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Cave-In

Today on the site, Rob Clough reports on this year's SPX, which seems to have been a very successful one.

The tension that has marked some past shows was simply not in evidence this year. I attribute that to Bernard's decision to take over the entire ballroom at the Marriott hotel that serves as the show's headquarters. The show moved to its new location a decade ago, after outgrowing its old Holiday Inn location in Bethesda. That first show had about three hundred exhibitors; I attended, and was interested in about a quarter of them. The show this year had seven hundred exhibitors, and I was interested in about the same proportion, meaning that the actual number of interesting exhibitors has zoomed up to nearly two hundred people. Bernard solved the problem of turf by expanding it for everyone. This year more than ever, it was possible for fans of different interests to have completely different experiences, to never interact and still have a fully satisfying experience. Of course, some of the differences were less pronounced than one would think. For example, the crew behind Adventure Time is like a young alt-cartoonist all-star team, featuring the likes of Tom Herpich, Jesse Moynihan, Michael DeForge, Seo Kim, Sam Alden, Luke Pearson, Jillian Tamaki and more. An upcoming issue of Ryan Sands's cutting-edge anthology Frontier will feature Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar.

Also, Dash Shaw brings the fourth installment of his Cartoonist's Diary. This time, he describes the U.S. premiere of his new film at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.

The sensibility of Alamo Drafthouse reminds me of Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, but on a way bigger scale. They play strange videos before movies and have a huge appreciation of exploitation movies and goofy humor and anything bizarre. Everyone working at the theater is having a blast. You can tell everyone wants to be here, which is (strangely) not the feeling you always get at film festivals. This feels like something in-between a film festival and a comic convention! I even wear a badge around my neck, and there are sword jugglers and snake handlers in the theater lobby.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. AMFM Magazine has a very nice interview with Dash, which I highly recommend.

BEARS: It seems like it’s a big risk for somebody working in animation to go the more abstract route, which I love that you did. I don’t see people making a lot of animated movies that are taking risks. Everything looks like everything else. Everything is either trying to look like Pixar, live-action, CGI thing, or it’s trying to look like a Studio Ghibli thing. I love that your cartoon can only be your cartoon. It has your voice just in the picture. I don’t feel like enough people take advantage of that.

Shaw: I think the reason for that is it’s a ton of work to make all of those drawings. Even though the tools now are very accessible— like I just made this with a scanner. Really, the same tools that I could make a comic book, I used to make this movie with. The tools are there to make a movie like this, a lot of people have those tools. But it’s a lot of drawing. My experience in comic books both helped me know how to do a lot of drawing because I would make books that were hundreds of pages long. I would have to draw the same character over and over and over. So that experience prepped me for this. Also, the alternative comic world, to me, is the most exciting and diverse place for graphic personalities and sensibilities. When I think of the visual storytellers that I like, it’s 99% comic book artists. I love Miyazaki but I think these comic book artists are the coolest.

At Vulture, Abraham Riesman profiles Karen Berger.

Berger chafed — first quietly, then publicly. In late 2012, it was announced that she’d be leaving DC. She stayed on to help with the transition, but made her dissatisfaction known in a May 2013 New York Times profile. In it, she called DC and its rival Marvel, “superhero companies owned by movie studios” — an increasingly true statement, but one tinged with obvious disdain. The next year, after she had left the company, she spoke to me for a feature about John Constantine and earned DC’s ire by being even more explicitly critical, saying, “They've taken the character and put him in a place that's Constantine-lite” and adding, “As far as I'm concerned, he's not the real Constantine."

At The Beat, Alex Dueben talks to Teri S. Wood of Wandering Star.

I was originally one of those 1990’s, Independent creators, inspired by Bone and Cerebus. That had been my plan, to stick with self-publishing, until the big, comic book crash of 1995 hit. So many stores and distributors went under, unable to pay for the books they’d ordered, and suddenly, I had no way to pay my print costs. I was thousands of dollars in debt. Wandering Star almost died right there. It was pretty scary.

—Reviews & Commentary. In a short burst of 24 tweets, Joe McCulloch critiques Chris Ware's recent New Yorker covers, and in the process puts the standard lazy, one-note, imaginatively cramped attacks on Chris Ware to shame. Hopefully he'll expand these thoughts into something longer.

Liam Baranauskas from n+1 visits Pogofest in Waycross, Georgia.

I came to Waycross because a friend told me that in the 1980s, the town had marketed itself as the home of Pogo Possum, which seemed like an absurd pitch, even to a fan of the strip like myself. By 1987, the year of Waycross’s first Pogofest, Pogo had been defunct for a decade and a half and was long past its pre-Flower-Power-era sell-by date. Fetishism and irony had not yet merged to resurrect every pop-cultural fad of the postwar era, and anyway, we’re talking about southern Georgia, not Brooklyn or Portland. Pogo’s winking political allegories—a parody of the Dixiecrat stance on school desegregation, a plotline about the John Birch Society (renamed “the Jack Acid Society”)—had targeted a political consensus widely held in Waycross at the time, so it was hard to imagine its residents responding with anything more enthusiastic than skepticism.

For The Guardian, David Barnett writes about various attempts to censor comics, checking in with Mike Diana, Denis Kitchen, and Neil Gaiman.

Diana was just 25 when he became the first person in the US to be convicted of “artistic obscenity”. The jury took 40 minutes to find him guilty on three counts: for publishing, distributing and advertising his comic series Boiled Angel.


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