Who Drew the Original Spider-Man? The Debate

The week before last, I posted a link to Morten Søndergård’s article on the first Spider-Man stories and Jack Kirby’s possible involvement in them on the Comics Journal messageboard. This sparked an interesting debate about the validity of Morten’s hypothesis, involving some of the foremost specialists on Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and early Marvel. I figured I would save the best of it for posterity here.

The Pendulum Swings

Lo, the pendulum swings. Things have happened so quickly in comics these last years that we are already seeing a backlash against the type of comics that broke the century-old mould and expanded the field of comics as expression and art, until recently almost universally embraced amongst ‘progressive’ comics cognoscenti. There is a new establishment in comics — graphic novels, artcomics, verité dessinée, call it what you want — and, as it should be, a conglomeration of people all set to tear it down, though not always for the same reason or with the same agenda, has emerged. At the same time, myriad new developments are taking the medium in new and different directions that elicit critical responses even before the ink is dry. This is only natural — the medium is in a state of evolutionary flux, and the battle of redefinition that these conflicting discourses are evincing is only to be expected.

The latest flareup of this state of heightened tension in international comics culture was a kerfuffle this weekend and yesterday over a somewhat ill-advised piece by Heidi MacDonald on the high-profile, Chris Ware (co-)edited comics anthology The Best Comics 2007 from mainstream publisher Houghton Mifflin (follow-up here). Her post called a host of cheerleaders from out the woodwork, but also elicited vociferous criticism, making you simultaneously apprehend and anticipate the Fire Next Time.

Press Release: Bonnier Comics Established in Denmark

Following Egmont’s aquisition of Bonnier’s book publishing division (covered by the Metabunker here), big decisions have been made – here’s a fresh statement from Egmont/Bonnier:

“In connection with the sale of Bonnier Books’ Danish publishing company Bonnier Forlagene to Egmont, the comics publication unit of the children’s publisher Carlsen will transfer to Semic International, owned by Bonnier. During their review of the sale, the competition authorities of the European Commission assessed that the group will achieve an over-dominant position on the Danish comics market as both Egmont Serieforlaget and Carlsen operate significant activities in this publishing sector. However, Carlsen’s current publications in the comics area will remain under the auspices of Bonnier. A Danish comics company, Bonnier Comics A/S, will be set up under the general management of Rickard Ekström and Måns Gahrton from the Swedish publishing house Semic International.

Quotes of the Day:

Poor wee artie, he had the misfortune of having the first volume of Maus come out at the same time as that godawful Dark Knight and now he’s got to be stuck to it like a siamese twin. I feel for the guy.
– Eddie Campbell

The book is stupid, and David Michaelis is an idiot.
– Monte Schulz, son of Charles M. Schulz

He’s just a guy who wants to get paid, and he cuts deals for himself that he doesn’t like down the line, and then he gets whiny and cries about it…
– Rob Liefeld on Alan Moore

Hey, Kids! Comics! (The Return of Daniel Clowes)

Clowes Mr. Wonderful

As our Dear Reader may have noticed, Mr. Daniel Clowes has finally made his long-awaited return to comics in The Sunday Magazine of New York Times. With five installments currently on display, it seems somewhat safe to say that Clowes is back as we knew him in 2004, when the last issue of Eightball was published (and yes, the story in there – The Death Ray – was a spectacular masterpiece). The new story’s called Mr. Wonderful, and it’s all here.

And P.S., while you’re in there, do check out the coverage of David Michaelis’ controversial new biography of Charles M. Schulz. It’s right here. It seems like a must-read.

And P.P.S., here’s Bill Watterson’s review of the Schulz-biography. Everyone who subscribes to the motto: “The sorrows of life, the joys of art” seems to like this book a lot.

Hype: Tove Jansson/Moomin Exhibition in Copenhagen

On Friday night, at the so-called ‘Kulturnat,’ the exhibition space Frederiks Bastion, on Christianhavns vold, will open the exhibition “What’s This?”, showing original sketches and drawings for one of Tove Jansson’s classic Moomin stories in strip form The Moomin Trolls and the End of the World (1946/47). If I were in Copenhagen, this would be an absolute must — do go, this is incredible work!

Detail from Jansson’s cover to the Moomin book, Comet in Moominland (1946), on which the strip was based.

BLÆK Sold Out!

blaek_cvr_t.jpgWe have just received notice that the big anthology of Danish comics and related visual art, BLÆK, edited by myself and T. Thorhauge, designed by Frederik Storm and with cover art by Jan Solheim, has sold out from the publisher. From its frenetic creation, including the criticisms of economical mismanagement and political censorship, as well as the concomitant tie-in with the infamous Muhammed cartoon crisis, it was clear that it was going to make waves, and its present, critically-acclaimed and award-winning presence in Danish comics culture speaks for itself. It is, needless to say, a book we are proud of, and continue to stand by 100%.

We hope everyone who read it will continue to check for the artists who contributed — it is, of course, more than anything their book. Thanks to everyone who read and had an opinion on BLÆK!

The Venice Biennial pt. 2 of 2: The International Exhibition and the Arsenale

This is the second and last installment of the Metabunker review of this year’s Venice Biennial. Read the first part, which deals with the national pavilions, here. Also, be sure to check out our extensive photo reportage from the show.

While the national pavilions provide the core of the Biennial, affirming the continued belief in its slightly outmoded but still somehow current modernist conception, the real gauge of a successfully curated show are the large, thematically oriented exhibitions in the corderie (ie. rope-making buildings) at the Arsenal and the already mentioned International exhibition in the Italian pavilion (Italy has not had a solo show for decades, but actually did this year, in a different Italian pavilion situated at the far end of the Arsenal).