Behold, the new issue of The Comics Journal, an edition so awesome we made it a flip-book with TWO cover features: Gary Groth's newsmaking interview with the late Maurice Sendak on one side, and Kim Thompson's interview with Jacques Tardi on the other side. (To clarify, there aren't two separate covers; every copy has both covers and which one's the "front" depends on which way you turn it.) And there's a whooole lotta stuff in between. Look for excerpts to be posted on TCJ.com as the release date nears (early February being our current best guess). TCJ sets the agenda for intelligent comics conversation, so pre-order your copy today and don't get left behind.
Your must-read of the day: The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to our second-in-command Kim Thompson. This, from Kim's very first answer:
"...[I]t was more the one-two combination of [Carl] Barks's duck stories and the acquisition of the EC material that gave me a sort of 'holy shit' moment of realizing that if you take, say, the Comics Journal's Top 100 list of yore and go down it, Fantagraphics is now so dominant it becomes almost ridiculous. I think the current Fantagraphics list is unambiguously the greatest list of cartoonists ever to be assembled under one publishing roof, period. I'm open to rebuttal, but, y'know, c'mon."
Always modest, that Kim! The conversation covers general publishing matters and then gets into detail about our current slate of Eurocomics translations. I found it super-informative — and I work here!
We're off road and on safari and I'm disappointed by the scenery and lack of wildlife. Who knew safari would be a web-ready-low-res-jpg. Tim Root is at the helm of his beautiful van and very-sludgy-slow-dirge-metal spills from the speakers, punctuated by off-tempo-crunchy-fat-dub-beats. Eric Reynolds is sitting to my left and is giving me shit for not paying attention to Africa (both politically and aesthetically). I'm trying to draw comix despite the bumpy ride and "exotic" locale. Three dimensional shapes made of crosshatching rise from the panels I'm drawing. Sitting across from me is Kim Thompson, chortling. Kim's finding endless laffs and curiosity from my magical crosshatch comix. "Whatcha doing Jason? Haw! That's silly! Har Har! Are you cross-eyed from all that cross-hatching? Heh heh!" With every pot-hole my .001 Rapidograph slips resulting in a loud-sputtering-snort-guffaw from Kim. Rather pissed, I scold Kim, telling him he should expand his view of comix and that what I'm attempting is similar to what Lars Von Trier (one of Kim's favorite filmmakers) has done with Dogme 95 and his film-obstructions experiments. Without warning, Jim Woodring's visage oozes from the van's dome-light and declares "The content and flatulent ass eats horse-meat and white-corn from The Field of Ignorance and Tranquility." Kim overflows with laughter pointing at me and alleging, "I did that!"
Why is Eric kicking out the back window of Tim's van? "We've got company!!" yells Eric.
Eric, Olivier Schrauwen and myself are sitting with our legs dangling from the van's back window as a charging Audi approaches. The Audi is stuffed with spitting camels garbed in saris. The camels are keeping pace with us as they start cocking their Kalashnikov rifles.
Jason: "What the fuck are we going to do!" Eric: "I don't know but I'm not happy about this and I'm not going to stand for it!" Eric tries to stand up. "Fucking camels! I'm not partial to their kind and I'll be damned if this will be the end of me!!"
Sparkly tears are streaming down Olivier's face. His tense cheeks frame the biggest-most-genuine-smile I've ever seen. Cheesy-retro-computer-generated-rotateey-things undulate around Olivier's eyes. He lovingly looks at the aggressive camels and starts barking. At this point I'm uncertain as to whether or not Olivier Schrauwen is Jesus Christ. With each bark the camels disintegrate. Eric sits down. The camels are almost gone.
My crosshatched comic is now a finished book and as I ruefully hand a copy to Kim and point out that he's paid for the printing and distribution. Kim giggles as he flips through my book, "It's good work, Jason. My mother loves it."
We're still reeling from the amazing weekend Fantagraphics had at the 2011 Small Press Expo earlier this month! Kim's awesome wife has some photos she's gonna share with us later, but in the meantime, here's some photos, thanks to our friends at the SPX Facebook page!
Ah yes, I remember that. 1976 or 1977. My family had just moved from Munich, Germany to Montpellier, France, and my Mother, my brother, and I were cooling our heels in our usual summer vacation spot of Copenhagen, Denmark while my Father was setting up our new Montpellier digs. (That would be the same Montpellier that currently serves as home base for Lewis Trondheim and Jason.) WIth ample time on his hands, my Father, who was (and is) an avid photographer, had just discovered the age-old trick of photographing someone multiple times in front of a black backdrop to create the illusion of multiple iterations of the same person (no, kids, there was no Photoshop then), and had sent us some hilarious fumetti of himself in various goofy disguises interacting with himself.
Around the same time, future Marvel Editor-in-Chief Mark Gruenwald (whom I knew well through correspondence) — at the time still a fan, of course — had self-published his TREATISE ON REALITY, one of the central tenets of which was that the Marvel and DC universes contained an infinite amount of "realities" each of which was created by an individual human decision (a kind of sci-fi version of chaos theory in which the butterfly does AND doesn't flap its wings). So in one reality Peter Parker decided not to go to that science exhibit and didn't get bitten by that spider, or Bruce Wayne's parents didn't duck down that dark alleyway, etc. Those reality-creating "decision points" he dubbed "nexuses" (or "nexi"?). Somehow in my geeky mind this combined with the technique my father had been playing around with and the whole family got together (note my Mother's credit for "flying cucumber" effect) and created this illustration of what would happen if, as I was reading Mark's treatise, I found myself having to decide among continuing to read it, going for a snack, or going to bed (the trifecta of choices pretty much anyone faces when reading late at night).
Everyone got a kick out of it (including Dean Mullaney, who was very much the "nexus" of that group) and I've been lugging around that set of Xeroxes for three and a half decades — until some wisenheimer in the Fantagraphics offices found it in a box and slapped it up on Flog.
Tom Spurgeon's recollection on his comicsreporter.com blog that this ties into a group of round-robin fan correspondents that included Rob Rodi and Jo Duffy (also Ralph Macchio — the future Marvel editor, not the Karate Kid star) is on the nose.
I don't even want to think about how many of this blog's readers weren't even born when I did this.
Rest in peace Mark Gruenwald, a good guy who died far too young. Hopefully there are thousands of other alternate realities where he's still happily editing Marvel comics.
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 :
• Review: "...[T]he cartoons in Willie & Joe: Back Home capture Mauldin at a low ebb personally, and ferociously inspired professionally.... The material in Back Home is bitter but witty, and remarkable for its courage. Given the platform of a major syndicate, Mauldin used his moral authority — as a firsthand observer of atrocity, venality, and want — to try and make his complacent countrymen feel a little shame. Where his wartime cartoons had said, 'I am one of you' to grunts in the trenches, his post-war work said, 'What the hell happened to you?' to the people who stayed home. At the time, the public rejected Mauldin’s lectures. Today they’re a blistering reminder that life after WWII wasn’t all suburban bliss and baby boom." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Told with humor and a great depth of sensitivity, these comics offer a human lens to an epic more often expressed in grandiose terms. Over the past couple of years Fantagraphics has amazed me consistently with its archival releases of seminal cartoonists' work, and Willie and Joe: The WWII Years is yet another fine example." – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
• Review: "Toth brought clarity and drama to the page — the equivalent of a top Hollywood director elevating rote material through elegant framing and camera moves.... Nearly every drawing in this book is purposeful and exciting, and they flow together to tell stories so clearly that the words are often superfluous. Setting the Standard is a treasure trove..." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is certainly in Toth’s league when it comes to rendering seamy genre fare with real artistry. Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot ... is a wonderfully wicked piece of work, tracking a hitman as he tries to sever all ties with his past and retire with his childhood sweetheart. The story’s a familiar one... but Manchette’s approach is especially violent and gory, with a tough twist ending. And Tardi picks up on the sadness underlying the brutality, sketching a black-and-white world where the choice to go to the dark side is irrevocable, no matter how hard characters work to wrest control of their fates." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen does a fine job of approximating the high weirdness of early-20th-century newspaper comics in The Man Who Grew His Beard, a collection of seven deeply strange short stories.... Schrauwen mixes ink and paint in ways that blur the distinctions between comics and fine art, and he brings back certain themes — instruction and erotica, primarily — that suggest how men try and fail to place parameters on the primal. But The Man Who Grew His Beard isn’t meant to be 'understood' so much as it is to be entered and experienced, in all its wildness." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #4 continues the artist’s increasingly masterful hybrid of direct storytelling and experimental abstraction.... The story suits Huizenga’s style, since he can document both the familiar minutiae of daily life and the sense of unreality that takes hold whenever someone is up half the night. Huizenga works in visual motifs of endlessly branching possibilities and spiraling shapes, showing how becoming 'lost in thought' can be terrifying. In short: This is another terrific installment of a series that’s fast becoming a classic." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Mr. Twee Deedle, Raggedy Ann’s Sprightly Cousin: The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpieces of Johnny Gruelle... collects the strip that illustrator Gruelle created to fill the void left by Little Nemo when Winsor McKay departed The New York Herald. Though not as imaginative as McKay, Gruelle’s Mr. Twee Deedle was every bit as colorful and lavishly rendered, telling gentle fairy stories that explore a rich fantasy world existing in tandem with our own, like children having elaborate playtimes mere feet away from their parents’ more prosaic lives." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club (NOTE: This review was based on samples of the strip provided to the reviewer; the book itself is incomplete and still in production.)
• Review: "...Drawing Power... brings together an eclectic set of examples of comics being used to sell products. The pages are fun to look at — from Mickey Mouse pitching Post Toasties to Dr. Seuss illustrating ads for Esso Marine Products — but the topic is a little too large for a 120-page book, especially one so loosely organized. Then again, maybe that’s the point: to create a reading experience as chaotic and laced with odd beauty as cartooning itself." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mention them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
• Review: For Magnet, Marc Bianchi of the band Her Space Holiday (they're good!) pens an appreciation of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, adding "A good place to rediscover the Peanuts is through the retrospective that Fantagraphics started releasing in 2004. They are complete and total masterpieces, from the elegant layouts provided by famed comic-book artist Seth to the wonderful guest introductions each volume has... If you are ever in a shop that carries these books, I highly suggest thumbing through one of them. Especially the earliest works (1950-1952 or 1953-1954). You are guaranteed to find something that in one panel can tear your heart apart and, in the next, put it back together again."
• Review: "To say that Wandering Son isn't a manga for everyone is perhaps stating the obvious, but despite the potential to make light of its cross-dressing, coming of age tale it proves itself to be an impressively subtle and considered take on growing up within this opening volume. ...[G]ive it time and you'll find an impressive, character-driven series beneath its simplistic surface that will both charm and fascinate you, leaving you rooting for its characters and wanting to follow them through to (you hope) eventual happiness." – Andy Hanley, UK Anime Network
• Review: "Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, 1936-1941 promises to fill gaps in 'the origins and early development of superheroes and the comic book form.' Editor Greg Sadwoski has assembled an eye-catching collection of stories, magazine covers, and house ads showing unfamiliar faces from the first years of American adventures comics. ...Supermen! is most interesting for what didn’t lead anywhere.... Seeing what didn’t work or become the norm can be as illuminating as seeing what did." – J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends (via Robot 6)
• Plug: "...[D]espite his undeniable gift for crafting elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks' Disney work…until now. Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: 'Lost in the Andes' by Carl Barks in October, 2011." – Bill Baker, The Morton Report
• Interview (Audio): The hosts of Comics Alliance's "War Rocket Ajax" podcast talk to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, crafting his brand of humor and sundry other topics (such as bleu cheese): "It's about things taking the turn that you don't expect, the ball taking the bounce you don't expect. That for me is an example of trying to make the sentence end up in a place that's different from where it started."
• Tribute: At The Comics Journal, Kim Thompson's obituary of Francisco Solano López: "Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)." (Excerpt courtesy TCJ's Tim Hodler)
Comic-Con keeps rolling out their 2011 programming schedule — today they've posted Saturday's lineup and it features our can't-miss 35th Anniversary panel which will include a couple of announcements that will knock your socks off. Here's what Fanta fans will want to catch:
10:00-11:30 50 Years of Comic Fandom: The Founders— It's hard to believe but it's been fifty years (more or less) since that peculiar institution called Comic Book Fandom was born. Meet some of those who were there at the inception, including Jean Bails, Paul Levitz, Dick and Pat Lupoff, Richard Kyle, Bill Schelly, Roy Thomas, and Maggie Thompson along with moderator Mark Evanier, as they discuss how fandom came to be and just what it was. Room 24ABC
11:30-12:30 Bill Blackbeard: The Man Who Saved Comics— In the 1960s, while writing a history of the American comic strip, Bill Blackbeard learned that most of the nation's libraries were discarding their newspaper archives in favor of microfilm, destroying countless pages of comics in the process. Over the course of the next three decades, Blackbeard and his volunteers at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art amassed a collection of more than 2.5 million comics, including virtually every comic strip ever syndicated in U.S. newspapers. When he passed away earlier this year, Blackbeard had contributed to more than 200 comic strip collections, including the beloved Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, and his work had inspired generations of cartoonists, historians and fans. Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago, publishers Gary Groth and Dean Mullaney, editor and herstorian Trina Robbins, and Jenny Robb, curator/assistant professor from Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum celebrate Blackbeard's life and legacy. Room 24ABC
12:30-1:30 Fantagraphics 35th Anniversary— Fantagraphics Books was founded in 1976 with the launch of their first publication, The Comics Journal. Since then, they've grown to become one of the world's foremost publishers of literary comix and comic strips. Publishers Gary Groth and Kim Thompson offer a multimedia presentation highlighting their favorite works from the past 35 years, as well as previewing some of their upcoming favorites. Expect a major announcement or two, as well! Room 24ABC
1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Anders Nilsen— Comic-Con special guest Anders Nilsen debuts his magnum opus, the 800+-page Big Questions, which he began self-publishing over 10 years ago and which quickly placed Nilsen at the forefront of alternative cartoonists. He is part of the Chicago comics collective The Holy Consumption with Jeffrey Brown, John Hankiewicz, and Paul Horsnchemeier and was recently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Join him as he presents a slideshow of his work from his haunting postmodern fable. Room 4
2:30-3:30 The Art of the Graphic Novel—Andrew Farago (curator, Cartoon Art Museum) talks with graphic novelists Chester Brown (Paying for It), Seymour Chwast (Dante's Divine Comedy), Eric Drooker (Blood Song), Joyce Farmer (Special Exits, A Memoir), Joëlle Jones (Troublemaker), Jason Shiga (Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)), and Craig Thompson (Habibi) about their work in the genre that has elevated comics to mainstream bookstores all over the world. Room 24ABC
Ran out of time on Friday's Online Commentary & Diversions, so it's combined with links from the weekend:
• Review: "Now Fantagraphics has risen to the fore with [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley... It’s a pretty spiffy package, sharply designed and full of smart, well-written essays that provide a rich portrait of the artist and his times, as well as some great comics.... As impressive as Gottfredson's work is, it's in the ancillary materials or 'special features' that makes this book really shine. Editors Gary Groth and David Gerstein have gone the extra mile here... With its shameless abundance of riches, Mickey Mouse Vol. 1 sets a new standard in reprint publication." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Only a small handful of Gottfredson's collected works have been published and most are out of print. He pioneered a trendsetting style of adventure comics, though in his lifetime remained largely unrecognized.... Fantagraphics has kindly republished a bit of the Gottfredson Mickey run in their new book [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1:] Race to Death Valley, beautifully restored [and] repackaged..." – Green Apple Books
• Review: "The latest volume of The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 continues with Charles Schulz’s herculean output of his beloved comic strip. Schulz supplies the customary laughs in stand-alone gag strips and some short 'continuing' storylines.... As I have said in previous reviews, Fantagraphics does such a marvelous job with these hardcover Peanuts volumes. From the cover by designer Seth, to the crisp black-and-white reprinting (3 dailies per page, 1 Sunday per page), to the handy index to help you find your favorite strip, Fantagraphics takes creating a permanent archive of this beloved humor strip very seriously. Children of all ages should all get their hands on this American treasure." – Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Commentary: Mike Sterling makes a few observations about The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980: "SPOILER ALERT: Peppermint Patty gathers evidence and uses skeptical, critical thinking to resolve her particular issue here."
• Review: "Some of the very first autobiographical works on the French bande dessinée scene, these little gems were a genuine game-changer for cartoonists and storytellers... Superbly skilled at switching imperceptibly from broad self-parody to cripplingly painful personal revelation, wild surrealism to powerful reportage and from clever humorous observation to howling existentialist inquisition, Trondheim’s cartoon interior catalogue is always a supremely rewarding and enjoyable experience and, as these ancient texts [Approximate Continuum Comics] prove, always has been." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "[Blake] Bell is our guide into this rich history of Bill Everett... Bell includes several pieces of artwork and comics that has rarely been seen. A true testament to a man who lived comics throughout his entire life and loved it with a passion...[I]t’s important not only to remember the characters, but the men behind them. Bell’s book here on the life and times of Bill Everett [Fire & Water], and his other biographical material on Steve Ditko, is a testament to that." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Interview: Hillary Chute talks to Joe Sacco for The Believer; I'll use their pullquote: "When you draw, you can always capture that moment. You can always have that exact, precise moment when someone’s got the club raised, when someone’s going down. I realize now there’s a lot of power in that."
• Interview:The A.V. Club's Sam Adams talks to Joe Sacco: "I think if I hadn’t studied journalism I might have taken a different approach, and I’m not saying my approach is the only way you can tell a story journalistically. But because I actually studied it, detail is important and accuracy is really important, so it’s not just about having an accurate quote. The problem with doing things the way I try to do them is that it’s not just an accurate quote, it’s an accurate image of what a place looks like. An absolute literal group of images? You might as well go to a photographer for that. But whatever interpretation I do of it, it has to be informed by reality."
• Profile:HiLobrow's Joshua Glenn on Dame Darcy: "If she sounds like too much to handle, that’s because she is; now you know why her comic is called Meat Cake — they’re two decadent foods, so why not combine them? Darcy’s world is a child’s garden of verses overrun by drunken mermaids, grave-robbing French maids, and Vitalis-groomed cads. If this sort of thing sounds like your cup of spooky-kooky tea, read Meat Cake..."
• Profile: "I made my quarterly pilgrimage down to the Fantagraphics store in Seattle yesterday, and that store never ceases to amaze anyone who walks into it. From the curator/owner to the punk rock pictures on the wall, to the awesome collection of Fantagraphics titles, traditional comics, underground comics, and some adult stuff tucked away in the back room under the stairs, the entire store is a place to go explore the darker side of comic books." – Dan Morrill, Comics Forge
I had a great time at OCX last weekend. I'm too caught up in catching up to write any kind of report, except to say that the convention is tiny and splendidly run, Norwegians are all wonderful people, the weather was exactly like Seattle except the days were longer (the shots outside Jason's gallery opening were at something like nine o'clock at night as I recall) and any cartoonist who gets invited by OCX, go, just go!
All photos by Lynn Emmert except as noted.
Jason had a small art show opening during the convention, featuring priceless original art elegantly hung from a clothesline, a little selection of cool new paintings (zombies, Hitler, the usual) on corrugated cardboard featuring several of his characters, and Jason animations.
Outside the Jason opening. From left to right, Steffen Kverneland, the back of Dash Shaw's head, me, unknown, Lars Fiske, Jason. Fiske and Kverneland are the co-creators of the great graphic novel/biography Olaf G., about which you will be hearing much more soon.
Reverse angle: From left to right, the back of Jason's head, Fiske, Kverneland, Shaw, me. I don't know why the store sign in the background apparently says "Bugger." Which is almost as funny as the sign my wife and I saw on a Danish ferry once, since "Have a Good Trip" in Danish is "God Fart."
The banner-festooned entrance to the library, the upper floor of which is entirely taken up by the comics library,"Serieteket." Picturesque Scandinavian blonde woman on bicycle in foreground. (They're just everywhere.)
Me being interviewed on stage by journalist Erle Sřrheim. [Photo provided by OCX]
The Drinky Crow bar is open for business. Patrons include Dash Shaw and Dave Cooper to the left; the bartender was from Oregon, oddly enough.
Close-up of the counter, advertising "Beer -- wine -- sodas."
Tony Millionaire, me, and a couple of Finns, one bearing a Drinky Crow tote bag with the Scandinavian equivalent of DOOK DOOK DOOK.
Now the joint is hopping! I can't identify most of these people but the tall dude in the group on the left is dashing No Lo Comprendo Press publisher Espen Holtestaul (publisher of Olaf G., Daniel Clowes, Persepolis, and the Norwegian edition of Jimmy Corrigan, which deservedly won the "best Norwegian edition of a foreign comic" Sproing award the following day), and you can see Lars Fiske next to him.
Yes, let's visit that library! Kverneland and the blurry back of my head.
The "Serieteket" library. Please, lock me in here and throw away the key. [Photo provided by OCX]
Look at all those comics! And hey, there's our own MOME! "Gorilla" is the name of an anthology, by the way, not a thematic grouping (which if so would have had a lot of 1960s DC comics).
Dash Shaw art display at the convention, studied closely by female fans -- perhaps lured by the amazing glam photo of Dash that led off his introduction to convention-goers earlier that day, much to Dash's consternation.
The convention tent. It was lovely until the cold snap hit late in the afternoon. Eventually they had to bring the guy at the door a shawl and mittens. [Photo provided by OCX]
Actually, this picture is in perfect focus: It's Tony who's blurry.
The Fantagraphics panels: Dash Shaw, Dave Cooper, Dave Cooper's dad me, Jason, and Tony Millionaire. We all love Oslo and hope to come back soon!