Querulous Handiwork

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got ourselves a bit of a theme. See, back when Jillian Tamaki released Boundless, she sat down with Eleanor Davis for one of our very favorite conversations. Now that Eleanor has a new book, Why Art?, we thought it made the most sense to turn the tables a bit and have them sit down again. Thankfully, both participants were up for it, and the ensuing conversation is today's must read.

What's your relationship between activism and art? Or, alternatively, what frustrates you about some of these discussions around activism and art?

Art is secondary. It should be the glue, or the gasoline, the thing that helps facilitate the change. Like, so much of what I do now is "armchair activism," posting on Facebook, writing email blasts. By itself, without a goal, that stuff is worse than nothing. But ideally it's in the service of unifying and strengthening people, putting pressure, voting the old bums out, pushing the new bums to not be bums.

I fucking LOATHE the shitty smug self-satisfied idea that art is a political means unto itself. Even if it ends up working out like that, I hate the not-getting-my-hands-dirty feel of it.

And then there's this: Jillian isn't the only person who has stopped by to talk about Eleanor's work today--we've also got the book's review, brought to you by the ever insightful Rachel Davies.

While the book remains instructional and educational about art, Davis goes on to prove that this doesn’t have to be entirely simplistic. Davis manages to discuss such complicated issues as how the burden of student loans affects one’s output, feeling far too close to an artwork, and being defined by one past artwork, into two to six page bites throughout the book.

But we've also got another reason for you to stick around today, which is this: a nice chunk of The Case of the Missing Men, a recent graphic novel release by Kris Bertin & Alexander Forbes, published by Conundrum Press. 

And with that, i'll bid you a happy Thursday. I have a five year old with a fever, and it's eating my lunch.

This?

Sloane Leong returns today to examine another set of webcomics caught in the Comics Dragnet. In this installment, she also discusses what she calls "Tumblr style."

Mildred [Louis]'s art is exemplary of what I call "Tumblr style," a look that's cropped up around this fourth generation of webcartoonists, a confluence of unexpected, eclectic influences and inspirations coalescing into a single, quirky style and executed through a digital medium. Tumbling is actually a pretty good descriptor of what a lot of internet-born artists go through who cut their teeth on filling DeviantArt galleries with fanart and OCs, spending hours in oekakis and taking cheap Gaia commissions. It’s art that’s been rolled as if in a rock tumbler of inspiration, where there’s little direction applied except for technical and stylistic trends of the current platform being used or the whims of their $10 commissioners. Art history itself is flattened out completely on the internet but especially on Tumblr where Late Byzantine pieces are posted alongside glossy superhero pinups and over-filtered anime screencaps. Your eyes start gliding over the illuminated visual noise. It takes a severe focus to keep from getting haphazardly dented, to instead be polished by the constant battering of styles. Habitual techniques leave deep tracks in one's muscle memory and absorbing the same family of visual vocabulary repetitively makes even microscopic changes feel vast. Sometimes muscle memory will beat out my will to execute a new texture or a new type of line. Only repetition carves space in my mind for it to exist but it's like pulling teeth as I get older. Deeply rooted teeth. With Mildred, I see the impact of the animated Sailor Moon series, cleanly lined and expressive, as well as other early 2000s Toonami toons in the bright cel coloring style, blurred shallow focus, dynamic beady pupils. There are also other cute quirks, for example when tiny panels with character's heads pop-up to continue a conversation with the focal character in the larger panel, an anime/manga technique that I find really charming. It's a style that can swerve hard between being in a constant state of growth and becoming to indulgently emulative of one's inspirations. Often though it gives us something unique and when it fails it was because a risk was taken, which is exciting to me as a reader and an artist.

Irene Velentzas is back too, with a review of Pascal Blanchet's unusual picture book, Go West!

If the devil is in the details, then Pascal Blanchet is the very devil himself. Known especially for his 1920s Art Deco artistic style with a whimsical twist, Blanchet’s work is a masterclass in simple elegance. Blanchet’s colorful geometric style is a feast for the eyes, mesmerizing the reader with block outlines and silhouettes, somehow giving just enough of a hint to suggest shape without a single line more. Simplistically color-blocked building facades create a riot of color that give way to such intricately woven details as a single archway, clock, or window, which become the heart of the image’s mastery. Blanchet creates breathless articulations of intricate natural and manmade landscapes that produce audible gasps of wonder from the reader.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Scotland Herald interviews John Porcellino.


How much work do you have to put into making your strips look so simple?

I always say, it’s harder than it looks. If you have a comics panel with a thousand crosshatch marks in it, it’s easier to hide errors, or missteps in drawing. When you have a comics panel that consists of just three simple lines, they better well be the right three lines. There’s no place to hide in that kind of simplicity. I’m not always happy with every single drawing, I feel I’m always learning, but at this point having drawn comics seriously for 35 or so years, much of it is intuitive. I generally don’t have to redraw much from my first draft. On the other hand, when I do have to redraw a panel, I often have to redraw it 10 times. I either get it on the first go, or I can be in for a slog.

The most recent guest on the Process Party podcast is Sloane Leong.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jared Gardner writes about Charlotte Salmon's Life? or Theater?

Charlotte Salomon’s short life was haunted—by the rise of the Nazis, who ultimately took her life, but also by her family’s history of severe mental illness. Salomon’s attempt to make sense of this history—and of the role of art in the face of both despair and genocide—is found in her major work, Life? or Theater? A work of almost 800 sequential paintings, Life? or Theater? is arguably one of our most important graphic narratives, and yet until recently few people have had the opportunity to read it in full. The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam recently exhibited the complete work for the first time, and now Overlook Press has produced a gorgeous English-language edition of the complete series that will make the work more widely accessible than it has ever been.

Three Quarters Dead

Today at The Comics Journal, you'll find the latest episode of Greg Hunter's dynamite podcast, Comic Book Decalogue, which this month poses its traditional ten questions  to Meags Fitzgerald. In the episode, Hunter & Fitgerald discuss Geneviève Castrée, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Ames Lettering Guide revelations, and circus art.

And then we've also got a review, this one from Noah Berlatsky. It's on the latest graphic novel from Nobrow, Out Of Nothing. Noah's opening lines are a pretty indication of where he went with this one:

God died a while ago, but we still haven't entirely figured out how to get on without him.  The old guy with a white beard still hovers ghost-like in the back of our minds and the corners of our narratives,  giving our lives a patina of meaning, comfort, purpose, or morality until we remember, with that sinking sense of grief, that he's not there, and we're alone.

Jeez Noah. So close to Easter, too! 

ELSEWHERE, The Daily Beast published a long, detailed piece on the hate and harassment taking place online and off that's categorized under the name #Comicsgate. It's a depressing look at extremely repellent behavior, which, as the articles makes clear, has no purpose beyond its own repellence. 

Road Rage

Oh boy, holiday travel did a number on me. Luckily, Dan Nadel has returned to the site with a review of a new book about one of the most mysterious cartoonists of the last century, Herbert Crowley (who was featured prominently in Dan's own Art Out of Time).

Looking back on my own interest in the strip, now I realize that "The Wiggglemuch" strips were partly compelling because Crowley suggested an affinity with a larger and also esoteric visual and literary culture, which was unusual in comics at the time. The spiritual allusions, stiffness, and symbol-driven character design also suggested another way to think about comics entirely: less drawing-based and more like moving sculptures. I wondered then, as many others did, just how he intersected with comics. As it turns out, Crowley really was just stopping over. His life and work is now the subject of a large and generously illustrated book, Herbert Crowley: The Temple of Silence by Justin Duerr. It is the kind of scholarly and research-driven deep dive that I wish for about... well, most everything. Duerr gathers every conceivable strand of Crowley's unusual and extremely complicated life and work and weaves them together into a coherent and quite moving whole.

Duerr begins the book with a lengthy illustrated biography of Crowley, and then turns it over to absolutely stunning reproductions of Crowley's work, including the complete "Wigglemuch" run, plus two-unpublished installments, and numerous drawings and paintings. The artwork, aside from the comic strips, is wonderful, but not entirely unique to him. The imagery -- gargoyle-like forms, temples, and other mystical symbols -- is in keeping with slightly older contemporaneous Symbolists, like Odilon Redon and Felicien Rops, and the proto-Surrealist literature bring published at the time in Paris. It is certainly connected to last year's incredible exhibition at The Guggenheim in New York: Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The two winners of the sixth annual Slate/CCS Cartoonist Studio Prize have been announced. This year, Keren Katz won for print, and Michael DeForge won for the web.

—And the latest guest on RiYL is Julia Wertz.

His Stutter Step

Today at the Journal, it's Friday: Good Friday, if you care. I'm using the opportunity to get out of work early to visit my local cinema and catch the new Spielberg picture. Not because I'm itching to see that lousy actor who somehow managed to fuck up Cyclops, the second best X-Man, but because I want there to be more movies featuring the Battle Toads. After that? I'll probably re-read today's Journal installments, because they're just that good.

First up, we've got Ardo Omer talking to gg, whose 2017 graphic novel I'm Not Here has been continually accumulating praise since its release. (We reviewed it in January). I was struck by this portion of gg's response to Omer's question about the theme of freedom in her work.

Everyone pushes up against all kinds of walls every day and it's natural to wonder how to go beyond that. I'm don't think we can ever know what's beyond the outermost walls (ie. totally free) but the struggle to get closer is fascinating to me. Isolation, escape, and abandonment (being abandoned and abandoning) can be strategies to deal with this unknowable thing, but as you can probably see in my stories, they're never really effective and often become traps themselves. I think of my work as a way to meditate on my general feelings, whatever they may be at any given time but I guess I think about these particular things a lot and that's why they come up so much.

On the review front, Tegan O'Neil read all 300 plus pages of First Second's latest by Pénélope Bagieu to find out if you had to. (She makes a case that you do.) It's called Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World.

The most remarkable aspect of Brazen is Bagieu herself. She tips her hand early in the book with a profile of cartoonist Tove Jansson, creator of the deathless Moomins. Bagieu draws the Moomins really well, as well as every other Jansson creation she packs into those pages. Jansson is perhaps just one influence but it’s interesting to see just how unerringly her style reflects Jansson’s very particular and peculiar line. Bagieu’s thin and expressive lines communicate a great deal. She has an eye for caricature without which this book would be a futile endeavor.

And for your final piece of TCJ content, here's an excerpt from the long awaited debut of controversial cartoonist Dilraj Mann, Dalston Monsterzz. The graphic novel was released earlier this month, and we'll have a review of it up next week. 

ELSEWHERE, Buzzfeed published an extensive, revolting piece on John Kricfaulsi's past relationships with two teenage girls. It's a disgusting, criminal situation described in excruciating detail. Buzzfeed has done excellent work exposing and thoroughly documenting the behavior of sexual predators in the past, but what remains even more impressive is the courage shown by the women who are telling their stories, at a time (and via a type of media) that continues to lash out at them for doing so. Although I personally found out about this story via an email from my co-editor, who has by now figured out how bad I am at the linkblog part of TCJ, I was later struck by the comments I saw in response to a successful female cartoonist who had merely linked to the piece on twitter, like countless others had. Over and over, the responses attacked her for daring to even mention the article, and by the time I'd scrolled 15 lines down, the hateful and crude attacks on her began in earnest. Is it a surprise? No, of course not. But it was to me a reminder of how much is owed to people like Robin Byrd and Katie Rice, who are willing to tell their stories in this climate, for a website du jour, knowing full well the sort of targeted harassment that will follow. 

Green Spirit

Today on the site, RJ Casey interviews a new cartoonist who goes only by the initials D.R.T., and who unexpectedly blew RJ away with work he sent through the mail.

RJ CASEY: Your book has no name on the front, no synopsis on the back, but the work inside this book was so singular that, after I finished, I immediately jumped on my computer to attempt to do some research into you. But there’s nothing online but a bare-bones shop selling the book and that’s basically it. Was it your intent for this book to have an air of mystery around it?

D.R.T.: Thank you! Yes, I am naturally wary of the internet and don’t post anything that I can’t easily take down. I prefer to use the Jaws approach, where you just see a glint of teeth and maybe a rough outline of a head and your imagination fills in the rest. I don’t know if that approach is sustainable in 2018 though… It’s a push and pull between getting my art out there and still keeping my privacy at a level I am comfortable with.

Your book says on the back, “Created by D.R.T.” Is that what you go by?

I go by Daniel. I started signing my initials on my “fine art” about seven years ago.

The book I received contained a letter inside written by “LH.” Who is that?

That is my wife, Lori, who lived through most of that with me.

By that, you’re referring to what the letter speaks of. Can we discuss it?

Yes, I don’t want you to feel like there’s anything off limits.

You had a major health issue. Can you break down for me what happened?

I had a hemorrhagic stroke when I was 27 due to an AVM [Arteriovenous malformation].

What is an AVM?

An AVM is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels that bypass the normal flow of blood to the capillaries. There can be a lot of stress on these blood vessels and sometimes they rupture. AVMs are rare and not all of them rupture. I lost a significant part of my left brain. So much so that the right side of my body was paralyzed, and I couldn’t do any of the most basic things like swallow or think with language. I had to start over. With incredible help from my family, my girlfriend (now wife), and therapists, I relearned how to walk, speak, read, write, do math, etc. I still have no functional use of my right arm or hand, so I have to do all of my drawings with my non-dominant left hand and a container of pennies to hold the paper in place.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

The Los Angeles Review of Books has published several interesting pieces lately, including Ashley Rattner on Noah Van Sciver and Paul Buhle's Johnny Appleseed:

MOST AMERICAN FOLKTALES are characterized by violence. The American myth glories in the inevitability of westward expansion, venerating war heroes or men who wrangled the land into submission, subjugated the frontier piece by piece until it no longer existed. To be manly is to be strong, and strength is too commonly demonstrated by the physical domination of weaker parties. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett grew famous through hunting, trapping, and their conquests in the Indian Wars. John Henry and Paul Bunyan exerted mastery over nature by laying railroad track and clearing the forests, subduing the wilderness by fundamentally altering it. The traditional American folk hero adheres to an aggressively masculine stereotype, rooted in destructive traits like violence, coercion, domination, and mastery. In Johnny Appleseed, Paul Buhle and Noah Van Sciver present the life of a man who dramatically defies this characterization. Buhle and Van Sciver’s graphic biography is nothing if not timely: published in 2017, it appears at a moment when some Americans are rekindling and others rejecting the violent and oppressive narratives that have long underwritten the nation’s peculiar brand of patriotism.

And a Sarah Chihaya interview with Adrian Tomine.

I’m interested in the way time passes in these more recent stories, especially in pieces like “Hortisculpture” or “Killing and Dying,” where the gutter between two frames sometimes communicates the passage of months or years. Your work is so often described as realism, but there is something speculative about that disjointed nature of time in Killing and Dying that reminds me of the simultaneous unpredictability and coherence of time in a book like Richard McGuire’s Here. Do you think you’re consciously thinking about temporality differently in your more recent work?

Yeah, I appreciate that — no one’s picked up on that, at least not consciously. To me, that’s one of the huge differences between this and prior books. The old work was, I think, fairly accurately described as “slice of life” — you’re literally peeking in on these characters for a short duration of time, and you just see what happens in that unbroken span of time. The real change for me was having kids. I think that completely affected me on many levels as an artist, but I think you’re picking up on something that was maybe half conscious, but is suddenly becoming apparent: parenthood really affected not only my sense of time as a human in real life, but also my storytelling. And I think that change is evident in the stories. There’s also an anxiety or sadness about that change that infuses a lot of the stories, too.

Fit The Print

Today at the Journal, we've got the first piece of evidence that Matt Seneca meant it when he said he was going to review everything he read this year--here it is, his new column, titled Search & Destroy. There's a lot of meat in this column, but the part I liked best was when I read how he refers to the Holy Trio of Violence as "my three favorite rough boys":

When I go to a comic store that only has superhero stuff on sale (most of the time these days), I usually look first at the selection of Wolverine, Batman, and Punisher comics. These have historically maintained a higher standard than most other hero books, I believe because of the smaller amount of imagination necessary to do a serviceable job on them. If you’re doing the Silver Surfer or some shit, you’ve really gotta cast a wide net and pull in something pretty different with it to make a mark. But with my favorite three rough boys, all you have to do is concoct a situation that forces the main character into committing acts of violence. From there, they pretty much write themselves, differing only in milieu and the level of sanction their heroes find it acceptable to administer: Batman usually stops at unconsciousness, Wolverine at grievous bodily harm, and for the Punisher only death will suffice. Like the novels of Jim Thompson, these comics deliver on a hyper-masculine, voyeuristic formula, elevated by the exoticism of their settings and the particularities of their protagonists’ pathologies. And as with Thompson, if you come in with the right expectations it’s hard to go wrong.

And that's not all we've got: Over in the Reviews category, Leonard Pierce has returned to us with a look at Image's latest bestseller, Bingo Love. 

It’s a very sweet story, and it’s told with a certain degree of charm and flair.  And unquestionably, it’s the kind of story we need to see, especially in comics, where there’s a dearth of anything but lunkheaded superhero variants from companies like Image, let alone stories that center older queer women of color.  It was produced outside of traditional venues of publishing, and it showcases creators who don’t normally get this degree of attention.  The book’s good intentions are obvious.  So…what’s the problem?

ELSEWHERE? The biggest news in comics criticism looks to be two recent hires at the New York Times--Hillary Chute & Ed Park, who have been brought on as regular columnists focused on the graphic novel category. For more information about the hire, Calvin Reid has you covered on that, and the possible connections to a recent agent-led campaign to return a Graphic Novel Bestseller list to the newspaper.

An INTERVIEW I rather liked, in no small part because it is about a book I publish by my favorite cartoonist went up yesterday, you should read it, absolutely. Am I biased? Yes. Of course I am. It's with Michel Fiffe and Kyle Welch, and it's over at Multiversity.

This PROFILE on William Messner-Loebs started making the rounds yesterday, and while I share the writer's emotional connection to those old Wally West issues--not just the Pied Piper ones, but also the ones where Wally was sleeping with a married woman when he wasn't binge-eating hamburgers--said connection is not required to be disgusted at the never-ending cycle of cruelty that is financial difficulty.

Ho Ho Ho! I’m the Protagonist

Bud Grace's thirty-year comic strip Piranha Club ended this year, and R.C. Harvey is here to tell its history.

How it lasted that long is a puzzler. Like all good comic strips, it was character-driven. The characters determined the action. But the characters in Grace’s strip are scoundrels and frauds. They represent the entire lexicon for “venal”: they are not only capable but eager to betray honor, duty, or scruples for a price. And yet, we loved them. We loved them enough to keep the strip going for three decades. And that says as much about us as it does about Grace. And his characters.

The strip is unlike any other American comic strip, but it is the very epitome of what our culture is. And that is undoubtedly why we kept reading it for thirty years: we saw ourselves—our worst selves—in it. And we laughed about it.

The strip began on February 1, 1988 as Ernie. It changed its name to Piranha Club on September 6, 1998. Said Grace: “We tried a promotion, and we thought that by changing the name we might pick up some papers. That didn't work, so then I thought I’d change my name to Bill Watterson. Piranha Club is still called Ernie in the rest of the world.

Ernie is the most widely syndicated comic feature in Scandinavia,” Grace continued. “My paternal grandmother was Swedish. Maybe that's the reason it's so popular over there. I also had an Ernie comic book in Scandinavia in which I did special stories every month. I did a Sunday Ernie, too, and unlike my daily strip, it's not nearly as offensive.”

To save a few strokes at the keyboard, Ernie is what I’ll call the strip herein. Ernie ended on Saturday, February 3, 2018. Thirty years almost to the day. And throughout its run, Ernie was a flamboyantly outrageous enterprise, an unabashed assault on ordinary, everyday decorum and civilized sensibilities.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times has a short profile of French cartoonist Yvan Alagbé.

Alagbé consistently gets the same question about his work: “Why do you always draw black people?” His interrogative reply is twofold: “Have you ever once asked a white person why he only draws white people?” and “Is it not possible for me to draw a black person who is representative of humanity in general?”

With his twisted goatee and shaved head, Mr. Alagbé cut a shamanistic figure as he calmly surveyed the teeming hordes at the annual Children’s Books Fair in Montreuil, a suburb just east of Paris. As a co-founder of the comic book publisher Fremok he has been attending the event, where we met at the end of November, every year for the last 17 years.

Though not a children’s book, Mr. Alagbé’s “Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures” is popular among the world of French comics. It was published in 2012 in France, and has now been translated into English and is being released by New York Review Comics on April 3. The 47-year-old author began “Yellow Negroes” more than 20 years ago and has been adding narrative layers to it on and off ever since. It has been compared to Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” by the art historian and comic book critic Matthias Wivel.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Jerry Moriarty, and the most recent guest on Comics Alternative is John Porcellino.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner writes about the horror manga of Junji Ito.

There’s a scene in Uzumaki, Junji Ito’s much-lauded horror series, that I think best exemplifies his particular style. The overarching story involves a secluded village in Japan whose residents become obsessed with spirals and usually meet grotesque and destructive ends as a result. In the third chapter, a scar on a teen girl’s forehead turns into a spiral black hole of sorts, eventually consuming her entire body. A horrific reveal shows the spiral hole extending back into her head, her right eye sitting gruesomely on the edge of her face. Then, in a series of smaller panels, the eye starts to roll back towards the vanishing point in the back of her skull.

It is, obviously, pretty horrific. It’s also very, very funny: a rimshot as we literally stare into the abyss, acknowledging the absurdity of the image while underscoring the gore.

Blind To Passes

Today at the Journal, we'll hear from Tessa Strain, the heir apparent to the Chesapeake County Cheesecake Forum (yup), with her review of Prism Stalker, the latest comic from Sloane Leong and Image Comics. It's a doozy of a piece, befitting a comic that brings no small share of the dooze. Here's a taste of the hurdles Tessa needed the comic to clear, and a hint at whether Leong accomplished said clearing: 

The word “worldbuilding” makes my gums bleed, conjuring either a text bogged down with endless exposition (because god forbid your readers not be aware of every detail of your research and design process) or deliberately opaque (smugly suggesting a world so impossibly dense with detail that you can hardly expect to be exposed to more than a delicate truffle-like shaving of it), but the world of Prism Stalker manages to be complex and richly developed without being wankily self-serving, a feat more impressive given that Leong has said that the idea for the series has been gestating for years. Her story and characters have emerged fully realized and sure-footed, without the extra baggage that often comes with extended percolation.

And that's not all. To get your Monday launched properly, we've got another look at one of the comics in the Kilgore Books Seasonal Kickstarter--Tinderella, by M.S. Harkness. In this installment, a young person procrastinates on getting an eye infection checked out, despite the fact that conjunctivitis is highly contagious. They even go to a public pool. Selfish!

If I was Joe Casey, I would be sending invoices to Tom King every couple of days. (Or Joe could just forward the ones he gets from Grant Morrison Alan Moore.) 

Factory Farm

Austin English is back with a doozy of a new column this month, looking at the appropriation argument, Roy Lichtenstein, Mike Sekowsky, Sherrie Levine, Philip Guston, Fox News, George Herriman, and much, much more. Even if you're very tired of the endless high art/low art debate, this should not be skipped.

Within the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, we come across Sherrie Levine's 1989 art work Untitled (Mr. Austridge: 2). It is not currently on view, but was up in the galleries from June 30, 2010 through September 12, 2011. It is an exact replica, save the grain of the wood support, of a drawing by George Herriman from his comic strip Krazy Kat.

About her work, Levine commented: "Every word, every image, is leased and mortgaged. We know that a picture is but a space in which a variety of images, none of them original, blend and clash. A picture is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture."

Except, in this case, it's one quotation from one specific area of culture. Levine might protest that her larger project shows this specific work as one fabric within the tissue, but for readers of Herriman, there'd be (at the very least) a compelling argument for the former. Now, that alone doesn't invalidate Levine's project in any way. I happen to find her work important and complex. The overarching unity of much of her work, the appropriation of 'idolized' male artists to question ideas about 'artistic genius,' is razor sharp art-as-critique and particularly prescient today.

Levine, if this was her intention, is correct to lump Herriman into the 'idolized' camp. He was beloved by peers and critics of his day, and continues to be in 2018. And yet, as a subject for appropriation, an important question arises: does Herriman have the same visual currency as a Walker Evans photograph?

Tegan O'Neill is here, too, with a review of Shaky Kane and Starking & Shainline's The Beef.

The Beef goes into very graphic detail about how cows are killed in slaughterhouses. You see the machine that puts the bolt in the cow’s brain. You see the animals being dismembered. Fun stuff.

That warning goes up front because the folks who made The Beef are making a point here. It’s not a particularly subtle point but this kind of messaging rarely is. Slaughterhouses are foul and filthy places under the “best” of circumstances. The premise underlining this book is not just that slaughterhouses are bad, but that the act of killing animals for food – and in such an especially savage way, for both the animal and the man – is inescapably morally corrosive, and that corrosion in turn trickles its way back up the food chain when the meat is processed for human consumption.

Frankly, The Beef is an unpleasant comic. I wouldn’t describe it as a bad comic, however. On the contrary, it definitely knows what it is about and sets about its business with a rather impressive single-mindedness. One issue is really too early to tell which direction the story may be heading, but it’s certainly not heading in a pleasant direction. Anyone thinking about picking this comic up, even given the creative team, should brace themselves for a book that has been purposefully designed to crawl under the skin of anyone who reads it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Paul Gravett profiles the comics journalist Olivier Kugler.

The proactive, attentive, sensitive approach of Olivier Kugler to graphic reportage takes him into firsthand, face-to-face exchanges with his subjects – confronting and communicating their experiences and realities in print and online press: from features in The Guardian and Harper’s magazine to full-length book projects. While Kugler’s documentary comics are related to the wave of cartoon journalism sparked by Joe Sacco’s genre-redefining comicbook, later graphic novel, Palestine (1993 and 95, respectively), they typically avoid autobiography and self-depiction. Kugler’s focus is on the individual, their appearance, locale and story. Aside from some scene-setting and arrowed captions, all the words are their words, quotes distilled from his extensive audio recordings of their conversations. Self-effacing, Kugler prioritises giving his routinely ignored or overlooked interviewees their voice.

—The most recent guest on the Mindkiller podcast is Jessica Campbell.

The Issue of Value

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got a triplet, a power trio, a triumvirate. Things: there's three of them. The first is an interview--let's call it "The Interview"--with cartoonist Joe Infurnari. Full disclosure: I fucking love this guy.

There was a friend of mine when I was at Deep Six studios, this guy Nathan Schreiber. We were listening to Notorious B.I.G. and there's a line where he talks about eating canned sardines in one of his songs. Nathan made the joke to me, "I didn't know that Biggie was a cartoonist!" because I was living on canned sardines for a while. So this is our way of coping with the reality of eating sardines, and that's how we bridged the hope that one day we would be a Biggie of sorts. So in that environment of deprivation, it certainly is nice to not feel like you're penny-pinched and nickel-and-dimed up above you. And that's not a slight to any other publisher, because it's definitely the reality of a lot of publishers who aren't multi-million-dollar corporations. But in this case, thankfully, Skybound has the resources that it can afford to pay a healthy page rate. And they can have you work six issues in advance. So it kind of protects you a little bit from the knocks of the market. And everybody I've dealt with there has been really cool. It's kind of relaxed, not to say that other places are not. It's just been a good experience, personally.

 Then, we've got your review of a Neil Gaiman property--no, not that one. The other one. No, the Dark Horse one! It's called Only The End Of The World Again, and the review (which has chapters?) is by Keith Silva. Here's a taste.

The fact that such a benign piece of ephemera exists—and is on its third go round no less—says more about the power of Gaiman’s brand than perhaps anything else. To go further and devolve like an upstanding Innsmouth-ian into downright nihilism, readers are being asked to, once again, buy something they already love that’s been cobbled together from other stuff they also love too. Reprints gonna reprint!

So where does that leave the consumer reader? New work from Hollingsworth that’s easier got for far less filthy lucre in a recently published pamphlet? Yes and no. Only the End of the World Again represents a study in what it means to be a comics pro. Like some Ghost of Christmas Present, Gaiman et al. swish aside their Dickensian robe to reveal the sins of competency and consistency. Everyone wants to pose as punk and ragged—especially in the august ones and zeroes of ‘TCJ.’ Gaiman wanted the same thing when he was poolside in his black motorcycle jacket in the Florida heat. True Story. Whiter the professional, the ace, the old hand? When did professionalism turn uncool?

Finally, in the world of free comics, the Kilgore squad has set y'all up with a preview of Monkey Chef, by Mike Freiheit. It's an autobio comic set in another country, sure, but it's also about monkeys. So it'll win awards and sell based off the strength of the cover? I think that was how Marvel Apes was explained to me back in the day.

ELSEWHERE?

CHANGES: The guys who run Meltdown Comics are shutting down the physical edition of Meltdown Comics to run a "new business" that they've been working on for "four to five years". Here's a video that explains nothing. 

HISTORY: Matt Seneca mentioned this on Twitter, and it took me back--has there ever been a better panel than the one where Marko Djurdjevic pulled back the curtain so hard on what it's like to work at Marvel Comics? I would argue that there has not been one. I hope Hannah's professionalism crusade mentioned here doesn't mean more people will act like Johnathan Hickman did that day, because Jesus Christ, the man sounds like Human Nyquil. Let's leave the jokes to the professionals, spreadsheet guy.

Book of Life

Today on the site, Arthur Lortie and Michael Catron report on the life of the colorful comics writer Michael Fleisher, a well-known figure to longtime TCJ readers.

Michael Lawrence Fleisher, an often controversial and polarizing comic-book and comic-strip writer, died February 2, 2018, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Beaverton, Oregon, according to his half brother, Martin Fleisher. He was 75.

Fleisher is perhaps best remembered in comics for his groundbreaking work at DC Comics on The Spectre and Jonah Hex, the authorized encyclopedias he wrote on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and a libel case he doggedly pursued and lost against The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics, Inc.), Journal editor Gary Groth, and the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

Though comics would dominate the first part of his professional career, in later life Fleisher proved himself to be a dedicated researcher, scholar, and humanitarian.

Charles Hatfield is here, too, with a rave review of John Porcellino's latest King-Cat collection, From Lone Mountain.

John Porcellino, cartoonist, memoirist, poet, and zinester, is one of our greatest comics artists. Many know this; many more should. He remembers places and people beautifully—that is, he does a beautiful job of remembering through art. Increasingly, I find myself drawing an improbable sort of joy from Porcellino’s art, the more improbable because of what I used to think was a great gulf between his experiences and mine. His work has crossed that gulf, in fact persuaded me that it wasn’t there to begin with. That may sound facile—and why shouldn’t art be about the strange and unknown, as well as the worn comforts of the familiar? Actually, Porcellino offers both; he wonders at the world. I suppose that’s what we mean by art making the world larger.

From Lone Mountain, just out now, is Porcellino’s fifth book from Drawn & Quarterly, and the third in a D&Q series reprinting work from his near thirty-year-old, still-ongoing zine King-Cat Comics and Storiesfollowing King-Cat Classix (2007) and Map of My Heart (2009). I am most thankful for it: as good and beautiful a volume of comics as I hope to see this year.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Commentary. Michael Kupperman writes about sentimental death-tribute cartoons for The New Statesman.

The death tribute cartoon is different from simple tribute art, in that it uses a visual format designed to amuse, but to be maudlin instead. As near a perfect description for the death tribute cartoon as I can find is German writer Winfried Menninghaus summary of the concept of kitsch: “A simple invitation to wallow in sentiment.”

Every celebrity’s death is treated as an occasion for cloying fantasy or impossibly awkward visual metaphor.

The most common death tribute cartoon trope shows the celebrity arriving in heaven, most often encountering St Peter. It doesn’t matter what religion the celebrity actually practised (as with Steve Jobs, a Buddhist, who was placed in this context at least ten times, including on the cover of The New Yorker).

Rob Salkowitz writes about the current market for digital comics.

If you’re a sharp-eyed shopper, you’ve probably noticed that Marvel has been running some crazy deals on digital trade collections for Kindle and comiXology, blowing out collections for 99 cents that are list-priced at $19.99. Other publishers run the same kind of doorbusters on a regular basis, and subscription programs like comiXology Unlimited or Marvel Unlimited offer access to thousands of titles for a single monthly fee.

All this discounting means the effective price of digital back issues has crashed way under the "magic number" of 99 cents, the price point that everyone in the industry seemed fixated on just a few years ago. [...]

New release digital issues have, for the most part, held the line at the cover price of print editions. But with so much cheap content floating around out there, including a lot of stuff from the last year or two that is still being talked about and is still relevant to continuity, how soon before we start seeing price cuts on new material that has to compete with the publisher’s own recent backstock?

And more fundamentally, is the current shape of the digital market a sign of health, maturity and evolution, or should we be concerned that the model is failing?

At Slate, Marissa Martinelli makes the case that new (and old) readers should follow the recently begun annotated republication of Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie.

If you’ve already read Octopus Pie, the re-launch isn’t just a chance to experience it all over again (although it is that, too). You could easily zip through the archives at your own pace if you wanted to, but the daily schedule offers a unique opportunity to watch Gran’s art and storytelling change, if not quite in real time, then at least spread out over the two-and-a-half years or so it’ll take to get from start to finish—ten years worth of Gran’s work condensed into about a quarter of that time. The most obvious shift is the evolution of Octopus Pie’s art, especially the gradual creep of color into the comic before taking the complete plunge, with help from colorist Sloane Leong and, later, a lush palette by Valerie Halla.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Process Party podcast is Box Brown.

Tengo Hambre

Today at the Journal, we've got Nate Patrin's excellent review of Blutch's Total Jazz, which was released by Fantagraphics last month. 

Total Jazz is a tonally wide-ranging if relatively slim volume collecting French cartoonist Blutch's strips and illustrations for the now-defunct '90s-'00s magazine Jazzman, which he drew between 2000 and 2004. Creating work for a jazz magazine that was founded when jazz's mainstream commercial impact was largely relegated to the record crates of hip-hop producers like Pete Rock and DJ Premier relies on the likelihood that the audience you're creating this work for is well familiar with the subject already, and wants to see something more reflected in that subject than just a simple joke or an easy reference. And Blutch's work here is dedicated to finding the answer to what makes not just listening to jazz but finding yourself in it, dedicating yourself to it, obsessing over it, actually worthwhile -- and finally getting lost in that connection between the music and the people who play it.

And that's not all! The crew at Kilgore are working on a Kickstarter campaign to set up there next list of titles, and they've set TCJ up with a some handy previews to let you know where the money is going. Today, we've got a look at Blammo #10, from Noah Van Sciver. 

While I really liked watching Viggo Mortensen dismantle people in A History of Violence, I tend to roll my eyes whenever some throat-clearer tells you that his (it's always a he) favorite movie based on a comic book is Ghost World or American Splendor--I get it, guy who thinks he's 2 good for 2 Guns. And yet, like that backseat driver who still reps for Batman: Mark of the Phantasm, lemme tell you: The Death of Stalin will probably supplant Blade 2 in my estimation as the top of the heap of comic book related films. I just need to watch it a few more hundred times to see if its intensely, insanely acid-black comedy remains intact. It's a hostile movie, far crueler than I expected it to be, totally lacking in any sense that a better world is possible. In the world it depicts, any moment of joy or freedom occurs purely out of luck, and the best one can hope for is to be ignored long enough for your death to occur naturally. It's a deliriously mean vision of a country in the grips of the selfish, the venal, the stupid, and the cruel--and much like Blade 2, the survivors are those who are happy to stand atop a pile of bodies. 

In Battle

Today on the site, editor Mike Catron explains what exactly went into the new edition of Bhob Stewart's tribute book, The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood.

Bhob Stewart, who originally began this project for Fantagraphics, ultimately came to regard the version of it that saw print from a different publisher as a profound and bitter disappointment.

Despite the fact that it was well received at the time, Bhob cringed at the mediocre paper, the less-than-stellar reproduction, and the cheap binding. (Pages are literally falling out of my softcover copy.) But most of all — the thing that made him grind his teeth the hardest — was the censoring of Wallace Wood’s art. Bhob never got over that.

The other publisher required him to go through all of Wood’s art and delete anything the publisher felt was improper. Particular words had to be deleted or printed with asterisks, even when part of a direct quote. He was allowed to print semi-nude figures, but only if certain body parts were whited out — even when only shown in silhouette. Some of the Wood art he wanted to use was summarily rejected outright as unredeemable, and he had to scramble to find innocuous replacements that weren’t even relevant. This was especially evident in a chapter devoted to Wood’s infamous “Disneyland Memorial Orgy”. It offered some amusing panels poking fun at Disney characters that Wood had drawn for Mad magazine — but nothing at all from the “Orgy”, which was the subject of the discussion.

In another instance, Bhob had cleverly reconstructed an EC “prank page” in which Wood drew a nude female figure. It was so heavily censored that readers rightly wondered what all the fuss was about. (To set things right, an undaunted Bhob wrote an essay explaining the whole muddle. We re-reconstructed the prank and that became a new chapter in Volume 1.)

It was ridiculous. It was appalling. It was a desecration. But Bhob had signed a contract, and he felt he was stuck.

We also have Judy Berman's review of a comic with a very odd high concept: Derek Marks's Grace, Jerry, Jessica and Me.

Some historical convergences demand fanfiction. My own personal canon includes the first Redstockings meeting; the drafting of the Dogme 95 manifesto and “Vow of Chastity”; any given night at Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire; Britpop’s Damon Albarn-Justine Frischmann-Brett Anderson love triangle; and the day Poly Styrene, Debbie Harry, Viv Albertine, Siouxsie Sue, Chrissie Hynde and Pauline Black all got together for a class picture. For Derek Marks, nothing tops that time in the ‘70s when Grace Jones, Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange were roommates in Paris.

Like most great 21st-century discoveries, this factoid came to Marks, a New York-based cartoonist and illustrator who was once “a tragic gay teen goth” in Miami, via the internet. The first issue of his hilarious comic Grace, Jerry, Jessica and Me, from 2014, opens with the author stumbling out of a “Google hole” (wow, relatable) with the wondrous revelation clutched in his hot little hand. “The trio’s potential fabulousness blew me so far away,” he writes, “I found I had time-traveled to Paris and landed as their fourth roommate.”


Meanwhile, elsewhere:


—Reviews & Commentary.
BoingBoing has excerpted the introduction Lynn Johnston wrote for the first volume of the collected For Better or For Worse.

When I was barely 20 years old, I got married. My husband and I settled into an old apartment in Vancouver, near English Bay. He was working for the CBC as a cameraman and I was an ink and paint artist for Canawest Films. I wanted to be an animator and was learning the industry from the ground up. We did commercials, public service announcements and piece work for Hanna Barbera. I was one of 16 young women hired to hand colour acetate cells. Having signed an agreement to not join a union, we took shifts and worked around the clock for $1.50 an hour. It was hard work, but I learned quickly and I realized that an animator makes other people's drawings, other people's characters, other people's dreams come to life. With no children to occupy my time at home, I decided to try my hand at creating stories and characters of my own. I have always been more at home with realistic scenarios, so I decided to tell short stories about my childhood. Within a few weeks, I had a few tall tales worked out and perhaps, 15 coloured drawings. I wondered if they might even be published some day. It was 1968 and I was creating a graphic novel.

For the New York Review of Books, Dash Shaw reviews Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's How to Read Nancy.

One of the defining traits of 1980s New York City postmodernist writing and painting was the urge to deconstruct. This extended to the comics medium in Art Spiegelman and Francois Mouly’s Raw, an oversized anthology magazine that serialized Maus and introduced readers to “art comics” from around the world. Spiegelman’s experimental work looked like exploded pages of Sunday cartoon battles between what was then considered “low” and “high” art. Richard McGuire’s short story “Here” dissected a single room across time using a panel-in-panel device also seen in 1980s painters like David Salle and Robert Longo. Gary Panter drew apocalyptic nightmares that dismantled and intuitively reconstructed drawing modes from Picasso to Jack Kirby.

In the midst of all of this deconstruction was a renewed interest among cartoonists in a humble, plain-looking gag strip that began in the 1930s: Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy. Nancy follows an eight-year-old suburban girl as she solves mundane problems and interacts with Sluggo, a fellow prankster and sometimes romantic interest. Bushmiller (born in 1905) drew it for most of his life, with each strip as a self-contained “gag”—a single joke that could be easily digested as the reader glanced across the strip. The imagery and jokes are so prototypical and simple that the American Heritage Dictionary uses it to illustrate the meaning of “comic strip.” The appeal of Nancy to the art comic crowd might seem counter-intuitive, but while Nancy was never particularly clever, it was always cleverly constructed. In fact, the accomplishment of Nancy, with its refined, reduced lines and preoccupation with plungers and faucets, might primarily be a matter of form. As Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead, also Raw) wrote in his 2012 introduction to a collected Nancy volume: “Nancy doesn’t tell us much about what it’s like to be a kid. What Nancy tells us is what it’s like to be a comic strip.”

At LARB, Jackson Ayres reviews Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward's Black Bolt.

Ahmed’s Black Bolt, then, springs from these two interlocked narrative and extraliterary developments: Marvel’s positioning of the Inhumans as cornerstones of their line-wide continuity, and the company’s push, via live-action adaptations, for broader public recognition of the franchise. Unfortunately the Inhumans television series debuted to some of the first truly bad reviews for the franchise since its 2008 launch in the first Iron Man movie. But the coup of hiring Ahmed, an acclaimed writer of prose SF and fantasy, to helm Black Bolt no doubt helped to introduce the character to those who may not previously have heard of him.

After a too-long absence, Janean Patience returns with a very long piece on the 1980s work of Howard Chaykin.

Because we like to arrange things in threes, because that’s our pattern, there’s long been a glaring gap in the history of comics. Everyone agrees on two sides of the triangle: Watchmen and Dark Knight, the autopsy and the brass band funeral. But who’s the third? Maus has been most often suggested, even though it was only half-out, came from a very different place than those glossy contemporaries and wasn’t part of the hip, cool graphic novel movement. No, the third of the three, alongside Moore and Miller, was Chaykin. There was only one problem; the work.

Because there is, ultimately, an obvious advantage to being with DC Comics, however they rip you off. Even if it’s how they rip you off: they make your work available. They get it in comics shops and bookshops and airports and all those places, all those disregarded distribution outlets that are the grass roots of the graphic novel revolution, that take it to a wider audience. Without that, without that splash, you can be a key player in the revolution, a pioneer of creative ownership, and nobody will even know.

Back up. American Flagg, the comic Chaykin created, wrote and drew, began monthly publication in 1983. Moore was doing great things in 2000AD and Warrior and preparing to bound across the Atlantic. Miller had concluded his first spell on Daredevil and was writing and drawing Ronin. The revolution was gearing up. Everyone was already doing their creator-owned work alongside or inbetween their work-for-hire; it was a part of comics growing up from the very beginning. But Chaykin was winning. Flagg, published (and, according to the indicia, to some extent co-owned) by First Comics, was a hit right out of the gate. Monthly, independent, sexy, unleashing new ideas and characters and complications with every issue. It tore through its first year, 12 issues of 28 pages telling one overarching story. It was hot and it was Howard’s; a commercial sensibility of colour and design and action brought to that sector of comics previously aligned with the black-and-white fantasy of Cerebus and Elfquest. Everyone knew Flagg. I was like 11 years old and I knew Flagg.


—Interviews & Profiles.
The Comics Alternative podcast interviews Ho Che Anderson.

Philip Glass, Knife Collector

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got a lovely interview with one of my favorite artists, Roman Muradov. I wish I could take credit for setting this up, but it was presented on a platter by Aug Stone. Picking a favorite passage was easy: here's Roman on how The Fall influenced his work and taught him English.

I started listening to The Fall when I was about 18, when I couldn’t really speak English particularly well. I sort of learned English through The Fall (laughs). A bit of an abstruse route. I realize that a lot of my pronunciation is from The Fall and that Mark E. Smith’s actually not pronouncing very well so...(laughs) They were possibly my earliest artistic influence in my entire life, and also the most lasting. Because English is my second language I had the benefit of experiencing The Fall as a pre-linguistic awakening. I would listen to it and not understand 90% of the things he’s saying (laughs). But there was a force to it that really appealed to me, and it’s the same force that I recognize in, say, James Joyce, who I also couldn’t understand, because my English wasn’t up to the task. But I could still feel it in my guts. And it’s this very primal feeling, words connecting, sending a shiver down your spine—the whole idea that the sound of the words is actually much more meaningful than their meaning—and that’s something I’ve carried through my entire work. And with The Fall there are many other things. First of all, they had this whole amateurish approach to art-making. I change my style quite a lot as I’m sure you’ve noticed, so when I decide ‘ok, the next one will be in paint’, there’s a voice inside me that goes ‘hang on, you can’t paint’. But then there’s a little Mark E. Smith in my head that says ‘well, it doesn’t fucking matter. Get these three random tubes of paint and start painting. You’re not going to take classes or lessons. That is not how it’s done.’ So in a way I treat myself like he treats his musicians (laughs). Of course it’s even more unhealthy, I am my own tyrant and my own servant.

That's not all though! Today we've also got Mindy Rhiger's first piece for The Comics Journal, a review of Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker, a new graphic novel for younger readers published by First Second.

It may not begin with the words “Once upon a time,” but The Prince and the Dressmaker is a fairy tale through and through. From the prince looking for a wife (sort of) to the magical transformations (in a manner of speaking), the story blends elements of a traditional tale with modern ideas and sensibilities in a way that is every bit as charming and cinematic as the animated fairy tales many grew up watching. Perhaps this is a fairy tale that will speak to a new generation.

Busy Day

Today on the site, Tegan O'Neil returns with a review of Sarah Graley's Kim Reaper.

I’ve been sitting here trying to decide what I wanted to say about Sarah Graley’s Kim Reaper, the first volume of which – aptly titled Grim Beginnings – was delivered to my address by anonymous courier. I like the comic: I want to get that out of the way right up front. It’s not a perfect comic but it’s really solidly put together and very cute. Oops! Did I say cute? I didn’t mean to say cute.

In an Irish Lit seminar in college our professor informed us that “cute” was an Irish insult. Even over here in the wilderness cute can be a kiss-off. I try to remember the Irish definition whenever I use the word. It’s not a word I want to abuse in any way. I’d certainly never wield it as invective, because not only do I respect the idea of cute, but as an aesthetic mood I consider it a virtue worth promoting.

There’s nothing at all ironic about being cute in 2018.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The New York Review of Books has published an excerpt of Eleanor Davis's Why Art?

—Caleb Orecchio writes about Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte.

This encounter and subsequent reading of the issue reminded me of Doucet’s intensity as a cartoonist. An unfettered intensity and earnestness in both narrative and drawing. A simultaneity that basically went unrivaled among her comics graduating class (the exception probably being Chester Brown). Even in our current comics community, I am hard-pressed to think of any cartoonist that revels so deeply and gleefully in one’s day-to-day routine of life, fantasies and bodily functions—and in a completely fun and personal way.

—Boy, this CBLDF instructional comic for yesterday's gun protests sure seems concerned with teaching kids not to cause any kind of disturbance or distress to authorities and institutions. Is civil disobedience supposed to be disruptive and society-changing, or just a lifestyle signifier?

—RIP Stephen Hawking

The Blood and The Father

Today at the Journal, we've got a review from Alex Hoffman, who, in a turn of events that interest the 163,377 people who have registered as commenters on this site, is making his very own transition from their ranks of toil to Official TCJ Contributor with this very review. It's on a book called Eternal Friendship, which was published last year to almost no comics acclaim whatsoever--because the publisher decided to call it something else. Alex takes issue!

Originally published in France as Amitié Éternelle, and translated by Elizabeth Zuba, Durand uses official and personal photographs from Albanian state photographers to create a story of friendship, politics, and totalitarian power.

The strange nature of this print object is apparent even at first glance. Eternal Friendship is a narrative work comprised primarily of photographs and text. But Eternal Friendship is not traditional photo comics or fumetti. There are no word balloons, no dialogue, none of the ephemera associated with the conventional conservative definition of comics. And this is apparent in the way that Siglio Press markets the book, as a “photo-novel,” a term that is as much a hedge as it is a recognition that Eternal Friendship does not easily fit in the lines we draw around narrative form. Still, despite Siglio Press’ hedging, Eternal Friendship is clearly a comic. It is a combination of image and text used to tell a story that only works with both parts intact.

And that's not all--it's the day after Tuesday, which means that a new TCJ newsletter went out. You can read it here. And then, if you dug it, you can subscribe to it here. And if you didn't dig it, subscribe to it anyway, that way you can respond to it negatively when it shows up in your inbox, thus guaranteeing that you're ruining one (or both) of our day with your venom and bile! 

Speaking of venom and bile, I received an email while composing this blog post that referred to this old comments thread as having "invented 2017". It's possible!

Blam

Today on the site, Rob Kirby reviews the new Josh Simmons collection, Flayed Corpse.

[It] is a splendid collection of solo stories and collaborations with other notable cartoonists, most previously published in anthologies and zines like Mome, Intruder, Rough House, and Habit; also included are various unpublished drawings and odds and ends, all created from 2010 to 2017. The book is carefully curated, highly enjoyable, and more fun than Simmons's harrowing, almost nihilistic Furry Trap collection from 2012—though it is not without its upsetting moments (you wouldn’t expect any less from Josh Simmons, would you?). Working with other artists has only added further dimensions to his oeuvre.

Simmons's work has always presented a particularly unsettling aesthetic. His stories take place in an universe with an entirely indifferent moral structure, where life can be brutally snuffed out at any time, for no reason other than bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The brief title story, "Flayed Corpse", sets up this ferocious tone. In it, a group of medical forensic experts discuss the state of mind of a dead man at the time of his demise. What they ultimately decide offers no comforting view of death as a final peaceful departure into the ether: “He died terrified, in agony. And it echoed out and was absorbed into a cosmos already sick with pain.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—JHU Comic Books is hoping to stay in Manhattan, and raising money via GoFundMe in order to do so.

JHU Comic Books have been serving comic book fans in New York City since 2013 (and the owners worked at the legendary Jim Hanley’s Universe, which originated on Staten Island in 1985, before that). We opened our current store on 32nd Street after Hurricane Sandy, and now after 5 years, we lost our lease, and we need to move.

We have found a great new (and affordable) space a few blocks from our current location, in a residental neighborhood. We will be moving from a highly commerical area, and are looking to reestablish ourself as a mom and pop shop. However the new space needs some major work. Floor, lights, bathroom, an awning and more. This is where we need your help.

—Matthew Thurber brings us Military School:

—RIP

Look What You Made Me Glue

Today at the Journal, two of your trustiest souls return to these pages. The first is Marc Sobel, with a nice long read to start off your week. It's a deep dive into Yukinobu Hoshino's 2001 NightsThis piece has a bibliography, pal. Does your piece have a bibliography?

2001 Nights is the story of humanity’s exploration of the universe. Told in a series of nineteen episodes, each successive “night” represents a milestone in the gradual journey. As the title implies, the series borrows its narrative structure from 1001 Nights, a collection of Islamic folk tales from the 7th Century, and its epic scope, which spans several centuries and thousands of light years, was also inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix series.

Then we've got RJ Casey. The last time he was around these parts, he was pleased with his reading assignments, this time around? Well, this time around he took a look at the latest comic book launch of a Robert Kirkman intellectual property: it's called Oblivion Song, and RJ wasn't a fan.

I’m never sure if writers like Kirkman create comics like these to appeal to their predominantly white male fan bases, or, even when given a clean slate by Image, this is literally all they can imagine. And which one of those is worse? Every criticism of this comic (and I’m sure a television show is right around the corner) will be met with defenders rallying behind the idea of "escapism." But when brutal tragedies are actually happening and not merely plot points, it shouldn’t be too much to ask writers and artists to take a step back and reflect for one goddamn minute. If your escapism does not reflect those that are oppressed, harassed, and victimized—in short, people who need escape—then something is very, potentially harmfully, wrong.

Elsewhere, you'll find a lot of Stan Lee pieces going up regarding his current living & financial situation, with the Daily Beast being the most extensive and recent. It's a developing situation and an ugly one. 

Lurking in Paradise

Greg Hunter's here with a review of two recently translated Chinese comics from a very small publisher.

Migraine by Woshibai and Two Stories by Gantea mark the first entries in a series of contemporary lianhuanhua translations from Brooklyn micropress Paradise Systems. Both artists are from China, the lianhuanhua tradition’s place of origin—Woshibai from Shanghai; Gantea from Beijing, by way of Urumqi—and both comics observe some of lianhuanhua’s historical conventions. Migraine and Two Stories feature one scene (or panel) per page, a horizontal orientation, and a pocket-ready trim size. Reading lianhuanhua in large quantities, the effects of this format surely vary. (Lianhuanhua of the past encompassed many genres and sensibilities, including “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” a publisher’s note in each volume informs readers.) In the case of Migraine and Two Stories, the format supports, even underscores, feelings of stillness and ambivalence. Taken together, the comics also demonstrate how different two comics sharing these feelings can be.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—History. The indefatigable Sean Howe writes about Marvel artist Billy Graham for the New York Times.

Last summer, Shawnna Graham fired up Netflix in her Williamsburg, Va., home and looked for her grandfather’s name in the closing credits of “Marvel’s Luke Cage.” It was nowhere to be found.

It was a surprise. After all, the Harlem-based comic book artist Billy Graham had worked on the first 17 issues of “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire,” and even had a hand in writing a few of them. He’d been the only African-American person working on what was the first African-American superhero comic book series.

In fact, he was the only African-American person working for Marvel, period.

Broadly looks at the career of Jackie Ormes.

Fashion and politics are rarely represented alongside each other in a smart way, but cartoonist Jackie Ormes, the first American Black woman to have a syndicated comic strip, consistently married the two with ease. From the 30s through the 50s, her Torchy Brown and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger comics featured clever, independent women with a taste for chic clothing and sharp political commentary.

—News. DC has announced a new imprint called Black Label featuring creators such as Frank Miller, John Romita Jr., and the DC debut of Kelly Sue DeConnick.

—Interviews. Vice talks to a slate of cartoonists, including Brandon Graham, Mimi Pond, and R. Sikoryak, about their comics careers. Here's Pond:

I don't know if you're familiar with Clay Felker. He started New York magazine. He was very supportive of women writers, and of women in general in publishing, and he was doing a magazine called Manhattan Inc., and he asked me to do a cartoon about the problems women face in the workplace—sexual harassment in the workplace. This is 1986 or something. First of all, I said no. I've made it my life's work to avoid working in an office, so I don't even know what office life is like. He said "No, no, no, you do it. You have to do it."

So I talked to all my friends who worked in offices, and they would tell me these stories about being made to feel very uncomfortable in all these different ways. One of the big ones was guys telling dirty jokes just to make them uncomfortable. So I showed him this pencil rough that's got a woman surrounded by a group of men by the water cooler, and one of them has just told the punchline to a dirty joke, and all the men are laughing, and the woman says, "That reminds me of a joke my gynecologist told me the other day while he was giving me a pap smear," and they all turn white. And I showed it to Clay Felker, and he just said, "This is disgusting!" I said, “Yeah, I know.” And he made me redo it. It just felt to me like the first one was dead on.

Eddie Campbell launched a new website, as mentioned the other day, and is now a guest on the Library of American Comics podcast.

The Finest in Grog

Today at The Journal, we've got a double shot from some new contributors. First you'll find Sara McHenry holding court on Twisted Romance, a recent release from Image Comics featuring not one, but two Journal contributors. It seems to have struck a nerve!

Still, there’s a lot to like here: a goth vampire boy donning his sunglasses and black parasol to interview small-town folks about wendigo murders is extremely charming. A vampire and a hunter falling in love and going to karaoke bars in the American south, where being gay can be as dangerous as being a monster? I’m so here for that. They even have a Chihuahua named Dominique!

And we've also got an interview with Taneka Stotts about her approach to webcomics, seeking a voice outside of editorial, and her history in poetry, courtesy of Ardo Omer!

Do you find that how you receive feedback or how you work with creatives, your current view on both of those things, were because you started out as an editor?

Yes and no. This kind of goes back to slam poetry a little bit. Back in the day, there are things called group pieces [and] also duos which [are] literally when two creative artists or a group of artists sit down, write a poem, kind of like a song, spitting out little words here and there to one another [and] seeing how it flows with the group. Or taking someone’s piece, deconstructing it so that a group can read that piece on stage. So it might’ve already existed, and this poet might have already read it quite a few times, but they’re going to break it down into sections of four so that they can all read it together, give it more emphasis and bang, and then watch it, you know, perform on stage, and how it hits an audience.

ALSO, but elsewhere: The Graphic novel nominations for the Lamda awards are up, and it's nice to see them abandon the tradition of giving a sympathy position to a lousy super-hero comic by a straight dude with an earring just because it features a side character who likes to reminisce about Will & Grace in between poorly drawn fight scenes. It's great that those things exist, because it isn't really progress until everybody gets their own shitty super-hero comic to call their own, but it was consistently annoying how often those things earned some kind of acclaim while there was, you know, absolutely anything else to have as an option.

Let It Snow

Today brings another two-fer. First, Matt Seneca reviews the latest from the enigmatic Blexbolex, Vacation.

Blexbolex has cracked the code. The French cartoonist with the name that sounds like a friendly robot has worked in a wide variety of styles, from the simple interlocking blocks of bright color seen in his kid's books People and Seasons, to the whirls of limited-palette decoration in his very not-kid's books No Man's Land and Dogcrime. His most recent book, the truly all-ages fable Ballad, added a profusion of neon dot screening to the mix. Through it all, the constant is that his imagery bypasses people's critical faculties and hits them right in the pleasure centers, from page directly into eyes and usually from there to the wallet. Putting a Blexbolex book right by the tiller was a great way to grab add-on sales when I was working comics retail. He makes stuff that people want before they even know what it is, just because of how good it looks.

And then Irene Velentzas returns with a take on Joseph Remnant's art world graphic novel, Cartoon Clouds.

What’s the point of making art in a technological era? This question, and variations of it, make up the heart of Joseph Remnant’s first longform graphic narrative, Cartoon Clouds. Clouds follows freshly minted art school graduate Seth Fallon through insecurity, uncertainty, poverty, and the pretentious Cincinnati art scene. A small nexus of art grads trying to “make it” as serious artists in an increasingly pop-culturized contemporary market succeed to various degrees — or get stuck in the cogs of unrelenting capitalistic machinery. The tale focuses on the humdrum futility of this post-grad life and the very real choice perhaps all young adults must make: to either follow or abandon their idealistic dreams. What prevents Remnant’s narrative from becoming a rote run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale is the caricatured portraits cropping up throughout the text of newly-divorced art professors, established but jaded artists, and culture-vulture branders. These character sketches speak to Fallon’s artistic sensibility: art is capable of capturing a side of people that they cannot see in themselves.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Ward Sutton has won the 2018 Herblock Prize.

Matt Furie has filed a copyright suit against Alex Jones's InfoWars for its use of his Pepe the Frog character.

The lawsuit pinpoints one poster in particular as a source of copyright infringement. The poster features Pepe alongside InfoWars founder Alex Jones, President Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Roger Stone and others with the text "MAGA," short for Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Furie, represented by attorney Rebecca Girolamo at Wilmer Cutler, says he didn't authorize such use of Pepe. He alleges the poster is being sold by InfoWars in its online store.

This week features a silent auction to fund the Columbia College Chicago student anthology Linework. The auction is to help with the publication costs of the eighth and final issue, and features original Ivan Brunetti artwork (a rare page from Schizo and one from Kramers Ergot), as well as original art from several noteworthy Linework alumni (Nick Drnaso, Onsmith, David Alvarado, and others).

—Reviews & Commentary. The music site Aquarium Drunkard reviews the new Blutch collection, Total Jazz.

Jazz has long represented the very idea of “cool.” But while Blutch’s art is frequently elegant and sensual, some of the best stories here reflect not the effortlessness of jazz, but rather the intensity required to create it. In “Sonny Sharrock,” Blutch presents the enormous guitarist in the midst of his time with flutist Herbie Mann’s smooth jazz combo (long before he’d provide the indispensable soundtrack for Space Ghost Coast to Coast). Thick, jagged black lines hover above him, his hands a whirr of furious action, illustrating the incongruity of the late Sharrock’s violent playing on Mann’s pillowy records. In “Five Solos (A Selection),” pianists Jaki Byard and Don Pullen’s become blurs of motion; Sun Ra’s fingers become exaggerated apparitions and Charles Mingus’ hands are presented impossibly enlarged, heavy like stones — French pianist Martial Solal stares in disbelief at each, and then at their gravestones.

Sure Cougar, Pure Sugar

Today at the Comics Journal we've got Chris Mautner with one of his classics "I'm not sure about this one, but let me see it anyway" takes on a new comic. Will he be won over by Now, the new comics anthology from Fantagraphics, the publishing company that publishes The Comics Journal? Here's a bit of Mautner doing the work of journalism--you'll have to read the whole thing to get drunk on his criticism.

Now is edited by Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds, who, perhaps more notably for the purposes of this review, was the editor of the celebrated anthology Mome, the last volume of which came out in 2011. The impetus behind that series, at least initially, was to give up-and-coming cartoonists the chance to showcase their work on a semi-regular basis.

Now seems to have similar goals. Reynolds writes in a brief introduction in the first volume that he hopes the anthology will appeal to the “comics-curious” as well as the serious aficionado and be a platform for “showcasing diversity in the comics field.” One noticeable difference is a focus on short, self-contained stories, as Mome frequently featured serialized narratives.

The other thing that's out there for you today? Why, it's the TCJ newsletter. An email newsletter, you say? Why yes indeed, they're all the rage (again, for some reason). Here at TCJ, we've heard your complaints about "keeping up", and we've responded in kind. Go ahead and subscribe to the only All Killer, No Filler email in the game now, while it's free. (It will always be free, it exists to drive traffic back to the website.) No: subscribe so you don't miss a review, interview, column, hyperbolic essay, my favorite comment, and, maybe, eventually, sure, exclusive "content". Who knows what that could be! (It will be something Gary comes up with.) Just head over here and subscribe now!

Better Never

We have two things for you on the site today. First the latest episode of Greg Hunter's excellent podcast, Comic Book Decalogue, which this month poses its traditional ten questions to Whit Taylor. In the episode, Ghost Stories creator talks Junji Ito, Meghan Turbitt, Jeffrey Brown, and more.

We also have Rob Clough's review of MariNaomi's YA book, Losing the Girl.

I was intrigued when I heard that memoir cartoonist MariNaomi was going to be writing a series of young adult comics. In her many autobiographical comics, it's seemed like she labored to create as many different kinds of talking heads scenes as possible. That's because her comics are mostly about relationships and interactions, so there's very little action and a great deal of slowly revealed, painful emotional truths being put on display. She's developed a variety of techniques to keep the reader's eye interested and active on her pages, from near-abstractions of images, to greatly varying line weights, to extensive use of negative space, spotting blacks and/or gray wash, to using a variety of different fonts for characters and many other layout innovations. As a result of this toolbox she's been developing over time, her new book, Losing the Girl,  is a success from top to bottom; she establishes and expands upon the characteristics and narrative goals of each of the primary four protagonists primarily from a visual standpoint.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Slate has announced the nominees for its annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—Kilgore Books is crowdfunding its 2018 slate of books.

—Mutha Magazine interviews Katherine Arnoldi.