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You Lot Won’t Know What to Do

Today is Jules Feiffer day here at the Journal, starting with a new interview with the legendary cartoonist by Greg Hunter, in which they discuss crime fiction, long-form storytelling, politics, and background-drawing. Here is a sample:

Did drawing Kill My Mother force you to do anything as a cartoonist you hadn’t done before

It was a complete revolution for me, in my way of thinking, in my way of approaching art and toying with it. I spent over forty years doing Village Voice strips, almost never doing backgrounds, because the characters were the prominent thing and the conversation was the prominent thing. I thought backgrounds would be distracting, and in addition, I didn’t know what anything looked like that wasn’t a human figure.

I’ve never had an eye for the inanimate. And so I never drew cars or planes—all the things that boys generally love to do. They were totally foreign to me, alien to me. Buildings, bridges, all of that stuff. And noir, if you take a look at any of the movies—Double Indemnity [1944], Maltese Falcon [1941], any of them—they’re full of atmosphere. And atmosphere is backgrounds, reflected light, shading. All that stuff that I had perfectly no experience in drawing or in thinking about. So I had to completely rethink my entire approach to drawing, at the age of eighty.

And Dash Shaw was written a review of Feiffer’s new book for us:

Feiffer has frequently voiced his envy for the drawing abilities of noir guys like Eisner and Milton Caniff. Personally, I love Feiffer’s drawings. Eisner and Caniff draw like they’re looking at film stills, while Feiffer draws like he’s sketching from the front row of a play. He draws dancers and his drawings themselves are live performances. They only move forward. It would be difficult to retake or remove a single stroke. If you follow the line of a Feiffer leg down, it flies from the front of the thigh to the back of the calf. It travels through the body like muscles, or fabric. Think of artists comparable to Feiffer. Quentin Blake might look like Feiffer on first glance, but Blake’s legs and arms are more tube- or stick-like. They don’t have a gesture sweeping through them. Another comparable post-Steinberg smart drawer is Tomi Ungerer, but Feiffer acts faster and freer. Feiffer’s women dance; Ungerer’s are tied up. If you copy a Feiffer drawing, at some point you’ll think, “This is like a scribbly Al Hirschfeld drawing!” Al Hirschfeld, of course, has a deep love of the theatrical that Feiffer shares.

And we’ve excited about the latest artist who has agreed to contribute a Cartoonist’s Diary to the site, Eleanor Davis. Don’t miss it; this is going to be a good one.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Feiffer. If you want more Feiffer, he’s also been interviewed by Carolyn Kellogg at the L.A. Times, by Michael Mechanic at Mother Jones, and reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on NPR.

—Other Interviews & Profiles. Charles Burns is interviewed at Boing Boing. UK political cartoonist Phil Evans gets an obituary from Kent Worcester. Butt Magazine talks to Gengoroh Tagame (and Anne Ishii). Vulture talks to Frank Miller. Semiotic Bushmiller. And at Fumetto Logica, Milo Manara has responded to The Great Spider-Woman Controversy of 2014.

—Reviews & Commentary. Derf Backderf defends Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck. Rob Clough kicks off a week of reviewing Chicago-related comics. Abraham Riesman chooses his 25 favorite moments from the Sin City comics.

—Misc. Medium posts some of Joseph Lambert’s sketchbooks. And if you’ve never watched this:


4 Responses to You Lot Won’t Know What to Do

  1. A question:

    Why are you promoting that Backderf post about Howard the Duck? In particular, his account of Gerber’s termination and lawsuit is one falsehood after another. The historical record on Gerber and Marvel was set straight by my HU article a few months back. (Thanks to Dan Nadel for posting the link to it at the time.) The account I provided of the termination and lawsuit is thorough, detailed, and so well-documented I would have thought it incontrovertible. And yet here we are with you, Backderf, and Tom Spurgeon again pushing baloney about what happened.

  2. Tim Hodler says:

    First of all, I’ll admit that until today, I had never read your piece on Steve Gerber’s firing. After seeing your comment, I now have, and don’t understand your umbrage. Here is the entirety of Backderf’s discussion of Gerber’s firing and the lawsuit, a short half-paragraph within what is otherwise just a long appreciation of the comic book and its writer:

    “Howard also became one of the first skirmishes in the creator-rights battle. Gerber’s relationship with Marvel soured, especially when tyrannical editor Jim Shooter assumed control in 1978. Gerber was sacked, first from the strip, then the from the book he created. ‘Missed deadlines’ was the officially reason, but Gerber demanding a greater cut of a lucrative character was the real one. He then sued Marvel for the rights to Howard and eventually won a settlement in 1982, which was also unprecedented.”

    I don’t see where your (long, tendentious) post contradicts any of this. You too report that Gerber’s relationship with Marvel soured in 1978. You too report that Jim Shooter became editor-in-chief of Marvel in 1978. You too report that Gerber was fired from the newspaper strip before he was fired from the comic book. You too report that “missed deadlines” was the official reason, but that Gerber’s threat of legal action over ownership of Howard the Duck was also a key factor. (I suppose ownership isn’t exactly the same thing as “a greater cut of a lucrative character,” but come on…) You too report that Gerber sued Marvel for the rights to Howard and the suit ended in a confidential settlement in 1982. I’m at a loss as to what’s here that you think is a falsehood, much less one falsehood after another. Opinions aren’t facts, after all.

    In any case, just because I link to something in this blog does not necessarily indicate that I endorse every argument within it, just that I think it’s worth reading.

    If you want to argue with Derf’s interpretation, go ahead, but just realize this blot post wasn’t all (or even a little) about you.

  3. Michael Hill says:

    Tim, thanks for posting the link to Derf’s appreciation. It may have been devoid of the “facts” and the corporate slant of RSM’s column (and goodness knows he’s done the company a great service), but it brought back the excitement of a time when the only things Marvel had going for it were Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby.

  4. Richard Hahn says:

    to fanta: are there any plans to continue the complete voice strips?

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