Posts Tagged ‘Al Jaffee’

Lost & Found


Friday, July 24, 2009

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1. A vanishingly small subset of readers will be interested in this, but for those of you who enjoy discovering the hidden connections between Nabokov and comics, under-appreciated great-novelist John Crowley believes he knows the answer to one of the master’s more obscure comic-strip allusions. (An allusion that apparently baffled Alfred Appel Jr. himself, no less.)

His answer is here.

2. These are all over the internet already, but I would still feel remiss if I didn’t draw your attention to the comics coverage at The Onion AV Club and Vice this week. Some of the content in both is a little hinky (Is “hinky” a word? Does it mean what I want it to mean?), but some of it is pretty good and shouldn’t be missed. In particular, I recommend the interviews with Seth (who I was pleased to learn is a fellow Dick Ayers appreciator), Michael Kupperman, and Al Jaffee, as well as a top ten list from Gary Panter.

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Weekend Clean-Up


Saturday, July 11, 2009

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(Artist’s rendition of my vacation)

I was away kayaking, fishing, having water balloon fights, eating ice cream, and doing other “manly” things this past week, so I’ve been designated “weekend boy” by my compatriots. What have we learned this week?

Well, for one thing we had an off-blog discussion about the incredible Trevor Von Eeden interview in The Comics Journal. Truly the must-read of the year so far. Like the Dick Ayers autobiography or the Dave Stevens book, it’s a pretty incredible record of a cartoonist’s psyche. I mean, all the stuff about Lynn Varley alone is remarkable — almost (Ok, maybe totally) too candid. Also, it reminds me of how the TCJ interviews use to be — the totally off the cuff candor of Kaluta or Conway or Chaykin in the 1980s. I think it’s less that the Journal has changed (though it has) and more that the culture of comics has shifted so much in the last 20 years. After all, by contrast that interview with Ba and Moon (contemporary young “hot” artists) is remarkable for its contentment and happiness. I mean, the industry is still bizarre but the rewards and possibilities are so much more…lucrative. Comics isn’t small anymore, I guess, and certainly what’s left of public bitching now occurs more on message boards and blogs than it does in the old style interviews. But someone who lived through all of that could speak to this better than I.

Of course, Von Eeden was/is very talented, which is pretty much what distinguishes it from, say, a million other interviews you could do with superhero artists and why I’m at all interested in him. That’s what I love that he talks about more or less drawing in ink, rather than tracing pencils, and that he’s unconcerned with any conceptual logic to his layouts — they seem to just evolve from whatever he feels like doing. Luckily the drawing and storytelling remains clear. I suppose that’s the trick.

Oh, and I sure liked Frank’s Brinkman review. I’m of course biased and I’ve been meaning to ask Mat to confirm a few things. Certainly Frank’s thoughts about relating to the work seems dead on. I also wanted to note that so much of what makes MF work has to do with Mat’s experiments with multiple generation xeroxing and the scale shifts throughout a page. Those are miraculous compositions which, as Frank so eloquently noted seem unimpeachable.

Finally, we learned from Lauren Weinstein that I’m against social interaction and a “killjoy” (oh, Weinstein, you’re in trouble!). She may or may not be right. Next week we’ll have a cage match about that very subject. Also, we have intuited that we will never be as cool as Al Jaffee, but oh lord we can try. Plus, we at CC have given birth (we’re competing with Lauren!) to a new feature which will be unveiled soon. The suspense must be killing you!

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Helpful Answers to Stupid Questions


Friday, July 10, 2009

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As you know, I’ve been trying to answer an important historical conundrum: Where did Al Jaffee get the idea of depicting fish skeletons whenever he draws someone vomiting? After a long and mostly fruitless quest, eventually one of my correspondents suggested that I just ask the Master himself. So I did, mentioning Will Elder and the James Ensor drawing from last post, as well as commenter BVS’s theory about the Dutch fish. Very graciously, Jaffee answered me via e-mail:

As to vomiter’s discharges I can’t say how I came to include such things as fish/chicken bones and even false teeth (see wretching jackal in NATIONAL PERSPIRERER article…MAD #??). My childhood pal Will Elder and I shared a similar cartooning sense of humor and certain bodily functions we found funny simply because the media and refined people generally tended to make believe they didn’t exist.

The Dutch people do indeed swallow small fish whole. I was on a Mad trip across the Zuyder Zee some years ago and for lunch we dipped into a barrel, pulled out salted fish and (YECCH) swallowed whole. We did not pull the bones out. I guess the fish were small and aged with soft bones. This is a Dutch delicacy.

The drawing with guys upchucking huge fish is wild. I wonder if it’s some sort of 19th century gag (I’d gag too with a whale that size in my gut).

Anyway, thanks for the info and I hope I answered your question.

Dan tells me this is possibly the greatest post I will ever publish.

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Tossing Around the Old Medicine Ball


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

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Surprisingly, I still haven’t figured out a grand unified theory of comics reading. (I do think that Eisner/montage bit at the end was kind of stupid in retrospect, though not regrettably so.)

However, after much research, I can finally report that Frank’s comment about David Mazzucchelli’s theory of comics simultaneity (“The page is taken in as a whole, the two page spread. It’s not one image at a time. And it’s not necessarily linear in so much that it’s all absorbed at once and then accepted as ‘ordered.'”) is absolutely spot on. At least when you’re reading Mazzucchelli comics. It’s kind of amazing really. It works with everything from Batman to Asterios Polyp. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s true: entire spreads enter the reader’s brain instantaneously.

But the two-page-spread simultaneous reading thing doesn’t seem to work with a lot of other comics, at least not for me. And not just inferior comics, either; some of the best comics around don’t work that way. So more research is needed. I’ll be in my study.


In the meantime, though, here’s a new stupid opinion: I like Philip Guston just fine, but I think it’s time that cartoonists started appreciating other painters now and again. (Always lead with a straw-man argument—that’s the blog way.)

Like, for instance, why aren’t cartoonists all over James Ensor? (If they are, and I’ve missed it, someone please correct me. (Actually, according to French Wikipedia, at least one European comic drew inspiration from him.))

Lauren dragged me to an exhibit of his drawings years ago, and I loved it, but I didn’t really get how great he was until I went to the retrospective that opened at MoMA last month.

For the most part, Ensor didn’t really attempt any of the sequential-art proto-comics often associated with people like Hogarth or Goya, and he had a tremendous range of tone, subject matter, and approach, but there’s no question that he often displayed the soul of a cartoonist.

For example, check out the famous self-portrait he painted in 1883, and revised five years later to add a hat and other evocative details.

Or for that matter, his later self-depiction, “My Portrait in 1960”:

(This one in particular doesn’t work in the same way without its title, which essentially functions as a caption.)

Most of the work included in the exhibit loses even more power than art always does when seen via the internet instead of in person, particularly the two enormous (and enormously complicated) drawings of Christ entering Jerusalem, and Christ revealing himself to the people. It’s impossible to tell when looking at them online, but they’re packed with incidental characters and background details that my comics-rotted brain can’t help but compare to chicken fat. He also often uses typography in a subtle, interesting ways.

Anyway, I could go through the exhibit pointing out drawing after painting after etching as possible kinda-sorta-like comics examples, but really I just wanted to use this as a setup to ask if anyone knows where Al Jaffee got the trademark fish bones so many of his characters disgorge whenever they vomit?

Because if you zoom in on “The Strike”, and move your attention to the figures leaning out of the windows to throw up on the right, I think we might have something like a 19th-century Belgian precedent!

IMPORTANT UPDATE!: I found out the answer to the fish-bones/vomit question from the man himself! Read it here.

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