Cactus Face

I'm on my way back from L.A., so this'll be short.

Today we begin our previews of TCJ #302, in stores very soon. So here's a snippet of Kim Thompson's Jacques Tardi interview.

THOMPSON: You haven’t worked with gray screens for a long time. You did a lot of it in the 1970s and ’80s, but in the last 15, 20 years much less so. You’ve either used simple black line-work, or color.

TARDI: Mmmm. Well, it’s necessary in this case, because I need to set the moods. Black-and-white drawings … I was going to say that after a certain point they end up being tedious, but that’s true of gray tones as well — I mean, it’s not exactly resplendent colors

There is a lot of text, so I worry that … Because it really is one guy’s impressions, day-to-day life, the showers, the food, the reveille, the work. He ended up working on a farm for a while, because he was hungry. At the time he was a junior officer, so in principle he wasn’t supposed to work, but he let them take him anyway because he thought he’d be able to find something to eat at the farm where he’d be sent to work, he figured he’d kill a chicken or find an egg somewhere. Which turned out not to be the case at all. So that’s what it’s about: Hunger, these guys’ daily problems, dreadful things that were done within the camp, even among people who are in the same straits … and then, afterwards, as the war wound on, the arrival of the Russians after the end of the German/Soviet [Non-Aggression] Treaty, because they were right next door, and then this departure at 30 below zero, in the snow. We were talking about movies earlier — imagine the cinematic possibilities inherent in that kind of situation!

And, of course, they’re the losers. They are not given a particularly warm welcome by the American soldiers. Things would get better later on, but initially they aren’t welcomed very well at all, and as he put it, that makes perfect sense! That makes sense: we were the losers, we were nothing, we hadn’t put up much of a fight.

THOMPSON: And Americans do have a fixation on winners and losers.

TARDI: Right. So my father was convinced they had far more respect for the Germans than for the camp’s prisoners. Also, during that return trip, led by the German soldiers, they kept a list of the towns they’d crossed through, along with the distances traveled, in a little notebook — along with the food problems, what they’d eaten, how long they’d stayed, etc. And tracing it on the map, you realize that the itinerary they pursued was totally disjointed, they went in circles, etc. At that time the Germans had gotten into their heads, or someone had put into their heads, that they would now be charging the Russians alongside the Americans. That idea didn’t last very long, but that explains why they didn’t turn themselves over as prisoners right away. And during that journey there were still guards, who were vicious. The war was over for them, but right up to the end they were beating the prisoners with rifle butts, and one day my father said, “OK, enough of that, we can’t take it any more,” and the prisoners took five German soldiers, disarmed them, and hanged them on the side of the road. [Pause.] That was probably just days before the end of the war. And again, why did they hang them? They’d disarmed them, why didn’t they just shoot them in the head, why hang them? It seems complicated. Maybe they wanted them to be seen, because he said that when they saw them, the other guards took off and were never heard from again.

When they linked up with the American soldiers, it happened in a town in Germany, and there was a field in which the weapons that had been seized from the Germans were stockpiled. Specifically cannons — small-caliber ones, of course — with matching ammunition, and right away, I don’t know whether it was the French, the Belgians, or who — maybe the Americans — they used those cannons to bombard, to raze part of the village and shoot at the column of Germans who were fleeing the combat zones. It was the end of the war, these were the horrors of war, there was nothing glorious about it, but you have to understand their state of mind. They weren’t exactly living a passionate love story with Germany right at that moment.

So there you go. I think all of these stories need to be told, because these people have not been talked about much. And when French cinema took on those subjects, it was always with a slightly comedic edge, portraying the Germans as big dopes, gluttons, sauerkraut- and potato-eaters, and the French of course were clever, etc.

Also, Craig Fischer is here with a column on nostalgia, change, and the challenges and beauties of serialized comics:

On Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents. I bought my parents a microwave, thinking that it would make it easier for my mom to cook one-armed, and she was ecstatic. Then mom and dad handed me my gift: the deluxe, polybagged version, complete with black armband, of Superman #75 (January 1993), the infamous “Death of Superman” issue. Of course, my parents knew that I read comics—though they didn’t realize that by 1992 my tastes had migrated to Eightball, Hate, and other black-and-white alternatives—and they saw and heard the publicity barrage surrounding Superman’s death. On the day the comic came out, my dad drove my sick, frail mom (who never had a driver’s license) to a local shop, where she stood in line for two hours (mostly with investors, I think) to get a copy.

Angouleme! It happened. Tom Spurgeon has the prize winners (Willem, the great cartoonist and master of scatological drawing, won the Grand Prix). And Paul Karasik has footage of artist Joost Swarte in performance.

Warren Ellis on the Instagramming of Books.

Not comics, but close enough because Peter Mendelsund has designed some excellent Tezuka covers. James Joyce.


Weird Week on the Ward

Tucker Stone closes out your comics week with a traditional up-and-down reviews column.


—Reviews: Illogical Volume on Eddie Campbell's Lovely Horrible Stuff, Richard Baez on Ruppert and Mulot's Barrel of Monkeys.

—Interviews: Hawkeye writer Matt Fraction talks to L.A.'s Hero Complex about the positive benefits of making comic books "less comic-y", and writer-of-everything Max Allan Collins talks to CBR about his crime novel set in the Wertham era of the comics industry (apparently the first in a trilogy).

—News: ICv2 reports that Missouri man Christjan Bee has been sentenced to three years in prison for the possession of obscenity in the form of comics; indie comics artist Ray Felix is in a legal dispute with DC/Marvel over the use of the term "superhero"; Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers is being turned into a symphony. (The second link was stolen from CR.)

—Old News: Winsor McCay was once the target of an extortion sting. (via)

—I sometimes find it interesting to see the writing-about-comics that becomes popular outside the comics-blogosphere "walls", if only to compare and contrast concerns and approaches -- this week, it was Marie-Catherine Caillava's essay on "Magneto the Jew".

—Uncanny Comics: Josh Alan and Drew Friedman's comic from a 1983 issue of Weirdo (thanks, Jeet).


Relax, Don’t Care

Today on the site: R.O. Blechman remembers his friendship with Maurice Sendak. TCJ 302, which we'll preview next month, contains a lengthy interview with Sendak conducted by Gary Groth. Leading up to that, here's the great Blechman. We hope to publish more of Blechman's chronicles of his life and those of his colleagues and friends.

His [Sendak's] turf could not have been more different than what passed for style in 1950s New York. Back then, walls were stripped down to the raw brick, lamps were Noguchi parchment globes, candles were stuck in  wax-encrusted wine bottles, and  occasionally, for somebody in the graphics business, there was a floor-to-ceiling cork wall. That was how we escapees-from-home lived in the ’50s. But not Maurice. He lived in a 19th Century  duplex on West Ninth Street. Dark and redolent with age, the décor was Jamesian—appropriately. His polished mahogany bookcases were lined with volume after volume of  first edition Henry James. His collection was second only to that of Leon Edel, the  eminent James biographer.

And elsewhere... I'm in Los Angeles this week for the LA Art Book Fair. I landed at noon yesterday and picked up my customary tiny rental car, though I somehow missed my customary stop at Randy's Donuts.

First stop was the Ben Jones exhibition, The Video, at MoCA. It is a doozy. Ben commanded the space by installing massive video paintings and projections. It's a meditative psychedelic experience.

Next stop was the Chateau Marmont for a meeting with the artist Wes Lang, who has taken up residence there for a spell. That's a good kind residency.

And finally I landed at Sammy Harkham's house, my home base in L.A. and favorite reading room. And so I'm here.

Now it's off the fair to set up. I'll be there the whole weekend. Booth S01. Ben Jones' book is debuting, with accompanying events (a conversation on Saturday at 1 pm), and I'll have plenty of other goodies. Come on by.


Under the Weather

A while back, bravest person alive Shaenon Garrity offered to review webcomics sent to her via e-mail. Now we have a second installment of her evaluations, and they're worth reading even if you never look at online comics:

One thing I love about webcomics is that there’s a comic for virtually every audience imaginable. Kickstand Comics, which started in 2008 and ended just recently, is a daily strip for cycling enthusiasts. And we’re talking serious enthusiasts, the kind of people who care about the ideological battles between classic bikes and road bikes, urban biking and “race and rec,” who hold strong opinions about bike lanes, and who, above all, despise cars. The central character, beardy bike shop worker Yehuda Moon (the strip also sometimes runs under the title Yehuda Moon), describes his job as “deploying ground troops in an unpopular war.”

We also have Sean Rogers' review of Tom Kaczynski's Beta Testing the Apocalypse:

But one of the pleasures of reading Beta Testing, as in other watershed collections like Caricature, Curses, or Everything Together, lies in watching a cartoonist become less mindful of his precursors, less rote in his treatment of subject matter, both freer and more assured. As the book progresses, Kaczynski sloughs off influence, just as his characters slip away from civilization. A breakthrough story like 2008’s “Million Year Boom” nearly brings the book to a halt halfway through with its impressive and authentic weirdness, yet still retains the stamp of millenarian systems novelists, still partakes of the old dead-eyed Clowesian aloofness. By the time we reach the concluding story, “The New”—at once an ode to modernist architecture and an allegory literalizing the decline of the west, created uniquely for this volume—Kaczynski’s layouts have exploded into space, cities and buildings splayed out on the page in startling and diagrammatic splashes.

I haven't been feeling well the past couple days, so I haven't spent much time online, and have only a few links for you.

—TCAF has announced another slew of impressive guests.

—Architecture critic Martin Filler has a lot of kind words at the New York Review of Books for Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor's Batman: Death by Design.

—Here's a report from the Zadie Smith and Chris Ware panel at the New York Public Library.

—And here is an online fundraiser for an interesting looking documentary about the late artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones.


Well all right, here we are again.

It's Joe McCulloch on the case of Shonen Jump. Also, new comics.

Chris Mautner on six under-appreciated anthologies. I still think Weirdo is underrated. I mean, the letter columns alone... so good.

Joe and Chris would also like it if you'd listen to them talk about comics. Reading is for dummies.

Ben Katchor's new book collects his vibrant and funny strips for the architecture magazine Metropolis. And the linked-to article drops the bomb that Katchor draws digitally now. That's funny and great for all the reasons you're thinking of right now.

Richard Sala has wound down a gorgeous series of drawings.

And in random Twitter news, William Gibson on Katushiro Otomo is a good thing:


No Sleep Till Naptime

Today on the site, Marc Sobel interviews Wizzywig creator Ed Piskor. Here's an excerpt from their conversation:

MARC SOBEL: I know you went to the Kubert School for a year, but are you mostly self-taught?


MARC SOBEL: Talk to me about how you learned to draw. You started to touch on it when you mentioned all the free time you had, but can you give me a little more detail?

ED PISKOR: Yeah. I relate hip hop culture a lot with my learning to draw because… There’s this certain mind frame. All through school I was definitely one of the worst people at most things, but with drawing I could at least hold my own. There was no way I was going to be able to beat anybody in any kind of organized sport or anything like that but I was at least a contender in the drawing thing. And the hip hop mind frame helped because people would snap on my work. They’d say something like ‘That sucks, man. I can’t believe you drew that,’ or, ‘do you need glasses?’ Shit like that. We would just bust on each other for being able to draw. So that provided a natural incentive to do better work because I thought, ‘oh man, I have to blow these dudes’ minds next time.’ Of course that never happened. Even when I got to a point where I was reasonably sure that I was better than them, they could still cut me down, which was cool. It was character building.

MARC SOBEL: So you were putting drawings in front of all your friends on a regular basis?

ED PISKOR: Yeah, we all were. When I was in sixth grade, there was this weird period where comics were really popular with everybody. Even a lot of the jocks were into them. This was after the “Death of Superman” and the first coming of Image Comics.

Everyone was buying these things, even football players, but most people were never looking at them. A lot of dudes would have Comic Buyer’s Guides, the new ones, or their Wizard Magazines in class all the time and they would be calculating their wealth. <laughter> It was like, ‘oh man, I’m worth $15,000 this month.’ So the cool people were into this shit for a brief time and it was really a cool thing to do.


—Tom Spurgeon takes the initiative and interviews First Second senior editor Callista Brill, who wrote that online essay about when cartoonists should give up that got up so many people's noses. They discuss that post and a lot of other First Second business as well.

—In another post that has spawned a lot of angry arguments, colorist Jordie Bellaire writes about an unnamed convention that refused to invite colorists. I'm not sure I understand her stated reason for not naming the convention, as I think they're more likely to change their policy if public pressure is brought to bear, but it's possible there are other factors I don't get.

—The wonderful Same Hat blog has video and images from a televised jam-comic competition between Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino!

—Philip Nel talks about annotating Crockett Johnson's Barnaby.

—Jeff Trexler is almost always worth reading on the Siegel/Shuster/DC legal battles.

—The great Bobsy Mindless is somewhat surprisingly disappointed with Grant Morrison's latest Batman Incorporated.

—Stephen Bissette raves about a new history of post-'50s horror comics.

—Adam McGovern concisely explains Frank Miller.

—Adrian Tomine made a recent appearance at Skylight Books, which is now on YouTube:

—Not Comics: Today is the final day the PBS website is offering free streaming of a documentary about the artist and designer Wayne White, which may be of interest to readers of this site for its interviews with Gary Panter and Matt Groening:

Watch Beauty Is Embarrassing on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.


Less Boring Things

On the site this day:

Patrick Rosenkranz on the late cartoonist Alan Shenker AKA Yossarian:

His friends described his lifestyle as a “flaneur” or a “downtown habitué.” “He did what all New Yorkers do,” said Maryann. “He complained about everything. He sat around drinking coffee at cafes. He talked to everyone. He was totally righteous and he never sold out.”

His old friend Rex Weiner, who co-founded the New York Ace with “Honest Bob” Singer, relates an anecdote about his old friend in an obituary in The Paris Review. He describes how the East Village Other was on its last legs in 1972 and the Ace was the new kid in town. Yossarian drew a cover for the new paper showing a meat cleaver chopping an eyeball in half.

“With this cover he’d created especially for us, Yossarian was declaring his allegiance to the ACE, betraying EVO, to which he’d contributed many cover illustrations, and its paternal leader,” said Weiner in the obit. “EVO’s logo was the all-seeing eye, and for our cover Yossarian had placed an eyeball on a chopping block split by a butcher knife, as if to say, “EVO … You’re DEAD!”

And Abhay Khosla steps in for Tucker to wrap up what felt to me like a long week, with a lengthy imagining of the most important event of the week.


Marjane Satrapi is following Bernie Krigstein's lead: into painting. And Arnold Roth is staying the course with an exhibition at MoCCA/The Society of Illustrators.

After this I can only hope for the Tekno Comics True Hollywood Story (see above).

Bob Oksner. Never enough Bob Oksner. Some fine narrative drawing here. Or as I like to call it: Cartooning.

Have a good weekend!



Sean T. Collins checks in with another installment of his Say Hello! column, in which he interviews up-and-coming artists. Today, he talks to Heather Benjamin, and as the initiated might guess from the review we ran a few weeks back, the interview is NSFW. Here's a brief exchange:

There are times when I look at your work and it feels like a really explicit and direct response to depictions of women by your peers. Sexuality has returned in a big way in alt/art comics over the past three years or so—are you seeing stuff you particularly like or dislike as you look around?

Yeah, I started noticing more and more explicit material in art stuff recently. I love a lot of older art involving sexuality, but as far as work being made currently, I honestly don't particularly even gravitate towards art that includes sexuality; that's just what I personally draw. I don't have a huge interest in seeing drawings of naked people and dicks and tits and cum over the place, and I'm really not necessarily psyched on seeing it becoming more of a trend, either. If it's done well, of course I enjoy it—you know, if it seems like there's another element to it that I can get down with, that it goes deeper than just being a weird empty porn drawing because that's "shocking"—but that particular subject matter isn't something I feel really strongly about seeing and reading and whatever else. I feel pretty indifferent about it, unless it's saying something extra or if I think the drawing is gorgeous, but I'll love a drawing if I think it's done beautifully no matter what the subject matter is.


—Nicole Rudick reviews Gary Panter for the LARB.

—Jim Rugg is not just a quality cartoonist and excellent podcaster, he's also a very good comics blogger when he puts his mind to it. In his latest, he compares Hellboy on paper to Hellboy digital.

—Interviews Dept. Brandon Graham times two. Annie Koyama. And Weekly Shonen Jump editor Andy Nakatani talks to Deb Aoki.

—Kyle Baker put a metric ton of his comics online and available for download, totally free. (!)

—Matt Madden delivers his first quarterly report from Angoulême.

—Finally, a short video presentation on racism in early comic books from historian Darren R. Reid (via):