The Week

The week in review

Vacation and work have kept me away for a while, a will probably continue to do so for a little while yet. While in Boston, I checked back on one of the city’s premier cultural institutions.

The new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is emblematic of museum branding today, all the more so because of the particular intractability of its foundational stipulations. In a cultural climate where having a great collection simply isn’t enough, institutional visibility has become closely tied to event culture. for a museum that can’t even rehang its collection, this is of course a problem, so what do you do? Raise $180 million and hire go-to starchitect Renzo Piano to facilitate all the things museums seem convinced they have to do to stay afloat these days: an new wing housing a concert hall, a gift shop, a restaurant, a children’s art room, an exhibition space for artists-in-residence, a greenery. All sustainable, geothermal and daylight-harvesting, of course.

You do what you gotta do to survive, I suppose, but the absurdity of this trend for museums to go extra-curricular is particularly clear at the Gardner, whose intermittently great collection is forever trapped in a mediocre hang by the vanity of its founder, who insisted that everything be presented exactly as she left it at her death. This results in many important works being hung at low visibility and in often idiosyncratic and unenlightening juxtaposition, with the preciously empty frames of masterworks stolen in 1990 remaining on the walls as if to consecrate this “vision.” A new wing could have worked wonders for the presentation of the museum’s masterpieces, if only.

Still, Boston has a new, reportedly great concert hall and I’m sure Piano’s elegant building will attract customers. It has the potential to become a strong cultural center, if it does not blow too many leaks and if the museum’s direction finds ways of breaking its somewhat stale reputation. A good thing, even if the overall tendency is troubling.

A bunch of recent comics links:

  • The new Du9. One of the best critical sites about comics on the web, du9.org has just undergone a thorough, attractive redesign, led by editor-in-chief Xavier Guilbert’s extensive analysis of developments in the French-language comics market in the last year or so.
  • Neal Kirby on his Father Jack Kirby. Touching and informative reminiscence of growing up Kirby.
  • Shaenon Garrity on the fifty greatest pop songs about comics. Inventive, fun, insightful. And it mentions the Last Emperor’s amazing “Secret Wars.” I should add that the Philly MC does dead-ringing impressions of the rappers he casts in his epic comic book battle. Here’s hoping she will post part two soon.
  • Giraud/Moebius Remembered at Nummer9


    For the past three weeks, the Danish comics site has been remembering comics legend Jean Giraud/Moebius’ passing with articles, essays, reminiscences from a number of Danish creators, and — most interesting to a non-Danish reading audience: drawn homages. Go here for a panoply of drawings on “The Theme” by Denmark’s finest.

    Above is Jan Solheim, below Christian Højgaard reinterprets the last page of The Hermetic Garage.

    Kolor Klimax Press Pack

    Kolor Klimax cover illo by Aapo Rapi


    Hello and welcome to the Kolor Klimax press pack! Thanks for clicking in and for your interest in the book!

    Below you will find links to hi-res images from the book, ready for publication, as well as other resources that might be helpful. Please let us know if we can help you with anything else. And enjoy the book!

    Wivel’s Nordic Mixtape

    By Steffen Rayburn Maarup

    As mentioned in this space once or twice, Kolor Klimax — Nordic Comics Now, edited by this site’s owner Matthias Wivel, is now available in bookstores across North America, and thus the rest of the world. To mark the official release, I decided to ask him a few questions on the book, the project and the future.

    Why a Nordic comics anthology? Why the US? And why Fantagraphics?

    The idea came from the Finnish Comics Society. They’ve been running an international initiative called Nordicomics — which includes exhibitions and workshops — for a number of years now, and figured that publishing an anthology series in English would help their mission to promote Nordic comics internationally. The idea is that this is the first in a series of books with rotating editors, under the general helmsmanship of Kalle Hakkola of FCS, who is responsible for Nordicomics. The second book is already being planned and will be totally different from Kolor Klimax in concept as well as content. As I understand it, the idea is that every book will be a stand-alone work.

    As for Fantagraphics, I basically bit the idea from you. As I’m sure it did for your Danish anthology From Wonderland with Love, it just seemed the obvious choice — besides having been one of the best American comics publishers for decades, they’re consistently the most interested in supporting grass roots projects such as this one, as long as the quality is there. And co-publisher Kim Thompson is half Danish and knows about and is interested in Nordic comics already.

    KOLOR KLIMAX Available Worldwide!


    Kolor Klimax — Nordic Comics Now, the big fat anthology of contemporary Nordic comics that I’ve edited for the Finnish comics initiative Nordicomics is now available for order from its publisher Fantagraphics Books, as well as on bookshelves all over America and worldwide (theoretically, at least).

    Above is the publisher’s promotional video. See photos from and of it here, and check out its Facebook page here.

    The Week


    The week in review

    The passing of Jean Giraud is the passing of one of the great cartoonists and visual artists of his generation. It had become easy to take the enormously productive artist for granted, even to bore of him, what with him performing well below his own best a lot of the time in the last couple of decades, but it should not be forgotten that this was somebody who generously gave of his vision of the world, making it his through his drawing and storytelling, and ever-so-subtly affecting our common visual imaginary. His was a quiet ubiquity of a kind that only few artists could ever hope to reach. He shall be missed.

    The snap above was taken at the Angoulême train station on the Sunday of the festival in 2006, reading the already seminal Kramers Ergot 4. F-R-E-S-H.

    Here are some Giraud/Moebius links:

  • Kim Thompson’s 1987 interview with the artist for The Comics Journal. One of the best interviews I’ve read with the man.
  • Moebius Redux. Somewhat tacky, but still very good documentary on the artist, with some choice appearances by especially Alejandro Jodorowsky and Philippe Druillet. The former is hilarious, the latter touchingly pathetic. Giraud himself is remarkably candid too, even if certain parts of his life — such as his cultism in Tahiti — are only hinted at.
  • Images from Giraud’s funeral. A veritable who’s who of French cartoonist gathered. The image of his long-time friend and partner Jean-Pierre Dionnet in itself speaks volumes.
  • My own writing on Giraud/Moebius include this week’s examination at Hooded Utilitarian of his last, great book Chasseur déprime, which connected to my 2009 essay for The Comics Journal on his greatest single creation, The Hermetic Garage. For the same magazine, I also reviewed the grand career retrospective at the Fondation Cartier in Paris in 2010. For Danish readers, I wrote at some length about his last, extraordinary Blueberry cycle back in 2005, plus I wrote this obit in Friday’s book section at Information.
  • The End of an Era

    From Beatty's overture

    By Thomas Thorhauge

    It was a surprise when Sammy Harkham and Picture Box publisher Dan Nadel announced their plans for Kramers Ergot 8 about a year ago. Some of us had assumed that the monumental Kramers Ergot 7 had been the decadent word in what has been by far the most groundbreaking comics anthology of the new century.

    Despite good intentions and hard work, Kramers Ergot 7 was a disappointment, but on the other hand it was a book with everything to lose and little to gain, and at any rate it marked a fitting finale to a great run.

    As an aesthetic project, Kramers Ergot has succeeded beyond the wildest expectations, and especially the breakthrough Kramers Ergot 4 remains the high point of helmsman Sammy Harkham’s anthology series.