Darwyn forged a solid career in animation, but he became restless in his thirties. His childhood dream of becoming a comic book artist weighed on him. He looked back on his life and considered what really made him happy. There was only one answer: drawing comics. He decided he needed to try and make that long-time dream a reality, so he headed to the DC offices again with new work under his arm. He pitched Batman: Ego. Nothing came of it. Darwyn went back to being an animator and worried that his window for becoming a comic book artist was nearly closed. But then one day, nearly four years later, he received a call from Mark Chiarello who had been newly hired as art director at DC. Chiarello found his pitch for Batman: Ego in a pile of story ideas. He called Darwyn and asked if he wanted to do the book.
Batman: Ego was published in 2000 and it marked the beginning of Darwyn’s brilliant career in comic books. He burst on the scene with an art style that was unlike anything else. It is distinct and bold in the tradition of Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, but also honed by time spent as a graphic designer and animator. Darwyn’s art felt retro and modern all at once, and his skilled line work conveyed an exhilarating honesty and joy in the characters he drew. He was a breath of fresh air to the comics industry.
The gents at Secret Acres report back from TCAF as only they do.
Charles Augustus “Gus” Mager (1878-1956) is known primarily for his Sunday newspaper comic Sherlock Holmes spoof, Hawkshaw the Detective, which ran off and on from 1913 through 1947. But there's more to Mager -- lots more.
Mager was a gifted humor cartoonist who held his own with with the likes of George Herriman and Jimmy Swinnerton, creating over 30 strips that are genuinely charming, beautifully cartooned, and totally forgotten by today's audiences. Mager's delightful drawings and goofy comedy remain fresh and interesting. Mager's comics contain the same sort of greatness we find in the more famous newspaper humor comics, such as Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes -- an intelligent mind having a great deal of fun with cartooning. However, his career is not well understood, and perhaps this is partly the reason his work has not received much attention. The comics of Gus Mager are ripe for rediscovery and appreciation.
I think it is safe to say that Jasper the bear was Canada’s most recognizable cartoon character of the 20th century. Just how well-known he is today is debatable. Certainly if you are over 50 years old or live near Jasper Park then you will instantly know his face. However I suspect he is fading away from younger generations. That’s a shame really. He was a character with a lot of quiet charm about him much like his creator, James Simpkins.
Simpkins was a part of a small group of cartoonists, mostly starting out in the 1950’s, who helped define the young pop-culture of Canada. Peter Whalley, Doug Wright, Len Norris, Walter Ball, Jimmy Frise—these names are fading away as their work grows dusty on the shelves of neglected second-hand bookstore humour sections.
—Interviews & Profiles. Julia Wright at Vice checks in with Kate Beaton.
Instead of doing the big city thing—say, paying $5,000 a month for a windowless basement apartment and an hour-long commute—last December she moved to Mabou, Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island. Claims to fame: low-lying mountains and ocean vistas, great getaway for Americans looking to flee Donald Trump, home of the Rankin Family. But while the former coal-mining community, population 1,200, is definitely picturesque, Beaton remains iffy on the glossy, official tourism depictions of her hometown.
"The tourism industry tends to manufacture a nostalgia for this untouched experience," Beaton says. "The TV ads, they use all this beautiful music, these colourful scenes, all that 'wouldn't you love to get away here?' stuff. But for the people who live in those houses and do those things, life is hard. Services keep getting cut. They're places the government just crushes."
After 17 years, he says his latest book, Paul Up North, a story of first teenage love and heartbreak, will be the last to feature his alter ego, at least for now. “My wife and I have been divorced for three years. My dog is dead, my mother’s dead, my father’s ill – my life is really changing and I’m not in the mood to tell that kind of story anymore. I have to do something else.”
The Guardian profiles novelist Philip Pullman, focusing specifically on his graphic novel work.
Why are the British are so queasy about comics? “I think it comes from Pope Gregory the Great in 580 something,” says Pullman unexpectedly. “He said, what words are for the reader, pictures are for those who cannot read. But what that pronouncement did was to set up a hierarchy of esteem, so to speak: if you were clever you had words; if you’re not very clever you have pictures. That has remained almost unchanged for over 1,500 years.”
That can’t be the whole story. After all, in the US, Japan and France graphic novels are popular, and even respectable. What’s our problem? Maybe the puritans had something to do with it,” Pullman suggests. “The iconoclasm and the destroying of the statues and stained glass. The sense that these are vain fripperies and we should go back to the purity of language without pictures. I’m just guessing.”
NASO: So we talked a bit about your first work, the New Talent Showcase, and how you went to New York and sold that. But you didn’t really get comics work until 15 years later. So what happened?
COOKE: Well, like I said, back in that time there was no FedEx or e-mail or FTP sites or anything like that, so it quickly became apparent that I could not really make a living doing comics unless I was New York-adjacent. That led to art direction and design and that was something I pursued wholeheartedly for several years. What happened was, in my very early 30s, I finally took stock. You slow down a bit and go, “What the hell am I doing, why am I doing it, and is it what I want to do?” The answers to these questions did not make me very happy. I was doing advertising, and I wanted to do more with what I had. I had a lot of different avenues open to me, I suppose, at that point. Looking back at when I’d last been really happy, before life complicates your life, I had to go back to those summers when I was a kid, thinking, “I’m going to be a comic-book artist.
So I thought, “You know what? This is probably my last chance to take a shot at this. I was worn out from the work I’d been doing and the way I’d been carrying on, so I took a break and that’s when I put the pitch for [Batman] Ego together. So this would be like ’94. I go to a Chicago convention. Again, like I said, in my life when I’ve wanted to do something I’ll just do it and then take it wherever I gotta take it to show people, and figure it out from there. So I get down to the show, and of course, this was the year of the big Image boom. So I’m the last thing in the world anybody wants to actually buy, a guy who draws like Alex Toth! I couldn’t have picked a worse time.
NASO: Yes … Liefeld you are not [laughter].
COOKE: Oh hey, I can remember at that show, I was in line with a girl who was a colorist, I was just chatting her up and hanging in the line, the line was for Will Portacio and he was doing portfolio reviews. He looked at my work and he [laughter] was trying to explain to me how to do the kind of work they do. It was a bad year for me to be out there with that stuff.
Siné is a self-made political activist, whose very strong opinions are forged out of rage, integrity, instinct, and also a natural-born allergy to every kind of authority, whether it comes from the police, the army, the boss, the church or the State. His first spontaneous political involvement is in favor of the Algerian independence, and against his own French government. His style is a change from “funny little cartoons.” He is aggressive and violent; condemns, mocks and ridicules president De Gaulle, the army and France's colonialism, while supporting the armed resistance of the Algerian people. His pride is to be hated by a growing number of L'Express readers. [...]
May 1968 in the streets of Paris, Siné smells the scent of the revolution he was expecting, during the student uprisings. Against police brutality, but also because traditional newspapers, parties and trade unions are too shallow for his enthusiasm, he decides to create a new journal, L'Enragé, to support the revolution. L'Enragé becomes a university for cartoonists later to become famous in Charlie Hebdo (Cabu, Gébé, Reiser, Wolinski, Willem) but, then again, he is too radical for his time and the journal folds after only twelve issues. Original editions of Siné Massacre or L'Enragé are available on eBay, but the publisher who would make a book out of them today would deserve a Pulitzer Prize, or an honor medal for courage! Although he briefly collaborates with them in the 1970s, Siné refuses to join his friends in the satirical newspapers Charlie Hebdo or Hara-Kiri, which he finds funny but ugly, and not political enough.
—News. Early Saturday morning, the highly regarded cartoonist and designer Darwyn Cooke passed away after a battle with cancer (shortly after his illness was publicly revealed last Friday). Here is the obituary in the Los Angeles Times. There have been many tributes online, including one from TCJ contributor Tucker Stone, who also reprints an interview he conducted with Cooke. Tom Spurgeon gathered an enormous collection of Cooke images. We will have fuller coverage soon.
DC Entertainment strives to foster a culture of inclusion, fairness and respect. While we cannot comment on specific personnel matters, DC takes allegations of discrimination and harassment very seriously, promptly investigates reports of misconduct and disciplines those who violate our standards and policies.
As part of our ongoing effort to provide an equitable working environment, we are reviewing our policies, expanding employee training on the topic and working with internal and external resources to ensure that these policies and procedures are respected and reinforced across the company.
I find that when I'm talking in front of my son, I find that I try to say what I really feel rather than some version of myself I would've had in my 20s where I had some pose that was just, "I want to be contrary." ... I want him to know what I actually really feel and what are my real values. And you find yourself kind of [thinking], Do I believe in this? Is this an actual opinion of mine, or is this just some masked thing I'm trying to put out to the world?
