Sunday, December 14, 2008

President Bill (not Clinton)

At a used book store yesterday, I ran across President Bill by William L. Brown. This panel used to run in the Washington City Paper in the late 1980s - the Bill is not Clinton, but Bill of Takoma Park, MD who is chosen at random to be the president. Bill's pretty left-wing and had some odd ideas about how to run a country. Brown's artwork was done on scratchboard, leading to a woodcut-like look. The book has an introduction by Jules Feiffer. The story holds up okay, especially after the past 8 years.

Brown still does illustrations every once in a while for Washington papers.

Big Planet on USA Today's Pop Candy blog

I didn't even know that Pop Candy blogger Whitney Matheson was based in DC, but she's moved to New York and has a list of things she misses about DC - one of which is 24. Well-organized shelves at Big Planet Comics.

Somehow I never ran into her and I'm sorry I missed her.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bettie Page in Post and Times

Bettie Page was a pinup model who was rediscovered by a later generation of comic book fanboys, particularly Dave Stevens, the Rocketeer cartoonist. Here's some articles about her:

"Bettie Page, Queen of Pinups, Dies at 85," By ROBERT D. McFADDEN, New York Times December 12, 2008.

"Bettie Page; '50s Cheesecake Icon Revered as Queen of Retro Kitsch," By Joe Holley and Matt Schudel, Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, December 13, 2008; B05.

"Bettie Page Let Us Peep, Perchance To Dream," By Stephen Hunter, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, December 13, 2008; C01.

"An Appraisal - Always Comfortable in Her Own Skin," By MANOHLA DARGIS, New York Times December 13, 2008.

That darn Toles, continued

Another winning letter to the editor!

Balancing Toles
Washington Post December 13 2008

Here's a suggestion: Why not use a conservative cartoonist a couple of times a week, as a supplement to Tom Toles?

If that doesn't appeal to you, perhaps you could at least find some neutral cartoonist who might dilute the harsh liberalism of Mr. Toles's agenda.

-- Jim Welch


Editorial cartoonist Rob Tornoe laid off

The Daily Cartoonist is reporting that editorial cartoonist Rob Tornoe was laid off. Rob isn't based around DC, but he has provided us with tips. The DC article says he's working on a freelance career and I wish him the best of luck.

Today: Beatles animator in Frederick, MD

Animator Ron Campbell will be in Frederick, MD today - see "Beatles cartoon artist to write, tell stories at rock show," By Lauren LaRocca, Frederick News-Post December 12, 2008 which gives this information:

If you go

What: “100.7 The Bay Classic Rock Art Show”

When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Where: Town Mall of Westminster (in front of Belk), 400 N. Center Drive, Westminster

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pentagon and Marvel propaganda comic books program questioned

"Exclusive: Pentagon Pro-Troop Group Misspent Millions, Report Says," By Noah Shachtman, December 12, 2008. These comics, credited to AAFES, are sometimes available at Walter Reed. They're not good. As I read this article, the comics in particular are not a problem, and it's the whole program instead.

Thanks to Tim for the tip.

Zadzooks interviews Joshua Ortega; Baltimore City Paper's Krall interviewed

"ZADZOOKS: Writer's career in high gear," Joseph Szadkowski, Washington Times Thursday, December 11, 2008.

Also I've been noticed Daniel Krall's work in the Baltimore City Paper - here's an article on him "Up and Coming: Daniel Krall," By Chris Arrant, 10 December 2008.

Post's Source section has list of best comics

This year's list - "The Best Books, CDs, Comics, DVDs and Video Games of 2008," Washington Post Sunday, December 7, 2008; N05.

Reminder - Nobleman speaks on Boys of Steel on Saturday.

I'll be there.

Bechdel, Delgo, Shag and Azur reviews in today's papers

Although the Blade ran Dykes to Watch Out For for years, albeit badly running it years out of date (literally! They were running pre-election cartoons a year after Bush was in office), you'd never know it now. They did run a minor review of the last book today though - "Blah-battling books: Sedaris, Bechdel collections perfect tonics for holiday blues," KATHI WOLFE, Washington Blade December 12, 2008.

Meanwhile the animated film Delgo, which had a really bad trailer in my opinion, isn't getting good reviews either:

"'Delgo': Colorful but Convoluted," Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Friday, December 12, 2008; WE30.

