Not Too Much

Today on the site, Tegan O'Neil reviews Paige Braddock's Love Letters to Jane's World.

Suffice to say, Jane’s World was a bit of a trailblazer. When United Media picked up the strip in 2001 it was hailed as the first gay-themed work to receive distribution by a national media syndicate. The strip is far more humble in focus, if not execution, than such a consequential bit of trivia might have you believe. Jane’s World focuses on the love lives of its main cast with the same bald matter-of-factness that the residents of Apartment 3-G gather to discuss their fresh kills. That accounts for much of the charm. Braddock’s queer characters inhabit a world where their desires and needs are considered just as significant and just as worthy of fulfillment as anyone else’s. The unspoken premise remains that the strip and Braddock don’t and shouldn’t need to explain to their non-gay readers why or how they should care about gay people.

>If that seems obvious, imagine for a minute being gay and having literally every piece of mainstream media representation be ham-fisted tragedy porn written by people whose good intentions often mask the fact that they regard queer folk as exotic animals to be petted, pitied, and packed away to limbo once their Very Special Story Of Intolerance has been told. The joy at the heart of Jane’s World is the idea that there are actually places where gay people can just be themselves without having to justify their own existence to one another. That goes not just for the community inside the strip but the community of real-world readers who embraced the strip on account of seeing themselves reflected in its panels.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The Guardian profiles Lisa Hanawalt.

She describes Coyote Doggirl as a “revenge fantasy”: the story sees Coyote being pursued because she maims a man while he assaults her. “The scene where she’s getting assaulted – or nearly assaulted – is not that sexy. And I think sometimes when we see these things in movies, they’re very sexualised and the female body is shown as this treasure that’s being pillaged,” she says. “And it’s kind of gross.”

Despite Hanawalt’s interest in women having control over their own narratives, she never wants her work to be didactic. “I never set out to make overtly political work where the moral is very clear. I think it should always be a little muddled. Even in this book, [Coyote] gets revenge on the bad guys. It is very violent, when she lashes back at her attacker. But I don’t think violence is the right answer. I think it complicates things for her.” The book’s original ending was going to be a bloodbath, but she toned it down. “That kind of represents who I am, and what I believe about the world, a little better,” she says. “So I changed it.”

—Over at Smash Pages, Alex Dueben talks to Ariel Bordeaux about the comics she's posting on Facebook.

My friend and mentee Anna Sellheim, who I got to know when she chose me as her advisor at the Center for Cartoon Studies, was doing Hourly Comics Day. In one of her strips she mentioned me and wished that I would do more comics and texted it to me. I happened to be home with my son who was sick and I felt weirdly motivated by that. Okay, I’ll accept the challenge. [laughs] It was already noon by the time I got the text and she said, just write down a bunch of notes and draw the comics later, so I did them all later that night and the next day.

—And the Washington Post covers Art Spiegelman's MacDowell Medal win.

“The increased cultural prominence of comic art and its once-wayward practitioners can largely be laid at the feet of a single artist: Art Spiegelman,” Pulitzer-winning author and MacDowell Colony chair Michael Chabon (“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”) said in a statement. Chabon and MacDowell Colony executives will present the medal.

Vandal Salvage

Today at The Comics Journal, Martyn Pedler sits down with L. Nichols, whose Flocks is garnering a healthy amount of praise in the run up to its September debut. The two also touch a bit upon the genesis of Ley Lines, which he calls "a fine art fan comic".

I was reading an interview you gave years ago where you talked about “coming out as a Christian”. Do you feel like you get different responses now?

No, people are always surprised! Especially in intellectual circles. People are atheist or agnostic, and that’s fine. I would never try to convince anyone else of my own beliefs. I’ve always felt a very strong feeling that there’s something more, something better. My conception of God isn’t “angry father-figure in the sky who’s going to smite you dead”. It’s more like an interconnected consciousness of all things. That’s horrible – I sound very New Agey – but whatever. I’ve always felt connected, and that connection can happen in a lot of ways. All religions have some aspect of it, and it depends on the culture they’re in as to how those aspects are manifested. I guess that ties into how I always try to see the viewpoints of other people. Even people who I don’t agree with. There are people now I’m just banging my head against, like Trump supporters. I cannot figure it out. My mom is a right-wing conspiracy theorist – and I can’t! There’s a certain point where my compassion turns to bafflement.

Our TCJ review of the day comes from Matt Seneca, who stopped everything he was doing, including his marriage, the second he got the opportunity to review the new Jim Woodring: Poochytown!

No, I mean that when the bombs have fallen and our society’s returned to dust and you're as likely to find a comic book riffling in the wind on a stretch of washed out freeway as you are in the husk of yesteryear's L.C.S., the gestures and concerns of Woodring's weird ass fantasias will seem just as vital and engaging as Chris Ware or Brian-Michael Bendis's mannered evocations of the now will seem archaic and irrelevant. Woodring uses the medium of cartoon drawing to gesture at something ineffable, permanent. His books will last because they transcend their times. 

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, Rob Clough reviews three recent releases from Kilgore Books--Noah van Sciver's Blammo #10, Emi Gennis' Baseline Blvd & Robert Sergel's September 12th. Rob's take on Blammo is particularly astute.

Our friend and yours, Abhay Khosla, on a comic whose blurb seems expressly designed to ensure the maximum repellence possible.

Over at The Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw took a look at the Cody Pickrodt story, examining how it has so far played out differently than other #metoo cases.

 

Grim Business

Alec Berry has written a thorough report on the defamation suit recently filed by small-press publisher and cartoonist Cody Pickrodt against several women who accused him of various charges including rape and sexual harassment, as well as against other members of the comics community who posted about the allegations online.

Cody Pickrodt, a small-press comics publisher and cartoonist — who has been accused of rape, sexual harassment, anti-Semitic remarks, and withholding payment of royalties to artists whose work he’s printed — has filed a defamation lawsuit against 11 individuals who either made those allegations or denounced Pickrodt while commenting on them.

The defendants include the cartoonists Whit Taylor, Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore, Hazel Newlevant, Tom Kaczynski, Jordan Shiveley, and Morgan Pielli, as well as writer, editor, and publisher Josh O’Neill, and comics critic Rob Clough. The complaint also lists Kaczynski’s business, Uncivilized Books.

“These are false claims,” says Pickrodt's attorney, Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law in New York City. “He’s really suffered as a result of this. He’s lost clients. He can’t really network within the comic book community, as you can see.”

Pickrodt demands damages be reimbursed at an amount of no less than $2.5 million for cause of emotional and mental distress. The defendants have under a month to mount a legal response or they forfeit.

Two additional aspects of this story should be noted. First, the defendants are in the process of setting up a group crowdfunding effort, which we will report on when it is ready. Second, many people have asked if this is a case the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund should be involved in. After we published this story yesterday afternoon, the CBLDF has released the following statement:

We're aware of the concerns regarding this case, have been and continue to be in contact with the affected parties, and are providing assistance to the extent that our charter permits. We're unable to provide further detail, in accordance with our policies.

We will keep you informed of any updates on this story as they arrive.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The New York Review of Books has published an essay by Ryan Holmberg about Katsumata Susumu's Fukushima Devil Fish, out from Breakdown Press.

Art changed in Japan after the tsunami and nuclear meltdowns of March 2011. So did art history—or at least it should have.

As the black waters of the tsunami receded from communities along the Pacific Ocean coast in northern Japan, and the fallout settled upon the nuclear boomtowns and farming villages of eastern Fukushima, social engagement flourished across the arts, both in fields where one would expect it (like documentary filmmaking) and in those traditionally allergic to sensitive issues (like contemporary art).

That the disasters ushered in a new era in Japanese culture is widely recognized. That they also inspired a reappraisal of what had been made in the past is only partially so. Within weeks, scholars, publishers, and activists began to offer an array of previous responses to industrialized fission in Japan. Inevitably, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were on people’s lips. While protesters cried, “No More Hiroshimas! No More Fukushimas!” pundits repeatedly asked, “How could the only country to suffer nuclear attack become one of the greatest supporters of atomic energy?” Classics of disaster fiction, like Sakyo Komatsu’s Japan Sinks (1973), about the archipelago breaking in half from a massive earthquake, and Katsuhiro Otomo’s sci-fi dystopia Akira (1982-1990), about psychokinetic superkids in a post-atomic holocaust Tokyo, were praised anew as prophetic.

Yet much of this retrospection ignored a basic fact: very few of Japan’s many disaster-fantasy masterpieces have anything to do with nuclear power plants, nor with the dangers of building a dense, highly industrialized society along the seismically hyperactive Pacific Rim.

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Alex Miller reviews Hillary Chute's recent collection, Why Comics?

In a style reminiscent of Raymond Williams’s The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence, Chute’s monograph seeks to celebrate “what comics does best” by establishing a critical genealogy of the medium’s development. Chute’s history, however, is not the history that begins with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation of Superman and concludes with Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel and the subsequent “superhero-ification” of all things marketable. Instead, Why Comics? focuses on the evolving capacity of independent comics to represent experiences that have historically been relegated to the margins of popular culture. In pursuit of this goal, Chute deploys a thematic approach to the lives and works of a variety of now-canonical cartoonists who began their careers on the margins of both society and the industry.

For Vice Sports, Corbin Smith writes about a fifty-year-old sequence of baseball-themed Peanuts strips.

The story begins with our hero, Charlie Brown, standing on the baseball mound, the site of so many of his most profound failures. For those not familiar, in his ill-defined neighborhood team’s structure, Charlie is, seemingly because he is the only person who wants it, his team’s manager and pitcher. He is not very good at either task, getting lit up in strip after strip, for year after year, occasionally suffering the pure indignity of a line drive hitting him and knocking all of his clothes off, while the rest of his teammates—including his dog, the consensus best player—just kind of don't give a shit. There's a very simple reason for this grim outlook: you don't make the finest work of comic art of the latter half of the 20th century by writing a comic where the main character gets what he wants, you do it by distilling your tremendous depression into a daily comic strip aimed, presumably, at children.

Robert Boyd writes about Yvan Alagbé's Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures.

It's taken more than 20 years for the USA to catch up with this masterpiece, with New York Review Comics publishing Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures in English with a new story as an afterward. These stories of migrants from third world countries seem more urgent than ever, although for Americans the situation is a little different. We didn't have, as France did, a vast African empire. Alagbé was born in Paris in 1971 of Beninese parents, and lived for three years as a child with his family in Benin. His stories are often about undocumented workers from Africa who end up in France. However, the stories don't exist to make a political point, even if such points are inherent in the stories. Alagbé is not a polemicist. His work is too subtle and inflected with modernism to be propaganda.

—Interviews. For Africa is a Country, Lily Saint talks with UCLA historian William Worger about his archive of comics sponsored by South Africa's Apartheid government.

The production process, as you explain on the UCLA Library website, tells an interesting story of collaboration between the Apartheid government, the CIA, American-based DC-Comics artists and writers, and anthropological focus groups run in South Africa.

Yes, I want to go back and learn more about how these were created. Eschel Rhoodie, the Secretary of the Department of Information, describes how anthropologist Bettie van Zyl Alberts ran focus groups in South Africa before they were made, ostensibly to assess how these comics might best appeal to readers in rural and urban areas. The American DC-Comics artists (most notably the illustrator Joe Orlando) made the drawings for the comics. Oddly, under the injunctions of the South African government, they were tasked with drawing black South Africans to look different, somehow, from American comics’ depictions of black Americans. This of course begs the question: How do you make people look more African than African-American? Is there a memo somewhere that says if you change the image in a certain way you can make characters look more African than African-American?

Finally, at the Beat, Heidi MacDonald speaks to artist JG Jones about his his break from comics, spurred by his struggle with blood cancer.

This is kind of a weird disease and I was undiagnosed for a while. In the initial stages your bone marrow is hyper proliferative. It makes too many blood products, red, white, platelets. Way back when I was doing Final Crisis, I remember times where I was almost passing out at my drawing table. I would go to sleep and just sleep for hours and hours. It was really wrecking my deadlines. But I thought it was over work and I didn’t think much of it. Then I found out [I was sick] just in a routine physical. I had a blood test and it was so thick that it took 15 minutes to get a vial of blood out of me.

[...] So it’s a really rare disease but I think a lot of people go undiagnosed. The outcome of having blood like that is usually a stroke or heart attack, which happens a lot when it’s not diagnosed. So I just got a lucky break that it was caught.

Born Inside This Thing

Today at TCJ, we've got a nice long conversation with Judith Brodie, the curator of the National Gallery's "Sense of Humor" show. Austin English took the helm for this one:

A show of works on paper, Sense of Humor, is currently on view at the National Gallery, and runs until January 6th. It's an exhibition anyone interested in cartooning should make note of. Work by George Herriman, Winsor McCay, Saul Steinberg, and others are on view, as are prints by Francisco de Goya, Leonardo da Vinci, and William Hogarth. Comic art is rarely on view in major institution. This exhibit becomes, in this way, an important opportunity to view works by the masters of the form in person, alongside major figures in caricature like Hogarth. Herriman on display with Hogarth provides a moment to confront the first gestations of cartooning alongside the mediums rich fulfillment.

 

The Chicago Tribune (rightly) got to feature Marvel's latest big hire: Eve Ewing, the notable Chicago poet and academic who most recently won an Alex Award for her Haymarket poetry collection, Electric Arches. Ewing will be writing a new ongoing series for Marvel, Ironheart, based around a character created by Brian Michael Bendis during his run on the Iron Man character. We blogged about an earlier campaign from November to make this very thing happen if you're interested in how it came to be.

 

If you had been anxiously waiting to find out what happened next to the guys from Meltdown Comics following their announcement of a vaguely defined "online venture" mentioned back when they closed their store in March, wait no more: it has something to do with a Home Shopping Network for generation Z, Lebron James' money, and Aaron Levent, who--as described in a now understandably timed piece--left his trade show empire behind days after Meltdown closed their doors. Like Meltdown's historic decision to accept Bitcoin (famously covered in a Publishers Weekly article called "The Future of Retail" a few months prior to them embracing the future of being closed), i'm sure this has the potential to be successful.

 

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, site editor Daniel Elkin has an early look at Tara Booth's Nocturne, an upcoming release from 2dcloud.

When it’s all said and done, Tara Booth’s new book, NOCTURNE, published by 2dCloud [sic], is, at its heart, a dirty joke told in long form for 64 wordless pages of painted images that almost garishly swirl with undulating blues and reds that highlight Booth’s knack for self-mockery and heartfelt exploration of both the mundane and the surreal. In its telling, though, Nocturne touches upon issues of consent, sexual politics, gender norms, insomnia, pharmacology, and communal living. Even with all this, though, Booth has created a book that ultimately ends on a note of acceptance, joy, and positivity.

 

Over at The New Yorker, Francoise Mouly had a brief conversation with Nora Krug about Krug's upcoming graphic novel on World War II. 

Did anyone refuse to talk, or give you answers you felt were inaccurate? If so, how did you deal with that?

Nobody refused to talk to me, even people I encountered during my field research, people I had never met before in my life. Inaccuracy was a problem when it came to some of the wartime stories that had been told over the course of generations in my family. For instance, there is a rumor that my maternal grandfather’s mother had been Jewish, and that that same grandfather had hidden his former employer, who was Jewish, in a garden shed during the war. I tried as much as I could to get to the bottom of those claims, but don’t believe that they are true. I suspect that they were a by-product of the guilt my family felt after the war—stories that made living with the shame a little easier.

Back

Today on the site, Mel Schuit reviews the latest from Lisa Hanawalt, Coyote Doggirl.

Lisa Hanawalt’s Coyote Doggirl follows CD and her trusty steed Red through a tireless journey of separation, inner-healing, and good-old fashioned Western revenge. We begin the story with CD and Red being pursued by three dogs on horseback, though we have no context for the pursuit and CD doesn’t seem keen to provide readers with one. Instead, her one-sided conversations are observational and stream of consciousness, and they provide a superficial but witty look at the thoughts of a cowboy whose daily interactions are limited to talking to a horse.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

I just got back from a week on a lake by the woods without checking the internet even once, so I am blessedly free of almost all knowledge of what happened in comics last week, except for the small amount I was able to glean from an hour or so of research and a telephone call with Tucker last night. So I apologize that the links will be few today. I'll try to catch up on the highlights I missed, and should be all caught up soon.

—Reviews & Commentary. Over at Smash Pages, Brigid Alverson reports from this year's Graphic Medicine Festival in two parts. It is nice to see that Whit Taylor, who covered the festival for us four years ago, is now a keynote speaker.

Over at the consistently impressive Inks blog, Craig Fischer writes about the influences he sees in Ben Passmore's Daygloayhole.

Daygloayhole begins with the apocalypse in media res. The opening splash is a mélange of smoke, crumbling buildings, and long-lasting screams represented by massive word balloons extending to the near-bleed of the vertical panel borders. Giant whistling cockroaches scuttle by, while “Mad Maxy marauders” and “dystopian subterranean cannibal societies” point to a self-aware “lame ‘90s vision of the future.” The most common visual element of the early pages of Daygloayhole, however, are silver obelisks that explode from the ground—“their lacquered fingers jutting from under piles of florescent gravel”—to loom over the landscape. This whirlwind of inexplicable cataclysmic events hints at another major influence on Passmore: B.P.R.D., the Mike Mignola-masterminded series about the slow end of Hellboy’s world from the point-of-view of humans only dimly aware of the reasons for Doomsday.

Michael Dooley writes about the New York Times's recent controversial coverage of comics.

The New York Times got it wrong about the highly hyped Batman #50 with its description of the caped crusader’s nuptials to Catwoman. Hordes of fanboys went batshit crazy, seriously shocked and outraged that the surprise dénouement to a storyline that they’d been following for 49 issues was revealed three full days before the comic book’s official release. The writer, George Gene Gustines, later apologized, admitting that “We should have given more thought…” about whether to include the reveal in the headline, regardless of the fact that his feature had been cheekily tucked in the “Style” section’s Vows column. But then, the Gray Lady hasn’t really given much thought, much less respect, to the medium – which it regularly, dismissively, and, well, incorrectly refers to as a “genre” – since comics’ inception well over a century ago.

Over at his Facebook page, Rick Veitch writes about his experiences self-publishing via Amazon's POD service, CreateSpace.

With seven titles released via CreateSpace since 2015, I’ve been cogitating over what I like and don’t like about about the system. The basics are pretty simple; its a Print-On-Demand scheme that includes distribution and fulfillment through amazon. Let’s start with what I like:

1) There are no upfront production costs except the sweat equity of producing the comic.
2) The system is easy to learn.
3) Per unit costs for B&W books are quite reasonable.
4) No inventory to manage.
5) Immediate availability on Amazon USA and Europe.
6) Printing and binding is very good for Print-On-Demand.
7) Direct deposit of royalties.
8) When they screw up they quickly make it right.
9) The backlist remains available indefinitely.
10) Books are dated when printed.

—RIP.

Rawk Salt

Today at TCJ, Paul Buhle is here, with Spain Rodriguez in tow. It's time for a big heaping of comics criticism: class is in sesh.

The origins of Spain’s artist-political saga find their proper scholar in this volume, as they will not be found elsewhere. Rosenkranz wants us to learn, at close range, about the artist’s background (his father was of Spanish descent) and his upbringing in Buffalo, a good tough town with a long history of an avant-garde underground (the most famed of lesbian oral histories WHAT'S THE NAME, long since become a textbook for college classes, traces that side of Buffalo social history) and a unique motorcycle culture as well. The Road Vultures, with a couple dozen young members in the later 1950s and early 1960s, encompassed a sympathy for radical rebelliousness in ways that no organized Left was prepared (then or now, I think) to appreciate. Perhaps it was the long history of local, industrial class conflict taking a new shape amidst factory shutdowns. Perhaps it was the James Dean image of the youthful rebel, a narrative actually cultivated in Hollywood by Communist screenwriters on the run from the FBI. Or perhaps the Road Vultures, motorcycle fanatics who liked to swing their fists when challenged, found their way toward political sympathies thanks to Spain himself, the charismatic youngster and art school dropout encouraged by his mother to draw.

Autoptic is here: the comics arts festival of Minneapolis that will feature the heaviest potential contingent of the TCJ.com you can find outside of...well...nowhere, now that I think about it. There's a couple of regular columnists who will be there, i'll be there, and if you go to NYC, it's just Tim, a man alone. So come on by the show, you'll recognize me as the guy who is holding an Eisner in one hand and about to take your money with the other.

2001 goes HOJO: I admit, I have a hard time believing something this glorious is real. But maybe it is and I'm the asshole. It just seems too perfect.

The Comics Bulletin's review of Georgia Webber's Dumb is a solid look inside a comic I quite liked. Daniel Gehen has that for you.

 

Bring On Dredd

Today at TCJ, we've got some deep dive theorizing, courtesy of R.C. Harvey. This time around, Harvey's Hare Tonic column is taking on one of comics great unanswered (and unanswerable) questions: "Who Invented Milton Caniff's Most Famous Character?" That character is, of course, The Dragon Lady, the pirate that launched tens and thousands of lazy, offensive stereotypes, whose name is mostly regarded now as insulting shorthand for whenever a man feels threatened by a woman. Where did she come from? Harvey's on the case.

Speaking of cases, the legal world has once again found its way to comics. Legal watch! 

*Gerard Jones, who wrote a bunch of DC Comics back in the day, was sentenced to six years in federal prison for the possession of child pornography. 

*The above tweet seems to be, so far, the only public mention of a rumored defamation lawsuit brought by cartoonist Cody Pickrodt against multiple figures in the comics scene, including TCJ contributors, well known publishers, cartoonists and others, all of whom are allegedly being accused of defaming Mr. Pickrodt last year, when a swell of condemnations regarding the cartoonist began circulating on Twitter. The condemnations--some of which are still readable by simply searching for Pickrodt's name--are not at all dissimilar from the sort of language that surrounds multiple other cases of alleged sexual harassment, but if this lawsuit is real, that would be a bit of a twist. TCJ has reached out to multiple individuals reportedly involved in the above events, but as of yet, none have responded. More, as they say, to come.

(Except for the Gerard Jones thing, that one is a done deal.)

The Bronos Quartert

Today at TCJ, we're pleased to welcome the always on point Irene Velentzas back these digital pages, with her look at Marguerite Dabaie's The Hookah Girl. 

Dabaie's work manages not to take itself too seriously despite covering difficult issues. Dabaie’s gentle hand and delightful humor makes her collection incredibly robust. Her style shifts from that of a detailed woven tapestry to a simplistic comic math equation. She adopts whimsical narrative vehicles like game boards and paper dolls, shaping them to fit her narrative style. Dabaie’s initially controversial chapter “Should/Am” speaks to the dangers of caricaturing a culture by caricaturing that very culture. “Should/Am” displays the Arab woman as a number of stereotypes, showing how controversial and disparate such projections onto the female Arab are. Using the cut-out paper-doll template as a visual motif, Dabaie simultaneously suggests that such views of Arab women as humble and holy mothers, strong revolutionaries, and tantalizing sexual seductresses are as flimsy and two-dimensional as the paper itself. However, this same motif underlies her own cultural concern that Arab women are culturally secondary to men – a familial problem she struggles with in trying to assert her own identity as an artist and facing fears of inconsequentiality and failure.

Over at SyFy, you'll find one of those oral history pieces on The Death of Superman story arc: something tells me you'll know if you're the target audience for this one. I am, and even though I grimaced a little bit when the panel countdown lead up got referred to as a "subtle" piece of design, it's a pretty entertaining look at a moment in pop culture that has no chance of ever being recreated.

Over at Conundrum, they're announcing deals like they're going out of style: but deals never go out style.

At Women Write About Comics, you'll find an all-too-brief interview with long time web cartoonist Stan Stanley. I'm 100% in the tank for people younger than I am, even as I know they, at best, want me dead and possibly on fire, but there's a decent portion of my interest that is dedicated to finding out what happens to an artist after they've been clocking the hours for a while--when being the trendsetter wears off, when the news cycle moves along--and this conversation fits the bill nicely.

The New Yorker is the place to go if you'd like to see an excerpt of Lisa Hanawalt's upcoming Coyote Doggirl, which drops next week.

Nothing Behind The Eyes

Today at the Comics Journal, AJ McGuire is here to spread the gospel of Now, making for the sort of back-to-back Eric Reynolds related content that feeds conspiracies. 

The comics in Now do look different than the ones in Mome, but the difference has more to do with the changes in taste of the new generation of cartoonists than in any editorial direction. Dan Clowes and other 90’s alternative cartoonists’ influence were felt all across Mome, but they're practically non-existent in Now. Both thematically and stylistically the influence of the big Alternative cartoonists has receded as a dominant force. A comic in Mome like Paul Hornschiemier’s “Life With Mr Dangerous”, with its listless protagonist muddling her way through bad relationships, a dead-end job, and self-loathing felt like a relic on a recent re-read. It’s likely that no cartoonists with work in Now would list Peter Bagge as an influence, but he was clearly a major one for Kurt Wolfgang’s comics in Mome, with their rubbery armed characters getting into mischief and lazing about. There is little self-loathing in any of Now’s comics, and Now issues #1 - #3 might contain the least amount of cross-hatching of any non-genre comics anthology series published in the last 40 years. The one thing Now is best at is showing exactly how much the comics canon has been blown open in the last ten years.

Elsewhere, the organizers of CAKE would like up-and-coming artists who could use some financial assistance in putting together a mini-comic to apply for the organization's Cupcake Award. The information on how to do that is right here, as well as the submission guidelines.

2dcloud is about to put out Leif Goldberg's Lost in the Fun Zone, so now is a good a time as any to watch this short video and get amped.

 

His Brother’s Corpse

Today at TCJ, a week of absence begins: the absence of Tim Hodler, that is! He's off on vacation somewhere with his family, worshipping Satan or whatever, I wasn't actually paying attention. It's you and me all week. Traditionally, Tim going out of town and leaving Dan the reins all week meant chaos reigned--amongst other examples, Dan on his own resulted in "sell your boots", which, if you're old enough to remember what that means...well, you should probably get a life. So should I! I doubt the same thing will happen this week, but I'll give it a shot.

Our opener piece today is a six thousand word doozy: and it actually features Tim, so consider it your methadone. You may remember that a recent announcement regarding Amazon's latest move into original comics content was met with derision by Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds via Twitter--well, Tim got ahold of Eric and unpacked that derision. There's  a lot to chew on:

But what that’s hiding in your view is an attempt to take over the market and become a monopoly. Am I right about that’s what you’re saying basically?

I guess so, basically! For the last twenty years people have been complaining about Diamond having a monopoly on the direct market, and what we’re looking at here is Amazon having a monopoly on the entire retail economy of our country [laughter], if not globally. So it’s like, you know, let’s have some perspective about that, right?

At least know what you’re doing.

Yeah, at least just know what you’re dealing with. I think I am approaching it from a moral point of view, but I’m not even necessarily advocating smash the state or whatever, I’m just saying let’s just be up front about this and acknowledge that I can’t just compliment comiXology for publishing a couple of comic books when I know that there are these broader ramifications. And I feel like I have a semi-unique vantage point on it, by being a publisher that has worked with Amazon literally from day one, in the city of Seattle.

Today's review comes to you from Tegan O'Neil, who is here with a look at David B's latest, Hasib & the Queen of Serpents, from nbm. As Tegan puts it, it's another exercise in perfection: 

You could blow up a page of Hasib and the Queen of Serpents – any page, it really doesn’t matter – on an overhead projector and conduct a line-by-line audit if you so desired. What does this line do? Is everything in order? Ah, I see, it is precisely this width for exactly this length, everything appears to be in order. What a wonderful index finger!

Over at Inkstuds, there's a fine episode up featuring Sloane Leong, who you may know from right here, but are as likely, if not more so, to know her from her excellent comics.

This brief piece about Elfquest shout-outs by Claire Napier is a solid piece of theorizing, as well as a startling reminder that there was more than one issue of Norm Breyfogle's Prime.

There's only one way to celebrate Bob McLeod's birthday, which is to look at pictures of old super-hero comics he inked over at Diversions of the Groovy Kind. 

Remember the Maine

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Soviet Daughter, a hybrid memoir/biography by Julia Alekseyeva about her Russian-born great-grandmother.

The subject of Julia Alekseyeva's biographical comic Soviet Daughter, her great-grandmother Lola, left her life savings to her great-granddaughter. However, Alekseyeva's real inheritance was Lola's memoir, which she instructed her family not to read until she died. Khinya "Lola" Ignatovskaya was born in 1910 and lived through the Soviet revolution in her native Kiev. A first-person memoir of an average citizen who lived through the twentieth century and beyond (she died at the age of a hundred) is interesting enough on its own, but a memoir of Soviet Russia from the point of view of a Jewish woman is especially fascinating. Alekseyeva ties Lola's narrative to hers, bluntly stating that she never felt close to any family members except her great-grandmother. She weaves autobiographical interludes between chapters of Lola's story, creating a tapestry that unites the narratives of two kindred spirits.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Harvey Award nominations have been announced. They've drastically slimmed down and revamped their award categories, somewhat bafflingly including a movie & television award. It's disingenuous of me to say baffling, as the reason is obvious: they envy the cultural currency of superhero movies, and don't have confidence in their own medium.

—Interviews & Profiles. NPR's All Things Considered continues to talk to cartoonists. This week, it's Thi Bui.

"I'd heard a lot of the stories growing up, and the stories were pretty heavy, and I would often hear them at times when I wasn't ready, so I had this kind of heaviness that I grew up with, and I wanted to make sense of the stories." Bui says she struggled with those stories of war and trauma and hardship, that they cast a shadow over her life. Then she had a son, and that experience shifted the way she approached The Best We Could Do. "I think that maybe if I had done it as not a parent, I might have been happy to just dwell in my trauma, but with a baby in hand, I was really concerned with not passing on that trauma myself, and so I needed to filter stuff out so I could pass on something cleaner."

—Reviews & Commentary. Dominic Umile wrote a short report of the Sue Coe exhibition currently on view at PS1 in New York.

Coe, “who has worked at the juncture of art and activism to expose injustices and abuses of power,” has been to approximately 40 slaughterhouses around the world, arranging reporting trips through contacts in the meat industry. At the PS1 show, the drawings and paintings that stem from this project are expectedly nightmarish, rife with dark and ghastly scenes of assembly line carnage. Animal innards are strewn about, and each depiction of the dungeon-like settings is spattered with black, blood-like pools of Rembrandt printer’s ink. Steel drums in her large-scale canvas Slaughterhouse, Tucson (1989) brim with severed pigs’ heads. Pencil roughs of New York City’s meatpacking district, Abu Dhabi, and slaughterhouses in Detroit accompany the finished Porkopolis pieces at the museum, and Coe includes quotes from floor workers in observational notes jotted beneath the paintings.

Tablet has published an oddly formatted, mostly negative dialogue/review of Michael Kupperman's All the Answers.

One problem is that Kupperman never really got the goods. Even before Joel, the father, was overrun by senility, he was a terrible interview, repressed and reticent and terrified of introspection. Kupperman the author gives himself a lot of grief for betraying his father by writing this book, but the truth is that he’s a model of filial piety. When writing about his father and grandmother, he basically sticks to what he knows or what he can reasonably surmise. Which is a gracious thing to do, but it keeps him, and his readers, far from the terror at the heart of his story. Especially given that his father is too far gone to read this book, Kupperman could have ventured imaginatively into his father’s psyche, rooted around in there, and returned to draw some pretty scary scenes.

Over at HiLobrow, Gary Panter shares his enthusiasm for The Outer Limits.

The first interdimensional swell-headed alien to appear was David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin, a very hip blond heartthrob, on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was thrilling and odd to see the ultimate cool spy-show dude appear with a giant brain, extended fingers, shiny star-man skin and the pained glistening expression of a misunderstood creature — out of its element, come to town to wreak physics-modifying havoc. I was so excited and did see a few more episodes, but my favorite shows seemed to always coincide with church service times, so that I could only see the first couple minutes of something like The Outer Limits before being whisked off to The Angry God Show. Damn!

High on Liar

Today at TCJ, Brian Nicholson is here with a review of Alex Graham's Angloid, one of Kilgore's most recent releases.

This visual language feels like a direct communication method, in the manner of the "letter from a friend" feeling you get from a certain type of zine, but also seems to contain a degree of objective distance, which seems related to the Be-Ings' observational perspective. The comedic tone is closer to what you see in screwball comedy than the essayistic intimacy that defines the sense of humor you normally get from people writing about themselves. The voice is neither self-righteous nor self-deprecating. It never feels like Alex Graham is trying to score points of sympathy with the reader for the way people mistreat her theoretical stand-in. There's a sequence where a boy Angloid dates plays in a rock band with lyrics that can be interpreted as misogynist, lamenting a girl with "daddy issues," but the book never highlights this as villainous: If you see it that way, there's a joke there, but the neutrality of the storytelling seems to understand why a dude that dates Angloid might have reason to be wary and judgmental.

We at the Comics Journal support this man in his efforts.

Over at Manga Tokyo, there's a brief piece about manga piracy that claims the practice is responsible for 1.3 trillion yen in damages. 11 billion USD?

CNN ran a piece on Dubai's only spot to get Funko Pops. Here that piece is!

 

Awake at Night

Today on the site, Frank M. Young digs deep into comics history, as is his wont, to explore one of the many lesser-known careers in comics that are probably even more revealing than the more famous ones all fans already know by heart.

Born in 1924 in Springfield, Illinois, Dean Miller was an eager artist from early childhood. His cartooning career began at age 16 in the Houston, Texas area where he grew up. World War II interrupted his comics work; he spent four years in the Air Force, where he was stationed in Fort Myers and Miami, Florida. He was a gunnery instructor and taught aboard a B-52 bomber. There, he developed a love for boxing.

After WWII, Miller moved to Chicago, where he found work grinding prescription lenses for eye-glasses—a trade he learned from his father, who was an ophthalmologist. Around this time, he also considered a career as a minister. These work options were dropped when he was hired by the Chicago Tribune to continue Merkel’s strip.

At age 24, Miller was perhaps the youngest syndicated cartoonist in America. A photograph taken at the Trib’s 1948 Christmas party shows Miller beaming with youthful confidence, his slight frame dwarfed in a big-shouldered, double-breasted suit coat. He points backward to a Christmas tree decorated with original drawings by the Tribune cartoonists. A Chester Gould drawing of Dick Tracy hangs over Miller’s head.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. ProPublica has a story on Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter's unofficial role essentially running the VA for the Trump administration.

If the bureaucracy resists the trio’s wishes, Perlmutter has a powerful ally: The President of the United States. Trump and Perlmutter regularly talk on the phone and dine together when the president visits Mar-a-Lago. “On any veterans issue, the first person the president calls is Ike,” another former official said. Former administration officials say that VA leaders who were at odds with the Mar-A-Lago Crowd were pushed out or passed over. Included, those officials say, were the secretary (whose ethical lapses also played a role), deputy secretary, chief of staff, acting under secretary for health, deputy under secretary for health, chief information officer, and the director of electronic health records modernization.

Roz Chast has won a Visionary Woman Award from Moore College.

—Interviews & Profiles. Emil Ferris was a recent guest on NPR's All Things Considered.

Born into a family of artists, Ferris loved to draw — her school notebooks were full of doodles and stories, just like Karen's. As an adult, she worked as a housekeeper to make ends meet when her illustration work wasn't enough. She says that as a single mother, she often brought her young daughter along to the houses she cleaned, "and then we would talk about stories. That was something we did together to keep the magic in us, because that kind of work is really hard on you."

On the occasion of the new David Wojnarowicz exhibit at the Whitney, Steve Brower reviews the show and talks to James Romberger about the book they collaborated on.

David was very serious and focused, but he was also kind and funny. He had suffered a lot and this continued to his death, but I’ve never met a more empathetic individual. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of his anger, though.

How did Seven Miles A Second come about?

We had spoken about comics, which influenced his visual symbology, but he didn’t consider himself to be much of a draftsman and in fact, his earlier work is a bit unrefined. He had a sharp learning curve though and got a lot better very quickly. After we closed our gallery in 1987, before “graphic novels” existed, we began talking about the comic and worked out a 3-part structure for what is really a graphic novella. He respected my abilities in graphic storytelling and allowed me to edit his raw text to craft a narrative that conformed to our agreed-upon structure from a pile of typed autobiographical fragments, overheard monologues and dream journals.

Barnes & Noble interviewed Scott McCloud on the 25th anniversary of Understanding Comics.

Thinking back to 1993, I’m curious about the reception to Understanding Comics—from comics experts on the one hand, and from the broader art world on the other. I’d imagine that different camps had very different things to say.

Comics experts gave it a mostly warm reception at the beginning, but then the various debates started and have never really stopped; which is how it should be. I haven’t been directly engaged in a lot of those debates; I like to let the book speak for itself; but the last few years have been interesting. I might dive back in a bit more soon.

Smithsonian Magazine takes a look at the revamped Nancy, which continues to get more press coverage than any legacy strip I can remember, interviewing new artist Olivia Jaimes, as well as Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik.

“Before I even got approached, I’d kind of become an old-school Nancy fanatic. It’s so clean,” Jaimes says, who was approached by the strip’s owners because of her previous comics work (done under her real name) and her known love for the history of Nancy. “It was so ahead of its time. Some of these panels were written in the 1930s and are still funny today. My affection for this old comic strip kind of leaked out of my pores.” That affection is what drew the publishers of Nancy, Andrews McMeel Syndication, to Jaimes and made her the first woman to draw Nancy. “Plenty of men have written young girl characters for a long time, and that is demonstrably fine,” Jaimes says. “But there are definitely parts of girlhood that I really haven’t seen reflected.”

The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Bill Plympton.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The New Republic, Josephine Livingstone writes about Nick Drnaso's Sabrina.

There are a lot of pages without any words on them in Sabrina. No commentary, no thought bubbles.
The story that plays out across its 204 pages is simple, brief even. But the book takes its length from its pacing. Nick Drnaso moves his story at the speed of ordinary human life. In the real world, it takes about six panels to get ready for bed, and nobody talks while they do it. Events both small (conversations) and large (tragedies) do occur, but so do the many interstitial hours we spend alone, driving or just thinking. In this sense Drnaso’s scenes play out like the opposite of an old-school comic. In the work of Aline Kominsky Crumb, say, life is sped up and boiled down and whipped into crackling humor. But Drnaso takes it slowly, and that’s what makes it feel like a novel.

At New Politics, Kent Worcester writes about a slate of politically oriented comics, including Hypercapitalism, The Young C.L.R. James, and Prisoner 155.

Agustín Comotto is a gifted cartoonist and children’s book illustrator whose latest book tells the story of the Ukrainian-born Simón Radowitzky (1891-1956). Radowitzky was an anarchist of the “propaganda of the deed” variety who spent twenty-one years in a penal colony for using a homemade bomb to kill the Chief of the Argentine Federal Police, and his secretary, in 1909. Pardoned in 1930, Radowitzky marched off to Spain, where he fought alongside other anarchists during the Spanish Civil War. At the time of his death, he was working in a toy factory in Mexico. In his foreword, Stuart Christie describes Radowitzky as “a committed humanist imbued with a deep sense of justice who never expressed regret for the two lives he took.” While it may be an exaggeration to describe Prisoner 155 as “comparable to Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis,” Comotto’s pages are engaging, and anyone with an interest in early twentieth-century anarchism will be intrigued.

Release

Today at TCJ, Keith Silva is here to talk about a certain 80's mini-series from a couple of first-timers that may not be on your radar, but should be: Dakota North.

To say Dakota North was an outlier is a disservice to outliers. The moment Ms. North starts stylin’ is when the ground began to shift under comics—Dakota North #3 comes out the same month as Batman: The Dark Knight #4 and Watchmen #1. Now, it would be an act of hubris and hyperbole to say two neophyte creators like Thomases and Salmons (even with a wily vet like Hama at the helm) would come close to equaling the murder’s row of Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lyn Varley, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. Proximity to greatness does not make something great, and Dakota North is not on par with the craft, canniness and inventiveness of those 80s masterpieces. And yet what Dakota North lacks in artistic pedigree it makes up for in chutzpah, idiosyncrasy and how it outdistances its peers in representation and female agency. So subtle is it in its subversion, representation and agency it almost passes as insignificant, almost. What Dakota North wanted was be seen as an equal in her world and the world writ large. She was a disruption of the status quo and way ahead of her time, perhaps even today.

Over at Women Write About Comics, Rosie Knight has a rundown of some of the titles Silver Sprocket has coming this summer

Over at Comicosity, there's an excellent interview with cartoonist Eliana Falcón, who talks about how she managed the demands of survival while cartooning over the last year in Puerto Rico and what impact that has had on her main project, Cosmic Fish.

I should never get started on the subject of advance info, but this time I can't resist: I should not have to rely on text messages from freelance contributors to find out that David Quinn, the once and future Faust king, will soon publish his first picture book. Get your shit together, Penguin Random House. No one in this melting nightmare of a country is more pumped about this book than this editor right here. As many, many men who fit my demographic particulars have said before and will say again until they bury us under the cemetery: don't you know who the fuck I am?

Over at The Believer, they're knee deep in victory laps over the recent website relaunch. Beyond the pages of comics content--from people like Ben Passmore, Leela Corman, Michael Kuppmerman, to say nothing of the bittersweet archive of what Alvin Buenaventura put together for the magazine over the years--the Believer's interview archive is a legitimate gold mine of cartoonists in conversation. Pick an over the top metaphor, they all are gonna work--there is a ton of great shit on that site.

Hot Town

Today on the site, we have a review of Super Late Bloomer, a new comics memoir by Julia Kaye.

The comics industry has seen a surge of trans-centric comics within the past few years, particularly works inspired by the real-world experiences of transgender individuals. Some examples include Dylan Edwards’ Transposes and German cartoonist Sarah Barczyk’s Nenn mich Kai. One of the more recent installments in this trend is Julia Kaye’s comic diary Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition, published by Andrews McMeel.

As readers of The Comics Journal may already know, Andrews McMeel is a standard publisher for bound collections of newspaper strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, and Non Sequitur. In this respect, Super Late Bloomer’s publication with Andrews McMeel speaks volumes. Kaye’s first and only book-length publication to date, it is a bound collection of select strips from her acclaimed web comic Up and Out. Though the web comic began as a run-of-the-mill gag strip, Up and Out transformed alongside Kaye herself into an autobiographical comic documenting her personal life as a transgender woman. Super Late Bloomer is a selection of these daily autobiographical strips covering less than one year that document Kaye’s first months of hormone transition. It operates as a comic diary of sorts, brimming with all the emotional poignancy and self-expression typical of any diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Robert Boyd reviews the excellent-looking new Tardi book, I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB.

Jacques Tardi encouraged his father, René Tardi, to write down his memories of being a POW in a Nazi prison camp during World War II in the early 80s. Some 30 years later, Jacques drew it as a two part graphic novel. I, Rene Tardi, Prisoner Of War In Stalag IIB part 1 has just been published in English.

Not surprisingly, given the ongoing excellence of Jacques Tardi, it's superb. Tardi draws it as a dialogue between himself and his father--drawing himself as a boy in shorts and his father as a young man. But aside from the narrative structure (a father telling his son about what happened to him during the war), it is drawn as a narrative of the war and the camp, Stalag IIB. So while René Tardi engages in a tank battle or starves in a barracks in Pomerania, Jacques, depicted as a boy, is always standing nearby, as if he were there. This surreal touch made me think of David B, a much younger cartoonist but one who has had a fairly profound effect on French Comics.

Charles Hatfield reviews a book that is must-reading for old-school TCJ readers, Sparring with Gil Kane.

Sparring with Gil Kane is a book of conversations, but its title suggests a contest or bout, as if intellectual disputation were a knuckle-bruising donnybrook or prizefight—or perhaps the equivalent of a few rounds among friendly but formidable partners. That sounds about right, because it seems that the late Gil Kane (1926-2000), a voluble critic of comics as well as a great comics artist, became a self-taught intellectual partly for competitive reasons, that is, to avoid being outfaced and humiliated by those he worked for. By his own admission, Kane’s early efforts at serious self-education were spurred by masculine oneupmanship. Sparring is the brainchild of Fantagraphics publisher and longtime Comics Journal editor Gary Groth, who seems to have shared in that sense of argument as competitive sport (oh the debates that Kane, Groth, and the late Burne Hogarth, another fierce and fluent conversationalist, must have had—theirs is a legendary circle of talk). Indeed Sparring comes across as a semi-autobiographical book for Groth, even though he was not involved in all of the conversations captured within it.

—Interviews & Profiles. At Hazlitt, Chris Randle talks to Sloane Leong.

It is funny that Prism Stalker started as a novel, because the story most reminds me of this species of psychosomatic ’70s science fiction—I was thinking of writers like Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler. Was that in the back of your mind?

Oh, totally. I think the most apparent inspiration is Sailor Moon, magical girls shouting out moves, and I wanted to take that and—not dissect it, but elaborate on it, instead of just being like “this is my water attack.” There’s one move, I think in the fifth issue that I just drew, it’s this frog alien and her move is forcing someone to experience what it’s like to give birth to hatchlings from their back [laughs]. That’s like her psychic move and it’s very traumatizing if you’re not a frog alien. I just try to take that idea of transmitting an experience and go really weird with it.

That made me think of—Dan O’Bannon, who wrote the screenplay for Alien and came up with the basic concept and everything, he had Crohn’s disease, and I think he understandably had a lot of frustration and trauma surrounding that. So he was like, my idea for this horror story is, what if men got impregnated?

Because that’s what it feels like, yeah. Body horror is a big thing for me. I have chronic [gastrointestinal] disease, so every time I eat I get nauseous and sick, it’s been happening since I was a tween. So I have this disgust and—not complete fear, but a dread-filled fascination with my body, because I’m not in control of it, and I’ve had cancer scares and stuff. Asthma. The body is so crazy, in how it can turn on itself. That’s a big inspiration for the entire world [of Prism Stalker].

The most recent guests on RiYL are Matt Groening and Michael Kupperman.

—Misc. Comics scholar and TCJ columnist R.C. Harvey is crowdfunding Hand Drawn Life, a documentary on the history of newspaper strips.

Unlike other works on this subject, Hand Drawn Life traces the history of the newspaper comic strip by detailing its effects on the readers and its impact on society. The film explores not just the timeline of their creation but the emotional connections these drawings have had, and are still having, on the reader.

These strips are arguably the first form of American pop culture. Unlike the books, sheet music and traveling side shows of the late 19th and early 20th century, newspaper comics were syndicated to papers across the country, thanks to William Randolph Hearst. This meant for the first time, people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere could read the same cartoon at the same time. These cartoons united the country in a common entertainment experience like never before. And they continue to connect readers to this day.

With interviews from 20 of the greatest names in the comic strip world, both creators and historians, the story unfolds without a narrator. The people that know best weave history and personal experience into a tale of modern American culture.

Don’t Believe The Gripe

Today we've got a special Friday surprise: Matt Seneca is here with a look at Barry Windsor Smith's Weapon X.

Maybe the biggest part of what makes superhero comics so unpalatable to the uninitiated (and vice versa) is how referential they are, how enamored every panel is not just with contributing to a larger construction, but with its consciousness of doing that. Part of this is simply good salesmanship, but I think it's more due to the fact that guys who make superhero comics really really love superhero comics. Like stoned stoners talking about getting stoned, they just can't resist bringing up that other time when, and the people who were there, and how much, and why. Reveling, stewing sweetly in their own juices. Weapon X feels very different. Here is a superhero comic that seems not just to dislike superhero comics but to truly hate them - coldly, furiously.

Today sees the fifth and final day of Ian Densford's Cartoonist Diary, which sees him exploring the natural world. Thanks for stopping by, Ian!

Over at The Smart Set, Chris Mautner takes explanation detail, getting into the meat of why Copra is a lot more than callback porn.

Fiffe is obsessed with depicting motion, breaking his battle sequences down so they seem like they’re moving in slow, “bullet time” or arranging them so everything appears to be frantically fast. He often distorts things to the point where the action breaks down to pure abstract shapes, only to reform once again into recognizable figures. His use of color is extraordinary.

Over at io9, Evan Narcisse spoke with Ann Nocenti at length and in detail about Seeds, her new comic with David Aja...and her work with John Romita Jr., which has become the Paul's Boutique of Daredevil runs.

Now, I think I bury it deeper. Back then, I always tried to show both sides. I never would say, “Here’s these eco-terrorists and they’re dumping oil to stop a corporation from dumping oil in a river.” I always tried to show both sides, and now I’m letting it seep in a really different kind of way. It’s all subtext. Like, there’s an animal rights angle coming up in the next issue [of The Seeds]. I did an animal rights story in Daredevil 30 years ago that was too heavy-handed, in my mind. I go back and read those comics and go like, “You know, you should have kicked some sand over those ideas, Annie.” Now I’m still trying to kick more sand over it, but they’re still things that obsess me.

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, you'll find Rob Clough reviewing Shit Is Real, Alisha Franz new book with Drawn & Quarterly.

Not only is the audience made privy to her every desire, Franz drowns the reader in layer upon layer of Selma's dream life. Fantasies, dreams, and hallucinations all blend together creating narrative callbacks that provide surprising levels of coherency and connectedness. All throughout the book, a sharp contrast is made between living the life of a primitive and living in the frequently alienating modern world. That distinction often becomes an absurd one and creates much of the book's outrageous humor. Being disconnected from the civilization of conspicuous consumption is not only a sign of weakness in Selma's imagination; it's a sign of being less than human.

If that isn't enough Chicken Enemy for you, the site's editor can be found over at Comics Bulletin, in a wide ranging and heartfelt conversation about why comics criticism is so important to him.

I initially started writing about small press comics around 2012 because I had discovered so many wonderful books, and I just wanted to talk about them with other people. To my dismay, I found myself having a hard time finding people with whom to have those conversations. So much around the genre is focused on superhero comics and very little bandwidth was given to these “shitty little stapled Xeroxed things” that were so intensely personal and heartfelt and beautiful. So I thought, maybe if I write about them, more people would read them, and then I could talk to people about them. I’m selfish like that.

 

The Best Revenge

Ian Densford is here with the fourth day of his Cartoonist's Diary.

And Rob Kirby has a review of Aron Nels Steinke's latest kids' comic, Mr. Wolf's Class.

em>Mr. Wolf’s Class, Aron Nels Steinke’s latest graphic novel for young readers, takes place on the first day of fourth grade, when everything is new and exciting and also nerve-wracking—for teachers and students alike. Steinke draws upon his experiences as an elementary educator, which lends authenticity to the story, and features delightfully anthropomorphized versions of himself (as a wolf, obviously) and the rest of the cast, adding an extra layer of cuteness and fun to the proceedings. Although the word “charming” will be (quite correctly) used to describe the book, its quiet championing of inclusivity and tolerance are seriously welcome in our current, scary political climate. It's a book that young children (and quite a number of adults) will find irresistible.

Steinke originally drew “Mr. Wolf” as an autobiographical webcomic for mature readers, presented in brief, generally one-page installments. In those strips, the antics of the kids were seen strictly through Mr. Wolf’s/Steinke's bemused, occasionally bewildered, but always appreciative eyes. The strip also explored the hard work and more-than-occasional angst involved in being responsible for teaching young children.

For Mr. Wolf's Class Steinke changes the focus, not only including but giving priority to the perspectives and experiences of the children.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC has canceled plans to publish a deluxe edition of the Binder/Beck Captain Marvel Monster Society of Evil comics. The publisher cited concerns over content, likely referring to racist caricatures in the comic.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library shared details regarding its new Nicole Hollander collection.

[Hollander] is a Chicago native and one of our most important women cartoonists. Her long running strip Sylvia commented with acerbic wit on political, gender and social issues (plus what it is like to live with a cat) for over 30 years from the late 1970s until Hollander ‘retired’ Sylvia in 2012.

Nicole Hollander studied art at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and later at Boston University. For many years she ran a successful graphic design company in Chicago and it was as graphic design director for the feminist publication The Spokeswoman that she started to experiment with cartoons and the comic strip form.

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times talks to Jeff Smith about his recent transition to picture books.

It took me a while to get the hang of the difference between comics and picture books. I made a picture book a while ago called “Little Mouse Gets Ready,” about a mouse trying to get dressed, for Françoise Mouly, the publisher of Toon Books. The whole story appeared in my head like magic: being a kid and learning to dress, putting on the underwear, struggling with buttons and buttonholes, and the payoff at the end. It took less than two weeks to write, draw and ink that entire book. That’s never happened before and was actually pretty fun.

But “Smiley’s Dream Book” was harder. It was quite a few tries with my editors at Scholastic saying, “This is not a picture book, you just wrote a comic book.” The thing with a picture book is you don’t want to overload the pages with a lot of text. You want the idea to be very simple, but have a point. Finally, I got it. I will say that the kind of stories I wrote for the Bone characters when I was 9 are the kinds I’m doing now as picture books. And I still like to keep elements of comics in there, like they speak in word balloons.

The latest guest on Comics Alternative is Jules Feiffer.

—Commentary. The Independent marks the 80th anniversary of The Beano.

Bolstered by this multimedia success, The Beano’s last set of ABC figures recorded an almost 8 per cent rise; it now sells more than 37,500 copies a week, or 1.86 million copies a year. In a comic market which has dropped by approximately 10 per cent in the same period, these figures are somewhere in the region of miraculous, yet simple testimony to publishers DC Thomson’s knowledge of their market. “Online traffic has grown 900 per cent in the last year,” says Stirling. “Two million kids use the site, which is the number of kids who read the comic itself back in the 1950s.”

Such new technologies are a world away from what was available in 1938, when the Dundee-based newspaper and publishing company had already enjoyed much success with its line of adventure comics and two recent cartoon creations for the Sunday Post newspaper; the still-enduring Broons and Oor Wullie strips. Into this environment of near-guaranteed success, DC Thomson’s head of children’s publishing RD Low authorised a batch of new titles, including one which featured the adventurous ostrich Big Eggo on its cover.

—Misc. Comics critic and frequent TCJ contributor Rob Clough is asking for financial help.

Wednesday’s Satanic Children

Today at TCJ, we've got a big one--a new episode of Comic Decalogue. In this one, Greg Hunter talks with Lauren Weinstein. Don't delay!

After that, it's time to check in with Ian Densford for the third installment in his Cartoonist's Diary. Lots of death drawings: pretty frustrating business!

These past couple of weeks at TCJ have been pretty chaotic and overstuffed. If you haven't been able to hit the site every day, then congratulations on being super busy! While you're relaxing in the bath, pull up the latest TCJ email and drink in an update on all our most recent hot content!

 

Pitchfork

Today, Alex Dueben is here with an interview with the prominent Spanish cartoonist Rubén Pellejer, who is currently working on new Corto Maltese comics.

Tell me about Corto Maltese. What did Hugo Pratt’s comic mean to you?

There was a time when Pratt’s work was fundamental to my evolution as a cartoonist. He had qualities of many of the other American authors that I admired – Milton Caniff, Frank Robbins, Alex Toth, Noel Sickles, etc. – but he also had a simple style of line drawing that was visually very seductive.

Corto Maltese is a character complete with this same visual seduction but who also possesses great charisma. Pratt’s stories take you on a journey and make you feel like you’ve really lived the characters’ stories. That was a huge inspiration to me in my Dieter Lumpen stories.

How did you end up drawing the new series?

CONG SA is the company created by Pratt himself and his longtime colorist Patricia Zanotti. She was the one who contacted Juan Díaz Canales and asked him to write the script. Juan Díaz is a connoisseur of Pratt’s work, and he’s the one who recommended me as an artist to Patricia Zanotti. He told her about my character Dieter Lumpen, who was similar in ways to the character Corto Maltese. Juan Díaz called me up one day and offered me the job.

How do you approach drawing Corto Maltese?

In the beginning I used a very deliberate approach, by which I mean, “Which parts of Pratt’s character and drawing should I take into account, and which ones shouldn’t I?” I think that when it comes to working on the continuation of a series and not just a single book (where you can do an homage without any problem), you have to maintain some of Pratt’s elements and aspects of the character. That is essential. To do otherwise would be distancing oneself from the spirit of the work.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Françoise Mouly talks briefly to Tom Gauld.

Do you have key influences, in terms of your style?

One is the British illustrator William Heath Robinson. He’s particularly known in the U.K. for drawings of eccentric, overcomplicated machines: similar to Rube Goldberg’s contraptions but more beautifully drawn. He also drew brilliant cartoons that captured the absurdities of daily life with a lovely, clear line. I think he’d have drawn an amazing image of a crowded New York beach.

The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is David Lloyd.

—Commentary. Mike Peterson, who has begun writing his "Comic Strip of the Day" feature for The Daily Cartoonist, brings up an interesting but key point about the most recent Jeff Danziger controversy, in which the cartoonist apologized for his depiction of Sarah Huckabee Sanders: the cartoon never actually even ran.

—News. Anne Ishii has been named the new executive director of Philadelphia's Asian Arts Initiative.

Generational Electric

It's Monday at TCJ, and our friend and archaeologist Austin English returns for the latest installment of 10 Cent Museum. I think i'll let what he has put together speak for itself--it should be able to do that very well.

Today's review is from Aug Stone, who has returned to us with his take on Vera Brosgol's graphic novel for young readers, Be Prepared. Wait, did I say young readers? Because Aug is making the case that it's aimed at a wider audience than that!

It may be listed as being for Middle Grade and Young Teens, but Be Prepared will hit home with any adult who ever felt out of place growing up, which is to say, most of us. For Vera - as Brosgol explains in her Author’s Note, this is an autobiographical tale neatly fictionalized – that outsiderness stems from having moved to the United States from Russia at the age of five and not quite fitting in with all the other American kids.

And this week, we launch a new Cartoonist Diary with Ian Densford. Today, he introduces us to his love of Robert Stack, and all that love entails.

Barnes and Noble may have found itself a new crew of bosses, and they brought a pretty interesting record with them.

Rob Clough has a pretty illuminating blog post up on his experience as a former Eisner judge.

The New York Times put up an article covering the field of streaming services (and direct sales systems) that multiple comics publishers are experimenting with. The article also includes a frank discussion of the sales drops that have faced the comics business in the last year. 

Different Fish

It's been a big week at TCJ. Yesterday, Anders Nilsen contributed a graceful, moving, and intelligent piece about the process of helping to complete his friend Geneviève Castrée's final book.

Her lines are perfect, exquisite, and minute. She often worked at nearly the same size at which her work would be printed, which is to say: small. The level of detail is astounding. Her drawings are little wonders. The best artists are like great athletes in that they make what they do look easy. You watch Serena Williams play tennis or Luan Oliveira skate a ledge and it looks so fluid, it feels in your bones like, yes, of course, I could do that, too. And if you try, you find out that it’s a delusion, that it actually took ten thousand hours of practice. It took inhabiting a particular body and mind in a particular place and time in the world. It’s from tracing certain motions every day for years, weaving a path through and between the artists that inspired you as a kid and the colleagues who excite you as a working artist. That feeling of effortlessness is a smokescreen, and even, in a way, a raised middle finger, to the immense amount of time and luck that it takes to get that good. I felt this very keenly when, after Geneviève died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, I sat down to finish my friend’s last book myself. It looked easy. I could feel the movement in my bones. But actually getting it down on paper was far from simple.

Geneviève had been ill for about eighteen months when she died. I knew she was occupying herself with various small projects. She would tell people she wasn’t working, she said she didn’t want to answer the question. She’d say that she was focused on getting well. But every time I went to visit her at her home in Anacortes, Washington, there were little piles of drawings or embroideries on the table next to the couch, on which she spent her days. And it turned out that in the last several weeks that work became more focused. Two days before her death, she sent me a photo of an unfinished drawing for that book, with the accompanying text: “I don’t like to share things before they are finished, but here is what I am doing with my days (while not gasping for air).”

Tegan O'Neil is here with her latest column, this time about Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man.

Sanity is very much a binary choice in the original run of Shade the Changing Man. The story is almost Lovecraftian in terms of the attention paid to the sanity of its hero. The difference is, of course, that madness is inevitable in Lovecraft’s world – inevitable at least for any human who persists in seeking forbidden knowledge. Madness for Steve Ditko here appears to be a malady against which a superior specimen – aided by superior technology, in this instance – might somehow resist.

Why is this preoccupation with madness and sanity so important to this series? Shade is a paranoid book. Literally every member of the cast is suspicious of every other member of the cast, down to parents, children, and lovers. Everyone in the Meta – the rather faceless and indistinct alternate dimension that Shade calls home – is a cop of some kind, or a criminal, or a criminal masquerading as a cop. If you’re not actively working with the Metan government to stamp out crime then you are probably a criminal yourself, let’s just say.

The reader will search in vain for any sign on the part of the author that the obsessively carceral world of Meta is not in fact the oppressive dystopia it appears on first, second, and eighth blush. Every third word out of every character’s mouth is an accusation of treason – perhaps an exaggeration, but only just. The Metan Secret Service, of which Shade served as a member, doesn’t really appear to have a set remit other than the general homeland protection shtick. Business is paranoid hypernationalism without a specific focus besides its own perpetuation and business is very good.

Today also brings Austin Price's review of a new collection of Go Nagai's infamous semi-classic Devilman.

Nagai is after all the overgrown child best known for penning super-robot slugfests like Mazinger and impossibly horny magical girl series like Cutie Honey, a schlockmeister who mistakes wrathful rants about justice and peace delivered over tableaus of splatterhouse gore for the stuff of great insight and sexual comedy so crass it borders on the misogynistic for satire; it seemed telling to me that his most stalwart fans would defend what was dullest and ugliest in Crybaby as the product of Nagai’s genius alone.

What’s most striking upon actually reading the first half of the original Devilman (available in English for the first time in three decades after publisher Seven Seas fished it from the licensing hell Glenn Danzig’s vanity press Verotik's brutal mishandling once stranded it in; the second half will follow in October) is how wrong everyone – not just the fans, not just myself, but Yuasa and Okouchi, as well – got it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Jerusalem Post has fired its longtime cartoonist Ari Katz after he drew an Animal Farm-referencing cartoon of Netanyahu depicted as a pig.

The publication of the cartoon on Tuesday in the Jerusalem Report, a biweekly magazine published by the Jerusalem Post, was met with praise by some and anger by other social media users, with many objecting to his portrayal of the Likud politicians as pigs, which are perceived as among the most ritually impure animals in Judaism.

Following the uproar, the Jerusalem Post announced it would no longer work with Katz.

“Avi Katz is a cartoonist who worked as a freelancer at the Jerusalem Post and in accordance with editorial considerations, it was decided not to continue the relationship with him,” it said in a Hebrew-language statement.

—Reviews & Commentary. Comedy Central's Jim Jefferies Show recently broadcast a sequence interviewing and mocking a prolific anti-diversity-in-comics advocate (read: bigot). This set off a debate online between people who welcomed the critical attention as long-overdue and those who felt it only served to magnify the bigot's profile. It's a complicated, difficult-to-parse issue, especially in the wake of the 2016 election and the media's arguable complicity in it, and one that I am not at all confident I know how to answer correctly. I think many people may overrate the power of public mockery to marginalize hard-right politics. On the other hand, ignoring these figures is unlikely to make them go away. We have to figure this out.

Over at the New York Times Book Review, Hillary Chute reviews Ben Passmore.

The most prominent device of “Your Black Friend” is its conspicuous, insistent use of the intimate, accusatory “you” (“How you use him like an information desk for black people”; “When you forget yourself”). In this, as in many other aspects, it recalls Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric,” which is also distinguished by its repeated “you” (as well as a focus on white friend failure, and the relationship between word and image). But Rankine’s “you” is largely an address to self while Passmore’s is an accusation that feels leveled at readers, pointing to their complicity. It is urgent and productively uncomfortable. “Your Black Friend” is not just a takedown: The narrator himself is vulnerable, as when he reveals that he feels personally mocked by his friend’s thoughtless “black” presentations, and that as a child he would suck his lips in to make them look thin like Leonardo DiCaprio’s.

—Misc. The Believer has posted its full archives online, including its very strong pre-2015 comics features, which were edited by Alvin Buenaventura.

Too Much

Alec Berry is proving his worth this week, returning to collaborate with Tucker Stone on a story about publisher Annie Koyama's decision to shutter Koyama Press by 2021.

Citing personal and professional reasons, Koyama did not characterize the coming closure as a lost financial fight, but as a return to an impetus. For more than a decade, the publisher also sponsored prominent and unknown artists anonymously, enabling specific projects she has mostly kept private. Now, she will expand and push this form of direct financial support without the responsibility of a press occupying most of her time.

“I will not tell the artists how to do anything,” Koyama said. “There are no strings attached. Once I decide to work with an artist, as I have always done with the press, I put enough trust in them and their project not to interfere. They don’t need my creative help, they need money.”

How this next venture will work is still being formulated. Though the projects she supports will not be owned by Koyama, recipients of these “micro-grants” will be expected to fulfill their end of the bargain, whether if be self-publishing the project, offering a performance, or whatever Koyama and the participating party agree to.

Additionally, the publisher expects to continue to pursue broader methods of support by hosting financial and business literary workshops and supplementing residencies. Her support will not be limited to cartoonists, either. Koyama recently supported a feature film and is already contributing support to projects with several fine artists.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Nick Drnaso's Sabrina continues to gather acclaim, and has become the first graphic novel named to the longlist for the Mann Booker Award.

The nomination marks a major breakthrough for the format.

Nick Drnaso’s “Sabrina,” a work that Zadie Smith called “the best book — in any medium — I have read about our current moment,” is the surprise name among the 13 finalists announced today.

It appears alongside Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room,” Sally Rooney’s much-hyped “Normal People” and Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight.”

—Interviews & Profiles. The aforementioned Drnaso talks about the nomination with Abraham Riesman at Vulture.

...how did you feel?

It’s hard not to … It’s hard to convey it without seeming dismissive or ungrateful or something. But I kind of just glossed over the email. For whatever reason, the way I approach making art over the years has just kinda sapped any feeling of satisfaction or excitement I would have about something like that. And I don’t even mean that in such a negative way. I think I just have this wall built up of some kind of self-preservation thing where I don’t let stuff like that in too deeply.

In an unexpected development, the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter has a graphic novel coming out, and talks to Publishers Weekly about it.

Nothing is actually finished in life. In music, when someone stops writing a song, it’s not necessarily finished. The meaning goes on, more than the name, or the era, style and all that. That’s why I used the word Emanon - no name. The record itself is not a soundtrack for the graphic novel. It’s a panorama that always changes. When you keep listening to the music, the music might turn out to be the graphic novel, and the novel might turn out to be the music [laughs].

The most recent guest on the Comics Alternative podcast is Carol Tyler, and the most recent guest on Inkstuds is Paul Kirchner.

—Commentary. Liza Donnelly writes about the history of women cartoonists at The New Yorker.

From The New Yorker’s beginnings, cartoons have been an integral part of the publication, and, from the beginning, women have been drawing them. The first New Yorker cartoon created by a woman, Ethel Plummer, appeared in the première issue, on February 21, 1925. She, like many female contributors of the time, was classically trained, having attended art school to study painting and illustration. She was also active in the suffrage movement, and one can see the feminist perspective in her cartoon of an irreverent flapper. Another cartoonist, Barbara Shermund, drew in a breezier, more modern style, but, like Plummer, her ideas had a feminist bent. Mary Petty, another cartoonist, was self-taught; her drawings often ridiculed the upper classes with their dark tone and sarcastic humor. Perhaps the most famous of the women cartoonists in those early years was Helen Hokinson, whose every stroke of the pen inexplicably seemed to carry humor.

—Misc. Two comics about cartoonists' experiences in museums (to be almost insultingly reductive) have gone online this week, from Gabrielle Bell and Lauren Weinstein.

You Shall Know No Quarter

Today at TCJ, Alec Berry returns to us with an extended profile of David Brothers, who recently left a prominent position at Image Comics to join the San Francisco office of Viz as an editor.

On some Sunday morning I ask Brothers why he quit Image Comics. As the company’s branding manager, he held a desirable spot at a prominent publisher, assisting with book production; helping organize Image Expo; editing an in-house magazine (Image+); and hosting panels and events at conventions nationwide. But by the time December 2017 rolled through, after four and a half years, Brothers tweeted a GIF of Tupac throwing a peace sign into a camera lens. No explanation with it.

“Yeah, Portland sucks,” Brothers responds. “Portland is twee on a level I cannot take.”

Today's review sees the return of our stalwart German contingent of contributors, Oliver Ristau. He's here with a look at Alright, a recent release by the always intriguing Max Baitinger.

But what is Alright about? Once again relationships provide the basis for Baitinger's excursions into the things mankind is constantly struggling with, this time modern communication technology. They say a strong character cannot be bent, and remains true to itself and its shape over its entire life, but it's the opposite that's being depicted when Baitinger's characters try to stay in touch with the help of standardized interfaces – their bodies perform the oddest physical twists while being alone and on their own, only connected by devices forcing an autocratic presetting on consistently malleable personalities. The complementary words are stripped of any fillers, they evince an inborn inclination to submit one's self to an auguring stability and end the pressure of being exposed to an ever changing flow.

The sun is shining (somewhere), which means it's the right time to go over a random sampling of Trevor Von Eeden pages. If, like me, your collection of Thriller is in a box out of arm's reach, never fear: DC in the '80s has you covered with this enthusiastic sprint.

And: then there's us. Like Tim, I did not expect this site to win an Eisner award, and was actually sitting alone in the dark in a strange city, trying to catch up on some of the reviews that my recent move has put me far behind on editing when Jacq emailed us the good news. 

And you know what? It is good news. It's lovely news. I am someone who felt a real kinship for the Comics Journal when I first read it, which, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, was in 2001. I did not grow up in an environment where anyone read or spoke about comic books, and it wasn't until the early days of blogging and message boards that I actually had a conversation with another person about the things. None of my friends had an interest, my brother had stopped looking at Batman when he was 13--it was just something I did on my own. Reading The Journal--long, random articles about comics I had never heard of, which, upon tracking them down, didn't really like that much; weird, bile-filled arguments that I eventually realized were based on decades-old hurt feelings--TCJ didn't shape my taste, but it made me feel comfortable with my desire to take this whole silly thing--this "reading comics thing"--really seriously. And that's always been my guilty pleasure, that's always been the thing I get off on: taking the things I like overly seriously. It isn't a party conversation thing: I know nobody else wants to hear me talk about what I think about what happened to Jack Kirby, or why Jim Aparo's Batman has no real parallel, or how John Wagner's extended, real time run on Judge Dredd is a greater and more satisfying creative accomplishment than we give it credit for. Comics may have broken through in a very big way in the last few years, and super-hero continuity may be something that millions of people are conversant with, but talking about these things as if they "matter," or talking about ways to make them more ethically, or talking about how wild the last fifteen years has been in terms of who is making them, publishing them, sharing them, living off them, taking chances off them--those kinds of conversations are still things that the majority of the people roll their eyes at having. I'm not mad at them! I don't have any interest in how television is made, or poetry, or the machine of the art gallery world. I don't play video games or watch professional wrestling: I'm completely okay with people who dip in and out of comic books.

But that is not how I am wired. Finding The Journal was, for me, like finding an answer. It was (and thanks to Kristy & RJ, will be again) a place where you could go and rail, praise, explore and demand, and nobody ever stopped to ask you to calm down or get a grip. It's a place that took comics seriously, and when I found the site--the Dirk Deppey years--it was like a tree finding its other roots. It was how I found Joe McCulloch, always and forever our best critic, our finest mind, the model of clarity, curiosity and intelligence we are supposed to have for ourselves in life, not merely writing--and the one person, more than any other, who should have been honored alongside Dan, Tim, and I for his tireless efforts since the launch of this incarnation of the site. To have gone from reading those people, to meeting them as a fan, and to eventually join them during my time as a regular contributor, and to then return to the site as Tim's partner has been an experience that has been a real, genuine honor. I am grateful for this surprising vote of confidence at a time that, if I'm being honest, still feels extremely transitional to me. To those of you who voted for us--thank you. To those of you who didn't? Thank you too! Thank you for being somebody who cares enough about this stuff to have a fucking opinion about it. That's what this thing is supposed to be about. Thanks for giving us a shot.

Ink & Pixels

Hello everyone. Frank Young is here this morning with a review of an unusual Italian comics biography, Agustin Comotto's Prisoner 155: Simón Radowitzky.

Writer-artist Agustin Comotto has done his job exhaustively well. Packed with footnotes (most of them essential to understanding what’s going on), the book offers an overwhelm of information in telling the story of Ukraine-born anarchist Simón Radowitzky (1891-1956). Much of the book’s events occur in the early 20th century. There are inescapable parallels to our times. Mankind’s inability to treat itself with kindness, and to accept dissenting views without violence, may never be laid to rest. The struggle remains as real today as it was in the events that shape Comotto’s narrative.

We meet Radowitzky amid his long prison sentence in Argentina—a country he emigrated to, as a teenager, to escape the oppression and brutality of Eastern Europe. Radowitzky has spent most of his adult life behind bars. Much of his time outside prison has been perilous. He witnessed the slaughter of his childhood village in the hands of the Czar’s footmen (an example of the ethnic cleansing and persecution Jewish people suffered in Europe long before Hitler’s rise to power) and took part in a 1905 worker protest in St. Petersburg, Russia—a day known as Bloody Sunday, in which unarmed proletarians were slaughtered in their attempt to present a petition to the Tsar. Radowitzky, by the time of adolescence, was a hardened survivor of a brutal endgame.

A confirmed anarchist by his teens, Radowitzky sought asylum in Argentina, as a step in the process of his family’s relocation to America. At 18, he was part of an attempt to assassinate Ramón Falcón, a Buenos Aires police chief who destroyed the lives of anarchist and Communist protesters in a 1909 demonstration. For this crime, Radowitzky would have been executed, were he of legal age. Instead, he was imprisoned for over twenty years. While imprisoned in Ushuaia Prison in Patagonia, where he was beaten, starved and (in an event not shown in this book) raped by prison guards, he became a cause célebrè to those who sought freedom from political oppression.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. As I'm sure most of our readers know, the San Diego Comic-Con just ended, which means there were lots of awards handed out last weekend. That includes the Inkpot Awards (congratulations to Eric Reynolds), the Prism awards, and the Eisners. Emil Ferris won two of the top prizes (Best Writer/Artist and Best New Graphic Album) and also won Best Coloring. Frequent TCJ contributor Mark Newgarden won for How to Read Nancy (with Paul Karasik), as did contributor Anne Ishii for her recent translation of Gengoroh Tagame. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress won five Eisners, and other prominent winners include Jillian Tamaki, Tillie Walden, Tom Gauld, and Taneka Stotts.

This website won the award for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism. I've been nominated for that prize without actually winning it a fair number of times now, both for this site and for Comics Comics, so I more or less assumed that was going to be the way things continued indefinitely. I am pleased that we won for 2017, which both honors the work Dan Nadel put into the site for so long, and recognizes the new energy and spirit that Tucker Stone brought with him when he came aboard. I asked Dan if he wanted to make a comment, and he asked to express his gratitude to Gary Groth for the opportunity, and said it was a nice way to cap off his time at the Journal (though I will continue to commission him to write stories). I'm grateful too, especially to our readers — and all of our contributors. It's really their award. Tucker may have something to say tomorrow.

As you probably also know, this week brought the news that The Comics Journal is relaunching its print edition, with familiar faces RJ Casey and Kristy Valenti at the helm. Just as exciting, Rick Marshall is also relaunching his classic comics magazine Nemo.

—Reviews & Commentary. At the Paris Review, Yevgeniya Traps writes about Geneviève Castrée's heartbreaking children's book, A Bubble.

A Bubble, the artist and musician Geneviève Castrée’s posthumously published last work, is, in essence, a children’s board book. It begins with the caption “Maman lives in a bubble,” above a drawing of a little blond child in cat-face knee socks gazing at her mother, who floats in the titular sphere. “I love you very much,” the mother says, her freckled face anxious, her choppy hair concealed under a beanie hat. She may be unwell, sick. Indeed, the next page confirms it, the mother has been ill for some time: “It has been a while now. I no longer remember the time when she didn’t live in the bubble, I was too little.” The mother works on projects in her bubble: embroidery, reading, crafting, drawing. She gets sicker and sicker, her illness progresses, her hair thins, she starts wearing a cannula, she is connected to a tank. She cannot leave her bubble, but sometimes the little girl joins her in it. They eat breakfast together (“She doesn’t mind if I make crumbs with my toast”), nap (“a special time for Maman and me”), make art (“I draw with her, it brings her great joy”). When she goes on excursions with Papa, the little girl makes sure to tell Maman about her adventures. The bubble separates them but cannot keep them apart.

Over at Print, Michael Dooley previewed the Eisner awards, and contemplated their usefulness to readers.

Forget about who’ll walk away with Eisner Awards on Friday at San Diego’s Comic-Con. Sure, there’ll be worthy winners. In my feature on Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters, which garnered multiple well-deserved nominations, I wrote that it would easily top any comics and design “best of” award. More on that notion momentarily. But honestly, the Eisners are much more a popularity contest among comics industry professionals than it is any real gauge of who and what is most worthy in any given category. Simply put, personal favoritism is the dominating determinant. Nevertheless, the Eisners themselves do serve a valuable and commendable function. Truth is, it’s not only an honor just to be nominated, it’s the only worthwhile honor, inasmuch as the nominee list news we can most usefully use.

At The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman discuss the work of Saul Steinberg.

Patterson Sims: Did his high visibility and great success at The New Yorker compromise his success and status as an artist in the gallery world?

FM: He talked a lot about that topic to me. He said it was his choice to do magazine covers and drawings, even if it might have done him a disservice and prevented him from reaching the height of fame of some of his friends like Calder or Willem de Kooning. He was surrounded by very famous people, though a greater number of his friends were esteemed writers rather than artists. He talked about the invention of abstract painting, in a broken-down barn by Jackson Pollock and de Kooning. He told me about how the two of them went to Long Island one summer when they were young, unknown, and had no money: the barn that they rented was about to fall apart. They went to the hardware store to buy some paint, basically to hold the planks together so that they wouldn’t blow in the wind. They started rolling on the paint and that’s where Pollock took a bucket of paint and started throwing it on the floor, inventing Abstract Expressionism. Saul said to me (and, again, I wish I could have recorded our conversations), “I could have been an Abstract Expressionist” and noted that he was married to Hedda Sterne, an abstract painter. He said, “I could have thrown a bucket of paint. I could have figured out how to play that game.” But his love of the lowly magazine prevailed.