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Today on the site, Simon Abrams interviews Michael Kupperman.

In a lot of criticism, personal art is presumed to be better art. The idea that you have to literally bleed on the page to get people to take you seriously or to find your work “accessible,” which is another critical crutch. Was moving away from your collage-style work your way of making your art more accessible? That is: was it a conscious goal? 

Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, I think there are very few artists who don’t want more audience. Yes, I wanted to make my work more accessible and have it read by more people. The thing about Hodags and Hodaddies which was great was: I would do these comics and then people I know would see them and comment on them to my face. That was really rewarding for me. That aspect to the work disappeared pretty quickly after that.

You’re now on Patreon. How has that worked towards your goal of fostering a more immediate connection between your readership, your work, and you?

I think it’s still developing, really. Patreon is part of a more conscious shift on my part to make that connection and to build it. The old system has so consistently failed me. If I have a chance now to keep making comics the way I want to, it’s only going to be with the direct support of an audience that enjoys them.

Was it harder to be taken seriously by comics gatekeepers—both critics and publishers—because your style is not stylistically dense? You’re not exactly Chris Ware, who puts all the work on the page and kind of overwhelms you.

Absolutely, yes. I am not a designer per se and my work is not design-heavy. And yes, I think Chris Ware’s work, which is omnipresent now, has achieved that status partly, or mainly, because of its design sensibilities. I think design has really overtaken art in our culture right now. People think they’re the same thing and they’re not at all. In some senses I’m anti-design, and I see it as a limitation that our culture has placed on itself now, that everything has to be “designed” just so. I find the disruption caused by the human touch and the human brain to be much more interesting than something perfectly designed.

On Friday, Alex Dueben spoke to William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, about that organization's relationship to comics.

“The cartoonist Jennifer Camper made a great note at the Lammys,” Johnson said, mentioning the legendary cartoonist who was a presenter at this year’s Lammys alongside other distinguished figures like Jen Benka, Melissa Febos, John Roberts, Paul Tran, and Christine Vachon. “She said we shouldn’t really call it a graphic novel because comics exist cross-genre – memoir, science fiction, poetry. Comics is a huge door and anything can fit through it. That’s important to recognize.”

Since establishing a graphic-novel category, the Lammys has continued to recognize comics in other categories as well. This year, two comics were on the shortlist for the LGBTQ Erotica prize—Crossplay by Niki Smith, and Miles and Honesty in SCFSX! by Blue Delliquanti and Kazimir Lee—competing against prose work, with Delliquanti and Lee winning the prize.

As far as why they were nominated for and won the erotica prize, Johnson said that it was simply what the judges decided. “It’s judged by a panel of their peers so the judging panel is other erotic writers,” Johnson said. “The panel felt that this was the most notable book of the year and that it deserved the award.”

Keith Silva reviews the new collection of Don Rosa's Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes about how the combination of a cartoon character in a realistic setting creates a ‘mask’ for the reader--think European and Japanese comics or any animated Disney movie ever. And speaking of the big ‘D,’ the popularity of Donald Duck—the most published non-superhero comic book character in the world—is thanks to Carl Barks, a maestro of masking. And so it must follow, as a mother duck with her ducklings, Don Rosa, self-disclosed super fan of Barks’s signature work-for-hire creation, Scrooge McDuck, is a mask maker par excellence too.

Barks and Rosa’s use of masking in Duck books provided the reader with agency, engagement and complicity, the act of becoming, of being—the foundation of fiction, of comics. And what better places to be than a haunted castle, a riverboat plying the mighty Mississippi or a tumble-down town on the frontier? Masking means layering, which makes Rosa's The Complete Life and Times of $crooge McDuck a veritable French pastry full of adventures, history, laughs, thrills, sorrows, failures, triumphs and morals. Most of the lessons like fairness, frugality and forgiveness are child’s play. It’s the sad and wiser truths that The Complete Life and Times of $crooge McDuck masks about comics, corporations and the reader’s (consumer’s) conscience that makes this the ultimate work about understanding comics.

And Tegan O'Neil reviews Benji Nate's Lorna.

Benji Nate’s Lorna is one of the cuter books to cross my transom in a minute. I debated how and whether to use the word “cute” because under certain circumstances it can certainly be an insult, and indeed the last thing I would want to do is be seen to damn with faint praise merely by calling a book “cute.” But in this instance “cute” is the word because it seems difficult to imagine from the results on display that Nate wasn’t striving for cute the whole time.

The titular Lorna is a bit of an odd duck, by which I means she really likes carrying knives and stabbing things. She’s carrying a knife on the cover, carrying a knife on the first page, and although I didn’t actually count she’s carrying a knife on most of the interior pages as well. “Threatening boys with knives is just a hobby of mine,” she relates. Just one of those girls who really likes murdering people, y’know? And only sometimes scavenging their bodies for loot, like sunglasses.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Johnny Ryan is one of the writers working on a new series of Looney Tunes.

The shorts are part of the studio’s commitment to creating 1,000 minutes of new Looney Tunes animation. When WB announced the project at last year’s Annecy festival, the studio touted that the shorts would take a “cartoonist-driven approach to storytelling,” and based on what was screened today, they’ve stayed true to that mission.

—Andrea Ayres at The Beat writes about the possibility of a union in comics.

