Posts Tagged ‘Art Out of Time’

“New” Forbell


Thursday, July 1, 2010

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A nice discovery over at Stripper’s Guide: A rare set of daily comic strips by Charles Forbell (1884-1946), whose ingenious (and until now, I thought his sole) comic strip “Naughty Pete” (1913) is featured in Art Out of Time. Turns out in 1929 he briefly turned out a strip called “Cuddles: A Flapper in King Arthur’s Court”, which, well, you can pretty much figure it out. It boasts the same fine line work seen in “Naughty Pete”, though, judging from the four samples online, not the formal play. Forbell clearly loved “olden days” stuff, as he ran cartoons in Judge and Life throughout the early part of the 20th century under titles including “In Ye Goode Old Days” “In Ancient Times” and “Ancient Sources of Modern Inventions.” I would have liked to have seen his choice in home decor. Could’ve been lively.

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Tawkin’ Art in Time


Monday, May 17, 2010

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Now let's REALLY talk comics...

Here I am in Switzerland lecturing about Art in Time. Are you tired of hearing about Art in Time yet? I’m flogging it hard. Anyhow, listen below to hear me flail about as a I try to explain things to foreigners! Allow the intro music to vibe with you, man.


Also! Yet another book release event: Come join me at Desert Island in Brooklyn on Friday, May 21st, 7 – 9 pm.

Desert Island
540 Metropolitan ave
Brooklyn NY 11211
(718) 388-5087

I will be signing books and the esteemed critic Richard Gehr will be grilling me about all things Art In Time! All of this beginning at 7 pm.

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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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Anthology Making as Autobiography


Saturday, December 19, 2009

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Dan’s comments on the Toon Treasury got me thinking about anthology-making, an underappreciated craft. In the entire history of comics, there have only been a handful of great anthologies. Off the top of my head the following come to mind:

1. The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, edited by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams. A really great anthology, collecting the best strip comics from the early 20th century: Opper, McCay, Herriman, Sterrett, Gray, Segar, Crane, Gottfredson. This book is the foundation stone of the reprint renaissance we’re living through right now. There is no way, for example, that the Walt and Skeezix books would exist if the Smithsonian volume hadn’t published choice examples of King’s Sunday pages, which led Joe Matt and Chris Ware to collect Gasoline Alley strips. The book is particularly strong on the great long and rousing continuities of the 1930s that Blackbeard grew up reading: giving readers an extended sample of Wash Tubbs, Mickey Mouse, and Popeye at their violently exuberant best. It took me many years to figure out that the book has some limitations. The editors had no taste for adult observational humour panels, so there is no Clare Briggs or Gluyas Williams in the book. And because Blackbeard’s taste was so nostalgically oriented, the book peters out after 1945 or so. Still, this is an essential volume that anyone interested in comics should own.

2. The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Dan has already said what needs to be said about the book. The one point I’d add is that it does a useful job in sorting out a canon of the really great kids cartoonists (Barks, Stanley, Kelly, Mayer) while providing enough material from other artists who did solid work so that readers get a sense of the scope of the genre.

3. Art Out of Time edited by Dan Nadel. This is probably too incestuous but I have to say this book looks better every time I return to it. This is especially true now that we have more books reprinting some of the artists from this anthology: what distinguishes the book is the fact that the stories Dan selected were both striking and emblematic of the cartoonists being displayed. About the only critique I’d make is that the comic book pages looked better than the newspaper Sunday pages reprinted. It might have been better to have two volumes, one devoted to the comic book stories and a larger book to the Sunday pages.

4. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, two volumes, edited by Ivan Brunetti. There is so much that could be said about these books. I love the connections they draw between classic cartoonists (notably Bushmiller, Kurtzman and Schulz) and alternative comics. Like Spiegelman and Mouly, and Dan as well, Brunetti is very smart about how he’s organized the book: the unexpected juxtaposition of certain artists (Forbell and Regé, Teal and Burns) ignites a new understanding of familiar material. And I like that the Crumb material is from his underrated middle period, and not the overly reprinted 1960s stuff. More subtly, Brunetti has a knack for picking out stories that stick in your mind. Much of this book was déjà vu for me, but that’s because so much of it is from the very stories that I’ve constantly been re-reading for the last twenty years.

5. McSweeney’s 13 edited by Chris Ware. All the praise of Brunetti’s book applies to this volume.

Aside from these books, there are a few near great anthologies: books that are very strong but more flawed, including A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics (edited by Michael Barrier and Martin Williams) and The Apex Treasury of Underground Comics (edited by Don Donahue and Susan Goodrick). The Smithsonian book suffers mainly from its half-hearted selection of superhero and action material (which either should have been more comprehensive or entirely left out), and the dull coloring of the reproduction. The Apex book gives a good selection of the main underground artists but many of them would go on to do stronger work (notably Spiegelman, Spain, and Deitch; actually also Crumb, now that I think of it). So it’s crying out to be republished in an expanded edition. Or perhaps someone can start from scratch and do an anthology of “The Essential Underground Comics”.

One interesting thing about good anthologies is how autobiographical they are. It’s no accident, I think, that the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics is strongest on those comics Blackbeard and Williams read when they were boys in the late 1920s and 1930s. The Toon Treasury is an outgrowth of the experience Spiegelman and Mouly had as parents, sharing Barks and Stanley with their kids. And some of the selections in the Toon Treasury are either personal interests of Spiegelman (Jack Cole), influences on his work (Gross, Kurtzman) or in one case his mentor (Woody Gelman). The Yale anthologies are really a record of the comics that shaped Brunetti’s own development as a cartoonist.

Anthology-making can thus be seen as a form of autobiography. A good anthologist is moved not just by objective considerations (who are the masters of the genre?) but also personal concerns (what are the works that speak to me?). This personal dimension of anthology-making extends outside of comics: consider Dwight Macdonald’s Parodies, or John Metcalf’s many collections of Canadian short fiction, or Hugh Kenner’s volume of Seventeenth Century Poetry or the Subtreasury of American Humor edited by E.B. and Katharine White. All of these are anthologies that bear the impress of particular personalities, with items selected and organized to sharpen taste and perception.

PS: I should add that there are some very attractive-looking recent anthologies which I haven’t read yet: notably Abstract Comics by Andrei Molotiu. So if there are books that I missed, feel free to list them below in the comments section.

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Verbeek’s Japanese Roots


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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Readers of Art Out of Time will remember the pages devoted to the eery art of Gustave Verbeek, an early 20th century master of imaginative freakiness. Now more of Verbeek’s work is available in a beautiful new book from Sunday Press Books: The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek: Comics and Art 1900-1915, which has just hit bookstores this week. As with all the other books from Sunday Press, this volume is lovingly designed, with long moldering art restored nearly to their pristine perfection. Hitherto, very little was known about Verbeek so editor Peter Maresca has done amazing work in digging up his paintings and illustrations, which immeasurably deepen our understanding of the context from which he emerged. Along with Chris Ware and Seth, Maresca has raised the bar for reprinting classic comics.

In an essay I wrote that is part of the book, I argue that Verbeek’s work owes much to its Japanese roots. Here is an excerpt:

Verbeek’s life and art emerged from a unique historical moment. In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry forced the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate to open up Japan to the West, thereby initiating a new era of international relations and also, unexpectedly, creating the groundwork for an artistic revolution. For the next century, Japan fired up the imagination of countless artists, influencing everything from Vincent van Gogh’s shimmering color to Frank Lloyd Wright’s airy sense of space.

Japan runs like a thread through Verbeek’s life. Born only slightly more than a dozen years after Perry’s famous exercise in gunboat diplomacy and belonging to the European nationality (the Dutch) that had the richest history of interacting with the Japanese, Verbeek was in a perfect position to absorb his native land’s artistic heritage. He first studied art in Tokyo. As poet Hildegarde Hawthorne (granddaughter of the famous novelist) noted in 1916, Verbeek’s “inerrant capacity for leaving out the inessential owes something to his Japanese masters.”

