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World Almanac

Greg Hunter's latest episode of Comic Book Decalogue features guest Laura Lannes, and in it, the cartoonist behind By Monday I'll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage and the upcoming John, Dear discusses Laerte, Puiupo, and Sarah Manguso, as well as the uses--and perils--of humor in art.

Matt Seneca is back, too, with a review of Anthony Del Col, Geoff Moore, & Jeff McComsey's Son of Hitler.

Part of the reason it's tough to escape the WWII-story trap of glorifying US military adventurism is because that's what the familiar template for a WWII story is. In a perfect world, of course, earlier entries in the genre a story exists in wouldn't affect its contours one way or another, because the only good reason for a story to get made is legitimate inspiration. But we're talking about mainstream comics, in which the most likely cause for a shift in a writer's style is a decision to switch streaming services. A frustrating amount of scenes in this comic are visibly indebted to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds - not outright ripoffs so much as dramatic set pieces that don't seem to have had more than that one input fueling them. And this in a world where pretty much every public library has a copy of Ivan's Childhood on DVD! But oh well, better to choose that one than a Clint Eastwood movie or something.

I'd like to stay with Inglourious Basterds for just another second though, because for a name director with as underdeveloped a visual sense as Tarantino, the set pieces in that movie are pretty well put together. Not stunning, but highly functional, doing everything they need to do to set up the mechanics of their action scenes before things begin detonating, laying out everything about an interior floorplan that an audience is going to need to know ahead of time. In this comic McComsey struggles again and again with doing the same, and in a medium much more conducive to schematic views and architectural precision than movies can possibly be. McComsey has an interesting drawing style, something between Steve Dillon and Philip Bond, and flexes the same white-highlighted, straight-from-pencils approach that Connor Willumsen was recently hailed for in Anti-Gone. But his ability to create a comic in which one panel leads smoothly to the next is sorely lacking. Characters appear in-frame as if from nowhere, claustrophobic-seeming shots open onto vistas of open space that make it uncertain if a scene change has taken place, and whenever actual physical action occurs (which, for a war comic, is pretty rarely) following who's doing what and to whom is a severe difficulty that robs the book of just about all its impact and vitality.

 

The Great Awakening

Today at TCJ, Retail Therapy--the column where we talk to those in the sell-these-comics biz--is here. This time, we spoke with Jake Shapiro, from Washington DC's Fantom Comics. 

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

The reinvention of Image Comics, the rise of Saga, and the ubiquity of trade paperbacks are all intertwined as the single biggest change to comics retail in the last decade. Saga is by far our bestselling comic of the last ten years: not only is it a non-superhero comic, but it doesn't have a TV show or movie or video game either. In a world where the "definitive" versions of Iron Man and Captain America are arguably onscreen, it makes a difference that Saga has built its colossal audience as... just a solid comic book. And the collected paperbacks have brought in a whole crowd of people who aren't coming in monthly for the single issues--plus they've increased comics' foothold in the book market. The nontraditional appeal of these titles has even rubbed off on superhero comics, where we're beginning to see more Marvel/DC books with new voices and experimental art styles.

Also in the world of retail, Diamond Comics is pushing their new spinner rack program pretty hard, which will see comics shop owners getting "incentives" if they purchase the racks and get them placed in other businesses. It sounds like a huge pain in the ass that once again places all the onus and financial responsibility on the comics retailer while maintaining the "focus on this one comic book format" philosophy that has served Diamond so tremendously well over the last however many years. 

Retailers qualify by reaching a signed agreement with another business to allow them to place and maintain a spinner rack of comics in their stores for a minimum of six months. Agreements can be reached on a buy-sell or consignment basis with quantities, margin splits, payment terms, and other details being at the discretion of the parties. “There are lots of ways to structure an agreement,” said Schimmel. “We’ve provided a couple of templates that retailers can adapt as they see fit. The program is also flexible in that there are no requirements in terms of the titles or quantities retailers put on the racks.”

The only way this makes sense is if the spinner racks are used to burn off over-ordered garbage at full price via non-traditional sales outlets--that way whatever gets destroyed due to the "this ain't a library" type handling that occurs outside of the bag-and-board world won't hit as hard, because it wasn't going to move in the actual shop anyway. (The idea that a retailer would try to keep a spinner rack outside of their control stocked up consistently with non-returnable books carried on a consignment basis is ludicrous, and the idea that the spinner host--your local non-chain pharmacy, I suppose--will buy the titles outright more than once, only slightly less so). Thus ensuring that the fabled new readers--this phantom class of people who supposedly would regularly pay 4 to 8 bucks a month for the distinct pleasure of looking at something drawn by Ivan Reis, on purpose--will once again have the chance to take a look at a new comic book and be reminded all over again why they didn't want to read these things in the first place.

Oh, and what incentive do you get for participating in this 1988 of an idea? These:

  • Marvel: A 1 in 1000 Variant Comic TBD at time of redemption
  • DC: MAY178593 DARK NIGHTS METAL #1 B&W MIDNIGHT RELEASE VAR B plus a second limited edition comic TBD at time of redemption
  • Image: Retailer's choice of 50 in-stock Image Firsts, plus a 2017 Retailer Appreciation Variant (while supplies last).
  • Dark Horse: JUL168360 V LEGEND OF ZELDA ART & ARTIFACTS HC & JAN080090 V HELLBOY TP VOL 08 DARKNESS CALLS
  • IDW: SEP170487 TMNT GHOSTBUSTERS II #1 INCV
  • Dynamite: A high perceived retail value item TBD at time of redemption
  • Boom: CGC Books & assorted Limited Edition Incentives TBD at time of redemption
  • Diamond Select Toys: Retailer’s choice of one in-stock Gallery PVC Figure

My favorite part on the above list is the part where I realized Dark Horse must have overprinted Darkness Calls to a pretty extreme degree to have that be the "get this shit out of here" book a full ten years after the initial release. To be in the room when that decision was made! 

 

The Erasers

Today on the site, Michael Dooley follows up his fine arts and comics roundtable with the first of several solo interviews with the individual artists. First up, Esther Pearl Watson.

I felt like when I was growing up, comics were for boys. At first, I totally ignored them. They had zero interest for me. But when I was young, like 8 to 10 years old, we moved to Italy for a little while, a couple years. And that’s the first time I started to see anime. And I really liked the anime stories, because they were more, in a way, dramatic. There was a lot of drama. And then when I came back to the United States I found some manga comics. I had a couple of them that I was very interested in. I really liked them. I liked the stories and the way the art looked. But I didn’t really read them or collect them. And we moved often and I never really brought them with me.

But the one thing that I feel like I learned to draw from the most, or I learned my comics from, was Barbie coloring books actually. Because I would trace the images and then alter them, and there was always text at the bottom. And the Catholic churches, too. I think they brought out a lot of narrative interest, the stations of the cross had these sequential images and sometimes text underneath it. And the churches in Italy with the beautiful paintings on the ceiling. I would just sit there during Mass, looking up. And you could just make up all these stories from the images. I feel like I was picking up sequential narrative imagery all around me. But not from traditional comics. [Laughs.]

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Chicago Tribune checks in on Carol Tyler and her Beatlemania.

There was the small book she made at 13 about the Beatles at Comiskey — “37 Minutes of Madness!” — scrawled in red ink and reproduced with great charm in “Fab4 Mania,” delivered not as nostalgia but a remarkable act of cultural reporting from an eighth-grader. (“I wanted to capture what it felt to be young in ’65. Including the boredom. Including the breeziness in my life that got trampled by the time I reached high school.”) There was a painting of the Fab Four, made in graduate school (now the end page of the book). There were old saw blades her father owned and one of her brothers wanted tossed; on each blade there is a long account of that very argument, painted there by Tyler. There were knickknacks made with thorns from her farm in Kentucky, and stationery saved from her father’s plumbing business, and turkey feathers that she fashioned into pens. (The other day she struck a wild turkey with her car, “the exact hour and day my father passed away,” and when she got out of the car, “what remained were feathers.”)

It's the fortieth anniversary of Garfield and the Jim Davis interviews are all over the place, including at the Edmonton Journal and The Guardian.

Named after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis (“a rather stern and intimidating person, but he had these really kind eyes – he was a teddy bear”), Garfield is a composite of the dozens of stray cats on Davis’s childhood farm. He developed the strip over a year, creating a cast of contrasting characters to interact with his lazy, lasagne-loving cat – geeky owner Jon, the playful, brainless dog Odie, Garfield’s vet Liz, and kitten Nermal. The strip was picked up – and then shortly afterwards dropped – by the Chicago Sun-Times. But readers bombarded the paper with more than 1,300 phone calls and letters demanding Garfield’s return. (The paper quickly acquiesced.)

So Davis quit his job and went all in for Garfield, showing a steely confidence despite a first pay cheque of, he estimates, $38 (£28) for the month. But by 1983, 1,000 papers were running Garfield. By 2002, it had the Guinness World Record for the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world, with an estimated 200m daily readers turning to the crotchety feline in 2,570 newspapers across the globe. There are countless bestselling Garfield books (Davis’s company Paws Inc says more than 135m have sold worldwide), television series, films, toys, clothes, mugs. (Garfield merchandise brings in an estimated $750m-$1bn a year.) There’s even a musical.

The latest guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Chris Reynolds, and the latest on Inkstuds is Max Clotfelter.

—News. The shameful and political firing of Rob Rogers by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette continues to make news. Rogers himself wrote a short essay about it for the New York Times. Politico spoke to the paper's publisher about the reasoning behind his decision. The Daily Cartoonist has gathered many more reactions from fellow cartoonists and professionals here.

Juneteenth in 2018 feels quite strange, but it's always worth remembering that generations before us have fought against oppression and cruelty and won, and so it can be done again.

 

Mommy & Daddy

Today at the Journal, we're haring a look at the life and career of Nick Meglin, who passed away on June 2nd. Steve Ringgenberg has the details on a life lived well:

At various times, Bill Gaines called Meglin “the heart of Mad” and “the soul and conscience of Mad,” and he was responsible for recruiting many of the artists and writers who eventually came to be known as “The Usual Gang of Idiots” after editor Feldstein got tired of listing individual credits in the masthead of the very first Mad annual, The Worst from Mad #1.

We've also got a look at Pinky & Pepper Forever, by Ivy Atoms, published by Silver Sprocket. Our review comes from Carta Monir, and she's here to make the case:

Atoms’ choice to use discontinued fashion dolls as the characters in her surrealist lesbian suicide story might seem jarring, but I find it extremely effective. Knowing that these characters are based on mass-produced dolls - one of which makes an explicit appearance in the photographic spread depicting Pinky’s suicide - makes everything seem more real, somehow. It’s hard to explain, but knowing that I can go on eBay and just buy a Pinkie Cooper doll lends a sense of backstory and physicality to Atoms’ characters. Atoms has written about her creative process involving a lot of literal play, using the dolls to act out scenes and then putting those scenes in her book. As someone who puts a lot of emotional investment in certain toys, the idea of projecting hugely personal situations and fears onto these vulnerable dolls makes perfect sense to me. In a sense, Atoms is explicitly inviting us into what’s usually completely off-limits to the outside world: the private thoughts and daydreams a person has while playing.

 

Later than You Think

Tegan O'Neil is here today to talk about Thanos.

Pals, chums, confidantes . . . just between you and me, these comic book movies are a pain in the fucking ass.

Some of them are fun, don’t get me wrong! It seems almost ungrateful to complain about the cultural ubiquity of superhero movies when being sick of Spider-Man movies is really not a critical workplace hazard. I’ve made a few dollars over the years writing about them. The Suicide Squad movie was so bad I haven’t even seen it yet, and I’ll watch anything . . . but that didn’t stop me from pulling down a couple hundo writing a potted history of Task Force X for the AV Club when the movie dropped.

Now, if there’s one thing you should know about The Comics Journal, from its foundation down through to the present moment, it is that the magazine takes comic books seriously as graphic literature. Unlike some other websites I could mention, they don’t run press releases about Hollywood casting decisions as comics industry news.

With all that said, I’m going to talk a little bit about a movie.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Rob Rogers, the editorial cartoonist I mentioned in this space earlier this week, has been fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a paper that employed him for twenty-five years. Although the paper has not yet made official comment on the firing, it has not published any of his cartoons since late May, and it is believed that his frequent criticism of President Trump may have been a factor.

The award-winning cartoonist said the Post-Gazette publisher wanted more conservative, pro-Trump cartoons. He told KDKA political editor Jon Delano last week nineteen of his ideas and cartoons have been rejected since March.

Stan Lee has been granted a temporary restraining order against his business manager Keya Morgan, who was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of filing a false police report and who is under investigation for elder abuse.

In April, THR reported that the 95-year-old Lee — who co-created such legendary comic characters as Spider-Man, Black Panther, Iron Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, among many others — was caught in the middle of a war of words among those closest to him, all of whom were vying for control over Lee's life, allegedly for their own financial gain.

Morgan, who has long been involved in the pop culture memorabilia scene, was one of the subjects of the lengthy THR investigation. The other parties involved were Lee's 67-year-old daughter, J.C., publicist-turned-caretaker Jerry Olivarez, and Lee's former road manager Max Anderson. Lee's wife of 70 years, Joan, died last July.

The cartoonist Patrick Dean has announced a diagnosis of ALS by way of a heartbreaking short comic.

The 2018 Bill Finger Award winners have been announced.

Joye Murchison Kelly and Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk have been selected to receive the 2018 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was unanimous.

"We're really excited about this one," Evanier explains. "The comic book industry employed too few women in its early decades. Back when this year's honorees were active, their gender was horribly unrepresented among the creative talents that made the comics—and what few there were went totally unrecognized. The work of these two extraordinary ladies deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated."

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian speaks to Michael Kupperman about his new book about his father.

Kupperman originally hoped he could mine his father and extract his memories, fully formed, memoir-style: “I thought maybe the brain was like a massive iceberg. As it melted, dead memories would suddenly emerge, like long-dead caribou, and come floating to the surface.” But to his frustration, he soon discovered that Joel, who now has dementia, had forgotten or repressed almost all of the salient events of the time.

“I legitimately considered hypnotism at one point,” Kupperman says, “but found that repressed memory isn’t generally considered a thing anymore … He’s never come out with anything since then, and all my attempts to get something fell flat.”

In the end, Kupperman’s salvation lay in five huge, flaking scrapbooks kept by his grandmother Sara, Joel’s mother, who was very much the driving force behind her son’s fame. Sara is a fascinating character in the story, and one whose motivations to keep her child in the spotlight seem inscrutable even now.

The latest guest on Comics Alternative is Max de Radigues.

—Misc. Eleanor Davis is serializing her latest comic online, which she claims is her best yet. The first chapter is available for purchase now.

 

The Dogs of Slaughter

Today at TCJ, we've got all the cold you can handle, thanks to Alex Dueben's interview with Alison McCreesh. Thanks to Conundrum and Alison, you can catch up with some of the more inaccessible parts of the world from the comfort of your own home, via her new book Norths.

You mentioned in the book’s introduction that when planning this circumpolar trip, you wanted to stay North of the 60th Parallel. What does this idea of North man to you?

I have a hard time talking about the idea of North or where North starts or what North is, because North is so relative. The further North you go, you always find there’s someone further North than you. No matter how far North you are, you’re always South of someone, I like to say. [laughs] I have been far North – way up North of the Arctic Circle, what basically looks like the top of the world – but even then, there were places further North.

In Canada we have provinces and territories. The 60th Parallel cuts across Canada and marks the end of the provinces and the start of the territories. The Three territories are Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. We live in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. Up here lots of things are “North of 60”. It’s kind of a branding thing that people brag about. Because we use that expression so much, the 60th parallel was a good parameter in terms of defining where the North starts for the purpose of this trip and book. I found out that depending on where you are, being North of 60 doesn’t always  mean much though. In Finland, for example, the whole country basically starts at the 60th Parallel so being at the 63rd parallel doesn’t make you Northern Finland. In Iceland, there isn't even a thought for the 60th. Still though, for me it was my North.

That's not all of course: we've also got some of that hot review action you crave, via Rich Barrett. He's also on that Conundrum tip, with a look at their recent publication, Zach Worton's The Curse of Charley Butters.

While Worton’s art is a throwback to the early 20th century strips and the early 21st century cartoonists that emulate them, his story is also a throwback of sorts. The tale of a straight white man who runs away from all the responsibilities in life is a dying breed these days. Worton’s problem is that he falls into the trap of potential banality of his subject matter too easily. The opening scenes of the band vamping in the woods are so wonderfully drawn and such a dead-on replica of every cheesy metalhead ever that it’s a shame when we never see Travis and his bandmates interact like this for the rest of the book. The promise of a conflict between the world of metal music and Travis’ obsession with the diaries doesn’t really play out in any significant way. Death Metal, the lowest of low-brow music, would be the perfect foil to set against the high-brow art world that drove Charley Butters mad. but Worton doesn’t seem interested in examining art in any more meaningful or insightful way than he does mental health or alcoholism.

If you're starving to see the guts and bolts behind old super-hero comics, starve no further: Diversions of the Groovy Kind has your back with another Black & White Wednesday round up.

Not into the process? Only the finished versions for you? We aim to please: Gabrielle Bell has you covered, with her New Yorker comic called "That's What I Get For Trying To Find Love on Tinder". Wait, did I say New Yorker? Because they also published Leslie Stein, whose "Dreaming of a Reading Bar" is right up the alley of the sort of people who frequent the very sentence you are currently reading.

If you're still not convinced on giving Sabrina a shot, I don't know what is gonna sell ya. Maybe this Fast Company interview with Nick Drnaso will do the trick? Or this New York Times list of recommendations? Maybe you were waiting on LitHub to plug it. The wait is over

Ah, but you want something with more of that in your face pop, I get it, imaginary complainer. Then how about this: Ian MacEwan drawing monsters getting beat to death with a tire iron? I'm into that, Image has something coming in September. The cover!

Tire iron is glowing. I bet if you cover it with blood it'll stop glowing though!

 

Yield

Oh boy, another big day here. First, we have a previously unpublished roundtable conducted in 2012, all about the intersections between fine art and comics, as discussed by four artists with intimate understandings of both worlds: Marc Bell, Esther Pearl Watson, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams.

DOOLEY: OK. Now let’s hear from Robert. [Chuckles.] I think you have one or two thoughts about what constitutes fine arts. So share them with us.

ROBERT WILLIAMS: Well, it’s kinda hard to follow Joe there, he’s a hard act to follow. Supposedly art is culturally the highest pinnacle of expression. And the word fine makes a big difference and that’s the big phony bone of contention. That word “fine” is supposed to imply sophistication. So sophisticated art. And this is a word that’s been around for a long, long time culturally and it’s a big selling point over a couple hundred years now. Just stick that word “fine” on it. It’s dribbled through our Western culture for a long time and you watch these revolutionary art movements come out of the late nineteenth century and then the period of the first world war. Then somehow they got to the top. The thing is, art is not just run by a few people. It’s run by schools and institutions and foundations and museums and art dealers. And the artists play a small part in that art thing and it’s unfortunate. You see artists get really famous and you wonder, “Well how’d that guy get so famous? That thing looks kinda goofy to me.” And it’s just that he was selected by this group, that this is gonna be what they were gonna push. Every new revolutionary form of art tries to violate that established situation. You can see that. You look at Van Gogh and you understand that if Van Gogh was born in the 20th century, he would have been an underground cartoonist. There’s no question about that. You look at that stuff and it’s calligraphy-dependent, it’s dependent on the drawn line. I know underground cartoonists that were comparable to that. So the question of “fine,” you know everyone wants to just tack that on them.  People building model airplanes wanna tack that on.  The thing is when nouveau riche people come into the buying market, dealers jump on these ignorant people and guide them.  So they guide them to what’s pretty much easily established. So since the end of World War II, abstract expressionism kind of took over. Europe was really down on its luck and New York became the world’s art capital. It was a couple of New York art critics that pushed Jackson Pollock and he was in Life magazine and just busted this thing wide open. So nonobjective art just completely took over. And for nonobjective art to really get a good handle, these two art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, instigators in this, kind of inferred that, if you visually depended, mentally depended on three-dimensional representation, you were kind of ignorant and you just didn’t have the sensitivity to appreciate two-dimensional and nonobjective art.

So that’s been kind of the mantra here in the last 50 years. It’s gone from abstract expressionism into pop art and to conceptualism. And you think, “Well wait a minute. You said pop art. That’s realistic stuff.” Well yeah, but it’s total appropriation. That’s like going to the 99¢ store and going up to the first shelf and grabbing something off the shelf and taking it over to one of these places that makes art for artists and say, “Can you make this about 20 feet tall for me?”

Over the coming days and weeks, we'll be following up with individual interviews that Michael Dooley conducted with each artist.

Greg Hunter is also here today, with a review of Michael DeForge's latest collection, A Western World.

The stories that populate A Western World, a collection of Michael DeForge’s recent short comics, make for troubled residents, concerned with the mutability of bodies, the relationship between body and self, and how technology affects intimacy—some of the same notions found throughout DeForge’s larger body of work. Readers fond of DeForge but new to these pieces won’t find major departures in the book, but that’s only one measure of the collection and perhaps not the best one. DeForge has long since found his themes and a sensibility with which to approach them. The pleasure of A Western World is the pleasure of seeing him return to these concerns from new angles.

The collection is a book of gradients, of pieces about bodies and societies rendered with different hues, in different keys, through different lenses. Within a sort of prevailing aesthetic (flat colors, limited hatching, figures and backdrops made of a few defining shapes), DeForge adopts a range of styles throughout the collection and manages to adjust his approach from story to story while remaining recognizably himself. For converts, the appeal here may be in the details, the minor changes, in addition to what concerns of theirs they find reflected. For newer readers, the book makes a fine introduction to a cartoonist who expertly blends form and subject.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC continues to make changes, following Diane Nelson's resignation with news that "chief creative officer" Geoff Johns will be leaving that position to take on a new role as "writer/producer." DC publisher Jim Lee will take over as chief creative officer.

The moves come in the wake of last week’s exit of Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment’s president, to whom Johns reported, and occurs the day before a judge’s decision will be announced in the high-profile antitrust trial between the U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T, which is seeking to merge with Time Warner, the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC.

It also takes place as Warners’ movie division is in the midst of a transition as Walter Hamada, who was installed as president of DC-based films at the studio by Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich in January, begins to shape the superhero slate in the post-Justice League era.

Yesterday, of course, we learned that the judge in question has approved the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, another huge step in the concentration of corporate among a very small number of media and communications companies.

Pittsburgh editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers has had nearly a dozen finished cartoons spiked this year.

So just what is going on? Why are so many of Rogers’s cartoons suddenly being spiked?

“I can only speculate,” the left-leaning cartoonist says. “While most of the killed cartoons or ideas were [directly] critical of President Trump, there were also some dealing with the NFL kneeling policy, issues of racism and the FBI.” More broadly, most of the spiked cartoons satirized issues on which Trump has taken a stance or that reflect the larger partisan divide in the Trump era.

Meanwhile, John Robinson Block, the Post-Gazette’s publisher and editor in chief, tells The Washington Post in a statement: “This is an internal, personnel matter we are working hard to resolve. It has little to do with politics, ideology or Donald Trump. It has mostly to do with working together and the editing process.”

The New York Times has published its obituary of longtime Mad editor Nick Meglin.

As Mad’s editor from 1985 to 2004 — a position he shared with John Ficarra — Mr. Meglin became a major figure in the magazine’s long history, along with Harvey Kurtzman, who founded it as a comic book; William M. Gaines, its Falstaffian publisher; and Al Feldstein, who ran Mad from 1956 to 1985.

“Feldstein was a smart editor, but he was a hard taskmaster,” Al Jaffee, the cartoonist who, at 97, still devises Mad’s back-page fold-ins, said in a telephone interview. “Nick, on the other hand, was simpatico to the contributors, which made us all want to be better.”

—Interviews. The Gothamist talks to Julia Wertz.

I quit drinking in my late 20’s, and got really interested in urban exploring. (Exploring abandoned places.) I guess I replaced my obsession with drinking with an obsession with history and buildings. I quit doing comics for two years, and focused all my energy on exploration, photography and research. 90% of the work I did during those years didn’t appear in my NYC book, but it did pave the way to getting into making art about history.

Then I met Roz Chast. I’d been a fan of hers for forever. It turned out she was a fan of mine as well, so we ended up becoming friends, and she got me a meeting with Bob Mankoff at the New Yorker. Bob wanted me to do gag cartoons, gags are not my forte, so I pitched him comics about NYC history, and those ran online for about a year before I got a book contract. Then I got evicted, moved back to California, finished the book, and got back into making autobiographical comics. I still love the city, and I love history, but I burned out making comics about it all. I was doing 16 hour days, seven days a week, drawing elaborate architectural stuff. I think maybe I went insane but I didn’t really know it.

 

They Called Her Viking

Today at TCJ, we've got an interview for ya: a doozy it is. We've had such a good time as of late smashing two cartoonists together and letting them get into it, we thought we'd do it again. And this time around, it's Michel Fiffe and Chuck Forsman.

Forsman: That’s something we bonded over, the work ethic. And that ties into how critical we are of ourselves. If I stop working for too long, I’ll convince myself that all my work is shit and I shouldn’t be doing this stuff. I won’t be able to move again. I think that part of it is wanting to keep a monthly deadline, always producing work. That’s one of the reasons I do it, because I’m scared of stopping. I mean, you get that momentum and you don’t wanna stop. You know what it feels like when you’re not working.

Fiffe: Are we covering up for something?

Forsman: On the flipside, I’ve recently been thinking that all my stuff is getting bad because I’m sticking to the schedule and I keep pumping out work, I feel like I’m not taking enough care in my work. Part of me wants to pull back and take a break and start on something completely new that I’ll work on in a vacuum. That’s super counter to the mode I’m been working in. Basically, I can find a way to insult myself in any scenario.

Fiffe: I’ve come to discover that while we like those old comics and the breakneck speed they were produced at, we don’t necessarily have to operate that way. We can channel that energy and that spirit, but we’re not factories. We don’t have to churn this stuff out. We can self-motivate, but quality control is important, too.

Not enough? Hungry for more? We've got you covered on that front as well, with a TCJ Review. In the dubiously named (you'll have to click through to find out why) Algeria Is Beautiful Like America, Keith Silva found himself with praise and complaint...but were they in equal measure?

Algeria is Beautiful like America is autobio comics at their autobio-i-est, with Olivia (she omits her surname throughout the narrative) on a hyper-personal existential quest to interrogate her family’s Algerian past for herself. The word ‘Algeria’ in the title is arguably circumstantial to the text itself (ditto for the word ‘America,’ more on that later). Yes, this is a story about a white French women of some means searching for her family history -- specifically on her maternal grandmother’s side -- in an African country, so yes, Algeria is important to the story, however; what Olivia craves is the one treasure left in our current culture, authenticity. She doesn’t want memories or recollections. She wants to put her finger in the holes left by the nails; she wants the facts, the truth—nowadays that’s as seditious and rebellious as it gets.

While Olivia does the work to unfold her past, she can only go as far as her arms can reach or her itinerary takes her. Issues of immigration, colonialism, xenophobia, social and religious tolerance are all filtered through her lens. She provides snapshots, misses the bigger picture and leaves it for the reader to piece it all together.

Ah, but you need more reviews, you've got a taste for them now. Fine! Head over to Publishers Weekly and take a look at their starred one for Young Frances, by Hartley Lin.

What? Another one? Sure. Here's one by Robin Enrico at Broken Frontier, on that Box Brown biography of Andy Kaufman, Is This Guy For Real? 

Ah, but there's also this: they're gonna start selling comic books at Gamestop? Based off this article, they're attempting to paper over lost video game sales with the top Diamond sellers. I'm sure it'll work out well.