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Things Are Happening

Good morning, friends. Today we have another sample of the 302nd print issue of The Comics Journal for you, Tim Kreider’s consideration of Chester Brown’s Paying for It. Here’s a bit:

It’s some sort of testament to Brown’s fearless honesty in addressing such a taboo subject, about which there is apparently only one publicly acceptable opinion, that so many reviewers have gone out of their ways to make known their moral — and, in some cases, physical — revulsion. New York Times critic Dwight Garner, in describing a scene where Brown admits to being excited by the possibility that he’s hurting a prostitute he’s fucking, adds: “I cringe even to type that sentence.” Brown has said in an interview that he was disturbed by this incident, too, but he didn’t cringe at portraying it. And although I’m frankly made a little queasy by that scene too, I also admire Brown, as an artist, for showing it to us without the cover of some preemptive self-castigation. The unattractive truth is that men (and women) are sometimes aroused by things that are, in the light of day, creepy, disturbing, degrading or cruel. (Though I should also draw a distinction here between enjoying such things in fantasy or consensual play and actually doing them.) One of my female friends said the book “confirmed some of [her] suspicions about the male psyche.” The part of Paying for It that most resonates with me is (annoyingly) not in the book itself but elaborated in an endnote; Brown explains how, every time he used to see an attractive woman on the street, he’d imagine that there was some theoretical sequence of events that would result in her having sex with him and immediately condemn himself as a coward and a loser for failing to ask her out.

We also have another installment of Rob Clough’s High-Low small-press column, this time gathering up ten recent minicomics of note. Here’s a bit where he talks about relative newcomer Zejian Shen:

Shen is part of the Collective Stench group, a collective I was entirely unaware of until her comics showed up in my mailbox. To say that her style of drawing and sense of humor line up precisely with the sort of comics I like is an understatement. Each one of these comics is a sheer delight, reminiscent of two of my favorite cartoonists: Chris Cilla and Matthew Thurber. There’s a touch of the grotesque and bizarre in her work, but she also mines the same kind of Dada absurdity that informs Thurber’s comics so hilariously, as well as his surprisingly iron-clad command over both plot and character.

Upset Cats and Let’s Do It are short, one-joke comics. The former is exactly what it sounds like: drawings of cats dramatically expressing their woes, with captions ranging from “a mystery” to “I hate peanuts” to (hilariously) “TETSUO!” The latter title initially seems to be about having sex in any number of locations, but as the comic is folded out, it turns out to be something far more grisly. Shen has a nasty streak in her work that pops up in unexpected ways at surprising times, and this is a good example of that tendency.

Elsewhere:

—Interviews We Missed: Richard Sala at CBR, Drew Friedman for the National Cartoonist Society newsletter, Colleen Doran at CBR, and Tom Kaczynski at Hooded Utilitarian.

—That Tom K interview was conducted by James Romberger, whose reissued 7 Miles a Second just made the NY Times bestseller list, a pretty heartening development. It’s a pretty amazing book, and it would be a shame if it fell through the cracks.

—Cartoon Movement reports that one of their Palestinian cartoonists, Mohammad Saba’aneh, has been arrested and detained by Israeli authorities, for as-yet unspecified reasons.

—Glen Weldon at NPR responds to the recent Orson Scott Card/Superman controversy productively, by listing several recent comics and graphic novels with nuanced and compelling stories about gay or bisexual characters.

—I can’t imagine anyone will agree with all of R. Crumb’s casual assessments of cultural figures, but man are they fun. This time, he talks about a lot of writers (Kerouac, Miller, Roth, Sartre) and artists (Picasso, Peter Max). The must-read portion this time around is his discussion of Hugh Hefner, which includes an extended bit on Hefner’s relationship with Harvey Kurtzman.

—Aspiring cartoonists, take note: WFMU has dug up a 1946 instructional record from Art Ross on How to Draw 1000 Funny Faces.

—Tom Spurgeon’s review of All-New, All-Different X-Men #5 matches my thoughts almost exactly. (Wait, that isn’t funny. Here’s hoping Comics Reporter is back online soon, if only so’s Dan and I can steal his links.) [UPDATE: Looks like CR’s temporarily moved to Tumblr.]


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