Miracles do happen, but not for mankind, I’m afraid.
Aki Kaurismäki, in an interview with Sight & Sound, May 2013 issue.
In this fascinating interview from The Comics Journal #127 (March 1989), and conducted by Richard Samuel West, Bill Watterson talks about the tension between realities in Calvin and Hobbes, how popular art doesn’t have to pander, nuance, animation and why he chose not license the strip.
I try to look at a lot of different kinds of art. I enjoy the work of the German expressionists, particularly the woodcuts of the Bruecke group and Lyonel Feininger. Egon Schiele is also a favorite. I find all of his work very immediate and honest, and I suppose I respond most to the directness and rawness of these images. Prints of almost any kind have a special appeal to me. The physical difficulty in making an image usually seems to distill it, and the artist is less able to hide behind a lot of fancy technique. I like watercolor for the same reason. Once it’s down, you’re stuck with it. As to what influence these and other artists have on my cartoons, I’m hard pressed to say. Mainly they help me realize the many different ways one can visually express oneself. Too often cartoonists just look at other cartoonists and, after a lot of inbreeding, everyone has the same funny look. The challenge of drawing is that there is no one right way to visually describe something. It’s a good thing to confront your limitations and preconceptions every so often.
Black characters in Brazilian comics have been treated with stereotypes and prejudices throughout the years. Seeing a lack of comics dealing with the daily life of young black people in Brazil, Marcelo D’Salete has striven to fill in the gap. In this interview with Global Voices, D’Salete explains why black people have certainly made progress when it comes to how they are presented in the media, but with many still appearing as stereotypes, there’s much work still to be done.
GV: As a comics author, do you realize that you have a role to play in the introduction of black characters into the Brazilian comics landscape?
MDS: My intention is to problematize and make more complex the possibilities of representation of black people and of their history within comics. This is relevant not only for the movements that represent black people, but for society as a whole. We need authors who can create new perspectives and options for reading and understanding the world. This is needed in the universe of comics as well as in all arts. I imagine that a truly healthy society must recognize and engage in dialogue with the voices that arise from within its borders.
GV: History is full of changes and continuities. Is there a parallel between black characters and the comics from when you were a child and nowadays?
MDS:Black characters in the media as a whole went through very little changes over the last decades. Today, one finds black characters as protagonists in some stories and there are authors who are, in fact, concerned with this topic. On the other hand, black characters often still appear as stereotypes, as belonging to subordinate groups. Evidence of that can be seen in images depicted in the media, in TV news, soap operas and commercials. There are, indeed, some new experiences and authors who show more concern with this problem, mainly in cinema, but it is interesting to note that our history also experiences major setbacks. It’s no wonder that a short time ago a famous supermarket made use of the sculpture of a black boy in chains, as though it was something natural, harmless and ornamental. Furthermore, one can come across an ad for rum that makes use, as though it was something splendid, of an image by J. B. Debret in which one sees a group of enslaved black men working around a sugar cane mill.
Image: Cover of NoiteLuz, by Marcelo D´Salete.
Popular art does not have to pander to the lowest level of intelligence and taste.
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM’s introduction to the first volume of Charles Schulz’s Sunday color strips of Peanuts, covering the early 1950s, which is being published in November 2013.
Formulas are truly the backbone of the comic strip. In fact, they are probably the backbone of any continuing entertainment.”He added that, among the other characters, Lucy had already developed at least part of her fussbudget personality during the first year of the strip, inspired by some of the traits of his oldest daughter, Meredith. Furthermore, “Snoopy was the slowest to develop, and it was his eventually walking around on two feet that turned him into a lead character. It has certainly been difficult to keep him from taking over the feature.”
In the early appearances of Snoopy, it often isn’t clear if Schultz is postulating a dog who thinks he’s human, a human who thinks he’s a dog, or some perpetual, seesawing arrangement between these two peculiar mismatches. Eventually, one might postulate that he evolves into some version of all three; Schultz acknowledged in 1975 that his “appearance and personality have changed probably more than those of any of the other characters.” But for the Italian semiologist Umberto Eco, he is simply a dog who can’t accept being a dog — an animal who“carries to the last metaphysical frontier the neurotic failure to adjust.”
JOE SACCO speaks about his latest work – a twenty-four-foot-long panorama that folds like an accordion, illustrates the first day of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles in history, which took place on July 1, 1916.
When we first talked about my drawing a panorama of the Western front, the idea seemed static. But immediately I thought of the Bayeux Tapestry [a work probably made in the eleventh century depicting the Norman Conquest], which has a narrative. William the Conqueror in France is getting ready for the invasion; they’re building the boats; they’re crossing the English Channel; then there’s the Battle of Hastings, and you basically read it left to right. It just came to my mind that I could show soldiers marching up to the front, going to the trenches, going over the top, and then returning after they’ve been wounded, back through the lines to the casualty-clearing station behind the front. So it seemed like a very simple idea, and to be honest, I just wanted to draw. On a visceral level, it was just a pleasure to think only in terms of drawing.
Alan Moore talking to STUART KELLY about Fashion Beast, Jacques Derrida and modern superheroes
"Now, see," he says, "I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”
Art Spiegelman revolutionized comic books with his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus.” In an interview, he talks about the value of comics, the post-9/11 world, and life under the weight of a 5,000-pound mouse.
It’s the ephemeral nature of comics, their unassuming ability to capture life in the moment it happens, that fascinates Spiegelman. Comics provided “poetic and rich and beautiful source of cultural sustenance” for him, especially in the ongoing aftermath of 9/11 - a time, he says, when he was feeling “especially whacked up.”
"Art, the way I understand it, is just about giving a form of any kind to one’s thoughts and feelings and those provide a record for other people. The rest is all bullshit. The rest is all about marketing," Spiegelman opines. "If art and literature are a record of thoughts and feeling, then comics have a place at that table," he adds.
Image: An illustration panel for In the Shadow of No Towers
JED PERL ruthlessly criticizes the Art Spiegelman Co-Mix show.
I cannot see that Spiegelman has added anything to our historical sense. I find Spiegelman’s troubled relationship with his survivor father, as described in Maus, nothing but boilerplate Jewish-American lit. And the comic-book treatment of the Holocaust in Maus strikes me as making the unthinkable disturbingly cozy. Spiegelman’s division of humanity into the Jews who are mice, the Poles who are pigs, and the Germans who are cats comes uncomfortably close to a joke-book version of the Nazi’s own racial theories. Spiegelman dissolves the indissoluble nature of our humanity, replacing the horror of human being against human being with the cleverness of his cat-and-mouse game.
Real art, whether one of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo comic strips or one of Braque’s Cubist collages, has a freestanding value, and is by definition not warm and fuzzy. Spiegelman is all warm and fuzzy, and never more so than in Maus. He is the prodigal son who opted for art over commerce but in the end turned out to be a commercial success who did Mom and Dad proud— a nice Jewish boy with a bit of an edge.
Like many other venues in 1960s America, the comics page was essentially racially segregated. The diversification of the comics required the mainstream acceptance of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and the persistent idealism of one of its readers. NAT GERTLER examines the circumstances surrounding the addition of color to the comics.
Franklin’s introduction was part of a five-day sequence featuring Sally tossing away Charlie Brown’s beach ball and Franklin rescuing it. In some ways, this seems an aggressive bit of integration—many American public beaches, while no longer legally segregated, were still de facto segregated at the time. In other ways, the strips suggest what might be seen today as an excess of caution; of the twenty panels of the series, Franklin is in ten panels and Sally is in eight, but never is Franklin in the same panel as the white girl. Franklin would not reappear for another two and a half months, when he came for a visit to Charlie Brown’s neighborhood. He was somewhat lighter skinned here, which seems to be less a matter of trying to make him acceptable to the readers and more a matter of cutting back on shading lines which were overpowering his facial features. Franklin’s job in this series was to react to the oddness of the neighborhood kids, and that was a precursor to what would be his primary role in the strip as a whole. Perhaps due to excessive caution, Franklin was never granted any of the sort of usual quirks that define a Peanuts character, the very sort of mistake that Glickman was warning about when she called for one of the black kids to be “a Lucy.” Schulz may have had more to work with if he had listened to Bishop James P. Shannon, who had marched beside Martin Luther King in Selma; Shannon was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as wondering if the new Peanuts character would be “a believable human being who has some evident personal failing,” versus being “a perfect little black man.” But whatever failings (or problematic lack of failings) Franklin may have had, his appearance drew national media coverage, and made local comics page editors flinch.
Image: The first three Peanuts strips (July 31 – August 02, 1968) featuring Franklin’s debut. (Credit)