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Mommy Stole My Buzzsaw

Today at TCJ, we've got Austin Price on Nathan Gelgud's House in the Jungle. He did not care for it.

Yet to give it a pass would be worse, because endorsing Gelgud and his hypothetical future imitators’ experiments would be to sabotage the exact kind of oddities I’d sooner trumpet. While it is, yes, a welcome slice of strangeness that Gelgud trots out in A Home in the Jungle, it’s insubstantial. This is a book that announces its ambition on every page but musters none of the profundity or mystery it positions itself worthy of, a civics lesson on the importance of political engagement masquerading as a slice of Lynchian weirdness which yields only easy answers without ever honestly engaging the uneasy wondrous that frustrates explanation in favor of deeper pleasures.

Over at Popula, Trevor Alixopoulous deliver his take on disaster preppers, along with some autobiographical details for some spice. And you know what they say about he who controls the spice.

Over at PEN America, Whit Taylor's most recent editorial comics call was to Katie Fricas, and it was an excellent choice.

Over at Facebook, Charles Vess posted the endpapers art for his Spider-Man graphic novel from 1990. Pretty unreal.

 

Shoplifters of the World

Today on the site, Rob Clough returns to review the latest from John Kerschbaum, Pete & Pussy: Puppy Love.

The surface simplicity of John Kerschbaum's work has always belied the complexity of its underlying structure. To be sure, the humorist is first and foremost a gag man, dating back to his Xeric grant-winning series The Wiggly Reader back in the 1990s. His drawing style is pleasant and almost bland, as he rarely sells gags simply by drawing funny pictures. Instead, he prefers to lure readers in with this approachable style and spring bizarre, visceral, and sometimes horrifying gags on them. There are few cartoonists who integrate word and image in such a commanding fashion, as his gags depend on that fusion in order to succeed. He's not primarily a funny writer or funny craftsman (though he is both of those things); instead, he's a funny cartoonist.

His high level of craft is sometimes not immediately discernible. Working with a standard nine-panel grid, no single page or image really stands out on an initial flip-through. One can only see what he's doing upon immersing oneself in the rhythm of each page, because he will frequently set up a gag several pages in advance, while at the same time advancing a series of smaller jokes in the grid set-up. Take the beginning of Kerschbaum's new book, Petey & Pussy: Puppy Love, where the senile owner of Pussy the Cat and Bernie the Bird is at her computer. She's punching it and poking it in order to make it work and even talks into the mouse like it was a CB radio transmitter. At the same time, we hear someone screaming "La La La" and interspersing it with "Kill Me!" That buildup continues for a couple of more pages and reaches its end three pages later, as we first see Pussy, in his usual pose outside the mouse hole. Kerschbaum has created not only his own rhythm but his own reality as well, as the three main pets have human heads and speak English. None of this is ever addressed, nor is it necessary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Paste has a discussion between cartoonists Mike Mignola and Geoff Darrow.

Mike Mignola: Do you remember the first time we met?

Geof Darrow: I do. I do. That was at San Diego Comic-Con when it was in that convention center that was near the Grand Hotel. And I remember vividly that you were working on, or you done, Cosmic Odyssey and I told you how much I liked it and you were like, Ah, well… [laughs] I wonder if you had any idea like, Who is this guy?

Mignola: I don’t think I did because I don’t think—it was before Hard Boiled, right? I don’t know that I had seen anything of yours before, and I don’t know if you were with Frank or who you were with, but I remember somebody pulled out, you pulled out, a page you were working on—which I don’t think was ever published? I don’t know if it was a page from Hard Boiled, all I remember is it seemed like it was a really complicated, amazing street scene and I always seem to remember that there was an alligator walking up the middle of the street. I might be completely wrong and maybe it was an actual page from Hard Boiled?

Darrow: No, no, that’s funny. The only thing I could think that could be was at the time, I was working on an insurance job, one of those things where they hire you to draw whatever you want. We’re going to pay X amount of dollars, it seems like a lot of money and you can just draw whatever you want. We’re going to hand this out to people to buy the insurance.

The science fiction website Strange Horizons interviews the novelist and comics writer Saladin Ahmed.

