Devil’s Chimes

Today on the site, Sloane Leong pays tribute to Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie, which ended its ten year run this month. 

Finally I took the plunge and started reading through Meredith’s extensive archives, getting to know Eve and Hanna, Marek and Marigold, Park and Olly. I got to read through Meredith’s format changes, medium changes, breaking into more metaphorical imagery, laugh as her gags became dynamically abstract and digressive at the perfect moments. My heart got to clench up during bitter break-ups, awkward attempts at friendship, heart-to-heart talks with parent characters, and longtime friends overcoming relationship hurdles or crashing headlong into them. There are a lot of characters that flow in and out of the story, carefully made to stay thematically on point while still playing to their personalities, never forced into corners where only hammy writing will get them out.

On top of all this, Meredith’s cartooning is world class. She made strong style choices from the start, building up her visual vocabulary into a fantastic set of storytelling tools that have only expanded as the story has progressed. As previously mentioned, she’s fearlessly experimented with page size, rigorously pushing each format until it felt like she’d expended its potential and then tried something new. The last few arcs of OP are sprawling and all-encompassing on the screen, letting the scroll pull you through decompressed character moments or jump through a non-linear sequence of memories. One of my favorite scrolling page moments is on pages 704-714 where the best (only?) depiction of a song-and-dance sequence literally gave my cartoonist-heart such a thrill, like I could hear the music as the character was singing.


The longtime creator of the Paddington Bear books, Michael Bond, has passed away.

Here's a nice look at the varieties of Steve Ditko's cartooning chops. 

I like the close looks at original art on Rob Stolzer's blog.


Loot Their Socks

Today on the site, Brian Nicholson reviews Noel Freibert's Weird #6.

Before founding Weird Magazine, Freibert made a series of horror comics that existed in an obvious lineage that led from EC Comics through undergrounds and work in Warren magazines created by the likes of Richard Corben. These had a "host" character, and depicted transgressive acts. It was easy to see Weird as intended to follow in this tradition, with its title's similarity to Warren magazine publications like Creepy or Eerie. However, pretty quickly, within the context of the more obvious horror stories made by his fellow Weird contributors, the work Noel was making himself attempted a more Beckett-influenced sort of blankness. Now, with those other contributors absent, the horror has moved away from anything approaching genre tropes. Once a mood used to discuss the inevitability of death in semi-humorous fashion, now it is more of a Mark Beyer-styled wail of terror, an ambience necessary for discussing life in America. The humor present, evident in his even older zines, is this sort of slack-jawed vacant-eyed caveman Beavis and Butt-head, taking-acid-and-watching-Faces of Death thing. The imagery interpretable as "heavy metal" that I found so gauche can then be understood as related to this, as an attempt to signal that his sympathies lie with this sort of figure. They exist in a timelessly vulnerable position, that being the kid in a tribal society who eats the unfamiliar berries to find out whether or not they're poisonous. The politics are essentially an outgrowth from that vulnerability, the result of an artfulness that attempts to achieve a state of thoughtlessness, somewhere adjacent to zen but reflecting absolute brutality and decimation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. For Artsy, Matthew Thurber provides the most Thurber-esque possible list of ten cartoonists every art lover should know.

[Keren] Katz’s work, like that of Matthew Barney or Mika Rottenberg, has its own logic. Her storytelling voice seems to link the divine nonsense of authors like Daniel Pinkwater, William Steig, or Edward Gorey with surrealist writers like Leonora Carrington. Her comics are Truly Weird, the highest compliment I can give. With drawings executed in confident colored pencil, her figures stretch, bend, and topple in a manner reminiscent of contemporary choreography. (Indeed, Katz studied dance and has mentioned Pina Bausch as an influence.)

The Comic Books Are Burning in Hell podcast returns with all four hosts (Tucker Stone, Joe McCulloch, Chris Mautner, and Matt Seneca) discussing Kevin Huizenga's Ganges.

In comics form, Anders Nilsen reviews Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature.

—Interviews & Profiles. Françoise Mouly and Genevieve Bormes interview Gary Panter about his new Milton adaptation, Songy of Paradise.

I haven’t read Milton or Milton criticism, but this seems easy to follow.

Yeah, it’s different from my more formal, harder-to-read books. The story here is actually very simple. Satan says, “Hey, be my pal,” and Jesus says, “Noooo, you’re Satan.” And that happens over and over and over again throughout the whole story. Satan goes, like, “Hey, I’ll tempt you with food!,” and Jesus goes, “No, I’m not hungry.” “What about money?” “I don’t need your money!” That’s the nature of the Milton text.

The most recent guest on Process Party is Dustin Harbin and the most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Graham Chaffee.


Tech Support

Hi everyone, we had some tech issues starting Friday morning, so forgive the disappearing act. Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch brings the noir to the week in comics. 


Welcome news on the scholarship-front: Washington University has acquired R.O. Blechman's Ink Tank archives, which contain work by some of the best illustrators of the 20th century. Nice.  

Reports of Mad Magazine's imminent demise seem to be premature. Cartoonist and editor Bill Morrison is taking over as the editor in chief and the Gang of Idiots is moving to Los Angeles. More here.

This upcoming comics exhibition at Printed Matter in NYC sounds good.

Editor of the late great Comic Art magazine and author of one of the all-time great cartoonist monographs (that would be The Art of Jaime Hernandez/The Secrets of Life and Death), Todd Hignite has launched a comic art online gallery. Great things to be seen and save-up for there.

The brilliant cartoonist Jason Shiga has posted the greatest book preview video ever. Of course.



Today on the site, Rob Kirby returns with a review of Jenny Zervakis' The Complete Strange Growths: 1991-1997.

To read Jenny Zervakis' The Complete Strange Growths: 1991-1997, the first book published by John Porcellino’s Spit and a Half comics distribution outfit, is to take a welcome step back to the Golden Age of Zines. Long before the advent of such things as social media, GIFs, hashtags, and ebooks, cartoonists and zine-makers like Zervakis created, communicated, and collaborated with kindred spirits through the magic of print media via regular old postal mail. The Complete Strange Growths is a great addition to the small list of archival books devoted to preserving classic titles of this crucial era, including Porcellino's own King-Cat Classix (D+Q, 2007), The Complete Deep Girl by Ariel Bordeaux (Paper Rocket Minicomics, 2013), and Fantastic Plotte by Julie Doucet (L’Oie de Cravan, 2013).

Strange Growths has been credited as a groundbreaking comics zine for its quietude, and focus on the quotidian—or, as Tom Hart’s back cover blurb aptly states, “on thought and mood.” It’s easy to see why John P. has acknowledged Zervakis as a major influence on his work, and fitting that he has published this collection. Zervakis’ comics record her experiences, memories and contemplations of the moment with an aesthetic that is personable yet detached, intelligent but fun-loving, and observant of small details while never losing focus on their larger significance, and never sinking into preciousness or sentimentality.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Professed Alan Moore fan Damon Lindelof is reportedly in talks to adapt Watchmen into a television series for HBO, which seems like a strange thing for anyone who respects Moore to do.

Key parts of Ted Rall's defamation lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times have been thrown out by the judge in the case.

The nationally syndicated cartoonist, whose work once appeared regularly in The Times, filed suit last year alleging that the newspaper defamed him by calling into question the veracity of his work.

Acting on a motion by The Times, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Kalin dismissed Rall’s claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against three current Times journalists and former Publisher Austin Beutner.

Alternative Comics publisher Marc Arsenault and his family are raising funds to help with various costs stemming from a burst appendix.

Being self-employed, they've also had to hire help to run their bookstore, Wow Cool Alternative Comics, while Marc is in the hospital and will need continued help while he recuperates at home and undergoes physical therapy.


Floral Nobility

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Pretending is Lying:

Reading the New York Review Comics edition of Dominique Goblet’s Pretending Is Lying, I was reminded of an old Phoebe Gloeckner interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal. It’s commonly believed that the harrowing experiences she depicted in A Child’s Life and Diary Of A Teenage Girl are based partly on her own life. However, when Groth asked about certain events  in the book and referred to them as happening to her, she very insistently deflected that line of questioning. She repeatedly said that it happened to the character she created (named Minnie) and not her, no matter how many times Groth tried to get her to admit to something that seemed obvious.

The reality was that Gloeckner was not being disingenuous, nor was she even deflecting. A narrative about a personal experience is a narrative, not the experience itself. It’s mediated by the author. In a way, it’s a kind of a lie, at least in the sense that when we pretend to play at something, it’s a lie. This does not diminish the importance of these kinds of experiences; in some ways, it’s easier to get at the truth through one’s own textual avatar than it is through a supposedly “truthful” autobiographical character. Art is also artifice, and clever authors can show us the strings and matte paintings that make up their world while still making us believe in them because of their own skill and self-awareness.


NY Mag takes a long look at the business and popularity of YA comics.

The latest guest on Virtual Memories is Joe Ciardiello.



Joe McCulloch is here as usual with his indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! Highlights this week include new titles by John Porcellino and Andrea Panzienza (which Joe calls "quite possibly the vital global comics release of the season").

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Kate Beaton celebrates Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie.

That might sound grandiose, but in my mind, nothing tops the ten year run of Octopus Pie. And in the lifespan of what we call Webcomics, 2007-2017 is a granddaddy of a run, worthy of names like “pioneering,” “influential” and “groundbreaking” because in the space of those years, in this new medium, there was room to be those things without any hyperbole. The comics landscape of the past decade needed filling out and Meredith carved her space out with precision, showing a polish and drive and a talent from the beginning that set a high standard.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, William Bradley reviews a new book about the political dimensions of young Frank Miller's work.

Many of us grew up certain that Miller was not only an artistic genius who changed the way people thought about Batman in the 1980s, but also a champion of artistic freedom and creators’ rights in an industry that had a history of not only censoring itself needlessly but also screwing over creators like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, and Steve Gerber. Later we were forced to ask ourselves: Had he changed in some way? Had we been wrong about him? Did the problem with his later work and attitudes cast a shadow on the earlier work that we had enjoyed so much?

—Interviews & Profiles.
For Wired, Emma Gray Ellis writes about the ultra-rightwing cartoonist Ben Garrison and his encounters with 4chan.

Former Breitbart editor and troll king Milo Yiannopoulos once called Garrison “the most trolled man in internet history.” (And considering Yiannopoulos has taken part in some of the largest, most vicious trolling campaigns in internet history, he ought to know.) But in 2009, when his career as an internet cartoonist began, Garrison was just a 52-year-old graphic artist with an obscure blog. "I was furious when the banks were bailed out, so I decided to draw a few protest cartoons," Garrison says. "But the Nazis didn't think I went far enough."

The most recent guest on RiYL is Frank Santoro, and the most recent guest on Process Party is Josh Bayer.


Corn and Ribs

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey looks at the curious cartoon history of the Boy's Life magazine mascot.

In another example of how far I can stray from the presumed topic, this time we start out with Pedro, the mailburro at Boys’ Life magazine back in the 1950s. And from there, we wander off into the surrounding landscape to a fare-thee-well, meeting Reamer Keller, Lowell Hess, Dik Browne and Tom Eaton on the way. 

Strolling leisurely through an antique mall one day last fall, I came upon a stack of Boys’ Life magazines. On top of the stack was the one with the cover that’s posted nearby. “Pedro,” I thought, murmuring the name of the magazine’s unofficial mascot, a donkey. Millions of other male Americans as well as I would recognize Pedro immediately. Officially, he was the “mailburro” of Boys’ Life, which was officially the magazine of the Boy Scouts, hence the vast circle of acquaintanceship with Pedro.


Here's Dan Clowes' superb contribution to the new, magazine-sized Resist!

And a few visual announcements: next weekend my beloved Spoonbill is having a little zine fair in the shop. If you live in Brooklyn and haven't been to this iteration of Spoonbill & Sugartown, you're missing out.

And Kim Deitch recently posted this great and little-seen ad for his great Boulevard of Broken Dreams, published over a decade ago.



As It Was

Today on the site, Greg Hunter's always excellent Comic Book Decalogue returns, this time with an interview with the inimitable Matthew Thurber.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The winners of the Bill Finger Award, given to comics writers whose work has been under-recognized, have been announced. This year's winners are Bill Messner-Loebs and Jack Kirby. The Kirby selection is a little surprising but very hard to argue with.

—Rob Clough reports from this year's CAKE.

—Nick Sousanis writes about the comics biography he created about Columbia comics librarian Karen Green.

—Paul Constant reports on this year's Comics & Medicine Conference.