Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Once upon a time I frequented the TCJ Message Boards (yes, when people still had message boards) but rarely if ever think to read the website now. But I think I was looking for an interview with someone and came across this excerpt from  "We Told You So: Comics as Art, the long-awaited oral history of Fantagraphics Books put together by Tom Spurgeon with Michael Dean." 
Have to say that this is the sort of shit I still love reading, and while I'm just as interested in the accounts of the bizarre TCJ office politics, that may have a limited audience. While the juicy anecdotes of mainstream icons like Barry Windsor-Smith maintain a broader appeal.

Barry Windsor-Smith, cartoonist: In the early 1990s, Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and I were traveling to a downtown restaurant. We were crowded in the back of a yellow cab, and the chat was inevitably about the world of comic books. I wasn’t interested, so I was tuned out, thinking of things other than comics.
But then, the mention of The Comics Journal caught my attention and I briefly tuned back into the conversation as Bob snorted, “Fuckers!” with Jim concurring — “Those bastards.” It’s rare for Shooter to curse. I guess he reserves his expletives for The Comics Journal.

Chiming in, I said, “The Journal is the only real magazine we’ve got.” In that context, where Jim and Bob were openly hostile, my use of the term “magazine” implied an arbiter of taste, criticism and intelligence, like The New Yorker, for instance. They both looked at me briefly, and, turning away, Shooter’s ass tightened so fast that it almost overtook the speed of Layton’s gall bladder stricture — what little air was in the back of the taxi was immediately sucked into each of their lower guts with a thunderous stereophonic whistling sound. Following through, I said, “Damned good thing they keep us on our toes, right?”
The rest of the short journey down Broadway passed in silence. Staring out the window while returning to my private musings, I coined the ungainly term Reverse Fart.

Windsor-Smith: One summer evening in 1971, young Gary Groth traveled into New York City, under the supervision of his father, to do an extensive interview with me at my glamorously expensive apartment with a stunning view of Manhattan on 72nd Street next to the Dakota. After completing the tape-recorded interview, during which the older Mr. Groth and I shared some genial chat and several mugs of good English tea, Gary assured me that he’d got a wonderful interview and would quickly transcribe it for his fledgling publication called Fantastic JournalComics Fanzine or some such title.
A few months later I received a printed and stapled copy through the mail. Imagine my upset at discovering that Gary had bumped my interview to a secondary slot in favor of a Sal Buscema cover depicting an awkwardly drawn Dr. Strange — that totally stupid version where he had no fucking face. Me, the unwitting golden cum-spot of the early 1970s, reduced to an afterthought by my youthful new pal Gary.
In 1996, I agreed to a second interview with Gary Groth, a quarter-century after the first, this time to be published in The Comics Journal. The interview went OK, I guess, and this time he didn’t toss my cover for some flavor-of-the week pissant penciler. But — and there is always a but with Gary — the letters column of the following issue published only one reader response to the GG/BWS interview. “Bullshit,” said the letter writer. And presumably the editor of The Comics Journal, older but only wiser by the default of time, must have agreed. I always meant to write Gary a nasty note about that, but, y’know, small things fall through the cracks.

Groth: A reader wrote a long letter excoriating Barry and my interview with him. It was so hostile it seemed personal. This prompted me to write a vociferous response defending Barry that was at least as long as the original letter.
[NOTE: I thought these anecdotes would be nothing less than fascinating ton the genuinely good-natured mainstream nostalgics who follow BACK ISSUE magazine's Facebook Forum. And I was gravely mistaken. Sure many found it interesting, but there were vociferously bitter responses directed at BWS (how dare he disparage Sal Buscema?) and the expected amount of vitriol for The Comics Journal ("yellow journalism"..."hateful pricks"). And finally some ardent defenders of none other than Jim Shooter including one who found Bill Willingham's TCJ cover which apparently over-emphasizes Shooter's infamously cratered skin, more offensive than everything Trump has said and done in the past year. Within less than an hour and a string of hyperbolic replies the post was summarily deleted with no explanation. For me, I simply find it fascinating that Barry Windsor-Smith (an artist revered in the mainstream) would ever be offended having not gotten the cover story of an unknown fanzine created by a kid whose father drove him to BWS house for the interview.]
[Oh and NOTE 2: I had numerous genuinely nasty and insulting arguments with Kim Thompson that got as personal as they could get between two people who didn't know one another. Some on the TCJ forums, but most on the old Comicon Forums run by Rick Vietch. So it came as a shock to me when I heard that Kim had died. I think contrary to the general perception, Kim wasn't really the "nice one" out of the pair of Groth/Thompson...but he was a worthy adversary and I still liked him for some reason. And apparently he died of lung cancer...and now I am suffering a similar fate. The moral of the story being: Arguing on internet forums in the early 2000's gives you cancer]

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