Good morning, & welcome to another week of comics talk.
First, Ken Parille performs another comic-book dissection, and this time his laboratory frog is the spearhead of DC’s bold new 52 initiative, Justice League #1. As Ken put it elsewhere: “Normally I write about comics I like and try to explain what’s interesting about them. This time I take a different approach.”
A big day on the site today, with enough reading material to carry you through the weekend and well into next week!
First we have Jesse Pearson’s riveting (if I do say so myself) interview with Johnny Ryan, in which we learn more than I ever thought possible about the cartoonist. This is a must. Jesse begins:
There has never been an alternative comics artist who makes work that’s more divisive than Johnny Ryan’s. Shit, piss, farts, dicks, and pussies are his vanilla material. When he really gets rolling, he’ll deal in rape, murder, genocide, 9-11, AIDS, baby fucking, and the end of the world. The style of art in his humor comics—all cute and cartoonish—both undercuts and ramps up the disturbance factor. It’s dizzying.
And it gets even better from there.
And then we have Kim Deitch’s eleventh installment of his memoir, in which he swerves into opera and gardening:
Our place had a nice bay window with plenty of sun, and for a period Sally had gotten into growing all kinds of different things. One day she took a shot at germinating some pot seeds from my current stash. I wasn’t relying on pot to draw all that much anymore, but I was still smoking the stuff. Well, that particular experiment was a roaring success and I soon took it over. It seemed to have awakened a latent farmer within me.
Well, friends, what more could you want? I will not direct you anywhere else — I refuse — because this should be enough! And it is!
1. After speculating about how Disney is going to respond to working with the anarchic and unprofessional employees of Marvel (i.e. “small talents with big egos”), Jim Shooter posts his contracts from Marvel in 2002 and DC in 2007. (via)
2. The much-missed Jeet Heer emerged briefly from the chaos of new fatherhood and several large projects to e-mail me a link to this appearance from another Journal fan favorite:
Heer also wrote this recent review of Michael Kupperman’s new Mark Twain book.
3. Are old-fashioned maps (the kind with sea monsters and dragons) comics? Not really, but it may be hard for some to pinpoint exactly why when confronted with a few of the images in this short illustrated history of them.
4. Brian Chippendale takes on the New 52 at DC, reviewing the new Justice League and Animal Man titles, as well as various Marvel, independent, and manga titles.
5. Finally, there’s something of a debate going on right now regarding the coherence (or lack of same) of the action scenes in recent blockbuster films. Jim Emerson started it off with this excellent video essay critiquing a chase sequence from The Dark Knight.
A.D. Jameson defends the scene here, claiming that Christopher Nolan and his collaborators are trying a new and visceral approach to cinematic action that doesn’t rely on narrative coherence.
All of that is interesting but not obviously related to comics. Except that it reminded me of many of Frank Santoro’s arguments over the years (here’s one) regarding the disappearance of the “classical” (for lack of a better word) cartooning style that was notable for its clarity, and was once evident in the work of everyone from the masterful Milton Caniff to the perennial critical whipping boy Don Heck. Nowadays, American action comics are almost all just big explosions, pointless decapitations, and impossible-to-parse (or believe) battle royale splash pages. Drawn in “photo-realistic” style, of course, so as to denote seriousness (not unlike how Nolan is supposed to be presenting a new “realism” in superhero films).
I don’t have a coherent theory as to why this is so, beyond a general coarsening of the culture. Or at least the culture of this particular kind of action story. The normal thumb-sucking answer is to blame it on video games, but you don’t actually see the same incoherence in your typical Xbox boss fight, so I don’t think that’s it, unless video games have simply spurred filmmakers and cartoonists to desperation due to lost market share. Further investigation is required.
Hayley Campbell reads Nate Powell’s Any Empire against an extraordinary backdrop and asks a few questions.
Jack Adler, the noted production man at DC Comics from 1946 to 1981, has passed away. Mark Evanier has a summary of Adler’s career. Adler was responsible for the stunning look of DC covers in the 1960s, innovating in color and texture.
Jog’s pal Peter Milligan is interviewed about his work for DC’s 52, specifically Red Lanterns, and says:
I suppose one of the main aims of this book is to take what have hitherto been monomaniacal bad guys and turn some of them at least into something more rounded and more compelling.
Gotta start somewhere!
Over at the Forbidden Planet blog there’s a report on an exhibition of work by Maurice Tillieux, whose Murder by High Tide is one my favorite books of this year, even though I’m still trying to figure out a way to write something intelligent about it. Click over for some juicy photos and good info.
Yesterday Frank Santoro announced the beginning of a cartooning correspondence course. He says:
There are a lot of cartooning courses and classes available right now. CCS, SVA, and SCAD – but I want to do it differently: a one-on-one 8-week correspondence course over phone, e-mail and snail mail. I’d like to use the work and development for a book about making comics. I’m going to focus specifically on advancing your understanding of layouts, color, contour line drawing, and printmaking for producing comic books. The 8-week class is $500. This class is limited: only ten students will be accepted.
I would apply just to learn from the maestro, but he’d never take me. Anyhow, Frank’s also posting some beautiful drawings on his own site, like this one.
And today we bring you the latest from R.C. Harvey, this time exploring a curious byway of comics history and education via the story of Max Eastman. Harv begins:
Whilst wandering lonely as a cloud in a foreign clime some years ago, I toured a couple nifty dusty old bookstores (the dust was a big part of the nift) and chanced upon a tome called Enjoyment of Laughter, a 1936 opus by Max Eastman. It was the author’s name that stopped me. Wasn’t Max Eastman, I asked myself, the editor of the rabble-rousing socialist magazine, The Masses, back in the 19-teens?
-Daniel Best explains why the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito was important.
-Not comics: This long piece about Alex Katz is a good look at an aging artist, manly competition, and the way one atmosphere of the art world functions. It pertains here mostly because of how it applied to artists in any medium, and because Katz remains, in many ways, an artist whose sense of line and figure is applicable to cartoon drawing.
Alan Gardner comes out in favor of the newspapers who have pulled Garry Trudeau’s recent Doonesbury strips previewing material from the new Sarah Palin biography, but I have a hard time understanding why, based on the strips published so far. This is pretty tame stuff.
Finally, you might have seen the photo comic made by a very young Kim Thompson that is currently making the rounds online. Or maybe you’ve been reading his most recent dream journals. What I want to know is if this is the same Kim Thompson whose heretical letter was published in Captain America 194 in 1976?
Today we’re giving the site over to Dylan Williams. We are posting the first handful of a series of tributes we hope to continue, as well as an unpublished 2008 interview with Dylan about his relationship to punk rock. We want to thank everyone who contributed, and especially Chris Cilla, an author whose masterpiece-to-date, The Heavy Hand, was recently published by Sparkplug, for turning around a wonderful portrait of his friend and publisher in record time. And I speak for Tim when I extend our deepest condolences to his friends and family.
Zak Sally has written a lengthy and very moving piece about Dylan at The Comics Reporter, where Tom continues to collect links to other tributes and remembrances.
Most other links would seem rather silly, so instead I’ll offer two by artists that Dylan completely schooled me on:
Here’s a wonderful page of original art by H.G. Peter (it was Dylan who was responsible for Peter being in my book Art in Time) translated into Spanish.
In this 1992 interview, Todd McFarlane talks about quitting Spider-Man and Marvel, the inception of Spawn and Image Comics, and concludes with a discussion of morality. McFarlane also discusses the comic market and kid culture. Continue reading →