The Week

Julie Christie and Oskar Werner in François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The week in review

This week I have a Danish-context comics-related grievance I want to address, so please excuse the shift in language here. International links below!

Bogtillægget til denne uges Weekendavis skæmmes af et fejlinformeret og tendentiøst opslag. En ærgerlig plet på en ellers som regel velredigeret og seriøs publikation. Kan det overraske, at emnet for begge artikler på opslaget er tegneserierelateret?

På venstresiden får vi en kommentar til sidste uges tildeling af Kronsprinsparrets Kulturpris til tegneren Jakob Martin Strid, skrevet af Bo Bjørnvig, der tydeligvis stadig ikke er kommet sig over halvfemsernes skingre presseopgør med tressernes venstrefløj (kan læses online her). Bjørnvig pointerer det pudsige i, at folk — herunder kunstnere — bliver mere konservative med årene, mere specifikt at Strid (og Bjørn Nørgaard, og givetvis også, ad åre, dilletanterne i kunstnergruppen Surrend) fralægger sig tidligere tiders ekstreme holdninger for mere samfundsbevarende af slagsen. Der bliver minsandten også plads til en stikpille til Carsten Jensen.

Alt er, med andre ord, ved det gamle.

The Week

The week in review

Hip hop’s making bullshit headlines again. This time over the reaction to the murder, last month, of Chicago MC Lil Jojo. After news hit that the 18-year old had been shot in a drive-by, his rival Chief Keef — with whom he had been beefing, seemingly in a grab for quick fame — went on twitter to gloat. When the shit hit the fan, Keef — perhaps advised by his record company Interscope — started claiming his twitter account had been hacked and started posting “uplifting” PC boilerplate. He also claimed not to be responsible for threats of violence against his older colleague Lupe Fiasco, who had spoken out against his behavior on the radio.

Whether Lil Jojo’s death has anything to do with Keef or not, that’s just pathetic. Now, I know that violent rhetoric in rap has a lot to do with a violent culture, and is more a symptom than a cause — a symptom that occasionally proves to be a way out for people, and one that tells us volumes about the social breakdown of parts of American society. Attacking rap music for very real problems in society that are far bigger than hip hop is not necessarily productive, but on the other hand you sometimes miss the days when more people in the community did what Lupe, and fellow Chicago MC Rhymefest, just did and spoke out against the bullshit being perpetuated by a lot of hip hop artists, the vast majority possessed of no talent and lacking the intelligence to convert their rhetoric into hard truth. Player hating is now a bad word in hip hop, which has increasingly become a laissez-faire subculture impressed first and last by money. It used to make hip hop proud.

If you don’t believe me, check out Keef’s biggest hit “I Don’t Like” here. It’s basically a series of inarticulate grunts over a generic beat with a sort-of effective, repetitive hook. The most interesting part is the curiously homosocial video and what it tells us about how these guys want us to see them. This cut from Lil Jojo, which was part of his PR dis campaign against Keef, is just as telling. All the same: RIP.

Links:

  • In a week where I’ve dissed The New Yorker, I feel good being able to recommend the magazine too, this time for a lengthy article on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
  • Comics: Xavier Guilbert interviews Anton Kannemeyer of Bitterkomix, Ryan Holmberg on Osamu Tezuka’s debut “New Treasure Island” and its American antecedents, and — from the Hooded Utilitarian’s now-finished five-year anniversary series: Noah Berlatsky on Ai Yazawa’s Nana and Joe McCulloch on Milo Manara.
  • Goodbye Alice

    The Last Cul de Sac, original watercolour


    Yesterday, one of the few strips that should give Petey comfort ended. The circumstances of cartoonist Richard Thompson’s decision to do so — health reasons — are heartbreaking. We wish Thompson the best of health and fortune in his future endeavours.

    The Week


    The week in review

    Another great drawing by Raphael is coming up for sale. Like the Female Head, which broke all records when it sold for £29 million in 2009, it’s a so-called auxiliary cartoon for his last great, large-scale work, the Transfiguration (begun 1516, finished after the master’s death in 1520) now in the Vatican. Coming from one of the greatest private collections — accessible to the public — of drawings in the world, that of the Duke of Devonshire, it’s a well-known and justifiably famous drawing. It’s kind of sad that the Duke occasionally sells off his drawings in this way, potentially occluding great work such as this from public view.

    It shows the head of one of the apostles, and was probably used as a visual supplement to the drawn cartoon used in the studio to transfer the composition to the panel. Like the Female Head, it shows pounce marks (the little dots along the contours), which one would expect to be evidence that it was transferred off the present sheet, probably to the final panel (coal dust is pounced through little holes, transferring the composition in outline), but the marks do not seem at all to follow the contours of the drawing, which seems to me indication that an outline design was transferred onto the present sheet and then reworked into the drawing we see.

    Not having seen the drawing in the flesh, I’m far from certain about this, and I haven’t consulted the literature either, so I may just be talking nonsense here. I just find the drawing exciting, with its smoky chiaroscuro suggesting strong light falling from the right, picking out the cranial features and accentuating the melancholy aspect of the young man. Lips parsed, tussled hair, young beard, intelligent but passive.

    The drawing’s estimated price of between £10-15 million reflects the kind of drawing we’re dealing with here: a large, highly finished piece by one of the defining artists of the Western tradition — the kind of work that only comes up for sale extremely rarely, despite what the 2009 sale would seem to indicate. One question is whether it’ll reach the same, frankly unbelievable price that sheet fetched. Judging by quality I think it should: it appears to me a more finely rendered and subtly beautiful drawing than the Female Head, which is beautiful but slightly rote by Raphael’s standards. This is the same type of drawing, but shows more invention and, I think, carries a greater emotional charge.

    Anyway, let’s see what happens at the sale. I hope the Getty or some other wealthy public institution steps in.

    Links:

  • Salman Rushdie on the repressive culture of offense and fear. With the release of his memoirs coinciding fortuitously with the tragic international flare-up of unrest related to that idiotic video on the prophet Muhammad, Danish TV programme Deadline broadcast this interview with the author, recorded the week before. Also: read Bill Keller on Rushdie and the controversy.
  • The anniversary of hate at the Hooded Utilitarian continued this week, with some really good pieces, led by Isaac Butler’s savage critique of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, which also sparked fascinating discussion. Craig Fischer’s piece on David Small’s Stitches was also good. Plus it was nice to see the inimitable Tom Crippen writing again.
  • Henry Sørensen interviewing Morten Søndergård on fifty years of Spider-Man. This now completed extended dialogue is a really great read, but is unfortunately only available in Danish. But do check it out if you can read the language, part one, two, three. Totally unrelated: Xavier Guilbert’s interview with Anders Nilsen is in English, and good!
  • The Week

    The week in review

    Not much to report from this angle this week, apart from the fact that the Jewish new year reminds me that I’ve been back in the ole home country for over a year now. Last year’s Rosh Hashannah kind of marked a fresh return to new beginnings here and it’s been a great ride since then, one of the best years I’ve had. Thanks to everybody taking part.

    Links!

  • I would like to supplement this week’s welcome announcement that Fantagraphics is going to publish Ed Piskor’s online comic The Hip Hop Family Tree with this interview with Piskor, conducted by my man PTA on said piece of edutainment.
  • Also in comics, the Hooded Utilitarian’s five-year Anniversary of Hate! has brought some good criticism to the table. I liked in particular Steven Grant’s essay on bad comics and why the field still makes sense as a vocation. Plus! HU has reprinted Ng Suat Tong’s notorious Comics Journal essay from 2003 on why the EC New Trend comics are among the most overrated in the canon, supplemented by a back-and-forth on the issue with R. Fiore.
  • Other (more!) comics-related links: Slavoj Žižek on The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Spurgeon on Dave Sim’s recent, depressing letter of resignation, Chris Ware on display in New York.
  • Meanwhile in hip hop, I really enjoyed what El-P had to say about Nas’ classic debut album Illmatic (1993) in this otherwise rather dumb list of best albums of the nineties, and I totally dug this video of a young Kanye West rapping with his mom.
  • Comics of the Decade: Gary Panter’s Jimbo in Purgatory


    This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

    Thus the unfacts, did we posses them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

    : James Joyce

    In the twelfth canto of Purgatorio, the last step on the way before Dante can put behind him the burden of pride and rise up to the second terrace of Mount Purgatory, he stumbles — stooped and strained by sin — on an enormous comic, cut into the rocky pavement.

    The comic tells the story of vanity and presumption from the dawn of time to the Biblical era. He is thus given the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the story of Niobe, Queen of Thebes, whose aggrandizement of her seven children over the goddess Leto’s two, lost them to the arrows of the gods and was transformed into a statue. Or the tale of the weaver Arachne who was punished for besting Pallas Athena with her art had to spend the rest of her life spinning webs as a spider. Or the tale of the Syrian warlord Holophernes who gave himself over to the murderous hands of the avenging Israelite Judith, or : not the least : the story of King Nimrod of Babel left broken on the plain of Shinar, his aspirations struck down in bitter confusion of language.

    Gary Panter’s commentary track in comics, Jimbo in Purgatory, substitutes a diagonally placed tapestry of fifties B-movie posters for Dante’s comic. Standing in for the poet is his recurrent, Candide-like muscle man Jimbo, whose origins trace back to the early seventies, while Dante’s guide on the mountain, the Roman poet Virgil, is replaced by Jimbo’s parole officer, the box-shaped robot Valise. The angel who descends on them from the mountain and tells them about the transience of all life appears here in the form of the robot woman from Fritz Lang’s SF parable Metropolis (1927).

    Panter’s version of the conversation is a fragmented jumble to Dante’s moving reflection on human worth. An exchange of classic nonsense and raunchy limericks stitched to samples from Boccaccio, Chaucer and Milton. The result is a poetic confusion of meaning in which twentieth-century pop artifacts are tried in the court of the classics, read in eclectic zigzag to engage only halfway tongue-in-cheek the questions raised by the source material.