Archive for April, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I just think adding superheroes to something instantly makes it more interesting. I have a friend who says every movie should either be a Spider-Man movie, or at least have Spider-Man in it. [Laughs.] I thought it was such a brilliant quote. It kind of is true, in a weird way. Have you watched a low-budget British movie, you know, about a guy who’s unemployed trying to make ends meet, and how does he feed his family now that the coal mine’s closed? If you suddenly had Spider-Man in it, you’d be a little more interested. [Laughs.] If that guy had super powers or a costume or something. On some craft level, I think there’s an element of truth to that. I just find that superheroes instantly make a story more interesting.
-Mark Millar, to the AV Club
This happened once. From 1966, the year of Batmania and The Monkees, I give you:
That’s right, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. It’s real, it’s here, you can Netflix it. One hour and twelve minutes. And if you don’t nod your head a little bit when the guitar line kicks in as he swings that cape around toward the camera then buddy, you know a different Silver Age than I.
And yes, according to legend, director Ray Dennis Steckler — best known for 1964’s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, but prior to that a cinematographer on legendary writer/producer/director/star Timothy Carey’s brain-searing, Frank Zappa-scored The World’s Greatest Sinner — was supposed to be making a perfectly normal ultra-low budget suspense picture, except after a while he got bored/panicked with the project’s development and, as I’d hope we’d all do in that situation, put together a pair of superhero costumes from stuff off the rack at Sears and finished the shoot in style. Someone has a gorilla suit? BOOM – action scene. A parade scheduled that week? They crashed the parade in costume and stole the footage for a set piece. However, the corollary legend, that Steckler didn’t want to pay to fix a fairly evident grammatical error in the title, is apparently not true – it was a little chant one of his kids started saying, so damn it, that was title.
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is a lot like Kick-Ass, in that they’re both about superheroes in a ‘real’ world that obviously a total fake. But Steckler’s picture accomplishes this by purely cinematic and almost certainly accidental means, in that it ‘answers’ the completed footage of the crime movie it was supposed to be with acutely improvised capes ‘n tights antics, sprinkled with barely-relevant home movie footage cut A Hard Day’s Night-style to songs by leading man Ron Haydock, a rockabilly crooner supporting himself by writing scores of disreputable adult novels (and a few comics scripts for Warren magazines on the side, under the pseudonym Arnold Hayes). All boundaries between reality and fiction and art and assemblage are obliterated by the movie’s frantic lunge toward saleability, and by its effort it exhausts itself into a shambling heap of genre suggestion – if the Batman show was a slickly professional, comparatively desexualized variant cover of, say, Mike & George Kuchar, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo doubles right back to source material, the old Batman serials, transmitted in the form of a child’s daydream, half-understood real world anxieties careening into romper room escapades set to whatever’s on the radio nearby, pretty much. Like, there’s no sync sound or anything.
Wasn’t that last shot the end of The Warriors? I don’t think this has quite the same appeal – actually I suspect most people will find it to be lethally inane if not completely unwatchable, but there’s something to be said for a hard-headed exploitation film that does literally everything wrong, to the point where its very commercial intent is called into question. Pair it up with straight-arrow bullshit like Jerry Warren’s The Wild World of Batwoman from the same year and the difference is plain – Steckler is coming from a deeply goofy, weirdly personal place, committing to film the most inexplicable longbox find of your entire convention season.
Anyway, I’m confident that any of the fine artists listed below would be proud to have their work deemed the Rat Pfink a Boo Boo of comics of 2010. Immortality isn’t pretty, but it lasts.
by Dan Nadel
Monday, April 19, 2010
I asked Ryan Holmberg, the curator of Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973, (running until June 26 at The Center for Book Arts in NYC) to write something for Comics Comics about the exhibition. He came through and more. Take it away, Ryan.
So, Dan has asked me to write something about “Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973.” Since I don’t want to completely rehash what’s in the exhibition catalogue, I think I will approach this from what I think the exhibition offers as a corrective to the dominant North American image of Garo—a venue for highly inventive and very funny, but supremely crass material, with lots of deskilled drawing, gross body humor, and non-sequitur narratives—an image informed by anthologies like Comics Underground Japan and PictureBox’s Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby that have translated work from the 1980s and ’90s. This standard image—I will call it “hetauma” (lit. “bad good,” i.e. deskilled, punk, et cetera) Garo for short—fits fairly well with contemporary ’70s-’80s underground comics in North America. The mutually adoring relationship between Gary Panter and Japan in the early ’80s is a good example of how there is a certain trans-national convergence of taste in alternative comics-making in that period which did not exist in the ’60s: Garo and Zap had little in common.
Labels: Garo, heta uma, manga, Ryan Holmberg, Takashi Nemoto, Yoshiharu Tsuge
by Dan Nadel
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Ben “Bonzo Jr.” Jones recently opened an exhibition at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. See, that’s him, just below Andy. How is this related to comics? Well, only just barely, but PictureBox is releasing a book of work related to this show, and the book will include a new, substantial comic by Jonesy. Anyhow, here are some pix from the show. Next stop Lucerne with me and Jack Kirby.
Labels: Ben Jones
by Jeet Heer
Friday, April 16, 2010
Since Art Spiegelman’s name has come up lately in Comics Comics, I wanted to point readers to my recent Walrus piece on “the Holocaust novel.” The essay covers a lot of ground — T.W. Adorno, Natalie Portman, Yan Martel, Anne Frank, Samuel Beckett, Irving Howe, Hugh Kenner — and also touches on the comics of Spiegelman and George Herriman. You can read the essay here.
And here is a taste of the opening:
Few hypothetical scenarios are harder to imagine than a conversation between Theodor Adorno and Natalie Portman. Adorno was the highbrow’s highbrow, the sage Thomas Mann turned to for advice while writing Doctor Faustus, the friend and long-time correspondent of Walter Benjamin, the champion of astringent creators like Arnold Schoenberg, the relentless foe of jazz and Hollywood, the mercilessly pessimistic Marxist critic of modernity whose “negative dialectic” has enriched thousands of scholarly studies. Portman is perhaps best known for her turn as Queen Padmé Amidala in the more mediocre of the two Star Wars trilogies.
Yet on the subject of the Holocaust, Adorno and Portman, both of Jewish heritage, might have found some common ground. In a typically dense 1949 essay titled “Cultural Criticism and Society,” Adorno — a refugee from Nazi Germany who had lost the world of his youth to the Nazi genocide — bluntly declared that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Arguably, Portman is not as deep a thinker as Adorno (who died in 1969, twelve years before the actress was born), but the starlet has been impressively educated at Harvard and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Interviewed by the Daily Mail earlier this year, she complained, “I get like twenty Holocaust scripts a month, but I hate the genre.”
Despite their shared discomfort with Holocaust art, an enormous historical and cultural gulf separates Adorno’s statement from Portman’s…
Labels: Art Spiegelman, Natalie Portman, T.W. Adorno
by Jeet Heer
Friday, April 16, 2010
A great deal of ink has been spilled in recent years on the subject of Jews and comics: Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Paul Buhle’s Jews and American Comics, along with many other books and articles.
Anyone interested in the topic who is Toronto will want to attend the Toronto Jewish Film Festival next week, which has a special program on Jews and comics. Among the guests who will speak are Ben Katchor, Harvey Pekar, and Paul Buhle (who is that rarest of things, a goyim who is fluent in Yiddish).
Here is a new angle on the subject: I think writers have been too quick to assume that the Jewish immigrant community, which was very divided on ethnic and class lines, was monolithic.
Labels: Art Spiegelman, Ben Katchor, Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle
by T. Hodler
Thursday, April 15, 2010
[Bill] Everett, to me, is the great heir to Alex Raymond on Flash Gordon, or someone like Virgil Finlay. His work has a wonderful sense of passion to it. He was a true auteur – he wrote, drew, lettered, did everything.
[“Crystal Night”] was introduced to me by my friend Matthew Thurber, who’s an artist. I kind of fell in love with it as a feminist take on Philip K. Dick, and I love the drawing as well. There’s a kind of unsung drawing style that artists like Justin Green and Sharon Rudahl and Frank Stack have that’s kind of figure-based and open.
Hmm, sounds interesting…
Labels: Art in Time, Bill Everett, Dan Nadel, Sharon Rudahl
by Dan Nadel
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Mark Newgarden, CC pal and advocate for actually making good books about cartoonists, writes in to ask for YOUR help in completing his and Paul Karasik’s sure-to-be masterpiece HOW TO READ NANCY.
There are a small handful of specific images that we are still seeking quality scans of.
We are searching for hard copies (or high rez scans 350 dpi or higher) of the following:
FRITZI RITZ 1/2/33
NANCY 6/ 29/ 55
DEBBIE (AKA LITTLE DEBBIE) by Cecil Jensen 6/ 27/ 55
THE 1942 NANCY TERRYTOONS MOVIE POSTER
We are also looking for additional photographs of Ernie Bushmiller; preferably in his studio (and/or related memorabilia). Please let us know what you have in your vaults!
Of course all contributions will be fully acknowledged in the book and all lenders will receive a gratis copy—and a hearty handclasp!
If you can help, please email Mark: mark (at) laffpix (dot) com.
Labels: Mark Newgarden, Nancy, Paul Karasik, responsible scholarship
by T. Hodler
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I think that I can seriously say there are many different types of fiction out there, one of them is the heroic, and Art Spiegelman has no sympathy for the heroic, so I have no sympathy for Art Spiegelman.
—Frank Miller, defending caped crusaders last weekend at MoCCA.
I don’t know about this heroic business; I like superhero comics mostly for the art.
Labels: "heroic fiction", Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, nerd court, superheroes
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
MoCCA 2010. Not a bad time.
A low key festival. Good times, good times. No, seriously. It was a good show. Hat’s off to MoCCA for smoothing out the wrinkles from last year.
I had a full table of, ahem, curated comic book back issues for sale. Part of my ongoing “education project” in the comics community. Trying to steer the youth in the right direction. I just can’t stand idly by and not extol the virtues of a Frank Thorne comic or a Pat Boyette comic when a youngster peruses the Master’s Box that I lovingly assembled. I go into my glib salesman routine and “sell” them on the idea of looking at comics in a different way. MoCCA, the festival, may be about small press comics but my whole shtick is about history. And tradition. And selling comics, and making money, sure, but also about small press roots in newsstand and direct market comics, in fandom. So I assemble a ton of comics that are sorted through and re-presented as mini artist monographs. My own Art Out of Time.