The history of the genre known as Cartoon Advertising is addressed for the first time in the oversized, full-color, 128-page, fully illustrated book Drawing Power. “There are many obscure masterpieces to be found lingering at the intersection of American Commerce and Comic Art,” says co-editor Rick Marschall. Drawing Power covers the years from the Gilded Age and the pioneer illustrated magazines of the 1870s to the 1940s, just before American entry into World War II.
This landmark volume features the work of iconic cartoonists doing work that mostly has been lost to history, by the nature of its in-the-moment splashes. There are examples by Thomas Nast, Joseph Keppler, F Opper, Bud Fisher, George Herriman, John Held, Jr., Charles Dana Gibson, Percy Crosby, Peter Arno, Gluyas Williams, Milton Caniff and over 60 other cartoonists. Generous portfolios are devoted to the substantial work in the genre by R F Outcault, Dr Seuss, cartoon sheet music, and more.
Many famous products and many famous campaigns and slogans – but also forgotten gadgets and outrageous claims – are found in Drawing Power. Dr Scott’s Electric Cigarettes from the 1880s… Yellow Kid cigars… the Campbell Soup Kids… Rose O’Neill’s Jello-O ads… Snap, Crackle, and Pop… Little Orphan Annie’s Ovaltine… Mr Coffee Nerves… they are all here! Other “pitchmen” include Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Barney Google, Walt & Skeezix, and more!
But Drawing Power is not just a fascinating stroll down memory lane. It is a serious look at a significant category of American culture… one that has not been anthologized nor analyzed until now. Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is guaranteed not to shrink, even after repeated washings. Smooth, satisfying, easy on the throat. No longer will your friends notice your dishpan hands, once you have read Drawing Power! Buy two today!
• Review: "Alex Toth was a tale-teller and a master of erudite refinement, his avowed mission to pare away every unnecessary line and element in life and in work. His dream was to make perfect graphic stories. He was eternally searching for 'how to tell a story, to the exclusion of all else.' This long-awaited collection [Setting the Standard] shows how talent, imagination and dedication to that ideal can elevate even the most genre-locked episode into a masterpiece [of] the form and a comicbook into art." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son crafts, with the utmost care, a story of the struggles and adversities faced by cross dressing youths at the brink of blossoming into preteens.... Given the delicate subject matter of the main characters involved I felt that Shimura Takako crafted a wonderful introductory volume into the lives of these young individuals as they struggle with their identities, school life, and most of all approaching the brink of puberty." – Amy Grocki, Manga Village
• Plug/Conflict of Interest: Our own Eric Buckler has begun writing a new "Adventures in Indie Comics" column for The Snipe, and in his inaugural post he highlights Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "Drawn by Carl Barks, a pioneer in cartooning and inventor of much of Donald’s universe, the stories highlight the duck at his best 1948-1950. Like the Mickey strips, Barks’ Duck introduces us to an edgy and crazed collection of creatures in contrast to the softer Disney we are used to. The first in a series will be out in October."
• History: A fascinating footnote to Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson: at Planet Mouse, Jim Korkis writes about his involvement with eariler, unauthorized attempts to reprint Gottfredson's Mickey strips and presents two introductory essays he wrote for the aborted series
• Profile: At GALO Magazine, Emily Crawford Misztal talks to Nate Neal and looks at his debut graphic novel The Sanctuary: "While the language and the ways of the characters in the book will be unfamiliar to readers, the motives that drive them are as old and familiar as the sun. Neal sees the ancient setting as a way to get at the core of what it means to be human—in any era. 'It is a chance for me to examine human behavior on a more universal level,' Neal said. 'Sex, power, revenge, the primal stuff, is underneath everything that we do. There’s more covering over what we do now. With the cavemen, I can strip everything away and get right down to it.'"
• Feature: Rob Lammle of mental_floss posts an entertaining list of "10 Peanuts Characters You've Probaby Forgotten" — devotees of our The Complete Peanuts series will be familiar with some of them, and some of them give hints as to what to expect in future volumes!
• Analysis: At Taking Its Time, Jeff Hayes writes on the use of Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches in an academic setting, specifically the high school English classroom: "In using a text like It Was the War of the Trenches, democratic education is being practiced. It is not just because of how the book is constructed visually; we must look at it also as an artifact of importance in presenting how another culture views historical events-how those events may or may not have affected the lives of others we do not think of in the rush of war and the aftermaths that follow as we choose what is important in history and what is not."
