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Daunting

Rachel Davies has interviewed R. Sikoryak, primarily about his strangest and most ambitious literary adaptation yet, a comics version of the iTunes users’ agreement.

Because I try to adapt heavy, important works of literature, usually, like Crime and Punishment or Wuthering Heights, it sometimes gets daunting to struggle with a work that people are very familiar with, and that has characters that people really love. What was great about the Terms and Conditions for me was that there’s no narrative, and no one has an emotional attachment to it, at least not in the same way. I certainly don’t! It freed me up, it liberated me from having to worry about being faithful to it because there’s not a narrative to be faithful to. And it doesn’t lend itself to illustration in an overt way. I wasn’t interested in choosing a text that would be cinematic [laughs], I was interested in a text that didn’t have those concerns that I usually have when I’m doing a text. By choosing a text that had no narrative, it meant I could use the narratives of the comics that I was parodying to provide drama, or suspense, or humor. It was, in a way, a relief. I don’t know how I could do this again! [laughs] But for this project it was kind of a break from the way that I normally make comics.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian interviewed Sikoryak too.

Sikoryak has been praised by some for making T&Cs more accessible, which he finds baffling. He just enjoys the challenge of making something dismissed as unreadable readable. In his eyes, convincing someone to read terms and conditions is just like getting someone to read “worthy” classics they feel guilty about skipping, from Camus to Beckett and beyond. “I like using texts that are perceived as important,” he says, “and that includes iTunes T&Cs. All my work is an attempt to bridge the gap between what we call high art and low art, what we think is important or serious, and what we see as frivolous and meaningless. Often, that boundary doesn’t exist.”

Raymond Briggs shares his writing day for the same paper.

Ho ho, those were the days! When one had a “writing day”. Before the advent of No 1: old age, and No 2: partner, wife, whoever, getting long-term incurable illnesses. These slightly disturb the cosy pattern of the working week. A whole day to yourself! When was that last experienced?

In 1958, I got my first 30 bob a week bedsit and was earning a living as a self-employed illustrator. This was what got me into writing. I was often amazed at how bad some of the stories I was given to illustrate were. Golly, I thought, I could do better myself! So I tried to write one and sent it to the editor for some advice. To my utter amazement, he said he would publish it. Just shows what the standard was. Me, a kid of 24.

And the most recent guest on Process Party was Eleanor Davis.

—Reviews & Commentary. It was Will Eisner’s centenary last week, and many tributes were written (some we linked to already), including a piece by R.C. Baker in the Village Voice:

Packaged in a Sunday newspaper supplement, the self-contained seven-to-eight-page Spirit stories proved a hit with readers, and by 1941 the young artist/writer/entrepreneur had a busy studio employing a staff of ten. As with Rubens before him and Warhol later, Eisner’s name was signed to artwork he never touched; many soon-to-be giants of the medium, including Batman creator Bob Kane and future Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer, did apprenticeships in the Eisner studio. In a mark of his business savvy, Eisner insisted on owning the rights to his characters, and he even had the prescience, as war with Japan threatened, to buy a wholesale quantity of finely crafted Japanese ink brushes — which he preferred over domestic brands — fearing that imports might soon come to an end. Decades later he would joke that he was still using brushes from that stockpile.

And by Michael Dooley for Print:

Eisner’s graphic style was often balletic in its grace. One Contract tale opens with a full-page aerial perspective of Dropsie Avenue with its stoops, fire escapes, clotheslines strung from building to building, its elevated subway line in the distance, and many other minutely indicated details rendered with deft, casual brushstrokes. Then it’s followed spread of panels that indicates a swooping down onto tenants chatting from their windows, then a zoom through to settle in on a domestic scene. With spare use of captions and cartoon balloon dialogue, a bounty of exposition is compacted into three small pages with breathtaking fluidity.

Osvaldo Oyola echoes Barthes with an essay about the pleasures of reading serial comics.

At the time that I began regularly reading Marvel superhero serial comics, it was pretty much assumed that any series that began was meant to go on for as long as it sold well enough, regardless of changes to creative team, or even sometimes the very title of the book. When the martial arts craze that inspired the Iron Fist series started to die down, for example, it was combined with the also struggling Luke Cage, Power Man (which had already renamed from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire) to make Power Man & Iron Fist starting with issue #50. It would go on with the two characters teamed up for another 76 issues, cementing an iconic friendship that was essentially mandated by the market, but would become a defining aspect of both characters. I tried to be a regular reader of the series soon after I encountered the pair guest-starring in an issue of ROM Spaceknight, looking for the first part of the two-part story that crossed over between them—how novel such a thing seemed then!—I found other issues that drew my attention. I was taken by its premise and sense of exploring a seedier part of the Marvel Universe. Still, I was unable to read as many of the issues I would have liked, nor could I count on getting every issue each month (actually, it was bi-monthly which made finding it even harder before the days of the pull-list and the advent of the direct market). In reading the first volume of Power Man & Iron Fist (which lasted from 1978 to 1986), I was always engaging with fragments of a larger unknown (and some ways, unknowable) whole.

Ray Davis connects Cerebus to the alt-right.

Not so much Cerebus-the-character, who Jeet Heer picked as Trumpalike a year ago. More Cerebus-the-comic-book: a Shoah-slow train ride from geeky lulz to lunatic-fringe antifeminism through a series of cosmological mother-in-law jokes. Beginning with MAD parodies of teenage-boy-aimed comics, Sim took his hard-earned technique into realms in which it’s a less, let’s say, established bearer of light: the Flaming Carrot and Druckerized Lou Jacobi dropped wisdom on the moon; Druckerized Maggie Thatcher led execution-torture for the matriarchal dystopia; Druckerized Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway rotated with Druckerized Marty Feldman and Mick Jagger and Batman/Wolverine/Punisher.

Jared Gardner wants people to start archiving webcomics.

It is always worth thinking about the history of earlier storage media when making predictions about the future. Film is as good an example as one could hope to find: a vastly popular medium with international reach and lots of industrial and institutional support. At only 120 years from its origins, one might imagine that the history of cinema is fully at our disposal. Sadly, this is not the case. Today, only about 20-25% of all silent films produced in the United States between the origins of cinema and the end of the silent era in 1927 still exist. In some part of the world, that proportion is considerably lower; for example, in Japan over 90% of all film made before 1945 is believed lost forever.

—Misc. Dangerous Minds has turned up an old Charles Mingus anti-bootlegging comic strip.

As one can see from the signature at the bottom left, the strip was executed by Gene Bilbrew, an African-American cartoonist whom some credit with creating the first black superhero, the Bronze Bomber. Bilbrew had once been an assistant to comics legend Will Eisner. Later on Bilbrew worked as a fetish artist at Irving Klaw’s bondage-oriented Movie Star News/Nutrix company; Klaw also discovered Bettie Page.

Finally, Clickhole gets some a-mazing quotes from Stan Lee. (I know.)

I knew I wanted to publish comics, but I was too lazy to learn how to draw, so I had to find an artist that was dumb enough to agree to make my ideas instead of their own. Jack Kirby was the perfect patsy, a dull-eyed rube with incredible artistic talent and no common sense. I paid a visit to his house while eating a big chicken parm and offered him half if he agreed to be my art slave for the rest of his life. He immediately accepted the deal and scarfed down the half-sandwich. I never paid Jack anything after that chicken parm, and he never fully understood how raw that deal was for him, though he suspected. When Jack passed, I felt some guilt, so I gave half of a Sprite Zero I had been drinking to his widow. I know that’s what he would have wanted.


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