Running Late

Joe McCulloch is here as usual this Tuesday morning, with his customary browser's guide to the week in new comics.

Paul Buhle is also here, with a review of Corrine Maier and Anne Simon's Marx: An Illustrated Biography, as well as a consideration of how Marx has been dealt with in comics previously.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At The Guardian, Michelle Dean profiles Smut Peddler editor Spike Trotman.

Seth explains his new New Yorker cover.

Forge magazine visits Michael DeForge:

—Commentary. Marguerite Dabaie writes about the censorship struggle facing the Samandal anthology.

Finally, I thought I was just going to meet Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, and Tucker Stone for breakfast, but they ambushed me into appearing on the most recent episode of their Comics Books Are Burning in Hell podcast.

 

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (11/18/15 – The Earth’s Bouquet)

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I prefer comics that capture the fundamentals of life, and what could be more immediate than the scene depicted here by Kazuhiko Sugitani, from the pages of his children's comic Majin Noodle? Concerning a demon god who lives in a cup of ramen and stows away to school by assuming the form of a boy's underpants, this episode of Majin Noodle unites the critical elements of Japanese comics for younger boys -- poop, underpants, genitals, screaming -- into alchemical unity. I especially appreciate the Tezuka-like bird in the final panel - do creatures like that even exist anymore outside of parody...?

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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.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

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The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume: In the annals of '80s b&w boom comics, few titles ennobled the promise of free experimentation within genre parameters quite like The Puma Blues. Initially published by Aardvark One International, and later Mirage Studios -- thus placing it in proximity with two of the period's most enduring successes, Cerebus and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- the series functioned less as a means of delivering SF plot information than communicating themes of ennui, isolation and ecological peril through varied uses of words and pictures, as if writer Stephen Murphy and artist Michael Zulli were mainly concerned with deciding what comics should even be. The results were not always superb, but the process remains fascinating to observe. This 576-page Dover hardcover collects the entirety of the effort, 1986-89, along with an all-new 40-page final episode and supplementary texts by Dave Sim and Stephen R. Bissette. Note that issue #20 of the original series was a multi-artist special released in the wake of a distribution controversy - it appears that Alan Moore's (excellent) contribution to that issue with Zulli & Bissette will be included here, although I don't know about the rest of the package; $29.95.

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Dinomania: The Lost Art Of Winsor McCay, the Secret Origins of King Kong, and the Urge to Destroy New York: Some years ago, editor/publisher Ulrich Merkl released Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (2007), an enormous comprehensive edition of Winsor McCay's greatest comics work - it was the product of over half a decade's labor, and came accompanied by a selection of unusual critical writings bent in considerable part on teasing out McKay's influence upon the greater world of art and culture. It was a fascinating and eccentric affair, if somewhat befuddling, and this 304-page Fantagraphics tome looks to be a spiritual sequel: an 11.75" x 16" hardcover built around depictions of dinosaurs from throughout McCay's career, while also " trac[ing] our love of dinosaurs and monster movies down through the decades." Never-reprinted comics taken from McCay's original art are promised among the flood of information. Samples; $95.00.

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PLUS!

New Construction: Two More Stories: Being Uncivilized Books' second collection of shorts by Sam Alden, among the most widely admired of prolific young cartoonists. This one pairs two stories about familial units from 2013 - Backyard, about anarchist housemates and human transformations, and Household, about troubled siblings. At least one of these pieces has been newly expanded for these 188 pages, so if you've seen 'em online, you've not quite seen it all; $17.95.

Shigeru Mizuki's Hitler: THAT'S MY HITLER! Or, rather, it's manga giant Mizuki's, as depicted in a 1971 serial from the (now-defunct) weekly seinen magazine Manga Sunday. Expect something far closer to the sensitive doodles of Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths than the thicker ovular drawings more readily associated with Mizuki's releases through Drawn and Quarterly - some pretty great photo-derived background smears in here too. A 296-page softcover, with an introduction by Frederik L. Schodt; $24.95.

Filmish (&) Graphic Freud: Hysteria: A pair of nonfiction, indeed educational books from SelfMadeHero, distributed in North America via Abrams. Filmish is a 200-page work by Edward Ross, "using comics to uncover the magic and mechanics behind our favourite movies." As always, I will be grading the work exclusively on mentions of Doris Wishman. Hysteria is a new book from Oscar Zárate, reuniting with writer Richard Appignanesi (of the Introducing... series of educational comics) for a 168-page account of Sigmund Freud’s early career; $24.95 (each).

Quit Your Job and Other Stories (&) Sunbeam on the Astronaut: Two from the longstanding and respected Alternative Comics. Quit Your Job reissues one of the publisher's seminal works, James Kochalka's 1998 fable of shirking responsibility to discover, yes, what really matters. Note that this expanded edition also includes the artist's 1997 book Paradise Sucks, along with some other stuff. Sunbeam on the Astronaut, meanwhile, is a newer release, a 56-page collection of comics and illustrations by psychadelic artist Steven Cerio; $19.95 (Quit), $9.95 (Sunbeam).

Our Expanding Universe: Another enormous indie comics success of the late '90s was writer/artist Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison, an expansive dramedy of household sentiment and comics industry inequities that I confess has never been to my taste, though I suspect there remains a wider appetite. This 256-page Top Shelf original is purportedly a 'spiritual sequel', following a group of urban chums as they deal with parenthood and other challenges. Preview; $19.99.

101 Artists to Listen to Before You Die: Not actually one of those dictatorial list books, but a 236-page color diary comic from Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo, laying down his personal tastes in world music via "colourful illustrations and handwritten text, lists, notes and personal anecdotes." A Nobrow release; $22.95.

Batman: Europa #1 (of 4): This is a superhero comic that was first announced in 2004, which means children conceived in the fervor of the original press release are now probably smoking cigarettes. Nonetheless, I highlight its 40-page debut here for the pairing of layout artist Giuseppe Camuncoli and finisher Jim Lee, the latter working with frequent colorist Alex Sinclair, but without the inker (Scott Williams) who's helped define his exceedingly influential style throughout the years. Subsequent issues will see other artists working from Camuncoli's layouts, as Batman teams up with the Joker to stop a viral threat out on the continent. Written by Matteo Casali & Brian Azzarello. Preview; $4.99.

Usagi Yojimbo #150: No anniversary fireworks for Stan Sakai, just a self-contained 24-page comic book about the bunny swordsman's encounter with a European traveler eager to suck touristy glee from matters of indigenous life and death. From Dark Horse, as usual. Preview; $3.50.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Vol. 11: Your continuing manga of the week, a VIZ edition of Fumi Yoshinaga's matriarchal fantasy vision of feudal Japan. Vol. 12 just released overseas earlier this month, so expect more; $12.99.

Michael Allred: Conversations: And finally, your book-on-comics of the week - another University Press of Mississippi hardcover compendium of interviews, this time a 192-page volume dedicated to the veteran popular genre artist, whose works have ranged from self-started multimedia ventures to in-the-trenches superhero illustration. Edited by Christopher Irving; $40.00.

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This week's front page image is from artist Ryouhei Oosaki's video game tie-in manga Animal Crossing: New Leaf: Harikiri Mayor Ippe! - just another elementary school comic about a man clasping objects between his ass cheeks, to the delight of all.

 

The Truth about America’s Superheroes; Or, Real-Life Revisionism. 

Countless comic-book fans, critics, and historians tell the same story about the moment when “everything changed” for the superhero:

Comics finally grew up in the mid-1980s with groundbreaking grim and gritty works like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, two comics that, for the first time, portrayed complex and realistic superheroes. 

I’m not convinced, though, that the emergence of psychotic superheroes ushered in an age of psychological realism. Though these graphic novels and their offspring deliver a darker vision of heroism and “the hero’s motivation,” they frequently rely on familiar moral dilemmas, stale genre conventions, and worn-out tropes of “superhero grandiosity”: Our metropolis is overrun by villains! The end of the multiverse is near! What great man will rise to save us? While the world of superhero fantasy may be grimmer and grittier than it was in the early ’80s, in many ways it hasn’t changed at all.

