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The Bocce Ball Boys

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got Noah Berlatsky stopping by to interview Dr. Kate Polak about her recently released book of essays examining comics of the historical fiction bent. We'll be running an excerpt from the book tomorrow that focuses on a portion of Hellblazer that I read on my honeymoon, because for some reason I wanted to bring Mike Carey's run of Hellblazer with me to the beach instead of a swimsuit. For those of you who are wondering why Noah is here--for those of you working in the Fantagraphics office, for example--him remembering my fondness for Mike Carey's Hellblazer comics and then manipulating me through that memory is in no small part. 

In your discussion of J. P. Stassen's comic Deogratias about the Rwandan genocide, you say that the comic through point of view makes it difficult to empathize with Deogratias, the main character who participated in the genocide. Is denial of empathy a denial of ethical investment? Don't we need empathy in order to have a moral commitment?

No! (laughs) No! I go a little bit into this in the book. I don't buy empathy as anything related to morality. Empathy is consonant with immorality. It has no ethical valence.

Torturers are great empathizers because they know what's going to make that person hurt the most. People who are highly manipulative are very good at empathizing because they're very good at getting into your head and figuring out how you feel about something and able to take advantage of you. That's empathy.

We like to think of empathy as this pop psychology term, where if only we felt like another person feels then we would behave differently. But I don't think that's true.

My little personal old home week continues, with a review of Nobrow's latest installment in the Geis series by Brian Nicholson. Anyone who believes that I can tell Nicholson what to think clearly doesn't know how violently I disagree with his (very wrong!) opinions about Copra though, so feel free to drink in his praise for Alexis Deacon without the slightest concern that my memory of paychecks has somehow infected this excellent review.

What a relief for the reader to take in the pages of Alexis Deacon's fantasy series Geis. Deacon is primarily a children's book illustrator, and the Geis series constitutes his first graphic novels. Here the painted color and soft pastel palette seem natural to the story's setting within the past. It feels like the light is pouring through castle windows, or supplied by candles. The relief is not just in the way the palette soothes the eye. As we see these things that never existed, we are convinced that this is how they should look. The art makes such a strong case for its aesthetic choices as to convert those who might be skeptical of subject matter of sorcery and curses, castles and kingdoms. Looking at the pages, I feel none of the revulsion I so often feel when looking at fantasy images. There are neither dragons nor elves, and there are no over-sexualized figures coexisting alongside anthropomorphic animals. Just robes and complicated hats as far as the eye can see.

ELSEWHERE: You motherfuckers into donuts? In the lead up to the launch of Andy Diggle's Shadowman #1, Valiant Comics hopes the answer is yes. If you're interested in checking out these official Shadowman donuts, you'll have to make your way to the upcoming ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting for Valiant's presentation on their upcoming titles. The donuts will be made available then, t0 all who are interested in finding out whether or not Andy Diggle is alive, and if he is, what comics he is writing. You can see an official picture (from the press release) of what the donuts will look like below. 

 

Fun Time

Today on the site, Sloane Leong is back with a second round of Comics Dragnet, gathering up webcomics and genre adventures and critiquing them with an artist's eye. One of the comics this time is The Firelight Isle:

A fantasy coming-of-age story set in a pseudo-South Asian-ish culture that follows a pair of childhood friends undergoing their first adulthood rites. It feels like I've been checking in on this webcomic for over a decade but its only been around for a handful of years in existence. Sixteen chapters have been drawn but the story doesn’t seem to have progressed beyond an unaffecting first act. I'm all for taking your time with your work but that remoteness, especially online, can take a heavy toll, both on the reader and the comic itself with the energy waning into a dull fizzle despite Firelight just hitting its first larger narrative development recently. The idea of perfection in comics is often a creative red herring, something to distract you from getting to the truth of your story. If you don’t have truth or beauty, then what is there? I don’t inherently dislike all meticulously rendered art in comics but something about succinct, vivacious, definitive linework has always translated truth and beauty better in comics than micromanaged complexity, which usually falls short of the baroque, and ends up in some awkward in-between state.

...

And Leonard Pierce is here, too, with a review of Tommi Parrish's The Lie and How We Told It.

The Lie and How We Told It draws its name from a song by Yo La Tengo, and the comparisons kept nagging at me while reading the book:  with that particular band, you were always taking a chance whether, in performance, you would get them at the height of their expressive powers or a night of feedback-drenched noise that was only enjoyable to them.  This was especially pronounced by the 2000s, when they settled into a comfortable haze of soundtrack albums and cover songs, some of them made for the film genre suitably known as mumblecore.  For those who don’t remember that particular eructation of American cinema, it mostly revolved around middle-class white people who had a very difficult time making their feelings known to one another, to the detriment of everyone else around them.  Despite it being a decidedly acquired taste, the genre has been oddly persistent and has lately turned up in quantity on second-tier television networks.

Reading through The Lie, it’s almost impossible not to notice its deeply 2000s-ish feel, and while it dresses up its relationships in the complexities of a genderqueer woman and a man in deep denial about his own conflicted sexuality, it’s still that same old story of people who spend all their time not being able to say what’s on their minds.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Paul Morton writes at length about Jules Feiffer and his editorial relationship with Hugh Hefner.

Hefner, himself an aspiring cartoonist in his youth, had wanted to make Playboy a showcase for cartooning talent comparable to The New Yorker. Still, Feiffer’s work didn’t fit with that of other artists Hefner was recruiting at the time. A typical Playboy cartoon featured an unattractive male and a cartoon version of a Playboy model. If the reader recognized himself, he recognized his imperfect body. On the one hand, the cartoons poked fun at the reader’s low physical status. On the other, they indulged his fantasies, his belief that beautiful women were a right to enjoy as much as good food, books, and music. The magazine’s bullpen in the late 1950s included Jack Cole, most famous as the creator of Plastic Man, and the Mad genius Harvey Kurtzman. Cole and Kurtzman’s lusciously colored cartoons for Playboy indulged their adolescent souls. Their work had little in common with Feiffer’s black-and-white sequential narratives, energetic dialogues, and twisting monologues.

From Hefner’s letters, it seems Feiffer was a hard get. The magazine celebrated a materialist, swinging culture that divorced aesthetics from morality. Feiffer’s work did not. Hefner assured Riley that Feiffer would not have to change his point of view. He only asked that Feiffer agree to not publish at any magazine that could be considered a Playboy competitor. He could keep his strip in the Voice. Feiffer agreed.

Brian Nicholson reviews Rich Tommaso's Spy Seal.

Rich Tommaso has been publishing comics for over twenty years, but by his own account, he never got as strong and immediate a response to his work as he did when he posted a little sketch of Spy Seal, a character he had created as a child, to social media. Fans did cosplay, animation studios offered development deals if a comic could demonstrate proof of concept. Tommaso launched the series through Image Comics, who had previously put out the crime and horror comics he had made, and pretty immediately a panic set in, as serialized installments did not actually sell that well. There was a discrepancy between the “popular demand” as the author imagined it and what the Image audience was willing and prepared to pay for. People assured him: It’s not a book for the comic shop market. It’s a comic that, when completed and in bookstores, would find its ideal audience. That book now exists, printed at the dimensions of a Tintin book, and we can now all collectively discover what it is that Spy Seal actually is: The comic is an outgrowth of a sketch, which seemed to imply a world and a tone, but how exactly do those things manifest in an actual narrative with a beginning, middle, and end?

The Onion profiles a local man who prefers comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about government-engineered agents of war.

Local man Jeremy Land reportedly voiced his preference Thursday for comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about people forced to undergo body- and mind-altering experiments that transform them into government agents of war. “I’m tired of simply trying to enjoy escapist stories in which people are tortured and experimented upon at black sites run by authoritarian governments, only to have the creators cram political messages down my throat,” said Land, 31, who added that Marvel’s recent additions of female, LGBTQ, and racially diverse characters to long-running story arcs about tyrannical regimes turning social outsiders into powerful killing machines felt like PC propaganda run amok.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Library of American Comics podcast is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library's Caitlin McGurk, and the latest guest on Inkstuds is Eric Reynolds from Fantagraphics.

