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The Client is Always Right

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey bring us a slice of Milton Caniff history, namely a time when he ran afoul of his public’s taste.

Caniff included a woman in virtually every story for the obvious storytelling reasons: not only does a damsel in distress give a hero a mission, but relations between the sexes are central to the human condition. A man-woman situation enhances the drama of any high adventure, giving it an added human dimension. Since Terry’s early days, Caniff acknowledged the sexual aspects of his storytelling. His erotic or titillating allusions were undertones, but they were evident enough to those who could recognize them. In such man-woman relationships, Caniff once remarked, there should “always be the feeling of potential rape in the air—legal or otherwise.” Words and pictures usually convey this feeling, but not in tandem.

A mark of Caniff’s sophistication as a cartoonist is that when the dialogue dilates with double entendre, the women in the accompanying pictures are typically demurely dressed, softening the suggestive import of the language. When the women slip into something more comfortable, they talk like choir boys. Adjusting his pictures to temper subtly his suggestive words, Caniff controlled his medium masterfully. The sexual connotations of Delta’s backseat struggles would be intolerable for most readers if she wore skimpy clothing. But Caniff dresses her in a conservative skirt and sweater. Admittedly, she fills them amply, but she keeps her knees out of sight most of the time. Caniff focuses our attention on Delta’s dilemma not on her sexuality. Caniff’s treatment of Madame Lynx illustrates the reverse effect. In the absence of verbal reminders of Lynx’s sexual role, the pictures remind us. In this case, however, Caniff for once misgauged his audience and went too far, upsetting the delicate verbal-visual counter-balance.

And in other parts of the internet…

There is more legal maneuvering to report on the Superman copyright case. There’s a summary here, with more detail and the relevant documents here.

Sean T. Collins has an epic series of posts honoring the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets. Go read them and then check out his updated reading guide to the series as well.

Jillian Tamaki chronicled the trash on her block for Print magazine and the full piece is online.

Hey, what does Milo George think about the new Batman movie?

 

 

Bad Guys

Today, we bring you the inimitable Bob Levin’s review of the newly collected cartoons of the great writer Flannery O’Connor. He wasn’t wholly satisfied:

Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons acts as if there was no mystery as to how she managed. It proceeds as if Step One is “Teach a chicken to walk backwards”; Step Two “Mock Physical Fitness Day”; and Step Three… BANG! You have bumped noses with Hazel Motes. It makes nothing of the newt eyes and bat claws bubbling within O’Connor’s cauldron: prematurely deceased father; controlling, disapproving mother; not entirely chosen celibacy; lurking, potentially fatal genes. It overlooks the gasses fermenting in this mix: frustration and fright, bitterness and pain, grief and rage. All brewed while she drew her way through GSCW. All foretold unseen vistas, untasted spice, unheard notes, unscented perfumes, uncaressed flesh. Only her imagination could compensate. Only it could lead her on. And cartoons only carried her so far. She required a greater conveyance to discharge what she held within.

O’Connor would not encourage this type of analysis.

Off-site, I recommend reading the following, among other links I have surely missed or forgotten:

—An article on Dan Dare and Eagle written by the eminent comics historian Paul Gravett to accompany a British museum exhibition. Gravett’s always worth reading.

—Rafael Medoff writing for the Jewish Journal about a 1942 cartoon drawn by Theodore Geisel (that’s Dr. Seuss), the only cartoon in which he ever explicitly addressed the Holocaust. (via)

—Robin McConnell, the host of the popular comics radio show Inkstuds, has launched Canadian Comics Archive, an online repository for rare and unusual Canadian comics.

—Noel Murray writes about Comic-Con for the A.V. Club, in which he plausibly claims we are currently going through something of a “golden age” of comics. I think this is arguably true. What puzzles me about Murray’s article is that he claims this to be the “legacy of Comic-Con” itself, but never really explains why this particular convention is responsible. I think the efforts of historians like Bill Blackbeard, publishers like Fantagraphics and D&Q and IDW, editors like Spiegelman and Mouly, and scores of individual cartoonists have far more to do with the current renaissance than did any particular movie-promotional event, no matter how visible it is. And they would have done it with or without—and maybe even did it despite—things like Comic-Con. But aside from that flaw, Murray’s impressions as an intelligent outsider are worth reading, and make me wish I’d attended.

—Jim Emerson writes about the dumb morality of superhero stories. This just one of dozens of these kinds of stories that have been written over the past few years. I am not linking to it for any other reason other than that I enjoy the idea that the bread and butter for decades’ worth of TCJ reviews and articles has now become the most popular hobbyhorse of movie critics instead.

—At the Hooded Utilitarian, Ng Suat Tong reviews Joe Sacco’s Journalism, and Marguerite Van Cook ponders the “postmodern sublime” she finds in cartoonists like Ben Katchor and Mark Newgarden.

 

At That Age

Well, it’s a new day. Did anyone else listen to three entire episodes of Comic Books Are Burning in Hell over the weekend? No? Oh. Well, you should consider indulging in this fine podcast, which makes the best case yet that Joe McCulloch could become a religious leader of some kind, maybe like L. Ron Hubbard. He’s just the convincing. Speaking of Joe, here’s his Week in Comics.

And elsewhere:

This is actually a Punisher “fan film” by Punisher actor Thomas Jane. Why am I fascinated by this? I don’t know. Maybe because I was looking at some Klaus Janson over the weekend.

Somewhat comics-related: The Library of America has launched a companion web site to its American Science Fiction series. Here’s William Gibson on Alfred Bester.

Bill Kartalopolous profiles our ol’ Ganzfeld co-founder, one-time cartoonist and current Vector Park maestro, Patrick Smith.

Not comics: It’s been alternately distrusting and fascinating to watch the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles completely implode. There are many lessons here about curatorial integrity, not pandering, fiscal responsibility, and, as the artists all resign from the board, a lot to be said about maintaining the trust of the people who make the stuff a museum is meant to show.

Finally, TCJ-contributor Frank Santoro has an excerpt from his graphic novel, Storeyville, over at What Things Do.

 

The Show!

Ah, the long comics-world nightmare is over, and Comic-Con has ended. According to what I have gathered from reading other comics sites in search of links, a new Superman movie poster has been unveiled, as well as the armor from Iron Man 3. The Eisner Award winners have been announced. Many pictures were taken. (We will surely be linking to more photo reports over the next few days.) And the Evil Eisner-winning Tom Spurgeon has provided his traditional show notes, always worth reading for those who couldn’t attend. (For the record, Tom is my favorite comics blogger.)

We don’t have much exciting movie news here, unfortunately, but we do have Ryan Holmberg’s latest essential column on manga history, this time with a closer look at truth behind the conventional wisdom that Disney animation was the primary influence on Osamu Tezuka. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the biggest blind spots in the scholarship on Tezuka Osamu is the assumption that his main access to Disney was through animation.

Granted, first contact might have been made watching Mickey alongside other American animation stars like Popeye and Betty Boop in theatres and at home in the 1930s. Wrote Tezuka in 1973 (roughly translated, here and throughout):

I liked Disney, I adored Disney, here before you is a man whose life was determined by Disney.

I first encountered Mickey around second grade at an animation festival [Tezuka was born in 1928]. Also my father brought home a rickety home projector called the Pathé Baby, and amongst the films he purchased was Mickey’s Choo Choo. From that point on I became attached to Disney by a chain that could not be cut.

And then from fascination to emulation,

I first followed the comics of Tagawa Suihō and Yokoyama Ryūichi. But suddenly, once I became devoted to Disney, I set out to copy and master that stuffed-animal style, eventually ending up with how I now draw.

But note that he does not specify what Disney media he “copied,” and nowhere does he say that he learned to “master” the Disney style on the basis of the animation alone.

We also have Frank Santoro’s latest “New Talent Showcase”, this time with reports from up-and-comers Angie Wang and Charles Forsman.

Elsewhere…

The Guardian has an audio slideshow linked to Joe Sacco’s recent collaboration with Chris Hedges.

—The Evil Tom Spurgeon has the first part of a massive interview with Image publisher Eric Stephenson.

—In an interview with the art blog Hyperallergic, MoCCA president Ellen Abramowitz revealed a bit more about the reasons for the museum’s recent closing, claiming they were primarily financial.

—The A.V. Club revisits Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan.

 

It’s Only Comic Books

Well, today on the site we have the full complement of Tucker Stone content. I look forward to your complaints. And Sean T. Collins reviews The Walking Dead #100:

When you pick up an issue ofTWD, there’s no telling who’ll be left when you put it down. Your odds of any given issue featuring that kind of shock to the system may be low, but they exist (especially for the milestone issue numbers), which is more than you can say for all but probably under half a dozen monthly comics total. Despite, or because of, the increasing wait between payoffs, Kirkman finds a way to make them worth it, frequently far enough beyond worth it and into gobsmacking awe that he went there that it doesn’t seem like a wait at all.

It’s Friday and there’s a full weekend of Comic-Con ahead of some of you. The news out of the con thus far is almost completely irrelevant to anything I’m interested in. And yet I can’t look away! There’s stuff about “dark” things and stuff about “IP” and other stuff. For you TCJ readers demanding things of traditional TCJ interest, you’ll be heartened to know that Art Spiegelman’s monograph, Co-Mix, named for the now-deceased cutting edge tween culture blog, is coming out from Drawn & Quarterly. Despite his stature, Spiegelman’s work remains scattered across decades and mediums, so it’ll be nice to have a selection in one book. Anyhow, our man Eric Reynolds has the perfect antidote to all this news: Memories! Sweet, sweet memories from a man who has had waaaay more fun at comic conventions than I ever have.

Elsewhere:

If you can’t get enough of Tucker, Jog and the gang, here, listen to their voices!

And if you like comics, you can read about Dennis the Menace here!

And… I bet there will be so much more, so very very soon. But for now, kind people, there’s little other comics news. It’s all over… there.

 

 

La Jolla Won’t Annoy Ya?

For those of you who miss the days when Ken Parille wasn’t obsessed with super-powered fights, you’re in luck. His new close-reading column is in, and he’s set the New 52 issues aside to focus in on John Hankiewicz’s “The Kimball House”. (He also includes a pdf of the comic in question, so as to make it easier to follow along with his formal analysis.) Parille brings it this time. Here’s a taste:

Without necessarily knowing the terminology, readers instinctively understand the distinction between a comic’s diegetic and non-diegetic elements. A diegetic element is one that is (or could be) experienced by the story’s characters. A non-diegetic element is not part of their world. For example, a word balloon represents language that characters hear, but the balloon itself is not present; it exists at a level above/outside the narrative. In “The Kimball House” Hankiewicz takes conventional non-diegetic comic book elements and transforms them into diegetic elements. Thus, in panel 2, a thought balloon’s bubble tail (which comes after the command “Think”) becomes a physical object, casting a shadow on the ground. In the next panel, these circular shadows reappear as another form central to comics: the ellipsis. [...]

While the comic’s human characters — the Kimballs and the roofer — are confined to embedded pages, the other ‘characters’ —forms like the ellipsis —appear throughout the comic. “The Kimball House” plays with a limited set of geometrical shapes that function as reoccurring characters: rectangle (as pane, panel, page, house), triangle (as rooftop, arrow top), circle (dot, ellipsis, thought balloon tail bubble, star), along with other main characters — the asterisk (star) and cloud (narration balloon).

Everyone involved in comics seems to be at San Diego right now, so news is relatively light. But there are a few things to read while we wait for the great comics journalists of our time to deliver breathless reports on all of the upcoming movies!

—There are two big interviews with Darwyn “Before Watchmen” Cooke out right now, one on everything Parker/Richard Stark at the Violent World of Parker, which is exhaustive and worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the Stark novels, whether or not you dig Cooke’s particular take on the material, and another on superheroes at the A.V. Club, which includes his soon-to-be-(in)famous take on the Watchmen controversy:

In all honesty, I didn’t expect, “Poor Alan Moore.” I just didn’t expect that. So that sort of took me by surprise. I certainly expected people to have an opinion about whether this beloved material should be explored any further, and I believe that that’s a question, but it’s also a challenge that I’m happy to meet. All the stuff with Alan, I didn’t count on that or really give it much thought.

He also maintains that participating in the project isn’t as bad as forcing children to starve. Which is true, but maybe setting the bar a little low?

The Guardian has a report on the great illustrator/cartoonist Quentin Blake’s recent work for hospitals.

—Will Brooker, a British academic who specializes in Batman, recommends five comics-related books to The Browser. These are superhero-centric but not stupid choices.

—Tucker Stone previews the next few months of comics releases for Flavorpill.

—And apparently it is comics blogger Heidi MacDonald’s thirtieth anniversary as a writer on comics. Torsten Adair has gathered up tributes.

 

Back East

On the site today:

Michael Dean has a report on the news of sudden closure of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art’s Soho location. And Craig Fischer brings us video arguments for the Jack Kirby family. Something to keep in mind as the megalith of Comic-Con rumbles to life. And Sean T. Collins reviews the first issue of Gilbert Hernandez’s new series, Fatima the Blood Spinners.

Elsewhere:

-Kevin Huizenga, whose Gloriana (one of the all-time great comics) was recently reissued in hardcover, is interviewed at the AV Club and PW.

-Here’s a guide to the Love & Rockets 30th anniversary celebrations at Comic-Con.

-TCJ-contributor Sean T. Collins has a cartoon collaboration with Jonny Negron over at Studygroup.

-I’ve enjoyed comics by lots of these people, so this Oily Comics subscription seems like a good deal.

-Huh, Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy briefly had a comic strip in 1987.

-Finally, here’s a mess of Edgar Rice Burroughs covers, just because.

 

 

 

Advertising Looks and Chops a Must

Today Joe McCulloch brings us news of the Week in Comics, and extends his recent streak of being especially amazing with a look back at a little remembered Alan Moore Vampirella story from the late ’90s. Here’s an excerpt:

Moore, in keeping with the genre, plays up the sexual aspects of these encounters, with a queasy emphasis on acts of violence inflicted upon the sexual-and-therefore-lethal women populating his story; a two-page sequence preceding the image above sees Jack’s slaying of Dracula’s wives intercut with the vampire bursting in on disaffected Lucy & Mia (“So what? I mean, it’s that kind of world these days. I read about Bosnia or Romania, or wherever, and I’m just, like, bored, you know?”), seizing them by the face and hair and ‘taking’ them in a shadowed but distinctly connoted manner not unfamiliar to several Alan Moore works. Yet as Jack gradually reveals to the reader that he’s aware of how shallow this little update seems to be, Moore’s true target comes into view: the purposeless banality of modern society and its pop culture, a full 15 years before the similarly situated The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, except with an American focus, and the tv sensation Friends standing in for Harry Potter as avatar of all that’s hopelessly shit.

Also, Rob Clough reviews Karrie Fransman’s The House That Groaned.

————————

In less welcome news, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art has abruptly closed its doors and canceled many of its upcoming events, so far limiting its public discussion of this development to a brief notice posted on its Web site and Facebook page. Here is the full text of the announcement:

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA), New York City’s only cultural institution dedicated specifically to celebrating the comics medium, will be closing its physical location effective immediately.

The SoHo museum, currently at 594 Broadway, recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. While the physical space is closing, plans are afoot to continue MoCCA in a new and exciting incarnation. An announcement of MoCCA’s future arrangements will be forthcoming by the end of July.

Current memberships will be honored at the new venue, as will table renewals for MoCCA Fest 2013.

They have also claimed on Twitter that they will announce a new venue by the end of the month. (via)

Michael Dean recently reported on the museum’s status for its tenth anniversary on this website. Obviously these new developments bear watching.

Elsewhere…

—The cartoonist Seth has recently branched out into barber-shop design, mapping out the look for his wife Tania Van Spyk’s new Guelph establishment, Crown Barber Shop. Bryan Munn and Brad Mackay have photos.

—Barry Moser’s essay on Flannery O’Connor’s cartoons has been excerpted in The New York Review of Books.

—Mark Waid talks to the A.V. Club about his new digital comics venture.

—Robert Boyd, who was recently named the best arts blogger in Houston (he’d certainly have been my vote), has just posted reviews of the latest books from Joe Sacco and Joost Swarte.

—James Romberger has just penned (or keyboarded) a post briefly reviewing a whole slew of books, including titles featuring Mort Meskin, R. Kikuo Johnson, Richard Corben, Brandon Graham, Michael DeForge, and Josh Bayer.

—The Mindless Ones have posted their third and final marathon group reading of Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009.

—I don’t post links to webcomics very often on here, but I’ll always make an exception for Justin Green.