Today at the Journal, we've got our latest installment of Retail Therapy, this time with Jenn Haines. There's a lot of things I agree with Jenn about, but the main one this week is that I also think that Barrier comic from Marcos Martin is gonna rule.
We have a very specific mandate: exceptional products and service for everyone. This means we are very family-focused, and welcoming of people of all ages, genders, and abilities. As a result, there are publishers, such as Zenescope and Avatar, that are special order only. We have a huge commitment to kids books, and I'll pretty much try any graphic novel that's intended for kids. And we are focused on providing a wide range of books to meet the tastes of our very diverse customer base.
Beyond that, we really just look at our customers' buying habits and see where their interests lie. For example, we don't carry collections of older material or any new hardcovers, as they've traditionally gathered dust. Instead, we want to give customers the chance to find things they won't usually find elsewhere. We order a lot from smaller publishers and self-published material direct from creators, as a result. Sometimes, a popular creator, or a really great publishing mandate, like that of Lion Forge, will get us to take risks on new series. And sometimes, it's just that I like the look of something. However, I've learned the hard way over the years that what I like is not what sells!
A palpable joy in the act of drawing is consistent throughout Kyle's work, and it's invigorating to look at. Linework, after all, is just another way of tracing how a mind thought about something, and Kyle's mind chooses just what's needed to propel the story, then embellishes the rest or not, seemingly at a whim. When a character needs a hand and arm to pick up an object, that arm and hand will appear -- frequently exaggerated to maximize visual effect -- and as soon as that hand is no longer needed, the next panel will show the same character as a torso with feet. Why waste time on the uninteresting when your reader will fill in missing arms for you? It's the same principle that saves comics artists from drawing every single frame in between two panels, and Kyle experiments with the mind's ability to fill in gaps on figures, faces, even the physical spaces the characters reside in.
The more of these blog posts of old super-hero comics with rad covers I find, the better it makes me feel about the future, because if there is a future, i'm going to buy some of these old super-hero comics, and I'm going to make my own blog posts about them. Coincidentally, the one I just read two days ago was one the Punisher comic above, whose cover would have fit perfectly with the linked article's theme.
I became part of the problem, and descended on the going out of business sale at the store I'd never much shopped to grab up the discounted comics that had found their level in the market here. Namely: inventory items that contributed not to the store that carried them’s year-plus in operation, but to its ultimate failure. In most mediums, that status would speak to a majority of these products’ quality, mark them out as simply inferior. But American comics is home to the creative world’s most chauvinistic fan community and most predatory distribution monopoly, not to mention a greater percentage of product whose motivating factor for existence is corporate greed than just about any other. In American comics, a going out of business sale is as likely a place, percentage wise, to find something good to read as a thriving concern is. I spent just under 30 bucks and got these six books to show for it, each of them showing off something worth a reader's while: unique modes of artistic expression, or legitimate innovation, or a lesson about the form's history, or a look at paths left untaken, or a hilarious level of badness that provides its own justification, or simple brilliance.
"You're cute, like a velvet glove cast in iron. And like a gas chamber, Varla, a real fun gal," Lori Williams tells Tura Satana in Russ Meyer’s 1965 Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! A director who created his own language of sexploitation and menace, Meyer used film to skate a thin line between titillation and disorientation: a black-and-white world with its own ferocious logic and bone-cracking justice, delivered by women whose bodies visually dominate the frame and whose lawlessness excite the imagination. To love this type of exploitation is to get sucked into its world: asking questions and dragging your feet is not only futile, but makes its antagonists only that much more vicious.
Ryan Heshka’s Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn creates a perfect extension of one of Meyer’s black-and-white worlds, adding feverish pinks to the mix. Serving up full throttle exploitation with its eponymous gang, Heshka swerves into pop surrealism and sly satire, touching on both the gorgeous and grotesque with equal ease. The comic opens in a haze of “mid-century madness,” with a melee shootout between the girls and the authorities. The gang--Sweets, Wanda, Wendy, Pinky, Blackie, and McQualude--are fighting an eternal battle against the corrupt Mayor Schlomo and his evil cronies, which include a perpetually drunk judge bent on frying the girls and a perverse priest/nun duo aiming to turn the youth into sex zombies. Roxy, one of the few pure souls in the town, is at one point pitted against the girls by Mayor Schlomo so she can finally collect a long overdue paycheck from him.
Random House Graphic will specialize in titles for children and young adults with a list focused on both commercial and literary graphic works. The new imprint will assemble its own dedicated staff to produce and market the imprint’s titles.
The new Random House Graphic publishing program will look to extend a growing list of graphic works already being published by Random House Children’s Books, including such popular works as Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm, Rickety Stitch and the Gelantinous Goo by Ben Costa and James Parks, and 5 Worlds by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, with art by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun.
—Interviews & Profiles. Hillary Brown talks to Vera Brosgol about her new graphic novel, Be Prepared.
Paste: Can you talk a little bit about the process of creating the visuals for this book? You went back to the campsite, right? Brosgol: Haha, I sure did. I wanted to get the details as specific as possible and my memory is garbage, so I stalked the camp’s Facebook page till there was an open house and flew across the country for it (and to visit my mom, hi Mom!). I thought it was kind of an alumni event but it turned out to just be parents visiting their camper kids. Oh well, I guess I’m old enough to pass for a mom? I snuck around taking pictures and sketching, and a counselor was curious about my drawings. After I explained the project to her she was awesome enough to email with me and answer my boring questions about camp rank, insignia, routine, etc. I owe her big. I could’ve made everything up but I think you can taste the reality baked in somehow. And nobody could ever make up that horrible outhouse.
It's time for a new week of TCJ, people. What better way to start it off than a meaty interview with influential cartoonist John Porcellino? Wait--how about if this was only the first part of said meaty interview? It's time to get your long read pants on, pal. John and Rob have a lot to talk about!
Your style underwent a dramatic change from the beginning of your career to your more mature style. What led you to decide to strip down your individual images?
It was never a conscious choice or decision, it was just how things organically developed. That was something that I emphasized to myself from the beginning of King-Cat -- I wanted it to be what it wanted to be. I didn't want to have a preconceived notion of what my comics, my zine, should be. I tried to get out of the way of my creativity, to allow what was inside to come out unobstructed.
Always, I saw the comics in my head and tried to put that down on paper as accurately as I could. Over time, the way I saw them in my head changed. They became pared down, I tried to let go of lines that were inessential. At some point when I was drawing a night scene it became redundant to me to fill in that black night sky with ink. It was already night, night is dark, why do I have to draw it? That black sky was inherent in the act of drawing “night.”
Did I say meat? Then I guess we have a theme going here, because we've also got a Monday surprise for ya: Joe McCulloch is here, and he's brought a fascinating dive into Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, which, as Joe points out, has been consistently showing up for a quarter of century. Here's one of the many factoids Joe tracked down for you:
*Various real Toronto locations are introduced, climaxing in a bit where much of the incidental characters' scene-setting dialogue is copy-pasted directly from Wikipedia; Malcolm is confused by this. He also fights a series of monster-of-the-month-type villains, all of them with sympathetic backstories: a toxic sludge monster out to kill its wealthy boss; a group of hacked, possibly sentient sex dolls who rip off men's cocks during coitus (the sound effect for a severed penis hitting the ground is also "SQUIT!") before taking their money; a teleportation vigilante who murders the prominent man who molested him and his sister. This last villain also informs Malcolm during their fight that Americans lack moral authority to lecture foreign people on matters of justice, given their own state of affairs; he is killed when one of his teleportations abruptly terminates inside of Malcolm's body, leaving his cadaver lodged inside the hero's torso. (#229-232)
While my favorite Joe Kubert comic is currently an issue of Punisher where he inked his son so well I achieved self-actualization, it's going to be very difficult to keep maintaining that claim now that Diversions of the Groovy Kind has rounded up of a bunch of his Unknown Soldier covers. Look at the way the Soldier presses his right hand into his face, the bend at the wrist, the delicate balance between depicting the pressure of his fingers to his face and allowing for the it to appear like the hand is about to get yanked away to reveal what was to be hidden by bandages. I've never wanted to be a cartoonist, but goddamn, if I could draw like that!
Sometimes life is a meritocracy, but that's rarely true in comics, where champions die blind & impoverished while greedy liars die rich and unpunished. So let me follow that terrible prelude by recommending that we celebrate Ruben Bolling, who won the 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Book & Journalism in the Cartoon category for Tom the Dancing Bug, a comic that has maintained a consistent level of ferocious quality that's really remarkable.
TS: The first story you published in Garo was “Up on the hill, Vincent van Gogh...” (“Oka no ue de, Vincento van Gohho,” December 1968). Was that something you had wanted to draw from before?
TT: The original plan was to write it as a prose novel. I did some research on Van Gogh and wrote things up as a proper text, but then I thought it’d be interesting as a comic, so I drew that. It was something I wanted to draw regardless...
TS: Was the prose version the same as how the manga turned out?
TT: No, they were totally different.
TS: For you, is there any difference in writing something as prose versus drawing it as a comic?
TT: Not really.
TS: When I first saw that work [Takano was managing editor at Garo at the time], I thought about how much it read like a novel. It also felt like someone’s “final work,” and I remember that making me shudder. Like, once an artist goes this far, what else is there left for him to do? Even if he had other stories in him, could he draw them?
TT: That story was something I was happy working on a little at a time. If Garo had rejected it, that would have been fine with me too. I had a full-time job at a company, so I worked on it slowly after coming home from work. That sure was a strange way of working.
TS: It’s not like the young man in the story is super serious or anything, and the work also has its humorous moments. However, precisely because of that, it gives the story this heavy crushing feeling. You know in the last scene where he lights a cigarette? It’s too quiet. The emptiness consumes everything... In pursuing Van Gogh, it’s like he said everything he could about himself, like it was all out in the open. That’s why it felt like a “final work.”
TT: A friend of mine who is a schoolteacher read that story and said, “Damn, that’s bleak.” I took it as a compliment.
As a genre travel narratives are both necessary and problematic in equal measure. Necessary because human beings need to understand one another, and anything that bridges those gaps is worthy of celebration. Problematic because there are so many ways to communicate difference in ways that hinder rather than enable understanding. For centuries books very similar to Thompson’s Carnet were able to define the parameters of the non-English speaking world more or less arbitrarily based on poor and often malicious transliterations of cultural practices in one part of the world to another part of the world.
Thompson is aware of this, to the extent that thinking through these problems also became central to Habibi, the book that followed Carnet and inherited from the earlier volume Thompson’s interest in North African culture and design. There’s a Catch-22 here and it’s central to the book and most books like it: young men who go overseas to gain a bit of maturity from a more worldly perspective sometimes learn that real maturity only begins with the insight that other peoples’ countries weren’t created to be backdrops for the musings of sensitive young men.
Eight decades after the RMS Mauretania’s maiden voyage, Chris Reynolds, a Welsh-born artist in his mid twenties, embarked on what would be his life’s work, a beguiling series of loosely connected stories that he called Mauretania Comics. The work had nothing to do with that remote place or with seafaring vessels of yore, and the name was just one of its many elusive mysteries. The stories were and are easy to consume but tantalizingly difficult to characterize. Droll dialogue gives way to utterly melancholy voiceover; locales like “The Lighted Cities” and “Mouth City” are mapped on the same imaginative terrain as some version of England, one where a blasted figure out of J. G. Ballard might run across Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. Monitor, Mauretania’s signature character, always dons a helmet with a striplike visor masking his eyes. (Today he wouldn’t look so out of place: it resembles nothing so much as a virtual-reality headpiece.) The architecture alone is worth the trip: lipstick-shaped temples of music, a house like a geodesic dome crossed with a web made by a spider on acid.
The cover of Yellow Negroes and other Imaginary Creatures by Yvan Alagbé shows the profile of a young African man with his eyes closed. A pair of light-skinned hands encircles his neck. On the back cover, we see an older, seemingly Caucasian man, balding and with a mustache, his mouth ajar. A pair of dark-skinned hands lies on the man’s shoulders (perhaps belonging to the figure on the front) suggestively seeming to also be inching their way up to the neck.
These two men are Alain and Mario, respectively, the two central figures in the book’s title story. This pair of images might suggest that within lies an overly simplistic story of racial animus, but “Yellow Negroes” (or “Negres Jaunes” in French) is far more complex and haunting than that fleeting impression would suggest. The story has long been regarded as a masterwork in Europe, one of the seminal French comics of the 1990s. Now it’s available in English for the first time, and, despite the considerable span of years and cultures, it — along with the other stories in this slim volume — remains as trenchant and relevant as when it was first published.
Aline Kominsky-Crumb has begun the North American promotional tour for the new edition of Love That Bunch, and has interviews everywhere, including Publishers Weekly, the Montreal Gazette, and SF Weekly. Here's a bit from Leela Corman's talk with her in PW:
“My grandfather was a great raconteur, and when I was a kid, he took me to see Jackie Mason and Joey Bishop and Henny Youngman and Don Rickles and everybody, and that's why I ended up being a cartoonist. I learned that sense of humor from them, and then from him. I was steeped in it, and I never realized what a gift it was until I sat down to try and tell my story, and all of that humor was in there.”
Kominsky-Crumb recently encountered one of her early inspirations, the veteran Jewish standup comedian Jackie Mason, on a Miami street. Starstruck, she summoned up the courage to approach him and express her appreciation of his career: “Jackie Mason, I can't believe you're just here standing here on Lincoln Road!” Mason's reply: “What, I should be lying down?
Larson is a contemporary of Raina Telgemeier – to whom all middle grade level authors are inevitably compared – in that both came from the world of webcomics in the early 2000s, each having influenced a generation of young comic creators who are just entering the industry now. Where Telgemeier’s highly relatable memoir comics are as mainstream as a Taylor Swift song, Larson has always been a little more like, say, Neko Case in comparison: a little more challenging, a little more artistic. She started out making comics like Salamander Dream and Gray Horses that showed a distinct style of fanciful drawings with hand-drawn sound effects and lighter-than-air word balloons with tails that would twist into curly q’s as they pointed towards a character’s mouth. After her Eisner Award winning adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, Larson took some time off to direct (a music video and a small, independent film called Bitter Orange) and to focus on collaborating with other artists and writing a wider variety of books.
And to celebrate the reunion of Ryan Heshka and the color pink, Nobrow has provided TCJ readers with an excerpt from their upcoming Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn. Shield your eyes in such a way that you can still see with them, friend.
But it wouldn't be the first week of May if we weren't talking about Fiona Smyth, who is here today with Day Four of her cartooning tour of duty. Today, she's not about to let illness stand in the way of her creativity.
Elsewhere, a teaser trailer was posted for one of the most anticipated graphic novels of all time, and if you think i'm being hyperbolic for effect, i'm not. I do think it's weird they let Kevin teach college classes when he doesn't know what "teaser trailer" means.
In preparation for Michel Fiffe's upcoming run on Bloodstrike, the cartoonist has been generous enough to prepare this history lesson on the franchise (sure!) for those of us who have never had the fortune to read an issue, to busy we were with tea in china cups, boat shirts with horizontal stripes, and other forms of listlessness. This picture is a fine representative of the narrative that awaits you.
Today on the site, the excellent cartoonist and comics scholar Mark Newgarden interviews Justin Duerr, the man who, after becoming obsessed with the work of Herbert Crowley, the mysterious artist and creator of The Wiggle-Much, put together a giant book about him.
I never went into any of this with the expectation that there would be a book. I just wanted to connect some dots of history that seemed to be pleading to be connected. I honestly began to feel as if these spirits of the past were driving me on, compelling me to do this. I had several hair-raisingly uncanny experiences during the course of it all.
One of the most inexplicable is that Herbert Crowley and I both independently created characters named “Esmeralda de Gabrielle.” I used a character with this name in some of my artwork in 2012, two years before I was in Zurich and saw Crowley’s notebook, which contained a short sketch for a one-act play called Recitations for Frida. It begins “This story is of the 12th or late 14th Century - It was discovered among a series of Troubadorials collected by Esmeralda de Gabrielle – […] She was banished from St. Jean de Luz and went to England - She amused herself by making a collection of Ballads. There are 30,000 of them - this is one of them.” My own character was a “mystic record keeper” and a scribe, a sort of supernatural librarian deity. When I saw that notebook the hairs on my neck stood on end.
Then we have Day Three of Fiona Smyth's Cartoonist's Diary. This installment involves teaching comics and traveling to Pittsburgh.
One of the most delightful aspects of The Bunch comics is their personal, conversational touch. Kominsky-Crumb peppers her stories with little asides and footnotes, aimed directly at readers, in a touching or humorous manner. These lend her comics a genuinely intimate feel, like notes jotted down in the margins of a personal letter. In "Ze Bunché de Paree Turns 40", Bunch, finally having realized her childhood dream of visiting Paris, stares tearfully out of the window at the wondrous city below. A box of text points to her: "Overwhelmed by flood of emotion." In the same story, her self-involved mother, Blabbette, phones from America, greeting her daughter with "Aaaaa…?" A footnote explains: "My mother never calls me by my name… Instead it's this long drawn-out 'A' sound with a slight question." In "Why the Bunch Can't Draw", the young Bunch, feeling ignored as she works on a painting, says aloud, "No one cares if I do this… but I'm still gonna!" An asterisked footnote expands on this lament: "I still feel this way."
This story features another hallmark of Kominsky-Crumb's oeuvre. Namely, her fondness for splash panels featuring multiple mini-headlines, stating her themes in bold, satirical fashion. She augments her title “Why the Bunch Can’t Draw” with “Even tho she always wanted to be a ahtist!!!” & “She’s oozing mit talent nevahtheless!!” Meanwhile, the drawing features Bunch working on a painting, assuring herself: “Oh, yes, yes those subtle nuances in the intensity of the facial expressions just right!!” Naturally, all of this contradicts the title, cleverly setting up Kominsky-Crumb as the protagonist and antagonist of her own story (which is often the case).
—Reviews & Commentary. The British cartoonist Martin Rowson explains his history with Marxism, and the thought process behind his new adaptation of The Communist Manifesto.
The whole thing came instantly into my head. I clearly envisioned the manifesto as a kind of rolling tsunami, made up in equal parts of blood-and-iron industrialised steampunk, apocalyptic John Martin and mounting fury that builds up to a climax at the end of Section One: Bourgeois and Proletarians, before breaking on the beach of History and turning into straightforward standup comedy. It’s leavened throughout with private gags, personal score-settling and the kind of Rabelaisian filthiness Marx would have enjoyed, I hope that is what I’ve achieved.
At The New Republic, former TCJ all-star Jeet Heer talks comics and movies with Josephine Livingstone and Alex Shephard.
...there is a distinction between comic books and superheroes. This is actually my second experience with this debate. As a young comics fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I loved all sorts of cartoons—comic strips, New Yorker cartoons, underground comics, and, yes, superhero comics. There was a big debate at the time in places like The Comics Journal about the way superheroes had come to dominate the field. After all, in the 1950s there were all sorts of genres in comic books: horror, funny animals, westerns, romance. But the late 1970s, all were in poor health except superhero titles. A critic in The Comics Journal hailed RAW, an art journal edited by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, by saying it was the only thing standing between us and “an eternity of the Incredible Hulk.”
Now what was true of comics is becoming true of movies. Are we facing an eternity of the Incredible Hulk?
Today at the Journal, we're pleased to share an interview with Hope Larson, whose latest graphic novel with First Second sees release this week. Hope's career has seen her showing up with quite a few different credits under her belt--and it sounds like that was the plan all along.
Do you think about your career in quite a calculated way?
I think I’m pretty calculating. But that said, I’m calculating so I can continue doing this. I want to be able to keep making books, and part of that is you have to achieve a certain level of success and financial stability. I do books that are passion project books, and I do books that are paycheck books, and hopefully I can learn something from them along the way. Batgirl would be a good example. I really needed a job when I got that one. Like, I needed it to survive. But I also thought: I’ll be able to play in a different sandbox for a change, and play with different characters, and it is totally unlike anything I’ve done before. I’d been wanting to move into more of an action-y direction anyway in some of my work. And it really was awesome. It’s what I hoped it would be.
And that's not all. Today's Review sees Matt Seneca taking a look at the latest installment in Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca's long running series of Street Angel stories, Street Angel Goes To Juvie.
Rare indeed is the still-relevant creator that can lay claim to having been a darling of Wizard magazine; rarer yet is to see a title that was one of the five or six non-mainstream comics those dudes felt comfortable recommending still flourishing. But flourish Street Angel has, for coming up on fifteen years - long enough for the book to elbow its way into a place in the new kind of mainstream that's emerged in response to Act II of Marvel and DC's ongoing commercial and creative collapse.
Elsewhere, Alex Dueben has an excellent interview up at Smash Pages with Eleanor Davis that I happened to miss when it first dropped, so maybe you did too. Remedy that, or read it again.
That's not the only interview I liked reading--I was also pretty into this overview conversation with Jim Rugg about Street Angel. I'm also jealous of whoever does their photography, or at least, whoever covers their photography budget.
All the Answers documents Michael Kupperman’s efforts to learn more about the years his father, Joel Kupperman, spent as a child performer on Quiz Kids, first a radio game show and later an early television program. Throughout the book, he contends with both the hastening of his father’s dementia and a reticence about Quiz Kids that predates that diagnosis. The program had been a "forbidden subject” during Kupperman’s own childhood, and he devotes much of All the Answers to exploring how the experience might have damaged his father. This means also turning toward a curious intersection in US history.
Early in All the Answers, Kupperman looks at the concept of the child prodigy and its rise in popularity during the first half of twentieth century. As waves of immigrant families arrived in the United States, a prodigy in the family meant a possible shortcut to upward mobility. Kupperman’s father, who came of age in the 1940s, grew to see himself as having been groomed for the role. Although he did indeed have an exceptional talent for math, there were other forces at work.
The book describes Quiz Kids creator Louis Cowan’s plan to combat World War II-era anti-Semitism by spotlighting gifted Jewish youths, even taking them on tour. “So was my father propaganda?” Kupperman asks. “I now think he was.” All the Answers suggests a measure of success for Cowan and Quiz Kids, but at the expense of Joel Kupperman’s childhood. “By 1943, he was receiving 10,000 pieces of fan mail a week,” Kupperman writes. “He was soon the most famous prodigy in America.”
—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian talks to Frank Miller about his new book, and the various controversies he's stirred up in recent years with books like Holy Terror! and his political attacks on Occupy Wall Street. Miller says he wasn't "thinking clearly" during that period. They also talk to Miller's friend Neal Adams:
In his last conversation with Miller, Adams says he told his protege he was going to die. “I told him he was white trash, and I’d be surprised if he makes it for six months, because he’s taken his life and ruined it, and he said, ‘Well, I’d like to show you I’m not that way,’ and I said, ‘If you recover, I’ll see you in six months, maybe a year.’”
“‘I think of you like a son,’” Adams remembers saying, “‘and I’m gonna lose you.’” Now he believes Miller “will mend”.
By the time I started King-Cat I had a pretty clear idea of the way I wanted to approach things. Coming from punk rock, I was interested in paring things down, leaving them unpolished, looking for the essence of things, instead of getting bogged down in the superficial. So I wanted my comics to reflect that. They were very spontaneous. It was interesting to me to throw ink down on paper and see what came out. Even the vagaries of using cheap photocopiers, the kind of distortion and unpredictability of it — it was all thrilling to me! Putting a page of comics on the glass and seeing what came out of the machine.
In the early days I didn’t edit things or worry about them or plan them too much. I’d make a comic and print it and then wonder why sometimes I was able to achieve what I’d set out to do and why sometimes I’d failed. But I wasn’t interested in making “perfect” comics. I figured there would always be a next one, and hopefully that next one would work a little better than the last.
Just like Magritte’s famous caption, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” Davis underlines in a fond, joking way how the representation of an image can dominate the image itself. The “blue” category also offers what looks to be a small toy pig (what other kind of pig would be blue?) standing near an amorphous monochrome blob. Davis wordlessly switches between images that are realistic and those that are abstract, a move that endows the book with an appealing tension from the outset, as well as with a kind of gag reel of effects that unfurls alongside nuggets of wisdom about art and audience.
She shifts in this way from the didactic to the fabulist — and at her best moments melds the two.
Every character, object, and environment is paired down to bare essentials visually. Everything is a symbol. There is very little confusion in a Chris Ware comic despite its intricacies due to the use of the symbolic rendering of the environment therein. When a character walks in and out various rooms, we can easily follow them. In fact, I feel I have actual awareness that is lacking in other comics because Ware often will show the reader the sum of the parts before exploring the individual pieces.
Today at The Journal, Leonard Pierce is here, and you'll want to pull up a chair: it's time to talk about continuity, corporations and comic books. There's no better way to roll into the weekend than to get your blood all fired up about the moneyed class, and all that they're taking:
In any form of narrative storytelling with an element of continuity, there was the built-in problem of age: What happens to the world you’re trying to build when the people who live in it get older? Here is where commerce and art butted heads the most painfully: While readers were more than willing to take a chance on new characters, or throw old ones into extreme situations from which they might not ever emerge, the corporate gatekeepers were typically risk-averse. There was no reason that an alien like Superman or an immortal like Wonder Woman had to grow old, but Batman was fair game, and no matter how good a story a writer might come up with, nobody was willing to screw the pooch by killing him off. You don’t slaughter that golden goose.
Reading Grand Design is like binge watching an entire Netflix series on fast forward. Given its ambitious scope, Piskor powers through a lot of ground very quickly, abruptly jumping from one milestone to another. In many cases, an entire issue’s worth of plot is reduced down to a single page. Recognizing that the series is unusually dense for a Marvel comic, Piskor sought inspiration, in terms of storytelling economy and narrative compression, from a variety of classic newspaper strips. “I created each page to function as its own unique and complete episode/strip that, when read in total, would tell a bigger story.” Though his influences are broad, close inspection of his studio in the author photo reveals bookshelves filled with Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, and Peanuts hardcovers, as well as a complete set of the entire EC Comics line. Yet, even with Piskor’s diligent efforts, there’s a lot to absorb in Grand Design and the plot summarizations feel a bit relentless by the end. The best moments are those that focus on the main characters’ backstories.
Ah, but from the balconies, I can hear them, our very own Statler, our precious Waldorf: "I don't care about super-heroes," they say, "I prefer my companies less rapacious, less cruel". Well, we've got you covered there too: Jessica Campbell's back, or at least, she will be soon, thanks to Koyama Press. But don't take my word for it--just click through and read this excerpt of XTC69, her upcoming graphic novel with that stalwart Canadian publisher!
Elsewhere, the word is out: after ten years of putting in the work, I can officially say that my wife and I have been together for a decade. Was it really that long ago that I said "I do" while wearing a baggy pair of pants that made me look a 12 year old street urchin, all because the tuxedo place had given all the pants in my size to a junior high school prom? Yes, it was, ten years ago today. That's not all though--yesterday, I also found out that this very publication was nominated for an Eisner. Huzzah! But enough about us: here's the list for you. I've got other fish to fry, and I mean that figuratively.
Today on the site, the indefatigable Sloane Leong is back again to interview Nivedita Sekar, an animator and cartoonist who has a new comic out through ShortBox.
I feel like road trip stories are a classic American genre but one that mostly features adventurous young white men. It’s cool to see the lead character in your story, a young brown woman, upend that convention. How does her identity play into this story?
Ah thank you! The Instagram comic is very much actually a fairytale and was a ton of fun.
I mean — 100% the “freedom of the road” belongs to those safest in America, right? If you can walk on the highway hitchhiking, if you can sleep in your car or camp by yourself... There’s a bravura in being a woman alone (especially a brown woman) and I’m certainly drawn to accounts of solitary travel from perspectives outside the usual. And given all that, it felt only right that my main character have someone to travel with, someone big and old and more sure-footed.
And of course her identity plays into so many aspects of the story. It’s a bit of a diaspora narrative, I think (to use the term loosely) and — not that it’s made explicit in the text — there’s some tension over her sexuality. And she’s seen immediately as an outsider, or a curiosity, in some towns.
The fact that Hernandez chose stories that aren't strictly morally instructive, but instead convey other kinds of information, simply make people laugh, or act as shaggy dog stories makes this volume especially enjoyable. Seeing his work in color is a special treat (the colorist is Ala Lee) that likely allowed him to work a little looser here than in his usual Love and Rockets stories. Hernandez has always used women as his protagonists, so it seems natural for two of the three stories to focus on female characters. Throw in the historical context behind each of the stories in the afterword, and you have yet another alternative cartoonist make a smooth jump to the Toon Books line.
—The podcast pipeline remains open, with new episodes of Process Party featuring Josh Simmons and Mindkiller featuring Gina Wynbrandt. (New York City area fans of Wynbrandt should take note that the Scott Eder Gallery in Jersey City will be showing her work in a show opening tomorrow, also featuring works by Gabrielle Bell, Trina Robbins, Mary Fleener, Lauren Weinstein, and Tommi Parrish, among others.)
Universal Fan Con was meant to be a celebration of inclusivity and fandom. But as the show was unceremoniously canceled a week before it was expected to occur, fans are asking what happened. Many find themselves left out of pocket, having backed the Kickstarter and booked often non-refundable flights. We, Rosie Knight and Jazmine Joyner, have compiled a comprehensive investigation into Universal Fan Con and what went wrong. We’ve utilized the now-deleted Fan Con website, Twitter, Kickstarter page, interviews, and emails that were shared with us to put together this piece which we hope will help people gain a better understanding of what happened.
How do you decide what titles you are going to carry in the shop?
Lots of input from lots of employees. We have a computer that tracks sales so we can guesstimate regular weekly comic book sales, so that's a little easier. But only if it stays with a consist writer and artist or creator, and there isn't a crossover no one likes, or the comic isn't late, etc etc etc. Other than that, it's learning what creators you like, and what the customers like, and how can you bridge the knowledge there to show people things they would enjoy reading. But it all comes down to sales. There are some amazing books and creators that just don't sell in our area, or will sell in one of our stores because every employee there is enthusiastic about it, and won't in others where it's not the thing they're into. But even that can get swamped in the massive output of things coming out. It's hard to remember your favorite new comic from 3 weeks ago when you've had to try to deal with 300 new comic books and graphic novels since then. Especially the graphic novels. It's not like reading a 20 page comic book #1 issue to see if a new series is worth recommending, a 300 page graphic novel is a whole other commitment. And there a lot of those coming out every week now. Even some of my favorite creators have put out stuff I haven't gotten around to reading yet.
The other thing we do it try to keep our eyes open at conventions and online. We're lucky that the Small Press Expo (SPX) is our hometown show, partly started by the founder of Big Planet Comics, Joel Pollack. The original SPX site was 3 blocks from our Bethesda store. We can walk around SPX and buy boxes of comics to sell at our stores, and be surprised how many local people didn't see them at the show, or didn't have time to make it around and see every comic. We just ordered Zainab Akhtar's ShortBox comic line, since it's a bunch of great comics published in the UK that might not make it over here easily. One of our employees, Kelly, got into those. Another employee Kevin, first spotted Peow! Studio in Sweden. A lot of these we order since they look great and we might want some for ourselves! But it's having a diverse store that will have something different. If you visit a lot of comic book stores, sometimes you can walk out without buying anything since it's the same as every other comic book store you've been to.
Elsewhere? Elsewhere is a lot of articles about the Josh Brolin movie coming out. Lots and lots of those. The only one I've finished reading is this Groovy one. It features the following page, which is as perfect a page of Marvel Comics. Who hasn't been assaulted by fists of shattered illusions and broken promises? That's one of the more apt definitions of growing up fiction has ever produced.
Today on the site, comics scholar Michael Tisserand tells the little-known but important story of Eugene Majied, the Nation of Islam cartoonist who inspired Muhammad Ali, and, in the process, changed history.
For Muhammad Ali, it was the right comic at the right time. As Chicago writer Jonathan Eig recounts in his acclaimed biography Ali: A Life, the young boxer, then named Cassius Clay, was standing outside a skating rink in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, when a member of the Nation of Islam approached him with a copy of the newspaper Muhammad Speaks.
The man who sold him the newspaper — “a black brother dressed in a black Mohair suit, white shirt and a black bow,” as Ali later remembered him — hoped to convince Ali to go to a meeting. Said Ali: “But I had no intention of going to any meeting. But I did buy the Muhammad Speaks paper. And [one] thing in the paper [made] me keep the paper, and that was a cartoon.”
Not just any cartoon. In the list of cartoons and comics that changed history — think Benjamin Franklin’s "Join, Or Die" or Thomas Nast’s “Boss” Tweed caricatures — the four-panel comic "How We 'Lost' Our Language" in the December, 1961, issue of Muhammad Speaks is certainly more modest and lesser known. Yet its influence has been widely felt. By introducing Ali to the Nation of Islam, it not only helped shape the future of sports. It also changed the wider culture when Ali emerged as an outspoken political figure who championed black rights and protested American military involvement in Vietnam.
Olivia Jaimes is a pseudonym, and the cartoonist requested the email interview for fear that a conversation might reveal clues to her identity. “I’m a pretty private person and I want to be insulated from the whole ‘Big Thing’ that a classic comic strip is,” she wrote. “The pseudonym lets me do that, and I’m really grateful for it.”
It may have been a wise move. The transition from Guy Gilchrist, the previous cartoonist, has not been met quietly.
The nominees for the 2018 Glyph Awards have been announced.
—Interviews & Profiles. Over at LARB, Alex Dueben talks to the novelist and comics writer Mat Johnson.
I’d fallen in love with the novel. One of the reasons was because the novel was cheaper. For two dollars I could buy a brand-new comic book, or for the same two bucks I could go to the used bookstore that was in Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philly and I could pick up a novel that I would read for two weeks. The novel was easier to carry around. Girls didn’t look at me funny. I became a writer and a novelist and got my MFA at Columbia. I had one book that didn’t do particularly well, either commercially or critically. The second one did worse. I hit a dead end with that.
David Hyde was a former publicist at Vintage who was now working at Vertigo. I knew him and he knew about my love of comics. He said, you should come over and pitch. It seems so obvious now, but at the time there was far less collaboration going on between literary fiction and comic books. I was a Columbia MFA so it felt like I was a classically trained ballerina who was stripping out by the airport on the weekends. Comics have changed a lot in the American imagination. What we thought about comics then was superhero stories, and now superhero stories are primarily film and our understanding of the graphic novel exists in a way that it didn’t before. At the time it felt really crazy. The job I have right now I’ve had for 10 years and when I interviewed for the job, I had on my resume that my comics were coming out and they said, that’s just a crazy thing you’re doing on the side, right? That’s not what you’re really doing?
I do not use a computer. I do not know how to use Photoshop. Why teach the machine how to do my job? Everything is analog. I draw on conventional office paper and use conventional office supplies essentially. Pentel rolling writers which were the first rollerball pen. Alex Toth told me to use that pen. And I use color pencils and markers. Mostly Berol Prismacolor brand. As Art Spigelman says “it is more like writing” in that sense if one uses “dry” media. One of my jobs as a young man was to be an assistant to oil painters and I enjoy not having to have a separate studio in which to make art. Cartoonists are lucky that we can be relatively clean in that way. I do use the airbrush. That’s fun. But it is water based. I use the airbrush mostly for background paintings that I am hired to do by Dash Shaw. But I also did a Silver Surfer story for Marvel with the airbrush. The airbrush is fun because it is like drawing with colored air. And it is water based paint.
Today at The Journal, we've got a nice long conversation with Craig Thompson, whose influential travelogue Carnet de Voyage finds itself entering the deluxe hardcover re-issue territory with an all-new publisher. Here's Craig on what happened when he got outside of the studio:
I think I was pretty good about it then. Before I did comics my modes of expression were letter writing and keeping a sketchbook. I did that since I was a teen. Like a lot of cartoonists I lost the habit of because you get into more of a productivity, this is my job sort of zone. You’re not keeping a sketchbook for fun and for play anymore. But at that time, when I was working on Blankets, I was trying to draw more from life. That original France trip in 2001 was right in the middle of working on Blankets so I was trying to discipline myself to draw anywhere. I guess that’s reflected in Carnet de Voyage. I was pushing myself because I came from that cartooning tradition of just drawing goofy cartoon characters from my imagination. I always had art teachers growing up who criticized me for never drawing from life; I just drew cartoons. Once I was in my twenties I was dabbling in that for the first time and trying to learn how to draw from life. And tapping the pleasure of that, too. It’s nice to get out of your own head. That’s a big moral from Carnet de Voyage. When I work on my graphic novels I’m isolated in my studio all alone and really sweating over everything in isolation, but Carnet de Voyage really got me out of my comfort zone and I was just drawing everywhere. I’d be drawing on trains and planes and on camelback while adventuring through the Sahara desert. I was also interacting with people and it wasn’t just that isolation.
And that's not all: today's TCJ Review turns towards...a pretty unusual way to promote craft beer, courtesy of Image Comics and Simon Bisley. It's Tegan O'Neil on Alpha King, or, as it would be properly referred to in court, "3 Floyds: Alpha King".
And perhaps that’s a very important point: youthful signifiers become sharply conservative with time. The powerful Bisley who made Slaine doesn’t seem to have much to chew on here. The protagonist is the Alpha King, and I’m sorry, you don’t need to know the plot. You don’t! It’s not that the plot is bad, it’s that the plot is basically an excuse for Bisley to draw his crazy-eyed muscle-man character breaking the laws of physiology by using exaggerated anatomy to express emotional extremity. Without Bisley it’s hard to imagine Sam Keith, working very similar fields at least through his 90s peak, and after him so many artists who absorbed the influence maybe at one or two generation of remove.
Elsewhere, all of social media and more than a few comics news websites was on fire with commentary following the last minute cancellation of Universal FanCon, a comics-adjacent convention that had used Kickstarter as a funding source. There's a sober write-up of the story thus far at the Baltimore Sun (sober in that it relies less on social media posts, which ultimately makes it less fun to read than the Buzzfeed article, which is more of a chaos registry), and a few threads on twitter are working to unravel the history of the organizers, some of whom are allegedly involved with other conventions that were cancelled under mysterious circumstances. This story has been developing at an extremely rapid pace, to say the least.
Twenty-two years ago today, Neurosis released Through Silver in Blood, an album of inexhaustible savagery, an honest passage through depression, nihilism and fear. It was as non-commercial one could get in a musical category not known for commercial properties, made by a band whose members were struggling with mental illness, addiction and homelessness. It resulted in the biggest hit of their lives, influenced countless musicians, and guaranteed them a career that has yet to conclude. This has nothing to do with comics, but around these parts, we celebrate our own holidays.
If you were intrigued by Joe McCulloch's review of Inio Asano's Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, you now have the chance to read a little of it for yourself. Or rather, a lot of it, as VIZ was very generous in allowing us to preview a whole sixty pages. It will only be up on the site for a limited time, so don't delay.
Let me attempt to begin with a joke. So Walt Disney, Saul Steinberg, and Tomi Ungerer walk into an insane asylum. No wait, I'm telling it wrong. Walt Disney walks into his therapist's office. The therapist says, "Why the long beak?" Because in this story, Walt Disney is depicted as a bird. I'm kidding; I wasn't really attempting to tell a joke, but summarizing the basic plot and visual sensibility of Anna Haifisch's Von Spatz, where Steinberg is a cat, and Ungerer's a mouse, but no one preys on one another. They are all in rehab due to the psychic toll being artists has taken on them.
This is not one of those comics where the biography of an artist is depicted in a cartoonist's approximation of their style. Haifisch has chosen as her subjects three people whose commonality is that they are all cartoonists of one sort or another, and she depicts them in her own cartooned style. The characters are simply delineated, essentially stick figures, distinguished from one another by their animal heads, but the backgrounds pop with color. Trained as a printmaker, Haifisch uses black lines and limited colors to convey pictorial depth and depth of feeling equally adroitly. There's respect for these artists, and affection for them as characters, but they exist on her terms: It's fiction, not biography. Not only did this never happen, there are many ways in which it never could have happened. Anachronisms and shifting contexts form the core of the book's sense of humor. A few moments suggest cartoon characters might be staying at the clinic as well as cartoonists. The book is a deadpan delight, as the logic, or illogic, of its world is slowly charted. The whole thing proceeds with a "ha ha what?" tension, not quite cohering into something that makes sense, and obliquely suggesting the nature of the characters' breakdowns. The tone is absurd but conveys a tired malaise, like a Steven Wright one-liner, or Zach Galifianakis at his most despondent.
Curiously, the type of genre material that keeps industries alive in other countries is virtually nonexistent in German film and comics. Sure, foreign genre work is being translated and distributed en masse, but most German-language genre work—the kind of commercial work that won’t require public funding to be viable—faded away throughout the 1980s, and the industries that produced it never came back. As a work of genre, Endzeit happens to be a niche project, in comics as well as in the film industry. Vieweg wonders whether that’s another part of the legacy left behind by the Nazis, and by the public outrage and legislation against “trash” and “filth” that followed in the 1950s.
“People still think this way even today,” she says. “Comics are for children and for stupid people. And genre movies like Godzilla didn’t find any recognition, either.” Vieweg points out that some of the seminal horror films of the 1920s, such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, were made in Germany—just like the frequently horrific fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, which continue to be well-regarded to this day.
“So what the devil happened there?!”, she wonders.
And on the TCJ Review front, we've got a review of a super-hero comic from DC that's written by Kurt Busiek. You'll have to click through to find out which Intellectual Property it is, but i'll give you a hint: the review is written by Noah Berlatsky, and Noah wouldn't know who to enjoy an issue of Suicide Squad even if our decade long relationship depended on it. (It did, and we're through!)
Harry Peter's art occupied an odd middle ground between Henry Darger, Beardsley, and Victorian children's illustration; his stiff figures and fluid lines lent a cheerfully quivering eroticism to images of battle kangaroos, women bound, pink ectoplasmic goo and more women bound. Together, Marston and Peter created enormously popular, sexually adventurous comics for eight year olds, as well as a brief for third-wave sex-positive feminism before the second wave had gotten off the ground. Superhero comics would never be as weird, as daring, or as beautiful again.
Elsewhere, the Doug Wright Awards were announced. It's a fine list of comics and creators, and, if history repeats itself, will probably result in a fine list of winners. And just a reminder to those of you who don't like it when art is ranked against each other, you're absolutely 100% correct. However, caring about that particular argument is boring, and no one likes listening to you talk about it.
The longer pieces in the book tackle tough emotional matters head-on. He talks in detail about his repetitive behaviors, thinking about it from the point of view of what his neighbors might say. He feels bad for his dad that he has to pull the plug on his brain-dead uncle, but is brutally honest in revealing that he has no feelings about his uncle whatsoever. He accidentally breaks a picture when he gets angry about not being invited to go out to a bar and chastises himself for that reaction. Really, the only thing that breaks up the monotony of his daily existence in the book is his traveling to comics shows. These are like palate cleansers, forcing him to abandon habits and reach out to others. He later gets into a long-distance relationship and pulls away yet again. He finally faces up to his depression and gets a new therapist.
This volume is unrelenting in its honesty and in Budnik's need to expand on his fears, feelings, and hopes on every page. This is the ideal version of a cartoonist not censoring themselves on the page, only instead of drawing lurid power fantasies as a way of concealing what really drives him, Budnik is willing to make himself look fragile. He's not just "spilling some ink" (as Rob Kirby and I refer to autobiographical cartoonists digging deep in telling their stories), he's knocked over a whole bottle. That metaphor is especially applicable to Budnik, who compulsively cleans as a way of controlling his environment. He has the option of concealing his feelings and symptoms, yet he chooses not to. I don't get the sense that he's doing this because he's being an emotional exhibitionist. Rather, it seems to go back to that idea of "telling on your secrets" as a way of loosening their power and the sense of shame they bring, even if he gets little immediate relief from this.
Printed images — and the comic book medium’s unique presentation of them — are at the heart of this feature. We have set out to trace the evolution of American comics by looking at 100 pages that altered the course of the field’s history. We chose to focus on individual pages rather than complete works, single panels, or specific narrative moments because the page is the fundamental unit of a comic book. It is where multiple images can allow your eye to play around in time and space simultaneously, or where a single, full-page image can instantly sear itself into your brain. If there are words, they become elements of the image itself, thanks to the carefully chosen economy of the writer and the thoughtful graphic design of the letterer. In the best pages, one is torn between staring endlessly at what’s in front of you or excitedly turning to the next one to see where the story is going. When comics have moved in new directions, the pivot points come in a page.
The weird thing is that for the most part the explanations that follow tend not to focus on the pages themselves, and seem more about the comics as a whole. Which is fine, but why not just make it most influential comics? It is also a lot more superhero-heavy than I think it should be, but that's a matter of taste. Anyway, an interesting experiment in any case.
Cartoonists who draw and invent stories each day—be it George Herriman, of “Krazy Kat,” Charles M. Schulz, of “Peanuts,” or Saul Steinberg, at The New Yorker—get to tap their subconscious for our delight. In “Why Art?,” the audience is buffeted by the constant back and forth between Davis and her art, but we’re allowed, for an instant, to linger in the liminal space between created and creator. It’s a rare and perfect vantage point.
When I pointed out that one can see parallels between the climax of “Master Race” and the Bruce Wayne origin sequence, Miller cut us off. “Oh, it’s not a parallel,” he said with a little chuckle. “He came first and I imitated him.”
Today at The Journal, we've got your very own Joe McCulloch, here with a review of the first volume of Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction, the newest Viz release by Inio Asano. We'll have an excerpt from the title later this week!
The premise of the series is this. Not long ago, an enormous alien spacecraft appeared above Japan, causing some amount of property damage and loss of life as it maneuvered itself into a low hover. A perhaps more serious incident subsequently occurred when United States military aid resulted in the irradiation of Tokyo via an advanced weapon, but people don't talk about that so much because the effects of A-rays aren't scientifically proven, and anyway the presence of aliens has supplied a new excuse for profitable militarization in Japan, to say nothing of the political benefits of patriotism. On the day of the invasion -- which, doing the math from this series' 2014 serial debut in Japan, places it in 2011, conspicuously the same year as the Tōhoku earthquake and the resultant Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster -- young Kadode Koyama's father was either killed or took the opportunity to abandon his family. Three years later, Kadode's mom, a political radical, is a hypochondriac mess of anxiety who wants the nearly-graduated teen Kadode to join her and her boyfriend off the grid in a clean-living commune. Kadode doesn't want to go; she mostly just wants to hang out with her pal Oran, a manic girl with massive twintails who's deeply invested in online first-person shooter video games, but not because she loves warfare. In fact, Oran is disgusted by the hypocrisy and superficiality of society, so she trains herself for domination in a coming world where humankind is rightly brought low: standing tall at the bottom of the drain.
Meanwhile, over at The Beat, James Romberger got his signals crossed and sent a story about Ramona Fradon to somebody besides me, a guy who has spent more time tracking down old Metamorpho comics than is socially acceptable. To add insult to an already unforgivable injury, The Romberger Report also delivers the official final word on which artist was responsible for that classic civil rights comic, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story: Sy Barry. It's a great piece of detective work by James, and he should be applauded for his work.
And then there's Alenka Figa at Women Write About Comics with the first loud proclamation of "this one, y'all" around Michael Deforge's Leaving Richard's Valley, which reached conclusion yesterday.
But that's not the only comic you can read on the web, thanks to Kevin Huizenga, who has his 2010 Marvel Strange Tales contribution up at his blog. It features Wolverine fighting the Silver Surfer.
I remember the manic hype around Homestuck during its original run online (between 2009 and 2016), which easily consumed the attention on anyone within five or six degrees of it. The oversaturated presence of the webcomic and its rabid fans exhausted me before I even had a chance to want to read it on my own terms. On top of that, it was overwhelming to even think of diving into if you weren't already on the wagon during the first year, and I had missed that cut-off point. The jagged pixel artwork, the torrential updates, and the copious walls of colorful chat conversations were turn-offs for me, and the buzz about it was deafening. The webcomic became a magnetic field that you were either completely absorbed by or fully repelled by. No in-betweens, no casual readers. This sort of fandom environment was the quintessence of the decade. The early 2000s felt to me like everyone was completely in thrall to their particular media fandom (RIP SuperWhoLock) and then something happened in the early 2010s and the open manic enthusiasm started to fade out. Avid fandoms are still around of course, but I think the proliferation of social justice discourse began heavily permeating online social media at this point and readers became more careful as to what and, more importantly, who they wanted to stan for publicly. This is all to say that the virtual participatory fan culture around Homestuck, its generation, and consistent fervent popularity has been my only point of engagement until now, an interesting but distant vantage point.
Now to the brick of a book at hand. Homestuck, Book 1: Acts 1 & 2 is an interesting but overall redundant artifact. Homestuck follows a small group of tweens as they chat online, avoid their guardians, and watch their homes get destroyed by meteors before getting sucked into a video game. In his preface, Hussie is quick to point out that most of the first three acts were influenced by reader submissions and that the virtual locus of Homestuck is crucial; seeing it in static book form means readers miss out on the dynamism its digital nature provides. These books are meant to be supplementary at best. As someone reading it for the first time in book form, this made me less than excited to read further.
The common defense of Apu is that The Simpsons has many stereotypes (the Italian Fat Tony, the sometimes-Jewish Krusty the Clown, the Scottish Groundskeeper Willy). But none of these characters exist in a cultural reality where they are the only representative of their ethnicity: there are myriad Italian-American and Jewish characters on TV, but for many years, Apu stood as a singular representative of desi culture. That’s slowly starting to change with shows like Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, but these programs haven’t yet had the cultural impact of The Simpsons.
There’s a big difference between the self-deprecating ethnic comedy of Kondabolu and Kaling, which belongs to a tradition of Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld, and having a white man do an Indian accent (as Hank Azaria does for Apu). As Kondabolu argues in a conversation with Whoopi Goldberg, there’s an undeniable element of minstrelsy in Apu.
As the spouse of one of my closest friends, Chip Kidd, I got to know Sandy McClatchy as one might know, well, a friend’s spouse. Chip and Sandy met in the early nineties, Chip and I having been friends for a few years before and I first learning of Chip’s infatuation when he mailed me a color-xeroxed eight-by-ten-inch publicity photo of Sandy with the words PROPERTY OF C.K. written diagonally in red across its lower quadrant like bubble letters on a school spiral notebook. Though I felt like I’d been passed a secret note in math class, I offered up my heartiest of congratulations because Chip had been single for a while. Privately, however, I was worried: Chip and I really only talked about comics and dumb stuff; this guy was a poet and opera librettist. What do poets and opera librettists talk about? What was I going to talk about if I ever met him? ...
—Interviews & Profiles. For the NYRB, Claudia Dreifus interviews Art Spiegelman.
I take it that you are no fan of Schindler’s List?
I think of it as the feel-good version of that S&M cult classic The Night Porter. There’s a scene in Schindler’s List in which the commandant played by Ralph Fiennes is in bed with a woman, and he takes his handgun and shoots some Jew he sees out the window. The message there, inextricably linked, is that all sex leads to holocausts. They are somehow joined at the hip: the two concepts.
As troubling was the Best Foreign Film in 1999, Life Is Beautiful. It said, ultimately, that if only the victims could just have taken it all with a song in their hearts and tap-danced their way, Chaplin-like, through the barbed wire, then “life” would be “beautiful.” I read somewhere that the director said he’d been inspired by Maus. If that’s true, I would have liked to go back in time and yank the book out of his hands!
I feel like some people are marathon runners, some are sprinters, and some are in between. As a cartoonist, I’m a marathonist. My normal format when I’m working on books, left to my own devices, is making longform works. When I’m asked to do shorter form work, for me the idea of putting a narrative on a single page is like, How would I even…? I love writing long dialogue. I’m kind of a maximalist, so the idea of trying to fit any kind of a narrative in that small of a space — I know it’s possible and there are people who do it beautifully — but how would I fit a story on a single page? It just seemed overwhelming. It made more sense to me to do… it’s obviously not a gag comic but it’s more of a… I don’t know!
Great Big Story has a short video interview with Daniel Clowes:
News. The New York Times has followed up on The Hollywood Reporter's recent story alleging that Stan Lee may be a victim of elder abuse.
For four decades, Mr. Lee has lived in a relatively modest two-story house in the middle of what has become some of Los Angeles’s most valuable real estate. Dr. Dre is a neighbor, and Leonardo DiCaprio lives down the block, on a street where houses can list for north of $30 million.
Inside the suburban-style home, a nurse and a maid bustled in the kitchen. Although Mr. Lee seemed at ease, the armed guard lent an air of surveillance that made it difficult to entirely relax.
The house is a time capsule of late 1970s Hollywood. Decorated by his late wife, it is dotted with ceramic animals, carved figures in African and Asian styles, and large gilt-framed mirrors hung on mirrored walls. Empty hooks surrounded by dusty outlines sit amid prints and original works by noted artists — Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí and Roy Lichtenstein — suggesting a home being slowly eroded.
“My wife, she’s the only person in the world that I would know of who would put a big mirror on top of a big mirror,” Mr. Lee said. “And when she was here, she had so many paintings, all over. Most of them have left now. My daughter took a lot of them, and a lot of them have gone elsewhere.”
On Friday, Lee filed suit against his former business manager, Jerardo Olivarez.
Following The Hollywood Reporter’s investigative piece on Lee being a potential victim of elder abuse by his inner circle, the comic book icon filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Jerardo Olivarez is only one of the “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists who saw a chance to take advantage of Lee’s despondent state of mind, kind heart and devotion to his craft” after the death of his wife in 2017. Lee, whose time working at Marvel in the 1960s led to the creation of characters such as Spider-Man and Iron Man, alleges that by managing his affairs, Olivarez caused him to lose “a tremendous among of money as money and assets were being transferred to Olivarez by Lee without Lee being aware these actions were being taken.” The amount of money the suit claims was transferred from Lee’s Merrill Lynch Account without permission was approximately $4.6 million. The suit even claims that Olivarez orchestrated a scheme to sell Lee’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas without his permission.
Today at the Journal we've got the conclusion of Alejandra Gutiérrez' Cartoonist Diary. Someone--I wish I could give them credit, but I don't know who it was--liked a Twitter post that featured a brief diary comic by Alejandra online, and I emailed her immediately to ask her to do one of these weekly stints based off that one image. She offered to cover the week she would be attending a porn shoot, and the result has been something even better than I had anticipated. She's an extremely talented cartoonist, and I hope you've enjoyed her work this week as much as I have.
And that's not all, of course. Today we've also got that hot review action for you that I know you crave. Today's is on Bodie Troll, by Jay Fosgitt. Irene Velentzas has the verdict...and the verdict is that it's good.
Fosgitt’s character, Bodie, is reminiscent of a six-year-old hyperactive kid brother who straddles the line between grossing you out and warming your heart with his naïve innocence. Bounding out of his dark hole under the bridge in the opening pages, a fearsome, towering, troll overturns the idyllic pastoral landscape of Hagadorn, vaulting and roaring at any passersby who dare set hoof on his bridge. The page layout itself becomes off-kilter, frantically trying to accommodate a monster that is ultimately no larger or less adorable than a baby goat.
And elsewhere? Well, if you're still hungry, Jessa Crispin has a piece up at In These Times on John Porcellino's most recent book with Drawn & Quarterly that I thought was pretty interesting. The Comics MNT team has been posting some useful and intelligent pieces on their recently inaugurated site, this Ariell Johnson interview is a great example. In press release news, Jason from Floating World didn't just provide a great interview on Wednesday to this very website, he also announced that he would be publishing Zack Soto's Secret Voice sometime next year. Why didn't Jason mention that? Is he just that humble? Maybe he's embarrassed? No, it's gotta be humility! Well, as a friend of Zack's, I couldn't be happier for him. I know, I know, Secret Voice has been published 7 different times by 13 different publishers over the last twenty years, but something tells me that this partnership is the one that will finally convince Zack to do something else with his time.
You can also go and google about all the various job changes that have occurred at various comics publishers, and then speculate as to why those changes were made, and how that will impact the publishing of the comics those publishers make. Some of those websites will have some good gossip to go on, others will be written by people who are better at guessing than others, and some will just be bitter, weird sniping from people who don't understand why they haven't been asked to go work at those places, despite how good they are at imagining ways to fix the Transformers or "the direct market" or whatever. As an alternative to doing that, you could watch a video of the guy who owns Diamond tell all the comics retailers nervous about Marvel tanking their business to have a positive attitude and read The Secret (yeah).
Or you could bounce all this shit and read a comic. I'd recommend it be a 1980's comic by Keith Giffen.
Roman Muradov's comics are often viewed as being cryptic, but they appear much less complicated if you take a closer look at what the artist is driven by: topics mainly revolving around duality, depicted in a style which simultaneously assembles and disassembles spaces.
If you're openly emphasizing your disregard of conventional narratives – or any narrative at all – by provocatively toying with your tinder status between you, a.k.a. the author, and the reader, then you might either be concealing the fact you are unable to come up with something being worth telling, or you're Roman Muradov, who did exactly this when estimating the comparability between his work and its readers at 0.12% on the final page of The End of a Fence, his 2015 debut within the Latvian kuš!-mono series.
But as much as this kind of understatement is an aspect of the persona Muradov has cultivated, it was also an indispensable component of the story Muradov is telling in that book: An extrapolation of human relationships in the wake of dating simulations (like the aforementioned tinder app) situated under the influence of extremely contrarian scenarios like The Atrocity Exhibition and Vermilion Sands, both of which are written by British science-fiction author James Graham Ballard. While borrowing its frayed-out structures from the first collection of short stories and adding the elegiac decadence from the latter, both find their match in sentences collapsing after an erratic downhill race into all-devouring sandy oceans of wordplay, visually manifesting as infernal landscapes painted in interwoven streaks of carmine red at The End of a Fence's final.
—The Hollywood Reporter has a lengthy, sad story about Stan Lee's recent life, and claims of elder abuse.
Back in early February, fighting what he later called "a little bout of pneumonia," 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.
The comic book legend — whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics beginning in New York in the early 1960s spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men and laid the foundation for superhero dominance in Hollywood that continues with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War — sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration.
The Feb. 13 document, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. "It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more," the document states. It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — "which is often" — she "typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate."
—Salon has published a short excerpt from Harvey Kurtzman biographer Bill Schelly's new memoir, Sense of Wonder.
There are ... ways in which the appeal of superheroes is different for a homosexual male than for a heterosexual male. My straight friends like comics featuring what collectors call “good girl art,” that is, comics that feature the female form prominently and use sexual titillation to at least partly generate sales.
For gay comics fans like myself, virtually all superhero comics feature “good guy art.” Obviously straight guys notice the prominence of the male physique in comics; they just don’t experience it as anything sexual. For gay comic book readers, superhero comics had always presented that extra frisson of the male body drawn as if covered but delineated in ways to reveal the hero’s every rippling muscle.
The Millions has an excerpt of its own, from Genevieve Hudson's new book on Alison Bechdel, A Little in Love with Everyone.
“Your father has had affairs with other men,” her mother tells Bechdel later on the phone. This is the first time Bechdel has heard anything about her father’s bisexuality. In this series of panels, Bechdel’s character is first shown sitting on the floor with the phone pressed to her ear. Her eyes are wide with shock. She moves into what looks like a fetal position. In the corner of one panel, Bechdel has drawn the book Sappho Was a Right-On Woman, filling in the small queer details that had begun to infuse her life. Her mother’s disclosure sheds some light on why it might have been difficult, perhaps even painful, for her to hear that her daughter was a lesbian. Her mother’s relationship with Bruce, the other queer person in her life, had been associated with secrets, lies, and even cruelty. It was not a good precedent for what a queer life could be. When Bechdel asks her mother why her father isn’t the one telling her this stunning information, her mother responds: “Your father tell the truth? Please!”
Today at the Journal, we've got the first installment in our newest column: Retail Therapy. Appearing biweekly, this column will spotlight the people and stores working in comics retail. There's a long history to the relationship between The Comic Journal and retail, and we're glad to be reopening a window to that part of the world at a time when things seem to be changing on a near-constant basis. This time around, the hot lights are focused on Jason Levian, whose Floating World Comics has become a formidable publisher--but the retail roots run deep.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the comics were better than the movies (or video games or whatever cartoon tie ins). The comics represented limitless imagination and freedom and innovation in storytelling. They delivered an addictive mind blowing experience.
Now it seems like the movies are the main attraction and the comics are… above average. I can actually read some of them cover to cover and share that opinion with you. They’re okay.
Someone is like “Oh I loved this Marvel Disney movie what should I read next?” And the answer is too often, well that was it. You saw the movie and that was the thing. Here are some comics where for $4 each you don’t really get much. The movie was actually the best version of this thing.
But that's not all--we've also got Today's TCJ Review, and it's all about The Pervert, from Michelle Perez, Remy Boydell and Image Comics. According to Carta Monir, this is one book you shouldn't pass up.
The Pervert, written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell, is that big, difficult, trans, queer-as-shit, pull-no-punches sad fucking comic that I’ve been waiting for. And now it’s here, out from Image, shipping now. You need to read it. Unless you’re a trans woman, in which case you might have already basically lived it.
Cathy, Cathy Guisewite’s eponymous chronicle of one woman’s struggles with the “four guilt groups: food, love, family, and work,” ends not with a bang, but a simper. She visits her mom, claiming to have news. Mom shores up the strip's feminist bonafides: “You’re an incredible woman from an incredible time for women! You have to know anything’s possible!” She is visibly anxious. She is preparing for the worst. But there is no need to worry: Cathy, hand on belly, is pregnant. The fetus emits a single, pink “Aack” from within the womb. At last, she has it all.
Despite this attempt to encompass both domestic bliss and feminist ambition, Cathy’s 2010 end seemed to please no one. In a piece for The New Yorker entitled “The Demise of Cathy,” Meredith Blake lamented that, like Family Circus, Cathy is “hopelessly out of fashion.” “Perhaps Cathy spoke to the women of the seventies and eighties,” she allowed, “but nowadays the strip feels, well, cartoonish. The facile jokes about feminine neuroses are the essence of everything that people have come to dislike about chick lit.” Over at The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman was markedly more positive, deeming the strip “groundbreaking” and remarkable for validating the lives of single women. But still, she protested: “I’m not saying the “Cathy” strip was particularly feminist, because it wasn’t: the character was obsessed with finding a husband and watching her weight.” It is “kinda outdated… and certainly it’s still stereotypical and annoying.” The Los Angeles Times criticized Cathy for “starting to feel a bit old,” and compared it unfavorably to Sex and the City, Melissa Banks’s The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. Feministing.com was more measured, recalling that “from what I heard, during her inception in the 1970s, she was actually a breath of fresh air.” But still, the boom was lowered: “I don’t know what happened. It seems that Cathy went from Everywoman to a giddy, whiny, chocolate-eating woman that seems to have no sense of self.” Even the Jezebel community mustered little fondness: The top comment beneath “Cathy’s Last Act Ack” excoriates Guisewite for undermining the strip’s message with a comfortably patriarchal ending.
Beneath this intellectual crust, however, lies the bubbling magma of Cathy-anger. The Observer chronicled the GoComics.com commenters who cheered the end of such a “neurotic wimp,” the Democratic Underground forum threads “for all those who hate the comic strip Cathy,” the blogs that replaced Cathy’s captions and word balloons with expletives and fat jokes. The roundup remarked, with a blinkered sort of innocence, “people really hate this comic!” Look up #WaysCathyShouldEnd on Twitter, and you’ll find a snapshot of 2010 vitriol: “Hoarding experts arrive too late to find Cathy flattened under a heap of diet aids, cats and dating books,” “In a fit of self-loathing, Cathy performs at-home liposuction with a carving knife and a dustbuster; dies of sepsis,” and, perhaps most emblematically of all, “just like Sylvia Plath did.”
—Profiles & Interviews. At Hazlitt, Matthew James-Wilson interviews Anna Haifisch.
I think when Drawn & Quarterly came to me I said, “That book is gone, but I have this other book. Do you want to have a look at this?” I just sent over a PDF of it with the English translation in the comments. Then after that they picked it up.
I didn’t expect this to be happening. I was just like, “Ah, let’s see what happens,” and when they came back and said, “We actually want to do it!” my heart just skipped a beat while I was in front of the computer. I just started gasping and I hit the desk really hard with my hand out of pure joy and almost broke my finger. It was on my left hand, which is my drawing hand, so I was like “Fuck!” But really, it’s a big thing for me since it’s a big publishing house. I’ve always admired Drawn & Quarterly. The German publishing house Reprodukt picks up so many titles from them, so they’re very present here. I grew up with them! I read Julie Doucet in my teenage days.
The Ace Rock’n’Roll Club, the series that caught Moore’s eye, were beautifully formed slices-of-life which introduced, as a part of the supporting cast, Alec McGarry. Alec was a cipher for Campbell, a fictional avatar through which Campbell could filter his own life, ranging from his punk years in Scotland to his sojourn on England’s south coast, to his first marriage and life in Australia. “His appreciation for the sensory phenomena of ordinary existence, as rich as Henry Miller’s, made his autobiographical narratives into instant classics, streets ahead of the largely self-absorbed comic-strip memoirs that were to follow,” says Moore.
Consider Warren Craghead, the TrumpTrump author, who draws in a style that’s vaguely reminiscent of the gonzo mode of Ralph Steadman (best known for his work with the journalist Hunter S. Thompson). Craghead, like many cartoonists, does use Trump’s tweets and speech as source material, but he could not possibly be mistaken for a collaborator. He turns Trump’s words against Trump’s person. For instance, in one of his drawings, Trump is shown as a sweaty, fat, hairy man with saggy breasts, and this image is humorously paired with one of Trump’s own insults: “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
Do you feel that there’s much different of a reception when you release something to a German market versus to an American one?
In Germany, I toured Von Spatz when that came out, and it caught some attention, that’s for sure, but Germany’s very conservative in the reception of comics, or like even visual work in general. It was only when The Artist went on Vice that, back home, people responded to it like, “Ah, okay, the North Americans obviously liked it so it must be good for some reason.” It’s a bit strange to feel that, I mean it doesn’t feel like a rejection or something, but I think without Vice, for example, The Artist or Von Spatz wouldn’t have been so interesting to anybody.
And that's not all! Starting today, The Journal is excited to release an all new Cartoonist Diary--this week, you'll be riding shotgun with Alejandra Guitérrez as she makes her way to a movie shoot. An adult movie shoot, that is. In today's installment, it's all about trip prep.
Elsewhere: I got an "elsewhere" for you. Go dip into this website for a while and get back to me. My current favorite part is the video, which I've embedded below, because it was in watching said video that I found out that one of the things that is now labeled "diverse" is when you make a superhero into a white guy with a beard and a stupid hat, but he still wears a super-hero costume?
In the first place I should probably say that when I was younger and getting sporadically published in The Journal during roughly the last quarter of its initial print incarnation – a healthy run by any stretch as a semi-regular contributor – I never imagined I would be published one day in those same pages (albeit virtual), singing the praises of Crisis on Infinite Earths! I thought for sure and for certain I’d spend the rest of my life publishing sober analyses of all the latest impenetrably minimalist monographs produced by extraordinarily talented but also minutely obsessive middle-aged craftsmen with the time, resources, and patience available to design a single book to within three tenths of a micron of its life. But alas.
Crisis on Infinite Earths is a book that many people have read, many more people have discussed, but apparently few people have ever actually enjoyed. I’ve seen younger fans approach the idea of reading Crisis for the first time as if it were some sort of chore or obligatory duty – yeah, yeah, if I like DC comics or want to understand Final Crisis or maybe just check another one off the proverbial “1001 Comics To Read Before You Die,” I have to at some point wade through this monster. And I have never understood that attitude, I find it completely alien. Incomprehensible!
This comic also does the always-irritating thing of having a character use "Google" as a verb in a fictional world where the Google-type service is later shown to be called something else arbitrarily; here, the search engine is called "Soosle." Why?
There's also a point where a character says "Time for some exposition" as the author's self-aware joke, that seems unaware of how much stuff has already felt plainly expository, when the reader has been waiting, endlessly, for something to instead be evocative or atmospheric or thrilling. The comic has no style, despite the fact that it clearly wants to be something where its style overcomes its lack of substance. It has polish, but anything it's been applied to it's eroded.
The first moment where the story does breathe, and you see what might be underneath the whole thing, is a fight scene. It's clearly indebted to Street Fighter, or the impossible physics of similar fighting games, and it was so dumb I had to put the book down. I hadn't realized I hated the book yet, because it hadn't slowed down enough for me to see what it was even trying to do. That was the point where I realized the book was mortifyingly shallow, and that the scene of the main character playing video games was meant for a reader to identify with it, so they would be into the fight scenes with a Street Fighter vibe.