1. You’ve doubtless seen mention of this already, but on the off chance you’ve ignored the links, you should definitely make some time this week to check out HiLobrow.com’s Kirb Your Enthusiasm, a series of posts by various writers deconstructing single panels from all stages of Jack Kirby’s career. I haven’t read a bad one yet, but special notice so far should go to Dan, Gary Panter, and Annie Nocenti.
Late last year, I met with Lynda Barry to discuss her new book, Picture This, for The Paris Review. But Barry is an inveterate talker, and in addition to the book itself, we covered bad editors, the glory of Drawn & Quarterly, gaps in comics history, and her giant crush on Charles Burns. That part of the conversation continues here.
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Where did the near-sighted monkey in Picture This come from?
Well, I like to draw monkeys. I had been drawing a lot of the meditating monkey—I talk about it in my book—and then I started drawing that monkey with glasses on it. It’s definitely a self-portrait. So I had drawn one and we were broke, so I was trying to figure out stuff to sell on eBay. People will buy monkeys and I like to draw them, so this seems like a natural. I did this little near-sighted monkey and asked my husband if he would do some of the watercoloring. (My husband’s a brilliant watercolorist. He’s so good. He can draw everything far away. We always say I can draw stuff close up and he can draw stuff far away.) So when I got it back, the stuff he had done in the background was just like, Whaaa! We probably did about twenty of them back and forth, and I’d sell them on eBay. Then I was sending them to Drawn & Quarterly, just because they were funny and cute, and I think it was Peggy who really liked them, so they wanted to do a little book of just those pictures. But I had this whole other idea. So the book kind of expanded out of just the monkey pictures. Read More…
George McManus' Nisby the Newsboy, a Little Nemo parody
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again
— Jim Morrison (beloved bard of teenagers everywhere)
I’ve been thinking a lot about endings lately, for reasons that cannot be elaborated on at this time. The end of Borders. The end of Comic Relief. The end of collective bargaining. The possible end of the world through ecological catastrophe. Our libraries (themselves an endangered institution) are filled with books that prophesize the end of something or other, the end of ideology, the end of history, the end of art, the end of nature. There’s even a book out there called The End of Everything.
I really like this 1923 photo of the cream of the cartooning world. Billy Debeck was surpisingly dainty; and Clare Briggs a bit pudgier than he appears in other photos. From The National Cartoonists Society Album, 1980 edition, compiled by Charles Green and Mort Walker.
This is the final story art from the final issue of Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends, #21, a 1996 production of creator Rick Veitch’s King Hell Press. It was the first episode of a project called Subtleman, culled from particular dreams of his — as, to some effect, were all issues of the series — “in hopes of creating some sort of definition as to the size, shape and sounds of the fifth dimensional experience.” That mission statement came at the top of the letters column, and was quickly followed by a more pragmatic, very post-distribution crash wish: “I also hope RARE BIT FIENDS survives long enough for me to finish it!” Read More…
Jay Oh Bee. Job. Get a job. I can hear my girlfriend say the words. When are you gonna get a job? But, honey, I have a job – I’m a cartoonist. I mean a steady job, Frank.
Yah. Sigh. Time to make the donuts. How the hell am I supposed to be a cartoonist if I’m too tired from my real job?
Has this feeling ever visited you, friend? (Use ’50s TV commercial voice.) Well, you aren’t alone. Here at Comics Comics, we feel your pain. How to manage a career in cartooning and pay the bills? Read More…
Gary Groth twitted: “The greatest artists who worked n commercial comics? My vote (in order); Carl Barks, Jack Kirby & Harvey Kurtzman (tie), John Stanley.” The list seems on target but the ranking can be argued with. These are all superb cartoonists and as such, their writing/art needs to be seen as an integrated whole. Still, some of them are stronger on the writing front, others as visual artists. And of course Stanley, Kirby and Kurtzman all did a lot of collaborative work, including some of their best work.
So if I were ranking them as visual artists I’d say Kirby, Kurtzman, Barks, Stanley. If I were ranking them as writers I’d say Stanley, Kurtzman, Barks, Kirby. But what if writing and art can’t be separated? What if I had to rank them simply as cartoonists? A really tough choice. Purely a personal matters but I’d say Stanley, Kirby, Kurtzman, Barks. But that’s a ranking that could easily change at the drop of a hat. Fun factoid: three of these cartoonists (Stanley, Barks, Kurtzman) were doing their best work at the exact same time, circa 1950-1955. That was the real Golden Age of commercial comics.
Over at the National Post, there is a panel discussion about the recent Canada Reads contest and how various comments made by the jury reflect popular attitudes about comics and the graphic novel. The panel consists of me, Chris Butcher and Darwyn Cooke. Go here to read.
Cover, Walt and Skeezix Volume 1, Chris Ware (after Frank King).
Top portion of Stumptown poser, by Brandon Graham (After Chris Ware after Frank King).
(Just so there is no misunderstanding, I want to make it clear that this post is not meant to be a criticism of Brandon Graham. His poster is lovely and I’m gratified that the Walt and Skeexiz books are informing the sensibility of younger cartoonists. The full Stumptown poster can be seen here. Thanks to Tom Spurgeon for calling attention to this poster. Everyone should buy the Walt and Skeezix books!)