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Steve Bissette takes you back to the bad old days

To those who think the recent Christopher Handley case is an anomaly or a recent phenomenon, allow me to direct you to Steve Bissette’s Web site, where he is in the midst of sharing a wealth of archived materials (“hundreds of documents” he says) from the mid-1980s where the growth of more mature mainstream fare like Dark Knight Returns led to some rather disquieting attempts at censorship like when Friendly Frank’s comic store got busted for carrying obscene comics and, and, in turn DC attempted to create a  ratings system for the books they carried.

Omaha-191x300By the mid-1980s, the battle over increasingly adult and sales-worthy content in the wake of the mega-success of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, among other successes both blockbuster and modest, was creating real problems for some retailers. While it was obvious to the indoctrinated that Frank Miller’s Batman was light years from the comfy all-ages Bob Kane/Bill Finger/Dick Sprang era of Batman, it wasn’t so obvious to the American public.

In the wake of Frank’s Daredevil, Alan and John and Rick and my Saga of the Swamp Thing, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg, among other various ‘breaking out’ titles, it was becoming a problem.

But it was the major blockbuster success, sales and press attention The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen rightfully scored that really set off alarm bells. There had been skirmishes of sorts over now long-forgotten singular eruptions — the orgy page in a single chapter of Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest, Warren’s notorious 1984/1994, Eclipse ComicsSaber ‘birth’ issue, various Love & Rockets and Fantagraphics issues, Frank Thorne’s increasingly adventurous fusions of female barbarian fantasy and sex, the Miracleman ‘birth’ issue (penciled by Rick Veitch), etc. — and yet to come were Fantagraphics’ Eros line, and much, much more.

Go check the whole thing out, it’s a great walk down history lane. For easy linking purposes, here’s part one, two, three and four. (link via Coleen Doran, who does a little bit of reminiscing herself.)

Everyone’s A Critic: A round-up of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

Footnotes in Gaza

Footnotes in Gaza

Tom Spurgeon once again beats everyone to the punch with a review of Joe Sacco’s new book, Footnotes in Gaza: The first good news to report … is that the cartoonist is in top form throughout.” He also has good things to say about Prison Pit.

Christopher Allen offers 60 ways of looking at Watchmen.

• Critics critique critics — Robert Boyd reviews Bart Beaty’s Unpopular Culture: “This is a thought-provoking book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in comics-as-art.”

David Welsh gets schooled in college manga.

Rob Clough calls MK Reed’s new book, Cross Country “the most complex, ambitious and visually interesting of her comics.”

• Perhaps if I link to Sean Collins’ review of Refresh, Refresh, he’ll forgive me for accidentally (I swear) stealing the title of his review feature.

Nina Stone enjoyed the first issue of Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love: “All the pieces of the story just started to fit together perfectly.”

Grant Goggans declares The Art of Osamu Tezuka “very highly recommended.”

• Finally, Kristy Valenti looks at a 1999 graphic novel drawn by Mia Wolff and written by acclaimed sci-fi author Samuel Delany.

Send Us Your Shelf Porn


Welcome once again to Send Us Your Shelf Porn, the only place where on the Internet where the term “porn” suggests something non-sexual and PG-rated. We think. For now.

Poor planning on my part meant I almost resorted to linkblogging (brrr) instead of highlighting some brave soul’s collection. Thankfully, mighty comics scholar and critic Michael Rhode came to save the day. For those who don’t know, Rhode runs the ComicsDC blog, which covers comic-related events in and around our nation’s capital. He’s also co-author of the Comics Research Bibliography, the exhibition and media reviews editor for the International Journal of Comic Art, and the editor of the book Harvey Pekar: Conversations, among other accolades.

But as nice as Mike’s collection is, he can’t keep Shelf Porn going on his lonesome. It takes the help of all of brave individuals like perhaps yourself, who aren’t afraid to flaunt their comics collection in front of all who have Internet access and know about this site. Simply send me pics of your shelves to cmautnerATcomcastDOTnet and you, too, can be one of the proud and few.

And now, let’s move on to Mike and his shelves:

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The Meta-List returns: The 100 Best Comics of 2008

Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button

Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button

Sandy Bilus of I Love Rob Liefeld, the Comics Internet tips its collective hat to you. Picking up the torch from the sadly discontinued blog of Dick Hyancith, Bilus has compiled a “meta-list” of the 100 best comics of 2008, as tabulated from the personal best-of lists of dozens of critics and commentators. Behold the Top Ten:

1. Bottomless Belly Button, by Dash Shaw
2. Acme Novelty Library #19, by Chris Ware
3. All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
4. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, by Alex Robinson
5. What It Is, by Lynda Barry
6. Ganges #2, by Kevin Huizenga
7. The Alcoholic, by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
8. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, by Joshua Cotter
9. Kramers Ergot 7, by various
10. Capacity, by Theo Ellsworth

The point system used to tabulate the list makes it easy for books that made it onto a lot of individual lists but didn’t top them to put in a strong showing; perhaps that explains the blowout victory of Bottomless Belly Button, which I recall as being widely liked but few people’s #1 pick.

For you front-of-Previews types out there, DC’s All-Star Superman is the highest ranking superhero comic, coming in at a strong #3. DC/Vertigo’s The Alcoholic is the Big Two’s next-highest representative at #7, while its labelmate Scalped comes in at #12. The top Marvel book, and second-highest superhero comic, is Omega the Unknown at #13. Manga’s top-ranking title is Travel at #16. Click the link to see what else made the grade.

Me, I’ve got some quibbles here and there, as is to be expected. But overall, if you’re looking to do some shopping this holiday season and don’t mind being a year behind, you’d be hard pressed to top this for a wishlist.

R.I.P. George Tuska, 1916-2009

Iron Man #18

Iron Man #18

George Tuska, the Golden/Silver/Bronze Age artist whose career in comics spanned six decades, has died at the age of 93. As noted by Tom Spurgeon, The Art of George Tuska author Dewey Cassell broke the news in a Yahoo group; Cassell had relayed word of Tuska’s retirement from drawing commissions just six days ago.

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Cool things to bookmark: Reading With Pictures

Classic Comics

Classic Comics

Reading With Pictures is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of comics in the classroom to aid in literacy and the visual arts:

Educators have begun to see the value of having graphic novels in the classroom — they just don’t know which books to use or how to best use them. To address those needs, Reading With Pictures plans to work with academics, educators, and publishers to provide schools with the best possible teaching methods and classroom materials in order to successfully integrate comics and graphic novels into their curriculum.

Among their goals are to create a database of lesson plans, provide consultation and launch a speakers’ bureau. It’s a project First Second’s Calista Brill finds worthy of merit:

There’s nothing fundamentally different about teaching comics literacy to kids than teaching them the basics of poetry, art, music, math, science, reading – even running. When we educate children, we are giving them the tools to educate themselves. To find the things they love. To experience the world more fully.

And as long as there are people making amazing comics in the world, anyone who lacks the basic tools to read them is missing out. Big time.

Brill puts it a lot better than I could have. If you have time or money available, consider donating to this worthy organization.

SPX 2009: The Haul

What Sean got at this year's SPX

What Sean got at this year's SPX

I love the Small Press Expo. My five-plus-hour drive down to its Bethesda location from Long Island guarantees me an annual 36-hour immersion in the lifeblood of alternative comics, and there’s nothing about it I like better than getting back to the hotel room or my library at home and spreading out all the new comics I dredged up from the depths. Here’s a look at what I picked up this year.

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Girls With Slingshots: Five Years, Two Girls, One Cactus

Five years ago today, Danielle Corsetto launched a tiny little webcomic called GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS.

Girls With Slingshots

The comic, which debuted at SPX on October 1st 2004, details the foul-mouthed misadventures of two twenty-somethings – Hazel Tellington and Jamie McJack and their talking Scottish cactus, McPedro. Since its debut, GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS has grown from a cult-hit to a massive webcomics phenomenon with over 70,000 readers a day. Continue Reading »

Comics + fashion = um, awesome?

Thor hat

Thor hat

You’re heading off to school, and I know what you’re thinking: How can I impress everyone with my good fashion sense? Well how about a Thor trucker hat?

No? Well perhaps that is a bit outlandish. Instead, perhaps you’d prefer this stunning bag designed by Exit Wounds author Rutu Modan? At only $11.99, it’s an affordable head-turner:

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Afghan manual uses comics to give election pointers

NCCManual Pashto

Who says comics can’t help change the world? Here’s a 25-page manual designed to help teach the Afghan people about the recent election process, the candidates and the issues at hand. Why doesn’t someone do something like this for the health care debate? (found via Boing Boing)

Vice tells you where it’s at, comics-wise

The Vice comics issue

The Vice comics issue

Vice magazine has put together a handy Guide to Comics, which isn’t really a guide so much as a great compilation of  comics-related articles, including interviews with Al Jaffee, Chip Kidd, Anders Nilsen, Chris Onstad, Gerard Way and Craig Yoe. Plus, comics by Lisa Hanawalt, an essay on the glory that is Jimmy Olsen and Gary Panter runs down his top 10 favorite comics.

(via Sean Collins)

SDCC ’09 | Dark Horse Comics signings and panels

darkhorseDark Horse Comics has a full signing schedule for their booth on all five days of the show, as well as several panels. As Kevin mentioned earlier this week, they’ll be formally announcing Rafael Grampá’s Furry Water, and there’s also a big super secret announcement involving Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan. The trio will sign at the booth about 45 minutes after the Gerard Way panel on Saturday.

No doubt Dark Horse will have all sorts of cool stuff to buy, look at and pick up for free at their booth as well. Check out their complete schedule after the jump.

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SDCC ’09 | Debuts, panels and more from Oni Press

Festering Romance

Festering Romance

Oni Press has several books that will debut at the show next week: Festering Romance by Renee Lott, You Have Killed Me by Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones, Wet Moon, Vol. 5: Where All Stars Fail to Burn by Ross Campbell and a limited black cover version of Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition. In addition, they’ll have many different T-shirts, buttons and other goodies for sale at their booth.

A complete list of everything they’ll have, along with their booth and panel schedules, can be found after the jump. (I didn’t realize they were doing a graphic novel based on the TV show Psych).

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It’s the ‘Let’s Go’ for message board posters

At Comixology, Shaenon K. Garrity presents her “Half-Assed Guide to Comic Book Message Boards,” where she painfully, but hilariously and rather accurately breaks down the various places one can go to gripe about ‘One More Day’ or how they don’t ‘get’ manga. Here’s her take on the Comics Journal’s board:

The most necrotic section of the board is the “Comics Journal” section itself, where people only post to bitch that their subscription copies are late. Many TCJ subscribers seem to be under the impression that Gary Groth runs not just Fantagraphics but the U.S. Postal Service from his basement. They get really pissed. No one ever posts about the content of the magazine itself, proving that not even the most hardcore fans of The Comics Journal read The Comics Journal.

Ouch. She also demolishes Comicon, Newsarama and, of course, Byrne Robotics, though, oddly enough, CBR seems to stay out her sights. Perhaps a sequel is in order.

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