Well hello again! It's another week here at TCJ East, where we marshall our vast forces of comics knowledge and deep level integrity to bring you the finest in comics journal-ish material. Today this means you can start of the week by reading yesterday's Frank Santoro post. I always love when Frank is on the road, and as usual he turns in an ace report from St. Louis. Ol' man Santoro is headed to New York within a month or so which, for me, means free babysitting. And for you it means.... "Lock up your long boxes, nerds!"
Fresh on the site we give unto you part one of an epic roundtable devoted to Charles Hatfield's excellent new book, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby. Jeet Heer assembled, moderated and then edited a murderer's row of critics to discuss Hatfield's ideas and Kirby in general: Jonathan Lethem (novelist and comic book writer), Glen Gold (novelist and comic art collector), Sarah Boxer (cartoonist and critic), Doug Harvey (art critic), Robert Fiore (comics critic) and, ahem, yours truly. The conversation covered a lot of territory so we're running it in three parts today, Wednesday and Friday. Here's a little piece of one of Glen Gold's posts:
Which is too bad, since Jack Kirby is the only major cartoonist to have killed Nazis. And he didn’t do it from a distance — he killed Nazis using the same hands that later drew Thor, the Aryan God of Thunder, hammering Mangog (old testament villain name, more or less) in the snout. Kirby shot and stabbed Nazis for about six months in 1943 and 1944, and I would argue that experience didn’t just change his life but shaped his work from that moment forward, in that an underlying PTSD worldview took him places he wouldn’t have gone otherwise.
Also on deck today is Brandon Soderberg's review of My Friend Dahmer by Derf, which I've heard praised by a lot of different kinds of readers.
And elsewhere on the internet, Daniel Best has the latest brief filed in the ongoing Kirby-related litigation. I imagine there'll be an avalanche of MoCCA and Stumptown reports soon enough, so stay tuned...
Today on the site we have the great Patrick Rosenkranz with a profile of underground legend Spain Rodriguez. Patrick focuses mostly on Spain's Buffalo history, which not coincidentally is also the subject of the artist's brand-new book, Cruisin' with the Hound. Here's some flavor:
Fred Tooté also gets star treatment in Cruisin’ With the Hound. Spain, Tooté and their buddy Tex are like the Three Musketeers – fighting, philosophizing, cruising for babes, drinking in bars, scarfing Watt’s famous Bar-B-Q pork sandwiches, and driving up and down the avenues, looking for excitement. Fred is the craziest by far, driving like a maniac, climbing up the walls of buildings, espousing outlandish theories, and making a public display of himself whenever possible. Inhibitions are not part of his makeup. Once he got into booze and speed, it all went up a notch, recalls Spain. “Fred collected National Enquirer when it was real gory and he would go through these periodic things of finding Jesus. When he came down from the speed he’d have some kind of return to Jesus so he ripped up all his National Enquirers.”
We've got a couple of interesting features for you this morning. First off, an interview with Chris Roberson, the Vertigo writer who last week announced that ethical reasons had made it impossible for him to work for DC Comics any longer. An excerpt:
I’m not comfortable naming names, but [reaction from other creators] has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. I have not yet had any communication with any creator publicly or privately who doesn’t agree with what I’ve said. [...] A culture has arisen which seems to devalue the role of the creator and prize the creation.
Also on the site, the great cartoonist Kim Deitch has reviewed Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, the first and perhaps the most interesting looking of the various posthumous Pekar projects.
There have been some sad developments recently, one being the death of the Spanish comics publisher Josep Maria Berenguer. Eric Reynolds remembers him here. We plan to bring you further coverage in the near future.
And Tony DeZuniga and S. Clay Wilson are currently facing serious health problems. Tom Spurgeon has the details here.
In less serious news, Farhad Manjoo, tech writer for Slate, and of the biggest trolls employed by that site (which is really saying something!) argued rather sketchily last week that political cartoonists should no longer be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and that a new award for graphs and charts should be instituted. This year's winner, Matt Wuerker has replied to Manjoo in a blog post for the Columbia Journalism Review.
Mike Lynch has posted a bunch of interesting links lately, including news that the only member of the media Bob Dylan allowed to attend his recent show at Sao Paulo was cartoonist Rafael Grampá, and various Italian documentaries of great cartoonists found on YouTube, including Hugo Pratt, Guido Crepax, and Mordillo.
Finally, in the criticism department, Michel Fiffe has a post exploring various examples of what he calls "the super panel breakdown" (think the famous Gasoline Alley Sundays).
On the site today, Joe McCulloch tells us what's important in comics this very week.
And elsewhere on the internet:
Here's a blog drawn by cartoonist Greg Farrell detailing the stories of various employees of New York's massive bookstore, The Strand. This series of posts is based on an ongoing labor dispute between the unionized employees and management. I confess I knew very little about this under-publicized conflict, but these strips are a good place to start.
Sad news: Longtime comic book artist Tony DeZuniga is in critical condition in his native Philippines. His wife is asking for help from the comic book community.
Today on the site, Shaenon Garrity writes a tribute to the webcomic Sinfest:
And then there’s Tatsuya Ishida, who has, since January of 2000, been drawing his daily strip Sinfest without making a peep about it, patiently collecting readers and honing his craft. Save for a handful of hiatuses around 2006, the strip has updated seven days a week without fail for the past twelve years. Ishida seldom posts anything on the Internet other than Sinfest; he avoids online fora, grants few interviews, and limits his text communications to occasional, mostly tongue-in-cheek blog posts that stopped in 2007. Beyond his handful of other credits—he inked G.I. Joe and Godzilla comics in the 1990s—next to nothing is known about his non-Sinfest life. As he explained to Publishers Weekly in 2011, “less socializing means I can concentrate more on the strip.”
And Frank Santoro has another New Talent Showcase for you, this time on Mike Bertino, Gabrielle Gamboa, and Malachi Ward.
—Adding further grist to the mill, DC co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee made an appearance at the Los Angeles Festival of Books this weekend, where they discussed everything from Before Watchmen (DiDio: "It was picking up some real speed to the point that a couple folks actually stopped and came into my office and said ‘Hey is this real?’ [And I would respond] ‘I can’t really say but if it was would that be a problem?'") to the recently I-quit-no-you're-fired writer Chris Roberson (Lee: "You have to imagine from our perspective, for our own internal morale, what does it say for a company to hire somebody who’s that vocally against our principles and yet we’re still paying them.").
—"Comic supplements have ceased to be comic. They have become as vulgar in design as they are tawdry in color. There is no longer any semblance of art in them, and if there are any ideals they are low and descending lower." That's from 1908.
Today on the site, Tucker Stone makes good on the week, this time with extra back issue reviews, his usual guest news column from Abhay Khosla, and other delights. And Ryan Cecil Smith wraps up his stay with us as diarist.
-Comic book writer Chris Roberson announced that we would no longer work for DC because "I don’t agree with the way they treat other creators and their general business practices." I wonder if this is an isolated incident or if it'll be a trend. I'd love to think it would be a trend, and that more creators from within the DC-Marvel nexus would step up and say something about the way these companies are behaving. Who knows.
-And while I dither, Tom Spurgeon came up with the best response yet: Posting about Spain Rodriguez instead. His latest is a great one.
-Here's a three part industry wrap-up style interview with Mike Richardson, CEO of Dark Horse. There's some stuff in there about manga and Dark Horse's digital efforts.
-Over at D&Q, Tom Devlin previews Anna & Froga, a groovy looking French graphic album.
-And finally, the current New Yorker has a profile of Alison Bechdel (warning: pay wall). I was brought up short in the middle of it when the author, Judith Thurman, cited Hillary Chute citing Justin Green as the originator of "graphic narratives for adults". Thurman confuses some things and has some terminology problems, but I can't help but think that that citation is some kind of victory. That is, for years the hoary old Will Eisner creation myth has hung over sophisticated comics, so it's a relief to see someone else, particularly someone as deserving as the great Justin Green, given some credit. No one will ever agree on a "first", and such discussions are pointless anyway, but on an aesthetic and intellectual level Green's 1972 Binky Brown is vastly more important than Eisner to the development of autobiographical and literary fiction comics. Good for Chute, too, for getting so much play in the piece. Her conference, Comics: Philosophy and Practice, which has the single best guest list I've ever seen and is itself a statement about the medium (one I hope she or the participants will flesh out, as it's balanced toward literary fiction/non-fiction models), is happening in May.
Today on the site, Ryan Cecil Smith continues his Cartoonist's Diary of life in Japan.
And Sean T. Collins reviews the mini-comics (!) of Shia LaBeouf (whom he also interviewed for Rolling Stone). Here's an excerpt from his review:
Yes, the art’s rough. But it’s also effective, in both complementing his lacerating writing and conveying emotional weight. So even though it’s likely rough by necessity, the roughness of a study-hall satirist or a first-year CCS student, it’s the effectiveness that should be the lens through which the art’s viewed. And honestly I’m probably selling it short, to an extent. The magic-marker pink aura with which he surrounds the figures in his graphic novella Cyclical, about a Johnny Blaze-type motorcycle outlaw’s last ride, both belies the macho mock-Hemingway elegy of the narrative and imbues it with the sensual road-sign glow of the American West. It’s the equivalent of the opening-credit type treatment for Drive, and it’s sophisticated shit.
Off-site, there are several comics-related distractions from your existential dilemma.
The Los Angeles Review of Books, which really quickly established itself as one of the best sources for American cultural criticism around, has launched its new website. So far, this publication has featured the best comics coverage of any recent mainstream cultural publication I can remember, and is worth following for that reason alone. (They have good reviews of books without pictures, too.)
Boing Boing has a nice profile of Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, and Heritage Auctions has announced a Cul de Sac-related charity auction for Parkinson's research this May.
Speaking of auctions, it's a sad commentary that the check with which DC Comics paid Siegel and Schuster $130 for Superman has recently sold to an online bidder for $160,000. (The original check had been fished out of the trash by a DC employee, whose heirs will be receiving the proceeds.)
The blogger David Brothers, who has been writing a lot about the ethics (or lack thereof) in corporate comics recently, has published a manifesto on why the recent Before Watchmen announcement and recent Marvel moves have led him to stop purchasing DC and Marvel comics (and movie tickets) altogether. I don't necessarily agree with each and every one of his arguments, but in the main I support him and find this very heartening. When Stephen Bissette called for a boycott of Jack Kirby-derived Marvel products last year, it was fairly common to hear people argue that boycotts don't work. But of course this kind of consumer awareness can be effective, especially when there are more ethical alternatives available. (As a non-comics-related example: There are a lot more cage-free eggs sold today than there were a decade ago, and that means many less chickens are being egregiously mistreated. That is a significant and good thing, even if the larger problems of factory farming remain.) It's one thing when places like the Comics Journal echo calls for this kind of protest (as a lot of commenters here stated at the time, most TCJ readers aren't Marvel zombies anyway), it's another when someone as steeped in mainstream comics as Brothers does it.
Bryan and Mary Talbot choose their ten favorite comic-book memoirs (Binky Brown is their unsurprising—and very deserving—number one, but there are a few less familiar titles there as well).
Slate writes about the politics of Archie. Does anyone actually read these comics any more, or are they merely printed as an endless supply of fodder for trend articles? I can't figure out the business model here...
Lots of people post scans of great old out-of-print comic stories online, but few provide as much context as Frank Young does whenever he posts a hard to find John Stanley story. Here's his latest, on a Woody Woodpecker tale.
There are two weeks left for Sparkplug's online publishing fundraiser. (I know I keep saying I don't want to post these Kickstarter-type things, but I guess I'm just going to try to be super-selective about it.)
Finally, the Hernandez brothers are interviewed at Meltdown: