Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Plodding Along


Monday, July 27, 2009

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As some readers may remember, a while back I suggested that it would be nice if we could all agree on an adjective that could do the same work for comics that “literary” and “cinematic” perform for literature and film. For various reasons, the post proved somewhat controversial. In the end, the most popular suggestions were, if I remember correctly, “cartoonic,” “pictographic,” “Herrimatic,” and “McCloudy.” Later, the great cartoonist Mark Newgarden told me he had thought of the perfect word, but had forgotten it before running into me. It is a maddening thing to reflect upon for too long.

Anyway, in the comments to Friday’s post, gentleman Jeet Heer recommended an essay about Nabokov and comics by the scholar and cartoonist Clarence Brown. Coincidentally, in the piece in question (which mostly concerns instances in Nabokov’s writings which Brown believes are informed by the aesthetics of comics), Brown advocates for another possible contender to the comics-adjective crown:

I needed a word that conveyed the sense of “comicstrippishness” but that would be less clumsy, a word that conveyed something like the soul or essence of the comic strip. …

Chess is essentially an abstract play of force and counterforce constrained within a rigidly measured grid of relationships; as such, it is quite independent of its material incarnation in patterned board and pieces. Similarly, the procedures of pictorial narrative, the left-to-right movement of figures against a ground and in sequential frames, can be adumbrated in verbal patterns. That, at least, is what I attempted to name when I came up with the term “bédesque.”

The French call a comic strip “la bande dessinée,” or popularly “la BD.” My coinage bédesque has passed the test of satisfying the linguistic intuition of native speakers. I tried bédesque on Alain Besançon, the writer and political philosopher, who was on an opportune visit to Princeton. He first countered with bédique but then decided that he liked bédesque better.

—Clarence Brown, “Krazy, Ignatz, and Vladimir”, Nabokov at Cornell, edited by Gavriel Shapiro

“Bédesque” has the advantage of a French etymology, as “cinematic” did, but also has a disadvantage in that “la BD” isn’t as commonly used in English as “cinema” has been. Somehow I don’t think this will take off, though I can’t think of any practical objections offhand other than that comics fans are likely to reject it as pretentious. In any case, I haven’t been able to find any other references to the term online. Oh well: More grist for the mill.

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La-Z-Blog 2: Blog La-Z-er


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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1. Tucker Stone interviews Frank and writes about Cold Heat.

2. A good, thorough review of that Fumetto Festival in Switzerland that Dan, Frank, Lauren, and Mark Newgarden kept going on and on about a few weeks back. I don’t mind that I didn’t attend, not at all. It sounds awful. I’m really glad I didn’t waste my time.

3. Lauren reports from last week’s SPX in Sweden, which I’m also glad I missed.

4. Gary Panter’s Zomoid!

5. I haven’t read Jamilti, and so can’t comment on the accuracy of this Guardian review of Rutu Modan’s collection, but I found it kind of interesting how the anti-comics-respectability meme idea-or-behavior-that-spreads-from-person-to-person-within-a-culture [Thanks, zik!] made its way in at the end. I’m probably forgetting a dozen different things, but I don’t remember encountering it in the mainstream press in quite this form before.

6. I didn’t actually have enough patience or interest to do more than skim this article from the same paper, but I’d say that in my case, my overindulgence in exclamation points stems almost entirely from having read too many comic books! I was surprised that Stan Lee didn’t get mentioned!

Done. And done!!!

UPDATE: Or not. One more quick one. If I wasn’t avoiding Twitter as much as possible on general principle, I would’ve seen this earlier. I had to google J.P., but it was worth it.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

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A daily drawing by Blutch

Fumetto was certainly a blast. Essentially the festival takes over the town of Lucerne, Switzerland, and mounts about a dozen exhibitions, holds panel discussions and demonstrations, as well as signings and tours. It’s a non-commercial festival, with one great store located in the festival center and that’s it. It was wonderfully well-organized, well programmed and just, well, kinda perfect. It’s also interestingly broad, encompassing illustration and art as well as more traditional comics. By the end, we were told, 150,000 people had been through the festival. For me, it was a great chance to be involved with a different vision of what a festival can be, as well as a fun international cultural exchange. After all, PictureBox was there in the form of an exhibition by Frank, Lauren and CF, as well as a show by Yokoyama. But so was Ever Meulen, with a wonderful little retrospective. And so was Blutch, the “artist-in-residence” who provided excellent new drawings everyday in his hotel lobby. Mark Newgarden mounted, for me, the best exhibition of the festival, with a conceptually tight showing of his original artwork and ephemera. Shary Boyle was there with a fantastic show, and so was David Shrigley, not to mention Daisuke Ichiba, Elvis Studio, Alex Baladi, and numerous others. Anyhow, here are some pictures from the scene and there is much, much more on Flickr. Thanks to Lynn Kost and the Fumetto staff for such a wonderful experience!

Elvis Studio’s show.
Study for RAW cover and finish by Ever Meulen.

Newgarden made gorgeous large-format prints of Love’s Savage Fury.

Preggers Lauren is a great cook.

CF and Yokoyama bonded.

