The Cambridge Cartoon Crisis

claregate.jpgFor the past weeks, our very own cartoon crisis, here in the academic bubble of Cambridge, has been rolling. In the first week of February, the Clare College newspaper Clarefication put out a special satirical issue entitled “Crucification” that amongst other things printed one of the Danish Muhammed cartoons, which last year had people going apeshit all over the world.

I have unfortunately have not been able to locate a copy, but it appears Clareification published the cartoon in just about as moronic a way as Jyllands-Posten did in September of 2005. Apparently, it was part of a “look-alikes of the week” feature, where the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, which I assume was the emblematic one of the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, was juxtaposed with a photo of the President of the Union of Clare Students. The caption below the cartoon of the Prophet had the President’s name, and vice versa. Underneath the captions was a supplementary text apparently insinuating that one was a “violent paedophile” and the other “a prophet of God, a great leader and an example to us all”.

Debat? III

simon_p.jpgDer er heldigvis andet at hente end tungeknuder, krumspring og udenomstale på Comic Zone Seriejournalen disse dage. Selveste Simon Petersen har for nylig postet seneste udgave af sin klumme, hvori han kommenterer Rackham.dks lukning. Han skriver:

“Så er Rackham.dk lukket ned, og det er grund til at flæbe over det tab. En meget stor del af den åbne og seriøse debat om tegneserier her i landet er forsvundet, og står i fare for at blive reduceret til en omgang “circle- jerk” inde på den nye side, metabunker.dk. På den nye side er det nemlig sådan, at man kun kan deltage i debatten hvis ens bidrag (pr mail) bliver fundet godt nok til at optræde på siden… Må Tobias på 14 så ikke fortælle, at han har udgivet et fanzine? Og hvad er en kvalificeret kommentar? Fra min klumme-pind skal der lyde et ønske til metabunkeren om ikke at være for strikse med offentliggørelsen af de tilsendte mails. En for streng kvalitetskontrol kunne få den effekt at nye “stemmer” ikke har en chance for at deltage i debatten.”

Den Verbale Ni-Millimeter er tilbage!

rehr_portraet.jpgHenrik Rehr svarer på den rejste kritik:

Punch drunk? Måske? Anyway, her er min post der kommenterer betalingsspørgsmålet:

Igen, det fremgik af konkurrencebetingelserne og alle deltagere har derfor indsendt sine bidrag velvidende at det var tilfældet. Naturligvis kan man godt mene at avisen burde ha’ betalt bidragsyderne for publiceringen, men på den anden side er fire striber først og fremmest en “smagsprøve” (ikke engang de små 15 striber som var konkurrencebetingelsen) så den er svær, synes jeg. En symbolsk betaling fra avisen ville helt sikkert have virker sympatisk, men på den anden side kan man jo mene at de har skudt kr. 40K i puljen og at det er en winner-takes-all situatuion.

Good News in Comics Academia

beaty_unpop.jpgSome interesting stuff has come our way from a variety of comics scholars recently, with more to come. Firstly, there is Bart Beaty’s long-awaited book, Unpopular Culture – Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s, on the new wave of auteur comics that helped transform the French-language comics market through the 90s , and which today stands as a major development in Western comics. It has yet to fall within my reach, but as a long-time reader of Beaty’s writings on comics in The Comics Journal and on Comics Reporter, I am definitely looking forward to reading it.

Beaty here laments the problems of writing about artists who are still working – especially if they are as prolific as Lewis Trondheim – but on the bright side, his book is the first comprehensive study of this important phase in the development of the medium. (By the way, the book is on special offer through comicsresearch.org).

