Interest in Context

Today on the site: Shaenon Garrity on Jenn Manley Lee’s Dicebox, color and web comics in print.

Elsewhere it's a mixed assortment of linkage:

Chris Oliveros went to New Dehli for India Comic-Con. Zander and Kevin Cannon, David Burnett and Oleg Terenchuk have started Crowded Comics, a new web site with which readers can supply the captions for editorial cartoons. Other readers have supplied 1.2 million dollars for a reprint program for the web comic Order of the Stick. That's a lot of dollars. The Beat breaks it down. Younger readers (or rather, their parents) will want to check out Johanna Draper Carlson's preview of forthcoming releases from Toon Books. And readers of all kinds, of my kind, even, should know of the graphic novel finalists for the LA Times Book Prize.

“I Will Bite You! And Other Stories” by Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres)
“Celluloid” by Dave McKean (Fantagraphics)
“Finder: Voice” by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
“Congress of the Animals” by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
“Garden” by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)

Ross Campbell has been making interesting comics for a while and now he's part of the Liefeld-verse revival. Here's an interview. In old comics news, here are a couple of excellent stories by Dick Ayers at his goriest.

And finally, hey, don't forget to sign up for Frank's correspondence course. Enrollment ends this week. That means you. And you. And you, too.

Holiday’s Over

Those of you who aren't American may not know that the United States has a day set aside every year for its citizens to celebrate "the Presidents." That national holiday was yesterday, and Dan and I spent it in the approved fashion. (I visited the portraits gallery in the new American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and inspected the Gilbert Stuarts, and Dan set out his collection of memorial plates from the Franklin Mint.) This is why there was no new content up. But everything is back on track now.

Today, as every Tuesday, Joe McCulloch shares his thoughts on the most interesting-sounding new comics of the week.

Frank Santoro has the final installment of his West Coast tour diary—this time hitting Fantagraphics home territory and including cameos from many Journal fan favorites, as well as a stop in Vancouver to visit Brandon Graham and Inkstuds host Robin McConnell. By the way, this is the final week to sign up for Frank's upcoming cartoonists' correspondence course—head this way if you're interested.

Speaking of Journal contributors, Sean T. Collins has recent reviews of Optic Nerve 12 and Onward to Our Noble Deaths. And Tucker Stone has his usual round-up of comics reviews. I like how he's been including more older titles in his column recently—this time, he features Plastic Man and Lone Wolf & Cub.

Eddie Campbell was interviewed on video at Angoulême, and, later on his blog, discovered a couple secret "drawing references" used by Sheldon Modoff for his Batman comics.

Tom Spurgeon worries about the long-term (and short-term) financial health of the comics field and its participants, and Bryan Munn ponders previous attempts at unionization within comics, and the possibility of starting a new union now. (Those are the two must-read non-TCJ posts of today, I'd say, if you're going to pick and choose.)

At the fairly new website Weird Fiction Review, Edward Gauvin compares David B.'s Littlest Pirate King with the prose story that inspired it, Pierre Mac Orlan’s “Roi Rose”.

Finally, Robert Crumb is in India, and Rodrigo Baeza has gathered links to local news coverage worth reading.

You’re the Best Around

As is his wont (and his annual duty), Rob Clough has chosen the thirty best minicomics of 2011.

And now we say goodbye to Tom Scioli, whose final Cartoonist's Diary entry is up today.

Elsewhere, the Frank Santoro/Brandon Graham Inkstuds interview that Dan mentioned yesterday is now online, and you can listen to it here. And speaking of Frank, did we ever link to this video of his recent Mission appearance?

excerpts from frank santoro’s comic book layout workshop from chris anthony diaz on Vimeo.

Following up on another lead from Dan's post: One of our greatest comics-scan bloggers, Pappy, brings us a Joe Maneely classic this morning.

Alan Bisbort has a truly must-read interview with Bill Griffith.

I don't want to link to any more Before Watchmen commentary if I can help it, but the artist James Romberger maybe gets an exception. Or at least he asked me nicely enough. He writes about the project, and the original's controversial rape scene, here.

David Brothers tries to figure out whether some scanned & pirated comics may have come from someone at Marvel itself.

Finally, Tom Spurgeon gathers up the most recent developments regarding the Marvel/Ghost Rider/Gary Friedrich situation, and makes some very cogent remarks about it. The whole thing seems more confusing to me each day, and definitely bears continued attention. [Let me clarify that a bit—I am confused about exactly what Marvel hoped to accomplish with the $17,000 counter-suit, whether Marvel is actually expecting to get it, whether it's meant to be a shot across the bow, or has just been misunderstood -- or both. On the larger questions of whether or not Marvel has been behaving properly towards Friedrich, I have no doubt: they haven't been.]

Blursday

Today on the site:

Brandon Soderberg joins TCJ with a review of the great Canadian graphic novella Streakers. I learned about this one last year at TCAF -- a real treat. And Tom Scioli brings the Barbarian with Day 4 of his diary.

Frank Santoro Alert: Our man will be live on Inkstuds This thursday at 3pm PST, 6pm EST. You can listen live at www.citr.ca. Robin McConnell is encouraging call-in questions: 604-822-2487!

And elsewhere online...

Swiped from Kate Beaton's Twitter feed -- a generous blog from Eleanor Davis. On other blogs, Ryan Cecil Smith has a great bit on Charles Addams and here's five fine Victorian comic strips. Not comics, but relevant, writer Steven Johnson on e-books and reading onscreen. Here's a prime Western comic book featuring work by the late John Severin (and the always underrated Joe Maneely), via Tom Spurgeon. More olden comics comes from Matt Seneca on Joe Kubert's Hawkman.

And finally, a very funny review of the movie The Vow from Lisa Hanawalt. I never thought Rachel McAdams could top that time travel romance, but now...

And Other Stories

News of the death of legendary cartoonist John Severin spread yesterday. Steve Ringgenberg wrote a fine obituary of Severin for us, and we have also re-published Gary Groth's exhaustive two-part 1999 interview with the artist from The Comics Journal 215 and 216. It is sad to realize how few of the great cartoonists of that era are still with us.

Tom Scioli continues his Cartoonist's Diary for us, with day three of his trip to Angoulême.

Mike Dawson has returned to the podcasting "booth" and has a new episode of TCJ Talkies out this morning, this time an interview with Hicksville creator Dylan Horrocks, with whom he discusses various comics-world news items of recent days, including the Before Watchmen announcement, and the Marvel/Gary Friedrich case.

Speaking of Gary Friedrich, Stephen Bissette has posted the following message on Facebook, asking for it to be passed along by others:

ALERT, ALL COMICS CREATORS [Reposting, for a necessary (requested) edit; reposting all comments, too, after this main post. Apologies.]: With permission, I'm quoting key points my dear friend and own legal advisor/contract consultant (since 1992) Jean-Marc Lofficier raised on his posts to a Yahoo forum discussing Ty Templeton's cartoon concerning the Gary Friedrich v Marvel judgment. Jean-Marc succinctly notes WHY this judgment has changed EVERYTHING for anyone who has worked for Marvel, or what this judgment changes (probably irrevocably) about the landscape for all concerned:

"...with all due respect to Ty, he's talking (drawing?) out of his ass.

So to clarify again, here is what I thought is important to remember here:

1) This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a "weapon". They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you.

My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I'm serious. You've just been put on notice by this case.

[Note: In a followup comment to a question on the matter of selling sketches/sketchbooks at conventions featuring Marvel characters, Jean-Marc added:]

If Disney and/or Marvel have a policy to deal with that sort of business, I would encourage anyone planning to sell sketches, etc. to contact them and obtain a waiver or a permission of some kind under that program.

--- [name withdrawn] is incorrect about one thing: Disney, if not Marvel, does have a full office staffed with para legals of young lawyers whose only job is to look for copyright/tm infringements and send C&D (cease & desist) letters. I have seen them. They don't do it for the money or to be a pain the the ass, they do it based on the legal theory that if you don't actively protect your (c)/tm, you run the risk of it being used against you as an affirmative defense in an infringement case.

Based on the GHOST RIDER case, it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time until Disney, now aware of the issue, sends one of their young attorneys with a stash of blank C&D letters at conventions and start handing them out to everyone selling Marvel sketches without authorization.

Receiving that letter will oblige you to hire a lawyer and even if Disney lets you off the hook (which they probably will), you might be out of a couple of grands by the time the process is over -- or you run the risk of being stuck with a $15K bill if you fight them.

Again, I emphasize: this is sound business practice for Disney; NOT doing it entails risks far greater than doing it. They have gone after children's nurseries before which had Mickey painted on their walls for the same exact legal reason. And that was far more time consuming and bad PR-wise that going after some comic book guys at artist's alleys.

It is only a matter of time.

So if they have a waiver/permission program as Ivan says, join it; if not, stop.

[Back to Jean-Marc's original, full post:]

2) Although there never was any serious dispute that Marvel owned whatever share of GR Gary Friedrich was claiming (personally, I'm not a mind reader but I think Friedrich was hoping for some kind of settlement), there remains two legal issues that Ty obviously didn't grasp:

2.1) When Moebius drew his SILVER SURFER with Stan Lee, he got royalties and he was still getting them when Starwatcher split in 2000. You will note that modern-day WFH agreements spell out that the money you're getting will be the sole compensation you will ever receive and you're not entitled to anything else. It is spelled out because if it is not, courts are at liberty to interpret the contract and decide whether or not you should be gettong something extra.

The back-of-the-check contract signed by Gary did transfer ownership of GR to Marvel, and the amount of that check was the consideration for publishing rights, but nowhere did it actually state (as it does today) that it was the ONLY consideration to which Gary might be entitled in the event of a film or a TV series. The Court could have easily decided that on the absence of that clause, Gary was owed something.

2.2.) There is a famous case about singer Peggy Lee who won her suit against Disney for their reuse of her songs in LADY & THE TRAMP on video, because that medium didn't exist when she signed her original agreement with the Mouse, and contracts at that time didn't specify the now standard "and other media to be invented in the future". The Court chose to interpret that lack of specificity in favor of Peggy Lee. When Marvel sold the rights to GR to the studio which produced it, they likely sold the video, DVD and game rights. These media did not exist when Friedrich signed his back of the check contract which did not list any and all future media. Therefore, based on the Peggy Lee case, the Court could have found that Marvel didn't own those rights, and therefore couldn't resell them, or, as in the Peggy Lee case, simply that they owe the plaintiff some kind of percentage, that's all.

So it remains my contention that Marvel owes "something" to Friedrich (and Ploog as well) based not on the publishing, but purely on the disposition of the multimedia rights to GR. That the Judge decided otherwise is a tough break for creators, and unjust.

3) Which brings me to my next point, which is that documentary standards are being unfairly applied throughout the judicial system, and somehow mistakes always seem to favor the corporations, not the small guy. The enforceability of a contract depends on accurate documentation which must be produced in Court. If you have a mortgage, but the bank cannot produce your properly signed promissory note, then the court has the possibility of nullifying your mortgage. It's happened in a few rare cases, but more often than not, people have been thrown out of their homes despite banks being unable to produce a properly signed note.

