The newly formatted, 600+ page Comics Journal proved a resounding success with 2011’s edition. 2012’s Volume 302 is sure to prove just as essential and exciting to comics readers worldwide.
This edition’s cover feature is a long, intimate interview-portrait with and of Maurice Sendak, the greatest and most successful children’s book author of the 20th — and 21st — century, the author of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, Higglety Piggelty Pop, and the illustrator of works by Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, and Randall Jarrell. In his longest published interview (and one of the last before his death in 2012), Sendak looks back over a career spanning over 60 years and talks to Gary Groth about art, life, and death (especially death), how his childhood, his parents, and his siblings affected his art and outlook, his search for meaning — and also, on the lighter side, about his love (and hate) of movies. And his unbridled comments on the political leadership of the previous decade have already garnered national media attention and controversy.
Sharing equal billing in this issue's flip-book format: Kim Thompson conducts a career-spanning interview with French graphic novel pioneer Jacques Tardi. The two explore the Eisner Award-winner’s genre-spanning oeuvre comprising historical fiction, action-adventure, crime-thriller, “icepunk” and more, focusing on Tardi's working methods (with step by step illustration), collaborations and other media (such as film and animation), and his fascination with World War I. Plus, Matthias Wivel examines Tardi's adaptation of Léo Malet's 120, Rue de la Gare.
Also in this issue, Art Spiegelman conducts a wide-ranging aesthetic colloquy on classic kids’ comics (Carl Barks’s Donald Duck, John Stanley’s Little Lulu, Sheldon Mayer’s Sugar and Spike, and many more) with a group of comics critics and historians. Bob Levin provides a revelatory investigation of the twisted history of the "Keep on Truckin’" litigation and a fascinating biographical portrait of R. Crumb’s lawyer, Albert Morse. Warren Bernard writes a ground-breaking historical investigation of the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Juvenile Delinquency. R.C. Harvey looks at Bill Hume's Babysan and Donald Phelps examines Percy Crosby's Skippy. And a tribute to the late Dylan Williams from his peers and the artists he published.
Plus: “How to Draw Buz Sawyer” by renowned newspaper cartoonist Roy Crane (and a previously unpublished interview), a new comic by Joe Sacco and one by Lewis Trondheim in English for the first time, Tim Kreider on Chester Brown, Tom Crippen on Mort Weisinger and Superman, Rich Kreiner on "difficult comics," and a visual gallery of and commentary on proto-comics.
The Comics Journal has been for 37 years the world’s foremost critical magazine about comics. It is now more vital than ever, a gigantic print compendium of critiques, interviews, and comics.
R.C. Harvey, who seemingly knows everything about everything, once again shared the expanse of his knowledge in his annotations for our latest collection of Walt Kelly's Pogo strips and once again we had to bleed the red pen dry and carve Harv's original text down considerably from the original 10,000 (or so) words to print it in the allotted space in Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol. 2 - Bona Fide Balderdash. But again, since the internet knows no such space limitations, we are pleased to present the unadulterated, unedited Harv here on our website. (And if you've just picked up the new box set of Vols. 1 and 2, you can find his unexpurgated Vol. 1 notes here.)
So get comfy, maybe fix yourself a nice mug of cocoa. We'll start with the intro here, and then you can carry on to the notes themselves. If you know Harv, you know that his loquaciousness and erudition is matched only by his delightfully readable prose. Enjoy! – Ed.
Swamp Talk Annotations and Historical Data By R.C. Harvey
lthough celebrated for his political allegory and satire, Walt Kelly laced Pogo with allusions to other aspects of contemporary life in America, plus literary references and snatches of poetry. In our less than literate society of 140-character communiques, many of Kelly’s nods at literature are obscure to the point of irrelevance, and the targets of much of his political sniping are no longer visible: sixty years after the fact, the events he so gleefully mocked have long been forgotten. My assignment here at the back of the book is to pull back the veil that the passage of time has drawn over the Pogo proceedings by reminding us of some of those things we’ve lost sight of.
Harmless drudgery though it is, I take heart at the words of comics afficionado and cartooner Clay Geerdes, who once said: “Probably only a handful of people, cartoonists among them, understand the many levels Kelly worked on in a single strip. He was to comics what William Faulkner was to the psychological novel” — an insight that doubtless justifies a few more generations of copiously footnoted articles about Pogo.
And so I plunge once again to a swirl of elucidation (clarifying explanation) the tedium of which will no doubt yield an ennui (listless boredom) greater than the enervating (paralyzing) effect of the bafflement that might otherwise prevail.
The period embraced by this volume (1951-52) provides a happy sample of the sort of crowd-pleasing antics that Kelly was staging in those days just before he turned the spotlight on political commentary; instead, we have unrelenting vaudevillian nonsense, mostly untinged by any topicalities whatsoever. His objective, he said, was to be funny. "I come from a school of old-time cartooning," he went on. "In the old days, we tried to make a buck out of drawing. I go after whatever seems funny to me."
In his pursuit of funny, Kelly eschewed plots. Plots, to Kelly, were not realistic. "The plot is an invention of storytellers," he said. And if none of his characters ever accomplishes anything or achieves whatever goal may have inspired the commencement of an action, that's realistic. "There are no pay-offs in real life," Kelly explained. "Besides, it always rings untrue when you try to wind up with a specific conclusion."
Consequently (in case you haven't noticed already), in Pogo things happen in much the same fashion as a ball of yarn unravels if rolled across the floor by a playful kitten. Pogo and the rest of "nature's screechers" that populate the swamp may begin with one thing in mind, but they are easily distracted (by misapprehended speeches or actions, by puns or other word play, by the arrival of a newcomer in their midst) into following an internal logic of their own that bears little or no resemblance to the meaning the rest of us fabricate for the world around us. And all the time, Kelly was honing his skill at political satire — as we can see in the pages to the fore, illuminated, we trust, by these notes at the aft. We begin with the daily strips; then, the Sundays.
There are many ways to describe R.C. Harvey, but, as anyone who has accidentally dropped his nearly-1,000-page opus Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff on his or her toes can attest, "man of few words" is not necessarily one of them. (I say this as someone who read each and every word in Meanwhile... with delight and fascination.) So it should have come as no surprise to us when Harv, commissioned to write a set of elucidatory notes for the first Pogo volume and given no word limit (as is our jauntily laissez-faire method here at Fantagraphics), turned in a 13,000-word monster of an essay entitled "Swamp Talk." Given available space, it was a bit too much, and Harv and contributing editor Mark Evanier had to go in with a machete and whack it down to size (less than half—and still not short by any means, as those who are enjoying the book already know).
But the fact is, Harv's original full-length "Swamp Talk" has plenty of delightfully chewy bits in the parts that were cut, so with the kind permission of Harv and Pogo co-editors Evanier and Carolyn Kelly, we're pleased to present the unexpurgated "Swamp Talk" in digital form here — perfect for perusing with the book on your lap.
And if you don't have the book yet, well... Rowrbrazzle! What are you waiting for?
Should Harv feel the need to ascend into the quintuple digits on "Swamp Talks" in future volumes, the "shortened version in print, full version on the internet" template seems like the way to go so far as we're concerned.
• Plug: "Finally got my hands on Jim Woodring’s Congress of the Animals hardcover... and it’s just as beautifully-dreamlike and nightmarish as much of Woodring’s work." – Mike Sterling, Progressive Ruin
It's safe to say that Fantagraphics, and indeed the entire comics landscape, would not exist as we know it today without the efforts of comics scholar and archivist Bill Blackbeard. I never had the honor of interacting with the man, but his importance and influence reverberates throughout everything we do here, and not just the projects we had the good fortune to work on directly with him, such as the Krazy & Ignatz series he spearheaded. We are saddened by the loss and will strive to be worthy of his legacy.
• List/Review: At Seen, Sam Humphries ranks Special Exits by Joyce Farmer #6 on the Best of 2010: "Sure, Special Exits is sad. But it’s also funny, touching, thought-provoking, and life-affirming. It’s never trite, cheap, or hokey, like, say, Patch Adams. This is the raw, unvarnished truth about the end of life, elegantly put to page by Farmer’s lyrical drawings, a welcome, thoughtful evolution of the raucous underground style of the 60s and 70s. Most of all, Special Exits is powerful. It’s vital; almost essential. [...] It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s one that everyone can benefit from reading. Your future self will thank you."
• List:Fangoria's Michael Koopmans puts two of our classic reprints on their list of the 10 Best Horror Comic Releases of 2010:
"If you asked me to make a list of my all-time favorite comic artists, I’d just hand you [Four Color Fear], because all the greats are present in this terror tome... This is a truly amazing, thick collection of rare treats, as well as a nice reminder that EC wasn’t the only ones churning out the goods back in the 1950’s."
"A companion piece to last year's Strange Suspense (Vol. 1), this volume [Unexplored Worlds] continues to showcase the goods from one of my all-time favorite artists. And by 'goods' I mean the most unique and disturbing horror and sci-fi comics you will ever come across! As is the case with all Fantagraphics releases, the original works are untainted and scanned perfectly."
"Set to Sea, by Drew Weing, is actually the unqualified top of my list. My absolute favourite of the year, just for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s the deceptively simple life story of a struggling young poet who finds a life for himself at sea, and it’s a proper misty-eyed treat."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is my tip to the old hands that brought out work this year. As much as I love the others..., Woodring is for me in a class of his own. Reading an extended work by the man, you find yourself falling into a different state of mind, a world of sickly, queasy imaginings. [...] Few are as adept at drawing you so deeply into worlds which are so utterly alien, yet so incredibly personal."
• Review: "If this is your first encounter with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, I feel I should warn you about the faint regret you'll feel for not having a chance to read these earlier in your life. These comics feel lost in time; they are reminiscent of Victorian adventure novels but maintain a strong contemporary cultural relevance. [...] Whatever your age, this is escapist reading of the finest sort — readers will get lost in Tardi's breathtaking ornamental artwork and marvel at how captivating an old-fashioned yarn can really be." – Jeff Alford, About.com: Contemporary Literature
• Review: "Action action action. Balls to the wall and guts to the ground action. And sick sick drawings. That's what you will find in this book. [...] Is this an evolution of Johnny Ryan we are witnessing with this series? Is he taking his unique manner of storytelling to another level with Prison Pit? Whatever, but there's obviously more to come with this series and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics' second volume of the collected Prince Valiant by series creator Hal Foster is a sumptuous package bringing together the Sunday strips that were published during 1939-40. ...[T]his restoration of one of the most influential comic strips of all time... [is] an essential purchase for anyone interested in the history of the American comic strip." – James Peaty, Den of Geek
• Review: "Throughout it all, Segar's art is energetic and expressive, the printed-page equivalent of the black-and-white cartoons of the '20s, and his characters are broad and exciting but always identifiable. Popeye in particular has depths that later stories rarely dealt with... Segar's Thimble Theatre stories are great American originals, and they suffered the fate of every other great American original: to be watered down and redone a thousand times by a thousand hacks in search of a quick buck and a sure thing. But the original endures to be rediscovered, as often as necessary, and that's no small thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Coming in at nearly 1,000 pages, [Meanwhile...] was done with the late Caniff’s full cooperation and benefits from the fact that he and Harvey were friends. [...] Any storyteller as influential as Caniff was and is deserves a biography of this caliber." – Tim O'Shea, Robot 6
• Review: "As biographer and historian, Bell excels. He is able to really understand the cartoonist he is documenting and boil it down to the essentials. [...] The production on [Fire & Water] is amazing. Bell is able to reproduce a good amount of original artwork that allows you to see just how skilled a draftsman Everett was." – Robin McConnell (Inkstuds), Robot 6
• Review: At The Panelists, a "One-Panel Review" from Jim Woodring's The Book of Jim by Charles Hatfield: "Something I miss in Jim Woodring‘s current work is a sense of fear being enacted directly through his drawing, through his handiwork—in other words, a sense that the drawings themselves are shivering and smearing and decomposing out of sheer, gut terror."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Daniel Clowes: "I can't say that I would never do another comic and call it Eightball. I say there's actually a very high probability that I would do that some day. Kind of for old time's sake, or something. Or just to kind of rethink what a comic book means at some point. But right now it sure doesn't feel like the thing to do."
• Interview: And another great interview from Tom at The Comics Reporter, this time with Jaime Hernandez: "Gilbert and me always ask each other, 'So, what do you got in the new issue? What's coming up?' And I go, 'Well, I got this one story about Maggie, blah blah blah...' and I called it 'Maggie in Palomar.' I kind of aimed it that way, where I'm like, 'Oh, boy. A place where nothing happened.' It gives them room to do everything, because there's nothing there."
• Interview:The Los Angeles Times asks Drew Friedman for his thoughts on the Academy Awards: "The Social Network gets my vote for best film. Aside from it being the only film I've seen this year, I always support films with Jewish leading men playing Jews, even if the Jew is Mark Zuckerberg via Jesse Eisenberg. Good for the Jews!"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting and commenting on our Carl Barks news from Matthias Wivel at The Metabunker
Just announced over the weekend, the Saturday and Sunday programming for Comic-Con international. Our official PR goes out this week but we figure some of you might not want to wait to find out about the Fantagraphics-related panels. See here for Friday's FBI-ish panels.
[Note: this post is updated as we get more information.]
12:00-1:00 Spotlight on Peter Bagge — Comic-Con special guest Peter Bagge talks to Fantagraphics' Jason T. Miles about his work, including the legendary Buddy Bradley stories in Hate and his new graphic novels, Apocalypse Nerd and Other Lives. Room 3
1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Gabrielle Bell— Join Comic-Con special guest Gabrielle Bell (Cecil and Jordan in New York, Lucky). Gabrielle Bell has been featured in McSweeneys, Vice and the Believer. The title story of her most recent book, Cecil and Jordan in New York has been adapted for the screen by Michel Gondry in the triptych Tokyo! She is currently serializing her Ignatz award-winning autobiographcal comics Lucky online. Gabrielle Bell will present a slideshow and discuss her work with Tom Spurgeon (www.thecomicsreporter) Room 3
1:30-2:30 Comics Criticism— Comics are a staple of the arts and book review sections of everything from The New York Times and Publishers Weekly to a current golden age of published biography and history, such as Gerard Jones's Men of Tomorrow, R. C. Harvey's Meanwhile..., and David Michaelis's Schulz and Peanuts. Some of the nation's leading critics discuss the state of the art and the state of its journalism, 2010. Panelists include Gary Groth (The Comics Journal), Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics), Brian Doherty (Radicals for Capitalism), Ben Schwartz (editor, Best American Comics Criticism), R. C. Harvey (Meanwhile...) and R. Fiore (Funnybook Roulette). Room 4
3:00-4:00 Comics Reprint Revolution— For comics fans, the vintage reprint revolution keeps getting bigger and better! Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks with Craig Yoe (Krazy Kat, Popeye, Jetta), Dean Mullaney (editor of Library of American Comics for IDW: Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Secret Agent Corrigan), Daniel Herman (Hermes Press: Buck Rogers, The Phantom), Gary Groth (Fantagraphics: Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Captain Easy), Peggy Burns (Drawn and Quarterly: John Stanley Library, Walt & Skeezix), Steve Saffel (Titan Books, Beetle Bailey, Simon & Kirby Library) and Charles Pelto (Classic Comics Press: Mary Perkins, On Stage, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Big Ben Bolt) about their publications reprinting some of the very best of comic books and comic strips. Room 8
3:30-4:30 International Comics and Graphic Novels— Comics are popular the world over and Comic-Con always includes an impressive gathering of worldwide talent. Journalist Tom Spurgeon talks with special guests Moto Hagio (Japan: A Drunken Dream), Émile Bravo (France: My Mommy is in America and she Met Buffalo Bill), Milo Manara (Italy: Click!), and Kathryn and Stuart Immonen (Canada: Moving Pictures, Russian Olive to Red King) about graphic novels with a more international flavor. Room 4
12:30-1:30 The Funny Stuff: Humor in Comics and Graphic Novels— The world of comics isn't just about dark and mysterious superheroes. There are a lot of great funny books out there. The Cartoon Art Museum's Andrew Farago talks to Comic-Con special guests Peter Bagge (Hate), Howard Cruse (Wendel), Nicholas Gurewitch (The Perry Bible Fellowship), Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), Larry Marder (Beanworld), and Doug TenNapel (Monster Zoo) about the humorous side of comics. Room 8