BLOG

I Can’t Believe

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch has your week in comics.

Elsewhere:

This is the ultimate fanboy comic book porn. And I love it.

As usual Grantland has a nice history of a Marvel character followed by the casting news itself.

Richard Gehr points to the unlikely meeting of Frank Zappa and Mary Worth.

I love a good collection dump.

This list of “scary” comics is only notable for its omissions.

 

Don’t Look at It

Welcome to the week. Chris Mautner is with us this morning, bringing along a lengthy interview with Michel Fiffe, the cartoonist creator of Copra and Zegas who has recently begun a side-career as a writer for Marvel. Here’s a sample of their talk:

Was Zegas received well online or in the Act-i-vate Primer at all?

The Act-i-vate Primer was ignored and the Zegas stuff that was online didn’t make a dent, either. My friends liked it a lot, but it never clicked beyond that. That same story, “Birthday”, was then relaunched for MTV Geek, a site which reportedly got millions of hits a day. Not a peep from that. I knew that the platform wasn’t necessarily the problem, it was the work. It just wasn’t clicking with an audience. During this entire period, I would also occasionally make sample pages for mainstream publishers, just to exhaust every possible avenue in order to try and get paid to do this comics thing. Nothing came of that, either. It was a frustrating period.

So how did you move beyond that?

I thought making better work would take care of everything, I thought that really taking stock of what I wanted from comics would lead me to the answer. I felt like time was running out but I still had this desire to make comic books that hadn’t diminished after all this time and thought that was worth something. Plus I was getting tired of huffing barge at my day job.

“Huffing barge”? What exactly was your day job during this period?

I built props and costumes for sports teams and Broadway shows and for parades. It was a fun job, a creative, challenging job, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for more than a couple of years. I was there for seven.

So how does that lead to “huffing barge?” I apologize for the segue, but I’m intrigued by the euphemism.

Barge is the highly toxic adhesive that we used to assemble many things. We used respirators and ventilators and all that, but it’s a little much sometimes. We also worked with latex a lot. We made rubber molds, sculpted puppets. It was definitely a career, but I didn’t want it to be my career. I wanted comics.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Roz Chast was one of three winners of the first annual Kirkus Prize.

In support for the Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart’s legal problems, Martin Rowson has been recruiting cartoonists to draw caricatures of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Seth Kushner’s cancer is no longer in remission. His family’s gofundme page.

That extremely ambitious/expensive Tezuka Kickstarter I mentioned last week has drawn criticism from fans. Deb Aoki has the best rundown on the controversy I’ve seen.

Alexis Deacon has won the first Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize.

—Reviews & Commentary.
In a surprise move, John Adcock compares Chester Gould with the Canadian painter Alex Colville.


—Misc.
Here’s a post gathering a lot of old illustrated Paramount Records advertisements, which were very influential on R. Crumb’s blues comics.

 

Inhale Exhale

Today on the site:

From the archives comes Gary Groth’s expansive interview with the great Ralph Steadman, most famous for illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson books.

GROTH: Did you know who Hunter Thompson was?

STEADMAN: No, I had never heard of him before. Anyway, I went down there [to Louisville] and I met him after two days and we spent a drunken week looking for the rattled face of Kentucky, the ghastly sight that Hunter knew so well, and we finally found it in the mirror of our own face at the end of the week. The ghastly look, the rattled look [Chuckles]. I had done my drawing before I got back to New York. I spent a lot of the time in his hotel room drawing these pictures and he hadn’t done anything. He was in this stage of trying to help his mother with a personal problem; he didn’t talk about it much. He had a few family problems. He introduced me to his two older brothers, and he also maced someone that week, in a restaurant. Everybody was maced because when you spray mace in a bloody closed area, everybody gets it, everyone was going, “Ahhh!” In a restaurant!

GROTH: What were the circumstances?

STEADMAN: To get me out, because I stated drawing people and things were getting ugly. If he hadn’t had mace, we would have been in trouble.

GROTH: Who did he mace, the waiter?

STEADMAN: Somebody stumbling over: “Hey buddy, you can’t do this to me.” Hunter would say, “I wish you’d stop that ugly habit of sketching people.”

GROTH: He just carried a canister of mace with him?

STEADMAN: Yeah. And I guess we got on well because I was quite different. He said I always said everything was “teddible” — not terrible, but “teddible.” He had a funny way of saying it. I used to listen to what he said. He made me notice things I’d forgotten. So, anyway, I went back to Scanlan’s with the drawings and I hadn’t drawn a single horse. The editor said, “Didn’t you see any horses? Can’t we have one with horses in it?” So I did one drawing of a horse with a big dong, and also a Texan with his pants open and his own dong hanging out.

And on the other end of the drawing spectrum, here’s Robert Kirby’s review of John Porcellino’s The Hospital Suite.

The Hospital Suite is a deeply revealing, heartrending account of King-Cat creator John Porcellino’s descent from a normal life into a seemingly endless series of physical and mental health problems, problems that threatened to derail his life for good. Like many Porcellino fans, I knew somewhat vaguely that he had dealt with a number of health issues beginning in the late ’90s, but I had no idea of their magnitude. The Hospital Suite (amazingly, his first book of all-new, all-original material), records it for posterity. Intense and harrowing, it’s a must-read for fans of Porcellino, fans of the medical auto-bio comics sub-genre (Harvey Pekar’s Our Cancer Year, Ellen Forney’s Marbles), and fans of alt-comics in general.

Elsewhere:

Most important thing: The great Gladys Nilsson,  a member of the Hairy Who and a hugely influential and important artist in her own right has just opened a deeply compelling and at times shockingly honest solo show up right now in NYC at Garth Greenan Gallery. It’s a must for anyone in or visiting the city. Don’t miss it. Also, I did the interview for the catalog, which is available at the gallery.

Also very important: I think this video preview means that Ben Jones’ new cartoon, Stone Quackers, is debuting Sunday night on FXX. This is the best cartoon Ben has done. I have seen an episode and I fell in luuuuvvv.

Another of my favorite artists, Leslie Stein, recently began serializing her diary comics over at Vice.

Gee, New York Magazine hearts, uh, whatever you call these kind of comics now (not mainstream, not genre, but… I dunno)… here’s a lengthy piece on DC’s John Constantine.

And that’s what I have. Enjoy your weekend.

 

Gutted

Today in his column, Frank Santoro follows up on his recent trip to Colombia by spotlighting a South American cartoonist named Berliac and his graphic novel, Playground:

This is a comic about John Cassavetes. It strikes a chord with me because it is very similar to another favorite comic of mine that is also about Cassavetes: John Pham’s Substitute Life: My John Cassavetes and Chris Ware diary from a 2002 sketchbook zine. Both use the comics form to study the process and output of the great film director. They also critique the dominant forms of comics and the comics industry by using Cassavetes’ struggles with Hollywood as an example and metaphor. The authors’ own reactions to Cassavetes and their notes about these reactions/thoughts are used within the comic book narrative to tell Cassavetes’ story—and the authors’ projection that they are living and participating in their own Cassavetes movie.

And then George Elkind is here with a review of Antoine Cossé’s intriguing J.1137. Here’s a sample of that:

Does it ever feel like you’re in a movie? That odd sense of constant performance, and constant dislocation, is exactly what this comic trades in. Throughout J.1137 a “voice-over” of sorts continues over all its parts and frames, an ongoing string of not-quite-narrative caption, muddling its many layers.

For example: the title character (“J” for short) is an actor—and an android, believable and animated as an imitation of life. He’s in a movie currently in production, and is famous for roles in others—we even spot a billboard for one, though we never learn any titles. Through all this the comic acquires a rounded sense of a world with more layers to it than a fancy cake, most of its parts smoothed together with equalizing assurances of their shared falseness. That voice-over stitching this all together acts as the prime catalyst; even after the word “Cut” it continues, seeming to shift between characters, roles, and sources. At times it even appears omniscient.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Prosecutors in Turkey are trying to send cartoonist Musa Kart to prison for nine years for the caricature he drew of the former Prime Minister. [UPDATED TO ADD: This morning, Kart was acquitted.]

—Interviews. Martin Dupuis speaks to Chris Wright about his bizarre pirate comic, Blacklung.

Paul Constant profiles and interviews Gary Groth after his Stranger Genius Award win.

—TCJ. Last week, Fantagraphics posted an excerpt from the upcoming volume of TCJ interviews with Zap artists.

Alex Buchet picked out some of his favorite TCJ covers over the years.

—Misc. I usually admire Abraham Riesman’s writing on comics for Vulture, and it’s very possible (even probably) that he didn’t write the headline for this, but “tragic and disappointing” seem like astonishingly hyperbolic words to connect to Marvel’s cancellation of The Fantastic Four.

This massive 31-book Osamu Tezuka Kickstarter is a little nuts, and apparently aimed at manga fans with very deep pockets. (If I’m reading it right, you have to kick in 150 bucks before you even get a single book!)

—Reviews & Commentary. Josselin Moneyron discusses Masahiko Matsumoto’s The Man Next Door. Zainab Akhtar previews Lala Albert’s Janus.

And in an outlier review for the New York Daily News, Eydie Cubarrubia is slightly baffled by Scott McCloud’s Best American Comics volume.

 

The Beat Drops

Today on the site, since you’ve been good, here is Ryan Holmberrg uncovering YET ANOTHER hidden facet of manga history: komaga.

Without komaga (literally “panel pictures”), there would have been no gekiga. Moreover, because by the mid 60s gekiga had become lingua franca in comics for adolescent boys and young men, and because without gekiga it is unlikely that the “cinematic” would have become the obsession that it did amongst manga critics and historians, one could also say that without komaga neither manga or its discourse would exist as we know them.

Despite this, komaga’s creator, Matsumoto Masahiko (1934-2005) has only recently been resurrected from the archive. Yet still has his work barely registered within the mainstream of manga scholarship, which remains stubbornly Tezuka-centric in focus.

And Sean T. Collins is here with a review of Carol Swain’s new book, Gast.

Murder mysteries are defined by their central, structuring absences. A hole occupies the space where a life once lived. That hole can never be filled. But through an investigation of the facts, an uncovering of the truth, and a pursuit and capture of the killer, we can define and discover the shape of the hole to a degree of accuracy sufficient to put a cover on it, so that the still-living may proceed past it once more.

Gast, a graphic novel of exquisite and accomplished empathy and restraint by alternative-comics veteran Carol Swain, tells a story centered on a hole far harder to close up than most. It proceeds with the methods and mechanics of investigation and discovery. The scene of the crime is visited. The victim’s routine is examined. The friends and acquaintances of victim and suspect alike are questioned. Evidence is recovered and cataloged: a discarded make-up bag, a shell casing, a stain on the bedroom wall. Means, motive, and opportunity are all established.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a great overview of Moomins creator Tove Jansson’s prose output.

Book publishing department: I like the look of these cover designs. It’s nice to see more innovative approaches to repackaged classics. Penguin, of course, also had a great series of cartoonist-illustrated covers.

I almost forgot that Ed Piskor’s wonderful Hip Hop Family Tree is still being serialized! Here’s the latest. Not only that, but all-time great cartoonist Ben Katchor is still serializing his strip in Metropolis, and it’s online, too. It’s fun to read comics!

 

 

Really Nice

Today on the site: Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics. And Robert Loss reviews the John Porcellino documentary Root Hog or Die.

At times in Root Hog or Die, the new documentary about his life to date, John Porcellino wanders down the streets of his old neighborhoods like he’s casing the houses. In a flannel jacket, raised hoodie, and ever-present Chicago Bears hat, he seems displaced but at peace with himself, a philosophical outsider sifting through his past. The off-handedness of these scenes and the film’s many interviews creates the impression that Root Hog or Die is almost a home movie, which it almost is, and this is a good thing. Disarmed, you forget this is a documentary, you forget the expectations of documentaries about an artist’s life, and you’re defenseless when Porcellino’s life unspools.

Elsewhere:

If you’re in NYC please join me tonight for the What Nerve! book release party. I’ll be talking to Peter Saul and screening Forcefield’s video Tunnel Vision (2001). Peter, along with Leif Goldberg and Jim Drain will also be signing books. 6- 8 pm, tonight, October 21st at the Swiss Institute (18 Wooster St. at Canal). Film screening at 6:30 and talk at 6:45.

Dave Gibbons has been named the UK’s first “comics laureate”, which is nice. I was holding out for Mick McMahon, but you can’t win ‘em all.

McSweeney’s has become a not-for-profit organization, which should lead to some interesting developments.

And finally, here’s a nice look at new design aspects of Jim Rugg’s Street Angel reissue.

 

 

Walk the Walk

Today on the site:

Julia Gfrörer brings us a new column on three different comics: Untitled by Andrew Pannell; “A Happy Death” by Cathy G. Johnson; and “Semi-Vivi” by GG.

Elsewhere:

A big congratulations to our publisher and editor-in-chief Gary Groth for winning The Seattle Stranger’s Genius Award. Well-deserved and may this be the first of many.

Here’s a conversation between A.O. Scott and Marjane Satrapi.

Hey, I didn’t know the transcript of that juvenile delinquency hearing in 1954 was online.
Comics-adjacent: A Gerhard Richter profile. I say comics adjacent because in 1962 young Gerhard completed a Steinberg-esque picture story that was only published this year and attributed to “Gerd Richter”. It’s very much in the vein of Steinberg’s books, which were available in German, as well as the work of other influences on German visual culture like Andre Francois, Robert Osborne, and others from a mostly (lately) unmentioned generation of “illustrators”.

This “most powerful in comics” list is wonderfully dated. History can be so cruel!

And finally, I don’t think I could love this painting more. A masterpiece.

 

The Sweats

Today on the site: R. Orion Martin on lianhuanhua, or Chinese pulp comics.

Most of the lianhuanhua that can still be found in China were printed in the late 1970s and 1980s during the last heyday of pulp comic publishing, but their history reaches back much farther. The lianhuanhua industry began in Shanghai during the 1920s and 30s, though some scholars trace the origins of the format to Song Dynasty scrolls. Using newly imported printing techniques, publishers began releasing periodicals that contained stories and illustrations. They called these works “lianhuanhua” (linked images), though there were various regional names. Some of these stories were text accompanied by images while others used speech bubbles or text inserted into the image. The most popular series from the magazines were reprinted in palm-size paperbacks, and before long rental shops sprung up in alleyways throughout the city. For a few coins, patrons could sit down on wooden stools and read several dozen lianhuanhua.

Elsewhere:

Visits: Lena Dunham’s illustrator of choice, Joana Avillez, is interviewed over at the SVA blog. Heeb Magazine chats with Art Spiegelman while Grant Morrison gets the Interview Magazine treatment.

Fun: Great Spanish pulp covers of the previous century!

Less fun but more important: A “Gamergate” primer at NY Mag.