DEFORGE: I frequently have a hard time organizing my memories, or certainly from key parts of my life, and particularly traumatic parts. A lot of the way I circle the same themes and topics… I would have a hard time writing something overtly autobiographical, but by having all these different fictional parts of me, or fictional vantage points of certain moments or thoughts… it’s the only way I’ve been able to maybe objectively… or not objectively, but come close to objectively, looking at what it was that happened, or what I was thinking, or the mental state I was in. I found my memory has been fairly unreliable, and it’s taken a lot of parsing. It took me awhile to feel like my life had a linear narrative. And I know, logically it actually doesn’t. But it’s easier to think of it that way than as a bunch of unrelated pieces of information. So I worked pretty hard to try to piece something together with what did seem sort of like a lot of loose change. My stories are pretty meandering, and sometimes possibly even arcless. That’s sometimes how I look back on how events actually unfold.
TH: With Jack as a character, there’s this almost dream of omniscience running throughout, he’s the author of the story, ultimately directing events, but on another level, is he something of a stand-in for you, revisiting your earlier work? I got a real shock at a certain point and undoubtedly started reading too much into this, imagining clues and references in specific panels, backgrounds, locations, perhaps aged versions of previous characters, and dialogue…
DC: (laughter) I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case, but I can say that I was definitely very influenced in the story by my own work because I had spent so much time putting together the Modern Cartoonist art show and monograph, and then that was followed immediately by compiling The Complete Eightball, so I was very much in the world of my own comics in a way that I’ve never been. Normally, I try to not look at my own comics at all, and I try to be influenced by things outside of not only my own work, but outside of comics—I try to find unfamiliar things to be influenced by in each book, and in this case I was really kind of immersing myself in my own work, using myself as a reference in the way that in an earlier book I might have used Charles Schulz or Johnny Craig, or somebody like that (laughter). It was kind of an odd experience and I did find myself creating little glimmers of recognition with old characters and giving little nods to previous ways of working, maybe.
—Eve Kahn at the New York Times writes about an exhibit on display at NYC’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, featuring sketches from a WWII prison camp drawn by MAD magazine contributor Max Brandel.
—And this has been going around the internet, so likely many of you have already seen it, but R. Crumb took on Donald Trump in 1989. Further unforeseen developments make this not quite as harsh as you might like, but it’s still pretty mean.
Today on the site, we present the third installment of Ron Goluart’s Connecticut Cartoonists series. This time, he writes about Quality Comics — and Jack Cole.
In 1940, publisher Everett M. “Busy” Arnold moved his Quality Comics line (Crack Comics, Smash Comics and other percussive titles) from New York City to Stamford, Connecticut and brought a band of cartoonists with him. Among them were Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Reed Crandall and Gill Fox. The major characters that his magazines would deliver to the nation’s newsstands were Plastic Man, Blackhawk, The Spirit, The Human Bomb and, eventually Torchy.
Arnold had worked in printing since graduating from college. He was involved in printing the comic books that Cook and Mahon had begun since leaving the fold of the pioneering Major Malcolm-Wheeler Nicholson. This line included such winning titles as Funny Pages, Funny Picture Stories and Keen Detective Funnies. Busy had been following the lack of success of these comics, so he decided to start his own line and hook up with some affluent partners. He made a deal with The Register & Tribune Syndicate, owned by the affluent Cowles family, and acquired two more well-connected partners. He started with Feature Funnies, a simulacrum of the pioneering Famous Funnies, which reprinted newspaper comic strips. Soon after the advent and impressive sales of Superman, Busy realized that superheroes were selling better than reprints of Joe Palooka and Dixie Dugan. Changing the name of the magazine to Feature Comics, Arnold set about acquiring his own stable of super humans.
After the publication of Little Nemo in Slumberland, So Many Splendid Sundays there was no real future imagined for Sunday Press. I had accomplished what I could not get a “real” publisher to do — create a fully-restored, full-size edition of the Winsor McCay classic — and I planned to continue to work at my “regular job” in digital entertainment. But the success of the book was rapid and widespread and after a few months I started thinking about another project, and when Chris Ware approached me to work with him on a similar volume for Gasoline Alley Sunday pages, I could not turn down that opportunity. After Sundays with Walt and Skeezix and McCay’s Sammy Sneeze I apparently was an actual (albeit accidental) publisher and then kept going. Looking back, I wish, as would anyone, I knew then what I know now about the process. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal on restoration and color as well as what makes a good book, and I think the latest, Society is Nix and White Boy display that education.
—Commentary. Ta-Nehisi Coates previews and writes about the creation of his upcoming run on Black Panther.
Ideally, the writer offers notes in his script on how the comic book should look. This requires thinking with intention about what a character is actually doing, not merely what he is saying. This is harder than it sounds, and often I found myself vaguely gesturing at what should happen in a panel—“T’Challa looks concerned.” Or “Ramonda stands to object.” I was lucky in that I was paired with a wonderful and experienced artist, Brian Stelfreeze. Storytelling in a comic book is a partnership between the writer and the artist, as surely as a film is a partnership between the screenwriter and the director. Brian, whose art is displayed here, doesn’t just execute the art direction—he edits and remixes it.
—Not Comics, But Close Enough. Edward Carey writes briefly about writer/illustrators such as William Blake, Thackeray, and Alasdair Gray.
William Makepeace Thackeray may not be thought of as an artist, but he was a very fine one. He longed to illustrate Dickens, but when he was turned down he wrote his own novel, “Vanity Fair,” partly so he could illustrate it himself.
—Misc. I didn’t realize Miranda July‘s parents published Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl.
We’re proud to excerpt Tahneer Oksman’s new book, “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs, which looks at the works of seven women cartoonists. Here’s a bit, beginning with Vanessa Davis.
Published in 2005, Spaniel Rage is a collection of what Davis describes, on one of its title pages, as “diary comics and drawings that I made in sketchbooks from 2003 to 2004.” Assembled in a thin, soft-cover book about 10 inches tall and 7 1/2 inches wide, the text can most accurately be categorized as a graphic diary or journal. In this chapter, like autobiography theorist Philippe Lejeune and others, I do not distinguish between the diary and the journal. Some critics make a debatable distinction by correlating journal writing with an intended public audience and content that is less so-called personal. This distinction sets up a hierarchical dynamic—with the diary often cited as a “feminine” and the journal as a “masculine” form—between two modes of writing that have, despite their differing histories and genealogies, become otherwise indistinguishable.
TCJ designer and illustrator Mike Reddy and TCJ writer Jay Ruttenberg have teamed up in the most delightful way: An illustrated guide to “Musicians You Should Know.”
I had done Too Cool To Be Forgotten, and at one point I hit a rut with that, so I did this Lower Regions story, which was just fun to draw. There’s no dialogue, it’s just straight-up pantomime adventure. I had so much fun doing that, I was just like, “That’s it, no more people sitting around talking about their feelings. My next book is going to be a fantasy D&D type book.” Like most of my books, I set out with a vague idea and just started improvising from there. I got about 80 pages in, complete penciled and inked pages and everything. This one had dialogue.
And I just stalled out on it. I realized I don’t read fantasy novels, and I have a hard time taking it seriously enough to write a legitimate story about it. I could write the other story because there was no dialogue. It was very simple. The protagonist fights a monster, kills the monster, moves on to the next one. But any time I started having dialogue and characters, and “Okay, what’s this character’s motivation, and how are they relating to each other,” the whole thing just fell apart. It really rattled my confidence. I think that made starting another book extra difficult: “Oh my God, what if I start working on this and I flame out again?” I think that slowed me down at first. There came a point where the story kind of clicked, and I worked a little faster after that, but I was very gun-shy at the beginning.
As in Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning, there is no pat ending with everything magically made better. Instead, there are affirmations of humanity and the power of creativity (it is implied that the two interstitial stories in this book, both regarding loss, were created when she chose to be treated at an inpatient facility), as well as a willingness to confront feelings of loss.
—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth interviews Glenn Head.
I’d always been really wowed by the idea of artistic freedom, but that was all just an idea and not a reality. Actually being on the street and talking about artistic integrity is a joke. It’s a joke that’s laughing at you.
Neil Patel speaks to the Swamp Thing and Miracleman artist John Totleben.
[Swamp Thing’s look] evolved. I had a better handle on how the way how he should looked right from the start. I’ve been a fan of the original series right from the beginning. I introduced Steve [Bissette] to the series when we were in the Kubert School. He’d never seen it before. We were trying to come with our own thing, but I’ve got to say Swamp Thing is a hard character to draw. For one thing, he’s a difficult character to catch I think a lot of times.
“I think it’s a stupid move,” says Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who drew for Playboy in the late 1950s to early 1960s. “If it’s simply a matter of rebranding, why not just change the type of cartoons they run? There are more and better cartoonists today writing in alternative media and graphic novels. It’s a whole new golden age for cartoonists.”
Chris Ware writes about the inspiration behind his latest New Yorker cover.
Most mornings, after I drop my eleven-year-old daughter off at school in Oak Park, Illinois, I drive my wife to the west side of Chicago, where she works as a teacher in a public school. Along the way, we’ll frequently pass a few of her students waiting for the bus, huddled in hoodies with their backward backpacks and my wife—it’s against Chicago Public School policy for a teacher to offer rides to students—will recognize and wave at many of them, citing an affectionate anecdote (“He’s one of the smartest students I’ve ever had”) or a bracing detail (“She beat up her boyfriend”) or a horrifying story (“His brother got shot”).
For Today’s Inspiration, Joseph V. Procopio writes about the Italian pinup cartoonist Niso Ramponi.
—Misc. Retrofit has launched a Kickstarter for their 2016 lineup of books from Eleanor Davis, James Kochalka, Leela Corman, and other creators.
The male ego gone awry has been a theme in Dan Clowes’ work since the beginning of his long and spectacular career. One thing that makes his best work so indispensable is his rigorous examination of the topic from many perspectives, both male and female. Even very troubled characters become sympathetic thanks to his uncanny ear for dialogue and his trenchant sense of humor.
Buttrick is a 31-year-old Michigan native who for the past three years has made his home in Columbus, Ohio. He is married and studied Japanese and history in college. He has been drawing comics “in one form or another since childhood,” but says that he didn’t become serious about it until 2009, when he first attended, and was inspired by, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. In just a few short years, he has garnered tremendous praise and appreciation: a “Notable Comics” recognition in The Best American Comics 2014, an Igantz Award nomination, a 17-page spread in The Best American Comics 2015, and an invitation to contribute in the next installment of Kramers Ergot.
Today on the site, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics — highlighting all the most interesting-sounding new books in stores. This week’s spotlight picks include books by Carlos Giménez and Jeff Nicholson.
Currently at the halfway point, even the relationships between characters still remain deliberately muddled. In some ways, the only certainty is of a single sex act, but only one character’s motivation for participating (it had been a while for the man, whose name is Glen), is 100% certain. The first issue primarily concerns itself with the recounting of this encounter, told by one man to another, with certain details left out. Visually, Stechschulte depicts a flashback to things as they actually occurred, a framing device that highlights the embarrassment felt by the protagonist by calling attention to the lies he tells.
The second issue is more opaque.
—News. Longtime Marvel artist Paul Ryan has passed away.
—Interviews & Profiles. At Vice, Nick Gazin interviews Peter Bagge, primarily about Hate.
Tell me about Buddy’s love of yellow food. This is one of my favorite details of Buddy’s personality.
My wife actually used to make fun of my “all-orange lunch” when I first met her: A carrot, an orange, and those orange-colored peanut butter and cheese flavored crackers that I’d buy from SVA’s vending machines.
[Collaboration] is not something I could imagine happening, really. I have done a little bit of adapting other people’s work into a comic. That’s something that I find really exciting and cool because you’re working with someone who doesn’t have the same vision of it, or visuals associated with it. Whereas if you’re working with another visual artist, they’ll always have a certain design aesthetic that would be harder to compromise with—or at least I’d be harder to compromise with.
It’s a little early to take [the presidential campaigns] seriously. I think it’s going to be a great time to be a cartoonist. You can’t come up with a greater buffoon than Donald Trump. The fact that he thinks he can be president of the United States is one the best jokes I’ve read in a long time. At least I hope.
—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner writes about the career of Michael DeForge.
Characters sweat a lot in Michael DeForge’s comics. Not the kind of flop sweat that traditional cartoon characters exhibit, with water droplets literally flying off the body in a halo formation, but beads of perspiration that cascade down the character’s face in such a plentiful supply that you sometimes wonder why there isn’t a puddle around the character’s feet.
What makes them sweat so much? Oh, you know, the usual. Your organs and flesh are slowly turning into leather and spikes. You had to join a secret mafia club in order to get your niece’s beloved clarinet. You’re an ant that’s overwhelmed by the meaningless of it all.
—Misc. The New York Times writes about the final volume of The Complete Peanuts, which is being introduced by President Obama.
“We’re an independent publisher: We have no backers, no investors. We have only the books we publish and our wits to fall back on,” Mr. Groth said. “We found ourselves in periodic financial crises. We published the ‘Peanuts’ right in the nick of time. It changed the fortunes of the company by allowing the company to continue to exist.”
Robert Beerbohm is holding an auction via Russ Cochran in order to raise funds for his daughter’s medical expenses.
—Video. Nicole Rudick interviewed Daniel Clowes at The Strand last week, and here’s the video: