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Today on the site, Robert Kirby reviews Zidrou and Aimée de Jongh's Blossoms in Autumn.

Blossoms in Autumn tells the story of a man and a woman who become romantically involved late in life. Though at first they seem to be polar opposites, the focus isn’t on their differences, as it would be in a typical romantic comedy, but on their shared sense of making the last chapter of their lives count—of making up for lost time. While there are a couple of weakly imagined story points, it’s a sweet, skillfully rendered piece.

Zidrou takes his time to properly introduce us to his protagonists. His heroine is Mediterranea Solenza, a former model now in her early sixties who runs the cheese shop that has been in her family for a few generations. Having just lost her mother to cancer, Mediterranea is understandably thinking a lot about her own mortality and mourning the loss of her youth. When her brother tells her that she is now “the oldest Solenza!” she likens his words to being bitten by a viper.

We then meet Ulysses, a widowed blue-collar guy who is forced into early retirement at age 59, when the moving company he works for downsizes during an economic downturn. Ulysses is quite unhappy to lose his job and feels at loose ends. Though he has a good relationship with his adult son, a doctor, he’s lonely. He doesn’t appear at first to have much of an inner life and has no artistic outlet–in fact, early on he informs us that he hates reading. He joylessly ticks off the non-events of his day like grocery shopping, feeling at a loss for anything exciting that the future might hold. He does, however, make regular visits to a prostitute who offers him sexual release, but no lasting inner satisfaction.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Tom Kaczynski followed up his most recent column with a post on his own blog:

I did a lot of writing around this episode, much of which didn’t make the final cut. Here’s a bit that got left on the cutting room floor. One thing I found myself struggling with is the large body of Batman literature. Much of this literature is very similar to itself, with small differences. The more I thought about it, the more it resembled a fractal structure. And when zooming out on this fractal, Batman and superheroes in general acquire a fractal self-similarity. But I get ahead of myself.

BA(TM)AN
How do you write about Batman? How do you write about a property like Batman? Specifically, how do you write about a single episode of one of the longest running comics properties in the world? How do you write about something like Batman: Son Of the Demon ?

After 80 years of continuous publication — after countless issues, series, specials, graphic novels, novelizations, TV & film adaptions — what is Batman? Which Batman do you write about? Batman the character or Ba(TM)an the franchise? When you write about BSOTD, which Batman do you compare him to? Is it possible to evaluate BSOTD on its own merits? How can you evaluate Batman’s behavior and story arc in this book? If you don’t know the history between Ra’s al Ghul & Batman will this make any sense? If you know it only in-part, is that enough?

 

As A Dog

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to welcome Katie Skelly back for another installment of Creators Talking To Creators. (We're still workshopping the title of these things, stop making that face.) This time, Skelly is speaking with Guy Colwell, whose book Doll is returning to print via Fantagraphics--where it will include a print edition of this very conversation!

Do you consider Doll an erotic work? Or do you view the sex scenes more as functional for driving the plot? 

Can I say the answer is both? I suppose I was inspired by Larry Welz’s Cherry books which were selling very well through Rip Off Press when I was working as art director there. So I wanted to do an erotic book and make some money, but something like the raw but trivialized sex in Cherry would not have been my way of approaching a story that had to rely on a lot of sex. Not very interesting and there were plenty of other pure stroke books out there already. I wanted something a little more serious that looked at some of the dark side and sadness and tragedy of sexuality, not just the bumping and pumping and grunting. So, yes, the sex is a driver of the storylines and, yes, it is still an erotic book meant to excite the reader.

 

Drop the Keys

Today on the site, Mark Newgarden returns with an excellent interview with Zippy the Pinhead cartoonist Bill Griffith, largely revolving around his new book, Nobody's Fool, a biography of one of his major inspirations for Zippy, Schlitzie.

Mark Newgarden: Why Schlitzie (and not, say, Zip)?

Bill Griffith: Schlitzie's appearance in Freaks [1932], which I first saw in 1963, was the inspiration (years later) for Zippy. Barnum's pinhead, "Zip the What-is-it," only supplied me with Zippy's name. It's been pretty well settled that Zip was a fake. His sister said he could converse and behave like anyone else---so he was an actor. Schlitzie, on the other hand, was the real thing.

Couldn't a Zip biography (the life of a faux pinhead poseur) have piqued your interest in the way that the life of Schlitzie did?

Zip was an actor, though many many other sideshow acts were also less than truthful. While I find that interesting, it pales before the authenticity of Schlitzie. Schlitzie was an innocent in a fraudulent world. He was himself, incapable of acting. Zip was a fraud in a fraudulent world. I chose the innocent.

Nobody’s Fool is explicitly grounded in solidly researched historical material, yet there are many intimate details (which feel even more “real”) that must at least in part be invented, imagined, or divined. As a cartoonist, how do you approach biography?

I adopted the "fly on the wall" method in creating many scenes in the book. I always made sure I had the best evidence before doing this, but I took artistic license to flesh out interactions and events. After months of source reading and several key interviews I did with two people who knew Schlitzie in his later years, I felt I was well grounded enough to make educated guesses about how events would play out. Cartoonist's intuition!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At the London Review of Books, Namara Smith reviews Nick Drnaso's Sabrina.

Drnaso’s second book, Sabrina, the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize, is a longer, more elaborate study of the desire for initiation and the fear of exposure. The title comes from the name of the young woman who disappears in its opening pages. ‘It’s one of those horror stories you hear about,’ another character explains as the story begins to circulate. ‘She just never came home.’ Surveillance footage from the night Sabrina vanished shows her a block away from her apartment in Chicago, then nothing. A month later, her bus pass is mailed to her parents. Soon copies of a videotape showing a woman who matches her description being killed by a man in a black ski mask are sent to news stations across the country. On the package is an Illinois return address. The landlord tells the police that his tenant, a 23-year-old called Timmy Yancey, rarely left the building and had few visitors besides his mother. In the bathroom, they find a set of neatly folded black clothes and a black ski mask. Lying in the bathtub, which is filled with water the colour of blood, is the body of a young man, his mouth still curved upward in a faint smile.

—Marilyn Berlin Snell enthuses over the cartoons of Charles Addams.

What’s typically unseen in his cartoons is the source of both the horror and humor. We often (but not always!) have deniability when we laugh. When I asked individual family members to name a favorite Addams cartoon, there was eerie consensus across the half century since last we’d perused the artist’s collected works together. Two stood out: A beach scene with the shadow of a giant bird on the sand carrying something big, and a woman in a bathing suit chasing the shadow, yelling up, “George! George! Drop the keys!”

New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss speaks briefly about his collaborations with Steve Martin.

 

Plane Cave

Today at The Comics Journal, we're still talking about the return of Mat Brinkman. This time around, it's by hosting a conversation between Jason Levian and Michele Nitri, the two publishers behind the recently announced distribution collaboration between their respective publishing houses, Floating World and Hollow Press.

Can you remember the first time you saw a Mat Brinkman comic?  What was that like? It took a couple years for a Paper Rodeo to make it across the country from the east coast to Portland, OR. It changed my life. How did you find his work in Europe?

The first Brinkman comic I saw was Multiforce. I think about 8-9 years ago. I was at home with one of my best friends Ratigher. He showed me the Picturebox edition, telling me that Brinkman was the Jesus of recent underground comics. I’ll always be thankful to Ratigher for that. I publish him too and he is really famous in Italy right now. He is the art director of one of the greatest publishing house here in Italy, Coconino Press. He has won several prestigious awards in Italy and sooner or later will be famous worldwide too. Great friend and great artist!

Also, Brinkman comics have a special way of spreading around the world. We all know that many artists love him. Everyone in the underground worlds love or respect him. So at that time in Italy many underground artists knew him. Readers didn't know him but artists did of course, and this is the indisputable proof of the worth of his art. Coming back to Brinkman, I was really curious, ordered my copy from Picturebox, read it and thought “what the fuck I have read!". That reading was something that really revolutionized my life and influenced my tastes in what kind of art I wanted to find.

Our review of the day comes to you from Edwin Turner. He's here talking about Kingdom, the latest from Jon McNaught.

Not much happens in Jon McNaught's latest graphic novel Kingdom. A mother takes her son and daughter to Kingdom Fields Holiday Park, a vacation lodge on the British coast. There, they watch television, go to a run-down museum, play on the beach, walk the hills, and visit an old aunt. Then they go home. There is no climactic event, no terrible trial to endure. There is no crisis, no trauma. And yet it's clear that the holiday in Kingdom Fields will remain forever with the children, embedded into their consciousness as a series of strange aesthetic impressions. Not much happens in Kingdom, but what does happen feels vital and real.

 

What Is That?

Today on the site, we have a report on the Italian Hollow Press's effort, in conjunction with Floating World in the U.S., to republish classic titles from Mat Brinkman.

Collectors and enthusiasts in North America interested in books like this can look forward to more from Hollow Press via Floating World. The agreement between Leivian and Nitri was contingent on distributing not just Brinkman's work, but the entire Hollow Press back catalogue. For now Leivian and Nitri plan on getting the books shipped en masse to the United States every three weeks or so. Within a couple months, Leivian will have the full catalogue for sale on the Floating World site, as well as available for wholesale distribution.

"I’m glad someone brought it back in print," Nadel said, pointing out that he often gets asked when the books would be back in print and that Brinkman has had "plenty of offers" to reprint them over the years. Brinkman avoids doing press and has no online presence, devoting his time and efforts to music and other pursuits. Nonetheless, Nadel said, his work still stands out.

"There’s no Adventure Time without Mat Brinkman and Paper Rodeo, for example," he said. "And without Adventure Time, near as I can tell, 75% of what’s on display at your local comic book 'festival' does not exist."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The National Cartoonists Society has announced its nominees for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

—The Connecticut Post has a history of the Museum of Comic Art.

In the mid-1970s, longtime Greenwich resident Mort Walker — creator of comic strips “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” — established the first home dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of cartoon art.

“I remember when we first opened, someone came by asking what we were doing,” says Brian Walker, son of Mort Walker, who died last year at 94.

“I told him it was a cartoon museum and he said, ‘Who’d want to see that?’ Back then people just didn’t get it.”

Times have changed, says Walker who can almost guarantee whenever he does a cartoon exhibit, it’s a hit.

But it took several decades for this realization.

—At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews medicine-related comics from Ian Williams, Emmma, and Lucy Knisley.

Knisley’s personal journey can be compelling and quite funny — for instance, in depicting her intense struggle with morning sickness, she draws herself sweating and shaded a solid mint green. But the book, with its jaunty colors and friendly black line art, works best as an extended public service announcement. Knisley deploys the diagrammatic features of comics to break down medical and cultural contexts around miscarriage, infertility and pregnancy, along with their symptoms, and she illustrates myths as well as facts, letting them visually stack up against one another.

—RIP. Larry Cohen.

Scott Walker.

 

Go Go Gadget Feelings

Today at the Comics Journal, we're sharing R.C. Harvey's obituary of cartoonist Tom K. Ryan, who passed away earlier this month. It's an extensive, well researched look at a very long career.

The humor in the strips of this new tradition— PeanutsB.C.The Wizard of IdTumbleweedsAnimal Crackers, to name a few— is more sophisticated because it depends on our recognizing something that is only implicit in the strip. We laugh at B.C. because we are shown childlike men, men just beginning to be men, trying out civilization, and we see what they do not: that, like a suit that's too large, civilization doesn't quite fit.

We laugh at Tumbleweeds much of the time because we recognize that the real Old West was quite different from the West that tiny Tumbleweeds tries to reenact whenever moved to action. If we didn't know that trains run on round wheels along smooth rails, Thor's choo-choo in B.C. wouldn't appear funny to us at all. If we didn't know that most cowboys' horses don't jump wide canyons in a single bound, Tumbleweeds' dashed hopes would be tragic instead of comic. But we do know these things, and upon that knowledge the humor of these strips is built.

Today's review comes to us from Leonard Pierce, who is taking a look at Proxima Centauri, by Farel Dalrymple. He's into it.

It’s not all that necessary, or even useful, to dwell on Proxima Centauri’s plot; just knowing the bare-bones elements will suffice. Not that there aren’t many unexpected pleasures to be had in the story; Dalrymple lays out seemingly random bits and pieces of narrative that often come together in unexpected ways, forging the kind of connections that make you gasp in the way that only a really good high can. (I won’t speculate as to the creator’s habits, but this is a book that’s psychedelic in the best and truest way; its incredible imaginative elements burble up in unpredictable ways and then link together in a manner that seems almost inevitable.) It’s just that the real golden ticket here is the way he takes so many different genre elements and threads them together with his astonishing art as the common factor.

Take the full hour for the video below.

 

In Time for the Show

Today on the site, Frank M. Young talks to comics scholar and prolific biographer Bill Schelly about his latest book subject, the publisher James Warren.

He was a very social guy. He wanted to be around people; he had lots of friends whom he’d invite to his house out at the beach; he didn’t isolate himself. He did that later, in the 1980s, when the magazines were struggling, and he was dealing with some demons of his own. He could have done a great deal to prevent the collapse of his company. Bill Dubay said, later, that if Warren had made the effort, he could have saved the magazines.

But times were changing. The newsstand distribution system was falling apart, and that was what Jim knew. He had been involved with Phil Seuling from the ground floor of the direct market, but he still needed newsstand distribution for his magazines. He saw that was going away. His survival would depend on whether the direct market would have supported his magazines or not. There are things he might have done to address these challenges, but he chose not to, and the book explains why.

Once you start looking into a person’s life, you begin to realize why things happened the way they did. For example, with Harvey Kurtzman, people say, “If he’d just stuck with Mad magazine, he could have become a millionaire.” He could have become Al Feldstein, who stuck with the magazine for many years and became independently wealthy. But Harvey Kurtzman could never have done what Al Feldstein did. Kurtzman would have never wanted the magazine to remain the same year after year, decade after decade. He would have always been trying to change it, and evolve it, and would have probably self-destructed at some point.

We certainly wish our heroes, like Kurtzman, didn’t have to face such great adversity in later years. In Warren’s case, he came out of it and today has a good life. He dealt with depression and some other physical issues, but he’s still with us. His mother lived to 104, so Jim, who turns 90 next year, may well be with us for a long time, and I hope he is.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
Tobias Carroll talks to Mark Alan Stamaty.

My parents were both gag cartoonists, and so I grew up reading single panel gag cartoons. They had a whole bunch of collections of them and then I’d see the magazines of that day they had. So there was that and there was reading comics – Little Lulu, Dennis the Menace, whatever. And then when I was 14 the thing that really expanded my world was seeing Sick, Sick, Sick by Jules Feiffer. Which was a revelation to me, because I had, like I said, my parents did single panel gag cartoons, but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I realized, especially seeing Jules’s work, that I wanted to do narratives, and he really exploded the possibilities of that.

When I started doing MacDoodle St., I had been doing children’s books mostly at that point and I wanted to really play with the form as loosely as I could. I wanted to innovate, I wanted to hopefully bring something to it that I hadn’t seen, that I didn’t know. So it was really like, this is a great form, what else can it be?

Rosemarie Anner talks to Flash Gordon artist Bob Fujitani.

Fujitani worked alongside such legendary giants as Will Eisner and Nick Cardy. It was a grind, he admits, even later when he did most of his work at home. It sometimes took three people to complete an illustrative comic strip: writer, artist, letterer. Fujitani would get the text from the writer and do the artwork to accompany the words. Then he and his wife, Ruth, also a painter, would drive “over the Tappan Zee Bridge and down 9W to letterer Ben Oda’s house.” Oda would open the door in a cloud of cigarette smoke, Fujitani remembers, laughing heartily at the memory. It was Oda’s job to fit in texts in the “speech balloons,” working in the spaces left in the drawings done by Fujitani.

—News. The New York Times ingenuously writes about the launch of a new comics publisher devoted to developing potential film and media properties.

It’s an approach reminiscent of old Hollywood. “The model here really is the old United Artists model, where people who are actually doing the creative have ownership, control and decision-making power over the work that they’re doing,” said Bill Jemas, a former vice president of Marvel who is the chief executive and publisher of AWA. Joining him at the helm are Axel Alonso, a former editor in chief at Marvel, as chief creative officer and Jonathan F. Miller as chairman. Miller helped broker a deal in 2017 between the comic book writer Mark Millar and Netflix, which bought his library of characters for development on the streaming service. Jemas and Alonso say the first of AWA’s titles will arrive some time this fall.

—Misc. The cartoonist (and former TCJ columnist) Julia Gfrörer has launched a Patreon.

 

Crew (Fake)

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share our latest in a long-running but never officially titled series where one comics creator gets into the heart of this thing with a fellow comics creator. Today, it's living legend Jaime Hernandez alongside the critically acclaimed and diabolically talented Katie Skelly. I hope people read the shit out of this one. I've gone through six (!) different things to copy and paste as the teaser. It shouldn't be surprising that our greatest living cartoonist makes for such a tremendous interview subject, I suppose.

In the new collection, the panels where Maggie is lying on the bed with Ray and you have that wonderful foreshortening of her leg, you can see exactly where her weight is shifted to, and how she’s existing in space -- in one hundred thousand years, I could never get something down where people would be able to parse that line. And that’s a very easy visual vocabulary for you at this point. Do you ever feel awestruck by that? Do you ever search your work for places you could improve?

Well, say the panel you’re talking about -- I probably went like, that’s the ticket. This is exactly what I wanted to portray here. It’s not always, but there’s certain images where I just know that’s the one. I didn’t need any words for it. When I was 16 I was drawing and then I sat back and looked at it, I realized I’d gotten to the point where I can draw anything I want. And of course there were a few more years where I had more to learn, and how to polish it up and get things right, and I’m still doing that. But I guess that’s another reason I wouldn’t trade this for something else is because I can get the exact moment -- not always -- but I can get that exact moment of exactly what I’m thinking. It’s kind of like -- this could go in a different direction, but what the fuck -- it’s kind of like people with fetishes. People have to go to stores to buy that, people have to look at DVDs, they have to seek that out. I get to draw exactly what I’m thinking.

Our review of the day comes to us from Keith Silva, fresh of vacation and full of vinegar. He's here with a look at Neon Future #1, which is connected to an incredibly successful series of albums released by Steve Aoki. 

Neon Future uses ambition and cloying vanity to paper over a vapid, derivative and insipid story. What merits it possesses function as a quasi-Turing test of its reader’s credibility, viz. heart-on-sleeve devotion to 1990s comics and the imitative sci-fi that slouched out from placental expulsion post-Matrix.

Those are its redeeming qualities. It gets worse.

I'm not the kind of maniac who would say "I'm glad Steve Ditko died before he could see this", i'm the kind of maniac who wished I had died before I saw it. What an atrocious cover design! (Is this the random blog entry where I confess that I've read the first nine issue of Doomsday Clock and found them to be a complete delight, and would argue it's the best comic that Geoff Johns has written since he did those psychotic Doug Mahnke comics where a leather covered Green Lantern villain spooned with the dead bodies of his parents? Looks like it! Like that comic--and the taste-free gonzo murder festival that followed, which included Donna Troy battling a zombiefied version of her infant son and a three issue grindhouse retelling of Assault on Precinct 13 set inside a Gotham City police station--Doomsday Clock is packed so firmly with wacked out numetal choices that Scott Snyder is probably stomping around the DC offices in his pajama pants right now trying to remind everybody that he used to be cool too. It's been so long since I've seen Johns go this fucking hard that I forgot how fun the guy used to be when he had something to say--and while "Fuck Alan Moore" isn't a very catchy tune, I have to admit, he sure is singing it with gusto.)

Over at Newsarama, Chris Arrant's tireless commitment to keeping up with the various job postings related to comics publishing has paid off with an article about DC making the best decision they've made since giving the okay to publishing Doomsday Clock, which is that they're casting a net for a new hire in such a way that they might actually end up finding somebody from outside of the comics world. Here's some simple math that's eluded every major comics periodical publisher for the last however many decades: if the pool of people who are available for a given job have a track record of being really shitty at that given job, then don't hire from that pool of people. People who have a history of failure, bad ideas, and/or sucking in general will invariably continue to fail, think of dumb shit, and suck. At some point, it's not recycling anymore: it's just garbage.

Over at Comicosity, there's an article that I don't even know how to process. If you've got years of experience knowing that the way you talk about comics on dates tends to derail the date, why would you assume that the solution is to talk even more about comics? Why not try like--A) listening or B) talking about different subjects or C) at the bare minimum, not assume that the reason that monomaniacal monologuing alienates people is because of some ethereal stigma against comics that can be repaired by even more detailed monomaniacal monologuing? There's entire swaths--swaths in this case meaning millions--of people who love jabbering about baseball statistics but are at least able to put a cork in it during the dating process so that the person on the other end of the table gets a chance to talk too--why does it never seem to occur to people who like talking about Tom King comics that shutting the fuck up can be a viable, sexier alternative to talking about Tom King comics? 

Abhay found this David Letterman clip where he talks about Harvey Pekar. I think Harvey would have been proud to know that the prospect of Letterman talking to Howard Stern about Harvey Pekar is what is being used by Sirius Xm as the teaser to get people to sign up for Sirius Xm.