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Burn or Jump

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got a couple of throwbacks for you. The first is the newest installment of Ice Cream For Bedwetters,  Tegan O'Neil's super-hero focused column, which takes a look at some old Wolverine comics from a very particular era in that character's history. Like that character (who is currently returning to the dead, thanks to Charles "A Lawyer" Soule), Tegan's got some changes planned.

I’m also inching closer to an end for what I’m doing here. Not this column, hopefully, but the specific project of this first year, a set of pieces written in a reflective mood, big on first-person pronouns and belly-button lint. The second year will be completely different. I get restless if I do the same thing for too long, I learned that from teaching.

This style has come in handy, however. You see, I underwent a change recently. It doesn’t really matter for the present purposes what that change was – we all change, after all, the experience of change is what’s universal. (Even if my change was a bit more drastic than most.) We’re all changing just by being alive and breathing the same blessed atmosphere. Not a novel observation but nonetheless a true one.

Our next throwback is to 2002--and to be more specific, to Ron Evry's original Comics Journal review of Jason Lutes' first collection of Berlin stories. In recognition of the recent conclusion of Jason's 20 year series (and to whet your appetite for our review of the now complete edition), we'll be pulling Berlin content from the archives for the next few weeks. In no small part, it will be because of paragraphs like these:

It seems a shame that an artist such as Jason Lutes cannot sell enough copies of this masterpiece to make producing it his full-time profession. It is obviously a life’s work, and hopefully will be enough of a commercial success for him to produce it for many more issues. The eighth issue of the comic book came out in December of 2000, and there hasn’t been another new one since. He has drawn an Ed Brubaker-written comic book called The Fall, also published by D&Q, which is diverting and intelligently done, but it isn’t Berlin. There are a projected 400 more pages to go in the series. If readers have to wait eight or nine more years to get them, then that is testimony to the fact that something is terribly wrong with the comic industry and needs fixing.

It can't all be old school material though, I hear you. And is there anything more 2018 than a hugely popular manga series spawning a tie-in series? If there is, I haven't heard of it! Thankfully, we've got just the cat for that bucket of slop: Alex Hoffman, who is here to pass judgment on My Hero Academia: Vigilantes #1. Today's Comics Journal review, now:

The premise of the comic is that the world is super powered - over time, humans started developing "Quirks" that give them unique powers, and these "Quirks" have become more and more common. Due to the rise of superpowers, superpowered crime is a major concern, and so the government has created a “Hero Licensing System” that allows people with Quirks to register with the government and fight crime as a job.

If you’re not completely immersed in Japanese comics, you’re probably thinking “Quirks sound a lot like the mutants in X-Men,” and you'd be right. The My Hero Academia universe is deeply indebted to modern American superhero comics, and it is clear that the series’ creator Kohei Horikoshi holds American superhero comics in high regard. But those influences are a sort of subtext for the original comic; the structure of My Hero Academia is based around the traditional Japanese school year and other Japanese constructs that make the series unique and not just a New Mutants knockoff.

We've got an interview with editor Frederick Luis Aldama coming to these digital pages very soon, but if you're in the mood for pregaming, head over to Comicosity for their dive into Tales From La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology.

As a whole, Latinx are a mix of bloodlines, religions, foods and more. This, sometimes discordant, mixture becomes more evident as you “zoom in” oo the country, family and finally individual. It is the internal and external culmination of years of forced and chosen assimilation. As diverse as we are, though, many of our stories share common themes, emotions, and life events. This commonality of experiences and diversity of being is laid bare in the pages of Tales from La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology. This new anthology is a collection of 80 comic book shorts by Latinx creators that visually share defining moments in their lives as a Latinx.

Didn't make it to SPX? Nor did I, friend. But never fear, they've already started uploading videos, and the first one is a 50 minute panel with Rebecca Sugar. You can keep this page bookmarked (if you didn't already bookmark it back in 2011) to get all the latest updates.

How much should I pay for a cassette tape of New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies? I'm having a hell of a time deciding.

 

Nap Time

Today on the site, TCJ legend Joe McCulloch returns with an interview with one of the greatest living cartoonists, Jim Woodring. As usual with Woodring, things get into deep water pretty quickly.

Virtually every other thing I've done besides Frank has been consciously constructed, but with Frank, it was a matter of listening to this silent voice and writing down the scenarios it fed me. I mean, I know the Unifactor is a part of me, but it really seems to me to be a separate entity that provides concepts, characters and events which I write down as they come. The important ideas, the ones essential to the story, have a kind of charge to them-- I usually say they "fluoresce” as a simile, because they seem to me to be lit by an invisible source. I would compile these glowing ideas as they came and when that was done I had a bare-bones storyline that I just needed to flesh out and draw, the meaning of which was as mysterious to me as it was to anyone else. It was the easiest work I ever did.

After I had gotten a few pages into Poochytown, I had a really terrible idea which I mistook for a really great one, which is that Frank ought to have a life partner, a mate. The Poochytown story had come so easily that I was a little suspicious of it. It all just came in two or three sittings without any major structural editing required. I was looking at the prospect of drawing 100 pages of a comic which looked kind of weak and tedious to me, and I just persuaded myself that I should drop the original storyline and have Frank find true love.

And so I broke with precedent and started writing that story, and the Unifactor stopped cooperating with me. It took me almost a year to hammer out even a workable story, and I should have grabbed the old clue train and gone back to the original story; but I stubbornly forged ahead. When I had that finally worked out and was preparing to draw it, the Unifactor came back into my life and made some heavy modifications to the storyline, all of which I liked better than what I had come up with.

Shea Hennum is here, too, with a review of Flocks by L. Nichols.

A memoir, Flocks emphasizes Nichols’ relationships with various flocks—communities of people that share some moral scheme and attempt to impose it on even the most reluctant of members. These include the religious communities of his youth, the secular communities of his college years, and the queer communities that he moves in and out of throughout his life. Nichols is a trans man assigned female at birth—a fact that motivates a lot of the tension in his life. At first, he is confused about his sexuality, attracted, as he is, to both men and women. He isn’t sure what to make of these desires—where they come from or what to do about them. For a time, he believes himself to be a lesbian, which causes some internal friction when his desire and the moral beliefs he has been inculcated into are at odds. This friction is exacerbated by his fellow congregates’ stances on homosexuality, and ultimately his religious community ends up causing him a great deal of turmoil. This turmoil is quelled somewhat by the community he finds at M.I.T., but those communities come with baggage of their own, moral prescriptions of their own. Nichols seeks some resolution in these seemingly-open secular communities, but they cannot give him the answers he longs for. This results in an inward turn, a search for the problematic kernel within himself that he can excise and feel better. This takes the form of periods of deep depression, of self-medication and self-harm. By the book’s end, however, Nichols has come to understand himself better and his conclusion to this story gestures towards a happier, more fruitful future.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This weekend's SPX brought with it the announcement of this year's Ignatz Award winners. Richie Pope, Eleanor Davis, and Sophia Foster-Dimino took three of the top prizes.

The first trial date for Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie's lawsuit against Infowars and Free Speech Systems has been set for next July.

Furie sued [Alex] Jones’ two companies in March, alleging copyright infringement and seeking unspecified damages. He also seeks a permanent injunction barring unauthorized use of the image by assorted factions of the racist “alt-right.”

Furie has said he sued because he’s “dismayed by Pepe’s association with white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and the alt-right,” including unauthorized use of the image by President Donald Trump and his supporters, including Alex Jones.

—Interviews & Profiles. Over at Paste, Hillary Brown also talks to Woodring.

The Los Angeles of my youth was a confluence of post-war triumphalism, a tech boom, the ascendency of youth culture, television, transistor radios, beatniks, surfers, hotrodders, air travel in jets, MAD, Muhammad Ali, The Beatles, going to the moon, optimism and exuberance. Gas was cheap, like 17 cents a gallon; for a dollar you and your pals could hop into the old Dodge and drive to the beach, the mountains, the desert, Hollywood. So there was this tremendous atmosphere of freedom, and plenty, and the clear understanding that you were living in a golden age of music, humor and culture in general. I grew up seeing the world through that lens.

Of course it was also a horrible time in many ways. The Cold War paranoia thing was really awful…it bent me for life. I grew up in Burbank and Glendale. Both were lily-white at the time, especially Glendale, which at one point had a sundown law. If I saw a Black person on the streets of Glendale I knew they worked for someone there or were just passing through. Institutionalized racism was a relentless sour note that contaminated everything.

At Smash Pages, Alex Dueben talks to Carol Tyler.

The last section of the book, in red ink on notebook paper, is a reproduction of the booklet you made in 1965.

Exactly. I couldn’t just make a copy cause I had written back to back and the ink showed through from the front to the back, so I just wrote it over. It was great because I started thinking about the concert. I read it over and over I was playing all kinds of Beatles songs. I was a nutcase. I was in my 13-year-old mind, and I just banged that out. It was so much fun. [laughs]

You did those pages on notebook paper, but the rest of the book is on your dad’s old stationary.

From their old plumbing business. [laughs] My mom was not going to allow us to buy new stuff. Ever. We had to reuse and reuse.

Adrian Tomine drew the latest New Yorker cover, and talked briefly to Françoise Mouly about it.

Sometimes a cover image will just appear in my mind, fully formed. In other cases, I’ll have the vaguest semblance of an idea but no sense of how to turn it into a cover. Those movie-set trailers are a good example of this. I’d drawn them in my sketchbook a long time ago, and I knew they were an ubiquitous, specific part of New York life, but I didn't have a story beyond that. Then, a few years ago, I decided to try my hand at screenwriting, and in a particular moment of frustration and despair this image popped into my mind. The apron on the back of the chair was a spur-of-the-moment addition while I was sketching, and I think that was the last piece I was looking for.

The latest guest on the Comics Alternative podcast is Summer Pierre.

 

The Phase

Today at the Comics Journal, Alec Berry has everything you need to know about what went into the $20,000 fund created by SPX to assist the 11 comic book professionals named in the Cody Pickrodt defamation lawsuit we covered a few weeks ago.

On Monday, August 27 Warren Bernard, executive director of the Small Press Expo, emailed a receipt to 11 different inboxes. A retainer of $4,750 was paid to the New York law firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC — the same firm that represented actress Paz de la Huerta in 2017 after she accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. He wanted the recipients to know. The responses arrived soon after. They conveyed relief and thanks. It had been understood this assistance was coming, yet it was a different thing when it actually arrived. The receipt meant the matter was no longer insurmountable.

The retainer was the first expense made from a $20,000 special fund created and administered by SPX with consultation from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The aim of it is to help 11 members of the comic book community mount a legal reply to a $2.5 million defamation lawsuit filed in early August by small-press comics publisher Cody Pickrodt. In October 2017, he was accused of rape, sexual harassment, anti-Semitic remarks, and withholding royalty payments by cartoonists Whit Taylor, Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan and Emi Gennis. Their stories were shared online via a Google Document, and the remaining defendants - cartoonists Ben Passmore, Hazel Newlevant, Tom Kaczynski, Jordan Shiveley, and Morgan Pielli; publisher Josh O’Neill; and comics critic Rob Clough - used social media to voice support for those coming forward and to denounce Pickrodt. Kaczynski’s business, Uncivilized Books, is also listed in Pickrodt’s complaint.

Following the announcement of the lawsuit, multiple parties linked to a partially truncated TCJ story from 2006 about the CBLDF's Executive Director, Charles Brownstein. We have republished the article in full, along with a new introduction by the author, Michael Dean.

Today's review is by Jason Michelitch. He's here to take a look at Perdy, the new graphic novel from Kickily and Image Comics.

Image now appears to be trying to make European comics art a more integral part of their publishing identity -- a recent promotional article on their website touts an Image-published "European Art Invasion," and while anyone not in Image's marketing department might crinkle their nose at the subtitle, "Channeling New Aesthetics Across the Atlantic," to say nothing of the article's clear implication that Image is on the cutting edge of integrating the legacy of Moebius et al. into the fabric of American comics, it's nevertheless a net positive for Image to be providing a new outlet for both original work and translations from abroad.

 

I Mean You

Today on the site, new co-editor of the print TCJ RJ Casey writes in to state his unhappiness with comiXology's plans to exhibit at this weekend's Small Press Expo.

At SPX, Amazon will be premiering a new comic in their line of comiXology Originals called Hit Reblog: Comics That Caught Fire. This comic, which looks slopped together specifically for this show, is purposefully showcasing Amazon’s new print-on-demand technology for the small-press crowd. A free poster and volume of the comic will be given to everyone attending and there is an exclusive signing just for exhibitors. This is an overt play to get you onboard and consider their POD tech for your future comics releases. Not happy with the downfall of our country’s entire retail sector, Amazon now wants in on that little zipper bag full of singles you keep under the table at conventions.

ComiXology Originals and Hit Reblog is doing what the tech industry almost always does — taking something that already exists and making it worse. What are they doing that is so innovative? Printing webcomics on glossy paper. Amazon wants to be your publisher, printer, distributor, and, most likely, editor. But consider the repercussions. The erasure of these services will decimate what little industry we even have. This is not to mention the hit on artistic freedom and intent. I’ve held a comiXology Originals comic in my hand and can assuredly attest that Amazon’s cookie-cutter mechanisms and printing knowhow cannot replicate the electricity of Lale Westvind, the human touch of Eleanor Davis, or the vulnerability of Xia Gordon. They won’t include things that make small press books unique, like the patch on the cover of Noel Freibert’s Spine, or the all-black-everything pages of Mirror Mirror II, or the amusing bells and whistles that adorn all Perfectly Acceptable Press publications.

Annie Mok is here, too, with a review of Jérôme Ruillier's The Strange.

Opening up The Strange, I wished there was more context given to the reader, but perhaps that is part of the point: you are thrust into a world that may be confusing and difficult to navigate, just as the protagonist is. Jérôme Ruillier draws the protagonist as a bulky dog with a vacant stare, maybe made that way from trauma, living in a a beautiful but oppressive world rendered in red and gray. The story begins with the dog speaking in first-person, explaining that he and his family have "decided to leave," without saying where they were leaving from. Ruillier juts you into the narrative sharply, with the dog, using money borrowed from friends and family, procuring papers from a "fixer."

The story then transitions to one of multiple perspectives: a crow watches him; a bus driver notices him and his coat, that "he wasn't from here." It is not made clear where "here" is, and the detail seems not too important. A "strange" becomes another name for an undocumented immigrant. The story seems to take place in Europe but of course it parallels the situation with ICE in the US right now. One protestor of the detention of a strange tells a cop, "Why do we have to break up the family?" Things turn more difficult for the unnamed "strange.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Harvey Awards have announced some of this year's winners, including their Hall of Fame inductees.

—Interviews & Profiles. Gabrielle Bell gives some pretty great, no-bullshit answers here:

WSWD: Comics is an art form that can require many years’ worth of work to make something that can be consumed in 15 minutes. Do you ever find the trade-off of time invested against the limited return to be frustrating?

Bell: I think that’s a false equivalency. If a comic I write takes 15 minutes to read and it’s a story of some meaning, perhaps that many more people will read it. So each person who reads it expands its reach and its impact beyond that individual 15 minutes.

WSWD: So you take some pride or solace in being able to reach a larger audience with a short, clearly formed idea.

Bell: Well, I’m not in the business of trying to make pride or solace. I make comics. That’s my job, and it takes the time it takes.

Rob McMonigal talks to the great Carol Tyler.

When I was thirteen, the nuns said, any time you have anything of any value or importance, you should make a little booklet about it. So of course I made my Vatican 2 booklet, I made one of being in the 8th grade, and then of course I had tickets to see the Beatles so you bet I was going to make a booklet about that, which I did.

I went to the concert. I wrote down the song list. When I got home, I dutifully wrote down all the things I could remember, all the details. I kept thinking “I’m going to make this booklet, I have to remember as much as I can.”Details like what were vendors like, some of the people I saw—it was like doing the Con here. Something phenomenal. I went home and I made a nice construction paper cover for it and stapled it onto my nice booklet. And like a spaz, I put it in a plastic bag, and I kept it for years.

The BoJack Horseman-related Lisa Hanawalt publicity blitz continues with a short Molly Lambert profile for The New Yorker.

“BoJack Horseman” is the love foal of the writer and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Hanawalt, whose comics provided the inspiration for BoJack’s look. Bob-Waksberg, who is thirty-four, is the self-described “son of two professional Jews.” He wears glasses and is balding, and has some beard stubble and a charming gap-toothed smile. His mother and grandmother, Ellen Bob and Shirley Bob, co-owned a Jewish book-and-gift store called Bob & Bob. Hanawalt has dirty blond hair and looks like John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” in sportswear. She is an artist who started drawing comics at “the age of six or seven.” Their friendship took off in high school, in Palo Alto, when Bob-Waksberg cast Hanawalt in a play called “The Family Continues,” which Hanawalt describes as “a super-surreal play in which I had to pretend to give birth onstage and stuff.”

The most recent guest on Process Party is Kickliy.

—Misc. Tim Hensley writes about the French publication of Sir Alfred.

When I was 14, I took French as an elective in junior high school. My teacher was named Madame Field, unrelated to the plural mall cookie magnate. I vaguely remember conjugating three basic verbs and learning about Guy, pronounced the same as Indian clarified butter, who appeared in sample conversations always seeming to have plans to go skiing.

 

Dog Whistle

Today at TCJ, we've got a dive into John Martz latest book with Koyama Press: Evie and The Truth About Witches. Careful what you wish for, Evie.

Our review of the day comes to you from Aug Stone, who has returned from the latest Nobrow sated

This is the first book of Nobrow’s ‘Gamayun Tales’ by Alexander Utkin. Gamayun is a playful and elegant “magical human-faced bird from Slavic mythology”, her love of having an audience for these stories evident as she keeps popping in along the way, providing links as we travel from battlefield to forest to the Copper, Silver, and Golden Realms. But the titular “King Of Birds” is of course the eagle, who needs nursing back to health after the aforementioned great battle. Enter the merchant and his wife, the most European-looking of anything in this book. Perhaps it’s the presence of so much gold mixed with talking creatures that puts one in mind of lysergic scenes conjured by Carlos Castaneda. The avian royalty certainly bear some resemblance to Aztec art – and the female fowl share the fluidity of Hanco Kolk’s Single leading ladies – though this goes to show how these stories are connected deep within the world consciousness.

The latest installment in Comicosity's Cómix Latinx interview series is up, with Lion Forge's Desiree Rodriguez dropping in.

I can’t say there was a single point in time when I was like, “yes I’m going to make comics my career” because there wasn’t. It was a slow-going process, a lot of learning, a lot of work, and a bit of luck. Joe Illidge gave me my first job as his part-time assistant working at Lion Forge on the Catalyst Prime line. I was honestly shocked. I always tell people that when he called me I thought we were going to talk about Batman and instead he offered me a job! Now I’ve been at Lion Forge for two years, working full time, editing my own books, I’ve been blessed really.

In keeping with the editorial theme, Women Write About Comics profiled Ari Yarwood, the editor behind the Limerence Press imprint at Oni Books.

In terms of the sex education aspect of the imprint, Yarwood explains that she had to make a choice when she was younger as to whether or not she’d become an editor or a sex educator. Limerence is almost like the best of both worlds for her; however, she does her best to “defer to folks who have more lived experience, expertise, and time spent in sex education when dealing with nonfiction,” in addition to the research she puts in herself.

The Jason Lutes Berlin coverage expands, with this profile at Pop Matters serving as the latest installment

"I started this book in 1996 based on this desire to know about history but also understanding that these forces were still present -- all over the world, but in the States even at the time I knew there were several hundred white supremacist organizations around the country. Seeing day-to-day racism and things like that in North American culture was just part of the way I understood the world. So looking back at history and seeing these same forces at work, like xenophobia and scapegoating… Things are hard for some people so they want to blame somebody else. Instead of taking responsibility for themselves for their difficulties they want to point the finger at other people and feel more powerful and more control by subjecting others to whatever controls they can manage. I think there's this basic underlying human capacity for those things, which has always been with us."

Don't ask me how I feel about Cable. I've already written and rewritten six different obituaries, all of which are too sincere and personal to share with you animals. Look, I knew watching the wifi guy break the company's publishing arm wasn't going to be particularly fun, but still--I had no idea how annoying it was going to be. Fucking Cable, man? What a buncha jerks. I hate everything about this illustration.

 

Overbrimming

Another full day at TCJ. First, Austin English returns with another provocative installment of his regular column. This time, after first revisiting an old artistic dispute between André Breton and Leon Trotsky, he argues against the comics world's preference for clarity.

It's exhausting to assert that William Blake's Jerusalem is a brilliant comic, even though such a statement is necessary and true. 'Why is this work not in the comics canon!' is a battle that feels laborious to even consider, mainly because the merits of such a work are so strong and the world cartooning has created around itself is so foreign to Jerusalem’s properties. The gap between the two feels like a hopelessly tattered and beyond repair bridge. Why bother? Energy is, pragmatically, better spent elsewhere. Still, one wonders why we don't see more comics work in the tradition of Blake, and instead see quite a bit of cartooning that, more or less, resembles Ben Garrison:

Ben Garrison, 2018

It would be disingenuous to argue that outside approaches to traditional cartooning are discouraged in 2018. In fact, they are more welcome than at any other time in comics history, as artists of all disciplines and concerns make comics for engaged readerships of all kinds. But when I think of how comics asserts itself outside of the underground, Garrison is closer to the norm than may be comfortable to admit.

Scott Bateman, The Nib, Test Your Kavanaugh-ledge, The Nib, 2018

The Nib, The Believer, The New Yorker, and most mainstream publishers that work with comics, while often publishing beautiful and innovative work, do not deviate from the same rule that their spiritual arch-nemesis Garrison holds dear: clarity. Some artists make transcendent work for these publications, mastering and making wide leaps within the realm of clear communication, the brilliant work of Liana Finck serving as a noteworthy example. And Garrison himself, while espousing ideas that most readers of this site find counter to their core values, makes thrilling work, precisely because it elicits such strong rejection.

Sean Rogers has also returned to these digital pages, with a review of the long-awaited English translation of Jacques Tardi's I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB.

A difficult task: to tell a story in which there is no forward progress, no momentum, just drudgery and suffering. In a remote Nazi stalag with no hope of escape on the horizon, no possibility of rebellion, misery and ceaseless repetition are the only traits that distinguish each day. For Jacques Tardi, these are the qualities he must convey, to capture anything of his father’s internment during the Second World War: defeat, privation, punishing monotony. The artist’s byword, repeated again and again in his Comics Journal interview about his new book, and often in his father’s narration therein, is “bitterness.”

René Tardi had much to be bitter about, thanks to the nearly five years he spent in Stalag IIB, sixty miles south of the Baltic Sea, in what was then Pomerania, following his capture in the French defeat of 1940. “His youth had been confiscated,” writes his son in the foreword to the welcome new translation of 2012’s I, René Tardi, Prisoner of War in Stalag IIB, a “visual reconstruction” of his father’s military experience. (The second volume, 2014’s “My Return Home,” will appear in English early next year; Casterman lists a third volume in French this winter.) A professional soldier well before the war began, Rene endures the ignominy of a quick surrender in the early going of I, René Tardi, while the bulk of the book tolls out his years of bondage, hunger, and disgrace in the miserable German camp to which he is exiled.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Yesterday, it was announced that not only will Amazon affiliate comiXology be a sponsor of this weekend's Small Press Expo in Bethesda, it will also be both exhibiting and passing out free copies of one of its new line of print-on-demand comics.

ComiXology will sponsor both programming tracks and workshops at the upcoming event, which runs at the Marriott North Bethesda Hotel & Conference Center this Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, it will be giving away print editions of Hit Reblog and a limited edition poster for the book, with a signing for the book scheduled for Friday Sept. 14 at 7pm for SPX exhibitors, guests and volunteers. Megan Kearney, the book’s writer/artist attending the show and tabling all weekend.

It is difficult to understand how one of only two trillion-dollar companies in the world could possibly fit within any possible definition of "small press," but I suppose there's something wrong with me for caring... In any case, Eric Reynolds seems pretty prescient right now.

This year's Joe Shuster Award winners have been announced.

—Interviews & Profiles. GoComics talks to Olivia Jaimes about Nancy.

How do you feel about the media attention that the reboot of Nancy has generated?

Grateful and humbled, which is a boring answer but true. Mostly, I try to pretend it doesn't exist, or I risk becoming incredibly full of myself.

How about the reaction among Nancy fans? Have you had much interaction with them since April? Do you pay much attention to their comments (we love your Aug. 19 strip about the "exact right temperature to leave a nice comment")?

I get a very filtered version of the general sentiment from my friends, but otherwise try to avoid all comments and will tuck and roll out of the room the moment somebody starts to bring them up.

This doesn't mean I don't appreciate having fans (I DEFINITELY DO); it's just that, if I read too many nice things, I really will become way too pleased with myself and comics production will grind to a halt while I preen at myself in the mirror. Meanwhile, whenever I read a single unkind thing, I'm bitter about it for the next six weeks. So it's really more efficient for me to pretend only my editor and my parents are reading these, and then occasionally hear that "people liked the one yesterday" from my mom.

At The Cut, Heather Havrilesky profiles Lisa Hanawalt.

I met Hanawalt at ShadowMachine in Hollywood, a playful but posh animation studio featuring a giant cut-out of BoJack and a sound room that’s shaped like a big silver metal helmet. As amiable young creative types meandered through the halls, Hanawalt’s very nice assistant brought me an icy-cold grapefruit LaCroix; then I was led to Hanawalt’s office in the back, which she shares with her dog, Indiana Jones, a charming medium-sized brown mutt with very nice manners. “I think she’s just what dogs look like when they have sex indiscriminately for a lot of generations,” Hanawalt told me in what I would soon discover is her typical low-key funny way of dropping punch lines into everyday conversation. Anxious to find a little suffering in this sunny picture, I asked Hanawalt if it was hard to go from the independent work of creating illustrated freelance pieces for the Hairpin and Lucky Peach to working with the self-proclaimed busy and important human beings of Los Angeles.

For The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly talks briefly to Chris Ware about his latest New Yorker cover, and looks back at the previous covers in his first-day-of-school series.

Five years—only five years!—since I was helping my daughter into a bike seat to take her to second grade, and now I could barely kiss the top of her head, though she could now kiss my wife’s. It’s cliché and it’s sentimental but it’s true: parents, when your child asks, “Will you play with me?”—do. Because one day they really will stop asking, just like you did.

Entertainment Weekly spoke to Dave Gibbons.

Do you have any closing thoughts about Watchmen’s legacy and how it’s influenced comics for better or worse over the years?
[Laughs] It is amazing to me that after all this time there is still interest in it. Alan and I thought we’d have a mildly successful series that would have its end and go into the remainder bin and that would be the end of it. The fact it’s kept on for so long and hasn’t been out of print is amazing. If it worked to the detriment of comics at all, it might be the “grim and gritty” approach was taken by other people in the business to mean “ah this is how you must make comics.” So there was a decade of grim, gritty, and nihilistic comics, which wasn’t what we intended at all. In fact, if we’d done anything after Watchmen, we would have done something like Shazam, something with a lighter, more humorous fable feeling to it rather than something dark and grim. I do apologize to the comic-reading public for all that misery.

The Comics Alternative podcast interviews Keiler Roberts.

—Commentary. At JSTOR Daily, Matthew Wills writes about how Walt Kelly's Pogo was frequently censored.

Senator Joe McCarthy’s appearance in the strip in 1953, as a malicious wildcat named Simple J. Malarkey, was a particular “hot potato.” In October of 1954—just before the actual McCarthy would be censured by the Senate—Malarkey made another appearance. This time, the editor of the Providence Bulletin told Kelly that if Malarkey’s face appeared in the strip again, the paper would drop the strip.

Kelly finessed this by introducing a character from Providence, giving Malarkey the line “nobody from Providence should see me!” before he pulls an empty bait bag over his head. This had the double effect of getting rid of Malarkey’s face and making him look like a Klan member. “Now we find we are kidded” the Bulletin’s editor admitted, moving the strip to the op-ed page, where satire was evidently permitted.

Finally, the New York Review of Books has published an autobiographical essay by Tsuge Tadao.

My comics have been turned into a movie. It’s titled Vagabond Plain.

The script and the direction are both by veteran director Teruo Ishii. Officially, I am “author of the original story.” But to be honest, I feel a bit guilty about receiving that honor. Upon reading the script, my initial reactions were “?” and “ … ” and also some “!!” My crude and naked stories had been dolled up and transformed into something bold and wonderful.

The script was super fun. Director Ishii had laced together a number of my short and medium-length stories, then embellished them with his own wild-spirited sections, to spin a yarn that is truly bizarre. I hesitate to call myself the original author precisely because I am so impressed with Ishii’s additions. His parts are the overall narrative’s true jewels. Had the script followed my manga faithfully, the resulting movie would surely have been too bleak. It’s presumptuous of me to think this, but I wonder if Ishii consciously set out to combat the darkness of my work.

 

Praying for a Nightmare

Welcome to Monday at TCJ, where we're pleased to share the first installment of the Fiffe Files. Longtime internet denizens will remember previous installments of articles like these at The Beat, Factual Opinion, and Fiffe's own Patreon: Well, now they're here! This month is Michel's dive into Walt Simonson's Fantastic Four. Read it on the biggest screen possible.

That's not all! Today's review is David Small's new graphic novel, Home After Dark. Nathan Chazan took on the 416-page opus and, the first line of his review is "One sequence in Home After Dark is truly compelling."

Only one? Yikes!

Over at Diversions of the Groovy Kind, they've thrown together one of those super-specific focused posts that always draw my attention: Behold, the opening page of every comic purchased by our author in August 1979.

TCJ Contributor Sarah Horrocks has a preview of her next comic up... at Bleeding Cool, I guess because British people work there and she's going to debut it at a UK comic show? 

Over at Broken Frontier, Robin Enrico takes a look at one of the many comics Noah Van Sciver is putting out this year: One Dirty Tree, his upcoming memoir from Uncivilized Books.

 

Cough Cough

Today on the site, Rob Clough reviews Taneka Stotts's Eisner-winning anthology Elements: Fire.

The anthology is successful on a number of levels, but its surface aesthetics are one of the most significant. In a book with 23 different stories and a wide variety of visual approaches, Stotts cleverly uses a single spot color (red, for fire, of course) in a book that's otherwise black and white. Sometimes red is used with overwhelming force in the course of a story and other times there are simply wisps and hints of the color. This smart editorial decision gives each story a common visual language, unlike anthologies where every single story look the same, both in terms of subject matter and technique. That was one of the biggest problems I had with the old Flight anthology series.

While some of the artists in the book work in animation, this anthology is also unlike Flight in that the focus is much more on the stories than the visuals. This is an anthology by cartoonists (some of whom happen to be animators), rather than an anthology by animators dabbling in cartooning. Elements: Fire has a nice rhythm thanks to its stories being around ten pages apiece, with some exceptions. Stotts follows some of the longer stories with two-pagers as a sort of aesthetic palate cleanser before transitioning back to longer stories. Stotts arranges the stories such that no two stories that looked alike follow each other. For example, Kou Chen's slowly-paced, naturalistic story about two tribes merging in fire to survive is followed by the cartoony, frenetic story from Maddi Gonzalez about a young witch. The former story is notable for its gray wash and subtle use of reds until the very end, while the latter is pretty much drowning in red thanks to its young firestarters.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The annual Comics Workbook Composition Competition winners have been announced.

—Brian Fies reviews a new book about Mort Walker. Jason Whiten, the author of said book, has posted several blog posts about Walker this week, including one about a 1964 comic book in which Beetle Bailey fights the Cold War in West Berlin.

—RIP Burt Reynolds.