Response Needed

Today on the site:

Shaennon Garrity takes a deep dive into Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck.

Homestuck was the fourth comic Hussie serialized on his website, MS Paint Adventures. Previous comics were scripted on the fly by taking suggestions from readers, and the early installments of Homestuck carry over the audience-participation element. But by this point Hussie’s fanbase was too big for the interactive element to remain workable, and it was mostly abandoned within the first year. Homestuck opens with a PC-game prompt asking you to enter a name for the protagonist, but you don’t actually get to choose one. He’s John.

Old-school video games form the central aesthetic, from the pixilated art to the game-based ways the characters interact with their world. For example, John and his friends have to handle items by turning them into “captchalogue cards” and placing them in an inventory. This gets confusing when they start playing a video game with its own rules within their already video-game-based world.

In the opening pages, Hussie plugs merchandise for his previous MS Paint comic, Problem Sleuth. I respect the hell out of that.

Hussie and I share a love of bad movies in general and the work of Nicolas Cage in particular. I didn’t know this when I mentioned Con Air in my own comic, and now all the nerds think I was making a Homestuckreference. Nic Cage exists beyond our petty mortal webcomics world, people.

“You pull up to your COMPUTER. This is where you spend most of your time.” John spends the next 50 pages IMing his online friends while making half-assed efforts to leave his room and check the mailbox. The narration isn’t kidding around here.

Lauren Weinstein's impossibly great and moving comic, Perfect Maine Vacation, gets a new home at Mutha. Lauren is here again showing how her ink gestures can equally serve realism and fantasy -- and her prose voice is as distinctive as her drawing. I also like the economy of it. Every panel moves us deeper into her story space -- there are no beats that ask that beg the "are you watching?" question, which is pretty common right now. It's a wonder.

Joshua Cotter is profiled over here.

Jules Feiffer's latest crime comic gets loves from the NY Times. I couldn't make sense of the last one, but I love the idea of this series. Actually, that's my reaction to like 90% of comics right now. It's definitely my problem, but then there are comics like Lauren's, or Anya Davidson's hilarious stroll through any-city USA via SF tropes, Gloom Planet. Anya is, under the disguise of rock/witchcraft/SF, becoming one of our keenest and funniest observers of contemporary life. So maybe it's all OK. I just can't READ everything anymore. That's what's so weird.



Today on the site:

Paul Tumey looks at cartoonist Gene Ahern's cartoon coverage of the 1928 political conventions.

You might have missed this. Gene Ahern, a popular newspaper cartoonist covered the tense, rancorous presidential nominations by sending Major Hoople, his Our Boarding House comic strip character, to the Republican and Democratic national conventions. It’s understandable if you didn’t happen to catch Ahern’s coverage in the funny pages. After all, it happened in 1928. That was a long time ago, in terms of American politics.  But the presidential race of 2016 is similar to that long ago race between Herbert Hoover and Al Smith. According to Edgar E. Robinson’s The Presidential Vote 1896-1932, the 1928 presidential race was one in which “each candidate faced serious discontent within his party membership, and neither had the wholehearted support of the party organization.” Sound familiar? Beyond this similarity, the ensuing years have not diminished the amusement one can find in reading these cartoons and columns devoted to puncturing the hot air balloons of national politics.


Some nice Love and Rockets affection over at The Guardian. 

Is it a sign of the times that one of our 10 greatest living cartoonists is on Patreon? Money is a very personal thing, and we have no way of knowing of what Chester Brown needs and doesn't. Lord knows he has a supportive long term publisher. But, as he explains, royalties are up and down, and why not this rather than teaching or another "day job". Certainly if there's one artist to support in this world, it's Chester Brown.

Here's an oral history of Dark Horse on the occasion of the company's 30th year.

Bill Boichel reviews the best-ever book about George Herriman over at Comics Workbook.

And Frank Santoro has a nice auction of unusual Dan Clowes items going on eBay now for the benefit of the aforementioned Comics Workbook.


Over the Hump

Today on the site Annie Mok talks to Maré Odomo.

MOK: As we talked about in our conversation in Comics Workbook #9, the intimacy in your work enacts boundaries. (Cartoonist Laura Knetzger blurbed that the comics are “Searching and sincere, yet guarded.”) In your series Internet Comics, the narrator of that work says “don’t @ me,” and here in this book, the narrator says, “I don’t care right now” and “If I see you, I will walk away.” Who are these narrators? Are they wholly you or a combination of fictionalized elements?

ODOMO: All of the narrators are me. Or versions of myself. They could be anybody but they’re actually me. They’re not anyone else.  Those pages are more about the person or people I’m addressing. In Internet Comics, I’m talking about like… having privacy. Or like agency. Like, treat me like a person instead of someone who makes memes for you to reblog. I’m not here for anyone to be like “oh this comic is literally about me” because it’s not. It’s about me, because who else is going to make comics about people like me?

“I don’t care right now” is… I don’t know, exactly what it sounds like. I didn’t really care about that page, I just knew I wanted to say those words. That page is kind of like “I can do whatever I want and I choose to do this.”

The “If I see you” page is about burned bridges and like all the people that screw you over or whatever and try to be friends or forget it ever happened. I’m not going to forget, I’m not going to fight you about it, but I’m not going to be your friend either.


Congrats to pal Dash Shaw, whose film My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is debuting at the New York Film Festival this year.

Leslie Stein is interviewed about her excellent new book, Time Clock, on Chimera Obscura.

And Emma Rios and Brandon Graham are interviewed over at the Paris Review.


Bleep Things

Today on the site, Joe brings the good news.


The members of the Comics Workbook Roller Derby team each drew a page from a Jaime Hernandez Love & Rockets story, with very fun results. As noted, Hernandez's compositions are so solid that nearly any kind of visual style can be layered on top.

Ina really excellent piece of comics reporting, Sarah Glidden trails independent party candidate Jill Stein for The Nib.

People, John Pham's truly astonishing Epoxy Cartoon Magazine is now available on his web site. Highest possible recommendation here.

Hey, Margaret Atwood went to Comic-Con.

Garry Trudeau talks about his new book, "Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump."



Today on the site:

Alex Dueben talks to Zack Davisson about translation and Kitaro.

For people who don’t know, who is Kitaro?

Zack Davisson:  Kitaro is a yokai—the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe of underground dwelling monsters. He is nearly indestructible, and has a wide range of powers and objects like his hair which can be fired in in a needle attack, and his powerful chan-chanko vest sewn from the hair of his ancestors.  He’s got magic sandals, a snake that lives in his stomach, and a remote-control hand.

Even though he is a yokai himself, Kitaro uses his powers to battle against bad yokai that threaten humanity—think of him as a Japanese Hellboy, only 1,000 times weirder.

I like that description of him as a Japanese Hellboy, which I think is very apt, though Kitaro skews a younger. Could you talk a little about what the yokai are? I know that you’ve studied this and written a lot about the topic.

That’s a deeply complicated question that has been the subject of several books! There’s not a single definition of yokai, any more than there is of “monster” or “spirit.” Everyone will have their own definition. For me, I go by the Edo period usage of the word, which is how Mizuki tended to use it; a personification of supernatural energy. There is an old belief in Japan that the world is infused with latent magical energy, and this energy occasionally manifests into physical form. This yokai energy can take almost any shape imaginable, visible and invisible. There are hundreds of thousands of different kinds. All of the mystery spots of the world, all of the beasties and boggarts, are all this same energy given form—yokai.

And we've added Michael Bartalos' childhood remembrance of Jack Davis to the late artist's tribute post.

And elsewhere:

Todd Klein remembers pioneering DC Comics letterer Gaspar Saladino in an excellent post about his life and work.

Ilan Manouach's comics-for-the-blind project is covered at Hyperallergic.

Paul Gravett interviews Alexander Tucker on the occasion of his new Breakdown Press book.

In a fascinating essay, Benjamin Schwartz describes teaching visual narrative to medical students.

And NPR profiles the late Kim Yale, co-creator of the Suicide Squad comic book.


Vacation Time

Ah, it's been too long since we've had a Ken Parille column! But he's here today with a piece perfect for the dog days, "Comics Criticism: Seven Hot Takes for Summer 2016".

It was once the bane of the comics connoisseur: the “Comics Have Finally Grown Up” article. Enlightened readers know that for decades, if not centuries, cartoonists around the world have been creating sophisticated art for smart folks, young and old. Thankfully, that article, of which there have been too many for too long, has fallen by the wayside. But an equally specious think-piece is emerging to fill the vacuum: the “Comics Can’t Grow Up Unless It Promotes the Kinds of Things I Like” essay. Of course, the writer never puts it quite that directly.

In a popular subgenre of the “Comics Can’t Grow Up Unless...” piece, the writer argues that the “medium” cannot mature or progress unless it values and supports children’s and YA graphic novels. The majority of comics I read are for children and teenagers, but I don’t expect, or require, you to share my enthusiasm for Little Dot, Our Love Story, Bunny, Wonder Book of Rubber, Fast Willie Jackson, or Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (I also teach Children’s Literature for a living). It’s weird to say that “comics” won’t be fully grown until “it” embraces books for people who are not fully grown. Would anyone say the novel can’t mature unless it embraces paranormal teen fiction (which I’ve also taught)? No. Why do (some) comics critics say such weird things about comics?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Columbus Alive profiles Caitlin McGurk.

