Posts Tagged ‘David Mazzucchelli’

9-Panel Grids


Saturday, October 23, 2010

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IF 6 WAS 9


Let’s look at 9-panel grids in North American comics. When I think of the 9-panel grid I invariably see Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man page layouts in my mind. Then I see Watchmen. Both stuck to 9-panel grids for the most part. And I think the center panel – the panel that doesn’t exist in a 6-panel grid – is where some of the power comes from in these works.

If I flip randomly to a page of Watchmen and let my eyes scan the page, usually I look straight at the center – and often that center panel is representative of the whole page. It’s like an anchor. Also, the artist (Dave Gibbons) never gives up the center of the page when he uses a different layout. Never! He never has a center tier that has a vertical gutter in the direct center of the page. I really think this is part of Watchmen‘s visual power. When I flip through the book, my eyes just go from center of page to center of page and I feel more enveloped by the story and by the world created. (more…)

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Revolver by Matt Kindt


Sunday, July 25, 2010

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One of the few comics I’ve read recently that does not feel like it’s nostalgia driven or overly genre based. The press release for the book says it’s science fiction, but it feels like some weird hybrid of slice-o-life daily office life banality mixed with an action movie. The hook is that through time travel, whenever the clock hits 11:11 pm the protagonist switches from office life to action-hero life and thusly gets to experience both as the story moves forward, instead of the usual zero-to-hero plot development. Okay, maybe it is genre-based sci-fi. Still, it doesn’t FEEL like some re-hash of a genre comic book or a self-referencing comics nod. There’s even a comic book that is read by the zero/hero within this graphic novel that is used as a narrative device but that doesn’t FEEL nostalgic to me either. Hurm.

But all that is so inside baseball. I guess it’s from working at Copacetic. Like I can’t explain a lot of comics to customers in “comics terms” cuz most of our customers are fairly new to comics. So me explaining that it is Kindt’s brushwork that keeps this rollicking tale from coming across as a re-hash, or that his brushwork is, to me, a flowering of the alt 90’s Mazzucchelli/Pope bang-it-out approach and is a beautiful counter-point to all the slick photo-reffing schlubs who can’t draw an action scene to save their lives—that just barely makes sense to them, or maybe even to you, True Believer. But I gotta try, and will, for you, Believer, before I move on to how I pitch it to the lay people. (more…)

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Random Riff Round-Up


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

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Hey everybody. I thought I’d copy Jeet and post some of the things in my notebook that I’ve been carrying around for the last few weeks. Nothing super substantial but hopefully enough to get some discussion going in the comments.  I just got back to Pittsburgh after a week in NYC working with Dash on his animation project. He and I talked a lot while I was up there and I gotta get this stuff outta my head. Please forgive the randomness of these notes. Maybe someday I’ll turn some of these riffs into more well-rounded posts but until then this is it. 

Why don’t the old guard guys make graphic novels? As someone who loves tracking down old comics by Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Kaluta, and other guys who made “art” comics back in the day, I often wonder why these guys don’t make long form works. Chaykin just did a new Dominic Fortune story but released it as a serialized comic book. His pair of Time2 graphic novels from the late ’80s were amazing and it makes me wonder why he doesn’t “do a Mazzucchelli” and really show us something. Is it the money? I figure he probably knows he can do it as a serialized comic and get paid. I’m guessing that not many publishers can offer guys like him a hefty advance so he can take time off from the pulps and focus on a long form book. But it’s kind of weird, isn’t it?  When I dig through my collection I come across comic after comic from the ’70s and ’80s by guys like Chaykin, Windsor-Smith, Corben, and many others that all held the promise of some future where they could make long form “adult” comics that would appeal to a wide audience. Well, the time is now and it’s strange to me to see them still doing serialized comics. Only Mazzuchelli made the jump. Will others follow his lead and do long form works that aren’t serialized? Does it matter? No, but it is weird, I think.

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separated at birth?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Dash Shaw and David Mazzucchelli.
I know, I know, a ton of cartoonists have done the same thing with the balloon tails. But I thought this was funny.

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Revisiting the 2009 TCAF Mainstream/Alternative Comics Panel


Sunday, October 4, 2009

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Robin at Inkstuds was kind enough to have the TCAF panel Frank, Robin, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and I participated in transcribed by Squally Showers. He sent me the transcription a few weeks ago and I finally got around to reading it.

Frankly, I thought this panel sucked, due to nobody in particular’s fault. But I think most panels are meandering and boring despite having intelligent moderators and participants. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, I’m just going to excerpt sections of it here and intersperse it with some new commentary.

I wasn’t sure what the point of the panel was and, reading the transcription now, I don’t think anybody knew what the point was. If the point was to hear Frank speak enthusiastically about Kirby and Steranko, it succeeded and that’s definitely an enjoyable, worthy reason to attend a panel. No joke.

But I fear that the panel was interpreted as a statement that “alternative” cartoonists having affection for “mainstream” comics is noteworthy or unusual or “new” somehow. It’s not. “Alternative” cartoonists bemoaning the abundance of boring, mundane mostly-autobio work is a false feeling to me. There are a lot of autobio “real life” stories, but they’ve always been dwarfed by the pseudo-“mainstream” genre work, even outside of Marvel and DC. Look at Oni Press and Slave Labor Graphics and Antarctic Press and Caliber Comics and Tundra and on and on. Look at the Hernandez Brothers. Look at the wave of alternative comics in the nineties… Zot (which somehow looks both really dated and also pre-Tezuka reprint boom ahead-of-its-time), Bone, Kabuki (don’t forget that Scarab spin-off series!), Madman, THB (fucking Escapo! still lookin good a decade later,) etc.

When I was a student at SVA in the early ’00s I was mostly hanging out with the Meathaus guys and almost all of them were doing “alternative” sci-fi/fantasy/horror/whatever genre comics. Some later did more “alternative”-leaning books for DC or Vertigo. Tomer Hanuka did Bipolar (the last issue of which was essentially a Bizzaro World Aquaman story) and later did the Midnight Mass covers for Vertigo. And, of course, Farel Dalrymple did the great Omega Man the Unknown series after doing his solo, surreal Pop Gun War series that, aesthetically, is in the post-Marvel House Style world similar to Jim Rugg (Street Angel from Slave Labor). Even Thomas Herpich’s (who I adore) second book was mostly science fiction short stories. Meanwhile the amerimanga artists at Tokyopop and Oni were doing sci-fi/romance/fantasy comics.

There’s been wave after wave of “alternative” comics with ties to “mainstream” comics from the ’80s to today, unaffected by some horrible glut of boring real-life comics that people complain about. I’m not saying that those books don’t exist (they do). I’m saying that I don’t think there’s been a point where one genre was threatening to extinguish the other.

Frank Santoro: Is everyone … I’m going to talk as if everybody knows what I‘m talking about. If you don’t know what I‘m talking about, please interject at any time. But basically, it’s like Kirby of course created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, but then in the ‘70s, when he went back to Marvel, he was doing these really crazy books like 2001, which was essentially based on the movie. But by issue 5 it had nothing to do with the movie. [laughter] What’s really interesting about this comic is … can you scroll ahead a couple of things … it starts off as this crazy battle and—couple of more?—and he goes to The Source which is, if you remember 2001, the black monolith. I call it The Source. [Robin laughs] Can you scroll ahead one more time? He’s coming out of this battle—one more, one more—and then it’s just like it’s all—keep going one more, a little more, a little more. [murmurs of dissent.] Where’s the locker room?

Robin McConnell: Oh, it didn’t make it in.

Frank: Oh bummer. Well, anyway, it’s like a game. It’s basically like, was it Heroesville?

Dash Shaw: Comicsville.

Frank: Comicsville. So it’s like a game. It’s like a virtual reality game. So this whole episode in the beginning is just this game but it’s like to me, it was this treatise on Kirby’s idea of what being a hero is or was. It’s a game. It’s like a sport. I think it was transparent about what all his comics are about. To me, this particular comic wraps it all up, I horde this comic whenever I see it in the bargain bins. A lot of people don’t like this late style, but I think this is the kind of style that I think is carrying on. It’s still, I think, very fresh. It’s not like his old stuff. It’s really different. I think it’s really ahead of the curve and I’m running out of steam.

Robin: When did this come out in comparison to the New Gods stuff?

Frank: This was after the New Gods stuff. So this is post-DC. He got canned from DC. All of his DC books got canceled. Then he went back to Marvel. This was around the time he was doing The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, the Captain America/Black Panther stuff. Anybody who read that Captain America—Madbomb, those issues. Those are really great. Anybody else want to riff on [inaudible, 2:47]

Robert Dayton: You know what I find really interesting about his 2001 stuff is it’s almost like a mantra. You buy every issue and as a kid you probably feel ripped off, because every issue goes exactly the same. At the end of the issue, a caveman or someone back in time, meets the monolith. The End. Next issue: Same thing. It’s almost like reading Gerald Jablonski’s comics. It becomes like a mantra. It’s just repetition. It’s kind of fascinating reading each and every issue, because even the series, like basically he did a Treasury edition of 2001.

Dash: Yeah, it’s insane.

Robert: Which is insane. It’s massive. It’s huge. It’s gorgeous.

Frank: It’s beautiful. You know those oversized treasuries? Remember those things from the ‘70s? It’s an adaptation of the movie, right?

Robert: Yeah.

Frank: But it’s totally different. It’s Kirby-style. It makes no sense.

Dash: He got some production stills from the movie that you can see that he directly swiped from.

Frank: Yeah!

Dash: And then he just connected it with like just Kirby stuff.

Frank: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Robert: And Kirby was such a collage artist, too. So in the Treasury edition, there’s all these crazy collages.

Dash: The sequence right after this where it moves into the reality is really nice, too, because the reality turns out to not … I don’t know if …

Frank: Yeah, well see, he’s playing this game.

Dash: This isn’t real. Like sometimes when I …

Frank: Like self-heat chicken dinner? He lives in this giant apartment complex and then it’s just this thing. It’s Mountain Air.

Dash: But that beach scene isn’t real.

Frank: So it’s all Matrix! It’s like Matrix. It’s all … but like pre- … whatever, go ahead. [laughter] Go ahead. Go ahead.

Dash: I was going to say when you flip through a lot of these comics, my first reaction is these are way too wordy. I don’t know. Do you have that feeling?

Robin: They’re wordy, but …

Dash: But then in this sequence, you flip through it and you think that “This is actually real,” but all of the text is about how none of this, “This isn’t a real seascape” and everything like that. It’s a juxtaposition.

Robin: Do you find this is one of the more Kirby doing a better job of mixing the two.

Dash: Well, he wrote these, too.

Robin: Yeah, but that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes the story isn’t as strong as the art.

Frank: Well, I think the story is equally as strong as the art. I mean … go ahead.

Dash: Well, I don’t think he would do this the Marvel style if he was doing it for himself. Right?

Frank: Right.

Dustin Harbin: I would have thought with the wordiness that this was in the Marvel style. Because the story looks so clear with that page layout and then all these words were kind of scotch taped on top of it. Which is kind of the Marvel style …

Frank: Well, he wrote, all of Kirby’s stuff, you look at the originals in like the Kirby Collector or whatever, all of his stuff, he has all of the dialogue written in the sides or the back and then Stan or whomever just kind of cleaned it up a little bit. So I think that he’s still doing it in that style, in that way, because I think Mike Royer edited these also, so he helped clean them up. But for me, this was a real gateway comic—just to go back to the main thrust of the panel. It’s like, I was really into Kirby but this was way out there. I didn’t like his ‘70s style. I thought it was really wack and I hated it for a long time. It took me a long time to get into it. But to me, this starts heading into this alternate world. I don’t want to say alternative comics, but it’s just so different from what he had been doing for the 20 years previous that, like I feel like this is what ends up influencing the current generation. So …

It’s hard to read this and not think of Mazzucchelli, both since Asterios Polyp came out recently and he’s one of the kings of the “mainstream”/”alternative” fusion artists. Polyp has some stellar examples of this. My favorite sequence in the book is when Polyp, the “paper architect,” builds a tree house. I told Mazz I loved this scene and he said: “Kirby.”

Or how about this Steranko-esque film still-like panel of Asterios and Hana at the beach, pausing in silhouette, below. I like the melodrama of it. It’s ballsy.

Frank: The Escape Artist. Yeah, so Steranko, after Kirby—Kirby was a big deal in the ’60s, but then in the late ‘60s, there was this guy who was really kind of like the new regime was Jim Steranko, James Steranko. He took Kirby’s style and made it really design-y and really modern.

Robin: Deco pop, almost.

Frank: Deco pop is a good way of describing it. This particular story on the right, this is Bernie Krigstein from the late ‘50s and this is a Steranko story from the early ‘70s and a horror comic from Marvel. Can we click ahead one? And you can see he’s doing all these really wacky layouts and stuff like that. It’s not very … like this face is very Kirby to me and a lot of the figures are very Kirby, but as Dash likes to point out if you think Kirby’s anatomy is messed up, Steranko’s is even more messed up. He’s just doing it. So a lot of these figures are really cut-out figures and stuff. But he’s doing a lot of things with time that hearken back to what Krigstein was doing in the ‘50s.

Dash: The Krigstein comic is “The Master Race,” that Spiegelman likes so much to talk about. He did an article in The New Yorker about it.

Robin: Yeah. I think he first did an essay back in [inaudible, 11:14]

Frank: See, this is the subway going by and all the figures going by fast. He’s breaking up the time like way differently. I mean, this is ’59 …

Robin: This is earlier than that.

Frank: Really?

Dash: I want to hear Frank … you called this cinematic before, those panels. I’ve heard that used a lot. I don’t know if you used it.

Frank: Did I say that?

Dash: Why do you think people call those kind of panels, tall …

Frank: Oh, the tall panels. Because it breaks up the time differently. I think it’s a way of like Kirby is all about it’s not instantaneous moment to moment. It’s more like every ten seconds or something. You see the punch, then you see the reaction. But he’s doing every … this is like five seconds or whatever. This is like an instantaneous thing. Cinematic … I think so, but it’s just more like … Steranko’s cinematic in the sense of his framing, I think. His framing is way more …

Dash: If you scrolled, those long horizontal things like this.

Frank: Oh this. Yeah. Well, I think that’s cinematic because in the late ‘60s, everybody went panorama in the ‘60s, so it’s like your eye, I think, is going across these panels.

Robin: It’s kind of like the whole Orson Welles …

Frank: Deep focus.

Robin: That long …

Robert: The pan. You know what I was thinking? I was looking at these and speaking of cinematic, I was really thinking that Steranko’s a lot like Brian De Palma. That’s because both De Palma and both Steranko, for a lot of reasons, actually, they both use a lot of genre tropes. Like this is an old dark house kind of story. Also, De Palma would always make you conscious that you were watching a film and I think Steranko makes you really conscious that you were reading a comic. That’s what the framing—I mean, De Palma would use a lot of split screen and you see the way things are divided up here. Also, the way that they acknowledged the old masters: Steranko acknowledging Krigstein and Kirby and De Palma acknowledging Hitchcock, most especially.

Something that Jeet Heer touched on previously on CC, and was also asked at the TCAF panel, was how necessary it is for readers to track or be interested in artist’s influences.

Audience member: [inaudible, 45:45-] I mean, there is value to knowing stuff. It’s okay, but if you just want pleasure and it doesn’t matter to you and you’re getting the pleasure and something’s hitting the pleasure button and you don’t know that it’s just a third generation knockoff, then it’s okay. At the same time, if you want to be an informed reader … [continues]

Dash: I think if you’re coming to this panel, you want to be an informed reader.

Audience member: … reading the best work …

Robin: The main thing is you enjoy comics. Let’s see what that person enjoyed.

Robert: If you like this, you might like this.

Robin: That’s exactly it. Without being commercial thing like DC’s, “You like Watchmen, here’s the next thing to read.” You like Brandon Graham? Read Moebius, you’ll love it if you haven’t read Moebius. That’s kind of the conduct of people who love this stuff and reading it is rather important. There are so many comics to read, and people don’t really know that. And good luck at finding this stuff for an affordable except for the horrible Incal reprints that are re-colored.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary for readers to be informed about this stuff. It’s only of interest to people who care. But, I think the big “trickle down” effect IS interesting. I care. Not for an “I know who’s ripping off of who! Ha ha!” annoying reason, but because it’s telling a wider story about the psychology of artists. If you’re someone who’s interested in that, it’s worth tracking what was coming out when, or who was reading what when, because the “trickle down” effect over time is more exciting, to me, than holding a romantic belief that everyone’s working in a vacuum devoid of influences. All of the artists struggling to reach that “vacuum”/influence-less state are revealing in their own way.

Obviously, I don’t think people should feel that artists are handed a menu of what came before them and starting ordering things (“I’ll have a little bit of Kirby sprinkled with Sol Lewitt, please”), and I don’t think people should feel artists are necessarily having a conversation with other artists exclusively (“Ware did this, so I went the other way.”) The motivations are a tangled web encompassing a million things. It’s the whole psychology of the person. If you’re happy never reaching a conclusion, just bouncing around reading comics history or whatever, then it’s a journey worth making. Or at least a panel worth attending.

Huge thanks to Robin again and Squally Showers, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and Frank.

Here’s a random Gray Morrow Edge of Chaos spread, because it rules. Show n tell.

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Crumb and Mazzucchelli in Bookforum


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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Over the last two years or so, Bookforum has emerged as one of best venues for alert comics criticism that is both informed but engages a mainstream audience. So I was pleased that Bookforum asked me to review Crumb’s new Genesis book. The review can be found here. The latest issue also has Dan’s review of Asterios Polyp, available here. Aside from taking comics seriously, Bookforum is a great review journal, wide-ranging and smart. It’s open to young writers in way that The New York Review of Books and other venerable journals just aren’t. There is much in the latest issue that merits attention, particularly Scott McLemee’s review of David Harvey’s new book.

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The Gender of Coloring


Sunday, August 2, 2009

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Among the many juicy tidbits in the Trevor Von Eeden interview in The Comics Journal #298, is the story, which was news to me, that the cartoonist was dating Lynn Varley, who served as the colorist on his groundbreaking Batman Annual #8. Varley would go on, of course, to date and marry Frank Miller, and color many of his works as well.

This got me thinking about the relationship between gender and coloring in commercial comics. Although comics have been very much a boy’s club, it is noticeable that there a number of women have carved out a niche for themselves as colorists. Many of these women had personal relationships (as sisters, girlfriends, wives) with writers and artists.

Examples would include: Marie Severin (sister of John Severin), who was also course an accomplished artist; Glynis Wein (first wife of writer Len Wein), Tatjana Wood (first wife of Wally Wood), and Richmond Lewis (who is the wife of David Mazzucchelli, and did an amazing job coloring Batman: Year One). In some of the classic newspaper comics as well, cartoonists used their wives to help do the coloring. Outside of mainstream comics, Lewis Trondheim’s work has occasionally been colored by his wife.

The reasons for these women becoming colorists vary, of course. Lewis, as I understand it, is a special case because coloring was a sideline from her main career as a painter, and occurred mainly because Mazzucchelli wanted to bring Lewis into his world of comics (she also collaborated on editing Rubber Blanket).

I’d like to see someone do a good gender analysis of why women went into coloring. I’m inclined to see this as something more than mere sexism or the creation of a pink-collar ghetto. One factor at work is that for much of the 20th century, women were more likely to be associated with the decorative arts than men; in commercial comics coloring is often seen as a decorative. I’m not a gender essentialist so I don’t think women have an innately better color sense than men. But for historical and cultural reasons, women in our culture are more likely than men to be raised with color sensitivity.

There is also the fact that a cartoonist’s studio often resembles an old fashion artisans shop, with the main master being assisted by apprentices and family members. Again the classic newspaper strip provides examples, with many cartoonists taking on sons (and sometimes daughters) as assistants.

For at least some of the women we’re talking about (I’m thinking here particularly of Severin, Varley, and Richmond), coloring was clearly an expression of their creativity. They all had a major impact on the history of comics. As Mazzucchelli once suggested, the last person who works on a page of comics art, whether it’s the editor or colorist, often has the biggest impact.

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The bridge is over.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

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Preface: I wrote this in my notebook after discovering last week that the conclusion to the major re-launch of the 1980s series Nexus had hit the stands. Steve Rude, one of the biggest “indie” comics creators of the last 25 years, made a comeback — to the sound of crickets. No one cared. To me, that meant the Direct Market was really finally and absolutely dead. Everyone said it was dead last summer when Love and Rockets abandoned its pamphlet comic book format and went to an annual trade paperback format. Like Love and Rockets, the fate of Nexus was bound up in the history of the Direct Market. But unlike Love and Rockets, Nexus was suited for the “alternative mainstream” fan. It was a particular kind of adult superhero book that appealed to a seemingly more sophisticated audience than the regular superhero comics. The DM supported titles like Nexus and allowed them to thrive. Not any more. Maybe everyone’s just had their fill of Nexus but the news of this indie’s end got me thinking about the bigger picture. The end of Nexus represents, to me, a window of time that has closed. The new regime is upon us at last, and I wrote this to simply mark the time. Also, the below is really an exploration, for me, into ideas that my friend and mentor Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics has expressed to me for years—in his store, over the phone, in emails, in class lectures. The “bridge” and “tree” metaphors are pure Boichel. Thanks Bill, for letting borrow your melody line and riff on it here.

The bridge is over. From 1975 to 2005, the Direct Market was the bridge from the old world “Comics-as-ephemera”, returnable periodicals model to the new world “Comics-as-Literature” bookstore model. The bridge changed comics, saved it from sure death on the newsstand and put comics in a place of permanence. Everyone in Comics has noted the consolidation of the DM and the rise of the chain bookstores & the internet as venues for new work. Now, this year, more than ever, I seem to be repeatedly noting to myself the real split between the mainstream and the alternative sides of comics.

During the heyday of the Direct Market in the late ’80s and early ’90s mainstream and alternative comics were together in one marketplace because there was no other option essentially, no bookstore support, no internet. What that meant was the two traditions were folded together. Gilbert Hernandez and Steve Ditko were on the same rack literally and figuratively. The old mainstream guys influenced the young alt guys, there was a clear traceable legacy. One could see Bernie Krigstein’s influence on Dan Clowes, Jack Kirby’s influence on Chester Brown, Ditko’s influence on Hernandez. It was a singular perspective essentially. One big sandbox. One tradition.

The market can now support multiple perspectives. It is not a monolithic community. There is no official definition of Comics now. It’s too big. Finally “comics” doesn’t just mean American mainstream super-hero action adventure stories. (Well, comics never meant just that genre, but y’know what I’m saying: Marvel and DC have lorded over the form for almost 50 years.) In 2009 you can walk into a comics store like Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh and see no superhero comics on display at all. There are enough “alternative” or “literary” comics/graphic novels out in the world to fill a whole (small) store. And there are “alternative” publishers who don’t use (or are shut out from) the Direct Market and who use book trade distributors to get the work out to stores.

So we got what you might call a bifurcated market. The two traditions, once folded together in the same market, have split. There are two sandboxes now. What that means is that if you grew up reading comics from, say, 1999 to now you didn’t necessarily have to read superhero comics to get your comics fix or even go to a store that sold both. This is a good thing. It’s a new audience, and a broader one than maybe any of us old school dinosaurs could have anticipated. I’ve spent far too much time ranting about “the kids not knowing their comics history.” Well, I’m over it. I don’t really feel the need to explain who Marshall Rogers is anymore, or convince anyone that late ’70s Kirby is actually really good. Figure it out for yourself.

This new audience, I think, is alienated by superhero comics and associates the genre with corporate America. They don’t like it. And who can blame them? They wonder why folks like me keep extolling the abilities of some guy who drew Spider-Man. They could care less. I had a student tell me, “Yah, it’s beautiful art but it’s Spider-Man.” This too, this palpable attitude, is a good thing. After all, aren’t Batman and Spider-Man just corporate logos these days?

Comics history is like one big tree where McCay and Herriman are the roots, Kirby and Caniff are the trunk, Crumb and Spiegelman are big branches, and the rest of us schlubs are up there somewhere. It’s all connected. Each generation has its precursors. I would assert, however, that for the first time in comics history it’s possible to graft new identities upon the tree without being schooled in the singular tradition, without growing out of the singular tradition. One can choose precursors from other traditions, not just from comics.

I see Persepolis as an example of this grafting. It is at once outside the tradition of comics and within the boundaries of the form. I feel that it was only possible to come into existence because of the split that happened some time in the last 10 years. I’m sure that’s no big revelation for most of you, but it’s something to consider as we move forward into the next decade. It’s now possible to bypass a very particular, esoteric education in “mainstream” comics, and go right to its “alternative” and also to the avant-garde. It opens the door for “vertical invaders,” for artists from different traditions to make work and to find an audience. The marketplace will support a book like Persepolis, I think, precisely because it is divorced from the old world model. Satrapi’s free from the “Tree of Influence” that’s existed in comics; she’s free to draw in a straight-forward generic style that is appealing to a vast audience. (Think of it this way: As “straight-forward” or “realistic” Clowes’ style in Ghost World is to a schooled comics reader, it looks baroque and affected to a non-comics reader.)

One could say comics like L’nR and Optic Nerve may have been the first to appeal to this emerging audience. But I feel that those books didn’t/don’t cross over so much as Acme Novelty Library or Persepolis because the styles of the Hernandez Brothers and also of Tomine are essentially derived from the mainstream comics and illustration tradition. I feel that it was Ware’s choice to reach beyond the mainstream tradition back to the newspaper strip golden age that has allowed him to have such a diverse audience. It seems this new emerging audience still connects particular styles back to mainstream comics. I’m curious to see how Mazzucchelli’s new book does now that he has “unlearned” all his mainstream tricks. ( I also think Seth’s eventual collection of Clyde Fans will “cross over” to an audience beyond comics. He has a style that has little to do with mainstream comics. Interestingly enough, Seth said recently: “I am converting Palookaville into a hardcover format this year. I love the old comic format but Chris Oliveros convinced me that the work would do better if we moved on to this new direction. It’s kind of sad, passing of an era and all that.”)

So, here we are: Summer 2009. Whatever system we have now, it’s working. Pamphlets still get published even if they only serve as advertisements for the collection, GN’s sell better and better, downloads are happening, comics are on Kindle: whatever works. However, in the process it feels like a real division has been formed between the “mainstream” and the “alternative” factions. A division that was always there underneath, forming. But now it’s ruptured and split the marketplace.

Which brings me to Comic-Con. San Diego Comic-Con will always be some sort of Oscars for our community. But whose community is it anymore? Increasingly it’s the motion picture industry’s community. It’s not about “the work” anymore. It’s definitely not about the creators or even the comic book dealers. It may be cool for most mainstream creators or fans but what’s in it for us in the “alternative” community? Not much. So I gotta wonder why “we” still go. I can certainly understand why Fantagraphics and D&Q go (it’s the biggest show of the year, duh) and that Comic-Con is still profitable for them. But for me and my comrades over here on the fringe of the fringe we feel like we’re getting priced out of our own neighborhood. The split seems this year to be more pronounced than ever and it looks like those in the “mainstream” have no choice really but to hold on for dear life as they become co-opted even further into corporate America. They really have no choice. They sold themselves out years ago.

But the alternative comics community does have a choice. So give me TCAF, SPX, MoCCA, SPACE, Stumptown, and the “alternative” circuit and tell Comic-Con and the Direct Market, “Thanks for the memories.” The bridge is over.

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Mazzucchelli MoCCA Audio Evidence


Sunday, July 19, 2009

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I do believe Mazzucchelli won this round! But I shall have my revenge. Some day. Anyhow, here is the audio recording of our conversation. A good time was had by all. Thanks to MoCCA for asking us to do this and for putting on a great night. Click below to stream.

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Mazzucchelli vs. Nadel!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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Please join the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art – MoCCA for
David Mazzucchelli and Dan Nadel in Conversation
Thursday, July 16, 7 P.M.
at MoCCA, 594 Broadway (between Houston and Prince), suite 401, New York, NY 10012

Mazzucchelli and Nadel will discuss Mazzucchelli’s work, and the exhibition, Sounds and Pauses. Mazzucchelli will sign copies of Asterios Polyp and other books after the conversation.

That’s the official word. Come watch us duke it out!

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