Capes and tights: Wow, here are two posts in one weekend about what’s wrong with superhero comics! Charles Hatfield picks up Blackest Night but just gets tired thinking of all that continuity, while PC Weenies creator Krishna Sadasivam picks up three new comics and finds none of them is accessible to new readers.
Meta: Jeet Heer gives his candidate for worst comics criticism of the 21st century. It’s short so go, read, laugh.
It’s probably too early to say what the best books of 2010 will be, but I feel safe in saying that James Sturm’s Market Day will easily make it on the short list of works to be considered. The graphic novel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is about a Jewish rug maker, who heads off to the local market full of hope and elan, only to experience a devastating setback to his career. It’s a smart, moving work that I think will turn a lot of heads when it comes out in March.
In the meantime though, I took the opportunity to talk with Sturm about the book and it’s development — as well as life at the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school he co-founded — over at the main CBR site:
You say that this was originally intended to be a children’s book. Where did the inspiration for “Market Day” come from?
Drawn and Quarterly, my publisher, actually played an important role in the book itself. There was a point when they hooked up with a national distributor – they were distributed by Chronicle Books at one point.
I don’t think that worked out as well as their current partner [Farrar, Straus & Giroux], but when they first hooked up, they felt this would open up a lot more markets, and after the deal happened [publisher] Chris [Oliveros] sent an email to his stable of artists at D&Q saying “One of the things I’m considering is doing a children’s book line. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.”
So, in my sketchbook, I conceived a story about a rug weaver. In that version of the story, the focus wasn’t so much on the main character but more about how important one individual’s commitment and support can be for somebody. In “Market Day,” when the Finkler character disappears, it sets off this bad chain of events for Mendleman. In my mind I thought of Chris as the Finkler character and how important my own relationship with D&Q was for my own artistic development. The actual book plays out differently – but I did want to get that across and a sense of camraderie between artists who share a an aesthetic and committment to a certain type of work.
Perhaps this is the sort of work that pundits were fearing would die along with the indie comic pamphlet (which, Diamond policy or no Diamond policy, is pretty much six feet under by this point). An eight-issue mini-series, published by Fantagraphics between 1992 and 1995, The Cereal Killings is an awkward work at times, and betrays the youth of it’s creator, James Sturm, both artistically and thematically. I get the sense, both from the work and in my limited conversations with Sturm, that he was often frustrated by its quality and indeed in his interview with Tom Spurgeon in issue # 251 of The Comics Journal he calls it an outright “failure.” I can’t help but wonder if Sturm had not serialized the story but attempted to publish it in one big graphic novel chunk if he wouldn’t have simply abandoned it midway and moved on to something else.
That would be a shame because The Cereal Killings has a lot going for it. Despite its noticeable problems , it’s an enjoyable, at times gripping work and is a seminal step in Sturm’s development as an artist.