The Comics Journal #300

By various (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-147-3

Although it feels like it has always been part of our lives The Comics Journal only began business in 1976, interviewing creators, reporting on trends and events and generally assuming the critical role of critique-ing: a self-aware gadfly within and without our industry: celebrating the history and innovation of all aspects of cartooning and graphic narrative, keeping the balance between sales and artistic integrity firmly tipped on the side of the latter. It has for so, so long been the only place Americans hear of what the rest of the world of comics is doing.

Don’t panic! This isn’t a eulogy, but notice that the venerable organ has reached issue 300 and is celebrating with a fascinating collection of creator-chats as industry tyros and giants come together to interview, share, bitch and generally shoot the breeze about graphic narrative: a tactic that makes this the most compelling read of the year for anyone truly interested in what we all do and why.

After the always informative and breathtaking news sections Blood & Thunder and Journal Datebook – which include the results of 2009’s Eisner Awards – and a cartoon interview with supreme Editor Gary Groth (conducted and rendered by Noah van Scriver) the back and forth banter begins with the legendary Art Spiegelman and young cartoonist Kevin Huizenga – moderated by Groth and liberally illustrated – as are all the co-interviews – with work from both parties in case you’re unfamiliar with their oeuvre.

In short order Jean-Christophe Menu (iconoclastic European publisher and creator) interacts with Sammy (Kramer’s Ergot) Harkham, British invaders Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely share opinions (and probably tea and biscuits), Dave (Daredevil, Batman: Year One, Rubber Blanket, Asterios Polyp) Mazzucchelli meets Dash (Bottomless Belly Button) Shaw, Alison Bechdel swaps views with Danica Novgorodoff, Howard Chaykin with Ho Che Anderson, Jaime Hernandez with Zak Sally and Ted Rall with Matt Bors.

Great care has been taken to match overlapping areas of shared experience, such as scripters Denny O’Neil with Matt Fraction, political cartoonists Jim Borgman and Keith Knight and historical fictioneers Stan Sakai with Chris (Crogan’s Vengeance) Schweizer with the result that the compelling overview provided of the industry and the art-form in both historical and practical terms is utterly mesmerising.

Topping out the issue are reviews of Acme Novelty Library #19, and the aforementioned Asterios Polyp: a critical overview of the history of comics journalism /criticism from Rich Kreiner entitled ‘The Firing Line Forms Here’ more of the same from R. Fiore in Funnybook Roulette: The Experience of Comics, an examination of Moebius – ‘The Constant Garage’ – from Continental Drift columnist Matthias Wivel, and the celebrations conclude with another superb R.C. Harvey Comicopia feature, an examination of manga’s recent decline (Bring the Noise by Bill Randall) and an examination of Alan Moore’s retreat from comics and the disappointments of movie adaptations from Tom Crippen (Post-Human Reviews: Age of Geeks).

This is a superb magazine for comics lovers: it won’t ever tell you where and when to buy but it will make you wonder why you do or don’t…
© 2009 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All images/photos/text © their respective copyright holders.