Picks of the Week

“…hopefully the Steranko-crit drought will end soon, as more and more writers-about-comics get interested in the pure-visual dimension of things. Here’s a Steranko theme for yuh, though: nihilism. And not the limp, black cardigan, Gauloise cigs kind — rage and hate and total dessicated emptiness. Steranko — everywhere, but in Outland more than lots of other places — destroys his pages, welds these scabrous masses of information onto them, but they always refer back to the same void, this place beyond the story, outside the story. His first big continued saga, the Yellow Claw/SHIELD epic in Strange Tales, denies readers the kind of Kirbyist action climax that’s proper in these matters and ends on a big cresting cliffhanger, never resolved, with all the characters we’ve been following for issues and issues revealed as literal chess pieces, a shit-scary Dr. Doom howling with laughter as he manipulates them toward their deaths while shutting the story down with no ceremony whatsoever, spitting in our face, Marvel’s face, hero comics’ face. And don’t even get me started on “Today Earth Died”. Literary content? Steranko at his best wrote like a Borges from hell.”

— Matt Seneca

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Deep Trouble. The reporting by Ben Casselman, Russel Gold and others on the BP oil spill for the Wall Street Journal is the most detailed and lucid reporting I’ve seen on the subject from a sheer clarity of information point of view. Based on meticulous research, they walk you through the establishment of the Deep Water Horizon for the drill, the day leading up to the explosion that caused the spill, and its chaotic aftermath with lucidity, layoing out the human errors as well as the technical details of the tragedy. Surely a Pulitzer contender.
  • Joe McCulloch and Matt Seneca on Kirby and Steranko. This conversation about Kirby’s 2001 and Steranko’s Outland adaptations is self-indulgently long, but these two smart critics drop enough gems to make it worth it. Especially Seneca’s thoughts on the critically under-appreciated Steranko are worth it.
  • Who Killed Cathy? Tim Kreider and Shaenon Garrity deliver great eulogies over Cathy Guisewite’s long-running newspaper strip, engaging it from two very different perspectives. Fine comics criticism.
  • Was the Copenhagen explosion terror-related?

    The news on Friday of an explosion at Hotel Jørgensen in the centre of Copenhagen and the initial report that the arrested suspect possessed effects suggesting he might have been targeting the Viby headquarters of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published the 2005 Mohammad cartoons, is disturbing to say the least.

    The last bit of info, reported by the muck-raking tabloid Ekstra Bladet, that the suspect had a map with the newspaper’s address circled is apparently false, which I guess is a relief. The suspect, who apparently detonated his small bomb — perhaps intended for a letter — accidentally was hurt, but capable of interrogation via a French interpreter on Friday. He didn’t reveal anything, and the police are reluctant to jump to conclusions as to whether the he was intending to carry out a terrorist attack. They have released footage of him and a currently pursuing leads obtained from the public.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether their fears will be confirmed. The incident follows the arrest in Chicago last year of Tahawwur Rana and David Headley, suspected of planning to bomb Jyllands-Posten, and the latter involved in the planning of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, as well as the home invasion earlier this year of the house ‘bomb in turban’ cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. Danes are slowly getting used to the still very new reality of being potential targets of terrorist attacks and one fears a political overreaction. But at least prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen emphasised in his initial statement that Danes should avoid letting it effect their daily way of life.

    Nummer9: Rundbordssamtale om tegneseriekritik

    Ansporet af Nanna Gouls kærkomne debatindspark/anmeldelse af Charles Burns’ Sort Hul i Weekendavisen for en måneds tid siden, har Goul, Thorhauge og jeg selv ovre på Nummer9 taget os en samtale om tegneseriekritik set primært fra et dansk perspektiv. Der bliver uddelt fygende håndmadder, så check det ud.

    Relateret: Marianne Eskebæk Larsen og undertegnede skrev på vegne af Dansk Tegneserieråd et læserbrev til Weekendavisen som svar på Gouls anmeldelse. Det kan læses her.

    Sekvens med tegneseriekritikeren Harry Naybors fra Dan Clowes’ Ice Haven.

    Picks of the Week


    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Jane Meyer, “Covert Operations”. New Yorker piece on the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch and their bankrolling of the libertarian cause, and currently the Tea Party movement. Fascinating reading on the workings of private enterprise in American politics.
  • The Imp. All four issue of Daniel Raeburn’s fanzine available for download. Features on Dan Clowes, Jack T. Chick, Chris Ware and Mexican historietas that make up some of the best comics criticism of the last two decades. A must.
  • What if Kirby. Great new site on the King of comics, with detailed scans of original art.
  • “I’m not PC, but…”

    Writing for the South African daily the Mail & Guardian, artist Khwezi Gule critiques Bitterkomix co-founder Anton Kannemeyer’s new book Pappa in Arika for perpetuating stereotypes of what he, with tongue-twisting élan, calls “the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.” Although I haven’t yet seen the book, I’m familiar with Kannemeyer’s work and since my pal Li Se has poked my interest, I want to add a few words to this debate.

    Gule’s further point is that the racially and politically provocative art of the Bitterkomix group and others does not receive proper critical scrutiny by what one assumes to be the liberal intelligentsia, because these artists hide their racism behind a fig-leaf of subversiveness. What Gule doesn’t seem to grasp is that Kannemeyer’s being racist is essential to his art — of course he’s racist, that’s what his art is about. He is not merely exposing “white fear”, but a much more complex set of emotions held by many whites, African and otherwise, vis-à-vis their colonialist legacy and life in a multicultural society. He further extends his reach to fathom the situation of non-whites, in casu parts of the black political and coporate establishment which he “coons” in a bold move, tying their abuses to the history of Western imperialism through vicious stereotype.

    On Murakami and Observing Reality

    Last week, I got the chance to attend an afternoon of readings and on-stage interviews with Haruki Murakami in Møn, Denmark. Although the interviewers were fairly unimaginative and failed to probe below the surface or pursue any of the interesting points made by the author, Murakami was such a charming, unpretentious and earnestly thoughtful speaker that it nevertheless turned out a great session.

    I’m fairly new to Murakami’s work, having only read a couple of his novels and short stories, but found it pretty compelling — if perhaps unsurprising — how his work process and whole approach to writing, as he described it, so closely mirrors the way his protagonists experience life and events. Murakami described the creative process as descending into the subbasement of a house and letting the darkness dictate the writing. He emphasised that he avoids research entirely when writing his first draught, only turning to source material and implementing factual corrections from the second draught onward.

    He said that he starts with a word or an image, from which the story unfolds, but doesn’t plan anything out ahead. “When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta”, is the opening sentence of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami described how his first question would then be, ‘who’s on the phone?’ and then he would go with the idea that came to him, worrying about who the anonymous woman he has talking sex to the protagonist is and what her call means later — or not at all, as the work may dictate.

    Picks of the Week


    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Li Se on the proposed South African media bill. As good a critical overview as any I’ve read on the ANC’s latest media clampdown in disguise.
  • Sam Lipsyte on Wilson. A fine review of Dan Clowes’ latest comic. One of the few I’ve read that seems to get it.
  • “1000 Years of Pretty Boys”. Guest-blogging for the Hooded Utilitarian, JR Brown provides a great, detailed survey of homosocial depictions of bishounen, beautiful young men, in historical Japan as a framework for understanding especially shoujo and yaoi manga.