Paying For It: a Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, by Chester Brown

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(I interviewed Chester Brown about Paying for It. You can listen to the interview on the Gweek bonus podcast 002. Subscribe to the Gweek podcast here: iTunes | RSS.)

I've been reading Chester Brown's comic books since the early 1980s when he self published a mini comic called Yummy Fur (eventually published by Vortex Comics). He's from Montréal and is good friends with cartoonists Joe Matt and Seth.

Brown's latest work is a fascinating 280-page memoir called Paying For It: a Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John (Drawn & Quarterly). It's about his experiences being a customer of prostitutes since 1999. Brown started paying for sex a few years after his girlfriend broke up with him (he stayed celibate for three years after the break-up) and he decided the emotional toll of romantic relationships was too much to bear and swore off ever having a girlfriend again. With some trepidation, he began seeing prostitutes in Toronto.

There is nothing erotic about Paying For It, even though there is some nudity and depictions of sex. Instead, Brown focuses on his inner dialogue while visiting prostitutes ("Why did I care if I hurt her feelings? She lied -- she's not in any way like the description in her ad." "The last few times I've seen Anne I've felt empty afterwards.") and the frank conversations with Seth and Matt, who are at turns bemused and concerned for their friend's practice of hiring prostitutes and his decision to abandon romantic relationships.

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As you can see in the sample above, the comic is drawn in small, sedate, panels, and Brown's expression never changes from panel to panel. He appears to be emotionally flat. Robert Crumb writes in the introduction to Paying For It:

Chester Brown is not of this planet. He is probably the result of one of those alien abductions where they stick a needle in a human woman's abdomen and impregnate her. He is a very advanced human. You can tell by looking at the photo of him. Notice how, throughout the book, his facial expression is always the same. His mouth is a slit. He never shows his teeth, never grins, never grimaces. The opposite of my portrayals of myself. Chester Brown's neutrality in the world is, in my estimation, quite admirable. As Jesus said, "Be as passers-by."

In the "Notes" section of Paying For It, Seth writes:

I often jokingly refer to Chet as "the robot." In posing a question to him I might quip, "Perhaps I should ask a person who has actual human emotions instead." The truth is, Chester seems to have a very limited emotional range compared to most people. There does seem to be something wrong with him. He's definitely an oddball. That said, he is also the kindest, gentlest and most deeply thoughtful oddball I know. Perhaps he is missing something in his emotional makeup, perhaps not. Who can say what is natural and what is learned behavior? I'll say this -- he really doesn't appear to be suffering. You can't argue with that.

A 30-page afterword is devoted to Brown's arguments in favor of the legalization of prostitution. To me, this is not nearly as interesting as the comic that precedes it.

Paying For It: a Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John

Gweek podcast 002: Fantasy novels for people who don't read fantasy novels

In the second episode of Boing Boing’s new podcast, Gweek, Mark and Rob of are joined by our pal Joel Johnson of kotaku.com to discuss a new comic book mini-series about multiple universes called The Infinite Vacation, the second book in Patrick Rothfuss’s outstanding fantasy novel series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, a multi-media article about the making of Portal 2, the poor design of Osama bin Laden’s compound, and much more.

gweek-logo-002.jpgIn the second episode of Boing Boing's new podcast, Gweek, Mark and Rob of are joined by our pal Joel Johnson of kotaku.com to discuss a new comic book mini-series about multiple universes called The Infinite Vacation, the second book in Patrick Rothfuss's outstanding fantasy novel series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, a multi-media article about the making of Portal 2, the poor design of Osama bin Laden's compound, and much more.

Show Notes for Gweek 002

1. The Final Hours of Portal 2

2. Korg Kaosilator Pro



3. Life, by Keith Richards

3. Korg iElectribe for iPad

4. Tascam Portastudio for iPad

5. The Infinite Vacation

6. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

7. The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

8. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

9. The Great Sony Hack

10. 4G Networks Aren't

11. Poor Design of Osama bin Laden's Compound

12. Anomaly Warzone Earth

13. Minecraft add-on called Finite Liquid

14. Dungeon Raid

Download Gweek 002 as an MP3 | Subscribe to Gweek via iTunes | Subscribe via RSS | Download single episodes of Gweek as MP3s

Batman drawing sells for $448,125

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On March 30, I wrote about Heritage Auctions' announcement that they would be auctioning the original art for page 10 from issue #3 of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's The Dark Knight Returns (1986). They figured it would sell for at least $100,000. Well, the auction was yesterday, and it sold for $448,125, making it "the single most valuable piece of American comic art to ever sell." The buyer is anonymous.

The image is the single most memorable image from the entire comic book series and the greatest image from the decade of the 1980s ever to come to market, as well as now standing as one of, if not the most desirable pieces of original comic art from any era to come to market. It is a perfect stand-alone image of Batman and Robin (Carrie Kelley, the first female, full-time Robin) soaring high above Gotham City, emblematic of the entire storyline.

"I've always loved that drawing," commented Miller, when asked before the auction what his thoughts on its imminent sale were. "Danced around my studio like a fool when I drew it. I hope it finds a good home."

The previous record price for a piece of original American comic book art was set last year when the cover of EC comics Weird Fantasy #29, by legendary artist Frank Frazetta, sold at Heritage via a private treaty sale for $380,000.

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Batman: The Dark Knight #3 Batman and Robin Iconic Splash Page 10 Original Art

Dan Clowes' Mister Wonderful graphic novel

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Daniel Clowes' comic books are often about misfits. Ghost World was about a couple of teenage girl outcasts. Pussey was about an arrogant, self-deceiving cartoonist. The more recent Wilson (reviewed here) was about a lonely, unemployed, self-loathing, passive-aggressive sad-sack who goes through life making himself and the people around him miserable.

There's not a lot of action in a Clowes comic. His characters spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the poor decisions they've made that have caused them to have such miserable lives. You'd think these comics would be depressing to read. And truth be told, you'd be right. But it would be a mistake to pass them up, because they're also funny, poignant, and powerfully evocative.

Mister Wonderful, Clowes' latest graphic novel doesn't veer from familiar territory. It's about an out-of-work, out-of-money, divorced middle aged man named Marshall. The story starts in a café. Marshall sits at a table by himself, waiting for a blind date to meet him. He reflects on his failed romantic and social life, becoming increasingly agitated that his date isn't showing up. He starts drinking beer. By the time she shows up (her name is Natalie; she was late because she went to the wrong cafe; he thinks she's beautiful) Marshall is plastered. He has to urinate but is afraid to leave her because he "Musn't give her the chance to escape."

During the date, Marshall mentally torments himself about what to say, what he should and shouldn't disclose to Natalie, and how much he should stick to the truth. He immediately regrets almost everything he blurts out. His anxiety boils over when a homeless man enters the restaurant and walks up to their table and asks for a dollar. Mister Wonderful explodes at the homeless man, which alarms his date.

Soon after this incident, Clowes interrupts the main story with a two-page scene of the conversation taking place between the married couple who set Marshall and Natalie up on the date. We learn that they think that Marshall and Natalie are psychologically damaged, loose cannons.

The date ends with Marshall realizing the date was a flop, and he begins walking home filled with regret. But the story takes an unexpected turn, and the rest of the evening feels like a slightly less surreal version of the movie After Hours.

As a storyteller and artist Clowes is at his masterful best here. He makes judicious and creative use of comic book devices: three dimensional words to symbolize emotional distress; a little floating man to represent Marshall's superego; text in word balloons running off the side of a panel or obscured by inner-thought boxes; vignettes drawn in cartoony style to depict imagined consequences; flashbacks tinted a rusty orange. It's a pleasure to closely study Clowes technical chops. He's been at this game for a long time, and keeps getting better at what he does. There may be a few living graphic novelists as talented as Clowes, but in my opinion no one tops him.

Mister Wonderful

Read the rest

Will Eisner's cool 3D titles for his Spirit comic

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Mirko Ilic of Imprint presents a gallery of hand-drawn 3-D comic book titles, with emphasis on Will Eisner's amazing Spirit titles.

But everything changed with the appearance of Will Eisner's "The Spirit" (1940). "The Spirit" was published as a seven-page supplement to the comics section of American Sunday newspapers. As a supplement tucked inside newspapers, "The Spirit" did not depend on being visible on the newsstands. It was not limited by the need for recognizable branding like "Superman". Mr. Eisner used that extremely cleverly by going in exactly the opposite direction. Not only did he change the masthead of "The Spirit" for every issue, but very soon, the masthead became an integral part of the scene/set. Eisner continued to play with the masthead even when "The Spirit" started to be sold on newsstands as an independent booklet.
The Spirit of the Stone Type

Ghost World envisioned as a Charlton comic book adaptation of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon

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Mr. Ed created this terrific "mush-up" cover of a fake comic book that combines Hanna-Barbera's execrable yet iconic Scooby Doo with Dan Clowe's sublime and almost iconic Ghost World.

Hanna-Barbera's Ghost World

Dark '70s animation of Japanese fairy tale on tsunamis and death: "The Guiding Jizo"

Matt Alt points ot to a beautiful clip from the 1970s animated show Manga Nippon Mukashibanashi (Animated Japanese Fairy Tales). The legend upon which this particular clip is based is hundreds of years old. Matt writes:

In it, a young mother and child from the island of Kessenuma Oshima happen across a statue called the michibiki jizo -- the guiding bodhisattva. According to local legend, the soul of a person that is about to die appears before this particular jizo the day before they pass away. The mother and child are shocked to see a whole parade of spirits appear before the statue -- male and female, old and young. 

When they return home, the father laughs it off as a figment of their imaginations. But the very next day, when the family is fishing at the seashore, the tide pulls out and doesn't come back in. Minutes later, a massive tsunami wipes out the entire town as the mother, son, and father watch escape to a hilltop. They are the only survivors. 

Given the fact that Kessenuma is in the headlines today for the very same reason, there is no doubt that this "fairy tale" is based on a true story. It's particularly haunting in light of the ancient stone markers that dot the Japanese coastline warning of tsunami from times of old, a literal message to future generations from ancestors long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

[Video Link, 10:42] and Matt Alt's blog.