A recent Daniel Clowes faux-Batman cover offers a genuinely new version of an old superhero that I find more disturbing and enlightening than the genre’s revisionary classics. Clowes created the drawing for genius designer and mega-Batman fan Chip Kidd, who asked artists to draw the Dark Knight on a page with the Batman: Black ’n White logo:

Clowes’s image mocks the genre’s investment in escape fantasies: there’s no alluring hero, no fisticuffs for justice, no empowering melodrama in which readers can lose themselves. Instead, Clowes gives us a portrait of fear and humiliation that’s both funny and unsettling, just like real life:

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1.A Thrilling Home School Adventure!
homeTraditional superhero stories exploit the hero’s emotional home life to lend tension and pathos to his superheroic activities. We care about Peter Parker’s Aunt May, for example, largely because her illness will affect Parker’s performance as Spider-Man. If he runs into The Vulture or Electro while on nightly patrol, he might be so freaked-out about his dying aunt that he’ll lose his spider-concentration when he needs it most.

What makes Clowes’s cover comically unsettling is the way it locates the source of superhero narrative tension, not in violent spectacle (and the constant promise of impending violence), but in the claustrophobic dynamics of a family at home. Superhero comics tend to look outward, emphasizing heroes’ public performances on behalf of the “public good” (or so the heroes tell us). In reality, superheroes are flamboyantly costumed narcissists who fight evil in urban environments because they need to be seen — and loved by the masses. Clowes ignores the genre’s reliance on social theater and turns inward. His "hero," though a conventionally imposing authority figure, is really a domestic tyrant, an everyday supervillain. Clowes reminds us that stagey over-the-top fantasy battles pale in comparison to the emotional battles we fight in private, in our homes.

Heroes glam up when they leave home to engage the rabble, not when they’re doing homework— that would be too weird. If we were to imagine a Bat scene of education, we’d expect to see Bruce Wayne or the butler Alfred tutoring Dick Grayson (Robin’s alter-ego). But Clowes's image gives us something revisionary and revolting: a domestic vignette of a hero mean-spiritedly disciplining an adolescent orphan. It’s extra sick and funny because The Dark Knight and The Boy Wonder wear their S&M-y garb during Robin’s “lesson,” a lesson in domination and submission. Is Batman such a committed fetishist that he forces Dick to costume-up just to study economics?

(Similar moments of domesticity pop up throughout the classic 1966 Batman TV series/movie, an important inspiration for Clowes’s faux-cover):

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As a young comic-book reader, Clowes preferred scenes of the hero’s daily life to those in which he fights supervillains. His Batman cover taps into this kind of “relatability.” Robin, no longer the sidekick, is now the victim, a vulnerable teen about to expire from fear, not because he’s battling a sadistic Joker, but because he’s bullied by a sadistic Batman.

I can’t relate to super-champions like Green Lantern or Adam Strange when they’re flying in space and trouncing trans-dimensional scoundrels, but I can feel Robin’s fear and embarrassment, just as teen me felt Peter Parker’s and Richard Rider’s home and school troubles (Rider is Nova’s teen alter ego). Who hasn’t experienced humiliation courtesy of an overbearing authority figure?

2. “And why exactly do you need ‘friends’? Don’t Alfred and I indulge your every juvenile whim?”

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Batman’s home life, like the superhero universe it reflects, is an androcentric space, a boy’s club. It’s also a sealed-off nuclear family with two adults and a child (Batman, Alfred, and Robin), a homosocial environment of male discipline. Since a traditional heterosexual relationship will only inhibit a male hero’s ability to risk his life for “the public good,” he must shun the ladies (or so he tells us).

Just before the cover scene takes place, Robin must have asked Batman if he could hang out with kids his own age, maybe even some girls. But Batman, domineering, paranoid, and super-insecure, doesn’t like this, responding like an all-too-familiar real-life type: the jealous, controlling boyfriend, who says to his girlfriend, “Why do you need friends when you have me? Aren’t I enough for you? Don’t I indulge your every whim?”

