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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!

 

Drip Drip Drip

Today, Tucker Stone and his pal Abhay Khosla take you on another wonder-filled journey through the funhouse world of genre comics, with a particular interest in the internet reaction to the corporate announcement that one of the many DC Comics characters named Green Lantern is about to be revealed as gay.

And Sara Varon offers the last day of her week in the Cartoonist’s Diary chair. Thanks, Sara!

I’m sick, and have been all week, so the rest of this blog post will be a bit bare bones, but here’s the news.

—Paul Gravett has a nice Posy Simmonds profile up on his site.

—Bill Kartalopoulos reviews Clowes, Krazy Kat, and Rory Hayes for Print.

—Christopher Allen has an amusing Freudian reading of the latest Darwyn Cooke cover. (Related.)

—Jim Woodring’s thoughts on “Bimbo’s Initiation” won’t be news to anyone who read our interview with him last year, but it’s a great cartoon to revisit.

—Rob Clough tackles the influence of movies on cartoonists from a different angle, namely how his screenwriting career has affected Daniel Clowes’s approach to comics.

—Domingos Isabelinho looks at M.S. Bastian and Isabelle L.’s Bastokalypse.

—Bad news for independent publishers up North: the Literary Press Group was just denied funding by the Canadian government.

—The Archie Comics executive suit/soap opera has ended (for now) with a settlement.

—Finally, propaganda comics from 1950s Communist China.

 

Lofty Heights

On the site today:

Ryan Holmberg continues his march into history with a look at the great cartoonist Sugiura Shigeru (you can read translated comics of his in The Ganzfeld 4 and 5, as well as Raw 7) and his pre-WWII sources. NOTE: Ryan is looking for your help in identifying some of these sources — please comment!

The history of comedy is a notoriously nebulous and difficult subject. Especially when the laughs are half in a foreign tradition. At any rate, it’s more than I can handle competently just now. So what I put together instead was a “visual essay” on Sugiura and Shin Seinen’s cartoons. What follows on the next pages is the result of combing the magazine from 1929 to 1937, at which point it turned strongly pro-war and increasingly anti-Western. This period overlaps with Sugiura’s debut (1932) and early work for Kōdansha’s major youth periodicals (particularly Shōnen Club, Shōjo Club, and the Picture Book series beginning in 1937) as well as his occasional work for Shin Seinen’s junior edition, Shin Shōnen, as well as Shōnen Shōjo Tankai, published by the same Hakubunkan. Some of the comparisons I make are specific, with exact cases of swiping. Others are more general. You can tell me if you find them convincing or not.

Sara Varon takes through another day of her excellent visual diary.

The major news everywhere else is the passing of Ray Bradbury. The NY Times has a fine obituary.

Elsewhere around the internet… there is the good news that Drawn & Quarterly will release Shigeru Mizuki’s classic Kitaro material. Mizuki is a first class cartoonist — I can’t wait.

More good news — a new comic at Study Group by a young cartoonist I know very little about Sean T. Collins profiled, but whose work I’ve really enjoyed – Julia Gfrorer.

Excellent cartoonist, late of Conan, Becky Cloonan is interviewed about a recent self-publishing effort over at The Beat.

Daniel Best has a 1975 Jim Steranko interview with some fine nuggets, like this one on Frank Robbins…

I know Frank; he’s a terrific artist, but for some reason he doesn’t seem to have the fan following that he warrants. But believe me when I tell you that there are very few artists who have the cinematic approach of Robbins, especially in his Johnny Hazard strip. I collect Robbins stuff, the forties right on through. His cinematic approach is incredible. Even more perhaps than Milton Caniff, even though he works in that Caniff or Sickles style. I think he deserves more credit than most fans give him. Sometimes fans think a lot of little lines makes good artwork, but it doesn’t. He’s a guy who really knows how to tell a story. Maybe like you I’ve been disappointed with his comic book work, but you have to remember you can’t turn out a masterpiece in a week.

And finally: Vintage Ogden Whitney (I’d never heard of this one) and vintage Daniel Clowes. Together at last.

 

 

Sick as a Dog

Today Charles Hatfield returns with a review of Bernie “The Jam” Mireault’s latest self-published book, To Get Her. An excerpt:

My own knowledge of Mireault dates to his collaboration with Matt Wagner and Joe Matt on Comico’s Grendel, way back in 1987 (an arc later collected as The Devil Inside). That collaboration put Mireault on my radar, and so I dug into his quirky, low-rent superhero pastiche The Jam, a generally lighthearted riff on the genre but laced with semi-autobiographical, underground-flavored elements. The Jam began as a backup serial in the Canadian series New Triumph back in the early mid-’80s, then began to find its own way after 1987 (Comico published a one-shot after the Grendel run that I glommed onto very happily). By the mid-’90s I thought of The Jam as a humorous but soulful alternative to superheroes-as-usual, a project that, despite its fitfulness and its caroming between publishers, promised what Mike Allred’s Madman also seemed to promise at the time: life, energy, and homespun storytelling within the straits of that oh-so-familiar genre. I dug it the way I dug Allred’s work, and Mike Gilbert’s work on Mr. Monster, and the way I still dig Paul Grist’s myriad superhero comics.

Sara Varon continues her week contributing the Cartoonist’s Diary feature.

And we’ve also opened up the archives to bring out a 1986 panel discussion with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about Watchmen, moderated by Neil Gaiman. Here’s an excerpt:

FROM THE AUDIENCE: Do you actually own Watchmen?

MOORE: My understanding is that when Watchmen is finished and DC have not used the characters for a year, they’re ours.

GIBBONS: They pay us a substantial amount of money. ..

MOORE: … to retain the rights. So basically they’re not ours, but if DC is working with the characters in our interests then they might as well be. On the other hand, if the characters have outlived their natural life span and DC doesn’t want to do anything with them, then after a year we’ve got them and we can do what we want with them, which I’m perfectly happy with.

GIBBONS: What would be horrendous, and DC could legally do it, would be to have Rorschach crossing over with Batman or something like that, but I’ve got enough faith in them that I don’t think that they’d do that. I think because of the unique team they couldn’t get anybody else to take it over to do Watchmen II or anything else like that, and we’ve certainly got no plans to do Watchmen II.

Also, I thought I’d draw attention to one other part of the interview, regarding the comic’s connection to Charlton comics. Moore explains:

I started mapping out a few ideas, and originally it was just a murder mystery, “Who killed the Peacemaker,” and that was it. We sent all this stuff to Dick Giordano and some of it was extreme. We were going to treat the Question as a lot more extreme than he’d been treated before. Dick loved the stuff, but having a paternal affection for these characters from his time at Charlton, he really didn’t want to give his babies to the butchers, and make no mistake about it, that’s what it would have been. He said, “Can you change the characters around and come up with some new ones?” At first I wasn’t sure whether that would work, but when Dave and I got together and started just planning these things out, it all really snapped into place and worked fine. I’m much happier now doing it with original characters. It’s worked out much better than it would have done if we had used Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and all the others, and I’m pleased with it.

Emphasis mine. The whole, depressingly common argument that Watchmen is just a ripoff of Charlton characters, and thus everything is now fair game is risible. The Question and Rorschach are not the same characters. If DC were planning a miniseries featuring characters who were sort of reminiscent of the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan and Sally Jupiter, etc., no one would be batting an eye right now.