Let me be clear here: Every word that follows is accurate.
I answered the phone at Fantagraphics, and it turned out to be Ernest Borgnine. The main cause for his call was to check on an order, but he also talked a little about comics, and generally about how important it was to follow your dream. I wanted to tell him how much I loved The Wild Bunch, but he waved off any talk of his movies.
"What a nice guy," I thought after I hung up, and went to tell Gary Groth. But I found Gary tearfully working on an obituary for Borgnine, which confused me for a couple of reasons, first because I'd just talked to the guy (was it some weird Borgnine impostor I'd spoken to, or was news of Borgnine's death wrong?), second because I wasn't sure why Gary was so upset, third because Gary said he'd been interviewing Borgnine's father for the obituary and it was so sad when your child dies before you do, but how could that be possible, wasn't Borgnine like 90 years old? What was his dad, 115?
Anyway, I went to our order department and tracked down three mail orders from Borgnine, which were also sort of sad, each was just for a couple back issues of nemo: The Classic Comics Library (at the special $2.00 discount price), he'd duplicated his order for a couple of issues between two of them, and two came with personal checks under different names, and one with a postal money order. He was that poor (and confused)? And if he was dead, should we cash the checks and send the orders or not?
Thom Powers was working at the office so I mentioned it to him, and he told me he'd talked to Borgnine about comics himself from time to time, and Borgnine was very knowledgeable except he called Tintin "Tintin" and didn't use the proper French pronunciation "Tang-tang." Given the sad circumstances, I did not tell Thom that, like Evan Dorkin, I think Americans pronouncing Tintin "Tang-tang" is pretentious bullshit.
I found myself in the David Letterman studio, where they were preparing some bit about "Borgnine gravy," and there was this huge tube going up into the studio's rafters, packed full of what looked like turkey gravy. I did not know if this meant they were going to spray Borgnine with gravy, or if like Paul Newman he had some sort of gravy recipe he'd commercialized, or even if (the most disturbing option) it was gravy somehow made out of Borgnine.
Then my wife's alarm went off and I woke up.
(1) The preceding was accurate, as promised, in the sense that it is a 100% accurate transcription of my dream.
(2) I almost never remember dreams, let alone in such detail, except for if I'm woken up right in the middle of one.
(3) Thom Powers hasn't worked for us for 20 years (he was among other things the first EROS Comix editor).
(4) It's not hard to figure out why Borgnine was on my mind: The last thing I did before going to bed was pick an image for our distributor catalog entry for Josh Alan and Drew Friedman's Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental, and I'd picked the iconic "For Christsakes! We're all Ernest Borgnines!" image. (This was the first time I'd thought of Ernest Borgnine since he popped up on an SNL "What Up With That" skit several months back.)
(5) The second last thing I did before going to bed was watch a YouTube clip of the French actress Sara Forestier accepting her César award for Le Nom des gens (The Names of Love), which I'd stumbled across because I'd just seen the movie and enjoyed it and was curious if she was as adorable in "person" at an awards show as she was in the movie. (As it turns out, she is. She's also very funny as France Gall in Joann Sfar's Gainsbourg movie, opening later this year in some cities.) Although I genuinely did enjoy talking to Ernest Borgnine, I have to wonder what kind of dream I'd had if I'd reversed my last two actions before going to bed and had had Sara Forestier on my mind instead of Ernest Borgnine. I think I will make a point of watching a Sara Forestier clip as the last thing I do before going to bed every night for the next couple of weeks, just in case.
(6) Ernest Borgnine is still alive, 94 years old, and has to my knowledge never produced, sold, or been covered in gravy. Thom Powers produces movies in New York. There are only two issues of NEMO still available from us and neither is currently discounted to $2.00, although if you do a phone order in the next couple of days and tell the person answering the phone "Ernest Borgnine sent me" we'll sell them to you for two dollars each. Seriously, do catch The Names of Love if you can, she really is cute. Also Gainsbourg.
Apologies for the long delay since the last roundup. I enjoy bringing you these posts but lately it's been hard to squeeze them in. I may need to figure out a new approach or something. Anyway, on with the show:
• Hey, a new comic from Jonathan Bennett! Spin commissioned a 2-page strip from Jonathan as part of their commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind and posted it on Facebook (Via Spurge)
• Review: "As with Chun's earlier volumes in the series, it is fantastic to see this work brought back. The original digests were pervasive and invasive...they once arrived by the pallet to newsstands all over the country, but because of their risque and sexist slant, they've been Orwelled right out of our world. It is nice to see them presented here as the art they were. Other than their super-busty raunch (and the occasional spanking) the girly gags of Humorama have aged well because they were hidden for some fifty years. They are also harmless, sometimes woman-friendly and FUNNY." – Jim Linderman, Vintage Sleaze
• Review: "Isle of 100,000 Graves represents his first true collaboration, with writer Fabien Vehlmann providing a template that is a remarkable complement to Jason’s deadpan style.... At a crisp 57 pages, Vehlmann and Jason cram a surprising amount of plot and character development into this graphic novella, yet the book has a pleasantly unhurried pace and plenty of room for gags.... The secret hero of this book’s success is the colorist Hubert, who brings a vivid richness to the book that gives it a quality not unlike that of Carl Barks’ work.... The result is pure storytelling pleasure, a kind of narrative eye-candy that is doubly attractive for its sense of restraint and Vehlmann’s deadpan story beats." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "I never thought I could look at Poe in a way that was fresh. Poe has been done a thousand times and, while it’s always fun to watch someone else do their thing with Poe’s work, it tends to all go pretty much the same. [The Raven] is different, though. This is scaling back layers of dead flesh — Poe’s, Reed’s and Mattotti’s — and then grafting all of the raw, naked skin together to make a creature that is both disturbing and beautiful.... Knowing that this work came from a musical, I thought perhaps I might be missing a large piece of it, experiencing it through only one sense. I was wrong, however — Mattotti’s art combined with the inherent lyrical quality of the writing to make a more beautiful song than anyone could sing." – Lyndsey Holder, Innsmouth Free Press
• Review: "Fenwick's use of fonts is fascinating, as he seems obsessed with their aesthetic and decorative qualities as a way of eliciting a certain kind of reaction.... Fenwick slips between the absurd, the thoughtful, the existential and the sublime from page to page, keeping the reader off-balance but engaged.... Mascots flips from image to image with a dream logic that's sometimes whimsical, sometimes creepy, sometimes weird and always vivid. It's that vividness that gives the book its energy and an almost hallucinatory quality. Readers should not expect a coherent narrative but rather simply enjoy the ride." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review: "Josh Simmons picked an interesting way to write a graphic novel... Jessica seems to be a child in an abusive situation but either she’s found how to stay sane within her own imaginary world with a host of friends or she’s found a way to fight back. I’m not sure if her courage is a shield or a weapon. [Jessica Farm is a]n interesting life project and I think, well worth a read." – Terry Grignon, Golbing
• Quote of the Week: At The Comics Journal, R. Fiore's review of Luc Besson's film adaptation of Tardi's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec contains this bon mot: "My rule of thumb is that making a movie out of a comic strip is like making a love song out of a blowjob: You may well make a perfectly decent love song out of it, but it will lack the characteristics one values in the original experience."
Ajax and I actually met their awesome drummer Lucy at the San Diego Comic-Con late last month, and she had mentioned that her band was gonna be playing The Funhouse in Seattle for Pizza Fest 2011! [Full disclosure: Ajax works the door at The Funhouse when not workin' the warehouse at Fantagraphics.] But I totally suck, and I missed the show and the ensuing pizza-eating contest! Dammit.
Don't suck like I did: the band are still on tour, heading back home to San Diego over the next couple of weeks. If you dig that lo-fi garage-pop thing, go see 'em, and chat with Lucy at the merch table about VHS horror films and Johnny Ryan comics!
8/8: The Tube - Portland (w/Grrrl Friend) 8/10: The Knockout - San Francisco (w/Personal and the Pizzas) 8/11: The Blue Lagoon - Santa Cruz (w/ The Groggs) 8/12: Thee Davis Big TV House - Davis 8/13: Total Trash Fest - Oakland 8/15: Burger Records - Fullerton 8/16: Studio Danza - Whittier 8/17: Tower Bar - San Diego (w/ Bear Slim)
And, if you're in a band coming through Seattle, why not visit us at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery? We've got your perfect tour van/backstage-reading material in store.
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