Al Williamson RIP

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Just paying respects to one of the great illustrators of comics, one of the masters of texture. The above story, “Food for Thought”, drawn in collaboration with Roy Krenkel for EC’s Incredible Science Fiction (full story available here) is a case in point: though never a great naturalist, Williamson brings the alien world to teeming life. While lacking the grace of his idol Alex Raymond and the energy of his contemporary, Frank Frazetta, Williamson brought an exquisite attention to detail to his work, animating it while never cluttering the pages.

Read Tom Spurgeon’s full obituary here.

Androids Can Dream — Robert Venditti interviewed

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By Andrew Firestone

A great man once said, “It is no small thing to make a new world.” And he’s only really half-right. It is a rather small thing to make a new world in one’s head. It is an entirely larger accomplishment if one delivers on the artistic and philosophical promise of this new world.

So while, yes, The Surrogates film starring Bruce Willis may have been a bit of a letdown, Robert Venditti’s consummate vision of a strikingly modernist post-modern future still vibrantly successful, in no small part to his recent prequel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone. Begun in a mini-series published by Top Shelf in 2005, Venditti’s The Surrogates quite dutifully reimagines the Yeatsian postmodern societal disintegration in a world in which people do away with their physical selves in preference to beautiful idealized androids, which they then live vicariously through. In the first series, Atlanta has already been taken under the spell of this corporate wundermachina; Detective Harvey Greer, the main character, never even sees his wife physically to have dinner. Despite its simple premise, Venditti achieves a contemporary ethos which holds a mirror up to a reality-show culture, summoning the most biting fable of American socio-cultural trends in recent memory. What is most impressive is not that the story is soundly constructed, but how vast an area of area of the American mindscape the story encompasses, yet how personal it feels. These poignant narrative techniques evince the abilities of a great storyteller in the making.

Asterios Polyp: Beyond the Binary

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The past week-and-a-half or so has seen David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp debated and dissected over at the Hooded Utilitarian, with discussions shooting off in a multitude of directions, amongst them the words-image binary in comics and the potential of comics as literature and the development of comics through modernism to the present day.

Today I’ve uploaded my official contribution to the roundtable, which in part builds upon the essay I wrote in this space last year. My piece follows contributions by Noah Berlatsky, Derik Badman, Richard Cook, Craig Fischer, Vom Marlowe, Domingos Isabelinho, Caroline Small and Robert Stanley Martin. When the roundtable winds down this week, I’m sure Noah will collect them all and present them together in a single section — so look for that!

Picks of the Week

“It’s pretty well understood amongst the crew who’s in charge,” …[Kuchta] said.

“How do they know that?” a Coast Guard investigator asked.

“I guess, I don’t know […] But it’s pretty well — everyone knows.”

— Captain Curt R. Kuchta of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig

The weekly linkage is back! Which I guess means the blog is finally back up and running.

  • New York Times: On the Gulf oil spill. This article runs down the litany of corruption and incompetence that led to the disaster in the Mexican Gulf. Unbelievable stuff. Also, Frank Rich had a great column yesterday on Obama’s reliance on expert opinion and failure to assert control over the oil business.
  • New York Review of Books: Peter Beinart — “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”. The US response to the week’s depressing developments in the Eastern Mediterranean is framed by this even-headed examination of attitudes to Zionism amongst the younger generations of American Jews.
  • P1: Interviews med Chris Ware, Thomas Thorhauge, Signe Parkins og Dennis Gade Kofod. Skønlitteratur på P1 stiller skarpt på den litterære udvikling indenfor tegneserien. Et glimrende interview med Ware, et provokerende med Thorhauge og et informativt med Parkins.
  • Nummer9: Web-TV fra Komiks.dk


    Så er MC Cav Bøgelund på banen med det første indslag i en serie, der bliver åbningen af det spritnye danske tegneseriesite Nummer9.dks web-TV-kanal. Cav og Tue Søttrup trawlede festivalen på såvel åbningsaftenen som i løbet af lørdagen og fik en del interviews i kassen. Hold øje med Nummer9.dk de næste dage og uger, og bookmark endelig sitet, eller smid det i din feed — der kommer til at ske en masse. Vi er kun begyndt!

    Ovenfor har vi første interview, med selveste Mads Bluhm, formand for Komiks.dk.

    Images from ‘Contemporary Comics’ at the University of Copenhagen

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    Regular readers might be aware that I was recently involved in the planning of an academic conference on comics at the University of Copenhagen. It was called Contemporary Comics and took place on Friday May 21st. It featured 12 international speakers, as well as the Canadian scholar Jacques Samson, who delivered the keynote address, and cartoonist Chris Ware in conversation with British comics expert Paul Gravett.

    The conference tied in with that weekend’s International comics festival, Komiks.dk, and was organized jointly by the Institute of Art and Cultural Studies, the Danish Comics Council and the festival. I very much enjoyed being part of the conference committee, which besides myself consisted of Rikke Platz Cortsen, Andreas Gregersen, Liva Skogeman, Christian Jess Rasmussen and Carsten Fogh Nielsen. Credit is especially due to Rikke, Ph.D-student at the Institute, who in addition to helming the conference taught a course on comics in the spring semester and saw her students through their exams at the festival itself, in front of a broad audience. Without her, none of this would have happened. Also, thanks to everyone else involved and everyone who turned up. It was nice meeting you all, and a great day!

    We now have some pictures up over at the Danish Comics Council website — here are the photos taken on the day by Henrik Conradsen, from which the above image of Gravett and Ware is culled, and here are cartoonist Erik Petris live sketches.