In Adrian Tomine’s ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist,’ success is measured in increments of humiliation

What may be called success by some looks more like death by a thousand mortifying cuts in Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. Humanity’s predilection to focus on our worst reviews and “should’ve-saids” is the guiding force in this autobiographical graphic novel chronicling a life devoted to comic art, for better or for worse (mostly worse). Every insult, shitty review, and awkward encounter has been meticulously catalogued and presented for further painful public scrutiny, from getting mollywhopped on the playground for loving Spider-Man too hard to getting snubbed at the Eisner Awards during his “boy wonder” cartoonist superstar years to every catastrophic book signing, flubbed interview, and ill-timed bowel movement ever since.

As a casual witness to Tomine’s early career, I don’t recall any of the empty signings or ostracism described in this latest graphic novel. To the contrary, I remember hordes of indie college kids with A-line bob haircuts, wearing mod parkas, looking so much like one of his characters it was pretty much cosplay, all of them standing in a huge sprawling line waiting to get a book signed. These were the same kids who probably listened to Modest Mouse and couldn’t wait for the next Harmony Korine movie to drop. While some of these very same kids were likely spending their formative years experimenting with typical 20-something rites of passage, Tomine describes a coming-of-age experience spent either chained to the drawing table meticulously honing his craft or hanging out with grown-ass men (his true peers). Read the rest

Keanu Reeves now writes a comic book about a superhero who looks a lot like him

Keanu Reeves co-wrote a new comic book series called BRZRKR with co-writer Matt Kindt (Folklords, Bang!) and artist Alessandro Vitti (Marvel’s Secret Warriors). It's apparently "for mature readers" because, y'know, it's "brutally violent," according to the Boom! Studios announcement:

The man known only as Berzerker is half-mortal and half-God, cursed and compelled to violence…even at the sacrifice of his sanity. But after wandering the world for centuries, Berzerker may have finally found a refuge – working for the U.S. government to fight the battles too violent and too dangerous for anyone else. In exchange, Berzerker will be granted the one thing he desires – the truth about his endless blood-soaked existence…and how to end it.

Unsurprisingly, Netflix has a first-look deal to develop a TV show based on the comic. Also unsurprisingly, Berzerker looks a lot like Keanu. “I’d love to play Berzerker!” Reeves told USA Today. “It's a really fun story so if it's not me, hopefully someone can play it.”

Image top, detail of main cover art by Rafael Grampá. Image below, interior art by Alessandro Vitti and variant cover art by Mark Brooks.

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Women speak out about Warren Ellis

"Scores of women are publishing details of their relationships with the Transmetropolitan writer, who they say offered mentorship in exchange for sexual contact," writes Sam Thielman in The Guardian. "But they don’t want him cancelled – they want a conversation."

Many of the women were in their late teens and early 20s when their contact with Ellis began. Sometimes they initiated the conversation, sometimes he did. Some of these relationships were conducted entirely online, while others were physical. Some of the women work in the comic-book industry, while others are artists, writers, photographers and alternative models. Many of them say Ellis gave them career boosts, using his newsletters, blogs and influential forums to draw attention to their work. But as they hear their own stories coming from other women, many say they feel used in what they consistently describe as a pattern of friendship, then escalating sexual contact, then exclusively sexual contact – and silence if they refused, or stopped.

60 of the women posted an open letter to a website created for the purpose, So Many Of Us.

We are telling our stories so that three things happen:

1. No one else is added to our group. We now know of nearly 100 people who were targeted by Warren Ellis over two decades of misconduct. We want to stop this pattern of behavior and protect others from going through what we have experienced.

2.For anyone affected by Warren Ellis to know that we are here and waiting for them.

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Gary Larson quietly brings back 'The Far Side' after 25 years away

Quirky comic institution The Far Side has very quietly returned as a full color irregular online series. Nerds, cows, bears, cavemen, Boy Scouts, old ladies, and aliens are back to the old drawing board, which creator Gary Larson notes is now digitized: Read the rest

Cartoonist Kayfabe takes a look back at James O'Barr's The Crow

In this nearly an hour and half video, Ed and Jim of Cartoonist Kayfabe take a deep dive into James O'Barr's The Crow, the hugely influential late-80s indie comic book.

As usually for a Cartoonist Kayfabe, they point out many interesting details as they do a page-by-page deconstruction of the book. They point out, for instance, the widespread distribution of The Crow through bookstore chains way before other indies. And how The Crow also showed up in mainstream comic book magazines and collections at the time, bringing readers from the superhero market into the indies. The also point how inspiring it was for young comic book artists to be exposed to it to see what an indie book could be when one person is the creator of everything, rather than mainstream team-based comics.

The influence of 80s Frank Miller and Alan Moore on O'Barr is also discussed. They also point out how ahead of his time O'Barr was in depicting Detroit as a post-industrial city (and how making a gritty city a character itself becomes a mainstay of outlaw comics going forward).

I love the way they point out all of the techniques he used, his inventive title lettering, his use of other arts (poetry, music, film) in quotes and references, and much more. Nice to see our pal, John Bergin, get a shout-out (he wrote the intro to the Kitchen Sink Press edition of The Crow that they page through).

If you're a fan of The Crow, indie comics, single-creator comics, and moody AF Gothic art, this is a very enjoyable and inspiring 73 minutes. Read the rest

Fluorescent blacklight comic book

Mtsyry: Octobriana 1976 is a new book from Jim Rugg featuring Octobriana, the Russian superhero star of cult 70s comics which themselves have a strange and confusing history. Rugg's incarnation will be printed in fluorescent blacklight inks by AdHouse Books, which is apparently the first time this has been done: "It should look incredible and appeal to fans of weird comics, printed matter, unique zines, 70s counter-culture."

The kickstarter has 8 days left and has already blasted past its target. Rugg writes:

The story is set in the 1970s, the period when blacklight posters were most popular (also the period of Rugg’s graphic novel, Afrodisiac). In 1971, the west learned about Octobriana - the outlaw Russian superhero comic in Petr Sadecky’s expose, Octobriana and the Russian Underground. Octobriana is part Barbarella, part Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. She’s an unusual cult character with a storied history. David Bowie tried to make a movie about her. Billy Idol has her likeness tattooed on his arm. As a child of the Cold War and fan of underground comix, Rugg identified Octobriana as the perfect character for his psychedelic outlaw comic!

The concept of Mtsyry: Octobriana 1976 is that underground American cartoonists made their own Octobriana comic book after reading Sadecky’s book. It was an effort to show solidarity with their Russian cartoonist comrades. Robot Stalin's got a new doomsday bomb! Can the Devil-Woman stop him before he destroys us all? Siberian labor camps, PPP secret orgies, motorcycle gunship train chases - this one has it all!

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MAD Magazine legend Al Jaffee retires at age 99

Best known for his "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and the ever-ubiquitous MAD Fold-In, cartoonist Al Jaffee has retired today at the age of 99, making him the longest working cartoonist in history.

Jaffee began his career working for Marvel pre-cursors Timely and Atlas Comics in the early 1940s but settled into his lifelong position with the usual gang of idiots at Mad Magazine beginning in 1955. It 1964, he cultivated one of mankind's all-time greatest inventions: the fold-in. It was always a dilemma - how to fold it just enough to see the hidden image without ruining the entire back cover?

Jaffee talks about the origin of his other most enduring gag series, Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, in this video from Heeb Magazine founder Jeff Newelt .

Let's honor his life's achievements by making our own Fold-In and Snappy Answer tributes today.

Q: Why did Al Jaffee retire?

A: He decided to pursue his actual lifelong dream and become a stuntman.

A: MAD Magazine reneged on his contract by neglecting to pick all of the green M&M's out of his backstage catering tray.

A: He felt like waiting until 100 was just showing off.

From The Washington Post:

Jaffee said in a 2016 Baltimore Comic-Con session that hardship sharpened his humor. He was born in Savannah, Ga., but life grew rough during the six years of childhood he spent on a shtetl in his mother’s Zarasai — what he called “the Siberia of Lithuania” — with food in short supply and no running waters or toys.

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Furry Freak Brothers coming this fall, voiced by Woody Harrelson, John Goodman, Pete Davidson, and Tiffany Haddish

Yesterday saw the online premier of a mini-episode of a new animated comic series based on the classic Gilbert Shelton underground comic, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. As a hippie wannabe teen in the 70s, this (and Zap! Comics) was everything to me.

In 1969, life in San Francisco consists of free love, communal living, and political protest. Freewheelin’ Franklin Freek (Harrelson), Fat Freddy Freekowtski (Goodman), Phineas T. Phreakers (Davidson) and their mischievous, foul-mouthed cat, Kitty (Haddish) spend their days dodging many things —- the draft, the narcs, and steady employment -– all while searching for an altered state of bliss.

But after partaking of a genetically-mutated strain of marijuana, the Freaks wake up 50 years later to discover a much different society. Quickly feeling like fish out of water in a high-tech world of fourth-wave feminism, extreme gentrification and intense political correctness, the Freaks learn how to navigate life in 2020 -— where, surprisingly, their precious cannabis is now legal.

OK, sounds good. But is it? If the reaction to the first mini-episode is any indication, maybe the Freaks should have remained in their drug-induced coma. As one Facbooker commented: "Get yourself a collected set of the original comic and skip this drivel!"

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This "video conference call bingo" is spot on

Visit The Nib to read Gemma Correll's timely and accurate video conference call bingo comic. Read the rest

Edward Gorey's new book reviewed by Mark Dery

"The Angel, The Automobilist, and Eighteen Others" is a new collection of early drawings by eccentric illustrator and storyteller Edward Gorey (1925-2000). Over at The Comics Journal, Mark Dery, author of the Gorey biography Born to Be Posthumous, reviews the slim new volume while considering where Gorey's odd oeuvre sits (or doesn't) in the comic book tradition. Dery writes:

[Gorey's] library, at the time of his death, included anthologies of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Gary Larson’s Far Side, the droll caricatures of Ronald Searle, European comics like Astérix and Tintin (Hergé’s ligne claire aesthetic surely chimed, in Gorey’s mind, with the crisp line of his own hand-drawn “engravings”), 12 volumes of Hyperion’s Library of Classic American Comic Strips, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo, and Wilhelm Busch’s classic Max and Moritz (1865), a black-comedy parody of moralizing children’s literature like Heinrich Hoffmann’s macabre Struwwelpeter (1845). Predictably, his small but carefully curated (as we’re taught to say) collection of original art included cartoons by Glen Baxter and the loopy New Yorker stalwart George Booth. Less predictably, his bookshelves were stuffed, too, with collections of superhero comics, especially Marvel titles: Batman from the 30s to the 70s, Superman Battles the Mightiest Men in the Universe, Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of Marvel Villains, Marvel’s Greatest Superhero Battles, The Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, and on and on.

Gorey’s fondness for comics and cartoons isn’t proof positive they influenced his work, but Steven Heller, a historian of design and illustration, has no doubt he has a foot in the comic-art tradition.

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Friday: the new digital-first, pay-what-you-want Lovecraftian YA detective comic from Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente

Award-winning comic creators Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin launched Panel Syndicate in 2013 as a digital-only, name-your-price publishing outlet for their near-future Internet noir The Private Eye. They've released several comics through this imprint since then — from themselves, and from other creators — that all fit under the same DRM-free, pay-what-you-want f0rmat, with horizontally-oriented pages specifically designed to be read on a computer screen or tablet.

The Panel Syndicate format was always intended to upend comic publishing, in a way. So it wasn't that surprising when they announced a new book in the wake of the temporary coronavirus pause of the entire comic book industry. 

The new book, Friday, features art by Panel Syndicate founders Martin Martin and Muntsa Vicente, with a story by acclaimed comic crime writer Ed Brubaker, creator of Criminal, The Fade Out, and the Winter Soldier from Marvel Comics. Here's a brief synopsis:

Friday Fitzhugh spent her childhood solving crimes and digging up occult secrets with her best friend Lancelot Jones, the smartest boy in the world. But that was the past, now she's in college, starting a new life on her own. Except when Friday comes home for the holidays, she's immediately pulled back into Lance's orbit and finds that something very strange and dangerous is happening in their little New England town...

This is literally the Christmas vacation from Hell and neither of them may survive to see the New Year.

In interviews and his newsletter, Brubaker has described the story as "post-YA," which isn't really a genre, but makes sense — it's about that first winter home after the first semester of college, except in this case it's riffing on the child detective archetypes of Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Hardy Boys.  Read the rest

The Mountain Goats have a new song about Marvel Comics with possibly the longest title ever

I've been writing overly-melodramatic rock n' roll bangers about comic books with long-ass titles for at least 15 years now. I had thought that I had achieved the pinnacle of this with my band's upcoming record. Tentatively titled, "A Collection of Songs About Comics Books and Mid-30s Malaise," it will include a dark synth-pop tune about Cyclops called "Every Girl Is An Apple," as well as a Cars-esque jam about Hawkeye called "My Life as a Weapon." This all of course follows up on our first not-so-big hit, "Face It, Tiger (You Just Hit The Jackpot)."

Unfortunately, my friend John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats may have beat me to the punch with (deep breath) "The Proliferation of Marvel Universe Timelines Has Made It Impossible For Me to Use Search Engines to Determine Which Issue From the 70s Had Loki Predicting the Immanence of Ragnarok In Its Final Panel But It Certainly Wasn’t #272, or, New Mountain Goats Tape Song."

That's it. That's the song title. It almost takes as long to say as the song itself takes to play.

I'm not sure which shames me more: that John has defeated me on long titles and obscurity, or that I actually don't know which Thor comic he's referencing here.

Either way, the song is a delight, and the Mountain Goats will be releasing a new lo-fi cassette tape from quarantine this Friday, the kind of hissy 4-track recordings upon which the band built its cult following in the 90s and early 00s before expanding their lineup and recording quality. Read the rest

"The Black Ghost" is a fun Latina twist on urban noir superheroes

Marvel found a lot of success with their street-level Netflix series, focusing on those less-super superheroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Across town, Batman has always been one of the most beloved DC heroes, more because of his lack of powers than despite them.

Now, Comixology's original digital-only publishing line is offering their own twist on the gritty powerless superhero genre with The Black Ghost. Written by comics and crime writer (and Archie Comics co-president) Alex Segura and comic writer/artist Monica Gallagher with art by Marco Finnegan and George Kambadais, the comic follows a bitter alcoholic beat reporter named Lara Dominguez, whose obsession with a local vigilante called the Black Ghost gets her wrapped up in multilevel crime syndicate that has its eyes as much on real estate and media as it does in petty crimes. It feels like both an origin story, and a chapter in a larger story that's been going on for years — just like a good superhero comic should.

The story takes place in a city called Creighton. And while we don't know where exactly that is (the protagonist's former life in Miami has followed her to this new dying city), the grey skies and crumbling buildings could be almost any fading former factory hub along the East Coast. As I read, I kept thinking of it as the Bridgeport version of Gotham City or Metropolis — generic, but accessible, and fleshed out just enough to make it feel lived-in and real.

From the first issue, it's clear that The Black Ghost is going to shamelessly lean into the tropes of the genre — but with just enough inversions of expectations. Read the rest

Check out these new Quarantine Comix from the creator of "Ice Cream Man"

Ice Cream Man is one of the comic books I most look forward to every month. Written by W. Maxwell Prince with art by Martín Morazzo and Chris O'Halloran, it's basically a horror anthology that mines the existential depths of suburban ennui. And all of it, or some of it, may tie back to the Ice Cream Man, who might be a demon, or a God, or maybe it's all in your head. Each issue is a done-in-one, focusing on a new and different character (although there are some subtle connections between them), and many of them take hyper-stylized approaches to graphic storytelling — an entire issue written and drawn as a palindrome, for example; and another one where an incident with Neapolitan ice cream bar creates 3 splintering timelines, shaded in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry (A Vulture review compared this issue to "Sliding Doors, but terrifying," which is accurate).

Unfortunately, the comic book industry is now indefinitely on hold thanks to the coronavirus pandemic (an invisible existential horror which would actually be right home in an issue of Ice Cream Man).

But now the creators of Ice Cream Man have launched Quarantine Comix, a digital-only collection of short comics in Ice Cream Man continuity that they'll release online once or twice a week. There's more:

Half of profits go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), which supports struggling booksellers. This includes local Comic Book Shops, who are facing unprecedented financial hardship after the closure of many of their stores, the temporary shuttering of their distribution system, and the non-operation of pretty much every paper printer in the country.

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Read the first 10 chapters of my serialized Comic-con satire novel

In the early 2010s, I wrote a play called True Believers that was kind of a send-up and a love letter to comic-con culture. The play had a full production in Boston in 2012 (closing on the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con, when they first announced the Guardians of the Galaxy, which totally ruined the meta-level "I Am Groot" gag in the script), as well as staged readings at fringe festivals across the country, from New York to Chicago to Valdez, Alaska.

I later tried to turn that script into a novel. It was an interesting writing experience — trying to adapt your own work across mediums, from one that's explicitly external to one that's largely internal is a weird challenge, to say the least — and ultimately, nothing really came of the manuscript.

But now that we're all quarantine, and now that comic books themselves have also been quarantined for the foreseeable future, I've decided to serialize it on Medium, broken down into digestible chunks. The first 10 chapters are out now, and they each take (by Medium's calculations) about 4-9 minutes to read. I'll be adding new chapters every day through the end of the month. If you're looking for some nerdy laughs and nostalgia, it could be a delightful way to pass the time right now.

Here's a fuller synopsis of the story, in case you're not convinced:

It's the weekend of the big annual comic book convention, and Chad Mailer is a young professional comic book writer who hit his career peak five years ago with a series that he never actually finished, and he now wishes to re-ignite his career.

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xkcd's funny comic told from a coronavirus's point of view

This time, the viruses thought they'd come up with the perfect way to spread, but humans are outwitting them again. Read the rest

400 pages of Judge Dredd available for free

Rebellion has released the critically- and fan-acclaimed Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.5 free to download and view on the 2000 AD app.

This 400-page collection includes classic Judge Dredd stories such as The Mega-Rackets, Judge Death Lives!, Diary of a Mad Citizen, The Hotdog Run, and the all-time great mega-epic Block Mania and The Apocalypse War!

Written by John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Alan Grant (Batman), it features artwork by some of the titans of comics, including Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke), Carlos Ezquerra (Preacher), Colin Wilson (Blueberry), Ian Gibson (Halo Jones), Mick McMahon (The Last American), Ron Smith (Transformers), and Steve Dillon (Preacher)!

[H/t Rodney Orpheus] Read the rest

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