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Strenuous and Prolonged Efforts

Another big day here on TCJ. First, Alex Dueben talks to artist Jamal Igle about rethinking his career, getting older, why historical sales numbers may be misleading, and getting into arguments on Twitter.


The last time we did a big interview was right before The Ray dropped, which was when you were coming off Supergirl. I feel like you had a great experience on those two projects, but you didn’t want to be an employee in the same way afterwards.

Yeah. That’s the thing, especially on something like Supergirl, if you’re on a book for a year or two, the only way is to become emotionally invested in its success. Sterling and I on Supergirl became very very very emotionally invested in her longevity as a character. I walked away from the book because Sterling decided he was going to leave and I decided I can’t stay because it won’t be the same for me. When I walked away I started working on The Ray and I had a lot of fun working on The Ray, but that was done with the express intent of going out with the bang. This is going to be my last DC project so let’s show people what I can actually do with the brakes off. We invested so much time and energy on Supergirl between having to deal with the internal politics and then the attention that we got, especially in the first six months, and how we were doing in sales, and how that created tension internally, and having to deal with crossovers, and waiting for other people to do their part, and trying to align all that. It’s a lot. You put that much energy into something and it becomes emotionally draining if you don’t see not just a financial but an emotional return on investment.

Your run really influenced the TV show in different ways. I know that you and Sterling Gates have been name checked, but do you guys get anything?

They just mention us. I don’t get jack. [laughs]

At the same time, that’s the nature of work for hire. I’ve been in this business for almost thirty years and I completely understand. It’s the thing that makes people working in the business working at a larger company very hesitant about creating new characters for whatever company that they’re working for. Knowing the history of this business and knowing how many incredibly talented people either got screwed or weren’t keen enough businessmen to fully take advantage of the opportunities that they had at the time, I don’t want to ultimately end up that way. Having a background in advertising and marketing and editorial and production and knowing the realities of what it’s like to work in a business environment, I know that what your managers consider to be in the best interests of the business itself has nothing to do with your longevity as a creator. When you’re a freelancer you are a business unto yourself. It’s not Marvel or DC’s job to promote you per se outside of whatever you’re doing for them. That is not the relationship that you have with them as a creator. Their only responsibility is to exploit whatever talent they can get out of you for as long as they can and when you’re no longer of use to them, I won’t say that you’re discarded because everybody has to make their own decisions on that. Some people do get discarded. Some people leave by their own volition. Some people get forced out. Some people are just giant assholes and get pushed out because nobody wanted to deal with them no matter how talented or connected they are. I’ve always kept that in mind over the years.

We also have Day Three of Summer Pierre's Cartoonist's Diary.

And in our only explicitly Halloween-ish content for the holiday, Matt Seneca reviews the latest book from Al Columbia.

The valley between art and audience that the comics medium traverses is far less uncanny than the one facing animation. Before the terrain was road-graded by computers at least, cartoons could carry an unnerving vibe, the forms and movements so vivid and lively but still so alien, herky-jerky or a touch too slow or both in varying degrees, possessed of a lunatic enthusiasm in their every step. The weirdest Depression-era cartoon shorts, like Grim Natwick and Fleischer Studios' "Bimbo's Initiation" (much beloved of Jim Woodring), seem animated less by human hands than some evil spirit; windows into fictional worlds that somehow live, subject to none of the rules and sanities that mercifully govern our own. 

Al Columbia has built a comics career in territory as close to this uncanny valley as pictures that don't move can get. A superb draftsman, Columbia can pull on the smooth white gloves of the Fleischer house style with ease. But where actual old cartoons only hint vaguely at their evil spirit's existence, Columbia's work gets down on the floorboards and slithers along in the wake of its bloody trail, marrying a legitimately iconic American idiom to content as ghoulish and ghastly as anything comics has ever played host to. His latest book, Amnesia: The Lost Films of Francis D. Longfellow Supplementary Newsletter no. 1, spotlights a cartoonist who has identified exactly what's most powerful about his own work building himself an elaborate metafictional theater to project it in. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Steve Kurutz at the New York Times writes about Mark Dery's new biography of Edward Gorey.

He spent seven years on the project, time he needed to wrap his head around “the panoramic sweep” of his subject’s mind.

For Mr. Dery, and for anyone else, plunging into Goreyland means becoming acquainted with Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes,” with French silent films, the surrealist collage novels of Max Ernst, Victorian children’s literature, the ancient Japanese novel “The Tale of Genji” and so forth. It means looking through a pre-Stonewall lens, when many gay men and women led closeted lives and their sexuality didn’t necessarily figure in their expressed personal politics.

It means trying to solve the riddle of a man who was outwardly gregarious — “As beguiling a conversationalist as Oscar Wilde,” as Mr. Dery put it — and flamboyantly fashionable, walking the streets of New York in the 1960s and ’70s in floor-sweeping fur coats that caught the attention of the photographer Bill Cunningham, yet forever enigmatic.

Slate has published an excerpt by Jami Attenberg, in which she writes about her personal experiences with the work of Julie Doucet.

I remember when I first read this book in 1999, new to New York City myself, I wanted to slip into the pages with her and experience her life. It was not terribly different from my own. I was new in town with just a few friends; I was a struggling artist, a feminist, a substance abuser, a night owl, and completely mystified by male behavior. (I am still many of these things, if I am being honest here.) Her energy practically vibrated through the book. She took all those things that I was merely contending with and turned them into a piece of art. She cracked open my universe a little bit. Here was how to take control of your own narrative.

Reading it now, 19 years older and wiser, I want to reach into the pages and pull her toward me and tell her to chill out on the whippets and get an apartment in the East Village immediately—not that it was any safer there, but at least she’d have some friends. As much as anything else, the book feels like a historical document. Doucet talks about seeing Karen Black perform on the Lower East Side. She goes to art parties and hangs out with Art Spiegelman, Françoise Mouly, and Charles Burns. She sees New York City through fresh eyes, capturing every detail of this compelling moment in its history. There’s lots of letter writing in this book, not an email in sight. I used to send beautiful letters. Did you?

Anime scholar Susan J. Napier recommends and discusses five books to help readers understand manga and anime.

[In Japanamerica, Roland] Kelts talks about the late twentieth-, early twenty-first-century moment when Japan and America were influencing each other. He compares this influence loop to a Möbius strip where things come from Japan and then they come to America, and return to Japan. He uses the movie The Matrix as an example. It was inspired by the manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell, which the Wachowski sisters, the directors, acknowledge having seen.

Ghost in the Shell inspired major sequences in The Matrix, and The Matrix inspired many anime. So there’s this continuous loop of Japanese and American cultural influence. Roland explores the excitement about this cultural transmission, how we are in a time when we can go back and forth between and among cultures and get inspiration and even products and art from another culture.

—Interviews. The aforementioned Alex Dueben talks to Noah Van Sciver about his latest Fante Bukowski book.

I love the design of the whole series. This one in particular plays with the layout, has a fake author photo and bio. How much of that was you?

None of that was me. That was all Keeli McCarthy’s genius. She’s the designer at Fantagraphics that I work with. Basically I just finish the story and send them the files. She had this whole conceptual idea for the series. She said I’m going to goof on these generations of self-important male writers in the designs. The first book was a very small paperback like the early beatnik novels. The second book jumped ahead twenty years and looked like something from Black Sparrow Press. The third one jumps ahead another twenty years and playing off the nineties male writers, books like Infinite Jest and those. I think she did a really good job of that. A lot of people didn’t pick up on it, but I hope they will.

—Misc. Michael Dooley has put together a visual tribute to the various "Treehouse of Horror" issues of Simpsons comics over the years, which is a nice reminder that it's been way too long since I pulled out the issue edited by Sammy Harkham...


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