Monthly Archive for May, 2011

On the Real — An Interview with Chester Brown


This interview with Chester Brown, who is currently garnering much attention for his extraordinary new book Paying for It, was conducted at the 2004 MoCCA Arts Fest in a small storage room where they kept the boxed-up Harvey Awards, a couple of hours before the ceremony was to start. Brown had recently released the collected edition of Louis Riel, which naturally became the main subject of our conversation.

As should be evident from my 2005 review, I consider this a remarkable book in a remarkable oeuvre. I never thought the interview rendered Brown nor the book justice, consisting mostly of dead ends and leads left unpursued, but I still think the artist makes a number of interesting points and observations and foregrounds the motivations that led him to write Paying for It. I am in any case grateful that Mr. Brown took the time.

The interview was published at Rackham in 2004. This is its first publication in English. I hope you enjoy it, despite its shortcomings. Continue reading ‘On the Real — An Interview with Chester Brown’

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • This is a well-written piece on the sometimes hermetic and puzzling vagaries of art world authentication. It doesn’t change, however, that there is no way the Buffalo Pietà at its center was painted by Michelangelo. Look at it. The provenance may be compelling, though the argument about the wax seal on the back seems iffy. And the underdrawing could of course be by the master, as the owner and his conservator champion claim, but the cropped infrared published in the interactive section of the article (look right) is hard to judge by. Nothing about it yells Michelangelo at this viewer though.
  • The passing of Gil Scott-Heron brought this fine personal tribute from one of his talented heirs, Michael Franti of Spearhead, but if you only read one thing about him, make it this profile by Alec Wilkinson, written last year for the New Yorker.
  • Comics links. Two excellent pieces up at The Comics Journal this week: the latest installment in Ryan Holmberg’s history of gekiga and Ken Parille’s analysis of creation as a motif in Jack Kirby and Chris Ware.
  • Peace Go With You Brother (Gil Scott-Heron RIP)

  • I heard Gil Scott-Heron performing live once, in Copenhagen back in 1999 or thereabouts. It was a disheartening experience. Sitting at his keyboard, hair greasy, clothes filthy, almost falling asleep mid-song at several points, he was clearly far gone. Everyone was sitting down, even as he was performing some of his most rousing tunes. I got up to show my support, and love for songs that had taught me a lot about Black America and where rap came from. But it was heartbreaking.
  • Still, his voice was there, still warmly burred, deeply persuasive, behind the thick slur of years of abuse. Continue reading ‘Peace Go With You Brother (Gil Scott-Heron RIP)’
  • Gaea Ascendant

    Gaea Ascendant

    On Lars von Trier’s Antichrist

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    Count to Ten, Lars

    Congratulations to Nicolas Winding Refn for winning best director at Cannes. Well done, I’m looking forward to Drive, just as I hope to catch Terence Malick’s Palm-winner Tree of Life. I did however find shameful Refn’s callous disavowal — he was “repulsed” — of his mentor Lars von Trier’s extremely ill-advised, but ultimately harmless comments that got him banned from the festival earlier in the week.

    Look, what Trier said was clearly offensive, if taken at face value, and the press being the press of course immediately did so, reducing it to out-of-context soundbytes — “Trier admits to being a Nazi,” and so on. He did no such thing, and Refn of all people should understand Nordic irony when he hears it. This is a deeply ingrained way of joking in Scandinavia, and anybody who has followed Trier just a little bit, at his Cannes press conferences perhaps more than anywhere, would know that he relishes this kind of humor, and has a tendency to talk out of his ass. Refn is right when he says that Danes can be parochial and insensitive — witness the Muhammad cartoons — but how about sticking up for your embattled colleague instead of choosing the easy way out?

    The real disgrace in all this, however, is the festival board of directors’ decision to expel Trier. Continue reading ‘Count to Ten, Lars’

    Comics of the Decade: Chester Brown’s Louis Riel


    This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

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    There is an extraordinary moment near the beginning of Chester Brown’s historical reconstruction, Louis Riel: the newly, ad hoc-elected eponymous popular leader sends his troops into the nearby-situated Fort Garry to secure the provisions and weapons stored there, before they fall into the hands of their pro-Canadian adversaries. A scout is sent ahead and finds the fort deserted, after which he signals his brethren to advance through the open gate. Continue reading ‘Comics of the Decade: Chester Brown’s Louis Riel’

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The Daily Show on the “Common Controversy,” parts one and two. Wednesday, Jon Stewart performed an epic takedown of the ridiculous hype machine that is Fox News. Extra hilarity ensured by the fact that the source of it all is one of the most anodyne rappers working today. First segment above, click through to the second once you’ve seen it! Also, Stewart’s crew pulled out the funniest scene from the underrated hip hop Spinal Tap spoof CB4 for their opening segment on Thursday.
  • Speaking of takedowns, this skewering of 90s po-mo and the ‘cultural turn’ by Kevin Mattson writing for Dissent Magazine is an instructive, if surely tendentious history lesson, that may seem to have it in for Andrew Ross, but actually proves redemptive too (thanks Andreas!).
  • Tezuka shorts. The ever trusty MetaFilter provides links to a handful of the great Tezuka Osamu’s short animation films.
  • Finally, I enjoyed Matt Seneca’s examination of a bunch of comics as criticism. Some good ideas and observations in there.
  • Comics of the Decade: Dominique Goblet’s Faire semblant c’est mentir


    This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

    Dominique Goblet depicts her father as a late medieval Madonna, nurturing his child, right hand in blessing. Drawn on disparate, pasted-together pieces of paper accompanied by shakily calligraphed Gothic handwriting, it is simultaneously a mockery and an illumination.

    The image is from Goblet’s Faire semblant c’est mentir (‘To Pretend Is to Lie,’ 2007), a work that the author spent more than a decade creating. In it, she recounts episodes in her life to explicate, or at least represent, truthfully parts of its relational structure and emotional involvement. Continue reading ‘Comics of the Decade: Dominique Goblet’s Faire semblant c’est mentir’

    Picks of the Week


    What a strange week. Osama bin Laden’s assassination provoked a surprising range of reactions, not the least in thus country. Understandably cathartic for many, it raised the question of how one expresses such feelings. No matter how well I understood the widespread triumphant reactions and the connotations of righteous revenge expressed in many places, for example, I couldn’t quite get over a slight discomfort in reacting in such a way to a killing, no matter how justified. And Obama’s description of it as a ‘great accomplishment’ on par with American prosperity and civil rights was just bizarre. Even disregarding any broader geopolitical effects of these reactions, it’s just the basic human truth of it that I’ve found hard to address. I feel it, but it doesn’t feel entirely right.

    And then that pathetic video of a graying Osama wrapped in blanket, watching himself on TV behind a blacked-out window, is fascinating. The Free World’s great scourge and one-time playboy as an arthritic recluse, confined to his luxurious, but still fairly limiting, de-wired Abottabad compound (and why is he constantly adjusting the channel and volume?). A reality check in several ways, and one that speaks to the wages of making mortal enemies of half the world for reasons that remain largely nebulous to an even greater part of it. The asymmetry is arresting, on several levels.

    Though much of it is pretty familiar material, I’ve appreciated the comments by Nicholas Kristof, Chris Hedges, and Glenn Greenwald, as well as this look at the Navy SEAL team that executed the assassination. And this photo, which everyone has surely seen many times already, is still amazing.

    Growing Up Wrong

    Growing Up Wrong

    Andreas Gregersen on Daniel Clowes’ Ice Haven and The Death Ray

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    Reads: Mister Wonderful


    Apart from hopefully lining his wallet a bit, Dan Clowes isn’t doing himself any favors by repackaging this story. His most lightweight effort in more than a decade, it was a pandering trifle to begin with and it only suffers from being given the book treatment.

    Originally published in the New York Times Magazine in 2008 and now labeled “a midlife romance,” it’s basically a wish-fulfillment story written for what Clowes’ imagined would be the typical Times readership: the kind of intellectual but lonely middle-aged white male, on retreat from the social world, who has been populating his comics for a while now. Rather hilariously, he has cited the estimable but also slightly smug filmmaker Errol Morris as the model for Marshall, the hapless protagonist of this tale.

    Anyway, it seems to me that Clowes spent way too much time thinking of this imaginary Errol and too little listening to his redoubtable storytelling instincts when he writing Mister Wonderful. Continue reading ‘Reads: Mister Wonderful’

    Boom Bye Bye


    No longer the World’s Most Wanted Man. Let’s hope for a future where he’s no longer wanted by anyone.

    Steve Bell cartoon from 2006.