Posts Tagged ‘Jeet Heer’

That New Polly and Her Pals Book


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Read Comments (3)

Cliff Sterrett's Polly from 1924, the year before he went wild.

As Jog mentioned yesterday, there’s a new collection of Cliff Sterrett’s Polly and Her Pals hitting comic book stores today. I wrote the introduction to it, so I risk becoming a Stan Lee type self-promoter if I say too much about it. But really, of the many books I’ve had a hand in, this is high up there as among the best. My introduction runs to 8,000 words and discusses Sterrett’s career in greater depth than anyone else has before. Dean Mullaney and Lorraine Turner had done a stellar job in putting the book together, especially in the care that went into reproducing the strips. The book itself doesn’t just cover Sterrett’s peak years as a creator, but also well-selected samples of the first dozen years of Polly Sunday pages, all of which are impeccably drawn even though they lack that extra edge of crazy energy that Sterrett gained when he decided to compete with Herriman for the laurel of being the greatest comic strip modernist.

For more on Sterret, you can read this nifty article by Jo Colvin about the cartoonist’s roots in Alexandra, Minnesota.


Labels: , , , , , ,

That Inkstuds Book


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Read Comment (1)

The new Inkstuds book

As Jog mentioned last week, the Inkstuds book is now in stores. Jog avoided saying too much about it for conflict of interest reasons, and I have even more conflicts than he does. I wrote the introduction to the book, which also includes the transcript on an interview with me, Dan, and Tom Spurgeon.

But Comics Comics has a long and noble tradition of **ahem**Dan Nadel**ahem** shameless self-promotion, so I’ll say a few words. It’s a very handsome book, amply illustrated with examples of the cartoonists work. And to his credit Robin McConnnell has interviewed many cartoonists who have rarely if ever been questioned about their work (notably the great Ted Stearn). Finally and unexpectedly, the interviews read very well in print. Even though I’ve listened to many of the interviews before, I’ve found that when I read them I pick up on nuances that I missed as a listener. So if you’re interested in contemporary comics, I’d suggest picking up the book.

Here’s an excerpt from my intro:

Among the many comics interviewers, the best were Verne Greene, John Benson, Arn Saba, Gary Groth, and Todd Hignite.  In the early 1960s, Greene, who then drew the strip Bringing Up Father, hosted a radio program on WRVR in New York City where he chatted with peers like Chester Gould and Roy Crane, getting them to share in the secrets of their craft. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Benson conducted path-breaking interviews with comic book artists such as Bernie Krigstein and Gil Kane, where they spoke honestly about the commercial limits of the form and their artistic ambitions. In the 1970s, Arn Saba, then a young cartoonist with an enviable gig at CBC radio, interviewed such venerable comic strip masters as Hal Foster, Floyd Gottfriedson, and Milton Caniff, catching them in the twilight of their career…..

I’ll add a regret that I didn’t talk about Tom Spurgeon as one of the great interviewers, since he’s done some really deft quizing of both mainstream comics artists, and a wide range of contemporary art cartoonists and also writers about comics. I know from my own experience, that Tom is a really acute reader whose questions are like x-rays in the way the lay bare the insides of a book. 

Labels: , , ,

Talking Comics Criticism


Friday, October 22, 2010

Read Comments (5)

Dwight Macdonald: one of Gary Groth's heroes

On the Inkstuds program earlier today, Gary Groth, Ben Schwartz and I talked about comics criticism with Robin McConnell. The pretext was Ben’s recent anthology of essays and interviews on comics. You can listen to the show here. The discussion ran all over the place. Among other topics discussed:

1. The transformative  role played by Gil Kane in getting people to talk about visual storytelling as well as literary narrative, and in general Kane as a spark for comics criticism and enthusiasm about comics.

2. The difference between art and entertainment.

3. The importance of destructive criticism (with discussions of the relative merits of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and Dwight Macdonald). I wish I had remembered to mention John Metcalf, who belongs in this tradition.

4. The seductive dangers posed by Mencken’s style.  Again, I wish I had remembered Christopher Hitchens’s great sentence about the impact of Mencken on some of his dimmer imitators: “No wonder, then, that in his ill-tempered and misanthropic shape, [Mencken] has been adopted as a premature foe of ‘PC’ by the rancorous crowd of minor swells who put out the American Spectator. ”

5. Why Mark Beyer, David Collier and Kim Deitch need critical champions (although Gary mentioned that there is an essay by Gary Giddins on Deitch’s work. I had no idea that this essay existed and will now have to track it down).

6. The reputational status of Eisner and Spiegelman.

If you are interested in these and related topics, listen to the show.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Talking Orphan Annie


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Post Comment

Back in July I appeared on the Michael Coren show as part of the semi-regular arts panel. During the show I talked a bit about my Orphan Annie research. You can see the show by clicking on here. The Annie discussion starts at about 30 minutes into the show.

Labels: , , , ,

There’s Money In Comics


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Read Comments (2)

1. In 1947 Stan Lee was virtually unknown, except to the few perverse readers who paid attention to the credit lines of 3rd rate knock-off comics. But Marshall McLuhan, who himself was years away from fame, had a great radar for what was happening in popular culture. He noted a 1947 issue of Writer’s Digest where Lee wrote an article arguing “There’s Money In Comics” (which turned out to be very true for Lee, although much less true for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko). In his 1951 book The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan used Lee’s article as a jumping off point for talking about middle- and low- brow art.


Labels: , , , , ,

The Week in Ink Buzz™


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Read Comments (3)

A series of announcements.

First, if you’re going to be in the Montreal area next week, our very own Jeet Heer will be dispensing wisdom during a can’t miss evening at the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on August 19.

Second, in the under-appreciated cartoonists department (nineties-wave division): Since April (how did I miss this?), the great Jon Lewis has been posting regular new pages of his classic True Swamp series. The first installment can be found here. This is welcome news.

Another alumnus of that same era of comics, Jay Stephens, has begun collaborating with Bob “Slylock Fox” Weber Jr. on a strip for King Features, Oh Brother! According to the publicity e-mail I received, this is the “first webcomic” built and launched by a newspaper syndicate. I am not qualified to judge the veracity of that statement. In any case, Stephens was one of a whole slew of interesting cartoonists published by the late, lamented Black Eye, a company whose output seems to have somewhat slipped from collective memory lately, but deserves more critical attention.

Oh, and finally, in regard to the CC Comic-Book Club discussed last week: thank you all for your suggestions. For various reasons, I don’t think that most of them will work for this particular purpose, BUT I still plan to review some of them as individual issues in the near future, particularly Smoke Signal and Glamourpuss. The Neal Adams Batman book is just too long—I can’t imagine writing twelve full posts about it. Maybe I’ll just do one of those issues too, but we’ll see how things go. In the end, it seems like the Alan Moore series will work best. Regardless of the book’s quality, which I don’t want to pre-judge, there are a lot of interesting angles to tackle—adaptation, prose vs. comics, sequels, Lovecraftian fiction, comics scripting vs comics art, how it fits into Moore’s larger body of work, etc.—that should lead to solid post and comment fodder.

In any case, next Thursday, I’ll put up the first post. If it goes well, we can follow Neonomicon up with something else, and if a new obvious series hasn’t shown up on stands by then (please feel free to keep suggesting nominees), maybe we can pick an already completed series or run from the past. Until then, next Thursday, I’ll write about The Courtyard, a rather lackluster comic book not written by Alan Moore, but adapted by Antony Johnston from one of Moore’s throwaway prose stories. The book is relevant mostly because Neonomicon is a direct sequel to it. The Thursday after that, I will cover Neonomicon issue 1, and so on.

Okay, now go look at that Jim Rugg cartoon again and forget all about this.

Labels: , , , ,

Talking About Orphan Annie


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Read Comment (1)

Harold Gray drawing Annie.

Click here if you want to see a brief but interesting discussion of Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie.

Labels: , , ,

Chris Ware and the Comics Tradition


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Read Comments (3)

Essays on Chris Ware.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have an piece in a new collection of critical essays devoted to Chris Ware (The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David Ball and Martha Kuhlman). Now, thanks to the wonders of Google Books, parts of that collection are now online, including the whole of my essay. You can look at the book here. The entire book is very much worth reading with many fine critical essays. You can buy a copy here.

My essay begins like this:

In 1990,Chris Ware, then a twenty-two-year-old student at the very beginning of his career, made a pilgrimage to Monument Valley, Arizona in order to investigate the life of George Herriman. Author of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat, which ran in variety of newspapers from 1913 until the cartoonist’s death in 1944, Herriman used  the other worldly desert landscape of the region as the ever-shifting backdrop to his comics. Along with the adjacent area of Coconino County, Monument Valley inspired the dream-like lunar landscape that made Krazy Kat a rare example of cartoon modernism. Eager to learn more about the sources of Herriman’s artistry, Ware felt he had to see landscape of jutting buttes and flat-topped mesas that the earlier cartoonist had so creatively incorporated into his work. This hajj to the Southwest was an early manifestation of Ware’s interest in the history of cartooning, a persistent fascination that has been much more than an antiquarian passion and has had a profound influence on Ware’s body of work.

Labels: , ,

Little Orphan Annie in the News


Friday, June 11, 2010

Read Comments (2)

Annie, Daddy Warbucks versus the evil labour union leaders.

If readers of this blog are up on Sunday morning and want to catch some comics talk, then you should tune into the CBS show called, appropriately enough, Sunday Morning. They’ll have a segment on Little Orphan Annie. I was interviewed for the segment and the people doing the show really know what they’re talking about, so it should be an interesting overview of Harold Gray’s masterful comic strip.

Because Tribune Media Services is canceling Annie, there have been a number of retrospective articles in the press. Sharon Cohen of AP has an interesting analysis which can be found here, and Michael Taube, a former speech writer to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, weighs in here.

As always, I’d encourage readers to take a look at the Complete Little Orphan Annie series issuing forth at a rapid rate from IDW.

Labels: , , ,

Jeet, Seth, Evan and a Mountain of Comics


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Read Comments (20)

Last Sunday at TCAF (aka the best comics festival in North America) I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Jeet Heer, Seth and Evan Dorkin on the ins and outs of editing/designing/publishing/consuming comics history. It begins with Evan lamenting the lack of proper old radio fandom. Note: I forgot to ask one crucial question: Complete editions vs. “Best of” editions. Not to late to chime in, gents. Anyhow, audio is below. Enjoy.


Labels: , , , , ,