Saying you want a guild or union is one thing; actually forming one is an entirely different beast. How do you organize a disparate collective of workers? [Sasha] Bassett believes other industries, like construction, can serve as a template for comics. She says, “Another example can be found in a recent development with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who has helped establish the IWW Freelance Journalists Union – comics could go a similar route and have all freelancers work within the same bargaining unit, rather than with smaller groups oriented around individual jobs.”

—The NCS responds to the recent New York Times decision to suspend regular political cartoons.

Editorial cartooning is an invaluable form of pointed critique in American newspapers that dates back to the 19th-century work of the legendary Thomas Nast, as well as to pamphlet images published by Benjamin Franklin. The history of our great nation can be read through the pens of our editorial artists and cartoonists. Journals of record are the conduits to this history.

The cartoonists that contribute to your publication are not mere hobbyists, but deeply committed life-long devotees to the art of political commentary. It is not a job that is taken lightly, nor done with ease. It is a passion that not only feeds the national and international conversation, but just as importantly, feeds their families.

 

Two to Go

Yesterday, we published an essay by Zoran Djukanovic exploring the visual storytelling of José Luis Salinas's Cisco Kid.

The Cisco Kid is one of the famous “eternal” Westerns, appearing on the pages of American newspapers for eighteen years, which can be considered a short period for a syndicated comic strip. In the world of comics done for King Features, many series lasted for more than half a century. The editors of KFS knew pretty well whom they were engaging as an artist for this series. José Luis Salinas (1908-1985) was an extremely skilled comic artist and illustrator. Prior to The Cisco Kid, he showed his extreme craftsmanship in a series of strip adaptations of well-known classic adventure novels in collaboration with the writer José de España. More importantly, Salinas was the author of the masterful Hernán el Corsario (1936-1938; 1940-1941; 1945-1946), which absorbed a lot of creative influence of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. Hernán el Corsario is considered the first great comic series in Argentina. Salinas was a quick-drawing artist. This proved to be important in nearly two decades of work on The Cisco Kid which was an exclusively daily strip. It’s one of the few syndicated comics where one can hardly notice variations in drawing quality.

[...]

The lightness of the narrative tone, with elements of exaggeration that verges on the comic, is immediately established from the first weeks of The Cisco Kid. Were the King Features Syndicate editors the ones who set the task of simplifying the story in The Cisco Kid? Yes, there was a warning that Cisco’s character always had to be good. It created a somewhat narrowed space for individualization of characters. It’s divided between good guys and bad guys, providing a certain naivety ready-built into the storyline.

And what about Cisco? There is a certain almost boyish enthusiasm in his character. Cisco is partly based on a humorously simplified characterization. He is an indisputable hero, a young man with a well-shaped, tight waisted body, always dressed in the same embroidered black shirt. A more ironic reader would have called him Narcissus. He is tirelessly flirts with women, and then triumphs against desperados.  Cisco’s romantic vision of falling in love is not exclusive and focused upon only one woman. He is primarily attracted to falling in love, to flirting as such and it doesn't matter if his sympathies overlap partners in real time. That brings a certain element of self-parody. Despite the Latin, partly frivolous Prince Charming appearance, sooner or later, he provokes trust and a feeling of protection for women. However, there are very little sexual undertones coming to the surface, if we compare it with other comic classics (Prince Valiant, Casey Ruggles, Lance, The Heart of Juliet Jones, and most of Alex Raymond’s work).

Today, we published an interview with the Indian artist and comics scholar Aarthi Parthasarathy, conducted by Kim Jooha.

Kadak Collective

What is Kadak Collective? How did it start?

Kadak is a collective of women, non-binary, and queer artists who are talking about a gamut of social issues, mainly related to gender and sexuality, through graphic storytelling. So it is not just comics, but also illustration, graphic design, animation, and now hopefully other forms as well.

Kadak started in 2016. Eight of us came together to showcase our work at a table for ELCAF. Under the collective, we’ve got approximately forty self-published books/zines/comics in different formats. We showcase them in The Reading Room. There are webcomics too. We’ve done a few commissions for different publications/organizations as well, including Gaysi Zine (an Indian queer zine) and the Akshara Foundation (an NGO working with issues related to gender). Last year, we spoke about the direction the collective should take and we decided to take on a big publication project, and that’s where we’re at right now, with the Bystander anthology.

Why feminist and queer?

In India, the last decade has really brought a lot of issues into people’s consciousness - the issues of violence against women, representation, caste hierarchies, intersectionality, among others. Before 2016, when Kadak formed, there were a lot of incidents like violence against women and minorities that fired a well overdue outrage. There was the case of the rape of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 that really shook the nation, and this led to big societal shifts in the way people talked about sexual assaults and toxic masculinity, embedded patriarchy in systems. We realized how the media had contributed to lopsided representations, encouraged misogyny, turned a blind eye to forces of caste and class hierarchy. A lot of us were wondering, asking ourselves, discussing, how we could contribute to this conversation? As artists, storytellers, we felt we had a responsibility. And as women, queer, non-binary individuals, we knew we were best equipped to tell our own stories. We believed there was a kind of storytelling that hadn’t been foregrounded, and we wanted to bring attention to it.

Greg Hunter reviewed Dash Shaw's Clue: Candlestick #1:

An ideal encounter with Clue: Candlestick #1 might involve discovering it in a dollar bin twenty years after publication. Already a curious aside in the bibliography of a celebrated cartoonist, Dash Shaw's board-game tie-in miniseries is likely to look even stranger as time passes and its context begins to blur. But here we are, only a few weeks after its release. Without the benefit of any back-issue-disinterment aura, Candlestick #1 sometimes reads like a comic for nobody--perhaps too odd for a fan of the game (or film) who stumbles upon it, perhaps too restrained for fans of Shaw's most ambitious works. But comics for nobody have an aura of their own, and Candlestickstill illuminates Shaw’s skills as a storyteller.

And Sean Witzke reviews Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman's Thumbs #1.

The opening issue of the five-issue miniseries Thumbs, by Sean Lewis and artist Hayden Sherman, mainly focuses on a sister taking her wounded brother to the hospital for medical care. The press release for the book mentions Charlier Brooker and Annabelle Jones' Black Mirror, our current moment’s most relevant science-fiction concern. Brooker has always in his writing shown a true distrust of human selfishness, working in the territory scratched out by Rod Serling and George Romero--it's a world view where people poison their own well, where we are the monsters. It's a place where it doesn’t matter what the hook is, because you have to be more worried about your neighbor with the gun than any monster that is breaking down the door.

Thumbs seems to come from a different school, one which the creators may not even be aware of, the post-cyberpunk of the '90s, things like Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, what you could call pre-9/11 tech anxiety books. In them, there are the kids who have been left behind by a technologically advanced society, the omnipresent tech du jour (a character is very clearly meant to be Elon Musk), adults that are often bad or missing, and a half-useful slang that’s only there to patch over uninteresting character motivations. Thumb's creators don’t need to have read those books as there's a type of science fiction that seems self-generating. The kind where it’s too clever by half, and could come from video games or YA novels or anime. The kind where the world falls apart if you tug at the ideas just a little. A book like Jennifer Egan’s Welcome to the Goon Squad can exist where it hits dozens of cliches and you feel like it’s not on purpose, but because the author literally has never read or watched any science fiction.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The very first piece of original Tintin cover art created by Hergé sold at auction for over $1 million this week.

Three separate bidders placed bids exceeding $1 million for the first cover illustration by Hergé, who is considered the star of European comics. The title character is shown carving a makeshift propeller for his plane from a tree trunk, under the watchful eye of his bandaged-but-attentive dog, Snowy.

—D.D. Degg has collected various reactions to the New York Times's recent decision to stop publishing editorial cartoons.

—Carol Tilley tells the story of the overlooked Golden Age cartoonist Jane Krom Grammer.

When Barrie Schindler was young, her mother Jane Krom Grammer mentioned to her that she had drawn art for comic books. Jane kept a package filled with several issues of Supersnipe Comics from the mid-1940s and pointed to the Dotty stories in them. But Jane’s name didn’t appear anywhere on the art and there were no pay vouchers or contracts to back up the story, only her word.

—And don't forget: midnight June 14 is your final deadline to vote in the Eisners.

 

The Rundown

This week, Sloane Leong continues her series of interviews with fellow artists-in-residence at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, France. This time, she spoke with Josune Arrutia about cancer, Susan Sontag, and the growing interest in what's being called "graphic medicine."

Josune Urrutia: The project has no title yet. It’s about six women artists that lived with cancer and decided to make work in order to re-signify the surroundings and meanings of cancer through art.

And so what motivated you to write that sort of story?

It’s been almost ten years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and in a way it changed my life.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, I first made the Brief Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary of MY Cancer at the end of 2017. It’s not a comic, it’s actually an alphabet that approaches cancer from different points of view, territories, genres and languages, attempting to understand the universal reality of cancer based on my personal experience with cancer and illness.

[...]

What type of cancer did you battle with?

Ovarian. So this is the first thing I made related to cancer and illness. The Brief Dictionary has been germinal for other projects like the comic I’m working on here at MdA, or the one with Art Center La Panera and the Radiation Oncology Unit of the public Hospital in Lleida, Catalonia. We are working on a collective illustrated publication about cancer. It’s a participatory project where all the hospital community takes part: the team of radiotherapy oncology, doctors, technicians, patients, family expansive, etc. It’s like my Brief Dictionary, but collective.

The great Joe McCulloch returns with a review of panpanya's Invitation from a Crab.

Despite the terrific influence Japanese comics have had on small-press and online-focused cartoonists here in the English-speaking west, it's still pretty rare to encounter the Japanese equivalents of those none-too-mainstream artists in translation. Much of what is presented as 'manga' to overseas readers is very much commercial entertainment - because Japan's industry of comics is comparatively very healthy, there are many more professional working cartoonists, and a wider net can thus be cast into the stream of popular genres and topics; it's more akin to cable television than anything familiar to English-language comics. As a result, even if you stick to the biggest publishers and the more formulaic titles, 'manga' will appear to be more diverse. But smaller manga do sometimes get through. Just last month, the Tokyo bookstore and art gallery Popotame put out an English-translated selection of comics titled Popocomi, for release at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. This follows a 2016 English edition of the Japanese indie manga anthology USCA from Diorama Books, and 2018's š! #32, a Latvian-assembled showcase for Japanese artists. Among larger publishers, we must not forget that Kabi Nagata's hugely-acclaimed memoir My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (published in English by Seven Seas) began its life as a personal webcomic, or that the popular ESPer mayhem series Mob Psycho 100 (published in English by Dark Horse) is from an artist, ONE, who made his name doing similarly lo-fi online work.

Into this scene drops An Invitation from a Crab, a year-one release for the new manga-in-English publisher Denpa, as translated by Ko Ransom. The collection itself is not a small-press item; it was first released in Japanese in 2014 by Hakusensha, the same publisher that handles Berserk, and parts of it appeared beforehand via Rakuen, a mainline comics magazine marketed to women. However, the artist, panpanya, has deep roots in Japanese small- and self-publishing, particularly as it relates to Comitia, a seasonal convention dedicated to original works (as opposed to the fanfiction-heavy tables of the larger Comiket). Considerable domestic acclaim followed the 2013 release of Ashizuri Aquarium, a first-ever arrangement of the artist's theretofore self-published comics, as released by January and July, a book publisher-cum-anime goods merchant; An Invitation from a Crab is thus panpanya's wider-release sophomore collection - a major-label second album, albeit the first to appear in English.

And Toussaint Egan reviews Sharpe & Goodrich's Viewotron.

When it comes to reading Viewotron No. 1, the inaugural volume of Sam Sharpe’s ‘one-or-more-person comics anthology’ co-created with Peach S Goodrich, it’s all a matter of perspective. In the volume’s second comic, ‘The Secret Origins of Viewotron’, the eponymous thingamabob is revealed to have been a literal ‘deus ex machina’ created by Sharpe and Goodrich back in 2005 as a prop for an impromptu sci-fi film the two had been working on at the time. “It’s a machine whose purpose is unclear,” Sam confidently states, whose only explicit function being to reveal something “different” to whomever looks into it. When asked what exactly the Viewotron shows to the person peering through it, Sam simply replies, “Whatever your character needs to see.” This concept, of a tool facilitated to reveal the unseen and essential truth of one’s lived experiences through the animating spark of their subjectivity, is carried through to the color scheme of Viewotron itself: an mock-analyphic red and cyan composition evoking comparisons to the earliest forms of commercial 3D imagery. What at first is mundane can turn out to be revelatory, if viewed with the proper mindset. It’s an appropriate context for a disarmingly pleasant collection of stories that tackle everything from the anxiety of subjective experience, misplaced expectations, mortality, loneliness, and the aimless struggle to find one’s sense of place and meaning in the world.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The New York Times has decided to end their publication of all political cartoons, several weeks after the controversy over a syndicated anti-Netanyahu cartoon in its international edition. Times cartoonist Pat Chappette writes about the decision:

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they'll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon - not even mine - that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world. [...]

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie's infringement suit against InfoWars has ended with Furie receiving a $15,000 settlement.

The InfoWars lawsuit, filed last year, centered on a poster sold by InfoWars featuring Pepe alongside Trumpworld personalities like Roger Stone, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and pundits “Diamond & Silk.”

Before settling, InfoWars tried a novel legal strategy of suggesting, without evidence, that Furie had actually based Pepe on an Argentinian amphibian cartoon character named “El Sapo Pepe.” But on Tuesday, InfoWars agreed to destroy all remaining copies of the poster, and pay back the $14,000 it made from the poster sales—along with an additional $1,000.

—Commentary. Ross Trudeau writes about his father, Garry Trudeau.

Dad only ever seemed to shut the studio door on Fridays. His slate of six dailies and one nine-panel Sunday strip were due to the inker by 6:00 P.M., and he rarely finished a minute before. And just as his professional anxiety reached its weekly zenith, we three children would burst back into the pre-war Central Park West co-op with typical weekend-anticipatory zeal. The few times my father could have been said to have snapped at me unfairly occurred at the threshold of his studio, in mid-afternoon on a Friday: deadline day (or, as my sister called it, “Daddy’s Mad Day).

At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton writes about the online furor that recently erupted around Chelsea Cain and her current Image series, Man-Eaters.

It’s not breaking news that Chelsea Cain, author of Marvel’s Mockingbird, has seen her share of criticism lately for her new comic, Man-Eaters, published by Image Comics. Hailed by some as feminist critique, numerous aspects of Man-Eaters have also been slammed by critics for being insensitive to various groups of people. Cain has acknowledged these critics in the past, going so far as to publicly pledge to do better.

The very premise of the book — a mutation causes menstruating women to turn into dangerous were-felines — has been criticized for being gender essentialist and ignoring the existence of trans people, despite Cain’s claims otherwise. (It also features a plot point where estrogen is added to the water, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of real life fear-mongering about the trans community.) Additionally, more recent issues of the comic have featured (white) women in concentration camps and being forced to drink out of different water fountains than men, garnering criticism that she’s being hypothetically alarmist about things that have actually happened (and are, in fact, still happening) to people of color.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Bill Griffith, the most recent guest on Chapo Trap House is Alan Moore, and the most recent guest on RiYL is Jim Rugg.

Also, Henry Chamberlain interviews R. Sikoryak:

—RIP. Bushwick Bill.

 

Three to Go

If you haven't had the chance yet to dig into yesterday's Clyde Fans roundtable, I highly recommend it. In it, seven comics scholars and Seth experts—Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Martha Kuhlman, Daniel Marrone, Barbara Postema, Candida Rifkind, Tom Smart—discuss in depth Seth's twenty-years-in-the-making signature work. Here's a bit from Hatfield's introductory remarks:

From the sound of it, Clyde Fans should be an epic: a mid-twentieth-century family story spanning some four decades in the life (and death) of a company inherited by two sons from a wayward father, a business vulnerable to technological and social change and thus ultimately made obsolete. Firmly set in postwar to late-century Ontario, and rooted in certain kinds of Ontarian landscape and a (then optimistic, now pitiable) commercial culture of nonstop go-getting salesmanship — an eager, scurrying, small-time capitalism — Clyde Fans seems determined to chart how a changing world looks from a particular vantage point. Culturally, it’s very specific, and there is so much that might be done to show how various people lived in and made that culture. The lives of Abraham and Simon Matchcard, mismatched brothers working for one too-long lived business, would seem to be an apt vehicle for depicting change in the world (or at least the Ontario) at large. Though mundane, Clyde Fans covers so many years, and has taken so very many years to complete and collect in book form, that the temptation to greet it as Something Big, a monumental work, is hard to resist.

The thing is, the collected Clyde Fans, to me, despite its physical heft, feels like a small story, or rather a meditative visual poem. It doesn’t feel big. It’s intimate. In fact, it’s more than intimate: it’s a closed world, a microcosm, much like the Clyde Fans building that encloses so much of the action. Seth, in rounding off the story, does what the Matchcard brothers do: he turns inward, tightening scope, excluding much of the social world whose changing nature might lead us to expect, well, an epic. This is a story about two recluses, each clinging to the Clyde building for his own reasons, one a go-getter perhaps tragically replaying the sins of his hated father, the other nursing their dying mother and embracing darkness and solitude as a relief from the world’s pressure, but both crawling inside themselves and seeking or succumbing to oblivion. The book itself mirrors their retreat, winding down and disappearing down its own ostrich hole, ending with a rejection of the larger world that ambiguously teeters between tragedy and affirmation.

Today, Alex Dueben returns to interview webcartoonist Kat Verhoeven.

At the start you were thinking of other webcomics like Octopus Pie and Girls with Slingshots.

Absolutely. I get the Octopus Pie comparison fairly often which I think is a compliment. It’s the same format and it was a really big inspiration to me at the time. When I describe the comic I say, it’s like the TV show Friends but sadder. [laughs]

[laughs] I like that. But why did you decide to use a horizontal page design?

I had started working in different printing presses, which is still the day job that I have. I was beginning to get into that work and had started to learn more about paper sizes and page sizes. I was thinking about comic books on shelves and so I mostly did it to try to stand out. Not a lot of comics are done in a horizontal format. Not a lot of long form print comics are done that way. It’s sort of it’s been a bit of a regret actually. As I’ve learned more about webcomic formatting and how to build an audience and make a comic more accessible across different devices, a landscape comic is the worst way of reading that you can have. But it was fun. I wouldn’t do it again but I’m glad Meat and Bone exists in that format. It will stand out on the shelf, I think.

And of course, we also published Days Four and Five of AJ Dungo's Cartoonist's Roundtable.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The nominees for this year's Russ Manning Awards have been announced.

—Cartoonist and community fixture Dustin Harbin had a serious bicycle accident and is raising funds for medical expenses.

—RIP. Dr. John.

 

Amazing Adult Fantasy

Today on the site, we present an excerpt from AJ Dungo's In Waves.

Dungo, of course, is the artist for this week's Cartoonist's Diary. Day Two and Day Three are up now.

Yesterday, we published the most recent R.C. Harvey column, which this time focused on Eric Stanton, fetish artist, Steve Ditko studio-mate, and possible co-creator of Spider-Man.

In 1951, Stanton married Grace Marie Walter on October 20; they had two children, both boys. The same year, Stanton enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School founded by Burne Hogarth. Stanton took courses from Hogarth and from Jerry Robinson, and in Robinson’s class, he met Ditko and Eugene Bilbrew, an African-American artist who Stanton would introduce to Klaw. As Eneg (“Gene” spelled backwards), Bilbrew, like Stanton, would pursue a career in fetish art.

Ditko, asked years later how he and Stanton met, said, “I liked the way he drew women.” More about their relationship anon.

Over the years, Stanton would produce work for several merchants of fetish art: Edward Mishkin, who ran a store near Times Square (in those days, the neighborhood of sexploitation with dozens of stores selling girlie magazines, photographs, movies, and smut); Leonard Burtman, publisher and merchandiser; Max Stone, publisher of fighting female serials; and Stanley Malkin, also a Times Square entrepreneur, who would hire Stanton, putting him on salary, to do covers for his magazines—Stanton’s longest salaried situation as a fetish artist, 1963-68. Malkin also furnished and paid all the expenses for a small apartment for Stanton.

All, plus Klaw, were eventually arrested, tried and convicted of trafficking in pornography (“printed circulars, pamphlets, booklets, drawings, photographs and motion picture films, which were non-mailable in that they were obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, and filthy”). After serving their sentences (usually payment of a fine), all returned to their businesses under different names—except Malkin, who gave it up in 1969.

Edwin Turner is here, too, with a review of the latest from Jaime Hernandez.

Hernandez's art is as impressive as ever. His Pop style is deceptively simple, with bold lines and controlled patterns reminiscent of Kirbyesque romance comics or Archie classics---but let's be real---nearly four decades in, Hernandez's work is its own idiom. His command of facial expressions is particularly praiseworthy. In one priceless panel, a teenage Hopey overhears herself being insulted. Her aghast frown is worthy of a dozen paragraphs of interior monologue (and far more economical). It's fascinating too to see how naturally Hernandez has realized the aging of his characters, as if they were not drawings on a page, but rather real people.

Is This How You See Me? is ostensibly the sequel to 2014's The Love Bunglers, a graphic novel that retold Maggie's childhood in a startling and impressionistic manner. Together, these novels make a nice introduction to Love & Rockets to anyone perhaps daunted by the series' long history and large cast. Both volumes show an author who cares deeply about his characters, and loves Maggie in particular. Reading Is This How You See Me?, one realizes that Hernandez could go on writing about Maggie for another three decades---and that she would continue to change and fascinate both her readers and her creator.

And Sean Witzke writes about Warren Ellis and Jason Howard's Cemetery Beach.

So this Warren Ellis comic that is indistinguishable from the last Warren Ellis comic I read (which would be a solid 7, 8 years ago), where the characters start explaining their predicaments before panel one and never stop explaining their predicaments until the 162nd page… there's obviously someone who wants this. But I don’t even know if Warren Ellis likes this style of writing. He’s done it, certainly, since the beginning; but his science fiction comics were often dialog-driven polemics, and his action comics usually providing some interesting visual elements while scaling the talk way back. I’m thinking of something like Global Frequency, or more recently his Moon Knight comic that was just a comic book version of the staircase scene from Tony Jaa’s The Protector. A bunch of somethings that a comics writer has very little say in whether or not it’s executed well, beyond teeing up and hoping a good artist will show off.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tommi Parris's The Lie and How We Told It won this year's Lambda Literary Award for graphic novels.

—At The New Yorker, Dan Piepenring writes about Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's How to Read Donald Duck.

Among North American audiences, Disney was most famous for its films and theme parks, but, abroad, Disney comics had a robust readership, and legions of freelance artists tailored them—or rewrote them—to international tastes. In Chile, Donald Duck was by far the most popular Disney character. But Dorfman and Mattelart argued that Donald was a conservative mouthpiece, dampening the revolutionary spirit, fostering complacency, and softening the sins of colonialism. What kind of a role model was he, this eunuch duck, who sought only fame and fortune, who ignored the plight of the working class, who accepted endless suffering as his lot? “Reading Disney,” they wrote, “is like having one’s own exploited condition rammed with honey down one’s throat.”

“How to Read Donald Duck,” published in 1971, was an instant best-seller in Chile. But, in 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power from Allende, in a violent military coup; under Pinochet’s rule, the book was banned, as an emblem of a fallen way of thought. Donald and Mickey Mouse became champions of the counter-revolution. One official pasted their faces on the walls of his office, where, under his predecessor, socialist slogans had once hung. Dorfman watched on TV as soldiers cast his book into a bonfire; the Navy confiscated some ten thousand copies and dumped them into the bay of Valparaíso. A motorist tried to plow him down in the street, shouting “Viva el Pato Donald!”

 

C – M – C’

Today on the site, Sloane Leong returns with the latest of her series of interviews with fellow Angoulême residents. This time, she talks to Kathrine Avraam.

You have a very distinct textural style that's all very gestural. How did you develop it?

I always switch from analog to digital and the main reason is precisely in search of good graphics that goes with what I want to tell. The place of the texture thus becomes crucial in this game. Younger, I felt frustrated in front of any tool (charcoals, acrylics, pastels etc) and the idea that there are so many techniques of paintings that I do not know and that  I will never be able to control. Now my goal is to draw the best of all these two worlds, the spontaneity of analog and digital freedom. And then the role of the texture, unlike the line, is not descriptive but rather revealing! Revealing the emotional state to which I push my reader.

H.W. Thurston is here with her review of B. Mure's Terrible Means.

I feel somewhat guilty writing a lukewarm review of Terrible Means, and I’ve been trying to understand why. It is after all a professional, purchase-able comic, so to have an attack of taste or conscience on this front runs a risk of sounding condescending. But different artworks are offered up to the world with different attitudes and those attitudes affect the kind of criticism that feels appropriate. I’d never bust onto someone’s personal Instagram, or fan art blog and complain about how they’re taking pictures of their family and drawing their favorite characters and what about what I want to see, huh? There’s an understanding that those creations are the artist experimenting or expressing themselves, not things that are making a case for how good they are. They were created to be either enjoyed or ignored. By comparison, there are works that clearly have a goal, and invite you to judge them by their success at achieving it. I’d have no guilt about disparaging a given Netflix Original or Star Wars outing, because those things claim to be entertaining, and try to earn the mass-adoration (well, patronage) of their audiences. I might not think that judging those things is particularly worth my time, because trying to convince a major studio that their art is bad is like trying to earn the affection of someone who hates you. But I’d definitely feel allowed.

And AJ Dungo begins his week creating out Cartoonist's Diary.

We closed out last week with Steve Ringgenberg's obituary for the significant portrait painter and comics artist Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Everett Raymond Kinstler, who died on May 26 at the age of 92, occupied a unique position among all comics artists. No other artist went from drawing for the pulps and comic books to painting presidential portraits. And not just one or two, but eight presidents sat for him, including Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, both Bushes and Donald Trump. His paintings of Reagan and Ford are the official White House portraits. In addition to his presidential portraits, Kinstler went on to become the portrait painter of society’s elite, painting more than 1,200 portraits that ranged from depictions of astronauts, to captains of industry, to movie stars like John Wayne, James Cagney, Gene Hackman, Christopher Plummer, Clint Eastwood and Katharine Hepburn. Additionally, he painted such prominent public figures as Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, John D. Rockefeller III, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Harry Blackmun, plus six U.S. governors, four secretaries of state and the presidents of numerous educational institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Smith, Wellesley and many others. During his long career, Kinstler painted portraits of more than 50 cabinet officers, more than any other artist. He also turned his hand to painting portraits of authors like Ayn Rand, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Tom Wolfe.

Jake Murel reviewed Ali Fitzgerald's Drawn to Berlin.

Drawn to Berlin is Ali Fitzgerald’s first book-length comic. As a drawing instructor at one of Berlin’s bubble shelters during the height of the 2015 European refugee crisis, the social power of images is one of her central concerns. From German typography to caricatures circulated in anti-immigration propaganda to the self-portraits she drew for refugees passing through shelters, Fitzgerald recognizes the potential of images, and more specifically comics, as a force for good or ill everywhere. Her work tells not only her own story, but the stories of a displaced people longing for home. For Fitzgerald, then, the ethical dimension of comics, far from being some abstract philosophical or political question, is of deeply personal concern.

In fact, Fitzgerald records the personal struggle involved in crafting Drawn to Berlin. As a comic journalist, she finds herself torn between the desire to give voice to the voiceless and the fear she may inadvertently colonize already marginalized people by sensationalizing their lives as a “crisis comic.” Near the book’s end, Fitzgerald overtly addressees these worries when she tells an unnamed character, “I just...don’t want to colonize people’s stories,” to which her acquaintance responds, “But this is your story too, isn’t it?” This panel summarize not only a central tension in Drawn to Berlin, but the whole work’s genre-blending approach. Blending categories of graphic memoir, comics journalism, and historical overview, Fitzgerald records her own life alongside the lives of those she seeks to help as well as the life of the city in which they live. For her, none of these stories can be considered in isolation, like a panel in the comics sequence.

And on Friday, Melanie Gillman completed their two-week residency creating our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At the Spectator, Hermione Lee talks to Posy Simmonds.

Starting with Gemma Bovery, her witty update of Flaubert in 1999, her graphic novels came out just as the genre itself was becoming increasingly respected — culminating in the first Man Booker prize longlist nomination for a graphic novel last year (Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso). Simmonds acknowledges how far the genre has come. Women, she says, were ‘accused of muscling in on a scene that was male, particularly the superhero scene in the US, but now there’s a whole generation of women who are completely uninhibited and drawing just as themselves…. Still,’ she grins, ‘people think you’re probably drawing bears in pinnies. You’re often asked, “And do you ever do any proper writing?”’

—RIP. Roky Erickson

 

Four to Go

Today on the site, Austin English returns with a piece in which he asks nine different cartoonists the same twenty questions, about their methods, their philosophies, their materials, and their working spaces.

7. Do you read a lot of comics? Are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics, or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

I read less than I ever have these days. When I was working almost full time on comics, I was definitely reading more. I was also going to fests more then which exposed me to great new books. I’ve been out of the circuit the last couple years dealing with other ventures and projects. I really appreciate comics but they’re rarely where I’m pulling my motivation or inspiration from.

8. Do you make comics for a living? If not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics-making process?

I haven’t produced a new book in a while so basically am not making any income from comics at the moment. That’s not to say though I don’t use narrative formats in other work or am not selling work that relates to my history and context within comics. I do live on my art, of which I’d say there are significant connections between all of my practices.

9. Do other art forms often seem more attractive to you?

I don’t think I could only do one practice ever. I like to be stimulated by different contexts and ways of thinking. I need comics, I also need to make installations and work in spaces. I’m attracted to the image of being a painter and a writer in a very classical romantic way, but I also recognize that’s not not what I do.

We have posted Day Eight and Day Nine of Melanie Gillman's Cartoonist's Diary.

And yesterday, we posted the latest installment of our Retail Therapy column, this time featuring responses from Wayne McNeil, the owner of Generation X in Dallas-Fort Worth.

What do you wish more publishers knew about comics retail?

The lack of information makes it really difficult to make decisions. Too many "Whole New Era" and "Everything Changes" as a way to hint that SOMETHING is happening. And then when the event turns out to be minor then the decisions become even more difficult for next time. Plus, telling stores that a big event (like a marriage) was going to happen and then pulling it back makes the STORES look stupid, not the publishers. Finally, having multiple event books every year means fewer and fewer people care about any one "event."

I would also like to see consistent placement of issue numbers and barcodes. Trying to ring up a customer and having to continually hunt the front and back of each comic for each barcode is time consuming. And having issue numbers in wildly inconsistent places on the cover frustrates many customers who are trying to fill in their collection.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Comics Workbook has an interview with Niall Breen.

KUNV Las Vegas talks to Charles Hatfield about his book on Jack Kirby.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Eric Kostiuk Williams.

 

Ribs Hangover

This week, Melanie Gillman sets a record by being the first cartoonist to follow up one week of a Cartoonist's Diary with a second week. Here are Day Six and Day Seven.

Nicholas Burman is here, too, with an interview with the British comics writer Mary Talbot.

In your comics you've gone from writing about yourself (alongside a historical figure), a fictional figure, and a biography. What, if any, differences did you apply to the writing process when piecing these stories together? Were you asking yourself any ethical questions around portraying the story of Louise Michel, for example?

While I was working on what became Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, I was moved by the tragedy of Lucia Joyce’s story and I was keen to write about that in some way. For a long time I saw my own little story solely as a means to explicate hers. It shocked me that Lucia seems to have been a kind of casualty of modernism. Her father is this stellar modernist figure, with ‘advanced’ views about marriage and so on, yet the Joyces had pretty bourgeois notions about women and these eventually crushed the life out of Lucia. It was only when I could see that my idea of presenting two parallel lives was working well that I finally overcame my diffidence about memoir writing. Once I started to work on the two interweaving plot lines I could see how it would work as a single story. Then I was completely comfortable with the memoir aspect. I did ponder the birth scene quite a lot before adding it, though. I had to do masses of research into Lucia’s life. The final section about her was painful to write. In fact, I found I was starting to well up with tears every time I read through that part. I took it as a good sign, as far as the book was concerned; if it affected me so much, then surely it would do something for readers. Writing about my own past was a different matter. Obviously it’s familiar to me and the most recent event recounted (my mother’s death) was thirty years ago. The next two books seemed more straightforward, presumably because they were far less personal. I do recall that, in the case of The Red Virgin, I had to think very carefully about how to represent the ghastly ‘Bloody Week’ massacre, to neither sensationalize nor downplay. I think I got the tone about right. Conversely, with Sally Heathcote: Suffragette I wanted to make a prison force-feeding scene as gruesome as possible, so that the reader would appreciate what an appalling procedure it was.

We also have Oliver Ristau's review of Zac Thompson and Arjuna Susini's The Replacer.

The Replacer is a comic book – or as Aftershock's bureau of public relation affairs calls it, a “64-Page Graphic Novella” – that deeply immerses the reader into the daily affairs evolving around a medical patient's history proceeding from a vascular cerebral incident. So the subhead placed beneath a cover that's imitating the outlook of an old VHS tape shouldn't read, “Home is where the horror is” but “People taking care of you is where the horror is.”

Its topic is basically similar to the recently released Dementia 21 by Shintaro Kago, who also visited the area of taking care of others, but for Kago the chosen subject matter of elderly care management offered an opportunity to stage a black comedy, not a journey through the monstrous challenges for one caught in the treadmill of continuous care – though sometimes grim truths can't be suppressed, hence Dementia 21's jungle war episode, in which protégés turn into perfidious booby traps.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For the London Evening Standard, Susannah Butter profiles Posy Simmonds.

Simmonds doesn’t usually show anyone her sketches. “A French journalist recently asked me what my motivation was,” she says, amused. “I just do it.” But she has recently returned to her archives in the lead-up to a retrospective of her work at the House of Illustration in King’s Cross. It will include her childhood creations, cartoon strips for The Guardian and illustrations from her children’s books such The Chocolate Wedding and Fred, which became an Oscar-nominated film.

She shows me how Bovery evolved from photos of Princess Diana, who Simmonds drew from all angles “to bring her to life”. Simmonds double-checked that all movements were realistic by looking in the mirror. “I rather liked the way Princess Di looked under her fringe, that gave me the idea for Gemma’s face,” she says.

Rob Clough interviews Whit Taylor.

I was considered “artistic” in elementary school. And I remember one day these folks came to our school to assess for artistic ability. I took some sort of “drawing test” and they concluded that I had no technical ability but was good as a freehand drawer. Being judged that early stuck with me and probably charted much of the course of my art career. I took an art class in high school and didn’t continue because I didn’t like my art teacher (she wasn’t particularly nice). I pretty much stopped drawing in high school and focused my attention on stage crew/musicals, sports, and playing music.

When I got to college, I took a studio foundation course at Brown, as well as screenwriting and some film classes. At the time, I wanted to make socio-cultural documentaries. I wanted to get into RISD courses because my school had an arrangement with them, but those classes were almost impossible to get into, so I never took any. During my studio foundation course though, we were required to go to a talk at RISD, where I saw Roz Chast speak. That was a game changer for me. Harvey Pekar also came to visit Brown to talk about the American Splendor movie. I met him and talked with him a bit too and he encouraged me to make comics. After those experiences, I started drawing again.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson reviews the first issue of Dash Shaw's Clue: Candlestick.

This comic is insane. In adapting a game about psychology, it’s about this simplified and transparent version of the same. Formally, it then becomes about depicting thought processes, essentially. Shaw has a long-time interest in comics and the language of depicting the invisible, so we get a more heightened version of that. From the first page, it’s working at a very high level to create a visual language to describe how perception works. There’s this sort of meta awareness of itself and what it’s doing and the need to explain that that then transfers to the reader. I texted multiple people while reading this comic to say how good it was, as I could barely believe it, could only understand it by communicating it to others.

[In the interests of disclosure, I should say that I contributed a short ancillary essay to this issue.]