Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dressage

It's always a special day when I receive a great comic...


Gustave-Henri Jossot, "Dressage," L'Assiete au Beurre # 144, January 1904.

PS  I forgot Harvey Pekar in my last post, but I don't consider American Splendor to be an underground publication. For me it's the first alternative comic book.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Weird Facts - Coda

This is an anti-coda, really... In a true Derridadian spirit I'll try in this post to deny everything I wrote in my last one. I will not be able to do it completely (sorry Derrida!), but I will surely try...

So, here are, according to yours truly, the great exceptions that prove the rule...

Weird Event # 1: 19th century: comics are associated with humor and caricature.

I can't say that humor and caricature produced great works of comics art during the 19th century, but there were great artists trying (or not, I guess...). I mean Gustave Doré, when he was really young unfortunately, or the Chat Noir people, for instance... In the 20th century though, there's the towering figure of Saul Steinberg and one of his great disciples (THE great disciple surpassing the master?), Chago Armada. But I'm cheating because their work is very thinly disguised poetry (the humor, if it exists at all, is a very secondary byproduct):


Chago Armada, "Salomon," 1960s (as published in Signos # 21, 1978).

Weird Event # 2: 19th, early 20th centuries: comics are children's literature.

Two words: Carl Barks. All he did is not great, of course, but when he was good he was really good.


Carl Barks, "Uncle Scrooge in The Second Richest Duck," Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge # 15, September - November 1956 (as published in Another Rainbow's The Carl Barks Library Set 3, book 1, 1984).

 Weird Event # 3: 1930s: comics are escapist manichean literature.

This is a tough one. How can one find great exceptions in idiocy? Even so, some pearls may be found among all the trash.


Milton Caniff, "Terry and the Pirates," (daily, October 17, 1941).

Weird Event # 4: 1960s: wanting to do other things with the medium underground cartoonists can't go beyond parody (or the same stupid adventures with sex added) because they grew up with the mediocre stuff and knew nothing else (in the end they behaved like spoiled brats):

Two words again: Juastin Green. Or... Binky Brown meets The Holy Virgin Mary, to be precise.


Justin Green, Binky Brown meets The Holy Virgin Mary, March 1972. I'm not sure if the Undergrounds produced more noteworthy comics (?).

 Weird Event # 5: 1960s and on, until today: also growing up in the midst of all this trash the so-called comics critics can only write hagiographies that incense the producers who churn it out:

To be clear, I have a lot of respect for comics scholars in Academia; I have nothing against Comics Studies. The above was meant for journalists only. Even so the three words that prove the rule are: Ng Suat Tong, but I may also mention Bruno Lecigne, I guess... For the life of me I can't think of anyone else. Almost everybody incensed mediocrity at some point...

Carl Barks:

At the end of the 1920s there were two kinds of American newspaper comics: the comical comics which used caricature, and the "realist" adventurous comics. The genius of Carl Barks, and a few less talented others, like Floyd Gottfredson or Georges Remi (aka Hergé), was to join the two genres. The consequences for Barks' best stories was a parodic manicheism in which the bad guys, The Beagle Boys are a good example, were cartoonish baddies, not to be taken seriously...
On the comical side there's no slapstick. Barks' Donald Duck, for instance, is very different from the hot-tempered, always squawking, character of the animated movies. His characters are thinly disguised "real" people with all the human foibles imaginable (sex excluded, for obvious reasons). 
More later, perhaps...

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Weird Facts

As time passes I feel less and less inclined to write about comics, and I don't mean on this blog only...

The reasons are varied and have mainly to do with aging and the loss of energy... Most importantly though, I see no point in continuing a lost fight: comics will never be a real art form, I can see that clearly now... Don't get me wrong, wonderful comics have been made, and I don't mean in the expanded field only. Oesterheld's and Tsuge's and Buzzelli's oeuvres are out there to prove what I'm saying, but if we look past the huge promise that the 1990s brought us, the only conclusion must be that the mountain gave birth to a mouse.

Anyway, this doesn't mean that I will stop writing on this blog completely, I'm doing it right now, after two months... So, I will come here once in a blue moon, whenever I feel like venting or something...

Today I just want to clarify the phrase that I posted on TCJ's site: "By the way, the comics comics criticism is just one of the last, in a long list of weird events, that helped to indefinitely postpone this art form."

What are those events exactly? OK, here we go:

Weird Event # 1: 19th century: comics are associated with humor and caricature:

Loÿs, "Vilain toujours a tort," 1884.

Weird Event # 2: 19th, early 20th centuries: comics are children's literature:


Wilhelm Busch, Max und Moritz, 1865 (I'm proud to say that this scan was taken from a book that once belonged to the great Carl Barks).

Weird Event # 3: 1930s: comics are escapist manichean literature:


Chester Gould et al, "Dick Tracy" Sunday Page, Februray 14, 1954.

Weird Event # 4: 1960s: wanting to do other things with the medium underground cartoonists can't go beyond parody (or the same stupid adventures with sex added) because they grew up with the mediocre stuff and knew nothing else (in the end they behaved like spoiled brats):


Richard Corben, Fantagor # 3, 1972.

Weird Event # 5: 1960s and on, until today: also growing up in the midst of all this trash the so-called comics critics can only write hagiographies that incense the producers who churn it out:

 
Les cahiers de la bande dessinée # 72, November - December 1986.

The comics comics critics were formalists, but that doesn't excuse anything. All of the above is how comics are viewed by the laymen and laywomen. Who can blame them if they see comics as part of trash culture? I, for one, don't!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Citação

Cito João Ramalho Santos no último JL a propósito de A Balda [é gralha, mas adoro gralhas "significantes", por isso, esta fica mesmo assim] do Mar Salgado de Hugo Pratt.
Apesar de leituras do livro mencionarem a influência de Joseph Conrad, Jack London ou Robert Louis Stevenson, a inspiração para esta história terá sido "A Lagoa Azul" do irlandês Henry De Vere Stacpoole [...][.]
Pergunto-me em que revista terá The Blue Lagoon sido publicado, mas nunca se sabe (?). Se calhar até foi...

Enfim, isso não interessa absolutamente nada. O que me levou à transcrição acima foi simplesmente isto: detecta-se tanta influência mais ou menos erudita, num esforço demasiado evidente para legitimar o ilegitimável, e esquece-se o que é óbvio: Hugo Pratt era um Oesterheld de trazer por casa. É isto e não é mais do que isto. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Clyde Fans 1997 - 2017


1997, indeed! Seth, "Clyde Fans," Palooka Ville #10 (April 1997).



Seth, "Clyde Fans," Palookaville # 23 (July 2017).

I wrote about this before. What you see above are the first and last pages of Seth's masterpiece "Clyde Fans" (or, at least, I hoped that it would be a comics masterpiece and, before reading it all, I still do). On retrospect it's kinda ironic that the first page clearly indicates the date, more than twenty years ago, when it all began. As I said before, I don't know why it took Seth this long to end what I anticipated would be his masterpiece by far. Whatever the reason there's only one that really worries me: its status as box office poison. If that's the case comics are doomed and... you know... deserve to die!...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fantasy?

I always hated the fantasy genre and mainstream fanboy or babymen geek, nerd, comic book culture in general. My problems with the genre were varied: cardboard characters, escapism, manichean and predictable plots (1 - against everything and everybody the hero wants to right a few wrongs; 2 - the hero loses his fight against the villain; 3 - against all odds the hero rises from dire straits and finally wins; 4 - the end), absence of everyday situations, no sex, looney tunes violence, etc...

Flash forward to 2017, listen to George R. R. Martin's interviews on You Tube. What does he say? He thinks that good vs. evil is cardboard; that genre is just the furniture and what really interests him is creating complex characters (both good and evil are inside all of us; he quotes William Faulkner: "[...] the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."); that sex and violence are part of life and shouldn't be bowdlerized (we must see the real consequences of violence; art is about emotions and we should feel bad when a character dies; George wants us to vicariously feel the whole emotional spectrum). Also, his plots are unpredictable because everyone is in danger and actually may die when less expected (one of the first reasons that made me hate genre fiction was, and I can't understand why people don't feel the same way, the fact that I stopped believing the hero was in any real danger: I KNEW that he would win at the very end - it's usually a "he," but I don't get all excited when they produce the same ol' shit with a heroine instead of a hero, as feminists do: if I listen one more phrase with the expression "strong women characters" in it somewhere I'm sure that I will throw up...).

OK, maybe I could go on, but it's enough already. I could surpass my visceral hate of everything that exists in fantasyland and read A Song of Ice and Fire, I guess... On the other hand, probably not... I will never read the saga because I'm sure that I'd rather read other things. This whole situation made me think though: maybe I didn't hate the fantasy genre, maybe what I really hated were mediocre and childish fantasy stories. Kind of like other people think about comics, right?, if you know what I mean...  

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 32: Safe Area Goražde by Joe Sacco

Readings & Watchings:

Secondary Sources:

Joe Sacco, "The Fight for 1st Amendment Rights," The Comics Journal # 115, Fantagraphics Books, April 1987

Domingos Isabelinho, "Oporto ComicS," Azul BD Três #1, Jogo de Imagens, November 1993

Andrea Juno, Dangerous Drawings, Juno Books, 1997

Domingos Isabelinho, "Joe Sacco, War Junkie," Salão Lisboa 2003 [Lisbon Comic Con 2003], Bedeteca de Lisboa [Lisbon Comics Library], May 2003.

Domingos Isabelinho, "Notes From a Defeatist," The Comics Journal # 256, Fantagraphics Books, October 2003

Monica Marshall, The Library of Graphic Novelists: Joe Sacco, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005

Joe Sacco, [Talk at the Walker Art Center, November 13, 2007]

Comics As Journalism [Joe Sacco's Lecture at The Leslie Center for the Humanities, 2011]

Primary Sources:

Joe Sacco, Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics Books, February 1994

Joe Sacco, Palestine, A Nation Occupied, Fantagraphics Books, July 1994 

Joe Sacco, War Junkie, Fantagraphics Books, May 1995

JoeSacco, Palestine, In The Gaza Strip, Fantagraphics Books, January 1996

Joe Sacco, "Christmas with Karadzic," Zero Zero # 15, Fantagraphics Books, March 1997 

Joe Sacco, Šoba, Drawn & Quarterly, February 1998

Joe Sacco, Safe Area Goražde, Fantagraphics Books, June 2000

Joe Sacco, Notes From A Defeatist, Fantagraphics Books, January 2003

Joe Sacco, The Fixer  - A Story From Sarajevo, Drawn & Quarterly, October 2003

Joe Sacco, Footnotes In Gaza, Henry Holt, 2009

Joe Sacco, Journalism, Henry Holt, 2013

I met Joe Sacco in 1993 in the Porto Comics Con. Maybe he doesn't remember, but we went to the movies to watch Opening Night by the great John Cassavetes (Husbands, by the way, is one of my favorite films). He had finished his Yahoo run with # 6, about Susan Catherine's career as a stripper, to start the mini-series Palestine. The rest, as they say, is history...


