Mental Crockery

Today, we are very pleased to present Charles Hatfield's review of Chester Brown's latest book, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, which melds Brown's interests in Biblical interpretation and sex work.

Tacking back and forth between comics and apparatus, I see a kind of detective story taking shape, starting from the Gospel of Matthew’s unexpected inclusion of women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary—in the genealogy of Jesus, then chasing clues from there. Brown interprets the Matthew genealogy as a kind of coded hint meaning that Mary was a prostitute. A good chunk of Mary Wept—almost a hundred pages—is devoted to retelling the stories of these Biblical women, in the order they are named in Matthew. Each has a chapter of her own. A further chapter, the seven-page “Mary of Bethany,” tells the story of Jesus’s anointing by a woman, perhaps Mary Magdalene, perhaps a prostitute—an incident recounted in all four Gospels. That anointing, Brown reminds us, literally “made Jesus a christ” (183); that is, the ceremony of anointing identified Jesus as messiah. (The Greek Khristos arose from a verb meaning to anoint, used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ, mashiah.) Brown speculates that the ceremony may have had a sexual dimension. Ultimately he stresses a heretical, law-defying point: that a woman who was very likely a prostitute “had the spiritual authority to anoint Jesus as a christ” (252).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Salon talks to Brown about his new book.

Have you discussed your ideas with mainstream Christians and gotten a sense of how it strikes them? Have people gotten angry as you’ve talked about it?

I’ve really only talked about it with friends of mine, and most of my friends are not that religious. I do have one very good friend who is a Christian, who is obsessed with the subject, as I am too… When I told her about the idea of the book, she was very offended, which is not surprising. When I was done the book, before it was published, I gave it to her… She was very offended, and found it blasphemous. But for some reason we’re still friends anyway.

The Spanish publisher of Richard McGuire's Here has produced a video of the artist:

"Aquí", de Richard McGuire from Salamandra Graphic on Vimeo.

The Beat talks to Sonny Liew about The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

I mapped out a timeline of Singapore’s history alongside major comics works and creators. For example, I would look at the year 1961, when Marvel came out with Fantastic Four and juxtapose it against what was happening in Singapore at the time. Aside from a chronological matchup, you also had to find the stories and styles that would fit the narrative needs. Like the section about Malaysia and Singapore’s merger and separation– to me, the politicking involved had an air of childishness about it, so Peanuts or Pogo seemed like plausible vehicles. I picked anthropomorphic animals in the end because they seemed to provide the right flavor to the narrative.

The Washington Post talks to Grant Morrison about his new take on Wonder Woman.

Another twist in Morrison’s Earth One tale is the revelation that Wonder Woman already has an Amazonian lover — a fact she’s open about. Morrison views that turn as logical after, in his story, a barbaric act by Hercules plays a part in isolating Paradise Island from men.

“Women living on an island for 3,000 years together — you don’t give up sex just because you gave up men,” Morrison said. “And [sexuality] certainly is part of this culture. I’m sure they would explore sexuality, so all we did was we made a little bit more explicit. We talk about it."

—Commentary. The Paris Review has posted an essay by Edward Gauvin about Blutch's Peplum. (They've also posted a preview.)

“I’d had enough of parodies, the constant nods to this and that, the innuendo and authorial winks,” Blutch remarked, “all the mental crockery and referential baggage, the byzantine architecture of humor. I needed to do something pure, stripped down, fresher and more direct.” What better source than antiquity? Blutch set out to create the sequel to a beloved book he’d “never wanted to end”: the Satyricon. Already a motley tonal medley—prose and verse, comedy and tragedy, romance and satire—Petronius’s novel has survived only in fragments, a condition Blutch found conducive to leaving his artistic mark. “The people were all naked; all I had to draw was bodies moving through space. Peplum paved the way to a kind of musical physicality for me, a path I’ve been following ever since.”

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rebecca Wanzo reviews Ramzi Fawaz's book of superhero scholarship, The New Mutants.

DC comics most often embraced becoming or being seen as normal. In his discussion of DC’s Justice League stories from the 1960s, Fawaz looks at the team’s embrace of a universal human rights model, with its heroes epitomizing cosmopolitan citizenship. However, these characters were so often aligned with state interests that it undercut the series’ claims to advocate for a global constituency. Moreover, in their embrace of liberal individualism, these stories eschewed otherness. In a fabulous reading of a 1965 story, “The Case of the Disabled Justice League,” Fawaz recounts how the heroes become temporarily disabled after visiting some disabled boys. The superfast runner, the Flash, finds that his legs are glued together. Hawkman develops asthma and finds that flying requires too much exertion. The Green Lantern, who needs the power of clear speech to call on the power of his ring, begins to stutter. Green Arrow, the archer, finds himself without arms.

What is striking about these disabilities is that they go to the heart of what allows the heroes to have powers.


Tomato Can

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual Tuesday guide to the Week in Comics!, running down all the most interesting-sounding comics new to stores. This week, he particularly highlights Barbara Yelin's Irmina and, of course, Chester Brown's much anticipated Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.

This week marks the release of a new work by Chester Brown, and with it a volume of supplementary text unseen in Canadian comics since Cerebus closed up shop at century's dawn. Over approximately 97 pages at the rear of the book, we are treated to an Afterword, Acknowledgements, notes on the comics, a 20-page addendum comic, notes on the Afterword, notes on the addendum comics, and then notes on prior notes, along with a 55-item Bibliography... or so it is in the uncorrected proof Drawn and Quarterly sent me. Maybe he's added more. As a reader, I tend to put each portion of the animal to use, and in this sense, coupled with the 'seriousness' of the religious topic, I think the book will be received as sort of a hybrid work, as was Brown's preceding Paying for It. It probably should be. Nonetheless, in the spirit of Christian charity, I will suggest that you -- the I-will-now-presume-sympathetic reader -- temporarily excerpt your initial experience with the book to the preceding 170 (or so) pages of comics, because they function in much their own self-sufficient manner, and actually register as far more pleasing without the interjection of the artist's prose reflections.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Riad Sattouf's Arab of the Future has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Mark Evanier remembers the just-departed Leonard Brenner, former production manager and art director of Mad magazine.

"The Beard" (that was his nickname) didn't write or draw articles in the same way as most MAD contributors you could name but he touched almost every page between 1958 when he joined the magazine and 1995 when he retired. Aside from publisher William M. Gaines, Lenny's name appeared on MAD's masthead more than anyone else's.

—Gil Roth interviews David Leopold, biographer of Al Hirschfeld.

Hirschfeld is an artist who discovered what he wanted to do early on, and works at it his whole life and gets better and better at it.


Fat Banker

Today on the site, Annie Mok interviews Eleanor Davis.

One of the most desperate feelings that I contend with, and that I feel like a lot of folks contend with, is—like, you mentioned earlier, like a desperate sense of isolation. Not being understood, being cut off from the people around you. In that way, wanting to have an effect on the reader isn’t manipulative. The purpose of it is to try to have a connection in some way. Like, if I have this strong feeling, I’ll make this other person who’s so disconnected from me, who’s so far away from me, make them mirror that feeling. Then that will help me feel a little less alone. Will help me feel a little less scared of the feeling. I don’t know.

One of the things that feels odd to me about people’s response to Happy is that—I tend to think of those stories as sad and a little bit cynical, but people respond to it in a positive way, and say that it feels uplifting to them. What they mean is that it’s a relief to read something that they see themselves in, or they feel a connection with me as the author of the story. It’s really complicated, and maybe a little bit of a burden in some ways. Before I put the book out, I was far less aware of the audience. These stories were made seeking an audience, seeking people to relate to, people to connect with. When I found them—it kinda freaked me out.

And last Friday, we published my interview with Richard Sala, about his latest book, Violenzia, politics, serialization, horror, and once making a child cry.

I actually once made a little kid cry by telling him a spooky story. He was the nephew of one of my exes and we were watching after him and telling him stories and he listened to my scary story about a monster who lived in a cave, then suddenly burst out crying. It was awful. I've never stopped feeling horrible about that. I also remember being extremely upset myself by an EC comic, reprinted in one of those Ballantine paperbacks and which I was probably too young to read. It didn't scare me, it just depressed and disturbed me on a level I had never felt before. It was so bleak and cruel. I couldn't sleep and went down to the kitchen in the middle of the night where my mom was also still awake and sitting at the table smoking a cigarette. That human connection and small talk was enough to reassure me and I went back to bed. And despite what Dr. Wertham might want you to believe, that story didn't make me run out and kill people, it made me want to be kinder to people because life is so horrible. Take that, Wertham!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The longtime New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton has died at the age of 76, after a car accident in Kentucky.

Robert Mankoff has gathered a selection of Hamilton's cartoons.

Carol Tyler and Boulet have won this year's Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize.

A new $30,000 Creators for Creators grant for cartoonists has been announced.

—Interviews & Profiles. Slate interviews Chester Brown about his new collection of Biblical adaptations, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.

Your central contention is that Mary was a prostitute. Why was this an important assertion for you?

It’s important because I’m someone who’s involved in the sex worker rights movement—at least to some degree, at least an ally in the movement. It seems to me that Christianity is the force behind the opposition to prostitution, starting with St. Paul. The condemnation of sex work and prostitution all comes from there. If I want to attack that sort of thinking, why not attack it at the root? Christianity.

A Moment of Cerebus has published the first part of Dave Sim's enormous 2003 interview with Chester Brown. This is a true meeting of comics eccentrics.

How did I know you were going to see it as a gender thing? Having met rational women and overly-emotional men, I fail to find convincing your contention that women are emotion-based and men are reason-based. You're right that there isn't a universally agreed on perception of what reality is and that there's a clash of views-of-reality going on, but I don't see that clash divided between emotion-based beings and reason-based beings. I think the division is between everyone. I think that, if we were able to somehow create a society that was completely made up of Sim-approved reason-based humans, there would still be people in that society who would seem crazy to the majority.

Alex Dueben talks to Brian Chippendale about Puke Force.

Maybe I'm spoiled because I play drums in a pretty wild band and those shows are definitely cathartic, so I'm not sure if releasing books can compare. The release of "Puke Force" feels OK because it is political. Certain aspects of politics do change quickly, so you want your satire to come out when it's still relevant. But luckily, or unluckily, divisiveness and paranoia has only been increasing since I started "Puke Force," so I'm still pretty on target.

I think we all do live with all these concerns and obsessions, and as an artist, I take time to dig them out and work with them, make connections. Excavating internal garbage, that's the job.

—Misc. Dangerous Minds has excavated the Feds 'n' Heads board game invented by Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers creator Gilbert Shelton.


The Shape

Paul Karasik has dropped by to review Carol Swain's 2014 book, Gast. We ran an excellent Sean T. Collins piece about the book back then. More the merrier, I say.

Gast  does what good literary fiction does, it transports you to a specific location, introduces you to specific characters, and takes you to unexpected and very satisfying conclusions…and it does so with spare text and precise pictures. Swain is a keen observer and a stringent editor; every panel is intentionally composed and framed, every word balloon lean and to the point. But the effect is the opposite of being left with a sparse, cold, shorthand. Her charcoal and ink drawing is lush and textured. In paring down the exposition, the reader is asked to work a bit harder than in the typical graphic novel, and that extra bit of work is part of the pleasure of reading Gast.

Links today are all publishing previews!

Moebius at Dark Horse in detail at last -- sounds OK.

Chester Brown's new book at AV Club.

Grant Morrison's debut issue of Heavy Metal.



Mama Tried

Today we bring you Aug Stone's interview with the Dutch artist Hanco Kolk.

“So we were at a great secondhand bookshop by Pier 7 and Peter [de Wit] hands me Al Hirschfeld’s Show Business Is No Business. And I said, ‘Woah, I’ve never seen this before!’ I immediately fell in love with his lines, his fluidity. I wanted to master the same simplicity, the seemingly simple drawings. I did my own version and worked on it with a brush until I got that line. Years later I saw a Hirschfeld original and it appears that he didn’t do fluid lines at all! He made them little by little with his pen. But he got me to find this line that I have and it’s served me well.”

Served him well it has. Kolk has forty books to his name, a handful of album covers, and his long-running daily strip S1ngle was even turned into a television show. This year he’ll be releasing The Man Of The Moment as well as a new S1ngle book, drawing his version of Spirou (“I was really proud they asked me”), and making the posters for the Stripdagen festival in Haarlem. Comics, it seems, was always in the cards for Kolk.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. There is too much Ta-Nehisi Coates hype to keep track of right now, (I haven't read Black Panther #1 yet but I would be amazed if it lives up to a fraction of the hoopla -- and I am a Coates fan) but a couple of items that stand out include Evan Narcisse's profile at Kotaku and J.A. Micheline's interview at Vice.

At Comics Alliance, Caleb Mozzocco interviews James Sturm for the 10th anniversary of First Second.

—Commentary. Bill Boichel talks about Jackie Ormes.

—Misc. The University of Chicago Library is currently showing an exhibit of Daniel Clowes's creative process, and many of the images are online.

Gabe Fowler isn't sure whether or not there will be a CAB festival in New York this year.

Tom Kaczynski appeared in a Levi's 501 ad in the early '90s. "Tom, he's cool."

Julia Wertz has been evicted from her NYC apartment, and is selling lots of stuff (art, books, etc.) before her move.

Today is the last day to vote for the Eisner Hall of Fame awards.



Today on the site: The second and final part of the Wimmen's Comix Oral History is here.

Roberta Gregory:  I went up to the Bay Area a couple of times to visit the Wimmen’s Comix “wimmen” but I didn’t really feel all that much different than them. I wanted so much to move up to the Bay Area, even going so far as to apply for jobs there, but it never seemed to work out. I think of it to this day as my “real” home. But I also made friends with Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli, who published several comics under their Nanny Goat Productions imprint in Southern California, and they were a big help and inspiration to me. I think their Tits and Clits first issue came out just a bit before the first Wimmen’s Comix, if one wants to sound competitive, but there were so many wonderful creative breakthroughs for women in the 1970s, culture, music, arts, any possible boundaries never seemed to matter.

Shary Flenniken:  Becky Wilson [who co-edited #6] asked me to do something and I was like oh, color, that’s fun and I can just do a one off joke? I was in other comics when people invited me. I did a sex education comic for Lora Fountain. She’s a wonderful person and she was very involved in important issues.

Jennifer Camper:  Each issue had different editors, and a theme, which could be interpreted broadly. I was contacted by the editor by mail. The only guidelines I recall were the page size and a deadline, I suppose it was implied that the work shouldn’t be sexist or racist or stupid. I mailed in veloxes of my work. We signed contracts from Rip Off Press, and the page rate was $25.

Leslie Ewing:  The experience provided an opportunity to learn how to create comics that could either be funny first and activist second–or, the other way around, depending on the situation. The experience helped me solidify my identity as an activist cartoonist.

Mary Fleener:  This was in the pre-Internet Age, so everyone wrote letters and postcards and everyone talked on the phone a lot, and as a result, you get to know people. That was the best thing I got from being in Wimmen’s, meeting whomever was the editor for that particular issue. Even though the hub and scene was in San Francisco, I felt like I was part of something that was exciting and interesting.


Peter Arno, who is the subject of an upcoming biography by, is profiled by Ben Schwartz.

Comics-related: famed publisher (Grove Press) the late Barney Rosset's long-in-the-works autobiography is on the way. 

Here's a nice and heavily illustrated history of early Canadian comics.



As always, Joe McCulloch is here to improve your Tuesday with his indispensable guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting all the best-sounding comics new to stores this week, with special spotlights on books by Ta-Nehisi Coates/Brian Stelfreeze and Guy Adams/Jimmy Broxton. He also writes a memorial to the recently departed mangaka Mikiya Mochizuki:

This past Sunday saw the death of Mikiya Mochizuki, a manga pro for over half a century, best known for the energetic and bullet-riddled motorcycle action series Wild 7. Debuting in 1969, and continuing in various media forms well into the 21st century -- there was a live-action film in '11, though older Japanese audiences would better remember a '72-73 television drama -- the series concerned the activities of a group of criminals recruited to battle yet-worse crime in a semi-official capacity, thus evading the needless restrictions of legality. It is not especially well-known in English, with only a 1994-95 anime video series and seven volumes of the earliest manga (via the now-defunct ComicsOne) officially released.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Sharon Eberson profiles Bill Griffith.

“All life is a blur of Republicans and meat” has proved to be one of his most popular catchphrases — and one of the best-sellers on T-shirts and other merchandise sold on the artist’s website.

“It seems nonsensical, but not when you think about it,” Mr. Griffith said. “There’s a joke about French humor, that it exists on 17 levels, and Jerry Lewis was the 18th level, he was so deep. I think Zippy is on multilevels. Some people get the first level, some the third and some all 17, and I’m happy when they do.”

And here Griffith is again, shopping for "beatnik" comics:

Bill Griffith Searching for Beatnik Comics from John F. Kelly on Vimeo.

Tripwire has re-published its 2006 interview with Dave Gibbons in three parts.

Actually all the constraints I put on myself, and I was very happy and comfortable drawing Watchmen like that. It simplifies things from the point of view of storytelling to have the shape and number of panels of a page preset, and also you become very expert as a result of composing a picture in a very familiar space. You know where the hotspots are, and how much detail it can take, and the exact effect it’s going to have in context. I think most artists would tell you that restrictions enhance creativity. You can be told that the art can be any size, any format, and then be told that “it’s got to be this size, now do it” – that’s what really gets the juices flowing.

Gil Roth interviews Phoebe Gloeckner.

And The New Republic talks to the aforementioned Ta-Nehisi Coates about his new Black Panther.

Earlier versions of T’Challa gave you the romance of monarchy without any account of the horrible things that monarchs actually do. So I wanted to think this through. Don’t get me wrong, I like T’Challa but that’s the point. So often it’s not evil people, it’s the system.

I know there are limits in art, but I reject them as long as I can.

—Commentary. Copacetic Comics owner Bill Boichel explains Harry Lucey:

The recent controversial editorial from Riss in Charlie Hebdo is not strictly speaking a comics story, but Adam Shatz has written a very good piece on what's so disturbing about the essay.

Aside from ageing veterans of the French-Algerian war, no one in France talks about ‘the Arabs’ any longer. Instead they speak of ‘the Muslims’. But France’s Muslims are the descendants of that Arab peanut vendor – and, all too often, targets of the same racist intolerance. Like the racism [James] Baldwin encountered among his Parisian friends, it often wears an ennobling mask: anti-terrorist, secular, feminist.

—Spending Opportunities. Only a few days left on the Retrofit Kickstarter.

—News. Valnet has purchased the prominent comics news site, Comic Book Resources.



Today on the site, Greg Hunter brings us the eight installment of Comic Book Decalogue, in which Gabrielle Bell discusses Ulli Lust, This Dog Barking, and we get a cameo from Aidan Koch.

Anyhow, it's been a strange blustery weekend here in New York. I read Kramers Ergot 9, which features the best Matthew Thurber story... ever; a sustained moment of cartooning genius by Dash Shaw that demonstrates his intense and shocking level of control over the medium and the reader; Jesse Marsh-level brilliance from Steve Weissman; brilliant philosophy from Anya Davidson; all-out-20th century jams from John Pham. Also, one goddamn good Tux Dog page from Ben Jones, who rides in to remind everyone that he's still the funniest guy in the room. Overall this is a decidedly cartoony issue -- much more about about the goofy cartoon curve, the flick of the wrist, and nearly Seattle-in-the-early-1990s levels of ironic humor. It's great to see all this work between two covers -- only pal Sammy could pull something off this comprehensive without it being heavy-handed. Plenty of surprises and new voices. That's all I'll say for now... I have other thoughts, but please go out and get this book -- whatever you think you know, you need it, trust me.

Also, because I have so little to link to, I might add that Tim and I went to see Batman vs. Superman last week and while Tim loved it more than me initially, I have since grown to love it a lot. It's a totally bonkers romantic comedy. Definitely not good, but also perhaps somehow "beyond good and evil" (get it???). I highly recommend it, and I really wish I had gotten stoned beforehand, because that would have made it even more awesome. I feel totally superhero satisfied and don't need to look at superhero comics now for a long time. Dapper Dan over and out!

Oh, here's a link: The Paris Review's continuing series of Lydia Davis adaptations is here with the latest by Hallie Bateman.