 

Carved out, in the giant landscape of broken rocks

We started this week with our Mort Walker obituary, and we're closing it out with RC Harvey's Mort Walker interview from 2009. You couldn't ask for a more immersive dive into the man's life than the one Harvey took--make the time for this one, you won't regret it.

That was funny. Not so long ago, I had an exhibit at the State Department, and Colin Powell said he wanted to meet me, so Cathy and I were introduced to him in his office. He was so friendly and everything. He said, “I read your strip.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “Oh yeah. I remember when Lt. Flap came in, the first strip. The first thing he said was, ‘How come there are no blacks in this honky outfit?’” He laughed and laughed. [Harvey laughs.] So I was very flattered to know that Colin Powell had read the strip and was interested in it. So we had a good time talking about it.

That's not the only look back we've got for you, of course--it's time for your weekly dose of Tegan O'Neil. This week, she's got the latest installment of Ice Cream For Bedwetters, with a deep dive into the rarely talked about era of Green Arrow when the longtime liberal character turned into...well, something else. 

All well and good, as far as it goes. There’s no arguing that the direction was a productive one for the character, as much of it stuck to this day. The Oliver Queen on the enduringly popular Arrow TV show owes more to Grell’s version of the character, certainly, than Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams “socially conscious” version from the 60s or Jack Kirby’s sci-fi Batman interpretation from the 50s. The main difference between Green Arrow and Marvel’s Hawkeye was always that Hawkeye was a dude whose main power was bluffing, and that’s how he stands shoulder to shoulder with Thor and Captain America. Green Arrow, though, was out of place next to Superman and the Flash, and the reason why is that subsequent generations of creators told us so all the damn time. He sometimes served as the conscience for the Justice League, pointing out that they should be doing a better job by the little people they were ostensibly protecting. But you can only hector Superman for not caring about the little guy so many times before he loses his super-patience and puts you out an airlock of the satellite, because Starro’s coming over and a guy whose main power is righteous indignation is of limited utility against the fury of the Star Conqueror. 

Ah, but as we come into the weekend, let's get locked back into the future--at least for a bit. And we'll do that with Aug Stone's review of Mister Morgan, a recent graphic novel release from Conundrum by Igor Hofbauer.

Hofbauer is also a master of presenting many different psychological aspects at once. This occurs even in the shortest stories but is particularly true of the two major works in this collection, ‘Olympia’ and ‘Plastika’. Each a tour de force, these two vast worlds complement each other like shadows. Both are meditations on the interaction and interconnection between artists and their publics. And like the rest of Hofbauer’s work, what lies only millimeters beneath the already darkened surface is sinister and gruesome.

To creepy? I feel ya. Why don't you kick back and read about Andy Kaufman, who has risen from the dead in the graphic novel form, via Box Brown and First Second. Box Brown? Box Brown, indeed.

And finally, because it was interesting to find out: NPD Bookscan is going to start running four monthly graphic novel bestseller list over at ICv2, in what many--well, me, I think this--are interpreting as a bit of a response to the loss of the NYT Bestseller list that used to cover that same categories. The four lists will cover Superhero, Manga, Kids and Author, and anyone can read the charts. If you want to see the actual numbers of copies sold, you'll need a Pro Account for that. (Or you can use an NPD account and see everything, including the numbers of copies sold or not sold by people you're obsessed with out of spite.) It'll be interesting to see  the data used by people as a point of reference when writing about how the thing they like is better than the thing they think you like.

Wait, will that be interesting?

 

We’re Outrageous

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey is here with another installment of Hare Tonic, in which he looks back at the life and work of Smokey Stover creator Bill Holman.

In late 1934, Holman heard that Joseph Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News, was looking for a Sunday comic strip that would display the paper’s civic-minded support of such public servants as policemen and teachers and, in this case, firemen.

“I had sold a lot of firemen cartoons to magazines,” Holman said, “and the idea of firemen running around all over in red trucks seemed like a good gimmick to hang things on.”

