March 22, 2006 / More →
Continuing my critique of the Comics Journal #273, i was into the Firing Line section; there two more reviews in here, including a rather ambiguous one of our own Legend of Wild Man Fischer (by Dennis Eichhorn and J.R. WIlliams). But it's a review for John Porcellino's brilliant graphic novel Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man … published by La Mano and originally serialized in John P.'s seminal mini-comic King Cat.
For the uninitiated, King Cat is one of the greatest comics ever, mini-comic or not. There is a humanism that runs deep in Porcellino's work; an appreciation for the natural world and a sense of place; a compassion for life. I'm reminded of Sand County Almanac, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aaron Cometbus, Neil Young, and Pablo Picasso. And yet he so so uniquely singular. His book has been regularly coming out for longer than i've been reading indy comics (going on 20 years or so), and is up to issue #66, by my last count. If you have never read this work, you're really missing out.
Moving back to the review, which was a glowing review, and fairly interesting... until a throw-away comment turned the writer's argument upside down.
[Oooops! I have to run out for a happy-hour date with a couple pals, throw down a pint or two, and i'll continue then.]
O.k, back to the Porcellino review. Near the very end of this review, the writer comments on how he feels that John P.'s intent was, that any sense of awe about life in general is misguided, but in this case only because of one isolated series of events in John's career killing bugs. The reviewer, Tim Kreider writes, "In this haunting coda Porcellino renounces the Kochalkan pose of wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world as so much self-deluding bullshit..."
At this point, i have to ask, who is the self-deluding bullshitter. It is here where Kreider betrays his grasp at the bulk of Porcellino 's work in his attempt to (for whatever personal reasons) bash on themes that both Porcellino and Kochalka share, and disrespect the work of James Kochalka.
Kochalka is indeed somewhat of an optimist. But a cursory glance at virtually any single issue of Porcellino's King Cat with yield an strikingly similar world view. That there is indeed magic in the every day.
To check myself, i just pulled out my run of King Cat comics, and the second issue i grabbed (#54) leads offf with a story titled "Secret World." The narrative is basically a wordless montage of images of John, his cat Kukok (named after former Bull's forward, the Eastern European player Tony Kukoc), and his pal Zak, as they coast through the day … romping through fields, walking to the city, drinking coffee and enjoying the moment. The last page has the only narration, which reads, "The secret world is the ordinary world. Buddha nature is always fully formed."
And John P/'s comics are FULL to brimming with this very "wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world." So to use a derogatory reference to the comics of James Kochalka, whose themes virtually mirror those of John Porcellino, in order to support a singular and specific observation by John P. in Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, is bullshit of the highest order.
Kreiner's hatred for Kochalka either outweighs his appreciation for John P., or else he's simply not very familiar with his oeuvre. Either way, it makes for a poor, biased and self-defeating review. So sad.
To wrap the TCJ series here, i'll just say that Dirk Deppey conducted an amazingly entertaining interview with Eddie Campbell, erudite and raconteur to the end. What impressed me most about this affair, was how well researched Dirk was in his preparation.
Prefacing the interview is an appreciation for Eddie's work in general, and a nice piece by Rob Vollmar titled "The Importance of Being Bacchus."
In the end, as always with the Comics Journal, any specific problems i have with this issue are super-ceded by the general excellence throughout.
NEXT: Second issue of Paper Cutter #2, and Comic Effect #44.
March 20, 2006 / More →
Cleaning up scanned pages in Photoshop of the digital From Hell files Eddie Campbell sent to me, made from master photocopies he made back when the book was first finished. (He's sold all of the originals long ago.) Most of you have probably heard the troubles we've had trying to get From Hell back into print, after a long long wait, so i'll spare you the details. (And if you haven't let me know, and maybe i'll post to the blog about it.) Needless to say, it's a real bummer that we don't have the book in print for the first crush of heat for Alan Moore, emanating from "V" For Vendetta.
Anyway, i working away and thought i tune into Meet the Press for a little background noise while i'm doing so. Wow, what an episode.
*** Spoiler Alert!!! Balls Found to Reside in "Journalist" Tim Russert's Scrotum After All***
First on was General George Casey. Now, i've seen Casey on television many times before, but it's been a while. He normally holds himself together pretty well. But lo and behold, Russert came out with guns blazing on this, the third anniversary of the Iraq war. He asked pointed questions, held his ground, and held Casey to account for rosey statements made in the past about how smashingly everything had been going.
What i witnessed would have been amusing, but given the implications, i'd have to say my emotions are now running a little more to the disturbed side. Casey was literally squirming in his seat, stuttering and talking in circles. At one point his eyes started nervously darting off-camera, as if looking for a safety line from one of his handlers. Very very surreal, and decidedly not a feel good moment. Read the transcript here.
