So, I've been in Florida for the past week visiting my wife's family for the holidays. Needless to say, I did a doubletake when I noticed this Honda parked next to our rental car outside a shopping mall in Naples:
I am dying to know whose car this is. Mort Walker? Jeff Mason? The guy from CrossGen? Anyone?
... for THIS massive Charles Burns art show. Charles tells me he has loaned over 330 pieces (!!!) for this exhibition. Leave it to the Belgians. Preview night is this Wednesday and formal opening is on Thursday, for you lucky Belgians.
Speaking of Charles, we're currently working with him on an exciting, non-comics project that will be announced by the end of the year. Stay tuned for more details; your thirst will be quenched soon enough.
So, our ol' pal Jacques Boyreau, he of the cinefantastic tomes PORTABLE GRINDHOUSE and the forthcoming SEXYTIME: THE POST-PORN RISE OF THE PORNOISSEUR (a collection of remarkably awesome movie posters from the Golden Age of adult cinema) from Fantagraphics, curated what looks to be an incredible art show in Anchorage, Alaska, of all places. I wanted to spotlight it on the blog, and figured the best way was to simply ask Jacques about. Here's what he had to say.
I've been involved with Fantagraphics for a few years now...as author-editor and all-around-nuisance. I suspect a reason for my insistency is that Gary G. is like the Travis Bickle-friend I always wanted. This association would be easier to make if G. had a buzz mohawk and was popping a red with a smile and several loaded handguns suckling the lean teat of his body, which is NOT out-of-the-question; it is, as they say, in the realm, where all visions are a'chomp.
But realm needs coin, and tomorrow's today's coin is gonna be SuperTrash. And that's what this little fucking blog's entry is gonna tell you a little something about. But back to Taxi Driver...I have always felt very resonant with the character of Easy Andy--the drug-Cadillac-Magnum.44 dealer--and his credo: "I'm just trying to get the right product to the right people"; with the risible connotation that Travis is alright...(and certainly you gotta wonder at least once: What If Travis had bought that pink slip from Andy?). See, Andy and I have the same credo it turns out. I experience selling as Compulsion, and that sutures with what Breton said about Beauty: it must be Convulsive. Society really should, and does take a step back and twist a funny thought out of its head when the Unacceptable becomes Accepted.
Our group mind does not entirely suck. The answer I'm afraid is so simple it's attainable. But why tell you when I cannot and SuperTrash can and you should find out if you can. Let's just say that: an art show purporting to be a portrait of the 20th century told through movie posters was built at the Andy Warhol Museum and is now in Alaska in the quite-enormous Anchorage Museum.
My god, that's a beautiful baby, right? His name is Elliot, and we'd like to congratulate his wonderful parents, Jonathan and Amy Bennett , on their great fortune. They were already one of the most talented couples I know, but this is their greatest work yet!
One of America's most beloved and best known cartoonists, Jack Davis, will make a series of extremely rare appearances in New York City and Brooklyn in early December, to promote his new art book, JACK DAVIS: DRAWING AMERICAN POP CULTURE (published by Fantagraphics Books). These personal appearances will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a living legend and one of medium's greatest practicioners.
On Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7PM, Davis will appear at New York's renowned Strand Bookstore, in conversation with Fantagraphics Books Publisher Gary Groth. The event will feature the world premiere of JACK DAVIS: DRAWING AMERICAN POP CULTURE.
On Friday, Dec. 2 at 6PM, Davis will be in attendance for an exhibition of his original art at the Scott Eder Gallery in Brooklyn.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, Davis will appear with Fantagraphics at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival, signing copies of JACK DAVIS: DRAWING AMERICAN POP CULTURE throughout the day and participating in a panel discussion with Gary Groth about his life and career (exact times t.b.a.).
Jack Davis arrived on the illustration scene in the euphoric post-war America of the late 1940s when consumer society was booming and the work force identified with commercial images that reflected this underlying sense of confidence and American bravado. Advertising agencies were looking for new ways to tap a rich and expanding market, and there was a vast array of media that needed illustrations. Davis' animated and exuberant images possessed a sense of spontaneous energy that proved to have universal appeal in every medium he worked in.
Beginning with his masterful pen and ink cartooning at EC Comics, he quickly forged a reputation as one of the most versatile artists in comics, drawing humor, horror, and war stories. In Harvey Kurtzman's MAD, especially, Davis made a mark as a master of caricature, composition, and wild, anarchic crowd scenes, practically vibrating with energy.
After stints at MAD, Trump, and Humbug — three humor magazines that defined the satirical zeitgeist of the '50s — Davis went on to become the most successful commercial illustrator of his generation, illustrating movie posters, magazine articles, magazine fiction, LP jackets, and more.
Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture is a gigantic, unparalleled career-spanning retrospective, between whose hard covers resides the greatest collection — in terms of both quantity and quality — of Jack Davis' work ever assembled!
So, a year or two ago, Tony Millionaire tells us, "I've have over 500 portraits of people on my computer. Let's make a book!" We say, "Sure!" (Because this is what you do when Tony Millionaire says, "Let's Make a Book!")
We schedule the book for the end of 2011, and this spring we start to have a conversation about it between myself, Tony and Jacob Covey (designer and co-editor). Tony sends us about 500 files that he's pulled from his hard drive. Jacob and I start going through them. We soon discover that this book is going to be more of a challenge than we initially expected. For one thing, about 100 of the files were duplicates, so we really only had about 400 portraits, and "400 Portraits" didn't have nearly the ring to it as a title.
Furthermore, almost none of the files include the name of the person depicted. Most were clearly named by Tony at the end of a long night, after a six or 12-pack, a job well done and the name no longer relevant to him. So we have files with names like "ghosthippy.tif," "evil.tif," "actscoolfucksinterns.tif," "prettyboy.tif," "crazybaldasshole.tif," "meathead.tif," as well as more than a few that appeared to be named by his forehead as he passed out: "dhfuhkjDZKh.tif," "cmnxz≈mz vas.tif," etc.
Tony has neither the time nor inclination to try and identify the names. He suggests making the book a giant puzzle for readers. Jacob and I resist. Jacob and I encourage Tony to flesh out the book with some essays about drawing, his process, etc. Tony resists. Stalemate!
Eventually, I enlist an army of interns to help me identify the portraits and after a few weeks of highly scientific research and renaming the files so Jacob can work with them easily, and after Tony digs up another 100 portraits (actually well over 100 -- by the time it was all said and done we actually had to cut a few dozen images to keep it to 500) and also sits down and writes a series of brilliant essays for the book just to shut Jacob and I up, we were on our way. (Seriously, Tony's "85%" theory about humankind is worth the price of admission alone.)
After a few weeks of nightly back-and-forths between the three of us, which mostly consisted of random insults and vulgarities mixed with parenting advice from Uncle Tony and lots of talk about our daughters (all three of us have daughters -- no sons -- and all of them appear in the book in one form or another; Jacob's wife even gave birth to his second daughter, Maren, during production!), we had a book.
I couldn't be happier with the result. Tony emailed us after he got his advance copy last week and said, "This is the best book ever made." I agree.
Last week, Philip Nel -- my co-editor on our forthcoming Barnaby series , announced that his long-awaited bio of Barnaby (and Harold and the Purple Crayon) creator Crockett Johnson and his wife Ruth Krauss (the towering figure of children's lit responsible for such classics as The Carrot Seed, A Hole is to Dig, I Can Fly and so many others) finally has a title.
Nel's bio of Johnson & Krauss will be published next June by the University Press of Mississippi , and we're aiming to release our own Barnaby Vol. 1 simultaneously. It's going to be a great summer for Johnson fans.
I took no pictures at APE this year save for the one above, of my pal Dan Shahin in his homemade Rory Root t-shirt (with Root's face comprised of a mosaic of hundreds of comic book covers). If I was to only take one photo, this strikes me as a perfectly appropriate one, as APE always reminds me of Rory, and his memory loomed large over the show for me (I wore my old Comic Relief t-shirt on Saturday in my own small attempt to honor the big guy).
This was the first APE I've attended since Rory passed away in 2008, and it didn't feel the same without him. Rory was a champion of the small press, a man with an omnivorous appetitie for the medium who could always be counted on to take a chance on a self-published mini that many other retailers would likely never make shelf space for. Comic Relief was a mecca for fans of cartooning, and its presence at APE always struck me as a vital component in the physiology of the show; no matter how few copies of your book you sold on the floor over APE weekend, if it was good, you could count on Rory to buy a few at the end of Sunday and help you leave on a high note.
Of course, APE was also missing another towering figure of the scene: Dylan Williams (who once worked at Comic Relief). Thankfully, Sparkplug Comics *was* there, honoring Dylan's memory in the one way I suspect he would approve: by selling and promoting good comics.
With that in mind, and for fear of sounding a bit maudlin, it really did feel to me that this year's APE was defined by who wasn't there as much as who was.
That said, my APE weekend was fun, and somehow a success despite the fact that attendance was invariably, adversely affected by gorgeous weather and a massive free concert in Golden Gate Park over the weekend. I enjoyed the company of many pals -- Richard Sala, Daniel & Erika Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Mario Hernandez, Jim Blanchard, J.R. Williams, Leslie Stein, John Pham, Terry Zwigoff, Martin Cendreda, Dan Nadel, Matthew Thurber, Renée French, Mark Kalesniko, Calvin Reid, Brett Warnock, Tom Devlin, Esther Pearl Watson, and many others -- and met a few new ones. That's all I could ask for, short of selling a ton of books, and things went well on that front. GANGES #4, POGO Vol. 1, OIL & WATER, MOME 22 and MARK TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1910-2010 were amongst the books that flew off the tables by the end of the weekend.
I also came home with an entire suitcase full of books and minicomics, most of which I've only begun to wade thru and a roundup of which would require more time and effort than I'm willing to do right now. But I'm especially keen to dive into Jesse Moynihan's FORMING and Matthew Thurber's 1-800-MICE, which seemed to my eyes to be the books of the show.
I can't remember when I first heard the "Shut Up, Little Man" tapes, but it was almost certainly a cartoonist who introduced me to them, specifically either J.R. Williams, Jim Blanchard or Peter Bagge, all of whom were connoisseurs of the "prank call" genre and sated my growing appetite for same in the early 1990s by making me mix tapes (including the also-essential "Tube Bar" recordings that catapulted "Red the Bartender" into infamy as the inspiration for The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak). The "Shut Up Little Man" tapes weren't phone pranks, per se; they were better! Two hateful drunks chewing each other new assholes, over and over again, in such eloquently vicious fashion! Little could these two awful men know how their vitriol was bringing others together. It seemed like every alternative cartoonist in America had heard these tapes by the early 1990s, so it seems only fitting that Dan Clowes and Ivan Brunetti would be amongst those featured in a forthcoming documentary on the great Peter and Raymond. I can't wait to see this. [CBR video link]
If you work at Fantagraphics long enough, you will invariably learn to marvel at the way that our fearless co-leader, Kim Thompson , has his hand in virtually everything that happens here. His ability to multitask is a source of endless conversation and awe. He juggles projects as easily as he does multiple languages. How does he do it? Well, thanks to this recent discovery in our archives, we now know the answer, and it turns out he owes it all to former Marvel Comics Editor Mark Gruenwald :