Trashman Lives

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the most interesting-sounding releases new to stores. This week's highlights include memoirs by Gabrielle Bell and Jason.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—I can't even summon the energy to read this National Review attack on comics being studied in college (apparently 'cuz they're dumb and they turn kids into pinkos or something), much less argue against it. But it's the controversy du jour.

—The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Keiler Roberts, and the most recent guest on RiYL is David Lloyd.



Today on the site, Frank Santoro continues his journey into risograph printing with an interview with Panayiotis Terzis.

What is your risograph origin story? I assume you were interested in printmaking before you discovered risograph printing. You’ve been making interesting color work for as long as I’ve known you. How has the risograph changed your process?

When I was in undergrad I had discovered and cycled through all of the traditional forms of printmaking – etching, lithography, screenprinting etc. I was making paintings, drawings, installations and comics, and printmaking was where everything came together. David Sandlin‘s class was monumental for me in terms of challenging myself technically and aesthetically. His work was so ambitious and beautiful that I think it made everyone in his class work their asses off to even be worthy of being there. It was inspiring to be around an artist who made comics but who also had carved out a place for himself in the art world without any contradiction between the two. He was also a living connection to various legendary creative worlds I’d been reading about: the East Village scene in the 1980s, all the people who had been involved in Spiegelman’s RAW. Around this time I had also discovered Fort Thunder, Space 1026, and Paper Rad, and all of the other little versions of those phenomena that were unfolding in small cities all over the country and in Europe too. Using print media, making cheap multiples, making posters for events — all of this felt very fresh and democratic, and part of a creative outlook that demolished the barriers between contemporary art, music, performance art, zines, books, comics, painting, and commercial art.


The longtime Marvel and DC cartoonist Rich Buckler, now best known for co-creating Deathlok, has passed away at the age of 68.  Here is a fond remembrance from a longtime fan.

Here's a good piece on Samuel R. Delany's recently published diaries. 


Tell Us About It

Greg Hunter's here today with a review of Jason's first comics memoir, On the Camino.

Before the release of On the Camino, few cartoonists seemed less likely to publish a memoir than Jason. The Norwegian artist has spent decades creating deadpan genre stories defined by slapstick and muted emotions. 2013’s Lost Cat, for instance, approaches noir storytelling as if it were a mindfulness exercise, sticking to a rigid four-panel grid and a single repeating spot color. It’s a good book but not a warm book, and it conveys little about its creator beyond general impressions of his taste and sensibility. This makes On the Camino, Jason’s first autobiographical work, a major departure, and yet it retains most features of his previous comics—most notably the use of animal figures in place of people, including a dog’s likeness for Jason himself.

A reader might take the dog avatar as a sign the artist hasn’t abandoned the devices that earned him a cult following. Another reader might take it as a reason not to expect new emotional directness from Jason. They’d both be right. But if Jason appears to approach autobiography from a position of relative safety, On the Camino soon reveals itself to be a book about the distances between Jason and other people.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Sean Rogers at the Globe & Mail profiles publisher Annie Koyama.

“I respect how Annie has built her publishing company carefully over time,” said Bill Kartalopoulos, the series editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual Best American Comics series, who collaborated with Koyama Press on Aidan Koch’s poetic, painterly After Nothing Comes. “[Annie’s] always focused on her core interests, never overextending herself, slowly developing step by step to create a stable and vibrant independent publishing house with a strong identity that is built to go the distance for her artists.”

But more than a decade ago, creating that publishing identity was far from Koyama’s mind. She was thinking instead of her globetrotting dreams. “I was going to drop everything and travel,” she recalled of her plans to escape an increasingly numbing career in advertising. Having made a lot of money in the industry – “because I didn’t put it all up my nose” – she’d set aside a sum to fund her travels. Then illness waylaid her.

—The cover art for R. Crumb's Ballantine-published collection of Fritz the Cat comics has set a new original-comics-art auction record, selling for $717,000, the highest ever for American comics.

The record price for a piece of comic art anywhere in the world is still over $3.5 million for the flyleaves/end pages for the Adventures of Tintin albums, by Herge.

—Amnesty International UK has released a podcast telling the story of Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani in her own words.

More than a year and a half after she was first arrested, and after a huge international campaign for her release, Atena was freed from prison on 3 May 2016. Her 12 year and 9 month sentence had been reduced to 18 months, after an appeal. The charge of 'spreading propaganda against the system' with her cartoon was upheld, though it was decided she had already served time for this.


Existing Biz


Irene Velntzas reviews Jillian Tamaki's Boundless. 

Tamaki applies her narrative voice and style to both human and natural subjects, resulting in a formlessness, or perhaps an erasure, between human and natural subjects. Lines such as “I get stronger with every passing day” are difficult to attribute to the water depicted in the scene or the person swimming within it. Similarly, affirmations such as “And I’m going to be respected” create a curious relation to either the worker shown carving a tree or the tree itself. This fluid relationship between Tamaki’s words and images provoke a captivating plurality, one that tumbles down one vertical double-page spread to another. At times, the human is relegated to the periphery of the page, clinging to subjectivity in the face of sprawling nature across the two-page spread; at other times, the reverse is true, with the human form clinging to its subjectivity while it views the world from a liminal position in Tamaki’s text. With each page, humanity and nature vie for a balanced co-existence.


Douglas Wolk writes about Captain America and politics.

Vice has a good and frank article about the financial life of a young cartoonist.


Get Up

Today on the site, J. Caleb Mozzocco interviews Mark Fertig, the editor of Take That, Adolf!, a recent book on the anti-Nazi comics of World War II.

The value in these comics lies in the truth they tell about the America of the war years, a truth that is sometimes overshadowed in our pop culture reverence for the American fighting man and the “greatest generation.” The racism found in the comics, movies and radio programs of the period is as ugly as it is ever-present, so it couldn’t be ignored.

I guess it would have been possible to make a book about these covers and stories while minimizing the topic in the text and being extra careful about which images to include and which ones to leave out, but I would have felt like a fraud if I’d done so. And while the book is undoubtedly a celebration of the comic book’s contribution to the war effort, my goal was also to tell the whole story, warts and all.

I doubt anyone would have noticed if I’d omitted something as obscure as Dell’s The Funnies #64, but it was on newsstands in 1942 and so I needed it in the book. And if I’d not mentioned Fawcett’s Steamboat, then I couldn’t tell about the schoolkids who were horrified by the way the he was depicted and actually managed to do something about it. That’s a story worth knowing, particularly because we seem to have made so little progress on race in the seven decades since the war ended.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Eleanor Davis was one of eight people arrested yesterday at a Georgia Board of Regents meeting. They were protesting policies that restrict access for undocumented immigrants.

Board members left the meeting when the protest began. When they returned, the demonstrators continued their protests. Several demonstrators repeated the phrase “To come for one of us is to come for all of us,” before their removal.

The demonstrators were taken to the Fulton County Jail.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Process Party is Tom Spurgeon, and the most recent guest on Virtual Memories is R.O. Blechman.


Leadership Level

Well folks, it's another day, another nerve-racking story. It's endless. Anyhow, there are still comics. First, Joe McCulloch will tell you about the week in comics, with a side of Corben. 


Tom Spurgeon gives us a brief report on TCAF this past weekend.

Here's a nice local story about Paul Karasik's commencement speech for this year's graduating class from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Not comics: The New Yorker profiles printer and publisher Gerhard Steidl. This is a good read about book-making and niche-publishing that should be of interest in today's publishing climate.



Don’t Open the Door!

Today on the site, Rachel Davies reviews Sarah Ferrick's Yours.

Years ago, my primary hobby of choice was looking through old photos. Photos of a group of people mid-laugh at a restaurant’s outdoor patio, clutching Coca Cola branded paper cups that I admired for their antiquated design. Photos of men in a makeshift home–were they soldiers? Miners? I wasn’t quite sure. Women dressed in outdated styles posed with their homemade holiday tinsel. It was irrelevant whether I knew a subject of the photos, or even knew someone who knew someone–it was mostly an exercise taken up because I was bored with the outcome of my own social life. The inherent glossiness in a movie’s presentation of social life bored me–I wanted to observe the glee found in the opposite outcome without it being orchestrated, and that’s what the photos showed me. What was most exciting about these photos was when a photo was graced–months, years, decades ago–with a tiny inscription on the back, some textual clue of how the person behind the camera felt about its subject. The words left behind placed me in the original viewer’s feelings, making the experience all the more emotional.

Reading Sarah Ferrick’s Yours, I’m reminded of the warming sensation of flipping through old photos at this point in my life. While her drawings aren’t inherently social and don’t give me a glimpse into a communal experience, her spare, crushingly meaningful choice of text is similar to the words left behind on the back of a photograph. Her pages are distinctive for their lack of characters; when a figure appears, it's actually a jolt–breaking with the text-only mode means stumbling to making sense of a character’s appearance. In place of figures, Ferrick morphs her letters to the point where they become more interesting than any standard character. She elevates and surrounds them, giving words far more meaning than available in a dictionary, saturating them with more personality than a simple italic possibly could.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's Doug Wright Awards were announced this Saturday.

The Librairie Astro comic store in Montreal is raising money via GoFundMe.

Our yearly city tax bill has swollen to an enormous size, leaving us with a $25,000 shortfall. And that’s why we’re coming to you, hat in hand.

We’re just a small independent book/comic shop, not some huge outfit like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. We don’t have more money than God, like they seem to.

—Reviews & Commentary. Hyperallergic reviews the 2dcloud horror anthology, Mirror Mirror II.

In this volume, editors Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer curate a murderer’s row of alt-comic talent. Anthologies tend to wobble in quality from one story to the next, but the work here bottoms out at vivid and frequently reaches greatness. Empowered to grasp as deeply as they please into the darkest possibilities of their imaginations, these artists merge [Gretchen Alice] Felker-Martin’s ideas of great horror and great porn into a chimera of hideousness so lovingly detailed that it becomes beautiful.

—Interviews & Profiles.
At LARB, Alex Dueben talks to Gabrielle Bell.

When did you say this is a book, and not just a few comics?

I actually can’t quite remember. I mean this is my first full-length book. I’ve tried to do full-length books before and I end up burning out. Like I said, I could spend 10 years on a page so I didn’t really want to turn this into a book, because I didn’t want to fail at that. [Laughs.] I think it was just going to be a small collection of stories, and then when I gathered enough stories, I thought, this could be a book. I’m so cautious now because I failed a lot. [Laughs.] I don’t have that hubris you have when you’re young and think that you can do anything. When I was young I was like, I can write a graphic novel easily! I managed to do some good short stories. Not knowing how to do something sometimes gets you through it. But so does knowing that you don’t know how to do something. I’m aware now of how much I don’t know.

And here's today not-exactly-comics link, though both interviewer and interviewee are occasionally involved in comics, and several comics creators are mentioned within the interview itself: the great Junot Diáz interviews the even greater Samuel R. Delany.

JD: People have called you a sex radical. What do you suppose they mean? What does it mean to you? Does it come with any political commitments?

SD: Intellectual radicals, rather than actual radicals, are people who say things where they are not usually said. And, yes, all true radicalism has to begin in the body—so being a sex radical means you have to be ready to act radically and be willing to speak about it in places you ordinarily wouldn’t—such as an interview about an activity you might otherwise confine to a journal. That’s how I started—and the world got started around me, as it were, when my mother found my secret writings, took them to my therapist, and they ended up in an article: Kenneth Clarke, who was the head of the Northside Center where I was going for child therapy, quoted them in an article in Harper's and again in his book, Prejudice and Your Child (1955), and I found myself published because of it. My first professional sale, as it were. I got a lot of attention for it, too. It is the source of most of my “radicalism.”


Another Toilet Cover

Today on the site, Kim Jooha talks to TCAF director Chris Butcher ahead of this weekend's festival.

Before 2010, it was only you working on TCAF?

Yeah, no, we had a lot of people that stepped up for specific roles. We’re very fortunate.

So you came to The Beguiling in 2002?

I was a customer at the store for a few years before that and I just became friends with Peter. I didn’t work at The Beguiling at the beginning, and one of the employees got a job. I was there a lot, setting up TCAF stuff —

When you started working with TCAF, you didn’t work at The Beguiling?

I was just like, “I’m just a guy who’s got this crazy idea, and I just need a computer to work on it with you.” Peter’s like, “Fine,” so I stole one of the computers upstairs to work on. I got to know all the staff, because I was in there all the time, and they asked me to like, “Can you cover the register?” “Can you cover a day?” “I got another job, can you work five days a week?” I was like, “Great.” I didn’t like the job I had at the time and I wasn’t great at it, so it worked out. I started working at The Beguiling in June or something like that, of 2003, but for the first seven or eight months I was just working on TCAF.

Was TCAF the first comic show that didn’t ask public to pay?

We did ask people to pay in the first year. It was five dollars, or pay what you can, because everything in Toronto for the 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s was five dollars/pay-what-you-can. And we made probably a thousand dollars or something like that at the door. Almost nothing. Because it was dumb. A lot of people were like, “Oh, I’m going to check this out, I’m not going to pay.” Or like, “I would have given you a hundred dollars.” Well, spend that money with the creators.

We decided in 2005, because it was going to be tents and it was going to be outside, to make it free and to attract as many people as we can. Treat it like everything else that happened behind Honest Ed’s.

And that became the philosophy for the festival. It was determined by where we chose the venue one year, and we just went from there. And we went from 600 people in the first year to 6000. We were taking photographs of the area and counting people. As soon as there’s no barriers to entry, people who were on the fence will be like “Oh, I’ll go check it out then.”


My pro tip for TCAF: First thing you do, buy Gary Panter's Songy in Paradise. It's an accessible, profound meditation on resilience and human vulnerability. The Doug Wright Awards is having a fundraising auction with art referencing Archie on that comic's 75th anniversary. Check out the remarkable Chester Brown page!

Here's a nice review on Hyperallergic of Mirror Mirror II, the horror comics anthology edited by Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer.