It's time to welcome our newest columnist to the fold--Austin English is back, and with him is his column, 10 Cent Museum! Austin is a cartoonist living in New York, whose most recent book, Gulag Casual, was published in 2016 by 2d Cloud. He is currently at work on a follow up book, Meskin and Umezo, which will appear in 2019. He runs the publishing house Domino Books and has written for the Journal since 2001. His first column is on Feininger, the language of cartooning, and how being addicted to one language might just turn you into a singular, blinkered clown.
News. It was announced last week that CB Cebulski--a man who allegedly used social media to instruct wanna-be artists to bring Five Guys with them during NYCC portfolio submissions--would be taking over the role of Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics, following the mutual decision between Axel Alonso and Marvel that Axel should go somewhere else, forever. Cebulski's biggest legacy up to this point (besides calling himself a "foodie") is that he was one of the guys who figured out that, thanks to the spread of high speed internet, super-hero publishers could start hiring non-American artists at poverty level wages. (He was also had the wisdom to be alive and near the room where Brian K. Vaughan delivered Runaways, which was a comic you used to have to read, but will soon be able to watch on television, thank God.) Whether or not Cebulski's vast knowledge of places to order ramen noodles will help Marvel regain the luster it once had is a question no one has an answer to yet, but then again: who cares?
Reviews & Sundry. The Washington Post published Michael Cavna's list of the Best Graphic Novels of 2017. He fell for Tom King's obvious attempt at virtue signaling, but Gabrielle Bell is on there too, so no big deal--we all have our blind spots. If I had to make one of these--wait, do I?--I'd probably include some of these books as well.
How many reviews of Henry King are there? Not enough for my taste. Comicsverse liked the book fine, rating it both with a 95% and the term "Morbid Fascination". I wonder what they would have said if the book got a 90%!
I skipped the after party to go have dinner with my publisher, Serge Ewenczyk of Éditions çà et là. He came all the way from France to enjoy the show and to visit with his authors like me. We talked about the book I’m doing for him. And the show, of course. He said, “Everybody is doing Risograph now in the States. It all looks more or less the same to me.” I had to laugh. I could see his point. Lots of similar palettes and copycatting. I drove Serge to the subway and then I went on a walk with Aaron Cometbus through Prospect Park at midnight. Then finally back at my friends’ house where I was staying to have a celebratory drink and count the money I made that day at the show. Survey says: best CAB ever, saleswise.
—The Paris Review has published the introduction Daniel Clowes wrote for the new edition of Nicole Claveloux's Green Hand.
I’ve been deeply in love with the work of Nicole Claveloux for close to forty years, which is strange because until the New York Review of Comics reissue of The Green Hand, I’d never actually read one of her stories. I don’t read French, but more to the point, it somehow seemed perilous to focus in any way on the text, as I feared it could only diminish the mysterious power of her images.
I first saw her name in Heavy Metal magazine when I was in high school and, soon after, through some miracle, managed to blunder across a French album of her work called La main verte. I remember standing in the mildewed chaos of Larry’s Comics in Chicago (RIP), transfixed by the beautiful, electrified colors—unlike any I’d seen before (or since). I took it home and obsessed over every panel, drawn into an intimate, immersive private dream world of deep and complicated emotions, an obsession that has only deepened over the years with the acquisition of further volumes of her work, thanks to French eBay and my NYRC editors.
Debuting in 1969, “Tac Au Tac” was a French series (with 12-14 minute episodes) hosted by series creator, Jean Frapat, in which comic artists would appear on TV to draw special challenges. Given a marker and a big pad of paper, they’d improvise often hilarious drawings either in cooperation with each other, or in an attempt to make the next person’s job harder.
If you’ve seen Mark Evanier’s “Quick Draw!” panel at San Diego Comic-Con, you’ll have the idea. It’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” for cartoonists. It’s not quite as rapid fire or fast-paced, but it flows well with a little tv editing.
The show lasted almost ten years, and resulted in some memorable episodes that belong in the annals of comics history. Imagine watching top artists of all time on your television as they draw things off the tops of their heads. It’s thrilling, especially considering that this was not a day and age when everyone had a video recorder in their pocket.
