Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 10 Issues of The Comics Journal: 38 Conclusion

"An Interview with Gil Kane [April 6, 1926-January 31, 2000]" conducted by Gary Groth at Boston Newcon (October 20-22, 1976) and New York Creation Con (November 19, 1976). Transcribed by Mr. Groth, and edited by the same, with Mr. Thompson and Gil Kane.
[I don't believe this conversation has been reprinted in that Hermes Press book of Gil Kane interviews, so here's a paraphrasing of topics covered in this interview: The failure of HIS NAME IS SAVAGE and Adventure House; HIS NAME IS SAVAGE connection to "Conan" and Glenn Lord; Distribution and success (and failure) in the comics industry; Martin Goodman and Atlas/Seaboard; DC Comics and lack of a creative editorial viewpoint; "Comics is an incestuous business;" Adult comics content; Comics fanzines (John Benson mentioned) and fans at conventions; Influences: "Scorchy Smith" by Noel Sickles and "Tarzan" ("The Egyptian Period") by Hal Foster; Storytelling in comics; What he would do in comics if no commercial, content, or format restrictions; Jean Giraud (Moebius) comic artist he says is the "best comic strip artist going now;" Films and critical standards for evaluating comics; STAR HAWKS and Ron Goulart; EXCALIBUR book with John Jakes; Comics don't create they duplicate success until the characters are exhausted creatively; Views on: Harvey Kurtzman, Bernie Wrightson, Jim Steranko, Barry Windsor-Smith, Frank Frazetta, Jenette Kahn, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Alex Nino, Ross Andru, Robert Kanigher, Neal Adams, Mike Golden, and others; Comics and content vs. format; and, more on films and parallels with comics.]

"Hogarth & CRIMMERS: An Excercise in Academic Futility" (pages 47-48) by Paul Dushkind [Mr. Dushkind takes over the "Fandom Review" column from early JOURNAL contributor Doug Fratz, who went on to edit the science-fiction magazine THRUST/QUANTUM. The following issue (#39 April 1978) the column passes on to Marilyn Bethke and her series of critiques of the JOURNAL'S comics press contemporaries!]

"Growing Up Weird" (pages 49-50 55) by Mel Gilden. Ron Wilber: "Captain Video" illustration [I'm considering this the second (and last?) in a series of unpublished articles from Frank Catalano's defunct SIRIUS XIV science-fiction newsletter although I could be mistaken, the first (appearing in the previous issue of the JOURNAL) was "You, too, need protein for a smoother glissando (Or, food for thought)" by Greg Bear. This essay is a well-done slice-of-life done from the viewpoint of a science-fiction author growing up on science-fiction books and telelvision, and pondering how these inspired his writing career and life in general.]

"The Kingdom and the Power of Jack Katz" (pages 51-52 54-55) by Bill Sherman [Mr. Sherman reviews the first six volumes, focusing somewhat on volumes 5 and 6, of Jack Katz's self-published THE FIRST KINGDOM, an anomaly in the 70s outside of the underground comix and far to individualistic to be considered mainstream.] [Preview page from the then upcoming THE FIRST KINGDOM Volume 7 on page 54]

"Greenskin, Webhead, and the Boob Tube" (pages 56-57) by Kim Thompson. Bob Aull: illustration [This was a bit of a surprise, a review of the pilots of the "Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Hulk." Since Mr. Thompson is now bringing us those amazing Tardi translations, I think I'll refrain from quoting any passages from this one!]
sidebar: "News Update: Marvel TV Movies" [Stan Lee said these movies were in development Human Torch, Captain America (released in 1979), Howard the Duck (released in 1986), Ms. Marvel, Dr. Strange (released in 1978), and Sub-Mariner. Also mentions Marvel considering buying their own animation studio, which I seem to recall them eventually accomplishing in the 1980s.]

"Allegro Non Troppo: Fantasia With a Vengeance" (pages 58-59) by Gary Groth [review of Bruno Bozzetto's animated movie, particularly the sequence adapting Ravel's "Bolero" which can be viewed below.]
part 1
part 2

"The Hobbit: A Rich and Colorful TV Adaptation" (pages 59 62) by Steve Clement (1953-1981)
sidebar: "Doonesbury" [a review of two animated television releases from 1977, the latter titled fully: "A Doonesbury Special."]

"The Outer Limits of the Imagination" (pages 60-61) by Jim Wilson. Judy (Judith) Hunt: illustration. [a review by then-television-producer Wilson of Ted C. Rypel's THE OUTER LIMITS: AN ILLUSTRATED REVIEW Volumes 1 and 2. I believe this is Mr. Wilson's last column for the JOURNAL as he does not contribute to the next issue, he was a contributor beginning with THE NOSTALGIA JOURNAL 27, the first Fantagraphics issue.]

"Howard the Duck" (pages 63-66) by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan. [Three Sunday pages of the short-lived comic strip incarnation reprinted in black and white. 7/3, 7/10, and 7/17 with the first being printed twice just because it's TCJ!] [link via Journalista]

montage of ASTERIX, "Close Encounters," STAR HAWKS, and an original illustration by Joe Sinardi.

(page 2) OMNIVERSE 1, Fall 1977, Mark Gruenwald/Dean Mullaney editors [Pete Poplaski cover, reprinted along with ad]
(page 3) subscription ad
(page 4) ROCKET'S BLAST COMICOLLECTOR 139, James Van Hise editor [Star Wars-themed issue. contributors: Ralph Fowler, Morris Scott Dollens, Steven Fabian, Kerry Gammill, Ron Wilber, Don Rosa.]
(page 6) Greg Tuliebitz sale list
(page 11) READER WRITTEN COMICS 2 [contributors: Steve Vance, Max Giguere, Dave Sim, Bill Kent Jr., and Bruce Shane.]
(page 12) 1977 Comic Art Fan Awards - Nominating Ballot [administered by Don Fortier]
(pages 16-17) Monkey's Retreat/Well News Service ad
(page 19) OUTER LIMITS NEWSLETTER, Steve Streeter editor
(page 23) Abel Mills 35mm film clips sale
(page 24) Pikes Peak Book Exchange, SCAN magazine ad
(page 31) Bud Plant ad [ASTERIX]
(page 32) Camelot of Houston, TX ad [THE GOLDEN AGE OF TARZAN 1939-1942 by Burne Hogarth.]
(page 33) Camelot of Houston, TX ad [this page has a "Drake Vader" t-shirt design by Newsome advertised.]
(page 46) 1978 COLLECTORS SHOWCASE auction catalog ad [painted cover reproductions by: Alex Schomburg; Sheldon Moldoff; Fred Ray; Dan Zolnerowich; Alfred Avison; Dick Briefer; Creig Flessel; C.C. Beck; John Celardo; Mike Sekowsky; Alex Kotsky; Paul Reinman; and, Bill Ward. Wow, here's what your favorite golden-age comic book artists were doing in 1978!]
(page 50) MR. KISS KISS BANG BANG 2, Mike France editor [James Bond movie fanzine]
(page 53) Bud Plant ad [FIRST KINGDOM]
(page 55) Sanford L. Jones E.C. Comics sale list
(page 57) BIZARRE THRILLS 1, Bill Black editor [High quality early Bill Black publication (still in print digitally). contributors: R.C. Harvey, Marc Hempel, Tom Lyle, Clifford Neal, Bill Pearson, Joe Staton, Steve Vance (he gets around), and Wallace Wood. partial cover illustration of "Phantom Lady" by Joe Staton and Mr. Black reproduced with the ad.]
(page 62) classified ads from: CEG, Star Gallery, Ernest Whitaker, Stan Timmons, Ward O. Batty, Dwight Decker, Charles Lawrence, Old Radio Warehouse, Howard Rogofsky, Larry Collier, Peter Crosby, Fry's, Christian Haerle, Mark E. Ernst, Harland Ronning, Clifford Meth, Chris Lareau, Bill-Dale Marcinko, and Masthead: AJFTHWON.
(page 67) Bill Cole ad

Coming to a final top ten out of 274 issues of THE NOSTALGIA/COMICS JOURNAL without going crazy required dividing up the long run into rough periods and special issues. The first period (or "era," if you want to get pretentious) I label the "pre-lawsuit" halcyon days which ran from 27-52. While there were many individual highlights among these efforts (discounting all the tabloid issues which I've never seen), I picked #38 for the exhaustive Dwight Decker article on "Asterix" (which still stands up today as a history of the early years of the series) and Gary Groth's interview with Gil Kane which stretched the boundaries of comics journalism in touching on the artist's life and interests outside of comics rather than the worlds on paper he created (that some comic fans mistake for "real" life). There are also some quality shorter pieces like Bill Sherman's analysis of the early issues of THE FIRST KINGDOM, an unjustly forgotten pioneering work. Having reviews by both Mr. Groth and Mr. Thompson in the same issue would seem to push this one over the top, however I'll just say they got a lot better material to analyze in future issues. -GU

THE COMICS JOURNAL (c)2010 Fantagraphics Books, Inc.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Top 10 Issues of The Comics Journal: #38 Part Two

Here are some numbers that reflect the circulation of the tabloid-version of THE COMICS JOURNAL, contrast these with the statement on the contents page (page 5) of "Paid Circulation: 9,000" for the magazine-version.
"Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation (required by 39 U.S.C. 3685)
1. Title of publication: THE COMICS JOURNAL
2. Date of filing: 1 Oct. 1977
3. Frequency of issue: BI-MONTHLY
A. No. of issues published annually: 6
B. Annual subscription price: $1.80
4. Location of known office of publication: 9308 CHERRY HILL ROAD, COLLEGE PARK, MD 20740
5. Location of the headquarters or general offices of the publishers: SAME
6. Names and addresses of publisher, editor, and managing editor:
Managing editor: J. MICHAEL CATRON, SAME
7. Owner (If owned by a corporation, it's name and address must be stated and also immediately thereunder, the names and addresses of stockholders owning or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of stock. If not owned by a corporation, the names and addresses of the individual owners must be given. If owned by a partnership or other unicorporated firm, its name and address, as well as that of each individual must be given.): FANTAGRAPHICS, INC., CHERRY HILL ROAD, COLLEGE PARK, MD 20740
8. Known bondholders, mortgages, and other security holders owning or holding 1 percent or more of the total amount of bonds, mortgages or other securities (If there are none, so state): NONE
9. [...]
10. Extent and nature of circulation:
A. Total no. copies printed (net press run):
Average no. copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 3, 157
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 3,500
B. Paid circulation:
1. Sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors and counter sales:
Average no. copies during preceding 12 months: 125
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 500
2. Mail Subscriptions:
Average no. copies during preceding 12 months: 2, 632
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 2, 682
C. Total paid circulation (sum of 10B1 and 10B2):
Average no. copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 2,757
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 3,182
[D.]Free distribution by mail, carrier or other means. Samples, complimentary, and other free copies:
Average no. copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 206
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 268
E. Total distribution (sum of C and D):
Average no. copies each issue during the preceding 12 months: 2,963
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 3,450
F. Copies not distributed:
1. Office use, left over, unaccounted, spoiled after printing:
Average no. copies each issue during the preceding 12 months: 194
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 50
2. Returns from news agents:
Average no. copies each issue during the preceding 12 months: ----
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: ----
G. Total (Sum of E, F1 and 2 should equal net press run shown in A):
Average no. copies each issue during the preceding 12 months: 3,157
Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 3,500
11. [...]
12. [...]"

COMICS REVIEWS (page 14-15 18-19):
-"Steel and Fire from Conway" (page 14-15) by Gene Phillips [STEEL 1 and FIRESTORM 1 by Gerry Conway] This was Mr. Phillips second review for the JOURNAL, he had previously reviewed THOR in #35. (source Peter Coogan)
-"Women's Lib and DC" (page 15) by Marilyn Jo Bethke [SHOWCASE 97 (Power Girl)] This was Marilyn Bethke's first contribution to the JOURNAL, she became a powerful voice in future issues especially valuable (in my opinion, at least) as an interviewer (Joe Staton: #45 and Howard Chaykin: #51, off the top of my head). This review is fairly conservative with some perceptive analysis of the incompatibility of the Joe Staton and Joe Orlando art team. Although she does get in a nice paragraph in the middle of the review, on feminism: "Power Girl's statements reek of token feminism, stereotyped 'women's lib' behavior, which has nothing to do with real sexism, feminism, or liberation. The condescension of 'Come to Momma' on page two and the reverse sexism of 'You men -- always making problems...' on page six are examples of a particularly disgusting new women's stereotype, the 'libber.' Such distortion of feminism and its issues does nothing more than hurt all feminists, women and men, and turn women's (and men's) liberation from a serious, important, and complex issue into an over-simplified cliche.[...]" (page 15, column two) (excerpt (c)2009 Marilyn Bethke)
-"The Schlumps and the Spacecraft: A Grouse at Close Encounters" (pages 18-19) by Dennis O'Neil [review of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND by the comics writer and editor]

"Asterix: 'These Frenchmen Are Crazy!'" (pages 20-22 25-30) by Dwight R. Decker
I. "These Gauls are Crazy"
[Introduction to the basics of the ASTERIX album series and it's two main characters.]
II. Background
[Historical perspective on Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's work before ASTERIX, the early days of ASTERIX in "Pilote" magazine, and it's place among then contemporary French comics.]
III. The Creators
[Short biographies of Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo]
IV. The World of Asterix
[The intersections of ASTERIX'S fictional world and historical France.]
V. The Players
[Character descriptions of Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, Getafix, Cacophonix, and Vitalstatistix.]
VI. How to Read Asterix
[A reader's guide on where to start reading this (even 32 years ago!) long-running series.]
VII. Critique
[Mr. Decker goes over a few weaknesses of the ASTERIX series.]

"Asterix the Gaul" (1968)

"Asterix and Cleopatra" (1970)

"The Twelve Tasks of Asterix" (1976)

sidebar 2: ASTERIX CHECKLIST [link to gallery of all english editions of ASTERIX, click on "Universalis" and choose English]
sidebar 3: Don Rosa: illustration [Tribute to Rene Goscinny (1926-77) upon his death, featuring all the major ASTERIX characters]

THE COMICS JOURNAL (c)2009 Fantagraphics Books Inc.
Our examination of THE COMICS JOURNAL #38 concludes next time (thrill to Gary Groth's review of ALLEGRO NON TROPPO)...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top 10 Issues of The Comics Journal: #38

Introduction: This is the first installment of my in-depth examination of the "Top 10" issues of THE COMICS JOURNAL in chronological order. Following is my experiment with applying the template of a TCJ index over a "link" structure much like the "Love and Rockets Links" feature. Maybe this is a bad idea, it's certainly a lot more labor intensive than I had projected. I am trying to track down the writers in this issue, anybody knowing the whereabouts of Dwight Decker, in particular, please send a comment. Thanks. -Gary Usher 1/12/10

THE COMICS JOURNAL 38 (February 1978)
Fantagraphics Inc., College Park, MD
GARY GROTH Executive Editor/Art Director
KIM THOMPSON Editor/Circulation Director
"Special thanks to JOHN CORNELL and BOB AULL for their invaluable artistic assistance, and to MARK DIEVENDORF for his editorial assistance." (page 5)

"Star Hawks" by Gil Kane, his major project for 1978 was this comic strip written by science-fiction author/comics historian Ron Goulart. Mr. Kane also worked varied jobs at Marvel Comics Group including covers and filler stories for various titles, and pencilling stints on DAREDEVIL and JOHN CARTER WARLORD OF MARS. source

NEWSWATCH (pages 7-11):
*"DC News" pages 7 9 10 (mostly on the fallout of cancelled and new titles introduced after the DC Implosion. I believe this was around when that collapse occurred, anyway. Where's John Wells when you need him??)
*"DC Announces Format Change: 50cent-40 Page Books in June" pages 8 9
-sidebar: "The Story of 40 Page Comics" (a rare look into the mechanics of comic book printing)
-sidebar: "The Ever-Rising Cost of Comics" (history of prices and formats from the 1950s to 70s)
**On the "Superman" movie (page 10): "The world premiere of the SUPERMAN film will be at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, at the Eisenhower Theatre, on June 11 [1978] as a benefit for the Special Olympics.[...]"

*"Marvel News" pages 10 11: (movie adaptations, WHAT IF? creative teams, and various other creator announcements. Humble Beginnings Dept.: "...while, on the newcomers front, Frank Miller will pencil a Doc Samson backup story. "
**On the "Action Art Studios" (page 10): "This is also the reason for the creation of Tony and Mary DeZuniga's ACTION ART STUDIOS, which will help Marvel battle the Dreaded Deadline Doom by pencilling and inking terminally late jobs. The studio is composed mainly of New York-based artists, including some graduates from Buscema's and Kubert's cartooning schools, and is supervised by Alfredo Alcala, with Rudy Nebres giving the artists basic training. Currently the studio is working on the MARVEL CLASSICS line; the first few titles they are doing are ALICE IN WONDERLAND (pencilled by Ken Landgraf) and THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (pencilled by Chuck Nanco and Ed Menji), and a fill-in inking job on NOVA. DeZuniga himself will be inking SPIDER-WOMAN and THOR, presumbably with the help of his new

*Obituary (page 11): JOHN VERPOORTEN (1940-December 18, 1977)

*"Alternative Comics Publishers News" page 11:
-John Workman promoted to Art Director of HEAVY METAL
-ETERNAL CHAMPION 3 story by Michael Moorcock, Mike Friedrich/art by Howard Chaykin a graphic novel to be published by Integrated Pierrot Press
-STAR*REACH adding color and changing format
-GASM new magazine edited by Jeff Goodman. Notable contributors were to be Ben Katchor and Mark Wheatley.
-HOT STUF' 5 published by Sal Quartuccio. Notable contributor Richard Corben.
-WEIRD HEROES 8 and 9 news, announced the series sold for publication in Japan's COOL GUY MAGAZINE
-THE ILLUSTRATED ROGER ZELAZNY by Gray Morrow published, various publicity measures are listed
-EMPIRE story by Samuel Delaney/art by Howard Chaykin graphic novel published by Byron Preiss Visual Publications, Inc. [Here's a review of this book by modern TCJ critic Jog]
-Announcement of graphic novel written by Doug Moench and Theodore Sturgeon/art by Alex Nino to be released in the Summer of 1978. [MORE THAN HUMAN, serialized in HEAVY METAL]

*Here we go, folks! Kim Thompson renamed the letters column "Blood & Thunder" with this issue, and it leads off with a letter from Larry Charet[this link will take you to a jpg file, top photo/far right figure is Larry Charet, photo posted by Joe Sarno] Chicago Comicon Convention Co-Chairman. He criticizes Stan Timmon's report on the Convention published in the previous issue (#37), and in classic B&T fashion Timmons is given a chance to respond. Tame stuff compared to later issues, but it's the beginning of something special.
*The other letter is a fan lament from Bill Cantey.

THE COMICS JOURNAL is (c)2009 Fantagraphics Books Inc., any quoted material is assumed covered by "Fair Use" and is used for historical purposes only.
This site does not necessarily endorse any of the links leading to retail sites, and this project is not authorized by "The Comics Journal" or Fantagraphics Books Inc. in any way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top 10 All-Time Issues of The Comics Journal

I've been seeing a deluge of "Best of 2009" or "Best of the Decade" comics and graphic novel lists, many with the Hernandez Brothers various projects singled out. It got me thinking about going in a different direction and honoring THE COMICS JOURNAL and it's recently-completed 300-issue run, a magazine that was very important in introducing me to the Hernandez Brothers and LOVE AND ROCKETS, some 23-24 years ago. Here are ten issues I've picked out of my collection that are either personal favorites, defining moments in the magazine's history, or just plain revelatory in their own right, all in my own humble opinion:

THE COMICS JOURNAL 38 (February 1977)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 59 (October 1980)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 71 (March 1982)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 115 (April 1987)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 138 (October 1990)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 210 (February 1999)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 227 (September 2000)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 238 (October 2001)
THE COMICS JOURNAL 250 (February 2003)

Over the next several weeks I'll be writing at length on each issue I picked and why they stand out to me. Please send your comments on what your favorite issue of THE COMICS JOURNAL is, and maybe I'll write up that issue as well! (P.S. The above list is skewed to the issues I have in hand, completely missing the Tom Spurgeon years, and my "golden age" of TCJ being approximately issues 112-150. Please hate accordingly.)