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We might think a dictatorial male like The Batman would insist that his charge call him “Father,” a term that conveys patriarchal and authoritarian formality. But, always the creep, Batman employs — and perverts — the familial intimacy of “Daddy.” His preference for “Daddy Bruce” highlights the superhero comic’s fetishistic blend of dominance and desire within the context of costumed play. Who’s your Daddy, Robin? Say my name, Robin. Ick.

While superhero comics often take themselves very seriously, Clowes alerts us to how comically twisted the genre can be. His cover functions like a one-panel exposé in which he out-revises the revisionists: “Unmasked: The Sick Home-Life of America’s So-Called Superheroes!” When not out saving the world, caped crusaders lurk at home, corrupting America’s children.

3. “Color is strictly for fruitcakes and libtards!”

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Does Bruce Wayne recognize the repressed eroticism animating the scene beneath his cartoony talking head? He looks directly at readers to tell us — and perhaps reassure himself — that he ain’t no “fruitcake” (not the best language for a children’s role model). Clowes reminds us that the classic superhero narrative depends upon contradictory impulses: an overt denial of same-sex attraction and a veiled appeal to homoerotic desire. Perhaps knowing the cliché that “superheroes are gay,” Bruce preemptively insists he’s not, despite the Bat Cave lifestyle he has engineered.

He also lets loose “libtard,” a derogatory term that defines liberalism as a form of mental and social retardation. Classic superhero morality has no room for communally-minded folks believe in “the social good” and see “grey areas.” Morality is Black and White! Maybe the title Batman: Black ’n White is kind of redundant.

4. Austrian Economic Principles, The Bell Curve, and Eugenics.

booksWhile undergoing his Batman-approved curriculum, Robin doesn’t learn a foreign language, work on trigonometry, or study American Civics. Isolated from the debased public school masses (with whom he might enjoy a social life), he reads texts that espouse the ideology of the archetypal American superhero. These books will teach Robin that he and Batman are worthy exemplars of The Great (White) American Hero because Nature has ordained their supremacy. It’s social evolution, old chum!

Austrian Economic Principles.
Perfect for today's super-man, the Austrian school of economics relies on “methodological individualism.” Sounding like a bardic Übermensch, an advocate of the school’s principles proclaims that “Only individuals choose. Man, with his purposes and plans, is the beginning of all economic analysis. . . . collective entities do not choose.” The sexist conflating of “Man” and “individual” seamlessly aligns with Batman’s and the superhero genre’s masculinist anti-social worldview (the Bat Cave is the original Man Cave). Bruce Wayne is super rich because his father made rational choices that logically resulted in fiscal reward. They deserve all they have, unlike the poor, who, you know, choose to be poor. No surprise that libertarians like Ron Paul, who reject government action on behalf of disadvantaged “collective entities” (i.e., poor people) worship this school. “We are all Austrians now,” he once declared.

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in the United States.
This 1994 book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray will show Robin that he’s a member of the “cognitive elite,” those who have succeed by virtue of superior intelligence. The Bell Curve’s widely discredited “science” has been used to justify narratives of white achievement and minority failure. As Bruce Wayne’s adopted son, he and those like him represent the group in which intelligence has naturally “clustered”: upper-class white males.

Eugenics.
Many sociologists have suggested that The Bell Curve is simply a dressed-up version of outmoded racist philosophies like eugenics. This pseudoscience advocates human evolution through interbreeding “superior persons” (the white elite), and endorses sterilizing or eliminating “inferiors” such as criminals, the poor, black people, etc. Like classical superheroism, eugenics sees the world as a battle between humanity’s higher and lower orders. (What weird pseudo-scientific experiment is Batman having Robin perform with the test tubes, something about the supremacy of Aryan blood perhaps?) Though eugenics has its roots in Victorian-era science and philosophy, it took hold early in the twentieth century, setting an ideological stage for the rise of paperback pulp heroes and comic-book superheroes in 1930s America. (Similarly, some of the Austrian school’s most important books, such as Ludwig von Mises’s The Theory of Money and Credit, appeared early in this century.)

