Linky linky loo
Here's a quick rundown of some comics-related stuff that's been going on the Internet lately. Most of it has been beated to death already, but I figure it's never too late to jump on the bandwagon.
* First of all, the International Comics Art Festival, or ICAF, started today. Unless, like me, you've got serious family and work commitments, and you live within a few hours drive from Washington DC, there's no real excuse for missing this great conference (stupid family and work commitments). Never mind the great presentations and discussions, where else are you going to hear folks like Ann Telnaes, Tom Toles, Paul Grist and Jerry Robinson talk? Within the space of a weekend I mean. Someone please check this thing out and post online about how it went so I can live vicariously, okay?
* In other news, there's a big brouhaha over Tokyopop's surprisingly draconian contracts with up and coming cartoonists going on over at the Engine. You can get a decent summing up of the situation over at Fanboy Rampage. Various folks have offered their own thoughts as well. I'm not surprised that Tokyopop would offer such harsh contracts to their OEL creators, nor am I surprised that said creators would be willing to sign away their movie rights, ownership, etc. for the chance to get their work published. I am a bit surprised that some folks don't seem to regard this as a big deal, however.
* Have you ever wanted to see the Smurfs get carpet bombed? Well, now you can.
* The latest issue of The New Yorker has an all-over-the-place critical thinkpiece by Peter Schjeldahl on graphic novels. No surprises that he gives high marks to Chris Ware and Marjane Satrapi, two comics artists who've been regularly featured in the magazine in recent years (Ware did last week's cover as a matter of fact).
Schjeldahl highlights such noteworthy books as "Jimmy Corrigan," "Persepolis" and "Safe Area Gorazde" as the high watermarks of the format, suggesting that, though he's got great taste, he's coming to the party a wee bit late. I mean, all three authors have had other, very good books out this year, and some of the other new titles in Pantheon's canon ("Epileptic," "The Rabbi's Cat," the just released "Black Hole") are of equal stature to the books he mentions.
He's rather dismissive of manga, his take on shojo amounting to a churlish "whatever dude." I also disagree with his assessment of "The Quitter." Pekar may be humorless at times, but I would never say that he lacks insight. And he really seems unable to understand the basic underpinnings of comics. Yes, Chris Ware's work is dense and can be hard to read (though rewardingly so). But Garfield isn't. Both are comics. There's nothing intrisic to comics to suggest that it's harder to read than prose.
Overall, the article veers widely from Mad magazine to Krazy Kat to Crumb without making any serious connections between them. His take on Crumb in particular suggests that he hasn't read anything by the artist since 1973. The general air is that of a stuffy uncle, who, hearing that comics are hip, lowers himself to reading a few, and likes the ones that already have a strong pedigree behind them.
The article is mainly worth reading for his final paragraph, in which he suggests that the whole graphic novel phenomenon may have already peaked. That there may be no greater book than "Jimmy Corrigan" and anything done from here on out will be in that book's shadow. It's certainly possible that the best has already passed us by -- there certainly is enough mediocre dross to suggest that -- but I like to be optimistic and hope that more stellar books await. In the meantime I'll just have to content myself with the new collection of "Black Hole." Oh, and "Night Fisher." Hey, and here's the new Jason book. And Kevin H.'s "Or Else." And, oh sweet Lord above, Fantagraphics is going to be publishing Max's "Badin the Superrealist."
You know what Mr. Schjeldahl? Fuck you.