Today on the site, a brand new Cartoonist's Diary begins, this time from Fiona Smyth, and on day one, it concerns online chess, back pain, and art shows.
We also have Greg Hunter's review of Michael Kupperman's All the Answers, a surprisingly straight graphic memoir from a cartoonist who specializes in absurdist comedy.
All the Answers documents Michael Kupperman’s efforts to learn more about the years his father, Joel Kupperman, spent as a child performer on Quiz Kids, first a radio game show and later an early television program. Throughout the book, he contends with both the hastening of his father’s dementia and a reticence about Quiz Kids that predates that diagnosis. The program had been a "forbidden subject” during Kupperman’s own childhood, and he devotes much of All the Answers to exploring how the experience might have damaged his father. This means also turning toward a curious intersection in US history.
Early in All the Answers, Kupperman looks at the concept of the child prodigy and its rise in popularity during the first half of twentieth century. As waves of immigrant families arrived in the United States, a prodigy in the family meant a possible shortcut to upward mobility. Kupperman’s father, who came of age in the 1940s, grew to see himself as having been groomed for the role. Although he did indeed have an exceptional talent for math, there were other forces at work.
The book describes Quiz Kids creator Louis Cowan’s plan to combat World War II-era anti-Semitism by spotlighting gifted Jewish youths, even taking them on tour. “So was my father propaganda?” Kupperman asks. “I now think he was.” All the Answers suggests a measure of success for Cowan and Quiz Kids, but at the expense of Joel Kupperman’s childhood. “By 1943, he was receiving 10,000 pieces of fan mail a week,” Kupperman writes. “He was soon the most famous prodigy in America.”
—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian talks to Frank Miller about his new book, and the various controversies he's stirred up in recent years with books like Holy Terror! and his political attacks on Occupy Wall Street. Miller says he wasn't "thinking clearly" during that period. They also talk to Miller's friend Neal Adams:
In his last conversation with Miller, Adams says he told his protege he was going to die. “I told him he was white trash, and I’d be surprised if he makes it for six months, because he’s taken his life and ruined it, and he said, ‘Well, I’d like to show you I’m not that way,’ and I said, ‘If you recover, I’ll see you in six months, maybe a year.’”
“‘I think of you like a son,’” Adams remembers saying, “‘and I’m gonna lose you.’” Now he believes Miller “will mend”.
The Los Angeles Review of Books interviews John Porcellino.
By the time I started King-Cat I had a pretty clear idea of the way I wanted to approach things. Coming from punk rock, I was interested in paring things down, leaving them unpolished, looking for the essence of things, instead of getting bogged down in the superficial. So I wanted my comics to reflect that. They were very spontaneous. It was interesting to me to throw ink down on paper and see what came out. Even the vagaries of using cheap photocopiers, the kind of distortion and unpredictability of it — it was all thrilling to me! Putting a page of comics on the glass and seeing what came out of the machine.
In the early days I didn’t edit things or worry about them or plan them too much. I’d make a comic and print it and then wonder why sometimes I was able to achieve what I’d set out to do and why sometimes I’d failed. But I wasn’t interested in making “perfect” comics. I figured there would always be a next one, and hopefully that next one would work a little better than the last.
—Reviews & Commentary. For her first New York Times column, Hillary Chute reviews new books by Eleanor Davis and Porcellino.
Just like Magritte’s famous caption, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” Davis underlines in a fond, joking way how the representation of an image can dominate the image itself. The “blue” category also offers what looks to be a small toy pig (what other kind of pig would be blue?) standing near an amorphous monochrome blob. Davis wordlessly switches between images that are realistic and those that are abstract, a move that endows the book with an appealing tension from the outset, as well as with a kind of gag reel of effects that unfurls alongside nuggets of wisdom about art and audience.
She shifts in this way from the didactic to the fabulist — and at her best moments melds the two.
Caleb Orecchio writes about how cartoonists such as Connor Willumsen and Chris Ware use setting in their comics.
Every character, object, and environment is paired down to bare essentials visually. Everything is a symbol. There is very little confusion in a Chris Ware comic despite its intricacies due to the use of the symbolic rendering of the environment therein. When a character walks in and out various rooms, we can easily follow them. In fact, I feel I have actual awareness that is lacking in other comics because Ware often will show the reader the sum of the parts before exploring the individual pieces.