Long Live the King

Today would have been Jack Kirby's 97th birthday. There's a lot of cool stuff up, including this gallery from Comics Reporter, Phil Hester drawing 97 Kirby related pieces, this cool fanart feature from Comicsalliance, and this old TCJ interview that's been bumping around (via):

KIRBY: I don’t want to take somebody else’s beating. That makes me unhappy. So right now, I can tell you, I’m a happy man because whatever I’m doing, I do for myself and I do a little creating here and there for others, and they work out very well. I feel like an independent man, and I am. This is the kind of feeling I always wanted. You can rarely get that… Well, I could rarely get that in the early part of my life.
GROTH: I think most people can rarely get that. You have to fight for it.
Fight for it.  

Wednesday's New Things: The Greats

1. I spent the second half of the summer of 2011 shuttling between the mid-Hudson Valley and New York City. I was taking a summer class at Columbia, taking care of my science requirement, but I didn't have a place to live. So I mooched off of my friends. By the end of the summer, though, I was mostly spending three nights a week at Jon's place, paying him rent in fried chicken from a place nearby. The great thing about my class schedule was that I had Wednesday off, which meant that I could more or less do whatever I wanted in between school days. I spent a lot of time at the Met, and at the Angelika. The subway runs right underneath the latter and in some of the theaters you can hear it go by. Jon and I also, on two separate occasions, attempted to see an exhibition of Jules Feiffer's drawings of dancers that was on the second floor of a building in the financial district. Both times we got there too late in the day. From the vantage of the Cosi on the first floor, though, we got a glimpse of them, their thick, wiggly lines not quite moving. This is the whole of my experience with Jules Feiffer's work. It would have been, though, enough to get me excited in Kill My Mother, even if the preview from the New Yorker at the beginning of the year hadn't reminded me of George Bellows, even if the other previews I've seen hadn't looked quite so daring. Some of it is too busy, certainly, and the previews make the book seem like it came from somewhere outside time, maybe a world where altcomix never happened. That just makes it all the more curious, and its my one must buy this week. 

2. On another week, this would be on the list, too. Adlard is mostly known for his work on The Walking Dead, but both writer and artist are veterans of the British anthology magazine 2000 AD. Originally published in 1998, the book is being reissued in honor of World War I's centenary, part of a spate of issues and reissues of books on the war. Adlard's people here look a little stiff, pasted mid-action into a much more elegant and natural looking landscapes. This gawkiness is compounded by fact that it exclusively utilizes grey tones, which renders it a little muddy. This is probably the point, and, again, the landscapes shine. 

3. I don't have a whole lot to say about Tomboy, except that it looks great. The preview speaks for itself

4. This isn't comics, exactly, but I want to start integrating some comics studies books into these previews, so here we go. At 96 pages, it's slight, and likely designed more for the super fan than the professional scholar. The main draw is the "20 beautifully reproduced removable facsimile documents," which seem like they're designed to fall out of the book, frankly. Still, certainly worth a flip through, particularly if the images and reproductions really are high quality. 

5. Licensed comics like this are fascinating to me. Bob's Burgers is excellent television, certainly one of the best animated shows of the last few years, maybe even a real heir to The Simpsons. It's not without its issues, but it engages audiences on a number of different levels and doesn't talk down to them, which account, at least in part, for why the show works. Another reason, though, is that it seems so down to earth; even if the content of an episode is outlandish, one of my favorites climaxes in Bob holding a food critic hostage, it somehow seems plausible, similar to the exaggerated, stylized nature of many comics and cartoon humans-- we recognize them as like us, even though they don't look realistic. They're grounded enough to be affecting. The preview and the solicitation text suggest that the content of the comic is to be in canon but supplemental, and the creators involved have responded by playing some of the wilder features of the show out a little. This should be funny, but if it'll be the same kind of the satisfying as the cartoon should be an open question to any interested person.  

Manara Speaks

I don't have much to say about the ongoing conversation regarding Milo Manara's Spider-Woman variant cover, except that it's been very interesting to watch it play out. I did, though, want to point to an interview that Manara did with an Italian magazine called Fumettologica (the English grammar of the translation isn't great, but let's not get caught up in that). In it, he's candid, and he certainly doesn't do himself any favors, at times seeming to be a walking, talking male gaze. But I do think that there are ideas in the interview worth deep and serious thinking. For example:
I understand the controversy over the fact that the use of women bodies is a sensitive issue. And I couldn't agree more on the fact that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell ... silicone sealant. The thing that I do not agree is not so much the fact that these images are erotic, but the fact that they are banal. Everyone is capable of assign a beautiful image to any product: it is clear that you transfer to your product the beauty of that image. A trick so trivial that I find cloying. But when it comes to draw a character in red tights, whose line of work is skyscraper crawling, I see no scandal in the fact of drawing her in a seductive way. Because I imagine that's how she is.
Again, he's very clear that he was drawing in the superhero-as-sexual-fantasy mode, and that he doesn't see anything wrong with that. He actually seems genuinely confused, since superhero comics are largely tied up with the politics and aesthetics of the nude body:
That's the way Superheroes are: they are naked, covered in whatever color of paint. Superman is naked painted blue, Spider-Man is naked painted red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But that's part of the "trick", so to speak, that publishers use to create these forms of superheroes nude - of which I do not find anything wrong - but without real nudity. When we see them later in the stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are "in view."
He's right, but there's a disparity that he's implicitly accepting here; men's bodies are athletic and virile, while women's are seductive and erotic. It's a disparity that's prevalent. I like Manara's artwork, and I don't even think that this cover is particularly egregious, certainly not compared either to some of his other variants or to the stuff that gets published inside comics every week. At the very least, the art and the artist are honest about their intentions. If the variant cover in questions seems like a minor case, though, all that means is that there is something rotten in the state of superhero comics. Untangling and then rewiring the relationship between the erotic and the aesthetics of the "nude" superhero body is a small step towards renewal.