Today on the site we have a preview of the new and long-awaited issue of the print edition of The Comics Journal, an excerpt from Gary Groth's career-spanning interview with the great Tomi Ungerer.
GARY GROTH: Do you prefer your writing to your drawing?
TOMI UNGERER: Yes. Definitely, by far. I’ve never been really satisfied with my drawing. It’s always so scattered! I’m a jack of all trades. What am I? I should have just picked up one style and developed it. My drawing is all right. I know I’m known for that, but I would say I prefer my writing the last five or eight years.
You’ve talked about how there’s no demarcation between your writing and your drawing.
No, there isn’t. This is why I always tell to young people who are illustrating children’s books, I always tell them, “Please, just write your own stories, or take a story which exists and rewrite it.” All famous children’s books which have remained have been written and illustrated by the same person. That’s a fact.
Don’t you think that when you’re drawing, in a way you’re also writing?
Yes, definitely. In German, aufzeichnen is taking notes and zeichnen is to draw. And so, I said, “OK, translate it in English, that’s my answer.” I draw what I write and I write what I draw.
That seems imperative.
When you see my sketches, I do a sketch in my sketchbook and then all the lines and the things. And when I write, strange little aphorisms and stories, they’re completely unrelated. I jump from one language to another, from one subject to the other. You would think, “This is impossible that this was written within the last five minutes.” It’s completely unrelated. I don’t know where it’s coming from, I’ve no idea. It just comes and hits me. Pop and voilà!
Craig Fischer is here, too, with a review of the first two issues of Pat Palermo's Live / Work.
I discovered Palermo only last year, even though he’d won a Xeric award in 2006 for his comic Cut Flowers, and self-published the first issue of Live / Work in 2012. But I’m relieved I’ve found him now. In a market ruled by manga-influenced YA graphic novels, “mainstream” superheroes, and minimalist art comix, Palermo’s heavily-plotted, narratively compressed, naturalistic, lushly-drawn serial ensemble comedy feels refreshingly new, but only because too few cartoonists make comics like this anymore.
Palermo’s narrative focuses on three characters in their twenties and early thirties. The first introduced is Rich, a skinny-pants hipster who read too much Baudrillard in art school, and whose current job is procuring pop culture objects for collectors—and for artists looking to incorporate a little kitsch into their installations and canvases. (He also has a strong contrary opinion about the most influential Pylon song.) Next is Mike, a whiskey-drinking Sluggo in a black hoodie who does freelance grunt work for upscale Manhattan artists. And there’s Abi, an energetic would-be painter pining for her absent girlfriend. In her position as the administrative assistant for an influential and obliviously callous sculptor, Abi meets Rich and Mike and inadvertently sets in motion the events—which converge at the end of Live / Work #2—for the trio to become roommates.
But Palermo’s ensemble is much broader than these three main characters. One metaphor for Live / Work’s expansive cast is the cover to issue #1, where the faces of Rich, Mike, and Abi are hidden by Palermo’s circular composition. But we can see the profile of Veronica, a gallery receptionist and aspiring painter, next to the open-mouthed shock of an obsessive portraitist named Ben as everyone looks down at a broken statue.
—News. The French artist Alex Barbier has died. More later.
El Museo de Barrio has cancelled an upcmoing exhibition of Alejandro Jodorowsky's work after concerns were aired about a passage in 1972's El Topo: A Book of the Film.
In that account, the director said that he and an actress had gone into the desert to film a scene, taking with them only a photographer and technician.
The Telegraph said that Mr. Jodorowsky had instructed the actress to begin striking him and then cited the book, which says: “After she had hit me long enough and hard enough to tire her, I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed.”
The whereabouts of the actress could not be ascertained, and no record that she commented publicly on the scene described in the book could be found.
Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, Jodorowky's wife, issued a statement Wednesday defending him, saying that “Words are not acts" and claiming that Jodorowsky “never raped anyone.” Jodorowsky has repeatedly denied that the passage was factual in the years since its publication.
—Reviews & Commentary. In an interview with the New York Times, author Marlon James repeatedly extols comics.
Growing up in Jamaica in the ’70s and ’80s, I never had the privilege of discriminating against books. I grabbed whatever I could borrow, steal or get for free. My sci-fi cinematic universe was not made up of films at all, but film novelizations of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” I read whatever my friends’ parents tossed out, from Leon Uris, to John le Carré, to James Clavell, to my beloved Jackie Collins. I didn’t even realize I was supposed to view “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as a different kind of work from Gilbert Hernandez’s “Palomar” until I entered a lit class. The distinction was and is a stupid one, but it might explain why not nearly enough readers know that “Palomar” is the best American novel of the past 35 years.
Brian Nicholson writes about Saul Steinberg's The Labyrinth.
The Labyrinth is an art book somewhere between a monograph and a sketchbook, edited and ordered for maximum readability as sets of ideas are explored. Many of those ideas are about drawing, and the drawing often feels close to doodling, as many pieces explore what you can do with a single line without removing pen from paper. It is arguably “not comics,” in that there isn’t a story you read from panel to panel, but the relationship to comics is pretty clear. If you are a maker of “avant-garde” or “art” comics, this book would be as informative to your process as reading E.C. Segar’s Popeye* would be for someone who writes Iron Man. Originally published in 1960, it was recently reprinted by NYRB, although not through their comics imprint, which has published artists whose work is prefigured here. Certain drawings seem to outline ideas that would be elaborated on in Pushwagner’s Soft City (drawn in the seventies, and published by NYRB a few years back), and drawings of people playing music, where the sound is rendered as various abstractions, bring to mind stuff in Blutch’s Total Jazz, published by Fantagraphics in 2018, though NYRB handled an English-language version of his book Peplum in 2016.
—RIP. Dick Miller.