Kulturkamp: Stegelmann og Thorhauge om ‘Verdens 25 bedste tegneserier’

Som Metabunkerens læsere vil erindre, fik det hæderkronede danske tidsskrift STRIP! for nylig et eller to borgerlige ord med på vejen, udbasuneret på den velkendte vulgære og ufølsomme facon, af denne skribent. I omtalen blev Thomas Bergers anmeldelse af Jakob Stegelmanns bog Verdens 25 bedste tegneserier undtagelsesvist rost, og det fik Stegelmann til tasterne. Hermed følger korrespondancen mellem undertegnede og Jakob Stegelmann, Danmarks vel nok vigtigste formidler af tegneserier og andre populær-kulturelle medier gennem tiden:

Kære Thorhauge,
Jeg finder det sært, at min lille bog med mine yndlingstegneserier er problematisk, som du skriver i din ros af Bergers anmeldelse. Det er jo ikke en kanon, men kun en gammel tegneserielæser/anmelder/formidlers kommenterede liste over personlige favoritter, en slags klassikerliste med personlige begrundelser. Jeg kunne da sagtens have medtaget mængder af serier, der lige nu imponerer og fornyer (hvad forordet for øvrigt også opsummerer) – men det er jo mere end svært at pege på, hvilke af de aktuelle ting, der også holder og hvilke, man som læser har glemt om kort tid. Filmfolk afviser jo heller ikke Welles og Hitchcock, bare fordi Tarantino imponerer. Det bør de ihvertfald ikke, synes jeg.

“We are not magic, We are real!” – an interview with Muñoz & Sampayo

munoz_sampayo_portrait.jpg

When Argentinian cartoonist José Muñoz received this year’s Grand Prix at the comics festival in Angoulême, he stated that he considered it as much a recognition of his friend, countryman and collaborator Carlos Sampayo, as of himself. It would indeed be hard to imagine one without the other. Though they have both worked independently of each other, in comics as well as other media, it is in the comics they have created together one finds the soul of their art, an art carried by a clear authorial voice and a stark but ultimately strongly humanist sensibility. The best of their work rates amongst the finest explorations of human emotion and behaviour in comics.

This interview was conducted by myself and my compadre T. Thorhauge back in the late summer of 2001 at the Berliner ComicFestival. They were invited as guests of the festival at a time when they had just started working together again, after a long hiatus due to Sampayo having been seriously ill for a number of years.

The Saved

ng_st_petermartyr.jpgI recently read two very moving books, both classics of World War II-literature. One was Italian chemist Primo Levi’s relentlessly frank first-person account of life in the camps, If This Is A Man (aka. Survival in Auschwitz, 1947), the other was the collected letters and diary entries of young Danish seaman and resistance fighter Kim Malthe-Bruun, Kim (1945). Read together, they chart different parts to survival and salvation and suggest why the two should not be confounded.

“I like Warhol better, so sue me”

Responding to the recent post about Lichtenstein, Metabunker-denizen Andreas Gregersen writes:

“Cambell is right (no?):

But yes, a lot of the anonymous stuff is probably more skilful.

Was RL a greater “recontextualist” (cf. “the essence of the exercise” noted in Campbell’s piece) than Johns, Rauschenberg and/or Warhol? And: When the critics talk about the craft of RL’s work, they almost always focus om his ability to twist a composition, but I think Barsalou’s swipe file more than suggests that there are (rather) too many instances where both line and composition are copied directly and not really appropriated. Granted, “Girl with Ball” is smart, but it seems to me increasingly like a lucky Picasso-punch…

And, yeah, I like Warhol better, so sue me”

Transformations in Pop

image_duplicator.jpgEddie Campbell is totally on point in a couple of posts (here and here) concerning Roy Lichtenstein’s use of comics imagery in his paintings, and does his best to rub out the old bugbear, fueled by the inferiority complex comics fans often habour on the behalf of their preferred medium, that Lichtenstein was a plagiarist. Though Campbell has pretty much sorted it out, I have a few remarks I would like to add.

The accusation of plagiarism is, of course, absurd. Anyone familiar with sample-based music will be well aware of that. Lichtenstein, however, is less a sampler and more of a transformer. Importantly, his appropriations are from one medium to another. While his superb sense of design is widely acknowledged, a lot of people neglect the painterly qualities of his work. His images are not photostats, or even silk screens, of comics panels, but bona fide paintings with a wholly different set of aesthetic qualities. He transforms the off-register Ben-Day of mass printing into a sui generis form, achieving something that is emphatically not cartooning, but painting. This of course means the concomitant transformation of often rather mundane sequential art to the icons of 20th-Century popular culture some of these images quickly became.