I attended David Hajdu's excellent event at Town Hall last night, which featured (or so I gathered) a significantly different lecture from those given on the rest of his book tour. The lecture was to promote The 10 Cent Plague, Hajdu's excellent history of the crackdown on horror and crime comics of the 1950s, which promoted the Kefauver Senate Subcommittee hearings on juvenile deliquency and led to the formation of the Comics Code Authority.
This event was put on by Nextbook, a non-profit organization that serves as a locus for Jewish literature, culture, and ideas; as such, Hajdu tailored his Town Hall event to how the creators of the era of The 10 Cent Plague employed comics to express their Jewish experience. For the evening's talk, Hajdu culled exclusively from interviews he conducted for the book that discussed Jewish identity but didn't make it into the final draft. So it was a night of bonus tracks, basically, which was great. He shared anecdotes from Will Eisner, Al Jaffee, Bob Oksner, Arnold Drake, Harry Lampert, Al Feldstein and many others.
But the highlight was a rare film short Hajdu was generous enough to share, a piece of propaganda he obtained from the Library of Congress and filmed in the 1950s to promote the idea that comic books cause juvenile deliquency. Specifically (but not limited to), torture. I wish I could have shot the whole clip, but my digital camera can only film for about two minutes before running out of space.
The film only gets better after these first two minutes, which are mostly introductory. It later becomes a dramatization of a group of suburban adolescents, all boys, happily hanging out in the woods, reading and trading comic books. The voice-over paints a more grim picture (I'm paraphrasing):
"Look at these children. When I was a boy, we too gathered in gangs like this, but it was to roast potatoes or learn skills and build things, like a raft to put in the river. Never did we just sit around READING. And what are they reading?"
Well, you can imagine. Tales of "sexual depravity, adultery, murder, etc." The sheer trauma of reading such pernicious filth turns the boys into a raving mob of sadists who con a younger boy into the woods, tie him to a tree, gag him, hold lit matches centimeters from his head and hair while slapping him around and punching knives into the tree he's bound to, and laughing in a way that makes me think Heath Ledger might have studied this film as research for the new Batman movie. It was like A Clockwork Orange starring the Little Rascals.
Which is to say it was fantastic. I almost bought into it, it was so good. I might have thought going in that knives and matches contributed more to juvenile delinquency than comics, but screw that notion.
Anyway, here's the clip. Thanks much to Mr. Hajdu for sharing with us. Buy his book (even though we didn't even publish it), it's good. It even has a killer Charles Burns cover. Now excuse me, I need to go roast some potatoes.
... haven't been to enough comics events in Seattle lately, I'm participating in this at Hugo House tonight:
The Hugo House InPrint Series presents:
Why Publish With an Independent or Small Press? An Evening with Northwest Independent Press Publishers
Tuesday, April 15th, 2008, 7:00 - 9:00 Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave. Seattle Admission $3 members/$5 non-members
Why Publish With an Independent or Small Press?
The Northwest features a handful of excellent independent press publishers who are producing interesting work and attracting positive critical attention and awards.
Tonight editors and publishers from several publishers will be on hand to explain the advantages of publishing with an independent small press and how to go about it. Our speakers will cover the editing and business side of small press, from queries and pitches to editorial preferences and distribution.
Small press publishers can serve audiences that aren't normally served by larger publishers who can only publish very commercial work, allowing them to get away from publishing only work that appeals to the largest common denominator of readers. Once books have been published and received positive reviews, they often attract the attention of larger publishers for broader distribution. All of your questions will be answered and you'll come away with valuable information and contacts for publishing.
Black Heron Press: Jerry Gold, publisher and editor-in-chief
Chin Music Press: Bruce Rutledge, journalist and author
Fantagraphics: Eric Reynolds, editor
Aqueduct Press: L. Timmel Duchamp, author, publisher and editor
Payseur and Schmidt: Jacob McMurray, publisher
Wood Works Press: Paul Hunter, publisher and editor
The InPrint Series is a quarterly forum designed to connect writers with agents, publishers and publishing industry experts. The mission of Richard Hugo House is to build a vital learning community that develops and sustains practicing writers doing essential work. (206) 322-7030 www.hugohouse.org
DREW FRIEDMAN ART SHOW AND BOOK SIGNING AT ROCKETSHIP IN BROOKLYN MAY 16!
