Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 30, 2007

CR Preview: Willie & Joe: The WWII Years


In February, Fantagraphics Books will release a two-volume slip cover collection of Bill Mauldin's World War II-era cartoons, known best by their iconic, rumpled GI leads, Willie & Joe. Willie & Joe: The WWII Years is the first in a planned series of books collecting Mauldin's cartoons from 1940 until 1991, from the time he was doing cartoons that only his fellow soldiers saw to the moment when Willie & Joe became a publicly adored window into the life and concerns of the average GI, through a long and distinguished career as an editorial cartoonist. The series is being edited by Todd DePastino, Mauldin's soon-to-be biographer, and should be as beautifully presented as the best strip collections to date.

I adore Bill Mauldin's work. Even in the early days, it was smart, funny and easy on the eye. Those early strips engaged a worthy subject in humane fashion, an outlook that would serve him in the editorial cartoonist career to come. Talking to people in my parents' and grandparents' generation about them, I think it's possible to say that the World War II era cartoons changed the way a lot of people thought about war, focusing attention on the human frustrations and small victories that become monumental framed against a background of destruction and death. They had an immediacy that works in other media didn't, and they were funny. When George Patton in a famous encounter lit into Mauldin for making cartoons that he thought were hurting morale, it's hard not to get the feeling he resented such a widely-read first draft of history that put people other than the great generals directly on stage, or that soiled the clean lines of military accomplishment with dirt and grime and acerbic wit. It's also hard to imagine Patton had a sense of humor.

What's additionally remarkable if you look at the cartoons is how quickly Mauldin's craft skills were refined -- from rough, almost student-level work (of the time) in 1940 to lively, lovely cartooning in 1944-1945, a couple of years which embodied one of the top five runs of any comics-related effort ever. He became much more assured in how to draw the reader's attention by visual cues, most effectively I think when he would layer a number of visual cues into a picture all designed to draw you into a center, usually for a one-liner, the way you might lean into a conversation at a boisterous party. He never overplayed any single approach, however, and to read a bunch of Willie & Joe cartoons in a row is to get a lesson on subtleties on comics panel staging.

The great thing about the Fantagraphics series is that the focus is squarely on the cartoons. Perhaps alone among the prolific, great cartoonists rarely seriously considered for the 20th Century pantheon, Bill Mauldin's work has been widely read. He was of course a well-syndicated and sought-after editorial cartoonist, with a daily readership in the millions. In addition, Mauldin's books, sporting a number of cartoons in support of Mauldin's prose, penetrated as deeply into a certain kind of suburban American bookshelf as Schulz and Addams and Steinberg. They weren't primarily considered cartoon books, though, at least not to my memory. This series of books will be a cartoon series, a study of the panel cartoon that should surpass anything published to date.

Mauldin lived a fascinating life with moments as grand and dramatic as any cartoonist ever experienced: the aforementioned dressing-down by Patton, running for Congress, starring in movies, receiving an escort into Chicago from the airport when he was hired by the Sun-Times, tangling with the Daley family, sinking into a level of heartbreaking personal despair, and a long line of visitors that passed through his hospital room weeks before his death just to say goodbye to their one-time everyday chronicler, the soldier's cartoonist. It's wonderful that his work will get a treatment for the ages, and I hope that any and all comics fans will use this opportunity to reconsider his achievements.

Please enjoy a look at a sampling of cartoons from the forthcoming book showing off the range of Mauldin's World War II work 1940-1945, a series of links, and a piece about his life that appeared in The Comics Journal upon his passing in 2003. And please consider buying Willie & Joe: The WWII Years when it comes out in early 2008.




25 Bill Mauldin Links

1. 45th Infantry Division Memorial
2. Back Home
3. Beyond Willie and Joe Exhibit by Library of Congress
4. Burial at Arlington Cemetery
5. Chicago Sun-Times Obituary
6. Obituary
7. Educational Site Profile
8. Flakmag Obituary
9. Friends of Willie and Joe
10. IMDB Page
11. I've Decided I Want My Seat Back
12. Entry
13. New York Times Obituary
14. PBS Gallery
15. PBS Profile
16. Personal Posting of Up Front Cartoons
17. Personal Reminiscence
18. Review of Red Badge of Courage
19. Review of Up Front
20. Stars and Stripes Obituary
21. St. Louis Walk of Fame
22. Strips Re-Run by Stars and Stripes
23. Tributes to Bill Mauldin
24. Wikipedia Entry
25. With Audie Murphy in Red Badge of Courage


imageWilliam Henry (Bill) Mauldin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartoons and the creator of World War II icons Willie and Joe, died January 22, 2003. He had been sick for an extended period of time previous to his passing.

Mauldin was born in the tiny, south-central New Mexico town of Mountain Park on October 29, 1921. He was named for his grandfather, one of the early settlers of the region who had befriended such larger than life figures of the American West as Pat Garrett and the cattle baron Oliver Lee. "Uncle Billy," as Mauldin's grandfather was known in the Mauldin family, worked for the U.S. Army as a civilian scout during the Geronimo skirmishes in the 1880s. Continuing in the family tradition, Mauldin's father served as an artilleryman in France during World War I. Mauldin would later describe family members' past involvement with the military as a factor "that did nothing to alienate me from the martial life."

A talented artist at an early age, Mauldin focused on a career in cartooning during his teen years. Spurred on by dreams of the great riches he read were due the great practitioners in the field, Mauldin borrowed money from a family member to take the Landon school correspondence course (PDF Link), a pay-by-mail series of lessons in arts basics that both served as a revenue generator for its owners and as a potential recruitment tool for cartooning talent among its graduates. Discovering his son's interest, Mauldin's father introduced the budding cartoonist to a regionally published cartoon maker and gag artist known as Hillbilly Larry Smith. Armed with the streamlined methods of the Landon School and the practical tips handed down by Smith, Mauldin began to do work for his high school in Alamogordo and take on a few gigs in local advertising. Moving to Phoenix to finish high school, Mauldin was influenced by his teachers there as well as the Arizona Republic cartoonist Reg Manning to broaden his artistic technique and continue his arts education after high school.

Out of high school, Mauldin attended classes at the Academy of Fine Art in Chicago for a year. Mauldin learned under the teachers Wellington J. Reynolds, who earlier taught E.C. Segar; the widely published gag cartoonist Don Ulsh; and the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Vaughn Shoemaker of the Chicago Daily News. Mauldin also began an ambitious freelance program of sending out cartoons to potential buyers ranked by their status. "I would put sketches The New Yorker had returned into a fresh envelope for Collier's, the Collier's stuff to Saturday Evening Post, and so on down the line. By the time a dozen or so editors and their assistants had pawned over the roughs, the paper, not a very fancy grade to begin with, had gotten a little scruffy." Mauldin enjoyed little success as a Chicago-based freelancer.

Mauldin returned to the region of his birth in a burst of homesickness, confident his brief time at the Academy had given him the skills to succeed as a commercial artist. But finding steady work proved to be rough going. Although Mauldin found some success doing campaign cartoons for local political candidates, he remained largely unemployed until a high school friend convinced him to join the Army. According to Mauldin, enlisting not only solved his vocational problems, it allowed him to avoid being drafted into the infantry if and when the United States went to war in Europe. The year was 1940, and the U.S. Army Mauldin joined was still undergoing massive changes due to accelerated growth. He bounced from his original position as a driver and into, ironically, an infantry unit, where he settled into a position with the division's newspaper and whatever infrequent freelance work he might be able to score while off duty.

imageMauldin flourished as a cartoonist in the service. His service-related cartoons became a popular feature in the 45th Division News, and he continued his efforts part-time through training in the Southwest, advanced training in the Northeast, and overseas where the division joined Allied efforts in Sicily and Italy. In conditions that bore the fresh wounds of war in the soil, buildings and wounded soldiers, Mauldin and his fellow journalists begged, bought and haggled for the materials needed to produce a paper by servicemen and for servicemen. As the United States effort became more entrenched and its front line advanced across the continent, the newspaper found a more solid foundation for its publication. Still, Mauldin stressed that he and his fellow journalists never lost their connection to the front lines. In The Brass Ring, he would write, "Each of us came back from every trip forward feeling both grateful and guilty about being spared from those freezing-wet foxholes and those deadly-accurate German 88 guns and mortars, and it was probably a good thing, because our work reflected our feelings. Our paper took on a new character. Light anecdotes gave way to irony." By 1943, the Mauldin cartoons were so well received they started to be reprinted in Stars and Stripes. In 1944, Mauldin began a six-days-a-week assignment with that widely disseminated armed services newspaper and holdover from the First World War. Mauldin's audience expanded from a single division and its frontline neighbors to an entire continent at war.

The progression from stateside volunteer to weary veteran in an active theater of war transformed Mauldin's work from the lighthearted and sarcastic into explorations of the ironic poignancy and grim sense of humor for which he is most celebrated. Mauldin's early cartoons were often of a standard editorial variety or even light commentaries on military culture, concerning subjects as general as the transformation of American cavalry divisions into armored tank companies. And there remained a certain amount of levity to some of his work even in Europe, seen in cartoons such as those spoofing certain rules regarding the conduct of off-duty soldier in Italian towns.

Most importantly, Mauldin experienced his artistic growth through the development of his most famous characters. Willie and Joe were at first a standard comedic team, with Joe as the hook-nosed Native American (Mauldin's unit, Company K, was from Oklahoma, and had within its body several Native American soldiers) and Willie the straight man. But eventually Mauldin switched the characters' names and the pair became standard industry everymen. As fully realized in the heyday of their appearances in the 45th Division News, Willie and Joe were world-weary foot soldiers from the European theater, extremely competent when it came to performing their duties, but keenly aware of the shortcomings and inherently absurd humor to be found in life during war time. They grew beards to reflect the lack of water to shave in many theaters of battle and the cold weather to be found in the mountain battles, the kind of attention to detail that made Mauldin's characters accepted and beloved.

The characters, and Mauldin's work in general, became huge favorites of enlisted men whenever they were exposed to them. Comic strip historian RC Harvey dissected Willie and Joe's anti-authoritarian appeal for the The Comics Journal:
Rained on and shot at and kept awake in trenches day and night, the combat soldier was wet, scared, dirty and tired all the time; and Mauldin's spokesmen -- the scruffy, bristle-chinned, stoop-shouldered Willie and Joe in their wrinkled and torn uniforms -- were taciturn but eloquent witnesses on behalf of the prosecuted. Through simple combat-weary inertia, they defied pointless army regulations and rituals: they would fight the war, but they wouldn't keep their shoes polished.
imageAs the fame of the cartoon pair spread, many conservative officers, particularly those who were in the Army before the war and served as the backbone of its World War II officer corps, felt the image of Willie and Joe was a slap in the face of the longstanding, popular image of the American recruit as an ordinary man becoming spit-and-polish Regular Army before returning to the simple pleasures of civilian life. General George S. Patton was a noted critic of the Willie and Joe strips, believing the characters undignified and the situations disrespectful of military procedure. In The Brass Ring, Mauldin recounts in brilliant and hilarious detail about meeting Patton in his Paris office late in the War and personally receiving a long diatribe on the virtues of leadership and the fundamental disrespect inherent in the Willie and Joe portraits. "You make them look like goddamn bums," says Patton in Mauldin's account. "I don't know where you got those stripes on your arm, but you'd put 'em to a lot better use getting out and teaching respect to soldiers instead of encouraging them to bitch and beef and gripe and run around with beards on their faces and holes in their elbows."

But Mauldin, who thought Patton viewed the enlisted men as peasants, wouldn't have his "dogfaces" look or act any other way. "I drew pictures for and about the soldiers because I knew what their life was like and understood their gripes," he told an interviewer after the war. "I wanted to make something out of the humorous situations which come up even when you don't think life could be any more miserable." Knowing that the cartoon's popularity with its intended audience of rank-and-file soldiers mitigated concerns from even a high-ranking general, Mauldin did confess some measure of satisfaction that Patton let him speak his piece in defense of the cartoons. The Patton-Mauldin meeting, with much less colorful language, was later written up in Time. Although after reading the piece Patton vowed he would throw Mauldin in jail were they to meet again, they never did so he never did; their confrontation remains one of the most famous anecdotes about wartime journalism.

Further approbation awaited Mauldin back home. A turning point had arrived for Mauldin in 1944 when the famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle profiled Mauldin for his massive stateside readership. Pyle wrote, "Sergeant Bill Mauldin seemed to us over there to be the finest cartoonist the war had produced. And that's not merely because his cartoons are funny, but because they are also terribly grim and real. Mauldin's cartoons aren't about training-camp life, which is most familiar to people at home. They are about the men in the line -- the tiny percentage of our vast Army who are actually doing the dying. His cartoons are about the war." Due in great part to Pyle's attention, the cartoonist's notoriety quickly grew beyond the confines of military culture. United Features soon syndicated Mauldin's cartoons as Up Front, and several newspapers across the U.S. began carrying Mauldin's work next to popular strips of the day. The American people were desperate for insight into the daily lives and outlook of their friends, neighbors and family members overseas, and Mauldin's take felt as legitimate as any mud-stained letter. Cultural critics agreed with the public's positive assessment. Mauldin won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning for his work. Twenty-four years old, Bill Mauldin was at that time the youngest person to win the award.

imageMauldin returned to the United States a minor celebrity; Willie and Joe came back the same grunts they went in. When the war in Europe ended, Mauldin's iconic pair returned home and eventually faded into the same blissful anonymity shared by their fellow real-world grunt soldiers. But that fate was a long time coming. It wasn't even a certainty -- Mauldin said years later he planned on killing the pair during the last days of the war, but was vetoed by his editor at Stars and Stripes. Mauldin's syndicate encouraged the cartoonist to feature cartoons of soldiers returning to civilian life, and Mauldin did so with his favorite pair under titles such as Sweatin' It Out and Willie and Joe. But the biting commentary that had seemed a fresh air of American contrariness in wartime now seemed overly political, and newspapers began dropping Mauldin's cartoon in droves. After life in syndication, Willie and Joe stepped out of retirement only a few times, and across various media. They appeared in a pair of elegant editorial cartoons done after two great generals of World War II died: George C. Marshall in 1959, and Omar Bradley in 1983. They also appeared as characters in Mauldin's 1947 book Back Home, and as characters in a pair of movies. Through subsequent re-printings of Up Front, including a current printing by Norton, audiences have also remained familiar with the original source material.

Ironically, Mauldin was not able to turn his initial post-war notoriety into a stable, long-term career as an editorial cartoonist. The bulk of his cartoons attacked targets such as the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism with such blunt savagery that United Features had a hard time placing them in small-town newspapers. Disillusioned, Mauldin would give up newspaper cartooning for several years.

There was much to fill Mauldin's time. The period directly after the war was one dominated by book efforts and other eclectic attempts to stay active and in the public eye, including an unsuccessful run for a seat in the United States Congress. Mauldin's post-war publishing career began auspiciously. Up Front was published in the same year as he received the Pulitzer, and became his most popular book. The volume reprinted dozens of Willie and Joe cartoons, pairing them with a running commentary by Mauldin about the real-life situation that was mirrored in each cartoon. The book was enormously successful. In an introduction to a later edition, the historian Stephen Ambrose claimed Up Front has sold over three million copies and stayed at number one on the New York Times best-seller list for a jaw-dropping 18 months after its initial publication. Hailed as one of the clearest and most doggedly truthful of World War II accounts by historians and veterans alike, Up Front has remained sporadically in print ever since. He would publish several more times over the course of his professional career, including the ruminative Back Home (1947), the autobiographical A Sort of a Saga (1949) and The Brass Ring (1971), and reportage-fueled efforts like Bill Mauldin in Korea (1952), I've Decided I Want My Seat Back (1965), and Let's Declare Ourselves Winners and Get the Hell Out (1985).

Two movies were filmed based on Mauldin's early cartoon work. Up Front, sharing a title with Mauldin's newspaper feature and most successful book, featured Broadway superstar Tom Ewell and future Sgt. Bilko regular Harvey Lembeck as Willie and Joe. In addition to the expected wry commentary from the pair over the vagaries of military life during wartime, audiences were treated to a through-plot involving Naples, an extremely ripe Emi Rosso, and her father's illegal alcohol business. The 1951 movie was enough of a success for a sequel to be made and released the following year. Back at the Front took Willie and Joe from their post-service civilian lives and back into military life at a base in Japan, with a similarly dame-laden caper of a plot.

Oddly, Mauldin's brief acting career may be better remembered than the films made from his cartoons. Mauldin had featured roles in two notable Hollywood films released in 1951. In Teresa, Mauldin joined the notorious starlet Pier Angeli and shared a screen debut with Rod Steiger and John Ericson in a Fred Zinneman film lauded at the time (winning an Oscar for original story) and rarely discussed now. Mauldin enjoyed a longer-lasting reputation as one in a series of fine supporting performances in the Audie Murphy vehicle and anti-war film The Red Badge of Courage. Critics noted Mauldin's portrayal of Tom Wilson, the Loud Soldier, as extremely effective in a movie whose status has grown since its release. It was, however, Mauldin's last film.

Mauldin would eventually return to newspaper cartooning in a big way. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1959 as the full-time editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Dispatch, where a year earlier he had settled in as replacement to the legendary Daniel Fitzpatrick. Taking a position with a big city newspaper solved the professional dilemma that had earlier driven him from the field by placing him in an urban setting that would appreciate his views on Civil Rights, environmental reform and, eventually, strong disagreement with U.S. policy in Vietnam. Mauldin flourished professionally. In 1961, he became only the second editorial cartoonist (after Herblock) to win the Reuben Award given out by the National Cartoonists Society. In 1962, Mauldin moved to an even bigger urban center, taking a position alongside cartoonist Jacob Burck at the Chicago Sun-Times, a job he would hold until an accident involving a large car part being dropped on his drawing hand forced his retirement in 1991.

imageMauldin's second opportunity at a newspaper platform cemented his place amongst the great editorial cartoonists of the 20th Century. Says historian Harvey, "Mauldin is in that pantheon because he hit his subjects hard, pulling no punches in presenting his opinion, and because he did it by yoking words to pictures for emphatic, memorable statements that were often visual metaphors. His comment on the assassination of JFK, for instance, has become a classic -- the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, bent forward, head in his hands, a perfect posture of grief, an emblem of national mourning."

One constant throughout his career was that Mauldin maintained the ability to throw himself into a story. Writer Charles Poore wrote glowingly of the cartoonist in a 1965 article entitled "Satire is the Eternal Vaudeville of Morality" that appeared in the New York Times. "Mr. Mauldin certainly gets around. His running text describes some of his recent adventures as a cartoonist. Always a man to see for himself, he went out to Vietnam not long ago and plunged into the heart of the action. Or rather, got plunged. He was there when President Kennedy's insistence on giving Americans weapons equal to their task was beginning to bear fruit. He shared rugged days." Minus the references to Kennedy and Southeast Asia, that description of Mauldin the middle-aged editorial cartoonist could have applied to his work as a soldier 20 years previous. So would have this Mauldin credo from that era concerning the thrust of his editorial cartoon work. "I'm against oppression -- by anyone."

imageBy the time of his second retirement from cartooning, Mauldin had relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In recent years, the cartoonist took to sculpting three-dimensional versions of some of his earliest works. An active participant in the National Cartoonists Society, Mauldin appeared in their annual meeting's programming as late as 1999, the same year his wartime cartoons were recognized as one of the top 100 comics efforts of the century by The Comics Journal. Several younger cartoon fans grew to know Mauldin as a friendly reference made by Charles Schulz's root-beer swilling would-be veteran Snoopy on appropriately reflective days in the Peanuts strip, or by Schulz's own many public references to Mauldin's cartooning skill. The affection and respect between Mauldin and Schulz was legitimate and reciprocated. Schulz contributed an illustration to a reprinting of Up Front and editorialized in favor of a Bill Mauldin room at a planned D-Day Memorial. For his part, in allowing the re-use of Willie and Joe figures in a 1998 Peanuts strip Mauldin would gain the undeserved reputation as the only artist to ever draw on a Peanuts daily other than Schulz, one of comics most persistent yet oddly sweet urban legends of recent vintage. Schulz would later participate in the NCS-sponsored cartoonists dinner marking his colleague's passing.

According to biographical information linked to his film work, Mauldin was married twice, to the former Norma Jean Humphries from 1942 to 1946 and to the former Natalie Sarah Evans starting in 1947. With Humphries, Mauldin had two sons, Bruce Patrick and Timothy. Mauldin had four more sons with his second wife: Andrew, David, John and Nathaniel. In addition to the pair of Pulitzer Prizes and the Reuben, Mauldin was inducted into the St. Louis Sidewalk Hall of Fame (at 6271 Delmar) in May of 1991. The cartoonist also received honorary degrees from several American universities, such as Albion College, Connecticut Wesleyan, and St. Louis' own Washington University.

It was Mauldin himself who best characterized the unapologetic but human approach to the cartooning profession for which he was known and loved, in a statement made for a 1961 profile in Time. "When we realize finally that we aren't God's given children, we'll understand satire. Humor is really laughing off a hurt, grinning at misery."

Bill Mauldin was 81 years old.
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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Paris, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Canada, I'd Go To This, And Look For The Comics-Related Stuff

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If I Were In Santa Rosa, I'd Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: great House of Twelve Goes to War cover by Danny Hellman

* go, read: another article about the XKCD gathering

* go, read: profile of the great Lat

* go, look: Nadia Ravisconi web site

* go, look: the actual cover image for Jack Cole's Betsy & Me
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FfF Results Post #93 -- Stuff

Five For Friday #93 Results

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to name "Name Five Objects From the Comics You Wouldn't Mind Owning" Here are the results.



Tom Spurgeon

1. Snoopy's Van Gogh
2. That boss hovering motorcycle thing that Jack Kirby used to draw The Thing flying around on
3. A Life Model Decoy
4. The Addams Family House
5. Green Lantern's Ring



Jeff Newelt

* A Mother Box
* A card for Lucien's Library
* A nug of medicinal Swamp Thing
* A bottle of Salon-style Absinthe
* A Mek




1. Ra's Al Gul Lazareth Pit
2. H.E.R.B.I.E
3. Herbie The Fat Fury's Lollies
4. Phantom Zone Projector
5. Sinestero's Ring -- Check and MATE, Mr. Spurgeon!



Scott Cederlund

1) A pair of webshooters
2) The Spirit's hat
3) a Green Lantern ring
4) Nick Fury's flying SHIELD car
5) A giant penny


Marc Arsenault


* I'd like to wake up in my Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village
* Then drive to work in my Fantasticar
* I'd get into the office by descending in a barber's chair
* Which would take me to Schuiten's Hollow World
* Where I would draw all over everything with Harold's Purple Crayon



Sean Kleefeld

1. Mr. Fantastic's computer (heck, I'd settle for his cast-offs!)
2. Dr. Doom's Latverian castle
3. The Bottled City of Kandor
4. Judge Dredd's lawmaster
5. That giant penny from the Batcave... just because




1. Calvin's transmogrifier from Calvin and Hobbes
2. Calvin's duplicator
3. Joe Matt's viewmaster collection
4. Pekar's record collection
5. Liz Prince's boyfriend



J. Caleb Mozzocco

1.) Metron's chair
2.) Scrooge's swim-able money bin
3.) The Dial H For Hero dial
4.) A Superman robot
5.) One of Batman's Sidekick Uniform Display Cases (In Which I Would Not Put Spoiler's Costume In Either)



Dave Knott

* The lighthouse from Hicksville
* Spider-man's dune buggy
* Rip Hunter's time sphere
* Doctor Strange's cloak of levitation, complete with the Eye of Agamotto clasp
* The phantom zone projector



Sean T. Collins

1. The Cosmic Cube
2. The Batcave, fully stocked
3. The germ or virus or whatever that causes the teen plague in Black Hole, in a vial
4. The remote control gizmo from Click!
5. Linus's security blanket


Thanks to all that participated!

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First Thought Of The Day

The strangest television commercial out there right now is the one where they play weepy music and we witness an extended chain of personal kindnesses people do one another. The upshot I guess is that this is the kind of humane behavior one can expect from the advertiser on a regular basis. The thing that's completely fucked up about this commercial is that they mix actual personal kindnesses, like grabbing someone's suitcase off of the carousel after it's passed them by, with instances of acting not-like-an-inhuman-monster, like warning someone before they walk into traffic to their death. It's like the people who wrote it are such grumpy, inconsiderate assholes they can't figure out enough things to make up a decent chain of small acts.
"What's next, everyone?"

"I'm not sure about this, but I suppose I could be convinced to save someone's life if I were put into a contemplative mood about helping people first."

"Really? Interesting... Okay, we'll go with that."
Also, I can't remember what this commercial is for, despite it playing 10,000 times during my sports shows. That's never a good sign of money well spent.
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September 29, 2007

If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Michigan, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Paris, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Paris, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Concord, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from September 22 to September 28, 2007:

1. Indian cartoonist Irfan Khan sentenced along with three journalistic colleagues to four months in jail for contempt against the court; decision later set aside for appeal after waves of anger within and without the country. An hearing on an appeal is scheduled for January.

2. Pittsburgh retailer and con organizer Michael George decides not to pursue a trial on the matter of extradition to Michigan, where he faces various charges related to the 1990 death of his then-wife.

3. Another side emerges in the Guilford Incident story.

Winner Of The Week
Scott McCloud

Loser Of The Week
Michael George

Quote Of The Week
"Everyone thinks they're really smart -- but in reality, everyone is really stupid!" -- John Holmstrom's tribute strip to Ken Weiner.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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Happy 81st Birthday, Russ Heath!

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Happy 49th Birthday, Tim Vigil!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Jennifer Daydreamer!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Nicolas de Crecy!

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September 28, 2007

Five For Friday #93 -- Stuff


Five For Friday #93 -- Name Five Objects From the Comics You Wouldn't Mind Owning

1. Snoopy's Van Gogh
2. That boss hovering motorcycle thing that Jack Kirby used to draw The Thing flying around on
3. A Life Model Decoy
4. The Addams Family House
5. Green Lantern's Ring


This topic is now closed. Thanks to all that participated.

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response to that week's question a) while it's still Friday, b) that doesn't try to twist or avoid the spirit of the exercise, like throwing in a tie for fifth place or adding a bunch of bonus choices. Responses up by Monday morning.
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Friday Distraction: Comics + Shelf on Flickr

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If I Were In PDX, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In BC, I'd Go To This

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India Supreme Court Suspends Sentence of Cartoonist Irfan Khan, Colleagues

The Indian Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal on behalf of cartoonist Irfan Khan, his editor, his publisher and a fellow journalist for work they published in Mid-Day that the Delhi High Court decided was detrimental to the court and sentenced the quartet to four months in jail, a sentence now set aside. The hearing was scheduled for January 2008.

In a dramatic turn, 27 supporters and prominent, public citizens had asked to be included in the sentence because of their own comparable culpability in what they feel is a baseless charge. You don't see that in the U.S. very often. That motion was denied.
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Go, Look: Fletcher Hanks' Space Smith

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Guilford Incident Commentary Deepens

The updates this morning on the Guilford Incident, where a Connecticut high school teacher named Nate Fisher, resigned after giving a high school student Eightball #22 to make up a summer reading assignment, seems to still be cresting on a secondary wave of attention paid the story, as we began to track yesterday.

It looks Dirk Deppey is the source for the links being e-mailed to CR this morning, one of which is a conversation on a a local message board discussing the incident, including some supplementary linkage (one of which is a video I can't run that purports to show Nate Fisher's picture). The second is a series of three posts from a blog covering educational issues in that area.

It's probably best not to stake entire arguments on the specific claims made on these sites, for instance the reported discussion Nate Fisher, but I think it's interesting to note that a) there's solid testimonial and personal support for the teacher, b) there's more support than one might have guessed based on the principles involved, c) there's enough people now asserting he was fired without a full hearing for his side on the matter that I think it's officially an issue, and d) people may be beginning to focus on the fairness of the resignation rather than rehashing non-arguments like whether or not parents should want to protect a child or the relative wisdom of the original assignment. I don't think it's enough to say "mistakes were made on all sides" when the outcome for those sides has been so imbalanced. While we need to remember these issues for any future such incident, it's also important that we continue to press for a better result for Mr. Fisher.
posted 11:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark:

posted 11:16 am PST | Permalink

Casterman Considering Tintin Insert catches a mention that indicates Casterman is negotiating with the Herge Estate in order to facilitate placing an insert into Tintin Au Congo, explaining the historical context for that book's controversial depictions of Africans. Moves to pull the book or to shelve it differently have already hit Austrlia, Belgium and the United States.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Cult Fiction

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Comics Staffing News

* Publishing industry veteran John Shableski joins Diamond's book arm as Sales Manager, where he will oversee sales & marketing to independent bookstores, libraries and schools. The hire is endorsed by Greg Zura, which is good enough for me.

* Lillian Diaz-Przybyl has received a promotion to senior editor at Tokyopop, in today's announcement that makes me most glad I don't report these things on a radio show.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Writer's Rooms

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

OTBP and Limited Printings, Too

There are a couple of books out right now deserving of "Off the Beaten Path" attention that I notice have limited print runs, so they need to go up today. Actually, I'm only assuming that Johnny Ryan's Klassic Komics Klub #3 has as limited a run as previous issues. I could be wrong, but it's not like you shouldn't want this book anyway. I think the series may be Ryan's best showcase. For $20 you can get a copy of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' sprawling history and celebration The Golden Notebook, which sounds like a lot of fun.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: An Illustrated Life

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Alan Gardner Compiles Three Pieces on Three Major Industry Trends

Alan Gardner has smartly pulled together three articles identifying general newspaper industry trends with an obvious and perhaps sooner-than-you-think impact on the newspaper comics field. Those trends are: smaller newspaper (which I admit hadn't occurred to me at all), a move to more free dailies (with a possible benefit for cartoonists) and fewer print newspapers period as on-line content settles in for the long haul. I agree with Gardner that such trends will not threaten comic strip syndication directly, but should have an impact on other factors such as the number of markets and the potential for more local cartoon hires.
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: A Jeff Smith Album Cover


they still call them album covers?
posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Finishes
How Comics Are Born
James Vance on Decompression
Sean Phillips Tweaks After Finishing
Mike Manley Draws Figures in Pastels

Go To Ithaca
ICAF Preview
Go See Ricky Nobile
Go See Hector Cantu
Kim Deitch Speech Report
Scott McCloud Talk Report
Go See Cartoonists at Manchester

Go, Look: Train Cartoons
What Was Fletcher Hanks, Anyway?
Greatest Paul Conrad Cartoon Ever
Manga Not As Diverse as We Think?
Who Says They Don't Still Ask the Hard Questions?

Webcomic Idol 2 Starting Up
Jimmy Marguiles Wins Party Toon Contest
Catastrophe Shop Back Up, One Last Time
Thinking About Downloading Mainstream Comics

CBR: Wiley Miller
Wizard: Steve Gerber
Guardian: Neil Gaiman
ComixTalk: Tauhid Bondia
Newsarama: Zack Giallongo
CBR: Various PopGun People
Pulse: mpMann, A. David Lewis
Profile of Portland Comics Scene
Alter Ego Comic Cast: Jeff Parker
Inkstuds: Brett Warnock, Chris Staros

Not Comics
Cartoonist Torn at CSU
Architect on Mega City One
What Cartoonists Do With Time Off
Your Neighbor Loves Reading Manga
James Jean's Contribution to Fashion
Book Editors Want to Be Creators, Too
Did Nixon Hate Post Because of Herblock?
Mom Has No Time For Prose; Reads Comics
Obsidian Hates Pancakes, Firemen Love Jailbait

Goon OGN Imminent
Diamond Accepts Murder Moon
New York Previews The Arrival
Out of the Gene Pool Transforms
Frank Cho Leaves Avengers Book
David Astor's Appreciation of Editorial Comics

Jog: Starstruck
AV Club: Various
RJ Carter: The Arrival
Chris Mautner: Various
Scott Rosenberg: Laika
Rob Clough: Mark Twain
Sarah Morean: Spaniel Rage
Brian Heater: Moomin Vol. 2
Jesse Miksic: The Nightly News
David Pescovitz: Comic Art Vol. 9
Shaenon Garrity: What's Michael?
Chris Mautner: Terry and the Pirates
Brian Heater: True Story, Swear to God
Dan Rafter: Edmund and Rosemary Go To Hell

September 27, 2007

CR Review: Avidor Roast/Weiner Roast


Creators: Various
Publishing Information: Mini-Comic, 24 pages, 2006
Ordering Numbers:

Unlike many comics of its kind, you can glean a lot of information on Avidor Roast/Weiner Roast from its cover. Its profile of the cartoonist Ken Avidor features a lot of cartooning that's as accomplished as those covers (by the artist/subject himself). The works inside alternately deal with Avidor's current role as a Twin Cities-area cartoonist engaged with local issues and what seems like a crazed, almost legendary figure of mayhem and craziness before changing his name from Ken Weiner. Much of it is greatly affectionate, and because there's enough work that pokes at certain life transitions and gets into the corners of his personality, the portrait feels surprisingly complete for one of these things.

Mostly, thought, what comes through is how much quality work is stuffed inside here -- almost literally so in the cases of some work shrunk down to fit. This is such an accomplished mini-comic that it may make you want to go back and apply a higher standard to all the other mini-comics that you've read recently. Created in conjunction with an exhibition of work paying tribute to the cartoonist Ken Avidor (and formerly known as Ken Weiner), the comic includes a lot of high-quality, ready-for-a-hardcover-anthology talent and work. This includes a Peter Bagge strip from Weirdo in which he commiserates with Weiner before heading west, a great-looking strip from Mark Martin, what I think is a parody by Kevin Cannon, and not one but two stories about a Denny Eichhorn-like, violence-filled night out before a wedding. There's a ton more, including appealing work by Avidor himself, all of which is eminently readable even when not up to the level of the two highlights: the Bagge strip, which shows the cartoonist settling into the style and type of humor that would kickstart his career a few years later and is about as good a comic short story on a certain kind of friendship that I can remember, and the pre-wedding night out strip created by the vastly under-appreciated John Holmstrom.

You may or may not know much about Ken Avidor, but if you're lucky enough to snap up this smart mini-comics, you'll appreciated his having made an impression on this bunch of cartoonists.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Stumptown Award Nominees

To vote in the awards, go to the Stumptown Comics Festival on Saturday at pick up a ballot. This is the first comics award ever given out at something called the Cosmic Monkey After-Party. I have no idea where these came from or how they were compiled.



Outstanding Art
* Bruno #10: Gina, Christopher Baldwin
* Ceasefire, Miriam Libicki
* The Mourning Star, Kazimir Strzepek (pictured)
* Edison Steelhead's Lost Portfolio, Renee French
* 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, Joelle Jones
* Cindy & Her Obasan, Stan Goldberg & Bob Smith
* Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai
* The Escapists, Jason Shawn Alexander



Outstanding Writing
* Finder, Carla Speed McNeil
* Silk Road to Ruin, Ted Rall
* The Homeless Channel, Matt Silady
* Super Spy, Matt Kindt (pictured above)
* Bookhunter, Jason Shiga
* Treachery! A Wondermark Collection, David Malki!
* The Escapists, Brian K. Vaughn



Outstanding Design
* Numb, Joshua Kemble
* The Life & Times of Baby Otto Zeplin, B.T. Livermore
* Silk Road to Ruin, Ted Rall
* The Mourning Star, Kazimir Strzepek
* Super Spy, Matt Kindt (pictured above)
* At Home on the Earth, Brian Oaster
* The Art of Bone, Cary Grazzini



Outstanding D.I.Y.
* Postage Stamp Funnies, Shannon Wheeler
* Jobnik!, Miriam Libicki
* Dumpster #1, Max Clotfelter
* Tales of Inertia, Tom Lechner (pictured above)
* DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic, Erika Moen



Outstanding Small Press
* Little Dee, Volume 2, Christopher Baldwin
* Narbonic Vol. 4, Shaenon Garrity
* Reporter, Dylan Williams (pictured above)
* Raised By Squirrels: Los Alamos, Bram Meehan
* Steve Lawlis: Frankenstein's Monkey, Rorschach Entertainment



Outstanding Debut
* Little Dee, Vol 2, Christopher Baldwin
* Finder: Sin Eater Hardcover Collection, Carla Speed McNeil
* Dumpster #1, Max Clotfelter
* Pinwheel, Mike Bertino (pictured above)
* Chickenhare: The House of Klaus, Chris Grine
posted 6:15 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Shore Line Times on the Guilford Incident, Parents and Students

This article on the incident in Guilford, Connecticut whereby a young teacher resigned after giving a student a copy of Eightball #22 offers up information that should change the way all of us look at the story.

One, we get for the first time a competing picture of a teacher that cared enough about students' reading material to scramble after anything that would get them interested to read, and at least one parent grateful that this happened.

Two, crucially, we get for the first time a picture of the parents of the affected child that goes beyond them simply exercising the necessary, blessed impulse that all parents have to protect their children and into a rational decision they are making and fighting for that this teacher must never teach again.

No teacher of displayed competence and interest in children learning to enjoy reading should for a single mistake like this one lose their job. There aren't that many good teachers. Parents should protect their children, but there's a reason we don't deputize parents that are protecting their children to make policy according to what they feel needs to be done protection-wise. That's the community's role. The specter of a lawsuit or the even more phantom-like notion of what could happen in a worst-case scenario should not be the motivating force here -- and that's true no matter what happens down the line, now matter if Nate Fisher turns out to be the best teacher ever or the worst one.

The system needs to step up, not for the potential upside of Nate Fisher's 30-year career that will never happen now, but for the principle of the matter and to send a message to any future teachers at that high school that they're not simply better off going into finance. God bless the parents of the kids supporting Nate Fisher for their doing so when doing so doesn't have the emotional tug of asserted, potential sleaze or the shock value for some that comes with naughtiness in a comic book.

Related: This New Haven Advocate articles takes a deep breath and a step back, explaining Dan Clowes' work in greater details, getting some literary analysis from the school's principal and confessing that the summary of elements they reported may not do the comic justice. Although I suspect they're getting Augusten Burroughs confused with James Frey; the movie version of Running With Scissors was bad, but not bad enough to disgrace its author.
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 80th Birthday, Jack Katz!

posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

It's Naruto's World, We Just Live In It

The surge of Naruto books, whereby installments of Masashi Kishimoto's mega-popular manga series are published at a much greater rate of release this Fall in order to catch the storyline up, and, perhaps, burn through a less popular period of the feature's serialized run, puts all three on the USA Today top 150 chart, although at the expected slightly diminished positions from the previous week. Naruto has way too much appeal and sales momentum not to place its books very highly on the charts. The key will be to mark if there are gains or decline over the months the series sells at a three-per-month clip, perhaps as a sign there's simply too much product out there, and if there's a hangover effect once the series continues in the new year at the old rate of publication.
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Matthias Schultheiss!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

Tintin Au Congo Sit-In Mostly Rained Out

Didier Pasamonik has an amusing story up at about a protest against the racist elements of venerable comics album backlist veteran Tintin Au Congo. Apparently, rain and an undesirable location kept the number of protesters at the meeting-for-coffee level. What's less amusing for many is a push that the book be removed from all shelves rather than provided explanatory context. Somehow, Barrack Obama's name is dropped.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Jim Shooter!

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Lisa Moore Will Die on October 4

Editor & Publisher notes that the character Lisa Moore will succumb to cancer in the October 4 installment of Tom Batiuk's Funky Winkerbean strip, the climax of an extended plot-line that has brought attention to Batiuk's solid, long-time performer and instigated discussion of what is appropriate to or at least desirable for the newspaper comics page. Two compelling outcomes: a charitable fund to which Batiuk will donated all proceeds of the forthcoming book about the storyline, and a forthcoming ten-year jump in time for the narrative of Batiuk's soap opera.

