Today on the site, Luke Geddes reviews the first collection of Tom Neely and Keenan Michael Keller’s The Humans.
Keller mines a similar pop cultural detritus as contemporaries like Ben Marra and Johnny Ryan, whose comics revel in seemingly dumb, confrontationally unironic set pieces of hyper-violence and vulgarity. (One member of The Humans is even named after Marra, and both Marra and Ryan provide pinups in the book’s supplementary pages.) However, this is not to undermine Keller’s craft. His approach to this milieu is tonally intricate. Narratively Johnny’s post-war trauma is played with a straight face, the depiction of Vietnam-era societal turbulence as harrowing as the kind of thing you’d find in an old issue of Inner City Romance, but it’s all painted with the same gleeful, candy-colored exhibitionism the book applies to biker movies clichés. Sure, the Viet Cong are portrayed as snub-nosed monkeys and the American troops as chimps, but a spiritual successor to Maus this is not.
—News. As Dan mentioned in an update to the blog yesterday, in response to the growing boycott of the Grand Prix, the Angoulême festival has decided to withdraw its list of nominees and leave the Grand Prix award to be freely chosen by festival attendees. Brigid Alverson has a good explanation and the relevant links.
Bart Beaty wrote about all of this for his new group blog, The Greatest Comic Book of All Time, and goes into some of the history of how the award nominees have historically been chosen.
The Grand Prix at FIBD is generally considered the most prestigious prize in all of comics. It is a lifetime achievement award. The Grand Prix winner is announced in a place of honor (this has varied over time – some years it was announced at midnight on the Saturday from the balcony at town hall, more recently it has become the final prize awarded during the closing ceremonies on Sunday) and the recipient becomes the honorary President of the FIBD the following year, with an exhibition consecrated to his or her work. The President also chairs the prize jury.
Note that I said “his or her” work is exhibited. This is technically true, but only barely. The prize has been awarded forty-two times since Angoulême began in the 1970s, and it has gone to forty-two men (Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian shared the award in 2008) and one woman (Florence Cestac).
Cartoonist Liza Donnelly weighed in about the controversy for the Washington Post.
It takes effort to find good work that is being created, and it is not always the obvious artists who are doing the best work, but are instead the names already on everyone’s lips. Then we, as a society, repeat the same biases, over and over again. It’s time to interrupt that trend.
John Porcellino, the indispensable creator of King-Cat Comics and Spit and a Half distribution, has launched a Patreon.
—Reviews & Commentary. Longtime Comics Journal contributor Chris Mautner has launched a column at The Smart Set, and his debut review is of Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
Despite his recent perceived failures, the possibility of another Dark Knight sequel had many Batman and [Frank] Miller fans buzzing. That initial excitement was muted considerably when it turned out that Miller would be collaborating with writer Brian Azzarello — who, apart from the crime series 100 Bullets, is perhaps best known for helping pen the completely unnecessary and utterly dispiriting Before Watchmen prologue — and artist Andy Kubert. Further interviews revealed that Miller’s contributions would be minimal at best.
The resulting comic is depressingly average and dull.
—Charlie Hebdo One Year Later. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the mass-murder of eight Charlie Hebdo staff members in Paris.
Literary Hub has published Adam Gopnik’s foreword to Charlie editor Stéphane Charbonnier’s posthumous Open Letter.
The crucial distinction we must defend is that between acts of imagination and acts of violence. The imagination sees and draws and describes many things—pornographic, erotic, satiric, and blasphemous—that are uncomfortable or ugly. But they are not actually happening. The imagination is a place where hypotheses and conditionals rule, and where part of the fun, and most of the point, lies in saying the unsayable in order to test the truths of what’s most often said. An assault on an ideology is not merely different from a threat made to a person; it is the opposite of a threat made to a person. The whole end of liberal civilization is to substitute the criticism of ideas for assaults on people.
Kenan Malick has also written a long essay on the anniversary.
The charge of ‘hate speech’ or of ‘punching down’ or in Garry Trudeau’s words, of ‘attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority’, has constantly been used as a way of silencing artists whose work challenges what some regard as unviolable ideas or beliefs. Critics of Salman Rushdie branded The Satanic Verses as ‘hate speech’. So did Sikh critics of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti. As did many Jewish critics of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children. (Trudeau himself was accused of anti-Semitism and of ‘maligning Judaism’ by the Anti-Defamation League for one of his Doonesbury cartoons, which makes his condemnation of Charlie Hebdo both ironic and troubling).
The cover of the anniversary issue of Charlie Hebdo depicts a blood-stained picture of God with a Kalashnikov on His back, captioned “One year on: The murderer is still out there.” And the Vatican newspaper has decried it as unfair and prejudiced against religion.
—Misc. Finally, this is the first and probably last time I most a gif that’s going around, but this seemed like one almost everyone in comics will be able to appreciate: