Monthly Archive for October, 2012

Nordic Conference on Comics seeks papers

The Nordic Network for Comics Studies (NNCORE) has been going strong for a year now. The inaugural conference in Odense last year brought lots of promise, bringing together dozens of scholars with an interest in comics. Many of these are now working in individual groups, some of which have held smaller seminar and colloquia over the past year, but next year’s the big one: a large-scale Nordic conference on comics to be held in Helsinki, on May 23-25. Everybody is invited, not the least you, especially if you have a paper to give. Read the call for papers here and here.

The conference marks the end of the network’s start-up period and of its initial funding obtained from the Danish Research Council. It will be an opportunity for the members to take stock and plan its future, as well as to open up further the field of comics studies in the Nordic countries. I hope you can make it!

On The Mount — An interview with Gary Panter

Jimbo in Purgatory


This interview with Gary Panter was conducted over a crackling phone line in New York in the spring of 2004. Panter had recently released his magnum opus Jimbo in Purgatory, a reading via comics of the middle part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio , via Boccaccio and a host of other classics of European literature — particularly of the medieval and renaissance eras — dressed in pop culture drag.

Surely one of the most unusual works of comics of the past couple of decades, it is an incredibly dense and (let’s face it) difficult work. layered as it is in intertextual reference. But it rewards the committed reader, providing an oblique viewpoint upon the classical tradition, and not the least its humanist iteration as born in the late middle ages and developed through the renaissance to shape Western culture as we know it. Although its particulars may largely be forgotten today, Panter insists upon its currency and situates it at the heart of contemporary culture in what is merely the most hubristic manifestation of his ongoing efforts to break down the barriers between so-called high and low culture. By demonstrating that the two were always of a piece, fruitfully synthesized in multifarious ways through the early modern period, and alive and kicking today.

The interview was originally published in Danish at Rackham back in 2004, and was followed by my review of the book, which we also reprinted here recently. We named Jimbo in Purgatory Book of the Year back then, and the interview and review were at least in part an effort to get behind the scenes a little bit in order to unpack the work for the first-time reader, as well as to provide a little extra for Panter connoisseurs. I hope we succeeded, even if Panter’s subsequent edits never made it to my inbox, leaving a few lacunae in my transcript exposed and unelucidated. A pity, but in a way not inappropriate.

I’d like to start out by asking you about how the project came about. What prompted you to embark upon Jimbo in Purgatory? Which thoughts and ideas did you bring to it initially?

Two things happened. The first was that I started reading Finnegans Wake along with the footnotes to it. Secondly, I started thinking about why I had named my first Jimbo collection, the Pantheon book, Jimbo in Paradise. It clearly had to do with Dante, but I’d never actually read Paradise, I hadn’t read the Comedy. The reading of Joyce and the footnotes to it lead me to all this medieval stuff, all this satirical stuff, which really appealed to me, while Dante lead me to Boccaccio… Continue reading ‘On The Mount — An interview with Gary Panter’

Fabrice Neaud interviewed

Fabrice Neaud interviewed

An interview with cartoonist Fabrice Neaud on autobiography, reality and risk in making comics about life

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The Week

Julie Christie and Oskar Werner in François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The week in review

This week I have a Danish-context comics-related grievance I want to address, so please excuse the shift in language here. International links below!

Bogtillægget til denne uges Weekendavis skæmmes af et fejlinformeret og tendentiøst opslag. En ærgerlig plet på en ellers som regel velredigeret og seriøs publikation. Kan det overraske, at emnet for begge artikler på opslaget er tegneserierelateret?

På venstresiden får vi en kommentar til sidste uges tildeling af Kronsprinsparrets Kulturpris til tegneren Jakob Martin Strid, skrevet af Bo Bjørnvig, der tydeligvis stadig ikke er kommet sig over halvfemsernes skingre presseopgør med tressernes venstrefløj (kan læses online her). Bjørnvig pointerer det pudsige i, at folk — herunder kunstnere — bliver mere konservative med årene, mere specifikt at Strid (og Bjørn Nørgaard, og givetvis også, ad åre, dilletanterne i kunstnergruppen Surrend) fralægger sig tidligere tiders ekstreme holdninger for mere samfundsbevarende af slagsen. Der bliver minsandten også plads til en stikpille til Carsten Jensen.

Alt er, med andre ord, ved det gamle. Continue reading ‘The Week’

Common Currency launches!


Today sees the publication of the inaugural article in my regular column on European comics for The Comics Journal, entitled Common Currency. It focuses on Fabrice Neaud’s recent turn toward genre comics, with the series Nu-Men, after two decades of uncompromising autobiography had brought him to an impasse. Go check it out here.

The Week

The week in review

Hip hop’s making bullshit headlines again. This time over the reaction to the murder, last month, of Chicago MC Lil Jojo. After news hit that the 18-year old had been shot in a drive-by, his rival Chief Keef — with whom he had been beefing, seemingly in a grab for quick fame — went on twitter to gloat. When the shit hit the fan, Keef — perhaps advised by his record company Interscope — started claiming his twitter account had been hacked and started posting “uplifting” PC boilerplate. He also claimed not to be responsible for threats of violence against his older colleague Lupe Fiasco, who had spoken out against his behavior on the radio.

Whether Lil Jojo’s death has anything to do with Keef or not, that’s just pathetic. Now, I know that violent rhetoric in rap has a lot to do with a violent culture, and is more a symptom than a cause — a symptom that occasionally proves to be a way out for people, and one that tells us volumes about the social breakdown of parts of American society. Attacking rap music for very real problems in society that are far bigger than hip hop is not necessarily productive, but on the other hand you sometimes miss the days when more people in the community did what Lupe, and fellow Chicago MC Rhymefest, just did and spoke out against the bullshit being perpetuated by a lot of hip hop artists, the vast majority possessed of no talent and lacking the intelligence to convert their rhetoric into hard truth. Player hating is now a bad word in hip hop, which has increasingly become a laissez-faire subculture impressed first and last by money. It used to make hip hop proud.

If you don’t believe me, check out Keef’s biggest hit “I Don’t Like” here. It’s basically a series of inarticulate grunts over a generic beat with a sort-of effective, repetitive hook. The most interesting part is the curiously homosocial video and what it tells us about how these guys want us to see them. This cut from Lil Jojo, which was part of his PR dis campaign against Keef, is just as telling. All the same: RIP.

Links:

  • In a week where I’ve dissed The New Yorker, I feel good being able to recommend the magazine too, this time for a lengthy article on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
  • Comics: Xavier Guilbert interviews Anton Kannemeyer of Bitterkomix, Ryan Holmberg on Osamu Tezuka’s debut “New Treasure Island” and its American antecedents, and — from the Hooded Utilitarian’s now-finished five-year anniversary series: Noah Berlatsky on Ai Yazawa’s Nana and Joe McCulloch on Milo Manara.
  • New Yorker Cartoons — A Legacy of Mediocrity

    Peter Arno, “Makes you kind of proud to be an American, doesn’t it?”, September 10, 1960


    Over at Hooded Utilitarian I’ve joined their fifth anniversary hatefest with an extended piece on the cartoons of the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve long wanted to write about what I regard as a bafflingly revered and rather depressing institution in American cartooning, so I was happy finally to get my act together on it. Go read.