Illustrations of Violence

Today at the Journal, we've got a review of Charles Forsman's I Am Not Okay With This by Tessa Strain

Forsman’s ability to maintain the immediacy of Syd’s point of view without completely surrendering to it results in a complex piece of work and one of the most honest depictions of the emotional telescoping effect of both depression and adolescence.


News. The Slate Studio prize announced its judges and submission policies--it's one of the few comics prizes that comes with some money attached, and it consistently puts out a good shortlist.

Reviews & Sundry. Bill Gates--yes, that Bill Gates--wrote a review of The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui. He also put the book on his top five of the year in an article he wrote for Linkedin. The most interesting part of that is the matter of fact way with which Gates treats his reading of a graphic novel--he got interested in learning more about the Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam War due to the limitations he saw in his own understanding of that particular conflict, and sought out more books with a Vietnamese perspective. At no point in either review does he couch his selection of a graphic novel as being special, inherently interesting, or worthy of comment. He wants the stories--and comics are just another delivery device.

This gorgeous graphic novel is a deeply personal memoir that explores what it means to be a parent and a refugee. The author’s family fled Vietnam in 1978. After giving birth to her own child, she decides to learn more about her parents’ experiences growing up in a country torn apart by foreign occupiers.

Over at The AV Club, Caitlin Rosberg, Oliver Sava and Shea Hennum came up with their best of the year. I've tended to dismiss The AV Club's take on comics in the past, but it would be moving the goalposts to a pretty absurd degree not to acknowledge the changing nature of their coverage over the last few years, and the willingness Sava and company have taken to examine comics outside of what their comment section remains obsessed with. Their 2017 list is a cheatlist--there's nothing more despicable than people refusing to argue it out and come up with a begrudging consensus that pleases no one--but it's still got some solid, passionate choices.

NPR, on the other hand...well, look. There's some great titles on this one, but the whole enterprise is so horribly tasteful.

The video below discovered by Michel Fiffe is on an excellent issue of the JLI. The Comics Journal should have daily Fiffe content, if you ask me. I mean--i don't need you to ask me, because i'm in charge, but that's how that saying works.


7 Responses to Illustrations of Violence

  1. Aaron Killough says:

    Are there any plans to continue publishing the print Journal? Thanks!

  2. Alex says:

    One of the things simultaneously refreshing and bewildering about the new Stone-era TCJ is the use of phrases like “horribly tasteful” to refer to best-of lists that probably would’ve represented the ideal of such a list for the TCJ of two decades ago.

    That’s not intended as a critique; but it is interesting to see how the critical consensus of (for lack of a better word) “highbrow” comics criticism has shifted from a conception of the comics canon defined by the EC/Kurtzman -> Crumb -> Hernandez/Clowes/Ware lineage to one that embraces Fiffe and Marra’s sincere love letters to superhero and mainstream trash.

  3. Matt Seneca says:

    There’s a societal shift happening right now – like right this second – that is gonna body Crumb in a pretty bad way. His work and persona have not aged well and will only fare worse as time goes on. Same with a lot of his cohorts in the Zap crew. Chester brown and Joe Matt are not far behind. There’s a whole pretty big chunk of the 80s/90s-Journal canon that belongs to a cultural moment that’s passing quickly. It’ll happen to lots of the shit we think is good now too.


  4. Tim Hamilton says:

    Is that the correct video? No Fiffe…

  5. And then it’ll be reevaluated in two decades. Bougie of the moment ideas about what is acceptable for someone to express don’t hurt actual art.

  6. Alex says:

    I think a complicating factor in the case of Crumb is the sheer number of cartoonists who cite him as an influence. Including people whose “canonical” status is very secure, like Los Bros Hernandez/Clowes/Ware, who are basically the comics equivalent of literary fiction figures like Delillo or Pynchon.

    So it’s hard for me to imagine Crumb becoming a marginal figure anytime soon, but I could easily imagine him becoming something like the D.W. Griffith of the comics medium: somebody whose work is universally cited as a milestone in the development of the medium, but whose cultural values are rendered increasingly problematic or anachronistic by contemporary standards.

    C.L.R. James tells an amusing anecdote in “Modern Politics” within the context of arguing for Griffith’s status as a modernist master: he says whenever Birth of a Nation plays in any given city, he would go see the movie in the morning and then join the protests against it in the afternoon. Crumb strikes me as potentially that kind of figure.

  7. Matt Seneca says:

    Alex Raymond influenced a similar number of dudes in the current canon to Crumb.

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