Today on the site, we have Chris Mautner's review of the limited-edition release of Tim Hensley's Sir Alfred No. 3, a comics sort-of biography of Alfred Hitchcock, and the final product of the late Alvin Buenaventura's Pigeon Press, now being distributed by Fantagraphics.

With its above-average size and slapstick gag format, Sir Alfred evokes both the movie magazines and the humor-based comic books of mid-20th century America, especially titles that drew on established celebrities, like The Adventures of Bob Hope. Even the title is a sly wink to periodicals past, a teasing suggestion of an ongoing Hitchcock series, though, of course, no first or second issue exists.

Hensley’s biggest aesthetic influence here, though, is John Stanley, with Hitchcock drawn to resemble a middle-aged Tubby. It works better than you would imagine -- there always was a cartoonish aspect to Hitchcock’s public persona, right down to the anecdote (shared in the comic) that he wore identical basic black suits for most of his career.

Along the way, however, Hensley takes a moment or two to ape cartoonists such as Robert Ripley, Milt Gross, Don Martin, and Jaime Hernandez. Hensley has proven himself to be a formidable mimic, and perhaps most impressively, he uses this talent not to show off as much as to underscore the comic’s theme (or service the gag at hand).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The hardest-working interviewer on the comics internet, Alex Dueben, talks to Simon Hanselmann for The Beat.

Dueben: You mentioned the last time we spoke that you had years of stories in mind and that you saw this as a long term project. Is that still your plan or has your approach changed?

Hanselmann: Oh yeah, that’s the plan. I’m Love and Rockets-ing this shit. I have piles and piles of outlines for future episodes. It takes so long to paint all these pages. I’m very far ahead in terms of mapping and planning. All other plans for comics that aren’t Megg and Mogg based have gone out the window. I just want to draw Megg and Mogg. I love them. Forever and always.

—Etelka Lehoczky writes about Lisa Hanwalt's Hot Dog Taste Test for NPR.

Hot Dog Taste Test overflows with colorful oddities. Hanawalt, who's the production designer and producer of the Netflix cartoon BoJack Horseman, draws yuppie songbirds, bananas worn as shoes, a neurotic toucan, "a pinch of stir-fried dirt," the latest trends in menstrual huts, sexualized kiwi birds and an array of otters in lavender swimsuits and matching caps. She reflects endlessly on how to violate food taboos in the weirdest way possible, even musing on the greatest food taboo of all: The matter of when and how it comes out the other end. She designs a straw toilet (so people grossed out by public restrooms can sit on nests instead) and depicts herself peeing.

—Maria Russo writes about James Sturm's wordless children's book Birdsong for the New York Times.

We learn in an afterword that Sturm, the author of the Adventures in Cartooning< series as well as the “Ape and Armadillo” picture books, was inspired by the Japanese tradition of kamishibai, or “paper theater.” Building on a Buddhist practice of telling stories using picture scrolls, performers in the 1920s would bicycle from village to village with wooden boxes holding stacks of images from stories inspired by the silent films of the West. As they rotated through the images, the performers provided dialogue and sound effects to enthralled children — then sold them candy.

—Mike Lynch has resurrected a 1961 guide to gag cartooning, How to Create 1000 Gags a Year.




Don’t Change a Thing

Today on the site, it's Richard Gehr on Michael Maslin's recent Peter Arno biography. Richard of course is the author of the fantastic book about New Yorker cartoonists, I Only Read it for the Cartoons. Here's a bit of the review:

Beginning with his first New Yorker drawing in the magazine’s eighteenth issue (dated June 20, 1925), Peter Arno would manifest Ross’s ideal of a magazine that would celebrate the new postwar freedoms of the Jazz Age while gently mocking upper-class pretensions. In Arno, he found an artist who embodied both guises – artist and aristocrat – in one brilliant, handsome, and self-contradictory package.

In the first book-length biography of Peter Arno, New Yorker cartoonist – and invaluable New Yorker cartoonists blogger – Michael Maslin delivers a meticulously researched account of the enigmatic, and often angry, Arno. In fact, what appears at first glance to be a throwaway subtitle – “The Mad, Mad World of THE NEW YORKER’s Greatest Cartoonist” – hints at the gas that fueled the dapper drawer’s particular genius. As he told Joseph Mitchell in 1937, “You don’t do good work of this sort unless you’re mad at something.”


Dave Sim's Cerebus is apparently returning in a new comic book series. Which reminds me that I was reminded at, appropriately enough, the Kramers Ergot signing last week of this splendiferous comments thread between Kim Thompson and Dave Sim here at TCJ in 2012. The last of the great threads? Perhaps so. Oh, and I did really enjoy the Kramers signing last week at Desert Island. Got to see people I hadn't seen in a while. Was happy to see such a nice turnout, got new comics from Kevin H., Frank, and via Sammy, Jon Pham (Thanks all). Caught up with Sean Collins, who I hadn't seen in at least a year. A nice time followed by a good dinner the next night with Sammy and Kevin, in fine form. Vague enough for you?

That's all I have, folks. These days I'm really hung up (still!) on Alex Raymond and Wally Wood. I'm blocked! I just love thinking about all those lines filling up those forms. I think it's like counting grains of sand. Meditative.


Graprefruit Juice

Ron Goulart returns with another entry in his biographical series on Connecticut cartoonists. This time, his focus is on Walt Kelly.

Years later Kelly expressed some doubts on the value of the classes he had attended [at Walt Disney Studios], but he was considerably tipsy on that occasion and his negative side took hold of him. His thoughts on that topic emerged at the November 1969 National Cartoonists Society annual banquet, in an interview by Gil Kane with a large group of his fellow cartoonists in the audience. After getting a few sullen and whimsical answers, Kane stopped in the middle of his fourth question and said, “This isn’t going to work.” But Kelly replied, “You said you has a hell of a lot of good questions to ask me and I want to hear one of them.” Reluctantly Kane continued and asked, “I was wondering if there was some turning point, something that influenced your very substantial attention to craft. No kidding, now.”

Kelly’s response was ambivalent. “Hunger. I mean, here you were starving to death, working for Disney. Disney was a good training school in that the people he had working for him the best cartoonists that I have ever seen in a group….[But] even out there, not all of them were good. Some of them were terrible.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Claire Napier writes about misandry in the comics of Julia Gfrörer.

Sometimes in Gfrorer’s work, men are raped. This is something that happens in life with tragic frequency, but it is not something depicted in art or media too often, or too well. Of course the rape of women by men is very common, and in art and media too. We are not afraid to suggest women are victimised by men. When man’s rapes feature, the rapist is often a fellow male and the victim commonly queer; otherwise he may be a heterosexual who becomes subject to fears about their own sexuality subsequent to their rape by a man. In this way, fictitious rape of men is often kept reserved from a reader’s ideas about men’s heterosexual relations. Gfrorer prefers to consider rape of men directly within the realm of heterosexual intimacy; Gfrorer’s art contrarily positions women and vaginas as potentially rapacious, and the heterosexual, male penis as their prey.

—Interviews & Profiles. For Rookie, Rachel Davies talks to Lisa Hanawalt.

If I really want to get my shit together and impress someone, I can make a gnocchi from scratch. I can follow a recipe and sometimes get it right, but in my day-to-day life, I don’t cook that much. I have a couple of dishes I make over and over again. I’ll throw stuff in the rice cooker, but I eat more to just fuel myself. My boyfriend makes fun of me because for lunch I’ll just have a hard boiled egg and some crackers and a hand full of olives and a pickle. He’s like, “You’re eating like a baby.”

For Paste, Julia Wright talks to Gina Wynbrandt.

I tried to tweet my comics about him at [Justin Bieber], but basically I didn’t want to turn my Twitter into a spam account. He has so many followers, the chances of him seeing it would be super low. But he does share fan art! Only most of the time, and it’s done by, like, a really adorable 13-year-old fan, and honestly the art is really shitty. So I get mad he hasn’t shared what I’m doing in, like, art college.

My mom tells me I’m going to be really famous and “we will meet and work together as peers.” [Laughs]

Jessica Voelker talks to Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth about Comic-Con.

We go because we’d be conspicuous by our absence, and we have fans who really do appreciate us being there. We’re sort of an oasis in this sea of shit.

For Print, Michael Dooley talks to Tosh Berman about his father Wallace Berman, and the importance of Flash Gordon to his art.

It’s a generational thing. A lot of artists in my dad’s generation loved comics, and I think not really the comic book, but the comics that appeared in the newspaper. All those artists are basically the same generation, so the main medium was the comic strip.

I think one can argue the influence of the comic strip on a lot of artists, but especially on artists from a certain era and time, and maybe place. Warhol, I’m sure, felt the same way about comics as my dad. Kenneth Anger again, same generation. I don’t think the comic strip would be that great of an influence if the artist was born in the 1950s. So, right time, right place for these particular artists.

And finally, our own Joe McCulloch took over guest-hosting duty at Inkstuds to interview hte '90s "bad girl" artist Trevlin Utz.


Such An Interesting Guy

Hey there,

Today Joe McCulloch brings us the week in comics, with bonus Avatar press diversion.

The chain of events is like this. I wrote a review of the Avatar Press anthology Cinema Purgatorio where I suggested that despite the much-heralded participation of Alan Moore, the project was better understood in terms of its publisher’s tendencies. That, however, made me paranoid that I didn’t have an adequate enough grasp of Avatar’s history, which led me to cataloging most of the artists who worked for them in the 1990s, which naturally (NATURALLY.) led me to tracking down many related comics from the 1990s horror/goth/’Bad Girl’ comics scene. By chance, and through an enormous outlay of generosity, I also recorded an episode of the Inkstuds podcast with one of those artists, Trevlin Utz, which went up yesterday; let the emphasis lay on the fact that *I* recorded it, because the audio gets weird and out of sync at parts, a significant flaw entirely attributable to me.

And Rob Kirby reviews Talk Dirty to Me.

Talk Dirty to Me opens with its protagonist, Emma Barns, nervously interviewing for a job as a “sex hotline” operator. The interviewer, a middle-aged man, assures her that she doesn’t need to be “amazing” or give him a lot of backstory. “All I need to know,” he concludes bluntly, “is if you can sound sexy enough to make a guy cum over the phone.” Emma gets the job, and this sets the narrative in motion: Will its forbidden allure satisfy Emma’s inchoate yearnings? And are those yearnings of a sexual nature or something more elusive?

Rather than offering up Trina Robbins-style role-model feminism, Talk Dirty to Me presents a shaded, unglamorous mini-portrait of a woman’s life via her sexual history, and examines how those experiences have shaped her current liminal state. Emma’s story, in fact, is a conduit to a larger subject: the boundaries our culture places around sexual agency and notions of desirability, and the impact of conforming to and/or challenging those boundaries.


A new feature over at Comics Workbook looks to be featuring images from Carol Kovinick Hernandez's archive. Here's a great one of the brothers playing barbies.

Here I am discussing comics-related artist Susan Te Kahurangi King at Modern Painters.  

And, in case you were curious, Captain Britain would oppose Brexit.



Was Ist Das?

Today on the site, Jeanette Roan is here with a nice, long, career-spanning interview with Jason Shiga, the creator of Fleep, Bookhunter, and the already infamous webcomic Demon, which will soon come out in collected form from First Second.

[First Second is] also going to put it out as four books. Why not just one giant one? Didn’t you say you wanted to make Demon one page longer than Craig Thompson’s Habibi?

Yes! I don’t know why First Second is doing it in four volumes, you’d have to ask them. I’m a little bummed that Craig Thompson will have a larger book than me. I might hire a bookbinder to take all four volumes and stick it into one hard cover. Actually, I might have them make two, one for myself and then one I can mail to Craig Thompson.

Do you have a little rivalry thing going with Craig Thompson? Does he know about this?

Yeah, I told him. He knows my plans.

I saw that you recently put out a question on social media about whether you should dedicate Demon to your son. Have you come to a decision yet?

I want to, but my wife is against it. The day I put it out to Facebook was the same day Jimmy and Hunter were having their naked sex fight in the webcomic. So that didn’t help. In my defense, however, I want to say the cum shank sequence was very tastefully done. You never actually see Jimmy ejaculate. It’s all done off-camera, through implication.

What about the naked sex fight scene?

OK, that maybe not so much.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Sean T. Collins interviewed Lisa Hanawalt about her new book Hot Dog Taste Test for the Observer.

How do you balance your “day job” working on Bojack Horseman with continuing to do comics?

I’m glad it seems like I’m balancing those things, because I’m always in a panic over not doing enough. It is what it looks like: I’m often spending 8-10 hours at work and then doing more work after I get home. I pushed really hard to complete this book while working full time on the third season and had a flare-up of gut problems — ironic, given the theme of the book — which I’ve always had issues with, but get really bad when I’m stressed. So I’m not currently supposed to eat hot dogs. Isn’t that funny?

—Alex Dueben talks to MariNaomi about her book Turning Japanese for CBR.

I feel like a lot of people are trying to pander to an audience. Unless you're really into telling a story, there's no point to telling it. I mean, I guess stuff like that sells -- vampires are hot, so let's write about vampires -- but I don't feel like that kind of stuff really stands the test of time if you're not super-passionate about something. Especially with comics. Best case scenario, you're never going to be a millionaire. [Laughs]

I was talking to Box Brown recently, when I was on tour in Philadelphia, and we were talking about best case scenarios for writers versus best case scenarios for cartoonists, and man, it's pretty dismal. [Laughs] Best case scenario for writers is like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Best case scenario for cartoonists are, I don't know, Art Spiegelman? Alison Bechdel? The top tier of comics is not quite Stephen King-level. [Laughs]

—BBC Radio 4 has a half-hour documentary on Charles Schulz available online for the next few weeks.

—They're making a movie from Charlotte Salomon's Leben? Oder Theater?

The 2D feature will be mainly based on Charlotte Salomon’s “Life? Or Theatre?” — an autobiographical series of 769 paintings which the young artist created between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France, where she lived before she was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 26.

“Staying true to Charlotte’s spirit and body of work, our film will be punctuated with fantasy, dream-like elements and the animation designs will be minimalist, in a similar vein as (Remi Chayé’s) ‘Long Way North.’ We’ll be animating and interpreting her paintings, placing the emphasis on the story which is extraordinarly moving,” said Bergeron.


Science for Good

Today on the site, the great Bob Levin discusses Austin English's Gulag Casual.

I recently read a book in which a world-roaming architect selected drawings from 50 years of sketchbooks and set beside each a paragraph or three of associated memories on the facing page in order to render an account of his life’s journey.  It was, I realized, a departure from the usual words-and-pictures work, where both elements are created within the same narrow window of time since, in the architect’s book, pictures may have been created a half-century before the words, with no idea that words would ever be matched to them.  For one who has not thought about this much, like me, Gulag is an entirely different, but equally satisfying twist on the words-and-pictures trip.

It presents an urban world of houses, apartments, restaurants, and bars.  (“…(W)hat goes on in that house?’ someone asks on page one, a question that lingers as other pages turn.)  People have families, partners, roommates, upon whom strangers often intrude and from whom someone often strays.  Bobby and Theo leave Margaret and Nicky.  An anonymous narrator leaves Perry and Moki.  A stranger leaves Olaf and his girlfiend.  People often displease each other or themselves.  Bobby calls Theo “a submoronic piece of filth.” An unidentified phone caller terms Bobby a “slimy fraud.” An anonymous narrator characterizes himself as “a lump of… common and vile stuff.” A stranger notes his mouth exudes “drool” and his nose “puss.”


On the Massive blog, Anne Ishii discusses Massive's mission and writes movingly and beautifully about last weekend's tragedy in Orlando.

Sacha Mardou has a thorough report on CAKE for Comics Workbook. 

Congrats to pal Dash Shaw on his upcoming film residency. The film itself sounds amazing.

Anya Davidson drew a lot of alien portraits and I like them very much.

I remember when I was a kid every so often some paper would run a story about the science of superheroes. Now the University of Leicester has devoted a blog post to various studies of it.



Today, Alex Dueben has an interview with Michael Maslin, the cartoonist and author of the recent biography, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist.

I wanted to ask about Arno’s stolen car cartoon because in 1929 when it was published it was controversial and really divided people at the magazine about Harold Ross.

I do spend a little time on that because it’s an interesting dividing line. It created these two camps: did Harold Ross know what this cartoon meant or didn’t he? According to Thurber, Ross said the cartoon had an Alice in Wonderland quality to it and it wasn’t about sex, it was just an interesting drawing. I assume tpeter-arno-we-want-to-report-a-stolen-car-new-yorker-cartoonhat drawings are selected sometimes because the editor sees them as something other than the artist does. I don’t know if that’s really true in this case. I love the drawing; I think it’s a beautiful drawing. It’s definitely about sex. Why else would they just have the back seat?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Speaking of New Yorker cartoonists, A Case for Pencils has a short interview with George Booth.

George: Well, I’ve been drawing since I was 3 and a half, and my mother encouraged me, and I think it’s very important, for young mothers. Whatever they influence the little squirts to do, may be what he’s going to do all of his life. And that was, in my case, what it was. My mother was an artist. When I drew a cartoon of a Model T Ford stuck in the mud and I laughed about it–and I laughed and I laughed– it caught her attention so she started to encourage me to cartoon.

Sarah Booth: You’re still laughing at yourself!

George: [laughs] Sarah says I still laugh at myself! But that’s the way it should be. You should enjoy what you’re doing.

—And in the same magazine, Alexandra Lange profiles Luke Pearson, who as you may have heard, has a new series based on his Hilda comics coming to Netflix.

When Pearson was still in school, in 2009, he submitted a one-page drawing to a competition run by Nobrow, now his publisher. “She’s basically wearing her outfit”—beret, scarf, red top, blue skirt, and big red boots—Pearson said, of Hilda. “She’s standing at the end of a pier, with a Scandinavian-esque city behind her and all kinds of creatures around, including a giant troll and a zeppelin in the sky.” A similar scene occurs in the third Hilda book, “Hilda and the Bird Parade,” but at the beginning Pearson didn’t have a story, just this “curious image” of a small girl with blue hair and a question: “Where is she and what does she get up to?”

And the most recent guest to the RIYL podcast is Gabrielle Bell.


Going For It

Today on the site:

Rob Clough surveys the output of Retrofit Comics. 

Retrofit Comics began as a Kickstarter experiment in 2011. By then, comics tended to be printed as minis or graphic novels, leaving Box Brown missing the heyday of the alt-comics comic book. In 2013, he joined forces with the DC-area comics store, Big Planet Comics, which took on a lot of the costs and production work, allowing Brown (and BPC’s Jared Smith) to concentrate on other duties as publisher and tastemaker. This was one of the early examples of a store deciding to publish its own comics.

Overall, the results have been of a fairly high quality, and quite varied in genre and approach. Brown has fairly catholic tastes, ranging from esoteric comics-as-poetry to slice-of-life to big, dumb genre tales. (I imagine Smith has also had some influence on what’s been chosen.) Brown has made it a point to publish work by up-and-coming talents from the world of self-publishing. He’s also published work by veterans like James Kochalka, Steven “Ribs” Weissman, and Matt Madden. He’s reprinted minis from notable young artists like Georgia Webber. Artists from outside the US, like Olivier Schrauwen, Zejian Shen, and Antoine Cossé, have been some of the most notable contributors. Retrofit has also published some of the best work by Josh Bayer, whose work I recently reviewed on my own High-Low blog. Let’s take a closer look at a sampling of works from 2013-2016.

And Frank Young joins us for a review of the  novel-about-comics Induction of the Sycophant. 

With its rags-to-riches sagas, occasional creative triumphs and dark episodes of mental and artistic deterioration, the story of the American comic book industry is rife with potential for novelists.

Few have tapped this rich source. Fewer have stepped outside the worship of comics to depict the cut-throat, hard-scrabble world of the comics biz. Tiger Moody’s 2015 novelInduction of the Sycophant does that well, and is a valuable addition to the small body of comics literature. 

Moody’s book is in good company with Mell Lazarus’ 1965 black-comedy gem, The Boss is Crazy, Too, and Tom De Haven’s Funny Papers (1985) and Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies (1996). The pious formality of Michael Chabon’s acclaimed book-group staple, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000), is nowhere in Moody’s agenda.

Like De Haven’s novels, Moody’s explores the flaws in the comics business model, and how its creators’ inspirations can ripple throughout the industry, even if the artist or writer suffers or is left behind. Like Lazarus, Moody offers a wry insider’s sense of this vivid, limited world. Moody’s is not a humorous novel. There are amusing moments, but the book’s overall tone is New York neo-noir. Moody captures the sense of chilly late-afternoon desperation found in the works of authors John Rechy and Hubert Selby, Jr. and in Robert Wise’s 1959 film Odds Against Tomorrow. The big city, with its bustle and promise, ought to be wonderful… except that it isn’t.


New Yorker cartoonist Anatol Kovarsky has passed away. The NYT has an unusually good obituary.

Gil Roth speaks with Glynnis Fawkes about her new comic, Alter Ego.

A perfect combo: Nathan Gelgud cartoons Ed Sanders for the Paris Review.

Here's a list of seven alternative comics from the 1980s, the days when all comics intermingled like muddy creeks.

And if you're in Pittsburgh tonight, go see Sammy and Kevin and celebrate their friendship and their comics. The below flyer is "true" in a profound way.