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Manifestations of Destiny

Today, Kristy Valenti is here with a look at Will Eisner’s forgotten (until now) 1978 humor misfire, Star Jaws:

1978 was a big year for Will Eisner. He invented… that thing where you take a massive pop culture hit, and lazily sort of mash it up with another massive pop culture hit. (He didn’t really invent that. Or the graphic novel.)

sharkStar Jaws is a bunch of black-and-white, one-page “gags” about space and giant fish, squarely aimed at kids-those-days (looks like Scholastic distributed it, or helped), packaged in a mass market paperback. It was created during Eisner’s American Visuals Corporation period, when he was contracted to do PS Magazine and other commercial art projects. Keith Diaczun and Barry Caldwell assisted.

The “jokes” are often-incoherent placeholders for “cop writing a ticket” or “the teen wrecked the car” one-liners. The drawings themselves aren’t funny either; gag cartooning is not in Eisner’s range. What Eisner does manage to catch is a bit of the texture of 1975’s gritty, water-dappled Jaws, the “dirty spaceship” look of 1977’s Star Wars (which was partially inspired by Eisner’s junior, Wallace Wood).

We also have a new episode of Mike Dawson’s TCJ Talkies. This time, he talks to Sam Alden and Sophia Foster-Dimino about two comics by the mysterious cartoonist known only as GG.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben interviews Arab of the Future creator Riad Sattouf.

Inkstuds talks to Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T.‘s Ben Marra.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the L.A. Times, Caroline A. Miranda spotlights five “comics artists to watch” found in the most recent volume of Best American Comics: Matthew Thurber, Henriette Valium, Gina Wynbrandt, David Sandlin, and Andy Burkholder.

TCJ’s own Rob Kirby presents his picks for the thirty best comics (and comics-adjacent things) of 2015.

For Vulture, Abraham Riesman chooses his ten best graphic novels of 2015.

Michael Cavna previews the forthcoming “posthumous manifesto” written by murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Charb.

Jon Vinson looks back at Josh Simmons’ notorious Batman minicomic.

Ta-Nehisi Coates continues to write about his experience on Black Panther:

The black diaspora is terra incognita for much of the world. […] I would not have always considered this an advantage. When I first started writing, I was anxious that I would be pigeon-holed into the “race-beat.” Eventually I realized that the “race beat” was actually the “humanity beat,” and that questions about “racism” are really questions about the exercise of power. Perhaps more importantly I realized that “race” was an essential thread of American society, and questions about race were questions about the very nature of the Western world. I wasn’t pigeon-holed, I’d fallen into a gold-mine. America is the most powerful country in the world. You simply can’t understand how it got that way without understanding “race.”

 

Theory

Today on the site Ryan Holmberg looks at Sasaki Maki and Hayashi Seiichi’s relationship in comics.

As copies of Sasaki Maki’s Ding Dong Circus and Other Stories, 1967-1973 trickle out into the world, Breakdown Press and I are finishing the next volume in the series, Hayashi Seiichi’s Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970.

Like the Matsumoto Masahiko and Sasaki Maki books, Red Red Rock is kindly sponsored by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, England. Over 200 pages, it collects most of the rest of Hayashi’s work from the late 60s (thirteen works, all but two from Garo), from his earliest Pop-influenced allegories about postwar Japanese identity in light of the Vietnam War to the experimental homages he made to the Nikkatsu universe just prior to commencing Red Colored Elegy (1970). It also includes a lengthy essay by me (written while on a Hakuho Foundation Japanese Research Fellowship) trying to make sense and order out of an eclectic and deeply culturally embedded body of work, placing Hayashi’s experiments in relationship to the contemporary avant-garde art scene in Tokyo.

It’s obviously appropriate that Sasaki and Hayashi books should follow one upon the other, since the two artists were the original representatives of Garo as house of avant-manga. Their work provided the magazine an incredible balance. Shirato Sanpei’s old school leftwing epic of peasant resistance, The Legend of Kamuy, held down the first 40-100 pages of most issues. Filling out the middle was a neo-kashihon gekiga tribe of idiosyncratic talents, including Mizuki Shigeru’s yokai parables and further adventures of Kitaro, Tsuge Yoshiharu’s mystery-cum-travel tales, Tsurita Kuniko’s off-kilter stories about youth and counterculture, and Tsuge Tadao’s anti-cathartic portraits of urban working life. When it came to Sasaki and Hayashi, some people weren’t sure whether their work should be called manga. Their work introduced cutting-edge Pop and avant-garde sensibilities into the comics medium, and created bridges between manga and the wider artistic counterculture of late 60s Japan.

Elsewhere:

The best part of the consumer holidays is Leif Goldberg’s annual silkscreen calendar! Get yours now. 

My ongoing obsession with Alex Raymond is kicking into high gear, folks! Watch for some really weird musings in the future. For now, kick back and read this old article. 

 

Mini

Joe McCulloch is here as usual this morning with his useful guide to the week’s most interesting-looking new comics. This time, he’s spotlighting new works by Carlos Gonzalez and Hunt Emerson.

Pardon my typing this week. I am recovering from a cheese grater incident this weekend that took off part of my right thumb. I am having a really splendid holiday season all around.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Montreal cartoonist Jacques Hurtubise, aka Zyx, has died.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd put together a list of his favorite comics of 2015. I don’t like everything on his list, but I responded to it much more favorably than any other end-of-the-year list I’ve seen so far, maybe because it is so clearly personal. In any case, it makes sense, a low bar you might say, but one that none of the aggregated best-ofs that have come out this December have yet been able to clear.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Jordanne Laurito writes a brief profile of the cartoonist and SAW co-founder Tom Hart.

“I chose ‘Sequential Artists Workshop’ for a couple of reasons,” Hart said. “One is because ‘sequential art’ is kind of a pretentious name, and I wanted to aspire to a slight level of pretense,” he said with a laugh.

“More importantly, I wanted to have ‘artists’ in the title. I was inspired a little bit by The Actors Studio in New York… I like that the focus is on the artist. It’s not so much about the comics as it is about the people who come in and try to learn.”

Heidi MacDonald interviews our own Frank Santoro.

Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories show features Peter Kuper.

 

Gamble All Your Love

Today on the site, the great Anya Davidson reviews her great peer, Carlos Gonzalez. I’m so happy to have an insightful review of Gonzalez’s essential new book, Test Tube.

In his new book Test Tube, Carlos Gonzalez has populated the small town of Lensburg with a multitude of lonely, anxious, creatively frustrated souls who all seem to be yearning for a brush with transcendence. Peter Yolk is a projectionist at a second-run movie theater. His only friend is Richard Penny, the bartender at a girlie club called the Dollhouse, an establishment frequented by many of the characters in the book. A man named Jeff works at a diner called the Lensburg System, which is perhaps a reference to the New York System, a diner in Olneyville, Gonzalez’s own neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. After work, Jeff returns home exhausted and unable to do anything but stay up into the wee hours watching wrestling and B-movies on television. At one point Jeff states “I get high every night. It’s great. Sometimes I see shit. It never bugs me out though. There’s way more real stuff in life to be scared of.”

Elsewhere:

Hey, I can’t remember if we’ve linked to Bill Griffith’s amazing sale offer for his new book, Invisible Ink. Seems like a no-brainer.

It’s Art Spiegelman on Art Young, an artist more appropriate than ever, and yet a century gone.

On the other end of things, I love this 90s-era Superman Tumblr.

And that is all!

 

Flash

Today, Greg Hunter’s great Comic Book Decalogue podcast returns with a special double-sized holiday special.

Dylan Horrocks discusses the magic of Tove Jansson, the problems of late-period Eisner, and the troubled legacy of Dave Sim. All that, and a special guest drops by!

We also bring you Rob Kirby’s review of Jane Mai’s See You Next Tuesday:

In the introduction to a recent interview she conducted with Mai on TCJ, Annie Mok describes Tuesday as a “raucous collection of comics and scraps.” “Scraps” is an apt description: many of these pages come across as little spur-of-the-moment exercises (in the interview Mai reveals she drew them on loose pieces of paper and not in a sketchbook). In her text Mai often eschews punctuation, which lends a distanced, stream-of-consciousness effect. Her line switches from scrawly and thin to a more directly appealing (and legible) bold line, while her persona alternates between bratty and vulnerable, and bewildered and snarky–all of which match her childlike drawings perfectly.

And also Daniel Kalder’s review of Philippe Druillet’s 6 Voyages of Lone Sloane:

As a youthful reader of 2000AD in its early ’80s heyday I grew up with compressed narratives, but this is something else: Druillet achieves almost Book of Genesis levels of symbolic density. Lone Sloane is a tripped-out attempt at creating cosmic myths, psychedelic visions, an assault on the fabric of reality on paper. The pages seethe with depictions of impossible machines, fantastic architecture, cosmic destruction, and ultra-absurd deus ex machina plot interventions. There is so much going on that the ideas and imagery cannot be contained in a traditional panel grid, so Druillet continues throughout to assault the reader/viewer with splash pages, jagged panels, pages without borders. It is the use of layouts in service of disorientation, breaking down the order of page to scramble the senses. And yet at the same time, Druillet “sees” these images with incredible clarity; the precision and meticulous detail of his imagery gives it an intense solidity.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. It’s not really comics, but it’s Jeet Heer and it’s close enough I can’t resist linking to it: The New Republic on the year in superheroes.

With its emphasis on violence as a solution, the superhero genre often lends itself to simplistic solutions to complex problems. It is hardly an accident that in a New York Times Magazine interview, Ted Cruz named Rorschach as one of his favorite comic-book characters, the insane and uncompromising right-wing anti-hero from the graphic novel Watchmen. Campaigning in Iowa this summer, Donald Trump took a bunch of kids up for a helicopter ride. “Are you Batman?” a nine year old boy asked the real estate mogul. “I am Batman,” Trump replied. Trump is certainly as wealthy as Batman (a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne), who in his latest incarnation in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) acted as a reactionary hero defending the wealthy of Gotham City from the envious rabble. Cultural critics like Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong long ago argued that the superhero genre was injecting fascist ideas into popular culture, a critique that cannot be easily dismissed. As Ong argued in a 1945 article for the Arizona Quarterly, “The notion of a ‘superman’ is part of the herdist economy of the Nazi Third Reich….The Superman of the cartoons is true to his sources. He is not another Horatio Alger hero or a Nick Carter; he is a super state type of hero, which definite interest in the ideologies of herdist politics.”

At The New Yorker, Matt Alt writes about Shigeru Mizuki.

Today, Mizuki’s name is virtually synonymous with “Kitaro” and the yokai. Given the smashing success of this long-running kids’ franchise, which has appeared in fits and starts for more than half a century, it’s tempting to dub Mizuki the Disney of Japanese monsters. But Mizuki’s disinclination to whitewash the darker side of the human condition out of even his children’s fare makes him more like a Japanese Vonnegut. His comics brim with subtle and not-so-subtle references to the wars of his own and other nations, untrustworthy authority figures, and the consistent failure of violent solutions to problems.

For The Guardian, Ian Williams picks his ten favorite “uncanny” graphic novels.

And finally, for Comics Forum, Maria Evdokimova interviews scholar Misha Zaslavskiy about the history of Russian comics:

In the USSR, Western comics, mostly American ones, were generally criticized, but the works of such distinguished authors as Jose Cabrero Arnal, Jean Effel, Herluf Bidstrup, and Ollie Harrington were willingly popularized, since they were communists. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia the magazine Vesyolye Kartinki was cited as an example of comics.

But of course, official rejection did take place. One of the founders of Yugoslavian comics, Yuri Lobachyov, made an attempt to serially publish a story called “The Hurricane Comes To The Rescue” in the children’s magazine Kostyor (The Campfire), but had to shut down the publication mid-course.

[…]

Though ideologically, by Soviet standards, there was nothing blameworthy in Lobachyov’s story. On the contrary, it criticized colonialism. The disapproval of the members of the committee was caused by the visual form of presentation of history through comics.

 

More Power

Hi there,

Today Frank joins us to discuss Mardou’s Sky in Stereo.

This is a romance set in Manchester UK and drawn in a clean “cartoony-realism” style. It’s a coming-of-age tale if there ever was one; we follow Iris as she navigates her late teens. Parents, religion, boys, drugs, fast food, and daily life are the fare. 

There are a range of ways in which I could tell you about the story and how it unfolds and how it’s drawn. However, I would like to focus on the fact that I usually don’t enjoy this type of story. There’s usually something heavy-handed in the presentation. It’s too cutesy, or too serious, or just not well made. And here is a story that is not cutesy, or too serious, and it’s well made. It just breezes by like a good movie which you want to watch again, or a TV show that you re-watch rather than wait for the next episode. I can binge read this book.

Elsewhere:

Life as as cartoonist in 1913.

Philly store and publisher Locust Moon will now just be a publisher and con organizer.

There’s a new Mineshaft on the horizon.

 

Gee Wiz

Today, we bring you a personal and colorful tribute to the great and highly influential Shigeru Mizuki, written by one of his English translators, Zack Davisson.

Mizuki wrote multiple accounts about life on the front line in the South Pacific theater, full of honest horror and humanity. Two are available in English: the fictionalized Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths and the autobiographical, four-volume Showa: A History of Japan. They are tremendous works of art, both Eisner winners, and stand tall with any war story ever written in any medium. I encourage you to let Mizuki tell you himself about those years. But I will expound on two events during his time in Rabaul.

The first—and most obvious—was the loss of his arm. At the time he was out of his wits with malaria, recuperating in a military hospital. The doctors recommended stopping his food and medicine, since no one as ill as Mizuki could possibly survive. When he heard this, he rose from his sick bed like a zombie and proceeded to eat everything in sight, convincing the doctors to give him another chance. But his supernatural stamina couldn’t help him from the bomb dropped on the hospital. Accounts differ as to which Allied force dropped it—most say the U.S., but the majority of the Battle of Rabaul was lead by Australian forces. Either way, the result was the same. Mizuki lost his arm. His drawing arm.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Seattle’s Short Run Arts & Comix Festival has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the NEA.

—Reviews & Commentary. Huib van Opstal writes about 21 strips from Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs, and republishing efforts in general.

The bad example set by Woody Gelman’s oblong books from 1977 (with old Scorchy Smith dailies by Noel Sickles, Nostalgia Press reprints, 3 daily strips per page) still wreaks havoc in our modern reprint business. Reprinted Wash Tubbs dailies continuously end up in unpleasant books, with too little horizontal space on the page, and with a nefarious split in the middle killing their overall design.

Salon’s piece on the best comics of 2015 displays a shockingly blinkered and narrowly cramped knowledge of the form, going so far as to include a television show but not any work not published by one of the corporate genre machines.

—Misc. Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill remember working for 2000 AD. O’Neill:

When I became art editor, I had to clandestinely introduce credits for the writers, artists and letterers. In my early career, I’d worked as a “bodger”, removing signatures hidden in hedgerows and the like. We were told British comics had traditionally never had attributions, but IPC were actually scared: if they identified creators, they might lose them to other companies like DC Thomson. I said “This is bullshit”, stuck credit panels on and told management we were experimenting. They’ve been there ever since.

Hogan’s Alley shares a huge assortment of Christmas cards from cartoonists, ranging from Chester Gould to Jaime Hernandez to Lynn Johnston.

D&Q publisher Peggy Burns on what to do in Montreal.

 

Catching

Today on the site Joe takes us through one of the last release weeks of 2015

Elsewhere:

Looking for a good holiday gift? May I recommend heading over to Marc Bell’s online store? Yes, I will. Prints, patches, sculpture, what else do you want? Marc has also completed the posting of his and Joey Haley‘s series of films, exhumed from a 1990s bank vault.

Deconstructing Comics posts its 10th anniversary show.

Pam Butler and Kim Deitch are posting their drawings for Christmas cards from over the years, and of course it’s a typically awesome bunch.

Ryan Holmberg has a feature in the new Art in America about the depiction of nuclear power plant works in Japanese art and comics. Print only for now.

And now a shameless plug: Look, I now have a web site for my own projects! Visit it and, uh, see what else I’m doing?