THE ADVENTURES OF JODELLE Written by: Pierre Bartier; Drawn by: Guy Peellaert Hardcover • Full-Color Release: May 2012
PRAVDA Written by: Pascal Thomas; Drawn by: Guy Peellaert Hardcover • Full-Color Release: November 2012
FANTAGRAPHICS ACQUIRES RIGHTS TO TWO LEGENDARY BELGIAN CLASSICS: PEELLAERT'S THE ADVENTURES OF JODELLE AND PRAVDA
Fantagraphics Books has signed a deal to release two groundbreaking graphic novels from cult Belgian artist Guy Peellaert (1934-2008): The Adventures of Jodelle (1966) and Pravda (1967). The remastered editions will be produced in collaboration with the late artist's estate, which will contribute previously unseen material for extensive archival supplements.
Both albums were originally released in France by Eric Losfeld, the controversial publisher who passionately defied censorship in the lead-up to the cultural revolution of 1968; along with Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella, Peellaert's Jodelle and Pravda were among the earliest of European adult-oriented graphic novels.
The Adventures of Jodelle, whose voluptuous title heroine was modeled after French teen idol Sylvie Vartan, is a satirical spy story set in a Space Age Roman-Empire fantasy world. Its then-revolutionary clashing of high and low culture references, borrowing as much from Renaissance painting as from a fetishized American consumer culture, marked the advent of the Pop movement within the nascent "9th art" of comic books, not yet dignified as "graphic novels" but already a source of great influence in avant-garde artistic circles. Visually, Jodelle was a major aesthetic shock. According to New York magazine, its "lusciously designed, flat color patterns and dizzy forced perspective reminiscent of Matisse and Japanese prints set a new record in comic-strip sophistication."
Released a year later and first serialized in the French counter-culture bible Hara-Kiri, Pravda follows the surreal travels of an all-female motorcycle gang across a mythical American landscape, led by a mesmerizing cold-blooded heroine whose hyper-sexualized elastic anatomy was this time inspired by quintessential Gallic chanteuse Françoise Hardy. Pravda's eye-popping graphics pushed the psychedelic edge of Jodelle to dazzling new heights, further liberating the story from narrative conventions to focus the reader's attention on the stunning composition and glaring acid colors of the strips, with each frame functioning as a stand-alone cinematic picture.
From Pravda — click to enlarge
Pravda, with its themes of female empowerment and beauty emerging from chaos, became an instant sensation on the European underground scene, inspiring various tributes and appropriations from the worlds of film, literature, fashion, music, live arts, advertising or graphic design. Over the years, it has acquired a rarefied status as a unique and timeless piece of Pop Art defying categorization or trends, and has found itself exhibited in such unlikely "high culture" institutions as the Musée d'Orsay or the Centre Pompidou. An early admirer of Peellaert's radical vision — along with luminaries as diverse as Jean-Luc Godard (who optioned the film rights to Pravda) and Mick Jagger — Frederico Fellini praised Jodelle and Pravda as "the literature of intelligence, imagination and romanticism."
The Adventures of Jodelle was published in the United States in 1967 by Grove Press, whose legendary editor-in-chief Richard Seaver (the man credited with introducing Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs and Henry Miller to America) also provided the translation; Pravda has never been released in English, despite its lead character transcending the long out-of-print book where she originated to become a peculiar iconic figure, the maverick muse of a few "au courant" art and design aficionados from Paris to Tokyo.
Refusing to cash in on the phenomenal success of Jodelle and Pravda (he viewed the former as a one-time graphic "experiment" of which the latter marked the accomplishment) the reclusive Peellaert abruptly left cartoons behind after only two albums at the dawn of the 1970s to pursue an obsessive kind of image-making which painstakingly combined photography, airbrush painting and collage in the pre-computer age. His best-known achievement in America remains the seminal 1973 book Rock Dreams, a collection of portraits which resulted from this distinctive technique and was hailed as "the Sistine Chapel of the Seventies" by Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, eventually selling over a million copies worldwide, influencing a generation of photographers and earning its place in the pantheon of rock culture. Other well-known creations include the iconic artwork for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs album cover (1974) as well as The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock ‘N' Roll the same year. Peellaert also created the indelible original poster for Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1978), the first of many commissions from renowned auteurs including Wim Wenders, Robert Altman, Stephen Frears, Alain Resnais and Robert Bresson.
As the original negatives and color separations for Jodelle and Pravda are long lost (interestingly, Peellaert never reclaimed the original ink-on-paper pages from Losfeld) Fantagraphics will be re-coloring both books digitally. "The original books were colored via hand-cut separations from Peellaert's detailed color indications," said Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson, who will be editing and translating the new editions. "Since the Losfeld editions were printed quite well and Peellaert's linework is thick and simple, we're going to be able to generate crisp black-and-white versions of the line art to start from which should duplicate the original ‘look' exactly. Although actually our edition of Pravda should be better than the original, which had some pretty erratic color registration."
The Adventures of Jodelle is scheduled for release in May 2012, and Pravda in November 2012, both in deluxe oversized hardcover editions. Each will feature an extensive original essay discussing the works and their historical context, accompanied by numerous archival illustrations and photographs.
"I am terrifically excited to bring these two landmark books to American audiences — especially Pravda, which has never been published in English," said Thompson. "They are some of the most graphically jaw-dropping comics ever put to paper. They remain both quintessentially 1960s in attitude and look, and utterly timeless."
Catching up on several days' worth of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List/Plugs: In an article titled "Fantagraphics: The Greatest American Comics Publisher," GUY.com's Rob Gonsalves says "What the Criterion Collection is to DVDs, Fantagraphics is to comics. Any self-respecting collection of graphic novels, any library public or personal, needs to sport at least one Fantagraphics book," and recommends a nicely idiosyncratic top-20 list of our publications which includes some of our more obscure releases
• Review: "While there definitely were some hardships, Clemente’s life was as unique and joyful as his persona and ball playing skills were, and Wilfred Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente reflects this uniqueness and joy through its own unique retelling of Clemente’s life. [...] The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball." – Andy Frisk, Comic Book Bin
• Interview: Pittsburgh City Paper's David Davis, who says "In his new graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, the author of 2002's In My Darkest Hour uses Clemente's life to explore issues on and off the diamond. These include the thorny politics of Puerto Rico (statehood or commonwealth status?) as well as the racism Clemente faced in America as a dark-skinned Latino. The result is both a superhero cartoon and a lyrical time-machine, rendered in the regal black-gold-and-white of the Bucs' uni," has a brief Q&A with Wilfred Santiago: "I began my career working on superhero cartoons. That's the look I wanted to get -- somewhere between a cartoon and a painting. I wanted to get the camera right there with him and you're experiencing the action up close."
• Review: "Slavishly documenting and lavishly illustrating through band flyers and set lists and rare record sides and marvelous photography, along with first-person textual accounts, this strange, excited dialogue between misfits in America through bands, venues, zines, and lives and how it was all done punk and how punk was done. [...] Taking Punk to the Masses’ gallant bridging of universal punk history with our own in Ecotopia is a reason to celebrate. Your eyes can gnaw on decades of delicious artwork while you read and watch stories you may have heard of, but after this, will never forget." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "In Hate Annual #9, Buddy returns to Seattle to meet the dysfunctional family of his wife Lisa who he has never met despite having been with Lisa for close to 20 years. In a tension-filled 72 hours, Buddy is subjected to senile parents, criminals, and drug addicts. Each page is filled with the sardonic humor and high drama that are staples of Bagge's work. [...] Read this issue slowly because once you're done laughing your head off, you are sure to be sad that you'll have to wait another year to check in with one of the best characters of alternative comics." – Rip Ransley, Stray Riffs
• Review: "The particular fascination in this early work [The Arctic Marauder] is seeing one of the unique individual styles in cartooning at a formative stage. [...] As for the subject matter: It’s an example of parody that continues on when the thing parodied has long faded away. [...] Part of the appeal is feeling superior to an earlier age, and another part is being engaged in the traces of the earlier form embedded in the parody, which you would normally feel yourself too sophisticated to enjoy." – R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "At once a parody and a tribute to late 19th, early 20th century mystery/adventure Jules Verne-esque fiction, this gorgeous one-shot [The Arctic Marauder] is masterfully drawn scratchboard style, as to echo the woodcuts of the era. The result is sumptuous, and look at those elegant art-nouveau panels! [...] Fans of concentrated mysteries, steam-operated machines, dramatic adventures and over-the-top vilains should be all over this!" – 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "With Woodring’s skill, I never found myself confused, at least, more than you’re supposed to be. I’ve never read a statement by Woodring saying this, but I always got the impression he wanted you to work for the meaning behind his stories. Even if it’s not the case, I highly enjoy the process. In one graphic novel [Weathercraft], I got what I think may have been a love story, a treatise on spiritual enlightenment and sometimes just a whole lot of fun." – Joe Keatinge, Joe Keatinge's Comics & Stories
• Review: "Weathercraft... [is a]nother volume of nightmarishly beautiful wordless comics by the remarkable Mr. Woodring. Even for those accustomed to his work, there is page after page that makes you say, 'I’ve never seen anything like that before!' And then hide under your bed." – M. Ace, Irregular Orbit
• Interview:Book By Its Cover's Jen Rothman, who says "Ray Fenwick has created yet another masterpiece. His second book, Mascots, hit shelves in the beginning of this year and it’s quite a beauty. It’s filled with his signature style that mixes ornate hand lettering and imagery, creating amusing little narratives," has a Q&A with Ray: "I thought of the idea of mascots because they’re these outrageous, often ridiculous figures, but they’re symbolic of something else. The thing they’re there to represent isn’t ridiculous at all. I thought that was similar in a lot of ways to the work in the book."
• Interview:One Two One Two Microphone Check has a cultural Q&A with our own Kim Thompson: "There is no movie I love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation, because if I love it, it is worth talking about by definition. (I concede this could be taken as arrogant.) That said, I am mildly embarrassed at how much I actually love Love, Actually."
• Interview: Alex Dueben's great interview with Daniel Clowes at Comic Book Resources touches on Dan's design work for our upcoming series of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby collections: "It's probably the best written comic strip of all time. The artwork is disarmingly simple. It's the kind of thing that I would normally not be attracted to. He uses typography instead of hand lettering and very simple diagrammatic drawings, yet they are perfect, and work beautifully in a way that anything added to it would detract from it. My goal with the design of the book is to follow his very severe minimal design style and try to live up to that."
• Interview: At TCJ.com, Sean T. Collins also talks to Clowes: "I was always baffled that people who liked mainstream comics seemed to really gravitate towards [Eightball #22]. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about that one, specifically, that made them like that so much."
• Commentary:Tim Kreider pens an essay on the state of the cartooning industry for TCJ.com: "When you’re young, it’s exciting and fun just to have your work published in the local alternative weekly, or posted online, “liked” and commented on and linked to; but eventually you turn forty and realize you’ve given away a career’s worth of labor for nothing. What’s happening in comics now is what happened in the music industry in the last decade and what’ll happen to publishing in the next. Soon Don DeLillo will be peddling T-shirts too."
• Commentary:Robot 6 polled Gilbert Hernandez for their weekly "What Are You Reading?" feature: "The new comics I always enjoy are by R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and Charles Burns. I haven’t seen Burns’ and Sala’s new books yet but I did read The Bible by Crumb, which I found tedious only because of the subject matter and Wilson by Clowes. That was hard to get through because the protagonist is so supremely hateful. Well executed, though."
• Review: "Last year, Fantagraphics reproduced Catalog No. 439 of the DeMoulin Brothers – the most extensive depiction of initiation contraptions and ritual outfits used by Freemasons and other fraternal orders, like the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and E. Clampus Vitus. Bearing the title Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes, this wacky book may shed a shred of light into the outer sanctum of these associations – unless, of course, it is actually a hoax disseminated to lead us astray. [...] Even if Enlightenment should, as always, prove ever elusive, the illustrated designs of Edmund DeMoulin and the handiwork of his brothers Ulysses and Erastus, as reproduced in Burlesque Paraphernalia, will still deliver amusing, if sadistic, anthropology. [...] Book lovers... will fall for its hundred and fifty full-page plates of machines of untold mischief. " – Jeffrey Wengrofsky, Coilhouse
• Review/Commentary: "...I end up seeing Ditko’s work arc from earliest 'dependent work' as he calls it, the charming, imaginative comics collected in Unexplored Worlds, the rockets, superintelligent monkeys, green insect aliens seeking earthling wives, paintings that lead to another world, angelic visitors and poetically just twist endings, to his later work created entirely on his own terms and for his own purpose, but less effective as his characters become 'ciphers' and his design, text-heavy." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter
• Commentary:David Chelsea posts his email debate with Kim Thompson re: Joost Swarte's use of perspective. Kim: "Maybe you aren’t seeing the forest for the trees — or the ground below the trees that comprises the forest because you’re looking at it from a horizontal-oblique perspective." Zing!
• Craft: At TCJ.com, Frank Santoro applies his lessons in page proportion and layout to a Tintin page by Hergé
• Review: "Wilfred Santiago’s reverent comic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente respectfully portrays both the player and the humanitarian without ever devolving into hagiography. [...] Santiago’s pleasantly cartoonish art defuses the sort of stifling sincerity that often turns well-intentioned works like this into ponderous bores. His dynamic layouts during the excellently rendered game scenes are tremendous, amazingly capturing the tension and euphoric release of a successful at-bat. [...] Santiago makes the sport exciting for even the most die-hard anti-baseball lout, but more importantly reminds us of the man behind one of the most inspirational figures in sports." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "...Jacques Tardi is one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists... [The Arctic] Marauder's standout attraction is Tardi’s art, particularly the complex ways Tardi combines black ink, gray tones and white space to delineate the frozen Atlantic Ocean expanses that open and close the book. ...Marauder‘s story is a pleasure to read. [...] Tardi’s handling of this milieu is perfect." – Craig Fischer, The Panelists
• Review: "Here [in Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921] you’ll find Krazy moved to tears by the plight of a caged canary denied all the joys of free-flying fowl which he demonstrates one by one… outside of his cage. You’ll see him creep around on behalf of a pig begging for pennies after Ignatz dobs him in, the sneak. You’ll witness the sublime stupidity of Pupp and Ignatz investigating a dark cave with eyes, right under (or above) Krazy’s nose. But most of all, there’s them thar bricks aflyin’. [...] Regardless of gender, it’s probably the strangest love triangle in the world." – Page 45 (via The Comics Reporter)
• Review: "Krazy and Ignatz, as it is dubbed in these lovely collected tomes from Fantagraphics, is not and never has been a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multilayered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview (Audio): Your must-listen of the day: our own Kim Thompson joins Inkstuds host Robin McConnell and Dr. Bart Beaty for a discussion of all things Euro-comics
• Feature: At the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures blog, Best American Comics series co-editor Jessica Abel spotlights Nate Neal's "Delia's Love" from Mome Vol. 15 as a 2010 Notable Comic: "Clearly structured, despite somewhat-complex flashbacks, 'Delia’s Love' is a story of down-and-outness and complicated romantic and sexual history. It’s told sensitively, and with subtlety, despite the sometimes harsh subject matter. No character comes off as either entirely hero or victim, and that’s how I like it."
• Plug: "This collection [Take a Joke] will feature some of the longer humor pieces from Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix and, while it is NOT family friendly, it is funny as shit. [...] REMEMBER THAT THIS IS NOT FAMILY FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT." – Forces of Geek
Now this is the material that was serialized in The Nimrod, right?
Yes and no. The Nimrod #1, 6, and 7 featured the first three installments (out of six). So if you have all the Nimrods, sorry, you'll be buying half of it all over again. But the translation's been reworked and it's been re-lettered from scratch.
Why re-letter? I thought whoever did the comics did a really nice job.
I agree, but Jeremy Eaton's no longer interested in lettering, which means that the second half would've looked different from the first half. Also, in the intervening years, someone created a fantastic Trondheim font. And re-lettering allowed me to tighten up my translation. Turns out I've gotten better in the intervening years, I look at the Nimrod version and go "I can do better than that."
Is that the Trondheim font you used for his MOME story? That is a good font.
It's such a good font that the Eisner Awards jury nominated that story for "Best Lettering," which amused me.
Call me old school but I feel translations should be hand-lettered.
The problem is, if you hand letter translations you lose the infinite-tweaking capability that font lettering gives you. I tweak my translations endlessly, and if I were to do that with a hand-letterer every book would cost us ten thousand dollars to letter. And of course font lettering is far, far cheaper even setting aside my own undisciplined idiosyncracies. But I also think we've tipped over to the point where in many cases the font lettering actually looks better than the hand lettering, partly because it's in the artist's hand, partly because even the best letterer tends to tense up when trying to copy-fit, particularly when lettering those artists who in the original did their lettering and then drew the balloons around them to fit, like Trondheim and Tardi. The hand-lettered chapters of "It Was the War of the Trenches" in Raw and Drawn and Quarterly were done about as well as you could imagine, and I miss the irregularities of hand lettering that font lettering eliminates, but ultimately I think our font-lettered version is better.
One exception: Céline Merrien, who letters our Mahler translations for MOME and will letter our next Mahler project (not announced yet, you heard it here first), can do utterly flawless impressions of pretty much anybody and make it work so it looks like the original. But she's superhuman (and not cheap). If it wasn't for the flexibility/cheapness issues above, I'd hire her to re-letter every foreign book we do... I mean, except for the ones that were font-lettered to begin with, like King of the Flies and the Mattotti stuff.
So, getting away from the lettering nerd-talk, this is all autobiographical comics from the 1990s, right?
Right. Although as Lewis explains in his endnotes, it almost happened by accident. He was writing and drawing a comic in the U.S. "pamphlet" format which was intended to be a combination of fiction and little autobio vignettes, and the latter completely took over. The vogue for autobio comics didn't hit France nearly as hard as it hit the U.S., but Lewis is one of the few who really got into it — and still is, in his "Little Nothings" series. (Others would be Jean-Christophe Menu, Fabrice Néaud, and Guy Delisle.) What's funny is that Lewis is in person quite shy, but utterly willing to expose himself in his comics. He writes with extreme candor about his shyness!
Any juicy gossip about other cartoonists?
No. Several other cartoonists figure prominently, particularly his studio mates at the time (Émile Bravo, Charles Berbérian), and his L'Association compadres (David B., Jean-Christophe Menu, Killoffer), but no real dirt - unless it comes as a surprise to you that Menu is quite the lush! Mostly just mildly embarrassing anecdotes about things like Émile Bravo's annoying humming habits, and Lewis (who hits himself 100 times harder than he hits anyone else) lets the cartoonists set the record straight in a "Rebuttals" section at the end. Oh, there's a wordless cameo by Moebius, too, watching Lewis nearly throwing up.
Why did you stop publishing Trondheim? Fantagraphics was out front with both The Nimrod and the McConey books, then you just quit.
Because both series tanked! American readers rejected the European album format of McConey, and The Nimrod was caught in the death spiral of alternative comic books. Tom Spurgeon wrote a very nice little essay a few weeks ago about how if a great book like The Nimrod couldn't work that signaled the doom of the "pamphlet" form. On the other hand we'd kind of run out of Trondheim material that worked in that format, all we had left was to run more chapters of Approximate and that sort of seemed to be cheating; I'd started to resent the use of the pamphlets as just being double-dipping pre-graphic-novel content providers, and I'm sort of pleased two thirds of the Nimrod material did not fit that definition. (It does also mean that Trondheim fans who missed the now sold out issues are shit out of luck.)
Anyway, NBM and First Second have been doing a pretty stellar job of cranking out Trondheim stuff. NBM has been putting out three Trondheim books a year for a while, and when you consider their Dungeon books collect two of the French editions, the amount of Trondheim albums available in the U.S. has got to be pushing 40. Which is only about a third of his output, but still.
That said, I would like to get back into the Trondheim business and actually plan to start putting out two of Lewis's books a year.
That would be telling. It would make sense to put out La Mouche as a "pendant" to Approximate Continuum, of course. But wait and see. No matter what, I think he can still write and draw them faster than Terry Nantier and I combined can translate them.
Is Approximate Continuum some of your favorite Trondheim work?
Yes. Why else would I pick that since he's got a zillion other books to choose from? Check.
Because you already had it half translated, it was easier doing a new one from scratch, and you're lazy. Check.
Good point. But back then I picked it because it was some of my favorite Trondheim work too. Checkmate.
Well played, sir! And you're right, it is a great comic.
Larry Reid greets the crowd at Better Tardi Than Never
Merci beaucoup! Thank you to everyone who attended the opening of our latest exhibit on Jacques Tardi, "Better Tardi Than Never: How France's Greatest Living Cartoonist Took a Mere 32 Years to Break Through to American Audiences." It was especially wonderful to see our friends from the Alliance Française de Seattle.
Not only did we present the world debut of Tardi's fifth book, the epic "icepunk" tale The Arctic Marauder, but we were fortunate to have Fantagraphics co-publisher, editor, and Tardi translator Kim Thompson on hand for the always-informative and often-hilarious presentation "You Don't Know Jacques. Tardi: 20 Books in 20 Minutes." And you can know Jacques yourself, by watching the entire 45-minute talk below (or on the YouTube page)!
And while supplies last, you can get yourself your very own build-it-yourself Tardi diorama free with a purchase of $100 or more at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. Kim put this one together himself that Saturday afternoon!
Francophiles and Fantagraphics followers unite! On Saturday, March 12, Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery hosts "Better Tardi Than Never: How France's Greatest Living Cartoonist Took a Mere 32 Years to Break Through to American Audiences." It examines the life's work of Jacques Tardi. Organized by Fantagraphics Books co-publisher, editor, and Tardi translator Kim Thompson, the exhibition includes pages from the artist's earliest English translations in 1977 to the present.
Thompson began translating Tardi in 1983 with an excerpt from It Was the War of the Trenches in RAW #5. He became a tireless advocate of this extraordinary artist, translating and publishing his work in several anthologies until American readers finally caught on. The show includes examples of each Tardi translation to reach American soil, along with a narrative explaining the context.
The reception on Saturday will feature a slide lecture by Kim at 6:30 PM. "You Don't Know Jacques. Tardi: 20 Books in 20 Minutes" looks at the cartoonist's career in France. The event will also feature the world premiere of Fantagraphics' fifth Tardi book, the epic "icepunk" tale The Arctic Marauder, among other surprises.
Fantagraphics Bookstore is located at 1201 S. Vale Street in the heart of Seattle's historic Georgetown district. Phone 206.658.0110. This event coincides with the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring visual and performing arts presentations throughout the neighborhood. See you then.
Join Kim on Wednesday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm, as he presents a screening of the 1963 Jean-Luc Godard masterpiece, Contempt, at Seattle's Central Cinema.
As he explains, the screening is "Part of their regular 'let a prominent Seattleite choose their favorite movie and talk it up' feature. If you've never seen Godard's Contempt, it is well worth seeing in a theatrical setting (in this case projecting from a Blu-Ray disc, which is the next best thing to a actual film), so grab your chance. If you've seen it, you probably know that it's always worth re-visiting, especially on a larger screen."
Central Cinema is located in Seattle's Central District neighborhood at 21st Avenue and E. Union Street. Tickets are available at the door, or online here.
The fabulous Georgetown Second Saturday Art Attack returns on March 12. The neighborhood lights up from 6:00 to 9:00 PM with visual and performing arts presentations throughout the historic industrial arts corridor. This monthly event affords the public an opportunity to visit working artists' studios and patronize the lively and diverse establishments that surround them.
Among the highlights of the March 12 Art Attack: The amazing Georgetown Trailer Park Mall celebrates Americana at its best with the debut of Charlie's Buns ‘N' Stuff, a trunk show of Frida Kustoms in the Frida Trailer Gallery, and live recording for the Georgetown Trailer Park Podcast; Krab Jab Studio presents "The Alien-Pooka War" by artist Milo Duke; the grand opening of Vecta Photo, a photography studio and gallery in the Original Rainier Brewery, features photographs of Seattle Slam wheelchair rugby athletes (proceeds of sales will benefit the team); "Chalk:" new art by Mark LaFalce at Mark LaFalce Painting Works; the neighboring Seattle Sculpture Atelier features a preview of Spring classes; Calamity Jane's hosts an assemblage and sculpture group show with Yvette Endrijautzki, Morbid Anatomy, Matthew C. Scott, Jack Howe and Brandon Bowman; Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery mounts an exhibition focusing on master French cartoonist Jacques Tardi with a slide talk by curator, editor and Tardi translator Kim Thompson; and the many wonderfully creative shopping and dining experiences that make historic Georgetown a priceless civic asset worthy of preservation.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.