Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Monthly Stumblings # 15: John Porcellino

“Christmas Eve” by John Porcellino in King-Cat Comics & Stories # 72

John Porcellino’s mini-comic series King-Cat Comics & Stories is approaching issue # 75. At the current pace it probably will reach that unusual landmark, in the world of zines, in time to celebrate 25 years of continuous publication.
When it started, in 1989, John Porcellino was an art student attending Northern Illinois University. He graduated, but, in his own words in an interview with Zak Sally (The Comics Journal # 241, February 2002, 49):
[…]making paintings involves a lot of stuff I don’t want to be involved with. In order to have that process, you’re dependent on all these other people and institutions[…]
To tell you the truth, I’ve been there too so, I empathize with someone who stopped painting. Like John Porcellino, though, I can’t fully understand why I stopped either. Here’s what he has to say in the next page of the aforementioned interview:
[…]I was a crazy painter, I loved painting. I loved art. And, at some point I just panicked or freaked out or something. I started tearing it all down instead of putting it together. I still wonder about what happened and what was I afraid of.
Artists with poor social skills tend to avoid competition. They may also view the art market as a morally corrupt place eager for them to sell-out. Anyway, what’s interesting is that the rarefied world of self-published comics was, for John Porcellino, an affirmation of integrity, a cry of freedom and a sign of a life style (an attitude), more than anything else: “Drawing your own comic and putting it together in this day and age really is a revolutionary act” (John P. dixit).
I can’t remember when my eyes crossed a Porcellino drawing, but I’m quite sure that his apparent art training and the complete lack of mainstream comics tropes in his work attracted me immediately. John P. cites many influences: the Chicago 60s funk art scene (the Hairy Who group with Jim Nutt et al), post-punk music (Husker Dü, whose song Perfect Example gave John’s first graphic novel its title, etc…). On the comics side of things John Porcellino cites Lynda Barry, Matt Groening, Gary Panter, and a few Fantagraphics publications, but, above all, because of the self-publishing and DIY total control involved, Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte (the zine, not the comic).


Well Wread Whead by Jim Nutt, 1967.

John Porcellino’s minimalist art style is a reason for some incomprehension. This is understandable because the comics subculture is incredibly conservative vis-à-vis art styles. Being anti-intellectual it doesn’t accept concepts behind the visual style. John P. felt this and justified himself in a two-pager published in King-Cat # 21 (September 1991): “Well Drawn Funnies # Ø.”


John Porcellino justifies himself in King-Cat # 21.

In an interview with Jeff LeVine (Destroy All Comics # 3, August 1995, 6) Porcellino said that his art style was a conscious choice aimed at a straight-forward, easy to understand, simple, reading. He also characterized his art as populist distancing himself from the high art market. There are two mistakes in the above statements: the first one Porcellino corrected quite humorously in the Sally interview (64) when he said: “People do not say, “Oh, I can’t figure this out, it’s got shading!””; the second mistake is the fact that Porcellino’s art is not populist, on the contrary (his assumption that the average Joe, Porcellino’s words, prefers simpler drawings is completely wrong: most people are more easily attracted by naturalistic, detailed, art showing a display of technique proficiency than to simple, if elegant, drawings).  Because that’s what John Porcellino’s best drawings are: well balanced compositions where graphic patterns (leaves, grass, the asphalt) play a slow rhythm. There’s a low-key sweet, quiet,  melancholic visual music playing in Porcellino’s backgrounds. As he put it, better than I ever could, it’s: “A really simple grace.” A Schulzian ode to suburbia…
John P.’s art style is a delicate balance. So delicate that it stops working (or stops fully working) if some of the components disappears: the supra-mentioned patterns;  the childish descriptive geometry like perspective; the cartoonish, very simple, characters; the transparency given to the drawings by the negative space; the continuous thin lines that always maintain the same width.


Page from “In Walked Bud,” King-Kat Comics and Stories # 50, May 1996.

In the above page, for example, the simple fact that the width of the lines changes changed everything. In my humble opinion these are no longer great Porcellino drawings. On the other hand, the addition of color on the cover below (the use of colored pencils is a smart move on Porcellino’s part because it’s in accordance with the childish perspective) adds a lot to the Porcellino feel of the image.

A German anthology of Porcellino’s comics, September 1998.

The first thirty issues of King-Cat are heavily indebted to Punk aesthetics, but the story “October” in King-Cat # 30, changed it all. According to Porcellino, again (51):
There was a real sensibility shift there… before that story, King-Cat was a little goofier, more of a catch-all, here’s-what-I’m-up-to kind of thing. That strip really marked a shift from the more spontaneous work to a more reflective style of looking back at my life. I remember thinking when I did that story that it was different, in a way that I liked. The mood of that strip was very true. To me. My mentality changed with that strip, about comics and what I could do with them…

Porcellino’s Punk phase: King-Cat Classix Vol. 1, 1990.


The poetic, quiet, ending of “October” as published in King-Cat Classix Vol. 3, September 1994 (originally published in 1991).

Zen Buddhism entered the picture at some point improving Porcellino’s stories immensely. From then on his little vignettes are like haikus. Tom Gill was kind enough to answer a question of mine about the Zen Buddhist concept of evaporation related to the work of Yoshiharu Tsuge. To quote him:
Evaporation, or jôhatsu in Japanese, is an important cultural trope in Japan. Certainly it relates to the Zen Buddhist idealization of “nothingness” (mu) […]. To disappear, to become nothing: that is the dream of Zen thinkers. In Tsuge’s works, (1) death, (2) escape, (3) enlightenment, (4) laziness/irresponsibility, are intertwined concepts. To evaporate is to die, to escape from responsibility, to disappear to a perhaps more enlightened elsewhere. As well as the philosophical/religious aspect of this metaphor there is also a political/sociological one. Tsuge’s semi-autobiographical heroes reject the materialism of mainstream society, or simply cannot relate to it. To be lazy, to refuse/fail to conform to the socially sanctioned image of the “salaryman” is a kind of statement, aligning one with a romantic, escapist, world-renouncing strand in Japanese culture.
All of the above could be said about the political implications of John Porcellino’s mini-comics run, but it fits like a glove to his story “Christmas Eve” published in King-Cat Comics and Stories # 72. I’ll end this post with the comparison below. As Tsuge put it (in an interview with Susumu Gondô, 1993):
[I travel] not only to get free from daily life, [the point of travel for me] is also in the relationship with nature to become oneself a point in the landscape.
Adding pantheism to the mix it’s difficult to find two more kindred spirits.


 Panel from “Christmas Eve,” King Cat Comics and Stories # 72, November 2011.


Illustration by Yoshiharu Tsuge as published in a special volume of his complete works, 1994.

Are You Listening Monsieur Le Clézio?

A few months ago I posted the following text on this blog:
One Of The Thinks That I Hate The Most...
Well, I'm being shallow, obviously, but keep in mind that I'm saying the following in the context of this blog and this blog only. There are LOTS of things to be REAL mad about in this world which don't involve comics: blockbuster films, for instance... Kidding!...

Anyway, here's the thing (and I've never seen or heard, or seen and heard at the same time, anyone saying this, so, prepare yourselves for a first!): I hate it when a television show, or a Podcast, or whatever mass media you can think of, invites an intellectual celebrity (a famous writer or philosopher, or academic, or critic, you get the gist...) to a show about comics and he (it's usually a he, because, you know... girls don't read comics) says comics are marvelous, etc... because, he liked reading comics soooo much when he was a child.

It's très chic to like what the ignoramuses like, you know? Deep down he thinks comics are crap, but the show is inexorably settled and it, as usual, must go on...

Maybe more than saying inanities about comics (how could it be otherwise if they didn't pick up a comic in decades?) what bothers me the most is the condescension. His highness deigned to descend from his high horse and visit the populace. What I have to say to him is "put your crappy childish comics where they belong: namely, up your ass!".
So, lo´ and behold, here's what Didier Pasamonik has to say about what Jean-Marie Le Clézio wrote in Le Débat magazine # 195 (March, 2017).
Le clou du numéro est quand même ce (très court) texte de Jean-Marie Le Clézio qui clame son amour pour Willy Vandersteen, Jacques Laudy et Bob De Moor, ce qui est quand même un peu bluffant, même s’il le partage avec celui pour le «  Luc Orient de Raymond Reding » [Sic], et puis bien sûr pour Hergé, Franquin, Jacobs...
En toute liberté, il ajoute : « … je n’éprouve pas beaucoup d’intérêt pour ce que l’on appelle actuellement la BD pour adultes. »
In other words: monsieur Le Clézio aime de la merde. Imagine the Nobel Prize laureate saying something like: literature? I just like Enid Blyton and  J. K. Rowling, I have no interest for Marcel Proust and Tchekov...

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ética e Estética - Coda

É curioso que aqui se indique um quarto regime ranciérien: o tournant éthique.É aí que me situo, mas ontem ainda não o sabia...

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ética e Estética



Afetos À Sargeta, O Entre-Lugar do Texto e da Imagem [Affects at the gutter: the between place of text and image], Alexandre Linck Vargas, 2015.

Tremo só de ler o meu nome tão próximo do de David Carrier (ver abaixo; o forum referido no final foi o Comics Journal Messboard). Mas não é por isso que escrevo este post. Pelo contrário, não podia achar David Carrier menos interessante e hoje nem me preocuparia em escrever uma frase sequer sobre ele (o texto abaixo existe há muito...). O objectivo deste post é esclarecer o autor da citação acima.

Em primeiro lugar, vejamos o contexto em que a citação surge: trata-se de um excerto "entalado" numa enumeração dos "três regimes da arte" de Jacques Rancière. A saber, ético, mimético e estético. Para além dos títulos não vou explicar mais nada (remeto os interessados para a Internet, suponho...), mas se Alexandre Linck Vargas me filiou no segundo, enganou-se redondamente porque preconizo o primeiro em primeiro lugar, e o segundo em segundo (o terceiro não me interessa minimamente; nisso sou, indubitavelmente, filho do pós-modernismo). Senão vejamos: os artistas que citei não foram escolhidos ao acaso: Callot, Goya e Picasso fizeram obras em que denunciaram os horrores da guerra (idem Otto Dix) e Hokusai registou o mundo na sua variedade proteica. Até no ponto 2 (gravuras de Jacques Callot a Eric Drooker) se pressupõe a visão social e poética do próprio Drooker, mas também a de Frans Masereel.

Ou seja, considero mais importante o que se diz do que a forma como se diz... com a ressalva de que o "como" é inextricável "do que". A forma é conteúdo e vice-versa, ética e estética são as duas páginas da mesma folha e, como tal, são inseparáveis.

Quanto a reactivar as escalas que produzem a baixa e a alta cultura, claro que sim. Com a ressalva de que há quadros e romances que são baixa cultura e banda desenhada que é alta cultura.

__________________________________


How is The Aesthetics of Comics by David Carrier an awful book?

Let me count the ways:

1 - The unacceptable amateurish cover (it's unbelivable how incompetent the shading is). Even worst is the use (on said cover) of one of the author's photos (depicting him aged 8 according to the list of illustrations, aged 10 according to the back cover!). A book about the aesthetics of comics has a children on its cover! That's just what this artform needs: yet another statement saying that comics are for kids!

2 - From the Introduction: "This book is the first by an analytic philosopher to identify and solve the aesthetic problems posed by comic strips". SOLVE? Did he say SOLVE? According to this statement all previous books about this theme let this problem unsolved, so, here comes the great analytic pholosopher and BAM!, he solves it.
And what pray tell did he solve? Good question! The master sez that comics only exist when: a) there are speech balloons; b) closely linked images (no big narrative gaps between them); c) these images are not very big allowing us a personal reading of them (unlike film and painting which are viewed in public places).
I say that he's wrong: a comic is still a comic even if it is 20 stories high. Languages don't change that way. If I write a huge phrase in English on the wall it doesn't stop being English, does it? Plus: I say that comics don't need the speech balloon (I'm not claiming that I'm right - unlike David Carrier I'm not an essentialist - but he isn't either because no god ex machina came from above supporting either opinion). Recently I read Destiny by Otto Nückel. The images are not that close (the images aren't even juxtaposed), but I see no reason not to integrate this novel in comics history.
As I see it David Carrier solved absolutely nothing.

3 - He talks mainly about caricature (saying this amazing thing on page 22: "Finding Baudelaire's odd antitheology absurd, it seemed a waste of time to analyse his argumentation" - it makes me wonder why do I bother to even comment Carrier's absurd theories about comics). My question is: what do comics, as a language and an art form, have to do with caricature?

4 - Carrier says that unlike painting comics don't need a specialized knowledge in order to be understood. Well, just a few minutes ago I looked at a Finnish comic. Needless to say that I couldn't understand a thing.
No, seriously: he says that Mondrian could lead a marginal life (hence: he could be obscure in his work) while a comic artist needs the public. Really? Tell that to alternative comics artists!
Plus: a) we all know people that simply can't read comics; b) most comics readers can't understand Martin tom Dieck's work (Martin who?).

