It’s Monday, the first one since officially hearing from Donald Trump that the best case scenario in the US will be the deaths of 200,000 people. There’s nothing that can be said here that isn’t going to change that, but … Continue reading →
You mentioned you edited a prison issue [of WWIII Illustrated] in the 1990s and Prison Town is about a decade old now. How did you get interested in these issues?
In some ways it has to do with the story told in Take What You Can Carry. When I got caught shoplifting, my dad had the idea that we should spend an hour or two in the jail before we left. [laughs] That experience may have made me think about those issues as I feel I’ve been pretty aware of my own white privilege and what the influence of that on my own trajectory was versus what it might have been for someone else under different economic and racial circumstances. It’s something I was always aware of. A theme that runs through all my work is that of the individual versus society and the I think prison is the ultimate expression of that. Lab USA gets at that. Society has certain rules they need to enforce and they do it in a very clumsy manner – at times in a very unfair manner. How individuals get ground up by institutions has been a focus of a lot of my work and I think prison is a real expression of that.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, sickness and other emergencies are making this a short one:
For my money, the late Victorian-era ghost stories of Montague Rhoades James, aka M.R. James, are without peer. The classic scenario of his tales is that of a comfortable, upper-middle-class academic gentleman, who, through his own scholarly curiosity and/or carelessness, unwittingly invites a dreadful supernatural entity into his tranquil, privileged existence, an entity that brings with it terror, madness, sometimes even death. James’ narrators relate these tales calmly and matter-of-factly, in a brandies-by-the-fire tone, as reality is slowly engulfed in otherworldly malevolence, incident by incident. The stories perfectly combine uniquely cozy British wit with mounting dread. Though typically noted for their restraint and chilling subtleties, James’ tales also feature flat-out horror. Some climax with appearances by monstrous spiders, a hairy demon, or a toad-like horror; others end in gory death as James reveals what has been lurking just off-camera all along: within that ash tree, underneath that ancient tomb, or in the shadows of that old rose garden.
As with the first edition, this second SelfMadeHero volume of James adaptations by Leah Moore and John Reppion features four stories. They are “Number 13,” “Count Magnus,” “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” (along with “Casting the Runes,” this remains James’ most celebrated story), and “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas,” each illustrated by a different artist. While the book is a good introduction for James novices, there’s a buttoned-downed approach to the art that keeps it from truly excelling.
I’ve always — perhaps foolishly — believed I present myself as strong, or maybe even shrewd. I’ve built up a series of protections for shows, signings, and everything in-between: don’t allow yourself to be left alone in a room with one man and no witnesses. Know your exits. Don’t accept gifts. Be generically friendly. Act like you’re about to turn into a pumpkin by midnight (things always get weirder after midnight). The thought that I may not get to enjoy as much of being a cartoonist, especially one coming into a little glimmer of success, just because I am a woman was something I had to let go of in order to stay safe and sane. In a way, I often reason with myself, it has made me tougher, understanding the world around me as a hostile one.
—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times checks in with Roz Chast about her latest book.
As Ms. Chast has aged, her characters, often loosely autobiographical, have aged with her, growing into middle age with their neuroses intact. “Some worries I’m probably going to carry with me until the point comes when you stop worrying, which is when you’re dead,” she said. “Where do I start? Driving, medical, electricity, basement, boilers.”
And The Guardian checks in with Chris Ware in advance of his.
Ware’s “own stuff” may appear intricately plotted, but he says his creative process is essentially just sifting through a mess of plans and ideas, some recorded “while I was driving or brushing my teeth or whatever”.
“But once I sit down to draw and am looking at the images as they start to coalesce on the page, all sorts of new ideas start to occur to me,” he says. “And these are almost always much more alive, real and tied unconsciously into whatever the story is actually about than whatever I’ve thought might be interesting, compelling, witty, whatever.”
The 1960s "spy culture" site SpyVibe interviews Trina Robbins about Honey West, Miss Fury, and more female pulp comics characters.
I completely agree with you! It breaks my heart to see what these gorillas [at Dynamite] have done to the wonderful Miss Fury. No, she is not “holding up” in these badly written and badly drawn new books, and my Miss Fury and the REAL Miss Fury will always be the original Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury. [...]
It isn’t so much the writer as the artist. How can a woman be strong and in control when her back is broken or in real life the weight of her breasts would make her fall forward onto her face? And let’s not talk about running in high heels!
At any point did you encounter resistance to your decision to tell your story in a comic, due to old ideas about comics not being serious?
Sure, but I didn’t listen to it. I kind of like the low-brow reputation that comics have. It’s not unlike the experience of being underestimated because I’m a woman, a minority, a short person, or I look younger than my age. I enjoy the sweet revenge of surprising people. I have to, or else I would walk around in a rage all the time.
With the Ken Burns’ documentary The Vietnam War recently concluded on PBS, I’m wondering what are the primary misconceptions that you feel Americans have about Viet Nam, its history, and our involvement there? How have popular movies or books led to misperceptions, and did you consciously consider how your work was countering these misperceptions?
The primary problem with American narratives about the war is the need to center American experiences in a conflict that was not all about America. So even when Americans go in with the intention of critically examining the United States’ involvement in Viet Nam, they continue to keep the focus on themselves — look how bad we were, the damage we did — not realizing that in continuing to talk over the voices of those who have been heard from less, they continue the damage and prevent people from healing. I was surprised and sad at how easily the Ken Burns documentary overshadowed the work of so many Vietnamese and Vietnamese American writers, filmmakers, and scholars.
Images we pick up from movies stick around for a long time. If your idea of what Vietnamese people look and sound like comes from movies like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, then I have a lot of work to do to replace those caricatures with carefully observed characterizations of real Vietnamese people. Some people are able to do this entirely in prose; for me, drawing was in my arsenal, so I used it. My hope is that my images will stick around and influence people’s ideas of Vietnamese people for the better — not because I portrayed them all as model minorities, but because I showed them as fully formed human beings who can be wonderful, average, or total assholes, just like everybody else.
I’d like to hear from and help amplify voices even less heard than the Vietnamese. My family’s story doesn’t touch on the experiences of ethnic minorities in Viet Nam, or people in neighboring Laos and Cambodia who were impacted by the war.
Frank pointed me to this Flickr album of photos of the David Mazzucchelli show I curated some years back. His work looks as great as ever.
This is a decent overview of Samuel R. Delany's work, including some comics.
The Karasik/Newgarden How to Read Nancy is the best book ever written about comics. I'll have an interview with them soon. Meanwhile, here is something that uses Nancy in all the off-brand ways, but worth your time regardless:
Cartoon Crossroads Columbus just had its third iteration, and by all accounts it was a success. This show is extremely ambitious in its scope, as founder Jeff Smith, his wife and business partner Vijaya Iyer, and academic/librarian Lucy Shelton Caswell imagined nothing less than an American version of the annual festival in Angouleme, France. The show's mission statement:
"We hope to provide an international showcase for the best of cartoon art in all its forms, including comics, animation, editorial cartoons, newspaper strips, and beyond, in a city that is a growing center of importance to comics and cartooning. We also focus on helping the next generation of young cartooning talent develop thriving careers that invigorate the industry for years to come."
I can't imagine a creator more suited for this particular kind of show than Smith, who sits right in the center of alternative and mainstream comics. His seminal series Bone helped to establish the currently thriving children's and YA market. Caswell is another story, and it's her involvement that gives CXC resources that no other show can match.
—CXC. Comics Workbook has two of its own takes on comics festivals and CXC. First, Adam Griffiths had a report on the various panels and talks he saw there.
“How many of y’all have heard that art is gonna make you money?” Vicko asked the audience. All of the kids raised their hands. “How many of you like art?” All hands raised. At this point, Jiba Molei Anderson, who was watching the talk, joined the panelists onstage. “If I ignore something I love, my mental focus is gonna go out of whack, right?” Alvarez declared. The children agreed with her.
“We are all here for the love,” Anderson says. “Even when we’re frustrated we’re not gonna quit. Creative people, to survive we really need to create…that hamster wheel never shuts down.”
“But tethering that to real life is always a challenge to me,” said Lisa Sheperd.
Comics, as we engage with them today in the United States’ existing festival ecosystem, are facing a cultural choking point. There’s a huge role that comics can and should be playing in broader cultural discussions.
But they’re not and our Festivals have something to do with this. It’s 2017 and it is essential to reframe the discussion of comics shows.
Comics making and comics reading practices need more breathing room. To grow. To continue expanding. We need to nurture interdisciplinary approaches to experiencing comics.
We need our festivals to make this their guiding principle.
—News. As seems to be happening on a nonstop basis lately, another metaphorical mask fell off this week. On Friday, Marvel announced via Twitter that they would be partnering with the the world's fifth-largest defense contractor, Northrop Grumman, and would explain their plans on Saturday at the New York Comic-Con. As you might expect, many fans expressed concern about the move. Not long after, Marvel announced that the collaboration had been canceled. Nothrop Grumman pretended that the partnership had been intended simply to promote STEM.
The company is working to develop the U.S. military’s B-21 Raider, an opportunity it advertised during last year’s Super Bowl. And it is in the throes of an advertising blitz for a $100 billion opportunity to replace the Pentagon’s stock of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which make up the ground-based leg of the U.S. nuclear counterattack capability.
“Northrop Grumman is a very capable company, but the bottom line is they make products that kill people,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant with the nonprofit Lexington Institute. “And that’s a hard sell in popular culture.”
Children's author Mo Willems (along with Mike Curato and Lisa Yee) wrote a letter in protest of a mural at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts that included a Chinese man with chopsticks that the writers claimed was a racial stereotype. (I haven't seen the image myself, but believe them.) After a great deal of controversy on social media, which included personal attacks on Willems and his co-authors, the museum decided to remove the image. The city's mayor has called for the mural to stay up, and a local businessman has offered to buy it. From the museum's statement:
It is in that spirit that Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the Springfield Museums listened to the concerns voiced by the authors and fans and have made the decision to take down the Mulberry street mural at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and replace it with a new image that reflects the wonderful characters and messages from Dr. Seuss's later works. This is what Dr. Seuss would have wanted us to do. His later books, like The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who, showed a great respect for fairness and diversity. Dr. Seuss would have loved to be a part of this dialogue for change. In fact, Ted Geisel himself said, "It's not how you start that counts. It's what you are at the finish."
I smiled weakly a couple of times. Gauld’s ultra-minimal drawing style seems developed to showcase the words, but the words fall limply. In small doses, in a newspaper, these cartoons may have offered some amusement, but put all together, the effect is stifling.
Gary Panter is opening an exhibition in NYC on Thursday. It's something new for the Gary man, and from what I've seen, it'll be a great experience.
It's been just more than a month since Joe McCulloch was last with us, but it feels like years. But he's back now with a review of Berserker #1, a new magazine from Breakdown Press, and suddenly the world feels all right again.
As far as first impressions go, this new comic book-format Breakdown Press magazine is a total success. You can't tell from my scan at left, but the cover stock is so extremely thin and glossy as to seem perpetually wet; running your fingers up and down the surface, prints trailing, you can almost feel the slime on the skin of that Robert Beatty alien, his Martian sky moist from evening humidity, prison brick wall dripping from new-sprayed paint. Yet this is not a soft world - the interior stock, non-glossy, is quite heavy and firm, so that one senses not only flesh from touch, but the easy peeling of such skin from bone: a hardness only suggested by Beatty's painting, but vivid in your hands. Who picked out the paper? Was it Joe Hales, the print producer? Someone at Hoddesdon's Crystal Press? They did a wonderful job.
Reading the magazine is not so uncomplicated a pleasure, though at least it has cohesion of its side. The editors are Tom Oldham, a Breakdown co-founder, and Jamie Sutcliffe, a writer-on-culture and one of the operators of Strange Attractor Press, a house devoted to books on marginal and esoteric subjects, among them severalfictions by the magician and comics writer Steve Moore, who (among other things) devised the "Future Shock" format for twist ending short stories in the UK's venerable genre comics weekly 2000 AD. And -- beginning on the inside-front cover, where we approach the "Nerve Centaur" to encounter Low Priestess Kleax Nix Vizz, the magazine's maniacal host -- it is clear that Berserker wants to evoke the immediacy and thrill-power of Britain's history of serial comic venues, if in part, one guesses, as conceptual binding. Or, to hear it from Oldham: "There’s a lot of people producing comics who are working in genre, whether that’s formally or in terms of content. There’s also a lot of contemporary art floating around that’s sort of mining genre narrative and genre narrative aesthetics. We just wanted to do something that presented that work, and the format and mode that we chose to present it in was that of a European science fiction anthology comic à la 2000 AD."
“Trashed,” the graphic novel about a garbage collector that I mentioned before. At one point, the garbage collector is taunted by a jerky kid. Later that day while on his route, he sees that kid from behind and throws a bag of garbage at him. When the kid turns around, he realizes it’s just some poor bespectacled shlub who happens to be wearing the same shirt as the taunter. He muses about how, for the rest of his life, that kid is going to wonder why a trash collector threw a bag of garbage at him.
In the mid- to late ’90s, Yang hadn’t seen a viable career as an illustrator, and instead became a computer programmer, then a teacher, after graduating from UC Berkeley. The comic book industry was threatened with collapse as Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy. “So I just thought, ‘Some people spend money on golf to relax. I will spend money on making comics,’” Yang says.
As a child, Yang read comics in secret, hiding from disapproving parents, sneaking out of the library with a friend to a nearby comic book store. “We’d check out these coffee-table size books that we could sneak our comics home in,” he recalls.
Curbed briefly talks to Julia Wertz and excerpts her new book.
Wertz hesitates to categorize the book as any one genre; though it has elements of a guidebook, or a memoir, and (most notably) a history of the city, she says it’s really “a canonization of my obsessions in New York City.”
—Reviews & Commentary. Robert Boyd writes about the painter (and former PictureBox artist) Trenton Doyle Hancock, and the connections between artists, comic books, and recurring characters.
For Hancock, the idea of making characters involves the whole universe of modern capitalist trademarked characters. That includes making toys of characters; Hancock is a devoted collector of toys.
As I talked to Davenport, we both realized that for most of art history, artists had a bunch of characters they could use over and over. Biblical characters are obvious choices, and mythological characters, and historical figures. What is different about those characters and modern corporate characters is that no one owned Jesus or Zeus. Disney owns Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man. Warner Brothers owns Batman and the Teen Titans. And artist can use these characters once or twice, but if they try to create involve bodies of work using these characters, they'll get legally shut down. Spider-Man is just too valuable to Disney to let Trenton Doyle Hancock or any other artists to do with it whatever they want.
—Misc. The Washington Post writes about a new Charlie Hebdo initiative to cover the United States for an American audience. It looks so far to be a great deal less caustic than the magazine's traditional product.
On Wednesday, the newspaper released a lengthy report in English on the so-called American resistance, with a particular eye to what remains of the U.S. left. The project, titled “Feeling the Burn: The Left Under Trump,” will appear online in weekly installments in the form of a graphic nonfiction novel, which will permit the newspaper to continue with its visual trademark: caricatures and cartoons.
The online Paris Review has a story about an impromptu sorta-collaboration between children's book author Sandra Boynton and New Yorker cartoonist George Booth.
This past August, Boynton, sixty-four, wound up in Brooklyn at a block party with bipedal George Booth, the legendary New Yorker cartoonist, ninety-one-years young and known, among other things, for cartoons of dirty garages and pets forced to endure lunatic owners. He spent that afternoon parked in a folding chair drawing cartoons for the neighborhood children. As Motown music played, the nonagenarian quickly sketched a couple hapless dogs on a piece of printer paper—one sitting down, one mid-twirl on one leg—and gave them to Boynton as a gift. On the car ride home to Connecticut, with the drawings on her lap and the music playing in her head, Boynton conceived of the whole story.
Lynn Johnston does an "unboxing" video (!) to mark the first volume of IDW's complete For Better or Worse.
“Uncle Sam” meaning the United States appeared in newspapers from 1813 to 1815; in 1816, he appeared in a book in that symbolic role. By the 1820s, “Uncle Sam” was often being used as a term for the United States. The Sam Wilson connection seems a little shaky to me, but Congress passed a resolution in 1961 that recognized “Uncle Sam” Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol.
The visual representation of Uncle Sam, a tall man with a white goatee wearing a top hat, swallow-tail coat and striped trousers, evolved from pictures of an earlier symbolic figure—Brother Jonathan.
Until the Civil War, goateed and top-hatted Brother Jonathan in striped pants often stood for the United States even though the cartoon character initially represented just New England. The term Brother Jonathan originated across the Atlantic during the English Civil War (1642-1651) between the Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and the Royalists (“Cavaliers”) as a somewhat derogatory name for the Puritan Roundheads, and then the name was also applied to the New England colonists, who were also mostly Puritans who also supported the Parliamentarians in the mother country. By this route, Brother Jonathan became a stock character that good naturedly lampooned Yankee acquisitiveness and other crafty peculiarities attributed to citizens of the region.