Don’t Worry

R.C. Harvey is back with another expedition into comics history. This time he tells the true story behind Eustace Tilley, The New Yorker's monocled mascot.

Eustace Tilley is the name given to the 19th century boulevardier languidly inspecting a passing butterfly through his monocle on the cover of the first issue of The New Yorker dated February 21, 1925. The same picture appeared on the magazine’s anniversary issue every year until 1994, when a new editor at The New Yorker, Tina Brown, suddenly violated hide-bound tradition by replacing Tilley with a 20th century version of the boulevardier, a chronic slacker and layabout drawn by Robert Crumb.   Nothing was ever the same at The New Yorker since.

Crumb’s drawing arrived at the magazine without explanation, said art director Francoise Mouly. “We noticed that it showed the view in front of our old offices on 42nd Street, but we didn’t realize that it was also a play on Eustace Tilley.” Understanding that the picture was a parody of Eustace Tilley, Brown seized upon it as a way of breaking a 69-year logjam: she put Crumb’s Tilley, subsequently christened Elvis Tilley, on the cover of that year’s anniversary issue.

As Lee Lorenz, one-time cartoon editor at the magazine told me, Eustace Tilley appeared on the cover of the anniversary issue because no one could think of an appropriate alternative. So year after year, Eustace Tilley returned. Without too much difficulty, we can see how this custom had become a habit. It was Harold Ross’s fault.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At Artsy, Alexa Gotthardt profiles Emma Allen, the new cartoons editor at The New Yorker.

It’s a new role at the magazine. While Mankoff focused on cartoons, Allen has a fuller plate, overseeing Cartoons, Daily Cartoons online, Shouts & Murmurs, Daily Shouts online, and humor videos and podcasts. She and the magazine’s associate cartoon editor, Colin Stokes, also star in a video series, “Cartoons, Etc.,” in which they engage with a rotating cast of guest cartoonists “so that fans can put a face to the squiggle signature,” Allen explains. They also have plans to introduce Daily Comics, or “multi-panel, longer-form funny things” to the website’s comic ecosystem.

“Some part of my brain self-protectively has made me forget what it was like the first couple months,” Allen says when I ask how she’s acclimated to wearing this rather Herculean number of hats. “After the initial blitz, it’s been more of a regular job that I can come in and do, and go home and not collapse in a heap or cry or drink a bottle of scotch.”

—And it's a weird all-New Yorker day here, because Daniel Gross has a profile of the South African cartoonist Mogorosi Motshumi.

Motshumi was born in Batho five years after white lawmakers made racial segregation a national policy. His father died when he was seven. He was raised largely by his grandmother in a one-story house that had a corrugated metal roof and two large windows that faced the road. On the dirt streets of Batho, he learned to fight back when bullies picked on him, but at home he rarely spoke. “I preferred being inside my own head,” he told me. He learned to resent authority figures. As a nine-year-old, a cop drove Motshumi to the police station and forced him to explain why his grandmother wasn’t paying rent.
When, a little while later, he learned that his mother had married a cop, he felt angry and ashamed.

It was around this time that he started reading comic books that his older brother brought home from high school. Though some were local comics written in the colonial language of Afrikaans, he preferred American superhero comics, like “Spider-Man.” “These comics, they always had solutions,” he told me. In a comic book, evil exists, but justice prevails. Villains rise up, but heroes rise to meet them. “That is the light that you’re looking for,” he said. When policemen persecuted the Hulk, he felt vindicated in his hatred of authority. “He’d run and run and run until he could run no more, and he’d start to fight back,” Motshumi told me. “That was my kind of world.” He taught himself to draw in his grandmother’s backyard, tracing characters in the sand with his fingers.

Locked in a Cafeteria

Today on the site, we have Joe McCulloch's final Week in Comics column in which he reflects on reading, work, and sleep. Note that at Joe's humble request, we have turned off the comment function. I am not alone in considering Joe one of the all-time finest writers about comics, and it's been an honor to publish his column for so many years. I'm looking forward to reading Joe's future work for this and other publications. 

Elsewhere:

Julia Wertz presents a mini-history of the Village Voice.

Matt Furie is continuing to deal with the misuse of his Pepe character.

And in further Jack Kirby centennial news, the San Diego Comic-Con has made its 60-page Kirby tribute book available for free download.

Watch a Giant Image Grow

Joe McCulloch's final Week of Comics! column in its current form has grown "too insane" to publish this morning (according to Joe -- I'm sure it's great), so we have one more day to savor our wait for the finale. In the meantime, we have a new review by Rob Clough critiquing Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats #5.

Much of this story is about personal agency when faced with a culture that steamrolls indecision. Fran's integrity and lack of interest in playing the game of climbing the ladder (in part because she is too busy keeping herself busy to even notice that there is a ladder to climb) draws the attention of the scheming partners of the firm, with the mammoth Marcel Castonguay being the shrewdest and weirdest. Rilly has firmly settled into his own mature style, utilizing a cartoony, clear-line approach similar to that of Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie. There are dot eyes, single lines for mouths, and in the case of Castonguay, blank circles for eyes a la Daddy Warbucks (by way of the Kingpin). That character's bulk plays a key role later in the story that emphasizes the larger-than-life nature of the character. The design for Fran herself is elegantly simple: perpetual pony tail, dowdy sweaters, slightly slumped shoulders, and a facial expression that rarely changes. That seeming blankness belies the stewing turmoil within, but it also allows the other characters to fill in what they want to with regard to Fran. Her only seeming friend at the firm turns on Fran when she learns that she is about to get a massive promotion, thinking that Fran is a schemer like everyone else.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At The New Republic, Jeet Heer celebrates Jack Kirby's centennial.

The superhero stories Kirby created or inspired have dominated American comic books for nearly 75 years and now hold almost oppressive sway over Hollywood. Kirby’s creations are front and center in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his fingerprints are all over the DC Cinematic Universe too, where the master plot he created—the cosmic villain Darkseid invading earth—still looms large. It was Kirby who took the superhero genre away from its roots in 1930s vigilante stories and turned it into a canvas for galaxy-spanning space operas, a shift that not only changed comics but also prepared the way for the likes of the Star Wars franchise. Outside of comics, hints of Kirby pop up in unexpected places, such as the narrative approaches of Guillermo del Toro, Michael Chabon, and Jonathan Lethem.

If you walk down any city street, it’s hard to get more than fifty feet without coming across images that were created by Kirby or inflected by his work. Yet if you were to ask anyone in that same stretch if they had ever heard of Kirby, they’d probably say, “Who?” A century after his birth, he remains the unknown king.

At the New York Review of Books (all the big magazines keep poaching our talent), Ryan Holmberg reviews Kazuto Tatsuta’s Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

[This book] occupies a unique position in the history of comics. It is probably the first work of journalistic comics in the world to supersede its prose counterparts as the most popular source on its topic. In the case of Ichi-F, that topic is the cleanup and decommissioning work at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the local name of which (“F-1,” flipped to “1-F”) gives the book its title.

The publisher of the English edition, Kodansha Comics, however, has opted to call this 550-page tome of dry, detailed reportage a “graphic memoir,” presumably because autobiography seems the easiest way to sell literary-minded comics outside the young-adult market these days. The original Japanese subtitle describes the manga instead as a “rōdōki,” literally a “record of labor,” putting more emphasis on the work itself than the person doing the work. The difference might seem trivial, but it speaks to many of the things that Ichi-F both succeeds and fails in doing.

On his Facebook page, Derf too celebrates Kirby, looking back at the newspaper strip he created with Dave Wood and Wally Wood right before "the Marvel Age."

This is the story of “Skymasters of the Sky Force,” the failed comic strip that inadvertently led to the creation of the entire Marvel Universe and all the superheroes you know and love and are currently making billions and billions for Disney Inc.

In 1956, Jack Kirby’s self-owned publishing company, Mainline Comics, went bankrupt and closed, and Kirby and his longtime creative partner Joe Simon went their separate ways. Dr. Wertham and the comic book witchhunts had devastated the industry. Half the smaller comics publishers simply closed up and concentrated on less-controversial products. Industry leader EC Comics was forced to shut down. For reasons unknown, Wertham had included Simon & Kirby’s four Mainline titles in Seduction of the Innocent, even though these titles contained nothing objectionable. It’s one of Wertham’s many unexplainable stances. Simon and Kirby had invested their own savings in Mainline and lost everything. Kirby was a free agent and desperately looking for work… and his options in ’56 were few.

Domingos Isabelinho names his 32nd favorite comic, Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde.

