This week the circus came to town, setting up a big tent emblazoned with the words ‘STAN LEE BIOGRAPHY’, surrounded by rickety stalls and dangerous looking carnival rides. I think every conceivable outlet had an excerpt from (and brief commentary on) Abraham Riesman’s new book, chasing that SEO, so if you’ve ever wanted to read 738 identical takes from the cheap seats on whether Lee was “a nice guy” then, cousin, business is-a-booming.
Other stuff went on in comics-land this week too, as evinced in this week’s links, below, but the real dog and pony show was the Marvel muck-raking.
Excelsior, True Believers!™
Happy Lunar New Year!! Here's something I made in 2015 thinking about the suffering of cows and my gratitude for their sacrifice pic.twitter.com/frLC6KmyDl
— Inés Estrada (@inechi__) February 12, 2021
All quiet on the comics front… This week’s news.
• Koyama Provides are back after a winter break, bringing more grant awards to artists, and this week John Vasquez Mejias has received $1,350, which will be used to “produce a second printing of THE PUERTO RICAN WAR: a graphic novel about Puerto Rican revolutionaries fighting American colonialism in 1950.”
• On the inevitable event cancellation and postponement front, The Beat reports on Anaheim’s WonderCon ‘21 shifting to a virtual event next month, and ICv2 covers Illinois’ Anime Central ‘21 cancelling outright, as vaccine rollouts take place across the globe, but not quite that quickly.
• Todd McFarlane has decided that Spawn is the loneliest number that you'll ever do, and has recruited some friends to launch three new ongoing titles dedicated to maintaining strong market interest in chains and capes, kicking off with Spawn's Universe - quoth the multimillionaire McFarlane: "I've been going up against the giants all my life, so this is me taking one more big swing."
• Meanwhile, DC Comics have started up their publicity machine for the return of Milestone Comics, now it seems to be definitely going ahead this time, as Publisher’s Weekly looks at this new revival’s inception, and Multiversty Comics have a breakdown of the titles to expect.
• The sad news arrived this week that writer Si Spencer passed away suddenly, aged 60 - 2000 AD has an obituary for Spencer, with details of his life and career, along with some of his thoughts on writing comics, while The Beat collected a selection of social media tributes from his friends and colleagues.
— Tom Gauld (@tomgauld) February 14, 2021
Eyes on the prize… This week’s reviews.
• Aug Stone reviews the impressive humor of Nicolas Keramidas’ medical memoir, Open-Hearted - “Such biographical information as working for Disney and his being called up for military service, coincidentally happening around the same time, are only given in relation to the main focal point of the story - Keramidas’ heart condition. We meet his family in much the same way during the first 26 pages that lead up to the incident in 2016 that necessitates his second operation. There’s a charming, and colorful, story about the origin of the scar on his chest, a fictional account of swallowing a marble, that nicely leads into the truth of the matter.”
• Tom McHenry reviews the quotidian tangents of Michael DeForge’s Leaving Richard’s Valley - “Formally, then DeForge's task at hand is to undermine the pretty simplicity of the earliest strips, to problematize the simple perfections, and this is where the book’s most interesting work happens. DeForge has honed the skills to let himself hit precise marks for things like lettering and body shape over and over again. The strip that opens opens cleanly and consistently -- a single location, a small handful of characters, a set line weight, a set number of panels, etc. But once the reader's been lulled into this world, things begin to break down.”
• Ronnie Gorham reviews the solid savviness of Eric Peterson, Joe Aubrey, and artist Darick Robertson’s Space Bastards #2.
• Ben Morin reviews the unrestricted narrative of Declan Shalvey’s Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1.
• Rory Wilding reviews the refreshed familiarity of Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, et al’s Scene of the Crime.
• Vishal Gullapalli reviews the soulless disinterest of Jeff Lemire, Jock, et al’s Snow Angels #1.
• Sam Rutzick reviews the heartless derivations of Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegowski, Craig Rosseau, et al’s Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1.
• Keigen Rea and Alexandra Iciek review the subversive horror of Paul Allor and Paul Tucker’s Hollow Heart #1.
Rachel A reviews the zany genius of Pierre-Henry Gomont’s Brain Drain 1 & 2, translated by Edward Gauvin.
• Bruno Savill de Jong reviews the kinetic post-apocalypse of David Pepose, Luca Casalanguida, et al’s Scout’s Honor #1-2.
• Andy Oliver reviews the authentic joys of Hope On: An Anthology of Comics, edited by Nithin Mathew and Sanid Asif Ali.
• John Trigonis reviews the colorful imperfections of Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald, et al’s Rogue Planet.
Gary Tyrrell reviews the heavy finality of Jason Walz’ Last Pick: Rise Up.
