The Dogs of Slaughter

Today at TCJ, we've got all the cold you can handle, thanks to Alex Dueben's interview with Alison McCreesh. Thanks to Conundrum and Alison, you can catch up with some of the more inaccessible parts of the world from the comfort of your own home, via her new book Norths.

You mentioned in the book’s introduction that when planning this circumpolar trip, you wanted to stay North of the 60th Parallel. What does this idea of North man to you?

I have a hard time talking about the idea of North or where North starts or what North is, because North is so relative. The further North you go, you always find there’s someone further North than you. No matter how far North you are, you’re always South of someone, I like to say. [laughs] I have been far North – way up North of the Arctic Circle, what basically looks like the top of the world – but even then, there were places further North.

In Canada we have provinces and territories. The 60th Parallel cuts across Canada and marks the end of the provinces and the start of the territories. The Three territories are Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. We live in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. Up here lots of things are “North of 60”. It’s kind of a branding thing that people brag about. Because we use that expression so much, the 60th parallel was a good parameter in terms of defining where the North starts for the purpose of this trip and book. I found out that depending on where you are, being North of 60 doesn’t always  mean much though. In Finland, for example, the whole country basically starts at the 60th Parallel so being at the 63rd parallel doesn’t make you Northern Finland. In Iceland, there isn't even a thought for the 60th. Still though, for me it was my North.

That's not all of course: we've also got some of that hot review action you crave, via Rich Barrett. He's also on that Conundrum tip, with a look at their recent publication, Zach Worton's The Curse of Charley Butters.

While Worton’s art is a throwback to the early 20th century strips and the early 21st century cartoonists that emulate them, his story is also a throwback of sorts. The tale of a straight white man who runs away from all the responsibilities in life is a dying breed these days. Worton’s problem is that he falls into the trap of potential banality of his subject matter too easily. The opening scenes of the band vamping in the woods are so wonderfully drawn and such a dead-on replica of every cheesy metalhead ever that it’s a shame when we never see Travis and his bandmates interact like this for the rest of the book. The promise of a conflict between the world of metal music and Travis’ obsession with the diaries doesn’t really play out in any significant way. Death Metal, the lowest of low-brow music, would be the perfect foil to set against the high-brow art world that drove Charley Butters mad. but Worton doesn’t seem interested in examining art in any more meaningful or insightful way than he does mental health or alcoholism.

If you're starving to see the guts and bolts behind old super-hero comics, starve no further: Diversions of the Groovy Kind has your back with another Black & White Wednesday round up.

Not into the process? Only the finished versions for you? We aim to please: Gabrielle Bell has you covered, with her New Yorker comic called "That's What I Get For Trying To Find Love on Tinder". Wait, did I say New Yorker? Because they also published Leslie Stein, whose "Dreaming of a Reading Bar" is right up the alley of the sort of people who frequent the very sentence you are currently reading.

If you're still not convinced on giving Sabrina a shot, I don't know what is gonna sell ya. Maybe this Fast Company interview with Nick Drnaso will do the trick? Or this New York Times list of recommendations? Maybe you were waiting on LitHub to plug it. The wait is over

Ah, but you want something with more of that in your face pop, I get it, imaginary complainer. Then how about this: Ian MacEwan drawing monsters getting beat to death with a tire iron? I'm into that, Image has something coming in September. The cover!

Tire iron is glowing. I bet if you cover it with blood it'll stop glowing though!

Yield

Oh boy, another big day here. First, we have a previously unpublished roundtable conducted in 2012, all about the intersections between fine art and comics, as discussed by four artists with intimate understandings of both worlds: Marc Bell, Esther Pearl Watson, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams.

DOOLEY: OK. Now let’s hear from Robert. [Chuckles.] I think you have one or two thoughts about what constitutes fine arts. So share them with us.

ROBERT WILLIAMS: Well, it’s kinda hard to follow Joe there, he’s a hard act to follow. Supposedly art is culturally the highest pinnacle of expression. And the word fine makes a big difference and that’s the big phony bone of contention. That word “fine” is supposed to imply sophistication. So sophisticated art. And this is a word that’s been around for a long, long time culturally and it’s a big selling point over a couple hundred years now. Just stick that word “fine” on it. It’s dribbled through our Western culture for a long time and you watch these revolutionary art movements come out of the late nineteenth century and then the period of the first world war. Then somehow they got to the top. The thing is, art is not just run by a few people. It’s run by schools and institutions and foundations and museums and art dealers. And the artists play a small part in that art thing and it’s unfortunate. You see artists get really famous and you wonder, “Well how’d that guy get so famous? That thing looks kinda goofy to me.” And it’s just that he was selected by this group, that this is gonna be what they were gonna push. Every new revolutionary form of art tries to violate that established situation. You can see that. You look at Van Gogh and you understand that if Van Gogh was born in the 20th century, he would have been an underground cartoonist. There’s no question about that. You look at that stuff and it’s calligraphy-dependent, it’s dependent on the drawn line. I know underground cartoonists that were comparable to that. So the question of “fine,” you know everyone wants to just tack that on them.  People building model airplanes wanna tack that on.  The thing is when nouveau riche people come into the buying market, dealers jump on these ignorant people and guide them.  So they guide them to what’s pretty much easily established. So since the end of World War II, abstract expressionism kind of took over. Europe was really down on its luck and New York became the world’s art capital. It was a couple of New York art critics that pushed Jackson Pollock and he was in Life magazine and just busted this thing wide open. So nonobjective art just completely took over. And for nonobjective art to really get a good handle, these two art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, instigators in this, kind of inferred that, if you visually depended, mentally depended on three-dimensional representation, you were kind of ignorant and you just didn’t have the sensitivity to appreciate two-dimensional and nonobjective art.

So that’s been kind of the mantra here in the last 50 years. It’s gone from abstract expressionism into pop art and to conceptualism. And you think, “Well wait a minute. You said pop art. That’s realistic stuff.” Well yeah, but it’s total appropriation. That’s like going to the 99¢ store and going up to the first shelf and grabbing something off the shelf and taking it over to one of these places that makes art for artists and say, “Can you make this about 20 feet tall for me?”

Over the coming days and weeks, we'll be following up with individual interviews that Michael Dooley conducted with each artist.

Greg Hunter is also here today, with a review of Michael DeForge's latest collection, A Western World.

The stories that populate A Western World, a collection of Michael DeForge’s recent short comics, make for troubled residents, concerned with the mutability of bodies, the relationship between body and self, and how technology affects intimacy—some of the same notions found throughout DeForge’s larger body of work. Readers fond of DeForge but new to these pieces won’t find major departures in the book, but that’s only one measure of the collection and perhaps not the best one. DeForge has long since found his themes and a sensibility with which to approach them. The pleasure of A Western World is the pleasure of seeing him return to these concerns from new angles.

The collection is a book of gradients, of pieces about bodies and societies rendered with different hues, in different keys, through different lenses. Within a sort of prevailing aesthetic (flat colors, limited hatching, figures and backdrops made of a few defining shapes), DeForge adopts a range of styles throughout the collection and manages to adjust his approach from story to story while remaining recognizably himself. For converts, the appeal here may be in the details, the minor changes, in addition to what concerns of theirs they find reflected. For newer readers, the book makes a fine introduction to a cartoonist who expertly blends form and subject.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC continues to make changes, following Diane Nelson's resignation with news that "chief creative officer" Geoff Johns will be leaving that position to take on a new role as "writer/producer." DC publisher Jim Lee will take over as chief creative officer.

The moves come in the wake of last week’s exit of Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment’s president, to whom Johns reported, and occurs the day before a judge’s decision will be announced in the high-profile antitrust trial between the U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T, which is seeking to merge with Time Warner, the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC.

It also takes place as Warners’ movie division is in the midst of a transition as Walter Hamada, who was installed as president of DC-based films at the studio by Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich in January, begins to shape the superhero slate in the post-Justice League era.

Yesterday, of course, we learned that the judge in question has approved the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, another huge step in the concentration of corporate among a very small number of media and communications companies.

Pittsburgh editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers has had nearly a dozen finished cartoons spiked this year.

So just what is going on? Why are so many of Rogers’s cartoons suddenly being spiked?

“I can only speculate,” the left-leaning cartoonist says. “While most of the killed cartoons or ideas were [directly] critical of President Trump, there were also some dealing with the NFL kneeling policy, issues of racism and the FBI.” More broadly, most of the spiked cartoons satirized issues on which Trump has taken a stance or that reflect the larger partisan divide in the Trump era.

Meanwhile, John Robinson Block, the Post-Gazette’s publisher and editor in chief, tells The Washington Post in a statement: “This is an internal, personnel matter we are working hard to resolve. It has little to do with politics, ideology or Donald Trump. It has mostly to do with working together and the editing process.”

The New York Times has published its obituary of longtime Mad editor Nick Meglin.

As Mad’s editor from 1985 to 2004 — a position he shared with John Ficarra — Mr. Meglin became a major figure in the magazine’s long history, along with Harvey Kurtzman, who founded it as a comic book; William M. Gaines, its Falstaffian publisher; and Al Feldstein, who ran Mad from 1956 to 1985.

“Feldstein was a smart editor, but he was a hard taskmaster,” Al Jaffee, the cartoonist who, at 97, still devises Mad’s back-page fold-ins, said in a telephone interview. “Nick, on the other hand, was simpatico to the contributors, which made us all want to be better.”

—Interviews. The Gothamist talks to Julia Wertz.

I quit drinking in my late 20’s, and got really interested in urban exploring. (Exploring abandoned places.) I guess I replaced my obsession with drinking with an obsession with history and buildings. I quit doing comics for two years, and focused all my energy on exploration, photography and research. 90% of the work I did during those years didn’t appear in my NYC book, but it did pave the way to getting into making art about history.

Then I met Roz Chast. I’d been a fan of hers for forever. It turned out she was a fan of mine as well, so we ended up becoming friends, and she got me a meeting with Bob Mankoff at the New Yorker. Bob wanted me to do gag cartoons, gags are not my forte, so I pitched him comics about NYC history, and those ran online for about a year before I got a book contract. Then I got evicted, moved back to California, finished the book, and got back into making autobiographical comics. I still love the city, and I love history, but I burned out making comics about it all. I was doing 16 hour days, seven days a week, drawing elaborate architectural stuff. I think maybe I went insane but I didn’t really know it.

They Called Her Viking

Today at TCJ, we've got an interview for ya: a doozy it is. We've had such a good time as of late smashing two cartoonists together and letting them get into it, we thought we'd do it again. And this time around, it's Michel Fiffe and Chuck Forsman.

Forsman: That’s something we bonded over, the work ethic. And that ties into how critical we are of ourselves. If I stop working for too long, I’ll convince myself that all my work is shit and I shouldn’t be doing this stuff. I won’t be able to move again. I think that part of it is wanting to keep a monthly deadline, always producing work. That’s one of the reasons I do it, because I’m scared of stopping. I mean, you get that momentum and you don’t wanna stop. You know what it feels like when you’re not working.

Fiffe: Are we covering up for something?

Forsman: On the flipside, I’ve recently been thinking that all my stuff is getting bad because I’m sticking to the schedule and I keep pumping out work, I feel like I’m not taking enough care in my work. Part of me wants to pull back and take a break and start on something completely new that I’ll work on in a vacuum. That’s super counter to the mode I’m been working in. Basically, I can find a way to insult myself in any scenario.

Fiffe: I’ve come to discover that while we like those old comics and the breakneck speed they were produced at, we don’t necessarily have to operate that way. We can channel that energy and that spirit, but we’re not factories. We don’t have to churn this stuff out. We can self-motivate, but quality control is important, too.

Not enough? Hungry for more? We've got you covered on that front as well, with a TCJ Review. In the dubiously named (you'll have to click through to find out why) Algeria Is Beautiful Like America, Keith Silva found himself with praise and complaint...but were they in equal measure?

Algeria is Beautiful like America is autobio comics at their autobio-i-est, with Olivia (she omits her surname throughout the narrative) on a hyper-personal existential quest to interrogate her family’s Algerian past for herself. The word ‘Algeria’ in the title is arguably circumstantial to the text itself (ditto for the word ‘America,’ more on that later). Yes, this is a story about a white French women of some means searching for her family history -- specifically on her maternal grandmother’s side -- in an African country, so yes, Algeria is important to the story, however; what Olivia craves is the one treasure left in our current culture, authenticity. She doesn’t want memories or recollections. She wants to put her finger in the holes left by the nails; she wants the facts, the truth—nowadays that’s as seditious and rebellious as it gets.

While Olivia does the work to unfold her past, she can only go as far as her arms can reach or her itinerary takes her. Issues of immigration, colonialism, xenophobia, social and religious tolerance are all filtered through her lens. She provides snapshots, misses the bigger picture and leaves it for the reader to piece it all together.

Ah, but you need more reviews, you've got a taste for them now. Fine! Head over to Publishers Weekly and take a look at their starred one for Young Frances, by Hartley Lin.

What? Another one? Sure. Here's one by Robin Enrico at Broken Frontier, on that Box Brown biography of Andy Kaufman, Is This Guy For Real? 

Ah, but there's also this: they're gonna start selling comic books at Gamestop? Based off this article, they're attempting to paper over lost video game sales with the top Diamond sellers. I'm sure it'll work out well.

Grilling in the Rain

Today on the site sees the long-awaited return of Ken Parille with his latest Grid column. This time around, he considers "the plight" of contemporary superhero comics.

The “comic-book movie” is perhaps our most significant form of mass entertainment. Superhero movies generate fan obsession, extensive media coverage, lots of think pieces, and tons of money. The comic book itself — a humble medium of ink, paper, and staples — has fared less well. Once the home of million-selling issues featuring an array of realistic and fantasy genres, it now serves mainly as an antiquated delivery system for formulaic tales about super-beings read by a dwindling audience of devotees.

When compared to its film offspring, the superhero comic book, though certainly not dead, feels a little exhausted. Writers and artists fight with the genre’s core clichés, unsure how to play things: serious and relevant (superheroes, they say, are essential myths for our time), or cutesy and comedic (if the genre is tired, let’s just have some fun with it!). Visually, the superhero comic has been struggling against its format for decades, but never more so than now. Many artists suffer from “film envy”: though confined to little boxes on small pages, they try (and inevitably fail) to capture big-screen-style drama. With limited distribution, weak sales, and the growing possibility that a comic may lead to a lucrative TV or movie deal, the safe bet is on the familiar: crank out another high-drama fable, reboot or revive a character, rewrite a classic, etc., etc.

Satisfied with narrative, visual, and verbal tropes stale since the early 1960s, most superhero comics have no interest in testing the genre’s boundaries. But several writers, artists, and cartoonists — some working for corporations and some independently — are self-consciously breaking from the past. They twist standard plots, reimagine superhero visuals by way of an underground aesthetic, embrace new kinds of characters, or blend genres in strange ways. In the midst of so much aggressive mediocrity, their work offers hope for a troubled genre.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Hogan's Alley talks to the post-retirement Cathy Guisewite.

Tom Heintjes: So, how does it feel to have gone from AACK to AARP?

Cathy Guisewite: [Laughter] I don’t think I’ve heard anyone refer to it quite like that.

Heintjes: Has the reality of retirement set in?

Guisewite: The shocking thing to me is that there’s still plenty of AACK in my life [laughter], despite the fact that I’m now into the AARP phase. There’s just an endless amount of stuff that fills up the time I used to spend being panicked about the strip. Now I feel panicked about other things. The big thing, though, is that doing a strip really sets the rhythm of the week. There was a very specific rhythm, from mild hysteria to complete hysteria [laughter] to 15 good minutes at the end of the week, after I’d sent everything in, and then the gentle hysteria would set in again. So that rhythm is gone, it was extremely disorienting. I’m not whining—believe me. That would be repulsive to anybody reading this. But it was very disorienting not to have that rhythm of panic guiding my every moment.

Heintjes: What have you found to make you feel less unmoored?

Guisewite: One of the reasons I retired from the strip was that my daughter was starting her last year of high school. And I also really wanted to spend more time with my parents, who live in Florida. I wanted the experience of being a real, full-time mom for one year of my daughter’s life. And I did exactly what I set out to do in that way. I’ve been present for both my parents and my daughter in a billion ways that I wasn’t before, and it’s honestly been a really, really happy and fulfilling year, and I’m unbelievably grateful that I’ve been able to do it. I feel that this year with my daughter has been priceless. She actually leaves the week after next for college. There was a lot I missed with her because I was always worrying about my deadlines, so I’ve tried to smash 19 years of stuff we didn’t do into the last year, and it’s been great

The New York Times profiles Gabe Fowler's Desert Island in Brooklyn.

Experimental and underground artistry is the norm at Desert Island. Look through the Williamsburg store’s plywood shelves and you’ll find glossy paperbacks as well as photocopied-and-stapled booklets with a D.I.Y. aesthetic. Surrounded by ice-blue stalactite sculptures and tapestries, regulars, travelers, and fellow artists immerse themselves in visual publications, seeking escape, inspiration, or both.

Gabriel Fowler, the owner, grew up playing in noise-rock bands and digging through record-store crates in Orlando, Fla. After moving to New York in 2004 and working as an art handler for David Zwirner and other upscale galleries, he felt there was a dearth of shops in New York channeling a certain communal alternative energy.

WGN interviews Nicole Hollander (Sylvia), and Comics Alternative talks to Karl Stevens.

—Commentary. The recent death of Anthony Bourdain has led to a deluge of coverage, even including several mainstream-press pieces on his involvement with comics, including a brief article in Entertainment Weekly and a remembrance by Karen Berger.

We didn’t talk about Vertigo. His comics love goes back to the undergrounds: Huge R. Crumb fan, huge EC Comics fan. Tony originally wanted to be a comic artist. He’s told stories when he was on our panel at New York Comic Con when we launched Berger Books. He was there, and it was fantastic that he made the time to schedule it to be there. On that panel, he talked about how he’s a huge underground comic fan, and he wanted to be an artist first, but his art wasn’t really good enough. He talked about how he went to some small comic show in the ’70s and he showed his work to [underground publisher] Denis Kitchen, who basically told him his art wasn’t very good. Joel was editing a underground magazine, this proto-hipster literary mag in the ’80s, and Tony had sent him some samples, some comic stuff, and Joel [Rose] got back and said, “Hey, the art sucks but the writing is pretty good.”

Hats In Hamburg

Today at TCJ, we've got a look at some comics from an interesting project currently amassing funds at Kickstarter. It's an anthology of comics inspired by folktales from the Oceania region, and we've got a look at it via the work of Brady Evans.

That's not all, of course--it's also high time for Noah Berlatsky to come by and grind his axe--or is it? It looks like Noah is getting his Roger Clemens on, because his take on Fiona Smyth's collected tome Somnambulance sounds pretty dang positive:

Normally, you'd expect such an expansive collection to feel disjointed, or at least heterogeneous. And sure enough, there is some variation; Smyth's first comics are relatively cramped; over time she started to play with color. But even with such shifts, Smyth's art is remarkably coherent over time, mainly because she's so dedicated to incoherence. From Somnambulance's earliest pages to its last, Smyth resolutely works to bend, fracture, and flat out ignore the "sequential" part of sequential images. Each overstuffed, vibrating, oversexed panel seems to freeze and burrow into the page or into your skull, distracting you from the next image, which, in turn, distracts you from the next, and the next. These are comics in which the panels don't so much work together as lovingly fight for dominance.

And while personal reasons (nice ones) call me away this evening, I'll leave you with a link to a comic that's been making the rounds, with good reason: Dakota McFadzean's Soon We're Both Screaming. It's lovely, painful, weird (and I hope, therapeutic) work. Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Unadorned

Today on the site, Alex Dueben talks to Anne Elizabeth Moore and Melissa Mendes about their collaborative political and journalistic comics work.

How did the two of you first start collaborating?

Melissa Mendes: A few years ago, I was marginally aware of the Ladydrawers and thought it was very cool. I was a little envious of them even, it looked like something I really wanted to be a part of but I wasn't sure how to approach them. Then Anne asked me if I wanted to draw for Threadbare, and I was like, um, yes please. So I started out drawing a few chapters of that, and it soon became clear that we really worked well together. There's something that clicks with us, that's kind of hard to pin down—but I think it could have to do with the fact that I consider myself a writer more than an artist, so I approach Anne's scripts like a writer, rather than just drawing exactly what she's written, like an illustrator might. And we are just similar in a lot of ways, we communicate really well. She's hilarious. So I think when we started the Detroit project there was a level of trust there already and that's made it really easy and fun to work together. Also I love doing my own research, like when I had to look up old pictures of Black Bottom in Detroit for one of the stories. I learn so much and it's fun for me, so that helps.

Moore: We had met years before that, when a friend introduced us in Providence, but I’ll admit it took a while for me to “get” Melissa’s solo thing. It’s sort of deceptive, in a good way—immediately palatable but something often happens that’s rooted in trauma or discomfort. Once I figured out that she’s using cuteness and innocence almost as tricks to pull you into these very, very complex stories I felt like we had something particular in common, something about not being interested in letting the sheen go untarnished, or something. “Wanting to peel back the skin,” might be a better metaphor. We watch a lot of lady detective shows.

And Rob Clough reviews the third and final issue of Ryan Standfest's black humor anthology, Black Eye.

The third and final volume of Ryan Standfest's black humor anthology Black Eye is subtitled, "A Shameful Enlightenment". It's the best of the three volumes. Standfest has a firmer grip on how to combine new and old material and pare down excess. Standfest doesn't worry about manifestos, indulge in fake ads, or otherwise introduce extraneous material; he just gets right down to it. The book is once again a collection of new and reprinted material from other writers and artists. For the most part, it consists of mostly six- to eight-page stories interspersed with repeating single-page gag strips from a few different cartoonists. With a relatively short page count, that allows the anthology to flow in a way the other two volumes did not while helping to strengthen the book's identity.

Standfest's editorial decisions essentially help get him out of his own way and allow the impressive lineup of artists to speak for themselves. The "enlightenment" explored by the artists is often one of an apocalyptic nature. David Sandlin's piece is about the Rapture, punctuated by the most odious aspects of the "prosperity gospel" teachings that emphasize material success as a function of one's spirituality. The "elevator to heaven" winds up leading to a much less desirable place.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Diane Nelson is leaving her position as president of DC Entertainment.

Nelson took a leave of absence in late March in order to focus on family-related issues. She had been expected to return, but sources say that very recently she decided not to resume her duties, announcing her plan to Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

Tsujihara on Wednesday revealed the move in a companywide announcement.

Jordan Shively is recovering from gall bladder surgery, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help defray costs.

—Interviews & Profiles. Vice profiles the pseudonymous new Nancy artist Olivia Jaimes.

After Bushmiller’s death in 1982, Nancy continued under various creators. “We had known and liked Olivia’s work as a web cartoonist, and found out she was a huge Nancy fan, so we queried her,” Glynn told me. “After we got back her samples, we felt that we had found the right person.”

It’s a mystery as to which web comics she previously published, though. “If it was up to me, I’d rather use her real name," Glynn said. "Her fans would’ve been incredible advocates, but she wants to keep her two lives separate, and we respect that."

“I’m a pretty private person and I want to be insulated from the whole ‘Big Thing’ that a classic comic strip is,” Jaimes said of the pseudonym, speaking to the New York Times. “The pseudonym lets me do that, and I’m really grateful for it.”

“Nancy is the only legacy strip I would have even considered taking on,” Jaimes told me. “For any other, the cons—it's somebody else's baby, there will be grumblers—would have easily outweighed the pros.”

That Car’s Not On Fire, That Car’s My Dad

It's Wednesday, June 6th: and I'm tingling with anticipation...to share with you our latest installment of Retail Therapy, wherein we hand our old time phonograph to another Store of the North! It's Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling and TCAF fame, and he's not pulling any punches--and regardless of what cultural cliches may have told you, Canada punches hard.

What's changed the most for your business in the last ten years?

Personally, what’s changed are my expectations as to where the industry would go. I had experienced and hoped for an ever-broadening audience for comics, one that would render the previous collector/nostalgia/fandom model more of a quaint relic of the past and would allow great and interesting work [that] would rise on merit. I imagined an idyllic future where you would be able to say the word ‘comics’ without wondering if the person you were talking to immediately had an image of Spider-man in their mind. Or of a comedian.

That broadening did happen. Comics now means more than superheroes to most people. But what I didn't foresee was the significant growth and sustained appetite for pop culture garbage, or the hold children’s entertainment would have on readers well into adulthood. Even outside what was comics’ little niche. Who knew such huge swath of the public would be ready [to] declare themselves nerds of some stripe or another?!

That's not all we've got, of course: this being a day that ends in y, we've got the latest in our installment of TCJ reviews for you. Today, it's from Irene Velentzas, and it's on Godhead--the latest comic from Ho Che Anderson!

The rich duality Anderson sets up with his characters is also expressed between his worlds – the clean-lined corporate world and the sensual and gritty underworld. These worlds are represented as starkly different by Anderson. The corporate world with its violence and espionage is expressed by the calm, cool contours of his artistic line evoking an empty and soulless dystopia. The dingy underbelly of this clean world is contrastingly expressed in rich textures and tones, filled with sensual surfaces and expressions of love and loyalty that feel more tangible and inviting than those expressed in the corporate world. Anderson’s dichotomy between his story-worlds poses the question: does the future we’re striving for come at the expense of our humanity?

Meanwhile, while I realize this is not exactly Onion level stuff, I doubt the Onion could find a large enough audience that would understand what this piece is satirizing to justify them bringing it into existence. So bravo!

This past week saw BookExpo and bookcon take over the Javits Center, and while there was some solid comics related programming to be had, the show was not without its problems--the biggest one being the one recounted in this article, when comics writer Miz Tee Franklin arrived at a panel only to find that the stage had no wheelchair accessibility. Franklin, who had already endured this issue at multiple convention panels prior to traveling to BookExpo, at a panel the previous day (and had even tweeted about the issue earlier Saturday morning,), refused to participate in the panel and settled for an ad hoc signing at the Image Comics booth instead. A follow up post from Heidi MacDonald (the panel's moderator) about the event at The Beat was not well received by Franklin. It's difficult to quantify the impact that this sort of fiasco has--beyond the personal indignity suffered by Franklin, she loses her ability to speak about her work amongst her peers for an audience who might support it, as well as subtly implying that--because no effort had been made to provide her stage access--she is not actually part of said peer group. It's an ugly event, and despite the embarrassment it has caused multiple individuals, the only real victim is Franklin, and doubly so: because instead of returning from a panel where she talked about her work, she's returning from a panel where the conversation is primarily about the ramp that nobody thought to provide her. 

Before all of that happened, I also went to a panel: it had Garth Ennis on it. He was up there with a guy named Frank Tieri and the dude who wrote Kill Shakespeare, and they were talking about historical fiction. It was a great panel even if I was only intermittently interested in the comics they were talking about--Garth talked about riding around in an antique fighter jet and how the near total lack of visibility helped him realize how deep the trust becomes between a couple of wingmen, and even though I knew that all that research had been done in the service of one of the worst comics in a pretty long career, I ate it all up. The dessert to that hearty meal was listening to Tieri, who I genuinely, sincerely enjoyed--at first, I thought he was making a joke with his central casting I'm-a-Brooklyn-guy, but he wasn't, that's how he really is. His wry, who-gives-a-fuck amusement at being the dude onstage whose main installments in the historical fiction genre are A) a comic "where Wolverine meets Al Capone" and B) one where "the Punisha' kills Dutch Schultz" never stopped being funny, even more so when it would follow Ennis giving some concise description of his interest in war comics, and his attempts to give them a philosophy. The Kill Shakespeare guy even got in on the act too, by telling everyone that he liked to tell teachers that Kill Shakespeare was "the gateway drug to Shakespeare", which is the sort of absurdly arrogant bullshit that only comics marketing can produce. My favorite part of the Q&A session was when a man--a man who quite honestly looked like a Kevin Maguire drawing of the target audience for Frank Tieri comics--loudly asked from the back of the room "who was the AUDIENCE for ANY of this STUFF", to which I desperately wanted Frank Tieri to say "You, you motherfucker", but no luck--they all just talked about things being "Rated R". It was a great way to spend 45 minutes, and I highly recommend checking Tieri whenever you get the chance. 

Post on Demand

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey returns with a look back at Ted Shearer, creator of the pioneering Quincy strip.

Shearer also freelanced illustration work and cartoons to newspapers and magazines. Before long, he was making the rounds of magazine cartoon editors’ offices in New York every Wednesday, “Look Day,” when cartoonists living in the area submitted their offerings in person. And he worked in animation for a while as an inbetweener. But when he first approached an advertising agency, he ran up against the kind of wall African Americans often ran into in those dismal days (and still do).

“When I gave my name over the phone in arranging for an appointment, I suppose they figured that ‘Shearer’ was Irish. But when I showed up for the meeting and the receptionist saw me, she went into an inner office and made me sit out in the reception room for an hour. When I finally did get in to see my man, he went through my portfolio in about three seconds and then said, ‘If there’s anything, we’ll let you know.’”

We also have Austin Price's review of the latest from Gipi, Land of the Sons.

Italian comics auteur Gipi’s novel Land of the Sons feels at first like something of a small revolution for the post-apocalyptic story. “On the causes and motives that led to the end, entire chapters of history books could have been written. But after the end, no more books were ever written,” reads the epigraph, and though this very novel would seem to contradict Gipi’s own insistence (for what is Land of the Sons if not a kind of history book of this place and time?), for a time he seems to be actively trying to refute literary critic Jame Woods’ insistence that the post-apocalyptic story is “necessarily paradoxical… As long as language can be used to recount the worst, then the worst has not arrived” by presenting a story that exists post-language.

Yes, it’s true that the father of the titular sons keeps a journal, but from the opening portion of the novel he and his sons – our protagonists – move through their post-cataclysmic wasteland of bayous using little else but barked monosyllables when they deign to speak at all; it is not rare for a page or two or even three to pass in total silence. And why shouldn’t it be, when the boys’ own father refuses to teach them how to write even though he himself keeps a journal, when he communicates with them almost entirely through violence and threats that seem designed to beat the language out of them entirely?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Nick Meglin, longtime editor of Mad, has died. We will have an obituary soon. In the meantime, there are many remembrances online, including these by Sam Viviano and Mark Evanier.

Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing is Monsters has won the Lambda award for best graphic novel.

Last Friday, ComiXology and Amazon announced comiXology Originals, a new line of comics to be available both digitally and via print-on-demand.

[UPDATED TO ADD:] For anyone who doesn’t already know, last weekend, the cartoonist Brandon Graham had something of a social-media meltdown, and published a comic on his Tumblr responding to various allegations that have been made against him; he calls it a “diss track,” and in it he attacks some of his critics. His defense seems to have provoked an almost universally negative reaction. The comic is easy to find if you want to read it, as are the various criticisms against him. We are looking into the situation, and hope to report more soon.

—Reviews & Commentary. Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds took to Twitter to explain what the comiXology/Amazon move mentioned above may mean in a broader sense.

If you value high-quality printing and diverse books, today's amazon/comixology announcement is concerning. Amazon's print-on-demand offers exactly one paper stock option, two finishes (matte/gloss), limited trim options, and paperback only.

...

Amazon's end game here is clear. They eventually want their proprietary P-O-D tech to fulfill as much consumer book demand as possible, & these exclusives are a way of conditioning comics fans to this process, so we publishers will eventually conform our business.

Reynolds continued his thoughts on Twitter in a second thread as well.

If you don't have a healthy skepticism of Amazon, you should, regardless of Comixology. Ask a Seattleite that doesn't work for Amazon.

Brian Nicholson reviews Margot Ferrick's Dognurse.

Margot Ferrick’s new comic, printed by Perfectly Acceptable Press, has an obvious difference with her book Yours, published by 2D Cloud last year: There’s pictures. Not totally coincidentally, I like it more. I like her drawings, for one, but also, Ferrick’s work seems specifically about emotions- big, uncomfortable, overpowering ones, relationships that are not necessarily healthy, and the use of drawing to depict a physical world gives readers a way to be more objective about what they’re seeing. Yours is pretty much all lettering, a sort of comics equivalent to the form of the love letter. In the act of reading, we feel our way along with it, in an intimate, experiential way. It’s a unique comics experience, but for me it feels somewhat one-note. When her words work in tandem with her drawing, it seems like we’re not just being given feelings, but are presented with the task of making sense of them. I think this is harder, and consequently more rewarding, though certainly I know others will differ as to the latter point.

—Misc. Michael DeForge shares Steve Ditko's reaction to his own bootleg Spider-Man comic from a few years back.

That 'free' spider-man comic is another example of anti-story and art, anti-property rights in every way and the practice continues and spreads and to be accepted.

It's the "Dumbing Down" and "Deviations Up".

Children of the Korn

Boker tov! It's June, TCJ reader. Why not get it started with Eli Valley? He's here talking about what he's aiming for with his comics, and unlike some, it isn't a licensing deal with the SyFy network. (At least, not yet). Sam Goldstein brought the questions, Eli brought the thunder:

Tell me about using a Jewish vernacular. Most of your comics in Diaspora Boy were written for a very specific community. Did that language limit you? What was your hope in bringing the vernacular of Diaspora Boy to a larger audience?

There’s a purpose of the book in the Jewish community and a purpose for the wider world. For the Jewish community it’s to reclaim authenticity. To be told that we are less pure is one of the things that allowed Netanyahu to be normalized. It’s a reason why under Trump the community has been silent at best, or complicit at worst. Maybe this book can give us the tools to help fight that. It doesn’t limit me in terms of creativity because I find it too exhilarating to maneuver through Jewish history and culture.

The ideology behind the comic Israel Man and Diaspora Boy is something that we don’t know enough about. It’s not well known outside of Israel or academia. It sheds a lot of light on both Israel, the American-Jewish relationship to Israel, and by extension the American relationship to Israel. And so the book offers a sort of guide to how we ended up in the horror that led to Trump. I wrote the entire introduction during the election campaign. Watching Sheldon Adelson pour millions of dollars into the campaign of the hero of American Nazism. At the time I thought Trump was just a buffoon who showed signs of extremely dangerous trends in America, but would fizzle out by election day. The fact that I was wrong only helps the relevance of the book. It’s come out in the beginning of the reign of America’s Netanyahu.

I don’t create my comics to convince the other side. I think the other side is lost basically, they‘re not open to being convinced. If my comics can add strength and nourishment to our side, then that’s a good thing, with the horrors of what we’re witnessing.  The things that I‘m pillorying are so off the deep end, I think people who continue to support these personalities and these policies are beyond convincing. I’m interested in expressing the visceral gut punch that I feel when I read the news.

That's not all: it's also review time here at TCJ, and today, Gorgon's eye turns to...Shea Hennum, who joins the team with a look at Weegee: Serial Photographer. (We interviewed the author last week). Here's Shea, getting specific about how this one works:

While it’s doubtful that Weegee authors Max de Radiguès and Wauter Mannaert knowingly make this argument about their subject, it’s hard to shake the sense that they nonetheless understood this about Fellig. The book’s first scene introduces us to Weegee. A man has been killed, and his body lies motionless in front of a movie theatre. The lights from the marquee highlight the body, and a crowd looks on in shock and horror. Bystanders in the crowd cover the mouths—as though they are too shocked to close them—and Mannaert draws their eyes so that they appear ready to pop out of their sockets. In the first few panels, Mannaert renders Weegee as a morass of criss-crossing lines that amount to a silhouette and a pair of bulging eyes. It is only by wielding his camera that Weegee—figuratively and literally—distinguishes himself from the crowd (or at least, that is how the scene is drawn).

Out in the world, you can read all about the latest attempt to get comics readers interested in Richard Starkings' Elephantmen, a series of comics created in part to help legitimize an ad campaign for a font company. The announcement of this development came via Twitch, that streaming website where people generate income by showing you videos of themselves playing video games.

In addition to new content, the Comics MNT website has been rolling out pieces that were originally only available to Patreon subscribers. As such, they posted Megan Purdy's insightful review of First Second's Decelerate Blue, one of the few pieces of writing that really grappled with that book's weird ambition.

 

Closet

R.C. Harvey writes our obituary for Lee Holley, the creator of the long-running teen strip Ponytail who also worked on Dennis the Menace and many iconic Warner Brothers cartoons.

UPON RELEASE FROM THE NAVY, Holley took advantage of the GI bill and enrolled in famed Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and was later hired by Warner Bros Studios. Although he aspired to do a comic strip, doing animation was a great experience.

“I was surrounded for the first time with people who were professional artists and cartoonists,” Holley remembered. “I was working with the most talented people in the animation business, and it was a fun environment. I was an in-betweener for a couple of months when they moved me into Friz Freleng’s [award-winning] unit as assistant to Virgil Ross. Neat guy. He was a great animator, very quiet and low key. Virgil worked real rough, and my job was to clean it up. I worked hard at it for years. The animators from that era really couldn’t draw well, but they could animate like gangbusters.”

For Chuck Jones, he worked on “What’s Opera, Doc?” in which Elmer Fudd is singing “Kill the wabbit!”

“I later found out that Chuck asked for me and another fellow to help because we could draw so well.”

Over four years, Holley worked on three cartoons that won Academy Awards—one with Yosemite Sam, another with Sylvester and Tweety, and another with Speedy Gonzales.

Holley moved up from assistant animator to a ‘B’ animator and got small scenes to animate. “It was really great training,” he said, “but I persisted in dreaming about a comic strip.”

We also have an excerpt of Ben Sears's Ideal Copy, which you may remember we reviewed earlier this week.

And finally, Jason Michelitch reviews the latest true crime comic from Rick Geary, The True Death of Billy the Kid.

Rick Geary has been doing pretty much the same thing for over thirty years. This is not a criticism. Though his long career as cartoonist and illustrator is dotted with a variety of interesting tributaries – strips for the National Lampoon and RAW, illustrations for the New York Times Book Review, and drawing Gumby comics, to name just a few – the main arterial flow has been his steady stream of historical true crime comics. Fascinated from the start by the myth and mystery of American murder (his first comics work was inspired by reading the file on an unsolved murder he got from a police officer friend), Geary’s work took shape as a long-term project in 1987, with the first volume of A Treasury of Victorian Murder, which combined with its sequel series, A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, is up to 22 volumes. Add to that a number of historical and biographical side projects, and you find a slowly accreting magnum opus, a life’s work of capturing society’s weird dark substructure.

The True Death Of Billy The Kid is one of those side projects, though to call it that might wrongly imply that it is a minor work.  It is not, though neither is it necessarily a major one. Part of the nature of Geary’s project is the relatively egalitarian relationship among his various books. Each volume, whether in the Treasury of Murder series or produced outside it, performs more or less the same task: to map another event in Geary’s history of (mostly) American infamy. The impact and importance of a given book is roughly the same as any other, differences registering in millimeters rather than miles.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Over at the Smart Set, Chris Mautner reviews Eleanor Davis's Why Art?

Right away, however, we can see this book will be anything but an academic discourse. For one thing, Davis’s narrator begins by separating art into some odd categories. Under color, for example, we are presented (in black and white no less) with “blue” and “orange” objects. One of the blue objects is a small pig. No mention is made of the rest of the spectrum.

From there, the narrator notes goes on to discuss “mask” artworks, “mirror” artworks, and the popular “concealment” art which hides unpleasant things from view (“Some of us have student loans to pay off” exclaims a defensive sculptor in the midst of creating such a work). The narrator also darkly reminds us that there is some art “meant to remind the audience of things we’d rather forget, things so awful they shouldn’t be true.” This type of art is represented as a simple black square the slowly grows to consume the page. “Many people try hard not to look at this type of artwork,” we are told.

At the New York Times, Ed Park reviews the latest books from Nick Drnaso and Michael Kupperman.

Not yet 30, Drnaso has topped his virtuoso 2016 debut, “Beverly,” which had a cheerful palette gleefully at odds with all that roiled beneath its speckless Midwestern skies: class friction and psychosexual urges, brain-draining sitcoms and kneejerk racism. (Nearly everyone in Drnasoland is white.) Some of the visual shocks in “Beverly” lodge in the head, like certain demonic glimpses from “The Shining” — but “Sabrina” goes deeper, risks more. It’s an unnerving mystery told by a rigorous moralist, a profoundly American nightmare set squarely in the first year of the Trump presidency. Politics is never mentioned, but the dread is everywhere: on the airwaves, at an open mic, in a kid’s activity book, and — most barbarically — online.

For Print, Michael Dooley explores Black Comix Returns.

Black Comix Returns isn’t simply about black comic books. More expansive than that, it’s a celebration of African American independent comics art, spotlighting nearly 100 cartoonists in practically every genre and category: educational, experimental, erotic, horror, humor, kids, and sure, superhero. This lineup includes established pros like Lance Tooks, Keith Knight, Ben Passmore, and Afua Richardson, whose World of Wakanda covers were part of that GLADD award. But mostly it presents relatively unknown but praiseworthy rising art stars.

Many have done licensed material for the mainstream majors, but the majority are developing their own, creator-owned projects. One of the book’s authors, cartoonist-scholar Damian Duffy, explained to Women Write About Comics that “the ‘x’ in ‘Black Comix’ is there because its focus is on independent work, which often means work sold outside or alongside the local comics shop market. Indy comics are put out by everyone from amateur artists to storyboard artists to fine artists to commercial illustrators. Some work is self-published, or only published online.”

And finally, Eddie Campbell explains to Entertainment Weekly why he's coloring From Hell.

The good thing about computers is they have a million colors. I remember when we used to hand-separate colors. We would cut up zipper tones and overlay them on four separations to make the colors for our comic covers back in the ‘80s. We were stuck with a dozen or so variations of colors, because we couldn’t afford to buy every possible zipper tone, but with the computer you can get all kinds of muddy and subtle shades. It’s enjoyable. It’s Eddie Campbell coloring, it’s not regular comic book coloring. I did something for Marvel once, and there was a shine on people’s kneecaps and elbow points. They always like to put these glistening highlights on everything. But here, there’s lots of evening fading into night, where it starts in evening and colors fade until they disappear, and then suddenly we’re in the darkness and gloom, where things are only dimly glimpsed.

I Admire Its Purity

Today at TCJ, we've got that rare occasion (that's about to become less rare) where one cartoonist interviews another cartoonist. Today's installment sees Charles Forsman speaking with Max de Radigues. While their initial focus is on Max's graphic novel Weegee with Wauter Mannaert, recently brought to English by Conundrum, Max's prolific output sees them going into even more. Here's a bit on the co-operative publishing set up that Max is currently a part of.

I want to ask about l’employe du moi, the publishing Co-op you are a part of in Brussels. Can you tell me a bit about how that is set up? I’ve been thinking about publishing co-ops lately and wonder why no one in comics has done something similar in North America. Maybe you have some insight into that?

Yeah, I always wondered why there aren't more small publishing house in the US. It seems like most of any alumni for a French or Belgian art-school start a project with his classmate that pretty often becomes a publishing house. I lot of them come and go but a lot stick also. L’employé du Moi, started as a weekly zine made by students of a school in Brussels in 1999. After a bit more than a year, they were tired of the intensity of that rhythm and decide to move to bigger anthology project. To make that project exist, they created a small publishing company. It started by them just doing anthologies and publish themselves and slowly they started publishing other friends and people they were meeting. I got in, in 2006, because I shared a studio space with them and I was very interested in the process of making a book, not just drawing it but the whole process until it reaches the reader. I think it really helped me a lot in my cartoonist career to be able to talk like equal with the publisher and to have a sense of what I can and cannot do technically.

Today, we are five people in the house, Sacha Goerg, Stéphane Noël, Phlippe Vanderheyden, Matthias Rozes and me. I’m not sure about the word Co-op. I think we are the equivalent of a non-profit… i’m not sure what the differences are between the two.

Meanwhile, on the TCJ Review front, we're pleased to introduce you to another new writer: Mel Schuit. She's here today with a review of Ben Sears' latest Double+ story, The Ideal Copy.

In The Ideal Copy , Sears sticks to the series formula of a short, quippy escapade in which the stakes are generally low in terms of danger and real-world impact. Perhaps because the bulk of the adventure doesn’t feature Plus Man and Hank physically working together, this book in particular feels almost like a filler episode intended to focus less on action and more on character development, specifically for Plus Man. Plus Man not only gets the bulk of the screen time in the book, he also gets the bulk of the story. He’s the one who discovers that something is amiss with their party hosts and he’s the one who investigates it. He also has the added benefit of meeting Gene, a former treasure hunter and mentor of sorts. As a wrongfully convicted former convict, Gene has a lot of offer Plus Man in terms of advice and perspective, and this chance meeting puts a harsh spotlight on the fact that Plus Man is human and that Hank is a robot: Plus Man is growing and changing and learning, but Hank is stationary.

Elsewhere, the site Women Write About Comics scored what has to be the hands down best subject for an interview I could have imagined and in to make it that much sweeter, found that subject to be more than happy to speak in detail. Nobody--no single person--understands the mechanics of publishing quite as well as an accountant. (I grew up with more in a house that had a few, why do you ask?)

This is such a bad idea, but who cares, the world is probably going to end. Hail Satan!

Sinus Congestion

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews the first two issues of Mike Freiheit's autobiographical minicomic, Monkey Chef.

The hook for Mike Freiheit's minicomics series Monkey Chef is a strong one: it's an account of time spent in South Africa, preparing food for monkeys at a sanctuary, as well as cooking food for the humans who worked there. A more conventional version of this story would be just a straight journal comic; the sheer novelty of the experience might have made it worthwhile in that form. However, Freiheit's approach is a more artful one, juxtaposing different events against each other in interesting ways. That said, the story is a fairly straightforward but episodic series of anecdotes and observations about his experiences that doesn't set out to make him look good. As Freiheit demonstrates, his time spent in South Africa was the epitome of a difficult but worthwhile experience.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Whit Taylor interviews Ellen Forney.

When I did Marbles, it took so much effort and so much emotional work that when I was done I felt like whatever I do next is not going to be a memoir. It’s going to be in the third person, and it’s not going to have to do with mental health. So I brought up another couple of topics, and nothing really struck me to do a book. In the interim, I got so much feedback from people who found Marbles helpful that it made me feel really purposeful. It took a few years for me to be able to come back and say, “I really like doing material about mental health and I feel like I have more to offer.” What I needed was a break from it and, in the interim, I feel like I became a mental health advocate or activist. I’m really excited about and comfortable with that role.

Someone has posted the audio from Ronald Wimberley's panel discussion with David Brothers at this year's TCAF.

—News. The NCS has announced this year's Reuben winners.

—Reviews & Commentary. The aforementioned Ronald Wimberley has written an interesting essay about Dilraj Mann's story in Island #15 (the one with Mann's highly controversial cover).

The fact that Dilraj’s cover is a part of the narrative makes the entire magazine, as an object, a part of the story. Dilraj is using the form to express the grand idea in the story.

As you may have already seen in this site's comments section, Paul Slade has found some intriguing hints that Andy Capp's Reg Smythe may be a strong influence on the work of Jaime Hernandez.

I’ve never seen Hernandez acknowledge any debt to Andy Capp in his interviews but, by whatever route the influence came, it’s clear the two men ended up using a very similar toolbox of quite specific cartooning techniques.

Seven American Brothers

Today at the Journal, we're pleased to be walking neck deep in a sea of Koyama Press titles. To start things off here at this abbreviated week of TCJ, we've got a review of the new Alex Degen graphic novel, courtesy of Oliver Ristau.

Though Alex Degen's comics are crowded with weird superheroes, poorly wrapped mummies and giant self-improving automatons – as well as lots of statues, which are often smashed to pieces – piles of dead bodies appear, too, sometimes covered in blood, and serve as a reminder for parts of Darger's work.

And most important, there's an ongoing absence of words. Degen once stated in an interview, “I believe in the power of this form, the silent comic, and am trying to get better at conveying complex feelings and concepts with it. Because when it connects it seems to connect with readers on a deep level.”

Did you have a three day weekend? I did. But you know who rarely takes three day weekends? Colorists! They work like animals. They're crazy for the stuff, that work stuff! Ben Towle agrees, which is why he's here with an interview with one of those colorists, Walter. You've probably come across his work before. Here's a bit on how he got started in the ashes of retail:

How did you become interested in specifically the coloring part of comics-making?

Well I had a comics shop back in the mid '90s when a big comics distributor company (Capital, I think) went bankrupt. We were collateral damage and the shop closed. I nearly lost everything. So after my shop closed I had to find a new job. I wanted to go back to drawing (I was an art student for years before the shop), but realized I stopped too long to get at a level where I could make a living from my art. I was a big fan of Steve Oliff’s work on Akira and read an article showing his process that got me really curious. The whole comics industry has turned to computer coloring but it was nearly nonexistent in France at the time. Coloring was still mostly done by hand on a separate paper sheet with the art printed in blue, so I decided to become a computer colorist, took a loan to buy a computer, and learned Photoshop with a friend who already knew the software.

Meanwhile, over at Vice--sure?--Tara Booth has a rock solid comic called Trying To Be Positive that I quite liked.

Annie's right.

 

 

Joyce Carol’s Oatmeal

Today at the Journal, we've got a titan's take on a heavyweight: Tegan and the Bros! It's new Love and Rockets week, cousin. Will we bite the hand that feeds (and has fed) since time immemorial? 

That’s something about both Jaime and Gilbert, as they got older and their respective serials eased into the comfortable rhythms of mid-life: saying each chapter seems slight on its own is hardly an insult when the sum is immeasurably greater than its parts. At this point even the idea of something as distinct as “story arcs” seems like a mundane imposition. Maggie & Hopey’s lives, to say nothing of those of Fritzi and her extended fractious clan, don’t fit into beginnings, middles, and ends. Maybe every now and again events cohere into distinct climaxes and denouements, but mostly things just keep going one damn thing after another. You know, like life. 

That's not all! Today we've also got a bit of Nobrow's King of the Birds to share with you. This is how they described their graphic novel interpretations of Slavic myths by writer/artist Alexander Utkin:

When a merchant nurses the King of Birds back to health after he is injured in a great war, he is offered a great reward. Together they travel far across the land to the domains of the King's three sisters to claim the merchant's prize... but will they give up that which is most precious to them?

Of course, this being the Internet, we're not the only ones with free comics--there's also The Passing, by Marian Churchland. It's excellent, stirring, and all too brief. 

For those of you in Belgium: first off, congratulations! I have never been. Second off, they have a Gilbert Shelton show going on now at Comic Art Factory, which you should check out. For the rest of us, drink in this interview they provided.

 

The American Kids

Nick Drnaso's Sabrina is one of the most acclaimed books of the year so far, and Patrick Dunn is here to talk with the artist about it.

I’m curious about how your life led you to comics in the first place. When did you first develop your interest in the medium and what creators influenced you?

I started a bit late. I was 18 and a high school friend and I were both going to community college. He was drawing crude notebook drawings and something about that appealed to me. I think ever since then, I have been trying the process of moving away from where I grew up and changing the way – Well, basically what is behind this whole interview is that there is a ton of uncertainty and a ton of negative feelings that have come up in the past year or so. And it makes me very conflicted about even doing an interview, taking in any kind of attention or validation that might come from what I’ve made, because it’s just wrapped up in a lot of self-hatred. And that’s another thing that has been kind of hard to get over recently. And somehow making art is very comfortable, or very comforting to me. But also, when I am being my most self-critical, it just seems like this exercise in ego gratification or something.

So I think that's why I'm having trouble answering these questions in a clear-headed way, about even simple things like my process, because in my mind I'm getting tripped up thinking, “What is my process? What does this even mean? What am I doing?” And the silver lining is that I think all of these things will just funnel into whatever this next project is. I think that the little bit of work I’ve started on, and a little bit of notes I’ve jotted down, have all been centered around these feelings. And I feel like there might be something healthy and relatable in doing that and just being able to share that with other people. So that is kind of the mode of thinking that is keeping me working these days.

Irene Velentzas is here too, with a review of Karl Stevens' latest, The Winner.

“It’s funny how people ask me if the stories in my comics ‘really happened’” writes Karl Stevens in his latest graphic narrative, The Winner. The back of Steven’s book jacket will tell you “Karl Stevens uses the graphic novel to dissect the line between the worlds of high and low art. While working as a museum guard he contemplates the plight of his aesthetic choices, and how they have affected his life thus far.” Since this is true of The Winner, I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise to an artist straddling the lines between reality, unreality, and surrealism, that his audience approaches the narrative reliability of his work with some skepticism. Stevens’ wry and often laconic wit are as much a part of the subversion of his words as they are of his images. It often takes an extra beat after the punchline to determine the double edge of his intension.

In Stevens’ work, I do not distinguish between high and low art, however. I would never say his work is not cartoony enough for comics, or realistic enough for the art world. While Stevens expresses simple sketches, primary color blocks, detailed engraving-like cross-hatching, and photorealistic paintings, I do not see these artistic styles as juxtaposed so much as superimposed in his work. The work that Stevens’ graphic narrative reminds me of the most is that of William Blake, who by his own admission endeavored to create works of “memorable fancy” – something descriptive both of reality and the heightened ability of the human mind to imprint the imagination onto memory. I find Stevens’ work converges upon itself, using his etched line-work as a type of base upon which he layers his colored portraits, and sometimes prints on colored paper. It is the repetition-with-a-difference in Stevens’ work that makes up both the reality and the fantasy of his tales.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Art Spiegelman has won the McDowell Medal, and Stan Sakai was won the inaugural Joe Kubert Storyteller Award.

—Reviews. Charles Hatfield reviews Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared.

About seven years ago, animator and storyboard artist Vera Brosgol entered the world of graphic novels with a walloping big success: Anya's Ghost, a supernatural fantasy rooted in the experience of being a Russian immigrant girl struggling to fit into American life. Brosgol knew this struggle firsthand, having moved from Russia to the US at age five. Anya's Ghost changed Brosgol's life: rapturously reviewed, the book went on to win Eisner, Harvey, and Cybil Awards. Its theme of trying to disavow one's cultural roots resonated with Gene Luen Yang's epochal American Born Chinese, which had been published some five years earlier (both were published by First Second). The two books drew upon popular genres—myth fantasy, superheroes, ghost stories—to fashion nervy fables of complex and ambivalent identity. In that sense, Anya's Ghost​ appears to have struck a nerve.

