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It’s a day late (through no fault of his own), but Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting the best-sounding comics new to stores, including new books by Dame Darcy and Jules Feiffer. He also writes a little on Queen Emereldas.

Kodansha’s recent hardcover publication of Queen Emeraldas leans hard on artist Leiji Matsumoto’s fame in the greater media world — of the three pull quotes on the back cover, one is from Daft Punk, and another is from Pitchfork referring to Daft Punk — but actually reading 400 pages’ worth of these comics quickly highlights the severely martial aspect of this space opera’s idea of gallantry. Emeraldas herself does star in some of these stories, but in many she functions like Sergio Corbucci’s Django as the galaxy’s coolest big sister to young Hiroshi, a floppy-haired Matsumoto youth with a hot-blooded desire to live free in the sea of stars.

The reason for the brief delay is that we asked Joe to review Kramers Ergot 9, and that piece went up on the site yesterday.

It must be stated up front that Kramers Ergot has made life far too easy for critics. Anthologies are often difficult to analyze, because most of them wear the pragmatic limits of their creation like flimsy invisible dust jackets. It is not uncommon, I think, for editors to surrender to chance when putting these things together; you can hook up with however many contributors you want, and coordinate as best you can with those contributors you want to pursue, and reject, in the face of plenty, those submissions you can’t use, but to an extent you are at the mercy of what you are given. And indeed, there are anthologies most succinctly described as ‘what was given.’

Kramers, however, has long offered a pillowy slipstream on which the featherweight may drift behind; in this group I include myself. Who could forget the technological acuity of Kramers Ergot 4 (Avodah Books, 2003): production so sharp that you were bade not only to read stories-as-stories or factor drawing-as-drawing, but to consider textural components and the play of media – and, implicitly, the character of reproduction itself in art primed for mass distribution?

And finally today, Philip Nel has joined us with another tribute to Richard Thompson, which he titles “Dancing on the Manhole Cover”.

Cul de Sac is powerful stuff. In the panels of each strip, Thompson manages to capture the narrative chaos of daily life. As he told R.C. Harvey in a 2011 article, “I’ve always had a feeling that life is a series of non-sequiturs, and that we’re all untrustworthy narrators.” Nowhere is that feeling more palpable than in the scenes at Blisshaven Academy, the preschool attended by Alice, Dil, Beni, Nara, Marcus, Kevin (“Buckethead”), and, later, Sophie. In the fourth nationally syndicated Cul de Sac strip (13 September 2007), one of the students (Dill is my guess) asks “Miss Bliss, what kind of egg was Humpty Dumpty?” Storytime now derailed, the students start tossing out guesses. Nara: “A duck egg!” Marcus: “A GOOSE EGG!” Next, Alice ventures into preschool literary criticism, placing the nursery rhyme in a larger context: “I’ll bet he was the egg of that chicken who crossed the road,” she says. “’Cause they’re both thrill-seekers with dangerous hobbies.” Marcus responds, “Good point.” Changing the subject completely, Dill concludes the strip by saying, “Whew! I think I’ve learned enough for today. Miss Bliss, can I go home?” In the first week of strips, his characters already have distinct lives of their own.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

GG talks to kuš! about creating her story, “Lapse”.

I work mostly digital these days. Again, it goes back to keeping things minimal. My earlier comics were done with pencil and paper but I didn’t like how after I finished a story and scanned it in, I would have all this paper to store somewhere. It also seemed like an extra step to have to scan and then have to clean up the scans when I could just draw directly on the computer. One thing I’m always trying to figure out is how to make comics more efficiently because they are already so time-consuming for me. Sometimes pen and paper is unavoidable because I’ll want a certain look or effect so I haven’t totally gotten rid of all my art supplies yet.

This isn’t comics, exactly, but Nadja Spiegelman has released a memoir about her mother, Françoise Mouly, reviewed today in the New York Times.

Nadja longed to understand her mother, and when she had achieved a measure of independence, she hit upon the idea of interviewing her. (It didn’t escape Nadja that she was following in her father’s footsteps: “Maus” was based on Art Spiegelman’s interviews of his own father.) Surprisingly, Françoise threw herself into the project with energy and candor. But candor is only the impulse to tell the truth: Truth-telling itself is rarer. Nadja sympathetically accepts the broad outlines of her mother’s narrative of her French childhood — Francoise’s brutal rejection by her own mother, Josée; the multiple infidelities of her plastic-surgeon playboy father, Paul; her admirable decision to escape her mother’s influence and begin again in New York. But she also notes some credulity-stretching inconsistencies. Here she picks up on a theme that threads through the memoir, the indeterminacy of memory. Nobody, neurological science tells us, really has a claim to the truth.

Finally, Tim Lane has created a Patreon to help him with his latest project, a book on Steve McQueen.

I’m currently working on an interpretive biographical graphic novel about the actor, Steve McQueen. I say “interpretive,” for many reasons, but mainly because I’m using the life of Steve McQueen as a conduit to construct a picture of American culture that both shaped Steve McQueen, and was partly shaped by his influence. This book is artistically inclined – heavily influenced by works such as Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter, and David Clewell’s Jack Ruby’s America. In other words, it is not a traditional biography. Rather, it is an experiment in what the potentialities are in writing about the life of a real person, and a more subjective consideration of how that person’s influence touched the life of the “biographer.”

 

Doomsday

We’ve added a short essay by Charles Hatfield to our post of tributes to Richard Thompson.

Thompson’s passing hit me hard from two angles: a personal one, because his work had come to mean a great deal to my wife and me and because my own father has Parkinson’s; and a historical one, because Richard had come to represent, for me as for so many, the last great hope of comic strips in the newspaper funny page tradition. From my perspective, his Cul de Sac was the most refreshing newspaper strip of the past twenty years, with the richest set of loopy, endearing, maddening, beautifully cartooned characters. I consider it the last great example of the kid ‘n’ family domestic strip (home, school, playground, et cetera), and one of the most delightfully eccentric microcosms ever to grace the funny pages. The vein of comic strip art that includes Barnaby and Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes also includes Cul de Sac. Once I read it, I knew, I’d never look at comic strip children the same way again.

We have also published a new review by Craig Fischer, about It Is the Bad Time, a horror anthology edited by Kazimir Lee Iskander, and featuring mostly CCS-affiliated cartoonists.

In the book’s foreword, Iskander writes that he began to assemble Bad Time “after the first anthology project assigned to the students at the Center for Cartoon Studies,” and a subsequent e-mail to Iskander clarified that Bad Time wasn’t a class assignment. It was an extra, out-of-class project for students Anna Sellheim, Cooper Whittlesey, Tillie Walden, J.D. Lunt, Angela Boyle, and Iskander himself, all of whom have clearly internalized the CCS work ethic. (Emily Parrish is also a contributor, although she has not attended CCS.) These students make plenty of finished pages, in and out of class.

Bad Time focuses on horror, specifically the aim to cultivate a sense of dread in the cartoonists themselves. Again, Iskander from the book’s foreword: “My mission statement was simple—every artist involved should write a comic that would contain at least one panel that was frightening or traumatic to draw. The comic itself didn’t need to be traditionally horrific, although many would be.” And they are, although not every story is equally successful at transmitting fear and trauma from artist to reader.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Richard Thompson. We’ve already linked to many online tributes and remembrances, but they keep coming at a steady pace. Some particularly worth looking at include pieces by John Martz, Mike Rhode, and those gathered by Michael Cavna.

—Jack Davis. Patrick Dean has a nice memorial post about Davis at Playboy.

—Interviews & Profiles. Paul Gravett talks to Blutch.

I didn’t really choose this name, which is not so much a pseudonym as a nickname. Everybody has called me this since I was 15. It’s the name of a character from a popular comic at the time [The Blue Tunics by Lambil & Cauvin, in English from Cinebook]. My friends thought I resembled Blutch, in physique and attitude. Originally, it came from the rather puerile wish to cut yourself from your background, your parents, to be reborn as someone different. And then the nom-de-plume is a tradition in comics since the 19th century, in Europe at least, like Hergé and Moebius.

At The Beat, Zachary Clemente speaks to Jason Shiga.

I guess the big theme of the book is the meaning of life or what is it that adds value to your life and I think for most of us when we’re younger, it’s about survival of a sort. You want to make money, you want to meet somebody, you want to make friends but then you become middle aged and you have all those things. You have a stable job, you’re married, you have friends, you have a house and then you start going through some sort of existential crisis and wonder “what’s the point of it all?” That would be the theme of Demon and my answer, in case you don’t want to read the book.

Bleeding Cool talks to Howard Chaykin.

I can tell you now that 90% of the comic enthusiast out there today will only remember me for Star Wars, which had poisoned my career. Star Wars has sold countless millions and millions of copies and reprints over the years, while Flagg hasn’t; not by a long-shot. I’m not the sort of guy that does the work that comic book fans necessarily respond to, I’m just not and I understand that. Basically because when I started my career I wasn’t that good. By the time I was good, I just didn’t want to create the sort of work that would generate the sort of commercial portfolio that would be good for me. I just wasn’t interested. I had to find other avenues for my skill set, which I did, but at the time I wasn’t aware that I would be locking myself out of the mainstream.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Andrea Tsurumi.

—Reviews & Criticism.
Rob Clough writes about Lucy Knisley.

When I started reading her newest memoir, Something New, I knew it was about being reunited with her ex-boyfriend and their wedding. I dreaded another self-indulgent exercise. While there was some of that, I was pleasantly surprised at how homing in on an experience that was so specific, introspective and personal was so widely relatable and emotionally powerful.

Domingos Isabelinho writes about a recolored Alex Toth panel.

Why did (and does) the comics industry and comics readers accept such a thing? Because, you see, not all comics creators were born equal. There’s a hierarchy that mostly goes like this: 1) the drawer; 2) the writer; 3) the editor; 4) the inker; 5) the colorist; 6) the letterer. As you can see above the header of “White Devil … Yellow Devil!” was erased from the republished version. This happened, methinks, because it gave the writer too much of a star status (which is too much for a # 2). This means that colors can be changed, but changing some master’s drawings isn’t easily accepted by readers (or should I say, watchers?).

Dominic Umile writes about Joshua Cotter and psychedelic art.

Cotter darkens each corridor with a net of dashes, while the tech that engulfs the facility’s walls — frequently positioned behind his chatty scientists who turn to drugs, sex, or an iconic but mindless television series to stave off boredom — draws entirely on the analog control panels of vintage sci-fi films. There are glorious stacked decks with dials and screens and buttons and switches and worming ducts, each clashing with the more contemporary laptops and detailed tablet-type devices that appear elsewhere.

—Crowdfunding. John Kerschbaum and his family need financial help after their house was burned by a fire.

Czap Books is using a Kickstarter to fund their 2017 lineup, with books by Jessi Zabarsky, Kelly Kwang, and Liz Suburbia.

 

Elbows and Knees

Today on the site we begin our tributes to the late Richard Thompson, with kind and eloquent words from Warren Bernard and Craig Fischer. With more to come.

And we present Jim Woodring’s 2000 interview with the late Jack Davis.

WOODRING: Did you get a lot of fan mail while you were working at EC?

DAVIS: I don’t know why it is, but once your name is in print or in magazines, either people want to be a correspondent or fan, or write letters back and forth. I would get some letters, and I’d take them home and read them and maybe answer some, but if you start doing that, then you’ve got a correspondence going, and I didn’t have time to do it so it kind of petered out. But I still get letters and I appreciate them very much. I try to answer every one of them.

WOODRING: One of the reasons I was asking you about the horror strips, because there is, as you say, always sort of an element of tongue-in-cheek quality to them. Even the real scary ones kind of have a nice bouncy quality of your drawing. But I’m sure you remember Graham Ingels’ work.

DAVIS: Yeah.

WOODRING: I imagine that his horror comics were more frightening than anyone else’s?

