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Today on the site, we start a week with Melanie Gillman contributing to our ever-popular Cartoonist's Diary feature.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The NCS Fest took place this weekend, and this year's Reuben Awards were announced, including Cartoonist of the Year Stephan Pastis.

At the Washington Post, Michael Cavna writes about the show's attempts to be more inclusive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Luc Sante writes about the comic-adjacent phenomenon of European fotonovelas.

Fotonovela, fumetti, roman-photo—the terms betray the fact that the form never got much traction in the Anglo-Saxon realm. There is no word for it in English, exactly. You could say “photo-comics,” but you’d risk being misunderstood. These narratives, often but not always romantic, are conveyed by means of photographs arrayed in panels on a page, with running text often in talk balloons. Their impact has been almost entirely restricted to countries that speak Spanish, Italian, or French; their readership is overwhelmingly female, at least in Europe. Their history formally begins in 1947 in Italy, in the magazine Grand Hotel, soon followed by its French sibling, Nous Deux; both magazines still exist. Fotonovelas flourished in the fifties and early sixties (into the eighties in Latin America), then began a slow decline that still refuses to yield to extinction.

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Mariko Tamaki.

I’ve always wanted to write a girl meets girl story. All the stories like that that I’ve read are about finding that perfect love, that first love. But I’m such a realist, it turned into an anti-Cinderella story. Writing this, I thought about the course of relationships, what happens AFTER the glass slipper (so to speak) and that just seemed like an interesting story, the story of things that aren’t “meant to be” or don’t work out, and how a relationship NOT working is something that can go on for a very long time. Like that can be a relationship, a not-working, not-healthy situation. Hopefully that’s not the only story you get, but it’s A story a lot of people have experienced.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Mort Gerberg.

—Misc. I think we forgot to link to this very funny Matthew Thurber comic at The New Yorker, which seems to have been inspired in part by the great interview Austin English conducted with him for this site.

 

CandleGoat

Today at TCJ, we're closing out a busy week with the latest installment in Sloane Leong's interview series. This Friday, she's speaking with Vincent Kings about his work--which includes oil painting, one of the least forgiving of comics tools. 

What was the inspiration for this story?

Mostly it was getting at all the questions that I was asking myself as a kid in art school, like what is the role of art? How is it useful? I went into art school with kind of a big chip on my shoulder, like: ‘No this is important I swear. This is a worthy thing for an eighteen-year-old to pursue!’ I’m less that way now I think, but that was the impetus - to come up with the most - I dunno-  urgent way to pose the question and heighten the stakes. It’s an autobiographical comic in disguise.

Our review of the day comes to you from Alex Hoffman. He's here with a look at Guillaume Singelin's PTSD, a recent release from First Second. From PEOW to Macmillan: how'd that turn out?

The art of PTSD is the overwhelming reason to read it, and the source of my affection for the comic. I love how this book looks. Singelin can DRAW, and some of these pages are a visual delight. PTSD calls to mind authors like Katsuhiro Otomo and Masamune Shiro, whose “crunchy” style of illustration is clearly an influence for Singelin. The busyness of the art and the character design gives me the sense that Singelin’s style is influenced just as much by Rob Liefeld as either of these Japanese greats, and ultimately I think that’s a good thing. These cartoonists set the ground level for PTSD in terms of style, modified heavily by Singelin towards the cute and cartoonish. But the clear comics influences of PTSDalso reveal its true nature; a vapid, boring slog. What made Akira and Appleseed good wasn’t just the drawing. The stories were interesting, the characters complex, the themes resonant. All of that is missing in PTSD.

As mentioned above, it's been a big week, with Alec Berry's update on the major developments in the Cody Pickrodt lawsuit, our interview with Vivek Shraya and Marc Sobel's deep dive into the evergreen subject that is Alex Toth talking shit. I was pleased we could welcome Daniel Elkin aboard for his first TCJ review (of Julia Gfrorer's latest horror comic, Vision), and it's never a bad look to have Martyn Pedler talking Adhouse

Over at Smash Pages, Alex Dueben continues to put together a body of interview coverage that puts every website that doesn't work with him to shame. This time around, he's talking to Mariko Tamaki. Before that, he spoke with Blue Delliquanti. Before before that, it was Ben Nadler. We'll have more from Alex next week, and at some point, plan to staple him to a wall so no one else can have him.

