Laugh Finder

Today we bring you part two of Robert Elder's examination of Ernest Hemingway as portrayed in the comics.

Part 2 takes us through Hemingway’s cameos, parodies and homages in comics such as Superman, Weird War Tales, Lobo, Jenny Sparks, Simpsons Comics and a slew of foreign titles. At the end of the article: an interview with Dave Sim about his sexually-charged take on Hemingway in the “Form & Void” arc of Cerebus.

We also have Katie Skelly's review of the first English-language publication of Leiji Matsumoto's space opera Queen Emeraldas.

Starting in the mid-1970s, Leiji Matsumoto created a slew of space operatic manga that would establish the visual vocabulary and storytelling tropes that make his work instantly recognizable. Queen Emeraldas falls between Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 in Matsumoto’s manga chronology, and looks at one of the legendary figures of his self-dubbed Leijiverse, the willowy (but deadly) Emeraldas. The first of two volumes, this installment introduces us to the ghost-like titular spaceship and its captain, Emeraldas, who prior to her individual stories began as a sort of female counterpart to Matsumoto's Captain Harlock character. Equal parts space pirate and existential wanderer, Emeraldas travels the galaxy seeking kindred spirits and purpose. She also functions as both judge and executioner along the way, killing those who cross her and taking special, almost maternal, interest in fellow travelers whom she deems worthy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Pittsburgh City Paper profiles Ed Piskor.

Piskor is huge even for Seattle-based Fantagraphics, a leading independent-comics publisher that’s home to such stars as Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. “Ed is our biggest breakout star of this decade,” writes Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds via email.

The series has changed its creator’s life: While he’s been cartooning full time for years, Piskor says, “The hip-hop comic is popular enough that I’m able to design my career.” (Other bennies: getting to design, for his Japanese publisher, Presspop, new action figures of his all-time favorite group, Public Enemy.)

At CBR, Alex Dueben talks to Leslie Stein about her new book. (Incidentally, it's heartening to see that the rebooted CBR is keeping talented people like Dueben and Brigid Alverson working.)

I think the main goal in this book was to strip away all the detailed work I did to hide my poor cartooning faculties. So, okay, how do I do that and make it part of the narrative that is useful?

Halfway through the book, Larry encounters a depression that strips her of all details. Then, I had to see if I was good enough to make what I think of as Hernandez-style black and white work.

A Case for Pencils catches up with Paul Karasik.

I once owned a Laugh Finder device and could use a new one (hint hint), only highly-personalized. The original Laugh-Finder (created by cartoonist, Dan Runyon, and sold by an outfit called the Cartoonists Exchange of Pleasant Hill, Ohio) was a rotating paper disc that cartoonists (more likely: “would-be Cartoonists”) could spin to spontaneously link up Characters, Places, and Accessories (Grim Reaper : Desert Island : Whoopee Cushion) thus providing cartoonists with several million possible comedic scenarios. I could save a lot of time with a Laugh-Finder grown from my own, personal DNA. Without it, I spend a lot of time staring, staring, staring at blank sheets of white paper.

Heidi MacDonald interviews Alan Moore about his long-awaited novel, Jerusalem.

His empathy for his characters took a dangerous turn when he wrote the chapter based on Lucia Joyce (daughter of James Joyce), who died in a mental institution in Northampton, which is written in a complex invented language. Moore had to take over a year off from working on the book when he finished this section. “At the end of it, I couldn’t think in English for a few days. I was kind of mentally and linguistically nuked.” Yet “the torturous mind-bending part of it was actually the part that I enjoyed the most. It took me almost two years to recuperate from it. But it was ecstatic and probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever written.”

—Reviews & Commentary. At Maclean's, John Semley writes about the metaphysical aspects of Jerusalem.

The centrality of an artist to Jerusalem’s plot, as not only a key character but the one [...] charged with presenting the action of the story to the reader, further speaks to Moore’s interest in the philosophy, physics and aesthetics of fourth-dimensional thinking. Indeed, as Linda Dalrymple Henderson—author of The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art—writes, the concept of an extra dimension (or dimensions) existing outside of perceivable material reality was “primarily a symbol of liberation” for visual artists of the late-19th and early 20th centuries.

And Adam Roberts psychically inhabits Uncle Scrooge.

You wanted Pixar to include you in an intensely moving pre-credits sequence tracing how you fell in love as a young duck and married but never had kids and then she got sick and slowly died and everyone in the cinema is weeping, actually weeping heartfelt tears, as you turn into this cantakerous old geezer from the sheer bereaved psychic pain. But Pixar is a separate commercial arm, you're told, and ducks like you don't belong there, its strictly the ludicrous and humiliating for you.


Recent Reading

I did some reading and note-taking recently. Mostly just notes here.

Pascin, Joann Sfar, Uncivilized Books


This is a look at the painter Pascin in Paris in the 1920s. Sfar has a fine cartoon line but he’s not a terribly good cartoonist based on what I've read in English. As illustration, these drawings are fine approximations of, one the one hand, Crepax eroticism and on the other, Grosz weirdness. But they don’t have any narrative urgency or discipline. There's no sense of the page as a whole, and how a scenario might shift from panel to panel, and Pascin’s body language is generic.  Think about the nuances of Gabrielle Bell, Sammy Harkham, Lauren Weinstein and other masters of cartoon naturalism. Sfar just doesn't have that kind of talent and so Pascin never comes alive as a character on the page.

Sfar seems to relish some weirdly unironic bullshit about the “outrageous” bad boy artist, but the problem is that nothing here is outrageous. Pascin the character is literally and figuratively a cliche: a sex crazed momma’s boy thirsty for trouble. And while one could certainly turn the "bad-boy" genre inside out, Sfar doesn’t even attempt it. For a book so focused on early 20th century "masculine" endeavors like whoring and drinking, this book seems oddly impotent.

Cosplayers, Dash Shaw, Fatagraphics.


There is layer upon layer upon layer in Dash Shaw’s latest book, Cosplayers. It’s called “Perfect Collection” -- an homage, as Joe McCulloch tells me, to the subtitles given to early VHS and manga collections in the 1990s. This book collects, and in some cases reconfigures, everything, and even adds bonus images and new covers. Everything a collector could want.

Briefly, it’s the story of Verti and Annie, two friends between high school and college, who make films and cosplay. They cosplay and attend “Tezukon” and go to a comic book store. There is a wonderful parallel to Ghost World in this book — except cynicism is replaced by idealism, and the two friends are inside of a culture, not outside of it. And the culture is comics. Everything around the world of the medium — fans, scholars, store owners — the only thing missing is the artists (except Tezuka, seen here as an ethereal idol). And that’s amazing. That very act of leaving out the artist makes the book fully about the experience of loving comics as spaces to inhabit without any authorial expectations or dictates. 

All of the characters in this book either are or become fans. Baxter, a comics scholar, winds up a fan prostrating himself before his creative god. The final story in the book, “Escape from Nostalgia World”, is my current “favorite work about comics”. A comic book store owner who bares a remarkable resemblance to Jerry Moriarty first uses Cold Heat (close to my heart) and then Kirby’s 2001 to demonstrate the force of the narrative images, the transformative power of them, and the possibility in turn, for altering them. Maybe the most powerful thing here is the altering of them — as costumes, as collage material, as, tellingly, Ed Piskor has masterfully done with Hip Hop Family Tree (with which Cosplayers shared space as a Free Comic Book Day Comic), the tools for telling an entire history. This is an incredibly insightful love letter to comics and fandom. It should be treated as a teachable text.

Christmas in Prison, Conor Stechschulte, Crepescular Archives.


I really enjoyed this as a physical book experience. It is object-specific in a way few comics this side of Chris Ware really are. Between thick silkscreened covers are pages printed in various ways, in various colors, but each keyed to the appropriate subjects. A boy gives an odd monologue; a head emerges from water; a book (this book?) is opened and read. Each of these moments contains elements and objects that repeat, and, as the book ends, literally bleed through from one side of the page to the other. Reading becomes remembering and tracking. The visual motifs interlock and grow over the course of the book into a structure of idea nodes connected by taut narrative ropes. By the end I felt like I could open the book at any point and begin again. We’re never told what we’re seeing (though frequently it appears as though we’re watching a surveillance film). or where it’s all happening. Instead we have to let the structure build and then climb through it again and again, discovering new ideas as we go. A wonderful project.


The Larger Story

Today on the site, we have a new column by Ken Parille, which will delight grammar enthusiasts and annoy everyone else (maybe in a productive way). It concerns copy editing in comics.

6. The comics page is like the poetry page. Poets enjoy a freedom with mechanics that prose writers don’t — and the same is true for cartoonists. A cartoonist may decide, consciously or otherwise, that she needs a two-period ellipsis in one speech balloon and a seven-period ellipsis in another because “it reads right,” a tactic that makes sense. These panels by artist Mark Connery use poetry-like line and panel breaks, dividing and reorganizing words and ideas in the manner of poets such as e. e. cummings:


Similarly poetic, Aidan Koch’s The Whale employs open-ended, unpunctuated lines:ak7. A cartoonist’s overall approach can make the notion of consistency irrelevant. Ben Jones’s comics gleefully violate all manner of prose rules. He magically transforms mistakes into ‘not mistakes’ by the Power of Jones.


What he can do, however, others often can’t. But why is it OK in this case and not another?

We also publish a review by Rob Kirby of Jon Allen's Ohio Is For Sale.

Jon Allen’s Ohio Is For Sale, a “funny animal” comic for mature readers, originally appeared in a series of minicomics, highly regarded by those lucky enough to have chanced upon them. In the spirit of Simon Hanselmann or Tedd Stearns, Allen traces the adventures of anthropomorphic heroes as screwed up and self-destructive as Hanselmann's Megg and Mogg, and as haplessly trapped in the twists and turns of fate as Stearn’s Fuzz and Pluck. Allen’s cast is every bit as funny: his droll comic timing and assured, slightly eccentric pacing enlivens any standard “burnout roommate” tropes he draws upon, making for a highly entertaining read.

Ohio's protagonists are three post-high school roommate bros: Patrick, a feline prone to existential longing; Leonard, a floppy-eared dog who acts as a sounding board for Patrick—and is basically up for anything; and Trevor, a rather vacant cat with little on his mind beyond hanging out and watching television. The trio live in a state of perpetually delayed adulthood in a ratty house complete with a refrigerator stocked with only beer and ice cream. In between slacking off they routinely get into all sorts of big trouble.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The San Francisco Chronicle checks in with the Cartoon Art Museum.

When the museum lost its lease on Mission Street last year after its rent doubled, it was easy to assume the story had ended. But if anything, the 31-year-old institution — the only one in the western half of the country dedicated exclusively to comics, cartoons and animation — has been more visible in San Francisco.

“Busy is good. It absolutely beats the alternative,” says [Andrew] Farago, who continues to work as the museum’s curator. “We didn’t just want to sit around and wait for things to happen. You can’t let people forget that you’re still around, and still doing your work.”

—Awards. The Cartoonists Rights Network International has announced that this year's Courage in Editorial Cartooning award will go to the Iranian artist Eaten by Fish.

This year’s recipient, whose pen name is Eaten Fish, is an Iranian national, currently interned in the Manus Island detention camp in Papua New Guinea. This notorious detention center is funded and overseen by the government of Australia.

Various human rights groups have spoken out against the Manus Island camp, with the UN recognizing that indefinite detention and the practices employed in the camp constitute ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment’ and break the UN Convention Against Torture to which Australia is a signatory.

—Reviews & Commentary. Shawn Starr reviews Michael DeForge's Regarding Quicksand.

Regarding Quicksand opens on a wide shot of the sole character adrift in an unknown body of water, untouched. We only see the man's entire figure twice, once on the first page as an establishing shot, and then as the last panel of the story. He is alone, scared, and flaccid in that first shot and surrounded, contemplative and erect in the last. What surrounds him, and what causes these changes in his body, beneath the surface, is the crux of the comic. Told in a deadend [sic?] tone DeForge explores each and every feeling the man encounters, but in a way that the images being shown and the words being said are taken to a fantastical extreme. Shifts in the current, floating debris and mud turn into slugs crawling into the man's ear and mermaids biting his neck like little vampires.

—Not (Exactly) Comics. Morgan Meis writes about the work of painter Nicole Eisenman (which should be of interest to comics fans).

Stylistically, [The Session] verges on being a panel from a cartoon strip. A figure resembling Eisenman herself reclines on a couch at her analyst’s office. She has dirty bare feet and a hole in her pants. She clutches desperately at a box of tissues as she weepingly shares tales of woe to her analyst, who jots down notes in a chair nearby. A vase near a bookcase at the left side of the painting is shaped like a phallus. It is a cute and gently self-mocking painting, but not obviously the stuff to put the contemporary art world on notice.

On second glance, however, even a relatively “light” painting like The Session is making a strong argument about what painting can and should be. The painting represents real things in the real world (books, chairs, vases, clocks, etc.). It is figurative (Eisenman likes to paint the human form). It is narrative (the painting shows an experience of misadventures on the analyst’s couch to which plenty of people can relate). Representational, figurative, narrative painting has existed ever since the dawn of painting as an art. But it has been out of critical favor for quite some time now. Only recently has the tide begun to turn. So, the story of Eisenman’s success is tied to a larger story. That story is the journey of painting over the last hundred and fifty years.



Today on the site, Joe McCulloch brings us the last comics haul of the season.


Come see me interview Dash Shaw live and in person about his masterpiece, Cosplayers. Tomorrow night at The Strand, 7 pm.


Costumes encouraged!



Deteriorating Rapidly

Today on the site, Greg Hunter checks in with Gilbert Hernandez about his many recent and upcoming books.

You know, if there were other books like Blubber coming from other people, I’d probably just do a few issues and then back off. But since nobody’s going to go where I’m going there, I’ll keep doing it for a while.

I don’t know. I just know that I have to separate it, because it’s a different audience. There’s a large audience for comics, but I’ve discovered there’s just groups of people who like different things. They like their comics to be certain things. If I go too far in Love and Rockets with fantasy, or crazy violence-type stories, people will be asking, ‘When are you going to stop doing that? [I want] Palomar. When are you doing to do this?’ They always want me to do what I’m not doing.

But—that’s not entirely crazy. I can see where they’re coming from. ‘I read Palomar stories and felt really connected to the characters. This other stuff is something else.’ And since all those something-else’s are different aspects of my personality, I have to find different places for them. You’ll notice the sex in Garden of Flesh is different from the sex in Blubber, say. ... Yet it’s still sex, and most people see it as the same thing, but of course, it isn’t.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Other than Brigid Alverson's always-excellent news roundups and infrequent features, Robot 6 hasn't really been Robot 6 for some time now, but it's still sad that it's now officially over entirely. Tom Spurgeon has a bit of commentary. The slow atrophy of the intelligent comics internet continues.

I have no idea what this means for comics in general. I would assume this is a choice by CBR's new owners to focus more on broader, more popular content to try and make the site maximally profitable.

Faith Erin Hicks writes about emotion and pacing in comics.

I consider [Naoki] Urasawa especially to be a master of emotion and pacing. When I first started reading his comics, it was like light struck my brain; finally I saw what I’d been trying to do for years right there on the comic page in front of me! I like the way he lays out his emotional scenes a lot. Here’s an example (read right to left):


Urasawa uses repeating panels and decompression to draw out the emotions of a scene. In this single page there isn’t a lot of movement. It’s literally just two characters staring at each other, but the tension rises going from panel 1 to panel five. Gesicht (the man)’s expression doesn’t change between panels two and five, but we literally feel his anger rising off-panel, concluding in the close up in panel 5.

