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Dateline Thursday

Today on the site, Ryan Cecil Smith continues his Cartoonist’s Diary of life in Japan.

And Sean T. Collins reviews the mini-comics (!) of Shia LaBeouf (whom he also interviewed for Rolling Stone). Here’s an excerpt from his review:

Yes, the art’s rough. But it’s also effective, in both complementing his lacerating writing and conveying emotional weight. So even though it’s likely rough by necessity, the roughness of a study-hall satirist or a first-year CCS student, it’s the effectiveness that should be the lens through which the art’s viewed. And honestly I’m probably selling it short, to an extent. The magic-marker pink aura with which he surrounds the figures in his graphic novella Cyclical, about a Johnny Blaze-type motorcycle outlaw’s last ride, both belies the macho mock-Hemingway elegy of the narrative and imbues it with the sensual road-sign glow of the American West. It’s the equivalent of the opening-credit type treatment for Drive, and it’s sophisticated shit.

Off-site, there are several comics-related distractions from your existential dilemma.

The Los Angeles Review of Books, which really quickly established itself as one of the best sources for American cultural criticism around, has launched its new website. So far, this publication has featured the best comics coverage of any recent mainstream cultural publication I can remember, and is worth following for that reason alone. (They have good reviews of books without pictures, too.)

Boing Boing has a nice profile of Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, and Heritage Auctions has announced a Cul de Sac-related charity auction for Parkinson’s research this May.

Speaking of auctions, it’s a sad commentary that the check with which DC Comics paid Siegel and Schuster $130 for Superman has recently sold to an online bidder for $160,000. (The original check had been fished out of the trash by a DC employee, whose heirs will be receiving the proceeds.)

The blogger David Brothers, who has been writing a lot about the ethics (or lack thereof) in corporate comics recently, has published a manifesto on why the recent Before Watchmen announcement and recent Marvel moves have led him to stop purchasing DC and Marvel comics (and movie tickets) altogether. I don’t necessarily agree with each and every one of his arguments, but in the main I support him and find this very heartening. When Stephen Bissette called for a boycott of Jack Kirby-derived Marvel products last year, it was fairly common to hear people argue that boycotts don’t work. But of course this kind of consumer awareness can be effective, especially when there are more ethical alternatives available. (As a non-comics-related example: There are a lot more cage-free eggs sold today than there were a decade ago, and that means many less chickens are being egregiously mistreated. That is a significant and good thing, even if the larger problems of factory farming remain.) It’s one thing when places like the Comics Journal echo calls for this kind of protest (as a lot of commenters here stated at the time, most TCJ readers aren’t Marvel zombies anyway), it’s another when someone as steeped in mainstream comics as Brothers does it.

Other miscellania:

Bryan and Mary Talbot choose their ten favorite comic-book memoirs (Binky Brown is their unsurprising—and very deserving—number one, but there are a few less familiar titles there as well).

Slate writes about the politics of Archie. Does anyone actually read these comics any more, or are they merely printed as an endless supply of fodder for trend articles? I can’t figure out the business model here…

Lots of people post scans of great old out-of-print comic stories online, but few provide as much context as Frank Young does whenever he posts a hard to find John Stanley story. Here’s his latest, on a Woody Woodpecker tale.

Milo George doesn’t much like Jack Kirby’s covers for The Invaders.

There are two weeks left for Sparkplug’s online publishing fundraiser. (I know I keep saying I don’t want to post these Kickstarter-type things, but I guess I’m just going to try to be super-selective about it.)

Finally, the Hernandez brothers are interviewed at Meltdown:

 

Hold Your Breath

Welcome back. Today on the site we bid a very fond farewell to Mike Dawson, who is hanging up his TCJ Talkie hat with this interview with Tim Kreider. Thank you, Mike! For a look back at the many great podcasts Mike has turned in, click here. Also today: Ryan Cecil Smith returns with the third day of his diary; and Prajna Desai on a fascinating-looking graphic biography of Indian reformer Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar entitled Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability. Here’s a taste:

Beyond this graphic pedigree, the book is also unusually germane for being grounded in present-day journalism. Its two interlocking strands join Ambedkar’s biography with a string of thumbnails about present day caste prejudice, violently pervasive in villages, though all but invisible to most urban Indians. The barbed but seductive quality of this double narrative, the fact that yuppie ignorance is sometimes too easily mocked, makes it that much more impossible to resist second and third readings. This robust exposé about caste is not afraid to tell it like it is—that if you think caste is dead, think again.

Elsewhere online it’s a slow links day. The big news is a decision against attorney Mark Toberoff in the ongoing litigation over the Superman case. The decision is here. The Beat has analysis here.

A couple nice archival clicks… Horse-centric Gang Buster stories by Frank Frazetta; and here’s a 1938-9 Jack Cole version of the early comic strip Foxy Grandpa.

And finally, Paul Karasik offers a tour of his current exhibition, “Graphic Novel Realism”.

 

Back to Work

Ryan Cecil Smith’s week of cartoon diaries continues—today he meets a friend of his girlfriend, and awkward conversation ensues.

And Joe “Jog” McCulloch has the Week in Comics. It looks like a big week, with new (and solid) late Pekar, a long-awaited return from R. Kikuo Johnson, and the final brick in the complete Krazy Kat, a genuinely amazing thing to exist, and almost a reason all by itself to to have irrational hope for humanity’s future. (Does that seem like an overstatement? It obviously is. But read more Krazy Kat and get back to me.) Joe also writes a lot about Garth Ennis, about whose work I remain extremely skeptical.

Chris Mautner attempts to perpetrate a Jeet in this collection of notes on the beginning of a new complete reprint of a canonical strip, Walt Kelly’s Pogo. Like him, I found this first volume to be a strange mix of the brilliant and the off-puttingly whimsical, but I enjoyed it more by the end than the beginning so I’m expecting to get more out of future volumes. In any case, read Mautner.

Also at Robot 6, Tim O’Shea talks to Kevin Huizenga about the recent republication of Gloriana.

Neil Cohn talks about whether or not comics is a language (he says no) in response to a recent academic book, The Art of Comics.

Eric Stephenson at Image continues to call out DC over their treatment of Alan Moore in the Before Watchmen issue. It is interesting that another publisher is being so aggressive about this, and also heartening in the sense that the more publishers publicly announce high standards, the more likely it is that the readership will hold them all to it. (David Brothers has been writing about Before Watchmen a lot, too.)

The Forbidden Planet blog links to a fascinating series of posts in which the British cartoonist Dan Haycock is working his way through the exercises in Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice.

And last but not least, Peter Huestis has posted scans of an entire book by legendary early cartoonist “TAD” Dorgan: Indoor Sports.

 

What Happened?

Well I’m back. I think I missed a lot. There were raging debates about Tucker Stone, MoCCA, Green Lantern, and so many other pressing topics. I missed all of them. Such is life.

So, on we go. Today on the site:

Cartoonist Ryan Cecil Smith, whose work you may have seen via the Closed Caption Comics crew,  joins us as our diarist for the week. And yesterday brought the fourth installment of Frank Santoro’s excellent “New Talent Showcase” series. This one opens with a statement on the form.

And elsewhere online:

The New York Times mysteriously turned into a comic book magazine over the weekend, complete with a lengthy article on the brouhaha at Archie, a book review round-up from Douglas Wolk, and a piece on Robert Crumb’s latest museum exhibition, which includes the priceless exchange:

Early in the news conference, Mr. Crumb took the lead in questioning, turning to Fabrice Hergott, the museum’s director, to ask how the show came about: “Was there an argument? Was there resistance?”

“It was not so easy,” Mr. Hergott confessed. “The team of curators was not so sure that you were an artist for this museum, that you belonged to the classical world of art.”

Mr. Crumb did not seem distressed. After all, he admitted, he is not a museumgoer. “I went to the Louvre once,” he said. “I don’t really like museums. You get too close to the art, and the guard is going to yell at you.”

Yesterday Tom Spurgeon posted a great work-based interview with Brandon Graham.

And here’s a nice look at an exhibition entitled 77 Years of Romanian Comics.

Finally, cartoonist and Kramers Ergot editor Sammy Harkham reports in from Sydney, Australia, where he found all of the comic books pictured below in a 50 cent bin at his favorite comic book store. Ah! Life!

 

Making a Stand

Today Tucker Stone is back with another look at the best/worst/most otherwise notable genre comics of (his) reading week, and this time he wonders when superhero comics starting revolving so much around emotional breakdowns?

Off-site you can find:

—A double-dose of Eddie Campbell, both in an interview about his upcoming Lovely Horrible Stuff, and in Bob Heer’s review of the recently released iPad app version of Campbell’s Dapper John.

—A recently discovered 1963 audio interview of the then-88-years-old Jimmy Swinnerton!:

(Thanks, Jeet!)

—Joe Sutliff Sanders wondering about the prevalence of lowbrow allusions in comic books.

—Tom Hart, the beloved Hutch Owen cartoonist and SAW co-founder, has revealed that he is the mystery man behind the recent Shit My New Yorker Cartoons Tumblr, and he explains his motivation here.

—Finally, the cartoonist Dustin Harbin has reposted the Doug Wright Awards comic diaries he did for this site last year, along with an enormously long manifesto about the changes he would like to make to the Eisner Awards. If you are the type who likes to argue about award nominating processes, this will provide a motherlode of things to agree and/or argue about.

 

Out of a Catalog

Today on the site, Rob Clough weighs in on Tom Neely’s self-published art-book/graphic-novel hybrid, The Wolf.

Today off the site, you can read the following:

—For the Financial Times, D’arcy Doran profiles Drawn & Quarterly, with an emphasis on the renaissance it’s gone through over the last four years.

—Chris Arrant catches the very welcome news that industry mainstay Bud Plant is back in business. Readers under thirty or so will never understand what the Bud Plant catalog used to mean.

—Another day, another Dan Clowes interview. Luckily, they’re almost always entertaining, even when they go over familiar ground. This time, Casey Burchby talks with Clowes about his new art book, his first museum exhibition, and current projects.

—Howard Chaykin gave a refreshingly blunt short interview to Comics Anonymous, saying things like the following: “Since [my '80s/'90s peak] I’ve done nothing that I’m ashamed of. I did plenty of work I’m ashamed of before that but nothing since. I did some shit stuff because I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Inadequacy is often its own reward. I did the Star Wars comic in the ’70s and if I’d have know It was going to be as big a hit I would have done a better job.”

—Today is interview day, I guess. Daniel Best has republished a super-entertaining 1975 talk with Jack Kirby. Sample quote: “World War II lent itself to good dramas. The whole thing could have been written by some hack out at Warner Brothers. It was a black and white issue with a villain who was so completely evil that it was just made to order. Anything you did in World War II was an act of nobility. If you hung Hitler or killed hundreds of Germans, you were on the side of the Angels. I once got a letter from a Nazi who told me to pick out any lamppost I wanted on Times Square because, when Hitler arrived, they’d hang me from it. It was typical of a genre of fans who have long since died out.”

—The latest Alan Moore interview for British television that’s been going around is now on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAfXSgRxQEc&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn95a3gGaW0&feature=relmfu

—And finally, Colin Smith puts a lot of thought into the best ways to hook the unconverted into superhero comics, and all I can wonder is why would you want to do that to people?

 

Loaded

One of the last true gag cartoonists standing, Magic Whistle’s Sam Henderson, walks us through his process, which involves a lot more preparation and revisions than many might expect.

And Kent Worcester reviews a cultural history of British comics written by James Chapman. An excerpt:

The best-selling comics magazine Viz, launched in 1979 (and reaching sales of 1.2 million in the 1990s), is very much in the juvenile-yet-class-conscious tradition of The Beano, even if its scatological joke-telling goes way beyond anything that would be allowed in titles published by either D.C. Thomson or the Amalgamated Press, the “big two” oligarchs of British cartooning. The names of Viz’s most popular characters – Johnny Fartpants, Buster Gonad, Billy Bottom, and Sid the Sexist – probably convey better than anything else the magazine’s distinctive brand of humor. In discussing Viz’s meteoric rise, Chapman usefully quotes from George Orwell’s famous essay on seaside postcards: “it will not do to condemn them on the ground that they are vulgar and ugly. That is exactly what they are meant to be. Their whole meaning and virtue is in their unredeemed lowness, not only in the sense of obscenity, but lowness of outlook in every direction whatever.”

Over the barricades—

—Neal Kirby remembers growing up with Jack for the Los Angeles Times:

There were a lot of cigar-chomping characters in Marvel Comics and Dad was one of them — he and other writers and artists popped up in stories in a quirky trademark of the “House of Ideas,” as it was called in the 1960s. Personal parts of his life often crept into his work too. When recounting the creation of the Fantastic Four, for instance, he laughingly confessed that Sue Storm was named for my sister, Susan, and the “Storm” could be considered a bit of personality commentary. When he saw the expression on my face he appropriately apologized for the fact that he never got around to making Neal the name of the Human Torch, an Inhuman or even some low-ranking Skrull.

This is a good one. Don’t miss it if you like Kirby.

—Charles Forsman has created a new website called Muster List, intended as a comprehensive directory for finding mini-comics and sending visitors to the best online sources for purchasing them. (via)

—Illogical Volume at the Mindless Ones takes a thorough look at the reprinting controversy du jour, the recoloring of Flex Mentallo.

—And finally, Daniel Clowes interviewed by Mark Frauenfelder at Meltdown (via everybody):

 

Village of the Damned

R.C. Harvey stops by this morning with one of his inimitable forays into comic-strip history. This time, he writes about Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, and the semi-secret cult still surrounding it. An excerpt:

Bushmiller worked nights mostly. He began about two o’clock in the afternoon and sat at his drawing board into the wee hours and often into the morning of the next day. “I work on a schedule that produces six daily Nancy and Sluggo strips between Sunday and Tuesday evenings,” he wrote in a autobiographical article in Collier’s (September 18, 1948). “The Sunday page evolves after I’ve taken Wednesday and Thursday off. If this sounds confusing, then you have a fairly accurate picture of a newspaper cartoonist’s life. Unlike other strip cartoonists, I draw the last picture first and work back to toward the beginning, which is exactly the opposite of the way you read it (I hope). I know a guy who draws his cartoons upside down, so I don’t worry much about drawing backwards.”

In conjuring up jokes, Bushmiller came to rely to a great extent upon props, and in so doing, he gave the strip its unique flavor. Describing his method, Bushmiller said: “I jot down items such as toaster, leaky roof, folding chair, mail box, windy day—anything that comes to mind. Looking at the advertising in a magazine also helps, or a Sears Roebuck catalog. When I find an item that seems likely, I start to kick it around in my mind to see if I can work out a funny situation. Let’s say I see an ironing board. I start to think about what can be done with an ironing board, and I pretty soon get an idea.”

Joe McCulloch is around again, too, with his weekly look at the most interesting new comics in stores—plus an online bargain you might be interested to see.

Elsewhere, Journal contributor Nicole Rudick has a review of Kramers Ergot 8 at Hyperallergic.

Darwyn Cooke talked to Rolling Stone about his participation in Before Watchmen, which has predictably led to a lot of online derision. I do think it’s kind of interesting that he shrugs off the immorality of working on this particular title by pointing to the larger ambiguous morality of working on non-creator-owned comic books in general. That’s not the hill I’d choose to die on but he has a point. (Also, it’s funny that he describes himself as being “dragged kicking and screaming” into the project, but then admits that some time after he first declined to participate, he called Dan DiDio up and and said he hoped there was still room for him to join in. A strange form of kicking and screaming, that.)

Via Mark Evanier’s blog comes this video of a 1983 visit to the Mad magazine offices:

As you’ve probably read in one of the five hundred comic sites that have run with it so far, artist/conman Thomas Kinkade has passed away, and the animator Ralph Bakshi (who gave Kinkade his start) has released a statement about it. Here’s a brief excerpt:

As far as the art world, the CRITICAL ones shrugging Tom off, as they sell a shark in oil, and polka dots in 12 — count them, 12 — galleries at once in one opening, and all the other mindless hype…

They miss the true brilliance that is Kinkade.

Kinkade painted the brilliant landscapes of the religious right, the Tea Party and all the other Rush Limbaughs in America. He’s selling back what Americans want. This is the most homespun vision of the distorted right and nostalgia-looking Americans reaching for purity without knowing what it really is — all through his landscapes.

IT’S BRILLIANT, and goes by every art critic and major museum in the world. I love it. And it’s just that that [which] I made my movies about — the blind, pretentious and ugly.

Heidi MacDonald called this a “touching tribute,” which isn’t exactly the phrase I’d use… I suppose it is a bit more nuanced than the take on Kinkade Bakshi gave to Vulture in 2008:

He’s a good painter, and he did a spiel. He made all these deals. How he went out and did what he did is beyond my understanding now. He’s very, very talented, and he’s very, very much of a hustler. Those two things are in conflict. Is he talented? Oh yeah. Will he paint anything to make money? Oh yeah. Does he have any sort of moralistic view? No. He doesn’t care about anything. He’s as cheesy as they come.