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Giggles

Today on the site, Sara Lautman continues her week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary.

And yesterday, Joe McCulloch delivered his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! Spotlight picks this time include new books by Eleanor Davis and Juan Gimenez.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Global Journalist talks to the political cartoonist Ako Eyong, who was forced to flee his native Cameroon after drawing a cartoon unpopular with the authorities.

I got out of my own country using a false passport… Now of course, when I got to America, I had to regularize my situation, I explained to the U.S. government how I got out of Cameroon using a false passport and how I was looking for political exile.

I went through a lot of interviews, and eventually after a year, I got a work permit and social security number.

Brian Heater’s RiYL podcast features Al Jaffee.

The Process Party podcast talks to our own Joe McCulloch about, uh, hentai.

—Reviews & Commentary.
For The Smart Set, Chris Mautner writes about Julia Gfrörer’s Laid Waste.

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Of course, it’s a topic that never completely goes out of fashion. There’s always some person raving on a street corner about how all is lost and a few folks huddled around him or her, eager to listen. But these days, what with climate change, bees dying, ebola, and, of course, the recent election, it’s a topic on a lot of folks’ minds (at least judging from my social media feeds).

It’s a topic that’s on the mind of cartoonist Julia Gfrörer (pronounced “gruff-fair”) as well, or at least it’s the central setting of her latest graphic novel, Laid Waste. Gfrörer isn’t interested in depicting wanton death and destruction a la Michael Bay, however, as much as she is in depicting her characters’ attempts to find some sense of hope or solace in a world that is swiftly falling down around them.

Rob Clough writes about Sarah Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts.

This book is a work of meta-journalism, as she followed members of the Seattle Globalist to Turkey, Kurdish Iraq and Syria and documented their process. Throughout the book, there are two separate dynamics: the dynamic between the Globalist crew and the people they interview and use as contacts, and the dynamic between Sarah Stuteville of the Globalist and her friend Dan, an ex-marine who saw time in Iraq who happened to be one of her oldest friends. Glidden stood as an outsider in both sets of dynamics, in part because she didn’t want to interfere with the work the Globalist journalists were attempting to accomplish. While Glidden was obviously a character in this book, she very pointedly noted that this wasn’t a memoir. She got to shape it the way she wanted and wasn’t obligated to share her feelings about anything in particular. As such, we never hear Glidden’s feelings about being an American in the countries they traveled to, nor how she felt as a Jewish person in those countries. Indeed, her ethnic background wasn’t brought up a single time in the book. Glidden the person in this book is a very intelligent and perceptive cipher, and that’s as it should be.

—Misc. A young Ed Piskor tries out for Extreme Studios.

 

Car-Copter

Today on the site, Sara Lautman returns with another week’s tenure creating our Cartoonist’s Diary. In Day 1, she confronts a dilemma at a karaoke bar.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The well-known historian (Men of Tomorrow) and comics writer Gerard Jones has been arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Gerard Jones, 59, was arrested after a police investigation and ensuing search warrant at his residence in the 600 block of Long Bridge Street in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood turned up a host of electronic devices storing more than 600 images and videos depicting child pornography, police said.

[…]

He was arraigned Thursday and entered a not guilty plea on charges of possession of child pornography and distributing child pornography, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said.

—Reviews & Commentary. For Le Monde Diplomatique, Jonathan Guyer writes about the connections between Arab comics and fine art.

Arab comics began in Cairo in the 1880s with karikatur (political cartoons) and with Yaacub Sanua, whose periodical Abu Naddara (The Man with the Glasses) and later spin-offs lambasted Egypt’s khedive, Ismail Pasha, in drawings and texts. Sanua’s anti-establishment, anti-imperial view led to his publications being banned (1). At the same time, Ottoman publications, influenced by French and British caricatures, took off in Istanbul and travelled across the Ottoman empire, aiming at those in power. Sanua’s caricatures and Ottoman works, among them Hayal (daydream) and Istikbal (the future), both founded in 1875, were strikingly similar to contemporaneous drawings in Europe such as those by James Gillray and André Gill (2).

We just passed the second anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the thinkpieces still show no signs of ending, though long ago we stopped linking to very many of them. With that anniversary in mind, here are two more intelligent essays, taking opposite sides on whether Charlie‘s artists use of satire is effective and whether it should be defended or condemned.

First, Magnus McGrogan makes a harsh political critique of the weekly for Jacobin:

The Paris massacre was a trigger for the intensification of French bombing of ISIS positions in Syria. At home it involved the imposition and extension of a state of emergency, with a nationwide crackdown on “radicalized” elements in the Muslim community and beyond. One might expect critical left journalism to focus on the social causes of Islamist radicalization in France, or to situate the phenomenon of jihadism relative to the West’s geostrategic goals in the Middle East. Instead, Charlie tends to react against extremism within the discursive framework of the “war on terror” in an echo of Val’s earlier polemics against “Islamic totalitarianism.”

Islamophobia has continued unabated in France. The summer of 2016 witnessed yet another assault on female Muslim dress codes, this time a burkini ban imposed by thirty Mediterranean municipalities, and endorsed by Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls. Shocking images of armed police ordering a Muslim woman to strip on a public beach did not appear to register with Charlie, whose front page response appeared to add insult to injury: Muslims were jokingly urged to “loosen up” and take to the beaches naked.

Then for the Los Angeles Review of Books, the initially Charlie-skeptical Jacob Hamburger explains why he changed his mind:

So when I was offered the chance to do some translation work for Charlie Hebdo last year, I had my reservations. But I was curious, and as a graduate student, happy to have another gig. As I learned more about Charlie Hebdo’s history and came into contact with their surviving staff, I discovered how far off the mark my reservations had been. France’s historical and legal traditions of free speech create an important niche for satirists that Charlie Hebdo has long filled. Despite the rebellious attitude of a paper that has called itself a journal irresponsible, its staff has been constantly attuned to the responsibilities that their role demands. Its confrontations with Islam, as well as with Catholicism and the Front National, were an attempt to fulfill these responsibilities. And in a time when the ideal of free speech is in danger of losing its meaning, Charlie Hebdo sets an increasingly rare example of a commitment to defining and defending its bounds.

The paper is an example of what an authentic commitment to free speech looks like in practice. Recognizing this can help us distinguish responsible and intelligent satire from its many sorry imitations today — the internet trolls and the self-proclaimed “provocateurs” like Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos who glorify nastiness for its own sake. Of course, my discomfort with some of what I had seen them print has not gone away. As with all good satire, it isn’t supposed to. Understanding Charlie Hebdo in context does not mean always liking it, but for those struggling to affirm their commitment to free speech in today’s climate, the paper’s example is worth exploring and, yes, celebrating.

Finally, Abhay Khosla is not impressed by DC’s response to last year’s Orlando Pulse massacre.

 

Lox and Eggs

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey writes about the life and work of Jerry Dumas, who passed away at the end of last year. 

Jerry Dumas was a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Specifically, he was a life-long associate of Mort Walker’s, a member since 1956 of “King Features East,” as the Walker “studio” was sometimes called when Walker and his partners produced several comic strips simultaneously. Dumas was a part of the team that met weekly to propound jokes for both Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois—and other strips as Walker came up with them—and he also drew some of the product from time to time. Dumas died November 12 at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, from neuroendocrine cancer. He was 86.

Since April 18, 1977, Dumas had been producing a comic strip of his own, Sam and Silo, a reincarnation of one of the medium’s most eccentric creations, Sam’s Strip, in which the title character was the proprietor of his own comic strip that he ran like a business. Sam frequently encountered characters from other strips, tried to hire some of them, stored unemployed speech balloons in a closet against the day they might come in handy, palled around with John Tenniel characters from Alice in Wonderland, kept arrow-pierced hearts and shining light bulbs in a handy prop room with a supply of labels (“desk,” “table,” “phone”), and watched out constantly for disappearing border lines and characters with erasers.

Dumas’ handiwork extended far beyond the funny pages: he was a gifted writer, an insightful poet, raconteur, painter, athlete and essayist. He was a storyteller with words alone as well as with words and pictures combined. In quiet unassuming prose, he recorded his apt observations of the follies and frailties of human nature in articles for The Atlantic Monthly, The Smithsonian and the Washington Post. He wrote a weekly column for Greenwich Times, the last of which appeared a few days before he died, titled “Ageless Tips That You’ve Reached a Certain Age.”

More and around:

Robyn Chapman’s annual micro-press survey is now online.

R. Orion Martin writes about Ronald Wimberly’s work for Hyperallergic.

Hey, wanna see a good comics-adjacent art show in NYC? Well, I co-organized one on Elizabeth Murray’s drawings. Here’s the NY Times on it.

 

 

Slalom

Robert Boyd reviews Inés Estrada’s Impatience and Lapsos.

Inés Estrada is a 26-year-old Mexican cartoonist currently living in the USA. According to her blog , she makes a living “making whatever the fuck I want,” and that includes self-publishing  Impatience, a beautifully printed and designed book. The cover is outlined in intense red which carries over to the edges of the pages and the back cover, which is printed in silver ink on a red background.  Impatience is an anthology that includes comics in English and comics in Spanish featuring simultaneous translation into English.

“Traducciones” (“Translations”) is one of the translated stories. Estrada handles translating her own work in an unusual way—instead of replacing the original Spanish language balloons with English, as is usually done with translated comics, she places the translation at the bottom of the page, typeset with slashes to indicate a new balloon or caption. It is easier to read than you might expect—no more difficult than watching a movie with subtitles. Easier even—you don’t have to read them in a hurry like you do with movie subtitles or opera surtitles. It also means that the translation doesn’t have to be in any way abridged. I’ve only seen this before in poetry books. As an undergraduate I read Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair in parallel translation. The Spanish original poem would be on the left-hand page and the English translation on the right.

And Rob Clough writes about the reissue of Katherine Arnoldi’s The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom.

Originally published in 1998, Katherine Arnoldi’s The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom is packaged and blurbed in a manner that reflects the “Wham! Pow! Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore” narrative that still afflicted comics at the time. The cover features the artist in a flying pose and a blurb from Entertainment Weekly says that she’s “a superheroine for our times.” To be sure, 1998 was a fallow period for long-form comics, and it was surprising at the time for a big publisher like Hyperion give this book a chance. Though theoretically aimed at that lucrative young adult audience, this book has a remarkably harrowing quality to it, rendered in a style closer to Aline Kominsky-Crumb (by way of Hans Masereel). It’s amazing how noncommercial this book really is and how viscerally powerful Arnoldi’s storytelling is on page after page.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Toni Aireckson writes a short piece on Resist!, the political comics anthology edited by Françoise Mouly, Nadja Spiegelman, and Gabe Fowler, which will be released in conjunction with Trump’s inauguration.

After the three collaborators settled on their idea, a website was launched and a call for submissions was put forth. Within a few days, they received over 1,000 comic submissions and over $4,000 in donations — enough to print over 30,000 copies.

Nadja Spiegelman told Red Alert that they were “originally planning on publishing 30,000 copies, but with the awe-inspiring financial support we’ve received from hundreds of people ordering advanced copies from our website, we’re now hoping to print as many as 50,000.”

—For Vulture, Abraham Riesman writes about DC’s dumb idea to bring back “the Watchmen” and integrate them within the DC universe. (It’s a mostly good piece, though Riesman exposes his fanboy inner self when he calls Rebirth “one of the smartest and most forward-thinking initiatives in DC’s history.”)

So what happens when those earnest do-gooders meet the tragic idiots? There are only two possibilities that I can imagine. One is an extremely metatextual satire that finds humor in the eye-rolling notion of such an encounter. But that’s about as likely as Batman adding a tutu to his costume. Much more probable is a story that crassly capitalizes on 30 years of enthusiasm for and familiarity with Watchmen’s characters by throwing them into a serious, high-octane adventure alongside the kinds of figures they were designed to mock. The idea is perverse in its misguided, more-is-more shallowness.

Duck Edwing, RIP.

 

New Days Now

Today on the site:

We present a many of our contributors’ best-of-2016 lists. We sent out a call and we are so grateful for so many great responses. So have at it.

Elsewhere:

I read a few comics over the break. Can’t quite remember what, but something. Spent a long time looking at Virgil Finlay drawings online. Those are really good. Is there something substantial out there about the great artists that emerged from the very early fandom? Finlay, Bok, Manning, Crumb… so many. Too many to list, probably. It seems, at least looking back now, that the fans in the 1930s through the 50s were really onto something … before superheroes kinda took over? I don’t know. Just some thoughts. Speaking of which, Richard Corben book covers from the 1970s: Really good. 

Anyhow, also, our own Robert Boyd is now serializing the underrated 1996 comic strip Mysterioso, by Scott Gilbert.

That’s all for today, folks.

 

 

Welcome Back

Joe McCulloch is here to inaugurate the new year with a new installment of his invaluable column examining the Week in Comics! His breakout picks this time include new works by John Porcellino and Dan Méndez Moore. He also writes a bit about Chantal Montellier:

Another January has dawned, which means that it’s time to revisit the great year of 2016 and all of the comics we’ve missed. For instance, did you know that a new translation of work by Chantal Montellier is now available? Maybe not, since it isn’t in print – only through the Europe Comics digital portal can you obtain Lara Vergnaud’s English edition of 2011’s Marie Curie: The Radium Fairy, a split-format educational album pairing a 24-page illustrated timeline of the titular scientific icon by Renaud Huynh of the Musée Curie with a 20-page color comic by Montellier. It’s the comic with which we will concern ourselves, accepting for now that these biographical projects seem to be the only avenue by which Montellier is allowed into English anymore; indeed, we may even find contentment in our reading 2008’s Franz Kafka’s The Trial: A Graphic Novel, an English original authored with David Zane Mairowitz, that Montellier does unusually interesting work with flatly declarative or pedagogical books.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—A/V: The Process Party podcast has an end of the year episode featuring many guests discussing their favorite comics of 2016, including the aforementioned Joe McCulloch, plus artists including Josh Bayer, Leela Corman, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Sarah Glidden, Sammy Harkham, Jim Rugg, Josh Simmons, and Gina Wynbrandt.

The RiYL podcast has recently interviewed both Dame Darcy and MariNaomi.

Virtual Memories talks to George Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Tom Spurgeon has posted his annual series of holiday interviews, including such guests this year as Tony Millionaire, Sammy Harkham, and TCJ contributor RJ Casey.

—Reviews & Commentary.
For Deadspin, Tom Scocca writes about the final joke of Momma creator Mel Lazarus.

For nearly 35 years, Mell Lazarus knew exactly how the end would go for Momma. In 1982, when the cartoonist began dating Sally Mitchell, who would become his second wife, he confided to her that he had already decided what the final installment of his comic strip would be, and he told her the idea.

Lazarus did not share the idea with the comics syndicate, Mitchell recalled in a phone conversation, nor with his daughters, nor even with his brother, Herb, who was his best friend.

“We never talked about it again,” Mitchell said, “but I always had it.”

For LARB, Osvaldo Oyola writes about Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreze’s Black Panther.

Coates seems committed to doing for his readers what his professors did for him, disabusing them of a “weaponized history.” In the slowly (sometimes too slowly) building story that first appeared in four issues of the comic book and is now collected in the first trade paperback collection of Coates’s Black Panther — the first part of a 12-issue arc entitled A Nation Under Our Feet — Coates breaks “the comforting myths of Africa, of America, and everywhere” as they exist in the Marvel Universe through a critical investigation of the title character’s African nation of Wakanda.

John Porcellino picks his favorite comics of 2015.

They say that timing is everything, and in this age of nanosecond attention spans and constantly refreshing newsfeeds that’s more true than ever. So it’s with great delight that I present here a brief and certainly incomplete list of Some of My Favorite Comics of 2015.

Every year more and more cool comics are released in droves, and every year I have less time to read them. But I buy them, and they stack up in boxes and overflowing shelves waiting for that moment when I can retire from the daily grind and sit down and read all those DeForge books. And mark my words, friends — That day shall come.

 

Year’s End

We’ve gone fishing until January 3rd. Here’s our year in review to keep you busy. See you in 2017.

 

Choppy Waters

Today on the site, we are pleased to present Eddie Campbell’s review of Michael Tisserand’s much-discussed new biography of George Herriman, Krazy.

Of all the cartoonists in our starry firmament, Herriman is undoubtedly the one who has received the most attention over the decades. By itself, the introductory matter in the volumes of the Fantagraphics collection of the complete Sunday pages, by Bill Blackbeard and others, could be arranged to form a voluminous and comprehensive biography. And there was also the lovely biography/art book by McDonnell and O’Connell (1986). The sweet and poetic genius of George Herriman has been extolled, described, explained and “doped out centrifugally, centripedally and in the fourth dimension,” to lift some of George’s own words from an unrelated situation. The continuous exposure of the last five decades has in no way dimmed my own certainty that he was the finest and most near perfect of our pantheon of cartoonists. The poetic world of Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse remains as beautiful and haunting to me today as it was when I first peeped into it one day in 1970 (I’m recalling the three Sunday samples in the Penguin Book of Comics By Perry and Aldridge). Is there anything remaining to be uncovered? Is there any corner into which we have not already turned the beam of our searchlight? It turns out there is.

We also have the second part of another excerpt from We Told You So: Comics as Art, the long-awaited oral history of Fantagraphics Books put together by Tom Spurgeon with Michael Dean. This section’s topics include uncanonization of a direct sales manager, criticizing Will Eisner, the mole in the Journal, Fiore vs. Pekar, and Capital City vs. Diamond.


Ilse Thompson:
The first collection of The Complete Crumb Comics that I edited started the first years of American Splendor. Because Crumb and Harvey Pekar both own the copyright on their collaborations, we had to get permission from Pekar to publish the work. He was against it. He wouldn’t. Crumb eventually persuaded him, and I got a memo from Gary saying that he had relented. When the book came out, I was arranging for complimentary copies to be sent to contributors, and calling people to confirm their addresses. I called Pekar, who popped a cork when I told him that American Splendor had been reprinted. He had forgotten that he’d OK’d it. “Gimme Groth! I’m going to sue him!” He demanded to speak with anyone in a position above me. I was afraid to tell him that I had edited it, and told him that everyone else was at lunch, because I didn’t want anyone to know I’d pissed him off.

The next morning, Kim told me that Pekar had called to apologize to me, and that I should expect a call from him. When he called, we spent an hour on the phone. He gave me a lesson in Russian literature.

Groth: At first, Pekar refused to give permission to reprint the strips Crumb drew from his scripts. I had to call Crumb and ask him to call Pekar and intercede, which he did. My impression was that Pekar refused permission either because of some feud he was having either with Bob Fiore at the time or an argument I had with his wife Joyce Brabner, but which I remember thinking was a petty reason to deny his collaborator the right to include those strips in his complete works.

R. Fiore: The Harvey Pekar business was one of the more idiotic episodes I’ve ever been involved in. One thing to remember was that it came during that whole period when the move was being made and my return from Seattle, and if you read anything I was writing at the time you’ll see that I was just in a foul mood. You could see it in that ridiculous feud we were carrying on with the Comics Buyer’s Guide, overheated rhetoric mostly provided by me, as if we were in a death struggle with Don Thompson for the soul of the comics, (a) as though they had one and (b) as though it would have been worth having. I am put in mind of Jorge Luis Borges’ description of the Falkland Islands War: Two bald men fighting over a comb.

Thompson: The Fiore/Pekar feud highlights one of the problems, which is that people would inevitably take the writing of one person in the Journal as a company-wide broadside, and generalize their dislike of that person into a loathing for the Journal and Fantagraphics as a whole. So a lot of people hate Gary for nasty reviews of their work that Gary may not agree with, or even have read.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
In the wake of the recent tragic Ghost Ship fire, Brian Chippendale writes about artists and DIY living spaces, including Fort Thunder.

Far from the neighborhoods behind brick two feet thick, we could be anyone and do anything we wanted. Fort Thunder was my first zone, starting in 1995. By 2002 we were evicted by fire marshals and the building was razed for a shopping center. We had over 100 shows during the six years of the Fort’s lifespan, not a huge amount compared to other art spaces, but it was plenty. We didn’t pay the rent with parties; we paid the rent by cramming in roommates. Paying the rent using money the shows generated never really dawned on us since we made the shows super affordable, keeping only the change in the bottom of the donation bin. We had the Fugazi mentality: keep things cheap and do it for the people.

Our lease-free month-to-month 7,000 square foot space had a large cavernous side where the shows happened and bigger projects could be worked on, plus a music practice space, silkscreening area, kitchen, and a bike repair zone. The smaller side contained the library and living quarters where most of the six to twelve roommates built their rooms. The rooms were crafted from whatever we and the cats dragged in; found wood (mostly pallets), paper, cloth, cardboard, plastic. Anything that was cheap or free. If there is one thing that every broke warehouse dweller knows it’s that wood pallets are the cheapest wood you’ll find; available and plentiful.

Via an excellent, thorough interview, comics scholar Hilary Chute names and explains her five favorite comics of 2016.

One of the things that [Nick Drnaso] captures so incredibly in this book is that it’s not just a ‘slice of life’ look at suburbia. There are a lot of comics like that, capturing the texture of everyday life. Chris Ware is the master of that form. This book is about really dark things, from the very first, fascinating and incredible story about race to the story that feels really relevant right now, about a teenage girl who fakes an abduction and says that she’s been abducted by an Arab man. The community starts producing this anti-Arab sentiment. There’s the story about a child named Tyler, who has a form of OCD. He has these unwanted thoughts so that everywhere he looks, he sees people being killed and dismembered. I actually found that hard to look at.


—Interviews & Profiles.
The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Jessica Campbell.

For BBC.com, Cath Pound writes about Tove Jansson’s career as a painter.

The daughter of Finnish sculptor Viktor Jansson and his Swedish artist wife Signe Hammarsten-Jansson, known as Ham, Tove Jansson grew up in an environment where art, work and life were inseparable. By the age of 14 her work was already appearing in print and she soon followed her mother to the satirical magazine Garm. At art school, where her early work had a mystical, fairytale quality to it, she was considered a bright and promising student. The self-portraits she painted in the 1930s and ’40s reveal her development as an artist and, thinks art historian Tuula Karjalainen, are among her strongest works.