It’s starting to become very autumnal in lovely olde Englandshire this week, as the drawing-in of nights also beckons a return to lockdowns, meaning more time for reading comics and/or perfecting a twitchy thousand-yard stare!
One thing you notice when you’re trying to keep an eye on a broad variety of sources for a column like this are the titles that the hype-machine chooses to put in front of readers across the board, outside of the millions-selling giants of the YA world.
This year we’ve had The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist and Slaughterhouse -Five getting the business, and I’d predict Allie Brosh’s new book Solutions and Other Problems will be next. We’ll find out if I’m right over the next few weeks, or I’ll link to me eating my hat. Place your bets.
This week’s links appear just below the embedded Instagram image.
Hill Street Blues… This week’s news.
• As direct market machinations continue during this oddest of years, Image Comics announced they’ve seen sales figures reminiscent of monthly periodical heydays, with Spawn 310 and Fire Power #1 hitting six-figure print runs, while DC continue their streamlining of verticals and embracing of comics-focused digital platforms like Marvel before them, with Archie Comics doing similar while TKO Studios keeps on keeping on, and IDW know that the children are the future and adapt their executive teams accordingly while making “cha-ching” noises and wearing dollar-sign contact lenses.
• Proof, if proof be need be, that Batman will save us all, as the Hero Initiative and Heritage Auctions raised nearly $100,000 (after fees and whatnot) selling 110 original covers of Batman #75, with original artwork gracing them by, amongst others, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, and Art Adams.
• Elsewhere, former DC Publisher Dan DiDio will be joining the ranks of educators at The Kubert School, teaching budding comics pros this October with his first course “from concept to sale”, and probably including that South Park ‘underpants gnomes’ picture as a slide in one of his classes. One would assume.
• In auction news, the original cover for Hergé’s Tintin and the Blue Lotus will be going up on the block in November, expected to fetch 2.5-3.5 million dollars - per the auction house “Deemed too costly to reproduce in color at the time, the design was turned down by the publisher. Hergé gave it to the young son of publisher Louis Casterman. The boy kept it tucked away in a drawer, carefully folded in six.”
• The Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo has announced the programming for next month’s virtual MICE, as four weeks of comics panels, workshops, and development seminars kick off on October 3rd, all from the comfort of your own home.
• Meanwhile the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d'Angoulême has announced that January 2021’s events will be taking place virtually, due to rising COVID-19 infection numbers in France, with the potential for in-person events in Spring/Summer, depending on the coronavirus situation.
• Finally, this week brought the sad news that Ron Cobb, cartoonist and prolific production designer, who was a frequent collaborator with Steven Spielberg and whose work appeared in a swathe of genre classics, passed away this week, aged 83 - CBR and The Daily Cartoonist have obits, and Cobb’s website has extensive galleries of his cartoon and film work.
Go with the flow… This week’s reviews.
• Frank M. Young takes a trip back to the end of the era of optimism, and reviews Ruben Bolling’s The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader, but is less more, when it comes to the alt-weekly comics of yore - “Among Bolling’s skills is an ability to mine an idea for any variation. That seems to be his prime self-challenge: “How many times can I make ________ work?”
• Tim Hayes reviews the furious reportage of Woodrow Phoenix’ Crash Course - “a study of metropolitan exploration, setting off down roads at random which never quite connect together or conclude; and so it's not far from another number high on the modernist hit parade, the détournement, a deliberate loosening of reality's screws to see which way it falls.”
• Helen Chazan reviews the episodic codependency of Remy Boydell’s 920London, and the inferred experiences of the protagonists, as the reader arrives in media res - “Maybe the best way to talk about 920London is by the “slice of life” descriptor I used earlier. These comics are about two cute girls going about their day. How different is that from a four panel gag comic? How different is that from a series of vignettes about school festivals and going to the beach? The difference is whose lives are being sliced.”
• Nathan Simmons reviews a pair of first issues, with the succinct creeps of Chip Zdarsky, Ramón K Pérez and Mike Spice’s Stillwater #1, and the purgatorial possibilities of Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, et al’s Heavy #1.
• Arbaz M. Khan reviews the Cthulhu cohesion of Michael DC Watson and Theresa Chiechi’s Ithaca #1&2, and the absurd spectacle of Sam Kieth’s Batman/The Maxx: The Lost Year Compendium.
• David Brooke reviews the uneasy expectations of Daniel Kraus, Chris Sehan, et al’s The Autumnal #1; and the supernatural layering of Al Ewing, Jon Davis-Hunt, et al’s The Immortal She-Hulk #1.
• John Seven reviews the unique Britishness of Patrick Wray’s The Flood That Did Come.
• Morgana Santilli reviews the gentle meanderings of Minami Q-ta’s Pop Life, translated by Dan Luffey.
• Hussein Wasiti focuses the ‘Marvel Rundown’ on the publisher’s next big event comic, and reviews the explosive surprises of Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz, et al’s X of Swords: Creation #1.
• Avery Kaplan reviews the hilarious charms of Maria Scrivan's Forget Me Nat.
• Holly Raidl reviews the personal explorations of Anne Mette Kærulf Lorentzen’s When I Came Out.
• Jenny Robins reviews the gripping ambitions of Steven Appleby’s Dragman.
• Andy Oliver reviews the complex subversions of Sophie Yanow’s The Contradictions, and the truthful reflections of Elizabeth Querstret’s My Grief.
• Rebecca Burke reviews the versatile experimentation of Jude Cowan Montague's Love on the Isle of Dogs.
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C continues catching up with recent Ley Lines publications, reviewing the gorgeous recursions of Alyssa Berg’s Forget-Me-Not (Ley Lines #21), the conceptual conundrums of Victor Martins’ Cabra Cabra (Ley Lines #22), and the mystical juxtaposition of Simon Moretons The Lie of the Land (Ley Lines #23), before looking at the punch details of Cameron Forsley’s Scribbles #2.
House to Astonish
Paul O’Brien reviews the effective characterizations of Jay Edidin, Tom Reilly & Chris O’Halloran’s X-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1.
• Ayoola Solarin reviews the alarming absurdities of Ben Passmore’s Sports is Hell.
• Ysabelle Cheung reviews the messy rebellions of Ancco’s Nineteen.
Have capsule reviews of:
- The complex delights of Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter’s Dungeon Critters.
- The comic nightmares of Abby Howard’s The Last Halloween: Children.
- The vivid adventures of David Bowles and Charlene Bowles’ Tales of the Feathered Serpent: Rise of the Halfling King.
- The dazzling spirit of Pat Dorian’s Lon Chaney Speaks.
- The charming delights of Elise Gravel’s Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds.
- The rich wit of Jerry Craft’s Class Act.
• J. Osicki reviews the nuanced convictions of Tyler Chin-Tanner, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Andy MacDonald, et al’s American Terrorist.
• Tom Batten has reviews of:
- The gruesome nightmares of Andi Watson’s The Book Tour.
- The exquisite tenderness of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters.
- The wild twists of Joe Hill, Leomacs, and Dave Stewart’s Basketful of Heads.
- The refreshing dystopia of Benjamin von Eckartsberg and Thomas von Kummant’s Gung Ho: vol. 1.
- The complicated excitement of Sean Murphy and Klaus Janson’s Batman: Curse of the White Knight, vol. 2.
• Paul Lai reviews the terse patience of Paco Roca’s The Winter of the Cartoonist, translated by Andrea Rosenberg.
• Christopher Chiu-Tabet reviews the striking evocations of Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner’s Becoming RBG.
• Joe Skonce reviews the philosophical contrasts of Al Ewing, John Davis-Hunt, et al's The Immortal She-Hulk #1.
• Ryan Carey reviews the oblique catastrophes of Patrick Wray’s The Flood That Did Come.
• Tom Shapira reviews the flowing confidence of Sloane Leong’s A Map to the Sun.
• André Habet reviews the fantastical wonders of Lale Westvind’s Grip.
Women Write About Comics
• Lisa Fernandes reviews the gentle tenderness of Jared Cullum, Jay Fosgitt, Art Baltazar, Katie Cook, et al’s Down at Fraggle Rock.
• Louis Skye reviews the diverse truths of Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from The Nib, edited by Matt Bors, Matt Lubchansky, Sarah Mirk and Eleri Harris.
• Wendy Browne reviews the interpretative self-discovery of Rob Cham’s Lost, and the sardonic goofiness of Bill Williams, Matthew Weldon, et al’s Punchline: Blood Sisters.
• Anna Schaeffer reviews the honest archetypes of Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon.
• Claire Napier reviews the excessive aesthetics of Joe Casey, Gilbert Monsanto, Brian Haberlin, et al’s Hellcop #1.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves… This week’s interviews.
• Jeffery Klaehn interviews Steve Engelhart over the span of two years, covering the new age of comics ushered in by the 70s New York comics gang, working with a who’s who of superhero comics greats, introducing the world to one Mr Todd McFarlane, and the setting straight of various records - “[Jenette Kahn] was good as a businesswoman, both in dealing with the suits upstairs and the talent downstairs, but like everyone at DC, the upstairs came first. I got along with her pretty well because I understood that, in the moment, but later, when DC started pretending I hadn’t saved DC, I was less enthusiastic. It was she who suckered me into saving the Batman film based on my run for a deal that violated Writers Guild rules, knowing I didn’t know Writers Guild rules.”
• Robert Newsome interviews Drew Friedman about working during our current interesting times, his upcoming book of portraits and biographies of the cream of the underground comics crop, experiencing the mind-blowing work of R. Crumb at a young age, and the importance of getting subjects’ expressions right - “I never considered drawing more contemporary mainstream artists from the 60s and 70s or beyond. That era doesn’t really interest me too much aside from Bernie Wrightson, a few of the Marvel comics I read in the 60s when I was a kid, and Ogden Whitney’s Herbie. For the most part, though, underground comics was the world that was more special to me when I was growing up rather than what the mainstream comics we're offering.”
• Zack Quaintance chats with Aron Wisenfeld about the evolution of his career through 90s X-Men comics, solo gallery shows, and now crowd-funding, plus what comics he’s reading at the moment.
• Deanna Destito interviews Daniel Kraus about The Autumnal, conjuring up a spooky atmosphere, and the Vault Comics publishing process.
• AJ Frost interviews Dave Chisholm about Chasin' the Bird, the musical heritage of Charlie Parker, and diving into the grey areas that make for an effective biography.
Lindsay Pereira interviews Sophie Yanow about the opportunities offered by comics to marginalized creators, ligne claire influences, CCS fellowships, and optimism in 2020.
Also running at 13th Dimension, Chloe Maveal talks to Dave McKean about avoiding the term ‘artist’, that indelible link with the work of Neil Gaiman despite seeking out new collaborations for the enjoyable challenge of it all, working in multiple media, and the enduring appeal of his series Cages.
Ailsa Chang interviews Allie Brosh about the relatable confusion experienced by animals, her distinctive depiction of self, and the discoveries needed before publishing her new book.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen and Matt Barham talk to Ryan North and Albert Monteys about their adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaghterhouse-Five, metajokes in the graphic novel medium, retaining Vonnegut as the heart of the story, and how to keep the hard-hitting story beats in a non-linear format.
Daniel Elkin and Sarah Wray present the next installment of ‘Knowing is Half the Battle’, as Steve Lafler gives advice on communication expected from publishers, refusing to work angry, and the right amount of cash to charge for commercial illustrations.
• Jeff Spry interviews Matt Kindt about working with Keanu Reeves on upcoming series BRZRKR, the old chestnut of what an immortal killing machine does when he’s tired of war, and what Reeves brings to the table in terms of story-telling chops.
• Alex Dueben talks to Kiku Hughes about exploring the unknown aspects of generational trauma through genre fiction, the inspiration of Octavia Butler, and the coastal divide of America’s Japanese internment camps.
• Dana Forsythe chats with RB Silva about taking on Marvel's first family with Dan Slott in Fantastic Four #25, working from the age of 12, digital versus analogue, and the joys of clobberin' time.
Women Write About Comics
Dani Kinney interviews Jay Edidin on Marvel Snapshots: X-Men, Cyclops’ sleeping habits, and getting to the core of Scott Summers as a character.
Skim them, then circle back for a debrief… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, Bart Hulley looks at the surprising lack of an English-language translation of Alain Ayroles and Juanjo Guardino’s Les Indes Fourbes (The Treacherous Indies), given the widespread admiration of Guardino’s work, and looks at its path through pre-order sellout to prize-winning release, as well as its interesting cultural touchpoints - “The plot takes inspiration from 1973 movie The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and unfolds with echoes of the 1626 tale (El Buscón)...Stylistically, author Ayroles cites the sitcom How I Met Your Mother as a source of inspiration, playing with chronology and perspective throughout the book in similar fashion to the popular CBS series.”
• Also at TCJ, RC Harvey had some more Hare Tonic this week, this time around looking at the life and work of Morrill Goddard, a single-minded editor with a penchant for anonymity, including his publication of early “comic weeklies”, ushering in the medium we know and obsess over to this day - In short, “comics” denoted the vehicle not the artform...In a relatively short time, obeying the dictates of demand, newspapers eliminated the essays and verse and concentrated on comical artwork, which was increasingly presented in the form of “strips” of pictures portraying hilarities in narrative sequence. It was but a short step to the use of comics to designate the artform (cartoons and comic strips) as distinct from the vehicle in which they appeared (the Sunday supplement itself). Once that bridge was crossed, meaning deteriorated pretty rapidly.
• Over at 13th Dimension, Paul Kupperberg makes like Doctor Doom and toots his own horn, with ‘My 13 Favorite Comic Books I’ve Written’, in promotion of his new crowd-funded book, excellently titled I Never Write for the Money… But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check.
• A couple of academic papers hitting the journals this week, free from any paywall restrictions, as Katarzyna Ostalska writes in The Problems of Literary Genres on ‘More Liveable Speculations: the Gender of SF in Margaret Atwood’s Short Story “Oursonette” and in the Comic Book/Graphic Novel War Bears’, and GH Greer writes in Visual Culture and Gender on teaching the unique storytelling forms comics offer in ‘Comics-making as Possibility-making: Resisting the Inequitable Distribution of Imagined Futures’.
• Also on the comics academia front, The Middle Spaces have part 2 of their comics paratext roundtable, with essays on peritextual definition of early graphic novels, the capacity of paratexts to disrupt or reinforce marginalization of minority voices in comics, and comic characters’ appearing in adverts in the pages of their own comics.
• Over at The Daily Cartoonist, Mike Peterson looks back on the state of editorial cartooning in the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing, and coverage of the other issues currently in play in a hectic time for US politics, while DD Degg celebrates the centenaries of Winnie Winkle and Jay Ward and highlights Gary Larson dipping his toe into political cartooning with new work.
• The Believer has a look back at the portraiture of Tony Millionaire over the years, with hundreds of portraits drawn over the course of seventeen years, including a selection of the editors’ favorites.
• For NeoText, Chloe Maveal looks back at the career of Alex Toth, speaking in praise of his consistent economy and confidence of line, and his later correspondence on the form.
• Meanwhile, at Shelfdust, Charlotte Finn hits week 38 of a year in Astro City, as the questionable inevitability of racist stereotypes arrive; Steve Morris gets trapped in the revolving door of character death in Amazing Spider-Man #370; and the Crisis continues to be Infinite as Rhi Daneel explains the Darkseid condiment that is The New Gods, and Kyle Pinion covers the age old problem of Grant Morrison's space vampires.
• For Insider, Josh Adams and Anthony Del Col have a longform comic on how the United States’ pandemic response went so badly wrong, and the many systems that were ignored for it to happen.
• Over at The Nib, Katy Doughty looks at the difficulty in accurately reporting infection numbers, and why social distancing remains the most important first line of defence against COVID-19; and there's a longform comic on the sexual violence Samira Ibrahim experienced following 2011's Tahrir Square protests during the Arab Spring (content warnings, as you'd expect, on that one).
• For The New Yorker, Allie Brosh presents an excerpt from Solutions and Other Problems, Ziwe Fumudoh and Carly Jean Andrews take a look at the messages pop stars put out on the airwaves, and Eugenia Viti presents tips for juggling babies and cell-phones.
• Solrad added a new comic to their ‘Presents’ line-up this week, welcoming Matt McFarland’s More Seasons of Gary into the fold, with four-panel strips about his father.
• The LA Times has a new Pot Heads comic from Olivia Asis, extolling the virtues of a nice long walk in the wilderness.
• For The Lily, Katie Wheeler has a piece on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and the continuing fight for change and equality.
Warming up the cathode ray tube early… This week’s recommended watching.
• The 2020 Latin Comics Expo took place over the last week or so, and (as you’d expect) this year was a virtual affair, including a number of live-streamed panels, workshops and in-conversation events, all of which can be viewed here, as well as a creator spotlight with Jaime Hernandez talking to Javier Hernandez.
• As part of the Schomburg Center Literary Festival, there's a panel on cultural representation with Black comic creators whose work focuses on the experiences of school-aged protagonists, including Jerry Craft, Greg Anderson Elysee, Liz Montague, and Shauna Grant, moderated by Deirdre Hollman of the Black Comics Collective (starts around the 3 minute mark).
• Leila Del Duca presents another video out of Portland’s Helioscope studio, as 20 cartoonists share their favorite art advice they’ve received, and how to apply it in your own comic-making.
• San Francisco Zine Fest draws to a close this weekend, and you can view video archives of the last three weeks’ events, including live zine readings and guest of honor panels, as well as selected highlights from the last few years of events.
• Cartoonist Kayfabe kept up an enviable output this week, as Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg took a look at Raw Magazine #1, Tintin in Tibet, the Octobriana 1976 process zine, Frank Miller’s Daredevil Artifact Edition, A Smithsonian Book of Comic Books, and Richard Corben’s work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #33.
• The Believer and the Black Mountain Institute presented the next edition of their comics workshops last weekend, as Ashanti Forston took viewers through depicting comfort through comics, and how to support marginalized communities through art (starts around the 7 minute mark).
• Three more screenings of Feels Good Man on the horizon, starting this evening, that include Q&A sessions with Ann Friedman, Tim Heidecker, and Ira Glass into the bargain, so plenty of time to see how Matt Furie wrestled Pepe the Frog back from the clutches of the alt-right, if you’re yet to do so.
• Inkpulp commemorates the year without conventions this week, as part of virtual DragonCon, with Shawn Crystal and Jeff Dekal discussing the realities of convention life for creatives, including how to stay healthy at in-person events once they do return, which will likely be a very different prospect post-COVID.
• A double bill of cartoonist chats from Noah Van Sciver this week, as he talks first to Kate Lacour about the importance of workspaces and working with Fantagraphics, and then speaks with Ivan Brunetti about avoiding burnout and achieving the goal of telling the stories you want to tell.
• Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou presents a new episode of Strip Panel Naked, this week looking at the visual distortion Taiyō Matsumoto employs in Ping Pong, exaggerating the movement of characters during the table tennis matches the book depicts.
• John Siuntres took the Word Balloon out on a couple of trips this week, speaking to Gerry Conway about where the Punisher might go in the age of Black Lives Matter; and catching up with Chuck Austen about his comics and animation work, fan entitlement, and what to expect from new comic series Edgeworld.
• Comix Experience hosted a new edition of the Kids GN Book Club this week, as Brian Hibbs welcomed Gillian Goerz to the show to discuss her new book Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer, winding paths to a comic career, and process chat on visualizing the narrative of a story.
The silence is deafening… This week’s easy-listening.
• Comic Books Are Burning In Hell returned this week with not one, not two, not four, but three hosts, all discussing the best comic the weight of a child’s bowling ball you’re likely to read this year, Andy Douglas Day’s Boston Corbett, as the two big questions were asked - is comics a suitable medium for biography, and whose dog is that?
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come welcomed interim executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Jeff Trexler, to the show this week, as he discussed the future of the embattled organization with host Calvin Reid, as it seeks to expand and update its mission.
• NPR’s Ask Me Another pitted Keight Knight against his sister Tracy this week, as the pair competed to guess what comic strips lines of dialogue come from, and discussed the arrival of the new TV show based on his work, Woke.
• Shelfdust Presents took a look at the arrival of Marvel’s first family this week, as JA Micheline and Matt Lune looked back at Fantastic Four #1, and the subtle interplay of absolute stone-cold classic character design and extra-cheesy dialogue. Excelsior!
• 2000 AD’s Thrillcast celebrated 30 years of sister publication The Judge Dredd Megazine this week, as host MOLCH-R welcomed every host the comic has ever known to the show for a royal rumble of fond remembrances - Steve MacManus, David Bishop, John Tomlinson, Andy Diggle, Alan Barnes, and Matt Smith.
• Dan Berry welcomed Chris Baldie to Make It Then Tell Everybody this week, as the pair discussed crowdfunding and admin, webcomics and accessibility, and creative risks and subjective humor.
• Nick Roche was the guest on this week’s episode of Off Panel, as he discussed new series Scarenthood with David Harper, and the all important heist of breaking into comics.
Those are all the links that September has to offer, back in October with some more - in the meantime, if you’re able, you can donate to the Louisville Bail Project here, which will help out those protesting the lack of criminal charges brought against the killers of Breonna Taylor.