The Devil Rides Again

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.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—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.)


The End?

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.

We also present the fifth and final entry of Noah Van Sciver's Cartoonist's Diary, finishing up his chronicle of a week spent as a CCS fellow. Thanks, Noah!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Alvin Buenaventura writes on Facebook about a Daniel Clowes drawing of a grown-up Sluggo.

—Retailer/blogger Mike Sterling shares some info on Meat Nog, the '90s zine that was originally supposed to include the "lost" Daniel Clowes interview we recently published.

For the CBC, Hope Nicholson chooses seven indigenous comics creators that should be more widely known.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have announced a new scholarship for teenage editorial cartoonists.


Continuity Concerns

Today on the site, Frank Santoro and John Kelly tag team again on Frank's Riff Raff column, jointly reporting from this year's inaugural Cartoon Crossroads Columbus show. Frank calls it:

Easily the best comics show simply because of its connection to the vast history book of cartooning that is Columbus, Ohio.

I like to tell people who’ll listen: Billy Ireland, Charles Landon (the originator of the correspondence course for cartooning in 1903), Noel Sickles (who corrected course homework for Landon), and Milton Caniff are all from Ohio. These four (more or less) set the foundation of North American and European Cartooning. Everyone from Barks to Crane to Gottfredson took Landon’s course; Sickles and Caniff influenced about everyone else. Ohio. If you didn’t know, now you know. Much of cartooning’s rich history is centered in Columbus, Ohio.

It is also day four of Noah Van Sciver's week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary, coming to you straight from White River Junction, Vermont, where he seems very happy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Adam Schatz at The New Yorker has a nice, long profile of Riad Sattouf and his new book, Arab of the Future. (If you missed it, Matthias Wivel wrote about the same book for us back in July.)

Grace Bello at Publishers Weekly visits with Adrian Tomine.

Jacques Hyzagi talks to Robert Crumb for a New York Observer story that the paper itself is calling "sprawling" and "lurid." (Drew Friedman drew the cover illustration.)


Moi Aussi

Today, Noah Van Sciver returns for the third day of his Cartoonist's Diary series, continuing his stories of life as a fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Also, the great cartoonist Eleanor Davis makes her TCJ debut (if you don't count her own Cartoonist's Diary series from last year), with a review of Kevin Czap's Fütchi Perf.

Why is it that art about good things is so often bad art? Most of the happy images we see day-to-day are selling something, or the artist is trying to pull a curtain across the ugly parts of life. Art showing flowers, babies, smiling families, and people in love is often inane or disingenuous, and the awful thing is that this bad artwork makes the happy stuff itself seem fake. As artists we can get scared of making art about the things that are most precious to us: we don't want to make something bad, and we don’t want those parts of ourselves to be vulnerable. So we make low-risk cynical sad little stories, and we stop trying to imagine a kinder world.

And finally, we are republishing Dennis Daniel's 1993 interview with Dennis Eichhorn, from issue 162.

DANIEL: Do you write with specific artists in mind?

EICHHORN: Oh yeah. Now that I’ve gotten into it, yeah, I’ll have a story and I’ll think, “Oh, J.R. Williams ought to do this one, this is perfect for him.” Or I’ll have a story that a lot of artists might hesitate to tackle and I’ll give that to Holly Tuttle because she can draw anything. Sure, you bet. There are some times, I’ll see somebody’s work and it will make me think of a story, so I’ll sit down and write it for them. I get portfolios from different artists, and sometimes I’ll look at it and it will just really ring a bell and I’ll have no trouble ... In fact, with Howard Chackowicz I wrote him five stories right away, and I’d never done that with an artist before. But other people, I’ll get their work and it just doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not saying they’re not talented, it just doesn’t inspire me to write a story. So I just shelve that and go on.

DANIEL: When you’re trying to think about experiences in your life that you want to turn into a comic book story, does it ever enter into your mind that a certain story may not be appropriate for public consumption?

EICHHORN: Well ... I try not to repress anything. There are a couple of stories that are real painful for me to deal with, and I don’t have the right perspective on them yet. And if I ever get it then I’ll include them. But I’m not really trying to make myself look good — I don’t think that I do. The only times that I’ll look good is when some artist will make me thin or give me a Peter Parker physique or something like that. I kind of shy away from the ones who do that. But that’s in terms of looks. In terms of behavior, it’s obvious that I was real troubled while I was growing up and into my adult years, and there’s no way I can avoid that so I try to include it — and it’s pithy stuff, and lot of the people are just as fucked up as I am, so they can identify with what I’m doing and the mistakes I made. It’s an exercise in anti-heroism. The really good biographical stories that I like are often that way: Charles Bukowski is such a great example of that. Henry Miller is another good example of that. They didn’t paint themselves as beautiful people. They were just real honest about what they did, and I find that real appealing.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. According to the Moscow Times, an exhibition of the work of cartoonists Dominique Goblet and Kai Pfeffer at the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg was shuttered and closed due to concerns over nudity in the images.

—Interviews & Profiles. Jaime Hernandez is a guest on the RIYL podcast.

Inkstuds talks to Sacha Mardou.

—Misc. The New York Times asked several artists, including Anders Nilsen, Cece Bell, Rutu Modan, and Jillian Tamaki, to create one-panel comics. The Times called this a "challenge," though most people would consider this to be one of the oldest and most traditional forms of cartooning... (Nilsen basically ignores the conceit, which the Times either didn't notice or didn't care about.)

Former TCJ editor Robert Boyd has started a podcast, and his first episode includes a report from CXC.

—Not Comics. Nicole Rudick interviews Karl Wirsum.


Sex War Sex Cars Sex

Tom Van Deusen does double duty for us today, first writing an obituary for the pioneering autobiographical comics writer Dennis Eichhorn, and then gathering a selection of tributes, from friends and collaborators including Pat Moriarty, Shary Flenniken, Mary Fleener, Noah Van Sciver, and others.

Noah is also continuing his week creating our Cartoonist's Diary feature, of course. His second entry is up here.

And as is true on every Tuesday, Joe McCulloch brings us his usual reliable guide to the Week in Comics, looking at all the most interesting-sounding new titles in stores. This week, he spotlights books from Adrian Tomine and Gilbert Hernandez & Darwyn Cooke.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Dennis Eichhorn. Sean Michael Hurley wrote about Eichhorn for the Seattle Stranger.

—News. Amnesty International reports that Iranian officials forced the imprisoned cartoonist Atena Farghadani to take a "virginity test."

—Interviews & Profiles. NPR talks to Berke Breathed about the rejuvenated Bloom County (and Terry LaBan talks about Breathed (via)).

The Riverfront Times talks to Sacha Mardou.

—Reviews & Commentary. Laila Lalami reviews Riad Sattouf's Arab of the Future.

—Misc. Inés Estrada gives a tour of her bookshelves.

Christopher Logue's "poster poems" sometimes significantly overlap with what we usually call comics.



Today, Greg Hunter is here with the fourth episode of Comic Book Decalogue, a double-header in which he puts questions to cartoonist Ed Luce of Wuvable Oaf Fame, and then to Raighne Hogan and Justin Skarhus from the publisher 2D Cloud, who are just finishing up a Kickstarter for their fall season this week.

Also, Noah Van Sciver joins us to create this week's Cartoonist's Diary, sharing his experiences in White River Junction, Vermont, as a fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Luc Sante reviewed Richard McGuire's Here for the New York Times. It's a little late, but Sante's worth it.

John Porcellino writes about how the culture of SPX has changed.

What's clear is that it's no longer strictly what you would call an "Art Comics Show". (Was it ever? My memory fails me, but it did feel more like that in the past.)

Adrian Tomine explains his cover for this week's New Yorker.

William Cardini has advice for beginning cartoonists.

Annie Mok writes about some early queer comics.

—Interviews & Profiles. Gil Roth talks to Bill Griffith.

John Freeman talks to Michael DeForge.

Tavi Gevenson of Rookie talks to Adrian Tomine. So does Salon.

The Seattle Times talks to Alison Bechdel.

Inkstuds remembers Dennis Eichhorn.


Enter Here

Today you've got yours truly interviewing the fine gentlemen of Mould Map, Hugh Grant and Leon Sadler. Yes, this week is all about the Euro.

You present Europe as “in crisis”. The politics I get, but is it an aesthetic crisis too?

Hugh: Naomi Klein, Adbusters, Mark Fisher etc have all written that the problem with transgressive imagery and other radical artistic gestures is that the marketing strategies of big business are very good at hoovering up “edgy” imagery, and repackaging it to sell the very products or lifestyle that the original work was positioning itself as being against. In a different but closely related way you can see this happening with, for example, the design of clothes which convey a futuristic feeling, but have been made in a regressive manner in terms of inefficient material processes and exploitative labour conditions. All types of culture can use a futuristic aesthetic to channel new ideas about “progress” but if the invisible social, environmental and economic conditions underpinning the whole show remain unchanged then it’s just business as usual. So “futuristic” aesthetics are in crisis in this sense, which is really interesting from the point of view of a publication with a heavy sci-fi influence.

Leon: I like the angle of this question, but I think no. Is Europe in an aesthetic crisis? I think we are living through a global aesthetic crisis of boredom. No new aesthetic can be invented, or at least be around long enough for it to become an exciting thing. Our collective visual output is trapped in a loop, to find satisfaction we need to explore the most extreme imaginations we can find. Maybe it will lead to a state or worldwide aesthetic serenity, where we consider pure beauty in every style of glasses frame, every pile of rubble, every insect wing. Aesthetics are easy to market, but no-one wants to invest in imagination.


Dennis Eichhorn, longtime writer and author of the comic book series Real Stuff,has passed away. We'll have a full obituary soon. Here is Rob Clough on his most recent books.

Here's a good interview (with an unfortunate typo) with the great Mark Newgarden on some new damn comics of his.

Benjamin Marra talks OMWAT at Buzzfeed.

Kelly Sue DeConnick on NPR discussing Bitch Planet. 


All Good

Today on the site, Frank Santoro turns over Riff Raff to guest columnist John Kelly, who reports from this year's SPX and focuses specifically on two international guests in attendance, Dylan Horrocks and Joan Cornellà.

In a 2013 interview that ran on the website, Cornellà had this to say of interviews: "One day a guy wrote me a message on Facebook. He told me he was a fan interested to make an interview in a Starbucks. I acceded to met him and when I arrived there I found some kind of crazy ex convict trying to steal [sic] me with a fork."

While I would have loved to have spoken to him at length, and I had no plans to "steal him with a fork," Cornellà was very pleasant and we chatted off and on throughout the weekend. When he spotted a piece of paper I was carrying that had artwork by Drew Friedman on it, Cornellà asked me if I knew Friedman. I replied that I had known him for many years, had done a long interview with him for TCJ years ago, and had recently spent a day at Friedman’s house, interviewing him again.

“Tell him he’s my favorite cartoonist,” Cornellà said. “When I was just starting to draw comics I used to try and copy his work. I will show you next time.”

“You could have picked an easier artist to try and copy,” I said and he laughed.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Commentary. Julia Wertz wrote a post on online harassment. Anyone who hasn't read it yet should.

Dash Shaw writes about form. "In comic pages, form decisions are content decisions."

—Interviews & Profiles. Oliver Ristau and Shawn Starr talk to Blaise Larmee.

Henry Chamberlain talks to Jonathan Lethem about this year's volume of the Best American Comics.

Abraham Riesman visits Adrian Tomine in his studio.

—Misc. It's the twentieth anniversary of Conundrum Press.

Sean Howe shares a 1977 letter to Jimmy Page from the Ordo Templi Orientis that mentions the occult group's "personal ambassador" Steve Englehart (also a longtime Marvel writer).

—Video. Too many videos for you today.

Pat Moriarty on Serbian television promoting a documentary about the Seattle comics scene (via):

Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly interviewed by Jeff Smith for CXC (via):

More Art Spiegelman in Ohio, this time discussing his teenage fanzine:

Finally, Eleanor Davis's acceptance speech at this year's Ignatz Awards: