In his new graphic novel PayWall, Kelly pays down the promissory note of that Mould Map piece. Handsomely printed by Mould Map editor Hugh Frost’s publishing boutique Landfill Editions, it is work so relevant and contemporary that it seems to belong in a completely different ballpark than the rest of what comics has on display right now. Set in an English coastal city ten years from now, PayWall depicts a society in which rising seal levels threaten human survival, parking lots full of live-in port-a-potties are replacing apartment blocks, and the federal government and military have been torn to pieces and swallowed by a rabid pack of competing corporations.
At its heart, this is an entry in that most recognizable of comic book genres, the hero’s origin story. Rather than create his hero as a slightly more ridiculously costumed version of a police officer, though, Kelly looks for inspiration at the real heroes of today’s world: the scared, angry young people pulling on masks and taking to the streets to put their bodies on the line against governmental and societal oppression. PayWall‘s hero team is a cell of militarized anarchists, its villains a loosely knit cabal of rich corporate dickheads who have reformed the world in their image, and its protagonist a regular working dude who is radicalized by the radical situation he finds himself in.
Here's Steven Heller interviewing Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik on their upcoming book, How to Read Nancy.
Another deep dive into the data of cartoonists -- this time one of my favorite categories: Letterers.
Farel Dalrymple is treated as an eccentric within the mainstream comics industry. His most high-profile work within the realm of work-for-hire was illustrating Jonathan Lethem's revival of Omega the Unknown for Marvel Comics. His style telegraphs traces of the 1970s house style of John Buscema's How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way while still having enough arthouse quirk that it can be sold to a New Yorker-reading audience interested in learning more about graphic novels. He also drew a few issues of Brandon Graham's revival of the Rob Liefeld character Prophet: When prevailed upon, his work is capable of maximalist detail, and can conjure up the same drawing-centered approach to science fiction found in the pages of a vintage issue of Heavy Metal. These disparate skills are all on display in the comics that Dalrymple writes for himself, which do not fit nearly as neatly into any preexisting box. They are nuts. They are busy with ideas and activity, maximalist with kitchen sink detail and clutter, alive with consciousness.
—News. At this weekend's SPX, the Ignatz Award winners were announced, with Emil Ferris picking up two of the biggest prizes (Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Graphic Novel), which Ben Passmore winning Oustanding Comic.
The longtime comics review site run by retailer Brian Hibbs, Savage Critics, has closed shop.
Savage Critics started back from the old CompuServe days, where I would read an entire week's worth of comics, and give one word (or up to a sentence, maybe) reviews. I was young, and (well, I thought) very clever, so making snap judgements publicly seemed entertaining to me (at least). Once gated communities like CompuServe became passe (well, until Facebook, at least), I thought it might be cool to do the same thing on the internet as a stand alone blog. It was the Wild West back then, and this was an early blog (I think Tom Spurgeon called it "foundational" at one point?) of commentary and criticism.
—Reviews & Commentary. The NYRB excerpts Elke Schulze's afterword to their new collection of Erich Ohser's fascinating Father and Son.
Erich Ohser became internationally famous for his comic strips in the 1930s, but the carefree world of his Father and Son gives little hint of the fate that would be suffered by its creator. After Ohser was driven to take his own life, his friend Erich Kästner wrote: “We’re going to mourn him by celebrating his drawings.” Ohser was a passionate graphic artist whose versatile talent spanned many techniques: pencil, India ink, writing ink, watercolor, and colored pencil. Along with his journalistic cartoons and illustrations is a large body of work ranging from freehand portraits and landscapes to nudes and studies of people observed in cafés.
