The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Today on the Journal, we’ve got an interview with Gabe Fowler about this weekend’s Comics Arts Brooklyn festival. Longtime readers will know that Gabe used to do a similarly themed show in Brooklyn with former TCJ editor Dan Nadel and beard enthusiast Bill Kartalopoulos, but that relationship fell apart when they realized they were the same person.

"Is it possible to have a comics festival on the East Coast and not have Peter Kuper as a featured guest? How did you keep Dean Haspiel from attending?
Kuper is a featured guest, partly because he is awesome and partly because he is a Pratt alum.  We want Pratt to feel good about our newfound partnership and are taking the opportunity to focus on alumni who have impacted comics culture, such as Kuper, Bill Griffith, Paul Karasik, and Jules Feiffer, who will all participate in programming.  I can just hear Haspiel bitching that I didn't personally handcraft a royal invitation for him to participate, but nobody gets that treatment around here.  But really, he has been involved in our show in the past and I would love to have him."
 

ELSEWHERE

While it might be fun to ignore yesterday’s latest development in the longest and dumbest fight between two entertainment conglomerates, ya gotta admit: DC hiring away Brian Michael Bendis, the dominant creative voice behind the last two decades of Marvel Comics is big news. It’s not as big as it would have been seven years ago when the creator in question was still king shit of fuck mountainbut it's DC Comics--they didn't get ahold of John Romita Jr. when he was still taking chances, either. There's a lot of uninteresting articles out surrounding the move, but what unifies all of them is the total lack of access to the people and company involved. The move was announced via the DC Comics Twitter account at 6 in the morning, with a follow up tweet coming from Bendis a few hours later--and the rest of the day consisted of thinkpieces and shot-from-the-hip takes until George Gene Gustines remembered where he'd written down Brian's phone numberYou'd think years of cheerleading might get you more access, but apparently, that isn't the case. 

Anyway. If you've read a few Bendis comics in your time, then your prediction of "what this means" is as valid as the next persons. They will probably be readable, have a compelling enough thru-line that you will be curious about what happens next even if you don't really enjoy the experience. They will have too many words. But whatever it is, it'll just be another super-hero comic. It won't be as good as the ones you read when you were younger, it will be too expensive, and it will probably be drawn by someone you don't like. Enjoy!

ONWARD, TO INTERVIEWS

Jesse Jacobs, whose only failing seems to be that he's so effortlessly interesting that I take for granted that he'll keep getting better and have forgotten to be surprised at how consistently he does exactly that, is as fascinating an interview subject as he is a cartoonist. He showed up at Hazlitt in an interview with Matthew James-Wilson, the same person whose praises are being sung in today's Gabe Fowler interview.

I thought this Kelly Sue DeConnick interview was pretty interesting. I haven't read much of her writing, but it's rare to see a comics creator speak with such frankness about the nature of creative work. DeConnick seems to have been saddled with the "explain sexism to people" role that certain women in comics get assigned when they're smart and successful, and she handles that task with real passion. 

The Ball is Rolling

Those of you suffering from Dan Nadel withdrawal will get some temporary relief today, as we present his interview with Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, regarding their extraordinary new book, How to Read Nancy.

You mention a few times that Nancy has not received the historical attention (or affection) it deserves. I wonder if that’s because is so prosaic on the surface. What is it about the way comic-strip history has been written that you think kept out Nancy? Is part of your contention that the almighty gag is equal to, say, the emotional heft of Krazy Kat or Peanuts, or the grandeur of Little Nemo? I think the answer is yes, and I agree, but perhaps you can explain a bit.

Krazy Kat and Little Nemo resemble “Art.” Peanuts resembles “Philosophy.” Nancy resembles nothing more and nothing less than a comic strip (and a gag-driven, self-proclaimed “dumb” one at that), hence: easily dismissed from the canon.

The public’s affection has always been there. Savvy critics such as Manny Farber certainly “got” Nancy at the time of its initial popularity, but the next wave (1960s–1990s) of “serious” comics historians tended to revile the strip, for a variety of reasons that reveal more about their agenda (and their generational bias), than the merits of the work. Nancy was simply a hard sell for anybody trying to get the middlebrow public to take comics “seriously” when, for whatever reason, that was the name of the game. This includes the heroic Bill Blackbeard who single-handedly archived complete runs of nearly every 20th century American comic strip of consequence except Nancy, so deep was his ambivalence. (Due to this sin of omission, as far as we know, there is no complete hardcopy run of this once–ubiquitous comic strip left on planet earth.)

Our choice of the late, great Jerry Lewis for a foreword was highly intentional, yet despite some obvious parallels, Ernie Bushmiller never had the contemporary equivalent of the French New Wave publicly championing his work. Lewis gave us a great compliment in saying that ours is “a book that was written with an infinite care rarely seen in today’s world.” This is how we feel about Nancy.

We hope that How To Read Nancy will encourage the skeptics (who assume that Nancy was just another vapid kiddie strip), as well as the hipsters (who Instagram their Sluggo tattoos, yet have never actually read it), to reevaluate and appreciate the mastery of Bushmiller’s work.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian ran a special comics edition this weekend, featuring several pieces of note, including an interview with Alison Bechdel, interviews with various literary celebrities about their favorite comics (Zadie Smith seems to have the best taste in the bunch), and a slate of cultural recommendations from Chris Ware.

My own profession currently seems divided between comics fiction and comics memoir, the former more or less growing out of the childish fantasies now grotesquely metastasised as “superhero stories for adults” — which makes about as much sense to me as writing pornography for children. Some middle-aged colleagues and I believe literary comics fiction is possible without resorting to fantastical heroics, however, and the youngest and finest exemplar, 28-year-old Nick Drnaso, offers a new book next year to possibly top us all: Sabrina, about a missing woman, a video and the unspeakable possibilities of our contemporary mitigated reality. (After I recommended his first, Beverly, to Zadie Smith, she wrote back a one-word review: “wow,” and she’s just called Sabrina “the best book – in any medium – I have read about our current moment”.) I have no doubt that if Nick keeps it up, he will do things on paper that no other human has yet imagined (he basically already is), and that’s the best kind of heroism imaginable.

The most recent guest on the Process Party podcast is Sarah Horrocks, and the most recent guests on Inkstuds are Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone of the latest Shade the Changing Man series.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Rob Clough reviews Anders Nilsen's somewhat under-the-radar Tongues.

The series is pretty much peak-level Nilsen, but what immediately struck me about this 48 page comic is how it mixes and matches various Nilsen themes and approaches from over the years. There's the apocalyptic quality of his mythological work like Rage of Poseidon and his classic short story "Sisyphus" from Kramer's Ergot. There's the typical wrecked and bombed-out backgrounds of Big Questions, complete with intelligent animals. There's even the central character from Dogs and Water on a walkabout, his teddy bear still strapped to his backpack. It's a recapitulation of his entire career, yet it still feels fresh and bold.

—News. New York City is naming a street in the Bronx after Batman co-creator Bill Finger.

David Lasky and Mairead Case have been chosen by the city of Seattle to create a comics history of the Georgetown Steam Plant.

The team will begin work immediately with in-depth research. As part of the project, they will be sharing progress throughout the next year in a combination of online updates on their blog at SteamPlantGraphicNovel and in-person events.

Maybe You’re Just A Muggle, After All

Today on the site, we've got Carta Monir's review of Higu Rose's Tittychop Boobslash. While it's normally a punk move to jump to the final sentence and spoil the blurb, I feel it's best to welcome Carta aboard with the same level of disrespect I once received, back when Michael Dean commissioned reviews from me for the print edition, and then never spoke to me again. Note to self: Fire Michael Dean

"Although this book isn’t framed as an educational comic, it is an excellent resource for any young trans person navigating the healthcare system. Understanding how other people manage against the same kinds of obstacles can be lifesaving, and Rose’s clear, personal account is full of helpful details. Trans or not, you owe it to yourself to read this book."

ELSEWHERE

Over the weekend, a number of comic and geek culture figures outed Lucas Siegel — a comics blogger, journalist, Disney and Star Wars enthusiast, improv comedy practitioner, and veteran of the Armed Services — as a serial harasser of women. While it doesn't appear, so far, that there's an actual news article out regarding the charges, it's rather early in the cycle. Lucas has posted a response on his Twitter account, which one can read if you feel necessary: -it is, in classic fashion, not really an apologySo far, his statement has been met with almost universal derision. Janelle Asselin, who was once married to Siegel, wrote about Lucas's past behavior and her own comments to him-- which occurred long before the recent allegations were made, and so cast Siegel's comments (that he learned about his behavior "yesterday") in an extremely curious light.

It's worth noting that Lucas is not someone who most Comics Journal readers may even be aware of. His tenure as an editor at Newsarama primarily consisted of him writing drearily written enthusiast prose about tiresome superhero comics, responding to any criticism by exaggerating his military record or accusing the critics of being "haters," all the while attempting to cash his mediocre role into a gig writing Star Wars comic books. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a reason why someone reading the Journal would have seen anything by him, or even been aware of him beyond the one thing that made him unusual amongst the rest of the mouth-breathers who are desperate to turn the hours they've invested in nerd products into a consistent paycheck, which is that he happened to be trusted by the US military to carry a firearm into combat. More to come on this subject!

Funny But How

Today on the site, we present a debut review from Tessa Strain, who evaluates the latest Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov Punisher comic.

Set dressing aside, this “America Was Never Great” narrative path is a well-trod one, memorably blazed by James Ellroy, among others, in his Underworld USA trilogy. Ellroy’s influence was all over Ennis and Parlov’s Fury: My War Gone By series from a few years back, and like him, Ennis has a tendency to use his cynicism about American self-mythologizing as a moral smokescreen for indulging in violent, macho excess. The nastiness can be exhilarating, but culturally (in both media and real life) it feels like we’re well past the point of saturation for that brand of nihilism, and it makes me wonder if it’s still possible to enjoy these kinds of stories, let alone gain anything from them. This may sound like I’m holding Punisher: The Platoon to an unrealistically high standard, but it would be easier for me to read it as straightforward exploitation fare were the framing device any less naked in its intentions. But when you have characters bludgeoning you with the thematic context of the story every five pages, at a certain point you have to take them at their word.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Misc. Ron Wimberley is Kickstarting LAAB, a new magazine that looks like it will be exploring the intersections of black culture, science fiction, and comics, among other things.

Thi Bui's The Best We Could Do has been nominated for the NBCC Leonard Prize.

IDW's Library of American Comics has launched a podcast.

Here's a 1970s NYU documentary on Marvel artist Herb Trimpe:

A School Of Inattention

Today on the site...we got nothing? Shit, pal--that's on me. What can I say? Halloween and early morning flights and bad scheduling. I'm over the moon excited about what we have coming for you soon though. It'll be worth the bumps this week: promise! Here's a picture of what my brother did to his dog.

ELSEWHERE

Publishers Weekly posted their list of the Best Comics of 2017--if that feels early to you, I get it--it is early! But generally speaking, Publishers Weekly gets to look at books months before they come out, so they can get away with it. If you've kept up with PW, the list is an accurate reflection of the books that they've championed this year. While the big news at PW on the comics front is (and should be) Heidi's departure to focus on a Lion Forge-sponsored Beat, it will be interesting to see how their comics coverage changes in the coming year without her at the helm.

The newest episode of Salt and Honey features Rem, and it's as educational as it is fascinating.

I'd never read Remy Charlip's brief essay "The Page is a Door", but I knew it was a big deal to Brian Selznick. I guess I should've just checked his website, because he has it posted there. Handy!

Josh Simmons is going to be releasing another one of his Batman comics at the upcoming Short Run Festival, and to remind you why that's a good thing you can read Mark of the Bat (which is now ten years old) over at Study Group. It's as grotesque as you remember, which is good!

I haven't found much in the way of interesting writing about the new Grandville book by Bryan Talbot, but that will hopefully change in the coming weeks. This video succeeds about as well as any video does in selling a comic, which is to say, not very, but it's still Grandville.

comiXology's Pull List service, which actually predates their digital comics business, will be ending in mid 2018. I know firsthand how useful the service could be to direct market comic book stores, but I also know how frustrated some retailers found it to be partnered with comiXology as their business grew, and it would be interesting to know how many retailers still use that particular service. One could ask, but considering the way Amazon responds to even the most generic of questions, it doesn't strike me as a very productive way to spend one's time.

The Weekly Standard has a review up about some more non-fiction books focused on DC & Marvel. Neither of the books sound that interesting--I can't imagine reading anything with a spine about Stan Lee as a realistic option, the idea seems ludicrous--but I'll always support a mainstream publication of any kind taking shots at Marvel movies on the behalf of the Snyderverse. Go for it, you beautiful asshole!

Far Beyond Driven

Today on The Comics Journal, you'll find the conclusion of Alex Deuben's interview with Katherine Collins, which focuses on the difficulties she has had to face in the last two decades, and the lack of support that the comics community had to offer her until quite recently.

In the meantime, it’s hardly a side story, but after a lifetime of not being very happy about being a man and realizing that I should have been female it finally came to the point where I realized that I could do something about it. And I couldn’t live any longer being somebody who I really wasn’t. The transition takes time, so from 1992 to late ’94 I was going through the process, but in mid-1993 I had to announce to the world – or to anybody who was paying any attention – that I was going to start living as Katherine. So I came out and started being Katherine – and that was the end of my career.

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

No. I don't think I'll do that today.

Hi. I'm Tucker Stone, and I'm the new co-editor of The Comics Journal. Along with Tim Hodler and Kristy Valenti, I'll be working here from now on. I'm a former TCJ contributor, a former comiXology columnist, a former comic book retailer, and most recently, I'm the former US Sales & Marketing Director for a comic and children’s book publisher called Nobrow. Currently I publish collections of work by Michel Fiffe and Chuck Forsman, and my day job is at a book distributor, where I work with children’s book publishers, libraries, and comics publishers. I've worked in comics now for a decade. I also have a small child and a wife. I’m a straight, cis white male, and officially middle aged.

I don’t have a grand design for what I intend to do at this site. There’s a legacy to the Comics Journal that I plan to honor—but if you pressed me to define that legacy, I would have a hard time explaining what it is. There is a history of pissing people off for reasons both real and imagined, but that is not very useful as an operating principle.

My feeling right now is that the hole the Journal needs to fill is a mechanical one. The speed and accessibility of the internet has come to comics and kickstarted it into action in a way that comics has been sorely in need of for a long time, both as an art form and as an industry. It’s been an amazing time to be involved in this industry over the last 15 years, and anyone who says different is either not paying attention or so consumed with their own singular taste that their opinion is simply useless. Things have changed for the better. To say they have a long way to go is absolutely true, but for me to pretend that I will be leading any of those charges is absurd--I won't. What I will be doing is attempting to document the place we are in as it changes around us, to find the people and the things that those people make and tell you about them, and to work with smart, passionate writers who will find and discover even more. 

I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are too.

But if you're not, it doesn't really matter.

I'm not going anywhere!

Late Late Late

Today on the site, we present the first part of Alex Dueben's two-part interview with Katherine Collins, creator of Neil the Horse, member of the Joe Shuster Hall of Fame, and a Doug Wright "Giant of the North." Among other things, they discuss her early radio career, the creation of Neil, and the appeal of musicals.

Around the same time I started to do Neil I did radio shows for the local Vancouver CBC radio. CBC in Canada is like the BBC in Britain, it’s a radio network that is owned and financed by the federal government but the government has no control over it whatsoever – and they dearly wish they did. [laughs] I did an interview about Neil on the local CBC afternoon show. The afternoon shows are a big deal here. Every city has their own independent one. They liked the way I talked and they liked my sense of humor and so I started to get paid to come on and review things and talk about subjects I was interested in. After a couple of years of that I moved to Toronto, which is the big media center in Canada. I moved there because I realized I was not going to get any further in Vancouver. I was given the name of a woman who was working at the CBC Radio National network in Toronto. I went in to talk to her and they immediately put me on the air on the national morning show. Here’s the funny part of it. She told me later that she had belatedly realized that she had misunderstood something that I said and she thought that I was very highly experienced and that’s why they put me on so readily. Of course I was just a rank beginner, but everybody on the show liked me for some reason. That was 1977 and that touched off six years in which I was on the morning show and a number of other shows as well. I practically lived at the network office. I became a producer and writer.

My favorite gig was on the five-days-a-week early morning show, three hours a day, called Morningside. The host of that was Don Harron, who I found out later had been a cartoonist in his younger days. He was a famous comedian and writer. Don and I really hit it off and I started doing these features where I would choose a comic strip to feature on a show – usually an older comic, but not always – and I would do taped telephone interviews with anyone I could find who had anything to do with it; most of the people were still alive. I got lots of wonderful interviews from really great cartoonists. I would fashion the program with clips from these interviews and then I would write an adaptation of the comic for a radio comedy skit. I have a huge collection of old newspaper strips and by that point I had hundreds of old Sunday pages I could go through. So let’s say for example we were doing Bringing Up Father. I would read a huge pile of Sunday pages and find ones that would adapt well for radio. This was a little bit difficult because radio doesn’t have pictures. [laughs] I had to find strips that didn’t depend entirely on the visual gag. We had a wonderful sound effects department in those days, and we would get into the studio with a little group of actors. I’m a terrible actor but I would be one of them because I didn’t cost any extra money. [laughs] Don would play one of the parts and we’d get some good actors and the sound effects guy would sit there surrounded by all sorts of weird devices and he would make the sounds live as we were acting.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Colin Beineke reviews several recentish horror comics for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

If [Gou] Tanabe shows the power of images to bring out nuances in adapting prose fiction, the haunting affects of artist Julia Gfrörer’s work spring first and foremost from her masterful imagery. Borrowing a phrase from Stanford professor of French literature Brigitte Cazelles, Gfrörer’s website avows that “The discourse of romance […] can therefore be characterized as an ideology of suffering, since the experience of human or divine love seems inevitably grounded in pain.” Gfrörer’s art, from her self-published minicomics to her commissionable tattoo designs, is nothing if not grounded in pain (literally so in the latter instance) and an appreciation of the play between suffering and love is essential to understanding her longer works. Following her much lauded full-length debut, Black Is the Color, Gfrörer’s sophomore effort from Fantagraphics, Laid Waste, smoothly surpasses its predecessor with its pitch-black artistry, coldly sparkling pessimism, and devastating humor. Gfrörer’s line recalls both fine-spun gossamer lace and cold-steel etching — bringing to mind a combination of Gary Panter’s ratty line and Kate Beaton’s caricaturesque minimalism — while the black sheet of her narrative is made all the more heartbreaking through interspersed punctures of hope.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Process Party is Tillie Walden, and the most recent guest on Comics Alternative is Julia Wertz.

—Misc. The prolific comics critic and TCJ columnist Rob Clough is looking for emergency help.

Hungry

Today on the site, Marc Sobel interviews Ulli Lust about her just-translated graphic novel, Voices in the Dark, which is an adaptation of a WWII prose novel by Marcel Beyer.

Can you describe your approach to sounds in the book, particularly since they are such an integral part of the story?

First, even before the challenge of choosing a story came up, I had some very strange acoustic hallucinations in my inner ear. I heard women weeping, like weeping under the earth from the subsoil of the city. It was like I heard the mourning of the dead, people who had died in bombed houses, or the voices of women mourning over their dead families. I was not having any big troubles at the time; in fact my life was happy and fulfilled, so these sound-visions were irritating. After I had drawn the book, they were gone.

Comics to me are a musical medium. Drawings produce a visual tone (in Germany we call this Bildsprache, or “picture language"), the timing in the sequence of panels produces a rhythm, and staging the movement of the characters is like dance choreography (at least in my mind). In the book, Karnau is very sensitive and highly attentive to sounds. His ears are always wide open for all the incidental sounds in everyday life which normal people rarely even notice. This is one of the inspiring aspects of the book, it makes you more sensitive to the small sounds in the world.

In Germany we usually use English sound effects. There are very few generally understandable German sound words. For this story, I had to invent German sounding ones because English sounds would have been strange in the Nazi milieu. For example, in the bunker the sounds becomes a rhythmic constant din of machines, air conditioning, and warfare. These sounds build like the pressure in a steam engine, rising until it bursts.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Cambpell Whyte.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Caleb Orecchio ponders Chester Brown's biblical adaptations in Yummy Fur, in response to Brian Evenson.

After reading this, and the rest of Ed vs. Yummy Fur, I can’t help but see YF as anything less than one complete work–as oppose to a book containing many serialized stories. All comics in YF from “Ed” to “Showing Helder” to “The Little Man” to “Fuck”, (AND the letters pages) etc. have an interesting give and take with the Gospels they share a book with. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there is an unsevered umbilical chord connecting the early pre-“Ed” material to the later autobio stuff; and going further into Underwater. I see Yummy Fur being the record of a developing cartoonist constantly tinkering with his craft, and a self-aware conscience looking at it’s old-self in the face. When you read the “Playboy” stories, the juxtaposition of the Gospels are impossible to ignore while reading about young Chester’s religious upbringing. It’s like the Gospels and the teachings of Christ are always in the back of Brown’s mind and dictate his actions and motivations for better or for worse.

Becky Morton at the BBC writes about the lack of recognition for women in UK political cartooning.

Out of nearly 180 cartoons featured in last year's edition of Britain's Best Political Cartoons not one was drawn by a woman.

It was flicking through a copy of the book that first highlighted the gender imbalance in the industry for Ella Bucknall, an illustrator currently studying at Camberwell College of Arts in London.

This realisation prompted her to start Whip, a magazine of political cartoons by women, to give them a platform that didn't exist elsewhere.

"Particularly at the moment when there are so many aspects of politics affecting women's lives, from Trump to the DUP, we need to be able to have our own voice. We need to be able to argue back," she said.

Book Smarts

Alex Wong is here today to interview Tom Gauld about his latest book, Baking with Kafka, which gathers many of his Guardian literary-themed comic strips. They talk books, the challenges of a weekly strip, why Gauld doesn't solicit feedback, and who should be the next James Bond.

I don’t seek out anybody’s opinion at all. When I’m making a graphic novel, I’ll let some people read it. With these cartoons, I would rather have a handful of them turn out kind of weird, then have all of them turn out as well-functioning ordinariness. If I showed my wife an unfinished cartoon and she didn’t quite laugh enough or in the right way, I’d feel anxious about it and I’d think about it in a way that wouldn’t help. I obviously think about how the audience will read them, but it’s not about me, it’s not some form of primal scream therapy. The cartoons are about communicating to the reader and making a joke happen.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Forbidden Planet has published Pádraig Ó Méalóid's interview with the late Leo Baxendale.

All the things in the Co-op orders were wrapped in large smooth pale buff paper sheets, and I thus had an unending weekly supply of sheets of paper to draw on.

Beyond all this, I had a yet greater expanse for drawing on. The wall alongside the staircase being distempered, the palest green, I covered it with drawings from top to bottom of the stairs, my parents taking care to provide me with plenty of pencils for the purpose.

Barges hauled by boat horses brought coal to my grandfather’s coal yard from the Wigan coalfields to the south. At the end of our terrace the canal broadened out to a basin where the barges could dock and turn. A wharf on the opposite bank from my grandfather’s coal yard unloaded coal for the steam engine of the weaving mill; and there was the stone-wharf, built for the loading of millstones from Whittle Quarries.

Yet it didn’t occur to me to draw any of this, any more than I thought to draw my grandfather’s great black mare pulling wagon loads of coal past our house. I drew from the imagination, or things from the greater world that I had seen in the newspapers: biplanes or ocean liners or such. I must have thought that my own world was ‘ordinary.’

The SyFy Wire podcast interviews Marvel editor Sana Amanat.

—Commentary. At Mindless Ones, Maid of Nails remembers Steve Dillon.

I met Steve Dillon once, at London Super Comic Con 2016 – his last UK convention. Coincidentally I was dressed as Lady Dogwelder, who of all the characters he created was probably the one he least expected to encounter in cosplay form, let alone from a short foreign woman.

At first I didn’t recognize him at all, since most publicly visible photos of him had been taken years before. Who’s this guy sitting at Steve Dillon’s table? I wondered. Later, I learned that he’d been ill for some time; that plus the toll mortality takes on all of us created a gap between the Steve Dillon I saw and the ruddy, Guinness-hoisting fellow from photographs.

Sophia Foster-Dimino has posted a minicomic she drew about the making of Sex Fantasy.

Cheap Things

Matthias Wivel is here today with another installment of his Eurocomics column, Common Currency. This time, he reviews three French-language comics as a way of examining the unexpected challenges that have been created by the huge aesthetic and technical explosions of recent decades.

Each [of Antoine Marchalot’s stories] is graphically distinct, adapted to the tale at hand: the one about the little boy who refuses to eat his fish, and gets invited by it and his suddenly talking dog to record a "hardcore pornographic rap video," is rendered in digital imitation of smudged crayon with irradiant coloring and turns spectacularly expressive toward the end; the one about a renegade scientist in a fancy lab secretly trying to hook two potatoes into a network, and eventually succeeding with two dogs instead, is drawn in black and white in thin, clear lines, with old school zip-a-tone-type texturing (very Elvis Studio); the western spoof with a dog-cowboy riding a tiny horse kept in his pocket features black and white or monochrome figures set against hallucinatory, digitally patterned desert landscapes garishly colored not to look like nature.

All this is obviously done with some skill, and the occasional dialogical exchange or visual surprise hits home, but it really, really helps if you are high. Which basically seems to be the point. Now, far be it from me to dissuade people from getting high, or reading comics while doing so, but there’s something safe, even lazy, in resorting to absurd non-sequiturs and digital psychedelia rather than coherently building a humorous language or crafting a visually compelling environment where the absurd takes on its own meaning. In other words, the difference between disposable fare such as this and, say, Cowboy Henk or Megg, Mogg and Owl. The problem here is not so much the one I've been outlining of mismatched form and content, but rather a digitally-enhanced shortcut taken to update a traditional comics format -- the short-form humor strip.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The most recent guest on the Comics Alternative podcast is R. Sikoryak.

—It must mean something that an artist as well-established as Paul Dini is putting out a new comic book via Kickstarter, though maybe I'm overinterpreting and this particular project is just not very interesting to publishers.

—Shea Hennum pans a reprint of one of Spain Rodriguez's last books, Che.

Shallow Dive

Today on the site, we present Kim Jooha's interview with Ron Regé, Jr., about his recent mystical books, What Parsifal Saw and The Cartoon Utopia, as well as his early career and future projects.


Kim Jooha: What does What Parsifal Saw mean?

Ron Regé, Jr.: Parsifal is an opera by Wagner – the last opera that he did. It centers around the holy grail, and Parsifal is a character who, at the height of the opera, has a mystical vision where he’s brought up to see something, and he sees this goddess in the light.

The first three pages of the book are what Parsifal saw. The cover is what he saw. The first image is the spear with the holy grail, and then the next page is this figure led toward it. What he saw is like having a mystical vision, which a lot of my work is about.

I didn’t realize how complicated the title would be. And I realized that no one says it, I don’t like to say it, and it doesn’t say it on the cover, so… A lot of the confusing things about my work aren’t on purpose. For instance, I have Alex Schubert’s Blobby Boys in the book. You and I know what that is, but I realized that most people who buy the book aren’t going to know what that is and say, “What are these little green creatures?” All I had to do was just write a little thing. My work has a lot of confusion like that. A lot of things that are confusing to people are either mistakes or my nearsightedness… To me, it all makes sense!


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The Evening Standard has a story on the creation of Tove Jansson's Moomin strip.

There were just three stipulations when Charles Sutton approached Tove Jansson about creating a Moomin comic strip for the London Evening News in 1952: no politics, sex or death.

This was fine with Jansson; legend has it she replied that she didn’t know anything about the government, sex wasn’t part of the Moomins’ anatomy, and she’d only ever killed a hedgehog.

Sutton, syndication director of Associated Newspapers, had headhunted Jansson for the position after the phenomenal success of English translations of the Moomin books. She prepared day and night for the meeting, with Sutton arriving in Finland to meet her on the first day of the national May Day celebrations; by the end of his visit, a seven year contract had been agreed.

—This Slate story critiquing New Yorker covers is annoyingly written in about ten different ways (for one thing, anyone who truly disapproved of "thirstiness" would never use the term in a headline), but the writer isn't wrong that generally the magazine's topical covers are its least successful.

—Robyn Chapman has written a piece on Eleanor Davis's early works.

Davis discovered zines as a teenager and had published several by the time she graduated high school. She went on to study cartooning at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and during those years she created remarkably sophisticated minicomics (and lots of them). These minicomics generally had a production value beyond your standard fold-and-staple zine. They were cut, punched, printed, stickered, and even burned—and these details were generally relevant to the story within. Her comics were each carefully constructed from cover to cover, and often printed on high-quality paper. So while I see these works as minicomics, those in the fine arts world would see them as artist books.

Thank You for Not Reading

Today on the site, we have an unusual feature: Leslie Stein interviewed by her mother.


What do you want your audience to experience through Present?

I get worried that people will misinterpret what I'm saying, and they have, but that's part of the risk of making art. I try to be kind to people in general, and be kind in how I portray others. People have said that it leaves them with a light or hopeful feeling, which I suppose is what I'm going for. I'm not trying to change lives here, but maybe bond with others through mutual experiences.

How do you feel about being portrayed in the comics as a character? The first story in the book, "Daughter's Day", is based on a conversation we had about different love relationships you've had over the years.

"Daughter’s Day" is about my love relationships? I thought it is was about you calling me two months early to say Happy Mother’s Day? I’m hoping that you and readers will not misinterpret my actions in your stories. I guess we are in the same place.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. I'm not sure why The Beat is dividing up this Christmas interview with Alan Moore into such small sections, and publishing them so many days or weeks apart, but part four is now up.

The most recent guest on the CBLDF podcast is Jeffrey Brown, and the most recent guest on Process Party is Karl Stevens. Apparently, they discuss the editorial changes at TCJ on that last episode, so I won't be listening to that...

—Commentary. Gary Tyrrell writes a little about announced content restrictions at Patreon, and how it may effect comics creators, along with relevant social media commentary from Spike Trotman.

We think of webcomics has having evaded gatekeepers, and on a content/editorial basis, it absolutely has. But in trying to make that independent effort a proper business, one must engage in a system that is entirely one-sided. Run afoul of one person at Chase or Bank of America and you’re frozen out; they’ll never take on a major corporate creator of inferior smut (cable and dish companies make a lot of damn money off of naughty pay-per-view; so does every hotel chain other than Hilton, who are weaning themselves off the grumble flicks), but they’ll freeze out anybody that attracts enough attention from a loud enough pressure group.

—News. Lion Forge has purchased The Beat.

Monster Party

Today on the site, the comics scholar and radical-politics historian Paul Buhle reviews the controversial Diaspora Boy, by Eli Valley.

Eli Valley has been torturing tribalist, Occupied Territory-seeking Jewish neoconservative and neoliberal hawks for about a decade now. His art style is utterly unique, a combination of cartoon and comic art all mooshed together, with odd items galore. If many readers miss a detail or two (or three) in this delightfully oversized volume, it must be on account of the dense content and story line, ruthlessly moral in an immoral world. Peter Beinart, a Jewish commentator who moved leftward after becoming famous, says in the preface that if the cartoons in this book are “outrageous and absurd,” it is because we are living in an “outrageous and absurd moment in American Jewish life.” That is: the language of American Jewry remains overwhelmingly liberal, but the silence over the cruel reality of the occupation of the West Bank is deafening.

Beinart calls Eli Valley’s work a “searing indictment of the moral corruption of organized American Jewish life in our age,” on the face of it a pretty shocking observation. With a kicker. The book is also... the Eli Valley Story. As you might have guessed, reader, Valley is the son of a rabbi, who grew up with all the imagery of the Jewish diaspora, imagery full of righteous suffering and return to the homeland in apparent triumph, ever-insecure triumph.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
The Hollywood Reporter talks to Tom Gauld about his latest book.

I almost always make these cartoons in a bit of a hurry, generally in a blank panic wondering how I've managed to do five hundred of these cartoons without it getting any easier, so I'm focused on the mechanics of making a joke that works on the page, rather than trying to express how I feel. But I think that the way I feel gets in there anyway and, when I look back on the cartoons, either once they appear in the newspaper or when they are collected in a book, I can see themes and ideas more clearly than when I'm actually making them. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I am probably cynical about the forces of the market and optimistic about the possibilities of the art.

Vice talks to Sheena Howard, co-author of Black Comics, and author of the Encyclopedia of Black Comics.

I think there are a few things going on. It's hard as hell to break into the industry. Forget race, it's a male-dominated world. When you're in the comic industry as a woman, even when you're doing your own thing, the cultural barriers can be very discouraging if you're a woman of color in the industry because of course, you're going to start publishing on your own, and then you try to build up and make connections. But it's a male-dominated world so there's sexism there and that is very difficult. I think too, you've got to stay consistent over a number of years if you really want to break into the comic book industry and do it full-time. Honestly, as an artist, I don't think people even have the income to even keep pushing over long periods of time to get to a place where they can do this work full-time and actually sustain themselves.

The latest guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is New Yorker artist Barry Blitt, and Slate's Working podcast talks to the Billy Ireland librarian Caitlin McGurk. And McGurk and Jim Rugg are both guests on Process Party.

—Reviews & Commentary. Science fiction novelist Ada Palmer writes about the ghosts and monsters of Shigeru Mizuki.

Have you ever been walking along and felt the creepy, unsettling feeling that something was watching you? You may have met Betobeto-san, an invisible yōkai, or folklore creature, who follows along behind people on paths and roads, especially at night. To get rid of the creepy feeling, simply step aside and say, “Betobeto-san, please, go on ahead,” and he will politely go on his way.

What we know of Betobeto-san and hundreds of other fantastic creatures of Japan’s folklore tradition, we know largely thanks to the anthropological efforts of historian, biographer and folklorist, Shigeru Mizuki, one of the pillars of Japan’s post-WWII manga boom. A magnificent storyteller, Mizuki recorded, for the first time, hundreds of tales of ghosts and demons from Japan’s endangered rural folklore tradition, and with them one very special tale: his own experience of growing up in Japan in the 1920s through 1940s, when parades of water sprites and sparkling fox spirits gave way to parades of tanks and warships.

Now That That’s Over

Today on the site, RJ Casey returns with a review of Connor Willumsen's very strange, very rewarding Anti-Gone.

Spyda has terrible tattoos, wears a visor, and lives on his refurbished-couch-like sailboat. He can only relate to other people through movie quotes, but don’t worry, he’s getting professional help for that. Lynxa is his shipmate, sporting long finger nails, who seems to be jadedly reading and bronzing her life away in slow-motion. We know people like Spyda and Lynxa. They’re people we went to school with, old friends from back home or past lives. They’re here now, a fair-weather couple on an indifferent quest to get high, have sex, play hide-and-seek.

Willumsen sets Anti-Gone in a post-global-warming event society, fittingly neither completely depleted nor fully stable; cities are under water, but the economy is still humming. After being given free tickets to the luxury movie house, and obtaining nostalgia-expanding hallucinogenics, Spyda and Lynxa take in a violent, existential superhero flick. Outside, and intermittently during the course of the book, a battle between a large group of protestors and police who are exploiting their sadistic authority comes to a head. Just like the inattentive duo, we’re kept in the dark as to what this oncoming riot is ever about. The chemical-steeped trips the pair are on leaves them separated, and they never reunite. The sun rises, the sun sets. They go on, alone, trekking for distraction. Leisurely delights or anxious grievances — any sensation will do. This is what Anti-Gone is about. At least I think so.

But the big news on the site is of course what Dan posted about yesterday: Dan's leaving the site after today, and I'll be joined by a new co-editor, Tucker Stone, who will be starting in November. I don't have much to add to what Dan already wrote, but I do want to say how much I've enjoyed working with him. We've been editing together since the first issue of The Ganzfeld, which it astounds me to realize came out 17 years ago. Dan was the first person I ever regularly discussed comics with; before I met him, I just read books and The Comics Journal and argued with myself. After I met him, I argued with Dan. "Arguing" is actually too strong a word; I agreed with him on most things, and enjoyed disagreeing with him on the rest. He's one of the smartest, most knowledgeable, most provocative people I've ever met. Sometimes he can come off as mean or dismissive, but even his laziest-seeming takes usually have a well-thought-out, sturdy skeleton undergirding them which can be revealed with a little skeptical pushback. He's the kind of critic who provokes strong and productive thought even when he's wrong. There's a lot more to say but I'm not going to say it now. I can't wait to edit his first piece as a contributor. The tricky part will be figuring out ways to get together without having TCJ "editorial meetings" as an excuse. (I'll save the Tucker Stone talk for later. Longtime TCJ readers should already be familiar with him, and if you're not, go through his old TCJ columns and reviews, and check out his many podcasts and blog posts at The Factual Opinion. I am excited to work with him, and to see what he does with the site.)

Swissvale Kitchen Table

Today on the site it's the great Ken Parille on the art of the sales pitch in and around superhero comic books

Three recent DC comics Dark Nights: Metal #1, Batman: The Red Death #1, and Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1 include an advertisement for Snickers bars. A reader could be forgiven for momentarily thinking that the ad, which looks a lot like the narratives it accompanies, is part of the story:

As super-villain Gorilla Grodd attacks the stadium, he proclaims that “Events mean nothing to [me]!” But, as Superman discerns, this gorilla’s not what he seems: he’s “just a hungry fan.” After a few bites the Snickers works its magic, soothing the “crabby” fan’s rage.

It’s odd to see an ad with an event-hating fan in these particular comics, all of which are part of what the industry calls a Crossover Event. To follow an event’s sprawling narrative, fans need to buy a lot of comic books released over several months. While “events mean nothing” to villains (and crabby fans who refuse to buy the required books), they mean a lot to companies and their bottom line. Each of the twenty-five comics/chapters in DC’s current event Dark Nights: Metal costs $3.99 or $4.99. In the past, a major crossover from the “Big Two” (i.e., DC and Marvel) occurred every few years. Now they pop up once a season. We’re living in the pricey moment of Perpetual Event.

And hey, I have some news: Tomorrow is my last day as co-editor of The Comics Journal. The reason is straightforward: At the end of the summer I took a research and writing intensive curatorial position at a gallery, so I need to focus my energy there and on some longterm projects, including a few features for this site.

Tim will go solo for a week (it just happens that I’m going to be traveling next week), and then (drumroll) in November he and Tucker Stone will be co-editors. Tucker has long been one of my favorite writers and speakers about comics, and has been on all sides of the medium's equation. I couldn't be happier that he is coming aboard. He'll bring fresh energy, ideas, and contributors to the site.

I want to thank Gary Groth for asking me to take a shot at the site back in 2010 (and Frank Santoro, who told me I had to accept!), and for his unwavering support; Kristy Valenti for offering great support from the Seattle HQ; the Fantagraphics team for its logistical and moral support; Mike Reddy for designing this web site and contributing great drawings long the way; and, of course, all the contributors I've worked with over the last six and a half years. I'm proud of what we've done together, and honored to have been an editor at The Comics Journal. For more than half my life TCJ has helped shape my critical and historical ideas about the medium I love. Gary's generosity in allowing me and Tim to steer his great ship is something for which I'll be forever grateful.

Finally, my deepest thanks to my friend of 20 years, Tim Hodler, a man embarrassed by even the smallest amount of praise. Tim I started both The Ganzfeld and Comics Comics together. There is no one I'd rather work with, and I'm looking forward to submitting texts for his and Tucker's consideration. Tim's precision and rigor have kept this site together, and his willingness to stretch and try new things has helped us grow. He is a great friend and the best collaborator I could imagine. I can't wait to see what he and Tucker do together. Bye for now.

Doubling on His Tracks

Today on the site, Greg Hunter brings the latest episode of his Comic Book Decalogue podcast to the site. His guest this week is the cartoonist and TCJ contributor, Annie Mok.

On the twenty-fourth installment of Comic Book Decalogue, Annie Mok discusses Carta Monir, Emily Carroll, Satyajit Ray, and more.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Todd Hignite has fascinating discussion with the underground original art collector Eric Sack.

TH: [Collectors Showcase] was one [published by Leonard Brown and Malcolm Willits’ Collectors Book Store in Hollywood] and Tony Dispoto out of New Jersey put out catalogs [Comic Art Showcase], Jim Steranko [Cartoonists and Illustrators Portfolio]—and Russ Cochran in the Midwest [Graphic Gallery].

ES: Yeah, you would see prices in those, and little by little some artists would command more than others—but the fascinating thing I gradually started to notice is how something, say in the early ’80s, would be an expensive $1,000 and twenty years later would only be close to that still, or maybe $2,000, but other art in that same period would grow to $5,000 or more. So it was interesting to watch the market evolve as the interest in various artists changed. And it didn’t have anything to do with chronology, like I always thought it would coming from that Thomas Nast world—here was this guy doing the most amazing cross-hatching, documenting important historical events, and I could buy his original drawings in the early ’80s for between $200 to say $1,100, and even today some of the good ones can be had for $2,000! You would think because these were so early and well rendered from a godfather of the art form, that for all kinds of reasons those should be $10,000 or $20,000. But they’re not. So it’s an interesting question that I always discussed with other collectors, why such particular multiples started to happen.

TH: I think that’s always hard for collectors to wrap their heads around, especially early on—why aren’t values based on this agreed-upon hierarchy of what is important historically?

ES: Pop culture in general has a strong influence, of course—interestingly, as a parenthetical aside, that was one of the reasons I decided to sell the bulk of my collection when I did—I thought the market had peaked, because the collectors who were buying this stuff drawn in the late ’60s to the mid ’70s were getting to an age of deaccessioning rather than actively collecting, and I wasn’t sure there was another generation of collectors to take their place. But I was wrong!

—Reviews & Commentary. The nominees for this year's Best Online Comics Studies Scholarship award have been announced.

Caleb Orecchio writes about what he learned about color from an old issue of Classics Illustrated.

I’ve been thinking and working with color a lot. In this day and age, where color is an option for cartoonists looking to print their work (color was not always an option for ye olde comics makers, true believer), the quantity of choice of what the colors should be and how to apply them can be intimidating. Fear not. In my opinion, the best way to start in color is the classic CMYK–which is essentially, as you probably know, blue, red, yellow, and black. One reason this is a good choice is that most riso printers carry these four colors (riso being probably the best option in self-publishing in color if you can swing it) AND they are easily acquired in forms of marker or colored pencils, AND because these are the colors comics used in the past and traditions are important to me.

Julia Wertz's new book has been reviewed at both Hyperallergic and the New York Times.

Wertz registers the changes [to NYC] but without polemic. There’s no need; the coda to her project is enough. After 10 years in the city, she was priced out of her Brooklyn neighborhood last year. She wrote this book in California.

Finally, Chris Mautner writes about the mysterious Yuichi Yokoyama.

No one on the globe is making comics like Yuichi Yokoyama. That seems like a foolish thing to say — after all, I haven’t tracked down every cartoonist on the planet to do a comprehensive compare/contrast analysis — but I feel like it’s a pretty safe bet nevertheless. Completely unconcerned with the conventional aspects of storytelling — most notably plot and character — Yokoyama has built a body of work that is utterly unique in its near-relentless exploration of motion, sound, and structure. His comics are enthralling and dynamic, but at the same time drained of emotion, as if an alien race was trying to mimic a typical comic but couldn’t quite get the hang of it.

Weird Quick Story

Today on the site, Tim Hanley writes about the new film dramatization of the story behind the creation of Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. 

On its own terms, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a very good film indeed. It begins in the mid-1920s when married psychologists William and Elizabeth encounter Olive, a student of theirs at Radcliffe College, and follows the evolution of their relationship from intrigue to lust to love. After initial trepidation, the three form a family, with each woman having two children via William. Inspired by these remarkable women, William creates Wonder Woman in 1941, and the film ends in the mid-1940s, shortly before his death. It’s an unconventional love story, and Robinson treats both the polyamorous and BDSM aspects of the relationship with respect and care. The film is sexy without being exploitative, romantic yet frank, and often boldly raw as it delves into the emotional complications of the Marstons’ life together.

Elsewhere:

Brian Nicholson writes compellingly about Connor Willumsen's Anti-Gone, which I'm looking forward to reading. Comics Workbook has a video up about it.

Ryan Holmberg sends word of The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu, an exhibition at the Honolulu Museum. Ryan is an advisor on the show and it's of course based on his books. For more Holmberg action, follow him on instagram. His handle is mangaberg. 

Excellent Leslie Stein comic this week.

Drew Friedman is the guest on the great Gilbert Gottfried's podcast. 

Finally, the Skip Williamson documentary is coming soon. Here's the trailer and one clip and now another.

Warp

Today on the site, Alex Dueben talks to Kevin Pyle.

You mentioned you edited a prison issue [of WWIII Illustrated] in the 1990s and Prison Town is about a decade old now. How did you get interested in these issues?

In some ways it has to do with the story told in Take What You Can Carry. When I got caught shoplifting, my dad had the idea that we should spend an hour or two in the jail before we left. [laughs] That experience may have made me think about those issues as I feel I’ve been pretty aware of my own white privilege and what the influence of that on my own trajectory was versus what it might have been for someone else under different economic and racial circumstances. It’s something I was always aware of. A theme that runs through all my work is that of the individual versus society and the I think prison is the ultimate expression of that. Lab USA gets at that. Society has certain rules they need to enforce and they do it in a very clumsy manner – at times in a very unfair manner. How individuals get ground up by institutions has been a focus of a lot of my work and I think prison is a real expression of that.


Meanwhile, elsewhere, sickness and other emergencies are making this a short one:

The incredibly destructive California wildfires have affected many in the cartooning community, and burnt down the home of Charles Schulz.

Brian Fies has drawn a comic about the fires.

Douglas Wolk is still insane.

The Hand is One

Today on the site, we have Robert Kirby on Ghost Stories of an Antiquary: Vol. II:

For my money, the late Victorian-era ghost stories of Montague Rhoades James, aka M.R. James, are without peer. The classic scenario of his tales is that of a comfortable, upper-middle-class academic gentleman, who, through his own scholarly curiosity and/or carelessness, unwittingly invites a dreadful supernatural entity into his tranquil, privileged existence, an entity that brings with it terror, madness, sometimes even death. James’ narrators relate these tales calmly and matter-of-factly, in a brandies-by-the-fire tone, as reality is slowly engulfed in otherworldly malevolence, incident by incident. The stories perfectly combine uniquely cozy British wit with mounting dread. Though typically noted for their restraint and chilling subtleties, James’ tales also feature flat-out horror. Some climax with appearances by monstrous spiders, a hairy demon, or a toad-like horror; others end in gory death as James reveals what has been lurking just off-camera all along: within that ash tree, underneath that ancient tomb, or in the shadows of that old rose garden.

As with the first edition, this second SelfMadeHero volume of James adaptations by Leah Moore and John Reppion features four stories. They are “Number 13,” “Count Magnus,” “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” (along with “Casting the Runes,” this remains James’ most celebrated story), and “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas,” each illustrated by a different artist. While the book is a good introduction for James novices, there’s a buttoned-downed approach to the art that keeps it from truly excelling.

Elsewhere:

The Daily Beast on Megumi Igarashi aka Rokudenashiko.

I'd like to read a longer version, with even more pictures, of this piece about retailer Jim Hanley.

 

Pay Attention

Today on the site, Katie Skelly writes a personal account of her experience reporting harassment at a comics festival.

I’ve always — perhaps foolishly — believed I present myself as strong, or maybe even shrewd. I’ve built up a series of protections for shows, signings, and everything in-between: don’t allow yourself to be left alone in a room with one man and no witnesses. Know your exits. Don’t accept gifts. Be generically friendly. Act like you’re about to turn into a pumpkin by midnight (things always get weirder after midnight). The thought that I may not get to enjoy as much of being a cartoonist, especially one coming into a little glimmer of success, just because I am a woman was something I had to let go of in order to stay safe and sane. In a way, I often reason with myself, it has made me tougher, understanding the world around me as a hostile one.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The New York Times checks in with Roz Chast about her latest book.

As Ms. Chast has aged, her characters, often loosely autobiographical, have aged with her, growing into middle age with their neuroses intact. “Some worries I’m probably going to carry with me until the point comes when you stop worrying, which is when you’re dead,” she said. “Where do I start? Driving, medical, electricity, basement, boilers.”

And The Guardian checks in with Chris Ware in advance of his.

Ware’s “own stuff” may appear intricately plotted, but he says his creative process is essentially just sifting through a mess of plans and ideas, some recorded “while I was driving or brushing my teeth or whatever”.

“But once I sit down to draw and am looking at the images as they start to coalesce on the page, all sorts of new ideas start to occur to me,” he says. “And these are almost always much more alive, real and tied unconsciously into whatever the story is actually about than whatever I’ve thought might be interesting, compelling, witty, whatever.”

The 1960s "spy culture" site SpyVibe interviews Trina Robbins about Honey West, Miss Fury, and more female pulp comics characters.

I completely agree with you! It breaks my heart to see what these gorillas [at Dynamite] have done to the wonderful Miss Fury. No, she is not “holding up” in these badly written and badly drawn new books, and my Miss Fury and the REAL Miss Fury will always be the original Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury. [...]

It isn’t so much the writer as the artist. How can a woman be strong and in control when her back is broken or in real life the weight of her breasts would make her fall forward onto her face? And let’s not talk about running in high heels!

The most recent guests on Virtual Memories are Peter Bagge and Mimi Pond.

TBTZ

Today on the site, Michael Tisserand interviews Thi Bui’s about her memoir The Best We Could Do.

At any point did you encounter resistance to your decision to tell your story in a comic, due to old ideas about comics not being serious?

Sure, but I didn’t listen to it. I kind of like the low-brow reputation that comics have. It’s not unlike the experience of being underestimated because I’m a woman, a minority, a short person, or I look younger than my age. I enjoy the sweet revenge of surprising people. I have to, or else I would walk around in a rage all the time. 

With the Ken Burns’ documentary The Vietnam War recently concluded on PBS, I’m wondering what are the primary misconceptions that you feel Americans have about Viet Nam, its history, and our involvement there? How have popular movies or books led to misperceptions, and did you consciously consider how your work was countering these misperceptions?

The primary problem with American narratives about the war is the need to center American experiences in a conflict that was not all about America. So even when Americans go in with the intention of critically examining the United States’ involvement in Viet Nam, they continue to keep the focus on themselves — look how bad we were, the damage we did — not realizing that in continuing to talk over the voices of those who have been heard from less, they continue the damage and prevent people from healing. I was surprised and sad at how easily the Ken Burns documentary overshadowed the work of so many Vietnamese and Vietnamese American writers, filmmakers, and scholars. 

Images we pick up from movies stick around for a long time. If your idea of what Vietnamese people look and sound like comes from movies like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, then I have a lot of work to do to replace those caricatures with carefully observed characterizations of real Vietnamese people. Some people are able to do this entirely in prose; for me, drawing was in my arsenal, so I used it. My hope is that my images will stick around and influence people’s ideas of Vietnamese people for the better — not because I portrayed them all as model minorities, but because I showed them as fully formed human beings who can be wonderful, average, or total assholes, just like everybody else.

I’d like to hear from and help amplify voices even less heard than the Vietnamese. My family’s story doesn’t touch on the experiences of ethnic minorities in Viet Nam, or people in neighboring Laos and Cambodia who were impacted by the war.

Elsewhere:

Frank pointed me to this Flickr album of photos of the David Mazzucchelli show I curated some years back. His work looks as great as ever.

This is a decent overview of Samuel R. Delany's work, including some comics. 

The Karasik/Newgarden How to Read Nancy is the best book ever written about comics. I'll have an interview with them soon. Meanwhile, here is something that uses Nancy in all the off-brand ways, but worth your time regardless:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNnTptucq24

Everything is Terrible

Today on the site, Rob Clough reflects on the best way to run a comics festival, focusing particularly on the growth of CXC.

Cartoon Crossroads Columbus just had its third iteration, and by all accounts it was a success. This show is extremely ambitious in its scope, as founder Jeff Smith, his wife and business partner Vijaya Iyer, and academic/librarian Lucy Shelton Caswell imagined nothing less than an American version of the annual festival in Angouleme, France. The show's mission statement:

"We hope to provide an international showcase for the best of cartoon art in all its forms, including comics, animation, editorial cartoons, newspaper strips, and beyond, in a city that is a growing center of importance to comics and cartooning. We also focus on helping the next generation of young cartooning talent develop thriving careers that invigorate the industry for years to come."

I can't imagine a creator more suited for this particular kind of show than Smith, who sits right in the center of alternative and mainstream comics. His seminal series Bone helped to establish the currently thriving children's and YA market. Caswell is another story, and it's her involvement that gives CXC resources that no other show can match.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—CXC. Comics Workbook has two of its own takes on comics festivals and CXC. First, Adam Griffiths had a report on the various panels and talks he saw there.

“How many of y’all have heard that art is gonna make you money?” Vicko asked the audience. All of the kids raised their hands. “How many of you like art?” All hands raised. At this point, Jiba Molei Anderson, who was watching the talk, joined the panelists onstage. “If I ignore something I love, my mental focus is gonna go out of whack, right?” Alvarez declared. The children agreed with her.

“We are all here for the love,” Anderson says. “Even when we’re frustrated we’re not gonna quit. Creative people, to survive we really need to create…that hamster wheel never shuts down.”

“But tethering that to real life is always a challenge to me,” said Lisa Sheperd.

Also on that site, Juan Fernández uses his experiences at CXC, SPX, CAB, and others to think about the future of comics festivals.

Comics, as we engage with them today in the United States’ existing festival ecosystem, are facing a cultural choking point. There’s a huge role that comics can and should be playing in broader cultural discussions.

But they’re not and our Festivals have something to do with this. It’s 2017 and it is essential to reframe the discussion of comics shows.

Comics making and comics reading practices need more breathing room. To grow. To continue expanding. We need to nurture interdisciplinary approaches to experiencing comics.

We need our festivals to make this their guiding principle.

—News. As seems to be happening on a nonstop basis lately, another metaphorical mask fell off this week. On Friday, Marvel announced via Twitter that they would be partnering with the the world's fifth-largest defense contractor, Northrop Grumman, and would explain their plans on Saturday at the New York Comic-Con. As you might expect, many fans expressed concern about the move. Not long after, Marvel announced that the collaboration had been canceled. Nothrop Grumman pretended that the partnership had been intended simply to promote STEM.

The company is working to develop the U.S. military’s B-21 Raider, an opportunity it advertised during last year’s Super Bowl. And it is in the throes of an advertising blitz for a $100 billion opportunity to replace the Pentagon’s stock of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which make up the ground-based leg of the U.S. nuclear counterattack capability.

“Northrop Grumman is a very capable company, but the bottom line is they make products that kill people,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant with the nonprofit Lexington Institute. “And that’s a hard sell in popular culture.”

If only.

Children's author Mo Willems (along with Mike Curato and Lisa Yee) wrote a letter in protest of a mural at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts that included a Chinese man with chopsticks that the writers claimed was a racial stereotype. (I haven't seen the image myself, but believe them.) After a great deal of controversy on social media, which included personal attacks on Willems and his co-authors, the museum decided to remove the image. The city's mayor has called for the mural to stay up, and a local businessman has offered to buy it. From the museum's statement:

It is in that spirit that Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the Springfield Museums listened to the concerns voiced by the authors and fans and have made the decision to take down the Mulberry street mural at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and replace it with a new image that reflects the wonderful characters and messages from Dr. Seuss's later works. This is what Dr. Seuss would have wanted us to do. His later books, like The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who, showed a great respect for fairness and diversity. Dr. Seuss would have loved to be a part of this dialogue for change. In fact, Ted Geisel himself said, "It's not how you start that counts. It's what you are at the finish."

Can You Read Me?

Today on the site we have Annie Mok's review of Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld. 

I smiled weakly a couple of times. Gauld’s ultra-minimal drawing style seems developed to showcase the words, but the words fall limply. In small doses, in a newspaper, these cartoons may have offered some amusement, but put all together, the effect is stifling.

Elsewhere:

Gary Panter is opening an exhibition in NYC on Thursday. It's something new for the Gary man, and from what I've seen, it'll be a great experience. 

Comics Workbook has a CXC 2017 report.

I perversely loved this 2017-like-its-1977 report on Continuity Studios. Disappointed not to hear more about Ms. Mystic.

RC Baker at the now online-only Village Voice revisits Fredric Wertham.

Shannon Wheeler is the latest guest on Virtual Memories.

Ventriloquism School

It's been just more than a month since Joe McCulloch was last with us, but it feels like years. But he's back now with a review of Berserker #1, a new magazine from Breakdown Press, and suddenly the world feels all right again.

As far as first impressions go, this new comic book-format Breakdown Press magazine is a total success. You can't tell from my scan at left, but the cover stock is so extremely thin and glossy as to seem perpetually wet; running your fingers up and down the surface, prints trailing, you can almost feel the slime on the skin of that Robert Beatty alien, his Martian sky moist from evening humidity, prison brick wall dripping from new-sprayed paint. Yet this is not a soft world - the interior stock, non-glossy, is quite heavy and firm, so that one senses not only flesh from touch, but the easy peeling of such skin from bone: a hardness only suggested by Beatty's painting, but vivid in your hands. Who picked out the paper? Was it Joe Hales, the print producer? Someone at Hoddesdon's Crystal Press? They did a wonderful job.

Reading the magazine is not so uncomplicated a pleasure, though at least it has cohesion of its side. The editors are Tom Oldham, a Breakdown co-founder, and Jamie Sutcliffe, a writer-on-culture and one of the operators of Strange Attractor Press, a house devoted to books on marginal and esoteric subjects, among them several fictions by the magician and comics writer Steve Moore, who (among other things) devised the "Future Shock" format for twist ending short stories in the UK's venerable genre comics weekly 2000 AD. And -- beginning on the inside-front cover, where we approach the "Nerve Centaur" to encounter Low Priestess Kleax Nix Vizz, the magazine's maniacal host -- it is clear that Berserker wants to evoke the immediacy and thrill-power of Britain's history of serial comic venues, if in part, one guesses, as conceptual binding. Or, to hear it from Oldham: "There’s a lot of people producing comics who are working in genre, whether that’s formally or in terms of content. There’s also a lot of contemporary art floating around that’s sort of mining genre narrative and genre narrative aesthetics. We just wanted to do something that presented that work, and the format and mode that we chose to present it in was that of a European science fiction anthology comic à la 2000 AD."


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Roz Chast appears on Fresh Air this week. She also talks to the New York Times about her reading habits.

The last book that made you laugh?

“Trashed,” the graphic novel about a garbage collector that I mentioned before. At one point, the garbage collector is taunted by a jerky kid. Later that day while on his route, he sees that kid from behind and throws a bag of garbage at him. When the kid turns around, he realizes it’s just some poor bespectacled shlub who happens to be wearing the same shirt as the taunter. He muses about how, for the rest of his life, that kid is going to wonder why a trash collector threw a bag of garbage at him.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Gene Luen Yang.

In the mid- to late ’90s, Yang hadn’t seen a viable career as an illustrator, and instead became a computer programmer, then a teacher, after graduating from UC Berkeley. The comic book industry was threatened with collapse as Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy. “So I just thought, ‘Some people spend money on golf to relax. I will spend money on making comics,’” Yang says.
As a child, Yang read comics in secret, hiding from disapproving parents, sneaking out of the library with a friend to a nearby comic book store. “We’d check out these coffee-table size books that we could sneak our comics home in,” he recalls.

Curbed briefly talks to Julia Wertz and excerpts her new book.

Wertz hesitates to categorize the book as any one genre; though it has elements of a guidebook, or a memoir, and (most notably) a history of the city, she says it’s really “a canonization of my obsessions in New York City.”


—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd writes about the painter (and former PictureBox artist) Trenton Doyle Hancock, and the connections between artists, comic books, and recurring characters.

For Hancock, the idea of making characters involves the whole universe of modern capitalist trademarked characters. That includes making toys of characters; Hancock is a devoted collector of toys.

As I talked to Davenport, we both realized that for most of art history, artists had a bunch of characters they could use over and over. Biblical characters are obvious choices, and mythological characters, and historical figures. What is different about those characters and modern corporate characters is that no one owned Jesus or Zeus. Disney owns Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man. Warner Brothers owns Batman and the Teen Titans. And artist can use these characters once or twice, but if they try to create involve bodies of work using these characters, they'll get legally shut down. Spider-Man is just too valuable to Disney to let Trenton Doyle Hancock or any other artists to do with it whatever they want.

—Misc. The Washington Post writes about a new Charlie Hebdo initiative to cover the United States for an American audience. It looks so far to be a great deal less caustic than the magazine's traditional product.

On Wednesday, the newspaper released a lengthy report in English on the so-called American resistance, with a particular eye to what remains of the U.S. left. The project, titled “Feeling the Burn: The Left Under Trump,” will appear online in weekly installments in the form of a graphic nonfiction novel, which will permit the newspaper to continue with its visual trademark: caricatures and cartoons.

The online Paris Review has a story about an impromptu sorta-collaboration between children's book author Sandra Boynton and New Yorker cartoonist George Booth.

This past August, Boynton, sixty-four, wound up in Brooklyn at a block party with bipedal George Booth, the legendary New Yorker cartoonist, ninety-one-years young and known, among other things, for cartoons of dirty garages and pets forced to endure lunatic owners. He spent that afternoon parked in a folding chair drawing cartoons for the neighborhood children. As Motown music played, the nonagenarian quickly sketched a couple hapless dogs on a piece of printer paper—one sitting down, one mid-twirl on one leg—and gave them to Boynton as a gift. On the car ride home to Connecticut, with the drawings on her lap and the music playing in her head, Boynton conceived of the whole story.

Lynn Johnston does an "unboxing" video (!) to mark the first volume of IDW's complete For Better or Worse.