5 - To support his theory he says that no one wrote a book lenght analysis of any comic like the one Marilyn Lavin did for Piero della Francesca's Legend of the True Cross. With the world full of theorists like him he's obviously right. No one did and no one ever will.

6 - (And worst of all) Carrier cheats: when he claims that comics are a posthistorical art form (it doesn't evolve technically; Maus and City of Glass just add new content without being technically innovative) he gives contrary examples of technically innovative art movements: cubism, surrealism, various forms of realism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, and pop art. Most of the artists who embraced the above mentioned styles used oil painting, a technique introduced in Flemish painting in the 15th century! The real technical innovations were Picasso's collages, Pollock's use of sticks instead of brushes, and various mixed media (to follow Carrier: what most of the 20th century painters really did was to add new content to the history of painting). Now comics: even Jack Kirby used collage! Dave McKean used computer generated images, Alex Barbier used paintings and Anke Feuchtenberger just pencils, Druillet blew the page layout up, Moebius did the same with the narrative sequence, etc... etc... etc...

7 - David Carrier is the 3.675 th theorist since Hegel to say that art is dead. I'm really not in the mood to discuss that.
He supports Lessing's dichotomy of arts of space and arts of time. Just when I thought that said theory was dead and buried.

8 - This one goes to Ernst Gombrich (quoted by Barrier on page 69): "What I find very interesting is that so many half literate or illiterate can read the comics because they are combined with images. This combination is apparently much easier than either only images or only texts".
What a load of crap!! What images is he talking about? What novels is he talking about? What comics? Who are the readers and viewers? To most people Atak is surely more difficult than Danielle Steel; Fabrice Neaud more complex than Norman Rockwell.

He says a few interesting things, none about comics though. I said it on this forum before reading the book and I'll repeat it now that I suffered through it: David Carrier knows nothing about comics.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Monthly Stumblings # 14: Tim Gaze

100 Scenes, a graphic novel by Tim Gaze

With Tim's permission: to Antoni Tàpies in memoriam...

Comics writer and historian Alfredo Castelli said that, even if, for the best of his knowledge, the first newspaper Sunday Comic Section in the U.S.A. to regularly adopt  the title "Comics" in short was published by the St Louis Globe Democrat in 1902, the word "comics" was well established to refer to the art form by the 1910s only. I don't know who, at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century (I suppose) first applied the already existing word "comics" to fulfil this new function...
On the other hand German art historian Wilhelm Worringer used the already existing word "abstraction" to apply it to the visual arts in the title of his book Abstraktion und Einfühlung (Abstraction and Empathy), published in 1908. The concept predated the actual invention of abstract high art by some Russian painter (probably Wassily Kandinsky, but Mikhail Larionov is also a possibility - and how about Kasimir Malevich and Czech painter František Kupka?).
I'm saying the above because I joined the two concepts and coined the expression "abstract comics" (I wouldn't be surprised if someone in the below comments proves me wrong though...). Andrei Molotiu reminisces:
I first began thinking of abstract comics as a concrete possibility during a discussion with Domingos Isabelinho on the TCJ board in the summer of 2002, on a thread with the rather awkward title, "Is there a Hemingway or Faulkner of comics?"-- or something of the kind.
I don't remember any of this to tell you the truth. In fact, I didn't pay any attention to my "discovery" (so much so that I saved a few TCJ's messboard threads, but not this one). Abstract art was, to me, such a natural thing that I mentioned abstract comics without giving it a second thought. Here's the only thing that I remember (or misremember, but I hope not...): at some point in the thread the two possible readings of a comics page came about. It's possible that I mentioned French comics scholar Pierre-Fresnault Deruelle and "his" theory of the linear (a vectorial succession of panels - what I call "a reading") and the tabular (the page as a random visual whole - what I call "roaming"). (I didn't know it at the time, but said analysis is not by Deruelle who published it in 1976. Said theory's author is Gérard Genette who published it in 1972 - he called the former a "successive or diachronic reading" and the latter a "global and synchronic look[.]") to illustrate these two readings I posted the image below by Lettrist writer, filmmaker and draftsman, Isidore Isou:


Isidore Isou, 1964.

I said at the time that the page could be read/viewed in two ways: (1) as a drawing (the global look), (2) as an abstract comic (the successive reading). (I don't remember my exact words back then, but I don't want to imply now that the former isn't part of a comics reading proper.) Anyway, this took too much space already and, in the doubtful chance that you, dear readers, are still interested, too much of your patience and time. Sorry for the self-indulgence!...
Contrariwise to what happened with Wilhelm Worringer the expression "abstract comics" didn't predate abstract comics. Looking back we may found many examples in other fields. The one below is by Portuguese visual poet Abílio:


"Humor" by Abílio, 1972.

My favorite example comes from the comics field though. I mean the following example from Cuba:


The Amorphous and Disheartening of Vacuous Dialog by Chago Armada, 1968.

One of the roots of abstract art is Symbolism, the Gauguin inspired Nabis especially as we can see below:

The Talisman, the Aven River at the Bois d'Amour by Paul Sérusier, 1888.

It was fellow Sérusier Nabi painter Maurice Denis who said:
Remember that a painting, before being a battle horse, a nude woman or any anecdote, is essentially a plane surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.
Kandinsky's abstract art was born in an atmosphere similar to the Pont Aven one, in Munich this time. I mean the Blaue Reiter (the blue rider) lyrical Expressionist group, of course. Around 1912, when his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art was published, Kandinsky was interested in Theosophy and Symbolism (he admired Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck). In fact, when he seemed to be occupied mainly by formal problems he stressed the importance of his work's content (1925):
I would really like the spectators to go beyond the fact that I chose triangles and circles. I would like them to see what's behind my paintings because that's the only thing that interests me. I always viewed the problems of form as secondary... I know that the future belongs to abstract art and I'm dismayed when other abstract painters don't go any further than form...

First Abstract Watercolor by Wassily Kandinsky, 1910.
 Other wings of abstract art starting with Malevich and the Constructivists will be more formalist, but we'll have to jump a few years in order to arrive at Tim Gaze's book 100 Scenes, a graphic novel. Before leaving Kandinsky, for now, I want to stress what's in common between the two: they both had/have an interest in music (in Tim's case it's Dubstep). Following Lithuanian painter and musician Mikalojus Ciurlionis, Kandinsky believed in a synesthetic relation between colors and sounds (1912):
Yellow is disquieting to the spectator, pricking him, revealing the nature of the power expressed in this color, which has an effect on our sensibilities at once impudent and importunate. This property of yellow affects us like the shrill sound of a trumpet played louder and louder, or the sound of a high pitched fanfare. Black has an inner sound of an eternal silence without future, without hope. Black is externally the most toneless color, against which all other colors sound stronger and more precise.
It's easy to know where Tim Gaze is coming from because he tells us so in his Notes. He cites three main references: Andrei Molotiu's abstract comics and "ground-breaking volume Abstract Comics: The Anthology (2009)[;]" Surrealist art and techniques (collage books and decalcomania paintings by Max Ernst); Henri Michaux's Tachiste (Pierre Guéguen, 1954) sequential work. One may say that, briefly, Surrealists and Tachists (Informal Art, Art Autre - Art of Another Kind -, as Michel Tapié put it in 1951, 52) advocated a spontaneous, irrational, kind of art. Both groups were fascinated by drug use, magic, popular art and, sorry for using an expression that I don't like much, outsider art (Jean Dubuffet's Art Brut)... Informal artists are the European equivalent of the Abstract Expressionists in the U.S.A..


100 Scenes, A graphic Novel by Tim Gaze, 2010. 

Tim Gaze says that his graphic novel "touches upon two emerging areas: abstract comics [...]  and asemic writing." I'm with Kandinsky when he said that "[t]here is no form, there is nothing in the world which says nothing." Writing may be asemic as writing, but a sign is a visual entity signifying with visual means (as Tim put it: "[t]hese areas transcend languages, and offer the possibility of inter-cultural communication without words." (Just like music, right?...) As Tim puts it, polysemy is high in his book:
This is an open novel, for you to project your mind into.
Every page is a stimulating field for your imagination.
So, there's no predetermined meaning here, entropy is at its fullest, we have achieved maximum energy.
We may start with the cover of 100 Scenes above. I asked Tim if the book had anything to do with Katshushika Hokusai's One hundred views of Mt. Fuji. He answered me that "only the title has any connotation of Hokusai." So, false clue there, I would say... First of all: is this a novel as the cover claims? How can it be if there are no characters or plot? Isn't the concept of "graphic novel" stretched to the breaking point? I would answer yes to the first question and no to the last one. We don't even need to go further than the cover to understand these answers. There are at least two reasons to explain them:
(1) The cover of a book is what Kandinsky called, the basic plan. Without the title (without the words) the basic plan would be a square (as we can see above). So, it's the book's format that limits the basic plans' choice.
(2) A drawing on a gallery wall (or a comics original panel) has a materiality (white pentimenti, irregular intensities of black, the paper texture, etc...) lacking here. What we have above is an image of an image of an image (a copy of a monoprint): i. e.: in McLuhan's terms the hot drawing cooled down creating a distance that, in Benjaminian terms, provoked the loss of its aura. Hence: there's a movement from the visual arts to literature: the graphic novel...
Having established that we may now answer the second question: the comics people co-opted the word "novel," but graphic novels have their own specificity being nothing like novels.
The drawings in 100 Scenes result from various tensions, then (to use another Kandinskyan word): human made / machine reproduced; line / texture; black / white; positive space / negative space; centered / decentered; stillness (the basic plane) / movement (the drawings); chaos / order; regular rhythms / irregular shapes; etc... From page to page we witness a restless, lively world. It's like a godless theogony (another tension?) in which trial and error coexist. I'm on the verge of denying the abstract nature of this graphic novel, so, I'll stop now...



Page from 100 Scenes: the regular rhythm, the irregular shapes, in ascension.

I'll finish with part of Henri Michaux's postface to Movements, 1951:
Whoever, having perused my signs, is led by my example to create signs himself according to his being and his needs will, unless I am very much mistaken, discover a source of exhilaration, a release such as he has never known, a disencrustation, a new life open to him, a writing unhoped for, affording relief, in which he will be able at last to express himself far from words, words, the words of others.

Page from Movements by Henri Michaux, 1951.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monthly Stumblings # 13: Carl Barks

Walt Disney's Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes" by Carl Barks

The book with the title above is the first (the seventh, according to editor and publisher, Gary Groth) of a new Carl Barks Library published by Fantagraphics (the first CBL was published by Another Rainbow). There are a few differences between the two: CBL 1 was published in 30 handsomely made volumes encased in 10 slipcases - CBL 2 will probably also be 30 volumes, but with a more comic booky look (i. e. smaller); color wasn't completely absent from CBL 1, but it was way above 90 % b & w - not so CBL 2 which will be in color. That last aspect occupied most of the pre-publication discussions about the project on the www. We all know how bad the coloring of the classics has been until recently, but new printing technologies solved said problem. The only obstacle to a good coloring in comics reprints these days is the absolute disrespect for both the material and the readers that most comics publishers always showed. Not so Fanta, right? Well... yes and no...
Only a fool could think that in a colored drawing the color isn't part of the art. So, how come that we can continue to say that a drawing is by Carl Barks alone when it was colored by someone else? The fact is that we can't and that's all good and dandy if the colorist is the original one because those were the creators of said drawing even if we have no idea of what the latter's name was. In this reprint we do, don't we?: Rich Tommaso. So, what we're buying isn't really "Lost in the Andes" by Carl Barks... what we're buying is "Lost in the Andes" by Carl Barks and Rich Tommaso.


"Lost in the Andes!" by Carl Barks and an anonymous colorist working at the Western Publishing Production Shop (I can't believe that no one was curious enough to investigate who these colorists were): Four Color # 223, April 1949.


The Same page by Carl Barks and Rich Tommaso, Walt Disney's Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes," 2011.

When there's no contour line the colors are really the drawing and there're differences between the original and the recolored page. This can be seen above, but it's more clear in "Truant Officer Donald" (Walt Disney Comics and Stories # 100, January 1949). In said story's reprint the shadows in the snow are completely different. Another problem is caused by the absence of the old Ben-Day Dots. Some may think that these were a nuisance, but the dots had a transparency sorely lacking in modern coloring: while the old shadows look like shadows, the new ones look painted on the ground and lack flexibility. Even if mostly true to the original (all the one-pagers were originally published in black and magenta but "Ornaments on the Way" - Four Color # 203 - and "Sleepy Sitters" - Four Color # 223) many of the colors are also too saturated in the reprint version (which is odd because Rich Tommaso said that he toned the colors down), but that's a problem even in Fantagraphics' excellent Prince Valiant reprints.
To be blunt: if kitsch is something pretending to be something else this edition is definitely kitsch, but you know what Abraham Moles said: kitsch is the art of hapiness...
All these problems were avoided in the Popeye series. Why did Fantagraphics proceed differently in their CBL project? Beats me, but I can guess: Fanta wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want to produce a collection both for the serious collector and for children. Well, this serious collector is perfectly happy with CBL 1, thank you!...
Another hint suggesting that I'm right is the time period in Carl Barks' career selected to start this new CBL. Any collector would expect a reprint in chronological order, but no such luck. What we have is a potpourri of longer stories, ten-pagers and one-page gags from December 1948 to August 1949. In this Gary Groth did agree with Barks himself who considered this to be his most and best creative period. Besides he also said that "Lost in the Andes" was his favorite Donald Duck story. I beg to differ: I prefer later, darker, more satirical, Barks, but that's irrelevant, really, because I would start a CBL where most things usually start: at the beginning. Yet another Barksian coincidence re. the commercial part of the enterprise is the quantity of Christmas stories included in a book that was published just before... Christmas. If you can't see the irony of this in a Carl Barks book I gather that you don't know much about his work...
None of this matters much though. The above mentioned potpourri isn't that bad  (I would repeat what was done in CBL 1, but that's just me) and collectors can always put this tome on the shelf in the seventh place.
To favor interested adult readers and smart inquisitive kids each story has a presentation by a comics critic. The critics are very good. Their texts are interpretations of the stories; convey information (I was pleased to learn about American life during the forties reading Jared Gardner's comments), and give us close formalist readings that are brilliant: Donald Ault is particularly good at this (his intro is also great if slightly hagiographic; his analysis of "The Crazy Quiz Show" - originaly published in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories # 99, December 1948 - is an instant classic of comics criticism).
Don't get me wrong , I love Barks. He's one of four or five genre mass media artists that I admire... but... is there really a need to whitewash him? Because that's what we see in the above mentioned comments.  This book has its share of racist imagery and the critics don't hide the fact. The problem is that they make up excuses. Jared Gardner does it commenting "Voodoo Hoodoo" (Four Color # 238, August 1949). To quote him:
[...] our "villain," Old Foola Zoola [fool Zulu?] is drawn with all the maniacal monstrosity of similarly racist representations of African witch doctors that remained largely unchanged from nineteenth-century cartoons in Puck  and Life through Abbott and Costello's Africa Screams (1949). And yet  Foola Zoola's outrage for the wrongs done to him and his people by Scrooge and his hired thugs is presented as entirely justified.
That's just the problem: it isn't presented as justified at all. If it did he wouldn't be a fool and he wouldn't be a racist caricature, would he? Also, why are there quotation marks on the word "villain"? That's what Foola Zoola is, period.


  

  As can be seen below (panel from "Voodoo Hoodoo" in CBL 2; is that a Barks cameo at the window?) Bombie the Zombie was inspired by the above illo drawn by Lee Conrey (American Weekly, May 3, 1942; as published in CBL 1).  



 Whitewashing, as it were, in another "Voodoo Hoodoo" panel (in CBL 1, this time). Not much of an improvement if you ask me (November 1986). Above: the same panel as published in Fantagraphics' CBL 2.

Uncle Scrooge may be presented as an impossibly rich miser, but he's never a villain. Carl Barks (in an interview with Michael Barrier, 1974):
I never thought of Scrooge as I would think of some of the millionaires we have around who have made their money by exploiting other people to a certain extent. I purposely tried to make it look as if Uncle Scrooge made most of his money back in the days before the world got so crowded, back in the days when you could go out in the hills and find the gold.
If Uncle Scrooge is or isn't a thief is just a matter of perspective. He would be if he exploited white people, but oh,  no!, he could never exploit the noble savages because they have no use for their riches. Dorfman and Mattelart saw this perfectly well (in How to Read Donald Duck, Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic, 1975 [1971] - translation by David Kunzle):
There they are in their desert tents, their caves, their once flourishing cities, their lonely islands, their forbidden fortresses, and they can never leave them. Congealed in their past-historic, their needs defined in function of this past, these underdeveloped peoples are denied the right to build their own future. Their crowns, their raw materials, their soil, their energy, their jade elephants, their fruit, but above all, their gold, can never be turned to any use. For them the progress which comes from abroad in the form of multiplicity of technological artifacts, is a mere toy. It will never penetrate the crystallized defense of the noble savage, who is forbidden to become civilized. He will never be able to join the Club of the Producers, because he does not even understand that these objects have been produced. He sees them as magic elements, arising from the foreigner's mind, from his word, his magic wand.
That's what Francesco Stajano and Leonardo Gori refused to see when they mentioned the people abused by Gladstone (in "Race to the South Seas," March of Comics # 41, 1949) while failing to mention the stereotyped natives mumbling "Ola eela booka mooka bocko mucka!" and worshipping Uncle Scrooge or Uncle Scrooge's spats, of all things, or both... The above is also valid to describe the Plain Awfulians in "Lost in the Andes." Said people is just one in a series of noble savages that Scrooge and Donald meet over the years. Barks had a bucolic sensibility: against superficial interpretations that present Uncle Scroge as an apology of Capitalism, he believed that the earth is the true value and gold is worthless (cf. for instance "The Twenty Four Carat Moon," Uncle Scrooge # 24, December 1958). These inhabitants of utopia live in a primeval innocence: Donald Duck (at the end of "Lost in the Andes"):
[they get their warmth] [...] from their hearts! They had so little of anything, yet they were the happiest people we have ever known!
Stefano Priarone says that "Lost in the Andes" is a satire of conformism. A leftist reading would say that it is a comment on the vulnerability of third world peoples to American mass culture. Both readings are possible and it is also possible that, following Donald's speech above, there's no satire at all. All interpretations are ideological, of course... One could expect a Marxist reading from David Kunzle, but here's what he wrote (Art Journal Vol. 49, No. 2, Summer 1990):
How much real sympathy does Barks show for natives, the victims who through weakness and stupidity, or else innocence and simplicity, become willing accomplices to, indeed the very instruments of, their own dispossession? It is hard to say. The facts that our contempt for Scrooge, the great dispossessor, is mixed with admiration for his energy, that Huey, Dewey and Louie are cast as virtue incarnate, and that Donald himself is a victim (actually, a loser on the winning side) tend to neutralize our sympathy for the foreigner-victims. But their resistance, funny and futile as it so often is, lends them a measure of dignity - and reality. 
The star of the show isn't Uncle Scrooge, though. The star is undoubtedly Donald Duck. Even to Dorfman and Mattelart's Donald is a sympathetic character (Carl Barks: interview with Edward Summer, 1975):
Instead of making just a quarrelsome little guy out of him, I made a sympathetic character. He was sometimes a villain, and he was often a real good guy and at all times he was just a blundering person like the average human being, and I think that is one of the reasons people like the duck.
Dorfman and Mattelart (in How to Read Donald Duck - translation by David Kunzle):
We Latin Americans tend to identify more readily with the imperfect Donald, at the mercy of fate or a superior authority, than with Mickey [Mouse], the boss in this world, and Disney's undercover agent.
David Kunzle (also in How to Read Donald Duck):
Donald Duck [...][is] an example of heroic failure, the guy whose constant efforts towards gold and glory are doomed to eternal defeat.

Donald Duck, the eternal loser, becomes purple with envy, in "Race to the South Seas" as published in Walt Disney’s Donald Duck “Lost in the Andes."

Carl Barks was no ordinary genre creator. He followed some tropes of pulp, but he also had his own formula (Donald Ault cited by Thomas Andrae and Geoffrey Blum in the CBL 1):
Th[e] emphasis on cosmic irony led Barks to create a formula for his ten-page stories: a six-to eight-page buildup of our expectations against mounting probabilities, following by a two-to four-page reversal culminating in the fulfillment of our original expectations, but in a surprising and ironic manner.
[F]our narrative impulses [...] inform Barks' stories. In the order of their complexity, these are: 1) excessive coincidence; 2) conflicts escalating in a chain reaction; 3) events threatening to move beyond control of both the characters and the narrator; and 4) reflection on the narrative processes controlled by Barks himself.
The cosmic irony mentioned above is my favorite Barks' trait: he was a master satirist. Carl Barks (in an interview with Donald Ault, Thomas Andrae and Stephen Gong, 1975):
I read some of my stories recently and thought, 'How in the hell did I get away with that?' I had some really raw cynicism in some of them.
I told it like it is. I told the kids that the bad guys have a little bit of good in them, and the good guys have a lot of bad in them, and that you just couldn't depend on anything much, that nothing was going to always turn out roses. (Interview with Donald Ault, 1973.)
Readers can attest to that reading and viewing his masterfully paced, written, drawn and designed pages in Walt Disney's Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes. All this in spite of this edition's recoloring problems... if these are viewed as problems at all, that is... which I very much doubt...



 Carl Barks circa the end of WWI. Photo as published in Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book by Michael Barrier, 1981.