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Today at The Comics Journal, we're still talking about the return of Mat Brinkman. This time around, it's by hosting a conversation between Jason Levian and Michele Nitri, the two publishers behind the recently announced distribution collaboration between their respective publishing houses, Floating World and Hollow Press.

Can you remember the first time you saw a Mat Brinkman comic?  What was that like? It took a couple years for a Paper Rodeo to make it across the country from the east coast to Portland, OR. It changed my life. How did you find his work in Europe?

The first Brinkman comic I saw was Multiforce. I think about 8-9 years ago. I was at home with one of my best friends Ratigher. He showed me the Picturebox edition, telling me that Brinkman was the Jesus of recent underground comics. I’ll always be thankful to Ratigher for that. I publish him too and he is really famous in Italy right now. He is the art director of one of the greatest publishing house here in Italy, Coconino Press. He has won several prestigious awards in Italy and sooner or later will be famous worldwide too. Great friend and great artist!

Also, Brinkman comics have a special way of spreading around the world. We all know that many artists love him. Everyone in the underground worlds love or respect him. So at that time in Italy many underground artists knew him. Readers didn't know him but artists did of course, and this is the indisputable proof of the worth of his art. Coming back to Brinkman, I was really curious, ordered my copy from Picturebox, read it and thought “what the fuck I have read!". That reading was something that really revolutionized my life and influenced my tastes in what kind of art I wanted to find.

Our review of the day comes to you from Edwin Turner. He's here talking about Kingdom, the latest from Jon McNaught.

Not much happens in Jon McNaught's latest graphic novel Kingdom. A mother takes her son and daughter to Kingdom Fields Holiday Park, a vacation lodge on the British coast. There, they watch television, go to a run-down museum, play on the beach, walk the hills, and visit an old aunt. Then they go home. There is no climactic event, no terrible trial to endure. There is no crisis, no trauma. And yet it's clear that the holiday in Kingdom Fields will remain forever with the children, embedded into their consciousness as a series of strange aesthetic impressions. Not much happens in Kingdom, but what does happen feels vital and real.

 

What Is That?

Today on the site, we have a report on the Italian Hollow Press's effort, in conjunction with Floating World in the U.S., to republish classic titles from Mat Brinkman.

Collectors and enthusiasts in North America interested in books like this can look forward to more from Hollow Press via Floating World. The agreement between Leivian and Nitri was contingent on distributing not just Brinkman's work, but the entire Hollow Press back catalogue. For now Leivian and Nitri plan on getting the books shipped en masse to the United States every three weeks or so. Within a couple months, Leivian will have the full catalogue for sale on the Floating World site, as well as available for wholesale distribution.

"I’m glad someone brought it back in print," Nadel said, pointing out that he often gets asked when the books would be back in print and that Brinkman has had "plenty of offers" to reprint them over the years. Brinkman avoids doing press and has no online presence, devoting his time and efforts to music and other pursuits. Nonetheless, Nadel said, his work still stands out.

"There’s no Adventure Time without Mat Brinkman and Paper Rodeo, for example," he said. "And without Adventure Time, near as I can tell, 75% of what’s on display at your local comic book 'festival' does not exist."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The National Cartoonists Society has announced its nominees for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

—The Connecticut Post has a history of the Museum of Comic Art.

In the mid-1970s, longtime Greenwich resident Mort Walker — creator of comic strips “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” — established the first home dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of cartoon art.

“I remember when we first opened, someone came by asking what we were doing,” says Brian Walker, son of Mort Walker, who died last year at 94.

“I told him it was a cartoon museum and he said, ‘Who’d want to see that?’ Back then people just didn’t get it.”

Times have changed, says Walker who can almost guarantee whenever he does a cartoon exhibit, it’s a hit.

But it took several decades for this realization.

—At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews medicine-related comics from Ian Williams, Emmma, and Lucy Knisley.

Knisley’s personal journey can be compelling and quite funny — for instance, in depicting her intense struggle with morning sickness, she draws herself sweating and shaded a solid mint green. But the book, with its jaunty colors and friendly black line art, works best as an extended public service announcement. Knisley deploys the diagrammatic features of comics to break down medical and cultural contexts around miscarriage, infertility and pregnancy, along with their symptoms, and she illustrates myths as well as facts, letting them visually stack up against one another.

—RIP. Larry Cohen.

Scott Walker.

 

Go Go Gadget Feelings

Today at the Comics Journal, we're sharing R.C. Harvey's obituary of cartoonist Tom K. Ryan, who passed away earlier this month. It's an extensive, well researched look at a very long career.

The humor in the strips of this new tradition— PeanutsB.C.The Wizard of IdTumbleweedsAnimal Crackers, to name a few— is more sophisticated because it depends on our recognizing something that is only implicit in the strip. We laugh at B.C. because we are shown childlike men, men just beginning to be men, trying out civilization, and we see what they do not: that, like a suit that's too large, civilization doesn't quite fit.

We laugh at Tumbleweeds much of the time because we recognize that the real Old West was quite different from the West that tiny Tumbleweeds tries to reenact whenever moved to action. If we didn't know that trains run on round wheels along smooth rails, Thor's choo-choo in B.C. wouldn't appear funny to us at all. If we didn't know that most cowboys' horses don't jump wide canyons in a single bound, Tumbleweeds' dashed hopes would be tragic instead of comic. But we do know these things, and upon that knowledge the humor of these strips is built.

Today's review comes to us from Leonard Pierce, who is taking a look at Proxima Centauri, by Farel Dalrymple. He's into it.

It’s not all that necessary, or even useful, to dwell on Proxima Centauri’s plot; just knowing the bare-bones elements will suffice. Not that there aren’t many unexpected pleasures to be had in the story; Dalrymple lays out seemingly random bits and pieces of narrative that often come together in unexpected ways, forging the kind of connections that make you gasp in the way that only a really good high can. (I won’t speculate as to the creator’s habits, but this is a book that’s psychedelic in the best and truest way; its incredible imaginative elements burble up in unpredictable ways and then link together in a manner that seems almost inevitable.) It’s just that the real golden ticket here is the way he takes so many different genre elements and threads them together with his astonishing art as the common factor.

Take the full hour for the video below.

 

In Time for the Show

Today on the site, Frank M. Young talks to comics scholar and prolific biographer Bill Schelly about his latest book subject, the publisher James Warren.

He was a very social guy. He wanted to be around people; he had lots of friends whom he’d invite to his house out at the beach; he didn’t isolate himself. He did that later, in the 1980s, when the magazines were struggling, and he was dealing with some demons of his own. He could have done a great deal to prevent the collapse of his company. Bill Dubay said, later, that if Warren had made the effort, he could have saved the magazines.

But times were changing. The newsstand distribution system was falling apart, and that was what Jim knew. He had been involved with Phil Seuling from the ground floor of the direct market, but he still needed newsstand distribution for his magazines. He saw that was going away. His survival would depend on whether the direct market would have supported his magazines or not. There are things he might have done to address these challenges, but he chose not to, and the book explains why.

Once you start looking into a person’s life, you begin to realize why things happened the way they did. For example, with Harvey Kurtzman, people say, “If he’d just stuck with Mad magazine, he could have become a millionaire.” He could have become Al Feldstein, who stuck with the magazine for many years and became independently wealthy. But Harvey Kurtzman could never have done what Al Feldstein did. Kurtzman would have never wanted the magazine to remain the same year after year, decade after decade. He would have always been trying to change it, and evolve it, and would have probably self-destructed at some point.

We certainly wish our heroes, like Kurtzman, didn’t have to face such great adversity in later years. In Warren’s case, he came out of it and today has a good life. He dealt with depression and some other physical issues, but he’s still with us. His mother lived to 104, so Jim, who turns 90 next year, may well be with us for a long time, and I hope he is.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Tobias Carroll talks to Mark Alan Stamaty.

My parents were both gag cartoonists, and so I grew up reading single panel gag cartoons. They had a whole bunch of collections of them and then I’d see the magazines of that day they had. So there was that and there was reading comics – Little Lulu, Dennis the Menace, whatever. And then when I was 14 the thing that really expanded my world was seeing Sick, Sick, Sick by Jules Feiffer. Which was a revelation to me, because I had, like I said, my parents did single panel gag cartoons, but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I realized, especially seeing Jules’s work, that I wanted to do narratives, and he really exploded the possibilities of that.

When I started doing MacDoodle St., I had been doing children’s books mostly at that point and I wanted to really play with the form as loosely as I could. I wanted to innovate, I wanted to hopefully bring something to it that I hadn’t seen, that I didn’t know. So it was really like, this is a great form, what else can it be?

Rosemarie Anner talks to Flash Gordon artist Bob Fujitani.

Fujitani worked alongside such legendary giants as Will Eisner and Nick Cardy. It was a grind, he admits, even later when he did most of his work at home. It sometimes took three people to complete an illustrative comic strip: writer, artist, letterer. Fujitani would get the text from the writer and do the artwork to accompany the words. Then he and his wife, Ruth, also a painter, would drive “over the Tappan Zee Bridge and down 9W to letterer Ben Oda’s house.” Oda would open the door in a cloud of cigarette smoke, Fujitani remembers, laughing heartily at the memory. It was Oda’s job to fit in texts in the “speech balloons,” working in the spaces left in the drawings done by Fujitani.

—News. The New York Times ingenuously writes about the launch of a new comics publisher devoted to developing potential film and media properties.

It’s an approach reminiscent of old Hollywood. “The model here really is the old United Artists model, where people who are actually doing the creative have ownership, control and decision-making power over the work that they’re doing,” said Bill Jemas, a former vice president of Marvel who is the chief executive and publisher of AWA. Joining him at the helm are Axel Alonso, a former editor in chief at Marvel, as chief creative officer and Jonathan F. Miller as chairman. Miller helped broker a deal in 2017 between the comic book writer Mark Millar and Netflix, which bought his library of characters for development on the streaming service. Jemas and Alonso say the first of AWA’s titles will arrive some time this fall.

—Misc. The cartoonist (and former TCJ columnist) Julia Gfrörer has launched a Patreon.

 

Crew (Fake)

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share our latest in a long-running but never officially titled series where one comics creator gets into the heart of this thing with a fellow comics creator. Today, it's living legend Jaime Hernandez alongside the critically acclaimed and diabolically talented Katie Skelly. I hope people read the shit out of this one. I've gone through six (!) different things to copy and paste as the teaser. It shouldn't be surprising that our greatest living cartoonist makes for such a tremendous interview subject, I suppose.

In the new collection, the panels where Maggie is lying on the bed with Ray and you have that wonderful foreshortening of her leg, you can see exactly where her weight is shifted to, and how she’s existing in space -- in one hundred thousand years, I could never get something down where people would be able to parse that line. And that’s a very easy visual vocabulary for you at this point. Do you ever feel awestruck by that? Do you ever search your work for places you could improve?

Well, say the panel you’re talking about -- I probably went like, that’s the ticket. This is exactly what I wanted to portray here. It’s not always, but there’s certain images where I just know that’s the one. I didn’t need any words for it. When I was 16 I was drawing and then I sat back and looked at it, I realized I’d gotten to the point where I can draw anything I want. And of course there were a few more years where I had more to learn, and how to polish it up and get things right, and I’m still doing that. But I guess that’s another reason I wouldn’t trade this for something else is because I can get the exact moment -- not always -- but I can get that exact moment of exactly what I’m thinking. It’s kind of like -- this could go in a different direction, but what the fuck -- it’s kind of like people with fetishes. People have to go to stores to buy that, people have to look at DVDs, they have to seek that out. I get to draw exactly what I’m thinking.

Our review of the day comes to us from Keith Silva, fresh of vacation and full of vinegar. He's here with a look at Neon Future #1, which is connected to an incredibly successful series of albums released by Steve Aoki. 

Neon Future uses ambition and cloying vanity to paper over a vapid, derivative and insipid story. What merits it possesses function as a quasi-Turing test of its reader’s credibility, viz. heart-on-sleeve devotion to 1990s comics and the imitative sci-fi that slouched out from placental expulsion post-Matrix.

Those are its redeeming qualities. It gets worse.

I'm not the kind of maniac who would say "I'm glad Steve Ditko died before he could see this", i'm the kind of maniac who wished I had died before I saw it. What an atrocious cover design! (Is this the random blog entry where I confess that I've read the first nine issue of Doomsday Clock and found them to be a complete delight, and would argue it's the best comic that Geoff Johns has written since he did those psychotic Doug Mahnke comics where a leather covered Green Lantern villain spooned with the dead bodies of his parents? Looks like it! Like that comic--and the taste-free gonzo murder festival that followed, which included Donna Troy battling a zombiefied version of her infant son and a three issue grindhouse retelling of Assault on Precinct 13 set inside a Gotham City police station--Doomsday Clock is packed so firmly with wacked out numetal choices that Scott Snyder is probably stomping around the DC offices in his pajama pants right now trying to remind everybody that he used to be cool too. It's been so long since I've seen Johns go this fucking hard that I forgot how fun the guy used to be when he had something to say--and while "Fuck Alan Moore" isn't a very catchy tune, I have to admit, he sure is singing it with gusto.)

Over at Newsarama, Chris Arrant's tireless commitment to keeping up with the various job postings related to comics publishing has paid off with an article about DC making the best decision they've made since giving the okay to publishing Doomsday Clock, which is that they're casting a net for a new hire in such a way that they might actually end up finding somebody from outside of the comics world. Here's some simple math that's eluded every major comics periodical publisher for the last however many decades: if the pool of people who are available for a given job have a track record of being really shitty at that given job, then don't hire from that pool of people. People who have a history of failure, bad ideas, and/or sucking in general will invariably continue to fail, think of dumb shit, and suck. At some point, it's not recycling anymore: it's just garbage.

Over at Comicosity, there's an article that I don't even know how to process. If you've got years of experience knowing that the way you talk about comics on dates tends to derail the date, why would you assume that the solution is to talk even more about comics? Why not try like--A) listening or B) talking about different subjects or C) at the bare minimum, not assume that the reason that monomaniacal monologuing alienates people is because of some ethereal stigma against comics that can be repaired by even more detailed monomaniacal monologuing? There's entire swaths--swaths in this case meaning millions--of people who love jabbering about baseball statistics but are at least able to put a cork in it during the dating process so that the person on the other end of the table gets a chance to talk too--why does it never seem to occur to people who like talking about Tom King comics that shutting the fuck up can be a viable, sexier alternative to talking about Tom King comics? 

Abhay found this David Letterman clip where he talks about Harvey Pekar. I think Harvey would have been proud to know that the prospect of Letterman talking to Howard Stern about Harvey Pekar is what is being used by Sirius Xm as the teaser to get people to sign up for Sirius Xm.

 

 

Maelstrom

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Liz Suburbia's Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake.

Liz Suburbia's anthology comic Cyanide Milkshake is a mix of '80s alternative comics variety and '90s DIY punk ethos. She effortlessly blends romance, fantasy, rock, feminism, punk, autobio, dogs, and superhero gags into a surprisingly coherent package, held together by a singular visual aesthetic. The simplicity of her tools (Sharpies) is belied by her relentless work ethic. Indeed, Suburbia eschews the sort of ratty line that a lot of punk-inspired artists use in favor of the clarity that can be traced back to Archie artists like Dan DeCarlo and Bob Bolling. It's not surprising to see a blurb from Jaime Hernandez for this collection of comics, given that he drew from many of the same sources. It's a different kind of punk, drawing from the same frustrations with society but expressing them in a fluid, elegant, and witty manner.

Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake is in turns silly and personal, slapstick and revealing, a hoot and a howl. Published by riot grrrl zine legend Janelle Hessig's Gimme Action, I can't think of a better match between artist and publisher. While working on what eventually became Sacred Heart, a sweeping punk genre book published by Fantagraphics, Suburbia used Cyanide Milkshake as her repository for every other idea. It was her personal laboratory to write autobio, pen an epic zombie romance story, write about her beloved dogs and their increasingly weird adventures, and make fun of Scott Summers from the X-Men. In every issue, Suburbia writes editorials that rail against defeatism, complacency, or the idea that the punk aesthetic and lifestyle is a mark of immaturity--something one grows out of when you get a mortgage.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Tom K. Ryan, creator of Tumbleweeds, has died. We will have an obituary on the site soon.

—Misc. Longtime fan Russ Maheras has published a very thorough account of his various encounters with Steve Ditko.

Steve was a fairly-thin, gray-haired older man. His thinning hair was combed back, and he wore narrow-frame glasses. He was wearing a short-sleeved soft-plaid shirt (with pocket) that buttoned up in front, a white t-shirt, and slacks. He stood nearly erect and appeared in excellent health. He was alert, moved deliberately, and had no signs of any age-related issues. His hearing was fine, and his mind was very quick and very sharp.

He is a friendly, articulate and affable man, who, while he may have strong opinions (as do I), was easy to talk with. He listened carefully to what I said, and if he agreed, he nodded or affirmed his agreement. If he disagreed, he would say so and explain why.


—Interviews & Podcasts.
The most recent guest on RiYL is Nick Thorburn, and the most recent guest on Chapo Trap House is Eli Valley.

 

Cloak Psychology

Today at The Comics Journal, Alex Dueben is opening the week talking Gasoline Alley with the man who has been its faithful captain for decades: Jim Scancarelli. As the strip recently reached its 100th anniversary, Alex asked "the question".

I have to ask, are Walt and Skeezix ever going to die?

I’ve been asked that. In the back of my head, I have a scenario that would work. I have told Bob Harvey, but I swore him to secrecy. I don’t know. Uncle Walt is too good a character. You can kill off Phyllis and nobody is going to miss her much, but you don’t kill your main character. I’m having too good a time with him. Skeezix? I think he should stay around. All of Uncle Walt’s cronies that he used to work on cars with have all passed away. That was the realistic part of what I was doing. Uncle Walt has good genes. You just don’t kill off your main character because you don’t have a strip anymore. You have other players, but people seem to like Walt and Skeezix.

Our review of the day comes from R.C. Harvey, and its a look at The Unknown Anti-War Comics, a recent anthology put together by Craig Yoe.

Slightly more than three dozen Charlton anti-war comics stories from mid-1950s and 1960s are collected here, beginning with four tales from Never Again Nos. 1 and 8, the first anti-war comic (which appeared in only two non=chronologically numbered issues). The work of 15 artists includes eight stories by Ditko, but Bill Molno drew the most, twelve, and Ross Andru, Charles Nicholas, and Rocco “Rocke” Mastroserio are also represented almost as often as Ditko.

 

Almost Done

Today on the site, Tom Kaczynski returns with his Event Horizon column, this time focusing on a Batman comic he finds particularly revealing.

Batman: Son of the Demon (BSOTD) falls squarely into the "traditional" camp. Batman was one of the few characters that was not hugely affected by the Crisis of Infinite Earths (Apr 1985-Mar 1986, more on that next column) continuity reboot. The monthly Batman titles were not numerically reset to #1, unlike, say, Superman. Batman’s origin was tweaked a bit in Batman: Year One, but that come out after BSOTD and had no effect on its continuity. The key revisionist Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, came out just a few months before BSOTD. The other key Batman title from that era, The Killing Joke, would not come out until 1988; post-Event.

BSOTD occupies an awkward position in the Batman canon… and in the Event. On one hand, M.W. Barr tries to disrupt the Batman mythos by introducing new elements into the canon, and takes new liberties with violence and brutality. On other, in execution, it’s a nostalgic callback to the then already classic Denny O’Neil & Neil Adams era of Batman. (That run itself was a callback to the original pre-camp, pre-TV-show Batman). The artist Jerry Bingham may have put it best. Bingham was “half-way through working on Batman, Son of the Demon, when Frank Miller’s first Dark Knight hit the comic shops. My brain nearly exploded. I felt like Roger Corman watching a Spielberg movie, and I had to force myself to pick up the pencil again.” This is an interesting admission. All around him, creators like Miller, Sienkiewicz, Mazzucchelli, and others were competing with each other to innovate comics storytelling. Meanwhile, Bingham felt like a dinosaur drawing in the classic Batman style.

Brian Nicholson is here, too, with a review of Mike Taylor's In Christ There Is No East or West.

Mike Taylor’s book In Christ There Is No East or West begins with its lead character having what is possibly a panic attack, before the rest of the narrative unfolds in an oneiric state, where he wanders a landscape that might be best understood as a Bardo, a space between death and rebirth, though it’s never explicitly identified as such. It is from the very beginning as gripping as the cataclysm it describes, impactful as a car crash, a jolt you will remember.

Taylor’s artwork is visceral and impactful, occupying space on the Raymond Pettibon/Gary Panter continuum. It is pretty easy to see the debt to Panter on any page of this comic, but Taylor also has a substantial body of single-image “fine art” that incorporates the use of text in a Pettibon-like way. This is the lineage of the good kind of “punk art,” and Taylor is definitely the good kind of punk, committed to the exploration of diverse bodies of knowledge without entering into or replicating hierarchical systems. I recently learned, from a Twitter thread Nate Powell posted about his formative influences, that a decade before I encountered Taylor’s work he was collaborating with the now deceased zine-maker and zine-library-maintainer Travis Fristoe, to whom this book is dedicated, and had work published in the zine HeartattaCk. (The H and C are both capitalized to signal coverage of hardcore.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's National Book Critics Circle award winners have been announced, and Nora Krug's Belonging won in the autobiography category.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ty Burr at the Boston Globe talks to Bill Griffith.

Q. Was making “Nobody’s Fool” a way of paying back the success you’ve had with Zippy the Pinhead?

A. Well, yeah. I always periodically feel I owe my public an explanation for Zippy. Like, what’s this all about? I even have another book in mind that I’ll probably never do, it’s just a joke book to me, called “The Key to Zippy.” Like “The Key to ‘Finnegans Wake.’” And I would absolutely, dead seriously, completely explain Zippy in infinite detail. I’ve done it satirically a number of times in the “Zippy” strip. [But] this book has some quality of that, of me saying “Here’s the inspiration for Zippy.”

Paul Morton at The Millions interviews James Sturm.

James Sturm: With historical fiction there is more of an element of excavation to the undertaking. Switching gears to contemporary fiction, I enjoyed being more attentive to the current moment and my immediate environment, especially because the story was set in a place similar to where I live. There were times while writing Off Season that it felt like I was working on a documentary.

TM: What do you mean by documentary? Do you see similarities between the methods you employ in Off Season and those employed by non-fiction comics creators?

JS: After working on the book a year, my characters felt real to me. With characters set in another era you have a sense of the history they are moving through. When I decided to set this book during the election season, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I had to let things unfold and record my character’s response.

Roz Chast appeared at The Strand:

—Misc. At Hyperallergic, Natasha Seaman writes about a Botticelli exhibit at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner museum that incorporates interpretive comics by Karl Stevens.

Beyond harnessing the illustrative advantages of images, as demonstrated by Stevens’s work, the show is also making the point that Botticelli’s paintings are a lot like cartoons. His forms are wired into taut outlines, his characters’ gestures are theatrical and expository, his palette prefigures mid-century Disney, and his trick of containing different episodes of a story into architecture is just like the multiple panels of a strip. However, Stevens’s work, here entirely in black and white, and like all his pen-and-ink drawings, obsessively cross-hatched, offers instructive contrast rather than mere parallel to the Renaissance master’s paintings.