On the Wall

Today, Ron Goulart returns with the second installment in his "Connecticut Cartoonists" series, this time turning to the men behind Superman.

...[Wayne] Boring stayed on and became the chief artist on Superman. By the 1950s, he was allowed to sign his work. He drew many covers, did about half the comic book stories (with Al Plastino imitating him on quite a few others) and also did the newspaper strip until the late '60s. Editor-in-Chief Mort Weisinger, a man not especially well-liked by many of his employees, was in charge of all things Superman. Boring told me that one day Weisinger called him into his office and fired him on the spot. A bit later, Stan Kaye, who was his primary inker, was also let go. Boring was one of the artists who initiated the trend for superheroes who looked like they worked out at the gym and certainly did a lot of weight lifting. Jim Steranko praised him in his history of comic books.

Boring then became a non-person as far as the then administration of DC was concerned. A hardcover book, Superman: From the 30s to the 70s, was published in 1971 and his well-known hands-on-hips portrait of Superman was used on the cover. There were also over eighty pages of his work in the compilation. But he was not mentioned at all, however, and neither were Siegel and Shuster. A rather strange omission. At a lunch with some Connecticut cartoonist, I brought my copy of the book to show Wayne. He never even knew about it. He went through it, talking about the cartoonists whose work was also included—Paul Cassidy, Leo Nowak and John Sikela. That evening he phoned to say that he was very upset about the fact that he got no credit for his work and nothing in the way of compensation. I suggested he might want to talk to a lawyer.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Craig Hubert talks to 2D Cloud cofounder Raighne Hogan.

Initially it was mostly just Maggie Umber and myself leading this vehicle from 2007-2010. Justin Skarhus, while with us from the beginning, became more involved over time. Roles have been sorta liquid. For our current incarnation, there’s sorta five of us — but we work very directly with the artists we sign, if that makes sense? Like, they work with us on production, marketing, social media, etc — we want them to be part of the conversation with these types of things. It’s important that their voice is a part of the process.

Andy Oliver interviews Austin English.

I also missed any distinction between comics and art books as I was growing up—my mom gave me Tintin, but she also had Matisse monographs laying around which she really loved. Books in general with images in them were very comforting to me as a kid, and somewhere along the line the two worlds blurred for me. I accept that for people in art and people in comics there are very clear borders, but I just never saw it that way.

April Kilcrease profiles Dan Clowes.

On a Sunday afternoon in 2010, the Oakland-based cartoonist Daniel Clowes wanted to watch a movie. But not just any movie. As he described it in a recent phone interview, he wanted to see one of "those weird science fiction movies" that they used to make in the Sixties and Seventies "that were sort of heady and cerebral," like the Russian space station movie, Solaris, which probes ideas of memory, identity, and what it means to love someone, or The 10th Victim, a dystopian Italian film that mixes Pop Art decor with a plot centered on a televised assassination game. "I began thinking, 'I wish there were more of those that I could rent,'" he said. "'I guess I'll do my own.'"

For The Paris Review, Sam Smith explores the history of Alfred E. Neuman.

For the half-length color painting of their red-haired mascot, [Al] Feldstein told Mingo that he didn’t want the boy to “look like an idiot—I want him to be lovable and have an intelligence behind his eyes. But I want him to have this devil-may-care attitude, someone who can maintain a sense of humor while the world is collapsing around him.” MAD insiders referred to the kid by various names—Mel Haney, Melvin Cowsnofsky—but when the magazine won legal rights to the face, he was officially christened Alfred E. Neuman. A pseudonym without a specific host, it was one of many counterfeit names used as running gags in the magazine.

Kim Janssen at The Chicago Tribune visits Quimby's Bookstore.

Even as Amazon has driven far larger bookstore chains into bankruptcy, Quimby's this year celebrates its 25th anniversary as the thriving hub for a community of self-publishers, a handful of whom were devoted enough to work on their zines at the store's annual overnight "Zlumber Party."

"Nobody here is about to become a millionaire," said longtime store manager Liz Mason, 42, who describes the sleepover as her favorite event of the year. "But there are people who come to us from all over the world. They tell us they have a two-hour layover in Chicago and it's just enough time to hop on a train and come down here. We're a destination stop for cool people."

—Funnies. Richard Sala recently began posting a new online series, The Bloody Cardinal. I love his serial work.


Made Myself

Today on the site: Monica Johnson on what she sees missing in current feminist comics. 

We seem to be experiencing a moment when all it takes for a comic to be classified as “feminist” is a woman author who tells her own story, or when female characters embody male-centric tropes of strength and power. That’s pretty limited criteria. I want better feminist comics than that, and that means demanding more complex and challenging narratives and characters. I don’t want feminist characters to read as “angry women” or “violent women,” but self-aware, articulate women who laugh, fart, and give birth way more often than they roundhouse kick.


