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Tired of Winning

Today on the site, we have a special treat for you: an interview with the great Ted Stearn of Fuzz n’ Pluck fame conducted by the also great David Mazzucchelli.

AN IMAGINATION ARCHIVE

DM: (Sifting through books and papers) I’m sitting here going through, like, thirty years of your stuff, and it’s really interesting to see the connections between drawings and paintings you were doing about thirty years ago—

TS: (laughing) Thirty years! That’s crazy.

DM: Well, that’s the late eighties, right?

TS: Eighties, yeah.

DM: It’s interesting, ’cause I remember a lot of those paintings very distinctly—

TS: Really?

DM: Yes, very clearly. Well, pretty clearly—

TS: You know, Richmond [Lewis] was an inspiration for me. She really was.

DM: Oh, yeah?

TS: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t want to paint like Richmond, but I remember I would go in your apartment and you would have all the Daredevil stuff out, and I was like “Okay, looks good! I want to see Richmond’s paintings, though!” (laughs)

DM: Her stuff was out too, as I recall.

TS: Yeah, well I kinda went “Oh, David, that’s really cool, you’re an incredible draftsman—let’s go see the paintings, now.”

(laughter)

DM: Smart move. Some of the imagery in the paintings you were doing back then found its way into the first comics you were making.  The “Beach Boy” comic for example [published in Rubber Blanket No. 1]—there was a lot of Coney Island imagery and boardwalk scenes in your paintings before that.

Painting by Ted Stearn, late 1980s.

TS: Right. Well, that was the first comic I did for you, and that was definitely pulling from my obsession with the Jersey Shore (laughs)—before it was a TV show!

DM: And where did that come from—that obsession?

TS: Um, I don’t know. I think I saw a lot of aesthetic stuff that I was really excited about, and so I wanted to reinterpret it as, not a cacophony, but a whole orchestration of shapes and colors and busyness and—

DM: You mean the combination of signs and different typography and different-shaped buildings and things all crammed together, that kind of accumulation?

TS: Yeah, I think it reflects in the comic maybe a little bit? Just how disorienting, if you walk through a boardwalk area? I was very intrigued by that, and I was also intrigued because it’s right next to nature—beach, ocean, complete nature—and then you’ve got this, you know, orgy of the follies of civilization or something. Also, I grew up in that kind of environment—we would always go to the beach in the summer, and as a kid I loved the boardwalk, the ocean, the whole scene. So it had a lot of personal resonance with me in hindsight, and the whole craziness of the boardwalk made me think about that contrast.

DM: There was another painting of the huge orange with human legs—

TS: (Laughs, shakes head)

DM: —that became Sourpuss in the Fuzz and Pluck comics.

TS: Yeah. (Shakes head) I don’t know why, I really don’t. I think it’s best not to analyze too much….

Also, Sara Lautman is back with one more bonus strip to follow up on her week creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The National Book Critics Circle has announced the nominees for this year’s awards, and one of the nominated titles is Michael Tisserand’s George Herriman biography, Krazy.

Fortune magazine takes a look at Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter’s possible role within the Trump administration.

While announcing the news that he has picked David Shulkin (a previous appointee of President Barack Obama) to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump also mentioned that Perlmutter has been “very, very involved” in advising Trump’s team on veterans affairs issues. Trump also called Perlmutter—the Israeli-American executive who became Marvel’s CEO in 2005—”one of the great men of business” in the Wednesday press conference, Trump’s first as president-elect.

—Interviews. Betsy Gomez interviews Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman about their Resist! anthology.

FM: We first did it to address our own need, and our need was to do something. Not just sit around being stunned and depressed — we wanted to do something affirmative. That’s when we succeeded, because the outpouring of responses, and even seeing all those images, I think that getting a copy — that’s obviously a reward that it gets into so many people’s hands.

We were also going to do a slideshow of all the submissions that we got. We want people to go “Ohhhh, wow!” There is an absolute force out there. We want them to be as aware as we are of the positive or the constructive force. It’s not a denunciation. It’s not an attack on Donald Trump. It’s a celebration of everything that we have in common, of not just women, but men also, and people for whom gender is fluid, as well as young, as well as old, as well as professional artists, as well as doctors and lawyers and grandmothers, as well as everyone who feels that they lost something on November 8th — they should be able to find something here that is at least as sustaining as what was taken away that day.

The most recent guest on Process Party is Leela Corman.

—Reviews & Commentary. Dash Shaw’s Cosplayers Christmas.

The release of A Cosplayers Christmas as a standalone comic immediately draws attention to itself as an item of commercial production due to its ties to a season that has become increasingly associated with rampant consumerism and due to the way it invalidates the “perfectness” of the existing collection by implying that what has been produced to date is incomplete, thus requiring the production of a more “perfect” collection at a future date. This commercial aspect of the comic is countered on the comic’s cover by Shaw’s dedication of the item as a gift from him to you, the reader. To further emphasise the conflation of commercial and gift-giving principles, Shaw includes, on the comic’s cover, a depiction of the icon of the festive season, Santa, on the side of a Coca Cola bottle (Coke being the infamous creators of the popular image of Santa via the advertising campaigns they first began in the 1920s). This blurring of the lines between gift and product (you have to exchange money to receive the “gift” and are thus made fully aware of its ascribed monetary value) also alludes to the inseparability of art and commerce, with Shaw purposefully attaching his work to a consumer-centric holiday in order to comment from within its systemic order. In the same way as the designs of previous iterations of Cosplayers reflected the themes that were to be explored within their pages, the market positioning and cover construction of A Cosplayers Christmas summarises the dominant theme of the comic itself.

—Misc. Lee Moran writes about R. Sikoryaks’s recent Trump comics.

“The idea occurred to me right before the election,” the New York City-based artist told The Huffington Post on Saturday. “Trump had said so many outrageous things during his campaign that I wanted to catalogue them.”

“It was important to me to only use Trump’s actual quotes, I didn’t want to put any words in his mouth,” he added. “Once Trump became the president-elect, I felt I had to do it.”

 

Football or Single

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch bring us some on-topic comics. 

Elsewhere:

The only upside of the President-elect’s recent behavior is that March sold yet more books. 

Here’s a review of the new Alan Moore collection/critical text published by Uncivilized Books.

Comic art auctions are increasingly frequent and with an increasingly far ranging selection of material. So, setting aside the commercial aspect for a second, check out this Sotheby’s auction of mostly European comic art. The Chaland, Doury, and Kiki Picasso pieces alone are such unusual things. Chaland because he’s so loose while still working within that Atomic style. Doury because graphic reproduction can’t do justice to the physicality of rendering; Picasso because, again, the technique itself is beautiful, image aside.

 

Gosh Goodniss

Today on the site, Sara Lautman brings us the final installment of her tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The e-book subscription service Scribd is no longer offering access to comics, apparently due to lack of reader interest.

In a statement to PW, Scribd confirmed that the comics subscription access has ended:

“We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents.”

[…]

Initially Scribd called the launch of the comics subscription category “explosive for us, with the biggest response and fastest adoption we’ve ever seen.”

This year’s nominees for inclusion in the Will Eisner Hall of Fame have been announced. The four judges’ choices, who are automatically inducted, include Milt Gross, H.G. Peter, Antonio Prohías, and Dori Seda.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the New York Times, Nelson George offers a positive but measured notice to Michael Tisserand’s Krazy.

Though Tisserand does a truly exhaustive job detailing Herriman’s private and public lives, the promised analysis of race in his vast catalog of “Krazy Kat” cartoons is more fleeting than intricate. It feels scattershot even when he identifies potentially relevant material, as with a cartoon published on April 18, 1937, in which Krazy Kat encounters a “pale, even unearthly white” baby bear. “Krazy and the bear talk,” Tisserand writes, “and Krazy grows confused as to the bear’s identity.” Krazy discovers the “equatorial bear” has a mother from the South Pole and a father from the North Pole, and that his parents met halfway at the equator. Krazy’s parting line is “Happy mittin’ on the equator — is all I can say.”

For LARB, Daniel Worden reviews a new collection of stories and comics by Nick Francis Potter.

Many of the most exciting and prominent comics creators today have used Tumblr or other digital tools. Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant; Eleanor Davis’s How To Be Happy; Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree; and Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente’s The Private Eye are just a handful of the most notable works in recent years to have originated entirely or in part on the internet. This digital renaissance of self-published, independent comics and zines has no doubt contributed to the increasing visibility of comics as an aesthetic form. In Potter’s New Animals, one sees the influence of comics artists like Lynda Barry, Sammy Harkham, Jason, Gary Panter, Johnny Ryan, and Dash Shaw, to name just a few. It is where the influence of these creators mixes with prose fiction that the collection has its most impressive effect, blending the intimacy of hand-drawn lines with the cool detachment of minimalist prose.

For Comics Workbook, Juan Fernandez profiles Rachel Masilamani.

An accomplished story teller, Masilamani is hard pressed to categorize her work. Endlessly fascinated with people, Masilamani draws inspiration from her own life and the behaviors of those around her to create stories that burrow themselves deep into the minds of her readers. Her stories elegantly blend naturalistic storytelling with expressionistic visual representation.

In much of her work, Masilamani explores notions of local and universal truth by blurring the line between fact and fiction. In so doing, she makes her inner life palpable. She walks this tightrope in ways similar to the memoir work of Carol Tyler, Mardou and Gabrielle Bell.

—Misc. PEN America has published a post-election feature called “State of Emergency”, curated by Meg Lemke, Rob Kirby, and MariNaomi, which includes comics by TCJ contributors Kirby, Whit Taylor, and others.

 

Happy Driver

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose reports from the Grand Palais Hergé retrospective. 

Although it is worshipped as a “ninth art” in France, the Grand Palais has never before dealt with the bande dessinée. Here their explicit intention is to elevate Hergé and place him alongside Vélasquez, Warhol and Picasso. Critics have made a lot of this but the show was tailored to justify it. Every day, as soon as it opens, the place is packed with crowds aged “from 7 to 77” – Tintin magazine’s summary of its target audience. Yet the show isn’t describing merely a master storyteller or a titan of the bande dessinée.

Its portrait is that of a royal figure, an authorised and reified Hergé. A true peer of the very artists he collected, he is seen as a great whose drawing merits comparisons to Dürer and Da Vinci. For brilliance, scope and artistry, the art on show is indeed singular and it can certainly withstand a little overzealousness. In 450 original pieces from all stages of Hergé’s life, a visitor gets both the creation myth and apotheosis of his ligne claire. As a bonus, he or she also sees private paintings plus an illuminating survey of Hergé’s graphic design.

And Sara Lautman comes in for day four of her diary.

Elsewhere:

-RESIST! is now available for pre-order and pick-up. Here’s all the info.

-I love this article on correspondence course work by the little-known cartoonist Elizabeth Stohn. 

-Michael Cavna at the Washington Post writes briefly and well about George Lucas’s forthcoming museum.

Tom Gauld and Ben Katchor each offer cartoons for coping. 

 

Giggles

Today on the site, Sara Lautman continues her week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.

And yesterday, Joe McCulloch delivered his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! Spotlight picks this time include new books by Eleanor Davis and Juan Gimenez.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Global Journalist talks to the political cartoonist Ako Eyong, who was forced to flee his native Cameroon after drawing a cartoon unpopular with the authorities.

I got out of my own country using a false passport… Now of course, when I got to America, I had to regularize my situation, I explained to the U.S. government how I got out of Cameroon using a false passport and how I was looking for political exile.

I went through a lot of interviews, and eventually after a year, I got a work permit and social security number.

Brian Heater’s RiYL podcast features Al Jaffee.

The Process Party podcast talks to our own Joe McCulloch about, uh, hentai.

—Reviews & Commentary.
For The Smart Set, Chris Mautner writes about Julia Gfrörer’s Laid Waste.

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Of course, it’s a topic that never completely goes out of fashion. There’s always some person raving on a street corner about how all is lost and a few folks huddled around him or her, eager to listen. But these days, what with climate change, bees dying, ebola, and, of course, the recent election, it’s a topic on a lot of folks’ minds (at least judging from my social media feeds).

It’s a topic that’s on the mind of cartoonist Julia Gfrörer (pronounced “gruff-fair”) as well, or at least it’s the central setting of her latest graphic novel, Laid Waste. Gfrörer isn’t interested in depicting wanton death and destruction a la Michael Bay, however, as much as she is in depicting her characters’ attempts to find some sense of hope or solace in a world that is swiftly falling down around them.

Rob Clough writes about Sarah Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts.

This book is a work of meta-journalism, as she followed members of the Seattle Globalist to Turkey, Kurdish Iraq and Syria and documented their process. Throughout the book, there are two separate dynamics: the dynamic between the Globalist crew and the people they interview and use as contacts, and the dynamic between Sarah Stuteville of the Globalist and her friend Dan, an ex-marine who saw time in Iraq who happened to be one of her oldest friends. Glidden stood as an outsider in both sets of dynamics, in part because she didn’t want to interfere with the work the Globalist journalists were attempting to accomplish. While Glidden was obviously a character in this book, she very pointedly noted that this wasn’t a memoir. She got to shape it the way she wanted and wasn’t obligated to share her feelings about anything in particular. As such, we never hear Glidden’s feelings about being an American in the countries they traveled to, nor how she felt as a Jewish person in those countries. Indeed, her ethnic background wasn’t brought up a single time in the book. Glidden the person in this book is a very intelligent and perceptive cipher, and that’s as it should be.

—Misc. A young Ed Piskor tries out for Extreme Studios.

 

Car-Copter

Today on the site, Sara Lautman returns with another week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary. In Day 1, she confronts a dilemma at a karaoke bar.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The well-known historian (Men of Tomorrow) and comics writer Gerard Jones has been arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Gerard Jones, 59, was arrested after a police investigation and ensuing search warrant at his residence in the 600 block of Long Bridge Street in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood turned up a host of electronic devices storing more than 600 images and videos depicting child pornography, police said.

[…]

He was arraigned Thursday and entered a not guilty plea on charges of possession of child pornography and distributing child pornography, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said.

—Reviews & Commentary. For Le Monde Diplomatique, Jonathan Guyer writes about the connections between Arab comics and fine art.

Arab comics began in Cairo in the 1880s with karikatur (political cartoons) and with Yaacub Sanua, whose periodical Abu Naddara (The Man with the Glasses) and later spin-offs lambasted Egypt’s khedive, Ismail Pasha, in drawings and texts. Sanua’s anti-establishment, anti-imperial view led to his publications being banned (1). At the same time, Ottoman publications, influenced by French and British caricatures, took off in Istanbul and travelled across the Ottoman empire, aiming at those in power. Sanua’s caricatures and Ottoman works, among them Hayal (daydream) and Istikbal (the future), both founded in 1875, were strikingly similar to contemporaneous drawings in Europe such as those by James Gillray and André Gill (2).

We just passed the second anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the thinkpieces still show no signs of ending, though long ago we stopped linking to very many of them. With that anniversary in mind, here are two more intelligent essays, taking opposite sides on whether Charlie‘s artists use of satire is effective and whether it should be defended or condemned.

First, Magnus McGrogan makes a harsh political critique of the weekly for Jacobin:

The Paris massacre was a trigger for the intensification of French bombing of ISIS positions in Syria. At home it involved the imposition and extension of a state of emergency, with a nationwide crackdown on “radicalized” elements in the Muslim community and beyond. One might expect critical left journalism to focus on the social causes of Islamist radicalization in France, or to situate the phenomenon of jihadism relative to the West’s geostrategic goals in the Middle East. Instead, Charlie tends to react against extremism within the discursive framework of the “war on terror” in an echo of Val’s earlier polemics against “Islamic totalitarianism.”

Islamophobia has continued unabated in France. The summer of 2016 witnessed yet another assault on female Muslim dress codes, this time a burkini ban imposed by thirty Mediterranean municipalities, and endorsed by Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls. Shocking images of armed police ordering a Muslim woman to strip on a public beach did not appear to register with Charlie, whose front page response appeared to add insult to injury: Muslims were jokingly urged to “loosen up” and take to the beaches naked.

Then for the Los Angeles Review of Books, the initially Charlie-skeptical Jacob Hamburger explains why he changed his mind:

So when I was offered the chance to do some translation work for Charlie Hebdo last year, I had my reservations. But I was curious, and as a graduate student, happy to have another gig. As I learned more about Charlie Hebdo’s history and came into contact with their surviving staff, I discovered how far off the mark my reservations had been. France’s historical and legal traditions of free speech create an important niche for satirists that Charlie Hebdo has long filled. Despite the rebellious attitude of a paper that has called itself a journal irresponsible, its staff has been constantly attuned to the responsibilities that their role demands. Its confrontations with Islam, as well as with Catholicism and the Front National, were an attempt to fulfill these responsibilities. And in a time when the ideal of free speech is in danger of losing its meaning, Charlie Hebdo sets an increasingly rare example of a commitment to defining and defending its bounds.

The paper is an example of what an authentic commitment to free speech looks like in practice. Recognizing this can help us distinguish responsible and intelligent satire from its many sorry imitations today — the internet trolls and the self-proclaimed “provocateurs” like Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos who glorify nastiness for its own sake. Of course, my discomfort with some of what I had seen them print has not gone away. As with all good satire, it isn’t supposed to. Understanding Charlie Hebdo in context does not mean always liking it, but for those struggling to affirm their commitment to free speech in today’s climate, the paper’s example is worth exploring and, yes, celebrating.

Finally, Abhay Khosla is not impressed by DC’s response to last year’s Orlando Pulse massacre.

 

Lox and Eggs

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey writes about the life and work of Jerry Dumas, who passed away at the end of last year. 

Jerry Dumas was a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Specifically, he was a life-long associate of Mort Walker’s, a member since 1956 of “King Features East,” as the Walker “studio” was sometimes called when Walker and his partners produced several comic strips simultaneously. Dumas was a part of the team that met weekly to propound jokes for both Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois—and other strips as Walker came up with them—and he also drew some of the product from time to time. Dumas died November 12 at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, from neuroendocrine cancer. He was 86.

Since April 18, 1977, Dumas had been producing a comic strip of his own, Sam and Silo, a reincarnation of one of the medium’s most eccentric creations, Sam’s Strip, in which the title character was the proprietor of his own comic strip that he ran like a business. Sam frequently encountered characters from other strips, tried to hire some of them, stored unemployed speech balloons in a closet against the day they might come in handy, palled around with John Tenniel characters from Alice in Wonderland, kept arrow-pierced hearts and shining light bulbs in a handy prop room with a supply of labels (“desk,” “table,” “phone”), and watched out constantly for disappearing border lines and characters with erasers.

Dumas’ handiwork extended far beyond the funny pages: he was a gifted writer, an insightful poet, raconteur, painter, athlete and essayist. He was a storyteller with words alone as well as with words and pictures combined. In quiet unassuming prose, he recorded his apt observations of the follies and frailties of human nature in articles for The Atlantic Monthly, The Smithsonian and the Washington Post. He wrote a weekly column for Greenwich Times, the last of which appeared a few days before he died, titled “Ageless Tips That You’ve Reached a Certain Age.”

More and around:

Robyn Chapman’s annual micro-press survey is now online.

R. Orion Martin writes about Ronald Wimberly’s work for Hyperallergic.

Hey, wanna see a good comics-adjacent art show in NYC? Well, I co-organized one on Elizabeth Murray’s drawings. Here’s the NY Times on it.

 

 

Slalom

Robert Boyd reviews Inés Estrada’s Impatience and Lapsos.

Inés Estrada is a 26-year-old Mexican cartoonist currently living in the USA. According to her blog , she makes a living “making whatever the fuck I want,” and that includes self-publishing  Impatience, a beautifully printed and designed book. The cover is outlined in intense red which carries over to the edges of the pages and the back cover, which is printed in silver ink on a red background.  Impatience is an anthology that includes comics in English and comics in Spanish featuring simultaneous translation into English.

“Traducciones” (“Translations”) is one of the translated stories. Estrada handles translating her own work in an unusual way—instead of replacing the original Spanish language balloons with English, as is usually done with translated comics, she places the translation at the bottom of the page, typeset with slashes to indicate a new balloon or caption. It is easier to read than you might expect—no more difficult than watching a movie with subtitles. Easier even—you don’t have to read them in a hurry like you do with movie subtitles or opera surtitles. It also means that the translation doesn’t have to be in any way abridged. I’ve only seen this before in poetry books. As an undergraduate I read Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair in parallel translation. The Spanish original poem would be on the left-hand page and the English translation on the right.

And Rob Clough writes about the reissue of Katherine Arnoldi’s The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom.

Originally published in 1998, Katherine Arnoldi’s The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom is packaged and blurbed in a manner that reflects the “Wham! Pow! Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore” narrative that still afflicted comics at the time. The cover features the artist in a flying pose and a blurb from Entertainment Weekly says that she’s “a superheroine for our times.” To be sure, 1998 was a fallow period for long-form comics, and it was surprising at the time for a big publisher like Hyperion give this book a chance. Though theoretically aimed at that lucrative young adult audience, this book has a remarkably harrowing quality to it, rendered in a style closer to Aline Kominsky-Crumb (by way of Hans Masereel). It’s amazing how noncommercial this book really is and how viscerally powerful Arnoldi’s storytelling is on page after page.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Toni Aireckson writes a short piece on Resist!, the political comics anthology edited by Françoise Mouly, Nadja Spiegelman, and Gabe Fowler, which will be released in conjunction with Trump’s inauguration.

After the three collaborators settled on their idea, a website was launched and a call for submissions was put forth. Within a few days, they received over 1,000 comic submissions and over $4,000 in donations — enough to print over 30,000 copies.

Nadja Spiegelman told Red Alert that they were “originally planning on publishing 30,000 copies, but with the awe-inspiring financial support we’ve received from hundreds of people ordering advanced copies from our website, we’re now hoping to print as many as 50,000.”

—For Vulture, Abraham Riesman writes about DC’s dumb idea to bring back “the Watchmen” and integrate them within the DC universe. (It’s a mostly good piece, though Riesman exposes his fanboy inner self when he calls Rebirth “one of the smartest and most forward-thinking initiatives in DC’s history.”)

So what happens when those earnest do-gooders meet the tragic idiots? There are only two possibilities that I can imagine. One is an extremely metatextual satire that finds humor in the eye-rolling notion of such an encounter. But that’s about as likely as Batman adding a tutu to his costume. Much more probable is a story that crassly capitalizes on 30 years of enthusiasm for and familiarity with Watchmen’s characters by throwing them into a serious, high-octane adventure alongside the kinds of figures they were designed to mock. The idea is perverse in its misguided, more-is-more shallowness.

Duck Edwing, RIP.