Archive for April, 2010

Chippendale interview


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Thursday, April 29, 2010


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Check out this Brian Chippendale interview from WRNI in Providence, RI.

Remember Chipper’s new book is due out in a few months, True Believers, so don’t despair. There’s a short video on the radio’s site that shows some new pages from his forthcoming book, If ‘n Oof.

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Farber on Comics


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Thursday, April 29, 2010


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Farber's painting "Domestic Movies"

When Ben Katchor was in  Toronto last week, one of the many interesting things he mentioned is that while reading the new anthology Farber on Film: The Complete Film writings of Manny Farber, he had been struck by how frequently the great movie critic made reference to comics.

As I noted before, Manny Farber had many ties to comics, going back before he could even read. Richard Thompson once opened an interview with Farber with the following anecdote: “In one of his baby pictures, Manny Farber has the costume and the face of The Yellow Kid; as he explained, ‘Our parents used to dress us in costumes from all the comic strips.’” In 1944 and 1951 Farber wrote two brief but extremely perceptive essays on comics (which can be found in a volume Kent Worcester and I co-edited called Arguing Comics). In these essays Farber was among the earlier writers to appreciate Harry Tuthill, Ernie Bushmiller and Stan MacGovern. Farber woud go on to be an early champion of the Warner Bros. cartoons. He also served as an important inspiration to Donald Phelps, whose quirkily written and deeply perceptive essays are among the greatest body of comics criticism we have. And as a painter, Farber incorporated comic strip elements in his work.

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It’s a State of Mind


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Thursday, April 29, 2010


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Another morning here in Lucerne. A couple pix to illustrate my current state of mind.

Jones Underway. Some unstretched canvases on the table, and some unorthodox activity on the wall. We've all felt that way sometimes.

Kirby, from 2001. We've all certainly felt this way, too.

No more of these until the shows are up! Almost there…

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Fumetto Day 1.5


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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


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Mommy, is this heaven?

Here I am, back in beautiful Lucerne for Fumetto. The sun is shining, the sandwiches are fried and the beer is delightful. Oh yes, and there are comics, too! Many, many, many comics. Also, one Ben Jones. I’m here for my and Paul Gravett’s Jack Kirby show and Ben is here for the Ben show. There are various shows coming to life, including artists like Brecht Evans and Thomas Ott, whose life-size anatomical scratchboard (!) images are stunning and horrifying. It’s all pretty fun. The whole schlemiel opens on May 1. If you’re anywhere near Switzerland I must insist that you attend. If nothing else to take in some damn fine Kirby art. We have close to 200 pages (including all but two pages of Fantastic Four 54) and the site of all them has turned even me, cynical, grumpy, altogether jaded me, into a quivering lump of a fanboy. Gravett and I keep nudging each other like, “Can you believe this shit?” Anyhow, here are some pictures…

Oh, just an insane Devil Dinosaur spread. Only 150 more pages to go!

A detail from a Spirit World collage, 1971. He did some nice brushwork on this one, too.

Detail of a Spirit World collage by Kirby. Check out the brushwork. 1971.

You haven't lived until you've seen the originals for an entire Soul Love story.

And this is all before we’ve even hung the show. Sorry to brag. It’s just too much fun. More tomorrow, including some Ben Jones candids, more gushing and more Kirby!

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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (4/28/10 – Mr. Wilson & the Children Who Hate Nazis)


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


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FOOTBALL RIOT AT SMURF VILLAGE – not an uncommon sight, I hasten to add. Those lovable (and almost certainly delicious) blue creatures may be best remembered in the U.S. as a mega-merchandising juggernaut accompanied by a five million-episode television cartoon, but those old ’60s/’70s albums by creator Peyo and co-writer Yvan Delporte (editor-in-chief of originating magazine Spirou for some of that period) were lean, tight little comics, marked by a rather jaundiced view of societal stability. The Smurfs are always fighting, be it from Flanders/Wallonia-inspired linguistic differences (Smurf of One and Smurf a Dozen of the Other, seen above), catastrophic and possible inherent flaws of the democratic system (King Smurf) or an old fashioned insect-borne rage contagion (The Black Smurf, or sometimes The Purple Smurf if your region cares to head off a particular allegorical construction); if this is supposed to be some kind of anarcho-socialist utopia, its maintenance costs are transparent indeed!

Don’t mind me, I’m just counting the weeks until the (apparently) late August debut of the new English-language North American line from NBM/Papercutz, albeit (apparently) to be published at the same smallish 6.5″ x 9″ dimensions as NBM’s Dungeon paperbacks. Still: vintage Franco-Belgian stuff for $5.99 (unless you want the same-sized $10.99 hardbacks) sounds like an okay enough side-effect of the continuing march of movie franchise continuations, here a live-action/CGI whatsit from the director of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and two of the screenwriters of Shrek 2, coming soon, 2011. Starring Neil Patrick Harris as Johan, so you know they’re going all way back into the 1950s Belgian kiddie komiks, by which I really mean the 1976 animated movie The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, co-directed by Peyo himself, having worked in animation during WWII with several future principals of the mighty Marcinelle school of Belgian comics art. Teenage Peyo wasn’t immediately accepted into Spirou with Franquin and Morris and such, which makes it a little ironic that the Smurfs’ international assault left Peyo’s clean but rather dispassionate iteration of the period’s style its sole lingering image in a lot of places, the U.S. not the least of them.

Comics and movies, folks. What else do we have?

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Johnny Mack Brown


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Monday, April 26, 2010


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In the 1972  fanzine Sense of Wonder #12, Russ Manning published an enigmatic “see if you can guess” essay on Jesse Marsh. Without naming the artist, Manning takes the reader through the progression of the mystery artist’s style, beginning with Four Color Comics and ending with Johnny Mack Brown. Manning situates Marsh’s style from first-hand knowledge of Marsh’s influences, but goes further by describing the difference between an artist like Gould and an artist like Foster: design versus composition. It’s a quick theoretical detour, but one Manning would come back to later in interviews about his own work. Over halfway through the piece he declares Johnny Mack Brown #2 (featured in its entirety in Art in Time and chosen—I swear—before I even read this article!) a masterpiece, and then explains why in as close an analysis of artistic style as I’ve read from that period. Manning gets inside the work like a fellow artist but with the enthusiasm of a fan. And Russ Manning was, in fact, a fan. He began as an Edgar Rice Burroughs fanzine artist and, via Tarzan, made the acquaintance of Jesse Marsh, who got the younger artist his first job at Dell. Eventually, of course, Manning would succeed his mentor on Tarzan. By the end of the piece, Manning, with rhetorical flourish, reveals his subject to be Jesse Marsh. Anyhow, these two men, so different in style, were closely linked as artists and friends. It’s a study in contrast and lineage, and also a somewhat opaque subject, since both men were very private and possessed full lives outside of comics. Maybe this independent streak, something common to the handful of comic books masters on the west coast, was recognized and respected by the two friends. In any case, here is some fine evidence of an unusual artistic friendship.

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Esoteric Comics History part 666


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Saturday, April 24, 2010


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Crystar #8, 1984, Michael Golden art

Hey True Believers, Frankie the Wop here with an installment of “Esoteric Comics History.” Today, we’re looking at Glenn Danzig‘s swipe file. This file is labeled “Michael Golden.” My friend and blood brother, Spahr Schmitt, has been telling his tale of encountering the Dark Son of rock ‘n roll for years. They talked comics, and about, uh, the anxiety of influence. Many of you may know about Danzig’s famous swipe, but I am surprised by how many folks do not. I love telling this story. I remember once telling this story in front of my publisher, Mr. Dan Nadel, and an assortment of comics folks. When I said “Crystar #8,” Dan shook his head and said, “I can’t believe I publish you. You have the most retarded stories, haha.” So this one is an old favorite. Try to imagine Danzig’s Elvis-like speaking voice when reading the tale below. Spahr would usually “do” Danzig’s voice, which always cracked me up.

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