(Second up was Congressman Jack Murtha, his balls firmly in place, continuing his plea to reassess the situation, redeploy the troops in the region, and figure out a better plan … ANY plan … before more American troops are needlessly endangered.)
And now onto more thoughts on the Comics Journal #273. Continuing a tour through the Newswatch section. (Last episode i mentioned the first entry in Newswatch, the very well considered and executed piece on creator contracts with corporations, and the like.) Moving along we have a short piece on the news that the Harveys are, once again, changing venue, from MoCCA to Baltimore. A decent piece, especially considering i don't recall reading anything remotely in depth about this anywhere else. The Harvey Award deserves some stability. Best of luck to Marc Nathan with this endeavor.
(For the record, while i agree that MoCCA had some problems, and the price tag was WAAAY too steep for attendees, and the sit-down meal a bit extravagant, i have to confess that i had a rip-roaring time the last time i attended, two years ago, hanging out with Chris [AdHouse] Pitzer and Robbie [iDW] Robbins. Maybe it had something to do with the really hot girls walking around with free samples of various liquor concoctions, paid for by some fancy vodka manufacturer. I think it was Ketel One or Skyy. They just kept coming around. It wasn't my fault. At any rate, needless to say i got a wee bit tipsy, and i must say i had more fun at this show than i've ever had at the faaar tooooo loooong Eisner Awards.)
Next in Newswatch, a piece on the struggling, yet "restructuring" Alias Comics Enterprises. It seemed a good set-the-record-straight type of affair, but to be honest, that was one story i haven't been keeping up on, so i'm hardly qualified to formulate a response.
And now we're up to Journal Datebook section, edited by Greg Stump. For those who don't read the Comics Journal, this is one reason (IF you consider yourself a hard-core comics lover) you should. Basically shorter news soundbites, you find more not-quite-mainstream news information here than most of the web-comics content combined. (Although to be fair, Tom Spurgeon is graciously filling this gap quite nicely at his superb Comics Reporter site, with similar type news items that no one else deems otherwise newsworthy.)
Headlines include: Robert White, Artist for Archie Comics, Dies; Luckovich Causes Stir with Iraq Cartoon; and (Zak) Sally Leaves Low (indy rock band) to Focus on Solo Endeavors. (More on Zak Sally's publishing imprint, La Mano next post, in my response to a review of John Porcellino's stellar Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man graphic novel.)
In the Firing Line section (reviews) this issue, several entries, the first a really ambiguous slam/appreciation (?) about being a Neil Gaiman fan. Perplexing stuff. This is the sort pseudo-intellectually, poorly reasoned, ultimately meaningless type of dross that always seems to bring TCJ down a notch or two. Even if valid points might be made, the snarky attitude just serves to distance the reviewer from the reader.
Next in the Firing Line, Rich Kreiner offers ample evidence as to how good and why Frank King's sublime Gasoline Alley was so amazing. And believe me, it really really is spectacular work. Go pick up Drawn & Quarterly's first collection of the daily strips, titled Walt & Skeezix. (You can thank me later, it's really that good.)
(So tired... More to come.)
March 18, 2006 / More →
As i mentioned a few days ago, i thought the blog would be a great venue for me to spill some thoughts on the second most recent Comics Journal; the one with the Eddie Campbell cover feature, #273. (They are releasing these way too fast for me to keep up.)
First, let me just say up front that i LOVE the Comics Journal. I think it's fair to call the Comics Journal, since the time that Gary Groth bought the Nostalgia Journal about a hundred years ago, was and is the single most important journalistic magazine about the comics medium and business that we've ever seen in North America. It's been coming out consistently for much longer than i've been reading (i started reading in earnest in about 1990 or so), and even when it was suffering its weakest and meanest incarnation (under Milo George, IMHO), with lame interviews, untimely news, and vitriolic reviews, there was still enough going for it to make it downright vital. And now, under the helm of Dirk Deppey, it's reaching towards heights i haven't seen since the Groth years. (Gushing done.)
Issue #273 starts with the ever-lovin' Blood & Thunder, the letters section. Tom Spurgeon (editor of the Comics Reporter), given a chance at the "last word" on a series of critical "report-card" overviews of various comics websites (by news editor Michael Dean) later on in the magazine, shows class by posting his "last word" up front in B&T so that in fact, Michael Dean can have the last "last word" in his own defense. An honorable decision by The Spurg, and indeed his response is very pointed.
(Just for some context; this series of articles were across the board absolutely brutal, accusing each of the websites [including Newsarama, the Pulse, the Comics Reporter, the Beat, and Lying in the Gutters, to name a few] as not living up to Dean's expectations of journalistic integrity as investigative news organs.)
Spurgeon comes out swingin' and in a nutshell blew a gaping hole in Dean's entire conceit (and one to which Dean himself freely admits); which is that not a single of the targets in his reports has ever laid claim to be "investigative" news sources in the first place. Dean then spins large amounts of fuzzy logic (isn't that called Bullshit?) in his defense, and as a result, his wrap up of the entire series has been entirely deflated and rendered all but meaningless.
And THEN, in his introduction to the final segment of "Online Comics Journalism: Does it Exist?," wherein he gives right to the "last word" to the website editors themselves, Dean has the temerity to take that "last word" away from them, by preemptively responding to their responses before the reader even has a chance to read them.
And THIS, in a nutshell, has been my big beef with the Comics Journal since the first issue i ever sat down to; no matter how long an issue may have been been debated (many debates lasting for several issues), and how absolutely wrong or misguided they have been proven to be, they ALWAYS throw in the last word, and NEVER admit to guilt. (It sounds like the Bush Administration, doesn't it? But that's an unfair comparison, since the Comics Journal has never been responsible for so much fuckery and death.)
Every single editor and/or story-writer (who's been the subject of debate) has done it, as far as i can remember. This bias has always left a bad taste in my all these years, beyond journalistic prerogative and leaning towards belligerent.
So anyway, my report card on this series of articles? C-
But then, on the flipside, Michael Dean's first article in the Newswatch section (a self-explanatory piece called "Comics and Corporations: Creativity Under Contract") is superb. A well-researched and well-considered examination of some recently leaked creator contracts, and a bit of reaching back in time to provide context. This is is why i do so love TCJ, in spit of my previous protestations.
And -- oh my!, it's past 2:00 a.m. So tired. Next, i'll start with discussing the Journal Datebook.
See you then.
March 15, 2006 / More →
Spent a long crazy weekend in Phoenix, visiting Aunt and cousin and family. Left cold and raining Portland on a 6:30 a.m. flight, looking forward to a pleasant 70 - 75 degrees in the desert, only to arrive, and it's unseasonably f*cking COLD & WET!! (The entire suburb i was in, called Gilbert, was flooding in the margins.) What gives?!
Then to make matters worse, in the middle of the weekend, seven out of ten of us got either a freakishly-timed 24-hour flu, or a nasty case of food poisoning; up all-night for a fun puke-fest, and/or, well, purging while NOT puking, if you get my drift.
And to top off the trip, a handful of outreach calls to the local comics shops (where i surreptitiously first ask if they have BLANKETS in stock), turned out horribly. Absolute bust. Makes me realize the continuous uphill battle small publishers face in reaching direct-market retailers. (To date, by far the best store that i've been to in the Phoenix area is Ash Ave. Comics [Tempe]. If anyone has information on any other really stellar comics shops in and around Phoenix, PLEASE let me know. I'll post it to the blog, and get in for a visit next time i'm down.)
On the plus side of our descent into March Madness in the Desert, i got to watch a couple Suns games (the second of which was a rare win by my hometown Trailblazers, the best underachievers in the league), AND i got to read the second most recent Comics Journal, #273: The Eddie Campbell interview issue.
I'll write about my thoughts on this issue over the next few days. (As my headline said a few weeks ago, I Love the Comics Journal, i Hate the Comics Journal... but mostly i LOVE it!!)
Lastly, GREAT post over at The Hurting about how much Marvel & DC play a sucka's game vying for direct-market market share with their big d*cks, er... i mean "events," but in so doing still manage to keep a boot heel on the neck of the fringes, and diminishing the reach of far too many intelligent, sophisticated, illuminating and beautiful works.
March 9, 2006 / More →
My hat is off to reader Chris Rice, who wrote in to inform me exactly who it was that published that fabulous Metropol hardcover i was gushing over while crashing Philip Simon's housewarming party a couple weeks ago. Many thanks, Chris.
I read on your blog about the Metropol HC you saw, thought you might like a little more info. It was published by a small company called Blue Eyed Dog in the mid-nineties, a company founded by English journalists Cathi Unsworth and David O'Sullivan. Igor Goldkind was involved as well (as he seemed to be in everything in London between the mid 80s-90s). They didn't last long, although they put out several issues of a wonderful magazine called Purr, a combination of words and comics, which had writing by Harry Crews, Hubert Selby, Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop and others, plus articles about McKeever, Dame Darcy, Edward Gorey, Crews, HR Giger...the list goes on. They put out records too, mainly a series of split 10" editions which included bands like Tindersticks and Gallon Drunk.
Metropol was their first colletion, with a Richard Kern book scheduled to follow, but something went wrong almost immediately after Metropol came out, and it was the last thing they ever published.
Damn, i'd love to stumble across an issue or two of this Purr magazine. Looked pretty groovy.