California, Stay Away From Here

This is it for me, ladies and gentlemen. All the more reason to go out with a bang. First up, it's time to Break some News and talk with Secret Acres about their momentous changes.

"We started Secret Acres during a comics explosion, and I may not be the brightest light on the tree, but I never expected that to continue forever. I believe in ups and downs."

What's that? You're not full? Well, get ready then--because it's time for Katie Skelly to sit you down and provide The Journal's official take on one of the most talked about manga of  2017: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness.

"For Kabi, it’s less about experiencing the sensations of a sexual encounter with another person, and more about driving herself to have checked off certain notches in a sexual narrative (i.e., was I kissed, was I embraced, was I penetrated?). My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness itself may suffer a similar issue: in an almost desperate attempt to assemble all the blocks of Kabi’s story, the comic displaces its own need to find aesthetic purpose."

And it wouldn't be the Journal if we didn't dive into another one of the news-of-the-day tarpits headfirst. We could've done another Rich Tommaso think piece (we already linked to a few of those on Monday), but figured hey--why not just grab the horse, open his mouth, and grab handfuls of whatever the hell he keeps in there? (In this tortured analogy, Rich Tommaso is a horse.)

"I don't think it was unreasonable for me to think the numbers of initial orders would match somewhat those on She Wolf and Dark Corridor, both of which had ZERO promotion before their releases. And yes, those first two issues determine whether I can move forward with the next project, because they account for months of income.

ELSEWHERE? SURE!

Dick Sprang--who, I agree, has the best name in comics--doesn't get talked about enough, but I think that's probably for the same reason we don't talk about how amazing constellations are: he's part of the fabric, and his art tends to look as if it was rolled out onto the page like wallpaper. Look at this page. You just know that Brian Bolland looks at that red robot every couple of weeks and weeps tears of shame. "This was made by a human being", he cries.

This review of a new Mister Miracle comic comes with a pretty extreme degree of hyperbole, but that isn't particularly unusual--super-hero comics tend to garner extreme praise from a certain kind of reviewer when they color outside of the lines a bit--I should know, as i used to write the same kind of thing when Greg Rucka would put out a new issue of Checkmate. It did the trick, too--I went to a comic book store on a Wednesday for the first time since...well, it's been a while. They were actually already sold out of that issue of Mister Miracle, and the boss rolled his eyes and said "they're coming out of the woodwork for that one". As I hadn't seen him in at least four years, he had a point! In an amusing twist that I'm not going to try to read into, the 17-year-old who currently has the thankless role of alphabetizing and bagging the purchases of middle-aged comics buyers gave me his copy. I feebly protested, knowing full well that I was not being given a copy of Mister Miracle #1 because of my status as Comics Journal Guest Editor, but because I was an old, pathetic man and he could smell my flesh decaying.

It's fine. It's fine! The comic chooses to focus initially on the more real world elements of a Mister Miracle story--Scott Free at home kind of stuff, this time he's sad, but that's just a fake-out, they're still going to do all that Darkseid's-comin' thing. The art is Alex Maleev-y stuff, with a bunch of stylistic flourishes that exist to call attention to themselves (during the portion of the comic where Mister Miracle is being interviewed on a nightly talk show by Glorious Godfrey, the images are filtered to look like VHS footage), and the comic is interspersed throughout with black panels that say "Darkseid is". This reviewer found that to be "bone-chilling" and/or "harrowing." I thought that word choice was a bit extreme, but that same reviewer compares the La La Land/Moonlight screw up at the Oscars to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so maybe he's just an enthusiastic guy! In keeping with their status as "the annoying comics website you'd like to write off that actually gets it right sometimes", this Bleeding Cool review is sober and pretty accurate, whereas this io9 recap of each page makes the same dumb assumption that was made ten times over back when Grant Morrison was "reinventing" Fourth World characters, which is to claim that "there is no better way to honor Kirby's contribution to the comics world" then to remix his characters for the umpteenth time. I'm sure that's what he would have loved. I mean, Kirby's entire career trajectory and life choices say the exact opposite, but I bet if he had lived to be 100 he would have gotten over his own personality. For what it's worth, Mister Miracle #1 isn't funny, and it isn't pretty and it isn't very exciting. But it is very serious and features someone attempting suicide while still prominently featuring super-hero costumes. It cost four dollars.

 

 

A Deeper Understanding Of Apostasy

That image is nuts, right? It's an album cover for Kesha, by Robert Beatty, who has a book out from Floating World. Good stuff. ANYWAY. It's Thursday here at TCJ central, which means my ability to do what I want will disappear in but one more day. One more day--we can make it, y'all! Later today we'll have some of that hot, hot content you crave. Right now: we got links.

ELSEWHERE

You can take your Elmer Fudd team-ups and stick it in your ear--I only get out of bed when Batman grabs his lines from Charles Schulz.

In penance for yesterday's violation of Dan's anti-cute regime, here's an "unfinished" page from Jack Kirby & Joe Simon's Stuntman.  Go look up the definition of the word "unfinished". Then look at the page again.

I didn't think it was possible for a feral cat attack story to be defined as "charming", but this one was. Chalk up another talent for Julia Gfrörer!

The Safari Festival takes place this Saturday in Piccadilly Circus or Paddington Square, whatever, some British place where they tell you that there's good coffee around the corner and then you go and what you get in return is this really repellent tasting thing that's both too weak & too thick. "Liverpool". Gimme a break. I guess if you can find your way to "Old Street" you should try, because Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes will be there.

I didn't know that Chevrolet dealers sponsored video reports for Boston Comic Con that prominently feature the excellent staff of Hub Comics, but now I do--also, they interviewed Hilary Chute?

 

More, as they say, is to come.

 

Eat The Children First

It's Wednesday, August 9th--how do you plan to celebrate McG's birthday? Well, before you have to decide between Offspring music videos and Terminator: Salvation, why not check out Brian Nicholson's sterling review of The Academic Hour, the latest graphic novel by Keren Katz?

"The relationship between the written text and the accompanying images consummates itself as comics largely through implication, which is true for what happens between the characters as well. The book is essentially devoid of any explicit content, even bad language. It is functionally all-ages-appropriate but for how deeply weird it is, and how confusing it would be to someone without the experience to contextualize it. I connect it to comics history in a very particular way. Maybe I'm stretching, and only thinking about this because of the author's name, but the relationship between the two main characters is sort of like that between Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, if Ignatz didn't throw bricks, but rather used them to build elaborate architecture."

Hey pal. Bill Bellamy's starring turn in the Fastlane pilot ain't going anywhere. Sit down for a spell.

ELSEWHERE:

The PEOW twitter feed claimed that they've never received any love from "that site", so I thought i'd remedy that by telling you that they're having a party for a comic tonight at Brooklyn's own Desert Island. From what it says on their website and on the Facebook event page, the book--Thu Tran's Dust Pan--is about a cat who is also a living dustpan. I was going to ask them why they think they hadn't gotten any love from The Journal, and then I was gonna try to figure out where Dan is and ask him, and then without getting permission from either party, post both responses. But I think I know why without even trying: the book looks like it is cute, and Dan doesn't like things that are cute, unless they are by people who are dead or by people who made them cute on accident because they are crazy. Now, me personally? I haven't seen a whole lot of what PEOW puts out--they got going on the tail end of my time in retail, and I quit spending money on comics and graphic novels five minutes after my wife said that her water broke--but what I have seen, I thought was pretty strong work by people with a solid sense of color and design. It's cute, yes, but I don't think that has to be a derogatory term--cutesy would be the one I would use to disparage--oh, you know. Comics about overly emotional baby dragons that are terrified 0f being socially awkward at rooftop parties. Comics where things that look like sweaty babies carry overstuffed suitcases around airports staffed by giraffes. I guess it's a fine line between that and a cat who is a dustpan, but you know it when you see it.

If you're interested in unraveling the story surrounding the recent Fantastic Four drama, you can read this article at Newsarama, which is the source of a quote that has launched coverage at a lot of other culture and entertainment websites, places like Slashfilm and IGN and--so on, etc. Basically, noted C-student Johnathan Hickman confirmed what everybody assumed all along, which is that they cancelled The Fantastic Four comics not due to the sales of The Fantastic Four comics, but due to the mismanagement of the intellectual property that is the Fantastic Four by Fox--i.e., all those movies that people didn't enjoy. Not enough drama for you? Okay, then go and read this piece by Rich Johnston, which is partly about how long he has been covering this particular story (a long time) and how long he has been getting shit on by Tom Brevoort about this particular story (also a long time). Before you click through, you should know: the other half of Rich's story is about how much it annoys him that the Newsarama guy I linked to first doesn't read Bleeding Cool articles. If, after all of this, you still want more, you can go and follow these guys on Twitter, where I believe they may still be fighting. I tapped out after the last part though.

(Actually, I tapped out before it even started, because there's a scene in that last Fantastic Four movie where Doctor Doom wanders the hallways and uses his telekinetic powers to make the heads of terrified human beings explode, and I thought that scene was way cooler than anything I've read in a Fantastic Four comic, because it's a scene from Akira, and Akira is a lot cooler than the Fantastic Four.)

Marvel isn't all bad though! They're going to reprint those old Joe Casey/Ladronn Cable comics, apparently. You ever read those? No you didn't. Stop lying!

Over at 50 Watts, they're throwing up all kinds of work by Antonio Rubino. As with most of what I've seen, it's untranslated. NBD, bud. Still rules.

Robert Kirkman told some people that he had figured out the ending of The Walking Dead comic books and that he was working towards that ending, you can read about that here, although I just told you everything you would get out of the piece. It reminded me of the one time I have heard that guy speak, when I was being paid to cover a comic book convention for some website. During the always interminable Q&A session at the end, some mouth-breathing cretin cosplaying as Seth stood up and asked if somebody besides Kirkman knew the ending of Walking Dead, in case anything happened to him, like a car wreck. I think that was the phrase he used-- "like a car wreck". Kirkman, God bless him, said, "Man, I don't give a shit if people don't get to find out how Walking Dead ends if I die in a car wreck." That was before the television show, too. I imagine it's even worse, now. Success is a prison!

 

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (8/9/17 – Blessed Daily Life)

From Day of the Flying Head #1; reads left-to-right.

Does this look like manga to you? It is indeed the work of the well-known Japanese comics artist Shintarō Kago, but here we find him a la fumetti inferno - this is not from a Japanese release, but issue #1 of a four-part Italian comic book miniseries, Day of the Flying Head, published by Hollow Press. In fact, Kago has been with Hollow Press for nearly all of its three-year life, with the small house issuing first the hardcover album Industrial Revolution and World War (2015), then the softcover color story collection Tract (2016) - and, as unusual as it might be to find a manga artist in a 32-page stapled pamphlet, Kago has made it a habit of manifesting his work in different forms, with different accompanying contexts shifting the perception of him.

Day of the Flying Head is a wordless story, as are all of Kago's works for Hollow Press; it consists of two 16-page chapters, with conspicuous blank spaces left on each of their first pages, perhaps to insert chapter titles in the event the serial appears in a different venue for a different market. The subject matter is typical of Kago's fascinations - drums of mysterious waste are introduced Return of the Living Dead-style into the populace of a fantasy realm, resulting in various citizens literally losing their heads, though they live on as unbodied noggins trailing drippy clumps of guts. The idea comes from the krasue: Southeast Asian folkloric beings most readily recognizable to western nerds from the 1981 Indonesian horror film Mystics in Bali, and the inspiration to at least one prior Kago comic, "Lament of the Headless", translated in Super Dimensional Love Gun, a recent North American edition of a 2015 Japanese collection, available from the pornographic manga publisher FAKKU.

From "Lament of the Headless"; reads right-to-left.

"Lament of the Headless" would not fit in so well with Hollow Press' wares, I don't think. Like not a few of Kago's short stories, it's a big decadent joke centered on some bodily quirk or snatch of satire or manipulation of the comics form: here, it's the notion of a woman whose head pops off. She's looking for love, but her terrifying tendencies instead lead her on a journey of discovery that culminates with her becoming the underworld boss of a legion of dope-addicted supernatural prostitutes. It all feels somewhat improvised, and more than a little porny; and, I mean 'porny' in the sense of sexual violence ostensibly present for titillation, as is not uncommon in ero manga. It's also not uncommon in Super Dimensional Love Gun, those these images rarely feel like more than an arbitrary and sensational distraction from what I will call the 'core' of Kago's work - the breakdown of the human body and the perceptual qualities of reality into Luciferian studies of manipulation, the idea of 'piercings' or 'punctures', or the societal impressions of oral sex or abortions vivified into grossout riffs, explored whimsically from various angles. Often, Kago places a pretty girl at the center of the mayhem, and not really, in my opinion, for the purposes of empathy; he may be the least humane comics artist this side of Yuichi Yokoyama, preferring instead the qualities of rather stereotypical-for-manga feminine prettiness as a fertile batch of formal traits on which he might elaborate his routines. Women as design elements, a palette on which to violently mix his hue.

But Kago is also not a 'pure' artist in so rarefied a sense; he frequently, openly compromises. You've probably seen his many portraits of girls with pop flotsam erupting from their heads, or come across a few fan translations of his more notorious and unique stories; he can be excerpted to seem like the most interesting cartoonist around. But reading Super Dimensional Love Gun, annotated toward the read by Kago himself, you can see how many of his comics are done by the dictates of commercial magazines, just so they can be published. "To tell you the truth," Kago told Tomokazu Kosuga in an interview with Vice back in 2008, "I’m not really into drawing sex scenes, and if I had a choice I’d prefer not to. But when you’re drawing for an erotic magazine, you sort of can’t avoid it.... I often insert meaningless sex scenes in the middle of a story when I have to fill up a few pages and can’t think of anything else." He was even blunter to Christopher Butcherin the introduction to Hollow Press' Tract: "...adult magazines are the only places I can get published," he said, "As long as a story has some kind of sex, or even sex and grotesqueness, I can do whatever experiments I like."

From Day of the Flying Head #1; left-to-right again. You've got it! I'm so proud of you.

So, viewed systemically, we can see Kago as both part of and resistant to the industrial manga sphere: willing to modify his work to fit commercial dictates, having identified those dictates that would dilute his desires the least. In a prior age, such a struggle may have burned in the body of the mainstream (see the great Takeo Udagawa study Manga Zombie), but the tighter dictates of today have seemingly inspired Kago to simply keep his options open. He exhibits internationally, in galleries, he designs album art, and he works with Hollow Press on comics with little in the way of ero to interrupt the guro and nansensu. In particular, Day of the Flying Head sees him adopt a Miyazakian style, Moebius licks and all, with an emphasis on journeying. One young woman (of course), detached from her body, escapes society's terrified abuse of the popped head people and ventures into the jungle, where she meets a native tribe that deliberately evolves children into krasue form for the purposes of enlightenment. They wage war, then, on civilization, but even higher powers seem to wait for the outcome. Issue #2 is supposedly due in October, with maybe a further glimpse of Kago's own bodiless wandering.

***

PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday identified in the column title above. Be aware that some of these comics may be published by Fantagraphics Books, the entity which also administers the posting of this column, and that I also run a podcast with an employee of Nobrow Press. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting. You could always just buy nothing.

***

SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

The Customer is Always Wrong: Being the new 448-page(!) graphic novel from veteran cartoonist and television writer Mimi Pond, following her 2014 memoir Over Easy. Drawn and Quarterly again publishes, and the setting is once more the world of the service industry, although we are assured that this is a standalone work of '70s living in which a waitress deals with colorful customers while coming into her creative own. I expect this will be a lot of fun; $29.95.

The Story of Jezebel: "Based on the Bestselling Book The Bible Written by God," as the subtitle proclaims, this 272-page Uncivilized Books release marks the return of Elijah Brubaker, the formidable and very funny cartoonist noted recently for his biographical comic book series Reich. This project (of which there was also a webcomic iteration) is overtly comedic, taking on events from the Book of Kings, the artist "wind[ing] his way through angels, famine, war, and bear maulings with a mix of satirist wit and visual verve"; $19.95.

--

PLUS!

Palookaville #23: No offense intended to Seth, putting his newest release down here; it's just he's been pretty thoroughly covered, including by me, re: this book a few weeks ago. As you probably know, this 144-page Drawn and Quarterly hardcover contains the final chapter of Clyde Fans, a serial the artist has been working on since 1997; it's a good chapter, too. Also included are a new installment of the autobiographical serial Nothing Lasts (featuring the author's youthful dalliances with girls), and a suite of images from two gallery exhibitions local to Seth's home; $22.95.

Neonomicon: It's been a slow burn, but every so often I notice new readers discovering the recent H.P. Lovecraft-themed series Providence from writer Alan Moore and artist Jacen Burrows. They are now potentially served in greater depth by this new hardcover compilation of earlier, related works by the same creators, i.e. the 2003 miniseries The Courtyard (specifically the 2009 colorized iteration) (which, moreover, was actually adapted from a 1994 prose story by Moore with scripting by Atomic Blonde co-creator Antony Johnston) and the 2010-11 miniseries Neonomicon, an original and very violent Moore script. Both of these works are firmly in continuity with the later Providence, to the point where I feel a later omnibus edition might be well-served by interspersing these series *into* the body of Providence itself. But I am not in charge of Avatar Press, which has published all of this work; $27.99.