Now Brosgol, having also authored a Caldecott Honored picture book (2016's Leave Me Alone!), has just released her second graphic novel: the autobiographical Be Prepared, in which a nine-year-old Vera, again a self-conscious Russian immigré, goes to summer camp.

Her Satanic Hands

 

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got the latest installment of Retail Therapy. This time around, Steve Anderson is holding it down with his perspective from the giant display windows at Third Eye Comics. This is him on his running crew:

I could be away from the store for a good while, and as long as I am working remotely, nothing would change, because of the strong team we have. What I find myself doing more so than bringing up folks to take over responsibilities, is bringing up folks to take on responsibilities so that it allows me to do more for the company as a whole. There are a few things that I really have a hard time letting go of, but I've gotten pretty good over the years at identifying those things, and being realistic about just how much I can have on my plate at one time.

We pride ourselves on having very low turnover at Third Eye, and because of that, we're super lucky to have one of the most dedicated, knowledgable and committed teams in retail - not just comics retail, but retail as a whole. It's our staff that has allowed us to grow as much as we have, and they're what provides me the constant motivation to make the stores bigger and better.

RJ Casey has also returned to us, if only for a brief moment, so as to share us with his take on Sabrina, the new Nick Drnaso graphic novel. His take is that it's one of the best comics you'll find, anywhere:

The only thing I love more than an overly ambitious project that falls just outside its target is one that hits the bull’s eye. Sabrina splits the arrow with over 200 pages of Drnaso flexing. He puts a striking amount of detail in interiors, capturing the stale-aired drabness of “EMPLOYEES ONLY” backrooms and nearly empty month-to-month apartments. In a few large panels, he pulls out a Where’s Waldo-esque style to illustrate a children’s book inside the book. On other occasions, Drnaso, drawing haunting dream sequences, makes a negative image with his minimal line in neon over black. Sabrina’s art throughout is assertive and immediate, yet non-hurried.

If you want to know more, you can check out a preview of Sabrina, over at Comicon. We'll be talking with the artist behind this contender later on this week.

By the way, if you're aiming to grab an Ignatz, the first step is going to be getting nominated for one, and those submissions close June 1st, allegedly. Submit away!

One publication alone is too small to contain American hero Rob Clough, which is why you'll have to get on over to Your Chicken Enemy to find out what he thought about Michael Kupperman's All The Answers. I've never had the privilege of editing Rob's reviews, but if I was in charge of this one, I would have violently disagreed with the concept that Snake, Bacon, Pagus, Twain or Einstein areanywhere near as star-making as the infamous 4-Playo. Blasphemy, thy name is Elkin!

Anime DVD Collection

Today on the site, we have published the commencement speech Seth gave to this year's CCS graduating class, with an introduction by James Sturm.

To begin, I’d like to tell you that you have made the right decision in choosing to be cartoonists. This is very likely a sentence you will never hear again in your life. Don’t let that deter you.

Cartooning is a beautiful art form and you are among the first few generations of artists allowed to explore it with the freedom and pleasure that other artists have always been granted with their mediums. Take that to heart but take advantage of it, as well. It is a remarkable opportunity.

While it is true the legacy of our medium is scant, this also means you do not have the weight of centuries of tradition hanging over your head. Comics have only been considered worthy of serious attention for a decade or two. That’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. The field ahead has barely been tilled. Open ground. Ground that is still fresh, still brimming with possibilities. Still chances to stake your claim.

To be honest, I am quite envious of you. This school has given you an experience I could never have dreamed of when I started out. Back then, in the year 1980, it would never have occurred to me, after high school, to look for a college that focused on teaching comics. A ridiculous idea. Why would there be such a thing? I knew that comic books were considered pure junk. Almost the very bottom of the cultural trash heap. Perhaps pornography was considered lower. Perhaps.

We also have Rob Kirby's review of Jessica Campbell's sophomore book, XTC69.

Chicago-based artist Jessica Campbell's first effort with Koyama Press, Hot or Not: 20th Century Male Artists was a wonderfully funny, pointed satire in which the author presented herself as a museum docent, assessing not the artistic merit of celebrated male artists such as Gustav Klimt, Henry Moore, and Mark Rothko, but their sexual attractiveness, i.e., their "boneability." It was wicked fun, and Campbell never let the politics of her role-reversal override the silly humor of it all, proving herself a humorist to be reckoned with.

With her followup, XTC69, Campbell explores the same satirical territory, holding a mirror up to male chauvinism and misogyny and reflecting it back with merciless aim, this time through a science fiction parody seemingly inspired by the 1967 drive-in trash classic Mars Needs Women, in which a group of male Martians visit Earth to find female mates with whom to repopulate their planet. Campbell quickly establishes her everything's-opposite scenario, making her aliens a trio of females from the planet L8DZ N123 (read that carefully—get it?) roaming the galaxies in their titular ship in search of males. The L8DZ are led by Commander Jessica Campbell and the planet they have landed on is Earth—only it is 700 years in the future and no humans remain… except for one young woman also named (gasp!) Jessica Campbell.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Ellen Forney about her new book on dealing with bipolar disorder.

I feel like I became a mental health activist and advocate just by putting out my personal story. It made me feel really purposeful. It wasn’t just about me and exposing my own vulnerability and strength and story, but that there was more meaning to it than just my personal story. Much more than I had realized. I wanted to do more. The focus in Marbles, and the focus in most personal stories about mental health or bipolar disorder certainly, are about the struggle to get stable. That’s what my story was and that’s the narrative story arc. That makes sense, but being healthy with a chronic disorder means that you have your whole life stretching in front of you. It’s a long term prospect and that’s not nearly as interesting a narrative. I wanted to come up with a way that was dynamic and helpful and dealt with that part of it. That’s why Rock Steady is more of a companion book to Marbles, but you can also call it a sequel in that it’s about act two, three, and four, and however long life is.

—Reviews & Commentary. On his own blog, Brian Nicholson ponders Jim Mahfood's Grrl Scouts and the new collections of Mike Mignola's Hellboy.

When I think of the Mignola images I like that predate the Hellboy material, I most often think of a page in the DC event Cosmic Odyssey, where Batman is hiding just out of sight of the larger, Kirby designed villain above him: This sort of framing is nowhere in Hellboy.

Reading Hellboy, it turns out it still works. The aspect of Mignola’s visual language that seems most uniquely his is the insertion into a page of a statue or something that is primarily about atmosphere than a progression of sequential images. Despite his pages being redolent with big chunks of black and negative space, it was easy for me to see the similarities with Rob Liefeld and other Image founders. But reading this collection, those sort of insert shots that seem atmospheric or decorative when looking at the page as a whole comes across differently when you’re actually reading it: Like you’re noticing something else in the room you didn’t see before, but that now is emerging from the shadow because it’s directly in front of you. I don’t think of Hellboy as actually “scary,” despite its designation in the horror genre, but the stripped-back visual language works to convey that feeling as much as any of the story’s tropes.

Baby Euclid

The weekend beckons but before it comes, prepare by reading Alex Dueben's interview with Timothy Truman, who has revived one of his signature 1980s titles, Scout.

At the time, the book was my response to a lot of things that were going on politically and environmentally. We were in the middle of the Cold War and everyone seemed to be afraid of atomic bombs falling any minute and I just came up with the idea that there were other things to worry about beyond atomic bombs. Scout’s world is an America that’s fallen into a state of collapse, not due to outside forces but due to inside forces. I’ve always been a fan of Native American culture and history and I’d been reading a lot about traditional Apache religion and lifestyle and the more I started thinking about it, it seemed to me the only one that would be equipped to survive in this world that I was concocting would be an Apache traditionalist. Not just a Native American traditionalist, but an Apache traditionalist. Anyway, that was the genesis of the story.

Now in 2018 the idea of an environmentally ruined America that’s collapsed in on itself doesn’t seem quite so outlandish and crazy. [laughs]

How far we’ve come since the 1980s! [laughs] That’s what I mean. It was the time to resurrect the concept. In the follow-up series Scout: War Shaman, which was set fifteen years after the events chronicled in Scout, Santana gained two companions, his two young sons Victorio and Tahzey. That presented a new spin on the story. Scout didn’t have just himself to worry about. He had to do what he could to protect his two boys and be a good father to them as they roamed across this barren, ravaged landscape. At the end of War Shaman, Scout was ambushed and killed by government troops. However, Victorio and Tahzey were left alive. The oldest, Tahzey is rescued by one of Scout’s allies, a militant fundamentalist minister. However, when we last see the youngest, Victorio, he’s all alone beneath a rock in the desert. No one can find him.

We also have Day Five of Colleen Frakes's Cartoonist's Diary, in which she returns home from her trip.

And we also have a review for you, Tegan O'Neil's take on the Black Mask comic Young Terrorists.

The problem with Young Terrorists isn’t that it isn’t about anything, but that it’s about too much. There’s a lot of plot, a lot of exposition, a lot of characters. Charts and graphs are employed. Every character has backstory and a gimmick. The plot goes every which way. There’s just a lot.

This is an angry book, and in 2018 righteous anger can paper over a lot of sins. This comic runs on indignation, pure rocket fuel that burns incandescent white. (I watch the news all day so I can relate.) Matteo Pizzolo’s name appears on the comic twice, both as the series’ writer and one of the co-founders of Black Mask Studios. There are worse reasons to co-found a comic book company than to have an outlet for ultra-leftist political books.

I like everything about Young Terrorists, really ... except the book itself. And the reason I didn’t particularly like the book has nothing to do with the book’s politics, with which I find myself in general agreement. The reason is that there’s just too much going on here, even in the context of a two-hundred-page story. Although some things work and the book improves drastically as it goes, it stumbles out of the gate. It’s the kind of book where, after reading the story, I was surprised by the blurb on the back cover: A young heiress discovers her father is part of a tyrannical new world order. She vows to burn his whole empire down. That’s what I read?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Eric Farwell at The Paris Review interviews Michael Kupperman.

I didn’t want a reader to have to work to get through this book. That’s why the structure of the chapters is modeled after classic comic books. It’s meant to pull you through, keep you reading. And reduction was the key. I had to keep my eye on what the story was about and focus on that. There are many fascinating details, cool stories, and bits of trivia I removed. This book is not about old show business per se, or how cool it was to be in his position—even though he had many extraordinary experiences, he didn’t enjoy most of them.

And the book isn’t about me, either, even though it needed my pain to work. I changed the final two chapters radically during the last months of work on it. There was a lot more about who I am, the negative effects I feel my upbringing has had on me. I removed that stuff because it was wrong for this book. This book is about my father first—my experience is secondary.

—Sam Ombiri writes about how he initially misunderstood the work of Gabrielle Bell.

Truth be told, the very first time I read the comic, because it didn’t tell me how to feel and the drama wasn’t calling so much attention to itself, I kind of just skipped over all that was happening. I read through elements in the story, not really engaging with said elements. Like, for example, a friendship dissolving between Audrey’s dad and Cody, because nobody is paying any mind to it. Not even Cody, who is being so mistreated. While Audrey’s dad can be blamed for leaving Cody behind to be arrested, it isn’t for reasons that aren’t hard to guess, displayed by how Cody treats Audrey. At the same time, the way everything ended unfairly on his end, it’s easy to see why he doesn’t feel like he owes anyone anything. The way Gabrielle drew Cody being arrested conveys to me his realization that nobody truly cares about him. I wonder if Gabrielle gave him a dog to be less lonely? Anyway, Audrey’s dad is confronted with having to take responsibility for the man he used to be, not to mention the torment he has clearly been subjecting his wife to, and possibly at one point considers escaping it all, maybe with Cody? Would all this drama then be more effective if I was told what to feel?

—The most recent guest on Comics Alternative is Kriota Willberg.

Don’t You Bile, Tonight

Today at the Journal, we've got that free comic action cooking something fierce. First up, you'll find an excerpt from Aaron Costain's Entropy, which is coming from Secret Acres later this year. One of the central questions is whether or not the cat in the comic can be trusted, let me spoil that for you: no. It's a cat. Never trust cats.

Day Four of Colleen Frakes' Cartoonist Diary is up and running as well, and Colleen has the most accidental Zen moment in response to meditation you're likely to find outside of those books by Uma Thurman's dad, it's pretty great.

Speaking of comics, here's something from an upcoming issue of Brittania: Lost Eagles of Rome, by Peter Milligan and Robert Gill. Valiant sends these over all the time, and while I know they won't publish this in black and white, I look at this page and think: they really, really should.

Of course, before you get to see the comics, you usually get to sneak a peek at the covers, which is what's going on over at Koyama Press this very second: the reveal of Annie's much anticipated list of Fall titles, which is wall to wall heavy hitters.

Over at The Chicago Tribune, you'll find novelist Kathleen Rooney reviewing Nick Drnaso's Sabrina, which D&Q is dropping next week...hey, I wonder if we'll review that? I'll ask Tim, his phone has a calendar on it.

Overstuffed

It's another big day on TCJ. First, Dan Nadel returns to talk with Bill Schelly, the comics scholar and Harvey Kurtzman biographer who recently published a memoir about his life in comics fandom. They discuss the difference between fandom and criticism, the reality of comics as a profession, and Schelly's experiences with Steve Ditko.

I had a life-changing conversation with an older fan named Howard Siegel at the 1973 New York comic convention, which touched on the lives of Jack Kirby and comics professionals in general. We met after a panel where it became clear that C. C. Beck was not happy with DC about their ham-handed revival of Captain Marvel that year. I had come to New York to compete for a spot in DC’s so-called “new talent program,” which was billed as an apprentice program for aspiring young artists. The day before, I was firmly rejected by DC, as represented by Vince Colletta.

I was bemoaning my fate to Howard, who told me I was probably lucky that I wasn’t accepted. He explained that nearly all comics artists were struggling financially, they were considered disposable by the publishers, that drawing comics involved endless repetition of the same faces and poses, long past the point where it was enjoyable or had any novelty. I countered by saying that he couldn’t tell me that Jack Kirby wasn’t doing well financially. Siegel explained that Kirby was doing “all right” but he was at the top of his game, and he had no ownership in the characters he had created for Marvel and DC. This conversation went along those lines for a while, and when I came away, I realized that being a comics pro at Marvel or DC at the time—and they were pretty much the only game in town, as undergrounds were dying—was far from the romanticized view of it that I’d developed as a teenager.

We also have Day Three of Colleen Frake's Cartoonist's Diary, and a weekend in the cold, internet-less woods.

And then Chris Mautner is here with a review of several collections of Liniers' Macanudo (which coincidentally was just picked up by King Features).

By all rights, Macanudo should have charmed the pants off of me. Its creator, the Argentinian artist known as Liniers, has an appealing, confident, warm, and rubbery art style that’s perfect for the sort of daily humor strip he’s creating. He continually attempts to play with the limited four-panel format – changing the shape of the panels, having strips that runs sideways and upside down, breaking the fourth wall, and in general subverting reader expectations. He shows an interest and appreciation for the history of the medium, and his considerable influences – George Herriman, Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, Patrick McDonnell – are apparent but don’t overwhelm. What’s not to like?

And yet Macanudo largely left me cold. While there were moments I was won over by the strip’s sweetness and lighthearted play, too often I found myself wishing for a little more grit.  


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. For Fold, Liana Finck picks her ten favorite cartoonists.

I read [Maira Kalman's] children’s books as a child and they’re all so wild and funny and free and didn’t follow the usual structure of a children’s book. She wrote for kids like we were wacky beatniks or something. She’s also cool in this way I’ll never be. I think a strong design sense is what makes an artist cool. I think it’s a part of the brain. I think it’s connected to spacial awareness or something. You can fake it if you don’t have it naturally, but if you have it naturally it’s really intense. If she loves an object, not only does she love it, but she knows how to put it somewhere so that you will love it too.

—Interviews & Profiles. There have been so many interviews and profiles of Aline Kominsky-Crumb lately that we've almost certainly inadvertently missed a few, but two of the most prominent recent features were in the New York Times and The New Republic.

My parents were very pretentious and upward-striving. They made me do ballet, and tennis, and horseback riding. They wanted to make someone that a Jewish orthodontist would want to marry. Real class. So they didn’t like us to read comics, but I used to watch old cartoons on Saturday morning TV. I really liked Little Lulu, because she was this tough girl. They’d say, “This is the boy’s clubhouse, you can’t come in!” But she always found a way to get in there.

But I wasn’t a comics nerd at all: My comedy comes from stand-up in New York. My grandfather was a huge wannabe comedian, and he took me to see every comic in New York: Jackie Mason, Alan King, Henny Youngman, Don Rickles. My humor is directly related to that in terms of storytelling: self-deprecating, self-referential, very autobiographical stuff about the family, about daily life, that sort of thing. Also Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller: They were the only two women comics that I was interested in, so my work comes out of that.

Michael Kupperman is also making the promotional rounds, and recently appeared on both Comics Alternative and Virtual Memories.

—Misc. In the most recent issue of McSweeney's, Jonathan Lethem writes a fascinatingly weird essay/story using new captions for Bushmiller Nancy panels.

Most of us have experienced the inkling that
there is a world behind the world.

—RIP. Tom Wolfe lost me over the years (or I lost him), but it still seems wrong to let his death pass by without a mention.

Glenn Branca, on the other hand, disappointed no one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G1VO3kHIjM

The God Of Single Combat

Today at TCJ, we've got that review action that rumors say you crave. This Tuesday, it's our first piece from young firebrand Helen Chazan, who is here to take on Die Laughing, a collection of André Franquin's comics recently published by Fantagraphics. Here's Chazan's opener, the "Chazaner", if you will:

A haggard, silhouetted man stumbles across a snowy landscape. The terrain is vastly black, a blank white curve of snow accentuated by black night sky only a solid layer of ink can provide. The stumbling man casts a more energetic figure as he crests the seemingly endless snowbank. The lively and frantic mark-making that composes his form wobbles with a will to live, yet these fragile splotches also droop and fray with exhaustion like broken twigs or maybe frozen snot dribbling out of the cartoon guy’s big schnozz. Our unnamed hero curses of his inevitable death in the ice hell that is his life, when in the distance, bright lights appear that suggest an end.  Our man rejoices – could this be civilization? No. The lights are a pack of hungry wolves, whose jet black bodies replace the dark of night in a brutally minimal panel, our small man cowering in the corner of the frame. Horrible death cannot be avoided, and dreaming otherwise will only worsen the punishment –a charming gag. It’s meant to be funny, which you can tell because these are cartoon characters, appearing in a funny book.

Meanwhile, on the free comics front, we've got Day Two of Colleen Frakes' Alaskan Adventure. (We asked her to officially call it that, but received no response). In today's installment, we find out that science behind Frakes desire to take a plane (almost) all the way to where Santa lives.

Elsewhere, I liked this Venom review because it's a stone cold assessment of the moving target nature of making an appealing super-hero comic when the publisher keeps restarting the book for "new readers", while picking up twenty year old character threads to appeal to the people who might watch an upcoming movie that's based on said twenty year old threads, while also trying to acknowledge what happened in the last seven years because people seemed to dig it even though it will make zero sense to the imagined hordes that Marvel thinks Tom Hardy will be roping in, while also slapping a second number on the book to appeal to middle aged readers who have stuck it out for an even longer period of time and might be aware how many times a new number one has been pasted on the title.

Over at That Groovy site where I keep spending all my time, you'll find a list of covers that never got used in glorious black and white: it's a treat, and I recommend do it.

Here's the cover to the first magazine sized issue of The Comics Journal, which featured photos of the Superman movie, "First Photos" at that. Rest in peace, Margot Kidder: you never took it easy, but you sure seemed to have it figured out by the end.

 

Billions of Years of Unspoiled Nature

Today we bring you the conclusion to Rob Clough's epic, career-spanning interview with a pivotal figure in modern comics, John Porcellino.

How do you compare the experience of taking acid with your later practice in Zen Buddhism?

A lot of people in the modern world, and probably the pre-modern world too, came to a spiritual sensibility through drugs. When I first took acid, I was a deeply conflicted, miserably self-loathing person, riddled with existential anxiety. I had found different ways of coping with it, or transmuting it -- like punk rock, for example, or art. Acid released me in a large part from that anxiety of self. It was a major turning point in my life. I don’t want to be a guy who suggests to people that they do drugs. It’s a tricky road with lots of danger for bad detours. But for me I have to admit it was a turning point.

Now, I should also say, I wasn’t a guy who took acid and was like, “Hey, let’s get groovy.” It was a sacrament to me. I took it seriously, as seriously as one can take something like that. Well, not like it was a church or some hippie thing. I wanted to be free. Acid was a tool for investigating consciousness, for breaking down that little self, the barriers I had erected between myself and others, myself and the world. I would say I took it twelve times. The last time I took it, I remember right away, I intuitively thought, “I don’t need to do this anymore.” So that was it. It was maybe like ‘89-’91. Acid opened my heart. Instead of fearing the world, I began to love it.

As far as drugs and Zen, this has become a somewhat controversial topic in Zen circles lately. Some people look at Zen, like -- I’m free! I’m Zen! It’s all good, bro. That what the Japanese call Buji Zen. It’s a false free ticket toward doing what feels good. That’s not Zen. The Buddha, in the Ten Grave Precepts, the moral core of his teachings, includes Not to Indulge in Intoxicants. Western people don’t like that because they have a lot of hangups about Christianity and rules and commandments. The Precepts are not commandments—“Do this or else”—they’re guideposts for practitioners. They’re the natural state of an enlightened person. An enlightened person does not indulge in intoxicants. It’s something to shoot for. Anyhow, some people in the west, they look at drugs as kind of an express bus to enlightenment. Well, maybe they can open a door, but they can’t do the hard work for you.

We also begin a new Cartoonist's Diary. Our diarist this week is Colleen Frakes. Day One finds her on the way to an artists' retreat.

Finally, Martyn Pedlar is here with a review of a new nonfiction comic by Ellen Forney, Rock Steady.

In Ellen Forney’s Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life, you’ll learn how to make a game of taking your meds by swallowing them all at once; how to reframe yourself as mysterious when you’re not feeling socially capable; and how to cry inconspicuously in public. Most importantly, you’ll learn about “SMEDMERTS”, which translates to “Sleep Meds Eat Doctor Mindfulness Exercise Routine Tools Support system.”

The fact that SMEDMERTS is pictured as a friendly little monster gives you an idea of the tone of the book. Psychological coping tools are presented as a kind of Batmanesque Utility Belt. A quote from “Fluffy” Flaubert shows him as a cartoon rabbit. Yet Rock Steady is careful and precise, too. It knows no amount of fun diminishes the amount of work mental stability can take. “Getting stable is really tough,” writes Forney. “Maintaining stability over the long term is a whole other challenge. Ideally, it’s less dramatic, but it’s just as demanding.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. At this weekend's TCAF, the Doug Wright Awards were announced: Sami Alwani, Jesse Jacobs and Jenn Woodhall.

—Interviews & Profiles. Connor Willumsen gave a great short interview to CBC.

"Do you have pets? Do they keep you company while you write?"

No they don't because no I don't have any, though I would love for there to be an animal in my life to keep company with while working. It might be telling of the expectation of living standards in my field to say that I consider the possible situation where I can responsibly adopt a dog into my life to be an upper-tier signifier of success and security.

Paul Gravett talks to Chris Reynolds.

I so enjoyed our evening wander along the seashore in Bournemouth when I visited you in 2012. You told me about your reactions to Seth’s analysis of your work in The Comics Journal. And how he seemed to have understood what you were doing and saying, perhaps more fully than you did yourself?

Yes, Seth looks at me and knows what I’m doing. Seth’s article in the Comics Journal, I thought, drew a line under what I’d been doing with Mauretania Comics. He’d found all the themes and neatened-off everything into a plausible-sounding package, and I thought, “That’s it. That’s what I did. I didn’t know, but I can rest now,” which was lovely for a bit. Seth was dead right in his Comics Journal essay about Monitor having come from somewhere else. It’s been great having had Seth’s support over the years. It’s great having had everyone’s support over the years. My family, Mrs Wood, John Parke, Paul Harvey, Robert Blamire, you and Peter, Ed Pinsent, Mark Baines, Cheryl Blundy, and everyone who’s helped.

—Misc. The New York Times writes about the faded mural at The Overlook.

This crumbling, beer-splotched wall in the back of a sports bar on East 44th Street is one of New York’s more neglected cultural treasures. Created in the 1970s, it is a veritable Sistine Chapel of American comic-strip art: the 30-some drawings across its face were left by a who’s who of cartooning legends, including a Spider-Man by Gil Kane, a Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker, a Dondi by Irwin Hasen, a Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff, a Hagar the Horrible by Dik Browne, and a Dagwood Bumstead by Paul Fung Jr. There’s also a self-portrait by Al Jaffee, a doodle by Bil Keane, and a Mad magazine-style gag by Sergio Aragonés. Old regulars are familiar with the wall’s past, and comic book scholars make occasional pilgrimages to the bar, but the Overlook’s cartoon mural remains largely unknown and untended.

—RIP. Adam Parfrey.

Exhibiting or Characterized by Torpor

Today at the Journal, we've got that Tegan action you crave. This time around, it's...another column on a DC Comics crossover? Hey, don't get mad at us! It's not our fault Marvel hasn't done any crossovers since Siege launched their hugely successful Heroic Age story arcs back in 2010. As soon as they do one, we promise, we'll ask Tegan if she has any interest.

Metal is the story of –

Well, that’s a problem. Because Metal is a story about a bunch of things. It might actually be about too many things. A lot happens in these six issues, and half the things that happen happen in other comics, which is terribly inefficient. 

A series like Metal is usually designed one of two ways: a crossover with a main series and multiple crossovers can either keep the crossovers separate and distinct, or incorporate as many of the crossovers as possible to tell a part of the main story. Metal goes the latter route, which is problematic if you’re coming in late to the party and your editor thinks that sending you issues one through six of a six issue limited series is any way to actually get the whole story. I mean, come on, let’s be reasonable.

Of course, if you prefer your comics to be a little less of a team effort, you might want to take a look at what Koyama Press had delivered--it's by some cartoonist named Michael DeForge. Seems like a pretty talented guy, he might just have a future at this thing.

And speaking of, or let's make that "with", talented guys, here's another one: Tom Kaczynski, who once got flat out tackled by Greg Hunter when Greg got all worked up in a pick-up basketball game, has forgiven the man and they're here to talk comics. It's your latest episode of Comic Book Decalogue, and it's a pressure cooker.

If this annoying tone of voice i've adopted for today's blog post hasn't driven you away, well, good for you--because that means you won't miss Marc-Oliver Frisch's review of Death Or Glory #1, a comic by Rick Remender and Bengal. Frisch was able to find a couple of things he liked about the experience, although it appears one of those things was the fact that he was able to finish reading the comic rather quickly.

Death or Glory starts out on a five-page sequence set at a burger joint in “Yuma, Arizona,” populated by two white-trash employees and a lone customer. They’re about to close, and Curtis, mopping the floor, wants to call it a day soon because he’s got a date with Susie who “works down at the HoJos.” Ken, however, who sports a mullet and operates the cash register, reminds Curtis he’s “on trash duty tonight,” and proceeds to taunt his colleague about Susie. “Wouldn’t dare put my pecker in that,” Ken says, but he does suggest Susie has performed oral sex on him—he illustrates the act for Curtis using his tongue and fingers—and he claims “Scotty down at Firestone” can corroborate “she’s a butt-licker.”

It’s not a very original first page, in other words, nor one that’s particularly pleasant unless you’re really, as a matter of principle, into trite stock characters or displays of good old-fashioned President-of-the-Locker-Rooms-of-the-United-States-style workplace harassment and sexually degrading remarks about women.

While you're taking suggestions, the squad at 2dcloud have a preorder thing going on for their next season, with a pretty extensive list of titles up for the asking

Abhay Khosla had a characteristically amusing recap on what it's like to go to the comiXology website without a specific plan in mind.

One of the greatest hooks of all time. RIP Big T.

 

Very Crude

Today on the site, Edwin Turner returns with a review of Dave Cooper's long-anticipated return to comics, Mudbite.

In Mudbite, Dave Cooper conjures a perverse and lurid dreamworld that seethes and wriggles with its own nightmare logic. The erstwhile hero of this world is Eddy Table, an apparent alter-ego for Cooper himself. Mudbite collects two new Eddy Table adventures, "Mud River" and "Bug Bite", abject fantasias of intense sexual anxiety rendered in Cooper's compellingly repellent style.

The two tales are bound tête-bêche; after you finish "Bug Bites", you can flip the book over and read "Mud River." Or maybe you'll read the stories in the other order. Mudbite's playful design invites the reader to participate in ordering the relationship between the stories. Cooper's inimitable aesthetic unifies the project's themes of aberrant sexuality and libidinal anxieties. His art also unifies the collection's dominant tone, a queasy grappling of the relationship between comedy and horror. Cooper's tone and themes inhere through both tales, despite a few superficial differences.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles the 2018 Herblock winner Ward Sutton.

“My parents gave me Herblock’s autobiography as a gift years ago,” Sutton tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “Although I’d surely seen cartoons of his before that, this was my first big introduction to his work. I love his drawing — his Joe McCarthy and [President] Nixon caricatures are especially cutting — his ability to make clear points so succinctly and, of course, his bold stands, many of which seem timeless.”

In recent weeks, Sutton has been revisiting that book and appreciating the photos and stories of Herblock “interacting with presidents, movie stars and other notables — as well as not interacting, such as the time when [President] Reagan singled him out and refused to invite him to a White House event because of his unflattering cartoons,” Sutton says.

Alex Dueben interviews Zack Soto about the Kickstarter he's running for his fantasy comic, The Secret Voice.

I think Fantasy is a genre that comics sort of has a hard time with. At least straight up, “Capital F” Fantasy. As a kid I read a lot of stuff like D&D/Dragonlance type comics, Conan, stuff that might pop up in Heavy Metal magazine, the Myth Adventures comics, things like that. The Elflord issues that Dale Keown inked had something going on. The 80s and early 90s were great for a lot of B&W explosion fantasy comics with 1-5 issues. Stuff like Guy Davis’s first comic The Realm, which was a weird mish mash of the D&D cartoon plot with 80’s anime aesthetic. Honestly, I mainly read a crap-ton of mostly not super great Fantasy novels as a kid, repeatedly watched Beastmaster and things like that. Lots of comics that are not-quite Fantasy made an impact, like Corben’s DEN & Mutant World. There’s no doubt going to be stuff that I’m forgetting and will slap my forehead over when this goes up. Most modern Fantasy comics drive me crazy with how generic they seem.

And Soto's own podcast Process Party interviews Alex Degen.

—Reviews & Commentary. For Tablet, Rachel Shteir writes about the work of Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

I worry that Kominsky-Crumb will be considered too forthright for this moment. By which I mean too Jewish. A caption in one panel in “My Very Own Dream House,” announcing “no matter what remote corner of the world you go to—you’ll always find a crazy Jewish woman there. Probably true and I’m proud to be one!” may be familiar to (as well as discomfiting to) women who came of age in the second half of the 20th century but I’m not sure it resonates in the tepid, politically correct, 21st.

I also worry about sexism. Even readers swooning over Art Spiegelman and Ben Katchor’s profound, dark works about Jewish identity may spurn Kominsky-Crumb, who names the feminist expressionist Alice Neel and the angry Jewish comedians Joey Bishop, Alan King, and Jackie Mason as influences. Who brags about her “independent Jewish monster temperament” and hates Jewish men. (They like shiksas.) I worry that while Kominsky-Crumb has inspired graphic novelists like Alison Bechdel and Phoebe Glockner and maybe even female performer-writers such as Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham, she will be niche, this too Jewish elderly female comic artist drawing her neuroses, her Holocaust stories, her wacky polyandrous marriage, and her sexcapades.

Charles Hatfield takes issue with the editorial direction of a podcast episode about Jack Kirby he recently appeared on.

IMO the show gets bogged down at the intersection of Kirby bio and Marvel movie IP, and the cost is obscuring history. You would never know from this ‘cast that Simon and Kirby scored other big hits besides Captain America in the WWII years, such as The Boy Commandos. You wouldn’t know that comic book sales peaked in the early Fifties, after the heyday of the superhero, or that superheroes were not the barometer of the industry’s health. You’d never know that Kirby did his most lucrative, and one of his most influential, genres, romance, from the late Forties through late Fifties. (I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: you cannot explain the Marvel superheroes of the Sixties, with their domestic melodrama and expanded though sentimental women’s roles, without the influence of romance comics.)