The Week (Cleaning out the Closet)

Obama in Martha's Vineyard on 18 August 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (used without permission, but hopefully fairly)

The week in review (kind of).

Haven’t done one of these in a while, and this is halfway through the week anyway, so it the timing is all wrong, but I have all these fine links that have been gnawing a hole in my drafts file for a while now that I figured I might as well share before we go into Angoulême mode here. Some are rather old and you might have seen them elsewhere, but if not here’s a chance to check them out.

  • The Obama memos. Following on from the State of the Union last night, one could do worse than reading this compelling examination of discussions had and choices made behind the scenes over the last three years in the White House. There are some revealing instances of Obama’s cynicism, as well as ample examples of his fetish for compromise, but also a very real sense of how difficult his job is. You could also do worse than supplementing it with Conor Friedersdorf’s sobering examination of the president’s transgressions of civil liberties at The Atlantic.
  • Ars Technica on internet piracy. Julian Sanchez examines and largely deconstructs the forcefully stated and strangely unquestioned arguments made in favor of fighting internet piracy by politicians and industry lobbyists — at the moment in favor of the highly dubious SOPA an PIPA bills (thanks Dirk!).
  • On Liu Xiaobo. This review at the NYRB of a recently translated collection of essays by the Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize-winner provides a compelling introduction to a clearly significant political thinker (now languishing in prison) and the country that fostered him.
  • Manga! Several excellent manga-related pieces have popped up online these past weeks. Yesterday jason Thompson examined smartly the decline in manga sales, in America as well as Japan. And Ryan Holmberg returned to his must-read but only intermittently updated column at The Comics Journal with a great essay on akahon manga, while the Hooded U republishes an excellent piece by Tom Gill on the great Tsuge Yoshiharu.
  • Finally — and this is a bit of an old link, but a must if you haven’t already checked it out — Joe Sacco with a new short piece of comics journalism, from Kushinagar in India.
  • The Angoulême Archive

    We’re getting to that time of year when us Northern European comics fans head south to sample the first taste of spring in comics at the Angoulême festival. As in previous years, I will be covering the event for The Comics Journal, so peep their site for updates come Thursday and through the weekend.

    I’ve been covering the festival off and on since 2001 for different media, and much of this coverage is online. Unfortunately, most of it remains consigned to more or less inoperative domains, such as my old mag Rackham and the “Classic” TCJ site that fell through the cracks when the new, much improved version went operative. I’ve therefore decided to assemble links to our (mine and Thomas Thorhauge’s) complete online coverage here, and — as you may have noticed from glancing at the flow of the blog today — even to import to the Bunker all of my TCJ coverage, just to have it accessible closer to home.

    Here’s the timeline:

    2001-2006 (Rackham):
    The Complete Rackham coverage (in Danish)

    2007 (The Metabunker):
    The Metabunker coverage

    2008 (The Metabunker):
    On the Bunker’s non-presence at Angoulême 2008
    The French “Comics Mafia” and other Follies
    Shaun Tan Wins Book of the Year at Angoulême
    Dupuy & Berberian — Grand Prix d’Angoulême
    A Cornucopia of Cliché — review of Shaun Tan’s Book of the Year Winner The Arrival

    2009 (The Metabunker):
    The Metabunker coverage
    Take Two: An Interview with Ruppert/Mulot

    2010 (crossposted between and The Metabunker):
    Angoulême 2010: Friday
    Angoulême 2010: Saturday
    Angoulême 2010: Aftermath
    Angoulême 2010: The Flix!
    “Everything I do, I do at an increasing risk” — An interview with Fabrice Neaud

    2011 (, with additions at The Metabunker):
    Angoulême 2011 at The Comics Journal.
    Angoulême 2011: Friday
    Angoulême 2011: Saturday
    Angoulême 2011: Art Spiegelman Grand Prix
    Angoulême 2011: Aftermath
    Angoulême 2011: Flix!

    Time Machine Go.

    Angoulême 2011: Art Spiegelman Grand Prix

    It has just been announced that Art Spiegelman is the recipient of this year’s Grand Prix at the Festival Internationale de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême. Selected by the festival’s academy, which is composed of former recipients, he joins Will Eisner and R. Crumb as the third American (and fifth non-francophone) to be bestowed this, the highest European honor that can be accorded a comics artist. Spiegelman has long been an obvious choice, but it has still taken the notoriously francocentric academy long to recognize him. The author of the seminal graphic novel Maus, surely as influential in Europe as in America, will act as next year’s president.

    Originally published at on 30 January 2011.

    Angoulême 2011: Saturday

    From the Frémok/Cinquième couche show

    As usual Saturday brought the crowds to Angoulême. It is difficult to get around, but it brings to the festival a heady atmosphere of art and commerce. Even the Association staff decided today partly to suspend their ongoing strike in order to support their artists who had turned up to sign their books. Killoffer, Gerner, Baudoin, Sury, Ruppert & Mulot, and several more were drawing up a storm for the throngs passing through the doors to the Nouveau monde. There is talk of upcoming negotiations between direction and staff, but for the moment the situation remains strained.

