Five Card Stud

Well hello there. The book world, or parts of it, has gathered at Book Expo America. I'll be there today, all day, attempting to sell books or myself, whichever comes first.

Today on the site Joe McCulloch brings us his wisdom pertaining to the comics scene of today and yesterday. And Sara Varon continues her tenure as diarist-in-residence.

Elsewhere in the universe... a series of bits of information:

-Julia Wertz nicely summarizes the comic convention experience.

-Oliver Schrauwen is self-publishing a "long story". Looks good.

-Robin McConnell interviews Maurice Vellekoop.

- Jordan Crane has a Tumblr. The Seattle Star profiles Jeffrey Brown.

-Tom Spurgeon reviews some 1970s Avengers comics.

-Tom Gauld and Guy Delisle draw each other.

-And finally, the Stripper's Guide profiles Tarpe Mills.




Big day on the site today. First, we have Ryan Standfest's report from the University of Chicago's recent "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" conference. An excerpt from his write-up on the Art Spiegelman/W.J.T. Mitchell panel:

Addressing what happens when comics become wall art allowed into galleries and museums, Spiegelman noted: “There is more to the Faustian deal than I originally thought. There are sub-clauses. The mingling of words and pictures is now allowed, and what is being achieved is way past Lichtenstein, way past Barbara Kruger. Something new is emerging. The avant-garde is exploring a new place where the pictures are not as easily articulated, not as happily contained.” This led the conversation to a dual consideration of new media and how a younger generation of cartoonists is reconsidering the form itself. “A book is easier to make because of this thing that is supposedly killing it. There is now a focus on the book as object—a new function in the world of the iPad.” Spiegelman noted that the history of comics has been the history of printing up until now, and that the medium has looked to the book-as-object as an answer. “The book, or ‘graphic novel’ is the current dominant form of the comic. The problem is that it requires great labor.” He indicated, however, that the book does not play to the greatest asset of the comics form—that the medium is one of compression, of reducing-down— the shorter, the better. In response, Spiegelman sounded a note about a move away from the book and a return to short-form comics out of the necessity of doubling as “wall art.”

Yesterday brought with it, of course, another installment of Frank Santoro's Riff Raff column. In it, he writes short reviews of comics by Tin Can Forest, Connor Willumsen, and Ed Choy.

Sara Varon, creator of Robot Dreams and Bake Sale, is the latest artist to agree to contribute to our Cartoonist's Diary feature. Her week begins here, appropriately enough with an interdepartmental cookie bake-off.

And in our reviews department, Sean T. Collins tackles Katie Skelly's Nurse Nurse. An excerpt:

Katie Skelly has an endearing cartooning style, an unlikely hybrid between Junko Mizuno and John Porcellino. While they’re in motion — and in this Barbarella-esque, demurely sexy sci-fi spaceship romp, that happens fairly frequently — her characters have a fluid, curving quality to them. Their designs are usually pretty strong, too. The title character, a young interplanetary nurse named Gemma whose inaugural assignment to treat colonists poisoned by alien atmospheres that goes badly wrong right out of the gate, and her eventual rescuer, a Inuit-like Martian named Träume, are strong enough that Skelly’s choice to duplicate them with clones and identical siblings is a delight in and of itself; the furious, furry black-and-white space pirate Pandaface has such a cool design I want to steal it wholesale.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—You have until midnight tonight to vote in this year's Eisner Awards.

—Jeet Heer wrote to draw my attention to part one of a very in-depth look at Canadian cartoonist Jimmy Frise, which he compares to Seth and Brad Mackay's work on their Doug Wright book.

—Interviews dept. Here's part two of Michael Dooley's interview with Squa Tront editor John Benson, this time focusing in on The Sincerest Form of Parody (which I highly recommend for Mad fanatics, by the way). Tom Spurgeon talks at length with Zack Soto. Michel Fiffe interviews Tony Salmons.

—Robin McConnell of Inkstuds weighs in on the Before Watchmen controversy, and Noah Berlatsky editorializes upon it for Slate.

—Andrew Rilstone tries to find neutral ground in the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee wars.

—A hand-drawn Tintin in America cover sold at auction for a record-breaking $1.6 million.

—As I believe we reported on the blog a while back (if not, I meant to), Ruben Bolling recently decided to begin offering digital subscriptions to his long-running Tom the Dancing Bug strip. Last week, he announced that it has already become his single biggest source of revenue.

Helpful Hints

Today on the site:

Nicole Rudick reviews Are You My Mother? and finds it a mixed experience.

Memoirs, even if they’re meant to describe the life of a person other than the author, are necessarily in part about the author—the story is, after all, from his or her perspective. Though Fun Home thoroughly traces her father’s life and works to show his interior life, the must haves and probablys Bechdel uses in imagining things he might have said or done make her the subject as much as her father; it is every bit about endeavoring to know a man she felt she may not have fully known. Mother, however, reveals little about its ostensible subject. There are too few details about her relations with her mother—we revisit some of the same events, each time with a new set of tools (courtesy Winnicott) with which to dissect the moment, to peer deeper into its inner workings, its dark corners. The results are sometimes fascinating—such as the multiple viewings of the same play at different points in the timeline—but it’s unfair to the potential richness of the narrative (and to the relationship) to make a handful of scenes stand in for five decades of mothering and daughtering.

And the mighty Tucker Stone, aided and abetted by Abhay Khosla, presents a more meditative column this week, taking in Chicago, the '90s and the Wall Street Journal. Also, props to our own Mike Reddy! Now that's a column.

Some quick links today:

Somehow these guys find time to talk about comics EVEN MORE. So here are Joe McCulloch's latest notes on Comic Books Are Burning In Hell,with Matt Seneca and Tucker Stone. Intense comics tawk.

-This has been making the rounds and so why not a stop at the TCJ station: Bill Murray as the Human Torch in 1975. That reminds me of Saturday Night Live, which reminds me of two things: First, I still really enjoy early Chevy Chase movies: Fletch, National Lampoon's Vacation... even that one with Goldie Hawn. And second: I've never seen Where the Buffalo Roam. Is it good?

-Ah, and step back in time, then move forward again and think of the lost stature of early 20th century illustrator Frederic Rodrigo Gruger.

-Well, I certainly love Jimmy Thompson and Robotman.

-Finally, and not that this matters, but my earliest comic book art memories are of Jim Aparo's drawings. His fan club site hasn't been updated in a while. Makes me realize I know very little about the man, so maybe I'll just dip in for a minute this weekend.

Catching Up

First up, here on the site, Rob Clough is back with another High-Low column. In this one, he's going international:

One of the interesting things about reading current comics is the truly international reach that small press artists now have. Thanks in large part to the internet, artists have a chance at reaching audiences from across the globe. It’s not just the web, however—in what seems like a fulfillment of Dylan Horrocks’s Hicksville, minicomics and handsome books are appearing from countries not necessarily known for their alt-comics scenes. In this column, I’ll be looking at comics by cartoonists from Poland, Latvia, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Turkey. (I’m still waiting for the Mongolian mini-comics mentioned in Hicksville to show up on my doorstep.)

Elsewhere there are a million things.

First, all the interviews. Every single one of these is worth reading, watching, or listening to, believe it or not. Don't let your eyes glaze over. Daniel Clowes spoke to the AV Club, and to NPR. (Yr pal and mine Frank Santoro has thoughts on the latter here.) Alison Bechdel also spoke to NPR. Longtime Mad writer Dick DeBartolo talked to the Paris Review! Guy Delisle spoke to the Guardian. Comics scholar and Squa Tron editor John Benson talked to Print. Dylan Horrocks talked to the Italian website Conversazioni Sul Fumetto. (Barely comics--& some people could skip this one, actually: Glenn Danzig talks to the L.A. Weekly about his alternate-dimension movie performance as Wolverine.) Finally, via everyone, a really great Fear No ART interview with Chris Ware:

Awards winners were announced for both the Eagle Awards, and the Reubens.

Dept. of the World is Changing. Herman creator Jim Unger has passed away. Tom Batiuk was profiled on the 40th anniversary of Funky Winkerbean. Dave Sim announces a Kickstarter project to release digital editions of Cerebus (and more or less immediately reaches his goal). There is now a Jack Davis blog.

Dept. of Miskellaneous. Zak Sally follows up his recent Inkstuds appearance with a longer explanation of his position on Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Stan Lee and creators' rights. Warren Ellis talks webcomics page (or screen) formatting. The Team Cul de Sac auction has begun (and is selling lots of great-looking stuff). Stephen Bissette shares some really early, rare gay comic books. Matt Seneca names Paradax as one of the Greatest Comics of All Time.

—There, that oughta hold the little bastards!

Gray Matter

Today on the site:

Ken Parille brings us Six Observations about Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Archive Are You My Mother?:

Bechdel subtitled Fun Home (her previous graphic novel) “A Family Tragicomic.” Are You My Mother?’s subtitle, “A Comic Drama,” echoes this phrase. Both genre terms (comedy and drama) are curious words to preface this book with. Though it includes a few lightly comic scenes, Are You My Mother? is relentlessly serious. Its non-linear structure often moves rapidly between scenes, excerpts from other writers, and personal archival materials —usually without identifying the chronology.


-Paul Gravett scoops us all with a check-in with the great Mark Beyer.

-Designer, illustrator and the author of a couple recent graphic novels, Seymour Chwast, has a new children's book out.

-Paul Tumey dissects a classic Milt Gross Sunday page.

-Of course. What could be better?

-I may be late to the party, but I really enjoyed Angie Wang's Girl Apocalypse mini-comic. Great imagery and pacing.




On Fumes

Today, we present Chris Mautner's interview with Eddie Campbell about his latest graphic novel, The Lovely, Horrible Stuff. An excerpt:

CAMPBELL: Most people take a lot of things for granted, like what a thing is worth and how much they should get paid for an hour’s work etc., but for a few other people nothing arrives without a set of negotiations. Like agreeing on how much is to be paid then, when the time comes, having to phone up to make it happen, then having to shepherd the money through international exchange channels. Nothing is ever worth the same amount twice. I don’t take anything for granted. There was a time when I got two Australian dollars for one American. Now I get less than one. And I make all my income from foreign countries, so multiply the problem by Euros and pounds. So yes, I guess I see money differently from Joe Average. Explaining it to my wife is where the difficulty resides.

And of course, Joe McCulloch is back with his usual Tuesday column on the week in comics.

We're still running on vacation time here, so undoubtedly we're missing a lot, but here are a few comics-related links worth looking at.

—Perhaps the most surprising development was the Wall Street Journal's publication of this review, which uses the occasion of Christopher Irving's Leaping Tall Buildings to display attitudes towards Marvel and DC and creators' rights more typical of your average comics blogger than you'd expect to find in a financial newspaper. (A sample: "If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new 'Avengers' comic, why don't more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.")

—J. Caleb Mozzocco notes the appearance of a creator portraits page at the DC Comics website, which Mozzocco thinks may have been spurred on by some of Chris Roberson's public comments upon his departure from the company.

—Finally, it's always worth noting when Robert Boyd is writing about new comics. Here he is on three recent "art comics" he thinks show signs of being influenced by the more cosmic side of Jack Kirby.

Has the Three-Day Weekend Started Yet?

It's coming up on Memorial Day here in the States, so we've got a meaty article to keep you going over the weekend, an excerpt from TCJ columnist Jared Gardner's recent Eisner-nominated book, Projections. Among other things, this chapter features the now-little-known debate between Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and Cleanth Brooks (!) in the pages of The American Scholar. A taste:

In the next issue of American Scholar, Cleanth Brooks and his Louisiana State colleague Robert Heilman responded with a long, facetious account of their sudden conversion to Marston’s philosophy in their literature classes, claiming that they now will even employ models dressed as Wonder Woman to help illustrate their lectures and demonstrate female superiority. Brooks and Heilman maintain their deadpan approach throughout their letter, expressing their gratitude to Marston for inspiring their “conversion” to comics over traditional literature, and they conclude by calling on Marston and the editors of The American Scholar “to tell us more about the comics by means of comics”—even offering to furnish the editors with the zinc plates necessary to transform the journal into a comic book: “We are sure that there are literally thousands of Phi Beta Kappas who will happily contribute their keys, if need be, to bring the power of the ‘visual image’ to the aid of puny reason in the great fight to save the humanities to which we are all committed.”

And then of course, it's Friday, so Tucker Stone is here (along with friend Abhay Khosla), with another hair-raising look at the commercial dregs of the industry.


—First Flannery O'Connor is outed as a closet cartoonist, now this. Maria Popova takes a look at Gertrude Stein's forgotten picture books.

—Daniel Clowes talks to Wired about his aversion for digital comics.

—With this article on the history of gay characters in supehero comics, Alex Pappademas shows that his excellent Stan Lee profile at Grantland was not a fluke, and apparently they're going to be featuring intelligent comics coverage on at least an irregular basis.

—Leonard Pierce has a good response to the recent Scott Kurtz anti-Kirby diatribe (which previously I felt was too moronic even to mention).

—Rob Clough surveys the current state of comics for children.

—I keep forgetting to link to this really great audio interview with Bill Griffith recorded by Benjamen Walker at WFMU. (You may remember his Chester Brown interview from last year. If not, check it out, too.)

—And finally, I missed this before, but Tom Spurgeon caught a fascinating article on Roy Lichtenstein and comics, featuring Hilary Barta among others. I wish someone would write or edit a book on this subject.

Fry Pan

Today on the site:

Michel Fiffe on the idea and history of one-man anthology comics:

As if it wasn't enough that comics are the domain of the obsessive control freak, there is a cartooning sect that perfectly defines the creative mania responsible for some of our greatest works: the one-man anthology. It's a publishing sensibility that may have had its moment in the sun decades ago, but it's never really been a dominant point of interest for cartoonists.

And I'm really pleased to welcome Sean Rogers back to the site with this incisive review of the new Nancy collection:

Certainly, the comic’s self-contained gag-a-day format, along with the clarity and force of Bushmiller’s compositions, can often make each strip seem like an instance of emphatic singularity, a totem to be worshipped in dumb awe. But Nancy is Happy returns to this gag-a-day strip precisely its daily qualities, so often overlooked. There is, we rediscover, an aspect of the quotidian to Nancy, a rhythmic unfolding in time, an ordinariness repeated with such unrelenting frequency that we’ve opted to shunt it into the sublime. Reading Nancy in continuity, rather than in isolation, may be an unfamiliar experience, but it is one which reveals the strip’s patient and inquisitive reaction to the bric-a-brac and ins-and-outs of everyday life—an attentive curiosity whose effect is diminished by removing the comics from their daily or weekly contexts.

-From Forbidden Planet comes word of an Oliver Schrauwen exhibition in Antwerp.

-From TCJ-contributor Tucker Stone comes word of a Suicide Squad celebration by the aforementioned Michel Fiffe.

-From yet another TCJ-contributor, Matt Seneca: This week's Greatest Comic of All Time.

-From me to you: Oh those little wise guys!

Warped Marionettes

Today on the site, Hayley Campbell returns after a too-long absence to interview Tom Gauld, the cartoonist behind the new graphic novel, Goliath. Here's Gauld on adapting the Bible:

I don’t have a religious faith, but I’m interested in the Bible because the stories are such well-known, common parts of our culture. A few years ago I did a version of the story of Noah (for Kramers Ergot 7) and I liked that I could rely on the reader’s knowledge of the story, and play with their expectations. That story was one of the things which led me to do Goliath. I didn’t want my book to be anti-religious, or even to paint David as a fraud or a villain, but the God (or maybe just strong religious faith) which makes David so powerful is definitely not there for Goliath.

We also have a review from the indefatigable Sean T. Collins, who reports in on the latest release from the Closed Caption Comics group, Molly Colleen O'Connell's Difficult Loves:

O’Connell’s weapons of choice are perspective and detail, throwing enough conflicting examples of both at you at once to make each turn of the page a “wait, what?” experience. Her characters limbs elongate at odd points so that you’re never sure exactly how large their bodies are in relation to their environments — is this some weird, deliberately inconsistent use of foreshortening, or are they just built like warped marionettes?

Elsewhere on the internets...

—Okay, easily the link of the week comes from Gene Deitch, who writes at length (and with copious illustrations, videos, and archival evidence) about his experiences adapting Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are into a short animated film.

—Your Alison Bechdel link of the day comes from Ng Suat Tong, who focuses in on the psychoanalytic content of Are You My Mother?, which is sounding more and more fascinating as the reviews come in. As Dan mentioned yesterday, our own coverage will be coming soon.

—Nick Gazin interviews Diana Schutz about working with Milo Manara in his latest Vice column. (He also falls for that Jack Kirby Spider-Man image hoax, so caveat lector.)

—I missed it on Monday, but the great Bob Levin wrote about his heart attack for the Broad Street Review.

—I also missed the Chicago Tribune's excellent coverage of last weekend's "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" conference.

—The outrage of the moment just over came when McSweeney's announced a cartoonist contest, which would award a $500 prize to the winner, in exchange for two cartoons a month. This sparked something of a revolt online, mainly from cartoonists concerned about what they perceived as exploitation, which eventually led to McSweeney's apologizing and canceling the contest. This seems worth mentioning after the fact, if only for taking note of changing comics-community standards, and the force an internet-focused protest can have, at least when aimed at a smaller, community-minded organization.

—Finally, there's apparently some kind of TV and tabloid frenzy going on over the fact that a few characters at DC and Marvel are about to be revealed as either gay and/or getting married while gay. I wonder how many times those companies can get PR mileage out of this kind of thing; it feels like they've already done this multiple times, but the media's obviously still buying. In the meantime, someone should tell the New York Times about Maurice Vellekoop.

Down the Avenue

On the site today we present the entire Alison Bechdel interview by Lynn Emmert from TCJ 282 (April 2007). We'll cover her new book, Are You My Mother?, shortly. For now, enjoy this comprehensive conversation. As ever, Joe McCulloch treats us to the new, the newsworthy and the necessary (to some).

Joe has also apparently been holding out on us. Here's proof: A blog post described as follows:

Being a series of comments on Episode 0.1 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt SenecaTucker Stone and myself.

Is this mutiny? We'll work to bring you the answer.

Frank M. Young delivers unto us answers about John Stanley in reference to questions you didn't know you had, and we should thank him for that. This kind of deep comic book archeology is needed. It gets to the weird smudgy bottom of aesthetic developments. So here's Young on proto-Tubbys.

Here's a funny thing: A group of documents containing an alternate plot point for The Little Prince was recently sold at auction. It sounds interesting:

In this version of the story, after visiting six planets, the little prince arrives on an alternate-reality earth. One particular line reads as an homage to the melting pot of New York City: "If you brought together all the inhabitants of this planet close together as if for a meeting, the Whites, the Yellows, the Blacks, the children, the elderly, the women, and the men, without forgetting a single one, all of humanity would fit on Long Island."

Not comics, but TCJ: Tim has a great short interview with novelist Richard Ford, whose new book I'm greatly looking forward to.

And finally, in case you missed it: Chris Ware's Building Stories is going to be an incredible object.

Ain’t No Mountain

R.C. Harvey profiles V.T. Hamlin, creator of the classic caveman comic strip Alley Oop. An excerpt:

Hamlin kept up a merry round of madcap adventures in Moo for the next five years before beginning to feel constrained by the narrow range of story possibilities imposed upon him by his chosen locale. Then Dorothy again supplied a vital prompt: remembering a story her husband had written in high school, she suggested introducing a time machine. If Alley Oop and Ooola could travel through history, stopping here and there wherever a good story seemed likely, the story possibilities would be limitless.

Hamlin’s interest in prehistory had by this time broadened considerably into ancient history (as it would eventually into all history), and time travel enabled him to pursue this interest in the strip. He went to the syndicate editors in Cleveland immediately and, after “the best part of a week” of persuading and pleading, got permission to change the strip, a violent wrench of a change, something no other strip at the time had managed.

On April 6, 1939, Oop and Ooola suddenly fade from our sight in the Moovian jungle; and two days later, they materialize in the laboratory of a twentieth century scientist, Elbert Wonmug (a punning last name celebrating science’s most famous theorist, “en stein” being German for “one mug”). Wonmug has invented a Time Machine, and, seeing the rugged resourcefulness of the prehistoric pair, he subsequently sends Alley and Ooola on “fact-finding” missions through the ages: they become time travelers and have adventures in every famous epoch in history.

Frank Santoro's back in Pittsburgh right now, and shares Bill Boichel's new theory about Frank Frazetta.

And Jeet Heer reviews the new IDW collection of Otto Soglow comics. I'm kind of surprised I haven't heard more about this book. Soglow is hilarious. Here's an excerpt from Jeet's review:

One of the great strengths of Cartoon Monarch is that it gives us a very generous sample of Soglow’s work from many facets of his career so that we can see that the clear line style was a hard won victory for the cartoonist. Rather surprisingly, Soglow started off as a student of such Ash Can School masters as Robert Henri, George Luks, and John French Sloan. Like them, he specialized in charcoal-dark representations of urban squalor (some of which appeared in radical publications like The New Masses).

Soglow’s move to the clear line wasn’t a complete break from his earlier art since he continued to do anecdotal art about urban life, but his art started to become more line-focused and less shadowy as he became a fixture in The New Yorker, where the Little King first appeared in 1930. I’d speculate that Rea Irwin was an influence. Contractual wrangling with the New Yorker seems to have prevented Soglow from immediately moving the monarch to newspapers when the Hearst Syndicate hired him in 1933. As a stop-gap measure, Soglow created The Ambassador, who was the Little King in everything except title and facial features (the Ambassador had a bulbous nose and a walrus moustache).

Elsewhere on the internet:

—Your regular dose of Alison Bechdel profiles/interviews can be taken at both The Guardian and Comic Book Resources.

—By all accounts, the star-studded, Hilary Chute-organized "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" conference held this weekend at the University of Chicago was a huge success. Many of you hopefully found some time this weekend to watch the live streaming video of various panels, but if not, know that many of them will soon be archived at this page at the Critical Inquiry site.

—Creators' rights issues make their way into the Washington Post by way of Michael Cavna's interview with Roger Langridge about his decision to no longer work for Marvel or DC.

—Joe Sacco has a short story, "Kushinagar", in the New York Review of Books(!). (Am I right in thinking this is the first comic strip ever published in that magazine?)

—Talking to The Guardian, Dan DiDio tries to justify DC's decision to create Watchmen sequels, and responds to Alan Moore's stated opinions on the matter: "Honestly I can understand why he [Moore] might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him. He has such a long and illustrious career and he's been able to stand behind the body of work he's created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself."

—Ron Goulart takes a look at Jack Cole's Betsy and Me.

—Tom Spurgeon interviews Faith Erin Hicks.

Conan artist Ernie Chan passed away last Wednesday.

—Jason Thompson's manga column, always worth reading, concerns Cromartie High School this time around.

—And finally, assuming those of you who are interested didn't already see this at one of the many, many places that linked to it over the weekend, Neil Gaiman gave the commencement address at the University of the Arts:

Cattle Call

Welcome to the end of the week. We are veritable volcano of content today, all crammed in on this mid-May day for a variety of time-based reasons.

First let me say this:

If you are a TCJ print subscriber and would like unlimited access to the online archive, please e-mail our customer service department: fbicomix@fantagraphics.

Please put "TCJ Online Archive" in the subject heading and request unlimited access to the archives in the body of the message. Also, please include your name, username and e-mail address (if you've already made an account; if you haven't, an account can be created for you).

If you have questions about the above, do not post them here. Rather, email the above address. Thanks!

And now, on the site today we have Tom De Haven's commencement address for the Center for Cartoon Studies. Thanks to James Sturm and Michelle Ollie for this. Tom discusses his own comics education, as well as that of others, and drops this fine story:

The lessons of the Famous Cartoonists School were written by (or ostensibly written by) such luminaries as Al Capp, Milt Caniff, Rube Goldberg, Willard Mullins, Whitney Darrow Jr., Gurney Williams and Virgil Partch. Of course, I sent away for the informational material, but the cost was prohibitive. My mother worked in a bank and brought home less than $45 a week.  It was crushing blow, although (and this such was a wonderful thing, for which I’m still grateful) my mother looked around on her own and found a far less expensive illustration and cartooning home-study course, the Washington School of Art, out of Port Washington, New York. And she signed me up for it. Twelve booklets and an impressive, to me, box of supplies consisting of two pencils, one brush, one pen staff with three different nib points, a fabulous soft blue eraser, a few charcoal sticks, a Conte crayon, a bottle of ink, and a T-square. I  took that course, imperfect as it was, and I wish I still had all my returned artwork with their taped-on see-through overlays with corrections made in red pencil. Unfortunately, for me, only two of the lessons pertained specifically to making comics, but even so, it was realinstruction–and there were real teachers telling me what I’d done right, and what I’d done wrong and how to correct it.

In less happy news, Steve Ringgenberg contributes an obituary of Tony DeZuniga. Additionally, we have Brad Mackay on The Art of Daniel Clowes and, as ever, and thank heavens, Tucker Stone on the global comic book trend.

I suppose it's possible you will want to go elsewhere for yet more comics content, in which case you might  be overdoing it. Still, I feel compelled to guide you:

Is there anything more awesome than a Gilbert Hernandez comic book called Fatima: The Blood Spinners? Of course not. Read what the man himself has to say about it.

Thank you, Warren Ellis. Keeping it real.

I also love Frank Robbins. In fact, I love the whole dang Caniff-school of comic drawing. Lee Elias, William Overgard, et al. So good. But Frank Robbins in the '70s was hallucinatory and great. Milo George has a great appreciation here.

Oh, and I can't believe I'm missing this. Luckily we have embedded a TCJ correspondent on the ground to bring back all the dirt.

Book ‘Em

Today, R. Fiore returns to our shores with a report on graphic novelist/animator Mark Kalesniko, as well as an extended look at the history of animated film by way of UPA. An excerpt:

No one who’s seen the internal strife on the macro level portrayed in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty would doubt the verisimilitude of the fictional office politics on the micro level of Freeway. Kalesniko never quite puts his finger on the factor that made for the difference between in animation from the 1930s through the 1950s and of today, and that is the phenomenon of seven minute theatrical animated short subject. The contemporary animated feature is a massive undertaking along the lines of an aircraft carrier or a cathedral. Each individual picture is a do or die effort costing in the hundreds of millions and needing to rake in hundreds of millions more to pay out, and a failure can crush the career of the people in charge. Even the vaunted Pixar will pull a project out of the hands of the director who instigated it if the investment appears threatened. Feature length requires characters who engage the emotions of the audience in a way that throttles the anarchic spirits of the form.

Elsewhere, there are many things to read & ponder.

Journal columnist Tucker Stone reviews Jean-Perre Filiu & David B.'s Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, and at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Boxer writes about George Herriman's Krazy Kat (and explores why critics have had such a hard time talking about it).

—ICv2 has an interesting three-part interview with Image publisher Eric Stephenson about everything from digital publishing to creators' rights. ("If Image comics had been around when Allen Moore and Dave Gibbons wanted to do Watchmen, they would have had someplace else they could have gone to do that type of work. The situation that developed out of what did or didn’t happen with those contracts would have been irrelevant because they would have had a deal that offered them 100% creator ownership.")

—Speaking of creators' rights, the recognition of Jack Kirby's accomplishments in mainstream media continues to slowly grow, with an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, featuring input from Glen David Gold and Rand Hoppe.

—People seem to really be enjoying this "oral history" of DC's semi-recent series Countdown to Final Crisis, but I found it too depressing to get very far.

—Blown Covers posts the old form rejection letter from RAW, which is amazing.

—Milo George inaugurates a series at Study Group honoring Dennis the Menace artist Al Wiseman.

—Boing Boing has a nice short profile of the Herblock Prize-winning political cartoonist Matt Bors.

—Have we already mentioned the "master class in comics narrative" Paul Karasik is going to be teaching in Vermont this August? If not, we should have.

—Closed Caption Comics has the penultimate TCAF report, with karaoke photos. Chris Butcher has the ultimate one.

—Steven Brower takes a look at changing reproduction strategies for reprinting old comics.

—And finally, Robot 6 has found something of interest for 20th Century Boys fans: Naoki Urasawa singing "Bob Lennon".


Today on the site:

One of the great comics historians, Ron Goulart, begins a new column for us. Remembrance of Comics Past will feature Ron's correspondences with cartoonists, beginning this week with Howard Sherman. As he explains:

Over the years I persisted, writing to comic strip artists, comic book artists and a few sports cartoonist. I heard from Bill Everett, Bob Lubbers, Will Eisner, Bart Tumey, Norman Maurer, Frank Godwin, George Storm and a host of others. Being a packrat by nature, I held onto the all the letters and drawings that I got. Tacked many of them on my bedroom walls, until I moved across the Bay to play the ad game at a San Francisco agency when I was 22. By the time I left advertising in the late 1960s, I had gathered a substantial collection of letters.

It's an honor to have Ron aboard.

And Brandon Soderberg reviews the new Conan the Barbarian series from Wood and Cloonan.


-A very intriguing account of stolen Joe Simon art.

-Drew Friedman opened an art show in Brooklyn.

-I agree, this is a gorgeous comic book cover.

-Jack Kirby: Dance!

-The time NYC was briefly not in love with Milton Glaser.


Making It

Today, Ryan Holmberg offers another installment of his essential, endlessly fascinating history of alternative manga. This time, he tackles two big, big topics: Osamu Tezuka and Mickey Mouse. An excerpt:

From his arrival in Japan in the early '30s, Mickey Mouse was an icon of humor. To some, he was also ambassador of American ingenuity and American quality in production. But thanks to lax copyright protections for foreign properties, and his rendition by goods-makers that did not necessarily privilege the faithful or even skillful reproduction of his image, Mickey also became in Japan an icon of appropriation and its side effects, like modified personality and degraded design. This continued into the early postwar period. But towards the end of the Occupation, a series of forces colluded to “correct” Mickey’s image. Amongst them was Tezuka Osamu. For Tezuka, rectifying Disney went hand in hand with a number of things. It meant denying the akahon rodent of his roots and the production ethic on which its inventiveness fed. It meant recalling Mickey from appropriation and putting him back in the hands of authorship. It meant repositioning Disney as a light of genius and industriousness, against a mainstream that viewed him primarily as a talented showman and joker. It meant seeing himself more and more in the image of Disney. It meant expelling the rodent from the classroom, however much he had been there for the professor in his youth, and teaching straight from the Mickey on the board.

Joe McCulloch refrained from exploring the swamplands this week, and has his usual Tuesday report on the most interesting-looking new comics ready to go.

And Rob Clough continues his tour through the output of Nobrow Press with a review of Jesse Moynihan's Forming.

Also, we have continued to add new Maurice Sendak tributes to our page for him, many of which you may not have seen if you haven't looked at the post since last week. Some of the more recent contributors include Megan Kelso, Dylan Horrocks, Cathy Malkasian, and Victor Kerlew.

And of course, the tributes to Sendak have continued to grow everywhere else on the internet, too. Some highlights not previously noted in this space include Chris Mautner at Robot 6, Ellen Handler Spitz at The New Republic, Neil Gaiman at The Guardian, and a whole slew of artists at the New York Times (don't miss the attached slideshow at that link). Philip Nel, who of course wrote an excellent Sendak obituary for us, has penned another short remembrance at his own site, at the end of which he has also gathered an extremely thorough collection of links to the best and most informative memorials.

It also just came to my attention that Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze's Tell Them Anything You Want, their 2009 documentary on Sendak, is available for viewing at Hulu:

—Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, the esteemed cultural critic Mark Dery writes about a recent collection of Edward Gorey's correspondence.

—Roger Langridge has revealed a little more of what was behind his recently announced decision no longer to work for DC or Marvel.

—Derik Badman uses a critical roundtable on Wonder Woman as an excuse to take a closer look at the overlooked, underdiscussed importance of style in cartooning.

—Tom Spurgeon has the first (that I've seen) big interview with Joseph Remnant, the collaborator on Harvey Pekar's Cleveland who has taken a lot of people by surprise.

—Blake Bell continues to cater to that small part of the Venn diagram where superfans of Steve Ditko and superfans of Dave Sim meet.

—Leonard Pierce writes about Pogo.

—And finally, via Mike Lynch, Jules Feiffer reads from "Boob Noir":

Michael Jasorka’s December 3rd, 1967: An Alien Encounter

Until a few months ago, L.A.-based illustrator Michael Jasorka's awesomest project was "Roller Dames," his series of va-voomy (yet somehow also sweet) portraits of roller derby skaters. But that was before he self-published December 3rd, 1967: An Alien Encounter, a 56-page comic that decribes the night a Nebraska cop named Herbert Schirmer was abducted by aliens. This is not fiction but Schirmer's own story, which made headlines back in the '60s. In fact, the book's dialogue, which looks a bit stiff at first, turns out to be the direct transcript of an informal talk Schirmer gave at a UFO conference in the 70s, complete with ums and stutters. The book comes with a CD so you can listen to the man tell his story as you read along, which is nifty, of course, but also touching, even haunting. Plus, Jasorka's drawings have a Tomorrow Land quality that suits the era and subject matter well. Probably the most striking thing about this project is how respectful and unironic Jasorka is about his subject. His intro reads, "Dedicated to Herbert Schirmer, whose story I believe."


It’s a New World

Hi there,

On the site today we have a preview of Gary Groth's expansive interview with the late Maurice Sendak. It will see full publication this autumn in TCJ 302. And yesterday Frank Santoro reported back to us from deep within cartoonist Jim Rugg's Pittsburgh-area home. Frank is embedding himself in different locations.

The big story of the moment is perhaps the news that longtime independent cartoonist Roger Langridge, who recently wrote, among other comics, a very popular Thor series, has announced that he will not work for Marvel and DC any longer due to ethical concerns. Langridge currently writes Popeye for IDW besides doing his own comics.

There's been a whole slew of book previews:

-Eric Reynolds writes about a project he's very happy with -- Significant Objects.

-Gilbert Hernandez's upcoming Fatima: The Blood Spinners looks pretty great.

-Drawn & Quarterly has a very handsome new petit livre on the way.

-And finally, closest to my heart: There's yet another new Wally Wood collection coming.


Survival Tactics

Today, we are republishing a 1987 Q&A with Maurice Sendak that first appeared in TCJ #140. Here's an excerpt:

SENDAK: I think we assume that only children have this incredible flexibility — they talk to newspapers; they talk to tablecloths; they talk to bowls of water; and we say, “How charming, how cute.” We do it, too, but we don’t do it aloud. Because we have grown up and we have gray in our beards and we’re supposed to be adults and we’re all just nervous wrecks, basically.

Children have the privilege because we have endowed them with the privilege of having this fantasy life. So they move in and out of fantasy all the time. But, I think, people always say how wonderful that you can do books for children; you have your childhood intact. They give me this really ridiculous sentimental aspect, because I think we all do; I think it’s a survival tactic; if we didn’t live in fantasy most of the day, we’d all be off your famous [Golden Gate] bridge over here, for the most part.

So I think this trick you’re talking about is no more than the observation of real life.

QUESTION: I was referring, though, to how you can have that baby talk but make it believable. Some of the editors would say, “Well, this is a little contrived to think that a fish can rescue a jade bracelet.”

SENDAK: Well, this conviction has to come from you. If your fish is talking, then it’s got to be a perfectly reasonable thing that your fish is talking. If your fish is talking and it doesn’t come really from you, then your editor is correct. That’s a contrivance. Children will know instantly. Kids know instantly when you’re patronizing them, when you’re giving them ersatz fantasy or it’s coming genuinely from the middle of your gut; they know. They are not impressed with the fact that you’ve won the Caldecott Award or that you like Mozart or any of those things; they could not care less. The book goes flying across the room. You notice from their letters; “Dear Mr. Sendak: I hate your book. I hope you die soon. Cordially…”

We also have the latest column from Tucker Stone on the world of genre comics, which this week includes a report from Abhay Khosla on fans' reactions to a tepid review of their new favorite movie. Pretty horrifying stuff.

And we've finally convinced Dash Shaw to join our roster of contributors. Today he reviews Jeffrey Brown's cat comics, which gives him the opportunity to discuss what he calls "cat appreciation art" in general.

And of course, there are things on the internet that aren't on this site.

—Mark Evanier reports the death of Jonah Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga.

—Another day, another set of Alison Bechdel interviews, this time a brief one in the New York Times, and another on the Paris Review's website.

—In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Michael Tolkin, Dallas Clayton, and Howard A. Rodman offer their memories of Maurice Sendak.

Speaking of whom, Stephen Colbert has released more outtakes from Sendak's excellent appearance on his show:


—Matt Seneca has just launched a new weekly column over at Robot 6 in which he plans to list and discuss what he considers to be the "greatest comics of all time." First up: Kirby and Lee's Thor #160.

—Drew Friedman is interviewed by Ralph Gardner at the Wall Street Journal, on the occasion, though I don't think the article actually mentions it, of Friedman's newly republished Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Coincidental (co-written by his brother Josh). It's a beautiful book, and I've been thinking a lot about it recently. There's a certain brand of mean-spirited, petty humor that's been pretty popular over the last few decades, in which the main point seems to be laughing at some celebrity or another who no longer has a thriving career. As if failing to maintain A-list status in as fickle and luck-dependent as Hollywood was a valid reason to be mocked. At first glance, some of Friedman's work, with its cast of has-beens and never-weres, can seem to be another example of this kind of comedy, but it isn't--most of these strips cut a lot deeper than that. The reader feels the sting and pain of failure and despair too strongly to feel superior. In other words, we're all Rondo Hatton.

—The movement to properly honor Jack Kirby for his achievements grew a little wider this week, stepping its toes into the mainstream with an Alex Pappademus profile of Stan Lee for Grantland, and a Ruben Bolling strip revealing the plot of the next Avengers film.

—Andrei Molotiu echoes 1965 Susan Sontag with an interesting (if somewhat vague) wish for more demanding, worthy, and artistically innovative comics.

—And finally, Jeet Heer discussed the politics of comics, at a panel with Sean Carleton and Franke James at the LeftWords festival. You can listen to it here.

On Our Travels

Today on the site we remember and pay tribute to Maurice Sendak. Philip Nel has written a comprehensive obituary. Nel has also posted a personal reminiscence on his blog. And we've begun a series of tributes from Sendak's colleagues, which we will continue to update in the coming days.


Aaron Renier posted a moving tribute to Sendak on his site.

In Marvel news, Tom Spurgeon writes about donating to the Hero Initiative in light of the Avengers movie. And Rob Steibel digs up a 1968 Stan Lee interview from Castle of Frankenstein #12. A relative rarity from the days before the hype vibe completely calcified.

Daniel Clowes is having a busy couple months. Here's a fine Artforum interview with him, focusing on his current retrospective, by TCJ-contributor Naomi Fry. And now he has a YouTube channel, too!

Speaking of motion, apparently Jodorowsky is crowd-funding his next movie. And Wired asks and answers "how the streaming revolution is changing the Japanese animation industry".

Back from the Swamp

You already know the saddest, most important news of the week: the great Maurice Sendak died yesterday morning. As a still relatively new parent myself, I've read one or more of his books almost every day for the last year or so. There is something about having a child in your lap, and seeing how she reacts to the book as it is read (and how more intense that reaction is than to other books), that really makes your appreciation for his accomplishments grow. There are few artists of any kind as influential and intensely loved as Sendak.

We will have much more to say about him in the following days, but in the meantime, Margalit Fox's obituary of Sendak in the New York Times is very good, as is the Fresh Air interview with Sendak from last December (which made my wife cry even back at the time). Blown Covers re-published a comic collaboration between Art Spiegelman and Sendak that is very much worth reading. The Guardian has a slideshow of his life in pictures. And Jeet Heer reminded me of an excellent critical look at Sendak that he found a few years ago from Hilton Kramer, of all people. There is much, much more, and we will have further coverage of Sendak's life and influence up on the site very soon.

On the site today, we present the first installment of John Hilgart's very thorough multi-part interview with Starstruck creators Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta, about the very strange and unique history of that project. (You may, or at least should, know Hilgart from 4CP.)

Joe McCulloch escaped Louisiana to bring us his column on This Week in Comics!, a little late but no less essential.

And Sean T. Collins reviews Arne Bellstorf's Beatles book, Baby's in Black.

A Mile End

Well, it's looking like Tuesday, and for the first time since 1922 there is no "This Week in Comics" from Joe McCulloch. Joe would like his faithful readers to know that his absence is due to his being trapped in a swamp in Louisiana, but that we shouldn't worry about him. He'll be fine.

But on the site today we have Nicole Rudick's interview with the great Diane Noomin, whose collection of thirty years of her stories, Glitz-2-Go, is out now and a great read.

Elsewhere all around:

TCJ-contributor Chris Mautner on why he isn't seeing The Avengers.

Timothy Callahan has a MoCCA Festival round-up with a list of promising new books.

There are some very psychedelic and deeply strange Edgar Allen Poe illustrations by the pulp artist Harry Clarke over at 50 Watts.

Design and illustration historian Steve Heller is interviewed at Design Matters.

And finally, just what you've always wanted: Early Dave Berg!

Too Many to Count

Whoa-kay, lots of links today. First off, Frank Santoro has his latest travel report, in which he makes some announcements anyone in the NY area is going to want to hear.

Then, we present a preview of Dan Zettwoch's new Birdseye Bristoe, which feels to me like a potential breakout book. I have always really enjoyed Zettwoch's work, and the way he tirelessly experiments with formats, panel breakdowns, and storytelling techniques of all kinds. What's also nice is that his stories work. (Some cartoonists who create "experimental" comics don't seem to notice or care when their experiments fail, and just publish the results no matter what. This might be the correct response if comics was a science instead of an art.)

We also have Rob Clough's review of the latest Jason collection, Athos in America.

—Speaking of Jason, the National Post has a short profile of the Norwegian cartoonist.

—The Doug Wright Awards were announced, with Kate Beaton, Ethan Rilly, and Michael Comeau taking the top prizes. (For those who like comparing and complaining about comics awards, it is worth noting that Best Book winner Hark! A Vagrant was not nominated for an Eisner this year.)

—Speaking of Canadians, Tom Spurgeon has a long interview with Jam creator Bernie Mireault.

Octopus Pie creator Meredith Gran talks to Gary Tyrrell.

—Newspaper History department:

1. Frank King explains where he got his characters for Gasoline Alley.

2. Peter Huestis has posted a whole bunch of difficult-to-find old Jimmy Hatlo cartoons.

—Adrian Tomine immediately jumps to the head of the list of cartoonists who have created covers for Thomas Pynchon novels.

—Chris Mautner has a photo diary of the MoCCA festival.

—James Romberger has a new online strip.

—Jason Thompson provides an excellent in-depth overview of Shigeru Mizuki, the artist responsible for Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. You should know about him.

—Daniel Best continues to do the Lord's work, gathering and posting legal documents related to the Superman case. The latest is a letter from attorney David Michaels, who had been previously been suspected of stealing various documents from Marc Toberoff and leaking them to DC. He gives his side of the story in the letter at the link.

—For a certain kind of person, the next two links—blog posts written by Steve Ditko biographer Blake Bell about his relationships with Ditko, Dave Sim, and Jesus Christ—will be the most interesting things they read all day.

—And finally, via Mike Lynch, a documentary about the infamous Jack Chick, posted in its entirety:


As Tom Spurgeon notes, TCAF is an ideal occasion to enjoy not just a superb comics festival but also a great city. So here’s a tip for Toronto visitors who want to see a little bit more of the city’s culture, while also enjoying a  comics-related jaunt: take some time out to go to the Tony Calzetta exhibit at the De Luca gallery (217 Avenue Road – about a ten minute walk from the main TCAF building).

Calzetta cartoons on the canvas, which puts him in a now venerable tradition of comics-inspired painters. Unlike Roy Lichtenstein, Calzetta doesn’t do cool, detached appropriations of illustration images from romance comics or war comics. Rather, Calzetta is closer in spirit to Philip Guston, doodling with his paint brush to evoke the warm, scribbly free-spirited iconic forms of early 20th comic strips. But where Guston’s stubbly, cluttered paintings called to mind the slightly-claustrophobic world of Mutt and Jeff, Calzetta’s open  spaces and bold colors evoke the antic play of George Herrimans's Krazy Kat.

Having spent a happy afternoon with Calzetta’s paintings, Herriman was never far from mind. Partially it was a matter of capering shifty shapes that are never content to settle down but are always transforming themelves before your eyes – the stumps that could be elephant feet or steep desert mountain, the upside down umbrella which could also be a ship or a mushroom, the trees that weirdly have branches growing at right angles making them at times look like chimneys with blowing smoke. Herriman’s also present in the way Calzetta stages his paintings – often putting a not-quite-rectangular border within the painting itself, calling to mind Herriman’s play with panels and placing of his characters in a proscenium theatre within the strip (and indeed in earlier painting Calzetta placed his images within a proscenium theatre). And of course, there are the colors – often circus bright in the foreground but set against a darker background.

Beyond all these surface similarities, there is also the feel of Calzetta’s work. Like Herriman, he’s an artist who makes me cheerful even when the work deals mournful themes of loss and separation. The joy that these artists provoke is not a naive pleasure and doesn’t come from the denial of pain. Rather, they have the special gift of returning art in its primordial roots of childhood play even as they grapple with adult concerns.

To say that Calzetta is a Herriman-esque artist is very high praise, but I think anyone who sees his work will realize that he deserves it.

(Calzetta's paintings will be available for viewing on Friday May 4th and Saturday May 5th).


Hysterics Among Us

It's hard to take you seriously when you're foaming at the mouth.

Anyhow, you may have noticed TCJ was offline for a bunch of hours yesterday. Sorry -- the Internet broke for a little while. Then it was fixed.

So: on the site today:

We have a recording of an April 12th discussion about comics at The Art Institute of Chicago featuring Neal Adams, Ivan Brunetti, Geof Darrow, and J.J. Sedelmaier , moderated by Richard Holland. That is one very diverse line-up. Please note that the audio is a bit soft, so we recommend head phones and concentration for this one.

And like every Friday, Tucker Stone brings sunshine to your morning with his prose report on all things comics. This time we get a little extra helping of Moebius and depravity, too.

Elsewhere in our great web nation:

-I always have time for Wilhelm Busch.

-I also always have time for these illos by Takeo Takei.

-Ray Johnson is also someone I have time for. Special guest appearance by Karl Wirsum doesn't hurt.

And that's really all I have time for.