Archive for July, 2009

14 Years Ago Tonight…

Some of you may have caught Neil’s post yesterday:

“The central conceit in the Alfred story in the first part of WHTTCC was something that Kurt and I spun and grew thirteen [fourteen] years ago, almost to the day, during a drive from San Diego to Thousand Oaks to go and be there as Winter McCloud was born (we didn’t know that was what we were going to Thousand Oaks for. I thought I was just going to be taking Scott and a very-pregnant Ivy out to dinner, and it wasn’t until the point of the dinner where she grabbed my arm and had me start timing contractions that the evening got unusual).”

As of this morning, “almost to the day” has become to the day exactly. The night of July 31st was the legendary dinner that led to the birth of daughter #2. Ivy’s wonderful retelling of the story can be found here.

BUT, hold any birthday wishes another day because our girl was born after midnight.

Tomorrow, August 1st is Winter’s official birthday.

Sadly, both girls seem to have the post-Con flu right now, so this weekend’s celebration may be a bit muted, but sick or not, another family milestone is about to pass.

In other news, Maira Kalman has posted another delightful webcomic to the New York Times website; this time a giddy little homage to Ben Franklin and inventors everywhere. (Thanks to Jonny Goldstein and Dean Meyers for the heads-up).

Still Cool: The Zoomquilt

ACGalaga mentioned it in yesterday’s comment thread and I’ve linked to it before, but it’s been a while, so here’s a reminder that The Zoomquilt (2007) is still out there and still as cool as ever.

If you haven’t seen it before, definitely take a look. And if, like me, you haven’t looked at it in a while, look at it again. Always something new to see.

A Study in Contrast: Lisa Hanawalt and Laurie Sandell

I got a TON of books at San Diego. It would take me half a day just to list and show them all, much less review them, but a couple which caught my eye toward the end of the day on Sunday offered some interesting contrasts I thought worth noting here.

I Want You by Lisa Hanawalt is a 32-page black and white pamphlet with color covers from Buenaventura Press. It’s filled with weird, sexually-charged or scatological short subjects. Some are funny, some are disturbing, many are both. It would look at home in Kramers Ergot.

The Imposter’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell is a 245-page full color graphic novel from Hachette Book Group. It’s an autobiographical account of the author’s relationship with her father, an Argentine immigrant whom she gradually discovers is a fraud who’s taken advantage of everyone around him for years, including his own family. The art is simplistic and straightforward.

The number of comics readers in San Diego’s mammoth exhibit hall who’d be likely to bring home and enjoy both comics could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, but I’m apparently one of them. I liked both for different reasons.

Hanawalt’s pages are aggressively experimental. She takes her art seriously, even when the subject matter seems tossed-off. Her line-work crackles with energy. The details almost overwhelm her jumbled compositions, but bold contours always step in just in time to make sure the form isn’t lost. There’s no pretense of a “story,” but there is content; an echo chamber of fleshy obsessions and violently upturned social mores.

Meanwhile, Sandell’s graphic novel is a mainstream book in nearly every sense. The (presumably) true story is told as literally as possible. Sandell is no virtuoso artist, but her layouts are sensible and the drawings get the job done. Cars look like cars, bottles look like bottles, and hands have five fingers. Every line and color choice serve the story, and the story is an engaging one, filled with mystery, sex, addiction, and the parade of celebrities Sandell encountered as a reporter and contributing editor at Glamour. It’s a beach read.

Whereas Hanawalt was showing her wares in person at Buenaventura’s table—a venue so lovably alternative that you might expect denizens to refer to Fantagraphics as “The Man”—Sandell’s book was being offered in a tidy, cookie-cutter Hachette booth that looked like it hopped directly over from Book Expo, and being given away, perhaps on the assumption that everyone is a retailer (and thanks to a great cover designed by Julianna Lee it had no trouble finding takers).

I can imagine each of these books rubbing someone the wrong way. In some respects, Sandell’s glamour-sprinkled tell-all is a hard-core comics lover’s worst nightmare; a book deal fueled by celebrity, completely bypassing comics history and craft, ready to leapfrog more serious or well-crafted graphic novels onto The Today Show or even Oprah. Meanwhile, Hanawalt’s work is the type often dismissed by artists I know as “pretentious” or “self-indulgent.”

I like Sandell’s book though, because it was a fun read. It can gently coax new readers into comics who would have never cracked open an Asterios Polyp much less a Blankets, and because a healthy mainstream has never precluded a healthy alternative. And I like Hanawalt’s work because it creates sensations I’ve never seen comics achieve and opened my eyes to radical possibilities.

It’s a good sign that 2009′s comics scene can accommodate both. I hope neither feels squeezed out in coming years.

The iGoogle Comics Themes

It seems almost redundant to link to something that had been featured with a direct link from the Google homepage, but it occurred to me that some of you, like me, may have been too busy with Comic-Con to do much surfing over the weekend and might have missed where that great Jim Lee logo was actually sending people.

Check out some of the very cool themes from indy comics and webcomics greats like Jim Woodring, Rich Stevens, Daniel Clowes, Jaime Hernandez, Gene Yang, Derek Kirk Kim, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Lark Pien, Renee French, and many others.

Nerd World

Winter and her friend Amanda on their way to cosplaying Ty Lee and Mai from Avatar: The Last Airbender. More pictures here, here and here. (Note: The family and I are big fans of the cartoon, though like others, we’re concerned about the lack of Asian actors in the upcoming film.)

Con is done for another year. Saw lots of friends, made a few new ones, and got a ton of cool new graphic novels that I may write about later, but overall, it was a pretty ordinary year.

Comic-Con itself, though, is at a high water mark of sorts. With a Jim Lee Google Logo commemorating the event around the world and major news outlets like USA Today treating Con like a national holiday, “Nerd Prom” has never seemed more central to American culture.

As usual, comics pros and fans were grumbling that Movies and TV seem to overshadow Comics more and more as Con grows. I’ve never been quite as invested in that battle myself since there are excellent comics-centric shows like MoCCA, SPX, APE and TCAF out there to offset Comic-Con’s media obsessions, but it’s been an interesting balancing act to watch over the years. As Sky’s friend Kendra so eloquently put it yesterday: “Either the nerds are trying to take over the world or the world is trying to take over the nerds.”

Final image:

On the first day in town, we got an early dinner at Spaghetti Factory. While waiting for our seats, the late afternoon sunlight fell in small pockets on the floor and walls. I got a picture of Winter with my iPhone that looked like a Vermeer painting. Someday, all of our Con moments will probably look like this in our memories, bathed in the late afternoon glow of nostalgia, but for now the sun is still high over the world of comics.

Comic-Con 2009!

We’re off to San Diego early tomorrow morning for Comic-Con International. They’ve been at it for 40 years, and the family and I have been going for the last 22 of those years (with one exception I’ll probably mention a week from Friday). I’m between books this year so I’ll mostly be relaxing with the family. But be sure to check out one very important panel [description below from the guidebook]:

Thursday 12:00-1:00
Spotlight on Bryan Lee O’Malley — Comic-Con special guest Bryan Lee O’Malley (winner of the Doug Wright, Joe Shuster, and Harvey Awards) talks with legendary comics scholar Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Zot!) about Bryan’s groundbreaking slice-of-life graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim. From its genesis to the production of the upcoming film version, O’Malley speaks frankly about where Scott Pilgrim came from and where the series is going from here. With a fan Q&A to close the discussion, this is the must attend event of Comic-Con 2009! Room 5AB

Also be sure to visit Ivy’s guide to Comic-Con on Livejournal. Check out her own excellent advice, and maybe add a few tips of your own. Ivy is a master of navigating the floor and getting the best out of Con. (Also Disneyland, but she hasn’t posted that guide yet).

And finally, for important updates on happenings involving me, keep an eye on my Twitter updates (and Ivy’s too).

Pre Comic-Con Round-Up

We’re heading down to Comic-Con early Wednesday morning, and frantically getting ready tomorrow, so blog updates will be spotty at best starting tomorrow. Here are a few distractions in the meantime:

Merlin has a new hypercomic up, The Four Derangements. Gorgeous, inventive stuff as always.

Johanna Draper Carlson offers some in-depth thoughts on our recent Zot! Collection.

The gang at the Human Creativity Project sent along an adorable gift for our family in the mail, possibly in response to our recent discussion of see-through comics. (Thanks, HCP people!)

Our family’s in-depth review of 500 Days of Summer: We liked it. It was good.

Larry Marder has his own convention schedule up. Gotta see Larry!

And of course, for those of you going to Comic-Con you can find me Thursday at Noon interviewing Bryan Lee O’Malley on stage, and otherwise relaxing with the family this year. (Yay! Off years = no pressure). If anything else does come up, I’ll try to post it here, or for more timely updates, you can follow me on Twitter.

Some Thoughts on Asterios Polyp

First of all, if you haven’t read David Mazzucchelli’s fantastic graphic novel Asterios Polyp, I strongly recommend getting yourself a copy. And stop reading this post now until after you’ve read the book.

If you’ve read Asterios Polyp once…

Read it again.

Seriously, Mazzucchelli’s book is a great re-reading experience. There are things you’re only likely to notice the second or third time around, and at least a few locked doorways in early sections that only open with keys from later chapters. And they’re much more fun if you find them on your own, so again you might want to ignore the rest of these ramblings if you haven’t plunged back in yet.

If you’ve read Asterios Polyp more than once…

Okay, NOW we can talk.


I Have Nothing to Say Today

So, here’s a picture of Franklin Pierce.

On the Topic of Sex

Dylan Horrocks’ Three Tijuana Bibles turns the old timey format (learn about the original TBs here) on its head with some genuinely erotic contemporary moments. It originally ran in Fantagraphics Dirty Stories 2, but it works well online.

NSFW, Adults only, etc… (thanks to Tom for spotting this one first).

It’s worth saying once in a while, so I’ll say it again now:

Sex is a huge part of life. There’s no reason that honest, explicit depictions of it can’t be a huge part of literature and art, including comics. The idea that explicit sex has to be forever hidden, that the audience’s “imagination” is the only appropriate place for such things, is misguided at best, and at worst it betrays the unhealthy self-loathing that we really need to shake off as a species.

Horrocks, like Moore and Gebbie in Lost Girls, does use the audience’s imagination to connect the dots in some powerful ways. It’s true that what isn’t seen can be erotic. But he’s also not shy about using whichever “dot” gets the job done, nor should he be.