§ Nice Art: Art Spiegelman writes about Si Lewen’s “The Parade”, a very little known wordless graphic novel from the 50s that Spiegelman has resurrected. A new editions is just out from Abrams Comic Arts.
I first met Si when he was a spirited and elfin ninety-four-year-old who still spent most of his waking hours painting—as he had since childhood. I’d stumbled onto his book “The Parade,” from 1957, while researching wordless picture stories—obscure precursors of today’s graphic novels that briefly flourished between the two World Wars. “The Parade,” obscure even by this genre’s standards, was drawn shortly after the Second World War, but was conceived while Lewen, a Polish Jewish refugee from Germany, was a member of an élite force of native German-speaking G.I.s who were in Buchenwald right after it was liberated.
§ A few years ago, artist of renown, the Rev. Dave Johnson, started a blog where he critiqued other artists cover designs While admitting that he himself is not perfect, it was frank talk of the kind that doesn’t make friends and it only lasted a little while. However, he’s gotten the bug to do it again, however, now he has a Patreon for it. The cost to read Dave unbound is only $1, so it’s a bargain.
§ Here’s a report on a talk given by poet Yona Harvey about her work for Marvel Comics:
Harvey is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a poet. She is credited as the author of the poetry collection “Hemming the Water.” “I think the similarities have to do with how concise you have to be, so in poetry, you have to say a lot to touch on a lot of large topics but with a very limited number of words and I think that completely translates to writing comics,” said Harvey. “You know you can’t fill the panels of a comic with paragraphs and paragraphs of text. You have to kind of boil it down and think about what’s the most essential thing you’re trying to say in this line, in this caption, in this panel, on this page, in this scene.”
§ Chris Mautner’s photo journal from Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. Above photo taken from Chris, I hope he doesn’t mind.
§ Ed Brubaker has now joined the ranks of comics writers gone Hollywood, with his scripting job on the hot HBO show Westworld. But we haven’t lost him forever! Joshua Rivera talks to him about his latest comics project, The Fade Out.
You’ve described your work in the past as being about how messed up the world is. Were there any modern problems you had on your mind when you started working on The Fade Out?
You see a lot of this stuff going on in the world right now, where you just see people being manipulated by the media and politicians and fake politicians who are running for President, the spread of misinformation, and it just reminds you of those Red Scare years and McCarthyism. But also studying old Hollywood and the studio system—I like the movies Marvel does, but Marvel runs a lot more like the old studio system than it used to. CBS now doesn’t have any shows on CBS that aren’t owned by CBS. I haven’t had any real bad experiences in Hollywood—and I got to work for an HBO show, which was awesome—but when you talk to people who have been in Hollywood for a long time, they miss the days when a production company could own a show. Like, Dick Wolf couldn’t own Law & Order anymore. Dick Wolf wouldn’t be a billionaire if he created Law & Order and the company that produced it owned it, and the network owned it. That’s the stuff that seemed relevant to me.
§ The Beat loves nothing more than Con Virgin stories. Here’s a charming one from NYCC:
2:00 p.m. (Arrival) – Oh my god. Ohhh my god, there are so many people here. So many people! Dressed in all different ways and cosplaying all different things. Oh wow, it is packed, like, shoulder to shoulder in here! Ok, step one is to finding my friends. Time to find a fairly empty corner and find out where they are. Oh no, why is this person shouting “STEVEN” at me? Oh that’s right, I’m dressed up as Steven Universe. They are asking me for a picture! My first comic con picture! This is great! Oh…they just want me to take a picture of them and someone else. That’s cool too. I guess.
This month, the UN apparently rejected seven female candidates for the position in a year when everyone was certain it was going to be a woman’s turn, only to name António Guterres of Argentina as the next Secretary General.
THAT sucks. In fact, that’s unconscionable. How are you going to claim a Sustainable Development Goal like “empowering women” while not empowering women in your own organization? THAT, quite frankly, is some bullshit, and THAT needs to be called out, for sure.
But it also has nothing to do with Wonder Woman being chosen as a symbol of female empowerment, and the petition, while understandable, also reeks of ignorance about the character and a lack of self-awareness as far as what the UN has always done, rightfully so, as far as creating these symbolic positions to raise awareness.
§ A bankrupt shipping company has several of their container ships stranded in ports around the world, PW reports, leading to some graphic novels to be stuck in the high seas as they were transported from China:
A Korean shipping company is causing some headaches for U.S. publishers. The Hanjin Shipping Company, which filed for bankruptcy in August, has seen dozens of its ships—some carrying significant orders from trade houses—stranded at sea or seized by creditors. Affected publishers range from St. Martin’s Press to W.W. Norton to Lee & Low. Ray Ambriano, COO of Meadows WYE, an international shipping and logistics firm specializing in publishing, said the Hanjin’s financial woes have affected “quite a few” importers, including publishers, and that “a bankruptcy of this size is unprecedented.”
The Hanjin Switzerland, a container ship scheduled to arrive in New York on September 12, and carrying books from a number of publishers–including, among others, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, St. Martin’s Press, Viz Media, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux–did not dock in New York until October 14. “The vessel sat south of the Suez Canal for more than three weeks in fear of being arrested by Egyptian authorities,” Ambriano said.
§ Steve Morris interviews the great Prof. Kyle Baker about five of his seminal works.
KB: I think that it’s never wise to measure one’s worth by the opinions of strangers. I’m just trying to create the work I enjoy. I can’t imagine how sad it would be for a person to live their life worrying about what other people think of them.
When I work, I do the best job I can according to my skill level at the time. I’m always studying, and looking to learn how to write and draw better, and that’s what’s important to me.
There’s no way to guess what consumers will buy. One year everyone loves the X-Men, the next year they all want Avengers or Peanuts. Good for them. There’s plenty of great books to read, and some are more popular than others. If I am listening to a street-corner trumpet player, and I enjoy it, why should it matter that he is not performing for thousands? Why does everything have to be a blockbuster? Everybody can’t be rich and famous. that would be terrible.
§ Part two of Henry Jenkins chat with Bart Beaty about comics canon:
After the Archie book came out, it was widely reviewed – particularly here in Canada. I wound up winning my university’s research prize for it and I still recall sitting on the side of the stage with my university’s senior leadership sitting in the front row of the auditorium as my dean talked about my book about Archie. The other recipients were all trying to cure cancer, or end homelessness, and there I was getting the same award for a semiotic analysis of Betty Cooper’s hair. It seemed to me that I had taken the idea that is so common in the natural sciences – that humanities scholars are frivolous – and turned up the dial all the way to eleven. That said, I get almost an email a week about that book, almost all of them from people who have never read any other scholarly work. Archie Comics have a profound resonance for millions of readers, and they are amazed to see someone take it seriously. Of course, I also get weekly emails from people accusing me of being an obvious drain on the public purse…
§ Megan Purdy reviews Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas’s Angel Catbird
Margaret Atwood makes her goals for the book plain in the preface, and reading the comic itself, it would be hard to mistake them. Angel Catbird is one part educational pamphlet, one part pulp fiction. The educational element is a strong throughline, not just in the body of the comic itself, the narrative, but in asides more commonly found in textbooks than in fiction; text boxes containing useful facts and did-you-knows (but sadly, no quiz tips). In addition to these just the facts asides, the subject matter and narrative of Angel Catbird is consciously educational. Not so dry as to be a textbook with a handful of characters to follow through your/their journey through the wonders of 8th grade biology, but rather the reverse — a narrative+, meant to educate through fiction, but with the kind of teachable extras that get added to school and library editions of children’s and YA fiction.
§ CBR offers a slideshow of 18 KISS Comics You Should Read (And Some You Shouldn’t). It may alarm you to know there have been 18 KISS comics, but it’s true.
§ Not comics: Twitter failed to find a buyer this week and is facing layoffs as profits stall and dwindle. At least one buyers was put off by the platform’s trollish nature. I’ve said this before, but when Twitter started out without any safeguards, the handwriting was already on the wall. Kate Sklonick takes a look at whether Twitter will ever get serious about its problems:
Facebook is a fundamentally different platform from Twitter in some ways, but it still offers a valuable example. Facebook has prioritized content moderation and harassment from early on in its history. That means it has an enormous and well-developed set of policies and procedures, and a team of trained humans to keep it running smoothly. It’s not perfect, but by the standards of the internet, Facebook’s system is a biplane, while Twitter’s is a dirigible. “As long as abuse is not core to a product, as long as it’s seen as a cost center instead of table stakes, then it’s always going to be a subpar experience,” Susan told me. Thankfully, the vast majority of users aren’t victims of the kind of harassment faced by the women I talked to for this story. But harassment is still a big threat to the long-term health of Twitter’s platform. The issue isn’t just that Twitter will lose harassment victims themselves as users. Users who enjoy their work — and some of them have significant followings — will also miss out. More importantly, when trolls succeed in driving prominent women off Twitter, it has a toxic effect on the culture of the platform as a whole, making it a little less welcoming for women and minorities in general.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.