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Posts Tagged ‘comics’

The Silent Treatment

February 13, 2014 | by

On Art Spiegelman’s new stage show, Wordless!

Photo: Robert Kozloff/The University of Chicago

Photo: Robert Kozloff/The University of Chicago

In 1970, when Art Spiegelman was twenty-two, he went to a gallery opening in Binghamton, New York, for an exhibition of woodcuts by Lynd Ward. Spiegelman wanted to tell Ward how much he admired the wordless novels the artist had made in the 1930s, but also, and no less importantly, he wanted to ask him what his favorite comic books were. The way Spiegelman tells it, the sixty-five-year-old Ward was gracious but confused: he didn’t know much about comics; his Methodist minister father had forbidden them. Ward’s woodcut novels, which blended Depression-era social realism with a Faustian sense of good and evil, owed more to the biblical engravings of Gustave Doré than they did to the Sunday funnies. Spiegelman didn’t get the comics talk he came for, but he spent some time in the gallery, studying those prints. Two years later, he composed a four-page comic about his guilt over his mother’s suicide. It was just a few panels, but their startling intimacy set the pattern for much of his later work, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Maus, in which they were later included. Spiegelman titled that short comic “Prisoner on the Hell Planet,” and in its stark style and pitch-black outlook, you can see the influence of Ward’s woodcuts.

Spiegelman has given Ward’s novels a central role in Wordless!, the new stage show he created with the composer Phillip Johnston, and which the two men presented twice last Saturday to sold-out crowds at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Wordless! weaves together Spiegelman’s reflections on the history of wordless novels with slide show projections of the genre’s classic works, which Johnston and his sextet accompany with rollicking, klezmer-inflected, vaudeville jazz. The back-and-forth between lecture and performance neatly captured Spiegelman’s ambivalence about his role on stage. On the one hand, he was a comic artist on a mission, there to add a new branch to the family tree of the graphic novel, one that would demonstrate the genre’s deep roots and help solidify its place in the canon of “real literature.” Mostly though, Spiegelman was having fun. He was there to give the crowd what he had sought from Ward: a conversation about some of his favorite comics and a taste of the overwhelming pleasure they give him. “Don’t worry if you get a little lost while you’re watching,” he reassured his listeners between puffs on his e-cigarette. “I’m hoping you will careen between my words and these picture stories until you’re left as breathlessly unbalanced as I am.” Read More »

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The End of the Internet: An Interview with Matthew Thurber

January 2, 2014 | by

Infomaniacs

I met cartoonist and musician Matthew Thurber six-odd years ago somewhere in Prospect Park (a séance? a picnic?), and then saw him play alto saxophone in his Muzak-jazz-punk trio Soiled Mattress and the Springs at the New York Art Book Fair. We kept running into one another in odd places; or, since New York City is now lacking in odd places, at places where subculture obsessives go to convince themselves there’s still oddness in the world. Soiled Mattress broke up in 2008, but Thurber’s “Anti-Matter Cabaret” act Ambergris has continued, and sometimes he plays with artist Brian Belott as Court Stenographer and Young Sherlock Holmes. In 2011, after years of publishing minicomics, zines, and books on tape, Thurber collected his serial 1-800-Mice in graphic-novel form. It’s about a messenger mouse named Groomfiend, a peace punk named Peace Punk, and a cast of thousands. More recently, Thurber wrote a culture diary for this blog, and started Tomato House gallery with his girlfriend, Rebecca Bird, in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn.

Thurber’s new graphic novel, Infomaniacs, is about the singularity and the end of the Internet; it’s also the final book from the great comics publisher PictureBox, which serialized parts of Infomaniacs online starting in 2010. The book’s heroine is Amy Shit, a punk rapper who sometimes lives off the grid—in a subway tunnel, even. Her brother’s a neo–Ned Ludd who goes around smashing iPhones. Meanwhile, Ralph is an Internet addict who escapes from reality rehab, then embeds in an immortality cult run by a libertarian oligarch who wants to eat the brain of the last man who’s never seen the Internet. A horse and a bat, both intelligence agents for the ATF (Anthropomorphic Task Force), wonder what the singularity will look like—a 1950s computer, a crystal, a cell phone, a tree branch?

Thurber’s video trailer offers a sense of the comic’s raucous hugger-mugger and subterranean surrealism, but doesn’t touch on its Underground Man againstness. For that, perhaps this quote, from an early, uncollected strip: “All bundled up and no place to go … The man who hates the Internet is a man who hates the world.”

Thurber and I met in the office I share with a puppet theater, near the Barclays Center. Giant heads hung from the walls. I don’t have Wi-Fi and don’t know anyone’s password. Read More »

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Good Grief

October 2, 2013 | by

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Full disclosure: I once played Charlie Brown in a summer-camp production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It was a deeply scarring experience. I hate Peanuts. It feels good to admit that.

Today marks the sixty-third birthday of Peanuts. Here is a slideshow of some of the strip’s greatest hits. And here is the theme song.

 

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A Week in Culture: Rutu Modan, Cartoonist

June 27, 2013 | by

Sunday

I have no idea how this happened, but apparently I’ve agreed to give a talk to the entire pre-K and first grade at a local school. A total of seven classes.

While I do, in fact, also illustrate children books, it’s really due to my interest in books and less to my interest in children. It’s not that I don’t like children—I’m quite fond of mine—but speaking to children is a bit scary. They don’t know they’re supposed to hide it if they’re bored.

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I show the kids books I’ve illustrated, share my work methods, and even throw in a professional secret: I can’t draw horses’ feet. During the Q&A, a curly-haired girl persistently raises her hand and when I call on her she says, “My mother looks much younger than you.” But all in all, I realize that between these kids and my students at the art academy there is no big difference in understanding. Read More »

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Area Man Returns Book After Discovering Wilde Gay, and Other News

June 27, 2013 | by

wildetweet

  • The Tweet pictured above really speaks for itself.
  • And another one down: Chicago’s oldest used bookstore, the eccentric and beloved O’Gara and Wilson Antiquarian Booksellers, is closing its venerable Hyde Park location. But all is not lost: the shop is relocating to a more affordable location in Indiana.
  • Here are mashups of chick lit and Marvel comics, because we live in a world unrecognizable to our great-grandparents.
  • Speaking of! Subtle changes (degredation or evolution, you choose!) to the English language, happening as we speak.
  • The Atlantic asks: Must every new coming-of-age novel be “the next Catcher in the Rye?” (Yes.)
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    Aesthetically Speaking

    June 12, 2013 | by

    I learned not only how to read from comic books, but also how to see. I learned about line, shape, color, value, space, texture, color, balance, harmony, unity, contrast, variety, rhythm, repetition, emphasis, continuity, spatial systems, structures and grids, proportion and scale, and composition by studying and copying the drawings from the comic books of my Italian childhood. The word disegno literally meant drawing, but also design. Thus, the two were forever fused in my mind, each inseparable from the other: drawing is design, and design is, essentially, drawing.

    Il Gatto con gli Stivali (i.e., Puss ’n Boots).

    Il Gatto con gli Stivali (Puss ’n’ Boots).

    This drawing is but one example of childhood drawings (many, alas, have been lost or destroyed). They were done between the ages of four and six, circa 1971–73. I consider this by far my best period as an artist. The drawings are careful, sincere, and free of pretension. If my house were to catch fire, the small box of my remaining childhood drawings is the only artwork of mine I would try to save. Read More »

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