I'll start this post writing a bit about two other people, though...

Above are Joe Sacco's anthologies and graphic novels in chronological order. The time span is 1994, for Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, to 2013 for Journalism. The first books (until Šoba, I mean) have the characteristic look and garish colors of traditional comic books. In fact Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, Zero Zero # 15, and Šoba are, in fact, comic books. If that's not a problem for the first comic, an anthology of Sacco's early (not so) funny cartoony stories, it is a problem, but is it really?, for the other two and War Junkie. In fact that's a divorce between form and content which I view here as more problematic, and more profound, than in Barron Storey's case (which is more a problem of the appropriate metaphor - Anahoho - vs. some inappropriate, and quite absurd ones - Agonista -, for instance). Kudos then, to Jim Blanchard who designed the Palestine collections, toning down the garishness of the covers usually seen in comic books and softcover collections of the time.


The real breakthrough, it seems to me, was  Carrie Whitney's cover for Safe Area  Goražde. Here's what I wrote about it in "Joe Sacco, War Junkie":
On the cover we see a khaki colored town destroyed by war. In the title the "Safe Area" part is painted black while "Goražde" is in red. Everything else (the author's name, the subtitle, a brief note from the publishers about the author and the preface) are white. On the bottom tier we can see a map of the Goražde region over an army green background. We don't need to be geniuses in order to understand that the khaki and green represent war, red represents the blood spilled in Goražde and the white [or whiteish] represents the honest and pure intentions of the author, publishers, and preface writer.
I also mentioned the impressive red of the endpapers and I could add the mourning color (at least for Christians): black. More important than all this, which is pretty impressive in and of itself on Carrie's part, is how this cover left behind decades of childish and garish comics covers... in 2000. I mean, we can look at Seth's pioneer (and probably a bit inappropriate) design for the Fantagraphics Peanuts collection, but that was a few years later...

Anyway, if the garish colors were inappropriate on serious comics covers (or interior pages, for that matter), what about caricature? That's a really tough one because caricatures and India ink were a mainstay of comics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. I'm not forgetting somewhat more naturalistic veins which started in adventure newspaper comic strips during the 1930s, but Joe Sacco doesn't belong there (oddly enough, as far as alternative comics go, that particular branch didn't originate much; alternative comics came from underground comix and "Peanuts," mainly).

Chris Ware said it better in Dangerous Drawings:
Artists [...] like myself, are all trying to tell potent stories with the tools of jokes. It's as though we're trying to write a powerful, deeply engaging, richly detailed epic with a series of limericks.
 
 The first page of an article that Joe Sacco wrote for The Comics Journal.

As you all know by now Sacco has a degree in journalism. His stint at Fantagraphics made him go from journalist to editor to cartoonist. At around this time he edited Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy and not long after his own series Yahoo started its run.


The first page of "Palestine," as published in Palestine # 1 (February 1993).

In spite of the serious theme caricature is widely used above. Even so, I wouldn't be too harsh judging Sacco here because I believe, with Charles Baudelaire, that laughter is evil (we laugh when we feel above someone), but grotesque can be saved and grotesque is what I would qualify this page. The free flowing captions were inspired by the master of grotesque and paroxysm, Louis-Ferdinand Céline.


By issue # 6 of Palestine (April 1994) Joe Sacco published the above masterpiece. He quickly understood that a serious theme needed a serious drawing style. I love the body language of the characters (they are trying not to slip), their slightly bended bodies suggesting a cold weather, and my favorite: the Tsugian walker on the upper right corner.


Above is one of the last pages in Safe Area Goražde. We've already seen how important this book was to establish alternative comics in general and the graphic novel artistic movement (and I say this following Eddie Campbell) in particular. We can identify Joe Sacco's later style: the Célinesque captions continue flying around, so to speak, the Breughelesque detail is all over the place, except... in Joe Sacco's self-portrait. He's the only caricature that still remains. He put himself in his reportage comics to follow two traditions: the underground tradition of autobio comics (three names come to mind: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Robert Crumb, Justin Green - whose Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary should definitely be in my list), the tradition of the New Journalism (and three names come to mind too: Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson). Since the beginning (and I mean "Cartoon Genius" in Yahoo # 1 - October 1988) that Joe Sacco drew himself with opaque eye glasses, but, in that story, he wasn't half as cartoony as he is above. I don't really know why he does it, but I suspect that he's following Scott McCloud's smiley face theory, according to which readers of comics find it easy to identify with simple cartoony faces than to complex portraits (add naturalistic backgrounds and... voilá... total immersion). This is absurd, of course, but enough about what I don't like in Joe Sacco's work. What I really like is that he gives a voice to those who have none in the Western media circus. And does so not with popaganda, but by being a really fine reporter.


P.S.: This is a cause very close to my heart.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 33: The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn by Barron Storey - Coda

TO THE CHARLOTTESVILLE VICTIMS:



Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Eddge! # 1, June 1993.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 33: The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn by Barron Storey

 Readings & Watchings:

 Secondary Sources:

Don Thompson, "Comics Guide," Comics Buyer's Guide # 1030, August 13, 1993

Eric Reynolds, "Barron Storey Brings Fine Art to Comics," Fantagraphics Books, The Comics Journal # 169, July 1994

Robert Wilonsky, "Barron Storey's Life is an Open Comic Book," SF Weekly News, January 17, 1996 

Robin McConnell, Don King, "Barron Storey," Conundrum Press, Inkstuds, 2010 

Peter Brooks (d), Peter Weiss (w), Geoffrey Skelton (t), Adrian Mitchell (s), et al, Marat / Sade, Royal Shakespeare Company / Marat Sade Productions, 1967

Primary Sources:

Barron Storey, "B. B. J. (Baby Blaze Juggler) Nº 2," World War 3 Illustrated, World War 3 Illustrated # 12, 1989

Barron Storey, The Marat / Sade Journals, Tundra, 1993

Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Edge! # 1, Vanguard Comics Productions, June 1993

Barron Storey, "A. K. A. Assassi(nada)," Tales From The Edge! # 2,  Vanguard Comics Productions, September 1993

Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge!, Vanguard Comics Productions, # 3, November 1993 - # 7, July 1995

Barron Storey, Life After Black, Graphic Novel Art, 2007

My Own Crib Sheet (almost ten years ago! Jeez!)

Preparing for this post I felt like David Hemmings (who played Thomas, the photographer) in Blow Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni. In fact, I did exactly what he did. I blew Barron Storey's panels up.

That's the end of this post though. Let's do the right thing and start from the beginning...

In the Comics Buyer's Guide # 1030, in his column "Comics Guide," Don Thompson reviewed Tales From The Edge # 1, the anthology in which Barron Storey published "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn." This is what he wrote about Barron Storey's work: "...". Exactly, he said absolutely nothing. It's a macabre irony, then, that Eric Reynolds published his article about Storey in the same issue of The Comics Journal in which Thompson's obituary appeared (it's also in this issue that an embarrassing letter from yours truly was published [blushes intensely!]).

I could either call Thompson a good representative of the fanboy mentality or a good representative of the direct market culture. Years ago I wouldn't hesitate, of course, "fanboy" it would be, for sure, but one mellows with age, so, let it be the direct market culture. Whatever the name that's not the point; the point is that all subcultures act in a defensive and parochial way. In this particular case it was powerful enough to put a blindfold on the so-called critic.

In a pre-graphic novel, pre-generalist bookstore, market; the world of the "comic book guy" (of The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory fame) wasn't ready for such an oddity as Barron Storey's comics. Storey's collage aesthetic and no bullshit approach was too much for a highly bowdlerized world (and I use the word to mean both censorship and self-censorship). I don't mean that violence was (or is, because nothing changed) absent from comics sold in the direct market. On the contrary, comics are violent, but it's a cartoony, Bugs Bunny, kind of violence...

Barron Storey is an unlikely autobio comics artist. I seriously doubt that his name is cited in books about autobiographical comics (and, to my shame, apart from Shannon Gerard's thesis Drawn Onward: Representing The Autobiographical Self In The Field Of Comic Book Production I have never read any). But autobio artist he is being obsessed, during his comic book days, at least (more at the end of the post about this) with two things, mainly: his failed relationships with women and his mother's suicide (he said that both were linked).


 Barron Storey, The Dead Mother Drawing, 1963.

 

 Barron Storey,  "B. B. J. (Baby Blaze Juggler) Nº 2," World War 3 Illustrated # 12, 1989.

Peter Weiss's The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade was a strange choice for an adaptation as autobiography. Weiss's play (or Weiss's play as seen by Peter Brooks et al in the filmed version) is a political rumination around the very important theme of the confrontation between reality (or realpolitik), represented by Sade, of course, and utopia (or revolution), embodied by Marat. This topic doesn't disappear from Storey's adaptation, but it is disconnected from the autobio parts: the psychological wound opened by the break up between Storey and someone named Kelly. The only link (and a very tenuous one at that) is, in Storey's own words in the Inkstuds interview (methinks), Charlotte Corday being a woman, killing Jean-Paul Marat, a man.

"Slidehouse," on the other hand, is a glorious failure of gargantuan proportions (something like Héctor Germán Oesterheld's and Alberto Breccia's version of "El Eternauta" in Gente magazine). "Slidehouse" failed because Barron Storey was extremely disappointed when it didn't produce the stir he hoped for in the comics milieu.


Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 5, February 1995 (top and bottom of a page.)
The "No!" above is the answer to the question: Is this the end?
As for "what less friendly people thought about it," they thought nothing at all, as we've seen already.

Another problem, if it is one, is the relation between the artwork and the content. If real life is important to Barron Storey, why disguise it in fantasy garments? To draw what he called the Slidehouse, for instance, Storey drew his inspiration from The Lusty Lady, a peep show in San Francisco which appears as a Piranesi nightmare in "Slidehouse" (linking peep show and prison, perhaps, but what a magnificent prison it is... also, the peep show goer is someone who watches, which is exactly what the artist does). There's also a demon which is, in reality, a robot, and everything, from the "Adjustment of Sydney Deepscorn" to the last instalment of "Slidehouse" seems drawn from the feverish imagination of an H. R. Giger (Alien is one of Barron Storey's favorite movies, I guess). 

This provokes a divorce of sorts between form and content. I'm speculating, but could it be that Barron Storey wanted to compromise creating a super-heroine, Assassi(nada), wanting to sell-out, the only problem being that no one was buying?


Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 5, February 1995.
In this page, written and drawn in tongue-in-cheek mode, Assassi(nada) works out to be a super-heroine. 


 Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 7, July 1995.

And yet, look at the above page! There's nothing incoherent, or strange, or particularly gothic or sci-fi about it. I find it extremely emotional. In the dubious case that I need to explain it to you, continue reading below (if not, skip it):


She-we-na (Zuni Pueblo) (Native American). Kachina Doll (Anahoho), late 19th century. 

 This kachina doll represents one of the Anahoho Kachinas, a pair of strangers sent by the gods to search for the middle of the Zuni world. They were accompanied by fierce Salimopea Kachina warriors. People were afraid of the warriors and hid their possessions on the rooftops, but the Salimopea threw the belongings down and destroyed them. When the Anahoho returned to their village, they found it burned and their brother Kiako missing. In sorrow they smote their faces with soot-blackened hands, leaving a handprint, as seen here. 

Barron Storey's work uses symbolism to tell personal stories. The Anahoho Kachina explains, not only this page, but also why Barron Storey's sketchbooks are full of hands. Why the Kachinas, though? You can find that out in the B. B. J. page above.

In "The Adjustment of Sydney Deepscorn," the fantasy genre element is equally present. But the autobio parts are less hidden. If the drawings tell the story of a final judgment, more than adjustment, the words tell it like it is. And that's exactly where the blow up part enters this post.



Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Eddge! # 1, June 1993. 

The most impressive pages of "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn" are about racism though. In the words of Robert Wilonsky:
[In "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn" there are] repressed memories of a childhood spent running with "gun-toting idiots" who liked to shoot at the "niggers" in South Dallas[.]
More than twenty years passed since Barron Storey tried to express himself using a medium that, in his own words, "you [the comics reader] persist in overrating [overrating also] its practitioners thereof." His most recent publishing venture is Trumped. Maybe, after all this time since his Marat / Sade book, he finally did something political? A Poor Richard for the 21th century?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eduardo del Rio

Mexican cartoonist Eduardo del Rio, better known as Rius, died yesterday. He may not be in The Crib's canon, but I certainly share is criticism of the Empire's dumbing down of the world's culture in order to make an easy buck.



Monday, July 24, 2017

Intro To My 31 Favorite Comics Post Series


 Geneviève Castrée, wraparound cover of Lait Frappé, January 2000.

Why 31? That's an odd choice of a number, but the explanation is easy to guess, I guess...Instead of replacing a title in my list I decided to include both choices, hence, 31.

As some of you probably know, I divide the field of comics in two: 1) an expanded field and 2) a restrict field. While the former includes Goya's The Disasters of War or Hokusai's 100 Views of Mt. Fuji or Picasso's The Dream and Lie of Franco or Philip Guston's Poor Richard, the latter is what we usually consider as comics. Don't get me wrong, I don't see any reason to discard any of the above or Masereel's cycles as comics, but I decided to be conservative, just this time. Besides, those comics don't need my pathetic p. r....

I also want to address a well deserved word to those choices that aren't included, but could very well be: what can I say, this is basically a futile and pretty random game, so, mistakes are made. As I said before, I enjoyed the company of such luminaries as Ed Brubaker and Debbie Drechsler lately and I'm sure that I would enjoy and should include a lot more like Geneviève Castrée, for instance...

I'm a perfectionist and that's both good and bad. It's good for obvious reasons, it's bad because it may block you. As I said before I'm highly dissatisfied with the way all this occurred in the last two months, and, consequently, I should call it quits, but a promise is a promise, so, this time I will not let myself be blocked. There's no looking back, now...

Finally: all these choices are obviously limited by my own limits: there are a lot of languages that I can't read, there are a lot of comics that I have never even seen. Of one thing you may be sure, though: I bought them all. In my opinion the moment a critic accepts a book from a publisher s/he ceases to be a critic to become another cog in the prop machine.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I'm Back - Sort Of... Coda

Couldn't resist giving you this beautiful page.


Ed Brubaker (w & a), David Lasky (c), Lowlife # 5 (July, 1995).

I'm Back - Sort of...

So, almost 50 days have passed...

Below I'll tell you: 1) what should have happeneed and 2) what really happened during that time:

1) I should have layed down a list of my 25 favorite comics and, since I read some of them years and even decades ago, I should have reread them. Plus: when in doubt I should have reread some of the books or stories that weren't included on my list and see if I wanted to replace an item or a few items...

2) I layed down a first draft of my list, but couldn't stop at 25 and, so, now I have 30 items listed. I reread Summer of Love by Debbie Drechsler and reread a few pages of Daddy's Girl, also by Debbie Drechsler. I also reread a few pages of Speak Low by Montesol and Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. That's it, I guess...
Today I tried to read A Complete Lowlife, by Ed Brubaker, but my eyesight isn't in the best of shapes right now, so, I gave up (even so I liked "Secret Hours"). I almost forgot, but I reread At the Seams, also by Ed Brubaker and I liked it too. 

Now, what, then?...

For starters, I still haven't closed my list. I find it an impossible task and I'm more and more convinced that, to do it properly, it's a full time job. I simply don't have the time nor the inclination to do so. This doesn't mean though, that I give up. If I can't do it properly I must rely on my dim memory...

That's it, I guess, but I have a

PS I'm reading the essay "I Will Not Bow: Analysis of the Feminine Refusal of Hegel's Master-Slave Dialectic in Inuyasha," by Robyn Johnson, in IJOCA (International Journal of Comic Art).
At some point she sez:
Manga is a much more sophisticated form of literature than recognized[.] [...]
She then goes on analysing Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. This is unfortunately a typical reaction among comics critics: they say that comics are a sophisticated art form (sorry for the twisted grammar) and then they prove it pointing at trash.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My 25 Favorite Comics

I decided to rip-off Álvaro Pons and write in the next weeks about my 25 favorite comics. After criticizing the comics canon (and make no mistake, that is the comics canon, or, at least, a comics canon that is highly influenced by the United States; I can only imagine a French-Belgian influenced comics canon with Hergé and Bilal and Moebius, etc... still more trash, of course...).  Anyway, I would love to promise one text per week, but I'm far from being sure that I will do that. The texts will vary in length according to my inspiration of the moment.

Finally, let you be warned that I will cheat. A lot! By cheating I mean that I'll choose one page, or one book by an artist, but I will not let myself be confined to just one item. If relevant I'll write about more than one item or more that one artist or author. Also, I'm not an expert on everything so, please excuse me in advance for any mistake or any underdeveloped theme.

Thanks!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What's Wrong With Comics Criticism

What's wrong with comics criticism? Everything!

Remember when I said that a comics critic doesn't need an aesthetic education to write about comics? Lo and behold, here is a journalist saying that Álvaro Pons is a teacher of Optics and part of the Physics Faculty. Imagine someone without an aesthetic education wanting to write about the visual arts or someone without a degree in English (or other languages in whatever countries) wanting to be Lit Crits. They would be immediately laughed out of the room. Maybe that's the real reason why the comics canon is laughable as we have seen these last few days (it's either that or comics crits are the low of the lowest in crit skills). It's time to rest my case though. Besides, this art form is doomed anyway...

Yet Another Ridiculous List - Coda

While I was at the link below (the blog of a Summer Comics course, by the way; look at the ridiculous banner: 'nuff said!) I looked around and spotted their syllabus. It is what it is, the usual mainstream and American centric monstrosity. I'm not going to say much more about it. Except (look below)...

Capítulo 5 (de 7): El cómic español

1917. TBO [Selección de historias cortas] (AA.VV.)
1969. Mortadelo y Filemón: El sulfato atómico (Francisco Ibáñez)
1973. Superlópez [Vols. 1-10] (Jan)
1975. Paracuellos (Carlos Giménez)
1993. Trazo de tiza (Miguelanxo Prado)
2006. Bardín, el superrealista (Max)
2007. Arrugas (Paco Roca)
… y todo Keko, todo Luis Durán y todo Juaco Vizuete.

The  1980s (the most important decade in Spanish comics history) were completely ignored and down the drain went Madriz, Felipe Hernández Cava, Raúl, Federico del Barrio, etc...

Capítulo 6 (de 7): El cómic japonés

1945. La nueva isla del tesoro (Osamu Tezuka)
1972. Mazinger Z (Go Nagai)
1982. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
1998. Barrio lejano (Jiro Taniguchi)
1999. La sonrisa del vampiro (Suehiro Maruo)

Where is the greatest comics artist of all time, Yoshiharu Tsuge? Where is Garo?

Moreover, where are Argentinian and Italian comics, besides the mediocre Corto Maltese, that is?

This can't be just love of the mainstream and hate of everything alternative. This is ignorance, pure and simple ignorance.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Yet Another Ridiculous List

Álvaro Pons this time:

Sorry, but I'm losing patience so I'll skip translation this time. As I put it before only fanboys write these lists. That's why I would love to read at least one written by someone normal. For once...

Please! Anyone?

1.º- The Spirit (Will Eisner)
2.º- Little Nemo in Slumberland (Winsor McCay)
3.º- Krazy Kat (George Herriman)
4.º- Príncipe Valiente (Harold Foster)
5.º- Terry y los piratas (Milton Caniff)
6.º- Mort Cinder (Héctor G. Oesterheld & Alberto Breccia)
7.º- Philemon (Fred)
8.º- Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)
9.º- Alack Sinner (Carlos Sampayo & José Muñoz)
10.º- Teniente Blueberry (Jean-Michel Charlier & Jean Giraud [Moebius])
11.º- Maus (Art Spiegelman)
12.º- Corto Maltés (Hugo Pratt)
13.º- Adolf (Osamu Tezuka)
14.º- “Obra completa” (Robert Crumb)
15.º- Spirou (André Franquin)
16.º- From Hell (Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell)
17.º- Paracuellos (Carlos Giménez)
18.º- Popeye (E. C. Segar)
19.º- Palomar (Beto Hernandez)
20.º- “Publicaciones EC Comics” (William Gaines et alii)
21.º- Flash Gordon (Dan Barry)
22.º- Valerian (Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mezières)
23.º- Los pasajeros del viento (François Bourgeon)
24.º- Watchmen (Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons)
25.º- Daredevil: Born Again (Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli)

PS  As usual there are a few exceptions above: Alack Sinner, Maus, From Hell. Followed by a few more that, at least, aren't completely ridiculous: Krazy Kat, Mort Cinder, Philemon, Watchmen. But, that's it...




Monday, May 15, 2017

Yet Another Ridiculous List - I Give Up, I Guess!...

Imagine yourself being a managing editor of a newspaper or a general interest magazine (if you are one you may leave your imagination alone). Imagine also that you want to publish an article about comics. Who do you invite to write it? A comics critic, obviously.,,

Is there such an animal though? There is, there is, but... Where do these animals come from? Where is their habitat? In what pastures do they eat?