Caitlin McGurk was destined to work in the comics industry. There were telltale signs during her childhood on Long Island. She remembers obsessively collecting and organizing comic book cards and admiring the pictures in the “Stations of the Cross” while waiting in the communion line at her Catholic church.

—Daniel Barron interviews MariNaomi.

Was there any point in writing your books where you felt like the filter needed to be turned on, or that you had to tread lightly?
Omigod, toootally. It’s so stupid. For example, I was telling a story about my boyfriend seeing me after hours. We were fooling around and I got my period. My parents were coming down the stairs and I shoved my boyfriend in the closet and he was covered in my blood. When I wrote it at the time I thought, “Well, my parents should never see this.” Because they didn’t know that I would sneak guys in. Also, “No one must ever see this because it’s so embarassing.” The whole time I was drawing I felt so mortified. And now I think back, “That was one of the best stories that I have! Why was I so embarassed by it?” I was a kid. Who cares?

—Caitlin McCabe at the CBLDF writes about Jack Davis.

His fostered talent at EC Comics, though, would land him in hot water with child psychologist Dr. Fredric Wertham and within the pages of his infamous 1954 book The Seduction of the Innocent—the book that began a decades long crusade against comics and ultimately the near destruction of the industry.

Among sixteen pages of reproduced illustrations from various comic books were two panels from Jack Davis’ The Haunt of Fear story “Foul Play!” The aptly named story recounts the tale of a dishonest baseball player who gets his comeuppance when his teammates decide to play baseball with his dismembered remains in the dead of night.


Gearing Down

Andrew Farago, who knew the beloved cartoonist for almost a decade, has written our obituary for Richard Thompson.

With encouragement from editor and collaborator Gene Weingarten, Thompson found an ideal showcase for his own writing in the form of Richard’s Poor Almanac, a weekly Sunday panel featured in The Washington Post. The sprawling, madcap Almanac presented “misinformation in handy cartoon form” on subjects ranging from traditional almanac fodder like weather phenomena and local fauna to entertainment and political news. “The ideal cartoon [for the Almanac] was made up off the top of my head with no research, with only its own comic logic holding it together,” noted the artist in The Art of Richard Thompson.

The most popular installment of Richard’s Poor Almanac, however, was carefully researched by Thompson. Upon learning that George W. Bush had opted not to invite an official poet to his inauguration ceremony in January 2001, Thompson composed his own poem from Bush malapropisms, and assembled them into a free-form verse entitled “Make the Pie Higher”. The cartoon was widely circulated online over the next year, was set to music by multiple composers, and earned its own entry on the fact-checking website

At the end of his story, we have also included a few more tributes to Thompson, from Mo Willems, Universal Uclick editor Shena Wolf, and the Pixar director Pete Docter, who granted permission for us to reprint a few comic strips Thompson drew during the development of the film Inside Out.

As a fan of Cul de Sac, I was in awe of Richard’s ability to develop
characters that were so wonderfully unique, specific and truthful. Alice Otterloop specifically seemed very close to the spirit of what we were after for Joy, so he seemed like he’d have a lot to offer. Rather than doing design work, I asked Richard to draw up some comic strips. My hope was this would help him focus on character attitude and acting, and not worry about what the characters looked like. This turned out to work well. [...]

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Sara Lautman is profiled on A Case for Pencils.

My natural inclination is to keep my hand moving the whole time I’m drawing, which makes the art messier. Shaggy drawing is more than fine with me. I love Edward Koren, Gahan Wilson, William Steig, George Herriman and David Sipress, all artists who draw at varying degrees of shag and movement.

—Politics. Signe Wilkerson, Ann Telnaes, and Jen Sorenson talk about drawing Hillary Clinton:

Garry Trudeau talks about depicting Donald Trump:

Jeet Heer wrote a "tweet essay" explaining Trump through Cerebus.

6. There's a long storyline where Cerebus becomes Pope. And part of how he maintains power is via polarizing.

7. Pope Cerebus does more & more extreme things, polarizing acts which lose followers but build a hard core of the faithful.


Mostly Digital

It's a day late (through no fault of his own), but Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting the best-sounding comics new to stores, including new books by Dame Darcy and Jules Feiffer. He also writes a little on Queen Emereldas.

Kodansha's recent hardcover publication of Queen Emeraldas leans hard on artist Leiji Matsumoto's fame in the greater media world -- of the three pull quotes on the back cover, one is from Daft Punk, and another is from Pitchfork referring to Daft Punk -- but actually reading 400 pages' worth of these comics quickly highlights the severely martial aspect of this space opera's idea of gallantry. Emeraldas herself does star in some of these stories, but in many she functions like Sergio Corbucci's Django as the galaxy's coolest big sister to young Hiroshi, a floppy-haired Matsumoto youth with a hot-blooded desire to live free in the sea of stars.

