News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Monday, November 21, 2022

IJOCA 24-1 is shipping, and here's the Table of Contents

 Almost 800 pages! Also available electronically!

IJOCA Vol. 24, No. 1 Spring/Summer 2022

Editor’s Notes
John A. Lent
Ishinomori Shōtarō: Teaching the Art of the Manga Panel
Ramie Tateishi
More or Less Hearing: Representations of Deafness in Marvel Comics
S. Leigh Ann Cowan
Satire in the Wake of “Woke”: A South African’s Woes
Compiled by John A. Lent
Comics as Resources of Meaning in a Prevention Campaign for Covid-19 in Mexico: Susana Distancia and Escuadrón de la salud [Health Squad]
Citlaly Aguilar Campos
Kaiser, King, and Caricature: Franz Joseph in British Cartoons, 1848-1916
Richard Scully and Mathew Paterson
“Who Is This Gallant Girl of Greatness?” A Chat with Brian Biggs about My Hero
Mike Rhode
Vilma Vargas, Female Political Cartoonist: A Rarity in South America
John A. Lent with Geisa Fernandes
The Names and the Nameless -- People Who Make Up the City: A Reading of Harsho Mohan Chattoraj’s
Kolkata Kaleidoscope
Abinsha Joseph and Smita Jha
“Not on Your Tintype”: The Emperor of Japan as Depicted by William Gropper
Paul Bevan
Poetry Comics as Artifact: The Visual Poetics of Sprawl
Felix Cheong
Cliff Dwellers in Hogan’s Alley: R. F. Outcault and the Ashcan School
Michelle Ann Abate
Pride, Pain, and Punishment: Cacofonix as a Model of Resilience in The Adventures of Asterix
Lisa Mansfield, Jessica Stanhope, and Philip Weinstein
Metafiction and Ecuadorian Graphic Novel: The Case of El ejército de los tiburones martillo (2019)
by Fabián Patinho
Alvaro Alemán and Eduardo Villacís
Qahera: The Webcomic, Not the City: Reception and Popularity
Hayat Bedaiwi
Discussing The Art of Living with Grant Snider
Mike Rhode
It’s Like You’re There: Experiencing Sounds, Giongo, and Gitaigo in Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Kay K. Clopton
An Essay
We Are Nothing
Michel Matly
Early Chinese Portrayals in Western Political Cartoons from the Mid-19th Century
Harry Jiandang Tan
Unique Beijing Comics Coffee House and Its First Exhibition: A Picture Story and Mini-Catalogue
Xu Ying
Mobility of Monstrous Mermaids in Manga
Patrick Ijima-Washburn
Similarities and Differences Between Mexican Friki Culture and Geek Culture in the United States
Nadiezhda Palestina Camacho Quiroz
Comic Art Academic Monograph Publishers
compiled by Mike Rhode
Maia Kobabe in Conversation: Banned Books, Queer Stories, and Gender Queer: A Memoir
Kathleen Breitenbach
Contemporary Rebellion in Tsutsui Testuya’s Yokokuhan
Motoko Tanaka
The Manhua Specialized Press in China: 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up
Laetitia Rapuzzi
Introducing SG Cartoon Resource Hub, a New Site for Exploring Singapore Cartooning
CT Lim
Anime as Witnessing--“Violet Evergarden” and the Trauma of Memory
Barbara Greene
Goodbye, Bob (and thanks for all your words about pictures!): A Far Too Brief Appreciation of the Life and Times of Robert C. Harvey, Comics’ Premiere Pundit
Daniel F. Yezbick
Defining the Graphic Novel
Jakob Dittmar
An Essay
Odd Taxi, Animal Farm, and Satirical Distance
Brent Allison
Long Answers to Simple Questions: An Interview with Ben Hatke
Jason DeHart
Meet Sergio Peçanha, Washington Post Visual Essayist
Mike Rhode
A Chat with Ted Anderson: “I Work in My Head”
Mike Rhode

Book Reviews
Superheroes and Excess, an Oxymoron: A Review Essay - Eric Berlatsky
Jeremy Dauber. American Comics: A History, by Charles Henebry and Lee Williams, p.661.
Catriona MacLeod. Invisible Presence: The Representation of Women in French-Language Comics, by María Márquez López, p.662.
Nancy Pedri. A Concise Dictionary of Comics, by John A. Lent, p.666
Felix Cheong and Eko. In the Year of the Virus, Felix Cheong and Arif Rafhan. Sprawl: A Graphic Novel, by Cheng Tju Lim, p.668.
Rich Johnson. The Amazing Spider-Man: Web-Slinger, Hero, Icon, by Chris York, p.670.
Damien MacDonald. Anatomy of Comics: Famous Originals of Narrative Art, by Cord A. Scott, p.672.
Katherine Kelp-Stebbins. How Comics Travel, by Kenneth Oravetz, p.676.
Terence McSweeney. Black Panther: Interrogating a Cultural Phenomenon, by Jason D. DeHart, p.678.
Mark McKinney. Postcolonialism and Migration in French Comics, by Elke Defever, p.680.
Jim Lee and Paul Mounts. The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards: The Complete Series, by Cord A. Scott, p.682.
Norah Lucía Serrano, ed. Immigrants and Comics: Graphic Spaces of Remembrance, Transaction, and Mimesis, by Elke Defever, p.687.

Exhibition Reviews

A Review Essay
Chicago: Center of the Comics Universe, by José Alaniz, p.691.
A Review Essay
Good Humor, Bitter Irony, by Tony Wei Ling, p.709.
Festival report
European Comics Festivals Return to Angoulême and Haarlem, by
Barbara Postema, p.717.
A Review Essay
Fumetto Opens Up Again in 2022, But Underwhelms, by Wim
Lockefeer, p.731.
A Review Essay
Curator’s Notes on “Icons of American Animation,” the Exhibition,
by Robert Lemieux, p.740
Curator’s Notes on “Jim Morin: Drawing and Painting,” An Exhibition of Political Cartoon Drawings and Landscape Paintings, by Martha H. Kennedy, p.751.
R. Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Sophie Crumb: Sauve qui peut! (Run for Your Life), by Gerald Heng, p.753.
“Painting with Light: Festival of International Films on Art.” National Gallery Singapore. July 1, 2022. Suenne Megan Tan, executive director, by John A. Lent, p.764.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Book review: The US Graphic Novel by Paul Williams

reviewed by Paul Levitz 

Paul Williams. The US Graphic Novel. Edinburgh University Press, 2022. $29.95 (Paperback). ISBN 9781474423373. Critical Insights in American Studies series.

 Paul Williams’ survey of The US Graphic Novel suffers from his lack of commitment to a definition of the subject.  The boundaries of the forms of graphic literature and a strict categorization of the various niches and their overlap is a taxonomy that has yet to achieve any general agreement in the academy or among practitioners. However, in order to advance the study of this evolving and interesting form, it is necessary to make at least a hypothesis of definition.  Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s classic comment, “I know it when I see it” seems even less adequate to define the graphic novel than the pornography he was referring to when he made the remark.

 As studied through various disciplines, the concept of a graphic novel changes.  Williams at times seems to define it simply as an illustrated text of a certain length (going as minimal as 48 pages, which while typical of the European album has rarely been considered definitional in the United States) in a book format.  Lacking boundaries, he digresses into considering works like Don Freeman’s It Shouldn’t Happen in which there is no integration between the illustrations and textual material as a graphic novel.  The subject matter is serious, and if we apply the lens of defining the graphic novel by criteria of literature which considers the human condition, it would certainly be a worthy step in the evolution.  On the other hand, considered as part of the nascent field of comic studies, it is largely if not totally irrelevant.

 In my worlds, I accept two definitions: as a practitioner or when teaching the business of publishing, the conventional marketplace wisdom: the graphic novel is any content in a book format that utilizes the techniques of sequential storytelling where the art and text (if any) are integrated rather than segregated.   When teaching the graphic novel as literature, I look to content that rises above genre to tell non-formulaic fiction or non-fiction with the potential to touch the soul, and is packaged in a book form, again using integrated sequential art and text.  This definition removes my old friend Arnold Drake’s It Rhymes With Lust from the evolution, and marks Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book as the beginning of the ‘modern’ American graphic novel.  In both situations, I focus on work first published in America, not because the rest isn’t important, but to avoid over-complicating the analysis and burdening it with difficult to prove assumptions about access creating influence.  I place no importance on these working definitions beyond their utility in my work or teaching and defer to the academy to eventually define terms better…but the absence of any tentative definition in Williams’ book seems a critical flaw.

Where Williams is most interesting is when he places the evolution of comics and the graphic in context with other media and an international perspective, acknowledging that developments in the United States are not the only ones relevant to this process.  Various works that he explores at some length such as Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 deserve more consideration than usually given, and his perspectives are illuminating.  Developed as a theory and focused on, this could have been a very worthwhile book.  As presented, it mixes with a great deal of material that has already been more deeply explored by many others and distracts us by a biased perspective (is it really more relevant to the evolution of the U.S. graphic novel that Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina was longlisted for the Booker Prize than that Art Spiegelman’s Maus actually was awarded a Pulitzer Prize?).

There’s an intrinsic challenge in conflict between the history of a media form (comics), its near-relatives (those works which utilize some of the classic tools but not all, or not in the classic manner), and other forms that have their own evolution (illustrated books).  One of the most joyous aspects of the way that current technology has permitted the breakdown of these boundaries is the explosion of barely categorizable works (is Lauren Redniss’ Radioactive to be considered a graphic novel when it is non-fiction, certainly not comics, and utilizes visual tools outside of the conventions?).  The success of the graphic novel as a marketing term encompassing a diverse range of visual literature, journalism and non-fiction is one of the fascinating components fueling a creative explosion in the United States and elsewhere, along with the empowerment of artists being able to reach audience with fewer or weaker gatekeepers, vastly reduced or eliminated preproduction expenses, and access to software enabling easy merging of images. 

The subject matter Williams covers is fascinating, and he finds topics where he offers insights not frequently duplicated in the scholarly literature.  But the overall quality of the volume is dramatically limited by his lack of definition.  To quote Anne Enright, an author who did win the Booker prize that Williams respects so much, “All description is an opinion about the world.  Find a place to stand.”

Monday, November 14, 2022

Cartoonists Rights Network International's Fall fundraiser

There are three cartoon-based charities* that I recommend that defend freedom of speech or help cartoonist's lives. CRNI takes on the international cases - the people who might be disappeared, sued, or assaulted for their opinions. We've seen the chilling effect of book bans and attacks on graphic novels, cartoonists and publishers in the US over the past few years, and it's time to put some money into pushing back against the forces of repression. I'm donating $100 as soon as I send this post - Mike Rhode
*I also support CBLDF and Hero Initiative

Give monthly or once only; credit/debt card, Venmo and PayPal accepted.

US DONORS: CRNI is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, federal tax ID 54-1982242. Your contribution is tax deductible to the full extent allowable.

Holiday pledge drive 2022 – target $2,500

Free Expression doesn't come cheap. In fact, multiple cartoonists have lost their lives in their pursuit of that right. Others have been assaulted and abused, criminalized or imprisoned, and an increasing number are displaced from their homes.

Our mission is to defend these vulnerable cartoonists, including material aid for those in emergencies. Now more than ever we can only meet their needs with your help. When you donate, you show support of our work and your commitment to human rights and free expression.

Please note online payment is by far our preferred method, and the only option for supporters overseas. Those in the USA who still wish to donate via check or money order may do so, made payable to "Cartoonists Rights Network International" at PO Box 7272, Fairfax Station, VA 22039

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Book review: The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions

 The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions. Eds. Alison Halsall and Jonathan Warren. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2022. 355 pps. ISBN: 9781496841353.

Reviewed by Christopher M. Roman

Queer comics have been receiving important scholarly attention for the last decade or so. With the recent entry in Keywords for Comics Studies (2021), essays in various comics studies collections, along with the issue of American Studies edited by Darieck Scott and Ramzi Fawaz (2018), as well as book length studies of queer comics creators like Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse, queer comics studies has slowly amassed a scholarly weight. With Justin Hall’s edition of queer comics, No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (2021), Andrew Wheeler’s Shout Out (2019), and Matt Bors’ Be Gay Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire (2020), queer comics have even been anthologized. Even Marvel and DC now publish yearly queer comics anthologies during Pride Month. An excellent addition to the queer comics discussion comes in the form of Alison Halsall and Jonathan Warren’s The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions. This collection of essays is comprehensive and showcases scholars’ attention to the diversity of queer comics from manga to webtoons. As I outline below, this collection is mostly successful in its presentation of queer comics scholarly work and provides both a sense of where queer comics scholarship has been, and, more importantly paths for its future.

The collection is divided into four parts. After an insightful introduction written by Halsall and Warren, Part One contains essays that look at queer comics as a queer commons defined as a space where queer people can connect through shared political commitments. Queer comics instill this kind of shared citizenship through critique and subversion of heternormativity. Michelle Ann Abate’s “Rude Girls and Dangerous Women: Lesbian Comics from the 1990s” examines the rise of queer comics aimed at lesbians during the late twentieth century. As Abate argues, these comics gave rise to queer women’s community building and provided a space for critique and queer anger at the normative and oppressive politics of the time. Tesla Cariani’s “Condoms Not Coffins: 1950s-1990s American AIDS Comics as Collective Memory” looks at comics as a kind of queer archive as they represent the AIDS crisis and how it affected queer lives. Magaret Galvan’s “Of Anthologies and Activism: Building an LGBTQ+ Comics Community” compliments Cariani’s essays as this essay, too, examines comics dealing with AIDS. This essay, however, focuses on two comics anthologies, Strip AIDS and Strip AIDS USA, that functioned as social justice anthologies by bringing together queer comics creators often on the front lines of the AIDS crisis. Section One ends with an interview with queer comics scholar Ramzi Fawaz conducted by the editors. The interview is a wide-ranging discussion touching on queer comics, Marston and his creation Wonder Woman, how comics expand people’s ideas of the possibilities of queer relations, and even the comics superhero group the Fantastic Four. This is a great way to end this section of the collection as the thread running through this interview is how queer comics build community.

Part Two of the collection examines the global community of queer comics. The editors appeal to the accessibility of comics as a way to underscore the wide reach of comics. The editors bring together articles that look at the development of queer comics in Germany, France, and Japan. This is the shortest section of the collection which undermines the goal of this section: to show just how global queer comics are. However, with essays that only deal with three countries, this section of the collection would have been better served with essays that looked at more parts of the world. There is no mention of Central or South America or that of work from South Asia, for example, even though Bishakh Som’s work has received critical attention. In the Introduction to the section, the editors mention ArtQueerHabibi, a queer Middle Eastern artist who publishes on Instagram, but it would have been more representative to have included a few more essays that would have widened the global scope. In Susanne Hochreiter, Marina Rauchenbacher, and Katharina Serles’s “Queer Visualities-Queer Spaces: German Language LGBTQ+ Comics,” the writers provide a succinct essay recounting the transformation of queer comics in German-speaking countries after World War II. They trace queer comics as rising from feminist and lesbian media through its flourishing in the 1970s in gay lifestyle magazines to mainstream comics work in contemporary media. In Keiko Miyajima’s “XX, XY, and XXY: Genderqueer Bodies in Hagio Moto’s Science Fiction Manga,” Miyajima uncovers trans identities in Moto’s work. Moto’s work celebrates gender-fluidity and transformation. Continuing to look at manga, William S. Armour’s “An Exploration of the Birth of the Slave Through Ero-Pedagogy in Tagame Gengorah’s Pride,” explores sado-masochism in Tagame’s celebrated work. Armour argues that Pride can be read as a how-to book for those who may be interested in slave/master play. In Edmond (Edo) Ernest Dit Alban’s essay “Gay Fanzines as Contact Zones: Dokkun’s Adventures with ‘Barra’ Manga in between Japan and France,” Alban looks at the trans-cultural influence of Dokkun’s gay comics. Alban argues for examining the amateur comics section of LGBTQ+ comics for the ways they create community and queer spaces away from larger comics industry concerns and obstacles.

Part Three collects essays that explore different kinds of queer selfhood as represented in various queer comics. The editors celebrate the diversity of expression found in queer comics and highlight how queer representation is always in process. In the first selection of this section the editors include an interview with Justin Hall, editor of the landmark queer comics anthology, No Straight Lines, conducted by Hillary Chute. The interview recounts Hall’s career in comics, his work as a professor of comics, and his journey in bringing together No Straight Lines, as well as discussions of important queer comic creators like Howard Cruse, Brad Rader, and Dianne DiMassa. The second essay works in conjunction with Hall’s interview as Matthew Cheney’s essay, “Activism and Solidarity in the Comics of Howard Cruse,” also celebrates the work of a pioneer in queer underground comics. Cheney’s essay looks at the importance of Cruse’s comics as a form of activism for the queer community. Alison Halsall’s “Canadian LGBTQ+ Comics: Intersections of Queerness, Race, and Spirituality” turns to the diversity of Canadian queer comics as they address the vastly different socio-political contexts found across the country. In “BLK Cartoons: Black Lesbian Identity in Comics,” Sheena C. Howard examines single-panel comics published in BLK Magazine, a magazine aimed at the black, queer community during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In these single-panel comics, Howard finds a celebration of Black lesbians that reflect the deep and complex lives of these Black women that were not represented in other media. In Lara Hedberg and Rebecca Hutton’s “Goldie Vance: Queer Girl Detective,” the authors write about Hope Larson and Brittany Willard’s comic/graphic novel Goldie Vance for its representation of a Black, queer female detective who queers traditional expectations of gender roles for girls. This section ends with selections of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For.

In Part Four, the editors bring together essays that examine how queer comics both make queerness visible as well as how queer comics constitute a scene, shared histories, customs, and community. In Jonathan Warren’s “Reading Comics Queerly,” Warren looks at how comics, though they may not at first glance represent queerness, become queer through readerly attachment and decoding of subtext. In remus jackson’s “Better a Man Than Dead?: Radical (Trans)Masculinities in Comic-Zines,” jackson looks at self-published and DIY comics for the ways they build queer community. jackson take as his subject trans-autobiographical comics that challenge cis-masculinity. The editors next include an interview with Jennifer Camper that they conducted in which they discuss Camper’s queer-community building work and her influential queer comics. In “Conceiving the Inconceivable: Graphic Medicine, Queer Motherhood, and A.K. Summer’s Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag,” Sathyara Venkatesan and Chinmay Murali examine comics that queer motherhood, arguing that motherhood itself is a queer practice. Finally, Lin Young’s “Pixel Fantasies and Futures: Narrative ‘De-othering’ in Queer Web Comics,” turns to webcomics for ways these queer comics leave behind the queer struggle with heteronormativity to explore queerness as optimistic futurity.

This collection is well-worth a cover to cover read. Each author explores a different aspect of queer comics both in terms of queer history, as well as in terms of queer theory. It is exciting to see this anthology in the world and its influence on queer comics scholars will be profound.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

IJOCA 24-1 print edition corrections

 The Vol. 24, No. 1 print issue shipped to subscribers Monday. Readers will notice a couple of errors made by the printers after I read the proofs.

      1. All pages are numbered opposite where they are supposed to be, relocated near the spine.
      2. in the article by Richard Scully and Mathew Paterson, "Kaiser, King, and Caricature:  Franz Joseph in British Cartoons, 1848-1916, on the bottom of the first page (IJOCA p.  126) the word 'parentheses' appears just before the first endnote. This looks like an editorial or technical glitch, as it was not in the original submission. As the journal had already gone to proof, it could not be corrected.

-John Lent

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Paul Madonna's You Know Exactly What You Have to Do, the Third Collection of All Over Coffee, reviewed by Cord Scott

Reviewed by Cord Scott

Paul Madonna. You Know Exactly What You Have to Do, the Third Collection of All Over Coffee. Portland, OR:  West Margin Press, 2022. 176 pp. US $34.99. ISBN:  978-1-5131-3481-9.

 Comic strips are often considered a downgrading of the artistic field. However, there is much to be admired and appreciated by comic strips, especially when they push the conceptual boundaries into something more evocative of different media. Paul Madonna’s strip “All Over Coffee,” which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle from 2004-2015 was one of those strips. As Madonna noted, the series was to be a comic strip without the comic, a way to incorporate illustration with words. In this realm, he most certainly succeeded, and this book was a compilation of the last five years during which the strip ran.

As with any compilation, there is a considerable discussion as to how the comic strip came about, what sources of inspiration were used, and what was kept versus discarded, and why it was in either category. Book one was from the earlier years in the series from just before he started the series through 2006. This was followed by volume two which looked at the years 2006-2010. Having read this volume entices the reader to look further into Madonna’s work. At the same time, he is quick to note that of all 726 pieces created for the newspaper, not all illustrations were chosen, nor were they placed in chronological order. The images in this volume are worked in thematically.

One of the first things that this reviewer noticed was the quality and detail of work. The images were drawn in a manner that was indicative of formal art as opposed to “traditional” simplistic (or simplistic looking) images and characters. These illustrations could easily be seen in an art gallery. This is not surprising as Madonna himself noted he was a Carnegie Mellon graduate in Fine Arts, as well as the first art intern at MAD magazine (177). The work is deep in texture and is often simple in its presentation in black and shading. When color is added, the piece takes on a whole new concept, which is an aspect of his visual presentation.

The first significant chapter is titled “Be Willing to Fuck up” and features a raw illustration without any sort of refinement or correction.  In this section, Madonna used the text to tell the accompanying story to match--generally--the images provided. As he noted, the images are also to convey a spirit rather than setting up some sort of punchline. The illustration concerning his friend and the Scooby Doo analogy, accompanied with a skull on display in a living room, was interesting. He also went into some explanations of how those seeking work in the cartooning industry are often compromised by the conditions. He hits on a theme that seems to permeate education in its current state:  the self-driven person, be it an artist or in an on-line classroom. Not everyone is cut out for such disciplined work, and it can often destroy one’s productivity. It was in this section that Madonna drew some wonderful rides that evoke childhood. One ride, however, was quite frightening in its presentation, but it represents the idea of the ride that goes nowhere.

The text that often accompanies the illustration is just as powerful. Be it the ever so bold “Being trapped on a deserted island was not our problem. Our problem was that one day a ship came by and we got on it.” It is a positional point that can be looked at like his art:  missing the details may seem good at first but can be bad later on. This theme is one that he comes back to later in the book. Two other themes from his work in this section:  “The thing that scares me about sanity is that you only have to lose it for a moment for your whole life to go wrong.” The other was “The past is history, the future is fiction.” As a historian, this phrase was interesting, and, in some regards, apt to the way of all fields:  based on perception.

The second chapter is entitled “The Writing on the Wall,” which delves into Madonna’s process of creating his work. These sorts of aspects can be enlightening as they show how people process their ideas. For him, the idea looks chaotic at first but there is a method to the madness. In all, the notes are snippets of information that serve for work in the short- or long-term. It is also in this section where he explains the title of the book. The reference relates to his starting another career, writing novels. It is important to see that often his process takes inspiration from different areas, and then spreads to different media. In this regard, Madonna’s approach is indicative of another recently released book on comics and their impact across media:  Anatomy of Comics by Damien Macdonald (see review July 10, 2022). Finally, one piece from this section speaks to the overall concept of art and comics, “From your mouth to their misrepresentation.” With any sort of artistic endeavor, people will take away their own concepts and ideas. It is even more pronounced with the letters in red.

Madonna also noted how his process has evolved over the years. This compilation covers the years when “All Over Coffee” was a once-a-week comic. At the same time, he also noted how he was looking at old stuff while trying to create new stuff--looking backwards and forwards as he noted. This was at the time he was compiling his old work for the first volume of the series. It allowed him to see the themes in his work, which, in turn, had him expand his ideas of illustration from cityscapes to other illustrations with longer, simplified texts. Some of the stories were humorous in their execution. The story of reverse shoplifting to get an independent book onto a shelf was absurd, yet believable (68). The setup of the musician being included in a movie only to find out his music was a punchline for its horrible sound (69). The multi-panel story of the aunt with needlework only to discover a larger secret of her life as a burglar was unexpected.

The visual depth and themes are stunning in their approach. He works in the issue of stylized coffins, or the use of the red oversized robot walking Godzilla-style down a San Francisco street, which was stunning. At this time, Madonna noted that he started to collaborate with others for the series. Some writers would provide text, while he would provide the illustrations. In the end, he worked with 15 writers and three artists to expand his work. This also allowed him to bring in specific arcs, such as the Castro Theatre series (122-125). In this section, he has one of his most profound comments, taken from a post-it note he used:  use what you have (132).

Looking back on his series, Madonna noted how much he had produced:  1,000 drawings in over 200 notebooks. While many of the illustrations in the book are finished; some are still rough. Madonna started thinking about ending of the series in 2009 (153). The texts from these later issues are humorous and thought provoking, examples being the “emergency drawcast system,” the “old times are good times because they are gone,” and finally, “what does someone do after having a dream come true?”

Madonna was adamant that he wanted to make his series timeless, so he avoided politics or current events. The only time that he deviated from this principle was when he told of being evicted in real life and becoming a story for the news on the San Francisco housing crisis. These stories were eventually compiled into the “eviction series.” This series was wrapped up soon after so that Madonna could move on to other projects, such as his novels. The first example of this realm was “On to the Next Dream,” released two years after the series ended. The title came from a strip he had illustrated (161).

The other area where Madonna worked was for the murals produced around the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. The murals featured aspects of the skylines and were produced in such a way that there was both illustration up close and at distance. By this, one could see the mural from a distance, but as one looked up close, lines were in fact text lines. This allowed the readers to be immersed in the image. The text pattern was simple yet effective for his mural at the San Francisco International Airport. The text “You are here” was superimposed on houses and created a stunning interaction for the viewer. Madonna noted that the San Francisco mural was painted to give a type of luminescence to the work. The story that started the chapter on murals was important as well. One of the murals was slated for Starbucks West Portal shop. Madonna noted his fear of “selling out” to a corporation, as they also wanted a mural for one of their shops--when a barista at his regular haunt, Four Barrell Coffee, told him that the idea of selling out was a type of hold-over for the generation that came of age in the 1990s. For many now, the idea is to see the work out for public consumption.

The book is clearly centered on the San Francisco area. Madonna noted that his first residence was on Bayview Hill, which is ironically where he ended up after the eviction. So, to have a series center itself on the very city in which the new form and reconstruction of comic strips, books, and even graphic novels occurred. The idea that Madonna should concentrate so much of his work on landscapes, when Robert Crumb noted how much he hated drawing such things, was a fitting circle of the work. The book makes the reviewer want to read the first two volumes to see the series in its entirety. Paul Madonna is to be commended and his work is certainly worthy of praise.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Randy Scott retires from Michigan State University Library's Comic Art Collection

 by Mike Rhode

Randy Scott has left the building.  

 Michigan State University Library's Comic Art Collection is without his guidance and leadership for the first time in decades.

Halloween (October 31) was the long-time librarian and curator's last day in the collection he built. Since 1973, for almost 50 years, Scott helped the collections of comic books grow to the largest collection in the world. The collection also has massive amounts of comic strips, topical files, and material related to editorial and animated cartoons.

My friend Randy is heading for a retirement which includes a new sailboat, and the possibility of again reading comic books for fun. I'll miss working with him. For the past 2 decades, I've been scouring library sales and flea markets in an attempt to stump him with material the library didn't have, and which he may not have known existed. I think I did pretty well, and I'll miss our monthly calls about what I've found and gotten ready to mail to Michigan for the use of future researchers (especially giveaways from local comics stores). In the years to come, as more and more published material is digitized, I'm betting the grey literature and Pop Culture Vertical Files of information become more valuable.

17 years ago, Scott wrote about his career for IJOCA 7:2 (Fall-Winter 2005) in "Beginnings and Landmarks: The Comic Art Collection at the Michigan State University Libraries and My Career." Here is his article:*

 The "beginning" for me was 1971, when I read the book All in Color for
a Dime (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1970). In the introduction, Dick
Lupoff and Don Thompson announced that theirs was only the second book
about comic books "that did not strive to condemn and destroy its topic"
(p.14, 1997 ed.). Even then, when I was a college undergraduate and working
in an early comic book shop, this seemed like an incredible insult to the comic
books I had grown up reading and cherishing. "Academia" or society at large,
or whoever was responsible for getting books published, was really out of

A little context might help. I was then a recovering student radical, having left
college for a while to argue for regime change in the streets, as it were. I learned,
for example, that biting an officer of the law will get his attention,
but that they don't taste good. Also I learned that six months in
jail is no fun. I was hired, fresh out of jail, by the Curious Book Shop
in East Lansing, in June 1971. Ray Walsh, the proprietor, had been a
fellow student worker in the Michigan State University Libraries a
few years before, and his science fiction specialty shop
looked like a good place to hide from the law. The store grew into a
real antiquarian book shop, and I became the comics guy, because that's
what the store needed. It was a kind of boot camp. For two years I
sorted, graded, priced, and sold comic books under the guidance of Walsh.
With Ray, I attended two Triple Fan-Fare conventions in Detroit and ran the
Curious tables. We were in on the beginnings of the network of stores that led
to the direct market for comics. It was a boom time for comics collecting, and
I started reading and collecting comic books myself.

  This intense activity was a refuge from serious notions of smashing the
state, but I was still looking for ways to change the world. The evil empire of
comics-rejecting English departments seemed like a good place to start. I
decided to take the situation in hand, get out there and write important books
and, you know, do stuff. In those days that counted as a plan of action. One
of the shop's customers, Professor Russel Nye, had just published his
groundbreaking The Unembarrassed Muse (New York: Dial Press, 1970). He
was going to be my role model, and I started taking English classes. After a
couple of graduate courses in English, it turned out that that literary analysis
was not my metier, but my determination was not really quenched.

In 1973, armed with a Bachelor's degree, I left the minimum wage world
of the comic shop and joined the Michigan State University Libraries. The
research material for The Unembarrassed Muse had already been deposited in
the Libraries, and that included 6,000 comic books for Nye's chapter on comics.
I was still reading and collecting comic books. It occurred to me that a logical
reason for the lack of scholarly work on comic books might be a lack of
available collections of comic books. This seemed like a useful insight at the
time, though, of course, the more central reason for a lack of university
scholarship was that one couldn't expect to get tenure in a university by
writing about comic books. Still, I was sustained by the idea that adequate
collections were required to advance the study of comic books past the
nostalgia stage, and it wasn't a wrong idea. I discovered that the library
valued my bookstore talent for putting things in order, physically and logically,
and decided that doing so for comic books would be my contribution.

It turned out that the Library wasn't just going to let me realign its
priorities single-handedly. I was only a typist, and a lot of typing needed to be
done. Still, I was a good typist and was soon trusted to volunteer to work on
the comic books on my own time. I spent two years of lunch hours working on
the comics collection, helping sort it, organize it, and stamp it with ownership
stamps for security. When it became clear that the overall status of the comics
collection wasn't going to change much through this effort, I went away for a
year to Columbia University for a Master of Science in Library Service. Upon
my return, this Ivy League degree got me a job typing again, though this time
it was as the German-language cataloger. I mastered the tools, cleared away
the German books, and dove into the comics. Students in library school ask
me today how they can get library jobs working with comics. There is no clear
path, but, in general, libraries hire for certain mundane skills and qualifications.
For me it was excellent keyboarding and a good grasp of written German. 

The first after-hours task I undertook as a professional was to index all
the stories in all the comic books. I started, in July 1974, typing index cards for
every story. This turned out to be a bigger job than I expected. When I quit
typing cards, in October 1983, there were 74,000 of them. They are in my
basement. During most of this card-typing time, I was also a member of APA-I,
the comics indexers' amateur press association. This communication with
other comics indexers, particularly with Jerry Bails and Gene Reed, was
important in refining my style of indexing. My card index, much of it converted
directly from the card file, is visible today online as story title entries in the
Reading Room Index. Next, I decided that the comics should be cataloged by
the library into the national computer database, OCLC, which came to our
library in 1975. As a librarian I had direct access to the computer system, and
could decide for myself to some degree what to catalog. This was a more
visible and more controversial project. On the one hand the international
presence of our cataloging started to bring positive attention from remote
scholars, but on the other hand the sight of me working so single-mindedly on
comics was galling to more than one library administrator. I hoped that attitude
would change, and it has, though I still can't claim that the library has let me
realign its priorities. A general seepage of respect for comics has been coming
into the academic world over the past three decades, which I hope our collection
has helped to promote, but which has certainly helped elevate the in-house
status of the collection.

In the early 1980s, I made a pilgrimage to San Francisco to see Bill
Blackbeard and the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. Well, actually, it
was a family visit to Berkeley, but I squeezed in a visit with Mr. Blackbeard.
Seeing the SFACA collection, and hearing Bill's story of the rescuing of all
those newspapers slated for pulping because they were replaced by microfilm,
was an inspiration. It is really possible to make a difference by getting down
and working 20 hours per day on something for years. It doesn't hurt if it's
something nobody else is doing, and that most people think is a little odd.
Sorry for putting it that way, Bill, but you're one of my role models. That the
Blackbeard collection has ended up at The Ohio State University is a joy.

Because of my lifelong interest in languages, from the beginning, I planned
to make this an international collection. I had no idea, in 1971, what the world
of comics beyond our borders might look like, but it seemed exotic and
interesting. Mexican comics have been available off and on in our local
community, and I made a practice of buying as many as possible even before
I came to work at the Library. These little purchases, plus a habit of begging
friends and relatives to bring back comics as souvenirs from their travels,
soon began to add up to a useful collection. The Latin American collection,
with the help of a few solid donations and some purchases in recent years,
now stands at about 5,000 items. A similar dynamic has happened with the
Japanese collection, currently at 4,500 items. These are still very modest
collections, but they are outstanding for a North American library.

Leonard Rifas' drawing of himself in1989 visiting the MSU Comic Art Collection.

 The first big breaks for the growth of the Comic Art Collection happened
in the very early 1980s. First came the gift of over 1,000 Golden Age comic
books by a collector named Jim Haynes. He saw my letters in The Buyers
Guide for Comic Fandom and contacted us. Before that, our comic books
were no older than about 1963, but after that, we began to see possibilities for
a more complete collection. The microfilms privately created by Jerry Bails
were our next big step. Jerry Bails is another one of those individuals who
have made an incredible difference just by working 20 hours per day for
decades on the task of preserving comics. The films are in black and white,
and the quality is variable and mostly not so good by today's standards, but
these films are priceless. For the Library, having 200 reels of miscellaneous
Golden Age comics, plus a thousand hard copy Golden Agers, meant that by
the middle of the 1980s, we could claim the beginnings of a credible research
collection for older U.S. comic books. That was a landmark.

Catherine Yronwode, Dean Mullaney, and Eclipse Comics were the next
big event, again in the early 1980s. Even before they met, both Yronwode and
Mullaney had been sending us boxes of stuff, as had several comics fans all
around the country. When Eclipse Comics formed, the MSU Libraries gradually
found itself on the "comp list" not only of Eclipse, but of nearly every other
publisher. Cat just counted the library as one other staff members, and when
multiple copies of an exchange publication from any publisher came in, one of
them went into a box for the library. This went on for several years and began
to include European publishers as well. This was more than substantial; actually,
it was overwhelming. Several year-long cataloging projects were done, though
without additional staff or funding. By the middle of the 1990s, when Eclipse
went out of business, the library's collection of American 1980s and 1990s
comic books was relatively complete and well-organized. The shelves were
full, the Special Collections Division was bursting at the seams, and donations
kept coming in from fans and collectors.

The reader will notice that little mention has been made to this point of
the spending of money on this collection. We did, actually, purchase the
microfilms from Dr. Bails, in several increments supported by one-time funds.
The comics collection had no regular budget for most of this time. By 1995,
however, we had a budget that allowed us to spend several hundred dollars
per month, and that is when Horst Schroder comes into the picture. Dr. Schroder
is a German comics fan and the publisher of the Epix Comics line in Sweden.
He contacted Peter Coogan, a graduate student at Michigan State University
at the time, with an offer to sell his collection. It's a long story, but in the end,
MSU bought the European part of his collection, 11,000 items, and they arrived
in the summer of 1995. Coincidentally, the Library was able to finance the installation
of compact shelving in the Special Collections Division, so that
the boatload of comics from Sweden had space to rest. There followed three
years of furious cataloging, entering all these items into the library data system
OCLC, or WorldCat, as researchers know it today, and into our local on-line
catalog. Not only, it should be noted, did the Library buy these new motorized
shelves at great expense, but the library has consistently supported the
collection with preservation supplies (acid-free enclosures and mylars) and
expensive deacidification treatment for these "free" comic books.

By 1999 the bill for the European comics was almost paid off, and it
seemed like we had reached a state of balance between scope and depth. The
collection had over 150,000 items from every part of the world, and donations
of American comic books were still accumulating rapidly. For now, the American
collection is satisfactory, and I can estimate based on the "hit rate" of what
people ask for, that we have about 60 percent of a complete collection. As we
learn more about "foreign" comics, however, it becomes clear that these
collections are still very modest compared to what is possible. Ohio State
University has taken the lead in collecting Japanese comics, and so, for MSU,
the European and Latin American collections have come into focus. We have
started spending our little bits of money to upgrade these collections, and I
have begun studying and traveling to help do this more intelligently.

As for the general status of the collection, the goal has always been to
use the tools of library tradition that have been established by the American
library community, so that successors to this job will be working in ways for
which there is standard training. I would not expect a librarian who came after
me to be a fanatic about comics, and, in fact, would prefer one who is first
competent in the organization, preservation, and servicing of fragile cultural
materials. Speaking both as a library professional and a fanatic (that delicious
new word otaku comes to mind), I must admit that there is a possibility of
combining these traits. I have roughly one more decade to work on this project
before I retire. If there are any lifelong collectors out there who want to place
collections in state-of-the art conditions in terms of preservation, organization,
and research context, you all should contact me pretty soon. It may seem like
200,000 comics items, which is what we count today, is such a big collection
that other collections would just be duplications. This isn't so. We don't have
any EC comics, for example. We have very few giveaway comic books, and
our runs of war genre comics are very weak. We have practically no Philippine
komiks. In a way, our collections are mostly accumulations, because they
have been acquired almost without money. We are the best in many areas by
default, because there are so few other collections in those areas. I will surely
postpone my retirement if some really interesting collections come in, because
I am still just as determined as I was in 1971.

Randy may or may not be as determined as he was in 1971, or 2005 for that matter, but the field owes him an immeasurable debt which we can never truly repay. Randy's leadership (along with OSU's Lucy Caswell and others) preserved the history of art form that matters to scholars of the field and all readers of IJOCA.


*the second two paragraphs were omitted in editing, and replaced on 11/3/2022.