Over Christmas while visiting his grandmother in Crawfordsville, Holman drew up a sample Sunday strip and when he returned to New York, he offered it to Patterson, who bought it.

“He wondered if I could keep it up,” Holman said, “and I told him confidently that I could.”

The madcap Smokey Stover debuted March 10, 1935 and continued with the Tribune-News Syndicate until Holman retired in 1973.

The title character is a fireman, and while the strip also features his boss, the fire chief Cash U. Nutt, the activities just as often involve Smokey’s wife Cookie or his son Earl or their cat with a perpetually bandaged tail, Spooky, who, for a time, starred in a companion strip of his own before joining the firehouse gang.

Holman, said comics historian Stephen Becker, “threw himself into his work with unmitigated glee,” creating such “memorable departures from rationality, verbal juxtapositions and misunderstandings, and irrepressible manglings of the English language” that he is forever revealed as “a man to whom reality is subordinate to art” (209).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Emily Wilson at The Daily Beast profiles Trina Robbins.

On the day we spoke, Robbins sat in a café across the street from her house in San Francisco, having a bagel and coffee. She had just gotten back from a Comic Convention in Argentina, where, she said, she had a wonderful time.

“I got so much love,” the 79-year-old artist said. “I never hugged more people.”

Debkumar Mitra remembers Bengali cartoonist Chandi Lahiri.

“Chandi-da was a lifelong learner,” says Debasish Deb, a famous illustrator and Lahiri’s former colleague at Ananda Bazaar Patrika. “He used to say, ‘you have to read a lot to draw political cartoons. You may know all the techniques in the world to draw cartoons, but you might still never know what political cartooning is all about.’” Deb finds that reflected throughout Lahiri’s work, often seen in the form of a severe denouncement of the political class, sometimes embracing controversy, but never compromising. From elements of the Mahabharata to the Ramayana to modern political thought, everything found a place in his huge body of work. Despite the breadth of his knowledge, Lahiri remained anchored to his roots: Bengal. There is an acute sense of “Bengaliness” in his cartoons that, perhaps as a result, did not transcend the borders of West Bengal.

Scott McCloud appeared on the popular podcast 99% Invisible.

—Reviews & Commentary.
At Artforum, Sarah Nicole Prickett writes an excellent, provocative essay on the cultural and political meanings of Wonder Woman.

Because he was unlikely for his time, it is easy to see [Wonder Woman creator William Moulton] Marston as the hero, the lightning-struck creator of a comic so rich in expression, so queer in theory that it’s as peerless today as it was unprecedented then. He was as Northern as [Margaret] Mitchell was Southern. Born and educated in Boston, he became an experimental psychologist who claimed to have invented the lie-detector test. Before the Depression, he worked as a “consulting shrink” for Universal Studios in Hollywood; after being fired, he decided that comic books, not movies, were the ultimate form of propaganda. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind landed in theaters during what Neville Chamberlain called a “lull in the operations of war.” Wonder Woman made her solo debut two years later, as the first US Army planes flew over Europe, in issue number one of Sensation Comics: “At last, in a world torn by the hatred and wars of men, appears a woman,” as if female leads in action comics had been doing anything besides, as John Berger would say, appearing.

But a superlative heroine was destined to appear sooner rather than later. Marston’s idea was one of many seeds racing toward the egg of necessity, sucked in by timing, chance, fate. The environment was fertile. Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, believed in suffrage, free love, shorter skirts, vegetarianism, and eugenics. Margaret Sanger believed in a woman’s right to make informed choices, and also in eugenics. Marston idolized Sanger. He believed, or at least once said, that the next hundred years would see the dawn of American matriarchy, and that women would use love to conquer men in a “serious sex battle” in the twenty-fifth century, a point in time conveniently far from his own. Believing religiously in suffrage, he excelled as a progenitor of so-called male feminism, the supererogatory mode of allyship practiced by men for whom “equality” means easier access, and putting a woman on a pedestal meant looking up her skirt. On hearing, from his publisher, that every comic-book heroine so far had been commercially a failure, he replied, “But they weren’t superwomen. They weren’t superior to men.” His visions of female supremacy took to the limit a bad idea, that a woman can only be a person if she’s not only human.

 

A Long Day’s Journey That Got So Tight

Today at the Journal, we've got me! Well, not really. I did get a chance to speak with Aleš Kot about their latest book with Image, Days of Hate. As I'm sitting here, post Den of Thieves, writing this little blurb, I realize I totally forgot the most obvious question one should always ask in an interview: how to pronounce the person's name! Hopefully Aleš will stop by and let us know. It's a pretty happy-go-lucky interview, and it'll take you a while to read. Check out this fun bit, which I've pulled completely out of context to entice you further!

The work has to be inclusive, which is the opposite of what the Nazis and the white supremacists want. The Nazis want a divided society against everything but the Nazi. I believe in a society united against the Nazis, united against the white supremacy. Every white person is complicit in the white supremacy. But that doesn’t mean we have to do what the white supremacy dictates or what the Nazis want. I believe we have to learn how those systems operate in us and others and then chip away at those systems with decisiveness and constancy.

And that's not all! Today, we've also got that review you're looking for: Robert Kirby on The Book Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors, a new coming-of-age memoir by Melissa Beier.

Beier goes through enough excruciating angst and existential loneliness in her long sex-and-romance drought that when she finally gets something good going, we feel a genuine sense of relief and happiness for her. With her love life finally bearing fruit, her self-esteem improves, and she locates new talents within herself, winning a MOTH story slam in spring of 2016. Like many other artists, she comes to the realization that producing work does not define a person’s worth: “even though drawing people is something I love and excel at, it’s not something I have to do to be liked.”

ELSEWHERE

While Tim got to be the lucky guy in the hot seat when the ever-so-surprising news broke that the Valiant Comics IP investment odyssey has now reached the point where one of the pursed-lips bozos pushes out his investment partners in an attempt to illustrate the sunk cost fallacy to as many people as is possible, I'll be today's guy who gets to link you to a story everybody knew was coming: and that is the news that IDW ain't doing so hot. Say it ain't so! You mean to tell me that the bookstore market isn't willing to prop up all those horribly drawn comics built around aging television properties now that the direct market has wised up to their game? Why I never would have thought that in a million years! But hey, no worries--pump out some comics about Star Trek Discovery and a Star Wars spin-off that looks like it was drawn by someone who gets drunk on roller coasters, that'll keep the lights on until the Hulu version of Locke & Key brings in millions of new readers. Nothing says mass entertainment like Hulu's slate of original programming! 

 

Shucks

Today on the site, Austin English is here with another installment of his 10 Cent Museum column. This week, by way of explaining where his aesthetic comes from, he shares many of the minicomics that are most important to its development, which includes work by a long and disparate list of cartoonists (Aidan Koch, Ben Jones, Lizz Hickey, Ted May, etc.).

Mini-comics, even the "classic" ones, often disappear. Some of the most beautiful ones are never reprinted. Many artists choose not to have their earliest work collected, seeing the flaws ever so clearly, while the reader from the past holds the work close to the heart, aware of all the undeniable beautiful moments it also so obviously contains. Those private moments have shaped so many readers who went on to make mini-comics (or regular comics) of their own. The works disappear, remaining only in the hearts and minds of a happy few, but their essence (whether aesthetic, political, formal, etc.) live on as new shapes in new works of art.

Again, everyone's zine collection is a unique assemblage of specific touchstones. It depends on what area of the world you happened to be living in, whether your co-workers happened to make zines, the various festivals you intentionally or accidentally ventured to, or what you were willing to accept artistically at different moments in your life. To me, a zine collection assembled in this way is far more priceless than one built on determining who were the most important artists of every decade and adopting a completist attitude about seeking out every self published work these artists made. That's the same as reading Tintin; it's open to everyone to do.

For this column, I went through all my zine archives and picked out dozens of publications. While there are important (to me) zines that have been left out, I've tried to cull together a group that explains where I'm coming from. Within these selections, there is work by peers, artists I admired and emulated, people in my life, publications I acquired mysteriously, zines I carried from house to house because I found them comforting, and items that have a hold over me simply due to the moment in time that I found them.

We also have a stellar must-read review of Chris Ware's Monograph written by Joe McCulloch, which is easily and far away the best piece on the book I've yet read.

Ware is frequently praised for the exactitude of his architectural drawings, or the musicality of his page layouts, but less discussed is the talent I've personally found most affecting - the way he composes books. The first comic of Ware's I'd ever read was The ACME Novelty Library #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994), which I'd elected to receive as a bonus prize after buying trade paperback compilations of Jeff Smith's Bone from a mail-order service. I was in high school, so this was the late 1990s, maybe '97. ACME #4 was the second assortment of work later compiled as Quimby the Mouse (Fantagraphics, 2003), and while the comics themselves rightly rewired a complacent brain -- I had read enough edgy and aggressive comics at that point that I was aware comics were capable of adopting impolite themes, but the idea of diagrammatic works that coaxed immense pain from the systems of life were completely foreign -- I was even more stunned by the presentation of that vast pamphlet. The method by which Ware applied a fancy and outmoded language of gaiety to bitter scenarios went beyond direct parody; there was a great deal of contextual work done to set the artifice of Ware's make-believe ACME Novelty Company (the organization ostensibly 'behind' his comics) against what I readily understood to be wildly uncommercial and very personal comics. This was not simple irony to me. This was a comic book that seemed to evoke the very history of printed entertainment, to reveal it, systemically, as first a means of forestalling the signal of human pain, and then as a means of enunciating that pain. A hellish memory palace.

When I read it, comics were in shambles. Distribution had mostly collapsed and many stores had gone out of business; I wasn't even paying attention to comics very much, they had grown so embarrassing to me as a profoundly insecure teen, but I still knew things had gone to shit. ACME read like one last song before the apocalypse, a testament to grand labor and ruined ambition as the flood waters rose to drown the stage.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DMG Entertainment has purchased Valiant, apparently believing there are some successful movies and/or TV shows to be made from it. (I'm no expert, but unless you're talking characters with strong name recognition or genuinely good or innovative stories, I don't see the point of buying things like this.)

For [CEO Dan] Mintz, Valiant occupies a valuable position in the IP field. Not only is it something with a global awareness, but it is also something that people pay for, month in and month out, and is in a “tipping point” place, making it ready for a next-level jump.

“This is something that is validated already and is on a road that has already been traveled by Marvel and DC,” he says.

The value of the deal was not disclosed and Mintz had no comment, other than to add, “You don’t step into something like this lightly. You don’t want a very expensive pet.”

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Process Party is Whit Taylor.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sam Ombiri writes about Coco Moodysson's Never Goodnight.

This comic is one of the most fun autobio comics I’ve ever read. The drawings are spectacular, it’s great that she was able to summon enough of this creative energy for every panel, and deliver consistently. Her drawings are like candy that don’t lose their sweetness when eaten too much. The drawings are simultaneously so expressive, but all done with that line that Sammy Harkham always talks about, where every drawing has the same weight to it and it doesn’t deviate.

At Print, Michael Dooley connects the dots (sorry) between artist Yayoi Kusama and the old Harvey comics character Little Dot.

“Little Dot, artist” is a theme that recurs frequently throughout her adventures, and is an ongoing source of graphic creativity for her illustrators. And as a one-dimensional girl in a two-dimensional world, the edges of her form will often vanish, blending into the background like one of those dapper figures in Ludwig Hohlwein and J.C. Leyendecker illustrations, or a Coles Phillips fadeaway girl.

Dot was widely famous, and occasionally Harvey’s top-seller, from the mid-1950s through the late-1960s. But her popularity began to fade in the 1970s, during a downtrend in which comics were no longer for kids that much. After then, her appearance became spotty, with her total disappearance in 1994. Since then, aside from being name-checked for a split-second in a 2002 Simpsons episode (start at 2:08 here), she’a faded from pop culture’s short collective memory. However, the concept of dots in endless, relentless repetition is alive and prospering in the form of avant-garde art’s latest superstar, Yayoi Kusama.

