Category Archives: Comics Journalism

Review: The Comics Journal #303

The Comics Journal #303

This is a very meta thing to be doing but here’s a review of a magazine that features reviews. Dating back to 1977, in its heyday, The Comics Journal was a monthly source of comics news and reviews, a trailblazer for the burgeoning field of comics journalism and criticism. It has always maintained a certain quirky attitude, consisting of a mix of features and topped off by a expansive soul-searching interview a la Playboy magazine. It mainly attracts those who consider themselves comics aficionados. In 2013, it ceased its print version, staying online, but now it makes its return to print with Issue 303. TCJ returns this month with new editors RJ Casey and Kristy Valenti.

Now, I go pretty far back. I have fond memories of picking up this magazine at Tower Records back in the day (circa 1995), usually with a recent release from Sub Pop Records. I also fondly recall a special dynamic, or synergy, at play between the magazine and its online counterpart that led many of us to the forums section that let you interact with subgroups within subgroups of people in the comics community. This was long before Facebook or social media as we know it today. I think the monthly magazine, as we knew it back then, is still sorely missed. Towards the end of its print run, it came out less often and each issue covered a big theme and came out in different sizes. The consistency of a monthly had been lost. I think, in a perfect world, this latest return to print would do well to go back to that monthly format. Alas, with this latest #303, we’re seeing the start of a twice-a-year format. You might argue that TCJ is simply working with today’s print reality and is offering up a taste to a new generation of what is possible.

The showcase item in this issue is, of course, TCJ founder Gary Groth’s interview with a legendary firebrand, the satirist and children’s book author, Tomi Ungerer. For those of you unaware of Mr. Ungerer’s impressive career, I highly recommend that you read this interview and, before or afterward, check out the 2013 documentary, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough,” directed by Brad Bernstein. The title is one of Ungerer’s sayings, along with “Don’t Hope, Cope” and “Expect The Unexpected.” I interviewed the documentary’s director and its writer and the fact that Ungerer is a true force of nature was the overriding theme. So, it makes perfect sense for someone as outspoken as Groth to sit down and talk it out with someone as outspoken as Ungerer! It’s a match made in heaven.

From Ben Passmore’s story in Now: The New Comics Anthology #3, published by Fantagraphics

Among the various features to be found here, you’ll find them under such titles as “From the Trenches” and “Fair Warning.” For example, under the former is a think piece by cartoonist Ben Passmore, who shares his insights on the alt-comics scene from an African American perspective. And, under the latter, you will find an interview by RJ Casey with emerging comics talent, Fifi Martinez. The thing to always remember about TCJ is that its focus is a serious look at comics as an art form. That leaves little room, if any, for superhero comics, per se. What you’ll mostly find here is a focus on the independent artist-cartoonist. It does a heart good to see cartoonists like Passmore and Martinez provided with a platform.

Ultimately, TCJ remains what it’s always been, a valuable resource that is most appreciated by those who take the comics medium seriously. It’s a niche audience but a fiercely loyal one. In the new more fragmented world we live in, it’s all about niches. That is actually a very positive thing. And niches are supposed to attract outside readers too, right? You can only calculate so much as to how strong a presence you can make on today’s newsstands. For some special readership out there, it will be a great treat to see TCJ on a shelf. Newsstands aren’t going away anytime soon from such places as Barnes & Noble, specialty shops, comic book shops, and even airports. TCJ might just want to make a real push into these venues and see how it goes. I asked about TCJ at my local B&N as well as the Pike Place Market newsstand, one of the granddaddies of newsstands. Neither place had ever heard of TCJ or had any plans to carry it. I asked around a couple of nearby comics shops. They heard of it but were not carrying it. This is TCJ’s return to print, right? Let’s see it out there in the real world.

The reality is that creating any kind of magazine, digital or print, is a big challenge. Everyone in the comics community is rooting for TCJ to make as big of an impact as it can. Those of us already in the choir, can keep singing its praises and wish it well. You can find your copy of TCJ #303 by visiting the Fantagraphics store right here.

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics History, Comics Journalism, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Gary Groth, Independent Comics, The Comics Journal, Tomi Ungerer

Comics Industry Review: The MNT monthly comics newsletter

The MNT monthly comics newsletter

The MNT is making a monthly comics newsletter and I’m excited to tell you about it. This is a special place to keep up with the comics industry put together by some of the leading talent in comics journalism. For as little as a one dollar pledge on Patreon, you can read this highly informative and entertaining monthly magazine along with monthly news reports.

As a happy warrior myself, both as a comics creator and freelance writer, I am thrilled to see this particular comics vision realized. The MNT is made up of folks I’ve kept up with over the years. It’s smart of them to band together in this unique format. The team: News co-editor Christian Hoffer is a writer and editor who can currently be found writing extensively at ComicBook.com. News co-editor Vernieda Vergara is a freelance writer and manga critic. Her work can be found at Book Riot and Women Write About Comics. Features co-editor Steve Morris has written for a number of websites, including CBR, ComicsAlliance, and is a former Managing Editor for The Beat. Features co-editor Megan Purdy is a freelance writer and editor, and the publisher of Women Write About Comics and Bleating Heart Press. The Process editor and social media manager Kirsten Thompson is a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to The Frisky, Teen Vogue, Femsplain, Women Write About Comics on topics such as feminism, pop culture, and LGBTQIA issues.

The MNT kicked off its first issue in February, 2017. That first issue included: guest essayist Rosie Knight on her experiences within the direct market pointing out the distribution system’s pros and failings; Steve Morris interviews retailer Ariell Johnson about her first year in the industry and her plans for Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse; Megan Purdy reviews Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s Decelerate Blue; analysis on Donald Trump’s unexpected impact on comics; analysis on Marvel and DC’s recent changes in price and digital strategy; and a tribute to the career of John Watkiss.

The MNT team has created a highly consistent publication. And that is saying quite a lot. This is a seasoned group of committed comics journalists who dig deep and know how to deliver professional and compelling content. Each monthly edition features news, interviews, reviews, and guest essays written by some of the best critics and creators in the business. The MNT mid-month News Report delivers breaking news and bite-sized features. Your Patreon subscription goes directly into the pockets of MNT guest essays and staff, ensuring that the MNT can continue to break news and offer critical industry commentary. I’ve become hooked and consider the MNT a reliable source for superior comics commentary and journalism. You will too. Go visit them and see for yourself right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Comics News, Patreon, The MNT

Tom Spurgeon Takes The Comics Reporter to Higher Level

Tom-Spurgeon-The-Comics-Reporter

Tom Spurgeon is one of our cherished chroniclers of the comics scene. The Comics Reporter is one of the go-to places for all things comics. There’s only a handful of us out there and I’m very happy to call him a friend and colleague. Right now is an exciting time for him, and all of us in the comics industry, as he takes things to a higher level. In August, he will launch a PDF monthly version of his daily blog which will showcase in depth exploration of the contemporary comics scene. This new magazine will be available to those who join his Patreon portal to help sustain all the good things he does at The Comics Reporter. Be sure to visit The Comics Reporter and become one of Tom’s Pateron patrons, for as little as $2 per month, right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Journalism, news, Pateron, The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon

Review: ‘Truth is Fragmentary: Travelogues & Diaries’ by Gabrielle Bell

Truth-Fragmentary-Gabrielle-Bell-comics

“Truth is Fragmentary” is the name of Gabrielle Bell’s latest comics memoir collection and it says it all. Think about it. Truth is indeed fragmentary. You can point out honest, even blunt, bits of truth all you want. People will process it however they choose. Some will deny what you said. Some will misunderstand. Some will have never even come close to getting it. Maybe a few will completely see it your way. It’s a carnival we live in. Thankfully, we have astute and witty observers like Gabrielle Bell. If you’re new to her work, or if you happen to enjoy sly humor, then this is the book for you.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Gabrielle Bell, Travel, Travelogue, Uncivilized Books

Henry Chamberlain’s Campaign To Support A Comics Reviewer and Creator

From Henry Chamberlain's "Ballard Comics"

From Henry Chamberlain’s “Ballard Comics”

I am heading out to Comic-Con International in San Diego this year and this is the year that we take things to a new level. With your support, we can do some exciting new things here at Comics Grinder and beyond. You can check out the new campaign, “Support A Comics Reviewer and Creator,” over at GoFundMe right here.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Comic-Con International, Comic-Con International: San Diego, Comics, Comics Grinder, Comics Journalism, Crowdfunding, Geek Culture, Geeks, George Clayton Johnson, GoFundMe, Henry Chamberlain, Interviews, Jim Woodring, Mark Z. Danielewski, Media, Nerd Culture, Nerds, San Diego Comic-Con

Review: THE CARTOON PICAYUNE #5, Edited by Josh Kramer

The-Cartoon-Picayune-Josh-Kramer

“The Cartoon Picayune” has hit its stride with its latest issue and is poised to become a leading voice in comics journalism. These things take time and I’m sure that has not been lost on its editor, Josh Kramer. He began by himself, covering local stories in Vermont and New Hampshire. And now he has contributors from around the world. This is a unique anthology that lives up to spirit of what used to be called literary journalism. And we have reached a point now that finds comics journalism to be more readily accepted and understood. It is a subset of comics that has been steadily developing over the years and The Cartoon Picayune can be relied upon to add to this tradition. Issue Five features two full length stories and two brief stories, each exploring the theme of work.

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Filed under Anthologies, Comics, Comics Journalism, Comics Reviews, Comixology, Comixology Submit, Journalism, The Cartoon Picayune

BALLARD COMICS: Drawing Ballard in 24 Hours, #3

Ballard-comics-Henry-Chamberlain-003

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October 13, 2013 · 3:44 pm

TORONTO COMIC ARTS FESTIVAL: MATT BORS, SARAH GLIDDEN, JOSH NEUFELD, AND RUTU MODAN, MAY 11

Toronto-Comic-Arts-Festival-2013For those who appreciate comics journalism, this is the perfect panel to catch while at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend, May 11-12.

You’ve got quite a lineup: Matt Bors, Sarah Glidden, Josh Neufeld, and Rutu Modan.

Details Follow From The Ad Astra Comics site (I’ve added helpful links):

Incredible Talent to Discuss Political Comics at #TCAF 2013

Posted on May 5, 2013 by NMGUINILING

Hey Y’all – It’s official. I will be moderating a panel of incredible artists on at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) – this next weekend. The panel is a presentation and discussion on Political Comics, and features Matt Bors, Josh Neufeld, Sarah Glidden, and Rutu Modan. Here are the deets:

Political Comics Panel
Saturday, May 11
at the Marriott Hotel
90 Bloor St. East
(Around the corner from the Toronto Reference Library)
5pm – 6pm

Let’s Meet the Panelists!

Matt Bors

Matt Bors

MATT BORS is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist and editor based in Portland, OR. He was a 2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for his political cartoons, which appear regularly in The Sacramento Bee, Portland Mercury, Pittsburgh City Paper, and on Daily Kos.

In the summer of 2010, Bors traveled to Afghanistan to draw comics and serves as the comics journalism editor for Cartoon Movement where he is currently editing a project on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

In 2012, Bors was the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for his editorial cartooning. His first graphic novel, War Is Boring, a collaboration with journalist David Axe, was published in 2010. His latest book is a collection of cartoons and essays title Life Begins At Incorporation. You can find more of his work at mattbors.com.

Sarah Glidden

Sarah Glidden

SARAH GLIDDEN’s first full-length book, a graphic-memoir was How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, based on a Birthright trip she took and was published in 2010 by DC Vertigo.

She is currently working on her second book, a work of graphic journalism following reporters into Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon and Syria. Her short pieces of graphic journalism have been published on Cartoon Movement, Ha’aretz, and the Jewish Quarterly. You can find more of her work at sarahglidden.com.

Josh Neufeld

Josh Neufeld

JOSH NEUFELD is a comics journalist known for his graphic narratives of political and social upheaval, told through the voices of witnesses. He is the writer/artist of the best-selling non-fiction graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (Pantheon). In addition, he is the illustrator of the best-selling graphic non-fiction book The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media (W.W. Norton). He is currently a 2013 Knight-Wallace fellow in journalism at the University of Michigan. Neufeld is a Xeric Award winner, and his work has been nominated for a number of other awards, including the Eisner and the Harvey. Usually based in Brooklyn, N.Y., he currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at joshcomix.com.

Rutu Modan

Rutu Modan

RUTU MODAN was born in Tel-Aviv in 1966 and is now one of Israel’s best known cartoonists. She graduated from art school in 1992 and quickly established herself drawing strips for Israeli daily newspapers. In 1994 she was offered to job of editing an Israeli edition of MAD magazine with her classmate, Yirmi Pinkus, featuring reprints of US material supplemented with local originated material. The magazine shut down after 14 issues, but undeterred, Rutu and Yirmi founded Actus Tragicus in 1995, an internationally acclaimed collective and independent publishing house for alternative comic artists, including Batia Kolton, Mira Friedmann and Itzik Rennert. Rutu has worked as an illustrator for magazines and books in Israel and abroad, and has taught comics courses in Israel. She currently lives in Sheffield, England. You can find more of Rutu Modan’s work at her column at The New York Times and you can view her portfolio at Helfin Reps.

Modan’s newest work, The Property, is debuting from Drawn & Quarterly at TCAF this year.

For more information about TCAF 2013 – including a full list of all the kick-ass artists coming to town – head on over to http://www.TorontoComics.com

See you this weekend!

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Josh Neufeld, Journalism, Matt Bors, Political Cartoons, politics, Rutu Modan, Sarah Glidden, TCAF, Toronto Comic Arts Festival