"Something Rotten in the State of Jhamora (Ask Freddie Prinze Jr.)," By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, New York Times December 12, 2008

French animation comes off slightly better than the Atlantans did:
"'Azur & Asmar': Less Is More," Jen Chaney, Washington Post Friday, December 12, 2008; WE30.

Finally, Shag, who does 1960 cartoony-type paintings and had a show here in DC a couple of years ago that I liked, has one in NYC now - "Art in Review," New York Times December 12, 2008. It's on the second page of the reviews.

Sunday Post magazine on blind comic book artist

See "Comic Book Hero: Andre Campbell's vision is severely limited, but that hasn't stopped him from pursuing his dream of making it as a comic book artist. Will he ever see success?" By David Rowell, Washington Post Magazine Sunday, December 14, 2008; W08.

From Off the Streets of Cleveland Comes ... Harvey Pekar's opera

Leave Me Alone!, a Jazz Opera by Harvey Pekar and Dan Plonsey, to Premiere at the Oberlin Conservatory Of Music and via Webcast on Jan. 31, 2009

American Splendor Icon Pekar Focuses His Sardonic Wit on the Everyday Struggles of Avant-Garde Artists, with Music from Cleveland-born Composer and Saxophonist Plonsey

OBERLIN, OHIO (December 10, 2008) —The iconic underground comic book author Harvey Pekar will make his operatic debut at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Leave Me Alone!, an autobiographical jazz opera. A collaboration by two Cleveland natives, the opera combines a libretto by Pekar with music by saxophonist and composer Dan Plonsey. Leave Me Alone! depicts the lives of its creators in quotidian detail while asking big questions about the place of cutting-edge art in our society. Amidst the demands and interruptions of day-to-day life, Pekar and Plonsey wonder, how can artists carve out time for their creative work? More importantly, they ask, how do we cultivate a society that is receptive to the avant-garde? The opera, which is presented by Oberlin in cooperation with Real Time Opera, will receive its world premiere in a free performance on Saturday, January 31, 2009, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel. The performance will also be streamed live to an international audience online at

Finney Chapel is located at 90 N. Professor Street in Oberlin, Ohio, just 40 minutes southwest of Cleveland.

"There ought to be a place for cutting edge work," says Pekar, who believes that many major cultural institutions have shirked their responsibility to support contemporary art and challenge audiences. "I thought there wasn't much out there being said about this, and I wanted to open up some discussion."

Called "the blue-collar Mark Twain" by Variety, Pekar is best known for his autobiographical comic book series American Splendor, in which he elevated the mostly mundane details of his life as a working-class Clevelander to the level of art. The series won the American Book Award and a film adaptation took top honors at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals. Composer Plonsey, who was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, has been a lifelong proponent of new music, and has founded several new music series in and around his current home in El Cerrito, California.

"The opera, simply put, is the non-fictional account of its own creation," says Plonsey. In the story, Pekar and Plonsey engage in discussions about music, the state of the avant-garde, and the creation of the opera itself from their Cleveland and San Francisco Bay Area living rooms. A taped conversation between Pekar and comics illustrator Robert Crumb provides an additional perspective on the opera's themes. The wives of Plonsey and Pekar, Mantra Ben-ya'akova Plonsey and Joyce Brabner (who portray themselves in the production), enter the plot, as does Josh Smith, the opera's music director. Oberlin Conservatory students will also be involved in the production; four singers will double the protagonists on stage and an ensemble of six jazz musicians will back them in the pit, playing alongside Plonsey and Smith.

Plonsey and Pekar are deeply committed to the notion that art transcends distinctions of class and hence ought to be available to all. Accordingly, both the live performance and the webcast of the opera will be offered free of charge. Those wishing to support the production may do so by purchasing a comic about the opera, written by Pekar and illustrated by Joseph Remnant, at The comic is available as a signed, limited-edition print ($300) or digital download ($5). Visitors may also purchase a cell-phone ring tone featuring Harvey's inimitable voice ($5) on the site.

Performers and Production Team
Several of the performers in the opera will play themselves, including Dan Plonsey, Harvey Pekar, Mantra Ben-ya'akova Plonsey, and Joyce Brabner. Oberlin Conservatory and College singers Patty Stubel '09, Kate Rosen '11, Joanna Lemle '10, and Christopher Rice '10 will double the characters on stage; students, including dummer Noah Hecht '10, trombonist Aaron Salituro '11, saxophonist David Schwartz '12, and trumpeter Gregory Zilboorg '13, will also play in the band.

The production team includes Paul Schick, executive producer for Real Time Opera; Josh Smith, musical director; Associate Professor of Opera Jonathon Field, stage director; Robert Katkowski, set designer; Barry Steele, lighting designer; Victoria Vaughan, stage manager; and Dan Michalak, musical preparation. The webcast will be produced with help from Oberlin professional staff and students, including Associate Dean of Technology and Facilities Michael Lynn, Director of Audio Services Paul Eachus, Director of Networking Barron Hulver, and Technology Consultant Todd Brown.

About the Librettist: Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, is best known for his autobiographical comic book series American Splendor. Pekar began self-publishing the series in 1976, at the urging of friend and noted illustrator Robert Crumb. Unique among comic books of the time, Pekar's stories documented the minutiae of his daily life: working as a file clerk in the VA hospital, grocery shopping, or simply searching for a lost set of keys. In 1987, Pekar was honored with the American Book Award for his work on the series, and in 2003 American Splendor was adapted as a movie to widespread critical acclaim. An avid record collector, Pekar began his writing career as a book and music critic, with a particular interest in jazz. His reviews have been published in the Boston Herald, the Austin Chronicle, Jazz Times, Urban Dialect (Cleveland), and Down Beat magazine. Pekar's commentary for public radio station WKSU, starting in 1999, won him several journalism awards, including the 2001 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Writing. Pekar was a frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman in the late 1980s; his infamous on-air criticism of General Electric got him temporarily banned from the show, although he did make two more appearances in the early 1990s. In 2001, Pekar retired from his job as a file clerk at the local VA Hospital. He lives in Cleveland Heights with his wife Joyce and their foster daughter Danielle.

About the Composer: Dan Plonsey
Saxophonist and composer Dan Plonsey was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Drawing inspiration from musicians as diverse as Sun Ra and Charles Ives, Plonsey's music defies easy categorization. "No doubt," writes All About Jazz, "Plonsey is a creative soul who possesses a Renaissance spirit." In recent years Plonsey's instrumental work has focused on large ensembles of mixed instrumentation and ensembles of multiple saxophones. His more than 200 works for large and small ensembles include commissions from Bang on a Can, the Berkeley Symphony, and New Music Works in Santa Cruz. He has written numerous operas, including three collaborations with Paul Schick of Real Time Opera. From 1994-99, he was the resident composer and chief librettist for Disaster Opera Theater in El Cerrito, California, where he currently lives. He also founded the weekly Beanbender's creative music concert series in Berkeley, which is ongoing on an occasional basis. Plonsey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in math and music from Yale University and a Master of Arts degree in composition from Mills College. He has studied composition with Martin Bresnick, David Lewin, Anthony Braxton, and, more briefly, Roscoe Mitchell and Terry Riley. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Mantra and their two sons, Cleveland and Mischa.

About the Director: Jonathon Field
Jonathon Field is one of America's more versatile and popular stage directors, having directed more than 100 productions in all four corners of the United States. He served as artistic director of Lyric Opera Cleveland for six seasons, where he presented the operas of Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti as well as the Ohio premieres of works by John Adams, Mark Adamo, and Philip Glass. Several of Field's productions for the Lyric Opera of Chicago were so successful they were repeated at the Illinois Humanities Festival with Stephen Sondheim as keynote speaker. His productions for San Francisco Opera's Western Opera Theatre and Seattle Opera have played in more than 20 states. Over the past eight years Field has directed 10 productions with the Arizona Opera, being deemed by the press "their most perceptive stage director." In February 2007, Field directed—at Oberlin and at Miller Theatre in New York City—the critically acclaimed U.S. premiere of Lost Highway, a dramatic music theater work by noted Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth based on the David Lynch film. This is Field's 11th season as director of Oberlin Opera Theater.

About Real Time Opera: Artistic Director Paul Schick
Under the artistic direction of Paul Schick, Real Time Opera (RTO) has presented world premieres of new operas in New York, San Francisco, and New England, where the company is based. In 2005, RTO premiered Feynman (2005), a chamber opera by composer Jack Vees, with a libretto by Schick, about Nobel Prize-winning physicist and cult figure Richard Feynman, with SO Percussion as the pit orchestra. The opera premiered at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and was reprised in Brattleboro, Vermont at Dartmouth College, in Concord, New Hampshire, and in New York at the Knitting Factory. A future online production of Feynman from Yale is in the planning stages. RTO's debut production, in 2003, was Korczak's Orphans by composer Adam Silverman and librettist Susan Gubernat. Based on the life of Polish pediatrician, orphanage director, and Holocaust martyr Janosz Korczak, the opera was also performed by New York City Opera on their VOX Festival of new American works. RTO's second production, Hawaiian Tan Ratface, a quasi-opera by John Trubee, premiered at San Francisco's Studio Z in 2004. Schick is librettist and producer of the forthcoming music-dance-theater piece A House in Bali by composer Evan Ziporyn, scheduled to premiere in Bali, Indonesia, followed by an international tour, in 2009. As an administrator, Schick has worked with Opera North, Boston Lyric Opera, the American Gamelan Institute, and the composers' collective Frog Peak Music. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hamilton College and a Master of Philosophy degree and PhD in musicology from Yale University.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, founded in 1865 and situated amid the intellectual vitality of Oberlin College since 1867, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. The Conservatory is renowned internationally as a professional music school of the highest caliber and has been pronounced a "national treasure" by the Washington Post. Oberlin's alumni have gone on to achieve illustrious careers in all aspects of the serious music world. Many of them have attained stature as solo performers, composers, and conductors, among them Jennifer Koh, Steven Isserlis, Denyce Graves, Franco Farina, Christopher Robertson, Lisa Saffer, George Walker, Christopher Rouse, David Zinman, and Robert Spano. All of the members of the contemporary sextet eighth blackbird, most of the members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, and many of the members of Apollo's Fire are Oberlin alumni. In chamber music, the Miró, Pacifica, Juillard, and Fry Street quartets, among other small ensembles, include Oberlin-trained musicians, who also can be found in major orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. For more information about Oberlin, please visit

Saturday, January 31, 2009, 8 p.m.
The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Real Time Opera present
Leave Me Alone!
Libretto by Harvey Pekar
Music by Dan Plonsey
Josh Smith, music director
Jonathon Field, stage director
Live on stage:
Finney Chapel
90 North Professor Street
Oberlin, Ohio
Oberlin Conservatory 24-Hour Concert Hotline: 440-775-6933

The Interview: Pixar Animator Angus MacLane

By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Comic Riffs blog December 11, 2008;

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My local Borders is pushing Watchmen

Sorry for the crappy quality of these cellphone photos. I just got it and don't quite know what I'm doing. I think you can tell that the Borders at Baileys Crossroads, VA is making a major push on Watchmen though. They've also recently separated the 'graphic novels' from the manga.

Local cartoonist Eiserike on the price of comics

"The tipping point is $4 for a comic book," By Josh Eiserike, December 11, 2008.

Posy Simmond's new book recommended

My friend Chris Mautner recommends Posy Simmond's new book (which I loved) in "Graphic Lit: Tamara Drewe," Panels and Pixels blog Wednesday, December 10, 2008. I think she's got 3 books available in the US now and you should buy them all.

Remember when the Post's Weekend section used to run Tom the Dancing Bug?

Yeah, me too. I actually read the Weekend section back then. Of course they also ran separate movie reviews and not Reader's Digest versions of the Style section ones. Anyway, here's Bolling on creating the strip that we won't see in print this week: This Week's Comic -- And It's Origins, In Excrutiating Detail, December 02, 2008

Staake tops Time's list

Art Cafe (really?), Bob Staake's webmaster, wrote in to remind me that Staake's New Yorker cartoon was picked as the year's best magazine cover by Time Magazine.

I must say, Staake can work in a bunch of styles. This cover is nothing like what he does for the Post on Sundays, and I've got some of his how-to books which are well-worth having.

Jan 9: Tom Toles on stage and t-shirts

See "D.C.'s 'Journopalooza' Tickets Go on Sale," By E&P Staff, December 10, 2008 for details and Journopalooza's site for the tickets and t-shirt sales and the Suspicious Package section for more information on Toles' second career.