Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Tomine’
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
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.
by Jeet Heer
Friday, March 5, 2010
I’m in the book so I won’t say too much about it except that the editors are very intelligent and the table of contents (pasted below) looks promising. The book will also have a lovely frontispiece by Ivan Brunetti.
As it turns out, my contribution to the book is relevant to the discussions we’ve been having here at Comics Comics about book design and reprints of old comics. My essay is about Ware’s work on the Walt and Skeezix series and the Krazy and Ignatz series, which I try to place in the larger context of the history of comic strip reprint projects and also tie to Ware’s thematic concerns in his own comics with family history, the legacy of the past, and the pathology of the collector mentality.
Labels: Adrian Tomine, Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, Seth
by Jeet Heer
Saturday, November 14, 2009
1. I’m a regular reader of The New Left Review and a constant re-reader of Carl Barks’ duck comics. So I was naturally delighted to see in the latest issue of NLR has a long disquisition by the German belles-lettrist Joachim Kalka on the disappearance of money as a material object, reflections that lean heavily on the writing of Leon Bloy and the comics of Carl Barks. Kalka’s essay can be found here.
Carl Barks’s comic-book stories of Uncle Scrooge—a spin-off from the Disney cartoon series—offer a canonical encyclopaedia of libidinous relations to money. His Scrooge is obviously related to Dickens’s miser and kindred topoi of European comedy from Molière to Antiquity; but he far surpasses these classical embodiments of avarice. Uncle Scrooge’s famous money-bin contains a hilly landscape made out of coins, interspersed with banknotes, in which he spends his time. He likes to announce the ritualized programme of actions the money-drive imposes on him with reiterated phrases: ‘I dive around in it like a porpoise—and I burrow through it like a gopher—and I toss it up and let it hit me on the head.’ Clearly recognizable in this trio of money joys are three movements of any playful child: leaping into the pond, rummaging under the duvet and—the earliest gesture of delight—tossing toys high up into the air. The impressive massif of Uncle Scrooge’s money, the backdrop and punch-line of so many of Barks’s stories, might by its sheer volume obscure the crucial fact that for Scrooge McDuck (‘world’s richest duck and darn well going to stay that way’) all coins are individual. This gigantic accumulation of ‘dough’—to use the idiom of Scrooge’s disrespectful antagonists, the Beagle Boys, a gang of safe-crackers for whom indeed only its volume counts (which, according to the magical laws of this narration, in the end prevents them from pulling off a successful robbery)—is for Uncle Scrooge a concentrate of intimacy, in which every item is
saturated with memory.
2. This Canadian Business article has already received some attention from the comics world. I just wanted to point out that for any Adrian Tomine completists out there, the print edition of the magazine is worth acquiring since it has a fine full-page Tomine illustration of Chris Oliveros, a portion of which I’ve pasted above.
Labels: Adrian Tomine, Carl Barks, Chris Oliveros
Saturday, August 1, 2009
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.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Thurber and I drove up together from Pittsburgh. The rest of the gang was in a big van that Kevin drove like a maniac. After the stop at the diner, we drove along route 22 thru Pennsylvania and up to Altoona. Got on I-80, which winds through the Appalachians, really pretty deep focus views with snows, and drove and drove. I remember we stopped at some super small town’s sprawling grocery store, and the lot of us wandered the store looking for something or other. But that was it. No exciting road adventures. Just a jaunt to the big city.
Matthew is a great conversationalist. Good with word play. We talked a lot about wanting to do more zines. Something public that one could print cheaply, small editions of 300 or so. Selling them on a website. Collecting the good stuff later in a cheap trade or giving it away online. Who knows? Who cares! Just make work. Back to basics. Both of us had pamphlet comic books go the way of the dodo. We were brainstorming. Thurber driving. Dunkin Donuts in Stroudsburg.
I had soup with some friends on 2nd ave and the went over to Matthew’s place to crash. He and Kevin were looking through old sketchbooks and drinking beer. Kevin’s got these amazing lists and diagrams of what he’s planning for some sequences. Ideas for comic book titles, random thoughts or observations, notes to self. The usual sketchbook stuff but sharply focused and clear. A distinct voice speaking. All beautifully, economically drawn or written.
Matthew showed us some new 1-800-MICE pages. I wish I could make such remarkably funny drawings as Thurber. The characters are so real to me like Jim Woodring’s characters are real, how they inhabit a space all their own. But beyond that, Thurber’s making these slapstick Dada talkies that just cut like a Buñuel movie. They’re great scenes strung together, great comics.
Then it was Saturday morning, bright December sun and light dusting of snow. Cats on fire escapes. Brooklyn. Thurber and I got up early and headed into Manhattan. He went to work. I went to see missed friends. Kevin said something about finding a diner or somewhere to draw. The signing was at four or five. We all barely had time eat before it was time to meet the throngs of Kramers fans out there.
I wish. I guess New York is always kind of a pie in the face. Meaning I can’t help but get my hopes up for any opening or signing or whatever I have here. I always hope all my friends will come, I hope there will be new people excited about the same things I’m excited about. Y’know, ahem, the heart of Saturday night. In New York. But in New York, there are a thousand things going on the same night. You’re lucky if you can get most of your friends from different worlds in the same room.
Desert Island in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is an awesome book store. They have a couch and a cool old portable record player. Gabe Fowler, the owner is always flippin’ a fat platter. Oh, and they sell comics, and these new things called “graphic novels”, and lots other cool stuff. When I got there at 5:30 the signing had already been going on for an hour. There were so many of us it was like some ’70s jam rock band with twelve members playing a small party. I remember standing there watching Adrian Tomine, Kim Deitch, Ben Katchor, Sammy Harkham, and Matthew Thurber all “signing” at once, drawing on the limited-edition prints that come with the book (if you buy it from Buenaventura or through certain stores). It was a little overwhelming to say the least. Or intimidating. One or the other. Or both.
I mean, I’ve met Ben Katchor a few times. But, um, it’s Ben Katchor. I always think, “What do I say? What do I say?” Talk about Nabokov? The soup place on Second Avenue?
So, the store got 25 copies of the books and they were all pre-sold. In theory Sammy was to bring more along, but Buenaventura was selling through their advance shipment so fast they could barely keep up, it was nuts. Most customers, according to Gabe, wanted the book signed by all the artists but they had to come to the signing and do it themselves; the staff (Gabe, Keri and Lindsay) weren’t going to pass around 25 giant books to get signed. It was tough enough getting all the prints signed. It was a good idea but what ended up happening is that only a few of the pre-order customers came in to get their book signed. And they, Gabe said, came in early, picked up their book before all the signers were around, and asked when their signed print would be ready. Since the signers weren’t all there yet and all the prints weren’t doodled on, the pre-order customers hung around for a bit then split, content to pick up their print later.
So, we, the signers all just jammed on the prints, not on the books. And, well, it was kind of weird. Fun, but weird. More like a craft party than an opening or a signing where there is a direct connection between reader and maker. I think people there to meet the makers were a little shy to interrupt someone like Kim Deitch when he’s drawing. I’d been to other signings at Desert Island and they were really happening, really loose. But this night was just kind of low key and stoic.
The traffic jam of cartoonists (John Pham, James McShane, Ron Rege, Adrian Tomine, Ben Katchor, Jonathan Bennett, Kim Deitch, Gabrielle Bell, David Heatley, Matthew Thurber, Jesse McManus, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, and myself), no one having their book “personalized”, AND the fact that there were no books to be bought by someone walking in off the street made the whole thing kind of odd. Fun, but odd.
Don’t get me wrong, people were laughing and carrying on, and y’know, it’s cool to sit next to Kevin Huizenga and watch Yakov smile ear to ear while having all his Huizenga comic books signed. It’s cool to rap with Gabrielle Bell and talk to Randy Chang, but I see them all the time. In New York at least. It felt more like a small party for all the New York alt-comix people, which is awesome, but I secretly hoped that it would be packed with “new” comics fans eager to check out this amazing book they’d read about somewheres. I’m beginning to think that this “new” audience for comics and graphic novels that is often trumpeted by the mainstream press doesn’t actually exist or at least doesn’t come to events like this. It’s always the same people. Great people, but still the same people. It’s fun but that sheer excitement on the faces of fans in Pittsburgh was absent on the New York stop.
Oh, and my showdown with David Heatley was pretty anti-climatic. I saw him come in say hello to Adrian Tomine and then check out the store copy of the book over near where I was standing. We shook hands, said hello. That was it.
Mark Newgarden, Dan Nadel, Dash Shaw, my friend Reid Paley, and I went and had a drink afterwards, totally unawares that there was a party for the event that we were missing. Luckily, Sammy called looking for us and soon we found it. Down by the elevated tracks of the J train, Bill K. and Austin English and a bunch of other folks have this unbelievably swell loft apartment. One of those dream New York apartments that has enough room to fit 50 people comfortably. The atmosphere I was hoping for at the signing was in full effect. It was loose and more like the other events at Desert Island.
I stood around and talked, got a little drunk, I can’t really remember. It was fun seeing the non-locals mixing with the locals outside events like signings or festivals. Fun watching Sammy and Dan argue. Fun to realize that the people assembled are some of the few artists, writers, makers of things, promoters of things that I really care about. One of those times when I stumble home without cursing the world.
by T. Hodler
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Item the second: PictureBox will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this weekend, and Frank Santoro, Gary Panter and Lauren R. Weinstein will be signing their books. (Other notable cartoonists—Adrian Tomine, Gabrielle Bell, Miriam Katin—will be at Drawn & Quarterly’s table at the festival, too.)
Item the fourth: Sometime soon, I will attempt to write a substantive post!