Today on the site, North America’s favorite manga scholar Ryan Holmberg returns with the second part of his essay on Yuichi Yokoyama and “audiovisual abstraction” in comics.
When it comes to figures of size, Yokoyama clearly favors bigness. His earliest manga, the building narratives in New Engineering (2004), feature gigantic landworks and monumental fantasy structures. Travel (2006) promises an entire long-distance train trip. Garden (2007) features hallways that extend into infinity and giant maps that describe an entire territory in detail. After Garden, I recall Yokoyama saying he wanted to make a 1000-page book depicting war, though he never did.
In all such cases, however, Yokoyama packs bigness into smallness. His books are rarely longer than 300 pages, and often much shorter. Like any comics author, he has to work with a finite number of small panel frames – which would be a meaningless observation were there not indications that Yokoyama has been interested in this aspect of comics-making on a figurative level. For example, the endless hallway in Garden turns out to be a library filled with wordless picture catalogues, suggesting that the entire universe can be condensed, quasi-wordless comics-like, into an accumulation of printed pictures without help of the written word. The horde of photographs dropped from the air and assembled into a map in Garden suggest a similar idea: when a large set of pictures/panels is properly ordered, they can recreate, even if the individual units are small, the world in near whole. Likewise, Travel might be ambitious as a comics project, but it also harbors within it the humble desire of the armchair traveller that the world be adequately contained and enjoyed vicariously through books, screens, and other domesticated media. As encyclopedias are vast by virtue of being compact, so Yokoyama has explored monumentality, infinity, and comprehensiveness through figures and practices of miniaturization, division, and containment.
—Reviews & Commentary. The Chilean cultural critic and playwright Ariel Dorfman writes about the origin of his famous 1970s critique of Disney comic books, How to Read Donald Duck.
If there was a single company that embodied the overarching influence of the U.S. — not just in Chile but in so many other lands then known as the Third World — it was the Walt Disney Corporation. Today, in addition to the many amusement parks that bear its name, the Disney brand conjures up a panoply of Pixar princesses, avatars of cars and planes, and tales of teen-age angst and Caribbean piracy. But in Chile, in the early 1970s, Disney’s influence was epitomized by a flood of inexpensive comic books available at every newsstand. So Armand and I decided to focus on them and in particular on the character who then seemed to us the most symbolic and popular of the denizens of the Disney universe. What better way to expose the nature of American cultural imperialism than to unmask the most innocent and wholesome of Walt Disney’s characters, to show what authoritarian tenets a duck’s smiling face could smuggle into Third World hearts and minds?
We would soon discover what an attack on Disney would be met with — and it wasn’t smiles.
—News. As reported in Vice, Matt Furie is stepping up his legal actions against the rightwing provocateurs coopting his Pepe the Frog character.
Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to “aggressively enforce his intellectual property.”
The artist’s lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear—stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences.
—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Mimi Pond.
J.A. Micheline talks to Tillie Walden.
“I thought about my own memories,” Walden says, “not necessarily in terms of content but in terms of the space. Where I was when something happened and how did my emotions affect how I remember that space? In certain instances in the book, I would realise: ‘OK, during this competition, I was feeling horrifically restricted and sad and that emotion was growing inside me.’ So I would have this space that would suddenly grow bigger and become more cavernous.”
—Misc. Juan Fernandez writes about a fascinating old French television show based on the idea of the exquisite corpse game, and featuring artists such as Jean-Claude Forest, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, Moebius, and Johnny Hart(!), among many others.
The concept was simple, efficient, and allowed for many variations: A huge, blank white page and cartoonists equipped with just a simple marker. A theme was proposed (ex. invasion or pursuit), sometimes a visual starting point (simple line, spiral, circle), and the authors improvised, either collaboratively with their peers, or in a duel facing off against their opponents. The result was often far more than a juxtaposition of drawings, it was often a real visual dialogue between cartoonists.