WHO: Drew Friedman WHAT: Opening reception and book signing WHERE: Rocketship 208 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 • 718.797.1348 WHEN: Friday, May 16, 8PM
“Drew Friedman isn't just a brilliant artist. He takes you to a place. He takes you back in time. He makes you smell the stale cigarettes and cold brisket and you say thank you for the pleasure.” — Sarah Silverman
Drew Friedman is among the most notorious illustrators and cartoonists in America. According to Entertainment Weekly, “He holds a marvelously warped lens up to crusty politicians and debauched celebrities. A good-natured misanthrope with an obsessive style and a sardonic tongue, Drew Friedman is one of the country’s sharper political artists.” Friedman will appear in New York for the first time since his legendary Friar’s Club Book-warming in March (as written about by Lillian Ross in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town”) for a book signing and exhibition of his original artwork on Friday, May 16 at 8:00 PM.
More Old Jewish Comedians is the sequel to 2006's wildly popular Old Jewish Comedians, and has earned raves from Jerry Lewis, Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, The Believer, Entertainment Weekly and many others. The book includes the famous (Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Soupy Sales, etc.), the less-famous (Jerry Stiller, Zeppo & Gummo Marx, Larry Storch, Zero Mostel, etc.) and the largely unknown (Molly Picon, Herbie Faye, Jan Murray, etc.). The Reuben Award-winning Friedman presents a thorough visual history of the 20th Century's greatest Borscht-Belt comedians in 34 full-page, liver-spotted portraits.
A reception for the artist will begin on Friday, May 16 at 8:00PM. Admission is free to the public of all ages. The exhibition continues though June 4, 2008.
A selection of images in a variety of formats is available for publication. For additional information, contact Eric Reynolds.
MORE OLD JEWISH COMEDIANS By Drew Friedman; Introduction by Larry Gelbart $16.99 Hardcover • 36 pp., black-and-white, 10” x 10” ISBN 978-1-56097-914-2
Please join us this Thursday, April 17 in welcoming David Hajdu to Seattle. A longtime friend of Fantagraphics, Hajdu is the author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America, which examines the hysteria surrounding the popularity of comics in the Cold War era. Hajdu is music critic for the New Republic and author of Positively 4th Street. He’ll be speaking on the subject of “Outsiders in the Panels” at 7:30 at Town Hall, 1119 Eight Avenue in Seattle. Tickets are $8 ($6 students), available at www.nextbook.org.
Also this Thursday evening at 7:00 PM, Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery’s resident curator Larry Reid will speak at the Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Avenue in Seattle. Reid will present a slide lecture on the topic “WEIRDOS: Seattle’s Alternative Comics Culture in the Context of R. Crumb’s Underground.” If you have yet to see the phenomenal Crumb exhibition at the Frye, this represents one of the last opportunities to view this comprehensive collection and explore Crumb’s considerable influence on comics in the Northwest. Admission is free. Reid assures us that you’ll get your money’s worth. More info at 206.622.9250.
And don’t miss Drew Friedman’s amazing exhibition “The Fun Never Stops!” continuing through May 6 at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St. in Seattle.
By popular demand, we are extending our massive blowout Spring Cleaning Sale at our storefront through Wednesday, April 16! There are still some choice goodies to be had, so if you couldn't make it over the weekend, you still have a few more days to get in on the fun.
Man of the hour Martin Bland, right, with Jason Miles:
Below, Dutch artist Femke Hiemstra with Roq La Rue gallery owner Kirsten Anderson. We will be publishing Hiemstra's work in the Beasts 2 anthology (Jacob Flogged her piece back in January) and in her own solo book, Rock Candy. Her work is currently on exhibit at Roq La Rue, through May 3rd:
The blowout Spring Cleaning Sale at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, with 50% off hundreds of scratch-and-dent books, is going on RIGHT NOW -- hustle on down for the best selection. Then, head on back tomorrow night from 6-9 for Martin Bland's "Randomized Control Trials" sound installation. For a taste of what to expect, download this MP3 of the aptly-titled "The Explainer":