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It Lives

We’ve got two new posts on the site this morning: Katie Haegele interviewing illustrator/cartoonist Eliza Frye, and the latest episode of TCJ Talkies, in which Mike Dawson talks to Renée French about everything from changing community standards in the comics community to her pseudonymous second career in children’s books.

Elsewhere on the internet, tributes to Moebius continue to appear. There’s no way we will be able to link to all of them, but frequent Journal contributor Matthias Wivel has written a great one focusing in on the artist’s late works. Charles Hatfield is also worth reading, I believe we forgot to link to Matt Seneca’s reaction from the weekend.

Seneca has also just posted a short interview with the jaw-droppingly prolific Michael DeForge.

In the wake of John Carter box-office reports, Evan Dorkin turns his mind to comics, and wonders what the biggest money-losing bomb in this medium has been? Most of the speculation so far has revolved around series, but my guess is that it’s more likely one of the books signed to big contracts in the brief recent period in which big publishers decided to make a big push into graphic novels.

Gary Panter have a talk to MOCAD last week, and video is now online.

Tom Spurgeon has a nice solid interview with IDW’s Scott Dunbier about their seemingly quite successful Artist’s Edition series, and their decision to reprint the Wally Wood volume.

And somehow on Monday I neglected to link to Sarah Glidden’s translation of Lewis Trondheim proposal for changes to the Angoulême festival.

As always, it seems, the biggest story working the comics internet right now is a new interview with Alan Moore, this time conducted by Kurt Amacker for Seraphemera Books. It’s a typically sprawling thing, most of which covers ground that will be very familiar to regular Moore interview-dissectors, though it’s also probably the most comprehensive source for his thoughts on Watchmen and DC’s interactions with him that has appeared in years. Robot 6, which is generally a quite good comic news blog that I would recommend to anyone interested in the more “mainstreamy” side of alternative comics, has an annoying habit of trolling its dimmer readers by pulling out the most pointed and insulting excerpts from Moore interviews. This time may be their trolliest post yet, and their commenters don’t disappoint, if you’re into savoring reading-comprehension problems. It looks to me like most of these commenters prove Moore’s point quite well, and he’s right that he’s better off without them reading his work.

There are a few more interesting parts of the interview worth pulling out, though. Here he is on one of the key reasons he thinks Before Watchmen is a stupid idea:

You see, part of the problem with all this–and the reason why Watchmen was such an extraordinary book during its time–was that it was constructed upon literary lines. It had a beginning, it had a middle, and it had an end. It wasn’t constructed as an endless soap opera that would run until everybody ran out of interest in it. It was deliberately meant to show what comics could do if you applied some of those quite ordinary literary values to them. Like I’ve said, this was the one book that elevated the comics medium, the comics industry, above the point where it had previously been languishing. And where, when I had entered the American industry in the early ’80s, it was close to death. They were going down the tubes, and they desperately needed the shot in the arm that all of the hype surrounding Watchmen provided for them.

What the comics industry has effectively said is, “Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.” It was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, “So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.” and “Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.”

And here’s part of his defense against the accusation that he has used many other artist’ characters in his own books:

Other people’s characters, right. Yeah, I’ve heard that. Now, what needs explaining is that you’re talking about two or three different things, there. With The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, you’re talking about a literary phenomenon that has nothing to do with comics. I can get to that in a moment. But, in terms of comics, when I entered the comics industry, I was given characters that the company owned, which were on their last legs–ones which were so lame that they were practically on the verge of cancellation.

Swamp Thing had been, I suppose, created by Len Wein (although in retrospect it really wasn’t much more than a regurgitation of Hillman Comics’ The Heap with a bit of Rod Serling purple prose wrapped around it). When I took over that character at Len Wein’s suggestion, I did my best to make it an original character that didn’t owe a huge debt to previously existing swamp monsters. And when I finished doing that book, yes, of course I understood that other people were going to take it over. That went for characters that I had created, like John Constantine. I understood that when I had finished with that character that it would just be absorbed into the general DC stockpile and I believe that I’ve expressed my admiration. I think that Brian Azzarello’s editor had heard that I quite liked the job that he did with Richard Corben on Hellblazer and he phoned up asking me for a quote. I don’t know if they ever used it, but I gave them a fulsome one.

This is because those were characters the company owned and I understood that. And I understood that whether I had created the characters like John Constantine, or whether I’d simply recreated them beyond all recognition like Swamp Thing, that these would just go into the general comic company’s stockpiles. I’ve never objected to that. I mean, I don’t think it is necessarily the fairest thing, but I’ve not objected to that.

And how he feels about creator’s rights:

My position on all of this has hardened over the years. And, to say this is just what happens in comics–that this is just the tradition in comics–characters get passed from one creator to another and that’s just how it is–why is it like that? And, where did these characters come from in the first place? Did they all spring from the brow of Zeus, fully-formed? Or, was there somebody who created them at some point? Was there a sort of Jerry Robinson or Bill Finger? Or, was there a Siegel and Schuster? Or a Martin Nodell or a Gardener Fox [sic] who got robbed? And then, of course the attitude–and I probably shared in this when I first started working for American comics–the attitude now is that it’s just toys in the toy box, isn’t it? You get to play with your favorite toys from the DC or Marvel toy box. Yeah, I don’t want to do that anymore. Those toys were pried out of the fingers of dead men, and were pried from their families and their children. That’s just wrong.

