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Cherish Our History

Tucker's on semi-vacation in Florida right now, but before he left, he arranged for today's posts, including an interview with the longtime comics critic and scholar Marc Singer, about his new book, Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies.

You argue that critics are often too quick to read in a critical stance or a critical perspective in the works they write about. So, for example, to use an example you don't directly address, people argue that V in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's s V for Vendetta is a repudiation of terrorist violence, rather than a glorification of it. Why do people want comics to have a critical perspective? And why are you certain in some cases that they don't, when so many other readers see that in them?

To the first part of the question about why people, I think that it becomes a passport to intellectual credibility for the comics themselves.

There's a common formula in criticism, not just in comics criticism by any means, where if you can show that the work itself is participating in a kind of cultural critique, then you've justified its place in the academy, you've justified its place in the academic journals. And you've justified your own work, because essentially at that point all you need to do is draft along behind it, and say, "Well, this work is criticizing terrorist violence, or this work is criticizing any other ideology we don't care for, and I can just sort of expose the critique and ride along behind it, and I've done some critical work as well."

I don't think that stance is always wrong. I think there are lots of comics that do perform that kind of critical work, and it's worth exploring it when they do.

Matt Seneca is here, too, with a review of Ruppert & Mulot's erotic comic, The Perineum Technique.

French cartooning team Ruppert & Mulot (whose mamas named them Florent and Jerome) are tough to put a label on. Setting aside the fact that "their creative partnership has grown so organically as to obscure the individual contribution of the work of either hand," per this book's press packet, their published efforts range as far and wide as any more familiar name that I can think of. Their first two offerings to the US market, an enigmatic short in Kramers Ergot and the bizarre metafiction Barrel of Monkeys, positioned them as hardcore avant-gardists, makers of work so full of sharp angles and jagged edges it could cut itself - literally, Barrel of Monkeys invites readers to employ the blade in rendering a magic lantern-type device from its pages at one point. I was genuinely shocked at encountering Le Grande Odalisque, the duo's frothy action-girl series with Bastien Vives, which shows that Ruppert & Mulot have another gear - or a whole different set of them. Odalisque's impactfully staged melodrama plays as well to the multiplex as Barrel of Monkeys does to the gallery space.  

The Perineum Technique, which is the first Ruppert & Mulot work you're at all likely to encounter in a regular comic store, squares the circle. This is a very heady comic that's fun and easy to read; unusual to say the least. On the surface it's smooth and sleek, about as far from "experimental comics" as can be, but much swims in its depths. One is compelled to turn its pages over again and again, scrutinizing the smooth shell in search of a chink or flaw that might explain why this fun, easy book also feels so strange.  

The Perineum Technique is unabashedly a romance comic, a new entry in a genre that's spent the past half decade poised for a big comeback that hasn't materialized. Romance is a genre comics has always done well, and one where new ground is currently offering itself up begging to be explored. Maybe it's symptomatic of the fact that comic books are mostly made by unlaid losers that the 2010s have delivered so many great comics about Being Online but so few about the way it's impacted modern romance? Regardless, Ruppert & Mulot are on the case with this baldly put tale of a love affair that starts on the apps and spills out messily into rl. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Slate and CCS have announced the nominees for their annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—Interviews & Profiles. Henry Chamberlain talks to Bill Griffith.

In 1976, Zippy began to appear in about 50 alternative weekly newspapers–syndicated only by me. From ’76 to ’85, Zippy was a weekly strip that I syndicated alone. In 1985, the San Francisco Examiner, a daily Hearst paper, was given over to a new generation. Will Hearst III called me into his office and offered that I do a strip for the paper. I thought he meant weekly. No, he wanted daily. That was a huge shock. I remember telling him that I’d have to think about it. I came back with a proposal for six months of backlog, running my weekly archives daily to help give me time to get into the flow of doing new material. He agreed so there I was in 1985.

Then, in 1986, one of the vice presidents at King Features came down to visit me in San Francisco and proposed that King Features take on Zippy as a daily comic strip. Once again, I was very surprised. This was not something I’d sought. Right away, I didn’t think the material was going to work around the country in places like Kansas City. King Features said to let them worry about that. I thought I’d try to kill the deal by asking for a lot more money than I’d been getting from the Examiner and King Features agreed instantly. They agreed to not censor me too. Suddenly, I was in New York signing a contract and trying to show salesmen how to sell Zippy. A couple of them got it and the rest looked like they wanted to be somewhere else.

At Popula, Shuja Haider interviews Eli Valley about his recent online encounter with Meghan McCain.

Do you see monsters in the right-wingers you draw, just when you look at them, or does it emerge as you draw them?

You’re asking if I see them in—what’s that film noir word?

Chiaroscuro?

Yeah, thank you, no, I’m not quite a dog who sees things in, such, whatever. But I do see them as monstrous personalities, and ethically beyond the pale of what we’re supposed to be when we’re acting with empathy towards other humans, and I try to convey that in my art.

But I’ll be honest with you, it’s my personal aesthetic, I like drawing this way, even when I’m drawing friends. I find the art to be aesthetically appealing, but others might find it offensive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Brevoort tries to glean as much info as he can via a close examination of the original art from Amazing Fantasy #15.

Even the logo for AMAZING FANTASY was redone from the version on the original Ditko version. This is due in part to the fact that, despite what legend has often said about it, AMAZING FANTASY #15 was not intended to be the final issue of the magazine when it was being put together. In fact, researcher Will Murray was able to lay out a compelling case for what the contents of AMAZING FANTASY #16 would have been, working off of the story job numbers written on each story’s splash and used for accounting purposes.

—Misc. Bill Frisell's got a new guitar with Jim Woodring art.


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