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Cartoonist and comics educator Frank Santoro is back today with a column in which he reviews the new book by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons and Tim Pilcher, How Comics Work.

Don't get me wrong, I love the work of Dave Gibbons, and hold it in the highest esteem. It's just that I wish the cover wasn't a giant Green Lantern advertisement and a pitch to the elusive market of young persons who know Green Lantern from some character on a popular TV show wearing a Green Lantern shirt. I know, I know, Gibbons did a definitive Green Lantern star turn. But the cover looks like a bad Gil Kane imitation and it has the poorest design in an otherwise flawlessly designed how to draw comics compendium. The cover is my biggest gripe with this book, so I thought I would get it out of the way first. I blame the publisher for that one slip, not Mr. Gibbons. Instead of being sold as a Dave Gibbons comic book artist masterclass, it is billed as "Green Lantern will show you how comics work with his magic ring."

I guess it could have been worse. While deciding on whether I should take my own photo of the book's cover or if I should find one on the internet, I came across the alternate cover below, which isn't much better. For a book that has pages and pages of "How To Make A Comic Book Cover" chapters, this isn't promising, is it? Why are "comics people" so often befuddled on how to make a good cover for the book trade? This is worse than that "so bad, it's good" Rich Buckler "Secrets of Drawing Comics" comic book from the '80s. How about just a classy photo of the distinguished auteur at his desk surrounded by his stuff? Why does it always have to be middle-of-the-road comics crap?

And RJ Casey is back, too, with a review of Richard Short's Klaus Magazine 3.

That’s not to say anything really happens in Klaus. One widowed bird attempts to woo the cat who devoured her husband. Another cat becomes an agent of chaos and knocks down all the structures the meticulous moles have built. Horses prance in distant fields and in a duck’s vivid fantasies. But most of all, these wistful beasts just sit around and pine away the day. They simply exist, showcasing one of Short’s greatest strengths: creating comics that are gentle without ever being cloying. Klaus can be like poetry in that way.

I’m not throwing around the term “poetry” like it’s often used in art comics lingo, as a stand-in for geometric squiggles on a page. Short is obviously concerning himself with line breaks and rhythm. The latter is aided by the layout. The majority of all Klaus comics are in a stacked four-panel grid with two strips to a page. Focusing on various themes and going back and forth between different characters in Short’s strong array, reading Klaus never feels like a chore like some strip collections. Short doesn’t produce these daily and you can tell. Situations never go stale and the punchline well is never wrung dry. Each strip feels like its very own distinct vignette.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Angoulême has released its slate of nominees for this year's festival prizes.

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown at Paste talks to Leslie Stein.

I think it’s a great skill to cultivate, being in the moment, looking at what’s around you, appreciating the tiny things that we often ignore. On the cover, there are three images of the main character… [in] one she is just looking at a bumblebee and how it flies around. It’s cheesy, but I derive great pleasure from these things, especially if other things in life aren’t going as we wished they would. The world is a scary place, but it can also be a beautiful place. Just put down your rectangle and go outside.

At the Atlantic, Corby Kummer talks to Vanity Fair editor Cullen Murphy (son and collaborator of Prince Valiant artist John Cullen Murphy) about his recent memoir, Cartoon County.

Kummer: You make the cartoonists of Fairfield County—Cartoon County—sound like an enclave, almost a cult.

Murphy: It definitely was not a cult; it was nothing like that. But there were lots and lots of cartoonists around. And my parents would entertain a lot, and they would go out a lot. And the people that they would entertain would largely be other cartoonists, and their spouses. It was very much a subculture that was aware of itself at the time. You know, there were probably a hundred people who were cartoonists that we knew one way or another in that group. And they were all essentially within 30 miles of each other. People like Mort Walker, who did Beetle Bailey, and Dik Browne, who did Hägar the Horrible, and Stan Drake, who did The Heart of Juliet Jones, and Jerry Dumas, who did Sam and Silo, and Tony DiPreta, who did Joe Palooka, and Ted Shearer, who did Quincy, and Crockett Johnson, who did Barnaby and also the children’s classic Harold and the Purple Crayon. Not to mention Chuck Saxon, the great New Yorker cartoonist.

At Strange Horizons, Gautam Bhatia talks cities and science fiction with the Indian cartoonist Krish Raghav.

I have lived my life entirely in giant megacities, and the old Moscow joke about the sixth ring road being the “end of civilization” cruelly applies to the ways my thinking has been influenced. In a way, I see cities as the only grounds for imagining futures, because they necessitate change and adjustment, and particularly in Asia, are populated by those seeking change or rupture from their upbringing.

Cities overwhelm and infiltrate the senses, and create imaginations where you hadn’t thought to look. In Tokyo, the names of the city’s subway lines can accurately describe the sound of a young underground band. A “Setagaya Line” band tends towards synth-pop and catchier hooks, while a “Chuo Line” band plays dark and heavy and loose.

—Reviews & Commentary. At the New York Times, Leopoldine Core reviews the new collection of Nicole Claveloux comics from NYRC.

Claveloux’s comics encapsulate the desire to change or reinvent oneself — but also to undermine society and the absurd sense of order it imposes. Her characters are often staring out a window or into the distance off the page, beaming out of the panels that contain them. Their facial features change dramatically from one drawing to the next but never disorientingly so — through Claveloux’s inconsistencies, each story is imbued with the fluidity of perception. It’s not like the fantasies of Disney, where the brand is always front and center. Claveloux takes pleasure in violating the familiar and many of these stories sneer at the stunted, insulting rituals of capitalism. With a wry sort of joy, Claveloux conveys the spectrum contained in polarities: real and unreal, male and female, animal and human, young and old.

For the same publication, Douglas Wolk reviews a slate of new comics and related books, including How to Read Nancy, Tillie Walden's Spinning, and Ulli Lust's Voices in the Dark.

A nearly-400-page graphic memoir by a 21-year-old seems like a dicey proposition — not least because most cartoonists take years or decades to develop their voice — but Tillie Walden’s SPINNING (First Second, paper, $17.99) is an engrossing, gorgeously quiet look back at the 12 years she devoted to figure and synchronized skating. It’s also her fourth book, remarkably. Walden touches on the physical control the sport requires and on the rivalries and camaraderie of young skaters, but she’s more concerned with evoking the feeling of being a skater: the chill of early-morning wake-ups (she recalls sleeping on top of her blankets so that she’d be cold already by the time she arrived at practice), the openness above the ice in an empty rink, the long stretches of waiting punctuated by brief flashes of performance.

Animation scholar Jerry Beck also has recently published a series of reviews of new comics and related books, including the same How to Read Nancy, as well as new Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob SquarePants collections.

Our David Gerstein ‘book of the month’ this time around is the eleventh volume of the Fantagraphics’ Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse comic strip library. Just when you thought that every last scrap of rare Gottfredson art and every last thing to be told about the man and his work is said – Gerstein and crew provide even more from an apparently bottomless well. This edition covers the strip during its deepest post-war suburban-set era, with an emphasis in story lines containing fantasy/sci-fi elements of the type in vogue during the early 1950s (1951-1953 to be exact).

Finally, Sam Ombiri writes about the inimitable Carlos Gonzalez's Test Tube.

This comic feels like it’s mutating me and my reality. I wasn’t aware that a comic can wrap around my brain. It did this by using very familiar images, with unfamiliar modes of presentation that somehow mysteriously register. Carlos is bringing to attention how unfamiliar these familiar drawings are. He’s somehow simultaneously doing so much and so little to convey what objects, characters, and settings are, yet it all somehow renders so clearly. Which I guess is cartooning, but there seems to something in this system Carlos has introduced. He’s really mastered manipulating our mind at the bare minimum, but with the effort in design turned up to the maximum, to indicate at every turn of the story that something’s afoot. It also could just be satisfying at an aesthetic level. On my end it’s great to look at, but it simultaneously conveys the nature of the story.

 

All Dead In Kyoto Village

Today at The Journal, we covered the biggest recent hire in comics--and no, it's not the guy who still hasn't learned how to use the buttons on his shirt. It's the story of Zainab Akhtar, the influential comics critic and Shortbox publisher, who has recently taken a role with Swedish comics publisher Peow.

Zainab, were you actively looking to take on some kind of editorial role outside of your work with Shortbox? 

Zainab Akhtar: No. But that was more from giving up on being approached by someone. I know what I can do and my abilities and limitations, but no-one has ever reached out to me to edit comics or for any kind of role within the making of comics side.

And you were looking for that kind of role.

Zainab Akhtar: I guess I had maybe harboured an idea that someone (within comics) would hire me to work as an editor. I don't want to say hoped, because that's too strong a word; i never really believed it would happen, when you look at the viable companies out there in terms of who'd be in a position to pay, and who would fit in terms the 'eye' I have, I don't think there's anybody with whom I match up, and I'm not very compromising. Working for Peow genuinely feels like one of those 'if you wait it will come' situations, though. Specifically in terms of fit. I feel we're all familiar with what we each to do, our tastes, and that we're on the same page as to what we we're trying to achieve.

ELSEWHERE

News. The Mary Sue collects the most recent developments in the ongoing oddness surrounding the cancellation of one of IDW's GI Joe related mini-series, which seems to have been the result of right-wing harassment campaign. It's not the easiest story to parse, in part because it involves IDW bizarrely responding via email to a fan with way more information and venom than is remotely necessary. 

The terribleness of the American healthcare system isn't news, but that's still where I'm choosing to spotlight this piece that recently appeared on Bleeding Cool, titled "When A Monthly Batman Artist Can't Afford Healthcare". It's a Facebook post by DC freelancer David Hahn that gets specific about the financial difficulties inherent in being a mid-tier artist at the Big Two.

I don’t write all this for sympathy or “woe is me.” I know that I am a white, male, American, and that affords me advantages, yes, so I’d like to curtail anyone pointing that out to me. I know there will always be someone, somewhere, worse off, no matter who you are. My point of all this is because I am realizing that I am the vanishing middle class. I never really thought much about what that meant until the past few years.

This Cebulski thing is a bottomless pit. Here's the part where they were able to find one good solider to come on board and defend the guy, which they accomplished by bringing up the awe-inspiring cultural sensitivity of another white guy who worked at Marvel. 

Reviews & Sundry. Being out of touch with which cartoons are actually worth watching also means you're screwed at figuring out which cartoon comic book spin-offs are worth reading, which is what makes reviews like this one of Over the Garden Wall, by Melissa Brinks, so worthwhile. Detailed, insightful and informative. 

 

Oops

It's a double dose of Mark Newgarden this week, as he returns with an interview with his longtime friend, Drew Friedman. Friedman has a new collection of caricatures out, Chosen People, and is doing a signing in Los Angeles this Friday.

I have absolutely no memory of having said that [I planned to become a producer] but I probably did over multiple beers and Chinese food in Chinatown. I suppose I envisioned myself as the next George Jessel or Max Bialystock? Back then we bounced a lot of interesting future plans back and forth. Didn’t we discuss starting an agency to book comedians for funerals?

I know there was a time before we met at SVA that I resisted becoming a cartoonist or illustrator, and considered a career in stand-up comedy. But like Pacino in The Godfather Part III, it was inevitable, I was sucked back in. I have no regrets about not entering show business. I was witness to what my dad went through over the years in Hollywood and although he’s had great success in his career, things could also get very demoralizing for him. But he had a knack for bouncing back which is what you need to survive, I don’t know if I could have.

I’m a contented misanthrope; I like the life of a solitary artist, emerging from my undisclosed underground bunker from time to time to promote a new book. And I’ve gotten enough of a show biz fix by having greats like Abe Vigoda, Joe Franklin, or Larry Storch on hand to help celebrate my latest releases.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Incoming Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski kicked off the most ridiculous first week on the job imaginable by confessing to Bleeding Cool that over a decade ago, while working as an associate editor at the company, he also sold comic scripts to the company under the false identity of Japanese mangaka "Akira Yoshida." (Cebulski is a white American who lived for a time in Japan.) Cebulski had developed a complicated backstory for Yoshida, and even once gave an interview in character to Comic Book Resources. The statement Cebulski gave to Bleeding Cool is, in the grand Marvel tradition, empty and upbeat.

I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year. It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then. But this is all old news that has been dealt with, and now as Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief, I’m turning a new page and am excited to start sharing all my Marvel experiences with up and coming talent around the globe.

The response online has been predictably and understandably harsh, and the story has migrated from fannish comics sites to mainstream media outlets such as Vulture, The Guardian, and The Hollywood Reporter (in a piece written by Graeme "Fanboy Rampage" McMillan, no less).

—Interviews & Profiles. Meg Lemke talks to Gene Luen Yang about diversity in books and his work as a reading ambassador.

So, I would never tell a writer that they cannot write outside of their experience. I almost think that it’s the defining job of a writer to be able to go outside of their own experience.

But I would say: don’t let that fear that you feel allow you to stop writing the story you want to write. You should let that fear drive you to do homework. You should let that fear drive you to humility. Approaching experiences that aren’t your own with a certain humility.

Alex Dueben spoke to GG:

I spend a lot of time laying in bed thinking about and playing out scenarios in my mind and then I go to my computer and start trying to put some of those scenes on the page. I work all digital now because it gives me much more flexibility to move stuff around. Like I mentioned above, the writing and drawing happens together and it’s just a process of redrawing things that don’t work. It’s not very efficient. Sometimes I’ll get to the middle of a story and have to throw everything out and start over again because I went down bad path. Again, it’s very intuitive – sort of an “I’ll recognize it when I see it” kind of approach.

And he spoke to Sophie Goldstein:

When I was at the Center for Cartoon Studies we had Paul Pope come as a visiting artist and one of the things he said really stuck with me—that he writes stories to give himself stuff that he wants to draw. Which may seem super-obvious, but that just blew my mind. I was like, I am never writing another script with a car again. [laughs] Which I haven’t actually stuck to, but I definitely think that fed into House of Women. I love science fiction, but I like drawing natural environments, not machines, and so House of Women takes place on a planet that’s essentially a jungle.

There were a lot of choices made in House of Women that were about giving me things that I wanted to draw.

The latest guest on Process Party is Sarah Glidden, and the most recent on Comics Alternative is Tim Lane.

 

A Poor Man’s Stone Temple Pilots

What we do in life echoes in eternity, so prepare for your eternity to echo with Matt Seneca's extensive review of Antoine Cossé's Showtime, which we excerpted here at The Journal just a few weeks ago. Here's the part of Matt's review where he distills a 176 page graphic novel into a bunch of seemingly contradictory influences in a way that makes those of us who are no longer jealous of him kiss our fingers like we just baked the perfect pizza pie.

Rather, it scans like a take on Yuichi Yokoyama's Travel reinterpreted through the hyperactive, goofball Continental sensibility of Olivier Schrauwen. Or maybe an issue of a Golden Age super-mystic comic like Dr. Fate crossed with the post-Tarantino sensibility of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. There's a lot going on here, in short, but through it all Cosse levitates comfortably above his influences and contemporaries to produce a work that feels like it could come only from him. 

Bonus points to those of you who understand his sports references without looking them up: i'm not a real man!

Elsewhere!

News. Kate Beaton's crowdfunding site for her sister's cancer treatment has hit its initial target and is now looking for further help with the intention of pursuing a cure in the United States. Kate has set up a Flickr page to better showcase the excellent and moving comics she's been putting together, collecting and pairing with family photos--I linked to this once, and am linking to it again. Moving, funny, peerless.

Interviews & Profiles. Jason Shiga stops by the Multiversity website to talk about Demon on the Comics Syllabus podcast. Shiga's a smart, funny creator and Demon is the second best graphic novel First Second has published (their best is Gus & His Gang)--this is a no brainer.

Reviews & Sundry. It's list season, so head on over to The Globe & Mail to check out Sean Roger's picks for best graphic novels of the year. For some dumb reason, Sean's editors label his picks as "Sean Roger's Favorite Comics" instead of just calling them the Best of the Year, which is the language they use for most of the other sections. 

Over at Kirkus, they've posted the one graphic novel list they will bother to come up with. In keeping with Kirkus tradition, it's the middle grade list, as the kids division of Kirkus is the only one aware that comics are still regularly published for human consumption.

At Sequential State, Alex Hoffman reckons with the difficulties inherent in publishing collections of long-running webcomics. While he uses a Star Wars example to make a point about comics--as close to a dealbreaker as it gets--that's just an editorial problem, sort of like the one he blames for a perceived rise of disappointing graphic novels.

Artists collecting their own work for Kickstarter may not have that kind of funding or institutional support, but it’s incumbent on any publisher printing these books to make these editorial decisions.  There are a lot of fine comics out there that could be good or great with an editor. And, let’s be frank. It’s clear that these are editorial considerations that are not happening, because M.F.K. vol. 1 exists as a book as it currently stands.

I went looking for reviews of the most recent issue of Savage Dragon, the long-running Image series that long ago became one of the oddest things Image publishes, after hearing from various retailers about the explicit depictions of sex that took place in the comic. Considering how far back that particular fetish of creator Erik Larsen goes, I didn't think that there would be much to it--but I suppose featuring enough sperm to fill an aquarium is worth some kind of prize. Most reviews seemed to take the story at face value, reckoning as much with the comic's XXX related content as with the weird meta-commentary within the story about its other narrative choice, which was the return of a character not seen since a Santa Claus related issue published back when the comic was in the double digits.

Generally speaking, I don't think you could really call the comic bad, but I do think you could dismiss it as such as an easy way to avoid the extraordinary weirdness of it--this being a comic where the creator decided to up the pornographic content as a test of his readers patience modeled on what he remembered Dave Sim having done in old issues of Cerberus, while defending himself in the letters page against Trump supporters furious with him for his depiction of their beloved President in previous issues, set during a story arc where the main character has been forced to move to Canada following the election, a Canada Larsen has decided will be depicted more realistically than the way he has spent the last couple of decades depicting Chicago. 

Oh, and the sex is, in part, motivated in part because the character finally got a vasectomy. There's a lot more information about said vasectomy, and the realistic implications, at the link above. Get your freak on, Larsen.

 

No Thought to Our Interests

Welcome back to the site. Today we've got a short excerpt from Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's How to Read Nancy, the book my old co-editor Dan called the best book ever written on comics. I've read it now myself, and agree that it's at least the best book on comics I've personally read. As many of you probably already know, the book examines comics through the lens of one particular Ernie Bushmiller comic strip, broken down and analyzed from 44 different angles. There are also more than a dozen appendices in which they explore various contextual issues, and our excerpt today is Appendix 2, in which they focus primarily on the contingencies of publishing: paper stock, newspaper layouts, coloring, etc.

Compared to the images presented throughout this book, this version of the strip may look a little different. But it is essentially what most readers on August 8, 1959, saw when they scanned the comics page that morning. The drab, sour hue of cheap newsprint is a far cry from the crisp white paper that you hold in your hands. Made from coarse wood pulp (the entire log, bark and all, is utilized in its manufacture), newsprint absorbs printer’s ink like a thirsty sponge and the results stand in dramatic contrast to the printer’s ink that forms the letters of this sentence, which sits upon the surface of the slick coated stock so handsomely.

The strip above is neither quite black nor white (as the photostat camera saw Bushmiller’s Higgins ink lines on fresh three-ply Strathmore) but a combination of gray newsprint (soon cream, then yellow, now dun), imperfect ink coverage, and lurking phantom grays — the visual artifacts of the soaked-in mystery images on the reverse side of the thin newsprint sheet. Paper itself is evocative, and the varieties and grades used in the printing trade can affect the reader’s preconceptions, the reading itself, and the memory of that reading as well. Printed newsprint, in particular, carries a distinctive tactility and unique scent and, when especially well inked, may not completely dry for many years.

Typical mid-twentieth-century newspaper technology may have produced a daily record that was dependably legible, but never one that was particularly definitive when it came to reproducing photos of NASA space monkeys, ads for the brand-new Bic ballpoint pen — or comic strips. Nor was it ever expected to be. Yesterday’s newspaper has been synonymous with today’s toilet paper since the invention of the daily press. In comparison, twenty-first-century technology delivers imagery that is so pixel-accurate that it is not to be believed. So don’t believe it. In full disclosure, even the version of the strip presented in this book has been compromised. With the whereabouts of the original artwork for August 8, 1959’s Nancy currently unknown and no extant proof sheet available, we began our production work with the best available source material: a 1960 paperback reprint on a paper grade only slightly better than newsprint (see illustration above).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. BuzzFeed has reported that five more women have come forward with accusations of misconduct by former DC editor Eddie Berganza.

The new accusations against Eddie Berganza, 53, follow a BuzzFeed News story that detailed how the company failed to discipline him, and even promoted him to executive editor, after a 2010 complaint to human resources. Berganza eventually was demoted in 2012 following allegations that he had forcibly kissed a woman at a comic convention that year. DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., fired him on Nov. 13 after the BuzzFeed News story appeared.

But now five more women have told BuzzFeed News about their own experiences with Berganza. One says he forcibly kissed her, something he’d previously been accused of doing to a different woman in the 2010 complaint, and to the other one in 2012. Others now coming forward allege inappropriate touching, and one says Berganza told her she was "too pretty" to be interesting. If DC Comics had acted earlier to rein Berganza in, the women say, they might have been spared harassment and felt more comfortable pursuing careers at major comic publishers.

Nobuhiro Watsuki, best known for the Rurouni Kenshin manga series, was arrested by Tokyo police last week for possession of child pornography.

His charge is violation of the law against child prostitution and child pornography, and the police has sent the case to the public prosecutor's office.

According to the police investigation, Watsuki possessed several DVDs that included footage of naked girls in their early teens at his office in Tokyo in October. He has already admitted the charge and said, "I liked girls in the higher grades of elementary school to the second grade of junior high." During the investigation for another child pornography crime, the police learned that Watsuki purchased some DVDs of early teen girls. Then its youth guidance division searched his house and found about 100 child pornography DVDs.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Chris Hassan has interviewed the infamous former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter about the current state of superhero comics.

Comics is completely unlike magazine publishing. It’s unlike book publishing. Comics have more in common with single malt scotch than they do with other kinds of publishing because it’s a relationship. It’s a relationship marketing business. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spider-Man next month. I didn’t give a damn if the cover was foil-embossed–because it wasn’t. It’s all about them loving Spider-Man, the character of Spider-Man, wanting to know what’s going on with Spider-Man. If they miss an issue and they don’t care, you lost. So you have to understand, you’re building a relationship. Stan took it a step farther and created a relationship between the creators. Everyone felt Stan was their friend. Kids would send him childish confessions. “Am I a bad person because I did this or that.” When they’re involved, you win. When they’re not, I don’t care how many foil-embossed covers there are.

The latest guest on RiYL is Nicole Georges.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the Chicago Tribune, Michael Tisserand has reviewed Glenn Bray and Frank Young's book on Art Young, To Laugh That We May Not Weep.

Among the lesser-known outcomes of the trial of the eight suspects in Chicago’s Haymarket riots: How it helped launch one of our great cartoonists.

When the notorious trial got underway in June 1886, seated with the press was Art Young, then a 20-year-old illustrator originally from Orangeville, Ill. Young, assigned to cover the event for the Chicago Evening Mail, grabbed a chair at a table with other court reporters, near the defense attorneys. He sketched the proceedings and then hurried to the Evening Mail offices to engrave his lines onto chalk plates, which would be used for reproducing the images in the paper. His work received enough notice for him to move over to the Daily News. Then he landed a $50-per-week stint at the Chicago Tribune.

Young was enthusiastic about the move, later noting that the Tribune had installed an elevator and the Daily News had not. However, Young was soon dismissed by editor Robert Patterson. He never knew exactly why. “I have never asked an editor why he didn’t want my work; it would have been too much like asking a woman why she didn’t love me,” he later explained in his memoir.

Ray Davis writes about Eddie Campbell and The Lovely, Horrible Stuff.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff was published in 2012. Following on the full-color mysteries of The Fate of the Artist and the house-museum of Alec: The Years Have Pants, odd looking and oddly structured, marketed as a book "about money" but disconcertingly apolitical, it was, to reappropriate Jonathan Lethem's phrase, "very quietly received."

That doesn't mean it didn't land an impact here and there. It just meant landing in a soft place.

And now aw shit.

* * *

I have a similar soft spot for 1993's Graffiti Kitchen. After a decade of charming groove, Graffiti Kitchen was a "departure," as the critics say. The King Canute Crowd's scrappy Zip-a-Tone vanished along with grins, pratfalls, and pubbish inconsequence. Instead, Campbell scratched the page till it bled.

The departure was permanent. Starting with his next personal work, Campbell changed "Alec"'s genre, marital status, profession, homeland, and (before long) name. That new groove spooled over the next two decades and there at the end of the spool lies The Lovely Horrible Stuff.

 

There Is No Shortcut

Today at the Journal, we've got a look at Nobrow's latest volume of Geis, by Alexis Deacon. It'll be out in December--keep an eye out for an upcoming review. Like many of you, The Comics Journal will be taking Thursday and Friday off because we're still legally allowed to do so. On with the news!

ELSEWHERE

News. Sheila Barry, the publisher of Groundwood Books died of cancer last weekGroundwood is a Canadian publisher of exceptional children's books, as well as the award winning graphic novel work by Isabelle Arsenault--Jane, the Fox and Me is the one everybody knows (rightfully so, as it was selected as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book), but for my money, you can't do much better than Louis Undercover, a tremendous and affecting story about two young children grappling with their estranged father's alcoholism. I had the honor of sitting alongside Sheila on an ALA panel last year, and found her to be an inspiring advocate for graphic novels, illustration, and the artists who create them. Her passing is an irreplaceable loss.

Over at Hyperallergic, Jessica Campbell delivered a somewhat scattered (by design, I'd argue) comic about how she is responding to the daily revelations of sexual harassment and assault by men in power. It's a shotgun blast of emotion, but I'd bet that Campbell knows exactly what she is doing. 

We haven't talked about most of the Mark Millar related news that has been released over the last month, but I found the news that Kick-Ass--which is probably the most successful comic book published by Icon, the creator-owned Marvel Comics imprint that was expressly designed to keep big name writers from abandoning Marvel entirely--will now be published by the very publisher that Icon existed to keep them away from: Image Comics. Thankfully, Marvel has already figured out how to win back fans and creators: by imitating Marvel movies. 
Post-credit scenes, y'all!

Interviews & Profiles

This interview with Conor Stechschulte gets in deep, which is the best kind of interview. It was published in the lead up to his show in Italy, which is--well. Do you have a show in Italy? I don't!

I was wondering when someone was going to realize that the comics community didn't have their own version of Marie Forleo, those vaguely benevolent parasites who help maintain the power structure of teacher/student in the fallow years of a freelance lifestyle, apparently Jessica Abel was too, as she has taken on the role. Here's her take on how to fix your life, an interview done in part to promote a book of the same name.

If you clicked on the Mutha link above, hopefully you stayed there to catch up with this Gene Yang interview where he gets into his Reading Without Walls program. It's a worthy enterprise, and as Yang is someone who gets shit done, over and over again, it's always nice to get on board a success early.

Reviews & Sundry

The New York Times recommended eleven books this week, one of them the latest children's graphic novel by Argentinian super-star Liniers, another being the newest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. As the father of a small child and an avid fan of Reacher, I'm a fan of this list; as a fellow editor, I have no idea who else this list could possibly be for. Another list worth checking out is this NYPL one--there's a few graphic novels on there, but there should be more.

NPR on Body Music. I like to watch generalist publications grapple with books they clearly don't like, but want to find a way to praise nonetheless.

This isn't comics, but one of my favorite series on the internet is the ongoing "Movie Poster of the Week" column at Mubi. The latest installment takes a look at the way artists from around the world responded to Dreyer's classic Passion of Joan of Arc. It's such a simple, basic fascination--they had to interpret the movie or the idea of the movie, with an eye towards compelling an audience in their native lands to go see the movie. A problem, an art object and an audience--here's a list of the various solutions different artists came up with. Uniformity of design for ease of worldwide consumption is boring, stupid and yet may be unavoidable: but at least we can still look back and see individual vision in the recent past. 

Have a great holiday!

 

Color Wheel

Today on the site, Brian Nicholson reviews the latest from Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët, Satania.

The standard progression of horror stories, in which events become worse and worse, is often described as "a descent into hell." Such a descent is the literal plot of Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët's Satania. Kerascoët, a pseudonym for a married couple working collaboratively, have a style that betrays no surface ugliness, and so does not hint at the horror to come. They recently illustrated a children's book written by Malala. Their work is friendly and welcoming, bright with color. Through the lens they provide, it is easy enough to interpret what is happening as a fantasy narrative, a story of exploration, in which dangers might bring harm to peripheral characters, but will not make too caustic an impression upon the psyche of the reader.

Readers of Vehlmann and Kerascoët's previous collaboration Beautiful Darkness might be more prepared. There were a number of them; that book was a hit. Kerascoët's work is, as the book's title stated, beautiful. It functions typically, with cartooned characters moving inside of more realistic backgrounds. However, the linework on the figures remains lively, sketched out and improvisational, in a way found more often in the energy of storyboards than the labored-over end result most cartoonists working in an animation-derived style employ. The watercolors they employ then adds to the texture that defines the backgrounds' detail and keeps up with the spontaneity of the characters' acting. The cumulative effect grants a sense of depth to these worlds, and the darker aspects of Vehlmann's scripting do not subvert Kerascoët's skill set so much as excavate it. Beyond the foregrounded elements, another form of life is breathing, and there is a deeper meaning in play beyond the surface pleasures.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Gabriele di Fazio talks to Conor Stechschulte.

At the risk of over-explaining and squeezing out better and more interesting interpretations, I’d say that The Amateurs is an attempt to lampoon, ridicule and take apart (literally, haha) the idea of self-reliant, non-relational masculinity – the man who has all the answers. This is the character that Jim and Winston try to perform for the women in the book.

A huge influence on The Amateurs was the book Flesh of my Flesh by Kaja Silverman. She argues for replacing the Oedipus myth with the Orpheus myth with regards to gender – a story based on mortality rather than castration. She says our mortality allows us to relate to one another analogously, through our resemblances rather than metaphorically which always presumes a hierarchy. I was trying for a lot of these ideas and borrowed imagery from the Orpheus myth (i.e. the head washed up on the shore).

The most recent guest on RiYL is Trina Robbins.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ernie Bushmiller skeptic Thad Komorowski gives Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's How to Read Nancy a positive review.

How to Read Nancy will inevitably be an important college text: its writing is engaging but never fannish, and breaks down the concepts of visual storytelling in a manner that will not turn off the average reader or student. I can easily see this becoming an alternative to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics in many curriculums. That book has its virtues and will always be valuable, but I always thought it an awful idea for McCloud to do it as an actual comic book. Newgarden and Karasik lavishly illustrate the history and their thesis, and also understand that concepts need to be explained in words without distracting the reader with the authors’ own creative concept.

Caleb Orecchio revisits some of the coloring work Françoise Mouly did for Marvel in the '70s.

What a pleasant surprise to find her in the pages of some of my favorite, dumb back-issues. This is half the reason I love old newsprint comics, you never know what combination of creators you will find, and what the results will be. Françoise Mouly colors?! What a treat.

I like how she considered tone and value. Something that wasn’t necessarily regarded often within the machine of newsprint boy’s-adventure comics. I assume this was merely a “job” to her on a freelance basis; and the years that she worked being ’78 and ’79, I can’t help but muse that the capital for publishing RAW (first published in 1980) was acquired through Marvel paychecks. Though this may not (probably not) be strictly true, I emit an evil laugh when I consider this. Water into wine. Mwahahaha!

Finally, TCJ's own Joe McCulloch and Tucker Stone discuss CAB and comics with Tucker's four-year-old daughter.

 

The Fever of The Werewolf

It's time to welcome our newest columnist to the fold--Austin English is back, and with him is his column, 10 Cent Museum! Austin is a cartoonist living in New York, whose most recent book, Gulag Casual, was published in 2016 by 2d Cloud. He is currently at work on a follow up book, Meskin and Umezo, which will appear in 2019. He runs the publishing house Domino Books and has written for the Journal since 2001. His first column is on Feininger, the language of cartooning, and how being addicted to one language might just turn you into a singular, blinkered clown

ELSEWHERE

News. It was announced last week that CB Cebulski--a man who allegedly used social media to instruct wanna-be artists to bring Five Guys with them during NYCC portfolio submissions--would be taking over the role of Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics, following the mutual decision between Axel Alonso and Marvel that Axel should go somewhere else, forever. Cebulski's biggest legacy up to this point (besides calling himself a "foodie") is that he was one of the guys who figured out that, thanks to the spread of high speed internet, super-hero publishers could start hiring non-American artists at poverty level wages. (He was also had the wisdom to be alive and near the room where Brian K. Vaughan delivered Runaways, which was a comic you used to have to read, but will soon be able to watch on television, thank God.) Whether or not Cebulski's vast knowledge of places to order ramen noodles will help Marvel regain the luster it once had is a question no one has an answer to yet, but then again: who cares?

Reviews & Sundry. The Washington Post published Michael Cavna's list of the Best Graphic Novels of 2017He fell for Tom King's obvious attempt at virtue signaling, but Gabrielle Bell is on there too, so no big deal--we all have our blind spots. If I had to make one of these--wait, do I?--I'd probably include some of these books as well.

How many reviews of Henry King are there? Not enough for my taste. Comicsverse liked the book fine, rating it both with a 95% and the term "Morbid Fascination". I wonder what they would have said if the book got a 90%!