Friday, April 24, 2009

Craig Yoe Talks about Joe Shuster's Fetish Art on Yesterday's "Fresh Air"

On last night's broadcast of "Fresh Air," NPR's Terry Gross interviewed my pal Craig Yoe, author of the new book Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster. I got a peek at the book a few months back at the New York Comic Con, and it looks great! I can't wait to get a copy of my own. Much of this work has laid "undiscovered" for decades; Craig's done a great service by presenting and discussing this work, showing us another side of the artist who's best-known (possibly only known) to the general public for having created, with Jerry Siegel, that obscure comic book character Superman.

Listen to Terry Gross' interview with Craig Yoe here.

I've heard rumblings from a (very) few comics fans who lament the book's existence, saying that it sullies Joe Shuster's memory. I couldn't disagree more; the book adds to our knowledge of Shuster, revealing where his opportunities lay once DC Comics had no more use for his services and showing us how his art "matured" (in more than one sense) after he drew the Man of Steel. I've also heard fans say that the art in this book will "overshadow" his work on Superman. Honestly, could that really happen? Will people now remember only this work and forget his co-creation of Superman? Hardly. Or, to put it another way, it's simply inconceivable.

For more information on the book, check out's feature page for Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster. We also have info on some of Craig's other books, like Clean Cartoonists' Dirty Drawings and Modern Arf: Artists + Models: The Naked Truth. And no, Craig doesn't just write books with nekkid ladies in them - check out his website for a complete list. Obviously, I need to add - and OWN - the rest of his books!

Addendum: As everyone who's met him or read his book-blog knows, Craig Yoe is one of those shy, retiring types, never one to toot his own horn without painful prodding. I'm not sure who was holding a gun to his head, but somehow he was convinced to create an image promoting his radio appearance:
Very clever, Craig! But I know your secret. You stole - er, appropriated - that face from the original version of your new book's cover.Image credits: Top - cover to Secret Identity, probably Copyright © 2009 Abrams ComicArts. Middle: Copyright © 2009 Craig Yoe. Bottom: A "yoe-toe-shopped" mash-up of the two by moi.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Interview at Sequential Tart!

This week's installment of Sequential Tart (one of the top American comics webzines) features an interview with yours truly, with an eventual focus on my new book, 500 Essential Graphic Novels. Rebecca Buchanon, my intrepid interviewer, starts off with biographical questions; readers will learn quite a bit (too much?) about me as well as about the book.

This was my first real interview, and I thank Rebecca and the Tarts for their wide-ranging interest!

Yikes, I almost forgot: Here's the link to the interview. Enter freely, and of your own will.

I've got another interview coming up soon-ish (I'm working on it right now, Tim!), and I'll alert all 22 of my readers once that one's live.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Our Thoughts on Superheroes are World-Famous in Dubai

"Man and Uber Man" is a fairly lengthy think-piece on superheroes, published on July 2 in the 4Men section of Gulf News, a newspaper out of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nitin Nair, the researcher, asked some interesting questions and ended up using a lot of what I'd said. I'm in pretty good company too; he also spoke with Douglas Wolk (whose Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean I still need to add to and Gotham Chopra, the chief creative officer of Virgin Comics (and son of mega-selling author Deepak Chopra).

Note: At present, the article's first three paragraphs appear to have come from an unrelated piece, The actual article starts "For a minute, let's assume that you grew up without having known the world of superheroes."

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Publication: Conversations with Art Spiegelman

In 2002 I was invited to interview Art Spiegelman at the International Comic Arts Festival; the event was co-sponsored by the Small Press Expo. I admit to being a bit nervous at the time: It was the first time I'd interviewed anyone, let alone someone I'd written about in my dissertation. Doing so in front of a large crowd didn't help, either. But Spiegelman certainly did; he's not just a ready speaker, but very articulate about his (and others') work.