I found it was very profound in that way. I sort of became more myself in a certain way.
this is a project i have been knocking around in my head and note/ planning form for somewhere around 15 years. i have always known that the time and effort needed to actually do this book justice would take a concerted and sustained effort on my part that is well beyond my "normal" practice (i.e get it done whenever you can, fitting in work time between work that actually pays the bills). i feel like that's the single largest factor that has kept me from attacking this project, over the years: "when and how am i gonna find the time to do this right?"
Today on the site, in honor of Friday the 13th, Bob Levin brings us an account of the scariest EC artist, Graham Ingels originally written for the never-published catalog for an EC exhibition opening today. I gotta say, with Wally Wood and Johnny Craig (and everyone has their little canon), Ingels continues to astonish me. The sheer weirdness of his drawing is organic and exceptional -- really can't be approximated. It's just a few steps beyond what anyone would consciously decide to do. Here's Bob:
Gaines would call Ingels “Mr. Horror.”Stephen King saluted him in his short story “The Boogeyman,” for his ability to “draw every god-awful thing in the world – and some out of it.”The cartoonist Jim Woodring once considered Ingels’ work “the product of a diseased mind or something”And me, in retrospect, I fingered him as “The Little Richard of Comics.”I mean, when rock’n’roll came in, if you were in a car, with your parents, and the radio station you’d selected eruptedwith “A-wop-boppa-loo-mop.A-wop-bam-boom,” your taste – your intelligence – your entire way of being became suspect.Same with Ingels and comics.His work caught you the most evil-eyed, purse-mouthed grief.
In Ingels’ world men were weak or avaricious, imbecilic or maniacal, and women sluts or hags.They populated fetid swamps, decaying mansions, moldering dungeons.Their bodies drooped and distended; their features melted and dissolved; their muscles strained agonizingly; their limbs angled impossibly.Every part of them reflected horror.They bore bony, elongated, clawed fingers,over-sized, over-sharp teeth, lust-filled, hate-filled eyes.They were regularly buried in the rain, and, from the mud, repeatedly arose, rotting, drooling, seeking revenge.
The elements scourged Ingels’ panels.Blackness enveloped them. Their word balloons bore jagged edges or dripped.The lines which enclosed them, instead of imposing order, wavered.Hands groped beyond them; phones dangled past them; The Old Witch’s warted chin drooped over their edge.Faces spun within them: on one side in one; straight up in the next; on the opposite side in the third.Long shot alternated with close-up.Points-of-view shifted, from floor to ceiling.The viewer lost hold on the ordinary.There was no solidarity, no consistency, no principle to cling to.Everything decomposed – like those corpses seeking revenge.
—News. The controversial anarchist French cartoonist Siné died late last week. We will have an obituary soon. Michael Dooley has a piece on him at Print, including samples of his work.
Back in 1955, while still in his twenties, he’d already received France’s Black Humor award, Le Grand Prix de l’humour noir, for his stunning, Saul Steinberg-inspired “Complainte sans Paroles” collection. A few years later, L’Express began running, and occasionally rejecting, his controversial political cartoons and commentary. A lifelong provocateur, Siné’s support of the Algerians during their war of liberation against France during that time regularly raised the hackles of the newspaper’s readers. His milder, pun-filled cat books earned him widespread public popularity, and his other books include a biographical series titled Ma Vie, Mon Oeuvre, Mon Cul! (My Life, My Work, My Ass!). He was a Charlie Hebdo regular from the early 1980s until 2008, when a piece that could be viewed as either satiric or anti-Semitic, and which was potentially libelous—and for which he refused to apologize—led to his dismissal. He did, however, file, and win, a wrongful termination suit against his former employer.
—Interviews & Profiles. The National Post profiles Annie Koyama.
“Annie took a real chance on me,” says Michael DeForge, a comic artist who has been publishing with Koyama since she flagged him down at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) in 2008. At the time, he had only a few self-published mini-comics to his name, but with Koyama’s belief in his work, DeForge was able to find an audience.
For the Los Angeles Review of Books, occasional TCJ contributor Daniel Kalder talks to Alejandro Jodorowsky about his career.
One of my favorite comics is Son of the Gun, the series you did with Georges Bess about Juan Solo, the South American mob enforcer with a tail.
That is the boy who died. That was my son who died. Really?
Yes, the main character. I used photos of him to make this character. I’d never done this. I had wanted to make a movie, but when he died I didn’t do it. Son of the Gun definitely reads and feels like a movie.
Yes it was, but when he died, I did it as a comic.
For CBR, Gilbert Hernandez talks about collaborating with Darwyn Cooke on The Twilight Children.
A lot of times when people collaborate who have their own careers separately collaborate there's a lot of head butting. We were head-less. [Laughs] We basically just let it happen. Let it happen the script, let the art happen, he just let himself do it. That worked really well. We'd like to do another project together later on where he writes and I draw, so we'll see about that.
Mia Nakaji Monnier interviews MariNaomi about her new memoir for The Millions, and among other things, discusses why her mother doesn't read her work:
She’s never done drugs, or — she’s just coming from such a different place. And she’s my mom. So I would tell her these really horrible parts of the stories to distract her because she’s also very curious, and I knew that at some point she wouldn’t be able to resist. So one of the first things I told her was, “I wrote about my first blowjob. The guy didn’t wash himself, Mom. Do you really want to read that? I drew flies around his penis, Mom. Do you really want to read that?” And she’s like, “No, no, I’m never reading it.” I even tested them out a little, thinking maybe I’d show them a couple of comics and see if they could handle it. There’s a story about when I mooned a little kid, and my mom read that and she said, [gasp!], and I said, “Okay, that’s it! If that shocks you, we’re done.”
I did get a job doing production art for Fantagraphics just before they moved to Seattle from California. This is all the pre-digital before-computers production, using a darkroom and a stat camera to turn glossy photos into halftones, literally pasting up magazine pages on boards, and so on. I had been working on medical magazines and car magazines during most of the 1980s, so the work for Fantagraphics was not much different. When I was working for them in Seattle, I think Kim or Gary suggested I try a comic book. Naughty Bits was going to be just a short lived collection of stories but Bitchy Bitch turned into a character and took over the series. It ran for 40 issues and I am sure I could have gone on much more with it.
Frank Santoro talks to Noah Van Sciver at this year's PIX:
—Reviews & Commentary. John Porcellino writes about clearing most of his convention schedule for the year.
The amount of time and travel that artists are expected to endure to make the convention rounds is untenable. Cons are (can be) fun, and it’s still a blast to meet your fans and friends face to face. I personally still get a kick out of standing behind a table covered in comics and seeing what happens. But the toll this is taking on cartoonists is very real. For me to attend DINK (a one and a half day show) required a day of prep time, two days of travel, doing the show, two more days of travel, and then two days to overcome the lack of sleep and food. Even if I do well at a show the amount of money I make could usually be made up by staying home and doing a few pieces of commissioned artwork. The truth is driving cross country to sell a $5 comic to someone is pretty much the most inefficient method of comics distribution there is.
Mark Evanier tells a few anecdotes about his personal experiences with B. Kliban, including an ill-fated television series.
I ran into B. the first day of the con and he greeted me warmly. I told him I was working on the TV show based on his characters. He said, "What TV show based on my characters?" I told him all about the project. He knew nothing about any such deal and ran off to his hotel room to call…well, someone — his agent or his lawyer or his publisher or…I don't know who he called.
COPRA is a comic that the SUICIDE SQUAD, by virtue of existing in the DC Universe can never be because it is a comic fundamentally suspicious of, derisive of, dismissive of the underlying message of superhero comics: that power can be used responsibily [sic], that our world has space for heroes, that violence can solves problems. COPRA is so intoxicated by comic’s [sic] formal properties that perhaps the fact its content isn’t so peppy can easily be overlooked, ignored. COPRA has cheap genre thrills, but plays them like a black comedy– unburdened by a DC universe context that makes no sense i.e. that the kind of power let loose within COPRA can co-exist with a moral universe.
Rob Kirby: Jen, as long as we’ve been friends and as long as I’ve followed your work prior to that, I still don’t really know your cartoonist origin story. That seems as good a place to start as any, so how about it?
Jennifer Camper: I never decided to become a cartoonist. I sort of fell into it and just continued. From early childhood I played with all kinds of art forms, including comics and illustrated stories. In school, I made comics and illustrated stories as class assignments, or for the school paper, and sometimes just to entertain my friends and myself. My family encouraged this. I was reading underground comics in my teens, and discovered Mary Wings and Roberta Gregory’s dyke comics. After that, I found Wimmen’s Comix, Tits & Clits, Lee Marrs’ Pudge, Girl Blimp, and Gay Comix. I never doubted that there was room for my own voice in comics.
