\"I get it!\" I cried to my Lyft driver. \"Manouach is curating an alternative comics anthology!\" Of course, it is awful and misleading to reduce this project to the provincial concerns of the small-press comics scene. (For one thing, Manouach is paying his contributors.) But I think a circumscript reading may nonetheless help to emphasize what I find interesting about this artist's conceptual comics, which -- again, per the book's introduction -- \"thematize the industrial aspects of their medium.\" Read in terms of literary or dramatic themes, Manouach has not cast himself here in a sympathetic role: the various contributors do sign the strips with their own names, but it is only Manouach's name on the cover, and his biography in the back, telling of his published works and fellowships and curatorial endeavors, and his aspiration to create the first graphic novel generated via artificial intelligence. Comics has historically been suspicious of 'fine' art, and the conceptualist Manouach of Peanuts minus Schulz evokes a classic villainous trope: the foxy fine artist directing an army of studio hands to manufacture 'his' works. Or, worse: Manouach as a boss, rhetorically valorizing the product of inexpensive labor while availing himself of those mechanisms that assure the precarity of laborers. To be clear, I am speaking here in metaphors - it is noted that this project was moderated and assembled as part of Manouach's artist-in-residence tenure with Onassis Digital, which described Manouach's research, in part, as exploring \"how artists, in spite of arguing for fixed subject positions, have been often complicit in providing and updating a blueprint for precarious and often abusive labor conditions, that can, and has been generalized in other sectors of the economy.\"
Ask yourself: is this mystery play not a drama of today? Anybody who has been to the movies or looked at memes in the past three years can tell you that Thanos is more a storehouse of affective investment than the authored work of Jim Starlin. And, when you are posting memes online, or logging a contrarian take on Letterboxd, or commenting \"Joe, this is ridiculous and you have again wasted our time\" via Disqus on TCJ dot com, you are performing value-adding work on behalf of those platforms. Some of it is creative work, and a lot of it is probably fun - at one point, Manouach cites to Trebor Scholz's concept of \"playbor\" for activities that defy traditional definitions of work and play, which might as well describe the tribute art fans pour into deluxe zines paying homage to their favorite characters. Peanuts minus Schulz, then, is not just a Complete Peanuts volume as envisioned by Rerun, but 'about' the process of readers creating meaning from their impressions of a work, and those impressions solidifying into a potentially superseding work of their own. To Manouach, this is the unalloyed good, resulting in works that \"resist the smooth integration and style uniformization conventionally required in the industry of comics: the collected material constantly fails to fulfill the seamless, unbroken metabolization that leads to a totalizing system,\" and indeed represent \"a queering of the industry's prototypical standardized practices,\" in the phenomenological sense.
There are many languages present in Peanuts minus Schulz, and Manouach leaves them without translation - these are the artists in foreign terrains given the opportunity to speak for themselves, without the intervention of French or English editorial interpretation. Really, there is surprisingly little 'interpretation' necessary throughout the project; bound for the most part to Schulz's visual layouts and his gags, there are few comics in here truly without Schulz, in the way that parasitic arts such as fanfiction can never entirely escape the orbit of the originating work. I wonder what Manouach makes of American superhero comics - truly those are works where 'authorship' is subordinate to the appeal of characters sewn from a thousand rags. And, superhero publishers have profited greatly from those 'immaterial energy storehouses'!
I am reminded of a 2016 book by the very occasional comics critic Jarett Kobek, I Hate the Internet, which highlighted a statement by the critic and podcaster Jeff Lester (a former sitemate of mine, eons ago) to the effect that superhero comics pioneered basically all of today's most prominent exploitations in American capitalism. Kobek's book is unabashedly declarative and moral: 'bad' by its own withering estimation of literary quality. Peanuts minus Schulz, itself not lacking in descriptors, is \"an experiment with the digital ramifications of distributed labor as a compositional practice,\" ostensibly striking against the individualist \"glorification of the artist's creative genius\" in favor of collectivized readings of cultural product, but it is also a mimetic work, adopting the economic framework of microtasked labor to emphasize some qualities of the production of that labor - in this way, it presumes the immovability of the framework. I am not saying Manouach sees this framework as immovable, but, conceptually, his book must.
It's a detail from Lambert's contribution to the recent Nobrow 7: Brave New World, the latest edition of the house anthology for UK publisher Nobrow, at or near the fore of the present leap of interest in British independent comics. Appropriately, the Nobrow anthology has assumed the position of Big Prestige Book, presently standing at 9\" x 12\", with 128 color pages split between comics and illustration; unlike the Blab! of yore, Nobrow takes on a flip format, segregating its two halves and betraying, perhaps, some anxiousness about the all-illustration format it observed until Nobrow 6. I generally don't pay so much attention to the illustration half -- my tastes run more toward the Le Dernier Cri end of things -- but the comics section has grown to encompass quite a lot of impressive talents, including Joost Swarte, Anders Nilsen, Jillian Tamaki, Eleanor Davis and Michael DeForge in Nobrow 7 alone.
Still, there is a little in the way of speculative crossover, evidenced by this unsequential detail from a piece by Henry McCausland, a UK-based illustrator and animator whose comics work are totally unfamiliar to me; I don't even know how much exists. Still, there's strong hints of C.F. and Blaise Larmee in his story, at least to his character designs, which float delicately above patchwork color fields - the stark b&w of his character art additionally leaves a certain Al Columbia impression. Strange to see such strong commonalities only arise in a comic.
Otherwise, I greatly enjoyed the above piece (detail, again) from Belgium's Sam Vanallemeersch, who shows a fine command of movement in detailing diner Franz's journey into his supper with the aid of pills and wine. The Brave New World theme is often raised by the contributing artists as an ominous future, though Lambert focuses on the simple promise of childhood discovery. Only Vanallemeersch, however, seems especially concerned with diving into the properties of motion in comics, a most applicable subject matter for an artist working in an illustrational vein in an anthology still halfway between illustration and comics. That is the future of Nobrow, it seems, that and a secret narcotic kingdom of mashed potatoes, to which I long to escape on every lunch break I can find.
PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday, or, in the event of a holiday or occurrence necessitating the close of UPS in a manner that would impact deliveries, Thursday, identified in the column title above. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting.
Maya Makes a Mess: DAMN IT, MAYA. Yet, in her juvenile sloppiness, Maya reveals some truth, i.e. the facts about what Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan has been doing, having released the graphic novel Exit Wounds to eruptive acclaim in 2007, and followed it quickly with a New York Times magazine serial (The Murder of the Terminal Patient) and a short works collection (Jamilti and Other Stories), both in '08. This one's a 32-page hardcover children's comic from Toon Books about a little girl whose sloppy-ass manners cause a kid-appropriate uproar at a royal function. Don't underestimate the Toon Books line; R. Kikuo Johnson's The Shark King was secretly among the best action comics of 2011 in terms of sheer visual bravura, though I suppose the children's storybook pricing as much as the subject matter kept it out of the hands of adult connoisseurs of the stuff. Samples; $12.95.
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 (of 4): Yep, all those anthology comics could only culminate in a brand-new longform storyline's worth of stuff from publisher IDW, presumably still working with estate of the late Dave Stevens, who created the character. The creative team is writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee, both of Marvel's well-regarded Daredevil series; they can be expected to deliver an efficient ration of derring-do in this 'something big, getting loose' danger scenario. Preview; $3.99.
Prophet Vol. 1: Remission: How much attention has this Brandon Graham-fronted revival of the old Rob Liefeld character attracted? Enough so that the book collections are starting from #\"1\", marking a symbolic departure from the com