I made sure to record the interview (thanks for the help, Mark Nevins!), which was fortunate. Joseph Witek, author of Comic Books as History, later contacted me about including a transcript of the interview in his upcoming volume for the University Press of Mississippi entitled Art Spiegelman: Conversations.
The book was published earlier this year, and it's quite an impressive volume. It'll prove to be a valuable book to scholars, of course. But Spiegelman's gift for analysis (and of gab!) makes the book a great read for anyone interested in comics as an art form. It's a worthy addition to UPM's essential Conversations with Comics Artists Series. (Naturally, I'd say all of this even if I hadn't contributed to it.)

Click here for's listing for
Art Spiegelman: Conversations.

Image: Photo from The Comics Journal's coverage of ICAF/SPX. Although I had written for TCJ for many years, the caption-writer obviously felt that given the choice between identifying me or Spiegelman's cigarette, the smoke was the more well-known participant.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hartford Courant on Lisa's Death in "Funky Winkerbean" - with Commentary

Regular newspaper-comics readers are likely aware that Lisa, a character in Tom Batiuk's popular and long-running strip Funky Winkerbean, died this week from a relapse of cancer - today, in fact. Unsurprisingly, the story has garnered lots of media attention. Apart from the regrettable (although expected) litanies of "This is just horrible, my funnies should be funny" reactions from many readers, the majority of these stories have wisely focused on Batiuk's decision to use the storyline - and subsequent publication - to raise money for cancer research with the establishment of Lisa's Legacy Fund. (Click here for more information on the fund.)

Today's issue of the Hartford Courant features a very good, somewhat longer-than-usual article on the event. Courant reporter (and longtime phone-pal) Bill Weir contacted me yesterday for my opinions, and I'm happy that Jesse Leavenworth, the article's writer, found some of my comments useful.

You can read the article, "A Comic Strip for a Cause," along with a PDF of today's installment of the strip, here. And in case you've missed the strip, you can always read the last 30 days of it courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This image comes from today's Courant story.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Superman Returns... to Beijing

Last month I was interviewed by a reporter from That's Beijing, the city's English-language magazine, for an article concerning the new film Superman Returns. The reporter was particularly interested in addressing potential reasons why superheroes are primarily an American phenomenon. The article's now online at the magazine's website, as well as via

It's an interesting article, in that it provides some culturally "outsider" views of the superhero genre. And apart from speaking to me and to various Beijing residents, the reporter also spoke with long-time pal Pete Coogan, co-chair of the Comic Arts Conference and author of the brand-new book Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre. I've not seen a copy of Pete's book yet, but once I do I'll review it here.

My interview for the article was conducted via email, and I'll post my off-the-cuff ruminations soon.

This illustration ran with the original That's Beijing article.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In the News: "Menace to Comic Heroes?"
(LA Times)

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to Michelle Keller, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, on the topic of digital piracy in the comic book field. The result was published in today's (Monday, 29 May) paper: "Menace to Comic Heroes?" (you might need to register in order to read it). Wired magazine ran a simliar but less in-depth piece last month, as well.

The LA Times story covers the topic from many angles, from publishers to comics shop owners to readers both younger and, ahem, older (that would be moi). I'm quoted arguing for a possibly not-so-drastic impact: "The collector mind-set says, 'I need the paper issue.'" And while I do believe that's true, it's also true that younger readers -- heck, younger people in general -- are more accustomed to thinking in terms like instant access and transferred bits than they are mint condition and mylar bags.

Apart from select features like Marvel's "Digital Comics," most traditional US publishing companies don't offer dowloadable digital comic books. Even Marvel's offerings are strictly on-line; you can't download a comic and take it with you, you must read it while connected to the Internet. In a half-way move into the digital realm, though, Marvel has begun offering great slabs of its library on DVD-Rom: you can get 500+ issues each of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and Uncanny X-Men on shiny media for about $50 per title.

To me, this is a real bargain; and I'd bet if publishers offered legal downloads of back-issues like these at a comparable price to the physical-media digital versions -- that's 10 cents per issue, kids! -- lots of folks would jump at the opportunity. I know I would.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

In the News: "Comic Wars"

Almost missed this one: Last Monday's Hartford Courant ran an article entitled "Comic Wars: Cartoonists Take Potshots at Each Other, But it's All in Fun" (22 May 2006). The article discusses the habit some cartoonists have of mentioning or featuring other cartoonists in their work; in this case, the catalysts were Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine"), Darby Conley ("Get Fuzzy"), and Rick Stromski ("Soup to Nuts").

The author of the article, Bill Weir, has written a number of comics-related articles for the Courant, and I've been honored to be quoted in a couple of them. This time he e-mailed me about the topic, and I mentioned a few other such cross-over "feuds." Perhaps that's where Bill got the idea to speak with Bill Griffith ("Zippy the Pinhead") concerning Griffith's mutual love-fest with Bil & Jeff Keane's "The Family Circus." In any event, in the illo above I've highighted one instance where the Keanes have slipped a Zippy cameo into (in Weir's wonderful words) their "preternaturally wholesome world." (Hey, Zippy and circuses are a perfect fit - why'd I never think of that before?)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Comics Studies at the University of Florida

In the last few years, the University of Florida has become a magnet for graduate studies in comic art. When you know that pioneering scholar Dr. Don Ault teaches there, this information isn't terribly surprising. Don's scholarly interests range from William Blake to Carl Barks, the "Good Duck Artist" who is best known for bringing life to Scrooge McDuck in Disney comic books. (Here's one of Don's articles, encompassing both Blake and Barks!) Florida also hosts a yearly conference on comics and now hosts the Comics Scholars' Discussion List.

Don is quoted today in an article on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln library's new comics collection, where he briefly discusses the growth of comics scholarship. He also drops this tidbit about comics studies in his own backyard:
[T]he University of Florida has more students applying for post-graduate work in comic books than any other field this year.
This statistic is great news for the field, and is a tribute to all of the hard work and dedication put forth by Don and his host of graduate students.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Alternative Comics: An Emerging Conversation

Getting in on the Ground Floor Dep't:Tom Spurgeon's excellent today begins a week-long, ongoing interrogation apologia conversation over the new book Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature. The combatants participants are Charles Hatfield, the book's author, and Bart Beaty, who writes CR's regular Conversational Euro-Comics column. Both are university professors whose primary field of research involves comics. (Full disclosure: They're also friends of mine - Bart from years of on-line discussion-list banter, academic conferences, and comics-related activities, including one lunch in which we and a few others planned an ill-fated hostile take-over of the Comics Journal; and Charles from our [many] years as graduate students and bad influences over each other at the University of Connecticut.)

The conversation should prove insightful, enlightening, and full o' meaty, intellectual goodness: Neither of these gentlemen, to my recollection, has ever suffered from a loss of words. The conversation begins with a bang, as Bart begins with "simple" questions, such as pretty much challenging the very foundations of Charles' book: "I'm skeptical of claims that comics are "primarily a 'literary form.'" In his response, Charles asserts, "I suppose what I want the book to do is, not simply elevate comics, but poke and prod at the whole traditional, hidebound notion of what 'Literature' is." Wow, these kids take this stuff seriously.

There's lots more to both sides than I've indicated here, natch; but I think I have to give this round to Bart. Charles ol' pal, why not take the direct route and make Bart read the entire title? I was under the impression that the book's overall argument was that "alternative comics" [this specific subset of all-that-might-be-labeled-comics] can and should be seen as "a literature" - that is, a distinct, and in some respects cohesive, body of texts, with its own tropes, tics, and ties. Anyway, that's what I might have said - but hey, it's Charles' book; and besides, I still, um, need to read it...

But don't let me stop you - head over right now to Let's You and Him Fight. Next month it's Bart's turn to roast over the coals of Craig Fischer's probing intellect; in fact, I think I can hear Craig sharpening his critical claws already.

Above: the cover to Charles' book. Go buy it, already!

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