Wednesday, December 23, 2009

James Jean rockin' the "skin conch"

Skin conch, eh? 1) JJ's hair has gotten long 2) Dave Choe is back as a bleached blonde 3) That looks like Goh Nakamura in the background of the first segment? 4) Harry Kim mackin' on a babe in the background of the 2nd segment?
5) That Korg vocoder groove was awesome...he should be doing the music for Verizon's Droid.

Monday, November 2, 2009

R. CRUMB on Talk of The Nation

R. Crumb talked with NPR's excellent Neal Conan on Talk of The Nation.

Crumb spoke about the challenges of adapting the 50 chapters of Genesis in panels and drawings. Crumb found his way into all of the sex and violence of the story, and The Book of Genesis Illustrated features a warning on the cover, recommending adult supervision for minors.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paul Theroux: "Comics spell the end...perhaps of writing itself."

Paul Theroux is an excellent writer and I very much enjoyed his collection of short pieces in the recent Atlantic Monthly Fiction Issue, but...the man really truly genuinely doesn't understand or respect the comics medium in the same egregiously stupid way that so many authors, intellectuals and numbskull "critics" have trashed the medium in the past. The following is an excerpt from Theroux's latest non-fiction book, that is as seething an indictment of comics and its readers (and Japanese culture) as you're likely to find.


Chapter 28
Night Train To Hokkaido

I had seen Japanese comics books on my Railway Bazaar trip and was mildly shocked by them, especially in their images of crepitation and vomiting and preposterous sex acts. The singular depictions of farting and puking set them apart in my reading experience. I was reflecting on this in an internet café when I saw a man across the aisle wearily turning the pages of a thick magazine that was mainly comics, not one strip but a whole cartoon novel.

These comics were a greater elaboration of Japanese life than I had seen before, not going deeper but sprawling, producing a glut of superficiality. By contrast, the bookstores were not well stocked. Manga and the graphic novel seemed to represent a dumb, defiant anti-intellectualism, though there were plenty of people who argued that they were art on a par with ukiyo-e. But however well drawn, modern manga were banal or silly or sheer fantasy, hastily and crudely drawn compared with the work of the great printmakers. I found Hokusai’s erotic prints much more powerful, indeed sexier, than these ludicrous comics.

[At the internet café] many of the users were merely sitting in a plump cushioned armchair reading one of the fat comics books. But “comics books” did not do them justice. They appeared in multi-issue sequences, like Victorian magazines Household Worlds or All The Year Round, which printed David Copperfield in installments over many months. Nana was one of these--not the Zola novel but thirty-five issues of a Japanese cartoon character and her picaresque and often sexual adventures. Other narratives concerned tough guys, schoolkids, gang-bangers, mobsters, adventurers, sports, fashion, motor racing, and of course hard-core porno--rape, strangulation, abduction. Even with declining sales, from a peak of $5 billion a year, graphic novels in some form are probably the future of popular literature. --increasingly they are being downloaded to cell phones. Purely pictorial pleasure, undemanding, without an idea or a challenge, yet obviously stimulating, a sugar high like junk food, another softener of the brain; they spell the end of the traditional novel, perhaps the end of writing itself.

In a fascinating sidenote Theroux's older brother Alexander Theroux published his 2007 novel Laura Warholic through American comic book publisher Fantagraphics.
At the time Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth (forever desperate to get some respect outside of his microscopic corner of an oft-disrespected medium) said getting a novelist of Theroux's stature was his dream come true. "Literary fiction inspired the kind of comics we publish here and I've wanted to publish literary fiction myself for the last 15 years or so. It's been a kind of quixotic goal to find the prose equivalent of our comics." Also worth pointing out that much of what Paul Theroux disdains in manga--farting, puking, crepitation--are the very lifeblood of Fantagraphics stalwarts like Johnny Ryan.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Billy K. In PRINT

Congrats to Bill Kartalopoulos (I probably misspelled that, but it looks kinda right) formerly of the loved-but-short-lived Egon and I think Indy mag online as well. Anyway, I just happened to notice a little blurb in the fine design rag PRINT magazine that Bill K. had been named a Contributing Editor (which sounds pretty fancy). Print does include a fair amount of comics coverage with short pieces y the likes of Douglas Wolk; and perhaps Bill will only enhance that trend?

Rachel Maddow Sacco Fallon Kubert Sarajevo

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (I think it's two "d's" but who cares) was on Jimmy Fallon (sure it's two "L's") Monday Night (that would be Sept. 1st) and when asked what she did over her vacation she said she had been reading comic books about Palestine and Sarajevo. Fallon looked taken aback (how could these possibly be topics for comic books?) and unfortunately Maddow didn't give Joe Sacco props (unlikely she was also reading Joe Kubert's version, but you never know).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good comics stuff in good magazines

There was a preview of R. Crumb's forthcoming straight retelling of The Book of Genesis in the recent New Yorker Summer Fiction Issue. Intro to the piece by Francoise Mouly (New Yorker cover by Clowes).

Excellent interview with Gary Panter in the latest issue of The Believer (and already online in its entirety here), with illos as always by Charles Burns. Usually this mag sits untouched on the shelves but for some reason this one sold out rather quickly.

A literary agents roundtable in Poets & Writers glumly agrees that only 100 novelists make a living in the US solely writing books. So let's see, that's Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, and um...95 others. The rest are subjected to teaching in MFA programs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Uh Oh, WATCHMEN "embalmed" (early reviews)

So the first Watchmen film review I read was from New York magazine
and this afternoon NPR took a crack at it as well. Both reviewers seem to agree that the film is actually hampered as a result of staying too true to Moore/Gibbon's comics and the comic medium itself. Whereas Moore pushed the limits of the comic medium in creating Watchmen, Director Zack Snyder has crippled elements of the film medium to create a film (a la 300) that closely echoes the comic not only in story and tone but in the devices in which the story is told (something Alan Moore himself warned would happen).

NPR's snarky reviewer claims Malin Ackerman looks like she stepped out of a "shampoo commercial" and complains that Snyder is still telling the backstories of lead characters past the 2-hour mark of the film. Ultimately he decides Watchmen is weighted down by it's reverence to the source material and Snyder's pacing.

NY mag's David Edelstein seems to begrudgingly enjoy the bombastic elements but concludes that Watchmen arrives to the screen dead on arrival. He writes: "It is, at least, an awe-inspiring corpse: huge, noisy, gaseously distended in it's own dystopia." (sounds like Edelstein was reading "Tales of The Black Freighter" just prior to his review).

Edelstein declares the film " the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed."

Now despite these first few gloomy salvos (some of which simply seem to be a mix of comic book movie backlash and tenors established by Moore's refusal to be associated with the film), I suspect that comic fans will still love Watchmen the movie, and my hope is simply to be entertained.

I'll be going to the midnight screening in a few hours to find out for myself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jackson Pollock: He'd have a happier birthday if he wasn't dead

Google has informed me that today is Jackson Pollock's birthday. You will now watch this Spanish language piece on Pollock doing some action painting. There's some beautiful work here. You think you can easily duplicate it...but you cannot!

Swindle & Dash

Nope this isn't the issue in question with the fly Barry Twist McGee cover.
The actual issue has a nice Mike Giant cover instead

While I'm at this... I never think of Dash Shaw having a clearly identifiable style since his approach seems to change to suit whatever the given project and his projects certainly differ dramatically. But, in flipping through the latest issue of Swindle magazine I immediately recognized a two page comic as being one of Dash's before seeing his name. It's a typically cryptic piece called "The Passion of Dracula." Let's just say the parasitic icon is having an identity crisis and doesn't even seem to grasp the nature of his undeadness so to speak. (I'd post a relevant image but I'm the publisher without a compatible scanner).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fairey Godfather: Barack has a posse

Shepard Fairey
was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air about his ubiquitous Obama Hope posters that became the defining image of the presidential campaign. As everyone knows Fairey made his name illegally bombing and tagging public property and has been arrested many times (was he even able to vote in the election?), so it's ironic that all these years later he's created the iconic image of a campaign and was officially embraced by Obama who sent him a letter of thanks. And the original image has now been acquired by the Smithsonian. (in your face coppers!)

David Rees Retires GYWO

In more political art news: The latest issue of Rolling Stone (w/ Springsteen on the cover, I know it seems like that's every issue) features the very last Get Your War On strip by David Rees. About five years ago before Dubya was somehow reelected Rees told me in his Comics Interpreter interview that the strip would end if John Kerry won and his mission would be completed. Sadly that scenario didn't take place and thus another four years of GYWO which was probably a bit much. Still Rees, perhaps like a lot of political comedians, will miss Bush if only because the only Americans who thrived during the Bush years were professional pundits.