Right now I’m working on illustrations for a film about Black Holes—I haven’t done anything quite like it before. While at the MDA [Maison de Auteurs] I worked a little bit on 3 different projects: Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, a graphic biography that will be out this fall; new comics for Persephone’s Garden, an autobiographical collection that will also be out in the fall; and a thumbnail draft for my next book, a middle grade adventure set in late Bronze Age Greece and Egypt. I probably spent the most time on this last project, because I knew I could concentrate for continuous hours at the MDA—which is not usually possible at home. I also wanted to let the influence of European comics carry me away-- and try to make a European book by writing it there—that it would have daring drawing, hi-jinx and humor. (I suppose this is possible also in America!) At the library I found books by Europeans that have not been translated and that are very inspiring.
Here’s how to tell if The Ballard of Sang is for you: at one point, the protagonist plucks out someone’s eye and squishes it in front of its owner with a smirk and a "SQWAP". Sang’s a mute assassin, just a boy, and his sword’s dripping blood by page two.
Although the "Botticelli: Heroines + Heroes" exhibition offers placards of Botticelli’s history and work for visitors to peruse and better understand the context of the artwork, it does not offer any literature regarding Stevens’ work, or how the juxtaposition of the two artists re-informs and reimagines Botticelli’s work through a contemporary lens. A short video of Stevens detailing his artistic process in creating the exhibition’s companion pieces offers patrons a small glimpse into the relationship between the two artists’ work. In it, Stevens explains:
The connection that I felt towards Botticelli is that we’re both storytellers, and that’s something that a lot of old masters were, particularly in the Renaissance. That’s something that has been consistent throughout Western Art for a long time. And cartooning is sort of the last bastion of that. It’s like what’s going on in drawing right now is happening in cartooning.
In fact, this connection between traditional Italian artistic practice and comics art is implied by the very word cartoon. As comics scholar Hillary Chute writes in Graphic Women, the "word cartoon comes from the Italian word cartone, which means cardboard, and denotes a drawing for a picture or design intended to be transferred, historically to tapestry or to frescoes. Yet, when the printing press developed, cartoon came to mean any sketch that could be mass-produced.”
—News. Baker & Taylor has announced it will be shutting down its retail wholesaling program, which could represent a major blow to independent bookstores (and comics retailers).
When word of a possible Ingram acquisition of the B&T retail arm first surfaced, booksellers and publishers both expressed concern about being dependent on only one national wholesaler. Early bookseller reaction is in line with the comments they made previously.
ABA CEO Oren Teicher said Wednesday was "not a good day, calling B&T's decision "bad news for booksellers." He credited the "competitive wholesale environment" for playing a key role in the resurgence of indie bookstores over the past several years. With B&T gone, Teciher said, ABA intends to work as closely as we can with other industry partners to ensure that indie bookstores can continue to access inventory in as cost-effective and rapid a manner as possible to allow member stores to continue to serve their customers."
B&T and Follett called the decision to exit the wholesale retail business "not an easy one. The retail market has become an increasingly difficult market in which to operate. Operating costs have continued to rise which, compounded with customers' expectations for same or next-day delivery, has put strong pressure on the supply chain and operating profit. The leadership at Baker & Taylor and Follett studied options that might help our retail performance and ultimately determined that the best course for Baker & Taylor would be to devote our resources to our public library and publisher services businesses."
Now in his fifth decade as a contributing cartoonist at The New Yorker magazine, Booth claims Crown Heights as his home. The artist moved in with his daughter, Sarah Booth, 50, five years ago after a two-week hospital stay. For George Booth, the neighborhood goes unmatched, even compared to the small Missouri town of 75 people, with a single wooden sidewalk and one general store, where he spent his childhood.
“Well, if it’s any help to you, I’ve fallen in love with Brooklyn,” he said. “Other places don’t function as a whole unit,” adding that “everyone in Brooklyn knows what to do with themselves.”
That includes him, as is evident in watching him spend time at a Crown Heights favorite pastime: the block party. On hands and knees, using only a piece of chalk and the city as his canvas, Booth introduces a new generation to his drawings of rabbits, dogs, and even “rabbit-dogs.”
Nancy Powell: Where did the idea for Leaving Richard’s Valley come from?
Michael DeForge: I’d been wanting to write about a cult for a while, since I kept circling around some of those ideas but never got around to it. I’ve always been very interested in the cult leaders who aren’t scam artists or bad faith actors from the get-go — the ones who start out well-intentioned and then have things get away from them. I also knew I wanted to do something set in Toronto and write about my own changing relationship with the city.
The purpose of this series is to close-read works that are generally considered to be classics of the comics form and hopefully help illuminate just that: what makes them so good. I’ve chosen the works that I have because they made me go Aha! They made me get what comics could do, why I was bothering with the medium in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, they made me get what comics even were. I came away from The Dark Knight Returns thinking that it was wrong to call it “literary.” It was something else. Something essentially and unapologetically comic-like. “Comic-ary.” The way that it was fluent and artistic was inextricable from the fact that it was expressed via this popular, visual idiom.
Despite that relevance – or perhaps because of it – there remains a dearth of works interested in tapping that same vein; seventy years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thirty years after the Cold War, artists of all stripe still seem preoccupied with the dread and the spectacle of the nuclear sublime. Popular culture at home and abroad remains redolent with imagery meant to recall mushroom clouds and nuclear fire or of scrappy survivors scrounging through post-nuclear deserts so barren it suggests the atomic holocaust has scrubbed them clean. Even the rare creator who can lay claim to peculiar eschatological sensibilities – artists like Katsuhiro Otomo, videogame directors like Yoko Taro -- draw their water from the same irradiated well. No matter how particular the vision offered by these creators is, each seems inescapably fascinated by worlds in the late stages of systems that have grown overripe to bursting and so arrogantly bent on harnessing godlike powers for martial superiority that apocalyptic conflagration has become inevitable. But there remains hope for the world, even if it can come only after a great leveling; the comfort of the nuclear sublime is that it at least offers the chance for a renewal, a rechanneling of those same cataclysmic energies that leveled the old one.
Over at Comicosity, E.A. Sofia has an article on what it was like to enter comics via G. Willow Wilson and Sana Amanat's Ms. Marvel. It's a smart piece because it goes beyond the traditional why-I-liked-this-thing and into what the thing exposed her to, good & bad, historical and contemporary. I've read quite a few pieces on Ms. Marvel over the years that comic has been in existence--it's received as much coverage as Grant Morrison's work used to, many of those being "my first comic book articles"--but I don't think i've seen one that so clearly distillates the crash course in the Marvel economic/aesthetic system that reading that book provided. (It's outside of the scope of what Sofia was writing about, but it did leave me wondering--has any new super-hero launch been as successful as Ms. Marvel in the last however many years?)
There are different kinds of silence. There is peaceful quiet and there’s eerie stillness, and while the former is conducive to reading, the latter could mean listening too intently for what might soon intrude to pay attention to what’s before one’s eyes. A comic generally gets called “silent” when reading it entails following images alone, without any dialogue or narration providing guideposts of written language. While there are extended passages of The Cult of the Ibis where the story is told purely visually, there’s enough words in it that anyone translating it into another language would still have their work cut out for them. I see a different silence in it. It’s a signifier, referring to the earliest years of cinema, similar to the films of Guy Maddin that approximate a fever dream of forgotten history more than they attempt recreation or adaptation.
The plot contains a mixture of genres at home in early film: After a bank robbery goes wrong, the getaway driver is in possession of the stolen loot. Other criminals want this money back. However, before considering this possibility, the getaway driver, interested in the occult, sends away for a build-your-own-homunculus kit, after seeing an ad in a magazine The Modern Alchemist Monthly. In silent or early sound films, both crime stories and occult skulduggery would be a a likely premise for a fable of moral reckoning, but that’s not what happens here. Daria Tessler understands that the reason movies were made about these subjects as soon as movies existed is because magic and bank robbery are cool and interesting to think about, and there is no better way to meditate on a concept than the time-consuming process of making narrative images about it.
—News. The cartoonist Musa Kart has once again been unjustly imprisoned by the Turkish government.
Word came though of an imminent order for arrest and so Musa and his colleagues have elected to surrender at a time and place of their own choosing, a typically dignified gesture. Before entering Kandıra he said:
“I believe people will see the injustice that is being done here. Several brave reporters have recently summarized what’s happening in Turkey: people who punch the leader of a major political party are permitted to go free while those who draw cartoons or report the news are put in prison. We look forward to the day when journalists need not make proclamations such as these in front of prison gates.”
As Tucker alluded to yesterday, the nominees for the 2019 Eisner Awards have been announced. Weird year!
