Frank Santoro in Naples Italy 2018

There are over 30 pages from Pompeii by Frank Santoro on display at the National Archeology Museum of Naples, in an exhibition which is being held in conjunction with Frank’s appearance as a special guest at the Naples Comicon (April 28-May 1 2018).

The show opened yesterday (April 18th) at MANN and will continue until May 31st 2018. More details on the show can be found HERE.

During Comicon Frank will be participating in a panel with Blutch, whose graphic novel Peplum also takes a look at Ancient Rome. Details on the panel are HERE.

If you’re in the area, be sure to attend Comicon and meet Frank, and don’t miss the exhibition at MANN!

The Naples Comicon Instagram account was buzzing on May 18th, as famed Italian paleontologist Alberto Angela was caught at the National Archeological Museum of Naples looking at original artwork from Frank Santoro’s Pompeii (above).

Alberto Angela is a popular TV presenter and commentator for science-based programs. He is the author of A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome, among other texts, and has lectured on the tragedy of Pompeii. He seemed taken by Frank’s depictions, or as the Naples Comicon put it, he “could not resist the charm of the show“.

There were two Italian news stories upon the opening of the show, with the director of MANN talking about Frank’s work and the exhibition.

There is a review and preview of Pompeii in Italian HERE.

04/19/2018

Sam Ombiri on Joe Daly’s The Red Monkey – plus Frank Santoro at Naples Comicon in Italy!

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Sam Ombiri here: When reading comics, or engaging with any art form really, there’s this confrontation with internal noise that I have to dealt with – that for unknown reasons I feel desperate to make sense of. I wonder…this whole comics thing…what’s it for? Different artists at different times speak to me, to help make sense of it all, and I’m certain this is what it’s like for everyone who reads comics.

For me this week, I’m not saying Joe Daly’s The Red Monkey rectified ALL of this ongoing anxiety, but reading The Red Monkey was in some ways an answer to some of my questions – in a big way, really.

This isn’t the first time Joe Daly’s book has given me a real gut punch. Daly’s comics in general feel like a really sincere reaction to the energy that comics poses. When I say sincere, I mean he makes comics that don’t seem concerned with the reception that will be given to the book that he’s made. Every drawing he made was at the service of the form, and engaging with the ideas he is engaging with, as opposed to aiming to get attention and accolades.

Telling a story means less and less for people. It’s too simple; too boring. People feel desperate to make comics more useful, and as a result can forsake the form altogether, and that’s not without its consequences – comics feel increasing impotent. With The Red Monkey, it doesn’t feel like Daly wonders how people will consume it. He engages with comics like it’s something to make things that are difficult to understand, understandable. As though comics are an effective way for any reader to be confronted with what’s not understandable.

I remember Stan Brakhage quoting Bresson (in a conversation Bresson was having with Godard) about how it’s important to convince your audience to like you – and making a thing aesthetically pleasing so that you can take your audience certain places. The Red Monkey was so easy to read, without it’s simplicity being a big deal, and the environment was so well rendered – never did I have to ask where I was or what the the character was doing. It’s this clarity that’s important when making stories.

With that in mind, I’m reminded of a moment in Daly’s Highbone Theater and how I was sucked into Palmer’s idea about 9/11 without questioning it or mocking it, because of how infectious the narrative was. It’s in the same fashion that I’m sucked into the madness going on in The Red Monkey. That’s what art can do. I keep having this recurring stupid mini revelation, or rather I had this thought a year ago, and it’s nothing impressive, but it’s really stuck with me. This revelation has to do with how potent attitude is, how it goes into making any piece of art have a certain energy that defines it.

There’s a moment towards the beginning of the story when the main character gets roped into babysitting for his neighbor. He tries to find a comic for the kid, and he tells the kid that he’s babysitting (who is a fantastic character), to be careful with the comics, and that comics are like his religion. That’s the energy I’m referring to that I find over and over in Daly’s comics. – Sam Ombiri

Get a copy of The Red Monkey by Joe Daly over at Copacetic Comics, where coincidentally there is a wicked deal on the book as Bill Boichel is also eager to get more folks hep to Daly – check it out HERE.

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Sally here – the Naples Comicon Instagram account was buzzing yesterday, as famed Italian paleontologist Alberto Angela was caught at the National Archeological Museum of Naples, in Italy, looking at original artwork from Frank Santoro’s Pompeii (above). Alberto Angela is a popular TV presenter and commentator for science-based programs. He is the author of A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome, among other texts, and has lectured on the tragedy of Pompeii. He seemed taken by Frank’s depictions, or as the Naples Comicon put it, he “could not resist the charm of the show“.

There are over 30 pages from Pompeii on display at the museum, in an exhibition which is being held in conjunction with Frank’s appearance as a special guest at the Naples Comicon (April 28-May 1 2018).

The show opened yesterday (April 18th) at MANN and will continue until May 31st 2018. More details on the show can be found HERE.

During Comicon Frank will be participating in a panel with Blutch, whose graphic novel Peplum also takes a look at Ancient Rome. Details on the panel are HERE.

If you’re in the area, be sure to attend Comicon and meet Frank, and don’t miss the exhibition at MANN!

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Joanie and Jordie – 4-19-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

04/12/2018

Sam Ombiri on Deryl Seitchik’s “Missy No. 1”.

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Sam Ombiri here: Missy #1 by Daryl Seitchik has left me floored. There are other comics that may be similarly made, and somewhat similarly successful. However, for me Missy is entirely unique, though it’s uniqueness is somewhat hard for me to articulate. This comic communicated through obscuring information. When the title character Missy either scribbles over words, or misspells something, there’s a lot of truth revealed. I honestly wonder how much it was on Daryl’s mind for this story to be effective as it was. Efforts here don’t appear to be calculated, but suspiciously efficient and mysteriously rough. Calculations in some ways are a form of improvisation.

The story is so well laid out from moment to moment. It progresses with an abundance of specificity, which is surprising for such a small minicomic. Between these specifications there are small moments for me to really feel. The feelings are surprisingly rich, given how there’s not that many pages in this comic (only 12).

The comic feels like watching something with the sound turned all the way down. It’s very muted and very distant, because of how timid Missy is. She is so timid that she remains secretive. Even in her own journal! Despite being presented like the drawings of a child, the drawings don’t resemble drawings a child would make. This is because we’re introduced to the pictures as a representation of what the child is writing. As a result, the drawings feel really humble.

The naiveté of the book isn’t for the sake of spectacle, or to be fashionable, but it’s the most honest thing to do, and it isn’t much more than writing in a diary. This merges us with Missy’s vision; with how she sees things, every anxiety, every worry, every tiny betrayal, we’re immersed as a result.

It seems like for this minicomic, it’s important for it to be physically as small as it is, or rather the way it was printed especially adds to this comic. Since Missy is small, so is the minicomic. The comic being a diary doesn’t define it completely – the book, rather, just weaves in and out of the idea of the book being a diary.

Reading this I could sense that Missy was feeling like the world was about to crash down on her. At the beginning of the story with her parents divorce coming into the picture, it would seem that this was the case. It feels like she’s looking for places to run to, and this journal we’re reading seems to be one of those places. – Sam Ombiri

Check out more issues of Missy by Deryl Seitchik as well as her graphic novel Exits (Koyama Press) HERE.

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Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers

8 weeks! $500 bux! 10 spots available!

Rolling start date because of spring break – start NOW!

Deadline to apply is April 12th- today, by midnight EST.

Read all about the course HERE and email santoroschool@gmail.com for more details or to apply.

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Joanie and Jordie – 4-12-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

03/29/2018

Here’s Sam Ombiri on Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women!

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Sam Ombiri here: At times when I read comics I’m really invested in the scenario being presented, and I don’t really identify the characters well enough. I’m reading the story and I have to interrupt myself to study who is who. With House of Women by Sophie Goldstein, however, I was really struck by the characters’ various expressions, and the gestures the characters would make. I was impressed by how much information was conveyed through this, and in ways that aren’t that obvious. I was just reading and reading, invested in the scenario, but I found that I was experiencing who each character was in a different way. It wasn’t just their distinctive design – it had more to do with their facial expressions, and the moments that took place really stuck in my mind after reading because I could feel who the characters were.

Before the characters could speak, I felt a deep understanding of who they were. Whenever characters would act a certain way, it would come as no surprise because just their facial expressions would communicate so much. This was more so for Sarai, Kizzy, Rhivka, and Aphra than for Mr. Dean or the aliens (above). And that makes sense. It’s the equivalent of shining a spotlight.

For example, it’s not unlike Aphra to look so cross – she’s clearly a very level-headed person, so when she looks cross or worried, it’s for good reason. When Kizzy appreciates the smell of the blossoms or is really taken by children, it’s very expected. Rhivka, for good reason, is hard to pin down and her absence is really felt. She looks like someone who would be mysteriously absent while the other women are gathered.

All the expressions a character has ever made has molded that character’s face, and their gestures dictate the shape of their body. I was really struck by this – maybe because the style the book is drawn in is seemingly trying to get in the way of the story. It seems like there are things that should be obscuring my understanding and such, but the story is so clearly laid out – even the word balloons tell me where to go as a reader. What’s alluded to is what’s being said, making a rhyme with the image and words.

Maybe I’m also thinking about how straightforward the visual narration in The Oven was, whereas in House of Women Sophie Goldstein is more specific with how moments should unfold. The book is very aware of a reader reading the pages – each moment is paced very distinctly. If a scene is of the women walking up a hill (above), the page is drawn in such a way that you feel it, you feel the moment passing slowly. It’s a case of using the comics medium to its full extent.

This is perhaps like it’s filmic counterpart, Black Narcissus. I was anticipating a retelling of Black Narcissus because of how much Sophie emphasized it as a major influence – though truth be told, to me it was very far from that. I see maybe, for lack of a better term, iconography from Black Narcissus (like the title itself for example), and certain moments from Black Narcissus playing out in the book, but it simultaneously feels independent of the movie and any comparison to it would be inappropriate. What happened to Rhivka is perhaps comparable to Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus, but Rhivka is more aware of what’s happening to her. There is also this Cronenberg-esque mutation that one of the alien natives has gone through. This was actually a fantastic point in the book. The alien’s mutation was amazing. I really liked the design of the aliens in the book.

All the drawings in this book are enjoyable both to look at, and to read – from the way the story is told through the panels, to the way the sounds the characters are hearing is communicated, and the words the characters say to each other. All great. – Sam Ombiri

Get a copy of House of Women by Sophie Goldstein HERE.

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Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers

8 weeks! $500 bux! 10 spots available!

Rolling start date because of spring break – start as early as March 30th 2018.

Deadline to apply is April 12th.

Read all about the course HERE and email santoroschool@gmail.com for more details or to apply.

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Joanie and Jordie – 3-29-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

03/15/2018

Sam Ombiri on Benjamin Marra’s Night Business.

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Sam Ombiri here: When I first read Night Business by Benjamin Marra I was really mesmerized. I was coming into the book with Terror Assaulter in the back of my mind – and it had blown my mind. Reading Night Business feels like trying to look up at the sky but then having your head forced to the ground, the ground that you were avoiding looking at because of the mess afoot. At the beginning of the comic, however, Marra gives good reason for the reader to engage with it. I mean it’s not like this isn’t a fun book to read, but the calamity that the characters face feels all too real, and the hope that they reach for seems even more real. At least until nearly the end of the book it does. How can I not keep reading; I can’t!

For example, at the beginning we are introduced to a character who is just awful, but the death that she almost immediately suffers kind of counterbalances how awful she is, and I suddenly found myself really sympathetic to this character whom I had disliked. To me it’s just like “How?” I mean murder is such a horrific thing to witness, and Marra goes out of his way to present the murder (and really all the other murders in the book) in the most perverse extreme possible, but the narration of what happened and the way it happened was lyrical and unexpectedly heartfelt. The book was mourning for the tragedy it was indulging itself in a couple seconds ago and the “mourning”, so to speak, doesn’t feel any less heartfelt. There’s another character who sums up that while Krystal wasn’t the nicest person she didn’t deserve to die like she did. Then next time this killer strikes it’s with a much more likable character, and it’s more devastating.

I’ll admit I was pretty suspicious of how well Ben Marra knew what my reaction was going to be towards the first character’s death. I’ve been going back and forth on whether the reader should be told what to feel so well; as in the proper reaction being dictated for the reader to have. It seems important for a maker to dictate or at least consider what the reader’s reaction should be, but there’s something that’s a bit disheartening, as reader, to know that the author has gone ahead of me to dictate what I should feel. At the same time, however, that’s what I kind of expect a maker to present to me; isn’t it?

There’s this brilliant thing that Austin English said: “Cartooning is made up of artistic choices (like all art) but also information. Bad when info is used unsubtly (most biography comics), interesting when silently embedded into every choice.” That’s what constantly impresses me with Marra’s work – that the information, as Austin puts it, is “silently embedded into every choice.

The comic is also a constant rush, but with a lot of finesse. It’s like watching a Ballerina dance gracefully to heavy metal. The clock is ticking and with every panel I feel it ticking. The bodies are, sadly, piling. At points, one of the main characters (Johnny) keeps taking these pills that give him extra strength, so there’s a moment where he’s captured and we spend that part of the comic just waiting for the torture he’s going through to activate the effects of the pills he took. It’s really cool how this is an element – it’s like a countdown inserted in another count down which causes me to get more invested in the story. It reminds me a lot of Man O’ Metal, where the bulk of the comic is where this superhero is powerless unless electrocuted or set in flames. So there are moments in both these comics where everything becomes about waiting for the character’s powers to activate, to get him out of whatever hurdle he’s in.

I resonate with this idea of being empowered by what would ordinarily kill you, which also feels like a major theme in Night Business. Especially with this other character, Cathy, who goes through the most radical shift after she’s been attacked and becomes this unstoppable vigilante. Her transformation is also really lyrical – both the words and the sequence of events and how they’re presented have this amazing feeling.

I heard Marra describe Night Business as climbing a mountain after a lot of false starts in trying to make comics. I’m assuming he’s talking about the first part – he clearly feels no qualms in confronting any challenge, be it the way the story unfolds, or the subject matter, despite how impossible it might feel to execute. At no point does it feel like Marra was second guessing himself, but I did get the sense that what he was trying to pull off was difficult, and I could see all the work that went into certain moments when reading it. – Sam Ombiri

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Joanie and Jordie – 3-15-18 – by Caleb Orecchio

03/01/2018

Sam Ombiri here with Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot’s Barrel of Monkeys!

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Sam Ombiri here: I’ve been reading Barrel of Monkeys by Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot. The rhythm is strong in this book. During those moments when we’re waiting for things to happen, and for the story to progress, the characters – even if they are standing still – are full of motion. There’s a real indication of life, and there’s an abundant amount of life in their words, too. In a lot of ways this book demonstrates that a little goes a long way.

In the story with the man with a scarred face, we’re in claustrophobic small panels, and then suddenly a large panel (to emphasize distance). It adds to the ambiguity of what happens next. Before all that, there’s an amazing sequences where two Portraitists imagine how the man got all those scars, and the ending to that story is such an amazing question mark. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.

This is one of those books where each strip is executed so well that I’m almost afraid to keep going through it, because there’s loads of material following that’s just as effective, if not more so. I’m afraid to take any strip for granted – I can’t stress that enough with this one. I was reading and reading, and then I felt I had to stop. I was bombarded with so many good sequences that it was almost nerve racking – plus the drawings are really excellent.

The seemingly horrific moments didn’t nudge me to react in an obnoxiously specific sort of way, where it’s a detriment to the comic. The comic causes more laughter than anything else, with masterful execution. It doesn’t overreach, it doesn’t claim the darkness that it coats itself in as automatic lucidity. It doesn’t drown on it’s own self importance. Instead, it has a ball with it, and what’s found – be it profound or whatever – is left up to the reader.

There are comics that I encounter sometimes, where instead of the comic saying “this character is cynical”, the whole comic is a character who is cynical. We end up being forced to hear from the author how amazing they are for being just so cynical and so insightful. I feel like certain cartoonists in the past have really pulled it off well, but it’s a relief to read Barrel of Monkeys, because the characters aren’t untouchable and witty – but at a distance but would obviously be more cowardly when confronted. The characters are often confronted, which is great. The characters are very comical, but also subdued. Their mechanical movements, and mechanical dialogue, reminded me of a funnier and more tragic Yokoyama. The disdain exhibited for each person is so compelling, and so intensely injected in every drawing and panel of this comic, that there’s a real beauty to it all.

Lately I’ve been finding that the best practitioners of the medium are those who are deeply affected by the medium, and they can see what it is that affected them. With Barrel of Monkeys, it’s two collaborators, and reading the work they made, I can only imagine that it must have deeply affected them while making it, because it really affected me.

In some comics, when I read them I sense this rush to get to a feeling, and instead of relying on the medium to get to this feeling, the reliance is being put more on the rush to the feeling itself. The comic seems to be constantly talking about what it could be, rarely taking a break to appreciate what it is right now, what it’s doing now.

It seems like people are trying to establish (or reestablish) a canon of what one is obligated to respond to, in the midst of this movement of relying on the rush to get to a certain feeling, as opposed to the medium. I have mixed feelings about this. I’m not so much here to say what someone’s obligated to like, but at the same time I want to say that the success of Barrel of Monkeys is inescapable.

As time goes on, accomplishment is being more and more being associated with recognition. Creativity has many enemies, and hunger for recognition might be the biggest one. So when I give a comic accolades for this reason it feels like I’m making a mockery of the work; because I’m not giving accolades for the sake of giving recognition. Real enthusiasm is independent of recognition. The success of Barrel of Monkeys is so inescapable that I’m not worried about making a mockery of it by giving it accolades. – Sam Ombiri

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Collected from the thousands of pages of material that Frank has left scattered all over the digital landscape, these 4 PDF collections contain Frank’s best writing on comics and comics making from the past decade. Theory and process, reviews and discoveries, journeys both physical and spiritual.

Check out the “Best of Frank Santoro” PDF collections, available HERE!

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Vison Box – 3-1-2018 – by Cameron Arthur

02/15/2018

Sam Ombiri on Noel Freibert’s Old Ground!

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Sam Ombiri here: What’s so special about comics? If someone asked me that, I’d point directly to Old Ground by Noel Freibert. Among my vague, imaginary mental list of favorite comics right now, Old Ground is up there; seriously. Everything seems to be in place in the book, and for me it couldn’t be more perfect. This is a comic that can’t be described in a way that would do it justice, as lazy as I might sound in saying that. Some scenes cause me to laugh a certain kind of laughter. It’s kind of a nervous laughter, but not necessarily out of being too frightened or weirded out to respond “properly”.

It feels like Noel draws the way he does so he can simultaneously restrict himself, and through that free himself to go to certain places with his comics that wouldn’t be accessible to him (or anyone else for that matter) otherwise.

This might be what accounts of my nervous laughter – some of the gags presented perhaps lack of a point of reference. The comic is a real shock to the system because the drawings and the story are virtuosic. The comic is simultaneously cute, frightening, menacing, intensely dramatic, intensely goofy, and so on and so on. Somehow Noel made all these shifts register really well, and every moment resonates with the moment before, surprisingly harmoniously for such a chaotic book. He lingers in moments so that the events can properly register. He isn’t in any rush to show us his cooler-looking drawings. I say this because a lot of times comics fall flat for me in their refusal to be comics. The drawings might be labored over, but the sequence of events or images have no pulse whatsoever, so to speak. Not so with Old Ground, not by a long shot.

When the comic is focused on the two people buried in the grave, it goes on and on because it needs to, and then as the comic progresses Noel uses this established rhythm of the two people in the grave, and plays with it. He doesn’t  just play with it – he confronts it. This comic doesn’t feel like Noel did it at a distance, with vague suggestions that aren’t a part of him. At least that was the feeling I was getting from reading the book. Noel is committed to displaying this vague feeling he has and pursuing it to the end (or no end). That’s what makes it such a compelling read – and the results are evident there in the book.

In the story, one of the corpses in the grave claims to be 5, and the other claims to be 8 (but I suppose if they’ve been able to talk for as many years as they’ve been buried, maybe they’re even older). As one of the corpses – called Silver Spoon – put it, the worms maybe have eaten Cliffie’s (the other corpse) memory. The way Silver Spoon says it seems to be alluding to this only happening to Cliffie. The age seems to be more connected with the age when they died than the length of time they’ve been thinking. Although at the end of the story even this is questionable.

What would they be thinking about? How frogs were believed to be able to consume evil spirits, and how this means they can eat anything? They talk about how they’re dead and what that means to them. Silver Spoon suggests that Cliffie’s parents deserved to die in the fire in which they perished (for no reason whatsoever!)

Meanwhile, we’re also entertained by two wacky people whose goal is to demolish the graveyard. One is called Renaldo and is a very likeable character. I felt bad with how he was kind of forced into this situation by his boss, who is such a hilarious character. The story at a certain point turns into Silver Spoon trying to convince Cliffie that Renaldo and his boss aren’t his parents.

The interaction between the corpses reminded me of Jim Bored’s adventures in Powr Mastrs 3. The way the characters’ imaginations take shape, which is symbolically realized through each of the books’ creators’ efforts (Noel for Old Ground and CF for Powr Mastrs), are of the same nature. The pacing of it is based off of boredom, so it’s a good excuse for imagination to suddenly take vivid shapes.

I mean, there’s also a good amount of differences, like how it’s a dialogue in Old Ground, as opposed to a monologue in Powr Mastrs, or how instead of someone who is still alive but forgetting, it’s two dead people remembering (albeit not with much luck). I guess Jim Bored is also about remembering, but I think what Noel was saying with the comic partly is: dead people are not only forgotten by others – they’re also forgotten by themselves. So their goal of remembering is quite different from what Jim Bored’s goal was (which seemed to be self preservation and survival).

If you haven’t read Old Ground it’s probably in your best interest to do so. The ending of the story is an especially good one, with so many great moments leading up to it. The characters are excellent, and the sequences have done more than just simply blow me away; they’ve really astounded me. The lines Noel draws really bend to his mysterious whims. The drawings suggest they’re based off of simplicity, but it’s a trick. When I begin reading the comic I’m lured in and at the same time Noel is bent on driving me through this story, which has these sudden bursts of hyperkinetic movements.

When motion is conveyed it’s a real marvel to read. – Sam Ombiri

Read more about Old Ground (Koyama Press, 2017) HERE, and get a copy of the comic HERE.

