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Easy Week

I’m gearing up for TCAF this weekend and have been tricked into moderating a panel Friday night with Chester Brown, Seth, Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware. All men who are smarter, more successful and more liked than I am. I’m sure they’ll go easy on me, right guys? Uh, guys? I’m working through my fear. How? By working on TCJ, of course.

So! I should note that you have days, or perhaps only hours until the vaunted TCJ archive goes behind ye ol’ pay wall. Right now we’re up to issue 68. Might I suggest having a peek at issue 66? Some fine Scholz and Groth material in there.

On to some links:

Over at The Panelists there’s a bit about young Hugh Hefner’s early life as a wannabe cartoonist.

Here’s a short but tantalizing article about the comics publisher Lev Gleason (Crime Does Not Pay, among others), written by his grandnephew, who is also working on a full length biography. (via PF) This connects back to earlier posts by Kent Worcester, and including some of this material, over here.

Harry Mendryk looks at Jack Kirby’s comics about the mob. I love that Kirby’s career is so vast that you can look at not only how he treats a given subject over a thirty-year span, but also track the changes in the medium itself as he does so. Fun.

I can’t believe I missed this exhibition of Charles Schulz love letters. No excuse. Jeez.

Here’s an interview with cartoonist and historian Brian Walker, someone you don’t see interviewed that much, but has certainly lived the history.

 

The Third Month

Welcome back to the working week. Lots of new stuff for you this week and month. Thanks for reading us so far, and bearing with the occasional bump in the road. (Like the continuing comments wrinkles — it will get fixed soon, we swear.) May should be the best month yet.

New on the site:

Sean Rogers writes about the great Kim Deitch, via the portfolio published by La Mano.

Frank Santoro turns in his latest Layout Workbook, this time focusing on the format of the late & lamented MOME.

And Kristian Williams returns to the site with a review of Mike Howlett’s Weird World of Eerie Publications.

Elsewhere:

Drew Friedman talks about the book covers of his father—the brilliantly funny Bruce Jay Friedman. If you haven’t read him before, you really need to.

Speaking of books, The Strand in New York City has invited various people to “curate” collections of recommended titles, including John Waters, Maira Kalman, and Art Spiegelman.

The infamous-in-some-quarters critic and former TCJ message board habitué Domingos Isabelhino compares Peanuts to Percy Crosby’s Skippy.

Chris Mautner attempts to sum up Joe Sacco.

Only very tangentially comics: A typically oddball interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Sorry for the bare-bones nature of today’s blog post. A certain little girl would not stop crying if she wasn’t being held, and this particular entry had to be written with one hand.

 

Strong Finish

Welcome to the weekend.

On the site today:

The first installment of Bart Beaty’s monthly column, The Dr. Is In. Bart will be writing about academic publishing around comics — he kicks it off with Hillary Chute’s recent book.

And Sean Rogers weighs in with a review of Dan Clowes’ Mr. Wonderful.

Your daily links…

This went around the Twitter-sphere yesterday afternoon — it’s pretty great. Cartoonists talking about the tools of their craft in a promotional video for TCAF.

I’ve never been to the FLUKE comics fest, but it sounds like it was fun, and I like spending time in the South, so…

John Adcock takes a look at Bill Blackbeard’s non-fiction and pulp writing.

Michael Barrier has been posting some great old interviews on his site. Here’s one with animator and funny animal cartoonist Lynn Karp.

J. Caleb Mozzocco looks at Matt Howarth’s new book, The Downsized. Howarth is one of those cartoonists who remains pretty much unexamined, and he sure was prolific throughout the 1980s and early ’90s.

I enjoy looking at the sporadically updated Frank Bellamy Checklist blog. Bellamy is a standard bearer for ye’ ol’ stiff upper lip British realist comic, which I have some weird weakness for looking at. Anyhow, this latest installment has some images that would not seem out of place on a 1970s Brian Eno record cover.

And finally, the old pro Murphy Anderson — the cleanest surface around. Here’s an oldie.

 

Dummy Text

Two new features for you this morning.

First, we have Matt Seneca’s entertaining and searching interview with Shaky Kane and David Hine, regarding the collection of The Bulletproof Coffin that came out this week.

Second, we introduce an audio component to our multimedia empire: TCJ Talkies, a new biweekly podcast series hosted by Mike Dawson. (Dan came up with the name, I hasten to add.) The first episode‘s guest is world-class ranter Evan Dorkin.

And if you haven’t checked in to our post gathering tributes to Bill Blackbeard in a while, it is probably worth looking at again. We have been adding new material all week, including writing from Gary Groth, Michael Tisserand, Peter Maresca, Trina Robbins, and updated thoughts from Jeet Heer.

Your Daily Links:

Kim Thompson has been working on a big upcoming collection of Joost Swarte material for Fantagraphics, and has two great posts on the translation issues involved.

Robot 6 found a striking early Charles Schulz strip going up for bid at Heritage Auctions, which features characters eerily similar to Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Peanuts before Peanuts.

There’s a good short interview with Shaun Tan at literary website The Millions.

I can’t remember why I saved this link to Tucker Stone’s most recent roundup of superhero comics “reviews.” Maybe just because we haven’t linked to his blog before? Anyway, for those still caught up in the weekly capes grind (or who enjoy following it from a discreet distance), Tucker’s stuff is a constant sharp reminder that doing so isn’t much more worthwhile than just burning your money.

Bob Temuka compares the 3-D movie fad to the original graphic novel boom, and doesn’t have very kind words about either.

Charles Kochman at Abrams (the Smithsonian collection’s publisher) offers his own praise for Bill Blackbeard. (via)

Finally, I leave you with an old quote from Philip Roth making the internet rounds. I don’t want to put my finger on exactly why, but it somehow seems appropriate:

“Had I been away twenty years on a desert island, perhaps the change in intelligent society that would have most astonished me upon my return is the animated talk about second-rate movies by first-rate people which has almost displaced discussion of any such length or intensity about a book, second-rate, first-rate or tenth-rate. Talking about movies in the relaxed, impressionistic way that movies invite being talked about is not only the unliterate man’s literary life, it’s become the literary life of the literate as well.”

 

Working it Out

Hello again. Here’s the run down:

* Tom Spurgeon has a great round-up of thirteen tributes to Bill Blackbeard. I second his recommendation to race over to read Dylan Williams’ fantastic post, which contains the longest interview with Blackbeard ever published.

* So Gary Panter (with Chris Byrne) has curated an exhibition on Zap opening on May 12 in NYC. I’ve seen the original pages selected: it’s a killer show. Great generational combo.

* Kim Thompson takes us inside an adventure in translating. Also: Joost Swarte book back on schedule.

* Here’s an incredibly enjoyable con report over at The Mindless Ones. Frank and Jog: Meet your British counterparts.

* Via Top Shelf, the much-talked-about French graphic novel by Ludovic Debeurme, Lucille, has a preview up at Pen American Center.

* At HiLobrow: A selected series of posts by Adam McGovern on various aspects of pop culture, including some comics of interest.

* A random note: I know this is conflict of interest and blah blah, but damn the new Hate Annual 9 is good. Bagge knows his characters so well, and he never goes for the easy gag. Just great suburban American comedy. Also, if I had some dough, I’d race over to Scott Eder’s site and buy some originals by Bagge. There are some killer pages on there.

On the site today:

The second installment of Richard Gehr’s Know Your New Yorker Cartoonists, featuring Gahan Wilson! Ol’ man Gehr is on a roll with these, having just completed a great interview with Roz Chast. Stay tuned for his monthly dispatches.

And coming up tomorrow: Matt Seneca contributes a great interview with Shaky Kane and David Hine on the occasion of their newly released book, Bulletproof Coffin. It’s fantastic to see Kane, in particular, getting some attention from the general comics universe. Just five years ago Frank Santoro was a lone voice in the wilderness talking about his work, and it was some effort to track him down for a Comics Comics cover feature. Always a deeply idiosyncratic artist, Kane seemed, well, maybe lost to history or something — his work residing primarily in back issues of Deadline and a handful of small press British comics. Anyhow, sounds like we’re going to get to see some more, so that’s a good thing.

 

Taking Things for Granted

Okay, first, if you haven’t yet made time to read the obituaries and tributes for Bill Blackbeard we published yesterday, written by R.C. Harvey, Jeet Heer, and others, you really should do so at your earliest convenience. It would be difficult to overstate how great a debt anyone interested enough in comics to be reading this site owes to Blackbeard. It is easy to take for granted the state of things as they are, and think that it’s entirely natural for bookstore and library shelves to be groaning with beautiful archival reprints of classic comic strips, but if not for Blackbeard, it is very unlikely we would be living in such a world. It is both frightening and motivating to think about how much can come down to one dedicated person. (Two off-site tributes worth reading come from Dylan Williams and Tom Spurgeon.)

New to the Journal today are Dan’s interview with Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, regarding their upcoming Alex Toth book, Rob Clough’s review of Noah Van Sciver’s Blammo, and the latest column from Joe McCulloch, with the highlights of the week for newly published comics—and another in-depth look at late Steve Ditko.

Elsewhere, lots of links this morning:

Timothy Callahan has been reading old issues of the Journal and getting inspired. You can too.

Adrian Tomine is selling art to raise funds for Japanese disaster relief.

For those buried under a rock, new art from Bill Watterson has surfaced.

Ben Katchor brings us drawing-as-writing from both Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky! (In appreciation for these great finds, I ought to link to Katchor’s recent interview with the A.V. Club.)

The film writer Richard Harland Smith interviews one of the great comics talkers, Drew Friedman.

James Romberger just posted an interview with Gene Colan. As you may know, Colan’s health situation isn’t very good right now. You can learn one way to help here.

The Point has published a nice, thoughtful review-essay based on Chris Ware’s latest volume of Acme Novelty Library.

The popular literary weblog HTMLGIANT does the same for CF’s City-Hunter.

Robert Boyd organized a show in Houston featuring the work of Jim Woodring and Marc Bell. He revisits it in words and video. Both artists (and JW’s famous giant pen) make appearances.

I imagine this must be a very common experience, but having a kid recently, and being “forced” (she isn’t that strong) to read the same books over and over again nightly, has given me immense new respect for the artistry of figures like Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. Sendak was feeling ill when he granted a Philadelphia reporter a brief, bracing set of quotes.

 

The Collector

I’m very sad over the passing of Bill Blackbeard. My experiences with Bill Blackbeard are much the same as many other people’s: I “met” him through his books, which provided the best exposure I had to comic strips. His emphasis on personal taste — which he confirmed to me the one and only time I spoke with him — as a guide for shaping foundational history was an inspiration as well. I mean, he emphasized the good stuff. I’m sure there was plenty I’d disagree with him on, but he would fight for difficult strips — like The Bungle Family — and also advocated for the sheer poetry of, say, Roy Crane. His tenacity and taste were formative for all of us. And, as Jeet convincingly argues, without Blackbeard comic strip history as we know it would more or less not exist. What Blackbeard did for the medium goes past anything I can really imagine: I think it is without question that by virtue of saving and then sharing its history, he was one on the most important men in the history of comics. Period.

R.C. Harvey has written an obituary, and Jeet Heer an appreciation. Let’s honor Blackbeard’s memory by continuing his good work.

——–

Just a handful of links for you today:

I really enjoyed this Douglas Wolk pieces on Howard Chaykin, which comes from a reading of the recently released (and highly recommended) book Howard Chaykin: Conversations. Chaykin is, in a lot of ways, the last of his kind — an autodidact who will slog through a shitty script because he felt like drawing horses that month. Like his mentor Gil Kane, he produces excellent work in a shitty field. He also did create a couple of pretty great graphic novels, to boot. Really worth reading.

Tom Spurgeon has a typically excellent interview with Joe Daly over at The Comics Reporter. I’m a fan of Daly’s Dungeon Quest series.

I completely relate to Dylan Williams’ assessment of his recent convention experiences. Sigh.

And, randomly, from another conversation, Jay Babcock reminded me of this interview he conducted with Alejandro Jodorowsky that covers his comics work. Also, an excuse to link to this piece on his collaborations with Moebius on his aborted Dune film, and a blog with his 1960s psych comics.

 

Another Day, Another Deluge

Pascal Girard takes a somewhat melancholy taxi ride in his final diary entry this morning, and it is similarly bittersweet to bid him farewell. How did the week fly by so quickly?

Katie Haegele brings us a short profile of the young Swedish cartoonist Naomi Nowak.

The great Tom De Haven returns, with a review of Jerry Robinson’s re-released history, The Comics.

And Jeet Heer makes the case for S. Clay Wilson as the central figure of underground comics in his latest column. (Incidentally, congratulations are in order to Jeet, to whom a daughter was born this week. He is actually the second Journal contributor to father a child since the site relaunched. Maybe there’s something in the ink…)

A few quick orders of business: 1. Some readers reported having trouble with pre-orders of issue 301 on Amazon yesterday. We are aware of the problem, and looking into it. In the meantime, we apologize for the confusion. 2. Some of you may have noticed that the comments are a little wonky, with reader comments sometimes appearing over in the left “recent comments” sidebar on the front page, but not underneath the story in question—and vice versa. We are working on this one as well. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be happening all that frequently, but we still hope to have it fixed soon. Thanks for your patience.

Off-site:

I liked Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life better than he does (maybe it helps to read it? the art definitely isn’t the main attraction), but Nick Gazin’s latest review column for Vice is pretty good, and opens with a nice rant on the sad sack foundation of the funnybook business. I think the Chris Ware stuff here seems off, too, as I don’t remember him ever idealizing himself—I may be forgetting something, but the only “Chris Ware” in his comics that I recall turns him into a lecherous, pretentious, and pony-tailed high school art teacher. Gazin’s reviews will be too sloppy (& occasionally too fake-dumb) for some of you, but here are the things I like about them: 1. They are funny. 2. They are unpredictable. 3. They reflect a seeming fearlessness about who will be pissed off. 4. I strongly agree—and strongly disagree—with at least one thing in his reviews each time, and they’re often points I haven’t seen articulated by anyone before.

On the exact opposite side of the writing-about-comics spectrum, Neil Cohn has discovered comics-related lectures available at the Semiotics Institute Online that may be of interest to more academically oriented readers.

Friday Fun Time: If Joe McC’s recent essay got you interested in watching Frank Miller’s The Spirit (and I hope for your sake that it didn’t, because that movie will drain you of all self-respect—no offense, Joe), then (via Sean Howe) the script Miller wrote for a never-completed film version of Elektra has turned up. It seems to be the antediluvian Miller, too.