Panter’s new comic, Songy of Paradise, brilliantly elaborates his aesthetic. The comic both comments on our world and disavows everyday concerns in exchange for the pleasures of thinking along under-traveled paths. While only 40 pages, the book is large in size — about 11-by-15 inches — so it feels like you are looking at Panter’s original pen-and-ink drawings themselves, rather than reproductions of them. This quality lends the book a hand-drawn, intimate feel, making its pages feel not only like original comic book art but also like the leaves of an illuminated manuscript. In any case, the artist’s hand is always very near. This makes sense, given that Songy of Paradise describes itself, on its title page, as a story “Wherein Satan And A Hillbilly Re-Enact The Temptation Of Jesus In The Desert, Hewing To John Milton’s Epic Poem Paradise Regained But Without Milton’s Verbosity.”
If primarily an inquiry into Lovecraft’s writing and literary influence set in 1919, Providence is an ideal engagement with the author for today’s America. It is fitting, for one thing, that the story begins actually in New York, with a Jewish gay protagonist named Robert Black exploring the city of immigrants as a journalist. (In earlier, related work by Alan Moore to which Providence serves as a sort of conclusion-by-extended-prequel—The Courtyard and Neonomicon—protagonists include a woman and a black man, while the villains are racist psychopaths devoted to Lovecraftian cosmology.) As Black encounters characters and events from Lovecraft’s stories, Moore and Burrows continue to introduce themes and personalities that Lovecraft would have been uncomfortable with, including the sympathetic portrayal of many whom the writer vilified as monsters in his stories. The “unusual colony of unclassified slant-eyed folk” in “The Horror at Redhook” (1927), for instance (implied to be Kurdish Yazidis, today under persecution by ISIS), are subtly humanized in Burrows’ illustrations. In exploring Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931), Moore and Burrows draw out its anti-immigrant and anti-miscegenation sentiments by showing explicit acts of prejudice and discrimination faced by the fish-faced townspeople (ultimately presaging World War II-era interment and genocide) as an oppressed minority. Providence likewise makes graphic the “unnamable” and “unspeakable” horrors to which Lovecraft alludes, including incest and rape.
Hello from Los Angeles, and more specifically Sammy Harkham's dining room table, with TCJ #40 by my side. Cover image by Mike Nasser and Bob Layton of Starhunters. Interview with Jim Shooter. And of course John Benson profiling Art Spiegelman. Hilarious. I am reminded that Mike Nasser worked Ms Mystic, and that character design blew my mind as a kid. And still looks OK. The void body. That sword.
SLIFER: When did you start writing for comics regularly?
WEIN: For the most part, I started doing a little fiddling around early on. I think about the fifth story Marv and I wrote was a Teen Titans we did together. We started to gain a little ground at DC at that point. They liked the first one we did. We tried an issue of Teen Titans — it was the second Titans story we did — that introduced a black superhero. I think we called the character Jericho. It was a beautiful job. Nick Cardy was drawing the book at the time. He did an absolutely lovely job on the art. And, apparently, DC didn’t know there was anything but white Anglo-Saxon Protestants appearing in comic books, and the introduction, in our story, of a black character was apparently frightening. Nick Cardy, who was part of the old school, brought that job to Carmine, and asked him, “Do you think we’re going too far? Should we be doing this? There’s a black character in here, God help us!” And, Carmine panicked, went, “Oh my God! We’re doomed! We’ll never sell our magazines in the South, anywhere south of Toledo!” They scrapped the issue, they completely scrapped the story. Neal Adams came to our defense, as Neal is so wont to do, and tried to convince Carmine that it was a good story and it didn’t need to be scrapped. And, it was a beautiful art job, one of the best things Nick ever did. I don’t think he ever really matched it. The fact that the story would not see print struck me as a real shame. But, Carmine would not be swayed. Carmine had made up his mind. It was set in cement once he made up his mind. In fact, it probably still is.
Neal ended up rewriting — over a weekend — an entirely different story featuring a character that was no longer black. He wrote it, penciled it, inked the entire 19-page story over a weekend, proving that, yes, he could make deadlines. But, it didn’t help my situation. And this happened just when I had started to gain some inroads.
DC was revamping the Metal Men at that point. I had come up with a whole new concept for the Metal Men for Jack Miller, working Marvel-style. Mike Sekowsky was penciling it, I was going to dialogue it off the finished pencils. And, Carmine, of course, decided, “No, you can’t write. Things aren’t working out,” based solely on the fact that I had introduced a black character in the Teen Titans. He took back the artwork I had just gotten my hands on — the Metal Men pages. In fact, I wrote the first 10 pages totally on speculation, like, “Please look at what I’ve done at least and see if it’s good.” But in the end, he gave the story to Denny O’Neil, who took it reluctantly, knowing the circumstances. After he had written his own, and I showed him my script, he said he thought it was a better job than he had done. It was simply Carmine’s reacting rather than acting.
Murray Boltinoff got a little shy over several plots I had approved for Tomahawk and Challengers of the Unknown. Suddenly he had no use for either. Marv and I were abruptly non-entities for six months or more and started to look for work elsewhere.
SLIFER: How did you finally make your inroads back?
WEIN: Good question. I’m not sure if I remember. We started doing stuff elsewhere. Marv sort of faded out of comic books. He moved out to Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island.
SLIFER: What year was this?
WEIN: This is 11 years from ’79 … it was about ’69. I didn’t do a whole lot of work in my first year. I think I only managed to make as much at my old $10-a-page rate in my entire first year as I make on a single issue-and-a-half of Superman right now. A big difference in the rate. I started looking elsewhere. Marv got out of comic books. He had a degree as an art teacher. He taught school for a while. I sort of wandered around. I found some work at Gold Key. I started doing mystery stories for them. I ended up doing Hot Wheels and Mod Wheels and Star Trek comics. Anywhere there was some place to go I went. I did mystery stories for Marvel, for Roy [Thomas]. I learned most of my training on mystery stories. Most of the people now don’t have a chance to learn on them. Mystery stories require you to create an entire entity in seven pages, a cast of characters, personalities, problems, and resolution. It’s great training.
That is all from here. I'm opening this exhibition on Saturday night, 6-9 pm. I'll be there and always enjoy talking about Hal Foster.
Today on the site, something great: Mark Newgarden speaks to Glenn Bray and Frank Young, the editors of the essential new book on Art Young, To Laugh That We May Not Weep.
Frank, your concentration has been in the field of comic books: as a writer, editor and scholar. But you’ve also written extensively on newspaper strips and Hollywood animation, especially on the work of Fred “Tex” Avery (and in my estimation, you are the absolute go-to guy on everything John Stanley.)Can you tell us a little bit about how you became interested in Young and involved in this ambitious project?
Frank Young: Art Young was on that list in my head called “Great Cartoonists Whom I Admire, Based on Two or Three Images I Keep Seeing Over and Over Again.” I saw these images in older books about comics history, poorly reproduced but visible enough to give me the idea that this fellow was important. I also aligned him with Harvey Kurtzman. There’s a similar life in their ink lines. But as with so many towering figures in an ignored art form, there wasn’t any Art Young to pore over as I developed my critical and thematic eye towards comics.
In the 1990s and 2000s, I served my infamous term as managing ed on The Comics Journal, begun comics scholarship blogs, and came into contact with some great people. My work on John Stanley led me to meet Art Spiegelman, Michael Barrier, Glenn Bray and you, to name a few. While David Lasky and I worked on our graphic novel The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, Spiegelman invited me to be on the board of advisors of The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics. My involvement in that project led to many good things.
Visiting the home/museum of Glenn Bray and Lena Zwalve in summer 2013, through our mutual friend Carol Lay, was a religious experience. The first thing Glenn showed me was the original art for the cover of Mad #11. From there on, it was a staggering tour of his extensive collection of original art, comics, artwork, books, etc. I wonder if Carol realized how much of an impact this visit would have on my life...this kid was in the candy store by which all candy stores are judged. I flashed back to my one visit to Bill Blackbeard's chaotic den in San Francisco. Glenn's collection is organized, curated and attractively presented. From bound volumes of 1940s comics to impeccably stored originals to shelves of work by cartoonists familiar and unknown to me, this is the best hoard of significant comics work I've yet encountered.
DIASPORA BOY is the work of an artist who aims to challenge the fundamental beliefs of the Jewish-American community, not least its at times slavish love for Israel. Cartoonist Eli Valley — who grew up in New York and New Jersey, the child of a rabbi and a social-worker-turned-lawyer — is unafraid to celebrate the noble tradition of secular Judaism while still despairing at what Zionism has become, and arguably has always been, in its repression of the Palestinians. In this lavishly produced book, Valley includes his own commentary alongside his comics, which are clearly inspired by the underground commix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and the iconoclastic Jewish-American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. Valley’s political framework is never far from the reader’s mind, but it is his art that is central to every page.
Since the comic book industry still only seems to be discovering and cautiously exploring transgender issues, this takes us back to one of the beginnings. Should characters like Lord Fanny from The Invisibles be included in categories and ‘boxes’ of trans* characters in comics? Are ‘boxes’ helpful at all, seeing how complex and diverse and dynamic identities are? My stance on this is based on my quantum theory of identity as well as Antke Engel’s concept of ‘queerversity’, and implies that superhero_ines with their history of being Other can be read as inherently queer, always standing outside the established norms and always implicitly questioning (and hopefully undermining) them. Thus characters like Lord Fanny shouldn’t be excluded from this article (and technically can’t be, according to the all-inclusive nature of queerversity), since Morrison is making some valuable points about identity and reality in The Invisibles, and gender identities are varied, diverse, heterogeneous, and dynamic.
A dozen of Wirsum’s paintings and drawings are on view at Derek Eller Gallery, in New York, in the show “Mr. Whatzit: Selections from the 1980s.” Each work is a portrait of a single character, and the backgrounds, in the case of the paintings, are monochromatic: flat fields of red, teal, ochre. Whether alien, mechanical, or human, each character appears as a kind of totem of their own world, like the corner boxes on the covers of classic comics (those small rectangles in the upper left corner that show Superman or Spider-Man or Hulk on a solid field of color). Mr. Dry Iced “T” is part hulking Jack Kirby creation (too many fingers, too many knuckle joints), part mystic oddity rising out of a blue ether, his hands like two hamsas. The Mesoamerican Shower Girl performs under a showerhead-cum-stage-light in the semiprivacy of her shower-curtained stage. The half-human, half–jet pack figure in If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Nairobi Except in Nebraska shoots diagonally across a Joan Miró–inflected cosmos.
—Interviews. The CBLDF podcast interviews comics translator Anne Ishii.
Topics include: yaoi / BL, Osamu Tezuka, Detroit Metal City
Wein was no auteur or stylist along the lines of a Stan Lee or an Alan Moore, but he worked smoothly with a wide range of talented artists at both Marvel and DC. As a result, he kept busy in every corner of the mainstream comics industry in the 1970s and 1980s, and was present at several significant creative moments. Wein was instrumental in the rebooting of the X-Men with Dave Cockrum in 1975, transforming the original Lee/Kirby misfire into something like the multi-ethnic mutant collective that we know today. In Incredible Hulk #180 in 1974, he and artists Herb Trimpe and John Romita introduced stout, Canadian brawler Wolverine, who would become a key element of the revived X-Men.
In 1971, Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson created Swamp Thing, an atmospheric DC monster series that worked its way through unusually mature themes, as it observed society through the eyes of its profoundly alienated antihero. The series went on to capture the imagination of some of mainstream comics’ best writers and artists — including Alan Moore, who created Watchmen in 1986 under Wein’s editorial guidance.
Today on the site, Greg Hunter reviews Warmer, the climate change-themed anthology making its debut at this weekend's SPX.
Climate change, when it’s not visible in a sweeping, violent fashion, can be difficult to perceive, more present for some people as a looming abstraction than a felt, measurable thing. This might be why, during the last two decades, few depictions of climate change in the arts have captured the cultural imagination, despite its planet-wide implications. This absence informed the Kickstarter campaign for Warmer. Editors Andrew White and Madeleine Witt told visitors to the campaign page, “We both spend a lot of time thinking about climate change. [...] And we haven't always found art that reflects that.” An anthology of comics about the climate crisis, Warmer at least fills a void within alternative cartooning, exploring personal experience within a global phenomenon.
Warmer is about as cohesive as anthologies get in terms of tone and sensibility. It includes, for instance, multiple past contributors to the Comics Workbook Tumblr, multiple six-panel grid compositions, and multiple works of colored-pencil cartooning (though without full overlap among these categories). Consider it the hazard of a coherent editorial vision—a sense of monotony might set in if a person reads too many pieces in one sitting. A spirit of contemplation characterizes many of the comics, which often feature soft colors and other formal choices that convey quietness, perhaps at the expense of other sensations (e.g. outright panic). Even so, this is a result of Warmer attempting something challenging.
Meanwhile, elsewhere: —Reviews & Commentary. Emily Gosling writes about Charlotte Salomon.
If all the world really is a stage, the production created for it by Charlotte Salomon is one of the darkest tragedies imaginable; a story of suicide, Nazism, illness, and a poisoned omelette.
Salomon was born in Berlin in 1917, and during the war her Jewish family—like so many others—was persecuted by the Nazis, resulting in her fleeing to France. After war broke out, she was sent to Camp Gurs in the Pyrenees with her grandfather; later allowed to return to Nice due to her grandfather’s age. It was there that the artist, who’d previously been admitted to the Art Academy in Berlin, started making images again.
A typical Rius production, Discovering Columbus tells the other side of Columbus’ official history, narrating and illustrating his rapacious conquest of the new lands grabbed from the natives. Rius’ narrative portrays him as the perpetrator and initiator of one of the largest genocides in human history. I had read about Columbus before, but Rius' take took me by surprise. In a concise, humorous and simple manner he opened my mind to new interpretations of history, something similar to what I experienced after I read him for the first time some 45 years ago when I was in middle school, with his comic book series “Los Agachados” (The Stooped Ones, a word used in Mexico to refer to those who don’t assert their rights or don’t “rock the boat.” It also refers to the labor performed by migrant farmworkers.)
The issue of Los Agachados I remember best was a behind-the-scenes take on Coca Cola, Mexico’s favorite drink, and how U.S Empire had used this drink along with many other products as another form of colonialism. It blew my innocent mind back then. I thought, “How can this guy say all those things against such a powerful company and with facts and humor!” It felt like the day when you find out Santa doesn’t exist. After that I became an avid reader of his comics and a fan of his cartoons.
Paul Buhle writes about that other great socialist cartoonist, Art Young.
NEARLY 80 YEARS AGO, one of the sweetest books in the history of American radicalism appeared: Art Young: His Life and Times. A wonderful memoir in every sense, it encompassed and expressed the beloved socialist artist’s saga, from Midwestern small-town boy suspicious of radicals to the greatest of all radical cartoonists in the English language. He hated the spoils of capitalism and war with a ferocity scarcely to be equaled in art anywhere, Picasso or John Heartfield or Spain Rodriguez notwithstanding. But beneath Young’s rage, evident to any reader, could also be found a deep sense of sorrow at the outcome of civilization at large. A popular favorite, his drawing of a caged lion dreaming of free life in the jungle captures the aphorism of philosopher J. J. Rousseau, that “man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.” Young would have added, indeed did add more than metaphorically in his many drawings over 50 years of work, that the rich and powerful did not seem to suffer so greatly, but nevertheless bore the scars of meretricious lives.
Craig Yoe is NOT MAD. —Misc. Interested readers can follow along with Lynda Barry's University of Wisconsin comics class online.
The winners of the annual Comics Workbook Composition Competition have been announced.
Today on the site, Bob Levin reviews Chester Brown's mini-comic, The Third Remedy. Bonus interview with the artist included!
The addressees (neatly hand-printed) in the center of the tiny envelope were Adele and I at our home in Berkeley. The addressor (also neatly hand-printed but tinier) was the cartoonist Chester Brown from his apartment in Toronto.
Inside was a black-and-white comic, 37 pages, four-by-five-inches.
The title was The Third Remedy.
In a box centered on the back cover it said “This story was originally published in 1949 in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories number 101 (Volume 9, Number 5) February.” On the title page, in a larger box, it said, “Story written by Carl Barks. Artwork drawn by Bob Kane.”
There was no price, no copyright notice, no identification of or information about the publisher.
Dutch cartoonist Michiel Budel’s wildly idiosyncratic webcomic Slechte Meisjes stars a rotating cast of Lolita-esque girls in surpassingly strange, hilarious, often Sapphic adventures that are mixed with political allegory. The comics first made it to U.S. shores in two full-color comic books, Wayward Girls and Wayward Girls 2, published by Secret Acres in 2012. Since then, Budel has honed his cast down to one main character, the tempestuous Francine, and her circle of friends and enemies. This new eponymously titled book collects eight issues of Budel's self-published Franzine, with a few extra one-off strips thrown in. While Budel's comics are perhaps known and discussed mostly for their seriously pervy qualities, they should also be appreciated for their great humor and wonderfully wrought, even lyrical, dream logic. Many folks will immediately correlate Budel’s work to artists like Henry Darger and Balthus, who also trafficked heavily in pre-adolescent sexual imagery. But like Darger himself, Budel has a guilelessly bonkers sensibility that keeps itself to itself.
New Yorker cartoonists are paid in two tiers. More established artists receive $1,450 for a cartoon, while the rest receive $700. The sales of original artwork bring cartoonists some of their largest one-time payments, often as high as $2,000 or more. Until January 2017, sales made through the Cartoon Bank were split 70-30 between cartoonists and Condé Nast. In December, cartoonists were sent a contract revising that split to 50-50. Condé Nast also recently stopped warehousing original artwork, leaving that responsibility to the cartoonists themselves. “They just, like, fired all their archivists,” said one cartoonist. “There was no place to put it. People who were trying to reclaim their archived cartoons were being told that they had been lost. So now we’re at a place where it’s just, ‘Make your own high-res scan at home, email in the high-res and that’s what we’re going to run in the magazine. You’re responsible for storing and archiving your own artwork. We will let you know if a collector wants to buy your cartoon.’”
—Dan Gearino interviews longtime comics retailer Dick Swan, about the comic shop he co-owned and opened in 1969, Comic World.
DG: How old were you?
DS: I was 15. We opened on June 26, 1969 and I turned 16 a month later on July 28. The other guys were all 17. We got the stock from the HoustonCon which ran from June 20-22 in 1969. We drove home, went out and rented a store the same week.
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly opened in 2007, nearly 20 years after the press was founded in the same Montreal neighbourhood. Staff had noticed that English stores in the city carried mostly English comics, and French stores carried mostly French books. “At each store, there was a little lonely shelf that would be like, ‘Local Publishers,’” says Peggy Burns, D&Q’s publisher. D&Q’s goal was to open a store where readers could find not only their books, but also titles from other popular independent presses, like McSweeney’s, that were hard to find in the city. The timing was unfortunate – right before a recession, and just as Amazon’s influence was rising – but the staff felt confident. “It was a crazy time to open up a bookstore,” Burns says, “but we always just felt that there were books here that we wanted to read and other people wanted to read.”