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Back on the Street

You know what Tuesday means: Joe McCulloch is here to tell us all about the newest and most interesting looking comics being sold in stores. He is also very likely appending a fascinating and thought-provoking little mini-essay about some strange or overlooked or otherwise forgotten old comic that he bought at a flea market or maybe obtained via Cyber Monday or something.

Elsewhere, there are other things to read and ponder online, including:

Gabrielle Bell talking to Bill Baker at the Morton Report.

Chris Ware talking to Touré on MSNBC!

—An interview with the Belgian composer Walter Hus, who has adapted Ware’s Lint into an “opera.”

—Two graphic novels (Joff Winterhart’s Days of the Bagnold Summer, and Bryan & Mary Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes) have been nominated for the Costa award, a fairly prestigious literary award previously given only to books without so many drawings.

—Paul Gravett has written a mini-profile of Jodi Bernet.

—Jason writes about Wally Wood’s EC work (“Let the page breathe a bit”).

—R. Sikoryak appears on Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories podcast.

—I probably don’t link to Inkstuds as often as I should, because I assume most everyone reading this who’s in the market for comics-related podcasts already keeps tabs on it, but the show has recently posted its annual year’s end critics’ roundtable, which this year features two Journal columnists, Jeet Heer and Joe McCulloch, and a former editor of the magazine, Tom Spurgeon. (Also, I really enjoyed some of the photos in Robin McConnell’s just-posted BCGF report.)

—The CBLDF blog is another place I probably should link to more often, and their recent roundup of posts on historical examples of comics censorship is a good excuse.

—At the New York Times Book Review, Deborah Solomon reviews Deirdre Bair’s new massive doorstopper biography of cartooning great Saul Steinberg.

—And finally, Quentin Blake talks to the Tate (via):

 

Washing News

On the site today:

Ken Parille returns with an excellent multi-level historical reading of the first two panels from Charles Burns’ excellent new book The Hive. Ken’s essay nicely exposes the multi-layered nature of the book, which Grace Krilanovich nicely sussed out on this site. Here’s Ken:

In a graphic novel, each panel participates in a complex dialogue with other panels. It’s also part of a larger historical conversation involving hundreds of similar panels from earlier comics. These contexts — the comic itself and the comic-in-history — lend each image interpretive resonance and possibility.

And elsewhere:

The internet was ablaze over the weekend with Grant Morrison’s point-by-point commentary on an article that mentions how he and Alan Moore don’t like each other. Or something like that. If you’re still reading this blurb then you probably already know if you want to click through, in which case, hey, you’ll soon know more than I do about the whole thing. It made for entertaining reading in the sense that I find relationships played out at comic book conventions and in letter columns pretty entertaining! In fact, I sort of wish more cartoonists would settle personal relationships in public. It used to be commonplace at ol’ TCJ, but now we have to rely entirely on the over-50 crowd (like our man Dave Sim) to re-up on the personal public drama. Ah well. A boy can dream.

Still further into the internet we find an interview with BCGF partner and now new publisher Bill Kartalopolous.

In other publishing news, as you probably know, Arthur Magazine is coming back, and now the web site is back online.

There are not enough comics equivalents to the kind of books mentioned in this essay about “supplemental work”, and I love them all. Off the top of my head I can pine for books collecting essays and miscellany by Patrick Rosenkranz, R. Fiore, Carter Scholz and so many others. Basically TCJ functions as one giant supplemental work which we can never seem to mine enough.

Finally, I like the frequency with which I see new material from Simon Hanselman. It means not all of it has to be great and I can just enjoy the ongoing process in real time. Very satisfying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Continent to Despoil and Poison

If you’re American, as Dan and I are, as well as most of the Journal‘s staff and readership, today is not a day for digging into comic-book news; it’s a day to travel vast distances and prepare your appetite for an over-large Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe there will be a bit of drinking for some folks to help them cope with unpleasant relatives; maybe there will be tears. Good times are in store for many, too. Strong, loving families seen too rarely. In any case, there is no place for comics gossip today or tomorrow or the next day. So we will save our links ’til Monday. (I apologize to our non-American readers for the interruption.)

But if you absolutely need some kind of comics-related material to make it through, perhaps to read on a plane or train, or simply to keep you occupied, we have decided to reprint Gary Groth’s 1994 interview with Jeff Smith, the incredibly successful self-publisher and creator of Bone and (later) RASL. Here’s an exchange from relatively early in the interview:

GROTH: So what year did you finally get to Ohio State?

SMITH: 1982. I said to myself, “OK, am I really going to work in factories for the rest of my life? No, I think I’ll go back to college.” So I enrolled at OSU, and one of the reasons I went was because sometime in there I got really hooked on Doonesbury. I had decided I wanted to take a shot at newspaper strips. I carried around these three giant treasury-size editions, almost like Bibles. I thought they were the next evolution after Walt Kelly, for me. That was the most popular strip on campus at the time too. So I picked OSU mostly because they had the Lantern, which was a daily newspaper. It had a circulation of 50,000. In my mind, that was exactly the tool I needed to practice my vocation. I had come to the realization that I wasn’t going o be able to go to school to get taught how to do this, so the only thing I could do was find somewhere I could practice. So I took one journalism class in order to be on the paper and I enrolled as a fine arts student, then submitted some Thorn strips to the Lantern and they accepted them, and off I went.

GROTH: So you actually enrolled with the explicit thought of having a strip in the paper.

SMITH: Yes, absolutely. In art school, they explained to me that cartooning was just a complete bastard child of the arts and wasn’t real. That was kind of shocking to an 18-year-old. “Oh my God! You mean I’m not allowed to be a cartoonist? Is that what you’re trying to say to me?” So immediately I began looking for ways to use this system that didn’t accept me in ways I could at least use it. I went to 3-D concept classes, then went home at night and would start my comic strip about 9 o’clock at night, finish by 2 at the latest, and I did that every day for four years.

GROTH: So you’re an incredibly disciplined individual.

SMITH: It sounds that way when you say it … [Laughs.]

GROTH: But in reality you’re lazy!

SMITH: Yeah!

Okay, everybody, have a good Thanksgiving!

 

Funny Like That

Hey guess what: It’s a holiday week. So we’re going to bring you Jog (or rather, we’ll ride on his endless coattails) today, and then tomorrow we’ll toss an archival interview at you, and then, fair warning, we’re gonna take Thursday and Friday off. Let’s all take this opportunity to read back issues and catch up on Floyd Gottfredson archive books. Just stick to comics.

Elsewhere:

Well, this sure seems like a lot of dough to spend on Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson held onto his originals, so there aren’t many of these on the market. Combine that with a generation regarding the strip as iconic, and that generation now in a position to act on that regard and… well… it’s still a ton of money. More than a McCay or a Herriman, but less than a McFarlane. What a world.

 

Tangentially comics-related (she was instrumental in Maus being published by Pantheon): Graphic designer Louise Fili has a new monograph out.

Another early 20th century humorist to think about.

-The Peacemaker!

-I am thankful for Gene Ahern, above many, but not all things. Gene Ahern. Would’ve liked to have asked him some questions, mostly about beards and pot.

 

Turkey Shoot

A short American holiday week begins with Rob Clough and his review of Noah Van Sciver’s The Hypo, the story of a relatively undersung portion of Abraham Lincoln’s young life, and a book that I think rightly made a lot of people reevaluate Van Sciver. Good stuff. Here’s a bit of Rob’s review:

Van Sciver’s greatest achievement in this book is his storytelling restraint. He lets his cross-hatching gets across the grime of a Springfield that wasn’t as civilized as its inhabitants might have thought. He wants to show the reader a different side of the Lincoln we grew up reading about in the history books, but also wants the reader to connect this younger man to the future president. More than anything, he wants to show Lincoln as in some ways a very typical young man: he makes stupid decisions, is fickle in his attentions (Lincoln falls for Todd’s younger sister), and has no idea what to do with his life (while knowing he wants to do something great), and even engages in cruel humor at someone else’s expense.

Elsewhere, there are lots of things to read.

—Tom Spurgeon interviews the great Howard Cruse.

—Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb (and scholar Roger Sabin) are interviewed for a comics-related podcast at The Guardian.

—Chris Ware is interviewed in a shortish, written-through piece by Mike Doherty at the National Post.

Publishers Weekly has a starred review of the newly released new edition of Jon Lewis’s True Swamp. I don’t normally flag PW reviews like that, but this is an interesting book to get this treatment in the sense that it’s a reprint from a time in comics that’s gone relatively underappreciated, and is maybe due for a revival.

—I’ve been seeing this photo passed along as depicting Picasso dressed up as Popeye. (The page itself says as much.) But that can’t be right—Popeye doesn’t have a beard! Isn’t he really supposed to be dressed as Captain Haddock? Of course, neither Popeye nor Haddock wore glasses that I can recall…

—I always enjoy the guided tours Chris Mautner leads through publishers’ catalogs. Here’s his spring 2013 D&Q.

—Patrick Dean has a photo-filled post regarding the opening of the Jack Davis exhibit he curated at the Georgia Museum of Art. (via)

—Somehow I missed this: Marvel and DC are no longer delaying the release of their digital comics until after the print versions have been released in stores. This is not an unexpected development, but it is possibly a consequential one.

—I guess reviews-in-the-form-of-comics are a genuine Thing now. Vera Brosgol reviews David Nytra in the New York Times. (via)

—Sam Gaskin and Simon Hanselmann had a discussion on Facebook, which later moved to Tumblr.

—Pádraig Ó Méalóid finishes up an in-depth three-part exploration of the alleged influence of Robert Mayer’s mostly forgotten 1970s novel Superfolks on the writing of Alan Moore, with an epilogue devoted to Moore’s relationship with Grant Morrison. One, two, three.

—Only sorta comics: Robert Boyd writes about the comics-influenced work of artist Trenton Doyle Hancock.

 

Lasagna

Good morning to you and to Tucker Stone and friends. It’s been a very busy week in comics and I’m looking forward to a detailed report on BCGF fashion and personalities.

What else is online?

The historian and publisher Ray Zone has passed away. He was known to comics readers for the numerous 3-D comics he produced, particularly in the 1980s, but he also published some great 2-D comics, including the excellent mini comic series (and later collection) Zomoid Illustories. Mark Evanier has a remembrance. And here is Ray Zone’s web site and wikipedia entry.

Artist (and occasionally comics maker) Jim Drain has our best perspective on the philosophy of Garfield. He also has a beautiful show up in Los Angeles.

Jonathon Keats writes about Art Spiegelman’s eclecticism for Forbes.

Alan Moore will soon release a short film. Here’s a preview.

Jim Rugg has posted a time-lapse video of one of his astonishing ballpoint pen drawings.

Here’s an overview of Shakespeare adaptions in comics from American Theatre.

I plunged into this array of adapted Shakespeare as a fan of the plays but no expert, and as a novice in the world of comics and graphic novels. My interest emerged from my own experience, at age eight or nine, during Nixon’s first term, of reading The Iliad and A Tale of Two Cities, not in their original versions, but via the series of comic books called Classics Illustrated. Although they ceased publication in 1962, my brother and I scavenged barely vintage copies from paper drives and tag sales and secured them in a tin breadbox (also found curbside); we would withdraw them from their cask on a narrow loft in our garage to read about Sydney Carton and Helen of Troy. Why we required an aerie for this I don’t know—our schoolteacher mother wasn’t likely to have objected. As a result, I am no snob when it comes to this form, but rather a childhood fan looking to see how it has developed.

