The comics world lost a great cartoonist this month as Spain Rodriguez drove his wild hog one last time. As an influential members of underground comics, his reach was large. The New York Times wrote an excellent obituary on Spain and Bruce Weber profiled him as "part of a wave of artists — including R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson and Bill Griffith, who created the character Zippy the Pinhead — who established the irreverent, profane, highly sexed, antiwar, anti-capitalist spirit of underground comics (often, in this context, spelled comix)." Below is a sketch Spain made for Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds.
From the Latino Comics Expo, Ricardo Padilla remembers some of his favorite moments. "We were touched by his generous spirit, his kindness, and his willingness to support and encourage artists and their dreams. He even agreed to be part of our Art Show, LA RAZA COMICA, which premiered at the Cartoon Art Museum after our Expo. . . I will always treasure these memories of Spain Rodriguez and will never forget the encouragement and support he lent to the Latino Comics Expo. He was a True Revolutionary and and an honorable man. My fondest memory is of him in the Museum's 'green room' after his panel discussion, smiling with his wife and daughter. . . savoring one of my mom's 'chile verde' burritos. . ."
Stephen R. Bissette and Skip Williamson taught me everything I needed to know about the history of underground comics including Zap comics and Spain Rodriguez, from there I went on to read his collected comics, thanks to Last Gasp and Fantagraphics. While not everyone was able to meet this amazing creator, we can remember him through friends' stories of Spain and the stories he created. Tom Spurgeon of the Comics Reporter made a thorough list of all the links, stories and pictures of Spain in his collective memory.
For the curious, a retrospective of Spain's career has been hanging at the Burchfield Penney Center in Buffalo, NY since September and will be up through January 20th. Jack Foran of ArtVoice recently visited the exhibit and had this to say, "Rodriguez was a kind of incorrigible rebellious type. . . when abstract expressionism with its two-dimensionality principle was dogma—he was into three-dimensionality, in spades—and his blue-collar employment in Buffalo area manufactories, where the curriculum was the much more interesting subject to him of simmering socioeconomic class warfare." His art will live on.
(The first photo is a panel from Cruisin' with the Hound by Spain released earlier this year while the last on is page six from Hard-Ass Friday Nite).
• Review:Dal Tokyo by Gary Panter is listed in The Times of UK as one of the essential books for Chris Ware. Ware says "Gary Panter is the William Blake of comics; a true poet who sees and feels what the rest of us can't, and he's done more to expand the power of drawing in the medium thatn probably anyone else alive." Original article here.
• Interview: Cartoonist and creator of Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware is interviewed by Phawker by Rita Book.
• Commentary: ArtVoice visits the Spain Rodriguez retrospective at the Burchfield Penney Center in Buffalo, NY. Jack Foran says,"Rodriguez was a kind of incorrigible rebellious type. . . when abstract expressionism with its two-dimensionality principle was dogma—he was into three-dimensionality, in spades—and his blue-collar employment in Buffalo area manufactories, where the curriculum was the much more interesting subject to him of simmering socioeconomic class warfare."
• Review: Rob Clough of High-Low reposted his Seqart post on Megan Kelso and The Squirrel Mother. Cough states, "What makes Kelso one of my favorite artists is her total devotion to the medium and a constant desire to improve. . . Kelso's art is all about the narrative. Every word and every line advances the story; there are no extraneous pyrotechnics. Indeed, Kelso's line is more elegant than spectacular."
• Review:Publishers Weekly enjoys Love and Rockets New Stories #5. "In the 30 years they’ve been writing and drawing Love and Rockets, Los Bros Hernandez have created wonderfully complex story lines and characters. . . This web of superior magical-realistic storytelling involves readers in the perplexed yearnings of a huge cast of unforgettable characters unaware of their own capacity for general self-delusion and occasional self-discovery."
• Commentary: Hannah Means-Shannon contines her SPX coverage with more on the Bros on The Beat. On the "Life After Alternative Comics" panel, Jaime Hernandez and Daniel Clowes spoke about the past and present of their comics-making environment. "Dan Clowes addressed the 'wasteland' of comics in the early 1980’s and the origin of his LLOYD LLEWELLYN series and the strange, often intriguing piles of fan mail he received from readers and prison inmates."
• Interview: Also on Phawker is an interview of Charles Burns, creator of Black Hole. He weaves stories by "paying close attention to the way my brain functions. I sit and write every day and it amazes me how often I repeat myself – come up with the same “brilliant” solution to a plot thread only to discover notes from years earlier where I’ve already clearly laid out the same ideas."
• Toronto, ON: It's your last chance to see Gabriella Giandelli: A Toronto Retrospective at the Italian Cultural Institute! This retrospective exhibition features over 80 original drawings from this prolific Italian illustrator and graphic novelist, including work from the celebrated series Interiorae. I'll be writing more about it on the FLOG later this week! (more info)
• Manzanita, OR:Steve Duin and Shannon Wheeler will be the special guests at the Manzanita Writers’ Series to discuss what happened after the Deepwater Horizon spill with a reading and discussion of the acclaimed graphic novel, Oil & Water! (more info)
Buffalo, NY pays tribute to their proud native son Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez with Spain: Rock, Roll, Rumbles, Rebels, & Revolution, an in-depth career retrospective opening Friday, September 14th.
The exhibition will be hosted by the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and will include both original drawings and reproductions representing all stages of Spain’s comix career (East Village Other, Zodiac Mindwarp, Zap Comix, Subvert, Anarchy, Weirdo, Zero Zero, Blab, American Splendor, et al.), including prints from his poster designs for the San Francisco Mime Troupe (1974–2011), with particular emphasis on his mature work of recent years in which he explores both his personal history of growing up in Buffalo in the 1950s and early ‘60s.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center is located at 1300 Elmwood Avenue, in the heart of Buffalo's Museum District. This exhibit will run through Sunday, January 20th, 2013.
The up-to-the-minute Online Commentaries & Diversion:
•Plug: Our newest Jacques Tardi release, New York Mon Amour is out and available at your favorite comic shops. One of our such shop, Forbidden Planet, is very excited to have it in stock. Joe says, "I’m so glad the Fanta crew has been making these titles available again to English language readers."
•Interview:WMFU host of Too Much Information, Benjamin Walker, questions Michael Kupperman about comics as a serious form of literature at his MIT Center for Civic Media conference talk. Kupperman: "You see high points. You have to build to that humor. Sometimes there's just enough for three panels—I like to keep it short, keep the audience wanting more. It's kind of—there can be a central idea I need to do it."
•Review: On The Comics Journal, Jeet Heer takes a close look at Spain Rodriguez's newest collection of stories. In Heer's words, Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Toote "is a splendid book, a startling view of a plebeian world that tends to be submerged by the North American tendency to pretend that class doesn’t exist. The book is also evidence of the strength of the autobiographical comics tradition, which has room not just for minute introspection but also for stories of lively brutality."
•Review:Comics Worth Reading sits down with the latest issue (#16) of Linda Medley's Castle Waiting series. Johanna Draper Carlson glowingly states, "it’s [Medley's] character work, the small bits of perfectly realized dialogue, that make this series so rewarding."
• Awards: Congratulations to the great Joost Swarte, awarded the 2012 Marten Toonder Prize and its concomitant fat cash prize by the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, as reported by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter
• Review (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell is joined by Paul Gravett, Joe McCulloch and Tom Spurgeon for a roundtable discussion of Cruisin' with the Hound by Spain Rodriguez and other books
• Review: "Here are the early ejaculations from the primordial form of what was to become one of the great American writers. Here is Flannery O'Connor as she is formulating her unique vision of America and all that it entails.... What value does Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons have inherently? I think the answer to that question is entirely subjective. ...I personally wish to thank Fantagraphics for going out on a limb and publishing this book, if for no other reason than to put Flannery O'Connor back into the pop culture discussion for however briefly it may be." – Daniel Elkin, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "Anyone can be grotesque and horrifying. To truly get under the skin of the audience is an ability not many have. Someone who does is Thomas Ott, and he uses his ability to the highest effect in Cinema Panopticum. ...[I]f you are looking for an unsettling horror story rendered beautifully by an expert craftsman there is no doubt this should be in your collection." – Taylor Pithers, The Weekly Crisis
• Interview (Audio): Spend 3 minutes with Michael Kupperman as Tom Gambino of Pronto Comics talks to Michael from the floor of last April's MoCCA Fest on the ProntoCast podcast
• Film Studies: At Boing Boing, Jim Woodring writes about the 1931 Fleischer Bros. short that expanded his young mind: "I might have come to grips with the overwhelming mystery of life in a rational, organic manner if it weren't for a cartoon I saw on my family's old black and white TV in the mid '50s when I was three or four years old. This cartoon rang a bell so loud that I can still feel its reverberations.... Whatever [the creators'] motivation and intent, 'Bimbo's Initiation' became my prime symbolic interpreter, the foundation of my life's path and endlessly exploding bomb at the core of my creative output."
In this month's issue of Booklist you can find reviews of two of our recent releases, excerpted below:
Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodriguez: "Rodriguez... had the perfect youth for reality comics. He grew up in an ethnically mixed working- and lower-middle-class neighborhood of Buffalo, and he was self-directed from early on. He went to religious instruction on his own initiative (his parents were indifferent) until a boozy priest chewed him out without hearing his story. He attended public school, discovered EC Comics, turned teenager just as R & B turned to rock ’n’ roll, went to art school after high school, dropped out to do factory work, and, most important, hot-rodded around to dance bars with his friends and then joined a motorcycle club. How cool is that? Answer: extremely, especially since all that time he was honing his drawing skills into the thick-outlined, carefully detailed style (like R. Crumb’s but without broad caricature) for which he is universally envied and beloved. This collection of autobiographical stories, accompanied by a long excerpt from a biographical interview with him, is one of Fantagraphics’ best production jobs as well as a helluva satisfying window on an era — the fifties — that American culture can’t let go of." – Ray Olson (Starred Review)
Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now by various artists, edited by Matthias Wivel: "Like many regions of the world, Scandinavia has a vibrant alternative-comics scene that’s essentially unknown to even the most well-informed American comics fan. This eye-opening collection of recent work from some two dozen artists is a welcome step toward rectifying that ignorance. As with any anthology, the lineup is uneven and the wide range of approaches, from dauntingly experimental to borderline mainstream, makes for an eclectic bunch.... The strips contain few Nordic signifiers, making them eloquent testaments to the universal language of comics." — Gordon Flagg
The Cartoon Art Museum [ 655 Mission Street between New Montgomery and Third Streets ] is around the corner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a dozen other museums which comprise the Yerba Buena Gardens cultural district of San Francisco’s South of Market area.
• Review: "Austrian cartoonist Nicholas Mahler cheerfully spoofs superheroes and modern comic-book publishing with Angelman... These kinds of jokes about the venality of superhero industry have been made many times before, but Mahler’s little squiggly characters are adorable, and his gags are genuinely funny, especially as poor little Angelman gets more and more loaded down with quirks and complications. Angelman is a satire, yes, but it also revels to some extent in the goofiness of revamps, retcons, and all the other gimmicks that keep mainstream comics afloat." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "The Matthias Wivel-edited anthology Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now offers a generous sampling of recent work by new and veteran cartoonists from Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark.... Overall, it’s a fine survey of creators who are largely unknown here in the States." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Spain Rodriguez is one of the legends of the original underground comics wave, and he tells his own origin story in Cruisin’ with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté, a collection of short stories about coming of age in Buffalo in the ’50s and ’60s. ...Cruisin’ with the Hound... gives a real flavor both of Rodriguez’s work — which was so different in its point of view than the other underground comics of the late ’60s and early ’70s — and from whence it came." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "It's over. And I am so sad. Fantagraphics's breathtaking reprints of some of the greatest comic strips of all time -- E.C. Segar's fabulously wonderful Popeye -- comes to a conclusion with this amazing sixth volume, a perfect collection of comics art that brings joy literally from cover to cover. From the latest spectacular die-cut front cover to the awesomely odd letter reprinted on the inside back cover, the final volume of the adventures of the sailor man and his friends, enemies and pets is pure joy and bliss, a deliriously charming collection... There was no world quite like the insane world that E.C. Segar created in Popeye. And that world is pure magic." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: "One of the most beloved comic strips of all time, Charles Schulz's Peanuts chronicled the adventures of Charlie Brown and friends for nearly five decades. Fantagraphics has been working for a few years now on a massive reissue of the entire strip, and their latest edition, The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984, collects work from the post-'classic' Peanuts era of the '60s. While it wouldn't be unfair to expect a bit of staleness at this stage, these later comics remain consistently witty and entertaining, and reflect Schulz's continued mastery of comedic timing within a four-panel layout.... Consistently subtle yet always timely, after 30 years, Schulz still had a winning formula on his hands." – Phil Guie, Critical Mob
• Interview (Audio): Podcaster Jason Barr: "Johnny Ryan guests on this addition of A.D.D. We talk about political correctness, illustration, growing up outside Boston, religion, wanting to be a priest, childhood loves, hating Doonesbury, having a funny family, not giving a shit, confrontational art, marriage & why people are afraid of Johnny Ryan among many other topics."
• Feature: "Love and Rockets has probably been my favorite comic book series for over a decade now. Though it’s been running since the early '80s, I didn’t discover it until Penny Century #1 came out in the late 90s -- I was immediately drawn to the cover art (as seen here), and the story within wasn’t at all what I expected. Of course, I immediately started reading all the collections starting from the beginning, so I could figure out who these characters were and discover their rich backstories." – Alicia Korenman, Chapelboro
• Plug: "Available now is an exceptional collection that just might have missed your attention. I have particularly enjoyed [The Sincerest Form of Parody].... This collects the 30 best stories from all the wild comics that came out to compete with EC's original Mad Comics, in 1953-55.... Plus I enjoy every project editor JohnBenson writes about. He offers fascinating insights into each of these disparate titles, interesting facts about the artists and even what they were spoofing." – Bud Plant
• Plug: On YALSA's The Hub blog, Emily Calkins includes Wandering Son by Shimura Takako on their list of graphic novels featuring LGBTQ characters