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Maybe next Spring?

Today on the site:

Frank Young interviews the Tumblr phenom Samplerman.

Do you consider yourself a cartoonist? What led you to creating your “Samplerman” persona?

I am a 46-year-old cartoonist. I’ve been writing and drawing comics for more than 25 years, without any popular success, I have to admit—perhaps because of a lack of self-confidence, not harassing publishers enough, taking no answer for a “no thanks,” and no longer posting my pages (lots of improvised and unfinished stories) on my obscure blogs.

I have always chosen the DIY way to make my fanzines and minicomics: it is affordable and it mostly requires commitment and time. Due to lack of feedback, I’ve felt discouraged from time to time. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve kept doing this for so long instead of finding a real job…

I’ve been obsessed with comics all my life. I would have liked to be a comic strip cartoonist, but that career doesn’t exist in France. The conventional formats here are the hardcover, annual 44-page book or the black and white, 300-page one-shot graphic novel. I’ve always been attracted to arts of all kinds: poetry, radio, cinema, animation, the avant-garde, experimentation and the borders of communication. I’m also drawn to abstraction, distortion, destruction, surrealism, sociology and politics. Most of my past comics are kind of absurd and meaningless (nonsensical, to say it nicely). At the end of the day, whatever I am doing, the path from a panel to another has become for me the ordinary way to explore this alternate reality (comics) where I feel at home. So yes, I think am a cartoonist; a weird cartoonist.

Hence the question could be: “Are the Samplerman pieces strictly comics?” I would answer: “Depends on how restrictive your definition of comics is.” If the reader considers certain of my “stories” just as a sequence of panels without any logical connection, I am fine with that, but my works are at least a failed attempt at doing a story from a cartoonist’s neurasthenic brain.

 Elsewhere:

Our friends Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer talk about their upcoming anthology, Mirror Mirror II

And Michel Dooley remembers Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson with an image-heavy post.

 

Taking All the Lox

Today on the site we have Gary Groth’s lengthy 1985 interview with Bernie Wrightson. It’s a great read.

GROTH: Again, about the Frankenstein book, what I’m interested in finding out is what is the intent of the illustrations? Are you intent upon adding another dimension to the novel?

WRIGHTSON: Not really. I started this in 1976. All this time, and all this work, all this effort and aggravation and what not have gone into this simply to embellish this old book. Which, when I started out, I thought was a terrific book. Now, six years have gone by, and I don’t think it’s such a terrific book, anymore. Okay, we’ve got some good drawings to go in there, some of them are spectacular. And for anybody who does like the book, this is going to be a real good edition of it. My personal feelings have nothing to do with that at all. You should just buy the book because you want it, and enjoy it, and don’t worry about how I feel. When I did the drawings, I was really involved with the book and my intentions were really good when I did them. They had to be or my drawings wouldn’t be that good. I really believe that an artist can’t communicate to a viewer unless he really pours himself into it and tries to do that. And I tried to do it with that, and they work. So, I’m not apologizing for that, I’m not apologizing for anything, I’m just saying that I’m glad I’m still not doing it, because my attitude has changed completely.

GROTH: It sounds like you think a little less of the book now than when you first started.

WRIGHTSON: Yeah, I guess I do.

GROTH: Who are some of your favorite authors?

WRIGHTSON: Stephen King.

GROTH: Poe, I guess? Or isn’t he one of your favorites?

WRIGHTSON: He was real good to start out with, but I don’t think I’d ever read him again. Wells, H.G. Wells, in limited doses.

GROTH: Lovecraft?

WRIGHTSON: Nah. He was always a little too ponderous. I have a hard time with the language. There are a few things that he’s done that I’ve really enjoyed, but for the most part I can’t take him.

GROTH: What do you like about King?

WRIGHTSON: What do I like about King? Damn near everything. The guy has an uncanny knack for creating characters who are people that you know, just really solid people. A storyteller par excellence. Absolutely riveting from the first page. A terrific command of the language and colloquialism and slang and bullshit and whatever. And on top of that, he can scare the fucking pants off me.

GROTH: That’s what friends tell me.

WRIGHTSON: Have you ever read him?

GROTH: No, I never have. And friends have told me that they’ve actually gotten frightened reading his books. And I can’t imagine that.

WRIGHTSON: If you’ve never experienced that, I envy you. Because I wish I could re-experience that feeling for the first time.

GROTH: I keep intending to read The Shining, but I’ve not gotten around to it.

WRIGHTSON: I think you ought to start out with Salem’s Lot.

WHITE: How about Firestarter?

WRIGHTSON: Firestarter and Salem’s Lot, I think, are the two best stories he’s written.

 

Elsewhere:

Robert Silvers, the truly legendary editor of the New York Review of Books, passed away on Monday. The New Yorker has a series of tributes.

Peter Bagge talks about his new graphic biography of Zora Neale Hurston over at CBR.

Comics culture: The Paris Review looks at bodybuilding and the old sand-kicking ads.

 

 

More is More

First up — good news! I’m so happy to report that Tim Hodler and Lauren Weinstein welcomed a baby girl into the world yesterday. 

Today on the site we have an obituary for Bernie Wrightson by Steve Ringgenberg.

Born in 1948, to a working class Baltimore family, Wrightson didn’t recall receiving a great deal of encouragement for his early artistic endeavors from his parents, but as he observed in a 2015 interview in Comic Book Creator, “I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember.” Comic books and comic strips were early influences, with Wrightson citing Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, drawn by Mac Raboy and Buz Sawyer by Roy Crane as his favorite comic strips. Wrightson was only five or six when he began reading EC Comics, the most visceral of which, as drawn by Graham Ingels or Frank Frazetta, had a profound influence on his aesthetic. Another big influence on Wrightson was horror films: He was fortunate to be in the “Monster Kids” generation, when Famous Monsters of Filmland began publishing, and Universal released its “Shock Theater” package of old horror films for syndication, spawning a host of local late night horror movie hosts like Baltimore’s own Dr. Lucifer, played by faded movie idol Richard Dix.

Popular interest in dinosaurs had a resurgence in the late 1950s, providing another piece of Wrightson’s influences. While he remembered loving Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, other, more cheaply done dinosaur films failed to impress him. As he recalled in the same Comic Book Creator interview, “I saw that Lost World remake with Claude Rains (1960), and that was a huge disappointment…you couldn’t fool me with plastic horns on a big lizard…” Another great early influence was the Ace Books editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs featuring covers and frontispiece illustrations by Frazetta, which Wrightson credits with getting him to start reading novels cover to cover.

And the great Joe McCulloch brings us his weekly dose, but with comics listing to follow later today.

Elsewhere:

A look at a mostly under-known aspect of Betty Boop.

Ben Schwartz on Michael Tisserand’s George Herriman biography.

Bringing Wilson from page to screen over at The New Yorker.

 

Gone Masters

Today on the site, we have a 1984 interview with the late Skip Williamson.

And it’s another sad day for comics, as Bernie Wrightson, a beloved artist of numerous comics and books, has passed away after suffering from brain cancer.A fine summary of his life is on his own web site. Wrightson specialized in post-EC horror, emerging in the early 1970s to co-create Swamp Thing, draw covers and stories for DC, short stories for Warren, and co-found “The Studio”, a space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he, Barry Windsor Smith, Michael Kaluta and Jeffrey Jones worked, and about which an influential book was published. Wrightson is perhaps most acclaimed for his illustrations for Frankenstein, which were rendered in an elaborate pen and ink manner reminiscent of one of his heroes, Franklin Booth. He also collaborated with Stephen King, illustrating books including The Stand. Wrightson created his own character, Captain Sternn, who was featured in the print Heavy Metal and the anthology’s film version. The artist went on to draw Batman, the Punisher, and in recent years returned to Frankenstein. There’s more, of course, and we will have a full obituary soon, as well as an archival interview. I will say that, personally, Bernie Wrightson was the first artist I ever really studied. Starting when I was about 10 or 11 I ordered his posters out of the Bud Plant catalog and read and re-read his 1991 monograph, A Look Back, so many times that it fell apart. It was through Wrightson, and his old friend Joel Pollack (the founder of Big Planet Comics) that I learned about 19th and 20th century adventure illustration, to which I’ve returned in the last couple of years. Wrightson was the comic book heir to the EC horror line, and I suspect that if his influence on comics waned in the last couple of decades, it flourished in film via directors like Guillermo del Toro, who, like me, grew up on the stuff. I moved on from Wrightson somewhere just south of 18, but I have a a huge amount of appreciation for the work, in all its dedication and drama. He was at his best in Frankenstein, which I can still recommend, and whenever he moved into a his brushy horror mode, often in images for posters and portfolios. 

Wrightson, Jones, Kaluta, Smith.



 

 

Smoot

We are sad to report that another underground comic book great, Skip Williamson, has passed away. Patrick Rosenkranz has written his obituary.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary on the artist:

and here is a 2012 interview with Williamson. 

We will have an archival TCJ interview shortly.

 

Daunting

Rachel Davies has interviewed R. Sikoryak, primarily about his strangest and most ambitious literary adaptation yet, a comics version of the iTunes users’ agreement.

Because I try to adapt heavy, important works of literature, usually, like Crime and Punishment or Wuthering Heights, it sometimes gets daunting to struggle with a work that people are very familiar with, and that has characters that people really love. What was great about the Terms and Conditions for me was that there’s no narrative, and no one has an emotional attachment to it, at least not in the same way. I certainly don’t! It freed me up, it liberated me from having to worry about being faithful to it because there’s not a narrative to be faithful to. And it doesn’t lend itself to illustration in an overt way. I wasn’t interested in choosing a text that would be cinematic [laughs], I was interested in a text that didn’t have those concerns that I usually have when I’m doing a text. By choosing a text that had no narrative, it meant I could use the narratives of the comics that I was parodying to provide drama, or suspense, or humor. It was, in a way, a relief. I don’t know how I could do this again! [laughs] But for this project it was kind of a break from the way that I normally make comics.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian interviewed Sikoryak too.

Sikoryak has been praised by some for making T&Cs more accessible, which he finds baffling. He just enjoys the challenge of making something dismissed as unreadable readable. In his eyes, convincing someone to read terms and conditions is just like getting someone to read “worthy” classics they feel guilty about skipping, from Camus to Beckett and beyond. “I like using texts that are perceived as important,” he says, “and that includes iTunes T&Cs. All my work is an attempt to bridge the gap between what we call high art and low art, what we think is important or serious, and what we see as frivolous and meaningless. Often, that boundary doesn’t exist.”

Raymond Briggs shares his writing day for the same paper.

Ho ho, those were the days! When one had a “writing day”. Before the advent of No 1: old age, and No 2: partner, wife, whoever, getting long-term incurable illnesses. These slightly disturb the cosy pattern of the working week. A whole day to yourself! When was that last experienced?

In 1958, I got my first 30 bob a week bedsit and was earning a living as a self-employed illustrator. This was what got me into writing. I was often amazed at how bad some of the stories I was given to illustrate were. Golly, I thought, I could do better myself! So I tried to write one and sent it to the editor for some advice. To my utter amazement, he said he would publish it. Just shows what the standard was. Me, a kid of 24.

And the most recent guest on Process Party was Eleanor Davis.

—Reviews & Commentary. It was Will Eisner’s centenary last week, and many tributes were written (some we linked to already), including a piece by R.C. Baker in the Village Voice:

Packaged in a Sunday newspaper supplement, the self-contained seven-to-eight-page Spirit stories proved a hit with readers, and by 1941 the young artist/writer/entrepreneur had a busy studio employing a staff of ten. As with Rubens before him and Warhol later, Eisner’s name was signed to artwork he never touched; many soon-to-be giants of the medium, including Batman creator Bob Kane and future Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, did apprenticeships in the Eisner studio. In a mark of his business savvy, Eisner insisted on owning the rights to his characters, and he even had the prescience, as war with Japan threatened, to buy a wholesale quantity of finely crafted Japanese ink brushes — which he preferred over domestic brands — fearing that imports might soon come to an end. Decades later he would joke that he was still using brushes from that stockpile.

And by Michael Dooley for Print:

Eisner’s graphic style was often balletic in its grace. One Contract tale opens with a full-page aerial perspective of Dropsie Avenue with its stoops, fire escapes, clotheslines strung from building to building, its elevated subway line in the distance, and many other minutely indicated details rendered with deft, casual brushstrokes. Then it’s followed spread of panels that indicates a swooping down onto tenants chatting from their windows, then a zoom through to settle in on a domestic scene. With spare use of captions and cartoon balloon dialogue, a bounty of exposition is compacted into three small pages with breathtaking fluidity.

Osvaldo Oyola echoes Barthes with an essay about the pleasures of reading serial comics.

At the time that I began regularly reading Marvel superhero serial comics, it was pretty much assumed that any series that began was meant to go on for as long as it sold well enough, regardless of changes to creative team, or even sometimes the very title of the book. When the martial arts craze that inspired the Iron Fist series started to die down, for example, it was combined with the also struggling Luke Cage, Power Man (which had already renamed from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire) to make Power Man & Iron Fist starting with issue #50. It would go on with the two characters teamed up for another 76 issues, cementing an iconic friendship that was essentially mandated by the market, but would become a defining aspect of both characters. I tried to be a regular reader of the series soon after I encountered the pair guest-starring in an issue of ROM Spaceknight, looking for the first part of the two-part story that crossed over between them—how novel such a thing seemed then!—I found other issues that drew my attention. I was taken by its premise and sense of exploring a seedier part of the Marvel Universe. Still, I was unable to read as many of the issues I would have liked, nor could I count on getting every issue each month (actually, it was bi-monthly which made finding it even harder before the days of the pull-list and the advent of the direct market). In reading the first volume of Power Man & Iron Fist (which lasted from 1978 to 1986), I was always engaging with fragments of a larger unknown (and some ways, unknowable) whole.

Ray Davis connects Cerebus to the alt-right.

Not so much Cerebus-the-character, who Jeet Heer picked as Trumpalike a year ago. More Cerebus-the-comic-book: a Shoah-slow train ride from geeky lulz to lunatic-fringe antifeminism through a series of cosmological mother-in-law jokes. Beginning with MAD parodies of teenage-boy-aimed comics, Sim took his hard-earned technique into realms in which it’s a less, let’s say, established bearer of light: the Flaming Carrot and Druckerized Lou Jacobi dropped wisdom on the moon; Druckerized Maggie Thatcher led execution-torture for the matriarchal dystopia; Druckerized Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway rotated with Druckerized Marty Feldman and Mick Jagger and Batman/Wolverine/Punisher.

Jared Gardner wants people to start archiving webcomics.

It is always worth thinking about the history of earlier storage media when making predictions about the future. Film is as good an example as one could hope to find: a vastly popular medium with international reach and lots of industrial and institutional support. At only 120 years from its origins, one might imagine that the history of cinema is fully at our disposal. Sadly, this is not the case. Today, only about 20-25% of all silent films produced in the United States between the origins of cinema and the end of the silent era in 1927 still exist. In some part of the world, that proportion is considerably lower; for example, in Japan over 90% of all film made before 1945 is believed lost forever.

—Misc. Dangerous Minds has turned up an old Charles Mingus anti-bootlegging comic strip.

As one can see from the signature at the bottom left, the strip was executed by Gene Bilbrew, an African-American cartoonist whom some credit with creating the first black superhero, the Bronze Bomber. Bilbrew had once been an assistant to comics legend Will Eisner. Later on Bilbrew worked as a fetish artist at Irving Klaw’s bondage-oriented Movie Star News/Nutrix company; Klaw also discovered Bettie Page.

Finally, Clickhole gets some a-mazing quotes from Stan Lee. (I know.)

I knew I wanted to publish comics, but I was too lazy to learn how to draw, so I had to find an artist that was dumb enough to agree to make my ideas instead of their own. Jack Kirby was the perfect patsy, a dull-eyed rube with incredible artistic talent and no common sense. I paid a visit to his house while eating a big chicken parm and offered him half if he agreed to be my art slave for the rest of his life. He immediately accepted the deal and scarfed down the half-sandwich. I never paid Jack anything after that chicken parm, and he never fully understood how raw that deal was for him, though he suspected. When Jack passed, I felt some guilt, so I gave half of a Sprite Zero I had been drinking to his widow. I know that’s what he would have wanted.

 

Walkin’

Today on the site, it’s a snowy day and Santa Joe brings you the new comics.

Elsewhere:

Al Jaffee interviewed over at Vanity Fair. It’s nice that Jaffee has had such public appreciation these last half-dozen years. 

Passings: 

The New York Times on Jay Lynch.

Classic big foot New Zealand Cartoonist Murray Ball passed away.

 

 

Timeless

Today on the site:

Katie Skelly reviews Eleanor Davis’s Libby’s Dad.

Davis returns to her toolkit once again to explore the landscapes between language and reality, threat and violence. However, Libby’s Dad’s grasp doesn’t quite take the same hold as any of the How to Be pieces. A short story about a group of prepubescent neighborhood girlfriends, Libby’s Dad finds its tension in one of the girls spreading a rumor that Libby’s newly divorced father had threatened to shoot Libby’s mother as the result of some unknown argument. Libby’s father has also treated the girls with the utmost hospitality, ordering them KFC, allowing them to eat sweets after dark, letting them use the pool in his new midlife crisis pad. Philosophical questions rise up for the girls: how could someone be dangerous and generous at once? How could they possibly be close to someone who could also destroy all of them? And the eternal question: is it ever possible to really know someone? All of Davis’s usual pieces are in play: a child’s lack of grasp of nuance; an environment capable of enveloping its characters with its visually and psychically overwhelming elements; an ambiguous distance between truth and fiction; a paranoid whisper-down-the-alley; and an intrusion of imagined violence and mental illness — all diffused within pages of them reaching their greatest pitch. Why?

Elsewhere: 

Joe McCulloch talks Tatsumi over here.

Not much comics news, but comics-adjacent painting: R.B. Kitaj has a great retrospective in New York at Malborough, and here’s a fine piece of writing on it.