The Fire of the Laws of Reason

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the best-sounding books coming to stores tomorrow. His spotlight picks this time include new comics by Miriam Libicki and William Cardini.

We also have day two of Dash Shaw's tenure creating A Cartoonist's Diary. Today he talks about receiving the French edition of Cosplayers: Perfect Collection.

I got the French edition of Cosplayers: Perfect Collection in the mail. This collection is maybe more "perfect" than the U.S. one because it has the Christmas Special in it, which will come out later this year as a separate pamphlet comic in the States. Apparently, Christmas Specials are not a thing in France, so it wouldn't make sense for it be a separate item. Seeing this French edition is cool for me a few different reasons... One is that the issues never came out in France. I redrew and corrected and added a bunch of things for the collection, so France will only see the better versions.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Vice speaks to MariNaomi about her Cartoonists of Color database.

So you hear the question, "What people of color cartoonists?" a lot?

I’ve heard this so much over the years that’s it’s just rote. “There aren’t any black people in comics.” “You have to write for men, because women don’t read comics.” The people who say that shit aren’t doing their homework. Apparently we're doing their homework for them.

Michael Cavna talks to Keith Knight.

[My strips about police brutality] are getting more attention than they used to. Someone who worked at a museum in St. Louis said she first discovered my work because someone was posting my comics around St. Louis during the Ferguson protests. I thought that was really cool.

People aren’t nearly as naive or ignorant about it as they were even a few years ago. And it excites me that we seem to be entering into a new era of activism and active protest amongst the masses. Athletes, students and others are stepping up and speaking out.

And he also talks to Ed Piskor.

I think when I started getting significant birthday/Christmas money to spend is when I started thinking hard about how that cash could be invested in my career as a cartoonist. The money would go to comics, and not [to] little bags of weed or cigarettes like normal kids. It was really mind-blowing to see the credits on the splash pages of comics, because it let me know that actual human beings created them, and not just some computer program or something.

Dominic Wells has an epic-length interview with Alan Moore.

“Here it was,” Moore says, pointing to an unprepossessing stone wall underneath a bridge that’s so low that he has to stoop. “That’s where industry and free-market conservatism were born. It [the machinery] was driving three looms, these looms would work without anybody to look after them, they’d just employ a few children to sweep out the corners and unsnag the machines if they got snagged, and immediately of course all the local cottage industries collapsed.

“So a little while after that, Adam Smith came to visit and he saw these machines working with nobody to work them, and he said ‘oh that’s marvellous, it’s like there’s a hidden hand’, then ‘ooh, that would make a nice metaphor for freemarket capitalism’. And that’s why we have this completely mystical notion that doesn’t exist, this is why Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher said that it was OK to deregulate the banks; we didn’t need market control because there was hidden hand! And now here we are.”

Steven Heller talks to Drew Friedman about his second Heroes of the Comics collection.

At this point, so much has been written in comics history books and comics magazine articles and online tribute groups that it’s rare you’ll find an unheralded genius from that era. Everyone seems to have a Facebook tribute book these days. But there are a few innovative cult comics artists who perhaps are not as well-known as they should be, maybe because their styles were a little more oddball than the norm. A few that come to mind include Ogden Whitney, who I included in the first book. He was a master of deadpan absurdity and his comic book adventures of the lollypop sucking Herbie, the “Fat Fury,” really jumped out at me. I also include in the new book the notorious publisher Myron Fass, actually two drawings of him in More Heroes of the Comics. He started out as a comic book artist, but he’s fascinating because his publishing career basically consisted of shamelessly and successfully ripping off what other publishers were having success with, like MAD, and Creepy & Eerie.

The latest guest on Virtual Memories is Tom Gauld.

On the latest episode of Inkstuds, Sean Ford interviews Tillie Walden.


Closed Off

Today on the site: Day One of Dash Shaw's Cartoonist Diary, in which Dash introduces us to his in-progress graphic novel, Discipline. 

And RJ Casey talks to Warren Craghead about the artist's remarkable daily Donald Trump drawing project.


The writer Nahed Hatter was murdered in Amman, Jordan, as he prepared to testify about a cartoon he posted online.

Kaitlyn Greenidge writes about the recent controversy over real or perceived cultural appropriation in fiction in the NY Times.

I wrote about Carroll Dunham's drawings over at Hyperallergic.


Rocket Science

Paul Buhle is here today with a review of Corrine Maier and Anne Simon's graphic biography, Einstein.

Since the distant days when Chomsky for Dummies sought to explain difficult ideas to popular audiences through an acute combination of art and text, comics have come to be a natural medium for scientific explanation. Indeed, Logicomix, the somewhat fictionalized biographical treatment of Bertrand Russell and his philosophical theories of math, proved a surprise bestseller a half dozen years ago. No others in the scientist-biographical category have been so successful, but as science, math, and the universe continue to get the comic treatment of various kinds, further experimentation is obviously ongoing.

This reviewer, an old-time historian of the Left, asks himself why Einstein is superior to Marx, the comics version of one famed Central European Jewish socialist over another. Most of Marx ended up treating his social life as radical exile, impoverished father and husband (very occasional adulterer), leader of the First International, and so on. The “Marxist” theories toward which he devoted his ardent energies got pretty short shrift. In fairness, such ponderous subjects as the Left Hegelianism of the young revolutionary romantic would prove daunting to any comics treatment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Two artists who work in the comics form, Gene Luen Yang and Lauren Redniss, were awarded MacArthur "genius" grants yesterday.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner looks back at the work of Richard Thompson.

Once you start digging in, however, you realize this is no average four-panel sitcom. For one thing, there are those names. Blisshaven. Otterloop. Danders. Thompson had a deep gift/fondness for strange words and phrases and incorporated them in into the strip whenever possible (hence the pangolins and trebuchets), giving the strip a healthy sense of the absurd. Cul de Sac teemed with weird objects and concepts — a toy nobody knew how to play with, a compact car so tiny it tips over easily — that pushed the strip right up to the edge of the fantastic without ever truly crossing the line. And while it could be a very verbose strip at times, Cul de Sac never felt like it was drowning in dialogue.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jackson Ayres writes about the way AIDS was depicted (through the metaphor of "the Legacy virus") in X-Men comics.

On one hand, the comics featuring Legacy tended to evince sentimental liberal humanist attitudes toward AIDS, at times even reinforcing homophobic reaction. Understood in the light of popular fantasy, on the other hand, the moments when X-Men was at its most outlandish, eschewing even the pretense of mimesis, provided opportunities for more daring, even radical, interrogations of the AIDS crisis.

Jonathan Guyer writes about the Egyptian cartoonist Andeel.

Broadly speaking, Andeel’s oeuvre falls into two categories: snap political commentary and social criticism. The former body of work—including caricatures of the president, mockery of the military—has garnered international acclaim. But in fact it’s in cartoons about the quotidian—relationships, technology, hipsters, vegetarianism—where Andeel often shines brightest.


Dirty Johnny

Today on the site, Robert Boyd writes about Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo's new book, The Greatest Comic Book of All Time: Symbolic Capital and the Field of American Comic Books:

Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo begin The Greatest Comic Book of All Time by acknowledging that fans love to make best-of lists. I instantly thought of pop music super-fan Rob in the novel and movie High Fidelity. He is constantly making lists, and the lists tend to be “top five” lists. The listing activity is always in service of naming the “greatest” of whatever is being listed. Beaty and Woo then discuss about several top 100 and top 500 lists from the world of comics, including Hero Illustrated (remember them? They were kind of a low-level Wizard knock-off) list, “The 100 Most Important Comics of All Time” from 1994 and The Comics Journal’s 1999 list “The Top 100 (English-Language) Comics of the Century” (note: both Bart Beaty and myself contributed to that list). The authors point out that Youngblood #1 by Rob Liefeld was on the Hero Illustrated list but not on The Comics Journal list. This book doesn’t express an opinion on whether Youngblood #1 deserved to be on either list. They write, “We have no intention of lecturing you about the comics that we think you should read. Rather, we want to examine the very process of list making and curating. We are not interested in what makes great works so great but how any work comes to be seen as great.”

The conceptual framework they use is “symbolic capital.” This is derived from the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. They write, “Any given work or creator will have differing levels of economics (i.e., sales), social (i.e., buzz and connections), and cultural (i.e., prestige) capital, but symbolic capital represents an overall index of social capital.” For the most part, Beaty and Woo only look at economic capital and cultural capital. They have somewhat quantifiable ways of looking at each.


The 2016 MacArthur Fellows were announced today, and cartoonist Gene Luen Yang and picture-story artist Lauren Redniss are among the recipients. 

The great Kerry James Marshall writes on Black Panther at Artforum.

Fair round-up: Nick Gazin at the NY Art Book Fair, and here's Publishers Weekly on SPX.



Rob Clough is here with a review of Caitlin Skaalrud's Houses of the Holy.

Houses of the Holy is Caitlin Skaalrud's journey into the deepest, darkest memories and emotions. Clinically discussing the events that led to a certain conclusion would have done little to actually convey the experience, so instead Skaalrud chose to invent a visual language to depict and a poetic language to describe the events of a lifetime that led her main character to her lowest ebb. The book's blurb describes the journey as Dantean, but there's no Virgil present to explain what we're seeing to either Skaalrud's presumed stand-in character or to readers. Instead of a straightforward narrative, there's an emotional narrative wrapped in symbols, fragments, and genuinely harrowing sequences.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Tucker Stone is reviewing the comics he brought home from this year's SPX.

This collection is the most painful one Dustin [Harbin] has done, and considering the reputation that autobiographical work has for being lonely-worship solipsism, it's strangely courageous to see Dustin--one of the few people in comics that is funny in the sense that he makes you laugh, as opposed to being called funny because he makes you feel like you're safe--commit to the relative mundane topic of habitual exercise, middle-aged ennui and everything else that comes with break-up recovery.

Sean Rogers reviews new books from Tom Gauld, Jessica Campbell, and Riad Sattouf.

In this debut monograph by Jessica Campbell – whom the faux-scholarly preface deems “one of the world’s leading art critics” – the author serves as docent, guiding readers through the masterworks of 20th-century art. Emphasis on “master”: The dudes who ruled high modernism are the subject here, though it’s not their bodies of work that come under scrutiny so much as their bodies, full stop.

Andrew Hickey reviews Alan Moore's Jerusalem. (There are obviously a slew of reviews of this novel; I plan on mostly just linking to the most comics-familiar of them.)

If I were to attempt to summarise this utterly unsummarisable novel, the best way to put it would be that it’s plot is a history of Moore’s ancestry, both physical and literary, that its themes are those of From Hell (with a little of Promethea thrown in), and that its style is that of Voice of the Fire. It is, in short, a culmination of everything Moore has been working on throughout the last thirty years, and possibly his greatest work (though writing less than a week after the book’s release, it’s impossible to say for sure). It’s a book that not only resists criticism, it contains the obvious criticisms of itself in its last chapter—

—Interviews & Profiles. Robert Anthony Siegel profiles Archie Rand, painter and creator of the comics-adjacent art book, The 613.

Rand considers “The 613” a single painting, but it is in fact a series of canvases illustrating the 613 commandments of the Torah, the backbone of Jewish law. It is self-consciously religious art — and yet maybe it isn’t. Rand’s style is derived from the EC Comics of the 1940s and ’50s — think Tales from the Crypt and early Mad magazine — and his imagery stands at an odd slant to the ancient Hebrew text. Commandment Number 10, “Not to Test the Prophet,” pictures a man standing in the open mouth of a brontosaurus. Number 80, “To Bind Phylacteries so that the Laws will be as a Sign upon your Arms,” shows an Alfred E. Neuman–type goofball playing with a yo-yo.

The Comics Alternative podcast talks to Carol Tyler.

The Virtual Memories podcast talks to New Yorker cartoonist and Peter Arno biographer Michael Maslin.

—Misc. Alan Moore endorses Jeremy Corbyn.

As an anarchist I don’t vote, preferring direct political action and comment without an elected intermediary. If I did vote, however, I would try to vote with the way that viable human history appeared to be going rather than against it. The economic and political agendas imposed in the West over the last thirty or forty years clearly lead only to a ruined environment, to international austerity while the planet’s billionaires attempt to become trillionaires, to Donald Trump, and to a horrific abyss that threatens to make the English Civil War look like a Sunday-school outing.



Today on the site, Joe McCulloch, fresh from SPX, gives us the week.


TCJ-contrib Katie Skelly and Sean Witzke talk movies over at Travis Bickle on the Riviera.

More audio: The CBC remembers a 1974 comic book convention.

Paste Magazine features Ben Katchor.

And Benjamin Marra's full Marra is on display in this short interview.



Fun Times

Today, Greg Hunter returns with a review of Tom Gauld's stylish Mooncop.

Like so many much-loved science-fiction stories, Tom Gauld’s Mooncop seems to be about this, but it’s really about that. In the case of Gauld’s comic, the this is a cop on the moon, and the that includes isolation, monotony, and obsolescence. As with Mooncop’s predecessors, a reader helps create these deeper meanings; the story’s rewards increase with a person’s level of engagement. So, potentially, do the disappointments.

Gauld draws comics in a singular, instantly recognizable manner, with linework that’s borderline cutesy (Mooncop occasionally reads like it ought to have been crocheted rather than printed) but also elegant and the result of clear technical control. As a storyteller, his pacing is deliberate and his affect his flat by design. Wes Anderson is an easy comparison but a fitting one; both artists mix melancholy and knowing understatement, whimsy and compositional tightness. And as with Anderson, it’s not always obvious whether the artist’s carefully-rendered world contains real insights or merely signifies insightfulness.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Tom Spurgeon talks to the very funny Jessica Campbell about her new book, Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists.

Anyway, the idea for the book really came from two experiences. The first was that, when Cy Twombly died, I was still working at D+Q and Lynda Barry sent me an email that just said (facetiously) "Cy Twombly when he was my boyfriend" and included a picture of a handsome young Twombly. The second was that my former coworker in Chicago, a painter named Katherine Harvath, and I would gchat at work and at some point started asking each other to guess if certain male painters were hot and then would find images to prove/disprove each other's theory. There's a really nice nude pic of Frank Stella with one of his paintings that sort of kicked the whole thing off.

Michael Cavna talks to Matt Bors about The Nib.

We left Medium last summer and officially relaunched under First Look Media in July, but we’ve been working with them since January — on the building of the site and commissioning work in anticipation of the relaunch. Comics and websites both take some time to create, it seems.

—News. The Ignatz Awards were given out at SPX this weekend.

—Misc. The Chicago episode of PBS's Art21 features Chris Ware.


Hands Across Atlantic

Today on the site, Annie Mok reviews the wondrous Meat Cake Bible by Dame Darcy.

Fantagraphics has just released a collection of comics from Dame Darcy, the Mermaid-identified cartoonist and sometime reality show star, in the form of The Meat Cake Bible. Ornately designed by Keeli McCarthy, the die-cut hardcover opens to a scene of Dickensian magical realist debauchery, featuring some of Darcy’s core cast of characters, such as Strega Pez, Effluvia the mermaid, and Wax Wolf. They all live in Sobriety Straight, a Victorian hellscape/dreamscape, wherein the dozens of short stories from the Meat Cake comics took place, published by Fantagraphics from 1993-2008. The strips reflect the giddy viciousness of the best Riot Grrrl art and music from the early nineties, with a collection of mostly (white) women characters as cackling demonesses, taking up space and being loud.

We'll have Ron Rege's interview with Dame Darcy soon enough.


It's SPX weekend! You won't find me there (though I wish I was going). All your info is here. Instead you can find me at the New York Art Book Fair on Sunday at 1 pm, interviewing Suellen Rocca of Hairy Who fame.

SPX recommendation: Do yourself a favor and buy Anya Davidson's Band for Life. I'm in the middle of it now and it's incredibly warm, funny and brilliant cartooning.

Here's a cool-sounding event about underground press in Oregon.

The great store Quimby's gets the local legend treatment in the Chicago Tribune.

And here's our own Robert Boyd on Trenton Doyle Hancock.