Author Archive

A Transitional Period


Monday, December 27, 2010

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For your reading pleasure, a gem passed on by Marv Newland, via Robin McConnell: A 1981 article from Vancouver magazine by Les Wiseman. It’s a good look at the period when the “underground” scene was shifting into “independent,” and features such major Canadian cartooning figures as George Metzger, Rand Homes, and David Boswell. Enjoy.

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A Neonomicon Christmas


Thursday, December 23, 2010

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Stranded as I am for the holidays this week, I’m not even going to be able to read the new issue of Neonomicon, much less host a meeting of the CCCBC, until after Christmas is over. But if you just can’t wait for Yoggoth-related speculation, and need something to use as yuletime fuel, why not indulge yourself in a little holiday-time deep-research into Lovecraft and “chaos magick,” via an essay by Erik “Techgnosis” Davis.

Be warned, this is for extreme cases only. Merry Christmas!


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NEWSFLASH: “Comic Book” Is Still More Popular Than “Graphic Novel”


Friday, December 17, 2010

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You may have seen people using Google’s new Ngram program today. I gave it a try myself with a pretty obvious comparison.

This chart compares the usage of the two terms in all books printed between the years 1900 and 2008, at least among those that have been scanned into Google. Nothing really surprising here in terms of when the terms take off in public consciousness.

Here’s 1930 through 2008, for a slightly clearer picture:

So nothing major to report here, I guess, but idle curiosity sated. Enjoy your weekend.

UPDATE: As suggested by Robert Boyd in comments, here are the 1900-2008 results with the term “comic strip” added:


The Most Amazing Review of the Year


Thursday, December 9, 2010

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Recapping television shows must be draining. Or at least one assumes such to be the case, based on the energy the writers at the Onion’s A.V. Club seem able to muster when writing about comics. One of the keenest joys available for the connoisseur of online comics criticism lies in noting the crazy letter-grade equivalences that pop up in each installment of the A.V. Club’s semi-regular “Comics Panel” feature. Ah, the intellectual whiplash that results from trying to understand what kind of schizophrenic groupthink could lead to assigning Chris Ware’s latest issue of Acme Novelty Library the exact same grade (A-) as the latest undistinguished revamp of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

To a certain kind of masochist (and don’t all comic-book fans members belong to that persuasion?), this is a fine headache-inducing brew indeed, fer soytin. If you haven’t discovered this pleasure for yourself, search the archives; there is much to savor.

Don't be fooled by this photo — the book does not yet exist!

But all of that pales next to the A.V. Club’s latest and greatest feat, their review of Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell’s Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth.

Here is the text in full, as published in the Comics Panel of November 5:

The latest in a flood of biographical collections of Golden and Silver Age comic-book artists, Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth (IDW) is easily the classiest of the group. It’s not only that the book is handsome, beautifully designed, and lengthy, with lots of rarities (including the terrific “Jon Fury” material Toth produced in the service). Nor is it that it’s much better written than most such works, by tested comics researchers Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell. It’s that Toth himself is an incredibly fascinating figure. Even if he were only known for his comics work, he’d be considered one of the greats. Genius, Isolated presents enough material showing his brilliance at action drawing and character design to firmly make the case that he deserves the deluxe biographical treatment. But Toth was also a fascinating person, an outspoken critic and defender of the comics medium, a pioneering animator, and a great cartoonist. He’s one of the great characters of the medium, as well as one of its best practitioners, and a worthy subject for this essential biography… A

What makes this review so impressive, of course, is that the book in question not only had not been published at the time of publication, it had not yet even been finished! Bruce Canwell was still researching the text (and is still making final touches on it), and Dean Mullaney is still working on the book’s final design. These facts make one wonder how the A.V. Club can so confidently dismiss the writing and praise characterize the writing and design of the book (much less compare it to other reprints), but it is probably not wise to speculate too far.

I wrote Mullaney about all of this, and asked him if he remembered his initial response to the review. Mullaney’s reply: “Surprise, at first. Then confusion. I thought perhaps I was on Earth-Two, where the book had already been published. Then mild pleasure in noting that we received the highest rating of the week!”

Genius, Isolated will be sent to printers in January, and is scheduled for a mid-March release. Considering the subject, authors, and publisher, it will almost certainly be excellent. I’ll wait until I see it before I say for sure, though.

For more information, go to the Library of American Comics website.

UPDATE: The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps has responded in comments, and explains the situation in about as gracious and straightforward a way as anyone could reasonably ask, here and here.

In addition to that, Phipps has posted an apology and explanation at the A.V. Club itself, which can be read here.

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Comedy Minus Time


Thursday, December 2, 2010

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“The overwhelming part about tragedy is the element of hopelessness, of inevitability.”

—J.A. Cuddon, The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms

In his 1987 essay “What’s so Funny about the Comics?” (reprinted in Comics as Culture), the scholar M. Thomas Inge defends the validity of the term “comics,” despite the fact that so many of the art form’s admirers express resentment for the pejorative connotations of that name, by basically claiming that the term is literally true, and implies very strongly that all comics are comedies.

He accomplishes this primarily by appealing to a fairly broad definition of comedy:

Not all things “comic” are necessarily funny or laughable. Comedy implies an attitude towards life, an attitude that trusts in man’s potential for redemption and salvation, as in Dante’s Divine Comedy or Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Since comic strips always conclude with resolutions in favor of morality and a trust in the larger scheme of truth and justice, they too affirm a comic view of the social and universal order. While Krazy Kat and Smokey Stover may appear absurd, they do not reflect on the world around them as being irrational or devoid of meaning, as in the drama of the absurd. Comic art is supportive, affirmative, and rejects notions of situational ethics or existential despair.


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Nicole Talked to Lynda Barry


Thursday, December 2, 2010

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And Barry said things like this:

I stumbled on these magazines called Grade Teacher, which were sent to grade-school teachers every month, and I have a pile of them from the late twenties to the sixties. They have stuff like “Fun Things to Draw” or “Let’s Do Our Bulletin Board.” But the big ad sponsorship is from coal companies and asbestos companies: “Free giant charts for your class about how wonderful coal is!” The weirdest things are the art projects with asbestos powder, like “Lets make beads and make necklaces and wear them.” I am not joking.

You can read more of the interview here.

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A Week in the Life


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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Pondering the deep meaning in Brightest Day?

All week, over at the Paris Review site, Dan will be sharing a diary of his recent cultural diet. You can find the first installment here. It’s heavy on music bios this time around, and considering last week’s events, there will be lots of C.F. and Chippendale talk to come in future posts, I’m sure. I think it’s fair to assume Dan will forget to mention all of the crappy disposable comics he may have read…

Actually, so far, he’s been admirably forthcoming about all of the bad television he watches—often, it seems as if the participants in these things are suspiciously likely to have picked that particular week to “re-read” Proust. If you know what I mean.

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Down in the Valley


Monday, November 22, 2010

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Dan contributes an epic, must-read essay on Jack Kirby to Vice. You can read it by clicking “here.”

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“Obviously Talking to a Man”


Thursday, November 18, 2010

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As I once promised, my plan for today was to review the latest issue of Glamourpuss, but things got away from me, and it looks like I won’t be able to get to it until later. But some research I was doing for the post might do as a temporary substitute.

Here are two quotations from popular manuals on cartooning, released a half-century apart. They both give advice on how to draw women for comic books. Which quote is from which book?


Don’t emphasize muscles on a female! Toned and taut, to be sure, but keep the curves and the sensuality—and vive le difference!


The sexy female figure may be divided into four central parts. First comes the head and hair. A pretty face must be crowned with appropriate hair. … Women readers especially are critical of the way a cartoonist draws the hair on any female characters. Second comes the breasts. It is here that beginners and sometimes even professionals go off the beam by over-exaggeration. The width of a single pen or brush line can make the difference between a pleasing shape and a vulgar or crude lump of fat. Don’t lay sex on with a trowel. Be subtle about it. True, the breasts are drawn larger and a little higher than in real life, but how much larger and higher depends upon the over-all style of the individual cartoonist. Third are the hips. Exaggeration is needed here, too, but again one must not overdo it. Fourth and finally come the legs. The sexy gal must have long shapely legs. A short, dumpy figure has not much appeal and should be avoided.

One of the quotations is from the 1956 classic Famous Artists Cartoon Course (see illustration), and the other is from the just released Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics (I wish I had access to a scanner now, because, oh the illustration I could use from that book — check this post again tonight tomorrow for a late visual update.)


New York Plays Itself


Thursday, November 18, 2010

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A new time-waster:

The Gem Theater