By Leroy Douresseaux
January 10, 2007 - 14:27
THE COMICS JOURNAL #279
I've already done the "The Comics Journal is the best magazine about comics in America" thing in previous reviews. Besides, the Eisner Awards say otherwise. However, The Comics Journal #279 does show why, over its entire run, it is such an entertaining, thought-provoking, crap-stirring, and enlightening magazine about comic books as art and as a serious medium for storytelling and informing beyond being mere consumer products. It's worth noting that by the time this review is posted, #280 will have been available for a week.
The cover feature is an interview of Dutch graphic designer, artist, and cartoonist Joost Swarte, conducted by Fantagraphics co-honcho Kim Thompson (a darn good interviewer), and David Peniston. I'm not a big fan of Swarte, but even people unfamiliar with him will be impressed by the generous examples of his work that illustrate this interview. There are 31 including photographs, design samples, and comix.
The issue's second interview is Noah Berlatsky's gabfest with the prince of make-em-laugh, the incomparable Johnny Ryan. The 24 images that illustrate the interview provide an accurate overview of Ryan's dark oeuvre (especially his digs at Harvey Pekar's American Splendor and the comic strip Dilbert).
TCJ Editor-in-Chief Gary Groth examines the Dark Horse Books tome, Eisner/Miller, in a review with the hilarious title "Hitchschlock/Truffaux," and Groth pretty much confirms the misgivings that kept me from buying Eisner/Miller. Other reviewed books include two DC/Vertigo graphic novels - Gilbert Hernandez's Sloth and Rick Veitch's Can't Get No, and also The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, American Born Chinese, Every Girl is the End of the World for Me by Jeffrey Brown, the trade collection of Howard Chaykin's City of Tomorrow, and Kyle Baker's The Bakers: "Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?"
For the past few years, each issue of TCJ has a comics section, which usually features rare material published in the first few decades of the history of comic books and rarely seen since. Cartoonist and comics historian Trina Robbins interviews pioneering woman comic book artist, Lily Renée. This issue's comics section presents 37 pages of Renée's comic book work, including full comics serials from such titles as Fight Comics ("Señorita Rio," the adventures of a Secret Service agent), Planet Comics ("The Lost World"), and Rangers Comics ("Werewolf Hunter").
I've just scratched the surface, but the Ryan interview alone is worth the cover price of the magazine.