We've already seen how important this book was to establish alternative comics in general and the graphic novel artistic movement (and I say this following Eddie Campbell) in particular. We can identify Joe Sacco's later style: the Célinesque captions continue flying around, so to speak, the Breughelesque detail is all over the place, except... in Joe Sacco's self-portrait. He's the only caricature that still remains. He put himself in his reportage comics to follow two traditions: the underground tradition of autobio comics (three names come to mind: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Robert Crumb, Justin Green - whose Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary should definitely be in my list), the tradition of the New Journalism (and three names come to mind too: Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson). Since the beginning (and I mean "Cartoon Genius" in Yahoo # 1 - October 1988) that Joe Sacco drew himself with opaque eye glasses, but, in that story, he wasn't half as cartoony as he is above. I don't really know why he does it, but I suspect that he's following Scott McCloud's smiley face theory, according to which readers of comics find it easy to identify with simple cartoony faces than to complex portraits (add naturalistic backgrounds and... voilá... total immersion). This is absurd, of course, but enough about what I don't like in Joe Sacco's work. What I really like is that he gives a voice to those who have none in the Western media circus. And does so not with popaganda, but by being a really fine reporter.

Finally, Sarah Horrocks reviews Dark Nights: Metal #1.

If you asked me why I don’t care about superhero comics, this comic is pretty much what I’d conjure up as an example of why. I’m too old to give a shit about which of these palette swaps dies and then is resurrected or what worlds collide. And I don’t care about good versus evil in these basic cop versus robber terms. I’m not a child. But like I’m reading JRJR/Williamson and Nocenti’s Typhoid Mary comics this week, and thoroughly enjoying them. And it’s not because I give a shit about Daredevil. It’s because there’s actually shit on the page to react to. There’s great art to inspire you. And the writing is in big bold terms, but it has a certain soap opera quality. It’s not ironic. It just says what it means and is all about these sappy triangles of people. It works. It doesn’t matter that it’s a superhero comic. It’s just a great comic. I think what I want from superhero comics now, doesn’t have anything to do with them being superhero comics. It has to do with the two biggest companies putting the most resources behind their comics, I expect to see a quality of work, particularly artistically that I can look at and just be in awe and be like “never in a thousand years could I draw that”. I think people don’t respect the art in these things anymore because the styles artists have adopted don’t scare people, don’t put them in awe. And honestly neither does the writing. People read these things and they are just like “oh man, I could do this” which is cool, I mean I’m one of those people. But it’s not healthy in terms of the sort of reverence the top artists in the comics game should demand.


—Interviews.
The most recent guest on Process Party is Jim Rugg.

Back for More

I'm back from vacation and I'm rested and ready for comics! Let's start with a Bob Levin review of Belgian Lace from Hell, the final volume of the S. Clay Wilson three-book biography/monograph:

But the primary reason for my disgruntlement lies with my and Rosenkranz’s differing philosophies about writers’ responsibilities.

Originally presented as a “documentary-style biography,” (or so read the back cover of Heartland), “Mythology” became, with Angels, a “biography retrospective” and, by Lace, a “retrospective” only. The result is that it often reads like a slightly textually enhanced, cut-and-pasted oral history. Take Lace’s first (“The Art Biz”) and last (“Legacy”) chapters. By my count, “Biz” has 15 paragraphs written primarily by Rosenkranz and nearly double that (28)  quoting others speaking about Wilson. (Additionally, there are seven paragraphs from letters written by Wilson and 15 paragraphs quoting him speaking to unidentified interviewers.) In “Legacy,” a final assessment of Wilson as an artist and person, Rosenkranz provides one brief, introductory paragraph, followed by 21 paragraphs quoting members of Wilson’s circle – and three paragraphs I wrote 22 years ago

Elsewhere:

Today is the centenary of Jack Kirby's birth. The Jack Kirby Museum is celebrating with a few days of events in NYC. 

Dash Shaw now has original art for sale at The Beguiling. from his film, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. Here's the listing and Dash explains all in the video below.

In more commerce news, Gahan Wilson has launched a web site.

 

Slob Story

Today on the site, Ryan Holmberg is here with another of his excellent manga analyses, this time, an examination of the work of Yuichi Yokoyama and his use of audiovisual abstraction.

When composed in a certain way, a comic book is something like a Walkman. Of course, comic books (by which I mean any bound volume in the comics medium) lack electronics, and there is no drawn and printed software independent of the paper hardware. You’d be hard-pressed to pick up actual sound waves from its drawn images. Nor will you find a jack to plug in headphones and pipe a soundscape into your ears. Yet no one can deny sound’s place in comics, with their BIF BAM BOOM, pulverizing crashes, and blood-curdling screeches. You, the reader, are the hardware. The speakers are lodged in your throat. Leakage may occur from your mouth, though most of us are capable of keeping the sounds to ourselves, or at least to a soft lip murmur.

Since dialogue, vocal outbursts, and sound effects are represented only visually in comic books – that is, through writing or emanata – it is not the ears but the eyes that are the comic book readers’ audio tape heads. In that sense, the Walkman is the wrong technology. We need something with a moving image or simulation thereof. Old portable handheld televisions once were the best analogues, or perhaps the Game Boy and its spinoffs, though now we have smartphones and thus the entire audiovisual universe in the palm of our hands. Maybe comic books are precocious in that sense: They were our first portable audiovisual entertainments. They were the first medium to allow us to transport a conjunction of sound and movement (albeit virtual) from one room to the other, from indoors to outdoors, from home to coffee shop or train seat.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. After 62 years, The Village Voice is ending its print edition. Among many other things, the Voice has historically been known for its association with many prominent cartoonists, from Jules Feiffer to Lynda Barry to Tom Tomorrow to, currently, Lauren Weinstein. Apparently, it will continue to publish online. Esquire has gathered short statements from various prominent former Voice staffers, including the aforementioned Tomorrow:

It's incredibly trite to say it, but it really does feel like the end of an era. But the Voice is a symbol. The Voice is huge. I don't live in New York anymore, so I don't read it regularly, but it feels like I just got the news somebody I used to be involved with passed away.

—Interviews & Profiles. Speaking of Lauren Weinstein, she is the subject of a good but short and very clickbaity-titled interview at Kveller.

How do you balance working, having a family, and creating art without going crazy?

I am crazy! I have no balance. I work on art like a maniac but I do it because i truly love it. I am also a slob. The best times are when I’m really present doing one thing or another. Like going on a walk with my daughters and really being there and not checking my phone.

Also, I have learned the fine art of phoning it in… that just forcing yourself to finish something and get it out into the world is often enough.

—Misc. Gilbert Hernandez has found an old cache of the original self-published first issue of Love & Rockets, and is selling them for $200 apiece.

Finally, Mike Lynch has gathered a bunch of old Jerry Lewis-related comic book covers.

Cartoons Didn’t Seem Like a Good Business

Today on the site, we are republishing John J. Pint's 1990 interview with Rius, the great Mexican cartoonist who recently died.

PINT: Eventually your political cartoons got you in trouble, didn’t they?

RIUS: They accused me of being a communist. It was the time of the Cuban revolution and I was clearly in favor of Castro. Suddenly, three or four newspapers dropped me. It reached the point where nobody would take my cartoons and I figured I’d have to leave the profession and dedicate my life to selling soap. Cartoons didn’t seem like a good business! That was when I ran into a friend who did comic books. He suggested I write one of my own and the result was Los Supermachos.

PINT: Los Supermachos is hardly a typical comic book. How did you come up with that particular style?

RIUS: True, there weren’t many precedents for comics dealing with political subjects. The only one I knew of was Pogo. I can’t say I was exactly inspired by Pogo, but it did help me develop a formula for dealing with politics and characters symbolizing certain social classes in Mexican society.

PINT: It seems to me your use of these stereotyped characters to produce a kind of documentary on a well-researched theme can only be called unique.

RIUS: Well, I spent a long time analyzing U.S. comics and I noticed that they were, in part, used to politicize people, to convince them that the “American Way of Life” was an ideal way to live. Lots of comics were dedicated to attacking communism—for example, Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner, Captain Marvel. They actually indoctrinated people who didn’t realize they were being indoctrinated. So, I thought, maybe I can fight fire with fire, jump out of the trench, catch some of their grenades and throw them back. I wanted to turn the comic book into a teaching medium, from a politically leftist point of view.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. April Bernard writes about Hilary Knight, Eloise, and a current exhibition.

One feels that Knight’s line drawings, which display more movement, verve, and surprise than most actual animations, must have had something to do with that acerbic turn. What Knight captures is the essential misfit quality of Eloise. Gleeful, greedy, prone to random acts of violence—although she is never malicious—loquacious and haughty, this is no mere six-year-old; she is scarcely human, and not especially female. Knight drew her with an unpretty imp’s face; wind-blown hair; a pleated skirt held up by suspenders over a white blouse, pink ballooning underpants (very important, as she is often upside-down), rucked-down bobby socks, and Mary-Jane shoes with the straps flying. Standing, she thrusts out her modest pot-belly above spindly legs, cutting a figure that certainly does not resemble what plump children really look like.

