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Political Madness

Today on the site, Rob Clough is here with a review of Sergio Ponchione's comics-history fantasia Memorabilia.

Some European cartoonists are attracted to the myths of America. For example, Moebius was fascinated by the mysticism of Native American culture in the later Blueberry comics. Then there's Belgian cartoonist Morris and his long-running Lucky Luke. More recently, Christophe Blain's Gus and His Gang pays tribute both to the Western and the tropes created by its comics adaptation.

Ponchione, on the other hand, is attracted to the myths (and realities) of the American comic-book creator. Memorabilia is an expansion of a comic book he did for Fantagraphics a few years ago, where Ponchione plays the role of mysterious and vaguely discomfiting mentor, much like his own Mr. O'Blique character. The comic opens with Ponchione welcoming a young cartoonist into his home, one who has had some strange dreams. That leads to the meat of the matter: Ponchione's tributes to his cartooning heroes. He begins with Steve Ditko, in a story called "The Mysterious Steve". In the wake of sometimes weird, intrusive attempts to contact the reclusive Ditko before his death and the focus on his reclusive nature after he died, Ponchione's tribute is simple and respectful. Imitating Ditko's shadowy, distorted style, he indulges in drawing some of Ditko's best-known characters when he imagines what it's like behind his apartment door. But he leaves the story with the simple, basic truth: he was a solitary man who expressed all he had to say to the world through his stories, every day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Longtime New York City retail landmark St. Mark's Comics announced on Facebook yesterday that they are closing down.

EV Grieve has a short interview with owner Mitch Cutler (via Heidi MacDonald):

In a brief phone conversation this afternoon, longtime owner Mitch Cutler said that a variety of factors, from increasing rents to changing consumer shopping habits, played a role in his decision to close up shop here at 11 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

"There are a number of things that contributed to [the closing]. I have been working 90 hours a week for 36 years, and I no longer have the wherewithal to fight them — all of these various reasons," Cutler said. "It is challenging to have a storefront business in New York City for a number of reasons ... it is challenging to keep and maintain a retail storefront and there are enough impediments now that — like I said, I'm exhausted and can't fight them anymore."

At Apollo, Martin Rowson writes about Saul Steinberg.

Far more compelling is the way that [his aesthetic] was underpinned by a mash-up of Balkan orientalism, flight, fear and murderous political madness. For decades, Steinberg was lauded for his contribution to this aesthetic, often by the kind of European modernist he had been forced to leave behind. Le Corbusier told him ‘You draw like a king’; he was praised by Ernst Gombrich, Italo Calvino, Eugène Ionesco and Roland Barthes, attaining a cultural superstardom rare for cartoonists. Even more than Ronald Searle and Ralph Steadman, Steinberg closed the gap between what ‘cartooning’ is often assumed to be – cheaply reproduced, silly scribbles knocked out to make you laugh – and ‘art’, which is supposedly so much nobler.


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