    The programming has also been popular. This morning, I tried in vain to get into the CIBDI lecture hall to hear the talk by Ikeda Ryoki, the creator of the still-to-be-translated-into-English classic Rose of Versailles. I did manage to get a seat for the similarly mobbed on-stage interview with Moebius last night, even if it turned out I needn’t have bothered. Arriving late to a sweaty, overheated lecture theater, the aging maestro was given very little to work with by the interviewer, who simply let him go on and on about the trivialities of how his current retrospective at the Fondation Cartier in Paris came to be, and how he has recently returned to his classic creation Arzak. Very little effort was made to discuss the intricacies and themes of this or other works, or his thoughts on why this was a good moment to return to a character who had his day in the late 70s, or the fact that the book in question is amongst the sloppiest-looking he has turned out in a long time.

    Angoulême 2011: Friday

    The L'Asso stand

    Arrived in Angoulême fairly late the afternoon yesterday, so last night was spent mostly catching up. As mentioned in several places already, the big story here is the ongoing strike at L’Association (I’ve been writing about it here and here). Their booth, which is placed at the head of the big so-called Noveau monde tent (which houses all the small press publishers, fanzine emporia, etc) has a massive sign up saying “Employees on Strike,” with pamphlets out explaining the situation, and no books for sale. One speculates whether, as bad as this surely is for the publisher (in terms of sales in addition to everything else), it might also be something of a perverse, unintended PR scoop. At any rate, this particular Angoulême will surely be remembered by many as the one with l’Asso on strike.

    It’s Just Begun (Going Way Back)

    Jimmy Castor’s death this week brought me back to the early days when hip hop first came to town. People breaking, popping and locking on street corners to that 808 sound, but also to old tunes that held great mystery to us kids. Later we would learn their names: “Apache,” “Dance to the Drummer’s Beat”, and “The Grunt” were among the perennials, as was — of course — “It’s Just Begun” with the Jimmy Castor Bunch (1972).

    It’s an epic song, dropping you in media res. The groove seems like it was always there, and yet the refrain tells you that it’s just begun, again and again. Castor’s sax theme breaks it off and returns with variations throughout — I love how it swerves off into a long push at the end of each section, and how Castor mirrors it in his vocals “it just beguuuaaiinnn!” All the while the percussion builds through the song into that amazing cacophony at the end where it merges with Harry Jensen’s guitar to sound like something out the primordial mists.

    Which was the intention — as opener to the album which carries its name, it introduces the notion of rhythm as an almost cthonic expression of our drives (informing that great, roughhousing lark “Troglodyte”, which follows it). The words appropriately describe man as “on the run” without knowing from what, “day or night/black or white”. And then comes that exhilarating bridge, build on that simple bass chord: “peace will come, the world will rest/once we have togetherness!” — it’s a rousing, empowering song with a political edge rooted in the troubled, disilliusioned decade in which originated.

    Like any good dance tune, it moves you on a fundamental level, rocking you awake, not to sleep. A rightstarter at the beginnings of hip hop, promising a world to come.

    The Rocksteady Crew in the movie Flashdance (1983).

    Ping Resurrected!

    Ping, by Storm P.

    In collaboration with the Danish Comics Council the festival and the Storm P. Museum, the Danish comics site Nummer9 is now resurrecting the Danish comics award, The Ping, named after the great cartoonist Storm P.’s famous sidekick character.

    The Ping in its original iteration was awarded between 1986 and 1996 and was given to an individual for his or her contribution to Danish comics. The new Ping is rather different — it’s a set of awards given in multiple categories, much like the Eisners in the US or the Fauves in Angoulême, France. Nominees in six categories have been selected by the staff of Nummer9 with their votes tallied by Nummer9 editor-in-chief Erik Barkman, Comics Council president Thomas Thorhauge, and myself who therefore couldn’t nominate works ourselves. The winners will be selected by a jury, the members of which will be announced on 1 February and will be presented at an awards ceremony in Lille Vega, Copenhagen 28 February.

    Among the nominees are some of the remarkable Danish comics published this past year, several of which are of such high quality that one might hope for international editions in the near future. You will also find nominated in two different categories a number of the best non-Danish comics of 2011. The full list can be seen here.

    We’re very happy to announce the inauguration of Ping Resurrected, which would not have happened without the hard work of the great, hard-working organizing committee. Read more about them here. And do show up for the show — it’s going to be a great party!

    2011: The Year in Hip Hop at Rapspot

    As annual procedure dictates, the Rapspot crew have once again pooled our resources in order to present for your edification a qualified proposal as to the best (and worst) in hip hop music in the year that went. Check it out here, and take a minute to (re)watch Tyler going bi-polar in Yonkers above.