Roskilde


Yes, I haven’t been posting a whole lot here for some time, and it will be a while longer because this weekend I’m at the Roskilde Festival reporting for Rapspot, as I have for a number of years. Last night featured Janelle Monae’s showstopper of a performance from which the above image by my man Klaus Køhl is taken. Myself and the rest of the Rapspot team are reporting on that and much more over at the place where we dwell.

Normal programming to resume presently.

Hype: OCX 2012

Joost Swarte's festival poster


Next weekend I’ll be visiting Oslo to attend its Comics Expo (OCX) for the third time. I can’t wait — they seem really to have upped the ante this year, with an ambitious program and an impressive roster of guests that includes such luminaries as Joost Swarte (who did the festival poster, above), Chris Ware, and Seth.

I will be participating in two day-long seminars: one held on the Thursday run-up to the festival proper on the aesthetics of modern comics, where I will be debating my long-time internet interlocutor on comics Domingos Isabelinho live for the first time; and one — held on the Friday — on cultural lobbying for comics, focusing on the establishment in Norway of a national center for comics.

In addition to this, I will be presenting the Nordic comics anthology that I edited, Kolor Klimax (recently published by Fantagraphics) in the swell company of two of its fine contributors, Bendik Kaltenborn and Amanda Vähämäki. And to cap things off, I will be interviewing the festival’s headlining guest Joost Swarte on stage. Really psyched about that!

Will I see you there?

A Good Ache?

Sean Bean, looking vulnerable.


Look, I’ve really been trying. Not only was I prepared to like Game of Thrones when first I sat down to watch the opening episode of HBO’s series last year, I’ve come back to it several times, figuring I might have missed something, since so many people of generally discerning taste have been raving about it. But sorry, despite the best efforts of the producers to put on a good-looking, big budget production, it is hard for me to see where it differs from a Live Action Role-Playing Game writ large. Lot of overpaid actors running around in the woods with styrofoam swords, throwing flour at each other. Plus lots of tits.

I’ve also tried going to the source, figuring that the show might have got it all wrong. People have been singing the praises of this guy, George R. R. Martin, calling him “the American Tolkien” and stuff, and for all his faults, Tolkien is pretty damn great in my book. So I picked up the first volume in his endless cycle of 800-page novels and gave it a crack.

Oh gawd. What’s there to like? I mean, really? The world-building is staid, consisting of every fantasy cliché you can imagine (hardened but pure Northerners, decadent big city politicians with worm-tongued advisors, and dark-skinned savages that are awesome in battle as well as in bed, etc.) And everything is named so generically — you’re in trouble when “King’s Landing” is the best you can come up with for a great city, and when “Ice” is your idea of a cool name for a sword.

But the worst is the prose. I shall refrain from going on at length about it and merely flip through the book a random to give you a sample. This is on page 59. The righteous viking king (played by Sean Bean on TV) is haunted by doubts about a political move while his queen pines after him:

The wind swirled around him and he stood facing the dark, naked and empty-handed. Catelyn pulled the furs to her chin and watched him. He looked somehow smaller and more vulnerable, like the youth she had wed in the sept at Riverrun, fifteen long years gone. Her loins still ached from the urgency of his lovemaking. It was a good ache. She could feel his seed within her. She prayed that it might quicken there. It had been three years since Rickon. She was not too old. She could give him another son.

Please.

Titian in Print Quarterly


The latest issue of Print Quarterly (vol. XXIX, no. 2) features an article by yours truly on the Titian’s woodcut St. Roch (above). I went full retard on this, getting my fingers dirty in the Venetian State Archive and such. You should check it out.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Titian’s designs for woodcuts of the early decades of the sixteenth century are remarkably varied in terms of subject, composition and purpose. The large St Roch is an interesting case for it was published with the insignia of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. The artist is recorded among the chapter brethren of this institution in 1528 and may well already have been a member there when he executed the design. The woodcut was evidently made to help raise funds for the construction of the Scuola’s new headquarters — a rare early surviving example of a devotional print produced for the purpose of institutional promotion. Although its composite design and blend of image and text make it unique in Titian’s graphic oeuvre, it has received less scrutiny than his other woodcuts. This article considers the available evidence in an attempt to elucidate the particulars of its creation and iconography, proposing an earlier date than the traditional one and inserting it into the context of Titian’s engagement with the heroic male figure in his work of the late 1510s.

The Week

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people… Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society…

Huey P. Newton, 1970

The week in review

This week Obama finally put on the line his position of gay rights. Forget the spin, it was an important moment. One that will hopefully vindicate the despicable distraction the Bush government used to get elected in 2004. One for the books, even if it loses Obama the election, and it seems we can be pretty confident it won’t.

This week’s links:

  • Matt Taibi on Dodd Frank and the general lack of financial reform. Muck-raking as usual, and on point, as usual.
  • Kirby roundtable at The Comics Journal. OK, I’m late to the table, but if you missed or went tl;dr on it, it’s well worth the time for anybody even remotely interested in the great cartoonist Jack Kirby, superhero comics, or just great art. It also yielded a link to this fantastic examination of Kirby’s collage work.
  • Maurice Sendak. This week, one of the greatest cartoonists and children’s books illustrators alive isn’t anymore. Sad to see him go to where the Wild Things are. I found the New York Times obituary by Margalit Fox excellent, and not a little touching, as is this 2008 interview with him in the same paper. The obituary at The Comics Journal is good too, and check out this short 1987 interview.
  • The other notable — and sadly early — passing, of course, was that of Adam Yauch, aka. MCA of the Beastie Boys. I already wrote a little on his achievements, but just wanted to point anyone not already in the loop toward this:
  • Adam Yauch RIP


    As the stray reader might have noticed, the blog has been dormant for a while here, feeling the effects of pressure elsewhere. I can’t let the passing of Adam Yauch, aka. MCA of the Beastie Boys pass in complete silence, however.

    I refer you to the New York Times obituary for the lowdown on his remarkable career, and New York Magazine‘s oral history for a record of the auspicious beginnings of the Beastie Boys. Here, I’ll merely add that they were always the exception to the rule: three Jewish kids staking an entirely credible claim in hip hop that has never been challenged, communicating with a wide, predominantly white audience at a time when the genre had not yet become the commercial juggernaut we came to see through the nineties, and doing it without losing any cred with the hardcore audience. Part of their innovation, and surely instrumental to their success, is that they took the humor and irony of old school rap and gave it their own twist, maintaining and developing it over the years as the rest of hip hop largely forgot it.

    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!