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If I Was the Pope

Today we feature the return of Matthias Wivel’s Eurocomics column, and it’s been way too long. In this installment, Matthias writes in depth about the work of French-Beninese artist Yvan Alagbé, and his recent return to the characters from one of his key books. But Matthias also examines the artists’ group Amok, the sociopolitical legacy of French colonialism, and much more. Here’s a sample:

Alagbé’s brush-and-ink cartooning is alternately lush and sparse, scruffy and exacting, black and white, with echoes of Muñoz and Aristophane Boulon. He selectively lends texture to areas of focus, while leaving others defined only by contour. Although he makes selective use of symbolic passages, he is a realist at heart, attentive to facial and bodily expression. At times he errs on the side of the obvious, but he also occasionally catches real moments of ambiguity as well as emotional clarity—the combination of apprehension, skepticism, boredom, and impotence drawn on the faces of the siblings listening to Mario’s tales of African adventure; the genuine expression of affection shown by Mario as he speaks to his daughter on the phone; and so on, moment after moment.

Alagbé modulates his rendering skillfully. Everybody, whatever the color of their skin, alternately appears lighter or darker, and specific physiognomic traits, particularly those of the black Africans, are occasionally emphasized to contrast strongly with their white surroundings, reflecting the social context. The point, however, seems to be that in a graphic world consisting uniquely of black marks on white paper, everybody is black.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Ware follows Robert Crumb as the second cartoonist to get major interview treatment in The Paris Review. They’ve posted an excerpt of Jeet Heer’s talk with Ware online. Brian Heater at Publishers Weekly catches up with John Porcellino before the impending release of his Hospital Suite. The Atlantic talks to Pat Oliphant. Paul Karasik interviews Jules Feiffer in comics form. Alan Moore talks Lovecraft. Liz Prince talks about growing up a tomboy.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Constant on Jim Woodring’s Jim. Robert Wringham on R. Crumb. Sarah Moroz on Quentin Blake. Robert Boyd on a variety of different comics.

—Misc. Michael J. Vassallo has more on Stan Goldberg. Gene Luen Yang gave a well-received speech on diversity at the National Book Festival. Small Press Previews may turn out to be very useful.

 

Ride Soon?

Today on the site it’s R. Fiore on Mike Dawson and two “great men”-type books about comics.

To all appearances we have entered into an environment in which its never been easier to disseminate your work and its never been more difficult to make a buck from it. It’s easy to see the disappearance of means by which cartoonists used to make their living and it’s difficult to see what’s going to replace them. I couldn’t say that things are going to come out all right in the end, I just don’t see how. I can’t really see casting your bread upon the waters as a business plan. And its not just a matter of digital media and that sort of thing either. For example, for 20 years or so a cartoonist used to be able to publish his work in a magazine, being paid as he did it, and then publish it as a book and get paid for it again. Somewhere along the line, however, people began to realize that everything was going to come out as a book, so they decided to start waiting for the book.

Due to vacation confusion, both Tim and I forgot to blog. So please do check out Joe McCulloch’s week in comics, complete with a Tezuka mini-essay.

Elsewhere:

Longtime comic book artist Stan Goldberg has passed away. He was notable for his coloring work for Marvel in the 1960s and a long run for Archie. Sean Howe has a nice tribute, and Mark Evanier does, too.

The Cartoonists of Color Database has launched.

This is a solid piece about the history and mechanics of Francoise Mouly’s Toon Books. Sounds like a lot of rules and regulations to follow to make those things work.

Here’s a report on the new London comics festival, Safari, hosted by my candidate for most-promising young publishing house, Breakdown Press. What makes an exciting young comic book publisher? Well, pull up a chair and listen to this bitter old failure preach it: Precise and adventurous taste; a sense of serving an actual community (not fake mascot- or brand- driven community); the discovery and nurturing of young avant garde talent; a strong editorial vision; a crystalized production/design aesthetic; an ambition to advance the art form. Besides Leon Sadler’s Famicon, I can’t think of another publisher that’s done this lately. Pretty much everyone else right now is struggling for an identity or aping someone else’s, which may be related to the profusion of festivals and avalanche of self-publishing concerns. There’s so much stuff being made, so few venues, and so few rewards that people are literally taking to the road to just get the shit out. Another beacon of hope for me is Happiness, Leah Wishnia’s enthusiastic anthology of comics and underground culture. I like the spirit of it, the focus on unique creative voices, and the ambitiousness of her editorial and graphic scope. I also really appreciate the low price point and sense of a localized community. Hey humans who read this, I sure would like some writing about all this on TCJ.com. Send me your ideas! Boy, listening to this Grateful Dead channel on Sirius really got me going. Howard Stern is in repeats, so I’m on my other medicine. Phew. Ok, back to your daily links…

Robert Boyd writes about books-on-comics, including some of the same territory as Fiore’s piece, above.

And finally, here’s Douglas Wolk on the collected Grant Morrison Doom Patrol. Wait, I feel a rant coming on… I link to this review as I sit on a train to Providence and kind of imagine that in 20 years these reviews will be like reading rave reviews of Soundgarden records in the 1990s. I mean, those records are FINE but it’s still totally dull, pretentious music sung by a shirtless urban hippie. Grant Morrison’s comics are fine (and the rantings of a shirtless guy who never formed an identity independent from referentiality, but I guess that’s the point?), but I guess I just look on and think how profoundly fucking silly it is to take any of this seriously as art, criticism, or anything at all. Not that I don’t take cracked-out superhero comics seriously. Like I’ve said, I take DK2 very seriously.

 

Break

Eleanor Davis is here with the final entry of her very strong week of Cartoonist’s Diaries. IF you haven’t been reading them, I highly recommend doing so. Thanks, Eleanor!

We also have a review from Sean T. Collins of Renee French’s Baby Bjornstrand, which sounds typically atypical. Here’s a sample of Sean’s review:

A thing comes into three lives, without warning or explanation. A thing leaves those lives in much the same way. The time between: Baby Bjornstrand, the new Renee French graphic novel completing and collecting the webcomic of the same name. In the past, I’ve written that the hazy, watery wasteland inhabited by Baby Bjornstrand‘s masked, hooded protagonists and monstrous fauna evokes a post-apocalypticism that is, if not belied, then at least transfigured by the comic tone of the proceedings. Now that the series is finished, that’s only true to a point. As the uniform proscenium staging of its panels suggests, Bjornstrand remains much closer to Samuel Beckett than Stephen King, despite French’s astonishing proficiency with painstakingly penciled menace. Yet its morose ending has a bite that doesn’t require the jaws of a monster.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

It may not be quite as necessary or useful as Adaline Glasheen’s Census of Finnegans Wake, but Robert Boyd’s who’s who of characters from Jesse Moynihan’s Forming is still pretty fun.

Hannah Means Shannon reports from the Seth Kushner benefit earlier this week.

And yesterday was Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday. This being a three-day weekend, I suggest making a whole Jack Kirby holiday of it. Hand of Fire author and TCJ columnist Charles Hatfield posted an essay called “Kirby’s Second Act”. Tom Spurgeon posted his traditional overwhelming gallery of Kirby images. You might want to visit the Kirby family’s Kirby 4 Heroes page.

 

Richest Poor Guy

Today on the site: Mike Dawson talks to Caitlin McGurk and Jim Rugg about Ghost World and The Death Ray.

And Eleanor Davis brings us Day 4 of her excellent cartoon diary.

Elsewhere:

Gary Panter is opening a new painting show next week. It’s a really remarkable body of work, linked together by a new approach to his paint handling and an ongoing preoccupation with the idea of water. I’ve watched this work develop over the past two years and I’m just blown away by seeing it all together. In other Gary news, he’s written this fine appreciation of Ray Johnson for The Paris Review.

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In other art news, here’s a review of the very excellent Chicago Imagists documentary, which includes Gary and yours truly.

Back in comics, here’s a funny interview with Johnny Ryan. And a San Diego rundown by Michael Dooley; also: a nice look at a manga-in-America footnote.

In swipe file news, somewhere Kate Beaton is thinking: “Ripped off again?!”

 

Generational Divide

Eleanor Davis is back again today, with the third entry in her Cartoonist’s Diary series. If you haven’t been reading along, catch up now.

Also, Rob Clough is here with a review of a NSFW collaboration between Brontez Purnell and Janelle Hessig, The Cruising Diaries. Here’s a sample of what to expect:

The format of the book is text from Purnell on the left-hand pages and an illustration (sometimes in comics form) from Hessig on the right-hand pages. Each anecdote concerns young Purnell’s anonymous sexual exploits “told in the style of anti-erotica.” Each encounter has a title; the first is called “Sweet Talker”, and it ends with the following three sentences: “I went to his house where he had pictures of his wife and kids everywhere and every solo-male jerk-off film ever. We spent three hours in the shower pissing on each other and he bought me a burrito later. PERFECT DATE.” This gives the reader a pretty good idea of what they’re in for: total honesty and a heaping of irreverence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Mimi Pond won a PEN Center Literary Award.

—Interviews. Berkeley Breathed talks to Comics Alliance.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ng Suat Tong has kind words for Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth. ARTnews on Dan Nadel’s What Nerve. Prompted by Joe McCulloch’s excellent post on this site, Abhay Khosla has more thoughts on Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. Noah Van Sciver explains his periodic superhero binges.

 

Whozat?

Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch’s week in comics plus a much-needed digression.

Eleanor Davis brings us day 2 of her diary.

Elsewhere:

Jules Feiffer’s Kill My Mother has one of the oddest back cover blurb-fests ever. At this time in graphic novel publishing we can pretty much expect most of these usual suspects, but rarely all in one place. Stan Lee AND Chris Ware? But best of all Legion of Superheroes writer Paul Levitz, who continues his remarkable transformation from corporate comics apologist and perennial punchline to grand old man of comics. That aside, does anyone outside the superhero comic book industry even know who Paul Levitz is? Fascinating times we live in.

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Still further into space:

I love no comedian more than I love Gilbert Gottfried. Drew Friedman shares my love, and writes about him here on the occasion of his appearance on Gilbert’s podcast. Also very much worth your time: An amazing article on the comedian by the great Jay Ruttenberg, who has interviewed Friedman for TCJ. See how it all goes round and round?