Brian Nicholson writes about a collection of Don Simpson's unfinished Border Worlds.

Don Simpson is best known for his superhero parody comic, Megaton Man. It seems pretty bleak to have the vast majority of your work be in the well-trod territory of superhero parody, but before Border Worlds was back in print, he had to suffer the double indignity of his second most-famous work being a porn comic done under a pseudonym. Its title? Wendy Whitebread, Undercover Slut. If you haven’t heard of either of these, that’s totally reasonable: I bring it up to gesture at the idea that it seems pretty unreasonable that, with a library like that, he wouldn’t have finished Border Worlds. But that’s the market.

Print hosted an online roundtable of artists (including Ward Sutton, June Brigman, and David Cowles) talking about the influence of Jack Kirby.

June Brigman
I didn’t get into comics until I was a freshman in college. My boyfriend (now husband), collected comics and was a big Kirby fan. I was majoring in art, but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I remember looking at an issue of the New Gods. There was a panel with Lightray on a balcony with a woman. Orion is ranting, but all you see is his shadow and the deck furniture lifted off the ground by his cosmic rage. It was a scene more epic than anything Michael Bay has ever done. I think that’s when I realized the genius of Kirby.

The Sun Went Out

Today's a day I've been dreading: Joe McCulloch's penultimate This Week in Comics! column. As always, it's a must-read. Enjoy it while you can. More on this later...

I was reading Robin Snyder's newsletter, The Comics!, and I came across a letter from an artist and editor of a comics magazine from years ago. He was suffering from ill health, and had gone into assisted living. He had dvds to watch, and some collections of old comics to read, but he didn't think he could travel anymore, as he'd often liked to do. What we are given when we are young, he wrote, is taken when we are old. Elsewhere in the newsletter it was written that the correspondent had died only months after the letter was sent. Eager to learn more about the man's work, I googled his name; the first hit was a Wikipedia page, which insisted he was still alive. Presumably, nobody editing Wikipedia had noticed he was dead. It was sad, these circumstances - sad a little. But what is sadder, I know, is the placing of my faith as an observer in the idea of technological platforms as an arbiter of reality, and a means, thereby, to guess at preeminence. To gauge existence, subconsciously, as a sport of scramble over obscurity; to gamify your words as appealing and unappealing. God, to trust that you will be memorialized beyond the tangibles of love known to you. This chimera of becoming visible - and trusting, thus, in the zookeepers shoveling its shit.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Nate Pieckos shares his cartooning-related health concerns on Twitter, and strikes a nerve with every active cartoonist over thirty-five.

—The most recent guest on the Process Party podcast is Juliacks.

See the Bells Up in the Sky

R.C. Harvey is here to commemorate Dick Locher, the longtime political cartoonist and Dick Tracy artist.

One of the nation’s great cartoonists is dead. You can deny it if you want. I tried. But it didn’t help. Richard E. Locher, 88, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease Sunday, August 6, at Edward Hospital in Naperville, the Chicago Tribune reported. He had lived in Naperville for more than 45 years.

“Dick was one of the best cartoonists in the nation,” said Tribune Editor and Publisher Bruce Dold. “He was also one of the nicest people who ever walked through the Tribune newsroom. I most admired the richness of detail in his drawings. His work was funny and incisive, and his message often carried a hard pop, but his artwork was always incredibly elegant.”

For almost thirty of his four-plus decades as a cartoonist, Dick Locher simultaneously went after corruption and criminality among politicians in his political cartoons and slightly more overt outlawry in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Locher was one of the merest handful of newspaper cartoonists who did both editorial cartooning and comic strip cartooning: he started doing political cartoons for the Chicago Tribune in 1972; he inherited the iconic cops-and-robbers comic strip a decade later. He drew them simultaneously for 28 years, rendering the strip in a markedly different style than his editoons.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Ben Passmore, and the latest guest on RiYL is Katie Skelly. And Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer appear on the Graphic Policy podcast to discuss their anthology, Mirror Mirror II.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Caleb Orecchio talks about being inspired by Eleanor Davis.

I’m not trying to preach or sound like I have THE answers, but what I like about Davis’ recent book is the fact that it is drawn. It’s not inked with a brush with every stroke carefully crafted and feathered. It’s just drawn. Ever seen a Brian Chippendale comic? He just draws them (mostly). Crumb? Moebius? (Conflict of interest warning:) Frank Santoro? Just drawn. I like “professionally” inked comics and comics where traditional craft is essential, but there is an immediacy that is stripped at every step of the process. It’s like going acoustic, once you add a drum kit, you have to turn up the volume on everything else and the intimacy gradually is drowned out.

Susan Doll writes about the connection between Charlie Chaplin and the cartoonist Ralph Barton.

On May 19, 1931, Ralph Barton shot himself in the temple, committing suicide at age 39. He left a suicide note, which he labeled “Obit.” In the note, he singled out his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, as the only woman he had ever loved, though he had cheated on her. She had caught him in the act and divorced him. By the time of his suicide, “his angel” Carlotta had married renowned playwright Eugene O’Neill. Though Barton does not blame Carlotta, or say anything negative about her, the O’Neills were embarrassed and irritated by his comments, which were recounted endlessly in the press. I can’t help but think that Barton had intended this outcome for reasons he took to his grave. Carlotta’s associates speculated that Barton resented the actress for marrying someone more successful than he was.

I’m a “Twitter”

Rob Clough is here today with a review of the latest in a long line of cancer-related comics memoirs, Teva Harrison's In-Between Days.

Prior to reviewing Teva Harrison's cancer memoir, In-Between Days, I want to provide a bit of context. Both of my parents died from cancer. I have worked in a cancer center for the last 28 years, not usually directly with patients, but quite often. So I tend to hate cancer narratives that use words like "heroic" or otherwise apply exceptional qualities to those who are afflicted with the disease. Cancer does nothing to elevate the character of someone who suffers from it; in fact, what it tends to do is reveal character in a dramatic way. Interestingly, those who suffer from the worst kinds of cancer (metastatic, inoperable, etc) tend to be the most understanding, kind, and introspective patients. Those with the easiest-to-treat kinds of cancer tend to be the most melodramatic and demanding.

The three best memoirs I've read about cancer are the rawest and most honest emotionally, revealing the ways in which cancer turns the lives of the patients and their loved ones upside down. Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack's Our Cancer Year is fantastic, as it offers a quotidian, painful look at how cancer and chemotherapy can cause horrible side effects and affect mental status. Miriam Engleberg's Cancer Has Made Me a Shallower Person is hilarious in the face of her ultimately fatal disease. Sharon Lintz's cancer stories in her Pornhounds comic were also unsparing, sharply observed, and funny. Harrison's book isn't as good as any of those comics for a variety of reasons, but it's still bracing, powerful, and achingly honest.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Michael Cavna wants people to read The Onion's Stan Kelly (Ward Sutton).

A visual stroll through the Kelly collection is like a meta-history lesson in editorial cartooning before sardonic subtlety became fashionable. Kelly’s illustrations, reflecting wading-pool deep takes on the news, are larded with labels (“today’s no-good teens,” “today’s troop haters,” “benevolent America”) that skewer the worst practitioners of the art form. Kelly sees himself as a political “king of comedy,” but in truth, he is as deluded as Robert De Niro’s bad stand-up Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.” He would have been painfully mediocre at best in his own era; in our era, he is laughably hackneyed.

Paul Gravett reviews Guy Delisle's Hostage.

As a graphic novelist, presented with mainly a lone, often inactive protagonist and a minimum of settings and props - a series of mostly bare rooms (in one case a claustrophobic closet), a light bulb, a creaking door, a clicking latch, a mattress on the floor, a radiator to which his left hand gets handcuffed, a bucket, a window - Delisle draws each day in cycles of subtle variations, like minimalist music or a staging of a Beckett play. Christophe is his main focus, observing him from moment-to-moment immediacy to extended or indeterminate periods. The time elapsed between three wide-screen panels on one chilling wordless page could be minutes, hours or days. Delisle will also shift his viewpoint, sometimes allowing us to look out through Christophe’s eyes, other times visualising in cartoon shorthand above his head his fanciful escape strategies or his distracting ritual of alphabetic French military history.

Brian Nicholson enthuses over Daria Tessler's Cult of the Ibis.

Mostly-silent storytelling, taking place in a fantasy gothic-architecture world, that seems inspired by German expressionist film. It’s about an occultist getaway driver who, after receiving the loot from a bank robbery that falls apart, orders a build-your-own-homunculus kit and goes on the lam. I remember watching the trailer for Baby Driver and thinking “yes, that does look fun and well-made, but it also looks like every movie that has ever been made.” This is like a variation on that, if made by Jan Svankmajer.

Sam Riedel writes about representation in the work of Simon Hanselmann.

On the still-uncommon occasions that transfem characters show up in fiction (and aren’t two-dimensional stereotypes), they’re often forced to be virtuous because they represent all trans people everywhere. Who wants to be represented by a douchebag? Other marginalized communities also suffer from this tendency, an unintended consequence of “diversity casting” that maintains structural whiteness, cisnormativity, and so on. It’s what made The Good Place so novel; cis women behaving badly in a nuanced way is still itself a rarity. Trans literature is still a niche within a niche, making characters like Maria — the drug-addled, backwards-looking protagonist of Imogen Binnie’s Nevada — almost unheard-of. Since our stories are so often misunderstood, there’s an implicit demand that we be shown in the most palatable light, but that robs our stories of the all-important shades of grey.

Everywhere I Go

Today on the site: Anne Ishii reviews Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice:

I was initially drawn to the Japanese edition of Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice because of the two dudes looking like they were about to kiss, on the cover. They looked like sophomore versions of the Joestar family Araki is best known for creating, and I thought this was a pretty major coup of transition from homosocial straight to homosexual as far as mainstream manga was concerned.

Unfortunately for at least this reviewer, Araki doesn’t come out, nor do his characters. No cool 'ships…no secret past in yaoi. Manga in Theory and Practice is the practical vehicle for manga knowledge that its title advertises and Viz’s English edition provides a more sober cover and its raw translation is for better or worse, un-calibrated for American readers.

Hirohiko Araki was born in 1960 and has Type B blood, which I learned from Men’s Non-No (a populer Japanese men’s lifestyle magazine), which is to say Araki isn’t just a cartoonist but a sort of media personality; unusual in a camera-shy mangaverse. Yet his ability to talk about himself is a good indication of how unique he is and makes his style immune to imitators. Araki doesn’t teach you how to draw like him, but he does give us a clear picture of how he himself consumes manga and related media (anime, action films). His guide to manga comes replete with hand-drawn bullet journal-style progress charts, digital clip art, and samples of beautiful and wild storyboards from his best-known JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which all demonstrate to the reader what they need to know about one very specific kind of mangaka: Hirohiko Araki. To a JoJo megafan…reading this book will not be unlike going to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company; just fine for someone who wants shrimp and maybe for Mikelti Williamson if he’s feeling blue, but it will be a real treat for die-hard Forrest Gump fans.

Elsewhere:

The Ignatz Award nominees have been announced. 

Here's the PR:
The nominees for the ballot were determined by a panel of five of the best of today’s comic artists, Neil Brideau, Glynnis Fawkes, Sara Lautman, Trungles and David Willis, with the votes cast for the awards by the attendees during SPX. The Ignatz Awards will be presented at the gala Ignatz Awards ceremony held on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 9:30 P.M.

Beginning this year, there will be ten Ignatz Award categories as the Outstanding Anthology or Collection will be separated into two different awards:

  • Outstanding Anthology recognizes a book or other collection of selected writings by various writers usually in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same subject. e.g. a book of comics by various cartoonists selected from several books by many cartoonists.
  • Outstanding Collection recognizes a book of selected writings from various sources by an author of the same theme or various themes. e.g. a book of selected short comics from various books by the same cartoonist.

Additional information about the nominees can be found at http://www.smallpressexpo.com/spx-2017-ignatz-awards-nominees.

Once again we want to thank our our friends at comiXology for sponsoring the Ignatz Awards. Information on comiXology and their self-publishing portal Submit can be found at https://submit.comixology.com.

Outstanding Artist

  • Pablo Auldadell – Paradise Lost (Pegasus Books)
  • Emil Ferris – My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Fantagrahpics)
  • Manuele Fior – The Interview (Fantagraphics)
  • Karen Katz – The Academic Hour (Secret Acres)  
  • Barbara Yelin – Irmina (Self Made Hero)

Outstanding Anthology

  • ALPHABET: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics – edited by Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery (Stacked Deck Press)
  • Comic Book Slumber Party’s Deep Space Canine – edited by Hanhah K. Chapman (Avery Hill)
  • ELEMENTS: Fire - An Anthology by Creators of Color – edited by Taneka Stotts (Beyond Press)
  • POWER & MAGIC: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology – edited by Joamette Gil (P&M Press)
  • Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists – edited by Javier Olivares & Santiago Garcia (Fantagraphics)

Outstanding Collection

  • Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • The Complete Neat Stuff – Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics)
  • Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 2 – Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
  • Johnny Wander: Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us - Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota (Oni Press)
  • Time Clock – Leslie Stein (Fantagraphics)

Outstanding Graphic Novel

  • Band for Life – Anya Davidson (Fantagraphics)
  • Eartha – Cathy Malkasian (Fantagraphics)
  • March: Book 3 – John Lewis, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Tetris – Box Brown (First Second)

Outstanding Story

  • Diana’s Electric Tongue – Carolyn Nowak (self published)
  • March: Book 3 – John Lewis, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • "Small Enough" from Diary Comics – Dustin Harbin (Koyama Press)
  • "Too Hot to Be Cool" from Elements– Maddie Gonzales - (Beyond Press)

Promising New Talent

  • Kelly Bastow – Year Long Summer (self published)
  • Margot Ferrick – Yours (2D Cloud)
  • Aud Koch – “Run” from the Oath Anthology (Mary’s Monster)
  • Isabella Rotman – Long Black Veil (self-published)
  • Bianca Xunise – Say Her Name (self-published)

Outstanding Series

  • Chester 5000 – Jess Fink (self-published)
  • Crickets – Sammy Harkham (self-published)
  • Frontier – edited by Ryan Sands (Youth in Decline)
  • Maleficium – Sabin Couldron (self-published)
  • The Old Woman – Rebecca Mock (self-published)

Outstanding Comic

  • Canopy – Karine Bernadou (Retrofit/Big Planet)
  • Libby’s Dad – Eleanor Davis (Retrofit/Big Planet)
  • Public Relations #10 – Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus, Steve Rolston, Annie Wu (1First Comics)
  • Sunburning – Keiler Roberts (Koyama Press)
  • Your Black Friend – Ben Passmore (Silver Sprocket)

Outstanding Minicomic

  • The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs – Celine Loup
  • Our Tale of Woe – Keren Katz & Geffen Refaeli
  • Reverse Flaneur – M. Sabine Rear
  • Same Place Same Time – Ann Xu
  • Tender Hearted – Hazel Newlevant

Outstanding Online Comic

AND:

This clip of David Letterman on Howard Stern talking about Harvey Pekar has been making the rounds. 

The Atlantic has an article on colorists and letterers in comics. 

What Dan Clowes learned in college. 

It’s Alright, Ma

Today on the site, Greg Hunter brings us the latest episode of his excellent Comic Book Decalogue podcast, this time featuring Katie Skelly, who talks Kyoko Okazak, Dave Cooper, and Nabokov, among other things.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, still catching up:

—News. The great Mexican political cartoonist Rius died last week. Here is the New York Times obituary.

Mr. del Río, a lapsed seminarian who adopted the pen name Rius, drew thousands of editorial cartoons. He also published humor magazines and more than 100 graphic nonfiction books.

“The only revenge we have as Mexicans,” he often said, “is to laugh at the powerful.”

His books, many with provocative titles, included “Marx for Beginners,” “The Dictionary of Human Stupidity,” “The True History of Uncle Sam,” “100 Proposals to Save What Is Left of Mexico,” “Hitler for Masochists,” “The Stomach Is First” and “Would Jesus Christ Have Been Catholic?”

The longtime political cartoonist and Dick Tracy artist Dick Locher also died last week. This is his home paper's obituary.

While a Chicago Academy of Fine Arts student in 1957, Locher was tapped to do some inking for Chester Gould, the creator of the "Dick Tracy" strip. He went on to work as Gould's assistant for the next four years.

"He had regimented working requirements," Locher said of Gould in a 1981 Tribune interview. "Be in at 7:30 every morning, have everything completed by Friday, no excuses."

Locher left Gould's employ in 1961 and eventually headed an art studio in Oak Brook called Novamark. In 1973, despite having no experience as an editorial cartoonist, Locher was hired by the Tribune. He remained on staff until his retirement in 2013, producing more than 10,000 drawings on a raft of topics.


—Interviews & Profiles.
Jezebel talked to Mimi Pond, with a lot of discussion of work (there should be more of that in the comics world).

