Very sad comics biz news: Bergen Street Comics, my local store and home to TCJ contributors Tucker Stone and Matt Seneca, has announced it is closing. I really enjoyed that store -- everyone did a great job there. Excellent selection, neighborhood-oriented, and very friendly. Everything you could want in a comic book store in 2015, really. My best wishes to everyone there.
Joe McCulloch has his usual guide to your Week in Comics!, with spotlight picks including a children's graphic novel from Craig Thompson and a superhero-ish manga called One-Punch Man.
And Glenn Head is back with day two of his week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary feature. In this entry, he remembers learning from his father in 1968 what it means to be rich. Meanwhile, elsewhere:
[Luba has] mellowed with age. I’ve seen that most people change as they get older. At a certain age, people start to explore different areas of their personalities. So I did that with Luba; I decided to make her as complex as I could. A lot of her rage had come from defensiveness. She’s the same person now, but she doesn’t have the outbursts that she used to. Although those [scenes] were probably really enjoyable for the reader, I had to move on. That’s difficult, because she’s probably the best-written character I’ve created.
The Lady Collective website interviews publisher Annie Koyama about life in her twenties:
My first job when I was of legal working age was in a women’s clothing store in a suburban mall. I certainly didn’t fit in as the store sold spongy, synthetic clothing to middle-aged women. Customers would pee in the dressing room wastebaskets and I’d have to take the wastebaskets downstairs down a long, dark corridor to get to the washrooms. I was making some of my own clothing at that time so needless to say, I never used my employee discount.
I think it’s kind of beautiful and hilarious to see people eating their organic kale and quinoa salads while gazing across the opaque, fetid water.
—News. You may have seen some online reaction to this story about a few incoming Duke freshmen declining to read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. I think those students are making the wrong choice, myself, and hope they change their minds, but it is worth noting, I think, that this isn't a book that's part of their curriculum -- it's intended to be optional -- so I'm not sure this is actually worth much consternation. Students finding an excuse to avoid optional summer reading is a pretty dog-bites-man story.
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.