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.



Too Big to Purport to Digest

Rob Clough has written our obituary for Geneviève Castrée, who died tragically young. It includes thoughts from several of her friends and colleagues, including former D&Q publisher Chris Oliveros:

There’s an emotional intensity that permeates her work, and it’s so powerful that it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fact that on a technical level she could draw like nobody’s business. Her fragile, sometimes broken characters live in landscapes anchored by realistically drawn, solid, and permanent objects: apartment buildings, lush forests and vegetation, snow-capped mountains, intricately-detailed drawings of cars. Everything was so delicate and refined.

This is all really, really hard for me to write, in part because I still can’t get used to using the past tense in regards to Genevieve. She was so young and she had so much to offer, and I always had a deep faith in her abilities, and had no doubt that her best work was still ahead of her. There are so many levels of tragedy when someone as exuberant and talented as her dies at the prime of life, but I can’t help thinking of the immediate heartbreak for her husband Phil and their baby, Agathe, and how Genevieve will never live to see her daughter growing up. It all seems so terribly cruel and unfair.

Our post of remembrances now includes a short comic by Diane Obamsawin.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The New Yorker cartoonist Michael Crawford has also passed away, unexpectedly, a tragically short time after marrying fellow cartoonist Carolita Johnson. Michael Maslin has written an appreciation.

I think of Crawford’s hundreds of contributions to the New Yorker: his odd energetically layered wash or marker drawings with au courant captions; his other art: the paintings of mobsters and the Kennedy assassination. I think of his sidling in and out of parties, chin up, checking out the scene (he rode a motor scooter for a while and would show up at events holding onto his helmet, ready to bolt, and jump back on his two-wheeler and vroom into the night). In any conversation his eyes never fixed on me for more than a half-second. They were wandering around, looking here there and everywhere; he wasn’t really here with me, he was somewhere way way over there. A social attention span like mercury, unless — so I’ve heard — he was painting.

—Vanessa Davis is drawing comics for The Paris Review. Her first is about learning of Castrée’s death.



Today on the site, Anders Nilsen remembers his friend Geneviève Castree. This will be the first of a few remembrances of the recently passed and much beloved artist.


Michael Cavna at The Washington Post recommends some summer comics.

Tom Spurgeon reports on this year’s HeroesCon.

And Robert Beatty, whose book Floodgate Companion is due out in September from Floating World, discusses digital techniques on his Tumblr. Below is a neat trailer for the book.




Today on the site, Joe McCulloch brings his usual guide to the Week in Comics!, spotlighting the most interesting-sounding new releases to the direct market (this time including a manga biography of Tezuka and a new book by Boulet). As is his wont, he starts off with a short essay on the merits of Yo-Kai Watch.

Some have speculated that Yo-Kai Watch is a little too Japanese to entirely click overseas. I think it may be a little too perversely personal. What games like Pokémon GO leave as amusing subtext — that invisible beasties are lurking around wherever you go, probably watching you as you pee — Yo-Kai Watch makes gleefully explicit. Not only are there invisible beings everywhere in Yo-Kai Watch, but the supernatural powers manifest from their distinct personalities have a direct effect on YOUR psychological state. There are yōkai that make you quarrelsome. There are yōkai that make you depressed. Or happy. Or prone to spending money on useless junk. The chosen few, however, can use the “Yo-Kai Watch” to make the invisible visible, and negotiate with these creatures – thereby perfecting the psychology of society at large. Basically, it is a fable of the regimented roles people are expected to play in Japanese society, which is why the protagonists are children: they can run and play and navigate the roles of society, not yet old enough to face the expectations of fitting in.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The Blerd Gurl writes about diversity at Marvel.

As most of you in the comic book world know, this week Marvel announced that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man will be replaced with a young African-American girl named Riri Williams. I applaud Marvel’s efforts to give another black female character her own comic. Riri joins the ranks of Lunella Lafayette of Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur and Anwen Bakian as Nova along with veteran Storm of the X Men as black female characters recently having their own comic book series. However, I am not as excited as I originally was when I first heard the news, as there are no black women involved with the creation or shaping of this character.

This is going to be a bit long, but I ask you to hear me out.

—Jason Zinoman at the New York Times writes about The American Bystander.

The American Bystander, whose second issue came out last week and which can be ordered online, does not just belong to the tradition of defunct magazines like The National Lampoon and Spy. Its nostalgic, lightly witty style evokes influences that have been dead even longer, like the raconteur Jean Shepherd and the sophisticated stylist Robert Benchley. In an era when so much comedy is boisterous and engaged with the world, The American Bystander’s humor is understated and escapist, steering clear of topicality and political jokes. The only time the new issue mentions Donald J. Trump is to illustrate how 30 years of satire have failed to diminish him. Internet headlines may boast about political satirists destroying and eviscerating their subjects, but this magazine has different ambitions, and while they may seem more modest, don’t be fooled. Call it comedy for comedy’s sake.

—And Bill Boichel responds to a recent post by Tom Spurgeon.

The books chosen in the lists that Tom references are simply indicative of the broadening and shifting of the variety, options and tastes now on offer in entertainment comics. These books are simply the Archie, Richie Rich, Dennis the Menace, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Superman, Batman, Tarzan, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Bugs Bunny, etc. of today: a variety of entertainment for different tastes and interests whose primary motive is being successful: generating sales and profits, revenue for the publishers and income for their creators…