The first person represented in Soft City is a baby, wide eyes and all. The book begins with the baby trying to figure out “what’s happening” as it gazes out a window surrounded by hundreds of windows just like the family’s own. While we eventually lose the outline of the baby, and their overarching thoughts strung across the page, the outlandish grandiose of adult life seems as if its been processed and regurgitated by an infant. As the parents climb out of bed, they’re already occupying their simplistic roles within the binary—the mother thinks “I must look for the baby,” while the father insists simply, “I must shave.” Soft City presents a dizzying, infant-POV understanding of our places in the world that is at once intriguing, and rather depressing. Every family in their apartment complex has one wife and one child, supporting their family by occupying the same job at the same corporation, Soft Corp. It seems that the only person who has somewhat escaped this cycle is their boss, who works in a private office, phoning in to his wife and kid who are somewhere on a beach, as well as the family’s child, who seems hesitant about this lifestyle.
Before the blurry “photo paintings”—large images based on family snapshots or magazine ads—that would establish his preeminence, Gerhard Richter experimented with another form of Pop: cartoon drawings.
Shortly after the Berlin Wall went up and the painter defected, or as he would say “relocated,” from Dresden to the West, Richter drew a series of images featuring a single protagonist going through an abstract landscape. Recently discovered in a 1962 notebook, these have been published by his archives in a facsimile edition titled Comic Strip—a sparely beautiful book-object that, like Krazy Kat or Little Orphan Annie, has a central character or rather an expressive motif.
In the late 1800s, London was swept up in the new craze of visual, satirical journalism. When Judy magazine, a twopenny serio-comic, debuted a red-nosed, lanky schemer named Ally Sloper who represented the poor working class of 19th-century England, it was one of the first recurring characters in comic history.
But credit for that character has long gone to the wrong person. Two people were responsible for Ally Sloper—and one of the creators has only recently been rediscovered by academics and comic fans.
New Yorker cartoonist David Sipress writes about maintaining sanity as an artist in the Trump era.
My own mental health has definitely taken a hit. From late last summer through early December, I drew a topical cartoon (the Daily Cartoon) five days a week for newyorker.com. I was forced to stay extremely well-informed in order to make jokes about the very stuff that was turning my head into a dark, scary place, and wreaking havoc on my digestive system. (It’s my habit to read or watch news during meals.) At night, I lay in bed, sleepless for hours, replaying the day’s events.
Best of all, perhaps, this exhibition lets the viewer see out of the eyes of one of Crumb’s women. The Crumb woman, maybe. Crumb’s comics are, to be frank, kind of sexist. He has also at times used racist imagery in his comics, to satirical but nonetheless unpleasant effect. The goddesses he manufactures are powerful but they’re not human. They’re iron buttocks, straining shirts. But Kominsky-Crumb is a person, and she draws through the experience of being desired by and desiring Robert Crumb. In this sense, the show is engaging and delightful but also, in a mutual kind of way, redemptive.
Bob Heer writes about some samples of the work of Dan Spiegle.
—Interviews & Profiles. Rivka Galchen profiles Mo Willems.
Last September, when I first met Willems, I had my three-year-old daughter with me. Willems, who is forty-eight, was wearing orange combat boots, black jeans, a black button-up shirt, and a dark floral blazer. He appeared to be about seven feet tall (though emotionless measurement says he is six feet two). My daughter has memorized much of Willems’s œuvre, an achievement that doesn’t greatly distinguish her from her peers. When Willems waved at her, she began to cry. “I understand,” he said. “It’s a big disappointment. The first of many.”
When did you start working together? RC: In 1972 we were living in the sticks. She had a little trailer and I lived in a cabin next door. She was laid up with a broken foot and was pissed at me because this other girlfriend had come to see me. So to placate her I said ,“Let’s draw a comic together.”
What was the reaction when you starting publishing them? AKC: I’ve memorized some of the reader responses: “Maybe she’s a good lay, but keep her off the fucking page” and “Let her do the cooking; you do the cartooning.” It was a real boys’ club.
Today on the site, webcomics columnist Shaenon Garrity returns with the long-awaited second part of her Homestruck binge-read.
Mea culpa. I confess to you, my brothers and sisters, it's been too long since Part 1 of my binge-read through Andrew Hussie's juggernaut webcomic-cum-multimedia-phenomenon Homestuck. My early cockiness was ill-founded. This is a long-ass webcomic that demands enormous dedication, which may explain why it attracts hardcore fans: cosplayers, shippers, epic fanfic authors and fanartists, and probably otherkin. There have to be people who believe they're literally Homestuck characters, right? I'm disappointed with the Internet if this isn't a thing.
This installment covers Act Five, which is at least as long as Acts One-Four put together and is in turn dwarfed by the even more massive Act Six. This is Zeno's Webcomic: I've reached the halfway point several times now, only to find just as long a stretch still looming before me. It defies Aristotelian logic, but so do most webcomics.
Meanwhile, elsewhere: —Interviews & Profiles. For the Irish Times, Una Mullally profiles Ralph Steadman.
One day in 1970 Ralph Steadman was out on a boat, covering the America’s Cup yacht race and feeling seasick. The illustrator’s companion on the waters off Rhode Island was the journalist Hunter S Thompson.
“Hunter was popping pills the whole time, and he was perfectly all right. I’d never had anything before. I said, ‘What are those things you keep eating?’ He said, ‘Well, they’re pills, Ralph.’ ‘What sort of pills?’ ‘Well, they’re psilocybin.’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘It just helps me through the day.’ ‘Would it be any good for seasickness?’ I said.
“This is where the phrase ‘Pay the ticket, take the ride’ comes from, because I took one. And, God, I’d never done drugs before or since. I don’t like them. I like wine, but not until seven o’clock at night. It’s all right as long as you know when to stop, like everything. The unfortunate thing with drugs is that once it’s in you it’s in you. Ain’t much you can do about it.”
I have this fine art background, and I’ve been inspired by a lot of design things. I love pattern making and beautiful images. When I was a younger artist, I wanted to master that. Before I wanted to be a cartoonist I wanted to be a textile designer, or a painter, or I wanted to be one of those people who mastered the way things looked. I figured I could because I was good at drawing, and I loved things that looked good. But I found that when I’m drawing comics, I’m working through a story. That’s something I fought against in my artwork for a long time because I didn’t realize I could combine those things. I didn’t realize I could combine my natural conversational storytelling, autobiographical instincts–which are probably stronger in me than my aesthetic ones. When I tried to be a designer or I tried to do beautiful things, just as beautiful things, they would fall short. They wouldn’t really do it, that isn’t where my skills lie. A lot of the stuff that you’ve seen that hasn’t been in books are things where I’m trying to work things out, [whether it’s] jokes, images, or how I draw. When I’m in the zone, I’m drawing from life, and I’m expressing a story. All the rest of the time I’m just grasping.
At the same site, Minna Gilligan talks to Hellen Jo.
As a medium, I adore comics because you, the artist and writer, are the master of the story, and because you have an intimate relationship with the reader. Comics are also so full of possibility—in terms of art, in terms of story—precisely because so much is up to you. There are no real rules, and if you are a DIY zinester, there are no bosses or editors or directors. You determine the outcome of your work. I also love that comics and zines are cheap and accessible, to both readers and creators. You want to make a zine? Sit down, draw it, print it out and staple it, and bam: You’re a cartoonist. The zine and comics communities are full of people who understand these facts, and it’s wonderful to meet and commiserate with other people who understand that holing yourself up in a dark room hunched over a desk like a dirty beast troll throughout the day and nighttime is a worthwhile and sometimes important pursuit.
Today on the site, Robert Kirby reviews the recent Spanish comics anthology Spanish Fever:
The talent roster in Spanish Fever ranges from well-known pros like Miguel Gallardo and Max, to newer artists like Ana Galvañ and Clara-Tanit Arqué. There’s a wide variety of narrative and visual styles, ranging from traditional underground comix to the ubiquitous European “big nose” style to work that would look at home in an American minicomic. In subject matter, the stories range from autobiographical, political, and quotidian to surreal and just flat-out weird. It’s an eclectic stew that comes together agreeably, making a good case for the vibrancy of the Spanish comics scene, though a few weaknesses keep it from being a truly top-notch compendium.
In his introduction, Eddie Campbell notes that the new Spanish comics all share the importance of authorial voice, i.e., that they feature characters that are pure expressions of the authors, beholden to no meddling publishers or corporations. Garcia’s forward to the collection extrapolates on this theme, offering a mini-history of Spain’s comics leading to its current artistic renaissance amid the country’s current economic crisis.
Lauren Weinstein's wonderful strip, Normel Person, has a new installment -- one of her best.
—Interviews & Profiles. At Forbes, Rob Salkowitz profiles Emil Ferris, creator of the upcoming My Favorite Thing About Monsters, which looks to be a major book.
“I spent the last 20 years or so being a single mom, raising my daughter in Chicago,” said Ferris when we spoke by phone. The daughter of free-spirited artistic parents, Ferris grew up telling stories and drawing in her notebooks, much as her young protagonist Karen does in the book.
Fourteen years ago, her life took an unexpected turn. “I was bit by a mosquito, and a few weeks later, woke up paralyzed from the waist down, unable to speak and had lost the use of my right hand.” Ferris had contracted West Nile virus, and her sudden disability derailed her career doing commercial art and industrial design.
She spent her days at the Art Institute of Chicago, determined to power through her disability using the power of art. “I became so invigorated that I began to heal,” she said. “I got some facility in right hand and started to draw more, first digitally and then with pen and paper.”
Is it true that you decided to begin your memoir after the Syrian uprising?
Yes, exactly. Because I had to help a part of my family still living in Homs. They wanted to come to France and were denied visas. So I had to go to the French administration and meet with people, incredible people, and I wanted to show how stupid they could be. But to be interesting, I decided I should tell the story from the beginning.
So there was almost a practical reason?
Yes, exactly. And also, because I’ve made two movies. My first movie in France was a huge success — French Kissers. And after this movie, I made another movie, Jacky in the Kingdom of Women. It was a complete failure. And after that, I had no more friends. My phone was no longer ringing. [Laughs.] It was incredible. So I told myself, “Okay, I have no more friends, my life is over, maybe everything is over for me.” And I asked myself, “What would you do before dying?” And I said I would write this story about my family and my childhood, and I started to make this book. So thanks, Jacky! [Laughs.]
As part of Black History Month, Allstate Insurance has produced a short video biography of Ariell Johnson, owner of Amalgam Comics in Philadelphia.
We have had to come to the sad conclusion that he is now effectively retired: he will produce no new art, and he is unable to attend conventions. Should this situation change I will happily announce it here.
He can still sign his name (in fact he was signing Kickstarter prints in the hospital!), and is otherwise pretty healthy and has good cognition. We expect to continue releasing signed prints, and offering occasional pieces of art for sale from the collection that remains. We both thank all of you for your continuing support and good wishes!
In an interview about his reading habits at the New York Times, novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks repeatedly about his love of comics, namechecking the Hernandez brothers, Alan Moore, Rumiko Takahashi, Osamu Tezuka, Adrian Tomine, and Gene Luen Yang, among others.
Comic books long ago predicted presidents like Donald Trump, in series like Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’s “Give Me Liberty.”
The more I read, the less clear I am about the difference between mini-comics and other comics. Consider the output from Retrofit, for example: are these mini-comics, standard comics, or something else? How much does the length of a mini-comic impact this classification? I will use Kurt Wolfgang's instructive slogan ("Mini-Comics: You Know 'Em When You See 'Em") and present my top short-form comics of the year, be they self-published, published by someone else, or (in a few cases) appearing on the web. The usual caveats apply here, as I've not read a bunch of key short-form comics from 2016 yet (Ganges 5, the latest Uptight, King Cat 76, Frontier #12 and #13, , Your Black Friend, and minis from Simon Moreton, for example.)
Krazy Kat has been described as a parable of love, a metaphor for democracy, a “surrealistic” poem, unfolding over years and years. It is all of these, but so much more: it is a portrait of America, a self-portrait of Herriman, and, I believe, the first attempt to paint the full range of human consciousness in the language of the comic strip. Like the America it portrays, Herriman’s identity has been poised for a revision for many decades now. Michael Tisserand’s new biography Krazy does just that, clearing the shifting sands and shadows of Herriman’s ancestry, the discovery in the early 1970s of a birth certificate which described Herriman as “colored” sending up a flag among comics researchers and aficionados. Tisserand confirms what for years was hiding in plain sight in the tangled brush of Coconino County, Arizona, where Krazy Kat is supposedly set: Herriman, of mixed African-American ancestry, spent his entire adult life passing as white. He had been born in the African-American neighborhood of racially mixed, culturally polyglot 1880s New Orleans, but within a decade Herriman’s parents moved George and his three siblings to the small but growing town of Los Angeles to escape the increasing bigotry and racial animosity of postbellum Louisiana. The Herrimans melted into California life, and it was there that George, with brief professional spates in New York, would remain for the rest of his life.
Inspired by recent political events, Bully has discontinued his currently running feature chronicling celebrity appearances in comics, and rebooted the year with a new series: defiance in comics.
—News. The New York Times announced that they will be discontinuing several of their bestseller lists, including the one dedicated to comics and graphic novels. Michael Cavna of the Washington Post (which doesn't publish a comics bestseller list) writes about the decision and some of the reaction here. Abraham Riesman writes about the development for Vulture, getting quotes from Fantagraphics's Eric Reynolds and Drawn & Quarterly publisher Peggy Burns -- and bizarrely using a spread of 1970s Marvel covers as the story's lead image.
Obviously the Times list provided a welcome marketing tool for smaller comics publishers, and in that sense, in which it becomes a bit harder to sell good comics, this is an indirect setback for the artform. But some online response from readers has seemed oddly personal and angry, as if the Times owes fans this validation. I think that anger is misplaced; the Times' inept regular coverage of comics is far more offensive than the discontinuation of this list. (By the way, the open dirty secret of newspaper bestseller lists is that they aren't exactly based on hard numbers. A great deal of what you could politely call "curation" goes on. So the list was never a reliable source of sales data in the first place.) The list's cancellation is certainly not a positive development, but a sense of perspective is always useful.
Jack Mendelsohn, the cartoonist of the great and short-lived comic strip Jacky's Diary, has passed away. Mendelsohn had a varied and well-traveled career. I've amended my Art Out of Time biography of him. It's here.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Mendelsohn’s ambition was always to be a cartoonist. His father, Irving, was Winsor McCay’s film agent, and the young Mendelsohn visited McCay numerous times. Mendelsohn also visited his favorite local cartoonist, Stan Mac Govern, and received an original Silly Milly comic strip for his trouble. A high school dropout and Navy enlistee, Mendelsohn began his comics career after World War II as a freelance gag cartoonist for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, and a script writer for dozens of funny animal, humor, and fantasy comic books, including Felix the Cat. Later, he wrote for MAD Magazine and its sister humor comic Panic. A restless, energetic young man, Mendelsohn moved to Mexico in 1951 and stayed for the better part of the decade, hatching Jacky’s Diary there as well.
Jack is remembered by Mark Evanier here and there are Facebook remembrances here.