Here's an account of Carol Tyler's recent event at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Philip Nel points out some recent Dr. Seuss footage that's popped up online.

A tribute to Arnold Drake over at Comics Alliance.

Here's a rare interview with veteran Swamp Thing veteran artist John Totleben.


Bradbury Building

Today, we present Annie Mok's interview with K.L. Ricks, the New England-based cartoonist whose eerie, atmospheric comic for Hazlitt, “Country Darkness", concludes with its third part next month.

I want the audience to know exactly what I mean. I want there to be almost no ambiguity, because it’s not written. There’s no, “she said sourly,” “she said slyly,” I want it to read. Also, always trying to push… I hope this is a good example: one of the things that I found appealing, and a lot of people find appealing about [Hellboy creator] Mike Mignola is how he gets image and weight across in his incredibly stylistic artwork. But that comes from decades of observing and drawing. He put in the work before he could strip it down and simplify it. That’s what I wanna go for: I observe, I draw. I’m always trying to learn new things and new ways. I’m always down to expand as an artist. I want to bring that into my work. And just keep evolving as an artist, and not stagnate. I’m always worried, like, “Oh, my character’s too stiff, and their mouth is not open enough!” So I’m always trying to push and expand.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Tom Hart about his memoir, Rosalie Lightning.

Early when I thought I had to tell this story, I was going to tell as much of the horrible stuff as I could. That seemed like it was important. Maybe it was a perverse desire to make other people suffer, too. I don’t know. But at a certain point I realized that I had some scenes outlined that I didn’t want to draw. I didn’t want to draw them and I didn’t think anybody would want to read them. It made me think, this is the wrong stuff to include in the book. I’m not trying to tell the story exactly and I’m not trying to tell the worst of it. I needed to take a step back and figure out why I’m doing the book. I realized that it wasn’t about just depicting a bunch of horrible events. I think at that point I started acting a little more judicious in how I edited and what I took out.

Leslie Stein appears on Inkstuds.

—Misc. At Print, Michael Dooley writes briefly about the cartoons in Duke, a short-lived Playboy knockoff aimed at African American men.

For his day job in publishing, regular TCJ contributor Greg Hunter is looking for YA graphic novels, and holding an open call for submission.


Built Backyard

Today on the site the great Joe McCulloch comes through with the week in comics.


Speaking of Joe, the latest Kickstarter for Steve Ditko's work is now online.

I'll take a post on Dean Cornwell most anytime.

Nathan Gelgud draws the Oscars.

Here's a look at Paul Gravett's female cartoonists exhibition.



Today we are publishing Rob Kirby's interview with Robert Triptow, the longtime cartoonist who recently came back to attention with a new graphic novel, Class Photo.

My history is that I didn't get out there and force my work on people, I guess. I've never been good at writing book proposals and being a salesman. I've really had to do promo lately for Class Photo, but it's hard. I not-so-privately suffer from low self-esteem and generally can't stand the sight of my own work until years later. I've been poorly trained to be a published artiste by parents who trashed my childhood drawings because they couldn't relate to creativity. When I was growing up, a phrase I heard too many times was, "You're the best artist I've ever met, BUT..." and then it would be all my failings in life. It was an all-jock family. Drawing was not valued.

Certainly I've enjoyed positive feedback, but many bricks have been thrown my way. It's discouraging, to say the least, when you take a finished job in to your publisher and hear nothing but complaints about it -- that was my experience with Gay Comix. I was dissatisfied with the hurried nature of my work in that publication anyway, and I didn't feel like I connected with readers, I was too cynical and harsh. Also, there was never enough money paid to even feed me while I worked. On top of all were the people who regarded the work as pornography. It's not very encouraging to be told you've disgraced your relatives and actually been disowned for cartooning. It's already a challenge to sell a project to a cash-strapped publisher without all of that weighing one down.

We are also republishing Dan Nadel's 2003 interview with Brian Chippendale from The Comics Journal 256, to coincide with the release of his new collection, Puke Force.

NADEL: How did Fort Thunder snowball as it did?

Fort Thunder started in September 1995. I’d been in Lightning Bolt, which is me and Brian Gibson — and a since departed singer, Hisham Baroocha, another RISD student who now plays drums for the band Black Dice — since December ’94. Lightning Bolt practiced there, and we were there for five-and-a-half years and played 110 shows in that time. We had the space, and it was what we always wanted to do. We had bands come, and we had two-thirds of a whole floor of the building. About a year later, the landlord said he was going to move these other people into this other third, and put a hallway across our space to the fire escape. And so we told him, “No no no! We’ll take it. We’ll find our own people.” That’s when Jim Drain, Brian Ralph and Paul Lyons moved in. They were a little younger than us. I kind of knew Brian Ralph; he was the Fireball guy. Paul, I kind of knew; we hung out on occasion. Everyone hung out a little bit. It’s a small school. Jim, I didn’t really know very well, except that he was a guy that had smashed a window once at our place. They moved in around the beginning of the second year. We went up to seven people, and then Fred moved out. There was one room that was cursed, with this turnover of people. I think Fort Thunder, over the whole period, had about 24 people that came and went.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Mark Fiore has won the Herblock Prize.

The L.A. Times has announced the nominees for their annual book prize, including five graphic novels.

—Commentary. Paul Gravett writes about the underappreciated German artist Charlotte Salomon.

Susana Polo looks at the subscription-based digital comics service, Stela. The comics themselves don't seem particularly enticing (to me), but this is probably the general direction things are headed...

—Misc. Mike Lynch resurrects a 1964 Mad magazine feature in which six cartoonists—Schulz, Lazarus, Walker, Ernst, Saunders, and Kelly—drew the strips they would really like to have been making.


A Little Law

Hey it's Ryan Holmberg to bring you your weekend reading -- a look at pro-nuclear manga of the 1970s and 80s. Here's a bit:

What I want to look at here, however, is the pro side, the manga that said that the atom is good, that it is clean, that it is wonderful, that it is necessary and desirable. I am not (at least not in this article) thinking about the grey zone, people like Tezuka Osamu in the era of Tetsuwan Atomu, who embraced the atom as an energy source while fearing its military applications. This article is instead about black and white, about pens-for-hire and propaganda. Many manga pamphlets and manga books were produced by the government and the power industry to combat rising anti-nuclear sentiments, but here I focus on newspaper ads in manga and manga-esque form, which presumably, because of the high print-run of their venues, reached the most people.

Such blatant pronuclear material abounded while Katsumata made his anti-nuclear work in the 80s and 90s, so for me the present essay is helpful as an exercise in exploring Fukushima Devil Fish’s verso. I will update this essay as I learn more about the history and issues (so if you notice errors, please say so). Were it not for 2011, such manga propaganda would be thriving today. With plants now coming back online, perhaps there will be a renaissance in pronuclear manga as well. Using manga to dispel concerns about radiation and contamination has kept the genre alive in the meantime.


Hey, my old pal Molly Roth's comics project is featured in Dazed and Confused.

I'm always happy to see new drawings by Anders Nilsen.

This issue of Batman by Frank Robbins is like Munch doing comics if he'd lived into the 1970s and fallen on good times.


The Pause That Refreshes

Today, R.C. Harvey returns to the site with a lengthy exploration of how money has influenced comics:

Al Capp, who drew Li’l Abner as a newspaper comic strip character for most of his adult life, had a wooden leg and a speech impediment. When he talked, he punctuated his utterances with hiccoughed hoots of laughter that heralded the approach of a punchline long before anyone else could see it coming. In discussing his choice of careers, he used to say, amid irregularly emitted but almost suppressed guffaws, that he decided to become a comic strip cartoonist at the age of 11 when he learned that Bud Fisher was paid $5,000 a week for drawing Mutt and Jeff as newspaper comic strip characters and was constantly marrying French countesses.

“I decided that was for me," Capp would hoot. "After all, how much—hoot!—does a bottle of ink cost?” Another hoot.

This autobiographical fragment is, like many promulgated by Capp, somewhat awry. Fisher didn’t marry the Countess Aedita de Beaumont, whom he met on a trans-Atlantic boat ride while returning from France, until 1924 when Capp was 13 not 11. And by 1924, Fisher was making considerably more than $5,000 a week. (The Countess and Fisher soon divorced, but she and her offspring inherited the copyright on Mutt and Jeff, so her name appeared in the fine print on the strips.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Broken Frontier interviews Conor Stechschulte.

Most of my favorite art has a strong sense of the uncanny. The very act of reading comics involves the reader filling in the causes for represented effects, which is a big reason why I think it’s a medium uniquely suited for telling the kind of stories I’m interested in.

The stuff I want to get at, like desire or a kind of elemental fear or anxiety, are only diminished through trying to explain them. In fact, once you start explaining them you sort of aren’t even talking about them anymore. That said, I don’t want the reading of my work to feel trivial or obtuse. Trying to balance those things is the whole game for me right now, I think. Wish me luck.

Abraham Riesman interviews Michael DeForge.

Everything makes me anxious. I realize I'm anxious for no reason or reasons I can't always control, but yeah, I was an anxious kid. Now I'm an anxious adult. Even when my comics aren't overtly about that, they do depict a world that has a very nervous, hostile energy to it, because I think that is still the way I entered the world. I feel like there's a buzzing hostility underneath the surface of everything, even though I know rationally that's not actually the case.

—Reviews & Commentary.
For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jackson Ayres tries to pin down the so-called Dark Age of Comics.