 

What a Crowd

On the site: It’s Tuesday so that means you get a dose of schooling from Joe McCulloch. Chris Mautner reviews Tezuka’s Princess Knight. And we also continue to update the tributes to Moebius post.

Elsewhere:

-There is a whole raft of Moebius links out there, but my favorite is this blog post of photos of the artist with other artists over the course of his career. A close second is this fine appreciation of his influence on popular culture over at Tor.com.

-Ivan Brunetti has a New Yorker cover on the stands and a few words about it, too.

-Proof Instagram is useful: A shot of Jaime Hernandez at work on a new Love and Rockets page.

-The strange story of someone selling a fake Ernie Bushmiller drawing. If I was going to fake an artist I’d stay away from someone as clean-lined and precise as Bushmiller.

 

An Era Ends

The legendary French cartoonist Jean “Moebius” Giraud passed away Saturday. Kim Thompson has written our obituary for him:

Like his namesake single-surfaced geometric figure, Giraud enjoyed two distinct careers that could be considered opposite sides of a coin, or a continuation of one another: As “Gir,” he co-created, illustrated, and eventually wrote the Western series Lt. Blueberry for over four decades, while as “Moebius,” he drew and often wrote some of the most revolutionary and dazzling science fiction comics ever created — as well as providing costume and set designs for such visually groundbreaking movies as Alien, TRON, and The Fifth Element.

Either career would have placed him at the forefront of his chosen trade; braided together into one astonishing life, the two made him indisputably one of the greatest cartoonists of the second half of the 20th century.

Thompson interviewed Giraud for this magazine in 1987, and over the weekend we reposted that talk. As Thompson wrote in the introduction, “It has become difficult, if not impossible, to understand the shattering impact [Moebius's best pieces] had as they appeared throughout the ’70s. Like all revolutions, they need a context to be fully appreciated.” The wide-ranging interview was designed to provide that context, and is still well worth reading for that purpose today.

We also have gathered a collection of tributes to the great artist from such figures as Mike Allred, Anders Nilsen, Zak Sally, and John Workman. We plan to keep adding remembrances to that post as more come in.

Of course, many tributes to Moebius have already appeared online, from creators like Neil Gaiman and Jason (Robot 6 gathers more industry reaction here), and from writers such as Tom Spurgeon, Paul Gravett, Heidi MacDonald, and Bryan Munn.

Rodrigo Baeza has posted scans of a late-1970s interview with Moebius, and the aforementioned Spurgeon has gathered a collection of videos featuring him. The Forbidden Planet blog links to an hour-long BBC documentary.

Much more has been written and will continue to be written honoring Moebius over the next few days and weeks—and decades.

Yesterday, we published a new column by Frank Santoro, featuring an interview with the cartoonist Zack Soto about his new webcomics venture, Study Group Comics.

And sadly, we must also report the untimely death of Don Markstein, Comics Revue editor and founder of the Toonopedia.

 

No, Just Asking

Today on the site:

Matt Seneca on the great Joost Swarte’s Is That All There Is?.

Elsewhere:

That awesome all-nude John Carter of Mars comic is still going. Perfectly applicable to Tim’s comment on Ken Parille’s essay. Via. In other looking-at-nude-stuff news, here are pictures of the very first Sub-Mariner story, which is surprisingly lush and deliberate. Also, spend some time looking at this Tumblr and really get inside the mind of comics fan Tom Devlin.

In cartoonist news, Jim Woodring is in Alaska and he is drawing; and this Gabrielle Bell new book announcement is fun in and of itself.

 

 

Let’s Go

Ryan Holmberg continues his essential column on the history of alternative manga today with an introduction to the concept of batakusai (which means “butter-stinking,” or in other words, overly Westernized) and its usage within the context of manga.

This term supposedly dates back to the Edo period, when visiting English and Portuguese traders were derided for their strong body odors thought to be caused by a fat and butter-rich diet. Most Japanese did not eat “four-legged creatures” until the latter nineteenth century, due to a combination of religious prohibitions and prejudices. Milk and milk-skin products had been consumed by royalty and aristocrats since the seventh century, but dairy was still regarded an oddity by Japanese in contact with foreigners during the Edo period. “Cheese” had been reported in Japanese markets by Jesuit missionaries as far back as the sixteenth century. But since there was no cheese in Japan at the time, they were probably misidentifying blocks of tofu.

A collection of early comics drawn by the late Ronald Searle during his time in a Japanese POW camp (see Warren Bernard’s bio of Searle for more details) has just been discovered.

Here’s a short article on Foo, the fanzine of Robert and Charles Crumb, once again coming to the conclusion that at least in their childhoods, Charles was the better artist. By the way, early Crumb fanatics may not have heard that the upcoming new edition of volume one of the Complete Crumb will include a newly discovered complete 1962 issue of Arcade. We’ll have an expanded look at the new material on the site soon.

Bart Beaty wrote an interesting short take on the Katz/Maus controversy yesterday. For inexplicable reasons, this somehow spilled over into the comments section of this site, and Dan gave more of his views here. I haven’t seen the Katz book myself (for those of you too lazy to click on the links above, it’s a repurposed version of Maus, in which the contents of the book are apparently unchanged, except that the heads of all characters within it have been turned feline), but it sounds like I’d agree with both Beaty and Dan, contradictory as that might initially seem. I have no thoughts on the legality of the situation, not knowing a single thing about French or Belgian copyright law.

Robert Boyd remembers Dale Yarger, a former designer of The Comics Journal, among many other Fantagraphics projects.

Steven Brower discusses the covers of recent Jack Kirby books, and the trend of using artists other than Kirby for them. (Basically, he’s against it.)

 

I Got A…

Today on the site we have: Steve Ringgenberg’s obituary of Sheldon Moldoff; And Ken Parille, who swears he’s not writing a superhero column, turned in a piece about superhero bodies and costumes. Ken is the co-editor of the forthcoming (and excellent, but more on that in another post) book The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist. That same book holds a very funny and insightful essay by Chris Ware, whose home is examined in photographs over at Trip City. Yesterday, in a link to Joe McCulloch’s incredible post, Tom Spurgeon mentioned a possible shift in how comics history is being built these days. I think he’s right. Part of the impetus for ye ol’ Comics Comics six years ago was to reshape the way we thought about the cartooning lineage, and I think it’s gone even further than we ever imagined. The surge in interest in things like Heavy Metal, and the corresponding HM-link comics being published now is a real generational shift. How it plays out is anyone’s guess, but if I was still in the writing-books-about-comics-history biz I’d be looking over my shoulder. Speaking of which, here’s Michel Fiffe on the mostly forgotten series Wasteland. For some “trad” comics history here’s a mysterious Joe Simon publishing discovery.

And, hey, Kevin Huizenga finished a new book. This is good news.

Finally, since we all love videos, it’s TCJ-fave Tom De Haven talking about comics in the curriculum.

 

 

 

Emergency Room Pallor

An unplanned and prolonged visit to the ER on a neighbor’s behalf (nothing serious) means that there’s a pretty good chance I missed something this morning. So please forgive me that.

This morning, we are reposting the 1999 Comics Journal interview with the late Sheldon Moldoff (most well-known for his work on Batman) conducted by Steve Ringgenberg. Here’s an excerpt:

No, I never had any story credit or anything on it. Everything is Bob Kane. And I say it would have been nice, if at some point, he would have said, “Shelly, I’m really famous now and it’s time to say thanks to a couple of people.” Jerry Robinson, other people, give us a word of thanks. It would have made him a bigger person. It wouldn’t have hurt him any to say, “These people helped me.”

Also, this morning, it looks like Joe McCulloch has finally gone insane, using his weekly guide to new comics to write a nearly book-length treatise on a 1980 issue of Métal Hurlant. It’s a good kind of insane, though, featuring his thoughts on Pratt, Chaland, and Druillet, among others.

And Jesse Pearson reviews Kingdom Come, J.G. Ballard’s final novel, just published for the first time in the United States.

Elsewhere, my confrère Dan Nadel finally broke down and started a Tumblr. If you like a good rant, ask Ray Sohn his thoughts on Tumblr some time.

As has been noted many places, a new small batch of Penguin Graphic Classics covers has been released. Mike Mignola’s cover for Heart of Darkness is getting the most attention. It’s a striking image, and Mignola is a master, but something about it sits wrong to me—it’s too cartoonish an image of evil when compared to the horrors of the novella. It may work better in person, though. Ross MacDonald’s cover for Robert Graves’s Greek Myths (a truly great book) is amusing, but bugs me if only because it furthers the idiotic notion that superheroes are our modern mythology. I know, I know, it’s a joke.

I’m not familiar with Hannah Eaton’s work, but this preview/interview over at Forbidden Planet blog looks promising.

 

David Mazzucchelli Disavows Forthcoming Batman Reprint

I recently asked artist David Mazzucchelli about the forthcoming reprint of Batman: Year One, set for release March 14 from DC. David told me the following:

DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it. I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary —  several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition ofBatman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.

I asked if he’d contacted DC, and David explained that he “wrote letters and sent emails to the president, both publishers, and the editor in charge of special editions. No response.” I asked about his forthcoming Artist’s Edition of his Daredevil work, and he replied, “Scott Dunbier has been in touch with me from the beginning; I supplied all the scans of the artwork.”

This seems like a ridiculous and avoidable mistake by DC since, indeed, they had a willing collaborator in David, but somehow it’s not terribly surprising.