Our first week on the tcj.com has been busy. I started out the week with a post explaining why the tcj.com website design is problematic. I then went on to tell our proprietor, Gary Groth, that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The main event of the week though was our lengthy roundtable on Dan Clowes’ Ghost World. There are some epic comment threads, where critics like Matthias Wieval, Mark Andrew, Bill Randall, and Jack Baney way in. Also special thanks to critic Charles Reece for guest blogging with us.

As an extra bonus, Shaenon Garrity wrote a response to the roundtable over on tcj.com.

Utilitarians Everywhere

Around the web, both Suat and I had a bunch of writing this week. I’ll start with Suat, all of whose reviews were on tcm.com.

Suat wrote a discussion of comics lettering.

Most people with an interest in Chinese brush painting realize that the calligraphy frequently found at the edge of such pieces form as much a part of the art as the image itself. Chinese calligraphy is of course a major art form in the Chinese cultural sphere.
The place of the letterer in the overall aesthetic of comics is less certain. Are letterers merely craftsmen, or are they artists in their own right? And if they are artists, what constitutes their contribution to the art of comics?

He also wrote a lengthy review of Richard Sala’s Delphine.

We are of course led to believe by the standard mechanics of comics that the rectangular panels represent reality and the hazy ones memories and fantasies. The reverse is often the case in Delphine where the more formless panels frequently represent painful reality while the rigid ones delve deep into the protagonist’s soul. These interconnected realities begin to meld beginning with issue 3 of the series.

He had a long review of How to Love, by the group Actus Tragicus.

With the dawning realization that doing comics in Israel was never going to be “profitable” for them, the founding members resolved to focus exclusively on their own interests and “stop trying to be commercial”. Actus has since become a staple on both sides of the Atlantic with a reputation for good production values, interesting formats, high technical skill and well told stories. How to Love is their first collection in four years and the five key members of the group namely, Mira Friedmann, Batia Kolton, Rutu Modan, Yirmi Pinkus and Itzik Rennert have all returned with a single guest artist in the form of illustrator David Polonsky.

And finally a shorter review of Takashi Nemoto’s gross out comics.

As for me, I had a review at the Chicago Reader comparing Craig Yoe’s Anti-War Cartoons to Kate Beaton’s “Never Learning Anything From History.”

I’m enough of a knee-jerk pacifist to entertain the suggestion that even the Union’s decision to fight the Confederacy and U.S. participation in World War II did more harm than good. But those are arguments you actually have to make. Lots of smart folks from Obama on down think you sometimes have to fight wars to maintain peace. You can’t just show me a picture of a skull or a fat industrialist and expect me to agree that we shouldn’t have blocked secession or stopped Hitler. Indeed, Yoe admits that many of the cartoonists represented in the book weren’t pacifists, but opposed particular wars at particular times (or, in the case of the many Communists represented, opposed all war except class war). By throwing all the artists together under the label “anti-war” without describing the particular issues that engaged them—by making their message universal—he’s made them irrelevant.

Another article at the Reader about the Thai pop singer Pamela Bowden and the thankful limitations of best of lists.

It’s December, which means it’s time for me, as a dutiful blogger, critic, and self-appointed cultural arbiter, to put together my best-of lists. I need to listen to that Raekwon album again to confirm that I really do think exactly the same thing everyone else thinks. I need to check back in with that Mariah Carey album to make sure I really do think exactly the opposite of what everyone else thinks. I need to compare Of the Cathmawr Yards by the Horse’s Ha with Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest and Antony & the Johnsons’ The Crying Light to figure out which romantic, indie-folk-tinged work of idiosyncratic genius is the most geniuslike. I need to decide if I have to download the new Lightning Bolt album (legally, of course) and form an opinion on it, or whether it’d be safe to simply put it on my list on the assumption that it sounds like all the other Lightning Bolt albums.

Simultaneously, and ironically, over at The Factual Opinion I have a best of metal list of the year, or decade, or something.

I kept taunting Tucker and Marty for being wussy little twee indie rock/electronica/emo fanboys who’d hide behind their Mommy’s skirts if the Cookie Monster spoke to them too loud, or, you know, if the apocalypse occurred. “Oh I love Cut Copy because they’re so much fun.” Yeah, well, let’s see how much you enjoy dancing in hell with your feet torn off and your bloody stumps slipping and sliding in the shredded scraps of Cut Copy’s intestines. Huh?! How would you like that?!

Over at the Knoxville Metropulse I explained why Alicia Keys’ new album is lousy.

Over at Madeloud I explained why < ahref="http://www.madeloud.com/review/marduk_wormwood">Marduk’s latest album is great.

And finally my illustrations for the Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible project are back up after the site was offline there for a while.

Other Links

Danielle Leigh’s review of Ooku has more of the gushing enthusiasm I was looking for from other reviewers.

And Tom Crippen, formerly of HU, has a long post on tcj.com about Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For.

It’s a method and aesthetic based on control, dominance. In the old days, any good resident of Happy Vulva would have said dominance was a dick kind of thing — phallocentric. But for Bechdel this method and aesthetic work just fine. From the beginning, she says in the Essential introduction, her impulse was to pin down the girls she drew; check out the rod-like instrument her cartoon self has in hand when demonstrating this thought. For what it’s worth, the approach has a lot in common with the picture Fun Home gives of her father and his compulsive, unending attempt to nail down family and home into a tableau; Sydney and her father also look and act a good deal like Mr. Bechdel, what with their glasses, their bookishness and luxury, and their high-handed way with students.

And do check out the whole top 30 albums of the year list at the factual opinion. I write a brief blurb in there somewhere too if you can find it.

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