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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly round-up of … well, what we’ve been reading lately.
Today our special guest is the legendary Gilbert Hernandez. Known best as the co-creator of Love & Rockets, his other works include Sloth, The Troublemakers, Chance in Hell and Yeah! with Peter Bagge (which is being collected by Fantagraphics)
To see what Gilbert and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from Big Two stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, though, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — and unlikely and under-recognized one is Daniel Clowes.
Clowes was one of the driving forces of alternative comics in the ’80s and ’90s, and was identified as one of the earliest “literary” cartoonists — that is, cartoonists whose storytelling goes above the level of stereotyped “traditional comics” and into the level of literature. His work was quickly embraced by the younger generation, and Clowes illustrated over 20 album covers, several skateboard decks and even a soda brand. Crumb director Terry Zwigoff picked up the story of Ghost World, which appeared in several issues of Clowes’ anthology Eightball. After the success of Ghost World, Zwigoff and Clowes followed it up with 2006’s Art School Confidential, also based on stories found in Eightball. Clowes has also worked on several movies not based on his work, including a project with Michel Gondry.
With those two alt-films released and successful, here’s a look at some other Clowes stories and ideas for adaptation:
In the year spanning Fall 2009 and Fall 2010, the Grand Old Men and Women of Comics unleashed what strikes me as an all but unprecedented onslaught of major graphic novels. Joe Sacco and Footnotes in Gaza. Robert Crumb and The Book of Genesis Illustrated. Gilbert Hernandez and High Soft Lisp. Daniel Clowes and Wilson. Jim Woodring and Weathercraft. Kim Deitch and The Search for Smilin’ Ed. Chris Ware and The ACME Novelty Library #20: Lint. Lynda Barry and Picture This. Charles Burns and X’d Out. Joyce Farmer and Special Exits. Seth and Palookaville #20. Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3. Stretching from the underground comix era of the mid-to-late ’60s all the way through the great alternative-comics wave that first crested in the early ’90s, the O.G.s arrived en masse to show the whippersnappers how it’s done.
Unsurprisingly, the creators themselves seem aware of this, too. In the interviews with Daniel Clowes and Jaime Hernandez that closed out his excellent annual Holiday Interview Series, Tom Spurgeon got the two comics legends to talk a bit about their peers. In addition to talking about how the cancellation by their creators of Los Bros Hernandez’ Love and Rockets Vol. 1 and Peter Bagge’s Neat Stuff and Hate spurred him to continue his own Eightball series beyond the point where it was a practical mode of delivery for his comics, Clowes addressed the recent wave of major comics from his generation very specifically:
Welcome to this week’s edition of What Are You Reading?, and a big thanks to Chris Mautner for helping out last week.
Our special guest this week is Larry Young, AiT/Planet Lar publisher and one of the editors behind the Kickstart Comics. To see what Larry and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, make with the click below …
Over on the CBR mothership, two potential “book of the year” candidates are talking about what makes them tick. First up is Daniel Clowes, author of Wilson. In a report on Clowes’s Dan Nadel-hosted spotlight panel at APE, CBR’s Karl Kelly reveals that Clowes thinks none too highly of the readability of classic comics even by artists he admires:
“I realized at a certain point that the thing that keeps me drawing comics and the thing that has always moved me along is that comics history is really disappointing,” Clowes responded. “It’s not the same as the history of novels, history of art, history of movies, the body of work is pretty spotty. The things we imagined don’t really exist. We imagine that Alex Toth did really amazing comics in the 50s that really worked, that were like Howard Hawk’s movies, but he didn’t do that. He never made a comic you could read. It’s terrible, and I say that thinking that he was one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th Century.”
“Likable characters are for weak-minded narcissists.” So says Daniel Clowes, the author of the recently released Wilson — and given that the book and its irascible protagonist have proven about as divisive as the Lost finale, his tongue may be only partially in cheek. The titular character in Clowes’s novel is a self-described people person who’s constantly decrying the way culture and technology fragment and divide society, but he does this in the nastiest and most insulting way possible to everyone he knows, leaving him no better off than the IT workers, superhero-blockbuster fans and so on he lambastes. He’s a tough character to like.
But does that mean Wilson is a tough book to like? Isn’t there such a thing as an unlikable character you love to read about nonetheless? Tim Hodler of Comics Comics says no and yes, respectively. In a post on the book, Hodler argues that the response to Wilson, particularly the negative response, has centered far too much on Wilson’s unlikability, ignoring the way other art forms have showcased jerks for centuries to memorable effect:
Sometimes an interview can be interesting because of the questions the interview subject doesn’t answer. Case in point: Blogger and critic Noah Berlatsky’s interview with The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon. Pivoting off a recent Savage Critics roundtable on Daniel Clowes’s divisive black-comedy graphic novel Wilson, Berlatksy sets Spurgeon up with a characterization of literary comics of the sort Clowes creates as self-pitying, misanthropic, pessimistic, and tedious. It’s a characterization Spurgeon’s having none of:
[Berlatsky:] …there’s a default stance in certain regions of lit comics land which is basically: “life sucks and people are awful.” Which I think is glib and overdone and tedious, a, and which, b, can be made even more irritating by the fact that the people promulgating it are, you know, fairly successful, and (what with various autobiographical elements thrown in) the result often looks like a lot of self-pity over not very much.
So…I’m wondering how strongly you would push back against that characterization of lit comics in general…and also whether you feel it is or is not ever appropriate to think about a creator’s biography in relation to his or her work in that way.
[Spurgeon:] At this point I wouldn’t push back at all against the stance that says the default mode in lit comics land is basically “life sucks and people are awful” because it’s no longer an argument I take seriously. I don’t think it’s true by any reasonable measure and I’m done with entertaining the notion until someone presents the argument in a much more effective or compelling fashion than what always sounds to me like some angry, lonely, re-written Usenet post from 1997.
“Superheroes suck!” So blares the headline for the excellent film critic Matt Zoller Seitz’s provocative Salon.com article on the movie genre that will once again conquer the world this weekend in the form of Iron Man 2. I know, I know, a lot of you are either rolling your eyes or breaking out the torches and pitchforks. But Seitz is a far cry from your usual Ebert-ian dismissal of an entire subgenre on some sort of moral or aesthetic high ground. No, he loves superheroes — and it’s because he thinks so few movies do them justice that he’s sick of their cinematic incarnations.
After first citing his lifelong love of superheroes and a trio of memorable images from recent superhero movies — the Joker sticking his head out the car window in The Dark Knight, Superman hoisting the Daily Planet’s globe in Superman Returns, Peter Parker walking down the street to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” in Spider-Man 2 — Seitz makes his case: