BLOG

VG+

Tucker's taking the week off, but his presence on the site will still be much felt, as today's TCJ attests. First, Michel Fiffe is here with the second installment of his column. This time, it's Fiffe on Vince Giarrano.

Vince Giarrano was a cartoonist who made a stylistic shift so dramatically that you would swear it was two different people. I always find myself thinking about Giarrano's sudden left turn, and I very much like both extremes of his spectrum.

You might know him as the artist on Haywire, from 1988, written by Michael Fleisher.

And we also have the first day in a new artist's Cartoonist's Diary. This week's Cartoonist is Greek cartoonist Vassilis Gogtzilas.

And finally, we have Sara McHenry's review of That Night a Monster.

Tommy wakes up early one Saturday morning. He goes into his parents’ room to see if they’re up, and is shocked and terrified to see a giant black fern in his mother’s place in bed. His father, still asleep, isn’t having any of Tommy’s fear and questions. Go back to sleep, he says. Prrrrr, the fern says.

Tommy spirals into anxiety. What does this fern want? Will it eat me next? Who will take care of me if my mother is gone forever? His little white dog, Moomin, follows him around the house and is equally troubled: we see in Moomin’s wordless thought bubbles that he is concerned with who will feed him and pet him now.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Alex Dueben interviews L. Nichols on Flocks.

I would draw these doll figures doing whatever we were doing. They weren’t comics they were just drawings, but at some point I realized that I was giving them my hairdo and my piercings and I went, oh. I was drawing myself. At that point I thought, I can use this as a way to sort through feelings in a more distanced way where it’s easier for me to figure out what’s going on. I think with the gender thing – this was before I transitioned – there’s a certain amount of that in there unconsciously. I didn’t really identify portraying myself in a physical body, so this was a way for me to do it. I don’t know. It’s cute. I like drawing the little button eyes.

The Something About the Beatles podcast interviews Carol Tyler, and the Virtual Memories podcast interviews David Small.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Morton reviews the latest volume of Jules Feiffer's noir trilogy.

It may be obnoxious this late in its history to use any review of a graphic novel as an opportunity to meditate on the form, its purpose and its function. Does anyone need to talk about the purpose of the novel when they review the latest Zadie Smith? But it’s hard to avoid such a mediation in the case of Feiffer’s work. Feiffer spent a 70-year-long career reinventing the supposedly low forms of the comics medium in an effort to make the comic strip literary. His decision to approach the graphic novel so late in his career is momentous.

—News. Two comics-related controversies struck late last week, both of which require more sustained attention than a short blog post can bear. We may revisit one or both of them at greater length soon. First, the writer Chuck Wendig announced on Twitter that he has been fired from his work writing Star Wars comics for Marvel, claiming he was told his termination was due to his social-media presence.

Second, the comics gossip site Bleeding Cool published a poorly written, edited, and conceived interview with a known far-right extremist activist, which led to outrage from readers, an apology from the site, and the announcement of a new editor-in-chief.

 

Nothing, Butt Trouble

Today at the Comics Journal, we're proud to share Oliver Ristau's insightful and impossibly open interview with Catherine Meurisse, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist whose memoir, Lightness, was translated into English and released by Europe Comics earlier this year. The book, a graphic novel where Meurisse processes the murders of her colleagues and the upheaval of her own life in the aftermath, is one that has gone somewhat unacknowledged in the US so far. Thankfully, Oliver's interview--which has made its way through multiple languages to even exist--begins the journey of remedying that situation.

There were no selection criteria, because the whole book was made by instinct. As I was saying earlier on, the shock of the attack made me lose my intellectual faculties for a few months. I was unable to think, to form sentences, my imagination was totally blocked, as if some of the parts of my brain had been unplugged. My memories and my culture had disappeared, but drawing and comics require a solid culture. I was terrified by the idea that I might never be able to draw again. I started to write and draw in a large sketchbook in order to not become crazy, to try gathering fragments of myself, emotions in particular. I did not want to let any part of me escape. Colors came to me because they had to: In the opening scene, in front of the ocean, I chose dry pastels because it couldn’t be anything else. For the pond scene, it couldn’t be anything else than watercolor. I opened up some color boxes randomly, instinctively. This graphic disorder at the time matched my inner disorder. La Légèreté is a huge gathering: There are the dead and the living, black and color, writing and drawing, sadness and humor.

Today's review comes to us from Tegan O'Neil, who dug into a black and white comic about a vigilante that seems to have very little in common with the majority of things that could share that description: it's Bald Knobber, by Robert Sergal.

Bald Knobber distinguishes itself for being a narrative about masked vigilantism in comic book form that avoids any clear parallels to super hero material. There’s one reference to his mask being “Janky Batman,” which is fairly descriptive, but also a telling anachronism. The fact that Bald Knobber is about a disgruntled kid who puts on a mask and sets about to beat up a bully without echoing any spandex tropes is impressive. That’s the point of the book, really – there’s nothing at all good about vigilantism, no nostalgia to be mined, just weird and shady shit from dark chapters of the nation’s history. The point isn’t particularly subtle but it’s not particularly trying to be: Cole puts on a mask and acts out, and this acting out earns him scorn and distrust.

Last week's Jog review, like many Jog reviews before it, had me jumping to pick up my own copy of a book that had gotten him so pumped. Along with my shipping confirmation, I got a linked to a whole mess of Lale Westvind animations I'd either never seen or not seen in years. That's where I'm at, and now, you can be too.

 

It’s, Like, Excruciating

We've got two reviews for you today. First, Greg Hunter on Tadao Tsuge’s Slum Wolf.

Shaded faces are a fixture of Tadao Tsuge’s Slum Wolf. From the collection’s opening piece, “Sentimental Melody”, and throughout the book, figures come into view with their features obscured. “Melody” begins with a man visiting a sex worker; Tadao shows him in near-silhouette several times before revealing the man’s face. In the story that follows, “The Flight of Ryokichi Aogishi”, Tadao at first renders a man’s head in spot blacks, despite drawing the man's overcoat and the space around him in fine detail. He continues this approach in several of the book’s other stories, encouraging readers to understand his characters in terms of a figurative (and sometimes literal) facelessness. With some artists, an obscured face—and the repetition of that motif across stories and years—might connote a character’s universal experiences. With Tadao's pieces in Slum Wolf, that’s not exactly the case.

The book is translator Ryan Holmberg’s second compilation of Tadao’s work, after Trash Market in 2015. The comics in both volumes reveal similar concerns, though Slum Wolf is an even more affecting, cohesive set of stories. Tadao’s cartooning first appeared in manga periodicals such as Garo and Yagyō, with Wolf collecting select pieces from the late '60s and '70s. Tadao’s subjects in these stories are fairly specific: men who fought for Japan during World War II and/or men who found themselves left behind after Japan’s post-war economic recovery, as well as where these men find themselves a few decades onward.

The spaces these stories explore aren’t always exclusively male, but the stories’ lead characters tend to be. And the men’s discarding of or failure to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of their era often provide the stories’ subtext. They are the type of people Tadao would have seen daily, growing up in a Tokyo red-light district amidst post-war poverty. So why—with such familiar subjects—the shadowy faces?

Rob Clough is here, too, with a review of Luke Healy's Permanent Press.

Luke Healy's Permanent Press is a book so meta (and so self-deprecatory) that I almost expected it to disappear after I read it. Ostensibly, it's a volume that collects two longish stories from Healy, "The Unofficial Cuckoo's Nest Study Companion" and "The Big And Small". The former story was previously published in minicomics form, and an extremely clever, original achievement. The latter story was previously unpublished, and in this book it's often interrupted by the metanarrative of Healy and his shadow. That shadow is part conscience, part Greek chorus, and part therapeutic wise mind to the Healy character's constant and depressive self-deprecation.

That self-deprecation is more than just the sort of funny-sad window dressing that's at the heart of so many autobiographical comics. Indeed, Healy is brutally sending up that entire sub-genre of comics at his own expense, as is made clear by the hilariously melodramatic quality of these interludes. For example, after a horrible experience at a local comics show, his shadow suggests that he go outside and get some "fresh air." That turns into a two-month sojourn in the wilderness (complete with poop jokes) that frees Healy from thinking about comics... until he does so again immediately upon coming home.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Angelica Frey talks to Matthew Thurber on the release of Artcomic.

Matthew Thurber’s new graphic novel, Art Comic, is absurdist, surreal and a little bit slapstick. After all, it follows a group of Cooper Union graduates— and their professor, and a group of idealistic pigs, and some aliens, and two procreating sex robots— as they try to master the whole “how to be an artist” thing. At the author’s request, though, please don’t call it satire.

“A satire felt too light to explain how upset I am about a lot of these tendencies in art, about how serious the book is for me,” he told Bedford + Bowery the day after Thursday’s book launch at Desert Island Comics in Williamsburg. “This is beyond poking fun, this is a systematic problem.” While satire is cathartic, there’s no release for Thurber after he’s done explaining himself in the book.

—The Edward Gorey parody in the latest Mad doesn't seem as out-of-character or noteworthy to me as it apparently does for most people, but it's interesting to see any comics story receive the kind of viral attention it has. Sridhar Pappu writes about the reaction at the NY Times.

Mad Magazine, the 66-year-old humor publication, has been in free fall for years — in terms of both circulation and cultural relevance.

This month, however, people as varied as the comedians John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt, as well as Lee Unkrich, a co-director of “Coco,” were heaping unlikely praise on the magazine known for anarchic satire aimed at the rich and powerful. The reason? A four-page comic strip appearing in the Halloween issue depicting 26 children, one for each letter of the alphabet, who were or would soon become victims of a school shooting.

—Jules Feiffer has begun a new monthly strip at Tablet.

 

That’s What I Thought

Today at The Comics Journal, we're roaring into Wednesday with a full satchel of comics content. First up, it's the latest installment of Retail Therapy, our recurring interview series with those individuals who have chosen comics retail as a career. This time around, it's Gabe Fowler from Desert Island in the hot seat. And he's got some things on his mind, the rascal!

What do you wish more customers knew about comics retail?

Retail stores are not a photo opportunity to improve your Instagram feed. If you like a store, if they offer you anything in the way of discovery or entertainment, even if it's just a cute place to meet up with your tinder date, lay down your hard-earned cash and contribute to their existence.  

Our comics excerpt train also stops in with a look at another Koyama title--Nathan Gelgud's House In The Jungle

And of course, there's a review. Today's comes from Josh Kramer, and he's turned his eagle eye to Tillie Walden, who just released On A Sunbeam through First Second & Avery Hill, depending on which country you're in, following the book's serialization online.

Mostly, dear reader, you want to find out. OAS features some genuine, interesting sci-fi world-building that sparkles and intrigues, like the deep space planet called The Staircase. Different readers value different aspects of stories, and I know that some readers care about characters above everything else. But I do enjoy the small details, and in some parts of OAS they fell flat for me. We never really get a good look or understand any of the work anyone is doing, despite a lot of talk about it. Desirable resources are described as “healing rock.” That's not terrible, but it's not terribly interesting.

Over at The Comics Reporter, you'll find that Tom Spurgeon is the latest to praise Lauren Weinstein's tremendous Frontier #17. I'm with Tom--I spoke to a class of seniors at MCAD yesterday and Lauren's work in that issue was my go to example for why 32 page bangers have nothing to be ashamed of in the face of the onslaught of heavy tomes. While I respect Tim's desire to keep some semblance of professionalism around here, I'm under no such obligation: it's the best thing I've read this year.

 

Deal

Today on the site, cartoonist/scholar Mark Newgarden returns to interview another great cartoonist/scholar, Eddie Campbell. Campbell's latest book, The Goat Getters, is a uniquely innovative history of the hidden origins of newspaper comics.

I’ve been collecting all kinds of stuff for years and have developed my own concept of the history of cartooning, of which "comics" is just one aspect. In my head I have always had a sense of the story in it, but I tend to groan when all those "History of Comics" come out and as time has moved along they have got narrower in their focus. I felt it was time to get back and look at the actual material and not just all the history books that have accumulated, in which more often than not the writer is reiterating the conventional old narrative of the previous one. Also, when some of these histories get to joining up the dots, they are seeing only the dots in a narrow window and thus missing the real connections that are invisible to them. So there was a pressing need to see the old comics and cartoons in their context, to see the newspaper as a holistic environment in which cartoonists could be moving this way and that and working in several sections of the paper at the same time and not just the comics pages. If you go at it all without the usual prejudices, a quite different story can be drawn out. Indeed many different stories present themselves.
at love-making, meaning courtship back then, should be taught in schools.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Daily Beast has a deeply sad interview with the 95-year-old Stan Lee and his daughter J.C., regarding the many allegations against various figures surrounding the man.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there have been stories out, and at least one upcoming story with allegations of elder abuse on you by your daughter.

STAN: I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC.

J.C. LEE: [Interjecting] He wishes everyone was so abusive.

STAN: She is a wonderful daughter. I like her. We have occasional spats. But I have occasional spats with everyone. I’ll probably have one with you, where I’ll be saying, “I didn’t say that!” But, that’s life.

Keya Morgan has been going on to me, and other reporters, about how abusive J.C. is to you. I know he was with you up here for a good amount of time. He claims he was with you for ten years.

J.C.: No. He was with him for six months—that period of time. And a year or two before.

STAN: As Joanie says, he was with me for about six months. I found out that he wasn’t really what I signed on for. So, I let him go.

Does it surprise you that, now that he’s banished from your life, he’s leveling all these accusations at your daughter?

STAN: I don’t know that he was. But it wouldn’t surprise me, no.

The most recent guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is Jason Lutes. Lutes was also interviewed on Vermont Public Radio.

I believe we may have mentioned this before, but it's worth reiterating that SPX has posted video from many of this year's panels.

—News. This year's Harvey Award winners have been announced. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress was the winner of the biggest prize.

—Reviews & Commentary. Ariel Dorfman writes about co-authoring the Marxist comics-crit classic How to Read Donald Duck, which is being newly republished.

I should not have been entirely surprised when I saw How to Read Donald Duck, a book I had written with the Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart, being burned on TV by Chilean soldiers. It was mid-September 1973 and a military coup had just toppled Salvador Allende, the country’s president, terminating his remarkable experiment of building socialism through peaceful means.

I was in a safe house when I witnessed my book – along with hundreds of other subversive volumes – being consigned to the inquisitorial pyre. One of the reasons I had gone into hiding, besides my fervent participation in the revolutionary government that had just been overthrown, was the hatred the Donald Duck book had elicited among the new authorities of Chile and their rightwing civilian accomplices.

We had received death threats, an irate woman had tried to run me over and neighbours – accompanied by their children – had stoned the house where my wife, Angélica, and I lived in Santiago, shouting: “Long live Donald Duck!” It was later discovered that the 5,000 copies of the third printing of the book had been taken from a warehouse by the Chilean navy and cast into the bay of Valparaíso.

 

Permanent Emergency

Today at The Comics Journal, we're ready to turn the spotlight on Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons. Finally! It's Marc Sobel with that long look back at Give Me Liberty.

Despite its long gestation period, Give Me Liberty was actually conceived in the summer of 1988 at the height of the Watchmen and Dark Knight hysteria. As Miller explained, “Dave and I were at the San Diego convention, walking around the San Diego Zoo, and we started talking about working together. He had just finished Watchmen, I had just finished Dark Knight—I suspect we were both taking our press awfully seriously and had yet to calm down.”

But despite their initial enthusiasm, the series was shelved for a couple years. Miller recalled that he was “just writing scenes at random” without a clear idea of what he wanted to say and, eventually “Dave quit.” “It was originally going to be a huge portentous series of 150-page graphic novels, the first of which I scripted (but) the wind just went right out of our sails. We lost interest.”  

Our review for today comes from Patrick Dunn, and he came away pretty pleased with the recent Image Comics horror book Infidel, from Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell.

Infidel’s plot revolves around two lifelong friends and women of color, Aisha and Medina, who both live in an apartment building where a mysterious bomb blast recently killed several people. Both grew up in the Muslim faith, but have taken different paths in adult life. Aisha still dons a hijab, takes comfort in prayer, and makes excuses for the casually racist opinions espoused by Leslie, her boyfriend Tom’s mother. Medina is more overtly radical. “Racism’s a cancer that doesn’t get cured,” she tells Aisha. “The best you get is remission.”

This past weekend saw a healthy percentage of the comics world descend upon New York City's Jacob Javits Center for New York Comic Con, and multiple announcements regarding the next batch of DC, Marvel & Image Comics were announced. For more detailed coverage of that show, I'd recommend Bleeding Cool's coverage. Over the weekend, I received multiple texts from people attending the show, none of which were positive.

Prior to the show, Oni Press launched a free all-ages webcomics site. At this point, the site has a small number of books, but multiple titles are planned for later release on the site. It's an interesting venture, and part of what looks to be a continued redefinition of the Oni brand.

 

 

 

 

Speed Round

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck about her new memoir.

At what point did you start to write about your parents because the book is about you, but it’s also about the context of your life, in a sense.

It started out about me. I think the first fully formed part that I wrote was about me being a weird kid. After that I wrote the part about my parents. I don’t remember why I brought them into it. I feel like a shadowy echo of my mom sometimes.

Honestly, I wrote the part about me being a weird kid before I had a feminist awakening and then I wrote the mom part while I was having the awakening. I didn’t see my story as being a feminist story until I realized how women’s lives are shaped by being female. Then I started to feel how my mom’s story was really similar to my story. My mom’s story was of quitting her career to not have a career and have her art in the context of being a wife and mother and what it meant to pour all her art into not professionally ambitious things. How it succeeded for a while, but then didn’t have enough roots to sustain her for a long time.

You said that you had a feminist awakening. Could you talk about that and what that meant for you?

I think it happened the moment I stopped having writers block, which at least in my case was extreme self-consciousness about making things that other people would see. I would draw the same thing over and over and over again so at the end of a year I would have one drawing done a million times instead of a million drawings, or a hundred drawings. I think all the anger and scrutiny I had been putting on myself I started putting on other people. [laughs] It coincided with a breakup that made me remember past breakups. It coincided with me finally realizing how much I hated being catcalled and things like that. All the unfairness that I’d been living with for so long but I was so busy feeling like I wasn’t good or human and that I couldn’t be angry at the world for anything suddenly left. It was very freeing.

We also have Tegan O'Neil's review of the book in question.

Liana Finck draws like someone who has spent a great deal of time unlearning how to draw. She describes the process herself while watching on & off boyfriend Mr. Neutral at work: “When I watch you draw, I get a glimpse of what it would be like – if I could still draw the way I was a kid. If I’d met you when I was younger, I bet I wouldn’t have stopped drawing.” Situated at the beginning of the narrative, that statement lays out a map for much of the territory that follows in Passing for Human, Finck’s memoir of her and her family’s history of strangeness.

“Strangeness” is her word, not mine, used to describe what she refers to a variety of terms. In a section on her father, who seems to have shared a similar or related strangeness, she states, “nowadays, if you don’t know how to act around people, you might be labeled ‘mildly autistic.’” But the book isn’t about labels, and there’s really only one part it’s even mentioned. As she states: “The labels set you apart from the world, but they also give you a place in it. They make you feel more different, but less alone. In those days, though [her father’s youth] there were no labels.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Three straight days stranded for hours on NJ Transit have conspired against my usual thoroughness, but I still have a few links, and will catch up next week.

—News. Jillian Tamaki has been nominated for another Governor General's Literary Award.

—Reviews & Commentary. Charles Hatfield enthuses over L. Nichols' Flocks.

Nichols creates his own vocabulary of visual metaphors and devices even as he traces the story of finding, and declaring, his own best, truest self. His story explores and celebrates the paradoxes of self-in-community, the complex comforts of faith, and what it means to be alienated from the very things that support you, or supported by the very things that alienate you—that is, what it’s like to live a tangled human life among distinct, and in some ways opposed, communities, and how to find grace in that most delicate, ever-shifting position.

Dominic Umile writes about David Sandlin.

Artist David Sandlin had only been in New York City for a couple of years when he was plastering downtown Manhattan’s concrete building facades with graphic silkscreened posters to promote his solo exhibition at Kwok Gallery in 1982. But at that point he’d already won five hundred bucks in an art contest, played a role in a wholly rambunctious countercultural art collective, and worked as a studio hand for Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, and others.

—Interviews & Profiles. The editors of the new print TCJ, Kristy Valenti and RJ Casey, are the latest guests on Inkstuds.

 

He Has Nothing You’ll Want

Today at TCJ, we're pleased to bring you Joe McCulloch, who has returned from SPX with a frenzy in his heart. That frenzy has a cause:

While ostensibly the first part of a continuing series -- published as a slightly-taller-than-square softcover by Chicago's Perfectly Acceptable Press, which excels at daredevil feats of very fancy risograph printing -- Grip stands alone as a remarkable statement, one in which the artist's own hands seem to hold the entirety of American comic book history. If Westvind's Kramers story was wordy, sunburnt and hungover like a horror short running unsupervised off the Charlton press, Grip hearkens back to an even earlier time: it's like a Golden Age comic, its hero manifesting fabulous powers seemingly at random and immediately going about accomplishing mighty feats, because that's what you ought to do. It's a comic that feels like it was born unconcerned with the schematics and the expectations of comics, and therefore occupies itself with demonstrations of bravura sensation - Pure Comics Power.

The Guardian goes long on Berlin, Anne Frank and Nora Krug's new one. It's Ger-mania!

Berlin isn’t the only new comic to take on Germany and its wartime politics. This autumn also sees the publication of a graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s Diary adapted by Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky, the Israeli pair best known for the 2008 Oscar-nominated film, Waltz With Bashir; of the remarkable Heimat, a memoir by Nora Krug, a German-American illustrator who teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York; and of The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, a biography of the German-born Jewish philosopher by Ken Krimstein, a Chicago academic whose cartoons have appeared in the New Yorker. Is this a coincidence or does it have a wider significance? Though he has not yet read the other books, Lutes believes it does. “It’s so interesting,” he tells me. “On some profound level, we are all connected to this deeper thing. We are all processing, consciously or subconsciously, our world and having tapped into something that’s in the air, our books have bloomed simultaneously.”

Julia Alekseyeva also goes long, but her focus is on Tom Kacyznski's Cartoon Dialectics series.

In the volumes, Kaczynski frequently returns to a critique of modern life. In the tradition of theorists such as aesthetic philosopher Walter Benjamin and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, Kaczynski considers both the wonders of modernity and the despair of late capitalism. Subjects in Cartoon Dialectics are frequently isolated from others, trapped in a metaphorical (or literal) dystopia. It takes a glitch in the system—an ecological catastrophe, a blackout—for them to find meaning.

Rocko Jerome has that Olivia Jaimes coverage you need regarding the cartoonist recent panel at CXC

Olivia spoke about how the function of Nancy as a comic is problem solving. There’s a challenge of some kind, and Nancy has to find a way to overcome it. She said that one of her favorite Bushmiller strips was the one where Nancy shifts the whole panel to straighten a picture on the wall (Which I know that I’ve seen, but now can’t find to show you).

-She’s into Sudoku and said that a lot of the same principles of that applied to the layouts of Nancy.

-She mentioned that Nancy and Sluggo’s relationship is quite platonic. Words to the effect of “People ship them hard…they’re eight.”