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The Beat Drops

Today on the site, since you’ve been good, here is Ryan Holmberrg uncovering YET ANOTHER hidden facet of manga history: komaga.

Without komaga (literally “panel pictures”), there would have been no gekiga. Moreover, because by the mid 60s gekiga had become lingua franca in comics for adolescent boys and young men, and because without gekiga it is unlikely that the “cinematic” would have become the obsession that it did amongst manga critics and historians, one could also say that without komaga neither manga or its discourse would exist as we know them.

Despite this, komaga’s creator, Matsumoto Masahiko (1934-2005) has only recently been resurrected from the archive. Yet still has his work barely registered within the mainstream of manga scholarship, which remains stubbornly Tezuka-centric in focus.

And Sean T. Collins is here with a review of Carol Swain’s new book, Gast.

Murder mysteries are defined by their central, structuring absences. A hole occupies the space where a life once lived. That hole can never be filled. But through an investigation of the facts, an uncovering of the truth, and a pursuit and capture of the killer, we can define and discover the shape of the hole to a degree of accuracy sufficient to put a cover on it, so that the still-living may proceed past it once more.

Gast, a graphic novel of exquisite and accomplished empathy and restraint by alternative-comics veteran Carol Swain, tells a story centered on a hole far harder to close up than most. It proceeds with the methods and mechanics of investigation and discovery. The scene of the crime is visited. The victim’s routine is examined. The friends and acquaintances of victim and suspect alike are questioned. Evidence is recovered and cataloged: a discarded make-up bag, a shell casing, a stain on the bedroom wall. Means, motive, and opportunity are all established.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a great overview of Moomins creator Tove Jansson’s prose output.

Book publishing department: I like the look of these cover designs. It’s nice to see more innovative approaches to repackaged classics. Penguin, of course, also had a great series of cartoonist-illustrated covers.

I almost forgot that Ed Piskor’s wonderful Hip Hop Family Tree is still being serialized! Here’s the latest. Not only that, but all-time great cartoonist Ben Katchor is still serializing his strip in Metropolis, and it’s online, too. It’s fun to read comics!

 

 

Really Nice

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics. And Robert Loss reviews the John Porcellino documentary Root Hog or Die.

At times in Root Hog or Die, the new documentary about his life to date, John Porcellino wanders down the streets of his old neighborhoods like he’s casing the houses. In a flannel jacket, raised hoodie, and ever-present Chicago Bears hat, he seems displaced but at peace with himself, a philosophical outsider sifting through his past. The off-handedness of these scenes and the film’s many interviews creates the impression that Root Hog or Die is almost a home movie, which it almost is, and this is a good thing. Disarmed, you forget this is a documentary, you forget the expectations of documentaries about an artist’s life, and you’re defenseless when Porcellino’s life unspools.

Elsewhere:

If you’re in NYC please join me tonight for the What Nerve! book release party. I’ll be talking to Peter Saul and screening Forcefield’s video Tunnel Vision (2001). Peter, along with Leif Goldberg and Jim Drain will also be signing books. 6- 8 pm, tonight, October 21st at the Swiss Institute (18 Wooster St. at Canal). Film screening at 6:30 and talk at 6:45.

Dave Gibbons has been named the UK’s first “comics laureate”, which is nice. I was holding out for Mick McMahon, but you can’t win ‘em all.

McSweeney’s has become a not-for-profit organization, which should lead to some interesting developments.

And finally, here’s a nice look at new design aspects of Jim Rugg’s Street Angel reissue.

 

 

Walk the Walk

Today on the site:

Julia Gfrörer brings us a new column on three different comics: Untitled by Andrew Pannell; “A Happy Death” by Cathy G. Johnson; and “Semi-Vivi” by GG.

Elsewhere:

A big congratulations to our publisher and editor-in-chief Gary Groth for winning The Seattle Stranger’s Genius Award. Well-deserved and may this be the first of many.

Here’s a conversation between A.O. Scott and Marjane Satrapi.

Hey, I didn’t know the transcript of that juvenile delinquency hearing in 1954 was online.
Comics-adjacent: A Gerhard Richter profile. I say comics adjacent because in 1962 young Gerhard completed a Steinberg-esque picture story that was only published this year and attributed to “Gerd Richter”. It’s very much in the vein of Steinberg’s books, which were available in German, as well as the work of other influences on German visual culture like Andre Francois, Robert Osborne, and others from a mostly (lately) unmentioned generation of “illustrators”.

This “most powerful in comics” list is wonderfully dated. History can be so cruel!

And finally, I don’t think I could love this painting more. A masterpiece.

 

The Sweats

Today on the site: R. Orion Martin on lianhuanhua, or Chinese pulp comics.

Most of the lianhuanhua that can still be found in China were printed in the late 1970s and 1980s during the last heyday of pulp comic publishing, but their history reaches back much farther. The lianhuanhua industry began in Shanghai during the 1920s and 30s, though some scholars trace the origins of the format to Song Dynasty scrolls. Using newly imported printing techniques, publishers began releasing periodicals that contained stories and illustrations. They called these works “lianhuanhua” (linked images), though there were various regional names. Some of these stories were text accompanied by images while others used speech bubbles or text inserted into the image. The most popular series from the magazines were reprinted in palm-size paperbacks, and before long rental shops sprung up in alleyways throughout the city. For a few coins, patrons could sit down on wooden stools and read several dozen lianhuanhua.

Elsewhere:

Visits: Lena Dunham’s illustrator of choice, Joana Avillez, is interviewed over at the SVA blog. Heeb Magazine chats with Art Spiegelman while Grant Morrison gets the Interview Magazine treatment.

Fun: Great Spanish pulp covers of the previous century!

Less fun but more important: A “Gamergate” primer at NY Mag.

 

Odd Things

Today on the site:

Michael Tisserand joins us to profile comic strip artist Austin “Pete” Peterson, one of our last living links to the pre-WWII newspaper pages. 

When the Great Depression put cartoonists’ jobs on the block, Jimmy Swinnerton, a friend to William Randolph Hearst who had the Chief’s ear, lobbied for his colleagues. Occasionally, he was successful. In November, 1930, Swinnerton reminded Hearst that Jimmy Hatlo, creator of the panel They’ll Do It Every Time, was a “big shot on the paper and might have his financial rash cured by some salve but not too much.” Swinnerton’s plea worked; Hatlo received a raise and kept drawing his popular comic for Hearst’s King Features.

Yet even Swinnerton was unable to help his young protege, a Los Angeles Herald cartoonist named Austin “Pete” Peterson. Swinnerton and Peterson were close; Peterson had even dated Swinnerton’s daughter, until the girl threw him over for a college boy. Swinnerton once had stepped in to help Peterson find work with Hearst, and in November, 1930, he stepped in again to help Peterson keep his job on the Los Angeles Herald’s sports page.

Elsewhere:

The New Yorker looks at The Best American Comics 2014.

Nick Gazin wraps up the New York Artist Book Fair.

Blaise Larmee interviewed in a good format.

PW does a NYCC round-up.

A look at Christie Scheele’s Marvel coloring in the 1980s.

A Quimby’s-related “what’s on their shelves” feature.

 

Setting Sun

Well, I’m back from the Frankfurt Book Fair. One whole week. I saw some comics, but not as many as I would’ve liked. More on that soon. With DAP I was in the art book section, so a little removed from the comics sections. Anyhow, on to the post. Today we have an interview with Ryan Cecil Smith by George Elkind.

George Elkind: S.F. #3 come out not so long ago from Koyama Press. That’s your first work with a publisher aside from anthologies, right?

Ryan Cecil Smith: Yeah, that’s right.

I can tell from the production work you put in [via design, printing, etc] that self-publishing seems to be its own sort of passion for you, even aside from the cartooning element.

Yeah, I think so—sometimes I think that I should only care about the story and I should only care about the [narrative] content of a book, but from where I come from [Ryan studied printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art] they’re wrapped up in each other. You know, the production and the cover and the way you come into a book and the way everything is presented… to me that’s all wrapped up in your experience of it. So, yeah, it’s hard for me to separate the production from the [narrative] content. Usually when I make a thing—I mean, this could change, but usually I have a real clear picture of how I want it to appear to the reader.

So in the case of the self-published books… since I’ve lived in Japan, I haven’t had access to really nice screen-printing equipment, like I had while I was in college. And man, if I had that now? Especially since as a student you can get into the studio for free and use all their stuff? Of course you’re paying for it, but that’s still really nice. But since I’ve been in Japan, I guess I’ve relied on “printo-gocco” or “Gocco Printer?” The homemade screen-printing kit. And that’s how I used to print my covers to my books. But it’s hard, it’s very time-consuming, and it’s not even that high-quality of a print. So I stopped doing that and I just used Risograph printing. Risograph machines are very common here. And I mean, or I guess… I just think about how it’s gonna get printed when I make the book. And I like the effect that a Risograph gives. But at the same time, when you’re dealing with Risograph you are kind of dealing with knowing the quality level that it’s gonna give you—and it’s nice knowing, with this last one [with SF#3], that the print is gonna be smooth and of good quality, and also that I can add a flourish or two—and that it’s gonna look like a real book.

Elsewhere:

Here’s an interview with Chris Wright.

Alex Buchet has a TCJ cover gallery over at The Hooded Utilitarian.

And here is a very speculative take on the Kirby family/Marvel/Disney outcome. We will have an in depth look at the case soon.

And I like Jim Aparo’s gnarled lines and figures. Here’s some.

And more speculation here — a look at the incredible price appreciation of one Christopher Wool painting. There’s some kind of relationship to comic book pricing here, but only barely. Mostly it’s just interesting.

 

Reverse the Polarity

Joe McCulloch would like to help those of you planning to purchase new comic books this week with an annotated list of the most-interesting-sounding comics to be released in stores tomorrow. His spotlight picks include new books from Sergio Toppi and Joe Sacco.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews.
Hillary Brown in Paste has a nice, strong interview with series editor Bill Kartalopoulos about the process of putting together this year’s Best American Comics anthology.

John Porcellino is the latest guest on Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Ng Suat Tong compares Lob & Rochette’s comics version of Snowpiercer with its film adaptation. Rachel Cooke at The Guardian liked Charles Burns’ Sugar Skull.

—Misc. Katy Waldman at Slate has a long piece on comics and the portrayal of mental illness. It’s aimed more at casual comics readers than serious enthusiasts, but quotes people like scholar David Ball and Ellen Forney, and is generally fairly interesting. It also includes what I’d call an intellectually indefensible argument from an academic named William Kuskin: “You can’t separate graphic novels from their superhero roots. That origin story—the broken protagonist who transforms himself—is the true meaning of the genre.” Maybe his words were taken out of context or his meaning was in some way distorted, but otherwise, that represents some marked theoretical confusion.

I missed the recent Eleanor Davis drawing marathon to raise funds for a young man’s wheelchair van, but it’s not too late to help out. Robot 6 has more.

 

Documentary Evidence

Today, Alex Dueben interviews Jeet Heer, mostly about the recent Walt Before Skeezix collection, but also touching on his book on Françoise Mouly, independent comics scholarship, and other topics. Here’s a short bit:

How did you first get involved in this project?

Drawn & Quarterly had this yearly anthology in book form and they had reprinted fifty pages of the color strips along with Chris Ware doing the cover of the book doing an homage to Frank King. I reviewed that for the National Post where I was doing other writing on comics. Through that Chris Oliveros became aware of my work and I met Chris Ware when he was on tour for Jimmy Corrigan. We knew each other and hit it off so when the time came to do the book it all came together.

There’s an earlier pre-history of all this where a big figure is Bill Blackbeard who in the 1970s had co-edited The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics. That book was very influential in reviving Frank King because it included six of the Sunday strips, very well selected and reproduced, which was not common in 1970s books. Chris Ware, Joe Matt, and I all read the Smithsonian book growing up and those six pages really sparked in all of us an interest in Frank King. Joe Matt is the real unsung hero of this. He started collecting Frank King dailies and Sundays and amassed a huge collection. Chris Ware had his own collection. I know that Bill Blackbeard died a few years ago but I always want to mention his name because he really planted the seeds that made the Walt and Skeezix books possible. Not just those books, but the whole age of reprinting comics that we’re going through is really a product of Bill Blackbeard.

What was the thinking behind collecting the daily strips but not the Sundays?

That’s Chris Ware’s intervention. When we first started doing it I thought we were going to do the Sundays. Chris and Joe Matt were more aware of the dailies than I was and those guys had an understanding that King’s genius was in the dailies, in the accumulation of stories and having the characters age in real time. That was something I was only vaguely cognizant of, but thanks to Chris and Joe we made the right decision.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Etelka Lehoczky at NPR reviews John Porcellino’s Hospital Suite. Rob Clough writes about the new documentary about Porcellino, Root Hog or Die. Nicole Rudick talks about John McNaught’s Dockwood.

—Misc. Speaking of Porcellino, Tom Devlin shares some memories of his long friendship with the artist.

Sean Howe shares (and provides some context) for some video from Marvel creator Mark Gruenwald’s old public-access television show.