The reason for the brief delay is that we asked Joe to review Kramers Ergot 9, and that piece went up on the site yesterday.

It must be stated up front that Kramers Ergot has made life far too easy for critics. Anthologies are often difficult to analyze, because most of them wear the pragmatic limits of their creation like flimsy invisible dust jackets. It is not uncommon, I think, for editors to surrender to chance when putting these things together; you can hook up with however many contributors you want, and coordinate as best you can with those contributors you want to pursue, and reject, in the face of plenty, those submissions you can't use, but to an extent you are at the mercy of what you are given. And indeed, there are anthologies most succinctly described as 'what was given.'

Kramers, however, has long offered a pillowy slipstream on which the featherweight may drift behind; in this group I include myself. Who could forget the technological acuity of Kramers Ergot 4 (Avodah Books, 2003): production so sharp that you were bade not only to read stories-as-stories or factor drawing-as-drawing, but to consider textural components and the play of media – and, implicitly, the character of reproduction itself in art primed for mass distribution?

And finally today, Philip Nel has joined us with another tribute to Richard Thompson, which he titles "Dancing on the Manhole Cover".

Cul de Sac is powerful stuff. In the panels of each strip, Thompson manages to capture the narrative chaos of daily life. As he told R.C. Harvey in a 2011 article, “I’ve always had a feeling that life is a series of non-sequiturs, and that we’re all untrustworthy narrators.” Nowhere is that feeling more palpable than in the scenes at Blisshaven Academy, the preschool attended by Alice, Dil, Beni, Nara, Marcus, Kevin (“Buckethead”), and, later, Sophie. In the fourth nationally syndicated Cul de Sac strip (13 September 2007), one of the students (Dill is my guess) asks “Miss Bliss, what kind of egg was Humpty Dumpty?” Storytime now derailed, the students start tossing out guesses. Nara: “A duck egg!” Marcus: “A GOOSE EGG!” Next, Alice ventures into preschool literary criticism, placing the nursery rhyme in a larger context: “I’ll bet he was the egg of that chicken who crossed the road,” she says. “’Cause they’re both thrill-seekers with dangerous hobbies.” Marcus responds, “Good point.” Changing the subject completely, Dill concludes the strip by saying, “Whew! I think I’ve learned enough for today. Miss Bliss, can I go home?” In the first week of strips, his characters already have distinct lives of their own.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

GG talks to kuš! about creating her story, "Lapse".

I work mostly digital these days. Again, it goes back to keeping things minimal. My earlier comics were done with pencil and paper but I didn’t like how after I finished a story and scanned it in, I would have all this paper to store somewhere. It also seemed like an extra step to have to scan and then have to clean up the scans when I could just draw directly on the computer. One thing I’m always trying to figure out is how to make comics more efficiently because they are already so time-consuming for me. Sometimes pen and paper is unavoidable because I’ll want a certain look or effect so I haven’t totally gotten rid of all my art supplies yet.

This isn't comics, exactly, but Nadja Spiegelman has released a memoir about her mother, Françoise Mouly, reviewed today in the New York Times.

Nadja longed to understand her mother, and when she had achieved a measure of independence, she hit upon the idea of interviewing her. (It didn’t escape Nadja that she was following in her father’s footsteps: “Maus” was based on Art Spiegelman’s interviews of his own father.) Surprisingly, Françoise threw herself into the project with energy and candor. But candor is only the impulse to tell the truth: Truth-telling itself is rarer. Nadja sympathetically accepts the broad outlines of her mother’s narrative of her French childhood — Francoise’s brutal rejection by her own mother, Josée; the multiple infidelities of her plastic-surgeon playboy father, Paul; her admirable decision to escape her mother’s influence and begin again in New York. But she also notes some credulity-stretching inconsistencies. Here she picks up on a theme that threads through the memoir, the indeterminacy of memory. Nobody, neurological science tells us, really has a claim to the truth.

Finally, Tim Lane has created a Patreon to help him with his latest project, a book on Steve McQueen.

I’m currently working on an interpretive biographical graphic novel about the actor, Steve McQueen. I say “interpretive,” for many reasons, but mainly because I’m using the life of Steve McQueen as a conduit to construct a picture of American culture that both shaped Steve McQueen, and was partly shaped by his influence. This book is artistically inclined - heavily influenced by works such as Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter, and David Clewell’s Jack Ruby’s America. In other words, it is not a traditional biography. Rather, it is an experiment in what the potentialities are in writing about the life of a real person, and a more subjective consideration of how that person’s influence touched the life of the “biographer."