Anyway, speaking of which, David Brothers has an enjoyably vicious editorial on the publication of Before Watchmen here. His thesis?:

Buying Before Watchmen is a vote for:

-A comics industry that prizes properties over creators
-A comics industry that will effortlessly use its legal muscle to screw over creators
-A comics industry that strip-mines the past at the expense of the future

Brothers draws attention to a recent USA Today story on the series in which DC co-publisher Dan DiDio offers the following mind-boggling quote: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.” An inspirational way to start the morning! Maybe it’s best if we moved on to other topics …

—Such as DC’s sales figures, which Marc-Oliver Frisch analyzes here, and more or less convincingly finds (albeit with less than ideal information), that the New 52 initiative gave only a temporary positive push to sales.

—Dept. of Interviews. James Sturm talks to Julie Delporte. Graeme McMillan talks to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Ashok Kondabolu (!) talks to Ben Marra. And finally, an interview with the late Harvey Pekar from close to his passing has come to light.

—I don’t think we’ve yet mentioned Tom Spurgeon’s annual head-exploding guide to attending the San Diego Comic-Con, and it’s probably because neither Dan nor I wants to come to terms with the fact that we won’t be there.

—Stephen Bissette reveals the secret cinematic origins of Ben Grimm.

—And if you’ve ever wanted a chance to talk (and buy) comics in person with our Sunday columnist Frank Santoro, this weekend in NYC is the time and place to make your dreams come true.

 

Five Card Stud

Well hello there. The book world, or parts of it, has gathered at Book Expo America. I’ll be there today, all day, attempting to sell books or myself, whichever comes first.

Today on the site Joe McCulloch brings us his wisdom pertaining to the comics scene of today and yesterday. And Sara Varon continues her tenure as diarist-in-residence.

Elsewhere in the universe… a series of bits of information:

-Julia Wertz nicely summarizes the comic convention experience.

-Oliver Schrauwen is self-publishing a “long story”. Looks good.

-Robin McConnell interviews Maurice Vellekoop.

- Jordan Crane has a Tumblr. The Seattle Star profiles Jeffrey Brown.

-Tom Spurgeon reviews some 1970s Avengers comics.

-Tom Gauld and Guy Delisle draw each other.

-And finally, the Stripper’s Guide profiles Tarpe Mills.

 

 

 

Unsteady

Big day on the site today. First, we have Ryan Standfest’s report from the University of Chicago’s recent “Comics: Philosophy & Practice” conference. An excerpt from his write-up on the Art Spiegelman/W.J.T. Mitchell panel:

Addressing what happens when comics become wall art allowed into galleries and museums, Spiegelman noted: “There is more to the Faustian deal than I originally thought. There are sub-clauses. The mingling of words and pictures is now allowed, and what is being achieved is way past Lichtenstein, way past Barbara Kruger. Something new is emerging. The avant-garde is exploring a new place where the pictures are not as easily articulated, not as happily contained.” This led the conversation to a dual consideration of new media and how a younger generation of cartoonists is reconsidering the form itself. “A book is easier to make because of this thing that is supposedly killing it. There is now a focus on the book as object—a new function in the world of the iPad.” Spiegelman noted that the history of comics has been the history of printing up until now, and that the medium has looked to the book-as-object as an answer. “The book, or ‘graphic novel’ is the current dominant form of the comic. The problem is that it requires great labor.” He indicated, however, that the book does not play to the greatest asset of the comics form—that the medium is one of compression, of reducing-down— the shorter, the better. In response, Spiegelman sounded a note about a move away from the book and a return to short-form comics out of the necessity of doubling as “wall art.”

Yesterday brought with it, of course, another installment of Frank Santoro’s Riff Raff column. In it, he writes short reviews of comics by Tin Can Forest, Connor Willumsen, and Ed Choy.

Sara Varon, creator of Robot Dreams and Bake Sale, is the latest artist to agree to contribute to our Cartoonist’s Diary feature. Her week begins here, appropriately enough with an interdepartmental cookie bake-off.

And in our reviews department, Sean T. Collins tackles Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse. An excerpt:

Katie Skelly has an endearing cartooning style, an unlikely hybrid between Junko Mizuno and John Porcellino. While they’re in motion — and in this Barbarella-esque, demurely sexy sci-fi spaceship romp, that happens fairly frequently — her characters have a fluid, curving quality to them. Their designs are usually pretty strong, too. The title character, a young interplanetary nurse named Gemma whose inaugural assignment to treat colonists poisoned by alien atmospheres that goes badly wrong right out of the gate, and her eventual rescuer, a Inuit-like Martian named Träume, are strong enough that Skelly’s choice to duplicate them with clones and identical siblings is a delight in and of itself; the furious, furry black-and-white space pirate Pandaface has such a cool design I want to steal it wholesale.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—You have until midnight tonight to vote in this year’s Eisner Awards.

—Jeet Heer wrote to draw my attention to part one of a very in-depth look at Canadian cartoonist Jimmy Frise, which he compares to Seth and Brad Mackay’s work on their Doug Wright book.

—Interviews dept. Here’s part two of Michael Dooley’s interview with Squa Tront editor John Benson, this time focusing in on The Sincerest Form of Parody (which I highly recommend for Mad fanatics, by the way). Tom Spurgeon talks at length with Zack Soto. Michel Fiffe interviews Tony Salmons.

—Robin McConnell of Inkstuds weighs in on the Before Watchmen controversy, and Noah Berlatsky editorializes upon it for Slate.

—Andrew Rilstone tries to find neutral ground in the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee wars.

—A hand-drawn Tintin in America cover sold at auction for a record-breaking $1.6 million.

—As I believe we reported on the blog a while back (if not, I meant to), Ruben Bolling recently decided to begin offering digital subscriptions to his long-running Tom the Dancing Bug strip. Last week, he announced that it has already become his single biggest source of revenue.

 

Helpful Hints

Today on the site:

Nicole Rudick reviews Are You My Mother? and finds it a mixed experience.

Memoirs, even if they’re meant to describe the life of a person other than the author, are necessarily in part about the author—the story is, after all, from his or her perspective. Though Fun Home thoroughly traces her father’s life and works to show his interior life, the must haves and probablys Bechdel uses in imagining things he might have said or done make her the subject as much as her father; it is every bit about endeavoring to know a man she felt she may not have fully known. Mother, however, reveals little about its ostensible subject. There are too few details about her relations with her mother—we revisit some of the same events, each time with a new set of tools (courtesy Winnicott) with which to dissect the moment, to peer deeper into its inner workings, its dark corners. The results are sometimes fascinating—such as the multiple viewings of the same play at different points in the timeline—but it’s unfair to the potential richness of the narrative (and to the relationship) to make a handful of scenes stand in for five decades of mothering and daughtering.

And the mighty Tucker Stone, aided and abetted by Abhay Khosla, presents a more meditative column this week, taking in Chicago, the ’90s and the Wall Street Journal. Also, props to our own Mike Reddy! Now that’s a column.

Some quick links today:

Somehow these guys find time to talk about comics EVEN MORE. So here are Joe McCulloch’s latest notes on Comic Books Are Burning In Hell,with Matt Seneca and Tucker Stone. Intense comics tawk.

-This has been making the rounds and so why not a stop at the TCJ station: Bill Murray as the Human Torch in 1975. That reminds me of Saturday Night Live, which reminds me of two things: First, I still really enjoy early Chevy Chase movies: Fletch, National Lampoon’s Vacation… even that one with Goldie Hawn. And second: I’ve never seen Where the Buffalo Roam. Is it good?

-Ah, and step back in time, then move forward again and think of the lost stature of early 20th century illustrator Frederic Rodrigo Gruger.

-Well, I certainly love Jimmy Thompson and Robotman.

-Finally, and not that this matters, but my earliest comic book art memories are of Jim Aparo’s drawings. His fan club site hasn’t been updated in a while. Makes me realize I know very little about the man, so maybe I’ll just dip in for a minute this weekend.