—Not Comics. Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie) is developing a video game, and raising funds via Kickstarter.

 

Sensitivity Braining

Today at the Journal, we've got Michael Dean's obituary for Mort Walker, whose passing was announced a few days ago. It's an excellent piece of writing, full of the sorts of meat that you can only get when you let an expert go long. Try this one out:

Unlike Beetle, Walker eventually got a taste of the WWII European theater. Shipped to Italy in 1945, he was put in charge of a POW camp housing ten thousand German prisoners. He found he was sympathetic toward the prisoners, who often escaped overnight and returned the next morning. “It came to me somewhere along the way that I didn’t really care if the POWs did escape,” he wrote in Backstage at the Strips. “They never did anyway. Most of them were just poor suckers like I was, waiting to go home and trying to make the best of it until they got there.” As an intelligence officer, he investigated a murder, robberies, rapes and other crimes in Italy.

I am going to be wrapping my mind around the concept of that the investigation of "murder, robberies, rapes and other crimes in Italy" be a fact that only merits one line in an obituary, simply because it turned out that was a small part of my life and not what anyone was going to know me for.

 

A Few Simple Tips

Another big day on TCJ. First, Paul Tumey writes a tribute and remembrance for Mark Campos, the Seattle minicomics artist. He also includes memories of Campos written by many of his friends in and around the comics world, including Roberta Gregory, Kelly Froh, David Lasky, Tom Hart, and many others. Whether or not you know Mark Campos's name or work, I highly recommend reading this and learning why he mattered to so many people.

Although he remained on the fringes of comics publishing, appearing almost exclusively in the small press, Mark Campos was a crucial figure in the Seattle comics scene. From the mid-1980s, he participated in various groups which included many notable comics creators, including Jim Woodring, Lynda Barry, Peter Bagge, Jason Lutes, Tom Hart, Ellen Forney, David Lasky, and Megan Kelso. As Campos himself once put it, he was a part of “the Seattle wing of the alternative comix movement.” Many Seattle creators (myself included) received warm welcomes and gentle ushering into the Seattle comics scene from the soft-voiced, kind-hearted cartoonist. Campos even worked at print shops, where he helped midwife many a comic book by others into publication.

Mark Campos possessed the talent to gain success with a much broader audience. Cartoonist Steve Willis has written, “In all my years of meeting comix artists there are two people who I consider to be master writers in the medium: Matt Groening and Mark Campos.” In his remembrance below, Willis observes that Campos was ahead of his time, a more artful creator in the Newwave Comix movement and Seattle comics scene of the 1980s and 1990s, likening Campos to “a Shakespearian actor in a Wild West boomtown.” In his chronicle of the first decades of the small press comix movement, The Minicomix Revolution 1969-1989, Bruce Chrislip wrote: “Mark Campos is among the greatest writers in comix.” David Lasky has called Campos’ comics “the hidden gems of comicdom.”

We also present the final day of this week's excellent Cartoonist's Diary by Tom McHenry.

And then Tegan O'Neil is here with a review of Rich Tommaso's Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix.

I will be completely honest, I did not intend to like Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix! That the book won me over is a testament to the skill of its creator.

Why didn’t I think I was going to like the book? Well, here’s where I make my own shameful confession that I’m sure will see me permanently blackballed from the Journal: I’m just not that big into Hergé. So when I saw the cover to Spy Seal I groaned, and although I’m not completely certain I think it was even an audible and not an internal groan. A Tintin pastiche? There are few things within the realm of comic books that hold less inherent interest for me.

Now, as the critic in this instance I think it’s only right and proper for me to frontload my prejudices. That’s part of the story, after all: right off the bat the book starts off with a demerit for me because I never read Tintin as a kid. And the problem with that is actually fairly common in comics: let’s call it the problem of secondhand nostalgia.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—RIP Mark E. Smith