For Americans, a couple of episodes featured Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, and Moebius. Michael Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson did an episode. Steranko showed up for an episode filmed on a boat in New York City.
The Bulletproof Coffin seems comfortable with being designated as trash, and is a pastiche of various comics, but they are all things that have historically been considered “good:” Its vision of superheroes is rooted in Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, the approach to short stories with twists comes from EC horror comics, or 2000 AD, and the end result ends up feeling not far from early Vertigo stuff. All of these things had their own sense of humor about themselves, and all are out of fashion enough at this time for the new one-shot, 1000 Yard Stare, to come out and feel fresh and fun. There’s a sense of play, that still feels thought-through enough to be satisfying. It seems aware of all the gross aspects of the comics industry that inform the work in a way that makes it feel less gross than other works that are invested in a sort of performative naivete.
Today at the Journal, we've got a fresh, meaty look at the latest work from Antoine Cossé, a cartoonist schooled in my favorite philosophy: make, make, make. While he's worked with a number of outlets, is preferred publisher is Breakdown Press--and the new book is called Showtime.
Zanadu Comics will close this coming January. As someone who has directly experienced how incredibly dumb the commentary gets online around the closing of a comic book store, I'll keep it super simple: Zanadu was a wonderful store staffed by wonderful, intelligent, funny and hardworking people. I loved going there, and feel sorry that other people won't get to have that experience.
-Interviews & Profiles.
The Chicago Reader covered an online petition to get Eve Ewing--a poet and sociologist known on Twitter as Wikipedia Brown--hired by Marvel as the new writer for Invincible Iron Man, one of the many comics that Brian Michael Bendis was responsible for. The day after, a larger piece about Eve and the lack of black female comic book writers went up at Shondaland. While Eve's initial interest seemed to be driven mostly by her own amusement and how similarly she and the character style their haircut, the campaign seems to have taken off, especially over the last few days--which is also right around the time it was discovered by racist maniacs and horrified Marvel readers who might be taking themselves a bit too seriously.
Another day, another Emil Ferris article--and this one is in American Libraries, a monthly magazine, which always makes it feel even more intense, because that's prime real estate. It only comes out once a month!
My first champion was a librarian at Gale Elementary School named Mrs. Eldridge. She started me competing in the Illinois History Day competitions, and I got to go down to Springfield. I joke about it, but it seemed that I would shake a governor’s hand, and he would be indicted two months later. It happened more than once.
You might think that Republicans and Democrats can't agree on anything, and if you were basing your opinion solely on social media, you'd be right. But in the real world, Democrats and Republicans all got together and universally agreed that all Federal websitesshould be mobile friendly. Imagine that!
This is the second unauthorized Batman comic to be written by Josh Simmons, that unsparing specialist in physical, emotional and moral breakdown. The first one was a self-published minicomic printed in 2007 under the simple title of Batman and subsequently posted online; it depicted the caped crusader at his most ideologically severe, lecturing a disgusted Catwoman on how he's devised a magnificent means of permanently disfiguring criminals. Batman cannot ever kill, you see, so it's crucial that the superstitious and cowardly lot that is the criminal element be marked - to live forever with the shame of their transgressions, and to be shunned, then, by all the good people of society. On its own, this is not an original idea. Lee Falk's transitional superhero character and Batman predecessor the Phantom left the mark of a skull on the jaws of those villains he struck, while the yet-earlier pulp character the Spider stamped his brand upon the foes he felled, but Simmons' Batman is depicted with unusual intimacy: knees pressing against his chin as he curls up to dream of packed prisons and children getting blasted with fire-hoses, swooning ecstatically, high above a tottering riot of Gotham rooftops.
—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Ware continues to promote his backbreaking new career retrospective, Monograph, which is more or less essential reading for his enthusiasts, and may be the only person alive to appear in the same week on both Charlie Rose and Inkstuds.
At Vulture, Abraham Riesman interviews Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman about his new TV documentary series, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics, focusing on the "really, really ugly history of the comic-book industry," specifically in regard to creators' rights. (Strangely, Tony Moore's name never comes up.)
Was it hard to get DC and Marvel to play ball, given that a lot of the episodes are pretty critical of them?
A little bit. DC seemed to cooperate a little more than Marvel did. We got access to [DC co-publisher] Jim Lee for the Image episode, which we’re very grateful for. They were very involved in the Milestone episode because they’re doing a Milestone relaunch. But, y’know, I think that a lot of the worst things that Marvel and DC have done in their history, hopefully, are behind them. I think that it’s different people at the helm at this point, and I think they recognize that. So, it wasn’t too terribly difficult. And it’s not like the people that work at DC don’t think that [Superman co-creators Jerry] Siegel and [Joe] Shuster were given the short end of the stick.
At Hyperallergic, Angelica Frey profiles the mysterious GG.
GG chose to publish pseudonymously, as she does not want her work and her art to be overshadowed by her personality or backstory. In fact, when she started seriously writing comics, she initially only wanted to publish online and anonymously. “I agree with Elena Ferrante, who’s stayed totally anonymous, that books don’t need their authors once they’re written — if the work has something to say, it will find the right people to hear and understand it without the author having to speak for it,” she elaborated to me. And indeed, despite GG’s austere and allegorical modes of storytelling, the theme of alienation in I’m Not Here resonates loud and clear.
The popularity of the Moomins spawned an empire of television shows, films, and theme parks, as well as all manner of merchandise from plastic toys to crockery.
But over time, Jansson came to feel exhausted by the Moomins and that their success had obscured her other ambitions as an artist. In 1978, she satirized her situation in a short story titled “The Cartoonist” about a man called Stein contracted to produce a daily strip, Blubby, which has generated a Moomin-like universe of commercial paraphernalia—“Blubby curtains, Blubby jelly, Blubby clocks and Blubby socks, Blubby shirts and Blubby shorts.” “Tell me something,” another cartoonist asks Stein. “Are you one of those people who are prevented from doing Great Art because they draw comic strips?” Stein denies it, but that was precisely Jansson’s fear.
Fire!! takes its name from the short-lived literary journal [Zora Neale] Hurston co-founded and edited with other Harlem Renaissance luminaries, including her roommate Richard Bruce Nugent, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Bennett, and several others.
Fire!!, which was meant as a shot across the bow of the respectable, middle-class black literary production favored by the likes of Alain Locke and W. E. B. Du Bois’s “talented tenth,” reflects Hurston’s idiosyncratic ideas and deep commitment to African-American cultural production. The journal set out to give voice to the “low” art of Harlem and address many of the taboo issues within the community, including homosexuality, interracial love, and racism. However, Hurston et al. only managed to produce one issue before their headquarters burned to the ground. As Bagge has Hurston say to Bruce Nugent upon hearing the news, “Pretty prophetic, huh?”
After World War II, when the NAACP and other organizations ran campaigns criticizing explicitly racist caricatures in animation, the industry responded by simply ceasing to create black characters of any kind. In Christopher P. Lehman’s The Colored Cartoon he writes: “No theatrical cartoon studio created an alternative black image to the servile, crude, hyperactive clowns of the preceding half-century. The cartoon directors of the 1950s, many with animation careers dating back to the 1920s, had no experience in developing such a figure.” Studio MDHR, in interviews, is quick to point out that they avoided stereotypes in Cuphead; that they focused on “the technical, artistic merit, while leaving all the garbage behind.” The truth may be dirty, and often uncomfortable. But it’s preferable to offering up a bleached white past, while pretending nothing was lost in the process.
What draws you to science fiction? And what makes you so optimistic about humanity’s future and potential?
To tell you the truth, I'm not optimistic about humanity's future. But Solar System and its conclusion were conducted in spite of this, because it's our responsibility to look up, for as long as we populate this planet. Our main problem as a species is that "look up" means different things to different traditions.
