Subjects Vaporous and Dreamy

Today on the site, Rob Kirby is here with a review of Rokudenashiko's What Is Obscenity?

In July 2014, artist Rokudenashiko, aka Megumi Igarashi, was arrested on obscenity charges at her home in Tokyo. Her crime? Creating cute little anthropomorphic toys and other items designed from a mold of her own vagina. What specifically caught the attention of authorities was her design for a boat shaped like a manko (Japanese for “vagina") that she created with the support of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because she enabled her backers to download the 3D art with which to create their own manko art, she was charged with "distributing obscene materials." Though the censorial forces against her are formidable, Rokudenashiko's outrage and fighting spirit spurred her to fight back, and in What is Obscenity? she tells the story of her incarceration, her efforts to clear her name, and much more: the book is a funny, smart, and pointed call to arms for freedom of artistic expression against antiquated and patriarchal repression.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—I missed this Paste interview with Paul Kirchner about the recent reprint of Murder By Remote Control (which he created with the late mystery author Janwillem de Wettering).

Once you start admiring your work too much, you never get better, so I would never say anything I did was perfect. Wally Wood described satisfaction with one’s own artwork as “infantile self-love.”

In his review of the book for The New York Times, Gahan Wilson wrote, “I wished that the drawings had occasionally been a little more ethereal when depicting subjects vaporous and dreamy; their continuing solidity never quite gets past the literal kind of make-believe you encounter in circus posters.”

As a fan of Wilson, when I read that I thought, “Did I do something wrong?” It has always been my intent to draw the surreal elements, the visions, with the same sense of weight and reality as everything else. That’s the whole point, really, and it has never occurred to me to do otherwise. And I like circus posters. So I decided that this was just a difference in artistic vision, and not a knock on me. There are always strong points and weak points in anyone’s style, and what makes it strong in one way makes it weak in another. You have to come to terms with that.

—Inverse has a brief interview with Ben Sears.

—The National Cartoonists Society has announced this year's Reuben Award nominees.


Octopus Fight

Today on the site it's R.C. Harvey on Bill Holman.

In late 1934, Holman heard that Joseph Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News, was looking for a Sunday comic strip that would display the paper’s civic-minded support of such public servants as policemen and teachers and, in this case, firemen. “I had sold a lot of firemen cartoons to magazines,” Holman said, “and the idea of firemen running around all over in red trucks seemed like a good gimmick to hang things on.”

Over Christmas while visiting his grandmother in Crawfordsville, Holman drew up a sample Sunday strip and when he returned to New York, he offered it to Patterson. “He wondered if I could keep it up,” Holman said, “and I told him confidently that I could.”

The manic Smokey Stover debuted March 10, 1935; Holman said the name came to him while watching a smoking stove. The strip continued with the Tribune-News Syndicate until Holman retired in 1973.

The title character is a fireman, Smokestack Stover, and while the strip also features his boss, the fire chief Cash U. Nutt, the activities just as often involve Smokey’s wife Cookie or his son Earl or their cat with a perpetually bandaged tail, Spooky, who, for a time, starred in a companion strip of his own before joining the firehouse gang.

Holman, Stephen Becker said in his Comic Art in America (1959), “threw himself into his work with unmitigated glee,” adding: “The profession of comic strip artist has supplied nothing closer to a baggy-pants burlesque comedian than Bill Holman. Holman wears neither baggy pants nor floppy shoes, and his work has none of the bluish quality of real burlesque; but his inventiveness, his verbal juxtapositions and misunderstandings, and his irrepressible manglings of the English language are the marks of a man to whom reality is subordinate to art.”

The art was the art of the pun, both visual and verbal. The jokes around which Holman arrayed his maniac word play were tame left-overs from what pop culture critic Don Phelps calls “decrepit vaudeville.”


TCJ artist and designer Mike Reddy has a fab humor piece up at the New Yorker, written by TCJ contributor Jay Ruttenberg.

Ron Rege reports back from Australia, in pictures.

Did I know that there's a film about Al Capp featuring Spain and Trina Robbins? Did you? Good lord.



Think of the Kids

Hi, it's Monday. We're back again. Today we have Annie Mok's conversation with Julie Doucet about the artist's latest book, Carpet Sweeper Tales.

MOK: What was your initial draw to fumetti—to this material—as opposed to another source for images?

DOUCET: I found some fumettis in a garage sale, and I kind of like the look of it. It’s very cheaply made, and I tried to make other projects with that, more comics-form-like—full pages with many panels—but I never could get around with it. The project originated more from the text, really. I wanted to make text with made up onomatope like words more than anything else, but I figured that it was maybe a little too hard to take, so I decided to add the pictures. I ended up cutting up the pictures I liked in the fumetti and create my own narrative out of it. And then wrote the text. Of course you have a precise idea of what you want to do when you start, but then it drifts along the way. It ended up not being 100% sound-like text but a mixture of it with existing words. And the way I work with the cutout words is that I start with the leftovers from the project before. I pick one word, and I try to build something around it. It’s the starting point. It doesn’t look like it, but it is quite a lot of work.


Social media and a few comic book sites are abuzz with the jarring juxtaposition of the firing of longtime DC/Vertigo editor Shelly Bond with the continued alleged protection of an allegedly serial sexual harasser in the company named Eddie Berganza, who is the head of the Superman group of titles. These two facts have little to do with one another, but together point to a company that has a serious behavioral problem on its hands, and it appears to be part of the corporate culture. This wouldn't be a surprise 20 years ago, but given the new value attached to these properties, I'm surprised that Time Warner hasn't nipped this in the bud for purely financial/PR reasons. Bleeding Cool has a solid round-up.

The Guardian speaks to R. Crumb on the occasion of his new Art & Beauty work. Unintentional hilarity ensues. I've never been that moved by this ongoing body of work. The drawing never quite transcends its photograph sources to become something that gives visual information back to me. Those drawings are a little dead. I'm curious what cartooning Crumb has on the burner.

TCJ-contributor R. Orion Martin has a profile of Chinese cartoonist Yan Cong at Hyperallergic.

And here's a by-the-numbers look at Jack Kirby over at The Boston Globe.


Grabbing It All

Hard to say much about the major cultural news of yesterday. But there are comics to be discussed, so off we go.

Tim Hanley is back with us for a review of the long-awaited Wonder Woman graphic novel written by Grant Morrison. Here's a bit:

Marston was a psychologist who believed that women were superior to men and would soon take over the world, and he created Wonder Woman so that young readers, especially boys, could get used to the idea of powerful women and prepare to submit to the loving authority of the coming matriarchy. He and Peter used bondage as the central metaphor for his theories. There was a definite aspect of kinky fetishism therein, but the metaphor largely holds. Among the Amazons, with women in charge, bondage was fun and pleasant for all involved, but when men were in charge, whether it was Hercules, Axis soldiers, or Dr. Psycho, bondage was unpleasant and often rendered women powerless. Morrison was inspired by this unconventional approach, and has been talking about bondage and sexuality in the original Wonder Woman comics in nearly every interview in which he’s discussed Wonder Woman: Earth One over the past several years.

Morrison and Paquette continue their critique of patriarchal society when Wonder Woman first arrives in the outside world. She’s appalled by everything about modern society, no more so than when she sees elderly women in the palliative care ward of a hospital and exclaims, “Our sisters, dying? Their lives, their wisdom — lost forever, unrecorded? What world is this where women perish alone… afraid…” It’s a powerful scene, and the military hounding her and clearly having designs on the mysteries of Amazonia further underscores the critique of our society.

The book delves into the utopian side of Marston’s beliefs as well with the advanced matriarchal society of the Amazons. Their home is beautifully illustrated by Paquette, a dazzling city of unique architecture and advanced technology that marries the classical and the futuristic wonderfully. They live in peace there, jousting on kangas and riding flying motorcycles for fun with no disease or death because of their purple healing ray, an invention of Marston and Peter. Without men to get in their way, the Amazons have created a paradise.


The Paris Review has Matthew Thurber's amazing comic take on his surname, excerpted from Kramers Ergot 9. The great Joe McCulloch will bring us a review of KE9 soon enough.

Here's a review of Mary Wept Over the Feet Of Jesus over at Boing Boing.

I recently just stumbled over a pretty rich web site for the underground culture chronicler Clay Geerdes, best known to comics readers for his early coverage and publishing of underground comics and mini comics.

And finally, here's Sophie Goldstein interviewed at Inkstuds.


For Some Reason

Today on the site, Tahner Oksman reviews The Complete Wimmen's Comix. is the very unevenness of the resultant collection that makes this publication worthy of its new, reprinted form. Reading through the eighteen issues, which span twenty-two years in all, including a notable seven year gap between issues seven and eight, one gets the sense of a somewhat diverse body of women trying to navigate individual artistic modes, to find their voices and styles, while continually bumping up against what it means to be published in a venue that, by its very name, suggests marginality and difference. This collection is as much a historical document as anything else, tracing late-twentieth century representations of women’s issues – health, relationships, sexuality – as they are shaped by the times. In the first eight issues, for example, around the wake of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, we get a number of sometimes pedantic, sometimes more artful accounts pivoting around women choosing to get legal or illegal abortions, and experiencing the consequences; following Stonewall and the early LGBT movement, we get stories of coming out, romances blossoming and sexual explorations thriving alongside newfound political consciousnesses, activist stirrings. In these issues, we also see early works by women who would come to dominate parts of the landscape of contemporary comics – short pieces by Diane Noomin, Roberta Gregory, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Joyce Farmer, Lee Mars, and Sharon Rudahl (the list, as you might imagine, goes on).

And Frank Santoro is here with a write-up of Simon Hanselmann's latest collection.

The episodes on this collection take place during Megahex (according to the title page), and like the first Fantagraphics collection, the styles subtly change. I think it was smart to shuffle the on-model-ness of the episodes. What it does, I think, is give Simon the freedom to alter the style or approach as the episodes progress and the series expands. Time is less linear and more simultaneous. It's like an early episode of The Simpsons---when you see the early character designs you don't necessarily think it is happening at the beginning of Simpsons history. So regardless of when an episode in the Megahex and now Amsterdam collections were made, they all sort of jigsaw together into a refreshing smoothie on a summer day. And even if one episode sort of informs the following episode in terms of linear time, the ordering of the episodes in the new collection echoes my memory of the other episodes and feels expansive and so there's room for surreal character displays that aren't set there to drive the plot. The style sifts are not jarring and in fact help set each episode apart.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Via a press release to CBR, DC has announced the "restructuring" of their Vertigo imprint, as well as the dismissal of editor Shelly Bond.

Bond has been with DC Comics and specifically Vertigo since 1993, the same year the imprint was formed. In her time at the company, she's worked on some of the most celebrated comics of the era including "The Sandman," "Sandman Mystery Theater," "The Invisibles," "Fables" and "iZombie." In 2012, Bond became Executive Editor of the Vertigo line, following the departure of longtime Vertigo head Karen Berger. Last year, Bond made the move with many of her colleagues to the west coast, as DC's editorial operations shifted from New York City to Burbank, California.

Nick Sousanis has won the Lynd Ward Prize for Unflattening.

“‘Unflattening,’” the jury noted, “is an innovative, multi-layered graphic novel about comics, art and visual thinking. The book’s ‘integrated landscape’ of image and text takes the reader on an Odyssean journey through multiple dimensions, inviting us to view the world from alternate visual vantage points. These perspectives are inspired by a broad range of ideas from astronomy, mathematics, optics, philosophy, ecology, art, literature, cultural studies and comics."

—Commentary. Paul Karasik pays tribute to the recently departed New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton.

The caption reads, “For some reason, we weren’t appealing enough to those awful little bastards everyone hates.”

The craft of gag cartooning often overlooks the workmanship of the caption. In this case the whole amalgam of drawing and words is ignited by three words: “for some reason”.

—Interviews & Profiles. Ruben Bolling talks to children's book author and cartoonist Mo Willems about a new exhibit of his work.

“On one level, I want it to be established and proved that this work is art: legitimate, difficult, non-accidental. And on the other hand, I want to inspire kids to see that is achievable, easy, and worthwhile,” he explains. “The exhibit is not the point. The point is when the kid goes home and starts drawing his own drawings.”

And The Stranger profiles Simon Hanselmann.

I asked him how his year was going, and he said he'd been through some shit. He said he'd just gone through the "horrendously horrible" and lengthy visa process. Hanselmann was in a noise-music band called Horse Mania ("Horrible name," he said), but two weeks after Hanselmann got to Seattle, his bandmate of 10 years died. His art dealer, Alvin Buenaventura, died two weeks after that. "It's been a weird fucking time," he said.

He continued: "And my mom's got cancer. She told me a week before I moved. She's like, 'Don't feel guilty—don't stress about moving away.' But she clearly wants me to come back. I've just buried myself in work."



Welcome to Wednesday. Today we have Annie Mok reviewing fellow TCJ-contributor Mike Dawson's book Rules for Dating My Daughter.

Mike Dawson delivers an uneven collection of personal essay-style memoir comics, occasionally thoughtful, but often thoughtless in its concern for others. The stories, culled mostly from The Nib, Kickstarted to fund production, and now published by Tom Kaczynski’s Uncivilized Books, focus on parenting in a hyper-masculine, capitalist, culturally volatile age. While I enjoyed some elements of the book, many rattled me (I’ll get to those in a moment).

One comic essay has Dawson looking at his daughter’s infatuation for a Disney princess show called Sofia the First. Dawson wonders: what does the show’s implicit acceptance of a ruling class mean for his daughter, taking that in taking in these stories?


The good people at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum blog about another new acquisition. 

I'm fascinated by the new talking points that have sprung around R. Crumb, straight from his gallery's press releases. Theoretically and economically moving him out of a comic book context is key to establishing a more robust primary market for whatever he still has to sell. So on comes the talk of media and selfies and the like. Fine by me. Lord knows the discourse around him in comics hasn't exactly been interesting. Funny to watch.

This sounds like a great exhibition over in Australia.

The 2016 Eisner Award nominees have been announced. Frank Santoro offered his commentary here. Me, I'm holding out for a No-Prize.



Most importantly: Hillbilly comics!



Joe McCulloch is here with your usual guide to the Week in Comics!, highlighting the most interesting-sounding new titles in stores. This time, the spotlight picks include Kramers Ergot 9 and Corey Lewis's Sun Bakery #1. He also writes about Yo-Kai Watch 3 for some reason...

Yo-Kai Watch 3, you see, has several of its major characters exploring the exotic and fanciful world of the United States of America, complete with "Merican" (メリケン) versions of several familiar and easily-merchandised yōkai spirit creatures previously established by the franchise, as well as some new faces. However, the North American localization of the Yo-Kai Watch games, cartoons and manga thus far have elected to shift *everything* to a vaguely American locale, complete with less ethnically distinct names for many characters ("Keita" becomes "Nate", for example). At the beginning, the cartoon style of the character designs facilitated such national (and, unavoidably, racially-tinged) modification, but now there is clash - witness above the debut of Tomnyan, the Merican version of the series' superstar character, Jibanyan, a red cat yōkai. Tomnyan is exactly the same character, but blonde-haired and blue-eyed; what will this mean in a localization where we've been coaxed into thinking that everyone is maybe sorta white? My personal guess is that they'll end up splitting hairs between regions of the U.S., that helpful melting pot. Tomnyan... Tomcat... Tom Cat. Tom Sawyer, cards, dice - he's a riverboat gambler!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The Guardian has published Barack Obama's introduction to the final volume of the Complete Peanuts.

That’s what made Charles Schulz so brilliant – he treated childhood with all the poignant and tender complexity it deserves. He gave voice to all its joys and anxieties – a spectrum of emotions that run from the start of a new baseball season to the anguished “Augh” that comes with losing the big game. He explored the emotions that we too often forget kids feel until we’re reminded that we once felt them ourselves.

Bart Beaty points out where Artnet goes wrong talking about R. Crumb's art-world profile.

The article evinces a significant myopia that might be all too typical of parts of the artworld. Artnet alleges that "it wasn't until his solo exhibition at London's Whitechapel Gallery in 2005 that the artist gained mainstream recognition". Where to begin?

Kate Beaton takes on Cloak and Dagger.


Sean Rogers writes about Blutch, Julie Doucet, and Simon Hanselmann.

Freely adapting passages from Shakespeare’s Caesar and Petronius’s Satyricon, Blutch draws cities like Grosz, atrocities like Goya and gardens like Matisse. Peplum’s broad strokes may thus seem familiar – the hero undergoes an odyssey where he is beset by pirates, bound by barbarians, ravaged by an Amazon and tempted away from his prize by a comely boy-servant – but the execution is all Blutch’s own, confounding and febrile, like some dream version of myth.

—Interviews & Profiles. CBR talks to Chester Brown.

In "Mary Wept," I'm saying that I think Jesus approved of prostitution, not that the men who wrote the Bible did. While those men usually disapproved of women engaging in non-marital sex, they weren't writing simple morality stories, so there are instances where individual "sinners" seem to escape negative repercussions. One shouldn't mistake that for approval of "sin."

Benoit Crucifix talks to Adrian Tomine about editing Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

I began the project purely for a selfish reason : I wanted to read more of Tatsumi’s stories. I’m not at all a historian with regards to Japanese comics, and I’m reluctant to make any claims about Tatsumi’s place in comics history. I just know that his work resonated with me in a way that other comics from Japan hadn’t, and I’m very glad that he found a broader readership.


Back in Town

Hello there, I'm back from not being here. Looks like the place is still in one piece and all that. Today on the site we have Frank Young with a look at the joy and madness of 1950s Dick Tracy. I'm happy to see someone getting at the sheer strangeness of the strip.

What made—and makes—Chester Gould’s work so damned compelling? There is much about Dick Tracy that has long been taken at face value, and never deeply explored. Gould’s aggressive, angular art style, and his off-kilter visual juxtapositions, have gotten lip service from the art world, and from a handful of writers on comics whose viewpoints can outwit the trap of nostalgia. Its gallery of stylized caricature-villains is always mentioned, in mass media, with a mixture of awe and condescension.

There is much more going on in Gould’s work—but it requires a devoted scrutiny. It asks its reader to pay close attention, to notice small, seemingly unimportant details and to accept and process arcane information, some of it inexplicable. Its voice is hugely eccentric, didactic and arrogant in its self-righteousness.


On Friday the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum announced the acquisition of Jay Lynch's archives.  This is great news, and I hope will lead to other cartoonists of that era doing the same -- there's not a lot of first person archival material in public collections, so the more the better in terms of really understanding the history of the medium.

Carol Tyler posted a brand new comic strip, which is always good news. It's on Facebook. 

Matthew Thurber uploaded a fine new video over the weekend:

Truly amazing dept: Andy Warhol in conversation with Herge in 1977. I was just looking at the newish Herge book from Rizzoli and there's a nice section on his surprisingly diverse art collection.

Here's an excellent Alex Toth 1950s story.

Sort of comics: Those Sea-Monkey ads in 1960s-70s comics? Here's a NY Times article about a current battle over the property, which sure sounds familiar.

Not comics: Psychedelic beehives!