The Wrong Horse

Today at TCJ is a day that ends in "y", which means it's one of the days we like to spend talking about Junji Ito. This time around, the duty falls to Austin Price: he's into it.

The truth is that Ito's work scares us because we know they shouldn’t. We know there is nothing so laughable as people being mauled by fish with mechanical spider legs; the idea of people contorting themselves to fit into custom-made holes on a mountainside should deserves not much more than a giggle. And yet when we read his work we shiver. And yet we also know that these things we dismiss so easily in fiction would make mince of us in the real world. Humans are weak and vulnerable and at the whims of forces we delude ourselves into thinking we’ve mastered; millions have lost their lives to a bite from a plague-carrying fleas, to malaria-toting mosquitoes. I once had neighbors who were under such siege by a gang of rabid raccoons that they could not leave their house for days for fear of their very lives. Why then shouldn't a plague of mechanically enabled fish monsters cut us down like wheat at harvest season? Similarly, we commonly hear about formerly sane people who wake up one day so obsessed with the idea of cleanliness they'll scrub their own skin off or so paranoid they'll murder their neighbor for some imagined slight; is the idea of a woman so horrified by spirals that she rips off her fingerprints and gouges out her eardrums really so outlandish?

The fourth installment in Summer Pierre's Cartoonist Diary is here, and it's time to follow up on the DMV story she began on Monday. (We call that a "callback" in the biz.)

Today's review is of Jules Feiffer, whose Ghost Script graphic novel saw release by Liveright earlier this year. J. Caleb Mozzocco has that comics criticism you need, as well as a reminder that Feiffer turns 90 (!) in January.

Regardless, how remarkable is it that an artist who will turn 90 in just three months has released another 160-page graphic novel, the conclusion of a trilogy that ultimately followed a large cast of characters for several decades through what became an almost 500-page epic of film noir and crime fiction homage turned great American (graphic) novel?

Despite its place as book three in a series, it’s well worth noting that The Ghost Script reads like--and therefore can be read as-- a self-contained work. Important, defining moments in the lives of the characters that occurred in the previous books, Kill My Mother and 2016’s Cousin Joseph, are revealed here, either in dialogue or in flashback, with several pages from Cousin Joseph reused and repurposed as those flashbacks. The cast’s motivations are clearly delineated between the covers of this single volume. The plot, as elaborate as it is, begins and satisfyingly ends here, and some of the more important elements of the story as a literary work are specific to this book.

Over at Shelf Awareness, Noah Van Sciver gave his own spin on their "Reading With..." feature.

Over at Popula, Trevor Alixopolus is holding it down with a spicy werewolf comic for ya.

Over at Comicosity, the hardworking Chris Hernandez is back at it again with another Comix Latinx interview; this time, he's talking to Lester Ray.

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, John James Dudek dives into Patrick Kyle's Roaming Foliage, taking up the challenge from Kim Jooha in our recent interview. (Maybe? Go with it!)

I had intended to post the following video the day we ran our Jamal Igle interview (unlike me, Jamal is a Man of Steel haterbut Tim got to be the lucky guy at the helm yesterday. Here, then, is my favorite trailer for one of the top five super-hero movies ever made.

 

Strenuous and Prolonged Efforts

Another big day here on TCJ. First, Alex Dueben talks to artist Jamal Igle about rethinking his career, getting older, why historical sales numbers may be misleading, and getting into arguments on Twitter.


The last time we did a big interview was right before The Ray dropped, which was when you were coming off Supergirl. I feel like you had a great experience on those two projects, but you didn’t want to be an employee in the same way afterwards.

Yeah. That’s the thing, especially on something like Supergirl, if you’re on a book for a year or two, the only way is to become emotionally invested in its success. Sterling and I on Supergirl became very very very emotionally invested in her longevity as a character. I walked away from the book because Sterling decided he was going to leave and I decided I can’t stay because it won’t be the same for me. When I walked away I started working on The Ray and I had a lot of fun working on The Ray, but that was done with the express intent of going out with the bang. This is going to be my last DC project so let’s show people what I can actually do with the brakes off. We invested so much time and energy on Supergirl between having to deal with the internal politics and then the attention that we got, especially in the first six months, and how we were doing in sales, and how that created tension internally, and having to deal with crossovers, and waiting for other people to do their part, and trying to align all that. It’s a lot. You put that much energy into something and it becomes emotionally draining if you don’t see not just a financial but an emotional return on investment.

Your run really influenced the TV show in different ways. I know that you and Sterling Gates have been name checked, but do you guys get anything?

They just mention us. I don’t get jack. [laughs]

At the same time, that’s the nature of work for hire. I’ve been in this business for almost thirty years and I completely understand. It’s the thing that makes people working in the business working at a larger company very hesitant about creating new characters for whatever company that they’re working for. Knowing the history of this business and knowing how many incredibly talented people either got screwed or weren’t keen enough businessmen to fully take advantage of the opportunities that they had at the time, I don’t want to ultimately end up that way. Having a background in advertising and marketing and editorial and production and knowing the realities of what it’s like to work in a business environment, I know that what your managers consider to be in the best interests of the business itself has nothing to do with your longevity as a creator. When you’re a freelancer you are a business unto yourself. It’s not Marvel or DC’s job to promote you per se outside of whatever you’re doing for them. That is not the relationship that you have with them as a creator. Their only responsibility is to exploit whatever talent they can get out of you for as long as they can and when you’re no longer of use to them, I won’t say that you’re discarded because everybody has to make their own decisions on that. Some people do get discarded. Some people leave by their own volition. Some people get forced out. Some people are just giant assholes and get pushed out because nobody wanted to deal with them no matter how talented or connected they are. I’ve always kept that in mind over the years.

We also have Day Three of Summer Pierre's Cartoonist's Diary.

And in our only explicitly Halloween-ish content for the holiday, Matt Seneca reviews the latest book from Al Columbia.

The valley between art and audience that the comics medium traverses is far less uncanny than the one facing animation. Before the terrain was road-graded by computers at least, cartoons could carry an unnerving vibe, the forms and movements so vivid and lively but still so alien, herky-jerky or a touch too slow or both in varying degrees, possessed of a lunatic enthusiasm in their every step. The weirdest Depression-era cartoon shorts, like Grim Natwick and Fleischer Studios' "Bimbo's Initiation" (much beloved of Jim Woodring), seem animated less by human hands than some evil spirit; windows into fictional worlds that somehow live, subject to none of the rules and sanities that mercifully govern our own. 

Al Columbia has built a comics career in territory as close to this uncanny valley as pictures that don't move can get. A superb draftsman, Columbia can pull on the smooth white gloves of the Fleischer house style with ease. But where actual old cartoons only hint vaguely at their evil spirit's existence, Columbia's work gets down on the floorboards and slithers along in the wake of its bloody trail, marrying a legitimately iconic American idiom to content as ghoulish and ghastly as anything comics has ever played host to. His latest book, Amnesia: The Lost Films of Francis D. Longfellow Supplementary Newsletter no. 1, spotlights a cartoonist who has identified exactly what's most powerful about his own work building himself an elaborate metafictional theater to project it in. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Steve Kurutz at the New York Times writes about Mark Dery's new biography of Edward Gorey.

He spent seven years on the project, time he needed to wrap his head around “the panoramic sweep” of his subject’s mind.

For Mr. Dery, and for anyone else, plunging into Goreyland means becoming acquainted with Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes,” with French silent films, the surrealist collage novels of Max Ernst, Victorian children’s literature, the ancient Japanese novel “The Tale of Genji” and so forth. It means looking through a pre-Stonewall lens, when many gay men and women led closeted lives and their sexuality didn’t necessarily figure in their expressed personal politics.

It means trying to solve the riddle of a man who was outwardly gregarious — “As beguiling a conversationalist as Oscar Wilde,” as Mr. Dery put it — and flamboyantly fashionable, walking the streets of New York in the 1960s and ’70s in floor-sweeping fur coats that caught the attention of the photographer Bill Cunningham, yet forever enigmatic.

Slate has published an excerpt by Jami Attenberg, in which she writes about her personal experiences with the work of Julie Doucet.

I remember when I first read this book in 1999, new to New York City myself, I wanted to slip into the pages with her and experience her life. It was not terribly different from my own. I was new in town with just a few friends; I was a struggling artist, a feminist, a substance abuser, a night owl, and completely mystified by male behavior. (I am still many of these things, if I am being honest here.) Her energy practically vibrated through the book. She took all those things that I was merely contending with and turned them into a piece of art. She cracked open my universe a little bit. Here was how to take control of your own narrative.

Reading it now, 19 years older and wiser, I want to reach into the pages and pull her toward me and tell her to chill out on the whippets and get an apartment in the East Village immediately—not that it was any safer there, but at least she’d have some friends. As much as anything else, the book feels like a historical document. Doucet talks about seeing Karen Black perform on the Lower East Side. She goes to art parties and hangs out with Art Spiegelman, Françoise Mouly, and Charles Burns. She sees New York City through fresh eyes, capturing every detail of this compelling moment in its history. There’s lots of letter writing in this book, not an email in sight. I used to send beautiful letters. Did you?

Anime scholar Susan J. Napier recommends and discusses five books to help readers understand manga and anime.

[In Japanamerica, Roland] Kelts talks about the late twentieth-, early twenty-first-century moment when Japan and America were influencing each other. He compares this influence loop to a Möbius strip where things come from Japan and then they come to America, and return to Japan. He uses the movie The Matrix as an example. It was inspired by the manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell, which the Wachowski sisters, the directors, acknowledge having seen.

Ghost in the Shell inspired major sequences in The Matrix, and The Matrix inspired many anime. So there’s this continuous loop of Japanese and American cultural influence. Roland explores the excitement about this cultural transmission, how we are in a time when we can go back and forth between and among cultures and get inspiration and even products and art from another culture.

—Interviews. The aforementioned Alex Dueben talks to Noah Van Sciver about his latest Fante Bukowski book.

I love the design of the whole series. This one in particular plays with the layout, has a fake author photo and bio. How much of that was you?

None of that was me. That was all Keeli McCarthy’s genius. She’s the designer at Fantagraphics that I work with. Basically I just finish the story and send them the files. She had this whole conceptual idea for the series. She said I’m going to goof on these generations of self-important male writers in the designs. The first book was a very small paperback like the early beatnik novels. The second book jumped ahead twenty years and looked like something from Black Sparrow Press. The third one jumps ahead another twenty years and playing off the nineties male writers, books like Infinite Jest and those. I think she did a really good job of that. A lot of people didn’t pick up on it, but I hope they will.

—Misc. Michael Dooley has put together a visual tribute to the various "Treehouse of Horror" issues of Simpsons comics over the years, which is a nice reminder that it's been way too long since I pulled out the issue edited by Sammy Harkham...

The Sidewinding

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got a packed day for you. First up, we've got Daniel Schindel's look at a couple of Dead Reckoning's launch titles to see what they have to say about this new comics publisher. Later this week, Daniel will return with an interview with the publisher.

Since Dead Reckoning is an offshoot of the Naval Institute Press, the publishing arm of the U.S. Naval Institute, one might peruse these graphic novels with a suspicious eye. What’s the angle? Where’s the propaganda? The USNI isn’t part of the government or military, but a good deal of its leadership consists of retired Navy or Marine members. War comics have experienced a boom in first-person accounts and journalistic ventures in recent years, but comics coming from an “official” source will for many conjure images memories of Superman hawking war bonds and Captain America punching Hitler. But both Trench Dogs and The ‘Stan are aware of and in conversation with this history. They aren’t dashed-off efforts, but involve talented artists not previously known for working in this genre. Dead Reckoning, then, is asserting their seriousness as a comics publisher.

Meanwhile, Summer Pierre's Cartoonist Diary continues, with today spotlighting the feelings that curse an exercise routine. Pro tip: make sure you're keeping up with Pierre's title design!

Today's review comes from Rich Barrett, and he's taking a look at nbm's recent translation of Annie Goetzinger's The Provocative ColletteLike the rest of us, he's curious to see more of the artist make its way to English.

With a background in costume design, Goetzinger always focused on complicated, beautiful women and in Colette she found an ideal subject, one who was both a fashion icon and an early prototype for modern feminism. We see her depicted in a variety of fashion-forward outfits that range from shoulder-baring ball gowns (racy for the bourgeoisie at the time) to demure school girl outfits to breast-baring stage costumes. Colette is responsible for creating some iconic looks including the “Claudine Collar” worn by the protagonist of her first novel and Goetzinger seemed to relish rendering every last swatch of fabric.

Over at Popula, there's new comics up from Meghan Lands and Beatrix Urkowitz, both of which are excellent.

The latest in the Cómix Latinx interview series is up at Comicosity, this time around, it's with Ale Juvera

Diversions of the Groovy Kind gears up for Halloween by digging up some a collection of some very specific advertisements.

Over at Your Chicken Enemy, Kim Jooha takes an insightful dip into Conor Stechschulte's Christmas In Prison. And I just correctly spelled Conor's last name from memory.

Over at Pop Matters, there's another review of Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte to be found. You can never have enough Doucet, if you ask me.

New John Carpenter! 

Dream Baby Dream

A new week, and a new Cartoonist's Diary. This week sees the debut of Day One from Summer Pierre.

We also have Rob Clough's review of a biographical comic, Dominique Osuch and Sandrine Martin's Niki De Saint Phalle: The Garden Of Secrets.

Writing a biography in comics is tricky. How does one cram the essence of a life into under two hundred pages? Is it possible to get across just why a person is important? Furthermore, how is the task complicated with a separate writer and artist? In Niki De Saint Phalle: The Garden Of Secrets, writer Dominique Osuch and artist Sandrine Martin are able to avoid some, but not all, of the pitfalls of comics biography.

De Saint Phalle, born in 1930, was better known outside the US, despite her half-American heritage and the number of years she lived in the country. She most often simply went by Nike, a name she gave herself as a child as a kind of guardian spirit and playmate that watched over her. She was a multi-media genius and self-taught artist who worked with huge sculptures, performance art, film, and other media, and her works were frequently considered to be shocking and controversial at the time. She was an artist who boldly and directly addressed feminist issues. Her work was bright, colorful and direct. Of her many achievements, her greatest may have been The Tarot Garden in Italy, which features sculptures of varying sizes of all the Major Arcana. Niki made sure the structures and the garden itself were an integrated whole, which was a frequent theme of her work. She wanted her art to be open and available for all to see in public spaces, not stuck in a museum.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Massachusetts outlet Malden Wicked Local interviews Keith Knight.

I’ve been on panels with cartoonists who have to leave the country because their government was going after them for a cartoon they did. So, I’m fortunate that it’s not gotten to that point here yet. But the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

[It’s a scary time] for everybody. I think not only not only for people who are direct victims of this, but also the indirect reality of people who never considered themselves to be racist or fascist, but are looking around and justifying what’s going on, and saying to themselves, “Oh, OK, maybe I am fine with this. Maybe I don’t want any of this taken away” -- even though none of it will be taken away!

But if you scare people enough, saying, “Oh, you know, this caravan of people are coming and they’re gonna take YOUR job.” It’s such silly bullsh--.

—Reviews & Commentary. The Paris Review excerpts Anne Elizabeth Moore's new monograph about Julie Doucet,

D&Q released Dirty Plotte #1 in January 1991, and it was one of the more enduring titles to come out of the black-and-white boom, a period of rampant experimentation in independently published comics, when no title seemed likely to fail and thus no risks were too big for publishers. Doucet won a Harvey Award for best new series, appeared in Diane Noomin’s Twisted Sisters anthology from Penguin, and was interviewed by The Comics Journal that same year. She moved to New York shortly thereafter, relocated within a year to Seattle, then to Berlin. Lève ta jambe, mon poisson est mort! (in English, “Lift your leg, my fish is dead!,” although the title remained untranslated for the English market) came out from D&Q in 1993, compiling work from the minicomics and elsewhere. A collection of dream and fantasy stories, My Most Secret Desire, came out in 1995, also from D&Q. Doucet returned to Montreal in 1998 to complete Dirty Plotte #12, which turned out to be the last in the pamphlet series. My New York Diary came out in 1999, The Madame Paul Affair the following year, and Long Time Relationship in 2001, all from D&Q. Dirty Plotte came in at ninety-six on The Comics Journal’s 1999 list of top comics of all time. This year, D&Q released a two-volume set of her work, The Complete Dirty Plotte, including several strips previously unpublished in English, selections from her diaries, both runs of Dirty Plotte, work that was published contemporaneously with the series but appeared in other venues, and the entirety of My New York Diary and The Madame Paul Affair.

—News. V.T. Hamlin's Alley Oop strip is being relaunched with writer Joey Alison Sanders and artist Jonathan Lemon.

Sayers said she hoped to add more humor to the strip, which has created by V.T. Hamlin and focused on Alley Oop and his life in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo since its debut in 1932. In 1939, it introduced Dr. Elbert Wonmug, a 20th-century scientist who sent the cave man on time-travel adventures. “I want to make it a little zanier and just have a little more fun and draw readers in,” Sayers said. The Sunday installments, she said, would likely not involve time travel. They will be a little more slice-of-life and coming-of-age-type stories, she remarked.

The strip is preserving its history, she noted. “It’s not that the stuff in the past doesn’t exist,” she said. “It is still the same characters, but circumstances have changed. I definitely don’t want to alienate the old readers, but I want to create a starting point for new readers.”

Workers at a Goodwill in New Jersey found a 1774 newspaper with the original "Unite or Die" snake cartoon from the U.S. Revolution. (History.com also wrote about the cartoon.)

“These were very important propaganda tools,” Snyder said of newspapers and pamphlets of the era. “The viciousness then in some was as much or more as it is today. . (But) the language was more powerful in putting down the other side.”

Snyder estimates the newspaper’s value at $6,000 to $16,000. Goodwill Industries hopes to sell it to help funds its educational and job-training services, according to Heather Randall, e-commerce manager of the regional operation in Bellmawr, New Jersey.

Writer Mark Waid has been sued by one of the main people associated with ComicsGate, and is raising legal funds.

Mommy Stole My Buzzsaw

Today at TCJ, we've got Austin Price on Nathan Gelgud's House in the Jungle. He did not care for it.

Yet to give it a pass would be worse, because endorsing Gelgud and his hypothetical future imitators’ experiments would be to sabotage the exact kind of oddities I’d sooner trumpet. While it is, yes, a welcome slice of strangeness that Gelgud trots out in A Home in the Jungle, it’s insubstantial. This is a book that announces its ambition on every page but musters none of the profundity or mystery it positions itself worthy of, a civics lesson on the importance of political engagement masquerading as a slice of Lynchian weirdness which yields only easy answers without ever honestly engaging the uneasy wondrous that frustrates explanation in favor of deeper pleasures.

Over at Popula, Trevor Alixopoulous deliver his take on disaster preppers, along with some autobiographical details for some spice. And you know what they say about he who controls the spice.

Over at PEN America, Whit Taylor's most recent editorial comics call was to Katie Fricas, and it was an excellent choice.

Over at Facebook, Charles Vess posted the endpapers art for his Spider-Man graphic novel from 1990. Pretty unreal.

Shoplifters of the World

Today on the site, Rob Clough returns to review the latest from John Kerschbaum, Pete & Pussy: Puppy Love.

The surface simplicity of John Kerschbaum's work has always belied the complexity of its underlying structure. To be sure, the humorist is first and foremost a gag man, dating back to his Xeric grant-winning series The Wiggly Reader back in the 1990s. His drawing style is pleasant and almost bland, as he rarely sells gags simply by drawing funny pictures. Instead, he prefers to lure readers in with this approachable style and spring bizarre, visceral, and sometimes horrifying gags on them. There are few cartoonists who integrate word and image in such a commanding fashion, as his gags depend on that fusion in order to succeed. He's not primarily a funny writer or funny craftsman (though he is both of those things); instead, he's a funny cartoonist.

His high level of craft is sometimes not immediately discernible. Working with a standard nine-panel grid, no single page or image really stands out on an initial flip-through. One can only see what he's doing upon immersing oneself in the rhythm of each page, because he will frequently set up a gag several pages in advance, while at the same time advancing a series of smaller jokes in the grid set-up. Take the beginning of Kerschbaum's new book, Petey & Pussy: Puppy Love, where the senile owner of Pussy the Cat and Bernie the Bird is at her computer. She's punching it and poking it in order to make it work and even talks into the mouse like it was a CB radio transmitter. At the same time, we hear someone screaming "La La La" and interspersing it with "Kill Me!" That buildup continues for a couple of more pages and reaches its end three pages later, as we first see Pussy, in his usual pose outside the mouse hole. Kerschbaum has created not only his own rhythm but his own reality as well, as the three main pets have human heads and speak English. None of this is ever addressed, nor is it necessary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Paste has a discussion between cartoonists Mike Mignola and Geoff Darrow.

Mike Mignola: Do you remember the first time we met?

Geof Darrow: I do. I do. That was at San Diego Comic-Con when it was in that convention center that was near the Grand Hotel. And I remember vividly that you were working on, or you done, Cosmic Odyssey and I told you how much I liked it and you were like, Ah, well… [laughs] I wonder if you had any idea like, Who is this guy?

Mignola: I don’t think I did because I don’t think—it was before Hard Boiled, right? I don’t know that I had seen anything of yours before, and I don’t know if you were with Frank or who you were with, but I remember somebody pulled out, you pulled out, a page you were working on—which I don’t think was ever published? I don’t know if it was a page from Hard Boiled, all I remember is it seemed like it was a really complicated, amazing street scene and I always seem to remember that there was an alligator walking up the middle of the street. I might be completely wrong and maybe it was an actual page from Hard Boiled?

Darrow: No, no, that’s funny. The only thing I could think that could be was at the time, I was working on an insurance job, one of those things where they hire you to draw whatever you want. We’re going to pay X amount of dollars, it seems like a lot of money and you can just draw whatever you want. We’re going to hand this out to people to buy the insurance.

The science fiction website Strange Horizons interviews the novelist and comics writer Saladin Ahmed.

I like to write from the point of view of monsters. I’m a Muslim-Arab man, and I think a lot about demonization—who gets turned into monsters and who gets viewed as monsters. And one of the most compelling narratives to me in all of fiction is that of the misunderstood monster. I’m going all the way back to Shelley—actually did a lecture on Frankenstein earlier this year. It was cool to talk about Frankenstein because I’m really interested in the monster, and I think Marvel is a great place for that, right? You have this history of characters like The Thing, but also for me taking some of these characters who have been villains, traditionally, and asking questions. The supervillain is the monster of the superhero comic, right? And I’m asking why are they monsters, what made them monsters, who gets to classify them as monsters.

The latest guest of Virtual Memories is Eddie Campbell.

—Reviews & Commentary. Stuart Jefferies writes about a London exhibition of artworks inspired by Peanuts.

Peanuts became an obsession for [Mel] Brimfield at an early age. Her grandmother would cut strips from the newspaper for her to read. And so, when her school planned a musical called Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, she auditioned to play Lucy. “My mum made me a bonkers black wig, bless her,” she says. But why play the strip’s monstrous bully? “Because she had the best songs and the biggest role.”

Lucy has haunted Brimfield, who is based in London, ever since. “A few years ago, I was working in a hippy clinic where the people who came in – with real pain – were only offered shamanic soul retrieval from charlatans. There was something about how easy it was to set yourself up as a therapist that made me think of Lucy. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised the move to wellness and the licence to complete selfishness in our society is fed by people like Lucy. She only set up her booth because it was another way of exercising power. She’s a huckster.”

—Misc. The Paris Review (?) has a selection of original EC horror and science fiction comics art up on its site, in conjunction with a new show at the Society of Illustrators.

Looks like Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor are starting a new podcast:

Goat Night

Today at TCJ, our comics retail column Retail Therapy returns, this time with a visit to Philadelphia's Amagalm Comics & Coffeehouse.

What's changed the most for your business in the last five years?

Amalgam has had a really interesting start. Two weeks after opening our doors we went viral in the truest sense of the word. With that came a whirlwind of interviews, special appearances and speaking engagements for me. As a brand new business I felt it was important to get as much media attention as possible, so for the first 6 months or so of our existence much of my attention and energy went into promoting the business and building our brand. The biggest change thus far has been me taking step back from the promotional piece and really spending time with the store, my staff, and my customers.  

Today's review comes to you from Helen Chazan, and this time around, he's taking a look at Junji Ito's Frankenstein, a recent hardcover release from Viz. He's into it.

Junji Ito’s Frankenstein is a comic chasing a feeling, a vibe, one great impression gleaned from Mary Shelley’s novel and essentially nothing else. When Ito is not chasing this feeling, the comic falls slack, stiffening into the straightforward retelling of a Classics Illustrated, where pages upon pages unfold of men and women in stodgy Victorian dress and upright posture, discussing plans for weddings that I couldn’t care less about. Maybe I have a short attention span, but it often seems that Ito does as well. These pages are light, literally so - daylight leaves little room for Ito’s oppressive hatching, and it leeches away the distinctive character of his art. Without that gloomy labor, Ito could be any mangaka, and this is just a comic book of Frankenstein. But not for long.

Back At The Bronze Age put together another one of their perfectly satisfying posts of comic book ephemera, this one focusing on floating heads. Look at all those ding dang floating heads!

Abhay Khosla put together a random look at some old Frank Teran covers of the Punisher and The Terminator, which is the Punisher's spirit animal. I'm good with that.

A comic I really enjoyed this year was Young Frances, and I'm just catching this interview with the creator now. Good stuff.

 

Circa-Viable

Today at The Comics Journal, we welcome back our world traveling Matt Seneca, who stopped by the country of France to see what's been going in the land of late period Moebius. The result is a insightful delight:

The computer is very much in evidence here, its voice autotuning its creator's imagery into a place as different from "classic Moebius" as it is inextricable. The most noticeable change can be seen in the colors. I think the sublime flatting combinations Moebius assembled in his prime are at least as big a contributing factor to his enduring popularity as his rendering style itself. Without them, he's a talented psychedelicist with technical chops and a Crumb influence. With them, he was something else, something bright and glowing you always sensed should exist but no one else was able to show you. (Should you require more proof of the contribution color made to Moebius's career highs, and possess a strong stomach, check out the absolutely hideous recolored version of The Incal that DC put out in the early 2000s.) Moebius's hand-coloring approach (often in concert with the work of assistants) was never too complicated: establishing a striking color as a ground, he would build up shape and depth with darker and lighter values of the same tone before marking out the essential information a picture contained with a strong contrasting hue, usually combined with areas of white or black. In a modification of this approach, he would form a ground with pastel tones before using a bold color for pop. 

And today's review comes to you from Tegan O'Neil, who took a chance on the most recent installment of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips long running partnership, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies. It didn't go super well.

I struggle with noir precisely because the moral tone is unwavering and inescapable: these are stories about people who make the wrong decisions, consistently, and then hurt others as a consequence of their wrong decisions. Crime stories implicate the system that directs people into the arms of the carceral state. It’s hard not to read a story like My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and not be distracted by the ways in which the world has failed these people, or in which the world has failed by enabling them, in the case of the rich folks shipped off to rehab as opposed to prison.

Over at Women Write About Comics, there's a solid interview with Jocelyne Allen, a manga translator behind multiple titles that readers of this site will have come across.

Over at Dominic's house, you'll find an all-too-brief look at Summer Pierre's All The Sad Songs from Mr. Umile himself.

Over at Popula, you'll find their comics output increasing. I would recommend Lauren Weinstein's latest Normel Person, for a bunch of obvious reasons.

Over at Spiral Bound, you'll find their comics output at about the same. The new Gabrielle Bell comic "Manifestation" is exceptional.

It's time for your Trevor Von Eeden alert!

This is the most upsetting thing I can recall happening to a fictional comic book character when it was brought into another form of entertainment that I can recall in my lifetime. 

This put me in a better mood.

 

Only a Day Away

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose is back with an in-depth interview with the Flemish artist Brecht Evens, who has a new major book out in Europe (which will be released in English next year), and a Paris exhibition opening this weekend.

The book's real gamble, Evens suspects, is its plentiful text. This includes long and fantastic disquisitions, almost all of which are voiced by secondary characters. These work in tandem with the reactions they elicit. But, from an artist with less confidence in his writing than his visuals, they constituted a leap. "Maybe it was risky to have put some of that in. For instance, starting Victoria's story with a four-page dialogue – more like a monologue – where one of her friends is relating a dream... What he's saying doesn't matter in any narrative way, it's there to bring out the characters of those who are listening."

Most of the longest soliloquies come from a taxi driver. "Those are little, contained nuggets of fiction-in-the-fiction. While the characters listen to them they are protected, they're safely ensconced in the carapace of that cab. But they're soaking in what we think adventure is. The build-up to it is almost like a joke, because every protagonist ends up asking the very same question... and it provokes the taxi driver to improvise."

Evens' chief concern was balance, maintaining the book's pace while preserving its equilibrium. "I paid attention to how I drew every character. That isn't necessarily a matter of — for example — whether they are listening or not listening. If you take a trick like making the face disappear, that will have some kind of closed and distant effect. But, in different contexts, the same trick will mean different things. What kind of detail I put forward or hold back…by the moment of drawing, I've consciously thought it all out."

Some of the book's characteristics are less about the stories being told than about the author's view of reality. "When you see characters hearing or not hearing each other, that's not necessarily some kind of theme. It's more about the way I understand conversation. Even in a really good, focused interchange, if you listen back to it, you're probably talking through one another, each thinking of what you're going to say just as much as 'listening.'"

"A lot of people, when they write dialogue, just go 'A, B', 'A, B', 'A, B.' They'll have the characters neatly wait their turn. Whereas I don't think our brains really work that way. In reality, it's more of a constant traffic jam – even when we like each other and we're interacting well. When we're interacting less well, it's more extreme."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At Vulture, Abraham Riesman profiles Julie Doucet, on the eve of the release of Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, one of the most significant reprint projects of the year.

By chance, she came across a periodical called Factsheet Five, which advertised underground comics. It was a cornucopia for the curious young Doucet. She resolved to make her own comic and sell it there. “Factsheet Five had these tiny little ads and it was a world in itself,” she says. “I guess it felt like I was a part of something then.” She dropped out of school, went on welfare, and got to work.

The result was the first run of Dirty Plotte, which took the form of 14 short, mimeographed, stapled-together collections of absurd and obscene strips, released roughly once a month, beginning in 1988. “Right off the bat, she created a unique, fully formed world to explore,” says comics creator John Porcellino, who was one of her earliest readers. “She’s just a natural-born cartoonist.” Those early works covered a wide range of topics: you were just as likely to see surreal fantasies about women murdering men as you were to see a cute short story about a couple selling a dirty mattress as a work of art. These mini-comics also featured what is perhaps her most famous work, a strip called “Heavy Flow,” in which Doucet imagines a particularly copious bout of menstruation causing her comics counterpart to become a rampaging giantess.

—At the New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler profiles Eve Ewing.

In the past year, she has also published an acclaimed book of poetry; collaborated on a play about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks; and co-hosted the Chicago Poetry Block Party, a community festival she helped create. She also sold a middle-grade novel, coming in 2020; signed up as a consulting producer on W. Kamau Bell’s CNN series, “United Shades of America”; and began hosting a new podcast, “Bughouse Square,” inspired by the archives of another Chicago gadfly, Studs Terkel.

And then there’s her gig with Marvel Comics. In August, Dr. Ewing caused minor pandemonium on the internet when she announced that she had been hired to write “Ironheart,” the first solo title featuring its character Riri Williams, black girl genius from Chicago.

—And at his blog, Robert Boyd reviews some comics he's recently read, including titles by M.S. Harkness, Austin English, Summer Pierre, and Sara Lautner, among others.

I had never heard of Summer Pierre until I heard an interview with her on a podcast talking about All the Sad Songs. She described it as being about making mixtapes, which is a thing that people of a certain age used to do, me included. She depicts herself now (a woman in her 40s, I think) with a streak of white in her hair. (I looked up her photo online, and while she has some grey, she doesn't have a streak of white--that was presumably an artistic device to help the reader distinguish now Summer from young Summer). She talks about how she made mixtapes for herself, her friends, boys she had crushes on and even her parents while she was in college. She lists the contents of some of them, and her tastes were eclectic but unformed. But in 1994, she hears Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville and Hole's Live Through This and they change her world. She becomes obsessed with girls with guitars and gets one herself and teaches herself the rudiments. Shortly after that, she meets Tom, who becomes a serious boyfriend for her. She's living in Boston and going to open mic nights to play her songs, becoming familiar with the singer-songwriters on the scene. She does a great job depicting this subculture, but what she really does well is depict her terrible relationship with Tom, who is kind of a cad.

Week’s End

Today on the site, Kim Jooha returns with the first installment (or second, depending on how you look at it) in a series of interviews with Toronto-area cartoonists and other members of what is called the comics community. This time, she speaks to artist Patrick Kyle.

I have been frustrated with reviews of Don’t Come In Here. People say, “Oh, it’s about being alone and sad in modern society!” Yes, it is, but also there’s much more-

People will either get it or they are not going get it. It doesn’t bother me.

I mean, your work is unique in how you present your ideas visually, but I think you don’t get enough credit for it. I worry that critics don’t have enough or good understanding. It's sad because we should cultivate this kind of work that studies visual language and representation. I want to see more work that takes care of these aspects of comics.

Thanks, I appreciate that a lot. I think a lot of people who follow me are more interested in me as an artist or an illustrator, and maybe don’t really know me for my comics work, and I don’t often feel like a comics artist. I’m part of that world, but I feel like most of the artists that inspire me are making fine art or illustration and are not completely comics work. Honestly, I haven’t been reading a lot of comics recently. I feel a little disconnected from the comics world, but also it doesn’t bother me.

I was wondering if you get frustrated—

No, not at all. I’ve been really lucky in my career. I’m not the most famous or popular artist or whatever but I don’t know, who is? It doesn’t matter. I would still be super-lucky to be in this situation I’m in.

I have such an amazing publisher, mentor, support from Annie [Koyama]. I’ve just been really lucky in the school I got to go to; the space that I live in; the peers I came up at the same time with. I feel so thankful for all of that. But if that support system wasn’t there, I’d still be doing all this stuff. It'd just be in a different way I guess. I don’t know if I would’ve found a publisher necessarily if Annie hadn’t known me.

We also round out the week with Day Five of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Over at the New York Times, George Gene Gustines writes about Paige Braddock's decision to put her strip Jane's World on hiatus.

The comic ... culminates with Jane and Dorothy sealing their union with a kiss. It ends on a note that shows how much times have changed since the strip first began. “When I started the comic, two women could not have been married; it would have been pure fiction,” Braddock said in a telephone interview. “This shows how much has changed for the L.G.B.T. community in 20 years. It’s sort of staggering.”

Braddock’s strip faced early rejections. One criticism was that “it wasn’t gender-specific enough,” she recalled. “Back in the ’90s, a comic about a woman had to be about topics that women would be interested in: kids, family, husbands and bathing suits,” she said. Undeterred, she began posting her cartoons on her own website as “See Jane” in 1995 and it built a following as it evolved into “Jane’s World” in 1998. The strip was published in some alternative weeklies and received a tryout in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Braddock once worked as an illustrator. In general, however, “mainstream papers considered ‘Jane’ too radical,” Braddock said. “I sometimes think I was just 15 years too soon.”

—At the Nation, David Hadju writes about Jason Lutes's Berlin.

Jason Lutes dedicated over 20 years to the making of this work of more than 550 pages of nuanced, exactingly rendered pen-and-ink drawings and dialogue. (According to Lutes, he was inspired to write about Germany between the wars after reading an advertisement for a photography book dealing with the period in The Nation.) He was not yet thirty when he started the first volume, and he was over fifty and the father of two when the final book was published this fall. Lutes spent the time well, crafting multidimensional, true-feeling characters in a set of stories connected by the unstable circumstances of their time and place. The events surrounding them are historically factual: the fall of the kaiser, the launch of the Hindenburg, the debates over Marxism in Marx’s homeland, the sexual and cultural freedoms of the Weimar age, and the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. What Lutes contributes to the exhaustively documented, utterly familiar history of this time is a set of fictional characters from everyday life who ground the period with such intimacy and so much veracity that we feel as if we’re seeing it through new eyes, observing it so closely that we feel it directly.

Evil Empires

Today on the site, we present a look at recent work by underground legend Dan O'Neill, from the writer who literally wrote the book on him.

To answer the most frequently asked question by people who have read my saga of [O'Neill's fight with Disney] (The Pirates and the Mouse (Fantagraphics)) but have not kept up with O'Neill since: “No, he isn’t dead.” The rootin’, tootin’ embodiment of outlaw cartoonist, whose Odd Bodkins was the first syndicated strip to oppose the Vietnam war and champion drugs, who besides standing up to the Disney Death Star, rode with the Mitchell Brothers against Dianne Feinstein, dropped in on Wounded Knee and Belfast, and egged the Queen of England’s flagship, still lives in Nevada City. He has contributed to fringe publications here and there, The Anderson Valley Advertiser, Berkeley Daily Planet, and Downieville’s Mountain Messenger, for three. He has had his personal papers collected by the University of California. He is prepared to relaunch Odd Bodkins “in whatever newspaper has the nerve to print it.” And in a bit of real life surrealism that makes Salvador Dalí's watches look like they were manufactured by Timex, he has served on the board of directors of America’s oldest gold mine.

This last experience shapes his book. Write (and/or draw) what you know is a useful instructive, especially when you mince this knowledge with a consciousness as outrageous, original, and damned funny as O’Neill’s.

We also have Day Four of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Abraham Riesman talks to Marv Wolfman and Klaus Janson while writing about the evolution of Marvel's Bullseye.

I call [Wolfman] up to discuss Bullseye, the iconic supervillain he co-created for Marvel Comics with artist John Romita Sr. in the mid-1970s. “I’m writing a piece about Bullseye,” I tell Wolfman over the phone. “He’s one of the lead villains in the new season of Daredevil, so …” Before I can finish the sentence, Wolfman interjects: “He is?”

“Yeah!” I say. “No one told you?”

“No, no,” Wolfman replies, matter-of-factly. “Nobody told me. I mean, several fans said that, but they’d been saying that for months, so I assumed that was a rumor. I’ve been away for the last two weeks at conventions, so I haven’t been able to check the boards. I assumed it was a rumor.”

—A statistician named Bethany Lacina took to Twitter to make a mathematical case that the intuitive understanding of why Chuck Wendig got fired by Marvel is probably correct: that he was targeted by Comicsgate-affiliated accounts.

—One of the great translators, Anthea Bell, who worked on Freud and Kafka as well as Asterix (the relevant title for TCJ purposes) has died.

She first began translating Asterix in 1969, coming up with some of its best jokes and puns. In her version, Obelix’s small dog Idéfix became Dogmatix, and the druid Panoramix became Getafix. The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation describes her work on Asterix as ingenious and superbly recreated, displaying “the art of the translator at its best”.

What Did He Say

Today on the site, we have Day Three of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Brian Nicholson is here, too, with a very unimpressed review of the Brazilian cartoonist Daniel Semanas's Roly Poly: Phanta's Story.

