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Walk Away and Leave

Welcome back from the three-day (US) weekend. Robert C. Harvey is here today with the fifth installment of his series on the legendary feud between Al Capp and Ham Fisher. This week, World War II begins, and shots start flying at home too.

Fisher’s actions speak volumes about how unsure of himself he was. He sought the company of famous people. He went to great lengths to associate himself with them. He courted celebrities by depicting them in the strip. He recognized consciously that he too was a famous person, but unconsciously, he wasn’t sure. He had to be convinced. To shore up his own opinion of himself, he needed the reassurance he could feel if he were in the company of the people he regarded as famous. If he associated with famous people, surely he too was famous. His vanity — not to mention the very vitality of his self-esteem — was fed by his proximity to the famous.

And Fisher was unquestionably vain. He tooted his own horn. He carried around lists of all the newspapers that subscribed to his strip and would proudly produce them at the slightest provocation. Few major figures in cartooning ever make an exhibition of themselves like Ham Fisher did — proclaiming his own greatness to his peers, who all knew, as no other assembly of persons could, just how great he was.

They didn’t need Fisher to tell them about Fisher. They knew and appreciated his achievement. But they were turned off by his loud and boorish displays of self-adulation. And they saw through his obsequious servitude in the bar of the Illustrators clubhouse: They knew he was courting the favor of those whom he regarded as great. The rest of the company — the cartoonists whom Fisher did not see as very famous — Fisher ignored. And those cartoonists resented it. Resenting it, they were receptive to tales that revealed Fisher as they saw him. The story of Fisher’s treatment of Rube Goldberg, for instance.

At one of the early meetings of the Society, Weiss said, Fisher buttonholed Goldberg, telling him how much he, Fisher, admired his work, how great Goldberg was, and so on. Later, Fisher confided to another cartoonist that it was “too bad” about Goldberg: The man was a has-been, he opined, over the hill. Goldberg heard about this. And it galled him. And it irked others who learned of it. The episode confirmed them in their low opinion of Fisher. Fisher, they could see, was a self-serving blow-hard, willing to advance himself at everyone else’s expense whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Tahneer Oksman talks to Julie Doucet.

I quit comics, but I kept on drawing. Drawing and making all sorts of different things. And then I did this project with Michel Gondry [My New New York Diary, a book accompanied by a short film on DVD, published by PictureBox in 2010]. I love his films and all that, so I just said yes. But I was already not that much into drawing. And it was quite a lot of work. It was really just supposed to be a tiny project, like trying something, but it ended up being, not big, but quite a lot of work.

That’s when I had burnout, and after that I just couldn’t draw anymore. Because the film with him involved drawing and at that point I didn’t really feel like drawing, but it was just impossible to say no.

I had burnout, and I just couldn’t draw anymore. Or, I could draw, but it was really on automatic pilot. Not really anything creative.

The latest episode of RiYL is Georgia Webber.

—News. Four new members have been selected for the Eisners Hall of Fame: Jim Aparo, June Tarpé Mills, Dave Stevens, and Morrie Turner.

—Reviews & Commentary. Prominent retailer Brian Hibbs thinks the comics direct market is finally really dying.

Really, there aren’t a ton of “name” retailers, stores that might register with an average comic book reader, but I think Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics might be one of them. Chuck posted to Facebook “I fervently believe that the economics of comics publishing simply no longer allow smallish neighborhood comics shops to be successful”

If that wasn’t horrifying enough, Chuck went on in his recent newsletter that Mile High, one of the largest and most successful retailers in the country, was reacting to the new realities of publishing in the DM with this: “If you are a fan who wants to just browse the racks in our stores each week, however, you are most likely going to be sorely disappointed if you do not come in to one of our locations on Wednesday morning. We will definitely still be ordering copies of many new releases for speculative sale on the racks in our retail stores, but in such small quantities that we will be almost certainly sell out by the first weekend”

One of the most successful stores in the world is saying that they’re cutting bait on most new releases because they can’t stock them profitably. Think about that a second.

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