I was able to work a lot more when I cut back to part time, that made an enormous difference. When I was doing it full time it was kind of all-absorbing. It was exhausting, and it made you hate people and hate the world. Which is really bad. [Laughs] It’s a bad way to see the world. When I was able to cut back my schedule to full time, I had more time for myself and my work, and it made a tremendous difference. Having had the experience of working full time, it gave me more motivation to try to get out and pursue my dream of going to New York.

A recent guest on the Process Party podcast was Darryl Ayo.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Anders Nilsen gives graphic notes on his new project, Tongues.

Panel design and structure matter a lot to me. I did a bit of teaching from 2012 to 2015 or so and one of the things I found myself focusing on with certain students was how panels work and what happens to storytelling when they change in various ways. Some cartoonists do great things with a simple grid. My two biggest comics influences, Hergé and Chester Brown, use very simple panel structures in their comics, and they were brilliant with it. But I can’t keep from playing around with panels.

A Hell of a Week to Quit Logging On

Hello, everyone. I just got back from a blessedly internet-free week in the woods, and based on what I've gathered from the news, it appears that I picked a good week to stay offline. Obviously huge thanks go out to Tucker Stone for his excellent guest editorial efforts, and with any luck we'll be able to lure him into writing for the site again relatively soon...

In any case, today on TCJ, we have a new review by Rob Kirby of Glynnis Fawkes's Greek Diary.

From June 5th to July 7th 2016, artist Glynnis Fawkes was in Greece, first working as an illustrator on an archeological excavation, then vacationing with her husband John and her two children, Sylvan and Helen, on the Greek islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Paros. In Greek Diary she gets it all down in comics form, everything from the pleasure of "nerding out" with fellow academics after a good day's work, to the deep stresses of travel plans gone awry while looking after two strong-willed children. Throughout, Fawkes captures the beauty of the Grecian landscape: the bustle of busy ports, quiet villages baking under the summer sun, and days filled with sightseeing, swimming in the ocean, and lazy pleasure-seeking—interspersed with inevitable bouts of travel fatigue and ordinary family strife. The result is a work that’s more vivid, immersive, and entertaining than any vacation slide show could ever be.


Meanwhile, elsewhere, I'm still catching up to comics news, but here are a few things to get started with:

—Gabrielle Bell continues a comics retelling of Little Red Riding Hood at The Paris Review.

—Julia Gfrörer was hospitalized after being attacked by a feral cat.

Within a few hours my wrist hurt badly and was swollen. There were red blotches around the bites and red streaks going up and down my arm. It was hard to drive home—because I couldn’t really use my left hand—so I had to steer with my forearm when shifting gears. When I got home, I splinted my wrist with cardboard and masking tape.

[UPDATE: I now see that Tucker already linked to this last Thursday. You can handle reading it again.]

—The most recent guest on Process Party is Sammy Harkham.

—Phil Nel writes about the antiracism (and the racism) that can be found in the work of Dr. Seuss.

Racism is not aberrant. It’s ordinary. It’s embedded in institutions, and in culture — such as the cartoons and books of Dr. Seuss.

—And I can't remember if we've already linked to 2dcloud's most recent crowdfunding effort.

California, Stay Away From Here

This is it for me, ladies and gentlemen. All the more reason to go out with a bang. First up, it's time to Break some News and talk with Secret Acres about their momentous changes.

"We started Secret Acres during a comics explosion, and I may not be the brightest light on the tree, but I never expected that to continue forever. I believe in ups and downs."

What's that? You're not full? Well, get ready then--because it's time for Katie Skelly to sit you down and provide The Journal's official take on one of the most talked about manga of  2017: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness.

"For Kabi, it’s less about experiencing the sensations of a sexual encounter with another person, and more about driving herself to have checked off certain notches in a sexual narrative (i.e., was I kissed, was I embraced, was I penetrated?). My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness itself may suffer a similar issue: in an almost desperate attempt to assemble all the blocks of Kabi’s story, the comic displaces its own need to find aesthetic purpose."

And it wouldn't be the Journal if we didn't dive into another one of the news-of-the-day tarpits headfirst. We could've done another Rich Tommaso think piece (we already linked to a few of those on Monday), but figured hey--why not just grab the horse, open his mouth, and grab handfuls of whatever the hell he keeps in there? (In this tortured analogy, Rich Tommaso is a horse.)

"I don't think it was unreasonable for me to think the numbers of initial orders would match somewhat those on She Wolf and Dark Corridor, both of which had ZERO promotion before their releases. And yes, those first two issues determine whether I can move forward with the next project, because they account for months of income.

ELSEWHERE? SURE!

Dick Sprang--who, I agree, has the best name in comics--doesn't get talked about enough, but I think that's probably for the same reason we don't talk about how amazing constellations are: he's part of the fabric, and his art tends to look as if it was rolled out onto the page like wallpaper. Look at this page. You just know that Brian Bolland looks at that red robot every couple of weeks and weeps tears of shame. "This was made by a human being", he cries.

This review of a new Mister Miracle comic comes with a pretty extreme degree of hyperbole, but that isn't particularly unusual--super-hero comics tend to garner extreme praise from a certain kind of reviewer when they color outside of the lines a bit--I should know, as i used to write the same kind of thing when Greg Rucka would put out a new issue of Checkmate. It did the trick, too--I went to a comic book store on a Wednesday for the first time since...well, it's been a while. They were actually already sold out of that issue of Mister Miracle, and the boss rolled his eyes and said "they're coming out of the woodwork for that one". As I hadn't seen him in at least four years, he had a point! In an amusing twist that I'm not going to try to read into, the 17-year-old who currently has the thankless role of alphabetizing and bagging the purchases of middle-aged comics buyers gave me his copy. I feebly protested, knowing full well that I was not being given a copy of Mister Miracle #1 because of my status as Comics Journal Guest Editor, but because I was an old, pathetic man and he could smell my flesh decaying.

It's fine. It's fine! The comic chooses to focus initially on the more real world elements of a Mister Miracle story--Scott Free at home kind of stuff, this time he's sad, but that's just a fake-out, they're still going to do all that Darkseid's-comin' thing. The art is Alex Maleev-y stuff, with a bunch of stylistic flourishes that exist to call attention to themselves (during the portion of the comic where Mister Miracle is being interviewed on a nightly talk show by Glorious Godfrey, the images are filtered to look like VHS footage), and the comic is interspersed throughout with black panels that say "Darkseid is". This reviewer found that to be "bone-chilling" and/or "harrowing." I thought that word choice was a bit extreme, but that same reviewer compares the La La Land/Moonlight screw up at the Oscars to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so maybe he's just an enthusiastic guy! In keeping with their status as "the annoying comics website you'd like to write off that actually gets it right sometimes", this Bleeding Cool review is sober and pretty accurate, whereas this io9 recap of each page makes the same dumb assumption that was made ten times over back when Grant Morrison was "reinventing" Fourth World characters, which is to claim that "there is no better way to honor Kirby's contribution to the comics world" then to remix his characters for the umpteenth time. I'm sure that's what he would have loved. I mean, Kirby's entire career trajectory and life choices say the exact opposite, but I bet if he had lived to be 100 he would have gotten over his own personality. For what it's worth, Mister Miracle #1 isn't funny, and it isn't pretty and it isn't very exciting. But it is very serious and features someone attempting suicide while still prominently featuring super-hero costumes. It cost four dollars.

 

A Deeper Understanding Of Apostasy

That image is nuts, right? It's an album cover for Kesha, by Robert Beatty, who has a book out from Floating World. Good stuff. ANYWAY. It's Thursday here at TCJ central, which means my ability to do what I want will disappear in but one more day. One more day--we can make it, y'all! Later today we'll have some of that hot, hot content you crave. Right now: we got links.

ELSEWHERE

You can take your Elmer Fudd team-ups and stick it in your ear--I only get out of bed when Batman grabs his lines from Charles Schulz.

In penance for yesterday's violation of Dan's anti-cute regime, here's an "unfinished" page from Jack Kirby & Joe Simon's Stuntman.  Go look up the definition of the word "unfinished". Then look at the page again.

I didn't think it was possible for a feral cat attack story to be defined as "charming", but this one was. Chalk up another talent for Julia Gfrörer!

The Safari Festival takes place this Saturday in Piccadilly Circus or Paddington Square, whatever, some British place where they tell you that there's good coffee around the corner and then you go and what you get in return is this really repellent tasting thing that's both too weak & too thick. "Liverpool". Gimme a break. I guess if you can find your way to "Old Street" you should try, because Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes will be there.

I didn't know that Chevrolet dealers sponsored video reports for Boston Comic Con that prominently feature the excellent staff of Hub Comics, but now I do--also, they interviewed Hilary Chute?

 

More, as they say, is to come.

Eat The Children First

It's Wednesday, August 9th--how do you plan to celebrate McG's birthday? Well, before you have to decide between Offspring music videos and Terminator: Salvation, why not check out Brian Nicholson's sterling review of The Academic Hour, the latest graphic novel by Keren Katz?

"The relationship between the written text and the accompanying images consummates itself as comics largely through implication, which is true for what happens between the characters as well. The book is essentially devoid of any explicit content, even bad language. It is functionally all-ages-appropriate but for how deeply weird it is, and how confusing it would be to someone without the experience to contextualize it. I connect it to comics history in a very particular way. Maybe I'm stretching, and only thinking about this because of the author's name, but the relationship between the two main characters is sort of like that between Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, if Ignatz didn't throw bricks, but rather used them to build elaborate architecture."

Hey pal. Bill Bellamy's starring turn in the Fastlane pilot ain't going anywhere. Sit down for a spell.

ELSEWHERE:

The PEOW twitter feed claimed that they've never received any love from "that site", so I thought i'd remedy that by telling you that they're having a party for a comic tonight at Brooklyn's own Desert Island. From what it says on their website and on the Facebook event page, the book--Thu Tran's Dust Pan--is about a cat who is also a living dustpan. I was going to ask them why they think they hadn't gotten any love from The Journal, and then I was gonna try to figure out where Dan is and ask him, and then without getting permission from either party, post both responses. But I think I know why without even trying: the book looks like it is cute, and Dan doesn't like things that are cute, unless they are by people who are dead or by people who made them cute on accident because they are crazy. Now, me personally? I haven't seen a whole lot of what PEOW puts out--they got going on the tail end of my time in retail, and I quit spending money on comics and graphic novels five minutes after my wife said that her water broke--but what I have seen, I thought was pretty strong work by people with a solid sense of color and design. It's cute, yes, but I don't think that has to be a derogatory term--cutesy would be the one I would use to disparage--oh, you know. Comics about overly emotional baby dragons that are terrified 0f being socially awkward at rooftop parties. Comics where things that look like sweaty babies carry overstuffed suitcases around airports staffed by giraffes. I guess it's a fine line between that and a cat who is a dustpan, but you know it when you see it.

If you're interested in unraveling the story surrounding the recent Fantastic Four drama, you can read this article at Newsarama, which is the source of a quote that has launched coverage at a lot of other culture and entertainment websites, places like Slashfilm and IGN and--so on, etc. Basically, noted C-student Johnathan Hickman confirmed what everybody assumed all along, which is that they cancelled The Fantastic Four comics not due to the sales of The Fantastic Four comics, but due to the mismanagement of the intellectual property that is the Fantastic Four by Fox--i.e., all those movies that people didn't enjoy. Not enough drama for you? Okay, then go and read this piece by Rich Johnston, which is partly about how long he has been covering this particular story (a long time) and how long he has been getting shit on by Tom Brevoort about this particular story (also a long time). Before you click through, you should know: the other half of Rich's story is about how much it annoys him that the Newsarama guy I linked to first doesn't read Bleeding Cool articles. If, after all of this, you still want more, you can go and follow these guys on Twitter, where I believe they may still be fighting. I tapped out after the last part though.

(Actually, I tapped out before it even started, because there's a scene in that last Fantastic Four movie where Doctor Doom wanders the hallways and uses his telekinetic powers to make the heads of terrified human beings explode, and I thought that scene was way cooler than anything I've read in a Fantastic Four comic, because it's a scene from Akira, and Akira is a lot cooler than the Fantastic Four.)

Marvel isn't all bad though! They're going to reprint those old Joe Casey/Ladronn Cable comics, apparently. You ever read those? No you didn't. Stop lying!

Over at 50 Watts, they're throwing up all kinds of work by Antonio Rubino. As with most of what I've seen, it's untranslated. NBD, bud. Still rules.

Robert Kirkman told some people that he had figured out the ending of The Walking Dead comic books and that he was working towards that ending, you can read about that here, although I just told you everything you would get out of the piece. It reminded me of the one time I have heard that guy speak, when I was being paid to cover a comic book convention for some website. During the always interminable Q&A session at the end, some mouth-breathing cretin cosplaying as Seth stood up and asked if somebody besides Kirkman knew the ending of Walking Dead, in case anything happened to him, like a car wreck. I think that was the phrase he used-- "like a car wreck". Kirkman, God bless him, said, "Man, I don't give a shit if people don't get to find out how Walking Dead ends if I die in a car wreck." That was before the television show, too. I imagine it's even worse, now. Success is a prison!

A Wet University

If it's Tuesday at my house, that means it's time for the latest installment of Monica Gallagher's Assassin Roommate. I'm a little annoyed with recent developments in the series--like the rest of you, i'm not at all interested in what goes on with the "Assassin" stuff, as it gets in the way of the "Roommate" portion--but I'm not bothered enough to go somewhere else for my when-will-these-two-people-get-it-on fix, not when we seem so close to the finish line.

Of course, you're not at my house, are you? No, of course not. You're at The Comics Journal on a Tuesday morning, which means you're waiting for the newest chapter in the story of The Hardest Working Man in Comics: Joe "Jog" McCulloch. Well, he's here, and he's got a doozy for you. Dig in, use a spoon.

ELSEWHERE

A social media campaign intended to promote women comic creators rose up throughout Twitter yesterday, with this Huffington Post piece being the most complete explanation of the action. It seems to have exceeded its creators expectations; irregardless, it was pretty impressive.

Over on Facebook, you can (hopefully) keep up with one of the best comics developments of 2017: the team up between Olivier Schrauwen and Ruppert/Mulot. They haven't posted about it since June 28th, but when they did, they described it as "A book about alcoholism."

While the main focus of Alex Deuben's excellent interview with Maggie Umber is her recent graphic novel with 2D Cloud, Sound of Snow Falling, I doubt I'm the only one who breathed a sigh of relief upon reading about how much happier she is (and more secure financially) since the publication of her "Getting Divorced In Comics" essay back in May. I also liked the part where she shot down Alex's attempt to compare her to Vera Nabokov. Anyone who has ever spoken to Alex knows that he has a tedious tendency to bring up Nabokov comparisons, regardless of whether they fit or not, and they never do.

The Paris Review launched a Gabrielle "The Greatest" Bell webcomic on Monday--unsurprisingly, it's excellent.

Fake Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his manga. Real Suehiro Mauro fans talk about his satin jackets.

The most interesting thing about Mark Millar's Millarworld company was that story regarding John Romita, Jr.'s paycheck for Kick-Ass (not the movie, but the first comic series) being bigger than every paycheck he'd had up until then, after a storied career that included an issue of Punisher War Zone where Frank tortures a guy with a popsicle and imagination. That isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed some of those comics in the same mindless way that I have, in fact, enjoyed quite a few of Mark Millar's comics--say what you will about his plotting, but he's the only guy who consistently seems capable of writing action comics that actually manage to have exciting action sequences in them--but that the mechanics of Millarworld only seemed to be of note when the artists were making bank. The comics themselves--riffs on Flash Gordon, riffs on Batman, riffs on Ocean's Eleven, riffs on being a nerd AND a racist or just riffs on knowing a lot about riffs--were, like almost all the comics that ex-super-hero guys start to make when they realize that they need a better 401K than the Hero Initiative, pretty shallow. By that token, I can't imagine a better place for them then television, namely the kind of television you plow through over the course of two bloodshot evenings instead of having sex with your significant other. Congratulations, guys! (They're all guys).

AND FINALLY

I don't care if they build another place in New York City where old people in jean jackets stand around worshipping super-hero comics pages from the '70s, but I'm gonna share this Neal Adams "personal call" nonetheless, because I know it's what Dan would have done if only to marvel at this Trump-ian quote.

"Ask anyone who’s been here… it’s a beautiful gallery. There’s no modern art, super-realists, or anything that is tremendously sophisticated. It’s comic-book art beautifully framed, beautifully displayed, beautifully presented. If you don’t come and see it, you’re crazy. There are over 50 pieces and it’s all comic-book art. Periodically the exhibits change but that’s to be expected."

Awesome. Sounds great. I hope the bathrooms are just holes in the floor. Nothing alienates us regular folk like "tremendously sophisticated" toilets made out of porcelain. I hope there's a food court and everybody has to eat with their fingers. If one more person tells me about that Green Lantern comic where they rode around in pick-up trucks while black people pretended to respect Oliver Queen, I'm gonna saw off my hands.

Don’t Go Into The Marsh

Today at The Comics Journal, you'll find a spot on review of George Wylesol's Ghosts, Etc from our very own Greg "Bobby" Hunter. 

Wylesol’s work keeps one eye on the past, contemplating abandoned spaces and repurposing discarded aesthetics. But these are unsentimental comics—more forensic than nostalgic, and fit to disturb.

You're not misreading anything, by the way: I'm neither Dan nor Tim. I'm your sabbatical-loving Tucker Stone, former columnist for the Journal coming out of the cave all fathers of young children go to for a while. I'm here for a one-week tour of duty as your Comics Journal Guest Editor. My goal this week is to get these blog posts up and running on time, track down some news you can use, and alienate a smaller number of readers than Dan would, but more than Tim. You know how the guy always has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? 

I'm aiming for the part in the middle.

ELSEWHERE:

This POV piece by Peggy Burns about the recent San Diego Comic Con is primarily a work of enthusiasm and optimism, but the core message that Burns inadvertently puts across--that commentaries focusing on the oft-derided changes in Comic-Cons should also mention the many benefits that such changes have brought about--is one that I don't think I've seen put in such a succinct, inarguable fashion. It's reminiscent of those articles that The Economist occasionally write where they examine human progress solely by whether the global infant mortality rate has declined, which is a pretty good guide, regardless of how you feel about The Punisher. 

It made sense for Publishers Weekly to cover Meltdown Comics's unique decision to accept Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency, back in 2014--it's an unusual choice for any retail store to make, much less a comic book retail store, whose small profit margins are exactly the kind that could be easily punished by Bitcoin fluctuations. Covering the three-year anniversary (leather or crystal, depending on how you celebrate) to say that Meltdown is still the only comic book store that accepts Bitcoin seems a bit superfluous. Subtitling the article with a cliched "Future of Retail?" goes a bit beyond mundane page filling though--while one can parrot all the generic arguments for cryptocurrency until they're blue in the face, the article's description of Bitcoin's existence at Meltdown makes it sound like little more than a hyper specific kind of tchotchke.

Back on July 4th, a blog called Helvetica Scans posted a translation of an article reportedly written by mangaka Shuuhou Satou (Japanese readers can find that original text here) that consists of Satou's thoughts after being asked “When attempting to serialize a new work, what is the market rate for a standard serialization, and what kinds of contracts will I require?”. While the article doesn't get into Satou's fabled pricing battles with Amazon that have recently resulted in him retitling his work Say Hello To Black Jack into the more musical sounding Say Hello To Black Jack's Penis, hopefully that will appear in a follow up. (Thanks to Laika for the heads up!)

Rich Tommaso's Facebook post about low initial orders for his new Image book Spy Seal has already been linked to here, but the past week has seen more reaction pieces go up. One consists of axe-grinding and self-quoting, which makes sense if you feel like the Spy Seal situation isn't particularly unique, another consists of a random claim that the book should sell well in other countries, because The Walking Dead has made a path to market for books that might remind people of Tintin, but the last one is my favorite, because the last one straight up says that Rich Tommaso's work doesn't sell well because "neither he nor his work have been a subject of conversation among journalists or publishers very often." Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Credit Control

Today on the site Irene Velentzas reviews Mimi Pond's new book, The Customer is Always Wrong.

Mimi Pond’s previous book, Over Easy,shows her fictionalized autobiographical self, Margaret, coming into her womanhood in the crude but charming Imperial diner. Her new book, The Customer is Always Wrong, picks up midstream in the Imperial’s day-to-day life where a now competent Margaret easily slides through the diner’s usual routine: sex, drugs, and coffee-slinging. Early in Customer, Margaret sets up the conventional expectations of adulthood – going to college, getting a house, marrying your high school sweetheart, and popping out a lot of kids – then thwarts these expectations at every turn in a quest not just to come of age but to find her identity. The diner’s colorful backdrop – an operatic theater set for high drama, as she refers to it – sets Margaret on track to exploring every last inch of her alter ego, Madge, and defy such conventional life choices: “I went out and slept with the first wacked out hippie I could find.” Pond’s Customer asks: What is right or wrong for our lives, and who decides? What’s the difference between what you think you want and you really need? Right or Wrong, those decisions make up our story.

 

Elsewhere:

Here is absolutely amazing essay by Cullen Murphy about the cartoonist-haven of Fairfield County, CT in the 1950s and 60s, where the author grew up with a cartoonist father. This is an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir of the time and place. 

Unlike actors or sports figures or reality-TV stars, they were never stopped on the street. They didn’t have a “gal” to protect them or “people” to speak for them. Semi-domesticated, they depended heavily on their families, especially wives, who in many ways held the entire enterprise together, from basic finances to rudimentary social cues. (Joan Browne would say “Xyz” to Dik whenever he emerged from the bathroom—“Examine your zipper.”) Life was interrupted mainly by mundane chores. More than a few collectors have bought original comic strips and found notations like “prescription ready” or “diapers, bologna, Chesterfields” in the margins. The working environment of the studio was a private place that tended to take on the idiosyncrasies of the occupant. There was always a lot of headgear strewn about. Mort Walker kept his old army helmet on a shelf, and on the wall hung a map of the United States with pins for all the papers that published “Beetle.” Dik Browne sometimes wore a papier-mâché Viking helmet made by one of his sons (and he looked like Hägar even without the helmet). Those who drew dramatic strips, like “Rip Kirby” or “Brenda Starr,” as opposed to the humorous bigfoot strips like “Hägar” and “Barney Google,” generally kept a lot of costumes around, along with filing cabinets full of scrap—pictures, torn from magazines, of cars, horses, swords, Arabs, sportsmen, guns, swank apartments, and memorable faces (Auden, Arendt, Dirksen, Hepburn) or extreme states of emotion (anger, agony, insanity, sorrow). To capture specific poses of people in action, my father bought a Polaroid Land camera in 1949—the sole instance in his life when he was an early adopter. He took thousands of pictures of himself, his family, and any neighbor you’d look twice at, directing each tableau like a backyard auteur. (“That’s not ‘happy.’ I want to see ‘happy.’ Let’s do it again. HAPPY!”)

And finally, Matthew Thurber has released the final issue of his five-issue epic, Art Comic!

Hurry-Up Complex

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews The Black Hood, an anthology of comics dealing with depression and related issues.

The Black Hood: An Anthology of Depression and Anxiety is a frequently brutal but ultimately illuminating take on mental illness, something experienced by a number of artists. Editors Josh Bayer (who published the book) and Mike Freiheit (who designed it) did a remarkable job of finding a number of veteran cartoonists and younger talent willing to spill a lot of ink in their personal depictions of mental illness. From E.A. Bethea's almost entirely textual approach to Haleigh Buck's dense, inky and naturalistic account of a panic attack, there's a wide variety of styles to be found in the book. However, they are all raw, honest, and vulnerable in how they present themselves. As I have often found in confessional stories about difficult topics, one can sometimes sense an almost palpable sense of relief on the page as the artists have finally told their stories.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman share a small selection of the work of one of America's greatest political cartoonists, Art Young.

Political cartoons usually have the shelf life of yogurt, yet many of Art Young’s drawings from the early twentieth century remain fresh and hilariously witty—they seem to have been hatched just this morning. Young, one of the core editors and artists of The Masses, a socialist bohemian publication, didn’t get lost in the trivia of daily news; he kept his eyes on the big drama of the ninety-nine per cent versus the one per cent. A jovial man who even had empathy for his enemies, Young had a winning sense of humor as well as a strong sense of social justice—some of his funniest drawings are about Hell. During the First World War, when Young was tried for treason alongside John Reed and Max Eastman, his colleagues at The Masses, the prosecuting attorney couldn’t help stating, in his otherwise excoriating summation, that “everybody loves Art Young.”

—Sarah Horrocks writes about the Italian insanity that is RanXerox.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has ever read RanXerox to hear it described as grotesque. The artists Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini, in the spirit of the times, created a world of murderous mutant sex junkies and set them loose upon a futuristic Rome and New York. The stories focus on the intersections of art, exploitation, violence, and degradation. They are libertine in every sense of the word. Murderous robot mutant Ranx teams up with his prepubescent looking love interest Lubna to maraud across two cities.

—For The Atlantic, Jonathan Guyer writes about recent events in the Middle East as depicted by local cartoonists.

Across the inlet, Saudi cartoonists known for their inventive gags and veiled criticisms of authority have taken clear sides. Take Abdullah Jaber, who draws for the newspaper Mecca and has faced censorship in the past. Recently, Jaber has depicted Qatar as pugnacious, deceptive, and back-stabbing. In one of his several anti-Doha drawings, a blonde man wearing a shirt with Al-Jazeera’s logo and holding a saw cuts the Qatari peninsula off from the Gulf region; adjacent to him, another man wearing the distinct cap and gray, fuzzy beard of the Muslim Brotherhood sits on Qatar, paddling off into the Gulf, suggesting that the Qatari state is merely doing the Islamist party’s bidding. Saudi cartoonist Khaled Ahmed went even further with a drawing of a Qatari sheikh flinging bills at a belly-dancing terrorist who dons a black mask and a suicide vest. Such bellicose cartoons replicate the rhetoric of Saudi officials.

—Zainab Akhtar is raising funds for the second issue of her comics & criticism anthology, Critical Chips.

Double Calzone

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews José Muñoz.

Were you always interested in crime stories? What did you read or watch?

Well, from my side, during my adolescence and early youth, we – Oscar Zárate and myself – lived mainly in the cinemas watching many international films, looking at and reading historietas, books—but never as many as Carlos Sampayo— always being in a lot of high, middle and low tragicomic narratives with words and images, only with words, only with silent or isolated images, sometimes falling down into a word that could be read as a constellation of meanings. I was interested in shapes, cities, white lights and black blacks, fog. Gifted German and Middle Europeans people arrived in the USA escaping from Hitler’s madness and, with their darker expressionist mood, aggravated the light and shadows of Hollywood’s minds. This cruel world enriches our figurative, narrative talents with the lack of meaning of the script of life. At that time the USA saved those people; many, many thanks, truly. Your country, you also, saved them, and they gave you their talents.

In South America we have nothing to thank your military-industrial politics for, nothing at all. Instead, we have been systematically molested by the imperial programs, ignorance, and paranoias of the United States. In my late twenties, coming from politics, before the organized South American killing of lives and hope — Allende, Pinochet, Kissinger the killer, Videla, etc — I began to focus my horrified interest on crime stories because they look just like reality. And, now with some distance, I could say that for the same reason, this too has led to my horrified lack of interest today.

Elsewhere:

I saw hints of this on social media, but this article is all I've seen that recounts the awful recent harassment by "fans" of female Marvel employees. 

Great post here on a rejected Ronald Searle cover.

Gyna Wynbrandt is the latest guest on Process Party.

And Gary Groth is interviewed on KCRW.

From Hell’s Heart

Joe McCulloch is here with his usual guide to the Week in Comics (new titles by John Hankiewicz and the Hernandez Bros.) and tops it off with an extended pictorial essay on Geoff Darrow.

Some may have gotten hold of La Cité Feu ("City of Fire"), the image suite he drew that was inked by Moebius, or the big Bourbon Thret album released in France, both in the mid-'80s. In English, there was one Bourbon Thret story published in Heavy Metal (Mar. '85), and another published in Dark Horse Presents (#19, July '88), but for myself and I suspect a many U.S. readers it was the 1990-92 series Hard Boiled, a collaboration with Frank Miller, that introduced Darrow's approach. What you see above is what I think is most readily associated with "Geof Darrow" comics - a scene teeming with hundreds of small events, marks of life: from people to advertisements to cracks on the wall to litter on the street. The main 'event' of the page, a car crashing through a wall and careening toward an orgy, the book's protagonist clinging to the front end, is given relatively slight prominence in comparison to its surroundings; there's a word balloon, and a flash of yellow, contrasting with the rest of the image to draw the eye, but as Darrow himself is photographed distinctly amidst his studio, so does the action of this splash seem to occur as only one thing among many in the comic's existence.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The most recent episode of the best and least frequent non-TCJ-affiliated comics podcast on the internet, Comic Books Are Burning in Hell, is all about Hellboy.

—At the also too infrequent Mindless Ones site, Illogical Volume reviews the work of Julia Scheele.

For all that it’s a hip, well-designed package, capped off by a picture of a rakish girl Robin smoking like the baddest kid in school, IDLMHN#1 isn’t exactly short of drama. The first story ‘Positive‘, written by Katie West, deals with a panic about an affair and the pregnancy that might follow, and the rest of the strips that follow is of a piece with this opening.

Scheele’s flair for making her design tell the story impressed me to the extent that I was too busy looking at what she’d done to actually see it. Perhaps you will understand why I became such a poor reader if you observe the way ‘Positive’ moves from dreamy blues to raw autumnal colours, and overlays its action with graphical representations of the child that could yet be, literalising the protagonist’s idle speculation.

—Graham Nash is auctioning off his underground comics art collection, including the cover to Zap #1.

—This Facebook post (and subsequent ones) by Rich Tommaso on the dangers and difficulties of making a life's career as a cartoonist is generating much-needed conversation.

Bluesy

Today on the site, Bob Levin reviews Purgatory (“A Rejects Story”) 

From the art, the uniform of Frankenstein’s father reveals him as a policeman. The depiction of Frankenstein’s mother reveals her to be white. Through the art, Frankenstein’s subjective sense of the world is expressed. In the locker room, one of the (modestly) prose-described “overly-aggressive… athletes” becomes a KKK-hooded nightmare. The class-room “beasts” are all snouts and gaping, sharply fanged mouths.

Then there is Frankenstein’s portrayal of eyes. Especially his. Haunted. Dreamy. Startled, Scared. Windows to the soul, I’ve heard. Sometimes his eyes are simply lovely, the promise in them immense. Then, at the end, the author’s photo shows them opaque, sealed behind Steampunk shades, above – is it? – a Mona Lisa smile.

Elsewhere....

Longtime Mad writer Stan Hart has passed away.

RM Rhodes features Druillet over at  Comics Workbook.

Good looking new comic from Seth online. 

PW looks at the most recent SDCC.

I enjoyed reading this lengthy piece about the author's friendship with Flo Steinberg.

Sich Lengwidge

Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews Jonny Sun, the artist/author and Twitter personality, about putting together his first book, aliens as listeners, art as therapy, and deciding to stop being anonymous.

You’ve mentioned that putting this book together helped you figure out some things personally too.

It was huge. When I started thinking about the book, I was in the most insecure point in my life, it was definitely the most difficult point in my life. I started a doctorate program, and I was in a lab doing work that was not interesting to me. I felt very intimidated and had imposter syndrome. I didn’t know what I was doing there. I felt like I had no control of what I was doing.

Whenever I get in situations like that, I turn to creative work. It’s something you can control and I know what I’m doing. The book originally started as this small piece of creative therapy, and that’s when I really grappled with the idea of mental health and realized that maybe what I’m going through here isn’t what everyone is going through. I started realizing I had anxiety and depression, and started seeing a therapist.

The actual experience of going to therapy played into the book’s narrative. I see the alien character as a listener, someone who is more quiet. I think my relationship with my therapist informed that a lot. I was just thinking a lot about how I felt better after going to therapy, and what exactly that meant for me. This book became this metaphor for therapy but also another way for me to work out ideas and thoughts, and to put things to images.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Howard Cruse writes about his experiences cartooning for Playboy.

Giving four whole pages to an unknown newbie was apparently too much for Hefner to swallow. But despite that rejection, though, Michelle thought I still had a good chance of cracking “Playboy Funnies,” especially if I came up with more comic strip parodies. Not multi-page ones, maybe; ones that could slip smoothly into the small spaces that would be allotted to strips in“Playboy Funnies.” She was confident I would make the cut, but my first step would be to go home and work up sketches.

Not all of them would need to be parodies, she explained, but some should be. They could be sexually randy; Playboy was a magazine for grown-ups, after all. But they would need to be acceptable for newsstand display.

In practical terms that meant that, while naked females and sexual innuendo would be welcome, practically de rigueur, I should not take my freedom too far. No erections and no penetration, she explained, was the rule at Playboy.

As a cartoonist with roots in uncensored underground comix, I was fine with being funny about sex. Eager, even. Compared to undergrounds, mainstream comic strips were relentlessly prim. That primness was what I was being invited to parody, and I considered that sexlessness overdue for roasting. My point of view was: What would it be like if sex were matter-of-factly embraced by our cartoon favorites instead of being invisible?

Comical incongruities came to mind effortlessly.

—At The Guardian, James Reith writes about Maurice Tillieux's Gil Jordan comics.

Tillieux took Hergé’s “clear line” drawing style and muddied it; where Tintin’s world is clean and sparse, Jordan’s is grimy and littered. The same can be said for the storytelling. Whilst critics adore Tintin for its conceptual complexities, Hergé’s stories are often straightforward adventures peppered with throwaway gags. But for Tillieux, gags have consequences: what you might think is a joke will turn out to be a crucial plot point. Tillieux took familiar comic tropes – then complicated them.

—And it's hard to believe that July is almost over, and we haven't linked to Gabrielle Bell's annual month-long July Diary comics yet.