Archive for December, 2006

Steve Gerber Footnotes (Reprise)


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Friday, December 29, 2006


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NOTE: As the second issue of Comics Comics is just now being distributed to many comics stores for the first time, this is a special encore presentation of an earlier post.

Consider this an errata slip to Comics Comics #2. Unfortunately, two footnotes were left out of the printed copy of my essay on Steve Gerber in the story, so I decided to reprint them here. They will not make sense without the essay, so please feel free to skip this post if you don’t have it.

Footnote 1 — This should have been attached to the third paragraph of Section II: The Duck:

This reviewer is not old enough to have read these comics when they came out, so their funniness at publication is impossible to determine fairly. It may be worth noting, though, that in 2002, Marvel published a new Howard the Duck mini-series written by Steve Gerber, and the topical humor there ranges from the obvious and forced (a boy band literally manufactured in a laboratory by an evil corporation) to the fairly sharp and pointed (there’s a pretty devastating satire of Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan and that title’s futuristic Hunter S. Thompson-clone protagonist, whose book collection prominently features copies of The Bluffer’s Guide to Cyberpunk and Egotism Without Charisma). A mixed bag, basically, but one entertaining enough to be worth reading, if you’re so inclined.

Footnote 2 — This should have been attached to the sixth paragraph of Section III: The Unknown:

See, for example, this Gerber quote from Gary Groth’s 1978 interview with the writer: “Glance through a typical Marvel or DC book, you’ll find that, regardless of which character the magazine features, the material will be arranged in roughly the following way: a three-page fight or chase scene to open; about two pages of the character in his secret identity; three more pages of the character back in costume, either engaged in a second fight with the villain or swinging around the city looking for the villain and encountering other little obstacles along the way; a couple more pages of the alter ego; and then the big fight scene at the end. That’s the formula… All of it reads alike.”

That’s it. I hope this is helpful, and apologize for the mistake.

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The New Comics Comics (Reprise)


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Friday, December 29, 2006


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NOTE: As the second issue of Comics Comics is just now being distributed to many comics stores for the first time, this is a special encore presentation of an earlier post.

Well, it’s finally here in all its glory. The second issue of Comics Comics debuted at SPX, and it’s a pretty terrific bargain.

We’ve switched to a much larger size—the second issue is a broadsheet—and though we’ll probably have it available for downloading fairly soon, this is one you’re going to want to own and hold in your hands, if only for the beautiful, giant Justin Green “Perpetual Calendar” on the back cover.

Incidentally, I was surprised at how many people at SPX (ostensibly big fans of “alternative” comics) didn’t recognize Justin Green‘s name. All I can say to that is that he basically invented the modern conception of autobiographical comics, and he is easily one of the dozen or so most important comic book creators of the last fifty years. If you haven’t read his Binky Brown stories, you should buy them and read them immediately. Seriously. Don’t buy a single other comic until you’ve found the Binky Brown Sampler. It is better than anything else you could possibly be considering.

Of course, Green’s not the only contributor in this issue. Did you ever wonder how Peter “Hate” Bagge really feels about Spider-Man, and about the single issue of that superhero’s adventures he created for Marvel? You can find out in Comics Comics #2!

Do you like the strange and wonderful work of Matthew Thurber, recently named minicomics artist of the year by the Comics Journal? You’ll read more here, in Comics Comics #2!

Also, Frank “Storeyville” Santoro discusses the lost art of color separation with mainstream legend Kevin Nowlan!

Comics and a very rare interview from our cover artist, the enigmatic PShaw!

Dan on Dave Sim, Mark Newgarden on Michael Kupperman, gag cartoons by Lauren R. Weinstein, and the first installment in an epic, New Yorker-style (ha) exploration of the 1970s Marvel stories of Steve Gerber!

Does YOUR favorite store carry Comics Comics?

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Holiday Reading


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Thursday, December 21, 2006


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I’m going to Minnesota for the holidays, so there won’t be any posting from me for a week or so. Dan may pop in now and again, but just in case events intrude, please accept these Christmas reading recommendations to hold you over ’til Yuletide’s done.

1. Frank Stack‘s New Adventures of Jesus

2. Sam Henderson‘s 2006 Xmas greetings
(click to enlarge)

3. Johnny Craig‘s “…And All Through the House…” from The Vault of Horror #35


Merry Christmas!

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I Forgot One


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Thursday, December 21, 2006


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Yes, I forgot a book that was very important to me on a personal level, coming at a time when I needed a distraction or three. As a result of being tied into a bit of a black hole of a time, I left it off the list. Renee French’s The Ticking is a deeply profound and loving book about self-acceptance and artistry. Her artwork hit a new peak, the soft pencil forms evoking such powerful emotions in every panel. I can’t recommend it highly enough…put at whatever number you like.

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Comics That Never Were #1


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006


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I know that you abandoned Ronny Rocket… If you’re not going [to] make it into a film, perhaps a graphic novel–?

Are you a psychic?!

Wha… you’re doing that?

I’m doing that. It’s in the early, early stages.

To me, comic books are the closest thing to creating a film without actually making the film.

You’re a very sharp guy. That’s exactly what’s happening. It’s almost helpful to the film to realize that in another form and maybe see some things that may help you later.

David Lynch, interviewed by Film Threat nearly seven years ago

The original Ronnie Rocket film script

Of course, Lynch has tried his hand at cartooning, with decidedly mixed results.

Case closed!: Movies aren’t comics, and comics aren’t movies.

