The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


Drawing for a Living — A 1994 interview with the late, great Joe Kubert, who died earlier this week aged 85, at The Comics Journal:

Doing comics was usually not a matter of choice, for most artists. I guess they felt the real brunt of the Depression a lot more than I did. The Depression hit in ’32 and we were slowly climbing out of it through the ’30s and into the early ’40s. It was actually World War II in ’41 that generated work and jobs. Especially when everyone else was starting to be drafted. Most working cartoonists came from extensive art backgrounds… It was a way to make some money, that’s all: pure and simple. Nobody considered it an art form. Nobody was proud of being a comic-book artist. Matter of fact, it was a couple of steps below digging ditches. Syndication was recognized success. If you could get to do a syndicated strip, my God, that was the answer. But comic books were considered for many, many years to be a shameful occupation. Most of the guys in the business, if you asked them what they did, would never admit that they were comic-book artists. “I do commercial artwork,” or “I just draw for a living.”

See also: Obituaries at TCJ, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Penis Rays and Self-Loathing — Kim O’Connor on the truth or otherwise of autobiographical cartoonists, at The Awl:

[The] one place where fact and fiction fraternize… freely is in the graphic novels section, which is located, in most bookstores, between sci-fi and fantasy in what champion of popular fiction Michael Chabon has called the genre slums. In libraries, too, most graphic novels are grouped together regardless of content, so that autobiographical and semi-autobiographical comics share the shelf with fiction that ranges from one-dimensional superhero stuff to literary stories like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The line between fantasy and reality—and high and low culture—is blurred in a way that makes everything that exists within this milieu more rich and resonant.

And finally…

Tim Parks asks “Does Copyright Matter?” at the NYRB blog:

Officially the idea is that the writer, artist, or musician should be allowed to reap the just rewards for his effort. This is quaint. There is very little justice in the returns artists receive. Works of equal value and quality produce quite different incomes or no income at all. Somebody becomes a millionaire overnight and someone else cannot even publish. It is perfectly possible that the quality of work of these two writers is very similar. The same book may have a quite different fate in different countries. Any notion of justice in the incomes of artists is naive.

What we are talking about, more brutally, is preventing other people from making money from my work without paying me a tribute, because my work belongs to me. It’s mine. What we are talking about is ownership and control.

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