For those who think the connection between Western comics and Japan started with manga, The Upside-Down World of Gustave Verbeek will be an eye-opener.

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Dan Walks the Plank


Thursday, June 11, 2009

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You may be interested in reading Dan’s latest interview with internet comics gadfly Chris Mautner, over at our Eisner-nominated rival, Comic Book Resources. Here Dan is on the effect I’ve predicted to him will be the result of some of his recent Comics Comics posts:

Can you peel back the curtain a little on Art Out of Time 2?

My main goal with Art Out of Time 2 is by writing reviews of other people’s books about history … to make myself as much of a whipping boy as possible. I want Jog coming after me, I want Spurgeon. I want to feel like I want to die when it comes out. That’s my goal.

In the rest of the interview, Dan actually discusses the Art Out of Time sequel without ducking the question, and also talks about recently announced new books from C.F. and Brian Chippendale, a Wilco collaboration, and future plans for PictureBox in general.

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Herbert Crowley : He Liked to Sing?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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A received an email this morning from a nice fellow named Max Mose, who discovered this tidbit about Herbert Crowley (“famous” for The Wigglemuch, as featured in Art Out of Time) in
Popular Prints of the Americas (A. Hyatt Mayor, Crown Publishers, 1973), which reads: “Crowley was born near London in 1873. Though he studied singing in Paris, he could never bring himself to face an audience. Then, while working in a mine, he discovered that he could draw. His late-found career took him eventually to the New York Herald, where he drew the Wigglemuch from about 1910 to 1914. In his solitary imagination, this creature with no legs on its far side became more actual than anybody he met on the street. Crowley could tell you exactly when it slept, what it did and did not eat, how it laughed, and that it whistled like you or me.” Well, this is all news to me! The actual dates of the run are off, but the rest of it… who knows? Sounds like the kind of thing an artist might write about himself. I know that he had some shows of his artwork on 57th St. in NYC in the 20s… and that the Met has some works on paper of his in storage that I have, to my shame, not gone to request, but beyond that, well, I cast wide nets, but don’t tend to dig deep holes. But in this case I should. Thanks, Max!

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On a Roll


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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Here are some things on my desktop. Things that will take action shortly. Or remind me of something I did before and would like to do again. Or are otherwise somewhat relevant to CC.

(Finally!) This masterpiece will be in stores in a couple weeks.
This is a whole other book.

Nice Blexbolex painting, circa 2007.

This will be on ebay soon.

Bob Zoell is a genius.

Some cover roughs for our edition of Storeyville.

I do love Katherine Bernhardt’s paintings.

Entryway to King Terry’s office, circa 2006.

This may or may not have happened in Greece last month.

This guy will be in the next Art Out of Time

So will this guy.

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Art Out of Time Dept.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

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The esteemed Richard Gehr has some nice words about two Comics Comics faves: Ogden Whitney and (shameless plug here) Rory Hayes on the Village Voice site. This is apparently going to be a weekly column, which is good news for us. A few little updates: PictureBox is going to publish a collection of Ogden Whitney’s romance and sci-fi comics in late 2009 or early 2010. Co-edited by Frank Santoro, Bill Boichel and little ol’ me. We are scouring the earth for any and all Whitney material. We aim to solve a few mysteries with this one and should get down to work on it as soon as Mr. Santoro stops blogging for a minute and finishes Cold Heat! Ha! Just kidding. Sort of. No, but seriously, Frank is very close to finishing and we will send the book to the printer in December in order to have the books in stores everywhere in April.

ALSO: I have heard a rumor from an original art dealer that Ogden Whitney had a son. This is news to me, as none of the info I’ve turned up indicates he had any children. If you have any info about this, please email me at dan [at]

Ok, PSA concluded. Back to normal programming.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

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Dan’s Art Out of Time just won the Harvey for Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation! Usually when the big industry awards are announced, the winners are underwhelming at best. This one is well-deserved. I imagine most readers of this blog are already familiar with the book, but if you’re not, go pick it up. It’s really astonishingly good.

Meanwhile, Dan is busy frolicking in the Greek isles. I hate Dan.

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