Today on the site, we are publishing the second of Michael Dooley's followup interviews with the participants in his fine art and comics roundtable. Today's artist is Robert Williams, and their discussion is wide-ranging, to say the least.
WILLIAMS: So, Surrealism got really, really popular after the Second World War, but something that came along and stifled it was Abstract Expressionism. And so that’s where American modern art came in, and Abstract Expressionism, there was just no stopping it. It had a powerful reign for close to 30 years. But anyway, I got interested in drawing and painting at a very early age, and I loved comic books, the drawings in them. I could deal with the stories, but I preferred the drawings. Prince Valiant was the best. I liked Disney to a certain extent, but the ECs were killer. The ECs were the killer comics. Of all those that I preferred, of course, it was Wallace Wood. I didn’t have much of an understanding of fine art other than I like old Renaissance art and I liked Surrealism, especially Salvador Dalí. And I had no idea of the manifestos and whatnot, the pressures of the Second World War and stuff like that.
DOOLEY: Yeah, Dalí actually considered Disney an American Surrealist in his way [laughs]. Looking at Fantasia, that sort of transformative —
WILLIAMS: Disney started out on the right foot. He snorted coke and his buddy Iwerks created Mickey Mouse, and if you look at the very early Mickey Mouses, Mickey Mouse is making out with Minnie, and there’s stuff in there that wasn’t family rated. And that would have probably stayed that way. Early Disney would have probably had really good quality to it like Max Fleischer if they hadn’t gotten rid of Iwerks. Iwerks attempted to come up with his own studio and lost his ass and had to go crawling back to Disney and got a safe job with him. But he lost all his stock and his power and whatnot. His partnership was broken off. Iwerks’s [grand-]daughter is going around with a documentary about him. It’s really good. It’s in art museums, if you have a chance to look that up on the Internet.
DOOLEY: I didn’t mean to derail you. You were transitioning from Dalí to Abstract Expressionism.
WILLIAMS: There’s a couple of points of power with Abstract Expressionism. One, it was truly an American art form. Number two, of all the arts, it lends itself better than all the rest of the schools of art for architectural decoration. For modern art, it could not be beat. It was the best thing to go into a bank lobby or whatnot. It couldn’t be beat.
DOOLEY: [Laughs.] Is that the only benefit you see in Abstract Expressionism?
WILLIAMS: No, no, it isn’t. It is not.
—News. DC has announced a deal with Wal-Mart to distribute four new comics anthologies exclusively through the retailer's stores, including both reprints and new stories.
Dark Horse Comics has announced that the health insurance they offer to employees will soon begin offering coverage for trans-related services. This change came after tireless advocacy efforts from Jay Edidin (a former Dark Horse employee)
—Reviews & Commentary. Editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson calls the firing of Rob Rogers a dangerous omen. (Anderson himself was laid off by his Houston paper last year.)
[W]hat's missing from the situation is the outrage for the quiet firing of over 100 cartoonists around the country over the past few decades. The generally accepted number by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is that there were about 180 staff cartoonists three decades ago. Now there are fewer than a couple dozen. My state, Texas -- the second-largest in the Union -- doesn't have a single full-time cartoonist.
Newspapers get tired of the controversy that a full-time cartoonist can cause. A staff cartoonist is someone who works as a salaried employee, much like a reporter. A syndicated cartoon is distributed to hundreds of papers by a news service. Editors get tired of the complaints from readers. But those firings could easily have been masked as layoffs, especially since syndicated cartoons are far less expensive.
It's harder to kill a cartoon from your staff cartoonist -- like a writer would, they complain. They fight back. They have a voice that they can raise with you in person. It's easier to kill a cartoon from a syndicate. You just quietly discard it in favor of a less controversial cartoon. The power to select content is also the power to stifle content.
Amy Ongiri writes about the connections (imagined and otherwise) between Black Panther the comics character and the Black Panther Party.
Released in September 1974, at the tail end of the conflict in Vietnam, “Panther’s Rage” also explores the cost of warfare on both warriors and their communities. By this time the BPP had become a global movement, with organizations calling themselves “Black Panthers” as far away from Oakland as Polynesia and Palestine. It had also already helped to spawn an underground, proactively military organization called the Black Liberation Army. In a history that finds echoes in both the cinematic and comic book representation of the Black Panther, it was discord within the leadership of the party that led to the formation of the Black Liberation Army. In 1971, Minister for Information Eldridge Cleaver was expelled from the party over a conflict between himself and Huey P. Newton about the efficacy of armed struggle. Cleaver’s expulsion broke the party into sometimes-warring factions. BPP co-founder Newton was more much more wedded to the idea of armed self-defense and change on the local level than Cleaver, who saw armed struggle and internationalism as the way forward. There are echoes of this conflict in both “Panther’s Rage” and in the film’s representation of Erik Killmonger as a lost son of the African diaspora.
Johanna Draper Carlson points out a tacky move by Boom!
—Interviews & Profiles. Studio 360 has an episode about Nancy and its new artist, Olivia Jaimes.
—Misc. Terrance Hayes joins the small but proud tradition of poets using visual images to make something akin to comics.