Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Clyde Fans 1997 - 2017


1997, indeed! Seth, "Clyde Fans," Palooka Ville #10 (April 1997).



Seth, "Clyde Fans," Palookaville # 23 (July 2017).

I wrote about this before. What you see above are the first and last pages of Seth's masterpiece "Clyde Fans" (or, at least, I hoped that it would be a comics masterpiece and, before reading it all, I still do). On retrospect it's kinda ironic that the first page clearly indicates the date, more than twenty years ago, when it all began. As I said before, I don't know why it took Seth this long to end what I anticipated would be his masterpiece by far. Whatever the reason there's only one that really worries me: its status as box office poison. If that's the case comics are doomed and... you know... deserve to die!...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fantasy?

I always hated the fantasy genre and mainstream fanboy or babymen geek, nerd, comic book culture in general. My problems with the genre were varied: cardboard characters, escapism, manichean and predictable plots (1 - against everything and everybody the hero wants to right a few wrongs; 2 - the hero loses his fight against the villain; 3 - against all odds the hero rises from dire straits and finally wins; 4 - the end), absence of everyday situations, no sex, looney tunes violence, etc...

Flash forward to 2017, listen to George R. R. Martin's interviews on You Tube. What does he say? He thinks that good vs. evil is cardboard; that genre is just the furniture and what really interests him is creating complex characters (both good and evil are inside all of us; he quotes William Faulkner: "[...] the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."); that sex and violence are part of life and shouldn't be bowdlerized (we must see the real consequences of violence; art is about emotions and we should feel bad when a character dies; George wants us to vicariously feel the whole emotional spectrum). Also, his plots are unpredictable because everyone is in danger and actually may die when less expected (one of the first reasons that made me hate genre fiction was, and I can't understand why people don't feel the same way, the fact that I stopped believing the hero was in any real danger: I KNEW that he would win at the very end - it's usually a "he," but I don't get all excited when they produce the same ol' shit with a heroine instead of a hero, as feminists do: if I listen one more phrase with the expression "strong women characters" in it somewhere I'm sure that I will throw up...).

OK, maybe I could go on, but it's enough already. I could surpass my visceral hate of everything that exists in fantasyland and read A Song of Ice and Fire, I guess... On the other hand, probably not... I will never read the saga because I'm sure that I'd rather read other things. This whole situation made me think though: maybe I didn't hate the fantasy genre, maybe what I really hated were mediocre and childish fantasy stories. Kind of like other people think about comics, right?, if you know what I mean...  

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 32: Safe Area Goražde by Joe Sacco

Readings & Watchings:

Secondary Sources:

Joe Sacco, "The Fight for 1st Amendment Rights," The Comics Journal # 115, Fantagraphics Books, April 1987

Domingos Isabelinho, "Oporto ComicS," Azul BD Três #1, Jogo de Imagens, November 1993

Andrea Juno, Dangerous Drawings, Juno Books, 1997

Domingos Isabelinho, "Joe Sacco, War Junkie," Salão Lisboa 2003 [Lisbon Comic Con 2003], Bedeteca de Lisboa [Lisbon Comics Library], May 2003.

Domingos Isabelinho, "Notes From a Defeatist," The Comics Journal # 256, Fantagraphics Books, October 2003

Monica Marshall, The Library of Graphic Novelists: Joe Sacco, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005

Joe Sacco, [Talk at the Walker Art Center, November 13, 2007]

Comics As Journalism [Joe Sacco's Lecture at The Leslie Center for the Humanities, 2011]

Primary Sources:

Joe Sacco, Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics Books, February 1994

Joe Sacco, Palestine, A Nation Occupied, Fantagraphics Books, July 1994 

Joe Sacco, War Junkie, Fantagraphics Books, May 1995

JoeSacco, Palestine, In The Gaza Strip, Fantagraphics Books, January 1996

Joe Sacco, "Christmas with Karadzic," Zero Zero # 15, Fantagraphics Books, March 1997 

Joe Sacco, Šoba, Drawn & Quarterly, February 1998

Joe Sacco, Safe Area Goražde, Fantagraphics Books, June 2000

Joe Sacco, Notes From A Defeatist, Fantagraphics Books, January 2003

Joe Sacco, The Fixer  - A Story From Sarajevo, Drawn & Quarterly, October 2003

Joe Sacco, Footnotes In Gaza, Henry Holt, 2009

Joe Sacco, Journalism, Henry Holt, 2013

I met Joe Sacco in 1993 in the Porto Comics Con. Maybe he doesn't remember, but we went to the movies to watch Opening Night by the great John Cassavetes (Husbands, by the way, is one of my favorite films). He had finished his Yahoo run with # 6, about Susan Catherine's career as a stripper, to start the mini-series Palestine. The rest, as they say, is history...


