Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The Daily Show (above). Jon Stewart has really been on fire this week, what with the sideshow spectacle of Governor Palin’s nomination and the Republican National Convention. Bear witness and shudder. Also, read these scathing yet on point comments by Judith Warner and these hilarious ones by Maureen Dowd, and these sober ones by Gloria Steinem.
  • K. Parille on the ending of Dan Clowes’ Ghost World. Writing for the new supergroup blog, Blog Flume, Parille makes a number of interesting observations on the subtlety and complexity of Clowes’ storytelling.
  • Swagger Like Us! You’ve probably already heard this, and even gotten sick of it. The four biggest name MCs right now unite over a ridiculous MIA hook. It’s not great, but worth a listen, if only for the pedigree brought to it.
  • Sebastiano in Berlin — Some Thoughts

    Austin_Portrait_t.jpg I’ve just returned from a short visit to Berlin where I had the opportunity to visit the German iteration of the large Sebastiano del Piombo retrospective that showed in Rome earlier this summer. Since the article I wrote after having seen it there was a more general assessment of Sebastiano’s art and career, I figured I would append a few comments on specific works here.

    As I wrote about the Rome show, it was hampered by a terribly overconceived installation — amongst the worst I’ve seen — so I’m happy to report that the Berlin display goes the obvious and straightforward route that so many exhibition designers fail to grasp these days: hanging the pictures on the wall and lighting them well. The Gemäldegalerie’s exhibition rooms have their limitations, which results in an at times slightly illogical hang where early and late pictures are juxtaposed for no other evident reason than the purely logistical, and certain works such as the strange Spezia Adonis pictures (see below) hang on opposite sides of the room instead of next to each other, which would obviously have been preferable.

    Also, several works weren’t able to travel to Germany. The Genova Giacomo Doria, the Pitti St. Agatha, the National Gallery Portrait of a Woman as St. Agatha, the Barcelona and Harewood Female ‘Colonna’ Portraits, and — most sadly — the San Giovanni Crisostomo Altarpiece aren’t there. As partial compensation, the beautiful Kimbell Head of a Woman tondo and an exquisite, richly saturated small Portrait of Clement VII from a private collection, which to me looks bona fide, are included. While sad, these omissions are understandable, and that the curators have actually managed to secure for both venues such major works as the San Bartolomeo organ shutters, the Kingston Lacey Judgment of Solomon, the Viterbo Pietà and the Burgos altarpiece is in itself hugely impressive. Also, the display of drawings is, as promised, entirely different.

    The Graphic Novel Tradition?

    Over at the Comics Journal message board, an interesting discussion of the term ‘graphic novel’ and what it may be used to designate is currently buzzing. Amongst the participants is Eddie Campbell, the first cartoonist to take the term seriously since its ascendancy as a marketing gimmick. Expounding persuasively on its usefulness to describe a certain movement in his How to Be an Artist (2001) and even going so far as to write a manifesto for same, he now reckons the term broken through misuse in the media and the larger cultural context they reflect.

    Initially, I was sceptical of the term, and I remain so to an extent. Already shortly after its first signifcant use, by Will Eisner for his comic A Contract with God in 1979, it started becoming corrupted as different opportunistic publishers started releasing the same genre stories they had been putting out for decades in slightly more book-like formats and calling this ‘graphic novels.’ Needless to say, this tendency has more or less taken over now, with the term being used left and right to market a wide variety of comics, most of which have little to do with what Eisner intended for the form.

    Campbell may be right that reclaiming the term for a certain kind of comic is a lost cause, at least when it comes to the cultural mainstream, but I’m not sure that means we should just give it up. If nothing else, it may yet prove to be a valuable term in comics scholarship and who knows what its eventual fate will be in the cultural discourse of the future?

    Reads: Lynda Barry

    The highly esteemed Lynda Barry recently released What It Is, a combination of coming of age artistic autobiography, ruminations on art and creativity, and imaginary instruction manual for novice storytellers and artists. It’s a lovely looking book, as always impeccably produced by Drawn & Quaterly.

    Barry has a highly developed aesthetic sense; the lavish collage work that makes up most of the book displays a finely tuned sense of colour and design, most of the juxtapositions of drawings, photos and assorted clippings making harmonious sense. That said, I don’t get what the big deal is.

    Watching the Funnies

    Tom Spurgeon of the indispensable Comics Reporter did something interesting yesterday. He put out an open critical challenge: ‘What is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen about?’ Lots of comics readers and critics, including yours truly, have responded, and a good number of the answers are interesting, either in themselves or in what they tell us about the book’s general critical reception.

    Also, my post on the groupkill syndrome amongst current Marvel heroes has set off a debate on the issue and its motivations in Secret Invasion over here, while the blogger Rich provides commentary and some continuity context.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The Underground Hip Hop Collection. Check out this cool blog offering lots of great hip hop, especially from the early 90s, when hip hop was experiencing the kind of optimism combined with trepidation of becoming a major pop culture phenomenon. An astonishingly creative period. Bonus for comics fans: identify the artists of two of the classic covers reproduced above.
  • Russel Keaton’s Superman. The disclosure of fascinating documents on the birth of Superman continues, this time with a concept outline and a number of sample strips that writer Jerry Siegel did with the now entirely forgotten cartoonist Russel Keaton, before the character debuted in Action Comics #1, drawn by Joe Shuster (Warning: PDF).
  • Ghostface Killah excised from Iron Man! This deleted scene from the Iron Man movie is not essential in any way, except for the inherent greatness of having none other than Wu-Tang’s Pretty Tony appear in a cameo, in an entirely appropriate role entertaining appropriately supreme clientele.
  • For syns skyld

    Den danske tegner Rikke Lindskov Loft, alias ‘Gwennafran’, har netop postet et indlæg ovre på Seriejournalens board, hvor hun kommenterer dele af den etablerede danske tegneseriekulturs forsømmelse af den nye mainstream: mangaen. Ansporet af Simon Petersens kommentar i sin seneste klumme om, at de unge manga-inspirerede tegnere glimrede ved deres fravær på forsommerens tegneseriefestival Komiks.dk, skriver Gwennafran bl. a.:

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • L’affaire Siné. This is a good article on the firing of cartoonist Siné from French bi-weekly Charlie Hebdo, apparently over insulting the son of President Sarkozy, followed by allegations of anti-semitism, and provides some context to us who are puzzled how a magazine known as a bastion of freedom of speech in satire (famously so in the Muhammed cartoon case) suddenly fires one of its mainstays over what must be termed a trifle.
  • The Siegel-Detective Comics correspondence. (Warning: PDF). Unquestionably the find of the week. These documents from the early days of Superman are fascinating for the insight they provide into editorial policy at the time, as well as the concrete issues at stake between the creators of Superman and the company that ripped them off over it. Tom Spurgeon has a succint piece of commentary up, too.
  • Writings on The Dark Knight. The new Batman movie has been the most talked-about movie of the summer, and some people have said interesting and intelligent things, amongst them are Charles Reece and John Barnes. Check them out if you liked the film. UPDATE: David Bordwell has a post up too, of course.
  • Orwell: Bookshop Memories. Great little essay on working in a bookstore by a master of the form.
  • Woodring Ephemera and Simulacra. A cool collection of little-seen work by the great Jim Woodring and an inspired application of his imagination to the real world (or is it the other way round?) Thanks, Flog!
  • Skrull Kill Crew

    A good deal is being written about the entertaining but rather haphazardly structured and at times unintentionally puzzling summer event from Marvel, Secret Invasion, but I haven’t seen anyone mention the one thing that immediately bothered me about the series: the completely unassuming and natural way in which the superheroes kill the Skrull enemies en masse.