The thing I find fascinating about this storyline is that it's a recurrence for the character's cancer but also in a way a chance for Batiuk to take another shot about cancer and the issue of mortality. You can also see Batiuk's take this time around as representative of a more dour, fatalistic view on life that comes through a various times in the strip's history.
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 42nd Birthday, Mattt Konture!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Steven Grant on Barcodes

The writer Steven Grant has been on fire the last couple of weeks in his popular Comic Book Resources column "Master of the Obvious," with stronger than usual opinion-throwing. Not to say that Grant isn't usually willing to share his opinion, it's just that the last couple of weeks have given him better than average material. His dissection of sales problems that faced the WildStorm series The Highwaymen was almost brutal in its casual elucidation on the notion that while a comic series can be pretty good, pretty good in terms of story and execution may not be enough right now, and some of the blame for non-performance should be shouldered by the books. That column is here, with a follow-up in terms of letter response half-way down here.

It's that second column that makes me want to comment, though, as its first half deals with an announcement Diamond made at their Baltimore retailer summit about requiring all product to have bar codes from now on. Grant declares that Diamond "has pretty much shut down small comics publishing" with this announcement. I'm not sure this statement holds weight. I guess we'll see if there's a massive dying off. While there are quandaries for publishers created by such an edict, I'm not certain that it's an absolute barrier to publish as much as it's a mixed big of added hassles more effectively defined by a range of costs and options than characterized as a slasher film bogeyman five minutes away from chopping through the front door, as the people in this thread discuss. What little I'm able to read on-line about the added cost doesn't seem like a massive burden.

There's almost certainly a criticism to be made that this a policy that may punish certain people more than it helps, that adding a bar code of some sort doesn't do a thing to nudge in the direction of small press work a market largely oblivious to such material, one proven intractable over the years when it comes to any kind of alternative to superhero comics via a combination of inclination, history and resources pressed by the excesses of mainstream publishers seeking to maximize short-term returns. I get that. I disagree, and my hunch is that bar codes and POS systems will actually help nearly every participant a little bit and probably have helped some publishers already doing it. But I get the argument. At the same time, the entire notion of companies being shattered by an additional cost also triggers a pet peeve that I have about non-mainstream comics publishing, the idea that publishers in comics are somehow given dispensation to avoid the kind of basic investment in product that publishers are supposed to by definition bring to the table.

I think that comics have developed past a point where the desire to publish should be enough to publish. This phenomenon with its historical antecedents in the under-capitalized early arts-comics, self- and indy publishers of the late '70s and early '80s has as its highest profile, most noxious examples those set-ups that offer almost abusive contracts to creators in order to mitigate any risk for a publisher, with the hope that something might stick in the comics field, or, more likely, in Hollywood somewhere, where the publisher's fingers are dug so far into the ancillary rights pie it's pretty much a finger pie. Those publishers should be derided at any opportunity to do so. Yet I also think we're past the point where we should automatically have sympathy for business entities with far more modest or even admirable goals that seek a place in a market just because there might be some cost to enter that market. That's what businesses do that want to enter markets; they bear the costs of getting there. This is true of small theater companies, for example, that simply want to put on shows for 35 people at a time, or an independent movie whose greatest hope for exposure is maybe getting a one-time broadcast with no commercial push on a cable outfit like A&E. It should be true of comics, too, at least on a scale that makes sense.

To put it another way, it seems to me that if a company as modest in its aims and ultimately limited in its potential return as Alternative Comics, which continues to hang in there year after year, can do something like offer bar codes on its own initiative, it's not something that should be a barrier to anyone halfway serious about participating in a certain marketplace. Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect most of the publishers are going to hang in there, and if there is an effect it will be an almost subtle shift in terms of market depth in certain commercial genres, a phenomenon that's already active.
posted 6:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bid: Wright Awards Fundraiser




The Wright Awards have announced this year's auctions: Seth, Chester Brown and Dave Sim on the theme of Kirby monsters.
posted 6:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Leonardo Gori on Terry Scans

Go See Michael Capozzola
No, Really, This is the Last CCI Report

Isotope on 10 Years of Top Shelf

I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Reaction to Candorville
Paul O'Brien on Marvel's Sales
Marc-Oliver Frisch on DC Sales
Don MacPherson on Canadian Pricing 02

CBR: Matt Wagner
Media Circus: Joe Sacco
Willamette Week: Ted Rall
Rocky Mount Telegram: Danny Wilson

Not Comics
This Picture Is Still Very Disturbing
Persepolis Closing New York Festival
Which Superhero Are You Voting For?
Neighborhood Better Back In The Day

Buy Comics Comics #2
Buy Comics Comics #3
Book and Blog for JD Crowe

Hervé St-Louis: Fisher
Jelle Hugearts: Bittercomix
Dave Ferraro: Andromeda Stories
Richard Bruton: Mouseguard: Fall 1152
Noah Berlatsky on The Aardvark in the Closet
Leroy Douresseaux: The Comics Journal #284
Leroy Douresseaux: New Tales of Old Palomar #2


September 26, 2007

CR Review: Bow-Wow Board Books


Creators: Mark Newgarden, Megan Montague-Cash
Publishing Information: Red Wagon Books, board books, 18 pages, August 2007, $4.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780152058357 (Naps), 9780152058296 (Lunch)

I wasn't aware there was a designation called Board Books, but it makes sense and it's easy to figure what they're talking about: those kids' books with the super-thick pages, where every page is like the material that might make up the cover of a hard cover book. Bow-Wow Orders Lunch and Bow-Wow Naps by Numbers are sequels to the well-received Bow-Wow book by Megan-Montague-Cash and Mark Newgarden. For those unfamiliar with the name, many of his peers regard Newgarden as one of the most skilled practitioners of comics ever, with a pleasing line and an almost overpowering knowledge of comics page subtleties and effects. That makes his plunge into kids book authorship of interest to cartooning fans in general and fans of the RAW generation in particular. Neither volume disappoints, especially given the modest aims of the endeavor.

In the Bow-Wow books, Newgarden's skill set is applied to bring about subtle ripples within the framework of very simple and straight-forward stories -- the books are aimed at kids up to the age of 3 -- in a way that might set them apart from other books of this kind. Like the better children's book work by cartoonists, Bow-Wow Orders Lunch and Bow-Wow Naps by Numbers prove to be satisfying if not transcendent work for how its artist understands the book as a progression of visual moments. It's a comics effect that brings the reader a shiver of pleasure over something as simple as order being restored in the building of a sandwich (there's even a tiny wag of a tail). The rhythm established in the dream sequence that flowers in a lovely last page when our canine hero goes back to sleep and caps off his own mini-nightmare with a grace note, well, that's comics' ability to communicate through what has come before as much as the effect on the page. These are cute books, a must for Newgarden fans and something comics fans with a need for books in that age group might want to consider as well.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn't A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market



Here are those books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings when my retailer objected.


JUL070017 USAGI YOJIMBO #106 $2.99
JUL070240 SPIRIT #10 $2.99
JUL070019 SPEAK O/T DEVIL #2 (OF 6) $3.50
JUN072199 CRIMINAL #9 (MR) $2.99
You know, that's not a bad week at the comics shop in terms of classic indy/alt-type comics. If there were this many solid titles of that type coming out every week, that end of the comics market might stand a chance for total transformation.

Nor is it a bad week in terms of the higher-end superhero books. Do people still like Astro City? If not, why not?

Jog says this is a mess of stuff, including comics derived from an unpublished novel, new work derived from the setting in the unpublished novel, and an interview with Moore himself. This is clearly for Moore completists, but it's a very good book for those folks.

AUG073717 BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007 $22.00
A lot of great comics short stories and excerpts, the vast majority of which will be new to anyone not reading MOME or Kramers Ergot. The class offering of the week.

JUL073878 ELFWORLD VOL 1 TP (MR) $12.95
An uneven but generally amusing small press anthology featuring fantasy comics by art comics author, since picked up for distribution by Top Shelf.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. I am not a good person.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

Next Up: Buddha Eats Joe Smith's Poop

If like me you woke up this morning thinking, "No matter what else happens today, at least there's no way that story about people having their lives threatened over a drawing could get any more ridiculous," you might want to put off until after coffee reading the tale of the Christ Dog Statue and his apparently enormous Shveinenhoffer. Who says meaningful political discussion is dead?
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Jeremy Eaton's Combos


also through the same link access a recently posted Al Columbia sketchbook offer
posted 6:24 am PST | Permalink

Tribune Unpacks Its Editing Philosophy

Alan Gardner caught a piece by the Chicago Tribune's public editor explaining a decision by the paper to dump a recent Get Fuzzy installment for some minor crudities. It's the kind of article you read when you were 13 years old that made you go, "I knew it; they're making it up as they go along."
posted 6:22 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Book Autopsies

posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Does it feel to anyone else like Aaron McGruder's been out of comics for a decade?

* There are at least two semi-lengthy postings on the matter of a teacher named Nate Fisher resigning from a Connecticut school after objections to his having given a freshman a copy of Eightball #22 as a make-up assignment: New York, and Fantagraphics's Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics is the publisher of that work in its original, comic book form).

* Speaking of which, I'm glad that people are still arguing the issues surrounding the resignation with passion and meticulousness, because a lot of arguing on issues like this one tends to slip into a disconnect between the sides. For instance, you'll have people arguing that parents are simply doing their job protecting their children with everything they have, a statement almost no one in such an debate will argue in a way that indicts the underlying values embodied by such a point, although such an indictment is almost certainly what will be asserted on its behalf. The one, beneficial thing arguing strongly about such a case can hope to accomplish is to inject the wider debate with a thought or two that might in some way mitigate against a rash response the next time around.

* David B has won an historical prize presided over by Pasal Ory for his Futuropolis book, Par les chemins noirs, while the 18th Prix des Libraires has gone to Les 5 conteurs de Bagdad, by Frantz Duchazeau and Fabien Vehlmann.

* This article provides a recent history of Muslim agitation in Bangladesh, including the roles Muhammed protests have played. The recent flurry of violence and protests around the only-tangentially Muhammed-related cartoon done executed by young cartoonist Arifur Rahman seem to make more sense given the size and passion of previous protests.

* This editorial driven by the recent conviction of cartoonist Irfan Khan in India is worth a read if only for the killer phrase up top: "The cartoon is the most visible democracy index."
posted 6:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Trains Are... Mint 4

posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

Elmira Rallies Around Lynn Johnston

Here's a story that I thought was worth noting but I failed to catch it the first time through: apparently, an editor at an Elmira, New York, newspaper openly broached the subject of keeping Lynn Johnston's strip For Better or For Worse in its new hybrid format. The responses were overwhelmingly in support of Johnston and her strip, including some reading closely enough they were looking forward to a return to present-day plots for as long as Johnston wants to do those (the ballpark guess floating around out there is she wraps up Spring of next year, but I think this is a useless guess because of the potential for Johnston to change her mind).
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Glomp 9

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

E&P on Baldo's WWII Vet Storyline

Editor & Publisher has a lengthy profile of Baldo's World War II veteran character and storyline, a response to a perceived lack of representation in Ken Burns' current The War PBS documentary. I find it fascinating to read about a strip engaging with a TV show in that matter, particularly considering I hadn't known there was controversy about the documentary or that people even knew about its contents in the amount of time that it takes to have lead time on a comic strip.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Shortcomings Mini-Site

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

San Franciscans Remember Phil Frank has a sweet story up about a public remembrance for cartoonist Phil Frank, who died September 12. Frank's Farley ran in the San Francisco Chronicle for 32 years, most of them exclusive to the paper. Among the attendees were Frank's son and former Mayor Willie Brown, who was lampooned as a character in the feature. A video can be found here.
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Louise Simonson!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

PWCW: All of B&W Zot! On The Way

PWCW reported yesterday that Harper-Collins plans a one-volume, all of the black-and-white comics edition of Scott McCloud's Zot! at the amazing price of $22.95, to debut at next summer's Comic-Con International. Zot! was one of the seminal indy-comic titles of the 1980s, and launched McCloud's career. It was later collected in the mid 1990s by Kitchen Sink in color and black and white (the first 10 issues of 36 were in color and will not be part of this project), although I'm pretty certain that series of trades was never completed.

I alway liked Zot!. I thought the book captured a very specific suburban experience as well as any YA novel, and I found the thematic work surprisingly effective. Over the course of the series the protagonist Jenny relates to Zot and his science fantasy world in a way that mirrors the way a lot of young people negotiate fantasy works as they grow up, or at least the way a lot of my friends did: immersion so as to escape, a move towards negotiation between that world and one's own, and finally an attempt to capture elements of such material and fold them into one's own life. (Readers won't get that entire progression without the color material, but the more interesting "scene to scene" work, as it were, definitely came in the later issues.) I wish there were more books like it.
posted 6:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Joel Priddy, Movie Star

posted 6:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Seth Illustrates
Sean Phillips Inks
Sean Phillips Paints
Sean Phillips Roughs

Small Press Expo Previewed
Go See Mike and Louise Carey

Remembering Charles McManus
Remembering Cartoons in Saturday Evening Post

Schulz in Vanity Fair
I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Comic Book Mystery
Lynn Johnston's Mood Is Improving
Rob Clough Visits Chapel Hill Comics
Touching Base With Betty and Veronica

CBR: Gary Gianni
PWCW: Mice Templar
Flipped: Katherine Dacey-Tsuei
Steampunk Magazine: Alan Moore
Living Between Wednesdays: Scott Chantler
Blog@Newsarama: Various Artists From a Single, Shared Project

Not Comics
Cosplay in Taiwan
Eddie Campbell Argues
The Spirit To Love Crazy Woman
Tattoo Artist Obsessed With Achewood

Preview of The Art of Ill Will

Brian Heater: Laika
Andrew Wheeler: Shortcomings
Leroy Douresseaux: Love & Rockets Vol. II #20
Matt Brady: Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Vol. 1
Noah Berlatsky: Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me

September 25, 2007

CR Review: Mome Fall 2007 (Volume 9)


Creators: Ray Fenwick, Tim Hensley, Al Columbia, Eleanor Davis, Jim Woodring, Gabrielle Bell, Andrice Arp, Joe Kimball, Mike Scheer, Tom Kacynski, Brian Evenson, Zak Sally, Kurt Wolfgang, Paul Hornschemeier, Sophie Crumb
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, soft cover, 128 pages, August 2007, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560978725 (ISBN13)

imageThis is the first issue of the Fantagraphics mostly young cartoonists anthology MOME that I can remember not being noticeably better than the issue that preceded it. I think it's therefore fair to say that this issue perhaps more than most is an indication of the MOME we're likely to see from now on. You can kind of see the building process: a Zap-like collection of cartoonists in the early issues, adjustments to a looser more modular style as some cartoonists couldn't keep up and some cartoonists' career headed away from being able to use something like MOME to their best advantage, the use of some sublimely singular world cartoonists whose short work didn't have a home in North America as both a transitional element and a rallying point around which the other cartoonists involved could cluster, and finally the emergence of a new wave of cartoonists who can perhaps better take advantage of the regular showcase than some of those originally invited.

The best comics from the non-headliners come from Eleanor Davis and Tom Kaczynski, two of the relative newcomers. Davis blends some of the measure soap opera observations of her earlier work with a terrifying moment or two reminiscent of her more recent, exquisitely designed fables to fine effect. Kaczynski's 976 square feet slinks between multiple ideas about the modern urban neighborhood in a way that creates considerable thematic depth; it's the only comic in the issue I've read multiple times. This issue of MOME also boasts more great work by cover artist Jim Woodring, although one cut in half between this issue and next, perhaps by edict of the artist, which is a terrible way to experience a single Woodring comic, so dependent on establishing mood and building on previous moments. Al Columbia's two-pager is more dependent on subtle effects of design than maybe most are use to seeing from his work, but spotlighting a cartoonist's secondary or tertiary strength is something anthologies have traditionally done, and done well. Gabrielle Bell's one-pager "Nightmare Rescue" may be the best single page of comics in the issue, and both Tim Hensley and Kurt Wolfgang provide comics with amusing moments made memorable by choice in style and presentation.

I like MOME; even as it's cast about for an identity there's always been at least one or two works of note. Now there are several, and although there's still some work to come in perfecting its presentation, it's now crossed the threshold where I'm having a hard time imagining my comics reading life without it.

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If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Moorpark, I'd Go To This

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Michael George Waives Extradition Trial

Pennsylvania retailer and Pittsburgh Comic-Con organizer Michael George has apparently given up fighting extradition, and will return to Michigan to face murder charges. Michigan authorities have accused George of murdering his then wife in 1990, in his then-store, located in Clinton, Michigan. George subsequently moved to Pennsylvania, re-married and began a new retail operation. He has denied the charges. Given how thoroughly the challenge was swept aside, it's unclear the point George was making in fighting the return to Michigan, except maybe as political capital in terms of being seen as fighting every step of the way, or to cast Michigan authorities as overzealous and untrustworthy.
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Happy 64th Birthday, Massimo Mattioli!

posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

Renzo Barbieri, 1930-2007

imageAuthor, journalist and publisher Renzo Barbieri passed away either late Saturday Night or early Sunday morning, according to a post at Gianfranco Goria's afNews site. Barbieri is probably best known in comics circles as the publisher of Edifumetto and its predecessor Editrice 66, founded in 1966. If I understand what I'm reading correctly, both companies were influential dirty comics publishers, with the former producing line a run of pocket-sized salacious works, including some touching on other genres, that were both popular and a medium lightning rod in the 1970s. Barbieri also apparently wrote a popular book in 1967 about European playboys, and authored comics for Publishing Dart and Alpe Editions. Goria's site note that the 1940 date in the official histories was a decade off.
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Happy 54th Birthday, Bob Layton!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

Stories from hither and yon; more hither, less yon:

* Another group in France has demanded something in relation to the racism believed inherent to Tintin Au Congo: an explanation inserted inside. I thought there was already an introduction to that edition giving at least the historical context for the depictions?

* Mega-popular cartoonist Zep finds the whole idea of messing with Tintin absurd.

* I think this is a real: an interview with bounty-on-his-head Swedish artist Lars Vilks maintains the artist is checking for car bombs before taking a drive.

* John Nee has been promoted to Senior VP of Business Develop at DC Comics. He was instrumental in bringing that company to manga through its CMX and Flex deals.

* Not comics: I think it'd be funny if they never made a Justice League of America movie, and instead just allowed it to exist to generate "hey, look who we're casting" stories from here to the end of time.
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Happy 51st Birthday, Kim Thompson!

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Jeff Trexler Updates On Latest in Siegel-DC Legal Tussle

Right here. This is so cleanly laid out and communicated that to tell you anything more than it's a great summary on legal action between the family of the late Jerry Siegel and DC Comics, including a snapshot of what's to come, would be repeating information Trexler communicates more effectively through that link.
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Happy 37th Birthday, Paul Pope!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

People Are Talking About Zuda.Com

I know that I spent several seconds yesterday urging you if you were thinking about ever submitting to, then it might behoove you to spend less time reading what others were saying and more time analyzing the various deals to see if they were amenable to your sense of what constitutes a fair arrangement. However, for those of you who don't agree with me, or those who have no stake in the matter and just want to follow it as an industry story, you could do much, much worse than a verbal triptych of Chris Butcher, T. Campbell, and Gary Tyrrell.

I think I agree with Butcher that there's an uneasy vibe coming from the entire project -- I'd say that it's in part because the case for submitting is based on assertions and a subtle market critique of the webcomics community as it exists rather than an established track record. I think I agree with Campbell that the exhortation to lawyer up has an element of preemptive hand washing to it, although that's still better than no such push. I think I agree with Tyrrell about a couple of places in the documents where there are holes, although with a reminder that if you encounter a contract with holes, you don't have to wait for the holes to go away for everyone, you can address such holes with your lawyer and come to an individual solution, too.

I think I also agree with the person (I forget which one) who said that on first impression it's not a contract I'd personally be interested in signing. That may be somewhat easier for me to say than most given my lack of interest in working that area of comics, though. Be careful.
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Go, Look: The Pedestrian

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Quick hits
Chris Mautner Needs Better Words

Thurber Home Added to National Register

30 Days' Initial Sales Figure
Mike Sterling Remembers Captain Kentucky

Discounting Is Stupid
Discounting Is Necessary
Dave Sim on ComicsPro
Dave Sim on Mini-Series
How Not to Get a Job In Comics

Interviews/Profiles Alexa Kitchen
Sequential Tart: Jane Irwin
Metabunker: Anders Nilsen 01
Metabunker: Anders Nilsen 02
Metabunker: Anders Nilsen 03
Metabunker: Anders Nilsen 04
Word Balloon: Drew Friedman
Detroit Free-Press: Brian Kelly
Savage Critic: Tom Manning 01
Savage Critic: Tom Manning 02 Monty Kane

Not Comics
Rock: Black Adam or Shazam?

IDW's Alien Comics
Readers Rally Around La Cucaracha
Preview of Next Best American Comics Volume

Rob Clough: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Greg Burgas: Various
Dick Hyacinth: Niger #1
Don MacPherson: Various
Paul O'Brien: New X-Men #42
Scott Campbell: Tekkon Kinkreet
Christopher Seaman: Pastel Vol. 8
Paul O'Brien: Umbrella Academy #1
Paul O'Brien: Marvel Comics Presents #1
Alan David Doane: The Comics Journal #285
Eddie Campbell: The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff
Leroy Douresseaux: Star Trek: The Manga -- Kakan ni Shinkou
Johanna Draper Carlson: Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special

September 24, 2007

CR Review: Never As Bad As You Think


Creators: Kathryn & Stuart Immonen
Publishing Information: One Horse Leadworks, soft cover, 64 pages, 2007, $5.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780978021610

imageIn television or in film, actors that are best known for certain type of role performed at a high level over time are sometimes able to escape into a cameo or bit part where they can stretch different muscles and perhaps remind audiences of the range of what they have to offer. In other media this is more difficult, if only because the market is rigid in a way that doesn't grant such projects equivalent pride of place on the shelf or stage, or even a rudimentary awareness of its existence. In his introduction to Never As Bad As You Think, Chris Duffy tells us that Kathryn and Stuart Immonen (he of high-profile superhero comic fame) used to produce homemade comics like this with greater regularity. The easy humor and elegant art on hand might make that realization feel like a punch in the stomach rather than a happy story of the past, in a "well, why can't they just do stuff like this now" way.

I'd suggest that part of the charm, however, is that Never As Bad As You Think is the sort of project that gets done in addition to more considered work. The Immonens' self-published comics short is therefore more effectively allowed to hover between creative exercise and fully-formed narrative, it has a looseness to it reminiscent of Kyle Baker's better work that I think has to come from the weekly nature of its web origins, and maybe best of all there's an ease of interaction between creator and audience where you're invited to have fun with the Immonens as well as enjoy the fruits of their labor. You don't want to pick at too closely or dump a great deal of meaning on this book's shoulders; frankly, something might shatter. It's in the more self-aware points you feel the limitations, the way it turns into a series of set pieces far more effectively than it ever coheres as a single work, even on the level of a work with shifting perspectives. But taken on its own terms, it's a pleasurable book, one of the two or three best stocking stuffers of the year. Even if you become doubtful that you want to see a lot more of work in this exact vein from its creators, you'll have to admit it would be nice if more creators would engage comics on the same fun, casual and fruitful level.

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If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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Irfan Khan Receives 4-Month Sentence

On Friday the cartoonist Irfan Khan (I'm guessing on that link) was among four men sentenced to four months in jail following a September 11 conviction for allegations made against former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal in the publication Mid Day. The sentence was deferred because of a Supreme Court edict made earlier in the week. The cartoonist, two journalists and publisher claimed that the truth of what they were implying through their work should carry against charges that they tarnished the image of India's highest court. Journalist reaction in India was direct and impassioned, building on public protests made throughout the hearings.
posted 6:32 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Zuda Comics Info Up

imageDC Comics' webcomics initiative Zuda Comics has information up on its various comics and submission processes, as well as a forum where people can ask questions. You can begin to see reactions from various webcomics and webcomics interested folk in places like here and here.

It looks like DC's forum link will be an important place for practical questions. As for the philosophical underpinnings and analysis, well... that's going to be more difficult. The major thing that jumps out at me is that if you are in any way interested in submitting, you need to get a lawyer before you do so, because simply submitting opens you up to legal considerations that you need to understand backwards and forwards.

The second thing that jumps out at me is that if you're still up in the air about whether this company's offers matches your own standards in terms of basic rights and obligations, you may be better off thinking about things in greater detail -- and discussing it with that lawyer -- than reading about it. There's not likely to be easy consensus anywhere you look. Further, creators rights issues in comics are a close second to retail issues in comics when it comes to inspiring demented rhetoric. Discussion gets strident and defensive really, really quickly. You're going to run into everything from angry jeremiads about big companies being unable to not screw anyone with whom they come into contact to exhortations that it's okay to subject yourself to a crappy deal because you can always think up new stuff (after all, Jerry Siegel co-created Superman and Doris Evans), or, as it's usually put, if you can't think of more than one idea, you have no business being a creator. Stuff like that. So be careful.

As a lifetime underachiever without a law degree and little experience in working with such contracts, my first impression is that this seems to be reasonably fair in terms of the rights and profit sharing, and good old-fashioned big company hammer behind the back wrapped in a velvet blanket just in case look at the bunnies Lennie in terms of editorial control and rights reversion. I also think that beyond the minimums discussed you have to look at this as a promise of money potentially being made rather than a guarantee or even a strong likelihood of success -- this is a new company, no one knows if its strategy is going to be successful and fruitful one for a product beyond the bare bones part of the contract, no one yet knows if this group of people with this corporate backing are going to be effective at their collective job. The reassuring clap on the shoulder from Corporate America can mean a lot of things, not all of them good. Let's be careful out there.
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Go, Look: Another Comics Poem

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Go, Look: XKCD Meetup 2007

Choose your own adventure:

1. "Wow, look at all the fans of Randall Munroe's XKCD having fun meeting up in Cambridge as documented by John Resig."

2. "What the hell is XKCD?"

Or, play both.
posted 6:26 am PST | Permalink

Peter Whalley, 1921-2007


Peter Whalley, an esteemed Canadian cartoonist, scupltor and illustrator who worked in newspaper, books and on TV, died last week in St. Jerome, Quebec, after an extended period of illness. Whalley was a prolific and popular cartoonist, and one of the more important post-war cartoonists in terms of setting a modern tone on the page in terms of the range of humor and a free, expressive line. He was also through his regular appearances on CBC television of one of the higher profile cartoonists in his country. Peter Whalley was 86 years old.

imageWhalley was born in Brockville, Ontario and grew up in Halifax. He eventually attended the Nova Scotia College of Art. He sold his first cartoon cartoon before World War II, but that element of his professional life was interrupted when he served in the merchant marines during that period. He moved to Montreal to pursue fine art, but began working for the Standard as a cartoonist. The piece in the Montreal Gazette -- one of Whalley's long-time clients -- asserts that the artist's most prolific period was the 1960s through the 1970s, when he did a lot of high profile magazine work for publications like Maclean's (including several well-regarded covers), did the top news story every week in cartoon form on the Observer television, and even created film strips.

imageAmong Whalley's best known projects were a series of books he illustrated for the humor writer Eric Nicol that poked fun at modern Canadian culture and society, among them An Uninhibited History of Canada, Say Uncle, 100 Years of What?, Canadian Politics Unplugged and the wonderfully-titled Canada Canceled Because of Lack of Interest. A book of his cartoons exists called Bird on a Wire and he parodied Canadian art in Northern Blights: More Than Anyone Needs to Know About Canadian Painting.

Canadian comics historian and Doug Wright Awards administrator Brad MacKay says that the famous Whalley sense of humor could be turned onto the cartoonist himself. "After I informed him that he had been one of the inaugural inductees into the Wright Awards Hall of Fame, the Giants of the North, he sent me a thank you note saying 'At this point, I'm a real giant: aging and near mythical,'" MacKay told CR. "Last month we sent him his Giants medal, and his daughter said he made a point of wearing it in the hospital and pointing it out to the nurses who filed through... all self-mockingly."

MacKay says that he and fellow Whalley fan Seth are planning a book about him.

More information on Whalley can be found in his profile on the Giants of the North site. One of his CBC clips can be found here, and another here.

Whalley is survived by a wife of 59 years and three daughters.

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Not Comics: JRR Tolkien's Art


The Hobbit was published 70 years ago last Friday. I always liked Tolkien's evocative art, which I think suggested a far more bucolic, even austere fantasy than is communicated in the more Frazetta-influenced works done in reaction to his books starting in the 1970s.
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Lawsuit Brought in Bangladeshi Case

Slipping onto the wires last Friday so that I almost missed it, Mohammad Rez, an official at a private Islamic university called Jamea'atul Islamia, has filed a case against the cartoonist Arifur Rahman, as well as his editor and publisher at Aalpin, for the publication of a cartoon using the word Muhammed in wordplay. The suit claims this mention was derogatory to the Prophet Muhammed, and that it was aimed at creating conflict between Bangladesh and other Muslim countries. The suit was accepted and a hearing set for September 30.

Rahman is currently in jail according to a measure of Bangladeshi law that allows the jailing of people deemed at risk or whose freedom might put the country at risk. As if to prove one or both of those points, 30 people were injured in protests following Friday prayers.

The cartoon originally ran September 17.
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

John Collins, 1917-2007


John Alton Collins, one of Canada's leading editorial cartoonist who provided the Montreal Gazette with over 15,000 cartoons during a span that lasted four decades, died on September 13 after an extended, two-year illness that gradually weakened him. He was 89 years old.

Collins was born in Washington, DC. His father moved the family to Montreal after the First World War concluded. Like many cartoonists, Collins was a skilled artist as a youth and derived pleasure and a sense of identity from putting to use his talent. He was later educated at Sir George Williams University and the Montreal School of Fine Arts.

imageIn 1939 he joined the Montreal Gazette as that paper's first staffed cartoonist. He would work there until retiring in 1982, building a reputation as a fair and non-malicious commentator on Canadian politics and social mores. Like many cartoonists, he employed a signature character; his was known as Uno Who. Beyond his editorial work, Collins contributed to the magazine Saturday Night and drew for Edgar Andrew Collard's history column "All Our Yesterdays."

The Gazette noted that he was founding president of the Lakeshore Artists Association, a mural painter, a two-time National Newspaper Award winner (1954, 1973) and a past president (1969) of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. As hinted at in that list of achievements, Collins was a well-regarded sketch and watercolor artist. A book of his sketches, Montreal Memories of the Century, was released in 2000.

An exhibit containing several of his Cold War-era cartoons may be found here. The cartoon I nicked for the bottom of this post is from this articulate history of the Gazette.

He is survived by a wife of 62 years. A public celebration of his life is pending.

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Go, Bookmark: New Tom Hart Strip

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Brad McMillan, 1946-2007

Brad McMillan, a cartoonist and illustrator who exhibited widely and placed work in publications such as Dallas Morning News and The Advocate, died on September 15 at his home in Jackson, Tennessee. He was 61 years old. Friends and family met at a home in Jackson to memorialize the cartoonist on Saturday.

imageMcMillan began his career with alternative and underground publications in Memphis in the early 1970s, carrying on parallel careers as a gallery artist and as a printmaker making prints of his more satirical work. He eventually opened a gallery in Memphis in 1981. He became the staff cartoonist for The Memphis Business Journal in 1983 and continue to hold that position after moving to Dallas in 1986, where he remained until the mid-1990s. Dallas Business Journal was an important late-period client.

In addition to self-publishing his work in book form, McMillan's art appeared in Cartooning Texas. He self-syndicated nationally and was carried by London's CartoonStock facilitated international sales.

A professional reminiscence about the late cartoonist can be found here.

McMillan was preceded in death by his wife, and is survived by their three children.
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Remember to Bookmark: Mr. Wonderful

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I missed this, but apparently several University of Virginia cartoonists have resigned in protest over Grant Woolard losing his slot after an "Ethiopian Food Fight" cartoon that offended students including but certainly not limited to those of Ethiopian descent.

* Brian Hibbs was so happy with his latest Tilting @ Windmills column at Newsarama, he high-fived himself.

* Rob Rogers pens a farewell letter as he leaves the position of Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) president, with Nick Anderson taking the reins of the organization. Rogers points to a Town Hall meeting about the profession in crisis as one of his term's highlights, and I'd agree in that it actually generated a list of ideas an organization like the AAEC can pursue:
"Some of the concrete goals included conducting a survey to show that editorial cartoons are one of the most-read parts of newspapers, planning more public events like "Cartoonapalooza" to raise money for AAEC education and publicity efforts, and trying to increase the low prices many syndicates charge and many newspapers pay for editorial cartoons."
If I recall correctly, there was also a notion floated at that meeting that people stop talking about the profession in decline, because of the message it sends newspaper editors that their editorial cartoonists are expendable. Rogers also points at membership gains, indicating one of the more interesting issues to face the group over the next few years: how it blends into its traditional take on things the concerns of the alt-cartoonists that have joined in larger numbers. More about Rogers' experience as AAEC president can be read here.

* That's far enough up the ladder for you, nerd.

* Most of the discussion of the teacher who resigned because of giving a 13-year-old student a copy of Eightball #22 as a make-up assignment has gone e-mail only, although that stuff's flying around pretty furiously for that kind of thing, so there could be more stuff soon. The monstrosity of a comments thread at Heidi MacDonald's The Beat is where most of the back and forth took place late last week and over the weekend, including a woman claiming to be the student's mother and endorsed as legitimate by people in a position to do so. Although I'm terribly biased having taken part in some of the arguing, the arguments seemed to break into one side continuing to assert as if it's somehow being assaulted that you have to protect your kids and the parents are justified in doing what they think is right to do so, and another side wondering if kids can't be protected against potential exploitation without the police having to be involved or in a way that doesn't result in the teacher resigning, with shouts of "fascists" vs. "libertine porno lovers" at the periphery.

* Again: biased, but I thought that educator, parent and cartoonist Nick Mullins provided this site with a rational take on the Guilford Eightball incident, which I suppose means it's likely to be ignored.

* Retailer/pundit Chris Butcher and journalist/pundit Dirk Deppey disagree on where to direct someone looking for manga suited for adults.

* The comic book shop in Athens, Ohio that suffered a fire will soon experience a grand re-opening, which is amazing considering the track record over the last decade for smaller town comic shops that have closed without a fire making them do so.

* Lynn Johnston is set to receive an award for her work on the subject of aphasia in her For Better or For Worse.
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Ditko BBC Documentary Slips To 'Net


Various places around the Internet are assembling for view or pointing towards places where one can view the new documentary by Jonathan Ross, In Search of Steve Ditko. Mark Evanier is one such person. Heidi MacDonald is another. I have no idea if these will stay up or if they're up by the time this post scrolls out, but I assume this is a sign Pandora's Idiotbox has been opened and with some diligence you'll be able to find the almost hour-long documentary for full viewing. The reviews are mostly great.

I hope everyone remembers that Idiotbox is a nickname for television, and not my casting aspersions on anyone involved in the making or posting of this well-reviewed television show
posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Alootook Ipellie, 1951-2007

imageInuk cartoonist and illustrator Alootook Ipellie passed away on September 8 following a heart attack outside his home in Ottawa. He was 56 years old. Ipellie spent most of his life in Ottawa, and according to this sensitive article on his passing split time between there and Iqaluit. He began cartooning to fill space at the magazine Inuit Today (then called Inuit Monthly), and through those Ice Box cartoons began a life long effort to develop his talent as both a pen and ink illustrator and a single-panel cartoonist. He would eventually become that publication's editor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He would later draw a cartoon for the newspaper Nunatsiaq News called Nuna and Vut, and pursue a variety of artistic outlets, including gallery-level photography and screenwriting. A book of his drawings and stories, Arctic Dreams and Nightmares, was published in 1993. Much of his blog is devoted to an early 2007 art show and the success it had in moving various pieces for sale.
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Go, Look: Jim Flora Exhibit Opening


* Fantagraphics photos (that's Eric Reynolds on the left, above)
* Dave Lasky photos (that's Dave Lasky on the right, above)
* Wardomatic photos (neither pictured nor invoked in the photo above)
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Quick hits
Todd Klein's Logo Studies Archive

GN Exhibit Coming to Norman Rockwell

The State of the Art Form in New Zealand

Discussion of OEL Manga
Dress Up in Tribute to Phil Frank

Patriot-News: Kim Deitch Ryan Huna Smith Dale Morris
Washington Times: Bill Sienkiewicz

Not Comics
Creepy Statue
Bill Hader Reads Comics
I'm Never Watching This Show
Doctorow IDW Books Discussed
At Least You Hope It's The Paper
Ryan Gosling Doesn't Read Comics
Step One Used to Be Stop Calling Them Chicks
I Always Like Reading That Robert Hughes Story

Dark Crystal Previewed
United to Distribute Matt Bors
Doctorow IDW Books Discussed
What the Tribune Censors and Why

Andrew Austin: Various
Bill Sherman: 24: Nightfall
Greg Glasgow: Little Nemo
Richard Krauss: Aprendiz #3
Jamin Brophy-Warren: Various
Maryam Siddiqi: Lucha Libre #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Reborn! Vol. 5
Brad Curran: The Umbrella Academy #1

September 23, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Steven Weissman

this article has been archived
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: mini-essay on the interesting subject of Canadian comics pricing

* go, watch: Clive James interviews Posy Simmonds

* go, look: SPX plans area signings

* go, read: cartooning advice from Bud Fisher

* go, shiver: cartoonist almost denied liability insurance

posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

FfF Results Post #92 -- IndyHeroes

Five For Friday #92 Results
On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to name "Five Superheroes You Like, a) Created After 1950, b) Not Published By DC or Marvel or Image." Here are the results.



Tom Spurgeon
1. E-Man
2. S*perm*n
3. Zot!
4. The Badger
5. Death Ray


imageCharles Brownstein
1) Megaton Man
Don Simpson's megalout is loaded with fun satirical commentary on both comics history and the Reagan 80s in which it first appeared. It's a shame this book is largely out of print.
2) Death Ray
Sorry to do a repeat, but as an avid smoker, how can I not love a character whose powers come from nicotine?
3) The One
This early revisionist superhero was a wonderful apotheosis of burnt out hippy idealism, ascending 80s commercialism, and the budding wholesale sportfucking that the superhero genre was about to engage in after losing its innocence in the 70s.
4) Wonder Warthog
I have no idea if this holds up, but I sure loved it when I was in college. Shelton's drawings are always a pleasure and the sheer absurdity of this character,in its visual design and in its cultural and comic art historical contexts are so retarded that they're endearing.
5) The Roach
Maybe the most "Inside Baseball" character in comics history. Sim's permutations on the Roach -- Moon Roach, Wolverroach, Spider-Roach, normalroach, Swoon, et al. are simultaneously a fun commentary on the excesses of the Direct Market's content from 1977 - 1997 (which I consider to be the entirety of that business cycle) and, unfortunately, the biggest stumbling block towards a casual reader of the modern era engaging fully with Cerebus in its prime. Still, if you get it, the in-jokes are still entertaining.


Chris Duffy
1. Flaming Carrot
2. Superfrankenstein
3. Nexus
4. Hellboy
5. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer


imageDave Knott
1) Nexus
Does this even count? It's really more of a space opera in superhero trappings. Doesn't matter. I had to put a Steve Rude comic in here.
2) Hellboy
See above. In this case, its more of a monster-fighting adventure dressed up as superhero comics, but you gotta give Mike Mignola his props.
3) The Question
Steve Ditko's greatest non-Marvel work. Currently owed by DC, of course, but so is E-Man from your list, so we'll let it slide.
4) Marvel-man / Miracle-man
Yes, this started out as an outright clone of Captain Marvel in the early 50's, but as (re-)interpreted by Moore, Gaiman, & Co. in the '80s, it outgrew it's origins and became a modern-day classic.
5) Grendel
The best anti-hero of the last quarter-century


Marc Arsenault
1. Captain Spazz
Bobby Weiss & Sam Henderson (went to school with the artist)
2. Captain Canuck
the George Freeman issues (I actually read this as a kid!)
3. Mighty Samson
Gold Key (he's a super strong mutant, so he counts!) (I also actually read this as a kid!)
4. Captain Atom
(Joe Gill & Steve Ditko) (kid... read... also)
5. Magnus Fucking Robot Fighter!
(Steve Bissette got me hooked on this)


imageIsaac Cates
1. Concrete
2. The Death Ray
3. Convenient Boy and the Power of 6
4. Ace Face, the Mod with the Metal Arms
5. Billy Dogma


Todd Strending
1. Mr. A.
2. The American
3. Zot!, too
4. Ropeman from The Mighty Heroes
5. The Cougar


imageMike Sterling
1. Nexus
2. Don Rosa's Captain Kentucky
3. Megaton Man
4. Flaming Carrot
5. Zot!


Patrick Watson
1. Nexus
2. Usagi Yojimbo
3. Concrete
4. Hellboy
5. The David Yurkovich-verse


imageCliff Biggers
1. Noman
2. Herbie
3. Magnus, Robot Fighter
4. Dynamo
5. E-Man


Don MacPherson
1) Prime (now owned by Marvel by originally published by Malibu Comics)
2) Quantum & Woody
3) Hellboy
4) Captain Canuck
5) The Blue Falcon & Dynomutt


imageRuss Maheras
Capt. Atom
The Question


Johnny Bacardi
1. The Rocketeer (Pacific, Eclipse, god knows who else)
2. The Scorpion (Atlas) (I guess he qualifies as a superhero...)
3. Magnus, Robot Fighter (Gold Key)
4. Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom (Gold Key)
5. Why, Hellboy! (Dark Horse)


imageScott Cederlund
1) Grendel
2) Zot!
3) Grimjack
4) Nexus
5) Vanth Dreadstar (hey, he had a superhero costume for a short bit)


1. Concrete! (he's a hero to me!)
2. Frank the Unicorn! (ditto!)
3. Jetcat!
4. Orange Lightning!
5. Bighead!


imageJeff Shinn
1.Nexus/Rude &Baron
5.Badger/Butler, Reinhold & Baron


Sean T. Collins
1. The Death Ray
2. Hellboy
3. David Dunn (from Unbreakable)
4. Luna Moth
5. Bighead


imageMark Parsons
1) Promethea
2) Hellboy
3) Grimjack
4) Zot!
5) Nexus


Gil Roth
1. Acid Archie
C'mon, an acid house robot?
2. Megaton Man
the first indy I ever read, it had a Doonesbury joke that I didn't understand
3. Miracle Man
the second indy I ever read; it was much better than the first one
4. Zenith
I've always been a sucker for mix-n-match cultural refs; sue me
5. Rogan Gosh
I couldn't think of anything else, except for Tank Girl

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response to that week's question a) while it's still Friday, b) that doesn't try to twist or avoid the spirit of the exercise. Responses up by Monday morning.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 76th Birthday, Stan Lynde!

posted 6:09 am PST | Permalink

Happy 69th Birthday, Jean-Claude Mezieres!

posted 6:07 am PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, Paul Ryan!

posted 6:05 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Peter David!

posted 6:03 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Dan Day!

posted 6:01 am PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

When I was a kid and I dreamed about superheroes, I dreamed epic-length, exciting adventures of fighting and feats of strength and flying, and running faster than the wind.

Now that I'm an adult, all of my superhero dreams involve The Rhino pulling my arms off.
posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

September 22, 2007

If I Were In Michigan, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Seattle, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Nick Mullins on the Guilford Incident

By Nick Mullins

So I'm a comics artist as well as a parent and a teacher. I used to teach high school English, and even taught frosh as Nate Fisher did. I don't know enough about what actually happened besides reading the articles you've linked to, but I thought I'd offer a teacher and parent perspective.

imageFrosh (grade 9) are just kids. If we read a story in my class that had the word "balls" in it -- even if it was about baseball -- the students would giggle. So most 14-year-olds wouldn't know how to take real references to masturbation and sex. Sophomores are completely different (notice that the Library Journal recommendation says Eightball #22 is suitable for 10th graders). In that one year a lot of maturing happens. Even then, I would only loan a book to one of my students if I knew that student really well. And in most cases, I would just suggest a book, not actually put it in their hands. From what it sounds like, Fisher had only known this student for three weeks. That's nowhere near enough time to really connect to her as a person and judge her maturity. Also, as a male teacher you have to realize that some parents are going to be uncomfortable if you show any special attention to their daughters. It's just the culture we live in. So in both these ways I think Fisher showed poor judgment. But that means he should have been lectured by the principal and maybe set up with a mentor from within the English department; it doesn't mean he should have lost his job. Teachers, especially new ones, make mistakes. Learning from your mistakes is what makes you a better teacher, just like in any job. I'm disgusted with the school that they didn't give Fisher more support. But so many schools live in fear of parents suing that they'll do anything to avoid it, even abandon one of their own teachers.

Also, pedagogically speaking, if a student misses an assignment, then the student has to make up that assignment. You don't provide an optional assignment. If the girl was supposed to read a certain book over the Summer, then she should read that book. Also, most English departments have a list of recommended books for each grade level. If what she read was optional, Fisher should have just handed her the list, not chosen something of his own. Books you suggest to students should be supplemental, not in lieu of what is designated by the curriculum.

imageI agree with the New York writer that the father sounds like a blowhard, but all this clamor over the word pornography has obscured the problem. The reason the father doesn't think that this issue is over is that his daughter is being teased at school. This is no longer about the book, but about his daughter's safety. So while most of us disagree with the father's actions, we should keep in mind that he is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe. Though I believe his own actions are what have lead to the situation his daughter is in…

Oh, and Eric Reynolds' response is good, but he's wrong about the fact that no sex is depicted in Eightball #22. We see Rocky raping a woman (p.20). The woman isn't shown, besides the top of her buttocks, and no genitals are shown, but it's still a panel in which sex is happening. Also, we see Charles imagining Carmichael and Paula having sex on page 9. It's laughable, but there's a penis and attempted insertion there. And if you consider masturbation a sex act, then the panel in which Violet fears her step-father is peeping on her shows a sex act (p.8). Still, it's ludicrous to call this comic pornography. But pictures are more immediate than words. If Eightball #22 had been a novel, I doubt the father would have noticed a thing. I read Lord of the Flies with my sophomores and there's a scene where Jack almost has anal sex with a pig that the boys are killing and the description in the scene is very sexual. But it was words and most students didn't get it. Yet, if it had been drawn it would have been very obvious to them.

Unfortunately, any rational debate of this matter is impossible since this whole thing has been so sensationalized. I can only imagine what Dan Clowes is thinking right now. Ironically, I remember an interview in which he referred to his work as "pornography." I doubt he'll do that again.

posted 9:30 am PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from September 15 to September 21, 2007:

1. Bounty placed on the head of artist Lars Vilks and the editor of the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda for the publication of a drawing depicting Muhammed's head on the body of a dog. Vilks is now in hiding, although keeping some of his public schedule.

2. Authorities in Bangladesh jail a 20-year-old cartoonist for making a cartoon that uses wordplay on the name Muhammed as part of its joke.

3. Protests erupt at Central Connecticut State University about a cartoon mining humor from the idea of a young Hispanic girl locked in a closet forced to drink urine.

Winner Of The Week
York, PA

Loser Of The Week
Nate Fisher

Quote Of The Week
"Listen: all I want out of life is for my bank account to have 58,008 dollars in it, so that when I read my statement upside down, it says 'BOOBS'." -- T. Rex of Dinosaur Comics.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 86th Birthday, Will Elder!

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

September 21, 2007

Five For Friday #92 -- IndyHeroes


Five For Friday #92 -- Name Five Superheroes You Like, a) Created After 1950, b) Not Published By DC or Marvel or Image

1. E-Man
2. S*perm*n
3. Zot!
4. The Badger
5. Death Ray

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks to All That Participated.


Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response to that week's question a) while it's still Friday, b) that doesn't try to twist or avoid the spirit of the exercise. Responses up by Monday morning.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Friday Distraction:

posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Abadazad Series Canceled


JM DeMatteis reports that the Abadazad book series he's doing with Mike Ploog has been canceled after its third effort, which will only see release in the United Kingdom. The move of this one-time fantasy comics property out of the bankruptcy mess at the doomed multi-genre publisher CrossGen and into a Hyperion book contract was considered a big deal at the time it was happening; the writer indicates the series may return to comics.
posted 12:46 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

More links relating to news about Muhammed caricatures and cartoons and related imagery, up to and through their resulting protests in Sweden, Bangladesh, and anywhere else -- basically anything informed by the 2006 Danish Cartoons Controversy and its political turmoil, boycotts, riots and deaths.

* the Justice Chancellor of Sweden, Georan Lambertz will not pursue action against the publication Nerikes Allehanda for publishing Lars Vilks' cartoon of a Muhammed's head on a dog's body, it was decided.

* Here's a summary article on the Lars Vilks situation to date, including a total rock star quote in the headline from Vilks.

* A Lithuanian editorialist reminds that you can't take the latest escalation in dialog about Muhammed cartoons as representative of all Muslims, because Muslims aren't really united like that.

* Lars Vilks gallery/plea for beheading found here.

* The last paragraph of this article suggests two wild variations on what happened to allow into print a Bangladeshi cartoon making a wordplay joke about Muhammed, which resulted in the cartoonist's arrest and the editor's firing: an editor says it was a mistake, a government official says it was a conspiracy. This editorial by Mahmud Rahman (no relation) talks about the situation and informs us that the arrested Rahman is only 20 years old.

* Thirty people were hurt in a protest related to the Rahman cartoon; the newspaper's editors ask forgiveness for themselves, and mercy for Rahman.

* This wire article on the Michael Ramirez cartoon depicting extremists as cockroaches ropes in the opinion of Nik Kowsar, whose friend Mana Neyestani was once jailed over the use of a cockroach as a cartoon visual element.
posted 11:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 32nd Birthday, Craig Thompson!

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Ian Robertson Gray, 1938-2007

imageIan Gray, a mainstay of the DC Thomson youth comics effort, writing for the Beano and several other publications from the middle 1950s until the early '90s, died on September 6 following a heart attack. He was 69 years old. Ironically, Gray's passing came the same month as his appearance on the "Fun Factory" episode of the Comics Britannia series on BBC4. Gray was credited with co-creating Gnasher, the dog of Thomson's Dennis the Menace, in 1968. The articles in the Scotsman and the Guardian provide about as smart and concise a picture of the writer as one could hope for; according to those pieces, Gray had a real knack for lively kids strips bordering on anarchy, providing scripts that played to his artists' strengths and desire to collaborate given something interesting to put on the page. He also seems to have been an accomplished musician and a classic English sportsman. Among his collaborators were Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale. Gravett notes in one of the pieces that Gray left the Beano in 1977 to edit Plug, that he edited a line of 64-page booklets featuring work from the Beano, and that he spent his last three professional years on the Dandy.

He is survived by a wife and four children.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Al Parker Slideshow

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Updates on Eightball #22 Story: Latest News Links, Eric Reynolds Statement

Although there were very few additional elements to the news story about the resignation of Connecticut teacher Nate Fisher because he gave a 14-year-old student a copy of Eightball #22 as an outside reading assignment, there has been as much on-line discussion as one might expect from a story whose details, if ever released, could admittedly cause a drastic swing in how it's seen. Perhaps most notable is an editorial at New York's web site. Heidi MacDonald's posting on the story yields the widest range of opinions on the matter in its comment section.

Fantagraphics spokesperson Eric Reynolds provided the following statement to the New Haven Advocate yesterday. Fantagraphics was the work's publisher when it was in comic book form.
Without knowing more about the exact circumstances, I'm reluctant to comment on the specific incident, but I can say that I am highly disturbed that someone lost his job over this particular comic, especially in light of some of the more incendiary rhetoric being thrown around in regard to it, notably the "borderline pornography" quote.

"Pornography" as a term has no particular legal significance and is to some degree in the eye of the beholder, but the notion that there is anything pornographic about Eightball #22 is fairly absurd. The more legally relevant term is of course "obscene," and there is no doubt that Eightball #22 is not obscene by any legal definition of the word. This is a comic, after all, that the highly reputable School Library Journal recommended as suitable for "Grade 10-up", which would hardly seem a demographic for any kind of pornography or obscenity, borderline or not.

imageI find it hard to believe that the average person, applying contemporary community standards in Guilford, CT, would find that Eightball #22, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. This is a work of literary satire, a story which won virtually every industry award it was eligible for in 2002 (including the Eisner and Harvey for "Best Single Issue," Eisner for "Best Writer/Artist," Harvey for "Best Cartoonist," and Ignatz Award for "Outstanding Comic"). It doesn't depict any sexual conduct or and it's literary and artistic merit has been articulated by many more reputable critics than myself in magazines and newspapers across the country. None of the standards for obscenity could even remotely be met in this case and therefore the pornography comment is misleading and provocative in a way that has little relevance to what happened here.

I'd like to believe this is one giant misunderstanding that could be resolved without ruining the career and/or reputation of anyone involved.
I appreciate Mr. Reynolds releasing the statement to CR as well to the Advocate.

This is a tough story, because what's being argued is a pretty subtle point. Very few folks in comics are educators, and not all of us are parents, and we all realize that there could be any number of details that once released could transform the story wildly. I don't think there's any of us that care all that much about local educational policy, even, although some of us have opinions on whether or not this should have led to a resignation or whether this is the kind of thing that could have been hashed out by more reasonable people and policies. The main point that many of us simply want to put out there is that this is a work of merit and isn't pornographic or obscene the way that people think about such things except in the knee-jerk way that comics broaching mature subjects are frequently seen in that light. So barring additional detail, let's at least have a discussion keeping in mind what was actually trading hands here, not the label that can be stuck on it.

Also, as this is the kind of thing that used to interest my dad, I note that Guilford is almost exactly one hour from publisher Fantagraphics' one-time location in Stamford, Connecticut.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Andy Hartzell's Blog

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Status of Doug and Emmy Jo Unknown

One of those odd entertainment, penny-trading holding companies called Valcom is apparently suing the odd entertainment, penny trading holding company with which people in comics are sort of aware, Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment. The action arises out of bankruptcy court, which is to be expected when a company is looking around in a court-inspired way at any and all potential assets. The POW! response, which sounds reasonable to me, can be found here.

you don't remember New Zoo Revue?
posted 11:03 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Magazine Article Suites

* Review of Rick Veitch's Army@Love by Jeff Newelt
* Cartoonists Vanessa Davis, Lauren Weinstein and Rutu Modan in Top 100 Books
* Cartoonist Dan Goldman in Top 100 Art
* Year in Review with The Best of 5767: Comics

* Comics and Burgeoning TV/Film Writer Brian K. Vaughan Profiled
* A Lion in Winter-style MAD Profile
* Pop Culture Survey of Classic Character Popeye as American Hero
* Profile of Cartoonist/Painter Tom Neely
* Profile of Top Cow
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Peter Kuper!

posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Go See Gary Varvel
Go See Dana Fradon
Report From Montclair Exhibit
NYCC Is Now Open For Pro Registration
Mike Wieringo's NYC Tribute Fundraiser Hits $4K

Here Lies Madness

Your 2007 Romics Nominees
Turkish Cartoonist Wins Euro-Prize
Editor Surveys Local Strips, Reactions
Contextualized Criticism of Roach Cartoon

Wizard: Mark Evanier
Inkstuds: David Heatley
Naperville Sun: Dan Weick
Animation Insider: Fred Schodt
Camden Journal: David Bircham
Rutland Herald: James Kochalka
Comic Book Haters: Jordan Crane
Straus Newspapers: Paul Michael Kane
Stridently Anti-Marjane Satrapi Polemic

Not Comics
He Wants to Be Ben Urich
David Cronenberg Still Wary of Graphic Novels

Gon Is Back
Gipi Preview
Scott Nickel Launches Eek!
Matt Madden's 99 Ways In Italian
Comics Look Different, Numbers Same
New European Scholarly Comics Mag Coming

Shaenon Garrity: Nana
Richard Krauss: Cluth #16
Andrew Wheeler: Minx Books
Richard Krauss: Laterborn #5
Jog: The Umbrella Academy #1
Sarah Morean: Turtle, Keep It Steady!
Graeme McMillan: Marvel Comics Presents #1


September 20, 2007

CR Review: Digesting the Child Within


Creator: John Callahan
Publishing Information: Quill, soft cover, 112 pages, 1991, $8
Ordering Numbers: 0688094880 (ISBN)

I'm not sure why alternative comics readers haven't embraced gag cartoonist John Callahan with greater passion. Flat out, he's funny. And he's mean, the kind of voice that makes loud public commentary where occasionally you turn around because it's so close to crossing a line, only then you see him laughing harder because he made you look. While his art varies wildly, the gags are unpacked with enough skill and the visuals are presented in a way that builds upon the humorous point being made that I'm not sure he'd gain anything significant were his cartooning more lovely to behold. If Callahan lacks anything, it's an idiosyncratic perspective beyond that of his well-known life story and the generally dyspeptic view of life that makes itself evident on the page. Few would be able to recognize his work given a sample cartoon, let alone the description of one. You can see just enough of cartoonists like B. Kliban and Gary Larson and Virgil Partch in his work to make it difficult to recall the exact point of view that Callahan provides on any given subject. That's a tough measure, and it's only because of Callahan's obvious intellect that one might demand it of his work.

imageThe big surprise for many people upon picking up this Callahan book, and I think maybe one or two others that he's done, is that Callahan also pens comics short stories. They're built from gag panels, which gives the work a start and stop quality, but anyone who was ever able to make it through an Edward Gorey book should be able to follow that kind of narrative that exists here. In "I Think I Was An Alcoholic," Callahan deals in unsparing, ugly terms the depths to which he fell while refusing to deal with his alcoholism, both and before and after the accident that paralyzed him. It's no less lacerating for the number of times that you laugh, when a dolphin sticks its head out of the ocean to castigate the level of his drinking, or the fact that a hospital wall includes a sign that says, simply, "Thank You For Not Dying."

In other words, like the best comics authors, Callahan can tell a joke without drastically changing the thrust of the story he wants to tell. That's a rare skill. You don't feel more kindly towards the unsympathetic narrator simply because he's funny. You're not set loose from the tough nature of the experience because there's a point at which you're invited to laugh at it. In fact, the humor tends to serve as a backdrop against which the human experience takes center stage. Callahan's humor provides just enough context that it dawns upon the reader that this or something equally depressing could happen to them. Would that we respond so well.

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

More links relating to news about Muhammed caricatures and cartoons and resulting protests in Sweden, Bangladesh, and anywhere else that are informed by the 2006 Danish Cartoons Controversy and its political turmoil, boycotts, riots and deaths.

image* Bangladeshi cartoonist Arifur Rahman has been jailed for a month by authorities, because of a cartoon that used Muhammed's name as part of a punchline. Rahman and his editor have been let go by the paper that ran the cartoon. Reporters Sans Frontieres condemns the act and reprints the cartoon.

* to dropkick the Swedish affair into surreality, Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, the leader of the group in Iraq issuing a bounty on Swedish artist Lars Vilks head seems to have been exposed as a fictional character created by those who wouldn't necessarily get folks to trust them were they to do business as themselves. Apparently, even Muslim extremists are familiar with Remington Steele.

* Contingent on Mr. Al-Baghdadi remaining fictional, I'd like to offer to double the bounty for information leading to his arrest.

* Kidding aside, the bounty and the fear and turmoil and threat to an artist's life are all very real. As is the political support offered by non-extremist groups like the one linked to in the previous bulleted point.

* Swedish businesses are reported to have been targeted by the protesters.

* Lars Vilks intended for his art to provoke. Which I guess means he's an artist.

* Luckily, the Association of Turkish cartoonists has Vilks' back. Or not.

image* The Brussels Journal, the single most attentive source to the Danish Cartoons story as it developed in Denmark and abroad in 2005 and 2006, points out in strongly worded fashion that the Swedish government did little in the way of thing usually cited as provocation by those arguing with some measure of sympathy for those objecting to the cartoons.

* Estonian op-ed writer Triin Oppi asks if people just shouldn't realize that some arguments just can't be won.
posted 10:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Wes Hargis Book Sketches

posted 10:12 am PST | Permalink

Comics Industry Staff Change Notes

Here are some recent staffing changes at various comics related companies, and/or notes on same:

* Never exactly a secret but now official, industry veteran Tom Fassbender has joined Boom Studios in the position of Vice President of Publishing. This is the same company that recently added longtime writer Mark Waid as its Editor in Chief.

* Here's an embarrassing blind spot. I guess I'd heard rumors via e-mail from someone that there was something up with the workplace status of well-regarded Executive Editor Scott Dunbier at WildStorm, but I don't follow that end of comics closely enough to know that he is, apparently, gone now and that Ben Abernathy is filling that void at the company, whether or not with the same title I can't tell. This story could be worth noting because of of WildStorm's perceived to be not super-great recent publishing performance, and Dunbier's popularity with several top industry talents.

* To update a story about Sean Collins' departure from Wizard, where I indicated Mr. Collins being laid off was likely a part of a wider staff-cutting at the company, here's a list of people that were recently at Wizard Entertainment that are no longer at Wizard Entertainment.

+ Adam Bekian (Conventions, was actually let go a few weeks back)
+ Deirdre Brooks (Conventions)
+ Sean T. Collins (On-Line Editorial)
+ Thorin McGee (from the canceled Inquest magazine effort)
+ Mike Scigliano (Conventions; gave notice rather than being let go)
+ Jeremy Smith (from the canceled Inquest magazine effort)
+ Suzzee Uy (Design Department Intern)
+ Jeff Walker (Design)

At the advice of a current Wizard Entertainment employee, I ran this list past the company's Drew Seldin, who confirmed its accuracy. Also, my original story about Collins indicated he was the on-line magazine's editor rather than its managing editor, which as I was once the managing editor of a comics magazine to another person's editor, I should have made clear. I regret the error.

Also, it's totally badass that they had a guy working for their gaming magazine named Thorin.

Update: I just received a nasty note from Mr. Seldin accusing me of editorializing the Mike Scigliano section. The only thing I can figure is that a change I meant from "gave notice" to "gave notice rather being let go" meant to imply that Scigliano gave notice so as not to be let go. What I meant was to make the distinction between giving notice and what happened to Mr. Collins.

* A press release from Drawn & Quarterly yesterday announced that they've hired Jamie Salomon to the position of Controller at the arts-comics publishing company. Salomon will take charge of the companies financial reporting and accounting operations; the McGill graduate had overseen the publisher's finances for the last half-decade while an employee of Montreal accounting firm Rabinovitch Luciano. Salomon has comics editing and publishing experience of his own.
posted 10:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Steve Gerber!

posted 10:08 am PST | Permalink

Comic Book Assignment That Led To Teacher Resigning Was Eightball #22

imageIn a surprise development, the comic book assigned to a 14-year-old freshman in Guilford, Connecticut that led to the quick resignation of the teacher involved, Nate Fisher, is reported to be from the series by the award-winning alternative cartoonist and screenwriter Dan Clowes. The book in question is reported to be Eightball #22, the Ice Haven issue, which was later made into a stand-alone book by Pantheon. This article names the series rather than the individual issue and carries a lot of quotes from angry parents, including an all-time quote of its type from a fellow school employee who declared the teacher might have received a beating from her husband had the student in question been their daughter.

The fact that it's Eightball #22 comes as something of a surprise. The Eightball series runs a range of comics from blunt, explicit satire like "Needledick the Bugfucker" and the sexual imagery-laden "On Sports," to much more subtle and formally complex work like the "Ice Haven" story. While technically there are a few panels of nudity, references to criminal acts and a peeping tom, and few would argue the wisdom of giving such a story to a minor in these prickly, easy-to-outrage times, it's also somewhere on the spectrum from laughable to insulting to treat the comic as something solely defined by those elements, let alone assert that the comic is something far worse when broken down to a list of such elements than the average movie aimed at teen-aged audiences. The teacher deserved to feel pressure that resulted in him leaving his job about as much as any parents that dropped their teenager and a 14-year-old friend at Rob Zombie's Halloween deserves to lose custody of their child.

The Eightball series is one of comics' most honored, winning 15 Harvey awards and four Eisner awards. The Ice Haven story was widely praised when it came out. Clowes has become one of comics' most respected authors, and one of the more highly regarded authors, period. He began a serialized story in the New York Times this past Sunday.

Dan Clowes and Fantagraphics both declined to comment on the story by the time it was filed, feeling they had not received enough information.
posted 10:06 am PST | Permalink

Tintin Au Congo Debate Hits France reports that the Conseil Representatif des Associations Noires de France has made a request to Casterman to take the hotly debated Tintin Au Congo off of its publications list. The article goes on to say that the president of that association feels positive about the result. This is apparently the first time that the actual issue of whether or not to keep the book on bookshelves after similar protests/reactions to its anachronistic and insulting depiction of Africans in places like Belgium, England and the United States.
posted 10:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Frank King on World War I

posted 10:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Inks

MySpace Video From CCI 2007
Handelsman Part of Relief Fundraiser
Batiuk Touring in Support of Cancer Book

Colleen Doran's 1980s Photos
Colleen Doran's Trip to Japan Photos

I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Manga Magazine Updates
Two Months of Euro-Manga
Analysis of CCSU Situation
Disney Changes European Distributors
Discussion of Countdown Boost Numbers

Aced: Gerard Way
Jewish Ledger: William J. Rubin

Not Comics
Chris Butcher in Japan 05
Not Exactly Groth vs. Ellison
Truck Driven Through Oni Offices
James Owen Has a Nice Workspace
Movie Fans Don't Understand Comic Book Fans

Adult Manga On The Way
Another Major Manga Serial Ends
Missed It: New Modern Tales Line-Up
Don MacPherson Asks After All-Star Wonder Woman

Billy Aguiar: Gon Vol. 1
Chris Mautner: Embroideries
Robert Harris: Pretty Face Vol. 1
Michael Aronson: Puri Puri Vol. 2
Liel Leibovitz: A Dangerous Woman
Carlos Santos: St. Lunatic High School #1
Movie Fans Don't Understand Comic Book Fans
Brian Hibbs: Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special #1
Graeme McMillan: Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special #1

September 19, 2007

CR Review: Show Business Is No Business


Creator: Al Hirschfeld
Publishing Information: Simon and Schuster, hardcover, 144 pages, 1951, 88 cents
Ordering Numbers: 0306762218

imageThe best book I've found this year for 25 cents at the local library sale, Show Business is No Business isn't a comic by anyone's definition, but an illustrated book. Its author Al Hirschfeld was to many people's minds a caricaturist instead of a cartoonist, with a completely different approach to what is exemplified and what is downplayed in each piece of art. That doesn't mean you shouldn't read it, nor that there's nothing here that could inform someone's comics. More to the point, I really enjoyed this book, mostly for its virtuoso display of Hirschfeld's skill at a point in his long and distinguished career when he did far more than the elegant, stylized portraiture for which he's best known. There's no impulse to look for a "Nina" when the artist is doing killer scene work and character studies like Hirschfeld accomplishes here, a mix of his newspaper work and his lovely run at the underrated Holiday magazine. Hirschfeld supplements stock character portrayals like the producer and the playwright with a more intimate look at the theater scene as a crush of out-sized characters and a series of simmering crowd scenes with every agent at cross-purposes. Anyone who's ever done a play or enjoyed a movie about a cast marching through their paces will recognize the dynamic of the crowd scenes. Hirschfeld was rarely better than in suggesting a moment by the way he dragged the eye from face to torso to pose to smile to grimace and up and back again. Each picture borders on social documentary.

Much is made in the introduction to the work of Hirschfeld's surprising skill as a writer. His prose proves to be very amusing, a serviceable accompaniment to the frequently sublime artwork. The artist offers up a kind of humor you don't see very often anymore but which used to dominate a certain kind of discourse to an almost staggering degree: slightly exaggerated description of people's odd behavior as if one were a slightly detached observer, on the audience's side as someone completely cognizant that what they're observing is crazy: point and cluck reportage. It's a tradition that stretches back through Benchley to at least Twain, if not further, and Hirschfeld is a viable practitioner:
"The Theatre is the only business in the world where prospective employees are made to sing, dance, recite and parade in their underwear before they are hired."

"Your surprise will be genuine when the director, after a cursory reading of the new material, realizing that he is supposed to restage practically the whole play before the evening performance, carefully rolls the script into a tight bat and tries to open your skull with it."

"Learn to accept the fact that if it weren't for your play the producers would have a smash hit on their hands."
What's nice about this approach is that it plays well into Hirschfeld's identity as the artist of that scene: the trustworthy witness, the person who brings a keen eye and boils what he sees on stage into some sort of digestible essence. He's a natural guide. Show Business Is No Business isn't a classic, but it's a sturdy performer that deserves a matinee-price purchase by anyone who likes to see beautiful, expressive art yoked to a funny and well-structured narrative. If it shows up in the quarter box at your library's book sale, I totally recommend you pick it up.

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn't A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market



Here are those books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings when my retailer objected.


This latest from Vertical's Takemiya publishing track looks odd, and pretty, and pretty odd.

AUG070124 APOCALYPSE NERD #5 (OF 6) $2.99
New Peter Bagge! New Founding Fathers!

JUL070294 ARMY @ LOVE #7 (MR) $2.99
The two best old-fashioned, mainstream-company, everyone-has-a-single-job comic books out this week.

I'd buy it to read this issue's chat with mainstream comics maverick Darwyn Cooke.

JUN073990 PHOENIX VOL 11 TP $16.99
The latest volume in the foundational Osamu Tezuka series.

This still-being-serialized by Keiko Tobe sounds good, albeit I wouldn't be surprised if it were kind of ruthlessly middlebrow, either. I had to go look it up, because I hadn't heard of it until know.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. I am not a good person.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

image* Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks displayed at a 100-person seminar the cartoon that brought a bounty onto his head by extremists.

* the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists spoke out in support of Vilks in a piece that ran in Editor & Publisher. Hopefully, the AAEC will not be counted in the effort to support Vilks in any way that involves regular updates of their web site. (I'm kidding.)

* Metabunker pops in with an appropriate headline and an even more appropriate question in the body of the text.

* A reader sent a note saying that this newspaper has run an article about the original Danish cartoonists saying that the member of a suspected terror cell named AK has admitted to wanting to kill one of the cartoonists. Or any of them, really. If anyone knows of an English-language version of this article, let me know!
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Bangladeshi Cartoonist Being Detained For Creation Of Blasphemous Caricature

Reporters San Frontieres has called on the Bangladesh government to release cartoonist Arifur Rahman, currently being detained by for a cartoon in a satirical weekly featuring a boy adding the name Muhammed to the name of a cat. An order for his arrest had been issued early yesterday. Nearly 3000 people protested the cartoon on the streets of Dhaka earlier today. Bangladesh is the world's third-most populous Muslim nation, and this story is being interpreted as both an example of worldwide intolerance against visual satire involving Muhammed and as one of a growing number of distressing incidents regarding the current Bangladeshi government.
posted 6:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Garry Leach!

posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

The Comics Controversies You May Not Have Heard All That Much About... Yet

The overall end-times sexiness of cartoon-sponsored violence and political turmoil brought on by comics controversies having to do with the Prophet Muhammed has pushed two perfectly serviceable instances of cartoon furor and a battery of shrill, angry people working just as hard as any other controversy's regular group of shrill, angry people right off the front pages.

* international reaction to a Michael Ramirez cartoon depicting extremists as cockroaches spilling out and over the Middle East has resulted in more analysis abroad than in the country of its origin. on the affair as it's developed thus far. It fails to mention that the Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani was held in one of the worst prisons on Earth before escaping to the West when he without even meaning to compared a group of people in Iran to that insect, so it's obviously a visual signifier that holds some power in that part of the world.

* a cartoon accusing the New York Times of malfeasance represents the first time I can recall that controversial cartoonist Sean Delonas has received notoriety for something other than accusations he's saying shitty things about gay people. At issue seems to be whether or not the cartoon was run after the story was debunked, perhaps in an effort to generate air time for a discredited but politically useful idea under the auspices of it being "talked about." All stories like this usually make me want to do is devoted my life to hitting strident political people in the head with golf clubs, but I find the idea of what constitutes a story and how cartoons contribute to that worth musing over.
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 46th Birthday, Cynthia Martin!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

Teacher Resigns in Comic-Homework Flap; Comic In Question Still Unknown

David P. Welsh offers the best, most concise follow-up to the story of a Connecticut teacher in trouble for giving an age-inappropriate book to a student. The smart point of his that I hadn't thought about is that by not naming the book, it could very well be that the district doesn't wasn't a thorny discussion of a work's acknowledged literary value as opposed to the inappropriate nature of whatever set off people's alarms. In other words, there's a big difference between someone giving a student Blankets and giving them a copy of Crack Whore -- or at least there should be. Also: apparently, the teacher has resigned.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Dirty Beauty

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Baldo Tells Hispanic War Story

To start with the easy joke, the comic strip Baldo and the next Ken Burns public television documentary The War are apparently having a contest over whether comic strips or public television documentaries is the least relevant art form going. Seriously, though, Hector Cantu has introduced a character to his strip in order to give voice to complaints from the Hispanic community that their contributions to World War II were not represented in Burns' forthcoming multi-part piece on World War II.
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Pascal Blanchet Slideshow

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Grandma Hates That Funky Cancer

South Carolina's has a thoughtful article on fan reaction to the death of a Funky Winkerbean character due to cancer, which confirms in offhand fashion that creator Tom Batiuk plans to push his trip forward ten years on its timeline after the death plot point is realized in the popular feature. Ironically, we also find out that Batiuk has worked a full year ahead on the strip, which means that if he dies, Funky has at least another 12 months in it.
posted 6:02 am PST | Permalink

Thor #337 Was Published 24 Years Ago


Mike Sterling remembers how blown away he was by the above issue of Marvel's Thor comic book, featuring a radical departure in plot and approach by distinguished mainstream comics vet Walt Simonson. I think it's worth noting not as a commentary on Sterling being jaded or not -- Sorry, Mike -- but because it's the kind of publishing maneuver that is almost never pursued in that end of comics these days. Radical departures are not only a dime a dozen these days but they a) tend not to deliver as effectively as this one did nor embody the same level of commitment to changing things up, b) tend not to feature as a part of the overall shift in the status quo as different an approach to art as Simonson's work in a Thor title dominated in its history by sturdy clones of Jack Kirby or John Buscema, c) tend not to take place in the middle of an ongoing title as opposed to a re-launch or a line-wide mini-series. Posters (this comic had one) and mentions in the Amazing Heroes Preview Special aside, my gut tells me there was something sturdier about an era defined by these long-running titles going through well-received runs as opposed to the manufactured feeling of the event comics age.
posted 6:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell
X-Men Art
Drawing One's Friends
Yet More on Speech Balloons
On The Brisbane Writers Festival
Whatever Happened to Dave Stevens?

Jeff Smith in Spain
Neil Gaiman in Japan
Manga Creators in Toronto
Peter David Not Attending Orlando Con

More on Nobumichi Akutsu

Comics at the Airport
PWCW Analyzes French Milk
Iranian Creators Do Well in Brazil
Kazuo Koike Wants to Protect Your IP

PWCW: Gerard Way
Scripps: Mike Carey
PWCW: Nick Abadzis
Portland Life: Periscope
PWCW: Jonathan Hickman
Say It Backwards: Evan Dorkin

Not Comics
Jeff Parker on Bridges 03
Don MacPherson Turns 200
Eric Burns on Robert Jordan
Tim O'Neil on Robert Jordan
Read the Comic, Buy the T-Shirt

FBoFW Goes Hybrid
Wow Cool Starts Blogging
Laura Howell Starts Blogging
Sandra Bell-Lundy Starts Blogging
Raise High the Bejeweled Pimpcup
PWCW: New Manga From CMX, Flex
Andrew Drilon Joins The Chemistry Set

Graeme McMillan: Various
David P. Welsh: Tekkonkinkreet
Richard Bruton: The Boys Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: Atomic Robo #1
Why Brad Curran Loves Scott Pilgrim
Johanna Draper Carlson: Fell: Feral City
Geoff Hoppe Gives Notice to Robert Kirkman
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Voices of a Distant Star

September 18, 2007

CR Review: Things Are Looking Up...

imageCreator: Lynn Johnston
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, soft cover, 128 pages, 1992, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 0836218922 (ISBN)

Things Are Looking Up... collects a pivotal period in the life of Lynn Johnston's now slowly fading from view For Better or For Worse. It falls about halfway through what will end up being the strip's run, and comes just following the pivotal birth of youngest daughter April. Other than the passing of actor Nicholas Colasanto and the subsequent casting of Woody Harrelson on Cheers, I can't think of a mid-run character addition that had a greater effect on a piece of recent pop entertainment. With April anchoring the baby role, the Patterson teens consolidated their part of the feature as a competitive center of the strip, balancing nicely against the adult leads. Johnston got another chance at a round of harried mother and confused baby gags after a decade-plus of improving her craft chops. Audience members that might not have been as willing to see the strip grow out of the childhood stuff all together were reassured that this would be the focus for several more years yet. Without the decision to add a third child, I doubt the strip would have grown another 50 percent or so, as it did, and the identification fans feel for the characters in their age groups would likely be less pronounced.

The two things that surprise about this collection of strips is how quickly Johnston kept things moving, and how effective her art had become at this point. Johnston doesn't have a huge cast, but she doesn't allow any single set piece to drag. Other features might spend months on son Michael's trip to the farm, but Johnston punches the whole thing out in about two and a half weeks. In fact, there's so much going on that you're almost four-fifths of the way through the book before you see what could be a set piece able to fit in any year -- some dentist gags featuring John -- and even those set up a theme Johnston hits hard of the family's patriarch finding the time to enjoy his newest child. There's also only one major sour note in terms of subject matter, a couple of weeks spent with Elly's not very interesting brother Phil. Johnston's art helps the eye pass through the work; she suggests more than she renders, which is interesting because she depicts far more of what's in that reality she's created than most cartoonists. She used a lot of mid-torso-and-up perspectives back then, which might have become static except that Johnston had developed a much looser line than what she would have years later when other people would be finishing her art. It flows quite well, and it's hard to believe by the last page you've devoured a full book's worth of material.

If you're a Johnston fan, I have to imagine that this book reflects one of the feature's better periods. Unlike some cartoonists, Lynn Johnston was much more effective mid-run than she was her first year or two. One secret to the success enjoyed by For Better or For Worse over the years is that the Pattersons are less like one's own family and more like that friend's family one might escape to in order to have a respite from your own contentious clan, a long home-cooked meal with Mom and Dad on hand and very little yelling. That's also one of its shortcomings: the strip isn't always convincing in its depiction of squeaky-clean adolescence and aging. Not only does oldest child Michael not get arrested for drunk driving and possession of a quarter ounce of dope, you know five minutes in that the chance of such an event ever happening is completely off the table. Still, it's pleasant to read the feature at the height of its powers in order to better appreciate it in that sense of wish fulfillment, even if the portrayals aren't always convincing, even if something about their natural, assumed cohesion always reads a little unexamined and maybe even false. One hopes for the Pattersons' set of problems. One hopes for Johnston's list of creative shortcomings.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Lars Vilks Now In Hiding After Bounty Put On Head For Muhammed Cartoon

Going into hiding after having a bounty placed on his head by Iraqi extremist Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- with a bonus if the murderer is able to cut the cartoonist's throat -- hasn't kept Lars Vilks from staying in contact with the press. It has, however, provided him police protection and limited his return home to a brief trip to pick up some personal items. Swedish authorities have been quick and calm in seeking a resolution, and seem to have the support of Muslim organizations horrified by the call to murder. At issue is the August publication in a newspaper of a Vilks picture depicting Muhammed as a dog.
posted 10:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: John, I'm Only Sketching...

posted 10:24 am PST | Permalink

Ruben Sosa, 1941-2007


The Argentinian artist and educator Ruben Sosa died September 7, according to blog and web site reports. Like many American artists of his generation like Joe Kubert, Sosa drew on the streets of his hometown in chalk and with other homemade materials. He began as an assistant on projects from Eugenio Zoppi and Hector Oesterheld in the late 1950s. A friend to most of the great artists of his generation with a connection to his homeland Argentina or his adopted home Italy, including Alberto Breccia, Solano Lopez and Hugo Pratt, Sosa remained less well known despite being widely published all over the world, including American publishers Skywald, Charlton and DC. Publications in South America for which he was known were Hora Cero and Frontera. Among the magazines through which he published in Italy were Alter Alter and Corto Maltese. He may have been best known in comics circles for his work on the series Ernie Pike, Mortimer, and Eternauta (which may have been illustrations accompanying text).

imageStationed in Buenos Aires for several years (if I'm scanning this correctly, he talks of a laid back, artist's lifestyle he enjoyed there), Sosa moved to Italy in 1976 after attending the Lucca Festival. In addition to his comics work, he also worked as an illustrator and art director for publicity firms and at least two daily newspapers. Sosa found some additional work as an actor in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. It was during this time and for a period afterwards that Sosa became more serious about painting. Sosa would eventually be invited to join the Birmingham Watercolour Society, which he considered an added honor because he lived far from Birmingham. A selection of his paintings were collected in the book Hierro Oxido.