Outside in the greater comics world, the fallout from the Oni/Lion Forge merger continued to garner pretty lousy publicity in the world of comics news websites while getting the softest possible coverage from more mainstream facing sites--to say nothing of the piece that announced the merger, written by the media's softest pedaler we've got, George Gene Gustines. (In George's defense, he can't be expected to have known that the Lion Forge/Oni merger would have resulted in a bunch of young people losing their jobs--after all, it's not like Lion Forge had fired a whole bunch of young people all at once just a few months ago...oh wait, that's exactly what they did. Well, i'm sure he'll update his press release professionally published newspaper article soon, after he gets down regurgitating Bill Jemas' LinkedIn profile and telling the world how much money super-hero movies have made. Did you see Endgame? Sexy Grimace was so mad!)

Over at Down The Tubes, they've put together a solid couple of tributes to artist Jordi Longarón, who passed away recently. Here's a bunch of war covers, and here's a larger collection of his work, as well as their obituary.

Pat Mills, who has been lucky enough to be in physical proximity to John Wagner on more than one occasion has some very pointed comments--and very specific details--about the nature of royalty payments in relation to his work with Rebellion, with The Horned God being used as the example. Mills plans to talk in more detail about this subject in an upcoming book.

We'll see you next week. This weekend, i'm going to visit the gym where they turned Henry Cavill into Superman to see if I can't figure why my parents still don't love me after all that I've accomplished. Wish me luck!

 

 

Screen Time

Today on the site, Marc Sobel returns with a new installment of his Strip Mine column, in which he concludes his "Bijou Funnies" series.

Welcome back, fellow longbox junkies! In our last installment of the Strip Mine, I teased that I hadn’t gotten to “the good stuff” yet, so, without further ado, here’s the epic conclusion to “Bijou Funnies.” 

Marvel Fanfare #10 (August 1983)
By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the great George Pérez’s retirement due to health reasons. Here’s the announcement from Comic Shop News, which, since I am not much of a Twitterer, is where I first heard about it. 

It’s impossible to put into words how much enjoyment I’ve gotten out of Pérez’s work throughout my life. I’m not sure I love him enough to binge my way through 200+ issues of Teen Titans, but if I were building a Mount Rushmore of my favorite ‘80s and ‘90s superhero artists, he and John Byrne would be locks. Of course, Pérez was so prolific, there’s plenty of his stuff that I haven’t read, but the sweet spot for me is his ‘80s DC work. His Wonder Woman run remains the definitive version of that iconic character, and Crisis on Infinite Earths and The History of the DC Universe are both sumptuous visual feasts I revisit often.

Yesterday, we published Martyn Pedlar's review of Matt Lesniewski's The Freak.

There was an odd digression in a recent article about an artificial-intelligence algorithm generating images to stimulate the part of a monkey’s brain used to recognise faces. “Visual neurons, it seems, like exaggeration,” it read. “In previous studies, [the scientist’s] team showed that face-selective cells will respond more strongly to caricatures than to actual faces.”

Comics are brimming with caricatured faces, of course. Beady eyes, slits for mouths, upside-down 7s for noses. We have no problem responding to them as human, even though their proportions are often strained, distorted, or monstrous. What makes one of these faces ugly – Bernie Wrightson’s monster from Frankenstein, Frank Miller’s Marv from Sin City – and what’s just business-as-usual comic book exaggeration?

The hero of Matt Lesniewski’s graphic novel The Freak has an asymmetrical head: a wide chin, a pointed skull, a thin knot of hair on top. “To many,” the narration goes, “he’s the ugliest man to have walked the planet.” His story begins as he decides to travel to an unnamed city to see if he’ll be treated differently, but immediately he’s surrounded by a crowd, shrieking: “Oh my – that man is revolting!” and “His mere presence decreases the value of this great city” and “I can’t stand the sight of someone so disgusting!” He’s beaten almost to death and his shovel is stolen. It’s his only possession, used for his grave-digging, and he’s determined to get it back.

We also published an excerpt from Joakim Dresher's Motel Universe.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Stan Lee's ex-manager Keya Morgan has been charged with elder abuse.

[L.A. County District Attorney] Jackie Lacey’s crew has hit the Spider-Man and Avengers co-creator’s former business manager with elder abuse charges. Keya Morgan is facing one felony count of false imprisonment of an elder adult, three felony counts of theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, along with an initial elder abuse misdemeanor count.

Morgan took control of Lee’s business affairs and personal life in February 2018 and allegedly isolated the Black Panther co-creator, who died on November 12 last year, from family and friends. Morgan also embezzled or misappropriated $5 million of assets, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2018.

—The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Seth.

“There’s a quality of keeping art private that represents a sort of power. I wonder, if I was independently wealthy, would I keep all my artwork to myself and not release any of it.”

—William Nerrico writes about Gilbert Hernandez's Errata Stigmata.

In the page shown here, lifted from the original comic, Hernandez focuses (pardon the pun) on the connection between seeing and being: the ocular and the existential. In the last panel, the one I have dreams about, a dislocated, disembodied eye explodes with viscera across a mutantly giant television screen with Errata mutely witnessing.

I have gone on to to write numerous articles and soon, three books on Latinas/os and Visual Culture, and I think all of them come back to that panel — the young orphaned witness with her face, unseen, to the screen.

 

Tilt

Yesterday, we published Alec Berry's update on the ongoing Cody Pickrodt defamation case. A judge in the New York Supreme Court recently dismissed eight of the case's eleven defendants.

Almost sixty days after his review began, Judge Thomas Feinman of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, chose to dismiss eight of the eleven defendants named in small-press publisher Cody Pickodt’s $2.5 million defamation lawsuit.

Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore (cartoonists); Josh O’Neill (publisher); Rob Clough (critic); Jordan Shiveley and Tom Kaczynski/Uncivilized Books (publishers and cartoonists) are all, seemingly, free and clear.

Their lawyer, Aurore DeCarlo of C.A. Goldberg, said she doesn't know if Pickrodt, via his lawyer Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law, will appeal the decision. She hasn’t received such notice. But she believes the statutes of limitations have passed for any additional civil lawsuits Pickrodt could file in states other than New York, and she knows for sure he cannot pursue new legal action there.

Carbonaro, in a brief statement offered to The Comics Journal, seemed to let the matter lie by providing some analysis of the judge’s decision. He then opted to look ahead, knowing three defendants still remain. They are Whit Taylor, Hazel Newlevant, and Morgan Pielli.

Daniel Elkin turned in a review of Julia Gfrörer's Vision.

In tight, thin lines that fill nine-panel grids, Julia Gfrörer’s comics explore the realms of horror and the erotic lives of women and finds, in the intersection of the two, a new sort of agency that borders on empowerment but is often subsumed in some darker truth -- that feminine sexuality and the procreative power of women are potent and raw forces that, having been confined and shamed by a male-dominated social order for so long, manifest as an assertory, supernatural agent of change.

Her latest 24 page, black and white mini-comic, Vision Part One, continues in this vein. Gfrörer pitches the plot as “a Victorian spinster escapes the demands of her invalid sister-in-law through a sexual relationship with a haunted mirror,” and by doing so firmly cements it in all of her themes: horror, the constraints inherent in the constructs imposed on womanhood, the desire to escape, and desire itself. The tension that Gfrörer creates by juxtaposing all of these ideas makes everything taut and tight, and her artwork only enhances this rigidity. At times, Gfrörer’s pages are overwhelming, images so dense with crosshatching that they become claustrophobic, seemingly straining to break out of the nine-panel grids in which she imprisons her work. Through these artistic choices, Gfrörer compels a reader to feel her storytelling as much as bear witness to it.

