Today on the site, Annie Mok reviews the new edition of Vanessa Davis’ contemporary classic, Spaniel Rage.
Originally published in 2005, Spaniel Rage presents the first collected cartooning efforts by Vanessa Davis, a Florida-born and LA-based cartoonist. The book contains diary comics 2003-04 from Davis’ life in NYC, a few anthology stories, and a new watercolored introduction by Davis. The pages feature a free-form panel layout that mirrors a scattered approach to narrative, in contrast to the more structured autobiographical stories in Davis’ later book for Drawn & Quarterly, Make Me a Woman. Often funny, often tinged with loss, Davis chronicles a life page by page. It’s a flawed book: some bits fall flat due to awkward drafting skills, and some don’t work because the jokes don’t connect. However, the charm of Davis’s project, one that seems to be one of teaching or re-teaching herself to draw, overrides any shortcomings this collection faces. “I didn’t know how to make comics,” she says in the introduction, “But I could draw one thing a day in my sketchbook.”
And Ryan Holmberg has a symposium coming up that will explore nuclear-related manga and other issues. Here’s the info:
On February 10-11, Duke University will be hosting a two-day symposium titled “The Nuclear Imaginary in Transnational Perspective.”
An abstract and skeleton schedule can be found below. Further details, including location, time, and paper abstracts, can be found on the symposium’s facebook page. A low-res version of the poster can found here. If you plan on attending, please RSVP here.
While all of the papers will be presenting fairly unknown and important material in the history of pro- and anti-nuclear visual culture, we are truly lucky to have Leonard Rifas, an underground comix author turned activist cartoonist who published one of the first anti-nuclear power comics works in 1976 (All-Atomic Comics) and as a publisher issued one of the first English translations of manga in the form of Nakazawa Keiji’s Gen of Hiroshima (1980-81).
We don’t have to penetrate more than a fraction of an inch into Michael Tisserand’s inch-and-a-half thick, three-pound 545-page biography of Krazy Kat’s kreator to realize that it is a stupendous triumph of exhaustive research and organizational skill. I’ve read only the first two chapters of Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White, and I already know more about this shy genius than I ever expected to know. But we don’t have to read even that much to realize that this volume is a biography of the cartoonist, not a critique of his work.
Just riffling the pages of the book reveals that not much of Herriman’s comic strip art is on display, and without visual evidence, we can’t examine or much appreciate his cartooning achievement. And besides, Tisserand himself tells us in an author’s introductory note that “the dimensions of this book do not allow for a full presentation of Herriman’s grand comics.”
In fact, there are no complete comic strips on display. This book is deliberately not about comic strip artistry. And he tells us exactly that right at the beginning: none of Herriman’s “grand comics.”
In all my professional life, forty years in comics, I realized printing something—an artifact—is something I understand. It’s a way for me to remember my past. I can remember when my children were born… I can remember which book I printed/published when. I have a way of mapping out my history through publication. And that felt right to have such a publication as my way out of some insurmountable moment. For me in a way, it was a little bit of a replay of September 11th when I couldn’t figure what to do and I eventually came up with this New Yorker cover of black-on-black from [Art Spiegelman’s] suggestion that this was a way to show that there was no solution. Similarly, Gabe’s offer felt like this would be a printed artifact that will catalyze and focus a complex and inarticulate response.
My friend Adam Curtis, who is an excellent documentary filmmaker, did a wonderful film called The Power of Nightmares, which suggested that previously our political leaders sold us dreams. They would promise us, if we were to elect them, that they would give us this, this, and this. We believed them and we elected them. Then they would say, “Yeah, actually, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to follow our own agendas but thanks for electing us.” They kept doing that until, even as stupid and often subservient as we are, we eventually saw through that. We started saying, “No, you’re not actually going to do the things you said you were going to do, are you? These were just dreams you were selling us. So we are going to stay away from the polling booth in our thousands, in our millions, because we feel disenfranchised from this political system.” Of course, that’s a problem. What kind of mandate have you got if 90 percent of your population are not turning up at the polling booth?
So, if dreams aren’t working anymore, let’s sell them nightmares. This is particularly applicable to the world post-2001 with the spectre of the jihadist, which is our new cultural bogeyman. It was the slack-jawed Russian back when I was a boy and presumably the square-headed German shortly before that.
All I can do is just pile onto what everyone else says [about Donald Trump], you know? It’s all people talk about. It’s an endless subject of conversation and has been since he started running for president. The media of course loved him — loved him! They couldn’t get enough of Trump. He really shot their ratings up. People were either morbidly curious, or outraged, or they supported himâ€“all of ’em. All the people I know that despised him, they just couldn’t help but watch him and gasp in indignation at his latest outrageous statement. “Did you hear what Trump said yesterday?” [laughing] That sort of thing. And of course his supporters just lapped it up. The more outrageous the better, as far as they were concerned.
In the years following [Arthur Asa] Berger’s initial reporting, a number of writers have grappled with [the racial] aspect of Herriman’s work. “In the comics page no less than in social life, the opposition between black and white can be redefined but not abolished,” the journalist and comics scholar Jeet Heer has written. As Michael Tisserand points out in his new biography, “Krazy,” Herriman might have lost his job as a cartoonist had he been outed as black. When Herriman worked at the Los Angeles Examiner, as a staff artist, the paper published multiple articles about light-skinned African-Americans who had tried to pass as white and were subsequently “exposed.” But “Krazy” also helps to expand the meaning of the comic’s subversive play with identity beyond race. In an era when books depicting homosexuality and gender nonconformity could lead to charges of obscenity, “Krazy Kat,” Tisserand notes, featured a gender-shifting protagonist who was in love with a male character.
The incoming U.S. President was responsible for skyrocketing sales of March, the graphic novelization of the life of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. Inadvertently responsible, to be sure. Nevertheless, it gained an incredible bump of more than one hundred thousand percent. And any escalation in literacy is cause for celebration these days. Especially when it encompasses visual literacy. And even more particularly so when the book pays tribute to someone who continues stand up against racism more than 50 years after having been beaten and arrested for peacefully protesting. So it seems time to revisit a related graphic novel bio, groundbreaking and critically acclaimed when first released, on the life of Lewis’s mentor and marching buddy. I’m referring here to King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kevin Czap was recently awarded the Emerging Talent award at the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) festival, a fitting honor for a cartoonist and publisher who is starting to publish on a more aggressive basis. A self-proclaimed “Comics Mom,” Czap’s goal as a publisher is to nurture and encourage the artists that they publish (Czap’s preferred pronouns are they/them) to be their best and most fully-formed artistic selves, no matter their style or method. Their forward-thinking and nurturing presence as a publisher is most closely aligned with how Annie Koyama works with her artists, but Czap’s dedication to the crew of artists they’ve been publishing for years as well as their eye for challenging, weird, and poetic work reminds me most of Dylan Williams’ Sparkplug Comic Books. Like Williams, Czap is 100% invested in their artists. Also like Williams, Czap is very much hands-off in terms of content; the only real “editing” is the selection of the artist for publication. The result is a surprisingly wide array of genres and approaches, united only by the humane themes in their art. Czap is also publishing some of the most challenging, cutting-edge comics available now, like Czap Books’ flagship anthology title, Ley Lines, one that focuses on relationship between art and artists. Let’s take a look at some recent and older work published by Czap, including their own comics.
The newly enduring longevity of Fletcher Hanks is some kind of testament to the what a nerve the work strikes. And also Paul Karasik’s ongoing promotional efforts. Here’s one.
DM: (Sifting through books and papers) I’m sitting here going through, like, thirty years of your stuff, and it’s really interesting to see the connections between drawings and paintings you were doing about thirty years ago—
TS: (laughing) Thirty years! That’s crazy.
DM: Well, that’s the late eighties, right?
TS: Eighties, yeah.
DM: It’s interesting, ’cause I remember a lot of those paintings very distinctly—
DM: Yes, very clearly. Well, pretty clearly—
TS: You know, Richmond [Lewis] was an inspiration for me. She really was.
DM: Oh, yeah?
TS: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t want to paint like Richmond, but I remember I would go in your apartment and you would have all the Daredevil stuff out, and I was like “Okay, looks good! I want to see Richmond’s paintings, though!” (laughs)
DM: Her stuff was out too, as I recall.
TS: Yeah, well I kinda went “Oh, David, that’s really cool, you’re an incredible draftsman—let’s go see the paintings, now.”
DM: Smart move. Some of the imagery in the paintings you were doing back then found its way into the first comics you were making.The “Beach Boy” comic for example [published in Rubber Blanket No. 1]—there was a lot of Coney Island imagery and boardwalk scenes in your paintings before that.
Painting by Ted Stearn, late 1980s.
TS: Right. Well, that was the first comic I did for you, and that was definitely pulling from my obsession with the Jersey Shore (laughs)—before it was a TV show!
DM: And where did that come from—that obsession?
TS: Um, I don’t know. I think I saw a lot of aesthetic stuff that I was really excited about, and so I wanted to reinterpret it as, not a cacophony, but a whole orchestration of shapes and colors and busyness and—
DM: You mean the combination of signs and different typography and different-shaped buildings and things all crammed together, that kind of accumulation?
TS: Yeah, I think it reflects in the comic maybe a little bit? Just how disorienting, if you walk through a boardwalk area? I was very intrigued by that, and I was also intrigued because it’s right next to nature—beach, ocean, complete nature—and then you’ve got this, you know, orgy of the follies of civilization or something. Also, I grew up in that kind of environment—we would always go to the beach in the summer, and as a kid I loved the boardwalk, the ocean, the whole scene. So it had a lot of personal resonance with me in hindsight,and the whole craziness of the boardwalk made me think about that contrast.