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Comics Enriched Their Lives! #1


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006


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In his final years, Sagan recalled a “blustery fall day” when he was about age five, looking out the living room window at Lower New York Bay. The water was choppy and the sun was about to set. His mother came by the window and they gazed toward the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side of the sea, World War II was beginning. “There are people fighting out there, killing each other,” she told him. Carl replied: “I know. I can see them.” She fired back: “No, you can’t. They’re too far away.”

This seemingly trivial incident gnawed at Sagan. His adoring mother had contradicted him! He later wrote: “How could she know whether I could see them or not? … Squinting, I had thought I’d made out a thin strip of land at the horizon on which tiny figures were pushing and shoving and dueling with swords as they did in my comic books.”

—Keay Davidson, Carl Sagan: A Life

In honor of Carl Sagan, who died ten years ago today.

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For the Record (Uh huh, sure)


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


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I was kinda bummed to see the PW Best of 2006 critics poll. I contributed to it, thinking that we’d each have our own lists in there as well. Maybe I didn’t read the instructions close enough. No big deal, but I feel totally disconnected from it as it stands, so I thought I’d post the list I made in a slightly revised form, at the very least to promote the books I really believe in. As for their list, I just don’t get it. The Bechdel book I found pretentious, overwrought, and really poorly drawn, and Scott Pilgrim is cute teen stuff, that I guess cute teenagers like, but…huh? McCloud? Lost Girls? Ugh, don’t get me started.

And while I’m bumming your trip, I heartily suggest everyone read Gary Groth’s essay on the book Eisner/Miller in the current Comics Journal. It’s an excellent piece of criticism that goes to the heart of the problems with contemporary comics criticism and historical writing (and dimly relates to how, in any sort of sane world, Fun Home and Scott Pilgrim could rank above Kim Deitch and Carol Tyler). It also pokes further holes in the Eisner legend, which is an ongoing “hobby” of Gary’s, and one which I fully support.

My faintly revised list:

1. Shadowland by Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics)
Another masterpiece from Deitch, who, more than any other cartoonist working today, is in full control of the medium. This tragi-comic yarn is moving, terrifying and deeply deeply awe-inspiring. The man is a national treasure.

2. Late Bloomer by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics)
Released at the very end of 2005, too late for best-of lists, Late Bloomer towers over 2006. Tyler’s timeworn but eloquent voice is much needed in comics. Late Bloomer is that rare thing: a wise book. Neither pretentious nor showy, it is full of insight, perfectly drawn, and one of the few to insist on truth above all else. A risky, bold work of art and indisputably the best book of 2006.

3. Or Else 4 by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn and Quarterly)
Kevin’s epic attempt to explain the universe on a micro level was a moving and humbling comic—expansive in scope and filled with the good-natured love and nimble curiosity that marks his work.

4. Girl Stories by Lauren Weinstein (Henry Holt)
Weinstein’s book is perhaps the most important of the year for widely introducing a unique voice. Like Tyler, Weinstein comes at comics from the outside and has none of the baggage and stylistic tics that plague so many others. Hers is a clear, funny and humane voice and together with her gorgeous, evocative linework, it makes her a compelling talent.

5. The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso (Fantagraphics)
A wonderful collection of short stories by Megan Kelso. Pitch-perfect cartooning and closely observed tales of family, history and America make this a gem-like volume. Kelso is certainly one of our finest cartoonists.

6. Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)
Bell has a wicked ear for dialogue and draws some of the most nuanced body language in comics. Her first book of mature work displays her talents to great effect. Despite the familiarity of the subject matter—20-something ennui—Bell makes it all new again with her eye for detail.

7. A Last Cry for Help by Dave Kiersh (Bodega)
This is a hilarious comic book version of a 1970s teen sex romp. Genuinely erotic in parts and always funny, Kiersh’s book is a delight.

8. Ghost of Hoppers by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
Jaime remains the king of understated emotions and concise cartoon language. This wonderful book about hitting middle age and letting go of old memories is one of his finest works.

9. Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown (Drawn and Quarterly), even in reprint form, demands respect. His liner notes and stellar covers make this re-serializing qualify as a “new book”. It provides an unparalleled insight into one of our most important artist’s feelings about his crucial work both then and now. More than just history, it feels like Brown asserting and reconstructing his identity as a cartoonist.

Reprints:

It’s been a great year for them. My favorites are Jeet Heer and Chris Ware’s superlative Gasoline Alley series and Dark Horse Comics’ Magnus Robot Fighter. About as far apart on the spectrum as you can go, but why not? Frank King and Russ Manning both understood body language and space extremely well, but put it in service to, um, very different content. Drawn and Quarterly’s Moomin book and Tatsumi series are also favorites, as well as Fantagraphics’ Popeye book.

Notes:

Despite all the interest and activity from major publishers, this year once again demonstrates the virtues of small, brilliant publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. Nurturing unique artists, growing with them, and releasing quality work remains the best (and oddly unique to these two companies!) business model. All the hype and money in the world can’t beat it.

And, I’d be remiss as a publisher and a critic if I didn’t mention Ninja by Brian Chippendale (PictureBox). I know it’s rather rude to put my own book on the list, but it’s how I really feel. In terms of formal daring and drawing, no other book this year has gone further with such success. Chippendale, like Gary Panter before him, uses drawing as a form of expression, turning comic visuals into a multi-layered medium for real mark making. His long form meditation on urban life, gentrification, war, friendship and violence is moving and profound.

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