Publishing | Stanley Pignal takes a look at the transformation of the Tintin brand since the death of Hergé in 1983, as the cartoonist’s widow Fanny Vlamynck and her husband Nick Rodwell drastically changed merchandising strategies. In the process, the prickly Rodwell has become a controversial figure, running afoul of fans and journalists alike in his effort to exert control over Tintin’s image.
Of particular interest is a brief profile of Bob Garcia, a novelist and fan who published a series of books examining Hergé’s possible inspirations for Tintin. Garcia believed he could legally reproduce a few copyrighted illustrations for the purpose of critique, but Moulinsart saw things differently: The writer is now fighting to keep his home as penalties and legal fees mount. [Financial Times]
Crime | Danny Wayne Barton, owner of Kryptonite Komics in Carbon Hill, Alabama, was arrested Thursday after he allegedly sold marijuana to police informants on four separate occasions. Three of those incidents reportedly occurred in Barton’s shop, which also sells smoking devices as the Good Karma Store. The 38-year-old retailer faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison on four counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance within a three-mile radius of a school. [Daily Mountain Eagle]
I first met David Ball a few years ago, while working on a story for my employer, The Patriot-News, about how comics were being used in high school and college classrooms. Luckily for me, Ball just happened to be teaching a class on the subject at the nearby Dickinson College. Ball was kind enough to return the favor and invite me to speak to his comics class when he taught it again a few semesters later.
Fast forward to today, where Ball is co-editor, along with Martha Kuhlman, of the new book from the University of Mississippi Press, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is A Way of Thinking, a collection of essays by noted comics scholars like Jeet Heer about the seminal Acme cartoonist.
Knowing Ball lived and worked next door (relatively speaking), it seemed silly for me not to get in touch with him and see if he was up for an interview. Thankfully, he was eager to talk about the book.
Why Ware? What is it about him and his comics that you feel justify a book of this nature?
Unlike many of our contributors in the collected volume, I came to Ware’s work very late and not as a dedicated reader of comics but rather as a scholar of American literature. I had known that fascinating things were going on in contemporary comics for a while, but reading Jimmy Corrigan knocked the wind out of me. The book seemed so versed in the American literary genealogy of Melville and Faulkner and Nabokov with which I was familiar, but was using techniques, referring to other comics, and stretching my brain in ways that were wholly new to me. I knew that I would need to educate myself rapidly to catch up — a still ongoing process — and that colleagues in history, art history, and comparative literature, as well as comics commentators and enthusiasts could help me better understand what I was reading. Ware quickly became a discovery I could share with others and a way I could talk to, and learn from, scholars and readers whose interests were different than mine. That kind of intellectual dialogue is what this book of essays is about, and I hope that readers of the volume will similarly find ideas that are new to them, and share in that sense of discovery. Every time I reread one of Ware’s comics, or get my hands on a new fragment of “Rusty Brown” or “Building Stories,” I find something new and unexpected. That sense of discovery is a rare thing in any art form, and I’m convinced it’s why we’ll still be reading Ware fifty years from now.
Peter Richardson discusses why World War I did not capture creators’ imaginations the way other wars have, and he accompanies his discussion with a beautiful counterexample, a sample from Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches, upcoming from Fantagraphics next month. (via Journalista)
Craig Fischer has a decidedly mixed review of The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, but then halfway through he goes roaring off into a digression on one of Hal Foster’s possible influences, Olive Beaupre Miller’s series of children’s books titled My Bookhouse. For good measure, someone just sent Ben Towle a set. (I had these as a kid, and they are lovely.) For more about Foster, see Ng Suat Tong’s recent post at The Hooded Utilitarian.
Tom Crippen, who is no Sarah Palin fan, cries foul nonetheless on Oliphant’s cartoon showing her postcoital encounter with a moose, pointing out that it probably reveals more about Oliphant than Palin.
Vom Marlowe reviews vol. 1 of Song of the Hanging Sky, a lovely manga with a quirky plot and a few perplexing translation problems.
Brian Heater thinks Jason’s Almost Silent is a good choice for graphic novel newbies.
Frank Santoro reviews Gipi’s Garage Band at Comics Comics.
Also at Comics Comics: Jeet Heer posts some loosely related notes on John Stanley.
Larry Cruz explains why video game webcomics are a good thing at The Webcomic Overlook.
Sean Gaffney reviews D&Q’s latest Yoshihio Tatsumi release, Black Blizzard.
Biochemist/manga adaptor Lianne Sentar looks at three manga series that get the science right (well mostly) and are still entertaining.
Noah Berlatsky thinks he has settled the question of what is and isn’t a comic once and for all, and he makes a pretty good case, but the commenters manage to have a lively argument anyway.
Librarians Eva Volin and Robin Brenner discuss all 10 volumes of Emma, and they jump right in with a discussion of full frontal nudity.
Jog takes a look at the many forms and uses of the thought balloon, which, despite an editor’s admonition to Stephen King, is far from dead. Scott McCloud adds his two cents as well. Related: Chris Sims explains exactly what’s wrong with the lettering in the Twilight graphic novel.
• Tim Holder offers an initial critique of the upcoming Art of Jaime Hernandez book, which results in a flurry of great comments from book designers, critics and the editor of said book. Easily one of the most informative and insightful comments threads in months, if not years. (Also: L&R fan Marc Sobel offers his thoughts.)
• Along the same lines, Jeet Heer offers an old review of Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz.
• Marc Singer talks about why he included Maus in his comics class, and how his students reacted to it.
• Responding to an earlier essay by Jeet Heer (there he is again) on cartoonists’ mid-life crises, Gary Groth offers his own thoughts and posts an essay he’d written on the topic several years ago. (part one, part two, and part three).
• Hey, Brian Chippendale is blogging again! And this time, he’s talking about manga-ka Taiyo Matsumoto! Does it get much more awesome than that?
Number 5 is a strange work that reflects both Tekkonkinkreet and GoGo Monster. A schizophrenic collision of vicious playfulness and loose introspective beauty. At some point in each of his stories Matsumoto begins to pull you through a series of seemingly unrelated hoops, usually at an intense climatic moment when the characters are at a psychological breaking point. What slightly deviates in Number 5 is that the narrative hardly ever relaxes into a rhythm of storytelling for long. The entire book is a challenging ride that you have to hold onto constantly to not get thrown off track. But there are many pages of easy flowing action.
• Derik Badman and Thought Balloonist Craig Fischer engage in a great, lengthy discussion on the recent Abstract Comics anthology. Fellow TBer Charles Hatfield offers his own thoughts on the book here.
• Jog reviews two recent maga: Biomega and All My Darling Daughters. It’s worth checking out just to read his synopsis of the former.
• Let’s kick off with Tim O’Neil’s look back at the previous decade, in an essay which he ominously titles “Mediocrity Triumphant”:
I would posit that even though there are far more comics being published now, there are no more truly great comics being produced now than there were at the beginning of the last decade. If you discount the constant stream of reprints and international offerings, new English-language comics are about as good as they’ve ever been, it’s just that there are more of them. In fact, because of the market’s rapid expansion, actual average quality has plummeted. It’s not a question of having abandoned critical standards in order to gain popular market share: comics never had critical standards. What we have done now is to adopt the standards of the larger book market.
• Andrei Molotiu has been blogging up a storm at the Abstract Comics site, examining how classic, mainstream comic book artists have incorporated abstract shapes and forms into their work. Here he is talking about Steve Ditko; and here he is talking about Frank Miller. You’ll want to read both pieces.
• Jeet Heer makes the case for Gahan Wilson: “For all their morbidity and ghoulishness, Wilson’s cartoons affirm the value of cherishing life.”
• While we’re on the subject, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Laurel Maury really likes that new Wilson collection as well.
• Neil Cohn looks at a type of visual shorthand in comics he calls “action stars.”
• Matthew Brady reviews The Squirrel Machine: ” It’s a compelling, fascinating journey through an often creepy and always striking world.”
• Cory Doctorow examines Goats II: The Corndog Imperitive: “Rosenberg continues to walk the razor-edged line between silly and dumb, and does not slip onto the dumb side.”
Over at his blog, Drew Friedman has unveiled the official cover to Fantagraphics’ upcoming book, The Best American Comics Criticism. And, lest you fear those portraits are supposed to be of you or someone you may know, let him put your mind at ease:
I created these lovely faces for this new book cover from Fantagraphics, designed by Alexa Koenings and due out next month. The idea was conceived by the author, journalist/historian Ben Schwartz, to be an homage/parody of THE BELIEVER covers, although I had no intention, or interest in parodying the regular Charles Burns portraits. The faces are not meant to be any one in particular, rather I wanted to capture certain “types’ who write Comics Criticism.
• Are we in danger of a Webcomics sensory overload? That’s the question Abhay Khosla asks in his own inimitable fashion. (Warning: this post is a bit of an image-heavy memory hog.)
• The Hooded Utilitarian folks are doing another roundtable discussion. This time it’s on Clamp’s xxxHolic series, with special guests Adam Stephanides and Katherine Dacey chiming in.
• The illustrious Marc Singer seems to have returned to blogging once again, with an essay on Scott McCloud’s Making Comics that originally ran in the International Journal of Comic Art.
• Dan Nadel looks at what made Alex Raymond special.
• My, what a big pocketbook you’ve got there Richie Rich!
• The AV Club does their monthly round-up of notable comics, including Daybreaker, Pim & Francie and The Talisman.
• Speaking of round-ups, let’s note that Tucker Stone’s Comics of the Weak feature is back and running full throttle.
• Shaenon Garrity gets all nostalgic for Wizard magazine’s hey day. OK, not really.
• Finally, John Seven enjoyed the first volume of The Unwritten more than I did.
• Domingos Isabelinho reviews Asterios Polyp. Well, OK, he doesn’t really, but really more of a commenting on the various reviews the books have received so far. Still, it’s an entertaining read.
• Ng Suat Tong has, with the help of folks like Frank Santoro, Noah Berlatsky and others, has put together a list of the “Best Online Comics Criticism” of 2009: “These writers have helped make comics a slightly more interesting place to inhabit for readers like myself, ensuring that the conversation doesn’t end the moment a comic is consumed or half-digested by the reader.”
Some familiar, as well as unexpected names, dot the list. Additional commentary is promised to follow.
• One thing I haven’t linked to, but really should have, is Andrew Weiss’ great “Nobody’s Favorites” series, where he looks at utterly forgettable comic book characters. His latest take on DC’s two-issue adaptation of Robotech.
• If that’s not enough Wolk for you (and how can it possibly be?), he also reviewed Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Barnes and Noble’s Web site.
• Stephen Weiner on Alec: The Years Have Pants: “[It] should be treated like the wines that Campbell comes to appreciate: slowly sipped and savored.”
• Craig Fischer takes a long, hard look at Alan Moore’s new Dodgem Logic magazine.
• Matt Brady read Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie and now has trouble getting to sleep.
• Finally Katherine Dacey provides an in-depth examination of the first six volumes of 20th Century Boys.
• Abhay Khosla wraps up his five-part series on the recent Blue Beetle run over at Savage Critics, and asks questions that perhaps cannot be answered:
Looking back, the list of nerdy crap that I have been a dorky spazz-wad for is very, very long– but why does that stuff work on me? What does all that dopey shit have in common? Is there a grand unified field theory of dorkism that can explain why certain ideas, images, idiocies, why they’re capable of burrowing under the skins of sloppy nerds such as myself? And can that theory explain why that material consumes not just my attention, but more and more attention globally at a time when attention is such a precious commodity?
• Speaking of The Comics Journal, here are a few links of note: Steven Grant derides the Spirit Pop-Up Book; Robert Stanley Martin reviews David B’s Nocturnal Conspiracies; and some idiot blathers on and on about Pluto and 20th Century Boys. Under what rock did they find that moron?
I haven’t done this in awhile, so let’s highlight some of the more interesting posts from the past week or so — or at least what was intersting to me:
• The folks at the Hooded Utilitarian recently wrapped up a lengthy roundtable discussion on Dan Clowes’ Ghost World.
• Tom Spurgeon continues his great holiday interview series with notable critics about the great comics of the closing decade. In backwards order: Kristy Valenti on Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays; Bart Beaty on Persepolis; Frank Santoro on Multiforce and our own Sean Collins on Blankets.
• Tucker Stone examines the brouhaha surrounding the announcement of Marvel’s Girl’s Comics series and wonders what lies behind it: “When the Big Two companies make a fuss about something, and that fuss can in any way be perceived as a movement towards correcting a problem, the initial responses are certain to contain a healthy slice of contempt.”
Jeet Heer has an interesting post up at Sans Everything where, in response to an some odd right-wing tirade about how awful it is that openly gay people show up in modern comics these days, he looks at how homosexuals have been portrayed in the comics books and strips of yesteryear and provides plenty of examples from works like Little Orphan Annie, Wash Tubbs, Gasoline Alley, The Spirit and, yes, Mickey Mouse. The results are … well, let’s just call them politically incorrect and leave it at that, OK?
• The Comics Comics crew are having another cage match, although this time they’re calling it a round table, about Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie book.
• Curt Purcell continues his examination of the Blackest Night event, this time looking at some of the tie-in books.
• Ng Suat Tong examines the pleasures of owning original art and how that can change our appreciation for a particular cartoonist.
• Also at HU, Noah Berlatsky looks at the psychosexual underpinnings of the superhero genre, and how it’s shifted over time.
• NPR’s Glen Weldon talks about why Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series matters: “[It] remains one of the most literate, imaginative and intricately plotted accomplishments in long-form comics storytelling out there.”
• Sandy Bilus recommends Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms: “The book never feels preachy, but it certainly forces the reader to focus on this issue and raises his or her level of understanding about what the people of Hiroshima have endured.”
• Joe McCulloch compares/contrasts the new Astro Boy movie with the original Tezuka manga.
• Johanna Draper Carlson reviews the first volume of The Lizard Prince: “This manga, a romance in a magical fantasy setting, has enough humor to make it an enjoyable read for the young and young-thinking.”
• Tangognat on Vol. 5 of 2oth Century Boys: “Everytime I pick this series up I’m reminded again how great it is.”
In front of a packed house at September’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, a group of critics from around the comics Internet and beyond talked shop at the annual Critics Roundtable panel. Moderated by Bill Kartalopolous, the panel featured Comics Journal founder Gary Groth, New York Times critic Douglas Wolk, bloggers Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Tucker Stone, and Rob Clough, and a pair of Robot 6ers, Chris Mautner and myself. I’m happy to present a transcript of the panel below.
Sure, I’m a little biased, but I think it’s a fascinating discussion. The topics include the differences between print and online criticism, the notion of “the critical discourse,” negative critiques and much more. For some panelists, things have already changed since the panel took place: Groth, who gets quizzed on why he isn’t a bigger contributor to the comics Internet, is getting ready to jump in with both feet with the relaunched Comics Journal, of which Clough is going to be a part; while my membership in Robot 6 wasn’t even a glimmer in JK Parkin’s eye yet. And with a good deal of familiarity between the critics — I believe seven out of eight have written for the Journal and half write for The Savage Critic(s) — the back-and-forth was fluid.
If you’d like to listen along, you can download this mp3 recording of the panel. It’s worth it just to hear the chaos surrounding Tucker’s bathroom break.
Click the jump to read the transcript. Now, without further ado…