Sean T. Collins
Table for table, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, now prepping for its third outing, is my favorite alternative comic con. Now it’s announced the programming and panels for its Saturday, December 3rd show, and the line-up’s unsurprisingly impressive. Highlights include spotlight panels on EC Comics/MAD Magazine artist Jack Davis and Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner; Daybreak‘s Brian Ralph in conversation with Powr Mastrs‘ CF (moderated by Tom Spurgeon); and Asterios Polyp‘s David Mazzucchelli in conversation with author/editor/designer Chip Kidd (moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos).
In addition, BCGF-affiliated satellite events include music performances by CF, Paper Rad’s Jacob Ciocci, and Gary Panter; a film festival featuring trashy Eurocinema based on comics by the likes of Guido Crepax and experimental animation curated by Lilli Carré and Alexander Stewart; and a live performance of mixed-media pieces by Ben Katchor, R. Sikoryak, Matthew Thurber and more. In other words, you’ve got a full weekend ahead of you if you want.
Find the full list of programming after the jump.
Last month, The Cardboard Valise cartoonist Ben Katchor used his strip in Metropolis magazine to envision a world where corporate CEOs were forced to work in their own stores — by which we mean all of them, every day. This month, though, the 1% is striking back. In a strip entitled “Johnny ‘The Pump’ Clematis,” Katchor chronicles a day in the life of the title character, a working stiff hired out by the heads of various multinationals to take out labor-union officials using the massive robotic boom of his cement truck. Hey, I’m sure those unions were a public health hazard, right?
As a newspaper broadsheet it was always able to do so literally, but now the alternative comics anthology pood has folded in the unfortunately metaphorical sense. Writing on the pood blog, co-founder and co-editor Geoff Grogan says the publication’s fourth issue will be its last.
Through pood, editors Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader published a wide array of challenging, often unfashionable altcomix work, by creators ranging from Jim Rugg to Hans Rickheit to (in the anthology’s fourth and final issue) DC and Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton. But Grogan says that the project, always a labor of love, was a quixotic one in today’s marketplace: Its unconventional newsprint format, uncommercial contents, and budget-necessitated lack of a dedicated PR person made it impossible to generate enough revenue to continue the series.
Bad as things can get, there is solace to be found in the fact that we do not live in the cold-blooded realm of the swiftly mutating amphibian.
—Master cartoonist Jim Woodring (Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, The Frank Book) looks on the bright side. And indeed, in a time when influential comics creators are tearing the internet apart with every digitized utterance, it’s nice to find something on which we can all agree. I would prefer not to be a frog-man getting trampled to death by a frog-horse — I am the 99 percent.
This aphorism and the accompanying image above were posted to Woodring’s blog under the title “NIGHTMARISH SKETCH,” and who are we to argue about that characterization?
Oh man, this was an unexpected treat to find in my Google Reader today: A six-page preview of comics memoirist-cum-journalist Guy Delisle’s upcoming travelogue Jerusalem, courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly. Delisle recounts a trip to an Israeli checkpoint as Palestinians attempt to pass through to attend Friday services at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the resulting pages are a gorgeous demonstration of how to convey controlled chaos with a handful of lines and graytones. The full book, Delisle’s longest to date, comes out in April 2012.
What if the Image Seven were Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Chester Brown and so on, instead of dudes who made their bones drawing Spider-Man and Wolverine? The result would probably look a lot like L’Association.
Founded in 1991 by French alternative-comics titans David B., Killoffer, Mattt Konture, Jean-Christophe Menu, Mokeït, Stanislas, and Lewis Trondheim, L’Association was formed as a response to the lack of opportunity for avant-garde comics provided by France’s mainstream comics publishers. But L’Asso quickly became a sales forced to be reckoned with on its own, thanks in large part to its breakout hit, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Over the years, the publisher’s lineup took on “everybody who’s anybody” proportions in the Francophone comics world, with Julie Doucet, Joann Sfar, Blutch, Dupuy & Berberian, Emmanuel Guibert, and Guy Delisle all releasing work through the collective.
But as was the case here in the States with the makers of Spawn, Youngblood, WildC.A.T.s et al, L’Asso became a house divided. A combination of personal rivalries, diverging interests, and outside opportunities elsewhere soon saw the seven founders go their separate ways, leaving Jean-Christophe Menu as the publisher’s head honcho. What happened next — hidden financial records, unexpected layoffs, an employee strike, accusations of alcoholism and paranoia, tumultuous meetings involving hundreds of people, and a team-up between the departed founders to wrest control of their former company away from Menu’s allegedly dictatorial hands — became the stuff of comics legend.
Now the Comics Journal’s Matthias Wivel is telling the story of the L’Asso War — and getting participants on both sides on the record. In part one of his fascinating report, he takes us from the founding of the group to the eve of the company-wide strike in protest of Menu-directed layoffs that rocked Angoulême, France’s biggest comic con. In part two, he chronicles the strike and the resulting legal wranglings and wild-sounding general assembly meetings that eventually led to the co-founders’ return and Menu (and Satrapi)’s departure. Filled with juicy quotes from Menu, Trondheim, David B. and other leading players, the whole sordid saga reads like a movie, or more appropriately a comic, which, thanks to a team of cartoonists led by Trondheim, it’s about to become. Take a break and read the whole thing — it’s one of the most compelling collisions of art, commerce, and clashing cartoonists that comics on either side of the Atlantic has ever seen.
An important point is that Igort’s original vision [for the Ignatz comics line] was all about finding a way to help cartoonists get paid more. I can get behind that. I’d love to see more of that.
—Ganges author Kevin Huizenga on Italian cartoonist and publisher Igort’s motivation for launching the Ignatz line of high-end alternative comics. Now more or less defunct, the Ignatz line was co-published by Igort’s Coconino Press and a variety of international publishers, including Fantagraphics here in the United States. Boasting a line-up that included Huizenga, Gilbert Hernandez, David B., Zak Sally, Igort, Gipi, Gabriella Giandelli and more, the Ignatz line embraced an unusual format: oversized 32-page staple-bound comics with dust jackets. The idea was that the simultaneous release of individual comics in multiple languages made possible through Coconino’s co-publishing agreement would go a long way toward financially supporting the creators involved. The problem, as Huizenga explains in his interview with Robot 6′s Chris Mautner over at CBR, is that with all those creators and all those publishers in all those countries, there were too many variables for the project to function effectively for any prolonged period of time. Still, I’m with Huizenga: It’s nice to see an effort of that artistic pedigree be formulated not just for the fun of publishing good comics, but a sincere desire to see the makers of those good comics get paid well.
The featured guests for the third annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival have been announced, and whoo boy, it’s quite a line-up. And it runs the gamut, too: MAD Magazine legend Jack Davis, book-design kingpin Chip Kidd, The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner, Asterios Polyp/Batman Year One artist David Mazzucchelli, Providence artcomix vets CF and Brian Ralph, grossout-humor queen Lisa Hanawalt, and minicomics patriarch John Porcellino. An opportunity to encounter Gloeckner live and in person is not to be squandered, folks, and that’s just for starters.
Organized by publisher PictureBox Inc., retailer Desert Island, and scholar Bill Kartalopoulos, this year’s BCGF will take place on Saturday, December 3 from noon to nine at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with programming hosted at the nearby Union Pool. If the last two years are any indication, it’s the alternative comics show to beat.
I was a bit horrified to discover that I’d never before linked to the luminously sleazy work of artist and cartoonist Jonny Negron here on Robot 6. He’s one of my favorite talents to come along in ages. Then again, with NSFW images like this and this and this as his bread and butter, I guess that’s not too surprising. But that’s not a concern with his gorgeous portrait of Ryan Gosling in Drive, Nicholas Winding Refn’s instantly iconic neon-noir crime flick. Negron’s selling 11×17 prints of the piece for the low low price of $7, thus proving himself to be both a real human being and a real hero.
As readers of this site are no doubt aware (to say the least!), Jaime Hernandez’s contribution to the recently released Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, “The Love Bunglers,” magisterially ties together some 30 years of history for its leading players, Maggie Chascarillo and Ray Dominguez. Now, the Hooded Utilitarian’s Ng Suat Tong has shown us exactly how.
His annotations for “The Love Bunglers” take the story’s many flashback panels, including all the scenes from the story’s centerpiece two-page spread, and place them side by side with the original scenes to which they’re flashing back, some of which were first published literally decades ago. It’s stunning to see how Jaime reinterpreted and re-interpolated his previous work– hifting our POV from one angle to another, showing moments that took place between the moments he depicted in the past, and of course re-drawing classic characters and scenes in his current style. Besides being a really useful post from a story perspective–surely everyone who read “The Love Bunglers” was hoping someone would do exactly this–as a demonstration of Jaime’s artistic intelligence and prowess, it’s tough to top. But then, so is “The Love Bunglers.”
If you were to list the five most important cartoonists in the history of comics, the chances are good Robert Crumb would be on the list. If you were to list the five most important editor/publishers in the history of comics, the chances are good Gary Groth of Fantagraphics would be on that list. For a lot of people, they’d each be at the top. So if you are a comics reader and you can think of a better way to spend your afternoon than reading a 13,000 word interview with Crumb by Groth for The Comics Journal, then please, become my personal planner, because your life must be freaking awesome.
Never let it be said that webcomics wunderkind Emily Carroll is not a woman of her word. When she began her latest horror comic “Margot’s Room” at the beginning of October, she promised there would be blood. Well, she’s posted the fifth and final chapter just in time for Halloween. The title? “BLOOD.” And yes, the climax of Carroll’s dark domestic nightmare lives up to the name.
Read the whole thing by visiting the opening page and clicking on the objects mentioned in Carroll’s poem, in the order she mentions them. And don’t miss her earlier stunner of a horror comic “His Face All Red” while you’re at it.
Whatever you end up thinking of it, settling in with a comic book as big as Craig Thompson’s Middle Eastern fantasia Habibi is one of the great pleasures of being a comics reader: “That thing you like doing? Now you’re gonna get to do it for a long, long time.”
For fans of good writing about comics, The Comics Journal‘s roundtable discussion of Habibi affords similar pleasures. Over the course of some 10,000 words, a group of critics and scholars comprising Charles Hatfield, Hayley Campbell, Tom Hart, Katie Haegele, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, and Robot 6′s own Chris Mautner tackle nearly every aspect of Thompson’s remarkably fecund book. Jog’s comprehensive look at Thompson’s mysticism-derived structure for the book — probably the most complex such structure used on this scale by anyone other than Alan Moore — makes the roundtable worth a read all on its own. But I also greatly enjoyed the discussion of the influence of Will Eisner; the potential for race to be a more problematic aspect of the book than religion or culture; the tension between depicting exploitation and being exploitative oneself; the question of whether Thompson leaves room for interpretation or puts everything right there on the page… As with Habibi itself, perhaps it’s best just to dive right in and see where it takes you.
The problem with superheroes is it’s not a personal taste so much as it just requires so much insider knowledge to read these things. They don’t stand on their own. There have been about three superhero comics, maybe two, in the past five years that stand on their own. That you can just read and not have to know what happened in issue #56 and ever since. It’s a real problem, I think, and it’s a problem for the industry. How do you get into this stuff if you’re not into it already?
— Jessica Abel, cartoonist and co-editor of the Best American Comics annual anthology series, explains why so few superhero comics have made it into their best-of collections in an interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben. (Though this isn’t through lack of trying — DC previously turned down their request to use Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100.) Her husband, fellow cartoonist, and co-editor Matt Madden agrees:
Okay, now I’m picturing the authors of Alec and Subway Series standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, fending off the critical Ringwraiths as Craig Thompson cowers Frodo-style in the background. So yeah, the headline’s a bit dramatic. But in light of critic and scholar Nadim Damluji’s thoughtful and widely linked critique of Thompson’s massive new book Habibi, I thought it worthwhile to direct you to a pair of acclaimed cartoonists’ responses.
Damluji argued that in treating the Orientalist art and literature of the past as just another genre to play with, Thompson ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he presumably set out to subvert when he decided to set his near-future fantasy in a fictional but still recognizably Arab/Islamic culture — particularly where sexuality and male-female relationships, often used by Western nations as a pretext for action against Middle Eastern ones, are concerned. Eddie Campbell responds that Thompson’s interest in these topics, or more generally Love, are consistent; the Middle Eastern trappings of the tale are just the vehicle Thompson selected to get where he’s going: