Archive for October, 2009

BEHOLD! THE ULTIMATE MAN!


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Friday, October 30, 2009


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The only thing I’m really obsessive about is trying to find the real worth of something and my relation to it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s comics or anything else, you know. So that’s an ongoing process. It’s a matter of possibly trying to find, to develop, what I know so that I can grasp things that I’m only seeing in an overt way. You never get to the essence of anything. What you do is just peel back layers. I just wanted to pass the first couple of layers. I feel like my whole life is wasted if somehow or other I respond to a lifetime of work exactly the same as the fucking fans.

—Gil Kane, 1977 conversation with Gary Groth included in his tribute “The Man Who Knew Too Much: Remembering Gil Kane”, The Comics Journal #222, April 2000

The first comic book I remember getting my hands on was Superman Special 1983 #1, written and drawn by Gil Kane. I obsessed over this comic book. The chunky drawing composed of spindly, coarse lines and bold, slanted hatch marks gave everything a tactile and chiseled look that made the unreal seem real to my young, impressionable eyes. I must’ve spent hours studying the cover alone: An angry Superman shoving his fist in the air, lines radiating out from under his cape, a giant flash of fire and smoke echoing his rage … A large, disembodied head hovers behind the man of steel … nervous hands reel, anticipating what might happen … and what happens is lurid, colorful, intense, over the top … an oratorio of a comic book, full of bubbly slime, furrowed brows, sweat bullets, clenched fists, tornadoes, tsunamis, an erupting volcano and Superman. Lots and lots of Superman as he navigates the silly world of mere mortals … and it’s the “mere mortals” part, which today makes me find Gil Kane’s frustration, smoldering and pinched between Superman’s black eyes.

Tonight I made the rounds; visiting several different quarter and dollar bins. I came home with a nice haul. I used to do this with more regularity but too often I found myself revisiting the same bins with the same shit, so now I go less often giving the retailers time to replenish their stock of cheap, unwanted comic books. For me, these bins are where it’s at. Flipping through thousands of grimy, moldy, water-damaged comic books in one night can be a heavy trip. It’s not out of the ordinary for a prismatic range of emotions to move through me as I spend hours digging through what seems to be the world’s supply of Image comics. But more often than not, by the second or third hour, I’ve settled into an undulating balancing act, sliding back and forth from cosmic excitement to common existential dread.

Gil Kane’s work on Superman Special 1983 #1 is fucking awesome. But it’s not enough.

It’s over! He’s gone … destroyed by his own ambitions! His mind and body couldn’t endure the trauma of endless accelerated mutation! Ambition pursuing its own ends, indifferent to the world about it … corrupts all! No matter how well-intentioned, ambition without compassion makes us … not more … but less than human!

—Superman’s thoughts from panels 1 and 2 from page 43 of Superman Special 1983 #1, written and drawn by Gil Kane.

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separated at birth?


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


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Dash Shaw and David Mazzucchelli.
I know, I know, a ton of cartoonists have done the same thing with the balloon tails. But I thought this was funny.

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Paid Advertisement


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


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APE


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Sunday, October 25, 2009


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Best in Show

Malachi Ward

Zack Soto

Brandon Graham

George Mensah

John Pham

Grant Reynolds

Various

Frank Santoro here. My notes for last week’s APE show. I think this about sums it up. Fun festival. Sure has changed tho’ in 15 years. I’ll say one thing: Comic-Con running it seems like a good thing.

APE
San Francisco, Ca
2009

Dean Haspiel

Last Gasp mixer

Ben Catmull

Tim Goodyear

Dylan Williams

North Beach

Saturday
Dean Haspiel (told a great story about Howard Chaykin)

Tom Devlin is funny

Unclothed Man book looks good

Mike and Janice at Fantagraphics are good people

Jon V signing

John Pham mini-comics score!

Alvin, Lisa Hanawalt, Eric Haven

Marc Bell in a good mood

Steve Oliff is the secret history of color comics in one person

Personal Stories panel
Dean Haspiel: inject personal drive into work for hire
Dash And Phoebe Gloeckner steal show

Chicken dinner and Bob’s donuts

Sunday

Marathon crowd noise wake-up call

Jeff Smith and Dash conversation. Jeff’s APE thoughts.
1994 to now. Seemed genuinely excited at how things have changed.

Slow Sunday

Webcomics panel
(monetizing and formating same old shit. like conversations about the internet in the ’90s – all that familiar “it’s gonna be like this…” double talk)

Grant Reynolds

Zack Soto

Ryan Sands

girl with Tintin 24 hour comic (Angie Wang)

Brandon Graham is really good.

George Mensah (Ninja comics)

Keeping it real department: Ron Turner pushing dolly of boxes

El Toro burrito

Joe from Image / Shannon from Stumptown

Jesse Moynihan

Brett Warnock

Monday

North Beach hangout w Dash/ City Lights

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Two More Oliff Akira Color Guides


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Sunday, October 25, 2009


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Cynical/Naive


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Saturday, October 24, 2009


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I’ve futzed around with this piece after initially publishing it, retaining the ideas but rearranging and clarifying a bit, I hope. Anyhow, I normally try (though not that hard) to avoid writing about press, but I must note a few things about David Hajdu’s review of Crumb’s Genesis in the NY Times Book Review. Look, I’m not cynical enough to dismiss the Times, as many do, as stodgy or useless, etc. Instead, I’m somehow naive enough to still believe in it as an institution that has tremendous resources and can produce great work. Nevertheless, I also realize that (and sort of understand, from a logistical point of view) irresponsible or ill-informed writers like Hajdu slip by when writing about a somewhat specialized topic. After all, this stuff matters most to those of us who take it as a primary subject. But in the spirit of trying to improve the discourse around comics, Hajdu should be addressed. Especially because again and again Hajdu pops up with some ill-formed opinion or straight up error (and we at Comics Comics, like groundhogs, pop up and object like the big fucking nerds we are). So, onto the review. In a somewhat positive, though oddly condescending piece, Hajdu commits a number of blunders. We’ll start with this doozy:

“The first book of the Bible graphically depicted! Nothing left out!” brags a banner on the cover. This is scarcely the first time the Bible has been adapted to comics pages, of course. In the first decade of the comic-book business, the man who claimed to have invented the medium, M. C. Gaines, founded a whole company on a line of ‘Picture Stories From the Bible.’ (When he died suddenly, his young son, William M. Gaines, inherited the company, and in a 20th-century case study in the enduring vagaries of primogeniture, the son discontinued the Bible strips and started publishing lurid, spicy crime and horror comics.)

Given that Hajdu wrote a book (The Ten Cent Plague) involving those exact “lurid” comics, he should also know that Crumb’s “brag” on the cover is a knowing nod to his medium. As with the works inside, Crumb’s cover text and design is a consciously mid-century comics stance. That is, like Crumb’s childhood comics, the cover is garish and loud, and interior pages rely on established cultural/visual types and straightforward storytelling in the Stanley/Barks vein. It’s a brilliant, thoroughly subversive choice that works both on a literal and meta level, commenting on the history and form of comics-the-medium. And further, as Hajdu well knows, Bill Gaines sought to produce, yes, sensationalist comics, but he also instituted the most rigorous set of standards yet (and in the case of crime and horror comics, maybe ever) imposed on comic books. He aimed for literary quality as he understood it. Hardly just the “lurid, spicy” comics of Hajdu’s description, though he was obviously trying to make a cocktail party smarty pants comment about fathers and sons, blah blah). And yes, the Bible has been in truncated comics form many many times. But as Hajdu also knows, that is hardly Crumb’s point. His task was a word-for-word adaptation.

And then there is this classic:

At points, Crumb withholds exactly the kind of graphic details he built a career on revealing: In an image of circumcision, he shows us two splatters of blood, rather than the actual penis being cut. Onan practices coitus interruptus turned away from us. This book, I believe, is the first thing by Crumb ever published without a single image of flying sperm or a sharp blade approaching male genitalia.

Besides the sheer idiocy of saying Crumb “built a career” (whatever that means in an underground context) on anything besides drawing exactly what he needed to draw, the facts are simply wrong. Crumb has been making “clean” comics right alongside his “dirty” stuff for over 30 years now: American Splendor; the blues biographies; the P.K. Dick biography; the Kafka book; right up to his recent masterful memoir of his brother Charles. This kinda knowledge is not the area of specialists — it’s the stuff of Amazon.com and Wikipedia. Crumb doesn’t need me to defend him (oy vey) but his efforts deserve better than this utterly wrong characterization. It is all the stranger since Hajdu has, in fact, interviewed Crumb himself and would have to be willfully and then persistently ignorant not to know better.

But wait, there’s more:

For all its narrative potency and raw beauty, Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” is missing something that just does not interest its illustrator: a sense of the sacred. What Genesis demonstrates in dramatic terms are beliefs in an orderly universe and the godlike nature of man. Crumb, a fearless anarchist and proud cynic, clearly believes in other things, and to hold those beliefs — they are kinds of beliefs, too — is his prerogative.

This seems an especially disingenuous statement. First, Hajdu’s interpretation of Genesis is strictly that of a believer — I can’t see how, as an irreligious reader, you come away with that interpretation. I mean, there are two conflicting accounts of creation. Not exactly orderly. Also, Crumb is not, as far as I know, an anarchist, but he is, by his own account, spiritual. Which is to say, Crumb seems to be exploring the sacred. Maybe not Hajdu’s sacred, but sacred nonetheless. A quick scan of Crumb’s statements (From Vanity Fair, just one Google search away: “I would call myself a Gnostic. Which means, I’m interested in pursuing and understanding the spiritual nature of things. A Gnostic is somebody seeking knowledge of that aspect of reality”) on the matter will give you that much.

Anyhow, one wonders why an author would persist in writing about a subject he clearly disdains and isn’t interested in actually learning about, but I guess that’s between Hajdu and his own idea of the sacred. Next post I’ll be happy, I promise.

[UPDATE: I realize it seems odd/rash to pick on this one piece of writing out of the avalanche of material devoted to Crumb's Genesis, but it strikes me so wrong headed that it just needed to be addressed. If nothing else, given the talk of mature comics criticism, etc., it seems important to me to address writing that, whatever else I might say about it, aims for seriousness, and is generated by someone who claims a certain authority in the field.]

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Full Circle


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Thursday, October 22, 2009


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Dan just somehow hacked into my computer and stole my planned post almost word for word, but that won’t stop me. Those of you who aren’t color blind should hie thee to Same Hat, like, now to see some of the incredible work that inspired Frank to “riff” on Steve Oliff. Color nerds united.

Then wish you were at APE so you could have bought some of these yourself. The picture of Frank that was going around kind of scared me, but now I think the trip would have been worth it.

UPDATE: Also, I feel bad for linking to this for some reason I can’t put my finger on, but I can’t help it: Frank Miller has been leaving appreciative comments on toga-crazed warmonger Victor Davis Hanson’s blog, a sampling of which can be found here. [via] I kind of don’t believe the ones at the end where he repeatedly decries anonymous commenters as cowards, but the others seem genuine.

And whether it’s Miller or not, I agree with him: “Use your real names, or I will call you cowards.”

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