Knee Jerk

Today on the site, Shaenon Garrity finally finishes her epic binge-read of the entire Homestuck saga. An excerpt:

  • Rose and Jane are evil now.  They got possessed by a bad guy.  I think.  People are powering up to planet-shatteringly extreme forms like it’s hipster nerd Dragonball.

    • Anyway, all the kids and trolls have a giant battle as a run-up to the even more giant battle against their bajillion final bosses, following the superhero/anime rule that the good guys have to fight each other before they can team up.  A lot of people get killed or partly killed and everybody’s planet blows up, and John blips back from being unstuck in time to find the universe in a complete mess.  Stupid teens with their stupid video game.


  • Never mind, they’re going to go back in time and fix it and make everybody less dead again.  It’s done more interestingly than the previous retcons.  Every time Homestuck repeats a concept, it does a better job of it, but man does it keep repeating.

    And Keith Silva is here with a review of Charles Forsman's Revenger and the Fog.

    Give Forsman’s Revenger comics a quick flip -- Revenger and the Fog is the second collected volume, paired here with a one-shot, Revenger is Trapped!!! -- and they appear as love letters to those twin arrested adolescent male thrill machines of the '80s: action movies and Marvel Comics. Think Commando and Cobra as well as lesser (greater?) flicks like Lone Wolf McQuade and Red Scorpion. Comics-wise Forsman channels Larry Hama and Klaus Janson at their workmanlike most awesome.

    In her review of a similar genre send-up, Anya Davidson’s Lovers in the Garden, Katie Skelly challenges readers “to read Lovers in the Garden back to back with All Time Comics #1 and see the difference between absorbing and reinterpreting genre versus trying to sell it back wholesale for laughs.” I may disagree, a bit, on what Messrs. Bayer and Marra et al. are after in All-time Comics, but Skelly, who in her own comics absorbs and reinterprets genre like a boss, is on point. She nails the nitrous hit nostalgia gives an artist while simultaneously undermining making art that’s on par with the beloved primary text. Forsman’s voice may belong to a previous era and he may wish he could've hung out in the ‘Marvel Bullpen,’ but he has to reconcile that impulse in order to say something relevant, personal.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere:

    —Interviews & Profiles. Jason Zinoman at the New York Times profiles the new cartoons editor for The New Yorker, Emma Allen, who hasn't taken very long to make her presence and sensibility felt.

    Ms. Allen has a sprawling set of responsibilities: She also edits the daily cartoons for The New Yorker online; works on video and radio humor pieces for the magazine; runs its humor Twitter account; and for three years has edited Daily Shouts, comic essays that have become one of the most popular features on the site. (According to the magazine, in the past three months, traffic to those essays is up 60 percent from last year.)

    Her ability to find new voices for Daily Shouts is what first drew the attention of The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick. “She was bringing in people and things that I hadn’t heard before, and sometimes you need to reinvigorate parts of the magazine,” he said by phone, adding, “We need to have a deeper exploration of the web, as far as cartooning.”

    For Jezebel, one of today's best writers-on-comics, Chris Randle, talks to one of today's best cartoonists, Jillian Tamaki.

    JEZEBEL: I was struck by how you placed “World-Class City” at the beginning of the book—you’ve made comics like that before, where the images are abstracted from the text, but I like leading off a bunch of short stories with a non-narrative piece. Did you have a certain effect or framing in mind there? Were the words written as a lyric?

    JILLIAN TAMAKI: It was placed there mostly due to the format—the story is printed sideways to achieve a “continuous flow” effect. The story “Boundless,” which appeared on the Hazlitt website as an infinite scroll, is presented similarly sideways. It was [Drawn & Quarterly editor] Tom Devlin’s idea to put them as the first and last story. Perhaps the physicality of turning the book is annoying or interesting? Like entering and exiting a space.

    At Artillery, Doug Harvey talks to Gary Panter.

    A lot of the comics I have done are formalist procedural strategies that I am exploring or playing out, which sometimes makes for unreadable comics. So it’s good to also do comics like this one that also try to entertain while following some rules to produce them. Larry Poons used systems to arrange the dots on his early ’60s work—that made an impression on me. And also the ever-transforming work of Paolozzi and Fahlstrom. So those are models out of fine art for my comics.

    Comics are different from paintings typically because they are trying to trap your attention for a while and take you on a little trip and maybe make some aphoristic point or joke. Painting is more of a shorter, arrested, indeterminate moment. A painting is a mood-influencing experience. The history of painting seeps in and the formalism of making and the abstract view and the processing of figuration if there is any, so painting doesn’t seem as linear to me. Though one can take strategies and apply them however you want.

    And finally, the latest guest on the Virtual Memories podcast is the man of the hour, Howard Chaykin. I haven't listened to that episode yet, but I get the impression that it was recorded before the recent cover controversy and public-relations debacle that Dan mentioned yesterday. Dan linked to many relevant and valuable sources, but I did want to also link to one other perspective I found particularly useful, Abhay Khosla's. Abhay wrote about the various controversies surrounding it in three Tumblr posts.

    I agree with Abhay about the potential value of offensive art, though this whole recent episode underscores one of the most important things to remember about creating it: if you're going to caricature something, you have to know what your targets actually think. In his FreakSugar interview (and those are three words I never hope to write again), Chaykin quite rightly argues that people should read material before criticizing it. (Incidentally, I don't think this argument makes sense when discussing cover imagery, which is the only part of a comic designed to be read out of context.) But Chaykin makes that argument about direct engagement only a few minutes after proudly announcing that he has made a solemn vow not to read any criticism about his work if written on the internet. If he hasn't read the critiques, how can he understand them? It's hard not to get the impression that Chaykin is fighting against a mediated phantasm. Chaykin could make better art—and better arguments—by dealing with the real thing.