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Oxygen to the Dumb

Today on the site we bid Dash Shaw a fond farewell as he wraps up his Cartoonist’s Diary at Fantastic Fest.

Elsewhere:

The great French master of the clear line, Ted Benoit, has passed away.

Matt Furie has had a shitty year, as his character Pepe was appropriated by right wing nut jobs and then declared a symbol of hate by the ADL. Herewith a summary of the events.

Adventure Time, the animated show that seems to employ a generation of post-Kramers cartoonists is calling it a day in 2018.

Longtime cartoonist Sparky Moore has passed away.

Here’s a look at how actors rake in the cash at conventions. 

 

Frank Santoro and the young cartoonist Cameron Weston Nicholson were in conversation at SPX:

 

Cave-In

Today on the site, Rob Clough reports on this year’s SPX, which seems to have been a very successful one.

The tension that has marked some past shows was simply not in evidence this year. I attribute that to Bernard’s decision to take over the entire ballroom at the Marriott hotel that serves as the show’s headquarters. The show moved to its new location a decade ago, after outgrowing its old Holiday Inn location in Bethesda. That first show had about three hundred exhibitors; I attended, and was interested in about a quarter of them. The show this year had seven hundred exhibitors, and I was interested in about the same proportion, meaning that the actual number of interesting exhibitors has zoomed up to nearly two hundred people. Bernard solved the problem of turf by expanding it for everyone. This year more than ever, it was possible for fans of different interests to have completely different experiences, to never interact and still have a fully satisfying experience. Of course, some of the differences were less pronounced than one would think. For example, the crew behind Adventure Time is like a young alt-cartoonist all-star team, featuring the likes of Tom Herpich, Jesse Moynihan, Michael DeForge, Seo Kim, Sam Alden, Luke Pearson, Jillian Tamaki and more. An upcoming issue of Ryan Sands’s cutting-edge anthology Frontier will feature Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar.

Also, Dash Shaw brings the fourth installment of his Cartoonist’s Diary. This time, he describes the U.S. premiere of his new film at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.

The sensibility of Alamo Drafthouse reminds me of Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, but on a way bigger scale. They play strange videos before movies and have a huge appreciation of exploitation movies and goofy humor and anything bizarre. Everyone working at the theater is having a blast. You can tell everyone wants to be here, which is (strangely) not the feeling you always get at film festivals. This feels like something in-between a film festival and a comic convention! I even wear a badge around my neck, and there are sword jugglers and snake handlers in the theater lobby.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. AMFM Magazine has a very nice interview with Dash, which I highly recommend.

BEARS: It seems like it’s a big risk for somebody working in animation to go the more abstract route, which I love that you did. I don’t see people making a lot of animated movies that are taking risks. Everything looks like everything else. Everything is either trying to look like Pixar, live-action, CGI thing, or it’s trying to look like a Studio Ghibli thing. I love that your cartoon can only be your cartoon. It has your voice just in the picture. I don’t feel like enough people take advantage of that.

Shaw: I think the reason for that is it’s a ton of work to make all of those drawings. Even though the tools now are very accessible— like I just made this with a scanner. Really, the same tools that I could make a comic book, I used to make this movie with. The tools are there to make a movie like this, a lot of people have those tools. But it’s a lot of drawing. My experience in comic books both helped me know how to do a lot of drawing because I would make books that were hundreds of pages long. I would have to draw the same character over and over and over. So that experience prepped me for this. Also, the alternative comic world, to me, is the most exciting and diverse place for graphic personalities and sensibilities. When I think of the visual storytellers that I like, it’s 99% comic book artists. I love Miyazaki but I think these comic book artists are the coolest.

At Vulture, Abraham Riesman profiles Karen Berger.

Berger chafed — first quietly, then publicly. In late 2012, it was announced that she’d be leaving DC. She stayed on to help with the transition, but made her dissatisfaction known in a May 2013 New York Times profile. In it, she called DC and its rival Marvel, “superhero companies owned by movie studios” — an increasingly true statement, but one tinged with obvious disdain. The next year, after she had left the company, she spoke to me for a feature about John Constantine and earned DC’s ire by being even more explicitly critical, saying, “They’ve taken the character and put him in a place that’s Constantine-lite” and adding, “As far as I’m concerned, he’s not the real Constantine.”

At The Beat, Alex Dueben talks to Teri S. Wood of Wandering Star.

I was originally one of those 1990’s, Independent creators, inspired by Bone and Cerebus. That had been my plan, to stick with self-publishing, until the big, comic book crash of 1995 hit. So many stores and distributors went under, unable to pay for the books they’d ordered, and suddenly, I had no way to pay my print costs. I was thousands of dollars in debt. Wandering Star almost died right there. It was pretty scary.

—Reviews & Commentary. In a short burst of 24 tweets, Joe McCulloch critiques Chris Ware’s recent New Yorker covers, and in the process puts the standard lazy, one-note, imaginatively cramped attacks on Chris Ware to shame. Hopefully he’ll expand these thoughts into something longer.

Liam Baranauskas from n+1 visits Pogofest in Waycross, Georgia.

I came to Waycross because a friend told me that in the 1980s, the town had marketed itself as the home of Pogo Possum, which seemed like an absurd pitch, even to a fan of the strip like myself. By 1987, the year of Waycross’s first Pogofest, Pogo had been defunct for a decade and a half and was long past its pre-Flower-Power-era sell-by date. Fetishism and irony had not yet merged to resurrect every pop-cultural fad of the postwar era, and anyway, we’re talking about southern Georgia, not Brooklyn or Portland. Pogo’s winking political allegories—a parody of the Dixiecrat stance on school desegregation, a plotline about the John Birch Society (renamed “the Jack Acid Society”)—had targeted a political consensus widely held in Waycross at the time, so it was hard to imagine its residents responding with anything more enthusiastic than skepticism.

For The Guardian, David Barnett writes about various attempts to censor comics, checking in with Mike Diana, Denis Kitchen, and Neil Gaiman.

Diana was just 25 when he became the first person in the US to be convicted of “artistic obscenity”. The jury took 40 minutes to find him guilty on three counts: for publishing, distributing and advertising his comic series Boiled Angel.

 

Early Colors

Today on the site:

Katie Skelly reviews Gina Wynbrandt’s Someone Please Have Sex with Me.

Wynbrandt is an artist whose progression shows over the four years of work included in this volume, and it’s obvious this progression is hard-won: the draftsmanship improves, the gags hit faster and harder, and she grows more and more willing to plunge head first into totally pathetic depravity with each piece. The style of Someone focuses on the essential, with few details in the drawings that don’t suit the gags. The book also rides out the cresting wave of the Risograph aesthetic, with pink and blue coloring, for a pleasing, sometimes teenage diary-esque effect.

And Dash Shaw continues his Diary with a discussion of his writing process for his next animated feature. 

Elsewhere:

Molly Roth, who interned for PictureBox and worked hard on the construction of this very web site, has some funny cartoons over at the New Yorker. She done good!

Here’s the best rundown I’ve seen of the Mould Map-as-exhibition event coming up.

I like these Anders Nilsen drawings.

 

 

The Fire of the Laws of Reason

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual indispensable guide to the Week in Comics, highlighting the best-sounding books coming to stores tomorrow. His spotlight picks this time include new comics by Miriam Libicki and William Cardini.

We also have day two of Dash Shaw’s tenure creating A Cartoonist’s Diary. Today he talks about receiving the French edition of Cosplayers: Perfect Collection.

I got the French edition of Cosplayers: Perfect Collection in the mail. This collection is maybe more “perfect” than the U.S. one because it has the Christmas Special in it, which will come out later this year as a separate pamphlet comic in the States. Apparently, Christmas Specials are not a thing in France, so it wouldn’t make sense for it be a separate item. Seeing this French edition is cool for me a few different reasons… One is that the issues never came out in France. I redrew and corrected and added a bunch of things for the collection, so France will only see the better versions.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Vice speaks to MariNaomi about her Cartoonists of Color database.

So you hear the question, “What people of color cartoonists?” a lot?

I’ve heard this so much over the years that’s it’s just rote. “There aren’t any black people in comics.” “You have to write for men, because women don’t read comics.” The people who say that shit aren’t doing their homework. Apparently we’re doing their homework for them.

Michael Cavna talks to Keith Knight.

[My strips about police brutality] are getting more attention than they used to. Someone who worked at a museum in St. Louis said she first discovered my work because someone was posting my comics around St. Louis during the Ferguson protests. I thought that was really cool.

People aren’t nearly as naive or ignorant about it as they were even a few years ago. And it excites me that we seem to be entering into a new era of activism and active protest amongst the masses. Athletes, students and others are stepping up and speaking out.

And he also talks to Ed Piskor.

I think when I started getting significant birthday/Christmas money to spend is when I started thinking hard about how that cash could be invested in my career as a cartoonist. The money would go to comics, and not [to] little bags of weed or cigarettes like normal kids. It was really mind-blowing to see the credits on the splash pages of comics, because it let me know that actual human beings created them, and not just some computer program or something.

Dominic Wells has an epic-length interview with Alan Moore.

“Here it was,” Moore says, pointing to an unprepossessing stone wall underneath a bridge that’s so low that he has to stoop. “That’s where industry and free-market conservatism were born. It [the machinery] was driving three looms, these looms would work without anybody to look after them, they’d just employ a few children to sweep out the corners and unsnag the machines if they got snagged, and immediately of course all the local cottage industries collapsed.

“So a little while after that, Adam Smith came to visit and he saw these machines working with nobody to work them, and he said ‘oh that’s marvellous, it’s like there’s a hidden hand’, then ‘ooh, that would make a nice metaphor for freemarket capitalism’. And that’s why we have this completely mystical notion that doesn’t exist, this is why Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher said that it was OK to deregulate the banks; we didn’t need market control because there was hidden hand! And now here we are.”

Steven Heller talks to Drew Friedman about his second Heroes of the Comics collection.

At this point, so much has been written in comics history books and comics magazine articles and online tribute groups that it’s rare you’ll find an unheralded genius from that era. Everyone seems to have a Facebook tribute book these days. But there are a few innovative cult comics artists who perhaps are not as well-known as they should be, maybe because their styles were a little more oddball than the norm. A few that come to mind include Ogden Whitney, who I included in the first book. He was a master of deadpan absurdity and his comic book adventures of the lollypop sucking Herbie, the “Fat Fury,” really jumped out at me. I also include in the new book the notorious publisher Myron Fass, actually two drawings of him in More Heroes of the Comics. He started out as a comic book artist, but he’s fascinating because his publishing career basically consisted of shamelessly and successfully ripping off what other publishers were having success with, like MAD, and Creepy & Eerie.

The latest guest on Virtual Memories is Tom Gauld.

On the latest episode of Inkstuds, Sean Ford interviews Tillie Walden.

 

Closed Off

Today on the site: Day One of Dash Shaw’s Cartoonist Diary, in which Dash introduces us to his in-progress graphic novel, Discipline. 

And RJ Casey talks to Warren Craghead about the artist’s remarkable daily Donald Trump drawing project.

Elsewhere:

The writer Nahed Hatter was murdered in Amman, Jordan, as he prepared to testify about a cartoon he posted online.

Kaitlyn Greenidge writes about the recent controversy over real or perceived cultural appropriation in fiction in the NY Times.

I wrote about Carroll Dunham’s drawings over at Hyperallergic.

 

Rocket Science

Paul Buhle is here today with a review of Corrine Maier and Anne Simon’s graphic biography, Einstein.

Since the distant days when Chomsky for Dummies sought to explain difficult ideas to popular audiences through an acute combination of art and text, comics have come to be a natural medium for scientific explanation. Indeed, Logicomix, the somewhat fictionalized biographical treatment of Bertrand Russell and his philosophical theories of math, proved a surprise bestseller a half dozen years ago. No others in the scientist-biographical category have been so successful, but as science, math, and the universe continue to get the comic treatment of various kinds, further experimentation is obviously ongoing.

This reviewer, an old-time historian of the Left, asks himself why Einstein is superior to Marx, the comics version of one famed Central European Jewish socialist over another. Most of Marx ended up treating his social life as radical exile, impoverished father and husband (very occasional adulterer), leader of the First International, and so on. The “Marxist” theories toward which he devoted his ardent energies got pretty short shrift. In fairness, such ponderous subjects as the Left Hegelianism of the young revolutionary romantic would prove daunting to any comics treatment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Two artists who work in the comics form, Gene Luen Yang and Lauren Redniss, were awarded MacArthur “genius” grants yesterday.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner looks back at the work of Richard Thompson.

Once you start digging in, however, you realize this is no average four-panel sitcom. For one thing, there are those names. Blisshaven. Otterloop. Danders. Thompson had a deep gift/fondness for strange words and phrases and incorporated them in into the strip whenever possible (hence the pangolins and trebuchets), giving the strip a healthy sense of the absurd. Cul de Sac teemed with weird objects and concepts — a toy nobody knew how to play with, a compact car so tiny it tips over easily — that pushed the strip right up to the edge of the fantastic without ever truly crossing the line. And while it could be a very verbose strip at times, Cul de Sac never felt like it was drowning in dialogue.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jackson Ayres writes about the way AIDS was depicted (through the metaphor of “the Legacy virus”) in X-Men comics.

On one hand, the comics featuring Legacy tended to evince sentimental liberal humanist attitudes toward AIDS, at times even reinforcing homophobic reaction. Understood in the light of popular fantasy, on the other hand, the moments when X-Men was at its most outlandish, eschewing even the pretense of mimesis, provided opportunities for more daring, even radical, interrogations of the AIDS crisis.

Jonathan Guyer writes about the Egyptian cartoonist Andeel.

Broadly speaking, Andeel’s oeuvre falls into two categories: snap political commentary and social criticism. The former body of work—including caricatures of the president, mockery of the military—has garnered international acclaim. But in fact it’s in cartoons about the quotidian—relationships, technology, hipsters, vegetarianism—where Andeel often shines brightest.

 

Dirty Johnny

Today on the site, Robert Boyd writes about Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo’s new book, The Greatest Comic Book of All Time: Symbolic Capital and the Field of American Comic Books:

Bart Beaty and Benjamin Woo begin The Greatest Comic Book of All Time by acknowledging that fans love to make best-of lists. I instantly thought of pop music super-fan Rob in the novel and movie High Fidelity. He is constantly making lists, and the lists tend to be “top five” lists. The listing activity is always in service of naming the “greatest” of whatever is being listed. Beaty and Woo then discuss about several top 100 and top 500 lists from the world of comics, including Hero Illustrated (remember them? They were kind of a low-level Wizard knock-off) list, “The 100 Most Important Comics of All Time” from 1994 and The Comics Journal’s 1999 list “The Top 100 (English-Language) Comics of the Century” (note: both Bart Beaty and myself contributed to that list). The authors point out that Youngblood #1 by Rob Liefeld was on the Hero Illustrated list but not on The Comics Journal list. This book doesn’t express an opinion on whether Youngblood #1 deserved to be on either list. They write, “We have no intention of lecturing you about the comics that we think you should read. Rather, we want to examine the very process of list making and curating. We are not interested in what makes great works so great but how any work comes to be seen as great.”

The conceptual framework they use is “symbolic capital.” This is derived from the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. They write, “Any given work or creator will have differing levels of economics (i.e., sales), social (i.e., buzz and connections), and cultural (i.e., prestige) capital, but symbolic capital represents an overall index of social capital.” For the most part, Beaty and Woo only look at economic capital and cultural capital. They have somewhat quantifiable ways of looking at each.

Elsewhere:

The 2016 MacArthur Fellows were announced today, and cartoonist Gene Luen Yang and picture-story artist Lauren Redniss are among the recipients. 

The great Kerry James Marshall writes on Black Panther at Artforum.

Fair round-up: Nick Gazin at the NY Art Book Fair, and here’s Publishers Weekly on SPX.

 

476

Rob Clough is here with a review of Caitlin Skaalrud’s Houses of the Holy.

Houses of the Holy is Caitlin Skaalrud’s journey into the deepest, darkest memories and emotions. Clinically discussing the events that led to a certain conclusion would have done little to actually convey the experience, so instead Skaalrud chose to invent a visual language to depict and a poetic language to describe the events of a lifetime that led her main character to her lowest ebb. The book’s blurb describes the journey as Dantean, but there’s no Virgil present to explain what we’re seeing to either Skaalrud’s presumed stand-in character or to readers. Instead of a straightforward narrative, there’s an emotional narrative wrapped in symbols, fragments, and genuinely harrowing sequences.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Tucker Stone is reviewing the comics he brought home from this year’s SPX.

This collection is the most painful one Dustin [Harbin] has done, and considering the reputation that autobiographical work has for being lonely-worship solipsism, it’s strangely courageous to see Dustin–one of the few people in comics that is funny in the sense that he makes you laugh, as opposed to being called funny because he makes you feel like you’re safe–commit to the relative mundane topic of habitual exercise, middle-aged ennui and everything else that comes with break-up recovery.

Sean Rogers reviews new books from Tom Gauld, Jessica Campbell, and Riad Sattouf.

In this debut monograph by Jessica Campbell – whom the faux-scholarly preface deems “one of the world’s leading art critics” – the author serves as docent, guiding readers through the masterworks of 20th-century art. Emphasis on “master”: The dudes who ruled high modernism are the subject here, though it’s not their bodies of work that come under scrutiny so much as their bodies, full stop.

Andrew Hickey reviews Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. (There are obviously a slew of reviews of this novel; I plan on mostly just linking to the most comics-familiar of them.)

If I were to attempt to summarise this utterly unsummarisable novel, the best way to put it would be that it’s plot is a history of Moore’s ancestry, both physical and literary, that its themes are those of From Hell (with a little of Promethea thrown in), and that its style is that of Voice of the Fire. It is, in short, a culmination of everything Moore has been working on throughout the last thirty years, and possibly his greatest work (though writing less than a week after the book’s release, it’s impossible to say for sure). It’s a book that not only resists criticism, it contains the obvious criticisms of itself in its last chapter—

—Interviews & Profiles. Robert Anthony Siegel profiles Archie Rand, painter and creator of the comics-adjacent art book, The 613.

Rand considers “The 613” a single painting, but it is in fact a series of canvases illustrating the 613 commandments of the Torah, the backbone of Jewish law. It is self-consciously religious art — and yet maybe it isn’t. Rand’s style is derived from the EC Comics of the 1940s and ’50s — think Tales from the Crypt and early Mad magazine — and his imagery stands at an odd slant to the ancient Hebrew text. Commandment Number 10, “Not to Test the Prophet,” pictures a man standing in the open mouth of a brontosaurus. Number 80, “To Bind Phylacteries so that the Laws will be as a Sign upon your Arms,” shows an Alfred E. Neuman–type goofball playing with a yo-yo.

The Comics Alternative podcast talks to Carol Tyler.

The Virtual Memories podcast talks to New Yorker cartoonist and Peter Arno biographer Michael Maslin.

—Misc. Alan Moore endorses Jeremy Corbyn.

As an anarchist I don’t vote, preferring direct political action and comment without an elected intermediary. If I did vote, however, I would try to vote with the way that viable human history appeared to be going rather than against it. The economic and political agendas imposed in the West over the last thirty or forty years clearly lead only to a ruined environment, to international austerity while the planet’s billionaires attempt to become trillionaires, to Donald Trump, and to a horrific abyss that threatens to make the English Civil War look like a Sunday-school outing.