—News. The Boston Globe writes about the Center for Cartoon Studies and its outreach to a local veterans hospital.

Cartoon students and faculty have been working with veterans to tell their stories — some harrowing, others heartwarming — in comic-book form.

The resulting comics are a far cry from the Archie and Superman comics an earlier generation of GIs kept under their cots. The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) has just released the first product of this unique collaboration: a 48-page comic book called “When I Returned,” a wide-ranging collection of tales adapted in illustrated form from the lives of New England veterans, from one World War II survivor’s experience in a German P.O.W. camp to a Vietnam veteran coping with post-traumatic stress disorder through his art.

—Interviews. Paul Gravett interviews the Dutch cartoonist and Bosch biographer Marcel Ruijters.

The information about [Bosch's] person is quite limited. Too much has been lost - if it had been recorded at all. As a result, a lot of nonsense has been written about Bosch, so it takes some time before you know how to weed out the bad books. And one has to learn a lot about the time in which he lived. For instance: yes, there are references to alchemy in his work, but the church was not against alchemy, so that rules out the popular misconception that he was some kind of heretic, which determines what kind of story you are going to write. On top of that, getting your historical facts straight is one thing, creating a meaningful story out of it, with believable characters, is something else!

Scoop talks to Columbia University's comics librarian, Karen Green.

So, yes, I was given the go and I began with award winners. I found lists of every Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz award winning title, and I bought all of them and I had to decide how and what to buy, given that I only started with $4,000. I was nervous about justifying my purchases. I worried that any suspect title would bring the whole project crashing. After I bought all of those books, I started looking at what creators kept reappearing, and then I bought their entire corpus. I started reading blogs like The Beat and The Comics Reporter, and going to cons and festivals, and showing up at book launches, and going to publisher events. I was meeting everyone I could and asking them their advice. Most of them didn't have any experience with academic libraries, so I got a lot of public library advice, which was frustrating. But I kept building. Now, I started in the summer of 2005, and then in the spring semester of 2007, our Heyman Center for the Humanities hired Art Spiegelman to teach a comics course, and I was his librarian. I asked him for a list of the essential titles for an academic comics collection, and he sent me a few dozen. So I bought those, too.

—Misc. The New York Review of Books has posted a selection of Glen Baxter cartoons.

Here's a preview for the upcoming HBO documentary on last year's Charlie Hebdo attack.


New Match

Today on the site, Keith Silva reviews Enough Astronaut Blood To Last The Wintermakes by Derek Van Gieson.

Enough Astronaut Blood To Last The Wintermakes for a strange bit of business. First, it’s an odds-and-sods assortment of illustration, microfiction, and photography chronicling Derek Van Gieson’s salad days in New York City. Second, who in the hell is Van Gieson? And last, how does a little known artist rate the sort of pseudo-retrospective reserved for more long-lived, let alone well-known, artists?

Let’s take the second part first.

Now relocated to his home state of Minnesota, Van Gieson has previously published only one title: Eel Mansions. Originally released as a series of six minicomics (Uncivilized Books, starting in 2012, collected in 2015), Eel Mansionsfollows an ex-military, ex-Satanist, ex-children’s-variety-show auteur named Armistead Fowler and a put-upon indie cartoonist named Janet Planet, as each navigates their own self-made hells. The series also includes seemingly non-sequitur strips like “The Negative Orphans”, “The Record Store Guys”, and Janet’s own “Milk City Comics”. To call Eel Mansions eccentric or eclectic leaves out both its charm and its downright weirdness. Think A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron if Daniel Clowes made references to ’80s synth rock and baroque Brit pop and added more dancing. As a cartoonist, Van Gieson is singular to a fault, an artist who has never met a page he has not wanted to dribble, slather, and soak in ink. His chops as a writer rest in a narrow band of offbeat humor, record-shop bravado, and self-awareness that, at times, gives a reader the sense it’s all a put-on, a rock-and-roll swindle.


This is a very nice piece about a collaboration between The Center for Cartoon Studies and the White River Junction VA Medical Center.

Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence was once a cartoonist! 

And lastly, an ode to Enid Coleslaw's style.


Sounds Commie to Me

Chris Mautner writes about Lynda Barry's new collection, The Greatest of Marlys.

If you were asking me (and I’m just going to assume that you already did, very quietly, to yourself just now) what the essential quality is for any worthwhile “young adult” author, I would say it’s first and foremost honesty. The ability to accurately convey what it’s like to be 7 or 12 or 15 without delving into sentimentality or cliche is a tougher skill than one might suppose, given by the plethora of bathetic or worse stories lining bookstore shelves these days.  

It would be reductive of me to put Lynda Barry in the YA camp – her work routinely transcends such narrow genre specifications – but she meets that standard easily. Few cartoonists are able to detail the various joys and bitter hurts that line the path to adulthood as well as she can, often in a voice that might not sound like our own, but certainly resembles someone you know or once knew.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. RIYL checks in with married couple (and first-time professional collaborators) Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Colden.

Comics Alternative talks to Leela Corman.

—Commentary. Laura Andrea Garzón Garavito writes about what she calls the "new wave" of comics in Latin America.

Gary Groth, editor of Fantagraphics, publisher and critic, said in a conference held in Bogotá last year, he felt Colombia’s panorama looked pretty similar to the one he had seen in the United States in the 80’s, which was a time for alternate exploration of both markets and formats. That means thinking comics through various lenses, thinking audiences can be broader than imagined, not only kids or old-time series followers, but a whole spectrum of different ages, backgrounds, genders, and so on. In this scenario, underground comix hadn’t even seen Maus yet! Just like it happened here!

—Misc. New work by Dan O'Neill!


Lying There

Today on the site we have cartoonist J.R. Williams interviewing his old pal Peter Bagge about the new Complete Neat Stuff collection.  It's a treat to read these guys chatting about Bagge's early NYC days and the 1980s in Seattle.

You attended SVA for only three terms.  What did you come away with from your experiences there?  What sorts of things influenced your decision to drop out?

I dropped out mainly because I ran out of money. I needed a job — a FULL TIME job — to get by. But I didn’t miss the place, either. SVA made me take a lot of courses in subjects like painting, sculpture and photography, which mainly taught me that I didn’t want to be a painter, sculptor or photographer. Not that the teachers were all that inspiring. Most of them showed up late, hungover and eager to hit on their students. I had nothing but contempt for them. And the then huge sway of abstract and conceptual art dominated the school at the time, which was a great way for blowhards with no skills to make the rest of us feel like rubes. SVA — and the New York “fine art” world in general — was a total scam back then.

Once your decision to become a cartoonist had been made, how did you proceed, at first?  You said you didn’t really know (or socialize with) any other cartoonists at that point in time, and it seems that a few years would pass before you began to make connections with other like-minded artists.

Well, I started reading underground comics (especially R. Crumb’s) in earnest while at SVA, and decided “THIS is what I want to do.” But by then I was out of school and working day jobs. So I drew comics in my spare time, using tools like a crow-quill pen that I had no instruction in using, and, well…winging it. I drew a LOT, though. Obsessively, and naturally got better as a result, though I had a huge learning curve ahead of me. Comics are hard! Sure, “anyone” can make a comic strip (as many drunken accountants and dentists have informed me through the years), but to make a GOOD comic? I’d say dentistry is easier!

Annnnd elsewhere:

All humans should either run to a newsstand or keep checking, because Gary Panter has contributed a masterpiece of a 7-page comic using an entirely new coloring method that I'm not at liberty to disclose. Look closely at the comic and watch the patterning and the washes and you'll see something that, as far as I know, has never been done in comics. Also, it's an extremely funny and insightful strip drawn straight out, no penciling.


It's late August, people. That's it for now!