Get You One

It's day three for Nathan Gelgud on Diary duty-today, he's grappling with what the pandemic is doing to his upcoming freelance gigs by reading a book.

Today, Helen Chazan goes long on the work of Kuniko Tsurita, whose comics have arrived via Drawn & Quarterly, Mitsuhiro Asakawa & Ryan Holmberg in the collection of The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud. Helen was originally going to review the book, but her piece expanded over the course of writing it. I'm glad that happened, as it gives us the opportunity to put out another piece on the book next week. It's excellent, fascinating work, and one of the most rewarding comics I've read this year. We should write about it every single day. Here's a bit of Helen for you:

Tsurita’s comics dwell on death and self-annihilation, isolation, dysphoria and longing. Her protagonists are often trapped in their bodies, constrained by an inner decay even as their surroundings may seem invitingly open, full of possibility and negative space. They are trapped by society, they are trapped by their partners, they are trapped by minds and bodies that cannot perform. Nonsense and Calamity both focus on men falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death, suggesting Kafkaesque parables and functioning as such in broad strokes, yet far more evocative as expressions of the panicked despair of existing in a society that vilifies people incapable of conforming to its expectations, expectations that I would note include being able-bodied, neurotypical, and not prone to suicidal ideation. Her later stories expand more overtly on this subtext as overt imagery, often of drowning -- the titular wife of My Wife is an Acrobat sinks into her bath, declaring herself “dead and pickled in alcohol”; the heroine of the adult fairy tale Sea Snake and the Big Dipper freezes to death on the ocean’s surface, content to gaze upon the constellations which she cannot reach.

Today's review is of the first two issues of Aorta, by Sarah Horrocks. Sarah's growth as a cartoonist over the last few years has been exciting to watch, and Tom Shapira's a fan:

It doesn’t really matter what genres Horrocks works in, be it the trashy melodrama of Goro or the horror-romance of “Red Medusa on the Road to Hell” (her short story from the Twisted Romance anthology, probably the standout work of that outing in the sheer craft of it). She always jumps into the deepest waters of the concept, going straight for the raw emotive core. "Red Medusa” was a stand out piece in terms of the pure poetic force of it, reading like some black metal album blasting into your soul with the howls of a thousand damned. While Aorta is slightly more normalized in terms of presentation, there’s still the same heightened quality to it; you read it and you hear the music playing the background.

Elsewhere, Graeme McMillan has a nice piece of journalism for the Hollywood Reporter on the recent Eisner voting mishaps, which should probably be an Eisner voting scandal, and, considering what some people like to do when they find other people's home addresses, could have been an Eisner voting tragedy. Initial reactions on Twitter have been pretty clear: these Eisners are always going to be suspect.

It's not comics, but one of this website's former contributors, Brandon Soderberg, has a pretty big deal book out this week. Website's here, it's a nonfiction book about a bunch of corrupt cops that actually got some level of consequence for their misdeeds, and he wrote it with Baynard Woods. I was going to ask Brandon if he'd want to review Garth Ennis' Red Team comics as a way to promote the book, but I was able to realize that was tasteless before reaching out. It'll be our little secret, blog reader!

Also, heads up:

I've never been more interested in Archie comics in my entire life, except for that time before I edited TCJ when the site ran a giant roundtable on kid's comics that Art Spiegelman contributed to and Seth randomly started talking about how much he loved Archie rip-off comics, which is such a specific thing to be into, such a wonderfully curious thing to have awareness and affection for, that it completely changed my reading of his work. It's not hard to be a Star Trek nerd, or to know a lot about video games--being a fan doesn't require legwork anymore, you just have to be willing to stay inside and google shit. But having an eyeball that seeks out Archie rip-off comics and can tell who made them by the line of "Barchie's" spit-curl? That's deep cut shit that cannot be imitated, and I am here for it in a way I never will be for buying t-shirts. (Unless it's a limited edition Spawn The Movie Soundtrack t-shirt). Anyway: I realize that the above is just cool kid internet manipulation, and that whoever runs the Archie twitter is just working my middle-aged feelings, but this one worked for me in a way that thing where Steak-Ums pretending to be a Marxist totally failed.

Using The Accessory Wall Strategically

Today at TCJ, Nathan Gelgud's Cartoonist's Diary continues, with more Trader Joe's action.

Also: Ryan Holmberg is back with the second installment in his look at how manga artists (amongst others) have been responding to the coronavirus. The first part ran last week, in case you missed it.

I visited Saitō Pro in 2011 in order to interview Saitō. If the place looks and operates now like it did then – crowded, airless, and hyper analog – and it appears it does, disbanding the studio was indeed a wise choice. Of course, though an economic division of labor has been central to the mythos of Saitō Pro since the ‘60s, studio production methods for making manga have never been specific to “gekiga.” It is the rare manga artist today that doesn’t use some kind of studio method. “The physical presence of the staff is indispensable” to the creation of serialized manga, assert Saitō Pro and Big Comic. But ever since the advent of quality drawing and graphics programs, that is obviously not true. 

These days, you have to pay good money to get a Holmberg essay (his excellent use of Instagram notwithstanding), albeit one that often comes bound with 200-300 pages of comics that are oftentimes the most interesting thing you will have read in a while. His particular career--that of advocate, translator, historian and critic--is one of the few career paths that should be worshipped and emulated. 

Today's review comes to us from another individual that would be worth cloning: Joe McCulloch is here, with a long look at Adrian Tomine's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, which will hopefully serve as a healthy dose of upset for those who insist on repeating some version of the mantra that comics is the best artform you could be involved in, full of wonderful people etc.

CUT TO: the 1995 San Diego Comic-Con, where a grown Tomine, basking in the glow of the acclaim that followed his early work in minicomics, receives a rude awakening in the form of The Comics Journal #179, in which Jordan Raphael graced the magazine's "Shit List" column with a bellicose takedown of the first Drawn & Quarterly issue of Optic Nerve, written with that special blend of enormous self-confidence and just enough imprecision to assure readers that the critic has not wasted too much of his valuable time on obvious trash. CUT TO: a Comic-Con afterparty, where Tomine seeks the fraternity of fellow artists, but instead finds himself roasted by peers for the similarities of his work to that of Daniel Clowes. The evening ends with our man upbraided at length by a fellow attendee for self-interested careerism in failing to place Optic Nerve with a smaller publisher.

Outside of this, amidst the daily chaos intended to numb you into thinking there is nothing worth caring out, TCJ contributor Brian Nicholson has done as direct a job as any explaining measures you can take to combat the government's attacks on the US Postal Service, one of the few institutions that impacts indie comics publishing in such an integral way that losing them would have an immediate negative financial impact.

Expired Blog Titles

Good week coming at TCJ. More Ryan Holmberg, more Jog, more Tegan. A Cartoonist's Diary from Nathan Gelgud all week. Reviews. Etc. So far, we've heard from one former TCJ editor (Frank Young, September 91-93) talking to another former TCJ editor (Dan Nadel, 2011-2017) about a book published by another acronym, NYRC: Return To Romance

With the Ogden Whitney book (Return to Romance! The Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney, co-edited with Frank Santoro, New York Review Comics, 2019), the intention was to show, in a focused way, that there could be this idiosyncratic vision within the style of a craftsman. And I’m supposed to be shilling for it this whole interview, but you started me rattling on about Crumb!

I'm going to leave our Brownstein piece that Michael Dean busted his ass on up on the front page, just to annoy his friends who sat on their hands for the last 14 years. Fun sidenote: it stands alone as the only piece of Comics Journal content my father has ever read! His take on it was that he asked me whether I had considered quitting this industry entirely, as it seems like a gross place to work, full of gross people. "That guy sounds like a monster", he said, "but how come nobody did anything about it?" I assured him that people did try to do something: they tried to blame it on the victims. "Trying goes both ways", I said! 

Second fun fact: I was only supposed to edit TCJ solo for six months, and hey, it's been a full year! (That's more the pandemic's fault, though.) In celebration of that momentous occasion, here are the draft titles of all of the blogs I have decided not to publish because I got too angry to finish writing them over the last twelve months that Tim Hodler has not been here. Feel free to imagine the worst case scenario for what kind of writing these drafts contained, and multiply that by 37, it'll still be more obnoxious. They were all bad!

These Stupid Blogs
A Home For The True God
Wednesday Warriors
Monday Blog
Why I Don't Care About Dan Didio (And Why You Shouldn't Either)
Mutant Brain
Jeet Heer Doesn't Deserve The SnyderCut
12 Months of TCJ
Wednesday Blog
A Christmas Present For The Graphic Novel Community
Get Some

Anyway. Most of the above don't go anywhere--they include links to that day's articles, which are up at the same time as the blog post, and then they include links to other websites, usually things that I like, and then random riffing off of something that is annoying, frustrating, etc. "PUNS" was an attempt to review every Punisher comic I was reading during a period in my life where I read a Punisher comic every single morning, which was actually less depressing than the stuff I'm reading now. While the main reason the blogs don't get posted anymore is that Tim isn't here doing them on the off days, which made me feel guilty that I wasn't, it's also that that I hated reading the websites you have to read to find content for the blog posts. Now that I'm using Twitter again, it's a little easier to weed ones way through all the various comics sites that I hate, which is all of them, I hate every single one of them. Of course, some of those feelings may come from social media's express train design to escalate conflict, inflame rhetoric, and all the rest of the Cal Newport stuff, all of which are true--social media sucks, bro! Keen insight here on today's blog post.

BUT: it has also been an engine for legit real world actual justice for the past few weeks, the kind of justice that the Journal has historically craved and called for, a general leveling of the table, plus fairness, maybe some punishment, hopefully some retribution. It's provided a chance for people who wanted to make art that wasn't merely part of a consumable corporate engine to generate a fanbase and monetize that fanbase into creative freedom, without compromising their vision--to draw and create and publish comics that the creators owned, to sidestep a system of exploitation (or if not, to at least name those systems of exploitation for what they are publicly, so that their peer generation would know exactly what was on really on offer). Social media, for all its miserable by-design failings, for all its hysterically bad taste, shitposts, trolls--has also made it possible for those who were victimized in comics to name their abusers and, in some cases, to bring some kind of consequence to bear, even if that consequence is belated and often meager. It's made those who suborned and ignored that behavior embarrassed and ashamed in a way that nothing before ever had, would or did. Twitter, more than anything else, has given volume to the voices comics has strived to ignore, and it has put under the spotlight the abusers that have been permitted to flourish. And while some of that has spawned journalism of the kind that is necessary (this Asher Elbein piece being a prime example) so that perpetrators can be remembered as the news cycle moves on, another development--a new form of collectivist online action, created and controlled by those who had been ignored for so long has started to appear as well. The question of how to fix the problems that are clearly endemic in comics, both as an industry and culture, has been asked so often and so frequently that the asking of it tends to become the preferred cycle of maintaining it--to stay endlessly on the first step of acknowledging the problem, all the while watching as piles of comics edited by Eddie Berganza, written by Brian Wood or--whatever Scott Allie and that haircut was doing--showed up every Wednesday, and a whole bunch of people shrugged and said they just didn't know what else they could do, when the simple reality was that it wasn't impacting them, and they didn't really care. (Thankfully, one of the bright spots of the most recent onslaught of callouts on Twitter has included people noting that an apology that comes years late doesn't mean much--if we're going to let people slide, at least we can force them to slither.)

Over the past few days, it has started to happen again: this time, because Dynamite Comics was publicly called out for doing what they have doing all along: supporting comics creators aligned with people who identify as being members of something called Comicsgate, or people who use the hashtag Comicsgate--a group of nobody losers who are coping with the continued obsolesce of single issue genre books as being tied into the fact that the companies who manufacture those comics are concerning themselves with a variety of issues loosely classified as "social justice" issues, a bunch of moving target style complaints designed, like all toxic aspects of internet looneybin bullshit, to keep one consistently engaging with an array of Youtube channels, endless Twitter screeds and all the rest, despite the fact that none of it has anything to do with the comics you read or care about and is not a real thing--it's just a weird club you join so you can harass people online (usually women) and blow your money on crowdfunding campaigns.

Anyway! That's nothing new. The only thing that has changed with Comicsgate in the past however long it has been is that some of the guys who run the crowdfunding scams have, unsurprisingly, started fucking each other over. And yes, it turns out that the people at Dynamite Comics--a company who is notable for publishing The Boys (after Paul Levitz ditched it) and for convincing a generation of people who out to know better that their repulsive Vampirella comics are somehow empowering to women by their clever use of variant covers where Frank Cho types hide vaginas behind spoons--have been working with them ever since it became profitable to do so. All of this came to light because of a tweet from Dynamite Comics that tied a notable Comicsgate creator to one of their variant covers (something that Dynamite has actually been doing for a long time), which resulted in a weekend of people who liked Dynamite Comics but had somehow failed to pick up on the fact that a healthy chunk of what the company publishes is directly in line with what Comicsgate dipshits think makes for "good reading" being justifiably upset that they could no longer ignore this connection, followed by multiple creators bailing on the projects they were working on with them, until today, when the company sort of apologized, and said they didn't realize what they were getting into. After a few hours of letting them swing, Ethan Van Sciver (one of the first comics creators to realize he could swap "making comics" for "being a Youtube personality" and live directly off the wallets of his idiotic fans without the middlemen of publishing standing in his way) twisted the knife further by letting everybody know that, actually, Dynamite has been in bed with him for even longer than anyone realized, and in fact "taught me everything I know so far about publishing", thus ensuring at least another few thousand dollars on his next crowdfunding adventure, which will probably involve a CIA frog that can suck its own dick.

Welcome back!

Clean Shirt

Today at TCJ, Leonard Pierce is here with a look at Fire On The Water, Gary Dumm & Scott MacGregor's graphic novel inspired by "one of America’s earliest man-made ecological disasters". It's got some of Leonard's fave topics in it, but will that be enough to push it over the line into "good"? Ask him!

If the book has a hero – and to its credit, it avoids the obvious pitfall of making its story about exceptional and morally uncompromised heroes – it is Benjamin Beltran, an itinerant African-American inventor who has trouble selling a helmet he designed that allowed rescue workers to resist the dangers of smoke inhalation because no one wants to purchase or advertise a product made by a black man. Beltran isn’t a real person, but he’s based on the actual black inventor Garrett Morgan, whose life is described in a text addendum to the book. He’s a perfect example of how the stories of working-class struggles are always intersectional; the white workers were considered disposable because of their poverty, and Beltran’s life-saving device is considered worthless because few whites can credit a black man with having invented something so useful. Like the victims of the Erie tunnel disaster, Morgan was largely forgotten by a history written for the elevation of white elites.]

Richard Sala has passed away. Michael Dean has our obituary on the cartoonist. Cartoonist and longtime friend Daniel Clowes wrote a remembrance of Sala as well. Darcy Sullivan's excellent 1998 interview with Sala is here
Tim Hodler's also excellent 2016 interview with Sala is here.

Richard Sala, whose tongue-in-cheek mystery/thriller comics — including The Chuckling Whatsit, Cat Burglar Black and Evil Eye — were like nothing else and everything else in popular culture, was found dead in his Berkeley, California, home last week. Sala was 65. No cause of death was announced and no information was available as to how long Sala had been dead before his body was discovered. His last Tumblr post was April 29: the beginning of a new serialized webcomic called Carlotta Havoc Versus Everybody. The webcomic had been announced on an Apr. 18 post at Sala’s blog, called Here Lies Richard Sala.

My first experience with comics are biographical cliches so routine that they can be covered in a parenthetical (The Far Side, Justice League Detroit, Batman), but it struck me over the weekend how much one other institute of pop culture influenced my interest away from those books: Liquid Television, an early 90's animation and weird puppetry program that ran on MTV late at night. It's a solid link in the chain towards the kind of "let's try to upset people who are up late, stoned" programming that's on Adult Swim these days, but not a show I have thought of in years. 

But I thought about it a lot this weekend, after I got the call about Richard's death. Sala is a cartoonist whose work I have enjoyed for years, and I had first discovered him back on Liquid Television, where one of his comics stories was adapted and expanded in the show's first season. Like everything else that I ever saw on Liquid Television, I experienced Sala's work out of order and removed from any context, catching bits of it whenever I would be up late and happen across the show. I never looked up where it came from, I never took the time to find out that it was him that made it, and while I'm sure i've seen the whole thing, I can only recall fragments of it. But the seeds that program sowed--with its mix of perversion, obscenity, humor, atonal deadpan idiocy and offense--found purchase years later, when I finally came across comics that trafficked in the same.

And there, again, was Sala. And then again. And again. He was a cartoonist whose work I have consistently read and consistently admired, and yet I think the entirety of my conversations about his work consisted of talking about it with the cartoonist Mike Cavallaro over the years that the two of us worked together in a comics store and realized we shared the interest. Looking at our TCJ obituary and reading his Wikipedia page, I'm struck once again by how impossible it is to ever do justice to the artists of this medium--degrees of difference, sure, and Sala was able to experience a career that many cartoonists would dream of having, in terms of opportunities to pursue creative expression, in terms of freedom to create what he liked--but it's so wearisome how exhausted this current process has become. Another talent lost, remembered by a handful of websites who are already preparing to remember another passing, immortalized in work that is actually only available in fits and starts via digital formats that only the most craven would claim are doing them any aesthetic favor. I got to know Richard over the last few years via, what else, social media, and I never took the time to say a single nice word to him about all the comics he had done that I loved, and now he's dead, and I'm still using those same social media outlets primarily to make myself even angrier than I already am. What a stupid, dumb way this is to live. 

It's tempting to cut that end there--to fabricate some mood and hack out some mention of how we can all go down to our metaphorical basements and grab the output of our dead, where their art will live forever--but I spend my non-TCJ time watching this dumb empire fall. I would have preferred to endure that collapse with more of Richard's work on hand. 


The Prestige

Today at TCJ, we've got a conversation with SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard. Like all festivals and conventions, SPX has been having internal conversations regarding the safety and feasibility of a 2020 installment. Currently, the plan remains for SPX to take place this September--Warren spoke with Michael O'Connell to get a lay of the land.

Is there a way to do a smaller show for 2020?

The problem with the smaller show is that we've already got a contract with guarantees in it. There are penalty clauses and all kinds of other stuff like that. I don't want to get into the legal aspects of it. But, the bottom line is, if Montgomery County or the state of Maryland doesn't want groups of 250 or more, 500 or more or 2,000 or more to get together, it's not going to make much sense for us to even do a reduced show. Because then you have the whole problem of, in this reduced show, let's say I do cut it back. We have about 280 tables in the room. Let's say I cut it back to a quarter of that. We’ll use a quarter of the ballrooms, that’s 70 tables, who do I choose? So there's this other operational thing that says, 'OK, if we're going to reduce the show, who are we going to have? What special guests are we going to have?' There's this other thing that says if I do cut it down, what do I cut it down to? And then how do you make those decisions? And I don't have an answer for that at all.

Our review for Monday is of Second Coming, a comic book series featuring a Superman type character who lives with Jesus Christ. The comic was originally to be published by DC Comics, and then was given back to the author when the publisher got cold feet, whereupon they took it to a company called Ahoy Comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco is here with a report on whether any of that backstory is more interesting than the actual product.

Last week, an illustrator named Lucy Halsam began a thread on Twitter regarding issues related to the ELCAF festival. On Friday, a tweet in the thread regarding the publisher Nobrow resulted in an outpouring of comments from illustrators, former employees and others regarding their feelings and experiences with the publisher. Multiple other threads have sprung out of that conversation, and over the weekend, TCJ was contacted questioning how I planned to cover this. My answer is this: as someone who worked in a full time capacity in the US office of Nobrow & Flying Eye Books for four years prior to joining The Comics Journal as editor, it would be ethically inappropriate for me to be directly involved in this unfolding story. As such, Comics Journal co-founder Gary Groth will be supervising all coverage of this issue for this website.


I Agree With Sluggo

It's Monday, the first one since officially hearing from Donald Trump that the best case scenario in the US will be the deaths of 200,000 people. There's nothing that can be said here that isn't going to change that, but there's also very little reason to act as if the only things that can be said or written should be words intended to change that. You, like me, are probably inside your home for the rest of this month, and you've probably been there for a while already. You're probably not a health care worker, because if you were, you'd be spending your non-saving-lives time sleeping. If you're checking this site now, you're stuck inside and enduring one of the worst experiences of your life, but you still have enough interest in comics to keep showing up. Here's what we've been doing lately, and what we're working on today:

Clark Burscough joined the team, and will be checking in on a weekly basis with a round-up of comics news and comics reviews. Last week you saw him twice, with his first go-round is focused on COVID-19 and how efforts to combat the spread have impacted the business of selling and making comics, and then again on Friday with his take on our regular link round up. He's back at it again today, with his second COVID-19 focused column. Sites like The Beat and Bleeding Cool are putting in a heroic effort to keep up with this sort of news on a more as-it-happens basis--both Heidi and Rich are doing a fine job. 

Last week, Keith Silva took over the reins of our Retail Therapy column to give a more concentrated window into how individual comics retailers are dealing with the multiple blows facing their businesses. First up was Legend Comics & Coffee, a Nebraska based store.

When did you close your store and what factors went into your decision?

We went into lock down I believe on March 18. The biggest thing we considered was how much of our industry involves touching things: back issues, trades, comic issues, they're all getting touched all the time, and apparently COVID-19 lives on the surface of things for at least 48 hours. There's no way Legend could guarantee the safety of our customers and we consider our customers our extended family.

We also unleashed one of my favorite "this has been sitting in the drafts section too long" pieces, a fascinating roundtable discussion on race and comics spurred by the graphic novel BTTM FDRS, featuring Ron Wimberly & Tanna Tucker alongside the creators of BTTM FDRS, Ezra Claytan Daniels & Benjamin Passmore

Ron: This discussion was originally proposed with an Afrofuturist prompt attached. I thought that was strange. It played into my general suspicion that Afrofuturism has become a sort of catchall for “weird nigga shit;” anything from Afro-space helmets, to Octavia Butler, to that African cosplay you see at Afropunk. Do you feel or did you intend for this horror comic to be Afrofuturist or have a dialogue with Afrofuturism? Just out of curiosity, what do you see being the formal qualities of Afrofuturism, the general ethos?

Ben: Is this where my light-ass gets in trouble for expressing a hard skepticism for Afrofuturism and its popularity?

Ezra: Calling BTTM FDRS an Afrofuturist book in marketing materials was 100 percent Fantagraphics using a buzzword to sell books. But it never really bothered me because, to be honest, at the end of the day, I’m trying to sell books, too, and I do consider myself a tangentially Afrofuturist artist — just not so much in the comics I’ve made, as of yet.

I made an experimental, animated Afrofuturist short with my partner, Adebukola Bodunrin, that was part of the first Black Radical Imagination program. We sat on countless panels and had countless conversations about Afrofuturism with incredibly brilliant artists like Terence Nance, Cauleen Smith, Robert Pruitt, Jacolby Satterwhite, and D. Denenge Akpem, who actually stars in the film. I started that journey with only a vague idea of what Afrofuturism was. Eventually, these discussions brought me to a clear understanding of what Afrofuturism meant, at least to me.

The reviews have been coming in hot, and today's is no different, with Chris Mautner swinging by with a look at Kim Deitch's Reincarnation StoriesHe dug it, which is the proper response to any major work coming from Deitch at this point in his career.

One of the most interesting things about Deitch’s work is the way he blends fact and fiction. As with Gabrielle Bell, he starts from a recognizable reality, and makes sharp left turns into bizarre, elaborate fantasy, until you start questioning what is and isn’t actually “true”. It is true, for example, that Deitch had eye surgery. And real-life characters like fellow cartoonists Spain and Jay Lynch, as well as cowboy actors like Buck Jones and Jack Hoxie. There is even, apparently, a plot “genie” that was designed to help writers come up with story ideas. 

The last week has seen the passing of Juan Gimenez. Best known to American readers for his excellent work on the Metabarons saga, which he illustrated, Gimenez passed away due to COVID-19 at the age of 76. More here.

Dale Crain--former archive editor at DC Comics, and, in the words of TCJ's publisher Gary Groth, "the guy who revolutionized our design at Fantagraphics" passed away while in Vietnam, and his family have organized a GoFundMe to repatriate his remains to the US.

The cartoonist Herman "Hy" Fleishman also passed away, on April 1st. We'll have an obituary up on him later today. 

Good luck this week. We'll be back tomorrow, with our next installment of Retail Therapy and more!

Too Much Tuesday

Today at TCJ, Tegan is here with a look at the first two issues of The Resistance, the launch title for AWA Studios "shared universe". As Tegan points out, the plot of The Resistance would be called prescient if our current crisis weren't so horrifying as to make praising J. Michael Straczynski's remix of a rehash completely repellent.

Anyway. This is ostensibly the beginning of a new superhero universe. The gimmick is that after the virus recedes it is discovered that, of the roughly 5% of patients who survive the plague, some of them develop superpowers. Some of those superpowers last only a brief time, leaving their host dead once they burn out. It’s stated but not developed (yet) that the virus was of extraterrestrial origin. Which means it’s only really a little different from George R. R. Martin’a long-running Wild Cards shared universe. And of course any resemblance to Marvel’s Strikeforce: Morituri is surely purely coincidental. Or Charles Soule’s Letter 44, for that matters

While AWA Studios (the acronym stands for Artists Writers & Artisans, presumably they are going to be making chairs at some point) is technically a "new" publisher, the company is one run by two old heads--Bill Jemas, whose historical proximity to Marvel Comics surviving bankruptcy often results in him garnering a healthy credit for that company's recovery despite the needling fact that every decision he has made since that time has been extraordinarily dumb, Axel Alonso, a guy who I like because he helped Garth Ennis make Punisher comics--and Jonathan Miller, one of Rupert Murdoch's former underlings. I'm sure he's a great guy, most of the people who collected paychecks for Murdoch were all great guys. There was that one who hacked the dead lady's phone to make fun of her with more personal details, but I'm sure they were an outlier.

It'll be interesting to see how a company like that handles the other news of the day, which is that Diamond comics will cease delivery of new comics at the end of March. The news was publicly announced yesterday via email following some private communications between Diamond and some of their key business partners--announced so suddenly that Diamond was still in the process of pitching advertising placements for their Previews catalogs only a few hours before they went public--and any attempt to encapsulate the impact here in this blog would fall short. Around the same time the Diamond news was spreading, Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool ran a piece on the three-week shuttering of Canadian printer Transcontinental Printing, which dramatically impacts DC Comics output--Steve Geppi's letter makes no mention of this, but as the weekly delivery of comics remains heavily dependent upon the two major super-hero publishers, it certainly could have contributed to the decision.

The Diamond news has been met with no small amount of panic, glee, concern, and told-you-so-ing, primarily on social media. I get it: my dealings with Diamond outside of TCJ as a publisher, retailer and advertiser have been one of the least fun parts of the decade, and there have been plenty of times when my irritation with the company has had me wishing they'd catch one in the teeth. But the reality is that this is a massive hit upon an industry that will primarily be felt by its smallest actors, not its biggest. Companies like AWA (that are built off the funding of ex-execs from companies like Fox News) can probably pivot to Amazon's comiXology platform without too much of a loss--if you had an illusion that a title like Resistance was somehow intended to be a massive print seller in retail, well, okay--because their business model, like the rest of these johnny-come-vampires, was never to make comics in the first place, but to use comics, comics retail and vocal online comics fans so as to win the lottery ticket of film and television exploitation. Diamond shuttering for any length of time will skew the statistics of this particular gamble, and some of these companies won't have the nerve to stay at the table, but a decent amount of them will--if one thing has proven itself impossible to kill in this current climate, it's rapacious greed. It's the rest of comics who are going to suffer from Diamond, and as of right now, the extent of that suffering remains completely unknown.

Also announced in the last few hours was the passing of Asterix co-creator, Albert Uderzo. According to news reports, Uderzo died at home from a heart attack, unrelated to COVID-19. Our obituary will follow later this week.

Reminder: it's Tuesday.


Housekeeping: last week was an quiet one at TCJ. We started off with Nicholas Burman's look at how the aesthetics of the internet have shown themselves in a few recent titles. After that, we hosted a Mark Peters roundtable with Michel Fiffe, Tom Scioli, and Youtube personality Ed Piskor. Tegan O'Neil stopped by with a look at Missed Connection, a comic by Tess Smith-Roberts published by Playtime Press. Meanwhile, the delightful Kevin Budnik delivered what will probably be the last Cartoonist's Diary we see that doesn't mention COVID-19--if you didn't read it, please do. Kevin's work didn't land for me when I first read him years ago on social media--the direct honesty was something that I initially lashed out at it--but I've done a complete 180 in the last two years, and am now a fervent audience for the kindness in what he does. Last week's onslaught of bad and frightening news was, for me, somewhat blunted by my own immersion into Kevin's curious and open perspective. 

Finally, the week prior to this one--a period of time that now seems like it took palce on another planet--saw the last of Ryan Flanders' series of weekly link columns for us, which had gone a long way to cover the lack of these blog entries. Ryan's departure was not totally unexpected, as he had kept me updated on the really amazing job he was interviewing for. While the loss of him from TCJ is muted by the fact that I am extremely happy for the security a regular job can provide, we are probably a few more weeks away from being able to have something anywhere near as exhaustive as what he was doing up and running. I will certainly be including as much as I can here at these TCJ blogs as frequently as is possible. For now, please take a tour of Ryan's last hurrah: it was an exceptional run, and we were lucky to have him for the time that we did.

Over the weekend, we shared an open letter from comics retailers directed towards readers that explicitly addresses the tumultuous reality that has sprung up in the wake of COVID19's impact on comics retail. It's a story that is developing by the hour, and the open letter linked above was preceded by one from Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, that one directed at other comics publishers, beseeching them to honor their responsibilities to their retail partners. Amidst all this, Free Comic Book Day--which for many retailers, functions as one of their most profitable sales days of the year, an extremely strong method of attracting a new customer base, and, in my personal experience, often served as the most inspirational act of community building that comics retail can offer--has been postponed from to an as-of-yet unknown date. The financial repercussions of the move to Diamond and comics retailers will be difficult to bear. Last Wednesday, The Beat published a round-up of what were at that time the entirety of what help comics publishers were offering retailers, and on Friday, Marvel's plans for assisting retailers saw coverage as well. Over at Bleeding Cool, Rich has been doing a fine job of keeping up with publishers who are cutting their output, as well as putting together pieces like this on the things that San Francisco based comics retailer and industry gadfly Brian Hibbs has been saying about the situation

It's a bad situation. Nobody needs to come to The Comics Journal's daily blog to find that out, but that doesn't mean it's not going to get said. The economic decimation that is coming to all sectors of non-essential-to-life industry is terrifying. Neither comics publishing nor direct market comic book stores are businesses that are designed to be put on pause for any length of time, but even if they were, no industry can long survive in an unknown stasis, waiting for an as-of-yet undetermined period of time to return to business as usual--knowing that when they do return, many of their customers may have lost their jobs as well. Of course, the most immediate follow-up to all this is that the reason this is happening is so that those customers--and the artists, the publishers, the retailers, and all of these people's families--don't lose their lives. No one could possibly know what is coming next--there's never been anything like this, a global pandemic taking place in the physical world while a giant, terrifying real-time communication system transmits a level of information (most of it information that can only horrify and enrage, the two key factors in making connection to that communication system more addictive) in the mental space, all while the infrastructure of government support shows ever-increasing signs of complete impotence. It is that very state we suffer through now: one of increasing, daily immersion in an unknown country, waiting to find out what is coming next, and worried if we and those we love will be alive to see it. 

That brings us to right now. While I and a few other writers are doing some initial work to cover the way this current situation is impacting comics, the truth of TCJ is this: the Fantagraphics office is working from home, Washington is a hot spot for this virus, and they need to zero in on themselves. For me...well, it was never my ambition to edit this site solo for as long as I have, and if i'm being totally transparent, I wonder how long I will even be able to continue--but for as long as that is, I plan to do what I can.

Today, "what I can" is this: a feature article that is as TCJ as anything TCJ could do, short of asking Dan to stop by and say something so inflammatory that we end having another million-uniques-in-a-week kinda experience. What's that, you ask? Well, it's a reunion of the scholars behind 2010's The Comics Of Chris Ware, who stopped by in a bus driven by Martha Kuhlman to talk about Rusty Brown, in all its most-important-comic-book glory. As Chris himself once said to me over a cup of green tea:

As an aside, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of hassling regarding Ware's work by people outside of comics more this year alone than I have by any group of people in every other year combined. I say "hassling" because...I'm the Ennis guy! I've always been crystal goddamned clear that i'm the Ennis guy! I like Ware fine, but my comics Mt. Rushmore is a bunch of pictures of GARTH ENNIS, surrounded by small pictures of the people who draw Garth Ennis comics, one single drawing of John Wagner with a helmet on, followed in chronological order by the names of all of the people that have ever complimented me in public--DM's don't count! If you come at me and demand that I defend someone in the comics industry, than at least do your fucking research--especially if research is what you are explicitly known for! Otherwise, I'm just going to have to assume that you're not a very nice person.

Our review for today is from Brian Nicholson, who is here with a look at The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge, which finally saw English language release via NYRC. I adored this book, and Brian's review is a fine look at it. We may have a rebuttal to this review up later this week, i'm just finalizing things with the crank who wrote it right now. I kid!

That'll have to do it for today. I would have liked to keep going, but earlier this morning I cut my finger so deeply that it started spraying blood Lone Wolf and Cub style, and now every time I type it splatters all over the keyboard. I'm gonna put superglue on it right now to keep it closed, should be okay for tomorrow. No, i'm not joking, this would be more interesting if it were a joke. Stay inside, you dumb, bad-taste having, single-minded, resentful motherfuckers. I would like it if we were all still alive so that you could complain to me in person sometime in the future about how much TCJ sucks. More to come.

I hope!

Day Karting

Today at TCJ, we're reading Paul Karasik's extended look at the way Paco Roca uses the landscape format to assist and direct the storytelling in his graphic novel The House.

Roca’s storytelling and inventive use of the horizontal format – rarely chosen and even more rarely successful – is brilliant. He finds many ways to breakdown the unusual oblong proportion, none of them contrived, all of them supporting the story. And that masterful manipulation of form, over and over, in service of a compelling story, had me riveted.

Today's review is from Tegan O'Neil, she's taking a look at Missed Connection by Tess Smith-Roberts. It's an extremely colorful comic, and there's something to the guts of it. Tegan:

In 2008 Tom Spurgeon coined the term “decency fantasy” to describe a certain kind of narrative that hinges on the fantasy of pleasingly mundane domesticity. In hindsight this seems a prescient label. Stories that revolve primarily around people being reasonable and working together amicably to solve common goals seem positively transgressive in an era when almost everything else in our lives sinks further into the realm of the brittle and combative. Back in 2008 when Spurgeon coined the term low-stakes slice of life was a relatively small part of the comics ecosystem, but these kinds of stories seem to hit a nerve at this particular point in time. It’s rough out here on these mean streets. People get thirsty for virtue. 

Last week, the always excellent Cynthia Rose took a look at the Coco Rey show that's up for the rest of this week in Paris. Considering how much travel we're all not doing, this is a nice way to get outside of your local.

Women in many domains bemoan their lack of progress but French caricature's brightest star is a femme. Part of Charlie Hebdo since 2009, Corinne "Coco" Rey also draws for L'Humanité, Vigousse, Les Inrockuptibles and live on ARTE television's 28 Minutes. Now, at 38, she has produced her first comic, Le Banquet. Co-created with celebrity philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, it turns Plato's Symposium into a graphic novel. Until March 14, at Paris' Galerie Art-Maniak, you can see its art as well as Coco's press cartoons.

It's a brief chance to see something singular – work that history's best press cartoonists would have loved. As with those predecessors, Coco's line is all her own. But its real tie to the greats like Gillray and Grandville lies in its communication of a ruthless acuity. Rey draws with real panache but she pulls no punches and always goes straight to the point.

I took the day off today to hang out with my daughter, who has the day off from school. It's bleak and gray outside today, although yesterday was pretty nice. I thought I'd check out the comics news, and since i'm home and available, churn out one of these blog posts until she figures out that I'm only half paying attention to what she's doing. (She is playing her birthday present, Mario Kart.) The first piece of news I found is that they're going to introduce a character named Clownhunter in the "Joker War" storyline. While I don't read new Batman comics anymore, I did for an extremely long period of time and kind of want to know more about the Clownhunter. I don't care to know more about Punchline, which is another new character that caused one of those 90's era speculation sell-outs of comics when she was introduced, because I think the idea of Joker having a girlfriend is and always has been weird, outside of the 90's cartoon, where he was less a murderer and more a zany wanna be murderer. The psychology of inserting these female characters into the comics so that they can serve as handmaidens to the Joker's post aught level of violence is as grotesque as it is when they're alternatively posited as some kind of empowerment story born out of overcoming the trauma of having a relationship with the Joker, who at any one point in the post 1980's Batman timelines has killed so people in so many disgusting fashion that any attempt by Batman writers to claim moral superiority by allowing the character to live is pure mental deficiency. There's never been a better argument for the Punisher's moral calculus than a Batman comic, at this point. That aside, the way any actor in the Blade movies would say the word "daywalker" is permanently stuck in my head, in that I walk around thinking of that particular line reading on a near constant basis, and "clownhunter" has that same kind of ring to it. There's zero creativity in character design in DC Comics these days--their artistic bench is a trough--so hopefully they'll go hire somebody who works on video games or a really upsetting anime to deliver said Clownhunter. I'd say watch this space for updates, but hey--you and I know that isn't going to happen.

I was going to write about COVID-19 but she just realized what I was doing and called me on it. Wash your hands! I just started a few months ago for a different reason and it's actually super easy to incorporate it into the morning routine. (I wash mine in the shower-timesaver.)


Today at TCJ, the delightful Dash Shaw has returned from his stay in the wilderness of making comics with an interview in his paws: an interview with Seymour Chwast. Simple step-by-step process in making shit happen: Shaw wanted to know more about Seymour's graphic novels of which he has produced a few, couldn't find any information, decided to interview Chwast himself and figured TCJ readers might want to hear the answers. It doesn't get easier. It's like someone is chewing my food for me. Have you read those Seymour books? You should. Here's Dash and Seymour:

In ’55 we decided to form a studio, my classmates from Cooper Union. Basically, Milt Glaser and Ed Sorel—

Oh, I know. But it didn’t feel like a giant thing until the ’60s?

Well, all we were trying to do was make a living. We didn’t especially think it was something bigger than that. We were able to get work especially through the promotion that we did. The Push Pin Almanack and the Push Pin Graphic.

Did you draw comics inside of those?

Sometimes, while solving a problem.

Today is also the launch of our latest Cartoonist's Diary, with Michael Comeau. In today's installment, Michael introduces to some day job conversations.

Our review of the day is from Keith Silva, and it's of These Savage Shores, which is a pretty positively received vampires-go-boating comic that came out late last year. He liked it too! Keith, I mean. Keith liked it:

If you see comics as a team sport and yet often find yourself reading books by sole proprietors you’ll understand why These Savage Shores borders on a revelation. Writer Ram V, cartoonist, Sumit Kumar, colorist, Vittorio Astone and letterer, Aditya Bidikar combine their talents to interrogate ideas both ticklish and troubling. Kumar, Astone and Bidikar share an understanding that the more specific the visual detail they provide, the more focus the reader will bring to the unfamiliar aspects of a script, which can in turn heighten and reinforce the themes of the text.

These Savage Shores is published by Vault Comics, who conclude all of their promo emails with the following text:

Vault Comics is a private, family-owned company, publishing science fiction and fantasy comics and graphic novels. Vault encourages its creators to break the established order, defy preconceptions of society and identity, and push the boundaries of the medium with bold visions and voices that connect with readers and capture their imaginations.

That's weird, right? I'm not asking: it's weird. First up: who gives a shit if a comics publisher is a private company? From what I can tell from those endlessly dull IDW articles about how their business model of "hoping things we own will become tv shows" divided by "hoping the aging fanbase for our 80's licenses don't go into bankruptcy" plus "did another college adopt the John Lewis book for their incoming freshman class yet?" has impacted their stock prices, I guess I can see why a third tier comics publisher might want to be privately owned, so they can avoid hearing tips on their financial acumen by the kind of Bleeding Cool commenters who turn the shirt inside out instead of washing it. But why is that information going to matter to anyone else? How many people go into a comics shop and decide which second banana fantasy & sci fi comics they're going to buy based off whether or not they can also become shareholders via a Fidelity account? Zero people do that! Second: family owned? Who cares! That's not a thing! That only becomes a thing when it becomes hilarious to keep up with, like when the Archie family started picking each other off with metaphorical crossbows, or when the girl from The Little Princess decided to sue her dad as a way to get out of freshman year finals at Columbia, and even then, it only becomes a thing in the sense that you wait for some bored reporter to write it up for you to read about at work in between ducking emails and ordering shit online. I read that and the first thing I think of the moment when I saw the words "Follower of Christ" on my physical therapist's Instagram bio. Gross!

Oh wait: is it because they think some executive at a larger company is just going to buy Vault based off that information, thinking they're getting some goldmine from the Vault IP library? I guess that could be it, right--it's a direct shout out to the kinds of people that come into comic book stores in Los Angeles looking for things that aren't optioned yet, a heads up that they're privately owned, family owned, a buncha rubes with ideas to be sold. It's a reverse con, because they know as well as anyone who has read a Vault Comic knows that there's no existing fanbase clamoring for a season of Netflix based off these comics, but they're counting on Netflix execs or whomever not knowing that, which is 100% accurate--almost none of those people who make those buys really can tell the difference between a popular Vertigo series from twenty years ago or an IDW comic continuing the story of Pinhead from Hellraiser's high school career. I mean, they can when they give consulting fees to comic book store owners (Lion Forge tried that) or super-hero podcasters (I think that was IDW, but can't totally remember). So never mind: forget the previous paragraph, if Vault's honeypot can trick an executive out of some of Netflix money (or even better, out of Jeff Bezos' money), then pour that family owned shit on top of everything.


Ah, today at TCJ we've got that thing you've been waiting for: Roman Muradov writing criticism! He's here with a look at Nicolas Mahler's adaptation of Thomas Bernhard's Old Masters. 

The murky and most of the time unnecessary business of turning a novel into a graphic novel works best if the relationship between the original and the adaptation is neither distant nor faithful, but both, as is the case in Nicolas Mahler's Old Masters, a masterful little stab at illustrating Thomas Bernhard—one of the least visual writers of the previous century—carried out with all the humor and aplomb you do and don't expect from this unlikely premise.

I was first introduced to the work of Bernhard via The Lime Works, which was similarly plucked from the ether for criticism via a very early issue of The Believer. But until Muradov brought it to my attention, I wasn't aware of this adaptation, and I'm still not very clear on how it came to pass (write me back, Seagull Books!) As Muradov points out in his review, it's an extremely successful piece of work, and an unusual, unique one at that. 

I spent the past week at ALA Midwinter, surrounded by hugely successful comics, none of which resemble Old Masters. Comics won a bunch of awards, and while Torsten Adair's round-up of the coverage accurately points out the notability of those awards, it's in many ways an expected coronation of the medium at a time when the environment surrounding it is in need of something to champion, and the library-facing comics of right now check a lot of boxes: economic success (comics sell), job security (comics drive circulation in libraries), and belated recognition of the lack of diversity have as much to do with the success of comics as anything else. As more and more young librarians move up in the ranks at the more powerful branches, they bring with them the experience and knowledge that comics can move reading in a frenzied, extreme way. Does it matter that half of those conversations still include language describing comics as some kind of medicinal crutch, designed to coach "reluctant readers" across the bridge of culture--in essence, a remixed and moralistic lacquer on the criticism of old, that comics aren't really reading? I don't know. But it does seem that the economics driver of the medium is unlikely to be the stuff of old much longer, if it even still is. As someone whose parasitical economic relationship with comics is brand and category agnostic, it doesn't really impact me in any way whatsoever. Cash, as they say, rules everything around me. 


Placeholder Quest

Today at TCJ, Paul Tumey is here with a look at The Pits of Hell by Ebisu Yoshikazu, which Breakdown Press put out last year. It's an excellent book, and Paul turns his entire Framed! column over to going after why

I have a new love: The Pits of Hell by Ebisu Yoshikazu. This collection of surreal and savage manga stories drawn in a naïve art style vibrates on my bookshelf and issues forth the sounds of thumping pachinko machines, clattering speedboat motors and roars of rage so intense there is no doubt in my mind they have the power to rip my head off. These stories are screwball, haunting, mystical, shocking, hilarious, frightening, and sad—usually all at once.

Today's review comes to us from Anya Davidson, who is here with a look at the first three issues of Ginseng Roots by Craig Thompson.

Ginseng Roots, his latest book, serialized in about 12 installments, the first 3 of which are currently available from Uncivilized Books, chronicles his experiences as a child harvesting ginseng with his family in Marathon, Wisconsin, a small town that, during the ginseng boom of the 1980’s, when the dried roots were fetching up to $65 a pound, was flourishing thanks to an influx of cash from buyers in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. Thompson began working in the ginseng fields, weeding around the valuable roots, when he and his sister and brother were 9, 8 and 6 respectively (The author made a creative decision to omit his sister from Blankets, but she appears as an ancillary character in Ginseng Roots.) In need of supplementary income, their parents put all three children to work during the Summer at an age when most children are attending camp or simply lying around all day. In scenes set in the present day, the siblings candidly share their thoughts and feelings of deprivation and resentment, while acknowledging the complexity of their childhood situation.

I'm currently at the ALA Midwinter show, which has had no small measure of drama, and I'll be honest: I've already had my fill of drama this year so far. I started off 2020 enjoying some time reading Justice League Europe comics with small children (the Giffen/Sears ones, not the ones by the child porn guy!), and then flew off to a work conference at the beach. Unfortunately for me and a few thousand other people, that conference was in Puerto Rico, and the earthquakes that occurred throughout that time period made it all but impossible to keep up with the various comics news that has kept on rolling for the past few weeks. I'm grateful to Alec Berry for his work behind the scenes to keep posts alive, terribly sorry to the contributors who have been waiting for me to write them back, and super pumped about the massive amount of great writing that has been lurking in emails and dropbox folders while I've been out of action. I am glad to be someone back to my version of normal, and am hopeful that the people of Puerto Rico, who were so kind and gracious to me and all of the other visitors are back to something like that as well. 

Also, don't fly home into a tornado, but if you're going to, do it after a bunch of earthquakes. It doesn't feel as scary at that point. 

It's impossible for me to wrap my head around whatever went on at The Beat last week, but it seems like things over there may be a return to The Beat of old--less movie and TV stuff, more Heidi writing? I wish her the best. It is hard to imagine a future where there are more comics sites coming, and very easy to imagine one where the ones that exist go the way of websites The Dissolve or Deadspin. I'm glad she got a redesign out of that relationship. Hopefully this means they'll be a nice big oral history on Lion Forge down the line, courtesy of all the people that they hired for various periods of time over the last few years. Did you ever hear that rumor about how they tried to buy Drawn & Quarterly? That's a good one. 


Kick Off My Shoes, and Swim Good (This Week’s Links)

When I embed Instagram and Twitter posts in "This Week's Links," and you're into 'em, I hope you're clicking through and liking (and subscribing, you guys.) Are you? Will you? It would mean a lot to me. 

Get your appreciation thumbs ready — today's list is bottom heavy that way.


• Koyama Press and its publisher Annie Koyama have launched a new initiative, Koyama Press Provides, "a monthly program of giving." Also, a profile of KP (and its impending closure) appeared on, the website of Ontario's public educational media organization.


• Mike Lynch dug up a 1980s video interview about W*TCHM*N with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons! There's a good bit of talk in here about the nine panel grid, which is always oddly amusing. Towards the end the interviewing host reveals that Moore has recommended some comics to read...Chester Brown, Julie Doucet and two more. (You wanna know, you better watch!) And then the host discusses a Watchmen movie that's been optioned, and even casts it with 1980s stars. And THEN you get to the end and you see it's a production of TVO — as in the TVO that ran the piece up there about Koyama! The whole thing is a real trip.


• In a few weeks, Daniel Clowes will have a party and public conversation (talking with cartoonist Rina Ayuyang) in San Francisco to celebrate his big ol' Original Art book.


• But before that, Nick Drnaso will be giving a lecture about the creation of his book Sabrina in Chicago.


• For TCJ, Gary Panter annotated 29 of his most Panterish drawings, all of which were recently on display in an exhibit of his work.


• Here are the top 100 comic books and top 100 graphic novels ordered through the North American direct market from 2010 to 2019. You gotta be impressed with the staying power of some of those GNs.


• Tony Millionaire drew the cover and chapter headers for the final, posthumous Anthony Bourdain book.


• At The A.V. Club, graphic designer Tom Muller shows his process for creating the new Best of 2000AD logo. I eat this kind of stuff right up. We also get to see variant covers for the series' first issue from the no-joke lineup of Becky Cloonan, Charlie Adlard, Erica Henderson, Annie Wu and Glenn Fabry.


• At The New Yorker, cartoonist Summer Pierre created a comic strip review/appreciation/personal memoir about musician Patti Smith and her books.


• Kim Deitch was profiled on amNewYork, and they even got a few quotes from him.


• Speaking of K.D., get a load of this from Columbia U's Karen Green:



Art Zone with Nancy Guppy
• Artist Gina Siciliano (creator of I Know What I Am)

Daniel Clowes by Bill Kartalopoulos (from 2014, but published outside of France for the first time)
Grease Bats creator Archie Bongiovanni by Annie Mok

7.30 with Leigh Sales
• Editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant

Blockhead! podcast
• Cartoonist Rick Stromoski  (creator of Soup to Nutz, former National Cartoonist Society president)

Word Balloon podcast
• Comic book writer Jim Zub

Smash Pages
• Writer Danny Fingeroth by Alex Dueben


• This is certainly something different: new comics site Solrad has spent this week publishing "The Hard Tomorrow Book Club" — five different critics diving into Eleanor Davis' latest book.


• Y'all like Liana Finck, yeah? Here's a video of how she lives her life and makes her art.


• It's the prequel you didn't know you definitely didn't want: The Bristol Board shared a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story from 1962's Strange Tales #97 featuring Peter Parker's Aunt May and Uncle Ben and their "niece" — a full two months before Spidey-Mane debuted!


• Well, here's a fine thing: BookRiot lists five "must-read" comics from the Philippines.


• Fantagraphics honcho Gary Groth wrote about publishing the work of writer Stephen Dixon.


The New York Times used an Evan Cohen comic to introduce/illustrate an op-ed piece on climate change.


• Bluestockings Bookstore in New York is launching "In the Gutter," a monthly comics reading event showcasing the work of queer and trans creators.


• Siobhán Gallagher has a new piece at The New Yorker: "Lessons I’ve Learned in My First Six Months of Freelancing." All too relatable!


• Drawn & Quarterly shared a preview of Tian Veasna's Year of the Rabbit.



The Washington Times
Paul C. Tumey's Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Michael Taube

Pop Matters
Yoshiharu Tsuge's The Man Without Talent by Chris Gavaler

 The Beat
GG's Constantly by John Seven
Owen D. Pomery's British Ice, also reviewed by Mr. Seven
Yoshiharu Tsuge's The Man Without Talent by Morgana Santilli

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse
Elise Dietrich’s Making Time
Diana Chu’s Rodin Du Jour

Broken Frontier
Best of 2000AD #1 by Andy Oliver

Multiversity Comics
Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage and Pete Woods' Iron Man 2020 #1 by Alexander Jones


• The Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted 90 years ago; The Daily Cartoonist has the first week's worth.


• Canadian graphic novels are now eligible for The Great White North's $100,000 Scotia Bank Giller Prize.


Broken Frontier would like you to know about "Six Small Press Creators to Watch in 2020." Some cool work featured here.


• Image publisher Eric Stephenson thinks there are too many new comics on sale each week.


• Recently on Cartoonist Kayfabe: flipping through the DVD booklets for the Criterion Collection editions of Ghost World and the Crumb documentary, and a recap of the 1989 Bill Watterson interview in The Comics Journal.

By the way, CK has a newsletter. I didn't even know.


Daryl Seitchik started a new IG comic: "there are bunnies on the moon and their stories must be told."


Paste made a list of 100 of the Best Horror Comics of All Time.


• Cartoonist Sam Spina let us know what it's like in the trenches of animation storyboarding, with a 12-part comic on Twitter:


• Meanwhile, the mighty Jeremy Sorese has posted a new comic on Instagram:


Jilliam Tamaki is also posting fantastic comics on Instagram:


• And so is Gabby Schulz:


Jesse Jacobs is posting parts of comics, you know where:


And finally, probably about as perfect a comic strip as I've seen in the post-newspaper era, below from Alex Norris.

Don't forget to lurk and circumscribe!




Freelance Publicists

Monday at TCJ, Aug Stone caught up with Elsa Charretier, the artist currently legitimizing Matt Fraction (I kid!) on an Image book called November, which looks great. Elsa is coming off a successful Kickstarter for a new art book, and she and Aug got into all of it.

I drew a little bit as a kid, like most kids do. But by the time you’re a teenager you forget the things you used to love as a kid. So I stopped drawing for a long time. How I got back into drawing is a funny story. I was an actress, or I was trying to be. I was more like a waitress, though actress was the idea. But it wasn’t working out, I wasn’t happy, and I decided to stop. I didn’t know what to do with my life then. At that time my boyfriend, Pierrick (Colinet) wanted to write comics. I personally didn’t know anything about comics, I knew they existed but I didn’t read them. I read French comics growing up but I wasn’t aware of what happened at all in American comics. So Pierrick wanted to write comics and Charlie Adlard was visiting France for a signing. This was at the very beginning of The Walking Dead when it started becoming really big. My boyfriend told me ‘I would like to go see him and maybe talk to him about a pitch, see if he can give me advice’. So we met Charlie and he said ‘email me, I’ll answer you...lalala’ . We emailed him and he didn’t answer. Which was to be expected, I mean the guy’s busy. A couple months later though, Charlie emailed saying ‘I’m gonna be in France in two weeks. Would you like to come to the signing and show me your pitch?’ So yeah, that was fun. Except! My boyfriend didn’t have an artist, so he didn’t have pages, he didn’t have anything. He had bluffed his way into meeting with Charlie and didn’t have anything to show at this opportunity. So he asked me if I wanted to learn how to draw a few pages. It’s a ridiculous story but that’s how I started drawing and how I started reading comics and falling in love with it.

I remember thinking ‘this is interesting, I could see myself doing this for a living’. But for a long time I didn’t like drawing. I like beautiful things, and I knew that what I was doing wasn’t beautiful. I liked the process, but it felt excruciatingly hard and I was so frustrated by the results...I liked art and the act of drawing but the frustration was so intense that I had to force myself to draw more pages.

I like that quote. I like knowing there's people like Elsa in the world who just tear into the idea of drawing like that, because somebody throws the idea their way. More lines like that to be found in the rest of the piece.

Grandville caricatured by Benjamin (Joseph Germain Mathieu) Roubaud in his "Panthéon Charivarique"

I was away last week, but set up Cynthia Rose's excellent piece on J.J. Grandville and the exhibition of his work that is currently taking place in Paris at Maison de Balzac through January 13th. If you didn't catch it due to your New Years festivities, please do so now.

But, well before the Association, Grandville incurred his own problems with the law. The worst of these followed two of his best-selling prints.

The first was entitled L'Ordre règne à Warsaw ("Order Prevails in Warsaw") and it was published on September 20, 1831. The drawing's title quoted Louis-Philippe's Foreign Minister hailing a notorious bloodbath of the Polish-Russian War. This had ended a Polish bid for independence partly inspired by the July Revolution. Because the Poles' rebellion had support in Paris, the French king's opposition of it caused local riots. These were brutally quelled by Parisian police. On September 25, 1831, Grandville portrayed this, too, in a print called L'Ordre public règne aussi à Paris ("Order Also Prevails in Paris").

Both depict cruel officers with disdain for their "foes". In Grandville's Polish print, one has severed a head. In its French companion work, a policeman wipes blood from his sword. This pair of prints flew off the shelves and, three months later, both were still on sale.

The consequences were immediate. Coming home one night, Grandville was mugged in his own building. A crew of thuggish policemen had lain in wait and the artist was saved only by Gabriel Falempin. His neighbour owned a pair of pistols, with which – while haranguing them – he succeeded in running off the gang.

Grandville refused to be intimidated. Instead, he replied with a print called Oh!! Les vilaines mouches!! ("Oh!! These nasty flies!!"). It shows him at the studio window, confronting a swarm of wasp-like flying policemen. While they have stinger-like swords, he has just a pencil. Grandville signed this print "Victor Larangé" which, phonetically, means "Victor the Spider". He also filed criminal charges alleging his home had been invaded.

Today, we're unleashing R.C. Harvey and his Hare Tonic column upon the subject of Cecil Jensen, previously covered in these digital pages by our own Frank Young. Your cup, she runneth over!

Jensen occupies a fond niche in my memory for his creation of the world’s stupidest comic strip hero in the eponymous Elmo. Nadel supplies the tidbit that Jensen created the strip in response to a challenge from his executive editor, Basil (Stuffy) Walters, to whom Jensen had confided that “the comics in the News smell.” To which Walters responded, “All right — you draw a strip.” And so, Jensen did.

The late Ed McGeean, a cartoonist friend of mine who worked at the News for years, once told me that Shoes had no faith in Cees’s creation. He told Jensen that Elmo wouldn’t succeed because the protagonist was too stupid. Maybe Shoes never heard of Li’l Abner. Then again, Elmo was stupider than Abner. When asked how Elmo would be different than other comic strips, Jensen retorted, “The strip is supposed to be funny.” And I thought it was, hilariously so.

Our first review of 2020 comes via Hillary Brown, and it's of Gabrielle Bell's delightful My Dog Ivy comic. As someone who spent time sleeping in the same room Bell describes with those same cats and that same dog, I'm all in on this one. 

Gabrielle Bell has been drawing daily comics in July for something like 10 years now, all in a format she’s perfected: one-page, six-panel strips three high by two wide, black and white. My Dog Ivy collects the ones from 2017, when she animal sat for cartoonist Tom Kaczynski and his partner Nikki. Kaczynski owns Uncivilized Books, which put out this book in October of this year. He also owns Ivy, and the title of the book is followed by an asterisk, which indicates “It’s not my dog.” Like all of Bell’s work, it is surprisingly immersive and affecting, but why? How does she do it?

Our second review of the year is from the unflappable Greg Hunter, and he's here with a look at Bloody Stumps Samurai, another of 2019's Ryan Holmberg translations. Holmberg's seemingly tireless efforts to deliver as much of this stuff as he can for as long as the many publishers he's working with on these projects will support their release is one of the most impressive feats that comics has. The last few months of comics has been laden with proclamations of support for the artform, often delivered in the most hysterical and overwrought fashion--but that is all they have been: empty screeching, complete with posture. Meanwhile, Holmberg has consistently been involved in some of the most challenging and fascinating books of the last ten years--titles that will burn and fester their way into the landscape of the future just as many of them once did upon their release in their native language. His books have shown up so frequently and been so good that they've shown time and again how light the bench for English language manga coverage actually is. There's more of them than any site can handle, which is why most of them have given up and reverted to bringing in whatever resident moron they have to regurgitate choice bits of Ryan's own historical essays like some version of found footage criticism. "What a time you chose to be born", he says, quoting the pop culture manga character as popularized by the 90's hip-hop album. What a time indeed! Greg's got complaints about this one though, go figure. The irony!

Eve Of The Fireball

Today, at TCJ, Matt Seneca is here with a look at Criminal #11, the most recent issue of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips long-running company-hopper of a book. Check it out, then circle back here for more TCJ updating:

I was worried I'd be lost coming in so cold, but Brubaker's frequent, terse, and declarative narration pulls all the weight of situating readers comfortably in the middle of his story's action. This being said, it does have a puzzling tendency to switch back and forth between past and present tenses whether or not there's a flashback sequence going on, and if anything, Brubaker does his job too well. There's not much in this issue, at least, that indicates why its content exists as a comic and not a novel - a cardinal sin in my book, even if its creators still manage to put forth a pleasant read. It's even more confusing given that the whole point of Criminal as an enterprise is comic-izing a form whose prose existence is so robust. Each page is laid out in the three-tier/widescreen template that's been stale since the moment Darwyn Cooke finished codifying and perfecting it in New Frontier, and the interplay between words and pictures makes no attempt to move past Comics 101. Brubaker tells us some crooks change into phony security guard uniforms and Phillips shows us beefcakes buttoning shirts and donning ballcaps; Brubaker tells us they walk across the parking lot and there Phillips shows them going between cars, in the same two-shot framing as before. The substance of it does nothing to get your blood moving, even if it does a good job of proceeding apace.  

It's Christmas Eve! Regardless of whether or not you celebrate this, the apex of the world's one true religion (rampant hyper-consumption), the impact it has on one's ability to get to the grocery store is felt by all, provided you are lucky enough to live in a country that has grocery stores, provided as well that said country is not on fire. Let's assume then that if you've got time to read these TCJ blog entries--few and far between as they may be, then you're someone not feeling the impact of a collapsing economy, a terrifying political climate, freakish, life-decimating weather patterns, but are instead blessed with the free time to keep up with us over here at The Comics Journal as we clear the decks and prepare for 2020, a year which, by even the most optimistic accounts, is sure to be the most obnoxious one in recorded history. As well as the hottest? Probably.

This week, we'll be ladling out our Best of 2019 posts--one focusing on the comics that various contributors felt earned the name, and one where we look back on the pieces those contributors wrote. My feeling on these lists is that they're a good test of whether or not a house of criticism has done its job: namely, that your Best of Year list should be the least surprising thing you do all year, because every first-time-mention on that list is a book that should've been looked at earlier. It's a public report card, often reflecting an editor's failings, and while I'm not looking forward to it, I can't wait for other people to do so. Look for those pieces to go up on Thursday and Friday of this week. (There may be other surprises this week as well).

Last week was a syrupy one, as any week with a new Bob Levin should be. Monday, he took a classic Levin look at J.T. Dockery & Sexton Ming's Kenttucky Pussy, published by Ohio's own Nix Comix. I like that Nix guy, he's a good dude. Bad graphic design on those Nix comics though. Put that on the 2020 bucket list, Ken!

His relationship with Dockery had begun in one of those but-for-that moments which Goshkin treasured. He had acknowledged in-print the influence on his prose of the not-exactly-of-the-canon Nick Tosches, whose story “Spud Crazy” Dockery just happened to be adapting for a comic. Dockery and Goshkin had progressed into praising each other’s work in publications that reached audiences not much larger than those which filled Ming’s pubs. Now, an hour before typing that sentence, his daily doppio barely begun, Goshkin had read Tosches’s obit, in which he’d been quoted as saying “one of the rewards of being 50” was the right to wear leopard-skin loafers.

For Goshkin, 77 had meant eel-skin boots.

Everything connects.

Tuesday, Marc Sobel returned to The Book Nook, an Atlanta staple that should be the second place you go on any trip to the South, the first being Bizarro Wuxtry. He found and bought some old Steve Bissette as all good heroes should:

Bissette has long been a champion for sophisticating the horror genre in comics, but in these early works, he had a very different agenda. These stories were obviously geared toward Scholastic’s juvenile readership, however, for Bissette, they served a greater purpose than simply providing momentary diversions from the drudgery of schoolwork. Having grown up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bissette was a huge fan of science fiction and horror from a young age. In his Afterword in Fear Book, he recalls being inspired by everything from classic monster movies to the Mars Attacks! trading cards to Aurora model kits. As for comics, he mentioned Kirby’s Atlas books, the Warren magazines, various Charlton and ACG horror anthologies, and the seminal first issue of Ghost Stories by John Stanley, though undoubtedly this is an abbreviated list. However, as a young man in the ‘70s, he was frustrated with the deluge of graphic, adult-oriented bloodbaths which had come to dominate the horror genre. He lamented what he referred to as a dearth of “innocent horrors.” Thus, he viewed his work in Weird Worlds not just as a professional gig, but also as an opportunity to introduce “a new generation of young readers” to his beloved genre.

Wednesday, Austin Price took a nice long look at Taiyo Matsumoto's Cats of the Louvre, the latest affectionately received Matsumoto title to make it to English. Look for bonus Jog content in the comments section!

But if Cats is deeply preoccupied with death and critical of escapism it’s not lacking for humor, or for warmth; it’s hardly what might be described as grim. There’s something moony about Matsumoto’s approach to our inevitable end that removes it of its sting. This might be easily attributed to the prominence of the cats. Here as in life it’s the contrast between their cool remove, preening stylishness, and obvious foolishness that makes Matsumoto’s felines such a joy to follow; there’s an observed quality to their play, their fights, even the aforementioned frivolity they display in the face of death that captures so much of their appeal. Anyone who’s spent long enough around a pack of cats or even an afternoon (a Caturday?) browsing cat-themed videos on Youtube knows how arbitrary their moods, how particular their politics, how engaging their dramas can be, but we’ve so long emphasized the cuteness of these idiosyncrasies that we forget how bizarre they must seem to somebody on first encounter. Not Matsumoto, whose decision to emphasizes just how truly strange these animals are gifts the book an absurdity that mitigates against its more dour inclinations.

Over at Chimera Obscura, podcaster Gil Roth shared the audio of remarks made Tom Spurgeon's memorial service, which took place on December 14th in Columbus, Ohio. It was a moving event, well attended by Columbus friends, Spurgeon's family, and a healthy contingent of those who came to know him online. 


Our obituary of Tom Spurgeon is here, written by Michael Dean. Tom's loss is and will continue to be felt by us for a very long time. Hopefully some of the pieces we will be publishing this week will help readers and friends process their own grief. It is doing that for me. Last week's blog post will continue to serve as a "Collective Memory" of Tom Spurgeon related pieces for as long as those pieces arise.

Today, Edwin Turner reviews Chris Ware's Rusty Brown for us--and next week, we'll hear a different take on the book, that one from Tegan O'Neil. Today though, it's Turner time:

Rusty Brown is a sprawling story about memory and perception, about minor triumphs and chronic failures, about how our inner monologues might not match up to the reality around us. In Ware's world, life can be blurry, spotty, fragmented. His characters are so bound up in their own consciousnesses that they cannot see the bigger picture that frames them.

Appropriate to this theme, Ware frames his novel as a day of network television programming, beginning with the beautiful program "Snow" (aka "Our Science Minute"). The two-page chapter is a brief, simple meditation on snowflakes. Can we be so sure that no two are truly alike? the cursive-voiced narrator wonders. The final paragraph of "Snow" subtly announces one of Rusty Brown's major themes:

Like the growing rings of a tiny hexagonal tree, billions of water molecules spin around and around, each finding the closest, easiest, and most comfortable bond (just as people, who seek the companionship of like minds and bodies, cannot simply be thrown together and expect to thrive)...

The characters of Rusty Brown are stuck in miserable "easy" bonds; thrown together, they do not thrive.

Elsewhere, a review: Here's an Abhay Khosla review on Scott Snyder and Charles Soule's comic they did with Giuseppe Camuncoli  for Image Comics. Come for the part where Abhay describes a thing that sounds professional but lousy, but stay for the part where the comic ended and becomes a no-shit advertisement for DARPA.

Elsewhere, a review: Ryan Carey takes a look at Tad Martin, from Casanova Frankenstein. 

Elsewhere, a comic: Michael Kupperman showed up at Harpers with a comic reminding us that 1989 was a formidable year for cinema. 

Rambling: When I first started up with Tim here at TCJ, one idea I had--I probably should put quotation marks around the word idea there--was that we should have a week where we get the absolute best minds of comics criticism, including all the in retirement or no-longer-willing-to-talk-to-TCJ-types, the fun academics, maybe Jeet Heer and his sister, the whole wrecking crew, all to write about some old issue of Daredevil that I had just read for the first time. Tim didn't shoot the idea down--in my experience, that wasn't how Tim did things--but he did just look at me quietly for a second, which is always long enough for one to realize that the other person hates the idea you've just proposed, you don't look cool in the shirt you've asked them about, and that hairstyle is for somebody who has a different, better face. Then he just said--"Okay. Why, though?" 

I didn't have an answer to that question, so I moved on. I am reminded of this moment only now because Amy Garvey wrote about that exact issue of Daredevil for Women Write About Comics and while it is not everything I hoped it would be--simply because it is one single article, and my hope was for as many articles about this single issue as there are hot takes on impeachment hearings--Amy's work is the first step towards a utopian future, wherein the only super-hero comic we talk about is Daredevil #261. I want the good recaps from the recap factory, as much as I want the overly obsessive panel dissections where they draw Microsoft Paint arrows on stuff but the arrow goes in the wrong way. I want to inhale some misspelled ramble that discloses way too much personal information about the writer, I want the overly politicized readings that conclude in mangled quotes of Adorno, I want to hear from the kind of comic book critics who have rearranged their collection to be alphabetical by title, than writer, than artist, than given up. I want to read the wet boyz who are just gonna plagiarize Zainab Akhtar, because that will also mean there is a Zainab take on Daredevil #261 to plagiarize. I want to read those yokels who goes way overboard talking about who the colorist is, one of those writers who you can go through their entire catalog of reviews and see, time and time again, how they write the same sentences over and over again about how this color made them feel a certain way, how these same sentences always show up midway through the final third of the review, right before they insert the staple line about the lettering being "excellent". Does blue make you feel cold, you stupid piece of shit? I love you, you dumb fucking moron: but how did all the red make you feel? I want all the takes! Let Amy lead the way out of this depressed world, towards a world where every episode of Cartoonist Kayfabe is a 24 hour livestream of Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor talking about what Ann Nocenti meant to them, but only in the context of this single issue of Daredevil that has way too much of the Human Torch, the favorite super-hero of people who wish they could be served oatmeal instead of rice when they go to chain restaurants.

Tom, this isn't going to be as much fun anymore.

Collective Memory

Social media and text messages spread Wednesday evening announcing the passing of Tom Spurgeon, a former Comics Journal editor, the founder and overlord of The Comics Reporter, an excellent critic, a insightful interview, a fine writer, a smart, funny person. His brother Whit confirmed the terrible news on Facebook

There will be no small amount of remembrances of Tom, as there are many--myself included--who have been given platforms and audiences due to the attention he bestowed. For decades, Tom's attention to comics, the artists who create them, the critics who write about them and the fans who read them helped build an online infrastructure where this artform could be loved, discussed, worshipped, argued about, reviled, consumed, created, magnified. There are a handful of people who built a "comics internet" that was more than just places to talk about new products to be consumed. Tom was and has remained one of that handful. There was no part of comics that did not interest him, and yet he never stopped being his own person.

This is a bad day for comics, and every other time there has been one of those, heading over to the Comics Reporter and refreshing it until he had his own take on the badness helped put it all together. It is hard to believe that I won't ever get to do that again. 

[Links, will be updated, feel free to email [email protected] with yours]

Obituary at The Comics Reporter, by Douglas Wolk.

Obituary at the The Columbus Dispatch, by Erica Thompson.

Our obituary of Tom Spurgeon, by Michael Dean.

Obituary at The New York Times, by George Gene Gustines.

There will be a public memorial on December 14th at 5:00PM, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. More information is here at Facebook.

A Special Five For Friday at The Comics Beat.

Brigid Alverson at Smash Pages.

Chris Arrant at Newsarama.

Bart Beaty at What Were Comics.

Benjamin Birdie at Multiversity.

David Bitterbaum at The Newest Rant.

Christopher Brayshaw at VanAnoydyne.

Ryan Carey at Four Color Apocalypse.

Henry Chamberlain at Comics Grinder.

Rob Clough at High-Low.

Sean T. Collins at Attention Deficit Disorderly.

Brian Cronin's obituary at CBR.

Oliver East at Patreon.

Warren Ellis at his site.

Erik at Disney Weirdness.

Mike Evanier at News From Me.

JP Fallavollita at Biff Bam Pop.

Brian Fies at The Fies Files.

Dan Gearino at his site.

Randall Golden at Midlife Crisis Crossover.

Milton Griepp at ICv2.

Simon Hanselmann's classic riff.

Dean Haspiel at Man Size.

Charles Hatfield at Kindercomics.

Glenn Hauman at ComicMix.

Christian Hoffer at Comics MNT.

Domingos Isabelinho at The Crib Sheet.

Rich Johnston's social media round-up at Bleeding Cool.

Sean Kleefeld at Kleefeld On Comics.

Austin Kleon at his site.

Joshua Leto at Medium.

Mike Lynch at Mike Lynch Cartoons.

Heidi MacDonald at Comics Beat.

Tim Midura at Comics Pit.

J. Caleb Mozzocco at Every Day Is Like Wednesday

Nick Mullins at nijomu.

Brian Nicholson at Longbox Coffin.

Nealalien at Nealalien.

Kim O'Connor at The Shallow Brigade.

Kelsey Painter at Word of the Nerd.

Ken Parille at Blog Flume.

Summer Pierre at Paper Pencil Life.

Chris Pitzer at Adhouse.

John Porcellino at Maybe Blogging Will Help.

Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly.

Mike Rhode at Comics DC.

Gil Roth at Virtual Memories

Gil Roth's 2012 Conversation with Tom Spurgeon (with New Introduction) at Virtual Memories.

Brian Salvatore at Multiversity.

Brett Schenker at Graphic Policy.

Alex Schumacher at his site.

"Scoop" at Diamond's Previewsworld.

Alex Segura at The Sunday Longread.

Mark Seifert's obituary at Bleeding Cool.

Jeff Smith at Boneville.

Mike Sterling at Progressive Ruin.

Bob Temuka at The Tearoom of Despair.

Steve Thompson at Booksteve's Library.

Obituary at Tripwire.

Jay Yaws at Comics Now.

Travel Day

I'm sitting in the airport in Austin, trying to ignore the gnawing sensation that I've made many terrible mistakes, a sensation that has come about because I decided to spend the 4AM hour reading this long article about Michel Haneke's earlier films. Austin is a fun town, although there is a certain point where you get tired of seeing all the drawings of guitars on everything. I don't want to take a dump in a guitar, thank you! You can put my water in a cup!

Thankfully, the site can continue apace regardless of me and my feelings. Starting off, we've got an interview with Kelsey Wroten, thanks to our old pal Annie Mok. It's a good one, and I share Kelsey's desire for more speed-based acclaim for cartooning types. Has anyone topped Kyle Baker's Dick Tracy pace while maintaining legibility?

As far as other thematic inspiration goes, I was exploring the notoriety aspect of creative work. If a person is an athlete it is easy to understand why one is greater at any one thing. If a person is the fastest there's nothing to debate. Creative work is somehow devoid of those external markers. It's experiential. It's like instead of being the fastest, a work is on the racetrack of trying to make someone feel something, whatever that comes to mean. The work that does that best is given a prize. This all seems well and good, but it also plays into other factors, like market saliency, accessibility, audience, and zeitgeist to name a few, all having nothing to do with the content of the work at all. Caroline is a 4 on the Enneagram test. She needs external validation for her internal life, which is setting herself up to fail from the start.

Today's review is from Leonard Pierce. Leonard didn't ask to be the Monday critic anymore than Hillary asked to be the Friday closer, but it certainly has been nice having that system in place. Leonard's looking at Luke Healy's new book with Nobrow, Americana, about his experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. My sister hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago, and the main thing I remember was when she had to stop and go to an emergency room in the middle because she got this psychotic spider bite and walked around with what looked like a tennis ball of infected flesh stuck to her body. Around the same time her husband woke up with spiders inside his ears! Leonard doesn't focus on those kind of gross-out elements of Luke's book in his review, which is why Leonard is a pro.

Artistically, Americana is a quite lovely book; though Healy is not a traditional illustrator of nature, his skill in conveying both the glory and the tawdriness of wild places is effective and compelling. There are long passages of text, a device that I normally don’t care for and which I find disrupts the flow of comics as a visual medium, but Healy loads in a lot of background that would make the story unwieldy if it were drawn. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but to leave this important material out entirely would be a huge loss, so I’m more kindly disposed towards it than I ordinarily might be. One of the charms of the book is how it draws you in to the argot of the trail and the distinct characters of those who follow it, and Healy’s medium-shot caricatures of oddly nicknamed fellow travelers (Spreadsheet, Craftsman, Secret Squirrel, Centerfold) gives you a real sense of their personalities as the drop in and out of his long quest along the trails. It’s an absolute fish-hook of a read, burying itself in you right away; Healy meets with constant travails and setbacks and always presses on, and I found myself pushing forward with him on every page. Putting the book down seemed like a surrender.

Time to go home! By way of Detroit?


It's Tuesday here at TCJ central, and we're charging forward with our week, which will see me returning to my birth state of Texas for the second time this year. I know you don't care: but these intro sentences need something for a focus, buster. Yesterday, Katie Skelly filed a conversation with Kate Lacour, a cartoonist whose work I fondly remember being picked up in zine form by people who often thought they were getting something cute, only to discover they had entered the raw: as today, as forever, she did not disappoint.

It’s a strange thing, you know -- your pupil looks black because it’s a hole. Physiologically, it’s a dark tunnel filled with transparent jelly, and at the end of that are the nerves straight to your brain. You see with it, but you can’t see it, just the empty dark space. Light goes in, hits the fovea, and doesn’t come out, the same as a black hole. When you look into the center of your face, the center of your eye, you’re seeing the darkness inside your head. It’s spooky. You know it’s emptiness, but there’s an unshakeable feeling of presence.

So this piece relates to a single experience, the one time I did ketamine, which is a horse anesthetic, back when I was 16 or 17. I took a dose -- too much, as it turns out -- and was suddenly sliding down this black tunnel and then just complete obliteration. Absolutely without time or physicality, totally without self. And in that non-space, there was this presence, if I can call it that. Utterly without form or qualities, this deep substrate. It seemed to go on forever.

Today, we're welcoming Qiana Whitted to these august pages for a look at Hot Comb, a collection of comics by Ebony Flowers that Drawn & Quarterly put out earlier this year.

In Hot Comb, hair is the visual narrative’s barometer of the self. The eight interlocking black-and-white stories use the social, historical, and economic politics of hair to chart the different phases of African American girlhood and illustrate how ideas about racial identity, trauma, beauty, sexuality, and power pass from one generation to the next. Some of the stories appear to draw on Flowers’ personal experiences as the basis of character and conflict, while a few shorter pieces read like journal entries of conversations in which hair is the main provocation. In the salon or at the kitchen stove, the intimate relationships that develop in these black women-centered spaces are cultivated to safeguard and to equip mothers, sisters, and daughters against the dangers beyond.

Reviews? We got those too. So far this week, Leonard Pierce has swung by for a look at The Hard Tomorrow, which is another D&Q release--this one, by Eleanor Davis. Leonard was feeling this one, y'all:

Books sometimes come around at such a timely moment, and speak to you in such a precise way, that it’s almost alarming. The trick of speaking to one’s current moment is to make what you’re saying immediate and meaningful to your audience without making it so specific that it will seem dated within a short period of time, and seeing the main character of a book pick up her phone and smash likes for DSA chapters and extremely online leftists was so close to home I almost dropped The Hard Tomorrow in shock twenty pages in. 

And today, our pal Frank Young delivers his take on Brain Bats of Venus, the second volume in Greg Sadowski's much-appreciated retrospective look at Basil Wolverton. Frank's into it:

Sadowski’s compelling text makes keen use of Wolverton’s papers to tell his story. His tone is clear, level-headed and objective. The book’s hundreds of illustrations, many sourced from original art, show Wolverton trying different methods, including a short-lived detour into airbrushing. His working methods are seen via rough drafts, hand-written notes and story breakdowns. It’s a pity that no complete “Powerhouse Pepper” stories were included, but that is possibly due to rights issues. The reader gets an eclectic dose of Wolverton’s work over this decade. As with the first volume, I’ll often dip back into this one when I need a dose of homespun madness.

And that's it for the week so far! Thanks for sticking with us through the previous weeks of technical difficulties.

The Virility Of Contempt

It's been a tumultuous week at TCJ, and we're still hammering the kinks out right now. But we're not dead, and there's some excellent pieces coming on Guts, Paper Girls, Bradley of Him, Rusty Brown and...there's a LOT. There's a lot! And we're hustling to get it up and running.

Pressing Herkly

Today at TCJ, I'm pleased to share you with Mel Gillman's roundtable conversation with cartoonists Blue Dellinquanti & Dylan Edwards on the importance of LGBTQ speculative fiction

Blue Delliquanti: You don't realize how much RAM in your day-to-day processing system is taken up by just, like, justifying your existence. It's really interesting to see a character like yourself in a speculative world. I like to play in the same playground as Dylan, where I'm really interested in infrastructure.

Dylan Edwards: I think this bounces back to the concept of seeing yourself in media in the first place. If you had told me as a 12 year old that asexual was a thing you could be, that would have changed my life. One of the things that spec fic allows you to do is ask things like, what if society wasn't transphobic to begin with? What if trans people's humanity was just accepted as fact?

Earlier this week at TCJ, we welcomed Tim Hayes to the team. His first piece is a look at one of the latest additions to the world of comics reprints: Rebellion's restoration and re-release of the IPC Youth Group, a whole catalog of British comics ranging from the violent to the weird, with another stop on the way through weird violence.

Swimming in an ocean of British comics mostly unseen since the 1970s and 1980s can give you a nostalgia trip or the bends. The sentimental aspect, inevitable if you happen to have been reading some of this stuff the first time round, is less interesting now than the stylistic approaches of creators faced with a relentless weekly schedule of short four or five-page episodes, mostly in black and white. The baseline pace of the art is supersonic; the style is rough hewn and aggressive, plainly the work of human hands; and the plots look set to roll on for as long as the comic may last, all digression squeezed out by the density of the storytelling while definitive endings recede like the horizon. And notwithstanding the laudable resurrection of historical cartooning, it's a clash of original form and newfound function. Although Rebellion does not reveal sales figures, and the numbers for the Treasury imprint can only be guessed at, routes into 150-page slabs of 150-MPH black-and-white comics created for teenagers might not materialize for casual readers without some decent guidance and husbandry. Closing the loop between Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry via One-Eyed Jack is one thing; but what readership is out there keen to beat a path back to Dirty Harry? And how old are they?

Tim isn't the only new face 'round here--Simone Castaldi also filed his first piece with TCJ on Massimo Mattioli, whose recent passing blows a giant hole in the part of comics where our boundary pushing goes. If you haven't kept up with Mattioli--of which a scant amount is available in English--than Castaldi's article will serve just as well as an introduction as it does a fond remembrance.

Massimo Mattioli, Italian comic innovator and irreverent mixer of genres, styles, and cultural levels, passed away last month at age 75. He was a central figure in the movement that conjugated the pop language of comics with the highbrow world of contemporary arts in the late 1970s and 1980s. Since 1977, he was also a key member of the Cannibale group, a cluster of artists (including Andrea Pazienza and Stefano Tamburini, among others) tied to important magazines such as the eponymous Cannibale and Frigidaire. Known to English-speaking audiences mainly for his Squeak the Mouse saga, Mattioli’s artistic output is in fact tremendously vast and diverse, ranging from deceptively innocent children’s stories, published in Italian Catholic magazines such as Il Giornalino, to the sex-guts-and rockets yarns of his Frigidaire contributions. Mattioli’s career is also singular, in the context of Italian comics, because he was one of the very few Italian comic artists to make a name for himself abroad before actually establishing his career in his own country.

And on Monday, Cynthia Rose delivered her third piece in as many weeks--have you felt spoiled lately? Because you have been--on Edgar P. Jacobs Blake & Mortimer comics, which have seen renewed interest in the past few years. 

Jacobs died in 1987 at 83, having produced Blake and Mortimer only between 1946 and 1973. This legacy comprises eight tales and ten albums. Nine years after their author died, however, Dargaud brought back his duo. Since then, numerous pens have kept Blake and Mortimer going. The franchise attracted names like Bob De Moor, Ted Benoit, Teun Berserik, Jean Van Hamme and Peter Van Dongen. Now they are joined by megastar François Schuiten, who is a lifelong devotee of Jacobs' work. Schuiten is behind the new, eighty-page Blake and Mortimer tale Le Dernier Pharaon (The Last Pharaoh).

Le Dernier Pharaon is a tribute in story form that, as I write, has topped BD best-seller lists for seven weeks. Schuiten, who created Les Cités Obscures with Benoît Peeters, assembled a trio of collaborators for it: film director Jaco Van Dormael, writer Thomas Gunzig and the exceptional colourist Laurent Durieux. This quartet spent four years pondering Jacobs' question What does it mean, in one's own time, to save the world?

So far this week, we've had reviews from Brad Mackay on Nick Maandag's The Follies of Richard Wadsworth, Chris Mautner on AJ Dungo's In Waves, and Robert Kirby on the Diane Noomin-edited collection, Drawing Power. Today, cartoonist Patrick Kyle also tried his hand at the review game, with a look at Inés Estrada's Alienation.

Here's a lovely and welcomed update regarding Jeremy Sorese, by Jeremy Sorese, who recently returned home from the hospital. The fundraiser he describes in the letter is still active at GoFundMe.

Over at Smash Pages, Alex Dueben can be found speaking with Jorge J. Santos, the author of a new academic book about comics that and how they can engage with the legacy and meaning of the Civil Rights Movement. There's also some talk of the Hernandez Brothers, because they rule:

You teach Gilbert and Jaime in Latino literature? Which books do you use?

I have trouble imagining teaching that class without some Gilbert or Jaime Hernandez. I usually use Gilbert and the first Fantagraphics collection. I have a class on Junot Diaz and I use Poison River because he said that was the book that he has emulated the most in terms of what he wants to sound like and Gilbert is his biggest influence. The students are really receptive to it because it’s not plot oriented and the stories can be surreal. Gilbert Hernandez is like a Swiss Army Knife, he has so many interests that I can usually say that I have a list of topics I like to touch on and Gilbert will let me do four of these. Jaime I use less so. I don’t think I’ve taught Jaime successfully yet, but Gilbert’s a staple.

Over at Fleen, Gary Tyrrell has a long, personal look at the new Tillie Walden book, Are You Listening. It's not really a review, but it's an interesting, passionate piece of writing. Walden's work continues to impress me as much with the fervency with which its fans react to and describe it as I am by her skill at drawing. Despite my own misgivings about  Are You Listening, it's impossible to argue with the cultural impact her work continues to amass with each new release.

Your experience will be different; some of you will likely hate this book and you won’t be wrong. It’s a reflection our personal landscapes, which are no more stable than memory because we are each distinct and always changing. But if you want a book to challenge you — not just what you think about comics, or narrative, but what you think about you — then you will love it as I do, and we won’t be wrong.

SPX takes place this weekend, and you'll be expected to provide a hot take on...a poster that Chris Ware drew? Ha. Nope! If we're all going to play to form, then I'm going to spend the weekend reenacting my favorite cliche by reading this hardcover collection of Crossed comics by Garth Ennis that I skipped back when it was....ah shit, this some online crap that was illustrated by Mike Wolfer. Fuck!

Well, I hope you have a great show, imaginary reader! See you tomorrow for Ryan Flanders and reviews.

Country or Western

The week, she continues tearassing along. Have you kept up with us? It's a rhetorical device intended to keep you reading this blog entry.

Kurt Ankeny's Cartoonist's Diary made two more stops since we last spoke: on Wednesday, it tried to go swimming and today, it hung out with a teenager.

Wednesday, your very own Paul Tumey swung by with a look at the latest Tom Van Deusen comic, and he pulled out the big guns: references to Classical Philosophy!

The ancient Greek philosopher Hepatitis once wrote, “The purpose of truth is so that we may know ourselves and each other.” If that’s the case, then Tom Van Deusen’s Expelling My Truth, reveals nothing and everything. The choice of the malapropism “expelling” in the title is a prime example of Van Deusen’s deadpan wit. As with all good comedy, there’s a core of truth to the gag. The definition of “expelled” is to deprive someone of membership to an organization or a society. If you read enough Van Deusen, you’ll soon see one of the recurring themes running underneath the surface of his hilarious, off-kilter comics is that of not belonging; of being an outsider.

Today, Sean Witzke is here with a dive into William Gibson, whose decades long dream of having his vision of franchise expansion fulfilled by Dark Horse Comics and Johnnie Christmas via Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay.

Alien 3 has a certain reputation with different groups -- to David Fincher, it was a nightmare first production for the enfant terrible director, one he has since refused to be associated with because the studio will not restore his child autopsy scene, which even the biggest Gone Girl fan in the world would admit is a bit much. For movie dorks, it’s a movie you like to argue is better than whoever is tolerating listening to you remembers. For most people, it’s the one where Sigourney Weaver got head shaved. For losers, it’s the one where Newt dies off-camera and they get angry. I remember Alien 3 as the first rated R movie that had a very large toy push, meaning I was being sold ephemera related to a product I technically wasn’t supposed to see.

And then Marc Sobel returned to us with the first of a two-parter revealing what he managed to track down on a visit to the Book Nook, a store that got a whole bunch of my money (and all my old cassette tapes and a bunch of my CD's) when I was growing up. Sobel doesn't say that his column--whose focus is primarily the British comics anthology Trident--is a present for me, but that's okay, some guys have trouble talking about their feelings. Thanks Marc! I see you!

My tastes in comics are all over the map, but I have a special love for ‘80s and ‘90s British anthologies. There was such intense passion for the medium back then, and it went so much deeper than just 2000 A.D. and Warrior, or Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison. There were hundreds of talented creators publishing comics in series like Crisis, RevolverEscapeDeadlineA1, and Electric Soup.

Trident Comics, an offshoot of Neptune Distribution, a comics distributor based in Leicester, was a small press publisher in the late '80s, and this short-lived anthology was its flagship title. The series was edited by Martin Skidmore, who had previously edited the Fantasy Advertiser, a British adzine. If you think of these anthologies as a poker hand, Trident had a pair of aces: Bacchus by Eddie Campbell and St. Swithin’s Day by Grant Morrison and Paul Grist. But the series attracted a surprisingly large number of other well-known creators to its eight issues, including Neil Gaiman, Phil Elliott, John Ridgeway, Alan Davis, and Mark Millar.



Today at TCJ, we're roaring into a short week with plenty of TCJ branded online content for you: hopefully you'll stick around for the duration. I'll be hanging out at a school bus stop for the first time in over twenty years, if you need me. I'm the guy who is sick of sharpening pencils.

That's not the only trip that's going down though--why not relax into the brain of Cynthia Rose, who'll walk you through the halls of Paris' Musée Guimet for their current show, On the Road to Tōkaidō? With a focus on the work of Utagawa Hiroshige, it's...well, let's let Cynthia explain it:

The show is a virtual trip down a route with 53 stops, in works that depict enchanting views, breathtaking scenery and delightful picnics. But these holiday-style high points are grounded in reality. So there are also weary parents with cranky kids, unwelcoming locals and screeching roosters that shatter the traveller's sleep. Each new village has its own tourist traps, from hustling hoteliers to overpriced bars. It may sound a lot like National Lampoon's Vacation. But it's all happening in 1833 – on a Japanese trail once as iconic as America's Route 66.

Today's review comes to us from Rob Clough, who is here with a look at 2017's What Is Left, by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. As Rob puts it:

Often, when the work of an emerging cartoonist starts to gain attention, it is useful to consider their most recent work prior to their breakthrough comic. Rosemary Valero-O'Connell is not only gaining praise for illustrating the Mariko Tamaki-written YA book Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me published earlier this year, but she's also signed with First Second for two books of her own. Prior to that, she's released an impressive series of mini-comics, including one for Zainab Akhtar's ShortBox, What Is Left.

In a bit of synchronistic timing, Akhtar announced just yesterday that ShortBox were crowdfunding an extensive reprinting of What Is Left (along with other stories by Valero-O'Connell). 

We're also pleased to be roaring into the week with yet another Cartoonist's Diary--if you haven't been keeping up with them, there's an easy fix for that. This week, we're in the hands of Kurt Ankeny. In Monday's installment, he annoyed his son and in today's, it's Mother Nature who is altering his plans.

Finally, there's this. Following years of allegations, rumors, insinuations, the publisher hopping, Crossfit-preaching, did-you-know-I-have-a-daughter self-declared champion of women the world 'round found himself smashed right up against some new allegations of sexual harassment, and this time, he actually lost a job over it. Who would that be? Well, since you haven't clicked the link yet, it would be Brian Wood, and the newest claims would be from Laura Hudson. Full disclosure: Brian Wood and I have not gotten along for years, although initially that had to do with me disliking some of his comics, while I have gotten along just fine with Laura Hudson, because she hired me and paid me money to write about comic books. My general pessimism towards Wood increased over the years, especially after he made some weird claims about how I treated him at a party to some people who he thought liked him (they did not, and promptly rushed over to tell me about it as soon as he left), and continued after I attempted to repair the breach so as not to alienate my employer at the time. But eventually I--like most of the people who worked with Wood at Vertigo--gave up on trying, because life is too short, his comics were pretty generic, and you'd hear some fucked up rumor about the guy every other couple of months. (Meanwhile, Laura "Total Champ" Hudson kept finding ways to hire and pay me, won an Eisner for comics journalism, and generally stuck to being great.) Eventually, the noise around Wood got loud enough that it transitioned from people in Brooklyn talking shit about him at parties and became something you could read about online. (That's another Beat article about Wood's alleged behavior towards women, and it's from six years ago.) 

At the time--2013--I was also writing a regular column for this site, often partnered with Abhay Khosla. We had discussed the idea of doing actual journalism on the allegations surrounding Wood, as both of us had found been pissed off by the claims made in a blog post by Anna Scherbina (which are now hosted here), claims which were subsequently covered in The Atlantic by none other than Noah Berlatsky. Instead, we took the safe route, and turned the whole thing into a mean joke.

And now, here we are again, right? Six plus years Wood has continued to work in comics, and while one can argue that his assignments have been less plum, it certainly doesn't seem like he's had to suffer any consequences for a consistent pattern of behavior described by multiple women, again and again--hell, the first comment on Samantha Puc's piece from a few days ago is someone saying "Damn that’s really disappointing. Still think he’s a great writer and i will most likely buy his books but he seems to be a shitty human being", a note perfect distillation of the philosophy that ensured Wood's employment would never truly be seriously questioned....until this past weekend, when, after years of insinuations Dark Horse Comics figured that they could hire somebody with a little less of a toxic cloud around them to handle the 113th comic book mini-series spun-off from a 1979 Ridley Scott movie. Congratulations all around. 


Room Service

Today at TCJ, we're taking a look at Ernie Colón, who passed away last week. First up, you'll find Steven Ringgenberg's obituary, and after that, you'll find Kent Worcester's 2007 interview with Ernie, first published in Comics Journal #285. 

Did you always feel a sense of pride in being a cartoonist?

I always shared Will Eisner’s belief that comics could be something more. I felt this very strongly, from my first years in the business. As far as I am concerned, the only people who tried to put down comics were staffers at DC and Marvel, who would refer to what I did with Richie Rich and Casper as “bigfoot” drawing. That would piss me off. I somehow thought that what we were doing was cartooning. 

I only met Will Eisner a couple of times, but as far back as I can remember I thought that comics could be a lot more than simply superhero comics. When I was growing up there were all kinds of comics, from Westerns and romances to kids’ comics. I resented the fact that superheroes became the major genre in comics, and I probably made a mistake when I let people know how I felt at DC and Marvel. 

Our latest Cartoonist Diary of the week launched yesterday, and continues all through the week. Alison Wilgus, who recently made her solo debut with Chronin, is sharing her experience at Wiscon, a feminist science fiction & fantasy convention that took place in Madison Wisconsin earlier this year. Today, she describes her experience at a "vidding" showcase.

Has Daniel Best been posting excerpts from his Todd McFarlane book for a while? I hadn't seen 'em before. One fun thing to do is watch those videos advertising Neil Gaiman's writing Master Class, where he describes stories as being the imagination's kiss, who arrives promptly in a dream carriage every morn if you have a smiling heart, and then read an actual letter he and a lawyer have put together.

Over at Comicosity, Jude DeLuca has a long, hard take on that Heroes In Crisis comic--which appears to be even more offensive than previous reports had made it seem--that concludes with multiple examples of times when super-hero comics have engaged with more complicated issues of trauma with in more delicate, compassionate fashion. It's interesting to note that none of these examples that Jude pulls are from recent super-hero comics.