Today, Patrick Dunn talked to writer Vivek Shraya about her recent autobiographical comic, Death Threat.

Patrick Dunn: I want to start by asking you about these messages themselves. While awful in content, of course, they have this weirdly unique voice to them. What was it about them that made you want to turn them into a book?

Vivek Shraya: Well, as you’ve read and noted yourself, they’re not your typical kind of hate mail [laughs]. As a trans person, I get trolled on the internet like anyone else and I just mute that or block it. I don’t really engage. But there was something about the ways that these messages use cultural language, religious language, and familial language — like talking about my mom — that made them quite hard to ignore. I’m sort of forced to picture them in a way. Simultaneously, I’d been reading a lot of graphic novels, so when I pictured these letters, they were very illustrated and detailed. I think that it was the timing of the letters with reading graphic novels. I was like, “Oh, I think this is a comic book.”

What graphic novels were you reading at the time? What was on your mind?

I’m a huge Michael DeForge fan. It’s largely his work that I had been taking in. I think I had finished reading Sticks Angelica, but, before that I had read Big Kids, which I loved so much. He’s certainly a huge inspiration for me in terms of thinking about the world of graphic novels. To be honest, it’s not a world that I know particularly well or understood, even. You know, I come from a more literary background where there’s certain conventions that are ascribed to. Even as a pop musician, there are these limitations that you have to work with. But in graphic novels and comic books, especially the stuff that Michael’s doing, it seems like pure freedom in a lot of ways. So I think that’s what really excited me about the medium.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's Doug Wright Awards were announced at TCAF last weekend. The winners include Hartley Lin, Ariane Dénommé, and Xiaoxiao Li.

—Reviews. Paul Morton reviewed Saul Steinberg's Labyrinth.

SAUL STEINBERG CALLED HIMSELF “a writer who draws.” Harold Rosenberg called him “a writer in pictures.” Critics compared him to Klee and Picasso, but reviews were just as likely to namedrop Joyce and Stendhal. He was friends with Nabokov as well as Saul Bellow, Primo Levi, William Gaddis, Donald Barthelme, John Hollander, Charles Simic, and Ian Frazier. Ulysses was his favorite novel. Nabokov’s essay on Gogol was his guidebook.

The tendency to think of Steinberg as a literary figure comes as much from his self-definition as it does from his identity as a New Yorker illustrator. His drawings would sometimes take up two-page spreads. Others would be wrapped by the text of a short story or a slice-of-life sketch. In this way they became another story to be read, one composed in an immigrant’s visual patois. (Steinberg grew up in Romania and studied in Italy before coming to the United States during World War II.) We read Steinberg’s wayward lines signifying nothing, his wispy depictions of Midwestern townscapes, his heavily inked Upper West Side partygoers. This approach raises questions. Is a Steinberg drawing a sentence in Lolita, a page in Ulysses, or one of Barthelme’s sit-down comic riffs? Are any of these images as thick and complete as a good paragraph? And if so, are we supposed to spend as much time studying every turn and every oddball gesture as we do rereading Lolita, intent on getting every joke in every word?

—Interviews. Martin Dupuis talks to designer Chip Kidd about Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

What’s your favorite page in TDKR and why?

Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I own the originals to pages 11 and 42 of Book 3–they are framed and on the wall of my apartment, and I look at them every day. And they are signed to me by Frank, so they have deep meaning for me.

Are there any details that stick out as interesting, or telling about Miller’s process in them when looking at the original art?

There are several things–first, the use of paste-up photostats. Especially on my page of issue #3. Dialogue that was added later– “That’s right, Joker,” “WASTE those bullets”, do not appear on the original, but the other dialogue does (‘Watch your language, son…”). The last two panels of that page are stats, as is some of the sound effects (BLAM!!), and who knows where the originals are, or why they changed, or from what.

 

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