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Today brings a new guest contributor to our Cartoonist’s Diary feature: Sara Lautman.

It also marks the return of our original webcomics columnist, Shaenon Garrity, who offers a report from the “Masters of Webcomics” panel at the Silicon Valley Comic-Con, with Jonathan Lemon, Jason Thompson, Jason Shiga, and myself, as well as Andy Weir, who started his creative career with the webcomic Casey and Andy but is much better known now for writing The Martian.

Weir’s appearance was the worst-kept secret in San Jose, and the audience began applauding as soon as he walked onstage in a face-concealing space helmet. When, at Whelon’s direction, he slowly removed it to the strains of Also sprach Zarathustra, another round of applause broke out. The ostensible subject of the panel was “How can making a webcomic form the foundation of a career in the creative arts?” and there was no doubt which of the panelists had managed it most spectacularly.

But none of us had started with the idea of building a career. Except for Shiga, who was late to the Internet, everyone got into webcomics around the early 2000s, and we all agreed we had no idea what the Web was going to be. “There wasn’t any plan,” said Lemon, who decided to try cartooning after a stint in the Peace Corps. “I deliberately started drawing with absolutely no plan, no characters. The idea was to see what developed and what I liked doing.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. My co-editor Dan has outdone himself with a genuinely must-read essay in Art in America about Ben Jones and C.F.

The two most important cartoonists of their generation, Ben Jones (b. 1977) and Christopher “CF” Forgues (b. 1979), are also two of the least recognized. Working together, often under pseudonyms, they changed the form and content of comics as few other artists have, radically distorting extant storytelling genres and emphasizing experimental approaches to drawing and printing. In 1999, when both were art students in Boston, they began collaborating under the name Paper Radio. Over the next few years, they produced hundreds of works ranging from exquisite silkscreened books to photocopied zines to early Web-based graphics. The narrative forms they explored were equally varied. A Paper Radio publication could contain subversive fan fiction about the Muppet Babies, elaborate fantasy adventures, psychedelic space operas, or crude slapstick gags. All of these works circulated in small editions among an audience of like-minded artists and musicians, members of a largely unchronicled New England subculture whose aesthetic continues to seep, credited or not, into popular visual forms, from music videos to subway advertisements.

At Tits and Sass, Tina Horn and Caty Simon argue about Chester Brown’s Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.

Tina: When I was a teenager, I thought Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was the shit, because it taught me more about what the Bible actually teaches than most of the aggressive Christian kids at my high school. Mary Wept puts me in mind of C.S. Lewis: a Christian highlighting the hypocrisy of other Christians through rational interpretation of their text.

Caty: When people say that Judeo-Christian values oppose prostitution, it gets me fuming, because it’s a lot more complicated than that. There are plenty of heroic whores in the Bible, and many more Biblical heroines who explicitly had transactional sex at some point in their stories. So I enjoyed how Brown highlights the stories of women like Rahab, the prostitute who sheltered Hebrew spies from discovery when they scouted out the city of Jericho, and Tamar, the woman who whored herself out to her father-in-law in disguise in a complicated plot to expose his hypocrisy. I only wish he’d included the story of badass Judith, the woman who beheaded the general Holofernes as he lay drunkenly asleep in her tent after possibly purchasing her services, ushering the Hebrew army to victory.

Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, Ng Suat Tong takes exception to Chester Brown’s Biblical interpretation skills, and Brown shows up in the comments to plead his case (and explains why he has no plans to republish his Gospel adaptations from Yummy Fur).

I seem to recall that, many years ago, Suat wrote a negative review of the gospel adaptations I did in Yummy Fur and Underwater, and I agree with his general assessment of that material. (I can’t say that I agree with the specifics since I never read the whole piece.) I’d prefer it if that work wasn’t reprinted. – See more at: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2016/04/the-good-and-faithful-chester-brown-and-the-parable-of-the-talents/#sthash.RNZ0tmg1.dpuf

—News. And finally the Creators for Creators grant (affiliated with Image and Iron Circus Comics) has begun accepting submissions.

 

In, Saved

Today on the site, Greg Hunter talks to Anya Davidson, one of the most fluid and natural cartoonists around today. She of course is the author of School Spirits and has a story in the new (excellent) Kramers Ergot 9.

Elsewhere:

Good news for Tim Hensley fans — his Sir Alfred No. 3 is now available. Like Tim’s previous book, Wally Gropius, this is a complete and utterly perfect masterpiece. As a work of cartooning, biography, comedy, and conceptual rigor it just can’t be beat. Get it as soon as you possibly can. Chris Mautner will have a review for us soon, and in the meantime, revisit Tim Hodler’s interview with the artist from 2014.

Frank’s own Comics Workbook brings us a report on the 2016 Fumetto Festival. Hard to believe it was 2009 and 2010 when I attended. Seems like yesterday. I’m getting old.

Publishers Weekly reports on the new plan for Heavy Metal hardcover volumes. I’m not so into the new work I’ve seen, but I hold out most likely foolish hopes that the brand has access to its deep history.

Finally, I’ll fall for this listicle: Time travel stories in comics. 

 

 

Subjects Vaporous and Dreamy

Today on the site, Rob Kirby is here with a review of Rokudenashiko’s What Is Obscenity?

In July 2014, artist Rokudenashiko, aka Megumi Igarashi, was arrested on obscenity charges at her home in Tokyo. Her crime? Creating cute little anthropomorphic toys and other items designed from a mold of her own vagina. What specifically caught the attention of authorities was her design for a boat shaped like a manko (Japanese for “vagina”) that she created with the support of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because she enabled her backers to download the 3D art with which to create their own manko art, she was charged with “distributing obscene materials.” Though the censorial forces against her are formidable, Rokudenashiko’s outrage and fighting spirit spurred her to fight back, and in What is Obscenity? she tells the story of her incarceration, her efforts to clear her name, and much more: the book is a funny, smart, and pointed call to arms for freedom of artistic expression against antiquated and patriarchal repression.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—I missed this Paste interview with Paul Kirchner about the recent reprint of Murder By Remote Control (which he created with the late mystery author Janwillem de Wettering).

Once you start admiring your work too much, you never get better, so I would never say anything I did was perfect. Wally Wood described satisfaction with one’s own artwork as “infantile self-love.”

In his review of the book for The New York Times, Gahan Wilson wrote, “I wished that the drawings had occasionally been a little more ethereal when depicting subjects vaporous and dreamy; their continuing solidity never quite gets past the literal kind of make-believe you encounter in circus posters.”

As a fan of Wilson, when I read that I thought, “Did I do something wrong?” It has always been my intent to draw the surreal elements, the visions, with the same sense of weight and reality as everything else. That’s the whole point, really, and it has never occurred to me to do otherwise. And I like circus posters. So I decided that this was just a difference in artistic vision, and not a knock on me. There are always strong points and weak points in anyone’s style, and what makes it strong in one way makes it weak in another. You have to come to terms with that.

—Inverse has a brief interview with Ben Sears.

—The National Cartoonists Society has announced this year’s Reuben Award nominees.

 

Octopus Fight

Today on the site it’s R.C. Harvey on Bill Holman.

In late 1934, Holman heard that Joseph Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News, was looking for a Sunday comic strip that would display the paper’s civic-minded support of such public servants as policemen and teachers and, in this case, firemen. “I had sold a lot of firemen cartoons to magazines,” Holman said, “and the idea of firemen running around all over in red trucks seemed like a good gimmick to hang things on.”

Over Christmas while visiting his grandmother in Crawfordsville, Holman drew up a sample Sunday strip and when he returned to New York, he offered it to Patterson. “He wondered if I could keep it up,” Holman said, “and I told him confidently that I could.”

The manic Smokey Stover debuted March 10, 1935; Holman said the name came to him while watching a smoking stove. The strip continued with the Tribune-News Syndicate until Holman retired in 1973.

The title character is a fireman, Smokestack Stover, and while the strip also features his boss, the fire chief Cash U. Nutt, the activities just as often involve Smokey’s wife Cookie or his son Earl or their cat with a perpetually bandaged tail, Spooky, who, for a time, starred in a companion strip of his own before joining the firehouse gang.

Holman, Stephen Becker said in his Comic Art in America (1959), “threw himself into his work with unmitigated glee,” adding: “The profession of comic strip artist has supplied nothing closer to a baggy-pants burlesque comedian than Bill Holman. Holman wears neither baggy pants nor floppy shoes, and his work has none of the bluish quality of real burlesque; but his inventiveness, his verbal juxtapositions and misunderstandings, and his irrepressible manglings of the English language are the marks of a man to whom reality is subordinate to art.”

The art was the art of the pun, both visual and verbal. The jokes around which Holman arrayed his maniac word play were tame left-overs from what pop culture critic Don Phelps calls “decrepit vaudeville.”

 

TCJ artist and designer Mike Reddy has a fab humor piece up at the New Yorker, written by TCJ contributor Jay Ruttenberg.

Ron Rege reports back from Australia, in pictures.

Did I know that there’s a film about Al Capp featuring Spain and Trina Robbins? Did you? Good lord.

 

 

Think of the Kids

Hi, it’s Monday. We’re back again. Today we have Annie Mok’s conversation with Julie Doucet about the artist’s latest book, Carpet Sweeper Tales.

MOK: What was your initial draw to fumetti—to this material—as opposed to another source for images?

DOUCET: I found some fumettis in a garage sale, and I kind of like the look of it. It’s very cheaply made, and I tried to make other projects with that, more comics-form-like—full pages with many panels—but I never could get around with it. The project originated more from the text, really. I wanted to make text with made up onomatope like words more than anything else, but I figured that it was maybe a little too hard to take, so I decided to add the pictures. I ended up cutting up the pictures I liked in the fumetti and create my own narrative out of it. And then wrote the text. Of course you have a precise idea of what you want to do when you start, but then it drifts along the way. It ended up not being 100% sound-like text but a mixture of it with existing words. And the way I work with the cutout words is that I start with the leftovers from the project before. I pick one word, and I try to build something around it. It’s the starting point. It doesn’t look like it, but it is quite a lot of work.

Elsewhere:

Social media and a few comic book sites are abuzz with the jarring juxtaposition of the firing of longtime DC/Vertigo editor Shelly Bond with the continued alleged protection of an allegedly serial sexual harasser in the company named Eddie Berganza, who is the head of the Superman group of titles. These two facts have little to do with one another, but together point to a company that has a serious behavioral problem on its hands, and it appears to be part of the corporate culture. This wouldn’t be a surprise 20 years ago, but given the new value attached to these properties, I’m surprised that Time Warner hasn’t nipped this in the bud for purely financial/PR reasons. Bleeding Cool has a solid round-up.

The Guardian speaks to R. Crumb on the occasion of his new Art & Beauty work. Unintentional hilarity ensues. I’ve never been that moved by this ongoing body of work. The drawing never quite transcends its photograph sources to become something that gives visual information back to me. Those drawings are a little dead. I’m curious what cartooning Crumb has on the burner.

TCJ-contributor R. Orion Martin has a profile of Chinese cartoonist Yan Cong at Hyperallergic.

And here’s a by-the-numbers look at Jack Kirby over at The Boston Globe.

 

Grabbing It All

Hard to say much about the major cultural news of yesterday. But there are comics to be discussed, so off we go.

Tim Hanley is back with us for a review of the long-awaited Wonder Woman graphic novel written by Grant Morrison. Here’s a bit:

Marston was a psychologist who believed that women were superior to men and would soon take over the world, and he created Wonder Woman so that young readers, especially boys, could get used to the idea of powerful women and prepare to submit to the loving authority of the coming matriarchy. He and Peter used bondage as the central metaphor for his theories. There was a definite aspect of kinky fetishism therein, but the metaphor largely holds. Among the Amazons, with women in charge, bondage was fun and pleasant for all involved, but when men were in charge, whether it was Hercules, Axis soldiers, or Dr. Psycho, bondage was unpleasant and often rendered women powerless. Morrison was inspired by this unconventional approach, and has been talking about bondage and sexuality in the original Wonder Woman comics in nearly every interview in which he’s discussed Wonder Woman: Earth One over the past several years.

Morrison and Paquette continue their critique of patriarchal society when Wonder Woman first arrives in the outside world. She’s appalled by everything about modern society, no more so than when she sees elderly women in the palliative care ward of a hospital and exclaims, “Our sisters, dying? Their lives, their wisdom — lost forever, unrecorded? What world is this where women perish alone… afraid…” It’s a powerful scene, and the military hounding her and clearly having designs on the mysteries of Amazonia further underscores the critique of our society.

The book delves into the utopian side of Marston’s beliefs as well with the advanced matriarchal society of the Amazons. Their home is beautifully illustrated by Paquette, a dazzling city of unique architecture and advanced technology that marries the classical and the futuristic wonderfully. They live in peace there, jousting on kangas and riding flying motorcycles for fun with no disease or death because of their purple healing ray, an invention of Marston and Peter. Without men to get in their way, the Amazons have created a paradise.

Elsewhere:

The Paris Review has Matthew Thurber’s amazing comic take on his surname, excerpted from Kramers Ergot 9. The great Joe McCulloch will bring us a review of KE9 soon enough.

Here’s a review of Mary Wept Over the Feet Of Jesus over at Boing Boing.

I recently just stumbled over a pretty rich web site for the underground culture chronicler Clay Geerdes, best known to comics readers for his early coverage and publishing of underground comics and mini comics.

And finally, here’s Sophie Goldstein interviewed at Inkstuds.

 

For Some Reason

Today on the site, Tahner Oksman reviews The Complete Wimmen’s Comix.

…it is the very unevenness of the resultant collection that makes this publication worthy of its new, reprinted form. Reading through the eighteen issues, which span twenty-two years in all, including a notable seven year gap between issues seven and eight, one gets the sense of a somewhat diverse body of women trying to navigate individual artistic modes, to find their voices and styles, while continually bumping up against what it means to be published in a venue that, by its very name, suggests marginality and difference. This collection is as much a historical document as anything else, tracing late-twentieth century representations of women’s issues – health, relationships, sexuality – as they are shaped by the times. In the first eight issues, for example, around the wake of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, we get a number of sometimes pedantic, sometimes more artful accounts pivoting around women choosing to get legal or illegal abortions, and experiencing the consequences; following Stonewall and the early LGBT movement, we get stories of coming out, romances blossoming and sexual explorations thriving alongside newfound political consciousnesses, activist stirrings. In these issues, we also see early works by women who would come to dominate parts of the landscape of contemporary comics – short pieces by Diane Noomin, Roberta Gregory, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Joyce Farmer, Lee Mars, and Sharon Rudahl (the list, as you might imagine, goes on).

And Frank Santoro is here with a write-up of Simon Hanselmann’s latest collection.

The episodes on this collection take place during Megahex (according to the title page), and like the first Fantagraphics collection, the styles subtly change. I think it was smart to shuffle the on-model-ness of the episodes. What it does, I think, is give Simon the freedom to alter the style or approach as the episodes progress and the series expands. Time is less linear and more simultaneous. It’s like an early episode of The Simpsons—when you see the early character designs you don’t necessarily think it is happening at the beginning of Simpsons history. So regardless of when an episode in the Megahex and now Amsterdam collections were made, they all sort of jigsaw together into a refreshing smoothie on a summer day. And even if one episode sort of informs the following episode in terms of linear time, the ordering of the episodes in the new collection echoes my memory of the other episodes and feels expansive and so there’s room for surreal character displays that aren’t set there to drive the plot. The style sifts are not jarring and in fact help set each episode apart.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Via a press release to CBR, DC has announced the “restructuring” of their Vertigo imprint, as well as the dismissal of editor Shelly Bond.

Bond has been with DC Comics and specifically Vertigo since 1993, the same year the imprint was formed. In her time at the company, she’s worked on some of the most celebrated comics of the era including “The Sandman,” “Sandman Mystery Theater,” “The Invisibles,” “Fables” and “iZombie.” In 2012, Bond became Executive Editor of the Vertigo line, following the departure of longtime Vertigo head Karen Berger. Last year, Bond made the move with many of her colleagues to the west coast, as DC’s editorial operations shifted from New York City to Burbank, California.

Nick Sousanis has won the Lynd Ward Prize for Unflattening.

“‘Unflattening,’” the jury noted, “is an innovative, multi-layered graphic novel about comics, art and visual thinking. The book’s ‘integrated landscape’ of image and text takes the reader on an Odyssean journey through multiple dimensions, inviting us to view the world from alternate visual vantage points. These perspectives are inspired by a broad range of ideas from astronomy, mathematics, optics, philosophy, ecology, art, literature, cultural studies and comics.”

—Commentary. Paul Karasik pays tribute to the recently departed New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton.

The caption reads, “For some reason, we weren’t appealing enough to those awful little bastards everyone hates.”

The craft of gag cartooning often overlooks the workmanship of the caption. In this case the whole amalgam of drawing and words is ignited by three words: “for some reason”.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ruben Bolling talks to children’s book author and cartoonist Mo Willems about a new exhibit of his work.

“On one level, I want it to be established and proved that this work is art: legitimate, difficult, non-accidental. And on the other hand, I want to inspire kids to see that is achievable, easy, and worthwhile,” he explains. “The exhibit is not the point. The point is when the kid goes home and starts drawing his own drawings.”

And The Stranger profiles Simon Hanselmann.

I asked him how his year was going, and he said he’d been through some shit. He said he’d just gone through the “horrendously horrible” and lengthy visa process. Hanselmann was in a noise-music band called Horse Mania (“Horrible name,” he said), but two weeks after Hanselmann got to Seattle, his bandmate of 10 years died. His art dealer, Alvin Buenaventura, died two weeks after that. “It’s been a weird fucking time,” he said.

He continued: “And my mom’s got cancer. She told me a week before I moved. She’s like, ‘Don’t feel guilty—don’t stress about moving away.’ But she clearly wants me to come back. I’ve just buried myself in work.”

 

Myopia

Welcome to Wednesday. Today we have Annie Mok reviewing fellow TCJ-contributor Mike Dawson’s book Rules for Dating My Daughter.

Mike Dawson delivers an uneven collection of personal essay-style memoir comics, occasionally thoughtful, but often thoughtless in its concern for others. The stories, culled mostly from The Nib, Kickstarted to fund production, and now published by Tom Kaczynski’s Uncivilized Books, focus on parenting in a hyper-masculine, capitalist, culturally volatile age. While I enjoyed some elements of the book, many rattled me (I’ll get to those in a moment).

One comic essay has Dawson looking at his daughter’s infatuation for a Disney princess show called Sofia the First. Dawson wonders: what does the show’s implicit acceptance of a ruling class mean for his daughter, taking that in taking in these stories?

Elsewhere:

The good people at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum blog about another new acquisition. 

I’m fascinated by the new talking points that have sprung around R. Crumb, straight from his gallery’s press releases. Theoretically and economically moving him out of a comic book context is key to establishing a more robust primary market for whatever he still has to sell. So on comes the talk of media and selfies and the like. Fine by me. Lord knows the discourse around him in comics hasn’t exactly been interesting. Funny to watch.

This sounds like a great exhibition over in Australia.

The 2016 Eisner Award nominees have been announced. Frank Santoro offered his commentary here. Me, I’m holding out for a No-Prize.

 

 

Most importantly: Hillbilly comics!