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Bubbling Up

And today we take a brief break from our ongoing Building Stories fest to offer something a little different, Brandon Soderberg’s interview with Josh Simmons, creator of one of 2012′s most underappreciated books, The Furry Trap, who’s now also a filmmaker. Here’s one exchange:

SODERBERG: Let’s talk about sequencing the stories in The Furry Trap. It seems like the main stories are organized so that each one is darker than the previous one. It says a lot that “In A Land Of Magic” – which depicts a wizard neck-fucked by a rage-filled knight – is the most humorous, but I do feel like each story moves readers into a harsher world.

SIMMONS: Overall, the stories do get less funny, and less fantasy-based. The most obvious way to see this is to compare the first story to the last. “Magic” is the most cartoonishly drawn, it’s brightly colored, and obviously fantastic in its subject matter. With “Demonwood”, I tried to do a naturalistic strip in terms of the drawing, the characters, the coloring, and even, the supernatural elements. At the same time however, the stories also generally, become less graphic. The idea of leaving the worst of it up to the reader’s imagination works not just in individual stories, but in the final story in relation to the rest of the book. “Demonwood” shows no sex or violence at all. Yet, what is going to happen is described very clearly, and it is maybe the harshest story of all.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Fast Company talks to Scott McCloud about how the ideas he laid out in Understanding Comics relate to, uh, business leadership. I am allergic to this kind of talk, and am thus unable to tell you anything useful about it except that it exists.

—The cartoonist and publisher Tom Kaczynski is profiled by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Uncivilized Books is one of the most intriguing small and relatively new companies out there.

—According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. has just won a major ruling in the ongoing Superman rights case. This will likely head to appeal.

—Missed this Editor & Publisher interview with Richard Thompson earlier this week about the end of Cul de Sac.

—If I lived in Cleveland, I’d get this new library card.

—WFMU’s Benjamen Walker paid Gary Panter a studio visit.

—Finally, Joe Procopio sent me an e-mail about a guest post at Today’s Inspiration he wrote about “the lost art” of Heinrich Kley, and I’m glad he did.

 

Beach Bully

Well now here’s some more Chris Ware for you. The latest in our series, this one by Matt Godbey covering the implications for urban life in Building Stories.

Today, more than ever, cities are defined by a near constant sense flux which has the effect of leaving us feeling disoriented and overcome by a flood nostalgic memories, both real and imagined, for cities as they used to exist and the lives we lived in those past iterations. In the face of the provisional nature of the urban experience, buildings offer at least the possibility of order and structure, no matter how messy the lives of the inhabitants they contain.

Ware assembles Building Stories as the literal embodiment of this messiness, self-consciously subverting linear narrative conventions in the box’s structure in order to reflect and shape the stories told inside. Throughout the strips, time constantly shifts and circles back on itself, which parallels the circuitous nature of time in our daily lives.

And TCJ-columnist Craig Fischer spoke to the artist himself and comes to us with a report on that encounter and how it affected his perception of the publication.

Building Stories taxes our abilities to build a tight story out of its discourse fragments. If you begin the book by reading one of the “Branford Bee” pamphlets, for instance, and then read the volume designed as a children’s Little Golden Book, you’ll be hard-pressed to see connections between the two. You’ll have to wait until you stumble across the panel in yet another piece of Building Stories that indicates that “Branford Bee” is a bedtime story that the central protagonist sometimes reads to her daughter. Yet even though this information places “Branford Bee” in the same world as the human characters, it doesn’t tell us the order in which we should read “Bee” in relation to the main narrative. I suspect that no matter how much I analyze Building Stories, some challenges and ambiguities will remain.

Elsewhere (old comics and no comics):

D&Q goes Rookie in NYC. I missed these parties and now I have to live with my regrets.

-Oh that Turok!

-Some nice and weird early Jack Cole comics here.

-Jog has a great story about Jesus. Of course.

Waaaay off topic, let’s take a moment and look at some moments in this Bob Montana 1963 Archie Sunday.

Look at Veronica’s swim cap. What a wonderful rubber pattern. Check out the porcupine-like hair on the bully. And then look at how the bottom tier builds to a (classic) crowd scene and the comes down with a gag. Woof. Great workman-like cartooning.

 

The Linchpin

As on every Tuesday, Joe McCulloch has This Week in Comics!, your annotated list of the most interesting new comics being released this week.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—The Building Stories juggernaut is rolling along. Here’s Paul Gravett’s review, here’s a critical back-and-forth at A.V. Club between Noel Murray and Tasha Robinson, and here’s a short Q&A Chris Ware gave to the Guardian. (I have a feeling they were more careful with editing Ware after what happened to Dan Clowes.)

—The Guardian also has an interesting interview with Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group, regarding Sweden’s controversial recent decision to reshelve some Tintin books due to racist elements.

—The great manga blog Same Hat is back after a way-too-long absence, with scanned images from a 1971 issue of Concerned Theatre Journal, packed with underground Japanese comics, and arguably the first manga translated into English. It includes the legendary Yoshiharu Tsuge story that would later be retitled “Screw-Style.” Same Hat also thoughtfully provides a complete pdf of the issue for free download!

Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson underwent brain surgery over the weekend, and convinced his doctor to let him draw during the procedure. Thompson explains over here.

—Laura Siegel Larson, daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, has released an open letter regarding her family’s longtime battle with Warner Bros./DC over the rights and profits due from Superman, and talks specifically about allegations made against attorney Marc Toberoff.

—Sean Howe, occasional TCJ contributor and author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, is interviewed about his book by Salon.

—Drew Friedman is selling prints of Al Jaffee.

—And finally, another of the SPX panel videos has been released. This time, it’s Sammy Harkham, interviewed by your co-editor, Dan.

 

Moat

Today on the site we have the next Building Stories essay, this time by series editor David Ball:

How does this concentrated exploration of failure shape our understanding of these artists’ accomplishments, as well as their relationship to their own work? What Ware holds in common with these and other literary antecedents is the conviction that failure is a creative and generative force in artistic production, that it allows us a lens through which to discover human narratives that resist our peculiarly American insistence on success at all costs (viz. Ware’s rejected Fortune cover, one of the most pointed critiques of the global financial mess we continue to inhabit). Before him, Melville famously wrote that “failure is the true test of greatness,” and Faulkner claimed that he would be judged ultimately on “his splendid failure to do the impossible.” Ware’s rhetoric of failure, I argued in 2010, was an explicit look backward to these earlier, literary claims of productive failure; indeed, he cited the essay from which Melville talked about failure as the true test of greatness when composing his thumbnail history of literature for the cover of a VQR special issue titled “Writers on Writers.” Such failures might be more profitably read as the laments of literary experimentalists straining to break with artistic convention, the protests of those not inured to the ethical disorientation of America’s economic determinists and free-market fundamentalists, or the chronicles of a human condition straining against the inevitable cliff’s edge of mortality. Failure, these artists remind us, is what drives our stories, defines our ambitions, makes us most keenly human.

And elsewhere it’s an orgy of interviews. We have your “Quotable Chris Ware” at The New Yorker and your “Rock Star” cartoonist Adrian Tomine at the LAist.

Jim Rugg brings us Matt Furie via Jim’s podcast, while Tom Spurgeon does one of his nifty page-by-page interviews with The Carter Family’s David Lasky and Frank M. Young. And finally, here’s a good interview with longtime Marvel man Chris Claremont.

 

Suggested Reading Order

Our Building Stories celebration continues with another contribution from our David Ball-organized team of authors. Today’s essay comes from Daniel Worden. Here’s an excerpt:

Building Stories finds a curious paradox embedded within loss. In one large, newspaper-sized component of the text, “loss” describes both the death of a close friend, and the triumph of shedding a few pounds; one of these losses is tragic, the other desired. This duality gives Building Stories a complexity that is rare and profound. Loss in Building Stories is a condition of life, yet it is never complete. That is, no matter who dies or what is removed, every loss leaves behind a remainder in Ware’s world. This is perhaps most visible in Building Stories’ female protagonist, who loses the lower half of her leg as a child in a boating accident. While the leg is gone, it remains as an absence on the three inter-related large drawings of the protagonist’s body in a hardback book within Building Stories. The reader cannot help but notice the leg as absence, and the absence registers, itself, as a presence, a marker of individuality. What is lost, remains.

Rob Clough’s High-Low column is back, too, with an enormous spotlight on several relatively new (or recently revived) small press publishers, including Koyama Press, Hic & Hoc, Conundrum Press, 2D Cloud, and Alternative Comics.

Tucker Stone had to call in sick with his column this morning, unfortunately, but if it’s Tucker you want, you can always check in with the weekly podcast he does with fellow Journal regulars Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, and Matt Seneca. Last week, they devoted most of an episode to Love & Rockets, and Tucker made a point about Jaime Hernandez’s comics in particular that is often obscured: it doesn’t really matter what order you read them in. Partly this is due to the way the stories skip back and forth in time, but primarily it’s because of the way Jaime tells his stories: even if you read every comic and story he’s written in order of its publication, you’re still going to feel like you’re missing some of the backstory, because a lot of it still has never been revealed. Even when he introduces brand new characters, such as Tonta in the latest issue, he usually starts in media res, and it can feel as if you’ve joined the story after a long series of chapters have already been missed. Strangely, this replication of the effect you can get from reading old contextless comic books is also one of the most “realistic” aspects of Jaime’s comics.

It’s not that far off from what Ware’s doing with Building Stories, actually, and speaking of correct “reading orders,” Joe McCulloch has decided to suggest his own for that book. I haven’t gone through his suggestion carefully to see how it works, so I’m probably wrong, but I’d suggest reading it in any order you want, then going back and doing it Joe’s way the second time around. Part of the fun of Building Stories is knowing that your own experience with the book, right down to the order in which you read it, is likely to be unique.

—Ng Suat Tong has just announced nominations for the third quarter of his 2012 best online comics criticism search, and is looking for more. He’s got a pretty good list going there now.

—Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have moved with their family to Angoulême, and Abel’s published an enormous post about the move well worth reading.

—More podcast news: Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez are guests on the Bat Segundo Show, and Adrian Tomine and Joshua Glenn co-hosted an episode of Boing Boing’s Gweek.

—Tom Hart has released an online comic about his late daughter, Rosalie Lightning. Be warned, it’s genuinely heart-breaking.

 

Metal Burger

Today we have the first installment of Matthias Wivel’s new column, Common Currency, which will focus on European comics. Matthias looks at the latest volume of Fabrice Neaud’s diary comics, which uses American superheroes in an unusual fashion:

What we have here, then, is something almost unthinkable in American comics, at least until recently: an artist working at the most personal level, taking reality-based comics as far as anyone, and in doing so invoking the power of Galactus. And not the palatable original version from the work of the character’s creators, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but rather the one made by Byrne, an artist almost uniformly (if unfairly) reviled in American alternative comics. (Neaud also brings in Jim Starlin’s ’90s work, which is held in even lower esteem.) “Denis” goes on to tease out the meaning of the blank, white panel backgrounds used as often by Byrne as almost to constitute an auteurial signature. He describes this “plane of manifestations,” in which the celestial entities of the Marvel Universe occasionally appear, as a space “before creation”—a potent metaphor for pre-conceptual reality that Neaud, as explained, attempts subtly to harness in how he writes his life in comics.

And elsewhere:

Congrats to Lowlife cartoonist Ed Brubaker on selling a couple of TV pilots. Kidding aside, I really enjoy his comics writing and it’ll be nice to see his sensibility in a different medium.

Monster Rally!

And odd news: Stan Lee Media, which the man himself is no longer involved with, is suing Marvel for ownership of various characters. Good times, everyone!

Here are some beautiful costume and period studies by classic illustrator E.F. Ward.

Steve Bissette shows us what’s been on his drawing board.

And it’s old pal Jon Vermilyea showing his stuff on the Juxtapoz site.

 

Rabbit Holes Everywhere

Chris Ware week continues, and so far it’s much more pleasant to moderate than the unexpected Dave Sim month we just had … go figure. This morning brings another installment of our David Ball-organized multi-author symposium, this time by Katherine Roeder. An excerpt from her essay:

I previously wrote about Ware’s facility with art historical conventions, which are once again on display here. The Renaissance system of linear perspective, use of symmetry, repetition of geometric forms and motifs, along with a resounding clarity of both color and line brings unity to the disparate pieces. This visual precision and orderliness sharply contrasts with the inherent messiness of his characters’ emotional lives. His main character is a woman who perceives herself as a failed artist; her tender drawings forming a counterpoint to the stark linearity of Ware’s compositions. In the smaller of the two included bound books, his cutaway views of her apartment building recall the tradition in seventeenth century Dutch genre scenes that depicted domestic interiors from the perspective of an unseen observer.

We also have an interview with Ware conducted by Chris Mautner. Here’s a bit from that:

Having a family answered pretty much every question and problem I ever thought I had in life; it’s made me a much better person, I think, or at least I hope it has. Though it can’t solve one’s problems if one isn’t already somewhat stable, it can be the final catalyst towards the necessary firming up, or maturation, of the spirit (though America keeps assuring one that this is completely avoidable, if one prefers). I cringe with embarrassment when I think of my pioneer great-great-grandmother Clara F. Abbott and the privation and grimness she endured on the 1850s Nebraska prairie so I could … what? Draw comic books?

Elsewhere on the internet:

—There’s plenty more Ware, including another interview conducted by the New Statesman, a registration-required selection of six favorite comics at the London Times, and a collection of interesting posters celebrating local Chicago history.

—But let’s go back to Dave Sim for a moment. As many of you probably heard, over the weekend, IDW announced a deal to publish a collection of Sim covers. (This soon turned out to mean not just one volume but “three or four”; Sim-related ventures tend to get complicated.) Yesterday, IDW made another announcement, that they had signed a $30,000 deal to publish something called the High Society Audio Digital Comic Store Collected Edition. (This all happens, of course, in the context of the recent public negotiations with Fantagraphics.) This second deal I find much harder to understand, but presumably what exactly that euphonious title means will be made clear in time. In fact, I think it is likely that Robin McConnell of Inkstuds fame asked about it during his interview with Dave Sim last night. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it’s one of the first things I plan on doing today.

—A couple of Daniel Clowes links. First, a pretty fun Tumblr devoted to Clowes fan art, and second, his official website has launched a new “oddities” section, starting with a pair of Ditko and Kirby pages inked by a young Dan Clowes.

—Over at Slate, James Sturm writes a brief tribute to Matt Groening, and provides examples of cartoons from a poster his CCS just gave Groening in honor of Life in Hell‘s end. (The artists include Alison Bechdel, Sammy Harkham, and Tom Tomorrow, among others.)

—I feel like a jerk linking to Sean Howe’s Marvel Tumblr all the time, but he keeps posting incredible things, so I can’t help it. Today, he’s got a pretty amazing 1971 debate in which Stan Lee bitterly criticizes the comics industry’s treatment of creators, and says, “I would tell any cartoonist who has an idea, think twice before you give it to a publisher.”

—Paul Gravett writes about Asterix in Great Britain.

—Glyn Dillon gave a really good interview to Mark Kardwell for Robot 6.

—Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine has garnered a fair amount of attention for his recent statements on the future of newspaper strips—and the difficulty in making money cartooning online. Everyone who talks about online publishing makes sense to me, whether they’re totally for it or totally against it.

—Matt Madden and Jessica Abel have announced the complete list of “Notable Comics” from this year’s Best American Comics collection. They are also hosting a giveaway.

 

Tappy Toes

Today on the site:

We have an excerpt from TCJ-contributor Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which is out today. I recommend the book very highly — it’s deeply researched and vividly written. Sean successfully weaves together a fascinating and detailed history of the company with evocative portraits of the people who drove it. The hippy 1970s and flat-out bizarre ’80s, are particularly well done. Basically it’s the book I always wanted to read about Marvel. Anyhow, we pick up the story in the ’90s.

And Joe McCulloch is here with thoughts on Ware, Chaland and the best photo of Building Stories yet published.

Elsewhere:

Speaking of Joe, he and Tucker Stone must be happy about the news of a Garth Ennis crime comic. Ennis is like a one-man pulp line.

Here’s an interview (on his own site) with Allan Holtz, longtime historian and author of the recent American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide.

I haven’t seen this before, though it’s a few weeks old: An oral history of SpongeBob SquarePants by Tom Heintjes.

Not comics, but close enough: A series of stunning Seymour Chwast-designed advertisements.