I'll start this post writing a bit about two other people, though...

Above are Joe Sacco's anthologies and graphic novels in chronological order. The time span is 1994, for Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, to 2013 for Journalism. The first books (until Šoba, I mean) have the characteristic look and garish colors of traditional comic books. In fact Spotlight on the Genius that is Joe Sacco, Zero Zero # 15, and Šoba are, in fact, comic books. If that's not a problem for the first comic, an anthology of Sacco's early (not so) funny cartoony stories, it is a problem, but is it really?, for the other two and War Junkie. In fact that's a divorce between form and content which I view here as more problematic, and more profound, than in Barron Storey's case (which is more a problem of the appropriate metaphor - Anahoho - vs. some inappropriate, and quite absurd ones - Agonista -, for instance). Kudos then, to Jim Blanchard who designed the Palestine collections, toning down the garishness of the covers usually seen in comic books and softcover collections of the time.


The real breakthrough, it seems to me, was  Carrie Whitney's cover for Safe Area  Goražde. Here's what I wrote about it in "Joe Sacco, War Junkie":
On the cover we see a khaki colored town destroyed by war. In the title the "Safe Area" part is painted black while "Goražde" is in red. Everything else (the author's name, the subtitle, a brief note from the publishers about the author and the preface) are white. On the bottom tier we can see a map of the Goražde region over an army green background. We don't need to be geniuses in order to understand that the khaki and green represent war, red represents the blood spilled in Goražde and the white [or whiteish] represents the honest and pure intentions of the author, publishers, and preface writer.
I also mentioned the impressive red of the endpapers and I could add the mourning color (at least for Christians): black. More important than all this, which is pretty impressive in and of itself on Carrie's part, is how this cover left behind decades of childish and garish comics covers... in 2000. I mean, we can look at Seth's pioneer (and probably a bit inappropriate) design for the Fantagraphics Peanuts collection, but that was a few years later...

Anyway, if the garish colors were inappropriate on serious comics covers (or interior pages, for that matter), what about caricature? That's a really tough one because caricatures and India ink were a mainstay of comics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. I'm not forgetting somewhat more naturalistic veins which started in adventure newspaper comic strips during the 1930s, but Joe Sacco doesn't belong there (oddly enough, as far as alternative comics go, that particular branch didn't originate much; alternative comics came from underground comix and "Peanuts," mainly).

Chris Ware said it better in Dangerous Drawings:
Artists [...] like myself, are all trying to tell potent stories with the tools of jokes. It's as though we're trying to write a powerful, deeply engaging, richly detailed epic with a series of limericks.
 
 The first page of an article that Joe Sacco wrote for The Comics Journal.

As you all know by now Sacco has a degree in journalism. His stint at Fantagraphics made him go from journalist to editor to cartoonist. At around this time he edited Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy and not long after his own series Yahoo started its run.


The first page of "Palestine," as published in Palestine # 1 (February 1993).

In spite of the serious theme caricature is widely used above. Even so, I wouldn't be too harsh judging Sacco here because I believe, with Charles Baudelaire, that laughter is evil (we laugh when we feel above someone), but grotesque can be saved and grotesque is what I would qualify this page. The free flowing captions were inspired by the master of grotesque and paroxysm, Louis-Ferdinand Céline.


By issue # 6 of Palestine (April 1994) Joe Sacco published the above masterpiece. He quickly understood that a serious theme needed a serious drawing style. I love the body language of the characters (they are trying not to slip), their slightly bended bodies suggesting a cold weather, and my favorite: the Tsugian walker on the upper right corner.


Above is one of the last pages in Safe Area Goražde. We've already seen how important this book was to establish alternative comics in general and the graphic novel artistic movement (and I say this following Eddie Campbell) in particular. We can identify Joe Sacco's later style: the Célinesque captions continue flying around, so to speak, the Breughelesque detail is all over the place, except... in Joe Sacco's self-portrait. He's the only caricature that still remains. He put himself in his reportage comics to follow two traditions: the underground tradition of autobio comics (three names come to mind: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Robert Crumb, Justin Green - whose Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary should definitely be in my list), the tradition of the New Journalism (and three names come to mind too: Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson). Since the beginning (and I mean "Cartoon Genius" in Yahoo # 1 - October 1988) that Joe Sacco drew himself with opaque eye glasses, but, in that story, he wasn't half as cartoony as he is above. I don't really know why he does it, but I suspect that he's following Scott McCloud's smiley face theory, according to which readers of comics find it easy to identify with simple cartoony faces than to complex portraits (add naturalistic backgrounds and... voilá... total immersion). This is absurd, of course, but enough about what I don't like in Joe Sacco's work. What I really like is that he gives a voice to those who have none in the Western media circus. And does so not with popaganda, but by being a really fine reporter.


P.S.: This is a cause very close to my heart.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 33: The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn by Barron Storey - Coda

TO THE CHARLOTTESVILLE VICTIMS:



Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Eddge! # 1, June 1993.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My 33 Favorite Comics - # 33: The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn by Barron Storey

 Readings & Watchings:

 Secondary Sources:

Don Thompson, "Comics Guide," Comics Buyer's Guide # 1030, August 13, 1993

Eric Reynolds, "Barron Storey Brings Fine Art to Comics," Fantagraphics Books, The Comics Journal # 169, July 1994

Robert Wilonsky, "Barron Storey's Life is an Open Comic Book," SF Weekly News, January 17, 1996 

Robin McConnell, Don King, "Barron Storey," Conundrum Press, Inkstuds, 2010 

Peter Brooks (d), Peter Weiss (w), Geoffrey Skelton (t), Adrian Mitchell (s), et al, Marat / Sade, Royal Shakespeare Company / Marat Sade Productions, 1967

Primary Sources:

Barron Storey, "B. B. J. (Baby Blaze Juggler) Nº 2," World War 3 Illustrated, World War 3 Illustrated # 12, 1989

Barron Storey, The Marat / Sade Journals, Tundra, 1993

Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Edge! # 1, Vanguard Comics Productions, June 1993

Barron Storey, "A. K. A. Assassi(nada)," Tales From The Edge! # 2,  Vanguard Comics Productions, September 1993

Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge!, Vanguard Comics Productions, # 3, November 1993 - # 7, July 1995

Barron Storey, Life After Black, Graphic Novel Art, 2007

My Own Crib Sheet (almost ten years ago! Jeez!)

Preparing for this post I felt like David Hemmings (who played Thomas, the photographer) in Blow Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni. In fact, I did exactly what he did. I blew Barron Storey's panels up.

That's the end of this post though. Let's do the right thing and start from the beginning...

In the Comics Buyer's Guide # 1030, in his column "Comics Guide," Don Thompson reviewed Tales From The Edge # 1, the anthology in which Barron Storey published "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn." This is what he wrote about Barron Storey's work: "...". Exactly, he said absolutely nothing. It's a macabre irony, then, that Eric Reynolds published his article about Storey in the same issue of The Comics Journal in which Thompson's obituary appeared (it's also in this issue that an embarrassing letter from yours truly was published [blushes intensely!]).

I could either call Thompson a good representative of the fanboy mentality or a good representative of the direct market culture. Years ago I wouldn't hesitate, of course, "fanboy" it would be, for sure, but one mellows with age, so, let it be the direct market culture. Whatever the name that's not the point; the point is that all subcultures act in a defensive and parochial way. In this particular case it was powerful enough to put a blindfold on the so-called critic.

In a pre-graphic novel, pre-generalist bookstore, market; the world of the "comic book guy" (of The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory fame) wasn't ready for such an oddity as Barron Storey's comics. Storey's collage aesthetic and no bullshit approach was too much for a highly bowdlerized world (and I use the word to mean both censorship and self-censorship). I don't mean that violence was (or is, because nothing changed) absent from comics sold in the direct market. On the contrary, comics are violent, but it's a cartoony, Bugs Bunny, kind of violence...

Barron Storey is an unlikely autobio comics artist. I seriously doubt that his name is cited in books about autobiographical comics (and, to my shame, apart from Shannon Gerard's thesis Drawn Onward: Representing The Autobiographical Self In The Field Of Comic Book Production I have never read any). But autobio artist he is being obsessed, during his comic book days, at least (more at the end of the post about this) with two things, mainly: his failed relationships with women and his mother's suicide (he said that both were linked).


 Barron Storey, The Dead Mother Drawing, 1963.

 

 Barron Storey,  "B. B. J. (Baby Blaze Juggler) Nº 2," World War 3 Illustrated # 12, 1989.

Peter Weiss's The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade was a strange choice for an adaptation as autobiography. Weiss's play (or Weiss's play as seen by Peter Brooks et al in the filmed version) is a political rumination around the very important theme of the confrontation between reality (or realpolitik), represented by Sade, of course, and utopia (or revolution), embodied by Marat. This topic doesn't disappear from Storey's adaptation, but it is disconnected from the autobio parts: the psychological wound opened by the break up between Storey and someone named Kelly. The only link (and a very tenuous one at that) is, in Storey's own words in the Inkstuds interview (methinks), Charlotte Corday being a woman, killing Jean-Paul Marat, a man.

"Slidehouse," on the other hand, is a glorious failure of gargantuan proportions (something like Héctor Germán Oesterheld's and Alberto Breccia's version of "El Eternauta" in Gente magazine). "Slidehouse" failed because Barron Storey was extremely disappointed when it didn't produce the stir he hoped for in the comics milieu.


Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 5, February 1995 (top and bottom of a page.)
The "No!" above is the answer to the question: Is this the end?
As for "what less friendly people thought about it," they thought nothing at all, as we've seen already.

Another problem, if it is one, is the relation between the artwork and the content. If real life is important to Barron Storey, why disguise it in fantasy garments? To draw what he called the Slidehouse, for instance, Storey drew his inspiration from The Lusty Lady, a peep show in San Francisco which appears as a Piranesi nightmare in "Slidehouse" (linking peep show and prison, perhaps, but what a magnificent prison it is... also, the peep show goer is someone who watches, which is exactly what the artist does). There's also a demon which is, in reality, a robot, and everything, from the "Adjustment of Sydney Deepscorn" to the last instalment of "Slidehouse" seems drawn from the feverish imagination of an H. R. Giger (Alien is one of Barron Storey's favorite movies, I guess). 

This provokes a divorce of sorts between form and content. I'm speculating, but could it be that Barron Storey wanted to compromise creating a super-heroine, Assassi(nada), wanting to sell-out, the only problem being that no one was buying?


Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 5, February 1995.
In this page, written and drawn in tongue-in-cheek mode, Assassi(nada) works out to be a super-heroine. 


 Barron Storey, "Slidehouse," Tales From The Edge! # 7, July 1995.

And yet, look at the above page! There's nothing incoherent, or strange, or particularly gothic or sci-fi about it. I find it extremely emotional. In the dubious case that I need to explain it to you, continue reading below (if not, skip it):


She-we-na (Zuni Pueblo) (Native American). Kachina Doll (Anahoho), late 19th century. 

 This kachina doll represents one of the Anahoho Kachinas, a pair of strangers sent by the gods to search for the middle of the Zuni world. They were accompanied by fierce Salimopea Kachina warriors. People were afraid of the warriors and hid their possessions on the rooftops, but the Salimopea threw the belongings down and destroyed them. When the Anahoho returned to their village, they found it burned and their brother Kiako missing. In sorrow they smote their faces with soot-blackened hands, leaving a handprint, as seen here. 

Barron Storey's work uses symbolism to tell personal stories. The Anahoho Kachina explains, not only this page, but also why Barron Storey's sketchbooks are full of hands. Why the Kachinas, though? You can find that out in the B. B. J. page above.

In "The Adjustment of Sydney Deepscorn," the fantasy genre element is equally present. But the autobio parts are less hidden. If the drawings tell the story of a final judgment, more than adjustment, the words tell it like it is. And that's exactly where the blow up part enters this post.



Barron Storey, "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn," Tales From The Eddge! # 1, June 1993. 

The most impressive pages of "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn" are about racism though. In the words of Robert Wilonsky:
[In "The Adjustment Of Sydney Deepscorn" there are] repressed memories of a childhood spent running with "gun-toting idiots" who liked to shoot at the "niggers" in South Dallas[.]
More than twenty years passed since Barron Storey tried to express himself using a medium that, in his own words, "you [the comics reader] persist in overrating [overrating also] its practitioners thereof." His most recent publishing venture is Trumped. Maybe, after all this time since his Marat / Sade book, he finally did something political? A Poor Richard for the 21th century?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eduardo del Rio

Mexican cartoonist Eduardo del Rio, better known as Rius, died yesterday. He may not be in The Crib's canon, but I certainly share is criticism of the Empire's dumbing down of the world's culture in order to make an easy buck.