Working with her cartoonist husband Drew Weing (no stranger to comics for kids) in a style that's closer to Davis' hand on her adult comics but still unlike anything either has done before, Flop To The Top is the single best book in the entire Toon line. It is a perfect marriage of line, color, shadow, dialogue, and message. There's a gag or multiple gags on every single page, with a high concentration of background eye-pops adding extra laughs but not cluttering up the narrative. The gags continue to build in lockstep with the emotional narrative of the book, culminating in a well-earned moment of sincerity mixed with humor that is rare.
—News. The LA Times released a strongly worded, lengthy response to Ted Rall's recent complaints about his firing. The Times hired its own audio experts, conducted another review, and stands by their decision. Ted Rall disputes their account here, claiming that the Times statement is "a blizzard of misdirection, trivialities and distractions." If you are interested in the case, you owe it to yourself to read both carefully and decide on your own who's creating the blizzard.
In the end, this was a freelance position, and a news organization has the right (and even the obligation) not to hire anyone whose credibility they distrust; Rall's other contention, that the paper let him go on the behest of the police, is much more serious. I have not yet seen any strong evidence of this presented by Rall, but then again, that's something presumably difficult to provide. Barring the revelation of new evidence, choosing who to believe on this seems to come down to a judgment call. [EDITED TO ADD: But see this too.]
—Reviews & Commentary. Yesterday, Dan linked to one of the two Peanuts essays going around online this week. Here's the other one, by Kevin Wong at Kotaku, arguing that Peanuts got ruined when Snoopy started fighting the Red Baron and light whimsy became the main focus. That's an old, popular argument -- I remember a big cover feature in the New York Press making the same claim at length some fifteen years ago or so. The opposing critical side argues that people place too much emphasis on the "dark" elements of Schulz's work because dark subject matter is irrationally considered more adult and sophisticated. Of course, in actual fact both sides are wrong/right, and Peanuts contains multitudes, and did so from beginning to end. There's light whimsical humor from the very earliest strips. Wong mentions the following strip from 1995 (long past the beginning of the Joe Cool era), but dismisses it only on the basis that it's not a "fully-formed joke." Well, it made me laugh out loud when I opened to it in the latest Complete Peanuts volume.
Anyway, it's not hard to cherry-pick weaker or stronger strips from any era to make your case. But arguing that Peanuts isn't good in later years because Snoopy doesn't act like a real dog seems a little beside the point.
More importantly: it's obviously all right to prefer one era or tone over another. (In fact, my particular taste in Peanuts isn't that far off from Wong's, though I'm much more impressed with Schulz's consistency.) But one of the great strengths of the daily newspaper strip is its flexibility. Schulz knew exactly what he was doing.
I don't believe we've linked to the relaunched Trouble with Comics site yet. Here's a post where the members discuss the concept of the "perfect comic shop" that demonstrates the site's strengths nicely.
I am trying to figure out the ways to approach the one Silver Age artist scheduled, Ramona Fradon, who is a new idol of mine and won’t appear until Friday. As I wander the periphery dedicated to the art that inspired the Comic-Con originally, I realize that the things I once bargain hunted through, old comic books and original art, had inflated faster than the real estate in my gentrifying neighborhood. Silver age comics that were seven dollars twenty years ago are now priced at $700. I feel lucky to have collected a bit in the old days, and realize that the seemingly expensive reprints I now hunger for are a bargain. This inflation is probably tied to the appearance of auction houses that, as far as I know, are as rigged as those in the art world I normally inhabit. The real reason may be tied into the new world of post-reality economics, in which inflation has nothing to do with rising wages and stock prices have no relation to the productivity of the companies whose stock is being traded. It mostly seems to relate to a world of excess wealth searching endlessly for an investment that pays higher than interest rates, usually that forgetting most such investments are risky anomalies followed by crashes. Some of that excess cash seems to be ending up in the old comics market.
And we are excited to welcome Rina Ayuyang, as she begins her week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary.
—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Constant has found a weekly home over at the Seattle Review of Books.
Welcome to the end of the week. Today we have two of my faves -- Keith McCulloch in conversation with Kevin Hooyman, who has just released his new book, Conditions on the Ground. Two old pals from back 1990s Providence. Both great storytellers.
KM: It seems the comics fan is more righteous than other fans. They would pay.
KH: Yes. I guess so. And everyone is supporting each other. It can be a problem. When I go walking around the comic shows I will see people I only sort of know and I HAVE to buy their comic. Like I went to buy this one comic I wanted, from this girl whose stuff I liked, and she was sold out, and the guy at the table next to her was like Hey I remember you and I had just tried to buy her comic so I’m obviously shopping, and my immediate response was like Oh i gotta buy yours .
KM: How much was it?
KH: Oh they’re all like five or ten dollars. I have to. I don’t know why. Especially if i just sold a bunch, just take the cash around and buy stuff. It’s just support. It’s good. It works. Because it’s all people who don’t have much money buying comics from each other, kinda just telling each other to keep going… you’d like some stuff. There’s good people. There’s some energy in the comics world right now I think. Kids are really into it. “Kids” again. But this time really kids — under 25. deeply into it.
KM: Where are they all?
KH: They’re all over. It’s international. They’re at these fairs — they’re at home on their computers. They’re making comics. Or they’re in these little DIY cities like Richmond or Providence or… they’re all over.
KM: How do you find out about em?
KH: Well I find out about them, and I’m not saying this is the right way to do it or anything, through Tumblr. I think that’s a comics scene. Unless theres a bigger one somewhere else. But I stumbled onto the Tumblr scene. That’s almost like a community because everyone is just posting. It’d pretty great because people just post the latest shit they drew. Everyone’s pushing each other in a way… there are some people I follow on Tumblr that are super productive that I really admire and feel pushed by. To see people cranking out thirty pages in a month.
The Seattle Weekly has named Ellen Forney best cartoonist in Seattle.
The 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign to raise funds for cartoonists in need has launched, and the LA Times has a story about it. The group is run by Jack Kirby's granddaughter, Jillian Kirby, and her goal this year is $20,000.