Nobody Cares, Pal

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got the latest installment in Glynnis Fawkes' Cartoonist Diary. In today's installment, Fawkes makes her way to one of the parenting rites of passage few come home cheering about. A surprise, however, was in store.

That's not all. Today also sees an update from Alec Berry on the latest developments in the Cody Pickrodt lawsuit that we've been covering since last year. 

According to the office of Judge Thomas Feinman of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, a motion to dismiss eight of the 11 defendants from small press publisher Cody Pickrodt’s defamation lawsuit is under review.

The judge’s decision will be made within the next 60 days. The process started Feb. 19, 2019.

If in favor of the defense, the decision will discharge cartoonists Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore; publisher Josh O’Neill; comics critic Rob Clough; and cartoonists and publishers Jordan Shiveley and Tom Kaczynski/Uncivilized Books from a $2.5 million dispute.

While we usually leave the product announcements up to those sites who enjoy trawling through those emails, you'd be hardpressed to find a more welcome home than TCJ to the news that IDW is going to be A) releasing some kind of Clue mini-series written and drawn by Dash Shaw and B) graced with the presence of Stan Sakai, whose Usagi Yojimbo comics is the only living competition John Wagner has in the what-a-hell-of-a-run department. 

Over at Women Write About Comics, Brandi Estey-Britt drills down into Monstress, one of the more well-regarded Image Comics of the last few years, to look into one of the comic's major point of focus, female pain, and how rare it is to find that topic dealt with as intelligently as the Monstress team has.

I try to steer clear of Scott McCloud related topics, as criticizing that guy on a random podcast back when he was a New York Times Bestseller ended up causing me no end of annoying professional conversations with people who should come up with real things to be scared of, like bears, or typhus, but I made an exception for this piece at Lithub. It's good!

There's one article I look forward to every year, an article that signals, for me, the conclusion of the previous: and that's Shannon O'Leary's survey of comics retail, which popped up at Publishers Weekly last week. (I had been wondering where it was, and now I know: it was already here!) While portions of the article can always be pulled to prove whatever point someone wants to make at the time, it's best read in its totality

Over at Popula, Nate Powell has released a weird, poorly structured, rambling piece of random, almost trivia-focused scholarship, that functions as op-ed, autobiography, and call to arms. It's excellent. I think something like this--had it been more focused, and less of an anything-goes piece by somebody who is as scared by recent developments as any sane observer would be--is a perfect argument for a part of politicized webcomics that has always been promised but rarely delivered. It's too long for print, where it probably would've ended up being edited down into a more specific, trackable argument (something with two, obvious sides), nor does it read with the type of here's-what-just-happened quality that alt weekly comics used to traffic in. It doesn't play like the type of thing you'd find at a site like The Nib, a site whose brevity often turns their comics into Rorschach tests for pre-existing arguments. No, this piece is long enough, and so all over the place, that it can't help but become the best kind of non-fiction comic--one that exists purely as the exercise of one artistic mind cruising around an argumentative prism created by its cartoonist. Unlike the ugly, dogmatic op-eds currently churned out by newspapers in search of the clicks that the internet will ultimately deny them, Powell's comic is resolutely his, one stuck in an argument that's quite clearly consumed him. Following him around, being forced to interpret how a bit of learned history leads to his personal truths, filtering into observations backed by emotion, and then concluding with a pleading, sincere concern--it's a tremendously unique experience unvarnished by any attempt to score points or short circuit a criticism. I'm down for more.

 

Get a Clue

Today on the site, our European correspondent Matthias Wivel returns after a too-long absence with a look at James Pisket's Dansker.

Dansker (‘Dane’) is the story of a broken man, trapped in the shadow of the Armenian genocide and by the trauma of his youth. James Pisket was born in 1953 and grew up in the borderlands between Armenia and Turkey. We follow him as he deserts the Turkish army and emigrates to Denmark, where he struggles with a death wish as he embarks upon a life of crime. Key to his survival is the relationship to his neglected children, one of whom, Halfdan (born 1985), is the work’s author.

Dansker is part of a trilogy originally published in Denmark: Desertør (‘Deserter’, 2014), Kakerlak (‘Cockroach’, 2015) and Dansker (2016) and since collected as Dansker-trilogien (‘The Dane Trilogy)’. The first volume won the Danish Ping Award for Danish Comic of the Year in 201, and the French edition of volume three was just bestowed the so-called Series Award at the international comics festival in Angoulême, France—a major recognition. Sadly, we are still waiting for an English-language publisher to sign on.

Educated at the Danish Royal Academy of Arts, Pisket spent his youth making noise as part of the musical activist group Albertslund Terrorkorps, as part of which he developed his expressive graphic symbolism, partly through poster art and other paper ephemera, partly through a number of early and ambitious but also overly earnest comics. The Dansker trilogy, however, saw him mature quickly. The rich, lived experience it transcribed was an obvious catalyst. You can see him developing by the page, from an already strong start few readers familiar with his previous work would have expected.

These comics are the result of conversations between father and son. They are characterized by fragmentary, at times almost dream-like narration, is if distilled from deeper, partly suppressed memory. Pisket himself has emphasized that it is a fictional condensation of his father’s experiences, simplified, dramatized, and clarified to ring closer to the truth.

We also have a new contributor to our Cartoonist's Diary feature, Glynnis Fawkes. Here's Day One.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Aron Nels Steinke.

SPURGEON: What caused you to move from the teacher-centric material to engage first and foremost with the kids?

STEINKE: I wanted this project to be sustainable. Writing for kids is a bigger market and it was also the audience I was directly relating to day after day as an elementary school teacher. When I was making the Mr. Wolf comic strips about things that happened in the classroom I had to share them with my students. I couldn't not share them. I'd print copies of the comic strips without the text for students to fill in the speech balloons, captions, and thought bubbles. It was fun to see if they knew which moment or event I was depicting or what their interpretation was. Kids became the audience.

—For the New York Times, Ed Park reviews new political-ish books by James Sturm and Elly Lonon & Joan Reilly.

Mark, the narrator of James Sturm’s “Off Season,” wouldn’t classify himself as elite, liberal or otherwise. He’s a builder in Vermont, going through a personal crisis just as the presidential campaign enters the home stretch. “It’s hard to believe it was only three months ago that Lisa and I were together and both for Bernie,” he notes in the first chapter, which originally appeared on Slate in September 2016, with Election Day on the horizon. Separation from his wife means getting his own apartment, which means selling his truck, which means working for contractors like Mick, perpetually late with the check and with a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on his BMW station wagon.

The class conflict is palpable. With Sanders out of the running, Mark isn’t sure whom to support. His wife knocks on doors for Clinton, but their marital split (she’s “got the house, the rich parents, and plenty of time”) sours his view of the candidate. (Hillary’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” gives the chapter its ironic title.) “Not that I’d vote for Trump,” he tells himself. “But at least he’s his own man.” When their young daughter, Suzie, tells him he has to choose, he just says: “I did pick someone.” End of conversation.

Also for the Times, Maria Russo writes an appreciation of Tomi Ungerer.

A good children’s book will clearly be on the side of the child, and yet what’s striking about Ungerer’s picture books is that they so often take that side while putting adults in the central roles. Adults, after all, dominate the lives of children, for better and — too often — worse. Ungerer knew that what children wish for most of all is to get the grown-ups to see things their way.

Some of his early books have no child characters at all, including two of my favorites, “Crictor,” from 1958, and “Rufus: The Bat Who Loved Colors,” from 1961. Both are sweet through and through, yet full of alarming imagery and sudden dreadful turns.

The adults, often benighted souls, are made to look comically knobby and misshapen. The real beauties are the friendly creatures from unjustly reviled species. Crictor, a sinuous boa constrictor, is the beloved pet of Madame Bodot, sent to her by her son, who is “in Africa studying reptiles.” Horrified at first, she comes to love the snake, even, in one of Ungerer’s fantastically shocking images, “feeding it bottles of milk” as it is curled in her lap like a baby.

—RIP Stanley Donen.

Cruise Vader

Today at The Comics Journal, we're launching a new column--but unlike our other columns, this one will not have a fixed writer or topic. Instead, it'll be an old school op-ed column, publishing submissions from comics critics, creators and the like. (We're calling it "Listen To Me".) This installment of the column could also be considered a bit of an expose. At this weekend's ComicsPRO trade show, an anonymous pamphlet is currently making its way around the show. That pamphlet's author has supplied us with a full version of the pamphlet's essay, and has agreed to be publicly identified--it's Menachem Luchins, the owner/operator of comic book store Escape Pod Comics. He's got some stuff to say. While it should go without saying, i'm going to say it anyway: Menachem's point of view is 100% his own, and does not reflect that of TCJ or its editors. 

To explain, you first have to accept a hard truth, one that I have come to grips with over the course of many years: Comic Retailers are the WORST PEOPLE to help save the direct market. Bold statement right? I mean… I just said I didn’t do research, so what can I use to back it up? How could all these people with so much to lose not be perfect to help fix it, to set it on the right course? The answer is easy, really; THE DIRECT MARKET IS ALREADY DEAD AND THE RETAILERS ARE THE ONES WHO KILLED IT. Comic retailers are moaning over the corpse of their beloved while gripping the bloody knife in their hands! 

Speaking of ComicsPRO, the coverage of the show has been scattered and unusual, with sites like Bleeding Cool publishing bold, dramatic stories regarding DC's plans (including an extremely unusual claim that Dan Didio asked retailers  "not to share their complaints about DC Comics – or others – with their customers"), only to see these articles dismissed out of hand by writers at other comics news sites, amongst more alleged criticisms that Didio reportedly was angry at Bleeding Cool's articles. It's all very dramatic--the sort of drama many of those retailers probably wish could be found in a DC comic book, as it seems to be very compelling.

A personal note: I could not be more pleased to have seen multiple outlets share the news that Michel Fiffe's Copra and Chuck Forsman's Revenger comics will soon be available via new publishers (which also means they will be available in a much more accessible fashion). Along with Tom Adams, I have been printing and selling collections of Copra for over seven years and Revenger for almost as long, via Bergen Street Press. It is has been a life-changing experience to watch these stories develop, but more so to have a front row seat to watch these artists grow into the successes they are today.

It would be impossible and inappropriate to use this space to describe the personal and emotional involvement that Tom and I have had in Copra and Revenger. But I will say this: I love those comics, and the fact that I got to be at the beginning of these two people's glorious and exciting careers is an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. To Tom, Chuck and Michel: thank you. It has been an honor.

Smak

Today on the site, we present the final installment of R.C. Harvey's epic chronicle of the legendary feud between Al Capp and Ham Fisher. Now that the story's been told, Harvey reflects on what it was all ultimately about.

No one decided to deny Ham Fisher a place in the history of cartooning. The profession’s odd silence on the subject is not the result of deliberation and design. It is instead an accident, an unforeseen constellation of circumstances, a happenstance of personality and event, which, invested with pride and ego and jealousy and vaulting aspiration, turned ugly. The tragic end of the Fisher-Capp feud could well promote vague feelings of shame and guilt among those who stood by, feelings that were suppressed by keeping silent. Fisher’s suicide was a blot on the escutcheon of the National Cartoonists Society. And it is therefore understandable if many cartoonists fell into the habit of not mentioning it. And by avoiding the subject of Fisher’s death, the subject of his attainments is likewise shunted out of view.

While I’m delving into unconscious motivations, let me toy with one more fanciful speculation. This time, on the matter of Fisher’s motives.

Fisher’s behavior strikes me as more than a little extreme. Capp’s appropriation of hillbilly characters for a comic strip doesn’t seem to me sufficient provocation for Fisher’s subsequent actions — the tirades, the smear campaign. Psychologically speaking, when someone’s behavior is excessive for the provocation, it suggests that the presumed motivation is not, in fact, the real reason for the reaction we see. And when this happens, it’s because the real reason must not be consciously acknowledged.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The finalists for the L.A. Times Book Prize have been announced, including five in the graphic novel category.

—Reviews & Commentary. The New Yorker has published an essay by Jennifer Finney Boylan, about how Peanuts taught her about queer identity and self-acceptance.

It was in reading “Peanuts,” lying on the floor beneath the piano in our suburban home, that I first grasped the terrible truth: my parents resided in a cartoon universe. It was Charlie Brown and his friends—children who lived in a world defined by unrequited love—who resided in the real one. I could imagine Charlie asking, with his usual anguish, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what love is all about?”

As it turns out, there was one person who could: Pigpen. Of all the characters in “Peanuts,” Pigpen seems most at peace with the life he has been given. Sure, he’s immersed in filth—he can “raise a cloud of dust in a snowstorm,” as Charlie Brown puts it—and Patty and Violet seek constantly to humiliate him. But Pigpen will have none of it. “Aren’t you ashamed?” Violet says to him, after making him look in the mirror. “On the contrary,” he replies. “I didn’t think I looked this good.” In a strip from September, 1954, Patty marches along with a bucket, determined to “personally give Pigpen a good scrubbing.” But when she finds him—sitting, as usual, in a sandbox—he looks clean and shiny. As she departs (“I guess there’s some hope for him, after all”) you see that only half of Pigpen is clean. The side facing away from Patty is still covered with grime.

Charles Schulz was said to have grown tired of the character in later years, in part because it was hard to write material for him outside of the one basic joke. But it’s not hard to understand his enduring appeal. He’s the closest thing the strip has to the spirit of total Zen. It would be nice, I thought, lying there beneath the piano, to live one’s life like this. It gave me “Peanuts” envy. I wondered: Did Pigpen never feel the yearning to be clean? Or had he accepted that purity was not in the cards? Was the secret of his grace that he lived in a world without desire?

—Interviews & Profiles. Vulture has a profile of Eli Valley.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Valley was an unknown and profoundly uncontroversial figure who barely engaged in the debates that he so energetically dives into today. Sitting in his cramped, comic-book-brimmed studio apartment in downtown Manhattan, I ask him about a curious professional irony that demonstrates just how much his life has changed in recent years. In 1999, Valley was living in Prague, giving tours of Jewish historical sites in Eastern Europe, and he published his first book: a hefty prose tome entitled The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe: A Travel Guide and Resource Book to Prague, Warsaw, Cracow, and Budapest. It proudly wore a blurb from none other than Nobel–winning writer, Holocaust survivor, and Israel advocate Elie Wiesel: “This beautiful and melancholy book is more than a guide to great Jewish cities: it is a book of tales.”

But flash forward to August 2014 and you’ll find Valley publishing a comic called “Wiesel, Weaponized” in +972 Magazine, a left-leaning outlet that covers the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. At the time, Wiesel was emphatically advocating for the Israeli side in that summer’s war in the Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip. In the comic, sinister Israeli scientists affix Wiesel’s head and brain to the front of a bomb-dropping drone vehicle and use it to annihilate Arabs in Gaza while spouting platitudes like, “This is a battle between those who celebrate life and those who champion death!” At the end, the Wiesel drone flies off into the sunset, muttering fragments of pro-Israeli talking points: “Conscience of humanity … Civilization versus barbarism … Arabs … Death cult … Fires of Moloch … Israel chooses life …”

The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Karl Stevens.

Max Court

Today at TCJ, we're sharing a look at one of Nobrow's most recent stabs at giving you feelings. It's called Through A Life, and it's by Tom Haugomat. They had this to say about it:

This powerfully silent graphic novel follows the saga of a boy who grows up to be an astronaut, just like he always wanted, until a fatal space shuttle crash upends his life, and he begins to find solace in beauty here on earth.

Today's review comes to us from Noah Berlatsky, but we were able to convince him not to write about Wonder Woman. This time around, he's preaching the gospel of a webcomic called Sea In You-specifically, the ability they have to manipulate the pace of which one reads a story.

Jessi Sheron's The Sea in You doesn't look like a radical formal experiment at first glance. It's a gentle webcomic about a young student named Corinth who strikes up a friendship (and possibly more) with a mermaid. Sheron began the comic in 2015; she updates it every week or two. As of this writing there are over 60 episodes.

The Sea in You has been running, then, for around four years. Reading it all at once, it's difficult to believe how slowly the plot has developed over that time. Corinth is established as a somewhat lonely, insecure kid, whose boyfriend Seth is low-key manipulative, controlling, and insulting. When Corinth is cleaning trash from the beach alone one day, she's drawn into the waves by the siren sound of a mermaid, who almost eats her, then decides not to. Corinth comes back to the beach to try to see the mermaid again, and over a number of meetings the two flirt, exchange gifts, and teach each other about their different worlds.

This is my kind of dumb shit. I'm totally here for it. What problem could this group of people possibly be the solution for? I mean, I have questions of course--when did Conan the Barbarian become an Avenger? Why did the Punisher become an Avenger? If this comic is really successful, can they please make a movie out of it? Is Gerry Duggan a good writer? Why is it that I can't get a simple art request for a positive review of a DC Comic fulfilled, but Marvel is all about hooking me up with advance information all the time? I don't care about the answers to these questions. I know this comic can't possibly live up to the radicalness that lives inside my head of what it could be, but I also know that I'm pretty down for it just on the principal that I want to know who the deadliest foes still are of these people above. The Punisher gets to kill all his foes except for Jigsaw, so does that mean that Conan The Barbarian is gonna fight Jigsaw? I feel like Conan is the real wild card here, which is a problem for me, because I personally think that there's never been a good story where Wolverine is the sane one who keeps people in line. Maybe that one where Cyclops gets super drunk trying to keep up with Wolverine, but that's not a story involving hardcore violence. Either way: I am grateful to Marvel Comics for sending press releases to The Comics Journal, because I would not have found out about this comic otherwise. 'nuff said, excelsior, so on.

The Duke of Oil

Today on the site, Marc Sobel returns with the second installment of his Strip Mine column, in which he takes $20 to a comics shop, then writes about what he's able to buy with it.

It wasn’t the best selection and the condition of most of the books was somewhere between “Very Sad” and “Near Ruined,” but what could I do? I had to look! It’s an obsession, I know, but fortunately I have a very understanding partner. Anyway, an hour later, here’s what I walked out with:

ADVENTURES OF THE OUTSIDERS #44 (April 1987)

I’m sure you’re thinking, why on Earth would I grab this random issue of a D-list super-team? Well, it certainly wasn’t for the cover by Joe Brozowski and Danny Bulandi. 

Let’s take a closer look. Geo Force, whose costume looks like it was designed by an 8-year-old, has a right arm protruding from his neck and a dislocated left shoulder, probably caused by his exploding forearm. Then there’s the awkwardly posed damsel, Dr. Jace, who can’t decide if she’s falling down or not. Maybe she’s just disoriented by the complete lack of any background? It looks like a bluescreen scene that never made it to the effects department. And, of course, there’s the groan-inducing villain, the Duke of Oil (whose real name is Earl J. Dukeston, get it?). 

To be honest, I never read an issue of The Outsiders before.[2] I couldn’t even name the characters (what happened to Ponyboy?). All I knew was that they inexplicably liked to team up with Batman, so obviously the story made little sense. There’s a bunch of soap opera plotlines and the whole thing ends with the old beaker-of-acid-to-the-face-reveals-the-villain-is-really-a-robot twist. If I had a nickel…

So why did I buy this book?

We also have Chris Mautner's review of Rina Ayuyang's Blame This On the Boogie.

