The Comics Journal has been, for almost 35 years, the standard bearer of critical inquiry, discrimination, debate, and serious discussion of comics as art, and the object of love and devotion among the comics cognescenti — and hate and scorn among the philistines, natch. We published our 300th issue in late 2009 and spent the ensuing year-plus re- conceptualizing the institution as an annual book-length “magazine” — over 600 pages long, chock full of the kinds of criticism, interviews, commentary, and history that has made it the most award-winning and critically lauded magazine in the history of comics.
This volume features a focus on R. Crumb’s most commercially successful project of his career, his comics adaptation of Genesis, including the most extensive interview he’s given on the subject as well as a long critical roundtable among six comics critics reviewing the book and debating each other over its merits; plus:
• An interview with Joe Sacco about his recent journalistic masterpiece, Footnotes in Gaza;
• A peek into the private sketchbooks of (and accompanying interviews with) Jim Woodring, Tim Hensley, and the novelist Stephen Dixon;
• A conversation between Mad Fold-Out creator Al Jaffee and Thrizzle auteur Michael Kupperman;
• A complete full-color reprinting of the 1950s "Gerald McBoing Boing" comic;
• The first significant biographical essay charting the turn-of-the-century cartoonist and illustrator John T. McCutcheon;
• A critical re-assessment of Dave Sim's Cerebus by Tim Kreider
and essays and reviews by R. Fiore, R.C. Harvey, Chris Lanier, Rob Clough, and others.
Over 600 pages long, this is a year's worth of The Comics Journal rolled into one extraordinary objet d'art. As a special treat, this volume is guest designed by internationally respected Criterion art director Eric Skillman. The Comics Journal #301 is no mere magazine but a gigantic compendium covering comics past and present that will shock and delight every truly curious comics reader.
The Strand, who are obsessive about documenting all their events on video, bless 'em, have posted numerous clips from their pre-MoCCA "Strandicon" spate of comics-related panels and presentations, including The Comics Journal panel with (L-R above) Dan Nadel & Tim Hodler of TCJ.com, TCJ executive editor/Fantagraphics honcho Gary Groth, and token artist Kim Deitch. The Beat has already done all the heavy lifting of compiling and embedding the clips into a single blog post, so we'll throw it over there for all your viewing enjoyment.
• Profile: At the ABC News website, the AP's Matt Moore talks to Robert Crumb during his recent visit to New York City for his Society of Illustrators exhibit opening: "'It was never intended for that purpose, so it's always odd to see it on a wall, or under glass; it was intended for printing and books. It wasn't made as a wall hanging piece,' Crumb said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'For me, the printed copy is the magic moment. When I see it in print — that was the whole purpose of it.'" (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
• Interview: At Previews, a must-read chat with Gary Groth about our classic strip reprints: "The only criterion is that it’s great cartooning. We wouldn’t waste our time devoting this much time and energy to anything less. Our mission has been to publish the best cartooning — not only in comic strips, but in every 'branch' of the cartooning art — that we can."
• Interview: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner talks to Wilfred Santiago about 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "I was trying not to make it … biographies to me have a static feel to them. I was trying to avoid [that] and I feel like cartooning helps you in expressing the story and what you’re trying to convey thtorugh the story. It was difficult too because I wanted it to be cartoony and realistic at the same time. I wanted it to be fun. What’s important was that it was exciting; that it could almost speak. That you could read the book in a very sort of sharp-paced way but you could also take the time and read through it at your leisure."
• Interview: Matthew Baker of Vanderbilt University's Nashville Review has an epic chat with Anders Nilsen: "Really I feel like comics is just the most useful category to drop me into. I don’t feel like I’m wedded to comics as a medium. I draw, and I usually sort of tell stories, but I do make standalone drawings and paintings, and I do make stuff that is probably closer to poetry than comics. I’ve made books before that aren’t really comics — just a series of pictures, or diagrams, or whatever."
• Review: "Stunning and evocative and rendered in a cacophony of swirling miasmic lines, this fearsome modern parable is a fierce interrogation of faith and destiny which asks uncompromising and uncomfortable questions about the price of Grace and the value of belief. [...] Emotive, shocking and utterly compelling, Stigmata is a grotesque and beautiful metaphysical rollercoaster with existential angst and blind faith gripping each other’s philosophical throats and squeezing really hard. No rational reader or mature comics fan can afford to miss this dark shining delight." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "This book beautifully captures the phantasmagoric flow of images that occurs in dreams. Mattotti's art is incredible. There are panels that are so intricate that I wonder how he had the time to draw so many of them. At 32 mostly wordless pages it's a very short book, but the imagery, like the panels of a child throwing a toy at a giant, or the panels showing a huge black bird carrying off a rabbit in a rainstorm, will stay with you long after you finish reading. If you like the intense, emotional, sometimes dreamlike artwork Mattotti did for Stigmata, you will love Chimera." – Jon Anderson, The Beguiling
[Editor/Marketeer's Note: You can get Chimera for half price when you order Stigmata!]
The infamous Strand Bookstore in New York City is known for its "18 miles of books," and on Friday, April 8th, they're devoting at least one of those miles to Strandicon, a celebration of comics!
The Strand will be hosting an afternoon of special appearances (including a 6:00 pm appearance by Dash Shaw), and the evening concludes with a celebration of The Comics Journal, featuring a panel with editors Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel, along with founding editor Gary Groth and longtime cartoonist and TCJ interviewee Kim Deitch.
So, if you live in New York, or if you'll be town for MoCCA, join us at 7:00 pm for what's sure to be a spirited discussion! (Strandicon will take place in the Comics & Graphic Novels Department of the Strand, on the Second Floor at 828 Broadway / 12th Street.)
Gary Groth provided this description of the issue:
"This was our special sex & violence issue, published at the height of a minor but persistent media brouhaha over the sexual and violence quotient in 'grown-up' comics from Marvel and DC. DC had implemented a ratings system — or announced it — and a number of creators — Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Howard Chaykin — were up in arms over it. This was a remarkably solid issue analyzing the question from every which way. I approached Jim Woodring for a cover and he did a doozy, encapsulating the theme in a single image. It would've been the issue's art director who literally pasted it all up, using wax and photostats and typesetting-on-film. Those were the days."
• 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."