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Collected from the thousands of pages of material that Frank has left scattered all over the digital landscape, these 4 PDF collections contain Frank’s best writing on comics and comics making from the past decade. Theory and process, reviews and discoveries, journeys both physical and spiritual.

Check out the “Best of Frank Santoro” PDF collections, available HERE!

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Joanie and Jordie – 2-14-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

02/08/2018

Sam Ombiri on Nick Drnaso’s Beverly – plus other comics and news!

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Sam Ombiri here: With Beverly, Nick Drnaso is clearly not making a story just to flex his muscles or impress us. Although there’s no mistake about it – this book is really impressive. However, all this – the complexity of the stories and the characters that are drawn mysteriously, in a sparse way – felt like it was done out of the necessity of being loyal to the ideas that Drnaso wanted to convey.

Often in the book there’s a sense that Drnaso doesn’t let us look at the real problem that his characters seem to be vaguely aware of, instead blaming other red herrings, no matter how extreme they can end up being (like in the end of “Lil’ King”, which was easily my favorite story). Or for example, in the first story towards the end when a character named Tim walks into Rich’s office, Rich is upset, and we don’t ever find out the reason (at least as far as I know). I think the reason would make for a very unsatisfactory reading, and would really simplify things in a bad way.

a page from Beverly by Nick Drnaso

In “Virgin Mary”, Mary’s face is only shown at the beginning, and for the rest of the story it’s hidden. “Virgin Mary” is narrated like one of those crime investigation specials that air on TV, and this element kind of builds on something in an earlier story. In the second story, which is titled “The Saddest Story Never Told”, a character named Cara (who was subtly introduced in the first story) is watching an “advance copy” of a new Sitcom that is being test marketed. She is watching it with her mother, and the comic just becomes us watching the sitcom. Thankfully, it is not a gimmick that Nick Drnaso is implementing in an exploitative manner. That is to say, it’s beautifully mundane, but Drnaso isn’t just flexing his avant garde muscles at the expense of the story – he executes it with great simplicity. Because a TV is square and panels can be square, Drnaso just changes the size of the panels to match the TV, and the panel size remains consistent for the duration of the tape.

The sitcom is really uninteresting and that’s what’s so great. It reveals a lot about the way Drnaso tells his stories. He isn’t rushing to brag about how cynical he can be, by being ironic and bashing how uninteresting the TV show is. Rather, he makes it interesting, but not too interesting, and I’m just speaking about the sitcom itself. Nevermind how Cara’s mother is desperately trying to project a more optimistic future for her and her children through this tape. The sitcom is actually engrossing! Drnaso somehow simultaneously conveys how uninteresting this sitcom is and makes it interesting. There’s actually an aspect to the way he draws that distantly seems to be uninteresting, but it’s not, in fact. It’s far from uninteresting.

So later on in “Virgin Mary”, the way the story is narrated (again, like a crime investigation special) feels like a heightened reality, something that the TV show’s suburban dwellers usually watch, which ends up contributing to the way they see reality. That then becomes the story we are reading, both from the way it’s narrated and what’s happening in the story itself (innocent people are blamed for a kidnapping). To me, viewing the story this way automatically can be attributed to how in “The Saddest Story Never Told” there was a very little to indicate the difference between what was TV and what was real life. The only information I got, really, was that when it was TV sound was coming out of the panel instead of just being in the panel. “Virgin Mary” is such an amazing point in the book – it’s like a big cry being let out. And that’s just one part among six great stories.

Nick Drnaso gives a very specific amount of detail, and the stories move along rather rapidly – my eyes automatically go from panel to panel, as the story is so clearly laid out. It might even be my hundredth time reading the story, but it keeps me engaged every time. I can jump into any section, and it’s just as easy for me to recapture the essence of each moment as when I read it the first time. It’s clear that Beverly was made to be enjoyable to read, and the success of the comic is, for lack of a better term, almost severe. It’s strengths are obvious when you read it, so I don’t need to go on praising it. You don’t have to believe the stories in the book, because the book believes them for you. – Sam Ombiri

Get a copy of Beverly by Nick Drnaso HERE. Congratulations to Nick for winning the New Talent prize at the 2018 Angoulême International Comics Festival for the French edition of Beverly! Keep an eye out for Nick’s new book Sabrina, coming from Drawn & Quarterly in May.

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News of Note

  • Shannon Wright drew the first Google Doodle of February, kicking off Black History Month with a celebration of Carter G. Woodson. Read about it HERE.
  • Beyond the Longbox profiles Ronald Wimberly, who talks about the origins of his works, his thought process, and upcoming projects – HERE.
  • There’s an interview with Robb Armstrong (creator of the comic strip JumpStart, one of the most widely-syndicated strips by an African-American author ever) on The Sentinel. Read it HERE.
  • Check out this interesting article about the Peanuts character Franklin – it covers the backstory of his introduction to the strip by Charles Schulz, and his continuing history.

