Who Needs Food When You’ve Got A Checklist

Today at the Journal, we've got the last installment in Katie Skelly's Cartoonist Diaries. That's five days of comics from the Skell-Nation. Did you catch them all? Go and catch them all then, you filthy so-and-so.

That's not all, though. Tegan O'Neil continues her journey through the tundra that is the contemporary landscape, with a dive into the recent revival of Kick-Ass, that storied franchise of violence, racism, sexism and superheroes.

Superhero stories are customarily regarded as power fantasies. They certainly are, and of the most basic kind: I can’t fly or bend steel with my hands, but Superman can and sometimes he even does interesting things with those abilities. Millar’s resentful manchildren graduate to super-status without ever learning the most basic Peter Parker lesson about responsibility. Their very limited power is only useful if it can be fueled by the kind of resentment that is customarily purged from the spandex fraternity at the point of entry. Millar’s great contribution to superhero comics was not in realizing that superheroes could be shitty people but that the audience could be shitty, too. There was a market for stories where people just didn’t give a shit and people who got kicked in the face just learned to kick back harder and with better quips. These aren’t power fantasies for children, they’re the fantasies of powerless young adults. 

Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive news about the launch of the new Sandman "universe" that DC will be publishing. If you don't feel like reading the regurgitation of the press release, no worries--you can click on this link and after a few seconds a little video will launch, where Neil Gaiman will tell you (in his own words) how much he likes money, and how happy he is to take more of it. If you're part of the audience that fell hard for Lucifer, Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives, The Dreaming, Sandman: The Dream Hunters (either version), Sandman Midnight Theater, Death: At Death's Door, The Little Endless Storybook, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, then congratulations to you: more of that is coming! If you're the type of person who feels like you've had more than enough of Sandman and Sandman related properties, then my apologies. Hopefully the last 25 years of continually churning out more of these things has thoroughly prepared you to once again experience: more, of these things.

Portalac

Sloane Leong returns with the third installment of her regular Comics Dragnet feature, trawling the seas and evaluating interesting webcomics (and related genre materials).

Tapas (formerly known as Tapastic) has been an useful if not sketchy platform for cartoonists, hosting independently made comics and published comics that are in need of web distribution. Slavonica is a series of short fantasy stories inspired by Slavic mythology and culture drawn by Katarzyna "Panna N." Witerscheim. The art style is stripped down to pleasing shapes, a meek digitally-textured line and a tastefully limited palette, utilizing a swatch of muted corals and slate blues. The pacing and dialogue is stilted and matter-of-fact in the manner of well-trodden folktales but I find Witerscheim's art and layouts solidly cohesive and still developing with each page. It's not a comic that packs much of a punch visually but it's mostly attractive and easy to read and though it’s subdued to the point of lethargy, I’m still curious to see how her work grows.

And of course Katie Skelly is here with day four of her Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Abraham Riesman talks to the eccentric Rick Veitch about the republication of The One, among many other topics.

How do you explain the current superhero boom across all media?
Well, you could tie it to a lot of things. One of the things is the rise of nationalism and fascist thought. The superhero is kind of like a fascist art form. He is a fascist fantasy. His roots are in Nietzsche’s superman, which the Nazis used as a mighty propaganda tool back in the day. It breaks my heart that these issues are still being struggled with today. Even more so. On the other hand, we live in an age in which we’re going to be physically transformed. Science and medicine are changing what it means to be physically human. The idea that there might already be or will soon be what people call “trans-human” individuals is a reality, it’s not a fantasy. That’s part of thinking about superheroes and why they’re important now. It’s a way the culture sort of feels its way into its own future. By looking at Green Arrow and Black Widow and those guys, we sort of feel our way into, “What’s going to happen when we’re all super-gymnasts, or can live forever?” The other aspect that I’m perturbed about — and I hope The One can stand against — is the corporate control of superheroes. I think everybody gets the fact that superheroes are a replacement for myths, like Little Red Riding Hood, and the old gods, and stuff like that, but they’re owned by corporations. It’s a subtle way of directing people’s energy and creative flow into these preformed archetypes, if you will. I don’t know if you’ve been to any Comic-Cons lately.

Alison Bechdel was interviewed on Vermont Edition.

—Commentary. Yesterday came the news that Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing Captain America, and he discusses his thoughts about taking on the project in a short essay.

In one famous scene, flattered by a treacherous general for his “loyalty,” Rogers—grasping the American flag—retorts, “I’m loyal to nothing, general … except the dream.”

I confess to having a conflicted history with this kind of proclamation—which is precisely why I am so excited to take on Captain America. I have my share of strong opinions about the world. But one reason why I chose the practice of opinion journalism—which is to say a mix of reporting and opinion—is because understanding how those opinions fit in with the perspectives of others has always been more interesting to me than repeatedly restating my own. Writing is about questions for me—not answers. And Captain America, the embodiment of a kind of Lincolnesque optimism, poses a direct question for me: Why would anyone believe in The Dream? What is exciting here is not some didactic act of putting my words in Captain America’s head, but attempting to put Captain America’s words in my head. What is exciting is the possibility of exploration, of avoiding the repetition of a voice I’ve tired of.

Authentication/Procrastination

Today at the Journal, we've managed to combine two of the most pleasant and welcoming people in comics into one article--Jeremy Sorese interviewing Kevin Czap about Kevin's comic Futchi Perf....and about 7 other topics. It's a wide-ranging conversation that lives comfortably inside the tent of creativity, and you should read the whole thing. 

My introduction to punk happened simultaneously with zines and DIY, and those are all linked together in my mind. At the same time, punk provided a model for political thought. I grew up downstream of Washington DC and I think that had a lot to do with that, although it wasn’t until I moved away from the area that I started to put together the pieces. I think overall the most resonant lesson that carries through in my work and life is the degree of intentionality - punk to me feels like, rather than going along with received life directions, it’s about working together to create something that works for everyone, and constantly reviewing, revising, and challenging to make sure that mandate is upheld. I mean, the music and fashion and stuff is appealing too.

Queerness for me can seem indistinguishable from all of that sometimes. Queer feels like the dream, it’s what was once impossible but is maybe really there. And actually, I’m surrounded by living proof that it is possible. I’m still processing that.

There’s also the degree to which both punk and queer community have been the pathways I’ve followed through life to end up where I am. Like I don’t know, maybe without either, I’d be working in mainstream comics or something. Or not making comics at all?

And that's not all! Katie Skelly is here, again, because she's here all week, and she's checking in with us about all things fashion. Go and see what her Valentine's Day was like. (It was rainy.)

You know, we still haven't totally recovered from the loss of Joe McCulloch's regular This Week In Comics column, and if y0u follow him on Twitter, you can see that he doesn't seem to either. So until he gets his dad to buy him a skateboard (which haven't gone up in price in decades), head on over and see what our former compatriot has to say about what you might see on the shelves today, if you're able to tear yourself away from all that Proust you've been reading.

The French Way

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose uses the occasion of two current René Goscinny exhibits to explore the career of the legendary Astérix co-creator and Pilote editor.

When the scenarist René Goscinny (1926 – 1977) died at 51, much of the world felt they knew him. With Astérix, he had created a hero who outsold Tintin. Yet Goscinny had also helped to found and run Pilote, a magazine often described as "MAD à la française". It was Pilote that won French cartooning back an audience – adults – that it had lost after the 19th century.

Forty years after Goscinny's death, two Paris shows are remembering him. One has taken over the Cinemathèque Française, the other is at the Museum of Jewish Art and History (mahJ). Goscinny and Film is a romp about his love for movies, but Goscinny Beyond the Laughter at the mahJ is more. It looks behind the author's orderly CV and discovers years of isolation and frustration. Two things helped Goscinny surmount his frequent setbacks: the outsize expectations he created for himself and his absolute refusal to surrender.

When he began as a scenarist the role was shabby. Those who scripted comics were not mentioned in contracts, they were badly paid and rarely credited. But his enormous talents turned it into a real profession and, eventually, they also made him famous. Goscinny stuffed his scripts with what the French call "second degree": puns, wordplay, double-entendres, cultural jokes and subversions. The comics expert Jean-Pierre Mercier contends that his use of subtext "has taught generations how to critique the media."

And of course Katie Skelly's Cartoonist's Diary continues.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—A/V. Criterion brings us a short video in which Stan Lee explains his ill-fated collaboration with filmmaker Alain Resnais.

And two podcast episodes are worth your attention this morning. Comics Alternative interviews Gary Groth, and Process Party talks to Lauren Weinstein.

This Land Is Quicksand

This week at the Journal, the domination continues-Katie Skelly's enthusiasm for writing reviews, interviewing people and being the subject of feature articles now sees her starting a five day tour of comics for our Cartoonist's Diary feature. Day 1 is up now--set an alarm for the rest of the week.

But wait, there's more: in today's clean up position, we've got Matt Seneca on Shaky Kane. And while this review of Good News Bible is unquestionably the first to utilize an Emily Dickinson comparison, keep an eye on that date stamp. It won't be the last!

Is Shaky Kane A Major Artist, though? If you're forking over the 25 pounds sterling (or however much that is in countries with proper dental care) for a collection of early work, you probably aren't much in doubt. Still, it's a question worth asking - this book adds to Kane's available output by a fairly hefty percentage, and none of that output goes down with particular ease. Dude is a weird-ass cartoonist, basically, and if anything the itchy, uncomfortable technicolor deconstructions of American pop culture his work currently trades in are a lot easier to grapple with than the comics on display in Good News Bible

This is difficult stuff, work that originally appeared in anthology issues alongside (somewhat) more conventional comics. To analogize with some other influential weirdo British art, Kane's strips in the Deadline comics magazine functioned a little like Brian Eno's synthesizers did in Roxy Music, adding outre bits of pure bizarrerie to a bouquet of forward-looking but still definable material. Like Eno, Kane eventually proved himself more than capable of putting together solo works that retained his individualism while acting, at least superficially, like the commercial objects they're packaged and sold as. But, you know, imagine an album of just the blorps and whizzies that Eno contibuted to those Roxy records! It'd be awesome if you're into that kind of thing, and so is this book. Kane's work on The Bulletproof Coffin is the kind of stuff pretty much anyone who's interested in comics can get something out of; Good News Bible is the connoisseur's choice, unfiltered and very strange.

I was in Portland to catch the 2018 Synchronized Skating Championships over the weekend, while I was there, I stopped by the Hilton to meet the team from Delaware, and ran into a whole bunch of some of America's best comics retailers. I was lucky enough to book a room across from the Valiant chill-out suite, which was open 24/7, but I wasn't lucky enough to get over there and grab my own commemorative shotglass featuring the character Bloodshot. It's an interesting show, not dissimilar to the ABA's Winter Institute in its mission to bring retailers together with publishing partners to promote the upcoming frontlist and forge stronger relationships, but because it's comics, it's also got a more wildcat quality to it, where retailers can really get into whatever particular issues they have going on in roundtable sessions or a more public forum, and this year's show was no different--there's been a lot of financial upheaval in the direct market in the past year (Shannon O'Leary's annual retailer piece for PW covers this well) and ComicsPRO's organizers had been upfront that this year's meeting would focus on problem solving a lot of those issues. The main response to the meeting so far has been the cloak and dagger methods used by Marvel during their portion of the meeting (due to their size, financial importance and history with the direct market, Marvel and DC have entire portions of ComicsPRO dedicated solely to them at the beginning of the weekend, whereas all other sponsors and publishers present in open door sessions during the final days), but it's my hope that ComicsPRO will make public the "conversation starter" portion of the "Industry Discussion" session they ran at the beginning of the wider meeting. A series of powerpoint slides containing the greatest concerns that retailers currently have, built off the aggregation of a membership wide survey with the intent of discussing solutions, I thought it was one of the most constructive sessions i've seen out of anything comics related. The conversation that followed those slides was broad ranging, intelligent and solution oriented. If some of the publishing partners don't want to hang out with that kind of conversation? That's their loss.

Sooner or Later

Today Alex Dueben is here with an interview with the inimitable Canadian cartoonist, David Collier, and his latest book, Morton, a sort of travel comic, for lack of a better term.


What was interesting is that this wasn’t just a book that really gets into the history of these places, but it’s about your life and your history in these places.

You’ve interviewed Gabrielle Bell and I was on a panel with her at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival a couple months ago with Jason and they called the panel “The Monsters of Autobiography.” I don’t know. Kim Thompson was always on my case about that. He didn’t want autobiographical comics, but I always thought you’ve got to put a bit of yourself in if you want to do history. Putting stuff in about yourself puts it in context, gives people a little bit of gossip they might be interested in, and then they might be more interested in the history that you’re interested in, too.

I look at Morton and your other work and you’re writing about history and culture and other topics much more than people writing memoir are, but you’re also writing about yourself more than most people writing nonfiction about a particular subject are.

I really like Nicholson Baker. He wrote Double Fold about the New York World and how he’s got this big warehouse to save old newspapers. He puts himself in there and you’re really sweating when you read his stuff, how the hell is he going to pull this off. I’ve been inspired by a lot of other people, maybe not comics though.

And we also have Tegan O'Neil, with a review of a new Arsenal Pulp comic, Marcelino Truong’s Saigon Calling: London 1963-75.

[The book] spans the length of America’s official involvement in Vietnam. Because Truong was himself only six years old at the start of this period he’s no kind of political actor whatsoever. The previous volume, Such A Lovely Little War, covered the period of 1961-63 and Truong’s very young childhood in Vietnam on the eve of the escalation. The present volume begins with the Truong family – Vietnamese diplomat father, French mother, and four robust children – landed in London. It’s drab and rainy all the time but Dr. Who is on the tellie and the Beatles are just around the corner. And those things are important to six-year-old Marco, so they’re important to the book in their turn.

There’s a tension here that the book never adequately resolves. The main dramatic tension of the book naturally arises from the author’s proximity to the Vietnam War, but the war itself takes place at a remove of half a world away. This means the narrative is split into two streams, that of the actual memoir and the historical montage that explains the context of the author’s life. The two threads are twinned but the book itself acknowledge as time goes on that Truong’s cultural understanding of his father’s home is poor and fading. The lack of political engagement on Truong’s part becomes a theme, as he is naturally unable to participate in an anti-war movement his family believed to be inherently misguided.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The Paris Review has published Yvan Alagbé's "Dyaa", an excerpt from the new NYRC book.

—In Artforum, Dan Nadel writes about the comics-adjacent artist Christina Ramberg.

Ramberg and [Philip] Hanson also created a scrapbook of comic-book clippings with examples of explosions, word graphics, and dreams, among other categories. The scrapbook, Ramberg noted, was “valuable as a sourcebook of comic conventions or shorthand methods of depicting various themes and objects.”9 She did not, however, employ collage and comic-book imagery in her paintings, as some of the artists Ramberg admired—Öyvind Fahlström, the Swedish master of reconfiguring comic-book elements; San Francisco’s symbolist painter and collage-master Jess; and Yoshida—did in their own. For Ramberg, these fragments revealed modes of rendering and moments of accidental strangeness, such as when a speech balloon hovers above a house to indicate an interior conversation. Taken out of sequential context, as in Ramberg’s scrapbook, the house appears to “speak,” as if in a Magritte painting.

—And finally, I can't believe I haven't yet linked to TCJ star Joe McCulloch's recent Steve Ditko talk, delivered live at the Parsons New School in NYC, and now available in adapted audio-with-slides form on YouTube.

The Illuminati, But For Raisins

Today at The Journal, we've got Leonard Pierce checking in with a review of  The Battle of Churubusco, Fantagraphics latest installment in their small (but sturdy) library of done-in-one graphic novels of action/action/action. Don't be scared by the history class sounding "American Rebels in the Mexican-American War"--according to Leonard, this one is all money shots.

If this all sounds like the stuff of a classic Western film, that’s because it’s designed to be.  The whole thing is cinematic in the extreme, practically begging you to imagine it on the big screen with a John Ford type behind the camera.  (There’s even a scene where the tough, steely Mexican señorita on the side of the rebels drags a wounded Rizzo through a massive thunderstorm gathering on the horizon which will make you positive you’ve seen this movie...even though there’s no movie.)  Everything from the way Ferraris illustrates the stark southwestern vistas to the way he mixes his archetypical characters together is well-crafted pure genre nitroglycerine. 

Yesterday, Image Comics announced a whole list of new titles, ranging from "Harry Potter meets Riverdale" to a print edition of Dean Haspiel's webcomic. The one that caught my eye was, in a surprising coincidence, the one related to Rob Liefeld. Following in the footsteps of that thing where Brandon Graham reimagined Prophet as a comic featuring anthropomorphic toilets that didn't make any sense, Liefeld's handed the reins of Bloodstrike over to comics titan Michel Fiffe, who kindly provided readers of The Comics Journal with a preview from the upcoming series

The other big news from yesterday was the announcement of the LA Times Book Prize nominees, which has proven itself over the last few years to be genuinely interested in comics in a way that puts quite a few other newspapers with the word "Times" in their name to shame. The nominees include Gabrielle Bell, Yuichi Yokoyama, Leslie Stein, Connor Willumsen & Manuele Fior. (They even have the class to namecheck Fior's translator, Jaime Richards.) Go figure: if you bring aboard judges who actually like and read comics, the list they produce has the potential to reflect the breadth and depth of the medium. 

Recovery Period

Today on the site, Austin English is back with the second and final part of his tour through his favorite zines.

I was intrigued by people's reactions to the first installment of this series. Some expressed excitement at seeing one of the first zines by artist Margot Ferrick. The work in question is from 2012, not ancient history in the least, but Ferrick's work has changed considerably since that moment. As I said before, zines disappear arbitrarily and without warning. A reader's favorite artist may have made something deeply heartfelt in the very recent past, but the work and the attitudes expressed may forever be obscured. With this in mind, for the final installment in this series, I've tried to write about a great many zines, in the hopes that works that have moved me might open up forgotten corners of what is possible in cartooning (which is the not so secret intention of this column in general).

 

Secret of the Saucers by Char Esme, 2013
Pages from Secret of the Saucers by Char Esme, 2013

I'm always surprised that we so rarely see comics like this one, works where total expression is attempted without much concern for the trouble the reader will go through to grasp what's being communicated, but instead with a desire for the audience to catch up. Underground/art comics is a small world, with (it varies year to year) virtually no industry. Experimental works often allow themselves to fall into trends of the day, allowing their truly groundbreaking qualities to be go through a twisty straw constructed with of-the-moment popular aesthetic tropes to make the enterprise more palatable. Not so with this comic by Esme. A comic based on the life of Orfeo Angelucci, a man who claimed to be in contact with extraterrestrials, this is an uncompromising work: the characters change appearance from panel to panel, there is no visual relief in the form of negative space, facial expressions often clash with what is being expressed verbally and the subject matter itself makes one uneasy. I don't believe any work of art is made up solely of intentional choices and I don't believe in a 'gotcha' critique in which a nontraditional work is shown to be doing things exactly as it set out to do. And yet... with this comic, all of Esme's choices are thrilling, all add up to an experience that has no peers elsewhere, in a way I've never had (and I'm sure never will have) elsewhere. I believe Esme once expressed that she liked reading 'any comic' that was put in front of her, and this work, in spite of its seeming opposition to what cartooning is, can only be a comic. It presents us with an experience using images, text, and characters that is entirely its own, and rewards, both in feeling and intellect, the challenge it presents.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Marvel Comics is relaunching its entire line, always a good sign of a healthy brand. This is probably just the lingering virus in my system that had me out of commission for the entire three-day weekend, but I'm getting less and less confident about the near-term survival of comics stores as we know them...

A GoFundMe fundraiser is very close to raising the money necessary to publish the last comic by Mark Campos.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Charles Hatfield writes about Ezra Claytan Daniels & Ben Passmore's BTTM FDRS.

Creepy and charming, it mashes up oozy, sick horror and dark, politically barbed comedy. The story satirizes racism, structural and environmental, via a blighted Chicago neighborhood and an imposing, temple-like block of an apartment building there that serves as the setting. A hyperbolic SF riff on urban decay, BTTM FDRS also skewers the kind of White hipster hypocrisy that extols urban decay for its authenticity. It does all this with a cast of distinctive characters, funny, stinging dialogue, and moments of queasiness built around a body horror conceit: that of a building that literally gets inside your guts. It’s one of a kind.

Michael Dooley looks at Paul Gravett's Mangasia.

[John] Lent investigates comics cultures and changes regionally, from East to Southeast to South Asia, while Gravett explores its subject thematically within a loose chronological timeline. Visually, Asian Comics has a textbook vibe, with its university press-style workmanlike cover and amateurish layout, while Mangasia comes across as an eye-popping coffee-table book, from its screaming cover starring Star Punch Girl to pictures on every single page, beckoning you to keep flipping through. And while Asian Comics has less than 200 images, all in black and white, Mangasia is in full color and packed with more than a thousand. And while there are a few by familiar names like Osamu Tezuka, Sonny Liew, and Nestor Redondo, many are wildly experimental and most have rarely, if ever, been seen in the U.S. However, in this case less images would have been more, inasmuch as a handful are either undersized or unsharp.

Brian Nicholson looks at Adam Warren's Gen13.

“Everybody’s talking about Riverdale and the Archie who fucks,” I texted a friend. “But the original Archie that fucks is Burnout from Gen13.” The sad truth that led to me having Gen13 on the brain was that I had recently purchased the last few issues of Adam Warren’s run on the title. Not the issues drawn by Ed Benes, whose figures have the expressiveness of mannequins, but whose proportions make it clear you’re supposed to jack off to them, but those drawn by Rick Mays. Mays’ manga-influenced style is close to Warren’s own drawings, though its less maniacally cartooned, a little closer to mainstream superhero comics notions of detail. He illustrated the Kabuki spin-off miniseries Scarab. The first issue has its main character on the toilet, flipping through comics and talking about an earlier Adam Warren Gen13 comic. It’s a weird scene. Not just the page, but the subculture of comics that produced it. That’s not to place any value judgment on the work. I’m not necessarily in love with Rick Mays’ art, but it’s a good match for comics I feel conflicted about.

—Misc. Daniel Clowes as a category on Mastermind.

Eddie Campbell is publishing new webcomics.

Know When To Fold Them

Today at The Journal, the indefatigable Rachel Davies returns with a review of Anneli Furmark's Red Winter

While many comic books involving tense political climates announce it clearly, or feature the political climate as the meaning for the book, Red Winter’s 1970’s Sweden, following the fall of the social-democratic party, isn’t so much important on its own, but in the way that it affects our protagonist, secondary to the romantic emotional tether of the book. Books like Art Spiegelman’s infamous Maus or Sarah Glidden’s How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less grapple with the way politics affect our lives in a very head-on way––the central tension of these books is parsing through a problematic history, and using politics as a lens on love, and other emotions. Furmark has strayed from that route, and uses love as a means to view politics, commenting on almost exclusively the ways that a political affiliation problematizes a relationship between two people.

It must be Drawn & Quarterly day here at TCJ, because that's not all-we've also got a visit from Robert "Bobbie" Sikoryak, who documented his most recent book tour for you, the Journal reader. As is his wont, said documentation comes in comic form, and features a loving tribute to the "other" Robert in comics--sweet Liefeld. Before agreeing to run the piece, I extensively confirmed with D&Q and Sikoryak that Liefeld's work would be treated with the utmost respect, and they assured me that was the case. It's not so much that I'm a super huge Liefeld fan, although I do have a lot of fondness for the way Matt wrote about him, but that I'm not a super huge fan of that thing where 80% of the comics internet started talking about the feet thing all the time. Same thing with the tv show 24--for the entire time it was running, every guy and their best guy friend had the same joke, asking about when Kiefer went to the bathroom, and everyone always asked it with the same gee-golly tone of voice that made it clear they believed they were the first person to ever make that observation. Liefeld was/is the same way--he's the guy that turns every pencildick into Manny Farber with the fucking feet comments. It doesn't matter that there's like 800 zillion super-hero artists who couldn't draw a flatscreen television set without lightboxing an IKEA catalog, all of whom have completely escaped criticism since the dawn of their miserable, dull-ass careers, Rob Liefeld is somehow the exemplification of the failing of modern illustration because of some affectation that had absolutely zero bearing on his job, which was to draw giant steroid cases with guns shooting at Spider-man rip-offs while women with the most insane hair you've ever seen screamed so big you could trace their gumline with a cricket bat. Until I started reading the comments section to Rob Liefeld articles, my opinion on the guy was that I had zero interest in reading any of his comics ever again, but ever since he became the target joke for people who call themselves intellectuals while also calling Saga an "indie" comic, I sort of fell in love with him. That being said, I've met him a few times and he always seemed deliriously happy with his station in life, so maybe I should just let it go, it's not a battle that needs fighting. I also did try to read some X-Force a few years ago and it was an impossible slog. I guess the whole point of this complaint is: sharpen your knives?

Feed Zone Portugals

Today at The Journal, we've got dw on Yuichi Yokoyama's Iceland, which was released by Retrofit Comics last year. It's an excellent comic, and dw's review gets right into the meat.

Elements of his aesthetic - acutely distinctive character designs, aggressive contrast between black and white (with artfully-deployed dots and grays), busy layouts that bulge uncomfortably against the edges of the claustrophobic pages - push any given narrative moment or representational image distressingly close to the point of abstraction. Trying to grasp the deceptively simple narrative induces tension and unease, reflecting emotions that afflict the characters to varying degrees.

A solidly influential comics figure sent a list of demands for coverage within days of me taking on this little role here, and one of those was that The Journal get around to talking in more detail about Retrofit's development over the last few years--it's not a bad idea, and maybe by outing it here I'll move it to the top of my to-do list, placing it one spot above "convince my wife to go see that Clint Eastwood movie with me."

It didn't seem right to ignore the release of Black Panther this weekend, considering how much I've been enjoying that Kendrick Lamar album. Don't get me wrong--it's still a Marvel movie that includes a slow motion flip over a car and a speaking role for that ridiculous ham they usually cover with motion capture dots, so I'm not holding out a lot of hope. But it's also absolutely plausible that Ryan Coogler--the man who realized that the beating heart of a sports movie is the workout montage, so why not include one that is 45 minutes long--has come up with something that even Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose ambitions don't seem to extend beyond the heroes of his 9th grade social studies class, can't turn into another leaden monologue on truth & justice. But hey: this is the COMICS Journal, we're not part of the Disney Marketing Arm quite yet.

SO: Back in 2010, Marvel Comics released an overpriced hardcover collection of Don McGregor's run on Black Panther, which contained the story "Panther's Rage". At that time, comics critic David Brothers and I teamed up to write about that story, why we liked it, what we thought it said about super-heroes, and Black Panther in general. We've repurposed those pieces into one article, which you can read on your phone while you wait in the line to watch Michael B. Jordan convince you to renew your gym membership. Ladies and gentleman: Fear of A Black Panther.

Sick Day

Today, Sarah Horrocks returns with a review of VS #1.

It takes place in the blurred borders between a first-person shooter and a reality show about war.  The first issue follows soldier/gamer Satta Flynn, as he recovers from an injury and works to get back to fighting with his unit. The book slots alongside things like Robot Jox or Mobile Suit G Gundam; it's another story about protagonists participating in a sort of futuristic sporting replacement for war.

In contrast to something like Mobile Suit G Gundam, the war game aspect of the story exists in a kind of hyper-reality running parallel to a slightly more mundane world, and at least through the first issue, it’s not clear how the two worlds connect or what weight we are meant to give the things that happen in the “game.”  Because of the artifice of the game world, where people stop fighting during commercial breaks, and seem to compete according to the the rules of a first-person shooting game, it’s hard to determine the physical stakes of what you see happening. While we do see Flynn recovering from some sort of injury to his legs, it’s unclear how he sustained those injuries and whether the last quarter of the book is happening in flashback or things are proceeding somewhat chronologically.  While this displacement of stakes in terms of how we watch war is intellectually stimulating, the dramatic edge is almost nonexistent.  


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Misc. Eisner Award voting is open.

—Interviews & Podcasts. The latest guest on RiYL is Gina Wynbrandt, and the latest guest on Virtual Memories is Lauren Weinstein.

—Reviews & Commentary. Mark Dery revisits the collage novels of Max Ernst.

More than three-quarters of a century on, the collage novels still cast an unsettling spell, plunging us into a gaslit Victorian underworld of the unconscious, part magic lantern show, part séance, all Freudian uncanny. Armed with scissors and glue, Ernst performed meticulous surgery on 19th-century engravings— illustrations from Gothic romances, penny dreadfuls, mail order catalogues, and scientific texts — to create disquieting tableaux. Marrying hallucinatory visions to hard-edged realism, true crime horror to black humor, they flicker in the mind’s eye like scenes from a silent movie — a melodrama based on Jack the Ripper’s dream journal, perhaps.

Even now, after countless knockoffs in ads and album-cover art, Ernst’s collage novels pack a wallop. “They are still sinister, disturbing, and marvelous in their unrelenting power of suggestion,” Robert Hughes observes, in The Shock of the New. “The peculiarity of Ernst’s world never lets up or lapses into cliché, and its apparitions are always suddenly there, as if stumbled on.”

Cullen Murphy picks his five favorite books on comics.

Kate Feiffer reviews How to Read Nancy, and briefly chats to co-author Paul Karasik.

I grew up the daughter of a cartoonist and thought I knew a good bit about the craft. I was glued to this book and came away with a entirely new and deeper understanding of the comics form. Karasik and Newgarden turned an experimental idea, one that conceivably could have had limited appeal to students and cartoon geeks, and created a page-turner that should appeal to anyone who has ever loved a comic strip, or is interested in visual storytelling and humor. Not to mention Nancy fans.

[rethinking]

Ah, the Comics Journal: it's Valentine's Day! I don't know about you, but up until I got hitched, my only valentine was comics, shoved directly into my mouth, Ash v. Ripley style. Stick with who brung you, I say--and who doesn't love Shaky Kane? We've got a whole pile of Shaky comics for you today, courtesy of Breakdown Press. In the hopes of synergistically building your anticipation for an upcoming review, take a look at this excerpt from their Good News Bible, which reprints all of Kane's Deadline strips

Ah. That's not enough though. Let's do some more Breakdown Press stuff today. How about a nice long interview with Antoine Cossé, courtesy of George Elkind? Not to blow the guy's spot up too much, but George has apparently been off huffing some comics ether, some kind of comics critic workout montage--he's promising that his return to these pages will be so expansive we'll forget he ever left. I'm gonna hold him to it, you should too. Funny how this Antoine guy inspires so many critics to get back on the writing horse. Anyway, enough horseshit from me: it's a great interview.

You have a lot of long drives in your comics, but I don’t associate any of the places you’ve lived [London, Paris, Turin] with long drives. Is that kind of an elaboration for you or is that more rooted in some experience?

Well, it’s both. I really like driving. I always find it very meditative--it’s like a nice thing to do. But, to draw, it’s great because it’s a total space. You can control everything and you can vary the speed. Because it’s like a thread. So I found out that, too--but I also really like drawing cars. So that’s good.

Sure.

But you also get to enclose your characters into a really close space, which is weird. Because people in cars are just a bit weird. You’re not really--it’s strange [in Showtime] because it’s his car, and they’re all strangers and they talk together. I mean, there’s different things; if you’re being driven by someone, there’s a strange kind of way of watching landscapes. I don’t know, it’s like if you’re driving… when you drive, it’s different. So there’s loads of different shifts in point of view.

Yeah, it’s kind of its own sort of altered state, I guess.

And there’s the in- and the out- of the car, when you’re [via point of view] in the car or out of the car, which I really like playing with in comics. But you’re right, there’s a lot of driving.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL: I didn't expect Valentine's Day to have such a distinct thru line, but here it is--the man who brought George Elkind into my life, Matt Seneca, who turned up with a review of Uno Moralez's Blue Teeth that had me staying up later than intended. Check this piece out, I read it and immediately incorporated it into my own belief system.

Moralez has internalized one of the most important lessons of the horror genre, one it shares with the kind of esoteric mystical texts that Blue Teeth also slots in comfortably next to. Don't make too much sense! There's a reason every horror movie starts to suck after you see what the monster looks like, and that haters always insist there's no scientific basis for whatever your religion is. Horror is our fear of the unknown; transcendence is our awe of it.

Excellence. I hope you have a great day with whomever it is that you are super into. By the time you read this, I will have shared one of my favorite love stories--Frog & Toad--with my daughter. Arnold Lobel all day, son.

Shop Talk

Today on the site, Martyn Pedler talks to Charles Forsman.

You often use teenage protagonists in your work. What’s so appealing about writing teens?

Yeah. It comes down to when I was a teenager. I was pretty depressed. I became disengaged from school and, you know, I got really cynical about life. I’m not special in this. The one big thing that happened was when I was 11, my dad died from cancer, and that was such a changing moment in my little world. It made me grow up a little faster: life is not always running around in the suburbs, riding bikes, and having fun.

There’s a part of me that wants to constantly relive that because when you’re a teenager your emotions are so raw. You think you have everything figured out, but you’re also so lost and frustrated. I just find it fascinating, and I’m trying to organize that time of my life on paper. Figuring out how to get it out, to communicate these feelings. Because it can be pretty complex, and I’m not the best speaker. Comics is how I’m most comfortable.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Michael Cavna at The Washington Post spoke briefly to Adrian Tomine.

“I think that becoming a parent was by far the biggest influence on me while I was working on ‘Killing and Dying,’ ” says Tomine, who will be speaking Saturday at 6 p.m. at Washington’s Politics & Prose at the Wharf.

“When I finished my previous book, ‘Shortcomings,’ I honestly felt like I’d painted myself into a corner in terms of subject matter and tone and style, and I was kind of stumped about how to escape,” Tomine tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs.

The most recent guest on RiYL is Emil Ferris, and the most recent guest on Process Party is Michel Fiffe.

—Misc. Ken Parille remembers Alvin Buenaventura.

Alvin Buenaventura left us two years ago. On the day he died, I had been thinking a lot about calling him, but decided not to. Unless we were in the midst of a comics project for his press, Alvin, ever elusive, often didn't pick up. In the fourteen years we were friends, if I wanted to get in touch with him, I knew what to do: Call him a few times over the course of a few weeks and he’d eventually get back to me, whispering in his almost imperceptibly soft monotone, “Hey Ken, I saw you called.” When this tactic wasn't necessary — when I called and he answered — I felt lucky. I had someone smart, someone engaged to talk comics with. ...

John Jackson Miller writes about the end of DC's newsstand editions.

A moment in comics history passed without any fanfare at all in the summer of 2017. It went unnoticed for several weeks — and while it's been discussed online in the months since, I was evidently the first person to ask the publisher directly about it, more than five months later. And now the confirmation is official: DC ended its newsstand editions of its comics as of the end of August 2017.

See this issue on eBay"DC discontinued much of its newsstand distribution in late 2013 and early 2014," Vice President - Specialty Sales James Sokolowski told me today. Marvel had pulled out of newsstand distribution completely in 2013, but while DC's titles left most independent wholesalers then, the company had continued to distribute a limited slate of returnable titles through Ingram Content Group, which served Barnes & Noble, and Media Solutions, which served Books-a-Million.

Another Tryst Opportunity

Today at the Journal, we've got Rachel Davies and Tommi Parrish talking about The Lie and How We Told It, their most recent release via Fantagraphics, the consequences of youthful indiscretion, the Australian comics scene, and the delights of bookmaking.

I think I’m just trying to make more interesting stuff. I think also my life might be a little bigger than it was before. I’m just more interested in talking about other people’s stories, than like constantly writing about feeling sad. I think it’s totally just a,[product of] maturing as a writer. I was starting to feel frustrated with what my work was looking like––I mean I’m still frustrated with my work, but I was starting to feel frustrated with constantly making the same thing. That’s how it felt, anyway.

That's it for today. There's so many reviews that are coming up this week, from so many great writers! I'm currently in Denver for ALA Midwinter. It's a massively different show than it was last year, when it was held in Atlanta during Trump's Inauguration, the Women's March and an Atlanta Falcons playoff game. The only thing I remember at that show was how March won every award that it was eligible for and how completely empty the room was when all the women walked out of the convention hall. This year, a snowstorm has kept a lot of attendees from being able to make it to the show, which has made the attendees who are here even more curious than they usually are, which is pretty curious. It's the opposite of a fiscally driven consumer show, where the ultimate aim is to conclude any conversation with the sale of a product--here, it feels more about finding the way in which the thing you're speaking about can become part of the catalog of things that these people are going to be speaking about when they return home. How can your work get on board with the conversation that's already happening, that will continue with or without you, and will last after you're gone? Often times, it feels less and less like the place I used to live in comics is still there--a place where multiple strands and styles and genres lived amongst each other. But then you go here, and so few of those prejudices have survived the trip. Comics are back to just being an artform, a style of communication, something that can tell a whole nest of stories, or explore not telling a story at all. The idea that any one publisher or genre or style of art would be enough to fill a library branch with everything their patrons need is so absurd that it doesn't even come up as a concept in a discussion--it would be like saying you can only have yellow boxes at a grocery store, or any other dumb analogy. Here, it's a bunch of people happily embracing the impossible task of trying to please everyone--of trying to return to their homes armed with what they need to entertain and educate, and who don't have the time or luxury to adopt a bunch of grievances they'd have to read actual back issues to have an opinion about in the first place. It's a challenge just to keep up.

Why Would You Even Bring That Up?

Today on the site, we have two reviews for you. First, Tegan O'Neil returns with an assessment of Box Brown's latest comics biography, Is This Guy For Real?

Andy Kaufman was around for just long enough to ensure that people are going to be writing about him for a long time to come. There’s something sticky about his story in the mind, despite (or because of?) its brevity. Box Brown’s new biography of Kaufman, Is This Guy For Real? – The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman is careful to trace the means by which Kaufman’s lifelong obsession with wrestling informed his approach to comedy and performance. Wrestlers adopt larger-than-life personas, complete with accents and backstories – just like Kaufman, who sometimes pretended to be a lounge singer named Tony Clifton, sometimes pretended to be Elvis Presley, and sometimes a raging misogynist. Kaufman plays every role completely straight in the moment, leading to a tendency to be confused with his characters. He played the part of a meathead chauvinist challenging women to live wrestling matches a bit too well. Clips from his wrestling appearances reveal a focused performer who learned to relish negative attention from his audience.

The approach seen here is similar to Brown’s previous comics biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. That book was effective because it focused on the tendency of its titular figure to accrue anecdote and story. Is This Guy For Real? charts more ambitious territory. It attempts to tell the story not merely of Andy Kaufman’s life and career from an early age through to his death, but the story of the Memphis professional wrestling scene in general and Jerry Lawler in particular. Whether or not you think this is an effective book will probably depend on the degree to which you think dozens of pages have to be spent on Lawler’s early career but a few panels spread across the book for Kaufman’s career on Taxi.

And we also have Edwin Turner, proprietor of Biblioklept, who makes his TCJ debut with a review of Paul Kirchner's Awaiting the Collapse.

In "Highwire", the opening entry in Paul Kirchner's new collection Awaiting the Collapse, a tightrope walker navigates the skyway of a busy metropolis. The walker's magical high wire takes him over skyscrapers and into offices, dinner parties, supermarkets, and the homes of the gray citizens who, for panel after panel, fail to look up and see the miracle above them. In the comic's final panels, however, a man gazes up at the high-wire walker in a moment of recognition.

The gazer below, stocky, bald, and garbed in a trench coat and tie, bears more than a passing resemblance to the hero of Kirchner's cult classic The Bus. He strips away his business attire to reveal circus garb beneath and launches after the tightrope walker on his own marvelous trapeze. Thus Kirchner ushers us into the ultravivid, kaleidoscopic world of Awaiting the Collapse. Here, the miraculous is always potential, even in our mundane, mechanized workaday world---we simply have to look up to see it.

This insight---that a more colorful, more surreal world is available to us via imaginative perspective---is threaded throughout Kirchner's cult classic strip The Bus, which originally ran in Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1985. The Bus, which centered on a mundane hero's fanciful duel with the banality of everyday existence, found a second life on the internet through pirated copies---grainy, incomplete versions that hipped a new audience to Kirchner's fabulous comics.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The latest guest on RiYL is Joseph Remnant.

And this isn't comics-related, but Jeannie Vanasco at the Los Angeles Review of Books has a conversation with one of the great writers on comics of our era, Daniel Raeburn.

The story of an essay or a memoir is really the story of thinking, of your own consciousness. Which requires you, as narrator, to be self-conscious, but not too self-conscious. Not completely self-absorbed. You’re walking a tricky balance beam. There are other paradoxes too, like narrative tone. You have to be confident in your telling of what happened, but not too confident about what it means. You have to have confidence in your own doubts, if that makes sense. They’re what propel personal narratives.

That’s why it’s probably best to err on the side of those doubts. A good rule of thumb comes from Kafka, who said, “In the struggle between you and the world, you must side with the world.” Another good line came from my friend Mark Slouka. After he read an earlier draft of Vessels, he called me and said, “Less knowing, more wondering.” As soon as he said it I knew he was right. I’d been trying to sound wise.


—Reviews & Commentary.
Sam Ombiri writes about Nick Drnaso's Beverly.

Nick Drnaso gives a very specific amount of detail, and the stories move along rather rapidly – my eyes automatically go from panel to panel, as the story is so clearly laid out. It might even be my hundredth time reading the story, but it keeps me engaged every time. I can jump into any section, and it’s just as easy for me to recapture the essence of each moment as when I read it the first time. It’s clear that Beverly was made to be enjoyable to read, and the success of the comic is, for lack of a better term, almost severe. It’s strengths are obvious when you read it, so I don’t need to go on praising it. You don’t have to believe the stories in the book, because the book believes them for you.

And Jonathan Rosenbaum remembers the man who may have been the most valuable comics critic of the last century, Donald Phelps.

In some ways, the saddest deaths are those we only hear about accidentally. For me, Donald Phelps was one of the very greatest of American critics — not just literary critic and film critic, but comics critic as well — even though only two collections devoted solely to his written work exist (see above). I would love to imagine that many more will follow, because it’s clear that anyone who tracks down obscure journals, including his own (For Now), looking for Phelps’ insightful and highly original prose, will discover an unending bounty. But it seems like he never had much money, and even before the advent of Trump, Phelps appears to have lived his entire life in the shadows.

Le Baiser Mortel Du Dragon

Today at The Journal, we've got cartoonist and critic Katie Skelly interviewing comics writer Alex de Campi about the Twisted Romance comic series that launched via Image this very week. 

Sentimentality is a desperately under-used weapon in comics. So much of it is about the widescreen explodo. But ultimately, you never remember the explosions. You remember the stories that made you cry. That should be every writer's objective going into every story they write: make 'em cry once, make 'em gasp once, and try to give them some pants feelings at some point. William Mortensen, in his wonderfully kooky The Command to Look, paraphrases Cecil B DeMille about the three things you need for a successful picture: sex, sentimentality and spectacle. You can make do with two, for a mediocre story. And you can be macho as fuck and sentimental at the same time: I present to you the entire cinematic oeuvre of Sam Peckinpah, the man who, with Naoki Urasawa, taught me how to hold a reaction shot. 

And then, for something completely different, we've got Frank Young on Frank King--a review of the latest giant sized tome from Sunday Press. It's an excellent review that I feel the need to cheapen by pulling the one quote where he mentions Jake Gyllenahaal. 

Photographs of the young Frank King bring to mind the actor Jake Gyllenhaal, circa 2004. One can see a similar glint in King's eye, a brashness in his smile and an undisguised enjoyment of his life and work. King was at first in the shadow of the Tribune's master editorial cartoonist John T. McCutcheon. As one of the lower-status Trib cartoonists, King soldiered through spot illustrations for news stories, feature article illustrations and the occasional comic strip.

ELSEWHERE? Today, the thing I'd recommend you take a look at is Michel Fiffe's recently published posts on a re-reading of the Titans, part one being here, part two being here. For years, the Titans seemed like the only thing DC had that could outsell Marvel (if you only paid attention to single issue sales--Marvel still can't seem to manage to find perennial selling trades like Batman Year One, and when they do, they tend to let them fall out of print endlessly), and I enjoyed Fiffe's attempt to dive so wholeheartedly into a series that, like the X-Men, tends to reward and repel in equal measure, at an increasingly heightened rate, the longer you expose yourself I also have a lot of affection for Titans Hunt, one of those genuinely exciting who-fucking-knows extended storylines that consists of loading up as many spinning plates as possible, up until you just go fuck it, let's add a vampire from a dystopian future, nothing can stop us. 

Droning

Today on the site, we have an excerpt from Kate Polak's Ethics In The Gutter: Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics, published by Ohio State University Press. This particular section deals with a storyline from Hellblazer.

“The Pit” opens with a panel depicting several British soldiers standing atop a trench, text boxes overlays explaining that “Every night they dig the pit. They dig it for the first time. Its sides almost vertical. Stakes just below the edge, pointing down, to stop anyone from climbing out” (121). This first panel already gestures towards what is ventured in the plot: the conflation of temporalities and the crucial dimension of point-of-view. In terms of temporality, while this is a fictionalized account of a past event, it is recounted by a nameless, third-person narrator in the present progressive tense, indicating a continuous action. The narrator aligns herself with neither the soldiers nor the Aborigines, referring to both as “they,” while the reader views the ditch from inside, looking upwards towards the men standing at the top edge, already ensconced within the potential victim’s perspective. The second and third panels show the Tasmanian Aborigines being forced down into the pit from holding pens, the narration shifting in focus between panels. The second panel shows the Aborigines from the perspective of the British soldiers, the point-of-view including their shadows as they look down into the holding pens, the external focalizer remarking that “they say to the prisoners ‘move quickly, jena, jena. We’re taking you to a new place’” (121), while the third panel depicts the Aborigines being forced down into the pit. The narrator tells us that “They don’t want to go down that steep slope. But there’s a wall of men with guns” (121). The shifting point-of-view in the first three panels coupled with the externally focalized narration destabilize the reader’s identification with characters at the outset. Rather than offering an individual’s perspective of the massacre that is represented, the images are framed by a textual recounting. The pictorial element serves to illustrate the textual, but simultaneously, through perspective, offers brief windows into a variety points-of-view.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
All Ben Katchor interviews are good interviews, and this new one is no exception.

At the end of such a successful life, Katchor ought to be happy, right?

"I feel like we're replaying World War I, with the Espionage Act being revived and journalists being threatened for merely doing their jobs," he tells me. "And on top of that, the ecosystem is collapsing. It's a nightmare, quite honestly. It would be one thing to have a dictator in power ... but unbreathable air on an overheated planet? There's no escape."

This was not the Ben Katchor I had expected to interview.

The most recent guest on the Ignorant Bliss podcast is Whit Taylor.


—Reviews & Commentary.
On the occasion of a new collection of Philip Guston's Nixon drawings, Chris Ware writes about the artist's "graphic novel" for the New York Review of Books.

What surprises me most about all of the “Poor Richard” drawings is not their recognizable imagery, their directness, or even their satirical and political subject matter, but the fact that Guston apparently intended them to be assembled as a book. He even put together “large black pocket binders” with Xeroxes of the drawings to schlep around to potential publishers. Philip Guston was working on a graphic novel?! Well, not really. Though it tells a story, loosely threading together vaudevillian gags about Nixon’s coming of age (both he and Guston were born in 1913), Nixon’s college years, early political career, his “Checkers” speech, disappearance/reinvention, and election, his trip to China (with it all petering out somewhere in Asia with the characters pictured as spongecake and cookies), one passes through the images much as one might flip through an illustrated children’s book—without actually reading the text. The earliest frontispieces (Guston tried different versions—the original title was “Satirical Drawings”) show a hairy ink bottle with a Nixon-genie rising out of its uncapped top, highlighting it as a collection of cartoons. Perhaps later, after he got into it, he seems to have gone back and drawn something that focuses on his cast of characters qua characters: Nixon, Spiro Agnew, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger reclining on a Florida beach surrounded by the paraphernalia of American idleness. (“Reclining” might be too generous of a description, too, since only Nixon himself has a body; Agnew and Mitchell are lumpy, dumpy heads and Kissinger appears simply as a pair of thick glasses; he is the “eyes” of Nixon throughout the latter part of the story, seeing him to ruin.)

Françoise Mouly presents and writes about a selection of Lorenzo Mattotti's New Yorker covers.

Lorenzo Mattotti’s covers for The New Yorker are featured in an exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute, which runs from February 6th through March 8th. The artist’s covers are created using oil pastels, his medium of choice. The pastels’ bright colors reproduce well—which is important for a magazine that prints more than a million copies weekly. They also create a texture that helps viewers to imagine the artist’s hand layering color over color. All of Mattotti’s images pack the graphic punch of a poster by expressing a strong idea through a perfectly poised composition. A viewer’s eye is skillfully directed to a snowball, or a central figure, or a road that winds through a colorful landscape.


—News.
Drawn & Quarterly has announced a new publishing fellowship program, beginning this summer.

Drawn & Quarterly is pleased to announce a publishing fellowship that will focus on all facets of the book business: editorial; production and design; marketing and sales; and retail. The paid position will be in the company’s Mile-Ex office in Montreal, Monday through Thursday, 32 hours a week, 9:30-5:30. The fellowship will be offered biannually: a winter fellow (mid-January through mid-June) with an application deadline of October 1; and a summer fellow (mid-July through mid-November) with an application deadline of March 1. The fellow will interact with all departments and be invited to sit in on meetings.

The Bocce Ball Boys

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got Noah Berlatsky stopping by to interview Dr. Kate Polak about her recently released book of essays examining comics of the historical fiction bent. We'll be running an excerpt from the book tomorrow that focuses on a portion of Hellblazer that I read on my honeymoon, because for some reason I wanted to bring Mike Carey's run of Hellblazer with me to the beach instead of a swimsuit. For those of you who are wondering why Noah is here--for those of you working in the Fantagraphics office, for example--him remembering my fondness for Mike Carey's Hellblazer comics and then manipulating me through that memory is in no small part. 

In your discussion of J. P. Stassen's comic Deogratias about the Rwandan genocide, you say that the comic through point of view makes it difficult to empathize with Deogratias, the main character who participated in the genocide. Is denial of empathy a denial of ethical investment? Don't we need empathy in order to have a moral commitment?

No! (laughs) No! I go a little bit into this in the book. I don't buy empathy as anything related to morality. Empathy is consonant with immorality. It has no ethical valence.

Torturers are great empathizers because they know what's going to make that person hurt the most. People who are highly manipulative are very good at empathizing because they're very good at getting into your head and figuring out how you feel about something and able to take advantage of you. That's empathy.

We like to think of empathy as this pop psychology term, where if only we felt like another person feels then we would behave differently. But I don't think that's true.

My little personal old home week continues, with a review of Nobrow's latest installment in the Geis series by Brian Nicholson. Anyone who believes that I can tell Nicholson what to think clearly doesn't know how violently I disagree with his (very wrong!) opinions about Copra though, so feel free to drink in his praise for Alexis Deacon without the slightest concern that my memory of paychecks has somehow infected this excellent review.

What a relief for the reader to take in the pages of Alexis Deacon's fantasy series Geis. Deacon is primarily a children's book illustrator, and the Geis series constitutes his first graphic novels. Here the painted color and soft pastel palette seem natural to the story's setting within the past. It feels like the light is pouring through castle windows, or supplied by candles. The relief is not just in the way the palette soothes the eye. As we see these things that never existed, we are convinced that this is how they should look. The art makes such a strong case for its aesthetic choices as to convert those who might be skeptical of subject matter of sorcery and curses, castles and kingdoms. Looking at the pages, I feel none of the revulsion I so often feel when looking at fantasy images. There are neither dragons nor elves, and there are no over-sexualized figures coexisting alongside anthropomorphic animals. Just robes and complicated hats as far as the eye can see.

ELSEWHERE: You motherfuckers into donuts? In the lead up to the launch of Andy Diggle's Shadowman #1, Valiant Comics hopes the answer is yes. If you're interested in checking out these official Shadowman donuts, you'll have to make your way to the upcoming ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting for Valiant's presentation on their upcoming titles. The donuts will be made available then, t0 all who are interested in finding out whether or not Andy Diggle is alive, and if he is, what comics he is writing. You can see an official picture (from the press release) of what the donuts will look like below. 

Fun Time

Today on the site, Sloane Leong is back with a second round of Comics Dragnet, gathering up webcomics and genre adventures and critiquing them with an artist's eye. One of the comics this time is The Firelight Isle:

A fantasy coming-of-age story set in a pseudo-South Asian-ish culture that follows a pair of childhood friends undergoing their first adulthood rites. It feels like I've been checking in on this webcomic for over a decade but its only been around for a handful of years in existence. Sixteen chapters have been drawn but the story doesn’t seem to have progressed beyond an unaffecting first act. I'm all for taking your time with your work but that remoteness, especially online, can take a heavy toll, both on the reader and the comic itself with the energy waning into a dull fizzle despite Firelight just hitting its first larger narrative development recently. The idea of perfection in comics is often a creative red herring, something to distract you from getting to the truth of your story. If you don’t have truth or beauty, then what is there? I don’t inherently dislike all meticulously rendered art in comics but something about succinct, vivacious, definitive linework has always translated truth and beauty better in comics than micromanaged complexity, which usually falls short of the baroque, and ends up in some awkward in-between state.

...

And Leonard Pierce is here, too, with a review of Tommi Parrish's The Lie and How We Told It.

The Lie and How We Told It draws its name from a song by Yo La Tengo, and the comparisons kept nagging at me while reading the book:  with that particular band, you were always taking a chance whether, in performance, you would get them at the height of their expressive powers or a night of feedback-drenched noise that was only enjoyable to them.  This was especially pronounced by the 2000s, when they settled into a comfortable haze of soundtrack albums and cover songs, some of them made for the film genre suitably known as mumblecore.  For those who don’t remember that particular eructation of American cinema, it mostly revolved around middle-class white people who had a very difficult time making their feelings known to one another, to the detriment of everyone else around them.  Despite it being a decidedly acquired taste, the genre has been oddly persistent and has lately turned up in quantity on second-tier television networks.

Reading through The Lie, it’s almost impossible not to notice its deeply 2000s-ish feel, and while it dresses up its relationships in the complexities of a genderqueer woman and a man in deep denial about his own conflicted sexuality, it’s still that same old story of people who spend all their time not being able to say what’s on their minds.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary.
Paul Morton writes at length about Jules Feiffer and his editorial relationship with Hugh Hefner.

Hefner, himself an aspiring cartoonist in his youth, had wanted to make Playboy a showcase for cartooning talent comparable to The New Yorker. Still, Feiffer’s work didn’t fit with that of other artists Hefner was recruiting at the time. A typical Playboy cartoon featured an unattractive male and a cartoon version of a Playboy model. If the reader recognized himself, he recognized his imperfect body. On the one hand, the cartoons poked fun at the reader’s low physical status. On the other, they indulged his fantasies, his belief that beautiful women were a right to enjoy as much as good food, books, and music. The magazine’s bullpen in the late 1950s included Jack Cole, most famous as the creator of Plastic Man, and the Mad genius Harvey Kurtzman. Cole and Kurtzman’s lusciously colored cartoons for Playboy indulged their adolescent souls. Their work had little in common with Feiffer’s black-and-white sequential narratives, energetic dialogues, and twisting monologues.

From Hefner’s letters, it seems Feiffer was a hard get. The magazine celebrated a materialist, swinging culture that divorced aesthetics from morality. Feiffer’s work did not. Hefner assured Riley that Feiffer would not have to change his point of view. He only asked that Feiffer agree to not publish at any magazine that could be considered a Playboy competitor. He could keep his strip in the Voice. Feiffer agreed.

Brian Nicholson reviews Rich Tommaso's Spy Seal.

Rich Tommaso has been publishing comics for over twenty years, but by his own account, he never got as strong and immediate a response to his work as he did when he posted a little sketch of Spy Seal, a character he had created as a child, to social media. Fans did cosplay, animation studios offered development deals if a comic could demonstrate proof of concept. Tommaso launched the series through Image Comics, who had previously put out the crime and horror comics he had made, and pretty immediately a panic set in, as serialized installments did not actually sell that well. There was a discrepancy between the “popular demand” as the author imagined it and what the Image audience was willing and prepared to pay for. People assured him: It’s not a book for the comic shop market. It’s a comic that, when completed and in bookstores, would find its ideal audience. That book now exists, printed at the dimensions of a Tintin book, and we can now all collectively discover what it is that Spy Seal actually is: The comic is an outgrowth of a sketch, which seemed to imply a world and a tone, but how exactly do those things manifest in an actual narrative with a beginning, middle, and end?

The Onion profiles a local man who prefers comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about government-engineered agents of war.

Local man Jeremy Land reportedly voiced his preference Thursday for comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about people forced to undergo body- and mind-altering experiments that transform them into government agents of war. “I’m tired of simply trying to enjoy escapist stories in which people are tortured and experimented upon at black sites run by authoritarian governments, only to have the creators cram political messages down my throat,” said Land, 31, who added that Marvel’s recent additions of female, LGBTQ, and racially diverse characters to long-running story arcs about tyrannical regimes turning social outsiders into powerful killing machines felt like PC propaganda run amok.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on the Library of American Comics podcast is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library's Caitlin McGurk, and the latest guest on Inkstuds is Eric Reynolds from Fantagraphics.

Carved out, in the giant landscape of broken rocks

We started this week with our Mort Walker obituary, and we're closing it out with RC Harvey's Mort Walker interview from 2009. You couldn't ask for a more immersive dive into the man's life than the one Harvey took--make the time for this one, you won't regret it.

That was funny. Not so long ago, I had an exhibit at the State Department, and Colin Powell said he wanted to meet me, so Cathy and I were introduced to him in his office. He was so friendly and everything. He said, “I read your strip.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “Oh yeah. I remember when Lt. Flap came in, the first strip. The first thing he said was, ‘How come there are no blacks in this honky outfit?’” He laughed and laughed. [Harvey laughs.] So I was very flattered to know that Colin Powell had read the strip and was interested in it. So we had a good time talking about it.

That's not the only look back we've got for you, of course--it's time for your weekly dose of Tegan O'Neil. This week, she's got the latest installment of Ice Cream For Bedwetters, with a deep dive into the rarely talked about era of Green Arrow when the longtime liberal character turned into...well, something else. 

All well and good, as far as it goes. There’s no arguing that the direction was a productive one for the character, as much of it stuck to this day. The Oliver Queen on the enduringly popular Arrow TV show owes more to Grell’s version of the character, certainly, than Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams “socially conscious” version from the 60s or Jack Kirby’s sci-fi Batman interpretation from the 50s. The main difference between Green Arrow and Marvel’s Hawkeye was always that Hawkeye was a dude whose main power was bluffing, and that’s how he stands shoulder to shoulder with Thor and Captain America. Green Arrow, though, was out of place next to Superman and the Flash, and the reason why is that subsequent generations of creators told us so all the damn time. He sometimes served as the conscience for the Justice League, pointing out that they should be doing a better job by the little people they were ostensibly protecting. But you can only hector Superman for not caring about the little guy so many times before he loses his super-patience and puts you out an airlock of the satellite, because Starro’s coming over and a guy whose main power is righteous indignation is of limited utility against the fury of the Star Conqueror. 

Ah, but as we come into the weekend, let's get locked back into the future--at least for a bit. And we'll do that with Aug Stone's review of Mister Morgan, a recent graphic novel release from Conundrum by Igor Hofbauer.

Hofbauer is also a master of presenting many different psychological aspects at once. This occurs even in the shortest stories but is particularly true of the two major works in this collection, ‘Olympia’ and ‘Plastika’. Each a tour de force, these two vast worlds complement each other like shadows. Both are meditations on the interaction and interconnection between artists and their publics. And like the rest of Hofbauer’s work, what lies only millimeters beneath the already darkened surface is sinister and gruesome.

To creepy? I feel ya. Why don't you kick back and read about Andy Kaufman, who has risen from the dead in the graphic novel form, via Box Brown and First Second. Box Brown? Box Brown, indeed.

And finally, because it was interesting to find out: NPD Bookscan is going to start running four monthly graphic novel bestseller list over at ICv2, in what many--well, me, I think this--are interpreting as a bit of a response to the loss of the NYT Bestseller list that used to cover that same categories. The four lists will cover Superhero, Manga, Kids and Author, and anyone can read the charts. If you want to see the actual numbers of copies sold, you'll need a Pro Account for that. (Or you can use an NPD account and see everything, including the numbers of copies sold or not sold by people you're obsessed with out of spite.) It'll be interesting to see  the data used by people as a point of reference when writing about how the thing they like is better than the thing they think you like.

Wait, will that be interesting?

We’re Outrageous

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey is here with another installment of Hare Tonic, in which he looks back at the life and work of Smokey Stover creator Bill Holman.

In late 1934, Holman heard that Joseph Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News, was looking for a Sunday comic strip that would display the paper’s civic-minded support of such public servants as policemen and teachers and, in this case, firemen.

“I had sold a lot of firemen cartoons to magazines,” Holman said, “and the idea of firemen running around all over in red trucks seemed like a good gimmick to hang things on.”

Over Christmas while visiting his grandmother in Crawfordsville, Holman drew up a sample Sunday strip and when he returned to New York, he offered it to Patterson, who bought it.

“He wondered if I could keep it up,” Holman said, “and I told him confidently that I could.”

The madcap Smokey Stover debuted March 10, 1935 and continued with the Tribune-News Syndicate until Holman retired in 1973.

The title character is a fireman, and while the strip also features his boss, the fire chief Cash U. Nutt, the activities just as often involve Smokey’s wife Cookie or his son Earl or their cat with a perpetually bandaged tail, Spooky, who, for a time, starred in a companion strip of his own before joining the firehouse gang.

Holman, said comics historian Stephen Becker, “threw himself into his work with unmitigated glee,” creating such “memorable departures from rationality, verbal juxtapositions and misunderstandings, and irrepressible manglings of the English language” that he is forever revealed as “a man to whom reality is subordinate to art” (209).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Emily Wilson at The Daily Beast profiles Trina Robbins.

On the day we spoke, Robbins sat in a café across the street from her house in San Francisco, having a bagel and coffee. She had just gotten back from a Comic Convention in Argentina, where, she said, she had a wonderful time.

“I got so much love,” the 79-year-old artist said. “I never hugged more people.”

Debkumar Mitra remembers Bengali cartoonist Chandi Lahiri.

“Chandi-da was a lifelong learner,” says Debasish Deb, a famous illustrator and Lahiri’s former colleague at Ananda Bazaar Patrika. “He used to say, ‘you have to read a lot to draw political cartoons. You may know all the techniques in the world to draw cartoons, but you might still never know what political cartooning is all about.’” Deb finds that reflected throughout Lahiri’s work, often seen in the form of a severe denouncement of the political class, sometimes embracing controversy, but never compromising. From elements of the Mahabharata to the Ramayana to modern political thought, everything found a place in his huge body of work. Despite the breadth of his knowledge, Lahiri remained anchored to his roots: Bengal. There is an acute sense of “Bengaliness” in his cartoons that, perhaps as a result, did not transcend the borders of West Bengal.

Scott McCloud appeared on the popular podcast 99% Invisible.

—Reviews & Commentary.
At Artforum, Sarah Nicole Prickett writes an excellent, provocative essay on the cultural and political meanings of Wonder Woman.

Because he was unlikely for his time, it is easy to see [Wonder Woman creator William Moulton] Marston as the hero, the lightning-struck creator of a comic so rich in expression, so queer in theory that it’s as peerless today as it was unprecedented then. He was as Northern as [Margaret] Mitchell was Southern. Born and educated in Boston, he became an experimental psychologist who claimed to have invented the lie-detector test. Before the Depression, he worked as a “consulting shrink” for Universal Studios in Hollywood; after being fired, he decided that comic books, not movies, were the ultimate form of propaganda. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind landed in theaters during what Neville Chamberlain called a “lull in the operations of war.” Wonder Woman made her solo debut two years later, as the first US Army planes flew over Europe, in issue number one of Sensation Comics: “At last, in a world torn by the hatred and wars of men, appears a woman,” as if female leads in action comics had been doing anything besides, as John Berger would say, appearing.

But a superlative heroine was destined to appear sooner rather than later. Marston’s idea was one of many seeds racing toward the egg of necessity, sucked in by timing, chance, fate. The environment was fertile. Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, believed in suffrage, free love, shorter skirts, vegetarianism, and eugenics. Margaret Sanger believed in a woman’s right to make informed choices, and also in eugenics. Marston idolized Sanger. He believed, or at least once said, that the next hundred years would see the dawn of American matriarchy, and that women would use love to conquer men in a “serious sex battle” in the twenty-fifth century, a point in time conveniently far from his own. Believing religiously in suffrage, he excelled as a progenitor of so-called male feminism, the supererogatory mode of allyship practiced by men for whom “equality” means easier access, and putting a woman on a pedestal meant looking up her skirt. On hearing, from his publisher, that every comic-book heroine so far had been commercially a failure, he replied, “But they weren’t superwomen. They weren’t superior to men.” His visions of female supremacy took to the limit a bad idea, that a woman can only be a person if she’s not only human.

A Long Day’s Journey That Got So Tight

Today at the Journal, we've got me! Well, not really. I did get a chance to speak with Aleš Kot about their latest book with Image, Days of Hate. As I'm sitting here, post Den of Thieves, writing this little blurb, I realize I totally forgot the most obvious question one should always ask in an interview: how to pronounce the person's name! Hopefully Aleš will stop by and let us know. It's a pretty happy-go-lucky interview, and it'll take you a while to read. Check out this fun bit, which I've pulled completely out of context to entice you further!

The work has to be inclusive, which is the opposite of what the Nazis and the white supremacists want. The Nazis want a divided society against everything but the Nazi. I believe in a society united against the Nazis, united against the white supremacy. Every white person is complicit in the white supremacy. But that doesn’t mean we have to do what the white supremacy dictates or what the Nazis want. I believe we have to learn how those systems operate in us and others and then chip away at those systems with decisiveness and constancy.

And that's not all! Today, we've also got that review you're looking for: Robert Kirby on The Book Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors, a new coming-of-age memoir by Melissa Beier.

Beier goes through enough excruciating angst and existential loneliness in her long sex-and-romance drought that when she finally gets something good going, we feel a genuine sense of relief and happiness for her. With her love life finally bearing fruit, her self-esteem improves, and she locates new talents within herself, winning a MOTH story slam in spring of 2016. Like many other artists, she comes to the realization that producing work does not define a person’s worth: “even though drawing people is something I love and excel at, it’s not something I have to do to be liked.”

ELSEWHERE

While Tim got to be the lucky guy in the hot seat when the ever-so-surprising news broke that the Valiant Comics IP investment odyssey has now reached the point where one of the pursed-lips bozos pushes out his investment partners in an attempt to illustrate the sunk cost fallacy to as many people as is possible, I'll be today's guy who gets to link you to a story everybody knew was coming: and that is the news that IDW ain't doing so hot. Say it ain't so! You mean to tell me that the bookstore market isn't willing to prop up all those horribly drawn comics built around aging television properties now that the direct market has wised up to their game? Why I never would have thought that in a million years! But hey, no worries--pump out some comics about Star Trek Discovery and a Star Wars spin-off that looks like it was drawn by someone who gets drunk on roller coasters, that'll keep the lights on until the Hulu version of Locke & Key brings in millions of new readers. Nothing says mass entertainment like Hulu's slate of original programming! 

Shucks

Today on the site, Austin English is here with another installment of his 10 Cent Museum column. This week, by way of explaining where his aesthetic comes from, he shares many of the minicomics that are most important to its development, which includes work by a long and disparate list of cartoonists (Aidan Koch, Ben Jones, Lizz Hickey, Ted May, etc.).

Mini-comics, even the "classic" ones, often disappear. Some of the most beautiful ones are never reprinted. Many artists choose not to have their earliest work collected, seeing the flaws ever so clearly, while the reader from the past holds the work close to the heart, aware of all the undeniable beautiful moments it also so obviously contains. Those private moments have shaped so many readers who went on to make mini-comics (or regular comics) of their own. The works disappear, remaining only in the hearts and minds of a happy few, but their essence (whether aesthetic, political, formal, etc.) live on as new shapes in new works of art.

Again, everyone's zine collection is a unique assemblage of specific touchstones. It depends on what area of the world you happened to be living in, whether your co-workers happened to make zines, the various festivals you intentionally or accidentally ventured to, or what you were willing to accept artistically at different moments in your life. To me, a zine collection assembled in this way is far more priceless than one built on determining who were the most important artists of every decade and adopting a completist attitude about seeking out every self published work these artists made. That's the same as reading Tintin; it's open to everyone to do.

For this column, I went through all my zine archives and picked out dozens of publications. While there are important (to me) zines that have been left out, I've tried to cull together a group that explains where I'm coming from. Within these selections, there is work by peers, artists I admired and emulated, people in my life, publications I acquired mysteriously, zines I carried from house to house because I found them comforting, and items that have a hold over me simply due to the moment in time that I found them.

We also have a stellar must-read review of Chris Ware's Monograph written by Joe McCulloch, which is easily and far away the best piece on the book I've yet read.

Ware is frequently praised for the exactitude of his architectural drawings, or the musicality of his page layouts, but less discussed is the talent I've personally found most affecting - the way he composes books. The first comic of Ware's I'd ever read was The ACME Novelty Library #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994), which I'd elected to receive as a bonus prize after buying trade paperback compilations of Jeff Smith's Bone from a mail-order service. I was in high school, so this was the late 1990s, maybe '97. ACME #4 was the second assortment of work later compiled as Quimby the Mouse (Fantagraphics, 2003), and while the comics themselves rightly rewired a complacent brain -- I had read enough edgy and aggressive comics at that point that I was aware comics were capable of adopting impolite themes, but the idea of diagrammatic works that coaxed immense pain from the systems of life were completely foreign -- I was even more stunned by the presentation of that vast pamphlet. The method by which Ware applied a fancy and outmoded language of gaiety to bitter scenarios went beyond direct parody; there was a great deal of contextual work done to set the artifice of Ware's make-believe ACME Novelty Company (the organization ostensibly 'behind' his comics) against what I readily understood to be wildly uncommercial and very personal comics. This was not simple irony to me. This was a comic book that seemed to evoke the very history of printed entertainment, to reveal it, systemically, as first a means of forestalling the signal of human pain, and then as a means of enunciating that pain. A hellish memory palace.

When I read it, comics were in shambles. Distribution had mostly collapsed and many stores had gone out of business; I wasn't even paying attention to comics very much, they had grown so embarrassing to me as a profoundly insecure teen, but I still knew things had gone to shit. ACME read like one last song before the apocalypse, a testament to grand labor and ruined ambition as the flood waters rose to drown the stage.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DMG Entertainment has purchased Valiant, apparently believing there are some successful movies and/or TV shows to be made from it. (I'm no expert, but unless you're talking characters with strong name recognition or genuinely good or innovative stories, I don't see the point of buying things like this.)

For [CEO Dan] Mintz, Valiant occupies a valuable position in the IP field. Not only is it something with a global awareness, but it is also something that people pay for, month in and month out, and is in a “tipping point” place, making it ready for a next-level jump.

“This is something that is validated already and is on a road that has already been traveled by Marvel and DC,” he says.

The value of the deal was not disclosed and Mintz had no comment, other than to add, “You don’t step into something like this lightly. You don’t want a very expensive pet.”

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Process Party is Whit Taylor.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sam Ombiri writes about Coco Moodysson's Never Goodnight.

This comic is one of the most fun autobio comics I’ve ever read. The drawings are spectacular, it’s great that she was able to summon enough of this creative energy for every panel, and deliver consistently. Her drawings are like candy that don’t lose their sweetness when eaten too much. The drawings are simultaneously so expressive, but all done with that line that Sammy Harkham always talks about, where every drawing has the same weight to it and it doesn’t deviate.

At Print, Michael Dooley connects the dots (sorry) between artist Yayoi Kusama and the old Harvey comics character Little Dot.

“Little Dot, artist” is a theme that recurs frequently throughout her adventures, and is an ongoing source of graphic creativity for her illustrators. And as a one-dimensional girl in a two-dimensional world, the edges of her form will often vanish, blending into the background like one of those dapper figures in Ludwig Hohlwein and J.C. Leyendecker illustrations, or a Coles Phillips fadeaway girl.

Dot was widely famous, and occasionally Harvey’s top-seller, from the mid-1950s through the late-1960s. But her popularity began to fade in the 1970s, during a downtrend in which comics were no longer for kids that much. After then, her appearance became spotty, with her total disappearance in 1994. Since then, aside from being name-checked for a split-second in a 2002 Simpsons episode (start at 2:08 here), she’a faded from pop culture’s short collective memory. However, the concept of dots in endless, relentless repetition is alive and prospering in the form of avant-garde art’s latest superstar, Yayoi Kusama.

—Not Comics. Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie) is developing a video game, and raising funds via Kickstarter.

Sensitivity Braining

Today at the Journal, we've got Michael Dean's obituary for Mort Walker, whose passing was announced a few days ago. It's an excellent piece of writing, full of the sorts of meat that you can only get when you let an expert go long. Try this one out:

Unlike Beetle, Walker eventually got a taste of the WWII European theater. Shipped to Italy in 1945, he was put in charge of a POW camp housing ten thousand German prisoners. He found he was sympathetic toward the prisoners, who often escaped overnight and returned the next morning. “It came to me somewhere along the way that I didn’t really care if the POWs did escape,” he wrote in Backstage at the Strips. “They never did anyway. Most of them were just poor suckers like I was, waiting to go home and trying to make the best of it until they got there.” As an intelligence officer, he investigated a murder, robberies, rapes and other crimes in Italy.

I am going to be wrapping my mind around the concept of that the investigation of "murder, robberies, rapes and other crimes in Italy" be a fact that only merits one line in an obituary, simply because it turned out that was a small part of my life and not what anyone was going to know me for.