If [Alan] Moore and [Frank] Miller are the creators most responsible for this grim and gritty turn, both are ambivalent about its legacy. Moore has frequently insisted that publishers misunderstood Watchmen, claiming they and culpable creators used it as validation for nihilistic, nasty, and insubstantial stories presented as sophisticated fare for “mature readers.” Even Miller, who, unlike Moore, has not dramatically changed his creative agenda or style, once described DC’s decision to kill Robin in a 1988–1989 run of Batman — an outcome determined by a readers’ poll — as “the most cynical thing that particular publisher has ever done.” Here Miller suggests an important distinction between cynicism as an artistic perspective and the cynicism of corporate publishing imperatives.

Jeet Heer's New Republic piece comparing Donald Trump to various figures from comics history is only tangentially related to this site's interests, but I'll take whatever Jeet-on-comics writing I can get.

In the imagination of right-wing populism, nationalism is a bridge that crosses the chasm of class. [Daddy] Warbucks might be richer than us, but he protects us from foreign foes. In the comic strip, Warbucks even had his own private army of assassins, who happily tortured and killed whoever menaced [Little Orphan] Annie. With his promise of brass-knuckle tactics against the Chinese, a wall against Mexicans, and a ban on Muslims entering the United States, Donald Trump is the Daddy Warbucks of our time, ready to save Little Orphan America from the crafty foes of other nations.

Carol Tilley has uncovered from the Billy Ireland Library archives a 1940s-era comic book entitled The Uncanny Adventures of (I Hate) Dr. Wertham.

A police officer brings a juvenile delinquent to see Wertham, who agrees to psychoanalyze him. The first question Wertham asks the boy is whether or not he reads comics, and the boy responds, “Sure! Don’t everybody???” Wertham immediately seizes upon a connection between comics reading and juvenile delinquency, and the boy, realizing the possibilities in misleading the doctor, plays along. Wertham assiduously studies a funny animal comic the boy gives him, determined to prove the comics—delinquency connection. Ultimately Wertham pardons the boy, telling him that it is “the comic book publishers…and not you who should be punished!” Wertham gathers more comics for study and sets on his course to document the ill-effects of reading them.

—News. Some forty French publishers, including everyone from Dargaud and Delcourt to L'Association and Cornelius, have announced they will join together in a full boycott of next year's Angoulême festival unless there are major changes. Although I found this elsewhere, I believe Bart Beaty was the first English-language comics writer to bring this to North American attention.

2D Cloud is currently running a Kickstarter to fund its next season of comics. A few weeks ago, the publishers wrote a piece on Medium called "Can Indie Publishers Afford to Grow?" explaining some of their thinking.


Here, Again

Today on the site I'm thrilled to have  Eric Reynolds' selections, with his own commentary, from Kaz's Underworld: From Hoboken to Hollywood, which Eric edited. Catch Kaz this Friday at Desert Island, Brooklyn.

And elsewhere:

A number of prominent French publishers are demanding that the Angouleme Festival reform itself or they will not attend in 2017. I hope the Festival hears them.

This lengthy article about Stan Lee's "legacy" does some good deep diving into the fairly pathetic performance of the last ten years or so of Lee's properties. It's one of those "icon in twilight" type pieces, and goes into the Kirby/Ditko/Lee arguments. There's no way to satisfy anyone when writing about the credit issue (or even mentioning Kirby in passing), but I do think Kirby's basic position is misstated by ignoring the arguments he made beginning in the late 1960s in favor of focusing on his final TCJ interview, and ignoring comments Lee made in the 1960s attributing credit to Ditko and Lee. And Ditko is basically dismissed as an old crank, which is pushing it. Then there was this buff nug about TCJ's legendary issue devoted to Lee: "The irony was bittersweet: Lee had long campaigned to have comics be treated seriously as high art, and the Journal’s high-minded writing was proof that he’d been successful; but the generation of fans who saw comics as a legitimate medium also thought of him as a childish relic." I KNEW it was Lee all along. Gary Groth better revise that historical narrative pronto. Basically I'm saying it was poorly researched, and I'm (still) tired of the "he's only human and golly he's sweet" thing. I am all for empathy and not demonizing the guy, but a little bit of accountability is not too much to ask for. But then again, this feature was written by a guy who published a multi-thousand word Deadpool article, so... grain of salt and/or fanboy alert.

In better news, Takashi Nemoto is involved in some kind of amazing album cover painting project, and the long-awaited new Dean Cornwell book is now available. I've recently come back to Dean Cornwell, and loving his sense of composition and the deco forms he used to construct figures and spaces. Growing up in the 1980s, you had to know about Cornwell and Franklin Booth and Leyendecker -- it was part of loving The Studio and Neal Adams.

Finally, here's a cool interview with Joe Dante about a film he planned and never made about the classic Warner Bros. animators.