Picks of the Week

“…you’re apt to find your thoughts returning again and again to a certain dark box in a certain Hilton half a world and three careers away, to the torture and fear and offer of reprieve and a certain Young Voter named John McCain’s refusal to violate a Code. Because there were no techs’ cameras in that box, no aides or consultants, no paradoxes or gray areas; nothing to sell. There was just one guy and whatever in his character sustained him. This is a huge deal. In your mind, that Hoa Lo box becomes sort of a dressing room with a star on the door, the private place behind the stage where one imagines “the real John McCain” still lives. But the paradox here is that this box that makes McCain “real” is: impenetrable. Nobody gets in or out. That’s why, however many behind-the-scenes pencils get put on the case, be apprised that a “profile” of John McCain is going to be just that: one side, exterior, split and diffracted by so many lenses there’s way more than one man to see. Salesman or leader or neither or both: the final paradox — the really tiny central one, way down deep inside all the other boxes and enigmas that layer McCain — is that whether he’s For Real depends now less on what’s in his heart than on what might be in yours. Try to stay awake.”

— David Foster Wallace, on McCain 2000.

The picks of the week from around the web. A little late this time around, due to traveling and such.

  • “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys And The Shrub”. Remembering David Foster Wallace at his sad death by his own hand on Friday, I’d like to hype this piece from Rolling Stone on the McCain campaign trail in 2000. While perhaps a little overlong, it is not only eloquent, but presents singular moments of empathetic exposition, acute observation and clever analysis. It also depressingly reminds us how McCain 2008 is nothing like its precursor.
  • The Comics Journal enters Deitch World! For what is surely the best issue of the Journal in a long while, Gary Groth talks to the cartooning family of the Deitches: Gene, Kim, Simon and Seth. Only there wasn’t room enough in the magazine to print the entirety of the great interview with Kim, so here’s some more.
  • Berlatsky & Crippen. Two remarkable comics critics expand and join forces. Crippen has signed up with Berlatsky’s blog The Hooded Utilitarian and starts out with his 2007 memoir of fanboydom “True Believer”, while Berlatsky opens his new column at Comixology, A Pundit in Every Panopticon, with an essay on Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ and the transcendence of art. Good stuff.
  • Noboru Ôshiro’s “Train Journey.” Matt Thorn brings us scans of an astonishing work of exploratory sequential art, surely a precursor to Yuichi Yokoyama’s great Travel. Don’t miss it!
  • On the Zapiro Cartoon

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    Published last week, the cartoon by Zapiro reproduced above has caused strong controversy in South Africa, indicting as it does not only ANC president Jacob Zuma and his allies, but implicitly the country’s justice system, which in a chillingly poignant twist of events has just thrown out of court on procedural grounds the charges of corruption that have followed Zuma for years.

    Conveniently Zuma, who has on several previous occasions sued Zapiro over his caricatures of him, now emphasises the importance of the freedom of the press, which probably means that the present kerfuffle will blow over, and is probably a good sign that no legal action will be taken, but simultaneously underscores the hypocritical nature of the most powerful man in, and virtually certain coming president of, South Africa.

    Re: The Graphic Novel Tradition

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    Following last week’s post on the notion of a ‘graphic novel tradition’ in comics, French comics journalist and connoisseur Xavier Guilbert of the distinguished comics website du9 and I have corresponded on the implications of seeking to take the term seriously as a means of identifying and describing a certain way of thinking about the comics medium and how it has developed historically.

    As these things tend to do, the discussion was ended up a rather sprawling affair touching on aspects of the Franco-Belgian tradition, as well as how the term might be applied to Japanese comics. We hope you’ll enjoy, or at least take away something of interest from this. And, in any case, do let me know what you think about these issues!

    Hype: Mixed Double/JFK

    I dag udkommer en af årets sjoveste danske tegneserier, Mixed Double af Johan F. Krarup. Krarup har i løbet af 2008 markeret sig som den suværent mest produktive danske tegneseriefortæller, i januar med humor-samlingen Brunt (Brun Blomst), i juni den selvbiografiske Pibemanden (Aben Maler) og ‘No Title’ i antologien Son of a Horse vol. 2 (Son of Horse) og nu, med den 88-sider lange Mixed Double, understreger han sin position som en af tidens førende tegneseriefortællere. Metabunkeren tog en lille snak med ham i anledning af dagens udgivelse:

    Johan F. Krarup, fortæl om Mixed Double. Hvad er der på spil?

    Mixed Double handler ikke om tennis, men er en undskyldning for at lave et clash mellem fire ustabile mennesker. Jeg har givet hver af dem et handicap, som jeg udfordrer og undersøger gennem tegneserien. Der er en fx nørdet fingerbølsamler (han kunne også have været tegneseriesamler), der bor hos sin mor og er seksuelt uerfaren. Og så er der lystløgneren, den højtuddannede pige fra ‘den kreative klasse’ med eget galleri og egne komplekser og endelig mund- og fodmaleren, hvis personlighed er ligefrem og kynisk, men som for mig selv er svær at blive klog på.

    Biksen som Bastion

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    Tegneserie-, SF- og spilbutikken Fantask overgår til ny ledelse pr. 1. oktober. Det er netop blevet annonceret, at stifterne Rolf Bülow og Søren Pedersen fra den dato trækker sig som ledere og overdrager faklen til Marit Nim, der efterhånden har arbejdet i butikken i 14 år og har administreret spilafdelingen en væsentlig del af den tid.

    Det lyder som en fornem løsning på den helt naturlige situation, at der måtte komme et generationsskifte i denne, en af de ældste og væsentligste institutioner i dansk tegneseriekultur. Rolf og Søren fortsætter i butikken nogen tid endnu og kan nu se frem til at se deres forretning videreført, også når de velfortjent trækker sig tilbage.

    Jeg tænkte jeg ville skrive lidt om, hvor meget Fantask har betydet for mig, og for dansk tegneseriekultur, men har ikke det store at føje til den tekst jeg skrev i anledning af butikkens 30-årsjubilæum tilbage i 2001 (oprindeligt trykt i Rackham #4), så den bringes hermed i ganske let redigeret udgave.

    Tillykke Rolf, Søren og Marit! Alt det bedste i fremtiden.

    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?

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    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

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    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

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    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.