Depressing Days

As always on Tuesday, Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, spotlighting all the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. His highlights this week include comics by Leiji Matsumoto and Jacques de Loustal with Jerome Charyn.

Does Leiji Matsumoto need much introduction? Maybe! Some of you will doubtlessly be familiar with Space Battleship Yamato (aka "Star Blazers"), an animated television series he co-created in the 1970s. Others will know of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, a comics/animation manly honor saga he created shortly after. Or maybe you read some of his war comics in Frederik L. Schodt's seminal Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, or watched Daft Punk's Interstella 5555, the music video film created in his visual style, or even snapped up VIZ's editions of some of his Galaxy Express 999 comics in the '90s and early '00s - the last time, despite Matsumoto's visibility, that his manga appeared in English.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—For the New York Times Book Review, Lynda Barry draws Johanna Spyri's Heidi meeting Stephen King's Carrie.

—Brian Azzarello seems charming.

—Comics Alternative interviews John Porcellino.

—Phil Nel reports from Comic-Con.


Safe and Under

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews Michael Zulli. Zulli is remembered for his work on Puma Blues and various Neil Gaiman projects.

I have to admit that before this collection was published, I had never read The Puma Blues, or even heard of it. Though I was too young to have read them when they were originally published.

I don’t blame you, actually. Those days were the wild west of comics, really. There was a lot of very good things that happened and a lot of weird things that happened. I can’t say bad necessarily, but weird. At that point in history there was more than one distributor in the United States. People were self-publishing or there were small press imprints that were producing a whole variety of different things. It was the beginnings of what I saw as potentially a quite interesting period in the medium. The birth pains of growing up. Of course it didn’t work out that way. [laughs] One by one they all toppled and well now there is a comics industry in North America. At the time it seemed like it was possible really to really stretch or even burn the envelope entirely to get to a new place where the medium itself–which is always been creative and vital and largely misunderstood as a junk culture–could grow up and flourish and entertain any segment of society that it wished to.

It was on that premise that Stephen and I originally got together as completely and utterly void entities, really. On the day we approached Dave [Sim] at a small local comic shop in the area, we had eight pages of Puma drawn and basically done. At the time we were thinking the best place to go would be one of the smaller independent publishers. Back then a lot of them would have a main feature and then an eight page backup story that might change from month to month. We thought our best chances were to get into doing eight pages every two weeks for one of these things. When [Dave Sim] said, can you do twenty pages plus a cover a month I opened my mouth and said, yeah. From there it was a done deal. We both walked away looking at each other like, what are we going to do? The only training I ever had in comics was, believe it or not, I’d gone to the local bookstore and bought How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. [laughs] Which was a complete disaster, but I did learn a few things that I found technically appropriately. To this day I still cannot draw a comics page with blue pencil. I tried but I just hated the damn thing. The learning curve was daunting to say the least.


The big news of course is mostly from Comic-Con. The Washington Post has your Eisner Award winners and a bit of publishing news from D&Q as well.  Tom Spurgeon has his daily thoughts on the con.

The New York Times profiles the team behind Bojack Horseman, including Lisa Hanawalt. 

The Quietus talks to Sammy Harkham about Kramers Ergot.

And finally, perhaps the best publishing news is that there's going to be another Jerry Moriarty book sometime in the future, as described in this video by the artist himself.:



Today we present the prolific New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake's interview with the inimitable Glen Baxter, who has recently released a collection of his work through New York Review Comics.

I was really blown away by the collages of Max Ernst: spooky, haunting, absurd. All these old steel engravings from the Victorian era with a magisterial authority subverted by the artist. THIS is what I wanted to do — but Ernst had already done it, so how to proceed?

[...] I had been collecting loads of old children's adventure stories, partly because they were inexpensive and had beautiful color covers. I did this by trawling boot fairs (yard sales) and picked them up for a song because nobody else wanted them. Max Ernst did exactly the same thing with the steel engravings, picking them up at flea markets in Paris for next to nothing.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The San Francisco Gate profiles Maxon Crumb.

Judging by his appearance in "Crumb," Terry Zwigoff's 1995 documentary about an artistic and deeply troubled family, Maxon Crumb didn't seem long for this world. The younger brother of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb was filmed in his seedy hotel room, sitting on a bed of nails and begging for money on San Francisco sidewalks. He looked haunted, spiritually ransacked -- done in by the family abuse that drove his oldest brother, Charles, to suicide.

