BLOG

Double Calzone

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews José Muñoz.

Were you always interested in crime stories? What did you read or watch?

Well, from my side, during my adolescence and early youth, we – Oscar Zárate and myself – lived mainly in the cinemas watching many international films, looking at and reading historietas, books—but never as many as Carlos Sampayo— always being in a lot of high, middle and low tragicomic narratives with words and images, only with words, only with silent or isolated images, sometimes falling down into a word that could be read as a constellation of meanings. I was interested in shapes, cities, white lights and black blacks, fog. Gifted German and Middle Europeans people arrived in the USA escaping from Hitler’s madness and, with their darker expressionist mood, aggravated the light and shadows of Hollywood’s minds. This cruel world enriches our figurative, narrative talents with the lack of meaning of the script of life. At that time the USA saved those people; many, many thanks, truly. Your country, you also, saved them, and they gave you their talents.

In South America we have nothing to thank your military-industrial politics for, nothing at all. Instead, we have been systematically molested by the imperial programs, ignorance, and paranoias of the United States. In my late twenties, coming from politics, before the organized South American killing of lives and hope — Allende, Pinochet, Kissinger the killer, Videla, etc — I began to focus my horrified interest on crime stories because they look just like reality. And, now with some distance, I could say that for the same reason, this too has led to my horrified lack of interest today.

Elsewhere:

I saw hints of this on social media, but this article is all I’ve seen that recounts the awful recent harassment by “fans” of female Marvel employees. 

Great post here on a rejected Ronald Searle cover.

Gyna Wynbrandt is the latest guest on Process Party.

And Gary Groth is interviewed on KCRW.

 

From Hell’s Heart

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics (new titles by John Hankiewicz and the Hernandez Bros.) and tops it off with an extended pictorial essay on Geoff Darrow.

Some may have gotten hold of La Cité Feu (“City of Fire”), the image suite he drew that was inked by Moebius, or the big Bourbon Thret album released in France, both in the mid-’80s. In English, there was one Bourbon Thret story published in Heavy Metal (Mar. ’85), and another published in Dark Horse Presents (#19, July ’88), but for myself and I suspect a many U.S. readers it was the 1990-92 series Hard Boiled, a collaboration with Frank Miller, that introduced Darrow’s approach. What you see above is what I think is most readily associated with “Geof Darrow” comics – a scene teeming with hundreds of small events, marks of life: from people to advertisements to cracks on the wall to litter on the street. The main ‘event’ of the page, a car crashing through a wall and careening toward an orgy, the book’s protagonist clinging to the front end, is given relatively slight prominence in comparison to its surroundings; there’s a word balloon, and a flash of yellow, contrasting with the rest of the image to draw the eye, but as Darrow himself is photographed distinctly amidst his studio, so does the action of this splash seem to occur as only one thing among many in the comic’s existence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The most recent episode of the best and least frequent non-TCJ-affiliated comics podcast on the internet, Comic Books Are Burning in Hell, is all about Hellboy.

—At the also too infrequent Mindless Ones site, Illogical Volume reviews the work of Julia Scheele.

For all that it’s a hip, well-designed package, capped off by a picture of a rakish girl Robin smoking like the baddest kid in school, IDLMHN#1 isn’t exactly short of drama. The first story ‘Positive‘, written by Katie West, deals with a panic about an affair and the pregnancy that might follow, and the rest of the strips that follow is of a piece with this opening.

Scheele’s flair for making her design tell the story impressed me to the extent that I was too busy looking at what she’d done to actually see it. Perhaps you will understand why I became such a poor reader if you observe the way ‘Positive’ moves from dreamy blues to raw autumnal colours, and overlays its action with graphical representations of the child that could yet be, literalising the protagonist’s idle speculation.

—Graham Nash is auctioning off his underground comics art collection, including the cover to Zap #1.

—This Facebook post (and subsequent ones) by Rich Tommaso on the dangers and difficulties of making a life’s career as a cartoonist is generating much-needed conversation.

 

Bluesy

Today on the site, Bob Levin reviews Purgatory (“A Rejects Story”) 

From the art, the uniform of Frankenstein’s father reveals him as a policeman. The depiction of Frankenstein’s mother reveals her to be white. Through the art, Frankenstein’s subjective sense of the world is expressed. In the locker room, one of the (modestly) prose-described “overly-aggressive… athletes” becomes a KKK-hooded nightmare. The class-room “beasts” are all snouts and gaping, sharply fanged mouths.

Then there is Frankenstein’s portrayal of eyes. Especially his. Haunted. Dreamy. Startled, Scared. Windows to the soul, I’ve heard. Sometimes his eyes are simply lovely, the promise in them immense. Then, at the end, the author’s photo shows them opaque, sealed behind Steampunk shades, above – is it? – a Mona Lisa smile.

Elsewhere….

Longtime Mad writer Stan Hart has passed away.

RM Rhodes features Druillet over at  Comics Workbook.

Good looking new comic from Seth online. 

PW looks at the most recent SDCC.

I enjoyed reading this lengthy piece about the author’s friendship with Flo Steinberg.

 

Sich Lengwidge

Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews Jonny Sun, the artist/author and Twitter personality, about putting together his first book, aliens as listeners, art as therapy, and deciding to stop being anonymous.

You’ve mentioned that putting this book together helped you figure out some things personally too.

It was huge. When I started thinking about the book, I was in the most insecure point in my life, it was definitely the most difficult point in my life. I started a doctorate program, and I was in a lab doing work that was not interesting to me. I felt very intimidated and had imposter syndrome. I didn’t know what I was doing there. I felt like I had no control of what I was doing.

Whenever I get in situations like that, I turn to creative work. It’s something you can control and I know what I’m doing. The book originally started as this small piece of creative therapy, and that’s when I really grappled with the idea of mental health and realized that maybe what I’m going through here isn’t what everyone is going through. I started realizing I had anxiety and depression, and started seeing a therapist.

The actual experience of going to therapy played into the book’s narrative. I see the alien character as a listener, someone who is more quiet. I think my relationship with my therapist informed that a lot. I was just thinking a lot about how I felt better after going to therapy, and what exactly that meant for me. This book became this metaphor for therapy but also another way for me to work out ideas and thoughts, and to put things to images.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Howard Cruse writes about his experiences cartooning for Playboy.

Giving four whole pages to an unknown newbie was apparently too much for Hefner to swallow. But despite that rejection, though, Michelle thought I still had a good chance of cracking “Playboy Funnies,” especially if I came up with more comic strip parodies. Not multi-page ones, maybe; ones that could slip smoothly into the small spaces that would be allotted to strips in“Playboy Funnies.” She was confident I would make the cut, but my first step would be to go home and work up sketches.

Not all of them would need to be parodies, she explained, but some should be. They could be sexually randy; Playboy was a magazine for grown-ups, after all. But they would need to be acceptable for newsstand display.

In practical terms that meant that, while naked females and sexual innuendo would be welcome, practically de rigueur, I should not take my freedom too far. No erections and no penetration, she explained, was the rule at Playboy.

As a cartoonist with roots in uncensored underground comix, I was fine with being funny about sex. Eager, even. Compared to undergrounds, mainstream comic strips were relentlessly prim. That primness was what I was being invited to parody, and I considered that sexlessness overdue for roasting. My point of view was: What would it be like if sex were matter-of-factly embraced by our cartoon favorites instead of being invisible?

Comical incongruities came to mind effortlessly.

—At The Guardian, James Reith writes about Maurice Tillieux’s Gil Jordan comics.

Tillieux took Hergé’s “clear line” drawing style and muddied it; where Tintin’s world is clean and sparse, Jordan’s is grimy and littered. The same can be said for the storytelling. Whilst critics adore Tintin for its conceptual complexities, Hergé’s stories are often straightforward adventures peppered with throwaway gags. But for Tillieux, gags have consequences: what you might think is a joke will turn out to be a crucial plot point. Tillieux took familiar comic tropes – then complicated them.

—And it’s hard to believe that July is almost over, and we haven’t linked to Gabrielle Bell’s annual month-long July Diary comics yet.

 

Wildflowers!

Today on the site we have Sarah Horrocks interviewing Katie Skelly about her new book, My Pretty Vampire.

Something that is a recurrent theme in our conversations is the idea of the hustle and scamming. A segment of the population would use words like “earned” or “achieved.” Why do you think you phrase things that way?

Honestly, I just think it’s funny. I like to see how people react when I say, “I’m just grifting here.” But I’m also terrible at letting myself enjoy things. I think it’s a way for me to mentally distance myself from any idea of success, because I don’t want to let it slow me down.

Is success scary? How would you contrast the difference between the fear of success, and the fear of failure–because you’ve had both, yeah?

It is scary, because it feels ephemeral. But I also don’t think I’ve quite got it yet. I kind of let go of the idea, I think. I don’t set big goals any more, I just want to go as far as I possibly can with what I’ve got.

So getting into the new book–as an artist you’ve evolved rapidly in just the few years I’ve known you. How do you perceive the changes from Operation Margarine to My Pretty Vampire?

Lots of ways, really. I think it’s more stylistically accomplished on the whole. The drawing got better, the color adds so much more to the mood. The horror is right there at the forefront, you don’t really have to go digging around for it. My eye sort of gets wider for background and mise-en-scene.

Hey, on that note, New Yorkers: Go out to the Strand tonight and see Katie in conversation with Gary Panter and Leslie Stein, moderated by Nicole Rudick. Those are some great, great people.

In other news, Mike Diana has some new products out in the world, and Breakdown Press has announced its fall slate.

 

Support Your Local Sting-Ray

Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Kristen Radtke’s widely acclaimed Imagine Wanting Only This, and seems to have come away largely unimpressed.


Imagine Wanting Only This
follows Radtke’s narrator/avatar across several years and locations, placing Radtke first at a site of an early-twenties cohabitation and then at graduate school and afterward. As the years advance, her narrator’s curiosity about declining cities and structures grows into true fascination, leading to an ambitious, international survey of ruins during her time in grad school. The circumstances surrounding this project are severe: the passing of an uncle, the passing of a friend, and the possibility of a hereditary heart condition. To critique the resulting work is not to suggest that these events deserve anything less than real empathy. But the memoir blurs exploration and consumption in a manner that may make some readers queasy, and the visual choices on display undermine the effectiveness of the book.

Scenes with the potential to intensify Imagine’s themes of decline and decay—a wake, a breakup call—are often blunt in their execution or awkwardly staged. Radtke’s grayscale, photo-referenced artwork registers as not drawn but traced, with static sequences across panels and unnaturally smooth figures within panels. The approach to light and shadow gives most objects, including people, a plastic sheen; the placement of certain captions and speech balloons appears to be a last-minute consideration.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Ellen Forney, the most recent guest on RiYL is Mike Diana, and the most recent guest on Process Party is Carta Monir.

—Misc. The Bristol Board has published a nice old Marie Severin splash page which features secret caricatures of many Marvel personalities, from John Romita to Mimi Gold and Sol Brodsky.

The annual Comics Workbook Composition Competition has been announced.

 

Today is Now

By traditional and demand, today is Jog’s day of posting. He will bring it to you tonight.  

Elsewhere:

Here’s a very nice local profile of Geoff Darrow in the Chicago Tribune.

Tom Spurgeon gathered some of the relevant publishing news from SDCC in one post.

And finally, Frank Santoro has announced the Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2017. Go here for details.

 

Uh Oh

Today on the site, Frank Young reviews Sunday Press’s new Rube Goldberg collection, Foolish Questions & Other Odd Observations: Early Comics 1909-1919.

American wit has the furrowed brow and cautious stance of a boxer. Its affect may be dry, ironic or absurd, but its goal is to lay us among the posies—to cause that ker-plop moment as we absorb its blunt impact.

This hasn’t changed much in the last century. The assault has become harder, fiercer. TV sitcoms, stand-up and mainstream movies pelt us with brute force as they bruise the boundaries of what’s shocking, startling and amusing. Alas, the American comic strip, which has been on life-support for decades, barely manages a feeble swat anymore.

As shown by this, the latest in Sunday Press Books’ vintage American comics reprints, we’re not far removed from the earthy thump of Rube Goldberg. Goldberg is forever linked to his invention cartoons, which still inspire young creators to design what Wikipedia dryly calls “…deliberately complex contraption[s] in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect.” They’re one facet of a long and ambitious comics career that spanned slapstick and melodrama, social commentary and a big Bronx cheer.

The set-up of Foolish Questions, Goldberg’s first successful comic strip series, is familiar to anyone who’s read Al Jaffee’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” a longtime feature of Mad magazine. Formula: well-meaning person asks painfully obvious question; gets smart-ass reply by deadpan recipient.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Eisner Awards were announced, with some solid winners and plenty of head-scratchers. Most gratifying, possibly, is the induction of both Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez into the Hall of Fame.

Flo Steinberg, Stan Lee’s secretary and a key presence at Marvel during its most culturally vibrant period, died yesterday morning at the age of 78. Her replacement at Marvel, Robin Green, wrote a story about her in a story about Marvel for Rolling Stone in 1971.

Hundreds of letters came in every week from fans, and Flo was the one who opened them. One time there was a letter addressed to Sergeant Fury from a man in Texas, a real rightwinger, who said, “I notice in Sergeant Fury that you’re anti-Nazi. Well, if you’re anti-Nazi, that must mean you’re pro-Commie, and you’re all a bunch of no-good dirty kikey commie pinko people, and I have a gun and I’m going to come to New York and shoot you.” It was addressed to Stan Lee and the Marvel Comic Group.

Flo passed the letter around the office, and everyone got hysterical because this guy was going to come and machine-gun everybody. Flo didn’t know what they were hysterical about because she was the one who went out to meet the people. Flo was loyal, but for a hundred bucks a week you don’t get shot. So they called the FBI and a man came down. He said, “Wilkins, FBI,” and Flo said, “Steinberg, Marvel.”

—Reviews & Commentary. Hillary Brown writes about Andrea Pazienza’s Zanardi.

Zanardi is a book that inspires surprisingly complicated feelings. Usually, when I don’t like a comic, I put it in a pile of things destined to leave my house, and I don’t look back. Zanardi has been sitting in a box for weeks, mostly because I hated it, and yet it’s still here. These comics, focused on the titular character, appeared in Italy between 1981 and 1988, after creator Andrea Pazienza died of a heroin overdose. They are foul and rude and nihilistic, full of drug use, misogyny, casual violence, crime, manipulation and general rotten behavior. Zanardi screws over his friends because it amuses him. The attitudes demonstrated throughout are decidedly retrograde. The stories also don’t hang together particularly well; instead, they have a vaguely pornographic feel, with panels strung on the most basic whiffs of narrative—but each plot thread leads to a simple obsession with debauchery.

Megan Liberty writes about the “Something Unusual is Happening” exhibition at Printed Matter.

Other comics in the show contain more traditional plot elements, including text bubbles and characters. Lale Westvind’s Joan the Drone Pilot & Mary the Drone (2017), printed with blue ink on pink pages (except the cover which is red ink on cream), is the story of a world that exists in several dimensions, with those in charge controlling those trapped in the lesser plane for profit, until Mary arrives and attempts to escape. A heavy-handed metaphor for our use of technology, or technology’s use of us when in the hands of advertisers, it has a more traditional structure, with spreads divided into panels and text in word bubbles and boxes. But its dense imagery, heavy lines, and block shading, reminiscent of ‘70s and ‘80s pulp comics, make it at times visually dizzying and challenging.

An anonymous writer has begun a site called Reading Doonesbury, going back through the strip’s whole history and connecting it to current events.

What set Doonesbury apart from virtually every other mass-market comic strip in 1970 was that it roots were firmly planted in the youth and campus culture of the time. Like Walt Kelly’s Pogo before it, Doonesbury brought pointed political and cultural satire to the funny pages. What was different about Doonesbury, however, was that its style, as much as its content, reflected contemporary values of youth rebellion. Trudeau jokingly referred to the “urgent scrawl” that defined his early strips as evidence that he was producing “cartoon vérité.” [1] Trudeau sees his early work as not merely a commentary on its times, but a product of them: “If Doonesbury looked like it had been created in a stoned frenzy,” he maintains, “then that was evidence of its authenticity. The strips were dispatches from the front.”

HiLobrow has been running a series of short posts by Jacob Covey, who has designed many of the best-looking comics of recent years, as he discusses book design.

Barcodes exist in service to commerce and if not in opposition to art then certainly with disregard of it. 99% of publishing’s barcodes are unnecessarily large, positioned in the lower right corner, and printed on a white field to maximize efficiency for human checkers. Distributors say they must be on white to read correctly but the red light scanners of barcodes read white the same as red.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Dana Jenning at The New York Times profiles Gary Panter.

Mr. Panter, 66, is creatively footloose and has never been content to just draw comics and paint. (He’s represented by the Chelsea gallery Fredericks & Freiser, and his art has been shown worldwide.) He’s done light shows, puppetry, design, printmaking, sculpture, and plays rock music. He honed his early hack-slash style of punk pen-and-ink on posters and album covers for bands like the Screamers, the Germs and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Oh, and there were three Emmys in the late 1980s for his set design on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” (“I’ll talk about anything — except Pee-wee,” he said, laughing.)

Explaining his jack-of-all-trades attitude, Mr. Panter, who grew up mostly in rural Sulphur Springs, Tex., wrote in an email: “I am wired to make stuff. Life is short and these various mediums have different things to offer, so I am seeing what I can do.”