FF1990: Real Girl

Real Girl #1-9 edited by Angela Bocage.

I had forgotten how many anthologies Fantagraphics used to publish. Anthologies are still a thing, but I don’t think there’s much being published in something resembling this format: An editor who wants to explore a specific theme, and then invites contributors to participate. (Perhaps Island by Brandon Graham and Emma Ríos would qualify…)

This time out we’ve got Real Girl edited by Angela Bocage. “The Sex Comik for all genders and orientation… by cartoonists who are good in bed!™”

The editorial in the first issue is quite clear: This is to be a sex positive book, but not necessarily porn. However, most of the stories in the first issue are more… er… looking at sex and gender issues from a less sexy side.

Donna Barr writes about how males aren’t really necessary, and provides several ideas on how to protect yourself from them (kick them in the knee, not the groin, because you may tipple over).

Mary Fleener does a story about a hook up gone awry in her beautiful cubismo style…

Terry Laban does a story about an asshole who beats his wife.

So perhaps not hitting the spec 100%.

But I love these tips in Rebecka Wright’s little essay. “Eschew anything trivial. Embrace all that is frivolous.” That’s my life!

With the second issue, the book goes from magazine size to standard comic book size. For most of the 80s, magazine size was the default Fantagraphics size, but I guess they gave that up as the 90s started…

What a lovely one-page story by Phoebe Gloeckner.

“Sold well for an anthology.”

An “Alec” back cover by Eddie Campbell. It’s about sex.

I love this Diane Noomin story about visiting Aline Kominsky and her mother:


Tee hee. But back to the sex:

Yipes. This story by Judy Becker is not a little bit creepy, but it also feels extremely true to life. And here’s from her story in the next issue:

Yes, what were those stains! WHAT!!!

The artist having the most pages in the first few issues was probably Mario Hernandez. But here his brother shows up with a lovely cover for issue five:

Trina Robbins is in all the issues, I think, and she does paper dolls every time. This double page spread has Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas:

Get clipping and start playing.

The great Anne Bernstein shows up with a wild story featuring actual sex. Well. Sort of.

Each issue of Girl Talk usually has a text piece, too, and this one places words after one another that I think nobody has placed after one another before or since:

I mean the first sentence up there. The rest sounds quite normal.

In the editorial for this issue, Bocage mentions that the next issue will be the final one. It isn’t; there’s one more after that one. I think it might be the only time I’ve seen an editor prematurely announce the death of a series — they’re usually overly optimistic and predict a large and positive future, only to disappear into the ether.

One other fun thing about the seventh issue of Girl Talk is that half of it is taken up by the first issue of Girltalk:

Here represented by the cover by the wonderful Fiona Smyth. This will spin off into its own book published by Fantagraphics, and I’ll be covering that later. But, in short, it’s a book created by artists mostly associated with World War 3, and it’s not hard to tell:

Most of the artists are quite interested in formal comic book stuff, while the parent book here (i.e., Real Girl) isn’t… that much…

Speaking of which, the 8th (and originally final) book is dominated by a harrowing story by Seth Tobocman about that guy up there terrorising the titular Joan and an anarchist squat. Great stuff, but it’s weird to spend two thirds of this particular anthology on it.

It says that it was to be part of a forthcoming graphic novel, War in the Neighborhood, to be published “soon”. It was published five years later, and I think I have it here somewhere… but I can’t remember this story from that book. (I mean, if I did read the book.) Anybody remember?

A Valerie Solanas paper doll from Trina Robbins this time.

The ninth and final issue is quite different from the other issues. Instead of having quite wordy, plot driven and often humorous stories, it’s mostly sex.

That’s Sandy Spreitz, an artist I’m not familiar with, but who does some lovely pages here…

Seth Tobocman doing sex stuff instead of anarchist squatting stuff…

Angela Bocage herself doing… er… her stuff…

Anyway, there you go. Rereading this was quite fun. There’s an old school underground quality to most of the stories, but it can’t be denied that it’s, on the whole, quite uneven. But the interesting items more than outweigh the less scintillating tales, so… Good show.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

FF1986: Lloyd Llewellyn

Lloyd Llewellyn #1-6 by Daniel Clowes.

Daniel Clowes is one of the most celebrated comics artists working today, but back in 1986 (when he was 25), he created his first comic book series: Lloyd Llewellyn. To say that it was an overwhelming success would probably to be overwhelmingly generous.

Before doing this series, he had contributed a number of pieces to the Cracked magazine, which was a cheaper but weirder Mad knock-off, and Clowes is on that mode for the first few issues.

The stories hover around an eight page length, and they are mostly semi-parodies of detective stories set somewhere in a mythical very late 50s setting. Lots of dames and beatniks and zany aliens.

Looking at the earliest pages here (like the one above), it’s not easy to tell whether this is an artist who has honed his skill and style carefully down to its essence, or whether it’s just someone who doesn’t really draw very well, but has learned some stylistic ticks and applied them consistently.

I kid.

But it’s still quite attractive. The extremely stiff postures, the unvarying lines, the zip-a-tone… It’s got something interesting going on, and I remember being quite enthused by the artwork as a teenager. But I did stop buying this magazine after the first issue, because I just didn’t find it to be funny enough.

And is that a Richard Sala strangler up there in the top right-hand panel?

I’m enjoying it more now, I think. The Joost Swarte-ish robot is nice…

But, of course, the most striking thing about Clowes’ art style here is that it’s very Bernie Krigstein inspired. If by “inspired” you substitute “it looks like Clowes has the complete works of Krigstein stapled to the wall over his drawing desk”, which is fine by me. There can never be too much Krigstein in the world.

Heh, heh. “Eight-ball”. When Clowes launched his much more successful (critical and commercial) series a few years later, that’s what he called it, but it’s a word he used even at this early stage.

The other obvious point of reference for these stories are all those silly comics DC published in the 60s. Something wacky would always seemed to have happened to Our Hero, and the story explain how.

Gotta love those faces.

The third issue breaks with the format somewhat, by having just a single longer story, but it’s broken up into four chapters, so it’s not that much of a departure. The storyline is exactly what you’d expect from that title up there.

Clowes’ art evolves quite a bit over the Lloyd Llewellyn period. I think this is the first appearance of what came to be the “classical Clowes face”. The thick-and-thin lines in a staring face inexplicably covered by a shadow. In the early Eightball years, he’d continue to render and render and render variations of it to great success.

One of Clowes’ later graphic novels is called “David Boring”, but it was a name he’d liked for quite a while. Here as “Professor Boring”. And it is a good name.

The main problem I had with Lloyd Llewellyn as a teenager, and that I still have, is that its verbiage doesn’t pay off. If you’re going to do this much text, it should be funnier, or at least … better. But much of it just sits there.

Whodathunk it! Lloyd Llewelling looks just like Clowes!

That’s a very pretty splash page. Leaps and bounds over how this series started, I think.

The final issue of Lloyd Llewellyn is something of a transitional issue. There’s less 50s hipster talk and Llewellyn is a drifter instead of a private dick (at least in the first, and most Eightball like story). Instead of trying to solve some mystery (which is what most of the stories up until this point had been about, however wacky), it’s more of a descent into a nightmare world where coincidences drive the story.

In Eightball, the major first serial would pick up on this very majorly, as the next US president would put it.

And I’m including this panel because it’s a depiction of the future, which Clowes would revisit this year in his major success of the year, Patience. I think, basically, this panel could have been dropped into that book. So Clowes had arrived at his final style here in this book from 1987, which was earlier than I had imagined.

I finish here with what I assume is a self portrait by Clowes, done in a very un-Clowsey style. Nice!

I think Lloyd Llewellyn is perhaps the best example of Fantagraphics picking up on a talented (if in-the-rough) artist and sticking by them, even if what they were making didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Sometimes it paid off big, as with Clowes and Peter Bagge, and sometimes they were unable to convince the world of the artist’s greatness.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

Emacs Imgur Interface

It was suggested on github that the Emacs meme creator should offer uploading images to imgur (and return the resulting URL) for max magic.  That seems extremely true.

There is already an imgur.el on github, but it’s doesn’t seem ideal (it does much more than just uploading; it seems to be using an older API; it relies on external programs; and most seriously: it wasn’t written by me), so I wrote a new one.

(For convenience, I’ve included the imgur.el in the meme repository, too.)

Kudos to the imgur people for creating such an easy API for uploading images.  It literally took 15 minutes to write imgur.el.  Literally!


An Emacs Meme Generator

I got an idea tonight: Emacs must have a meme generator.  Using a web browser seems so jejune.

After pondering a few minutes and then typing a few hours, here it is.  And here’s how it looks in action:

It basically just manipulates an SVG image, so it’s less work than you’d expect.

If you want to play around with it, you need a very fresh Emacs trunk; see this for easy installation instructions.  You also need the Impact font from the Microsoft font collection; in Debian it’s installed by saying

apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

Uhm…  I think that’s basically it.


FF1995: Filibusting Comics

Filibusting Comics #1 by Dylan Sisson.

This book is a parody of Scott McCloud’s seminal “Understanding Comics” book. I mean, that’s a pretty sticky book.

McCloud’s career is an unusual one. He made a fondly remembered book back in the 80s, Zot, that wasn’t a major commercial success. It was sweet and fun, but not without flaws. Then he wrote the aforementioned glutinous theoretical work (about, er, understanding comics) which was a great success. It was discussed widely. Everybody bought a copy. Universities have it on their curriculae. And it’s a bit ridiculous.

Then not much happened until he created the smash hit graphic novel called The Sculptor the other year, which is awful. Aaawful. (The “Best American Comics” anthology he edited a few years back was great, though, so he obviously has good taste.)

So puzzle.

And I was a bit unfair up there about that viscous book. It formulated many thoughts about comics clearly and understandably. If a bit pendantically, as parodied above. The worst thing about the book, I think, was the way it seemed to beg for legitimacy throughout, for instance by making the ludicrous claim that comics had always been there, if we just squint a lot:

See skewering above.

This is a quite funny parody if you’re read the mucilaginous McCloud book, but will otherwise be a bit on the “eh?” side, I suspect.

This post is part of the Fantagraphics Floppies series.

WFC Japan: 宇宙海賊キャプテンハーロック

The Blu-Ray turns out not to have any languages that I understand, so I had to use the online Internet film caches to get a copy I could watch. (Well, actually two copies, since the first one (as can be seen in the first screenshots) was very artifacty.)

This is a vert un-nerdy un-science fictioney film, so almost every scene something is going on that makes me go “er… a scull and bones flag outside the space ship blowing in the… wind?” or the like.

Perhaps they designed this film to annoy pendants.

Great hair animation.

I liked bits of this film enormously, but there’s plenty of stuff that’s just… standard.

Space Captain Pirate Harlock. Shinji Aramaki. 2013. Japan.

Tatami Cocktail

  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • 1 part apricot brandy
  • a dash of lemon juice
  • 2 parts whiskey
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 1 part Kahlua

Shake everything but the Kahlua in an ice filled shaker. Pour into a cocktail glass. Add the Kahlua to the top, but don’t stir. Burn some dried lemongrass and then add to the cocktail as a garnish.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.