 Through word of mouth our putative managing editor may find him/herself in front of the following "comics critic":

1) He, it's usually a he, read and liked comics since infancy.
2) He has no paying job related to the arts or literature or that branch of philosophy called aesthetics (curiously enough such trifle details as an aesthetic education is not deemed important to write about comics).
3) So, he may come from all walks of life, but what is his diet? Well, mainstream comics obviously.

And so, our vignette ends up here. If you don't read Spanish allow me to translate:15 essential comics to those who never opened a comic. The ridiculous list (two or three books excepted) is as follows:

Watchmen
Sandman
Maus
All-Star Superman
V For Vendetta
A Contract With God 
Akira
Daredevil: Born Again
From Hell
Los surcos del azar [the grooves of chance]
Marvels
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
13 rue del Percebe [13, Barnacle street]
The Incal
Understanding Comics

This is one of the most ridiculous things that I had the misfortune of seeing, ever! I would understand such an inane list if the article's title was 15 essential comics for fanboys or 15 essential books to prevent laypersons from reading a comic ever again. But not this... in a national newspaper!

Another Spaniard says here something like: we, comics readers, stick to criteria marked by 11 year olds. How true!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nagual de Dinis Conefrey

Diniz Conefrey é um dos autores de banda desenhada mais interessantes e mais persistentes (o que em Portugal, é obra!) daquilo a que poderíamos chamar a Geração Lx Comics. Reconheço três vertentes particularmente interessante no seu percurso, uma formal e duas temáticas (embora estas diferenciações sejam artificiais): refiro-me ao seu interesse pela estética da banda desenhada abstracta, pela adaptação de obras literárias (Herberto Helder e Joseph Conrad), e pelas culturas do que se convencionou chamar a América Pré-Colombiana. (O que, convenhamos, enferma de uma terminologia duplamente italo ou eurocêntrica já que de uma assentada se referem dois navegadores italianos.)

Ler os livros de Diniz Conefrey sobre o tema americano é, pelo contrário, imergirmo-nos numa cultura absolutamente estranha à nossa. E, para além de considerações formais que, com mais tempo e noutra altura (fica prometido) poderia fazer, é isso que é fascinante...

Depois de O Livro dos Dias Dinis Conefrey apresenta-nos agora, dentro do mesmo universo narrativo, Nagual. Apresento as duas capas em baixo...


 Dinis Conefrey, O Livro dios Dias, 2014.



Dinis Conefrey, Nagual, 2017.

Friday, May 5, 2017

BilBolBul Cambia Pelle


BilBolBul, besides being a racist caricature (see below), was a comics con in Bologna, Italy. I received their newsletter with the news that it will change from a con to a project that will be active all year. But that's not why I'm writing this post. The real reason why I'm mentioning BilBolBul's newsletter is to quote it:
La formazione di un nuovo pubblico nei confronti del fumetto ci sembra il più urgente obiettivo da perseguire. [comics public formation seems to us the most urgent objective to achieve.]
Exactly! If the comics public implies the lowest common denominator (as it unfortunately does, that's what explains the ridiculous canons) the industry may be healthy, but the art form is in big trouble.


Attilio Mussino, Corriere dei Piccoli Vol. 1, # 1, December 1908.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Problems One Faces When Restoring Sgt. Kirk

In my previous post I wrote, "being [the coloring] an allographic process, it all bogs down to personal taste," but there's an instance in which this isn't true. Imagine a colorist who wanted a certain effect and let clear indications to the separator that s/he wanted black to be printed before the primary colors. In that case printing the reverse would be a mistake that would result in a false comic. It's likely that the restorer has no access to the color guides, but if the separator was part of the original process too, shouldn't we follow the original printing order of the colors? Maybe not because, if we consider what happens in allographic art forms, like theater and music, the interpreter is free to interpret what's in script and score, but is such freedom allowed to the restorer? I don't think so, but, in any case, there are always instances in which, due to lack of information, restoring is interpreting.

Anyway, this post is about something a bit different. Below is a Sgt. Kirk page as it appears, tanning and all, in Misterix magazine + how I scan it... (as you know by now, I'm sure, the writer was Héctor Germán Oesterheld, the drawings are by Hugo Pratt, the colors are by Stefan Strocen).

  
Misterix # 317, October 15, 1954.

It seems that, presto!, all problems are solved with a click of the mouse, but alas, nope, look closer (literally).


Everything is stained and the lettering is a mess. I gave up restoring the letters after awhile because there are thousands of letters. It was an impossible task. As for the white space I can always clear things a bit, but, then, some lines disappear. Below is a panel as it was published in Misterix (left) and the same panel as published in Sgt. Kirk (right).


Misterix # 311, September 3, 1954.
Sgt. Kirk # 25, July 1969.

The lines that aren't there are not the only problem. Look at how sttagering the difference in line quality is between these two images. Again: Misterix on the left. The panels are uncleaned this time.


Misterix # 317, October 15, 1954.
Sgt Kirk # 26, August 1969.

The line quality may be mediocre, but if you can read Spanish, you'll notice how elegant the caption is. Compare it to the ugly utilitarian and redundant caption in Italian. Isn't it a crime against the Castillian language that one of its best writers was ignored being Sgt. Kirk translated (!) in Spain from the Italian? Imagine people in the UK having access to Shakespeare's plays only through, say, translations from French translations! Only in the comics milieu, with our pitiful comics publishers, is such a thing possible.
 
Printing quality in the color pages is better, but are those clean? Judge for yourselves below...


Detail from Misterix # 322,  November 19, 1954.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Back to Business As Usual

I've been discussing my restoration of the color pages of the Sgt. Kirk series with pro restorer Manuel Caldas. It's an old discussion in which he defends thick black repro for drawings and I don't because I think the lines should be affected by the colors. If yellow ink falls over a black surface it will turn olive green, methinks, so, it's no longer just black. Also, in some instances, the thick blacks may detract from a shadow or other effect (as we can see below and was shown also here). As Manuel put it, black was printed first so the yellow fell over it. On top of that there may be some lack of black ink in this particular newspaper page. Anyway, it looks more convincing to me as it is than if the black was really a thick black.


Frank King and anonymous colorists, Gasoline Alley, August 29, 1926.

The real problem, if there is one, is that until now no one thought about comics restoration theory. As many things in comics, this is a field almost untouched by scholars. The first point that should worry us, as it worries any restorers in other visual art fields, is authenticity. I thought about it, with Nelson Goodman's huge help, here. Contrarily to what you may read in the aforementioned post it's precisely the color (when it is not what the French call "couleur directe" [direct color]) that I don't think is autographic. Kim Thompson made me see my mistake. The colorist's work is autographic, but the color guides are not. Colorists and separators are not the same people, that's why there are notations for colors in color guides and that's why coloring in comics is not an autographic process, but a allographic one. This doesn't mean that the latter isn't obliged to follow the former's indications of course, but since the process is two stage with notations linking them it is, by definition, definitely allographic.

This answers one of my questions: does the printing technique matter? Being the coloring process allographic, after all, the answer is no, of course not.

That said, who's right?, yours truly or Manuel Caldas? We both are because, being an allographic process, it all bogs down to personal taste. The truth is that I'm a Ben Day dots fetishist and I love old newspaper comics coloring (but so does Manuel), out of register colors and all... In the case that the restorer is also a colorist s/he must follow the original color guides. If the restorer is just that, a restorer, s/he must leave the colors alone cleaning ink blots and erasing the effects caused by the passing of time (mainly by the tanning and foxing of the pulp paper). Scanners may help in recovering the vividness of the original coloring.

A few days ago I decided to make an experiment. I decided to randomly choose a Sgt. Kirk page and do what Manuel wanted me to do. I also increased the color saturation as Diego told me to. You can see the result below. I hope that you like it. I have to confess that, contrarily to my beliefs I like it a lot, but the process is so laborious that I doubt I'll do another one.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), Stefan Strocen (c), "Cerco de muerte," Misterix # 316, October 10, 1954.

PS Look at the rich textures of those surfaces and the smooth transitions and tell me if I'm not right in being a dots fetishist! Imagine it all flat and dull. It would definitely ruin everything.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Different... Yet Another Ridiculous Comics Canon

Most people couldn't care less about comics. Some people say that comics are crap. And, then, there are the fanboys.

Unfortunately the last ones are those who build the canon and that's, dear readers, why all comics canons are ridiculous.

To the penultimate I say: I hear you and I even think that, from your point of view and being in your shoes, I would say exactly the same. However, you're committing a mistake: it's the comics canon that is crap, not the art form of comics.

Below is the awful cover of a book by the Brazilian comics scholar Moacy Cirne: Quadrinhos, Sedução e Paixão [comics, seduction and passion - can you detect the fanboy in the title?...] (Vozes, 2001).


At some point the author includes his list of the best films ever created, as you can also see below.

#2 Persona
#14 Eclipse 
#18 My Darling Clementine 
#19 Brief Encounter 
#20 2001: A Space Odyssey 
#21 The Passion of Joan of Arc 
#22 Ugetsu 

The above isn't the film canon, mind you, it's just someone's list of favorite films. I could argue that some directors are sorely missing (Rossellini, Ozu), others are scarcely represented (John Ford) or are scarcely represented and not by their best film (Mizoguchi), or are overrated (Antonioni, Resnais), but anyway, if all lists are debatable what's not debatable, methinks, is that this is a great list of undeniably great films.

And now, brace yourselves please, here's Cirne's best comics list:


Do I need to say anything? Isn't the contrast between the two lists violently blatant? This is a mix of mediocre comics (The Spirit, Valentina, Sin City, Tarzan, Flash Gordon), so so entertainment (Little Nemo, Sandman, Fritz the Cat, Freak Brothers) and a couple of - sometimes - great comics (Krazy Kat, Ken Parker). Fred is one of the greats in my book, but not because of Philémon (ditto Oesterheld / Breccia with Mort Cinder even if there are a couple of great stories in the series). Others (the Brazilian ones) I have never read, I must confess, so I'll say nothing about those...

I can't be the only person on earth's surface who thinks that these "great comics" lists are ridiculous, or am I? Maybe in the comics milieu I am, but not among the others, those who rightfully scorn comics because, picture this: you are invited to dinner at someone's house and they feed you junk. What would you say afterwards? Maybe something like: "Don't go even near that place! There's nothing in there but crap!"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Definitive Sgt. Kirk Reprint Edition Vol. 1 - Coda # 2

Today it crossed my mind that a page margin is important, so, this is how my Sgt. Kirk pages would look like.


Héctor Germán Oesterheld (w), Hugo Pratt (a), "Cerco de muerte", Misterix # 304 (July 16, 1954).