Comic Art News and Reviews

Joe Dator puts a book together.

© Joe Dator

What do you wish you had known before making a book?

I wish I’d known even one single thing about book publishing. It was a massive learning experience, and I started from scratch.

For one thing, I found out that what goes in the book is an editorial concern, but the cover is very much a marketing concern. The cover needed to be locked down before I finished the book, so that it could be promoted. There were about twenty people c.c.ed on every email when we were finalizing the cover, with lots of notes about what they felt they could or could not market. It was a long process, but once the cover was locked down, they pretty much let me do whatever I wanted to do on the inside.

Another thing I learned is that the book publishing schedule goes something like this: “Slow… slow… slow… slow… and NOW EVERYTHING HAS TO BE DONE YESTERDAY!” The final weeks before the book went to press were a whirlwind.

Joe Dator describes putting INKED together at A Case For Pencils.


Saul Steinberg’s Life in Milan.

© Condé Nast

Steinberg never forgot the years spent in Milan (from 1933 to 1941), where he gained a degree at the faculty of Architecture in the Royal Polytechnic, besides making important friendships with several leading figures in the lively cultural world of the city. Milan is also the place where his artistic career starts, thanks to his first contributions to satirical magazines such as Il Bertoldo and Settebello, in the 1930s, through which he gained his precocious fame as a cartoonist.

Triennale Milano is devoting an exhibition to Saul Steinberg (1914-1999).


Alan King of Canadian Cartoons

Alan King’s most famous cartoon is probably the one he did in 1996 when Conrad Black bought the chain of Southam newspapers. The cartoon shows Black in front of a bowl labelled “Southam” and festooned with labels such as “Bank loans” and “Debt.” Black is saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing …”

It was in many ways a typical editorial cartoon: the expertly rendered caricature that gave Black a look of patrician satisfaction, the apt visual metaphors, the subtext — something about corporate acquisitiveness — that makes the best ones little masterpieces of commentary.

© Ottawa Citizen

There was one difference, however. In the corner, King crossed out his own name and signed it “Smith.” That was because Southam owned the Ottawa Citizen , where King worked. He was daring to mock his own boss and pretending to disguise the fact.

Jay Stone and The Ottawa Citizen reviews King of Cartoons.

When he died, we decided to honour his memory. We gathered his cartoons from Library and Archives Canada, Postmedia (now owner of the Citizen ), and King’s family members … Then we hired Burnstown Publishing House to print them up, as we say in the book business. They’re $25 each and we’re donating the profits to Alan’s favourite charities, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Giving.


Cheers to Ray Billingsley

© King Features Syndicate

Thumbs up to Stamford resident Ray Billingsley winning the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society. Billingsley, creator of the comic strip “Curtis,” collected the industry’s highest honor Oct. 16, joining a group of past winners such as fellow longtime Stamfordites Mort Walker (“Beetle Bailey”), Alex Raymond (“Flash Gordon”) and Ernie Bushmiller (“Nancy”).

Local cartoonist gets a high five from The Westport News.


Funky Preview

© Batom

I already showed these cover sketches once, but the actual cover/Sunday kept getting pushed back further and further on the schedule. It’s a beautiful Bob Wiacek cover, and I wanted to reconnect with what led up to it as the actual piece is about to see print on Sunday October 24th.

Tom Batiuk shows some layouts for next Sunday’s Funky Winkerbean.


A Webcomic New to Me (and You?)

© Alex Schumacher

If you’re a fan of comic strips, you may want to check out Alex Schumacher’s Mr. Butterchips. It’s a free-to-read webcomic you can check out right now, which features a smarmy talking monkey named Mr. Butterchips who lives in a surreal fictional west coast town. It’s a cartoon world with talking cellphones, giant viruses, and talking pills who walk around town generally annoying Mr. Butterchips.

There are currently 23 comic strips available to read right now, which are full-page comics featuring around five panels of the story each. If you have a morose sense of humor, generally lean liberal, and understand the awfulness of society and how leaving the house can be a whole catastrophe in waiting you’ll likely dig this webcomic.

David Brooke at AIPT reviews Mr. Butterchips by Alex Schumacher.


From Still Life to Live Action

Cartoonist Peter Waldner (Flight Deck, Paw Print) has taken to “two-reelers.”

Creativity can’t be denied. It’s something Peter Waldner has proven continually in his life, most recently producing a 22-minute film with a crew of Islanders during the COVID pandemic and while fighting his own health issues in the process.

Creativity can’t be denied. It’s something Peter Waldner has proven continually in his life, most recently producing a 22-minute film with a crew of Islanders during the COVID pandemic and while fighting his own health issues in the process.

This wasn’t a low-budget film, Mr. Waldner said. “It was a no-budget film.”

Julie Lane, for the Shelter Island Reporter, on A Tale of “Teen Pod”.


The Guy With Two Words for Death as His Name

© Mort Todd

Growing up in Yarmouth, Mort Todd loved to write and draw. By the time he was 12 and working as a junior counselor at a summer camp in Brunswick, he was getting paid, in part, to publish the camp’s weekly newspaper.

Crazy about comic books and a fast learner, he moved at 17 to New York City and started to get work as a writer and illustrator.At 18, he sold his first screenplay. At 23, he was named editor of the satirical humor magazine “Cracked,” which was selling hundreds of thousands of copies a month.

News Center Maine profiles Michael Delle-Femine.


Comics and Imperialistic Propaganda

© Phil S. Hirsch

“The Secret History of…” subtitles a few recent books in comics scholarship, leaving some of us befuddled as to what is the secret. That is not the total case with Paul S. Hirsch’s Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism. There are some of us who have researched the political economy of comics–topics such as conglomerate ownership of the comics industries, corporate/government tie-ins to comic/cartoon art, or governmental roles relative to comics of a regulatory, restrictive, and occasionally facilitative nature, all slighted in the corpus of literature.

Hirsch very effectively covers much ground and is able to provide useful contextual background in a coherent, well-organized fashion, full of fascinating excerpts from the comics, anecdotes, quoted material, and facts and opinions extracted from “secret war records, official legislative documents, and caches of personal papers.” Through textual analyses of the actual comic books and strips, he tells about cartoon characters, such as Little Moe, created by the USIA, to show the grim life of a citizen of an unnamed Communist nation.

John A. Lent, for the International Journal of Comic Art reviews Pulp Empire.


Header to the memory of John Balge.