BLOG

Simulacra

Today we are pleased to bring you “Jovial” Jeet Heer’s lengthy and considered review of Spain Rodriguez’s latest collection, Cruisin’ with the Hound. It’s really great to have Jeet back and writing for us semi-regularly. Here’s an excerpt:

Several times in this book, Spain alludes to EC comics as the taproot inspiration for comics. While Crumb internalized storytelling lessons from Carl Barks, John Stanley, and Harvey Kurtzman, all of whom were masters of integrating visuals and text for story that had a headlong rush, Spain was shaped by the clunky text-heavy mode found in EC horror and science fiction comics (what I like to call the “picto-fiction” tradition). The strength of these comics often came from the power of single images of violence and decay, and the stern morality of revenge found in the story (vengeance continues to be a Spain obsession with many of his characters curling their lips in anticipation of exacting retribution). The weakness of the picto-fiction tradition is that the images rarely flow easily from panel to panel as they did the works of Barks, Stanley, and Kurtzman.

Many of the traits of the picto-fiction mode show up in Spain, notably captions which fill-in readers on information missing from the pictures and relatively static images that require time to decipher. Still, because he controls both the writing and drawing, Spain manages to avoid the major pitfalls of picto-fiction, notably the heavy redundancy that the EC stories possessed with pictures simply repeating the information already provided by the captions.

—Jeet is also an expert link-spotter, and pointed me to the second part of Kevin Plummer’s wonderful profile of the Canadian cartoonist Jimmy Frise.

—After some tech problems that temporarily shut down his site over the weekend, Tom Spurgeon is back with a vengeance. I am especially glad to see him reviewing so much again. We’ve already linked to a few of his “Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s” pieces, I believe, but I particularly liked his new one on Miller & Seinkiewicz’s Elektra: Assassin, and this review of the new Ed the Happy Clown collection.

—Spurgeon also has analysis of the recent speculation/belief that Walking Dead #100 is set to become the single biggest-selling issue in July, beating all of the titles released by the so-called “Big Two.” Whether or not that happens, Spurgeon’s thoughts are worth reading. (Perhaps fittingly, the situation in general can’t help but remind me of Kim Thompson’s still relevant 1999 pseudo-manifesto, “More Crap Is What We Need”.)

—Your Alison Bechdel Interview of the Day comes from The Advocate.

—Does anyone in the world think the second image in this comparison looks better?

—Tim Kreider talks to the Good Man Project in support of his new essay collection.

 

And So

Well, another day is here. I went to Frank’s comic sale over the weekend. My major find was Joe (brother of Tim) Vigil’s Dog #1. Luckily, Joe “Jog” McCulloch covered it over in our old neighborhood. Like so many comics, the Jog description is better than thing itself, which is, as far as I’m concerned a time saver, allowing me to just page through, absorbing the essence of the shit without actually stepping in it. Frank manfully comped me that issue and then took a ten dollar bill off me for assorted other comics.

And so you can read more of Jog’s thoughts (thusly avoiding reading more comics, which is a goal of mine) this very day since he mightily brings us a bunch comics coming out this week.

Elsewhere:

Daredevil artist Paolo Rivera announced he’s leaving the title and Marvel to make his own work, and own it too. His and Mark Waid’s Daredevil is a great superhero effort, and he’s proven himself a very inventive cartoonist in the fine David Mazzucchelli-influenced lineage.

And lots of things are being previewed and people interviewed. Here’s the great Brendan Burford, of King Features, interviewing editorial and Mother Goose & Grimm cartoonist Mike Peters. Noah Van Sciver talks about his Fantagraphics release, The Melancholic Young Lincoln at MTV. Over at Drawn & Quarterly there’s a nice looking preview of the company’s Pippi Longstocking graphic novel, Pippi Moves In. Apparently an artist has made a comic entirely by painting on walls. And Dave Sim reflects on his Kickstarter success. I didn’t know he was working on a graphic novel about Alex Raymond’s death. Finally, Tom Gauld comments on Ray Bradbury.

And on the history front, Steve Bissette on Tijuana Bibles and Richard Samuel West on post-Punch American cartoon weeklies. This time it’s The Jester:

In the prospectus, Williams declared that The Jester’s contents would be “entirely original, both in letter press and embellishments, furnished expressly for this work, by the first authors and artists of the time.  In these days of general Copydom, and distorted locality, The Jester deemeth it not too presumptuous to advance that he will be the first to cast off the second-hand garments of European literature, which however excellent when ‘worn in their newest gloss’ must perforce lose, not only much of their fashion, but of their freshness, from the circumstance of travel.  He therefore, with a justifiable degree of pride, announceth that he will appear in a thoroughly new suit.  Home manufacture, both in weft and woof.  American in make, look and feeling!”

Now that’s an intro.

 

Dry

Today brings us the second installment of Ron Goulart’s column of correspondence with great cartoonists of the past. This week, his subject is Sheldon Mayer, of Sugar and Spike and Scribbly fame. Here’s an excerpt:

Always an editor at heart, Mayer would give me advice for Gil [Kane], mostly about his interpretation of my copy. Then we’d get to talking about his days with M.C. Gaines and DC. He’d talk about staff members, about the ones who gave him a pain in the ass, about some long-ago secrets. A few times, about ten minutes after hanging up, he’d call back and say, “About that business I was talking about, don’t use it in any of your books. I don’t want to jeopardize my pension.”

We also have Sean T. Collins’s review of Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem, about which his feelings are mixed:

Delisle is not Joe Sacco, as a joke near the end of the book drives home, and he’s not out to tell a “story” in either the sense of a storyteller or a reporter. His M.O. is to record his life when that life is placed in an unfamiliar and (to put it midly) politically problematic environment, under the assumption that the result of that recording will provide a useful window on the interaction between the personal and the political. That’s all well and good when you’re in such underreported environments as North Korea, China’s designated Special Economic Zones, or Burma. But unlike those sealed-off locales, Jerusalem (even the out-of-sight out-of-mind Palestinian areas) is arguably the most reported-on location on the planet, as befits its centrality to the current Ocenania/Eurasia/Eastasia arrangement of fanatical Islam, Judaism, and Christianity as they attempt to draft the rest of us into their divinely ordained assaults on one another. As such, unless you’re as much of a tyro to the entire topic as Delisle portrays himself to be — not realizing Yom Kippur is anything other than a war, or that Gaza residents can’t leave, and so on and so on — you need a reason to revisit this material that you can’t get anywhere else.

And then of course there’s Frank Santoro’s Sunday column. This week he went into “blind item”-mode.

Elsewhere …

—The Swedish Supreme Court has ruled that certain Japanese manga depicting children in sexual situations are not child pornography, reversing the earlier conviction of a translator in that country.

—Coincidentally (but not unrelatedly), Neal Gaiman writes a defense of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, after a reader wrote in expressing qualms about supporting figures like Christopher Handley, an American manga collector convicted of possessing “obscene” manga depicting children in sexual situations.

—To keep this pornographic comics ball rolling, Stephen Bissette continues his illustrated exploration of early gay-themed sex comics and other Tijuana Bibles.

—Ed Champion has a long audio interview with Alison Bechdel, and I believe we neglected to link to MariNaomi’s earlier illustrated interview with Bechdel for The Rumpus.

—You of course have already heard of Ray Bradbury‘s death. Michael Dooley has collected images from the EC Comics work based on his writing.

—Trevor Von Eeden has disowned the art to at least two issues of the 1990s series Black Canary, due to what he regarded as editorial interference. Daniel Best has posted scans of his original artwork next to the finished pages here so you can judge for yourself.

—Finally, Grant Morrison was given an award.

 

Serious!

It’s the end of a long week here in sunny Carroll Gardens. This weekend I plan to go to Frank’s comic book sale, where you can tell me which version of TCJ was better than this one, and why. What better way to spend a beautiful Saturday than inside a sweaty inferno of back issues? No kidding!

You know who doesn’t kid around? Tucker Stone. He is a serious, intense man. And he has words he’d like you to read now. These words will be about numerous new comics about which the less said the better.

Elsewhere, things are, as Tim mentioned yesterday, quiet.

-Great cartoonists Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga are making a couple of appearances in support of their excellent new books Birdseye Bristoe and Gloriana. One of them today in Chicago! Go see these guys.

-If you need just a little more Tucker to carry you through the weekend, then check out his podcast with Joe McCulloch and Matt Seneca. I listened to the whole thing! This week it’s all about Otomo and Kidd.

I really enjoyed Chip Kidd’s Batman: Death by Design. The story was wonderfully structured — a kind of architectural whodunnit designed like a deco building: Elegant, with a bunch of surprises, some wonderfully strange moments, and loopy personal touches. Naturally it’s also an awfully attractive object. Worth tracking down.

-This is a cute comic book store/Ray Bradbury anecdote.

-Evan Dorkin tells us about the time he almost published a Rocketeer story.

That’s it. See you at the con!

 

Lull

Today, we present Eric Buckler’s interview with the Swiss cartoonist Frederik Peeters, probably best known for his graphic HIV memoir, Blue Pills. An excerpt:

I’m not the author in Sandcastle. I see it more like metaphysical fairy tale if you like. The reader is not much involved as in Blue Pills, where you live things through the main character point of view. In Sandcastle, you’re more like a distant spectator. Blue Pills talks about two persons, Sandcastle talks about the whole world. But you could say that the aspects that appealed to me in the Sandcastle script, the deterioration of the flesh, time, what we do with our lives, why and who you desire and love, couple as an antidote to loneliness, etc., are already present in Blue Pills. But I guess they’re present in all my books, because they’re present in my head.

Elsewhere, comics links are fairly light today.

—Dept. of Interviews. The National Post has a short interview with Gabriella Giandelli, the Gainseville Sun talked to Tom Hart (about SAW), and, for those who like to read between the lines, Robot 6 has a q&a with Dave Gibbons.

—Ng Suat Tong has a long post analyzing the original art from Howard Chaykin’s Time².

—Letterer Todd Klein has posted the first leg of a “tour” of DC’s production offices, circa 1979.

 

Hungry Hippo

Today on the site we bring you another pearl from the archive: Alan Moore interviewed by Gary Groth in 1987. This one’s about Moore’s decision to cease working for DC Comics amidst the ratings controversy of the day. What’s interesting here is how thoughtful and articulate Moore is on his moral and ethical concerns. And that will more or less conclude our Before Watchmen coverage. Although! I will say I found this article at Hooded Utilitarian particularly silly, even by the high standards of silliness set by this whole debate. The author for some reason includes me in a list of writers (“us”?) who somehow maintain a moral high ground because of the artists involved in these comics. Let me be clear: The list and corresponding argument makes no sense, in that, (a) I’ve never stated a moral position on BW and nor do I intend to; (b) the idea that different artists that the writer thinks are closer to my taste would make the project more or less palatable, is a serious misreading of the whole issue; and (c) I don’t think the writers on that list would agree on a whole lot when it comes down to it. That’s all. Sermon over. And no, I won’t be responding in comments my excitable little trolls.

On a happier site note, we have Rob Clough on beloved former TCJ-podcaster Mike Dawson’s Troop 142.

Elsewhere:

Frank Santoro is in NYC. I know this because I saw him (twice!) and he’s texting me with greater frequency. We even went to the comic book store together. He’s having another comic book sale at his palatial West Village studio in a building that should be seen regardless of what you may buy. Anyhow, the sale is on again this Saturday, June 16th. Don’t miss it. For less than the cost of a sandwich you can be entertained by Frank AND take home a really good (or “good”) comic.

MORE New York news… Friday is the final day for exhibitors to apply to The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, which I co-organize and exercise my terrifying moral high ground upon.

But it’s not only about New York, I’m told. One Tom Devlin continued his comic book world tour with a stop in Oslo involving stilts, Canadians, non-Canadians, and, yes, nudity.

And finally, this dive into personal and comic book history is mind-boggling and lovely.

 

Recovery Proceeds

Today is Tuesday, and that means Joe McCulloch has your Week in Comics! New Sacco, new oversize reprints, new this, new that.

We also have Sean T. Collins’s review of Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B.’s history of U.S./Middle East relations, Best of Enemies. An excerpt:

[David B.] is one of contemporary comics’ true visionaries, the speaker of a visual language of his own devising. Despite personal, cultural, and surface-visual connections (all that high-contrast black-and-white) that might make it look otherwise, as an image-maker he has much more in common with, say, Jack Kirby than with Marjane Satrapi. This gives everyone and everything he depicts a hyperreal aura, and in Best of Enemies he goes full-throttle on it. The headdress of an imperious ambassador becomes a globe the pirate ships whose attacks he permit circumnavigate. A stand-in for the WWII-era British government becomes a three-faced Janus-like figure, issuing contradictory proclamations about the future of the region out of every mouth. The chronically bedridden Mossadegh becomes a disembodied set of pajamas, wielding a scimitar against the floating Sauron-like eyes of British spies and provocateurs. America’s chief goon in Iran, spymaster Kermit Roosevelt, is a virtual gremlin, his rictus-like grin affixed to his diminutive frame as he hides beneath a blanket to conduct clandestine meetings with the Shah. Bought-off officials open their jaws like Hungry Hungry Hippos to swallow American dollars. Even as familiar a figure as FDR himself has his eyebrows transformed into a cigarette to demonstrate the gravity of his banning smoking while negotiating with the Saudis.

Elsewhere there are many comics-related things worth your time, if you’re so inclined. For example…

—Jeet Heer takes to the Globe and Mail to report on what made superheroes gay even before recent developments.

—Derik Badman points out a recent essay by comics scholar Hannah Miodrag on literary comics. I haven’t read it, but based on his description, she seems to be using an argument similar to the one I used to make a lot over on Comics Comics over the past few years—it’s not theme and subject matter that makes a comic “literary,” but rather the use of text itself. It’s the definition that makes the most sense to me, and one that avoids the problems that come along with the more standard one.

—Tom Heintjes has a roundtable with several people carrying on the family business, in this case comic strips, including Brian and Greg Walker, Jeff Keane, and Mason Mastroianni.

—Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’s Neonomicon has been challenged and pulled from a South Carolina library. I don’t think any books should be off-limits for libraries, and hope that it is restored soon. But that book… it’s not hard to imagine that presumably unprepared mother’s reaction.

—Paul Pope links to his own 1996 interview with art theorist Rudolf Arnheim, which I plan to read post-haste.

—Two unusual reviews of Before Watchmen, from the Mindless Ones-affiliated Andrew Hickey, and from Alan Moore biographer Lance Parkin, reporting in from an alternate dimension.

—Not comics. Via Sean Howe, the secret history of Lisa Lyon, the bodybuilder used by Frank Miller as a model for his Elektra character, and her “connections to Robert Mapplethorpe, voodoo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, PCP, Huey Newton, cocaine, Jack Nicholson, and Day of the Dolphin.”

 

Rest Home

Today on the site:

Shaenon Garrity has the fist installment of her Webcomics Capsule Reviews, in which she writes about the many and various webcomics sent in by readers of this very site. And yesterday Frank Santoro wrote about his comic book blowout sale and promises more to come.

It was a slow news weekend, but herewith some links:

-Kate Beaton’s Walrus cover is very nice.

-Comics-related: A Peter Blake pop music-themed retrospective.

-John Buscema covers are fun.

-And the latest “What Are You Reading” over at Robot 6 includes cartoonist and TCJ-contributor Matthew Thurber writing about Ron Rege and Frank Stack.

Ok, more later in the week!