I like to write from the point of view of monsters. I’m a Muslim-Arab man, and I think a lot about demonization—who gets turned into monsters and who gets viewed as monsters. And one of the most compelling narratives to me in all of fiction is that of the misunderstood monster. I’m going all the way back to Shelley—actually did a lecture on Frankenstein earlier this year. It was cool to talk about Frankenstein because I’m really interested in the monster, and I think Marvel is a great place for that, right? You have this history of characters like The Thing, but also for me taking some of these characters who have been villains, traditionally, and asking questions. The supervillain is the monster of the superhero comic, right? And I’m asking why are they monsters, what made them monsters, who gets to classify them as monsters.

The latest guest of Virtual Memories is Eddie Campbell.

—Reviews & Commentary. Stuart Jefferies writes about a London exhibition of artworks inspired by Peanuts.

Peanuts became an obsession for [Mel] Brimfield at an early age. Her grandmother would cut strips from the newspaper for her to read. And so, when her school planned a musical called Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, she auditioned to play Lucy. “My mum made me a bonkers black wig, bless her,” she says. But why play the strip’s monstrous bully? “Because she had the best songs and the biggest role.”

Lucy has haunted Brimfield, who is based in London, ever since. “A few years ago, I was working in a hippy clinic where the people who came in – with real pain – were only offered shamanic soul retrieval from charlatans. There was something about how easy it was to set yourself up as a therapist that made me think of Lucy. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised the move to wellness and the licence to complete selfishness in our society is fed by people like Lucy. She only set up her booth because it was another way of exercising power. She’s a huckster.”

—Misc. The Paris Review (?) has a selection of original EC horror and science fiction comics art up on its site, in conjunction with a new show at the Society of Illustrators.

Looks like Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor are starting a new podcast:

 

Goat Night

Today at TCJ, our comics retail column Retail Therapy returns, this time with a visit to Philadelphia's Amagalm Comics & Coffeehouse.

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

Amalgam has had a really interesting start. Two weeks after opening our doors we went viral in the truest sense of the word. With that came a whirlwind of interviews, special appearances and speaking engagements for me. As a brand new business I felt it was important to get as much media attention as possible, so for the first 6 months or so of our existence much of my attention and energy went into promoting the business and building our brand. The biggest change thus far has been me taking step back from the promotional piece and really spending time with the store, my staff, and my customers.  

Today's review comes to you from Nathan Chazan, and this time around, he's taking a look at Junji Ito's Frankenstein, a recent hardcover release from Viz. He's into it.

Junji Ito’s Frankenstein is a comic chasing a feeling, a vibe, one great impression gleaned from Mary Shelley’s novel and essentially nothing else. When Ito is not chasing this feeling, the comic falls slack, stiffening into the straightforward retelling of a Classics Illustrated, where pages upon pages unfold of men and women in stodgy Victorian dress and upright posture, discussing plans for weddings that I couldn’t care less about. Maybe I have a short attention span, but it often seems that Ito does as well. These pages are light, literally so - daylight leaves little room for Ito’s oppressive hatching, and it leeches away the distinctive character of his art. Without that gloomy labor, Ito could be any mangaka, and this is just a comic book of Frankenstein. But not for long.

Back At The Bronze Age put together another one of their perfectly satisfying posts of comic book ephemera, this one focusing on floating heads. Look at all those ding dang floating heads!

Abhay Khosla put together a random look at some old Frank Teran covers of the Punisher and The Terminator, which is the Punisher's spirit animal. I'm good with that.

A comic I really enjoyed this year was Young Frances, and I'm just catching this interview with the creator now. Good stuff.

 

 

Circa-Viable

Today at The Comics Journal, we welcome back our world traveling Matt Seneca, who stopped by the country of France to see what's been going in the land of late period Moebius. The result is a insightful delight:

The computer is very much in evidence here, its voice autotuning its creator's imagery into a place as different from "classic Moebius" as it is inextricable. The most noticeable change can be seen in the colors. I think the sublime flatting combinations Moebius assembled in his prime are at least as big a contributing factor to his enduring popularity as his rendering style itself. Without them, he's a talented psychedelicist with technical chops and a Crumb influence. With them, he was something else, something bright and glowing you always sensed should exist but no one else was able to show you. (Should you require more proof of the contribution color made to Moebius's career highs, and possess a strong stomach, check out the absolutely hideous recolored version of The Incal that DC put out in the early 2000s.) Moebius's hand-coloring approach (often in concert with the work of assistants) was never too complicated: establishing a striking color as a ground, he would build up shape and depth with darker and lighter values of the same tone before marking out the essential information a picture contained with a strong contrasting hue, usually combined with areas of white or black. In a modification of this approach, he would form a ground with pastel tones before using a bold color for pop. 

And today's review comes to you from Tegan O'Neil, who took a chance on the most recent installment of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips long running partnership, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies. It didn't go super well.

I struggle with noir precisely because the moral tone is unwavering and inescapable: these are stories about people who make the wrong decisions, consistently, and then hurt others as a consequence of their wrong decisions. Crime stories implicate the system that directs people into the arms of the carceral state. It’s hard not to read a story like My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and not be distracted by the ways in which the world has failed these people, or in which the world has failed by enabling them, in the case of the rich folks shipped off to rehab as opposed to prison.

Over at Women Write About Comics, there's a solid interview with Jocelyne Allen, a manga translator behind multiple titles that readers of this site will have come across.

Over at Dominic's house, you'll find an all-too-brief look at Summer Pierre's All The Sad Songs from Mr. Umile himself.

Over at Popula, you'll find their comics output increasing. I would recommend Lauren Weinstein's latest Normel Person, for a bunch of obvious reasons.

Over at Spiral Bound, you'll find their comics output at about the same. The new Gabrielle Bell comic "Manifestation" is exceptional.

It's time for your Trevor Von Eeden alert!

This is the most upsetting thing I can recall happening to a fictional comic book character when it was brought into another form of entertainment that I can recall in my lifetime. 

This put me in a better mood.

 

 

Only a Day Away

Today on the site, Cynthia Rose is back with an in-depth interview with the Flemish artist Brecht Evens, who has a new major book out in Europe (which will be released in English next year), and a Paris exhibition opening this weekend.

The book's real gamble, Evens suspects, is its plentiful text. This includes long and fantastic disquisitions, almost all of which are voiced by secondary characters. These work in tandem with the reactions they elicit. But, from an artist with less confidence in his writing than his visuals, they constituted a leap. "Maybe it was risky to have put some of that in. For instance, starting Victoria's story with a four-page dialogue – more like a monologue – where one of her friends is relating a dream... What he's saying doesn't matter in any narrative way, it's there to bring out the characters of those who are listening."

Most of the longest soliloquies come from a taxi driver. "Those are little, contained nuggets of fiction-in-the-fiction. While the characters listen to them they are protected, they're safely ensconced in the carapace of that cab. But they're soaking in what we think adventure is. The build-up to it is almost like a joke, because every protagonist ends up asking the very same question... and it provokes the taxi driver to improvise."

Evens' chief concern was balance, maintaining the book's pace while preserving its equilibrium. "I paid attention to how I drew every character. That isn't necessarily a matter of — for example — whether they are listening or not listening. If you take a trick like making the face disappear, that will have some kind of closed and distant effect. But, in different contexts, the same trick will mean different things. What kind of detail I put forward or hold back…by the moment of drawing, I've consciously thought it all out."

Some of the book's characteristics are less about the stories being told than about the author's view of reality. "When you see characters hearing or not hearing each other, that's not necessarily some kind of theme. It's more about the way I understand conversation. Even in a really good, focused interchange, if you listen back to it, you're probably talking through one another, each thinking of what you're going to say just as much as 'listening.'"

"A lot of people, when they write dialogue, just go 'A, B', 'A, B', 'A, B.' They'll have the characters neatly wait their turn. Whereas I don't think our brains really work that way. In reality, it's more of a constant traffic jam – even when we like each other and we're interacting well. When we're interacting less well, it's more extreme."

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—At Vulture, Abraham Riesman profiles Julie Doucet, on the eve of the release of Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, one of the most significant reprint projects of the year.

By chance, she came across a periodical called Factsheet Five, which advertised underground comics. It was a cornucopia for the curious young Doucet. She resolved to make her own comic and sell it there. “Factsheet Five had these tiny little ads and it was a world in itself,” she says. “I guess it felt like I was a part of something then.” She dropped out of school, went on welfare, and got to work.

The result was the first run of Dirty Plotte, which took the form of 14 short, mimeographed, stapled-together collections of absurd and obscene strips, released roughly once a month, beginning in 1988. “Right off the bat, she created a unique, fully formed world to explore,” says comics creator John Porcellino, who was one of her earliest readers. “She’s just a natural-born cartoonist.” Those early works covered a wide range of topics: you were just as likely to see surreal fantasies about women murdering men as you were to see a cute short story about a couple selling a dirty mattress as a work of art. These mini-comics also featured what is perhaps her most famous work, a strip called “Heavy Flow,” in which Doucet imagines a particularly copious bout of menstruation causing her comics counterpart to become a rampaging giantess.

—At the New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler profiles Eve Ewing.

In the past year, she has also published an acclaimed book of poetry; collaborated on a play about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks; and co-hosted the Chicago Poetry Block Party, a community festival she helped create. She also sold a middle-grade novel, coming in 2020; signed up as a consulting producer on W. Kamau Bell’s CNN series, “United Shades of America”; and began hosting a new podcast, “Bughouse Square,” inspired by the archives of another Chicago gadfly, Studs Terkel.

And then there’s her gig with Marvel Comics. In August, Dr. Ewing caused minor pandemonium on the internet when she announced that she had been hired to write “Ironheart,” the first solo title featuring its character Riri Williams, black girl genius from Chicago.

—And at his blog, Robert Boyd reviews some comics he's recently read, including titles by M.S. Harkness, Austin English, Summer Pierre, and Sara Lautner, among others.

I had never heard of Summer Pierre until I heard an interview with her on a podcast talking about All the Sad Songs. She described it as being about making mixtapes, which is a thing that people of a certain age used to do, me included. She depicts herself now (a woman in her 40s, I think) with a streak of white in her hair. (I looked up her photo online, and while she has some grey, she doesn't have a streak of white--that was presumably an artistic device to help the reader distinguish now Summer from young Summer). She talks about how she made mixtapes for herself, her friends, boys she had crushes on and even her parents while she was in college. She lists the contents of some of them, and her tastes were eclectic but unformed. But in 1994, she hears Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville and Hole's Live Through This and they change her world. She becomes obsessed with girls with guitars and gets one herself and teaches herself the rudiments. Shortly after that, she meets Tom, who becomes a serious boyfriend for her. She's living in Boston and going to open mic nights to play her songs, becoming familiar with the singer-songwriters on the scene. She does a great job depicting this subculture, but what she really does well is depict her terrible relationship with Tom, who is kind of a cad.

 

Week’s End

Today on the site, Kim Jooha returns with the first installment (or second, depending on how you look at it) in a series of interviews with Toronto-area cartoonists and other members of what is called the comics community. This time, she speaks to artist Patrick Kyle.

I have been frustrated with reviews of Don’t Come In Here. People say, “Oh, it’s about being alone and sad in modern society!” Yes, it is, but also there’s much more-

People will either get it or they are not going get it. It doesn’t bother me.

I mean, your work is unique in how you present your ideas visually, but I think you don’t get enough credit for it. I worry that critics don’t have enough or good understanding. It's sad because we should cultivate this kind of work that studies visual language and representation. I want to see more work that takes care of these aspects of comics.

Thanks, I appreciate that a lot. I think a lot of people who follow me are more interested in me as an artist or an illustrator, and maybe don’t really know me for my comics work, and I don’t often feel like a comics artist. I’m part of that world, but I feel like most of the artists that inspire me are making fine art or illustration and are not completely comics work. Honestly, I haven’t been reading a lot of comics recently. I feel a little disconnected from the comics world, but also it doesn’t bother me.

I was wondering if you get frustrated—

No, not at all. I’ve been really lucky in my career. I’m not the most famous or popular artist or whatever but I don’t know, who is? It doesn’t matter. I would still be super-lucky to be in this situation I’m in.

I have such an amazing publisher, mentor, support from Annie [Koyama]. I’ve just been really lucky in the school I got to go to; the space that I live in; the peers I came up at the same time with. I feel so thankful for all of that. But if that support system wasn’t there, I’d still be doing all this stuff. It'd just be in a different way I guess. I don’t know if I would’ve found a publisher necessarily if Annie hadn’t known me.

We also round out the week with Day Five of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Over at the New York Times, George Gene Gustines writes about Paige Braddock's decision to put her strip Jane's World on hiatus.

The comic ... culminates with Jane and Dorothy sealing their union with a kiss. It ends on a note that shows how much times have changed since the strip first began. “When I started the comic, two women could not have been married; it would have been pure fiction,” Braddock said in a telephone interview. “This shows how much has changed for the L.G.B.T. community in 20 years. It’s sort of staggering.”

Braddock’s strip faced early rejections. One criticism was that “it wasn’t gender-specific enough,” she recalled. “Back in the ’90s, a comic about a woman had to be about topics that women would be interested in: kids, family, husbands and bathing suits,” she said. Undeterred, she began posting her cartoons on her own website as “See Jane” in 1995 and it built a following as it evolved into “Jane’s World” in 1998. The strip was published in some alternative weeklies and received a tryout in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Braddock once worked as an illustrator. In general, however, “mainstream papers considered ‘Jane’ too radical,” Braddock said. “I sometimes think I was just 15 years too soon.”

—At the Nation, David Hadju writes about Jason Lutes's Berlin.

Jason Lutes dedicated over 20 years to the making of this work of more than 550 pages of nuanced, exactingly rendered pen-and-ink drawings and dialogue. (According to Lutes, he was inspired to write about Germany between the wars after reading an advertisement for a photography book dealing with the period in The Nation.) He was not yet thirty when he started the first volume, and he was over fifty and the father of two when the final book was published this fall. Lutes spent the time well, crafting multidimensional, true-feeling characters in a set of stories connected by the unstable circumstances of their time and place. The events surrounding them are historically factual: the fall of the kaiser, the launch of the Hindenburg, the debates over Marxism in Marx’s homeland, the sexual and cultural freedoms of the Weimar age, and the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. What Lutes contributes to the exhaustively documented, utterly familiar history of this time is a set of fictional characters from everyday life who ground the period with such intimacy and so much veracity that we feel as if we’re seeing it through new eyes, observing it so closely that we feel it directly.

 

Evil Empires

Today on the site, we present a look at recent work by underground legend Dan O'Neill, from the writer who literally wrote the book on him.

To answer the most frequently asked question by people who have read my saga of [O'Neill's fight with Disney] (The Pirates and the Mouse (Fantagraphics)) but have not kept up with O'Neill since: “No, he isn’t dead.” The rootin’, tootin’ embodiment of outlaw cartoonist, whose Odd Bodkins was the first syndicated strip to oppose the Vietnam war and champion drugs, who besides standing up to the Disney Death Star, rode with the Mitchell Brothers against Dianne Feinstein, dropped in on Wounded Knee and Belfast, and egged the Queen of England’s flagship, still lives in Nevada City. He has contributed to fringe publications here and there, The Anderson Valley Advertiser, Berkeley Daily Planet, and Downieville’s Mountain Messenger, for three. He has had his personal papers collected by the University of California. He is prepared to relaunch Odd Bodkins “in whatever newspaper has the nerve to print it.” And in a bit of real life surrealism that makes Salvador Dalí's watches look like they were manufactured by Timex, he has served on the board of directors of America’s oldest gold mine.

This last experience shapes his book. Write (and/or draw) what you know is a useful instructive, especially when you mince this knowledge with a consciousness as outrageous, original, and damned funny as O’Neill’s.

We also have Day Four of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Abraham Riesman talks to Marv Wolfman and Klaus Janson while writing about the evolution of Marvel's Bullseye.

I call [Wolfman] up to discuss Bullseye, the iconic supervillain he co-created for Marvel Comics with artist John Romita Sr. in the mid-1970s. “I’m writing a piece about Bullseye,” I tell Wolfman over the phone. “He’s one of the lead villains in the new season of Daredevil, so …” Before I can finish the sentence, Wolfman interjects: “He is?”

“Yeah!” I say. “No one told you?”

“No, no,” Wolfman replies, matter-of-factly. “Nobody told me. I mean, several fans said that, but they’d been saying that for months, so I assumed that was a rumor. I’ve been away for the last two weeks at conventions, so I haven’t been able to check the boards. I assumed it was a rumor.”

—A statistician named Bethany Lacina took to Twitter to make a mathematical case that the intuitive understanding of why Chuck Wendig got fired by Marvel is probably correct: that he was targeted by Comicsgate-affiliated accounts.

—One of the great translators, Anthea Bell, who worked on Freud and Kafka as well as Asterix (the relevant title for TCJ purposes) has died.

She first began translating Asterix in 1969, coming up with some of its best jokes and puns. In her version, Obelix’s small dog Idéfix became Dogmatix, and the druid Panoramix became Getafix. The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation describes her work on Asterix as ingenious and superbly recreated, displaying “the art of the translator at its best”.

 

What Did He Say

Today on the site, we have Day Three of the Cartoonist's Diary of Vassilis Gogtzilas.

Brian Nicholson is here, too, with a very unimpressed review of the Brazilian cartoonist Daniel Semanas's Roly Poly: Phanta's Story.

Ours is a culture that is both deeply sexist and increasingly shallow, where a widely-held prejudice assumes any woman of a certain level of attractiveness to be the most shallow of all. Impressively stylish yet bereft of meaning, Daniel Semana’s Roly Poly embodies this worldview more readily than any other entertainment I can recall: So much of its style is based around signifiers of femininity, and the only way I can imagine an argument justifying its ridiculous vacuity would be on the grounds that it is somehow satirical. I know there are plenty of people who object to Bret Easton Ellis and the like on the basis that replicating shallowness for supposedly satirical ends is inherently unsatisfying as literature, but let me make it clear that Roly Poly doesn’t read like a postmodern novel where the characters are bereft of depth. It reads like the storyboards for a soda commercial that’s inexplicably ten minutes long.

If you haven’t read the book, you’re probably wondering how literally I mean that. Well, it begins with a woman buying soda. This is Phanta. That’s presumably pronounced like Fanta, which you probably know is indeed a soda brand. It has no relation to Fantagraphics, the publisher of this book, that I know of. Phanta’s who the book will follow for the rest of its pages, after she is asked if she wants “grape or orange,” two of the fruit flavors the real Fanta brand offers, and responds, “Guess.” The fictional soda she’s purchasing is also called Phanta, and their corporate logo is also the icon on her Instagram profile. So it’s kind of like the book is about the personification of soda. What is the personality of a human soda? Well, the back cover copy, reprised inside the book so it’s canon, says, “Phanta is fearless and persistent. She says life should be played on hard mode.” This is more like the sort of ad copy that would be used for an energy drink, but there you go.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. At the New York Times, Hillary Chute reviews new comics from Riad Sattouf, Molly Crabapple, and Don Brown.

It’s as if violence is its own country, free-floating and borderless, which Riad ends up visiting more and more. In one of the book’s strangest, most ingenious sequences, Sattouf dedicates four and a half red-and-black saturated pages to a detailed comics-form rendition — like a mini-“Classics Illustrated” — of the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian,” in which Conan ultimately beheads a man who claims to be his father. Riad and his cousins watch on television, rapt. Later we see — in the icy blue tones of France — how this connects to Riad’s love of cartooning, and even his talent: A panel shows him drawing Conan amid lopped-off body parts, as the book foregrounds his burgeoning artistic ability. “I drew lots of scenes of barbarism,” the narration reads. “I enjoyed the savagery.” If Sattouf grew up inspired to draw versions of violent fantasy movies, eventually he came to draw the violence of his own childhood.

At Your Chicken Enemy, Rob Clough writes about Keiler Roberts' Chlorine Gardens.

...because Roberts' work is predicated upon small, subtle changes over time introduced with little fanfare, it requires a careful look at her comics in order to see precisely how she's evolved as an artist since her early days. The key to understanding her work is that though she talks about subjects that are sometimes quotidian and sometimes deeply personal and serious, Roberts always thinks like a performer. However deadpan she might be on a page, she tends to think of whether or not an audience might find this interesting or funny. I recently interviewed her as part of a panel at SPX on writing about having bipolar disorder, and when she really went off on a subject, she was hilarious. Her success as a humorist is a reflection of her overall wit and ability to think on her feet, combined with a sense later of how to capture moments like that on the page. She's not flashy as a performer or cartoonist and reminds me a great deal of Gabrielle Bell in that regard, only Roberts' perspective and subject matter is completely different. That said, they both seek to entertain their audiences.

That's why Roberts was initially reluctant to talk about having bipolar: she thought it might bore her audience. Powdered Milk was initially built on the wacky things that her young daughter Xia said and did, giving her an incredible amount of cute-kid material. However, Keiler's depression couldn't help but bleed through in her early work as she frequently drew herself crying without any context. Ultimately, she decided it was an important thing to share and naturally found ways to draw humor from depressive episodes later, as she was able to think about them from a different perspective. At that SPX panel, she joked that she made sure to develop a new disease or condition for each new book. Miseryland introduced bipolar, while Sunburning explored that further and introduced a host of neurological problems. Her new book, Chlorine Gardens (Koyama Press) introduced Multiple Sclerosis to the mix, and she joked that her next book will be about ringworm.

—Interviews. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Keren Katz.