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Whew

Okay, there’s a lot to go through this morning.

First, you are no doubt aware of the sad news that the great comic book artist Gene Colan passed away last week. Yesterday, we posted a comprehensive obituary for Colan, written for the site by Tom Field, and covering all stages of his seven-decade career in comics:

Gene Colan never would be mistaken for anything less than what he was: One of comics’ unique stylists. He wielded his pencil like a brush to capture the toned subtleties of action, emotion and lighting. He brought a cinematographer’s vision to comics storytelling, and his stories were instantly recognized by fans, treasured by scholars and appreciated enviously by even his most accomplished peers.

We have also republished a 2001 interview with Colan, conducted by Larry Rodman. If you read nothing else on the site this week, those two articles are still well worth your attention.

In his column this weekend, Frank Santoro takes a break from his explorations of color to recap his recent involvement in the Pittsburgh Biennial.

New to the site this morning, ace interlocutor Nicole Rudick delivers one of the best interviews I have ever encountered with one of comics’ most unique and essential creators, Jim Woodring.

When I was real little, I did drawings of the things I saw that scared me. I must have seen a mouse that got its head clawed off by a cat or something, because I had this recurring image of a headless animal, sometimes it was a big animal, like a bison. If I saw a bird or a bison I would imagine it with its head missing. Sometimes I would more than imagine it—I would see it and I would draw those things. I drew this little man made of electricity who was my persecutor. I would try to draw him in such a way that the drawing would have the intensity he had when I saw him. It was in his eyes. He had these blank eyes that scared me so much that I was almost sorry I when I captured them in a drawing. But then, at the same time, I was glad I did it, because it I felt like it showed that I was in control of the situation. I would just draw things that scared me. It upset my parents to no end. They really thought I was nuts, and it was the days before children were routinely sent off to psychologists or given drugs.. I’m sure if Ritalin and that stuff had been around, my folks would have gotten me on drugs as quickly as possible. Instead, they just despaired and withdrew from me.

Come to think of it, this is a must-read, too.

Finally, we have the second installment of Jeffrey Trexler’s ongoing look at what happened to the Comics Code. Okay, it’s all necessary material today. And we’re just getting started, so set aside from reading time this week. You’re going to need it.

Elsewhere on the internet:

The CBLDF has formed a coalition for the defense of an American comics reader facing criminal charges in Canada, because of various manga images found in the man’s computer files. Chris Butcher has more.

Blake Bell and Bryan Munn have both posted nice tributes to the aforementioned Gene Colan. (Bell takes slight issue with Field’s obituary, and it’s worth reading him for an alternative view.)

Gary Panter salutes the Japanese poster artist Tadanori Yokoo on his seventy-fifth birthday.

The A.V. Club takes you inside Fantagraphics headquarters in Seattle.

And finally, our own sometime reviewer Chris Mautner selects six pop songs about comic-book characters.

 

Gene Colan 1926-2011

The great cartoonist Gene Colan passed away last night. To read his 2001 conversation with Larry Rodman from The Comics Journal #231, click here. We’ll have a full obituary online over the weekend. Robert Boyd has written a smart appreciation.

 

 

Slowing Down

Do you feel the summer sun burning your neck? I do. It’s burning my brain, too. That said, this is a quick one, folks, because… my lord, isn’t there enough to read on this site already? C’mon!

Today we have A Dan Clowes Notebook by Mr. Jeet Heer:

From Lloyd Llewellyn to Mr. and Mrs. Ames, Clowes has often featured detectives in his stories, not to mention many amateur clue-hunters such as Clay Loudermilk  and David Boring. Another variation of this are the characters who are not quite detectives or clue-hunters but like to spy on other people: Random Walker, Violet, and Charles in Ice Haven are good examples.

And on the other end of the spectrum (well, sort of: A no-prize to the reader who can guess the link between Mike Allred and Dan Clowes without clicking through!) we have Nicholas Gazin on Mike Allred’s latest effort.

Elsewhere in the universe, here’s a nice profile of the great Canadian graphic artist Martin Vaughn-James.

And that’s all. Go outside!

 

Beginnings & Endings

Good morning. First, Kim Deitch’s amazing memoir-through-music continues today. If you skipped last week’s because the name Dorsey scared you, you’re missing out on something majorly entertaining, and enlightening. This time, he talks about his father (Gene Deitch), Alan Lomax, Jelly Roll Morton, and cowboy records.

My father’s interest in art had been long standing. He’d been a huge fan of Mickey Mouse growing up. By the time he was a teenager, he was putting out an amazing magazine called The Hollywood Star News. When I say amazing, I’m not kidding. It was produced on a hand cranked mimeograph machine. What’s that? Well, before photocopiers people could make cheap copies by typing onto wax sheets. Then you’d put the typed sheet onto a rotary mechanism filled with ink. Turn the barrel one revolution as you feed a piece of paper under it and you’d have a copy, in ink, of what was on the typed wax sheet. Keep turning as you feed more paper under the barrel and you’d get more copies. You could do at least quite a few hundred copies this way. You could also draw on the stencils and have crude illustrations, or not so crude in my father’s case. My old man, genius that he is, came up with a way to do four-color illustrations with good registration in The Hollywood Star News.

Elsewhere:

Eddie Campbell has republished an introductory essay he wrote about Batman and the Lew Sayre Schwartz on his blog, and added another afterthought here. (He of course wrote another tribute to Schwartz for this site earlier this week.)

Rob Clough has reposted his 2008 review of Bill Mauldin’s Willie & Joe: The WWII Years. It’s worth reading in conjunction with his recent piece on this site about that book’s sequel.

Tom Spurgeon reports on Bud Plant’s announced retirement. Above and beyond the many hours I am sure lots of readers of this site have spent browsing through his catalogs, Plant has had a major impact on the evolution of the comics business. Spurgeon talks about some of those reasons at his post. Also, I believe—and hope to be corrected if I am wrong—that by ordering large numbers of this magazine in its early days, Plant gave the Journal some important assistance when it was much needed.

I’ve been waiting for Charles Hatfield to weigh in on Chester Brown’s Paying for It. And now he finally has. A must-read even if you’ve had your fill of prostitution talk.

Finally, occasional comics writer Paul Di Filippo has tracked down what he believes may be the very first review of a science fiction book in the New York Times, from 1943. It is fascinating for how closely the reviewer ties the genre to comic books (the best stories are “a good deal more than True Comics for adults”, and the worst are “gibberish” which “may deserve a place in a volume like this as signs of an age that produced Superman”).

 

Lumpin Day

Well. It’s Wednesday and Dapper Dan still hasn’t seen Green Lantern. It’s not looking good, and Tim thus far has refused refused Dapper Dan’s requests for a “man date” to go see it together, even though I’ve promised to buy him nachos. So, you readers may have to live without a Dapper Dan special on this one.

On the site:

Today we present part one of Jeff Trexler’s investigation into what exactly became of the record of the Comics Magazine Association of America:

Understanding how the CMAA worked–and why it failed–can provide vital clues for helping today’s comics business adapt.

And Mike Dawson brings us TCJ Talkies focusing on four graduates from The Center for Cartoon StudiesLucy KnisleyMelissa MendesJoe Lambert, and Steve Seck. Here’s an aside: True story — I’ve had to cancel three different trips to CCA for various stupid reasons, entirely my fault, but James Sturm still talks to me. That’s what a nice man he is.

In the “man, they just don’t get it” department: One Robert Greenberger cold lifted Eddie Campbell’s heartfelt obituary yesterday, changed around a few words, added a quote, some sloppy analysis, and slapped his name in it. He even used the same art. There’s no excuse for swiping, Robert! We’re watching. Not all of you (we have limited resources). But some of you.

Anyhow, elsewhere:

Our fearless leader, Gary Groth, is interviewed over at CBR. He’s very kind to us, and has fine things to say, like this, about the DC renumbering, which pretty much explains why we can’t be bothered to cover it, though perversely I’d like to lock someone in a room and make them read it all and explain it to me:

I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to accomplish. It seems like a pitiful attempt to con more people into buying the same old shit. I probably shouldn’t be so cynical. I’m sure that some brilliant talent could breathe some life into this stuff. Like I said, I’m not one to talk. I haven’t read this stuff, but it just seems so completely uninteresting to me, and in a way, it’s idiomatically alien to me.

Over at the Mindless Ones, the, uh, ones are beginning a discussion of bullshit and John Constantine. So far, so good. This I can read.

Speaking of reading, I’m currently immersed in Stephen Bissette’s Teen Angels and New Mutants. It’s a phenomenal read. Really great, and the kind of book I always hope will be written about comics. Bissette wisely does not separate art and commerce, and is no bullshit about the complicated life of a comic book. Grant Morrison’s Supergods, on the other hand… let’s just say it takes a very uncomplicated view. Time permitting I hope to write about the two books in a single essay. Why? Because the culture is still interesting, even if the product is not.

Incidentally, back ’round to that complicated view. Many have linked to Brian Chippendale’s latest text, but my favorite bit is Brian questioning, via Twitter, various comics writers about the renumbering of X-Men. Jason Aaron, who Chippendale goes on to praise, says it’s the contents that count, not the number. And that’s fair, but I think Brian made a good point that the number does count — that it signifies both a reader-publisher bond and a chain link back through history. It’s also a kind of sign that the publisher doesn’t think you’re an idiot. Commerce and content are really inseparable, is one thing I think Brian drives home. That’s comics for you — and renumbering sends a signal to readers clear as day: Fuck you.

 

The Ghost Artist

Lew Sayre Schwartz, most well-known in comics circles for the many pages of Batman he drew as a ghost artist in the “golden age,” has passed away at the age of 84. In a tribute to his friend, Eddie Campbell writes: “Lew was my rainbow-bridge connection to the great age of American cartoonists, a world full of larger than life characters, who all seem much further away now that Lew has gone.”

Also new to the site, another excerpt from the long awaited (and nearly mythical at this point) issue 301, this time Tim Kreider’s essay on Dave Sim’s Cerebus. That’s right. Gary made him read the whole thing. This is really great stuff. Here’s a taste:

Dave Sim is the single most passionate and outspoken advocate of his own work, and also its most reductive and unreliable interpreter. Having finished his magnum opus, he seems unable to let go of it, and continues to hand down authoritative misreadings of the work that do it a serious disservice. He tries to rationalize the kinds of inconsistencies and contradictions that are only inevitable in a work that was written month by month over 30 years; he issues contemptuous dismissals of (female) characters who might have seemed to the reader to have had some depth and complexity; and he sometimes makes assertions that are clearly contradicted by the text. It raises the troubling possibility that what seemed like Cerebus’s literary quality may only have been so much projection on the part of its readers. What’s more likely is that Sim, like a lot of artists, is less than fully conscious of what he’s doing and is the last person who should be consulted about the meaning of his own work.

And of course, Joe McCulloch is here with the latest installment of This Week in Comics—this time taking a detour to study José Ortiz and Bruce Bezaire (I’ve never heard of him either).

Elsewhere:

After a year’s hiatus, Brian Chippendale returns with superhero comics analysis. This time, he’s mostly worried about renumbering, and the X-Men.

Douglas Wolk writes about the iPad’s possible threat to the print comics market’s bottom line for Wired.

Journal reviewer Tucker Stone, Abhay Khosla, and a bunch of the other writers at the Savage Critics are discussing the big “summer events” at Marvel and DC.

Somewhere in your internet browsing recently, you probably came across the story about medical researchers counting the number of head injuries found in Asterix. And then, if you’re anything like me, you probably thought, that’s kind of a stupid thing to count for a medical study… could there possibly be a legitimate scientific reason to do that? Then you started thinking about what you’d get for lunch. Anyway, it turns out that me and you aren’t the only ones to doubt that medical paper’s importance. One guy’s even angry about it.

 

The Greatest!

Welcome back. It’s summer, things are slow. My sleeping patterns are changing. And thus we bring you some fresh content.

We lead off today with Warren Bernard’s epic tale of a 1917 baseball game played in Chicago by some of the world’s greatest cartoonists:

The “home team” for this game was deemed to be the Chicago Herald. Pitching for the home team was a young, raw talent (both baseball and cartoon-wise), 22-year-old Elsie Crisler Segar. Segar joined the Herald staff a few years prior to the game, following an introduction by the famed Richard Outcault. In March 1916, he began his run as the cartoonist for Charlie Chaplin’s Comic Capers, the strip by which the audience at the game would have recognized his name. In 1917, he was two years away from starting Thimble Theater and a dozen years out from creating his character masterpiece, Popeye.

There are a trillion amazing things about Warren’s discovery (and, as far as we know, it really is his discovery — this game has gone unmentioned): First, cartoonists once played baseball. Second, it says a lot about the lives these guys led in relation to the public — they were actually celebrities in a sense. Third: Holy shit, Frank King and E.C. Segar played baseball together. Anyhow, besides this amazing bit of archeology, Warren is the co-author of the upcoming book Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, and Mail Order Geniuses, covering the old correspondence courses. He’s also the executive director of SPX. That Warren: A man of many talents.

And Frank Santoro manages to squeeze in his third color workbook between traveling and exhibiting and everything else.

And elsewhere:

I, like everyone else, love these short self-interviews by Kim Thompson. Here’s one on an upcoming Tardi book.

Finally, Myron Fass, the much maligned maniac behind some of our goriest, gnarliest horror comics, also made some pretty good ones himself.

 

From Page to Screen

First off, no Dapper Dan this morning. Sorry folks. I know a lot of you were hoping he would tell you whether or not the new cinematic superhero extravaganza was worth watching, but somehow the publicity department neglected to send him screening information. (I wonder why?) So you’ll have to make up your own mind.

But here’s another comics related film worth watching. I’d seen links to it going around all week, but didn’t think the concept (Ken Burns meets the history of comics) sounded very promising—or at least I thought what it promised was not the kind of humor I’m interested in. But after Jeet e-mailed it to me last night, I finally took the plunge and watched it, and it’s pretty funny. (TCJ.com columnist R.C. Harvey is a prominent figure.)

Today on the website, Kristy Valenti reviews Jess Fink’s Chester 5000 XYV. It’s an, um, erotic robot comic book.

Frank Santoro rules.

Jeet Heer reminded me of a quite nice short profile he wrote in 2004 about John Gallant, Seth’s late father.

Not comics: For the Walrus, Jeet has also written an appreciation of media theorist Marshall McLuhan, with a special emphasis on the man’s Catholicism.

I never would have guessed that Marjane Satrapi was such a big Sin City fan!

Patricia Mainardi writes about the transition between popular prints and early comics here. (via)

The New York Times is apparently planning to start publishing comics again soon.

And an argument that cartoonists write the best culture diaries. (Don’t say it.)