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The Mund

Today:

Brad Mckay speaks to Joe Ollman about The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, and related matters.

And now we have The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, a long-form graphic novel biography that focuses on a very complex and tragically human character that you sort of pulled from the dustbin of history, really. It seems like you’re playing outside of your sandbox here a little bit. Can you explain how you came to this project? 

It was just a thing I was researching in the background for years. Seabrook had this really weird, interesting life—he knew all these famous artists and writers—and I was surprised that I’d never heard of him before. So I just started researching him, then bought all his books and I thought he was a very good writer.

When did this happen?

I looked at my notes recently and the first ones I had about him were from 2006. So that’s 10 years that I had it kind of in the background, five years of those being committed to writing and drawing this thing nearly full-time. But it wasn’t much of a conscious decision. I toyed with the idea of doing it, and then I had a script written, and then all the research was done, so I was like “I guess there’s no excuse not to do it.” It was daunting though, because it was big. 300 pages, y’know. I discovered Seabrook in an anthology of zombie stories edited by Peter Haining called Zombie. The story was “Dead Men Working in a Cane Field”, a famous Seabrook story that’s an ostensibly true story of these zombies working cutting cane—it’s great. But what really interested me the bio of Seabrook in the book which gave me a glimpse of this guy; all the people that he knew and his life, plus he was an alcoholic, a cannibal, a bondage freak, and all this stuff.

Elsewhere:

Chris Mautner writes really nicely about Demon Vol. 1, a great book from one my favorite cartoonists, Jason Shiga. I think, as far as I can tell, that Shiga has nicely escaped the comic world orbit into some kind of regular world success, which is awesome for the world.

Marty Two Bulls Sr. talks to Alex Dueben about his editorial cartooning, his other projects, and journalism. He’s the finalist for the Herblock which is this week.

More on the only important comics-related event this weekend. Seriously  — I got an email listing comics events this weekend and I nearly threw myself in front of a bus just to stop the agonizing boredom it brought on. Wegman and Thurber, take me away! Make me laugh. Make me feel. Feel me up! Anything to distract me from endless panel discussions about anthologies, librarians, and dead people. Maybe comic book conventions should go back to showing old video tapes of anime and 1970s Marvel TV shows. Also, can we go back to calling them comic book conventions? I keep writing and deleting thoughts in this space — mostly questions I have about various people and ideas… and the longer Tim stays on paternity leave the less restraint I’ll have. That kid better grow up fast! Anyhow, here’s the good news:

William Wegman, 2017, after a drawing by Matthew Thurber.


“No Maine Is An Island”
William Wegman & Matthew Thurber
Opening April 1, 7 to 10pm
 

William Wegman and James Thurber, together at last. What’s that? A filing clerk sent the invitation to the wrong Thurber. Too late to retract the invitation now. But when Wegman met Thurber he was crestfallen. That is, he dropped a tube of toothpaste into the toilet. I don’t know why they decided to meet in the bathroom. Maybe it seemed like gender-neutral territory. Foolish Thurber left some Wegmans too close to a scented candle and…whoops.

It seems they’ve started to copy each other’s drawings. To become the other’s ‘evil twin’…but let’s not be naive here!…a ‘good’ drawing? an ‘evil drawing’? No such thing exists…we all know that. We…did you close the chimney flue? You fool, don’t you know bad drawings can crawl down the chimney like bats, like leopards, like Wegmans and Thurbers???? There is however, possibly at this moment in your unattended studio washroom a witch, laughing at you in the mirror. Come on now…enough is enough. Are you being serious? Or are you just halving Fun?

 
“No Maine Is An Island” includes new call-and-response drawings by William Wegman (b.1943) and Matthew Thurber (b.1977), as well as a selection of Wegman drawings from the ’70s and ’80s. The exhibition remains on view, by appointment, through May 7.
 
Teen Party is located at 874 Greene Avenue, Apt 2A, in Brooklyn.  
 
 
 
 

Authorized Rates

On the site today, Greg Hunter talks to Maggie Umber (Time Capsule, Sound of Snow Falling) on the eighteenth episode of Comic Book Decalogue.

Well folks, the beat goes on. Apparently it’s MoCCA this weekend in New York! Can you believe it still exists? Good heavens. Anyhow, here are some events, including one with noted Legion of Superheroes author Paul Levitz, and another with our own fearless leader Gary Groth! I hope there’s some ice cream in this for me. Seriously. The best news is that both Sammy Harkham and Kevin Huizenga, National Treasures both, have new comic books coming out.  

Best of all this weekend: Matthew Thurber and William Wegman are opening a two-person exhibition in Brooklyn. That’s a beautiful thing!

In other comics news, the Paris Review has a fine interview with Pénélope Bagieu, author of the new Mama Cass graphic bio, California Dreamin’. And Heidi MacDonald brings news of the Neil the Horse reprint — a beloved 1980s comic that has aged… well, we’ll see. 

I thought more about what I wrote yesterday and realized that my instinct is to be defensive, for fear of being called a killjoy. But then I remembered that I actually like so much superhero stuff… I just like it done well. It should go without saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the genre. What I guess I find depressing is that the jump to this stuff is somehow held up as rebellious. It smacks of reactionary politics and head-burying by once “sensitive artistes” indulging in… not their own ids, but someone else’s. It’s an odd kind of role-playing in public. Publishing-as-cosplay, maybe? 

 

Market Advantage

Today on the site, Joe McCulloch takes us on a walk through the present of comics. 

Elsewhere:

Ben Katchor: The agony and the ecstasy.

Michael Chabon talks nostalgia, and mentions Superman, too.  

I don’t care about either of the links above, but, y’know, gotta fill the space! I actually find Chabon especially irritating in almost everything he writes. Remember when he had his own comic book version of the fictional comic book from his novel? Ooof. Anyhow, a side note: I read the much-hyped Crime Destroyer #1, the first release from All Time Comics, a Fantagraphics imprint funded by writer/artist Josh Bayer’s brother, Sam. It is basically a sub-par Marvel or DC comic from the early 1980s… imagine a random issue of Indiana Jones or Legion of Superheroes written and drawn by a couple of young hacks as a try-out for the “big time.” It’s not bad-good, or kitsch, or anything on which you could hang a reason for liking it. And of course it’s vaguely misogynist and racist, but so is the amped-up pop culture world it comes from. All the publicity that money can buy positions All Time Comics as daring and both somehow new and somehow classic. It’s none of these things. Bayer’s writing is overly verbose and mostly incoherent. The drawing by old-time hack Herb Trimpe (now, along with fellow hacks Al Milgrom and Rich Buckler, somehow regarded as an important artist — so depressing) is badly composed, static, and without a trace of distinction. Even the lettering is terrible — crooked, inconsistent and crowded. Some recent superhero riffs, like, say Copra or Street Angel, have actual narrative momentum, personality, and individual points of view. This is just soulless and boring. I suppose some of this comes down to being unable to differentiate between good work and the work you liked as a kid. Or, rather, work with interesting qualities and the work you remember fondly. 

Worse (since my own problem is that I somehow care), one of the big selling points for this line, both in interviews and in Bayer’s editorial in Crime Destroyer #1, seems to be that it’s wacky and transgressive that supposedly “snooty” Fantagraphics is releasing superhero comics — a genre which somehow becomes Trumpian code for populism. How is that true? Fantagraphics, by its own lengthy, page-after-page confession/admission in the recent 40th anniversary brick, has been releasing garbage, including superhero comics, for decades: Amazing Heroes, John Byrne comics, impossibly long novels by Charles Schulz’s son, and imprints including Eros, Monster and others I’m forgetting. That’s not a knock. I’m actually proud to work for a publisher that will do anything it takes to continue publishing great material and doesn’t spin a line of bullshit about community or connection. I would hope and guess that Sam Bayer’s money is very green and very plentiful, so my Seattle brethren held their noses, closed their eyes, and took it like champs. Plus, some of my freelance friends are earning solid (and easy) paychecks working on these comics, and money is hard to come by in this biz. So, for my friends’ sake, I guess I hope this line will last until the money or attention span runs out. As Bob once said, you gotta serve somebody, and, on a spiritual level, this is not that much worse than the very few other outlets that pay money for art. So, finally, in it’s favor, the money-beats-all viciousness of All Time Comics is perfectly 2017.

 

Gifts for the General

Today on the site:

Frank comes back with his Riso journey, this time talking to Ryan Sands, publisher at Youth in Decline.

I really think it is interesting that riso and the “art book fairs” of Printed Matter have run concurrent – meaning we are seeing more “zine” people at comics shows and vice versa – can you speak to this loose crossover? I feel like your label sort of runs in that corridor…

Whenever there’s a tool that has lots of funky ways you can mess with it AND a fairly low cost to experiment and make mistakes, this sort of machine is good for folks that care about all the details of physical book production. I get super bored by books that are simply “risograph-themed” anthologies, but I love seeing “art book” folks use it in unexpected ways – like the thermography technique of Colour Code Printing to create elevated inks and push the envelope with the machine. That said – at its heart, the machine was intended to be a blue collar workhorse for schools and churches and offices to churn out hundreds of pages a minute for cheap, so I bristle a bit at the trend of high-end “risograph prints” in limited editions. I saw a gallery show in SF recently that had a 3-color risograph print for $40!!! Are you kidding me? That shit cost like $0.90 to print and you could make 1000 prints in an afternoon (including drying times!).

On a less cranky note, some of my favorite risograph books are actually not comics at all, but text-heavy magazines and journals. When I visited Motto in Berlin back in 2011, I saw a bunch of poetry zines and literary journals published on risograph – my favorite in this vein is the queer film journal Little Joe Magazine. Their embrace of a limited spot color palette feels vintage without being slavishly retro or lame. So nice.

Elsewhere:

-Tomorrow night the great Brian Chippendale is opening a show of his new paintings at one of my favorite galleries, Safe Gallery in Williamsburg. Go check it out. 

-TCJ-contributor Philip Nel discusses children’s books that address the ideas and realities of refugees. 

-The NY Times has a lengthy obituary of Skip Williamson.

-Tributes to the illustrator Jack Unruh.

-I always enjoy an interview with Daniel Clowes, and here he is talking Wilson.

 

Maybe next Spring?

Today on the site:

Frank Young interviews the Tumblr phenom Samplerman.

Do you consider yourself a cartoonist? What led you to creating your “Samplerman” persona?

I am a 46-year-old cartoonist. I’ve been writing and drawing comics for more than 25 years, without any popular success, I have to admit—perhaps because of a lack of self-confidence, not harassing publishers enough, taking no answer for a “no thanks,” and no longer posting my pages (lots of improvised and unfinished stories) on my obscure blogs.

I have always chosen the DIY way to make my fanzines and minicomics: it is affordable and it mostly requires commitment and time. Due to lack of feedback, I’ve felt discouraged from time to time. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve kept doing this for so long instead of finding a real job…

I’ve been obsessed with comics all my life. I would have liked to be a comic strip cartoonist, but that career doesn’t exist in France. The conventional formats here are the hardcover, annual 44-page book or the black and white, 300-page one-shot graphic novel. I’ve always been attracted to arts of all kinds: poetry, radio, cinema, animation, the avant-garde, experimentation and the borders of communication. I’m also drawn to abstraction, distortion, destruction, surrealism, sociology and politics. Most of my past comics are kind of absurd and meaningless (nonsensical, to say it nicely). At the end of the day, whatever I am doing, the path from a panel to another has become for me the ordinary way to explore this alternate reality (comics) where I feel at home. So yes, I think am a cartoonist; a weird cartoonist.

Hence the question could be: “Are the Samplerman pieces strictly comics?” I would answer: “Depends on how restrictive your definition of comics is.” If the reader considers certain of my “stories” just as a sequence of panels without any logical connection, I am fine with that, but my works are at least a failed attempt at doing a story from a cartoonist’s neurasthenic brain.

 Elsewhere:

Our friends Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer talk about their upcoming anthology, Mirror Mirror II

And Michel Dooley remembers Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson with an image-heavy post.

 

Taking All the Lox

Today on the site we have Gary Groth’s lengthy 1985 interview with Bernie Wrightson. It’s a great read.

GROTH: Again, about the Frankenstein book, what I’m interested in finding out is what is the intent of the illustrations? Are you intent upon adding another dimension to the novel?

WRIGHTSON: Not really. I started this in 1976. All this time, and all this work, all this effort and aggravation and what not have gone into this simply to embellish this old book. Which, when I started out, I thought was a terrific book. Now, six years have gone by, and I don’t think it’s such a terrific book, anymore. Okay, we’ve got some good drawings to go in there, some of them are spectacular. And for anybody who does like the book, this is going to be a real good edition of it. My personal feelings have nothing to do with that at all. You should just buy the book because you want it, and enjoy it, and don’t worry about how I feel. When I did the drawings, I was really involved with the book and my intentions were really good when I did them. They had to be or my drawings wouldn’t be that good. I really believe that an artist can’t communicate to a viewer unless he really pours himself into it and tries to do that. And I tried to do it with that, and they work. So, I’m not apologizing for that, I’m not apologizing for anything, I’m just saying that I’m glad I’m still not doing it, because my attitude has changed completely.

GROTH: It sounds like you think a little less of the book now than when you first started.

WRIGHTSON: Yeah, I guess I do.

GROTH: Who are some of your favorite authors?

WRIGHTSON: Stephen King.

GROTH: Poe, I guess? Or isn’t he one of your favorites?

WRIGHTSON: He was real good to start out with, but I don’t think I’d ever read him again. Wells, H.G. Wells, in limited doses.

GROTH: Lovecraft?

WRIGHTSON: Nah. He was always a little too ponderous. I have a hard time with the language. There are a few things that he’s done that I’ve really enjoyed, but for the most part I can’t take him.

GROTH: What do you like about King?

WRIGHTSON: What do I like about King? Damn near everything. The guy has an uncanny knack for creating characters who are people that you know, just really solid people. A storyteller par excellence. Absolutely riveting from the first page. A terrific command of the language and colloquialism and slang and bullshit and whatever. And on top of that, he can scare the fucking pants off me.

GROTH: That’s what friends tell me.

WRIGHTSON: Have you ever read him?

GROTH: No, I never have. And friends have told me that they’ve actually gotten frightened reading his books. And I can’t imagine that.

WRIGHTSON: If you’ve never experienced that, I envy you. Because I wish I could re-experience that feeling for the first time.

GROTH: I keep intending to read The Shining, but I’ve not gotten around to it.

WRIGHTSON: I think you ought to start out with Salem’s Lot.

WHITE: How about Firestarter?

WRIGHTSON: Firestarter and Salem’s Lot, I think, are the two best stories he’s written.

 

Elsewhere:

Robert Silvers, the truly legendary editor of the New York Review of Books, passed away on Monday. The New Yorker has a series of tributes.

Peter Bagge talks about his new graphic biography of Zora Neale Hurston over at CBR.

Comics culture: The Paris Review looks at bodybuilding and the old sand-kicking ads.

 

 

More is More

First up — good news! I’m so happy to report that Tim Hodler and Lauren Weinstein welcomed a baby girl into the world yesterday. 

Today on the site we have an obituary for Bernie Wrightson by Steve Ringgenberg.

Born in 1948, to a working class Baltimore family, Wrightson didn’t recall receiving a great deal of encouragement for his early artistic endeavors from his parents, but as he observed in a 2015 interview in Comic Book Creator, “I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember.” Comic books and comic strips were early influences, with Wrightson citing Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, drawn by Mac Raboy and Buz Sawyer by Roy Crane as his favorite comic strips. Wrightson was only five or six when he began reading EC Comics, the most visceral of which, as drawn by Graham Ingels or Frank Frazetta, had a profound influence on his aesthetic. Another big influence on Wrightson was horror films: He was fortunate to be in the “Monster Kids” generation, when Famous Monsters of Filmland began publishing, and Universal released its “Shock Theater” package of old horror films for syndication, spawning a host of local late night horror movie hosts like Baltimore’s own Dr. Lucifer, played by faded movie idol Richard Dix.

Popular interest in dinosaurs had a resurgence in the late 1950s, providing another piece of Wrightson’s influences. While he remembered loving Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, other, more cheaply done dinosaur films failed to impress him. As he recalled in the same Comic Book Creator interview, “I saw that Lost World remake with Claude Rains (1960), and that was a huge disappointment…you couldn’t fool me with plastic horns on a big lizard…” Another great early influence was the Ace Books editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs featuring covers and frontispiece illustrations by Frazetta, which Wrightson credits with getting him to start reading novels cover to cover.

And the great Joe McCulloch brings us his weekly dose, but with comics listing to follow later today.

Elsewhere:

A look at a mostly under-known aspect of Betty Boop.

Ben Schwartz on Michael Tisserand’s George Herriman biography.

Bringing Wilson from page to screen over at The New Yorker.

 

Gone Masters

Today on the site, we have a 1984 interview with the late Skip Williamson.

And it’s another sad day for comics, as Bernie Wrightson, a beloved artist of numerous comics and books, has passed away after suffering from brain cancer.A fine summary of his life is on his own web site. Wrightson specialized in post-EC horror, emerging in the early 1970s to co-create Swamp Thing, draw covers and stories for DC, short stories for Warren, and co-found “The Studio”, a space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he, Barry Windsor Smith, Michael Kaluta and Jeffrey Jones worked, and about which an influential book was published. Wrightson is perhaps most acclaimed for his illustrations for Frankenstein, which were rendered in an elaborate pen and ink manner reminiscent of one of his heroes, Franklin Booth. He also collaborated with Stephen King, illustrating books including The Stand. Wrightson created his own character, Captain Sternn, who was featured in the print Heavy Metal and the anthology’s film version. The artist went on to draw Batman, the Punisher, and in recent years returned to Frankenstein. There’s more, of course, and we will have a full obituary soon, as well as an archival interview. I will say that, personally, Bernie Wrightson was the first artist I ever really studied. Starting when I was about 10 or 11 I ordered his posters out of the Bud Plant catalog and read and re-read his 1991 monograph, A Look Back, so many times that it fell apart. It was through Wrightson, and his old friend Joel Pollack (the founder of Big Planet Comics) that I learned about 19th and 20th century adventure illustration, to which I’ve returned in the last couple of years. Wrightson was the comic book heir to the EC horror line, and I suspect that if his influence on comics waned in the last couple of decades, it flourished in film via directors like Guillermo del Toro, who, like me, grew up on the stuff. I moved on from Wrightson somewhere just south of 18, but I have a a huge amount of appreciation for the work, in all its dedication and drama. He was at his best in Frankenstein, which I can still recommend, and whenever he moved into a his brushy horror mode, often in images for posters and portfolios. 

Wrightson, Jones, Kaluta, Smith.