Archive for February, 2010

Comics and Not Comics


Saturday, February 20, 2010

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Our new site looks great, so I’m ashamed that my first post will be a series of quick pointers, not an impassioned and well-researched essay like the other guys have been writing lately.

Here are are few things I think people on this site will be interested in:

1.Not comics, science fiction. R. Fiore has a very good essay on changes in the science fiction field, jumping off from an earlier piece by Tim Hodler (or T. Hobler, as Fiore called him in an earlier draft of the essay). Go here

2. Not comics, climate change. I have a long article in today’s Globe and Mail on the attempt by some bloggers to discredit the science of climate change. Think about it this way: if the world heats up and we face an environmental catastrophe, it’ll be hard to enjoy comics. Go here.

The core paragraph:

The key objection to the work of bloggers such as Mr. McIntyre is that they are engaged in an epic game of nitpicking: zeroing in on minor technical issues while ignoring the massive and converging lines of evidence that are coming in from many disciplines. To read their online work is to enter a dank, claustrophobic universe where obsessive personalities talk endlessly about small building blocks – Yamal Peninsula trees, bristlecones, weather stations – the removal of which will somehow topple the entire edifice of climate science. Lost in the blogging world is any sense of proportion, or the idea that science is built on cumulative work in many fields, the scientists say.

3. Not comics, everything else. Earlier this week I was on the Michael Coren show as part of an arts panel. We talked abut everything under the sun (Sarah Palin and the Family Guy, Sikhs in werewolf movies, a new comedy about suicide bombers, the Olympics, Tiger Woods). Everything but comics. Go here.


And we return!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

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"I know! Let's wreak vengeance on the forces of evil!", B. Kliban, 1973

And…. we’re back! Phew. You may now resume your lavish praise of this site. Or at least begin the backlash. Maybe everyone was too busy thinking about Jim Lee to worry about us. I hope so. Anyhow, on with the blogging.

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Wally Wood Should Have Beaten Them All


Thursday, February 18, 2010

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Weird Science 16, 1952 (original art)

Wally Wood’s life and art exist in the space between two comic book stories. The first, “My World”, published in Weird Science no. 22, 1953, was written by Al Feldstein as a tribute to the 26-year-old Wood, who drew it. In the story, an unseen narrator describes his daily experience of reality juxtaposed with panel after panel of spectacular fantasy scenes, consisting “. . . of great space-ships that carry tourists on brief holidays to Venus or Mars or Saturn . . . My world can be ugly . . . Landing at night and entering my cities and killing and maiming and destroying . . . My world is what I choose to make it. My world is yesterday . . . Or today . . . Or tomorrow . . . For my world is the world of science fiction . . . conceived in my mind and placed upon paper with pencil and ink and brush and sweat and a great deal of love for my world.” The final drawing of the comic has Wood smoking a cigarette at the drawing table and looking a bit wan. It’s an evocation of the celebrity of Wood-the-cartoonist published by William M. Gaines’ EC Comics, home of Mad, and the publisher for which Wood did his most famous work.

Twenty-two years later, Wood, having long since broken with Gaines and Feldstein and by then a cautionary tale to his peers, wrote and drew “My Word” for Big Apple Comix. It is again a breathless narrative complemented by stunning drawings, but this time it’s a trip through a hellish New York. A furious Wood closes his introductory monologue with “Anyhow, since I have three pages in this mag, I’d like to comment briefly on the universe.” And off he goes. After some muggings, some light S&M and the requisite pile of shit, Wood, apropos of nothing, leaps on art: “That mysterious process by which one’s fantasies enrich the lives of others… and the pockets of publishers. But it is worth it, for there are the fans.” And here we see a naked boy prostrating himself saying, “Do what you want with me! Kick me! Fuck me! Shit on me! I love you! By the way, your old stuff was better…” Wood closes with a distorted version of “My World’s” final panel: A squat alien at the drawing board, smoking and saying, “My word is the word I choose to make it, for I conceive it in my mind and put it down on paper with a lot of sweat and love and shit like that, for I am a troglodyte. My name is spafon gool.”

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Vote and Die


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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You’ve probably seen the links around the comics webonet, asking people to go to Adult Swim’s website and vote for Michael Kupperman’s Snake N’ Bacon to air on the channel.

You should do that. But don’t forget to return on Monday to vote again, this time for Alfe.

There may be a tough decision in the future if these two champions go up against each other, but I’ll leave that Sophie’s choice up to you. For now.

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Moebius story


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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I got a chance to meet Moebius in March 1992. It was in New York City and I was working at Jim Hanley’s Universe on 34th Street. He was doing a press tour for the Silver Surfer mini-series he did with Stan Lee. Remember that one, True Believers? (Did you know that in French, “The Silver Surfer” is the “Le Surfer d’Argent”? Which can sorta be translated into “The Money Surfer” because “Argent” is a word for both “silver” and “money” in French?)

Anyways, I was 19 at the time and still a huge Moebius fan. I was such a Moebius fan, in fact, that all my friends called me “Frankius” back then. Some still do. And man, is it a bitch to explain that one to people who don’t know who Jean Giraud is. Wait, you don’t know who Jean Giraud is? Then click around and come back. Cool? Cool. He’s basically a guy who drew Western comics and then drew Sci-Fi comics.  Really good ones.

So when he came into the store and I got to be one of the kids who hovered and made sure he was cool and had water, whatever. There was a line of people coming to get books signed. There was one Blueberry fan. Everyone else had Moebius books to get signed. In every book he drew a quick but perfect sketch. Usually a figure. Perfect proportions. Perfect gesture. It was pretty fun to watch.


A Little More About Herbert Crowley


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

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The other day I received the kind of email that I always dream of, to be frankly nerdy about it. Herbert (“The Wigglemuch”) Crowley was  the most mysterious cartoonist I documented in Art Out of Time. And he mostly remained so after publication. But two weeks ago a woman in Zurich identified herself as Crowley’s niece and sent along some pictures and info about Crowley and said she’d be in NYC in a week and would I like to meet with her. Well I did, and we met, and, yes folks, there is a Herbert Crowley archive. Not a huge one, and not quite enough to fill out his entire life, but quite a bit, including voluminous sketchbooks, a scrapbook, passports, and more. Now, when I published Art Out of Time, I knew nothing, not even birth and death dates. I know a whole lot more now, and as I learn yet more I’ll update you, my tiny, tiny public. (more…)

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Spotted in L.A.


Monday, February 15, 2010

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We Win!

Animator Ben Jones and shopkeeper Sammy Harkham beholding an advance copy of Art in Time. Look for it May 1! Event info and plenty of goodies to follow. Watch this space.

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Introductory Shop Talk (Tek Warz)


Monday, February 15, 2010

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we lost the secret instructions for the internet

Well, it’s finally here. Comics Comics day. Dan and I have been spending lots of time lately with tech wizard Ray Sohn, who has been explaining about all the FTPs and ethernets and whatnot that we need to corral to make things work. As you can see, we’ve got a whole new look—and a new attitude to boot!

Two years (or months, maybe, but who’s counting?) in the making, ace designer Mike “Ever” Reddy’s visual “upgrade” of our site isn’t just cosmetic. It’s comprehensive, conceptual, and not entirely consensual. Over the next few days and weeks and months, you will start to notice a few changes around here. I’m not going to get into them now. Suffice it to say there will be an almost-steady stream of new features, new art, and new faces.

Stay tuned for all the thrills, chills, and spills that a haphazardly curated comics criticism website can provide. We hope you enjoy the new Comics Comics more than we enjoyed making it—a low bar—and thank you for your continued patronage!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

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Someone Else’s Policy


Friday, February 12, 2010

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It’s no secret that comic-book “fandom” more or less grew directly out of the earlier organized fan traditions of science fiction. (In fact, if you didn’t mind significantly overstating things, you could even say that the modern comic book industry itself originated from sf fandom, seeing as Siegel and Shuster debuted an early version of Superman in the science fiction fanzine Siegel published as a teen.)

Comics fans didn’t just model themselves after the sf fan world in terms of mimeographed magazines, letter columns, societies, and conventions, but also in terms of attitudes. Consider the “Statement of Policy” printed in 1964, as an opening salvo in the first issue of the excellent (but extremely short-lived) fanzine SF Horizons, edited by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. (Incidentally, Harrison once worked in comic books himself, most famously as an artist for EC, and Wally Wood fans will remember him as half of the Harrison-Wood team.) In the editorial, Aldiss and Harrison declare the following:

Critics, teachers, editors, writers — all people who should know better — remain remarkably ignorant about the realities of sf, while at the same time feeling free to condemn or brush it aside. Their attitude has long served to bolster the reactionaries inside sf itself who greatly desire to continue their existence as outcasts, a term they translate to mean superior beings. These are the people whose contention that sf is a special medium which must be treated by special standards has created one of the major stumbling blocks in the path of intelligent criticism of sf.

In reality we need no special pleaders; the long-flickering spark of sf existence has finally burst into a hearty flame that is fed by a continuous supply of books. During the year 1962, at least 160 sf books were published in the English language. The attitude once widely held within sf that any sf book was a good one, and was best not panned in public, produced a flock of reviewers and no critics. Whether this pose was necessary at the time to ensure the survival of sf is unimportant now. Sf may still be suffering from a number of deforming, and at times repellant, diseases, but none of them are fatal.

With a little bit of pruning and reworking, you could replace “sf” with “comics,” and almost get away with this as a recent statement describing the current state of comic books.

Later in the same issue, SF Horizons includes an amusing but almost unbearably chummy* dual-interview with eminent SF boosters C.S. Lewis and Kingsley Amis, recorded by Aldiss “in Professor Lewis’s rooms in Magdalene College.” It’s a fun read. (Though I personally admire the writings of Aldiss far more than those of the other two. Maybe I haven’t read the right books.) Mostly Lewis and Amis congratulate each other on their superior tastes, and bemoan the fact that so few in respectable society take science fiction seriously. Then the subject of comics comes up.

Lewis: One thing in sf that weighs against us very heavily is the horrible shadow of comics.

Aldiss: I don’t know about that. Titbits Romantic Library doesn’t really weigh against the serious writer.

Lewis: That’s a very fair analogy. All the novelettes didn’t kill the ordinary legitimate novel of courtship and love.

Aldiss: There might have been a time when sf and comics were weighed together and found wanting, but that at least we’ve got past.

Amis: I see the comic books that my sons read, and you have there a terribly vulgar reworking of some of the themes that sf goes in for.

Lewis: Quite harmless, mind you. This chatter about the moral danger of the comics is absolute nonsense. The real objection is against the appalling draughtsmanship. Yet you’ll find the same boy who reads them also reads Shakespeare or Spenser. Children are so terribly catholic. That’s my experience with my stepchildren.

Aldiss: This is an English habit, to categorise: that if you read Shakespeare you can’t read comics, that if you read sf you can’t be serious.

I’m not sure that many children these days read both comic books and Spenser, but then Spenser seems to be a British thing mostly. Otherwise, it’s remarkable (and salutary) how quickly Lewis backs down from his early blanket dismissal of comics as a form, declares that the Wertham argument against them is worthless, and says the real problem lies in the low level of craft.

Anyway, nothing of major importance here, just a window into a cultural moment ostensibly, but perhaps not actually, much different from today’s.

*For example, the frequent alcoholic interludes sprinkled throughout the interview.

Such as:

Lewis: [Interrupted from a discussion of Abbott’s Flatland.] Are you looking for an ashtray? Use the carpet.

Amis: I was looking for the Scotch, actually.

Lewis: Oh, yes, do, I beg your pardon….

And then later:

Amis: More Scotch?

Lewis: Not for me, thank you, help yourself. (Liquid noises).

Amis: I think all this ought to stay in, you know — all these remarks about drink.

Lewis. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a drink.

Those were the days, I guess.

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