Biffo the Bear

retro_characters_biffo_004.jpg Biffo the Bear is a character from Britain's long-running, vaguely anarchic kids comic, The Beano. His first appearance was in the 1950s, to which this illustration dates. Look familiar? [via @cabel and @stevenf]

Video of hot elf women in sinister forest heralds arrival of Elfquest fan feature

Elfquestteaser1.jpg Fans of classic indie comic Elfquest, tired of waiting on Warner Brothers to get cracking on the official movie, recently finished work on a "fan trailer" featuring some of the series' female characters. Shown off at Wondercon by creators Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes -- with the blessing of original authors Wendy and Richard Pini -- the live-action scene-setter captures the saga's weird combination of European and Native American folklore. elfquestteaser2.jpgElfquest, now available free online, was among the first indie comics to be sold in bookstores or to attract a significant female audience. It's also credited with hitting some transgressive notes back in the 70s: mixed-race relationships, genre-spanning stories, matter-of-fact violence, and a free-love lifestyle made apparent in events such as war orgies and bisexual goings-on in the night. See if you can guess, before watching it, which of these attributes the trailer somehow seems to suggest without really trying. ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining: Teaser Trailer [YouTube] Elfquestfantrailer.com [Official website via i09]

$100k appraisal for single page of original art from Frank Miller's Dark Knight comic book

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Heritage Auctions estimates that the art for page 10 from issue #3 of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's The Dark Knight Returns (1986) will fetch at least $100,000 when it goes on the block on May 5.

Prior to the four-issue series of The Dark Knight Returns, Batman had lost his perch among the superhero elite. When Miller's masterpiece debuted it created an almost instant buzz and rejuvenated Batman as DC's most popular character. In the process it also helped revitalize the comics industry as a whole.
UPDATE: Nick Rallo, Dallad Observer Web Editor, says: "Saw your post about the Frank Miller Dark Knight original -- thought I'd pass along our visit to Heritage Auction to get an up-close look at the page. Super exciting for us nerds over here."

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Batman:The Dark Knight #3 Batman and Robin Iconic Splash Page 10 Original Art (DC, 1986)

Wonder Woman, Amazon Baby Sitter!

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1957 was the highwater mark for entertainment about superheroes who raised young dinosaurs like their own children.

Read the complete story at Grantbridge Street

Japan Quake: Tokusatsu super heroes tweet in character to reassure scared young people

"In light of last week's events in Japan, a Twitter account has surfaced with encouraging comments from heroes on tokusatsu shows such as Ultraman, Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. The person behind this twitter account is Teruaki Ogawa (NinjaRed on Kakuranger)." (Submitterator, via Boing Boing reader Andrew Howat)

Cartoonist Adrian Tomine interviewed on Bat Segundo Show

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Cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine (author of the terrific little book Scenes From an Impending Marriage) was recently interviewed on the Bat Segundo show. (I love this cover Adrian drew for The New Yorker.)

Subjects Discussed: Doing time in Sacramento, veiling a personal experience with a sex change, which of Tomine's characters is least like him, the liberation that comes in fabrication, scratched out names and Victorian literature, the original small audiences for Scenes and 32 Stories, the father's fund, taking criticisms to heart, the drawbacks of working in the same realist vein, Tomine's wife as the "first audience," the artist's fragile ego, the influence of printed literature and storytelling upon art, humbling versions of inspiration, Tomine's degrees of aspiration and ambition, living a life in service to the drawing, facing the world, the "strenuous" exigencies of cartoonists, drawing panels without decor, Tomine's perfectionist qualities, the freedom in pursuing work that isn't going to be reviewed, feeling highly scrutinized, the pleasure in publishing harsh letters, the look of the ranger, using the fewest lines to get the maximum amount of detail, settling upon the three panel approach, maintaining a private style in secret scrapbooks, varying levels of creative insulation from the public, the very low frequency of sound words, the tongue licking in "Alter Ego," seeing external details that other characters cannot, the grotesque reality of Chris Ware's furry cats, the number of people who read books in Tomine's New Yorker illustrations, the Venn diagram between 1990s subcultures and digital culture, disappearing subcultures, cartoonists who detest hippie and hipster culture, gesture and look, Alison Bechdel's elaborate photographic process, and the pursuit of "realism" in an "unreal" medium.
Cartoonist Adrian Tomine interviewed in Bat Segundo Show

The Blank Page

Who are you? I'm your f'ing muse, you little polyp. [Oglaf. NSFW]

Barnaby Ward's Graphic Novel: Sixteen Miles to Merricks

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One of my favorite illustrators, Barnaby Ward, found a cache of 1st edition copies of his dreamlike graphic novel, Sixteen Miles to Merricks, which sold out quickly (Used copies go for $90 and up on Amazon).

The story begins when a man comes home and discovers a mysterious woman in the house. She leads him through a series of tunnels under the house and beyond. The 208-page book contains four other excellent surreal short stories,

You can read the book online here and order it for $30 at Barnaby's website.