Thanks, President Pullman

Today at the Comics Journal, we're launching you into the weekend with Tegan O'Neil's final column for us under the Ice Cream for Bedwetters banner--what's that? You'll have to read it to find out what comes next--but here's a bit of it, to get you started:

I really didn’t enjoy Spider-Verse - it made me grouchy in a way I hadn’t been expecting because it made me feel decidedly out of touch. It wasn’t that I didn’t get it, it was that I got that it represented a completely new paradigm of fandom that didn’t hold much appeal for me. And after I mulled that over for a while I realized something else: that was OK, too.

Sometimes it takes seeing something you don’t like to bring into relief what you do: all the cool stuff that audiences were responding to onscreen didn’t really interest me because what I really like about these characters and stories has absolutely nothing to do with them as ongoing properties. I can’t identify with a character in a movie when I’ve personally written thousands of words about how his creators hated each other. There’s no way to get back to that place, for me, for so many reasons, but that’s a really big one.

Today's review comes to us from Matt Seneca, who is here with a deep dive into Yuichi Yokoyama's Plaza. I've been suckered into buying expensive foreign editions of comics that are over my head by Matt, Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner before, but let me spoil Matt's review a bit to say this: Plaza is the real deal. When we get to the end of 2019 and start arguing about which comics are as great as Kevin Huizenga's River at Night, there's gonna be one real contender for the fight--and it's this comic right here.

This might not be the best Yuichi Yokoyama comic, but it's definitely the most Yuichi Yokoyama comic. For my money, the enigmatic mangaka is the contemporary cartoonist whose work carries the highest sum total of uniqueness and quality - the guy out there right now who there's the least amount of stuff as weird as, and the least amount of stuff as good as. Even given that distinction though, Plaza sits in rarefied air. It's a book that challenges you to read it all through in one go, one whose every new panel throws another hard left jab out at your eye and dares you to assimilate its information into the story you've been reading. Yokoyama is many things, but accessible has never been one of them, and this is his least accessible book. It's also the hardest to buy - no American edition, no importer, and almost sold out in Japan - but I bought one, so I'm gonna talk about it anyway.

Yesterday, I hope you read our nice long interview with Polish comics superstar  Przemysław Truściński, in the first TCJ work from Michal Chudoliński, who will be covering the Polish scene in comics for us. Next week, we'll be spotlighting some more of Truściński's work that we weren't able to fit into the interview.

We also had another extended glaring contest from Sean Witzke, who was able to find a way to lower his standards enough to not completely dislike a genre comic about space truckers.

Because of the July 4th we'll be quiet until next week. Tune in then for a new Cartoonist Diary, the return of Rob Clough's Hi Low Column, an interview i'm kinda worried about, and a whole mess of reviews. Here's a picture of me and Gary Groth discussing our plans for the website, taking just this past week! 

To Be Continued

Today at the Comics Journal, we're starting off an abbreviated holiday week with Mark Newgarden. Mark's here with a deep dive into a very specific comic: the Bushmiller one where the dog pisses on the guy's couch.

Although intended only as a cheap laugh for his Dutch Treat Club cronies, "How To Housebreak YourDog" assumed an illustrious afterlife. The irresistible (and un-copyrighted) page was promptly bootlegged, perhaps by a fellow Dutch Treater gone bad. It was soon launched into a surreptitious, labyrinthine underworld through which such illicit printed matter of the day was channeled. No other work produced for this obscure social club ever enjoyed such far-flung distinction. In various modes and media over the past six decades, this mutt has stepped up to the couch again and again.

Our review of the day comes to us from Shea Hennum, and he's got his library card at the ready for a look at Manuele Fior's Red Ultramarine. 

The book makes no effort to clarify the relationship between characters, though this is not itself an issue. Rather, it piles on the confusion at the expense of its own emotional gravity. In the mythic story, Daedalus is the focus and the life of his son is at stake. Likewise, in the contemporary story, Silvia is the focus and it is the life of Fausto at stake. Her fear, which we are made to share, is that Fausto might harm himself. This differs significantly from the danger threatening Icarus, and so the parallels between them are limited. This fact is compounded by the vast differences between the narratives themselves, though the characters do occupy similar positions in their respective stories. What’s more, they look identical, so much so that, in a brief interlude, Silvia travels into the Daedalus narrative to encounter Icarus on a beach. She is struck by the similarity he shares with Fausto, and it is only after being warned of his fate that she begins to fear for Fausto’s. Fior presents the relationship between the two figures as though it were something crucial—crucial for the reader, but also crucial for the characters themselves. Yet there is little effort done to make it sensible. In its too neat conclusion, it is Silvia’s love—or so we are meant to intuit from the brief, wordless scene—that saves Fausto, and it is here, most acutely, where the parallels between the characters breakdown. Did Daedalus not love his son? Is that why Icarus dies? Fior does not give the impression that this is what he means, but the problem is precisely that it is unclear what it is he did mean. Rather than being given room to breathe, the characters are suffocated by these tenuous parallels and unclear connections. The ideas fail to meaningfully develop, so they cannot support their weighty pretensions. They cave in on their own hollow center. And, as a result, the story feels rushed, abrupt, confusing, slight.

And now, let's talk.

As you've heard, Tim Hodler has stepped down as co-editor, and I will be continuing on as a solo act. What does that mean?

Hopefully, it won't mean that much.

Realistically?

The loss of Tim is the end of an era of reliability, professionalism, humor and fearsome, intimidating intelligence. I've known for months he was going to step down, and as someone who has spent time with his wonderful family, completely support his decision--Tim and his family has sacrificed a lot for his commitment to The Comics Journal, and even if he would never admit it, I will: the exchange was never in his or their favor--it was always in ours. This kind of work is paid attention to by very, very few, cared for by even less, and only provided widespread recognition when it blows up in our faces faces. If you come to it for anything financial, you're a stupid fool, and if you come to it for ego fulfillment, you're something even worse. Either way, it's surefire disappointment to come to it expecting anything from it but the work itself--and Tim has spent years embracing that work, and I'm proud to have been his partner in it for the last 18 months, and even more proud to have been one of his writers years ago. This is something he did because he loves what the Journal has come to represent, and while I may not share his kinder traits or his experience, I share his passion. This is a place where we are trying to remember the history of this artform, to treat its work with interest and intelligence. We're here to document the passing of its participants, and to ask its newest generation what it is they're seeking to contribute. We're here to wave a dismissive hand at work created by people who dismiss their obligation to not suck. We're here to get overly excited about minute details in a work that you'll never be able to see, but that you'll think about for too long. We're here to pump your brakes, and we're here to get your engine going. It's a messy, sprawling thing.

What comes next is intended to be more of the same. There will be less blogging, and we'll be a bit more focused on reviews for the summer as we continue to expand our list of contributors. Some of our upcoming features will be long, some short, and the Cartoonist Diaries will continue. Interviews ain't going anywhere. But throughout the next few months, my non-content related focus will be on a full overhaul and redesign of the site, one that can better serve those who read it (or would like to read it) on mobile devices, and above all, one that will make it that much easier to find, read, and immerse oneself in the Journal's unmatchable archive of interviews, reviews and analysis--while also easily able to see what we've done today and who has been doing it. A good publication is built off of the intelligence, diversity and wit of its contributors--and in the coming redesign, it is our aim that is something that will be inarguably obvious when your browser finds it way here.

It's a weird time in comics right now--many of the old guard institutions are facing obsolescence, some deserved for their repugnant behavior, some expected for their continued financial ineptitude, and some because they just don't seem to care about this stuff anymore. It's my aim that the Journal will take the pulse of those things--but right now, we need to get our own house in order. I'm excited about the changes to come, but i'm not going to ask you to be, nor am I going to ask you to trust me. What I am going to say, instead, is this: we aren't going anywhere. See you in a few.

The End?!

This is the final day of my final week as co-editor of The Comics Journal. As you might expect, this event inspires mixed emotions. On one hand, it's been eight-plus years of headaches and elevated blood pressure and late nights and early mornings and I'm ready to move on to a more normal life; on the other, the Comics Journal is one of my favorite publications of any kind, it's held a central place in my imaginative life for nearly as long as I can remember, and it's an honor to be associated with it in any way. I'm not sure I've really come to grips with the fact that it's over.

While pondering this farewell, I've considered discussing the transformations that have taken place over the last eight years, both in comics and in internet publishing, but I'm not sure I have much to say that isn't obvious, or that wouldn't seem out of place. Still, I didn't want to leave without any goodbye at all. I'm leaving for no dramatic reason, but because of changes in my professional and familial obligations that have been taking much more of my time over the last year or so. Tucker Stone will be staying on as editor of the site, and I'm sure he will do an outstanding job. He has big plans, and I can't wait to experience them as a reader.

When I look back at my tenure here, my temperament leads me to focus on the missed opportunities and mistakes: articles that needed one more round of editing before publication, interviews that were never finished, emails and projects left undone. But that isn't the whole picture, and it's not the right note for today. Art matters, and so does this site. Because I do believe that even with all its faults, TCJ has for the last eight years been far and away the best, most consistent, most principled, and most thorough publication devoted to comics published in English, on or off the internet. I am proud of that.

So I want to focus on the positive today. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who helped make TCJ the website that it is: Dan and Tucker, my co-editors, who more often than I'd like to admit did most of the work; Gary Groth, who gave us this opportunity, and whose responsibility for the ever-growing cultural health and relevance of comics over the last forty years can't be overstated; Kim Thompson, whose early encouragement and advice were immeasurably helpful; Kristy Valenti, who has put countless thankless hours into this site, and who deserves more recognition for her work; everyone else at Fantagraphics who has helped in innumerable ways; the site's many writers and contributors, too many to name individually, though of course I will always have a special place in my heart for the ones who came on to TCJ at the same time we launched, and those I personally edited; my collaborators at Comics Comics (Frank, Joe, Jeet, Nicole, Dash, Jason), the site before the site; Mike Reddy, who drew so many great illustrations at such short notice; my wife and family, who have been very understanding; the artists and publishers whose work makes all of this necessary and possible; our many critics and haters, who made this publication better, whether they meant to or not; and, of course, the readers, who make this site feel like a true community. (Any community worth the name includes a few village idiots.)

It is impossible to measure how much I've learned while editing this site, about not only comics, but everything that writing about comics intersects with, which is nearly everything. Thank you for supporting my education.

Oops

Today on the site, Ken Parille is back with another Grid column, this time close-reading Steve Ditko in terms of his relationship to "comic-book people."

In 1978 Steve Ditko contributed a curious illustration to the San Diego Comicon’s program booklet:

Steve Ditko © 1978.

Shown in outline, an artist leans over his drawing table, hard at work on a page of comic-book art. But before he can finish a few panels, nearly thirty figures storm the page, disturbed and angered by what they see. Some grip their foreheads in disbelief, others raise their fists in righteous indignation. Several deliver a more aggressive form of critique: one steals the artist’s inking brush, another shoves his pencil through the art, while others bend the page and set it on fire.

Fans typically gather at conventions like the San Diego Comicon to celebrate the medium they love and artists they admire. Ditko conjures up an altogether different kind of con: enraged fan-boys (and perhaps a fan-girl) convene solely to attack his work. In the upper-left, he signs the art “regards.” Is he joking? How can he have any regard for a mob out to destroy his art?

Along with comics fans, industry professionals attend comic conventions — and Ditko’s not so fond of them, either. In comics and essays he rails against the kind of “comic people” he derisively calls “handlers.” During a comic’s production, they “handle” (which for Ditko meant “ruin”) pages after the artist submits them. In the Comicon drawing, figures with the brush and pencil evoke handlers who, in order to align a comic with the publisher’s dictates, usurp the artist’s role by erasing or redrawing art or by adding elements such as sound effects without regard for the artist’s compositions. By 1978, Ditko had suffered decades of aggressive mishandling. He cared immensely about his work’s “integrity” (a key term in the Ditko lexicon) but most editors and publishers had no such lofty concerns. They believed that, since they paid for the pages, they could do what they wanted to them. An editor’s goal was not to create “art”: it was to please readers and sell comics.

In Ditko’s anti-con, angry fans and incompetent handlers unite against him and his work. Is anyone brave enough to dissent from mob rule? Perhaps the person sitting calmly atop the chair can see the scene from Ditko’s perspective. Unlike the others, he appreciates visionary comics. Or maybe he’s just waiting for the right moment to join the fray.

Yesterday, the great comics scholar Joseph Witek paid tribute to his mentor, the recently deceased Donald Ault.

When I heard the news that Don Ault had passed away, my first coherent thought was, “This is how Pinocchio must have felt when Geppetto died.” Logic tells me that I still would have existed in some form or other had I never met this brilliant scholar and teacher, wise mentor, and surpassingly kind and generous friend, but the person I am today simply cannot imagine how such an ‘I’ could possibly be. My next coherent thought was, “I never would have thought of that Pinocchio analogy if not for Don Ault.”

And then suddenly I’m back in Don’s classroom at Vanderbilt in the mid-1980s taking “Popular Narrative: Comics, Animation, and Early Television”, and the shortish, slightly hunched figure at the front is explicating the contrast between the nature of evil in Disney’s flagship early animated features: where in Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs evil is localized in the Wicked Queen and containable by virtuous action, but in Pinocchio it’s pervasive and can come at you from anywhere and in fact may very well be inside you, and if you give it free rein you may end up a donkey yourself. And then I’m with another class of students and we’re all in the basement of Don’s house, sitting in seats scrounged from an old theatre while the 35mm projector in the back runs an original print of Snow White (obtained somehow from who knows where), and the Queen’s robes are the deepest, purest colors I’ve ever seen and have never forgotten.

That Geppetto analogy soon breaks down, of course, because Don Ault wasn’t a dogged craftsman shaping students into what he thought they should be, and while the transformative power of the Blue Fairy might hit closer to the mark, Don’s teaching, unlike hers, certainly wasn’t about inculcating socially acceptable conventional behavior, either. But her name does recall a much more appropriate reference point: the concept of faerie as understood by that poet of Don Ault’s life-long study, William Blake--not the tiny dancing woodland creatures but the domain of the uncanny itself.

We also have Day Three and Day Four of Chris Kuzma's Cartoonist's Diary.

Rob Clough reviewed Marnie Galloway's Slightly Plural.

Marnie Galloway began her career with In the Sounds and Seas, a silent comic about the creative, gestational spirit of women. Her comic Slightly Plural is a more literal representation of motherhood—both giving birth and the quotidian experience of being a parent. This comic covers the full gamut of Galloway's skills as a draftsman, cartoonist, and storyteller, as there are poetic comics, gag comics, straightforward autobiographical comics, densely illustrated stories, and minimalist pieces. She keeps each story short for maximum impact as she builds up to an overarching narrative regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.

"River" is full-on dense Galloway illustration: lush greenery, detailed hatching and crosshatching, and vividly portrayed characters. It's fitting that Galloway, who holds a degree in philosophy, would open the book with pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus' famous quote about not being able to step in the same river twice. It's an apt quote, given that this book is not only about pregnancy but about being pregnant multiple times. The lesson learned here is that "experience isn't prophecy," but experience is helpful nonetheless.

Next, Sean Witzke really doesn't like Adam Smith and VV Glass’s At the End of Your Tether:

Ugly and boring and terrible. An early scene in Adam Smith and VV Glass’s At the End of Your Tether features a bully dressed as if the Karate Kid was fully relevant to our culture in 2019 buying a motorcycle from our lead character’s dad in a dismissive and douchey manner. It is a scene we’ve all watched and read so often that you expect something to happen that’s different or nuanced, or even played as a cliche to the hilt (we live in an era starved for camp). It does none of those. It’s just that scene. That’s when I realized that this comic was not only going to be bad but also difficult to finish.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At the New York Times, Brian Selznick reviews Seth's Clyde Fans.

Seth draws time out, both literally and metaphorically. It took him over 20 years to finish this book (he made lots of other books during that time, and published chapters of this one as he went along, the way Dickens did with his novels). His drawing style changed over those years. It’s as if “Clyde Fans” itself is a monument to passing time, and the first direct mention of time in the story is, curiously, a reference to a broken clock. “By the way, pay no attention whatsoever to the clocks. I’d be very surprised if any of them are still wound or working.” This is spoken by the character Abraham Matchcard in 1997, during an extraordinary 69-page sequence that begins the narrative, and it seems like good advice for the whole book.

At HiLobrow, Annie Nocenti remembers Dick Tracy.

These grotesque tales fixated in my young memory, at least as best I can recall down the tunnel of time. As a child, I felt trapped in sheltered suburbia. I scrawled a Jean Genet quote, “Family is the first prison,” on my school notebook. I must have noticed how cool Dick Tracy looked, with his futuristic two-way radio watch. I might have felt relief when he nabbed and jailed the dreadful Pruneface, Mumbles, Pear-Shape. Memory is treacherous. Mostly I recall sympathy for monsters. Dick Tracy’s captivating villains lured me into an early monster love that morphed over the years, the kind of monster love you can only have until you actually meet one.

Let’s Go to the Zoo

Today on the site, Matthias Wivel is back with one of his best columns yet, a look at the thoroughly individual (and empathetic) work of Dominique Goblet.

The Belgian artist and comic-book maker Dominique Goblet is intensely concerned with life as lived by others, and life as a communal experience. She is among the most empathetic of artists working in the comics form, with each project pushing further the boundaries of interpersonal hermeneutics. Goblet is of the generation that emerged in the '90s and helped consolidate ‘the graphic novel’ and ‘art comics’ in broader cultural terms—the first, arguably, to unabashedly self-identify as artists.

It is probably unsurprising, therefore, that she made autobiography—the genre that centered that movement—her proving ground. But she differs from most of her peers in that she has consistently looked beyond herself, in the process redefining for reality-based comics the way of working that has determined so much of the historical evolution of comics: collaboration.

Her latest book, Amour dominical, published this year, is no exception. On the face of it, it is less her book than that of her collaborator, Dominique Théate. Badly injured in a motorcycle accident when he was young, he suffered brain damage that radically changed his life. He lives in the area in which he grew up, the Vielsalm municipality in the Ardennes region in southeastern Belgium. Goblet first met him there in 2007 when, as part of a group of comics-oriented artists associated with the Belgian collective Frémok—of which she has been a constituent part since the early '90s—she visited La “S”, Grand Atélier, an arts center for the mentally handicapped located in an old army barracks.

We also have a new artist making the Cartoonist's Diary this week: Chris Kuzma. Here's Day One and Day Two.

Robert Kirby is here, too, with a review of Joakim Drescher's Motel Universe.

The intergalactic adventures of Motel Universe unfold in seemingly free-form fashion, driven by creator Joakim Drescher’s delightfully go-for-broke imagination in both storytelling and visuals, along with his seriously loopy sense of humor. Drescher sneaks in some potent tropes about scapegoating and the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of society, but his satire is offered up in such over-the-top surreality that it all goes down quite easily. Drescher is clearly having a lot of fun with his creations and that fun is contagious.

The plot centers around a hapless slave race of folks known as the Skins. The story opens with two of them, a father and his young daughter named Plum, being cast out of an apparent place of safety by a weird tiny being who rides a bird as if it were a horse. As they are forced to fly off into the dangerous unknown, the father laments: “Nothing changes, there is no sanctuary. As long as the skin of our people is precious – we will be HUNTED FOR IT!”

And AJ McGuire reviews Rich Tommaso's Dry County.

Rich Tommaso’s Dry County has a regular-guy protagonist, Lou Rossi, who plays at being a detective. It’s hard to blame him for this bit of make-believe after he stumbles into what anybody would recognize as the start of a mystery. He meets a pretty girl, Janet Laughton, and then only a few days later she disappears, followed by a note that reads, “Do not call the police or she dies.” He spends the rest of the book trying to track her down with the skillset and street-smarts that would actually be available to him as a young cartoonist and movie critic in the year 1990 - which is to say not much. He bumbles around, recruits some friends to stake out her ex-boyfriends, and runs a contest in his newspaper comic strip to try and send her messages. The most daring he gets is when he climbs through a window and looks around in someone’s house for her, thinking she may be inside being held prisoner, but since she’s not there he leaves the way he came in.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC has announced a restructuring, part of which will involve finally putting the long-suffering Vertigo imprint out of its misery.

DC will shut down Vertigo, its pioneering non-superhero comics imprint, at the end of the year, a move that has been rumored for weeks. Shuttering the imprint is part of a restructuring that will also eliminate DC’s recently launched Zoom and Ink publishing imprints, which published children's and YA comics, respectively.

All DC titles will now be published via three age-specific publishing lines: DC Kids, which will serve middle-grade readers or readers ages 8-12; DC, for ages 13 plus, which will primarily include the DC universe of characters; and DC Black Label, for readers 17 and older. The newly announced publishing lines will launch in January 2020.

—Interviews. Glen Martin interviews Darrin Bell.

What’s the bedrock ethos of editorial cartooning?

An editorial cartoon is not a gag. Bob Mankoff [former cartoon editor for The New Yorker] called me a few years ago out of the blue and asked me to submit cartoons to the magazine. And I pointed out that I’d never done gag work. And he said editorial cartoons were basically gag cartoons—both have a single image and a caption. But they’re not the same thing. For me, editorial cartoons don’t have to be funny. I want them to make people think and feel, even if they end up thinking I’m an idiot and want horrible things to happen to me.

In Candorville, one of the main characters is a young writer who regularly submits his work to The New Yorker and is rejected. Did you ever submit any of your cartoons per Mankoff’s request?

I did, and one was accepted after eight or nine attempts. And it just ran, as a matter of fact. They held it for a year or so, and then finally published it. I’d been checking each issue every week to see if it had run and then basically given up. But apparently, that’s standard practice—they can hold cartoons for a long time.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Edie Fake.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Buhle uses the occasion of a new edition of Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls to write about the history of sex in comics.

Erotic art as actual comic art, sequential art in panels, is necessarily of a still more recent vintage. Anthologies of explicit sex comics, published within the past few decades, reveal very little before the 1920s, when some joke book series, like Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, pushed at the limits of the publishable. In these cartoons, “college widows” (unattached older women living in the campus area) and hot-to-trot coeds set the pace, with their avid boyfriends, for the rawer material to follow.

“Tijuana Bibles,” eight-to-24-page small-sized comics, began to appear during the Depression, following the expansion and consolidation of organized crime networks. Never sold in public, they circulated mysteriously, and sexual organs were very much on display. They were first distributed in tobacco shops (which at an earlier time had offered a literal entryway to commercial prostitution). Rendered less necessary by the slippage of censorship in wartime, these “bibles” slipped downward to distribution at gas stations and off-the-truck direct sales.

—Misc. Kevin Huizenga has a Patreon account.

One to Go

Today on the site, Derik Badman writes about Guido Crepax.

Valentina Rosselli was a Milanese photographer born in 1942, fashionable, a communist. She first appeared as a side character in the 1965 story "The Lesmo Curve", which largely focuses on the character Neutron, a.k.a. Philip Rembrandt, an art critic with the mysterious power to stop humans or objects via his gaze. The two characters became lovers and Valentina assumed the role of protagonist in subsequent stories, which were, at first, genre adventures reminiscent of American newspaper serials and mixing science fiction, horror, and intrigue, and later on, grew into tales more concerned with the reality (and the fantasy) of her domestic life.

Valentina's rich dream/fantasy life often features eroticism and a predilection towards s&m, and that last element is probably the main source of notoriety for Guido Crepax, Valentina's creator. Previous to the Complete Crepax series, currently ongoing annually from Fantagraphics (the fourth and latest volume of which I am mostly concerned with here), the easiest English translations of Crepax's work to find were his adaptations of such titles as The Story of O, Venus in Furs, and the Marquis de Sade's Justine. Other translations have appeared in English, primarily in the late '80s and early '90s from Catalan Communications, NBM (via their Eurotica imprint), and a handful of stories in Heavy Metal, but they have been long out of print, and represent only a patchwork of a larger whole. The heavy focus on the erotic aspects of Crepax's work has made knowledge of him in English-speaking countries too limited. He is a master of the comics form, creating beautiful drawings within a framework of innovative page layouts and panel breakdowns.

Yesterday, we published an excerpt of Sean Knickerbocker's Rust Belt.

Rob Clough is here, too, with a review of Mary Fleener's Billie the Bee.

Mary Fleener's first new book in years, Billie the Bee, is one part Jon Lewis' True Swamp (a favorite of Fleener's), one part Jay Hosler's Clan Apis, and one part Fleener weirdness. If you're one of the fortunate few who read her eponymous series Fleener back in the '90s, you'll have a sense of what you're getting into here. Fleener uses highly stylized and surreal character designs, exotic settings, and an overall bizarre aesthetic that differentiate it from Fleener's more familiar autobiographical comics.

Billie the Bee is set in a coastal lagoon that is also part estuary, with a mix of fresh and salt water in the environment. Fleener has clearly done a lot of research into this subject and mixes nature facts into her narrative in the way that Hosler did in his story about a beehive's inhabitants. Fleener adds footnotes regarding these facts and scientific classifications of the flora and fauna in the area. The various insects and animals that we meet have anthropomorphic qualities while still retaining their natural qualities. Things don't get quite as weird as they do in True Swamp, as Fleener is clearly interested in hewing as close to the actual qualities of the creatures as possible, and resists adding the bizarre and supernatural elements that are present in Lewis' work.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—This year's Russ Manning Award nominees have been announced.

—Naomi Fry writes about the comics-adjacent work of Judith Kerr.

"Once there was a cat called Mog. She lived with a family called Thomas. Mog was nice but not very clever. She didn’t understand a lot of things. A lot of other things she forgot. She was a very forgetful cat.” So begins Judith Kerr’s picture book “Mog the Forgetful Cat,” published in England in 1970. Though this was only the first of Kerr’s “Mog” volumes—which ended up numbering more than a dozen by the time the last of the bunch, “Goodbye Mog,” came out, in 2002—these opening lines establish the series’ rhythm and sensibility. Kerr, who died in May, at the age of ninety-five, having published more than thirty much-beloved books in the course of her career, once said that she tried to never use more than two hundred and fifty words in any of her books, so that young children could follow along. But it was, perhaps, exactly this limitation that heightened her ability to pinpoint, with a beautiful specificity, the character of her feline protagonist. Just like Mog—a stout, friendly tabby with a round face, a white bib, and white paws, who gets into a variety of small domestic scrapes because of her limited grasp of the world around her—Kerr’s language is simple and a little plodding. The sentences are short and of consistent length—not unlike the padded footfalls of a rotund cat—and, in their occasional repetitiveness, mimic a feline’s clumsy thinking.

—The Paris Review excerpts the new book from Ulli Lust.

Grind

Today on the site, Bill Kartalopoulos reports from a recent panel at the Society of Illustrators, celebrating the Book of Weirdo and including Weirdo contributors (and rivals) including Kim Deitch, Drew Friedman, Glenn Head, John Holmstrom, Mark Newgarden, and Art Spiegelman.

Several of the panelists agreed that Weirdo’s embrace of outsider cartoonists — “outsider” even in the context of underground and alternative comics — was among the magazine’s unique and memorable characteristics. “What I always really dug about Weirdo was that it had this unvarnished kind of originality,” Head said. “So there could be this work like Eugene Teal’s ‘Sunday Frog Funnie’ or the Elinore Norflus stuff, where it really looked like the artist doing the work was completely untutored in art as well as comics. They just didn’t even have a background in it. So you could put Crumb’s work up against it, and a lot of artists’ work up against it, and it was like there was different work from different universes all mixed up in Weirdo. So I was really into that.” Newgarden agreed that among the magazine’s three successive editors, “Crumb tended to go for more what he considered primitive.” When selecting artists to portray on the book’s cover, Friedman was mindful not to only include the magazine’s most well-known contributors. “Weirdo was all about the lesser-known contributors and the fringe artists and the social misfits who contributed to the magazine,” he said. “Weirdo gave guys like Bruce [Duncan] a chance to be published and be seen,” Deitch affirmed. In a sense, Crumb’s openness to artistic outsiders in Weirdo sits in continuity with his embrace of the underground comix work of Rory Hayes, who was very much an artist's artist during his life.

Yesterday, we published the final installment of Michel Fiffe's OVERWORD column, focused on Mark Gruenwald.

We've reached peak clusterfuck in terms of any sort of hardline continuity in comics today. There's a thin narrative thread running through mainstream comics, but we all know it doesn't matter anymore. Anything goes, it just has to be compelling, it just has to sell books, and so the hyper attention to long running, company-wide continuity doesn't hold much weight anymore.

When was the last time it did, though? Crisis in '85? Post-Heroes Reborn? Pre-Hickman's Secret Wars? Like Roy Thomas a generation before him, Gruenwald lived to serve continuity. There was a groundwork for him to study and work from, and it had real value to the readers, too. That was part of the Marvel appeal, being the longest running shared universe in history.

So I can't help but root for the guy who was fighting an uphill battle with the times. Especially when his writing style was geared towards those unwavering convictions. And he wasn't gonna go rogue and do his own thing! No way was he gonna go independent; as established in the Quasar post, the Big Two establishments are where it's at. Anything outside of that simply didn't count. And this isn't some sort of demented corporate loyalty, it's a marriage to the ideas he surrendered to as a kid, as a professional, and as a creative force.

Sean Witzke reviews Rick & Morty Presents Mr. Meeseeks.

Rick and Morty is a television show originally created as a joke where Marty McFly blew Doc Brown for a Channel 101 pilot, and it is now the current cause du jour cartoon for a theoretical 16-year-old white male who hates everyone and thinks he’s smart but really isn’t that smart because he’s still too dumb to realize that true nihilism is going to require a lot more reading than he’s prepared to do because said 16-year-old is too busy saying “tampon tampon tampon” in the comments section of a YouTube video that will be revealed as the work of an astroturfing Nazi in about three months.

Leonard Pierce reviews House of the Black Spot.

Good comics, in whatever form they’re presented – graphic novels, monthlies, daily strips, zines, or any of their other manifestations – have to do one job that is simultaneously stone simple and devilishly complex:  use a primarily visual medium to communicate a narrative story. All the best comics do this well, and all the worst don’t do it at all. 

Ben Sears’ “Double+” series, released around this time each year for the last few, is indisputably in the former category. It’s probably an exaggeration – well, cards on the table: it’s definitely an exaggeration to call it one of the best comics being made right now; Sears’ talents are remarkable, but his work also occupies that porous border between good and great. While he takes care to provide enough chewy content for older readers who want to take what they read seriously, it would be a stretch to call his work thematically weighty in any meaningful sense. But it would also do him a great injustice to call it slight.  Sears’ strength is absolutely as a visual storyteller, but there’s enough happening in his engaging characters, involving storylines, and light-fingered explorations of contemporary issues that the books are always something to look forward to, and the latest, House of the Black Spot, is a perfect example.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. I missed this, but earlier this month, the editorial shakeup at Esquire magazine also included the dismissal of cartoons editor Bob Mankoff.

Ronald Wimberly's LAAB is crowdfunding a new issue, including comics from Emily Carroll, Ben Passmore, Hellen Jo, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Nishat Akhtar, Josiah Files, Freddie Carrasco, Richie Pope, Tanna Tucker, and Gymah Gariba.

—Reviews & Commentary. Jeet Heer has a new position at The Nation, and his first piece is an essay about the New York Times and its recent decision to cease the regular publication of political cartoons.

Speaking for many in his profession, Joel Pett, a Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial cartoonist for Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader, decried the decision as “chickenshit and cowardly.” More politely, CNN’s Jake Tapper told The Daily Beast that this was “just one more nail in the coffin of what is a struggling art form, given how corporate America has taken over local newspapers and gutted the industry.”

It’s undeniable that editorial cartooning, even more than journalism as a whole, is in crisis. A 2012 report by the Herblock Foundation found that there were fewer than 40 editorial cartoonists with newspaper-staff jobs in America, a steep decline from more than 2,000 such positions in the beginning of the 20th century. The situation has gotten only more dire since that report, with the high-profile firing of Rob Rogers from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for penning anti-Trump cartoons. Newspaper editorial cartooning is well on the path to extinction, a dire end for a vital art that has been inextricable from modern political protest.

At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews recent books by Mark Alan Stamaty and Jaime Hernandez.

The comics form sets up poignant juxtapositions in “Is This How You See Me?” The book is structured episodically, with present-day sequences — in which the two women, in their early 50s, return home, full of self-consciousness — intercut with scenes from the past. While in the table of contents these sections are marked out by year — 1979, 1980 — the story itself seamlessly slides into the past without announcement or warning. “Love and Rockets” focuses sharply on style, and we see how the characters shift fashions, grow older, change bodies. But other juxtapositions float throughout: the as-obnoxious-as-they-used-to-be young queer couple whom Maggie and Hopey encounter at the art house movie theater; their friend Daffy and her punked-out daughter standing side by side at the reunion for the local band Ape Sex. (The mom has some good advice: “I told her you never wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see.”)

And Michael Sherber writes in the journal Physics about a recent conference in France in which cartoonists and scientists discussed how to depict science through comics.

“The comic strip is a storytelling art,” says Pierre-Laurent Daures, one of the TSDS organizers and the president of Stimuli, an association that directs artist-scientist collaborations. The typical comic contains characters whose experiences are captured in a time-ordered sequence of panels. Scientific findings, by contrast, are usually presented as objective, timeless facts—with rarely any story behind them. “Combining scientific knowledge with comic drawing is a challenge, but it can lead to innovative solutions for communicating science,” Daures says.

These “solutions” were on show at the conference. In the entrance of the Museum of Comic Strips—where TSDS was held—several graduate students displayed comic-strip versions of their Ph.D. theses that were made for university-sponsored outreach programs. In talks, researchers from France, Morocco, and Chile presented a number of science-based comic books, such as one that used Alice in Wonderland to explain elementary statistics.

Whoops

Today on the site, Simon Abrams interviews Michael Kupperman.

In a lot of criticism, personal art is presumed to be better art. The idea that you have to literally bleed on the page to get people to take you seriously or to find your work “accessible,” which is another critical crutch. Was moving away from your collage-style work your way of making your art more accessible? That is: was it a conscious goal? 

Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, I think there are very few artists who don’t want more audience. Yes, I wanted to make my work more accessible and have it read by more people. The thing about Hodags and Hodaddies which was great was: I would do these comics and then people I know would see them and comment on them to my face. That was really rewarding for me. That aspect to the work disappeared pretty quickly after that.

You’re now on Patreon. How has that worked towards your goal of fostering a more immediate connection between your readership, your work, and you?

I think it’s still developing, really. Patreon is part of a more conscious shift on my part to make that connection and to build it. The old system has so consistently failed me. If I have a chance now to keep making comics the way I want to, it’s only going to be with the direct support of an audience that enjoys them.

Was it harder to be taken seriously by comics gatekeepers—both critics and publishers—because your style is not stylistically dense? You’re not exactly Chris Ware, who puts all the work on the page and kind of overwhelms you.

Absolutely, yes. I am not a designer per se and my work is not design-heavy. And yes, I think Chris Ware’s work, which is omnipresent now, has achieved that status partly, or mainly, because of its design sensibilities. I think design has really overtaken art in our culture right now. People think they’re the same thing and they’re not at all. In some senses I’m anti-design, and I see it as a limitation that our culture has placed on itself now, that everything has to be “designed” just so. I find the disruption caused by the human touch and the human brain to be much more interesting than something perfectly designed.

On Friday, Alex Dueben spoke to William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, about that organization's relationship to comics.

“The cartoonist Jennifer Camper made a great note at the Lammys,” Johnson said, mentioning the legendary cartoonist who was a presenter at this year’s Lammys alongside other distinguished figures like Jen Benka, Melissa Febos, John Roberts, Paul Tran, and Christine Vachon. “She said we shouldn’t really call it a graphic novel because comics exist cross-genre – memoir, science fiction, poetry. Comics is a huge door and anything can fit through it. That’s important to recognize.”

Since establishing a graphic-novel category, the Lammys has continued to recognize comics in other categories as well. This year, two comics were on the shortlist for the LGBTQ Erotica prize—Crossplay by Niki Smith, and Miles and Honesty in SCFSX! by Blue Delliquanti and Kazimir Lee—competing against prose work, with Delliquanti and Lee winning the prize.

As far as why they were nominated for and won the erotica prize, Johnson said that it was simply what the judges decided. “It’s judged by a panel of their peers so the judging panel is other erotic writers,” Johnson said. “The panel felt that this was the most notable book of the year and that it deserved the award.”

Keith Silva reviews the new collection of Don Rosa's Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes about how the combination of a cartoon character in a realistic setting creates a ‘mask’ for the reader--think European and Japanese comics or any animated Disney movie ever. And speaking of the big ‘D,’ the popularity of Donald Duck—the most published non-superhero comic book character in the world—is thanks to Carl Barks, a maestro of masking. And so it must follow, as a mother duck with her ducklings, Don Rosa, self-disclosed super fan of Barks’s signature work-for-hire creation, Scrooge McDuck, is a mask maker par excellence too.

Barks and Rosa’s use of masking in Duck books provided the reader with agency, engagement and complicity, the act of becoming, of being—the foundation of fiction, of comics. And what better places to be than a haunted castle, a riverboat plying the mighty Mississippi or a tumble-down town on the frontier? Masking means layering, which makes Rosa's The Complete Life and Times of $crooge McDuck a veritable French pastry full of adventures, history, laughs, thrills, sorrows, failures, triumphs and morals. Most of the lessons like fairness, frugality and forgiveness are child’s play. It’s the sad and wiser truths that The Complete Life and Times of $crooge McDuck masks about comics, corporations and the reader’s (consumer’s) conscience that makes this the ultimate work about understanding comics.

And Tegan O'Neil reviews Benji Nate's Lorna.

Benji Nate’s Lorna is one of the cuter books to cross my transom in a minute. I debated how and whether to use the word “cute” because under certain circumstances it can certainly be an insult, and indeed the last thing I would want to do is be seen to damn with faint praise merely by calling a book “cute.” But in this instance “cute” is the word because it seems difficult to imagine from the results on display that Nate wasn’t striving for cute the whole time.

The titular Lorna is a bit of an odd duck, by which I means she really likes carrying knives and stabbing things. She’s carrying a knife on the cover, carrying a knife on the first page, and although I didn’t actually count she’s carrying a knife on most of the interior pages as well. “Threatening boys with knives is just a hobby of mine,” she relates. Just one of those girls who really likes murdering people, y’know? And only sometimes scavenging their bodies for loot, like sunglasses.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Johnny Ryan is one of the writers working on a new series of Looney Tunes.

The shorts are part of the studio’s commitment to creating 1,000 minutes of new Looney Tunes animation. When WB announced the project at last year’s Annecy festival, the studio touted that the shorts would take a “cartoonist-driven approach to storytelling,” and based on what was screened today, they’ve stayed true to that mission.

—Andrea Ayres at The Beat writes about the possibility of a union in comics.

Saying you want a guild or union is one thing; actually forming one is an entirely different beast. How do you organize a disparate collective of workers? [Sasha] Bassett believes other industries, like construction, can serve as a template for comics. She says, “Another example can be found in a recent development with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who has helped establish the IWW Freelance Journalists Union – comics could go a similar route and have all freelancers work within the same bargaining unit, rather than with smaller groups oriented around individual jobs.”

—The NCS responds to the recent New York Times decision to suspend regular political cartoons.

Editorial cartooning is an invaluable form of pointed critique in American newspapers that dates back to the 19th-century work of the legendary Thomas Nast, as well as to pamphlet images published by Benjamin Franklin. The history of our great nation can be read through the pens of our editorial artists and cartoonists. Journals of record are the conduits to this history.

The cartoonists that contribute to your publication are not mere hobbyists, but deeply committed life-long devotees to the art of political commentary. It is not a job that is taken lightly, nor done with ease. It is a passion that not only feeds the national and international conversation, but just as importantly, feeds their families.

Two to Go

Yesterday, we published an essay by Zoran Djukanovic exploring the visual storytelling of José Luis Salinas's Cisco Kid.

The Cisco Kid is one of the famous “eternal” Westerns, appearing on the pages of American newspapers for eighteen years, which can be considered a short period for a syndicated comic strip. In the world of comics done for King Features, many series lasted for more than half a century. The editors of KFS knew pretty well whom they were engaging as an artist for this series. José Luis Salinas (1908-1985) was an extremely skilled comic artist and illustrator. Prior to The Cisco Kid, he showed his extreme craftsmanship in a series of strip adaptations of well-known classic adventure novels in collaboration with the writer José de España. More importantly, Salinas was the author of the masterful Hernán el Corsario (1936-1938; 1940-1941; 1945-1946), which absorbed a lot of creative influence of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. Hernán el Corsario is considered the first great comic series in Argentina. Salinas was a quick-drawing artist. This proved to be important in nearly two decades of work on The Cisco Kid which was an exclusively daily strip. It’s one of the few syndicated comics where one can hardly notice variations in drawing quality.

[...]

The lightness of the narrative tone, with elements of exaggeration that verges on the comic, is immediately established from the first weeks of The Cisco Kid. Were the King Features Syndicate editors the ones who set the task of simplifying the story in The Cisco Kid? Yes, there was a warning that Cisco’s character always had to be good. It created a somewhat narrowed space for individualization of characters. It’s divided between good guys and bad guys, providing a certain naivety ready-built into the storyline.

And what about Cisco? There is a certain almost boyish enthusiasm in his character. Cisco is partly based on a humorously simplified characterization. He is an indisputable hero, a young man with a well-shaped, tight waisted body, always dressed in the same embroidered black shirt. A more ironic reader would have called him Narcissus. He is tirelessly flirts with women, and then triumphs against desperados.  Cisco’s romantic vision of falling in love is not exclusive and focused upon only one woman. He is primarily attracted to falling in love, to flirting as such and it doesn't matter if his sympathies overlap partners in real time. That brings a certain element of self-parody. Despite the Latin, partly frivolous Prince Charming appearance, sooner or later, he provokes trust and a feeling of protection for women. However, there are very little sexual undertones coming to the surface, if we compare it with other comic classics (Prince Valiant, Casey Ruggles, Lance, The Heart of Juliet Jones, and most of Alex Raymond’s work).

Today, we published an interview with the Indian artist and comics scholar Aarthi Parthasarathy, conducted by Kim Jooha.

Kadak Collective

What is Kadak Collective? How did it start?

Kadak is a collective of women, non-binary, and queer artists who are talking about a gamut of social issues, mainly related to gender and sexuality, through graphic storytelling. So it is not just comics, but also illustration, graphic design, animation, and now hopefully other forms as well.

Kadak started in 2016. Eight of us came together to showcase our work at a table for ELCAF. Under the collective, we’ve got approximately forty self-published books/zines/comics in different formats. We showcase them in The Reading Room. There are webcomics too. We’ve done a few commissions for different publications/organizations as well, including Gaysi Zine (an Indian queer zine) and the Akshara Foundation (an NGO working with issues related to gender). Last year, we spoke about the direction the collective should take and we decided to take on a big publication project, and that’s where we’re at right now, with the Bystander anthology.

Why feminist and queer?

In India, the last decade has really brought a lot of issues into people’s consciousness - the issues of violence against women, representation, caste hierarchies, intersectionality, among others. Before 2016, when Kadak formed, there were a lot of incidents like violence against women and minorities that fired a well overdue outrage. There was the case of the rape of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 that really shook the nation, and this led to big societal shifts in the way people talked about sexual assaults and toxic masculinity, embedded patriarchy in systems. We realized how the media had contributed to lopsided representations, encouraged misogyny, turned a blind eye to forces of caste and class hierarchy. A lot of us were wondering, asking ourselves, discussing, how we could contribute to this conversation? As artists, storytellers, we felt we had a responsibility. And as women, queer, non-binary individuals, we knew we were best equipped to tell our own stories. We believed there was a kind of storytelling that hadn’t been foregrounded, and we wanted to bring attention to it.

Greg Hunter reviewed Dash Shaw's Clue: Candlestick #1:

An ideal encounter with Clue: Candlestick #1 might involve discovering it in a dollar bin twenty years after publication. Already a curious aside in the bibliography of a celebrated cartoonist, Dash Shaw's board-game tie-in miniseries is likely to look even stranger as time passes and its context begins to blur. But here we are, only a few weeks after its release. Without the benefit of any back-issue-disinterment aura, Candlestick #1 sometimes reads like a comic for nobody--perhaps too odd for a fan of the game (or film) who stumbles upon it, perhaps too restrained for fans of Shaw's most ambitious works. But comics for nobody have an aura of their own, and Candlestickstill illuminates Shaw’s skills as a storyteller.

And Sean Witzke reviews Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman's Thumbs #1.

The opening issue of the five-issue miniseries Thumbs, by Sean Lewis and artist Hayden Sherman, mainly focuses on a sister taking her wounded brother to the hospital for medical care. The press release for the book mentions Charlier Brooker and Annabelle Jones' Black Mirror, our current moment’s most relevant science-fiction concern. Brooker has always in his writing shown a true distrust of human selfishness, working in the territory scratched out by Rod Serling and George Romero--it's a world view where people poison their own well, where we are the monsters. It's a place where it doesn’t matter what the hook is, because you have to be more worried about your neighbor with the gun than any monster that is breaking down the door.

Thumbs seems to come from a different school, one which the creators may not even be aware of, the post-cyberpunk of the '90s, things like Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, what you could call pre-9/11 tech anxiety books. In them, there are the kids who have been left behind by a technologically advanced society, the omnipresent tech du jour (a character is very clearly meant to be Elon Musk), adults that are often bad or missing, and a half-useful slang that’s only there to patch over uninteresting character motivations. Thumb's creators don’t need to have read those books as there's a type of science fiction that seems self-generating. The kind where it’s too clever by half, and could come from video games or YA novels or anime. The kind where the world falls apart if you tug at the ideas just a little. A book like Jennifer Egan’s Welcome to the Goon Squad can exist where it hits dozens of cliches and you feel like it’s not on purpose, but because the author literally has never read or watched any science fiction.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The very first piece of original Tintin cover art created by Hergé sold at auction for over $1 million this week.

Three separate bidders placed bids exceeding $1 million for the first cover illustration by Hergé, who is considered the star of European comics. The title character is shown carving a makeshift propeller for his plane from a tree trunk, under the watchful eye of his bandaged-but-attentive dog, Snowy.

—D.D. Degg has collected various reactions to the New York Times's recent decision to stop publishing editorial cartoons.

—Carol Tilley tells the story of the overlooked Golden Age cartoonist Jane Krom Grammer.

When Barrie Schindler was young, her mother Jane Krom Grammer mentioned to her that she had drawn art for comic books. Jane kept a package filled with several issues of Supersnipe Comics from the mid-1940s and pointed to the Dotty stories in them. But Jane’s name didn’t appear anywhere on the art and there were no pay vouchers or contracts to back up the story, only her word.

—And don't forget: midnight June 14 is your final deadline to vote in the Eisners.

The Rundown

This week, Sloane Leong continues her series of interviews with fellow artists-in-residence at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, France. This time, she spoke with Josune Arrutia about cancer, Susan Sontag, and the growing interest in what's being called "graphic medicine."

Josune Urrutia: The project has no title yet. It’s about six women artists that lived with cancer and decided to make work in order to re-signify the surroundings and meanings of cancer through art.

And so what motivated you to write that sort of story?

It’s been almost ten years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and in a way it changed my life.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, I first made the Brief Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary of MY Cancer at the end of 2017. It’s not a comic, it’s actually an alphabet that approaches cancer from different points of view, territories, genres and languages, attempting to understand the universal reality of cancer based on my personal experience with cancer and illness.

[...]

What type of cancer did you battle with?

Ovarian. So this is the first thing I made related to cancer and illness. The Brief Dictionary has been germinal for other projects like the comic I’m working on here at MdA, or the one with Art Center La Panera and the Radiation Oncology Unit of the public Hospital in Lleida, Catalonia. We are working on a collective illustrated publication about cancer. It’s a participatory project where all the hospital community takes part: the team of radiotherapy oncology, doctors, technicians, patients, family expansive, etc. It’s like my Brief Dictionary, but collective.

The great Joe McCulloch returns with a review of panpanya's Invitation from a Crab.

Despite the terrific influence Japanese comics have had on small-press and online-focused cartoonists here in the English-speaking west, it's still pretty rare to encounter the Japanese equivalents of those none-too-mainstream artists in translation. Much of what is presented as 'manga' to overseas readers is very much commercial entertainment - because Japan's industry of comics is comparatively very healthy, there are many more professional working cartoonists, and a wider net can thus be cast into the stream of popular genres and topics; it's more akin to cable television than anything familiar to English-language comics. As a result, even if you stick to the biggest publishers and the more formulaic titles, 'manga' will appear to be more diverse. But smaller manga do sometimes get through. Just last month, the Tokyo bookstore and art gallery Popotame put out an English-translated selection of comics titled Popocomi, for release at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. This follows a 2016 English edition of the Japanese indie manga anthology USCA from Diorama Books, and 2018's š! #32, a Latvian-assembled showcase for Japanese artists. Among larger publishers, we must not forget that Kabi Nagata's hugely-acclaimed memoir My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (published in English by Seven Seas) began its life as a personal webcomic, or that the popular ESPer mayhem series Mob Psycho 100 (published in English by Dark Horse) is from an artist, ONE, who made his name doing similarly lo-fi online work.

Into this scene drops An Invitation from a Crab, a year-one release for the new manga-in-English publisher Denpa, as translated by Ko Ransom. The collection itself is not a small-press item; it was first released in Japanese in 2014 by Hakusensha, the same publisher that handles Berserk, and parts of it appeared beforehand via Rakuen, a mainline comics magazine marketed to women. However, the artist, panpanya, has deep roots in Japanese small- and self-publishing, particularly as it relates to Comitia, a seasonal convention dedicated to original works (as opposed to the fanfiction-heavy tables of the larger Comiket). Considerable domestic acclaim followed the 2013 release of Ashizuri Aquarium, a first-ever arrangement of the artist's theretofore self-published comics, as released by January and July, a book publisher-cum-anime goods merchant; An Invitation from a Crab is thus panpanya's wider-release sophomore collection - a major-label second album, albeit the first to appear in English.

And Toussaint Egan reviews Sharpe & Goodrich's Viewotron.

When it comes to reading Viewotron No. 1, the inaugural volume of Sam Sharpe’s ‘one-or-more-person comics anthology’ co-created with Peach S Goodrich, it’s all a matter of perspective. In the volume’s second comic, ‘The Secret Origins of Viewotron’, the eponymous thingamabob is revealed to have been a literal ‘deus ex machina’ created by Sharpe and Goodrich back in 2005 as a prop for an impromptu sci-fi film the two had been working on at the time. “It’s a machine whose purpose is unclear,” Sam confidently states, whose only explicit function being to reveal something “different” to whomever looks into it. When asked what exactly the Viewotron shows to the person peering through it, Sam simply replies, “Whatever your character needs to see.” This concept, of a tool facilitated to reveal the unseen and essential truth of one’s lived experiences through the animating spark of their subjectivity, is carried through to the color scheme of Viewotron itself: an mock-analyphic red and cyan composition evoking comparisons to the earliest forms of commercial 3D imagery. What at first is mundane can turn out to be revelatory, if viewed with the proper mindset. It’s an appropriate context for a disarmingly pleasant collection of stories that tackle everything from the anxiety of subjective experience, misplaced expectations, mortality, loneliness, and the aimless struggle to find one’s sense of place and meaning in the world.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The New York Times has decided to end their publication of all political cartoons, several weeks after the controversy over a syndicated anti-Netanyahu cartoon in its international edition. Times cartoonist Pat Chappette writes about the decision:

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they'll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon - not even mine - that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world. [...]

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie's infringement suit against InfoWars has ended with Furie receiving a $15,000 settlement.

The InfoWars lawsuit, filed last year, centered on a poster sold by InfoWars featuring Pepe alongside Trumpworld personalities like Roger Stone, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and pundits “Diamond & Silk.”

Before settling, InfoWars tried a novel legal strategy of suggesting, without evidence, that Furie had actually based Pepe on an Argentinian amphibian cartoon character named “El Sapo Pepe.” But on Tuesday, InfoWars agreed to destroy all remaining copies of the poster, and pay back the $14,000 it made from the poster sales—along with an additional $1,000.

—Commentary. Ross Trudeau writes about his father, Garry Trudeau.

Dad only ever seemed to shut the studio door on Fridays. His slate of six dailies and one nine-panel Sunday strip were due to the inker by 6:00 P.M., and he rarely finished a minute before. And just as his professional anxiety reached its weekly zenith, we three children would burst back into the pre-war Central Park West co-op with typical weekend-anticipatory zeal. The few times my father could have been said to have snapped at me unfairly occurred at the threshold of his studio, in mid-afternoon on a Friday: deadline day (or, as my sister called it, “Daddy’s Mad Day).

At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton writes about the online furor that recently erupted around Chelsea Cain and her current Image series, Man-Eaters.

It’s not breaking news that Chelsea Cain, author of Marvel’s Mockingbird, has seen her share of criticism lately for her new comic, Man-Eaters, published by Image Comics. Hailed by some as feminist critique, numerous aspects of Man-Eaters have also been slammed by critics for being insensitive to various groups of people. Cain has acknowledged these critics in the past, going so far as to publicly pledge to do better.

The very premise of the book — a mutation causes menstruating women to turn into dangerous were-felines — has been criticized for being gender essentialist and ignoring the existence of trans people, despite Cain’s claims otherwise. (It also features a plot point where estrogen is added to the water, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of real life fear-mongering about the trans community.) Additionally, more recent issues of the comic have featured (white) women in concentration camps and being forced to drink out of different water fountains than men, garnering criticism that she’s being hypothetically alarmist about things that have actually happened (and are, in fact, still happening) to people of color.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on Virtual Memories is Bill Griffith, the most recent guest on Chapo Trap House is Alan Moore, and the most recent guest on RiYL is Jim Rugg.

Also, Henry Chamberlain interviews R. Sikoryak:

—RIP. Bushwick Bill.

Three to Go

If you haven't had the chance yet to dig into yesterday's Clyde Fans roundtable, I highly recommend it. In it, seven comics scholars and Seth experts—Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Martha Kuhlman, Daniel Marrone, Barbara Postema, Candida Rifkind, Tom Smart—discuss in depth Seth's twenty-years-in-the-making signature work. Here's a bit from Hatfield's introductory remarks:

From the sound of it, Clyde Fans should be an epic: a mid-twentieth-century family story spanning some four decades in the life (and death) of a company inherited by two sons from a wayward father, a business vulnerable to technological and social change and thus ultimately made obsolete. Firmly set in postwar to late-century Ontario, and rooted in certain kinds of Ontarian landscape and a (then optimistic, now pitiable) commercial culture of nonstop go-getting salesmanship — an eager, scurrying, small-time capitalism — Clyde Fans seems determined to chart how a changing world looks from a particular vantage point. Culturally, it’s very specific, and there is so much that might be done to show how various people lived in and made that culture. The lives of Abraham and Simon Matchcard, mismatched brothers working for one too-long lived business, would seem to be an apt vehicle for depicting change in the world (or at least the Ontario) at large. Though mundane, Clyde Fans covers so many years, and has taken so very many years to complete and collect in book form, that the temptation to greet it as Something Big, a monumental work, is hard to resist.

The thing is, the collected Clyde Fans, to me, despite its physical heft, feels like a small story, or rather a meditative visual poem. It doesn’t feel big. It’s intimate. In fact, it’s more than intimate: it’s a closed world, a microcosm, much like the Clyde Fans building that encloses so much of the action. Seth, in rounding off the story, does what the Matchcard brothers do: he turns inward, tightening scope, excluding much of the social world whose changing nature might lead us to expect, well, an epic. This is a story about two recluses, each clinging to the Clyde building for his own reasons, one a go-getter perhaps tragically replaying the sins of his hated father, the other nursing their dying mother and embracing darkness and solitude as a relief from the world’s pressure, but both crawling inside themselves and seeking or succumbing to oblivion. The book itself mirrors their retreat, winding down and disappearing down its own ostrich hole, ending with a rejection of the larger world that ambiguously teeters between tragedy and affirmation.

Today, Alex Dueben returns to interview webcartoonist Kat Verhoeven.

At the start you were thinking of other webcomics like Octopus Pie and Girls with Slingshots.

Absolutely. I get the Octopus Pie comparison fairly often which I think is a compliment. It’s the same format and it was a really big inspiration to me at the time. When I describe the comic I say, it’s like the TV show Friends but sadder. [laughs]

[laughs] I like that. But why did you decide to use a horizontal page design?

I had started working in different printing presses, which is still the day job that I have. I was beginning to get into that work and had started to learn more about paper sizes and page sizes. I was thinking about comic books on shelves and so I mostly did it to try to stand out. Not a lot of comics are done in a horizontal format. Not a lot of long form print comics are done that way. It’s sort of it’s been a bit of a regret actually. As I’ve learned more about webcomic formatting and how to build an audience and make a comic more accessible across different devices, a landscape comic is the worst way of reading that you can have. But it was fun. I wouldn’t do it again but I’m glad Meat and Bone exists in that format. It will stand out on the shelf, I think.

And of course, we also published Days Four and Five of AJ Dungo's Cartoonist's Roundtable.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The nominees for this year's Russ Manning Awards have been announced.

—Cartoonist and community fixture Dustin Harbin had a serious bicycle accident and is raising funds for medical expenses.

—RIP. Dr. John.

Amazing Adult Fantasy

Today on the site, we present an excerpt from AJ Dungo's In Waves.

Dungo, of course, is the artist for this week's Cartoonist's Diary. Day Two and Day Three are up now.

Yesterday, we published the most recent R.C. Harvey column, which this time focused on Eric Stanton, fetish artist, Steve Ditko studio-mate, and possible co-creator of Spider-Man.

In 1951, Stanton married Grace Marie Walter on October 20; they had two children, both boys. The same year, Stanton enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School founded by Burne Hogarth. Stanton took courses from Hogarth and from Jerry Robinson, and in Robinson’s class, he met Ditko and Eugene Bilbrew, an African-American artist who Stanton would introduce to Klaw. As Eneg (“Gene” spelled backwards), Bilbrew, like Stanton, would pursue a career in fetish art.

Ditko, asked years later how he and Stanton met, said, “I liked the way he drew women.” More about their relationship anon.

Over the years, Stanton would produce work for several merchants of fetish art: Edward Mishkin, who ran a store near Times Square (in those days, the neighborhood of sexploitation with dozens of stores selling girlie magazines, photographs, movies, and smut); Leonard Burtman, publisher and merchandiser; Max Stone, publisher of fighting female serials; and Stanley Malkin, also a Times Square entrepreneur, who would hire Stanton, putting him on salary, to do covers for his magazines—Stanton’s longest salaried situation as a fetish artist, 1963-68. Malkin also furnished and paid all the expenses for a small apartment for Stanton.

All, plus Klaw, were eventually arrested, tried and convicted of trafficking in pornography (“printed circulars, pamphlets, booklets, drawings, photographs and motion picture films, which were non-mailable in that they were obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, and filthy”). After serving their sentences (usually payment of a fine), all returned to their businesses under different names—except Malkin, who gave it up in 1969.

Edwin Turner is here, too, with a review of the latest from Jaime Hernandez.

Hernandez's art is as impressive as ever. His Pop style is deceptively simple, with bold lines and controlled patterns reminiscent of Kirbyesque romance comics or Archie classics---but let's be real---nearly four decades in, Hernandez's work is its own idiom. His command of facial expressions is particularly praiseworthy. In one priceless panel, a teenage Hopey overhears herself being insulted. Her aghast frown is worthy of a dozen paragraphs of interior monologue (and far more economical). It's fascinating too to see how naturally Hernandez has realized the aging of his characters, as if they were not drawings on a page, but rather real people.

Is This How You See Me? is ostensibly the sequel to 2014's The Love Bunglers, a graphic novel that retold Maggie's childhood in a startling and impressionistic manner. Together, these novels make a nice introduction to Love & Rockets to anyone perhaps daunted by the series' long history and large cast. Both volumes show an author who cares deeply about his characters, and loves Maggie in particular. Reading Is This How You See Me?, one realizes that Hernandez could go on writing about Maggie for another three decades---and that she would continue to change and fascinate both her readers and her creator.

And Sean Witzke writes about Warren Ellis and Jason Howard's Cemetery Beach.

So this Warren Ellis comic that is indistinguishable from the last Warren Ellis comic I read (which would be a solid 7, 8 years ago), where the characters start explaining their predicaments before panel one and never stop explaining their predicaments until the 162nd page… there's obviously someone who wants this. But I don’t even know if Warren Ellis likes this style of writing. He’s done it, certainly, since the beginning; but his science fiction comics were often dialog-driven polemics, and his action comics usually providing some interesting visual elements while scaling the talk way back. I’m thinking of something like Global Frequency, or more recently his Moon Knight comic that was just a comic book version of the staircase scene from Tony Jaa’s The Protector. A bunch of somethings that a comics writer has very little say in whether or not it’s executed well, beyond teeing up and hoping a good artist will show off.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tommi Parris's The Lie and How We Told It won this year's Lambda Literary Award for graphic novels.

—At The New Yorker, Dan Piepenring writes about Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's How to Read Donald Duck.

Among North American audiences, Disney was most famous for its films and theme parks, but, abroad, Disney comics had a robust readership, and legions of freelance artists tailored them—or rewrote them—to international tastes. In Chile, Donald Duck was by far the most popular Disney character. But Dorfman and Mattelart argued that Donald was a conservative mouthpiece, dampening the revolutionary spirit, fostering complacency, and softening the sins of colonialism. What kind of a role model was he, this eunuch duck, who sought only fame and fortune, who ignored the plight of the working class, who accepted endless suffering as his lot? “Reading Disney,” they wrote, “is like having one’s own exploited condition rammed with honey down one’s throat.”

“How to Read Donald Duck,” published in 1971, was an instant best-seller in Chile. But, in 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power from Allende, in a violent military coup; under Pinochet’s rule, the book was banned, as an emblem of a fallen way of thought. Donald and Mickey Mouse became champions of the counter-revolution. One official pasted their faces on the walls of his office, where, under his predecessor, socialist slogans had once hung. Dorfman watched on TV as soldiers cast his book into a bonfire; the Navy confiscated some ten thousand copies and dumped them into the bay of Valparaíso. A motorist tried to plow him down in the street, shouting “Viva el Pato Donald!”

C – M – C’

Today on the site, Sloane Leong returns with the latest of her series of interviews with fellow Angoulême residents. This time, she talks to Kathrine Avraam.

You have a very distinct textural style that's all very gestural. How did you develop it?

I always switch from analog to digital and the main reason is precisely in search of good graphics that goes with what I want to tell. The place of the texture thus becomes crucial in this game. Younger, I felt frustrated in front of any tool (charcoals, acrylics, pastels etc) and the idea that there are so many techniques of paintings that I do not know and that  I will never be able to control. Now my goal is to draw the best of all these two worlds, the spontaneity of analog and digital freedom. And then the role of the texture, unlike the line, is not descriptive but rather revealing! Revealing the emotional state to which I push my reader.

H.W. Thurston is here with her review of B. Mure's Terrible Means.

I feel somewhat guilty writing a lukewarm review of Terrible Means, and I’ve been trying to understand why. It is after all a professional, purchase-able comic, so to have an attack of taste or conscience on this front runs a risk of sounding condescending. But different artworks are offered up to the world with different attitudes and those attitudes affect the kind of criticism that feels appropriate. I’d never bust onto someone’s personal Instagram, or fan art blog and complain about how they’re taking pictures of their family and drawing their favorite characters and what about what I want to see, huh? There’s an understanding that those creations are the artist experimenting or expressing themselves, not things that are making a case for how good they are. They were created to be either enjoyed or ignored. By comparison, there are works that clearly have a goal, and invite you to judge them by their success at achieving it. I’d have no guilt about disparaging a given Netflix Original or Star Wars outing, because those things claim to be entertaining, and try to earn the mass-adoration (well, patronage) of their audiences. I might not think that judging those things is particularly worth my time, because trying to convince a major studio that their art is bad is like trying to earn the affection of someone who hates you. But I’d definitely feel allowed.

And AJ Dungo begins his week creating out Cartoonist's Diary.

We closed out last week with Steve Ringgenberg's obituary for the significant portrait painter and comics artist Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Everett Raymond Kinstler, who died on May 26 at the age of 92, occupied a unique position among all comics artists. No other artist went from drawing for the pulps and comic books to painting presidential portraits. And not just one or two, but eight presidents sat for him, including Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, both Bushes and Donald Trump. His paintings of Reagan and Ford are the official White House portraits. In addition to his presidential portraits, Kinstler went on to become the portrait painter of society’s elite, painting more than 1,200 portraits that ranged from depictions of astronauts, to captains of industry, to movie stars like John Wayne, James Cagney, Gene Hackman, Christopher Plummer, Clint Eastwood and Katharine Hepburn. Additionally, he painted such prominent public figures as Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, John D. Rockefeller III, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Harry Blackmun, plus six U.S. governors, four secretaries of state and the presidents of numerous educational institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Smith, Wellesley and many others. During his long career, Kinstler painted portraits of more than 50 cabinet officers, more than any other artist. He also turned his hand to painting portraits of authors like Ayn Rand, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Tom Wolfe.

Jake Murel reviewed Ali Fitzgerald's Drawn to Berlin.

Drawn to Berlin is Ali Fitzgerald’s first book-length comic. As a drawing instructor at one of Berlin’s bubble shelters during the height of the 2015 European refugee crisis, the social power of images is one of her central concerns. From German typography to caricatures circulated in anti-immigration propaganda to the self-portraits she drew for refugees passing through shelters, Fitzgerald recognizes the potential of images, and more specifically comics, as a force for good or ill everywhere. Her work tells not only her own story, but the stories of a displaced people longing for home. For Fitzgerald, then, the ethical dimension of comics, far from being some abstract philosophical or political question, is of deeply personal concern.

In fact, Fitzgerald records the personal struggle involved in crafting Drawn to Berlin. As a comic journalist, she finds herself torn between the desire to give voice to the voiceless and the fear she may inadvertently colonize already marginalized people by sensationalizing their lives as a “crisis comic.” Near the book’s end, Fitzgerald overtly addressees these worries when she tells an unnamed character, “I just...don’t want to colonize people’s stories,” to which her acquaintance responds, “But this is your story too, isn’t it?” This panel summarize not only a central tension in Drawn to Berlin, but the whole work’s genre-blending approach. Blending categories of graphic memoir, comics journalism, and historical overview, Fitzgerald records her own life alongside the lives of those she seeks to help as well as the life of the city in which they live. For her, none of these stories can be considered in isolation, like a panel in the comics sequence.

And on Friday, Melanie Gillman completed their two-week residency creating our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At the Spectator, Hermione Lee talks to Posy Simmonds.

Starting with Gemma Bovery, her witty update of Flaubert in 1999, her graphic novels came out just as the genre itself was becoming increasingly respected — culminating in the first Man Booker prize longlist nomination for a graphic novel last year (Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso). Simmonds acknowledges how far the genre has come. Women, she says, were ‘accused of muscling in on a scene that was male, particularly the superhero scene in the US, but now there’s a whole generation of women who are completely uninhibited and drawing just as themselves…. Still,’ she grins, ‘people think you’re probably drawing bears in pinnies. You’re often asked, “And do you ever do any proper writing?”’

—RIP. Roky Erickson

Four to Go

Today on the site, Austin English returns with a piece in which he asks nine different cartoonists the same twenty questions, about their methods, their philosophies, their materials, and their working spaces.

7. Do you read a lot of comics? Are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics, or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

I read less than I ever have these days. When I was working almost full time on comics, I was definitely reading more. I was also going to fests more then which exposed me to great new books. I’ve been out of the circuit the last couple years dealing with other ventures and projects. I really appreciate comics but they’re rarely where I’m pulling my motivation or inspiration from.

8. Do you make comics for a living? If not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics-making process?

I haven’t produced a new book in a while so basically am not making any income from comics at the moment. That’s not to say though I don’t use narrative formats in other work or am not selling work that relates to my history and context within comics. I do live on my art, of which I’d say there are significant connections between all of my practices.

9. Do other art forms often seem more attractive to you?

I don’t think I could only do one practice ever. I like to be stimulated by different contexts and ways of thinking. I need comics, I also need to make installations and work in spaces. I’m attracted to the image of being a painter and a writer in a very classical romantic way, but I also recognize that’s not not what I do.

We have posted Day Eight and Day Nine of Melanie Gillman's Cartoonist's Diary.

And yesterday, we posted the latest installment of our Retail Therapy column, this time featuring responses from Wayne McNeil, the owner of Generation X in Dallas-Fort Worth.

What do you wish more publishers knew about comics retail?

The lack of information makes it really difficult to make decisions. Too many "Whole New Era" and "Everything Changes" as a way to hint that SOMETHING is happening. And then when the event turns out to be minor then the decisions become even more difficult for next time. Plus, telling stores that a big event (like a marriage) was going to happen and then pulling it back makes the STORES look stupid, not the publishers. Finally, having multiple event books every year means fewer and fewer people care about any one "event."

I would also like to see consistent placement of issue numbers and barcodes. Trying to ring up a customer and having to continually hunt the front and back of each comic for each barcode is time consuming. And having issue numbers in wildly inconsistent places on the cover frustrates many customers who are trying to fill in their collection.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Comics Workbook has an interview with Niall Breen.

KUNV Las Vegas talks to Charles Hatfield about his book on Jack Kirby.

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Eric Kostiuk Williams.

Ribs Hangover

This week, Melanie Gillman sets a record by being the first cartoonist to follow up one week of a Cartoonist's Diary with a second week. Here are Day Six and Day Seven.

Nicholas Burman is here, too, with an interview with the British comics writer Mary Talbot.

In your comics you've gone from writing about yourself (alongside a historical figure), a fictional figure, and a biography. What, if any, differences did you apply to the writing process when piecing these stories together? Were you asking yourself any ethical questions around portraying the story of Louise Michel, for example?

While I was working on what became Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, I was moved by the tragedy of Lucia Joyce’s story and I was keen to write about that in some way. For a long time I saw my own little story solely as a means to explicate hers. It shocked me that Lucia seems to have been a kind of casualty of modernism. Her father is this stellar modernist figure, with ‘advanced’ views about marriage and so on, yet the Joyces had pretty bourgeois notions about women and these eventually crushed the life out of Lucia. It was only when I could see that my idea of presenting two parallel lives was working well that I finally overcame my diffidence about memoir writing. Once I started to work on the two interweaving plot lines I could see how it would work as a single story. Then I was completely comfortable with the memoir aspect. I did ponder the birth scene quite a lot before adding it, though. I had to do masses of research into Lucia’s life. The final section about her was painful to write. In fact, I found I was starting to well up with tears every time I read through that part. I took it as a good sign, as far as the book was concerned; if it affected me so much, then surely it would do something for readers. Writing about my own past was a different matter. Obviously it’s familiar to me and the most recent event recounted (my mother’s death) was thirty years ago. The next two books seemed more straightforward, presumably because they were far less personal. I do recall that, in the case of The Red Virgin, I had to think very carefully about how to represent the ghastly ‘Bloody Week’ massacre, to neither sensationalize nor downplay. I think I got the tone about right. Conversely, with Sally Heathcote: Suffragette I wanted to make a prison force-feeding scene as gruesome as possible, so that the reader would appreciate what an appalling procedure it was.

We also have Oliver Ristau's review of Zac Thompson and Arjuna Susini's The Replacer.

The Replacer is a comic book – or as Aftershock's bureau of public relation affairs calls it, a “64-Page Graphic Novella” – that deeply immerses the reader into the daily affairs evolving around a medical patient's history proceeding from a vascular cerebral incident. So the subhead placed beneath a cover that's imitating the outlook of an old VHS tape shouldn't read, “Home is where the horror is” but “People taking care of you is where the horror is.”

Its topic is basically similar to the recently released Dementia 21 by Shintaro Kago, who also visited the area of taking care of others, but for Kago the chosen subject matter of elderly care management offered an opportunity to stage a black comedy, not a journey through the monstrous challenges for one caught in the treadmill of continuous care – though sometimes grim truths can't be suppressed, hence Dementia 21's jungle war episode, in which protégés turn into perfidious booby traps.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For the London Evening Standard, Susannah Butter profiles Posy Simmonds.

Simmonds doesn’t usually show anyone her sketches. “A French journalist recently asked me what my motivation was,” she says, amused. “I just do it.” But she has recently returned to her archives in the lead-up to a retrospective of her work at the House of Illustration in King’s Cross. It will include her childhood creations, cartoon strips for The Guardian and illustrations from her children’s books such The Chocolate Wedding and Fred, which became an Oscar-nominated film.

She shows me how Bovery evolved from photos of Princess Diana, who Simmonds drew from all angles “to bring her to life”. Simmonds double-checked that all movements were realistic by looking in the mirror. “I rather liked the way Princess Di looked under her fringe, that gave me the idea for Gemma’s face,” she says.

Rob Clough interviews Whit Taylor.

I was considered “artistic” in elementary school. And I remember one day these folks came to our school to assess for artistic ability. I took some sort of “drawing test” and they concluded that I had no technical ability but was good as a freehand drawer. Being judged that early stuck with me and probably charted much of the course of my art career. I took an art class in high school and didn’t continue because I didn’t like my art teacher (she wasn’t particularly nice). I pretty much stopped drawing in high school and focused my attention on stage crew/musicals, sports, and playing music.

When I got to college, I took a studio foundation course at Brown, as well as screenwriting and some film classes. At the time, I wanted to make socio-cultural documentaries. I wanted to get into RISD courses because my school had an arrangement with them, but those classes were almost impossible to get into, so I never took any. During my studio foundation course though, we were required to go to a talk at RISD, where I saw Roz Chast speak. That was a game changer for me. Harvey Pekar also came to visit Brown to talk about the American Splendor movie. I met him and talked with him a bit too and he encouraged me to make comics. After those experiences, I started drawing again.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson reviews the first issue of Dash Shaw's Clue: Candlestick.

This comic is insane. In adapting a game about psychology, it’s about this simplified and transparent version of the same. Formally, it then becomes about depicting thought processes, essentially. Shaw has a long-time interest in comics and the language of depicting the invisible, so we get a more heightened version of that. From the first page, it’s working at a very high level to create a visual language to describe how perception works. There’s this sort of meta awareness of itself and what it’s doing and the need to explain that that then transfers to the reader. I texted multiple people while reading this comic to say how good it was, as I could barely believe it, could only understand it by communicating it to others.

[In the interests of disclosure, I should say that I contributed a short ancillary essay to this issue.]

Five to Go

Today, on the site we have a new installment in Sloane Leong's series of interviews she's been conducting with fellow residents of Angoulême's Maison des Auteurs. This week, the subject is Pam-Pam Liu.

You’ve drawn very raw autobio comics about yourself and your family. What is the process behind choosing what to share publicly? Do you worry that the people you depict will read them and possibly get offended? How does drawing these comics affect you?

I was studying in London in 2012 when the paper was about autobiographical comics, and I was addicted to: James Kochalka and Harvey Pekar.

Of course, watching other people's works is completely different from the feeling of hands-on records. I began to record life in the form of pictures and cartoons. The life at that time was very boring. I just wanted to give myself a small goal of daily creation. But after a few days after starting this project, I found a thief when I went home. A lot of things have been stolen. From then on, I discovered that the mystery of life and time is that it is impossible to master. As long as you wait quietly, there will always be some small things that can be recorded in life, whether it is boring or a major piece, when they are assembled into a visual form, they have different meanings.

I don't know if it is the difference between Eastern and Western cultures. From the beginning of my work on the Internet to record life, there are many Western readers who use "honest" to describe my work. For my work, this is a brand new. The point of view, because this is the way I create things in my perspective. And, very importantly, readers won't know if my work is completely honest.

Melanie Gillman delivers Day Four and Day Five of their Cartoonist's Diary.

We also have an excerpt from artist (and TCJ columnist) Austin English's work-in-progress, "Meskin and Umezo".

Also, Tegan O'Neil reviews Maia Kababe's Gender Queer.

Something about being non-binary which you might not really get unless you are, in fact, also non-binary: there’s not just one way to be non-binary, but as many different ways to be non-binary as there are non-binary people. Other than sharing the general sensation of being outside the gender binary - hence the “non,” naturally - the ways in which we conceptualize, discuss, and present ourselves as non-binary are perforce bespoke. The precedents for our lives are those we find along the way: hidden, eccentric, and eclectic. There were no non-binary celebrities when I was a kid. Before just a few years ago I had never even heard of “non-binary.” I discovered the word not that long before I discovered it applied to me, in the grand scheme of things.

The sensation of catching up late seems fairly common, at least. Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer approaches the subject with an eye towards the lay reader. The story begins with Kobabe’s childhood and advances methodically through eir life, showing step by step the ways in which the author discovered for eirself that conventional gender just wasn’t going to work. No one is born knowing this stuff, after all, especially given the cultural amnesia that hovers around all queer subjects. It makes sense for Kobabe to think that e might be a trans man, and many of the signs of eir’s early investigations point in that direction. But for various and sundry reasons its not quite right - close but no cigar, as they say. “My deepest emotional relationships have always been with women,” e says, “did that mean I was a lesbian? But my sexual fantasies involved two male partners. Was I a gay boy trapped in a girl’s body? The knowledge of a third option slept like a seed under the soil.”  

And Frank M. Young reviewed the second volume of Jacque Tardi's I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB.

An element of resigned fatalism shrouds both volumes of this work—it’s serie noire-worthy in its bleakness and frankness. Often, while reading both books, I was reminded of the great French films of the period just after the war ended. Working without censorial restraint, filmmakers such as Jacques Becker, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Robert Bresson expressed a grim vision of an immoral world. Perhaps the wartime experience of French prisoners-of-war (and those who struggled to survive during the German occupation of France) hard-wired this outlook into the culture’s films and novels. Jacques Tardi (and his father) deliver a comics narrative that is black to its core—yet defiantly composed of a blunt optimism. The books’ beleaguered, abused, starved, and diseased POWs stoically endure privation. They may bitch about it when things get ridiculously bad, but their response to much of the worst of mankind is a hard-nosed shrug.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The local-newspaper chain GateHouse Media has announced a round of layoffs, including cartoonists Nate Beeler and Rick McKee.

—Crowdfunding. We're into the final two weeks of the 2dcloud Kickstarter.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Spurgeon previews Frank Santoro's Pittsburgh.

It's beautiful: in the artist's always assured approach to color, in the meticulous, old newspaper strip like scene-setting (Captain Easy could brawl across these working-class yards and street corners with aplomb) and the heartbreaking depiction of people made unhappy by the inevitable damage from of a lifetime of resentment locking glacier-like into place. Santoro himself is a character, a child and then a young man attracted to seeing his own life as a continuity of narratives that were building and shifting and falling apart before he was born. Santoro plays it with admirable restraint, bruises rather than bullet-holes but 1000 instances of that yellowing skin. He's as doomed as they are. We're as doomed as he is.

Treacle

Today on the site, Kim Jooha takes a look at the dialectical foundations of comics in her latest column.

Many fundamental elements of comics constitute dialectic relationships. Dialectic means that opposite or conflicting relations that result in a new form: thesis x antithesis → synthesis.

For example, comics typically consist of words and pictures. The actions upon them, reading and seeing, are both executed by the eye. This leads to conflict and makes the relationship dialectic.

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan

A dialectic related to reading and seeing is that between page and panel. When reading comics, first you ‘see the whole page’ and then you 'read the panel.’ Here, the page is the whole, while the panel is the part. We can see this dialectic working on the pages of Jimmy Corrigan.

Also, Melanie Gillman brought in Day Two and Three of their Cartoonist's Diary.

And yesterday, we published Alex Dueben's interview with Paige Braddock of Jane's World.

Jane’s World started in 1991 as a single-panel comic, do I have that right?

It was called See Jane. I was trying to play with this idea of not having a set cast of characters. It was just random thoughts, standalone gags – and I found I’m not very good at that. Some of them were okay, but I think my strength is more in characters in conversation with each other. The humor came out through character interplay. I had these three or four characters who kept showing up more often. That’s when it changed from a single panel to a comic strip with a regular cast of characters.

So you were making Jane’s World the comic strip for a few years before it launched online on whatever GoComics was then.

I pitched it to some syndicates and of course the storyline back then wasn’t overtly gay but it seemed too gay to conservative newspaper editors. I just started publishing it online in 1995. That was about five years before comics.com which then got taken over by GoComics. I like to say I had a webcomic back when people didn’t really know what the web was. [laughs] 1995 was like the dark ages.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Guardian, Jonathan Jones (who appears to enjoy riling up comics fans, based on his previous comics-focused pieces), tears apart a new manga exhibition at the British Museum.

Manga can be translated as “pictures run riot” and that is a beautiful description of these late 19th-century masterpieces. The trouble is that, on the evidence of this very odd exhibition, a lot of the riotousness has gone out of Japan’s graphic art since the 1880s. Today’s manga comics may be hugely popular in Japan and have a growing worldwide fanbase, but, as art, they don’t come near the verve and audacity of Kyōsai or Yoshitoshi.

Next to Yoshitoshi the curators display Inoue Takehiko’s manga series Vagabond, a martial arts adventure story about a swordsman called Miyamoto Musashi. We’re supposed to see a connection – and a curator who showed me round presented it as a comparison of equals – but, artistically, the images from Vagabond are internationalised and all too familiar. The hero looks like a Jedi knight and, with their slick style, these could easily be production drawings for the next Star Wars film.

Brian Nicholson writes about a selection of comics he's recently purchased from the bargain bin.

The New World by Ales Kot and Tradd Moore. Credit where it’s due, this was not only a lot better than the last comic by Ales Kot I read, it was maybe the best thing I pulled out of a bargain bin. This is largely due to Tradd Moore’s art. His art is slick, sort of in the vein of James Harvey. There’s this sort of HD sheen to it I assume comes from working digitally, where the characters don’t lose definition as they’re drawn smaller. This cartoonishness stops the book and its overt politics from lapsing into pretentiousness or didacticism. It does make the book feel very cute, where even as the narrative seems like it’s copying Transmetropolitan it feels like it’s for younger millennials or Gen Z. For a book taking place in the future, the young protagonists sure do relate to their parents in a very 2018 way, and it kind of feels like YA. It seems as if the author’s optimism about the future comes from certain trends among current youth, though in turn I find the protagonists annoying.

Chelsey Johnson pays homage to Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For.

I first encountered Dykes to Watch Out For in the mid-Nineties in the Oberlin College library. Alison Bechdel’s comic strip was still ongoing then, periodically collected and published in horizontal paperback books with bright covers. I flipped through them in the stacks, but as with real live dykes, I was too intimidated to check one out and bring it home. I had a massive case of imposter syndrome regarding my sexuality. Just because I wanted to be queer didn’t mean I was, right? I mean, I also wanted to be a writer. I had once wanted to be a jockey. I had wanted to be a singer. I had wanted to be all kinds of things there was no guarantee I had the mettle or capacity for. So I paged through these books fascinated by the stories they told about a group of queer women (and a man or two) who are friends and lovers and exes, and also a bit despondent about how far that was from my life. Bechdel herself had attended this school, but most of my friends there were straight or at best heteroflexible; it wasn’t until I graduated and left that I truly joined the gays.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Nina Bunjevac.

Revoir

Today on the site, we start a week with Melanie Gillman contributing to our ever-popular Cartoonist's Diary feature.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The NCS Fest took place this weekend, and this year's Reuben Awards were announced, including Cartoonist of the Year Stephan Pastis.

At the Washington Post, Michael Cavna writes about the show's attempts to be more inclusive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Luc Sante writes about the comic-adjacent phenomenon of European fotonovelas.

Fotonovela, fumetti, roman-photo—the terms betray the fact that the form never got much traction in the Anglo-Saxon realm. There is no word for it in English, exactly. You could say “photo-comics,” but you’d risk being misunderstood. These narratives, often but not always romantic, are conveyed by means of photographs arrayed in panels on a page, with running text often in talk balloons. Their impact has been almost entirely restricted to countries that speak Spanish, Italian, or French; their readership is overwhelmingly female, at least in Europe. Their history formally begins in 1947 in Italy, in the magazine Grand Hotel, soon followed by its French sibling, Nous Deux; both magazines still exist. Fotonovelas flourished in the fifties and early sixties (into the eighties in Latin America), then began a slow decline that still refuses to yield to extinction.

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Mariko Tamaki.

I’ve always wanted to write a girl meets girl story. All the stories like that that I’ve read are about finding that perfect love, that first love. But I’m such a realist, it turned into an anti-Cinderella story. Writing this, I thought about the course of relationships, what happens AFTER the glass slipper (so to speak) and that just seemed like an interesting story, the story of things that aren’t “meant to be” or don’t work out, and how a relationship NOT working is something that can go on for a very long time. Like that can be a relationship, a not-working, not-healthy situation. Hopefully that’s not the only story you get, but it’s A story a lot of people have experienced.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Mort Gerberg.

—Misc. I think we forgot to link to this very funny Matthew Thurber comic at The New Yorker, which seems to have been inspired in part by the great interview Austin English conducted with him for this site.

CandleGoat

Today at TCJ, we're closing out a busy week with the latest installment in Sloane Leong's interview series. This Friday, she's speaking with Vincent Kings about his work--which includes oil painting, one of the least forgiving of comics tools. 

What was the inspiration for this story?

Mostly it was getting at all the questions that I was asking myself as a kid in art school, like what is the role of art? How is it useful? I went into art school with kind of a big chip on my shoulder, like: ‘No this is important I swear. This is a worthy thing for an eighteen-year-old to pursue!’ I’m less that way now I think, but that was the impetus - to come up with the most - I dunno-  urgent way to pose the question and heighten the stakes. It’s an autobiographical comic in disguise.

Our review of the day comes to you from Alex Hoffman. He's here with a look at Guillaume Singelin's PTSD, a recent release from First Second. From PEOW to Macmillan: how'd that turn out?

The art of PTSD is the overwhelming reason to read it, and the source of my affection for the comic. I love how this book looks. Singelin can DRAW, and some of these pages are a visual delight. PTSD calls to mind authors like Katsuhiro Otomo and Masamune Shiro, whose “crunchy” style of illustration is clearly an influence for Singelin. The busyness of the art and the character design gives me the sense that Singelin’s style is influenced just as much by Rob Liefeld as either of these Japanese greats, and ultimately I think that’s a good thing. These cartoonists set the ground level for PTSD in terms of style, modified heavily by Singelin towards the cute and cartoonish. But the clear comics influences of PTSDalso reveal its true nature; a vapid, boring slog. What made Akira and Appleseed good wasn’t just the drawing. The stories were interesting, the characters complex, the themes resonant. All of that is missing in PTSD.

As mentioned above, it's been a big week, with Alec Berry's update on the major developments in the Cody Pickrodt lawsuit, our interview with Vivek Shraya and Marc Sobel's deep dive into the evergreen subject that is Alex Toth talking shit. I was pleased we could welcome Daniel Elkin aboard for his first TCJ review (of Julia Gfrorer's latest horror comic, Vision), and it's never a bad look to have Martyn Pedler talking Adhouse

Over at Smash Pages, Alex Dueben continues to put together a body of interview coverage that puts every website that doesn't work with him to shame. This time around, he's talking to Mariko Tamaki. Before that, he spoke with Blue Delliquanti. Before before that, it was Ben Nadler. We'll have more from Alex next week, and at some point, plan to staple him to a wall so no one else can have him.

Outside in the greater comics world, the fallout from the Oni/Lion Forge merger continued to garner pretty lousy publicity in the world of comics news websites while getting the softest possible coverage from more mainstream facing sites--to say nothing of the piece that announced the merger, written by the media's softest pedaler we've got, George Gene Gustines. (In George's defense, he can't be expected to have known that the Lion Forge/Oni merger would have resulted in a bunch of young people losing their jobs--after all, it's not like Lion Forge had fired a whole bunch of young people all at once just a few months ago...oh wait, that's exactly what they did. Well, i'm sure he'll update his press release professionally published newspaper article soon, after he gets down regurgitating Bill Jemas' LinkedIn profile and telling the world how much money super-hero movies have made. Did you see Endgame? Sexy Grimace was so mad!)

Over at Down The Tubes, they've put together a solid couple of tributes to artist Jordi Longarón, who passed away recently. Here's a bunch of war covers, and here's a larger collection of his work, as well as their obituary.

Pat Mills, who has been lucky enough to be in physical proximity to John Wagner on more than one occasion has some very pointed comments--and very specific details--about the nature of royalty payments in relation to his work with Rebellion, with The Horned God being used as the example. Mills plans to talk in more detail about this subject in an upcoming book.

We'll see you next week. This weekend, i'm going to visit the gym where they turned Henry Cavill into Superman to see if I can't figure why my parents still don't love me after all that I've accomplished. Wish me luck!

 

Screen Time

Today on the site, Marc Sobel returns with a new installment of his Strip Mine column, in which he concludes his "Bijou Funnies" series.

Welcome back, fellow longbox junkies! In our last installment of the Strip Mine, I teased that I hadn’t gotten to “the good stuff” yet, so, without further ado, here’s the epic conclusion to “Bijou Funnies.” 

Marvel Fanfare #10 (August 1983)
By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the great George Pérez’s retirement due to health reasons. Here’s the announcement from Comic Shop News, which, since I am not much of a Twitterer, is where I first heard about it. 

It’s impossible to put into words how much enjoyment I’ve gotten out of Pérez’s work throughout my life. I’m not sure I love him enough to binge my way through 200+ issues of Teen Titans, but if I were building a Mount Rushmore of my favorite ‘80s and ‘90s superhero artists, he and John Byrne would be locks. Of course, Pérez was so prolific, there’s plenty of his stuff that I haven’t read, but the sweet spot for me is his ‘80s DC work. His Wonder Woman run remains the definitive version of that iconic character, and Crisis on Infinite Earths and The History of the DC Universe are both sumptuous visual feasts I revisit often.

Yesterday, we published Martyn Pedlar's review of Matt Lesniewski's The Freak.

There was an odd digression in a recent article about an artificial-intelligence algorithm generating images to stimulate the part of a monkey’s brain used to recognise faces. “Visual neurons, it seems, like exaggeration,” it read. “In previous studies, [the scientist’s] team showed that face-selective cells will respond more strongly to caricatures than to actual faces.”

Comics are brimming with caricatured faces, of course. Beady eyes, slits for mouths, upside-down 7s for noses. We have no problem responding to them as human, even though their proportions are often strained, distorted, or monstrous. What makes one of these faces ugly – Bernie Wrightson’s monster from Frankenstein, Frank Miller’s Marv from Sin City – and what’s just business-as-usual comic book exaggeration?

The hero of Matt Lesniewski’s graphic novel The Freak has an asymmetrical head: a wide chin, a pointed skull, a thin knot of hair on top. “To many,” the narration goes, “he’s the ugliest man to have walked the planet.” His story begins as he decides to travel to an unnamed city to see if he’ll be treated differently, but immediately he’s surrounded by a crowd, shrieking: “Oh my – that man is revolting!” and “His mere presence decreases the value of this great city” and “I can’t stand the sight of someone so disgusting!” He’s beaten almost to death and his shovel is stolen. It’s his only possession, used for his grave-digging, and he’s determined to get it back.

We also published an excerpt from Joakim Dresher's Motel Universe.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Stan Lee's ex-manager Keya Morgan has been charged with elder abuse.

[L.A. County District Attorney] Jackie Lacey’s crew has hit the Spider-Man and Avengers co-creator’s former business manager with elder abuse charges. Keya Morgan is facing one felony count of false imprisonment of an elder adult, three felony counts of theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, along with an initial elder abuse misdemeanor count.

Morgan took control of Lee’s business affairs and personal life in February 2018 and allegedly isolated the Black Panther co-creator, who died on November 12 last year, from family and friends. Morgan also embezzled or misappropriated $5 million of assets, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2018.

—The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Seth.

“There’s a quality of keeping art private that represents a sort of power. I wonder, if I was independently wealthy, would I keep all my artwork to myself and not release any of it.”

—William Nerrico writes about Gilbert Hernandez's Errata Stigmata.

In the page shown here, lifted from the original comic, Hernandez focuses (pardon the pun) on the connection between seeing and being: the ocular and the existential. In the last panel, the one I have dreams about, a dislocated, disembodied eye explodes with viscera across a mutantly giant television screen with Errata mutely witnessing.

I have gone on to to write numerous articles and soon, three books on Latinas/os and Visual Culture, and I think all of them come back to that panel — the young orphaned witness with her face, unseen, to the screen.

Tilt

Yesterday, we published Alec Berry's update on the ongoing Cody Pickrodt defamation case. A judge in the New York Supreme Court recently dismissed eight of the case's eleven defendants.

Almost sixty days after his review began, Judge Thomas Feinman of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, chose to dismiss eight of the eleven defendants named in small-press publisher Cody Pickodt’s $2.5 million defamation lawsuit.

Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore (cartoonists); Josh O’Neill (publisher); Rob Clough (critic); Jordan Shiveley and Tom Kaczynski/Uncivilized Books (publishers and cartoonists) are all, seemingly, free and clear.

Their lawyer, Aurore DeCarlo of C.A. Goldberg, said she doesn't know if Pickrodt, via his lawyer Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law, will appeal the decision. She hasn’t received such notice. But she believes the statutes of limitations have passed for any additional civil lawsuits Pickrodt could file in states other than New York, and she knows for sure he cannot pursue new legal action there.

Carbonaro, in a brief statement offered to The Comics Journal, seemed to let the matter lie by providing some analysis of the judge’s decision. He then opted to look ahead, knowing three defendants still remain. They are Whit Taylor, Hazel Newlevant, and Morgan Pielli.

Daniel Elkin turned in a review of Julia Gfrörer's Vision.

In tight, thin lines that fill nine-panel grids, Julia Gfrörer’s comics explore the realms of horror and the erotic lives of women and finds, in the intersection of the two, a new sort of agency that borders on empowerment but is often subsumed in some darker truth -- that feminine sexuality and the procreative power of women are potent and raw forces that, having been confined and shamed by a male-dominated social order for so long, manifest as an assertory, supernatural agent of change.

Her latest 24 page, black and white mini-comic, Vision Part One, continues in this vein. Gfrörer pitches the plot as “a Victorian spinster escapes the demands of her invalid sister-in-law through a sexual relationship with a haunted mirror,” and by doing so firmly cements it in all of her themes: horror, the constraints inherent in the constructs imposed on womanhood, the desire to escape, and desire itself. The tension that Gfrörer creates by juxtaposing all of these ideas makes everything taut and tight, and her artwork only enhances this rigidity. At times, Gfrörer’s pages are overwhelming, images so dense with crosshatching that they become claustrophobic, seemingly straining to break out of the nine-panel grids in which she imprisons her work. Through these artistic choices, Gfrörer compels a reader to feel her storytelling as much as bear witness to it.

Today, Patrick Dunn talked to writer Vivek Shraya about her recent autobiographical comic, Death Threat.

Patrick Dunn: I want to start by asking you about these messages themselves. While awful in content, of course, they have this weirdly unique voice to them. What was it about them that made you want to turn them into a book?

Vivek Shraya: Well, as you’ve read and noted yourself, they’re not your typical kind of hate mail [laughs]. As a trans person, I get trolled on the internet like anyone else and I just mute that or block it. I don’t really engage. But there was something about the ways that these messages use cultural language, religious language, and familial language — like talking about my mom — that made them quite hard to ignore. I’m sort of forced to picture them in a way. Simultaneously, I’d been reading a lot of graphic novels, so when I pictured these letters, they were very illustrated and detailed. I think that it was the timing of the letters with reading graphic novels. I was like, “Oh, I think this is a comic book.”

What graphic novels were you reading at the time? What was on your mind?

I’m a huge Michael DeForge fan. It’s largely his work that I had been taking in. I think I had finished reading Sticks Angelica, but, before that I had read Big Kids, which I loved so much. He’s certainly a huge inspiration for me in terms of thinking about the world of graphic novels. To be honest, it’s not a world that I know particularly well or understood, even. You know, I come from a more literary background where there’s certain conventions that are ascribed to. Even as a pop musician, there are these limitations that you have to work with. But in graphic novels and comic books, especially the stuff that Michael’s doing, it seems like pure freedom in a lot of ways. So I think that’s what really excited me about the medium.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's Doug Wright Awards were announced at TCAF last weekend. The winners include Hartley Lin, Ariane Dénommé, and Xiaoxiao Li.

—Reviews. Paul Morton reviewed Saul Steinberg's Labyrinth.

SAUL STEINBERG CALLED HIMSELF “a writer who draws.” Harold Rosenberg called him “a writer in pictures.” Critics compared him to Klee and Picasso, but reviews were just as likely to namedrop Joyce and Stendhal. He was friends with Nabokov as well as Saul Bellow, Primo Levi, William Gaddis, Donald Barthelme, John Hollander, Charles Simic, and Ian Frazier. Ulysses was his favorite novel. Nabokov’s essay on Gogol was his guidebook.

The tendency to think of Steinberg as a literary figure comes as much from his self-definition as it does from his identity as a New Yorker illustrator. His drawings would sometimes take up two-page spreads. Others would be wrapped by the text of a short story or a slice-of-life sketch. In this way they became another story to be read, one composed in an immigrant’s visual patois. (Steinberg grew up in Romania and studied in Italy before coming to the United States during World War II.) We read Steinberg’s wayward lines signifying nothing, his wispy depictions of Midwestern townscapes, his heavily inked Upper West Side partygoers. This approach raises questions. Is a Steinberg drawing a sentence in Lolita, a page in Ulysses, or one of Barthelme’s sit-down comic riffs? Are any of these images as thick and complete as a good paragraph? And if so, are we supposed to spend as much time studying every turn and every oddball gesture as we do rereading Lolita, intent on getting every joke in every word?

—Interviews. Martin Dupuis talks to designer Chip Kidd about Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

What’s your favorite page in TDKR and why?

Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I own the originals to pages 11 and 42 of Book 3–they are framed and on the wall of my apartment, and I look at them every day. And they are signed to me by Frank, so they have deep meaning for me.

Are there any details that stick out as interesting, or telling about Miller’s process in them when looking at the original art?

There are several things–first, the use of paste-up photostats. Especially on my page of issue #3. Dialogue that was added later– “That’s right, Joker,” “WASTE those bullets”, do not appear on the original, but the other dialogue does (‘Watch your language, son…”). The last two panels of that page are stats, as is some of the sound effects (BLAM!!), and who knows where the originals are, or why they changed, or from what.

Overload

Yesterday, we published the latest installment in Sloane Leong's series of interviews with her fellow residents at Angoulême's Maison des Auteurs. This week's subject is Pao-yen Ding.

I think that I admire different cartoonists every time, but I have always liked and influenced me. I think Umezu Kazuo, I like his anxiety and full of childlike plots, full of wrinkles. Strokes and naked bloody performances are my favorite elements, so the impact on my performance and content is great.

Why do you find that dreams are an important source of inspiration?

Although it is not always the case, sometimes people will do some impressive dreams. They can have feelings that they have never had in reality. For example, when I was a child, I was fascinated by UFO aliens. I always hope that I can witness the UFO in a day. And once it happened in a dream, I dreamed that I was experiencing an incredible UFO sight with the people around me. The huge aircraft and the dazzling light were in the sky for a long time. Of course, I don’t know that it is a dream now, and that I fully believe that the joy of the heart and the unbelievable atmosphere are not realized in reality. Of course, I will be disappointed when I wake up, but I will always remember that feeling. Since then, I have felt that dreams are incredible things. It seems that I can experience all kinds of feelings instead of reality, so I started to be interested in dreams. But in fact, boring dreams are still still the majority.

We also have Frank M. Young's review of Typex's comics biography of Andy Warhol.

Warhol focused on images that we tend to see through, due to their familiarity. There is no resonance to his early subjects. And that seems the point of Warhol’s work—his portraits broke away from representational complexity and reduced their subjects to silkscreened layers of casually applied color. At Warhol’s headquarters, appropriately named The Factory, his paintings were often the work of other people—supervised by the artist, but made with less input from him as the 1960s careened onward.

Typex tells Warhol’s story without hero worship or bias. Neither hagiography or warts-and-all expose, his Andy gets to the heart of the blank slate that Warhol appeared to be—an image he carefully cultivated, and one which baffled and/or annoyed his fellow artists. The artist/writer studied Warhol’s life and career from different viewpoints; the bibliography of works cited is long and varied. He joins events and figures in a satisfying way, and respects the reader’s intelligence. He seldom resorts to expositional dialogue—the bane of this type of book—and allows events to happen as part of the multilayered fabric of a high-profile social and artistic life.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Carolina Miranda interviews Jaime Hernandez.

What’s it like to check in with these characters every so often?
I have to admit that with Hopey changing so much, it was hard writing her into this new story. I didn’t really like her. I thought, I don’t like her as a person. I don’t like what she’s doing. I don’t like how her life turned out. She is one of those friends you’re disappointed in.

But I really like where Maggie goes. I like her because she screws up all the time. She wears her heart on her sleeve and I want you to know everything that she’s thinking. With Hopey, I don’t want you to know everything. There are certain characters, you don’t want to know what they’re thinking.

Amanda Hess profiles Lisa Hanawalt.

At 35, Hanawalt has created a whole universe of anthropomorphic characters with deeply human concerns and base animal instincts: alcoholic he-horses, anxious she-moose, dog-girls reeling from trauma and cat-women struggling to succeed in a cat-man’s world. Hanawalt began populating the universe through alternative comics, then in illustrated journalism for magazines like Lucky Peach, in three books she made for adults and one she illustrated for children, and as the production designer of “BoJack Horseman,” the oddly moving show about a washed-up and depressed sitcom star who is also a horse. Now, she has created her own animated series, “Tuca & Bertie,” which represents the summation of all of her weird, wild work.

Agueda Pacheco Flores talks to Simon Hanselmann.

How have people reacted [to your new exhibit]?

I overheard a few people, a couple of businessmen, [I was] sort of spying. He was like "Oh, I could never put this on my Instagram" and a lady he was with was like “Oh, I could. I love aliens."

There's no aliens in the show; there's a witch and and an owl, but I'll take that. That's at least a compliment.

How do you explain your art to those who regard comics as something for children?

I think they need to see the craft element in it. I don't think anyone can deny the craft in the comics. There's 170 pages on the wall that have all been meticulously hand-drawn and painted in an obsessive way. I spent 3,764 hours producing this work.

I had this [experience] trying to convey what it was when I did a [recent] tour. Some of them did find it a bit repulsive. It ties in to the opioid crisis, it ties into housing crisis, homeless crisis. It's just about how people live. I think they did gain some perspective on what it's like for people.

Laura Kenins talked to Emily Carroll.

What is When I Arrived at the Castle about?
On its surface, the book is about a would-be vampire hunter infiltrating the castle of a vampire, only to become lost and beguiled in her serpentine lair. What it’s really about is my own creative process and a rough period of burnout I was going through at the time the book was written. It was drawn intuitively, without knowing exactly what it was or where it was going, plot-wise. I drew each page of this book entirely on its own, without knowing what the next one would be.

Alex Dueben talks to 2dcloud's Maggie Umber.

For 8+ years we paid our artists on time, but the risks took their toll. Nearly every book – even a lot of the mini-comics – cost us as much as buying a car. We want to continue 2dcloud in order to get our debts to cartoonists, publishers and creditors paid up and we want to push altcomics further into realms that no one else is venturing into. That being said, if this Kickstarter fails, we will scale down to a completely different company. We’re in water too deep to continue without support from loving readers!

—News. Lion Forge and Oni Press announced a merger, followed by a round of layoffs.

The consolidated publishing effort will be run out of Portland, Ore., where Oni is based. James Lucas Jones, publisher of Oni, will be president and publisher of the new enterprise. The merger was negotiated by Edward Hamati, the president of Polarity, a media company [Lion Forge cofounder David] Steward founded last year to help develop Lion Forge characters outside comics.

Nora Krug won this year's Lynd Ward Prize.

The Evens Journalism Prize was given to Cartoon Movement, and Takoua Ben Mohamed won the Encouragement Prize.

It seems like only yesterday that we learned the Chicago Reader had hired a new slate of excellent cartoonists to create weekly strips. Now they're already cancelled.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ed Park reviews new books by Mira Jacob and Bill Griffith.

As a Pratt student in the early ’60s, Griffith caught a late-night revival of “Freaks,” and was immediately drawn to Schlitzie. Attempts to render this vision came to naught, but years later, embedded in San Francisco’s underground comic scene, Griffith was inspired to cast a pinhead as one point in a romance-story parody; in the last panel, he gave him the name “Zippy.” Zippy became the titular star of a weekly strip in 1976, which was picked up a decade later for daily syndication, allowing Griffith to showcase his hero’s hyperverbal, free-associative riffs seven glorious times a week. The collected works read like a looking-glass version of “Doonesbury,” the same cultural and political inputs producing something wildly random and addictively funny. (Peak Zippiness for me remains 1985’s mind-blowing “Are We Having Fun Yet?,” with cameos by everyone from Officer Big Mac to Leona Helmsley.)

Adam Gopnik reviews a new biography of Dr. Seuss.

Unlike most of the great children’s book authors and illustrators — Edward Lear, Beatrix Potter — Geisel was not in any way an obsessive or driven visionary, a prisoner of childhood locked in his own imagery or mythology. Instead, he worked (and could have easily stayed in) advertising, animation and political cartooning — to all of which he was, you soon get the sense, more naturally inclined than to what he called, cheerfully, “brat books.” (He never had children of his own, nor seems to have liked other people’s much. “I like children in the same way that I like people,” was his tactful but giveaway standard answer.) Geisel/Seuss, it turns out, made a shrewd though far from cynical decision to write to, though never down to, an audience of children at a moment when that audience was becoming a market — and though his own values and imagination shaped the books he made, his choice to make those kinds of books in the first place turns out in part to have been a response to the new market for them.

Scott Cederlund writes about the latest Jaime Hernandez collection.

After the emotional rollercoaster of The Love Bunglers (reviewed here back in 2014,) Is This How You See Me is a bit more classically Love & Rockets, centered on the core Maggie/Hopey relationship that has anchored so much of the emotional heart of Jaime Hernandez’s work. This love affair has been one of the great romances of comics that even their own marriages to others cannot fully put this relationship to rest. Looking at Hernandez’s last handful of books (including The Love Bunglers and The Miseducation of Hopey Glass), there was the feeling that these two moved beyond each other. The great loves of the 1980s just didn’t or couldn’t survive into the 2000s as they maybe finally grew up beyond the need of the other one.

—Misc. Ivan Brunetti is auctioning off several pieces of original art, including preparatory art for a pair of New Yorker covers, and much more.

I'm not sure this experiment of saving all the links to the last day really worked...

Hump of Dirt

Today on the site, frequent contributor Kim Jooha inaugurates a new column. She begins with a look at the material side of comics, explored through the works of three cartoonists: Warren Craghead, Alexis Beauclair, and Erin Curry.

Letters including punctuation marks and images are scattered across all over the page just like creatures and things are in [Craghead's] "Backyard". Words are drawn, rather than written. To apprehend "Backyard", you need to “comb” through the “web” of words and drawings on the newspaper sheet sized page. The act of reading is physically analogous to sifting through a back yard.

And this is where touch, the second most crucial sense in comics, comes in. At the gallery, we glance at the artwork on the wall in the distance. In contrast, we physically touch and hold the comic. We can examine it more closely, thoroughly, and longer in any way we want. We can “listen” carefully to what the artwork says in private.

Bluh

Today on the site, Annie Mok returns with an interview she conducted with Sophie Yanow, about changing art styles, the dangers of navel-gazing memoir, and her webcomic, The Contradictions.

The Contradictions is autobiographical fiction and some characters are amalgams. I showed the nearly final draft of the work to some of the folks who appear (fictionalized) in the story and listened to their feedback. I'm not going to pretend this was easy, I was pretty nervous – it's like showing them your soft underbelly. Some people had requests and others actually asked not to see it at all, they didn’t want to influence the work and said they would trust me. Ultimately I don’t give these people 100% veto power but I take what they have to say very seriously. I strongly believe that our stories belong to multiple people, and it’s also important to own my perspective. But there is power in being the one with the platform and over time my platform has gotten larger, and so I continue to evaluate what it means to be the person telling my version of something. I try to keep it grounded in what it meant or means to me.

As a little aside, I also feel like I should say – a lot of autobiographical work is accused of being “navel-gazey,” but I don’t think the genre is any more navel-gazey than fiction. As far as I can tell we’re all writing about ourselves on some level. There is bad work across genres and it can manifest as navel-gazey anywhere.

We're starting a new blog strategy this week, so we'll be saving most links till Friday, and writing more thorough blogs during the week when the news demands it or the mood strikes.