With Robin’s carefully selected reading material, Clowes reveals the economic, social, and scientific basis of the traditional superhero’s classist, racist, and sexist ideology. When fully initiated, Robin will view his foes as degenerates from what “the select few” have long reviled as “the dangerous classes.” Superheroes are our cognitive and physical super-elite, and, as current box-office receipts more than prove, they are our Phantasy Overlords.

5. “WE CAN BE HEROES”

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In perhaps the cover’s most inspired moment, Clowes, a master of word play and puns, deconstructs the banner atop the page Kidd asked artists to use (it features DC superheroes in silhouette). With two erasures, Clowes transforms “We can be heroes” into “We can be eros,” altering the surface text to divulge its subtext, its real meaning. In superhero comics, Heroes hides Eros — the appeal of heroism and morality covers up the appeal of eroticism. Caped crusaders act out, not to make the world safe, but to get some action. The same is true for readers. They don't want a chaste comic-book morality play — they want a sexual power fantasy.

Long before Watchmen, superhero comics told us they were sexually weird, but we didn't listen. We chose to believe they were heroic fables for children. In 1954, Fredric Wertham warned us. He famously said that comics hide dirty “pictures within pictures for [those] who know how to look.” Ever the Werthamite, Clowes shows us there are dirty words within words, too.

6. “DCLOWES COMICS”

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We sometimes forget that American superheroism began as, and still largely is, a corporate-controlled phenomenon. It’s not based on timeless appeals to Gods or Goodness that naturally arise from “the folk” or “the human condition” (“Superman represents the best in all of us,” one self-help-y comic-book writer recently declared). Corporations create spandex-clad “role models” so they can hustle merch adorned with heroic characters and their logos: toys, t-shirts, mugs, tooth brushes, and maybe a few comic books. (If they had sold Silver Surfer cigarettes when I was an alienated teen, I’d likely have lung cancer today.)

Clowes hasn’t forgotten who owns America’s heroes. In the ultimate act of comics revisionism and corporate takeover, he plays graffiti artist, inking his tag — DClowes — over DC’s, usurping the ™ of the company that controls The Batman and his ilk. Clowes’s subversion of the logo recalls his transformation of the banner’s inspirational phrase “We can be heroes” into “We can be eros.” Always alert for hidden messages, Clowes peers deeply into the page he was given, allowing it to reveal opportunities for meaningful defacement and disclose messages that the higher-ups want suppressed. Clowes’s short comic may be as subversive — and revisionary — as a superhero comic can get.

*
Superhero myth-maker Stan Lee once told us that “with great power comes great responsibility.” But the truth is less flattering, less uplifting. In real life, a hero’s power would come with great temptation for abuse, even perversion. If we knew how nasty a real Batman-esque “superhero” might be to a sensitive youngster like Robin, if we thought about how warped theses characters’ home-life might be, would we really want America’s children (or adults) wearing t-shirts and pajamas plastered with the smiling faces of sadistic superbullies?

____________________________________________________________
Ken Parille is editor of The Daniel Clowes Reader: A Critical Edition of Ghost World and Other Stories. He teaches at East Carolina University and his writing has appeared in The Best American Comics Criticism, The Believer,  Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Comic Art, Boston Review, and elsewhere.

 

Missing Much

It's been a very sad weekend, but off we go into the new week. Our thoughts are with our Parisian colleagues.

On the site, Ken Parille is here with a great piece about superheroes, taking a recent Chip Kidd project as a starting point.

Countless comic-book fans, critics, and historians tell the same story about the moment when “everything changed” for the superhero:

Comics finally grew up in the mid-1980s with groundbreaking grim and gritty works like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, two comics that, for the first time, portrayed complex and realistic superheroes. 

I’m not convinced, though, that the emergence of psychotic superheroes ushered in an age of psychological realism. While these graphic novels and their offspring deliver a darker vision of heroism and “the hero’s motivation,” they frequently rely on familiar moral dilemmas, stale genre conventions, and worn-out tropes of “superhero grandiosity”: Our metropolis is overrun by villains! The end of the multiverse is near! What great man will rise to save us? While the world of superhero fantasy may be grimmer and grittier than it was in the early ’80s, in many ways it hasn’t changed at all.

A recent Daniel Clowes faux-Batman cover offers a genuinely new version of an old superhero that I find more disturbing and enlightening than the genre’s revisionary classics. Clowes created the drawing for genius designer and mega-Batman fan Chip Kidd, who asked artists to draw the Dark Knight on a page with the Batman: Black ’n White logo.

Elsewhere:

Joann Sfar posted a series of images about Friday's attacks. It's a moving sequence. Tom Spurgeon has some thoughts about how it relates to the Hebdo attack.

And, on a lighter note, here is a fascinating look into "lost" animation archives.

And I wrote a piece about comics-related artist (sort of, barely) Carroll Dunham.

 

SMH

Good morning, friends. Today we present the final installment of Jeremy Sorese's five-day tenure at the helm of our Cartoonist's Diary feature. This one takes place at a relative's 95th birthday party. Thanks, Jeremy!

We also have two review for you. First, Greg Hunter is back to wrestle with the first issue of Citizen Jack, Image's new "political satire" from Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson:

...By the time Jack announces his nominal campaign, the comic has not shared any real indication of his politics. The closest it gets is Jack’s charge that, “Political elites are killing this country,” one of the few things members of both party bases might agree on. Armando Iannucci (Veep, The Thick of It) has included similar ambiguities in his work, and like the comic’s resemblances to some much-loved earlier antihero stories, this would put Humphries and Patterson in good company. Even so, throughout Citizen Jack, the choice plays not like a bucking of politics-as-usual but like an unwillingness to alienate any reader too soon.

Later, via a bland burlesque of cable news, the first issue introduces Jack’s competition, the presumptive nominees of … the Patriot Party and the Freedom Party. Humphries may well have an extensive rationale for this choice, but it reads like still more fence straddling—another feature of a story that services the impulse to say, “Boo! Politics” while seeking to challenge no one.

We also have another debut reviewer (the third this week!), Monica Johnson, who is here to tell us about Maggie Thrash's Honor Girl, a YA lesbian summer-camp story.

Thrash, a staff writer for Rookie Magazine, is clearly no SVA graduate. But that’s not a dig on her drawing skills. It is just to say that whether she lacks or doesn’t give a crap about slick art-school-style drafting techniques, she’s really a storyteller, and a strong one. Thrash certainly has drawing skills, but they’re her own, and they’re specifically savvy for the story she is telling. Her bare-bones line drawings colored with watercolor pencils seem to be channeled directly from her 15-year-old self. The drawings have the rawness and bright-eyed directness of the teenager depicted in them, who can’t hide behind a catalog of romantic experience and mastery. This is part of the brilliance of the comic medium itself—the way images work in concert with the literal to tell a deeper, much richer story—and Thrash really hits the mark with it. The drawings are so believably vulnerable, which is maybe why her story feels so devastating.

Also, I hope you noticed that Joe McCulloch sneakily returned to his Tuesday Week in Comics! post to add a significant piece on a comic he picked up at CAB, Lilin, an underground Mexican "internet sex" comic from an artist named Mou.

Lilin, notably, is a sex comic in which nobody is ever seen engaging in sex acts with another person; it is very contemporary, then, in its explicit depictions of male and female masturbation, and Lilin, the demon -- because who really believed talk of the Grail would be the only pertinent bit of religious lore? -- is equally modern in spreading sexually-transmitted diseases over the internet. Her squirt videos somersault into ejaculations of living tar, while the boys develop similar fat pustules on their fapping hands. Everybody is giving birth, and it is these transformations that Mou indulges with his most texture-heavy drawing, dominated by shiny contrasts of solid black against blank white. Eventually, these values come to dominate his pages as Lilin zips up a vinyl bondage uniform and takes to the night to summon her legion, her transcended rank, her animal slaves, unleashed for the symbolic destruction of a convenience store and the murder of everybody present.

So go back to that post if you didn't catch it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Illogical Volume has a very strong piece on Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, and the From Hell Companion over at Mindless Ones. (Coincidentally, Alan Moore is currently in the news for non-comics reasons.)

Kim O'Connor also has a strong piece on John Porcellino's King-Cat 75 at Comics & Cola.

Jon Vinson returns to Suehiro Maruo and his Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, a book that is decidedly not for everyone.

—Video. Finally, via Mike Lynch, enjoy this 1986 profile of Gary Larson:

 

Jeremy Sorese: Day Five

Day5_FINAL_JeremySorese (2)Day5_FINAL_JeremySorese (3)

Jeremy Sorese is the author of Curveball, a queer sci-fi book published by Nobrow. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

 

CAB 2015 Roundup(s): Clowes, Kitchen & Head

Frank Santoro here, this week we have a double column about the CAB festival. I’ve got a brief report and then John Kelly will take over to give a much fuller account of the activities. John and I will both have more on CAB next week as well.

The 2015 Comic Arts Brooklyn (CAB) presented by Brooklyn’s Desert Island Comics was held on Saturday, November 7th. Organized by Desert Island proprietor Gabe Fowler, this marks the third year that the show has been called CAB and the seventh year of the show, which was originally called The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Gabe has turned the fest into a well-oiled machine and this year Karen Green programmed a series of panels and interviews with authors on the day after the Saturday exhibitors showcase at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.

IMG_4083

I exhibited as Comics Workbook and tabled next to the great Aidan Koch (and the great Ron Wimberly, who appeared like a vision for a couple hours at Aidan’s table). The Comics Workbook table consisted of myself, Connor Willumsen, Juan Fernandez, G.W. Duncanson and Pablo Selin (who came all the way from Chile). I thought it was a great show. I think curated shows are definitely the way to go in 2015, and CAB is a curated show. I understand that many may not agree with this but think of it this way: first come first served or a lottery system does not necessarily serve the community. Mr. Fowler’s knowledge of “what’s happening” in comics comes directly out of his experience as a retailer and I think he curates the show like he curates his store. And Desert Island is a great store which definitely serves the community. So, ‘nuff said. 

CAB is such a whirlwind of a show. Maybe it’s the New York City atmosphere. It all just goes by so fast. I barely get to see anyone or really visit with them for long. It was busy. Sales were solid. Same as usual even if it seemed like there were less people there than in previous years. I think there are so many comics festivals these days (curated and non-curated) that maybe the bloom is off the rose. Fine by me, as I dunno if I can add anymore shows to my already busy circuit season. CAB also represents the end of the season in many ways. SPX is the first big show of the season, the starting line in many ways, and CAB is the finish line so to speak.

You may be asking, “But what was the show like and who was there?” Well, check out this exhibitor list HERE (and then the Sunday programming page by scrolling beneath the exhibitors). What was the show like? Well, honestly, John Kelly will do a better job telling you about it than I can in my present state. I’m too exhausted from my marathon run from SPX to CAB. We have also wrapped a successful crowdfund to build the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency and are in the middle of actually buying the property. The whole process has been really humbling and I’m truly thankful to have the opportunity now to give back by building a physical school. I’ll have more CAB reportage next week and more photos. Thanks!

—Frank Santoro

And now, here's John Kelly.

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Despite being until recently a life-long New Yorker, I had never been to a CAB show and this year I was anxious to attend. But before CAB, my trip back East started on Wednesday night with a talk at the School for Visual Arts (SVA) with Drew Friedman and Stephen Kroninger, in which the pair of noted caricaturists talked about a dozen of their now mostly forgotten predecessors. Check back next week for a full report on that event. Thursday was spent at Bill Griffith's home in Connecticut, where we talked about Arcade, Zippy, and the graphic biography he's at work on about Zippy's inspiration, Schlitzie the Pinhead, best known from the cult film Freaks. More about all those topics later.

The weekend brought CAB, and as Frankie said up above, the show was fun and hectic. During Saturday's sellers market, amid the spread of new material from young artists, I found myself drawn time and again back to Bob Stevenson's table downstairs that was full of early comics fanzines, underground and mini-comics, and Tijuana Bibles. Whenever anyone would ask me if I found anything good, I'd nod and pull them over to Bob's table where they'd linger before dropping some bucks on a prized find. I picked up a few things for research purposes and also got to examine an extraordinary Roger Brand sketchbook (not for sale), which I'll focus on, again, in a later column.  Bill Griffith was upstairs, signing copies of Invisible Ink, as was Denis Kitchen, who I visited the previous evening at the opening of his one-man show, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen at the Scott Eder Gallery.  Eder was downstairs too, selling several tables full of original art by the likes of Rory Hayes, Robert Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Kim Deitch, Chris Ware, Gary Panter, Drew Friedman, Tony Millionaire, Peter Bagge, Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez, etc. If I had the $10,000 asking price, I would have picked up the Hayes color original that Eder had acquired from Kitchen's collection. You can look at some of the stuff below:

At his opening party at Scott Eder, Kitchen was kind enough to walk me through the back story of a few of the dozens of originals in the show, as you can see in the video below:

It was downstairs that I also ran in to my old friend Glenn Head. I always thought Head was at his strongest when he was doing comics about himself, and his recent comics find him back in the territory he explored in early works like Avenue D. Head was at CAB to promote his acclaimed new autobiographical work Chicago, which follows his days as a young wannabee artist who at once longs for the romantic lifestyle of his underground comix artists and decadent writer heroes, but who also finds himself ill-equipped the deal with the harrowing realities that marginal lifestyle entails. In the following clip Head talks about Chicago, as well as his next venture in to the auto-bio comics genre:

One of those early biographical pieces by Head was a strip called Belinda's Topless Go Go Lounge that appeared in the alternative compilation Bad News #3, edited by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden in the late 1980s. Belinda's chronicled Head's time living above a notorious Brooklyn strip bar and the complications he encountered as a young artist there. Following his talk with artist/musician Leslie Stein on Sunday at CAB, Head and several friends went off in search for somewhere to grab a bite to eat and ended up at a newish spot on Bedford Avenue called TRIX. Turns out TRIX was the former site of the actual Belinda's club and Head's apartment, so it was a bit of a coming home event. In the clip below, Head recounts a story from the old days at Belinda's:

The hardest seat to get on Sunday's CAB talks at the trendy Wythe Hotel was for the discussion with Dan Clowes, whose forthcoming book Patience has been five years in the making. Clowes was interviewed by Naomi Fry and spoke at length about his career. In the clip below, he talks about the "torturous" and "surreal" experience of spending the past year coloring Patience:

According to the Fantagraphics press materials, Patience is said to be an "indescribable psychedelic science-fiction love story," and in the clip below Clowes talks a bit about science fiction. Or sci-fi. Or SF. Or whatever:

Clowes also talked about the differences between working the mediums of films and comics:

And, finally (for now), he reflects on the changes in his work he's seen in his career:

That's it for now. As Frank said earlier, next week's column will have more on Sunday's programming, including more Clowes, and Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's talk on the comics they read in their youth. Until then, have a great week and keep it Plonsky.

 

Going to Sleep

Today on the site we bring you the fourth day of Jeremy Sorese's diary.

And Frank Santoro and John Kelly report about last weekend's CAB festival here in Brooklyn.

CAB is such a whirlwind of a show. Maybe it’s the New York City atmosphere. It all just goes by so fast. I barely get to see anyone or really visit with them for long. It was busy. Sales were solid. Same as usual even if it seemed like there were less people there than in previous years. I think there are so many comics festivals these days (curated and non-curated) that maybe the bloom is off the rose. Fine by me, as I dunno if I can add anymore shows to my already busy circuit season. CAB also represents the end of the season in many ways. SPX is the first big show of the season, the starting line in many ways and CAB is the finish line so to speak.

Elsewhere:

Michael Cavna writes about Veteran's Day comics, including Warren Bernard's excellent collection, Cartoons for Victory, which Warren will present at Desert Island on Nov. 19th.

Alex Dueben speaks with Ivan Velez Jr. 

Here's a little known Star Wars comic written by Alan Moore.