What a warm and wonderful book this is, bursting with color and life, wise about the ways of the world and its ugliness, but steadfastly refusing to succumb to despair. I did not realize how much I needed to read a comic like this until I had it in my hands.

Ostensibly a memoir, the first half of the book (and, I suspect, most recent material) recounts Ayuyang’s youth, growing up as a Filipina-American in 1970s-era Pittsburgh. The youngest of four, she chronicles with a keen eye for detail (who here actually remembers the decorations hanging in their seventh grade classroom?) a mostly happy childhood filled with music, noise and love.

But it’s not as through bad times don’t exist, and Ayuyang does not shy away from depicting the struggles of being a first-generation American, trapped between your family’s culture and the one that surrounds you, not to mention having to deal with bullies, racism, bad teachers, and having to give a big presentation to the seventh grade class. Yet young Rina brushes them off like the proverbial dirt off her shoulder, perpetually enthralled by pop music, TV sitcoms and old movie musicals.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina “Steenz” Stewart's Archival has won the fifth annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics.

—Reviews & Commentary. Liza Donnelly writes about the cartoons of Barbara Shermund.

Shermund’s early sales to The New Yorker were paintings for covers, but she was a prolific artist, and soon began contributing cartoons. As far as we know, she wrote her own captions (which is not always the case with a cartoon; sometimes a gag writer comes up with the captions). She kept a pad and pencil under her pillow at night in case an idea struck. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, her cartoons reflected what it was like to be a flapper, a “new woman” navigating Manhattan. Her work represented what Ross was looking for: sophisticated humor that spoke to the urban demimonde of the day. Shermund’s women seemed to be in charge of their lives and talked about their dreams and ideas. Her women did not seem to need men, and some of her captions hinted at homosexuality. Her women were confused, too, because the roles for women were changing, often not fast enough.

John Holbo writes about Wally Wood and Witzend.

Wally Wood drawing chicks and sort of noodling around with half-digested notions of Freud, plus second-hand Tolkien high fantasy tropes is just not great comics. It lacks vision and direction.

I feel that the same is true for a lot of the stuff in witzend. When they were let loose … they didn’t have a lot to say. Graphically, a lot of it is really beautiful, but no one involved seems to be fired with any brilliant idea about what new worlds comics should conquer now. Some of it is very retro. Edgar Rice Burroughs sword&sandals&sorcery stuff. Some of it is random hippie. Some of it is pretty sour in the toxic masculinity department – but not much. Mostly it just kind of drifts.

It’s like Wood and co. got to pretend they were they pent-up geniuses, when the squares at Marvel and DC made ‘em obey the Comics Code. But it turns out that they did better work pent-up. It’s like the final episode of LOST. Wood was so much more magic when you could imagine all the wonderful stuff he could have done if they’d let him.

It’s true that witzend paved the way for RAW and other comix and underground stuff. There’s other stuff coming, and Wood is rightly remembered as godfather to that. I get why everyone involved wanted freedom. But it feels … exhausted.

—RIP. Ken Nordine.

Unlucky

Today on the site, we have an obituary for Tomi Ungerer, written by Gary Groth, who interviewed the late artist at length for the most recent print issue of TCJ.

Ungerer famously arrived in New York in 1956 with sixty dollars in his pocket and two trunks of drawings and manuscripts that he intended to show to publishers. What finally spurred him to move to New York, he has said, was jazz: “I was a big jazz fan, I thought I would be able to see some jazz.” He was disappointed in the jazz scene he found there, but he nonetheless took  to Manhattan, and for the next fifteen years wrote and illustrated children’s books and drew countless images for posters, magazines, advertising, and satirical books. According to Ungerer, he showed his portfolio to the pioneering editor Ursula Nordstrom, who told him to come up with a children’s story. He did, and the result was The Mellops Go Flying, quickly followed by The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure, both published in 1957, both enormously successful. Between 1957 and 1973, he wrote and drew twenty-two children’s books, as well as illustrated numerous children’s books he didn’t write. Ungerer shared his contemporary Maurice Sendak’s belief that stories for children should not be sugarcoated, that, in fact, children should have to wrestle with the reality that awaits them, which will include fear and loneliness and pain. “Why am I the pedagogues’ nightmare?” he once asked. “They think I traumatize children. They think children should be loved and protected. But if you do only that, they’re not ready for life.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Maria Russo has an appreciation for Gary's last big interview subject, Maurice Sendak, in the New York Times.

The third book in the trilogy, “Outside Over There,” published in 1981, covers its darkness of theme with ravishingly beautiful, painterly art. In this book, Sendak is inviting us to grapple with adolescence and its definitive break with the securities of childhood. Hence the more grown-up aesthetic: The archaic cadences of the words and the ornate, cascading illustrations evoke German Romanticism, and also the music of Mozart, which Sendak adored. So long, streetwise 1970s urban vernacular. We’re in the Reagan era now, where leftward-leaning free spirits must find solace in their living rooms, immersed in a PBS-style classicism. Yet the book is not offering some idealized vision of safe, genteel life — far from it. The protagonist, Ida, has a green-eyed prettiness, her hair soft, straight, long and honey-colored, her dress ruffled and draped just so, but her bare feet are enormous and wide, like someone who digs up potatoes in a shtetl.

Beecher

Today at the Comics Journal, we're speaking with José Hernández, the Mexican cartoonist whose biography of Che Guevara saw release last year. 

How did you became a cartoonist?

I began as a cartoonist in 1994, for a magazine called El Chahuistle, directed by one of the most important cartoonists in Mexico: Eduardo del Río, Rius. Rius has been one of the most influential cartoonist in the last three or four generations of political caricaturists. He is the creator of a series of books, in Mexico and all over the world, called For Beginners. In these books, Rius explains a tremendous variety of topics – Marxism, religion, vegetarianism– through caricatures in comics. Starting my career beside Rius was the best school I could possibly have had.

Today's review comes to us from Austin Price, with a look at Bloodborne: Death of Sleep, one of the more well reviewed video game tie-ins of last year. Wait, did I write "well reviewed"?

Frankly, it’s an exhausting tack to take: when every reference is so conspicuous, so announced – one panel is nothing but a perfect replication of the game’s infamous game over screen, blood red letters against a black background declaring YOU DIED with taunting superiority – it quickly grows to feel as if this is not so much a story as it is an Easter Egg hunt laid by Kot to distract from the fact that his interest in the game’s world and philosophical preoccupations is passing, if it is anything at all. The result is something deeply uncertain, a book supposedly about the dangers of choosing fear and violence over empathy that is itself so frightened of offending its choosier readers or of facing down the conclusions offered by its inspiration that it opts for a mishmash of styles and ideas add up to nothing but confusion. There are aesthetic clues early on that suggest as much, not least among them Piotr Kowalski’s pencils and Brad Simpson’s colors. Bloodborne’s world is a grim one, yes, and brutal, but it is also grand, cribbing for visual isnpirations as easily from mannerist architecture and Renaissance painting as it does from an H.R. Giger design or Cronenberg movie, something neither Kowalski’s cartoonish sketches nor Simpson’s plain palette do anything to capture. The former has no eye for action. While the hunter talks ceaselessly of how they are ”blood, in movement, dancing with blood,” their fights do not flow as a dance (let alone one manifest in the medium of blood) might. How could they, when half of the time Kowalski relies on a tool as clumsy as speed-lines to portray motion? There is strange, wooden stagedness to the proceedings so pronounced that a decapitated head supposedly flying through the air instead appears to dangle from strings. Perhaps that has to do with the character designs which play at realism but verge on the cartoonish, the eyes of monsters all agoggle as if taken from the sketch pad of a carnival caricaturist, the forms of the humans rigid and unbending as if they only existed in two dimensions. Nothing here is as strange or wild or bizarre as it needs to be.

Happy Valentine's Day to those of you who are celebrating!

Rest Required

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey returns with the penultimate installment of his long series on the legendary feud between Ham Fisher and Al Capp. Last time saw the tragic end of Fisher, and this week we see what happened to Al Capp in his later years as a anti-counterculture crusader, when his history of sexual assault and harassment finally caught up to him.

Not content with the outlet Li’l Abner afforded him, Capp had branched out into other venues all through his career. In 1937, he had launched another comic strip, a somewhat more serious narrative about a crusty old spinster and her manly nephew called Abbie and Slats, which he wrote and Raeburn Van Buren drew; after nine years, Capp’s brother Elliott took over the scripting, continuing until the strip ceased in 1971. And in 1954, Capp started writing yet another strip, Long Sam, starring a female version of Li’l Abner. Drawn by Bob Lubbers, it ran until 1962.

Capp’s creations ventured beyond newsprint, too. An RKO movie adaptation, Li’l Abner, had appeared in 1940, but the characters were a bigger success on stage with a Broadway musical that ran for 693 performances, starting in November 1956; it was turned into a motion picture at Paramount in 1959. There was an amusement park, Dogpatch U.S.A., and a fast-food chain.

A master at creating publicity about himself and his strip, Capp enjoyed a second albeit simultaneous career as an after-dinner speaker and newspaper columnist, leaving most of the drawing on the strip to his assistants while he concentrated on writing the scripts. Capp was also a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, regaling his audiences with his analyses of contemporary events, outrageous commentaries punctuated with his characteristic jubilant hoots of self-appreciative laughter.

In the 1960s, his target was often student protest against the Vietnam War: In the strip, college youths were all members of S.W.I.N.E., “Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything.” Touring college campuses as a speaker, Capp was on a crusade against what he saw as morally bankrupt youth.

We also have Kim Jooha's review of Mickey Zacchilli's Space Academy 123.

Anyone interested in art comics knows how singular Zacchilli's art is. When Space Academy 123 was serialized on Instagram, the style looked a bit simpler than usual -- which I did not have any complaint against because it was a free daily comic. However, seeing the art bigger and in more detail on a printed page, I realized the subtlety of each mark Zacchilli draws. Because there are fewer lines in the background than usual, you can see how each line makes a huge difference. Zacchilli's lines in her previous work, combined in thousands, felt like a huge torrent. Now each different shade of mark builds a subtle texture that elevates the work. Combined with Zacchilli’s distinct doodle-ish style of drawing and scribbling-style of handwriting, these seemingly random textures perfectly translate the youthful expressive energy and whirlwind of Space Academy 123’s characters and happenings. The paper stock of the book is similar to a newspaper or cheap manga paper, but is more expensive and durable — this adds to the synergy, too.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Many more papers have dropped Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur over the "Go Fuck Yourself, Trump" message in one his strips.

—Commentary. Jessamyn West writes about Bechdel's Fun Home.

By the time Fun Home came out in 2006 I was nearly 40, post-married, and living pretty happily alone. My sister and I would occasionally get together and scratch our heads at our “raised by wolves” upbringing as if it had been a bad movie or something that happened to other people we distantly knew.

I read Fun Home; it hit me like a lightning bolt and my whole childhood snapped back around me.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Mort Gerberg.

Modern Library

Today at The Comics Journal, we're continuing down the same unfortunate path from yesterday, with discussion of the untimely passing of another artist. Today, that subject is Ted Stearn. First, we have a remembrance from his friend and colleague, cartoonist David Mazzuchelli:

Ted was an intense human being — passionate and sensitive, steadfast in his friendships, devoted and inspiring to his family. Though he often wore a bemused frown, he was a kind, gentle man who could be funny, grumpy, sweet, and brutally sincere. He loved a good argument — not as combative one-upmanship but as a genuine test of ideas to see if they could be defended. He was also a great cook.

Michael Dean has Ted's obituary, which attempts to encapsulate a life lived passionately.

The small city of Lancaster, Pa. was his most metropolitan experience until going away to college, where he earned a Painting Bachelor of Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1983 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts in 1992. After graduation, Stearn worked as a graphic designer and art director in New York, while creating a series of kinetic sculptures.

In 1992, Stearn began contributing stories to Mazzucchelli’s Rubber Blanket anthology title. The first was a five-pager called “Beach Boy”. Then came the series that would occupy him off and on for his entire career: the desperate adventures of Fuzz and Pluck, a naïve teddy bear and his ill-matched companion, a cocky rooster, who is no less aggressively ambitious for having been plucked naked for the slaughterhouse. Stearn said the characters represented two sides of his own personality and were intended as antiheroic “answers to the cutesiness of Disney in the ’70s and ’80s.”

 

Fondly

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose has our obituary for the French painter and cartoonist Alex Barbier.

Barbier was twice hailed with exhibitions at Angoulême: the first in 1994, the second in 2015. But his real moment of glory came in the late 1970s, via the pages of alternative journal Charlie mensuel. It was there he premiered a series called Lycaons (Wild Dogs). The stories appeared as an album in 1979 and were republished in 2003. Their title alludes to mythology, to Hesiod and Ovid's tales of God being served a slaughtered child (or children) for dinner.

What caused waves was less the story than Barbier's style. His tale did feature aliens, sex between boys, and animals in human form. But it steered as clear of narrative as it did of typical structures. Its text was hyper-cryptic, its chronology scrambled, and there was no space at all between the frames. Barbier's art, fluid and sculptural, was neither truly figurative nor really abstract – and it was drawn in something he called "ligne brouillée". While "brouillé" means "blurry" or "scrambled," the verb from which it comes can also mean "to be at loggerheads."

At the start of Lycaons, Barbier was 25. Before his obligatory year of army service, he had been working as an art instructor. But after one academic year, he was fired. (A telegram told him this was because of his "subversive attitude.") Was it really his red-dyed hair and his love of leopard-skin? "They may have fired me," he sniffed, "but they won't forget me."

Some of the ligne brouillée was derived from Barbier's first materials. Having purchased an inventory of vintage inks secondhand, he discovered that many had dried up in their bottles. He managed to dilute these with something called Correc-bille, a product for reactivating cranky ballpoint pens. The artist started to use these inks, as well as the fluid itself, almost like watercolor. The way he did it is now seen as an important early instance of "colour directe."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The great cartoonist, illustrator, and author Tomi Ungerer died this weekend at the age of 87. We will have more coverage about this soon, but in the meantime, please read our excerpt from Gary Groth's interview with Ungerer if you haven't yet had the chance.

We also recently re-published David Mazzucchelli's great 2017 interview with the late Ted Stearn.

Local Pennsylvania newspaper the Butler Eagle has dropped Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur strip, after discovering a "hidden message" seeming to say "Go Fuck Yourself, Trump" written in one corner of the strip.

—Reviews & Commentary. Sally McGrane reviews Ally Fitzgerald's Drawn to Berlin.

ALI FITZGERALD’S Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe begins, wonderfully, with a drawing of the Plaza Hotel in New York. “Amira liked my book of Eloise’s misadventures in the Plaza Hotel,” Fitzgerald writes about a teenaged Syrian refugee who, along with her family, survived the harrowing journey to Germany in the early days of the refugee crisis that reached Europe in 2015.

Juxtaposed with the drawing of the Plaza’s turrets and flags is a picture of “the bubble,” the squat, inflatable emergency shelter for incoming refugees, where Amira lives — and where Fitzgerald, a Berlin-based American comic artist, volunteered to teach comic drawing classes. “I couldn’t imagine two more different places to spend your youth.”

Brian Nicholson reviews Kickliy's Perdy.

You can find pretty great sketches the artist has executed online, but working sequentially here it seems his intention was primarily to keep the forward momentum going, rather than give the reader images to pore over. This is normally a smart idea, cartooning 101, but actually reading the book, I wanted it to be shorter, more clever, and more concise, and all of those things seem like they would’ve resulted from a more considered approach.

Hard Caught

Today at the Comics Journal, we're questioning our decision to move halfway across the country to a winter hellscape that makes Detroit look positively tropical, and we're doing so while reading all about Subjective Line Weight, the comic project that has consumed Andrea Leigh Shockling as of late

Subjective Line Weight started as an opportunity for me to talk with other women about their bodies and the realization that we all have really complicated conflicting feelings about ourselves. Even somebody who I might project onto them beauty and confidence and all of the things I aspire to and I wish that I had, deep down inside they are just as fucked up as I am. We’re all struggling with the way that we feel about our bodies and our bodies moving through society. I started having more and more of these conversations with people. I have a closed private group on Facebook of friends and acquaintances talking about this sort of thing. I believe that the more that we normalize these stories about our bodies, the better we feel. It doesn’t solve the problem that is women’s bodies are not our own. We can’t master that problem just by sharing our stories, but it’s cathartic and also very validating to recognize yourself in somebody else’s experience.

Today's review comes to us from J. Caleb Mozzocco, who came away from Paco Roca's Twists of Fate sobered, as you should by harrowing real world memoirs of war.

Miguel isn’t the young, idealistic anarchist warrior, suffering and fighting in the hopes of avenging his country against fascism. Nor is he the old man anxiously awaiting a chronic liver disease to claim his life, walking with a crutch to and from the cemetery every day and griping at his younger neighbor. He’s both of those, and more, and by telling his story, and telling the story of him telling his story, Roca creates a fuller, more accurate portrait, giving Miguel an active role and ownership over the graphic novel, even if he never draws a single line of it.

While I love Graeme and Jeff, I couldn't give two shits about The Fantastic Four (except for all the Akira shit they did in the last movie, [kisses fingers forever])--so I never did give their Baxter Building podcast a chance. But I'm hella ready for their next one, Drokk!, which is a monthly podcast running through Judge Dredd, in order. If humanity is still looking at pop culture seriously in the next generation, there's bound to be a moment when John Wagner's work on Judge Dredd gets recognized--there's simply no better run of storytelling out there, and as real life has now grown closer to his pitch-black take on the future to come, no piece of genre that has better captured the psyche behind American decline. I look forward to hearing what those two have to say about the thing--if it's anything like Douglas Wolk's version of the same, it'll be a hell of good time.

While details are still scarce, there has been social media confirmation regarding the death of cartoonist Ted Stearn online. We will have more coverage and a proper obituary in the next few days.

Treescape

Today on the site, R.C. Harvey continues his ongoing series on the legendary feud between Ham Fisher and Al Capp. Here he comes to the climax of the tale, when Fisher went too far even for his fellow cartoonists, and the terrible consequences that ensued.

In due course, the Ethics Committee voted to call Fisher to account for his conduct. Although there was no hard evidence to link Fisher to the alleged forgeries, the cartoonists decided after examining the drawings that Fisher had indeed been the person who had circulated them. Weiss said it was Fisher’s handwritten comments in the borders of the pictures that gave him away: “They saw that this was Ham’s handwriting.” Moreover, all the other surrounding circumstances led to a conclusion that Fisher had in fact done the dirty deed — the long-running feud, Fisher’s almost irrational animosity toward Capp, the episode of the annotated Li’l Abner strips that were circulated to editors a few years before, Fisher’s preoccupation with the alleged pornography in Capp’s work.

On Jan. 24, 1955, Fisher was summoned to a special meeting of the Society’s Board of Governors to hear the charges presented by the Ethics Committee. The Committee charged Fisher with doctoring the drawings and circulating the forgeries to discredit Capp — acts which had the effect of endangering the creative well-being of every other cartoonist. In submitting the drawings to the New York State Joint Committee on the Comics, Fisher had subjected the profession undeservedly to scrutiny by a body that was actively considering measures that would restrict every cartoonist’s freedom of expression. Fisher’s conduct, the Ethics Committee concluded, was “in violation of the entire spirit of the Society and the purposes for which it was established,” reflected “discredit upon the Society and the entire profession of cartooning,” and was “unbecoming a member of the Society.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At Publishers Weekly, Brigid Alverson profiles Spike Trotman.

The mission statement and identity of Iron Circus is “strange and amazing comics,” and Trotman says her goal is to publish unique, unexpected books that wouldn’t find a home anywhere else. Her first step away from doing everything herself came when she started crowdfunding her publishing on Kickstarter soon after the platform launched in 2009. Her first big success was crowdfunding $83,000 in 2012 to publish Smut Peddler, an anthology of erotic comics geared to modern sensibilities, which is now a yearly series. In 2015 she began publishing work by other creators, starting with a print edition of E.J. Weaver’s webcomic The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, again funded on Kickstarter, this time raising $65,000 to publish.

Later that year, PW chose her as one of its Star Watch Honorees. By 2017 Iron Circus and Trotman had raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter to fund about 14 book projects.

—Matthew De Abaitua writes about Alan Moore and Alan Davis's Captain Britain comics.

The crossover with Doctor Who put the strip into the canon of British psychedelia alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor Who. If this Captain was to assemble a team of British Avengers, they would consist of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, Jerry Cornelius, Emma Peel, Sergeant Pepper and Joanna Lumley’s Sapphire from Sapphire and Steel.

—John Holbo writes about Art Young and his connection to wider art history.

Some folks say Expressionism starts, treescape-wise, with Klee’s “Virgin In A Tree” (1903). Some folks might point to earlier, French influence on later German work. The same year Young was caricaturing Bougeaureau, van Gogh was painting “Pollard Willows At Sunset, Arnes” [scroll down].

The correct answer is: the answer is simpler. Expressionism is a caricature style. It grows out of caricature. It grows alongside stuff you see in German satirical magazines – in Simplicissimus, say. Which starts in 1896. But all that hearkens back to earlier, French and English work. To Daumier, especially.

There is a tendency to downplay this, on behalf of the art ‘ideology’ of Expressionism. (I know, I know, it’s not like there was one party line. I’m oversimplifying for blog post purposes.) It was opposed to realism and naturalism, also to Impressionism (allegedly, the way light and color ‘really appears to us’). Expressionism self-styles as ‘inner’ – self-expressive. (Hence the name.) This style of self-advertisement discourages attention to two really rather obvious features.

Cordell

Today at the Comics Journal, we're jumping into Wednesday with a look at the past. We're pleased to share Dan Mazur's extensive look at the work of Ibrahim Njoya who has been called "the first African comics creator". Based off the research Mazur's assembled, the claim fits.

Looking further back, however, the story of sub-Saharan comics in the first half of the 20th century -- during the colonial era -- seems a sparse and rather dreary affair. Published histories present the same few examples of newspaper strips and magazine panels that almost always reflect the racist, paternalistic attitudes of the colonialist or missionary publications in which they originally appeared. These comics were, for the most part, created by non-Africans, and their graphic style derived entirely from European models.     And then there’s Ibrahim Njoya.

Over at Words Without Borders, you'll find a preview of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim's Grass, an upcoming Drawn & Quarterly graphic novel to be released this June.

Over at Sequential.ca, there's a whole new magazine to be found about Canadian comics--reviews, interviews and the like. The first issue being offered up on a pay-what-you-will model. It's been put together by "volunteer writers who are passionate about Canadian comic books and want to see the community grow and connect", and edited by Brendan Montgomery, whose previous work includes the Sequential Blog and the Canadian Independent Comic Book Wiki.

Over at Amazon, you can click on the "see inside" feature to get a little taste of Marc Singer's recently released Breaking The Frames, an academic look at the current state of comics studies. For those of you who crave the red meat of conflict, there's some familiar names to be found.

Over at Bleeding Cool, they've got an excellent example of how the revolting manner in which super-hero artists are treated often doesn't end even when the artist passes away.

Over at Bookriot, Jessica Plummer runs through all the reasons why Guy Gardner is the only Green Lantern worth caring about in a column whose only flaw is that it describes his outfits as "fashion disasters".

Over at Comicosity, Véronique Emma Houxbois goes deep into a Marvel comic I still like, Nextwave, while also remarking upon the often unremarked fact that nobody really talks about Warren Ellis anymore. Especially Warren Ellis. He used to talk about himself all the time!

Over at The Believer, there's a whole crop of new comics content--a comic from Gina Wynbrandt that's about as raw as raw can get, a comic about the impact of #metoo in Sweden from Emei Olivia Burell, "Cayo Cruz" from Alexandra Beguez and an interview with Lauren Weinstein.

Couch

Today on the site, Kim Jooha returns with the third installment of her series on the contemporary Toronto comics scene. This time around, she interviews the artist, cartoonist, and jewelry maker (among many other things) Ginette Lapalme.

Did you watch anime? Or manga?

I watched Sailor Moon. It was on TV. It was dubbed in Canada. I was into Reboot. I don’t know if you’ve seen that before, but it was an early 3-D cartoon about beings who lived in a computer. There were a lot of really good cartoons when I was growing up I think, so I was just way into cartoons. Apart from Sailor Moon, I didn’t see too much anime. I think I caught a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z, but it didn’t feel like it was for me.

Reading manga, I never really had any access to it. My sister was super into it anime; she was into Inuyasha and all these other cartoons that were airing when I was in high school, and I didn’t like those. Even now, I don't tend to pick up too much mainstream manga. I really like My Love Story. It is about a giant high-schooler boy who thinks that every girl that he has a crush on actually likes his best friend instead, because his best friend is super cute. He saves this girl from a subway from a sexual harasser, and they slowly fall in love. Maybe not slowly, but — At first, he has a crush on her, and she has a crush on him. But he doesn’t believe it. He thinks that she’s been wanting to be his friend to get close to his cute best friend. But, they’re actually in love. It’s super innocent. The first three or more of the volumes, they don’t even hold hands. Eventually, that happens, and they make a big deal out of it. Eventually, they kiss each other. It’s very repressed. [Laughs.] But it’s super cute, the way it’s drawn. There’s a lot of funny pages and good expressions. I was into it. It’s also drawn very simply, in a way I like. There are these weird little emoticons-type pages, but I don’t know if I can find those.

Where did you find it at The Beguiling?

I was working at Page and Panel at the time I started reading them. There are only thirteen volumes in the series so it seemed manageable for me.

Only thirteen volumes. [Laughter.]

I know thirteen seems like a lot, but I don’t know.

For manga, it’s not.

Right? There are such longer series that even if they were great, I cannot stay that devoted to it. I was enjoying the first few volumes of 20th Century Boys but when I realized how many there were I gave up pretty early, ha ha.

But it’s a weird pick. Is this the only manga you like?

It’s the only series I’ve read through. [Laughter.] So, I don’t know. I’ve read a few Sailor Moon volumes, but I never picked up all of them.

Also, the editors of the print edition of The Comics Journal have asked us to pass along the following message:

Thank you for your subscription (and your patience). Please send any mailing address updates to customer service at FBI Comix ([email protected]). We will be shipping your copy of The Comics Journal #303 out of our warehouse.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben talks to Caitlin McGurk about an exhibition at the Billy Ireland museum featuring the work of New Yorker cartoonist Barbara Shermund.

The museum has had amazing exhibits and as you mentioned you have a lot of work from a lot of great people. Do you and others see your role and the role of the museum in doing exhibits like this one with Shermund that it’s important to not just display the work of famous artists, but to explore and reframe the history of comics?

That’s exactly what it is. Believe me, we did not think that when we announced a Barbara Shermund exhibit people would be knocking down the door to buy tickets to come to Columbus to get here. No one knows who that is. That’s part of the point. One of the things that we planned early on when we were moving into this new facility about five years ago was that if we were doing an exhibit of a major artist to try to balance that out in the other gallery with an exhibit of a lesser known artist. For example, the previous exhibit I curated was a Koyama Press exhibit. We did that at the same time as a Mad Magazine exhibit. The general public definitely knows Mad Magazine, but they don’t necessarily know who Annie Koyama is. It was amazing because it brought in these people who were here to see Mad who ended up discovering this whole other thing. That’s always been part of our effort.

The National speaks to French historian Louis Blin, author of a new study of Tintin and the Arab world.

By the time of 1950's Land of the Black Gold, which began serialisation in 1948, Herge was already beginning to be something of a political outlier when it came to interpretations of regional events. “It happens in Saudi Arabia, and it's focused on the Jewish/Palestinian question,” says Blin. “He was paying attention to this question long before anyone else was thinking about it, and he even linked it to oil, which wasn't even a big thing at that time in this region. All the oil was [perceived to be] in Central Asia and Iran.”

Despite pressure from his publishers at various points in his career, Herge was himself largely apolitical, even an anarchist according to Blin, and this was evident in Land of the Black Gold. “He didn't take any sides in the book. There were Jews in it, and there were Arabs in it, but there were no good guys or bad guys. That wasn't Herge's way.”

Unfortunately for Herge, it was the way of publishers in the mid-20th century. When the book was sent for English publication, the British publisher insisted that Jews had to be “good guys,” and that Palestine should be substituted with a fictional country. Rather than compromise his political neutrality, Herge opted to undertake a complete rewrite and remove all the Jewish characters from the English translation. Subsequent French editions have also been based on the English version, and only a few copies of the original, French language, first edition remain. This is surely one of the least publicised cases of historical revisionism in the literary world.

The most recent guest on the RiYL podcast is Liana Finck.

—Reviews & Commentary. At The Atlantic, James Parker writes about Mark Dery's Edward Gorey biography.

Gorey comes sliding down the banister of Mark Dery’s Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, not in a tutu but bejeweled, multi-ringed, otter-fur-coated, Lear-ishly bearded, crazy for the New York City Ballet and definitely wanting to live his life this way. “I tend to think life is pastiche,” he said once, or possibly more than once. “I’m not sure what it’s a pastiche of—we haven’t found out yet.”

What shall we call him? A children’s writer who didn’t particularly like children? Gorey produced small illustrated books, booklings, more than 100 of them: black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings of serrated quaintness, elaborately crosshatched, with accompanying text—some prose, mostly verse. Children suffer greatly in these works. They are sold on the street or carried off by eagles. As in Lear’s limericks, many of which function like little torture machines (Till at last, with a hammer, they silenced his clamour), absurdist violence is everywhere.

Chris Mautner reviews Saul Steinberg's The Labyrinth.

Perhaps the thing that defines Steinberg more than anything is his sense of play. Take, for example, the manner in which he constantly turned words and language into visual objects. A man contemplatively holding a question mark. The word “help” perilously falling off the edge of a pier. A lanky, mobile “yes” coming up against a brick-like, thick “no.” This is not a text as we traditionally think of in comics, even when considering the sound effects and onomatopoeia that dot superhero comics. Words gain a concrete heft in Steinberg’s world but in service to a simple idea or even straight-up gag. Sometimes the joke is elusive and ethereal — known perhaps only to Steinberg himself — but it is always clear to the reader that the joke is there. You might just not be getting the subtext.

—Misc. Françoise Mouly and Genevieve Bormes spotlight the work of Sergio García Sánchez.

When Sergio García Sánchez, a Spanish comic-book artist, was given the opportunity to fill a whole room in a museum, he turned to his iPad and decided to sketch, in black-and-white, a single day in a bustling city. The result, produced entirely on an iPad, stretches almost a hundred feet long by five feet high, and just opened at the Centro José Guerrero, in Granada, Spain.

Comics Kingdon has begun Popeye's Cartoon Club, a new online strip featuring a rotating slate of artists, including so far Liniers, Roger Langridge, and Sandra Bell-Lundy.

At Print, Steven Heller shares a short preview of Bill Griffith's new Nobody's Fool.

Today

Today at the Comics Journal, we're launching our week by sharing an extensive look at the collected Windowpane, from Breakdown Press and Joe Kessler.

Over the weekend, multiple contributors to this site contacted both Tim and I regarding a review we published last Thursday. Many of the complaints directed towards us were around the reviewer's use of the word "gynocentrism" to describe certain aspects of the book's narrative. At the time of publication, I myself was ignorant of the word, and assumed (based off what I now realize was extremely too casual googling of the word's most basic definition) that it fit the reviewer's general point. However, due to the amount of feedback we have received and the actual research that I should have done in the first place, it has become clear that the word has been adopted by some mysogynistic hate groups and incel clubs as a way to dismiss and demean women, and while I have spoken with the reviewer and absolutely believe that he was unaware of those connotations and did not intend for the word to have the result it did--that wasn't his job. It was mine, as the editor of said review. My ignorance of the word's adoption in no way lessens the effect it has had, nor does it dismiss my responsibility. I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. I should not have published a review that included that kind of language. The review has been edited to remove the usage of that word, and a note has been attached to reflect those changes.

TBA

Today on the site we have a preview of the new and long-awaited issue of the print edition of The Comics Journal, an excerpt from Gary Groth's career-spanning interview with the great Tomi Ungerer.

GARY GROTH: Do you prefer your writing to your drawing?

TOMI UNGERER: Yes. Definitely, by far. I’ve never been really satisfied with my drawing. It’s always so scattered! I’m a jack of all trades. What am I? I should have just picked up one style and developed it. My drawing is all right. I know I’m known for that, but I would say I prefer my writing the last five or eight years.

You’ve talked about how there’s no demarcation between your writing and your drawing.

No, there isn’t. This is why I always tell to young people who are illustrating children’s books, I always tell them, “Please, just write your own stories, or take a story which exists and rewrite it.” All famous children’s books which have remained have been written and illustrated by the same person. That’s a fact.

Don’t you think that when you’re drawing, in a way you’re also writing?

Yes, definitely. In German, aufzeichnen is taking notes and zeichnen is to draw. And so, I said, “OK, translate it in English, that’s my answer.” I draw what I write and I write what I draw.

That seems imperative.

When you see my sketches, I do a sketch in my sketchbook and then all the lines and the things. And when I write, strange little aphorisms and stories, they’re completely unrelated. I jump from one language to another, from one subject to the other. You would think, “This is impossible that this was written within the last five minutes.” It’s completely unrelated. I don’t know where it’s coming from, I’ve no idea. It just comes and hits me. Pop and voilà!

Craig Fischer is here, too, with a review of the first two issues of Pat Palermo's Live / Work.

I discovered Palermo only last year, even though he’d won a Xeric award in 2006 for his comic Cut Flowers, and self-published the first issue of Live / Work in 2012. But I’m relieved I’ve found him now. In a market ruled by manga-influenced YA graphic novels, “mainstream” superheroes, and minimalist art comix, Palermo’s heavily-plotted, narratively compressed, naturalistic, lushly-drawn serial ensemble comedy feels refreshingly new, but only because too few cartoonists make comics like this anymore.

Palermo’s narrative focuses on three characters in their twenties and early thirties. The first introduced is Rich, a skinny-pants hipster who read too much Baudrillard in art school, and whose current job is procuring pop culture objects for collectors—and for artists looking to incorporate a little kitsch into their installations and canvases. (He also has a strong contrary opinion about the most influential Pylon song.) Next is Mike, a whiskey-drinking Sluggo in a black hoodie who does freelance grunt work for upscale Manhattan artists. And there’s Abi, an energetic would-be painter pining for her absent girlfriend. In her position as the administrative assistant for an influential and obliviously callous sculptor, Abi meets Rich and Mike and inadvertently sets in motion the events—which converge at the end of Live / Work #2—for the trio to become roommates.

But Palermo’s ensemble is much broader than these three main characters. One metaphor for Live / Work’s expansive cast is the cover to issue #1, where the faces of Rich, Mike, and Abi are hidden by Palermo’s circular composition. But we can see the profile of Veronica, a gallery receptionist and aspiring painter, next to the open-mouthed shock of an obsessive portraitist named Ben as everyone looks down at a broken statue.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The French artist Alex Barbier has died. More later.

El Museo de Barrio has cancelled an upcmoing exhibition of Alejandro Jodorowsky's work after concerns were aired about a passage in 1972's El Topo: A Book of the Film.

In that account, the director said that he and an actress had gone into the desert to film a scene, taking with them only a photographer and technician.

The Telegraph said that Mr. Jodorowsky had instructed the actress to begin striking him and then cited the book, which says: “After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed.”

The whereabouts of the actress could not be ascertained, and no record that she commented publicly on the scene described in the book could be found.

Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, Jodorowky's wife, issued a statement Wednesday defending him, saying that “Words are not acts" and claiming that Jodorowsky “never raped anyone.” Jodorowsky has repeatedly denied that the passage was factual in the years since its publication.

—Reviews & Commentary. In an interview with the New York Times, author Marlon James repeatedly extols comics.

Growing up in Jamaica in the ’70s and ’80s, I never had the privilege of discriminating against books. I grabbed whatever I could borrow, steal or get for free. My sci-fi cinematic universe was not made up of films at all, but film novelizations of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” I read whatever my friends’ parents tossed out, from Leon Uris, to John le Carré, to James Clavell, to my beloved Jackie Collins. I didn’t even realize I was supposed to view “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as a different kind of work from Gilbert Hernandez’s “Palomar” until I entered a lit class. The distinction was and is a stupid one, but it might explain why not nearly enough readers know that “Palomar” is the best American novel of the past 35 years.

Brian Nicholson writes about Saul Steinberg's The Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth is an art book somewhere between a monograph and a sketchbook, edited and ordered for maximum readability as sets of ideas are explored. Many of those ideas are about drawing, and the drawing often feels close to doodling, as many pieces explore what you can do with a single line without removing pen from paper. It is arguably “not comics,” in that there isn’t a story you read from panel to panel, but the relationship to comics is pretty clear. If you are a maker of “avant-garde” or “art” comics, this book would be as informative to your process as reading E.C. Segar’s Popeye* would be for someone who writes Iron Man. Originally published in 1960, it was recently reprinted by NYRB, although not through their comics imprint, which has published artists whose work is prefigured here. Certain drawings seem to outline ideas that would be elaborated on in Pushwagner’s Soft City (drawn in the seventies, and published by NYRB a few years back), and drawings of people playing music, where the sound is rendered as various abstractions, bring to mind stuff in Blutch’s Total Jazz, published by Fantagraphics in 2018, though NYRB handled an English-language version of his book Peplum in 2016.

—RIP. Dick Miller.

Sacrifice Your Daze

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got our first Alex Dueben interview of 2019--it's with Nicole Hollander, who released her first memoir with Fantagraphics late last year. 

Do you enjoy creating but having this give and take as part of the process, whether with an editor or designer or your friend?

I do, because you’ve written something that’s completely yours and then you try to make it into a story that two people can read on stage. It has the same theme, but it’s not the same story at all. That’s really fun because some things happen that you don’t know are going to happen. She also worked as an editor so she would go through it. I’ve made up forms of grammar that don’t exist so something has to watch me. [laughs] My possessive plural are not always accurate.

But similar to how you wanted to tell this memoir, you don’t like being constrained by form, but you also need someone to go, maybe do this, or that works better.

Yes. "Why don’t you just take a second look at that?" [laughs]

I may even be wrong about this, but the graphic novels that I’ve looked at seem to be constrained by those panels. They have lines around them. They have spaces between the panels. It seems very tight to me.

Today's review comes to us from Jake Murel, and it's of Carolyn Nowak's Girl Town, one of 2018's most warmly received comics.

In this way Girl Town is characterized by what its back cover describes as Nowak’s ability to “capture the spirit of our time.” Each included comic explores the human longing for connection amidst an ever increasingly technological age faced with the inverse decline of real-world social capital. “Diana’s Electric Tongue” portrays this most literally in that Diana purchases a robot lover to cope with the termination of a significant relationship. In other comics, the connection to technological development is less overt, even non-existent, but the undergirding cultural tenor of felt isolation despite increased potential for social connectivity remains. Nowak’s protagonists stand in the grips of harrowing emotional solitude. All attempt, and some succeed, to find connection with both an internal self and others by learning to love and let themselves be loved in return. This emphasis on self-love combined with the yearning for unconditional acceptance in the face of emotional insulation stands as a hallmark of the millennial zeitgeist. Nowak’s ability for capturing this generational spirit may be her chief appeal.

In the go to another website category, I thought it was interesting to find out that one part of the comics industry--the part where they put single issues of super-heroes in plastic shields which then have numbers written across the top--regularly destroys any really nice copies of a comic book beyond a certain, agreed-upon-in-advance quantity so that they then can legitimately say "these are the only copies of said quality of really-nice-ness". At the end of the day, nearly everybody has a stupid job, a job that takes them away from the people they love for longer than is desirable and is often only in service of helping companies generate income they will not share with anyone but those who do not need it. But even by that metric, the metric wherein one extreme is washing the cracked lips of the suffering and the other is...podcasting at Engadget, or whatever, editing TCJ, sure--destroying copies of shitty comics so that the undestroyed leftovers can have more fake value in a fake economy has to be one of the dumbest ways to spend ones life in this sullen year that is 2019. The worst part of extreme climate change is going to be the part where my daughter doesn't get to live past the age of...23, probably?...but the second worst part is that I don't get to be there watching when somebody's entire collection of Mike Mayhew variant covers bursts into flames due to a wind chill of 146 degrees above Celsius.

In the interesting writing about Breccia category (a category we dominate, thanks to Seneca and Suat), Dominic Umile has decided to make a play for the title. See if you can spot the part where he blinks.

In the why do I care, I'm embarrassing myself category, I came across these images of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle in DC's most recent piece of shit comic by Tom King and have to register my dismay that they brought back Ted Kord's unexplainable six-pack. Newsflash, buster: the jokes weren't what sold those characters back in the Giffen/Maguire days. The jokes were a byproduct of the characters themselves--they were the result of showing two people who had no real use in the narratives they were thrust into, and simply letting those characters react to that odd insertion over time. The organic development those characters were allowed to have (a development that came to be by allowing the same creators to take their time and play long, languid games) is what gave them life. Ted Kord's post JL reality--getting paunchy, and eventually abandoning costumes to hang out in a lab and platonically flirt with Oracle--that was the kind of arc that DC used to let these off-brand oddball characters have. That simplicity and kindness was the reason it was so gross to kill him in the gonzo way Geoff Johns did back in another of piece of shit comic that DC came out with in their never-ending attempt to dumb-up themselves. Kord wasn't an interesting hero--but he was a hell of a stand-in for readers, and he became the crows-feet on an aging father's smiling face. Watching him develop was watching the comic book personification of growing old gracefully--and that's the main thing that DC seems completely terrified of doing, over and over and again.

Political Madness

Today on the site, Rob Clough is here with a review of Sergio Ponchione's comics-history fantasia Memorabilia.

Some European cartoonists are attracted to the myths of America. For example, Moebius was fascinated by the mysticism of Native American culture in the later Blueberry comics. Then there's Belgian cartoonist Morris and his long-running Lucky Luke. More recently, Christophe Blain's Gus and His Gang pays tribute both to the Western and the tropes created by its comics adaptation.

Ponchione, on the other hand, is attracted to the myths (and realities) of the American comic-book creator. Memorabilia is an expansion of a comic book he did for Fantagraphics a few years ago, where Ponchione plays the role of mysterious and vaguely discomfiting mentor, much like his own Mr. O'Blique character. The comic opens with Ponchione welcoming a young cartoonist into his home, one who has had some strange dreams. That leads to the meat of the matter: Ponchione's tributes to his cartooning heroes. He begins with Steve Ditko, in a story called "The Mysterious Steve". In the wake of sometimes weird, intrusive attempts to contact the reclusive Ditko before his death and the focus on his reclusive nature after he died, Ponchione's tribute is simple and respectful. Imitating Ditko's shadowy, distorted style, he indulges in drawing some of Ditko's best-known characters when he imagines what it's like behind his apartment door. But he leaves the story with the simple, basic truth: he was a solitary man who expressed all he had to say to the world through his stories, every day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Longtime New York City retail landmark St. Mark's Comics announced on Facebook yesterday that they are closing down.

EV Grieve has a short interview with owner Mitch Cutler (via Heidi MacDonald):

In a brief phone conversation this afternoon, longtime owner Mitch Cutler said that a variety of factors, from increasing rents to changing consumer shopping habits, played a role in his decision to close up shop here at 11 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

"There are a number of things that contributed to [the closing]. I have been working 90 hours a week for 36 years, and I no longer have the wherewithal to fight them — all of these various reasons," Cutler said. "It is challenging to have a storefront business in New York City for a number of reasons ... it is challenging to keep and maintain a retail storefront and there are enough impediments now that — like I said, I'm exhausted and can't fight them anymore."

At Apollo, Martin Rowson writes about Saul Steinberg.

Far more compelling is the way that [his aesthetic] was underpinned by a mash-up of Balkan orientalism, flight, fear and murderous political madness. For decades, Steinberg was lauded for his contribution to this aesthetic, often by the kind of European modernist he had been forced to leave behind. Le Corbusier told him ‘You draw like a king’; he was praised by Ernst Gombrich, Italo Calvino, Eugène Ionesco and Roland Barthes, attaining a cultural superstardom rare for cartoonists. Even more than Ronald Searle and Ralph Steadman, Steinberg closed the gap between what ‘cartooning’ is often assumed to be – cheaply reproduced, silly scribbles knocked out to make you laugh – and ‘art’, which is supposedly so much nobler.

Returners

Today's Comics Journal features the latest installment in R.C. Harvey's serial column, Hubris and Chutzpah. In this installment, Harvey covers some of the nastiness that occurred on the way towards a syndicate-enforced truce between Al Capp and Ham Fisher.

FISHER’S QUARREL WITH HIS ONE-TIME ASSISTANT continued and became an obsession, and that, coupled to his own oft-trumpeted self-importance, made Fisher a colossal boor. It also made him the perfect target for any number of practical jokes staged by other cartoonists, most of whom by this time had little regard for him.

Once, as reported by Bob Dunn in Cartoonist Profiles #40 (December 1978), when Fisher threatened to derail a charity luncheon at “21” from its purpose by usurping the agenda to attack Capp, one of the group slipped out and recruited a comely young woman to deliver Fisher’s comeuppance.

Unannounced, she walked into the third-floor private room and made straight for Fisher. She was good-looking enough to stop conversation; everyone watched her progress in silence. Giving Fisher a brilliant smile, she handed him a piece of blank paper and asked for his autograph. Almost certainly dazzled by her beauty and flattered by the obvious adoration of such a gorgeous creature and gratified by thoughts of the envy her admiration must inspire in those around him, Fisher drew the face of his famous character and signed it “with all good wishes from Joe Palooka and Ham Fisher.”

The girl took the paper and stared at it in frowning perplexity. Then, tearing the paper twice and dropping the pieces on the floor, she exclaimed, “You’re not Al Capp? I wanted Al Capp’s autograph!” She turned on her heels and strode away.

Today's review comes from Keith Silva, and it's a look at one of the more critically lauded mini-comics of recent memory, Richie Pope's That Box We Sit On. Silva's into it:

The obvious (and most important?) question—“What if the box is just a box?”—becomes the narrative’s penultimate question, a saving throw for enlightenment, truth. At the top of page fourteen, in the upper-right-hand panel, Pope draws the box from the inside, nominal lines that look like an internet ‘hamburger menu’ preside over a jumble of paper, balls and scraps suspended in an ebony void. One boy reckons, “All the pieces of paper we slip in the box vents are still inside it.” The adjoining panel shows the outside of the box complete with a near swear, smiley and “Cool S.” Pope beats the box up some, it’s not straight-line precise, there’s a bend in the seam to reinforce how long the box has been around, perhaps as long as humans have been turning these sorts of boxes over in their minds. The graffiti and the scraps of paper form a palimpsest of existential ills, stops and starts. The middle left-hand panel looks like a how a kid would pull-off (or imagine) drawing a cube in two-dimensions. While on the right-hand side the box unfolds, the top or lid of the box ascends to possibly reunite with the mothership … of boxes. The boy says, “The sides of the box are just the sides of the box and that’s it.”

I'm returning from ALA Midwinter, which was more strongly attended than was anticipated this year. It also had a heavier comics presence than in previous years, in part because of the proximity of Fantagraphics & Image to the Seattle location, in part because of the growing numbers of comics readers within the ALA organization. In celebration , I joined other comics industry folks for a screening of the motion picture Glass, after we heard about how prominently the movie featured comics criticism as a plot point. It was not as good as Aquaman, but I'll admit that I am biased heavily towards any movie which features Julie Andrews playing an immortal multi-tentacled Dunwich Horror-inspired hellbeast.

Bend Your Head

Start your week off right with Mark Newgarden's talk with Mark Dery, author of Born to Be Posthumous, the recent biography of Edward Gorey.

One of the things I admired about Born To Be Posthumous was the careful attention paid to the individual books themselves. While stylistically of a piece, they’ve always struck me as a powerfully diverse body of work, often incorporating perverse and ingenious formal goals. What were you able to you glean about the ways that Gorey ideas gestated and Gorey books took shape?

Only what I was able to piece together through guesswork, since few interviewers ever thought to ask Gorey how he hatched ideas. He kept a little pad with him at all times, more for jotting down ideas for books or adding to his vast store of obscure or sesquipedalian words. It’s important to remember that he considered himself a writer first. (He once called his highly compressed narratives “Victorian novels all scrunched up.”) He was a devout fan of the Times crossword and an obsessive collector of archaic or arcane words or those he just found delicious. In The Nursery Frieze, he sets one of his word lists to visual music, so to speak, a procession of unrelated words marching across its pages in rhymed couplets.

But Gorey was a bona fide polymath whose encyclopedic erudition and sweeping art-historical literacy often fed his imagination: The Object-Lesson was directly inspired by the 18th-century dramatist Samuel Foote’s nonsense poem “The Grand Panjandrum”; The West Wing nods to Magritte and Ernst’s collage novels and the Egyptian Book of the Dead; he got the idea for his unfinished book, The Interesting List, from the fictitious taxonomy cited by Jorge Luis Borges in his essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”; The Pious Infant is a deadpan parody of Puritan children’s literature, specifically A Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children (1671–'72) by the Puritan divine James Janeway; The Hapless Child was inspired by L’Enfant de Paris (1913), a silent movie by the French director Léonce Perret, which as I noted in the book Gorey saw just once, at one of the Museum of Modern Art’s Saturday morning screenings. (He had a remarkable visual memory; it seems to have been photographic, or close to it—he claimed to be able to watch, in his head, any of the New York City Ballet performances he’d ever seen, and he saw thousands in the course of his nearly three decades of ballet-going.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Angoulême festival has announced this year's winners. The Grand Prix went to Rumiko Takahashi, and the Fauve d'Or to Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

The huge staffing cuts at Gannett last week claimed hundreds of newspaper jobs, including those of cartoonist Charlie Daniel and Pulitzer winner Steve Benson.

Benson is a veteran of the Republic, joining the paper in 1981. He won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993 and was a finalist for the award in 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1994. Although most of his career has been in Arizona, he did a brief stint at the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington in the early ’90s.

Republic executive editor Greg Burton deferred questions to a Gannett spokesperson. The spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

—Reviews & Commentary. Louis Proyect comments on a new collection of the Gilbert Shelton-edited Radical America Komiks.

Turning to the actual work in Komiks, you will find much of it a lot rawer than what you might have expected in a comic book put out by the Trotskyists or the CP (not that these sects would have ever thought outside the box.) The old left esthetic was very much in the agitprop vein, with clearly delineated heroes and villains—the working class on one side of the barricades and the bosses on the other.

—Interviews & Profiles. Françoise Mouly speaks briefly to Tom Gauld about his new New Yorker cover.

I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to grow anything indoors. I like the idea of gardening but never get around to actually doing much. When I conceived this image, I was thinking of my uncle’s house when I was a child. We lived in the countryside with a big garden surrounded by fields and forests, but he lived in the city in a small house that was completely stuffed with plants. It made a real impression on me, and I can clearly remember sleeping there once with a big plant looming over me.

Seattle Bon

Today at The Comics Journal, we're sitting down with Sarah Horrocks, the prolific cartoonist (who also writes comics criticism on the side, including some that she writes with us). She's here to speak with Helen Chazan about her most recent work, an adaptation of Euripedes' Bacchae

Is this more textured style something you’ve always wanted to achieve in your art? Is there anything particular to this work that prompted these stylistic changes?

I’ve always been interested in more textural work. It was work like Sienkiewicz’s Stray Toasters that made me want to be a comic artist in the first place--and Alberto Breccia is a huge influence as well. I love texture because it gives you more dimensions to work in, and allows me to communicate my emotions as an artist behind the story or page. And I just think it looks cool.

I also had a revelation while reading Zanardi by Pazienza, that no matter what style I worked in, it would always look like me, so the coherency of a page can just simply be my inclinations as an artist. What communicates the emotion of this panel, of this page; what makes this composition right--and not: “well I drew that character like that in the previous panel, so I should keep with it”--to me the consistency is that it’s all coming out of my pen/brush. 

As for anything prompting any change. I think Bacchae looks how it looks, because I’ve been working in black and white on Goro for a year, and wanted to do something in color again.  But also that’s just kind of how I saw it in my head. Each comic should look the way that works best for what it is.  So across Leopard, Goro, and Bacchae my style shifts wildly--but you can see this in my old old anthology work too where styles would shift radically between stories.  I always see these things, and then do my best to put them out in front of me, even if it requires me to work differently than I ever have previously. If I had a comic that I thought I should do in watercolors, I would just learn how to do watercolors. That’s my approach to comics as an artist. I’ll never limit the stories I can tell by what I think I can or can’t achieve as an artist, for better or worse.

Our review of the day comes to us from Ryan Carey, who has been keeping up with the Black Hook releases of Dokudami Tenement, and has some thoughts on the third volume.

It’s not enough, however, to propel it beyond the realm of the ultimately exploitative, and playing a lot of Franky’s mannerisms and modes of self-expression for laughs certainly doesn’t help, but the character is at least allowed the dignity of being something other than a simple one-note cipher, and there is an acknowledgement on Fukutani’s part that their struggle for acceptance (both from themselves and others) is not only valid in a more general sense, but also crucial to their emotional and psychological survival. Unfortunately, Fukutani has a persistent habit of trying to pull  cheap and easy punch-lines out of Franky’s trials and tribulations, and this consistently pushes the proceedings back down to something just slightly above gutter level --- but there’s an attempt at something more here, even if the narrative can never seem to allow itself to achieve it.

Multiple comics sites published articles in the last couple of days regarding DC Comics, which has begun the process of firing people in an attempt to restructure the company into one that appears more profitable via the easiest method possible. This round up of reactions to Mark Chiarello's firing is pretty spot on--regardless of my continued middle-aged spurred disinterest in basically everything DC publishes that isn't a reprint of something from the 1980's, Mark did good work at that company. (Here's an old Comics Alliance article by some familiar names on one of the best pieces of that work.) The past few weeks have seen more than a handful of concerned to furious articles about the current state of this part of the comics business--which is not to say that there haven't been some pretty hopeful ones too--but the timing of these firings, and the lack of any concrete sense that DC has any real plan doesn't instill a lot of confidence. Hope ain't a tactic, y'all.

Ring Ring

Today on the site we have the final (for now?) episode of Greg Hunter's excellent podcast, Comic Book Decalogue. Appropriately, he goes out with an important guest, Carol Tyler. Greg plans to continue contributing to the site from time to time, but his podcast will be much-missed.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—As mentioned last week, John Porcellino has launched a new weekly strip at The Chicago Reader. Melissa Mendes has started one, too.

—The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards have been announced. One of the contenders in the autobiography section is Nora Krug's Belonging, and, refreshingly, I haven't noticed anyone making a big deal about a comic being named.

—Gordon Dahlquist recommends Walt Kelly's Pogo.

The material is both arrantly silly and satirically sharp. Walt Kelly’s insistent lampooning of McCarthyism takes a place next to The Crucible as far as artistic stands of the American 1950s, but political commentary is only a grace note to the fullness of this world. The detail and depth of the art, the whimsical quasi-Southern dialect (and spelling, and lettering), and the expansive range of characters (and characterizations) are equally singular. Kelly lays out a crackling music-hall sensibility of routines, equal parts word-play and slap-stick, self-consciously old-fashioned and slyly up to the moment. Though it’s impossible to imagine strips like Doonesbury or Bloom County without it, Pogo is like nothing before or since in the newspapers.

Whoopsy Hate-sy

Today at TCJ, we've got a nice, deep dive into...The Teen Titans? Yup, you read that correctly. Michel Fiffe's Fiffe Files returns with its monthly does of dusty longbox-ing. But..the Titans?

Aw, but that's too many comics to look for and collect and read. Who has the time? C'mon, it's not that much to collect... at least it's not Claremont-written mutant titles. Well, I just cleared 5 longboxes full of unread stuff from my studio... it got overwhelming and literally in the way. Okay, but this would only be one longbox, tops. Yeah, but I know Teen Titans is gonna disappoint me, though... it's not their fault but it will fail to deliver what I need at this moment. I know it will. It happened with John Byrne's Namor, Jim Valentino's Guardians of the Galaxy, Dwayne McDuffie's Deathlok (that one kinda broke my heart), Firestorm/Hawkworld/Eternal Warrior by John Ostrander, New Warriors by Nicieza and the Bag Man... it goes on and on. As if binge reading automatically unlocks magical qualities. Is it a quest for exciting new stories that drives me, or is it just an excuse to nurture this neurosis? Might be both! I hate this habit of mine, this hungry and impatient consumer-monster with an optimistic streak driving my decisions. Clearly, the rush is in the hunting, the amassing, the checklist fetish, the sense of completion. But it's never complete, is it? That hole you want to fill just keeps getting as big as your tolerance lets it. Hey, maybe if I stuff this terrible meal down my throat I'll grow to love it. It never works.

It. Never. Works.

Our review of the day comes to us from Chris Mautner--he's taking a look at Tinderella, M.S. Harkness's debut graphic novel, which was published by Kilgore Books last year.

The most interesting thing about Tinderellais its sudden and sharp shift in tone about two thirds of the way through. Prior to that moment, the book appeared to be an entertaining if rather familiar look at the trials and tribulations of modern dating. But Harkness reaches for something deeper and more emotionally resonant towards the end, both strengthening the book and suggesting that she is a more thoughtful author than first glances would imply.

Over at The MNT, there's a solid interview with a couple of comics retail mainstays, James Sime & Ryan Higgins.