I'm back from taking a couple of days off and catching up on things that I missed during that time, including the arrival of new comics in stores last Thursday (a day late due to the U.S. holiday), including:
32-page full-color 6.75" x 9.5" comic book • $4.95 ISBN: 978-1-60699-422-1
"The best alternative comic book series right now? It's certainly some of the funniest comics going, even if I have little to say other than apparently spout broad, positive clichés on its behalf," said Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter last week.
Hopefully your local shop hasn't sold out already — maybe give them a jingle and have them put one on hold for you if you didn't already pick it up last week.
C. Tyler has a couple of great public appearances coming up in Cincinnati and environs over the next couple of weeks. First she'll be reading from her book You’ll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Sunday, June 13 at 12:30, with a book signing to follow. Then, she'll be presenting a comics workshop for teens called "Rated G for Graphic" at the Clermont County Public Library's Ameila & Williamsburg branches on Monday & Tuesday, June 21-22. Space is limited — you can pre-register at the library website.
This interview was conducted via telephone and transcribed by Comics Journal editorial intern Ian Burns and proofread by TCJ's Kristy Valenti and myself. Thanks to all! –Ed.
IAN BURNS: One of the new features [in The Search for Smilin’ Ed] is this huge fold-out here, and I was wondering, now that there’s over one hundred characters in your own personal universe, does having it that large affect how you create new stories at all?
KIM DEITCH: Well, it certainly gives me a lot of advantage in terms of I’ve got all these characters and I can use them in stories, but I’ll tell you, bein’ a character of mine isn’t all that great [Burns laughs]. If I haven’t got a good idea for ‘em, forget about it. A character’s only as good as he is contributing to the storyline that I want to tell. The only one that’s really lasted all this time is Waldo, and even him I’ll lay him off for years at a time if I don’t feel I’ve got a good story.
That’s why I think those stories are pretty good is because I never tried to force one. I never got up in the morning and go [adopts southern drawl]: “Hmm, I’m gonna make me a Waldo story!” [Burns laughs]. I don’t do that: to me, the play’s the thing, and it’s got to be a good yarn.
BURNS: In the middle of creating a story, do you think: “I could see the story from a different angle.” In the TCJ #296 interview, Gary [Groth] cited the Rashômon Effect.
DEITCH: God knows that’s a gimmick that’s gotten plenty of mileage.
I will say this: in “The Sunshine Girl,” the long story in Deitch's Pictorama, that character Eleanor — I got to like her so much that I’d say the story I’m working on now was suggested by the fact that by the time I was nearing the end of that story, I got to like that character so much I hated to give her up. But ironically, now that I’m doing the story she doesn’t really have that much to do with it [Burns laughs]. At the beginning, discovering this manuscript, and then there’s an epilogue at the end and this woman occasionally mentions her by name as she’s describing something she did, so....Well, you just have to see where things go, you know? I had it in my mind that I’d like to do another story with her and maybe I will but, oddly, I didn’t really do that at all. I just used it as a jumping-off point for another story with a new character.
BURNS: Great. Back on the fold-out: Did you go through any in-depth laying-out process for all these characters, or...?
DEITCH: When I submitted the idea to Kim that we do The Search for Smilin’ Ed, the reason I did it is I figured this one I’m working on now is going to take me so long, I’d like to have something come out in the meantime, so people don’t forget about me. But, he said, “OK, I think this will make a good book, but you know what, I’d like to have an article in there talking about ‘The Kim Deitch Universe.’”
Now, I didn’t make that term up. But you know the Marvel Universe: it just means the interconnectedness of all my characters. And when he said that, I immediately, feeling cocky [Burns laughs], said: “Well, hell, if you guys are going to have an article about The Kim Deitch Universe, the least I can do is draw it!” [Burns laughs.]
Having said this, then I’m going, “Oh my God what have I said? How the hell am I gonna draw that?” [Laughter.] But, in a way that worked out, because I even spun off my own uncertainty: I was proud of the thing I worked up, it’s almost like a story but it isn’t a story. It leads you into it. Along the way I got the high concept: “let’s have it all happening inside my head.”
BURNS: Right, that’s what I was just going to say: it’s all centered around that image.
DEITCH: Yeah, and once that happened, then I really started catching fire. I did several elaborate sketches of it, and it wasn’t exactly pure fun, but it was happening. I knew I was onto something good and it came out pretty good, I think. It was hell: I had two computers cave in under me because that was a huge file. I had to get Paul Baresh to cut it in half. If you look at the Universe ones that they printed separately, you look really careful in the middle you can see where there’s a slight differentiation, ‘cause we were doing it in two hunks. Pretty much the biggest file I ever worked on. “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ roll” for Kramers [Ergot]; those were bigger, but they didn’t give me the trouble that this one did. “Kim Deitch Universe” was really blood, sweat and tears. But not the concept, so much, once I got going on that.
But the real bitch was colorin’ it, which usually is sort of fun for me. But I never had such a big busy thing. Like I said, first I started on my wife’s computer and it crashed, and then I went over to the other computer...it was giving me all kinds of trouble till I cut it in half.
• Review: "Rather than a narrative arc, with ascensions and declines, Artichoke [Tales] feels like a series of expansions. The characters and their world grow to envelop the reader in a singular, charming way." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Without a single word, Woodring tells an enormous tale of redemption and heartbreak. Weathercraft crackles with the power of myth, and it extends far beyond its pages with a life of its own; one could imagine a postapocalyptic culture forming an entire religion based on this one thin book. You've never read anything quite like Weathercraft, but at the same time it feels eerily familiar, like a dream you had last night." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Weathercraftis at once far wilder and more subtle than I could have imagined. The imagery and the surroundings are more hallucinatory, the mixture of cartoon-cute and skittering, undulating grotesquerie more effectively creepy, and the characterizations and themes more layered and nuanced than any version of this book that played out in my head. ... Weathercraft paints small moments of beauty and mystery on a huge canvas of twisted wonder." – Jason Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "...[Wally] Gropius is more concerned with verbal jazz and abstract gags, all presented in an innocent-looking approximation of the bright, clean style of ’60s Harvey Comics. ... I liked enough of the gags, and Hensley’s overall confidence in putting them over in such a currently declassé comics art style, that I would recommend it." – Christopher Allen, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: The French edition of Daniel Clowes 's The Death Ray (Eightball #23) was examined on Le Grand Journal on French television network Canal+ last month (YouTube link) — for non-Francophones Kim Thompson summarizes it thusly: "The guy can't stop gushing about the beauty of the drawings, the coloring, the design, the thematic elements of ennui (yes, he actually says 'ennui') and violence 'even against squirrels.'"
• Roundtable: Speaking of our own multilingualist Kim Thompson, he participates in The Comics Journal's roundtable discussion on comics translation
Peter Bagge fans in the Northwest can get a double dose this weekend. First, Peter's band Can You Imagine? plays at the Sunset Tavern in scenic downtown Ballard, in Seattle, on Friday night. Also on the bill: The Tom Price Desert Classic, which is studded with Fantagraphics staff past and present, and more special guests. Get more info and RSVP on Facebook. Then on Saturday Peter appears as a special guest of the Olympia Comics Festival (where our own Jason T. Miles will also be tabling with his Profanity Hill concern). Good times!
• Review: "Whether you love the swords and sorcery genre, high adventure, romance, or any or all of the above, Hal Foster’s early work on Prince Valiant is well worth reading. ... Fantagraphics has done a remarkable job remastering these strips, which, thanks to the use of original proof sheets and advances in printing technology, are even brighter and crisper than when they were first published 70 years ago. This second volume from Fantagaphics is due to ship in June 2010." – James Henry, Mid-Ohio-Con
• Review: "In form, content and effect, [Muzzlers, Guzzlers and Good Yeggs] is a hell of a book. Coleman's intricate line drawings capture phantasmagorical scenes of horror and pathos, mixing nightmares with satire and surreal portraiture. There a strange and powerful sense of vitality at play, and a feeling of obsession mixed with a furious sort of joy." – Oliver Ho, PopMatters
• Plug:New York magazine places Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley well on the "brilliant" side of their Approval Matrix, says reading it "is like taking acid during a time-machine trip to the sixties."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Gene Deitch: "When it rained, we had to shove the drawings under our coats and run from one room to another. But it was exciting. We really felt we were pioneers, no question about it. These people were very intelligent and were very cultured in art."
Kelso will be making a rare return to New York since moving back to her hometown of Seattle, WA a few years ago. She will give a multimedia talk called "Big and Small": How do you construct a story that includes the big wide world, history, culture, sweeping events like war and political change, but that also includes personal, intimate character-driven things like friendship, family relationships, love, sex, babies and dying? How do you meld the two together into a believable whole? How do you humanize important historical players, kings, queens and presidents, and also show how the personal lives of ordinary people are affected by grand events that take place outside their doors? This are the essential questions that Kelso asked herself throughout the creation of Artichoke Tales, and she answers them through examples of her own work, as well as other artists who are engaged with similar issues, from Joe Sacco to Lynda Barry.
Meanwhile, underground comix and New York legend Deitch will present a visual tour through his "universe," which features a a sprawling, multi-generational cast of characters both fictional and real, spanning comics and animation history of the 1920’s and 30’s through the present day, with a particular focus on his latest epic, The Search for Smilin' Ed. Deitch will explicate his incredibly intricate yet organic page and panel constructions, which he employs with unparalleled excellence in the creation of structurally complex narratives concerning equally complex characters.
These lively talks will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience and book signing.
WHO: Megan Kelso and Kim Deitch WHAT: Multimedia talk and book signing WHERE: The Strand Bookstore, 12th & Broadway, New York, NY WHEN: Thursday, June 24, 7PM
ARTICHOKE TALES is the long-awaited graphic novel from Megan Kelso, a six-years-in-the-making family saga spanning three generations and an entire continent. This coming-of-age story is about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, taking place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso’s visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic. This is Kelso’s first new work in four years; the widespread critical reception of her previous work, THE SQUIRREL MOTHER, makes Artichoke Tales one of the most eagerly anticipated graphic novels of 2010.
THE SEARCH FOR SMILIN' ED is the latest of Kim Deitch’s graphic novels to showcase his obsessive burrowing into the nooks and crannies of vintage American popular culture. A long-gone children’s show host propels Deitch into a pop-culture investigation.
Where Deitch's earlier books focused on the earliest days of the animation industry (in THE BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS), the history of comic strips (ALIAS THE CAT), and vintage movie serials (SHADOWLAND), THE SEARCH FOR SMILIN' ED explores the surreal landscape of children’s TV shows. Launched on his latest investigation by a remark from his brother about a shared childhood favorite (“Y’know, I heard that when Smilin’ Ed died... his body was never found!”), Deitch begins to uncover some mysterious things about the kiddie-show host and his malevolent sidekick, Froggy the Gremlin. Ranging across the entire twentieth century, replete with flashbacks and stories within stories, The Search for Smilin’ Ed! is a narrative whirligig that shows Deitch at his wildest and woolliest.
Register and Login to receive full member benefits, including members-only special offers, commenting privileges on Flog! The Fantagraphics Blog, newsletters and special announcements via email, and stuff we haven't even thought of yet. Membership is free and spam-free, so Sign Up Today!