Astonishingly, he draws directly on the paper with a pen, relying upon barely penciled roughs for only the vaguest guidance. And he seldom re-draws anything: “I see the gag in my head and it goes directly to the finished drawing stage.”
Again and again he successfully pulls the same stunt: he presents a puzzle, often building it in a succession of pictures in strip form, and then, in the last picture, he “explains” the puzzle. And we laugh at the ingenuity of the contrivance.
Sometimes though, he draws a picture that is, simply, in-and-of-itself, funny. The people in the picture look funny: Sergio’s typical humanoid begins with a big-nose visage and doodles down through a squat body to the stilt-like legs that seem grafted on at the bottom of the body, all balanced on flat not necessarily large feet. His anatomy is cartoon anatomy, but his cartoony people are doing ordinary human things, and they are being forever fooled and flummoxed by their fellow creatures or by circumstances over which they have absolutely no control. And we laugh at their endless frustrations. And then, a second or so later, we realize that we’re laughing at ourselves.
Today, for any of you tired of the Lee/Kirby debate that continues to rage, Rob Kirby (no relation, I assume) tells us all about the Latvian comics anthology, š! #14. Here’s a sample of his presentation:
The theme for this latest issue is sports, which at first seems surprisingly conventional, coming from an anthology with past themes such as “Female Secrets” and “Midnight Sun.” Happily, the comics inside are anything but ordinary. Many of the š! creators seem to delight in presenting warped or heightened realities that veer from lighthearted whimsy to dark and downbeat.
I’ve slowly become familiar with the work of many of the contributing artists, some of whom have become favorites. It’s a treat to see König Lü. Q. and Lai Tat Tat Wing included here (I believe the former is in every edition), two artists who couldn’t be more dissimilar in style and content. Lü. Q. traffics in silly or non sequitur one-page strips with simple, childlike drawings, a type of comics I’ve always found irresistible. His “Real Quidditch” strip is a deadpan take on the Harry Potter series sans the “magic.” Meanwhile, “Taken” by Lai Tat Tat Wing, features another of the artist’s delightfully trippy identity-swapping, reality-changing narratives, drawn with a playful rather than stuffy formalism. His work would have fit neatly in RAW back in the day, no problem.
—Interviews. Jeet Heer appears on Inkstuds to discuss his monograph on Françoise Mouly. The Guardian interviews Joe Sacco about his new WWI book, The Great War. (They have a preview of the book, too.) And Michael Cavna at the Washington Post asks Jeff Smith about his new place on the CBLDF board.
—History & Profiles. BK Munn writes an obituary for the Canadian editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson. Mike Lynch has a few links regarding a new book on Archie cartoonist Bob Montana. Daily Ink has a short post on Mandrake artist Phil Davis. And I don’t know why, but I’m getting major deja vu vibes off this Slate article on the history of swearing in comic strips.
—Other Stuff. Tom Spurgeon reviews the new Bill Everett collection. It is fun to read an article in mainstream media going on and on about how well comic books handle ethnic and sexual diversity compared to movies. If true, this is kinda hilarious, too, though in a different way. Finally, Rob Kirby, today’s reviewer, is trying to fund a new LGBT-themed anthology via Kickstarter.
A new book on Bob Montana outside of Archie. Mike Lynch’s announcement of the book includes this quote, which is the best I’ve read about comics in a long while:
“Bob didn’t want his friends to think he was all about the comic strip,” said Anderson. “One of his friends told me that he used to say, ‘What kind of person would you think I was if my ego and self worth were wrapped up in a comic strip?’”
Paul Tumey is back today with a new column trying to make sense of the long and varied career of George Carlson. Here’s a snippet:
In the year 8113 A.D., the most remembered cartoonist of our time may not be any of our currently revered comics creators. Not Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, or Chris Ware. As incredible as it may seem, long after the last comic books of our time have crumpled into dust, the cartoonist of our era that People of The Future will dig (perhaps literally) could be a guy named George Carlson — an under-appreciated, largely overlooked cartoonist, illustrator, game designer, and graphic artist extraordinaire who will finally get his due with the forthcoming release of Perfect Nonsense: The Chaotic Comics and Goofy Games of George Carlson by Daniel Yezbick. The spirit of George Carlson’s playful, surreal world can be seen in everything from Pee-wee’s Playhouse to 24-hour comics.
People of the distant future may know about Carlson not because of Yezbick’s book (although it’d be nice to think so), but more likely because of the Crypt of Civilization, a room-sized time capsule that lies underneath what is currently known as Oglethorpe University, in Atlanta, Georgia.
When future human beings pry open the rusty door of the Crypt, they will see plaques on the walls created by George Carlson. The bold, Art Deco graphics on the plaques, barely visible in the photograph of the Crypt’s interior, are presented in a manner that looks back in time to the hieroglyphs seen on the walls of ancient Egyptian burial chambers. In 1940, the Crypt’s creator, Oglethorpe University president Dr. Thornwell Jacobs set the year for the time capsule’s opening at 8113 A.D. – exactly the same amount of years into the future as the number of years spanning backwards in time from 1940 to the oldest known Egyptian tomb.
—Profiles & Interviews. Steven Heller profiles Sunday Press publisher Peter Maresca. Rebecca Meiser at Cleveland magazine profiles Joyce Brabner about her handling of Harvey Pekar’s legacy, her sometimes prickly relationships with collaborators, and her own upcoming work. I can’t wait to listen to Gil Roth’s interview with Drew Friedman. Missed this earlier, but Last Gasp has begun a series of Weirdo: Where Are They Now? mini-profiles of Weirdo contributors.
—Fangoria‘s Philip Nutman, who also worked as a comics writer and editor, has passed away.
I wrote an article for the National Post about 10 years ago where I was trying to describe Art Spiegelman’s career as an editor. I had written: ‘Leaving Françoise Mouly aside for a moment, Art Spiegelman’s achievements are blah, blah blah’. My partner, quite rightly, called me on that, and asked ‘Why are you leaving Françoise Mouly aside? She was as important at RAW magazine as Art Spiegelman.’ And that really got me thinking because I had been aware of Françoise my whole life, and respected her and the magazine that she did, but I’d never written about her. For every one article that anyone has ever written about Francoise, there are at least 500 to 1,000 articles written about her husband.
I believe that Marie Severin and I were the only women drawing superheroes at the time. It’s funny that she was drawing Sub-Mariner while I was drawing Aquaman. People always used to ask me if I knew her, but I didn’t meet her until years later, at a convention. I didn’t work in a bullpen like Marie did so, aside from being uncomfortable with male fantasies and the violent subject matter. I never really experienced what it was like being the only woman working in a man’s world.
And Michael May at Robot 6 had the bright idea of talking to retailer Mike Sterling in the aftermath to DC’s Villains Month:
I was generally okay with it, with my reaction split between the comic fan in me (“Oh, those sound like fun!”) and the retailer in me (“Gee, great, can’t wait to figure out my order numbers on these”). That latter reaction sounds more serious than I actually felt. It’s more like, well, there go the publishers, making my life more difficult again! Whaddaya gonna do?
Dan is out of town, so I’m filling in today. Rob Kirby is here with a review of Brendan Leach’s Iron Bound:
On a rainy night, two young gang members in black leather jackets, Eddie and Bento (aka Benny), are arguing on a bus traveling from Asbury Park to their hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Another young man seated in front of them unwisely asks them to “speak more softly.” This prompts a vicious attack from the hair-trigger-tempered Benny, despite Eddie’s attempts to rein him in. Blood is shed; Eddie and Benny are thrown off the bus and beat a hasty retreat. With this prologue, Brendan Leach ushers us back to 1961 and the criminal underworld of Newark’s Iron Bound section. In this pitiless arena, any attempt to get ahead faces obstacle after obstacle, trust comes at a premium, and good intentions are likely not good enough. Iron Bound reads like a delicious amalgam of a vintage Jim Thompson crime noir novel with illustrations reminiscent of (mutant) Ben Katchor fused with a hint of Lynda Barry’s early punky-scrawly-scratchy style.
—Interviews. Whenever you start to think that mainstream media coverage of comics has greatly improved, you come across something like Metro’s interview with Isabel Greenberg. Veteran newspaperman Chris Mautner shows how it’s done talking to Brian Ralph. And Inkstuds plays host to Jess Johnson.
—”News.” Ulli Lust has a huge photo-blog post of her recent trip to the United States, in which many other cartoonists are featured. Rob Clough writes about the new comics show in Durham he’s helping to set up. The Archie Comics/Nancy Silberkleit legal drama continues to provide copy for the New York tabloids. Jason T. Miles has revamped his Profanity Hill online store. MoCCA has announced their 2014 special guests, including Howard Cruse, Alison Bechdel, Fiona Staples, and Robert Williams.
—Misc. I love that Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics Tumblr is still churning out great curiosities like this. Mike Lynch writes about the big comics movie of 1948.
In this 1989 interview, Bill Watterson talks about the tension between realities in Calvin and Hobbes, how popular art doesn’t have to pander, nuance, animation and why he chose not license the strip. Continue reading →