The Low Jump

Today Ken Parille stops by with the latest installment of his column, this time gathering some thoughts inspired by the recent republication of Dan Clowes's The Death-Ray.

A brief excerpt:

This comic displays Steve Ditko’s crucial influence on the young Clowes, who was fascinated by Ditko-drawn and plotted Spider-Man issues. This influence has been at work throughout Clowes’s career, though often buried in his current ‘aesthetic unconscious’ in ways not always instantly recognizable. Both artists share an obsession with heroic and un-heroic action, frailty and ugliness, revenge and violence. According to Clowes, he has even turned into a Ditko character!: “Now I resemble The Vulture from the early Steve Ditko Spider-Man comics” (from Ghost World: Special Edition).

As you no doubt have heard, it was announced yesterday that Bil Keane, the Family Circus creator, passed away Tuesday at the age of 89. Here's the New York Times obituary. Lynda Barry posted a brief tribute to the cartoonist on her website—and had already been outspoken about her feelings for his work in interviews and comics during the last few years. Mike Lynch gathers Keane-related art from the National Cartoonists Society here. We plan to publish more on Keane in the near future.

Elsewhere, the 2011 top ten lists are starting to appear. Here's one at Amazon, and another at Publishers Weekly. Both of them seem to be doing their best to spread the love around and make sure as many publishers and genres as possible are represented, a goal that some would argue can conflict with listing the actual best books. But who goes to those places for recommendations anyway? I hope Martí's The Cabbie starts showing up on some of the lists that haven't appeared yet, but that might be asking for too much...

Speaking of PW, they just published a James Romberger interview with Gary Groth about the new Carl Barks Library.

Al Jazeera filed a video report regarding the recent bombing of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo:

The perennially under-discussed Richard Sala presents and explains an outtake from The Hidden on his blog.

And plans are underway to turn Alison Bechdel's Fun Home into a stage musical. I really want to make a Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark joke, but some part of me would hate myself if I succumbed.

Finally, and this is only very tangentially related to comics, the novelist and occasional comic-book writer Jonathan Lethem has written a much-discussed critique of the New Yorker critic James Wood, arguing more or less that Wood is a poseur and a snob whose literary judgements can't be trusted when discussing any fiction that can't be placed within a narrow band of genre. In other words, and to put it extremely simply, Lethem thinks that one reason (and maybe the main reason) Wood doesn't like his books is because his characters read comic books and take them seriously. I haven't read Fortress of Solitude, and so can't speak to the particular subject of his essay, but based on the many other Wood reviews I have read, Lethem seems broadly correct in his analysis.

UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot this link! Robert Crumb talks to Vice about a rejected cover for The New Yorker, and his strained relationship with the magazine since.