A Pesach Miracle

Good morning. First things first: The Strand has posted video of the Comics Journal panel that was held there on April 8th, in which Dan and I asked Gary Groth and Kim Deitch various questions. Here is part one:

Parts two through four (and related Strandicon videos) can be found here.

Lots of new stuff on the site. First, the latest installment of Frank Santoro's pretty amazing Layout Workbook series went up yesterday. If you haven't been following along, and are either an artist or anyone else interested in the formal side of cartooning, I couldn't more strongly recommend going back and starting from the beginning.

This morning, Ken Parille brings us a new interview with Ivan Brunetti, whose cult classic textbook Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice has just been republished.

Finally, Pascal Girard has graciously agreed to be the latest artist to contribute a "Cartoonist's Diary" to the site, and today brings his debut post. (This is the first delivered in cartoon form.)

It's been a tough day on the New Jersey Turnpike, so let's go to other news:

Tokyopop is closing down its manga line. Not long ago, this company and others like it were sometimes pointed to as the future of comics publishing. I suppose they still might be.

Frank M. Young and Paul C. Tumey address Bill Everett's Atlas work in typically exhaustive fashion.

Paul Gravett interviews the great Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti (also the guest on a recent episode of Inkstuds).

Which reminds me: By way of reviewing an excellent history of Italian comics, Craig Fischer points to one of the more lackluster categories of Eisner nominations. Whether or not you agree that it makes sense to add an academic writing award, good work is definitely going overlooked.

I Fought Through

Hello again!

I bet you're wondering where Tim has been since Monday? Well, I'll tell you: Sunday night I was so worn down (read: horrifically hungover) from MoCCA (read: I sell 4 food) that I called ol' Tim and begged -- begged! -- him to handle Monday, and promised in return I'd take the rest of the week. He obliged, like the gentleman he is. And so, here we are friends, it's Friday and I've made it!

Here are some things of interest:

Why do I so enjoy this blog entry by Rob Liefeld about doing layouts for Mike Mignola? Dunno. Maybe because I used to love both artists, and it somehow reminds me that they were both, as Frank might say, on the same team once. Also, I can totally see a Sammy Harkham's drawing in that last panel on the right. That bike just scooting over the ground -- that's a classic cartooning lick -- I still enjoy Mignola, but I think I liked him most in this slightly more linear, less formal period.

* Our feature image comes courtesy of Hooray for Wally Wood. Never seen this painting before, and love how clearly it's swiped from a film still, but somehow tilted just wrong... like a statue on the verge of tilting...

* The very fine Paul Gravett writes about Renee French at Art Review (posted on Paul's site).

* I always enjoy reading what Austin English has to say, and here he is at The Panelists.

* Rob Clough rounds up some recent web comics over at his own blog, High-Low.

Panels for Primates seems like a web-based comics project worth checking in on. It's hosted by Act-i-Vate and has thus far included Rick Geary, Rich Tommaso and Colleen Coover, among others. It's free for viewing, but meant to encourage readers to donate to Primate Rescue Center.

* Finally, head on over to 50 Watts and dig into a lengthy sequence of images by the Danish artist Palle Neilsen from his 1959 book Orfeus og Eurydike. Neilsen was profiled in TCJ 244 by our own Matthias Wivel, so look for that if you get intrigued. Apparently his 1980s North American publication, Scenario, is available via used bookstores.

Have a good weekend.

Over the Hump

Your daily bread:

*On the site today: Hayley Campbell on Winschluss's Pinocchio.

(Chain) Links:

*I just hope somehow Jim Shooter gets blamed even more for this. Just because that would increase his record.

*Everyone should be tuning in to The Comics Reporter to follow the L'Assocation news, since we've yet to get it together to cover the story. It's a big one, and Tom is hosting the best English-language coverage.

*There's another new Steve Ditko book coming out: Act 8 Making Lucky 13, Thirteen, Ditko's 32s. What a streak.

*Absolutely one of the best Mort Meskin stories I've ever seen.

And, the wind-up:

Every so often we'll present an oddity that comes across our desk; this email was passed on to us by one Gary Groth, an idealistic young "comics scholar" based in a ramshackle house in Seattle.

Dear Comics Scholar:

Matt and I would like to invite your contribution to a new anthology we are editing for ABC-CLIO called Icons of the American Comic Book. The project will include 100 entries spanning the breadth of comics culture, including the characters, creators, titles, and other facets that have achieved iconic status with the American consciousness. For your contribution, we can offer you an honorarium:

* $90 for each of the entries designated to run approximately 5,000 words
* $50 for each of the entries designated to run approximately 2,750 words
We are looking at an initial deadline of *August 1, 2011*.

Our aim with Icons of the American Comic Book will be to provide fresh insights into the significance of some of the most widely known and fascinating popular culture icons of the 20th and 21st centuries. Each entry will discuss the iconic significance of its subject and should be both more detailed and more entertaining than the conventional encyclopedia entry. More than simply character or creator biographies, the entries will provide in-depth explorations of the icons as products of and an influence upon American culture, informed by scholarly research.

Below is our list of entries (a strikethrough indicates an entry that is already assigned). If you are interested in contributing, please let us know what your primary as well as any secondary preferences would be, but do keep in mind that we will need your initial draft(s) by Aug. 1.  Along with each entry you request include *a brief statement of your qualifications* to write on the subject.

Please respond off-List to [EMAIL REDACTED]

Our publishers have stipulated that we should consider our primary audience to be students doing research. To that end, each entry must include a bibliography and one (or more) sidebars of 50-300 words each. (These considerations must be included within the word counts.)

We’re also planning to invite some guest contributors to 1) read and comment on the draft entries, 2) contribute a sidebar, or 3) even collaborate on the entry itself on several key entries. For example, comic book writer and editor Mark Waid (/Superman: Birthright/) might be enticed to act as a consultant on the Superman entry. Each guest’s role will depend on your comfort and willingness to work in such an arrangement.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you soon,

Randy and Matt

Entries of approximately 5,000 words

Archie Andrews

Barks, Carl

Batman

Captain America

Crumb, Robert

DC Comics

Dell Comics

EC Comics

Eisner, Will

Gaiman, Neil

Joker, The

Kane, Bob (and collaborators)

Kirby, Jack

Lee, Stan

Marvel Comics

Moore, Alan

Siegel, Jerry & Shuster, Joe

Spider-Man

Spiegelman, Art

Superman

Wonder Woman

Entries of approximately 2,750 words

Adams, Neal
American Splendor
Arkham Asylum
Aquaman
Black Panther
Blade
Bone
Captain Marvel
Classics Illustrated
Clowes, Daniel
Comic-Con International
Contract with God, A
Crime Does Not Pay
Dark Horse
Ditko, Steve
Doctor Doom
Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
Fanboy
Fantagraphics
Fantastic Four
Flash
From Hell
Green Lantern
Green Lantern & Green Arrow
Gonick, Larry

good girls
Heavy Metal
Hellboy
Hulk
Image Comics
Iron Man
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World
Katy Keene
Killing Joke, The
Kubert, Joe
Kurtzman, Harvey
Lex Luthor
Little Lulu
Mad
Magneto
Maus
McCloud, Scott
McFarlane, Todd
Milestone Comics
Miller, Frank
MLJ/Archie Publications
Morrison, Grant
Mr. Natural
Palestine
Plastic Man
Pogo
Punisher, The
RAW
Richie Rich
Robin
Romance comics

Rorschach
Ross, Alex
Sacco, Joe
Sandman
Scott Pilgrim
Sheena
Sin City
Sgt. Rock
Spawn
Steranko, James
Supergirl
Swamp Thing
Tales from the Crypt
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Thing
Uncle Scrooge
Warren, Jim

Watchmen
Wertham, Fredric
Wizard
Wolverine
X-Men

Zap

The jokes just write themselves here. Nothing I can write would be sillier than the list itself. Fave entry: "Bob Kane (and collaborators)". Every so often I think, "gee, books on comics could never be as bad as they used to be", and then I'm reminded that in some ways it's worse because so few people have actually learned anything. It's like parallel universes exist. The future: We are fucked. Wizard,  X-Men, (whiiinne: "no Yellow Kid?")  Zap. Ka-Boom.

Hey Look, It’s R. Crumb!

That line, spoken by one R. Gehr, was my favorite part of MoCCA. What does it refer to? Or Who? Who cares. It's just funny on 800 levels. Heidi MacDonald covers MoCCA here. My own report will appear... now! What is there to say? Let's see... Friday night was good at the Strand and Saturday night was drunken and fun at the TCJ launch party. Many people were there, including Boss Groth, a ton of artists (including Mazzucchelli, Burns, Girard, Evans, Ollmann, G. Bell, DeStefano, Stearn, Lewis, Newgarden, G. Wilson) many of our writers (among them: Rudick, Fry, Gehr, Howe, Gazin). And etc. We thank you all for coming out. And here are some pix:

The night began, as all cartoonist parties begin, with sitting: From left: Gary Lieb, Mark Newgarden, Charles Burns, Jacq Cohen; Standing at left: Richard Gehr.
Then of course there is some talking. Here Tucker Stone explains the difference between 1982 Brian Bolland inks and 1983 Brian Bolland inks. Tim is amused by the absurdity of it all.
Gahan Wilson to Gary Groth: "This is NOT how Hef used to do it!"
Three serious men: King Features' Brendan Burford, True Chubbo's Ray Sohn, and Seventeen's Mike Reddy.
Gabrielle Bell and Peggy Burns seem happy to see me. I am relieved by this.
And an atypical ending to a cartoonist party: Brecht Evans dancing in the back. I'm told Brecht had "the flu" the next day.

During the day I sold books. Overwhelming trends seemed to be a sense of exhaustion, questions about the viability of a medium filled with young professionals with no place to go, and a decent amount of low-stakes, "networking" thrown in. EH!

Other links for you:

On Facebook: Fluid, perfect, and according to the artist, unpublished early 1970s drawings by the great Victor Moscoso make the best argument yet for getting a Facebook account. Also the best argument yet for never letting an artist control his own monograph: They always leave the best stuff out.

Good article on hidden art in animation, because we all know animation is not art. "JK."

On the site for most of you:

Sean T. Collins talks to Daniel Clowes about Mr. Wonderful; a new column by R. Fiore on Jacques Tardi and Ayn Rand.

Guest Blog: Eric Reynolds on the End of Mome

MOME promotional art by Ponk.

The most recent issue of Previews announced that the 22nd issue of Fantagraphics' flagship anthology MOME would be its last. Conceived initially as an incubator of sorts for a group of youngish cartoonists by editors Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds, it quickly mutated and also became a home for short work by established cartoonists, short translated work by European cartoonists, and eventually any number of bizarre one-offs. That initialstrategy was abandoned because many of the earliest contributors, including Jeffrey Brown, David Heatley, Anders Nilsen, and Gabrielle Bell, no longer needed the exposure or this particular publishing outlet.

As contributors started dropping out of particular volumes and then the anthology altogether, it became convenient to print short works of established artists like David B, Killoffer, Jim Woodring, Lewis Trondheim, and Gilbert Sheldon. As Groth dropped out of actively editing and curating the anthology, it took on more of Reynolds' more idiosyncratic tastes, culminating in the magnificent nineteenth issue, which featured the comics of Josh Simmons, Olivier Schrauwen, T Edward Bak, Gilbert Hernandez, Tim Lane, and others. During the course of the anthology's run, Reynolds went from being in charge of Fantagraphics' publicity to becoming the company's associate publisher. I briefly spoke to him regarding his decision to end his anthology's run.

Rob Clough: Why did you choose to end MOME with #22?

Eric Reynolds: I knew I was facing the end at some point soon, I just couldn't quite decide when. At first I was thinking 25, which seemed like a good, round number. But then I kept thinking about 22: it's a personally resonant number with me. Myself, my wife, and my sister all have birthdays on a 22, and my wife and I got married on one. My daughter was due on my birthday, and although she decided to come a day early and was born on a 21st, I consider her an honorary member of the '22 Club.' Anyway, once I got that idea in my head it just felt right.

RC: Why did you feel like you were facing the end?  Were sales actively dropping or were they just flat?

ER: Just flat. It was breaking even or perhaps slightly better. Gary and Kim seemed happy to let me continue because they knew it was a labor of love, but I felt like I didn't want to let it get to a point where Fantagraphics was subsidizing MOME just for the sake of it. Like I  said, it just felt right to do it now. I know how many books we publish, how narrow our margins are as a company, and as much as I love MOME, my first obligation is to Fantagraphics and I felt like this was the right move, right now.

RC: Was the time investment too great for you at this point? Or was it  simply a matter of burnout after doing this for five years?  (Or some combination thereof?)

ER: Not quite either, really. I wasn't burned out on MOME, but I was slightly frustrated by my own inability over the last year or two to be as proactive an editor as I'd like to be. So if anything, it was that I couldn't put more time into it. If I could work full time on MOME and put it out monthly, I would love that. It has never been a  huge time investment for me, as a quarterly. I was pretty conscious from the get go of creating MOME as something that I could edit and put together without it becoming too much of an investment of my time, with the relatively consistent design template and a limited editorial voice.

RC: What has been the reaction of the artists you're currently publishing?

ER: They've all been great. I don't think I could take any pride in MOME if I didn't think most of the artists enjoyed the experience. Maybe they're just being nice, but I've been very flattered by the reactions I've received.

RC: How did they react when told the anthology was ending?

ER: They seemed bummed, but happy that it lasted as long as it did. They  were all very kind, that's the best way I can put it. It made me feel good.

RC: Which of the serials running in MOME do you foresee being collected by Fantagraphics?

ER: Well, hopefully most of them.

RC: What's your take on MOME's legacy?

ER: That's not for me to say. I hope it has a shelf life beyond the present, but I am in no position to say. I hope my daughter can read it one day and see what her old man was once up to.

RC: MOME really seemed to hit its stride again recently; do you regret ending it now?

ER: Ha! Well, yes and no. Doing this last issue is bittersweet, it feels like the strongest issue to date for me, and does make me second-guess myself a bit. But really, I'm pretty comfortable with the decision. It just feels like the right time.

RC: How do you compare MOME to other alt-anthologies that had significant runs, like Zap, Arcade, Weirdo, Raw, D&Q, Non, and Kramers Ergot?

ER: I don't know. It seems absurd to me to compare it to something like ZapArcade, Weirdo, or Kramers, which all seemed like such perfect representations of the art comic zeitgeists of their time. I'm not sure MOME ever had the sheer focus of any of those anthologies. Which is fine, but different.

Panels from Tom Kaczynski story for MOME 22.

Filling In

MoCCA did Dan in, so I'm stepping in to deliver the news.

First, we are publishing frequent Journal contributor Matthias Wivel's first story for the new site: an in-depth interview with the French artist Fabrice Neaud. I was not previously familiar with his work, which is not easy to find in translation here, but still found this to be a fascinating conversation. We hope you will too.

In other Journal news, the panel discussion at the Strand Friday night seemed to go well, or at least well enough. It's hard to tell from the microphone side of the table. But Gary and Kim Deitch were both in fine form, and the audience seemed happy. My favorite part came the first time it was mentioned aloud that Dan and I had taken over the website, when I could have sworn I saw a giant light bulb literally appear over Kim's head—he had apparently been too good-natured to ask what we were doing there earlier.

Several people inquired beforehand about the possibility of the panel being recorded, and they should rest easy, because by my count there were at least three devices capturing the whole thing for posterity. Thanks to all of you who attended.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Drawn & Quarterly had a limited supply of Chester Brown's instantly infamous Paying for It at the MoCCA Festival, and there are already three reviews online—from Tom Spurgeon and TCJ.com contributors Chris Mautner and Sean T. Collins—all worth reading later, or now if you can't wait for the actual book. Following the reaction to Brown's book may well end up being almost as much fun as the work itself—which, incidentally, it seems like I may have enjoyed more wholeheartedly than any of these three writers. (Why do I feel creepy saying so?) Then again, I haven't needed to take a publicly stance on the more polemic aspect of the book, which is the hard part. We'll have more coverage of Brown on the site closer to the book's release date.

Bhob Stewart investigates (with a little help from Jay Lynch) the possible origins of the term "Hoo-Hah!," a bit of slang frequent readers of early Mad will remember well. Was Harvey Kurtzman influenced by T.S. Eliot? Considering the mutual admiration society Eliot set up with Groucho Marx (one of the comedian's letters to the poet can be read online), I wouldn't put it past the realm of possibility.

Finally, via Tom Scioli, I learned of a Wired article that claims to have discovered a 1953 Otto Binder article that provided the secret inspiration for every nuclear-radiation-mutated superhero from Spider-Man to the X-Men. It's not true, unfortunately—the mutant superman has been around since at least the early '30s, when a writer named John Taine wrote a whole slew of "mutational romances." And Lewis Padgett's famous "Baldy" series of the 1940s, gathered in Mutant!, featured a race of persecuted bald telepaths, and provided an obvious reference for Professor X as well. But anyway.

Finally—Not (or at least only tangentially) Comics: Over at the great film site Mubi, our own Joe McCulloch writes about Frank Miller's The Spirit and Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. Check it out.

Go Time

The great Tim Kreider turns in an editorial/essay on the state of the cartooning profession. Despite a small amount of shared territory with a recent controversial Voice story (including a particular Ted Rall joke--it is a funny line, so I see why Rall likes to use it), this piece was written before that issue of the Voice was published. Not that it matters, since they're sufficiently different, but just so you know.

Also, Rob Clough contributes a review of the international survey anthology Gazeta.

Finally, of course, any Journal readers in the New York area tonight will want to come to the Strand bookstore, to see Gary Groth and Kim Deitch in discussion with Dan and myself about the magazine's history and legacy. It starts at seven, and comes after a full day of store appearances by cartoonists such as Ben Katchor, Jillian Tamaki, Pascal Girard, and Dash Shaw.

Elsewhere:

The 2011 Eisner Award nominations have been announced. It's going to take a little time to absorb the whole thing; there are definitely some good and deserving nominees in there, but a few surprising oversights as well. That's par for the course with awards all over, of course, but in comics, the whole thing sometimes seems especially perverse. More on this later, I am sure.

In news of more lasting importance, Bart Beaty sums up the latest state of the troubles at L'Association. Highly recommended.

Also on the Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon reflects further on the Voice non-payment issue.

I don't think we've yet linked to this interview with Anders Nilsen yet.

And here's a very short Q&A with the Journal's debut diarist Vanessa Davis.

Short and To the Point, Man.

Hello there. We're looking forward to seeing you at The Strand Friday at 7 pm. Watch me and Tim grill Gary Groth, while Kim Deitch valiantly defends us against his taunts. It will be a ball. Bring your questions about arcane TCJ history and we (by we, I mean Gary) will attempt to answer them.

And now, your links for the day:

* I'm pretty sure this means that Frank Santoro has finally been tapped to star as Batman.

* Tom Devlin reports back from WonderCon. Tom looks healthier and more distinguished each year while I grow haggard. Is it Montreal? All those John Stanley comics? His loving partner and children? Oh, whatever. I don't like it. Not one bit.

* Burp the Twerp. Yes. A reason to go on.

* Dan Zettwoch almost makes me care about baseball via these awesome buttons.

* Over at the Village Voice we learn about comics and money. It's about as depressing as you think, but also oddly... incomplete. However, it provided a nifty handout for my Cartooning major students yesterday. D&Q snagged a since deleted response from Mimi Pond, which is priceless.

* Barely comics: Mark Newgarden alerted me that our beloved S.S. Adams novelty company building has gone up for sale. We visited it long ago, when there were still remnants of fake doggy do to be found. Hard to believe a place so beautiful gave the world such unrelenting mania.

On the site:

-Jeet Heer returns with more thoughts on race and comics.

See at MoCCA, though I'll be wearing my other hat.

When All Else Fails

New to the site: Hayley Campbell joins the Journal team with a review of Kiki de Montparnasse.

Also, five new issues are up for viewing in the archives. Check them out now before they go up behind the subscriber paywall.

Issue 42 features an interview with Stan Lee.

In issue 43, Gary Groth meets Neal Adams.

Issue 44 finds Kim Thompson talking to Marv Wolfman (and an enjoyable pan from Gary on Sabre--funny how having standards can pay off in unexpected ways thirty years later).

Issue 45 features Marilyn Bethke interviewing Joe Staton.

And in issue 46, Will Eisner talks to Cat Yronwoode.

Dig in while you can.

Elsewhere on the webonet:

“Lichtenstein did no more or less for comics than Andy Warhol did for soup.” I don't remember coming across that Art Spiegelman quote before, but it's nice in that it does a lot of work in not so many words. Ernesto Priego dug it up for a traditional (but not philistine) comics vs. pop art post.

The cartoonist, editor, and, um, enthusiast (?) Sammy Harkham is good at pretending to be excitable and aggressive during interviews, and his recent Comix Claptrap appearance is no exception. It's all an act, folks. Honestly, what I really appreciate in Harkham's public appearances is his willingness to be candid—a surprisingly rare trait among cartoonists, as you'd think it would go hand in hand with a talent for the form. (The Claptrap is also one of a very small handful of comics interview podcasts worth following, so get on it already.)

Jeremy Sheldon wrote an online essay for the "Aliens" issue of Granta — as far as I can tell, it's the only content in the journal about, like, real aliens (meaning the outer-space kind). Otherwise, it's all immigration issues and such. In the essay, Sheldon discusses the deep meaning of science-fiction book covers, and draws much inspiration from the fact that the big alien monster at the end of Watchmen looks like human genitalia.

Our own Kristy Valenti writes about the artist Mike Kelley's take on the bottled city of Kandor here. If you don't know Kandor, that was a shrunken city from the planet Krypton that Superman kept around in his house. Whenever he got really lonely, he'd occasionally shrink himself down and hang out with the little people inside. Most comics theorists will tell you this is a metaphor for something or other. Schizophrenia?

For CCCBC members only: The occultist Kenneth Grant, whose work played a key role in Alan Moore's recent Neonomicon series, has died.

As has been mentioned a few times here on the blog (and in the site's comments), former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter has recently published a series of rather dubious claims regarding the infamous Marvel/Jack Kirby artwork debacle. For those of you unfamiliar with this history, Rodrigo Baeza has gathered together much of the relevant information into one place. Is it depressing that this recent Shooter activity is sparking so little discussion?

The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction recently held an industry day, and there are three big reports online about it: here, here, and here. (I particularly recommend Tom Spurgeon's.) It still amazes me that the CCS exists, even now that it's nearly reached the status of a institution.

Last Night on Gossip Girl…

Just kidding, I'm writing this before watching the new Gossip Girl, and it's a repeat anyway. But if demand warrants it I can try to convince Tim to let me run weekly recaps. If not, well, I'll just do so on my own time.

Well, well there is much to discuss, isn't there? For one thing, new to the site are full length interviews from the archive with Aline Kominsky-Crumb (from 1990, and by Peter Bagge) and Lynda Barry (from 1989 -- before many of you were born!). So go enjoy those, my friends. Spend the day, even.

Let's take a trip together around the internet, OK?

* Steven Heller calls our attention to a new traveling project from the great British pop artist Peter Blake.

* From WonderCon comes news that IDW will be releasing oversized editions of classic Marvel comics reproducing the original art. This is good news, I think, and points to a much-needed recognition by Marvel of the aesthetic value of this work and willingness to hand over material to a smaller publisher perhaps better equipped to handle this kind of project. The series begins with Walt Simonson's Thor. I'm curious where it'll go from there.

* Speaking of IDW, it's also releasing a deluxe edition of Darwyn Cooke's Parker material, to which I have a severe allergy. That said, This is a pretty wonderful memoir of hanging out with Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark, complete with photos of men with beards.

* This new profile of Moebius alludes to problems with the artist's vision, as well as a booming business in privately commissioned paintings. I'd be curious to see some of those pieces.

* Speaking of Moebius, and those who love him, Inveterate phone-talker Sammy Harkham lays it down on tape over at Comix Claptrap.

Finally, for you Facebook fanatics:

* Here is a fabulous selection of Out Our Way panels by J.R. Williams. Even in the current strip boom, Williams remains overrated underrated. I love his natural, easy-does-it drawing style and acute regional observations. Here's a project that could keep Jeet busy: "Great Regional Cartoonists of the 1920s". And not "midwest" or anything too easy. Oh no, I wanna see it state-by-state. Get a WordPress account and get started, Jeet!

Monday Monday

Dan spent some time with Ben Jones last week, and interviewed the man in anticipation of tonight's Cartoon Network premiere of Problem Solverz.

Our man in Scandinavia, Austin English, turns in his first review for the new CJ, looking at John Mejias's Paping Teacher's Edition.

Elsewhere:

Paul Gravett turns in an Angouleme report.

Tom Spurgeon interviews Wilfred Santiago.

Sammy Harkham interviewed by James Romberger.

Over at HiLobrow, our own Matt Seneca uses a panel from Weird Mystery Tales to explore Jack Kirby's depiction of women. "He was never meant to draw the average action comic’s shrinking violet of a 'gal.'"

HiLobrow seems to be upping their comics coverage in general, actually, and today also sees the first post in a week-long collaboration with 4CP's John Hilgart.

Contracts, Contacts, Comments

Our header image is by Frank Robbins. His gestural inkwork in the 1970s looks better than ever these days. In its day, it couldn't have been a stranger fit, but now... now it looks like something I'd publish. Ha! Of course I love the 1950s and '60s work, but there's something about the wild line and off-kilter perspectives that just does it for me here.

On the site today: Brandon Graham Day 5! Thank you Brandon for an excellent week together. I feel we've become closer, learned things about each other, and bonded in unexpected yet pleasurable ways. Wait, that was my week with my puppy. What were we talking about? Brandon! Tim and I have been thrilled to host Brandon, as we both admire his work and vision. Follow him some more over at Royal Boiler.

Your links, madam:

• I enjoyed this piece on Bernard Baily by Ken Quattro. The more in-depth, "how they lived" style pieces on cartoonists that appear, the richer the general history becomes. Baily is someone whose early work on The Spectre stands out for me for it's hazy gloom.

* Daniel Best has multiple transcriptions of the parts of some of the depositions made public thus far in the ongoing Kirby v. Marvel case. These are text versions of the PDF documents available online at Justia. Following on that, Sean Howe focuses on the publication of Steve Gerber's 1977 contract with Marvel for Howard the Duck. If that's not enough Howard for you, click over to TCJ #40 and check out the Howard newspaper reprints from that issue.

* Related: New Steve Ditko book ready for shipping.

* Unrelated: The Dallas Observer takes a closer look at the Dark Knight Returns page being offered for sale by Heritage Auctions.

* Baseball and Comics Dept.: Huizenga, May, and Zettwoch each take on opening day over at Leon Beyond. Tom Spurgeon interviews Wilfred Santiago.

Have a good weekend.

The Sense That There Are Invisible Forces

New feature up today: Tara Sinn introduces (and interviews) the mysterious Japanese poster artist Aquirax Uno, and day four of Brandon Graham's diary.

"My inspiration for these stories simply comes from the strangeness of life and the the sense that there are invisible forces behind things, and things happen for reasons we can't fully understand." Am I the only person who missed this brief but very well done video interview with Jim Woodring?

This one-question interview with Johnny Ryan kills my lonely fantasy that Prison Pit's plot was maybe, kind of, sort of a loose remake of Robert Sheckley's The Status Civilization. I guess it was always kind of more obviously inspired by the story in the back of Real Deal #1, anyway. (Prison Pit fans who haven't read that issue better get on it.)

A nice, and surprisingly informed, short tribute to Captain Marvel artist and former Journal columnist C.C. Beck appeared on The New Yorker's website yesterday.

Do you know anything about 1940s cartoonist Ann Roy? If so, current Journal columnist Ken Parille needs your help.

Another current Journal columnist, Jeet Heer, turned in a solid review of two recently reissued (and near canonical) comic histories for Publishers Weekly. I haven't yet read the Jerry Robinson book, but I agree with Jeet about the value of Brian Walker's collection.

Offhand, I can't think of any epistolary comics, but it's a great idea, with a lot of unexplored potential. Aidan Koch and Jaakko Pallasvuo are giving it a try right now.

We will review Jacques Tardi's Arctic Marauder soon, I promise. In the meantime, Craig Fischer has a smart-as-always response to the book here.

Finally, Comics Alliance has gathered several videos from French television featuring the likes of Moebius, Hugo Pratt, and Joe Kubert in action.

Maximum Meat Flavor For Minimum Money

That's right, I'm in Chicago for less than hours. Came out to see the Jim Nutt retrospective at the MCA, "Coming into Character." Scandalously, it is not traveling outside of the city -- through know fault of the show itself -- amazingly (or actually not, if you're familiar with recent programming decisions by other major museums), no other institution would take it. I'll keep it simple: If you can, go see this show. It's the best single-artist retrospective I've seen in a very very long time. Maybe since Dieter Roth at MoMA - PS1 in 2004. Watching Nutt tighten his focus to intensely rendered and detailed imagined portraits is riveting. These are paintings that can be looked at for hours -- worlds of brushwork exist within each area of these images. Every mark builds on the next, and the intersecting planes and surfaces build to multiple crescendos. Nutt is a real modern master, and one whose early language in the 1960s was highly involved with flat, comic-strip/advertising rendering. He's very far away from that now, though one can still see a bit of the diagramatic Gould grotesque in him if you squint just right.

Not that it's all culture here -- when I come to Chicago I roll with pal Ethan D'Ercole, who started me out with tacos, moved along to hot dogs, and finished off with deep dish pizza (the kind with the sauce on top, and, in a unique twist, a crust wrapped with carmelized cheese -- delightful).

Anyhow, it's a quick blog from me today, since I'm traveling and also in a food coma.

And your links:

* Amy Poodle on Batman Incorporated #4.
* This story is just sad, but obviously also infuriating and dangerous to the creators involved. Sad.
* This is fun: A bunch of prelim and promo art for Marvel's Strange Tales II.
* Bob Powell: A damn fine journeyman. Here's a 1944 war comic starring "The Spirit of '76".

On the site:

Tucker Stone on Jason Shiga's latest.

And with that, kind people, I go back to digesting.

My Dinner without Andre

It is easy to pick a side in the long-running debate between Garfield Minus Garfield and the original Silent Garfield. The latter reveals a bleak hidden dimension to the original strip, and enlarges our understanding by offering a new way to read it. The former simply relies on a cheap gimmick that reveals nothing other than the banal observation that if you remove one character from a dialogue, the remaining figures will look foolish. Take Andre Gregory out of My Dinner with Andre and you'll make Wallace Shawn look weird, too. So what? (I'd like to call dibs on that YouTube edit, by the way.) After all, it's no surprise that Garfield Minus Garfield got official approval and a book, while Silent Garfield quietly disappeared.

These thoughts are prompted by the new popular "viral" comic-strip edit, 3eanuts. The idea here is simple, too. As the site says, "Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all." You could perform this trick with most stories too—lop off the ending of anything from Psycho to Romeo & Juliet or Goodfellas, and you'll get a radically different tone and impression. So in a sense this is another facile experiment, but at least it illuminates something about how powerfully an artist's editing choices affect the reader. (via)

Today on TCJ:

Don't miss Jog's latest column, Shaenon Garrity's long-awaited return to the Journal with a review of the latest volume of Finder, and day two of Brandon Graham's diary.

More links:

Philip Nel brings us Crockett Johnson's first strip.

Jim ("Our Nixon") Shooter is still blogging, and just put up a post about how he became editor-in-chief of Marvel while he was still in his twenties.

The comments thread after this typically terrific Glenn Kenny post on Taxi Driver sees various of his readers getting back into the old argument over whether the main character of Scorsese's Raging Bull is "identifiable" — a debate that always seems to flare up around Scorsese and Coen Bros. films, and which also brings to mind last year's back-and-forth on more or less the same topic regarding Daniel Clowes's Wilson. Both sides of the character debate are represented well on the Kenny thread.

Joanne Siegel's letter to the head of Time Warner from shortly before her death is a must read (Spurgeon explains), and very sad.

Monday Madness

First, some office work.

Earth people, send us your event listings. As you may have noticed, we are publishing event listings. We wish to fill them up. So, direct your listing news to: [email protected].

We have uploaded issues 37 and 39-41 of ye ol' TCJ. Only 260 more to go. Almost there! But these issues are chock full of goodness. Issue 40, for example, has an interview with a young-ish Jim Shooter, just a little while before he was branded "Our Nixon." Kim Thompson, meanwhile, contributed a piece about Tom Sutton, and the great John Benson has an early (and very prescient) overview of Art Spiegelman's work. TCJ and Tom Sutton: A long term love affair. Issue 39 has a long piece on the now-infamous 1978 DC Comics contraction, a lengthy report on the then-comatose underground comics scene, and in the reviews dept., we have Kim giving Marvel 1970s-era Kirby a tough talking to, while Groth takes on Superman vs Muhammed Ali. And then issue 41 breaks open the Steve Gerber controversy, with a report and an interview with the man himself. The archive is still free for a little longer.

And new content today and from the weekend. In his first piece (of many, we hope!) for us, Tom De Haven takes on the upcoming Gilbert Hernandez book; meanwhile Frank Santoro brings it for the third week in a row. His best layout piece yet. By the by, if, during the week you long for Frank, as Tim and I often do, you can click over to his Tumblr and check in on him.

And now, onto links.

Most of you have probably already seen this NY Times piece on Marvel's publishing program. A little more business-y than I would've expected, the takeaway here seems to be that, uh, Marvel is trying... something, and that something is directed from the editors through the writers. The visuals in this visual medium aren't mentioned much, and neither are any particular creative strategies. Me, I'm still waiting for that New Universe revival.

Via pal Dash Shaw we have two delights. First is this animated film by the great illustrator James McMullan, who taught Dash at SVA, along with a few other generations of other artists. His drawing lessons are actually online at the New York Times. His languid, elegant figures are just astonishingly well painted. More McMullan can be seen at Container List. Second, here's an online exhibition of the Art of Akira, along with commentary.

Contributor Chris Mautner takes us to Comic Book College in the area of Frank Miller. This is a good start in some choppy waters. I'm glad Chris recommends The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is my favorite Miller work, post-1990 division. Also, he reminded me that Miller actually wrote Robocop vs. Terminator. I can't believe there's not a movie of that already. I'd go see that. Thrice! Dapper Dan's Movie Review would have a field day!

Finally, Harry Mendryk goes what we, around the "office" call "deep Santoro" with part one of an analysis of the Simon & Kirby colorists. And Joshua Glenn's HiLobrow continues to focus on Kirby with this fine piece by Adam McGovern.

 

Potpourri

As Jog noted in his column this week, the final issue of Neonomicon just came out, so now I have to figure out whether or not it's worth resurrecting the Comics Comics Comic-Book Club one more time, possibly in mutated form. Those of you who were reading along, stay tuned -- I'll figure something out.

Now, to the links:

Multiple birds killed with one stone in this brief review. A model of the short form.

Richard O'Connor digs up an old George Plimpton introduction to a Bill Plympton collection.

I suppose now that we've made the move to the Journal, I no longer am obligated to bring to your attention all news on Steve Gerber. But old habits die hard. Here's a Scott Edelman interview with the writer. The audio's a little poor, unfortunately, but Gerber is a good talker.

Carol Tyler is more charming when she gets purist about comics terminology than John Byrne is. Big claim, I know,

Speaking of Byrne, Roberto Batuel at the Comics Grid offers a short and perhaps slightly too reverential take on the infamous blank pages of Alpha Flight issue 6.

Normally I like to leave comic-book movie news to Dapper Dan, but just this once: the producers of the new live-action adaptation of Akira are reportedly hoping to cast white actors as the main characters (and change the location from "Neo Tokyo" to "New Manhattan"). Some are complaining, but they are probably forgetting how well Roland Emmerich's Godzilla came out.

You're probably seen word going around about the shirts Daniel Clowes designed for Stüssy. (Interview here.) They're beautiful, as were the ones the Hernandez Bros did a while back, but I have to wonder: Am I the only one who would have trouble wearing a shirt with a Stüssy logo that big? I guess I'm just getting old.

For the Utne Reader, Joe Sacco goes to New Jersey.

On Top of Blueberry Hill

I'm here in St. Louis at Washington University on a fine spring day.

Naturally any trip to the Gateway City must include beers with Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch. Duh.

But the big news was a fine trip I took with Kevin to go see an archive of work by Harry Tuthill, of Bungle Family fame. And here is the thing, as evidenced in this archive, between 1924 and 1930 Tuthill hand-painted every single one of his Sunday pages. I don't mean color guides -- I mean fully painted pages. One after the other. The only thing we can figure is that he simply liked to do it, as stats couldn't have been shot from the painted pages. That would have caused too much line distortion. Plenty of cartoonists hand-colored their pages, but usually (or maybe only) to give as gifts. I can't think of anyone who did it seemingly just for themselves, with no obvious purpose in sight. If anyone knows different, please let me know.

Have a look:

And a close-up:

An excellent panel:

Here's another:

These pieces are just stunningly beautiful, and the attention Tuthill paid to fashion is remarkable. He had a loose, calligraphic line -- unfussy but in complete control. And, it turns out, a helluva way with color. Anyhow, more on this later. And yes, there'll be a book in it sometime.

Ah, ok, since you asked, here's one more:

And don't forget:

Meanwhile, just a couple of links today, as I'm on the run:

* Matt Seneca on Dash Shaw at Robot 6.

* Not comics, but highly relevant: Artist Richard Prince lost a lawsuit over an appropriated photograph -- the judge ruled that essentially the resultant artwork was not transformative, and thus not "fair use". Faire use is always a tricky thing, and these days, as so much artwork is based on the digital or photographic manipulation of extant imagery, it's getting trickier. And before I hear a word about Lichtenstein and Warhol, those works were obviously a whole other kettle of fish: painted and/or screened,  significantly altered, and recontextualized in scale and production. The Prince case is a mildly manipulated photograph of a photograph. Anyhow, it's interesting and the article at the link is a thorough investigation.

Finally, hot new content today:

Ryan Holmberg digs in deep and comes up with revelatory ideas and facts about late 1960s manga. Get in there and read.

Question Time

First of all, an announcement that may be of interest to those of you who live in the New York area, or who plan to visit the city during this year's MoCCA Festival. The Journal will be participating in an all-day event at the famous Strand bookstore on April 8th:

STRANDICON presents a Celebration of The Comics Journal: A Conversation with Gary Groth, Kim Deitch, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel

April 8: 7:00PM – 8:00PM

The Comics Journal has been the leading voice in comics criticism for nearly four decades. It launched its first full-fledged website in March 2011, and in celebration its editors, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel, will lead a discussion on the history of the magazine and the medium of comics criticism with founding editor Gary Groth and longtime cartoonist and TCJ interviewee Kim Deitch.

The bookstore will feature artist appearances and signings by throughout the day. More information here.

***

And now on to random links. The weird thing about doing this every other day is that it tends to mean that a portion of the links are a little out of date, at least in internet time. (What's that, you say? I should share links I find with Dan? I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that.) But maybe that's okay. These links may not be brand new, but they are tried and tested, each one worthy of clicking. Or at least that's the hope. Anyway...

*In Bible scholarship news, according to Discovery, new evidence has come to light supporting the idea that the Old Testament may have been edited to remove traces of a female god. Interesting in light of some of the similar scholarship Robert Crumb relied upon while creating his version of Genesis. (via)

*Here's a review I never expected to see: the often astonishing novelist William T. Vollmann writes about the Library of America's recent Lynd Ward collection in the latest Bookforum. Unlike the typical literary type slumming in the cartoon world, he even manages to take the form seriously enough to think out loud about how it works: "Graphic novels sometimes require of us the willingness to see and remember without comprehending right away."

*Luc Sante also wrote about the collection, in Harper's. I let my subscription to that magazine lapse, so I can't read it until I pick up a copy, but Sante's always worth reading.

*It's hard to believe that Chris Ware's daughter is already old enough to be writing record reviews—if you haven't clicked on the many links to Clara Ware's take on Tiny Tim for Roctober (complete with illustration and afterword from her father), you really should. (via)

*Eddie Campbell's one of the greatest talkers in comics -- and just might be interviewer-proof. Matthias Wivel's no slouch in his own right, and their resulting conversation is predictably solid.

*Journal columnist Sean T. Collins points us to an interview with Phoebe Gloeckner, which contains a lot of new information on just what she's up to in Mexico over the last several years.

*I remember seeing this once. I thought it was a dream.

*Hans Rickheit would like your help.

*A short radio interview with New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren. (Thanks, LP.)

*Finally, another story that's been going around, but that you might not have read yet. You have to, though. I won't ruin it by telling you anything beforehand. Just make sure you get far enough to understand about the frogs. (Thanks, ER.)

The Day After

I will be on my way to St. Louis as your read this. I'm lecturing and doing critiques, etc., at my alma mater, Washington University, and also spending some time at The Modern Graphic History Library looking at Al Parker, Robert Weaver,  and other greats of 20th century illustration. Plus, Kevin Huizenga and I will be embarking on a secret historical mission deep in the county. Exciting!

But you don't care about me. What you care about is that I remind you again (until we get our FAQ page online) about our spiffy new comments policy. We realize there is no right fit for everyone, but we're reading your comments and discussing it all -- we'd like to maintain what we have, with these rules in place, for a little while. If we need to make changes, we certainly will. Thank you all for  your interest.

And you also care about links. Glorious, highlighted links!

At the top of my list is Tom Spurgeon's eloquent case for voting Bill Blackbeard into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Without Blackbeard, comic strip history as we know it would be greatly impoverished. He pioneered the collecting and archiving of newspaper strips by literally driving a truck around North America and grabbing newspapers before libraries threw them out. His holdings supplied the bulk of the material we all now write about (and as Spurgeon noted, his generosity was unparalleled). Plus, his Smithsonian Anthology remains a cornerstone not just of comic strip culture but of visual culture in general. So, this is one time when it really matters. Give the man his due.

Via Jeet comes this blog post about the discovery of a previously unknown George Herriman strip that may well be his very first.

Some historical treasures to imbibe courtesy of Ger Apeldoorn: Mort Meskin's Vigilante and the always amazing Italian cartoonist Jaccovetti.

Sean T. Collins reports on a good ol' fashioned DC vs. Marvel war of words.

Here's a semi-revealing post on Comets Comets from the fake CF twitter guy, recounting his travails somewhat obliquely. Ironically, this matches nicely with a New Yorker article this week on a guy named Dan Bejar who imitated the musician Dan Bejar. Fake CF didn't share CF's name, but... well, fakery and imitations -- always more enlightening for the imitator than the subject of the "experiment".

And finally, TCJ contributors Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch present: Black Swan. Not comics, unless you count Darren Aranofsky's love of the medium and his killer collection of Hernandez Bros. art.

New Rules

Well, our e-mailboxes are full, and the results are clear: No one is happy! It seems like for one reason or another, everybody is upset about the comments section these days. Some people want us to ban a few perennially controversial commenters, others want us to stop deleting their "entirely tame" comments, and still others want us to shut the whole thing down entirely, possibly to replace it with an edited letters column. That last option sounds potentially appealing, but if possible, we'd like to keep the comments around. Because when comments threads really work, they offer one of the few genuinely unique pleasures of the internet, a dynamic conversation that can't be replicated with overly edited content. However, the threads haven't really been working quite that well so far. Because of generally good experiences in the past, we've probably been a bit too lenient with our moderation here, and have erred on the side of inclusion even when it has allowed a few notable threads to descend into name-calling and blatant trolling. There is probably no way of avoiding annoying or useless comments altogether, but maybe putting a few policies into writing can help a bit with our signal-to-noise ratio.

So starting today, the following commenting rules are under effect:

1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.

2. Comments which are racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive will be deleted.

3. Comments which stray too far from the topic at hand (especially when of a promotional nature) have a very good chance of being deleted. If you want to share a link, send it to Dan or myself, and maybe we'll post it. Otherwise, it better have something to do with the post or resulting discussion.

4. Comments designed to start or prolong unnecessary, unpleasant, and/or just plain ugly arguments (i.e., trolling) will be deleted.

5. Commenters who repeatedly post comments that are deemed abusive in one of these ways will be warned via e-mail. If they continue to post comments of an unwelcome nature, they will be given a week's suspension. If a third warning is necessary, the commenter in question will be banned pending further review.

That's it for now, though we reserve the right to add new rules if and when they become necessary. Remember, debate and discussion are welcome, but is important that these arguments stay civil. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or via e-mail.

Live from Little Torch Key

As evidenced in my last post, when you're "in comics" there really is no escaping "comics." In "the biz," this is the phenomenon we call "Comics!" So who else resides on this tiny little island where I'm vacationing with my Rachel and her family? None other than Dean Mullaney, late of Eclipse Comics and now the man behind The Library of American Comics, who I met for lunch yesterday at Parrotdise, just down the road and around the corner. Anyhow, we're hoping to expansively feature some of Dean's upcoming books (his astounding Polly and Her Pals volume, complete with a killer essay by Jeet, was one of my top ten for 2010) in the very near future. Comics!

Speaking of which, as some of you know, Facebook is one my favorite places for off-the-cuff remarks by cartoonists young, old, and middle-aged. Facebook: It's a hole you must fill. You type and it appears. Facebook! Like going to the comic book store and talking to the shop owner, but without ever having to get dressed, go the comic store, and spend money. Jeet (Him again?! Oh Jeet!) tipped me off that on Facebook Joe Matt has had some words about Chester Brown's forthcoming book, Paying For It (hype alert: soon to to be the subject of major coverage here in May). Jolly Joe says:

In his latest book, my good friend Chester becomes a whore-monger...which is fine. My only problem (after reading an advance copy) was an inference that the only reason I don't follow him down the same whoring path is because I'm too cheap.... An implication that is unequivocally UNTRUE!! Yes, I'm cheap (rephrase: careful with my money), but I've also dropped somewhere between $15,000-$17,000 on a near complete collection of Frank King's fantastic comic strip, GASOLINE ALLEY, in the form of old newspaper clippings. (Sundays and dailies 1919-1951!) That being said, I'm also an extreme voyeur, lover of porn and compulsive masturbator. (Like I need to tell YOU!) I'm also (and I don't consider this a contradiction) a totally monogamous, hopeless romantic. (Just ask the ladies! Either of them!) I've never even ENTERTAINED the idea of frequenting prostitutes! I don't even want to meet or get near my favorite beloved porn stars!! No...just let me snuggle with my girlfriend, while reading Popeye and drinking an Americano, and I'm fine. ♥

Note that all of the people who commented on the post AND who have read the book (including the great Dylan Horrocks) disagree with Joe, which seems to have made him feel better.

Speaking of the oldest profession, comics, and Facebook, as you might know, the "great" Atlas/Seaboard properties are being brought back. Finally, more Wulf the Barbarian in stores. Phew. In honor of this ongoing occasion I bring you this choice quote from artist Alan Kupperberg, who worked in the Atlas/Seaboard office:

The publishers used to buy hookers for the distributors. One time, still at Marvel, Martin [Goodman] was down in Florida and Chip [Goodman] got ahold of Martin's little black book. He called a couple of the girls and said he wanted some freebies or the old man wouldn't employ them any more. The girls called Martin and finked out Chip. Who received a spanking when daddy returned home. A putz.

Like I said: Comics!

And now, a few links for your Friday:

National Lampoon has been on our minds again lately thanks for Rick Meyerowitz's excellent tome Drunk Stone Dead, and now comes news that the current owner of the franchise has been arrested for a 200 million-dollar ponzi scheme. Comics! I believe over at Comics Comics we once listed books we'd love to see from Nat Lamp. Top o' the list is Shary Flenniken. Well, Rick tells me that a Charles Rodrigues book may be in the offing from a publisher familiar to you and me. I would buy that. Twice!  Also at the top of my personal list: A Bobby London Dirty Duck book, a Jeff Jones Idyll book (seriously, people, put aside your preconceptions -- that strip is rad), and a nice tidy collection of all the Russ Heath Lampoon work. (People: Remember Russ Heath. He's in tough shape. Think about buying a book or commissioning a drawing.) Sigh. Being a publisher and a historian and a blogger is a deadly combo for you, dear reader, since I spend a lot of time just dreaming up books. Luckily our patrons here at FB will be doing Nuts by Gahan Wilson, so that's good.

From Tim's comments yesterday I am stealing this link to a new Alan Moore interview. Alan Moore: The man you want to sit next to at a bar and talk about life with AND the man you want to talk about Ogden Whitney with (sorry Frank, it's true: at this stage I would rather talk to Alan Moore about Ogden Whitney. But you're still my man for Harry Lucey, Pete Morisi, and Marshall Rogers. Don't worry).

And that is all. I am now returning to my vacation. Please don't bother me. Unless it's you, Alan Moore, wanting to talk about Ogden Whitney.

The Man o’ Steel’s Hawaiian Vacation

First, a little cinematic/literary/comic-book mystery. Most of you will remember this scene from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 2:

As everybody "knows," this whole dialogue was stolen nearly beat for beat from Jules Feiffer's comics-crit classic, The Great Comic Book Heroes. (I said so myself, back in one of the very first posts I ever wrote for Comics Comics -- kinda embarrassing to re-read for multiple reasons, lo so many years later.)

Or so it always seemed. Now things aren't so clear. As old CC readers will remember (and as one light-hearted fan will be particularly delighted to recall), I've been reading a lot of Pynchon lately. This binge didn't end with Gravity's Rainbow, but has now continued into Slow Learner and Vineland. (After 1200+ pages, I'm ready to take a break, so don't worry about me sharing whatever comic-book references may be found in Mason & Dixon until at least 2012.) Though there are certain very broad similarities in the way they both re-use tropes taken from popular and pulp genres, Quentin Tarantino's never struck me as the Pynchon type (he seems more like a Leslie Charteris man). However, the resonance between certain sections of Vineland and Kill Bill is startling. Namely, there's Vineland's blonde female ninja assassin DL Chastain, who can end a man's life by using an esoteric technique called the Vibrating Palm, or Ninja Death Touch—the victim doesn't feel it, "but a year later they drop dead, right when you happen to be miles away eating ribs with the Chief of Police." I'm not the first to notice these similarities, but one particular superhero-related congruence seems to have gone unremarked. You see, after this very Blood-spattered Bride-like figure is sent on a mission to kill a man who wronged her (and many others) years ago, she decides (à la Uma) that she'd rather just drop out of the whole assassin biz and start a new, less glamorous life. As she does so, she remembers an old, and eerily familiar, conversation:

"Superman could change back into Clark Kent," she had once confided to Frenesi, "don't underestimate it. Workin' at the Daily Planet was the Man o' Steel's Hawaiian vacation, his Saturday night in town, his marijuana and his opium smoke, and oh what I wouldn't give...." An evening newspaper ... anyplace back in the Midwest ... she would leave work around press time, make a beeline for some walk-down lounge, near enough to the paper that she could feel vibrations from the presses through the wood of the bar. Drink rye, wipe her glasses on her tie, leave her hat on indoors, gossip in the dim light with the other regulars. In the winter it would already be dark outside the windows. The polished shoes would pick up highlights as the street lamps got brighter ... she wouldn't be waiting for anybody or anything to happen, because she'd only be Clark Kent. Lois Lane might not give her the time of day anymore, but that'd be OK, she'd be dating somebody from the secretarial pool. They'd go out for dinner sometimes to this cozy Neapolitan joint down by some lakefront, where the Mussels Posillipo couldn't be beat. "So instead of being able to fly everyplace," her friend had replied, "you'd have to climb into some car you're still making payments on, drive on out, you, Clark Kent, to the scene of some disaster, blood, corpses, flies, teen technicians wandering around stoned, eyewitnesses in shock.... Superman never has to get involved with any of that. Why should anybody want to be only mortal? Better to stay an angel, angel." DL, more generous in those days, only thought her friend had missed the point.

So it's tough to figure out, right? Did Tarantino steal the dialogue from Feiffer, or Pynchon, or both? Or is it all just a set of crazy coincidences? I mean, David Carradine's original monologue is very close to Feiffer's, but connecting the Clark Kent/Superman idea directly to a blonde female ninja assassin seems so, um, unintuitive that it's remarkable that both Pynchon and Tarantino did it. My current theory is that Tarantino must have read this part of Vineland, then remembered the somewhat different Feiffer/Superman riff, and combined them together, but -- that's kind of complicated and implausible, and alternate suggestions are welcome. Figuring this out would be a good use of your time.

On to Comics Journal news:

Yesterday, Dan reviewed David Collier's Chimo, and Rob Clough introduced the latest incarnation of his "High-Low" column by looking at two recent releases from Revival House Press.

Today, animator Richard O'Connor turns in a review of the new Bill Plympton book, Independently Animated.

Also, don't miss designer Eric Skillman's behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming issue 301, which will be out very soon.

Elsewhere:

Thomas Pynchon isn't the only novelist who takes inspiration from the comics. Ishmael Reed, author of the essential Mumbo Jumbo, has a new book coming out next month, which sounds interesting. As he puts it in a recent profile: "Since I don't like the modernist novel in which the omniscient narrator smothers his characters to death with psychoanalysis, they called my characters cartoonish. So I made this new character of mine a cartoonist. I've always been in a dialogue with my critics."

So, as is probably obvious to many of you, we aren't above a little light theft ourselves, an kind of stole the idea of "A Cartoonist's Diary" from a recurring feature on The Paris Review's website. Now they have cruelly snatched the idea back, and this week, they are featuring New Yorker cartoonist Zachary Kanin. (Day two is here.)

And finally, another video:

Spidey in Trouble?

Yes, I'm STILL on vacation. Or supposed to be anyway.

First some housecleaning. TCJ print edition subscribers take note:

-Login/passwords: Currently your pre-3/7/11 login and password info is not in our new system; it will be moved over very shortly. If you wish to comment within the site, please login via your own wordpress or intensedebate account, or just use the "open login" option.

-What's my subscription get me? Well, at the moment, the print edition archives are open to all. But soon, very soon, they will be subscriber-only. At that point we'll post weekly updates about which issues are available. Presently issues 27-36 and 38 are available. If you want to see what's available for yourself, you can click over to the table of contents for each issue. If it has a link to the print layouts, then it's available. If not, then it doesn't. But we'll update you as it evolves.

That is that. On to more pressing matters. Comics culture is alive and well down here. The Miami Herald Tribune is currently offering this fantabulous umbrella, spotted Sunday at the "Marathon Seafood Festival".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also at the festival: The Saddest Garfield I've Ever Seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night in Key West there were numerous Spider-Man sightings. It seems Broadway has taken its toll on our hero, and he's now soliciting for tips. Tips for what? Whatever you want, man...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently Spidey will take a beating for money. This, I think might be related to a Harmony Korine/James Franco film now in development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, in an odd attempt to appeal to hippy culture, Spidey is now also playing the sitar. Brendan McCarthy, please take note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, your daily links:

Doug Wright Award nominees announced. This is the best awards presentation I've ever attended. For anything. Worth the trip to Toronto alone. Never mind the awesomeness that is TCAF. Also, Marc Bell is a juror, which means that for a few hours, in one city, all is right with the world.

Problem Solverz continuing hype: How to Draw Alfe!

Damn, I've never seen these Winsor McCay drawings.

Congrats to Harry Mendryk on five years of his Simon & Kirby blog.

If I dropped out of publishing and moved into, um, I dunno, anything else, the first thing I would do is buy this Justin Green drawing for sale via one of the causes of my current poverty. Reminder: Justin Green has a motherfucking blog. Now featured are three of his New Yorker comic strips. Green (can you tell I think he's one of the greatest living cartoonists in the world? I do.) also has this new site, which appears to be serializing fresh work, and an older site recently updated with an appreciation of the late comedian Chris Farley. If Justin Green is an avid Tommy Boy fan, then, well, I would put him at the #1 slot. "Dapper Dan's Movie Madness" alert: Chris Farley always makes me remember that David Spade used to not be annoying. He's pretty irritating now, but you gotta hand it to him for still having a career after all these years.