Ours is a culture that is both deeply sexist and increasingly shallow, where a widely-held prejudice assumes any woman of a certain level of attractiveness to be the most shallow of all. Impressively stylish yet bereft of meaning, Daniel Semana’s Roly Poly embodies this worldview more readily than any other entertainment I can recall: So much of its style is based around signifiers of femininity, and the only way I can imagine an argument justifying its ridiculous vacuity would be on the grounds that it is somehow satirical. I know there are plenty of people who object to Bret Easton Ellis and the like on the basis that replicating shallowness for supposedly satirical ends is inherently unsatisfying as literature, but let me make it clear that Roly Poly doesn’t read like a postmodern novel where the characters are bereft of depth. It reads like the storyboards for a soda commercial that’s inexplicably ten minutes long.

If you haven’t read the book, you’re probably wondering how literally I mean that. Well, it begins with a woman buying soda. This is Phanta. That’s presumably pronounced like Fanta, which you probably know is indeed a soda brand. It has no relation to Fantagraphics, the publisher of this book, that I know of. Phanta’s who the book will follow for the rest of its pages, after she is asked if she wants “grape or orange,” two of the fruit flavors the real Fanta brand offers, and responds, “Guess.” The fictional soda she’s purchasing is also called Phanta, and their corporate logo is also the icon on her Instagram profile. So it’s kind of like the book is about the personification of soda. What is the personality of a human soda? Well, the back cover copy, reprised inside the book so it’s canon, says, “Phanta is fearless and persistent. She says life should be played on hard mode.” This is more like the sort of ad copy that would be used for an energy drink, but there you go.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews new comics from Riad Sattouf, Molly Crabapple, and Don Brown.

It’s as if violence is its own country, free-floating and borderless, which Riad ends up visiting more and more. In one of the book’s strangest, most ingenious sequences, Sattouf dedicates four and a half red-and-black saturated pages to a detailed comics-form rendition — like a mini-“Classics Illustrated” — of the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian,” in which Conan ultimately beheads a man who claims to be his father. Riad and his cousins watch on television, rapt. Later we see — in the icy blue tones of France — how this connects to Riad’s love of cartooning, and even his talent: A panel shows him drawing Conan amid lopped-off body parts, as the book foregrounds his burgeoning artistic ability. “I drew lots of scenes of barbarism,” the narration reads. “I enjoyed the savagery.” If Sattouf grew up inspired to draw versions of violent fantasy movies, eventually he came to draw the violence of his own childhood.

At Your Chicken Enemy, Rob Clough writes about Keiler Roberts' Chlorine Gardens.

...because Roberts' work is predicated upon small, subtle changes over time introduced with little fanfare, it requires a careful look at her comics in order to see precisely how she's evolved as an artist since her early days. The key to understanding her work is that though she talks about subjects that are sometimes quotidian and sometimes deeply personal and serious, Roberts always thinks like a performer. However deadpan she might be on a page, she tends to think of whether or not an audience might find this interesting or funny. I recently interviewed her as part of a panel at SPX on writing about having bipolar disorder, and when she really went off on a subject, she was hilarious. Her success as a humorist is a reflection of her overall wit and ability to think on her feet, combined with a sense later of how to capture moments like that on the page. She's not flashy as a performer or cartoonist and reminds me a great deal of Gabrielle Bell in that regard, only Roberts' perspective and subject matter is completely different. That said, they both seek to entertain their audiences.

That's why Roberts was initially reluctant to talk about having bipolar: she thought it might bore her audience. Powdered Milk was initially built on the wacky things that her young daughter Xia said and did, giving her an incredible amount of cute-kid material. However, Keiler's depression couldn't help but bleed through in her early work as she frequently drew herself crying without any context. Ultimately, she decided it was an important thing to share and naturally found ways to draw humor from depressive episodes later, as she was able to think about them from a different perspective. At that SPX panel, she joked that she made sure to develop a new disease or condition for each new book. Miseryland introduced bipolar, while Sunburning explored that further and introduced a host of neurological problems. Her new book, Chlorine Gardens (Koyama Press) introduced Multiple Sclerosis to the mix, and she joked that her next book will be about ringworm.

—Interviews. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Keren Katz.

Out of the Water

Today on the site, Alex Dueben returns with an interview with the New Yorker and CBS News cartoonist Liza Donnelly, who curated a current exhibit at the Society of Illustrators.

You did a panel a few weeks ago at the Society of Illustrators and it was you and Roz Chast and Emma Allen and Liana Finck and Carolita Johnson, and you have different styles and approaches, but you’re also from different generations. What was that conversation like?

The other thing about the exhibit that speaks to that a little bit was that when I wrote the book it was received well and it’s still in print, but I didn’t get any real attention. That’s fine, it happens. When I started putting out a call for cartoons from new cartoonists, I half expected a blasé response and some people not wanting to be in the show because it was feminism and maybe a tired subject or they didn’t want to be only with other women. But I got a very positive enthusiastic responses from pretty much everybody. That was great. I felt that there was a new sense with this younger generation that yes we want to talk about it, yes we want to write about it, yes we want to draw about it. It’s important to us and it’s something we want to do. That was great.

For the panel I chose people who had some experience at the magazine so I didn’t bring in any of the brand new people. Although we’re going to do another panel October 11th, and I might select some newer voices. I like to pick people that I know, that I’ve done panels with before, because I know how they operate and it’s more comfortable. Roz and I have known each other since the late seventies. Carolita I’ve known a long time too and she’s sort of a middle generation cartoonist. She started in 2003 or so. Liana is new, but not that new. I know Liana very well. We’ve become friends and I interviewed her when her book came out at a book event. They all had great stories and are good at telling stories. Liana is very funny but she can get deep quickly. Carolita I know can be an angry and vocal feminist so I thought she could bring a great perspective. Emma was great. The whole thing is on Facebook Live. It went really well. The cartoons I selected for the exhibit were a nice representation of the cartoonists and I actually asked the cartoonists what they would like to be in the show. There were some feminist cartoons in the show but not even close to all of them. But for the panel I thought I would pick cartoons about women’s rights or the woman’s perspective on a relationship or equal rights or work quality. That made for a very funny and interesting panel.

We also have day two of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

And Mel Schuit is with a review of Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky’s Garlandia.

This is Mattotti and Kramsky’s second collaboration, and it’s worth noting that Mattotti, the illustrator, gets top billing. That says a lot about what you need to know about the book from the get-go: it’s going to be illustration-driven, not text-driven. The textual plot is entirely coincidence-driven and there is no doubt that it’s because the text is simply a backdrop for the illustrations in this book. In fact, without Kramsky’s words the story would probably convey much of the same thing: text only appears when a character is speaking aloud and there are very few onomatopoeic sound noises. Rather, the purpose of the book is to provide Mattotti with a platform to build and subsequently explore an intricate, curious world full of imaginative creatures with exaggerated sexual organs and nonsensical actions. The presence of the text, therefore, merely provides readers with opportunities to connect to the characters and their experiences. The fact that Hippolytes is a parent trying to do the right thing for his child, or Zachariah’s concerns that he is letting down his family give readers touchpoints to relate to and reasons to invest in Mattotti and Kramsy’s journey. After all, it’s hard to invest time in a 400-page book if you can’t connect to a single experience in it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Kate Beaton, who recently announced she has decided to retire her incredibly popular Hark! A Vagrant site and turn it into an archival resource, shared a long thread of advice for cartoonists on Twitter.

—Paul Karasik posted a picture on Facebook of the successful relocation of the Charles Addams mural he wrote about for The New Yorker last summer.

—Abhay Khosla compares a 2009 Marvel page with the 1968 Jim Steranko page it attempts to homage.

There’s no shame to getting smoked by Steranko. But it’s just neat seeing all the different ways he’s smoking somebody, though.

—Diana Swain at the CBC interviews Bruce MacKinnon about the controversial political cartoon he recently drew about the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. (It's short, and they don't get into detail about the criticisms of the cartoon, either the partisan ones or those from some feminist critics.)

VG+

Tucker's taking the week off, but his presence on the site will still be much felt, as today's TCJ attests. First, Michel Fiffe is here with the second installment of his column. This time, it's Fiffe on Vince Giarrano.

Vince Giarrano was a cartoonist who made a stylistic shift so dramatically that you would swear it was two different people. I always find myself thinking about Giarrano's sudden left turn, and I very much like both extremes of his spectrum.

You might know him as the artist on Haywire, from 1988, written by Michael Fleisher.

And we also have the first day in a new artist's Cartoonist's Diary. This week's Cartoonist is Greek cartoonist Vassilis Gogtzilas.

And finally, we have Sara McHenry's review of That Night a Monster.

Tommy wakes up early one Saturday morning. He goes into his parents’ room to see if they’re up, and is shocked and terrified to see a giant black fern in his mother’s place in bed. His father, still asleep, isn’t having any of Tommy’s fear and questions. Go back to sleep, he says. Prrrrr, the fern says.

Tommy spirals into anxiety. What does this fern want? Will it eat me next? Who will take care of me if my mother is gone forever? His little white dog, Moomin, follows him around the house and is equally troubled: we see in Moomin’s wordless thought bubbles that he is concerned with who will feed him and pet him now.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben interviews L. Nichols on Flocks.

I would draw these doll figures doing whatever we were doing. They weren’t comics they were just drawings, but at some point I realized that I was giving them my hairdo and my piercings and I went, oh. I was drawing myself. At that point I thought, I can use this as a way to sort through feelings in a more distanced way where it’s easier for me to figure out what’s going on. I think with the gender thing – this was before I transitioned – there’s a certain amount of that in there unconsciously. I didn’t really identify portraying myself in a physical body, so this was a way for me to do it. I don’t know. It’s cute. I like drawing the little button eyes.

The Something About the Beatles podcast interviews Carol Tyler, and the Virtual Memories podcast interviews David Small.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Morton reviews the latest volume of Jules Feiffer's noir trilogy.

It may be obnoxious this late in its history to use any review of a graphic novel as an opportunity to meditate on the form, its purpose and its function. Does anyone need to talk about the purpose of the novel when they review the latest Zadie Smith? But it’s hard to avoid such a mediation in the case of Feiffer’s work. Feiffer spent a 70-year-long career reinventing the supposedly low forms of the comics medium in an effort to make the comic strip literary. His decision to approach the graphic novel so late in his career is momentous.

