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Into the Cornfield

Today we bring you a classic bit of Comics Journal “Blood & Thunder”, the much-discussed and hotly debated series of letters regarding James Kochalka’s “Craft is the Enemy” argument, which began in 1996 in issue #189, and continued through several issues, attracting disputants such as Jim Woodring and Scott McCloud. Here’s a famous bit from Woodring’s letter in issue #192:

Kochalka, you are wrong. Craft is control; it is the ability to create according to one’s intentions, not in spite of one’s limitations. Imagine saying that a writer doesn’t need to know how to write, or that an architect need not be concerned with “craft.” Well, I can imagine you saying it.

Was your point that craft without content is not great art? Well, no shit. Everyone knows that. Craft fairs not your cup of tea? Tut tut.

To describe Pollock and de Kooning as artists who were great despite a lack of craft is absurd. They may not have been great draughtsmen but they both had oodles of craft as painters, which is after all what they’re known for. Both men were obsessed with getting exactly the effects they wanted and they worked like demons to develop their particular crafts.

You say there is “no such thing” as good drawing. Wish it into the cornfield, Jimmy! I’ve got an idea; why don’t you re-draw the pictures of Heinrich Kley, preserving only the ideas. We’ll see what role craft plays then.

Thanks to Kristy Valenti for putting this all together.

Elsewhere:

—Awards news. The Joe Shuster nominations have been announced. No Straight Lines won a Lambda Literary Award. Michael Cavna talks to Reuben Award winner Brian Crane (Pickles).

—Interviews. Actually, there are a ton of good ones out right now, including The Telegraph‘s profile of Gilbert Hernandez, The Believer‘s discussion with Alan Moore, Michael Dooley’s talk with Peter Kuper, and Paul Gravett’s interview of Junko Mizuno.

—Criticism. Novelist and sometime TCJ contributor Tom De Haven has started a blog, and posted his Masters of American Comics essay on Winsor McCay. Comics Journal All-Star Bob Levin writes about EC and Al Williamson at the Broad Street Review.

 

Bridge Performance

It’s the day after Monday so that must mean Jog is here to set it right.
Elsewhere it’s a sloooow newsday:

Robin McConnell has posted a for-sale PDF version of his Inkstuds book.

Peter Kuper profiled.

And here’s a Kickstarter campaign and trailer for Very Semi-Serious, a documentary about New Yorker cartoonists.

 

Time Going About Its Immemorial Work

Today on the site, Craig Fischer writes about his complicated, changing feelings about Michel Rabagliati’s complicated, changing Paul stories:

Recently, after hearing that a new Paul book was on the way (Paul Joins the Scouts, forthcoming in English from Conundrum), I re-read all of Rabagliati’s books, and liked them much more. Optimism and simplicity do characterize his comics, but I discovered complexities there too, especially when I traced connections among the various books. Although each graphic novel stands alone, the entire Paul project is Rabagliati’s ongoing, thinly fictionalized autobiography, with each book focused on a particular period in his life. The Paul books all share the same chronology and many of the same characters, and across multiple volumes Rabagliati’s autobiography gradually assumes a greater density, closer to that of life itself. I’ll explore this density by talking about the organization of one individual Paul novel, Paul Goes Fishing, before sticking my toe into the deeper sea of networked motifs and narrative strategies in the series as a whole.

Elsewhere:

—For whatever reason, the New York Times has gone comics-crazy recently, running not only that kinda strange Karen Berger profile last week, but also Douglas Wolk’s notices for new books by Lucy Knisley, Ulli Lust, Jeremy Bastian, Michael DeForge, and Lisa Hanawalt; a Peter Keepnews review of Brad Ricca’s biography of Siegel & Shuster; and Deborah Solomon’s review of Victor Navasky’s Art of Controversy.

—The Rumpus has a dual profile of Victor Kerlow and Josh Burggraf; the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle has a profile of Noah Van Sciver; and Gengoroh Tagame was profiled twice, once at the Huffington Post (w/ video), and once by Chris Randle at Hazlitt.

—Rob Clough rounds up a bunch of recent minicomics.

—Chris Ware was the keynote speaker at the recent Denver Comic Con, and Hannah Means-Shannon reports on his speech.

—Townsquare Media has purchased Comics Alliance.

—Roz Chast, on art and death (via):

 

Book Day

Today on the site:

Tucker Stone has some choice words for you.

Elsewhere:

Tom Tomorrow has a catch-up post that is pretty fun to peruse.

Philip Nel and Eric Reynolds talk Barnaby on Inkstuds.

Here’s an interview with cartoonist Nina Bunjevac.

The New York Times profiles outgoing Vertigo chief Karen Berger. Tom Spurgeon has some thoughts on the profile itself.

And here’s a report on the ongoing Book Expo America over at The Beat.

 

Spiral Obsession

Today we bring you Steven Ringgenberg’s obituary for the recently departed Dan Adkins. An excerpt:

At the time of his death, he was mostly living on the proceeds of private commissions for comic art collectors, usually drawing characters he’d worked on in the past, such as Tower Comics’ Dynamo and the Iron Maiden, Vampirella, Batman, the Sub-Mariner, and so on. Like many old-time comics professionals, Adkins never managed to build up much in the way of savings or assets, though his art was highly regarded by comics fans, who voted him one of the 100 Best Comic Book Artists of all time.

Elsewhere:

—Yesterday also brought news of the death of Jack Vance, one of the twentieth century’s greatest prose fantasists. Here is Christopher Priest’s obituary for him. Vance’s association with comics was mostly limited to a small number of adaptations of his work, including at least one by Moebius, who was clearly highly influenced both by Vance’s visual descriptions and his depictions of bizarre social systems. A good profile of him ran in the New York Times Magazine in 2009.

—Publishers Weekly has a profile of Rutu Modan, the Chicago Tribune takes on Art Spiegelman, and the Herald-Tribune has a story about Nick Cardy, focusing on his WWII experience.

—Sampsonia Way has an interesting short interview with Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani.

—Criticism. Sarah Horrocks writes about the horror of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, and William Leung has a two-part essay on Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen books.

—Yesterday saw the release of Panel Nine’s Sequential comic-distribution app. Paul Gravett interviewed Sequential’s Russell Willis, and Robot 6 interviewed participating publisher Kenny Penman from Blank Slate.

 

Mighty Dollar

Today on the site:

Marc Sobel contributes a lengthy interview with Rutu Modan, author most recently of The Property.

SOBEL: Was it difficult to write a character that’s so much older than you?

MODAN: It was hell! <laughs> It was so difficult. Mostly because I didn’t know if I would be able to describe Regina the way I wanted her to be: a full, real person. I was used to looking at my grandmother only through her role in my life.

The writing was much, much harder than Exit Wounds, not only because the characters were more complex but also because the story takes place in Poland. Exit Wounds took place in Israel, and that is, needless to say, a background I am very familiar with. Poland, on the other hand, was a place that even compared to other countries, I didn’t know anything about. I didn’t even have a picture in my head about how it looks. This makes inventing the story quite difficult. And the Holocaust is a very complicated subject, too, to deal with in art. So much has been written about it already, and it is a subject that can easily lead you to melodrama.

SOBEL: Can you talk a bit about the research that went into the book?

MODAN: The first thing I did was open Wikipedia and read the history of Poland. I wanted to know more about the country, not just its Jewish history. I also read books and talked with people. I was living in England at the time when I started the research and my yoga teacher’s wife was from Poland, so I asked if I could interview her. She is in her 30s and she came from a small village near the Ukrainian border. I asked her to tell me about her life in Poland. She knew I was from Israel but she didn’t know anything about the book; I barely knew anything either at that point. I just told her that it was going to take place in Poland, but I didn’t tell her anything about the story or the theme. Literally five minutes after we started talking, she told me that her parents are living in the house that belonged to a Jewish family before the war and that they are really frightened that the Jews are going to come and take their home. I swear to you, I didn’t tell her anything. So that was when I knew that I had a good subject in my hand. <laughs> Because if there is a conflict, than there is drama, which means it can be a story.

Also I realized that, in a way, it’s similar to what happened in Israel between the Israelis and Palestinians. The history is different and it’s different circumstances, but the fact that the Jews were thrown out of their houses and then came to Israel and threw the Palestinians out of their houses… It’s the tragic repetition of history. Many Israelis don’t see the connection. They can fight for their house in Poland, but to think that they should give something to the Palestinians… they don’t make the connection.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a piece by the reliably good Tim Marchman about the non-effect comic book movies have on comic book sales.

10 years of portraits for The Believer by Charles Burns will be on view at Adam Baumgold Gallery beginning Thursday evening.

Canadian cartoonists suggest some Canadian graphic novels right over here.

Paul Karasik has a comic online (and in print) about a Martha’s Vineyard dock builder.

A reminder: Eisner Award voting is open now until June 12.

I enjoy the work done at the art center Creative Growth. Here’s a video about a comics-related artist.

 

Weekend’s Over

I hope all of our United Statesian readers enjoyed their three-day weekends, and that our un-American readers understood why we were away. Today, we make it up to you with a strong entry from Joe McCulloch, detailing the Week in Comics‘ new releases, and exploring the connections between the Palme d’Or-winning lesbian graphic-novel adaptation Blue is the Warmest Color and the gay manga of Gengoroh Tagame.

Elsewhere:

—The Reuben Awards winners have been announced, with Rick Kirkman and Brian Crane taking top honors, and artists like Joann Sfar, Roz Chast, Brian Basset, Hilary Price, Jen Sorenson, Bernie Wrightson, and Chris Ware winning divisional prizes.

—Interviews. A longish talk with Shary Boyle at Hazlitt. Matt Madden’s conversation with Blutch at CBR. And new TCJ reviewer/fan favorite Alex Dueben’s talk with Lisa Hanawalt at the same site.

—The Guardian has published a small annotated selection of Posy Simmonds’ sketchbook pages.

—Carol Lay has entered the crowdfunding ranks.

—Laura Sneddon writes in the New Statesman about the exploitation of comic-book creators.

 

The Answer is Still No

No Tucker this morning, but instead we present the Rick Veitch interview from  1995.

Elsewhere:

Good news: Dan Zettwoch built a rocket.

I always like that Sid Check.

More Ayn Rand from Darryl Cunningham.

And for your weekend thinking: Dusty and the Duke: A cultural choice.