Join us on consecutive Saturdays in June as Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery welcomes two remarkable cartoonists back to Seattle. Jeffrey Brownwill appear on Saturday, June 2 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. He'll discuss his role as co-writer of the romantic comedy "Save the Date" (which will screen the night before at the Seattle International Film Festival) and sign copies of his new book Darth Vader and Son.
The following Saturday, June 9 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM we're pleased to present Joe Saccocelebrating his new book Journalism. Visitors to this signing will be among the first in the nation to see the book, which will be offically released 10 days later. Don't miss this opportunity to meet this extraordinary artist and pick up an advance copy of the book. Bonus! This event coincides with the colorful and wildly entertaining Georgetown Carnival arts festival.
Attn: Flog Faithful... posting might lessen a bit this week as we continue to navigate the brutal, nine-day convention gauntlet that is Stumptown, MoCCA and TCAF. To ease your cravings, we bring you an exclusive Flog! report from our Tobacco Road Correspondent Rob Clough. -- Ed.
Joe Sacco gave a lecture and Q&A to an audience of about a hundred at Duke University on 4/24/2012. He said that this was probably the last time he was going to give this particular lecture on Comics Journalism. If you haven't seen it, Sacco gives an account of his working method by talking about the ways in which the comics page is an ideal construct for delivering multiple and often conflicting and contrasting forms of information. For example, in a page from Palestine, there's a heavy background emphasis on how rainy the weather was at the time and how uncomfortable that made everything. In each panel, you could see grey clouds following around Sacco and his friend and mud on their feet. Sacco noted that in prose, it's difficult to emphasize the constant nature of physical discomfort without being awkward. He said that you couldn't simply add the phrase "and there was mud on their feet" at the end of every sentence. Sacco repeatedly said how important accuracy is to him, from gettng the quotes right to trying to find out what a building or neighborhood might have looked like fifty years ago. For some aerial views that he didn't have access to (noting wryly that the governments of Egypt and Israel weren't about to grant him permission to fly over the settlements in Gaza), he simply used drafting skills and perspective to figure out what things would look like from above. Sacco also went into some detail about how he composes each page. On pages where there is violence or chaos, he favored a fractured panel arrangement where the reading order was made deliberately unclear for the reader, to reflect the chaos of the situation. On another such page, there was a spider-web of panels, where you could follow one character along one web to see what's happening with them, but the overall page had no set structure in terms of what order to read things in.
He talked about about how he represents himself in his comics, noting that he hides his eyes as a way of telling the reader that you're not getting every bit of info about him as a part of the story. He said that in choosing how he chooses to represent his experiences, he was conscious of how he affected the narrative, and more to the point, how the story affected him. When asked if he ever felt the urge to intervene or help in particular situations, he said that the works themselves were his form of intervention. Sacco told me that he's quite aware of other comics journalists operating, like Suzie Cagle, Dan Archer, Josh Neufeld, etc, though he wasn't necessarily an avid reader of anyone else in particular. I asked him about his feelings regarding the "embedded journalism" he did with the US military; he said that the experience is what you made of it, but that he didn't encounter a lot of grief in finding out things he was interested in. Similarly, he answered no when I asked him if his long-form journalistic works were a repudiation of the 24-hour, brief news cycle. He said that he depends on that news cycle to a certain extent and that it has its place. Instead, he said that he sees his work as a repudiation of shallow journalism.
Unsurprisingly, Sacco was warm and friendly with the long line of attendees who were having their books signed (many of which were provided by Duke's excellent Gothic Bookshop). He said that one reason why his touring is going to slow down is that he's going back into research and drawing mode. He has not one, but two books coming out this June. The first is Journalism, a collection of his short journalism stories that appeared in a variety of venues, and many of the stories were not published in the US. That one will be 208 pages. Also coming out is a book he's doing with Chris Hedges called Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt, which is about urban decay and the rise of a permanently doomed underclass in the US. Finally, he said that his current project involves research into Mesopotamia, partly because he had to get away from doing books about modern war zones. He said that he's going to work in aspects of his long-promised Gentleman's Guide To The Rolling Stones in the book. -- ROB CLOUGH
• List: For The Guardian, comics creators Bryan & Mary Talbot select their top 10 graphic memoirs, with Joe Sacco's Palestine at #4: "Sacco was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of comics to its full potential. Like his Safe Area Gorazde or recent Footnotes in Gaza, Palestine follows his experiences as he investigates events and interviews residents, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the place as he goes along. The palpable sense of place and the feeling that we're in the presence of the people who relate their experiences to him (and therefore to us) is a testament to his storytelling skills, his work being far more intimate than that of a filmed documentary. Sacco is a master of this medium."
• Feature: "Compiling the book was a learning experience for Thomas... 'They (the Panthers) switched from a gun-toting paramilitary organization to a more community-based entity offering free food, clothing, and medical care,' he says. And, perhaps, this may be Listen, Whitey!’s biggest strength — and greatest contribution — to future discourse about this topic that has been so distorted and misrepresented in its presentation to the consciousness of mainstream America. Maybe now, 40 years after the histrionics and exaggeration, enough time has passed so the emergence of Black consciousness can be scrutinized with a measure of clarity." – Gregg Reese, Our Weekly
• Interview: At The Atlantic, Steven Heller has a Q&A with Daniel Clowes: "I was trying to get work as an illustrator in the '80s, but no art directors actually ever called, which is what led me to throw up my hands in despair and slink back to comics. Originally, I was hoping to find a writer to collaborate with, since I was much more interested in the drawing part of the equation, but that didn't work out. And so I began writing my own stories."
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions — now up to date!
• Review: "The Locas grow up. Collecting material from Love and Rockets‘ second volume (previously found in Ghost of Hoppers and The Education of Hopey Glass), the latest in Fantagraphics’ perfectly executed series of L&R digests [Esperanza] finds Maggie, Hopey, Izzy, and Ray D. coming to terms with no longer being the life of the party and the heart of their scene — at least not without exhausting effort.... But if there’s one thing Jaime’s Locas stories in general, and this volume in particular, tell us, it’s that sometimes you have to be a grown-up for a long time before you grow up. It’s worth the work, and the wait." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "In the pages of Palestine, Sacco relates his experiences in the first person, with breathtaking honesty and haunting detail. With a narrative style that’s a little bit stream of consciousness, and a lot of oral tradition, he depicts not only his own experiences, but those of the many Palestinians he meets in his travels.... A comic book, no matter how poignant and groundbreaking, is not going to resolve a decades old stalemate. What Palestine does do is shed some light on a near forgotten people, lost behind the name of a broken nation." – Mike Re, Asbury Park Press
• Review: "Where have you gone Ernie Bushmiller, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. All kidding aside, you sure as shootin' can bet Nancy is happy, and so am I that the crucial years of this strip (or at least the dailies) are FINALLY being reprinted, and in chronological order to boot, by the fine folk at Fantagraphics. ...Nancycontinues to deliver on the fun puns 'n great art for us real-life comic strip fans while all of that extraneous junk that's been hitting the comic pages o'er the past few decades does little but mirror the rest of the contents of yer modern day newspaper industry that deserves to die a quick and inglorious death! ...[A] project like this is but one that really brings out that never-suppressed slobbo suburban kid feeling in me, and with more books to look forward to all I can say is...what the hell do we need Gary Trudeau for anyway?" – Chris Stigliano, Blog to Comm (via The Comics Journal)
• Plug: "Panther power has a way of roaring back to life when you least expect it: Years ago, Mushroom drummer and music archivist Pat Thomas told me he was working on an epic multimedia compilation on the Black Panthers. Now, hot on the heels of The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, comes Thomas' equally inspired lyrical documents of the Oakland-bred group: a hefty Fantagraphics tome, Listen, Whitey!... and a CD of spoken word, music and comedy." – Kimberly Chun, San Francisco Chronicle
• Review: "Any new work from Norwegian cartoonist Jason is worthy of a comics fan’s full attention, but the new, all-original short-story collection Athos in America is one of the best books of Jason’s career, which automatically makes it one of the best books of this year." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Joost Swarte... brought a nose-thumbing avant-garde sensibility to 'ligne claire' style Eurocomics in the ’70s and ’80s, even before he landed stories in the seminal art-comics anthology Raw. Is That All There Is? collects nearly 150 pages of Swarte’s most groundbreaking work... With his architectural sense of design and his punk-rock attitude, Swarte fused craft and nihilistic flippancy in stories about adventurers, harlots, musicians, and scientists, creating true 'modern art.'" – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "About all that was missing from Blake Bell’s 2010 Bill Everett biography Fire & Waterwas extended samples of Everett’s artist’s actual comics. Bell now remedies that by serving as editor on Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1... These publications rode the superhero wave initiated by the companies that would later become DC and Marvel, and while they didn’t withstand the test of time, they’re still a kick to read, buoyed by their no-nonsense action plots and by Everett’s propensity for drawing narrow figures poised to commit acts of violence." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "This collection is the ultimate love letter to all those 1960s kid comic books, but with a modern twist.... Each person is a well-defined character with strong flaws and backgrounds. With so much diversity, there is bound to be at least one character you will like.... If you are looking for a kid-friendly book with some charm, go ahead and pick [Yeah!] up." – Kevin Brown, City Book Review
• Profile:Steve Appleford of the Los Angeles Times (via a few of their suburban affiliates like the Glendale News Press) visits Tony Millionaire in his garage studio: "In his introduction to 500 Portraits, Millionaire writes that life experience has taught him that 85% of all people are 'bogus' or worse. In the garage, he describes himself as misanthropic, but admits his drawings often suggest otherwise. 'As it turns out, you can tell by looking at these portraits, I obviously love people — even the [jerks]. Hitler's done very lovingly,' he says. 'I think it's nice to have the juxtaposition of my disgust for humanity mixed with my obvious love for humanity. You can't draw like that if you really hate something.'"
• Profile: The Ottawa Citizen's Bruce Deachman catches up with Dave Cooper: "'There are different facets of my creative mind,' he says. 'I feel I need a lot of contrast, so I have all these things happening, but they’re all necessary to make me feel satisfied. It’s got to be this big pot happening, with everything boiling at once. It’s therapy for me,' he adds. 'I don’t see ever wanting to retire from the thing that I love to death.'" There's a short video, too, which Dave has posted on his blog
• Plug:Robot 6's Brigid Alverson is partway through Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals: "Woodring’s art has a real solidity to it and like the best surrealists, he creates unreal shapes and figures that seem real—he has figured out how to make new bodily orifices that mimic the old and yet are totally different. Like visions in a dream, they are convincing and false at the same time."
"Jason teams up with Fabien Vehlmann to craft a dark comedy about someone following a mysterious map in a bottle to and island where something strange is happening. The premise itself is a spoiler, as it’s a laugh-out-loud moment when the reader finds out what is going on. Jason’s work is as stellar as ever, just with a lot more dialogue this time around."
"Safe Area Goražde wasn’t a new book in 2011, but the special edition it got last year was enough to earn it a spot on this list. Joe Sacco reigns as the preeminent comics journalist, and Safe Area Goražde is another great reason why."
• Portland, OR: Come hear Joe Sacco speak at the Portland Central Library from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. Tickets for this event are free, and will be available 30 minutes prior to the program. Space at programs is limited, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. (more info)