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Different Fish

It's been a big week at TCJ. Yesterday, Anders Nilsen contributed a graceful, moving, and intelligent piece about the process of helping to complete his friend Geneviève Castrée's final book.

Her lines are perfect, exquisite, and minute. She often worked at nearly the same size at which her work would be printed, which is to say: small. The level of detail is astounding. Her drawings are little wonders. The best artists are like great athletes in that they make what they do look easy. You watch Serena Williams play tennis or Luan Oliveira skate a ledge and it looks so fluid, it feels in your bones like, yes, of course, I could do that, too. And if you try, you find out that it’s a delusion, that it actually took ten thousand hours of practice. It took inhabiting a particular body and mind in a particular place and time in the world. It’s from tracing certain motions every day for years, weaving a path through and between the artists that inspired you as a kid and the colleagues who excite you as a working artist. That feeling of effortlessness is a smokescreen, and even, in a way, a raised middle finger, to the immense amount of time and luck that it takes to get that good. I felt this very keenly when, after Geneviève died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, I sat down to finish my friend’s last book myself. It looked easy. I could feel the movement in my bones. But actually getting it down on paper was far from simple.

Geneviève had been ill for about eighteen months when she died. I knew she was occupying herself with various small projects. She would tell people she wasn’t working, she said she didn’t want to answer the question. She’d say that she was focused on getting well. But every time I went to visit her at her home in Anacortes, Washington, there were little piles of drawings or embroideries on the table next to the couch, on which she spent her days. And it turned out that in the last several weeks that work became more focused. Two days before her death, she sent me a photo of an unfinished drawing for that book, with the accompanying text: “I don’t like to share things before they are finished, but here is what I am doing with my days (while not gasping for air).”

Tegan O'Neil is here with her latest column, this time about Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man.

Sanity is very much a binary choice in the original run of Shade the Changing Man. The story is almost Lovecraftian in terms of the attention paid to the sanity of its hero. The difference is, of course, that madness is inevitable in Lovecraft’s world – inevitable at least for any human who persists in seeking forbidden knowledge. Madness for Steve Ditko here appears to be a malady against which a superior specimen – aided by superior technology, in this instance – might somehow resist.

Why is this preoccupation with madness and sanity so important to this series? Shade is a paranoid book. Literally every member of the cast is suspicious of every other member of the cast, down to parents, children, and lovers. Everyone in the Meta – the rather faceless and indistinct alternate dimension that Shade calls home – is a cop of some kind, or a criminal, or a criminal masquerading as a cop. If you’re not actively working with the Metan government to stamp out crime then you are probably a criminal yourself, let’s just say.

The reader will search in vain for any sign on the part of the author that the obsessively carceral world of Meta is not in fact the oppressive dystopia it appears on first, second, and eighth blush. Every third word out of every character’s mouth is an accusation of treason – perhaps an exaggeration, but only just. The Metan Secret Service, of which Shade served as a member, doesn’t really appear to have a set remit other than the general homeland protection shtick. Business is paranoid hypernationalism without a specific focus besides its own perpetuation and business is very good.

Today also brings Austin Price's review of a new collection of Go Nagai's infamous semi-classic Devilman.

Nagai is after all the overgrown child best known for penning super-robot slugfests like Mazinger and impossibly horny magical girl series like Cutie Honey, a schlockmeister who mistakes wrathful rants about justice and peace delivered over tableaus of splatterhouse gore for the stuff of great insight and sexual comedy so crass it borders on the misogynistic for satire; it seemed telling to me that his most stalwart fans would defend what was dullest and ugliest in Crybaby as the product of Nagai’s genius alone.

What’s most striking upon actually reading the first half of the original Devilman (available in English for the first time in three decades after publisher Seven Seas fished it from the licensing hell Glenn Danzig’s vanity press Verotik's brutal mishandling once stranded it in; the second half will follow in October) is how wrong everyone – not just the fans, not just myself, but Yuasa and Okouchi, as well – got it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Jerusalem Post has fired its longtime cartoonist Ari Katz after he drew an Animal Farm-referencing cartoon of Netanyahu depicted as a pig.

The publication of the cartoon on Tuesday in the Jerusalem Report, a biweekly magazine published by the Jerusalem Post, was met with praise by some and anger by other social media users, with many objecting to his portrayal of the Likud politicians as pigs, which are perceived as among the most ritually impure animals in Judaism.

Following the uproar, the Jerusalem Post announced it would no longer work with Katz.

“Avi Katz is a cartoonist who worked as a freelancer at the Jerusalem Post and in accordance with editorial considerations, it was decided not to continue the relationship with him,” it said in a Hebrew-language statement.

—Reviews & Commentary. Comedy Central's Jim Jefferies Show recently broadcast a sequence interviewing and mocking a prolific anti-diversity-in-comics advocate (read: bigot). This set off a debate online between people who welcomed the critical attention as long-overdue and those who felt it only served to magnify the bigot's profile. It's a complicated, difficult-to-parse issue, especially in the wake of the 2016 election and the media's arguable complicity in it, and one that I am not at all confident I know how to answer correctly. I think many people may overrate the power of public mockery to marginalize hard-right politics. On the other hand, ignoring these figures is unlikely to make them go away. We have to figure this out.

Over at the New York Times Book Review, Hillary Chute reviews Ben Passmore.

The most prominent device of “Your Black Friend” is its conspicuous, insistent use of the intimate, accusatory “you” (“How you use him like an information desk for black people”; “When you forget yourself”). In this, as in many other aspects, it recalls Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric,” which is also distinguished by its repeated “you” (as well as a focus on white friend failure, and the relationship between word and image). But Rankine’s “you” is largely an address to self while Passmore’s is an accusation that feels leveled at readers, pointing to their complicity. It is urgent and productively uncomfortable. “Your Black Friend” is not just a takedown: The narrator himself is vulnerable, as when he reveals that he feels personally mocked by his friend’s thoughtless “black” presentations, and that as a child he would suck his lips in to make them look thin like Leonardo DiCaprio’s.

—Misc. The Believer has posted its full archives online, including its very strong pre-2015 comics features, which were edited by Alvin Buenaventura.

 

Too Much

Alec Berry is proving his worth this week, returning to collaborate with Tucker Stone on a story about publisher Annie Koyama's decision to shutter Koyama Press by 2021.

Citing personal and professional reasons, Koyama did not characterize the coming closure as a lost financial fight, but as a return to an impetus. For more than a decade, the publisher also sponsored prominent and unknown artists anonymously, enabling specific projects she has mostly kept private. Now, she will expand and push this form of direct financial support without the responsibility of a press occupying most of her time.

“I will not tell the artists how to do anything,” Koyama said. “There are no strings attached. Once I decide to work with an artist, as I have always done with the press, I put enough trust in them and their project not to interfere. They don’t need my creative help, they need money.”

How this next venture will work is still being formulated. Though the projects she supports will not be owned by Koyama, recipients of these “micro-grants” will be expected to fulfill their end of the bargain, whether if be self-publishing the project, offering a performance, or whatever Koyama and the participating party agree to.

Additionally, the publisher expects to continue to pursue broader methods of support by hosting financial and business literary workshops and supplementing residencies. Her support will not be limited to cartoonists, either. Koyama recently supported a feature film and is already contributing support to projects with several fine artists.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Nick Drnaso's Sabrina continues to gather acclaim, and has become the first graphic novel named to the longlist for the Mann Booker Award.

The nomination marks a major breakthrough for the format.

Nick Drnaso’s “Sabrina,” a work that Zadie Smith called “the best book — in any medium — I have read about our current moment,” is the surprise name among the 13 finalists announced today.

It appears alongside Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room,” Sally Rooney’s much-hyped “Normal People” and Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight.”

—Interviews & Profiles. The aforementioned Drnaso talks about the nomination with Abraham Riesman at Vulture.

...how did you feel?

It’s hard not to … It’s hard to convey it without seeming dismissive or ungrateful or something. But I kind of just glossed over the email. For whatever reason, the way I approach making art over the years has just kinda sapped any feeling of satisfaction or excitement I would have about something like that. And I don’t even mean that in such a negative way. I think I just have this wall built up of some kind of self-preservation thing where I don’t let stuff like that in too deeply.

In an unexpected development, the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter has a graphic novel coming out, and talks to Publishers Weekly about it.

Nothing is actually finished in life. In music, when someone stops writing a song, it’s not necessarily finished. The meaning goes on, more than the name, or the era, style and all that. That’s why I used the word Emanon - no name. The record itself is not a soundtrack for the graphic novel. It’s a panorama that always changes. When you keep listening to the music, the music might turn out to be the graphic novel, and the novel might turn out to be the music [laughs].

The most recent guest on the Comics Alternative podcast is Carol Tyler, and the most recent guest on Inkstuds is Paul Kirchner.

—Commentary. Liza Donnelly writes about the history of women cartoonists at The New Yorker.

From The New Yorker’s beginnings, cartoons have been an integral part of the publication, and, from the beginning, women have been drawing them. The first New Yorker cartoon created by a woman, Ethel Plummer, appeared in the première issue, on February 21, 1925. She, like many female contributors of the time, was classically trained, having attended art school to study painting and illustration. She was also active in the suffrage movement, and one can see the feminist perspective in her cartoon of an irreverent flapper. Another cartoonist, Barbara Shermund, drew in a breezier, more modern style, but, like Plummer, her ideas had a feminist bent. Mary Petty, another cartoonist, was self-taught; her drawings often ridiculed the upper classes with their dark tone and sarcastic humor. Perhaps the most famous of the women cartoonists in those early years was Helen Hokinson, whose every stroke of the pen inexplicably seemed to carry humor.

—Misc. Two comics about cartoonists' experiences in museums (to be almost insultingly reductive) have gone online this week, from Gabrielle Bell and Lauren Weinstein.

 

You Shall Know No Quarter

Today at TCJ, Alec Berry returns to us with an extended profile of David Brothers, who recently left a prominent position at Image Comics to join the San Francisco office of Viz as an editor.

On some Sunday morning I ask Brothers why he quit Image Comics. As the company’s branding manager, he held a desirable spot at a prominent publisher, assisting with book production; helping organize Image Expo; editing an in-house magazine (Image+); and hosting panels and events at conventions nationwide. But by the time December 2017 rolled through, after four and a half years, Brothers tweeted a GIF of Tupac throwing a peace sign into a camera lens. No explanation with it.

“Yeah, Portland sucks,” Brothers responds. “Portland is twee on a level I cannot take.”

Today's review sees the return of our stalwart German contingent of contributors, Oliver Ristau. He's here with a look at Alright, a recent release by the always intriguing Max Baitinger.

But what is Alright about? Once again relationships provide the basis for Baitinger's excursions into the things mankind is constantly struggling with, this time modern communication technology. They say a strong character cannot be bent, and remains true to itself and its shape over its entire life, but it's the opposite that's being depicted when Baitinger's characters try to stay in touch with the help of standardized interfaces – their bodies perform the oddest physical twists while being alone and on their own, only connected by devices forcing an autocratic presetting on consistently malleable personalities. The complementary words are stripped of any fillers, they evince an inborn inclination to submit one's self to an auguring stability and end the pressure of being exposed to an ever changing flow.

The sun is shining (somewhere), which means it's the right time to go over a random sampling of Trevor Von Eeden pages. If, like me, your collection of Thriller is in a box out of arm's reach, never fear: DC in the '80s has you covered with this enthusiastic sprint.

And: then there's us. Like Tim, I did not expect this site to win an Eisner award, and was actually sitting alone in the dark in a strange city, trying to catch up on some of the reviews that my recent move has put me far behind on editing when Jacq emailed us the good news. 

And you know what? It is good news. It's lovely news. I am someone who felt a real kinship for the Comics Journal when I first read it, which, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, was in 2001. I did not grow up in an environment where anyone read or spoke about comic books, and it wasn't until the early days of blogging and message boards that I actually had a conversation with another person about the things. None of my friends had an interest, my brother had stopped looking at Batman when he was 13--it was just something I did on my own. Reading The Journal--long, random articles about comics I had never heard of, which, upon tracking them down, didn't really like that much; weird, bile-filled arguments that I eventually realized were based on decades-old hurt feelings--TCJ didn't shape my taste, but it made me feel comfortable with my desire to take this whole silly thing--this "reading comics thing"--really seriously. And that's always been my guilty pleasure, that's always been the thing I get off on: taking the things I like overly seriously. It isn't a party conversation thing: I know nobody else wants to hear me talk about what I think about what happened to Jack Kirby, or why Jim Aparo's Batman has no real parallel, or how John Wagner's extended, real time run on Judge Dredd is a greater and more satisfying creative accomplishment than we give it credit for. Comics may have broken through in a very big way in the last few years, and super-hero continuity may be something that millions of people are conversant with, but talking about these things as if they "matter," or talking about ways to make them more ethically, or talking about how wild the last fifteen years has been in terms of who is making them, publishing them, sharing them, living off them, taking chances off them--those kinds of conversations are still things that the majority of the people roll their eyes at having. I'm not mad at them! I don't have any interest in how television is made, or poetry, or the machine of the art gallery world. I don't play video games or watch professional wrestling: I'm completely okay with people who dip in and out of comic books.

But that is not how I am wired. Finding The Journal was, for me, like finding an answer. It was (and thanks to Kristy & RJ, will be again) a place where you could go and rail, praise, explore and demand, and nobody ever stopped to ask you to calm down or get a grip. It's a place that took comics seriously, and when I found the site--the Dirk Deppey years--it was like a tree finding its other roots. It was how I found Joe McCulloch, always and forever our best critic, our finest mind, the model of clarity, curiosity and intelligence we are supposed to have for ourselves in life, not merely writing--and the one person, more than any other, who should have been honored alongside Dan, Tim, and I for his tireless efforts since the launch of this incarnation of the site. To have gone from reading those people, to meeting them as a fan, and to eventually join them during my time as a regular contributor, and to then return to the site as Tim's partner has been an experience that has been a real, genuine honor. I am grateful for this surprising vote of confidence at a time that, if I'm being honest, still feels extremely transitional to me. To those of you who voted for us--thank you. To those of you who didn't? Thank you too! Thank you for being somebody who cares enough about this stuff to have a fucking opinion about it. That's what this thing is supposed to be about. Thanks for giving us a shot.

 

Ink & Pixels

Hello everyone. Frank Young is here this morning with a review of an unusual Italian comics biography, Agustin Comotto's Prisoner 155: Simón Radowitzky.

Writer-artist Agustin Comotto has done his job exhaustively well. Packed with footnotes (most of them essential to understanding what’s going on), the book offers an overwhelm of information in telling the story of Ukraine-born anarchist Simón Radowitzky (1891-1956). Much of the book’s events occur in the early 20th century. There are inescapable parallels to our times. Mankind’s inability to treat itself with kindness, and to accept dissenting views without violence, may never be laid to rest. The struggle remains as real today as it was in the events that shape Comotto’s narrative.

We meet Radowitzky amid his long prison sentence in Argentina—a country he emigrated to, as a teenager, to escape the oppression and brutality of Eastern Europe. Radowitzky has spent most of his adult life behind bars. Much of his time outside prison has been perilous. He witnessed the slaughter of his childhood village in the hands of the Czar’s footmen (an example of the ethnic cleansing and persecution Jewish people suffered in Europe long before Hitler’s rise to power) and took part in a 1905 worker protest in St. Petersburg, Russia—a day known as Bloody Sunday, in which unarmed proletarians were slaughtered in their attempt to present a petition to the Tsar. Radowitzky, by the time of adolescence, was a hardened survivor of a brutal endgame.

A confirmed anarchist by his teens, Radowitzky sought asylum in Argentina, as a step in the process of his family’s relocation to America. At 18, he was part of an attempt to assassinate Ramón Falcón, a Buenos Aires police chief who destroyed the lives of anarchist and Communist protesters in a 1909 demonstration. For this crime, Radowitzky would have been executed, were he of legal age. Instead, he was imprisoned for over twenty years. While imprisoned in Ushuaia Prison in Patagonia, where he was beaten, starved and (in an event not shown in this book) raped by prison guards, he became a cause célebrè to those who sought freedom from political oppression.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. As I'm sure most of our readers know, the San Diego Comic-Con just ended, which means there were lots of awards handed out last weekend. That includes the Inkpot Awards (congratulations to Eric Reynolds), the Prism awards, and the Eisners. Emil Ferris won two of the top prizes (Best Writer/Artist and Best New Graphic Album) and also won Best Coloring. Frequent TCJ contributor Mark Newgarden won for How to Read Nancy (with Paul Karasik), as did contributor Anne Ishii for her recent translation of Gengoroh Tagame. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress won five Eisners, and other prominent winners include Jillian Tamaki, Tillie Walden, Tom Gauld, and Taneka Stotts.