A Castle in England (&) Pantheon: A pair of Nobrow releases, doubtlessly in the handsome style expected from that publisher. A Castle in England is a unique project created in collaboration with the UK's National Trust, in which writer Jamie Rhodes (via a successful Arts Council England application) teams with various artists -- the prominent Isabel Greenberg among them -- for a suite of fact/fiction stories on the topic of the 700-year old Scotney Castle in Kent. A 144-page hardcover. Pantheon, meanwhile, is a lighter type of historical book, a 224-page all-color depiction of ancient Egyptian mythology in a humorous style from artist Hamish Steele, a writer and director for animation making his bookshelf comics debut; $19.95 (Castle), $22.95 (Pantheon).

Ghost Money #1 (&) Ariol Vol. 10: The Little Rats of the Opera: A pair of smaller-format Eurocomics editions here. Ghost Money is a series the graphic novel-focused Magnetic Press is releasing in comic book format via the publisher Lion Forge. What's notable is the presence of writer Thierry Smolderen, an early comics historian with many scriptwriting credits - a few of you will recall his Katsuhiro Ōtomo-informed series Gipsy with artist Enrico Marini as a standout feature of Heavy Metal magazine since 1995, when manga 'fusion' comics were still a bit unusual. The artist on this one is Dominique Bertail, and the scenario finds two women involved in War on Terror-related political intrigue. Ariol is a funny animal children's series written by veteran mainline BD-for-adults author Emmanual Guibert (Alan's War, The Photographer) and drawn by Marc Boutavant - I'm mentioning it here because NBM/Papercutz is up to ten of these, which is a good ways through the French series, and not always so common for these translation projects; $3.99 (Money), $12.99 (Ariol).

Spongebob Comics #71: I try to keep an eye on Spongebob; it's sort of the last holdout from the Nickelodeon Magazine era where alt-cartoonists got frequent checks working on a large stage for a huge audience of eager juveniles. FOR EXAMPLE: the solicitation here promises "an epic tale" by Graham Annable, author of the notable '00s small-press comics project Grickle, and also a professional in the animation field with a director's credit on a multi-million-dollar children's film (see also: Cathy Malkasian, Steve Purcell). Always interesting to ponder how the experience of working on major, major collaborative media might shift one's approach to the monkish toil of funnies; $3.99.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Artisan Edition: Another week, another scanned-in-color-from-the-original-art project, here from the most popular source for the stuff, IDW. Perhaps in recognition of the franchise's origins as a lowly b&w parody comic (or maybe for a reason I didn't just make up), this 9.4" x 13.3" hardcover is offered at a relatively low cost, featuring only the 1984 debut issue of TMNT from creators Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird, which I think pretty much just transforms it into a fancy French album. Also included in these 144 pages are the original breakdowns for the issue, as well as some additional images; $39.99.

Behaving Madly: And here is the latest Craig Yoe-branded release of vintage stuff with IDW, although this one looks to have been primarily written and compiled by a Dutch author, Ger Apeldoorn. It's a 200-page compendium of knockoff comics that arrived in the wake of E.C.'s MAD, seemingly with an emphasis on MAD contributors' outside activities, along with pieces by the otherwise visible likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert and others. Feel free to compare with John Benson's similarly-themed The Sincerest Form of Parody (Fantagraphics, 2012); $34.99.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR!

My Pretty Vampire: Finally - yeah, Tucker Stone is back, and so is the reservoir. It'd been running low. BE AWARE, not only is this (1) a book published by Fantagraphics, the entity administering this site and signing my check, and (2) a book by a contributor to this site, Katie Skelly, who (3) once wrote a guest edition of this column, but also (4) a book by an irl friend of mine, in which (5) I am listed in the special thanks. So, feel free to attribute even greater lies to this paragraph than you generally do throughout the column, though I will nonetheless insist that this is a terrific comic, all puce and meringue and hot blood red, a plush and inky world through which a vampire woman staggers, amoral and starved, the escaped possession of her family bent on finding a vein of consumption that befits her idea of herself. An 8.5" x 11" hardcover, 108 pages in color. Let the right one in; $19.99.

 

A Wet University

If it's Tuesday at my house, that means it's time for the latest installment of Monica Gallagher's Assassin Roommate. I'm a little annoyed with recent developments in the series--like the rest of you, i'm not at all interested in what goes on with the "Assassin" stuff, as it gets in the way of the "Roommate" portion--but I'm not bothered enough to go somewhere else for my when-will-these-two-people-get-it-on fix, not when we seem so close to the finish line.

