Archive for December, 2009

Ben Jones


Monday, December 14, 2009

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Well, here is something: Ben Jones on the New York Times T Magazine web site. Go watch the video.

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Irving Tripp R.I.P.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

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Via Steve Bissette, Tom Spurgeon broke the news of Little Lulu artist Irving Tripp’s passing. This was all the more shocking for many of us selfish historian-types because, as Tom noted, we weren’t aware he was still around all these years. So, Jeet had the idea to reprint the one interview known to exist with Tripp, from Another Rainbow’s Little Lulu Vol. 16 (1985).

Anyhow, now CC pal Seth has graciously supplied these scans of that fascinating interview, posted here with permission. Click to enlarge each scan to reading size. Thanks to all, and thanks to Irving Tripp, a master cartoonist.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Hey everybody. Frank Santoro here. I’m still in “pitch mode'”after last week’s awesome convention. So, my post this week is another episode in my obsessive quest to understand mid ’80s independent comics. As usual, I ain’t got nothin’ much to say. Just riffing. Check this comic out if you see it around.


Upshot Graphics, 1986. “A division of Fantagraphics,” it reads on the indicia.(Anyone remember the story with Upshot? Cuz I forget.) It’s called Flesh and Bones. Basically another Dalgoda vehicle. Jan Strnad. Good writer. Did some work with Kevin Nowlan that I like. Dennis Fujitake’s art on the lead story, Dalgoda, is solid, if a little stilted. A little too Moebius for me. But with none of the real drawing chops of Moebius. Anyways. Flesh and Bones was a book that re-presented Dalgoda and also had back up stories. Very good back-up stories.

Dalgoda art

I’ve seen this book in the bins for years but I spaced on who actually did the back up story. Well, it was Alan Moore. A reprint from a black and white magazine called Warrior from 1983. The story is called the BoJeffries Saga. For this version, it’s been shrunk and colored. A little hard to read at first. But once I got settled it played out like a pleasant little British comedy. You know. That wacky British humor that is sort of really subtle and eccentric at the same time? Yah. Great story. The art is like a leftover ’70s hodgepodge. Not bad. Steven Parkhouse. Cool image on the back cover. Should have been the front cover. I guess Dalgoda had to get top billing.

Moore’s story is about a rent collector. I could sort of read into this story from ’83 and imagine what Moore would go on to do. Basically, I would read into the rent collector character and imagine him to be Rorschach. What if Rorschach was sent around to collect the rent? Hurm.

back cover

   BoJeffries Saga 

BoJeffries Saga

This is that funny moment in 1986 when there was a sort of “Comics Renaissance” gaining critical mass. Alan Moore was part of that. So was Fantagraphics. And so was Heidi MacDonald.

Look at the article Heidi wrote back when there was no internet. It was a two-page article in this issue of Flesh and Bones. She’s asserting that Kirby, Tezuka, and Hergé are the “Gods of Comics.” Has her Pantheon of Comics Gods changed? I wonder…

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Never Praise A Cartoonist


Friday, December 11, 2009

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On several occasions John Steinbeck extravagantly praised Al Capp, calling him the “best writer in the world.” How did Capp repay this kindness? He tried to seduce Steinbeck’s wife. Or at least that’s the story former Capp assistant Stuart Hample tells on the Inkstuds radio program, available here. Very much worth a listen.

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Paid Advertisement #3


Thursday, December 10, 2009

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This dog needs your money in order to live the high life.

I apologize (mostly to my fellow editors) for the following “Paid Advertisement” but this is of some slight interest to you CC faithful.

Over at PictureBox we have some fine new products in stock, including:

We have a slew of new products now in stock, including:

-A new Jimbo comic by Gary Panter
-Leif Goldberg’s great annual silkscreen calendar, Gear Worms
City-Hunter by CF
-Anya Davidson’s new silkscreen comic Real People and poster, too

Also: Slime Freak 11 and restocks of 8-10, new work by Keith Herzik and more. Also, back in stock: King Terry’s Bad ‘n’ Nice, Real Deal #1, The Asshole, etc.

Please note that orders received by 12/17, using Priority Mail, should arrive in time for X-Mas. Media Mail is a crapshoot. We can’t guarantee anything, but Priority Mail by 12/17 should do the trick. If it doesn’t, though, don’t come a’knockin’, as we will be “gone fishin”.

Please check our “new and recommended” section for more items. PictureBox: the gift that keeps on giving. And taking. And giving. And taking some more. Etc. etc.

Now back to intelligent, civilized discourse.

Note: Tom D. says posting a photo of my cute dog “humanizes” me. I certainly hope so.
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The Barely Visible Blechman


Thursday, December 10, 2009

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In U and I, a madcap memoir of a freshman writer’s Updike obsession, Nicholson Baker compares a drawing he saw in a philosophy book with some cartoons: “I thought of those several contemporary illustrators whose style was based on the same trembly, Dow-Jonesy contour line: William Steig, for instance, and Seymour Chwast, and whoever did that Alka-Seltzer cartoon commercial in the sixties in which (as I remembered it) a yiddishly unhappy human stomach, gesticulating from an analyst’s couch or chair, it esophagus waggling like an unruly forelock, told its troubles to a nodding murmuring doctor.”

I might be gravely mistaken on this point, but I think the animated ad that Baker remembered was done by R.O. Blechman. Certainly Blechman did other ads for Alka-Seltzer, including one which can be seen here.

Blechman is like that: he’s everywhere and nowhere at once. Even more than Bazooka Joe strips or Jack Chick handouts, Blechman lives at the peripheral edge of perception. He’s been in every magazine on the newsstand (either through his own art or in the ersatz form of his many imitators) yet only the design elite know his name. The very pervasiveness and influence of his art works against name recognition. Even someone as erudite as Baker, who can readily summon up Steig and Chwast, knows Blechman only as “whoever.”

There are two big Blechman books this season. The Drawn and Quarterly career overview of his cartooning work is rightfully getting attention, including some choice praise from Dan, but that might have overshadowed his other fine book, Dear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator. Earlier on this blog, Tim tried to get people to pay attention to this book and it got a nice, observant review from Sarah Boxer in the New York Times. Still, my sense is that many comics people are still only dimly aware of the book’s existence and haven’t really recognized why it deserves their time. I’d be surprised if very many comic book stores are stocking it, despite the fact that it is a perfect gift for prospective cartoonists.

Dear James is several books in one: it’s an informal autobiography, a guide for becoming an illustrator, as well as a commonplace book. But really it is a nifty volume that should be read by anyone who is engaged in a freelance career in the arts, because it is really about how to survive in a commercial environment while holding on to your artistic integrity. Blechman has a well-stocked mind, rich in both personal anecdotes and also choice quotations taken from his wide reading. His prose, like his drawing, is deceptively simple. Glancing at his drawings or skimming his essays, you might fall into the fallacy of thinking that the man is minimalist to a fault. Yet after you’ve spent some time with Blechman’s work and then set it aside, you’ll be surprise by how much of it has stuck with you. He’s a master of giving his audience the core that they need, leaving everything superfluous aside.

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Gary Panter and Peter Saul: In Conversation


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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Photo by Chris Rice

Herewith the epic conversation between Gary Panter and Peter Saul, December 5, 2009, The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Moderated (just barely) by yours truly. Enjoy.

Gary Panter and Peter Saul: Live

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Brooklyn Aftermath


Monday, December 7, 2009

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Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday. It was an exceptional day despite the weather. I wanted to give a special thanks to Bill Kartalopoulos for running such a great slate of programming.

I wanted to note a few things, partly in response to Heidi’s posts on the event.

According to very unscientific polling, sales were very strong, with as least one publisher saying it was his best sales day ever. My own sales were extremely strong. People seemed to be there to find and buy things. We do hope to move it somewhere next year that would allow us to have programming and exhibitors in a single space.

I think in many ways the most successful aspect was the community feeling. Now, I don’t know at least two-thirds of the exhibitors socially, and I don’t necessarily think a lot of us have much in common artistically. It’s not a scene or some kinda exclusionary clique. The shared thread, I think, is a sense of wanting to represent ourselves without having an artificial frame imposed on us. That, and, of course, mine and Gabe’s taste in comics.

I also want to note that it was/is both of our wishes to make this as aesthetically diverse an experience as possible, and we contacted numerous Marvel/DC/Dark Horse artists, as well as local back issue dealers, but with no success. And I can understand why — it’s a bit out of left field for those outside of whatever we’re calling our sphere. We sincerely hope that next year’s festival will feature certain cartoonists whose work has helped shape superhero and fantasy art, as well as some grand comic strip artists. This goes to our goal of bridging the gaps between (as Santoro might say) the various branches of comics.

And this relates to Heidi’s astute mention that Gary Panter in Brooklyn was like Jack Kirby in San Diego — a kind of spiritual godfather. That is true, but it’s also true that Kirby exerts a huge influence over many of the cartoonists in that room, as does Chaykin, Simonson, and many other “mainstream” (increasingly non-mainstream, really) artists. I guess what I’m saying is that Jack Kirby is our Jack Kirby. After all, one of the busiest tables was Frank Santoro’s back issue bins, in which he highlights such gems as Larry Hama’s brilliant G.I. Joe # 21 (my own “book of the show”) and selections by Michael Golden, Trevor Von Eeden, Carl Barks, Steranko, Kevin Nowlan, et al. Frank’s careful selection is a kind of mini history of comics unto itself. And to me, that’s the crux of it: This generation is looking far and wide for inspiration and finding it in unlikely places. That may be partly why the crowd seemed so jolly and generous: It was a limited selection, but anyone curious enough to come could find something to their liking without having to wade through too much “other stuff”.

Anyhow, the day was great fun and even thought provoking. A couple bits of business: We will be posting the Saul/Panter talk here in a couple days, and by the end of the week PictureBox will have a bunch of new products online, including the new Jimbo mini, CF’s new zine, and Leif Goldberg’s 2010 calendar.

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Al Capp at the Cusp


Saturday, December 5, 2009

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In 1959 Al Capp was still at the top of his game. Li’l Abner wasn’t just one of the most popular comic strips around, it was also one of the most celebrated. In the words of Jimmy Durante, Capp was “duh toast of duh intellectuals.” Although Peanuts was closing in fast and Pogo had its fans, no cartoonist had quite the same cachet as Capp. An extrovert in a profession saturated by shy guys, Capp was the public face of comics, the cartoonist who showed up most often in newspaper and magazine columns, on radio and television and the lecture circuit. The National Cartoonist Society was a great old boys network and Capp was at the center of that clique (along with Caniff and Walt Kelly).

Yet Capp wasn’t quite satisfied with his station in life. Despite all the praise and money he received he bridled at the low status of comics compared to the fine arts. And perhaps also, he was getting a bit tired of Abner: at that point he had done all he could with the strip and was increasingly leaving all the grunt work of cartooning to his army of ghosts.

In his 1959 book Comic Art in America, Stephen Becker penned a brief but highly perceptive portrait of Capp. In Becker’s account, you can see all the discontent that was eating away at Capp:

It is hard to say where Capp will go from here. A low rumble of discontent was heard a couple of years after Abner’s wedding, and certainly (as Capp knew it would be) an element of suspense and satire had to be abandoned when he married. Capp’s circulation – he is carried by United Feature Syndicate – remains enormous, and he has other strings to his bow. He is a good writer, and has appeared in national magazines, both egghead and meathead; for years he did the continuity for Roeburn Van Buren’s Abbie ‘n’ Slats, and he now does it for Bob Lubbers’ Long Sam. He is a good public speaker, and a public critic of public affairs. Somewhere in that cluttered, explosive mind more surprises are germinating. Somewhere in the darkness, an outrage lies in wait for some cherished American idiocy. Capp is bitterly resentful of the fact that Americans have become afraid to laugh at each other, and at their leaders, and at their own pretensions, and at their national icons. When that resentment comes to a head, he will strike back. Watch out.

We all know how the story ends: the explosion that was ready to explode was political. In the 1960s, Capp moved to the hard right, becoming one of the most vocal fans of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. As a glib Archie Bunker like pundit, Capp not only lost many of his old fans, he also disgraced himself by the persistent meanness he displayed (as in his famous run-in with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, where he went out of his way to insult Yoko). All this topped off by a squalid sex scandal.

Becker’s account of Capp is extremely valuable because it allows us to see what he was like at the cusp, going through a mid-life crisis and wondering how he would re-invent himself. The fact that Capp made all the wrong choices in response to his identity crisis doesn’t negate the fact that he was smart enough and creative enough to know in 1959 that something was wrong, that he needed to take a new tack on life.

We don’t yet have a good, solid account of Capp’s life, one that would answer the question of what went wrong, why did this smart and lively man destroy his own career and reputation? But anyone who wants to crack the Capp puzzle might want to take a look at the year 1959.