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Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews the new Josh Simmons collection, Flayed Corpse.

[It] is a splendid collection of solo stories and collaborations with other notable cartoonists, most previously published in anthologies and zines like Mome, Intruder, Rough House, and Habit; also included are various unpublished drawings and odds and ends, all created from 2010 to 2017. The book is carefully curated, highly enjoyable, and more fun than Simmons's harrowing, almost nihilistic Furry Trap collection from 2012—though it is not without its upsetting moments (you wouldn’t expect any less from Josh Simmons, would you?). Working with other artists has only added further dimensions to his oeuvre.

Simmons's work has always presented a particularly unsettling aesthetic. His stories take place in an universe with an entirely indifferent moral structure, where life can be brutally snuffed out at any time, for no reason other than bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The brief title story, "Flayed Corpse", sets up this ferocious tone. In it, a group of medical forensic experts discuss the state of mind of a dead man at the time of his demise. What they ultimately decide offers no comforting view of death as a final peaceful departure into the ether: “He died terrified, in agony. And it echoed out and was absorbed into a cosmos already sick with pain.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—JHU Comic Books is hoping to stay in Manhattan, and raising money via GoFundMe in order to do so.

JHU Comic Books have been serving comic book fans in New York City since 2013 (and the owners worked at the legendary Jim Hanley’s Universe, which originated on Staten Island in 1985, before that). We opened our current store on 32nd Street after Hurricane Sandy, and now after 5 years, we lost our lease, and we need to move.

We have found a great new (and affordable) space a few blocks from our current location, in a residental neighborhood. We will be moving from a highly commerical area, and are looking to reestablish ourself as a mom and pop shop. However the new space needs some major work. Floor, lights, bathroom, an awning and more. This is where we need your help.

—Matthew Thurber brings us Military School:

—RIP

 

Look What You Made Me Glue

Today at the Journal, two of your trustiest souls return to these pages. The first is Marc Sobel, with a nice long read to start off your week. It's a deep dive into Yukinobu Hoshino's 2001 NightsThis piece has a bibliography, pal. Does your piece have a bibliography?

2001 Nights is the story of humanity’s exploration of the universe. Told in a series of nineteen episodes, each successive “night” represents a milestone in the gradual journey. As the title implies, the series borrows its narrative structure from 1001 Nights, a collection of Islamic folk tales from the 7th Century, and its epic scope, which spans several centuries and thousands of light years, was also inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix series.

Then we've got RJ Casey. The last time he was around these parts, he was pleased with his reading assignments, this time around? Well, this time around he took a look at the latest comic book launch of a Robert Kirkman intellectual property: it's called Oblivion Song, and RJ wasn't a fan.

I’m never sure if writers like Kirkman create comics like these to appeal to their predominantly white male fan bases, or, even when given a clean slate by Image, this is literally all they can imagine. And which one of those is worse? Every criticism of this comic (and I’m sure a television show is right around the corner) will be met with defenders rallying behind the idea of "escapism." But when brutal tragedies are actually happening and not merely plot points, it shouldn’t be too much to ask writers and artists to take a step back and reflect for one goddamn minute. If your escapism does not reflect those that are oppressed, harassed, and victimized—in short, people who need escape—then something is very, potentially harmfully, wrong.

Elsewhere, you'll find a lot of Stan Lee pieces going up regarding his current living & financial situation, with the Daily Beast being the most extensive and recent. It's a developing situation and an ugly one. 

 

Lurking in Paradise

Greg Hunter's here with a review of two recently translated Chinese comics from a very small publisher.

Migraine by Woshibai and Two Stories by Gantea mark the first entries in a series of contemporary lianhuanhua translations from Brooklyn micropress Paradise Systems. Both artists are from China, the lianhuanhua tradition’s place of origin—Woshibai from Shanghai; Gantea from Beijing, by way of Urumqi—and both comics observe some of lianhuanhua’s historical conventions. Migraine and Two Stories feature one scene (or panel) per page, a horizontal orientation, and a pocket-ready trim size. Reading lianhuanhua in large quantities, the effects of this format surely vary. (Lianhuanhua of the past encompassed many genres and sensibilities, including “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” a publisher’s note in each volume informs readers.) In the case of Migraine and Two Stories, the format supports, even underscores, feelings of stillness and ambivalence. Taken together, the comics also demonstrate how different two comics sharing these feelings can be.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—History. The indefatigable Sean Howe writes about Marvel artist Billy Graham for the New York Times.

Last summer, Shawnna Graham fired up Netflix in her Williamsburg, Va., home and looked for her grandfather’s name in the closing credits of “Marvel’s Luke Cage.” It was nowhere to be found.

It was a surprise. After all, the Harlem-based comic book artist Billy Graham had worked on the first 17 issues of “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire,” and even had a hand in writing a few of them. He’d been the only African-American person working on what was the first African-American superhero comic book series.

In fact, he was the only African-American person working for Marvel, period.

Broadly looks at the career of Jackie Ormes.

Fashion and politics are rarely represented alongside each other in a smart way, but cartoonist Jackie Ormes, the first American Black woman to have a syndicated comic strip, consistently married the two with ease. From the 30s through the 50s, her Torchy Brown and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger comics featured clever, independent women with a taste for chic clothing and sharp political commentary.

—News. DC has announced a new imprint called Black Label featuring creators such as Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., and the DC debut of Kelly Sue DeConnick.

—Interviews. Vice talks to a slate of cartoonists, including Brandon Graham, Mimi Pond, and R. Sikoryak, about their comics careers. Here's Pond:

I don't know if you're familiar with Clay Felker. He started New York magazine. He was very supportive of women writers, and of women in general in publishing, and he was doing a magazine called Manhattan Inc., and he asked me to do a cartoon about the problems women face in the workplace—sexual harassment in the workplace. This is 1986 or something. First of all, I said no. I've made it my life's work to avoid working in an office, so I don't even know what office life is like. He said "No, no, no, you do it. You have to do it."

So I talked to all my friends who worked in offices, and they would tell me these stories about being made to feel very uncomfortable in all these different ways. One of the big ones was guys telling dirty jokes just to make them uncomfortable. So I showed him this pencil rough that's got a woman surrounded by a group of men by the water cooler, and one of them has just told the punchline to a dirty joke, and all the men are laughing, and the woman says, "That reminds me of a joke my gynecologist told me the other day while he was giving me a pap smear," and they all turn white. And I showed it to Clay Felker, and he just said, "This is disgusting!" I said, “Yeah, I know.” And he made me redo it. It just felt to me like the first one was dead on.

Eddie Campbell launched a new website, as mentioned the other day, and is now a guest on the Library of American Comics podcast.

 

The Finest in Grog

Today at The Journal, we've got a double shot from some new contributors. First you'll find Sara McHenry holding court on Twisted Romance, a recent release from Image Comics featuring not one, but two Journal contributors. It seems to have struck a nerve!

Still, there’s a lot to like here: a goth vampire boy donning his sunglasses and black parasol to interview small-town folks about wendigo murders is extremely charming. A vampire and a hunter falling in love and going to karaoke bars in the American south, where being gay can be as dangerous as being a monster? I’m so here for that. They even have a Chihuahua named Dominique!

And we've also got an interview with Taneka Stotts about her approach to webcomics, seeking a voice outside of editorial, and her history in poetry, courtesy of Ardo Omer!

Do you find that how you receive feedback or how you work with creatives, your current view on both of those things, were because you started out as an editor?

Yes and no. This kind of goes back to slam poetry a little bit. Back in the day, there are things called group pieces [and] also duos which [are] literally when two creative artists or a group of artists sit down, write a poem, kind of like a song, spitting out little words here and there to one another [and] seeing how it flows with the group. Or taking someone’s piece, deconstructing it so that a group can read that piece on stage. So it might’ve already existed, and this poet might have already read it quite a few times, but they’re going to break it down into sections of four so that they can all read it together, give it more emphasis and bang, and then watch it, you know, perform on stage, and how it hits an audience.

ALSO, but elsewhere: The Graphic novel nominations for the Lamda awards are up, and it's nice to see them abandon the tradition of giving a sympathy position to a lousy super-hero comic by a straight dude with an earring just because it features a side character who likes to reminisce about Will & Grace in between poorly drawn fight scenes. It's great that those things exist, because it isn't really progress until everybody gets their own shitty super-hero comic to call their own, but it was consistently annoying how often those things earned some kind of acclaim while there was, you know, absolutely anything else to have as an option.

 

Let It Snow

Today brings another two-fer. First, Matt Seneca reviews the latest from the enigmatic Blexbolex, Vacation.

Blexbolex has cracked the code. The French cartoonist with the name that sounds like a friendly robot has worked in a wide variety of styles, from the simple interlocking blocks of bright color seen in his kid's books People and Seasons, to the whirls of limited-palette decoration in his very not-kid's books No Man's Land and Dogcrime. His most recent book, the truly all-ages fable Ballad, added a profusion of neon dot screening to the mix. Through it all, the constant is that his imagery bypasses people's critical faculties and hits them right in the pleasure centers, from page directly into eyes and usually from there to the wallet. Putting a Blexbolex book right by the tiller was a great way to grab add-on sales when I was working comics retail. He makes stuff that people want before they even know what it is, just because of how good it looks.

And then Irene Velentzas returns with a take on Joseph Remnant's art world graphic novel, Cartoon Clouds.

What’s the point of making art in a technological era? This question, and variations of it, make up the heart of Joseph Remnant’s first longform graphic narrative, Cartoon Clouds. Clouds follows freshly minted art school graduate Seth Fallon through insecurity, uncertainty, poverty, and the pretentious Cincinnati art scene. A small nexus of art grads trying to “make it” as serious artists in an increasingly pop-culturized contemporary market succeed to various degrees — or get stuck in the cogs of unrelenting capitalistic machinery. The tale focuses on the humdrum futility of this post-grad life and the very real choice perhaps all young adults must make: to either follow or abandon their idealistic dreams. What prevents Remnant’s narrative from becoming a rote run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale is the caricatured portraits cropping up throughout the text of newly-divorced art professors, established but jaded artists, and culture-vulture branders. These character sketches speak to Fallon’s artistic sensibility: art is capable of capturing a side of people that they cannot see in themselves.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Ward Sutton has won the 2018 Herblock Prize.

Matt Furie has filed a copyright suit against Alex Jones's InfoWars for its use of his Pepe the Frog character.

The lawsuit pinpoints one poster in particular as a source of copyright infringement. The poster features Pepe alongside InfoWars founder Alex Jones, President Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Roger Stone and others with the text "MAGA," short for Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Furie, represented by attorney Rebecca Girolamo at Wilmer Cutler, says he didn't authorize such use of Pepe. He alleges the poster is being sold by InfoWars in its online store.

This week features a silent auction to fund the Columbia College Chicago student anthology Linework. The auction is to help with the publication costs of the eighth and final issue, and features original Ivan Brunetti artwork (a rare page from Schizo and one from Kramers Ergot), as well as original art from several noteworthy Linework alumni (Nick Drnaso, Onsmith, David Alvarado, and others).

—Reviews & Commentary. The music site Aquarium Drunkard reviews the new Blutch collection, Total Jazz.

Jazz has long represented the very idea of “cool.” But while Blutch’s art is frequently elegant and sensual, some of the best stories here reflect not the effortlessness of jazz, but rather the intensity required to create it. In “Sonny Sharrock,” Blutch presents the enormous guitarist in the midst of his time with flutist Herbie Mann’s smooth jazz combo (long before he’d provide the indispensable soundtrack for Space Ghost Coast to Coast). Thick, jagged black lines hover above him, his hands a whirr of furious action, illustrating the incongruity of the late Sharrock’s violent playing on Mann’s pillowy records. In “Five Solos (A Selection),” pianists Jaki Byard and Don Pullen’s become blurs of motion; Sun Ra’s fingers become exaggerated apparitions and Charles Mingus’ hands are presented impossibly enlarged, heavy like stones — French pianist Martial Solal stares in disbelief at each, and then at their gravestones.

 

Sure Cougar, Pure Sugar

Today at the Comics Journal we've got Chris Mautner with one of his classics "I'm not sure about this one, but let me see it anyway" takes on a new comic. Will he be won over by Now, the new comics anthology from Fantagraphics, the publishing company that publishes The Comics Journal? Here's a bit of Mautner doing the work of journalism--you'll have to read the whole thing to get drunk on his criticism.

Now is edited by Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds, who, perhaps more notably for the purposes of this review, was the editor of the celebrated anthology Mome, the last volume of which came out in 2011. The impetus behind that series, at least initially, was to give up-and-coming cartoonists the chance to showcase their work on a semi-regular basis.

Now seems to have similar goals. Reynolds writes in a brief introduction in the first volume that he hopes the anthology will appeal to the “comics-curious” as well as the serious aficionado and be a platform for “showcasing diversity in the comics field.” One noticeable difference is a focus on short, self-contained stories, as Mome frequently featured serialized narratives.

The other thing that's out there for you today? Why, it's the TCJ newsletter. An email newsletter, you say? Why yes indeed, they're all the rage (again, for some reason). Here at TCJ, we've heard your complaints about "keeping up", and we've responded in kind. Go ahead and subscribe to the only All Killer, No Filler email in the game now, while it's free. (It will always be free, it exists to drive traffic back to the website.) No: subscribe so you don't miss a review, interview, column, hyperbolic essay, my favorite comment, and, maybe, eventually, sure, exclusive "content". Who knows what that could be! (It will be something Gary comes up with.) Just head over here and subscribe now!

 

Better Never

We have two things for you on the site today. First the latest episode of Greg Hunter's excellent podcast, Comic Book Decalogue, which this month poses its traditional ten questions to Whit Taylor. In the episode, Ghost Stories creator talks Junji Ito, Meghan Turbitt, Jeffrey Brown, and more.

We also have Rob Clough's review of MariNaomi's YA book, Losing the Girl.

I was intrigued when I heard that memoir cartoonist MariNaomi was going to be writing a series of young adult comics. In her many autobiographical comics, it's seemed like she labored to create as many different kinds of talking heads scenes as possible. That's because her comics are mostly about relationships and interactions, so there's very little action and a great deal of slowly revealed, painful emotional truths being put on display. She's developed a variety of techniques to keep the reader's eye interested and active on her pages, from near-abstractions of images, to greatly varying line weights, to extensive use of negative space, spotting blacks and/or gray wash, to using a variety of different fonts for characters and many other layout innovations. As a result of this toolbox she's been developing over time, her new book, Losing the Girl,  is a success from top to bottom; she establishes and expands upon the characteristics and narrative goals of each of the primary four protagonists primarily from a visual standpoint.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Slate has announced the nominees for its annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—Kilgore Books is crowdfunding its 2018 slate of books.

—Mutha Magazine interviews Katherine Arnoldi.

 

Who Needs Food When You’ve Got A Checklist

Today at the Journal, we've got the last installment in Katie Skelly's Cartoonist Diaries. That's five days of comics from the Skell-Nation. Did you catch them all? Go and catch them all then, you filthy so-and-so.

That's not all, though. Tegan O'Neil continues her journey through the tundra that is the contemporary landscape, with a dive into the recent revival of Kick-Ass, that storied franchise of violence, racism, sexism and superheroes.

Superhero stories are customarily regarded as power fantasies. They certainly are, and of the most basic kind: I can’t fly or bend steel with my hands, but Superman can and sometimes he even does interesting things with those abilities. Millar’s resentful manchildren graduate to super-status without ever learning the most basic Peter Parker lesson about responsibility. Their very limited power is only useful if it can be fueled by the kind of resentment that is customarily purged from the spandex fraternity at the point of entry. Millar’s great contribution to superhero comics was not in realizing that superheroes could be shitty people but that the audience could be shitty, too. There was a market for stories where people just didn’t give a shit and people who got kicked in the face just learned to kick back harder and with better quips. These aren’t power fantasies for children, they’re the fantasies of powerless young adults. 

Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive news about the launch of the new Sandman "universe" that DC will be publishing. If you don't feel like reading the regurgitation of the press release, no worries--you can click on this link and after a few seconds a little video will launch, where Neil Gaiman will tell you (in his own words) how much he likes money, and how happy he is to take more of it. If you're part of the audience that fell hard for Lucifer, Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives, The Dreaming, Sandman: The Dream Hunters (either version), Sandman Midnight Theater, Death: At Death's Door, The Little Endless Storybook, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, then congratulations to you: more of that is coming! If you're the type of person who feels like you've had more than enough of Sandman and Sandman related properties, then my apologies. Hopefully the last 25 years of continually churning out more of these things has thoroughly prepared you to once again experience: more, of these things.