Lost Cities

Matthias Wivel is here with a new installment of his Common Currency column. This time, he focuses on the latest book by Posy Simmonds, Cassandra Darke.

Cassandra Darke, the titular protagonist of Posy Simmonds’ latest comic, is the cartoonist's most heroic figure so far, the book an assertive step in the direction of more proactive social engagement, more upbeat than previous efforts but with the same cynical undercurrent. As in her previous long-form comics—Gemma Bovery was based on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Tamara Drewe on Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd—it wears its literary source material loosely if comfortably. Cassandra is a modern Scrooge, convinced of her own contentment in isolation, yet compelled beyond it.

Set in London, key points in the story appositely take place around Christmas of 2016 and 2017, between which Cassandra’s circumstances change considerably. She is the proverbial unlikely heroine: a portly 71-year-old art dealer running the business she co-founded with her ex-husband, who since married her stepsister and yet handed over the day-to-day to her due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. When we first meet her, she looks like the long-lost cousin of Grandma Giles, sheathed in a puffer coat and a low-set trapper hat. Roaming the holiday rush at Picadilly on a sugar high fueled by a box of macaroons from the Burlington Arcade, she is about to be outed as a fraud.

It turns out she has issued and sold unauthorized copies of a bronze sculpture by one of the artists she represents. According to her unreliable narration—Simmonds likes those—she did it to placate the market out of contempt for collectors who see only investment where she sees art. It seems clear, however, that the reason was mostly that she needed the cash in order to support her lavish lifestyle—her house in Brittany, her holidays in five-star hotels, her live-in housekeeper and her penchant for fine wine—in a field that for most smaller business owners are bringing diminishing returns these years, especially if they are unwilling to adapt.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Lone Wolf & Cub co-creator Kazuo Koike has died. We will have more coverage soon.

The pioneering comics scholar Donald Ault also passed away recently, which we also plan to cover more fully. In the meantime, the International Journal of Comic Art blog has republished a short memoir written by Ault.

In 1968 it was unthinkable to me that as a beginning literature professor, I could incorporate comic books -- especially Donald Duck comics which I had admired since I was a child -- into upper division and graduate courses at a major research institution. ... My mentors cautioned me against introducing the study of comic books into my professional profile for university teaching because, as Arthur Asa Berger has noted, popular culture studies were looked down upon at that time by "serious" scholars at research institutions. Drawing attention to my interest in Donald Duck, they said, would surely jeopardize my chances of getting (and keeping) a high-powered teaching job. Consequently, though I had been reading and collecting comics for over twenty years, my academic studies had sequestered me from comic "fandom" and the intellectual movements, especially in Europe, that had made great strides in legitimizing comics and raising their cultural profile through exhibitions such as those organized by Maurice Horn and others. I knew nothing of the various comics "clubs" formed at private universities including Harvard, and I was unaware that Terry Zwigoff (later the director of "Crumb" and "Ghost World") had already been teaching non-credit courses that focused on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics at the University of Wisconsin in 1966-1967. At that time it would have been inconceivable to me to learn, as Wolfgang Fuchs has remarked, that Donald Duck comics were already one of the "darlings of [European] intellectuals." Even though I was just across the Bay from San Francisco State, I didn't know that Arthur Asa Berger was teaching courses in comic strips using diverse analytical tools such as semiotics. In 1968 I did not yet know Carl Barks's name, and I feared the anonymous author, who I was sure had both written and drawn his own stories, had died, or certainly retired, since the steady flow of his comic book work had suddenly stopped in mid-1967, replaced at first by reprints and later by pale imitations.

—History. For Hogan's Alley, Jean Kilbourne writes about the sexual harassment and manipulative behavior she encountered during her experiences with Al Capp.

Brilliant and talented, Capp also was a depraved predator. In February of 1968 he was asked to leave the University of Alabama (where he had been invited to give a lecture) after being accused of making “indecent advances” to four college students in the space of a few days.[1]

According to reporter Jack Anderson, Capp told a young woman who had delivered some materials to his hotel room that he was impressed with her and discussed the possibility of hiring her to help produce the "Capp on Campus" radio series, then in progress. He began making forceful advances toward her and exposing himself to her. I was struck by the following: “Although she was not injured, she was sufficiently upset by the experience to be admitted a few days later to the university infirmary where she remained under sedation for several days.”

—Reviews & Commentary. Maggie Umber writes about how her company 2dcloud has survived health concerns and financial difficulties and other obstacles.

Before I got sick in 2018, Raighne and I got divorced. I relocated with him to Chicago, we collaborated on my graphic novel 270° and launched a book collection on our revamped website. I did all the touring for 2dcloud while Raighne worked four jobs. However, there still wasn't enough money to pay artist royalties, printer and credit card debt. Every week people dropped out of our lives, cancelled book deals, contracts. Our company shrunk down from a team of people to us and our publicist Melissa.

Any sane person would have given up, but 2dcloud was our baby. Unfortunately, 2dcloud cost us our marriage and me my health but it also brought so many wonderful and weird books into the world. We didn't want to give up on our baby.

—Crowdfunding. Bill Mantlo's younger brother Michael has undergone severe financial hardship while caring for his disabled sibling, and has set up a GoFundMe to solicit help.

My big brother is, and has been, permanently disabled for the last 27 years, and I willingly accepted the responsibility of being appointed his caregiver all those years ago.

I have been attempting to bring my brother home from the nursing home he has been placed in for the last 10 years. It has been a difficult struggle, filled with numerous pitfalls and obstacles, but I gave my word to him that I would do everything in my power to make it happen so that he could live out the rest of his life with dignity, and peace. It has become painfully obvious to me in the last few months that the powers that be will not let that happen.