Posts Tagged ‘Bill Griffith’

Toot Toot!


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Thursday, August 7, 2008


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Here’s yet another event (Tim & Frank, can I go home yet?) for you to fathom. Come join us tomorrow. This should actually be awesome.

Join us for a book release party and panel discussion featuring:

KIM DEITCH
BILL GRIFFITH
GEOFFREY HAYES
and moderator
DAN NADEL

Listing information:

WHAT: Book Release Party for WHERE DEMENTED WENTED: THE ART AND COMICS OF RORY HAYES, with panel discussion and Q&A
WHO: Dan Nadel, Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith & Geoffrey Hayes
WHERE: DESERT ISLAND • 540 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY • 718.388.5087 • desertislandbrooklyn.com
WHEN: Friday, August 8, 7PM (discussion begins at 8PM)

FREE ADMISSION
An exclusive, limited-edition Hayes silkscreen will be available for this event.

The controversial cartoonist Rory Hayes was a self-taught dynamo of the underground comics revolution. Attracting equal parts derision and praise (the latter from the likes of R. Crumb and Bill Griffith), Hayes emerged as comics’ great primitive, drawing horror comics in a genuinely horrifying and hallucinatory manner (some have called him the Fletcher Hanks of the underground). He has influenced a generation of cartoonists, from RAW to Fort Thunder and back again.

On Friday, Aug. 8, on what would have been Hayes’ 59th birthday (Hayes died of a drug overdose in 1983), Desert Island and Fantagraphics Books will celebrate the life and art of Rory Hayes with a special evening celebrating the release of WHERE DEMENTED WENTED, the first-ever collection of Hayes’ legendary comics and art. Editor Dan Nadel (Gary Panter, The Wilco Book) will moderate a discussion of Hayes’ work with three men who knew and worked with Hayes: Kim Deitch (creator of Waldo the Cat), Bill Griffith (creator of Zippy the Pinhead), and Geoffrey Hayes (brother of Rory and author of the recent Benny and Penny from Toon Books).

WHERE DEMENTED WENTED: THE ART AND COMIX OF RORY HAYES is the first retrospective of Hayes’ career ever published, and features the best of his underground comics output alongside paintings, covers, and artifacts rarely seen by human eyes — as well as astounding, previously unprinted comics from his teenage years and movie posters for his numerous homemade films. The Art and Comix of Rory Hayes also serves as a biography and critique with a memoir of growing up with Rory by his brother, the illustrator Geoffrey Hayes, and a career-spanning essay by Edward Pouncey (a.k.a. Savage Pencil). Also included is a rare interview with Hayes himself.

“Rory Hayes was the real thing; a genuine ‘outsider’ artist. His work retains its raw, primitive power to this day, teetering precariously between chaos and control, madness and oddly endearing teddy bears.” – Bill Griffith

“A great American primitive.” – R. Crumb

WHERE DEMENTED WENTED:
THE ART AND COMICS OF RORY HAYES

Edited by Dan Nadel and Glenn Bray
Essays by Geoffrey Hayes and Edwin Pouncey
$22.99 Paperback Original
144 pages, black-and-white (with 48 pp. in color), 8” x 10”
ISBN 978-1-56097-923-4

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The Effort


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Saturday, December 15, 2007


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I enjoyed Rich Kreiner’s review of Comics Comics. It was, as Tim noted, too kind. So this isn’t an argument, thank heavens. In a long parenthetical thought, Kreiner wonders about our criteria for coverage, and also about our seeming fascination with the fact of something existing, as though the effort alone was enough to qualify our interest. I can’t speak for Tim or Frank, but, as for me, well, Kreiner might be on to something.

Sometimes I see things so sublime or so ridiculous that I have to just wonder about them. It’s not that I like them, per se. I don’t like Dave Sim’s Collected Letters, but what drives a cartoonist to undertake such a project is interesting to me because (a) Sim is clearly a man with his own vision and (b) he’s a hugely important cartoonist, no matter what you might think of the quality of his work. And, on the other hand, there are artists like like Steve Gerber or Michael Golden, both beloved Comics Comics figures.

Let me digress for a moment: During the most recent SPX, me, Frank, and Tim went out to dinner with a large group that included Gary Groth, Gilbert Hernandez and Bill Griffith. Gary ribbed us about Steve Gerber, etc., and Frank, in a moment of comics euphoria confessed his love of Michael Golden’s work to the entire table. I don’t think Bill even knew who we were talking about, and Gary seemed duly horrified, while Gilbert smiled beatifically, as if to say, “I love that this guy loves Golden, but I’m not saying a word”. I mean, Gary’s fought for sophistication in comics for 30 years, and now he has to listen to three knuckleheads talk about Golden and Gerber. Oy vey. See, all three of us were formed, in a sense, by The Comics Journal, and to an extent, by Groth’s own sensibility as a publisher and editor. But we also came up at a time when we didn’t (and still don’t) have to choose between art and hackwork. We can like both, and enjoy both on their own merits, precisely because Gary won the battle for sophistication and seriousness. His efforts have allowed us to sit back a bit and examine the things that got passed over, shunted aside or simply spit at. That means that Frank can talk about Michael Golden because he’s fascinated by his figuration in the context of action comics. Frank wouldn’t, at least, not sober, make a case for Golden as an artist in the same way he does for Gilbert. But then again, he did just post about Nexus. I guess what I’m saying is that a central tenant of Comics Comics is a kind of enjoyment of something within its context. Steve Gerber is an interesting comic book writer. That is enough to make him worth examining for us. And, he, like Golden, like Rude, et al, is someone who has willingly labored in a field with few rewards and a lot of creative restrictions. Those “rules” that these guys bump up against make for an interesting friction and can produce, accidentally or intentionally, interesting work. And part of is also that, to an extent, we take the greatness of someone like Dan Clowes for granted. He’s been written about, been hashed over. For us, it’s perhaps more fun to dig through a body of work that has yet to be poured over, and to find artists whose visions carried them into strange places under odd restrictions.

So, Rich Kreiner, yes, we, or at least I, sometimes like things just because they exist in an odd space, and occupy a strange little niche. And while I’ve never been a proponent of confusing effort with merit (i.e. the praise for something like Persepolis is primarily because people were impressed enough that a comic could be about Iran that they ignored how slight the actual content was), sometimes noting the effort is worthwhile. And I thank Kreiner for making the effort to write about us. Now if we can just make enough time to do that next issue….

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Sobering, eh?


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007


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Well, Frank was certainly up early this morning. I also worshiped “The Studio” as a teenager. It was, for me, my first encounter with “art” that I took to be accessible and somehow applicable to me. Oh lord, looking back on it now it seems so silly. I’d feel much much worse about this if Gary Groth didn’t feel the same way when he was that age. Anyhow, the appeal of that stuff was to see somewhat baroque, overripe illustration in fine art trappings. It’s ironic, of course, because the illustration they were referring to was, by the 70s, eclipsed by Push Pin, Brad Holland and the like. The Studio was, if anything, thoroughly anachronistic. But charmingly so. And, in their avid production of portfolios, prints, and assorted “fine art” ephemera, unique for those days. In a way, they anticipated the Juxtapoz-ish illustrators-making-bad-fine-art gang. Another point of interest is that, with the exception of BWS, all of those guys contributed comics to Gothic Blimp Works or The East Village Other, their pages sitting next to work by Deitch, Trina, Crumb, etc. It’s funny to think of a time when those worlds (fantasy and underground) mixed. This was perhaps helped along a bit by someone like Wally Wood, who straddled both sides of the fence, albeit briefly. Then it splintered a bit, with guys like Richard Corben occupying their own niche in the underground scene, in opposition to Crumb, Griffith, et al, who disdained the EC-influenced genre material. In a way, what guys like CF and Chippendale are doing now is related to those early efforts at underground fantasy comics, except coming from a very different mentality.

Also, I think Tim is right that Crumb was the first to make fun of the dainty falling leaf-as-signifier-of-meaning.

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Recurring Themes


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


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As we wait for Dan’s promised post on Spiegelman and Griffith’s great Arcade anthologies, I thought I’d put up this classic Robert Crumb cover from Arcade 3. I’d forgotten that Johnny Ryan wasn’t the first cartoonist to tackle parody the falling-leaf-as-profound-symbol thing.


Of course, I doubt Crumb was the first, either, but that’s not important when I have an opportunity to publicly goad Dan into posting.

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EMSH & Griffith


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Sunday, May 20, 2007


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Courtesy of Paul Di Filippo, two interesting avant-garde short films from the legendary Ed Emshwiller:

Sunstone (1979)


Thanatopsis (1962)


Emshwiller didn’t do too much work with actual comics (as far as I know), and was better known for his magazine illustrations and film-making, but he was a strong early influence on the great Bill Griffith:

Griffith took solace in his developing friendship with one Levittown neighbor, the illustrator Ed Emshwiller, who designed covers for many science-fiction and mystery books and magazines. “He didn’t point me to cartooning, but he pointed me into art in general and showed me a way of understanding how within one artist, there could exist this pop culture impulse and a fine art impulse,” Griffith told Gary Groth. Emshwiller recruited Griffith’s parents as models on several occasions, but Griffith was most proud when he himself appeared on the cover of the September 1957 issue of Original Science Fiction. Emshwiller depicted the 13-year-old Griffith riding a rocket ship to the moon as his father yelled at him from a video screen.

There’s more from Griffith on Emsh (who inspired his 1978 strip, “Is There Life After Levittown?”) here.

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Recent Comics Reading


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Friday, August 4, 2006


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Sorry about the delay in posting — but for whatever it’s worth in return, the next issue of Comics Comics is shaping up very nicely.

Anyway, here are some of the things I’ve been reading recently:

Sloth, by Gilbert Hernandez
I liked this quite a bit, and it’s definitely one of his better efforts for a mainstream publisher. Not exactly Hernandez Lite, this is both far less weird than his Love & Rockets work and far more weird than anything else I’ve read from Vertigo. The story, which involves characters changing places, and revolving protagonists, is somewhat reminiscent of recent David Lynch films, like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. It’s definitely worthwhile, but seems like minor Hernandez to me; it also cries out for a second reading before I can really make sense of it and say for sure. Which I don’t quite feel up to right away, so make of that what you will.

Forbidden Worlds #132
This is the first non-Herbie ACG comic I’ve read, and it’s a lot of fun. If you like mindless fantasy comics, this is definitely worth checking out. This issue comes late in the game for ACG, after the company gave up its long resistance to the superhero craze and introduced Magicman. It’s pretty apparent that Richard E. Hughes (who apparently wrote all or most of the company’s stories using weird pseudonyms like Zev Zimmer, Greg Olivetti, and Ace Aquila, among many others) didn’t care to put too much thought into his hero, and basically allows Magicman to be capable of anything. In this issue, Magicman has to stop a gigantic, telepathic beast called Ancient Ape, and in the process he uses his “magic” to fly, throw rocks, start tornadoes, appear to transform into a giant snake, and at one point, he even summons the Frankenstein monster and Dracula to fight on his behalf! Pretty hilarious stuff. The other two stories in the issue are basically drawn-out one-punchline gags, that are so stupid and unfunny they come out the other side and become funny again. The effect is somewhat similar to what Rick Altergott achieves in some of his Doofus strips, though the art is not in any way comparable. Anyway, I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more of these.

Animal Man
I’m not exactly a Grant Morrison detractor, but I do find the near-constant and universal praise for him a little hard to take. All-Star Superman is admittedly fun, but it’s also pretty slight and I think its successes owe more than a little to the work of artist Frank Quitely. Seven Soldiers has some interesting ideas and concepts, but basically that seems to be almost all it has. It sometimes seems to me that Morrison just throws a bunch of concepts together and doesn’t bother trying to make any kind of coherent whole out of them, or think through all of the ramifications. That leaves a lot of work for his supporters, but they don’t seem to mind making the effort, so I guess it’s all okay in the end. But it would all go down a lot smoother without all of the near-messianic proclamations made by and for him, and I think his current hero status says more about the general state of “mainstream” comics than it does about the actual strength of his work. (Not that he’s bad, mind you, but that almost everything else is.)

Or anyway, that’s how I’ve felt so far, but I’ve never read most of the early comics he made his name with (Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and the like), and I thought I should give it a chance. This first collection of Animal Man is fairly enjoyable, and I’ll keep reading to see what he makes out of it. This collection includes “The Coyote Gospel”, which apparently is the most well-regarded early story in this series. But while the conceit of having a Wile E. Coyote clone represent a Christ-like martyr suffering for the sins of the world is kind of appealing, it doesn’t really make sense when you think about it for very long. The original Wile E. Coyote wasn’t very Christ-like in his motives or feelings, and if anything, like most comic figures, he represents base humanity itself, not the son of God. Not that this couldn’t be made to work anyway, but it doesn’t seem as if Morrison bothered to go through all the trouble of connecting all the dots, and just thought, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have Wile E. Coyote in a crucifixion pose? (The recent Superman movie displayed similar problems.)

But whatever — this is still early in the series, maybe it’ll all make sense in the end, and I’ll try the next volume with an open mind.

Short Order Comix #2
I must have heard of this before (I’ve certainly read some of the stories here), but I blanked on it when I saw this in a store recently. (Apparently Last Gasp is distributing it; maybe they found some old copies in a warehouse?) This is the second and final issue of a pre-Arcade anthology edited by Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman, featuring cartoonists like Joe Schenkman, Diane Noomin, Jay Kinney, and Rory Hayes. Some of this stuff is kind of dated, but Willy Murphy‘s parodies of newspaper strips hold up nicely, Hayes’s strip is reliably bizarre, and Griffith comes up with a good platform-shoe-with-goldfish-in-the-heel joke a good fourteen years before I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.

The real standout story here, though, is Spiegelman’s “Ace Hole, Midget Detective”. It’s occasionally a little pretentious, but moments here are brilliant, like a panel juxtaposing a quote from the old Comics Code (“6) In every instance good shall triumph over evil… 7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited…”) with a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica. It also shows a real joy in the act of creation and innovation that has sometimes seemed lacking in Spiegelman’s more recent work. In any case, this story alone makes the issue worth seeking out.

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Current Reading List From Memory


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Tuesday, May 30, 2006


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Zippy’s House of Fun by Bill Griffith
Tales to Astonish drawn by Bob Powell and Chic Stone
Birdland by Gilbert Hernandez
Grip by Gilbert Hernandez

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