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Folksy

Today on the site, Mark Fertig interviews Graham Chaffee about his new book, To Have & To Hold. 

You once described your graphic novels as “paper movies.” The narrative sensibilities in To Have and To Hold are often unmistakably cinematic—even the cover is reminiscent of a vintage movie poster. In what ways do films and filmmaking inform your process?

It’s more that I see the story like a movie in my head. I’m trying to draw the scenes the way I’d shoot them if I had a camera. I watch a lot of movies, but I don’t study specific scenes or shots or anything. This also means I don’t use a lot of narrative boxes or thought balloons—I’m a “show it, don’t say it” kind of guy. My characters run around and do stuff, and you gotta infer their motives and desires from their words and actions, because we’re not going inside their heads. This means a lot of the weight is carried by the actors—their gestures, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and whatnot.

To Have and To Hold is a noir crime story in the classic sense. Does your fascination with noir come just from movies, or are there other sources—pulp fiction, true crime, or other comics and graphic novels?

Hmmm…Well, I read a ton of pulp fiction and detective stories. I love Cain and Thompson and Hammett and Chandler and all that crew—Christie, Sayers, Greene, Highsmith, Doyle—not to mention the Scandinavians… 

But Noir seems more a product of postwar cinema—and I think my noirish influences are more movie-oriented than bookish. I’m never thinking about books or authors when I’m trying to write or draw a scene; I’m definitely moving a camera around in my head.

Elsewhere:

A major exhibition on Garth Williams has opened, and it looks great. 

 

New Shoes

Okay, now Joe McCulloch is really here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics! Spotlight picks this week include new books by Yeon-sik Hong and the Sunday Press.

The focus this time around is on works by Rube Goldberg, notably the 1909-10 color Sunday iteration of his Foolish Questions feature, in which snappy retorts are offered in face of thoughtless queries; Al Jaffe did stuff like this later in MAD, along with innumerable comedians looking to puncture the inflated chumminess of passerby in hindsight from the mic. I always feel kind of bad for the dummies in these things; they’re just trying to be sociable. It’s hard sometimes.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian profiles Jillian Tamaki.

Half Life is metaphorical of ageing, she ventures. “Not that I’m old, but you can already see, at 37, that the body starts changing in ways that feel very inevitable, and they link you to broader humanity – you think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s why old people are they way they are.’ It feels inevitable, like you’re joining some sort of weird club. But as we face ageing, we don’t want to do it with fear. Ageing is death, right? That’s why we all freak out about it, but we want to deal with it calmly. That’s what we all would like – you lose control over your body, and you’re doing it with a degree of grace.”

The women in Boundless are smart and self-aware, reflective and angry; diverse in age, race and body shape – but their characters seem almost interchangeable. “I feel like they are possibly conceptual,” Tamaki says. The stories [are about] a fantastical element, always butting up against reality. I wonder if the women are incidental. Maybe it’s the same woman at different times in her life, or something like that.”

The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Arnie Levin, the most recent guest on the CBLDF podcast is Ed Luce, and the most recent guest on Inkstuds is Ben Sears.

—Misc. Michael Cavna writes about the recently announced inclusion of webcomics in the Library of Congress.

The first phase of the webcomics online collection will include nearly 40 titles, including such long-running works as Josh Lesnick’s “Girly” and Zach Weiner’s “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.”

“Webcomics are an increasingly popular format utilized by contemporary creators in the field and often include material by artists not available elsewhere,” Megan Halsband, a librarian in the Serial and Government Publications Division, says in a statement.

Mark Evanier speculates about recent rumors that Mad magazine may be closing shop or otherwise making major changes.

Rumors abound that the magazine known as MAD — an institution that’s been around exactly as long as I have — will soon cease publication. I’m pretty sure this is not so, though it is about to undergo some massive changes and no one is saying quite what they’ll be. One biggie though is that its office of operations is shifting from New York, New York (across the street from where Stephen Colbert does his show) to Burbank, California (across the street from where Ellen DeGeneres does her show). With this migration will come a brand-new editorial staff consisting of…

Well, if the folks in charge of DC Comics have decided who the folks in charge of MAD will henceforth be, they’ve kept it a lot more secret than anything in the Trump White House. I don’t know and no one currently involved in the production of MAD seems to know.

 

What Else to Do

Here in Brooklyn it’s really turned to summer — hot smelly NYC summer is upon us. I sat outside yesterday and enjoyed, at different ends of the day, sunshine, orange juice, and ribs. Life! Joe McCulloch also knows it’s summer and later today will have the comic book news to prove it!

Elsewhere:

I’m enjoying The New Yorker’s new-ish forays into comics… there’s this new one, for example. Worth checking in on.

After his Facebook money and Howard Stern appearance I sorta lost track of one-time early oughts comics sensation David Choe. The publicity around his recent mural in NYC has brought scrutiny to his alleged sexual misconduct in recent years. Hyperallergic has published a pretty brave and scathing essay on the matter. 

On a related note, I was moved by this story. Of course we don’t need to applaud the extremely wealthy for  good deed, but this is a nice example of the insane culture market actually doing something good.

 

Row Row Row Your Boat

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews the latest comics biography by Peter Bagge, Fire!!

Since ending the regular run of his seminal series Hate!, Peter Bagge has been experimenting with all sorts of different genres. He wrote an all-ages series with Yeah! (drawn by Gilbert Hernandez), wrote and drew some of a hilarious comic about a conservative daily strip cartoonist and his “assistants” with Sweatshop, did an amusingly unsettling post-apocalyptic story with Apocalypse Nerd, crafted a Second Life satire called Other Lives (which dated very quickly), and another book that touched on identity and technology, Reset. None of them had a lot of commercial success, but Bagge hit on something with a backup feature in Apocalypse Nerd called Founding Fathers Funnies. It was an accurate yet highly irreverent take on the Founding Fathers of the United States, a subject he clearly found fascinating. He also clearly had a knack for zeroing in on certain details while creating a lively narrative.

That seemed to stem in part from his years of doing reportage and commentary for the libertarian magazine Reason. Despite whatever point of view he had going into a story, he always did a lot of research, was open to listening to the views of others (no matter how kooky), and brought a surprising amount of objectivity and empathy to the table. In other words, he did a far more effective and compelling job than most “real” journalists. Bagge is also far from being in lockstep with all of his party’s platforms. His ability to bring both clarity and a strong narrative angle to events made Founding Fathers Funnies effective as a straightforward history and series of mini-biographies, and his no-bullshit sensibilities made it funny. Plus, there’s the matter of his art. He never changes it one whit no matter the subject matter at hand.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Hogan’s Alley has reprinted a speech Charles Schulz gave to the National Cartoonists Society in 1994, and also a 2010 interview with Cathy Guisewite.
—Caleb Orecchio writes about the recent Alan Moore collection, Brighter Than You Think.

Something I find very interesting about Moore is his awareness of the artist. He seems to know how to “use” an artist better than any writer I know of, which, to me, aids him in diversifying the types of stories he can tell. He uses them like a solo cartoonist might pick a color to evoke mood, or use a certain brush to evoke a certain era of comics’ past. Using an artist like Mark Beyer can help to abstract a story and give it a heightened sense of reality and playfulness, whereas using an artist like Stephen Bissette can help ground a story to real-life and make a comic more like a documentary. If you’re writing a story for Peter Bagge, the writing is funny and whimsical (Moore’s ability to write comedy is WAY under appreciated in my opinion); and you write strange stories of flight and fantasy for Rick Veitch.

 

Director

What a week. On it goes. Today on the site:

Robert Boyd reviews Pat Palermo’s Galveston Diary series.

But for the past year, Palermo has been in Galveston, Texas, doing a year-long residency at the Galveston Artist Residency. The residency, which comes with an apartment and a large studio, has freed him up to do work in addition to continuing LIVE/WORK. Palermo gave himself a challenge: to draw and post a page of comics every day. That’s the kind of project you would expect to last a month or so before the artist gets tired of the grind. But Palermo has managed to do it every day since August 2016.

The pages are drawn in a small sketchbook in pencil, scanned, and published online. They have an immediacy that his more considered comics work lacks. He makes the most of his Brooklyn fish-out-of-water perspective, and the work paints a very particular portrait of the weirdness that is Galveston. But because it was also an eventful period in our county’s history, the world of politics takes on a great deal of importance as the daily comics diary progresses. Trump is elected and Palermo’s relates his crushing despair, anger, and his subsequent activism, surprisingly—considering his lack of local roots—in the realm of local politics, both municipal and state-level. That said, the strip continued to have a lot of autobiographical material, especially about Palermo’s encounters with Galveston’s barflies.

Elsewhere:

Chris Mautner has a persuasive and enticing review of Alan Moore’s now complete Providence, which we’ve also covered on this site via Craig Fischer’s examination. 

Michael Tisserand writes about the influence of Mark Twain on the work of George Herriman

And this weekend is the CAKE festival in Chicago, featuring lots of good guests and events. 

 

Baby

Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews a graphic memoir by Nicole J. Georges, Fetch.

Nicole J. Georges’ followup to 2013’s Calling Dr. Laura continues her coming-of-age graphic memoir, this time focusing on Georges’ relationship with her dog, Beija. A unique mix of Shar-pei and Dachshund, Beija has a very difficult personality, which includes hating almost all males on sight and lunging at children. But Georges loves her unconditionally. It’s a love that sustains them both through housing problems, bad relationships, and the general life upheavals that punctuate Georges’ maturation from teenager to adult. During her years with Beija, Georges learns to hone her strengths and recognize her weaknesses, eventually learning to live life on her own terms, eschewing templates. With its theme of the deep relationships between people and their pets, Fetch has obvious appeal for animal and dog lovers. But this bildungsroman should also interest a broader audience.

Fetch takes us back to Georges’ teenage years, with occasional, further flashbacks to her as a young child. Raised by a loving-but-dysfunctional, frequently absent mother, and an aggressively “manly” stepfather, Georges learns to channel her loneliness, energy, and affections towards animals. At sixteen, she acquires Beija from the dog pound as a gift to her boyfriend, Tom. But Beija proves to be a handful from the beginning, a “bad dog” who repulses both Tom’s parents and Georges’, and she is ultimately the catalyst for the young couple to move away to Portland, Oregon. Both take to Portland right away: “Dirty and quirky. It felt like home.”


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown talks to Eleanor Davis, about her new travel book and politics.

It feels very good to be more active. I’ve only become more active because of this really awful thing that’s happened, and I wish it hadn’t happened, but being active itself feels good. There is a clarity now that I didn’t have before. Before things seemed complicated. Now they are simple. It is very easy to see that we just need to fight as hard as we can, in every way that we can.

I have learned a lot about government—federal and state and local. I’ve learned it’s not the end of the world to talk with someone who disagrees with you or who thinks you’re stupid or who thinks you’re wasting their time. I’ve learned a lot about immigration issues. I’ve learned I’m not afraid to get arrested; in fact, I felt very proud. I’ve learned about all the vital work local groups and activists are doing every day. I’ve learned that I guess I should just go ahead and start calling myself a socialist. I’ve learned about my community, and the people who live here, and what they need and what they have to offer. I’ve learned a lot of good chants. I’ve learned that I am smarter and braver and more powerful than I thought I was, but that I’m smaller and more foolish than I thought I was, too.


—Reviews & Commentary.
At The Cut, Jillian Tamaki walks readers through one of her stories.

This is a drawing of a photo I found at a flea market in Williamsburg a million years ago. I think it looks like a fashion show, or maybe it’s a Wiccan thing. Either way it looked ritualistic to me, so I used it to illustrate a passage about rituals. Our lives are full of them — from skin care to packing a suitcase a certain way — because they make us feel safe and in control. I used a lot of found images for this story because I wanted to create a collage effect by illustrating a wide spectrum of people and giving no explanation of their relationship to the text.

Tahneer Oksman writes about Dominique Goblet’s Pretending is Lying.

Pretending is Lying was first published, in its original French, 10 years ago by the renowned French publisher L’Association. L’Association is known for releasing experimental, quality comics — in the English-speaking world, some of the best-known translated works that originated with them include Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and David B’s Epileptic. This is Belgian cartoonist and visual artist Goblet’s first English translation (done in collaboration with cartoonist Sophie Yanow), though she is already known in the Franco-Belgian comics world for her many experimental publications, including a number of collaborations. In a brief preface to the book, Jean-Christophe Menu, one of the founders of L’Association and the editor of the original addition, as well as an “exceptional friend” to the author (as she puts it in her acknowledgments), describes how the book took Goblet 12 years to write: “There were other books, expositions, trips; the autobiography returned, left again, returned.” Traces of this postponement appear in the book itself, most notably in the yellowed pages of the scenes composed early on.

 

Still Be

Today on the site, Bill Kartalopoulos brings us an interview with Geoffrey Hayes, who passed away suddenly last week. 

BK: What were the kinds of children’s books at the time in the sixties that would have served as some kind of model?

GH: Well, it started out, I think, when we were kids. The books that we had that I think really inspired me the most were the Little Golden Books. Even though I had read a lot of other things. I read the classics like Charlotte’s Web and Doctor Doolittle and all of those kinds of books. The ones, I would say, because they had such bright illustrations, were the Golden Books that were the most inspiring.

And then as I got into high school I became aware of Maurice Sendak, and I’m trying to think who else at that time I really liked. I had always liked Garth Williams and… I think those were the two main illustrators, but there were other illustrators that I gravitated toward and liked.

BK: Thinking about Williams and Sendak, that’s kind of two models in the sense that, from what I know of Williams’s work, he was mainly illustrating text by other people, whereas Sendak, although he started out drawing books written by others he quickly moved over to writing and drawing his own picture books. Did you think that one or the other was going to be a more likely career or path for you?

GH: Even at that time I think Sendak illustrated more books by other authors than he wrote himself. I would say that how I differed from the two of them is I definitely knew I had a lot of stories to tell and the writing became as important to me as the art. So in that sense I would probably say somebody like Carl Barks was more of an influence in the sense of someone who just had a very fertile imagination, and who told his own stories as well as illustrated them.

BK: Now, I assume that while you were looking for work and while Rory was starting to get published, you were keeping tabs on what he was doing and what was happening in San Francisco in the underground comix?

GH: Yes, yes, definitely. Especially in those days… When he went right back to San Francisco and he had his first comic published, yes, I was very aware. And then I actually ended up coming back to San Francisco myself for a couple of years, so I was with him. Not necessarily living with him, but we were together right when his career was really starting to take off.

Elsewhere:

Here’s a preview of a new book of drawings by Jodorowsky. It’s raining Jodorowsky art suddenly. 

 

Only Developments

Joe McCulloch is here as always this Tuesday with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics! His spotlight picks this time include new titles by David Hine & Shaky Kane and Elise Gravel. He also has some unkind words for the New York Times Magazine’s all-comics issue.

Predominantly, it’s the stories that hold prominence in these comics, and I’m not convinced that becoming comics does them many favors. Take Enemies Among Us (drastically reformatted for the online version, fyi), in which Marvel/DC/Archie veteran Francesco Francavilla draws a tale of WWII-era intrigue centered around ferreting out (German) terrorists who’ve slipped into NYC’s immigrant community. This is a very hotly politicized topic, no doubt disinterred from 2002 for the purposes of new relevancy, but while prose could at least theoretically tease out nuance from the account, what emerges from out under the lacquer of Francavilla’s four pages of backlit noir illustration is nothing more trying than a warm bath of civic flattery – one of the terrorists maybe becomes “affected” by the city life (no conclusions), and turns in the rest of them, his reward deportation over execution. I [heart] NYC too, but these tiny vignettes playing at resonance aren’t helped by the translation to comics, and ‘comics’ is helped even less. This is not a testament to comics’ sophistication, of its parity with nonfiction in prose; this is comics as a novelty act, rightfully dismissed the week after so that real work ostensibly can begin again.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. The most recent guest on Process Party is Katie Skelly.

—Commentary. The Ignorant Bliss podcast posted an episode with various critics and comics figures (J. A. Micheline, Darryl Ayo Brathwaite, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jonathan W. Gray, and Ronald Wimberly) discussing the controversial cover for Island #15.

So when the last issue of the anthology comic Island was released and people saw the cover by the artist Dilraj Mann of a black woman rendered all in absolute black with red lipstick and door knocker earrings hit the internet it caused quite a stir. … So I gathered some voices from the online debate and some others we knew to have a conversation about his cover, art, editorial practices in comics and voices of black women within the comic industry.

—Misc. Ethan Rilly has contributed a guest post to the AdHouse blog on the occasion of the upcoming release of Pope Hats #5.

Whenever I’m pushing into the final stretch of a project I get oddly superstitious. Every day I need to wear the same shoes, same watch, eat the same shitty snacks. Weird random stuff. And then there’s a list of normal human tasks that I have to keep on the back burner. It’s an extreme, productivity-based version of “Let’s not jinx this.”