Jack Kamen RIP

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Classic EC Comics artist Jack Kamen has just passed away at the age of 88. Although always understandably regarded as the weakest of the EC Artists, he was the most subversive in some ways. His wholesome illustrative style, and perennially healthy looking, mannequin-like characters doing nasty things to each other, in themselves act out a scathing satire of the values that would eventually land EC and the comics industry as such in hot water from concerned parents and censorious authorities.

Plus, those stories are really funny, following as they do the formulaic accelerated three-step logic of shortform pulp plots: “Oh Maureen, I love you”, “I love you too, Brad, but Dick will never give me the divorce”, “Let’s kill him!”. Also, his art was a perfect, subtly disturbing fit for the didactic but still rather interesting strips in the post-Comics Code title Psychoanalysis, not so much for the landscapes of the subconscious, surely influenced by such imagery as Salvador Dalì’s designs for Hitchock’s similarly hammy therapy thriller Spellbound (1945), but rather for their frank straightness. Whiteman on the couch.

Tom Spurgeon’s obit.

From Stage to Panels

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Andy Konky Kru has posted the entirety of Joseph Franz von Goez’ 1783 comic Leonardo und Blandine over on his indispensible site for pre-modern and early modern comics, Bugpowder. And It’s a treat: while by no means great art, its tight sequencing, relying on histrionic moment-to-moment renderings of the characters’ love and grief, is fascinatingly exacting. Telling the tragic, Decameron-inspired story of two star-crossed lovers over 160 panels, it is highly melodramatic and not a little grim.

Gul Journalistik

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Det er ikke kun i USA at anden om R. F. Outcaults stribe om Den gule dreng, fonografen og papegøjen (25. oktober, 1896) som Den Første Tegneserie lever i bedste velgående. Også her i Dammen viser det gule mærke sig at være svært at ryste af sig. Senest har møgungen fra Hogan’s Alley stukket kæften frem i hele to relativt højt profilerede tegneseriehistoriske indsatser i de danske aviser. Tegneseriens nestor i dagspressen, Søren Vinterberg, har over de seneste uger entusiastisk delt sine yndlingstegneserier med Politikens læsere, og den mangeårige og vidende tegneserieskribent Inger Holst formidler i denne uges Weekendavis aspekter af den fascinerende historie om tegneseriehetzen i 50ernes Danmark.

Jeg vil ikke kaste mig ud i en længere kritik af deres tekster, der er velskrevne og værd at læse for alle interesserede, om end i hvert fald Vinterbergs indslag bør læses med forbehold for faktuelle fejl. Nej, det jeg blot ville pointere er, at de hhv. beskriver The Yellow Kid som “den første fortsatte massemedie-tegneserie med teksten indarbejdet som grafisk element i billedet” og “den allerførste seriefigur”, og ikke nok med det — de afslører begge, at de ved bedre ved at henvise til tegneserier af tidligere årgange, som f. eks. schweiziske Rodolphe Töpffers tegneseriealbums fra 1830erne og 40erne (Vinterberg her, Holst her), tegneserier der stort set besidder alle de karakteristika mediet siden er blevet defineret ved.

Hammershøi’s House of Secrets

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Been away from the screen for a couple of days, so no Picks this week. There’s stuff coming soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d just take the opportunity to recommend the major retrospective of Danish painter Wilhelm (Hammershøi’s 1864-1916) work at the Royal Academy in London (till September 7, after that Tokyo), the first such showing of his work in the UK. It’s a great show, even for someone quite familiar with the artist’s work such as myself; it contains a lot of paintings from private and international collections, providing a great, little-seen supplement to the masterpieces on loan from the major Danish collections.

Hype: True Colours @ CPH Shortfilm

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This week, Wednesday and Thursday will see the festival Copenhagen Shortfilm 08 in Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen. Haven’t been to the festival before and I only know one of the films being shown, but that one film is definitely worth seeing. True Colours paints a both touching and intense portrait of a man with too much emotion. It is directed by Barney Elliott, edited by — conflict of interest! — my man Klaus Heinecke, and features a commanding performance by Neil Maskell. It’s on Wednesday 30 at 22.45. Go see it.

Svensk tegneseriekraft

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I dagens Information står at læse en artikel om svenske tegneserier, og ikke mindst et sjældent forekommende fænomen på dansk — kvindelige tegneserietegnere. Forlægger hos Kartago Rolf Classon udtaler bl. a. at deres bedst sælgende svenske serier sælger i området 20.000-30.000 eksemplarer — helt uhørt i Danmark, selv for Valhalla og Strid, hvis det han siger altså er korrekt forstået af journalisterne.

Det har længe været åbenbart, at den hjemmebryggede tegneserie har det væsentligt bedre hos vore naboer end herhjemme, og artiklen der også bringer kommentarer fra Seriefrämjandets Fredrik Strömberg, Aben Malers forlægger Steffen Maarup og Bunkerens egen T. Thorhauge, kommer med nogle bud på hvorfor: bedre kulturel repræsentation, større kulturpolitisk satsning og hele to serieskoler spiller alle en stor rolle, men det samme gør aspekter af den svenske serietradition. Noget vi kan lære af? Det tror jeg nok!

Læs også avisens interview med tegneren Nina Hemmingsson.

How Hard Can it Be? III


Time for another of these snarky posts on the exasperating shortcomings of our fellow man (see previous installments). The trend for tracing photographs has never been more widespread in American comics, and while I don’t agree with Frank Santoro’s recent, refreshing but rather hardline dismissal of the technique, it has been responsible for some pretty damn dull-looking and stiff comics.

Tony Harris is a case in point: I like his work OK, and what little I’ve read of his series with writer Brian K. Vaughan, Ex Machina, has been enjoyable, but his characters continue to appear as if they were action figures posed in all their PVC glory, while his background drawings frequently look a tad too much like solarized scans of photographs. Slightly exasperating when you consider that his chops are actually decent enough. Give the lightbox a rest, will ya?

Picks of the Week

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The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Jeet Heer on Batman’s gayness. I time for the European release of Dark Knight this week, let me link to Jeet’s fine survey of the gay subtext in Batman comics. An interesting and fun read.
  • David Bordwell. A detailed examination of the alternate cuts of several of Wong-Kar Wai’s films. Fascinating.
  • Bill Kartalopoulos: Gary Panter. More Gary Panter hype here at the Bunker! Live interview with the artist on Karatalopoulos’ new blog (go, bookmark).
  • Berlingske. (for our Danish readers): An examination of vinyl collection in this day when digital formats have become dominant. As all us vinyl enthusiasts have long predicted, the format has retained its appeal, as opposed to the CD, which has proven much more transient.