Tagged: The New Yorker

Mike Gold: Hot Town, Summer In The Cities

I’m going to ramble a bit about an annual phenomenon. In many important ways, New York City and San Diego are about to trade places.

Even with DC Comics having moved its flat drawers and some of its staff from the Right Coast to the Left, New York City remains inundated with comics people. Marvel, Archie, Dynamite, and Valiant remain in the Baked Apple, as does King Features Syndicate and sundry Internet outfits such as comiXology and ComicMix. We’ve still got the only weekly magazine venerable enough to publish single-panel cartoons, The New Yorker. You’d be familiar with this publication if you went to the doctor more often. Overall, the Greater Comics Racket continues to dance to the beat of east coast drummers.

Except for next week.

Next week, New York goes to San Diego to participate in the annual “how many college freshmen can you stuff in a phone booth” contest, a.k.a. the San Diego Comic-Con. They prefer to call themselves just “Comicon,” maybe with two c’s, but there are a lot of tradespeople who consider this something akin to theft of intellectual property. We’ve got a ton of ComicMixers there, including Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash, Ayna Ernst, Maddy Ernst, Jen Ernst (do you detect a theme here?), Ed Catto, Emily Whitten, Bob Ingersoll, Michael Davis, Arthur Tebbel, and whomever I forgot because my memory is like a well-tuned car – as long as that car is a Stanley Steamer.

That leaves Martha Thomases, Joe Corallo and me in Manhattan watching a double-feature. I’m not sure what Denny and Molly and John and Marc will be up to, but at least I’ll be seeing Marc in Kokomo this fall. How can I pass that one up?

So, for some reason I’ll be spending time wandering the hot, summery streets of Manhattan, coping with high humidity, high temperatures, pissed-off Long Islanders and the pervasive smell of rat urine, the stench that shouts “welcome to our subways!” During SDCC week, San Diego is overcrowded, overpriced, and over-partied but with perfect weather (except, oddly, when I’m there). I’ll be happy to be here. Besides, I try not to fly anymore. In airplanes, I mean.

I’ve dedicated my current travel schedule to the “smaller” conventions (of course, by comparison to SDCC the Roman Coliseum held “smaller” conventions). You know, the shows where I can talk with the fans, find out what people like and don’t like and might like, talk with the retailers and guests, and never have to wait more than five minutes to get through the bathroom line. I’ve been doing comic book conventions for 49 years, back when our product was printed on papyrus. The late and deeply lamented Phil Seuling held his first “big” convention in New York City in 1968. There were 300 people there, and all of them were thinking the same thought: “Holy crap! There are 299 other people who are just like me.”

Well, it was 1968, so “just like me” meant possessing a Y chromosome. It also helped if you were white but, then again, it usually does.

We’ve come a long way. SDCC dumps about a quarter of a billion dollars into the San Diego economy. Comic book conventions attract several million fans and professionals. Much of Hollywood moves down to San Diego for the week, and we see equivalent attendees in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Belgium, Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia… I think I may have received an invite from Togo last year.

And to think it all started out as a hobby. 300 geeks in a hotel ballroom who never, ever thought the word “geek” would become a badge of honor.


Martha Thomases: Stripping for Summer

dondiHow was your holiday weekend last week? Mine was great. I spent Sunday sitting in the sun by a lake, talking about graphic storytelling.

There were six of us, plus a pre-teen who just wanted to play video games, a form of graphic storytelling perhaps but not one we are going to discuss. At least four of us had a jones for newspaper strips. Four of us liked comic books. And at least five of us liked gag panels. It’s also possible that all of us liked all forms, but I’m not sure, nor does it really matter.

I was especially intrigued by the love given to newspaper strips. When I was a girl, they were my favorite part of the newspaper. I read everything, even Mary Worth and Dondi. I loved Li’l Abner even when Al Capp went right-wing crazy.

But I loved the funny strips more. Peanuts, Blondie, and later Calvin & Hobbes My parents had a subscription to The New Yorker, and a book that collected New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to 1955, and it is from these that I learned what funny drawings looked like.

When I was old enough to appreciate the skills involved in graphic storytelling, I enjoyed Milton Caniff. And I wanted to like Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but they never grabbed me on an emotional level. I never had to read the next day’s strip.

By this time, I was rabidly into comic books. Instead of waiting weeks to read a whole story, as required by newspaper strips, I got the whole thing between two covers. I liked this better.

In modern times, there aren’t very many comic books that tell a complete story in a single issue. There are fewer and fewer newspapers comic strips (and fewer and fewer newspapers), and serial dramas seem much less popular than humor strips. And there are fewer and fewer markets for gag panels.

Each of these forms combine words and pictures. Each needs to communicate story and character quickly, in a small space. And yet, each is completely different, one from the other.

I personally don’t enjoy collections of newspaper story strips. I find that the form requires a grey deal of repetition, and it hurts my head after a while.

I frequently don’t enjoy collections of comic book stories for the same reason. The passing of time between individual episodes requires something that will jog the reader’s memory, but it is less effective in a collection. A graphic novel should stand by itself, and so should individual issues.

I love gag panel collections, and feel that is the best reason to have bookshelves in the bathroom.

Is there is any title that works best in all three genres?


SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Mike Gold: Bad Taste Tastes Good

I am of the opinion that “bad taste” is a good thing. It’s the most ridiculously subjective concept imaginable: what offends me (admittedly, very little) might be absolutely awesome to you, and we each have a right to our opinions.

I was fortunate enough to be the editor and, along with ComicMix co-conspirator John Ostrander, co-conceiver of a DC Comics series called Wasteland. It was the black hole of humor, a monthly love-letter to bad taste. The stories usually had a point with enough wiggle-room in each concept to cause the reader night sweats. John wrote the series, often in tandem with improv legend Del Close, and we had a rotating gaggle of extraordinarily gifted artists as our visual collaborators. We’d have four going at any one time: three doing interior stories and one doing the cover. The one who did the cover in month one would do an interior job in month two, and so on. The artists usually came up with the cover concepts.

I only rejected one Wasteland cover. Drawn by Bill Wray, it happens to be my favorite. Those of you who are familiar with the Wasteland run might wonder just what it would take to cross my line. What it took was my concern for the continued existence of the comic book shop retailer: if not for the fact that we had to sell the thing, I would have published the cover about a hobo fishing off of a bridge into a sea of floating dead babies in a heartbeat.

 (Just for shits and grins, I took it to editor-in-chief Dick Giordano anyway. He took one look at it, laughed, and said “You already rejected this!” I miss Giordano a lot.)

All of this is my way of reviewing a truly wonderful new book, [[[Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See]]] by Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker and publisher of TOON Books. Under her editorship, The New Yorker’s covers shifted rather rapidly from inoffensive fodder to litter doctors’ waiting rooms into a powerful agent provocateur lurking on the newsstands with the sole purpose of confronting our assumptions and values.

Well, not quite every week. Perhaps their most infamous of these covers rests atop this column; it is among the many that has acted as a pie tossed in the face of the pathetically uptight. Most of these covers are reprinted in Blown Covers…

… and so, as the title suggests, are many that didn’t make it. Most of those reprinted in this tome are certainly print-worthy, and to be fair, many didn’t make it because somebody else beat them to it, including Mad Magazine, which also employed the aforementioned Bill Wray. Some… simply… crossed the line. That inevitable, damned line.

Reading Blown Covers is great fun. Just looking at the pictures is great fun, but reading about the decision-making process should be de rigueur for anybody who thinks editing stuff might be a legitimate way to earn a living. Quotes from the artists abound.

My favorite of these rejects was one that wasn’t even offered for publication: it was done by Art Spiegelman, a frequent cover contributor and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus, to his wife, the aforementioned Ms. Mouly. It was a drawing of a cattle car overstuffed with Jews on its way to a Nazi concentration camp. One guy was on his cell phone… and his über-cramped neighbors in the cattle car were annoyed and pissed.

What? Too soon?

Like I said, Blown Covers is great fun. Give it out as Christmas gifts to all your relatives.

I will.

Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See • Françoise Mouly • Abrams Books • $24.95 retail, also available in electronic editions.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil and the Secret To Getting Hired In Comics!


The Point Radio: SANDRA BULLOCK On 9-11 And New York

For weeks now EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE has ben generating buzz among movie goers as well as touching on the emotions of anyone who was involved with 911. Long time New Yorker, Sandra Bullock, chose to be in the picture for just that reason and shares it all here. Plus HUNGER GAMES is set to blast out the box office and how a little stack of old comics made some big money this week.

PROGRAM NOTE: We will be back on TUESDAY (2/28) next week instead of Monday. Be here as we begin our exclusive of the new NBC series, AWAKE.

The Point Radio is on the air right now – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or mobile device– and please check us out on Facebook right here & toss us a “like” or follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Comics Round-Up: No Connection Whatsoever — Mister Wonderful; The New Yorker: On The Money; The Lives Of Sacco & Vanzetti; George McManus’s Bringing Up Father  ;

Comics Round-Up: No Connection Whatsoever — Mister Wonderful; The New Yorker: On The Money; The Lives Of Sacco & Vanzetti; George McManus’s Bringing Up Father ;

And here are four more graphic novels (or similar beasts) that I neglected to write about soon after I read them, when they were fresh in my mind. Let’s see what I care to remember…

Mister Wonderful is part of the endless repackaging of Daniel Clowes, though this piece (unlike most of his recent books) didn’t first see life as a single issue of his old comics series, Eightball. No, this first appeared in the short-lived New York Times Magazine “Funny Papers” section, one of the few moments when the Grey Lady tried to emulate regular newspapers.

The story has been reworked slightly — each large NYT page has been broken into two shorter, wider pages, to pad the length up to something that can be called a book — and there are some other changes as well, but it’s still the same, just told in a slightly different form. (And it’s also a story very similar to Clowes’s last standalone graphic novel, Wilson, which I reviewed here last year.)

Marshall is a middle-aged sad sack, divorced, lonely, nearly broke and with no real hopes of getting any better. He narrates this story — intensively narrates it, in a caption-filled style very out of fashion in most of mainstream comics, which shoves us directly into his head and holds us there, hostage perhaps, until the end of the book. Marshall isn’t great company, unfortunately — he’s obsessive about his own shortcomings, and self-flagellation is only interesting for so long.

Mister Wonderful is the story of one day in Marshall’s life — one night, really — starting with a blind date, and continuing on from there. Marshall’s been set up with Natalie by mutual friends, and Natalie is probably just as damaged as Marshall is, in her own ways — but we only see her through Marshall’s eyes, and only see her when Marshall gets out of the way, which is hardly ever. So Mister Wonderful is primarily a tour through Marshall’s psyche, with short stops along the way to take in some real-life events that illustrate that his poor self-image is well rooted in his actual competencies.

It doesn’t have the satirical edge of Clowes’s earlier work — Clowes wants us to identify with Marshall and care about him. (Mister Wonderful is most like a work by a slightly more friendly, and less formalist, Chris Ware.) But Marshall is undeniably tedious and suffocating — though he is nowhere near as horrible as the “hero” of Clowes’s Wilson was, so he does have that to (very slightly) recommend him. Clowes can create characters that are damaged, self-obsessed, and fascinating — recall Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World — but, these days, he’s tending to leave off “fascinating,” which is unfortunate. (more…)

Ryan Dunlavey's Uncle Scrooge

Weekend Window Closing Wrap-Up: April 29, 2011

Ryan Dunlavey's Uncle ScroogeOnce again, caught up in too many stories. Here’s some of what’s open in my browser:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

Tim Burton To Tackle Charles Addams?

Tim Burton To Tackle Charles Addams?

It was a long, long running series of one-panel cartoons. It was an iconic teevee series. It was subject of two pretty decent movies. It was almost a DC Comic by Mike Baron and Bill Wray. It is the subject of a Broadway play that opened last week to mediocre reviews. And now it looks like The Addams Family will be a Tim Burton movie.

But with a twist. This adaptation will be based upon Charles Addams’s misanthropic cartoons in the New Yorker magazine and not in the spirit of the teevee series. Woo-Hoo!

According to Deadline Hollywood, it isn’t a done deal and Burton and his pal Johnny Depp are preparing their version of Dark Shadows. One wouldn’t want Burton to get typecast, right?

Either way, Universal Studios paid for the rights and it’s possible the movie might actually get made. If it winds up being a Burton-less adaptation of the musical I wouldn’t be surprised, although neither Nathan Lane nor Bebe Neuwirth are known as big box office. No matter what, as long as they get the theme song in, I’ll be happy.

Romantic Comedy-Con

Romantic Comedy-Con

Drew Dernavich, cartoonist for the New Yorker, really wanted to be sent to the San Diego Comic-Con this year. He didn’t get that lucky:

Unfortunately, I was sent to cover the 2009 Romantic Comedy-Con,
held—where else?—at the top of the Empire State Building, the place
where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally met in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
It’s a little crowded for a convention, but it’s being catered by—who
else?—Katz’s Deli, the scene of Meg Ryan’s famous “orgasm” in “When
Harry Met Sally.” Every joker up here thinks it’s so funny to eat a
grilled cheese and then do their best fake moaning scene, and it’s getting tiresome.

When people go to the Comic-Con, they make these elaborate costumes
and attend as Spider Man or Ninja Turtles or Darth Vader, so I thought
I’d try and attend the Romantic Comedy-Con in the same spirit. I’m
dressed up as Jeremy Piven in “Serendipity” (John Cusack’s sidekick
friend). I’m wearing jeans and a dark T-shirt. It’s spot-on, but I
don’t think anybody has noticed.

Poor bastard.

The Un-Ethics of Watchmen Part II: The Under-übermensches

For part 1 of this article, go here.

If Alan Moore, in his alternate universe that is not so far from our own, invokes Nietzsche’s übermensch, the hyper-evolved, extra-moral being, each one of our main masks, individually, embodies some stage to that goal as we explore our Nite Owl’s-eye view of things as Moore presents them.

A central tenet of Aristotle’s outlook is that animals and we have souls, but we have rational souls and that’s what makes us human. Humans are beings of action, agents who act upon other things, instead of objects who are acted upon (see First Cause and The 4 Causes in Metaphysics). The result of all that – humanity and agency – yields responsibility through choice. So it’s an argument that starts with source and ends with aim (telos) – happiness, eudaimonia (as no sane being chooses unhappiness, but makes unfortunate choices due to ignorance and error – back to reason). And we gain happiness through the instrumental use of goods toward the ultimate good, which is true happiness (vs. illusory or merely apparent good). Ari posits that when the passions drive the bus, instead of reason, we are moved and that language reflects and helps to create our reality. Look at how we speak about things we experience: “It moved me.” That means we cared, we felt, we gave a damn. And the word “passion” means “to suffer,” and anyone who’s ever been in love knows that it’s both joy and suffering. So how do Moore’s characters move, instead of being moved as pawns in someone else’s game, not being masters of their own game?

Blake’s “understanding of the human condition… he understands perfectly… and he doesn’t care…” is seeing the world through dirt-colored glasses. There is no optimistic rose in Moore’s world – only blood-red, black, white, yellow, crap-brown amidst the chiaroscuro. Blake is never treated as a human, and so never behaves like one and exists by objectifying everyone, creating a never-ending supply of objects that he moves and who move him. He’s operating out of Id (impulse, desire), too far gone to notice and, like Rambo, rise up against his objectification, and so there is no opportunity for redemption. His heart is turned to stone and would fall into Hell on the Egyptian scales of balance vs. the feather. But he’s already been living there all his life, so he has no thought of that, either. Fearless. Contempt and grandiosity are all smoke screens for despair, ego death. Murder is a form of suicide, as part of our psyche can’t help but recognize our own humanity in the humanity of others, even if that part of our empathy (see Hume) and that of those around us is dead or severely damaged goods.

So Blake is totally incapable of making any ethical decisions because he obviously does not know right from wrong (the legal definition of insanity). He only knows how to destroy, feel crazed pain even as he emotionally anesthetizes himself – goes for the thrill to bury the ill. Sleight of hand. Distraction. Noise. The only even remotely good thing he ever created, and that was purely by biology buried under all the sludge of his struggle for power (one of the übermensch impulses), was Laurie. The fact that he never actively harmed her is the one good thing he’d ever done, however passive, before being tossed out that window.