Twelve years later, Maxon Crumb still resides in the same Sixth Street dump, and still maintains an extreme spartan diet -- "only plant food" -- and an ascetic spiritual practice that includes long, holy-man treks to Bolinas Ridge, where he sits in lotus position for 12 hours at a time. But in the years since "Crumb" was released, he is no longer dependent on government assistance and has stopped panhandling and started supporting himself with his art. His paintings -- more intricate, surreal and disturbing than Robert's antic work -- sell for as much as $3,200; his ink drawings go for $1,200.

—News. The CBLDF has gathered and summarized recent news on the post-coup media crackdown in Turkey, including a banned issue of the satirical magazine LeMan.

Unsurprisingly based on Erdoğan’s past record, the crackdown has also deeply affected the press: 34 journalists had their credentials revoked, and the satirical magazine Leman was yesterday prevented from printing a special post-coup edition with a cover cartoon suggesting that the government deliberately pitted civilians against the military plotters.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon's been running new reviews all week, including this take on Tim Hensley's Sir Alfred No. 3.

I don't think I've enjoyed a comic in some time as much as I took pleasure in Tim Hensley's beautiful, accretive biography of Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Alfred No. 3, built from casual anecdotes and ridiculous stories from the director's colorful public profile along with whatever racy filmmaking storie fit the same general tone. Hensley's style isn't as perfectly suited to the kind of biographical comic he's aping here as it was to the teenager books being examined in Wally Gropius, but his flat, colorful art is beautiful, and the whole project evinces a kind strange sumptuous based on presentation and style that stands in constant, funny contrast to the sheer squirrelly nature of every single character moment as revealed.

—Misc. Letters of Note has published a pretty charming exchange of correspondence between Alan Moore and a nine-year-old fan.

The first book I saw was V for Vendetta which has a brilliant storyline and is very cool when he blows up Parliament. I also love his awesome mask. Watchmen was the second, so far the best book I have ever seen - Rorschach is my favourite character, then Dr. Manhattan, lastly the Comedian. I like the way he uses a flamethrower as a cigar lighter and a smiley face for a badge. My third favourite was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I like the way it’s more like a book because it has lots of writing in it and I also like the things that they have collected. All in all you are the best author in human history. Please write back.


Earth Crack

Hi there,

Today Cynthia Rose brings us an interview with Steffen Kverneland, whose graphic biography of Edvard Munch has been a hit internationally.

Once you decided to tackle Munch, where did you begin?

One thing was for sure – I did not want to do a linear, strictly chronological, cribbed-to-death biography. That’s a terrible structure, probably the worst you can choose. It’s highly predictable, it obliges you to include a ridiculous amount of boring transitional scenes – and it always ends with the death.

It’s puzzling to think of now but the key scene for me, this scene I was longing to draw, came from this story about a party at the villa of a poet, Richard Dehmel. It’s where Munch’s buddy Stachu Prszybyszewsky finally goes nuts. He takes off all his clothes, goes out to the woodshed in the middle of a winter’s night and starts posing as Satan (Munch, page 128-130). It was as if this fairly unknown anecdote, hilarious but also shocking, was simply beckoning me to make its comic adaptation. This was not part of the Myth of the Holy Genius Munch as we all knew it.

This Polish writer – a heavy drinker, a Satanist and a sexoholic – who was a close friend of Munch’s, he really intrigued me. So, of course, did Strindberg who I also looked forward to drawing and learning more about. Plus there were the women, like the mysterious Dagny Juel. She marries Przybyszewsky and gets shot to death at the age of 33. What was her story? I already knew that, during those feverish years in Berlin, Munch made practically all of his best-known works. That was when he became the Munch we know today.


The most important link of the day (week?) is this interview with Mike Kuchar, who of course is the late George Kuchar's brother. Mike is, as George was, a cartoonist, and very much a pioneer in early queer comics in the 1970s. These drawings, which are much more recent, are just amazing, visceral things. Everything Frazetta wished he could be. Sammy should publish some in Kramers Ergot. And someone should do a book! I was planning to back in 2012-2013, but then I decided not to publish more books, so that was that. Anyhow, check him out: Mike Kuchar. And dig the connections to Arcade, Crumb, and Wally Wood. All my favorite things. Gee willickers.

San Diego Comicon is happening this week, I guess? Tom Spurgeon has a few thoughts over here, and Michael Dooley tells us about the women nominated for Eisner Awards this year.


Row of Flats

Today brings a new episode of Comic Book Decalogue, in which Greg Hunter talks to Anna Bongiovanni about Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls!, Bread and Wine, Kiki Smith, and so much more.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Gina Wynbrandt.

I try to present the worst, most unlikeable version of myself. I know I'm not a total garbage human, but I don't need to prove what I good person I am with my comics. I'd rather people laugh at me and think I'm funny. Also, the fact that readers like this awful version of myself is somewhat validating.

The latest guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is M.K. Brown.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon reviews Josh Simmons's Jessica Farm.

I'm not sure I wanted to review Josh Simmons' amiable, one-page-a-month horror fantasy as much as I simply wanted to make the joke, "S. Clay Wilson's Boyhood." Now that I've indulged myself, I'm a bit stuck for something meaningful to say. Deeper meaning is several years off with this project, whose next volume is due in 2024. We may have elected a celebrity genital mold to the office of president by the time Simmons wraps this sucker up. I have as much chance of finishing this series as I do D'Arc Tangent.

—Swipe File. John Adcock has posted an example of very early Yellow Kid swiping.

—Crowdfunding. Mike Dawson has started a Kickstarter to fund a new Sad-Boy Comix zine.

It's the alternative comics genre everybody loves to hate: sad-sack male autobiographical cartoons. Sad-Boy is the star of this 'zine, alone in his room with his artistic principles and his pen and paper. And his action figures. And his VHS tapes. And his copies of Yummy Fur and Palookaville. The best advice for writers has always been, "write what you know", and this issue delivers. Loneliness! Why don't girls like "Nice Guys"? Cross-hatching!

And this is the final week for the 2dcloud fundraiser, which is getting close to its goal but not quite there yet.

2dcloud is a small but ambitious publisher focused on authors and works by cartoonists in the altcomics scene. Our basic operations are funded via our Collections — where we sell groups of books together at a discount. Our very survival is contingent upon the success of crowdfunder presales like this one.


Mostly Alike

Today on the site:

Joe McCulloch brings a cool breeze of comics into the week.


Joyce Brabner is profiled over at Hyperallergic.

Comics site The Nib is making a comeback, just in time for political convention season.

Not Comics: The Atlantic on small-publishing houses in the US.


Hot Times

Today on the site Heekyoung Cho writes about Korean "webtoons."

It is always difficult to define terms, and this remains true for the many forms of graphic narrative. Various forms and different kinds of content make categories provisional, and the way terms are used changes over time. “Webcomics” generally means comics published on a website. But more strictly it refers to comics that are specifically created for and published/released on a computer platform. The term “webcomics” is often used interchangeably with terms such as “digital comics,” “online comics,” and “internet comics” although “digital comics” is sometimes used as an umbrella term that refers to all different digitally produced and distributed forms, including CD-ROM comics and mobile comics. Theorist and creator of webcomics Scott McCloud emphasizes the importance of digital creation—how things change when a creator purposely sets out to create a work for a digital platform—over the effects of digital distribution and circulation. He uses the term “infinite canvas” to characterize the virtually endless page of webcomics (or digital comics) compared to the print page of paper comics (Reinventing Comics 222).

McCloud’s claim about the virtually endless page of the webcomic can be questioned, however, since it does not provide an infinite canvas in practice, despite its conceptual potential. For instance, screen size and shape limit the way in which a creator produces comic panels and also the way the reader accesses them. Despite this, as I discuss in detail below, the webcomic has been constantly evolving, in a process that involves challenging its own limits and inventing not only new artistic forms but new cultural practices, such as different types of distribution and consumption, transmedial creation, and reader-writer interactions. In this article, I examine the differences between print comics and Korean webcomics, or webtoons, and the effects and implications that those differences generate in terms of the aesthetics of webcomics as a new medium, and also discuss the place of Korean webcomics from a comparative perspective. I lay out two general observations. First, “webtoon” is neither an equivalent general term like “webcomics,” nor is it a genre of comics; rather, the webtoon is a complex system created by the distinctive combination of two media (comics and the digital)—one that has brought about a discrete set of interlinked, mutually implicated changes in comics form and aesthetics, production process, and reading practice, and in the concepts and boundaries of authorship and readership, distribution, and consumption of cultural capital. Second, this web graphic narrative, developed in Korea specifically to utilize some of the potential that the digital platform offers, is a new mass media form that links to multiple media technologies and to contemporary mass media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Argentine cartoonist Carlos Nine has passed away.

—Reviews & Commentary. The novelist Christopher Sorrentino has republished his essay on Marvel vs. DC comics from Sean Howe's Give My Regards to the Atom-Smashers!

I required social leverage and this was one way to obtain it. I needed it more than I needed some spurious self-fealty. Who would know? The real question was, who could know? Sure, I’d acquired a genuine fondness for DC’s characters, but face it--it was exactly nobody I was being faithful to! Would Superman give a shit that I’d abandoned him? Would the Fortress of Solitude echo with more loneliness? Would my absence mark another traumatic loss for the Batman? Would there be a pregnant silence when they called the roll at the Justice League meeting and my name met with no response? With how much weight was I supposed to invest the decision? My parents didn’t care. At school they wouldn’t inveigh against it. My grandfather wouldn’t shake his grey head sadly. This was just kid stuff--and the most important decision I had.

Jason briefly reviews a selection of comics, including Jupiter's Legacy.

I liked that Flex Mentallo story by Morrison and Quitely, I still have all the issues. Quitely is a great artist, but it seems like his drawings now are scanned from pencil lines, not fully inked, and personally, I find that less appealing.

—Interviews & Profiles.
Michael Cavna speaks to the recently freed Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani.

When I heard my sentence of 12 years and nine months’ imprisonment, I thought it was unbelievable and very unjust. Since I was 29 at the time, I calculated that I’d have to be in prison till I’m 42. At first, I had a hard time accepting the sentence, but then I thought I could use this time, as much as possible, to draw and have an opportunity to put an exhibition of my works after my release. I considered prison my home for the next 13 years. My family could not accept this new attitude of mine towards prison and my beliefs and at times they were frightened by it and wept. At these times, I had no choice but to make faces for them from behind the glasses in the visitation cabin to make them laugh. These were the hardest and most bitter days I had during my incarceration.

Paul Gravett profiles Igort.

A planned biography of Chekov, told through his homes, took Igort to Kiev but he put this aside because he realised other more pressing stories needed to be told. Over two years or so he lived between Ukraine, Russia and Siberia. “I started stopping people in the middle of the street, to ask them, with an interpreter, if they would tell me how life in the Soviet Union used to be. They were very full of sorrows and hopes.” Less a journalist or autobiographer, more a literary observer and conduit, Igort came to understand their stories and histories by making them into an almost new genre of ‘graphic testimony’. “If you write and draw, you just need a pen and a notebook. And ‘a good pair of shoes’, as Chekov used to say.”


Swim Ballet

Today on the site Annie Mok reviews Lisa Hanawalt's Hot Dog Taste Test.

Hot Dog Taste Test is a breezy and comfortable sophomore collection, best enjoyed in little sips, perhaps on the toilet. The slick flexi-bound cover, probably a little sweaty in the summer, is casual but nice, like a pleasant slob you can take home to your parents.

The vignettes center around food, the natural world (bugs, horses, otters), family, death, and anxiety, and Hanawalt hits a pleasant balance between joy, and fear of decay. The internet-influenced structure flips between wordless watercolor tableaus, short bits originally posted on Twitter (one about new corporate slogans includes a proposal for Toyota: “You need a fucking car unfortunately”), traditional comics, and longer hybrid pieces with illustrated text. The longer, first-person journalist reports include one on swimming with otters (yes, I am jealous), and a story on following a fancy restaurateur chef around his kitchen.


The New York Times has an obituary of Michael Crawford.

Margaret Atwood's upcoming graphic novel is previewed at Wired.

Frank Santoro has announced his annual Comics Workbook Composition Competition.

And... slow news day on the comics front. Be kind to one another in these vicious times.