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Pants Optional

Welcome to the new week.

Today on the site:

The great Richard Gehr returns with a brand new Know Your New Yorker Cartoonist, this time featuring the most excellent Arnie Levin. Here’s a choice morsel:

GEHR: Did you have any relationship with your father?

LEVIN: When I went to get a passport, they ask me, “What’s your father’s name?” I said, “Ernest.” And the gal said to me, “No, it’s not.” I said, “Yes, it is!” She said, “No. That’s not what’s here.” So I called my mother and aunt to ask if Dad had any other names. Nothing. We were there all day calling people. I was getting desperate because we were gonna take a trip and I needed a passport. Then the gal asked me, “What borough did you live in?” I said the Bronx, She said no. I said, “This is impossible!” and asked her what she had down for his name. She said, “E.” [Laughter] I said, “E?” “Yes. E. Lawrence Levin.” She suddenly wants to get literary!

And of course, if you follow the site 24/7 you’d know that Frank Santoro posted a column yesterday detailing some of his current obsessions:

  currently obsessed with old issues of Optic Nerve. They look really really good and the stories hold up. The graphic design of the individual comics is great. And I really like Adrian’s “stage blocking” when he composes scenes. There is a very real sense of space in his comics. People in the landscape, in chairs, cars – all feel real and drawn and observed. Very hard to do without relying on photo refs. Tomine has a super developed sense of timing. I also like how he uses the “set” of the room or landscape to show physical as well as emotional distance from each other. Like a good cinematographer.

That should really quench your comics thirst, but if you’re like me, and you find yourself parched for comics, here’s a little more:

-Paul Gravett on comics history books.

-An entire Tumblr devoted to absurd images of Lupin III.

-Al Williamson and Joe Simon do a collaborative dance.

-A fine new Kate Beaton comic.

-More New Yorker cartooning: Bruce Eric Kaplan, who wrote the Seinfeld New Yorker cartoon bit, interviewed on that very subject.

-And not comics, but surely picture stories: The late Chris Marker once made a really excellent CD-ROM, which is now online. (via Jog)

 

 

 

It’s a Hit

Another week done gone, huh? And into the weekend for all of us. I’m feeling a little jaunty about it. But not to worry, Tucker Stone and co. are here to leave you with some feelings about the medium you love and cherish.

Elsewhere, the big, rumored-about news is that MoCCA has announced via press release that it will “transfer its assets” to the Society of Illustrators. This apparently includes “its permanent art collection and the MoCCA Fest name”. Also, from the PR:

The Society will continue and expand MoCCA’s mission in a number of ways: staging MoCCA Fest in its current location, dedicating a gallery in the Society building to MoCCA’s Permanent Collection, continuing MoCCA programming, and curating a special exhibition of works from MoCCA’s Permanent Collection in their Hall of Fame Gallery (on display March 5-May 4), which will run in conjunction with a major exhibit, “The Comic Art of Harvey Kurtzman,” curated by graphic designer and comics-anthology editor Monte Beauchamp. There will be extensive arts programming around both of these exhibits, including lectures, workshops, film and music series. Current MoCCA memberships will be honored at the Society of Illustrators.

I think it’s a bit of shame to place comics under the umbrella of illustration (though I love the latter), if only because it only just recently crawled out from under said umbrella and I prefer the medium stand on its own. Then again, as above, their histories are well intermingled, so a smart curator could do some interesting shows working deep in the Society stacks. I’ll be very curious how the Society handles comics, and also how it handles the current (very controversial) MoCCA board/staff. I’ll refrain from reading too much into the PR. We’ll have full coverage early next week.

And in other places online: It’s TCJ-contributors run amuck, writing for other publications like they haven’t a care in the world, throwing words hither and yon with great flair.

Here’s our Northern friend Jeet Heer on Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See for the LA Review of Books:

Mouly’s new collection Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See, documents the Brown era and beyond, and shows how she gave the public face of The New Yorker a make-over, turning out covers that are much livelier and more timely while also skirting at the edge of good taste, and occasionally getting reined in by the magazine’s governing code of propriety. What does a cultural agitator do when she’s put in charge of the covers of a venerable publication, one that, in recent decades, has had a tropism towards stuffiness? One predictable innovation was recruiting a cohort of artists from Raw, including Burns, Richard McGuire, Robert Crumb, and Jacques de Loustal. Eventually, Mouly also brought on a wider array of cartoonists from outside the Raw orbit, like Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, and Seth. These artists brought the inventiveness and élan of contemporary narrative cartooning to The New Yorker.

Here’s that Tucker Stone again, co-opting Joe McCulloch (patron saint of the unreadable-yet-intriguing), Matt (handsome man) Seneca, and Chris (wise & stable) Mautner with their gold darned podcast.

Oh heavens, here’s Sean T. Collins telling you about Batman books for Rolling Stone!

And, beneath that handsome cover there will be some comics in this year’s Best American Comics. Here is a list of them.

Finally, despite my intense love for his work, I did not know that Seymour (my fantasy football league illustrator/designer of choice for my life) Chwast had a column over at Print. Now you know, too.

 

Up to the Majors

Well the internet has arrived to my dwelling here in Copake, New York. It’s a nice internet, though replete with strange angry vibes that my dog, Mr. Fatty Pants, wisely tells me to ignore. Fatty Pants says: “Hey man, just chill.” And so I do.

But my chilling should have no bearing on your comics reading habits.

Today on the site we have Ron Goulart continuing his correspondence column, this time with Basil Wolverton. If I haven’t mentioned this before, I should note that Ron is an absolute living treasure of a comics historian. He was the first to document and explain Jack Cole’s life and work, and his artist-centric approach to the medium has yielded numerous essential books, including both volumes of The Great Comic Book Artists, and my personal favorite, The Encyclopedia of American Comics. Anyhow, here’s a bit from Wolverton:

After Wolverton replied, I learned that he didn’t labor in the New York area but in the Pacific Northwest. He resided in Vancouver, Washington and contributed by mail. The Funnies, Inc. shop handled much of his comic book. His letterhead contained the bottom line “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People.” He sent me a small original drawing of Powerhouse, which I immediately tacked to my bedroom wall to add to my growing collection. In a later letter Wolverton enclosed a snapshot of himself holding his dog. He looked unlike Spacehawk or Powerhouse Pepper. But was a chubby fellow with curly hair. In the letter he explained, “the one with the coat is me.” He was always polite and helpful and upbeat.

And elsewhere online, a diverse selection of reading material with which to wile away your summer day…

Brokelyn talks to Leslie Stein, Lisa Hanawalt, and Brendan Leach about how they make a living (or don’t) in comics.

Howard Chaykin has resurrected his erotic comic book series, Black Kiss, and talks about it here. Chaykin is one of those artists I’m perpetually interested in, for the arc of his career as much as the work itself.

Sean Howe, whose forthcoming Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, is a miracle of research and storytelling, has a classic bit of correspondence from Steve Ditko.

Warren Ellis writes about British adventure comic strips. I’ve only just gotten on to Modesty Blaise, and am enjoying the strip a lot.

Michael Dooley’s two part interview with Susie Cagle, with a guest appearance by Ted Rall, is here and here.

And finally, not comics, but this is an excellent and stylistically diverse career in book cover design.

 

 

Liberation Now!

Well it’s a new day here. Tim is still on vacation, my internet situation remains iffy, but we must soldier on.

Though I’m not going to get into the comments on my little screed last week,  I want to take a minute (despite my better instincts) and clarify a couple things for the record. First, it should be evident that the piece references the use of Kickstarter for one particular project, which, to me, represents a species of projects, by one kind of entity. It was not covering Kickstarter in general, or individual artists using Kickstarter, etc.  I’m glad it lead to discussion, but I certainly wasn’t, as has been intimated, taking a position on Kickstarter in general. And second, I noticed some confusion about my role in the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival vis-a-vis what I wrote. BCGF is run by three people. It is not dictated by my tastes. It’s run with the goal of making the best and most diverse festival possible, and in all cases the majority rules, not any one person’s ideas. And that’s it. Now on to important comic book business.

Today on the site we bring you Sean Rogers on Flex Mentallo and Grant Morrison’s writing tropes. Here’s a taste:

…So far, so good, right? Scope, complexity, ambition—all the hallmarks of a potentially expansive SF experience. But despite the abstract appeal of Morrison’s ideas and approach, there is very little enjoyment to be had in their execution, not least because he assails his readers with verbiage at once high-flown and ham-fisted. The Morrison touch—deployed everywhere, endlessly—is to crowd one high concept after another, reverently leaving each alone, never to return to any one idea again.

And finally, hey, all of TCJ will now also be available via Alexander Street Press, which provides digital archives to subscribing institutions.

Once again it must be a short post. More soon!

 

Why Fuss?

Sorry to miss you yesterday. Tim is on vacation and I found myself both without and far away from the Internet. Currently an iPad and 3G are it so this will be a minimal post. But it sure looks like things have been busy around here.

If you’re just tuning in, there’s a ton of new material on the site.

-Nicole Rudick on one of the all-time great comics, Gloriana, by Kevin Huizenga.

-Joe Daly, whose Dungeon Quest series is one of the best and strangest surprises in recent years, was interviewed by Eric Buckler.

-Here’s everyone’s face European, Brecht Evens, live from SDCC.

-Frank Santoro reporting on his one-man comic-con.

-And finally, no week would be complete without Joe McCulloch’s “Week.”

Enjoy.

 

There Has to be a Rational X-Planation

Tim and Dan are “separately geographically indisposed and will return Tuesday.”

I dunno if my belated thoughts about SDCC12 or my critical evaluation of the Dark Knight Rises is of any real interest, but I’m unable to refrain from sharing a comic-con fantasy come true: I said “there should be an X-Files episode about the Fantagraphics dishwasher,” and lo, but esteemed colleague and TCJ contributor Shaenon Garrity made it so.

 

 

 

 

 

No Good Reason

Today on the site Tucker Stone, who recently told me “Everything’s coming up roses for Tucker Stone”, and then sold me some Punisher comics, is sticking to his “positivity” vibe, and also ropes in Tim O’Neil to tell us more.

And our fearless leader, Gary Groth, interviews Gilbert Shelton in this video straight from the streets and alleys of SDCC.

And now, instead of a buncha links, I have to get something off my chest. I am irritated by this Kickstarter project for a Garo tribute book called SP7: Alt. Comics Tribute to GARO Manga, edited by Ian Harker and Box Brown. Here’s why…

This is some of the pitch:

The concept behind SP7 is to contextualize the post-manga wave in western art-comix within the broader history of manga itself by paying tribute to the ground-breaking publication GARO. In short, we feel as though the GARO phenomenon of personal, idiosyncratic, and experimental manga is re-manifesting itself within contemporary art-comix due to the residual influence of the 2000’s manga boom in America.

-It’s deeply stupid about history. Yes, Garo contained plenty of avant-garde work, but, as anyone who has read any of the work therein would know, that was more than equally balanced with genre historical fiction; sentimental memoirs; literary fiction, etc, etc. The editors would also know that if they’d actually stopped to consider the material they’re claiming as their own, or, hey dipped into any random hundred words written on this web site over the past year by Ryan Holmberg. He also wrote a book on the subject! It amazes me that even now, in 2012, with all the resources available, that people supposedly engaged in the medium aren’t actually curious about it. They’re far more entrenched in making it reflect themselves than in actually learning something. It’s just a lot easier to just grab something (Rob Liefeld! Garo!) and make it your “thing” than to actually carve out an identity or do some research.

This passage is particularly silly:

What EC was to the Undergrounds of the late-60’s/early 70’s, Manga is to today’s most interesting underground cartoonists.

Here manga suddenly comes to mean the same as Garo, and Garo the same as manga. That would mean that the less-than-a-dozen books in the US containing Garo-related material somehow equals all of manga. Manga has been an influence on a generation of cartoonists, from Bryan Lee O’Malley (Underground? Art? I have no idea) to Brandon Graham to Dash Shaw to C.F., but it’s not primarily Garo so much as the overwhelming mass of manga that hit these shores over the last decade.

And what the fuck is “underground comics” in 2012? I literally have no idea. I mean, not so underground that it’s not being promoted on an Amazon.com-administered web site? Worse yet, the writers don’t even know their US-comics history/theory. EC was a comic book company. Manga is the Japanese term for comics. Garo was an anthology. Three very different things. But let’s just follow this windy logic — Sure, EC was important  to 1960s-70s underground comics as a liberating influence, but was equally a weight to get out from under. Just ask Bill Griffith, who decried its pervasiveness. Many of the best of those cartoonists (Crumb, Spiegelman, Green, Kominsky, Noomin, Wilson, et al) show no influence by EC at all.

By featuring the works of these western artists together in a traditional right-to-left/newsprint/pulp-manga format we hope to engender discussion about the trans-national influence of manga on the broader world of art-comix.

-Ok, we’re back to manga again. From Garo to manga. How does a format engender a discussion? You know what engenders discussion? Intelligent writing or informed art on the subject. And if you want to make a groovy anthology just make it — don’t latch onto something you don’t understand (in the slightest) to make your point. It’s sleazy. Stand on your own. Then again, maybe it’s time I got around to my “Metal Hurlant Tribute Anthology”. Wait a minute…

-And what the fuck does art-comix even mean? People call what I publish “art-comix” and I  look over my shoulder as though someone called me “Mr. Nadel”. I don’t understand. What is art-comix? Different than regular comics? I like comics. I also liked the zine I Like Comics. But I don’t think I like “comix”. Garo contained comics, right? Was there an “x” involved? I doubt it. Was Winsor McCay “art comix”? If you make comics, make comics.

-And finally, Kickstarter. Guess what? You don’t get to call yourself underground if you’re on Kickstarter. Guess what else? You don’t get to call yourself a publisher either; you’re just someone who pays a printing bill. Take pre-orders on your site. Sell your boots. Do what you have to do. But don’t go begging for money so that you can then give 5% of it to Amazon.com, which is actively trying to put you (!), and the stores you hope to shove this shit into, out of business. I’m all for raising money for art, but it would be nice if there was some sense of proportion. No one needs this anthology but it might do fine “in the market”. I’m so sick of seeing perfectly viable (viable, but not smart or interesting; viable) comic book projects on there. People can do what they want, but when you’re out there hustling dough for your movie-ready zombie-baseball graphic novel, or fucking Cyberforce, or your poorly thought through Garo book, you just look like a schmuck.

I realize there are seemingly bigger problems in the comics world, but I guess I’m thinking locally.

Ok, have a great weekend!

p.s.: Frank Santoro is having another big back issue sale this weekend in NYC!

 

Overload

Today we bring you Chris Mautner’s lengthy interview with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden about everything from their new book, Mastering Comics, to navigating collaboration as a married couple to the vagaries of style to moving to France to the difficulties inherent in teaching cartooning:

ABEL: Talking about writing, it’s a thing that’s really difficult in the context of the process that we teach. It’s really difficult to teach explicitly.

MAUTNER: Why is that?

ABEL: There isn’t time. We’re trying to get through all of this stuff, all of the basics of cartooning – how to write a page, how to do lettering, how to make a thumbnail, how to whatever – and a lot of this stuff, we teach it somewhat Socratically. It happens in the context of critiques and so on. But we’re not drawing out and talking explicitly about principles of writing.

MADDEN: To interject, at SVA, we teach a fifteen-week semester of three-hour studio classes. Which sounds like a lot of time but it goes by really quickly and it’s usually barely enough. You take attendance, collect homework, and all of a sudden the class is halfway over. It’s very hard to get in-depth, especially when you’ve got a class of fifteen kids or more.

ABEL: Often our classes are in the twenty-student range and if you’re going to be critiquing a comic for each of those students, it’s gonna take the whole class period.

MADDEN:
Jessica and I teach a full-year class together called “Storytelling” where a lot of the activities and ideas in the book either come from or are test-run there. But even in that class we never do a lesson on composition and things like that. That’s all stuff that has to come out inductively through the teaching process, where we can observe the individual panels. It’s another reason we wanted to have the book handy — so you can have all this stuff written down and read it separately. That was one of our practical reasons for doing the book in the first place, for teachers to have all this extra stuff, all the real stuff there that in practice most of us don’t really get around to teaching in class.

Elsewhere:

—Kiel Phegley at Comic Book Resources has a new interview with Grant Morrison that’s been linked to pretty much everywhere this week. In it, Morrison reveals that he is going to stop writing DC superhero comics for a while (Phegley unfortunately never pressed Morrison on his feelings about recent creators’ rights controversies around the company). [UPDATE: I’ve been told the issues are raised in a later, not yet published part of the discussion.]

—The cult cultural critic Erik Davis (Techgnosis) delivers a two-part examination of underground pioneer Rick Griffin at HiLobrow.

—An old BBC interview with a seven-year-old Neil Gaiman has recently surfaced and been republished at the Village Voice. I’m personally less interested in the fact that Gaiman was talking about Scientology than I am in how assured he is as a seven-year-old.

—At Comics Grid, Kathleen Dunley interviews Seth about his philosophy of book design and the use of computers, among other things.

—There’s a new online issue of the academic journal ImageTexT up, with an article from David Kunzle about Carl Barks, along with a John Porcellino illustration and lots of interesting looking reviews. Worth checking out for the more scholarly among you.

—Paul Slade has a massive article up devoted to Reg Smythe and Andy Capp.

—Heidi MacDonald at Publishers Weekly reports that Alternative Comics is relaunching, under the new leadership of Marc Arsenault (Wow Cool), and will be publishing work by Sam Henderson, James Kochalka, Ted May, and Karl Stevens, among others.

—Old school comics blogger Alan David Doane has relaunched his old site, Comic Book Galaxy.

—Michael Kurfeld interviews Robert Crumb for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

—Maira Kalman talks about the meaning of art and life:

—And finally, via Milo George, someone has unearthed and reposted the old Fort Thunder website.