Author Archive

Preface to Mid-Life Creative Imperatives (Part 1 of 3)

Posted by on February 24th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
A few days ago Jeet Heer posted a historical-speculative essay over at Comics Comics titled “The Mid-Life Crises of The Great Commercial Cartoonists” that caught my attention. His premise is that a move from working within the paternalistic corporate structure of commercial comics to more independent creative work formed a pattern “common to commercial comic book artists of [Wally Wood’s]’s era.” His examples of this pattern were Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, and Will Eisner. Heer refines his premise thusly: “All these cartoonists started off as journeymen artists, had a mid-life crisis which made them try do more artistically ambitious work, but ended up being thwarted either by the limits of their talent or the constraints of marketplace.” After I read Heer’s piece, something was tugging at me, and I realized I’d touched on a similar theme in a piece I’d written 15 years ago.

Message to our Readers

Posted by on February 19th, 2010 at 3:27 PM
We’d like to thank readers for their patience during the bumpy first couple of months of our expansion. It’s been a steep learning curve and we’re still making our way down the list of bugs that need ironing out. We're aware, of course, of the viral critiques that have popped up recently, which run the usual gamut from serious, well-intentioned, and productive to snide, resentful, and supercilious, but rather than take the time to respond to each and every one, we need to focus on fixing the technical shortcomings and glitches, which is precisely what we're doing. There are plenty of things about the site that still need to be de-uglified and kicked into working order, but one new weapon we’re going to have in this continuing struggle is production assistant Tony Remple who will help with day-to-day postings, so that we will have more time to concentrate on developing new content and realizing our long-term editorial plans. Cosmetic shortcomings and functional glitches aside, we set our sights very high and some of the major initiatives we had planned are going to need further tinkering before we’re satisfied that they’re ready to be unveiled. For example, we don’t want to fully launch a regular news posting until we know we can deliver the kind of regular, in-depth journalism that has long been missing from the Internet’s coverage of the comics field. Our primary aim, however, was to channel the range of thoughtful, confrontational, probing voices that make up The Comics Journal into a site that is true to the magazine’s sensibilities and unlike any other place on the Web. We wanted to take both the magazine and Internet comics coverage places they’ve never been before, and that is a goal that we are proud to see taking clearer and clearer shape every day. We want to reassure readers that we are aware that there are technical, navigational, and other problems with the website, and that we are working nearly 24 hours a day to fix them. Rest assured that we’re just getting started. One day, not only will this all look prettier and be better navigable, but we have some ambitious features in the works that are going to shock and amaze you.

A Comics Journal History of the Direct Market, Part Two

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 6:08 AM


Writing during the aftermath in 1987, Gary Groth examines the foolish greed at the heart of the market's first big speculator crash, the Black & White Bust. Second of two parts. Tomorrow, Dirk Deppey recounts the grim march towards the 1990s collapse in "Suicide Club."

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part Six of Six)

Posted by on January 20th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
Levine: I really feel that we'd be much better off without critics. They are an insinuation into the field because of the ignorance of the middle class who need to be told what's good. They're applying most of their time to making a living - making a good living - struggle to maintain a living, whatever it is, and they don't have time to go to the museums until they're led there by a sure thing. And here it is! "This painting by Picasso says... and you look to the light over the head... and the horse rearing means this." They need written explanations, and critical reassurance: "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!" If they took any last look at Picasso's last etchings, they're just mere cartoons, not better drawn than anybody else, they're just funny old men looking at young bodies. That's it.

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part Five of Six)

Posted by on January 19th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
GROTH: Have you ever been confronted by anyone that you’ve unflatteringly caricatured? Did Henry ever walk up to you? LEVINE: A subject’s wife asked me, saying, “He’s got everything else and I want to give him something unique for a gift.” I said, “Don’t ask me to do this. First of all it’s expensive, I don’t like it, I know the man, he’s a friend, I don’t want to do it.” Well, she convinced me that she had to have it, it was all she could think of. So I did it and I got a three-page letter from her telling me how bad my drawing was, it wasn’t up to the same quality as any of my other caricatures, it missed him entirely, on and on and on.

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part Four of Six)

Posted by on January 18th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
Levin: But with Kissinger, first of all the New York Review did not want to print that. They're fearful of things sexual. On one occasion I did a drawing of Philip Roth. In the scrap material he was wearing a turtleneck sweater. Back came word from Barbara E., why did I make him a penis?

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part Three of Six)

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
Levine's caricature of Lillian Hellman.
LEVINE: I've also always preserved the sense that this is my species and I'm not interested in cutting them up in a way that is abusive. There is a point at which I think setting the context in which people function can be very upsetting. If you maim people for the violence on television, with all the new technology, that gets to be a point where you are undercutting the humanity of even the worst people you are talking about, and cartoonists have to share that. There is a tendency and a love of just going as far as you can, and that's part of a feeling in caricaturists, the really natural ones, but I caution them on two levels: One, your art director or editor is going to say, "Hey, that doesn't look like them," so you might as well not go that far. And secondly, there is this thing of, you owe a responsible position to your species.

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part Two of Six)

Posted by on January 14th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
Levin's caricature of William F. Buckley
LEVINE: One thing follows the other, or one initiates the other, it doesn't matter which end. It is not enough to merely have an idea. Not if you're going to put it in a graphic or a visual form. Because then anybody who has a good idea or a good storyline could say, "I'm a great cartoonist." That's not true. So I do demand a standard be met in some way.

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The Watchful Eye of David Levine: Interview by Gary Groth (Part One of Six)

Posted by on January 13th, 2010 at 12:01 AM
John Updike, novelist and essayist: "Besides offering us the delight of recognition, his drawings comfort us, in an exacerbated and potentially desperate age, with the sense of a watching presence, an eye in formed by an intelligence that has not panicked, a comic art ready to encapsulate the latest apparitions of publicity as well as those historical devils who haunt our unease. Levine is one of America’s assets. In a confusing time, he bears witness. In a shoddy time, he does good work.”

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TCJ 300: Conversations (Introduction)

Posted by on December 31st, 2009 at 3:24 AM


300 issues, 33 years.*

If the concept of 300 issues of this magazine sets you reeling in a fog of disbelief, horror, and awe, imagine what it does to me. When I co-founded The Comics Journal in 1976, I

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