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C reviews the serendipitous success of Thomas Lampion’s Mothers Tales; the unexpected nonchalance of Steve Lafler’s Death Plays A Mean Harmonica; and the solid balance of Spiny Orb Weaver #1, edited by Neil Brideau.
Andy Lewis reviews the flawed perspectives of Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee.
• Kobi Bordoley reviews the sinister strengths of Jason Starr, Dalibor Talajic, et al’s Casual Fling #1.
• Robbie Pleasant reviews the lighthearted fantasy of Christine Larsen’s Orcs! #1.
• Christa Harader reviews the memorable jolts of Matthew Erman, Shelby Criswell, et al’s Terminal Punks.
• James Dowling reviews the generic optimism of Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski, Craig Rousseau, et al’s Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1.
• Johnny Hall reviews the varied laughs of Noah Van Sciver's Please Don't Step On My JNCO Jeans.
• Matthew Blair reviews the pointless jumble of Jon Clark, Travis Williamson, et al's Black Friday #1.
• Alexander Jones reviews the disappointing struggles of Max Bemis, Nathan Stockman, et al's Savage #1.
Have capsule reviews of:
- The optimistic revisionism of Dan Rather, Elliot Kirschner, and Tim Foley’s What Unites Us: The Graphic Novel.
- The inventive crypticness of Michael DeForge’s Heaven No Hell.
- The wild intensity of Gilbert Hernandez’ Hypnotwist/Scarlet by Starlight.
- The vivid spiritualism of Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald, et al’s Rogue Planet.
- The skillful transformations of Lee Lai’s Stone Fruit.
Daniel Elkin and Keith Silva review the hodgepodge remembrances of Thomas Lampion’s The Burning Hotels: A Memoir.
Women Write About Comics
• Danielle L reviews the emotional disparity of Skottie Young, Humberto Ramos, et al’s Strange Academy #8.
• Wendy Browne reviews the painful horrors of Paul Allor and Paul Tucker’s Hollow Heart #1.
• Kayleigh Hearn reviews the brutal philosophy of Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribić, et al’s Eternals #2.
• Masha Zhdanova reviews the compelling realism of Suspu's Heir's Game.
Still wanna write/draw this strip one day... pic.twitter.com/E3bVAbOBvK
— Chris Weston- creator of comic art (@westonfront) February 12, 2021
We want information… This week’s interviews.
Alex Dueben interviews Matt Lubchansky about The Antifa Super Soldier Cookbook, the right wing’s infosec failures, and keeping things interesting in longform - “I feel like I’m a better storyteller now than when I started [making The Antifa Super Soldier Cookbook]. So much of comics is craft and not necessarily art. Comics are the rare thing that is both. I think a lot of comics is just honing your tools and getting the hours in. There’s fucking Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours bit, which is horseshit on so many levels, but might be true for comics. It’s pages. You have to get a number of pages in. The more pages you write, the better you write. The more pages you draw, the better you draw. That is pretty straight up I feel like.”
David Brooke chats with Tom Sniegoski about Young Hellboy, personal history with Mike Mignola’s characters, pandemic pauses, and the essentials for a story with Big Red in it; and talks to James Stokoe about Orphan and the Five Beasts, respecting the foundational material, and refusing to pare down workloads.
• Gregory Paul Silber interviews Abraham Riesman about True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, taking a different approach to covering Lee’s life and work, journalistic methodology, and “excavating the Jewishness...of Stan Lee”.
• Heidi MacDonald talks to Amanda Conner about Vampirella, making the shift from Barbie comics to vampire massacres, and the crowdfunding market.
• Zack Quaintance presents our second visit with Tom Sniegoski for a Young Hellboy check-in, and what differentiates the child from his adult self, other than the horns.
• Avery Kaplan chats with Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter about Allergic, the realities of living with pet allergies, surviving pandemic boredom, and drawing from real life.
Lindsay Pereira interviews John Porcellino about the new Drawn & Quarterly editions of his comics work, a life spent cartooning, chasing perfection, and analog escapes from a digital world.
The Chicago Reader
Megan Kirby also interviews John Porcellino about recent reissues of his comics, Midwest sensibilities, capturing the superficial moments, and the sarcastic 90s.
Rob Salkowitz talks to Dimitrios Fragiskatos, Joseph Illidge, and George Carmona III about The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021, helping readers find their path through comics, and letting consumers draw their own conclusions.
The New Yorker
Emma Allen talks to Suerynn Lee about dysfunctional relationships, sea snail inspirations, and working in silence.
Cheryl Klein chats with Shira Spector about Red Rock Candy Baby, processing grief through writing, positive image traps, and the horrific beauty of the human body.
JK Parkin interviews Mike Phillips about The Tessellation, string theory and the fifth dimension, and the down-to-Earth realities of crowdfunding.
• Nicholas Burman talks to Lisa Weill about Comic Art Europe, the joys of funding proposals, the hardships being suffered by French creators, and keeping an open mind as to what constitutes a comic.
• Daniel Elkin interviews Beehive Books’ Josh O’Neill and Maëlle Doliveux about publishing during a pandemic, antagonistic market-based mechanisms, crowd-funding optimism, and the benefits of a reader-base who are currently stuck at home.
Karama Horne interviews Dimitrios Fragiskatos, Joe Illidge, and George Carmona about The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021, Green Book comparisons, bridging gaps between creators and readers, and lessons to be learned from comic community deep dives.
Vermont Public Radio
Mitch Wertlieb interviews Micahel Giangreco about his and Kevin Ruelle’s cartoon strip series, Absurdities and Realities of Special Education, reflecting the damage that educational systems can do to students with disabilities, and making comics about accessibility accessible.
— jake likes onions (@jakelikesonions) February 10, 2021
60 words a second… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, with a fresh dose of Hare Tonic, RC Harvey celebrates the 30th anniversaries of two comic strips, started 30 years ago, by Black cartoonists about Black lives - Robb Armstrong’s JumpStart, and Stephen Bentley’s Herb and Jamaal - “At the time that Bentley was conjuring Herb and Jamaal, the newspaper industry was looking for comic strips with Black characters. The Detroit Free Press even circulated a letter to all comics creators asking if they knew anyone who could do such a strip—and also urging them to put Black characters into their own strips.”
• Also for TCJ, Paul Tumey looks at the life and comics of Spain Rodriguez, as a documentary and retrospective reprint series bring both to the masses - “One thing is clear, though: without Spain and his cartooning cohorts, comics today would be very different. Maybe the Revolution wasn’t televised, but it was cartooned … and Spain is one of the select few of his generation who showed us the way. With all this unprecedented—and somewhat head-spinning—access into Spain’s life and work, a new perspective emerges and I am struck by a new realization about Spain I never had before. Turns out, Spain was fearless.”
• Over at NeoText, Chloe Maveal looks at the contemporary crop of romance comics, and the diverse success that adult and younger-reader focused titles have had in the market, as well as an appreciation of the pop art comics lettering of Sam Rosen and Artie Simek, while Gregory Paul Silber looks at why reducing Maus down to “that comic about the Holocaust” misses big chunks of the narrative wealth it contains.
• For Women Write About Comics, Claire Napier presents an oral history of Bob Harras’ career as an editor for Marvel and DC, and the recurring problems that it represented, until he was fired last year as part of DC’s mass streamlining, thereby obfuscating said problems in the public eye.
• Austin Price writes for LA Review of Books on Inio Asano’s characters’ embrace of The End, and their eschewing of the concept of an apocalypse as time for renewal, in favour of good old fashioned nihilism.
• Over at 13th Dimension, Paul Kupperberg continues his dive back into the house ads archive, bringing up prime examples from 70s DC comics and 60s Charlton titles, so that you can agree that comics were better back then/we’ve come a long way in the last 50 years [delete as appropriate].
• Shelfdust continues its look back at Black Comics History, as Wendy Browne charts the manga influence on the work of Vernon E. Grant, and his academic writing on the subject, while the Infinite Crisis continues as Tegan O’Neil attempts to explain what the deal is with the cop fanboys of the DC universe, and Matt Terl covers the also-Ranns.
• On the open access academic front, from the pithily titled Imagining Symposium for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Selections from the Banff Symposium, Lee Easton and Kelly Hewson present a study looking at how students’ ideas for Canadian superheroes “reaffirm dominant visions of the country...best considered as ideological bottlenecks”, and JSTOR has an article from Nora McGreevy on use of racist newspaper cartoons in 1898 to incite white supremacist violence.
• House to Astonish presents Wolverine’s 1982 diary, as the hirsute hero begins his stomp into the spotlight, changing the world (of superhero periodicals) forever.
• For The Daily Cartoonist, Mike Peterson rounds up recent editorial cartoons, as the US reckons with attempted impeachment, failed prosecution, and attempted school re-opening, along with ruminations on where editorial cartooning is headed in the unroaring 20s, while DD Degg flags up CARTOONIST PROfiles magazine’s arrival on The Internet Archive’s digital borrowing program.
• For Comicosity, a couple of recent pieces on DC titles, as Jude DeLuca considers Wonder Woman’s diverse rogues gallery, including the gender-fluid Blue Snowman; and Allen Thomas looks at Green Lanterns #15’s depiction of anxiety, through the eyes of superhero Jessica Cruz, and the wider issue of mental health issues experienced by Latinx women who are subjected to ethnic discrimination.
• For The Nib, from their Power issue, four cartoonists described the varied pain of times they were left feeling powerless.