DAVIS: I think so. It was really scary. It was kind of an old-fashioned type of telling it, like I said a ghost story. He really had that feel for it. Al Feldstein established the three characters. There was the Old Witch, and the Vault Keeper, and the Crypt Keeper. Everybody kind of had a way of drawing it. I think Johnny Craig drew the Vault Keeper. His was always clean, but to me it was never scary. It was beautifully drawn, but it was never scary. It wasn’t hairy or ugly. My stuff was ugly and not great. But Graham Ingels was an artist.

WOODRING: I used to look at his comics when I was a kid, and to me they almost looked like the product of a diseased mind or something.

DAVIS: [Laughs] Yeah. I never really got to meet him very much unless we happened to be in the office delivering work at the same time. He was a very quiet fellow. I was very quiet, too. I was pretty shy. I don’t know, all of that went out the window. [Woodring laughs.] But I think we were impressed with the people that fed us.

Elsewhere:

Our pal and valued contributor Tucker Stone (and friends) reflects on his site The Factual Opinion a decade on.

Hillary Chute went to Comic-Con and reports back for Artforum.

As if last week couldn’t be any worse for comics, a Pearls Before Swine comic was pulled from newspapers. 

And our friends at Breakdown Press in London would like to tell you about the upcoming Safari Festival 2016. Dig it:

Date: Saturday, 27th of August

Time: 11am – 6pm

Venue: Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EY

Website: safari-festival.com

Exhibiting:  .

Simon HanselmannFantagraphics BooksJoan CornellaAnna Haifisch Alexis BeauclairAlly Russell, Anti Ghost Studio (Babak GanjeiRob Flowers), Becca TobinBergen Street Comics PressBreakdown Press (Joe KesslerAntoine CosséRichard ShortAlexander TuckerZoë Taylor, JMKE), Brigid DeaconComic Book Slumber PartyComics WorkbookCrumb CabinDecadence Comics (Lando, Stathis Tsemberlidis, Emix Regulus), Dilraj MannDisinfotainment (Mark Pawson)Donya ToddEleni KalorkotiEsther McManusEvan AndroutsopoulosEyeball ComixFamicon Express (Leon Sadler, Stefan Sadler, Jon Chandler),Feminist LibraryGabriel Corbera, L’Institut SérigraphiqueIrkus M. ZeberioHope Not HateJack TeagleJazz Dad BooksJoseph P KellyKrent AbleKus!Landfill EditionsLaura CallaghanLizzy StewartLuke StewartMatt SwanMatthew PettitOne Beat ZinesOOMK ZineOtto PressRetrofit ComicsSammy SteinShaky Kane, Silica Burn (Will TempestLiam CobbTom Kemp), Simon MoretonTakayo AikyamaTreasure FleetVincent FritzWai Wai PangWill Sweeney.

Tickets: Free Entry

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1018669398201775/

 

Missed Ones

It’s the end of a long week for comics. We’ve posted an obituary for the great Jack Davis and tributes to him are still coming in. Next week we’ll have coverage of the beloved Richard Thompson.

Elsewhere, more like this:

The National Cartoonists Society remembers Jack Davis.

Remembrances of Richard Thompson by Michael Rhode and John Martz.

Cartoonist John Kerschbaum could use some help in a trying time.

And it’s good to see some positive news: Drawn & Quarterly’s winter releases. 

 

The Worst Year

Yesterday was a terrible day for comics, as two immensely gifted and beloved artists passed away.

First came the news of the death of Richard Thompson, creator of Cul de Sac, probably one of the last truly great newspaper strips, and one begun after many people no longer believed that to be an achievable feat. Thompson was only 58 years old. We will be publishing an obituary and tributes to him soon. In the meantime, here is the notice that was run in the Washington Post, and here is the coverage from WUSA.

R.C. Harvey wrote about Thompson’s work for us in 2012.

In the age of the emerging stick figure, it is refreshing—invigorating—to see actual drawing skill lauded so loudly. But Thompson’s talent doesn’t end with his drawing ability: his lines, interesting and sublime in their simplicity and complexity, merely visualize the world he has created in Cul de Sac, which Cavna describes as “a sly, whimsical skip through suburban life with Alice Otterloop, her friends Beni and Dill, elder brother Petey and her classmates at Blisshaven Academy preschool. It’s all about sidewalk discoveries, childhood invention, parents and other authority figures who are one step behind the children’s antics. At summoning our early years, Watterson says, ‘The strip depicts all kinds of moments than ring true.’”

[Pat] Oliphant says: “Thompson actually sounds like the kids he draws in that amazing strip. What a gift that is, to write the way you talk. No strain, no presumption—just simple, wry storytelling with characters you can care about and love. When did you last see that in comics strips? Not since Calvin and his tiger rode off into the sunset. You would never suspect it by looking at him, but behind the quiet, mild-mannered Richard Thompson exterior lurks the real Richard Thompson. I know he would hate to be termed a genius, but that is exactly what he is.”

You may also want to watch this short documentary, The Art of Richard Thompson:

The Art of Richard Thompson from GVI on Vimeo.

Another cartooning legend also died yesterday, Jack Davis, veteran of EC Comics, Mad magazine, and the illustrator of countless movie posters. It would be difficult to overstate the affection for him in the cartooning world. Davis was 91 years old. We will be publishing an obituary for him soon. Here is the first one published, from local radio station WGAU, here is a remembrance from Mark Evanier, and here is an obituary from the BBC.

We have begun gathering old and new tributes to Davis, starting with contributions from Drew Friedman, Gary Panter, Peter Bagge, and Joe Kubert. Here’s Panter:

My favorite works by Jack Davis are his various monsters, standing solo like the door sized Frankenstein poster sold in monster magazines, or clumped in wretch piles of scratching,  drooling, leaky, hairy, fly blown, boil plagued and wart encrusted werewolves, vampires, lackeys, hoodlums, degenerates and brainless tools. He was really good at organizing a picture– a hard thing to do when the picture has many elements. Jack Davis was continually spewing out crowd scenes of scheming teeming denizens to sell anything–movies, bathroom products, sporting goods– a true commercial artist knocking the crap out but most often knocking the crap out of the park into a very identifiable place of personal expression. 

But I loved his monsters best–on bubble gum stickers, trading cards, and comic books. I am still looking for Yak Yak number two. I was completely smitten by Yak Yak one and took it on family vacation to a relative’s quarter horse farm in Louisiana. I wasn’t interested in horses, but was interested in Jack Davis’s beatniks and environs. The comic mysteriously disappeared on the trip, though it was never out of my sight for long. I suspect conspiracy to trash theYak Yak #1 and an an adult, an arrested development adult, I found another copy of it. Hooray for Jack Davis the scribbliest form generator.

In 2012, we published a discussion between Davis, Gary Groth, and Drew Friedman, which you can listen to here.

Much more to come.

 

Norwegian Life

Today we have Ron Goulart on the Connecticut clan of Mort Walker and co. Here’s a bit on the great Dik Browne:

As hinted at earlier, Browne was a colorful fellow and Richard Marschall says, “The stories about Dik Browne are so many that the books of the world could not hold them….Heywood Broun was described as looking like an unmade bed; Browne has been compared as an unmade bed with Heywood Broun sleeping in it….Browne was dressed in a typical unkempt and absent-minded way one morning and his wife, Joan, said good-bye with0: ‘I hope you get lost; I’d love to describe you to the police!’”

Stan Drake, friend and fellow golfer, said, “Dik Browne stories have become part of the passing parade. Entire golf tournament dinners have been taken over by Dik Browne stories….The night he was held up in an alley and fumblingly produced so much junk from his pockets that the robber walked away cursing… The night he was accosted by a prostitute and thought she was an old friend’s wife… it could go on for hours…and has.” Browne now and then joined the group of cartoonists and writers I sat in on. I was impressed by the way he was always discovering some new fact or idea that most everybody else had already discovered. And how he could discourse and speculate on it.

His magnum opus and greatest success was Hagar the Horrible and that will be dealt with in the next part of this essay. Along with such Walker enterprises as Boner’s Ark, Mrs. Fritsz’s Flats and Gamin and Patches.  Plus artists and writers like The Walker Boys, Bob Gustafson and Frank Johnson.

Elsewhere:

Go read Peggy Burns’ wonderful speeches from the Eisner Awards. Congrats to all of D&Q.

So this is my new favorite comics web site: the BD collection in Angouleme. So many images, so much new information for me.

A rare thing: Arnold Roth process post, for Humbug no less!

Comics by great cartoonists occurring online is awesome. I could read Vanessa Davis comics all day long. Confident, funny, outward looking work. And Gabrielle Bell is our very own internal astronaut of the nervous system.  Here’s her latest.

 

Depressing Days

As always on Tuesday, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, spotlighting all the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. His highlights this week include comics by Leiji Matsumoto and Jacques de Loustal with Jerome Charyn.

Does Leiji Matsumoto need much introduction? Maybe! Some of you will doubtlessly be familiar with Space Battleship Yamato (aka “Star Blazers”), an animated television series he co-created in the 1970s. Others will know of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, a comics/animation manly honor saga he created shortly after. Or maybe you read some of his war comics in Frederik L. Schodt’s seminal Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, or watched Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555, the music video film created in his visual style, or even snapped up VIZ’s editions of some of his Galaxy Express 999 comics in the ’90s and early ’00s – the last time, despite Matsumoto’s visibility, that his manga appeared in English.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—For the New York Times Book Review, Lynda Barry draws Johanna Spyri’s Heidi meeting Stephen King’s Carrie.

—Brian Azzarello seems charming.

—Comics Alternative interviews John Porcellino.

—Phil Nel reports from Comic-Con.

 

Safe and Under

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews Michael Zulli. Zulli is remembered for his work on Puma Blues and various Neil Gaiman projects.

I have to admit that before this collection was published, I had never read The Puma Blues, or even heard of it. Though I was too young to have read them when they were originally published.

I don’t blame you, actually. Those days were the wild west of comics, really. There was a lot of very good things that happened and a lot of weird things that happened. I can’t say bad necessarily, but weird. At that point in history there was more than one distributor in the United States. People were self-publishing or there were small press imprints that were producing a whole variety of different things. It was the beginnings of what I saw as potentially a quite interesting period in the medium. The birth pains of growing up. Of course it didn’t work out that way. [laughs] One by one they all toppled and well now there is a comics industry in North America. At the time it seemed like it was possible really to really stretch or even burn the envelope entirely to get to a new place where the medium itself–which is always been creative and vital and largely misunderstood as a junk culture–could grow up and flourish and entertain any segment of society that it wished to.

It was on that premise that Stephen and I originally got together as completely and utterly void entities, really. On the day we approached Dave [Sim] at a small local comic shop in the area, we had eight pages of Puma drawn and basically done. At the time we were thinking the best place to go would be one of the smaller independent publishers. Back then a lot of them would have a main feature and then an eight page backup story that might change from month to month. We thought our best chances were to get into doing eight pages every two weeks for one of these things. When [Dave Sim] said, can you do twenty pages plus a cover a month I opened my mouth and said, yeah. From there it was a done deal. We both walked away looking at each other like, what are we going to do? The only training I ever had in comics was, believe it or not, I’d gone to the local bookstore and bought How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. [laughs] Which was a complete disaster, but I did learn a few things that I found technically appropriately. To this day I still cannot draw a comics page with blue pencil. I tried but I just hated the damn thing. The learning curve was daunting to say the least.

Elsewhere:

The big news of course is mostly from Comic-Con. The Washington Post has your Eisner Award winners and a bit of publishing news from D&Q as well.  Tom Spurgeon has his daily thoughts on the con.

The New York Times profiles the team behind Bojack Horseman, including Lisa Hanawalt. 

The Quietus talks to Sammy Harkham about Kramers Ergot.

And finally, perhaps the best publishing news is that there’s going to be another Jerry Moriarty book sometime in the future, as described in this video by the artist himself.: