Monday at TCJ, Aug Stone caught up with Elsa Charretier, the artist currently legitimizing Matt Fraction (I kid!) on an Image book called November, which looks great. Elsa is coming off a successful Kickstarter for a new art book, and she and Aug got into all of it.
I drew a little bit as a kid, like most kids do. But by the time you’re a teenager you forget the things you used to love as a kid. So I stopped drawing for a long time. How I got back into drawing is a funny story. I was an actress, or I was trying to be. I was more like a waitress, though actress was the idea. But it wasn’t working out, I wasn’t happy, and I decided to stop. I didn’t know what to do with my life then. At that time my boyfriend, Pierrick (Colinet) wanted to write comics. I personally didn’t know anything about comics, I knew they existed but I didn’t read them. I read French comics growing up but I wasn’t aware of what happened at all in American comics. So Pierrick wanted to write comics and Charlie Adlard was visiting France for a signing. This was at the very beginning of The Walking Dead when it started becoming really big. My boyfriend told me ‘I would like to go see him and maybe talk to him about a pitch, see if he can give me advice’. So we met Charlie and he said ‘email me, I’ll answer you...lalala’ . We emailed him and he didn’t answer. Which was to be expected, I mean the guy’s busy. A couple months later though, Charlie emailed saying ‘I’m gonna be in France in two weeks. Would you like to come to the signing and show me your pitch?’ So yeah, that was fun. Except! My boyfriend didn’t have an artist, so he didn’t have pages, he didn’t have anything. He had bluffed his way into meeting with Charlie and didn’t have anything to show at this opportunity. So he asked me if I wanted to learn how to draw a few pages. It’s a ridiculous story but that’s how I started drawing and how I started reading comics and falling in love with it.
I remember thinking ‘this is interesting, I could see myself doing this for a living’. But for a long time I didn’t like drawing. I like beautiful things, and I knew that what I was doing wasn’t beautiful. I liked the process, but it felt excruciatingly hard and I was so frustrated by the results...I liked art and the act of drawing but the frustration was so intense that I had to force myself to draw more pages.
I like that quote. I like knowing there's people like Elsa in the world who just tear into the idea of drawing like that, because somebody throws the idea their way. More lines like that to be found in the rest of the piece.
I was away last week, but set up Cynthia Rose's excellent piece on J.J. Grandville and the exhibition of his work that is currently taking place in Paris at Maison de Balzac through January 13th. If you didn't catch it due to your New Years festivities, please do so now.
But, well before the Association, Grandville incurred his own problems with the law. The worst of these followed two of his best-selling prints.
The first was entitled L'Ordre règne à Warsaw ("Order Prevails in Warsaw") and it was published on September 20, 1831. The drawing's title quoted Louis-Philippe's Foreign Minister hailing a notorious bloodbath of the Polish-Russian War. This had ended a Polish bid for independence partly inspired by the July Revolution. Because the Poles' rebellion had support in Paris, the French king's opposition of it caused local riots. These were brutally quelled by Parisian police. On September 25, 1831, Grandville portrayed this, too, in a print called L'Ordre public règne aussi à Paris ("Order Also Prevails in Paris").
Both depict cruel officers with disdain for their "foes". In Grandville's Polish print, one has severed a head. In its French companion work, a policeman wipes blood from his sword. This pair of prints flew off the shelves and, three months later, both were still on sale.
The consequences were immediate. Coming home one night, Grandville was mugged in his own building. A crew of thuggish policemen had lain in wait and the artist was saved only by Gabriel Falempin. His neighbour owned a pair of pistols, with which – while haranguing them – he succeeded in running off the gang.
Grandville refused to be intimidated. Instead, he replied with a print called Oh!! Les vilaines mouches!! ("Oh!! These nasty flies!!"). It shows him at the studio window, confronting a swarm of wasp-like flying policemen. While they have stinger-like swords, he has just a pencil. Grandville signed this print "Victor Larangé" which, phonetically, means "Victor the Spider". He also filed criminal charges alleging his home had been invaded.
Today, we're unleashing R.C. Harvey and his Hare Tonic column upon the subject of Cecil Jensen, previously covered in these digital pages by our own Frank Young. Your cup, she runneth over!
Jensen occupies a fond niche in my memory for his creation of the world’s stupidest comic strip hero in the eponymous Elmo. Nadel supplies the tidbit that Jensen created the strip in response to a challenge from his executive editor, Basil (Stuffy) Walters, to whom Jensen had confided that “the comics in the News smell.” To which Walters responded, “All right — you draw a strip.” And so, Jensen did.
The late Ed McGeean, a cartoonist friend of mine who worked at the News for years, once told me that Shoes had no faith in Cees’s creation. He told Jensen that Elmo wouldn’t succeed because the protagonist was too stupid. Maybe Shoes never heard of Li’l Abner. Then again, Elmo was stupider than Abner. When asked how Elmo would be different than other comic strips, Jensen retorted, “The strip is supposed to be funny.” And I thought it was, hilariously so.
Our first review of 2020 comes via Hillary Brown, and it's of Gabrielle Bell's delightful My Dog Ivy comic. As someone who spent time sleeping in the same room Bell describes with those same cats and that same dog, I'm all in on this one.
Gabrielle Bell has been drawing daily comics in July for something like 10 years now, all in a format she’s perfected: one-page, six-panel strips three high by two wide, black and white. My Dog Ivy collects the ones from 2017, when she animal sat for cartoonist Tom Kaczynski and his partner Nikki. Kaczynski owns Uncivilized Books, which put out this book in October of this year. He also owns Ivy, and the title of the book is followed by an asterisk, which indicates “It’s not my dog.” Like all of Bell’s work, it is surprisingly immersive and affecting, but why? How does she do it?
Our second review of the year is from the unflappable Greg Hunter, and he's here with a look at Bloody Stumps Samurai, another of 2019's Ryan Holmberg translations. Holmberg's seemingly tireless efforts to deliver as much of this stuff as he can for as long as the many publishers he's working with on these projects will support their release is one of the most impressive feats that comics has. The last few months of comics has been laden with proclamations of support for the artform, often delivered in the most hysterical and overwrought fashion--but that is all they have been: empty screeching, complete with posture. Meanwhile, Holmberg has consistently been involved in some of the most challenging and fascinating books of the last ten years--titles that will burn and fester their way into the landscape of the future just as many of them once did upon their release in their native language. His books have shown up so frequently and been so good that they've shown time and again how light the bench for English language manga coverage actually is. There's more of them than any site can handle, which is why most of them have given up and reverted to bringing in whatever resident moron they have to regurgitate choice bits of Ryan's own historical essays like some version of found footage criticism. "What a time you chose to be born", he says, quoting the pop culture manga character as popularized by the 90's hip-hop album. What a time indeed! Greg's got complaints about this one though, go figure. The irony!