Monday, March 31, 2008
Frederic Wertham Revised: Happy Marxist Flower Cookies
Shortly after the hearings, in June 1954, Robert Warshow, whose essays on popular culture were unusual for the period for their nuance and appreciation, wrote a famous essay for Commentary, on horror comics (it’s odd Hajdu doesn’t mention it), in which he worries about their effect on his eleven-year-old son, Paul, a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club. Warshow did not much admire Wertham’s book, but he accepted his book. “I myself would not like to live surrounded by the kind of culture Dr. Wertham could thoroughly approve of,” he wrote, “and what I would not like for myself I would hardly desire for Paul. The children must take their chances like the rest of us. But when Dr.. Wertham is dealing with the worst of the comic books, he is on strong ground; some kind of regulation seems necessary.”
And all Wertham wanted was regulation, he wasn’t a proponent of the code. He wanted a ratings system that is no different that that implemented by the film or video gaming industries. He didn’t want kids to buy excessively violent or explicit comics without a parent present.
The article continues:
As Beaty points out, Wertham was not a philistine; he was a progressive intellectual. His Harlem clinic was named for Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law. He collected modern art, helped produce an anthology of modernist writers, and opposed censorship.
Beaty’s book points out that racist stereotypes of Africans and Asians were routine in almost all crime and horror comics. This is something that Ng Suat Tong, another Comics Journal critic (like Beaty) pointed out as well in an essay for that magazine essentially flaying the reverence given most of EC’s war comics which had previously been untouchable. The article also points out that there’s a genuinely shocking proliferation of violence directed at women, always “depicted in highly sexualized forms.” And that if it’s true that negative depictions of black people is harmful, then why would the same not apply to such pervasive depictions of women.
Beaty is unimpressed by the claim that the horror comics were somehow part of a popular culture avant garde, and he thinks Gaines’s attempt to portray himself and his company as subversive artists oppressed by the establishment has fooled many people.
“Ultimately, he writes, “Fredric Wertham aligned himself with the most defenseless portion of the postwar American society, children. His critics have aligned themselves with an industry that targeted racist, sexist, and imperialist propaganda at minors. He was one man, operating out a free clinic in Harlem facing a multimillion dollar per year industry organization that hired private detectives to tail him and intimidate his staff.”
Which is the most sympathetic portrayal I’ve read regarding Wertham and perhaps cast new light on the whole situation. The article goes on to rightly point out that the proliferation of television (from a mere four millions sets in 1950 to 25-million by 1953) was not only the more likely cause of comics sales sliding from peak into precipice, but also an entirely new and probably more corrosive tool of seduction of the innocent.
Anyway, kudos to The New Yorker. By delving into Beaty’s book as a result of considering Hajdu’s Ten-Cent Plague they at least made an old topic seem more interesting…if only slightly.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Thumbs Up, Bitches
Thumbs Up: Season 2 premiere
David Choe and Harry Kim rock Tijuana (has a sweeter phrase ever been crafted?)
BEST LINK TO THIS BLOG EVER
So I noticed in between all the hits from Portland and Brooklyn that I got a hit from Korea which I naturally assumed was related to the Pyongyang post from a few weeks ago. But no, instead it came from a link on a Leonardo DiCaprio fan page related to the R. CRumb meets DiCaprio anecdote I recounted from R. Crumb: Conversations.They transposed the entire post over there. Ahh, the beauty and the oddity of the internet.
So HELLO to all visiting Korean Leo DiCaprio fans. I really didn't mind him much at all in Gangs on New York. And his dad George editing Cocaine Comix (still for sale in the Last Gasp catalog btw), makes for a super cool trivia question. Have you ever heard of David Choe?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Lowjinx: the trouble with critics
M.I.A. tour dates somehow lead to lengthy stream of consciousness post
Any excuse to post some M.I.A> pics is a good excuse.
M.I.A. Tour Dates
Nowhere near me yet, but nice to see that she's allowed back on these shores (even though she has a place in NYC), since Gee Dubya's pie chart terrorist police wouldn't even let her in the country to record Kala (not even for Timbaland! geez Condi could you be any whiter?)
Now that she's named the first two records after each of her parents, I'm guessing the next one will either be called Diplo Goes Down or Take Me To Gitmo.
Bringing it all back around to comics: that reminds me of a funny bit in that Jef Czekaj did in Hypertruck(or R2-D2 is an Indie Rocker?) about Timbaland having produced every record that came out. And that was ages ago (a decade at least). Which holy shit! is distributed by these guys again (but they only read posts with their names in it so they'll never see the kindly link).
Czekaj also makes some pretty cool music forgot the name of the song I really liked, but I remember it was by either Plunge Into Death (great name) or Sinkcharmer.
He's also unusually wily and pragmatic as indy toonists go. See his great instructional for landing grant money from our art-hating government.
Also read some funny review of the Jesus & Mary Chain's new (that's right I said "new") single that said it sounded just like old Chain, but could've been better if only Heroes moppet Hayden Panetierre had sang backup (the backstory of that joke is that Scarlett Johannson famously and somewhat tunelessly sang backup for the J&M Chain's reunion at Coachella (see the video)
Specifically she sang on "Just Like Honey"(what a guitar sound) which of course was featured in "Lost In Translation."
Of course one of Scarlett's earliest films (a movie that I initially thought she was terrible in despite the cute shorts) was Ghost Worldwhich was only rescued by the presence of Steve Buschemi (frankly the script wasn't even that good). All of Terry Zwigoff's films subsequent to the brilliant delineation of Crumb have simply reinforced the fact that he should stick to documentaries. But he's kinda screwed because few cartoonists are as fascinating.
Additionally, if he asks I'll be happy to recount my lone encounter with him. Charming as it was.
Ted Rall: spiegelman still "sucks"...and Ware too
I didn't know Ted Rall was still alive, but apparently he was still kicking (and kicking) as recently as January of this year. I was looking for a good hyperlink for Blutch and lo and behold a freshly vitriolic Rall utterance.
"…who can blame Spiegelman for publishing art that he likes? You’ve done the same thing in the Attitude books…"
"No, I haven’t.
Several of the artists who participated in the “Attitude” anthologies create comic strips I don’t particularly like. Some were even people with whom I had had personal disagreements. But their work was too important, and too right, and too deserving of broader exposure to ignore. Like any decent editor, I set aside my personal biases as much as I could to pick the right artists for the book. I didn’t reserve the books for my best friends, some of whom were not included because their work wouldn’t have been appropriate.
Art Spiegelman doesn’t do that. It’s a big part of the reason he sucks. He has power, and he abuses it. Consider the Little Lit books–he never reached beyond his personal comfort zone.
Ditto for Chris Ware–when you’re asked to edit a book called “Best American Comics 2007,” you’re supposed to choose the Best Comics Made by Americans During 2007, not Comics By My Friends And Artists Who Share My Aesthetic Sensibilities."So that's how you get on Fox News? ( I say I say I say, Fox News) click and watch both of these links if you like fun!) I mean here I am cruelly poking sticks at teeny tiny artists, while Rall is hurling grenades at Mt. Rushmore.
Odd I should come across this now, because not only did I just check out the "Best American..." anthology from the local biblioteca, but it was casually mentioned by a very wise and evenhanded critic in an email discussion last week and he dismissed the anthologies for the very things that Ware completely answers and deflects in his introduction to the volume he edited.
And while I was less impressed with the previous volume edited by Harvey Pekar, so far it's somewhat difficult to find much fault with the '07 edition. I'll hopefully go into more detail soon (at a more sane time, as we're approaching dawn here in the TCI ivory tower).
As for Ted Rall's fell swoop swipe at the book: Rall's an intelligent guy and I find his opinions entertaining and a little shit-stirring is actually refreshing in these days when Gary Groth has been neutered by the desire to coddle every remotely credible cartoonist that can provide he and his hypocritical co-publisher a pension fund; and Team Comics is pretty much united under a mutual love backwashing banner (and the last irascibles like Toth and Harlan Ellison are either dead or near-dead). BUT...
Suggesting the anthology sucks because Ware has only gathered artists who are either his friends or share his sensibilities is way off the mark. For one thing one must assume that when making as subjective a judgment as who should be included in any "Best of..." compilation, you can do no more than apply your own values to discern the work you deem worthy. It's the omnipotent power of editorship. Granted you can certainly bring others into the fray and ask their advice, but aren't you still asking people you know and/or whose work you respect and thus applying a value judgment to the value judgment in the process? Rall's argument that he included people he dislikes but whose work he finds too "important" to ignore may be valid (be nice if he named some names since he's rarely shy on that front), but frankly I've always found collections that focus more on historical importance as opposed to overall quality and contextual and contemporary relevance to be uneven and often disappointing.
And while you may find modest fault in longer longer pieces being excerpted and/or truncated (little different really than a novel being excerpted in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly), Ware has assembled not just cartooning stalwarts and those in everyone's canon (everyone's but Ted's), but mostly superlative pieces as well. And it's pretty hard to argue with this lineup:
The Crumb's (R., and Aline collaborating, and Sophie in her own one-pager), Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Vanessa Davis, Ivan Brunetti, Ron Rege. Jr., John Porcellino, Huizenga, Tomine, Anders Nilsen, Gilbert Hernandez, Deitch, Burns, Panter, Seth, spiegelman, and a few others. Perhaps I'll muster something of a more comprehensive overview of the book soon (or more likely not), but while it may be easy to argue that the names are relatively obvious even to indy comics laymen, it's hard to argue find any names that are either undeserving or unimportant. This is after all, the "Best..." not simply the "Freshest Faces of 2007" which would be an interesting collection as well but not the sort of thing Houghton Mifflin would likely gamble on, and thus not the sort of thing that if it were published or (self-published) by a far smaller concern, would therefore not register on Rall's radar.
Paul Pope: Clothing designer, world builder
The Wall Street Journal interviews Paul Pope.
Recently, Mr. Pope has set his sights on another creative arena: fashion. Last year, Diesel, an Italian fashion company, hired him to design silk-screens and window displays for its Los Angeles store. Also last year, Mr. Pope took on his biggest fashion project: DKNY, the New York fashion company started by Donna Karan, tapped him to design his own line for the DKNY Jeans brand, bringing his dark graphic work to pants, hoodies and T-shirts.
Mr. Pope has been in demand by a wide range of companies. Industrial Light and Magic flew him to San Francisco to teach its staff the finer points of creating fictional worlds. The popular vinyl toy maker Kidrobot tapped Mr. Pope to create a line for the company. He also served as a consultant for the animated film adaptation of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay."
The Journal even offers up a downloadable Pope self-portrait as wallpaper too. So does Pope pimp-out his laptop with his own image in the background? Nah, my guess is that he's got something from Blutch or maybe Hugo Pratt.
James Jean did a mindboggling wallpaper tapestry for Prada. Pulphope did window displays for Deisel. In coming months look for Sophie Crumb's ceiling fresco for Victoria's Secret and Denis Kitchen's kid illustrating an ad campaign for Baby Gap.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
R. Crumb meets Leo DiCaprio
R. Crumb: Conversations
Edited by D.K. Holm
Conversation with writer Brendan Bernhard who tracked Crumb down in 1998 in the small French village where he resides with Aline:
(see Bernhard's short update on Crumb, circa '05 via the link)
Crumb is talking about Titanic, which he and Aline saw a couple of days earlier. Apparently he's still reeling from the effects of watching a giant ocean liner sink in a theater full of weeping girls. Crumb liked the movie but doesn't think much of DiCaprio, who's the son of an old cartoonist friend of his. A couple of years ago he and Leo had dinner in Paris, and according to Crumb, DiCaprio spent most of the meal staring into a mirror. The waiter, confused by the teen idol's beauty, addressed him throughout the evening as "madamoiselle."
Ahh, where to begin. What is more startling, that Crumb LIKED Titanic? Or that he had dinner with DiCaprio (whose dad is a cartoonist). And c'mon that French waiter was just being snotty, right? Good stuff. More to come.
PS. Leo's pop, George DiCaprio really was an underground cartoonist. In 1981 he edited Cocaine Comix #3.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Raconteurs spanking new album available for download
|Mar 24, 2008 9:24 PM|
|Subject:||'Consolers of the Lonely' Available for Download Tonight!|
|Body:|| We are happy to announce that The Raconteurs’ new album, “Consolers of the Lonely”, will be available for download through theraconteurs. com starting at 12 am EST tonight. At midnight EST you will be able to visit the site, choose your territory and download the album in a matter of minutes. Don’t want to download? Check at your favorite retailer tomorrow. We hope you enjoy it and thanks in advance for your support.|
Their concert playbills are fine art as well.
Booklist: Spotlight on Graphic Novels (and then things get really ugly)
From the Booklist website: Now that the mainstream publishing and library worlds are comfortable with the idea of graphic novels, many of the leading creators of the genre are reminding us of their roots: comics are where their hearts are, and they’re happy to say so, without the help of any highfalutin terms. That theme is everywhere in our latest Spotlight on Graphic Novels (OK, we’re still using the G-word for the moment):
As for The Center of Cartoon Studies: I was at SPX when they handed out their nascent pamphlets for the school prior to it materializing and there was both interest and considerable pessimism as to whether this "highminded" scholarly venture would actually get off the ground (anyone remember Kevin Eastman's well-funded cartoon museum?) But it did indeed and yet I'd never checked out the website until a few minutes ago ( 7:20 pm, March 24, 2008).
It seems to include everyone who has ever so much as breathed on a comic in the past twenty years as either "Faculty", "Visiting Faculty", or "Thesis Advisors."
But undoubtedly the most disturbing inclusion on the website is the mention of this fellow as a member of "Visiting Faculty":
[name deleted out of disgust] is a North American [semantic abuse of hallowed term] and cartoonist whose work has appeared in various [printed aggregations of likeminded individuals] and his own self-published comics. In 20xx, he produced his first [pretentious descriptive terminology] experimental narrative [deleted due to obsequiousness, ditto, and founded the ditto], in [southern university town]. His comic strip, [deleted due to taste issues] appeared in [southern university town] alternative arts newsweekly, [name similar to Harvey Danger novelty hit], from [20xx-20xx]. His work has also appeared in the [printed aggregations of likeminded individuals] [deleted], [deleted] and the upcoming [deleted]. He is the recipient of the [20xx-20xx] Fellowship [of the Ring]and is currently at work on his first [oft-derided term for long non-pamphlet comic].
Hey, way to pump up a resume'. A couple of minicomics, an appearance in a friend's anthology, a lot of gladhanding, more than a few free beers shoved in the right palms, some thoroughly nutty drunken screeds on the internet and... now he's qualified to teach some chil'ren.
Oh, and [fine Canadian publisher] is on board with this [unsavory epithet deleted.
It's only a matter of time before [name deleted for unnecessary dig] is named Senior Editor at Pantheon (that's as inside of a joke as imaginable so I don't expect anyone to get it).
Addendum: See what having some "editors" critique one's initial draft can do? I think the new, improved, edited post is much funnier than the original, not particularly funny, post. Don't you? If only they would pore over writing that didn't include casual mentions of their [deleted]'s in it. Ah well.
There: All better now kiddies (smiley faces all!)
OKKO: The Cycle of Water
Newly collected from Archaia (112-pgs, $19.95) is Okko by the French animation artist Hub (real name Humbert Chabuel). I haven't read it and thus am not reviewing it, only giving it mention because the art is quite attractive in a slick European/anime way. Booklist compares Hub to Moebius and Eisner.
And it seems like it's been quite awhile since this sort of appealing European-based fantasy art has surfaced on American shores (typically Heavy Metal magazine is the warehouse for much overwrought, often ugly, but often technically proficient in the extreme Euro-art; while NBM does repackage some of the finer stuff like Mattotti and Christophe Blain.
Anyway at a glance OKKO might not look out of place in something like the Flight anthology or Digital Manga Publishing's discontinued Robot anthologies (featuring Japanese artists also on this level of proficiency).
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
2008; End of a space odyssey
Oddly enough I was just mentioning to a fellow critic (via email) that Jean Jacques Annaud's excellent film Quest For Fire was likely a logical extrapolation on the opening caveman (pawing at the obelisk) scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I thought of Quest simply because it's the best caveman movie ever made and it's research and attempt at realism seemed in direct contrast to the ludicrous (and by all accounts really crummy) new caveman film 10,000 BC.
Anyway, the coincidence is just that we were talking about 2001 and today comes news that the legendary author of the novel that spawned the Stanley Kubrick film, Arthur C. Clarke died at the age of 90.
Just over a month ago, 2001 (and Jaws!) star Roy ("We're gonna need a bigger boat") Scheider died of multiple myeloma.
Goodbye to both.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The Biology of Al Columbia
As enigmatic a cartoonist as has ever worked in the funnybook realm, Al Columbia may actually be on the verge of coming out of his spooky ethereal shell. His website promises a forthcoming collection of all his unpublished works 1993-2007 (something that Paul Gravett genuinely pleaded for in an article for one of TCJ's Special Editions). Plus actual streaming audio of Columbia's music which is immediately likable (something I can't say for his beuatifully repulsive artwork...ahs any artists ever been a better fit for Juxtapose?).
Of course Columbia has made innumerable promises of forthcoming work in the past, everything from series' that never materialized to short pieces for Dirty Stories to a promised cover for none other than The Comics Interpreter. And we won't even discuss Big Numbers (see TCI #3 for the amazing true story from Columbia's POV on that).
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Ten-Cent Plague (free Tamiflu)
The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu
Charles Burns cover (this generation’s Ghastly Ingels).
Most comics fans of a certain age are all too aware of the whole Fred Wertham Seduction of the Innocent debacle and the Senate hearings about comics’ corrupting influence and all that shit that led to EC Comics demise and the Comics Code.. Maybe Hajdu has fresh and genuinely interesting insight, but at the moment it doesn’t sound of much interest to anyone but laymen. Watch loveable Mad publisher and former McCarthy whipping boy, William Gaines on To Tell The Truth.
Dan Raeburn reviews the book for Mother Jones.
Maps Legends Nazi's French Fashion and a Pulitzer Prize Winner
In his new book Maps & Legends Michael Chabon discusses his love of comics including Howard Chaykin's American Flagg “the sex-driven, space-travelng, Jean-Paul Gaultier-by-way-of-Albert-Speer-freak-o-rama that was to be life in 2031.” That sounds entertaining enough for anyone who vaguely remembers Chaykin's sexed-up, bondage-heavy, politicized futurescape featuring a talking cat named Raul, and indeed some very puffy shirts.
Publisher's weekly is uncharacteristically critical of the author and the book:
You would hardly think, reading Chabon's new book of essays, that he won the Pulitzer Prize for a book about comics. Rather, he is bitter and defensive about his love for genre fiction such as mysteries and comic books. Serious writers, he says, cannot venture into these genres without losing credibility.It's hard to imagine the audience for this book. Chabon seems to want to debate English professors, but surely only his fellow comic-book lovers will be interested in his tirade.
(is that a Jordan Crane cover?)
A Little Golgo for Gore: Here's Your hanging chad, Gee Dub
Entertainment Weekly lists Golgo 13 Volume 13 as one of the top ten selling graphic novels’s at Comix Experience in San Francisco. The collection reportedly includes one story where Golgo tries to solve the Florida ballot-counting problem in the 2000 Presidential election (hint: the solution involves a sniper). Amazing.
For the funniest review of this unintentionally funny gekiga stalwart (aka Golgo 13) by all means listen and laugh along with Daryl Surat's review on the Anime World Order podcast (the review kicks in around the 30-minute mark).
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Food Fight short film
I'm not usually one to play any part in gimmicky viral videos and I don't like people playing wit their food, but Food Fight is as clever an "animated" short as you're likely to see. Clicka the linka and enjoy the next five minutes of world (war) history.
Food Fight is an abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. Watch as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination in this chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Hugs and Kisses: From James Jean
James Jean is utterly stricken by Midas Touch. Everything he draws sells for thousands, Prada wants him, major magazines want him, comics publishers want him, and inevitably the big book publishers have come calling.
Chronicle Books blog
Okay, so this is some pre-buzz buzz.
Later this summer, we’ll be releasing the XOXO: Hugs and Kisses postcard book of James Jean illustrations. Fans of Yoshimoto Nara, Jordan Crane, and Ai Yamuguchi, as well as existing collectors of James’ work, are going to L-O-V-E these whimsically dark, otherworldly postcards. Here’s a preview of what’s coming!
Lately I've seen interviews with James in every imaginable art magaize from High Fructose to Theme to the UK's IMagineFX. But it was still The Comics Interpreter that did the first, and most extensive print interview with JJ, just before he blew up large.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Watchmen Film images materialize
I don't geek out about much (except perhaps a new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film or new seasons of No Reservations, and then not really about those either) so I'm not geeking out about Watchmen...BUT be it a masterpiece or catastrophe or most likely something flawed but entertaining that falls in between, it will be fascinating to see how this translates to film. Alan Moore has of course refused to be in any way associated with the film and one wonders what arcane powers Moore truly possesses to allow him the total void of curiosity needed to never see a film based on his most famous work. On the other (more reasonable) hand is Dave Gibbons who is not only cooperating with the filmmakers, but has thus far been noticeably impressed with the level of detail and respect given to the original work. Certainly, regardless of what anyone thinks of Zack Snyder's work on Frank Miller's 300 (I for one found it big, dumb, and entertaining) it is completely, excessively faithful to Miller's comic right down to framing scenes that look exactly like panels from Miller's work.
Anyway, here are the first photos from the Watchmen film, and they've done about as respectable a job as possible with the outrageous costumes (see Michael Chabon's spot-on ruminations of comics costuming in the latest issue of The New Yorker to get to the root of why such costumes can never match their comics originals).
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Chabon on capes and cowls
Awesomely strange interview show (TV Party) with a very lucid and intelligent Jean Michel Basquiat and rock journalist Glenn O'Brien and a bunch of weirdo callers who say idiotic things like JMB has "beautiful eyes" and ask O'Brien what his astrological sign is and if he can take his shirt off in between blasts of screeching feedback. Basquiat sadly doesn't get to say much in the midst of the deluge of idiots.
Far better is this piece with Basquiat and Warhol (the volume is a bit low though).
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Fuck it, we're a music blog!
Speaking of The Gurus this is their best song Bittersweet (among many many gems). Sure they're not pretty, if they had been they'd probably have been massive, but their songs were as as sexy as Marion Cotillard in a fish scale dress.
The Pillows have a new record out, Wake Up Dodo and it's a pleasant surprise to find it on iTunes .
I came to The Pillows like most American fans thanks to the anime insanity of FLCL (Fooly Cooly) which not only featured the shimmering J-Rock of "Ride On Shooting Star" as it's theme song, but also featured Pillows songs throughout the series.
Anyway while less eccentric than say Cibo Matto (another favorite group of mine), The Pillows are similarly deeply rooted in western rock but with ample shards of Japanese quirks that make the band fresh even a their most derivative. As for Wake Up Dodo, it's fairly straightforward pop-punk that for lack of a better description is a melodic hybrid of Ramones and Beach Boys. So let's split the difference and say they're sort of a Japanese Hoodoo Gurus. It helps that they are also obviously influenced by The Pixies (and really there is no better musical influence than that) and even have a song in their archive titles simply "Kim Deal" with appropriate swaths of juicy bass.
PS. The links to Ride On Shooting Star, and "Hoodoo Gurus" above both take you to delicious Youtube videos of the song or band in question (in the Gurus case it's for "What's My Scene." God you gotta love YouTube. No matter all the stupid videos it is a mindboggling archive for everything imaginable including videos, and shows you thought you'd never see again.)
They didn't write much of a story here
but it's interesting that a guy did a comic about North Korea. This is essentially another "hey comics aren't just for kids!" piece but with the slight spin that "Hey comics actually can do journalism and news." Anyway to all my readers in Pyongyang, this one's for you.