Yokoyama live drawing demonstration.

CF: I love Ernie Bushmiller! Mark Newgarden: Me too! CF: Let’s be friends! Mark: OK!

The epic signings.

Oh yeah, one day me and Frank went to see Lee Perry at his mountain retreat an hour from Lucerne. He and Frank collaborated on this Batman drawing.

At the feet of THE RULER.

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You’re the Töpffer! (or, The Worst Blog Post Headline Ever)


Thursday, July 17, 2008

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There have been too many explosive and exciting posts around here lately, so how about something a little more sedate and twee?

The July issue of Harper’s magazine includes a long review (subscription required) of David Kunzle’s two recent and indispensable books on Rodolphe Töpffer. Written by art critic Jed Perl, it’s generally a smart, thoughtful piece, and displays none of the condescension you commonly find in articles like this printed in the mainstream press. He still gets comic books wrong, of course, but it’s kind of interesting (to me) just how he goes astray.

Most of the review is about Töpffer and the books themselves, and Perl only addresses Töpffer’s relationship with comic books in general near the end of his article. First, he takes issue with Kunzle’s speculation that Töpffer’s work has been neglected by American comics fans because of “a narrowness of vision, a chauvinism that cannot bear to see the invention of so fertile, popular, and American a genre conceded to a European master.” Perl disagrees:

I’m not sure that the problem with Töpffer is that he is European so much as that his work is nearly two hundred years old. After all, much of the comic illustration done in nineteenth-century America can feel equally anachronistic to cartoon aficionados of our day. It is in the very nature of the popular arts, which are overwhelmingly oriented toward the present, that even their most powerful traditions will be reformulated with a vengeance that crushes the sort of art-historical niceties that quite naturally interest a scholar such as David Kunzle. Intellectually, I can see that Töpffer is on a continuum with the contemporary graphic novel, just as I can see that the silent movies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are on a continuum with the comedies now playing at the multiplex. But viscerally, what I feel very strongly, perhaps most strongly, are the differences. What is most striking in contemporary graphic novels is the dizzying overlay of influences, the thickening stew of twentieth-century allusions. Graphic novelists like to mix elements of earlier comics and noir movies and potboiler mysteries and art deco and art moderne and create a contemporary brew, a brew that’s frequently laced with irony. And when I turn back from this work to Töpffer’s picture books, I find that I’m face to face with an unself-consciousness that feels alien, strangely and wonderfully so.

First of all, on the question of why Töpffer’s neglected, I favor Kunzle slightly more than Perl, though both of them are basically right. (The fact that good, readily available English translations of the strips didn’t previously exist probably hasn’t helped.) What’s more interesting to me, though, is just how alien and anachronistic Perl thinks Töppfer’s work is. The most surprising thing about reading Töpffer, in fact, is just how contemporary and of-the-moment his comics seem. (Incidentally, I also think Perl’s wrong about Keaton and Chaplin, whose films haven’t aged poorly at all; there are still plenty of people who watch their silent movies for fun today, far more than watch dramatic silent films such as, say Intolerance. They aren’t as alien as all that. I wonder if humor ages better than drama?) Barring the clothing styles, and the occasional reference to politics, culture, and then-current events, Töpffer’s strips aren’t that different (except in terms of quality and skill) from many of the mini-comics you can find sold at MoCCA or SPX.

Perl goes on:

The aggressiveness of so much comic art is fueled, at least in part, by a need to compete in the commercial world. I sense that pressure in the work of Hogarth and Daumier, whose caricatures can be fearsomely real, with evil and folly solidly evoked. Even Winsor McCay’s magnificent early-twentieth-century Surrealist dream-worlds have a sharp punch to them; they are meant to stand up to all the other news in the Sunday papers. Töpffer is a very different case. He approaches even the least sympathetic of his imperious professors and self-indulgent young men with a certain gentleness of spirit. It’s significant, I believe, the Töpffer originally conceived of his picture books as entertainments for his family and friends; he was, at least initially, remote from the commercial world, and could afford to affectionately embrace his nutty subjects.

Perl’s kind of right here, and a lot wrong, in totally charming ways. First, while I take his point about commercial concerns, that argument cuts both ways; there’s a reason for the cliché that satire closes on Saturday night. Daniel Clowes’s “Why I Hate Christians” wasn’t exactly a blockbuster money-making idea, for example. And, you know, Ziggy and The Family Circus seem to have done pretty well. Secondly, I think it’s kind of wonderful that he thinks that “graphic novelists” are actually competing in the commercial marketplace. Outside of a few superstars and flukes, the newspaper strip world, and the DC/Marvel axis, comics has to be one of the least profitable media businesses in the world North America. It would be kind of great if this misconception spread around, though. And third, I think a trip to the USS Catastrophe site is in order for Perl. Töpffer’s not the only artist making minimalist, gently humorous picture-books primarily “for his family and friends” and “remote from the commercial world.” Signing himself up for a subscription to King-Cat wouldn’t be a bad start, either.

I’m really not trying to pick on Perl here, because in the main, this is actually a fine, smart article. His errors of interpretation are only worth highlighting for the way they suggest that the public conception of the form may be changing (and the ways it definitely isn’t). It would be kind of hilarious if this idea of the aggressive, wealthy, alpha-male cartoonist really caught on.

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We Made it


Monday, September 10, 2007

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The show went up in Athens on Saturday night. Here are some pix of the installation.

And here’s the press release:

Andreas Melas Presents

Curated by Dan Nadel for PictureBox Inc.

Leonidou 15
Athens Greece

Opening reception September 8 12:00 pm-12:00 am.

8 pm, September 8: Live Performance by Blak Pus

Andreas Melas presents Macronauts, a group exhibition in two parts:

The ground floor finds Brian Chippendale, Jungil Hong and art collective Paper Rad, all based in Providence RI, collaborating on a deep space travel adventure via autobus and mini buses. Accompanying them are a variety of earthly spirits and images which serve to delineate all-encompassing cosmic wonder.

The first floor holds an extensive works on paper exhibition by 24 artists from North America, France and Japan. Heirs to the 20th imagist tradition these artists have moved into the new century with a sly combination of word play, psychedelia, cartoons, and sheer chaos. What emerges is a comprehensive statement about the world of personal image making and expression today.

In these two floors Macronauts is a voyage into the pop underground: vibrant pictures, forms and populations hurtle forward, scrambling up the hill, trampling diseased boulders and half-assed scrawls, gaping and peeking, just below the Parthenon, here in Athens, in this September of 2007.

Two floors:

Ground floor: An installation by Paper Rad, Brian Chippendale and Jungil Hong

Mezzanine: A works on paper show featuring work by:

Marc Bell
Brian Belott
Rebecca Bird
Melissa Brown
Bjorn Copeland
Frederic Fleury
Leif Goldberg
Tomoo Gokita
Ben Jones
Sakura Maku
Eddie Martinez
Keith McCulloch
Taylor McKimens
Panayiotis Terzis
Gary Panter
Erin Rosenthal
David Sandlin
Frank Santoro
Patrick Smith
Matthew Thurber
Michael Williams
Andrew Jeffrey Wright

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Toga Party


Thursday, September 6, 2007

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I’m in Athens, Greece with Brian Chippendale, Jungil Hong and Paper Rad for a show I’m curating for the Athens Biennial. The gang is creating a massive, mind blowing installation here in an abandoned Chinese grocery. We found some good old Italian (or Spanish?) comics–Serafino–translated into Greek. Good stuff. Anyhow, if you happen to be in Athens seeing lame stuff like, oh, I dunno, The Parthenon, come see the sure sign that the enlightened thought pioneered by ye ol Greeks has surely come to an end in this, our show. It opens Saturday, if we all make it that far.

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Hands Across The Water


Monday, April 2, 2007

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Well, I’m back from 10 days in Paris and Amsterdam, and a good time was had by all. Or at least I had fun.

It was all work all the time, but I like my work, as you’ll see below. Ostensibly I was there to hang an exhibition of work by Brian Chippendale, Julie Doucet and Paper Rad, as well as all the PictureBox books at Le Monte-En-L’Air, an excellent bookstore/gallery run by the might Guillaume. The show opened on Tuesday, March 27th, with myself and Julie D. in attendance.

Just before the opening, Julie and I met up with the gang from Frederic Magazine

Here’s the place, and the show, below.


Julie D and Stephane Blanquet

But, being me, I squeezed in some other activities. I went to see Bruno Richard, king of the Parisian drawers and a collaborator with Pascal Doury in the groundbreaking zine ESDS, which began in the late 70s and continues to this day. To my mind, Richard and Doury are hugely important and massively overlooked–providing much of the impetus for things like Le Dernier Cri. Occasional collaborator Gary Panter sent me to Richard, who simply blew my mind with paintings, drawings, and fantastic books.

A Bruno drawing.

The man himself.

Proofs for a silkscreen book.

Rare original of a collaboration with Pascal Doury.

I also visited a number of other artists and publishers, L’Association, Cornelius, and Blexbolex among them. On my last day in Paris, I went to see Moebius (from one end of the spectrum to the other!), who greeted me warmly and we discussed a variety of projects. He was incredibly nice and very complementary, picking up immediately on what Frank is going with Cold Heat (“it’s like painting with the colors”) and enjoying Ninja, too. What a treat.

Jean Giraud and his wife, Isabelle.

And then it was off to Amsterdam for non-comics business, interviewing master illustrator (and the designer of the Yellow Submarine film) Heinz Edelmann, as well as artist and designer Simon Posthuma.

And now I’m back. Quite a few books heavier. Phew.

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Old World


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

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All right, Dan’s in France, and I haven’t read any comics that have inspired me to write in what seems like forever. Which means it’s half-assed quiz time. My high-school German is extremely rusty. Have any of you ever heard of this book? Because if this description is correct (“a pseudo-art-historical treatise on the paintings found in the backgrounds of Donald Duck comics”), then I am curious.

In other Euro news, many of you are probably already aware of it, but I’ve really been enjoying the Danish metabunker blog. The long interviews with rappers and the like I mostly skip, but Matthias Wivel writes very intelligently about comics.

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