Posts Tagged ‘The Comics Journal’

That’s All, Folks!


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Monday, March 7, 2011


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Dear Readers,

It’s with mixed feelings that we have to say goodbye to Comics Comics for now.

We’ve been offered a great opportunity to be co-editors of The Comics Journal online, and after five very rewarding years of editing Comics Comics, we feel it’s time to try something new. With the infrastructure and resources of TCJ, we’re confident we can explore the medium with even greater depth and verve.

Comics Comics will remain online, exactly as it is, but there will be no further posts, and we will be closing comments in a week or so as well. We want to thank our co-founder, Frank Santoro, our founding publisher, Laris Kreslins, and our contributors, Jeet Heer, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, and Jason T. Miles, our amazing design team, Mike Reddy and Ray Sohn, and all the many artists and guests. Most of all, we want to thank you the readers, for your attention, your comments, and your support.

Please join us, and all of the Comics Comics contributors, over at The Comics Journal.

Thanks so much again.

Dan and Tim

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deet deet deet


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Thursday, July 15, 2010


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A new low for Comics Comics? Here’s a quick, egocentric look at the rest of the recent comics blogosphere webonet.

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The most important comics internet writing of the week can be found here, of course.

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A few weeks back, the great Brynocki C posted his latest must-read epic, which included the following bit I wanted to republish just for Frank:

Didja hear? Artists can’t write unbiased criticism. They only see their subjects through the filter of self interest as a creator. As opposed to critics. Real critics. Real critics are as pure as new snow, with eyes of a child yet minds learned like the eldest philosopher. They castrate their creativity to write from the place of total mental stillness. Able to see through all walls of personal agenda. They use their pen of young lamb to judge what’s best not for themselves, but for all humanity. Such is the powerful power, the terrible responsibility of the true critic.

Co-sign (cosine?) that. Get it yet, Frank?

Coincidentally, by the time I read BC’s post, I had already bought and read (and decidedly did not enjoy) two of the comics under review, in the most recent of many misguided attempts to acquaint myself with the larger superhero comics world since we started Comics Comics. Every once in a while, I get the idea that it’s important to “know what I am talking about.” But that’s all over now. Honestly, I almost never write about Brian Michael Bendis or Blackest Night anyway, so I think it is safe to finally let that ambition slide. It’s healthier to rely on back issues or Bully when I need a fix of four-color fisticuffs.

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Which leads me to another recent post on superhero comics, written by everyone’s favorite new internet hyperbolizer, Matt Seneca, who seems to have genuinely taken the intellectualizing-about-capes beat to new heights in a very short time. He believes in treating “the entire mainstream like a quarter bin.” This philosophy has much to recommend it, except for a not entirely inconsequential math problem: four dollars can get you sixteen comics from a real quarter bin, but only pays for one copy of Neal Adams’ Batman: Odyssey.

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No comment.

bop a dop a doo

No comment either on Ng Suat Tong’s mostly negative take on Crumb’s Genesis, though it is the first solid online pan of the book I’ve read, and though he takes issue with things Dan, Jeet, and I have written. I’m sure all three of us would differ with some of his interpretations to varying degrees, but I am just grateful that he seems to have actually read the book in question, and didn’t manufacture our views wholesale, something you can’t always count on from certain quarters of the internet. I disagree with the ever thoughtful (if occasionally somewhat humorless) Ng on many, many things, but his essays and posts are always worth taking seriously. That comment thread is so forbiddingly unreadable, though, that it more or less banishes any thought (for me, at least) of attempting to continue the argument.

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Speaking of TCJ.com threads, could this be the most hilarious comment ever written? (Oh, to be a fly on the wall when it is read to Ken Smith over the telephone!) Of course, to really find it funny, you have to have wasted an awful lot of your life reading various blinkered self-proclaimed pundits going on and on about unimportant things in incredibly pedantic detail. … Then again, if you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’ve probably done just that.

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Did I miss anything? Is there any good writing about comics on the internet, or is the situation as dire as it sometimes seems?

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Okay, back to our regularly scheduled “comic book” coverage. Stay tuned as Dan and Frank argue over who should play Jarvis in the Avengers movie! (My money’s on Richard Jenkins.)

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Sunday Sunday


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Sunday, May 23, 2010


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Remember when you’d look forward to the Sunday funnies in the newspaper? The last time I remember being excited to read the comics on Sundays was when Calvin and Hobbes was still running. But that was what? fifteen years ago?

And that got me thinking about the next fifteen years and if Watterson’s work will hold up. If we could go into the future will new, better designed collections come out? Probably. And will we all scrutinize it a little closer like we are with just about every other major newspaper strip? I dunno. Will we still like it? Who’s to say.

And what’s up with the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson or the biography that was written? I think I read that Watterson basically refuses all interviews these days. Although he did do a short interview recently, I guess I’ll have to reread my Comics Journal interview with him to relive the good old days.

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Notebook jottings


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


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Glenn Head's Hotwire Comics

Below are some jottings from my notebook. They are not substantial enough to be essays but might spark some thought or debate.

Praise for the competition. Lots of spitballs have been thrown at The Comics Journal‘s new web format, some of them hurled by mutinous writers from the Journal itself. I care more about content than format, so I don’t agree with the general line of criticism. For me the biggest problem with TCJ these days is that there is an overabundance of good stuff. It’s hard to keep up with the magazine since it offers so much to read every day. Put it this way: the magazine features long essays by Donald Phelps, Gary Groth, and R. Fiore. These aren’t just three of the best comics critics around, they are among the best essayists around period. Phelps is a critic of the stature of Manny Farber or Pauline Kael. (In fact, the Library of America’s great volume American Movie Critics has essays by Farber, Kael, and Phelps). Fiore and Groth are a notch below that Olympian level but there essays are as good as anything found in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Believer or n+1. Aside from these key writers, the magazine offers regular essays from a strong cohort of intelligent, informed critics — Clough, Worcester, Ishii, Kreiner, Suat Tong, Crippen, Garrity, etc. (Anyone who isn’t on the list shouldn’t be offended, I’m writing off the top of my head.)
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Boyette


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Monday, January 4, 2010


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From BEM #36, a British comics fanzine published in 1980:

Boyette on attitudes:

“Most comic people from the East take themselves, and comics, so damned seriously. I read THE COMICS JOURNAL, and I can’t believe that those guys are talking about… and having emotional apoplexy over… comics! My attitude towards comics has never been that.

“I see everything in comics today but FUN. Where the hell is this enjoyment I knew in comics as a kid? The excitement of drawing and reading the comics?”

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Proto-Graphic Novels: The Prequel


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009


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In the aftermath of Jeet’s recent post on “proto-graphic novels,” the inimitable Eddie Campbell has generously agreed to let us post his excellent review of an A. B. Frost collection, Stuff and Nonsense, and Rodolphe Töpffer’s Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. The essay originally ran in the 260th issue of The Comics Journal, from May/June 2004. As usual, Campbell’s voice is unmistakable, and his ideas are ignored at the reader’s peril.

Jeez, I’m making this sound too frightening. It’s actually quite funny. As the Coca-Cola company so memorably put it: Enjoy.






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What the Comics Journal Does Right


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Sunday, November 1, 2009


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The Comics Journal, as I noted in an earlier posting, needs to re-invent itself to make it relevant for the new era we’re in, a period where there is a much greater public interest in comics combined with a much more fragmented discourse about comics (found mostly these days the internet). It looks like the editors of the Journal were thinking along the same lines as I was, because they’ve decided to radically change the magazine by upgrading its web-presence while transforming the Journal itself into a twice-yearly upscale publication.

These are promising changes, although much will depend on the execution. I think one way to guide the magazine forward is to look at what it does right. Here is a list of highlights from the most recent incarnation of the magazine (the more compact, literary magazine format they started with issue #288 in February of 2008).

The Deitch family issue (292) was the stand-out interview. By conducting separate interviews with Gene Deitch and his three sons, Gary Groth created almost a new genre: a family saga in the form of oral history. With each Deitch offering conflicting accounts of their family life, we got a rounded image of their careers, one that read like a novel. This was one of the best issues ever. There have been other strong interviews (like the ones with Trevor Von Eeden, S. Clay Wilson, and Jason) but the Deitch interviews stood out for telling a cohesive story.

As for the critical essays, I think the Journal was strongest when its stalwart critics wrote long think pieces. Gary Groth’s novella-length, keen-eyed piece about the relationship between Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman was superb as both portraiture and analysis. It gave a much livelier sense of what Thompson was like than the recent documentary Gonzo, or any of the other films about the notorious journalist.

Although many found it too long, I though the symposium on the Michaelis’ Schulz biography was important and necessary (full disclosure: I participated in the symposium). There were serious problems with that much-praised book, and it was good to get Monte Schulz’s objection to it in print for the record, so that future students of Peanuts won’t treat Michaelis as gospel.

Other strong pieces of writing were R. Fiore on Hajdu’s The Ten Cent Plague and Tim Kreider on Bill Mauldin. In general, Donald Phelps is the magazine’s most genial and idiosyncratic voice, although he often writes about things other than comics. I know many people have a hard time with Phelps’ rambling, quirky, allusive prose but his essays always give me a new way to look at art, something few critics can achieve. I have to confess though that I’ve never developed a taste for another dense Journal stylist, Ken Smith.

The strength of the magazine is in presenting essays that have a depth of analysis that can’t be found elsewhere. Most writing on comics tends to suffer from a shortness of breath: small reviews and bite-size blog postings. The Journal, at its best, doesn’t settle for such small snacks but offers a full-course meal.

Among its reviewers the Journal has a contingent of solid, trust-worthy writers: Kent Worcester, Rich Kreiner, Shaenon Garrity, and Kristian Williams, but they tend to get drowned out by crankier and less-informed critics, writers who mistake abrasiveness for insight. The magazine’s review section does seem too diffuse and scattershot. I’m never quite sure why some books get reviewed and others don’t. There’s a lot of good critics on the web now – Rob Clough comes to mind right way. The most promising prospect for the next incarnation of the Journal is to recruit these writers (I know Clough has already signed on).

Visually as well, the magazine has improved greatly in recent years. But if it comes out less frequently, there is more room for growth and experiment. Fantagraphics has a great design team which consistently puts together wonderful looking books. A Comics Journal that looks more like a book would be really exciting.

In terms of the print magazine, my strong sense is that the Comics Journal has always been strongest when Gary Groth has been most involved with it: his interviews with cartoonists have always set the gold standard in terms of being informed by the deepest research and asking the most searching questions. I’m thinking here of the classic and memorable conversations Groth has had with Chaykin, Crumb, Gil Kane, Jules Feiffer and many other creators. Now Groth is of course a very busy many with many broths to attend to, so the amount of time he gives to the Journal has wavered. But with two issues a year to put out, he should be able to reshape the magazine into something more closely resembling his own sensibility.

The Journal has often been accused of being just a mouthpiece for Groth’s opinions. To my mind, it’s regrettable that the Journal hasn’t often enough been Grothian enough.

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