Next, I drew comics and illustrations for Gay Community News in Boston. Following that, I submitted comics to Gay Comix, and met Howard Cruse, who generously tutored so many of us in the craft and business of comics. I also published comics and illustrations in Wimmen’s Comix, Young Lust, Real Girl,Sojourner (Boston feminist paper), and On Our Backs (lesbian erotica magazine).
After a while, I created a self-syndicated, bi-weekly comic, Camper, that ran in a number of queer and feminist newspapers and magazines in the US and Canada. Those comics were eventually collected in my first book, Rude Girls and Dangerous Women (Laugh Lines Press, 1994).
Having these outlets gave me deadlines and assignments, and an audience. Of course, there was little money paid for these comics, but the queer press and alternative comics had a vocal readership. I was thrilled to get feedback for my work – both pro and con. Most of these publications were printed on cheap paper, so I developed my high-contrast, black and white drawing style, which reproduces well, even with low-quality printing production.
Joe McCulloch, thank god, is back from vacation, but is feeling a little under the weather, so we'll be posting his usual guide to the Week in Comics! later tonight. In the meantime, here's a brief taste of what he's working on, a review of the new Cinema Purgatorio anthology, which provides an excellent excuse for Joe to explore the sweet world of his beloved Avatar Press.
A few weeks ago, the website FairPageRates.com disseminated the results of a 127-person sample size poll concerning payment for professional work in the comic book industry. Amid various comments concerning the undesirability of working for high-profile 'indie' publishers such as BOOM!, Zenescope and Bluewater/Storm Entertainment, there is a brief and telling mention of Avatar Press:
This is understandable. Established in the latter half of the 1990s, the age of the industry crash, as a veritable fallout shelter for sexually-driven 'bad girl' comics, Avatar quickly seized on the possibility of recruiting name writers tested in mainstream genre comics and allowing them leeway to publish aggressive and extreme content. Today, they are known mainly for one of those projects: the comprehensively violent pseudo-zombie series Crossed, a going concern since 2008 and still trademark & copyright Mr. Garth Ennis, whose name you will also be seeing on the Preacher television show soon enough. This, more than anything, has cemented Avatar's identity as "a downmarket gorehound press" per Tim last week, though the same publisher is also behind the industry news/gossip site Bleeding Cool, and maintains a side-specialty in sexy girl comics via an imprint, Boundless.
Meanwhile, elsewhere: —Interviews & Profiles. I haven't listened to this yet, but was excited to wake up this morning and discover that my favorite (non-TCJ-affiliated) comics podcast, Rina Ayuyang and Thien Pham's Comix Claptrap, has returned after a two-year-long hiatus, and their first guest is Tim Hensley.
Guest host Sean Ford takes the reins at Inkstuds to interview Malachi Ward.
You’ve probably heard of Japanese artist known as Rokudenashiko (“good for nothing girl”), who was arrested in 2014 for sending the 3-D data of her genitals to patrons of her successful crowdfunding campaign to create a vagina-shaped kayak.
The Society of Illustrators has posted video of Ryan Sands talking to Rebecca Sugar:
—Reviews & Commentary. Ng Suat Tong isn't particularly fond of screenwriter/internet-punching-bag Max Landis's Superman: American Alien.
My first impression on reading Superman: American Alien was that it seemed like a decently written television series. The kind you might find on a small cable channel littered with demographically targeted YA themes about young powerful people grappling with their powers.
It's nice to see Ng writing again so much recently.
—News. Longtime Farm News cartoonist Rick Friday was fired from his position after he published a cartoon mildly criticizing Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and John Deere.
After the cartoon was published last Friday, Mr. Friday said he was told in an email from an editor the next day that the cartoon would be his last for Farm News because a seed company had withdrawn its advertising in protest.
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's This One Summer has been banned from a Minnesota public school district's library after a single parental complaint.
Henning School District has no policy addressing selection or reconsideration of library materials. The school district was contacted when we couldn’t find any policies online, the superintendent said that there is no policy but there is a procedure in place where a parent can complain to the principal and the principal will decide what to do. No consultation with the librarian is required. No consultation of professional reviews is required. The book doesn’t even need to be read in its entirety.
Finally, Oni Press has announced that they are starting a new imprint devoted to educational sex comics, starting with Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan's Oh Joy Sex Toy.
[EDITED TO ADD: This post was written on very little sleep this morning, and included a few errors—one typo and a mistaken description of Oni Press. Both have been corrected, but my apologies.]