Talking The Rough Pearl with Xeric Award-winning Canadian cartoonist Kevin Mutch

This interview presents a conversation with Xeric Award-winning Canadian cartoonist Kevin Mutch about The Rough Pearl (Fantagraphics, 2020), his new graphic novel which addresses issues surrounding the intersection of class and race privilege in the “precariat” creative communities in and around New York City.

Jeffery Klaehn: Thanks for the interview, Kevin!!  Please tell me about The Rough Pearl.

Kevin Mutch: The Rough Pearl is an autobiographical fantasy — a mixture of truth and fiction in roughly equal parts — about a would-be artist named Adam in New York City in the 1990s. He has a crappy adjunct teaching job, a wife who makes a lot more money than him, and an ill-advised crush on a student. And he seems to be losing his mind — he keeps seeing zombies and aliens and ghosts!

Adam is someone who grew up being told that the world was full of possibilities, but he’s come to see that it isn’t that way anymore (if it ever was). He had all these romantic ideas about being an artist, living in New York, being with beautiful women, and now he realizes all of those dreams have become impossible — until suddenly they all become possible again, all at once.

Unfortunately, he’s been having a harder and harder time determining what’s “real” and what isn’t — either he’s going crazy or he’s bleeding into parallel universes, the book is sort of ambiguous about that, heh — so he has a very difficult time navigating all of this. Read the rest

Talking Comics with Ignatz Award-Winning Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver

This interview presents a conversation with Ignatz award-winning cartoonist Noah Van Sciver (Fante Bukowski, Grateful Dead: Origins, Disquiet, Please Don’t Step On My JNCO Jeans, One Dirty Tree, Blammo, Saint Cole, More Mundane, Constant Companion, 1999, The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln) about his life, art and work. Read the rest

Cartoonist Richard Sala (1955 – 2020)

The cartoonist Richard Sala passed away this week at the age of 61. I always loved his work and own many of his comic books.

Cartoonist Daniel Clowes wrote a beautiful tribute to his friend, Richard Sala:

Richard was a very complicated guy, totally unlike anyone I've ever met. He could be gregarious and charming, always energetic and animated in conversation, but also crippled by terrible anxiety and profoundly agoraphobic. Over the years, it got harder and harder to get him out of the house. I basically forced him to meet me for lunch every Friday, and we did that right up until the COVID quarantine, but toward the end, that was the extent of his social life (except for the vast hours he spent online — a true lifeline). He would always show up five minutes late, furious about traffic, wearing a thick, black work shirt and his famous bucket hat, which curiously covered a full head of thick hair. He would close his eyes tight while ordering, as though trying to solve a complicated math equation, and then chop his ham and eggs into weird goulash, which he never finished.

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Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg look at the work of cartoonist Dave Cooper

As a long time fan of cartoonist Dave Cooper, I really enjoyed Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor going over Cooper's comic books of the late 1990s and early 2000s. I agree with them that Cooper belongs in the pantheon of Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, Jim Woodring, and the Hernandez brothers. Read the rest

Happy 99th birthday to MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee, and scans of my snappy answers I wrote as a kid

The great Al Jaffee turned 99 last week. He's been contributing to MAD for 64 years and is famous for his hidden-image-within-an-image MAD Fold-Ins on the inside back cover of the magazine. Happy belated birthday, Al! (Back in 2011, when Al was just a kid, Ruben Bolling and I interviewed him on my podcast, Gweek.)

A couple of weeks ago I visited my parents and found a bunch of my old books and comic books in the attic. I found my copy of MAD's Al Jaffee Spews Out Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, which I bought when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was surprised to see that I had filled in some snappy answers of my own to stupid questions.

"No, it's last year's hard-t0-melt snow."

"No, I'm inspecting the quality of my pillow."

[My 11-year-old self drew a blank for this one.]

"No, but are you interested in buying some lizard coffins?"

What are your snappy answers to these stupid questions? Read the rest

If you enjoy the work of the great cartoonist Gahan Wilson, he needs your help

One of the world's great single-panel cartoonists, Gahan Wilson, is ailing and needs support for his care. His wife Nancy passed away in March, and his son-in-law has set up a GoFundMe, to which I contributed.

Gahan drew wryly macabre cartoons for National Lampoon and Playboy (for over 50 years!) Even though he is showing signs of dementia, he still continues to draw cartoons:

Take a look at some of the terrific cartoons he drew over his long career. Read the rest

Cartoonist Kayfabe is Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg's new YouTube channel

Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg are well known to readers of Boing Boing, as we had the honor of publishing Ed's epic comic history Hip Hop Family Tree and Jim's brilliant Street Angel. Now they've launched a YouTube channel, Cartoonist Kayfabe, which you should subscribe to right away.

Ed writes:

Jim Rugg and I created this channel as an avenue for us to add a little meaty and sincere comics talk out there on Youtube and it really seems to be catching on as each episode goes live. Lots of show-and-tell is peppered throughout the episodes too.

We've been doing a series of episodes using the 1990's speculator rag, Wizard Magazine, as a way to discuss the era that inspired us to become cartoonists in the first place.

...

More interviews are on the horizon as we get our skype recordings to work perfectly:

I enjoyed this deep-dive on Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo:

Cartoonist Kayfabe [YouTube] Read the rest

Tonight (11/6/2017) in LA: Cartoonist Tom Gauld in conversation with Mark Frauenfelder

If you live in LA, I hope to see you at Skylight Books in Silver Lake, where I'll be talking with British cartoonist Tom Gauld about his work, including his latest book, Baking With Kafka. I'm a huge fan of Tom's work (see my reviews of his previous books, Mooncop, You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack, Goliath, and The Gigantic Robot).

Tom also created this lovely Boing Boing T-shirt, which should be in the wardrobe off all discriminating primates.

I've never met Tom in person, so I'm excited about this evening!

Event date: Monday, November 6, 2017 - 7:30pm

Event address: 1818 N Vermont Ave Los Angeles, CA 90027

You can reserve a copy of Baking with Kafka at Skylight Books here, so Tom can sign it for you.

Laugh out loud funny, Baking with Kafka compiles brilliant British cartoonist Tom Gauld's weekly strips in The Guardian, each strip captures the profundity of a thinkpiece while elevating its commentary to triumphant new levels of comedic narration. Join this stellar cartoonist for a wonderful evening of conversation with Mark Frauenfelder discussing these celebrated strips.

In his inimitable style, British cartoonist Tom Gauld has opened comics to a crossover audience and challenged perceptions of what the medium can be. Noted as a "book-lover's cartoonist," Gauld's weekly strips in The Guardian, Britain's most well-regarded newspaper, stitch together the worlds of literary criticism and pop culture to create brilliantly executed, concise comics. Simultaneously silly and serious, Gauld adds an undeniable lightness to traditionally highbrow themes.

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Interview with legendary cartoonist Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman, 81, is best known as the genius social and political cartoonist who famously illustrated Hunter S. Thompson's depraved adventures in Las Vegas, on the campaign trail in 1972, and at the Kentucky Derby. Juxtapoz's Gabe Scott interviewed the "crucial comic" about the insanity of today, his friendship with Hunter, and "let(ting) the paper discover things for you." From Juxtapoz:

How do you think the difference in personality type and contrasting level of drug intake between you and Hunter affected your working dynamic?

People would meet him, offer him a pill, he would eat it, and then say, ''What was that?'' Eat it first then ask what it was—he didn't seem to worry. To him, it was part of his philosophy on life; taking it the way he wants to go, the batty craziness.

How was your attitude or approach different in that respect? Would you consider it sort of a yin and yang?

Yes, I think yin and yang, really. The only time I did drugs with him was for the America's Cup, where I took psilocybin—he was taking them all the time, and I was seasick, so I asked what he was taking, and he said, ‘’Well, Ralph, these are just pills, you see.” So I said, ‘’Well, would it help me at sea?'' So I took it and, of course, after about a half an hour, I began to completely lose my mind, and Hunter said, ‘’Here's two spray cans, Ralph, what are you going to write on the side of the boat?''

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Short film about Chris Ware: "I distinctly remember being told by my teachers, if you draw women, you're colonizing them with your eyes"

Chris Ware is inarguably one of the greatest cartoonists of the last 50 years. In this short film produced by Ian Forster and Nick Ravich, Ware talks about the challenge of writing stories from the viewpoint of an African-American school teacher named Joanne Cole.

From his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, artist Chris Ware shares motivations and challenges for telling stories from the perspectives of others in his work. "I distinctly remember being told by my teachers, if you draw women, you're colonizing them with your eyes," Ware recalls of art school. "Do you not draw women and then maintain an allegiance to some sort of experience that only you have had? Or do you try to expand your understanding and your empathy for other human beings?"

Though it might be uncomfortable, Ware strives to write from a place of empathy, expanding his stories to feature characters whose experiences differ from his own. Among these characters is African-American school teacher Joanne Cole, who appears in Ware's continuing comic series Rusty Brown. "I have to try to somehow push my limits and my understanding of how I feel through other people in what I'm doing," says the artist. "You risk falling on your face doing so, but that's a risk you have to take."

Known for his New Yorker magazine covers, Chris Ware is hailed as a master of the comic art form. His complex graphic novels tell stories about people in suburban Midwestern neighborhoods, poignantly reflecting on the role memory plays in constructing identity.

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New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast on Trump

Ben Marks says: "A couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to interview New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, who was in San Francisco for the opening of her show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Naturally, I felt compelled to ask the author of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? an unpleasant question: How does she manage to get through the day without drawing a cartoon about Donald Trump?

Here's a snip from the conversation that followed:

“It’s difficult not to do that every time my pen approaches the paper,” Chast replies, her mouth immediately contorting into one of her character’s trademark scowls. “He’s such an asshole—such an asshole,” she repeats, almost spitting the words, as if to exorcise a demon that’s taken up unwanted residency in her spleen. “The despicableness of that person trumps every feeling I’ve ever had about a politician. His horrible voice, that stupid hair, the way he pushes his mouth out like that.” Chast purses her lips like a deranged baby duck.

“The courtesy he shows his wife,” I offer, goading her on.

More lightning bolts. “Oh, God, that’s so terrible. That picture of them getting off of the plane—it’s like she’s just a thing to him. I feel terrible for her.” Chast takes a deep breath.

I ask Chast if she’s been taking a lot of deep breaths lately.

“Yeah,” she says, “because I don’t want to think about him that much.” Chast pauses briefly, shakes her head, and then asks, “Do you know he actually said that he got higher ratings than 9/11?”

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Interview with 95-year-old MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee

MAD "Fold-In" artist Al Jaffee has been a professional cartoonist for 73 years. Guinness World Records has certified him as the oldest working cartoonist. Sam Thielman of The Guardian recently interviewed Jaffee about his brilliant career.

Was there a particular kind of baloney you were attracted to satirizing?

Well, yes. The world is full of bloviators. And you find them in politics, and even religion, if I may say so, where somebody appoints themselves the spokesman for God. And this kind of stuff, when there’s someone on the public scene who’s really going beyond his duties as a politician or a religious leader or a sportsman, he’s fair game. The main thing about Mad is that it’s not a preachy magazine. It’s not selling one kind of politics or one kind of religion or sports team or anything like that.

The main thing is to keep your eyes and ears open and when you hear something that’s clearly baloney, such as “eight out of 10 doctors smoke Chesterfield cigarettes” – these are ads that actually ran! One of the tobacco companies had the nerve to claim that doctors prefer their cigarettes. So it’s easy to shoot down that kind of bull.

But you do it with a gentle hand, you don’t preach and say “tobacco kills! How can these doctors do that?!” No, you just go them one step further and say, “In addition to eight out of 10 doctors smoking this brand of cigarette, in their time off, they each drink a gallon of bourbon, which also has health benefits.”

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The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Worlds of Herbert Crowley

Beehive Books is kickstarting a super-deluxe book of the work of Herbert Crowley, who was kind of an early 20th Century Jim Woodring.

The cartoonist, painter, illustrator, and sculptor Herbert Crowley was an innovator at the dawn of comics, and a defining figure of the early 20th century New York City avant garde art scene.

He exhibited his work in dozens of venues, including the legendary Armory Show of 1913 alongside Picasso and van Gogh, and in a joint exhibition with Léon Bakst in 1914. He received countless glowing reviews, describing him as a visionary voice exploring a brand new form of art. His cartoons were featured in the now-storied New York Herald Sunday comics section, printed on the reverse side of of Winsor McCay's masterpiece LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND.

A 1915 article in The Bookman called Crowley an artist whose “star is very decidedly in the ascendant. New York City at large discovered Herbert Crowley only a few months ago; but, once having been discovered, he is not the sort of person easily to be forgotten.”

But then… he was.

In 1917, he disappeared from the New York City scene, and never showed his artwork again.

In Art Out of Time, Dan Nadel’s 2006 collection of comics by unknown cartoonists, several of Crowley’s strips are reproduced as examples of vital early newspaper cartooning that had been unjustly and completely forgotten. In a short piece at the end of the anthology, Nadel describes Crowley as representing the “single largest information gap in this book,” — a book about unremembered artists — and writes that that aside from the existence of these comic strips, “nothing else is known about Crowley or his work.”

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What Am I Doing Here? Existential absurdist cartoons from the 1940s

What Am I Doing Here?

by Abner Dean

New York Review Comics

2016, 168 pages, 7 x 0.75 x 9.5 inches

$(removed) Buy one on Amazon

In the 1930s and 1940s, Abner Dean was a highly sought-after illustrator who drew covers, cartoons, and illustrations for The New Yorker, Esquire, Time, Life, and Newsweek, as well as advertising illustrations for insurance companies and product manufacturers. In 1945, Dean quit his day job and drew the first of seven books that have been described as “existential gag cartoons.”

What Am I Doing Here? is Dean’s second book, and is generally regarded as his best work. It was originally published in 1947. This facsimile edition just came out today and contains about 100 single panel drawings, rendered in India ink and graytone washes (in the classic New Yorker style of gag cartoons).

Dean’s drawings look like cartoons but they aren’t very funny, at least not in the traditional sense. They’re absurdist and disquieting. Everyone is naked and the action takes place either in decrepit urban settings, living rooms filled with grinning desperate characters, or barren surrealistic wastelands. Each drawing features the same hapless character, a lonely youngish man who questions his role in the human race, represented by a crowd that changes its form and behavior from page to page. The people are sometimes club-swinging brutes, other times they are blinkered sleepwalkers, insincere mask-wearers, bloodthirsty mobs, hysterical celebrators, suicidal lemmings, or guru-seeking fools. They often look more like animals than people. The protagonist is at times foolhardy, delusional, disappointed, fearful, proud, insecure, ruthless, or bewildered. Read the rest

How Cuba's greatest cartoonist fled from Castro and created 'Spy vs. Spy'

As a kid, my two favorite things in Mad magazine were the Fold-In and Spy vs Spy (which I pronounced "spyvisspy"). It was a wordless one-page comic about two oddly pointy faced spies, one dressed in black and the other dressed in white. Other than their different colored outfits, they behaved identically. They hated each other and created elaborate Rube Goldberg type machines to try to kill each other. Sometimes their machines worked, often, they’d backfire. They were tricky but usually too clever for their own good.

Atlas Obscura has an excellent article about Antonio Prohías, the creator of Spy vs Spy.

In New York, Prohías took work in a factory during the day, while working up his illustration portfolio at night. Taking inspiration from his supposed spy status, Prohías altered the look of El Hombre Siniestro, and gave him a counterpart, creating what we now know as Spy vs. Spy. In 1960, just months after moving to the city, Prohías, along with his daughter Marta who acted as an interpreter, walked unannounced into the offices of MAD Magazine. The editors were skeptical of the artist, but his silly spy gags won them over, and he had sold three of the strips to the magazine before leaving that day.

Spy Vs Spy: An Explosive Celebration, by Antonio Prohías and Peter Kuper, is an excellent book about Spy Vs Spy, with lots of sample strips. Read the rest

Watch: Daniel Clowes Complete Eightball release party at Meltdown Comics

I had a great time interviewing cartoonist Daniel Clowes at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles about his Complete Eightball anthology. This video was shot in glorious VHS by filmmaker Rocio Mesa and was produced by Gaston Dominguez-Letelier. Read the rest

Dan Clowes profiled in California Sunday Magazine

Robert Ito wrote a wonderful profile of cartoonist Daniel Clowes in California Sunday Magazine. It includes some nice illustrations of Clowes by other cartoonists.

In the third issue of Eightball, Clowes published “The Return of Young Dan Pussey,” a scathing takedown of the comics industry. In the strip’s satirical alternate reality, Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee is a glad-handing cheapskate with an eye for prostitutes, while Fantagraphics co-founder Gary Groth is a bully who consults a thesaurus mid-rant to come up with fresh ways to insult his artists. Art Spiegelman is a creepy, chain-smoking taskmaster who forces his stable of unpaid artists to create work for his comics magazine in a miserable hovel with burlap sacks for beds. “I just felt it was nasty, snotty, gratuitous,” recalls Spiegelman. Françoise Mouly, his Raw co-creator, says, “I became aware of [Clowes] as a wise­ass a long time ago.” Clowes has a different explanation. “Jealousy isn’t the right word, but I just had a longing to be a part of that world and had that feeling that I wasn’t,” he says. “It was sort of an expression of rage and self-pity and trying to make myself feel better about that.”

Clowes' full-length graphic novel, Patience, will by published March 1, 2016 by Fantagraphics.

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