This website won the award for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism. I've been nominated for that prize without actually winning it a fair number of times now, both for this site and for Comics Comics, so I more or less assumed that was going to be the way things continued indefinitely. I am pleased that we won for 2017, which both honors the work Dan Nadel put into the site for so long, and recognizes the new energy and spirit that Tucker Stone brought with him when he came aboard. I asked Dan if he wanted to make a comment, and he asked to express his gratitude to Gary Groth for the opportunity, and said it was a nice way to cap off his time at the Journal (though I will continue to commission him to write stories). I'm grateful too, especially to our readers — and all of our contributors. It's really their award. Tucker may have something to say tomorrow.

As you probably also know, this week brought the news that The Comics Journal is relaunching its print edition, with familiar faces RJ Casey and Kristy Valenti at the helm. Just as exciting, Rick Marshall is also relaunching his classic comics magazine Nemo.

—Reviews & Commentary. At the Paris Review, Yevgeniya Traps writes about Geneviève Castrée's heartbreaking children's book, A Bubble.

A Bubble, the artist and musician Geneviève Castrée’s posthumously published last work, is, in essence, a children’s board book. It begins with the caption “Maman lives in a bubble,” above a drawing of a little blond child in cat-face knee socks gazing at her mother, who floats in the titular sphere. “I love you very much,” the mother says, her freckled face anxious, her choppy hair concealed under a beanie hat. She may be unwell, sick. Indeed, the next page confirms it, the mother has been ill for some time: “It has been a while now. I no longer remember the time when she didn’t live in the bubble, I was too little.” The mother works on projects in her bubble: embroidery, reading, crafting, drawing. She gets sicker and sicker, her illness progresses, her hair thins, she starts wearing a cannula, she is connected to a tank. She cannot leave her bubble, but sometimes the little girl joins her in it. They eat breakfast together (“She doesn’t mind if I make crumbs with my toast”), nap (“a special time for Maman and me”), make art (“I draw with her, it brings her great joy”). When she goes on excursions with Papa, the little girl makes sure to tell Maman about her adventures. The bubble separates them but cannot keep them apart.

Over at Print, Michael Dooley previewed the Eisner awards, and contemplated their usefulness to readers.

Forget about who’ll walk away with Eisner Awards on Friday at San Diego’s Comic-Con. Sure, there’ll be worthy winners. In my feature on Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters, which garnered multiple well-deserved nominations, I wrote that it would easily top any comics and design “best of” award. More on that notion momentarily. But honestly, the Eisners are much more a popularity contest among comics industry professionals than it is any real gauge of who and what is most worthy in any given category. Simply put, personal favoritism is the dominating determinant. Nevertheless, the Eisners themselves do serve a valuable and commendable function. Truth is, it’s not only an honor just to be nominated, it’s the only worthwhile honor, inasmuch as the nominee list news we can most usefully use.

At The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman discuss the work of Saul Steinberg.

Patterson Sims: Did his high visibility and great success at The New Yorker compromise his success and status as an artist in the gallery world?

FM: He talked a lot about that topic to me. He said it was his choice to do magazine covers and drawings, even if it might have done him a disservice and prevented him from reaching the height of fame of some of his friends like Calder or Willem de Kooning. He was surrounded by very famous people, though a greater number of his friends were esteemed writers rather than artists. He talked about the invention of abstract painting, in a broken-down barn by Jackson Pollock and de Kooning. He told me about how the two of them went to Long Island one summer when they were young, unknown, and had no money: the barn that they rented was about to fall apart. They went to the hardware store to buy some paint, basically to hold the planks together so that they wouldn’t blow in the wind. They started rolling on the paint and that’s where Pollock took a bucket of paint and started throwing it on the floor, inventing Abstract Expressionism. Saul said to me (and, again, I wish I could have recorded our conversations), “I could have been an Abstract Expressionist” and noted that he was married to Hedda Sterne, an abstract painter. He said, “I could have thrown a bucket of paint. I could have figured out how to play that game.” But his love of the lowly magazine prevailed.

 

Grudge Milk

Today at TCJ, we're very pleased to share this extensive interview with cartoonist Dana Simpson, courtesy of Alex Dueben. The passage below is from the very end of the interview, but it is a valuable sentiment worth sharing twice:

Now we’re at the point where kids can say, I know who I am, and people will listen.

I know. I’m super envious of those kids. It makes me feel like I was born thirty years too early. Not that it’s easy being a trans kid. The trans kids that I know are some of the bravest people that I’ve ever met. I’m in awe of them.

I don’t know how I would have been if that had been an option. It was not when I was growing up. Now you can say, this is me, I’m going to be me, and some people will actually listen to you. I think if I’d said “I’m a girl,” no one would have known what to do about it in 1985. Or 1995 even. Hell, in 2005, when I came out, people acted, like, very differently than I think they would act now. I know differently than they would act now. In 2005 I I didn’t know any trans people. It turned out that I did, I just didn’t know that they were trans.

I’m glad people can authentically be themselves. People are much more aware of it now in a way they weren’t. I speak at schools a lot and I usually don’t bring that up, but sometimes I do. Especially if they tell me there’s a trans kid at the school. When I do that, kids react like it’s not a big thing. Maybe that’s just the kids I’m meeting, but they always just nod like, oh, okay. This generation is great. We have to start listening to them more.

Today's review is from Tegan O'Neil, and it's on the new graphic novel from Nate Powell, Top Shelf, and the color black.

There’s a lot of black ink in Nate Powell’s Come Again. The pages are soaked, with darkness creeping around every edge, devouring each panel border and threatening every character therein. It’s a paranoid story, defined by disappearance and memory loss, as well as the fear of secrets left to fester. The bright parts aren’t any less unsettling. The juxtaposition between light and dark that recurs throughout the book is disorienting and echoes in multiple places throughout the narrative. Throughout the story characters are hiding secrets or struggling to exhume secrets, caught in some fashion between ignorance and understanding.

Abhay Khosla briefly touches upon one of comics' ever present annoyances: morons, and why it's no fun to read their reviews of comic books

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go refresh youtube until I can see the ding dang Aquaman trailer!

 

 

Piano Player

Rob Clough is here today with a review of a recent comic by the German artist Nadine Redlich.

This is her third collection of strips and drawings. Her first, Ambient Comics, established her as an artist who loves to use the grid to play with time and set up subtle jokes. Ambient music is designed to relax someone with a series of sounds aimed at different kinds of brainwave activity, and so too seem her ambient comics about following images through a grid. There's a candle melting, an inchworm moving, and a shadow moving. However, Redlich starts to slowly subvert these images in funny ways. In one, there are six panels of the earth taken from space, where there is no doubt a great deal of change going on on the planet in each of the six panels, but it's so far away that we only see the same image six times. The best example is the image of an alpine mountain peak, with an avalanche forming over the six panels. The irony of meditating and being in the present with destruction is exactly the kind of paradox that informs her work. Her second book, Paniktotem, does something similar, this time pairing extremely cute images with scenarios related to anxiety, frustration, and meaninglessness.

I Hate You – You Just Don't Know It Yet is a mixture of comics, doodles, scrawled aphorisms, and scorched earth destruction of romantic cliches.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Criticism. Jillian Steinhauer at The Nation reviews Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

Writers weighed in on all sides [of a debate on whether female literary characters needed to be likable]: The New Yorker’s ”Page Turner” blog convened a “forum on ‘likability’”; Jennifer Weiner went to bat for likable female characters in Slate; months later, Roxane Gay published an essay about the value of unlikable female protagonists in BuzzFeed. The debate dismantled the double standard that women should be pleasant and agreeable, even when they’re fictional creations. Despite being outdated, the idea was clearly still present—an old wound whose scab was due to be picked once more.

It was maddening, but also comical, to watch the argument rage on, as if the work of some of the best female creators wasn’t a ready-made rebuttal to this myth. Aline Kominsky-Crumb, for one, has devoted her career to breaking down the expectation of women’s propriety, often with humor. In 1972, she contributed a story, “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman,” to the inaugural issue of the groundbreaking underground magazine Wimmen’s Comix. Her first published work, “Goldie” is these days considered the first autobiographical comic created by a woman. The five-page piece is a sort of dreamlike narration of how Goldie—a stand-in for the author, who draws herself with a big nose and even bigger hips—rediscovers her pride after puberty and an extended period of sleeping around have ruined her self-esteem. It’s a tale that Kominsky-Crumb would go on to retell many times in her work.

—Interviews & Profiles. Newsday talks to Jules Feiffer on the publication of his third noir graphic novel.

In “The Ghost Script,” when you look at Sen. Joseph McCarthy's communist witch-hunt and the fear and paranoia in American society at the time, you can't help but think about the toxic political atmosphere today. Was that parallel in your mind at all?

It was not a parallel at the time. First of all, I write the script long before I illustrate it. At the time I was writing it, I was in Berlin, at the American Academy in Berlin. It was way before Donald Trump; it was way before any speculation about Donald Trump. When I began the series, with “Kill My Mother,” I had no intention of being political. I just wrote, and let it take me where it took me, and it took me in this direction. I wanted to show that the blacklist was an attack on our entire civilization, on our notion of ourselves as a country, by people who were trying to save it for themselves and only themselves. That's the parallel to the age of Trump. But the age of Trump hadn't descended upon us yet.

Willamette Week profiles the late cartoonist John Callahan, the subject of Gus Van Sant's latest film.

For 27 years, if you opened Willamette Week, you'd find one of his cartoons, needling polite society with jokes about feminists, lesbians, nuns, doctors, lawyers, the homeless, conservatives, liberals and his fellow "quads."

Callahan pissed off many in his day. The cartoonist, who was paralyzed in a car accident at age 21, made a career of pushing buttons, testing boundaries and immolating all notions of good taste with the belabored stroke of a pen. Advertisers complained, and there were occasional boycotts. But none of that prohibited him from becoming, at one point, one of the most visible cartoonists in America.

Wander around Northwest Portland and chances were you'd run into him, or he into you, as he blitzed up the sidewalk at speeds that rendered his electric-orange hair a tangerine blur.

Hyperallergic talks to Vanessa Davis about her work in painting.

—Misc. Two comics-related publications of possible interest launched crowdfunding attempts recently. First, The Nib is starting a quarterly print version, and has already reached its $50,000 goal. On the smaller end of the spectrum, the leftist video-game podcast No Cartridge is attempting to launch a series of politically oriented comics criticism zines.

 

Brothers In Closure

Today at TCJ, we've got a look at Reid Psaltis' Kingdom/Order, courtesy of Ryan Carey. It's a good one:

Eric Drooker’s groundbreaking Flood comes to mind throughout this book, not only because both are entirely “silent” works, but because Psaltis often veers into Drooker-esque woodcut-style illustration, yet the focus here is tighter, although arguably no less ambitious. One could even argue that the plethora of socio-economic problems Drooker touches upon in his book all stem from the separation of man from the natural world that Psaltis explores in the pages of his. Indeed, I’m sure someone of the “Green Anarchist” political persuasion would say precisely that, and Psaltis’ thick, expressive, detailed line manages to convey a lot of the universality he’s aiming to imbue his story with. When his protagonist is curious at the outset, it shows in every facial expression, every “tic” of his body language, and the same holds true when his feelings “evolve” into fear, complacency, happiness, and finally into aggression. You know right where our man is every step of the way here, emotionally as well as physically, and that’s all down to the power and precision of Psaltis’ rich, nuanced illustration.

In satellite Journal contributions, Tom Kaczynski followed up his recent Eddy Current column with a series of tweets on American superhero comics, urbanization, architecture & more. You start here, and yes, it has numbers

While this weekend's San Diego Intellectual Property Convention is sure to release its fair share of comics adjacent news, you would have a very hard time convincing me that there will be any greater and more up-my-alley advertisement for a Marvel property than this sixteen second video of Paul Rudd & Michael Douglas hamboning back in 2015. I have liked loved hamboning far longer and with more consistency than I've loved reading, and while this video is a bit too short and would have benefited from a longer build, it's still mainstream hamboning that may introduce it to a wider audience, thus ensuring a future full of hamboning.

 

 

Tough Love

Today on the site, Annie Mok returns to interview Ronald Wimberly, the creator of Prince of Cats and Black History in Its Own Words, about his new magazine, art school, animation, and Walt Disney.

ANNIE MOK: In LAAB #0, you use Mickey Mouse a couple of times as a richly layered visual motif. On the cover, a poster in a NYC street scene shows a group of men tearing down a Mickey statue like it's a war monument. In another image, you layer Mickey's face over Jean-Michel Basquiat's, but obscure the eyes with Barbara Kruger-style typography. Can you break down why you used Mickey in this way, including how Mickey's origins and influences may have factored into your playing with this corporate icon?

RONALD WIMBERLY:
LAAB #0 deals with the political unconscious in pop culture aesthetics. These images are meant to provoke thought. Honestly, they seem embarrassingly didactic as is, a bit on the nose; describing my intention defeats the purpose of looking at the work. So instead of answering your question directly I’m just going to give some more context to the information about the subjects in the pictures and let people contemplate the images.

Mickey Mouse, as readers may know, is the flagship character and brand icon of Walt Disney Corporation. Mickey Mouse is recognized around the world. Mickey Mouse was designed by Ub Iwerks; I think a lot of what Disney is can be summed up in this first relationship between Walt and Ub.

I would encourage readers to look up the Disney animators strike of 1941.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. TCJ's own Greg Hunter weighs in on one of the most acclaimed books of the year, Nick Drnaso's Sabrina.

Drnaso makes comics of acute psychological realism that approach their subjects from an almost anthropological remove. An easy comparison is Chris Ware, with his clean-lined compositions and stories of the lonely, the stunted, and the mistreated. But unlike Ware, who enacts these scenarios with complex, formally dynamic layouts, Drnaso’s stories are tidy, unadorned, and judicious in their limited emotional range. The effects of this approach, and possible explanations for it, are numerous.

An uncharitable take on Drnaso would go something like this: the distance in his comics is a way to safeguard the work, even the artist’s ego. Such a measured style reduces the risk of being perceived as sentimental. It avoids any flourishes that may be seen as overreaches or miscalculations. It’s an eminently — even excessively — adult and respectable approach to comics fiction.

And Tom Kaczynski cannibalizes what should have been his next TCJ column for a Jeet Heer-style tweetstorm on "architecture, urbanism, Capitalism, suburbanization, and American superhero comics."

8/ America has a love/hate relationship with the city. Metropolis & Gotham are the yin/yang of the city, each representing a way America thinks about New York, Chicago, etc.

9/ Noted Batman writer/editor Denny O’Neil famously said that Gotham City is New York below 14th Street, Metropolis is New York above 14th Street.

—Interviews & Profiles. Also at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Tahneer Oksman talks to Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

This collection seems very complete. I feel a great sense of relief that it exists. It covers a lot of territory, and it’s a good representation of my career as a cartoonist.

It’s not like there’s a direct evolutionary line. It goes all over the place, and keeps going back to things. There’s a period of time where you feel better, a period where you feel worse. Where you’re fatter, where you’re not in touch with your body, where you’re drinking too much, doing too many drugs, whatever it is. And I think the work reflects those different periods, but I think there’s a general trend toward fulfillment and self-awareness. Some of the early images are really out there — I was so crazy then, I was just trying to rebel against my upbringing completely. I had so much pain and so much anger. Those stories are very painful, very anger-driven. Some of the later stories are not quite so full of venom as the earlier work.


—Misc.
A new journalist-run website Popula launched last week, and under editors Vanessa Davis and Trevor Alixopulos already has a strong comics presence, with regular comics by Ron Regé, Lauren Weinstein, and Ben Passmore, as well as a recurring Sunday strips package featuring Steven Weissman, Karen Sneider, Jon Lewis, Megan Kelso, and Tom Hart.