— Brian Box Brown (@boxbrown) February 15, 2021
Big screen, little screen, cardboard box… This week’s recommended watching.
• Presenting some more artist Q&As from Fantagraphics, as their YouTube channel played host to Kate Lacour interviewing Dame Darcy and Duchess Isabelle Doll esq on their life as touring ingenues, Jenn Chan spoke to Anita Kunz about Another History of Art, and Eric Reynolds hosted a panel discussion with M.S. Harkness, Raquelle Jacqueline, Nick Thorburn, and Noah Van Sciver about the upcoming Now #10.
• Some more Noah Van Sciver content, as he spoke to Carol Tyler for a new cartoonist conversation, covering her custom drawing setup to combat cold hands, Beatlemania and the hippie movement, and embracing raggedness.
• Some upcoming events to pop in your diary, if you’re so inclined, as Virtuous Con looks like it’ll have an interesting take on the whole virtual comics event deal this weekend, next Thursday sees the Charles M. Schulz museum host a panel talk on Girls in Graphic Novels, and Friday and Saturday brings a virtual edition of Michigan State University’s Comics Forum with keynote talks from Kevin Huizenga and Deborah Whaley, while next month sees Seth giving this year's Munro Beattie Lecture.
• Powell’s Books hosted a digital Q&A between Julia Kaye and Shena Wolf, talking about Kaye’s new book My Life In Transition, digital comics and digital life, and remaining critical of the things you’re invested in, along with some virtual audience questions.
• The Believer and the Black Mountain Institute hosted a new virtual comics workshop, as Leela Corman took viewers through how to illustrate family stories, and keeping rough drafts messy. (starts around the 3m30s mark)
• Some stone cold classics on Cartoonist Kayfabe this week, as Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor hit up Fist of the North Star, The Complete Eightball, Morrison x Liefeld in DOOM FORCE, X-Tinction Agenda, and some Tomorrow Syndicate just to cap things off.
• A couple of visits to the Comix Experience GN Club, as Brian Hibbs spoke to Gilbert Hernandez about Scarlet by Starlight/Hypnotwist and superhero comics origin stories, and chaired a panel with Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, and Rebecca Kirby speaking about their collaboration on The Sacrifice of Darkness, and the age old question of “why comics?”.
I’m Archie Bell and I’m also The Drells… This week’s easy-listening.
• Mega City One was Burning In Hell this week, as Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, and Matt Seneca took a whistlestop tour through 4 decades of everyone’s favorite fascist, and arrived at the correct conclusions that the best Dredd character is Walter the Wobot, while the worst character is some good old fashioned British racism.
• Thick Lines looked back at Osamu Tezuka's The Book of Human Insects, as Katie Skelly and Sally Madden discuss whether it’s better to achieve originality or to emulate and surpass, and the on-screen manga adaptations that can be skipped.
• Achieving weird synchronicity, with even weirder rumors going around the comics internet, that DC fans are apparently going to buy out rights in characters from WarnerMedia, or something, NPR’s Planet Money documents what happens when you try to buy a superhero from DisneyMedia.
• Shelfdust Presents had a mutant-focused episode this week, as Megan Purdy joined Matt Lune to discuss Uncanny X-Men #440, and whether anyone in that title has had what can be conceived of as a ‘happy ending’.
• The new podcast klaxon sounds, as Mangasplaining’s debut episode dropped, with Christopher Butcher, David Brothers, and Deb Aoki inducting Chip Zdarsky into the cult of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira #1.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come covered the Joss Whedon debacle this week, graphic novel sales getting a pandemic bump, and what’s going to be happening with this spring’s crop of comics events, maybe... possibly... look, we just don’t know with that yet, ok?
• 2000 AD’s Thrill-cast presented part 2 of the Lockdown Tapes interview with Kevin O’Neill, as MOLCH-R spoke to him about comic code authority bans, Alan Moore collaborations, and ye olde Londone Towne.
• Finishing out the week as we started, with some more Stan Lee revelations chat from Abraham Riesman, because what else would there be, as he made twin appearances on Off Panel and War Rocket Ajax, thereby equaling Stan The Man’s tally of MCU cameos and breaking some kind of curse, I assume.
A couple of pages from tomorrow's Patreon comic, 'I Remember When This City Smelt Exciting' by Dylan Hall. There's few British cartoonists whose work is as fresh and singular as Dylan's: makes you feel genuinely excited for and reinvested in the medium. https://t.co/ckS52w9ESd pic.twitter.com/EfdjIVubau
— ShortBox (@Short_Box) February 16, 2021
As the old saying goes - comics links at night, readers delight; comics links in the morning, readers take warning. Back next week!
2019 (: pic.twitter.com/FXPs9g4EVC
— ´෴`чучуна (@_____l____m__) February 10, 2021