Notable Comics Criticism of 2013

From Jim Woodring's Fran, a comic Joe McCulloch made me appreciate more, even if the cartoonist's recent work has left me a bit cold


Once again, Ng Suat Tong has posted an overview of some of the best comics criticism published online in the year gone by over at the Hooded Utilitarian. In previous years, he has gathered differing juries consisting of a fairly wide range of critics, but this year he has dispensed with that in favor of just selecting a bunch of pieces on his own.

And once again, I’m flattered to be included on his list, especially considering just how little I’ve written in the past year. I’ve kept wanting to, but other things just kept getting in the way, and much as I want to say things are going to be different, that probably won’t change much in the coming year. Anyway, it was nice to see my piece on Abel Lanzac (aka. Antonin Baudry) and Christophe Blain’s Quai d’Orsay and Willem’s Degeulasse, written for The Comics Journal last August, mentioned. Especially since so many really excellent pieces (as well as some fairly mediocre one, it has to be said) were included.

Suat’s taking stock, which has now been running for five years, remains a valuable service to the corner of the comics internet interested in serious writing about the art form, and I for one am grateful that he still makes the effort. Also, he continues to write outstanding comics criticism himself: from the last year, I particularly liked his critique of Michael Deforge(‘s critics), his appreciation of The Trigan Empire, his essay on Daniel Clowes’ because of Shia Laboef now rather famous “Justin M. Damiano”, his examination of Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, and his head-scratching dissection of a particularly lauded xkcd story.

Now, don’t waste more time here — go check out the list.

Ruijters i Information


I Informations bogtillæg fra i fredags stod min anmeldelse af Marcel Ruijters De hellige, udgivet på dansk af forlaget Forlæns, at læse. Du kan se den her.

The Week

The week in review

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and it will probably be a while yet before I do another one. Much happening in terms of relocating more permanently to London, so… but I just felt the itch to post something here wishing you all (those of you still reading this rather stagnant page) a happy new year. Over the holiday I rekindled my interest in the civil rights movement and black liberation in the US by reading Manning Marable’s fantastic, and controversial, biography of Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention. Presenting by far the most nuanced view of this complex figure so far, it does more to make him human, real, in the reader’s eye than just about anything else I’ve read. My one quibble is that by being so scrupulous about presenting the details of his life, warts and all, it tends to lose sight of what made him, this leader who achieved very little in terms of concrete political results, such a crucial figure in modern American history. It lacks sufficient exegesis on his words and thoughts, despite an excellent closing chapter that aims to provide perspective. But don’t let that deter if you have any interest in American history or the civil rights movement. It’s a great book.

With that, I figured I’d post the above video of Malcolm X speaking in Oxford (close to home for me now, that’s why, I guess!) in 1964, five or six months after having broken with the Nation of Islam. It’s a remarkable encapsulation of the fluctuating state of his thought at that moment, starting with a forceful statement of principle — the nature of American racism, the use of violence — entirely consistent with his earlier, more confrontational rhetoric, passes through a Barry Goldwater quote as well — poignantly — as one from Hamlet, to an approchement to the civil rights movement and embrace of the vote as a potential game changer for black Americans. And he ends on a universalist, revolutionary call for action. There are greater moments to be found in his many speeches and interviews (the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University is a good place to start learning more), but I love the eclecticism and coherence of this clip.

More links:

  • For those that missed it, Barton Gellman of the Washington Post interviewed Edward Snowden at some length last week. The paper also provided a disturbing perspective on the development of quantum computers and what it may mean for universal surveillance.
  • For Danish readers, this piece on how Green Growth has become a global buzzword over the last ten years , loosening the purse strings of corporations as well as government worldwide, is worth checking out. The same goes for Rune Lykkeberg’s piece on how the centre-left seems to have taken back the microphone in the Danish discourse on moral values.
  • Happy New Year!

    Merry Christmas

    Jan Gossaert, The Adoration of the Kings, 1510-15, oil on panel, 177.2 x 161.3 cm. London, The National Gallery

    MADIBA

    mandela.jpg

    At the National


    It’s been a month already, and it’s been the blast. This is my new workplace — I’m doing my best to be steward to a mind-blowing collection of Italian paintings, with some really big shoes to fill. (Wish me luck). It’s still a little unreal, not the least because I’m still segueing between Copenhagen and London, moving only in January. In between at the National.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    Barks. ‘Nuff said!

    Kurt Trampedach RIP


    One of the great painters of his generation, in Denmark and internationally, Kurt Trampedach died a few days ago at age 70. When he was good, he painted the human condition as lonely and traumatic, but ever inquisitive and seeking. He was a close friend of my father’s, so his images came to mark my childhood, as did his voice and occasional alert presence. My best memories of him are from a childhood summer vacation spent in his mountainside home in the Basque Country, and seeing him ecstatic, wielding a huge wine glass filled with Schweppes Bitter Lemon, at the reception for the retrospective exhibition my father organized of his work at Sophienholm, Lyngby in 2001. He was talking his head off, hugging friends and strangers, high on life and art.

    Rest in peace.

    For those with Danish: My dad on his friend, Peter Michael Hornung’s fine obituary,and Peter Laugensen’s, Steen Baadsgaards excellent 1995 documentary on Trampedach’s life at that immensely fertile point in his career. Oh, and you could own the above picture.

    Kvinder i tegneserier i Information


    I fredags publicerede Information en artikel om kvinder i tegneserier i deres specielle bogtillæg sammensat i anledning af Bogforum. Den var skrevet af mig. Desværre havde jeg været så letsinding at sende dem en kladde, der bestod af flere halvfærdige og senere slettede afsnit, som kun til en vis grad hang sammen. Dog nok til at den kunne trykkes.

    Ret foruroligende at kunne konstatere, at man er så defekt, når man sidder og arbejder til deadline. Heldigvis er det nu en ny uge, hvilket betyder at bogtilægget er historie og de fleste eksemplarer sandsynligvis er smidt ud (eller snart bliver det) af læserne, og på avisen har de i mellemtiden været så flinke at uploade den rigtige, færdige version af artiklen, som bl.a. indeholder anmeldelser af Margaux Motins Egentlig ville jeg så gerne have vaeret antropolog… (billede ovenfor), Marten Vande Wieles Paris og Aben Malers dagbogsantologi Jeg tegner, når jeg skriver, såvel som korte omtaler af Maren Uthaug og Stine Spedsbergs tegnede blogs.

    Primært er artiklen dog et forsøg på meget kursorisk at skitsere en væsentlig udvikling indenfor tegneserien, set med danske øjne — med alt hvad der følger af kønsdiskurs og -kontroverser.

    Hele herligheden kan læses her.

    Comics at the Copenhagen Book Fair


    Once again, the Danish comics grassroots are banding together to create a large area devoted to comics at the Copenhagen Book Fair, Bogforum. The Danish Comics Council is teaming up with a number of other organisations to bring to the guests lots of comics goodness, including live drawing, interviews, workshops and much more. I’m not yet sure I will be able to attend myself, but I may drop in, and if I do I expect to see you there!

    More info (in Danish) here and here. And Malene Hald has an overview of everything comics related (including stuff taking place outside the comics area) at the fair.

    Images from the comics area at last year’s Bogforum, including a pap of internationally acclaimed director Bille August reading comics.

    Taniguchi i Information


    I fredagens bogtillæg til dagbladet Information stod min anmeldelse af Jiro Taniguchi og Hiromi Kawakamis Senseis mappe at læse. For jer, der ikke har papirudgaven, kan den også læses på nettet.

    Rune T. Kidde RIP


    Monday morning, one of Denmark’s great all-ages storytellers and underground comics pioneer Rune T. Kidde passed away. At 56, it was a wee bit early to go, but with more than a hundred books to his name, many of them of high quality and some bona fide classics, his legacy won’t pass so easily.

    Kidde was one of the pioneers of the new wave that hit Danish comics in the late seventies and early eighties. His comics work was expressive, irreverent and hilarious. He was kind of a Danish Reiser, but also — through his pioneering fanzine publication and editorship — a bit of a Professeur Choron for us. Although he was surrounded by several amazing talents, Kidde stands as more of a unifying personality than most of his colleagues because of his broader tastes, his work as an editor both of fanzines and at mainstream publisher Interpresse, and not the least his musical and literary activities, which only flowered after he had to retire as a cartoonist after losing his eyesight to diabetes in 1990.

    Come to think of it, he was — more than anything else — an heir to the great Danish humorist Storm P. Not as consistently witty or funny, but possessed of the same yen for the absurd and the same deep understanding of Danish popular culture and similarly multi-talented. He was highly prolific and a constant, original presence as a musician, spoken word artist, stage writer, audio book reader, and author. Always somewhere just outside the limelight, but unmistakeably there,. A kind of benign Rasputin of alternative and kids’ “pop” culture. He will be missed.

    Website blog Lambiek profile short story in English readings obituary (in Danish)

    Photo: Linda Johansen.

    On Comics History and the Canon


    Just thought I’d collect links to a number of writings on comics I’ve done over the years on comics history and aesthetics, as well as some of the great or otherwise significant works that have shaped it, here and elsewhere. Hopefully it will be interesting or useful to anybody interested in the subject, not the least students that I’ve bored with it in the seminar room. Anyway, here’s an overview: Continue reading ‘On Comics History and the Canon’

    The Week

    Here in the United States we are experts in the knowledge that editorial cartooning is a dying art. In other areas of the world, however, it is an art that people die for.

    – Dr. Robert Russell

    The week in review

    The execution, earlier this year, of cartoonist Akram Raslan is another reminder of the untenable situation in Syria, of the kind we who are especially attuned to cartooning notice. As if we needed it. It is great that the deal to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons so far seems to be going ahead (though, what about the chemical weapons in Egypt and Iran?), and good to see that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week. But I fail to see how the Assad regime can be regarded as anything but illegitimate by now. I realize the complexity of the situation in the region, how delicate affecting regime change would be, and the power vacuum any removal of the current despot in charge would cause, but how can one seriously contemplate having dealings with these mass murderers in the future? How will the region ever be more stable if they remain in charge? After a while, fear of change just becomes cynicism.

    Links:

  • I really shouldn’t be giving it any attention, but the new “Leonardo” find this week is symptomatic of a rising trend toward sensationalist PR stunts in the art world, where often dubious pieces are trotted out as genuine works by one of the great masters. Another example is the recent, silly attempt to upgrade a Velasquez copy at Kingston Lacy. The press clearly laps it up, but in the long run it has to be a problem for anybody taking seriously the study and facilitation of knowledge of art, as well as to the market. And it clearly makes one wary even of more serious proposals, such as that of the new, possible Titian I wrote about the other day.
  • Speaking of new finds, the sensationalist rollout of the fantastic Van Gogh discovery by the Van Gogh Museum last month is scrutinised and found wanting by Gary Schwartz.
  • And speaking of Nobel Prizes, the one for literature of course went to Alice Munro, whom I suppose is deserving and all, but when is the committee finally going to give it to Bob Dylan? Bill Wyman made the by now long stated case once again before the prize was announced.
  • Pusha T’s new album My Name is My Name, seems poised as contender for album of the year if the singles are anything to go by. The Kendrick Lamar-featured “Nosestalgia” is hot, and “Pain”, released this week is Fyah! Also, check David Drake’s pre-release analysis here.
  • If you read Danish, Louise B. Olsen’s smart and elegant essay on Krazy Kat is a nice way to celebrate the centenary of that greatest of comic strips.
  • Oh, and this article on how the city of London has become an international tax haven for real estate speculators is just a depressing peek into the workings of global capitalism, not the least to somebody like yours truly who will soon be moving to that city.