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Such An Interesting Guy

Hey there,

Today Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics, with bonus Avatar press diversion.

The chain of events is like this. I wrote a review of the Avatar Press anthology Cinema Purgatorio where I suggested that despite the much-heralded participation of Alan Moore, the project was better understood in terms of its publisher’s tendencies. That, however, made me paranoid that I didn’t have an adequate enough grasp of Avatar’s history, which led me to cataloging most of the artists who worked for them in the 1990s, which naturally (NATURALLY.) led me to tracking down many related comics from the 1990s horror/goth/’Bad Girl’ comics scene. By chance, and through an enormous outlay of generosity, I also recorded an episode of the Inkstuds podcast with one of those artists, Trevlin Utz, which went up yesterday; let the emphasis lay on the fact that *I* recorded it, because the audio gets weird and out of sync at parts, a significant flaw entirely attributable to me.

And Rob Kirby reviews Talk Dirty to Me.

Talk Dirty to Me opens with its protagonist, Emma Barns, nervously interviewing for a job as a “sex hotline” operator. The interviewer, a middle-aged man, assures her that she doesn’t need to be “amazing” or give him a lot of backstory. “All I need to know,” he concludes bluntly, “is if you can sound sexy enough to make a guy cum over the phone.” Emma gets the job, and this sets the narrative in motion: Will its forbidden allure satisfy Emma’s inchoate yearnings? And are those yearnings of a sexual nature or something more elusive?

Rather than offering up Trina Robbins-style role-model feminism, Talk Dirty to Me presents a shaded, unglamorous mini-portrait of a woman’s life via her sexual history, and examines how those experiences have shaped her current liminal state. Emma’s story, in fact, is a conduit to a larger subject: the boundaries our culture places around sexual agency and notions of desirability, and the impact of conforming to and/or challenging those boundaries.

Elsewhere:

A new feature over at Comics Workbook looks to be featuring images from Carol Kovinick Hernandez’s archive. Here’s a great one of the brothers playing barbies.

Here I am discussing comics-related artist Susan Te Kahurangi King at Modern Painters.  

And, in case you were curious, Captain Britain would oppose Brexit.

 

 

Was Ist Das?

Today on the site, Jeanette Roan is here with a nice, long, career-spanning interview with Jason Shiga, the creator of Fleep, Bookhunter, and the already infamous webcomic Demon, which will soon come out in collected form from First Second.

[First Second is] also going to put it out as four books. Why not just one giant one? Didn’t you say you wanted to make Demon one page longer than Craig Thompson’s Habibi?

Yes! I don’t know why First Second is doing it in four volumes, you’d have to ask them. I’m a little bummed that Craig Thompson will have a larger book than me. I might hire a bookbinder to take all four volumes and stick it into one hard cover. Actually, I might have them make two, one for myself and then one I can mail to Craig Thompson.

Do you have a little rivalry thing going with Craig Thompson? Does he know about this?

Yeah, I told him. He knows my plans.

I saw that you recently put out a question on social media about whether you should dedicate Demon to your son. Have you come to a decision yet?

I want to, but my wife is against it. The day I put it out to Facebook was the same day Jimmy and Hunter were having their naked sex fight in the webcomic. So that didn’t help. In my defense, however, I want to say the cum shank sequence was very tastefully done. You never actually see Jimmy ejaculate. It’s all done off-camera, through implication.

What about the naked sex fight scene?

OK, that maybe not so much.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Sean T. Collins interviewed Lisa Hanawalt about her new book Hot Dog Taste Test for the Observer.

How do you balance your “day job” working on Bojack Horseman with continuing to do comics?

I’m glad it seems like I’m balancing those things, because I’m always in a panic over not doing enough. It is what it looks like: I’m often spending 8-10 hours at work and then doing more work after I get home. I pushed really hard to complete this book while working full time on the third season and had a flare-up of gut problems — ironic, given the theme of the book — which I’ve always had issues with, but get really bad when I’m stressed. So I’m not currently supposed to eat hot dogs. Isn’t that funny?

—Alex Dueben talks to MariNaomi about her book Turning Japanese for CBR.

I feel like a lot of people are trying to pander to an audience. Unless you’re really into telling a story, there’s no point to telling it. I mean, I guess stuff like that sells — vampires are hot, so let’s write about vampires — but I don’t feel like that kind of stuff really stands the test of time if you’re not super-passionate about something. Especially with comics. Best case scenario, you’re never going to be a millionaire. [Laughs]

I was talking to Box Brown recently, when I was on tour in Philadelphia, and we were talking about best case scenarios for writers versus best case scenarios for cartoonists, and man, it’s pretty dismal. [Laughs] Best case scenario for writers is like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Best case scenario for cartoonists are, I don’t know, Art Spiegelman? Alison Bechdel? The top tier of comics is not quite Stephen King-level. [Laughs]

—BBC Radio 4 has a half-hour documentary on Charles Schulz available online for the next few weeks.

—They’re making a movie from Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? Oder Theater?

The 2D feature will be mainly based on Charlotte Salomon’s “Life? Or Theatre?” — an autobiographical series of 769 paintings which the young artist created between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France, where she lived before she was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 26.

“Staying true to Charlotte’s spirit and body of work, our film will be punctuated with fantasy, dream-like elements and the animation designs will be minimalist, in a similar vein as (Remi Chayé’s) ‘Long Way North.’ We’ll be animating and interpreting her paintings, placing the emphasis on the story which is extraordinarly moving,” said Bergeron.

 

Science for Good

Today on the site, the great Bob Levin discusses Austin English’s Gulag Casual.

I recently read a book in which a world-roaming architect selected drawings from 50 years of sketchbooks and set beside each a paragraph or three of associated memories on the facing page in order to render an account of his life’s journey.  It was, I realized, a departure from the usual words-and-pictures work, where both elements are created within the same narrow window of time since, in the architect’s book, pictures may have been created a half-century before the words, with no idea that words would ever be matched to them.  For one who has not thought about this much, like me, Gulag is an entirely different, but equally satisfying twist on the words-and-pictures trip.

It presents an urban world of houses, apartments, restaurants, and bars.  (“…(W)hat goes on in that house?’ someone asks on page one, a question that lingers as other pages turn.)  People have families, partners, roommates, upon whom strangers often intrude and from whom someone often strays.  Bobby and Theo leave Margaret and Nicky.  An anonymous narrator leaves Perry and Moki.  A stranger leaves Olaf and his girlfiend.  People often displease each other or themselves.  Bobby calls Theo “a submoronic piece of filth.” An unidentified phone caller terms Bobby a “slimy fraud.” An anonymous narrator characterizes himself as “a lump of… common and vile stuff.” A stranger notes his mouth exudes “drool” and his nose “puss.”

Elsewhere:

On the Massive blog, Anne Ishii discusses Massive’s mission and writes movingly and beautifully about last weekend’s tragedy in Orlando.

Sacha Mardou has a thorough report on CAKE for Comics Workbook. 

Congrats to pal Dash Shaw on his upcoming film residency. The film itself sounds amazing.

Anya Davidson drew a lot of alien portraits and I like them very much.

I remember when I was a kid every so often some paper would run a story about the science of superheroes. Now the University of Leicester has devoted a blog post to various studies of it.

 

Skittish

Today, Alex Dueben has an interview with Michael Maslin, the cartoonist and author of the recent biography, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist.

I wanted to ask about Arno’s stolen car cartoon because in 1929 when it was published it was controversial and really divided people at the magazine about Harold Ross.