In 1986, Sosa founded the Studio Arti Visive in the Northern Italy town of Brescia, where he taught a variety of arts technique including cartooning and magazine illustration. Among his students, according to their own profiles at, were Andrea Mutti and Giancarlo Olivares.

The report indicates that some attention may be paid to Ruben Sosa's career at the 2008 Angouleme Festival through the desires of friend and festival president Jose Munoz.
posted 10:22 am PST | Permalink

Happy 81st Birthday, Joe Kubert!

posted 10:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Chris Ware's Best American Comics Essay, Book's 2007 Line-Up

Go here to read an oddly formatted version of Chris Ware's introductory essay to the latest Best American Comics book. You can also check out a Table of Contents here. I'm happy to see "Glenn in Bed" in there.
posted 10:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, William Stout!

posted 10:16 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Jim Woodring Posts on TCJ

"Jack Kirby does indeed appear, briefly, on a few of these recordings, playing trumpet and electric guitar. I'm not lying. Somewhere in the house I have a few photos of him wearing sunglasses and playing a Strat with the ensemble."
posted 10:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Gary Groth!

posted 10:12 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-up

image* In campus cartooning follies, there was a protest yesterday at Central Connecticut State University over a cartoon mining humor from a Hispanic girl locked in a closet where apparently she drinks urine. An article in the Charlottesville (VA) alternative weekly asks cartoonists in the area what they think of UVA senior Grant Woolard's cartoons. Conveniently for those of us who wanted Woolard's controversial works in one place, the paper runs a little re-cap.

* interviews Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley in one of its multi-sectioned presentations (one, two, three, four). This one seems more scattered than a typical interview, which may or may not be the cause of the impression that Marvel has a lot of irons in the fire, some seemingly more developed than the other. It's also worth noting the lofty way in which Buckly describes Civil War as an attention-getting project.

image* Congratulations to Masheka Wood and Mikhaela Reid, who were married by the Right Reverend Ted Rall under a Massachusetts law requiring cartoonists with roughly same-sounding names to be married by a third cartoonist. Okay, I think the law at issue actually allowed close friend Rall to marry the couple under a close-friend exception. Also, Mr. Rall isn't a reverend. Best wishes to the happy couple, and kudos to Editor & Publisher for finding an example of this happening previously. A couple of photos of the event can be found in the top two postings on Reid's blog, including this one showing that Pastor Rall is apparently using the Hello Kitty Bible.

* Phil Frank continues to be remembered by people such as friend and co-worker Jon Carroll, an institutions like his alma mater, Michigan State University.
posted 10:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 34th Birthday, Brian Ralph!

posted 10:08 am PST | Permalink

Analysis: Geppi to York, Countdown Pop

* about a half dozen people wrote in to CR concerning yesterday's story that Steve Geppi was moving a part of his business across the Pennsylvania state line and into York. Most, including one person admitting they were drunk at the keyboard, wrote in to make further fun of the assertion in the press release that York was a dynamic and emerging town. One person even pointed out a recent surge in murders there.

Two others made the point that it's not just a Gemstone move but a reincorporation of Gemstone Publishing, Hake's Americana & Collectibles, Morphy Auctions and Diamond International Galleries into a single entity, Geppi Entertainment. That's where the move begins to make more sense. Hake's was founded in York, and Morphy Auctions is already in Pennsylvania. So in addition to the potential savings in warehouse space, office space and perhaps even workforce costs, Diamond likely stands a chance to make things easier for more of these companies' traditional management employees who were commuting to Maryland or working at an outside location.

* of the reasons I proposed why there might have been a jump in sales of Countdown, a weekly series that had until August's issues been defined by a careening, down-the-charts free fall, Marc-Oliver Frisch believes my fourth answer, the one that there's a timed, structural initiative built into the series sales strategy that made itself known, is likely closest to the truth.
Countdown sales in August follow pretty much the same pattern as the sales of 52 a year ago: With the 13th issue, there's a sudden 20 percent increase, for no apparent reason.

What's been suggested to me, and what I think makes sense, is that it's because the first twelve issues of each series were made returnable by DC (provided retailers ordered a specific amount, and at a 10 percent fee per returned copy, mind you), which made Diamond bump off a token 20 percent from the actual numbers for their charts.

In fairness, I've only heard it from one source. But it seems reliable, and I'm inclined to believe it, because it fits the numbers precisely.
So: that's a theory. I always want to lie down when I start thinking about direct market numbers, but I would imagine that if this theory were true, it might indicate something odd about how such sales initiatives are used.
posted 10:06 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Brush Love

OSU Conference Info
MoCCA Exhibit Opening Reports
Holy Crap, A Comics Blogger Festival
D&Q Exhibits in Brooklyn (0917 Entry)

Nobumichi Akutsu, 1923-2007
More George Herriman Cartoons

Summer of Superheroes (French-Language)
What Kind of Budget Does An Album Line Have?

SBC: Jay Carvajal
Newsarama: Tim Beedle

Not Comics
John Byrne Diets
Jeff Parker Crosses Bridges 02
Positive Word on Persepolis Film
Bucky Badger's Drinking Problem
Mr. Sulzberger: Tear Down This Wall
They Did This Same Feature Five Years Ago

Love For Maus
Dan Clowes Serial Begins in NYT

Paul O'Brien: Click
Rob Clough: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Laura Hudson: Casanova #9
Don MacPherson: Drafted #1
Richard Bruton: La Primavera
Lee Atchison: Clubbing, Good as Lily
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1
Matt Brady: Groo 25th Anniversary Special
Paul O'Brien: Confessions of a Blabbermouth
Graeme McMillan: Parade (With Fireworks) #1
Hervé St-Louis: Justice League of America #12
Leroy Douresseaux: Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Vol. 1

September 17, 2007

CR Review: Life, In Pictures


Creator: Will Eisner
Publishing Information: WW Norton, hard cover, 496 pages, October 2007, $29.95
Ordering Numbers: 039061078 (ISBN), 978039061079 (ISBN13)

I don't know that I understand Will Eisner, and I'm not sure I ever will. Eisner was an always-potent cartoonist with one acknowledged pulp masterpiece series (The Spirit) to his credit and a variety of ambitious works of varying lengths on his resume that, unlike the oeuvre of most artists regardless of form, all came in the third act of a long and fruitful life. It doesn't help matters that a lot of what I read about Eisner fails to match up to the Eisner I observed and the Eisner whose work I continue to experience first-hand. For example, in his introduction to Life, In Pictures, Scott McCloud talks of Eisner's being inspired by the work of younger cartoonists. This is a pretty standard line about Eisner. I'm sure it's true. I'm not certain it matters.

The problem is I've never been able to see a post-War cartoonist's influence in Eisner's work. Will Eisner's late-period comics settled onto the page with a certainty of style that seemed to care less if Bernie Krigstein ever put to pen to paper, let alone Spain Rodriguez or Mark Beyer. I'm sure Eisner must have appreciated much of what he saw in his extended return to cartooning, but, as little if any in the way of modern comics found its way through his brush and onto the page, I can't be certain any of it found a place near his creative heart. McCloud pretty much confirms Eisner's take on newer work when he talks about Eisner's decision not to let it all hang out like Crumb, or to consider a more detailed, expansive version of the work that became The Dreamer. When it came to others' comics, the explosion of expressiveness that came four and five decades after he literally first set up shop, Eisner seemed a happy witness more than a passionate convert, a man who appraised newer opportunities for artistic expression rather than gave himself over to them.

imageThe thing is, I'm fine with that Eisner, and I suspect most people are, too. Eisner was a world-class craftsman who made his way into the expanded horizons of the recent past carrying with him a well-worn set of tools, tools with which he felt supremely confident. He was in many senses an important artist whose career was interrupted rather than reborn, an older man confident in a way of doing things that stretched back in embrace towards old habits more than it reached a hand out for new ideas. For certain artists, fealty to a way of doing comics can be just as admirable as letting wave after wave of newer work wash across the part of you that makes things. This is perhaps more true in comics than most. At its best, comics has only a rough sense of its own past, and certainly didn't have much of an historical sense at all when Eisner set out on this last, great career change in the 1970s. I think he came to embody values of craft or storytelling that were in danger of being lost, and was a more powerful witness for having nothing in the way of editorial edict to thwart or bypass. Eisner could be Eisner.

And who didn't want more Eisner? If one can still read the works of John Dos Passos or enjoy the music of Cole Porter, Eisner's bruising cityscapes and grandly emotional actors should be afforded every opportunity to capture our present-day imagination. Playwrights like Saroyan and Albee and Miller have long fashioned careers where a small percentage of what they wrote shaped the zeitgeist, while the rest of their works wait on fair appraisal at that moment they become more timeless than they are of a time. So it will be with many of the cartooning greats, Eisner among them.

In Life, In Pictures, readers encounter a suite of autobiographically informed stories placed into context by supporting material from the aforementioned McCloud and Eisner's friend and agent Denis Kitchen. This is one in a series of omnibuses that Norton has been doing alongside its releases of individual Eisner books. The collections are similar to Fantagraphics' not-really-manga-sized repackaging of Love and Rockets in that they're a terrifically budget friendly way to snap up a lot of esteemed comics work in cost-effective fashion, and that they're being produced without much in the way of public reaction from fans and readers. In this book we get three major works, The Dreamer, To The Heart of the Storm, The Name of the Game, and two shorts: "The Day I Became a Professional" and "A Sunset in Sunshine City."

imageTwo of the five crackle on the page with more energy than they had in their earlier incarnations. To The Heart of the Storm puts in front of the reader a masked version of Eisner's childhood and the odyssey each of his parents experienced on their way to landing in their current, fretful life stations. Because it's framed as a young soldier's musing over life and destiny and grown-up accommodation, the nostalgia inherent to many of the scenes and the weighted testimony of certain character studies feels like an appropriate match to the agent of their telling. They're overly dramatic in exactly the way late teens can be, falsely nostalgic and full of maudlin rumination familiar to anyone who's heard a 19-year-old lament the loss of the good old days. Heart of the Storm also features many of the quirky details of life within pre-War Jewish communities of the kind that distinguished Contract With God's "Cookalein." Teens build a boat in a basement, a car acts as a social bond that transcends growing personal differences, simmering ethnic bigotries are played out in a complicated series of asides and declarations, a protagonist both worries about being exposed as a Jew in the course of traveling into some newer social circles and tries very hard not to invest his situation with the kind of drama that would make this inevitable discovery more painful than it will already be. Eisner even manages to balance sympathy and criticism in his portrayal of the previous generation, something that must have been difficult to accomplish given the grandness and sweep of his emotional through-lines.

Achieving the same kind of tonal victory is the tightly focused short "The Day I Became A Professional." Eisner restricts this story to a single experience, and doesn't try to use it as anything other than a very small window on certain outlooks. The cartoonist merely describes the specific experience as it occurred, leaving a lot in the readers' hands. By keeping on message, Eisner achieves a temporary balance between delving into too many specifics of what happened to Eisner on that day and being able to portray what happened as a kind of universal experience that all young artists face. He steps out of his own way and tells a smaller story for a change, less concerned with driving a certain message home by appeals to emotion. Both "Professional" and Heart, like everything in the volume, are powerfully and evocatively drawn, with sequences so richly grand they're laugh out loud funny but also affecting, emotions worn on a sleeve in a way that's almost confrontational, like Eisner hears the swing of an orchestral score that none of the rest of us can.

I don't remember a previous incarnation of "A Sunset in Sunshine City," so I can't compare what I thought about it then to now. Its story of a daughter and father reunited after escaping opportunists' entanglements is told through consistently overwrought drama, that intense sense of people walking into a room and digging right into it with someone that was a significant part of drama of all sorts in the middle 20th century: argument as both social contract and catharsis. "Sunset" has a surprisingly cynical edge and an odd, maybe even revealing twist on what constitutes a happy ending. The Dreamer, a high-profile work when it came out and a much-debated portrayal of the early days of comics, covers too much space with too broad a brush. While the annotations are useful, they don't enhance as much as graft information onto portrayals that are cursory at their heart. It reads rushed and oversimplified when compared to subsequent portrayals of the early comics industry in film and novels and over drinks in convention hotel bars, places where accretion of detail communicates something much more intimate than dramatic body-language and proclamation. The Dreamer feels like someone quickly relating another person's more complex and detailed story rather than a legitimate story in and of itself. It's a terrible choice for all the things Eisner did well.

The Name of the Game, which one learns in the supporting material is an exploration of aspects of Ann Eisner's family, unfolds like a more florid version of a John P. Marquand novel. We meet a set of convincing and broadly-portrayed characters, but everything they do feels like it's moving forward according to a standard checklist of family drama plot points rather than circumstances that grow out of the characters choices. I can imagine this story may be captivating for biographers and fans of comics history for what one might glean about Eisner's relationship to the women in his life before and after his long and happy marriage to Ann, or as a comparison piece to works of similar scope not based on this family. It's rough going for the rest of us. The weight of Eisner's scene work when confronted with the story's demands regarding narrative sweep and family dynamics recasts Eisner's presentational style into an uneasy mix of cursory detail and haphazard pace. It's hard not to want to see the emoting and gesturing as naturalistic representation given the looseness of Eisner's world here, at which point some of the scenes become hard to watch. At about three quarters of the way through, I lifted myself out of the story being told and started looking for factors that might inform my understanding of the cartoonist. It almost made me feel disrespectful.

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Authorities Rally Around Lars Vilks

An incident of potential offense, whereby a Swedish newspaper ran a picture by artist Lars Vilks where Muhammed was depicted as a dog, that late last week seemed to be playing itself out in a rational flurry of meetings and listening and expression of societal principles, blew up like a canister of paint in a bag of money on Saturday when it was reported that an extremist group was offering a bounty for the killing of Vilks and the newspaper editor. In fact, there were gradations of offers from the group, whose shorthand press designation seems to be Al Qaeda in Iraq, including a 50 percent bonus is throat-cutting were involved, which I guess is sort of the "nothing but net" of assassination or something like that. Free speech advocates and those at least slightly irked by the thought of monetized throat-cutting as a stand-in for a letter to the editor have let their position of support be more widely known.

You can hear one of the editors here. Swedish firms have been put on alert to watch out for sudden violence. Lars Vilks is now in hiding. The Algerian ambassador to Sweden criticizes the violence represented by the bounty here.
posted 11:55 am PST | Permalink

Apologies, Protests Dot Toon Landscape


A lot of these stories are beginning to run together, so I apologize if any of this is repeat business. You know, when I read stories like these, I'm always a little wary over how the protests are phrased. In many cases, I'm not sure that I believe that people have a right to not be offended as much as I do think they have a right to feel attacked and considered not a part of the community if they're assaulted on certain things about their culture and identity. A lot of these stories just sort of assume that any offense at all is a bad thing, up to and including criticizing someone's policies. Further, there's a really fine line being suggesting something is offensive with the understanding that such an offense cannot be tolerated, and employing the offense card to offer up a counter-argument against the political point stressed. I feel less guilty about my own muddied thinking on the subject in the light of actions and reactions to such stories that seem to border on the ludicrous.

* E&P reports on the editor of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer apologizing to the family of a young child recently deceased who was referenced or was believed to have been referenced in a Jeff Darcy cartoon.

* The ombudsman of the Washington Post gets into the issue of how that paper decided not to run a couple of Opus cartoons, and why that decision was, in the end, a bad one. One letter writer seems astonished by this story as it unfolded in another Opus client paper.

* Ted Vaden of Raleigh's News & Observer looks at the issue of editorial cartooning's place dead on, including a couple of local examples where it seems like people got mad, worked themselves into a bit of a state over the nature of this offense, and then crossed their arms and waited for the paper to apologize to them.

* R. Kelly Demographic Dept: Teenaged Hispanic girls locked in closets drinking urine always seems way more funny that it actually is (panel above). Protests are I'm sure to follow. PDF of full cartoon here.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Re-Bookmark: Comic Book Heaven


Scott Saavedra temporarily returns to funnybook blogging
posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink August 2007 DM Estimates

imageThe comics business news and analysis site offers their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for August 2007.

* Overview
* Top 300 Comic Books
* Top 100 Graphic Novels

The thing that leaps out at me is the significant gains by DC's weekly series Countdown this month to last, although the figures during the month undergo the same rate of decline. I have no idea why this is, and other than pointing at it and saying "Well, how about that!" there's no help to be had there, either. It could be a sudden, one-time surge in interest genuinely felt by readers that just happened to be anticipated by retailers, some sort of supportive effort by DC through incentives and the like, a spike in terms of a character or event I'm not close enough to the title to see, or maybe a shift in ordering because of the way the title supports returns or re-orders after a certain issue or something. If someone better accustomed to finding out what the companies are doing sales-wise can offer a credible suggestions, I'll write of it in a follow-up post.

Other than that, it seems like a lot of jostling up top for the simple matter of continuing to appear up top. Plus, the Stephen King franchise Dark Tower seems to have finished its run as a great success -- quadruply so for its non-superhero subject matter, although some folks with a wider perspective might choose to see the limitations inherent in only reaching a number equivalent to half the population of Fort Wayne, Indiana with such a big property.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 64th Birthday, Carlos Sampayo!

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Is it my imagination, or is there something fundamentally wrong with a superhero comic book carrying a title this dry, long and confusing? I hate to get all Grandpa Simpson about it, but when I was a kid, comic books were called things like X-Men and Thor. I suspect that if there had been comics around sporting titles like "Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1" when I was a kid, I would have given up comic books for setting fires and stealing porn that much sooner.

* NeilAlien asks a question I'd definitely like to see answered.

image* Jonathan Ross is a gifted entertainer (from what little I've seen) and Steve Ditko is a fascinating artist, so I'm surprised I find myself more than happy to wait until Mr. Ross' BBC-broadcast documentary on Mr. Ditko comes out on DVD at some distant point in the future, even if that means risking never seeing it at all. Other than some slight curiosity at to how Stan Lee looks if asked any impertinent questions, and a writer's interest to see how much myth gets folded into the historical coverage of Ditko's career (I'm expecting a healthy amount), I'm not certain how much of what's there will be for me, anyway. I'm still happy that there is a show like Ross' -- not because it brings Ditko's career to the unwashed masses or whatever, but because to appreciate Ditko is almost always to refashion the discussion of those early Marvel comics into talk of execution, how great the comics were, as opposed to the creation/conception argument around the characters that drives most Lee Vs. Kirby debates.

* Retailer Mike Sterling suggests that superhero fans seem perfectly fine with a married Spider-Man, thank you.

image* Writer Marc Bernardin asks out loud why his The Highwaymen comic didn't sell better than it did. Of course, since this is a question coming from an author, the question of how good the comic book mini-series was and whether or not it was of a quality it would in a perfect world find a large audience isn't going to come up in a way that's appropriately critical. Still, there's a germ of a good discussion in there. For one, the fact that the authors did a lot of ground-level press kind of points out how ineffectual web sites and pod casts can be in terms of bringing people to a certain project. I know that the coverage I provide, for example, might put a work in the consciousness of a few more people, but it's not going to result in a run at any comic shop. Press like that is more tipping point than bolt from the sky, and there's so much of it now it might be hard to figure out when something hits that saturation level. Tipping point press has a long tradition in comics -- there was no single review of Bone, for example, just a chorus of voices (I heard about it in the Comics Journal; many read a preview in Cerebus, and so on) saying "please check this comic out." The foundational hits of the late 1970s and early 1980s were all slow builders driven by critical consensus. But when you're talking about a mini-series like The Highwaymen, tipping point press may not have time to cohere before the series is gone.

There are a number of other issues touched on: how flabby the lower end of the market is for mainstream publishers, how little the usual market fixes like attention in Previews can ameliorate against that down-the-charts flaccidity, the potential decline of the WildStorm brand as a brand, and the rigidity that series of a certain type face in breaking out of a certain low-end numbers to make a larger market impression.

* Gil Roth notes this artist's rendition of an accoutrement-obsessed Green Lantern, I think from the red carpet of last week's VMAs.

* I liked this piece of analysis from David P. Welsh on what makes a good comic book shop, as it doesn't apologize for coming from his personal perspective and concentrates on universals rather than gets into the infinitely trickier subject of diversity of stock or a store's sales focus. I received a couple of e-mails castigating some of what I wrote last week for somehow suggesting that carrying certain kinds of comics doesn't matter. Of course it does. All things being equal, a shop with a diverse, compelling offering of books is far more useful to me and a much more excellent place using any all-around measure than one that isn't. Recent history also suggests those stores have a greater chance of survival than a single-genre store, and all general publishing trends favor diversity. Perhaps the great systemic shortcoming of the Direct Market is that it doesn't allow such shops the chance to thrive or the opportunity to gain a foothold to the degree it should given the healthy aspects of that model, short- and long-term. It's just that on an individual, shop to shop level, it's harder to make stick that kind of prescriptive, or at least to make a full-court press of it. There are too many other factors involved. Just because one might see a future of excellent shops where some of the small-town members, say, are more likely to have a display of games like Settlers of Catan than they are a stand-alone display featuring the Fantagraphics/Coconino Ignatz line doesn't mean they're not devoted to seeing the best stores possible.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Roger Stern!

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Collins Out at Wizard; Gemstone to PA

* imageWell-known on-line comics personality Sean Collins has apparently been let go by Wizard. He had worked a variety of jobs for the publisher and until his dismissal had most recently been the managing editor of the on-line iteration of the magazine, doing interviews and participating in the site's popular Thursday Morning Quarterback feature. Collins had done a credible job restoring traffic to the magazine's Internet effort after a abortive re-launch fiasco. Collins has written for various publications and was once the point man for heavily youth-branded apparel manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch's interest in comics and cartoonists. It is unknown what he'll do next, although I recall seeing his name on comics-related freelance articles in the past so maybe that kind of work will result. Because of the positives associated with Collins' stint at Wizard, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are more employment casualties out there waiting to be confirmed.

image* Steve Geppi's Gemstone Publishing will apparently be shifting around on the corporate organization chart and moving from Timonium, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania. The highlight of the post is the excerpt from the Diamond Entertainment press release which seems to be casting York in the role of Paris in the 1920s or Austin, Texas in the mid-1980s.
"York has an exciting dynamic to it. It's definitely a city and a region on the move, and we're excited to be a part of that. This is a terrific entry into a rich marketplace, both in terms of the history to be found and the collectors with a vibrant interest in it."
I used to live about 50 minutes from York, and it was known less as a town with an exciting dynamic than that place you drove through on your way to Baltimore and/or where they gave the Post Office employees test. Unless someone out there as to something I'm missing, this sounds much more like a cost-based move more than a "publisher seeks amenable local cultural landscape" story, and becomes more interesting if it eventually ends up taking place in a greater context of several moves by Diamond businesses away from the Baltimore area. So one to note, anyway.
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 25th Birthday, Hope Larson!

posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Thumbnails
Eddie Campbell, Bryan Talbot: Speech Balloons

Comix at Brandts
Go See Gerard Way
OSU Event Previewed
Profile of Dane Nash's Museum
Celebrate Mike Wieringo in NYC
Report From Mocca's Infinite Canvas Exhibit

Who IS That Guy?
Binaries Can Be Dumb
Psychoanalyzing Comics
Noah Berlatsky on Art Young
Entertainment on Demand Hurts Comics
Jonathan Ross Describes Ditko Fascination

Jog: Miriam #1
I Hate Your Cartoon
Paulino Galvez Honored
How Comics Have Survived
Hodler Vs. Berlatsky Overview
General Musing About Numbers
Why Didn't The Highwaymen Sell?
Why Don't Comics Critics Talk Art?
Tim Hodler's Last on Art Comics Vs. Super-Dupers

CBR: Andrea Offerman Jorge Vega
Beacon News: Dan Weick
Baltimore Sun: John Flynn
Flying Colors: Dan Brereton
Flying Colors: Tom Negovan
Baltimore Sun: Steven Parke
Tony Cochran on James Thurber
Jules Feiffer, Un Moraliste Graphique
Sequential Tart: Carr D'Angelo, Jud Meyers

Not Comics
Chris Butcher in Japan 04
Robert Jordan: 1948-2007
Cops Bust Fantagraphics Shoot-'em-up
Homeless Channel as Cultural Currency
Review of Jonathan Ross/Ditko Biography

Praise for Cul De Sac Launch
Gerry Alanguilan on Hybrid Comics

Jog: Maggots
Brad Curran: Various
Greg Burgas: From Hell
Hueso Taveras: Fat Free
Don MacPherson: Various
Brad Curran: Stagger Lee
Kazu Kibuishi: The Last Call
Brad Curran: All-Ages Comics
Leroy Douresseaux: Buso Renkin Vol. 8
Don MacPherson: Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1


September 16, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Chris Brandt



I recently watched and enjoyed Independents: A Guide For The Creative Spirit, a video documentary by director, writer and '90s mini-comics mainstay Chris Brandt. It's told with a greater degree of subtle, visual skill than most first-time documentaries, and instead of working too hard at trying to communicate the entirety of modern comics or strain to make a case for a movement within it, Independents focuses on creativity and the impulse to pursue art in a way that I think greatly helps in keeping the film from drowning in specifics. Brandt cast a wide net when it came to his interview subjects -- there's one artist with whom I'm completely unfamiliar, and a few I hadn't see speak at length before -- and deftly handles the background information by borrowing approaches to graphics that worked in other documentaries.

What you're left with after watching is the buzz of leaving an entertaining cocktail party. Although I would be surprised were it to transform the way anyone thinks about comics, and some may not share Brandt's interest in some of the individual cartoonists interviewed, Independents proves to be an upbeat and affectionate survey of thoughts and attitudes about Independent comics during their first decade of semi-mainstream respectability, and a gentle reminder of the value of marching to the beat of one's own drummer. In the course of the film, Brandt keeps asking the question "Where do ideas come from?" (Jim Woodring's answer is my favorite.) The just-as-important unasked question, turned over and over in the director's hands like a silver dollar, is "Why are we doing this?" (Batton Lash is the belle of the ball on that one.)

So if you want to see a cross-section of articulate artists and comic book people talk about making art and creativity for a while, I'd say it's more than worth your $15. It's full of small pleasures, like Tony Millionaire talking about S. Clay Wilson, and supports repeat viewings in the manner of one of those pledge-month shows that pop up on PBS that you don't mind having on over and over while you clean up the living room and cook Sunday dinner. The extras are pretty decent, too, including extended chats with body-of-documentary casualties Johnny Ryan and Ron Turner. I enjoyed speaking to Chris Brandt, whose comics I've read but I'd never met.


TOM SPURGEON: I was surprised to read that Independents came out of the San Diego con video you made for the Independent Film Channel a while back [Comic Con Chronicles -- 2005]. As I recall, you participated in that contest as a way to promote the fictional short film you had done and were showing at the con.

CHRIS BRANDT: Closing Time, yeah.

SPURGEON: And the story goes that during the course of putting together that video, you did a couple of interviews that stuck with you?

BRANDT: One in particular. When I was interviewing Batton Lash, he was talking about something that didn't end up in the documentary at all, but sparked my thought processes. He was talking about how -- maybe it does get mentioned in the documentary -- how mainstream comics aren't necessarily really mainstream. The distinction between mainstream and independents or alternative in the comics industry doesn't hold up to what's on television or in film. It's a topsy-turvy definition within the comic book medium. That spurred my thought processes, and things kind of grew from there.


SPURGEON: So at what point does this curiosity based on this one question coalesce into a documentary-length commitment?

BRANDT: I was at a small film festival in Georgia; it was my first one. I was trying to go and see as many different films as possible. I sat through a couple of documentary films, or videos, I guess. They had very interesting subjects, but they depended on the subject matter to kind of carry it through. I was down on documentaries and thinking, "It's not that hard to do a documentary right." The devil's voice in my head said, "You think it's that easy, show us." I went from there.

It really blossomed in a five minute period. My immediate thought was, "Well, if I'm going to do a documentary, what would it be on?" The obvious choice for me was comic books. I'd been doing them for ten years, and studying them and reading them beforehand. I didn't know anything about comic books, but if I knew anything about anything, it was comic books. I had small connections within the field itself, having done mini-comics and gone to conventions and associated with people. I had a lot of friends. I thought, "You know what? I'll take a video camera, shoot this thing in three months, interview my friends, and slap something together that epitomizes the mid-'90s mini-comics scene that really wasn't covered at the time."

Half of the people I asked turned me down. People I thought would be interested in talking about their art work, weren't. [Spurgeon laughs] So it grew from there. But the questions themselves came from that initial five-minute conception. I knew what questions I was going to ask no matter who I was sitting down with. It really progressed from the exploration of what being independent is, what being an artist is, about comics art itself. It coalesced into that final question of the documentary, of "Where do ideas come from?"

When I came to that question I knew that that question had been asked of people throughout the ages. You sit down to an author doing a reading at a bookstore, or a director/writer standing in front of his film. Someone will inevitably ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" or "Where did you get the idea for this?" It's a tough question. It's kind of poo-poohed in the creative community. You see that in the documentary where a lot of people were brushing it aside. "It comes from my head," or "Ideas are everywhere, what kind of question is that?" But I think it's the fundamental question that people that aren't involved in the process wonder: where did that come from? I was surprised when that was the ultimate question my brain led me to, a question I'd been aware of, and aware of the negative associations that people had with it.

SPURGEON: Now, that question is something you could ask of any artist. But in this film you ask independent artists. Why that question for that group?

BRANDT: I think they're the closest to the answer. I think once you find someone deeply involved in the commercial aspects of it, they might not be as attached to the ideas as they espouse to be. I knew I wasn't making a five-hour series for PBS. I really had to condense down and get to the meat of the subject. The documentary itself is -- as much as it's other people's words -- it's really about my conception of creativity and the comics medium itself. People didn't necessarily have the same answers.

My initial concept was to play off of film and comics more, kind of explore that. I was struggling with why I was choosing film over comics. Film was my first love, but I started doing comics because I knew film itself involved a lot of other people and therefore had a lot more compromise necessary. Or at least one needs to be able to talk to people effectively to get their ideas through. I hadn't achieved that in my personal life, so I did comics, because that was the only way I could express myself visually. Initially in the documentary, the film and comics comparison was a little stronger, but eventually I dropped the film stuff out and went solely with comics.


SPURGEON: Were you sympathetic to any of the artists' answers? Was there anyone's answer you thought was close to your own?

BRANDT: You mean any particular person?

SPURGEON: I guess I'm asking you where ideas come from. And if your answer was in the film at all.

BRANDT: It was, but kind of subliminally. I don't know that anyone can definitively say where ideas come from. It's like asking if there's a God. To me the answer is God, but what is that? I don't know. Is it an entity? A free-flowing river? An abstract and impersonal source?

Craig Thompson and Shannon Wheeler probably hit on it best for me when they described ideas as being out there and flowing through you. It's not something that automatically happens, because as other people in the documentary say, the more you work with them the more is generated with them and the more you're able to tap into whatever that source is. It sounds kind of fruity, but that's the best answer I can come up with.

SPURGEON: One thing that impressed me about the film is that the entirety of independent comics seems represented -- if only by smoke and mirrors. [Brandt laughs] You seemed to use a pretty wide array of artists and cartoonists. Was that on purpose?

BRANDT: Yeah, definitely. I was looking to get a person as far back as possible and as new as possible that I could get access to. I also wanted people whose art I could get into, so when I sat down with them I would be invested in the conversation. I needed to like the person's art work and be invested in the totality of what they were doing.

imageSPURGEON: Another thing that struck me about the film is a moment you left in with Gary Groth, where in the middle of an eloquent point he gets an intercom message, and he sort of stops and rolls his eyes [Brandt laughs]. It's a funny moment of his to have captured on film. Was there a desire on your part to get a snapshot of cartooning: Tony [Millionaire] in his back yard, Gary in his office, Linda [Medley] at a convention... Did you think about that element at all, or were you just going by wherever you could get an interview?

BRANDT: It's a combination of the two. I grabbed people wherever they were available. Gary asked, and I said his office, and he said his office was kind of dirty, and I wanted that. I wanted something that represented them. Trevor Alixopulos is talking on a loading dock outside of APE. That seemed to really represent him, a truly underground artist.

SPURGEON: How many interviews and interview subjects did you have that you weren't able to use?

BRANDT: I had about 40 hours of interviews. Did you look at the extras?

SPURGEON: Not yet, no.

BRANDT: There were some people there. Terry Moore... Ron Turner. Then there were people I couldn't even get in the extras. Jennifer Daydreamer, and Sam Henderson.

I really like Sam a lot and some of the things he said were genius and weren't covered by any other people. But they didn't come out in a fluid enough manner, and he wasn't comfortable enough in front of the camera. I really wanted to have a film where someone who wasn't into comics at all, and came into it looking for an uncomfortable person to label as a geek, wouldn't be able to say: "I knew that's what this was about. I don't have to listen to that." I was very conscious of thwarting preconceptions an audience might have. It was a propaganda piece in that way.

Are you familiar with the film What the Bleep Do We Know?"


BRANDT: That was done by a religious sect in Oregon. I knew when I was watching it that it was propaganda of some sort.

I wanted to make this accessible to people who don't give a damn about comics. Even if the guy's name is Frank Miller -- if he's talking about the pen he uses, the general public isn't going to be interested in that. I tried to straddle both worlds. I wanted to make it of interest to comics audiences but also try to grab that wider market and bring some people back into our medium.

SPURGEON: Now you've shown this in festival, right?

BRANDT: No. Comic-Con in San Diego turned me down sight unseen.

SPURGEON: [laughs] Do you know why?

BRANDT: Apparently, they were getting so many requests for screenings that they turned everybody down whose names didn't end in Universal or Fox. I can understand if they didn't want to show my documentary in Hall H. But when Fox drops out and you decide to show a festival of trailers to fill that time...? I'm a nobody, I know that, but I think my feature-length documentary is better than ten trailers you can see on the Internet.

SPURGEON: You're early in the process, then.

BRANDT: You'll be one of my first interviews. I just did a public access interview, and Jonathan London at allowed me to co-host and we had a brief discussion about the documentary.


SPURGEON: This is kind of a digression, but I'd love to ask you about something said earlier. You started out with the intention of doing something on the 1990s mini-comics scene. What is it about that scene that you found interesting enough to want to do a film about it?

BRANDT: I was involved with it for part of it. So I guess there was that egotistical part of it. This was something I did, and I wanted people to know about it.

It's obviously a part of the 'zine movement, the punk rock 'zines of the '80s, which itself is a stemming off of the self-publishing movement. It really all goes back to Help! and Harvey Kurtzman and those guys putting out their stuff. It was what I knew about. It was something that like you said you hadn't seen other people talk about. Here I am. I'm talking about comic books. What do I know about comics books? I know mini-comics. Distilling it down to what I know best.

SPURGEON: Was it the artistic accomplishment that you find unique about that period? The number of artists?

BRANDT: What I think is unique about self-publishing in general, and I think mini-comics really epitomizes this, is that I think it takes a little more effort than banging a song out in your garage. These were people sitting at their kitchen tables, in complete obscurity, creating things that had a print run of 300. So maybe 300 to 900 people read these. There was a lot of really great stuff. For that material to just be lost to time is a travesty to me. People give up or go on to bigger and better things. Either they're dismayed by what they created or they figure it's not worth showing anymore. It's consigned to history, and this fantastic, ground-breaking material never caught on. They didn't have the financial resources and the marketplace behind it to have it picked up and be reprinted. Despite what Jessica Abel said about self-publishing because she wasn't ready to be professionally published...

SPURGEON: When I saw her say that, I was thinking if Jessica had been doing those same comics now she'd probably have a three-book deal at Random House, although maybe on a commercial property rather than her own books.

BRANDT: That's part of it. There's this incredibly complex web that is so difficult to figure out, and once you figure it out and have the energy to pursue it, that's the thing. As I thought about that more and more, the complexity of it really intrigued me. And trying to distill that into 77 minutes was really a challenge. Once I faced myself with it, I couldn't ignore it.

imageSPURGEON: For the framing sequence you use a mix of skits with a professor about the nature of creativity, and some staged pieces. Someone is going to ask me if that professor, James Kaufman, was real.

BRANDT: He's real. You can look him up. That's how I found him. A really great guy. I was fortunate in that he acted in college and has an active interest in comic books. It was serendipity.

The little skits that I put in were things I wanted to do, and I think it came out of how I would make this documentary my own. I didn't want printed titles that told you what the chapter was about. I knew that it would be easier to follow if broken into segments, and those segments had to have some way of being separated. I knew I didn't want a narrator talking over everybody. I wanted this to be about the people themselves. The narrator and chapter breaks just found their own life, organically, in the process of distilling it down.

SPURGEON: I liked how deftly you were able to do the history.

BRANDT: Watch the extended history; it's like 15 minutes. The first version of the movie I had was 93 minutes, and had 15-minutes of dense history that was chronologically presented. Whatever peaks the movie might have, the center was this huge trough. [Spurgeon laughs] Quite frankly, distilling this thing down from 95 to 77 minutes put me into 72 hours of observation. I had a breakdown.

SPURGEON: Well... it worked. Although that sounds like a horrible price to pay.

BRANDT: That was actually one of the better times in my life. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Are you happy with the result in general, Chris?

BRANDT: I'm extremely happy with the result. I've seen it 200 times easily. I have intimate knowledge of the material that's there. I've heard those voices 200 times and I can sit there and not cringe and not wonder if it's any good. People may not like it or get it, but I'm happy with it.

Though that happiness is overshadowed by the huge relief of just being done with it.

SPURGEON: Another formal issue involves how you dealt with showing comics onscreen, the thing that seems to vex every comics documentary film maker. I remember a Daredevil sequence in your movie that moved across the screen effectively, and the way you displayed a few pages of Cerebus in one continuous scroll seemed to work well.

BRANDT: Somebody showed me the documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, which made me aware of the idea of cutting up the image and letting the pieces move. Changing backgrounds and letting the pieces cross themselves, or moving focus from one piece to the next. That really opened up the window. Initially I thought it would be a Ken Burns thing, where I'm panning across all the images, but that really opened up the possibilities of what could be done. Motions graphics in commercials is really frenetic; the computer industry has improved what you can get away with and what you can do.

I was conscious of being subdued with it. Comic books are not animation. That's something I wanted to keep clear. I know that I used to hear, and I'm sure other cartoonists have heard it, where there's this comic that you've done and they say, "Oh, great. You should send this comic to Disney and work at Disney." [Spurgeon laughs] But I want to do comics, not animation. They're different creatures. If there's something you want to do personally and not that interested in commercially, there's a reason that is.

I wanted to stay as true as possible to the nature of comics, and not have it turn into an animated piece. Subliminally get the information across, "If you pick up a comic, this is what you're going to be looking at." "Right now you're watching a documentary about comics, and you're going to see some of those elements move." It's straddling two worlds.

SPURGEON: Do you have any ideas what you're doing next, Chris?

BRANDT: I have a couple of my own ideas for documentaries, and Wendy Pini expressed an interest about working together on a documentary about her. She's had a fascinating life.

But I didn't want to do documentaries to begin with. [Spurgeon laughs] So I'm finishing two feature scripts, and I have another feature script I'm shopping around. Right now I'm trying to balance a few things involving getting an income. Producing the DVD set me back. I'll be promoting the DVD, too. Also, Slave Labor's distribution arm picked up my Angie comic which has been re-titled Every Day is Saturday. So I'm going to do more of those.


* DVD cover
* movie trailer
* one of the cartoons used on the framing sequence
* cartoon of Tony Millionaire
* Gary Groth in 2006
* a piece of Brandt's comics art
* some of the incidental art from a framing sequence


Independents: A Guide For The Creative Spirit, Self-produced Video, Chris Brandt, 77 minutes, 2007.


David Glanzer writes in with a brief objection to Mr. Brandt's portrayal of CCI's film programming policies.
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Helsinki, I'd Go To This

posted 6:25 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: wonderful comic by Phil Frank about the De Young Museum

* go, look: Donna Barr interviewed

* go, read: Matt Madden on Fletcher Hanks

* go, watch: Schulz original on Antiques Roadshow

* go, read: complete War of the Worlds adaptation by Edginton and D'Israeli
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Anne Van Der Linden

posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 30th Birthday, Amanda Fisher!

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Seth!

posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 47th Birthday, Kurt Busiek!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Happy 47th Birthday, Mike Mignola!

posted 6:02 am PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

I no longer miss playing football.
posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

September 15, 2007

So Much For My Precognitive Abilities

A bounty has been placed on the head of Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Helsinki, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from September 8 to September 14, 2007:

1. It looks like Swedish authorities may have weathered the potential storm caused by a newspaper's publication of a caricature portraying Muhammed as a dog, as the story dies down with the last impression being meetings between government and both local Muslim leaders and Muslim country diplomats.

2. Diamond unveils a new, largely affordable, promising-seeming POS (point of sale) system at their retailer summit, with a potential to largely upgrade things like accuracy in sales numbers and back-catalog inventory re-orders.

3. Big comics award week, with the Harveys ceremony, a Hero Initiative award going to Joe Kubert, the Maisie Kukoc nominees, and the Ignatz nominees.

Winner Of The Week
Scott McCloud, Quill Award winner.

Loser Of The Week
Grant Woolard, out at the University of Virginia student newspaper that ran his Ethiopia Food Fight cartoon.

Quote Of The Week
"In the end, here's what I take away from his posts: Berlatsky doesn't like the fiction published in The New Yorker, and somehow, superheroes are to blame." -- Timothy Hodler, concluding his portion of an on-line argument with Noah Berlatsky.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Peter Poplaski!

posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Carol Lay!

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

September 14, 2007

Not Comics: My Five Favorite Albums

Closing Time, Tom Waits, Asylum, 1973
I love the frog-voiced, glitter-tossing, bastard son of Bertolt Brecht version of Tom Waits as much as the next 100 graying hipsters in my age group, but the music of his to which I keep returning is on this first studio album, with its winsome dance hall numbers and sashaying near-country pop. Closing Time occasionally overreaches; there's a look-at-me-I-belong swagger to some of the turns of phrase, a plea to sit at the big songwriters' table communicated with a shaggy wink that would become far more charming realized by the bruised, weary quality of Waits' later vocals. But the songs save one or two are sweet and good-natured, and you can hear the best parts of the 1970s Southern California rock scene in numbers like "Ol '55" and "Rosie." I don't know if there's a lovelier song about being young than "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)," or a more adorably sentimental one about what young people think growing old is like than "Martha." It all charms, it all works, tip the piano player on your way out.


In Philadelphia, Wilson Pickett, Atlantic, 1970
The signature offerings of a great and I think largely wasted talent, Wilson Pickett's strutting vocals and manly growls are buoyed here by sprightly orchestration from the great Philly soul production team of Gamble and Huff, the way little kids might dress their favorite, gruff uncle in a brightly colored sweater. At a distance the combination of rough-edged R&B shouter and emerging disco godfathers seems like the worst possible grouping, but the producers soften and restrain Pickett's excesses and redirect his energy into an album of upbeat, timeless pop. With a chorus that makes you open and close your fists in time, like it or not, "Help the Needy" sounds like one of those out of left field, perfect, top 40 hits by a one-hit wonder. On In Philadelphia it's surrounded by a progressive showcase of high-energy tunes, starting with the laugh out loud "Run, Joey, Run" and culminating in one of the sunniest braggart songs ever recorded, "International Playboy." Humorous, lively and wise, it's the musical version of every adult party you sat on the stairs and eavesdropped on.


Live at the Harlem Square Club, Sam Cooke, RCA, 1963
The great gospel and pop singer rips into a club set with a fervor that belies his status as a then-fading star. If Cooke wasn't slowing down in terms of record sales or concert appearances or Mike Douglas Show guest spots by the time he took the Miami stage, he was at least becoming the kind of performer for whom you imagined a long and difficult third act. The concert's best moments are a feverish, rave-up version of "You'll Send Me" that opens another song entirely, and an almost relaxed medley blending "It's All Right" into "I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)" that includes a partial sing-along. At times you can practically feel the heat coming through Cooke's microphone; in the pauses you can sense the reverence audience to performer.


The Next Hundred Years, Ted Hawkins, Geffen, 1994
Most Ted Hawkins fans prefer the leaner and probably greater Songs From Venice Beach, but I love the almost florid quality of the orchestration here. It's like watching Fred Astaire come alive on those rare moments he was paired with a dancer of his talent and relative charisma. The way Hawkins voice floats into the space created for it is as thrilling as listening to him power through the acoustic numbers by which he made his name. The songs in Next Hundred Years are strong, too, particularly "Biloxi," "There Stands the Glass," and the irresistible "Green-Eyed Girl." I have a soft spot for "The Good and the Bad" and its devastating chorus; it was my first encounter with Hawkins, stopping me dead in my tracks as it bled from an Oxford American giveaway CD on which it was included some 10 years ago.

He'll hurt you
Yes, just for the sake of hurting you
And he'll hate you
If you try to love him just the same
He'll use you
And everything you have to offer him
On your way, girl
Get out and find you someone new

Hawkins had one of the great voices, under appreciated for the lack of a recognizable genre in which he recorded, regarded with suspicion I think because of its sustained vulnerability and his almost too-perfect past as street performer and lost soul. While his life story certainly sounds like something a team of writers would prepare for a made-up story to appear on NPR, making it easy to see someone falling for the romanticism inherent in his difficult, never realized potential, listening to that voice should end any and all questions of authenticity. Hawkins is one of the few artists where you can learn to sing his songs note for note on your own and perform them perfectly but when you play the originals you hear nothing of your version in his. He was one of a kind, in the best possible way.


You're the Top: Cole Porter in the 1930s, Various, Koch International Classics, 1992

A compilation of songs from Cole Porter's assault on the stage musical in the 1930s organized by the show in which they originally appeared, the greatness of this three-disc set is in the wide variety of interpreters on hand. Sometimes they appear one right after another, to fascinating effect. Listening to Louis Armstrong crush and own everything he sings here makes you feel bad for anyone who tried to perform the same music, and perhaps even every single member of his direct peer group. His take on Porter's casually brutal toast to regret "Just One of Those Things" may be the greatest song ever sung by an artist with what seems like an intentional disconnect from the lyrics.

There are a few forgotten figures present like New York cabaret singer Mabel Mercer, an oddity or two like Jimmy Stewart (who's quite respectable), and even Porter himself in good voice and possessed of a songwriter's care with phrasing. I think my favorite cut comes from Bobby Short, whose normally forgettable but pleasant summer breeze of a voice finds an affecting measure of longing in the ridiculous "Rap Tap on Wood." You can feel Short lose himself in a couple of the notes; close your eyes and you can envision the elegant showman, at the piano, as he softly shudders his way back into the moment.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Friday Distraction: Farley Archives


The San Francisco Chronicle kept about five years of Phil Frank's Farley archived, including a couple of sub-topics of local interest. I enjoyed reading through long stretches of this work last night.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Phil Frank, 1943-2007


Phil Frank, the creator of Farley and the co-creator of The Elderberries, died in a friend's home in Bolinas, California on Wednesday. The cause was complications brought on by a brain tumor. He was 64 years old.

He was born in Pittsburgh, and after entering seminary with the intention of becoming a Jesuit priest he moved into commercial art instead. His first cartooning gig came in the 1960s, doing editorial cartoons for a student paper at Michigan State University for $5 a pop. After East Lansing he joined Kansas City's significant cartooning community and worked for Hallmark Cards. He eventually moved to northern California.

imageFrank sold Travels With Farley into national syndication in 1975, where it remained a feature for more than a decade. In 1986, the strip now called simply Farley and with syndication numbers stalled, Frank decided to keep the feature going as a local/regional effort through the San Francisco Chronicle. The strip took on a flavor more specific to Northern California, and some of Frank's best work tweaked local politician, perhaps most famously celebrity mayor Willie Brown. Between national syndication and the rare, locally-sponsored strip, Frank enjoyed a 30-plus year relationship with the Chronicle and Bay Area readers, including time spent drawing for various publications in a more commercially-driven, illustration sense.

imageFrank began work on Elderberries one of several strips launched in the last couple of decades to engage the concerns of older people, in 2004. He gave up drawing that feature earlier this year when the illness made it impossible for him to perform those duties at the speed and skill level required. That strip will be continued.

At least six books were made from his comics work. The cartoonist, an honorary parks ranger, and his wife, Susan, created four guidebooks to National Parks. Frank illustrations also appeared in several magazines. Upon his passing, he was praised by targets of his strips, including Brown.

Phil Frank is survived by a wife, a son and a daughter. Although some unofficial celebrations of the late cartoonist's life have already taken place, a public memorial is planned.
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: An Open Letter...


the author asked me to post this

link added; sorry
posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

A pair of articles out in the last 24 hours provide analysis from different directions why the recent publication of a drawing of Muhammed as a dog didn't result in the fury that eventually boiled over in the 2005 case of multiple Muhammed-based caricatures being published in a Denmark newspaper. One notes that the apology proffered by Swedish officials seems to have worked; the other lists the various cultural factors that worked against things blowing up.
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Mary Fleener!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink on Platinum as Penny Stock

The comics business news and analysis site has a smart, succinct summary on contempt magnet/comics publisher/movie deal strumpet/all-around Hollywood comics property wrangler Platinum Studios and its new strategy of being traded as a penny stock. It's a good story, but more than that, I just sort of like writing "penny stock," and even more than that I like to imagine they're traded in a giant, Victorian arcade exchange made up of animatronic puppets in glass booths.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Damien Jay Sketchbook

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Manga Legal Outcomes

* a district court in Tokyo awarded almost $178,000 (USD) to 11 manga artists, including Go Nagai and Takehiko Inoue, in their lawsuit against two individuals and two companies in a copyright infringement case concerning the scanning and uploading of various manga titles. The amount awarded was close to the $180,000 (USD) sought. This smart news summary goes into the details, links to the original story, and provides the formula the court used for damages.

* Masaya Miyashita, arrested for publishing obscene self-published comics material, was slapped with an approximately $3000 (USD) fine, abruptly ending what I guess at least one observer saw as a potential stand-and-fight case.
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Seldes on Krazy Kat (PDF)

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Yesterday Afternoon's News

In case you missed it, the Ignatz Award nominees were announced yesterday afternoon, and are worth a scroll-down.
posted 6:02 am PST | Permalink

Welcome, Ramona Bertozzi!


this has been one heck of a week for cartoonist babies
posted 6:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Holy Shit, This Is Beautiful
This Is Rather Pretty, Too, Once Blown Up

Go See Dan Piraro
E&P Previews On-Line Exhibit
Report on Shojo Manga Show
E&P Previews Caniff OSU Exhibit
Bagge, Ryan, Blanchard in St. Louis
Eddie Campbell on Panels at the Brisbane Festival

All About Wally Wood's Greatest Commercial
1980s Marvel Apparently Not Bastion of Enlightened Portrayals

Tim Hodler Vs. Noah Berlatsky
Berlatsky Opines
Hodler Then Responds
Berlatsky Responds to Hodler

DMP on MySpace
I Hate Your Cartoon
Breaking In At Marvel

SUR: Angel Igidoras
Profile of Our Comic Book
Sequential Tart: Daniel Way
Broken Frontier: Sean Phillips

Not Comics
Pay Tim O'Neil
Jeff Parker Rides a Bike
James Turner's Map of Humanity
Interview With James Kochalka's Book Editor

Sandra Bell-Lundy Blogs
Dan Clowes Run in NYT Starting Sunday

Jog: Various
AV Club: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Hervé St-Louis: Thor #2
Andrea Hoag: Reading Comics
Hervé St-Louis: Daredevil #99

September 13, 2007

Go, Look: David Heatley SPX Badges

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Eye of the Majestic Creature #2


Creators: Leslie Stein
Publishing Information: self-published, comic book, 32 pages, 2007, $3
Ordering Numbers:

Leslie Stein is a walking argument for the single-artist anthology comic book, because I think with a vehicle for regular work seen by a lot of people resulting in a reasonably tight and well-informed art/feedback loop, she really might turn into something. This self-published work is classic "the cartoonist has a quality"-level comics, with an odd mix of fantasy, observational drama, blended styles, laconic satire and atmospheric sequences coming together less like a stew and more like a boil. Whether or not you enjoy the experience probably depends on how much you like the majority of riffs and sequences on hand. It fails to come together like more considered, mature work should. A few eye-popping surprises and tonal shifts can spice up a comic; too many and the reader can be slapped and cuffed right out of the reading experience. What makes any struggle worth it is Stein's keen eye for how people settle into space, a kind of agitated discomfit with body and situation that works against an underlying desire to belong and make connections. Her characters make me nervous, and I feel sometimes like I want to put my thumbs on some of them before they flit off the page. I'd like to see issue #3; more than that, I'd like to see issue #10.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Phil Frank, RIP

posted 7:10 pm PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Ignatz Award Nominees


The 2007 Ignatz Award nominees have been announced. Unless I already posted something about them, in which case, here they are again! It's probably a bad sign I don't remember -- for me and the awards. Anyhow, the Ignatz Awards, given out during a ceremony at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, are a juried-nomination award celebrating creator-driven work of the type that exhibits at the Expo.

The jury this year was Sara Edward-Corbett, Paul Hornschemeier, Steve MacIsaac, Jesse Reklaw and Zack Soto.


Outstanding Artist
* Vanessa Davis, Papercutter #4 (Tugboat Press), Kramers Ergot #6 (Buenaventura Press)
* John Hankiewicz, Asthma (Sparkplug Comic Books)
* Jaime Hernandez, Love & Rockets (Fantagraphics Books)
* Rutu Modan, Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Ted Stearn, Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville #4 (Fantagraphics Books)

Outstanding Anthology or Collection
* Curses by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Vol. 4 by Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendrera, and Dan Zettwoch (Drawn & Quarterly)
* King-Cat Classix by John Porcellino (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Misery Loves Comedy by Ivan Brunetti (Fantagraphics Books)
* Moomin Book One by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)

Outstanding Graphic Novel
* Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Bookhunter by Jason Shiga (Sparkplug Comic Books)
* Don't Go Where I Can't Follow by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
* House by Josh Simmons (Fantagraphics Books)

Outstanding Story
* Delphine #1-2 by Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books/Coconino Press)
* Don't Go Where I Can't Follow by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
* The End #1 by Anders Nilsen (Fantagraphics Books/Coconino Press)
* Martha Gregory by John Hankiewicz, Asthma (Sparkplug Comic Books)
* Untitled by Gabrielle Bell, Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Vol. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly)

Promising New Talent
* Gabrielle Bell, Lucky, Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Vol. 4 (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Scott Campbell, Flight Vol. 4 (Ballantine Books), Hickee vol. 3 #3 (Alternative Comics)
* Lilli Carre, You Ain't No Dancer Vol. 2 (New Reliable Press)
* Brandon Graham, King City (TokyoPop)
* Tom Neely, The Blot (I Will Destroy You)

Outstanding Series
* Atlas by Dylan Horrocks (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Delphine by Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books/Coconino Press)
* Dungeon by Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar, and various (NBM)
* Love & Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
* Mourning Star by Kazimir Strzepek (Bodega Distribution)

Outstanding Comic
* Doctor Id by Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri (Indie Ink Studios)
* Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville #4 by Ted Stearn (Fantagraphics Books)
* Love & Rockets vol. 2 #18 by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
* Monster Parade #1 by Ben Catmull (Fantagraphics Books)
* Optic Nerve #11 by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly)

Outstanding Mini-Comic
* Burning Building Comix by Jeff Zwirek
* The Monkey and the Crab by Shawn Cheng and Sara Edward-Corbett
* Noose by Mark Burrier
* P.S. Comics #3 by Minty Lewis
* Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten by Matt Wiegle

Outstanding Online Comic
* Achewood by Chris Onstad
* Grace by Kris Dresen
* Persimmon Cup by Nick Bertozzi
* Thingpart by Joe Sayers
* Wondermark by David Malki

I'm a little surprised by the appearance of a Sara Edward-Corbett co-created mini-comic on the best mini-comic list, given her presence on the jury. Did they not institute a Frank Cho rule to guard against that kind of thing? I thought they had. I mean, I don't want to punk on the nomination or call it into question -- that's a lovely mini-comic, one I would nominate, and I'm sure no one exerted any influence -- I just didn't think it was possible.

Update! Or, "Ask A Question, Get An Answer"

The Ignatz Awards coordinator wrote in to clear up how you can be a juror and a nominee -- the upshot: you can't nominate your own work, but you can be nominated, as the juries are working blind, without even knowing who the other jurors are. Mr. McElhatton's full letter follows:
Hey Tom, just saw your post on the Ignatz Awards.

In answer to your question -- after the 1999 Ignatz Awards, the rules were changed to explicitly state that jurors are not allowed to nominate their own work.

However, one of the reasons why the jurors's names aren't revealed until the ballot is released is that each juror is unaware of who the other four members are. All submissions, correspondence, and voting goes through the Ignatz Awards Coordinator (in this case, me). This way, creators can serve on the Ignatz Jury without suddenly becoming ineligible for the award that year; no one else on the jury knows they're a member. That procedure has been in place since Ed Brubaker and Chris Oarr created the awards back in 1997.

So, in short, Sara Edward-Corbett's nomination was based entirely on her talent and had nothing improper connected to it in any way, shape, or form. Her placement on the ballot is because of other jurors who didn't know she was serving.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!
Well, that's that! Plus, I didn't know that Ed Brubaker co-created the awards.
posted 4:52 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This


I think there's an opening night event for this exhibit; I could be wrong. Wait, here it is.

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

The story of Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda publishing a picture of Muhammed as a dog by Lars Vilks in a profile of the artist seems to have died down, at least for now, with admirable work performed by the Swedish government in negotiating some choppy political waters. Let's hope, anyway. You can still read some semi-generic analysis pieces here and there. The decision not to include specifics by pieces like these disturbs me a bit, as I think all of the differences between this relatively minor flare-up and the great, life-destroying tragedy of what happened with Denmark in 2005-2006 can be found in the details.
posted 11:18 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Maisie Kukoc Nominees


Nominees for the 2007 Maisie Kukoc Award for Comics Inspiration, a juried award focusing on excellence in mini-comics, were announced yesterday afternoon. They are:



* Andy Hartzell, for Fox Bunny Funny (the self-published edition), Yip the Wonder Dog



* Damien Jay, for Pocket Party, The Tinderbox



* Minty Lewis, for P.S. Comics #3



* Geoff Vasile, for Trackrabbit #3



* Matt Wiegle, for Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten


The winner will be announced at the Stumptown Comics Festival, and is set to receive a cash prize of $350 in the hopes that continued comics making will be supported. The winner of last year's inaugural award was Kazimir Strzepek.

The award is named after John Porcellino's late cat, a prominent character in his groundbreaking King-Cat mini-comics. They are organized by Jesse Reklaw.
posted 11:16 am PST | Permalink

Pundits React to Diamond's POS System

News that Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. will be working with retailers to supply them with a POS system geared to streamline store operations vis-a-vis the giant distributor has brought with it a variety of reactions. The two best ones I've seen so far today are 1) Johanna Draper Carlson's catch that the system means Diamond will require UPC codes, something that might have an effect on small or self-publishers, and 2) Dirk Deppey's long list of questions and potential objections. By far the most compelling questions Deppey asks are about the notion of the system as a way to limit competition from other distributors already working the market, and any distributor wanting to work the market.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Gianfranco Goria


The owner and operator of one of the world's best comics blogs has pledged to load up more photos on Flickr! in order to facilitate replies and questions through that site's commentary function.
posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Comics business news and analysis site's interview with Viz Senior Vice President Liza Coppola is a must-read if only for those who do the occasional interview to learn how to come across as supremely confident in interviews. It helps, I guess, to have the kind of market success that makes you supremely confident. The takeaway for me is that they see Blue Dragon as a potential huge title; it's rarer than you think that a new possibility enters into that particular discussion, although maybe it's been bandied about for a while. Coppola's take on OEL and her report on how booksellers have accommodated the Naruto Nation initiative are worth noting as well.

* Domingo Isabelinho wrote in to point out that the Vincent Perriot comic Entre Deux, which this site linked to the other day, was the subject of a plagiarism story. As victim, not perpetrator.

* Grant Woolard's "Ethiopian Food Fight" cartoon continues to pull the majority of regional, google-able coverage about the issue of editorial cartooning and what happens when one crosses a line they maybe didn't see until they'd crossed it, but here's a nice, short piece on Jeff Darcy's experience at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer over a cartoon that many found offensive.

* It may be my imagination, but there seems to be a slight furry of positive articles of the Bob Greene/Paul Harvey various about the wholesome benefits of comics reading.

* You can draw a man standing amongst dead bodies, but whatever you do don't make him a dog.

* I found this extensive profile of Steve Geppi's Entertainment Museum to be super-weird. It's not really tethered by numbers or specific analysis regarding the hinted-at troubles the now one-year-old institution may be facing, and it spends a bunch of inches describing the general, negative way some people may regard Geppi and various policies at his comics distributor, Diamond. This is odd only in that I don't think I've ever detected any spillover from objection to Diamond policies onto the museum and how people regard that entity.

* UK publishers tell UK booksellers they're underestimating the demand for manga, and losing sales as a result. I'm not certain what one expects a publisher to tell a bookseller, but there's plenty of evidence to support the veracity of this claim.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Mike Grell!

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Could Jack Cole Land a GN Deal Today?

I thought this article on the notion that good-looking people are getting book deals because they're good-looking and not because of the perceived quality of their work might be a fun thing to place in front of comics people as book deals for cartoonists begin to become a regular thing. Just so we can track it. I hope it's not true. If it is, my comics biography of Paul Lynde (Center Square) is surely doomed.

I'm sure many folks thought Jack Cole was a handsome devil, but I went down a list of deceased cartoonists and he was the first great artist on the list after Peter Arno, and the second closest to the top of the list, and Peter Arno was obviously not the person you slot into such a headline. I guess Charles Addams might have been first, and he certainly wasn't the suave-looking bastard Arno appears to have been, but he gets a pass for having dated Veronica Lake.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 46th Birthday, Gary Kwapisz!

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Linkblogging Can Be Funny, Too

I wouldn't usually have paid much attention to this short piece about whether or not bloggers should follow ethical guidelines maintained by print writer organization, but it did make me giggle that the very next piece that popped up on my screen was this one from someone reviewing an anthology in which they participated. It is for a good cause, admittedly. Still funny.
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Inks
Mike Manley Draws Figures

Hector Cantu at UT
Hector Cantu at UT 02


E&P on Food Fight Cartoon
Naruto's Continued Charts Success
Kevin Smith Closes West Coast Store
Retailer Complains About Summit Freebies
Chris Mautner on Viz's Naruto Nation Initiative
David P. Welsh on DMP's Co-Branding Initiative
Manga-Reading Potential Leader Thrills Nerd Industries

Bookslut: Dirk Deppey
Newsarama: Adi Granov
Portland's Cool Bookstores
CBR: Andrew Steven Harris
Newsarama: The Immonens
Nerds With Kids: Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer

Not Comics
Steve Gerber's Been Busy
Great Eddie Campbell Anecdote
In Praise of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

Laika Previewed
Donna Barr's New Site
Cool Editorial Cartoon Blog
Maggie Thompson Has a Blog
Blog Profiles Troy Little/IDW Deal
French Magazine Changes Dimensions
Randy Glasbergen Launches 3rd Feature

Ditko at DC
Paul O'Brien: Various
Matt Brady: Good As Lily
Jeff Yang: Tekkon Kinkreet
Vicious Anti-Satrapi Review
Hervé St-Louis: X-Men #201
Douglas Wolk: Potter's Field #1
Noah Berlatsky Only Sort Of Hates Comics
Hervé St-Louis: Amazing Spider-Man #542
Don MacPherson: Justice League Wedding Planner #1

September 12, 2007

CR Review: Dinosaurs Across America

imageCreator: Phil Yeh
Publishing Information: NBM, hard cover album, 32 pages, 2007, $12.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781561635092 (ISBN13), 156163509X (ISBN10)

A reformatting of a popular comic distributed by Yeh's Cartoonists Across America, one would guess in order to extend its audience into venues where a simple, stapled comic book might not be welcome, Dinosaurs Across America is an educational book aimed at kids. This means I have little to no idea if it succeeds in its desired task, and any guess I'd like to lob up there risks counter-voting by the 190K previously sold. What struck me about the books was its manipulation of formal qualities: it has a framing sequence that operates like comics, but its state-by-state breakdown doesn't necessarily encourage panel to panel flow. That means this is a comic that works or fails to because of the control comics readers have in controlling how quickly and repetitively they get through a book. There's also something about the staging that is reminiscent of Larry Gonick's in a way to make you question what that author does in those panels where a great deal of information gets presented. In this book, Yeh counts on a classic children's story element of providing false information that's corrected by the smarter characters, which one assumes might put the reader on the side of the smarter characters and allow her to think of similar corrections before the dinosaurs step forward. There's a lot going on here that might not be immediately appreciated, although the sensibility and narrative drive are thus where I can't imagine an adult enjoying this material to any extent beyond wanting to read it to a four year old.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

More On That Diamond POS System, Including One Retailer's Reaction

After reading Heidi MacDonald's report from the Retailers' Summit in Baltimore sponsored by Diamond and their presentation of the asserted to be affordable and appealing POS (Point of Sale) system to hundreds of retailers, I wondered after some of the numbers and details. Luckily, a few members of the retail community in attendance had already sent me information, including one who was willing to go on the record with details and commentary: Dustin Harbin from Heroes Aren't Hard to Find.

I was initially interested on how many attended. What I heard back was that it's hard to guess how many attended because of sporadic attendance. A couple of the retailers noted that many of the dealers put a lot of emphasis on getting the offered exclusives. This means a lot of staff and even wives are on hand to increase the ability of taking these home. So while it's not clear on how many accounts any number represents, the people who wrote in seemed to think it was in the mid to upper end of the three-figure estimate given at PWCW.

Information on the POS system being offered by Diamond was a lot easier to come buy and tended to be a lot more specific. Let me present them below in a series of sub-categories.



General Cost of the System

The major of those few writing in thought the cost of the system was manageable.

Dustin Harbin: "The cost of the system is actually extraordinarily affordable. Assuming you buy a completely brand new system (rather than piece, upfitting an existing computer terminal with scanner, cash drawer, etc.) it ranges from approximately $3300-$4500.

"Diamond seems to want to make it as easy as possible for retailers to buy it through them: the terms are 10 percent down, and then payments over 18 months at 0% interest.

"For an outlay of under $5000, I suspect most dealers with largish operations will immediately switch. We certainly are.

"Tech support, after a 90 day intro window, is $50/hour. You can get around this hourly charge by dropping $900/year on a support plan."

The Deluxe Hardware Package

Integrated Touch Screen PC, Cash Drawer, Receipt Printer, Handheld Scanner with Stand, Power Back-Up, Pole Display, Miscellaneous Supplies (Cable, Receipt Paper, etc.) and an External Read/Write DVD Drive. Storeowners save 5% off the price of buying each piece separately.

Basic Hardware Package

Identical to above, except instead of Integrated Touch Screen PC, it has Basic PC Tower and 17" Flat Screen Monitor.

Software Pricing (Separate From Hardware)

* Microsoft RMS Single Store Operations (this is the POS shell): $1190.00
* Microsoft RMS Annual Maintenance Plan--Minimum 1 Year Required: $205.00
* Microsoft RMS Headquarters (separate software for multiple stores: sort of overlords instances of the Single Store software, creating a pretty useful cross-store database): $3000.00
* Microsoft RMS Headquarters Annual Maintenance Plan-- Minimum 1 Year Required: $495.00
* ComicSuite Add-On Module by Diamond (this is the Diamond-specific software they've developed, which comes front-loaded with 6 months of UPCs and Diamond order codes: basically a custom interface on the RMS platform): $395.00
* ComicSuite Annual License Fee--Starting In Second Year: $100.00

Services & Support

* 90 Days Initial Support: FREE!
* Technical Support per Hour: $50.00
* Support Plan A--One Year Unlimited Support Calls: $900.00
* Support Plan B--5-Hour Contract: $200.00
* After-Hours/Holiday Surcharge per call: $50.00
* On-Site Training--per day, plus expenses: $900.00
* Custom Install Charge: Contact Diamond Technical Support For Quote

Dustin Harbin's Initial Verdict and Potential For Use

"The verdict is this: it's pretty cool, mainly in that it ties together a lot of the disparate pieces that retailers like us have handmade over the years. For instance, I have Access databases I created years ago to manage our ordering and inventory, other databases for the in-store subscription system, Excel sheets for special orders, etc. This ties all of it together with a lot of functionality tailored to the comic-store market, including handling things like store credit.

"So if I buy $200 of old Spidey's from you, I can assign your customer ID that credit, and you can use it as you please. Plus the whole UPC/scanner thing is pretty great, except for the many, many items that don't have UPC's, or are individual per copy. We might have six copies of Spider-Man #50 in 6 different grades, thus with six different and highly subjective prices. Or I might have a damaged Acme hardcover that I'm selling for $10, so that's another hand-priced item. But overall the integrated ordering/receiving/purchasing/selling functionality is pretty impressive.

"We don't do much with Ebay, etc., but we do mail-order a lot of supplies and a number of mail order subscriptions. I'd be interested to see how this integrates with retailers who have a large portion of their business in the Ebay/online market."

The Major Caveat

Everyone writing in pointed to the service plan as the greatest potential of snafus, while one person pointing to the service plan and their smaller store's ability to fold in the additional cost or hardware, software and service.

Dustin Harbin: "Diamond has never been impressive on customer service, so hearing that they're 'looking to add' technical support personnel, to meet what will surely be a massive demand, doesn't fill me with confidence. I fully expect that there will be problems with this initial release, and the $50/hour tech support cost hardly soothes these worries."

A couple of areas at the end were all Harbin.

Dustin Harbin on The Most Appealing Factor of the Package

"The carrot is the integration. This system will supposedly handle receiving, inventory, ordering, reordering, special orders, Previews orders, commerce, accounting, time sheets, mailing list etc. All from one terminal -- it's unclear whether you can network with multiple machines (for instance, so we in the office can use the data being collected in the store).

"For a small business this is wildly attractive, just in the payroll we'll save by automating a lot of these processes.

"For instance, there's an automatic function that allows you to set minimums. For instance, we could say that we want to always have two copies of Lone Wolf & Cub #1 on hand all the time--so the system not only notifies you when you fall below this level, it prepares a reorder for you to approve and submit directly to Diamond's online system. This integration with Diamond's somewhat mercurial system is both attractive and worrisome.

Dustin Harbin on The Financing Plan Diamond is Making Available

"The financing plan is a joke -- our weekly Diamond invoice is much more than the cost of even the top shelf system, and zero percent financing over 18 months is a no-brainer. This is one thing Diamond is good at: buying this system through them means the weekly cost just gets added on to our weekly invoice, so it's super easy for us to just forget about it."


If anyone would like to add to or object to the above picture that's been painted, .
posted 5:30 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn't A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market



Here are those books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings when my retailer objected.


Sergio's so well-liked I think a lot of folks in comics would buy Sergio Aragones Gives You The Finger and Makes Fun of Your Loved Ones. An issue of Groo sounds like a lot more fun.

JUL070030 BPRD KILLING GROUND #2 (OF 5) $2.99
The latest trade featuring Mike Mignola's signature character, including some shorter works by the series creator, and the latest issue of an individual comic made by other creators along with Mignola (who co-writes) and set in the Mignola-verse.

APR071862 AGE OF BRONZE #26 $3.50
JUL071945 CASANOVA #9 (MR) $1.99
JUN071924 WALKING DEAD #42 (MR) $2.99
JUN072143 DAREDEVIL #100 $3.99
The best of the individual genre comic lot: men in sandals, super-spies, zombies, blind superheroes and however the hell you describe what Linda Medley does. If I were in a generous, acquisitive mood at a comic shop today, I would have a lot to snap up.

JUN073956 DR SLUMP VOL 13 TP $7.99
JUN073958 NARUTO VOL 16 TP $7.95
JUN073959 NARUTO VOL 17 TP $7.95
JUN073960 NARUTO VOL 18 TP $7.95
The Naruto Nation effort begins where for the next few months multiple volumes of the young ninja series are put into the market to catch the American collections up with the Japanese, throw a spotlight on the super-successful title and although every will deny it maybe even fast-forward past one of the not quite as popular stretches in the series' amazing run. If Masashi Kishimoto's meticulous action isn't for you, maybe Akira Toriyama's goofy kids comic Dr. Slump can take its place in the $7.99 for lots of pages purchase slot. If I remember correctly, Naruto's creator is in his early thirties. Just sayin'.

Taiyo Matsumoto's beautiful and highly energetic manga gets the all-under-one-cover treatment. That it's such a hotly anticipated release even after a long and chaotic English-language publishing history says something about the work, I think, although exactly what I'm not sure. I want one. Badly.

JUL073798 THE ARRIVAL GN $19.99
Shaun Tan's wordless, beautiful-looking fable -- endorsed by Jeff Smith, Craig Thompson and Eddie Campbell, among others -- gets its North American debut. Expect a gushing reaction now that comics readers can actually see the darn thing. And then, a backlash.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. I am not a good person.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

John T. Robertson, 1919-2007

John T. Robertson, a teacher and writer for the DC Thomson comics magazines for more than three decades, died on July 28 in Duntocher, Scotland. He wrote scripts starting in 1952 for the magazines Bunty The Beano, The Dandy, The Hotspur, Judy, The Rover, and The Wizard. He wrote extensively for the Alf Tupper feature and created the characters Wee Bandy and Ugg the Caveman. He is also believe to have ghosted on several titles.

The above link contains an extensive set of memories from one of his students at Dumbarton Academy; he taught at several institutions over the years and a retirement print made by DC Thomson featured his schoolmaster identity. One obituary notes that among his colorful jobs was a brief period after leaving comics that he spent as an organist in a crematorium.

Robertson is survived by a wife of 10 years, a son and two grandchildren. He was 87 years old.

thanks, Paul Di Filippo
posted 11:22 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Milton Caniff Magazine Art


some other guy, too
posted 11:20 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Cartoonist Among Several Guilty of Contempt In New Delhi

The cartoonist Irfan was among four journalists found guilty early yesterday of being in contempt of court for the publication of articles against a former Chief Justice of India. Apparently, the articles stem from a news report alleging that the judge's sons had ties with some developers who benefited from that relationship. Irfan was the last journalist charged, for a caricature of the judge. Sentencing will be held on September 21.
posted 11:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: New Bernie Mireault Site

posted 11:16 am PST | Permalink

PWCW on Diamond Retailer Summit

From her vantage point on the floor at this week's Retailer Summit in Baltimore hosted by Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., PWCW's Heidi MacDonald smartly identifies the biggest story, a potentially industry-changing one in terms of operations within the Direct Market of hobby and comics shops: the availability of a point-of-sale software system endorsed by the distribution giant. It's hard not to want to back any systemic upgrade that can benefit the entire system. It also sounds like cost, not given in the article, will be a huge factor, so much so that it has to cast some doubt that it's going to happen. The piece also includes briefs on who gave presentations to the hundreds of retailers in attendance.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: More Dan Gordon Comics

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

WaPo: UVA Cartoonist Resigns

A long article at the Washington Post profiles the recent incident at the University of Virginia over Grant Woolard's September 4 "Ethiopian Food Fight" cartoon, the publication of which in a student newspaper led to a massive, Internet-driven protest over its perceived discriminatory content. The Post piece puts the controversy into a context of recent, similar controversies at various student publications, and in contrast to what was released earlier that the cartoonist was removed from his position has Woolard quitting.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Winsor McCay Advice

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Collective Memory: BCC 2007


Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2007 Baltimore Comic-Con, held September 8 and 9 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people

+ = Today's Entries


Location of Show
Web Site

Blog Entries
Allyn Gibson
Alternate Reality
Between the Staples
Buzz Tracker
Cassius Comics: Wieringo Tribute
+ Comic Pasion: Carrying Comics
Comics and... Other Imaginary Tales
Comics Should Be Good
Doctor K
ENI Comic News
I Can't Promise This Won't Be Chaos
Jimmy's Juke Joint
Johanna Draper Carlson
La Carcel De Papel: Harveys
Major Spoilers 01
Major Spoilers 02
Memoirs of a Heroic Barbarian
Neverending Digression
Occasional Superheroine
+ Occasional Superheroine: Carry Comics
Star Wars Experience
+ The Beat: to Carry Comics
The Comics Reporter: Harvey Results
The Legion Omnicom 00: Shooter
The Legion Omnicom 01
The Legion Omnicom 02
Think Lynsen

Message Boards
Art Asylum
Comic Bloc
Comic Brew
DC Forum
Problem Adults
Revision 3

News Indexes
Blog@Newsarama Round-Up

News Stories and Columns
Baltimore Sun: Artists Profiled
CBR: DC Nation Panel
CBR: Jonathan Hickman Profile
CBR: Marvel Panel
CBR: Top Cow Signing
Comics Alliance: Dean Haspiel
+ Webcomics Announcement
Comics Alliance: Mike Mignola Q&A
Newsarama: Atom Eve Mini-Series
Newsarama: Brian Bendis on Secret Invasion
Newsarama: Chuck Dixon on Return to Robin
Newsarama: Dark Tower II
Newsarama: DC Nation Panel
Newsarama: DC Retailer Presentation
Newsarama: DC Universe Panel
Newsarama: Floor Buzz
Newsrama: Image Comics
Newsarama: Image's '76
Newsarama: Jim Lee Panel
Newsarama: Life After World War Hulk
Newsarama: Mondo Marvel Panel
Newsarama: New Vigilante Series
Newsarama: Noble Causes
Newsarama: Peter Tomasi on Green Lantern Corps
Newsarama: Peter Tomasi on Nightwing
Newsarama: Scott Kolins Exclusive to DC
Newsarama: Some Batman Comic
Newsarama: Star Wars News
Newsarama: Top Cow Report
Newsarama: Top Cow Signing
Newsarama: Tucci on Sgt. Rock
Newsarama: Various X-Book News
SFist on Keith Knight Harveys Win

Annie Matronic
Chris Pitzer
ComicsDC 01
ComicsDC 02
Jeff Newelt 01
Jeff Newelt 02
Jimmy's Juke Joint
Metal Chris


posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

And Now A Few Words From The Lord

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Anders Nilsen Profile

The Chicago Reader has a lovely profile of Anders Nilsen up at its site, on the artist emerging from a furious rush of publishing activity that grew out of a difficult period in his life explored by the piece. The last time I looked at the Reader site they weren't even publishing articles yet.
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Awww-Inspiring Photo


all link roads for today's seen-everywhere picture lead back to Laurenn McCubbin's photos of Matt Fraction, Kelly DeConnick and little Henry Leo

Bonus Awww:


Welcome, Henry Jared Llewoh Jensen.
posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Sketches
Craig Thompson Doodles
Mike Manley Draw Figures
Stuart Immonen's 3-D Tutorial
Sean Phillips Draws The Black Panther
Why Jack Kirby Was a Great Cover Artist

Jacques Martin Exhibit

Zippy in Arlington
Non-Fiction Long-Form Comics
James Vance: What's In A Name?
Cloak of Levitation Should Not Be Included in the Astral Form


PWCW: Matt Fraction
Savage Critic: Tom Manning Mike Carey
Sequential Tart: Marvin Mann
NY Daily News: Meredith Gran
Edmonton Journal: Peter Kuper
Forbidden Planet: Laura Hudson
Newsarama: Joshua Hale Fialkov

Not Comics
Ride For Farley
Celebrity Likes Amanda Bynes
Best Continuing Not Comics Story
Today's Gossip: Kid Rock, Tommy Lee, Lynn Johnston

DMP Co-Brands
Next Ganges Cover
It's Dan Clowes' World
Hyperion/CCS Adds Titles
SLG's Midnight Sun Trailer
Legion Book Due Next Year
Nacho Guarache Finds On-Line Purchase

Jog: Sloth
Matt Brady: Shojo Beat
PWCW: Various Caniff Books
Greg McElhatton: Potter's Field #1
Geoff Hoppe: BPRD Killing Ground #1
Kevin Church: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Leroy Douresseaux: Demon Flowers: Karuizaki no Hana

September 11, 2007

CR Review: The Rosie Stories

imageCreators: Diana Tamblyn, David Pasquino (digital art assist)
Publishing Information: self-published, mini-comic, 12 pages, 2007, $3
Ordering Numbers:

I wish I liked The Rosie Stories, the latest mini-comic from Diana Tamblyn, more than I did. Comics seems like it would be a perfect form to explore the intensity of raising children at that wonderful, early age when the entire universe stretches about as far as the four walls around them. Plus, it's difficult to criticize someone creating art about their child without coming across as if you're criticizing the child. While I can imagine people finding a few universal experiences here to share with the author and even reflect back at her, as a comic this mostly fails. There are multiple tone shifts that may not have been the best use of 13 interior pages (one story extends to the inside back cover), and it's only in the last one that we get some truly idiosyncratic, closely observed material about how the story's protagonist obsesses in odd fashion over danger to her young ones. In the comic's best panel, the protagonist succumbs to an compulsive desire to morally improve in general so as to serve as a better example to her kid. While there's nothing wrong with the general approach, I think the whole thing could have been more sharply realized.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

A couple of follow-up articles on earlier stories linked to from here: a more detailed explanation of the objection of an Indian political party to the publication of a cartoon by Lars Vilks in a Swedish newspaper depicting Muhammed as a dog; more information on the lawsuit talked about last week from a Muslim group in Sweden.
posted 12:26 pm PST | Permalink

Allez, Observez: Entre Deux

posted 12:25 pm PST | Permalink

Lawrence Woromay, 1927-2007

The comics artist and painter Lawrence Edward Woromay died on August 26 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Comics historian Mark Evanier has a fine obituary up at his site.

Woromay was born in New York, served in World War II, attended the Cartoonists and Illustrators School and worked as both a pulp magazine illustrator and as a freelancer for Stan Lee at Martin Goodman's comics company during its Atlas Comics period. He later worked for Warren and Charlton. Moving away from comics, Woromay found employment until retirement with the Nassau County (NY) Puppet Theater, serving as its director. In 1995, he and his wife moved to New Mexico, where the artist found a place in the Palladini Studios in Corrales and became a productive painter. He is survived by a wife of 58 years, two daughters, and seven grandchildren.
posted 12:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Jim Shooter at Wizard on Today's "Utterly Unreadable" Comics

imageThe first half of the last graph of this interview at Wizard on longtime, intermittently controversial industry figure Jim Shooter's return to comics via a writing gig on Legion of Super-Heroes will likely raise a few eyebrows among people who think about these things.
"The art in comics is generally better than ever, the writing is often clever and glib, but in spite of that, far too many comics are utterly unreadable. Even hardcore fans find many comics daunting to follow! The craft of comics storytelling is all but lost. A who's who of industry big shots have privately agreed with me when we've discussed exactly this subject, but it's a tough problem to fix, given the often huge egos of the creators, general creative anarchy and lack of trained editorial people."
If there's any commentary about this, I imagine it will focus on that wonderful, casually nasty run of tossed-off insults at the end. I actually find the broader issue more compelling, at least on a formal level -- not so much as a descriptive/prescriptive, but as a study in historical contrasts.

If you read comics like Jim Shooter used to write, particularly those Legion of Super-Heroes, but also things like Secret Wars, there always seems to be a great deal of explaining going on. In some sequences, including in equal fashion those with less than inspired art where some explaining might be helpful and those where everything is seemingly in the art already, you're not so much experiencing a narrative as having it reported to you. On the one hand, this is likely an editorial mandate that one supposes exists to keep comics accessible and understandable. It could also be a way that writers dealt with art created in the early days of comics that lacked the ability to communicate a story through picture and movement. This strikes me as resulting in a very different way of looking at what the form does, kind of lashing the visuals to the text element in order to achieve greater consistency. It's also that element, I believe, that people are focusing on when they think of older comics stories as quaint or old-fashioned. I would love to see Shooter try to tell modern comics stories using these principles.
posted 12:18 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Jacob Covey's TMNT Portfolio


Fantagraphics' Jacob Covey has posted his tremendous sketchbook full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-related drawings from artists like Joe Matt (above). There's also a video featuring Mr. Covey related to his Beasts! book available on the Fantagraphics blog that I can't hear on this computer (you should have no problem), nor can I get a direct link to pop up.
posted 12:16 pm PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* The extradition of Pennsylvania comics retailer and Pittsburgh con organizer Michael George to Michigan to face murder charges for the comics store slaying of his wife in 1990 has been delayed while PA authorities look over the documentation.

* Scott McCloud's Making Comics has won the graphic novel category at the Reed Business/NBC book awards The Quills. The other nominees in the category were Ode to Kirihito (Osamu Tezuka), Alice in Sunderland (Bryan Talbot), Exit Wounds (Rutu Modan), and Aya (Marguerite Abouet, Clement Oubrerie). I imagine it's mind-blowing for McCloud to win any award in a category where he was nominated alongside Tezuka. It may also be worth noting that this is the first time I can remember one of these more mainstream-focused graphic novel prizes going to a decidedly non-fiction work. A broadcast of the awards is schedule for October 27 on NBC.

* David Hyde has been promoted from Director of Publicity to Vice President of Publicity at DC Comics. This is worth noting because DC takes its title promotions seriously even when there's not a shock change in duties, and because it's another step in what will probably end up being a half-decade's worth of reform and maneuvering within the part of DC's business that helps publicize, market and sell its books and related items.

* Platinum Studios prepares to go public and receives $5 million in capitalizing funds. This is vaguely depressing for a lot of people in comics for whom $5 million could fund a publishing with an actual track record instead of simply claiming one for basically forever, only maybe without the desired outcome that all oars will be spent towards finding a place in the movie business on some level. For other people, it's probably a time to express nausea at people harshing on Platinum Studios for playing the minor-league Hollywood game and spending money that adults are indeed willing to give them. Me, I'm in the former camp. I guess if you looked at the news story with dry eyes, the most interesting element might be the function of on-line media in making such an offer attractive, whether that is going to work or not. Kevin Church seems to agree with me.
posted 12:14 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Advice From All-Timers


Artist Jesse Hamm has found an old book including a series of survey answers from great cartoonists of the day, and he's going to run them in his blog. First up: Frank King.
posted 12:12 pm PST | Permalink

Lynn Johnston's Publicity Run Continues

Fans of For Better or For Worse have their choice of Lynn Johnston articles this week: a more lighthearted look at the move of her popular feature into the "hybrid" era in USA Today, a dryer piece at Editor & Publisher on the impact the cartoonist's separation from her husband of 32 years has had on her work, and a smart piece at the LA Times from Alex Chun that blends the first two approaches and adds some historical perspective. I'd kind of recommend reading all three. The material about Johnston's separation -- which I think is either now just coming to light or is being re-examined in light of her professional moves, I can't remember -- is also rather affecting on many levels.
posted 12:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Rod Whigham!

posted 12:08 pm PST | Permalink

Strength Through Superior Firepower

posted 12:04 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Mark Evanier on Steve Ditko

Writer and comics historian Mark Evanier weighs in on Steve Ditko, whose historical legacy is in the news because of the Jonathan Ross BBC show on the artist, not once but twice. That second post of his contains a link to one of the older interviews Ditko did with fanzines back in the 1960s. I would imagine preparing his Jack Kirby book for publication gives Evanier a unique perspective on the other great artist of the early 1960s Marvel Comics era.
posted 12:02 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Where Stan Lee's Lived


And before anyone e-mails me about the best photo of the bunch, yes, The Man really did type many of his scripts outside standing up.
posted 12:01 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Matt Madden Teaches
Eddie Campbell on Tone 04
Eddie Campbell on Tone 05
Things to Think About Making a Comic
Stuart Immonen Questions Getting Up in the Morning
Eight Things Jesse Hamm Would Like To See In Comics

E&P on Seuss Exhibit
Turkish Comics in Italy
Toronto DC Panel Report
NYC Mike Wieringo Remembrance
Clint Langley and Pat Mills Signing
Pictures From Installation in Greece
Likely the Last San Diego Con Report
Larry Marder on Basil Wolverton Exhibit
Podcast of Scott Stantis Speech Available
Craig Thompson Skipping Stumptown, Hitting Europe

On Audrey Hawley
Engaging Milton Caniff
Reading Tintin in Canada
Remembering Roy Crane
David Willis Celebrates 10 Years

No Shit Dept
I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Kids, They Love the Comics
Comic on Comics' On-Line Future
Richmond Paper on UVA Controversy
Simon Jones on a Failed DM Incentive
Simon Jones on the Peculiarities of the DM
Fox News on Cleveland Cartoon Controversy

Pulse: Max Estes
CBR: Kent Williams
Express: Percy Carey Frank Quitely
CBR: Jonathan Hickman
Comicgate: David Lloyd
Paul Gravett: Joe Kubert
Courier News: Dan Weick
OC Register: Matt Powers
Sequential Tart: Jesse Hamm
ComixTalk: Krishna Sadasivam
David P. Welsh: Jason Thompson
ComixTalk: Whitney June Robinson
Really Cool Profile of Kenya's Humphrey Barasa

Not Comics
Manga Car
Best Headline Ever
Welcome, Henry Leo
Chad Thomas Proposes
Chris Butcher in Japan 03
Captain Kirk Is Handsome
Second Best Headline Ever
Where Neil Gaiman Was Born
Dave Lasky Meets Kim Deitch
Jeff Smith Enjoys Vegetable Blogging
Getting Name Checked in Doonesbury
Marvel's Big Gamble: Iron Man Trailer

Comicfeed Launches
Cow and Boy Hits KC
That's a Pretty Cover
Sentences: Previewed
Mark Fiore Revamps Site
Fujoshi Anthology Coming
ACLU to Make Comic Book
Diesel Sweeties Loses Denver Launching Comics
One Paper Welcomes Cul De Sac
Cul-De-Sac Launches With 70 Papers
Why Desolation Jones Has Been Delayed
Writers Don't Kill Female/Gay/Black Superheroes; History Does

Jeff Foust: Laika
Brian Cronin: Laika
Their Favorite Comics
Kevin Johns: Blankets
Matt Brady: Glister #1
Tucker Stone: Various
Allan Holtz: By George!
Brendan Wright: Justice
Jeff Lester: Exit Wounds
Don MacPherson: Various
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine #57
Geoff Hoppe: Invincible #34
Mark Allen: The Jungle Book
Paul O'Brien: Infinity Inc. #1
Recap of Comics Britannia 01
Recap of Comics Britannia 02
Leroy Douresseaux: Uptight #2
Noah Berlatsky: Making Comics
Richard Bruton: The Plain Janes
Andrew Hickey: Reading Comics
Don MacPherson: Maxwell Strangewell
Randy Reynaldo: Mary Perkins On Stage
Leroy Douresseaux: Maggie The Mechanic
Graeme McMillan: Amazing Spider-Man #544
Don MacPherson: In The Shadow Of No Towers
Paul O'Brien: Captain America: The Chosen #1
Allan Holtz: Connie: The Strange Death of Dolan and Other Stories

September 10, 2007

CR Review: Paping #16: The Teachers Edition


Creators: John Mejias
Publishing Information: Self-Published, soft cover, 80 pages, 2007, $10
Ordering Numbers: 9781427616388

Sporting 80 over-sized pages in each of its limited-to-1000 printed copies, a beautiful looking silk-screened cover and dense, mysterious insides, Paping #16: The Teachers Edition at the very least provides a package of wonderful value. You might want it just for that reason. Mostly a collection of John Mejias' stories about various travails encountered while teaching (there are a few other contributors), drawn from the initial issues of the Paping series, the expressive art captures the swirl and intensity of any job involving a bureaucracy, overstressed employees and/or children -- let alone all three. It may feel by the end that you've been babysitting rather than reading, such is the work's overall intensity. There are other things to admire as well: the various narrative approaches, for one. It's not easy work, and I'm not sure the craft elements don't completely overwhelm what are at heart pretty simple, universal stories. Still, this is a rewarding book for those who choose to wrestle from it its best qualities.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

CR Commentary: Why Comic Shops Still Matter, Or At Least Why They Should


By Tom Spurgeon

It may be a sign of Fall and the traditional lull between the summer convention crush and the Christmas book release bonanza, but there seems to have been more talk than usual lately about one of comics culture's favorite subjects, the comic book shop. Now, when I say "talk," I include dialog that frequently makes itself known via a mixture of yelling, name-calling, sloganeering and posturing. Scratch the surface of any devoted comics fan and you'll find a series of strong opinions about what comic shops should be doing better and what they should stop doing immediately. It's a volatile subject for a lot of people. A recent anecdote about an unsatisfactory trip into a comic shop by industry stalwart Eric Reynolds noted by the popular comics blog The Beat led to louder than necessary defenses of the comic shop in question, ad-hoc lectures on proper industry conduct and outreach, summary dismissals of the vast majority of funny book shops nationwide, and accusations of arrogance and ignorance on all sides.

imageI love comic shops. As much as I enjoyed as a kid pedaling to Ross Supermarket or Marsh or Klink's and accosting their spinner rack, as much as the feel of turning one with a couple of fingers hooked over a thick, coated wire made of metal with a slight flick of the wrist is a sense memory as strong as any I maintain, it's the comic shop that cemented my childhood fascination with the form and enabled me to remain a reader into my teen and adult years by allowing me access to comics that appealed to me at whatever age I happened to be. I am of that lucky generation of readers that saw comics transform itself from the inside out after the undergrounds fell to the wayside, a slow and sadly never completed process that nonetheless produced a series of prominent, talked-about comics that met my needs and nurtured my reading habits from age 12 to 21, that helped me connect my passion for comic books with my sturdier but more casual interest in cartoonists like Crockett Johnson and Jules Feiffer by giving me access to cartoonists of similar sensibility and artistic outlook. I owe comic shops my relationship to a great International art form that has enriched my life.

That's one of the reasons why I'm always a little bit astonished when people go after comic shops in nasty, summarily dismissive fashion. Most of these criticisms in recent years come brandishing like a club the success that manga (as a category), arts comics (with a few breakout hits and an overall buttressing of the bottom line book to book), and even mainstream comics (mostly related to movies, perennials, and a few event type titles, some tied into their "universes" and some not) have enjoyed with increased opportunities in bookstores. There are definitely ways in which the success of certain titles in bookstores have changed the way we think of comic shops, cuffing to the pavement a lot of items of conventional wisdom that dominated comics discussion a scant ten years ago. We know now that comic shops are not an idealized reflection of mass culture that accurately yield sales success on exactly the level and proportion that individual comics deserve. We're cognizant that a shop's desire to back and sell something plays a much bigger role in the kind of success they'll have with certain kinds of books than we ever realized it did. We've come to the realization that kids will read comics that interest them that they can find and access in a way that they enjoy -- you can even flip them around and introduce an entirely new set of iconographic shortcuts and narrative rules. Who would have guessed? Almost nobody on the comics Internet in 1996.

(Conventional wisdom can flip around the other way, too. The effective piece of late '90s rhetoric that independent comics represented the true mainstream while superhero comics represented little more than a fetish parade and emotional comfort food favored by 30-something, loveless mega-fatties is a lot harder to argue after a few billion dollars in superhero movies and a 2007 Fall Network TV schedule that looks like it was slapped together by my local university's gaming club hopped up on Mountain Dew.)

I think the mistake that people well-meaning and those less well-meaning make often comes in the strength of the argumentation. It may be a reflection of on-line culture. You certainly get more people to read and react when you post "Comic Shops Need To Die" as opposed to something more Horace Wimp-y along the lines of "Do Comic Shops Need To Change And If So, How Might They Do So?" While I'm sympathetic to hammer-and-tongs rhetoric because the major players are stridently resistant to self-reflection and reform, I think it institutes a stronger-than-usual middle finger reaction to the suggestions made. It also forces the argument into a not very helpful apportionment of blame, and all the defensiveness that comes with it. The result is that there are times when people so strongly push for a comic shop's right to do whatever the hell it wants that it's not hard to imagine someone someday soon going so far as to defend the actions of one of the players in the recent rash of retailer-related crime stories out of some misguided notion of commercial freedom.

Let me put the idea out there that the state of the comic shop is worth talking over, and worth being critical about, not because they suck but because the comic shop is currently and can remain a beneficial component to the sustained growth of the industry and art form. Comic shops can enable readers and support devotees. Their basic business arrangement's consequence in allowing low-capital entry into the market via non-returnability has been a boon to the serviced art form equaled by no other medium in the last 30 years, and that can continue. They can carry a much wider and more extensive array of work across genres and artist by artist than more generalist brick-and-mortar structures, and can facilitate a much more effective pool of commercial expertise accessed by readers face to face and over a long period of time than nearly any other place that sells such work. It's not the market, and all arguments constructed around notions that the comic shop is owed fealty or special consideration by simply being a comic shop should be tossed into the toilet and flushed. But it is a market, a valuable one, one that allows and should continue to allow nearly every publisher to have a deeper catalog, a market that allows hundreds and hundreds of creators a better living than would be available to them were they not there, and a business model that keeps work before an audience in a sustained, perennial fashion that many art forms can only dream about.

Once you look at comic shops as valuable and worth talking about as opposed to a backwards evil to be shoved aside and ridiculed, I think it makes for a better departure point for criticism. And yes, that's necessary, too. It should be obvious that the system can and should be criticized, although I'm not sure that's always done on the most fruitful grounds. The two biggest problems facing the Direct Market have little to do with some notion of quality and a failure of will from certain shops to achieve this, but instead 1) that the system does not do enough to encourage and support the best models for sustained success, and 2) the system does not do enough to keep itself from being manipulated and exploited for the sake of gains different than or even opposed to sustained, long-term success.

In other words, I think that the shortcomings in the Direct Market are systemic ones, which necessitate systemic solutions. The problem with the DM isn't that there's a bunch of crappy shops, but that the system doesn't encourage reform of the type that improves shops, or encourage the best ones in a way proportional to how well they succeed. It should probably be expected that companies are going to have goals like short-term profit and manipulating the market for competitive advantage in order to appease stockholders or corporate overlords, but comics may be unique in its tendency to support year after year of abuse/neglect and even high-five the people involved for what they're able to score by working the system. That could stop. All of us who are active in comics, from reader to editors-in-chief, should insist on strategies that support ethical, sustained growth for every market out there, including the DM. It's the healthiest way to act, and there should be enough adults out there to keep the ship pointed in that direction, or at least express with eloquence and determination what's wrong about the latest attempt to hijack an industry and art form's development to squeeze a few more bucks from its skeevier elements.

imageSo rather than all the time folks spend bloviating over a shop's right not to sell stuff it doesn't want to sell, the argument should be on strategies and ways that a shop that wants to can access and have success with all the markets that are available to it, and, further, to encourage more accounts that want to engage with the art form in successful, universally beneficial ways. No one should have to argue the value of diversity beyond pointing at how well the prominent, diverse shops out there survived the last 20 years of up and down business in comparison to how the rank-and-file single-genre focused shops did. No one should have to argue the benefits of having a clean, well-lit store except to point out the dismal history of stores ever knowing great success over time when they're not at least clean and well-lit. No one should have to argue the value of carrying manga or alternative comics in a comic shop beyond pointing to accounts that have done well with such material. No one needs to defend the value that recurring superhero comic book customers have beyond the obvious bottom-line they provide to most comic shop accounts. There are no guarantees that someone else's success can be replicated; there are no convincing certainties that they can't. Where I think we can all agree is that an industry should operate in favor of seeing its best models replicated, not just its safest.

It's time we reinvested in the notion of the comic shop as it used to exist, as a mind-blowing alternative to the limits of comics as offered in easier to access commercial spaces. What this means isn't angrily denouncing any and all shops that fail to match the excellence of stores like The Beguiling, but having a core set of expectations, quietly insisting on them, and gently but persistently calling for reform that rewards any and all moves in the direction of ethical long-term growth.

Let me suggest a few ways to start.


1. We need to get behind the notion of accurate information. Anyone should be able to enter any comic shop -- any comic shop -- with the expectation of being able to receive honest information about a comic book. (I believe it should be an industry-wide credo that someone be able to order any comic in print from any store with a Diamond account and receive it in a reasonable length of time, but let's deal with the first notion for now.) This should be an industry wide goal. I live in small-town America. I know what it's like to shop at places that don't carry a wide array of material on hand and in the store. I don't know what it's like to enter a store that specializes in something, ask a question about that something, and be greeted with shrugged shoulders or outright disinformation.

Oh, wait. Yes, I do. I'm a comic book buyer.

imageWhat most people missed as a point in Eric Reynolds' mini-diatribe is that it wasn't the store's lack of material that caused a flash of anger in one of comics' most-liked Happy Warriors (trust me on this despite the photo), but the ignorance of the existence of a perennial top-15 publisher in one's home state, and, I'd suggest, the fact that this ignorance was shared with a potential customer instead of the sentiment, "We don't tend to carry those kinds of comics, but if there's anything you're interested in I'm sure I can get it for you, or help you find it through someone else." I personally have experience with about a dozen to two dozen people a year who write me frustrated or outright baffled by their experience in trying to find something through a local comic shop. Basic stuff. Like Dennis the Menace comics. Or the book I co-wrote about Stan Lee. Or a comic their kid can read starring the characters from a recent movie. Or Fun Home. I don't work in retail, but I have to yet to fail at getting a book into someone's hands, and I've never spent more than two minutes doing so.

A specialty business should have the best information about a product, not the worst. I don't know why this isn't the case. Based on enough stories to fill an encyclopedia about Diamond giving misinformation about the availability of a book, I think there are improvements that could be made there. There are probably shortcomings with companies and shops, too, when it comes to a willingness or ability to easily provide instant and accurate information. What I do know is that if enough people insist on this improving, it's likely to improve.

2. Diamond needs to once and for all abandon its remaining policies that reflect a time when there were many comics distributors and competition among them to place books on behalf of publishers. I think this should extend to a bunch of different things, but let me suggest one to start. Diamond should abolish the notion of paid-for information for its publishing partners of more than ten years time.

There is no reason why companies like Top Shelf or SLG should be expected to devote resources to a market that only intermittently serves their work without the best information on how to approach that market. Companies like that aren't interested in circumventing the process except as a survival mechanism. By competing with some Clinton-era phantom of direct publisher to comic shop sales, a phenomenon that nearly everything we know about the desires and habits of retailers says won't be a widespread thing, Diamond works against the long-term health of a direct market system it dominates by giving a market boost to certain publishers that outstrips, even slightly, the proportional appeal of their books. In other words, it's not a fair marketplace, and the crush of certain kinds of material being sold in bookstores and on-line and face to face, there's obviously at least a modest demand for such books that's not being met.

3. We need to invest in the idea of responsible scheduling. Ironically, the greatest improvement in this area the last ten years has been from smaller publishers who because they are now working with book distributors must plan seasons well in advance and in doing so have seen the advantages of stepping away from a steady diet of rush to market. From talking to retailers and asking after hundreds of people's buying habits over the years, I can't help but think an enormous number of sales -- of the kind that cement consistent customer satisfaction that drives further interest -- are left on the table by the crazy-ass way in which comics are dumped on the market. You'd have a better chance of guessing the winning square in one of those animal poops on a numbered grid betting contests than looking at a calendar of Wednesdays and guessing which books will come out on which of the four or five dates per month.

imageUnfortunately, the end result of the 1990s Distributor Wars (btw: nobody won) means that the larger companies and the more successful properties at smaller ones are in a position to publish however they like, at least in the sense of how to schedule their books over a month's or quarter-year's time. They have that right even if it means putting all the books of a certain type out on one Wednesday instead of spread out over three, or publishing a new issue one week after the previous one. It also means that in the short term they will likely see no harm from this -- the stores will absorb it, many folks will see this as a minor thing case to case considering all the malfeasance that's possible, and most fans are accustomed to working with aberrations in schedule. In fact, any individual retail account that seeks to mitigate the damage of haphazard release schedules might receive flak from one customer or several for whom maximizing sales in the long term just isn't an issue.

So while I don't know if the problem can be solved, I do know that by making this a value, it's possible that the idea of publishing to best arm one's retailers to sell as many books as possible could slowly permeate comics and eventually transform some unnecessary, awful habits. Companies have seen the advantage strict, dependable non-crowded schedules can foster with their event comics; there's no excuse for them not to pursue it line-wide. While one might suggest in the meantime that timely publishing be encouraged as an advantage, by, for example, allowing other comics to tout their release dates and consistency, there probably needs to be improvement on the ability of the system to get comics from printer to comics rack in guaranteed fashion for this to be a viable counter-notion. It would be too bad if the Direct Market had to wait for companies to distribute on-line in a way where they could guarantee a timely release in order for a system to be improved so that this could be done with the physical form, too.


Okay, so that's three things. I'm certain they're debatable, and I know that there are a ton more. What I'm saying beyond the points themselves is that it's time to move debate in the direction of solutions and new ways of thinking about things and specific market difficulties, and to do so in a non-judgmental way designed to make points rather than score points. It's a waste of time to summon up the energy to once again blast all comic shops as useless or dig in one's heels for one more vigorous defense of the right for shops to remain ordinary. Those arguments have been done to death. The Direct Market is a valuable market, and it's one with massive, obvious disappointments and shortcomings. There are awesome comic shops and terrible ones. Some of the shortcomings one might find in the horrible ones are understandable, but no less deplorable for being part of a brutally tough and unforgiving system. The rise of the bookstore and on-line markets was a slap in the face to certain clung-to myths, but should be informative and the source of opportunity rather than as a justification for some vaguely hoped-after retail-model genocide. Comics needs every market, and it needs every market to be a good one.

The thing I can't get past is this: if comic book shops didn't exist, many of us would dream of a place where they did. It's difficult for a lot of us whose lives were transformed by a pawn shop owner putting out a stack of Roy Thomas and John Buscema Avengers next to his throwing star collection to rend our garments because a shop sells two copies of Love and Rockets rather than 20, or to become indignant that a place where someone gets their Dave Cooper comics they can also buy game books from Monte Cook. Maybe that makes people like me too sentimental, too quick to forgive; I don't know. Still, I suspect that none of the people criticizing the lot or defending the bulk would be on-line talking about comics at all had the comic shop never existed. Reform is valuable not because it proves me right or someone else wrong, but because it better fosters an art form of merit and meaning and an industry that operates ethically and to all of our benefit. Let's try working in that direction for a change.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

Missed It: Mike Manley Monster Show

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

Stories related to a political controversy surrounding a Swedish newspaper's decision to publish a drawing of Muhammed as a dog created by Lars Vilks in a profile of the artist, which echoes the 2006 riots about similar caricatures published in a Danish newspaper:

* a fine, short news story on the meeting between Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt and ambassadors from other countries, which apparently went pretty well.

* Not feeling the love, the Muslim World League and its Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Al-Turki urged authorities to punish the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda and the cartoonist.

* A Muslim group in Mangalore joins the list of significant political groups criticizing the newspaper's decision to run the cartoon. As a side note, it takes several people e-mailing my typically geographically ignorant American self to realize that Mangalore is a city in India, not a country, which makes it hard to write a cheesy joke.

* Another editorial adding its voice to the chorus of disapproval.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Watergate Sue


Unless I'm reading that "epilogue" in the upper right hand corner incorrectly, Megan Kelso has concluded her NYT Sunday Magazine comic. Next up in the rotating feature: Dan Clowes.
posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Apologies in Charlottesville, Cleveland

* Amid what may be the most text I've ever seen in a television station news site story, cartoonist Grant Woolard explains the "Ethiopian Food Fight" cartoon that brought controversy to the University of Virginia student paper in which it appeared. I'm not sure how anyone could get through lines like "Similarly, depicting the Irish Potato Famine by no means implies a negative portrayal of Ireland" and not see an element of the absurd coming into play, but I'm certain that's a function of the situation rather than anything Woolard intends. Woolard's apology is described here, including the citation of some alt-comics superstars known for tackling thorny subject matter. Apparently, the cartoonist has been suspended indefinitely from his cartooning gig.

Here's a long, thoughtful summary article on the whole situation, including the role of Facebook in organizing the protest and the fact that the University of Virginia brings with it some very specific baggage when something occurs that has a racial component.

* The Cleveland Plain Dealer apologizes for a recent Jeff Darcy cartoon that constructed a joke/commentary out of the recent murder of a child.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Jackie Estrada!

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Kevin Cannon writes in with the good news that the Eric "Schmapples" Lappegard event in Minneapolis on Saturday saw heavy turnout and raised over $6000 in book sales, a raffle and original art sales. More information on the event can be found here, and more on the related anthology here.

* The retiring Phil Frank thanks his readers, the readers thank him back, and we're all witness to the accolades of his peers.

image* If you don't remember anything else I post this week, remember this: Russ Maheras writes in to say he's just completed a Sunday-style Steve Canyon 60th anniversary strip that will run in September 24 in the military publications Air Force Times, Army Times, Navy Times and Marine Corp Times. The four publications have a combined circulation of around a quarter million copies. Maheras says that the strip involves Steve Canyon going to investigate Taliban activity in modern-day Afghanistan. People can get individual copies by phoning the publishers's customer service department (800-368-5718) or sending e-mail to the week of publication. Copies will cost $4.50 including shipping. Copies thereafter will cost $6.50 including shipping. Click through the teaser image for a bigger teaser image.

* This is the North American debut for the Persepolis film, right?

* Ozzy Cochrane sent in a nice note wherein here recommends this long post at, which is mostly about superhero comic books, but isn't blinkered to the existence of other types of books. I thought that post read very old school, the kind of thing you used to see a lot more of 5-7 years ago.

* Xaviar Xerexes wrote in to say that Josh Roberts of and has assumed control over the encyclopedia at The news site that used to go by that name has officially changed its name to ComixTalk to avoid being confused with Mr. Roberts' new property.

* Just to prove you shouldn't believe bloggers that tell you that sports cartoonists are no longer around [*cough*], one of their number celebrates 25 years of publication with his newspaper.

* Of the mainstream comics house publishing news that emerged from the Baltimore Comic-Con (Marvel is apparently saving their announcements for today's Diamond summit), the two blurbs that caught my eye were Sergio Aragones writing the Spirit comic after Darwyn Cooke departs, and Jim Shooter returning to the Legion of Super-Heroes, where a long time ago he made his name as I believe the only fetus to ever write a DC super-comic. Their combined age is I think 126 years old, which I like, but admittedly might cause some people to make unflattering jokes about the age of superhero audiences.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Gerry Conway!

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Liz & Anthony Profiled


Alan Gardner caught notice that the For Better or For Worse site has put up a section devoted to their last great lingering and surprisingly controversial storyline, the on-again, off-again, maybe on-again romance of Patterson daughter #1 Elizabeth and her childhood beau Anthony. A sweet story of learning that what you needed the whole time was right in front of you, or a crushing message that one dare not leave home and the bosom of the family and attempt to build a life for one's self elsewhere? Neither? Both? Worst mustache ever? Haven't read it in 20 years and feel bad because you just figured out the cartoon character with cleavage in the above picture is that little girl from For Better or For Worse? Now you can answer most of these questions for yourself.
posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
McDonnell To Speak At SVA
Belated MoCCA 2007 Report
Mid-Event Baltimore Con Coverage
Dr. Seuss Political Cartoon at Event
NYT Review of Reflecting Culture Show

Spider-Howl On My Disagreement With Mr. Wivel
Spider-Howl On My Disagreement With Mr. Wivel 02

I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
FOL Board Nominations Open
Official Phil Frank Retirement Story
Happy 20th Birthday, Dragon's Keep!
Podcast Link Sent to Me For Reason I Can't Remember

CBR: Eric Lieb
Globe and Mail: Neil Gaiman
Asia Media: Shishir Bhattacharjee
Lancaster Dominic Vivona
Manila Times: Elmer Damaso, Jhomar Soriano

Not Comics
Chris Butcher in Japan 02
Pimp My Ride: The Fantastic Four Car

Fear, My Dear 2 Imminent
IDW Signs Troy Little Book
Edward Burns: Latest Virgin Partner
Madison Awaits New Badger Comics

Jog: Infinity Inc. #1
Richard Krauss: Quiblets
Nathalie Atkinson: Various
Collected Editions: 52 Vol. 1
Richard Krauss: The Gallery #1
Richard Krauss: Zine of Bronze #2
Eric Reynolds: Works Cited (August 29 Entry)
Hervé St-Louis: Transformers Official Movie Prequel #1

September 9, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Warren Craghead



As Bill Randall points out in his excellent overview of Warren Craghead's career, Craghead is one of the more productive, compelling, and almost completely overlooked verbal-visual artists working today. I first saw Craghead's work 11 years ago in his Xeric-sponsored release Speedy. That book and a few smaller mini-comics the artist produced during that period felt as thrilling and potent as any young cartoonist's work to emerge that decade. Craghead bent comics' formal properties in a way that yielded new thematic ground and significant, almost delicate instances of emotion and meaning. His work seemed more like a comics equivalent to poetry than anything that had come before it and perhaps since, and Craghead used it to explore some wonderfully nuanced notions about the passage of time and human longing. In 2000, Craghead began to shift from comics and cartoon-based stories to projects more heavily dependent on non-iconographic drawing. Through works like Thickets and A Map's Little Spell, Craghead began to forge connections between the gallery world and the Internet and self-publishing that in some location suspended between them seemed to give his work a home and greater context.

His latest works have begun to make good on the staggering promise of those early mini-comics. An adaptation of young writer Erin Pringle's story "The Only Child" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, while HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE [caps Craghead's] showcases the artist's almost unique ability to empathize with another person's view of the world by giving life to their words through their careful placement vis-a-vis a visual element: in this case, the words of poet and painter Guillaume Apollinaire. Rather than cutting into Apollinaire's poetry, dissecting its meanings, Craghead climbs inside of its causes and attending worldview so that in the course his interpretations explain, embody and ultimately reinforce the ideas behind the originals.

As a comics fan, you owe yourself some time spent with Warren Craghead's work.

Mr. Craghead has prepared a special preview page for his latest book just for this interview. Thanks, Warren!


TOM SPURGEON: Warren, I'm kind of unclear on what you do now. You mentioned a day job... are you making art full time?

WARREN CRAGHEAD: My wife and two-year old daughter and I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, about two hours south of Washington, DC, and an hour west of Richmond. We originally came here because of my wife's job, but have decided to stay for a while at least. There's a surprisingly large art scene here.

For my day job I do design and art direction for a company based in North Carolina. I work alone in my office downtown which is also my art studio, so I'm able to deal with both sets of things throughout the day. Between that and some nights and weekends I get a good amount of studio time, but it's never enough.


SPURGEON: Can you tell me about your collaboration with Erin Pringle on "The Only Child" and how it came about?

CRAGHEAD: The literary magazine Barrelhouse approached me for this project. In every issue they have an "illustrated story" where an artist chooses a piece they have accepted but haven't published yet. So I chose Pringle's short and creepy story "The Only Child" and got to work drawing it. It's not technically a collaboration because I worked off of the finished story with no input from her and luckily she ended up liking what I had done with her work.

SPURGEON: How do you look on your adaptation now that there's been some time since it was done?

CRAGHEAD: I really enjoyed making that piece. I wanted to make something that both mirrored her story but also set up some parallel narratives, like visual grace notes to her main story. Making it, and trying to do her story justice, involved a lot of research and some very close reading which allowed me to find more and more in the page and a half story she wrote. That page and a half ended up as twenty pages for me because of the way I wanted to make rhythm in how I broke up her text. I was also aware that this was going to be published in a magazine that had curious readers but ones not used to strange comics experimentations, so I drew it in a clearer and at times very "normal comics" way. Well, "normal" for me anyway. I even quoted Charles Schulz by using a tiny Charlie Brown-like character in it.

imageA main undercurrent of Pringle's story is death -- the story takes place in a hospital morgue -- so I found as many ways as I could to show death in a wide variety of symbols. I think my favorite page is the one where a drawer is open and it contains a flag at half-mast, then it closes, then it's open again and it has a dead tree. What I drew followed the text -- "We shut her drawer. We open it." -- but also referred to death and the crazy way the narrator is understanding everything. All that wrapped up in a visually jarring and, I hope, compelling series of images. The trick in comics is to make a picture that says several things at once.

SPURGEON: How many similar works have you done at this point?

CRAGHEAD: Other than "The Only Child" I've done two books with the writer Roger Noyes [Other People's Schemes and The Problem With Chemistry], a book with Marc Geddes [Wallball], two swapped stories with Ted May [Deliverance and The Legend of the Prowling Paw] and HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE which is drawings based on the work of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. I'm also working on three different "drawing conversations" with three artists which will eventually become individual books. Along with that I'm doing two drawing/video projects with people, and one other drawing/writing collaboration. It's a lot, but they all move slowly...

SPURGEON: Has working with people changed the way you approach your own work?

CRAGHEAD: Working with someone else, or with someone else's work, makes me do a lot of things differently. As I mentioned earlier, it makes for some very close reading as I really try to do right by whatever I'm working with. Working with Ted May's script for "Deliverance" was hard because I could see that really funny story drawn by him and I knew I couldn't match his comedic chops, so I had to go in another direction. Noyes' poems also threw me for a loop because I had to find things to draw in his poems without merely illustrating them. For the Apollinaire book I was trying to connect with not just his poems, but his biography and the whole world of pre-WWI Paris as well.

All this friendliness has affected my own work in a few ways. I'm more apt to steal -- I mean learn -- from people. I'm also finding I like having a fixed point to push against. Sometimes, by having someone else's work, work that I really respect, to go from I can seem to go farther out than if I was making all of it.


SPURGEON: How exactly did you discover Guillaume Apollinaire?

CRAGHEAD: I came across Apollinaire as a result of my long interest in Cubism which has been a steady influence in my work for a long time. Apollinaire was a great champion of Picasso and Braque and other leading edge avant garde artists in pre-WWI Paris -- reading his work one can really see and feel the crazy energy of that time. He saw poets and artists as heroic and seers, as badasses. That and his embrace of the changing world around him was very appealing to me. I should also mention he was the first poet to seriously make "concrete poetry" where the way the type is laid out on the page forms an image that interacts with the text of the poem itself -- he called them "calligrammes."

At the same time I was interested in the intersection of words and images and specifically how poetry could be used with pictures to make something else. I started this project around the time I published Jefferson Forest and thickets which are along those lines. The drawings that became HOW TO BE EVERYWHERE started as just little exercises in my sketchbook, little scrambles of Apollinaire's words with some of my drawing.

SPURGEON: Were there specific qualities in his work that led you to want to explore it?

CRAGHEAD: Well, his work is full of great images, and the language is also startling and beautiful, especially the Donald Revell translations. Beyond that I'd say it's his deep affection for the world around him, the changing world of avant garde Paris, and how he tries to reflect that world while holding onto valuable methods, techniques and aesthetic tricks from the past. He uses beauty which makes his work powerful and compelling. That use of optimism and beauty was probably easier before WWI, but his later work, after he had fought in the trenches and almost died there, still has that spark.

Another thing I saw is his relationship to the visual art revolution going on around him. I think there's a lot we can still learn and steal from those Cubist paintings, especially those of us looking for new ways to tell stories using pictures.


SPURGEON: Can you talk about the show that preceded the book? How does the fact that this material was in a show have an effect on what we see on the printed page?

CRAGHEAD: The book preceded the show, part of it by several years.

SPURGEON: My bad. How did it develop, then?

CRAGHEAD: I started the drawings that became the book while I lived in Albany, New York -- my wife was in school and I would go to the library with her. She studied while I drew and ransacked the university libraries for images of France, Paris, WWI, etc. I laid that group of work aside for a few years and came back to it when Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, MD offered me a show coinciding with the Bethesda Literary Festival. I decided to finally finish the book and make some accompanying drawing/collages.

The book and its drawings influenced the wall pieces a lot -- bits of each are in the other. The wall pieces were colorful collages on board, all 12" x 12". They also were each based on a single poem rather than using fragments and lines like the book drawings. The car I drew for the book also ended up in the collage based on that poem ("Le Petit Auto"). I had originally planned on also showing the drawn pages of the book in the show, but that didn't work out.

The book itself was affected very little by being in the gallery show. The numbering of the books was something I hadn't done before, but other than that it was the same as if I had just published it.

SPURGEON: Did you have a general notion of how you wanted the work interpreted in this visual-verbal way and then figured out how to apply that to each piece, or did you struggle through each individual piece? Was there a key?

CRAGHEAD: At first each page was done separately. I would draw something, then find an appropriate piece of a poem to add into it, then draw some more, revise the text, and on and on. At times I started with the text, but usually it was the image first.

As the project grew I started deliberately doing pages to fill holes -- I tried to follow Apollinaire's life in the work with a rough Paris section at the start followed by bits of his war years. The final composition was in ordering the pages. I laid them all out in my living room and moved them all around. I was looking for a balance between the flow of images and text and some structure loosely based on his life. The final few pages were really important to me - some of his final poems sum up his whole enterprise and I wanted to reflect that.

So no, there is no "key," no master unlocking secret to all the pages that allows one to read them. I did use some of his symbology (as well as a bit of my own), but each page stands on its own inside the larger flow of the whole book.

SPURGEON: Is there possible to see in the work any antecedents? Saul Steinberg springs to mind as a potential cartooning influence here, was he? Were there other cartoonists? Other artists?

CRAGHEAD: Saul Steinberg is someone I look at a lot. He can pack narratives and ideas into seemingly simple drawings, and that multivalent image-making is something I'm very interested in exploring.

Raymond Pettibon is another word and picture scrambler I look at, though my favorite pieces of his are from old Minutemen LPs I bought as a youth. His work needs both the words and the images -- either alone is much less than both together, and than kind of friction is something I wanted to make happen in HTBE.

Gary Panter's crazy and ambitious remaking of the Divine Comedy is another thing I look at a lot. He keeps the story very Panter, but injects lots of parallels with Dante and other writers.

One other antecedent, though I know it's way above my weight class, is James Joyce's Ulysses which, on one of its almost endless levels, uses the Odyssey as a rough template. Like Panter, that absorption of an older thing into a newer piece is something I'm interested in.


SPURGEON: I wanted to ask about a couple of your basic approaches. The first being the diagrammed-out pictures, where there are actually lines between objects and words playing different roles at the end of these paths than they might down their length. The second is the kind of layered shapes effect you get that sort of look like some 20th century painting.

CRAGHEAD: I think comics and narrative storytelling can learn -- and steal -- a lot from both information design and from Modernist, specially Cubist, painting. The diagrammatic pages are directly from my interest in how story and information can be delivered in different ways. The lines link the word with the pictures, as in a real diagram, but the connection between the two isn't always on the surface. The images and words also start getting mixed up with each other, scrambled, making something destabilized and a little confusing, which can open the readers eyes up to an experience of seeing the page rather than just reading it.

The layered shapes, and the references to Cubist and related Modernist artwork in general, comes from Apollinare's deep interest and enthusiasm for that work. It also comes from my thoughts about how the lessons of Cubism can be applied to comics and narrative storytelling. I'm just beginning to work on this, but I think there's something to investigate there and the parts of HTBE that go there are just the first steps.

SPURGEON: What are your expectations for an audience? Where does a book like this sell?

CRAGHEAD: I know that there's only a small subset of the comics world that is interested in something like this. It's poetry -- French poetry! -- it's weird drawing and it doesn't use most of the usual conventions of comics... Still, I think anyone can read it and get things out of it -- it rewards close reading. It's for sale at some online places [Cafe Royal in the UK and Little Paper Planes in L.A.] and is also available through my galleries in DC [Gallery Neptune] and Richmond, VA [ADA Gallery] and also at a local store here in Charlottesville, Destination Comics. I've also sold some directly over email. I'm exploring publishing it in France and I may issue a second edition when this one sells out.

imageSPURGEON: Do the pages with some of the poems included within them generally include all of the poems, or are there substitutes made in terms of visual information for words? How did you approach the issue of whether or not to include words?

CRAGHEAD: I took chunks of his work -- only two pages have complete poems. I didn't drop words out and replace them with images, but at times the images do function as words or letters, building on each other in a logical progression like letters forming words. The images and Apollinaire's words need each other in my book. I was making a friction between them that would hopefully, while still referring to the old things, make something new.

SPURGEON: Is there anything you discovered about Apollinaire's work in the process of working with it that you didn't know before?

CRAGHEAD: A big thing I discovered is his rich and deep affection for the world, for the stuff and materials and people around him. He's like Walt Whitman in that way, and, like the Cubists who led me to him, he always grounds whatever crazy flights he takes with the real, concrete things around him. I try to learn from that, to look at my work and ask, "Is this real? Is this close to a true experience?" and "How do I make something that is an experience, not merely something that points to one?"

SPURGEON: Is there any other cartoonist out there you'd like to see approach adaptation? Who? Doing who? Is it something you wish to continue pursuing?

CRAGHEAD: Adaptation is a rich land for us artists to plunder. Seeing Panter's Divine Comedy adaptation showed me how on can work from a text but make it completely one's own. The drawn version of Paul Auster's City of Glass that Paul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli made is another example of an adapted story that uses the friction of words and pictures to make something that runs parallel to the original text. David Lasky's Ulysses adaptation is another great piece. I do want to continue mining this vein -- there's one poetry project in particular that might take me the rest of my life, but I'm a little leery of it. There's also another French poetry project in the works.

If I could command people to do adaptations, I would order Ted May to do Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Crumb to do John Ashbery's Girls On The Run (which is Ashbery's poetry version of Henry Darger's drawings), and Kevin Huizenga to do Paradise Lost. I guess I'd also want to see Gilbert Hernandez do One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's really unnecessary since his Palomar is as rich and alive as Marquez's Macondo.

SPURGEON: How much of a connection do you feel with Apollinaire's desire to match old forms and new? What is the purpose of doing so, do you think, for Apollinaire? Was it a goal in and of itself? Was it a way to better represent life or a political moment?

CRAGHEAD: I feel a great connection with the old/new aspect of Apollinaire's project. I hope my experiments and wanderings are like his - ones that are deliberate attempts to more closely render our experience of the world. Apollinaire was seeing so much change in his world that he knew the old forms just couldn't keep up and I see that now too. In art, and especially in comics, I see a lot of wide open territory.


SPURGEON: How would you describe the satisfaction you get out of work your very idiosyncratic corner of the comics world?

CRAGHEAD: The satisfaction I get from my work is both the process of making and the finished piece - seeing something I've made that baffles and confounds me. Something that stays mysterious. I'm not getting rich or famous, but I am finding new things all the time. Another satisfaction is the reaction I get from people and when I see others working along the same lines, artists like Andrei Molotiu and Gary Sullivan. That tells me we're on to something.

SPURGEON: Tell me about the rest of your 2007.

CRAGHEAD: With a crazy-drawing two-year-old daughter I'm busy without picking up a pencil, but I do have some stuff lined up. For printed work I have an 11-page piece in the recently released UK book Cafe Royal [issue zero], edited by Craig Atkinson. For that one I made three small tear-out and DIY booklets that all add up to a kind of autobiography. I'm not sure when it prints, but I've done a 4-page color piece for the next Rosetta from Alternative Comics. The pages from HTBE will be in a show in Portugal as part of the Amadora Comics Festival and there's a chance I may go see it. For art shows, I'm in a group shows in Washington DC, Pittsburgh and New York this fall, at least one of which will have an online component.


all art from Mr. Craghead's new book, except for images #2-3, which are from his adaptation of Erin Pringle's "The Only Child"


How To Be Everywhere, Warren Craghead, Warren Craghead and Gallery Neptune, soft cover, 100 pages. Special Preview.


posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Baltimore, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, buy: charity book HOPE: New Orleans to forward money gained to efforts mitigating lingering crisis in America's Greatest City.

* go, look: Lewis Trondheim's Les Petits Riens episode 215 contains the best men in bathrooms joke yet

* go, look: Tom Brevoort's hand-selected Jack Kirby Marvel covers

* go, read: profile of Joann Sfar including news he'll be directing a Rabbi's Cat film

* go, look: Silly Daddy animation
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Judith Vanistendael

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Happy 48th Birthday, Dan Vado!

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Your 2007 Harvey Awards Winners

The Harvey Awards, a recognition program for the North American comics industry since 1988, named its winners during last night's awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con.

Winners are in bold.

* Ed Brubaker, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
* Grant Morrison, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, DC Comics
* Steve Murphy, UMBRA, Image Comics
* Don Rosa, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing
* Brian K. Vaughn, Y: THE LAST MAN, DC/Vertigo

* Brian Fies, MOM'S CANCER, Abrams
* Renee French, THE TICKING, Top Shelf
* Stuart Immonen, NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF HATE, Marvel Comics
* Frank Quitely, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, DC Comics
* Don Rosa, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing

* Jaime Hernandez, LOVE & ROCKETS, Fantagraphics
* Kevin Huizenga, CURSES, Drawn & Quarterly
* Dan Piraro, BIZARRO, King Features Syndicate
* Don Rosa, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing

* Jon Babcock, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Comics
* Chris Eliopoulos, FRANKLIN RICHARDS, Marvel Comics
* Hope Larson, GRAY HORSES, Oni Press
* Troy Peteri, NECROMANCER, Marvel Comics
* Stan Sakai, USAGI YOJIMBO, Dark Horse Comics
* Willie Schubert, WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing

* Jaime Hernandez, LOVE & ROCKETS, Fantagraphics
* Ryan Kelly, LOCAL, Oni Press
* Steve Leialoha, FABLES, DC/Vertigo
* Danny Miki, ETERNALS, Marvel Comics
* Joe Weems, HUNTER-KILLER, Top Cow / Image

* Susan Daigle-Leach, WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing
* Steve Firchow, HUNTER-KILLER, Top Cow / Image
* Jamison Services, WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT, VOLUME 19, DC Comics
* Lark Pien, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, First Second
* Scott Rockwell, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing

* John Cassaday, ASTONISHING X-MEN, Marvel Comics
* James Jean, FABLES, DC/Vertigo
* J.G. Jones, 52, DC Comics
* Don Rosa, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing
* Marc Silvestri, HUNTER-KILLER, Top Cow / Image

BEST NEW TALENT (Representative work listed)
* Lilli Carre, TALES OF WOODSMAN PETE, Top Shelf
* Brian Fies, MOM'S CANCER, Abrams
* Matthew Loux, SIDESCROLLERS, Oni Press
* Stjepan Sejic, WITCHBLADE, Top Cow / Image

* CIVIL WAR, Marvel Comics
* 52, DC Comics
* NECROMANCER, Top Cow / Image
* WASTELAND, Oni Press

* DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
* LOCAL, Oni Press
* UMBRA, Image Comics
* WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing

* ANTIQUES: THE COMIC STRIP, J.C. Vaughn, Brendan Fraim & Brian Fraim, Well-Defined Productions
* DOONESBURY, Garry Trudeau, Universal Press Syndicate
* THE K CHRONICLES, Keith Knight, United Comics /
* MAAKIES, Tony Millionaire, Self-syndicated
* MUTTS, Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate

* FLIGHT, VOL. 3, Ballantine Books
* MOME, Fantagraphics
* WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES, Gemstone Publishing

* CASTLE WAITING, Fantagraphics
* GHOST OF HOPPERS, Fantagraphics

* CIVIL WAR # 1, Marvel Comics
* GANGES # 1, Fantagraphics
* MOM'S CANCER, Abrams
* SCHIZO #4, Fantagraphics
* SOLO #11, DC Comics

* ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly (Tie)
* KAMPUNG BOY, Lat, First Second
* MOOMIN, Tove Jansson, Drawn and Quarterly (Tie)
* ODE TO KIRIHITO, Osamu Tezuka, Vertical

* AMERICAN ELF, James Kochalka
* THE CHELATION KID, Robert Tinnell & Craig A. Taillefer
* GIRL GENIUS, Phil & Kaja Foglio
* PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP, Nicholas Gurewitch
* PVP, Scott Kurtz

* LOST GIRLS, Top Shelf
* POPEYE : I YAM WHAT I YAM, Fantagraphics

* AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, Gene Luen Yang, First Second
* BILLY HAZELNUTS, Tony Millionaire, Fantagraphics
* FUN HOME: A FAMILY TRAGICOMIC, Alison Bechdel, Houghton Mifflin
* PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, Brian K. Vaughn & Nino Henrichon, DC/Vertigo

* COMPLETE PEANUTS, Fantagraphics
* EC ARCHIVES, Gemstone Publishing
* POPEYE: I YAM WHAT I YAM, Fantagraphics
* WALT & SKEEZIX, Drawn and Quarterly

* Evan Dorkin, DORK, SLG Publishing
* Michael Kupperman, TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE, Fantagraphics
* Dan Piraro, BIZARRO, King Features Syndicate
* Don Rosa, UNCLE SCROOGE, Gemstone Publishing

* COMIC ART, Buenaventura Press
* THE COMICS JOURNAL, Fantagraphics
* MAKING COMICS, HarperCollins

Apparently, there was also an award given out by the Hero Initiative to Joe Kubert. Congratulations to all winners and nominees.
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Happy 47th Birthday, Kevin Maguire!

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First Thought Of The Day

Why did we square dance in gym? We didn't milk cows, or learn to bale hay. Was this some holdover from a magical hillbilly kingdom that preceded the U.S.? What possible PE benefits could this have beyond sweating the possibility that you weren't going to be paired with the partner you wanted? Shouldn't educational reform begin with the wisdom of little kids being taught to "promenade"?
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September 8, 2007

If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Baltimore, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Baltimore, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In St. Louis, I'd Go To This

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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from September 1 to September 7, 2007:

1. Swedish authorities continue to negotiate a still-prickly political situation caused by the publication of a Muhammed cartoon satirizing the religious figure as a dog in one of their newspapers.

2. DC Comics signs a deal to have its bookstore distribution performed by Random House.

3. Spanish prosecutors announced that the creative team behind a satirical cartoon cover for the magazine El Jueves will face a fine if convicted. It was believed at first that the groundbreaking case might put jail time on the table.

Winner Of The Week
Phil Frank

Loser Of The Week
Editorial cartooning, with another position lost

Quote Of The Week
"I always say when I discovered Zen it was like finding an old pair of shoes in your closet, that you'd forgotten you had, and you put them on -- and it's instantly just a perfect fit." -- John Porcellino

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink

September 7, 2007

CR Review: Trackrabbit #3


Creators: Geoff Vasile
Publishing Information: self-published, mini-comic, 24 pages, 2007, $3
Ordering Numbers:

The third issue of Geoff Vasile's one-cartoonist, one-comic effort Trackrabbit still seems a bit undercooked. The simplified art doesn't quite cohere in the consistent way necessary to make it lovely in and of itself as opposed to merely utilitarian. The artist seems trapped in the same circle of hell where young playwrights and first-time authors tend to dwell, a place where observation and self-indulgence and a limited view of the world all meet to have sex, assert the authority of a particular world view and express regret. But there are hints -- panels, moments -- of it all coming together to a greater sum than its parts. For one, Vasile is unsparingly brutal to his characters, always a good sign in terms of future promise. He walks us through a cycle of friendship and crushes where a character is presented as an admirable or attractive person in one scene, and then ripped to shreds the next by someone who should know. He then adds a second cycle where the characters bring it on themselves, as in a character working a literary appreciation angle to get laid in a way and with a book that clearly fails to impress his date, although she seems not to care. The final revelation as to what we're seeing take place in front of us comes from the character that seems the least insightful, a nice touch and one that speaks well to future comics from this cartoonist.
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Friday Distraction: Gold Key Star Treks

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If I Were In Oakland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Maine, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: PDX Comics Art Shows


* Josh Simmons' photos from Josh Simmons' show.
* Another group of photos from both the Simmons show and the Al Columbia show.
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New Round of Contention Between Harlan Ellison and Fantagraphics Over Mediated Settlement

By David P. Welsh

What promised to be the last word in the Harlan Ellison vs. Fantagraphics, et al lawsuit seems to have triggered a new round of contention between the parties.

The mediated settlement between the litigants, released over three weeks ago, allowed the defendants "to post on [Ellison's] web site for 30 days a rebuttal of no more than 500 words regarding Ellison's comments that [Fantagraphics publisher Gary] Groth had embezzled funds in the Fleisher litigation and solicit[ed] contributions to the Fantagraphics Legal Defense Fund under false pretenses, and that likened Mr. Groth to a child molester."

No such rebuttal has appeared on Ellison's site, though Fantagraphics has posted a PDF of an amended version of the settlement which includes the rebuttal (Exhibit C, page 18) to The Comics Journal's home page. Groth's rebuttal, coming in at precisely 500 words according to my word processing program, reads as follows:
"Unlike those who threaten, intimidate, bully, extort by lawsuit, and carry out physical assaults, I believe the corrective to forms of speech one doesn't like is more speech -- i.e., the truth. This is my attempt to put those principles into action."

"Between the time Harlan Ellison launched his lawsuit against Fantagraphics, et al., and now, he has made a number of false accusations and defamatory public statements about me, to wit:

"BIG LIE #1: Ellison accused me of embezzling monies from our Legal Defense Fund during the '80s and spending the embezzled funds on a tropical vacation in the Bahamas (on his weblog, February 17, and in his initial complaint as well). This is untrue. I never took funds for my personal use from our Defense Fund. Every cent we raised from 1980 to 1987 went toward paying our legal bills. I defy Ellison to offer evidence to the contrary.

"BIG LIE #2: Ellison accused me of defrauding the contributors to our current Defense Fund by misrepresenting how our attorneys were being paid. Ellison claimed that the costs of our lawsuit were borne by either an insurance company or a 'guardian angel' (possibly both). He wrote 'IIIIIIII do not have an insurance company or a secret financial angel behind do you...' [emphasis mine] And: 'You need no Defense Fund, Gary, so why not tell your folk the name of the entity(ies) paying the bills for a firm that must already have logged in tens of thousands of dollars of time, while BloatedLyingIronic Harlan seems to struggle along with only two blind, crippled, diabetic (also brilliant, masterful, rational) guys whose legal offices number their staffs in the total of ONE EACH?'

"'BloatedLyingIronic Harlan Ellison' is in fact lying. We had no insurance company or guardian angels to cover our legal bills. Our only 'guardian angels' are those artists who thought our cause just enough to help us after we'd announced our Defense Fund -- artists and friends such as Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Ralph Steadman, Joe Sacco, Frank Thorne, Jeff Smith, Megan Kelso, Tony Millionaire, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, Bill Willingham, Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Barry Windsor-Smith, and too many others to enumerate.

"What's interesting about Ellison's assertion is that there's no way he could have known the truth or falsity of it, yet he made it anyway -- and emphatically!

"BIG LIE #3: '...Apart from much of the crap Groth publishes, they [sic] are like serial child molesters who publicly do Good Works, and privately indulge in heinous behavior.' This isn't technically a lie, but an example of Ellisonian hypocrisy, of engaging in ad hominem rhetoric that he himself denounces. On the one hand, Ellison objects to being referred to as a 'dilettante' and on the other likens me to a child molester. It is an example of someone being able to dish it out but unable to take it (without filing a lawsuit). It is an example of someone believing in free speech -- for himself but not for his opponents."
Ellison's legal counsel, John H. Carmichael, has released a statement outlining the reasons for his client's unwillingness to post the rebuttal on his site in accordance with the terms of the agreement:
"Dear All:

"Gary Groth has published his 'rebuttal' statement referred to in the recent settlement agreement between Harlan Ellison and the Fantagraphics Defendants in the above referenced case. The settlement agreement stated that Mr. Ellison would permit the Defendants to post on Mr. Ellison's website a 500 word rebuttal to: 'statements made by Plaintiff that accused Mr. Groth of embezzling funds in the Fleischer case ... soliciting ... funds under false pretenses ...' and 'statements which likened Mr. Groth to a child molester.' See Settlement Agreement. Page 4, Paragraph 6.

"The grant of this short rebuttal was not an opportunity to grandstand on the First Amendment -- Fantagraphics' supposed knightly championing of it and Mr. Ellison's alleged disregard of it -- thereby perpetuating the one-upsmanship on the topic, as to who believes in the First Amendment more, etcetera. In our opinion, the Defendants overreached both the letter and the spirit of the settlement agreement. It was precisely this sort of sniping Mr. Ellison intended to quell as a by-product of the main thrust of this case, which was to correct the record.

"The parties had not yet privately resolved their disagreement on whether Mr. Groth's 'rebuttal' was an overreaching First Amendment screed or within the limited scope of the settlement agreement. The Defendants published it anyway.

"Regarding the substance of the rebuttal: It is important to point out that at the time Mr. Groth's objections to the two statements were made known to Ellison, Ellison took steps to investigate, correct, retract and even apologize for any inaccuracy. We believe these are the appropriate steps to take, both legally and morally, when confronted with a legitimate concern about the veracity of a public statement. As to the prior hyperbole that both sides have engaged in, this settlement agreement was to put an end to it once and for all.

"In the case of Ellison v. Fantagraphics et al., the settlement agreement speaks for itself on the subject and no further comment need be made."

"Mr. Ellison considers the matter closed."
this article was prepared by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, with Mr. Welsh working unsupervised and retaining final cut
posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink

Gary Panter For President of Everything

posted 11:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Infrequent Manga News Round-Up

* the big Naruto Nation push looks like a hit so far, if the first USA Today rankings are any indication. For those of you not following that aspect of the comic market, Viz is producing more trades than usual in the uber-popular ninja serial in order, one supposes 1) to sell lots of units, 2) to throw a spotlight on the character, and 3) to catch up to Japanese publication. It's also been suggested another reason is that Viz can now push quickly past a slightly less popular stretch of books in the saga without sacrificing momentum by having that be a full year's worth of new books. Any concern I've heard expressed hasn't come from an immediate effect on sales -- everyone thinks they'll sell a ton -- but maybe a lingering hangover from fans asked to consume so much of the serial in a short time. Still, it should be a big sales Fall for the character's publisher and those who are able to capitalize on the books' popularity.

* has another executive interview up, this time with Tokyopop Publisher Mike Kiley.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

It's refreshing to read someone say rationally without shrieking at anyone that the manga market, while vigorous and healthy as all hell, isn't growing as rapidly as in recent years, and that digital content will totally out-strip paper at some point, even if you don't agree with the positions or see them as needing qualification. Other things that popped out at me was an admission that there might be a big licensed title drought forthcoming, which is an old observation I haven't heard re-examined in a while, and a distinction between style and aesthetic.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Dynamic Man

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Looks Like El Jueves Pair Still Facing Trial As Opposed To Already Being Tried

I could of course still be wrong, but as I indicated earlier this week and tried to double-check with an open question to the readership, everything in English I've seen indicates the trial over a satirical depiction of the Spanish crown prince and his wife is yet to come. I can't find any countervailing mention in the news of this high-profile trial coming off, either, except for a few bloggers. The news this week therefore wasn't that the pair responsible for the cover were fined but that they are facing fines, which is news in that 1) the case totally sucks and triply so for a country without much of a history of such ludicrous cases and 2) earliest reports when the magazines were seized to be destroyed was that jail time might even be possible. I think what it happens is a French comics industry article obtusely enough phrased that it confused on-line translation drove some blogging on the matter.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Windol

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Word Fight! UVA Students Engage In Inarticulate Battle Over A Cartoon

It could be that I'm just grumpy on a Friday morning, but what strikes me about the dialog surrounding a cartoonist's offering that offended students in the University of Virginia's student newspaper by Grant Woolard is that it lacks the barest hint of intellectual rigor. The charges against Woolard's cartoon, at least as articulated in the press, could have come from precocious students of a middle school shooting the breeze during a Social Studies class, more or less, and don't seem worthy of a serious protest made by supposedly very smart undergraduates at a school with Thomas Jefferson as a designer and first President. I mean, "He's continuously doing wrong?" That sounds like a sibling complaining to a parent.

I suppose the reason it strikes me is that it shows how poorly developed those ideas are: Shouldn't a cartoonist be allowed to offend people? Isn't that inevitable? Are there limits as to how far an artist should be allowed to go in an institution that has some sort of public trust aspect to it? How responsible is a paper for giving a cartoonist a platform whereby someone might be offended? Are there some areas of offense more actionable than others? Is it possible to overthink an issue like this one when good taste judiciously applied will do the trick? There's no easy agreement on those issues or the values behind them, which means there's no shared ground on which to have an argument. This calls for a second discussion that no one on earth seems prepared to have.

At any rate, the paper has apparently apologized.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Fiona Logusch

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell Uses Zipatone
Eddie Campbell Uses Zipatone

Dan Nadel Is In Greece
Baltimore Comic-Con Preview
Lark Pien at Cartoon Art Museum
Slideshow From Turin's Fumetto Museum

SLG Profiles GAC
Mobile Phones Article
Year-To-Date Trade Figures
Sydney Morning Herald on Comics
Rucka: He Hates White Guys Most of All
Matt Maxwell Opines About Self-Publishing

SBC: Marc Nathan
The Times: Zapiro
Newsarama: Mike Carey
CBR: Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon

Not Comics
Steve Duin on Baltimore
Peter David Hits the Boards
Delete Your Mercury Studio Links
Shaenon Garrity's Favorite Excel Saga Lines

Amulet Cover
Comic Gays Launches
Today's Strips Bore Columnist
Preview Video for Murder Moon
Ian Rankin Still Planning Hellblazer Work

Noah Berlatsky: Nana
Chris Allen: Fell Vol. 1
Jog: Batman: The Cult
Geoff Hoppe: Invincible #29
Matt Brady: Smuggling Spirits
Kevin Church: Lucha Libre #1
Chris Allen: Batman: Detective
Don MacPherson: Potter's Field #1
Hervé St-Louis: Black Panther #29
Chris Allen: 86 Voltz: The Dead Girl
Andrew Ian Dodger: Blue Elephants
Matthias Wivel: Amen to Noah Berlatsky
Leigh Dragoon: The Road to God Knows...
Don MacPherson: Amazing Spider-Man #544
Bill Sherman: Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker
James Nokes: An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten Book One

September 6, 2007

CR Review: The Mice Templar #1


Creators: Michael Avon Oeming, Bryan JL Glass, Will Quintana, James H. Glass
Publishing Information: Image Comics, comic book, 52 pages, September 2007, $3.99
Ordering Numbers: JUL071921 (Diamond)

This is the well-publicized first issue of a fantasy series spearheaded by Michael Avon Oeming, a stylish artist and solid writer who's worked on a number of quality mainstream projects in recent years, most notably the Brian Michael Bendis series Powers. It stars tiny, anthropomorphized mice, designed in the appealing, stylized fashion with which one has grown accustomed in Oeming's comics. The plotline should be familiar to most fantasy fans: the potential return of a down-trodden, former noble warrior caste through a prophecy that seems to target an unlikely subject. This first issue does what the first 15 minutes of a lot of fantasy films or first 50 pages of many fantasy novels do: takes us into a pastoral setting, shows us what they think of the old ways, indicates a possible one or two people beholden to those, and then something horrible happens that sets our hero on his journey. You should also recognize many of the major players: the Chosen One, the Girl With a Crush the Old Warrior, the Mournful Matriarch, and the More Likely Candidate That Turns Out Not To Be The One. It's extremely familiar territory.

The most successful recent comics fantasy, Bone, initially obscured the measure its adherence to some traditional genre structures by offering up an impressive wave of engaging humor and character interplay in the comic's foreground. When the jig was up and the full spread of its fantasy story roots were revealed, cartoonist Jeff Smith kept things lively on a thematic level by folding into his narrative several compelling arguments about different genres and their relationships to one another. I don't think The Mice Templar will give us a story as frequently distracting -- and entertaining -- as Smith's. That puts a lot of pressure on executing story elements with which most readers are intimately familiar. The benefits you get in terms of added resonance when dealing with classic story structures can be lost when readers start to apply matters of personal taste -- and a wickedly focused eye -- on choices of style, presentation and tone. Does the appearance of a giant spider and magical fish shove this story far away from the tradition of "small" fantasies to its detriment? Does what we see of the village make sense giving a culture with metal weapons? Does that matter? Did we see enough to make a call either way? Have we seen enough in the characters to be invested? Did anything truly surprising happen in this first issue? Are there surprises in store? Entertaining art and a classic story made with obvious devotion and care will put a lot of people in The Mice Templar's corner. The barriers to success may have shifted into the details by author's choice, but that doesn't mean surmounting them will be easier
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn't A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market



Here are those books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings when my retailer objected.


JUL072204 WOLVERINE #57 $2.99

This bunch of comics fails to achieve everyone-must-have status, but rises to the top in terms of superhero pulp being offered this week where very little else is available. The first is one of those Mignola World titles that I haven't seen. The second is a Joe Casey-written Iron Man series that I guess deserves a pull out into its own title because of the forthcoming movie. The third book features the former Blade team of Howard Chaykin drawing scripts from Marc Guggenheim; I rather liked the now-canceled Blade as a balls-out, stupid and slightly gonzo boys' adventure comic book. The fourth listed is a Grant Morrison Batman story that probably ran in that Batman-focused anthology title they do (did?) whose name I can't remember. If that's been available in different formats before now, I apologize for listing it again. The fifth and final book above offers up some late period Gil Kane artwork, probably the most prominent comics he did during after 1980. Nostril shots for everyone!

This sounds dumb. Is Black Canary still a florist? I thought that was an interesting job for a superhero to have. I always imagined a lot of people standing at the counter going "Hello...?" while the superhero is out beating people up or whatever.

More great comics from the King. I have the individual books, but a few of my pals have been enjoying this reprint series despite the price tag.


I just sort of like having these two right next to one another.

JUL073580 LAIKA SC $17.95
Nick Abadzis' sprawling, heartfelt story of Earth's first space traveler.

Budding illustration superstar James Jean provides a bunch of art work in an over-sized publication for those of us who aren't all that interested in the comics that bear his art on the cover.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. I am not a sharp person.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

DC To Distribute With Random House

In a major deal with potentially broad implications, DC Comics will distribute to bookstores with Random House starting early next year, various industry sources reporting this morning. You can read DC's take on the story here, or the initial Publishers Weekly store here. Random House is the largest and furthest reaching of the book industry's distribution companies.

You can plug the deal into multiple time lines: as a major event in the this decade's phenomenon of comics' increased presence in the bookstores, as an inevitable consequence of DC having its deal with longtime partner Warner Book severed upon the purchase of the Time Warner Book Group by Hachette in March of last year, or as the dramatic end game in DC's attempts to completely refashion the way it sells comics and books beginning in Spring 2005.

This could be extremely fruitful for DC in that they get access to Random House sales force, which 1) is familiar with comics, having sold books from Pantheon and Del Rey, several successfully, and seeing the general category grow, and 2) solves a big problem that plagued DC when it was handling its own sales through Hachette of pushing book not just through the big book chains but up and down the range of retailers, including independent bookstores. It should be interesting to see what they do with the in-house sales force, some of which I think were be re-oriented towards more comprehensive sales relationships with a greater percentage of buyers even as the deal was being finalized. I can imagine there are plenty of uses for a sales force if the resources are there to maintain them.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 70th Birthday, Sergio Aragones!

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

Swedish authorities have arrested a Muslim woman described as "deeply religious" for threatening Lars Vilks, whose caricature of Muhammed appeared in the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, dredging up a roughly similar political and rhetorical reaction and, one guesses, somewhat terrifying memories of the riots and loss of life that greeted Muhammed caricatures published in Denamark in late 2005.

In further developments, the Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt follows up meetings with his country's Muslim organizations by inviting ambassadors from countries where governments or major political parties have denounced the cartoon's publication to a meeting of their own.

Two things that are different about this event is that the cartoonist himself is speaking, and, in maybe the most vital distinction, he is being portrayed as the provoking agent as opposed to that falling on the newspaper that published it. I can't tell if that latter differentiation is just important to me or will actually prove to be important in how this thing develops, but I hope both.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 62nd Birthday, Go Nagai!

posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Phil Frank Retires After 32 Years

imageHere's an end-of-an-era story that has kind of fallen under the radar: Phil Frank, the veteran cartoonist best known for the long-running strip Farley, will retire this week after 32 years as a professional cartoonist. Farley has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle since 1985, after ten years as a nationally syndicated feature, and is easily the most prominent -- if not at this point the only -- daily comic strip exclusive running in a single publication.

You can go here to see the latest, and here to explore the strip if you're not familiar with it. If you are familiar with it, and enjoyed it as many have, I hope you'll consider taking a second and congratulating him on the conclusion of a long and fruitful run.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, Mike Zeck!

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Eddie Campbell talks about the various definitions of graphic novels, including his own, boiling it down to three major contenders. I think that when it comes to definitional matters it's very often hard to get past a certain point where any significant number of people have invested in one definition or another; I also think the better judge for how something defined usually ends up being utility rather than historical accuracy or strict logic. Not that Campbell won't be able to thwart the first problem or that I have any idea how he fits into the second.

image* A well-done and longer than one might expect interview with John Porcellino popped up recently in the Washington paper Express, in support of the Drawn and Quarterly collection King-Cat Classix. Porcellino is an important cartoonist -- King-Cat Comics and Stories is the only mini-comic I'd put on a Top 100 list, and it may be the most directly influential autobiographical work in the comics form -- but he's also an appealing and accessible one. One thing I hadn't known or had totally forgotten is that John's cat and longtime King-Cat character Maisie Kukoc died. Also, did he drop the word "stories" from his title? I can't imagine a life of comics reading that didn't include John Porcellino's work.

* A video report from the party wrapping up the McCloud Family's Making Comics tour can be found here.

* I received a note from JP Trostle updating the story about veteran editorial cartoonist Craig Terry being let go from his Florida newspaper employer of approximately two decades. It sounds about as bad a last day at work as you can imagine not involving bullets:
In an email to the AAEC Notebook, Terry noted, "The only reason I was given: my position was eliminated. It was a cost cutting measure that seemed to be company-wide.

"They took out several advertising people, two from the newsroom, myself and a female reporter who had been there for over 20 years. It was very similar to Chuck Asay and the Colorado Springs Gazette earlier."

Unlike the situation with Asay, the announcement caught Terry and other staff members by surprise -- all were told of the decision and summarily escorted from the building.

"I had made the mistake of thinking I was bulletproof," continued Terry, "and had all workfiles, freelance and contacts at my office workstation. My former assistant will help me regain some of that. Friggin' family photos, music, toons just everything."
The story is interesting because it's one of those situation where it's not solely about papers devaluing the editorial cartoonist profession, but about the brutal personnel cuts at papers across the country.
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Sock Monkey at DHP

posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Draws

Wilbur Kookmeyer Lives!
Festival to Honor Jean Roba
24 Hour Comics Day in Dublin
New Manga Festival Announced
Report From Final McCloud Tour Event
Photos From Sotomayor Exhibit Closing

Heidi MacDonald's Disney Adventure
Erminio Ardigo Passed Away... in 2004

GB [Heart] GN
I Hate Your Cartoon
10 Years of Sluggy Freelance
Reward For Stolen Funnybooks
Women, They Love The Comics
Evan Dorkin on Disney Adventures
Editorial Cartoonist To Concentrate on Cartoons
Spike TV's Made-Up Awards Nominees Announced

Newsarama: Dan Slott
ComicBloc: Mike Baron
ComicBloc: Mike Bullock
ComicBloc: Brad Walker
Newsarama: ChrisCross
ComicBloc: Matt Wagner
ComicBloc: Kevin Maguire
ComicBloc: Joshua Dysart
ComicBloc: Dan Schoening
ComicBloc: David Petersen
ComicBloc: Matthew Sturges
Pulse: Chris Reilly, Chris Grine
ComicBloc: Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Not Comics
Peter Bagge Commercial Animation
Chris Butcher Goes to Japan Day 01

First Terry Volume Out
Toxic Reaches Issue #100
That DHC, MySpace Team-Up
Star: FBoFW To End Next Year
MJ Death Tease Part of Publicity
WPWG Launches Contemporary Humor Strip

Jeff Vandermeer: Various
Brian Heater: Black Cherry
Shawn Hoke: Trains Are Mint #3
Matt Brady: The Annotated Mantooth
Richard Bruton: Secret War, Ultimates
Leroy Douresseaux: Angry Youth Comix #13
Chris Mautner: I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets
Noah Berlatsky on Grant Morrison and His Collaborators

September 5, 2007

CR Review: Lucky Vol. 2, #1


Creators: Gabrielle Bell
Publishing Information: Drawn & Quarterly, comic book, 32 pages, May 2007, $3.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299333 (ISBN13)

Aside from issues of quality regarding the work itself, Gabrielle Bell's entry into the slowly revitalizing alternative periodical market makes for one attractive publishing package. It's small enough to make for an intimate reading experience without losing detail, it's attractively designed, and it's stuffed with comics of sufficient enough narrative density that it demands a fully engaged reading experience -- in other words, there's no way you could read it in the store -- all for a reasonable price by today's standards. If something of this obvious quality came out once a week from at least one of the alt-comix publishers, the one-time every-Wednesday customer base for such comics might even be restored.

imageBell splits her book between an autobiographical story and a fantastic, dream-like tale -- in fact, it may actually be a dream, I'm not certain. The diary comics are dated up top and follow Bell through a comics art show (SPX, I'm guessing, complete with a trip on the Chinatown bus) and a performance related visit to Canada. I found this material to be much more potent on a panel to panel basis than some of Bell's earlier works. She's worked richer blacks into a style I remember being dominated by the line work. The insights are frequently humorous, and a few of the epiphanies are downright lovely. I'll never for the life of me understand it when people make snotty calls for autobiographical comics to come solely from people who lead freak-show, outlandish lives consisting of drunken, sloppy adventures. I mean, I love those comics, too. I could even play a solid game of Comparative Escapades if I had to. But certainly sensitivity to what you're seeing, the skill with which an experience is related, or an insight into some aspect of the human condition are also factors that contribute to worthwhile art. I don't know how they'll be printed for posterity, but I liked those stories' inclusion here. It feels like Bell is working to improve, pushing through a variety of storytelling strategies, trying on comics for size.

This is true in the second story as well, the kind of comic that you used to see first generation alternative comics artists drop from subsequent collections short of "complete" volumes. "My Affliction" feels less assured but has its own noteworthy moments. I love an image of Bell sleeping on the floor of a closet, and the creepy yet still slightly endearing visual of Bell climbing into someone's lap, forcing intimacy onto at least two reluctant subjects. I'd read more stories like that one, although I can't help but think there's a greater end to come through the autobiography, off-hand critics be damned.

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Do-Over Update

This article at a religious site follows a pedestrian first half by spending its bottom portion getting into the reaction of Swedish Muslims to the in-the-news newspaper publication of a drawing from Lars Vilks depicting Muhammed as a dog. Apparently, there's been a meeting between the largest group representing that country's Muslim population and the Swedish Prime Minister. A lawsuit has also been filed by one of the organizations against the paper and the artist. I think the article smartly identifies the local reaction as being an important component of the Danish cartoon riots.
posted 11:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Cathy Guisewite!

posted 11:12 am PST | Permalink

Craig Terry Out At Florida Paper has word that longtime Northwest Florida Daily News cartoonist Craig Terry was let go on August 24. The loss of yet another staffed position continues a worrisome trend for both the editorial cartoonist position as a valuable newspaper offering and, in a more general sense, the newspaper industry itself.
posted 11:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Diary of a Wimpy Kid


PWCW has this selling very well
posted 11:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Three (Not Comics) Stories

* The Forbidden Planet International blog looks at the forthcoming suite of comics-related shows on the BBC.

* Michael H. Price suggests that the real-life model for the iconic Captain Easy character was Texas oilman George P. Hill.

* dissects the potentially deserved decline of newspaper book reviews sections.
posted 11:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Dan Gordon's Cookie

posted 11:04 am PST | Permalink

Were the El Jueves Pair Already Fined?

Am I missing something from articles like this one that the cartooning team behind the cover for July's issue of El Jueves face hefty fines for drawing the Crown Prince and his wife having sex as a way to make a joke about the uselessness of the royal family? Because it seems to me those article say will face a hefty fine, but a lot of bloggers seem to have it as already been fined. Can anyone out there clue me in with an article on the trial?
posted 11:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: New Copper Comic

posted 11:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley Matriculates
Steve Lieber on Zipatone
Craig Thompson Sketches
Stuart Immonen Makes a Page
Sean Phillips Pencils, Inks, Finishes

Go See Leigh Rubin
Museum To Offer In-Progress Series
Leo Baxendale On Forthcoming BBC Shows

Why Byrne Almost Quit X-Men Earlier
Go, Read: Geary's Comic-Con Murder Mystery

We Love You, Larry Craig!
E&P on Scott Nychay Affair
Newsarama Asks: Who is VIP?

PWCW: Maki Murakami
PWCW: Ioannis Mentzas
Sequential Tart: Tony Cliff
PWCW: SVA Women Grads
Loomis News: Michael Kurnett
Sequential Tart: David Seidman
Great Falls Tribune: Kenyth Mogan
Larry Young's Unpublished Interview

Not Comics
F-Minus Promotional Video
Bring Back Spidey Balloon!
Manga Illustrated Coffee a Hit

Go, Look: Plunkblog
SLG: Why We Polled
Iowa City's New Strips
How SJ's Ranking Formula Works
Elijah Brubaker Sums Up Manga Tussle
Mainstream Comics Make My Head Hurt
Go, Look: Tom Toles' Funny Larry Craig Cartoon

Noah Berlatsky: AYC #10
Andrew A. Smith: Various
Graeme McMillan: Local #10
Brian Heater: Robot Dreams
Rob Clough: The Ignatz Line
Al Kratina: Little Lulu Vol. 15
Hervé St-Louis: X-Men #200
Adriane Nash: Amazons Attack
Hervé St-Louis: Invincible #43
Don MacPherson: Pictures of You
Bill Sherman: Translucent Vol. 1
Massive Review of BBC Programs
Leroy Douresseaux: Naruto Vol. 3
Paul Buhle: James Sturm's America
Johanna Draper Carlson: Re-Gifters
Lou Cabron: The Perry Bible Fellowship
Leroy Douresseaux: Castle Waiting Vol. 2, #7
Graeme McMillan: The Last Fantastic Four Story
Diana Kingston-Gabai: World War Hulk: X-Men #3

September 4, 2007

CR Review: Kuti Kuti


Creators: Various
Publishing Information: Self-Published Newspaper Tabloid, 16 pages, 2006-2007, Free
Ordering Numbers:

Remember that scene in the unnecessary American Graffiti sequel where Paul Le Mat convinces himself he's completely in love with a young woman from Europe with whom he can barely communicate? That's sort of how I feel reading Kuti Kuti, the free tabloid from the Finnish cartooning studio of the same name. Reminiscent of the much-loved Paper Rodeo to an almost frightening degree, Kuti Kuti offers up a similar mix of bizarre fantasy, blackout sketch humor, and an iconography that mixes comics, kids' books, '80s junk culture and video games. If there's one major difference it's that the artists behind Kuti Kuti favor color more than the furious mark making and ratty lines that the American publication favored. The colors in Kuti Kuti feel soaked into the page, like the whole publication should be made heavier. They bring with them a general aesthetic of boardwalk vibrancy, like the furry, glow in the dark posters one used to be able to score at the state fair.

Like any incident of love at first sight, the realization that it won't last comes with it, and even adds to the experience. I don't know that I'd like every comic here were I able to read them, or that I'd enjoy each one give to me in serial order. The majority I can stumble through because of a translation or because they're silent seem designed to add to the overall effect more than they exist to provide a satisfactory artistic experience on their own. But I sure like that initial run through the pages, the sense of one new -- to me -- talent after another, the discovery of American artists like Jeffrey Brown and Anders Nilsen placed into an entirely different context, and blends of approaches and presentation I've either never seen or to which I've barely been exposed. All that for free. What's not to like?

posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Arnold Wagner, RIP

Daily Cartoonist reports that the Salem, Oregon-based cartoonist and writer about comics Arnold Wagner passed away last week after a recurrence of cancer. Wagner was perhaps best known as a co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cartooning and as a co-founder of the 1960 magazine The PRO Cartoonist & Gagwriter. He was also an active presence in many cartooning communities, and kept an eclectic comics-related blog. According to a biographical post excerpted here, Wagner worked mostly in "gag cartooning, advertising and illustration."

I will supplement this post with better information as I'm able to discover it.
posted 6:26 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Second Banned Opus Comic

imageMaybe I'm not looking at it the right way this morning, but all I can think is that this has to be the most innocuous, goofiest thing ever banned as potentially dangerous speech in the history of things being banned as potentially dangerous speech. It's also almost impossible to detect anything in the way of the underlying creative urgency that's usually behind something that gets banned. If you'd like to pick "right now" as the time to start rooting against print newspapers and everything having to do with them, I'm not going to argue with you.
posted 6:24 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

While not directly involved, memories of riots, deaths, boycotts and international political turmoil in early 2006 caused by the publication of Muhammed caricatures in the paper Jyllands-Posten certainly inform the current, at this time more modest but more quickly progressing sequel surrounding the publication of a Muhammed caricature by Lars Vilks in a Swedish newspaper.

* Egypt and Turkey have joined Iran and Pakistan as nations offering up some sort of official, party- or national-level negative response to the cartoon's publication.

* Copies of the publication were burned in Orebro.

* The newspaper will run the offending editorial's text in Arabic; the same article has Vilks saying he's received multiple death threats.

I think a distinction worth tracking here is in the differing aims of the two newspapers, although I'm not sure the debate hasn't been totally hijacked by political people doing what they want to do with it, rendering all analysis futile.

P.S. -- Terrorism-related arrests in Copenhagen is a big news item today, and it's likely many of the articles will mention the cartoons as a reason why Denmark's officials were worried about something like this developing.
posted 6:22 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: 1978 Chinese Comics Art

posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink Annual Paul Levitz Interview talks with DC President and Publisher Paul Levitz at San Diego, which I believe is a tradition at the comics business news and analysis site. A sustained interview like this one can always be considered a must-read for industry wonks.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

There's not a lot that jumps out at me as being worth talking about, really. By Levitz' own admissions, he's engaged with projects very early on in their development, which gives him a kind of broad view of things -- not a lot of grit and detail in his descriptions of DC's various efforts. He makes a philosophical point about Zuda where he offers up that a publisher justifies itself by providing value to the creation that the creator can't, which I think is fine, but I also think invites some really strict analysis of what happens with those comics in terms of how the creators are treated and how successful they are in relation to successful self-publishers of webcomics.

There are a couple of vague points that gained my attention, kind of related. I always find it odd whenever anyone at the Big Two contrasts the opportunities for selling through comics shops with the opportunities provided other retail outlets as if they didn't have a gigantic hand in shaping the kind of market comics shops have and pursue and maintain. I also find it weird when mainstream publishers talk about the breadth of the field and what's possible now, when their resources made such changes possible a long time ago, they just chose not to pursue those things in sustained fashion. So I guess in general there's something about re-casting the profit motive into a structural impediment that irks me a bit.
posted 6:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Johnny Ryan Interview


A long interview by Noah Berlatsky, a significant portion of which ran in The Comics Journal #279.
posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

El Jueves Creative Team Faces Fine

imageArtist Guillermo Torres and writer Manuel Fontdevila will face a fine somewhere between four and five thousand dollars USD at a trial announced Thursday. The creative team is being tried for a caricature of Crown Prince Felipe and wife Letizia that graced the cover [pictured] of the July issue of El Jueves. The genesis of that joke was based on a recent decision to pay young couple for conceiving a child, and underlined the perceived, growing uselessness of members of the Spanish royal family, by having the Prince say to his wife something to the effect that if his wife were to get pregnant, it would be the closest thing he had ever done to work.

The subsequent seizure and destruction of the magazine shocked a lot of folks both in and out of Spain because of Spain's record for not doing things that jeopardized or called into question full and unfettered free speech. I believe this announcement is important because it shows exactly what the prosecutor will be seeking; initial reports indicated the prosecution might be able to pursue a short jail sentence. Then again, I don't read Spanish in a way that might enable me to confirm or check for updates, and I generally have a hard time parsing the French industry articles for salient detail.

The magazine's editor said last week they would certainly do another cover like the one being prosecuted.
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Scott Shaw!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Google To Run AP Content

It's more a gut feeling than something I could diagram on a chalkboard, but Google's assumption of Associated Press content feels like one of those important cogs falling into place as the landscape surrounding newspapers and their on-line iterations slowly transforms.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Paul Smith!

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Post-Holiday Noodling On The Internet

An extra day on the weekend means an extra day for media sources and folks on the ground to have generated higher-profile-than-usual features and profiles on assorted cartoonists and comics folk:

* profile of the great Steve Bell

* photos from the Kim Deitch/Megan Kelso event at the Fantagraphics bookstore.

* images from D&Q's forthcoming Doug Wright books (August 31 entry)

* Video and slides from an Iconic Languages conference at the University of New Mexico in early August

* feature article on the continuing power of Naji al-Ali's child cartoon icon Handala

* post from Matthias Wivel at Metabunker on lazy visual referencing

* article in Art Scene on Tom Neely
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Nickelodeon Mona Lisas!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
An Argument Against Naked People
Discussion of Photo's Argument Against Naked People

Mike Manley Frames
Editorial Feedback From Manga Editors

SPX's Newspaper Guests
Report From Vancouver Show
Jewish Elements in Comics Exhibit
Baltimore Con to Honor Mike Wieringo

Look at Anime Online
That's A Lot Of Dead Mutants

Poll On
Thai Cartoonists Go Mobile
Effort to Bring Comics to Soldiers
The Kids, They Love the Death Note
Progressive Magazine on Opus Affair

Wizard: Kevin Feige
MangaBlog: Mark Crilley
New York Times: Perry Moore
Comic Addiction: Ben Templesmith
Turkish Daily News: Flemming Rose

Not Comics
James Kochalka, Movie Star
John Constantine Photo Day
David Rees Play at Bumbershoot
Ninjas to Blame, Not Homophobia
On-Line Comics Site Launches Video Arm
Video of McGuire's All-Time Comics Short Here
Eddie Campbell Selling BDDA Pages Through Beguiling

Henry Payne Starts Blog
Archie Title Changes Name
New Comics Magazine Imminent
Dubious Event to Foster Special Comic

Jog: Uptight #2
Hervé St-Louis: Simpsons Comics #131
Johanna Draper Carlson: Go With Grace
Johanna Draper Carlson: Jane's World Vol. 7

September 3, 2007

CR Review: Devilish Greetings


Creators: Monte Beauchamp
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, soft cover, 168 pages, September 2007, $18.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560978718 (ISBN13)

Monte Beauchamp's follow-up to his highly successful The Devil in Design reads like a sequel: less tightly focused, much more of the same, to an overall slightly diminished effect. Beauchamp presents in straight forward fashion 150 or so illustrations of the devil on postcards taking from just before the turn of the 20th Century to just past its halfway point. What one will likely take away from an initial reading is a degree of pleasure at looking over so many cool drawings, an appreciation as to how many depictions of the devil were in currency during that great period for commercial art, and how widespread cartoon tropes were even in illustration projects without a whiff of comics on their breath.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the book's visual exploration of the Devil in postcard form proves to be the mundane, everyday quality of the interactions shown between man and Satan. There aren't a whole lot of "Night on Bald Mountain"-type devil figure blotting out the sun in these pages. Much more common than a figure of theological import is an imp or agent of diminished to normal height plaguing someone or leading them astray. There aren't enough post-1945 samples for me to be certain, but one has to wonder if there was a public re-orientation by believers towards a grander, more powerful figure on the historical stage as a nuclear Armageddon grew in likelihood. I think I prefer the bulk of these pictures of Scratch as opposed to someone with an End of Days vibe: a devil with which to wrestle in one's everyday life. It's a lot easier to stick your thumb in the eye of a figure that doesn't stretch horizon to horizon.
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Historical Labor Prints


this is also my preferred way of getting around cons
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

No Apology Coming From Swedes in New Controversy Around Muhammed 'Toon

A protest outside the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda capped off a flurry of protests late last week regarding that publication's printing of a Lars Vilks cartoon depicting Muhammed's head on the body of a dog. Complaints to Swedish diplomats from authorities in Iran and Pakistan were made earlier in the week. Around 300 people attended the rally. Don't wait up, the newspaper officially responded on Saturday. The Organization of the Islamic Conference decided Sunday to criticize the use of the cartoon a second time, but urged Muslims to make their reactions peaceful.
posted 6:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 84th Birthday, Mort Walker!

posted 6:16 am PST | Permalink

Sam Glanzman Art Being Sold to Benefit "Willy Schultz" Collaborator Will Franz

Mark Evanier has an excellent summary of the situation here; I agree with his general evaluation of Glanzman's sometimes under-appreciated work and how the comics in question relate to the rest of his career.
posted 6:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Paul Chadwick!

posted 6:12 am PST | Permalink

Reminder: Hybrid FBoFW Begins Today

imageAs mentioned here late last week following a sudden, final, confirming announcement, Lynn Johnston's mega-hit For Better or For Worse starts its hybrid formatting today. This will involve framing sequences and then past runs of strips. Apparently, for the first several months, the strip will switch between this approach and first-run strips involving the Patterson clan mainly intended to -- or at least expanded to include -- resolution of a romantic storyline involving daughter Elizabeth and hometown beau Anthony. I can't imagine that many papers will switch off the strip before the last "present day" storyline ends, which means that a lot of people will get a healthy dose of hybrid to kick off the Fall.
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 48th Birthday, Flint Henry!

posted 6:08 am PST | Permalink

Holiday Noodling Around the Internet

It's a holiday in the U.S., anyway. Labor Day used to be the last day of summer for a lot of us when we were kids. It seems like most kids go back to school mid-August now. Sorry, kids of today. Here are some of the feature-y items from last weekend in case you're at work or your idea of a holiday includes reading/watching/learning stuff about comics:

* Gary Groth talks to the man who may be our greatest living cartoonist, Kim Deitch.

* "Infallible is the word for Mantle" may be the greatest phrase ever written for a comic book character.

* Chris Butcher seems to throw an elbow or two while taking on the idea of a dearth of manga for adults.

* Eric Reynolds' potential heel turn causes Internet panic.

* The suite of BBC comics-related documentaries may now be considered formally previewed.

* Beneficiaries of nice, major media source profile/reviews over the weekend include Adrian Tomine, Scott Chantler, and George Herriman.

* Happy 30th Birthday, Nostalgia and Comics!
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 33rd Birthday, Ethan Van Sciver!

posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Report From McFarlane Store Opening

Will Someone Sell This Man a Vowel?

I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Khalaji Wins ISDT Award
Shreveport [Hearts] Baby Blues
North American Manga Market Profile

Not Comics
This Guy Likes To Read
Morning With A Cartoon
Mandrake's Son Is Named Leon
They're Doing Live Action Dragonball Z?

Naruto Blitz Begins
Maybe the Most OTBP Book of the Year

Paul O'Brien: Various
Richard Krauss: LOCs
Andre Alexis: Krazy Kat
Peter Terzian: Shortcomings
Paul O'Brien: Mice Templar #1
Bob Weinberg: Fallout, Scalped
Richard Krauss: Papercutter #5
Brian Cronin: Comic Foundry #1
Paul O'Brien: World War Hulk: X-Men
WaPo Staff: That MF Grimm Vertigo Book
Richard Krauss: The Eye Hand of the Carolinas

September 2, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Nick Abadzis



imageLike many devout followers of the first alt-comix generation, I first became aware of the cartoonist Nick Abadzis through his Hugo Tate serial in Deadline during comics' post-Maus, pre-Marvels churn as well as the book's subsequent, partial collection, Hugo Tate: O America. Hugo Tate was an ambitious, sprawling work with the sensibility of a modern novel, a comic that lingers in memory as a signature book of that brief but expansive period in the art form's history. Abadzis briefly registered on the scene as a writer at Vertigo but found his cartooning niche doing graphic novels for various traditional book publishers. He's kept his hand in the more tradition side of English-language comics as an anthology contributor; he's attended the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland and done some self-published books as well.

imageLaika was one of the first books I can remember being announced for the First Second line. Signing Abadzis to a book-length, full-color project did as much as anything in staking out that publisher's unique artistic niche. The story of the world's first space traveler, a dog sent up in the Soviet space program, Laika is a curious and engaging mix of moods, approaches, formal strategies, soap opera, psychological profiling and history. It's also, like most of the author's work, unmistakably Abadzis'. The cartoonist was nice enough to work with me on this interview in very speedy fashion due to the imminent arrival of this new work into bookstores and comics shops nationwide. I had a fun time talking to him.


TOM SPURGEON: Nick, other than a Project: Superior short, I can't remember seeing a lot of recent comics from you. What exactly made you decide to get back into comics with such a massive work as Laika?

NICK ABADZIS: From my point of view, I'm not getting back into comics -- I never left. But I can see how, from the USA, it'd look that way. As a cartoonist, I started in the late '80s contributing Hugo Tate to Deadline and also wrote scripts for mainstream institutions like 2000AD and Marvel UK to support that work. In the mid-'90s, when the bottom dropped out of the UK scene and forums for alternative comics like Deadline came to an end, I carried on doing comics -- which, apart from writing one mini-series for Vertigo, was work for children -- either as a cartoonist or an editor. In 2000, after a couple of years doing stuff for the BBC and creating GNs for a children's literacy scheme, I first attended SPX. I'd wanted to get back to doing some of my own more personal work again, and that was one of the things that gave me a shot in the arm to do it. The aim was always to do a longer work as that's the form that most interests me.

SPURGEON: Eddie Campbell is I think a fan of your children's book work. Can you talk about that work, and how it might have changed your approach to comics?

ABADZIS: Good old Eddie. I guess the work that he's talking about must be the Pleebus Planet books, as opposed to the literacy scheme GNs, which were pretty stiff. I'd do more Pleebus books if I got the chance. Mr. Pleebus himself was a character who first cropped up in Deadline, in Hugo Tate's dreams, to be precise. He was also a background character in various pubs and bars that I'd draw: he'd only ever say "Pleebus" so you could presume he'd been in the bar for a long time. I thought he'd make a good character for children as he seemed like a benign sort of fellow and shopped a few proposals around some children's book publishers. I was having an exasperating experience with DC getting a second mini-series off the ground; it didn't feel like the right direction to go and Orchard Books gave me a green light. So I spent the next four years producing one 62-page Pleebus GN yearly for them.

It was bit of a case of "out of the frying pan," though. The demands of a children's publisher were very different from comics -- I think the Pleebus books would have been far more whacked-out had I been given carte blanche. Apart from a couple of understanding editors -- who commissioned the books -- there was this slightly snobby attitude on the part of the management there, almost like they were soiling their lily-white hands by publishing comics. It was all a bit Victorian. Things have changed here a little now, thankfully. A little, but not a lot. Although I was creating comics that I liked, there was still this sense of being reigned in. I missed the freedom of doing Hugo Tate and the other strips I created for Deadline. I thought about self-publishing again -- I'd done some mini-comics during the Deadline days with Steve Whitaker, who is known mostly as a colorist -- and eventually I did get around to doing that again. All of which fed into the eventual creation of Laika, I think.


SPURGEON: Why did you decide to go with such densely packed narrative pages? I'm not used to seeing that many panels a page in a standard-sized trade, and your comic is stuffed with them.

ABADZIS: I had a lot of story to tell and I took the decision to condense some stuff down rather than dispense with it completely. A lot got excised. I found myself thinking, at one point, that I could distill everything down to pictograms -- ultimately, you can boil comics down into a form of hieroglyphic writing, but I think in this case it would've been at the expense of emotional punch. You can play with the focus of comics, how near or how far you get to your subject but you have to be mindful of what you might sacrifice if you lose all your nuanced material. Pictograms with emotional punch -- that's an experiment for another book (I can imagine it looking something like ancient Chinese paintings). I wanted to make the reader less passive, and one way of doing that is making them work, both emotionally and with the rhythm of the panels, the arrangement of text and imagery and the ratio between those elements. It's all important.

That said, whenever you finish a comics project and look back at it with the benefit of hindsight, there are always things you'd change. I'd have liked some extra pages to allow chapter two a little more room to breathe. I could've added another 50 pages or so but I'd committed to two hundred at this point and I was working against time anyway. You must respect your reader, that's imperative, and all the grammar of comics is there to help you do that but I had to get the story out of me. In the end, I just went with what I had and tried to make it accessible and make it flow. I hope it still managed to draw you in.

SPURGEON: I would love it if you could give us some idea of your research. I know that you traveled some, but beyond that I'm not sure of the scope of what you dug into.

ABADZIS: I read a lot. First of all, I just brushed up on my childhood interest in the space race between the US and the USSR via a few readily available books but very quickly I found there wasn't much on Laika in those bar the odd, fleeting mention. I went to the British Library and dug around; I was put in contact with the head librarian of the Russian collection there and she was very kind in translating a few morsels of information from obscure old Russian technical books and memoirs. I hunted on the internet and bought a bunch of out-of-print books; during my research more books about that period of the USSR's history were published. Quite late in the day I came across a children's book by a guy called Chris Dubbs called Space Dogs; that was helpful in giving me info on the names of many of the other dogs. Asif Siddiqi's Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge was invaluable, as was James Harford's biography of Korolev and Paul Dickson's Sputnik: The Shock of the Century.

I contacted various space experts around the globe for advice on certain technical matters. Asif Siddiqi, one of the USA's foremost space historians was particularly helpful, especially in helping me detail the command structure of IMBP. I asked all sorts of people for help with, for example, what sorts of supersonic aircraft the Soviets had in the 1950s and to help with accuracy of military uniforms. It didn't help that the Soviets were so secretive and kept few records about this sort of thing.

One thing that no-one could give me a categorical answer for was precisely when Laika was put into the capsule -- before or after the rocket was rolled out onto the launch pad. Was she put into it while the rocket lay on its side in the assembly rooms or was she put in later? Was the capsule, with the dog inside, hoisted to the top of the rocket upright and fixed there, or was the poor animal allowed to languish on her side with the rest of the rocket while it was stacked together? On this particular query, there was a lot of speculation, on my part and the experts' but no-one could say absolutely for sure. In the end, I found a narrative solution to the problem that fit with one of my characters' journeys. I came up against some strange problems like that.

imageProbably the most interesting seam of information I came upon was at the Smithsonian, which has a Video History Archive. One of the things available to researchers was a whole bunch of taped interviews and transcripts with Oleg Gazenko and some of his colleagues. I got to see what the real Gazenko was like and there was also a lot of visual material on IMBP that was very useful.

After I'd finished the second draft and it was time to begin drawing, the BBC showed an excellent docudrama called Space Race that heavily featured [Sergei] Korolev. A little too late for me, unfortunately but it did give me one useful detail that made it into the book: that the engineers pissed on their rockets before they launched them.

And, finally, I did also travel to Moscow. I wrote to RSC Energia, formerly OKB-1, Korolev's design bureau in the hope they might let me take a look around. I also wrote to IMBP, a couple of times in fact, and I even tried to contact Academician Gazenko through the Academy of Sciences but none of them replied and I was on a limited timescale. The Museum of Cosmonautics did reply though and through them I managed to get an invitation to look around Korolev's house, which is now a private museum. Besides all that, it was important for me to go to Moscow, just to get a feel for the place and the people.

SPURGEON: You're not only using these figures as historical role-players, but investing them with personality and marching them through a lot of straight-up drama. How did you go about researching the personal side of your characters, the way they interacted with each other, and how much of that was invented?

ABADZIS: I took care to build in real historical detail which I culled from various sources -- Asif Siddqi's Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge was excellent for that, as was James Harford's biography of Korolev and even the video interviews with Gazenko -- who didn't seem to like Korolev much. Little incidental details, like Yazdovsky taking Laika home with him to play with his kids, the story of Korolev finding the loaf of bread in the snow, [Anatoli] Blagonravov taking his favorite cosmodog home with him when he feared for her safety. The book is layered through with a lot of real historical detail like that.

As for the interaction of the characters -- and the addition of my own fictional ones -- I had to recognize the fact that, although I wished to make the book as accurate as I could, often I would err on the side of drama. I was dramatizing the story and my own themes would creep into the telling of it, whether consciously or subconsciously. My Gazenko and Korolev are based upon the real people but they are, inevitably, my versions of those people, characters in a book. It's unavoidable. You can read all the factual stuff you like in research, then it's best to forget it all and concentrate on telling the story. You'll remember the important stuff when it's time to employ it.

Occasionally, in visual terms, I fibbed a bit to heighten drama -- for example, I went a bit James Bond on the control room at the end. No way did the Soviets have bunker like that at that time; it was probably more like a dugout filled with a bit of equipment. But that wouldn't have looked as cool and, hey, ultimately I'm a cartoonist. I also exaggerated the size of the R-7 rocket and added the box room device to the gantry, which they didn't have anything like until [Yuri] Gagarin was launched. But these were visual embellishments; all the facts are straight up.

imageSPURGEON: You keep mentioning Sergei Korolev, a grand figure of 20th Century history and a major player in your narrative. What became important to you in what you learned about him that you wanted to portray in Laika?

ABADZIS: He was a fascinating individual whose sheer force of will was largely responsible for making the Russian space program happen with relatively few resources. At least, that's compared to the US Aerospace industry, which was gearing up to provide everything that the space effort there would need at the same time. But he's far less celebrated than comparable figures of the 20th century, certainly less than his immediate opposite, the infamous Werner Von Braun with all his Mickey Mouse Club appearances and Nazi history. That's partially because of the fact that Korolev's identity only came out when the Soviet Union fell and perhaps partially because worldwide media culture simply isn't as turned on by real space history anymore. Perhaps it's just a failure of imagination on the part of our culture, I dunno.

Korolev was a massively determined man, damaged at some level by his experiences at the gulag during Stalin's purges. Gazenko called him a "typical product of the Soviet system of that time. He had been imprisoned but he still worked hard for his country." In a way the whole story of Laika is begun by the inhumanities that are done to Korolev; it's a cycle of abuse that continues throughout the book. For all his flaws, for all his politicking, it's a romantic dream wanting to build rockets to go to the moon, which he managed to do by astonishing political sleight-of-hand. He was commissioned to build ICBMs and later convinced Khrushchev that the fact that these rockets had enough power to lift a vehicle into orbit was incidental. That may or may not be true. If he'd ever admitted otherwise, he'd have been incarcerated again or worse. He had a great detractor in the form of a guy called [Valentin] Glushko who was a genius engine designer and every bit Korolev's equal. I wanted to put all that in the book, but there wasn't room. Glushko just makes a couple of cameos. Again, through sheer force of personality, Korolev pushed past him, anyway.

I personally like to believe that Korolev was both a grand romantic, a maverick and a visionary, but I'm not sure that he could've been an entirely pleasant character to have been around. Oh, and did I mention that he helped kill a dog? Getting his dream off the ground was more important to him than anything.

SPURGEON: You mentioned trying to get a hold of Oleg Gazenko, who is still alive; was there any contact with living people at all, or people that knew the principals, in your research? Were attempts at face to face contact made?

ABADZIS: Yes, I did attempt to contact both institutions and people. I presented myself as a storyteller rather than a cartoonist; still didn't get much joy but now I've been to Moscow I realize that any and all of those institutions are glacial in terms of how fast they move.

SPURGEON: Was it difficult working with history that in a sense is that raw? Was there any tendency to overplay certain aspects knowing the final fate of the Soviet Union, for instance?

ABADZIS: With regard to the idea of raw history, I'd come up against the whole idea of how to/how not to treat it when I was setting up a children's magazine in the early 2000s based on the Horrible Histories books here in the UK. I remember having a fairly heated discussion with my managing editor about how we should treat the installments that dealt with World Wars I and II. She wanted to maintain the same level of jokiness throughout but I argued that there were people who were still alive who remembered fighting in the trenches and losing comrades and that we should be respectful of that. We could still tell jokes about the institutions involved, the people, and the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in, but don't take the piss out of the horror of the experience. And it's easier to be funny about the long dead than it is about recent dead anyway, for good reasons. No-one can remember the horror, we can only imagine it.

But I'm digressing. With regard to Laika, I did try to be careful and was mindful that certain people were still alive. I don't know if anyone in Russia has read the book yet. I don't think the final fate of the Soviet Union had that large an effect on the way I wrote the book... you attempt to put yourself in the hearts and minds of your characters and they certainly couldn't see an end to it.


SPURGEON: Since I assume Laika's pre-space program owners were a fabrication, can you describe how you created those characters, and what you hoped to communicate through their specific quirks and personalities? Because there are certainly parallels between Laika's two sets of owners, and certainly those are characters of a certain class and position within Soviet society that we only see in those characters.

ABADZIS: Well, what I wanted to evoke in the reader is a sense of empathy with the characters. I suppose that was my starting point. Plus you want to take them on a journey, one that gives them something, even if the characters are pretty broad, deliberately so in chapter two. Laika's on record as being an even-tempered animal who wanted to please and who put up with a hell of a lot in terms of her training. This was why she was chosen as primary candidate for the Sputnik II mission. So I wanted to explore how that might have come about, but also the kind of patterns that might have reoccurred in her life to put her in a situation where she became the only living being from this planet ever to have been rocketed into space without the intention of getting them back.

You can take all the potential stories that might've led up to that fact and put them in a pot and come up with anything: I tried that and it didn't fit. It seemed better to keep it pretty unspectacular and almost cliched, with the idea of the sweet little kid who loves her dog. It's concise character development, and that worked for me after the earlier ideas that I dumped. I knew the real Laika was approximately two to three years old when Sputnik II came about -- could she have had any puppies? That was an idea I looked at and dropped. That would've dovetailed in with Korolev's own troubled relationship with his daughter, another sub-plot that got dropped.

In truth, I think the real Laika's story was probably a bit less colorful than what I portrayed through the characters I chose but certainly as banal. Banal in the sense that fate conspired to put her where she ended up, and nothing extraordinary intervened. I saw stray dogs all over the place when I was in Moscow, so not much has changed. A friend who lives there told me that one of the pastimes in the suburbs, in those big Stalinesque tower blocks, is shooting dogs. We went to a market out there and saw a bear chained up. It was supposed to be dancing, but it didn't look like there was a lot to dance about around there, whether you were a bear or a human. I guess, through the characters, I was trying to put a sense of both the randomness of life and its coincidences across, even through a fairly tightly-structured graphic narrative.

Each of the main characters in chapter two have an analogue somewhere else in the book, through whom that character's themes are developed. With the exception of Korolev, there's no one human character who runs all the way through the story. One of the themes of the book is escaping cycles of abuse (or not, as the case may be) and why they occur. Certainly Mikhail was created in service of that. But if you're honest and follow the line of a character, that can change how you write the story. In this situation, certain things were fixed because of what's recorded, but it was interesting to riff on certain suggestions I came across in research and play them out through my characters -- some of whom were based upon these real figures in history, some of whom were fictional. But you read between the lines and you flesh things out. Maybe this isn't exactly the way it happened, but you're creating a sense that events might have unfolded this way and the characters weave in and out of the real history and support it.


SPURGEON: Can you describe the point at which the book started to come together for you, where you could see the way it ultimately turned out? What is the biggest difference from the book as it turned out in comparison to the book you originally conceived of?

ABADZIS: I often have an amorphous idea of what a story could turn out like -- a sort of story goal, if you like. But any one thing during the process can change that and make the creative outcome totally different from how you thought it would be. Originally, very early on in the process (as in the first piece of promo artwork I did to sell the proposal), Laika talked. That very swiftly got thrown out; I don't think I was ever actually serious about that. Empathy and sympathy and working to evoke those from the reader are good; sentiment and anything twee isn't. Laika is already cute and she's a dog with dog behavior; it was tough but one of the things I was sure about was if she was going to be anthropomorphized then it should be, as far as possible, through the eyes of a human character. You want to engage the emotions of your reader without making them throw up and the only yardstick I had to go by while writing was my own feelings. And my own limitations as an artist, I guess. Anytime I caught myself going saccharine I pulled back; I worked hard on boiling the story down, both factually and, I hope, to a sort of emotional truth. That maybe sounds a bit pompous, but that was definitely a big part of the process. I think I got there about halfway through the first draft; thereafter it was about shaping the second draft to get the sense of the irrevocable; a dog and a few people caught up in an invisible game between two superpowers.

It got to a point where it really took flight, actually -- sorry. It was certainly the most rewarding creative experience of my career. During the drawing, I was sometimes making six pages in a day -- pages I liked! I'm quite a fast cartoonist, but that was quite a speed for me.


SPURGEON: What was the significance of those pages with a yellow background?

ABADZIS: Summertime: late afternoon sunshine.

SPURGEON: I thought it might have something to do with time, but I couldn't be sure.

ABADZIS: It does have something to do with time: it's signifying the end of an era. It's the comfortable time before the sudden change, the calm before the storm.

SPURGEON: You wrote a fascinating couple of paragraphs about Dudley Watkins for the Read Yourself Raw site. How do you think the classic British kids comics from cartoonists like Leo Baxendale and Watkins has an influence on your work?

ABADZIS: They were among my earliest influences. Ken Reid and Baxendale were hilariously misanthropic and anti-establishment, Watkins was gentler perhaps but no less surreal when he wanted to be and punchy with it. They could just create whole worlds on a page and so, naturally enough to my child-mind, that's what I wanted to do too. I was always told I was reading too many comics at school but my mother encouraged it as she saw no problem -- it was all reading.

It's probably a weird thing to say, but I think that Watkins, and Herge, taught me subtlety at an early age, that you could have broad stuff going on next to these very tiny moments of time also, panels that served no more than to show a character's split-second register of an emotion. For example, every Oor Wullie strip was topped and tailed by Wullie sitting on his bucket considering that day's story, never more than a single page. In a way it was the brevity of Watkins' work, the need to tell a story in such a short space that made it so clever. He was a master at riffing on the most basic situations and building a story's plot around it.

I remember my mother always liking Oor Wullie in particular. It was sort of working class, in that all he had to his name was a pet mouse and a bucket and that, together with his friends and his imagination, was all he needed to make him happy. I'm not sure if she recognized that the artist was the same guy, but Mum loved Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty so maybe that's why she liked Oor Wullie. Although Wullie existed in a sort of happy working class 'tween wars world, it appealed to her because she recognized it. Her family was incredibly poor and as a little girl she used to search bombed-out buildings for comics -- she grew up in south London which was heavily bombed during the Blitz. Something about that association entered my psyche at a very early age; the thought of this little girl searching bombed-out buildings for old issues of The Dandy so she could read Desperate Dan. So I guess the connection and the influence is an emotive one too but I can still pick up the work by those artists today and get completely absorbed by it.


SPURGEON: I remember your book being one of the first First Second projects discussed out in the open. What's the editorial support for Laika been like? Do you work well with an editor? What does a great editor do for you?

ABADZIS: The best editors know when to leave you alone! And they know how to prod you and kick your ass, gently. Everyone needs that sometimes. FS has been very supportive and they gave me a great degree of freedom to pursue the telling of the story the way I wanted to and I'm very grateful for that. They also gave excellent notes on the first draft -- Mark Siegel gave me some great pep talks on art and Tanya McKinnon gave superb notes; she was responsible for suggesting some small but far-reaching structural changes that really, really helped certain characters be defined. A few friends also read the book; I got some excellent, insightful notes on the first draft from Jason Little and a lot of encouragement from some other cartoonists, Jessica Abel, Matt Madden, Paul-Peart Smith, Patrice Aggs.

SPURGEON: Was there anything you didn't get into the book that you originally wanted to?

ABADZIS: There's a version of Laika that's 800 pages long, in my head. There just wasn't the time to do it. I wanted to tell Gagarin and Korolev's stories too -- maybe it's a trilogy, a phantom trilogy right now, one day to be completed. There's the Glushko/Korolev rivalry I mentioned, Korolev's troubled relationship with his daughter to name but two things. You could pick almost any stage of his life and it would be fascinating, but the book is ostensibly about Laika. Well, I found him fascinating and contradictory; the challenge is putting across some of the man's personality to readers who might otherwise not. As for Laika herself -- Kudryavka, rather -- I wish I could have put my hands on any of the original documentation about her, but that wasn't to be.

SPURGEON: Laika seems to provide multiple entry points. I can imagine fans of the space race, dog lovers, and fans of historical drama all liking it, and the age range of who could read it and enjoy it seems pretty up and down the charts, too. Was that intentional on your part? Is there a reading or an access point to your work that may not be apparent on a first glance, one that you value that maybe isn't the place most of your readers will come from?

ABADZIS: In 2002, when I first had the thought to do the story as a comic, I'll admit it was pretty one-dimensional: "Ooh, dog in space, cool." I thought I could just do a straight up documentary, which would have been an entirely valid approach. But as I began reading up I realized that to do it justice in any way at all I'd have to do some research, and then I realized I'd have to plug gaps in all that research. My natural instinct is to do that as a storyteller, so I followed that. That's when I really became aware of how it could have a wide appeal. But I was also determined to tell the story for myself; I'd become kind of obsessed with it. But that's when you know something good is happening, you're beginning to live and breathe the characters. I wanted it to appeal to people and so did Mark Siegel who completely understood that when I pitched the idea to him. I want more people to read my book, and I want more people to read comics. Maybe some people will come to the book thinking it's just about a cute space dog: good. It is that but hopefully they'll get a little more from it than that.


SPURGEON: The feeling that stayed with me coming out of Laika was a sense of the story as a series of human kindnesses within a system or set of circumstances that didn't necessarily value those parts of the human condition. How sympathetic were you in the creating of this book towards the positions in which each character found themselves enmeshed?

ABADZIS: Pretty sympathetic, I guess. After all, you can't choose where you're born or in what political, religious or cultural system you're brought up in. You make your own decisions as you get older, but you can't help but be formed by the environment and system around you. The real challenge for anybody, or any of the characters in this book, is to see over the top of the wall of that.

SPURGEON: What's next, Nick? You're not going to slip away from us again, are you?

ABADZIS: Nah. I've got another two GNs in the works, plus a slew of other projects -- some as an editor too. The big one is for FS though. It's called Skin Trouble and it'll be a very different project from Laika. Parts of it are set in Alexandria, Jamaica, London and New York. I'm also hoping to get a complete Hugo Tate out there reasonably soon, as about half the original strips were never collected. I'm really enjoying the work I'm doing right now.


* cover to the First Second book, out this month
* panel from Hugo Tate
* stand-alone illustration of Laika
* Hugo Tate, O America cover
* one of the Mr. Pleebus books
* page from Laika; note the number of panels and the use of insets
* Oleg Gazenko illustration
* Sergei Korolev illustration
* fictional characters brought in by Abadzis to represent Laika's earlier owners
* Laika still talks, but only if the listener is drunk
* one of the yellow pages
* a dramatic panel sequence
* one of those moments of kindness that are found throughout the book
* a stand-alone Laika-related illustration from Abadzis' site


Laika, Nick Abadzis, First Second Books, soft cover, 208 pages, 9781596431010, September 2007, $17.95


posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Georgia, I'd Go To This

posted 6:28 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: building blown up for comic book movie

* go, read: Craig Yoe on Ku Klux Klan comics

* go, watch: video for James Kochalka's book

* Go, Look: more Ed Wheelan comics

* Go, Look: even more Ed Wheelan comics
posted 6:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Irma Stolz

posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Walt Simonson!

posted 6:05 am PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

Don't tell anybody, but I have a great job.
posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

September 1, 2007

If I Were In Georgia, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from August 25 to August 31, 2007:

1. Your Swedish cartoons controversy update?

2. Lynn Johnston's For Better or For Worse announces it will do its first trapped in amber/classic strips cycle starting Monday.

3. Retailer pleads guilty to selling bootlegged CD and DVDs from his shop.

Winner Of The Week
Jeff Smith

Losers Of The Week
Criminal Retailers

Quote Of The Week
"I was in Columbus, Ohio one time and I walked into a bar and I said, 'Is there a good local beer?' and they all stared at me and looked at me and I said, 'I'll have a whiskey then.'" -- Warren Ellis

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 81st Birthday, Gene Colan!

posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink

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