelers, and fellow artists immerse themselves in visual publications, seeking escape, inspiration, or both.

Gabriel Fowler, the owner, grew up playing in noise-rock bands and digging through record-store crates in Orlando, Fla. After moving to New York in 2004 and working as an art handler for David Zwirner and other upscale galleries, he felt there was a dearth of shops in New York channeling a certain communal alternative energy.

WGN interviews Nicole Hollander (Sylvia), and Comics Alternative talks to Karl Stevens.

—Commentary. The recent death of Anthony Bourdain has led to a deluge of coverage, even including several mainstream-press pieces on his involvement with comics, including a brief article in Entertainment Weekly and a remembrance by Karen Berger.

We didn’t talk about Vertigo. His comics love goes back to the undergrounds: Huge R. Crumb fan, huge EC Comics fan. Tony originally wanted to be a comic artist. He’s told stories when he was on our panel at New York Comic Con when we launched Berger Books. He was there, and it was fantastic that he made the time to schedule it to be there. On that panel, he talked about how he’s a huge underground comic fan, and he wanted to be an artist first, but his art wasn’t really good enough. He talked about how he went to some small comic show in the ’70s and he showed his work to [underground publisher] Denis Kitchen, who basically told him his art wasn’t very good. Joel was editing a underground magazine, this proto-hipster literary mag in the ’80s, and Tony had sent him some samples, some comic stuff, and Joel [Rose] got back and said, “Hey, the art sucks but the writing is pretty good.”


Hats In Hamburg

Today at TCJ, we've got a look at some comics from an interesting project currently amassing funds at Kickstarter. It's an anthology of comics inspired by folktales from the Oceania region, and we've got a look at it via the work of Brady Evans.

That's not all, of course--it's also high time for Noah Berlatsky to come by and grind his axe--or is it? It looks like Noah is getting his Roger Clemens on, because his take on Fiona Smyth's collected tome Somnambulance sounds pretty dang positive:

Normally, you'd expect such an expansive collection to feel disjointed, or at least heterogeneous. And sure enough, there is some variation; Smyth's first comics are relatively cramped; over time she started to play with color. But even with such shifts, Smyth's art is remarkably coherent over time, mainly because she's so dedicated to incoherence. From Somnambulance's earliest pages to its last, Smyth resolutely works to bend, fracture, and flat out ignore the "sequential" part of sequential images. Each overstuffed, vibrating, oversexed panel seems to freeze and burrow into the page or into your skull, distracting you from the next image, which, in turn, distracts you from the next, and the next. These are comics in which the panels don't so much work together as lovingly fight for dominance.

And while personal reasons (nice ones) call me away this evening, I'll leave you with a link to a comic that's been making the rounds, with good reason: Dakota McFadzean's Soon We're Both Screaming. It's lovely, painful, weird (and I hope, therapeutic) work. Have a wonderful weekend!




Today on the site, Alex Dueben talks to Anne Elizabeth Moore and Melissa Mendes about their collaborative political and journalistic comics work.

How did the two of you first start collaborating?

Melissa Mendes: A few years ago, I was marginally aware of the Ladydrawers and thought it was very cool. I was a little envious of them even, it looked like something I really wanted to be a part of but I wasn't sure how to approach them. Then Anne asked me if I wanted to draw for Threadbare, and I was like, um, yes please. So I started out drawing a few chapters of that, and it soon became clear that we really worked well together. There's something that clicks with us, that's kind of hard to pin down—but I think it could have to do with the fact that I consider myself a writer more than an artist, so I approach Anne's scripts like a writer, rather than just drawing exactly what she's written, like an illustrator might. And we are just similar in a lot of ways, we communicate really well. She's hilarious. So I think when we started the Detroit project there was a level of trust there already and that's made it really easy and fun to work together. Also I love doing my own research, like when I had to look up old pictures of Black Bottom in Detroit for one of the stories. I learn so much and it's fun for me, so that helps.

Moore: We had met years before that, when a friend introduced us in Providence, but I’ll admit it took a while for me to “get” Melissa’s solo thing. It’s sort of deceptive, in a good way—immediately palatable but something often happens that’s rooted in trauma or discomfort. Once I figured out that she’s using cuteness and innocence almost as tricks to pull you into these very, very complex stories I felt like we had something particular in common, something about not being interested in letting the sheen go untarnished, or something. “Wanting to peel back the skin,” might be a better metaphor. We watch a lot of lady detective shows.

And Rob Clough reviews the third and final issue of Ryan Standfest's black humor anthology, Black Eye.

The third and final volume of Ryan Standfest's black humor anthology Black Eye is subtitled, "A Shameful Enlightenment". It's the best of the three volumes. Standfest has a firmer grip on how to combine new and old material and pare down excess. Standfest doesn't worry about manifestos, indulge in fake ads, or otherwise introduce extraneous material; he just gets right down to it. The book is once again a collection of new and reprinted material from other writers and artists. For the most part, it consists of mostly six- to eight-page stories interspersed with repeating single-page gag strips from a few different cartoonists. With a relatively short page count, that allows the anthology to flow in a way the other two volumes did not while helping to strengthen the book's identity.

Standfest's editorial decisions essentially help get him out of his own way and allow the impressive lineup of artists to speak for themselves. The "enlightenment" explored by the artists is often one of an apocalyptic nature. David Sandlin's piece is about the Rapture, punctuated by the most odious aspects of the "prosperity gospel" teachings that emphasize material success as a function of one's spirituality. The "elevator to heaven" winds up leading to a much less desirable place.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Diane Nelson is leaving her position as president of DC Entertainment.

Nelson took a leave of absence in late March in order to focus on family-related issues. She had been expected to return, but sources say that very recently she decided not to resume her duties, announcing her plan to Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

Tsujihara on Wednesday revealed the move in a companywide announcement.

Jordan Shively is recovering from gall bladder surgery, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help defray costs.

—Interviews & Profiles. Vice profiles the pseudonymous new Nancy artist Olivia Jaimes.

After Bushmiller’s death in 1982, Nancy continued under various creators. “We had known and liked Olivia’s work as a web cartoonist, and found out she was a huge Nancy fan, so we queried her,” Glynn told me. “After we got back her samples, we felt that we had found the right person.”

It’s a mystery as to which web comics she previously published, though. “If it was up to me, I’d rather use her real name," Glynn said. "Her fans would’ve been incredible advocates, but she wants to keep her two lives separate, and we respect that."

“I’m a pretty private person and I want to be insulated from the whole ‘Big Thing’ that a classic comic strip is,” Jaimes said of the pseudonym, speaking to the New York Times. “The pseudonym lets me do that, and I’m really grateful for it.”

“Nancy is the only legacy strip I would have even considered taking on,” Jaimes told me. “For any other, the cons—it's somebody else's baby, there will be grumblers—would have easily outweighed the pros.”


That Car’s Not On Fire, That Car’s My Dad

It's Wednesday, June 6th: and I'm tingling with share with you our latest installment of Retail Therapy, wherein we hand our old time phonograph to another Store of the North! It's Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling and TCAF fame, and he's not pulling any punches--and regardless of what cultural cliches may have told you, Canada punches hard.

What's changed the most for your business in the last ten years?

Personally, what’s changed are my expectations as to where the industry would go. I had experienced and hoped for an ever-broadening audience for comics, one that would render the previous collector/nostalgia/fandom model more of a quaint relic of the past and would allow great and interesting work [that] would rise on merit. I imagined an idyllic future where you would be able to say the word ‘comics’ without wondering if the person you were talking to immediately had an image of Spider-man in their mind. Or of a comedian.

That broadening did happen. Comics now means more than superheroes to most people. But what I didn't foresee was the significant growth and sustained appetite for pop culture garbage, or the hold children’s entertainment would have on readers well into adulthood. Even outside what was comics’ little niche. Who knew such huge swath of the public would be ready [to] declare themselves nerds of some stripe or another?!

That's not all we've got, of course: this being a day that ends in y, we've got the latest in our installment of TCJ reviews for you. Today, it's from Irene Velentzas, and it's on Godhead--the latest comic from Ho Che Anderson!

The rich duality Anderson sets up with his characters is also expressed between his worlds – the clean-lined corporate world and the sensual and gritty underworld. These worlds are represented as starkly different by Anderson. The corporate world with its violence and espionage is expressed by the calm, cool contours of his artistic line evoking an empty and soulless dystopia. The dingy underbelly of this clean world is contrastingly expressed in rich textures and tones, filled with sensual surfaces and expressions of love and loyalty that feel more tangible and inviting than those expressed in the corporate world. Anderson’s dichotomy between his story-worlds poses the question: does the future we’re striving for come at the expense of our humanity?

Meanwhile, while I realize this is not exactly Onion level stuff, I doubt the Onion could find a large enough audience that would understand what this piece is satirizing to justify them bringing it into existence. So bravo!

This past week saw BookExpo and bookcon take over the Javits Center, and while there was some solid comics related programming to be had, the show was not without its problems--the biggest one being the one recounted in this article, when comics writer Miz Tee Franklin arrived at a panel only to find that the stage had no wheelchair accessibility. Franklin, who had already endured this issue at multiple convention panels prior to traveling to BookExpo, at a panel the previous day (and had even tweeted about the issue earlier Saturday morning,), refused to participate in the panel and settled for an ad hoc signing at the Image Comics booth instead. A follow up post from Heidi MacDonald (the panel's moderator) about the event at The Beat was not well received by Franklin. It's difficult to quantify the impact that this sort of fiasco has--beyond the personal indignity suffered by Franklin, she loses her ability to speak about her work amongst her peers for an audience who might support it, as well as subtly implying that--because no effort had been made to provide her stage access--she is not actually part of said peer group. It's an ugly event, and despite the embarrassment it has caused multiple individuals, the only real victim is Franklin, and doubly so: because instead of returning from a panel where she talked about her work, she's returning from a panel where the conversation is primarily about the ramp that nobody thought to provide her. 

Before all of that happened, I also went to a panel: it had Garth Ennis on it. He was up there with a guy named Frank Tieri and the dude who wrote Kill Shakespeare, and they were talking about historical fiction. It was a great panel even if I was only intermittently interested in the comics they were talking about--Garth talked about riding around in an antique fighter jet and how the near total lack of visibility helped him realize how deep the trust becomes between a couple of wingmen, and even though I knew that all that research had been done in the service of one of the worst comics in a pretty long career, I ate it all up. The dessert to that hearty meal was listening to Tieri, who I genuinely, sincerely enjoyed--at first, I thought he was making a joke with his central casting I'm-a-Brooklyn-guy, but he wasn't, that's how he really is. His wry, who-gives-a-fuck amusement at being the dude onstage whose main installments in the historical fiction genre are A) a comic "where Wolverine meets Al Capone" and B) one where "the Punisha' kills Dutch Schultz" never stopped being funny, even more so when it would follow Ennis giving some concise description of his interest in war comics, and his attempts to give them a philosophy. The Kill Shakespeare guy even got in on the act too, by telling everyone that he liked to tell teachers that Kill Shakespeare was "the gateway drug to Shakespeare", which is the sort of absurdly arrogant bullshit that only comics marketing can produce. My favorite part of the Q&A session was when a man--a man who quite honestly looked like a Kevin Maguire drawing of the target audience for Frank Tieri comics--loudly asked from the back of the room "who was the AUDIENCE for ANY of this STUFF", to which I desperately wanted Frank Tieri to say "You, you motherfucker", but no luck--they all just talked about things being "Rated R". It was a great way to spend 45 minutes, and I highly recommend checking Tieri whenever you get the chance. 


Post on Demand

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey returns with a look back at Ted Shearer, creator of the pioneering Quincy strip.

Shearer also freelanced illustration work and cartoons to newspapers and magazines. Before long, he was making the rounds of magazine cartoon editors’ offices in New York every Wednesday, “Look Day,” when cartoonists living in the area submitted their offerings in person. And he worked in animation for a while as an inbetweener. But when he first approached an advertising agency, he ran up against the kind of wall African Americans often ran into in those dismal days (and still do).

“When I gave my name over the phone in arranging for an appointment, I suppose they figured that ‘Shearer’ was Irish. But when I showed up for the meeting and the receptionist saw me, she went into an inner office and made me sit out in the reception room for an hour. When I finally did get in to see my man, he went through my portfolio in about three seconds and then said, ‘If there’s anything, we’ll let you know.’”

We also have Austin Price's review of the latest from Gipi, Land of the Sons.

Italian comics auteur Gipi’s novel Land of the Sons feels at first like something of a small revolution for the post-apocalyptic story. “On the causes and motives that led to the end, entire chapters of history books could have been written. But after the end, no more books were ever written,” reads the epigraph, and though this very novel would seem to contradict Gipi’s own insistence (for what is Land of the Sons if not a kind of history book of this place and time?), for a time he seems to be actively trying to refute literary critic Jame Woods’ insistence that the post-apocalyptic story is “necessarily paradoxical… As long as language can be used to recount the worst, then the worst has not arrived” by presenting a story that exists post-language.

Yes, it’s true that the father of the titular sons keeps a journal, but from the opening portion of the novel he and his sons – our protagonists – move through their post-cataclysmic wasteland of bayous using little else but barked monosyllables when they deign to speak at all; it is not rare for a page or two or even three to pass in total silence. And why shouldn’t it be, when the boys’ own father refuses to teach them how to write even though he himself keeps a journal, when he communicates with them almost entirely through violence and threats that seem designed to beat the language out of them entirely?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Nick Meglin, longtime editor of Mad, has died. We will have an obituary soon. In the meantime, there are many remembrances online, including these by Sam Viviano and Mark Evanier.

Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing is Monsters has won the Lambda award for best graphic novel.

Last Friday, ComiXology and Amazon announced comiXology Originals, a new line of comics to be available both digitally and via print-on-demand.

[UPDATED TO ADD:] For anyone who doesn’t already know, last weekend, the cartoonist Brandon Graham had something of a social-media meltdown, and published a comic on his Tumblr responding to various allegations that have been made against him; he calls it a “diss track,” and in it he attacks some of his critics. His defense seems to have provoked an almost universally negative reaction. The comic is easy to find if you want to read it, as are the various criticisms against him. We are looking into the situation, and hope to report more soon.

—Reviews & Commentary. Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds took to Twitter to explain what the comiXology/Amazon move mentioned above may mean in a broader sense.

If you value high-quality printing and diverse books, today's amazon/comixology announcement is concerning. Amazon's print-on-demand offers exactly one paper stock option, two finishes (matte/gloss), limited trim options, and paperback only.


Amazon's end game here is clear. They eventually want their proprietary P-O-D tech to fulfill as much consumer book demand as possible, & these exclusives are a way of conditioning comics fans to this process, so we publishers will eventually conform our business.

Reynolds continued his thoughts on Twitter in a second thread as well.

If you don't have a healthy skepticism of Amazon, you should, regardless of Comixology. Ask a Seattleite that doesn't work for Amazon.

Brian Nicholson reviews Margot Ferrick's Dognurse.

Margot Ferrick’s new comic, printed by Perfectly Acceptable Press, has an obvious difference with her book Yours, published by 2D Cloud last year: There’s pictures. Not totally coincidentally, I like it more. I like her drawings, for one, but also, Ferrick’s work seems specifically about emotions- big, uncomfortable, overpowering ones, relationships that are not necessarily healthy, and the use of drawing to depict a physical world gives readers a way to be more objective about what they’re seeing. Yours is pretty much all lettering, a sort of comics equivalent to the form of the love letter. In the act of reading, we feel our way along with it, in an intimate, experiential way. It’s a unique comics experience, but for me it feels somewhat one-note. When her words work in tandem with her drawing, it seems like we’re not just being given feelings, but are presented with the task of making sense of them. I think this is harder, and consequently more rewarding, though certainly I know others will differ as to the latter point.

—Misc. Michael DeForge shares Steve Ditko's reaction to his own bootleg Spider-Man comic from a few years back.

That 'free' spider-man comic is another example of anti-story and art, anti-property rights in every way and the practice continues and spreads and to be accepted.

It's the "Dumbing Down" and "Deviations Up".


Children of the Korn

Boker tov! It's June, TCJ reader. Why not get it started with Eli Valley? He's here talking about what he's aiming for with his comics, and unlike some, it isn't a licensing deal with the SyFy network. (At least, not yet). Sam Goldstein brought the questions, Eli brought the thunder:

Tell me about using a Jewish vernacular. Most of your comics in Diaspora Boy were written for a very specific community. Did that language limit you? What was your hope in bringing the vernacular of Diaspora Boy to a larger audience?

There’s a purpose of the book in the Jewish community and a purpose for the wider world. For the Jewish community it’s to reclaim authenticity. To be told that we are less pure is one of the things that allowed Netanyahu to be normalized. It’s a reason why under Trump the community has been silent at best, or complicit at worst. Maybe this book can give us the tools to help fight that. It doesn’t limit me in terms of creativity because I find it too exhilarating to maneuver through Jewish history and culture.

The ideology behind the comic Israel Man and Diaspora Boy is something that we don’t know enough about. It’s not well known outside of Israel or academia. It sheds a lot of light on both Israel, the American-Jewish relationship to Israel, and by extension the American relationship to Israel. And so the book offers a sort of guide to how we ended up in the horror that led to Trump. I wrote the entire introduction during the election campaign. Watching Sheldon Adelson pour millions of dollars into the campaign of the hero of American Nazism. At the time I thought Trump was just a buffoon who showed signs of extremely dangerous trends in America, but would fizzle out by election day. The fact that I was wrong only helps the relevance of the book. It’s come out in the beginning of the reign of America’s Netanyahu.

I don’t create my comics to convince the other side. I think the other side is lost basically, they‘re not open to being convinced. If my comics can add strength and nourishment to our side, then that’s a good thing, with the horrors of what we’re witnessing.  The things that I‘m pillorying are so off the deep end, I think people who continue to support these personalities and these policies are beyond convincing. I’m interested in expressing the visceral gut punch that I feel when I read the news.

That's not all: it's also review time here at TCJ, and today, Gorgon's eye turns to...Shea Hennum, who joins the team with a look at Weegee: Serial Photographer. (We interviewed the author last week). Here's Shea, getting specific about how this one works:

While it’s doubtful that Weegee authors Max de Radiguès and Wauter Mannaert knowingly make this argument about their subject, it’s hard to shake the sense that they nonetheless understood this about Fellig. The book’s first scene introduces us to Weegee. A man has been killed, and his body lies motionless in front of a movie theatre. The lights from the marquee highlight the body, and a crowd looks on in shock and horror. Bystanders in the crowd cover the mouths—as though they are too shocked to close them—and Mannaert draws their eyes so that they appear ready to pop out of their sockets. In the first few panels, Mannaert renders Weegee as a morass of criss-crossing lines that amount to a silhouette and a pair of bulging eyes. It is only by wielding his camera that Weegee—figuratively and literally—distinguishes himself from the crowd (or at least, that is how the scene is drawn).

Out in the world, you can read all about the latest attempt to get comics readers interested in Richard Starkings' Elephantmen, a series of comics created in part to help legitimize an ad campaign for a font company. The announcement of this development came via Twitch, that streaming website where people generate income by showing you videos of themselves playing video games.

In addition to new content, the Comics MNT website has been rolling out pieces that were originally only available to Patreon subscribers. As such, they posted Megan Purdy's insightful review of First Second's Decelerate Blue, one of the few pieces of writing that really grappled with that book's weird ambition.