I do spend a little time on that because it’s an interesting dividing line. It created these two camps: did Harold Ross know what this cartoon meant or didn’t he? According to Thurber, Ross said the cartoon had an Alice in Wonderland quality to it and it wasn’t about sex, it was just an interesting drawing. I assume tpeter-arno-we-want-to-report-a-stolen-car-new-yorker-cartoonhat drawings are selected sometimes because the editor sees them as something other than the artist does. I don’t know if that’s really true in this case. I love the drawing; I think it’s a beautiful drawing. It’s definitely about sex. Why else would they just have the back seat?


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Speaking of New Yorker cartoonists, A Case for Pencils has a short interview with George Booth.

George: Well, I’ve been drawing since I was 3 and a half, and my mother encouraged me, and I think it’s very important, for young mothers. Whatever they influence the little squirts to do, may be what he’s going to do all of his life. And that was, in my case, what it was. My mother was an artist. When I drew a cartoon of a Model T Ford stuck in the mud and I laughed about it–and I laughed and I laughed– it caught her attention so she started to encourage me to cartoon.

Sarah Booth: You’re still laughing at yourself!

George: [laughs] Sarah says I still laugh at myself! But that’s the way it should be. You should enjoy what you’re doing.

—And in the same magazine, Alexandra Lange profiles Luke Pearson, who as you may have heard, has a new series based on his Hilda comics coming to Netflix.

When Pearson was still in school, in 2009, he submitted a one-page drawing to a competition run by Nobrow, now his publisher. “She’s basically wearing her outfit”—beret, scarf, red top, blue skirt, and big red boots—Pearson said, of Hilda. “She’s standing at the end of a pier, with a Scandinavian-esque city behind her and all kinds of creatures around, including a giant troll and a zeppelin in the sky.” A similar scene occurs in the third Hilda book, “Hilda and the Bird Parade,” but at the beginning Pearson didn’t have a story, just this “curious image” of a small girl with blue hair and a question: “Where is she and what does she get up to?”

And the most recent guest to the RIYL podcast is Gabrielle Bell.

 

Going For It

Today on the site:

Rob Clough surveys the output of Retrofit Comics. 

Retrofit Comics began as a Kickstarter experiment in 2011. By then, comics tended to be printed as minis or graphic novels, leaving Box Brown missing the heyday of the alt-comics comic book. In 2013, he joined forces with the DC-area comics store, Big Planet Comics, which took on a lot of the costs and production work, allowing Brown (and BPC’s Jared Smith) to concentrate on other duties as publisher and tastemaker. This was one of the early examples of a store deciding to publish its own comics.

Overall, the results have been of a fairly high quality, and quite varied in genre and approach. Brown has fairly catholic tastes, ranging from esoteric comics-as-poetry to slice-of-life to big, dumb genre tales. (I imagine Smith has also had some influence on what’s been chosen.) Brown has made it a point to publish work by up-and-coming talents from the world of self-publishing. He’s also published work by veterans like James Kochalka, Steven “Ribs” Weissman, and Matt Madden. He’s reprinted minis from notable young artists like Georgia Webber. Artists from outside the US, like Olivier Schrauwen, Zejian Shen, and Antoine Cossé, have been some of the most notable contributors. Retrofit has also published some of the best work by Josh Bayer, whose work I recently reviewed on my own High-Low blog. Let’s take a closer look at a sampling of works from 2013-2016.

And Frank Young joins us for a review of the  novel-about-comics Induction of the Sycophant. 

With its rags-to-riches sagas, occasional creative triumphs and dark episodes of mental and artistic deterioration, the story of the American comic book industry is rife with potential for novelists.

Few have tapped this rich source. Fewer have stepped outside the worship of comics to depict the cut-throat, hard-scrabble world of the comics biz. Tiger Moody’s 2015 novelInduction of the Sycophant does that well, and is a valuable addition to the small body of comics literature. 

Moody’s book is in good company with Mell Lazarus’ 1965 black-comedy gem, The Boss is Crazy, Too, and Tom De Haven’s Funny Papers (1985) and Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies (1996). The pious formality of Michael Chabon’s acclaimed book-group staple, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000), is nowhere in Moody’s agenda.

Like De Haven’s novels, Moody’s explores the flaws in the comics business model, and how its creators’ inspirations can ripple throughout the industry, even if the artist or writer suffers or is left behind. Like Lazarus, Moody offers a wry insider’s sense of this vivid, limited world. Moody’s is not a humorous novel. There are amusing moments, but the book’s overall tone is New York neo-noir. Moody captures the sense of chilly late-afternoon desperation found in the works of authors John Rechy and Hubert Selby, Jr. and in Robert Wise’s 1959 film Odds Against Tomorrow. The big city, with its bustle and promise, ought to be wonderful… except that it isn’t.

Elsewhere:

New Yorker cartoonist Anatol Kovarsky has passed away. The NYT has an unusually good obituary.

Gil Roth speaks with Glynnis Fawkes about her new comic, Alter Ego.

A perfect combo: Nathan Gelgud cartoons Ed Sanders for the Paris Review.

Here’s a list of seven alternative comics from the 1980s, the days when all comics intermingled like muddy creeks.

And if you’re in Pittsburgh tonight, go see Sammy and Kevin and celebrate their friendship and their comics. The below flyer is “true” in a profound way.

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Gravity

It’s Tuesday, which means Joe McCulloch is here with his usual, indispensable guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting all the most interesting-sounding releases coming to the direct market. His spotlight picks this week are from Lisa Hanawalt and James Kochalka.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Roger Angell remembers the late New Yorker cartoonist Frank Modell.

His line was deft, and his ideas unpredictable; a unicorn on a unicycle, for instance. Also a man who is leaping from a burning building toward the firemen’s landing net cradling a large canvas in his arms. “I believe you’re right,” a male spectator says to his companion. “It is a Chagall.” And what could be better (as I once noted) than Frank’s turtlenecked downhill skier, his broken leg up on a hassock, who is being visited by his dog—a dog bringing a single slipper? It’s clear that the dog is more upset about the accident than the dolt in the chair.

The Wall Street Journal talks to Roz Chast.

My parents consciously raised me to be a nerd. It was as if they deliberately decided, “Let’s avoid the heartache of having Roz fall in with the wrong crowd by not letting her fall in with any crowd.”

A Moment of Cerebus has posted an excerpt from Room #39.2’s interview with Deni Loubert.

Dave [Sim] decided as an interesting experiment — he called it the “Summer Of Acid” — he would do an acid hit every day and then do a comic book on it. Couple that with the fact we had just gotten a photocopier. So he did an issue where he would draw a picture — this was truly an acid idea — blow it up on the photocopier and then cut it into panels. So each panel was a sixteenth of a drawing with dialogue. It became a game with the fans. You’d have to [buy] three copies of the book if you were going to do it right. You had to [buy] two copies to fit the big picture together, because the pages were back to front, and then you had a third copy you kept intact. I have met people at Comic-Cons who’ve fitted the whole thing together and wanted me to authenticate and sign them. He was fucking floating on acid all month. He started losing it and getting angry. By about the second week he was becoming incoherent and hearing voices. Finally one night we had a big fight and he put his fist through the wall. I had to call 911 and have him committed.

—Misc. Speaking of Dave Sim, all volumes of his Cerebus have just been available for download online, on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis.

Chris Pitzer of AdHouseBooks has posted a lot of old rejection letters and fan mail that serve as a sort of time capsule to comics past.

—Commentary. Ted McKeever is quitting comics.

 

Krypto and the Dogs

Today on the site, Nicole Rudick offers up the best piece of writing I’ve ever read on Julie Doucet’s work. In particular, Julie’s new book, Carpet Sweeper Tales, which, being a kind of Fumetti/Fluxus project, hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserves.

Doucet’s fragmented and reconstituted sound-language echoes Kurt Schwitter’s Dada “sound-poems” and the zaum, or transrational poetry, of Russian Futurist Aleksei Kruchenykh. Both Schwitter and Kruchenykh abstracted words in order to liberate language from meaning: their letterforms are descriptive rather than prescriptive. In Schwitter’s “Ursonate,” which roughly translates to “sonata in primordial sounds,” the four movements are interspersed with a coda that comprises the German alphabet read backward; each of the three iterations is meant to be read aloud with a different pitch and tempo. Much of the poem relies on the repetition of sounds—“Lanke trr gll / Ziiuu lenn trll? / Lümpff tümpff trll.” Kruchenykh’s “Hum of Hillclimbing Locomotive” is a collection of sounds that approximate not just the noise of a train engine but also, importantly, its laboring momentum: “boro / choro / two / one / hubb / sham / ga / gish! / boro sorko ba.” In the same way, Doucet’s collection of sounds and patterns isn’t an unruly mess: she harnesses the constructed ejections and exclamations together, and they accrue a syntax.

 

Crystal Cave

Today, Greg Hunter is back with another episode of his Comic Book Decalogue podcast. His guest this week is Lane Milburn.

And we also have Rob Clough’s review of Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart.

The best way to read Liz Suburbia’s book Sacred Heart is to never stop asking questions about the details. Unlike many creators of art about teenagers that focuses on them to the exclusion of adults—or even touching on their absence, Suburbia immediately but subtly alerts the reader that something is not quite right from the very beginning of a story that otherwise focuses on teenage punk rock, romance, sex, rebellion, drinking, and free expression. The book’s promotional materials link Suburbia to Jaime Hernandez and Brandon Graham, and for obvious reasons. Hernandez captured a certain era of punk and painfully real relationships in Love and Rockets, and that’s certainly present in Sacred Heart. Graham draws a lot of inspiration from graffiti and street art, and one can see that at work here as well, as well as certain shared visual traits: facial exaggerations like thick eyebrows and a certain sharpness in the way Suburbia draws eyes.

However, after finishing the book, I find that it bears the most similarity to Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar work, especially “Human Diastrophism”.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The latest guest on Marc Maron’s WTF was Daniel Clowes.

Columbus Alive profiles Noah Van Sciver on his move to Ohio.

“I have no apartment yet [in Columbus], so my main priority is to find a good place and settle in, and then establish myself in the city,” Van Sciver said recently over the phone from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, where he’s been working as a Fellow for the past year. “But I’m already setting a lot of my stories [in Columbus], like, ‘This is it. This is my town. I’m going to stick around.’”

Over on Comics Workbook, Sally Ingraham interviewed Lale Westvind.

I think that alternative comics’ roots in self-publishing is very important as a political act, increasingly so. Even if the work is not political, the way one depicts characters in a story is inherently an expression of personal morals and/or desires. My favorite comics shows are the one which are open and encouraging to all types of people. It should be a place where we exercise our freedom of speech, in an intelligent way conducive to love, change, appreciation, mutual respect, new construction. Having people tabling at different levels in their career, from different backgrounds.

—Reviews & Commentary. Romona Williams writes about Julia Gfrörer’s Dark Age.

The cover image spans across the front to the back, revealing the slowly rotting corpse of a deer-like animal. The rib-cage juts out over what remains of the animal’s flesh, and only two legs and hooves remain. With the clues left by the decomposing body (the animal’s size, the fur, the hooves, and the intact skeletal structure), you are able to picture the what it may have looked like while alive. It would have stood tall, with a long torso, strong legs, and thick fur. It would have been a beautiful sight, but that particular animal will never exist outside of a mental approximation.

Kawai Shen writes about how internet usage is depicted through comics.

The norm of using multiple panels in comics presents an advantage over other mediums when it comes to representing the internet. Multiple panels easily mimic the multiple windows and tabs of our online browsing. Split screen representations don’t feel as jarring as it might in other mediums.

—Misc. C-SPAN3 will be showing a documentary about the suffragist political cartoonist Nina Allender this weekend.