Today on the site: Sean T. Collins talks to cartoonist, editor and publisher Leah Wishnia. SEAN T. COLLINS: You’ve been quite forthcoming about the process that animates Happiness in the editors’ letters that appear in the most recent issues. In #4, you … Continue reading →
In 1972 Weaver commissioned four artists associated with the Terry Ditenfass Gallery to make comics for an issue of Graphis magazine focusing on comics (he is nicely bracketed by contributions from Alain Resnais and Milton Glaser). In his accompanying essay, “Experiments in Time-Art”, Weaver dilates on the power of the strip to transform visual art: “The artist working in the narrative strip medium can extend the single instant backward or forward in time. Not only can he move slowly or suddenly or not at all, change his mind, hold his audience in suspense, sustain a mood, surprise or destroy; he can virtually wire his pictures for sound.”
We also have Sean T. Collins’s review of Michael DeForge’s online Ant Comic:
Ant Comic, Michael DeForge’s magnum opus (so far; give him time), tackles the big issues—sex, war, parenthood, family, labor, love, the Other, death—with such brio and ease that it’s more like a shopper methodically checking items off his grocery list in a supermarket he knows like the back of his hand than an artist grappling with the stickiest issues imaginable. That’s because, in this story about a handful of insects living in a black ant colony that makes a disastrous decision to go to war with the red ants who live nearby, he’s found the perfect vessel for all his preexisting preoccupations as a cartoonist.
Today we bring you a classic: The Fiore/Pekar Blood and Thunder letter exchange of 1989 and 1990. Publishing this chestnut feels like watching Scrooged on Christmas. Kristy Valenti gives us some context:
The grand tradition of the flame war as a snapshot of the pressing issues of the day and as a catalyst for criticism that has its own literary worth is not new. (For the 1730s version, check out Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s “The Reasons that Induced Dr S to write a Poem call’d the Lady’s Dressing room.”) At its best, before the Internet was widespread, The Comics Journal letter pages, dubbed “Blood and Thunder,” served essentially as a message board for the comics community. It was a forum where cartoonists, fans, critics and professionals debated and dissected every development — aesthetic and commercial — in the medium at the time, whether it was the formation of the Direct Market, Creators’ Rights, “writing for the trade,” or “craft is the enemy of art” (or simply trolled each other: The insults in the great R. Fiore/Kenneth Smith showdown got positively Shakespearean).
I have a softspot for 1987’s Return of the Skyman, drawn by Steve Ditko. This issue contains Ron Frantz’s account of searching for Skyman-creator Ogden Whitney. Most of what Ron found remains all we know of Whitney. Ogden Whitney and Steve Ditko: The only cartoonists I’d like to have met. Anyhow, Bob Heer kinda likes it, too.
It’s cartoonist and TCJ-contributor Eddie Campbell talking over at The Beat.
And to send you merry into the weekend, “The Perils of Pauline,” Renata Adler’s 1980 take-down of Pauline Kael. I’m not sure if this piece has just been posted online to coincide with the reissue of her novels, or if it’s been up awhile. Whatever. She has so much to say about critical writing, all of it worth considering.
Today marks the return of Sean T. Collins with a review of Julia Gfrörer’s popular webcomic, Black Is the Color. Here’s Sean:
As befits a comic that mostly takes place in a rowboat going nowhere in the middle of the ocean, Black Is the Color frequently collapses time and space into one another. Often its two-panel rows, or indeed entire pages, will depict a contiguous space split between the panels, the passage of time conveyed by the movement of your eye from one panel to the next within that space. Clouds drift and morph; a lonely cabin looks out over the sea; a storm descends over multiple pages, dwarfing a lone doomed ship; merfolk make idle chatter while watching men burn and drown; a mermaid descends through fronds of seaweed after leaving her dying lover to the daylight.
—The same Sean, inspired by the recent Diary of a Teenage Girl film teaser, resurrects his 2003 interview with Phoebe Gloeckner. Among her other accomplishments, you can definitely list memorable conversationalist.
—Grant Morrison always gives good interviews, too, though I have to say that the example he uses here to argue for how comics alone can accomplish things impossible in other media (having Superman break the fourth wall to talk to the reader about the devil) is rather depressingly unambitious — not to mention not hard at all to imagine being done in other media.
Today on the site… well, I wrote about an unusual comic/narrative/art project called The Magician.
Byrne’s succinct description of The Magician (published in an edition of 20 by Marquand Books) is: It’s set in a public bathroom. The Magician is this character that goes through and reconciles opposites. Every misunderstanding I have about the universe is documented in these objects. And creation myths, too. But it’s all tongue-in-cheek.” The Magician takes different forms. He is a sleeping figure. He is a hand. He is sperm. He is a cape.
Today Joe “Jog” McCulloch is here again with another column on the Week in Comics, to which he has attached an essay on the great and mysterious Gerald Jablonski. I’ll leave it to Joe to explain Jablonski, other than to say that reading his work will cure the attentive reader of any certainty she might possess about “rules” that must be followed when creating comics. And also that there are very few times I have laughed as hard as I have when reading Cryptic Wit #2 out loud.
—As you no doubt have heard, last week a dispute erupted over whether or not the Chicago public school system would be pulling Persepolis out of 7th grade classrooms. Here is an article at the Chicago Tribune, and here is a recent roundup of reaction at Robot 6. Search around if you want more — there’s plenty of commentary out there, though it’s pretty repetitive. Usually in these cases I can sort of understand the rationale for censorship, even while almost always disagreeing with it, but this time around, I’m at a total loss.
—In the department of reaction to The Comics Journal: Glen Weldon raves at The New Republic over issue 302’s Maurice Sendak interview, and a reviewer at the A.V. Club uses the occasion of a Fantagraphics-published book on popular music to flail at a tiny straw statue of Gary Groth he’d apparently built for himself in the early ’90s.
—Stephen Bissette and Richard Gagnon are trying to use media coverage of the next Spider-Man movie to draw attention to Marvel’s treatment of co-creator Steve Ditko.
Today brings us the return of Jeet Heer to this site. We have missed you, Jeet. Here he interviews Walter Biggins, who is leaving University Press of Mississippi after 14 years, where he published some of most significant prose books on comics. Some of my favorites are: Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is a Way of Thinking, Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, and Howard Chaykin: Conversations.
Here’s a beautiful Connor Willumsen comic originally worked on for our own Frank Santoro’s correspondence course.
We started our week with a question from Ryan Holmberg, and we end it with a full-blown column. This time in What Was Alternative Manga?, Holmberg looks at a Japanese-language comic from the Philippines, involving mad scientists and cloned women, and wonders about its origins:
Hypothesis: it was designed for sale to Japanese male businessmen and sex tourists, who were sometimes one and the same. This makes sense not only time-wise, but also content-wise.
Tourism exploded amongst the Japanese in the 1970s. Thanks to increasing affluence and a strong yen, more Japanese had the ability to travel both domestically and overseas. In Japanese studies, one often reads about the “Discover Japan” campaigns initiated in 1970, targeted primarily at young women, urging them to find themselves through trips to exotic corners of their country. This is also the period that young artists and middle-class Japanese began flying to the centers of European civilization, or hopping across America from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon and over to the Big Apple. In the pages of Tezuka Osamu’s COM circa 1970, there are a couple of articles about its artists visiting the States, Nagashima Shinji in New York, Fujiko Fujio meeting Roy Thomas. Meanwhile in Garo, Tsuge Yoshiharu was becoming famous with literary versions of his solitary sojourns to fishing holes and hot springs in the Japanese countryside – not organized tourism, obviously, but a sign that the romance of travel was beginning to grow in various corners of Japanese culture.
In this interview from The Comics Journal #146 (November 1991), Shary Flenniken talks about running away from home, the Air Pirates, editing National Lampoon, Trots and Bonnie, and more. Continue reading →