Posts Tagged ‘Heer notebook’

Love and Rockets #3 Notebook


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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The new Love and Rockets

WARNING. Normally I wouldn’t put in a spoiler warning for a few blog notes, but this is a special case. I’m going to be talking about Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, which contains what is arguably one of the best comics stories ever, Jaime Hernandez’s “Browntown” (along with the stories “The Love Bunglers Part One” and “The Love Bunglers Part Two” which are essential accompaniments to the main tale). These stories are built around a series of unfolding surprises. The best way, really the only way, to appreciate them is to read them. It’s essential that any commentary be read after encountering the stories. So please go out there and read Jaime’s stories in this volume (and also Gilbert’s two stories) and then come back and read these notes.


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Class and Comics: Labour Day Notes


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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Reid Fleming: Working Class Hero

Labour Day is coming up, so let’s talk about social class:

1. In the R. Crumb Handbook, the creator of Mr. Natural writes: “Some of the other comics that Charles and I liked, Heckle and Jeckle, Super Duck, things of that ilk, featured very primitive stories on the crudest proletarian level….The super-hero comics of the 1940s also had this rough, working class quality. A cartoonist like Jack Kirby is a perfect example. His characters – Captain America, for instance – were an extension of himself. Kirby was a tough little guy from the streets of New York’s lower east side, and he and he saw the world in terms of harsh, elemental, forces. How do you deal with these forces? You fight back! This was the message of all the comic strips created during the Great Depression of the 1930s, from Popeye to Dick Tracy to Superman.” Crumb as usual is right: I’d add that the anti-comics movement of the 1940s and 1950s had a class dimension as well. Genteel, middle-class Americans were shocked by the plebian violence, crude sexuality and general spirit of irreverence of the early comic books.


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Seth and Chester Brown as Late-Born Nationalists


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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This might only be of interest to Canadians and a few Canuck-ophiles but here goes: Canadian nationalism ebbs and flows but the most recent high tide was from 1967, when Canada celebrated its centennial year as a confederation, to the late 1970s. This was a golden age of nationalist cultural fervor, the period where presses such as Coach House books and the House of Anansi made their mark, when writers such as Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro gained their fame. Not every writer was a nationalist during this period, certainly Munro wasn’t. But many others were: think of the Atwood of Survival and Surfacing, a novelist and critic very interesting in exploring the geography and mythology of her native land.


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A Pekar Notebook


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

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Pekar as drawn by Crumb.

Some jottings from my Pekar notebook:

Pekar and Crumb. When I saw Harvey Pekar earlier this year, we chatted a bit about Crumb. Pekar was very pleased by one thing I said, which was that I thought he was as important in the evolution of Crumb’s career as Crumb was in the launching of Pekar’s career. What I meant was this: that drawing Pekar’s stories enlarged Crumb’s sense of what comics could be, made him more attentive to quiet moments and the potency of a well-shaped narrative. There was a tendency in the early Crumb to go for the easy shock or the satisfyingly quick yuck-yuck laugh. Pekar taught Crumb to trust the audience more, to be more circumspect and less in-your-face. I think the lessons of Pekar can be seen in the strong run of stories Crumb did in the 1980s for Weirdo, particularly “Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis” (Weirdo #7). To some extent Crumb was already heading in that direction (see “That’s Life” from Arcade #3), but Pekar unquestionably pushed Crumb into a more meditative direction. I’m also thinking that Crumb’s habit of adapting classic (Boswell, Sartre, Genesis) might have its root in those Pekar collaboration in the sense that they made Crumb realize that he enjoyed the challenge of coming up with pictures for other people’s stories. In a sense, adapting a classic work gives Crumb the benefits that the Pekar collaborations did without the difficult of dealing with Pekar’s ornery personality.


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Interviews and Autodidacts Notebook


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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Gil Kane, an artist whose interviews are always worth reading.

A notebook on comics interviews and autodidacts:

Autodidacts. I often think William Blake is the prototype for many modern cartoonists. Blake was a working class visionary who taught himself Greek and Hebrew, an autodidact who created his own cosmology which went against the grain of the dominant Newtonian/Lockean worldview of his epoch. The world of comics has had many such ad hoc theorists and degree-less philosophers: Burne Hogarth, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Lynda Barry, Howard Chaykin, Chester Brown, Dave Sim, Alan Moore. These are all freelance scholars who are willing to challenge expert opinion with elaborately developed alternative ideas. The results of their theorizing are mixed. On the plus side: you can learn more about art history by listening to Gary Panter and Art Spiegelman talk than from reading a shelf-full of academic books; Robert Crumb’s Genesis deserves to be seen not just as an important work of art but also a significant commentary on the Bible; Lynda Barry’s ideas about creativity strike me as not just true but also profound and life-enhancing. On the negative side: Dave Sim’s forays into gender analysis have not, um, ah, been, um, very fruitful; and while Neal Adams drew a wicked cool Batman, I’m not willing to give credence to his theories of an expanding earth if it means rejecting the mainstream physics of the last few centuries. Sorry Neal!


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A Seth Notebook


Monday, May 24, 2010

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 First of all, I would encourage anyone reading this to take a look at the on-going auction in support of the fine work being done on Comics Comics by my co-bloggers.

Below are some entries from my Seth notebook. Earlier excerpts were published in the magazine Sequential Pulp, which was released at TCAF and can still be found on line by clicking to the link I just provided to the fine website Sequential. The version of the notebook provided below is expanded from what was published in Sequential Pulp.  

Without further ado, here is my Seth notebook:

The Englishness of Seth. Seth is of course quintessentially Canadian. Look at all his investigations into the rolling landscapes of Ontario and Prince Edward Island, his work in mapping out a Canadian cartooning tradition through the Doug Wright Awards and the Doug Wright book (among other projects), his indebtedness to Canadian artists like Thoreau Macdonald.

Still, no less than the United States or Argentina, Canada is a creole nation made up of the mix of many ethnicities. Like most Canadians, Seth is a mutt but one strand of his heritage is worth a closer look. His mother was English, a war bride who came to Canada after marrying Seth’s dad.


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Cubist Comics Notes, Part II


Friday, April 23, 2010

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To continue our notes on comics and cubists:

1. Modernism came to America in 1913 via the Armory Show. One early response was this Mamma’s Little Angel page by Penny Ross , circa 1913 or 1914, where the lead character has “a cubist nightmare in the studio of Monsieur Paul Vincetn Cezanne Van Gogen Ganguin.” (The page can be found in the great Smithsonian book edited by Blackbeard and Williams.) This page is an early example of a common joke, later repeated by Frank King and Cliff Sterrett, where American domesticity and “normality” is turned upside down by modern art.


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The Kinkiness of Russ Manning & Other Notes


Friday, March 26, 2010

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Who Wears Short Shorts? Robot Fighters, That's Who.

More notebooks, mostly relating to The Comics Journal:

Panter as Talker, Manning’s Kinkiness. Gary Panter was in Toronto last night speaking at our local art’s college and of course I went to hear him. Among his many other talents, Panter is, along with Lynda Barry and Art Spiegelman, one of the greatest talkers in the comics world, indeed one of the world’s great talkers period. He’s lived a great, rich life and has a storehouse of stories but more importantly he can, like Barry, talk about creativity with a directness and honesty that forces you to rethink all your fundamental assumptions. And, like Spiegelman, Panter knows more about the history of art than the entire faculty of your typical Ivy League university. During the talk, Panter mentioned that as a kid he was attracted to Magnus, Robot Fighter in large part because of the kinky short shorts (or was it a proto-mini-skirt) Russ Manning had the hero wear.

This reminded me of the great Arn Saba interview with Manning which ran in the Comics Journal #203. During the interview Manning asks Saba if he’s read the Tarzan novels. Saba says no and the following exchange occurs:

Manning: It is a superb novel. And in it, Jane is about to be raped by the big ape and that’s just the theme he used all the way through it.

Saba: I was aware of that from reading the comic versions of it, yours included. Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic thing, that imagery, because in this primeval jungle you can take primeval sexuality and symbolize it through all these various creatures: the women with the hairy brassieres and all these things … [laughs] I’m embarrassed to say I notice these things and react to them.

Manning: Well, I hope my readers do.

Saba: The fact that all the women in Opar have these strange, long, pendulous, fur things hanging down between their legs – they’re very penis-like things! [laughs] That’s what they look like to me, anyway.

Manning: Just cloth.

Saba: Cloth, but they’re so long and sinuous. [laughter]

Manning: I don’t know if that came out in just a design sense or instinctual or what. They probably look right, so I drew it that way.


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John Stanley Notebook


Thursday, March 18, 2010

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Little Lulu #19

Along with my friends Frank Young and Gail Singer, I just recorded an Inkstuds episode devoted to John Stanley. You can listen to it here.

And below are some excerpts from my John Stanley notebook:

 Stanley as Lulu. Month after month, Lulu had to improvise a story to please that pesky small-fry Alvin. Lulu was adept at spinning out burlesque yarns featuring stock characters – poor girls, kings, witches — and coming up with new scenarios for them to enact. Wasn’t Lulu’s plight the same as Stanley’s? He was on a story tread mill, he had to keep running to make the kids happy, there was no let up or relief for nearly thirty years.

Mummy as Enabler. Is it too much to see Melvin Monster as an allegory about child abuse? Melvin’s always under the threat of violence, sometimes death itself. His chief persecutor is his father, Baddy. The name says it all: Baddy equals bad daddy (a pun related to Blake’s nickname for the God of organized religion: Nobodaddy). Melvin’s mother, Mummy, is all wrapped up in the Egyptian manner. That means she has no eyes to see what is happening. She turns a blind eye to Melvin’s situation. That’s the way it often is with abusive families: one parent is violent, the other a blinkered or self-deceived enabler.


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Comic Book Stores Notebook


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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Joe Matt's Beguiling days.

More notebooks:

My Favourite Shop. When comics-friendly guests are in town, I like to show them The Beguiling. I’ve given tours to Kent Worcester and Bill Kartalopoulos among others. Like a well-packed suitcase, The Beguiling contains more goodies than one can easily imagine being squeezed into so small a space. Tucked away in odd corners are the real gems, especially the frame original art, which includes McCay’s Dreams of a Rarebid Fiend page, a Krazy Kat Sunday, and a Jesse Marsh Robin Hood Sunday. In the book side of things, the genuine riches are the volumes that almost no other comic book store would think of carrying. The French language selection in particular must be unparalleled in the Anglophone world, and I’ve met people who have driven hundreds of miles to find bande dessinee not otherwise available. There is also a smaller but still impressive selection of Japanese books; and of course the English manga collection is dauntingly large. I love how some choice out-of-print books are mixed in with the new books. If you wanted to supplement the Fantagraphics Peanuts series with a dose of nostalgia, The Beguiling offers paperbacks by Holt Rinehart Winston and Fawcett reprinting Schulz’s masterpiece.

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