And one of the only reasons I look at Facebook is that sometimes something like this happens: Robert Boyd’s impromptu story of working for Roger Corman’s comic book line.

Amazon is buying another thing. This time a live streaming video game service. It’s always wise to track what Amazon buys.

 

You Lot Won’t Know What to Do

Today is Jules Feiffer day here at the Journal, starting with a new interview with the legendary cartoonist by Greg Hunter, in which they discuss crime fiction, long-form storytelling, politics, and background-drawing. Here is a sample:

Did drawing Kill My Mother force you to do anything as a cartoonist you hadn’t done before

It was a complete revolution for me, in my way of thinking, in my way of approaching art and toying with it. I spent over forty years doing Village Voice strips, almost never doing backgrounds, because the characters were the prominent thing and the conversation was the prominent thing. I thought backgrounds would be distracting, and in addition, I didn’t know what anything looked like that wasn’t a human figure.

I’ve never had an eye for the inanimate. And so I never drew cars or planes—all the things that boys generally love to do. They were totally foreign to me, alien to me. Buildings, bridges, all of that stuff. And noir, if you take a look at any of the movies—Double Indemnity [1944], Maltese Falcon [1941], any of them—they’re full of atmosphere. And atmosphere is backgrounds, reflected light, shading. All that stuff that I had perfectly no experience in drawing or in thinking about. So I had to completely rethink my entire approach to drawing, at the age of eighty.

And Dash Shaw was written a review of Feiffer’s new book for us:

Feiffer has frequently voiced his envy for the drawing abilities of noir guys like Eisner and Milton Caniff. Personally, I love Feiffer’s drawings. Eisner and Caniff draw like they’re looking at film stills, while Feiffer draws like he’s sketching from the front row of a play. He draws dancers and his drawings themselves are live performances. They only move forward. It would be difficult to retake or remove a single stroke. If you follow the line of a Feiffer leg down, it flies from the front of the thigh to the back of the calf. It travels through the body like muscles, or fabric. Think of artists comparable to Feiffer. Quentin Blake might look like Feiffer on first glance, but Blake’s legs and arms are more tube- or stick-like. They don’t have a gesture sweeping through them. Another comparable post-Steinberg smart drawer is Tomi Ungerer, but Feiffer acts faster and freer. Feiffer’s women dance; Ungerer’s are tied up. If you copy a Feiffer drawing, at some point you’ll think, “This is like a scribbly Al Hirschfeld drawing!” Al Hirschfeld, of course, has a deep love of the theatrical that Feiffer shares.

And we’ve excited about the latest artist who has agreed to contribute a Cartoonist’s Diary to the site, Eleanor Davis. Don’t miss it; this is going to be a good one.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Feiffer. If you want more Feiffer, he’s also been interviewed by Carolyn Kellogg at the L.A. Times, by Michael Mechanic at Mother Jones, and reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on NPR.

—Other Interviews & Profiles. Charles Burns is interviewed at Boing Boing. UK political cartoonist Phil Evans gets an obituary from Kent Worcester. Butt Magazine talks to Gengoroh Tagame (and Anne Ishii). Vulture talks to Frank Miller. Semiotic Bushmiller. And at Fumetto Logica, Milo Manara has responded to The Great Spider-Woman Controversy of 2014.

—Reviews & Commentary. Derf Backderf defends Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck. Rob Clough kicks off a week of reviewing Chicago-related comics. Abraham Riesman chooses his 25 favorite moments from the Sin City comics.

—Misc. Medium posts some of Joseph Lambert’s sketchbooks. And if you’ve never watched this:

 

What’d I Say

Today on the site:

Ahead of next week’s publication of Kill My Mother, we have Jules Feiffer’s introduction and afterword to his landmark book The Great Comic Book Heroes.

And:

Self promotion alert: I curated this show opening September 18th at the RISD Museum of Art. Also, there’s a 368-page catalog I put together with texts from faves Nicole Rudick, Naomi Fry, among others. The show attempts to create an alternate lineage from 1960 to the present and includes comics people Jack Kirby, Gary Panter, Mat Brinkman (and Forcefield) alongside the Hairy Who, Christina Ramberg, Elizabeth Murray, Destroy All Monsters, Joan Brown, Peter Saul and others. You’ll hear more about it as it goes. 10 points if you can name both objects on the cover of the book.

Still elsewhere:

Speaking of Rudick, Tim and I tried to draw her into a contentious email discussion about whether or not Santa Claus is a super hero, as so named in this article. To my dismay she refused to respond!

Great deep dive into history with a spotlight on workaday early cartoonist C.H. Wellington.

Hilarious Milo Manara swipe file here. I would maybe feel bad about people making fun of Manara if he was still a hippie. As it is: Eh.

Jason Miles recommends Eroyn Franklin.

Nice review of Brecht Vandenbroucke’s .

I got this Multiversity comic book thing in the mail and tried to read some of it this morning because I am a masochist, but was baffled. This annotated guide may help me, but I may also never read it or the comic itself.

Have a good weekend!