DM: There was another painting of the huge orange with human legs—
TS: (Laughs, shakes head)
DM: —that became Sourpuss in the Fuzz and Pluck comics.
TS: Yeah. (Shakes head) I don’t know why, I really don’t. I think it’s best not to analyze too much….
Also, Sara Lautman is back with one more bonus strip to follow up on her week creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.
While announcing the news that he has picked David Shulkin (a previous appointee of President Barack Obama) to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump also mentioned that Perlmutter has been “very, very involved” in advising Trump’s team on veterans affairs issues. Trump also called Perlmutter—the Israeli-American executive who became Marvel’s CEO in 2005—”one of the great men of business” in the Wednesday press conference, Trump’s first as president-elect.
FM: We first did it to address our own need, and our need was to do something. Not just sit around being stunned and depressed — we wanted to do something affirmative. That’s when we succeeded, because the outpouring of responses, and even seeing all those images, I think that getting a copy — that’s obviously a reward that it gets into so many people’s hands.
We were also going to do a slideshow of all the submissions that we got. We want people to go “Ohhhh, wow!” There is an absolute force out there. We want them to be as aware as we are of the positive or the constructive force. It’s not a denunciation. It’s not an attack on Donald Trump. It’s a celebration of everything that we have in common, of not just women, but men also, and people for whom gender is fluid, as well as young, as well as old, as well as professional artists, as well as doctors and lawyers and grandmothers, as well as everyone who feels that they lost something on November 8th — they should be able to find something here that is at least as sustaining as what was taken away that day.
The release of A Cosplayers Christmas as a standalone comic immediately draws attention to itself as an item of commercial production due to its ties to a season that has become increasingly associated with rampant consumerism and due to the way it invalidates the “perfectness” of the existing collection by implying that what has been produced to date is incomplete, thus requiring the production of a more “perfect” collection at a future date. This commercial aspect of the comic is countered on the comic’s cover by Shaw’s dedication of the item as a gift from him to you, the reader. To further emphasise the conflation of commercial and gift-giving principles, Shaw includes, on the comic’s cover, a depiction of the icon of the festive season, Santa, on the side of a Coca Cola bottle (Coke being the infamous creators of the popular image of Santa via the advertising campaigns they first began in the 1920s). This blurring of the lines between gift and product (you have to exchange money to receive the “gift” and are thus made fully aware of its ascribed monetary value) also alludes to the inseparability of art and commerce, with Shaw purposefully attaching his work to a consumer-centric holiday in order to comment from within its systemic order. In the same way as the designs of previous iterations of Cosplayers reflected the themes that were to be explored within their pages, the market positioning and cover construction of A Cosplayers Christmas summarises the dominant theme of the comic itself.
“The idea occurred to me right before the election,” the New York City-based artist told The Huffington Post on Saturday. “Trump had said so many outrageous things during his campaign that I wanted to catalogue them.”
“It was important to me to only use Trump’s actual quotes, I didn’t want to put any words in his mouth,” he added. “Once Trump became the president-elect, I felt I had to do it.”
Comic art auctions are increasingly frequent and with an increasingly far ranging selection of material. So, setting aside the commercial aspect for a second, check out this Sotheby’s auction of mostly European comic art. The Chaland, Doury, and Kiki Picasso pieces alone are such unusual things. Chaland because he’s so loose while still working within that Atomic style. Doury because graphic reproduction can’t do justice to the physicality of rendering; Picasso because, again, the technique itself is beautiful, image aside.
In a statement to PW, Scribd confirmed that the comics subscription access has ended:
“We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents.”
Initially Scribd called the launch of the comics subscription category “explosive for us, with the biggest response and fastest adoption we’ve ever seen.”
This year’s nominees for inclusion in the Will Eisner Hall of Fame have been announced. The four judges’ choices, who are automatically inducted, include Milt Gross, H.G. Peter, Antonio Prohías, and Dori Seda.
Though Tisserand does a truly exhaustive job detailing Herriman’s private and public lives, the promised analysis of race in his vast catalog of “Krazy Kat” cartoons is more fleeting than intricate. It feels scattershot even when he identifies potentially relevant material, as with a cartoon published on April 18, 1937, in which Krazy Kat encounters a “pale, even unearthly white” baby bear. “Krazy and the bear talk,” Tisserand writes, “and Krazy grows confused as to the bear’s identity.” Krazy discovers the “equatorial bear” has a mother from the South Pole and a father from the North Pole, and that his parents met halfway at the equator. Krazy’s parting line is “Happy mittin’ on the equator — is all I can say.”
