Being a series of comments on Episode 0.3 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and myself.
00:00: Because as the Bible tells us, nothing sets the stage for fifty-two minutes of quality art comics chat like 'Jon Bon Jovi cornered backstage by KROX at the Coors Light Pavilion,' joke-style. We did MULTIPLE TAKES of this, so rest assured that you're hearing only the most purestrain of audio gold, patient listener. This is where it all pays off.
00:03: Our theme song! Devised and performed by Nina Stone, who has a new album of children's music you can support and is no doubt thrilled to have won the everlasting thanks of Hell(, Comic Books Are Burning In). Tucker played me this a few days before we recorded, and I suddenly realized we had started a podcast. It just hit me.
00:13: Additional everlasting thanks goes to Mr. David Dedrick of the Sneaky Dragon podcast, who provided sound-cleaning know-how. This particular episode was put together from material recorded on Sunday, May 31, as will be true for next week's show, unless we're so moved by Before Watchmen that we devote an entire hour to impromptu dramatic readings (please leave casting suggestions in the comments). Tucker and Matt are actually sitting at a shared mic here, while I'm speaking into a headset instead of shouting out into space at my computer screen and hoping the Internet hears me.
00:39: Sometimes I believe my own anti-hype and I start to feel like nobody at all listens to this show. And then, sometimes, within ten minutes of an episode getting posted, I get an email calling me on rap jokes. I really am in my mom's basement - I thought it'd get me in the mood, fulfilling such a classic stereotype, though it turned out to be a little more trouble than it was worth, as the show eventually demonstrates, and the continued 0.* episode designation gaily foreshadows.
01:20: The Blonde Woman, by Aiden Koch, hosted at Study Group Comics. Matt had been suggesting we discuss this since the very first episode we did; I'm glad we waited until now, since we're a bit more comfortable with the format, and we knew -- subconsciously, perhaps -- to put this kind of discussion right up front where it'd have some room. I also don't know if Matt deliberately chose a work you can read in full online, right now, via that title link right up there, as a means of 'illustrating' the discussion, but I'd nonetheless encourage you to visit the serial itself while we're talking, and consider your own impressions.
01:43: As a matter of fact, Matt named Koch's The Whale his best comic of 2010. It remains the one and only print offering of Blaise Larmee's Gaze Books, which in a way reflects Larmee's own ambivalence toward the trophy economy of print culture, although several non-digital works are available at his homepage.
02:36: The Tim Hodler blog post I'm referring to is here. By "a couple people" I apparently meant artist and critic Derik Badman. Unexpectedly, Benjamin Marra figured into the episode again a little later. I do agree with Sean Collins' explanation in the comments -- basically, that writers-on-'alternative'-comics work for so little remuneration for such a tiny audience that nobody really has the time or energy to write a lot of sustained negative criticism, which probably won't have a similarly palpable effect on art they don't like as promotion will have on work they do anyway -- but I wonder if this isn't also a side-effect of online culture providing exactly enough feedback and interaction within small-ish circles of interests that people feel their time is well and fully spent enough on things they already know they like, versus the possibility of wasted time on errant tryouts, which is surely a lousy bet. In addition to the other stuff we mention.
04:55: Tucker is referencing Matt's How to Read Art-Comix and Why from January of this year; I've found a lot of readers of my generation -- kids of the Image revolution, came of age in the early '90s -- tend to undergo some passionate experience with a 'weird' comic that overwrites their preconceptions about the predominant narrative means of comics art. For me that was Gerald Jablonski's Cryptic Wit #1, a post-millennial pickup via an ad in The Comics Journal which acted as a destructive force on the building complexities of narrative that had fascinated me since the similar evolutionary spark of ACME Novelty Library #4 (which I'd gotten in the late '90s as a free giveaway with a bunch of Jeff Smith comics). You can still enjoy this powerful and erotic tale in Comics Comics #4, but I suspect there's greater applicability in Matt's effort at triggering that same spark by illustrative means.
06:40: Two days after this recording, the universe, as has become its habit, once again celebrated our existence by offering a Blaise Larmee interview with Michelle Ollie, in which the artist reflects on the completion of a year-long fellowship at The Center for Cartoon Studies, which recently saw the exit of its sixth graduating class.
07:02: I guess it's worth noting, however, that a sign of a robust comics criticism might well be the presence of specified negative reviews of individual experimental works, confronted on their own terms. Getting off-topic a little, think to yourself: have you ever read a negative review of a particular 'abstract' comic? Rather than an address aimed at the approach as a whole? More likely you'll wonder who's even talking about 'abstract' comics beyond practitioners and part-timers, which goes less to the insularity of the art comics scene, I think, than its basic size, though it could be helpful in interfacing with the wider art world to develop a more systemic, intellectual approach to critique than... well, what I'm about to say.
07:51: Oh hell no, not AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL CRITICISM...! And yet, I do lack the academic firepower to place a semi-narrative work like The Blonde Woman in, say, a 'fine' arts context that would likely prove beneficial, both for the purposes of comparative analysis or basic historic study. It's something I work to improve. However, I feel that a no-frills account of the very act of reading the work can still prove worthwhile as a means of demonstrating engagement with narratively odd species of a non-cinematographic visual art form that still tends to compel a longing for narrative procession. Maybe this is a conservative, even reactionary approach -- and god knows I'm hardly credible as some master fucking navigator paternalistically guiding the naive eye -- yet at the same time I find myself drawn to this engagement over the consideration of colors-as-colors, marks-as-marks, or interdisciplinary potentials, or the formal attributes of the page, to name a few things, though of course these elements may well affect any reading.
08:17: Seriously. Am I poorly-read too? Please leave any summer reading suggestions in the comments, and for further information on my personal shortcomings do consult my still-available children's picture book/therapeutic exercise The Tainted Seed.
08:51: Andrei Molotiu is the mastermind behind the Abstract Comics blog and editor of 2009's Abstract Comics: The Anthology - note the definite article, as it was indeed the first dedication of its type. My thoughts on panels-as-narrative-grounding are detailed here, where I also get into Kevin Mutch's and Alex Rader's Blurred Vision anthologies.
09:48: Then again, talk of comics-as-language brings us right back around to Chris Ware; I believe his long interview in The Comics Journal #200 expands on the issue, though not with the taste of cyanide you'll only get here with your dangerous friends at Comic Books Are Burning In Hell.
10:46: More on Peter Greenaway and panelization here. Fruitful comments on that one.
11:59: What I'm describing is less a contemplative process than a continuous reorientation, where I'll back up mid-reading to read and re-read material. The Blonde Woman's vertical orientation -- where it becomes somewhat difficult to tell where one 'page' ends and another begins in the midst of reading -- seems to encourage this process as much as the simplicity of the scenario and the evocations of the drawing. Then again, I find scrolling to be a smoother (indeed, simpler) means of access than flipping, to cite a dichotomy suggested by Warren Ellis yesterday, as my eyes needn't ever quite break with the art until the chapter is over (or Koch is out of art to post, which, as Matt says, multiplies the experience with the work); this becomes a unique value in a work of this absorbent style... Matt's "specific engineer[ing]."
20:02: Video and photographs from Koch's 2009 thesis project with Paul Wagenblast at the Pacific NW College of Art can be viewed at her site.
20:39: Wax Cross, by Tin Can Forest. This comic was sent to me by the publisher, Koyama Press; it'll probably be easiest to obtain directly from the artists (along with their prior books) Darryl Ayo Brathwaite just posted his own review earlier today. Matt reviewed Baba Yaga and the Wolf in early 2011.
22:51: I'm searching for the word "Ukranian," per this 2010 interview.
23:09: An unforeseen side-effect of my hilarious plan to occupy my parents' cellar was that the wireless internet I was mooching didn't reach all that well underground, leading to sudden audio dropouts in our Skype connection. It got bad enough during this voice-over audition for the Cerebus kickstarter that what you're hearing is actually a second take, complete with Tucker faking his laughter at the end in an attempt to match his initial reaction. That's showbiz!
27:25: That would be The Sandman #38 (in the Fables & Reflections collection), drawn by Duncan Eagleson & Vince Locke.
28:32: Hellberta #2, by Michael Comeau. Those without access to Ben Marra will want to purchase it at the title link from the publisher, Colour Code Printing, which you'll note is separate from the aforementioned Koyama Press, publisher of issue #1 (by god that cover is still a holy fuck); a third and final issue is forthcoming, hopefully from Marvel's Icon line. Our prior coverage of issue #1 is here. The internet tells me that Comeau is not so much the basis for "Scott Pilgrim" as a character in the Scott Pilgrim series.
31:01: Aaron Cometbus also did lettering on Frank Santoro's & Ben Jones' mighty Cold Heat.
36:25: Is this the legendary moment they're talking about?
38:22: Deathzone!, by Michel Fiffe. Remember, you're actually buying a print. Both issues of Zegas are also available.
46:14: Wikipedia reminds me that John Romita, Sr. (Marvel's art director at the time) also played a role in designing Wolverine's original costume, much as he did with the Punisher. Of course, an amusing irony is that this Canadian folk hero was the concoction of solely U.S.-born creators...
46:43: Yeah, I think reading aloud from comics is going to be our thing. Dibs on Hooded Justice!
51:17: Specifically, "comic book culture" comes from Dirk Deppey's excellent 2006 interview with Eddie Campbell... which leads us into next week's episode quite nicely, as we will not only be talking about superheroes, but superhero money. See you then, tigers.