D.D. Degg at the Daily Cartoonist covers the recent controversy over a cartoon published in the New York Times International Edition that struck many as anti-Semitic, as well as links to various commentators. Followup here.
Dozens of closures have been reported across the UK and US over the last few months – including, in January, the end of St Mark’s Comics, once one of New York’s most venerable institutions. (It even appeared in Sex and the City.) Last year, comics website Bleeding Cool documented how 50 comic shops had closed in the previous year, in both the US and UK. And since June 2018, at least 21 shops in the US and 11 in the UK – including shops in Nottingham, Ramsgate and Tooting – have closed, with others likely going unreported.
While superheroes have never had a higher profile, the gap between cinema and comics has never been wider. The days when you could pick the latest issue of Spider-Man or Batman from the newsagent’s shelves are long gone. Last week, comic writer Ron Marz tweeted that, during a presentation to a school class, one girl raised her hand and asked him where she could actually buy comics.
“The first and immediate constraint,” [Puneet] Gupta said, “was fitting the Hindi translation into each speech bubble, despite Hindi being syntactically different from French, and also because of the maatras on the top, bottom and the side (in French, the accents are only on the top and bottom). Before translating the nuances into Hindi, we had to go into the etymology of the words, the idioms, the phraseology of the region in which the Asterix and Obelix find themselves.”
“As we went along”, explained [Dipa] Chaudhuri, “it became clear that we were translating not only from French to Hindi, but depending on the provenance of the protagonist, we were translating from Latin, and on occasion, German too...Negotiating between different registers of each language to establish the social hierarchy that binds the characters, was part of the task at hand.”
—Crowdfunding. Paul Karasik has launched a Patreon.
I’m kind of a workaholic. I’m always doing something. If I don’t do something, I won’t do anything. [laughs] Because of comics I got into illustration – when there were lots of magazines and they were paying people. All the Weirdo people were getting work. Hustler was paying great money. My husband had gotten laid off from work during the 90s and that’s when I was doing a lot of illustration work. Hustler saved us and paid our bills. I’ve been involved in the fine art world, but right now I’m mad at the art world and I don’t care if I do anything in the art world ever again. Because that means I have to go to LA and I never want to go back to Los Angeles. I was born there and I hate it. It’s getting worse. You can’t even drive there anymore. For years I would show at galleries like La Luz de Jesus but all these places take fifty percent of your sales. That’s something I never liked either. And then you had to ship the art which always cost a lot of money. The frames ALWAYS get damaged. It’s a lot easier to work in ink on paper and send it through the internet.
I think I was juggling a little too much and that’s why a few years ago I decided to focus on doing a book. Because I really do like cartoonists. I like talking to them. They’re interesting. They have something to say. Artists are boring. [laughs] They are so boring. Cartoonists have camaraderie. I think because comics were always looked down upon and the underground people we were always outsiders so we would cling together. Cartoonists always bitch about each other, but basically, I think everybody’s rooting for each other a little bit. I hope so.
Today's review comes to us from Tegan O'Neil. She's taking a look at Little Girls, a graphic novel published by Image that they've been comparing to Sabrina and Optic Nerve. Gutsy. It's sort of like me comparing myself to Idris Elba and Snake Eyes. Aim for the fences!
The bits with the lions and hyenas are consistently better and more interesting than the sequences of the main characters interaction with themselves. Delaine seems to have a knack for wildlife, which is to be fair a difficult topic in the world of mainstream comics, where being able to draw a horse is second only to knowing how to draw a car on the list of “Optional Skills.” The book seems unsure at times whether it wants to be something more along the lines of an explicit coming-of-age story for the two young protagonists. There’s some of that, yes, but most of the book features the two Junior detectives chasing down answers regarding mysterious happenings, and then war between gangs of charismatic megafauna.
Over at (the Eisner-nominated!) Comicosity, Véronique Emma Huxbois is writing a piece directly aimed at my heart, as it focuses on Lone Wolf & Cub and its many children. There's all kinds of bold claims being made, only a few of which are backed up, I don't care: Lone Wolf! And Cub!
Smash Pages broke the unfortunate news that Ethan has just became the cooler of the two Van Scivers for the first time since there was more than one to pick from. Sometimes you just gotta say no, Noah!
Bleeding Cool caught up with the fact that the CIA was tabling at Washington DC's Awesome Con, and the Beat went even harder in the paint with it. As someone who has worked for a large, bureaucratic type company, this is the kind of occurrence that makes me wish we lived in a world where I had a giant expense account and my own personal Seymour Hersh to send after this story: I want to know everything. I want to know who came up with the idea at the CIA that Awesome Con was a place where they'd get some good candidates for employment, I want to know whether that person was high up in the chain of command and therefore no one could say "you're a fucking moron, no" or whether the person was low on the chain of command and is possessed with such a powerful charisma that faced zero conflict when pitching this to the people upstairs. And then when they got it approved--where did it go from there? How did they decide which stock photo they were going to use for the ad, and what the tweets were gonna read like? We've got a million oral histories of when Anne Hathaway got the call that she was gonna be Catwoman--why can't the comics community be graced with the staff and budget necessary to go after the CIA? Life is a miserable, unfair place.
Andy Warner excels at creating bite-sized pieces of unusual history, as seen in his first book, Brief Histories of Everyday Objects. Those observations weren't neutral, as he was careful to discuss the cultural and political ramifications of familiar objects. Much of his other work is more explicitly political in terms of reportage, but his books couch their political barbs in wit and whimsy. In his new book, This Land Is My Land, Warner teams with Danish artist Sofie Louise Dam to tell the stories of micronations, failed utopias, and other such communities throughout history. Simply relating these stories is important because it helps to establish a continuous legacy of resistance not just to the government, but to the entire cultural status quo.
Dam's art is stripped down and cartoony, and it relies a lot on color to tell each story vividly. I found myself wishing Warner had drawn the book himself because I thought his sharper, more naturalistic style would have been a better fit for a lot of the stories. Dam's art does the job and looks beautiful in a few spots, but some of the stories would have benefited from a denser line.
Besides his research skills, Warner's true talent is his ability to synthesize that information into engaging, small chunks. Most of the entries in the book are just four to six pages, yet Warner is able to convey what made each micronation and the people behind them unique and interesting.
—Elena Goukassian at The Nation talks to Brian Fies about his Fire Story.
The sad thing about something like this is you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone with an interesting story. I very much wanted the expanded graphic novel of A Fire Story to be a work of journalism. I wanted to expand it beyond my little bubble of a story and talk about other people’s stories and about the context of geography and climate, socioeconomics. I was very much aware that my experience was a narrow window into this thing. It was bounded by where I lived, how much money I had, my family situation, so I really wanted to go out and find people living different lives. Like Dottie, who it turned out didn’t lose her home in the fire but was still—is still—in dire straits. She is an older woman without a lot of resources, who still doesn’t know how she’s going to get through the day. I talked to a lot of people to feel them out and decided on a few people to interview in depth, because I thought they captured the breadth of the story.
Today at the Comics Journal, we've got a long one for you--and it's worth it. Next week sees the release of Clyde Fans, Seth's twenty-years-in-the-making graphic novel detailing the relationship between two brothers and the rise and fall of the the fan business they inherited. Initially serialized in issues of Palookaville, partially released in a hardcover 14 years ago, the upcoming release is nearly 500 pages long and contains everything one would associate with the idea of a "Seth comic"--methodical pacing, men in the throes, willing and otherwise, or ritual, the performance of ritual, heavy, monolithic line. Birds on signs, women with triangle hair, old habits, old hobbies. If I'm writing longer than is necessary to introduce a feature, it's only because these two--the book, and our interview--were both revelatory in a way I didn't anticipate. I've read everything Seth has made over the years, often immediately upon release, and I've read some great writing about the work--but I never found my way in. There was always a dour humor to his work that I didn't catch until later, when I was told how to find it, and I never felt as if I could catch the rhythm of his books in the way I felt taken along by his major contemporaries. Upon reading (and loving) the nerdcore jokemachine that is Wimbledon Green, I found myself often apologizing to him in my head, imagining that he'd be disappointed to know how to have a fan whose enthusiasm was reserved for crowdpleasers only.
Reading Clyde Fans in conjunction with today's feature interview changed quite a bit of that. In this 30,000 word conversation with the cartoonist, which took place in the fall of 2018 between two longtime Seth scholars, Eric Hoffman & Dominick Grace, I found myself fascinated with his use of comics to unpack splinter factions of his own personality, surprised and excited to learn how much discovery is to be found in the way he creates a story, and inspired by his willingness to criticize and question the identity he's chosen to embrace over the decades that have formed his professional career. I wouldn't say that I feel like i'm owning a mistake--I always knew the guy was a talented artist--but it wasn't until now that I felt like that was something I felt and believed, which are two things a bit more valuable than mere knowledge.
(There's also a fair amount of gossip in this one, and I like those things quite a bit too.)
In Graham Chaffee’s Big Wheels, published by Fantagraphics in 1993, the narrative is handed off from one character to another as they pass by each other or interact throughout a single day in the city. This is a timeless device in short fiction, films, and comics which allows the artist to focus on whatever catches their fancy and avoid that which doesn’t. In Chaffee’s To Have and To Hold, published by Fantagraphics in 2017, he returns to the same device, but uses it exactly once and employs it towards different ends. Rather than using it as a trick to avoid a cohesive full-length story, its in service to the themes and character arcs.
Plenty of fiction has multiple protagonists at different times throughout the narrative. But to abandon one and fully switch to a second is rare. Psycho, the 1960 proto-slasher blockbuster, did something like this with a major and unexpected switch from one protagonist to another. Robert Bloch, the author of the novel from which Hitchcock’s movie was adapted, used this trick often in his fiction. He would introduce a sympathetic character and then kill them off. Chaffee, though, does something different. He doesn’t kill off a sympathetic character but rather a character slowly over the course of the story is revealed to be less and less sympathetic at the same time as a second character is moving through an opposite character arc becoming more central to the story and the reader's sympathies. Similar to Psycho, the narrative can only fully switch to the new protagonist by the death of one at the hands of the other.
—Fiona Smyth and Alootook Ipellie will be inducted into the Giants of the North Canadian Hall of Fame.
Fiona Smyth, an artist and teacher known for her groundbreaking comics tackling female sexuality, and Alootook Ipellie (1951–2007), a multi-faceted artist, writer, activist, and cartoonist recognized for his satirical comics about Inuit life in Canada, will be inducted next month into the Giants of the North Hall of Fame for Canadian cartoonists.
For more than three decades, Fiona Smyth’s work has straddled art, comics, and murals. Since her days as a student at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) in the mid-1980s, her comics have been marked by a bold and overt sexuality—rare for a female cartoonist at the time—that often, erroneously, saw her labeled an anti-feminist. Alongside her countless self-published zines, Smyth’s comics have appeared in Vice, Exclaim!, and her pioneering 1990s Vortex series, Nocturnal Emissions.
—Cleveland.com talks to John Backderf about his planned book about the Kent State shootings.
“I’ve boiled the story down to showing how it unfolded,” Derf said. “It’s a very personal account of this shocking event that still reverberates today. I think that’s when history is at its best, is when you boil it down to people.”
The book took three years of research by Derf, who pored over the archives at Kent State University and spoke to witnesses and victims of the shooting.
Kazuo Koike, the wildly prolific writer of Japanese commercial media, comics foremost among them, died of pneumonia on April 17, 2019. He was 82.
Born in Akita Prefecture on May 8, 1936 -- his true name was Seishu Tawaraya, though he may have been born under the given name Yuzuru -- Koike led an early life of disparate vocation. He studied law at Chuo University in Tokyo, but, like most students, did not pass Japan's formidable national bar examination. He studied writing with the novelist Kiichirō Yamate, but this brought him no success. Instead, he found work at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and took jobs in the leisure fields of golf and mahjong. It was not until his thirties, in 1968, that he arrived in comics via Saitō Production, the studio of popular gekiga artist Takao Saitō (b. 1936), who had broken away from the collective setup of the pioneering Gekiga Studio of the 1950s and built a house of mass production, an industrial sector of comics with room for a dedicated scriptwriter among the other work teams. Koike applied for the position, having caught word in a boys' comics magazine, and immediately became a unique figure in manga: a dedicated writer who did not come from any other literary field. Of historical note is his work on Saitō's Muyōnosuke, a period drama about a lone swordsman bounty hunter that brought Koike his first deep dip into comics jidaigeki, but western readers will best recognize Golgo 13, the still-running adventures of a sniper-for-hire, on which Koike served as founding scriptwriter with creator Saitō. The feature was devised for Big Comic, a new magazine aimed at teenagers and adult men; the character is introduced at the window of a hotel in Hamburg, bathed in neon, dispassionately smoking a cigarette while clad only in a pair of white briefs, a prostitute lolling in bed behind him. An era had begun.
Koike separated from Saitō Production in 1970, and strode promptly into renown. In a 2015 interview with the Criterion Collection, he would describe the Japanese comics scene at the time as a close-knit one where people knew each other; that was how he came to approach the artist Gōseki Kojima (1928-2000), a 41-year-old veteran of kamishibai, rental manga, and magazine serialization, to create a new period drama for the young male market. Lone Wolf and Cub -- in which Ogami Ittō, the shōgun's executioner, suffers the slaughter of his household and the ruin of his honor, and gives his child, Diagorō, the choice of the ball and the sword, and the child chooses the sword, and thus joins his father on the assassin's road -- was a grand success, running from 1970 to 1976, selling more than eight million copies in collected form in Japan, and launching a feature film series for which Koike wrote many of the screenplays; there were also two television series, and various sequels, parodies and homages. Portions of two of those Koike-scripted feature films would subsequently be edited together and dubbed into English, released to American theaters in 1980 as Shogun Assassin, a blood-drenched foundation for Koike's overseas fame, beloved by cult movie enthusiasts on VHS, though few at that time would recognize the writer's name.
When I'm bored at work, which happens enough to have caused my return to writing comics criticism after years away from the field, one of my favorite things to do is pull up and peruse all my liked posts on Twitter or Instagram. It feels like this should be a foregone conclusion, and maybe it is, but I sure don't see it discussed very much: memes represent an evolution of the comics medium. The basic formula of making humor out of an incongruous juxtaposition of a visual statement with another element, be it visual or textual, is functionally identical to the soil of political and gag cartoons that the comics form sprouted from. This dude is a comic. So is this thing, and this. That one you just favorited probably is too!
I think a big part of what's driving the amount of discussion around Olivia Jaimes's rendition of Nancy is the way it uses the extreme short form and funny technology gags to spotlight just how strong the connective tissue between traditional comics and memes really is. It'd sure be nice to have a few more things like that one though! For a medium situated in such close proximity to what's arguably become the lingua franca of 21st century discourse (no shit!), the bulk of comics seems rather uninterested in exploring meme mechanics or considering ways to try and draft off the insane momentum of the new art form that's moved in next door.
Enter Julian Glander and 3D Sweeties! On the most formal level, Glander's book has no more in common with memes than anything else that comes out new on Wednesday: his pages are organized into gridded sequences of square boxes featuring pictures of characters doing and saying things. But the online-obsessed, non-sequitur, punchline-implying more than punchline-delivering things they do and say feel a lot more like the kind of igs your friends show you to break up a quiet moment at the bar than they do the funny papers, and the visual world they inhabit is more exotic still. Glander's digital drawings are both incredibly weird and incredibly beautiful, and they're definitely the best part of this book. 3D Sweeties' computerized characters wander far afield indeed from the human or even traditional anthropomorphism: a sentient cup ("Cuppy", duh) is the closest thing the book has to a star, and most of its best sequences follow the travails and shit-talk of shiny, slimy forms with blasé attitudes. More notable still are Glander's neon color schemes, which look drowned in Kool Aid and then dried out in a desert of Fun Dip (thinking about it, Kool Aid Man is probably the comics character most similar to this book's cast).
—Interviews & Profiles. Ailsa Chang at NPR talks to Darrin Bell.
CHANG: So what was it about the trial involving Trayvon Martin's death that inspired you to start doing editorial cartoons again?
BELL: Well, the trial of George Zimmerman pretty quickly turned into the trial of Trayvon Martin as far as I was concerned. It seemed like it was a criminal trial of the person who had been killed. And half the country basically decided that Trayvon Martin was responsible for his own death before the trial even started. And they didn't change their minds no matter what they saw. And around the same time, my wife and I found that we were pregnant with my first son. And it occurred to me that if he were to grow up and something like this were to happen to him, half the country would say he had it coming. And I wanted to protect him. The only way I knew how to do that was through cartoons. That's what I do.
Barry and Groening met at Evergreen State College when Groening heard Barry had written to one of his favorite authors, Joseph Heller, and received a response. Barry wrote about how much she loved his novel “Catch-22” and asked him to marry her. Heller wrote back, “I’d like to marry you, but I don’t want to live in the dorms.”
... Groening also shared a question a college professor asked him: “You do what you do adequately well, is it worth doing?” Groening admitted he grapples with this question daily.
Cassandra Darke, the titular protagonist of Posy Simmonds’ latest comic, is the cartoonist's most heroic figure so far, the book an assertive step in the direction of more proactive social engagement, more upbeat than previous efforts but with the same cynical undercurrent. As in her previous long-form comics—Gemma Bovery was based on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Tamara Drewe on Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd—it wears its literary source material loosely if comfortably. Cassandra is a modern Scrooge, convinced of her own contentment in isolation, yet compelled beyond it.
Set in London, key points in the story appositely take place around Christmas of 2016 and 2017, between which Cassandra’s circumstances change considerably. She is the proverbial unlikely heroine: a portly 71-year-old art dealer running the business she co-founded with her ex-husband, who since married her stepsister and yet handed over the day-to-day to her due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. When we first meet her, she looks like the long-lost cousin of Grandma Giles, sheathed in a puffer coat and a low-set trapper hat. Roaming the holiday rush at Picadilly on a sugar high fueled by a box of macaroons from the Burlington Arcade, she is about to be outed as a fraud.
It turns out she has issued and sold unauthorized copies of a bronze sculpture by one of the artists she represents. According to her unreliable narration—Simmonds likes those—she did it to placate the market out of contempt for collectors who see only investment where she sees art. It seems clear, however, that the reason was mostly that she needed the cash in order to support her lavish lifestyle—her house in Brittany, her holidays in five-star hotels, her live-in housekeeper and her penchant for fine wine—in a field that for most smaller business owners are bringing diminishing returns these years, especially if they are unwilling to adapt.
The pioneering comics scholar Donald Ault also passed away recently, which we also plan to cover more fully. In the meantime, the International Journal of Comic Art blog has republished a short memoir written by Ault.
In 1968 it was unthinkable to me that as a beginning literature professor, I could incorporate comic books -- especially Donald Duck comics which I had admired since I was a child -- into upper division and graduate courses at a major research institution. ... My mentors cautioned me against introducing the study of comic books into my professional profile for university teaching because, as Arthur Asa Berger has noted, popular culture studies were looked down upon at that time by "serious" scholars at research institutions. Drawing attention to my interest in Donald Duck, they said, would surely jeopardize my chances of getting (and keeping) a high-powered teaching job. Consequently, though I had been reading and collecting comics for over twenty years, my academic studies had sequestered me from comic "fandom" and the intellectual movements, especially in Europe, that had made great strides in legitimizing comics and raising their cultural profile through exhibitions such as those organized by Maurice Horn and others. I knew nothing of the various comics "clubs" formed at private universities including Harvard, and I was unaware that Terry Zwigoff (later the director of "Crumb" and "Ghost World") had already been teaching non-credit courses that focused on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics at the University of Wisconsin in 1966-1967. At that time it would have been inconceivable to me to learn, as Wolfgang Fuchs has remarked, that Donald Duck comics were already one of the "darlings of [European] intellectuals." Even though I was just across the Bay from San Francisco State, I didn't know that Arthur Asa Berger was teaching courses in comic strips using diverse analytical tools such as semiotics. In 1968 I did not yet know Carl Barks's name, and I feared the anonymous author, who I was sure had both written and drawn his own stories, had died, or certainly retired, since the steady flow of his comic book work had suddenly stopped in mid-1967, replaced at first by reprints and later by pale imitations.
—History. For Hogan's Alley, Jean Kilbourne writes about the sexual harassment and manipulative behavior she encountered during her experiences with Al Capp.
Brilliant and talented, Capp also was a depraved predator. In February of 1968 he was asked to leave the University of Alabama (where he had been invited to give a lecture) after being accused of making “indecent advances” to four college students in the space of a few days.
According to reporter Jack Anderson, Capp told a young woman who had delivered some materials to his hotel room that he was impressed with her and discussed the possibility of hiring her to help produce the "Capp on Campus" radio series, then in progress. He began making forceful advances toward her and exposing himself to her. I was struck by the following: “Although she was not injured, she was sufficiently upset by the experience to be admitted a few days later to the university infirmary where she remained under sedation for several days.”
Before I got sick in 2018, Raighne and I got divorced. I relocated with him to Chicago, we collaborated on my graphic novel 270° and launched a book collection on our revamped website. I did all the touring for 2dcloud while Raighne worked four jobs. However, there still wasn't enough money to pay artist royalties, printer and credit card debt. Every week people dropped out of our lives, cancelled book deals, contracts. Our company shrunk down from a team of people to us and our publicist Melissa.
Any sane person would have given up, but 2dcloud was our baby. Unfortunately, 2dcloud cost us our marriage and me my health but it also brought so many wonderful and weird books into the world. We didn't want to give up on our baby.
—Crowdfunding. Bill Mantlo's younger brother Michael has undergone severe financial hardship while caring for his disabled sibling, and has set up a GoFundMe to solicit help.
My big brother is, and has been, permanently disabled for the last 27 years, and I willingly accepted the responsibility of being appointed his caregiver all those years ago.
I have been attempting to bring my brother home from the nursing home he has been placed in for the last 10 years. It has been a difficult struggle, filled with numerous pitfalls and obstacles, but I gave my word to him that I would do everything in my power to make it happen so that he could live out the rest of his life with dignity, and peace. It has become painfully obvious to me in the last few months that the powers that be will not let that happen.
Today at the Comics Journal, we're basking in ongoing Sloane Leong content: this Friday, she's talking with Antonio Hitos, another one of the artists-in-residence at Maison de Auteurs. Rules and Peanuts--there's nothing I don't love about both of those subjects.
In the past couple of years, especially in the field I’m in which is part of a more rigid tradition, the comics are just storyboards for movies or they’re just pitches for a tv show.
Yeah, that’s a shame. I mean, comics can also be cool just because the story is interesting or the drawings are fun or whatever, they can work that way just fine. But it would be so much better if, on top of that, they were also exploring the possibilities that are inherent to their own language.
Exactly, yeah. I totally agree. What are some challenges that come up when you work in such a…I don’t want to say strict—
Perhaps it’s too harsh to rest Ascender’s bankruptcy of ideas on only one of its storytellers when Lemire’s script shoulders as much (more?) of the burden. Lemire works his familiar familial theme into Ascender which his readers have come to expect and depend upon. Like legions of others, Lemire has made a prosperous living and professionally respectable career being a family guy. He’s never met a damaged ragamuffin or traumatized and (mostly) straight white male whom he hasn’t found a way to write into a family either by their own blood or manufacture. When not hammering home ‘the family,’ Lemire’s stories stick to the most popular literary themes: love, war, survival, coming-of-age, good vs. evil, etc. This isn’t to fault Lemire for writing stories that rely on popular literary themes, but to point out he’s more run-of-the-mill than exceptional. And yet he maintains steady employment, receives positive critical attention and is more prolific than many of his peers: there are a lot of middling comics on the shelves bearing the name Jeff Lemire.
Cynthia Rose has returned to TCJ with a monster of an article (the good kind of monster), reporting on the Pulp Festival outside Paris, new books and exhibits by and about two major cartoonists—Posy Simmonds and Catherine Meurisse—as well as interviews with both cartoonists.
The Pulp Festival "forces comics out of their frames," in order to mix them up with all the other arts. As well as hosting guest stars and staging exhibitions, Pulp combines BD with music, dance, film and a range of offbeat happenings. But one of the best things about it is that it happens at La Ferme du Buisson.
Just beyond the edge of Paris, this is a former farm that dates from 1879. Developed by the Menier family of chocolate barons, it once fed hundreds of their workers and supplied the beetroot used in their chocolates. Now its one-time stables and dairies have become studios, theaters, cinemas and a médiathèque.
Ferme Director Vincent Eches conceived Pulp in 2013. This, its sixth edition, proved every bit as ingenious as bigger-name fêtes. One reason was its stars: the artists Posy Simmonds and Catherine Meurisse. Simmonds is the subject of a major retrospective, called "J'ai deux amours" ("I Have Two Loves") and Meurisse created a Festival installation, D'après nature ("From Nature"), based on her book Les Grandes Espaces ("The Wide Open Spaces"). Pulp also celebrated the French debut of Cassandra Darke – Posy Simmonds' first graphic novel in eleven years – and the monograph So British! The Art of Posy Simmonds by critic Paul Gravett.
—This year's Pulitzer winner for editorial cartooning was Darrin Bell.
Amy Lago, his longtime Post Writers Group editor, says she had been urging Bell to do editorial cartoons since she arrived at the syndicate in 2004. “There were two things that prompted him to finally accept: the death of Trayvon Martin and the birth of his son,” says Lago, who calls Bell “quite possibly the hardest-working cartoonist among my [many] acquaintances.”
(At one point, she notes, Bell was writing and drawing two daily comic strips, creating three editorial cartoons a week, successfully submitting New Yorker cartoons and working on a “secret” storyboard project.)
—Tillie Walden's On a Sunbeamwon this year's LA Times Book Prize. That award has a good record.
Both sites provide a resource for comics creators, publishers, editors, librarians, academics, journalists and event managers; anyone looking to discover new creators. Largely created and funded by MariNaomi, both databases are free for artists to join and free for anyone to use. Cartoonists can submit their contact info to the database to be listed.
MariNaomi (who is half-Japanese) said that the need for the databases occurred to her after she noticed an article that spotlighted “20 female cartoonists who draw themselves naked.” Although delighted that the article focused on women making comics, MariNaomi was dismayed that the story included only white women cartoonists.
“I was sick and tired of feeling invisible; tired of not seeing diverse representation and of hearing that there weren’t diverse creators out there, which I suspected was bullshit” she said. “It inspired me to start telling stories about race, which was something that I had avoided since I was told that my story wasn’t universal enough a few years back.”
Today at the Comics Journal, we're sharing a 22 page look at Nobrow's Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage. I first heard about this book when one of the people (not a Nobrow employee) who worked adjacent to it condescended to me about how he'd already read it, and hadn't realized how good Nobrow was until he had read that specific book, and why hadn't I told him about the book before? (At the time of this conversation, I had not worked at Nobrow for 16 months and had never heard of the Darwin book.) As I was listening to him and nodding and wondering how soon I could leave the conversation and go anywhere else in the world, I realized that he must think that I care to be this nasty--he must think I want something, to talk like this? But I had just said "hi", you know, trying to buy time to surreptitiously look at his name tag. Never figured that one out. Comics is a weird business.
Today's review comes to us from Josh Kramer, and he's taking a look at Brian Fies A Fire Story, the extended hardcover edition of Brian losing his house in a 2017 California wildfire, which he had previously described in a webcomic.
On the first page, after Fies’ name, an asterisk leads to text at the bottom that reads, “but not to his usual standards.” This caveat makes the deft cartooning and vulnerable storytelling that follows all the more impressive. But it also begs the question, what would this be like if it were up to Fies’ standards? The full-length graphic novel version, also titled A Fire Story, came out this March from Abrams ComicsArts. And not only is the book inspired by the original webcomic, it is more or less a faithful recreation.
Whyte comes across as someone who has seen enough art to be confident in his own judgments. He considers Maxon’s writings to be “complex” and “intriguing,” “alien” yet “erotic.” He finds his visuals “extraordinary,” “perceptive... and original,” “provocative and profound,” rich with “foreboding,” demonstrating “arrestive inventiveness” and mastery of “composition, detail and technique.” Most impressively to me – since it underscores my own shortcomings – is his ability to get beyond Maxon’s externals and, while avoiding none of them, relegate them to a place where they do not interfere with his gaze. He views Maxon’s deviations from the norm no differently than most of us would another’s choice of eyeglass frames.
—News. Nominees for this year's Doug Wright Awards have been announced, and include Michael DeForge, Hartley Lin, John Martz, and Fiona Smyth.
The big, densely plotted volume has all the virtues of “Spinning,” plus the scale, the sense of wonder, and the optimism intrinsic to what’s called space opera or science fantasy. (Think “Star Trek” and Starfleet Academy.) As with “Spinning,” it can be hard to equal in prose the comic’s inviting, spare line work, use of black-and-white, and expressive qualities. (Walden can make one pen stroke on one character’s face equal two pages of dialogue.) “On a Sunbeam” is at once a queer coming-of-age story, a story about how to salvage lost love and youth, and a multigenerational story about how to thrive in a society that does not understand who you are or what you can do. It is the kind of story that adults can and should give to queer teens, and to autistic teens, and to teens who care for space exploration, or civil engineering, or cross-cultural communication. It is also a story for adults who were once like those teens, and the kind of story (like the Aeneid, but happier) whose devotees might occasionally return to it, hoping for divine advice from a randomly chosen line, or panel, or page.
For 33 years, Edward Gorey rented an apartment in Manhattan. The author and artist hated New York City, but like so many others, he had moved there after college to embark on a career. The one-room apartment, at 36 East 38th Street, was Gorey’s refuge, his “cabinet of wonders, bohemian atelier, and Fortress of Solitude rolled into one,” as the cultural critic Mark Dery puts it in his new biography, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. The place was crammed with books, art, and miscellaneous objects that Gorey had collected, often memento mori. These included a real mummy’s head, which, by the time Gorey lost his lease in 1986, was sitting on a shelf in a closet, wrapped in brown paper. When he was away in Cape Cod, as the story goes, Gorey asked some friends to pack up his things for him, but they managed to miss the head. Instead, the super found it.
“I got a call from a detective at some precinct or other who said, ‘Mr. Gorey, we’ve discovered a head in your closet,’” the artist recalled in an interview. Gorey responded, “Oh, for God’s sake, can’t you tell a mummy’s head when you see one? It’s thousands of years old! Good grief! Did you think it took place over the weekend?”
I’m back on my bullshit, because the whole discourse surrounding the “wrongness” of scanlation that I constantly see on social media, frankly, drives me bonkers, in part because people on “either side” of the issue never seem to be asking the useful questions or speaking from a shared set of facts. The anti-scanlation crowd is largely made up of people who either are professional translators or work in publishing, in other words those who directly benefit from the existing copyright regime. If I were being more fair, perhaps I would describe this group as those who have firsthand knowledge of the negative impact of scanlation in the manga distribution economy. On the other side we have the, if not pro-scanlation, then at least scanlation agnostic who speak almost solely from the perspective of readers and consumers in a market economy. In other words, the “two sides” are arguing from two completely different realities.
And I say manga distribution economy, because whether the two sides like it or not, the licit and “illicit” trades in translated Japanese comics are not wholly distinct entities. They are, in fact, inextricably linked to one another.
You have a wide range of people at the festival – Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Ed Brubaker and Joyce Farmer, Lewis Trondheim and Dan Clowes. A lot of people that most would not associate with the NCS.
We’re trying to show this is a broad church. I think the perception of the NCS is that it’s old white guys who make comic strips – and it’s not. Part of this outreach is to change that perception. Look at who we have as members. Look at whose art we’re celebrating. Look at the exhibitions. I did a history of soccer at the National Football Museum in the UK last year so it was easy for us to basically replicate that here, though it has more LA Galaxy and US soccer, but it’s basically the history of soccer. We’re celebrating 90 years of Popeye which is ubiquitous. We have a French exhibition where they re-imagine classic comics figures as females. That exhibition addresses the under-representation of women in comics. Look at our guest list. We’re trying to be as inclusive and broad as possible. To try and dispel some of these myths that have grown up around the NCS. There is a disconnect between the online comics community where there are cartoonists who rail against these old dinosaurs. I think all cartoonists – probably without exception – are comics fans. Anybody that does good work appeals across the spectrum. The medium might have changed but good work is still good work whether it’s done by a 95 year old or a 15 year old. One of the selfish aspects of this is to present the NCS and put a spotlight on it and what we’re doing and who we are. At the same time we’re entertaining the public.
Our review of the day is a delightful one, from Darryl Ayo--it seems to be his debut for us, if the system we use to track your name can be relied upon. That seems hard to fathom, but maybe it is. He's here with a look at Wasted Space #8, from Vault Comics.
So if you’re me and you’re reading this comic book which could not be more random if you tried—the eighth installment of a serial that you are unfamiliar with—and you’re hoping to just dive in feet first? It pretty much works. The two parallel storylines of this issue both deal with repercussions of events that occurred in previous issues. One guy had his arm ripped off and another guy is coping with having murdered his own father. I get the impression that, for the long-term fans of Wasted Space, this issue might be a let-down in terms of action. Both stories in issue 8 are just people talking about how sad they are. Nobody gets dismembered or murdered.
Over at Bleeding Cool, they've got a great rundown of Sean Murphy's recent complaint that people should stop complaining. Why is it that every time a real man tells it like it is (with no filter), the result is always whining about what other people are saying on social media? My check engine light has been given me a hard time ever since the catalytic converter was stolen, and I would love it if a real man would come along and help me figure out whether it's the oxygen sensors or not. But all the tough guys in comics seem to spend the majority of their time rewatching super-hero movies or complaining incessantly about what other people do on fucking twitter.
Today on the site, Sloane Leong returns with the first in a series of features, in which she interviews her fellow residents at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême. First up is Rebecca Roher.
Sloane Leong: So the first thing I’m going to ask is what you’re working on, and what brought about the project.
Rebecca Roher: I’m working on a project called One Hundred Year-Old Wisdom, where I’m interviewing near-hundred-year-olds about their keys to long life, their histories, and how they live today. I’m making comics based on the interviews. It’s framed as if I am a news reporter for a fictional TV network. I really like the reporter voice, you know like, “Hello, I’m reporting live–”
I think it’s very humorous and a nice way to frame it and also, I was really inspired by the videos you see of reporters visiting old people on their hundredth birthday asking, “What’s your secret to long life?” and the hundred year-olds are like, “I eat oatmeal every day and stayed away from men.”
And Joe Decie wraps up his week with Day Five of his excellent Cartoonist's Diary.
Moments before the impassioned speech, Jones admitted that, at first, he didn’t understand the cartoon frog at all. “I get most memes,” Jones said. “But I just didn’t understand [Pepe the Frog.]” Much of the deposition consists of Jones alternating between saying that he doesn’t care much about Pepe and discussing the finer points of the frog, like noting that his forehead looks “like a butt.” At one point, Jones says that if he loses the case, it would be “like [being made to make] a payment to the Statue of Liberty or something when we’re talking about liberty.”
—Reviews & Commentary. At openDemocracy, Louie Dean Valencia-Garcia writes about the recent Twitter spat between Jim Carrey and Mussolini's granddaughter over one of Carrey's cartoons, and some of the political context.
Recently, the comedian posted a crude drawing of fascist leader Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci – disfigured and hung upside down as they were in their deaths. Notoriously, Mussolini and Clara’s bodies were left virtually unrecognizable after an Italian mob got hold of the bodies after their executions. Carrey captioned the image: ‘If you’re wondering what fascism leads to, just ask Benito Mussolini and his mistress Claretta’. Carrey’s warning is two-fold: 1) fascists are on the losing side of history and 2) fascism’s end is particularly horrific.
—Interviews & Profiles. For no particular reason, I have never listened to a full episode of Studio 360, but the latest episode features Cathy Guisewite (as well as novelist Frederic Tuten, author of the comics-adjacent novel Tintin in the New World).
Today at the Comics Journal, it's time for Tegan O'Neil's latest installment of Ice Cream for Bedwetters. This time around, she's used Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta's Vision series as inspiration to discuss the impact of 9/11, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars, Stan Lee, the infamous Comics Journal canon issue and comics criticism. Buckle in.
It’s a terrible thing to be a critic out of a feeling of resentment or anger at the object of your critique. Especially when the feelings aren’t even inspired by the work itself but simply a negative reaction to the enthusiasm of someone else taking joy in comics. I hardly want to live down the reputation of critics as choleric firebrands who never leave the house and bathe less often than they should - but, I mean, yeah.
It’s not all comics fault. They didn’t ask to be the most intense relationship of my life.
Our review of the day comes from Leonard Pierce. Here's looking at Ghost Box, from John Pading and Shigeharu Kobayashi.
Ghost Box first saw the light of day last year with a successful Kickstarter, and it’s now making its way to direct sales via Frank Comics, the imprint run by its creators, artist John Pading and his co-writer Shigeharu Kobayashi. It’s a quasi-sequel to their 2012 book Princess Calabretta, with which it shares not only characters and DNA but a hyperactive mélange of pop culture influences. Pading’s art style is vivid and cartoony, and while it’s not the most accomplished, it’s very well suited to the material, which benefits from the kinetic, colorful nature of his work. The script, on the other hand, is rather a mess: ideas come and go, events explode and spill over with no real rhyme or reason, and most of the appeal of the narrative comes from the fact that it throws its story developments, such as they are, at you with such wildfire rapidity that you give in to its admittedly good-natured energy more or less out of exhaustion.
Over at Broken Frontier, Andy Oliver speaks to Anna Readman about her comics work. Oliver had previously referred to Anna as "the future of British comics". The art by Readman illustrating the interview makes a pretty effective case for Oliver's claims.
Anytime a new Brian DePalma movie appears on the horizon, I think of old Kim Thompson remarks about DePalma that I'd caught wind of, years after they'd been made, via comments made by other people. I wonder what his level of anticipation would have been for Domino, which was reportedly such a terrible experience that the film director has sworn off the country of Denmark.
That creative energy has resulted in a 400 percent spike in “Nancy” traffic on GoComics.com compared with the year prior, says the syndicate. And sales have nearly doubled since Jaimes inherited the strip, with its client list nearing 140 newspapers.
That popularity is fueling other “Nancy” projects. Two books are due out in the fall, a board game is in the works, and the syndicate says it is finalizing a deal with a major streaming service for animated entertainment.
In truth, though I was young, I was already writing on the Olivetti typewriter I got for Christmas the year before and somehow convinced myself that writing scripts was next logical step. Nick Cuti was also the creative force behind the pamphlet sized instruction booklet The Comic Book Guide for the Artist-Writer-Letterer. Produced by Charlton Comics, the booklet broke down the format and mechanics of the work in a language that was straight forward. After reading the book a zillion times (it’s only 35-pages long, I wrote Cuti a letter at Warren gushing over his own writing and telling him that I too wanted to be a comic book scribe.
Two weeks later, I was surprised when he wrote back offering encouragement. “Even if you do want to become a comic book writer, you must read more than comics,” he advised. Although I was already a fan of the strange tales of Roald Dahl, the aesthetic I developed from the horror comics sent me straight into the frail arms of Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe.
—I'm pretty sure that we have not previously mentioned the Ink Logging Tumblr set up by Zack Soto, which includes short reviews and writing on comics purchased by various cartoonists and writers, including such TCJ-affiliated critics as Chris Mautner and Joe McCulloch (aka Jog). But we should have.
Ryan North, Dinosaur Comics: Top lists were kind of like traffic Ponzi schemes. You’d put a link on your comic that said: “Click here to vote for me,” sending people to their page. In exchange for clicks, you got to the top of their list. It felt very performative, so I stopped doing it.
The first comic I read was Achewood, which is probably the best webcomic ever. It didn’t have a links page, so I thought Achewood invented webcomics. Mine was the second webcomic on the internet.
I was in a college entrepreneurship class, and a month into a group project, our group hadn’t done anything, so I just decided to put comics online.
I cut little T. rex silhouettes out of construction paper and put them up around campus with the URL on them. I’m very tall, so I could jump and get them up where the janitorial staff couldn’t reach. When I heard people in the cafeteria talking about Dinosaur Comics, I thought I was being pranked. I guess the way I got early readers was… vandalism?
—Jon B. Cooke has started a new podcast, and his first guest is Robert Crumb, on to discuss Weirdo.
To design a layout for Yuichi, whose work is already so full of bold vivacity, proved a challenge for Jean-Philippe. He researched previous cover designs for his other publications, including Kazunari Hattori’s cover for Room which focused on “simple and powerful typographic compositions”, drawing out the pictorial qualities of Kanji. He also studied Yuichi’s éditions Matière which uses skilfully coloured extracts from Yuichi’s illustrations over the past ten years.
Alternatively, Jean-Philippe utilises the “raw content” of the comic artist’s powerful visuals to inform his cover design. Experimenting with different design tones to play on the book’s materials, his final design consists of a book jacket that complimentarily sits against the jade green, typographic cover. “The cover of Outdoors plays with some recurring elements seen throughout other manga covers” says Jean-Philippe. While it features a shiny dust jacket and dense text, each element has in fact had, a shift in format.
Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to introduce--well, that's probably not the right word. Welcome? There we go. We're pleased to welcome Whitney Matheson aboard, with her first piece for TCJ. She's spoke with Box Brown about his new book Cannabis, his current work methods, and more. There was no discussion of footwear, or its financial value.
Cannabis doesn’t focus on pop culture like your previous books. Is this topic something you’ve been interested in for awhile?
Cannabis is more of a lifelong obsession. I was arrested for possession when I was 16. I didn’t see this as an opportunity at the time — it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me — but I got to go through the legal system, being handcuffed, that whole thing.
Wow. What year was that?
This was 1996. And what I found out in my research, actually, was that in 1996 the number of people arrested for cannabis doubled. In 1995 there were 200,00 people arrested for cannabis laws, and in 1996 there were 400,000. So I just got caught up in that. But going through probation and urine tests and seeing how people of color are treated differently from white kids in the middle-class suburbs … I got off probation on good behavior in four months. At the time, I was happy, but you know, in high school kids would get busted for underage drinking, and they didn’t get arrested. Their parents would get called, and that was it. I just saw that as a huge hypocrisy, and since then, it’s never been far from my gaze.
Over at Smash Pages, Alex Dueben can be found speaking with Diana Chu about her music and Dante focused issue of Ley Lines.
While the MoCCA Festival took place this weekend, the focus of the comics community was turned towards Craig Thompson. Sometime last week, Uncivilized Books released a mock-up design for a box set of Craig's still-to-be-released comic series, Ginseng Roots. The design, featured below, was immediately criticized for Orientalist content--a criticism that has circled Thompson's work for years, including in our 2011 roundtable on the book, and by The Hooded Utiliarian's Nadim Damluji, who challenged Thompson about this aspect of his work directly--and within hours, the design had been taken down by the publisher Tom Kaczynski (who is also currently writing a column for TCJ) who then issued a public apology.
How do you communicate your ideas to the various artists that illustrate your stories? Do you give them a lot of notes?
Yeah, well, I put notes on paper, and then I’ll call them up. I talk to everybody on the phone. I’ll go over the story and tell them what I’m looking for. And I always say, “Look, if you run across something that you can’t understand, or if it’s illegible, just call me. Or I’ll call you in a couple of weeks if I don’t hear from you, just to make sure everything is fine,” you know?
That’s an important part of my communication that a lot of people don’t see. And if it’s a real long piece, I’m dealing with somebody maybe quite a few times. Like if it’s a graphic novel. I’m working on this graphic novel now about how I lost faith in Israel [Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, published posthumously by Hill & Wang, 2014]. You know, I’m Jewish, and I write about when I was a little kid, and all I heard was Israel’s side of the story from everybody. Everybody in my family, and my friends, and their family... You just heard one side of the story. And then if you believe you’re one of God’s chosen people, that’ll settle things for you, sure.
As time went on, and I became independent, and I formed my own ideas, I got pretty upset with Israel. I’m at a point now where I think that their foreign policy is self-defeating. All this for nothing, you know. First of all, the Arabs have a beef, but nobody wants to hear about it. Which was that the whole Middle East used to be under Turkish control and the Turkish empire. But the Turks were stripped of all that Arab territory after the First World War. Provisions were made for everyplace else, like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. It didn’t happen overnight, but there were provisions made for self-government. But in Israel’s case, everybody was hyping the hell out of their position, and talking it up... politicians and everything like that. So the British had a mandate at the League of Nations: “take care of Israel until there could be a vote on it in 1947 in the UN.” And instead, war broke out in ’48, and the Jews won the war. People around here, in the United States, where Arabs were mistrusted, as they still are today. People said, “Well, good for the Jews.”
The Palestinian Arabs got treated worse than any of the other Arabs. They didn’t even have a stab at self-government That was one of my points; that [point] takes a long time to develop. And then their use of force… it’s one thing if you use force and you really gain something. I’m not for going out and having a war, or anything like that, but if you’re going to have a war, it should get you something. And these wars that Israel’s fighting, they’re going to have to keep on fighting them as long as they exist, unless they change their policy. I went into a lot of detail, and I did a lot of research on it. Then I sent it into the editor, and the editor wanted me to restructure it, and in the mean time I got together with a real good illustrator. His name is JT Waldman.
Also, Joe Decie joins the ranks of the artists who have contributed to our Cartoonist's Diary feature. Here is his Day One.
The network was instrumental in the release of graphic novelist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé who was imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea on bogus counterfeiting charges because of his criticism of the country’s president and government.
CRNI tracks censorship, fines, penalties and physical intimidation (including of family members), assault, imprisonment, and even assassinations. Once a threat is detected, CRNI often partners with other human rights organisations to maximise the pressure and impact of a campaign to protect the cartoonist and confront those who seek to censor political cartoonists.
Cartoonists are frequently targeted by authoritarian governments and lack the protection offered by unions or large media organisations, therefore external support is crucial.
The Labyrinth, a collection of drawings Saul Steinberg made between 1954 and 1960, reached bookstores too late for the 1960 Christmas market. Its consequently dismal sales gave the forty-six-year-old artist his first dose of public indifference. A Romanian by birth who had found overnight success at cartooning in 1930s Milan, Steinberg had arrived in New York in 1942, preceded by a run of mailed-in work for The New Yorker that laid the ground for instant and enduring American acclaim. Irritated though he was by his book’s flat reception, he might really have been more in the mood to ponder a flop (which he said left him feeling “as flattered as Stendhal”) than to add another conventional success to his total. “I admire more and more people’s literary qualities,” he would write to his friend Aldo Buzzi in 1962. “I mean the possibility of recounting a fact or making a true and proper observation. Most people transform things that happen to them into things read in the newspaper. Those who don’t know how to tell things are scary.”
“A few years back, we re-launched Bazooka Bubble Gum, reinvigorating the brand for kids who may not have been familiar with the eye-patch wearing Bazooka Joe or the brand’s place in America’s pop culture landscape,” Matt Nathanson, Bazooka Brand Manager, told me. “Yet even as Bazooka continued to thrive with its new look, we have never stopped hearing from our passionate consumers who longed for the Bazooka bubble gum of their past. Those classic Bazooka Joe comics clearly have a special place in the hearts and memories of so many fans. We are always listening to our fan, and are incredibly excited to bring back the Bazooka fans remember!”
Nathanson says that a lot of effort went into choosing which comics to bring back as well. “We began by diving into the Topps vault to find the original Bazooka Joe & His Gang comics… Believe it or not, some of these assets hadn’t been seen for decades,” he explained. “We selected 48 of the best comics from the 1970s and 1980s—all with Bazooka Joe’s trademark (and maybe a bit off-beat) sense of humor — to include in our new throwback package.”
Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share a beast of a conversation between two creators--it is killing me not to have a name for this series, especially as this is the third week in a row that we've had one--and this one is coming to you straight out of left field. Tim Sievert, the cartoonist behind The Clandestinauts. Kieron Gillen, the writer behind Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine and Die. They're here, talking about role playing games...but they also find a way to bring up one of the greatest television projects of the last twenty years, and then Kieron reveals something that I don't know that I was aware of:
Hopefully – I’ve somehow found my life writing about teenage – I do a lot of work for hire stuff so you’re ending up writing a lot of books, all over the place. As opposed to [being a cartoonist] and having a few “these are the milestones and you see them.” If you’re a cartoonist, you get to do it and these are big solid things. Also, me, I do a lot of random stuff, but you get a weird reputation based upon which ones people [pick up on]. So, I’ve found myself – a lot of my books are about teenagers and that wasn’t deliberate. [Laughs.] I mean, one of them was deliberate. But like, I was aware that I did this book Phonogram and that was actually about 20-somethings and after that, that ended up with me asked to do Young Avengers and this book called Journey into Mystery which is about a teenager Loki – I didn’t make him a teenager. [Laughs.] All these kind of things and [The Wicked + The Divine] being about teenagers because it kind of – we did Young Avengers – it was like, “okay, let’s do something which is spiritually a sequel.” So, I was I found myself, “oh, no, I’m somehow a teen writer, which that was never the plan.” [Laughs.] You know, I’ve loved it, but it was definitely "I need to write about someone at least as old as I am or god knows what would happen". [Laughs.] But it’s fun, throwing them into horror is also fun as well, I think.
Today's review is of a Tim Heidecker comic book, written by J. Caleb Mozzocco. While multiple other people are involved in Giraffes On Horseback Salad, I saw that movie Us and really appreciated seeing Tim rocking Keifer Sutherland's haircut from The Lost Boys so I'm single minded right now. Take it away, J. Caleb!
Enter life-long Marx Brothers fan Josh Frank, a playwright, author and self-proclaimed “archaeologist of forgotten pop culture.” Unable to travel back in time and convince Mayer and the other Marx Brothers to give Harpo and Dali’s passion project a chance, and not being a modern day studio head himself, Frank did the next best thing in order to bring Giraffes to life: he produced a graphic novel adaptation/extrapolation of the treatment.
Frank tracked down every scrap of information he could find about the project. Not just Dali’s invaluable “Giraffes notebook”--including a version of the treatment, as well as sketches and a list of ideas for gags--but also Dali’s writings about meeting Harpo, their correspondence, and what was going on in Dali’s life at the time. He then enlisted comedian Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! to help him write the script, with some of Heidecker’s collaborators from the show contributing original dialogue and gags as part of an informal writers’ room. Research might have provided Frank with Dali’s contributions to the film, but he would need a comedian to provide some of the Marx Brothers comedy to Giraffes that the the Brothers themselves so obviously could no longer provide. Spanish artist Manuela Pertega was recruited to draw the whole thing and, incidentally, she provided the American/Spanish cross-cultural collaboration that Harpo and Dali would have had. Noah Diamond, who had previously revived the Brothers’ 1924 off-broadway musical I’ll Say She Is, was approached to provide some “musical numbers”--actually just pages of lyrics set to art-- as there would have been musical numbers had the film actually have been made.
A 15-year gap between issues? This might be a world record. But a new infusion of comics by Marc Bell is a gift to us all. In the interim, Bell has released the graphic novella Stroppy, two anthologies of various comics and fine art (Hot Potatoe, Pure Pajamas) and has been a contributor to Sammy Harkam’s Kramer’s Ergot, that annual tome of cutting-edge comics. He has also done recurring strips for Canadian weekly newspapers.
Marc Bell’s work stays with you. It is disarmingly funny, random, bleak and touching. It doesn’t explain itself or make a concerted effort to shepherd your attention. Its visuals suggest Crumb, Basil Wolverton, vintage black-and-white animated cartoons and off-brand funny animal comics. Bell’s work is also akin to the techniques of early newspaper cartoonists and to the artists of Harvey Kurtzman’s original Mad comic book. Visual information is everywhere on Bell’s pages. It clutters the corners, careens along the margins of its panels and often creates narratives within narratives. It’s compulsively readable and re-readable.
The pool of Marc Bell is all deep end, so the second Worn Tuff Elbow is a fine place to dive in if you’re new to his work.
So how did this project begin? Did you approach Kevin and L and say, “I want to make a Ley Lines comic”?
In a way, yes! I encountered Ley Lines the first time I attended SPX in 2016. Somehow the series kept cropping up in my life, and I loved the idea of comics that paid homage to the intersection of this traditionally mainstream, low-brow art form, with “various fields of art & culture.” That description created an entry point for me; I didn’t feel like a neo-comics-phony. I could use comics as a lens, a tool; it sounded freeing. Using my old Corona typewriter, I wrote a love letter to Ley Lines that expressed my admiration and interest in possibly contributing. I stuffed the envelope with a few printed samples of my drawings, addressed it to L. and Kevin, and dropped it off at their SPX table the following year. I remember that neither of them were at the desk when I mustered the courage up to drop that letter off — L. was out to lunch!
—This year's Hugo Award nominations have been announced.
According to the note in the back of the book, it sounds like Vei had a long and complicated process.
Karl was interested in the giants of Norse mythology. Most of the time they’re portrayed as the bad guys but he wanted to create his own mythology around them and tell the story from their perspective. There was this magazine called Utopi that Karl and a couple friends of his – I was involved in that circle, too – started. They wanted to promote science fiction, fantasy and horror comics. In Sweden for the past twenty-thirty years we’ve had a lot of great comics but often they’re political satire, humor, or autobiography. There was a group of people trying to do other things and make different types of comics and this magazine was supposed to publish these comics in episodes and then there would be books. So Karl started working on this comic for this magazine and I was there in the beginning as a friend and I got more and more involved. On chapter two he asked me, would you like to do this together? We ran the comic in the magazine for six or seven episodes, but Karl had developed so much as an artist and we had discovered so many things about the story that we realized we don’t want to finish it the way we started it. We made this huge decision – especially for Karl – to stop and redo the whole thing. [laughs] Sheer madness. Especially for Karl. He’s spent a few years on this now.
Last week at Her Campus, writer and editor Hannah Strader published an essay accusing comics writer Jai Nitz of sexual harassment. Within days, more women came forward with stories about Nitz, and then Nitz himself told Bleeding Cool that he was "stepping away from comics and public life" and "seeking counseling". Around the same time, Dark Horse annoucned The story has also seen coverage at Comic Book Resources,Comics Beat (the Beat's piece extensively details one of the more recent series of allegations), with more sure to come.
As a reminder, the Eisner winning Comics Journal is, and always has been, staffed by fans of the Snyderverse, so allow us to break ranks from our fellow comics websites who prefer their doomladen death worshipping super-hero movies to be of the Marvel variety and lack surprises and say: Bring it on, Warner.
Today on the site, we have Steven Ringgenberg's obituary for Ken Bald, who until recently held the World Record as oldest working cartoonist.
Veteran cartoonist Ken Bald is someone who can truly be said to have grown up in the American comics industry. Bald, who died on March 17th, was born on August 1st, 1920, went on to have one of the longest and most prolific careers of any cartoonist, as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, which honored him in 2017, not once but twice, as the "Oldest Comic Artist," and the "Oldest Artist to Illustrate a Comic Book Cover," which he accomplished in 2016 at the age of 96. Because of the many contributions he made to the comics industry, as well as the epic length of his career, Ken Bald deserves to be much better known than he is in the present day. Many comics creators are given legendary status if they hang in there long enough, but Ken Bald really was a legend.
Born in New York City, Bald grew up in Mt. Vernon New York and later attended the Pratt Institute, and at some point took classes at the Toronto College of Art in Toronto, Ontario. After graduating from Pratt, Bald moved to Englewood, New Jersey.
His first published work was a fan drawing printed in More Fun #9 (April, 1936) which had the distinction of being the first standard-sized comic containing new material. It was published by National Allied Publications, which later became National Periodical Publications, more familiarly known as DC Comics. After attending the Pratt Institute for three years, through 1941, Bald immediately joined the Jack Binder shop which packaged entire comic books for various publishers, Fawcett, Nedor, and Lev Gleason Publications. At first, the Binder shop was a modest affair, with Bald and a handful of other artists working in Jack Binder’s living room. However, within a year or so, business was so good that Binder was able to rent a Fifth Avenue loft and employed fifty or sixty artists. In addition to Bald, Binder employed such future greats as Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Bill Ward, Kurt Schaffenberger and Pete Riss, among others. Studio mate Gil Kane recalled in a 1996 Comics Journal interview, “Binder had a loft on Fifth Avenue and it just looked like an internment camp. There must have been 50 or 60 guys up there, all at drawing tables. You had to account for the paper that you took."
Frank M. Young is here, too, with a review of the recent Jay Lynch anthology,Ink & Anguish.
Jay Lynch is the underdog of the first wave of American underground cartoonists. Had he been born 30 years earlier—or later—fame and fortune might have been his as a comic artist. Lynch went through much personal struggle to stay afloat, but he kept going, and always produced first-rate work.
Lynch is best-known for his “Nard ‘n’ Pat” series—an old-school style strip about a hapless, hat-wearing divorcee and his smart-ass cat companion. Like Robert Crumb and Bobby London, Lynch was inspired by the low art that he saw throughout his childhood. Early appearances in Harvey Kurtzman’s Help! magazine and decades of work from Topps got Lynch’s work broad circulation—although he never signed his Topps work until the 21st century.
The comics contained in this volume are comical—sharply written, flawlessly constructed and, as the years go on, increasingly impressive as cartoon art. Lynch founded a Midwestern underground style, with Bijou Funnies, which also featured work by Crumb, Kim Deitch, Skip Williamson, and other major cartoonists, being his major contribution to comix. A hard worker, Lynch pursued the sheer craft of cartooning. By the mid-1970s, his comics and illustration work have a dazzling professional sheen. Gone are the callow, tentative lines of his work c. 1968—every pen stroke is unerringly right, and in service of whatever he’s illustrating. His 1970s color work for such magazines as Oui, Details, Gallery, and the Chicago Sun-Times is first-rate—and very much of its time. Given what a smart social satirist and deft humorist Lynch is, his talent feels wasted on the likes of Oui, but Lynch was always a professional, and his most commercial work still bears his stamp of individuality and quirk.
—News. Last week saw the death of cartoonist Leslie Sternbergh Alexander, a longtime fixture on the New York cartooning scene well-liked by many. We will have more coverage soon.
—Interviews & Profiles. The Los Angeles Review of Books interviews Julie Delporte.
NATHAN SCOTT MCNAMARA: While This Woman’s Work doesn’t explicitly engage with the Kate Bush song it borrows it title from, it’s a fitting homage. Could you tell us about your history with Kate Bush’s music?
JULIE DELPORTE: One of the translators of the book, Aleshia Jensen, found this title. The original french edition had a different title which made reference to a French grammatical structure (the masculine takes over the feminine, something that literally every french kid learns at school) and couldn’t be translated. I like the English title because it adds one more inspiring woman to my research of desirable feminine identities — Kate Bush joins Tove Jansson, Chantal Akerman, Paula M. Baker, Geneviève Castrée, and other women present in the pages of the book. I like Kate Bush’s music, though I don’t know it really well, but it made total sense that the title references another woman’s inspiration, whether it’s my translator’s or the reader’s. The goal of my book is for it to be about something larger than myself. I wanted to ask readers: “this is what it’s like for me, was it like this for you?” The title Aleshia Jensen found makes me think of the idea of women as a working class… This Woman’s Work talks a lot about maternity — a subject I never planned initially, and only discovered when I finished drawing the book — which is considered the work of women above all. In Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici addresses it, explaining how capitalism was partly built on the appropriation and exploitation of the reproductive work of women.
[I] feel bad about trying to join in the chorus of people talking about how Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye was pretty good. It is absolutely a fun and well-crafted comic, deserving of some praise. However, it’s already been written about a lot, and by people whose writing basically makes me want to kill myself when I think about how the distinction between me and them is virtually nil. I can write about some under-discussed alternative comic and feel like I’m basically doing literary criticism, but writing about a Marvel comic, published during the era of Marvel movies and Netflix TV shows totally dominating culture, makes me feel bad about myself at least in part because it feels like willfully choosing to do something I will fail at.