|Give 'em a Hand!|
|Written by Eric Reynolds | Filed under Gary Groth||14 Mar 2011 11:41 AM|
Things You Might Find on Gary Groth's Desk, Part 1 of a series: A hand, by Sal Buscema!
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In an effort to find a loving home for some fascinating artifacts and give ourselves a little more storage space, we are auctioning the original production pasteups for the entire issue #133 of The Comics Journal from 1989, including all 120 original pages, front and back covers, and production ephemera.
Gary Groth provided this description of the issue:
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Though the episodic flow and gung-ho patriotism of the strips are simplistic in both content and conception, the depth they lack is greatly made up for by the vast, epic compositions that contain Crane’s spring-coiled bigfoot cartooning, the explosive you-are-there immediacy of his dogfights and shootouts, and the sensuous intensity of form and shape he brings to gorgeous women and vehicles of war alike. [...] Crane worked in broad strokes, which is what made him a great cartoonist; but in Buz Sawyer he also sometimes discovers quieter places, ones truly worthy of the sumptuousness with which he imbued every panel." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Kalesniko is a major talent, and this book, which depicts a day stuck in traffic on a California freeway, presents considerable space for reflection, gossip, roman a clef and more. [...] Though the text of the story is rich and interesting, Kalesniko's art is amazing; manga-esque yet thoroughly Western, and richly expressive and subtle. Freeway will inevitably place high on many critic's year's-best lists." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Political commentary often has a short shelf life, but Kreider's collection of cartoons and essays [Twilight of the Assholes] remains potent and pungent, despite its primary focus on the excesses and detritus of the Bush administration. There are no claims of fairness, balance, sensitivity or subtlety here. Kreider's sharp pen skewers holier-than-thou hypocrites, patently phony pious proselytizers, opportunists and idiots of all stripes — gleefully and without fear." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "With the core cast established, Segar takes more liberties with the formulas established in earlier books... and Segar continues to find new ways to play his cast off one another. How do Olive and Wimpy react when Eugene predicts Popeye will lose a prize fight for the first time ever? How does Popeye react to being a leader of men? It’s all here, all adventure and all hilarity. Fantagraphics, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading the series to date, continues to provide a gorgeous package – a towering book... with a striking die-cut cover. [...] Popeye Vol. 5: 'Wha’s a Jeep?' stands out as another winning classic comic strip collection, a reminder how great the medium has been and how dynamic it can still be." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The value in this volume [Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2] is not in the stories themselves... but in tracking how Ditko’s art develops. Amid the stock characters of hapless dullards, five o’clock shadow Everymen and saturnine businessmen and the typical rocketships and ray guns of the day, Ditko gains confidence and consistency in his depictions, and an ability to pack more information into fewer images and to guide the reader’s eye across the page for maximum impact. His ability to convey otherworldly horrors flowers as well..." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "...[W]hy is Sergio Ponchione not regarded as one of the top artists in the field today?! [Grotesque #4] is absolutely gorgeous. Lush, bizarre, and moving. The type of comics art which you dwell on a single panel for minutes at a time. The amount of detail and skill in each drawing is astounding. The tones and colors along with the expressive line and brush work create a mood of deep inspection." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Interview: The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to new TCJ.com honchos Dan Nadel & Tim Hodler about taking the reins of The Comics Journal's online presence: "The initial goal was and remains the creation of a genuine on-line comics magazine (as opposed to blog, or series of blogs), with all of the long-form essays, interviews, reviews, and visual features that come with it. In other words, yes, we're attempting a counter-intuitive web site strategy, in the hopes that quality content will draw people in. We're interested in making a magazine that has a place in the larger visual culture, and can be a go-to source for people seeking insightful writing about comics."
• Commentary: Robot 6's Sean T. Collins, on the new TCJ.com: "Since I’m writing for the thing, I may not be in the best position to comment about it, but quite aside from my own minor role in the proceedings, the move is a welcome and long-overdue one. [...] Handing the Journal‘s website to an experienced print/web editorial team with a clear vision of comics and how to talk about them, one that moreover has been on the leading edge of comics criticism for some years now, is a major step in the right direction."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his conversation with Stan Sakai: "I own the characters, so I can do basically whatever I want with him, as far as the story goes. Most of it is adventure, I’ve done romances, I’ve done mysteries — I even did Space Usagi, where he goes through outer space. I can pretty much do anything I want with him, so I never get bored. I’m having fun with Usagi, even after so many years."
• Interview: The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Renee French: "I've been fishing around. I don't know if it's my age or what, but I'm confused. I have a bunch of obsessions that keep coming back. If I just kind of do something else, like these one-off drawings that I've been doing lately, it's not satisfying. I actually need to feel a little on-edge and crazy, I think."
• Interview: Seattlest's Hanna Brooks Olsen chatted with our own Larry Reid at Emerald City ComiCon yesterday and got "some pretty spectacular insight on what's going on" with us
• Feature: The Seattle Times' Janet I. Tu does her due diligence in her profile of Emerald City ComiCon and asks the president of Seattle's largest comics publisher about the event: "'It's mind-bending how big it is now and how influential,' said Gary Groth, who works at Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, a graphic-novel and comic-book publisher, and edits the print edition of The Comics Journal, a magazine of news and criticism on comics and cartooning. Groth attributes the growth of such conventions to comics becoming a more integral part of pop culture. 'Or perhaps pop culture has become more comic-book-ized,' he said. 'You see it with comic-book movies or TV shows like Heroes. What used to be seen as essentially kids' entertainment has become grown-up entertainment.'"
• Commentary: Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on Alex Dueben's interview with Carol Tyler for that blog's parent site Comic Book Resources: "Having been sucked in by war fever myself several years ago, I find myself more and more moved by accounts of how even the most well-intentioned conflicts make a rubble of countless human lives, both the ones taken and the ones scarred, physically, economically, or emotionally. ...[Tyler is] doing vitally important work."
Ta-da! It's your first look at art director Jacob Covey's beautiful final cover design for Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson! (Click the image for a bigger version.) The book went to the printers last week and is scheduled to be available in early June. And that's not the only exciting Mickey update we have for you!
On Monday we sent out digital copies of our promotional BLAD ("Book Layout And Design") brochure for the book to members of the press; today, we are pleased to offer it to everyone as a 3MB PDF download! Inside you'll find tons of information about the book including samples of the strip and preliminary versions of some of the bonus features. (Note that details regarding the book may have changed since we first put the BLAD together — you'll notice that the cover image it shows is an earlier, unfinished version, for instance.)
Yesterday at Comic Book Resources, Shaun Manning talked to series co-editor Gary Groth. A small sample: "Most of Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse strips have not been reprinted, and the few collections that do exist are out of print. Asked how these early strips came to be neglected, Groth said, 'The easy and honest answer is, I don't know. Why did it take 'til 2004 before Peanuts was properly reprinted? Mickey Mouse strips have been reprinted or excerpted desultorily in other, larger books over the eras, but never systematically. Sometimes the determining factor to these things is a weird confluence of circumstances, and with Mickey, now is the time.'"
On CBR's Robot 6 blog, Sean T. Collins commented further: "...I’m sure Groth wouldn’t mind if I said that the real star attraction for the piece are the actual Gottfredson strips used to illustrate it. Simply put, my jaw literally dropped once I opened up these action-packed images, so impressed was I by their power and grace. And since most of Gottfredson’s work has been reprinted rarely, if that, chances are you’ll be bowled over too."
Last week, Amazon.com temporarily reduced the price of our $125 Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons to a ridiculously low $30. Several prominent folks, including our old pal Neil Gaiman, tweeted and/or blogged about it, and at one point on Monday night, the book had risen to #16 on Amazon's sales charts for ALL books, and to #1 in the bargain books category. Somehow, this led to the following actual, real email exchange about the comic strip Dilbert. A week later, the debate rages on. In other words: Just Another Week at Fantagraphics Books.
Kim Thompson wrote:
That Bargain Books section is pretty sweet sometimes. I just bought an $85 DILBERT supercollection for the office for twenty-two bucks. (Yes, I love DILBERT. I know most cartoonists can't get past the art, but it's funny as hell.)
Eric Reynolds wrote:
LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!
Gary Groth wrote:
Oh my fucking God.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Read [Scott Adams'] blog, which is unencumbered by his godawful art. He's the sharpest comedy writer in comic strips.
Tell me if this one doesn't make you laugh: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1996-03-27/
Eric Reynolds wrote:
Gary Groth wrote:
I hope yer joking. It's too late to look for a new partner.
Jacob Covey wrote:
What's weird is Kim and Eric haven't ever worked in one of those godawful Dilbert cubical jobs to my knowledge.
Gary Groth wrote:
I bet I've worked in more shitty jobs -including "cubicle" jobs- than everyone here. I hate Dilbert and don't think it's funny. It's humor that's calculated to make working in cubicles more palatable.
Kim Thompson wrote:
I think you're all going by a vision of DILBERT of like 20 years ago. (Newsflash, DOONESBURY isn't about a bunch of college students arguing any more either.) It's blossomed into a relentless examination of deception and self-delusion in the workplace and beyond, based on the premise that 90% of actions taken are taken for reasons that are selfish, idiotic, or both, and boiling them down to their most basic absurdities.
Gary Groth wrote:
That's the problem: the strip is essentially gutless, so generic and so absent specificity as to be meaningless. Selfishness, sloth, and idiocy are its constant (easy) targets -vices to which no one can object- and executed in such a cutesy, innocuous way that they prompt a reflexively knowing and self-satisfied smirk.
The strip you linked to perfectly encapsulates the strip's modus operandi of recapitulating the Peter Principle in the most banal way imaginable. It reflects, regurgitates, and therefore flatters the reader's own "insight" on the workplace and panders to his sense of superiority to the bureaucracy he serves (or is served by).
The problem with the Doonesbury analogy is that Doonesbury was good. (Plus, you're ten years off: the college stuff took place 30 years ago.)
Kim Thompson wrote:
It's true that Adams is fundamentally pro-business (in the sense that many military comedies are actually pro-Army) but the idea that he's an agent of Satan intent on narcotizing the cubicle workers is hippy-dippy talk, unless you adhere to the notion that any blowing off of steam (e.g. laughter) just delays the inevitable revolution when workers will throw off their shackles and string up the man.
Gary Groth wrote:
That's a Dilbert-ish response, which suggests that its flattening perspective is contagious. Pop entertainment doesn't have to be anti-revolutionary in a hippy-dippy Marxist 1970s kinda way in order to be nauseating, status-quo supportive crap. The fact that it's not single handedly holding back a revolution that will never come just makes it more insidious. The rank ad file would remain narcoticized if Dilbert didn't exist, but its existence sure doesn't hurt.
Eric Reynolds wrote:
Irresistible force, meet immovable object.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Wait, when did Kenneth Smith start sending me emails signed "GG"?
This is the kind of apocalyptic society-is-doomed rant critics will periodically unleash on more or less harmless pop-culture successes which I genuinely can't take seriously enough to respond to. If you're going to go medieval on any work of (to stretch the definition to a breaking point in DILBERT's case, admittedly) art that rests on the foundation that in theory capitalism might be an OK system, then it's a bit like criticizing rock music from the point of view that electric guitars are pure evil.
I did get the DOONESBURY timeline wrong. Time flies!
Gary Groth wrote:
I am not asking for every comic strip to be an Adorno-esque revolutionary screed, but if the whole purpose of the strip is to comment on contemporary economic and commercial life, it's hardly asking too much to invest the work with a degree of conscience or acuity and not serve as a hypocritical feel-good bromide for a mindless status quo that it celebrates and criticizes at the same time.
Mostly, though, it's just lame - as any humor would inevitably be if it's foundation is based on social arrangements being "OK" (or, as I would put it, hunky dory). What a concept!
Anyway, I get it. Pop culture and -especially billion dollar pop culture successes- are harmless and criticizing them on political or moral grounds is going "medieval," because, y'know, they're, like, harmless and don't mean anything and why don't I chill out and sit back and take it easy for God's sake.
I consider it a success whenever I can elicit a dig at Ken Smith.
Kim Thompson wrote:
It's a hypocritical feel-good bromide that postulates that pretty much everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interaction spirals inevitably into entropy? By what standards, compared to SHOAH?
Any humor that is not based on a socialistic view of the world is ipso facto lame?
Any pointed examination of human behavior within a certain context/matrix is invalid unless it fundamentally challenges that context/matrix? (E.g., the HURT LOCKER conundrum.)
It's possible there is a middle ground between apocalyptic doom-laden rants and dismissing-as-utterly-harmless, but this would require living in a non-Manichean world which, as we know from Mister A (or Rorschach), is a craven compromise with the forces of evil.
I think there is plenty of pop culture that is insidious and subtly destructive, and that's worth pointing out (although perhaps not quite so Howard Beale-ishly), but I also think it's possible to overreach and I think it can be morally dubious and qualitatively good at the same time. Sometimes I begin to suspect that ALL good art (or decent entertainment) is actually morally dubious at best.
Eric Reynolds wrote:
This could be the greatest critical roundtable in tcj.com history.
Gary Groth wrote:
• Kim was the first to cite capitalism and is, now, the first to cite socialism. There's a Manichean world view on display here, but not mine.
• Reading Wilde's paradoxical dictum on moral and immoral art literally always leads to trouble.
• There is a long list of morally dubious great art - Riefenstahl, Pound, Celine, the usual suspects- because their aesthetic virtues trump their moral vices or at least can be appreciated while holding one's nose. Unfortunately, Dilbert has no aesthetic virtues at all; its observations of the human condition are art-free and, not to put too fine a point on it, but we have both been too polite to mention what a visual eyesore it is even among the visually desiccated ranks of today's newspaper strips.
• I wondered why images of Dilbert flitted through my head when I was watching Shoah last week.
• A pointed examination would have to be just that - pointed.
• Postulating (postulating?) day after day and year after year that pretty much everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interaction spirals inevitably into entropy devolves rapidly into a one-dimensional, reductive and even dishonest schtick (because not everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interactions don't spiral into entropy - or do they? Maybe I'm behind the curve on this one) that's numbing in its repetitiveness and simple-mindedness. Even savage critiques of the way we live -think Face in the Crowd of Elmer Gantry- feature real human beings with whom we can empathize and who refuse to sink into nihilism and entropy. Dilbert isn't pointed, isn't a critique, isn't an examination - it's a relentless of glib, shallow cliches about office politics and managerial ineptitude that a million office drones could probably come up with if they just typed and scribbled long enough.
It has no juice, it has no fire. It's a sedative.
• Funny you should mention Network. A little shrill, sure, but at least it had guts and passion eloquence and a touch of humanity. Dilbert is just a load of crap.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Hey now, I take grave exception to the claim that we've been "too polite" to mention the hideousness of the art, I referred to "his godawful art" days ago, and then to Breathed "drawing better than Scott Adams, but everyone does, including Cathy Guisewite and 90% of the submissions in our slush pile."
I think we're played out on this. I'm not sure I can quite wrap my head around defending DILBERT against the charge of constituting, basically, "feel-good nihilism" although it sounds like a great genre. If Barnes & Noble had a section for "feel-good nihilism" I'd make a beeline for it every time, and not just for the DILBERT books.
Gary Groth wrote:
"Feel good nihilism" has ben a post-modern genre for years and has its own section in B&N. Where've you been?
You're right, you mentioned the hideous art e-mails ago; but in my defense, it cannot be said too much or too often.
Look, I know right at this moment, at 10:59 PM at the end of a grueling Tuesday, you believe that Dilbert is a not only a laff riot, but a shrewd, pointed exercise in sociological observation, but take my word for it just this once - it is a a piece of shit. There are issues facing us that are legitimately open to debate - should we have national health care, should we be landing troops on Libya, is Ditko as good as Kirby? - but this is not one of them.
Dilbert is the antithesis of everything Fantagraphics stands for - believe it, baby.
Kim Thompson wrote:
As in most cases, I am right and you are wrong.
DILBERT is not a sociological observation. It's (for the most part) an ongoing exercise in analyzing how something that is theoretically sensible and logical (corporate business structures built to produce things and make money) is undone by human nature (stupidity, selfishness, cowardice, etc.) to actually consistently do the opposite of what it's intended to achieve. One could argue equally convincingly that it's a paean to capitalism (laid low by its flawed practitioners) or a postmortem/condemnation of it (a system that doesn't take into account its practitioners is inherently doomed).
Leaving aside whether it's well drawn (it isn't) or well written (it is, a series of precise, almost haiku-like mockeries that remove any shred of humanity or individuality for pure conceptual humor), I can see where its adamant refusal to engage the moral or political underpinnings of capitalism or corporate culture might be infuriating for anyone who needs to strain his entertainment through his own sociopolitical colander of correctness. (Also the lack of humanity could be off-putting, I guess, if you're into the whole humanity thing.)
There's also the question as to whether it's funny or not, which is probably impossible to resolve because any sentence that starts off "This is not funny because..." is automatically meaningless.
Good debate! as Sean Hannity would say.
Did I mention I like ARLO AND JANIS too?
Gary Groth wrote:
Yes, once Dilbert is completely divorced from the historic/political/cultural/economic context that it clearly inhabits and exploits and after that pesky "humanity thing" is expunged from the equation and he strip is neatly turned into an abstraction (or "pure conceptual humor" you've really got something there.
Are you sure Scott Adams isn't a pseudonym for "Watson"? The results couldn't be appreciably different.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Er, uh, what?
No fair! That was going to be my opening argument against Arlo and Janis.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is pleased to announce "Comix Talks," a series of discussions with accomplished comix artists, writers and editors. The first installment takes place on Wednesday, February 23 at 6:30 PM featuring Aaron Renier in conversation with Jason Shiga. Future events include editor and translator Kim Thompson on Jacques Tardi, writer Monte Schulz in conversation with Fantagraphics publisher and editor Gary Groth, Wilfred Santiago on 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, and Jim Woodring on Congress of Animals.
"Comix Talks" is presented in association with the fledgling Fantagraphics Book Club. Additional information on the book club will be announced at the Aaron Renier/Jason Shiga appearance at the bookstore on on February 23. Watch this space for more news.
...about a certain beloved cartoonist and his work drawing the beloved adventures of a certain beloved family of cartoon ducks, but if not, head over to Robot 6 for the exclusive scoop and interview with Gary Groth! We've been sitting on this news for a while and we couldn't be more excited. Our official announcement is in the pipeline and coming soon.
With our ongoing warehouse move, we're in a spring cleaning mood, and have decided to raid the archives are start selling some uniquities from the office, warehouse and even the personal collection of Gary Groth. First up, a lovely war comics page from the 1950s/1960s by the late Jerry Grandenetti:
For the full eBay listing, go HERE. Can anyone identify the exact comic this page comes from? If so, email us at fbicomix at fantagraphics dot com and we'll be very grateful.
UPDATE: ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT TO BID!
Online Commentary & Diversions returns from a sick day:
• Review: "With elegant simplicity, this comic-book fable [Set to Sea] unfurls the tale of a life cast on an unexpected course and the melancholy wisdom accrued upon the waves. First-time graphic-novelist Weing has produced a beautiful gem here, with minimal dialogue, one jolting battle scene, and each small page owned by a single panel filled with art whose figures have a comfortable roundness dredged up from the cartoon landscapes of our childhood unconscious, even as the intensely crosshatched shadings suggest the darkness that sometimes traces the edges of our lives. [...] Weing’s debut is playful, atmospheric, dark, wistful, and wise." – Jesse Karp, Booklist (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[A]n absolutely stunning [book], collecting some of the best and most trenchantly funny illustrations by a contender for the title of America’s Greatest Living Caricaturist in a lavish, full-colour hardback. [...] Friedman is a master craftsman who can draw and paint with breathtaking power, and his work is intrinsically funny. [...] His caricatures are powerful, resonant and joyful, but without ever really descending to the level of graphic malice preferred by such luminaries as Ralph Steadman or Gerald Scarfe. Too Soon? is a book for art lovers, celebrity stalkers and anyone who enjoys a pretty, good laugh." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...A Drunken Dream showcases the full range of Hagio’s short stories, while also granting readers insight into the themes of lost innocence, family dysfunction and perseverance in the face of abuse that underscore much of her work. [...] With distinct character designs, detailed backgrounds and emotive character acting, Hagio’s artwork conveys the full emotional range of her stories, with dollops of humor mixed into sagas of sadness, survival and hard-won contentment. [...] A Drunken Dream and Other Stories finds another important voice in Japanese comics history washing up on American shores. One hopes that Hagio, whose work manages to be both stark and beautiful, finds a welcoming and receptive audience." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: Sean T. Collins looks at "La Maggie La Loca" and "Gold Diggers of 1969" from Love and Rockets Vol. II #20 as part of his "Love and Rocktober" series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly: "Maggie may just be an apartment manager anymore, she may now get in way over her head (literally) when she attempts to have a fun island adventure like she used to, but the way Rena sneaks into her room at night just to watch her sleep reveals that the aging heroine could use a dose of the community and camaraderie that's part and parcel of Maggie's dayjob."
• List: Sam Costello of iFanboy names House by Josh Simmons as one of "13 Great Horror Comics for Halloween": "Josh Simmons is some kind of horror savant. There are few really, truly, deeply disturbing comics out there. If you’re willing to take the risk of reading a comic that you’ll literally want to cover your eyes while you read, Simmons’ work is for you. House, his nearly wordless tale of a trio of friends exploring a dilapidated, cavernous mansion, is less explicit, but worth a look. Its suffocating, despairing loneliness is affecting." (Via Robot 6)
• Commentary: "It was like the sky: pleasant, visually appealing, reliable. Peanuts had a Picture of Dorian Gray quality; you kept getting older and more decrepit and more cynical, but it didn't. By the time you started reading it, you were already older than the characters in the strip, so it immediately made you nostalgic for childhood. Not necessarily for your childhood, but for the childhood Lucy and Charlie and Linus were having." – Joe Queenan, The Guardian
• Interview: At Comic Book Resources, Chris Mautner talks to Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit: "I think in a strange way the book(s) are very revealing about myself. I felt as if I was really exposing myself here. I was very anxious about that."
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