Many of the most exciting and prominent comics creators today have used Tumblr or other digital tools. Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant; Eleanor Davis’s How To Be Happy; Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree; and Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente’s The Private Eye are just a handful of the most notable works in recent years to have originated entirely or in part on the internet. This digital renaissance of self-published, independent comics and zines has no doubt contributed to the increasing visibility of comics as an aesthetic form. In Potter’s New Animals, one sees the influence of comics artists like Lynda Barry, Sammy Harkham, Jason, Gary Panter, Johnny Ryan, and Dash Shaw, to name just a few. It is where the influence of these creators mixes with prose fiction that the collection has its most impressive effect, blending the intimacy of hand-drawn lines with the cool detachment of minimalist prose.
An accomplished story teller, Masilamani is hard pressed to categorize her work. Endlessly fascinated with people, Masilamani draws inspiration from her own life and the behaviors of those around her to create stories that burrow themselves deep into the minds of her readers. Her stories elegantly blend naturalistic storytelling with expressionistic visual representation.
In much of her work, Masilamani explores notions of local and universal truth by blurring the line between fact and fiction. In so doing, she makes her inner life palpable. She walks this tightrope in ways similar to the memoir work of Carol Tyler, Mardou and Gabrielle Bell.
—Misc. PEN America has published a post-election feature called “State of Emergency”, curated by Meg Lemke, Rob Kirby, and MariNaomi, which includes comics by TCJ contributors Kirby, Whit Taylor, and others.
Although it is worshipped as a “ninth art” in France, the Grand Palais has never before dealt with the bande dessinée. Here their explicit intention is to elevate Hergé and place him alongside Vélasquez, Warhol and Picasso. Critics have made a lot of this but the show was tailored to justify it. Every day, as soon as it opens, the place is packed with crowds aged “from 7 to 77” – Tintin magazine’s summary of its target audience. Yet the show isn’t describing merely a master storyteller or a titan of the bande dessinée.
Its portrait is that of a royal figure, an authorised and reified Hergé. A true peer of the very artists he collected, he is seen as a great whose drawing merits comparisons to Dürer and Da Vinci. For brilliance, scope and artistry, the art on show is indeed singular and it can certainly withstand a little overzealousness. In 450 original pieces from all stages of Hergé’s life, a visitor gets both the creation myth and apotheosis of his ligne claire. As a bonus, he or she also sees private paintings plus an illuminating survey of Hergé’s graphic design.
Today on the site, Sara Lautman continues her week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.
And yesterday, Joe McCulloch delivered his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! Spotlight picks this time include new books by Eleanor Davis and Juan Gimenez.
—Interviews & Profiles. Global Journalist talks to the political cartoonist Ako Eyong, who was forced to flee his native Cameroon after drawing a cartoon unpopular with the authorities.
I got out of my own country using a false passport… Now of course, when I got to America, I had to regularize my situation, I explained to the U.S. government how I got out of Cameroon using a false passport and how I was looking for political exile.
I went through a lot of interviews, and eventually after a year, I got a work permit and social security number.
The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Of course, it’s a topic that never completely goes out of fashion. There’s always some person raving on a street corner about how all is lost and a few folks huddled around him or her, eager to listen. But these days, what with climate change, bees dying, ebola, and, of course, the recent election, it’s a topic on a lot of folks’ minds (at least judging from my social media feeds).
It’s a topic that’s on the mind of cartoonist Julia Gfrörer (pronounced “gruff-fair”) as well, or at least it’s the central setting of her latest graphic novel, Laid Waste. Gfrörer isn’t interested in depicting wanton death and destruction a la Michael Bay, however, as much as she is in depicting her characters’ attempts to find some sense of hope or solace in a world that is swiftly falling down around them.
This book is a work of meta-journalism, as she followed members of the Seattle Globalist to Turkey, Kurdish Iraq and Syria and documented their process. Throughout the book, there are two separate dynamics: the dynamic between the Globalist crew and the people they interview and use as contacts, and the dynamic between Sarah Stuteville of the Globalist and her friend Dan, an ex-marine who saw time in Iraq who happened to be one of her oldest friends. Glidden stood as an outsider in both sets of dynamics, in part because she didn’t want to interfere with the work the Globalist journalists were attempting to accomplish. While Glidden was obviously a character in this book, she very pointedly noted that this wasn’t a memoir. She got to shape it the way she wanted and wasn’t obligated to share her feelings about anything in particular. As such, we never hear Glidden’s feelings about being an American in the countries they traveled to, nor how she felt as a Jewish person in those countries. Indeed, her ethnic background wasn’t brought up a single time in the book. Glidden the person in this book is a very intelligent and perceptive cipher, and that’s as it should be.
This freewheeling interview by Grass Green touches on Williamson’s early influences, his fellow underground cartoonists including Jay Lynch and Gilbert Shelton, and the trajectory of his own comics career. Continue reading →