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Joanie and Jordie – 2-8-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

02/01/2018

Bryce Davidson shares the work of Honore Daumier, and Chris Diaz has 3 new photo reports for us!

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Work by Honore Daumier

Bryce Davidson here: What’s up with cartoons? Caricatures perhaps might be more accurate. Simplified, amplified, and elegant, is it just good drawing? Nice shapes and lines? No, there’s something more. Most of us who read comics and appreciate the form will understand what I am referring to. Why do we spend so much time looking at these distorted images when we could look at a real person with actual facial expressions? Why does that twisted grin of a Chuck Jones character seem to portray more emotion and depth than any actor in Hollywood? It’s a tough question. For one thing it seems that the exaggeration of a cartoon help consolidate and refine the emotions and actions of character. It’s like boiling down syrup – only the essential, the truth, remains.

Honore Daumier

This brings me to the artist whom I want to focus on, one who everyone should know, especially within the current political climate – Honore Daumier, the quintessential political cartoonist. Coupling the revolutionary political climate of 17th century France and the burning hate of the bourgeoisie, “He revealed, as a true visionary, the faults endemic to the system that transcended the cast of political players” (Erlanger).

The venom this guy spits in his drawings is insane. The introduction to Daumier: Politicians goes on to explain:

The overfed, somnolent, or sneering deputies in Daumier’s picture are physically and morally hideous. Here is an art that denounces not only individuals, but underlying attitudes. Daumier brings to the pitiless light of day monsters serving as puppets for monied interests, electoral fraud, and the inextricable links between money and power.

I shouldn’t even have to mention how relevant it all is. If you’re looking for an artist who defined the sneer and critique of political caricature, look no further. I could rattle on about artists who are still producing work that rips this guy. His stuff is that universal. The characters are timeless, truly human, no smoke and mirrors. It’s really something that only a cartoon can do. Following are some more scans from the previously mentioned book, Daumier: Politicians by Philippe Erlanger. It can be purchased HERE if you’re interested in learning more. – Bryce Davidson

Works Cited:

Erlanger (Author), Philippe. “Introduction.” Daumier: Politicians, Alpine Fine Arts Collection, 1992.

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Jaime Hernandez at The Last Bookstore in old downtown Los Angeles – photo by Chris Diaz

Chris Diaz was busy attending comics events in the last few months! He shares photos from Jaime Hernandez’s Dec. 11th 2017 chat with Jordan Crane HERE, Charles Forsman at Comix Experience on Dec. 6th 2017 HERE, and Tom Gauld at a few places in Nov. 2017 while he was on tour for his new comic Baking With Kafka HERE. As always, comics fandom thanks you Chris!

Tom Gauld at Pegasus Books in Berkeley

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Collected from the thousands of pages of material that Frank has left scattered all over the digital landscape, these 4 PDF collections contain Frank’s best writing on comics and comics making from the past decade. Theory and process, reviews and discoveries, journeys both physical and spiritual.

Check out the “Best of Frank Santoro” PDF collections, available HERE!

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Joanie and Jordie – 2-1-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio

01/25/2018

Sam Ombiri on Coco Moodysson’s Never Goodnight – plus other news and comics!

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Sam Ombiri here: I’ve been reading a splendid comic called Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson. I found out about this fantastic book through Coco’s husband, Lukas Moodysson. Lukas Moodysson is my favorite living movie director as it stands right now. His movies have received praise from Ingmar Bergman as well as Harmony Korine, and those two directors really speak to the sensibility of Lukas. Those are two filmmakers he admires, and from my understanding this admiration was independent of the praise he receives from those two directors. He made a great adaptation of Coco’s Never Goodnight entitled We Are The Best.

I just don’t know where to start with this book. This comic is one of the most fun autobio comics I’ve ever read. The drawings are spectacular, it’s great that she was able to summon enough of this creative energy for every panel, and deliver consistently. Her drawings are like candy that don’t lose their sweetness when eaten too much. The drawings are simultaneously so expressive, but all done with that line that Sammy Harkham always talks about, where every drawing has the same weight to it and it doesn’t deviate.

It’s easy to  see why this book has the cult following it has. The storytelling is so clear, and I can see that the whole was considered, as opposed to some parts. The jokes in this book are really funny. The jokes don’t even seem like jokes, or funny observations made by a distant person reminiscing. Which is not to say that there’d be anything wrong if that, were it the case – in fact it’s commonly the case with autobio, or even non-autobio work (although people say all work is ultimately autobio). I guess this just speaks to the nature of life, but it’s really interesting how Coco’s comics don’t have that reminiscing attitude, despite that being what she’s doing throughout the whole work(reminiscing I mean).

It’s a really curious thing that when I read the comic it just feels like I’m watching life unfolding, and all the fun moments and funny moments unfolding with it. There is of course clear, concise timing in the way Coco leads us through the story, but I don’t feel the least bit, shall we say, “manipulated”. There are those moments in the book where it’s so cute I want to hurl, but I’m still completely sold. For example, where Coco talks about how she bought dog food and hid it under her pillow in case she ever got a dog, (this was after they went around begging for money to buy a guitar and instead just splurged on a bunch of snacks). I don’t know what to blame though: is it because Coco was such a likeable character to follow? Did I relate to it somehow? Are the drawings so charming that it’s disarming my suspicion?

It definitely seems earned because this specific brand of sentimentality doesn’t pop up until the 78th page, and the comic hasn’t demanded as much of an emotional response to be reciprocated to the work up until that point. It’s become the trend in some comics that the author just demand that the reader reciprocate an emotional response, just because they’re being courageous in expressing themselves in comics. I can’t speak for every case, but people making comics should realize that you can’t and shouldn’t blame the reader. If what you’re doing is independent of the reader, that’s a different story. You can’t just mumble some words and expect someone to read your mind and guess the rest of the sentence. You are responsible for making the sentence.

Part of what’s enjoyable (and at times it can be detrimental to me) is the ambiguity in experiencing and then re-experiencing work. This is with all art forms, though, and I really hesitate to say it’s especially so with comics because of how it’s words and images that you’re looking at. You’re also looking at the line work, you’re looking at the design. Makers should consider all this and perhaps accept this when making work and not let their vain guise of “how courageous they are for expressing themselves” be where the value of the work is derived. Coco’s book made me think of this because of how good it is. I didn’t feel cheated for reciprocating the emotional response Coco called for.

I feel that I should mention that it was surprisingly easy to separate the movie from the book whenever they would intersect. This goes deeper than them being different mediums, or what couldn’t be in the movie due to Lukas and Coco’s difference in sensibility. Even when I’m reading the exact same scene play out in the book that was in the movie, they seem so separate and this book is so distinguished that I don’t even think about the movie.

There’s an aspect to this book that I have no idea how to approach. I don’t know how comics are perceived in Sweden. It seems that there they have a tighter relationship with the literary world, maybe? I really don’t know. Anyway, there’s a panel in the book where Coco just coldly mentions how a friend’s friend killed himself with a guitar chord.

I’m rather puzzled at the intention of this. From what I understand, she was doing some work behind the scenes with Lukas’ films, and they made some kind of comic together (which someone should translate!) so I can’t help but to think there’s this lyrical element to her including this in the comic, something that’s similar to the lyricism in Lukas’ movies.

In contrast to this, though, there’s a sequence where the girls run out and there’s a homeless person with a syringe stuck in his arm, and he’s just there as a gag to convey how loud the girls are being about a bunch of nonsense, and yelling “We Are the Best!” It’s like he’s just there to be annoyed, but there’s a whole cute aspect to this. It’s funny because of how certain elements that were in the book were taken out of the movie, probably because of how it would evoke a completely different feeling, and completely change the atmosphere.

The sensibility of Never Goodnight feels a lot like a YA book, but introduces bleaker elements than those found in the adaptation made by Lukas (whom people sometimes liken to a more trustworthy incarnation of Lars Von Trier and who is associated with “the New Extremity” movement).

It’s just really funny how I don’t know what to make of this. Not that the comic is any less fun to read as a result, it only makes it more interesting to read. In a lot of ways, and obviously this comes as no surprise, there’s a lot of match up in terms of sensibility between Lukas and Coco. Maybe it’s because of how Lukas described his creative process as different from Coco’s that I anticipated a bigger difference. For example, Coco will say things like there’s not enough brown, or whichever color. This is strange because her comic are done in black and white! I feel that however many accolades I can try to give this book would be a futile attempt at describing how great this book is. It’s just such a wonderful book! – Sam Ombiri

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Other News

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Collected from the thousands of pages of material that Frank has left scattered all over the digital landscape, these 4 PDF collections contain Frank’s best writing on comics and comics making from the past decade. Theory and process, reviews and discoveries, journeys both physical and spiritual.

Check out the “Best of Frank Santoro” PDF collections, available HERE!

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Joanie and Jordie – 1-25-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio