Linkblogging: Freeman Dyson reviews a new graphic novel, Feynman

The scientist Freeman Dyson is one of the world's most prominent scientists whose work in mathematics and theoretic physics has placed him in the heart of the Twentieth century and whose theoretical work has inspired a great deal of science fiction, though sadly, many of his ideas have not become reality. Also he has been awarded and received a great many honors despite not having a Ph.D.

Mr. Dyson is also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and in the new issue he reviews two books about the late Richard Feynman, including the soon to be released graphic novel biography by writer Jim Ottaviani and artist Leland Myrick which is titled simply "Feynman."Dyson isn't a typical comics reader, but he brings a knowledge of the material (Dyson himself even appears briefly, which he admits was an odd reading experience) and an appreciation of the material that few others could bring to it. It's always good to see good comics finding readers who can appreciate them. It sadly happens all too infrequently. Mr. Dyson, welcome to the club.

Mark Doty reading at next week's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

Mark Doty is one of the great poets in the United States today and I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with him before he visits the Hill-Stead Museum's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival next Wednesday August 3. I've heard Doty read once before - his previous appearance at the Festival in 1997 - and his fourth book "Atlantis" is one of those books that when I read it as a teenager was one of the poetry books that really helped to shape my aesthetic as a writer and a reader.,0,2412236.story


Denny O'Neil Travels Back, Looks Forward

Denny O'Neil is one of the major writers and editors in American comics. He made Batman dark again after the end of the Adam West tv show, bringing the character back to his moody, gothic-influenced roots.  He created one of the great Batman villains - and DC characters - Ra's Al Ghul. Whether you know Ra's from Batman Begins or from Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s where he was perfectly voiced by David Warner (in an episode based on the character's introduction written by O'Neil and illustrated by the great Neal Adams), then you know he's a little different from the gangsters and grotesque villains Batman usually faces off with. Mr. O'Neil also reinvented The Question and wrote a series with the character in the late eighties and early nineties that is in some ways dated, but in other ways is a unique and brilliant series the likes of which has never been published by DC or Marvel. He was a longtime editor at DC, created Obadiah Stane when he worked on Iron Man, fought for greater social realism in comics and has worked with just about everyone. He's also writing two books for the DC Retroactive initiative this month, Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Wonder Woman. It was a thrill and a pleasure to speak with Mr. O'Neil, something that I think shows in the interview. (I do still own the copy of Azrael #1 which he wrote that I bought when it was new)

2011 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

Congrats to this year's winner of the Eisner for "spirit of comics" retailer award or as many of us think of the prize, the best comic store. I've never been to the store in question which has the great name of "Comics and Vegetables." (In my mind I'm thinking of a combination comic store and organic market with a juice bar that serves wheatgrass...but it's probably NOT that...)

I've never been to the store, which is run by Yuval Sharon and Danny Amitai, though I do hope to visit it in Tel Aviv, Israel one of these years.

Almost all of the previous winners of the prize have been stores in North America. I've visited a number of them including Brave New World in Newhall, CA, Earth-Two in Sherman Oaks, CA, Golden Apple and Meltdown in Los Angeles, Hi De Ho in Santa Monica were places that I loved to visit when I lived in Southern California. Brave New World and Earth-Two especially were great places to visit with great staff, fabulous selection, and regularly had fun events.

To the best of my knowledge, the only other two stores outside of the US and Canada that have won are Lambiek in Amsterdam, Holland and Kings Comics in Sydney, Australia. I admittedly don't know what the comics culture is like in Israel, how many stores are in the country or the community that shops have created, but I can only hope that this is a good sign for the health of comics.

Linkblogging: Sachal Orchestra on PRI's The World

PRI's The World has a great piece on the Lahore, Pakistan-based Sachal Orchestra, which as you can hear is a great band that's released the album "Sachal Jazz" which includes a fabulous take on Dave Brubeck's classic jazz number "Take Five."

The Eisner Winners

The Eisner Awards were announced at this weekend's San Diego Comic-Con. I was thrilled that ComicBook Resources, which is one of the publications I write for, received its second Eisner in three years for "Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism." With luck Jonah will bring the statuette with him to the NY Comic Con this year so I can hold it.

Some winners - like Dave Stewart for Best Colorist and Todd Klein for Best Lettering - are old favorites who have won a great many awards over the years

I'm also excited that many of the people whose work I love (and often, have interviewed) won various awards.

Mike Mignola won for best single issue and best cover artist
Scott Snyder's American Vampire won for best new series
Karl Kerchl's The Abominable Charles Christopher won best digital comic
Wilson by Daniel Clowes shared the award for Best Graphic Album - new
Joe Hill won best writer
Raina Telgemeier won Best publication for teens for Smile

Other winners include the great Jacques Tardi, Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer: Artists Edition, Chew, Daytripper, and Blacksad's Juanjo Guarnido.


Linkblogging: Yemen on the Brink of Hell

Robert F. Worth of the New York Times has a great piece of reportage in the newspaper's Sunday magazine this weekend.

He focuses on Bushra al-Maqtari, a young woman who has been a greater fighter for nonviolence and freedom in the country who also happens to be a great lover of literature and the author of one book of short stories. May she finish her novel and write many more. May she live to an old age. May she do so in a free and prosperous Yemen.


Ron Marz on Shinku, Witchblade and more

I spoke with Ron Marz, the fabulous comics writer who people might remember as the man behind dozens of great books like Samurai from Dark Horse, The Path from Crossgen, Green Lantern at DC and many many more.

He has a new comic coming out from Image right now, the samurai/vampire book Shinku in addition to his work at Top Cow where he's finishing a long run on Witchblade, has launched a new series Magdalena, and is wrapping up a major miniseries Artifacts. He's also re-teaming with artist Daryl Banks for a Green Lantern one shot as part of the DC Retroactive line next month.

Stephen Coughlin Creates a Sanctuary

I had a great conversation with the cartoonist Stephen Coughlin whose comic Sanctuary is being released by SLG Publishing. The comic which involves a panda being murdered at a zoo is a lot of fun and while it's not for kids of all ages (there is a panda being murdered, after all) it's something to give to most kids and it's a lot of fun for adults. Coughlin told me that this was the first interview he's done, and it's a thrill and a pleasure to give him the chance to talk about his comic. The first issue of the comic available for FREE so don't take my word for it. The link is the in the article's introduction.


Linkblogging: Doaa Eladl

Anyone who hasn't checked out this profile of the Egyptian cartoonist Doaa Eladl should do so now. The World, the radio show produced by PRI is one of the best US-based outlets that covers cartoons from abroad and this profile of Ms. Eladl is excellent and a must read for all cartooning fans.

Linkblogging: Happy Birthday Madiba

A loving birthday tribute from the great South African cartoonist Zapiro to Nelson Mandela. One of the great men of our time and one of the people who made the Twentieth century work. Happy birthday, sir.


Linkblogging: Harry Potter, the Anti-Geek and TV Values

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's The Dish (in this case, overseen by Zack Beauchamp and Zoe Pollock)

These two posts aren't related but I was struck reading them on the same day.

The point about children's television is troubling. I'm sure if I was a parent of a young child, I'd be more worried. If I was the parent of a child being targeted by such shows, I likely would have smashed the television to bits long ago.

Is there a relationship between that and the fact that Harry Potter, the biggest book/film franchise of recent decades, is about a character who achieves celebrity? If the character wasn't...would the books have been as big a hit?

As far as Harry Potter not being of the American band of misfits mold, Amanda Marcotte, who authored the original piece, wonders whether this template has a similar hold over the British mind that it does over the American mind. It brought to mind Michael Moorcock's reading of Tolkien, labeling The Lord of the Rings as "epic Pooh" - which isn't scatological. He's referring to "Winnie-the-" and making the case that the same middle class values of eat your peas, mind your betters, don't question the class structure, etc. are the foundation of both tales. In the U.S., of course, we like our stories of loners and revolutionaries and apple cart up-enders. Well, sometimes, at least.

I suspect we'll be seeing many more Harry Potter articles in the near term as people sit and rethink and reassess the meaning of the series.

Linkblogging: Parenting Advice

M. Molly Backes has some parenting advice for how to raise a writer. It's good advice for raising a kid, regardless of ambition. I'll have to bookmark it and print out a copy.

"First of all, let her be bored."

As someone who spends many hours a day online, owns piles of books that have yet to be read, a netflix queue of hundreds of films and old television shows, over 15K tracks on itunes, I'm well aware that I have lots to keep me occupied. This of course doesn't take into account studying and things I can do when I, you know, leave the house. Which is to say that I'm rarely bored.

I create empty space in my day. I have a phone without internet access. I make a point of meditating. I take time to go for a short walk or just do nothing. But it's something that I have to make a point of doing. I'm not at the stage where I need to schedule my relaxation but I feel like I'm just a few steps away from that.

I grew up without the internet. I grew up without a VCR. I remember when we got cable, before which I was only allowed to watch PBS, and after which I had a daily limit during the school year. I had a library card, but if I finished the books quickly, I was out of luck. Which is a lengthy way of saying that on a fairly regular basis I had to make my own fun. I had to entertain myself.

Where would I be if I was never bored?

It reminds me of the argument that Patton Oswalt put forward in his much-debated essay for Wired a little back titled "Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time To Die."

Being bored and being alone. I don't think these things are valued enough.


Abernathy Gets Retro-Active at DC Comics

I talk with Ben Abernathy - a nice guy and talented editor - over at DC Comics about their new Retro-Active comics coming out this month and next which feature some of the great past creators writing and drawing new issues of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash and the Justice League. The people include some great comics people including writers Denny O'Neill, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, William Messner-Loebs, Cary Bates, Martin Pasko, Louise Simonson, and creative teams like Ron Marz & Darryl Banks, Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle, and Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire.

It should be a fun look back before DC relaunches everything this fall and over at CBR, we'll be talking with some of these great comics figures in the weeks ahead.

Musing: Jadaliyya

This year of all the publications I spend time obsessively checking and rereading, I have to say that Jadaliyya is one of my favorites. Sadly I'm not at the point where I can actually read the articles posted in Arabic, though I can sometimes get the gist of it. One of the reasons I've fallen in love with the site is because it features poetry, something that's rare in any publication anywhere. In the case of Jadaliyya, they're publishing some truly great poetry and some exceptional translation work. There's work by Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi, Sargon Boulos, Nizar Qabbani and many more.

Besides that there's lot of writing about culture and politics. Sinan Antoon has a great piece about the Syrian poet Adunis, who is one of the great and important poets of the Twentieth century, but whose recent statements about uprisings in Syria and throughout the region have been, well, lacking. The article's title, "The Arab Spring and Adunis' Autumn" says it quite well. Mohamed Elshahed has an excellent essay outlining "The Case Against the Grand Egyptian Museum."

But I keep coming back to the poetry...


Tim Seeley Hack/Slashes the comics world

Tim Seeley is one of comic's big up and coming creators. He's a writer and an artist, though often not on the same project, usually writing independent creator-owned projects and drawing work for hire books at Marvel and DC. Seeley was just announced as the new writer of Witchblade, succeeding the long time writer Ron Marz on the title (something I wasn't allowed to mention in the article) but we spoke about space opera, his ambitions for the future, and how there's only two things he ever loved more than comics.


Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and The Prisoner

I will admit that The Prisoner, one of the greatest things to ever appear on television, is one of those things I am mildly obsessed least I thought so. Then I saw this new music video from the band Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (which took their name from the title of an episode of The Prisoner). The music video features the stunning lead singer and drummer Sophia Cacciola in the role of Patrick McGoohan and it is awesome.

And where did they get that Lotus?

Having never heard of the band before, I searched through some of their other stuff. I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of their cover of Leonard Cohen's First We Take Manhattan, but now I really want to see them live. Anyway, check it out. I have to go watch The Prisoner again.

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And if you're intrigued, you can see how their version compares to the original:

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Joe Simon's life in comics

Joe Simon is a living legend in the comics world. He co-created, with his longtime friend and partner Jack Kirby, one of comics' most iconic characters, Captain America. He and Kirby worked on thousands of comics over many years in just about every conceivable genre. Titan Books has been releasing the Simon-Kirby comic stories in recent years in gorgeous hardcover volumes that have been recolored in what are really the gold standard of comics reproduction. Mr. Simon has written his memoirs about his time in the comics industry titled simply "My Life in Comics" and when I was given the chance to interview him, I jumped at it. We spoke about Jack Kirby, influence of Damon Runyon on his work, and still smoking at least two cigars a day into his nineties.


Musing: The Problem of Flight and the future of anthologies

Brigid Alverson read my interview with Kazu Kibuishi about the final volume of the Flight anthology and she took away from it one of Kazu's key points, which I think deserves a lot of discussion. What will anthologies look like in years to come? What's the best way for creators to work in short form and publish this work? What's the best way to attract new readers?

I've been thinking in recent months about anthologies and the future shape of them. With the conclusion of Flight and with the final volume of Mome coming out from Fantagraphics soon, it begs the question what will the next big anthology look like?

When I spoke with Gary Groth last month I made the comment that Fantagraphics felt like a different company than it used to be because it no longer publishes The Comics Journal monthly and regular comic books and with the shuttering of Mome, it felt as if the company has the same sensibility, but a different business model. That shift away from anthologies and away from serialized comics in the indie comics world is significant and I think it will alter how people work and the lack of print outlets for short work will affect the output of the next generation of cartoonists.

At the MoCCA festival earlier this year I picked up a number of anthologies of varying degrees of quality and with very different approaches. Some of them like From Wonderland with Love and Angst Volume 4, which collect work from Denmark and Norway respectively, are not a great model for what I'm thinking about, despite being fabulous anthologies with some amazing work.

I picked up the second volume of The Anthology Project which was edited by Sam Bradley, Joy Ang and Nick Thornborrow because I liked the first volume, which is up for an Eisner Award this year. Admittedly I think the book could use a flashier name, but it's a beautifully designed, high quality book. It's also hardcover and thirty dollars. That's a lot to pay. And yes it's great artwork and it's a great book, but it's expensive and it's not designed as an entry point for new readers or even for casual readers.

Don't get me wrong. There's beautiful work from Emily Carroll, Aurelie Neyret, Haylee Herrick, Kim Smith, Katie Shanahan and others. I follow many of these artists online and I think they're fabulous and it's a great thrill to see them in print and see their work reproduced at this quality. But I wonder, if I didn't know who they were, if none of the names were familiar to me at all, would I have picked up the book and spent thirty bucks figuring that I'm bound to like at least a couple of the stories? Or would I have moved on and looked for more of a known quantity (or at least a cheaper unknown quantity?)

What about a model closer to what Pizza Island did (That's Kate Beaton, Domitille Collardey, Sarah Glidden, Meredith Gran, Lisa Hanawalt, Julia Wertz, for those of you who don't know) where for MoCCA they pulled together a minicomic collecting work of theirs. Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasillis Lolos and Fabio Moon did something similar a few years back that was later collected by Dark Horse in the volume Pixu.

(Of course these people are also some of the most talented in comics and very well known, so it's not as if any of them are that unknown. And yes, if one is aiming at a broad audience that's not exposed to comics and familiar with cartoonists, they will likely be unknown to those people, but their recognition within the comics world means that they have a base of supporters and readers, which is important financially when wading into print)

These groupings by studio mates, by friends, by artists with similar backgrounds and approaches, could put together some interesting work, and I wonder if we'll be seeing more of that. What would it mean if Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Palmer were to create a yearly minicomic of short comics, illustrations and short fiction? What if Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, Marian Churchland and friends did?

What about Periscope Studio, which is home to some incredibly talented artists who have a group blog? What if in an effort to leverage their online presence and give them a chance to do short comics and do something with it besides just post it on their blog, they produced an annual or regular publication?

Something vaguely similar can be seen in Double Feature and House of Twelve, which are very different anthologies with very different sensibilities produced digitally that try to take advantage of the possibilities that digital offers. Honestly they're different enough that this is likely the only time the two publications will be mentioned in the same sentence anywhere.

Of course all these ideas I'm tossing out are based on a smaller self-selected group of people putting out something together, which is something I love, something I read, something I would dearly like to read more of, and yet, it's not quite what I'm looking for. I hear the word anthology and the first publication that comes to mind is Granta. (Yes, I know, not comics. Sue me. I'm a word guy.) I think of Tin House. The Paris Review. McSweeney's.

Part of me thinks that perhaps the best way to approach this would be to regularly publish an anthology digitally with an annual or regularly scheduled print edition. Would it be a weekly publication - a short dose of comics delivered often? Would it be more infrequent, monthly or even quarterly? The many challenges of the digital marketplace, including waiting for Apple's approval (which is not always forthcoming, particularly if one creates satire) would seem to make weekly a challenge, if not an outright impossibility unless one was prepared months in advance, but I like the idea.

The other possibility would be to do it like Granta, regular issues often centered around a theme. A loose theme, though - for those of who don't know Granta themes are things like "The Sea," "London," "The Family," "Aliens," "The F Word," "The New Nature Writing." Three themed issues coming out quarterly exclusively online. Then a print edition featuring original work coming out late spring/early summer for the convention season.

More on this later.


Kazu Kibuishi's Final Flight

The Flight anthology has been one of the most important comics publications of the past decade and though I don't think the book ever achieved the level of success that Scott McCloud predicted in the first volume, a look at the contributors to the first volume is a really impressive list of people who have gone on to do some really significant work. I've met Kazu a few times over the years and I've interviewed him before but it's great to have the chance to talk about the anthology's last volume.

Eighteen Lives but only "One Soul"

With One Soul, Ray Fawkes has crafted one of the most ambitious comics of the year - of any year, really. I've read the book twice and the truth is that I'm still working out my own thoughts about the book. That's not to say I don't like it - I do - but I'm still unsure about how effective I feel certain aspects of the book are, whether I like some things he did, and just digesting the enormity of what he did and how he did it.

There are weeks when I read more than a dozen books, so that weeks after I first cracked open this volume, it stays with me and is still being digested in my subconscious, should say something. For anyone who's interested in comics or who wants to make comics, this book is a must read.


Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition - Bookworm on KCRW

Bookworm is one of the smartest programs on the radio and host Michael Silverblatt is one of the smartest people and most insightful readers you can find anywhere. I still haven't gotten around to reading Dyer's recent novel "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi" or his new essay collection "Other wise Known as the Human Condition" but I'm a great admirer of Dyer's earlier books including "But Beautiful," which is about jazz, and "The Ongoing Moment," which is one of my favorite books of art criticism and a great book about photography. It's a thrill to hear that Dyer is just as colorful, thoughtful and playful in person as he is on the page.

Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition - Bookworm on KCRW


Ludovic Debeurme introduces Lucille to America

In Europe, Ludovic Debeurme is well known for his many comics, but this week Top Shelf is introducing him to North America with the publication of Lucille. The 2006 book which won numerous awards is one that I compared in my introduction to Blankets, another volume published by Top Shelf about young people in love. There are some truly beautiful moments and scenes in the book, but overall, I still feel like I'm digesting it. I suppose that longer books tend to stick with us like that. I had the chance to speak with him over e-mail and I really regret that I couldn't have attended the PEN INternational Festival earlier this year where Debeurme was a guest.