BLOG

No Thought to Our Interests

Welcome back to the site. Today we’ve got a short excerpt from Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s How to Read Nancy, the book my old co-editor Dan called the best book ever written on comics. I’ve read it now myself, and agree that it’s at least the best book on comics I’ve personally read. As many of you probably already know, the book examines comics through the lens of one particular Ernie Bushmiller comic strip, broken down and analyzed from 44 different angles. There are also more than a dozen appendices in which they explore various contextual issues, and our excerpt today is Appendix 2, in which they focus primarily on the contingencies of publishing: paper stock, newspaper layouts, coloring, etc.

Compared to the images presented throughout this book, this version of the strip may look a little different. But it is essentially what most readers on August 8, 1959, saw when they scanned the comics page that morning. The drab, sour hue of cheap newsprint is a far cry from the crisp white paper that you hold in your hands. Made from coarse wood pulp (the entire log, bark and all, is utilized in its manufacture), newsprint absorbs printer’s ink like a thirsty sponge and the results stand in dramatic contrast to the printer’s ink that forms the letters of this sentence, which sits upon the surface of the slick coated stock so handsomely.

The strip above is neither quite black nor white (as the photostat camera saw Bushmiller’s Higgins ink lines on fresh three-ply Strathmore) but a combination of gray newsprint (soon cream, then yellow, now dun), imperfect ink coverage, and lurking phantom grays — the visual artifacts of the soaked-in mystery images on the reverse side of the thin newsprint sheet. Paper itself is evocative, and the varieties and grades used in the printing trade can affect the reader’s preconceptions, the reading itself, and the memory of that reading as well. Printed newsprint, in particular, carries a distinctive tactility and unique scent and, when especially well inked, may not completely dry for many years.

Typical mid-twentieth-century newspaper technology may have produced a daily record that was dependably legible, but never one that was particularly definitive when it came to reproducing photos of NASA space monkeys, ads for the brand-new Bic ballpoint pen — or comic strips. Nor was it ever expected to be. Yesterday’s newspaper has been synonymous with today’s toilet paper since the invention of the daily press. In comparison, twenty-first-century technology delivers imagery that is so pixel-accurate that it is not to be believed. So don’t believe it. In full disclosure, even the version of the strip presented in this book has been compromised. With the whereabouts of the original artwork for August 8, 1959’s Nancy currently unknown and no extant proof sheet available, we began our production work with the best available source material: a 1960 paperback reprint on a paper grade only slightly better than newsprint (see illustration above).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. BuzzFeed has reported that five more women have come forward with accusations of misconduct by former DC editor Eddie Berganza.

The new accusations against Eddie Berganza, 53, follow a BuzzFeed News story that detailed how the company failed to discipline him, and even promoted him to executive editor, after a 2010 complaint to human resources. Berganza eventually was demoted in 2012 following allegations that he had forcibly kissed a woman at a comic convention that year. DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., fired him on Nov. 13 after the BuzzFeed News story appeared.

But now five more women have told BuzzFeed News about their own experiences with Berganza. One says he forcibly kissed her, something he’d previously been accused of doing to a different woman in the 2010 complaint, and to the other one in 2012. Others now coming forward allege inappropriate touching, and one says Berganza told her she was “too pretty” to be interesting. If DC Comics had acted earlier to rein Berganza in, the women say, they might have been spared harassment and felt more comfortable pursuing careers at major comic publishers.

Nobuhiro Watsuki, best known for the Rurouni Kenshin manga series, was arrested by Tokyo police last week for possession of child pornography.

His charge is violation of the law against child prostitution and child pornography, and the police has sent the case to the public prosecutor’s office.

According to the police investigation, Watsuki possessed several DVDs that included footage of naked girls in their early teens at his office in Tokyo in October. He has already admitted the charge and said, “I liked girls in the higher grades of elementary school to the second grade of junior high.” During the investigation for another child pornography crime, the police learned that Watsuki purchased some DVDs of early teen girls. Then its youth guidance division searched his house and found about 100 child pornography DVDs.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Chris Hassan has interviewed the infamous former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter about the current state of superhero comics.

Comics is completely unlike magazine publishing. It’s unlike book publishing. Comics have more in common with single malt scotch than they do with other kinds of publishing because it’s a relationship. It’s a relationship marketing business. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spider-Man next month. I didn’t give a damn if the cover was foil-embossed–because it wasn’t. It’s all about them loving Spider-Man, the character of Spider-Man, wanting to know what’s going on with Spider-Man. If they miss an issue and they don’t care, you lost. So you have to understand, you’re building a relationship. Stan took it a step farther and created a relationship between the creators. Everyone felt Stan was their friend. Kids would send him childish confessions. “Am I a bad person because I did this or that.” When they’re involved, you win. When they’re not, I don’t care how many foil-embossed covers there are.

The latest guest on RiYL is Nicole Georges.

—Reviews & Commentary. For the Chicago Tribune, Michael Tisserand has reviewed Glenn Bray and Frank Young’s book on Art Young, To Laugh That We May Not Weep.

Among the lesser-known outcomes of the trial of the eight suspects in Chicago’s Haymarket riots: How it helped launch one of our great cartoonists.

When the notorious trial got underway in June 1886, seated with the press was Art Young, then a 20-year-old illustrator originally from Orangeville, Ill. Young, assigned to cover the event for the Chicago Evening Mail, grabbed a chair at a table with other court reporters, near the defense attorneys. He sketched the proceedings and then hurried to the Evening Mail offices to engrave his lines onto chalk plates, which would be used for reproducing the images in the paper. His work received enough notice for him to move over to the Daily News. Then he landed a $50-per-week stint at the Chicago Tribune.

Young was enthusiastic about the move, later noting that the Tribune had installed an elevator and the Daily News had not. However, Young was soon dismissed by editor Robert Patterson. He never knew exactly why. “I have never asked an editor why he didn’t want my work; it would have been too much like asking a woman why she didn’t love me,” he later explained in his memoir.

Ray Davis writes about Eddie Campbell and The Lovely, Horrible Stuff.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff was published in 2012. Following on the full-color mysteries of The Fate of the Artist and the house-museum of Alec: The Years Have Pants, odd looking and oddly structured, marketed as a book “about money” but disconcertingly apolitical, it was, to reappropriate Jonathan Lethem’s phrase, “very quietly received.”

That doesn’t mean it didn’t land an impact here and there. It just meant landing in a soft place.

And now aw shit.

* * *

I have a similar soft spot for 1993’s Graffiti Kitchen. After a decade of charming groove, Graffiti Kitchen was a “departure,” as the critics say. The King Canute Crowd‘s scrappy Zip-a-Tone vanished along with grins, pratfalls, and pubbish inconsequence. Instead, Campbell scratched the page till it bled.

The departure was permanent. Starting with his next personal work, Campbell changed “Alec”‘s genre, marital status, profession, homeland, and (before long) name. That new groove spooled over the next two decades and there at the end of the spool lies The Lovely Horrible Stuff.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *