Like To A Diver In The Pearly Seas – This Week’s Links

May sprinted out of the blocks this week, letting everyone know that it wasn’t messing around, as we’re not even at the halfway point of 2021 yet, so it’s time to dig in, find those hidden reserves of energy, and ride that second wind all the way to the finish line.

The endurance running mindset was in full force this week, as, pulling ahead of long-awaited book launches from Shary Flenniken and Barry Windsor-Smith, the gold medal for coverage from your mainstream outlets was handed over to Alison Bechdel’s new graphic memoir, as can be seen in This Week’s Links, below.



Moving right along… This week’s news.

• Koyama Provides has announced the latest recipient in its grant award program, with Georgia Webber receiving $1,000 that will be used for “creating a zine to describe my approach to creativity and health practices, both in my life and in my facilitating work with others.”

• Shortbox have opened up applications for June’s round of its mini-grant awards program, with three grants of £200 available to independent cartoonists - the deadline for submissions is 22nd of May.

• Last weekend brought the sad news that artist John Paul Leon has passed away, aged 49, following a long battle with cancer - a GoFundMe has been set up to establish a trust for his daughter. Ian MacEwan provides an obituary for John Paul Leon here at TCJ, and there are further tributes and remembrances of his life and work at NeoText, The Beat, and Multiversity Comics.



April showers ≠ May flowers… This week’s reviews.


• Robert Kirby reviews the vivid details of Darryl Cunningham’s Billionaires - “Cunningham’s comics journalism skills are unassailable. He has a gift for making the grotesque and unpalatable weirdly pleasurable. I was appalled and riveted and even amused throughout. Get this book, but for god’s sake get it from an independent bookstore. No One-Clicking, please.”

• Hillary Brown reviews the wonderful shocks of Shary Flenniken’s Trots and Bonnie - “[Flenniken] never takes it easy on herself, Even strips that are mostly just two people talking feature different poses in each panel, reflecting adolescents’ tendency to fidget about. Her titles are different each time too, which is appropriate for a strip that, in many ways, is about trying on different identities: bad girl, Girl Scout, sex worker, artist, activist, dutiful daughter, anarchist and more. That’s what 13 is, and that’s what Flenniken got.”



• Franco Giacomarra reviews the engrossing expressiveness of Paul Cornell, Emma Vieceli, et al’s The Modern Frankenstein #1.

• Noelle Reyes reviews the engaging education of Richard Clinghan’s Jenny & the Eddies.

• Dan Spinelli reviews the aimless fun of Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, et al’s Heroes Reborn #1.

• Jordan Richards reviews the ugly tone of Yoshifumi Tozuka’s Undead Luck Volume 1.

• Ronnie Gorham reviews a trio of first issues, including the informative vision of Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi, et al’s The Good Asian #1; the unapologetic humour of Garth Ennis, Goran Sudzuka, et al’s Marjorie Finnegan: Temporal Criminal #1; and the heartwarming chemistry of Victor Lavelle, Jo Mi-Gyeong, et al’s Eve #1.


The Beat

Avery Kaplan reviews the compelling perspectives of Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi, et al’s The Good Asian #1.


Broken Frontier

Andy Oliver presents a week-long celebration of Treasury of British Comics titles, and reviews:

- The engaging heart of Fred Baker, Colin Page, et al’s Billy’s Boots Volume 1

- The twisted delights of Simon Furman, Simon Coleby, et al’s The Vigilant.

- The satisfying satire of Pat Mills and Rafael Busóm Clúa’s The Best of Sugar Jones.

- The dynamic grace of Pat Mills and Christine Ellingham’s Concrete Surfer.

- The epic composition of Mike Butterworth, Don Lawrence, Ron Embleton, et al's The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire.

- The brooding twists of Chris Lowder, Mike Dorey, et al's The Return of Sexton Blake.



Gary Tyrrell reviews the varied scares of Abby Howard’s The Crossroads At Midnight.


Four Color Apocalypse

Ryan C reviews the stylistic subversions of Tommi Musturi’s Future, the sprawling sincerity of Carlos Gonzalez’ Gates of Plasma, and the pacing problems of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Reckless.


The Guardian

James Smart reviews the wild ambition of Barry Windsor-Smith's Monsters.



Megan N. Liberty reviews the shifting strengths of Manjit Thapp’s Feelings: A Story in Seasons.


Multiversity Comics

• Paul Lai reviews the fierce urgency of Nate Powell’s Save It For Later.

• Matthew Blair reviews the familiar horror of Cullen Bunn, Jon Davis-Hunt, et al’s Shadowman #1.

• Joe Skonce reviews the subtle world-building of Victor LaValle, Jo Mi-gyeong, et al's Eve #1.



Rhea Rollman reviews the absorbing brevity of Shigeru Mizuki’s Tono Mongatari, translated by Zach Davisson.


Publisher’s Weekly

Have capsule reviews of:

- The playful empathy of Héloïse Chochois’ The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human, translated by Kendra Boileau.

- The stunning nuance of Pablo Fajardo, Sophie Tardy-Joubert, and Damien Roudeau’s Crude: A Memoir, translated by Hannah Chute.

- The irreverent inspiration of Cookie Kalkair and Ophélie Damblé’s Guerilla Green: An Urban Gardening Survival Guide, translated by Edward Gauvin.

- The perceptive contrasts of Guy Delisle’s Factory Summers, translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall.

- The wry tragedies of Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson’s The Trojan Women: A Comic.



Ryan Carey reviews the singular joys of James Romberger’s Post York.


Women Write About Comics

• Louis Skye reviews the unabashed fun of Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli’s Alice in Leatherland #1.

• Masha Zhdanova reviews the lush drama of Jenny Laird, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews’ adaptation of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House.

• Lisa Fernandes reviews the charming wisdom of Jason Cooper, Robert Pope, et al’s Peanuts: Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown.



An awakening… This week’s interviews.


• Ushering in coverage of a new Trots and Bonnie collection, from TCJ’s archives, Robert Boyd interviewed Shary Flenniken about attending riots, taking care of a geodesic dome, and the various aspects of the Air Pirates - “I think, as a feminist, I just don’t believe in volunteer labor. That’s just the way it is. See, I come out of all this political stuff and … the whole communist ethic, this whole ethic … it’s not like I was in a serious communist situation, but I hung out with people who felt that you should be fed by the state, and you should work because you love your work. My feeling is that if you really love comics and cartoonists, and you really believe that comics are art and comics have value, then you will try to do what is best for everybody. You don’t ask people to starve for their art.”

• Back in the present, James Romberger interviews Shary Flenniken about the selection process for strips in the new collection, the realities of editing National Lampoon, and the socioeconomics of creating art - “Thank god the Air Pirates suggested that everyone find a comic style that they felt close to and use that. It was practical advice in many ways. One is the age-old practice of apprenticeship, working with an established expert. Another is that using the style of an unrelated cartoonist rather than one we were more attached to made it easier to take part in a comic jam. We wanted to make the jam’s final result seamless in both writing and drawing style. Using a common style and characters made it easier to achieve that. Still another factor is that it is important to develop our hand muscles. Trying to copy another style gives you a good workout.”



Chris Coplan speaks with Rory McConville, Declan Shalvey, and Joe Palmer about Time Before Time, collaborative processes, and aesthetic influences.


The Beat

• Rachel A talks to Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson about Across The Tracks, quick turnarounds, pushing back to tell the story that needs to be told, and avoiding speculation to depict Black history.

• Taimur Dar interviews Drew Brockington about Metropolis Grove, DC’s moves in the kids’ comics market, and keeping the opposite language of Bizarro accessible for younger readers.

• AJ Frost chats to Jeff Smith about TUKI, the origins of its pre-historic narrative, reworking the original form of the comic, and the new Golden Age of comics.

• Dean Simons speaks with Dave McKean about Raptor, the creative freedom of comics, apprehension over writing, and expanding out storytelling ideas from self-contained premises.

• Joe Grunenwald talks to Aubrey Sitterson and Tony Gregori about The Worst Dudes, space cats, terrible behavior, and comics catharsis.


Broken Frontier

Andy Oliver interviews Keith Richardson about the Treasury of British Comics, childhood comic collecting, balancing audience demands, and favorite characters.


The Guardian

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen talks to Luke Jackson and Kelly Jackson about Two-Week Wait, realities of the IVF process, aiming for a relationship-drama rather than a medical text, and happy endings.


The Los Angeles Times

Tracy Brown speaks with Alison Bechdel about The Secret to Superhuman Strength, transcendentalism and proto-hippies, bringing characters out of retirement, and the gift of being an outsider.


The New York Times

Robert Ito interviews Aminder Dhaliwal about Cyclopedia Exotica, the tiresome nature of NDAs, accepting one’s own funniness, and what’s most interesting about mythical cyclops.



• Etelka Lehoczky speaks with Barry Windsor-Smith about Monsters, refining a story over the course of 35 years, and avoiding comic-booky-ness and the opinions of comics theorists.

• Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Alison Bechdel about The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Charles Atlas adverts, different forms of strength, and the calm of a project coming to fruition.

• Terry Gross also interviews Alison Bechdel about The Secret to Superhuman Strength, trying to overcome your inner isolationist, exercise fads through the ages, and art influencing life influencing art.


Publisher’s Weekly

Brian Heater talks to Ed Brubaker about Reckless, working the superhero beat, the enduring appeal of crime fiction, and taking creative risks.



Daniel Elkin chats to Zachary Clemente about Bulgihan Press, pandemic postponements, providing a space for comics experimentation, and the behind-the-scenes aspects of comics production.



Ernie Estrella talks to Pornsak Pichetshote and Alex Tefenkgi about The Good Asian, the history of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, unpacking the Asian experience in America through genre fiction, and releasing the book alongside a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.



Emma Specter interviews Alison Bechdel about The Secret to Superhuman Strength, early anxiety about her work, exercise as a relief from cerebral life, and the time investment that real change takes.


Women Write About Comics

Dani Kinney speaks with Crystal Frasier about Gamma Flight, tabletop RPG archetypes, Hulk-lore homework, and the big picture and personal character details of superhero stories.



Writing the days away… This week’s features and comics.

• Here at TCJ, Bob Levin ushers in a long-awaited collection of Shary Flenniken’s Trots and Bonnie strips, documenting the comic and its creator’s histories, and where they parted ways until this recent return - “An admiral’s daughter, Flenniken had shared his postings around the world, before running away from her Seattle home upon graduating high school in 1968. After stops in Vermont, Key Largo, and upstate New York, she returned for commercial art school. By then a committed anti-war activist, she went to work for Sabot, an underground newspaper, which sent her as part of a team to put out a  mimeographed daily at the nearby Sky River Rock Festival, at which she connected with the cartoonists who would become – Drum roll – The Air Pirates.” Plus: bonus bookplate gallery.

• Writing for Berkeleyside, Michael Berry explores Richard Sala’s posthumous new book, Poison Flowers and Pandemonium, and speaks to his friends and colleagues about his work and life.

• Celebrating the arrival of Alison Bechdel’s new graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Katy Waldman, writing for The New Yorker, examines the through line of relationships in Bechdel’s work, while James Parker writes for The Atlantic on Bechdel’s meditations on the mind/body aspect of exercise.

• Tegan O’Neil’s The Hurting shifts focus this week from the X-Men with Rogue to the X-Men pre-Rogue, examining why the mutant team book as a concept will always be second fiddle to the characters that comprise it, and how these individuals began as caricature, before developing into a finished product thanks to one Chris Claremont.

• A couple of essays at Solrad, as Patrick L. Kennedy writes on Thomas Nast’s complicated history, as documented recently in a digital graphic biography, while Joana Simão views the pains of an art education through the lens of Walter Scott and Anna Haifisch’s work.

• Over at NeoText, Chloe Maveal celebrates May the Fourth in the orthodox manner, while Benjamin Marra presents the readable cover illustrations of Paul Gillon.

• Mike Peterson rounds up the week’s editorial cartoons, for The Daily Cartoonist, as political machinery remains dull, freedom of the press remains in flux, truth remains subjective, and pre-midterm knife-sharpening begins.

• For Women Write About Comics, Lauren O’Connor looks at the dichotomy of Marvel and DC’s female, teen archers, and where one hits the mark while the other whiffs the shot.

• Shelfdust’s superhero coverage coming this week from the letter B, as Steve Morris writes on a formulaic outing for Banshee, and Samantha Puc looks at the fatphobia that has colored this history of Blob as a character, while Justin Partridge examines Batman’s broken brain, before Spawn de Replay blasts the airhorn for letterer Tom Orzechowski.

• From the open-access academia file, for Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, Bevin Roue writes on The School-to-Prison Pipeline and Uneven Emancipation in Jason Reynolds' Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” looking at a recent novel from Marvel Comics’ prose line, and the literary history of Miles Morales as a Black character tethered to the baggage of white creators and publishing histories.

• Also on the academic front, Idrus Idrus compares and contrasts the original Japanese version of Gosho Aoyama’s Detective Conan manga and its Indonesian translation, and examines which cultural elements are retained and exchanged as a translation strategy.

• A few recent longform comics, as Satwik Gade explains the healthcare crisis occurring in India right now for The Nib, Jenny Ziomek continues NPR’s series of comics on teaching during the pandemic with a look at the difficulty in engaging art students virtually, and Galadriel Watson escapes through temporal distancing for The Lily.

• Last, but by no means least, Bubbles Zine #10 goes up on sale tomorrow, so you know the drill.



Exclusively in theatres… This week’s recommended watching.

• Kicking off tomorrow, at the time of publishing, this year’s virtual TCAF runs from the 8th - 15th of May, with a full slate of digital programming, including a Richard Sala memorial next Friday at 5pm EST.

• Also taking place tomorrow (at 12pm PT), celebrating the 60th anniversary of the “The Doctor Is In” sign first appearing on Lucy van Pelt’s psychiatry booth, the Charles M. Schulz Museum is hosting a free panel discussion on catharsis through comics with speakers Brick (aka John Stuart Clark), Gemma Correll, Ellen Forney, and Dr Ian Williams.

• Looking ahead to next month, running on 9th - 10th of June, hosted by City University of London, is a free conference on the interplay between comics and the colonial line, featuring a series of presentations and panel talks - registration details can be found here.

• Salt and Honey returned for a new episode of their YouTube series, as Leslie Hung and Sloane Leong got out the red pens and took a critical look at some of their old comics work, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

• A new edition of The Believer and Black Mountain Institute’s cartooning workshop series arrived, as Mira Jacob took viewers through drawing conversations, and illustrating the difficult things that might not have been said.

• Another busy week over at Cartoonist Kayfabe, as Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor celebrated more Barry Windsor-Smith classic lines, and then took a look at Batman: Animated, listed some great unfinished tomes, dipped into Jademan Comics’ output, and took a look at Jupiter’s Legacy ahead of the launch of the Netflix show.

• Noah Van Sciver hosted a fresh freeform cartoonist livestream, as informal chatting was entered into with David King, batch25's Andy P, Todd Webb, and Mama Lips, along with a whole heap of comics recs, new and old.



A lazy voyage down the ear canal… This week’s easy-listening.

• 2000 AD hit play on a new Lockdown Tape, as MOLCH-R spoke with John Tomlinson about editing The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic during a period of upheaval and less-than-greatness.

• Christopher Butcher hosts this week’s episode of Mangasplaining, as the team discussed Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s accessible food manga, Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine, and its feuding (and fooding (sorry)) familial protagonists, as well as its ongoing hiatus.

• A couple of appearances from Elsa Charretier, as she joined David Harper for Off Panel, and John Siuntres for Word Balloon, discussing November, and her new series of educational comics videos.

• Publisher’s Weekly’s More To Come put the spotlight on some recent graphic novel favourites, as Calvin Reid and Meg Lemke spoke about Keiler Robert’s My Begging Chart, and Bill Campbell and Bizhan Khodabandeh’s The Day the Klan Came to Town, before dipping into PW’s picks for Summer Reads.

• Gil Roth welcomed Darryl Cunningham to The Virtual Memories show, as they discussed Billionaires, his future book on Vladimir Putin, cartooning roots, and angry mobs.



That’s it for this week, back soon with more, don’t forget the importance of rest and recovery days, and stay hydrated.