Friday, August 29, 2014

Comics Alternative: Steve Leialoha

I speak with comics vet Steve Leialoha for Comics Alternative about Seduction of the Innocent (the band), Warlock, Howard the Duck, Fables and future plans.

I learned quite a lot about working for Marvel in the 70's from Steve, and it was a great conversation. Thanks Steve, and Aloha.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Midcentury Modernism at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Yesterday I viewed Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism (at the CJM SF through 10/6) a show about how European Jewish emigres networked together around a core of design institutions across the US, inspiring a new look for architecture, furniture, textiles, dinnerware & utensils, Judaica, and graphic design.  The institutions singled out in the show were MoMA, Walker Art Center, Institute of Design (Chicago), Black Mountain College (NC), Case Study House/Art + Architecture magazine (LA), and Pond Farm (Guerneville, CA). There were many artists included in this survey and about 200 works on display; in this post,  I am sharing examples of graphic design I found interesting (all photos by me). There's a detailed press release about the entire show on the CJM web site.

Entry to the exhibit. Focus is on the 1950's, 60's, & 70's
A display of album covers by Alex Steinweiss, 1950's
Book covers for Merdian and New Directions books by Elaine Lustig-Cohen, 1950's.
Book Cover by Alan Lustig, 1940's
Aviary, a wallpaper designed by Saul Steinberg
Saul Bass poses with his best-known poster, Anatomy of a Murder
Poster for No Way Out by Paul Rand, 1950
A wall of corporate logos designed by Paul Rand, Saul Bass, and Louis Danziger
between 1938 & 1980.
Also on view is Project Mah Jongg, which explored the game's roots and how it came to be an important pastime in Jewish American life. The thing I really liked about this show was the series of drawings by local artists describing their memories of how Mah Jongg was part of their personal family life and culture (through 10/28).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Video: Comics Unmasked

Introductory video from Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK curated by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning, which just closed at the British Library. As usual, the catalog is the artifact that remains, and it's a beauty.

Comic Art, Creativity and the Law: Video Review

We were thrilled to see this thoughtful and detailed review of Marc's new book, Comic Art, Creativity and the Law from UK Barrister Phillip Taylor MBE of Richmond Green Chambers.

Other reviews: The 1709 Blog | Art and Artifice

Critical Insights: The American Comic Book

CI: TACB Cover
I contributed chapters on comics censorship and indie comics to this book, due to come out from Salem Press in September. It covers an impressive amount of territory and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's work. Order here.

I also contributed entries on Mort Walker and Beetle Bailey to the newly released 4 volume set from ABC-CLIO Greenwood Comics Through Time, which explores creators, titles and themes of importance from decade to decade.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

SDCC 2014 - Panel Roundup

San Diego Convention Center. The white tents are protecting the hours
long line to get into Hall H from the blazing sun. Photo by Kim Munson.

Here's a quick round up of panels and other happenings at San Diego Comic Con International:

At the Future of Geek panel moderated by John Siuntres (Word Balloon podcast), Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), Rob Salkowitz (Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture) and Tim Beyers (Motley Fool) expert industry watchers talked about the sudden increase of comics conventions around the country, and what this means to the comics industry.This was a fascinating panel, and a recording of it is available on the Word Balloon site.

Future of Geek: Siuntres, Salkowitz, MacDonald and Beyers,
with an unknown but helpful tech guy standing behind. Photo by Kim Munson.

This year marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Fredrick Wertham's infamous book Seduction of the Innocent, which provided an occasion to look back on an era of censorship that strangled the comics industry. The panel Sixty Years of Seduction: Rights, Wrong, and Wertham, hosted by Jeff Trexler (the Beat), managed a large and interested audience, despite a late Friday night time slot. Scenes from Sequart's new documentary about Wertham, Diagram for Delinquents (above) were shown by its director Robert A. Emmons, Jr, who was joined by Brandford W. Wright (Comic Book Nation), Carol Tilley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and two psychiatrists, Vasilis K. Pozios, MD and Praveen R. Kambam, MD. The panel discussed Wertham's history and influences, his methodology, his campaign against comics and his legacy. A lively discussion about comics and violence followed. This panel is available almost verbatim on Bleeding Cool.

Wertham experts: Trexler, Emmons, Wright, Tilley, Kambam and Pozios. Photo by Kim Munson.
It's always fun to get the annual update from J. Michael Straczynski, this year he told us about Joe's Comics (through Image), a comics reboot of the Twilight Zone (Dynamite), a new volume of Superman (DC) and an endless stream of film and TV projects, including his new Netflix series Sense8 with the Wachowskis. He also told us that he might finally be doing a Babylon 5 movie (yay!) and that he forged his records in order to graduate from high school. It's always something...

JMS presents new projects. Photo by Kim Munson.
Art panels are always my favorites, and this year did not disappoint. One of the most interesting panels (to me) was Temple of Art, a documentary about collaboration and the creative process featuring the work of 52 different artists. Among the artists on this HUGE panel were Grant Morrison ("I paint with words"), Bill Sienkiewicz, Barron Storey and Dave Mckean.

I'm always happy to add fun pages to our ever growing collection! This year I bought a great page from "The Slobbit" a MAD Magazine spoof drawn by Tom Richmond. That's the devious and dangerous dragon Smaug in the nose and glasses. Richmond was very nice, and was sitting at the National Cartoonist Society booth with Greg Evans, and his daughter Karen, the real Luann.

MAD's Tom Richmond. Photo by Kim Munson.
Sunday, after the annual meeting of the church of Jack Kirby, which this year included one of my favorite oddballs, artist Scott Shaw!, was one of my favorite panels, Cover Story: Art of the Cover. In this session moderated by Mark Evanier, 5 well-known artists talk about the success, failure and challenges of 5 different cover images from projects done throughout the course of their careers. The artists do not see these images ahead of time, and are often surprised by the selection. They talked about the difficulties of having to produce a relevant cover months before the script for a comic is even written, and the challenge of finding a fresh take on an established character. Artists included Mark Brooks (New X-Men); Amanda Connor (Power Girl, Harley Quinn); Fiona Staples (Saga); Jae Lee (Before Watchmen) and Stan Sakai (Usagi Dojimbo). CBR has posted an almost verbatim report on this panel, including images.

Cover Story: Moderator Evanier, with artists Connor, Staples, Brooks, Lee
and Sakai. Photo by Kim Munson.

SDCC 2014 - CAC panels, Greenberg & Batman

As usual, the Comic Arts Conference, an academic conference within and in conjunction with San Diego Comic-Con International, offered a heaping platter of scholarly goodness. Several panels and presentations really stood out to me this year.

Marc Greenberg, author of Comic Art, Creativity and the Law (my husband) and Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, talked about what the potential future of comics might look like, and the legal complexities of the models they identified. They discussed corporate comics, indie comics, crowd funding, retail and digital sales, and many other topics, based on the four projections laid out in Rob's book and continued in Marc's.

It seemed to me that all four concepts have been happening simultaneously: the "Endless Summer" scenario, in which major corporations maximize the possibilities of their intellectual property and their audience; "Ghost World," in which the audience tires of the mainstream, and artists and indie publishers succeed in offering grassroots alternatives; "Infinite Crisis," in which a passionate but dwindling pool of fans and collectors support specialty retail, and the "Expanding Multiverse," in which a more diverse and global creator population harness the web, mobile, games and other platforms to tell their stories.

Rob Salkowitz and Marc Greenberg after their panel. Photo by Kim Munson.
 Following Marc and Rob's panel was a brilliant panel on British Comics, how they are culturally unique, and how they borrowed (or outright copied) elements and characters from popular US comics.

British Comics: Julia Round presents as Pete Coogan, Chris Murray and
Phillip Vaughan look on. Photo by Kim Munson.
Down on the exhibit floor, CAC regular Trina Robbins was at the Fantagraphics booth signing Pretty in Ink, her ultimate take on the "herstory" of women cartoonists. One of Trina's finest moments was her rediscovery of Lily Renee, an influential cartoonist of the WW2 era with an amazing story (read The Golden Age of Lily Renee here). Lily, who is 91, flew in from New York for a day of signing at the booth.

Lily Renee and Trina Robbins at the Fantagraphics booth. Photo by Marc Greenberg.
 I enjoyed a presentation on Bill Hume's Babysan comics by historian R.C. Harvey and the final wrap-up panel of presentations by students of Matthew J. Smith on fan studies and marketing. Most of these students had never been to SDCC before, and it is always interesting to see the convention anew through their observations.

There were many panels and displays celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of Batman. Dean Trippe, author of Something Terrible spoke with Tommy Cash about how reading Batman rescued him from the mental anguish of childhood abuse (one page version here, you can buy the entire comic for 99 cents).

Cover graphic from Dean Trippe's Something Terrible.

Here's a blurry photo of the whole
tribe at the Who Created Batman? panel.
Photo by Kim Munson.
On the all-star panel Who Created Batman?, scholars and family representatives had a lively debate over who actually did create Batman, presenting panel art from Golden Age comics, research and anecdotal evidence to try to piece together how much of the creation of Batman could be attributed to Bob Kane, and how much to his collaborators Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. To the surprise of no one, the conclusion was that Kane's claim of total ownership was probably exaggerated, and that Finger was the real brains behind the operation, joined later by Robinson. Panelists included Moderator Travis Langley (Henderson State University); Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (granddaughter of the original founder of DC Comics); Tom Andrae (Batman and Me); Athena Finger (Bill Finger estate); Marc Tyler Nobleman (Bill the Boy Wonder); Denny O'Neil (Batman); Brad Ricca (Super Boys); Jens Robinson (CartoonArts International); Arlen Schumer ( and Michael Uslan (Dark Knight film trilogy).

Down on the exhibit floor, DC had a huge Batman display that included cases of props from the films and a fascinating art project with Bat themed art painted on capes. 

DC Batman 75th Anniversary display at SDCC 2014. Photos by Kim Munson.