Of course, you're not at my house, are you? No, of course not. You're at The Comics Journal on a Tuesday morning, which means you're waiting for the newest chapter in the story of The Hardest Working Man in Comics: Joe "Jog" McCulloch. Well, he's here, and he's got a doozy for you. Dig in, use a spoon.

ELSEWHERE

A social media campaign intended to promote women comic creators rose up throughout Twitter yesterday, with this Huffington Post piece being the most complete explanation of the action. It seems to have exceeded its creators expectations; irregardless, it was pretty impressive.

Over on Facebook, you can (hopefully) keep up with one of the best comics developments of 2017: the team up between Olivier Schrauwen and Ruppert/Mulot. They haven't posted about it since June 28th, but when they did, they described it as "A book about alcoholism."

While the main focus of Alex Deuben's excellent interview with Maggie Umber is her recent graphic novel with 2D Cloud, Sound of Snow Falling, I doubt I'm the only one who breathed a sigh of relief upon reading about how much happier she is (and more secure financially) since the publication of her "Getting Divorced In Comics" essay back in May. I also liked the part where she shot down Alex's attempt to compare her to Vera Nabokov. Anyone who has ever spoken to Alex knows that he has a tedious tendency to bring up Nabokov comparisons, regardless of whether they fit or not, and they never do.

The Paris Review launched a Gabrielle "The Greatest" Bell webcomic on Monday--unsurprisingly, it's excellent.

Fake Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his manga. Real Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his satin jackets.

The most interesting thing about Mark Millar's Millarworld company was that story regarding John Romita, Jr.'s paycheck for Kick-Ass (not the movie, but the first comic series) being bigger than every paycheck he'd had up until then, after a storied career that included an issue of Punisher War Zone where Frank tortures a guy with a popsicle and imagination. That isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed some of those comics in the same mindless way that I have, in fact, enjoyed quite a few of Mark Millar's comics--say what you will about his plotting, but he's the only guy who consistently seems capable of writing action comics that actually manage to have exciting action sequences in them--but that the mechanics of Millarworld only seemed to be of note when the artists were making bank. The comics themselves--riffs on Flash Gordon, riffs on Batman, riffs on Ocean's Eleven, riffs on being a nerd AND a racist or just riffs on knowing a lot about riffs--were, like almost all the comics that ex-super-hero guys start to make when they realize that they need a better 401K than the Hero Initiative, pretty shallow. By that token, I can't imagine a better place for them then television, namely the kind of television you plow through over the course of two bloodshot evenings instead of having sex with your significant other. Congratulations, guys! (They're all guys).

AND FINALLY

I don't care if they build another place in New York City where old people in jean jackets stand around worshipping super-hero comics pages from the '70s, but I'm gonna share this Neal Adams "personal call" nonetheless, because I know it's what Dan would have done if only to marvel at this Trump-ian quote.

"Ask anyone who’s been here… it’s a beautiful gallery. There’s no modern art, super-realists, or anything that is tremendously sophisticated. It’s comic-book art beautifully framed, beautifully displayed, beautifully presented. If you don’t come and see it, you’re crazy. There are over 50 pieces and it’s all comic-book art. Periodically the exhibits change but that’s to be expected."

Awesome. Sounds great. I hope the bathrooms are just holes in the floor. Nothing alienates us regular folk like "tremendously sophisticated" toilets made out of porcelain. I hope there's a food court and everybody has to eat with their fingers. If one more person tells me about that Green Lantern comic where they rode around in pick-up trucks while black people pretended to respect Oliver Queen, I'm gonna saw off my hands.

 
Promotional Efforts

Don’t Go Into The Marsh

Today at The Comics Journal, you'll find a spot on review of George Wylesol's Ghosts, Etc from our very own Greg "Bobby" Hunter. 

Wylesol’s work keeps one eye on the past, contemplating abandoned spaces and repurposing discarded aesthetics. But these are unsentimental comics—more forensic than nostalgic, and fit to disturb.

You're not misreading anything, by the way: I'm neither Dan nor Tim. I'm your sabbatical-loving Tucker Stone, former columnist for the Journal coming out of the cave all fathers of young children go to for a while. I'm here for a one-week tour of duty as your Comics Journal Guest Editor. My goal this week is to get these blog posts up and running on time, track down some news you can use, and alienate a smaller number of readers than Dan would, but more than Tim. You know how the guy always has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? 

I'm aiming for the part in the middle.

ELSEWHERE:

This POV piece by Peggy Burns about the recent San Diego Comic Con is primarily a work of enthusiasm and optimism, but the core message that Burns inadvertently puts across--that commentaries focusing on the oft-derided changes in Comic-Cons should also mention the many benefits that such changes have brought about--is one that I don't think I've seen put in such a succinct, inarguable fashion. It's reminiscent of those articles that The Economist occasionally write where they examine human progress solely by whether the global infant mortality rate has declined, which is a pretty good guide, regardless of how you feel about The Punisher. 

It made sense for Publishers Weekly to cover Meltdown Comics's unique decision to accept Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency, back in 2014--it's an unusual choice for any retail store to make, much less a comic book retail store, whose small profit margins are exactly the kind that could be easily punished by Bitcoin fluctuations. Covering the three-year anniversary (leather or crystal, depending on how you celebrate) to say that Meltdown is still the only comic book store that accepts Bitcoin seems a bit superfluous. Subtitling the article with a cliched "Future of Retail?" goes a bit beyond mundane page filling though--while one can parrot all the generic arguments for cryptocurrency until they're blue in the face, the article's description of Bitcoin's existence at Meltdown makes it sound like little more than a hyper specific kind of tchotchke.

Back on July 4th, a blog called Helvetica Scans posted a translation of an article reportedly written by mangaka Shuuhou Satou (Japanese readers can find that original text here) that consists of Satou's thoughts after being asked “When attempting to serialize a new work, what is the market rate for a standard serialization, and what kinds of contracts will I require?”. While the article doesn't get into Satou's fabled pricing battles with Amazon that have recently resulted in him retitling his work Say Hello To Black Jack into the more musical sounding Say Hello To Black Jack's Penis, hopefully that will appear in a follow up. (Thanks to Laika for the heads up!)

Rich Tommaso's Facebook post about low initial orders for his new Image book Spy Seal has already been linked to here, but the past week has seen more reaction pieces go up. One consists of axe-grinding and self-quoting, which makes sense if you feel like the Spy Seal situation isn't particularly unique, another consists of a random claim that the book should sell well in other countries, because The Walking Dead has made a path to market for books that might remind people of Tintin, but the last one is my favorite, because the last one straight up says that Rich Tommaso's work doesn't sell well because "neither he nor his work have been a subject of conversation among journalists or publishers very often." Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

 

Credit Control

Today on the site Irene Velentzas reviews Mimi Pond's new book, The Customer is Always Wrong.

Mimi Pond’s previous book, Over Easy,shows her fictionalized autobiographical self, Margaret, coming into her womanhood in the crude but charming Imperial diner. Her new book, The Customer is Always Wrong, picks up midstream in the Imperial’s day-to-day life where a now competent Margaret easily slides through the diner’s usual routine: sex, drugs, and coffee-slinging. Early in Customer, Margaret sets up the conventional expectations of adulthood – going to college, getting a house, marrying your high school sweetheart, and popping out a lot of kids – then thwarts these expectations at every turn in a quest not just to come of age but to find her identity. The diner’s colorful backdrop – an operatic theater set for high drama, as she refers to it – sets Margaret on track to exploring every last inch of her alter ego, Madge, and defy such conventional life choices: “I went out and slept with the first wacked out hippie I could find.” Pond’s Customer asks: What is right or wrong for our lives, and who decides? What’s the difference between what you think you want and you really need? Right or Wrong, those decisions make up our story.

 

Elsewhere:

Here is absolutely amazing essay by Cullen Murphy about the cartoonist-haven of Fairfield County, CT in the 1950s and 60s, where the author grew up with a cartoonist father. This is an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir of the time and place. 

Unlike actors or sports figures or reality-TV stars, they were never stopped on the street. They didn’t have a “gal” to protect them or “people” to speak for them. Semi-domesticated, they depended heavily on their families, especially wives, who in many ways held the entire enterprise together, from basic finances to rudimentary social cues. (Joan Browne would say “Xyz” to Dik whenever he emerged from the bathroom—“Examine your zipper.”) Life was interrupted mainly by mundane chores. More than a few collectors have bought original comic strips and found notations like “prescription ready” or “diapers, bologna, Chesterfields” in the margins. The working environment of the studio was a private place that tended to take on the idiosyncrasies of the occupant. There was always a lot of headgear strewn about. Mort Walker kept his old army helmet on a shelf, and on the wall hung a map of the United States with pins for all the papers that published “Beetle.” Dik Browne sometimes wore a papier-mâché Viking helmet made by one of his sons (and he looked like Hägar even without the helmet). Those who drew dramatic strips, like “Rip Kirby” or “Brenda Starr,” as opposed to the humorous bigfoot strips like “Hägar” and “Barney Google,” generally kept a lot of costumes around, along with filing cabinets full of scrap—pictures, torn from magazines, of cars, horses, swords, Arabs, sportsmen, guns, swank apartments, and memorable faces (Auden, Arendt, Dirksen, Hepburn) or extreme states of emotion (anger, agony, insanity, sorrow). To capture specific poses of people in action, my father bought a Polaroid Land camera in 1949—the sole instance in his life when he was an early adopter. He took thousands of pictures of himself, his family, and any neighbor you’d look twice at, directing each tableau like a backyard auteur. (“That’s not ‘happy.’ I want to see ‘happy.’ Let’s do it again. HAPPY!”)

And finally, Matthew Thurber has released the final issue of his five-issue epic, Art Comic!

 

Hurry-Up Complex

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews The Black Hood, an anthology of comics dealing with depression and related issues.

The Black Hood: An Anthology of Depression and Anxiety is a frequently brutal but ultimately illuminating take on mental illness, something experienced by a number of artists. Editors Josh Bayer (who published the book) and Mike Freiheit (who designed it) did a remarkable job of finding a number of veteran cartoonists and younger talent willing to spill a lot of ink in their personal depictions of mental illness. From E.A. Bethea's almost entirely textual approach to Haleigh Buck's dense, inky and naturalistic account of a panic attack, there's a wide variety of styles to be found in the book. However, they are all raw, honest, and vulnerable in how they present themselves. As I have often found in confessional stories about difficult topics, one can sometimes sense an almost palpable sense of relief on the page as the artists have finally told their stories.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman share a small selection of the work of one of America's greatest political cartoonists, Art Young.

Political cartoons usually have the shelf life of yogurt, yet many of Art Young’s drawings from the early twentieth century remain fresh and hilariously witty—they seem to have been hatched just this morning. Young, one of the core editors and artists of The Masses, a socialist bohemian publication, didn’t get lost in the trivia of daily news; he kept his eyes on the big drama of the ninety-nine per cent versus the one per cent. A jovial man who even had empathy for his enemies, Young had a winning sense of humor as well as a strong sense of social justice—some of his funniest drawings are about Hell. During the First World War, when Young was tried for treason alongside John Reed and Max Eastman, his colleagues at The Masses, the prosecuting attorney couldn’t help stating, in his otherwise excoriating summation, that “everybody loves Art Young.”

—Sarah Horrocks writes about the Italian insanity that is RanXerox.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has ever read RanXerox to hear it described as grotesque. The artists Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini, in the spirit of the times, created a world of murderous mutant sex junkies and set them loose upon a futuristic Rome and New York. The stories focus on the intersections of art, exploitation, violence, and degradation. They are libertine in every sense of the word. Murderous robot mutant Ranx teams up with his prepubescent looking love interest Lubna to maraud across two cities.

—For The Atlantic, Jonathan Guyer writes about recent events in the Middle East as depicted by local cartoonists.

Across the inlet, Saudi cartoonists known for their inventive gags and veiled criticisms of authority have taken clear sides. Take Abdullah Jaber, who draws for the newspaper Mecca and has faced censorship in the past. Recently, Jaber has depicted Qatar as pugnacious, deceptive, and back-stabbing. In one of his several anti-Doha drawings, a blonde man wearing a shirt with Al-Jazeera’s logo and holding a saw cuts the Qatari peninsula off from the Gulf region; adjacent to him, another man wearing the distinct cap and gray, fuzzy beard of the Muslim Brotherhood sits on Qatar, paddling off into the Gulf, suggesting that the Qatari state is merely doing the Islamist party’s bidding. Saudi cartoonist Khaled Ahmed went even further with a drawing of a Qatari sheikh flinging bills at a belly-dancing terrorist who dons a black mask and a suicide vest. Such bellicose cartoons replicate the rhetoric of Saudi officials.

—Zainab Akhtar is raising funds for the second issue of her comics & criticism anthology, Critical Chips.