Elsewhere, Rob Clough presents his thoughts on the latest issue of Love and Rockets.
And David Brothers and Graeme McMillan offer the first two substantial reviews of Frank Miller's Holy Terror I've yet seen. They're both tremendously negative takes, but probably because of the book's subject matter, they avoid the yuk-yukking of most Miller-bashing. I expect a lot more of this kind of thing.
Also, interesting that this and Habibi are coming out on the same week, and so close after the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. It's hard not to compare them as long-gestating responses to those events, even if they are only (in the case of Habibi) indirectly so.
Good morning, & welcome to another week of comics talk.
First, Ken Parille performs another comic-book dissection, and this time his laboratory frog is the spearhead of DC's bold new 52 initiative, Justice League #1. As Ken put it elsewhere: "Normally I write about comics I like and try to explain what's interesting about them. This time I take a different approach."
A big day on the site today, with enough reading material to carry you through the weekend and well into next week!
First we have Jesse Pearson's riveting (if I do say so myself) interview with Johnny Ryan, in which we learn more than I ever thought possible about the cartoonist. This is a must. Jesse begins:
There has never been an alternative comics artist who makes work that’s more divisive than Johnny Ryan’s. Shit, piss, farts, dicks, and pussies are his vanilla material. When he really gets rolling, he’ll deal in rape, murder, genocide, 9-11, AIDS, baby fucking, and the end of the world. The style of art in his humor comics—all cute and cartoonish—both undercuts and ramps up the disturbance factor. It’s dizzying.
And it gets even better from there.
And then we have Kim Deitch's eleventh installment of his memoir, in which he swerves into opera and gardening:
Our place had a nice bay window with plenty of sun, and for a period Sally had gotten into growing all kinds of different things. One day she took a shot at germinating some pot seeds from my current stash. I wasn’t relying on pot to draw all that much anymore, but I was still smoking the stuff. Well, that particular experiment was a roaring success and I soon took it over. It seemed to have awakened a latent farmer within me.
Well, friends, what more could you want? I will not direct you anywhere else -- I refuse -- because this should be enough! And it is!
1. After speculating about how Disney is going to respond to working with the anarchic and unprofessional employees of Marvel (i.e. "small talents with big egos"), Jim Shooter posts his contracts from Marvel in 2002 and DC in 2007. (via)
2. The much-missed Jeet Heer emerged briefly from the chaos of new fatherhood and several large projects to e-mail me a link to this appearance from another Journal fan favorite:
Heer also wrote this recent review of Michael Kupperman's new Mark Twain book.
3. Are old-fashioned maps (the kind with sea monsters and dragons) comics? Not really, but it may be hard for some to pinpoint exactly why when confronted with a few of the images in this short illustrated history of them.
4. Brian Chippendale takes on the New 52 at DC, reviewing the new Justice League and Animal Man titles, as well as various Marvel, independent, and manga titles.
5. Finally, there's something of a debate going on right now regarding the coherence (or lack of same) of the action scenes in recent blockbuster films. Jim Emerson started it off with this excellent video essay critiquing a chase sequence from The Dark Knight.
A.D. Jameson defends the scene here, claiming that Christopher Nolan and his collaborators are trying a new and visceral approach to cinematic action that doesn't rely on narrative coherence.
All of that is interesting but not obviously related to comics. Except that it reminded me of many of Frank Santoro's arguments over the years (here's one) regarding the disappearance of the "classical" (for lack of a better word) cartooning style that was notable for its clarity, and was once evident in the work of everyone from the masterful Milton Caniff to the perennial critical whipping boy Don Heck. Nowadays, American action comics are almost all just big explosions, pointless decapitations, and impossible-to-parse (or believe) battle royale splash pages. Drawn in "photo-realistic" style, of course, so as to denote seriousness (not unlike how Nolan is supposed to be presenting a new "realism" in superhero films).
I don't have a coherent theory as to why this is so, beyond a general coarsening of the culture. Or at least the culture of this particular kind of action story. The normal thumb-sucking answer is to blame it on video games, but you don't actually see the same incoherence in your typical Xbox boss fight, so I don't think that's it, unless video games have simply spurred filmmakers and cartoonists to desperation due to lost market share. Further investigation is required.
Hayley Campbell reads Nate Powell's Any Empire against an extraordinary backdrop and asks a few questions.
Jack Adler, the noted production man at DC Comics from 1946 to 1981, has passed away. Mark Evanier has a summary of Adler's career. Adler was responsible for the stunning look of DC covers in the 1960s, innovating in color and texture.
Jog's pal Peter Milligan is interviewed about his work for DC's 52, specifically Red Lanterns, and says:
I suppose one of the main aims of this book is to take what have hitherto been monomaniacal bad guys and turn some of them at least into something more rounded and more compelling.
Gotta start somewhere!
Over at the Forbidden Planet blog there's a report on an exhibition of work by Maurice Tillieux, whose Murder by High Tide is one my favorite books of this year, even though I'm still trying to figure out a way to write something intelligent about it. Click over for some juicy photos and good info.
Yesterday Frank Santoro announced the beginning of a cartooning correspondence course. He says:
There are a lot of cartooning courses and classes available right now. CCS, SVA, and SCAD – but I want to do it differently: a one-on-one 8-week correspondence course over phone, e-mail and snail mail. I’d like to use the work and development for a book about making comics. I’m going to focus specifically on advancing your understanding of layouts, color, contour line drawing, and printmaking for producing comic books. The 8-week class is $500. This class is limited: only ten students will be accepted.
I would apply just to learn from the maestro, but he'd never take me. Anyhow, Frank's also posting some beautiful drawings on his own site, like this one.
And today we bring you the latest from R.C. Harvey, this time exploring a curious byway of comics history and education via the story of Max Eastman. Harv begins:
Whilst wandering lonely as a cloud in a foreign clime some years ago, I toured a couple nifty dusty old bookstores (the dust was a big part of the nift) and chanced upon a tome called Enjoyment of Laughter, a 1936 opus by Max Eastman. It was the author’s name that stopped me. Wasn’t Max Eastman, I asked myself, the editor of the rabble-rousing socialist magazine, The Masses, back in the 19-teens?
-Daniel Best explains why the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito was important.
-Not comics: This long piece about Alex Katz is a good look at an aging artist, manly competition, and the way one atmosphere of the art world functions. It pertains here mostly because of how it applied to artists in any medium, and because Katz remains, in many ways, an artist whose sense of line and figure is applicable to cartoon drawing.
Alan Gardner comes out in favor of the newspapers who have pulled Garry Trudeau's recent Doonesbury strips previewing material from the new Sarah Palin biography, but I have a hard time understanding why, based on the strips published so far. This is pretty tame stuff.
Finally, you might have seen the photo comic made by a very young Kim Thompson that is currently making the rounds online. Or maybe you've been reading his most recent dream journals. What I want to know is if this is the same Kim Thompson whose heretical letter was published in Captain America 194 in 1976?
Today we're giving the site over to Dylan Williams. We are posting the first handful of a series of tributes we hope to continue, as well as an unpublished 2008 interview with Dylan about his relationship to punk rock. We want to thank everyone who contributed, and especially Chris Cilla, an author whose masterpiece-to-date, The Heavy Hand, was recently published by Sparkplug, for turning around a wonderful portrait of his friend and publisher in record time. And I speak for Tim when I extend our deepest condolences to his friends and family.
Zak Sally has written a lengthy and very moving piece about Dylan at The Comics Reporter, where Tom continues to collect links to other tributes and remembrances.
Most other links would seem rather silly, so instead I'll offer two by artists that Dylan completely schooled me on:
Here's a wonderful page of original art by H.G. Peter (it was Dylan who was responsible for Peter being in my book Art in Time) translated into Spanish.
This morning sees the debut of another episode of TCJ Talkies, this time featuring Mike Dawson's interview with the cartoonist and podcaster Alex Robinson. It was recorded at last weekend's SPX.
We also have another review of Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume, this time by Sean T. Collins. It was written before Charles Hatfield had turned in hisreview, and so shouldn't be viewed as a direct response.
A couple of months ago, I needed $10,000 to self-publish a big omnibus collection of my webcomic Narbonic. By way of explanation, I am not one of your big-name webcartoonists. At this point people are vaguely familiar with my work, but I’m not one of those folks with half a million page views and people queuing up to buy t-shirts with my characters’ hip and witty comments printed on them. I have a moderate but very devoted (and very entertaining) audience, and I am in no danger whatsoever of making a living from my comics.
Joe McCulloch, who, this weekend, via SPX, finally stayed long enough in one place to really get talking, brings us the week in comics.
We just returned from SPX, which was the first convention of its kind I ever attended, and which still seems to me to be the one I always have the most fun at. (I still have never gone to TCAF, though. And the Brooklyn festival probably has a higher percentage of comics & art that I am interested in and wouldn't be able to find elsewhere. But I live near NYC, so that doesn't have the same out-of-town event feeling.) Anyway, though I missed seeing Frank Santoro and various other people who didn't make it, this was one of the most fun and successful-seeming SPX shows that I can remember. We will have further and fuller coverage of the event in the near future.
News of the death of longtime show fixture Dylan Williams could not help but cast a pall on things. He was an inspirational figure to many, and a champion of deserving work that was often almost impossibly uncommercial. Chris Mautner at Robot 6 has gathered some of the online tributes from people in the comics world who knew him (here is another), and I expect there will be many more coming. [Tom Spurgeon is collecting links about Williams here.]
Today on the website, we bring Steven Brower's examination of the dream comics of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and Mort Meskin.
Amazon's Omnivoracious reviews the latest issue of The Comics Journal.
Stephen Bissette shares how he responds when people ask him to draw their graphic novels.
Maurice Sendak talked to the Paris Review in advance of his upcoming book.
Mike Rhode at Washington's City Paper interviewed many of this weekend's exhibitors, including Craig Thompson, Keith Knight, etc.
Last week, Kevin Huizenga did a brief but good online q&a with the Fantagraphics website.
Dylan Williams, cartoonist, writer, and publisher of Sparkplug Comic Books, reportedly passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was one of the defining figures of the contemporary independent comics world, and beloved within it. He will be greatly missed.
A benefit art auction to help pay for his medical costs is ongoing.
We're packing up the two-door sedan and heading down to SPX. You'll see me at the PictureBox booth with Matthew Thurber. Our official SPX correspondent, Nicholas Gazin, will be wandering the halls for two solid days in search of good stories. That's right, while I loll around behind the table and Tim bobs in and out, Gazin will be assembling the "real" story. I'll also be presenting an Ignatz Award with Brian Ralph, who tells me I'm to play his "straight man."
Anyhooooo, Rob Clough has a handy list of 10 Cartoonists to Seek Out at SPX. Me, if I wasn't grumpily selling books all day I'd be attending some killer sounding panels and talks. I mean, there's solo panels with Roz Chast, Diane Noomin, Jim Woodring, and Johnny Ryan, not to mention a lecture by Kim Thompson on Jacques Tardi. Damn.
That said, if you cannot fulfill all your comic book dreams this weekend in suburban Maryland, be sure to read Kim Deitch's latest installment of his memoir, in which he discusses research, booze, SF, and Portland.
And, as we're prone to say, elsewhere online:
-I missed this: Abhay Khosla and Mark Sable discuss Mat Brinkman's Multiforce. It's a surprising read.
Good morning, all. Today, we bring you Rob Clough's lengthy interview with the Troop 142 cartoonist and popular podcaster Mike Dawson. A brief sample:
It is true that Chris and I went there with two other friends, and also sadly true that we were the only four mopes at the resort not hooking up with anyone. We took that vacation at a time when we were all single. We all lived in the city, had decent jobs, and some money to spend. We thought it would be a great time. Honestly, Hedonism was a skeevy place to spend a week. Yes, a lot of the details from the story are based on things we saw or experienced. [...] The steroid guy in the story who yells at Christopher Vigliotti and his friends for not scoring, and then brags about having unprotected sex in the hot-tub, that guy was real too. He was the one who had figured out that the thing to do was book a ten-day trip, because that way you'd get two batches of guests at the resort to hook up with, since most people were there for one week. Really, almost every character in the story is based on the people we encountered down there. While the trip was a bust for me and Chris, it gave us a lot of story material.
In sadder news, the underground filmmaker George Kuchar has died. Although his primary reputation derives from his films, Kuchar also had a lot of ties with the comics world, both as a friend of such figures as Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman (both of whom appeared in his movies) and as a cartoonist and contributor to Arcade himself. If you aren't familiar with his work, I strongly suggest tracking down a recent documentary made about Kuchar and his twin brother Mike, It Came From Kuchar. If you subscribe to Netflix, it is available for streaming right now. This is required viewing for anyone interested in underground art (as are Kuchar's own movies).
Jared Gardner returns to TCJ with his new monthly column, The Attic, in which he'll explore historical finds buried deep in the figurative Attic of comics history. We're excited for this one, as Jared is really bringing "the stuff". Welcome, Jared.
And Kristian Williams turns in a review of Liar's Kiss.
I'm looking forward to this book, and I hope you are, too. Plus: David Lasky! Anyhow, The Carter Family... coming soon.
I hope all of you had a good weekend. We spent the last few days holed up in a retreat in upstate New York, plotting out new ideas and directions for the website, & are now energized and ready to go. A sneak peek into our plans: In a few months, we are going to entirely reboot the site, creating new costumes and backstories for all of our columnists and reviewers, and generally revamping the Groth-verse into a faster-paced, "Twitter-style" "hub" for a new larger and younger audience raised on video games and sudoku. Every day the site will be redesigned and relaunched as a "#1," and readers will have the opportunity to sign on and compete with each other to become the "mayor" of their favorite stories! Lots more ideas like that are in store, but we don't want to give the whole game away, so stay tuned...
In the meantime, Frank Santoro checked in this weekend with his latest column (and Michael DeForge cartoon).
Austin English turns in a short interview with the very unusual and original cartoonist Warren Craghead.
And as he does every Tuesday morning, "Jolly" Joe McCulloch previews the Week in Comics.
1. The artist and former retailer Dustin Harbin turns in a much-discussed list of "Fifteen Thoughts on Digital Comics". It is thoughtful and worth engaging with. One caveat I have is that I keep seeing many commentators on digital publishing (both in terms of comics and of "regular" books) claiming that the "largest costs" of traditional publishing come from the physical process itself (i.e., the paper, the printing, etc.). In many cases, that just isn't so -- the largest costs come from all of the things you still may want to do with digital (i.e., hiring and maintaining editorial departments, publicity, etc.). This is worth keeping in mind!
2. The Kirby-net now sometimes seems nearly as big as the comics-blogosphere in general. Its latest big story is Rob Steibel's excellent illustrated examination of "Kirby Crackle."
3. There also seems to be something of an online revival of Cerebus talk as well, as indicated in this Journal as well as by writers such as Tim Callahan. The Hurting's Tim O'Neil has now entered the arena with the first part of what looks to be a long examination of how Cerebus is read today.
4. Greg Baldino reviews issue 301 of The Comics Journal over at Bleeding Cool.
5. In a must-read blog post, Eddie Campbell responds to a claim in a review of his work in TCJ 301. The reviewer claims that he could spot where Campbell relied on assistants in Alec. [UPDATE: Please see the comments at that post for an explanation of the error.]
6. Finally, wunderkind Matt Seneca has some thoughts on the new publishing initiative at DC Comics.
Kim Deitch is back with another installment of his memoir via music. It is now the late '60s, the underground era is in full swing, and after working at the East Village Other for a while, Kim decides to head west. A disclaimer:
Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened.
Also, Rob Clough reviews MK Reed and Jonathan Hill's Americus.
Elsewhere, and catching up after a lousy week at doing this job, more links than you can read:
2. For some reason, it never really occurred to me how young Lynda Barry must have been when she was creating the strips found in Girls + Boys, etc. This picture of her at a signing for the book makes clear immediately what my inability to draw obvious conclusions from things like years and dates did not. Those are some really funny comics.
3. Jack Kirby interviewed on the radio for his 70th birthday. Don't miss the end of this, when Stan Lee calls in and they argue over who did what. [Hat tip to S. Howe.]
4. There are two comics pieces by Noel Murray over at the AV Club right now, one a "primer" on newspaper comics that is fairly solid in a conventional kind of way, and the other a remembrance of the long-running erotic anthropomorphic-animal soap opera comic "Omaha" the Cat Dancer. (I have never read a single issue of Omaha, or the comic that is always somehow linked to it in my mind, Cherry Poptart. And have never really felt like I was missing anything. Is this genre-blindness or good sense?)
5. Tom Spurgeon turns in a rambling but insightful piece on DC's recent "relaunch." It is obviously far too early to say with any definitiveness whether or not DC's strategy will "work," or even what "working" actually means (the bigger problem), but two things I can say with certainty: the publicity was everywhere (even NPR), and there were big noticeable crowds in and outside stores in New York. Does it go without saying that the comic itself (Justice League #1) was just serviceable (if stupid and unmemorable)? Does it matter? Probably, after a few weeks, when the publicity boost dies down. Maybe some of the other new titles will be more interesting? If not, I can't see how this is really much of a change over the old way of doing things.
9. The cartoonist Michel Fiffe writes a long and much-linked-to essay over at the Factual Opinion regarding the intersection between independent and alternative comics and more genre-oriented superhero and sci-fi material. (One factual caveat from the D&Q Twitter feed.)
Kipp Friedman brings us his story of growing up with a case of comic book fever, aided and abetted by his brothers Josh and Drew.
And Charles Hatfield is back, and that's always a good thing. As is his review of the most recent installment of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Click over to The Panelists to see what Charles did on his summer vacation.
-There's a big relaunch of DC comic books right now! If you're interested, here's some info. I've somehow managed to not pay any attention, which seems fine.
Sorry about this week's Hurricane Irene-related delay in comic-book coverage. Other than the contaminated Essex County water supply, it looks like pretty much everything related to the East Coast branch of the Journal is back on track now. We hope all of our affected readers came out okay.
Today in his column, Ryan Holmberg takes a break from documenting the history of alternative manga, and focuses on the immediate and lasting effects of Japan's massive tsunami and earthquake on the manga industry, both in the form of manga reportage about the events, and the actual physical destruction of manga. A sample:
Fans searched Tohoku high and wide to read the newest chapter of One Piece in the March 19 issue of Jump. To find a copy, one man drove from Sendai to Yamagata (over an hour by car when roads are clear and fuel plentiful), bringing it back to Sendai, and lending it to a bookstore owner, who posted on his shop window a sign saying “Read it here!! Shōnen Jump March 19th issue, no. 16. One copy available.” Word spread quickly. Kids biked in from over 10 kilometers. More than 100 kids came to read that single issue.
And Mike Dawson returns with another episode of his podcast series, this time interviewing the cartoonist and publisher Tom Kaczynski.
Links-wise, I'm a little behind on my internet reading, but here are a couple to tide you over until I get back up to speed.
1. Elsewhere on the internet, the indefatigable Rob Clough reports and provides commentary on his top fifty comics of 2010. Always solid stuff, and plenty of titles that almost anyone not named Rob Clough probably missed.
2. Some lucky ones among you will already own copies of the minicomic in which these mutated strips originally appeared, but the rest have only read about them.
It's Tuesday. Summer is coming to a close, which means, at least for me, a return to the Fall book fair circuit. In honor of that, and to explain a significant new move by the Library of Congress, we have an interview with historian/collector/SPX-maestro Warren Bernard.
Today we bring part 8 of Kim Deitch's memoir. This is the best one yet and Kim promises it's only getting better. Here's a bit:
The concert was mayhem. You literally could not hear the band. I didn't really know what I was going to do with myself now that I was back, but I was sure I did not want to go back to art school. I wasn't even sure I wanted to be an artist anymore. After drifting through a couple of low-end jobs, I somehow ended up working for a posh nut house in White Plains: New York Hospital. I could write a whole book about that place. Suffice to say, if this is what things were like in a high-end laughing academy, I'd sure hate to see what was going on in a low-end one!
-Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat was beaten and his arm broken by security forces on Thursday. The Washington Post has coverage.
-The web site Bleeding Cool released the rather odious terms ComiXology is asking retailers to agree to in exchange for the use of its platform. It's yet another example of the industry killing itself from within, one that dovetails with this interview with Jim Lee and Dan DiDidio at which, shows the clueless cynicism at work in the company.
-And the store Floating World Comics is staging a benefit this weekend for Dylan Williams. There will be great art and books to buy and all the profits are going to help with Dylan's treatment. Tom Devlin summarized why so many other publishers and editors respect Dylan and Sparkplug. Go read that and then go buy some comics.