Speaking of accessibility issues, here’s comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick on the gender gap in comic books.

And here’s an audio recording of a panel discussion this year’s CAKE about women and graphic autobiography with Rina Ayuyang, Julia Wertz, Leslie Stein, Marian Runk, Keiler Roberts and Lucy Knisley.

 

 

Toss ‘n’ Turn

Today we have Sean Michael Robinson’s lengthy interview with David Lasky, the veteran alternative comics artist who just put out his debut graphic novel, The Carter Family (which he created in collaboration with Frank Young). Lasky discusses many things, from his plans to write comics about bread delivery to his multiple attempts to do justice to James Joyce in comics form. He also talks a little about why it took him so long to put out a full-length book:

When it’s a minicomic you can take certain risks and there’s no danger. It’s a low-budget operation. But when it becomes a book some publisher is putting up a lot of money and then it’s out there in bookstores and libraries and it’s representing alternative comics to the world. And if it’s not a very good book, I cringe. “Oh, why did they put that out?” I’m not saying that my peers put out a lot of bad books. I think there’s a lot of great books. But if I put out a book I want it to be my best thing possible. So I have had publishers express interest, but … partly I wasn’t ready, partly I felt they were maybe just overeager, or maybe were gonna put out something that wasn’t my best material.

Elsewhere:

—Adrian Tomine’s been on a roll lately, media-wise (and here on the blog), but it’s all good stuff. He talked again to The New Yorker about how he creates cover images for the magazine, and I missed earlier this great episode of Too Much Information, which features a very good audio interview with Tomine about surviving superstorms. (It also features another guest telling an incredible (in both senses of the word) story about the teenaged Mitt Romney meeting Guy Debord in Paris, 1968.)

—I said I was done reading BCGF reports, and that’s mostly true, but I’d be remiss not to mention at least two more, from Robert Boyd and Rina Ayuyang, two supersmart comics people who had very different experiences.

—I am also going to steal Tom Spurgeon’s link to a story I unfortunately missed myself last week, to Tablet‘s article about Paul Reinman. Read it.

—Finally, is it necessary for someone here at TCJ.com to address the recent cosplay “controversy?” I hope not, because it’s really obvious who the cretins are in that back-and-forth, and I don’t feel like dealing with it. You don’t see a lot of cosplay related to the kinds of comics we mostly cover, anyway, though the way things to go with The Young People™, I’m sure that will change sooner than I expect. There will probably be a lot of “sexy” Tux Dog outfits at the BCGF of 2020.

 

The Well

Today we have R. Fiore on Sean Howe’s book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Fiore lived through a chunk of this story as a critic for TCJ. Here he is:

Howe’s story has four phases: (1) The Golden Eggs Are Laid, and Now They Belong to the Farmer; (2) Stan’s Not Here; (3) It’s Jim Shooter’s Universe, We Just Live in It; and (4) Strip Mining. Though the first phase is the most creative period in the history of Marvel Comics, it’s actually the least interesting part of Marvel Comics. This is in the first place because it is not Untold but told many times, and in the second place because there was actually very little human interaction. After the purge the Goodman comics operation was reduced to little more than Stan Lee in a bleak corner of the office, far from the window and close to the draft. The comics were produced by a handful of stalwart, high output freelancers led by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, who might come into the office once a week to discuss new assignments. In shifting their focus from monsters to men of steel they were, in true Magazine Management fashion, imitating a DC’s semi-successful initiative of reviving costumed characters.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a fine interview with Jim Woodring on the subject of visions.

Timothy Callahan writes about 11 comics he brought back from BCGF.

Wow, this is really gorgeous skeleton-inflected Milton Glaser work.

A very unusual story involving the cartoonist Paul Reinman. Via.

Not comics: This is a good Philip Roth fantasy.