Monday, September 11, 2017

The Louvre


What does a black ear, a curly q, and a jagged black line mean when they are all absorbed into the same entity?

Ken Kagami’s Freak Dog and Freak Boy takes the classic Peanut’s duo and explores how their iconography relates to both of them as independent bodies, but also as a singular being. Charlie Brown and Snoopy are linked for all eternity, from christmas specials to insurance conglomerate ads, they exists in the same breathe as each other. What separates Snoopy from Charlie seems to be at the heart of Kagami’s drawings, but as the leashed Charlie Brown on the cover makes clear, they are joined together for all eternity. They are one, but not one.

Kagami’s lineweight never changes. It creates a deadness in style that refuses the idea of flair. In this refusal though, Kagami allows the iconic nature of Charlie and Snoopy to shine through his drawings. Charlies jagged line shirt permeates any amalgamation of bodies and shapes Kagami decides to place the duo within, from beaker to chess set, they are both individually identifiable but always inseparably together.

Snoopy and Charlie are bound. Every configuration Kagami places the duo in means something different, visually, but it is always the bond between the two that is being reinforced. An inversion and examination of Schultz’s repetitive gags, Kagami utilizes the iconography of Schultz’s line and figures to explore what the bodies surrounding these icons mean.

A monstrous shape reforming and deforming, but always keeping the same elements.


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The footballs never pulled out, it is just absorbed alongside those playing with it.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Slippery



A Diary: Gold Bunny
By Nou
Gold Bunny is a sketchbook. Pictures of graffiti make up its limited page count. But it is the way in which these images interact, and react, to the surfaces they are being created on that is at the heart of Gold Bunny. There are two surfaces Nou’s art appears on, those created through physical mark making on public surfaces, and those created through the acquisition of public resources as a surface for mark making. Ink infused onto concrete, and stickers adhered to stop signs. It creates the question of a narrative. Texture as a form of appropriation and art. A condensed version of a city wide art project, a comic made up of photos of images being made, and of images already made. The thought of mass consumption made out of white out and stolen postal stickers.

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Clean Sweep
By CF

Lines printed on paper as delicate as capitalistic interests will allow the receipts of their transactions to exist on. The infinite scroll recreated within a finite number of inches, but requiring you to be careful at every moment of its unraveling or else it will tear from the sheer presence of your touch.


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Christmas In Prison
by Conor Stechschulte

The binding of this book is so tight it seems to be trying to close itself in your hands.
Keeping the pages open becomes an active pursuit.
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A book of a dozen titles, Christmas In Prison is a disjointed work of obsession filtered through a collection of odds and ends. Every page of every story reads like the idea of someone trying to figure out what exactly comics are, and can be.

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The Future of Art 25 Years Hence
by Gary Panter

Watercolors or film overlays. Otherworldly vehicles and art theory discussed by half wits and geniuses. Panter drops a gem of a comic between the advertisement filled pages of an art magazine that buried it in the back pages.

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Blaise Larmee1
By Blaise Larmee

(You can no longer read this comic online)


Two pixels by two pixels, grey and white boxes show a screen loading as slow as a dial up connection.

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A Slug traverses the entirety of this comic.

Not a figurative slug, or the metaphor of a slug, but a literal slug. Moving from the upper edge of the panel to the bottom. Sequenced through a series of photographs of a single repeating panel, Larmee reconfigures the way the reader interacts with a comics panel. Every second the slug inches towards the right side of the page a new photo is taken, creating a new way to interpret the the weather battered image.

Angles and rain damage.


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Interview: HTML Flowers




Corporate logos appear throughout No Visitors. How do you feel about medical care being used as a venue for advertisement?

i grew up going to the ronald mcdonald house for sick kids, at some point when i was older i realised the conflict of interest there. Being a corporation that by many accounts does nothing to aid society and a lot to fuck it over for it's own interests... we're the band aids, sick kids are used to make these super powers seem socially responsible. I Was A Disabled Child Mascot For Ronald McDonald.

it's a necessity for hospitals to accept corporate funding & collaborate with major conglomerates because we as a society have decided to say yes to governmental policy that believes there should be a limit to the funding afforded to medical industries and venues. i'm disgusted by the need for any charity at all. tax Mayor McCheese & free the sick.

Is drawing over medical paperwork an act of vandalism, an artistic gesture, or just the utilization of available resources?

i guess it's like reclamation. forcing these little sterile documents that archive the maintenance of my rotting body to acknowledge me, who i am. cheesy i kno. also tho sometimes ur just bored waiting for a test or operation so u just start drawing on forms u find and shit. sometimes u gotta sit around waiting for up to four or five hours to get x-rays etc. and because of insurance reasons u can't leave the bed they have u in sitting in some fucking dank hallway with some orderly watching u so u borrow a pen and draw on whatevers around.   



In No Visitors and your work on Werewolf Jones and Sons their is a strong dislike exhibited towards institutions, but while Werewolf Jones is able trash the principal's office after he questions his ability to parent, Little seem unable to perform a similar act of catharsis when it comes to the hospital.  How do you think these institutions play into these responses?

lol strong dislike of institutions is my brand, my social worker says i have an oppositional defensive attitude towards all forms of authority.

Little doesn't have the same options as WWJ, if Little alienates the hospital staff too much or committed aggressive acts towards his "carers" he would receive substandard care, in the least, or worse be banned from the hospital altogether and it wouldn't stop there, wherever he went after that he would be marked as a violent, aggressive patient. also WWJ acts almost entirely on impulse and doesn't give a fuck about jaxxon & diesel's formal education. i exposed my drip and spit at a gang of fucks who were gonna beat me up when i was out for a walk near my hospital like 9 years ago (lol my hospital is in a bad neighbourhood) which is where that came from. it really worked lol.

There's a greater focus on storytelling in No Visitors #2 compared to your earlier work, has your thoughts on writing comics changed?

i started trying to really talk about my life in a simple, non fantasy manner. i wanted to build something, see myself changed or change things about my life that i can't go back and change. show people how painful, rare & sometimes beautiful life with a chronic illness is. No Visitors #1 is basically just scraps and shorts that were all a part of the lead up to developing Little & his lifestyle, in fact i don't really consider the series properly starting until No Visitors 2. i've been working up to this for years, now i've arrived and i feel so much myself. i feel like i'm really making the work i'm supposed to have always made in a weird way. lol destiny.



Is bluntness important to you?

extremely. tell a good story in an easy way is what i try and stay true to whenever i write.

Who are your top three cartoonists who have also leaked their own nudes?

Charles Burns for his pioneering use of baby oil, Dan Clowes for his commitment to #nofilter nudes only & of course who could forget Johnny "The Mole Rat" Ryan for his immaculately hairless body hiding underneath all that flannel.    



You can purchase No Visitors along with other work by HTML Flowers here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

No Sleep



The first page of No Visitors #2 is an ad for The Starlight Foundation of Australia with a Nike logo superimposed over a child's forehead. The reverse page is a photocopy of a brochure asking patients to leave money to the hospitals in their wills.

This comic is littered with advertisements, but not funded by them.

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Sickness is pervasive in No Visitors. Its existence becomes something that can be used, by medical companies as a source of producing profit, by advertising firms to create good will for their brands, and by shitty people in the mall who want to make fun of someone.

Lost in each of these entities though is the person that is sick. That gap of humanity is at the heart of No Visitors #2. It makes that “object” a person and imbues them with a life, with thoughts and an attitude that just wants to tell them all to fuck off and die in a fire.

When Little pulls out his IV and sprays his food court bullies with his blood you see Little seizing the power back from the bullies in his life, from the doctors, nurses and everyone else who tries to tell him what to do.

At least in that moment...

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A KFC sponsored “art therapy” group opens the book and feels more like an ad campaign than an attempt at helping any of those involved. Little sits in a group circle feeling increasingly un-at ease with the show of corporate branding and overt racism on display, only to be told by a nurse “I don’t want to shame you…but you aren’t being very ‘recover committed’” for not appreciating KFC’s kindness.



There are moments of silence in these comics that don’t even exist in the comics themselves. Pauses in the panel to panel transitions based on moments that make you ask yourself a question you have to contemplate the second after you experience it. You don’t need a panel with Little’s eyes rolling and a word balloon with an ellipsis in it to understand how uncomforting the words nurses and doctors speak to him are; it is an inherent fact.



But it is a fact that HTML Flowers trusts the reader to understand without his explicit help, because he needs to tell you more and the page count isn’t long enough for him to explain it all to you.

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HTML Flowers vibrant colors are washed away into grayness in No Visitors #2. A few of these comics first appeared on Vice, in full color, but in this collection those colors, and the brightness they brought to Little’s surroundings are drained of their power, institutionalized and made uniform. Made grey.



These stories centralize on Little moving outside of the hospital staff. Of him interacting with other patients and other individuals, but as the backgrounds turn into a mass of grey and individuals faces become difficult to make out due to the printing process you see these outside interactions sapped of their life. The hospital takes over everything, even while binge eating in a mall food court Little is reminded of his illness by those grey toned figures sitting across from him. The colors that brought the outside world into focus are made neutral and regulated back into the world of the hospital.

It isn’t until Little is dealing solely with the hospital staff that HTML Flowers allows his line to exist on its own. It is clean and uninhibited, to a degree that forces the reader to focus in on the staff and surroundings that make up the hospital. You can see the dots in the administrators eyes.

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Nurses and doctors take on an almost adversarial role in No Visitors. They exist as workers at the impasse of interests groups; breathlessly referring to an art therapy group as “fingerlicking good” and shoving a nasal probe up Little’s nose with no regard for the violent convulsions he exhibits. That Little pops a boner during the probe only plays further into the power dynamics of these interactions, of a sub and dom existing in a seemingly care giving focused setting, that only the patient is able to fully experience and try to process.

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I spilt a beer on No Visitors #2 a few weeks ago. This seems oddly prophetic since my copy of Werewolf Jones and Sons showed up with an apology drawing from Simon Hanselmann for spilling his own beer on it.

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There's a way doctors and nurses talk to Little that HTML Flowers builds up. Distanced phrasing and side comments create an all encompassing system of language that exist solely between patients and caregivers. Words that are never spoken are still communicated; through glances and touches, but the subtext is always that of power over the other.

The phrasing is reminiscent of adults talking about a child within their vicinity, acknowledging their presence but ignoring them through couched language. Nurses talk to patients as if they are objects needing to be moved around in a preselected order, and doctors talk to them as if they don’t exist at all, as if their every word is an automated response to a list that has to be checked off.  Waivers and legalize surround these interactions so much that an apology for a botched surgery isn’t even capable of being given.

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Scans of medical paperwork mark chapter breaks in No Visitors. You can see HTML Flowers medical records, the desensitized handwriting of someone else describing his treatments, and the illustrations he chooses to put on top of them. Hands and fingers manipulating faces. Instruction manuals littered with choke holds and fish hooks. Bodies being moved around space.

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The third and final comic featured in No Visitors, Surgery, is guttural.

The way doctors talk in No Visitors takes on a new dimension when you watch Little’s eyes well up as the procedure goes on. The inhumanity of opening an interaction with asking a person to sign a waiver and ending it, after a botched surgery, with saying he legally can’t apologize stays with you after every reread.



Reaction shots of agony juxtaposed with word balloons of a doctor unwilling to acknowledge the pain he is inflicting, or that it is his fault it is being caused. A hand grasping a hospital bed sheet, a head moving left and right trying to not acknowledge the arm being torn apart by a doctor's blade, panels of a clock's hand ticking and toking as the surgery continues to move forward. Incompetence on a scale that only a close up of its victims face can convey.

The lingering silence, the sterilized smell and stillness in the air before the doctor leaves the room doesn’t seem enough punishment for the doctor, but Little doesn’t ask for an apology, just for his chart to be adjusted so it might not happen again.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Unleashed In The East: An Interview With Anna Haifisch




Anna Haifisch was born in Leipzig, East Germany, in 1986, three years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite the Reunification of 1990, the former German Democratic Republic has not only lacked prosperity in the aftermath of a socialist market economy, but also an artistic vision. These shortcomings have led to a persistent climate of economic and artistic inequality that is comparable to current divisions in Germany's comics scene. Starting in the late 2000s as an initiative led by Berlin publishers Reprodukt and Avant, pushing the term 'graphic novel' at the expense of 'comics' has become an essential strategy to place their publications in mainstream media and bookstores and achieve accolades and moderate sales successes, as well as public and private funding. This aggressive grab for respectability and subsidization has resulted in a series of monotonously constructed, pseudo-literary comics, many of them dealing with the GDR or Nazi Germany, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Haifisch has managed to avoid these artistic pitfalls, despite growing up, studying illustration and running her studio in those parts of Germany still frequently considered to be deprived or left behind. Departing considerably from the one-note formula that dominates contemporary German comics, Haifisch places herself in the role of 'The Artist,' outside and above these conventions and therefore able to add invaluably to the slow change within the German comics scene towards a new vision. It is a vision that extends beyond the confines of German comics and beyond the boundaries of the German language. Haifisch's series for Vice magazine, 'The Artist,' is slated for a fall 2016 release by both French publisher Editions Misma and England-based Breakdown Press. It follows the joint French and German release of 'Von Spatz,' her first long-form comic, in 2015. 

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How in the world did an East German end up with those usually reluctant poseurs at Vice?

Alex Schubert, who draws the 'Blobby Boys,' recommended my work to Nick Gazin, Vice's art editor. As far as I know, it took him a while until Nick was convinced. Thank you, Alex! Thank you, Nick, for trusting me. I'm very thankful for that.

'The Artist' exists as a naked, disheveled white void across the series. Is this meant to show the impoverishment of the artist's life, as a commentary on the artistic ego, or do you just not like drawing clothes?

I wanted him to look malnourished and pale. And yes, he is a nameless white void. He is THE Artist, he is AN artist and he is (never forget where you're coming from) a bird.

I took notice of your use of Calimero in a strip you recently did with Nick Gazin for Vice. Is placing Calimero next to Robert Crumb in that strip a comment on the use of racist stereotypes, i.e. whitewashing?
What? I was four Coors in and Gazin was high. This comic is clearly about hats or something.

Is the beanie you're constantly wearing sort of a tribute to that cracked eggshell of Calimero? Are there other looks from comics-related protagonists you're sporting, like -uhm- Andy Capp? If not, could you name three of your favorite characters in comics?

Ooh, I love the symbol of the broken eggshell so much. If Calimero didn't already wear one, the Artist would. I like Woodstock, Owl and Widow Douglas so much.

And why would anybody label you as an 'art-comics darling'?

Ask yourself that, since you where the one calling me that.

Art school serves as a common punchline across American comics. Having experienced both American and German art scenes, is there a universality of experience, or are Americans just more open for mockery? Do you feel more connected to American cartoonists? Are there German cartoonists who had an influence on your work?

I don't think I know both scenes very well. Just certain groups, people whose work I like. My American friends are wilder cartoonists, more reckless in their art. Maybe less happy, I don't know, maybe because of the circumstances. I'm very grateful for my German comic mates too. Excellent people. Max Baitinger, Jul Gordon, Sascha Hommer, Aisha Franz, …

My biggest influence is James Turek, my best friend, my studio mate, my muse. He's American though. But besides James it's mostly German painters and my friends who're doing graphic design, not comics.

You have left your former publishing house in Germany, Rotopolpress, to work with Reprodukt now. The latter is known for pushing the term 'graphic novel' to get its products into bookstores and receive favorable reviews from the mainstream press. By doing so, Reprodukt tries to create a new, 'literary' reception which appears to be quite different from the usual fandom. Any thoughts on that?

I didn't leave Rotopol. Reprodukt borrowed me for one book. I'm part of a dreamy threesome, you don't know what you're talking about.

I still don't know what a graphic novel is, but I appreciate anything that Reprodukt does to reach out for new audiences apart from sweaty perverts with awful taste. The depiction of the typical German comic reader still keeps me away from saying 'Ich zeichne Comics' ('I draw comics') in public. It's fucking embarrassing.

I want my work to be in art galleries, feuilletons and libraries - anywhere - just far away from these people. I'd call it 'graphic novel' or whatever [else it takes].

Shout out to Rotopol and Reprodukt! Fuck the mainstream! I don't care.

Do other cartoonists' characters (Burkholder's Sexy Frog, Schubert's Blobby Boys) only exist in The Artist's drug addled mind, or do they all just really like hanging out at the disco? Probably in the shower?

Oh yeah, they would be great in the shower together or playing cricket. Stuff good friends would do. They can all come over to my house. It would be so wonderful.



Did you intend to become rich by co-founding the Millionaire Club? If so, why did you publish stuff by Andy Burkholder or G.W. Duncanson within your Tiny Masters series?

We are millionaires! Rich in visions, ca$hing in on red hats.

Duncanson's tumblr isn't named 'cash money cartoons' for nothing and Andy is the mogul behind ITDN group and Oireau. They're gems and we are visionaries.

Are cobras The Artist's sunflower paintings, or just a reminder to not put on pants?

Everything the Artist creates is a placeholder for contemporary art. No meaning but this. It's my mission for him and his burden.

Are your lines just erratic because of your hunger for success? C'mon, no one's buying the stuff about paying homage to Saul Steinberg.

There's so much I want: I want to be successful, I want my drawings to be read and shown. I want to be influential, I want to be rich.

But the reason for my shaky lines is my nervous and impatient temper.


When you shift to a documentary storytelling device in 'The Artist,' what do you think the narrator sounds like? These sections also take on a more mythological tone from the rest of the series. What do you find interesting about this particular storytelling device?

Patrick Kyle should be the narrator. He has a beautiful deep voice.

The religious or mythological tone is my favorite part of writing 'The Artist.' It's pure honesty. When I talk about artists as saviors and saints, I really mean it (and every other word, too). It's me giving a speech. I deeply believe that art is mankind's last straw before it sinks into brutality and chaos. If we let go of art, the world is lost and we will all die not soon after.

Alright then, please name three things you like about Blaise Larmee's Three Books. Don't use the words Tawrāt, Zabūr and ʾInjīl‎ while trying to do it. Furthermore, please explain making use of him as a doctor in “The Artist“.

I really like Blaise's sense of design. The layout and the book itself is beautiful. I like the pretentiousness of his alter egos, the exaggeration behind each of the three books. It succeeded in convincing me that Blaise is a thoughtful prince of comics.

Blaise is comics' family doctor. He is going to heal comics from monotony and will eventually be the naked Icarus who's leading the medium towards the sun where it will burn down to the core. A sigh of relief will shake the forests and deserts and we can all move on to bigger things. That's what the cameo meant.



Is your rehab playlet 'Von Spatz,' which features Walt Disney at a breaking point, color-coded to reference pink flamingos? If so, in a Michael Mann or in a John Waters manner? Are you disneyfied? Ub Iwerks or Floyd Gottfredson?

No, not at all. I don't watch a lot of movies. I wouldn't reference any. My colors are coming from my former days as a screen printer.

I am disneyfied like everybody else. Every child grew up with Disney's characters. He's the most famous artist on this planet and therefore I admire him. There's something about early photographs of the first Disney Studios… they're really touching. Walt and his friends are looking so happily into the camera. Full of hope and not afraid.

As someone who hates Nancy and Sluggo, do you see any relationship between the beats of a four-panel strip and a four-page comic? Are repetition and structure important aspects of comedy?

I think repetition is essential for comics. I don't know how many times I'm drawing the same thing. From panel to panel, making sure the reader can follow my thoughts. This turns drawing comics into a drag sometimes. You can't be lazy, there are no shortcuts to repetition. Right now I can't make a lot of sense of that, sorry. You better read Andy Burkholder's comics for more information on repetition.

Final music-related and blunt question: Do you think Blaise Larmee and DJ Escrow are the same person?

I like Blaise and Dean Blunt. I don’t know who DJ Escrow is.


Interview conducted by Shawn Starr and Oliver Ristau.
Proofreading by Marc-Oliver Frisch.