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Today we have George Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand with an exclusive image feature about Herriman and Hal Roach. Here’s a bit:

The party began on Thursday evening, December 7, 1933, and lasted until the next morning. Five hundred invited guests joined Roach at his studio in Culver City to celebrate his twentieth year as a studio head, with thousands more listening to an NBC radio broadcast of the proceedings. “Memory Lane was all lighted up with electrics,” reported Grace Kingsley for the Los Angeles Times. “The place had been fitted up like a palace.”

It’s likely, but not certain, that George Herriman was among those in attendance.

Elsewhere:

A short interview with Zunar in the NY Times.

Sammy Harkham has made an enormous print of one of Chester Brown’s finest sequences. 

 

Getting Through

Joe McCulloch is here as always on Tuesdays with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding books new to stores. Spotlight picks this week include a new volume of Schuiten & Peeters, and a tribute to Wally Wood.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. NOLA.com talks to Michael Tisserand about his George Herriman biography, which is looking likely to be the book-on-comics of the year.

After 10 years of scouring microfilm archives, yellowed newspapers and public records, Tisserand has pieced together Herriman’s journey from his humble birth in the Treme neighborhood to heights of fame in Jazz-era New York and Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy.

“I had to teach myself to be an historian,” Tisserand said. “I didn’t anticipate the amount of difficulty it would be finding Herriman’s work.”

Dylan Horrocks is a guest on the Radio New Zealand program Nine to Noon.

The latest episode of Process Party features Tom Kaczynski.
—Reviews & Commentary. Douglas Fratz reviews a newly revised biography of EC Comics (and science fiction) writer Otto Binder by Bill Schelly.

Binder’s story provides many insights into the history of science fiction and comics as well as his own work. His greatest strength as a writer was the ability to channel his inner youth, writing in a mode that communicated a wide-eyed innocence that resonates with the 8-year-old in all of us. This was best exemplified in his Captain Marvel family comics in the 1940s through the early 1950s but can also be seen in his pulp science fiction stories. The most poignant moments of the Adam Link series are established by Binder’s ability to characterize the robot as a brilliant but innocent youth who must survive in an adult world he has difficulty understanding.

—News. The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested on another sedition charge.

It’s been an eventful weekend for Zunar, the Malaysian political cartoonist facing nine separate charges of sedition which could net him up to 43 years in prison. First, on Friday his new cartoon exhibit was stormed by an angry mob of government supporters displeased by his frequent criticism of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Riot police were called in to disperse the crowd, but yesterday representatives of the ruling party UMNO lodged a formal complaint against Zunar, who was then arrested on yet another sedition charge as well as a charge of “intentionally humiliating a person.” He has now been released after posting bail.

Uncivilized Books has launched a Kickstarter to fund a new imprint of children’s comics, including work by Kickliy, Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kołomycka, and others.

We need your help! We’ve just worked with French publisher Dargaud to bring the beautiful children’s comic Musnet to American kids. Working with Dargaud is an exciting opportunity that lowers our overall production costs. However, it also brings some hurdles: to co-print the books, we need to work according to their release schedule, which is faster than ours. That means our books will need to wait for a few months before they can be released through our American distributor. It will be difficult for us the absorb the printings costs on books that can’t be sold until much later. Without co-printing, we will need to find another printer, at much higher printing prices.

 

Oinks

Hi there, 

Today on the site we have the second part of Paul Tumey’s enormously interesting chat with George Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand. Michael’s book, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, is coming out December 6th. Here’s the first part of the chat if you want to catch up. And here’s some from today:

Paul Tumey: I was struck by how slight and skinny he was. And how his shoulders really do look his portrayal in that Tad boxing-in-the-office cartoon, large and rounded.

Michael Tisserand: And how big his hands appear to be!

Paul Tumey: Yes, those hands of Herriman’s look magical. So that’s a good segue into Herriman’s later years. It seems, after all those years of hanging out with fellow artists and colleagues, maybe dating a hootchie kootchie dancer at Coney Island, and travelling all the southwest, Herriman became somewhat reclusive in his later years. Is that right — and if so, why?

Michael Tisserand: He did. Undeniably. His granddaughter commented on it. So did Boyden Sparkes and Segar. There were bouts of reclusiveness before those final years too. His friend Harry Carr wrote to the Wetherills about how he couldn’t get George to go to Arizona, and how much it would help if George would go.

Shortly after Herriman’s wife died, an artist arrived to paint Bobbie’s picture. In her memoir, she said that it was the car crash that killed Herriman’s wife that had made Herriman so isolated and depressed. She actually wrote that Herriman was consumed with guilt because he was driving the car, but this is contradicted by family stories and all the news accounts of the accident, and so it doesn’t ring true to me.

He also suffered from bad health, including debilitating migraines. Remember that he was making cartoons about suffering rheumatism when he was barely thirty years old.

Paul Tumey: I know that in some cases arthritis can lead to depression, which can certainly cause one to become isolated.

Michael Tisserand: I never want to diagnose Herriman. When I read a modern diagnosis in a biography of a historical figure, I start to think more about the biographer and less about the subject. But certainly it seems he was depressed in some fashion. And his contemporaries specifically talked about Herriman having an inferiority complex. In letter after letter, he disparages his work, or at least its lack of popularity. And yet, the work itself is uncompromising, and so confident in its own beauty.

Paul Tumey: I agree – it is dangerous ground to psychoanalyze a person from the past. But in those letters and accounts, if nothing else, Herriman seems to have been very self-effacing. That aspect of his personality comes through in your book.

Michael Tisserand: Yes, and racial passing actually means to literally self-efface. To remove a face. Again, I try very hard to not try to say what is going on inside Herriman’s head. My goal really was just to tell his story as accurately as possible.

Slow links weekend. The most relevant one is info on Resist, a free cartoon newspaper being put together by Francoise Mouly, Nadja Spiegelman and Gabe Fowler.

 

Thanks for Nothing

Today on the site, stranger to controversy Johnny Ryan talks to Real Deal co-creator Lawrence Hubbard.

What was your high school experience like? Did you enjoy it? Did you ever have to beat the shit out of some wise ass punks?

My high school years were rough, my father had run out on us three years earlier and we were pretty broke, living on welfare and food stamps. I didn’t have any clothes or other fly gear a lot of my friends had (bellbottom pants, print shirts, platform shoes, cool hats, looking like the Jackson Five). I pretty much kept a low profile, but I always enjoyed my art classes.  After High School, I got a job at a now defunct savings and loan in the stock room, doing shipping and receiving and unloading trucks, no time for college, broke needed money. Over the years I took classes at Santa Monica College, UCLA, Otis Art Institute, but never had time to get a degree, always working and taking care of other people. Funny thing is all my fights took place in junior high school (what they call middle school now) when I was there in the early ’70s the gang bang shit was getting hot and heavy here in Los Angeles, Crips, Brims, Ace Duce, Piru’s (now called Bloods).


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Alex Dueben talks to Daniel Alarcón.

Dueben: I know that you were born in Peru but grew up in the states. Did you read comics growing up?

Alarcón: Not at all. I read Asterix and I read Condorito, which is a Chilean comic book for kids. That’s it. I never read any of the superhero stuff or the comics that kids read here in the states. I’m not sure why. It just never appealed to me. I think coming to it with a fairly blank slate was not a bad thing. Maybe comics people would disagree with me but it certainly felt like I had a fair amount of freedom to try things out because I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what comics had to be.

Dueben: You were not playing with the conventions of comics because you just didn’t know them.

Alarcón: I also wasn’t necessarily thinking of the work in the long tradition of comics books. I was thinking of it more as a visual adaptation of a short story that already existed. I learned a great deal about comics reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the Michael Chabon novel, and then I came across Joe Sacco and I found his work to be tremendous. Those were my reference points more than Superman or Batman or those kinds of things.

—Good news on the Mike Diana documentary Kickstarter, which has surpassed its fundraising goal, and raised enough money to clear Diana’s arrest warrant.

A Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about the US comic artist Mike Diana – the first person to receive a criminal conviction in the US for “artistic obscenity” – has surpassed its $40,000 (£32,000) goal, with enough extra money to clear the outstanding warrant for his arrest in the state of Florida.

Diana was living in Largo, Florida, when he became the first person to be convicted and jailed on obscenity charges in 1994, for his self-published comic book Boiled Angel. A jury took just 40 minutes to convict him following a sting in which an undercover police officer procured copies of Diana’s underground comic.

—Kim Jooha names and catalogues a new genre: European Abstract Formalist Comics.

 

That One

Today on the site, one last Joe McCulloch update before Turkey.

I went to the Comic Arts Brooklyn show a few weeks back — recorded a podcast about it and everything — and one of the things I bought in the surrounding area, while I was in town, was this: the tinsel-strewn Winter Holiday issue of Mebae, a Shogakukan magazine aimed at little, little kids. Ages 2-4. I’m 35. I swear, I had a plan.

The New York Times has a good look at the complete March.

If you happen to be in New York over the holiday and the coming weeks, there are three art exhibitions that might offer insight, comfort, rage, or really whatever you need for the present situation. First among them is Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, at The Met. It should be of particular interest to comics readers, not just because the artist is drawing a comic book, and not just but because his monumental paintings are feats of narrative ingenuity, but because they are audaciously, unrelentingly acts of artistic and social revolution executed with an encyclopedic knowledge of cartooning and painting. Go see this. Next is Max Beckmann in  New York, also the Met, which offers some of Beckmann’s most complex allegorical paintings — visions of a civilization eating itself. And finally, over at Hauser and Wirth, there’s a show of every one of Philip Guston’s Nixon drawings. 170 of them. Channeling a half century of his own work, and the cartooning traditions of Bud Fisher, George Herriman and E.C. Segar, Guston made dozens of drawings, and one brutal painting, of the President. These are strange drawings – they are not message driven (i.e. nothing like political cartooning), but rather visual meditations, using objects and figures, on Nixon’s life. Miraculous drawing here.

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Light Day

Today, Rob Clough reviews Daryl Seitchik’s Exits.

There’s a telling sequence early in Daryl Seitchik’s debut long-form work, Exits, where the protagonist, Claire Kim, has to deal with being objectified by her boss, the owner of a mirror store. He’s looking at a laptop at an image of a curvaceous woman in a bikini with the head cropped. When Claire walks over, the laptop is positioned such that her head is atop the bikini model’s body. While she does not see him do this, the scene is a kind of a deadpan and shorthand manner of establishing the way she’s seen by her boss, and the effect that it has on her is explored as she washes one of the countless mirrors in his store.  Those scenes establish how desperately Claire wants to control how she is seen, and the helplessness she feels in dealing with that gaze that she’s well aware of experiencing on an everyday basis. Even worse than that blatant bit of objectification is when he tells her, apropos of nothing, that she looks depressed; rather than offering support or even asking that she get help, he tellingly says, “No one wants to see that.” It’s another deadpan moment where at first it seems like he is expressing genuine concern for a moment but then quickly reveals that her actual welfare is unimportant to him. It is another way for him to control how she is seen and what her image looks like, an attempt to mold her into something that is more pleasant for him and his customers to look at. Not only is he objectifying her, but he is also viewing her as a commodity, as a thing that would help him sell other things. Her only means of resistance at this point in the story is to not voluntarily contribute to her objectification by pretending to be happy and perky. What it means to be seen in relation to one’s identity, especially as a woman, is at the heart of this book.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The Washington Post picks its favorite comics of 2016.

—One of Hergé’s Tintin drawings has sold for a record-breaking 1.55 million euros.

—Robert Boyd reports from Zinefest.

 

Under Protest

Today on the site, Alex Dueben speaks with the great Ed Sorel about his long career and his latest book, Mary Astor’s Secret Diary. 

Why did you chose to draw the interior illustrations that you did?

The great thing about doing a book is that you can pick the scene you want to draw. There was one scene that I knew I had to do–her father attacking her because of what he considered her lack of ambition. I did a kind of strobe shot of his fist banging on the piano. I knew I had to do that even though it was a very difficult picture to do. Then there were the pictures that had absolutely nothing to do with the book that I did because I wanted to. There’s a picture of Tom Mix with some car that was made in Los Angeles that nobody knows about. I did it because it was fun to draw and I had a picture of it. The book was in my entire life this book was more a labor of love than anything I have done before.

I know that you went to art school, but you said earlier that you never studied life drawing?

Because it was impossible. I went into art school at the very time when drawing was considered rather old hat. The illustrations in The Saturday Evening Post were condemned as the lowest form of art, illustrated books stopped, the New York school of abstract painting was considered the acme of fine art. I graduated from Cooper Union in 1951. The good thing about it was there were plenty of jobs and the bad thing about it was that I still didn’t know how to draw. My drawing skill–which was not too bad when I was nine years old–had completely atrophied from going to High School of Music and Art and going to Cooper Union. The thing that was valued was design and abstraction. Which interested me not at all. And still doesn’t. Even though I started Push Pin Studios with Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser, which was essentially a design studio. I did learn how to do design, but it never really interested me. What I loved was drawing.

You seem to have found a niche of doing illustration fairly early in your career, though. At least that’s how it looks from the outside.

I suppose. Some young people have an image of what they want to become very early in their life. All I ever wanted really was to have my own apartment. When I was a young man I didn’t care how I got the money to get my own apartment, but the truth of the matter is I wasn’t good at anything except drawing. Fortunately I was able to make a life for myself where all I had to do was draw pictures. I was a hack to start out with and gradually became something more than a hack. I regard my early years of working for agencies and working for magazines as being paid to learn. I did what was required and in the process learned how to draw.

Elsewhere:

Lauren Weinstein’s new weekly comic strip is a bright spot in these times.

The New York Times interviews recent MacArthur winner Gene Luen Yang.

The Washington Post announces its list of the best graphic novels of 2016.

And here’s a lovely piece on a fine new (and previously unpublished) Hokusai book.

 

Experience

Today on the site, we present Rob Clough’s interview with Keiler Roberts, the creator of Powdered Milk.

RC: How do your husband and daughter feel about being characters in your work? Have you ever had to self-censor something because you realized it was too personal for them?

KR: They generally feel good about it. Xia laughs her head off when I read her parts to her. I do hold back on their behalf. I don’t write about Scott in ways that would make him look very bad or would reveal too much. He proofreads all my rough drafts if he’s in them. I won’t put anything in about Xia that I think might embarrass her. It’s hard to know exactly what that’ll be with kids though.

RC: Do you ever collaborate with your husband Scott? Are there unique challenges or benefits to living in a two-artist/cartoonist household? Do either of you ever seek out the advice of the other in helping to solve particular difficulties you might be having with what you’re working on?

KR: No. I hate working with him on almost anything. He wanted us to make a birthday card for Xia together and I scowled at him, drew a bunch of stuff very quickly, and said, “You finish it. I’m going to bed.” Of course when I woke up there was this gorgeously ornate card on the counter. He’d somehow covered everything I did in this lace pattern. I just want to get it done. He wants to take forever and consider all the options and then be elaborate. It’s not just him though, I don’t want to collaborate with anyone.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. March: Book Three, created by John Lewis, Nate Powell, and Andrew Aydin, has become the first graphic novel to win a National Book Award.

“I remember in 1956 when I was 16 years old, going down to the public library, trying to get library cards, and we were told that the libraries were whites-only and not for coloreds,” Lewis said.

But Lewis, whose work in the civil rights movement is chronicled in the March trilogy of graphic memoirs, said he would not relent.

“I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, ‘Read my child, read!’ And I tried to read everything,” Lewis said.

“To come here and receive this award — it’s too much.”

—Reviews & Commentary. Kelton Sears reviews Julia Gfrörer’s Laid Waste.

The book is, unsurprisingly, incredibly bleak. Agnés’ is a quiet devastation. Her walks through town are punctuated with children burning their dead parents’ bodies, dogs gnawing on decomposing limbs, and pits of corpses, to which Agnés will add her sister’s body and the body of her neighbor Giles’ wife. Gfrörer’s masterful emotional juxtaposition reaches a crushing zenith here. In one of the most brutal sequences of her career, we watch Agnés plainly and dutifully pound dough into bread as the world around her is subsumed by the darkness, until she breaks down sobbing, begging Saint Catherine for her own death. Soon follows the most heart-rending, nihilistic sex scene you’ll probably ever read, in the midst of which Agnés quips, “Nothing matters at all.” Despite everything I’ve just written, Laid Waste is, counterintuitively, a life-affirming glimpse into the void.

Rob Clough reviews The Shirley Jackson Project.

[Editor Rob] Kirby will surely earn some degree-of-difficult points with his The Shirley Jackson Project, an anthology featuring “comics inspired by her life and work”. Jackson has been dead for nearly fifty years, but her influence on modern psychological horror remains as strong as ever. A new biography that’s just been released has also stirred up more attention to the novelist and short story writer as well. Simply put, this was a passion project for Kirby, who was delighted and surprised to find as many Jackson fans in the alt-comics world as he did who were willing to contribute to this book.

John Marsfelder tries to go deep analyzing Garfield.

The impetus for the joke’s setup comes from actual cat behaviour: Much of Garfield’s personality is derived from taking humans’ observations and interpretations of the things their housecats did and anthropomorphizing them: Cats are vain, cats are aloof, cats only care about me for what they can get from me, they claw things I don’t want them to claw, don’t listen to my commands like my dog does, and so on and so forth. So Garfield asks us to imagine how cats would display this behaviour if they could rationalize like humans do, and then, without missing a beat, turns around and points out the absurdity of its own question. Because for one thing, the joke is, of course, double-edged: Jon may mock Garfield and accuse him of having an inflated ego, but the cat is right. After all, whose name has the title of the comic been given, and who is its central character? The defense rests.

—Interviews. Rachel Gould talks to Jessica Campbell.

The art world (and the comics world) have serious gender parity issues, and talking exclusively about how a male artist looks and disregarding his accomplishments is a way of obliquely poking fun at this idea of male genius in the arts. Certainly, addressing the canon in this way is obscene, but it feels like awarding myself agency in an arena in which I often feel helpless. Plus so much of art history is men painting women they want to have sex with: Cezanne’s wife, Gauguin’s coterie of Polynesian children, Vuillard’s mom… I want to reverse that gaze.

There’s also a history in art of neglecting the work of women in favour of men’s work. Janson’s History of Art, the book used (still) as the text in many art history survey courses, including my own as an undergraduate, included no women when it was first published (1962), which H.W. Janson defended by basically saying women can’t paint. Now, of course, there are women included in that text, but there are still people (Georg Baselitz, for instance) who continue this argument. And the same is true in comics!