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Scrublands

Today on the site, Eric Buckler interviews the cartoonist and educator Jessica Abel about her most recent book, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio.

How did you become interested in podcasts?

The journey does not really start with podcasting. It starts with This American Life on the radio in Chicago in the mid- ‘90s. I started listening to it before I left Chicago, and then when I moved to Mexico, Matt [cartoonist Matt Madden, Jessica’s husband] and I would stream it on RealAudio on a laptop in Mexico City over like 56.6K baud, dial-up service. It was a nightmare. But we were totally into it, so we did that. Then, when Ira called me and asked me to do the book, it was like this totally insane thing. I was in Mexico City and who was on my phone? I mean, This American Life was a phenomenon at that point, it wasn’t like I was the only person listening to it. It was still niche, we’re talking like 1998 here, but still.

So I did the book and continued to have somewhat of a relationship with Ira, you know, not like seeing him often, but we cross paths. And then I came back to him to talk about doing this new book in 2011, I guess.

Meanwhile, as a cartoonist—I am sure you have experienced this talking to cartoonists at The Comics Journal—we are a core public-radio audience, because we spend insane hours in front of our drawing tables. I can’t listen to talk radio when I am writing, but when I’m not writing I need something to fill that part of my brain. When I’m drawing or sketching and trying to get something down, or especially if I’m inking or doing something that is… it’s not mechanical, but it’s not using the intellectual part of my brain. As soon as that happens? Oh my god, coloring? You need something interesting to listen to. And music, of course, fills the bill to a certain extent, but scratch a cartoonist and you find a radio fan. We listen to radio all the time.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:


—Interviews & Profiles.
Joelle Monique spoke to Cathy Johnson.

I’ve had disputes with critics in the past who say Dear Amanda is about gender, and it isn’t at all. It’s a romance. I’m a queer person, so I do explore gender in my comics sometimes, because it’s something I think about. I also think about romance, which comes up in my work a lot, too. And when you’re gay your romances are gay ones. It just is everyday. Being queer is my reality. It’s the reality of my friends, it’s the every day life of millions of people. I make comics about people’s lives. It’s important to me that my work is true and reflective of the world.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Jane Mai.

Here's Kate Beaton from the Toronto Public Library last September:

—Reviews & Commentary. Alternative Comics publisher Marc Arsenault writes about production problems with the most recent issue of Magic Whistle.

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I received a slightly cryptic email from an artist about his new comic that I was publishing. It started simply enough, “Just got my copies. There is no text on the inside covers.” There weren’t really any more informative details. It was a December book and the email didn’t sound very urgent… I hoped it was a fluke, a bad batch. Even with a worst case scenario we still had plenty of time to fix it. I went back to my tea and morning news.

The next email arrived an hour later. It was a little more to the point. The subject was “they fucked up”.

Mark Evanier remembers his work on a misbegotten DC Comics adaptation of the 1978 version of The Wiz.

Words were exchanged…and not the most pleasant ones. Some months later, all of this would be worked out with different contracts and a lot of soothing apologies all around. In fact, DC Comics became a lot more mature and sane about how they dealt with talent. But for the moment, Sergio [Aragones] was no longer willing to work for them.

This was not a problem for me. I'd already signed the old contract to do The Wiz and was just about done with the script. Suddenly though, Joe Orlando had no one to draw what I was about to hand in. He called and asked me who I'd like. I said, "How about Sergio signing the contract someone could have given him four weeks ago?" He said that was no longer possible and asked me to think about artists and we'd talk the next day. Okay…

I called Sergio and suggested I would withdraw from the magazine in solidarity. He said don't be silly…"They didn't ask you to sign a contract you wouldn't sign." Besides, he said, the perfect artist for the job — righter for it than him, he said — was our friend, Dan Spiegle. "Ever since they asked me to do it, I keep thinking he would be so much better at it than I would."

Rachel Cooke at The Guardian selects her best comics of 2015.

—News. The New York Times ran an obituary of Shigeru Mizuki.


One Response to Scrublands

  1. Sergio Aragonés gave an account of his 1978 break from DC in his ’88 TCJ interview with Kim Thompson (click here).

    Here’s the relevant part:

    ARAGONES: The whole thing started when I brought some pages to DC, as I usually did, and when I arrived there, Joe said, “You have to go and see…” Uh… [Aragones searches for the name, can’t think of it, and holds his hand about four feet from the ground.]

    THOMPSON: [guessing] Paul Levitz?

    ARAGONES: Paul Levitz. [Thompson chuckles.] And so I went to Paul Levitz and he said, “You have to sign this.” And it was a work-for-hire contract. I already knew about the work-for-hire contract, which I never intended to sign, and I said, “But I have never signed these and I don’t want to sign it. I have always worked without having to sign anything.” And he took the check and ripped it up right in front of my face. My God, nobody has ever done something like that to me. I said, “This is it. No way am I ever going to do anything that I don’t own. Never.” So for many years I never went back to that company.

    This is far more unvarnished than the account Evanier gives. There’s no deflection of criticism from Evanier’s pal Paul Levitz. (Levitz has generally been a force for good in the treatment of comics personnel, but the conduct Aragonés describes was beyond disgraceful.) Aragonés was clearly still angry at Levitz a decade after this happened. There’s no indication he was willing to work for DC at the time the interview was conducted. Evanier’s statement that this was all resolved “some months later” is more than a little misleading.

    There are also a few things to note about the contract situation. First, Aragonés makes clear that the issue wasn’t that an older contract would have been acceptable. It was that he had to sign a contract at all. He doesn’t seem to have understood that the contract was simply a newly required formality that enabled DC to continue acquiring material in the way they always had. Also, the “old contract” that Evanier signed would all but certainly have been acceptable for DC’s purposes. As long as it’s acknowledged in writing that the work is being done on a commissioned basis, it’s in compliance with the ’76 copyright law’s mandate re: work-made-for-hire. If Orlando told Evanier that it was “no longer possible” for Aragonés to sign such a contract, I don’t think the issue was the contract. I suspect that it was that Levitz (and Jenette Kahn) were no longer willing to deal with Aragonés. I would assume they weren’t keen to work with people who direct “not the most pleasant” words their way. One could hardly fault Aragonés for losing his temper at Levitz during the meeting he describes, but no matter how justified, doing so would have been a bridge-burner.

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