Science fiction is the ultimate escape from this mess. Anything can be possible, even hope. Although, I can't help but wonder if we turn to fantasy to satisfy the impulse to do something, which then quenches that initiative. Too much escape, and nothing will happen in the real world. As a storyteller, my hat is off to those who did get their degrees—via an institution or the street—and are struggling to make a difference.
-News. This Montreal Gazette profile of Drawn & Quarterly's recent expansion in the retail market--they opened a children's bookstore--is meaty and full of insight into what it takes to be an indie in the Amazon era. If you've run into Peggy in the past year and talked to her for more than a few minutes, you already know how much of a positive impact the first D&Q store has had on their neighborhood. The retail passion is REAL.
"Warner Bros and DC Entertainment have terminated the employment of DC Comics Group Editor Eddie Berganza," the company said in a statement. "We are committed to eradicating harassment and ensuring that all employees, as well as our freelance community, are aware of our policies, are comfortable reporting any concerns and feel supported by our Company."
You can take your pick of news outlets for this story, I chose the Newsweek one because it was one of the few that acknowledged how long the Berganza stories have been around. It would be repugnant to twist this particular story into some kind of "look how far things have come" narrative...and yet, I can't help but be glad that, at the age of 53, Eddie Berganza is out of a job and will now have to attempt to find another one with this particular black mark against him. It's a cheap, petty thing to say. And yet this is a man who treated women cheaply, and dismissed their feelings, lives and careers as petty things, beneath his concern. It is unlikely he did anything abhorrent enough to be punished in a court of law. His friends have yet to abandon him, and most likely never will. So for today, for this week--I think it is fine to acknowledge the victory. It was too long in the making, and it isn't enough. But it is something.
Chris Mautner is here with a review of Ulli Lust's most recently translated book, Voices in the Dark.
Ulli Lust’s North American debut, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, was a harrowing, heartbreaking and incredibly powerful work. Her 2013 graphic novel, Voices in the Dark, released recently in the U.S. by New York Review Comics, strives to be just as ambitious and emotionally wrenching. It unfortunately isn’t, but it's not for lack of trying, and it does prove that Lust is more than a flash-in-the-pan cartoonist.
An adaptation of a novel by German author Marcel Beyer,Voices in the Dark tells the story of two people during the second world war: Helga Goebbels, the eldest daughter of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Karnau, a fictional sound engineer who ends up working for the Nazis and finds himself in the Führerbunker, alongside Helga and her siblings, during the final days of the Third Reich.
One of the biggest problems with Voices lies in the character of Karnau. I have no problem with an unsympathetic or unlikeable protagonist, but Karnau is: a) clearly designed to be a surrogate for the reader; b) really boring.
—News. The biggest news in comics began on Friday with the publication of a lengthy, well-reported BuzzFeed story detailing accusations of sexual harassment leveled against the longtime DC editor Eddie Berganza.
Among the women who reported Berganza to human resources, none still work for DC. None are even working at mainstream comics publishers anymore; they’ve largely put superheroes behind them.
“We all left, and he’s still there,” said Janelle Asselin, a former DC editor who spearheaded the multi-employee HR complaint against Berganza in 2010. “That, to me, tells me what DC Comics’ priority is.”
Berganza did not respond to requests for comment for this story. A representative for DC Comics said DC and WB were “committed” to a harassment-free workplace. Unlike cases in other industries, the people who spoke to BuzzFeed News did not know of settlements, payouts, or nondisclosure agreements with women who say Berganza harassed them. Instead, what has kept many of these stories confined to gossip, blogs, and occasional social media posts is the small size of the comics industry, and fear of being blacklisted by the biggest publishers in comics.
Later in the weekend, DC announced that Berganza had been suspended pending review:
DC Entertainment has immediately suspended Mr. Berganza and has removed him from performing his duties as Group Editor at DC Comics. There will be a prompt and yet careful review into next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared. DC continues to be extremely committed to creating a safe and secure working environment for our employees and everyone involved in the creation of our comic books.
This is the most prominent story involving sexual misconduct in comics, but not the only one, as accusations have been made against at least two cartoonists involved in small-press comics. After we gain more information, we will report on those.
—Interviews. At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nathan Goldman interviewed Eli Valley.
Speaking of that, you get a lot of shit from the Jewish right: Commentary’s John Podhoretz called you a kapo, meaning a Jew who cooperated with Nazis; The New York Times’s Bret Stephens called your work “grotesque” and “wretched.” How do you feel about those kinds of remarks?
I think they’re despicable, but they’re entitled to their views. “Grotesque” and “wretched” is fine, actually. “Kapo” is inexcusable — although I’ve been using it lately. However, I think when I’ve been using it, talking about people who are normalizing Nazism in the United Staes, it has much more relevance and accuracy than calling me a kapo for doing a comic that was a cry of anguish after a Palestinian boy was burnt alive. That’s literally why Podhoretz called me a kapo.
—Reviews & Commentary. Jason Shiga has written a guest post for the science fiction magazine Locus about the final volume of Demon.
Science fiction has always been my favorite genre, especially when the story takes the form of scientific discovery itself. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the classic scientific method of observing, imagining, testing and finally getting a clear answer from the universe about some fundamental way it’s structured. I feel the human mind has a science shaped keyhole in it and hearing a good story or joke or cleverly designed experiment all satisfy that same part of the brain. It could be Sherlock Holmes figuring out that what everyone else thought was a ghost was just a (spoiler for 100 year old story) dog covered in luminescent paint. In a way, I think all great fiction is science fiction of a sort.
Ytournel is the brightest and probably funniest newspaper cartoonist in Denmark. At their best, his strips break the old, long-established boundaries in terms of format, medium and — most importantly — humour, demonstrating that editorial cartooning can be different and creative, in spite of prescriptive tradition. And he is just plain funny, blending political with keenly observed, social satire. He has an eye for the absurdity and vanity in the banal details of diction and posture that other cartoonists either don’t notice or find too shallow to mine for commentary. This book collects his best work from more than a decade’s worth of work at the daily newspaper Politiken, including his brilliant 2013 comics inset on Søren Kierkegaard, written and drawn on the occasion of the world-famous Danish philosopher’s bicentenary. In it, he not only provides an ‘Existentialism for Beginners-type intro, but also comments hilariously on recent reception history and attendant controversy, and most poignantly situates Kierkegaard’s relevance to the average life of an average person wanting to be a football coach.
Today at TCJ, we've got an excerpt from the upcoming Chuck Forsman release, I Am Not Okay With This. Chuck is my brother from another mother, so you can view this as an abuse of power if you'd like, I am not in charge of your feelings. The new book is more teenage angst, and the first time Chuck did teenage angst, it got turned into a television series on Channel 4 with a soundtrack by the guy from Blur. Does it sound like i'm bragging about my friend Chuck? That's because I am. Because Chuck got a big time television show, and he got it by making a comic book in his house and selling it for a dollar a piece to people through the mail, as opposed to hanging around Meltdown in Los Angeles and chicken-hawking people with hooves for feet. If we don't brag about the times when good people find success, we're leaving the whole thing up to the assholes who are gonna run their mouths anyway. Congratulations, Chuck.
Excerpts are all the rage, it seems--here's one from Julie Maroh over at Buzzfeed from her latest,Body Music. It took me a second, but then I got it. Okay, more than a second. You should time it for yourself!
If you wanted to read any of Lucas Siegel's articles for StarWars.com--why?--you can't, because they've all been removed from the site, and his bio page no longer exists. There's still been no public statement from any of the sites where Lucas used to work, despite the fact that all of the allegations of harassment made against him so far seem to have taken place during the time he was working directly for those companies. I asked Newsarama about the allegations earlier this week, and was told the following by the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Purch, the company which currently owns Newsarama.
"We will not provide comment on the specifics of Lucas Siegel’s employment at Purch, or the specifics of employment for any other Purch employee, other than to verify that he was an employee from 2009 – 2014."
What's interesting about this story so far is that, while it does appear obvious that these companies let Lucas go in part due to the allegations of sexual harassment made against him, none of these companies appear to be willing to admit that's what they've done. Normally, a company would want to get out in front of a story like this, and make it clear that, when an employee violates their sexual harassment policy (thus putting said company in danger of a lawsuit by the victims of harassment), they look after their people. That isn't what's happening here.
It's almost like these companies aren't worried that any of the websites that cover this particular subculture are going to take the time to write about this story in any substantive fashion.
Here's a nice round up of what most struck the fancy of the Seattle Review of Books when they went by the most recent Short Run Festival.
I'm at a show myself right now (AASL), and while I'm sorry to miss seeing my friends at CAB--I can't remember the last time I didn't attend that show, and i've exhibited the last five--it would be disingenuous to act as if i'm not enjoying myself. Attending library shows with comics, even in the most minor proximity, is one of the most tremendously psychologically and professionally rewarding things one can do, and shows driven by buying and selling just can't compete. These shows aren't without their challenges, the primary one being that a good bit of the success comics has found in libraries has been won by using them as the gateway drug that will hook reluctant readers on "real" books, i.e. prose--but even the fact that that mentality is being acknowledged as a challenge is a good sign, and the conversations surrounding such subjects is one full of curiosity. I wish more comics artists and publishers would attend these shows for the artform as a whole, but selfishly--it sure does make what I do so much easier when there's only a handful of us to visit.
Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews the latest four minicomics from Kuš!, created by Evangelos Androutsopoulos, GG, Patrick Kyle, and Andrés Magán.
The Latvian comics publisher Kuš!, helmed by David Schilter and Sanita Muižniece, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. From its inception, Kuš! has been dedicated to promoting art comics from international creators with subject matter ranging from light to dark, whimsical to inscrutable, and everything in between. I’ve thought of each new quartet of Kuš! minis as a sort of quasi-anthology and this latest batch genuinely coheres as such: while the comics within wildly vary both tonally and stylistically, all of them traffic in unreliable narration or highlight the subjective nature of reality. All four of these minis underscore what makes this publisher such a unique, exciting, and valuable branch of the indie comics scene.
—Interviews & Profiles. Tom Spurgeon talked to the new co-curator of CAB, Matthew James-Wilson.
I've been reading comics for most of my whole life, so I think they've always been a big part of my art education. I think in comparison to a lot of other mediums, comics are really equalizing in that you don't need a lot of resources to make them, consume them, or share them, and there's a really low barrier of entry to become a part of the community around them. It's really important to me that art is available to people no matter what background or situation they're coming from to it, and comics fulfill that really well.
I also think, since there's so little money for the artists and publishers in the industry, there's a level of purity with people's intentions to make comics that's missing from a lot of other art forms. I don't think there are a lot of people who are in it for disingenuous reasons. With comics, if you didn't truly care about doing making them, you probably would have given up by now.
Entertainment Weekly talks to Mark Millar about his first comic book officially published by Netflix, and maybe puts that last quote from James-Wilson in a different light.
Millarworld was always, first and foremost, a comic book company, but since we sold to Netflix it’s obviously become something that crosses all media. If something was turned into a movie, that was a lovely novelty in the past, whereas now when I’m creating stories as a member of staff, I need to keep my eye on the whole picture. We’re thinking of these as movies and TV shows, and the ones we feel would be great for comics will also appear as comic books. I’ve been writing comics since I was 19, so this is amazing for me because it’s what I love doing. I want to do as many comics as I possibly can but keep it all at this kind of level. The Olivier Coipels and so on. It’s actually a pretty perfect arrangement.
The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Martin Rowson, the most recent guest on Comics Alternative is Joseph Remnant, and I missed that a recent guest on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast was Drew Friedman.
[The letterer] is the person who uses a variety of fonts and sometimes even hand-drawn calligraphy to create everything in the word balloons and illustrating the sound effects. Typically this job runs between $10 and $25 per page, according to the FairPageRates survey. “I was lettering for a long time, that’s how I paid my bills,” Ed Brisson, writer for Iron Fist and an Old Man Logan, told New York Comic Con attendees last month.