—News. Two comics-related controversies struck late last week, both of which require more sustained attention than a short blog post can bear. We may revisit one or both of them at greater length soon. First, the writer Chuck Wendig announced on Twitter that he has been fired from his work writing Star Wars comics for Marvel, claiming he was told his termination was due to his social-media presence.

Second, the comics gossip site Bleeding Cool published a poorly written, edited, and conceived interview with a known far-right extremist activist, which led to outrage from readers, an apology from the site, and the announcement of a new editor-in-chief.

Nothing, Butt Trouble

Today at the Comics Journal, we're proud to share Oliver Ristau's insightful and impossibly open interview with Catherine Meurisse, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist whose memoir, Lightness, was translated into English and released by Europe Comics earlier this year. The book, a graphic novel where Meurisse processes the murders of her colleagues and the upheaval of her own life in the aftermath, is one that has gone somewhat unacknowledged in the US so far. Thankfully, Oliver's interview--which has made its way through multiple languages to even exist--begins the journey of remedying that situation.

There were no selection criteria, because the whole book was made by instinct. As I was saying earlier on, the shock of the attack made me lose my intellectual faculties for a few months. I was unable to think, to form sentences, my imagination was totally blocked, as if some of the parts of my brain had been unplugged. My memories and my culture had disappeared, but drawing and comics require a solid culture. I was terrified by the idea that I might never be able to draw again. I started to write and draw in a large sketchbook in order to not become crazy, to try gathering fragments of myself, emotions in particular. I did not want to let any part of me escape. Colors came to me because they had to: In the opening scene, in front of the ocean, I chose dry pastels because it couldn’t be anything else. For the pond scene, it couldn’t be anything else than watercolor. I opened up some color boxes randomly, instinctively. This graphic disorder at the time matched my inner disorder. La Légèreté is a huge gathering: There are the dead and the living, black and color, writing and drawing, sadness and humor.

Today's review comes to us from Tegan O'Neil, who dug into a black and white comic about a vigilante that seems to have very little in common with the majority of things that could share that description: it's Bald Knobber, by Robert Sergal.

Bald Knobber distinguishes itself for being a narrative about masked vigilantism in comic book form that avoids any clear parallels to super hero material. There’s one reference to his mask being “Janky Batman,” which is fairly descriptive, but also a telling anachronism. The fact that Bald Knobber is about a disgruntled kid who puts on a mask and sets about to beat up a bully without echoing any spandex tropes is impressive. That’s the point of the book, really – there’s nothing at all good about vigilantism, no nostalgia to be mined, just weird and shady shit from dark chapters of the nation’s history. The point isn’t particularly subtle but it’s not particularly trying to be: Cole puts on a mask and acts out, and this acting out earns him scorn and distrust.

Last week's Jog review, like many Jog reviews before it, had me jumping to pick up my own copy of a book that had gotten him so pumped. Along with my shipping confirmation, I got a linked to a whole mess of Lale Westvind animations I'd either never seen or not seen in years. That's where I'm at, and now, you can be too.

It’s, Like, Excruciating

We've got two reviews for you today. First, Greg Hunter on Tadao Tsuge’s Slum Wolf.

Shaded faces are a fixture of Tadao Tsuge’s Slum Wolf. From the collection’s opening piece, “Sentimental Melody”, and throughout the book, figures come into view with their features obscured. “Melody” begins with a man visiting a sex worker; Tadao shows him in near-silhouette several times before revealing the man’s face. In the story that follows, “The Flight of Ryokichi Aogishi”, Tadao at first renders a man’s head in spot blacks, despite drawing the man's overcoat and the space around him in fine detail. He continues this approach in several of the book’s other stories, encouraging readers to understand his characters in terms of a figurative (and sometimes literal) facelessness. With some artists, an obscured face—and the repetition of that motif across stories and years—might connote a character’s universal experiences. With Tadao's pieces in Slum Wolf, that’s not exactly the case.

The book is translator Ryan Holmberg’s second compilation of Tadao’s work, after Trash Market in 2015. The comics in both volumes reveal similar concerns, though Slum Wolf is an even more affecting, cohesive set of stories. Tadao’s cartooning first appeared in manga periodicals such as Garo and Yagyō, with Wolf collecting select pieces from the late '60s and '70s. Tadao’s subjects in these stories are fairly specific: men who fought for Japan during World War II and/or men who found themselves left behind after Japan’s post-war economic recovery, as well as where these men find themselves a few decades onward.

The spaces these stories explore aren’t always exclusively male, but the stories’ lead characters tend to be. And the men’s discarding of or failure to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of their era often provide the stories’ subtext. They are the type of people Tadao would have seen daily, growing up in a Tokyo red-light district amidst post-war poverty. So why—with such familiar subjects—the shadowy faces?

Rob Clough is here, too, with a review of Luke Healy's Permanent Press.

Luke Healy's Permanent Press is a book so meta (and so self-deprecatory) that I almost expected it to disappear after I read it. Ostensibly, it's a volume that collects two longish stories from Healy, "The Unofficial Cuckoo's Nest Study Companion" and "The Big And Small". The former story was previously published in minicomics form, and an extremely clever, original achievement. The latter story was previously unpublished, and in this book it's often interrupted by the metanarrative of Healy and his shadow. That shadow is part conscience, part Greek chorus, and part therapeutic wise mind to the Healy character's constant and depressive self-deprecation.

That self-deprecation is more than just the sort of funny-sad window dressing that's at the heart of so many autobiographical comics. Indeed, Healy is brutally sending up that entire sub-genre of comics at his own expense, as is made clear by the hilariously melodramatic quality of these interludes. For example, after a horrible experience at a local comics show, his shadow suggests that he go outside and get some "fresh air." That turns into a two-month sojourn in the wilderness (complete with poop jokes) that frees Healy from thinking about comics... until he does so again immediately upon coming home.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Angelica Frey talks to Matthew Thurber on the release of Artcomic.

Matthew Thurber’s new graphic novel, Art Comic, is absurdist, surreal and a little bit slapstick. After all, it follows a group of Cooper Union graduates— and their professor, and a group of idealistic pigs, and some aliens, and two procreating sex robots— as they try to master the whole “how to be an artist” thing. At the author’s request, though, please don’t call it satire.

“A satire felt too light to explain how upset I am about a lot of these tendencies in art, about how serious the book is for me,” he told Bedford + Bowery the day after Thursday’s book launch at Desert Island Comics in Williamsburg. “This is beyond poking fun, this is a systematic problem.” While satire is cathartic, there’s no release for Thurber after he’s done explaining himself in the book.

—The Edward Gorey parody in the latest Mad doesn't seem as out-of-character or noteworthy to me as it apparently does for most people, but it's interesting to see any comics story receive the kind of viral attention it has. Sridhar Pappu writes about the reaction at the NY Times.

Mad Magazine, the 66-year-old humor publication, has been in free fall for years — in terms of both circulation and cultural relevance.

This month, however, people as varied as the comedians John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt, as well as Lee Unkrich, a co-director of “Coco,” were heaping unlikely praise on the magazine known for anarchic satire aimed at the rich and powerful. The reason? A four-page comic strip appearing in the Halloween issue depicting 26 children, one for each letter of the alphabet, who were or would soon become victims of a school shooting.

—Jules Feiffer has begun a new monthly strip at Tablet.

That’s What I Thought

Today at The Comics Journal, we're roaring into Wednesday with a full satchel of comics content. First up, it's the latest installment of Retail Therapy, our recurring interview series with those individuals who have chosen comics retail as a career. This time around, it's Gabe Fowler from Desert Island in the hot seat. And he's got some things on his mind, the rascal!

What do you wish more customers knew about comics retail?

Retail stores are not a photo opportunity to improve your Instagram feed. If you like a store, if they offer you anything in the way of discovery or entertainment, even if it's just a cute place to meet up with your tinder date, lay down your hard-earned cash and contribute to their existence.  

Our comics excerpt train also stops in with a look at another Koyama title--Nathan Gelgud's House In The Jungle

And of course, there's a review. Today's comes from Josh Kramer, and he's turned his eagle eye to Tillie Walden, who just released On A Sunbeam through First Second & Avery Hill, depending on which country you're in, following the book's serialization online.

Mostly, dear reader, you want to find out. OAS features some genuine, interesting sci-fi world-building that sparkles and intrigues, like the deep space planet called The Staircase. Different readers value different aspects of stories, and I know that some readers care about characters above everything else. But I do enjoy the small details, and in some parts of OAS they fell flat for me. We never really get a good look or understand any of the work anyone is doing, despite a lot of talk about it. Desirable resources are described as “healing rock.” That's not terrible, but it's not terribly interesting.

Over at The Comics Reporter, you'll find that Tom Spurgeon is the latest to praise Lauren Weinstein's tremendous Frontier #17. I'm with Tom--I spoke to a class of seniors at MCAD yesterday and Lauren's work in that issue was my go to example for why 32 page bangers have nothing to be ashamed of in the face of the onslaught of heavy tomes. While I respect Tim's desire to keep some semblance of professionalism around here, I'm under no such obligation: it's the best thing I've read this year.

Deal

Today on the site, cartoonist/scholar Mark Newgarden returns to interview another great cartoonist/scholar, Eddie Campbell. Campbell's latest book, The Goat Getters, is a uniquely innovative history of the hidden origins of newspaper comics.

I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for years and have developed my own concept of the history of cartooning, of which "comics" is just one aspect. In my head I have always had a sense of the story in it, but I tend to groan when all those "History of Comics" come out and as time has moved along they have got narrower in their focus. I felt it was time to get back and look at the actual material and not just all the history books that have accumulated, in which more often than not the writer is reiterating the conventional old narrative of the previous one. Also, when some of these histories get to joining up the dots, they are seeing only the dots in a narrow window and thus missing the real connections that are invisible to them. So there was a pressing need to see the old comics and cartoons in their context, to see the newspaper as a holistic environment in which cartoonists could be moving this way and that and working in several sections of the paper at the same time and not just the comics pages. If you go at it all without the usual prejudices, a quite different story can be drawn out. Indeed many different stories present themselves.
at love-making, meaning courtship back then, should be taught in schools.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Daily Beast has a deeply sad interview with the 95-year-old Stan Lee and his daughter J.C., regarding the many allegations against various figures surrounding the man.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there have been stories out, and at least one upcoming story with allegations of elder abuse on you by your daughter.

STAN: I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC.

J.C. LEE: [Interjecting] He wishes everyone was so abusive.

STAN: She is a wonderful daughter. I like her. We have occasional spats. But I have occasional spats with everyone. I’ll probably have one with you, where I’ll be saying, “I didn’t say that!” But, that’s life.

Keya Morgan has been going on to me, and other reporters, about how abusive J.C. is to you. I know he was with you up here for a good amount of time. He claims he was with you for ten years.

J.C.: No. He was with him for six months—that period of time. And a year or two before.

STAN: As Joanie says, he was with me for about six months. I found out that he wasn’t really what I signed on for. So, I let him go.

Does it surprise you that, now that he’s banished from your life, he’s leveling all these accusations at your daughter?

STAN: I don’t know that he was. But it wouldn’t surprise me, no.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Jason Lutes. Lutes was also interviewed on Vermont Public Radio.

I believe we may have mentioned this before, but it's worth reiterating that SPX has posted video from many of this year's panels.

—News. This year's Harvey Award winners have been announced. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress was the winner of the biggest prize.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ariel Dorfman writes about co-authoring the Marxist comics-crit classic How to Read Donald Duck, which is being newly republished.

I should not have been entirely surprised when I saw How to Read Donald Duck, a book I had written with the Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart, being burned on TV by Chilean soldiers. It was mid-September 1973 and a military coup had just toppled Salvador Allende, the country’s president, terminating his remarkable experiment of building socialism through peaceful means.

I was in a safe house when I witnessed my book – along with hundreds of other subversive volumes – being consigned to the inquisitorial pyre. One of the reasons I had gone into hiding, besides my fervent participation in the revolutionary government that had just been overthrown, was the hatred the Donald Duck book had elicited among the new authorities of Chile and their rightwing civilian accomplices.

We had received death threats, an irate woman had tried to run me over and neighbours – accompanied by their children – had stoned the house where my wife, Angélica, and I lived in Santiago, shouting: “Long live Donald Duck!” It was later discovered that the 5,000 copies of the third printing of the book had been taken from a warehouse by the Chilean navy and cast into the bay of Valparaíso.

Permanent Emergency

Today at The Comics Journal, we're ready to turn the spotlight on Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons. Finally! It's Marc Sobel with that long look back at Give Me Liberty.

Despite its long gestation period, Give Me Liberty was actually conceived in the summer of 1988 at the height of the Watchmen and Dark Knight hysteria. As Miller explained, “Dave and I were at the San Diego convention, walking around the San Diego Zoo, and we started talking about working together. He had just finished Watchmen, I had just finished Dark Knight—I suspect we were both taking our press awfully seriously and had yet to calm down.”

But despite their initial enthusiasm, the series was shelved for a couple years. Miller recalled that he was “just writing scenes at random” without a clear idea of what he wanted to say and, eventually “Dave quit.” “It was originally going to be a huge portentous series of 150-page graphic novels, the first of which I scripted (but) the wind just went right out of our sails. We lost interest.”  

Our review for today comes from Patrick Dunn, and he came away pretty pleased with the recent Image Comics horror book Infidel, from Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell.

Infidel’s plot revolves around two lifelong friends and women of color, Aisha and Medina, who both live in an apartment building where a mysterious bomb blast recently killed several people. Both grew up in the Muslim faith, but have taken different paths in adult life. Aisha still dons a hijab, takes comfort in prayer, and makes excuses for the casually racist opinions espoused by Leslie, her boyfriend Tom’s mother. Medina is more overtly radical. “Racism’s a cancer that doesn’t get cured,” she tells Aisha. “The best you get is remission.”

This past weekend saw a healthy percentage of the comics world descend upon New York City's Jacob Javits Center for New York Comic Con, and multiple announcements regarding the next batch of DC, Marvel & Image Comics were announced. For more detailed coverage of that show, I'd recommend Bleeding Cool's coverage. Over the weekend, I received multiple texts from people attending the show, none of which were positive.

Prior to the show, Oni Press launched a free all-ages webcomics site. At this point, the site has a small number of books, but multiple titles are planned for later release on the site. It's an interesting venture, and part of what looks to be a continued redefinition of the Oni brand.

 

 

 

Speed Round

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck about her new memoir.

At what point did you start to write about your parents because the book is about you, but it’s also about the context of your life, in a sense.

It started out about me. I think the first fully formed part that I wrote was about me being a weird kid. After that I wrote the part about my parents. I don’t remember why I brought them into it. I feel like a shadowy echo of my mom sometimes.

Honestly, I wrote the part about me being a weird kid before I had a feminist awakening and then I wrote the mom part while I was having the awakening. I didn’t see my story as being a feminist story until I realized how women’s lives are shaped by being female. Then I started to feel how my mom’s story was really similar to my story. My mom’s story was of quitting her career to not have a career and have her art in the context of being a wife and mother and what it meant to pour all her art into not professionally ambitious things. How it succeeded for a while, but then didn’t have enough roots to sustain her for a long time.

You said that you had a feminist awakening. Could you talk about that and what that meant for you?

I think it happened the moment I stopped having writers block, which at least in my case was extreme self-consciousness about making things that other people would see. I would draw the same thing over and over and over again so at the end of a year I would have one drawing done a million times instead of a million drawings, or a hundred drawings. I think all the anger and scrutiny I had been putting on myself I started putting on other people. [laughs] It coincided with a breakup that made me remember past breakups. It coincided with me finally realizing how much I hated being catcalled and things like that. All the unfairness that I’d been living with for so long but I was so busy feeling like I wasn’t good or human and that I couldn’t be angry at the world for anything suddenly left. It was very freeing.

We also have Tegan O'Neil's review of the book in question.

Liana Finck draws like someone who has spent a great deal of time unlearning how to draw. She describes the process herself while watching on & off boyfriend Mr. Neutral at work: “When I watch you draw, I get a glimpse of what it would be like – if I could still draw the way I was a kid. If I’d met you when I was younger, I bet I wouldn’t have stopped drawing.” Situated at the beginning of the narrative, that statement lays out a map for much of the territory that follows in Passing for Human, Finck’s memoir of her and her family’s history of strangeness.

“Strangeness” is her word, not mine, used to describe what she refers to a variety of terms. In a section on her father, who seems to have shared a similar or related strangeness, she states, “nowadays, if you don’t know how to act around people, you might be labeled ‘mildly autistic.’” But the book isn’t about labels, and there’s really only one part it’s even mentioned. As she states: “The labels set you apart from the world, but they also give you a place in it. They make you feel more different, but less alone. In those days, though [her father’s youth] there were no labels.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Three straight days stranded for hours on NJ Transit have conspired against my usual thoroughness, but I still have a few links, and will catch up next week.

—News. Jillian Tamaki has been nominated for another Governor General's Literary Award.

—Reviews & Commentary. Charles Hatfield enthuses over L. Nichols' Flocks.

Nichols creates his own vocabulary of visual metaphors and devices even as he traces the story of finding, and declaring, his own best, truest self. His story explores and celebrates the paradoxes of self-in-community, the complex comforts of faith, and what it means to be alienated from the very things that support you, or supported by the very things that alienate you—that is, what it’s like to live a tangled human life among distinct, and in some ways opposed, communities, and how to find grace in that most delicate, ever-shifting position.

Dominic Umile writes about David Sandlin.

Artist David Sandlin had only been in New York City for a couple of years when he was plastering downtown Manhattan’s concrete building facades with graphic silkscreened posters to promote his solo exhibition at Kwok Gallery in 1982. But at that point he’d already won five hundred bucks in an art contest, played a role in a wholly rambunctious countercultural art collective, and worked as a studio hand for Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, and others.

—Interviews & Profiles. The editors of the new print TCJ, Kristy Valenti and RJ Casey, are the latest guests on Inkstuds.

He Has Nothing You’ll Want

Today at TCJ, we're pleased to bring you Joe McCulloch, who has returned from SPX with a frenzy in his heart. That frenzy has a cause:

While ostensibly the first part of a continuing series -- published as a slightly-taller-than-square softcover by Chicago's Perfectly Acceptable Press, which excels at daredevil feats of very fancy risograph printing -- Grip stands alone as a remarkable statement, one in which the artist's own hands seem to hold the entirety of American comic book history. If Westvind's Kramers story was wordy, sunburnt and hungover like a horror short running unsupervised off the Charlton press, Grip hearkens back to an even earlier time: it's like a Golden Age comic, its hero manifesting fabulous powers seemingly at random and immediately going about accomplishing mighty feats, because that's what you ought to do. It's a comic that feels like it was born unconcerned with the schematics and the expectations of comics, and therefore occupies itself with demonstrations of bravura sensation - Pure Comics Power.

The Guardian goes long on Berlin, Anne Frank and Nora Krug's new one. It's Ger-mania!

Berlin isn’t the only new comic to take on Germany and its wartime politics. This autumn also sees the publication of a graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s Diary adapted by Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky, the Israeli pair best known for the 2008 Oscar-nominated film, Waltz With Bashir; of the remarkable Heimat, a memoir by Nora Krug, a German-American illustrator who teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York; and of The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, a biography of the German-born Jewish philosopher by Ken Krimstein, a Chicago academic whose cartoons have appeared in the New Yorker. Is this a coincidence or does it have a wider significance? Though he has not yet read the other books, Lutes believes it does. “It’s so interesting,” he tells me. “On some profound level, we are all connected to this deeper thing. We are all processing, consciously or subconsciously, our world and having tapped into something that’s in the air, our books have bloomed simultaneously.”

Julia Alekseyeva also goes long, but her focus is on Tom Kacyznski's Cartoon Dialectics series.

In the volumes, Kaczynski frequently returns to a critique of modern life. In the tradition of theorists such as aesthetic philosopher Walter Benjamin and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, Kaczynski considers both the wonders of modernity and the despair of late capitalism. Subjects in Cartoon Dialectics are frequently isolated from others, trapped in a metaphorical (or literal) dystopia. It takes a glitch in the system—an ecological catastrophe, a blackout—for them to find meaning.

Rocko Jerome has that Olivia Jaimes coverage you need regarding the cartoonist recent panel at CXC

Olivia spoke about how the function of Nancy as a comic is problem solving. There’s a challenge of some kind, and Nancy has to find a way to overcome it. She said that one of her favorite Bushmiller strips was the one where Nancy shifts the whole panel to straighten a picture on the wall (Which I know that I’ve seen, but now can’t find to show you).

-She’s into Sudoku and said that a lot of the same principles of that applied to the layouts of Nancy.

-She mentioned that Nancy and Sluggo’s relationship is quite platonic. Words to the effect of “People ship them hard…they’re eight.”

Better Jokes Than These

Today on the site, R. C. Harvey retells the story of underground comics, to mark their fiftieth anniversary.

This year is the 50th anniversary of underground comix. The official beginning was the publication in February 1968 of Zap Comix No. 1, which was sold out of a baby carriage on the streets of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. But the underground was surfacing elsewhere—in Greenwich Village, in Chicago, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the unlikeliest of places, Austin, Texas. America culture as a whole was experiencing events as upending and disruptive as anything in revolutionary comic book format, whether ending with an x or not.

The ongoing Vietnam War-inspired protests that spread beyond the campuses where they started into politics and the wider society. As Jackson Lears outlined in The New York Review of Books (September 27), 1968 was the year of “the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the anti-war candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King, the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence in most major cities; the police riot against antiwar protesters (and anyone else who got in their way) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the emergence of right-wing candidates— George Wallace, Richard Nixon—appealing to a ‘silent majority’ whose silence was somehow construed as civic virtue. ...”

The radical protests featured unknown entities who soon became famous—Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Panthers, the Maoists, the Yippies, the devotees of Che.

In the midst of this surging social disruption, underground comix were a logical development—however illogical (even demented) and anti-social their content seemed. And they were cropping up everywhere in and around 1968.

Courtesy of NBM, we also have an excerpt from Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock's new Silent Invasion: Red Shadows.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Series editor Bill Kartalopolous has posted the contents to this year's Best American Comics, guest edited by Phoebe Gloeckner. He also includes a linked list of Notable Comics that weren't included.

—Reviews & Commentary. Over at The Guardian, Ian Dunt pays tribute to Carlos Ezquerra.

Ezquerra started his career drawing war comics in Barcelona before moving to the UK and working for the anthology 2000AD and others. He brought the iconography of fascist Spain to Dredd’s extremely weird and vivid design and combined it with his experiences of living in Croydon through the 70s and 80s: the punk movement on his doorstep and TV images of policemen charging striking miners.

The eagle motif and helmet were drawn from fascism, the permanently drawn truncheon from police on the picket line, the zips, chains and knee pads from punk. “I was living in Franco’s Spain,” he told an interviewer last year, “but also I was living in Mrs Thatcher’s England.”

Over at Print, Michael Dooley looks back at the time Blazing Combat was banned from U.S. Army bases.

Each of the seven or so Blazing Combat depicted a variety of clashes from the battle of Thermopalye through the American Revolution to the Korean conflict, with one always set in present-day Vietnam. “Conflict,” with art by Colan, is a compelling examination of discrimination against Asians and blacks. The others were drawn by Joe Orlando, who’d worked on EC’s science fiction and horror titles and eventually rose to become Vice President of DC Comics. His “Viet Cong,” the lead story in the very first issue, depicted barbarous atrocities being committed by the South Vietnamese army, who were our allies. Sales of that issue were decent, but some began to resent what they perceived as the comic’s dangerously incendiary anti-American attitudes.

Karen Berger writes about publishing Anthony Bourdain's comics.

Tony’s early connection to comics goes back to the glory days of Marvel. Like many boys growing up at that time, he was enthralled by the creative genius of Jack “The King of Comics” Kirby. And though he was too young to have read 1950s EC horror comics in their prime—he devoured the visceral, over-the-top gore and violence when he was a little older. He also discovered the work of R. Crumb and the underground comics scene of the 1960s. The raw, druggy, satirical, socially and politically rebellious material, I’m sure in part, helped inform his outlier sensibility. It certainly motivated his desire to become a comics artist, which he pursued for a while, but was told by several people that his art wasn’t good enough.

—Misc. R. Sikoryak sketched the CXC Olivia Jaimes panel.

Blue Flowers

Today at TCJ, we'll turn the reins over to Daniel Best, who has delivered an extensive obituary on his friend, the comic book artist Norm Breyfogle.

Norm always had a temper. He was passionate about social justice and hated the way the Right would look down upon the Left, and the poor, with disdain and disgust. Norm would engage in debate with anyone and everyone, debates that turned into on-line fights. Norm couldn’t allow anyone to get the last word and it was one night when, while arguing yet again, he smashed his fist into his computer monitor. Instantly he felt a searing jolt up his arm and believed he’d been electrocuted. He could barely move and speak. He managed to call for an ambulance and was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that he’d suffered a serious stroke. Only the fact that he was in peak physical condition had saved him from being a fatality. But survival came at a cost – his left side was now paralyzed.

Today's review comes to us from Shea Hennum, who is here to talk Jesse McManus' most recent release, The Whistling Factory.

Jesse McManus comics are like a fever dream. That is, they are at once grotesque and lucid, operating with a world that exists in the coherent (if disorienting) shadow of our own. Combing the cutesy-macabre aesthetic of Al Columbia with the frenetic grotesquerie of a Ren & Stimpy close-up, The Whistling Factory is no different. Composed of stories of varying lengths, and brief, punchy interstices, the collection resists the coherence of something like a short story cycle without diffusing into the incoherence of the anthology format. Generically, it rejects comporting with anything that might be familiar, but it isn’t so scattershot that it cannot be encountered as a unified thing.

The latest defamation lawsuit: Richard Meyer, a youtuber behind the Diversity & Comics channel, has sued Mark Waid for defamation and tortious interference regarding incidents surrounding the cancellation of a graphic novel Meyer was working on with the publisher Antarctic Press. While Gina Gershon dominates the term "tortious interference", nobody has seen fit to put her explanation of that term from The Insider on Youtube. So here's the guy from Last Boy Scout showing you how to wait for it.

 

Late Day

Today, on the site, Mark Newgarden returns with his second photo tour to the old days of cartooning legend at The Inkwell in New York City.

Open for business at number 693 (between 43rd and 44th Streets) The Inkwell catered to an elite clientele of cartoonists, newspapermen, photographers, models, actors and all manner of other 20th-century media workers (plus thirsty curiosity seekers.) It was celebrated in its heyday for its pork chops, raucous Thursday night theme parties, and after hours jam sessions — but above for all its unique décor, courtesy of some of the greatest cartoonists of the era.

Robert Kirby is here, too, with a review of the most recent slate of Kuš! comics.

Portugal-based [Mariana] Pita delivers this funny tale featuring a childlike protagonist and her acerbic dog, presented in a dreamy mix of watercolors and colored pencils. Things begin with the girl seeing an online plea for giving blood: "Be a hero." This sounds like just the thing to her, so she leashes up her dog (though he tells her he has a game that night and needs to be home by a specific time) and sets out on the journey to the donor offices. Along the way, they stop and let the dog take care of his business (he helpfully cleans up after himself), figure out the subway route, observe the people around them (“So many thrashy people,” she comments), and stop for a snack. The amusing and occasionally snarky interplay between the two feels authentic (despite the fact that one of them is, you know, a dog). When they finally reach their destination, things don't go quite as planned, but the girl remains philosophical: “It’s ok, being a hero isn’t easy.” Pita judiciously anchors her very watery watercolors with colored pencils, with red (especially for the blood) being particularly effective. Her visuals, including the hand-drawn, cursive text, have a fresh, freewheeling feel, happily taking readers along with the protagonists on their journey. Day Tour could have come off as overly twee, but in Pita’s deft hands it’s an oddball charmer from start to finish.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The 2000AD stalwart and Judge Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra has died of cancer.

Ezquerra, who lived in Andorra, began his career in British comics in 1973, after initially working on Spanish war and western comics. He found work on the war comic Battle Picture Weekly, drawing the adventures of the Dirty Dozen-inspired Rat Pack and later the strip Major Eazy, before editor and writer Pat Mills, who launched 2000AD in 1977, asked Ezquerra to come up with character designs for Judge Dredd.

Dredd’s helmet, knee-pads and eagle-motif shoulder decoration were instantly iconic, as were the cityscapes Ezquerra developed for Dredd’s beat, the sprawling, dystopian Mega-City One. Dredd debuted in the second issue of 2000AD, but was not drawn by Ezquerra, despite his crucial role in the character’s design. Ezquerra returned to drawing for Battle for a few months, then teamed up with original Dredd writer John Wagner to create what many fans consider the quintessential period of the character.

Archaeologists in Jordan have found ancient art that some scholars say resemble an early form of comics.

Painted on the walls inside a 2,000-year-old Roman-era tomb, Ariel David at Haaretz reports that there are nearly 260 figures featured in narrative scenes, with many speaking via comic-style speech bubbles.

—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Mautner reviews new books by Edie Fake and L. Nichols.

While at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Md., earlier this month, I attended a panel entitled “Trans Memoir.” During the program, a small group of transgender cartoonists talked about how comics provided them with a mode of self-expression in which they could delineate their best, ideal selves and talk about issues and emotions — often difficult to articulate — that come with being trans.

Two recent books from the small press publisher Secret Acres — Flocks by L. Nichols and Little Stranger by Edie Fake — underscore what those cartoonists were saying. Both books examine the struggles of being transgender and dealing with dysphoria, albeit from very different perspectives and sense of aesthetics.

—Interviews. The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Nora Krug.