In this case, has any of you seen the back of the check signed by Friedrich?
Was that check properly endorsed? Was there anything crossed out? Why should mistakes in documentation automatically benefit the corporations, and the little guy should be held to standards of evidence that the companies themselves don't respect? Why did the Judge assume that the paperwork was in order & automatically benefited Marvel? What I'm saying is, if people can lose their homes despite proper paperwork, well, then, Marvel could lose GR despite its paperwork. It's up to the Court.

So whether or not you feel any sympathy for Gary and his cause, this is another loss for the Little Guy which, in the greater scheme of things, impacts all of us."

SPREAD THE WORD. SPREAD THIS LINK.

And QUIT doing, creating, selling ANY sketches or sketchbooks or prints featuring Marvel/Disney characters, IMMEDIATELY. And let fans know WHY you are no longer doing them, and/or CANNOT do them ever again.

This Fast Company story about Before Watchmen has Alan Moore revealing some new information about his original contract with DC. The article also has new preview art from the project, which is kind of weird, considering the overall scathing nature of the piece.

Speaking of Before Watchmen (and I really hope not to do so too many more times!), Eddie Campbell pulled out a particularly mind-boggling quote on the project from Brian Azzarello.

The Journal's own Bob Levin wrote a story for the Broad Street Review about surviving a second heart attack.

The Journal's own Kristy Valenti wrote a Valentine's Day tribute to Frank Miller's Ronin.

The Journal's own Chris Mautner picks six comic strips that ended too soon.

The Journal's own Dan Nadel messed up his planned promotional efforts and has outsourced the announcement of Brian Chippendale's resumed Puke Force to me. Luckily I like the strip a lot—otherwise I'd feel a little like I'd completely lost my dignity...

Finally, Peter Bagge talks to Stüssy.

Anything But the Comics

Slow news day here...

On the site today: Joe McCulloch's Week in Comics and Day 2 of Tom Scioli's Diary, going ever deeper into Angouleme.

Elsewhere, Michael Kupperman will be on The Best Show today on WFMU (via). And we missed this earlier, but Kim Deitch wrote a fine tribute to his first publisher, Joel Fabrikant. Over at 4th Letter! David Brothers has a discussion on comics piracy with an active comments section. And congrats to Dave Kiersh on getting his graphic novel funded.

 

 

 

Lighting Out

Dan Nadel talks to the artist Jim Shaw about his most recent book, comics, and their relationship to his own work. A brief excerpt:

After seeing the Sistine Chapel and thinking how radical a piece of art it was and so wanting to work in the figurative, I realized that comics are one of the only art forms where the figure has any legitimate use, so I’m glad to be working in it.

The artist behind American Barbarian and Godland Tom Scioli begins his week writing our Cartoonist's Diary. It takes place in France.

Frank Santoro continues his West Coast tour, and writes about ice skating with Snoopy.

And Kristian Williams reviews Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart's Batman vs. Robin.

Whew, lots of stuff today. Okay, and elsewhere, Journal columnist Rob Clough picks his top fifteen books of 2011, Alan Moore writes a column for the BBC on Occupy Wall Street and V for Vendetta, and Greg Hunter at Big Other writes about how recent Marvel-related events have colored the way he reads Michael Chabon's new short story. (Jeet Heer had similar misgivings in the comments section of this blog.) Finally, Tom Spurgeon delivers twenty-one thoughts on the Before Watchmen announcement.

Two Fridays

Today on the site: Eddie Campbell reviews Young Romance: The Best of Simon and Kirby's Romance Comics and highlights the themes and art styles embedded in these oft-overlooked comics.

And elsewhere, yesterday's interview subject, Matthew Thurber, turned in a culture diary for The Paris Review. And of interest to comics readers, HiLobrow has opened a publishing imprint specializing in "Radium Age" science fiction. It looks good. Details here. In other publishing news comes the announcement that Seth will be illustrating Lemony Snicket's upcoming series of autobiographical novels.

And finaly, the deluge of sad news for comic book creator ownership continues. CBR has the story, sourced from Daniel Best, of Gary Friedrich's shameful treatment by Marvel in regards to his creation of the contemporary Ghost Rider character. And via Tom Spurgeon there's news of a lawsuit involving payment for the original artist of the hugely successful Walking Dead comic book and TV series.

The Arcana of It All

Today, we are proud to present Rob Clough's exhaustive interview with Matthew Thurber, the artist behind 1-800-MICE, What Kind of Magic Spell to Use?, and Ambergris. Here's an excerpt from when Rob asked him about his recent collaboration with Benjamin Marra for the Smoke Signal anthology:

That pairing was actually Gabe Fowler’s idea. He matched us up together [and] he proposed the idea and he proposed the movie. I was like, “Oh no, I can’t–I’m gonna hate Transformers. Maybe I can do it on something else.” So I went and saw Super 8 and I was like, “Oh that was pretty good, but it wasn’t so stupid that you could really satirize it.” Then I finally saw Transformers, and I was like, “Holy shit!”

And later, discussing the themes behind 1-800-MICE:

We’re all part of the ecosystem with all the animals and plants and all the man-made stuff. If you try to think of the big picture, it’s overwhelming and scary. I guess that’s why my book is ultimately—underneath all the funny stuff— about being non-didactic, that we’re all part of the ecosystems. Different characters in the book are aware of different aspects of it. Even the people who are trying to control it think they’re doing the right thing. Aunty Lakeford really believes that if she proves that the banjo’s origins are in Africa, then that will help, that’s gonna help.

And elsewhere on the great internet:

Edward Sorel is profiled by local news channel NY1. Sorel: "They wanted me to do a cover about how the press was treating Nixon unfairly. I said that's too much. I’ll sell out, but there are limits." (via)

Our columnist Jared Gardner has a new book just out called Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First Century Storytelling. Henry Jenkins has just posted the first installment of a multi-part interview with Gardner here. Another excerpt:

I don't think this book would have made any sense to write had it not been for what we affectionately call the golden age of comics reprints, a period of publishing that has seen long-lost newspaper comics and comic books returned to print. I am fortunate to have daily access to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum here at Ohio State, but until recently without such privileged access extensive reading in historical comics was virtually impossible. Of the comics I focus on extensively in the early chapters in the book--Happy Hooligan, Mutt & Jeff, Krazy Kat, Superman, Spider-Man, R. Crumb's underground comix, etc.--almost all are now available in accessible reprint editions. The big exceptions here were Sidney Smith's The Gumps and Ed Wheelan's Minute Movies, pioneering serial strips from the 1920s, but I am now working with the Library of American Comics to get one and possibly both into an affordable reprint edition in the near future.

Art Spiegelman appeared on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week.

Someone calling himself Mr. Media has interviewed Bill Griffith. (I know I've mentioned Lost & Found several times here already, but it's good--you should read it!)

And apparently, like so many other literary luminaries, Douglas Adams first saw his words in print after writing a letter to the editor about comics.

Smart Warming

Today: Bob Levin returns to us with a piece on Yiddishkeit the book and the culture. As usual, you get more than you think and learn more than you know.

And elsewhere, good people:

Pal and Professor at Washington University Douglas Dowd has begun a new publication called Spartan Holiday, which I enjoyed very much. It's a picture story travelogue, elegantly blending drawing, type and image in the finest Pushpin Graphic tradition. This issues finds Doug in China, drawing as he goes. Good stuff and great to see this tradition being revived as a regular thing. Speaking of St. Louis, there's a whole lotta Zettwoch in this photo preview of Dan's upcoming book Birdseye Bristoe. I bet Dan, being a fellow Dan, likes these Gene Ahern comics, too. Nice to see Paul Tumey inaugurate a new blog.

Oh my goodness, there are no women in this comic book store reality show! Can you believe it? I mean, Kevin Smith's movies are so much about understanding between genders! I am shocked! And in more heartwarming news, Alan Moore did what sounds like a cool video chat in support of Harvey Pekar.

Odds & Ends

I kind of feel like after Craig Fischer's column on horror comics from yesterday, we don't need to publish anything else this week. At the very least, I don't want it to fall through the cracks, so give it a read soon if you haven't done so already.

New today, we have the usual Joe McCulloch Tuesday feature: This Week in Comics!, this time featuring a bit on the top about '00s Joe Kubert. Joe also made a guest appearance this week over at Douglas Wolk's Judge Dredd site, in which the two discuss everything from Garth Ennis to comic-book ethics to Before Watchmen. (There's some overlap.)

We also have Rob Clough's review of Sharon Lintz's Pornhounds 2.

Elsewhere, Michael Chabon is mining comic-book history in his fiction again, and has a story in this week's New Yorker that is partly based on the relationship between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

At the Brooklyn Rail, Bill Kartalopoulos has a typically well-informed and informative review of the new Joost Swarte collection.

And the mysterious Illogical Volume of the Mindless Ones has a complicated response to Grant Morrison's Batman comics (and his recent dubious statements about Siegel & Shuster). Of course, it's unclear if complicated responses are what Morrison deserves—though as Joe M. pointed out over at Wolk's place, Morrison is the only DC creator we know of (besides Kevin Smith, ha ha) to have publicly turned down working on Before Watchmen. So at least there's that.

Yo Yo Yo Yo

Happy Monday. We're please to announce that we've begun a little partnership with The Rumpus. Thanks to Paul Madonna, The Rumpus will feature a couple of TCJ pieces every month. This doesn't really affect you if you're already reading this, but we're pleased and excited.

On this very site Craig Fischer brings you a beast of a post that takes a Skywald horror comic as its base and expands from there. Love it.

And in more internal news, Fantagraphics OGs Preston White and Mike Catron have returned to the fold. Tom Spurgeon has the lowdown and an interview with Mike. Welcome back, guys!

Ok, now we'll leave our own orbit and go... elsewhere:

Some "living my life" posts to link to here... Paul Karasik doing it up in AngoulemeJessica Abel on moving to France and making career choices, Lynda Barry on what we remember, and Kyle Baker on the creative life.

Rub the Blood editors Ian Harker and Pat Aulisio got the Inkstuds treatment. I confess that I don't really understand the Rob Liefeld nostalgia thing, but one man's Paul Gulacy is another man's Rob Liefeld (and yes, it's only men), so, y'know, I get it in the abstract. Man.

And the pages from Rokuro Taniuchi's 1948 children's comic The Magic Underground Castle at 50 Watts is pure joy.


Everything Is All Right

The great Tucker Stone reviews the latest mini-series from the Mignola-verse of Hellboy & Co., B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia. That title's a mouthful.

As are the titles of the upcoming Watchmen prequels. Like Dan, I don't have much interesting to say about this development. It's dumb and mean, but not surprising by any stretch. Eric Stephenson from Image said most of what needs saying, in a blog post that has seen much deserved traffic.

This is a good comics Tumblr. Great links pretty much every day.

This find from a Cerebus-related Tumblr is a real treasure. "I have to credit all the research that I did on Oscar Wilde for convincing me that I don't want to be like that [almost universally acknowledged as the greatest conversationalist of his day]. If I can end my life with a large body of completed works and a reputation as a cantankerous old hermit I'll consider my time well spent." It makes you wonder about paths not taken. If Dave Sim hadn't gotten interested in Wilde, he might have become one of the greatest raconteurs of our age! Actually there are a few things I'd dispute from Sim's comments. Wilde wrote far more than just "one really good play and one really good short novel"—even if he'd never written anything other than his essays, he'd probably still be read today. Also, I wonder about whether it really makes sense to value the written word over the experienced moment. Obviously the written word is better for us—we can read it. But surely it's not wise to only produce for posterity. The appropriate example here may be Ozymandias (not the character from Watchmen, which is apparently impossible to escape).

Our own Kristy Valenti writes about Chester Brown and Craig Thompson as purveyors of "Dick Lit" over at Comixology.

And Frank Santoro comic-book layout workshop hits Mission:Comics & Art tonight. A must-see if you're in the San Francisco area.

Worth It

Today on the site we're lucky to feature an excerpt from an essay by Seth originally published in The Devil's Artisan, on designing The Collected Doug Wright.

In very sad news, the great Mike Kelley died on Tuesday. Mike wrote a phenomenal essay on Gary Panter for the monograph I edited, and most recently we co-curated an exhibition in L.A. He was a brilliant and generous man and one well-versed in everything from Bob Powell to the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Fluxus. This is barely related to comics, I know, but his influence on visual culture was, and will continue to be, massive, and you should know about his work and legacy. His studio and close friends released the following statement, which should be read. Then go out and look at his work.

“Our dear friend the artist Mike Kelley (born 1954 in Detroit) has passed away. Unstintingly passionate, habitually outspoken and immeasurably creative in every genre or material with which he took up—and that was most of them, from performance and sculpture to painting, installation and video, from experimental music to writing in a thousand voices—Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art and the wider culture. For Mike, history existed only to be reconstructed, memory was selective, faulty and willful and life itself vibrant but often dysfunctional. We can hear him disagreeing with us. We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us.”

-Kelley Studio and Emi Fontana, Kourosh Larizadeh, Paul and Karen McCarthy, Fredrik Nilsen, Anita Pace, Jim Shaw, Mary Clare Stevens, Marnie Weber, John C. Welchman [for all Mike’s many friends near and far]

Elsewhere online, Peggy Burns has a great summation of her experience at Angouleme. Here's a fine piece on World War III magazine being displayed at MoMA. Oh, and this is an impressive 24-hour comic. Finally, the NY Times probably has the best coverage of the Watchmen debacle. It's sad and stupid and hardly worth commenting about because what should we expect from such a cynical company? We could expect better, but that's actually foolish at this point. It's outrageous but not surprising.

The Boulevard of Broken Links

Matthias Wivel is here today with a final report on this year's Angoulême, which he believes to be one of the best festivals of the last decade ... though he also has some problems with its award system, among other things.

Also, Hayley Campbell reviews Moebius & Jodorowsky's Eye of the Cat.

Spiegelman arrives at Angoulême:

(via Bhob Stewart)

Over at the Comics Grid, Peter Wilkins responds to our own Craig Fischer's recent column on Urasawa's Pluto and doubling.

Tucker Stone has a way with leftovers.

And Alex Cox makes a plea for your support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Look at the Evidence

Welcome to the last few days of January. Today we bring you R.C. Harvey on Martha Orr, and the connection between Apple Mary and Mary Worth.

Frank Santoro's going on tour, and is drawing the comics to prove it. (Plus, a bonus autobiographical strip at the end.)

And Matthias Wivel is reporting from Angoulême for us. You can read his thoughts on the Art Spiegelman retrospective here, and on a comics art exhibit Spiegelman curated (and that Matthias believes to be one of the best of its kind he's ever seen) here. And there's more on the way.

Award winners at the festival have been announced, including Guy Delisle, Jim Woodring, and Jean-Claude Denis.

Speaking of Matthias, if you're at interested in the ongoing debate about best practices in archival comics reproduction, you'll want to see the comments thread spawned by his recent review of Carl Barks. Gary Groth, Kim Thompson, R. Fiore, Jeet Heer, Michael Grabowski, and Domingos Isabelhino all make appearances, among others.

F-f-f-f-f-Fear!

On the site today: Matt Seneca on C.F.'s Sediment.

And online... Tim is too modest to mention this, but luckily I am not: Lauren Weinstein's wonderful comics about pregnancy and motherhood were recently profiled on Babble.com. This is really insightful and touching work -- check it out. No good transition here, but an interview with Jim Woodring is always a good thing, and here's one over at The Believer. In less "fun" linkage news, Tom Spurgeon has a sensible take on the recent kerfuffle around piracy, comics and consumer attitudes. Eric Stephenson of Image Comics, also chimes in on sales and stores and such things. And finally, we scamper down the rabbit hole into super hero stuff for a second: Publishers Weekly has a new super hero-focused column by Matt White.

As an aside, the other day, out of nowhere, I received Katz, which appears to be a compete republication of Maus (in French) only with all the mice heads replaced by cat heads. I assume it's the same dialogue because the whole project is too lazy for it not to be. In any case, as a conceptual prank it's incredibly lame (I mean, everything from the appropriation to the switcheroo. I get it. It's just dumb) and that's kind of it. Not much more to say beyond that, since it's so transparent. I suspect the historical politics of it were of less interest to the author than the prankish, look-what-I-can-do aspect, but either way it's pretty gross. I'm all for giving the canon the occasional punch on the arm, but this is just silly. There's an ISBN (2-930356-84-7) and a web site. Otherwise it's anonymous.

Missed It By That Much

Perennial TCJ All-Star R. Fiore is here this morning with another spin of Funnybook Roulette. This time his topic is Michel Choquette's semi-legendary Someday Funnies. A brief excerpt:

What’s particularly striking about Someday, and what probably wouldn’t be repeated today, is the role mainstream creators play in it. Potentially you could get something very interesting from the Garth Ennis/Grant Morrison/Warren Ellis generation of big company talents working off the reservation, but I doubt it would have the same attraction. The major difference is the absence of the Comics Code. The 1960s/1970s people clearly envy the freedom the underground cartoonists have, and jump at the chance to exercise it. [...] The contributions from the mainstream world are some of the most militant and radical in the book (other than from the foreigners, for whom Marx is definitely not Groucho), and they are better prepared to do work to order than the undergrounders.

It feels like I've linked to about a million Maurice Sendak interviews during the short life of this blog, but he keeps giving them, and he's amazing at them, so I'm not going to stop now. If you didn't see his appearance on Stephen Colbert, drop everything and watch it now:

[UPDATE: Part two is up now:]

There are a lot of big-time arguments and discussions going on in the comics internet world these days, most of which we've basically ignored here due to either lack of interest or out of a possibly ill-considered disinterest in peddling gossip as news. But it isn't all petty squabbling. Jason Thompson knows his stuff, for example, and his recent essay on the dire straits facing manga publishers not only in the States but in Japan deserves attention.

There's also been a lot of argument online recently about the economic uncertainties of Western cartooning, and the impact of online piracy upon it. Heidi MacDonald has perhaps done a service by gathering a whole host of recent controversial posts on this topic, though some of the linked-to posts aren't nearly as informed or well-reasoned as Thompson's, and the comments thread that follows is a good place to avoid if you've been feeling depressed lately. The subject at hand (and the arguments on both sides) deserve fuller attention than I can devote to them this morning. That being said, people seem to enjoy a ritual flame-war teeth-gnashing effigy-burning pity-party every now and again, and maybe they should, if only for catharsis. [UPDATE: Tom Spurgeon responds to Heidi's post here.]

Peer Review

On the site today: Sean Collins introduces us to Julia Gfrörer.

In contributor news: Did you know that Frank Santoro is going on tour to preach his comics gospel? Well he is! Here's the info:

Frank Santoro’s Comic Book Layout Workshop

Why do some comics read easier than others? Is it the story, the cartooning or the page design? Frank Santoro will demonstrate how some cartoonists such as Hal Foster and Herge used visual harmonies and structures in their page designs much like classical oil painters. Discover the similarities between visual and musical harmonies and how some of the great cartoonists used dynamic symmetry like a map to organize their stories.

Also, after the talk, Frank will lead an informal FREE workshop focusing on formats available for the comic book maker in 2012. Everyone is welcome. Come see what Frank Santoro’s Correspondence Course is all about - or come on down just to argue with Frank - maybe even buy a book and get it signed.

Tour Dates - Frank Santoro Signing / Workshop Tour

Thursday 2/2

Escapist Comics
Berkeley, CA

Friday 2/3
Mission Comics
San Francisco, CA

Thursday 2/9
Floating World Comics
Portland, OR

Saturday 2/11
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
Seattle, WA

Thursday 2/16
Lucky’s Comics
Vancouver, BC

If I lived in the fabled West I'd travel a great distance to experience this.

On the internets things are a little slow, though Tom Spurgeon has some exciting D&Q news. And here are some old comics: H.G. Peters' last Wonder Woman story; Anyone want some Wardell? Anyone?

How You Say?

This morning, we have Joe McCulloch's take on the Week in Comics, wherein he does a quick followup on yesterday's Jason Karns interview, and we also present Matthias Wivel's review of Carl Barks's Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes". Wivel is also in Angoulême right now, and we plan to begin featuring his reports from the festival later this week.

Speaking of Angoulême, Sarah Glidden will be living in the area for seven months, and recently posted a photo tour of the area.

Tom Spurgeon's got a good interview with Tom Gauld.

Milo George reviewed the Russ Cochran Sunday Funnies project that was mentioned in the comments of last Friday's post.

I am the furthest thing from an expert on issues related to SOPA and online piracy, but I found this article in the Register last week to be very helpful, in the sense that it wasn't just screeching and explained some of the complexities that have been ignored in the general clamor I've seen so far.

Not comics (or barely so): Steven Heller digs up a 1932 children's book full of very stark, black and white photographs of everyday objects, one that claims that a "baby needs to learn about things as they are, and simple, accurate pictures to help him." I don't want to come off like the dumb iPad enthusiast of yesteryear by extrapolating too far from my own experience, but I've personally been amazed to discover just how readily very young children do recognize objects from drawn and even caricatured versions of them. There's a reason Richard Scarry's still in print, and this one isn't.

Seriously Funny

Today we present Jim Rugg interviewing FUKITOR's Jason Karns.

And we have a guest blog from the great Drew Friedman, who just finished this phenomenal portrait of Harvey Kurtzman, and had this to say about the man himself:

The legendary Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993) needs no introduction. So here's one anyway. Cartoonist, writer and editor, he was the founder and creator of Mad, Trump, Humbug, Help, etc. Along with his long time partner, cartoonist Will Elder, he spent 20 years producing the lushly painted comic strip "Little Annie Fanny" for Playboy.

Beginning in 1975, Harvey Kurtzman was also a teacher at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York, which is where I eventually met him. In fact, the main reason I chose SVA as an art school was because Harvey Kurtzman was listed as an instructor in their catalog. Growing up as the son of a renowned writer (Bruce Jay Friedman), encountering and meeting various celebrities, authors and performers was common for me, but I always held cartoonists on a higher level. The fact that my dad was actually friends with  Maurice Sendak and Jules Feiffer (author of...The Great Comic Book Heroes!!) was just astounding to me, as my goal from an early age was to become a cartoonist, and in addition, I already knew my comics history. Attending a Playboy authors convention in the early seventies, my father posed for a giant group photo (taken by Alfred Eisenstadt) along with about a hundred other Playboy contributors. Hugh Hefner was prominently up front, with many celebrated authors and artists scattered throughout. When I saw the photo in Playboy, what impressed me the most was that my dad was standing right next to one of my Cartoon Heroes: none other than Harvey Kurtzman! I have no idea if they even spoke to each other but it was still such a point of pride for me.

As a teenager in the early seventies, I attended many comic book conventions in NYC, where Harvey Kurtzman was a frequent guest, but I never dared approach him, terrified he'd dismiss me as just another geeky fanboy. Seeing his name listed in the SVA catalog a couple of years later would finally grant me access into his world, or so I hoped.

I eventually signed up for Kurtzman's course in late 1978. When the first class was ending, and wanting to impress him with my opening line, I made my approach. He was sitting at his desk doing some class paperwork and I leaned in and awkwardly stated: "You know my father!" He lowered his glasses and looked up at me with tired, weary eyes, "Who's your father?", he asked.  I answered "Bruce Jay Friedman". Seemingly unimpressed, he murmured, "Oh, the author" and returned to his paperwork. But he quietly did take note, and would always introduce me to visiting class guests by sarcastically announcing "and this is the son of the author Bruce Jay Friedman".

Harvey has been criticized by some for not being a great teacher, but never by me (after all, I wasn't a great student). It actually wasn't important that he wasn't a "great teacher" -- just being in his presence was enough. For some still unknown reason, Harvey chose to teach "gag cartoons" in his class, preparing his students for a career as, say, a New Yorker or Playboy gag cartoonist. Rarely did he bring up the subject of comics, but if a student ever did, particularly referring to his early Mad or war comics for EC, he clearly (to me anyway) took great pride that anyone still cared and was interested in that work. But most of his students just thought of him as their amiable cartoon instructor "Mr. Kurtzman," some perhaps knowing he had some vague connection to Mad and that he wrote that sexy comic strip in the back of Playboy (During one of Gary Groth's extensive interviews with Kurtzman for TCJ, he asked Harvey about teaching at SVA and what the students were like, "They don't know nuthin'!" was Harvey's dismissive reply, which sadly, was basically true). But to me and many others, he was the droopy, turtle-faced Living Legend in our midst, and once a week for 3 hours it was our ground zero, the main meeting place for like-minded young cartoonists, future humorists, comics writers and editors, plus you never knew who might drop in. A constant stream of guest cartoonists could show up at any given time, among them were Robert Grossman, Rick Meyerowitz, Neal Adams, Jack Ziegler, et al. The first time I ever encountered Robert Crumb was when he appeared at the class unannounced. Just as I had avoided approaching Kurtzman at the comic cons, I didn't dare approach Crumb.

Harvey encouraged chaos in his class. At the beginning of his course, he'd hand out balloons and ask everyone to blow them up till they exploded, simulating the "surprise" you should get from a cartoon punchline and leading to inevitable hysterical laughter from all. I've often referred to his class (and SVA in general) as "The 13th grade" or "Clown College."  As the cartoonist Kaz has mentioned, "Drew went into SVA knowing what he wanted to do and left SVA the same way"; meaning, I was hard if not impossible to "teach." As far as classroom insanity, Harvey usually enjoyed and encouraged the Three Stooges noises and the endless insanity, often instigated by me. He once even quietly took me aside during class to "thank me" for keeping things so lively. But Harvey was also very sensitive and fragile, and sometimes prone to tears, especially at that point in his life when things perhaps hadn't worked out as he had hoped, and Little Annie Fanny was his main bread and butter. Some days he'd arrive at class and was clearly not in the mood for the hi-jinx that would surely ensue. Oh, and let me go on record and address one particular false rumor that has plagued me for years. I did not hurl a desk out the window during a class! It was a fellow student I hurled.

I'd like to think Harvey and I were friends, or at least as friendly as a wise-ass student could be with his teacher. I was frequently asked to join him along with class guests and certain chosen students (among them, Mark Newgarden, Dave Dubnanski, Phil Felix and Mike Carlin) at the after class get togethers at his favorite Irish bar, The Glocca Morra, around the corner on East 23rd St,  where he could finally unwind and reminisce about the old days at EC, Bill Gaines, Will Elder's practical jokes, his theories about coke bottle design, politics (he admired Ronald Reagan!) and women.

I was proud that Harvey always seemed to "get" my work or at least appreciate what I was doing and the painstaking detail I was putting into it (he referred to me once as the "new Wally Wood"... Yikes!). He seemed to take pride in the fact that after I graduated I was getting attention and being printed in mainstream publications like Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and Spy. He even wrote a foreword to one of my books. After SVA, I saw Harvey only a few more times. One summer he called me out of the blue and asked if I'd like to edit a humor magazine for him. I was floored by the offer and said "Of course!!", which is when he earned one of his nicknames, "Harvey the Vague." That's the last I ever heard anything about editing a magazine for him. Harvey died in 1993 after suffering for several years from the ravages of Parkinson's disease, but his legend has by no means diminished, in fact it continues to grow. Aside from the recent coffee table book about his career from Abrams and the deluxe Humbug box set from Fantagraphics, a massive biography is in the works, which will cover in detail his SVA years, as well as a film documentary. During my recent interview (along with Gary Groth) with Jack Davis at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, Jack continually brought up Harvey as the best editor he ever worked for,  giving him full credit for pushing him in artistic directions that would eventually make him one of the top commercial illustrators ever.

It was after our talk with Jack that I was inspired to create this portrait (based on a mid-seventies photo by E. B. Boatner) of Harvey Kurtzman, posed in his attic studio at his home in Mount Vernon, NY.

In the Context of No Context

Today we say goodbye to Leslie Stein, with her fifth contribution to the Cartoonist's Diary column. We also present Ken Parille's newest GRID, in which he evaluates many of the comics of 2011, including Habibi, Holy Terror, The Death-Ray, and many others.

One of the comics Parille discusses is Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve 12, which I happened to finally read just a few days ago, though I purchased it the day of its release. (Not until this past year, after making a sincere effort to read as many comics of interest as possible, have I realized just how many solid comics there actually are being published, and how easy it is to fall behind. I read comics every day, and still haven't gotten to several of the books on Parille's list, for example.) Anyway, this is a very strong issue of Optic Nerve, which I enjoyed enough that it makes me want to go back and re-examine some of his earlier work—his earliest minicomics were raw and very funny, but somewhere along the way, his comics stopped clicking with me on a regular basis. Despite Tomine's obvious artistic command, his characters, plots, and situations seemed so low-stakes, yet were apparently taken so seriously, that I found it hard to relate to what was going on. I wonder now, after enjoying this last issue so much, as well as large portions of Shortcomings, if I was simply misreading him—the story I like best here, "Hortisculpture", is also sort of slight, but the character interplay and dramatic situations are handled so lightly, and his storytelling displays a subtlety so far beyond most of what's being published at the current moment, that the parts end up seeming strong enough to redeem the whole. (Of course, I've only read it once so far, and new facets may reveal themselves on a second or third go-round.)

Parille makes it a point in his column to focus on the key formal aspect of "Hortisculpture": the way its scenes are planned to resemble individual episodes of a daily newspaper strip. This is becoming an increasingly popular strategy -- Clowes did something similar in Wilson, Tim Hensley in Wally Gropius, Seth, Ivan Brunetti, David Heatley, etc. -- and it produces an interesting effect. In Wilson, portraying the title character's life in discreet strips not only allowed Clowes a formal excuse to experiment with different drawing styles at appropriate moments, but also served to recast the often disturbing incidents of Wilson's life as temporary and humorous situations. A character being sentenced to prison reads differently in the context of a long-running comic strip than it does as the middle section of a more traditional graphic novel. (Is it too early to apply the term "traditional" to graphic novels?) In Wally Gropius, it makes the often perverse goings-on even more unsettling. And in "Hortisculpture" it somehow manages to add a melancholy tone to what is an essential comedic storyline -- exploiting not only the reader's natural inclination to fill in the narrative gaps "between the gutters," but also his or her tendency (trained by exposure to so many decades-long strips) to imaginatively extend a comic strip's storyline in all directions. A more traditionally organized story would seem more settled, more complete.

These effects are everywhere in comics these days, and not always created consciously. In their most recent collected editions, Prince Valiant and Gasoline Alley and Little Nemo read differently than they used to--and we see their creators differently because of it. Frank King is revealed as an early graphic novelist; for the first time in decades, readers can begin to experience the wonders inspired by properly printed strips from Foster and McCay, published at or close to their originally intended size.

Of course, we are still not reading these strips as the original readers did. Simply being collected into books changes the strips' context dramatically. When Fantagraphics divides the constantly reprinted EC stories into artist-specific books later this year, it will undoubtedly similarly change our understanding of the work, whether we notice it consciously or not. Sometimes reading the lavish new collections of Terry and the Pirates or Popeye or Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie, I wonder what it would have been like to experience these strips as they were published, one daily installment at a time. All of these great proclaimed masterpieces were not intended to be read in large gulps, but in daily sips over decades. Barring accident or disease, I've probably got five or so decades of good vision left, so if I want to try out one of our classics the "real way," I need to get started soon.

Downtown

On the site:

It's Day 4 of Leslie Stein's Diary, in which we learn about happy family time. And, hey, Joe McCulloch snuck in a full scale review of the much-discussed new comic book from Brandon Graham, Prophet #21. No fair Joe, you're making us look like slackers. Even more than you usually do! And Kristian Williams contributes a review of a recent edition of "Conversations" series: Alan Moore.

Elsewhere all around the web -- Kim Thompson sent me this email with the following text, so like a good soldier, here ya go: "Kim Thompson forwarded this oldish link to an excellent interview with Asterix translator Anthea Bell: 'I was toying with the idea of asking her for an interview someday,' Kim notes, 'but this little piece does the job beautifully. She's been my comics-translating idol since 1976, when my dad, who worked as a professional translator, brought home a translator's newsletter that compared Asterix translations and specifically cited her and her co-translator's work as outstanding.'

I love when someone else does my job for me. Let's see, Michel Fiffe has a phantasmagoric blog post from Michel Fiffe, taking in many a topic and vision. Here's a fine post about the great classic illustrator Howard Pyle and his students. Pyle being the foundation of the modern adventure illustration genre of drawing. That's a mouthful. This post about a new Seth project is incredibly enticing. Order placed.

And I leave you with this blatant conflict of interest: A really awesome video by Black Pus, which is Brian Chippendale's one-man-band mode. Warning: may cause motion sickness and lazy interpretations.