First off, after a month or so off not sleeping and cleaning up strange liquids all over his home, Tucker Stone has finally returned. And he’s brought his old pal Abhay Khosla with him. This column, it’s all catch-up reading, and Gaiman vs. McFarlane.
Elsewhere, the news is a little light this morning:
The extravagance of his graphic inventions inspired similar excess among those who attempted to describe what they saw going on in front of them. In Newsweek: “The line drawings of Partch’s angular and rectangular characters have something in common with the tragic figures of Picasso’s Spanish War ‘Guernica’ … But Partch’s men, with their bushy or bald heads, pop eyes, bird-beak noses and cavernous mouths have their own particular brand of frenzied insanity, which makes them funny in almost any situation.”
Partch’s cartoons, said Goldstein, “made a style of drawing and thinking, with roots in cubism, surrealism and dada, part of America’s daily life.”
And Collier’s movie scribe Kyle Crichton thought Partch’s work “revealed plain signs of a pathological condition.”
The anonymous author of the Partch entry in Current Biography (1946) noted that “a Vip character sometimes wears an expression of dazed or wondering imbecility, but more often is glaring at some person or thing with fanatic intensity. … One Partch admirer has said, ‘the cartoons are funny if you enjoy remembering your nightmares.’” But it is not recommended, according to another critic, that Partch’s cartoons “be probed and examined for deep hidden meanings.”
And around the web:
Joanna Draper Carlson writes about her approach to crowd-funding comics.
We’ve got a double shot of bande dessinée for you this morning, with two reviews of Humanoids releases. First, Joe McCulloch on the wandering American Terry Dodson’s Muse:
Reverie is critical to Muse — originally titled Songes, or “Dreams” — a new collection of bandes dessinées drawn by Terry Dodson, a prolific 20-year veteran of the American superhero scene. It is fruitless to summarize such a long career in just a few sentences, but I think it’s fair to suppose that an artist who’s titled his homepage “The Bombshellter” is best known for his drawings of women, specifically the kind of top-heavy heroines who all but erupt, at times, from their tight ensembles, bounding into action with a twinkle and grin. But unlike the similarly-interested examples of Guillem March (who faced a terrific blowback over a Catwoman cover last year) or Adam Hughes (widely admired yet also prominently criticized), Dodson has evaded any wide denunciation for sins of depiction. He is one of “the good ones” – the girlie artists whose commitment to high-quality drawing supersedes more fundamental qualms over their aesthetics.
And then newcomer to TCJ.com Daniel Kalder on District 14:
Picking up District 14, I was mildly concerned. The first couple of pages show an elephant disembarking at Ellis Island, taking a shower, and then getting ripped off by corrupt officials who want to seize his mysterious seeds. The elephant makes a break for it, fleeing directly into a crime scene where a stag-headed mobster is delivering a suitcase with a severed chicken’s head in it to a man in a black suit. Shots are fired; the elephant meets a plucky news photographer with a beaver’s head; hi-jinks ensue.
Shite, I thought. Is this going to be completely trite Euronoir like Blacksad, a pile of clichés enlivened only by the gimmick of giving stock characters animal heads?
—LitReactor has a brand-new interview with Phoebe Gloeckner; Chris Mautner has an interview with a top recent contender for the title of most likeable person in comics, Rina Ayuyang; Mark Kardwell at Robot 6 talks to 2000 AD “reprographics droid” Kathryn Symes; and Nick Gazin drops in super-short interviews with Ben Jones and my colleague Dan Nadel in the middle of his latest Vice column.
—If you prefer your interviews multimedia, then Inkstuds talks to the cult-artist Sadler brothers here, and Jared Gardner talks to Ed Piskor there:
—Jeet Heer drew my attention to the following George Herriman panels from the March 25, 1931 Krazy Kat daily strip, which seem relevant to the case currently being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1972 Weaver commissioned four artists associated with the Terry Ditenfass Gallery to make comics for an issue of Graphis magazine focusing on comics (he is nicely bracketed by contributions from Alain Resnais and Milton Glaser). In his accompanying essay, “Experiments in Time-Art”, Weaver dilates on the power of the strip to transform visual art: “The artist working in the narrative strip medium can extend the single instant backward or forward in time. Not only can he move slowly or suddenly or not at all, change his mind, hold his audience in suspense, sustain a mood, surprise or destroy; he can virtually wire his pictures for sound.”
We also have Sean T. Collins’s review of Michael DeForge’s online Ant Comic:
Ant Comic, Michael DeForge’s magnum opus (so far; give him time), tackles the big issues—sex, war, parenthood, family, labor, love, the Other, death—with such brio and ease that it’s more like a shopper methodically checking items off his grocery list in a supermarket he knows like the back of his hand than an artist grappling with the stickiest issues imaginable. That’s because, in this story about a handful of insects living in a black ant colony that makes a disastrous decision to go to war with the red ants who live nearby, he’s found the perfect vessel for all his preexisting preoccupations as a cartoonist.
Today we bring you a classic: The Fiore/Pekar Blood and Thunder letter exchange of 1989 and 1990. Publishing this chestnut feels like watching Scrooged on Christmas. Kristy Valenti gives us some context:
The grand tradition of the flame war as a snapshot of the pressing issues of the day and as a catalyst for criticism that has its own literary worth is not new. (For the 1730s version, check out Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s “The Reasons that Induced Dr S to write a Poem call’d the Lady’s Dressing room.”) At its best, before the Internet was widespread, The Comics Journal letter pages, dubbed “Blood and Thunder,” served essentially as a message board for the comics community. It was a forum where cartoonists, fans, critics and professionals debated and dissected every development — aesthetic and commercial — in the medium at the time, whether it was the formation of the Direct Market, Creators’ Rights, “writing for the trade,” or “craft is the enemy of art” (or simply trolled each other: The insults in the great R. Fiore/Kenneth Smith showdown got positively Shakespearean).
I have a softspot for 1987’s Return of the Skyman, drawn by Steve Ditko. This issue contains Ron Frantz’s account of searching for Skyman-creator Ogden Whitney. Most of what Ron found remains all we know of Whitney. Ogden Whitney and Steve Ditko: The only cartoonists I’d like to have met. Anyhow, Bob Heer kinda likes it, too.
It’s cartoonist and TCJ-contributor Eddie Campbell talking over at The Beat.
And to send you merry into the weekend, “The Perils of Pauline,” Renata Adler’s 1980 take-down of Pauline Kael. I’m not sure if this piece has just been posted online to coincide with the reissue of her novels, or if it’s been up awhile. Whatever. She has so much to say about critical writing, all of it worth considering.
Today marks the return of Sean T. Collins with a review of Julia Gfrörer’s popular webcomic, Black Is the Color. Here’s Sean:
As befits a comic that mostly takes place in a rowboat going nowhere in the middle of the ocean, Black Is the Color frequently collapses time and space into one another. Often its two-panel rows, or indeed entire pages, will depict a contiguous space split between the panels, the passage of time conveyed by the movement of your eye from one panel to the next within that space. Clouds drift and morph; a lonely cabin looks out over the sea; a storm descends over multiple pages, dwarfing a lone doomed ship; merfolk make idle chatter while watching men burn and drown; a mermaid descends through fronds of seaweed after leaving her dying lover to the daylight.
—The same Sean, inspired by the recent Diary of a Teenage Girl film teaser, resurrects his 2003 interview with Phoebe Gloeckner. Among her other accomplishments, you can definitely list memorable conversationalist.
—Grant Morrison always gives good interviews, too, though I have to say that the example he uses here to argue for how comics alone can accomplish things impossible in other media (having Superman break the fourth wall to talk to the reader about the devil) is rather depressingly unambitious — not to mention not hard at all to imagine being done in other media.
Today on the site… well, I wrote about an unusual comic/narrative/art project called The Magician.
Byrne’s succinct description of The Magician (published in an edition of 20 by Marquand Books) is: It’s set in a public bathroom. The Magician is this character that goes through and reconciles opposites. Every misunderstanding I have about the universe is documented in these objects. And creation myths, too. But it’s all tongue-in-cheek.” The Magician takes different forms. He is a sleeping figure. He is a hand. He is sperm. He is a cape.