Dan Nadel: What's the big idea here? What territory are you trying to carve out that's not covered elsewhere?
Gabriel Winslow-Yost: The idea is simply that there are a lot of great comics out there that have sort of fallen by the wayside, as the years have gone by, or -- even worse -- that never made it into English at all, and that they deserve a wider audience. It's really just wrong that a book as amazing and unique as Agony is out of print, that only a single book by Blutch has ever been translated, and on and on. There are a ton of books like that, more even than we actually realized, when we started this project. So it's maybe not so much a specific chunk of the territory we're looking to make our own, but more that there are really excellent things scattered throughout the territory that haven't been covered, and we're going to wander around, picking them up and dusting them off and getting them back onto shelves.
—Interviews & Profiles. Sadaf Ahsan at the National Post profiles Adrian Tomine upon the release of his Killing & Dying.
Ian Burrell at the Independent profiles Malaysian cartoonist Zunar on his visit to the UK, before he returns to his native county to face a sedition trial in which he may be sentenced to up to 43 years in prison for his cartoons.
After graduating from high school in 1943, Anderson attended the University of North Carolina briefly, then went to New York to find work in the comics book industry He ended up being hired by Jack Byrne to work in the in-house art staff at Fiction House, publisher of popular titles Jumbo, Planet, Wings, Fight, et al. He worked alongside, and learned from, artists such as Bob Lubbers, Ruben Moriera, and Art Saaf. He particularly admired the work of Reed Crandall and named the Blackhawk artist as an influence. Anderson’s best known regular feature at Fiction House was Star Pirate, which he did from Planet Comics #33 to #51. To improve his knowledge of human anatomy, he took life drawing classes at the Art Students League. At this time, he both penciled and inked his comic book assignments.
In Bill [Kartalopoulos]’s foreword to this edition, he mentions paracomics—comics at a remove from the field—and the magnitude of that presence really does set this volume apart from the others. Of course, Chapter Five in particular ["You Might Even Hang Them on Your Wall"]. So I was curious how much your work on the collection left you wrestling with the orthodoxies of the form. If, for instance, you’d have a harder time defining comics now.
That’s a great question too. One thing I should say to set the ground for replying is that you, given your position and your continuous critical engagement—and Bill Kartalopoulos, because of his continuing work—are more saturated, more in touch with what the wider field looked like in the years leading up to this effort. And I really did my best to disclose this in my introduction. I think about comics a lot, and I’ve related to comics intensely since I’ve discovered them. I’ve tried to make them—I got to work for Marvel to write a borderline-mainstream comic—but I’m not even close to being a pretender to having a comprehensive critical take. I’m not Scott McCloud, as far as guest editors go. I don’t read comics broadly or systematically enough. I kind of use them for my own purposes—they’re a fuel and a fascination—but I just read so many more to put together this year’s compilation than I’d read in a long, long time. It’s almost left for you to tell me, or for other people to respond to the book and tell me how centered (or not centered) the result looks to them.
I was met with a tremendous amount of material here that messed with my expectations, and I was really excited to—I’ll just go down the list. I’m so excited that something like that Adam Buttrick work [“Misliving Ammended”] exists. It’s so familiar and so dislocating at the same time. It builds on everything I understand comics to be, but it just seems to be so free in its relation to the definition. There were enough pieces like that that I began to feel like I was really being schooled—that comics was bigger and a more radical field and context. As radical as I might ever have hoped, and it made home for all this incredible stuff. And that started to seem like the new center to me. Things that didn’t have some formal breakdown [or] some degree of paracomics—it’s like when rock ’n’ roll got feedback in it, and no song sounded as awake or alive if it didn’t have a little bit of feedback. I just felt like, “This is great. This is what comics want to become, and they’ve done it. Or they’re doing it.”
—News. Murphy Anderson, the longtime DC artist possibly best known for his work on Hawkman, has passed away. Mark Evanier seem to have been the first person to report his passing. We will have an obituary soon.
Back in 2011, filmmakers and documentarians Louise Amandes and Ron Austin set out to make a movie about artists in the Pacific Northwest who make comics. They thought they were making a simple film about a beloved subject and then discovered they were in the middle of a cultural surge, firmly rooted in history.
Among many others, they filmed James Gill, Frank Young, David Lasky, Steve Willis, Pat Moriarty, Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, David Horsey, Brian Basset, Donna Barr, Jim Woodring, Gary Groth, Shannon Wheeler, Shary Flenniken, and Peter Bagge (to mention the top-billed folks on the film’s official poster).
On September 30, 2015, their ninety-minute documentary entitled Bezango, WA, premiered in Seattle and is making the rounds of various film festivals. It will soon be available on DVD.
Bezango, WA is a respectful film that refreshingly approaches the subject of making comics from the points of view of the artists involved. There are no animated “Pow!” sound effects or comic-book-like special effects. It’s the sort of approach you might expect to see in a documentary about people who make fine musical instruments: lots of craft, lots of love. We visit with artists drawing and inking comics with consummate patience and skill while they frankly discuss their lives and art.
Slow news day, heading into a busy weekend, so I leave you with our own Frank Santoro profiled in the UK.
Today, John Kelly is back with another guest Riff Raff column. This week, he reports from Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's RAW discussion at CXC. He also contacted Jay Lynch to talk about the lost Lynch painting recently discovered on Roadside Antiques.
Lynch says that while he was a student at the Art Institute in the mid-'60s, there was a billboard across the street from the school that advertised the political campaign for a local sheriff. "It showed this guy and his wife and like eight kids. And the kids were holding a sign that said 'Woods For Sheriff' and you could see the billboard outside the window of the art class. So I painted it. But then I got carried away. I was just trying to kill time really, and I painted it for months. After a while you put it up in front of the class and the teacher critiques it. And so the teacher says, 'Well, what were you thinking when you did this?' And I gave this sort of long-winded speech about when certain things affect the brain it allows you to see the plasticity of your environment, blah, blah. After I got done with that, he said, 'Oh thank God. I thought you were taking LSD or something' and that got a big laugh."
—Reviews & Commentary. At the Paris Review, Folio Club founding editor Robert Pranzatelli profiles the career of Moebius.
That's right, I'm back, and the best thing about the Frankfurt experience is the brisket with that fine fine green sauce. And the veal. Not to mention the beer. The nice, easy beer. Oh sure I saw some books, too, but who needs books? I saw a nice Edgar Jacobs sketchbook collection, which is one of those kinds of books I used to buy but just can't anymore. Then again, it is nice seeing that insane precision in pencil form. Of course. Otherwise, gee, I dunno, I was holding down the DAP booth selling enormous quantities of books to Chinese wholesalers. Go figure.
Anyhow, here we are at Wednesday and Alex Dueben has brought us an interview with old school inker Tom Palmer, which gets into the kind of technique talk I so love.
You mentioned that Jack Kamen always inked with a brush. Were you using a brush to ink?
I inked with a dip pen, it was a Hunt 102 Crow Quill, and I used a Koh-i-noor Rapidograph pen, which had a one line thickness, to rule straight lines or ellipses with guides, a very mechanical line but needed in an advertising art studio. Used a brush to fill in black areas but never to strictly ink with, I would paint with a brush but never ink with one.
Jack was very particular about his Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brushes and once they lost a point he would pass them on to me. He would ink straight lines with a brush using a bridge he had bought. I was always fascinated how much he did with a brush.
As you said, Gene Colan penciled differently than a lot of other artists. The two of you worked together a lot over the years. Why do you think you worked so well together? What did you do with his pencils that others did not?
Gene Colan was the first comic book penciller I ever inked, and since I didn’t have anything to compare to, I did my best to interpret his gray tone artwork into line art. I would open up his shadows with crosshatching or zip-a-tone screens, something other than just black, Gene had a lot going on in his pencils especially the shadows, I just brought it out.
I'm a bit out of the loop, but near as I can tell the biggest news of the week is the official announcement of the New York Review of Books Comics line. I've known it was in the works for a while, and I'm pleased as punch that it's come to fruition with a strong, eclectic line-up of books and Gabriel Winslow-Yost is a strong comics critic in his own right. This is a fine new context and a nice way to start a different conversation about the medium. Here's the first season of books and, what the hell, here's the press release below.
New York Review Books is pleased to announce New York Review Comics, a new series of books at the union of art and literature. Comics has been one of our liveliest art forms for over a century, but many of its greatest works are no longer available, or have never appeared in English. In the tradition of NYRB Classics, NYRC will present new editions and new translations of some of those overlooked gems—unique, powerful, and surprising books that will appeal both to longtime comics fans and to the newly curious.
NYRC will publish comics of all sorts, from intimate memoirs to absurdist gags, lyrical graphic novels to dizzying experiments, united in their affirmation of the strange and wonderful things that only comics can do. Some will be in paperback, some in hardcover, and trim sizes will vary.The series will begin on March 22, 2016 with Mark Beyer’s Agony, a darkly humorous depiction of urban despair originally published in 1987, now with an introduction by super-fan Colson Whitehead. This will be followed by the beautiful historical saga Peplum, by the acclaimed French cartoonist Blutch, in a new translation by Edward Gauvin (April 19); and Almost Completely Baxter, a judicious collection of new and selected work by the beloved, inimitably hilarious artist Glen Baxter (May 24).
It will continue in Fall 2016 with Soft City, a majestically surreal tour of an office dystopia by Norwegian pop artist Pushwagner, drawn and then lost in the early 1970s, with a new introduction by Chris Ware; Belgian artist Dominique Goblet’s searing experimental memoir Pretending Is Lying, translated from the French by Sophie Yanow—Goblet’s first book to appear in English; and What Am I Doing Here?, a long out-of-print collection by postwar America’s forgotten master of the existential gag, Abner Dean.NYRC is co-edited by Gabriel Winslow-Yost, an assistant editor at The New York Review of Books who has written on comics, video games, and other subjects for The New York Review, The New Yorker, and n+1, and Lucas Adams, a cartoonist who has drawn for The Believer, Mental Floss, The Toast, and Atlas Obscura, was recently named as one of Brooklyn Magazine’s “30 Under 30,” and is a former intern at New York Review Books.
Got all that? Good.
Frank Santoro would have you know that his new book with Breakdown Press is available, in advance of publication, via his crowdfunder. Go forth!
Otherwise, tune in to this video by cartoonist Ben Jones:
Dan is still in Frankfurt, but I have returned from a weekend deep in the cold, dark Pine Barrens of New Jersey to bring you more comics talk.
Today on the site, Ryan Holmberg is back with another installment of his essential manga history column. This time, he responds briefly to a Japanese scholar who cast doubt on some of his earlier work, specifically Holmberg's claim that Osamu Tezuka seems to have been inspired by pre-1945 American comics.
When I first presented my research on New Treasure Island at a lecture at Gakushuin University in Tokyo in July 2012, Ono Kōsei (who knows his American comics as deeply as his manga) voiced similar doubts, and I suspect that there are others who feel the same, at least in Japan. So visual evidence aside, it is an issue I need to address. Presently, I only have bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence and tangential hard evidence. I want to present them before you, as a way of asking if anyone has further thoughts or information on the matter, particularly from a non-Japan perspective. If you are not familiar with Tezuka’s relationship to American comics or with the visual evidence of Gottfredson, Barks, and Hannah’s influence on New Treasure Island, I urge you to first read the essays listed above. Assuming that you do have a basic grasp of the art history, I am going to limit discussion to questions that are necessary to respond to Watanabe’s claims.
—Interviews. At The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly and Mina Kaneko talk to Bill Griffith about his new memoir, Invisible Ink, and also share an excerpt.
Following Luc Sante's review of Here last week, Richard McGuire appears on the New York Times Book Review podcast.
At The Beat, Alex Deuben interviews Maggie Thrash about her recent comics memoir, Honor Girl. I haven't had a chance to read that yet, but my wife loved it and I plan to soon.
—Misc. Robert Boyd writes about buying original art from Jaime Hernandez, Sammy Harkham, and Dylan Horrocks.
—Funnies. For the New York Times Book Review, Chris Ware writes an essay in comics form about why he loves comics. (It's probably easier to read this in print form than online, if you can still manage to find a copy of yesterday's Times.)
Today, Rob Clough returns with his latest High-Low column, and this one is huge, a long collection of reviews of twenty different recent(ish) comics anthologies. Here's an excerpt from his writing on one:
Insect Bath, edited by Jason T. Miles. Distributed by the Profanity Hill collective, this comic has a visceral but cerebral approach that is truly unsettling. This is a horror anthology done in what I refer to as the "immersive" style of comics. It's a style that makes its decorative aspects part of its narrative, creates its own visual logic and demands active reader interaction. It's not a passive form of storytelling that gently leads the reader across the page, but rather a style that's murky and works only on its own terms. It's not surprising that Miles planned to do this anthology with the late Dylan Williams, because Williams' Sparkplug Comic Books was a champion of this style. Miles' own strip in the anthology acts as a story of primordial ooze, birth and rebirth, as well as a howl against the void. There are also stories conflating sexual discomfort with body horror and madness from like Zach Hazard Vaupen and Alex Delaney.
More challenging is Juliacks' suffocating story about bodies being manipulated, thrown against walls, played as puppets, drowned and defecated upon; the denseness of her line and the near-poetic nature of her decorative text create a powerfully oppressive atmosphere. Contrast that to Noel Freibert and Sammy Harkham, who turn everyday experiences into lethal, terrifying, but ultimately inexplicable events; this is the horror of nihilism.