Did the Terror Twins keep Patricia Highsmith tied up in comics or were they responsible for a disciplined apprenticeship in plot, mayhem, and man-boy love?
Item! Great short article by Ariel Schrag in response to the new Joan Schenkar’s biography of crime novelist Patrica Highsmith. As Gary Groth noted in his comparison of Highsmith’s novel Strangers on a Train and the Alfred Hitchcock film version of same, before fame as a novelist, “she wrote comic books (between 1942 and 1948; in fact, her first position was as a staff writer at Cinema Comics where she replaced the outgoing Stanley Kauffmann, who would later become a theatre critic, film critic, and novelist. Quite an alumni at Cinema Comics). Producing two comic-book scripts a day yielded a salary of $55 a week. She wrote Westerns, romance, super heroes, and documentary-style stories and such characters as The Black Terror, Spy Smasher, and Captain Midnight. The modest success of her first novel was her ticket out of comics.” To date I haven’t seen a list of comics stories, perhaps because she was reportedly thorough-going in her erasure of her secret comics shame. She was a cartoonist herself and The Talented Mr. Ripley uses a a comic book artist as a character. Maybe the bio has more? According to Schrag, “writing for comics influenced Highsmith’s ‘serious’ (prose) writing, not only in Highsmith’s common themes of double lives and secret identities – but also her pulpy, action-heavy style itself. Highsmith’s stories – which often center on an obsessive relationship between two men – were likewise fueled by her homosexuality .”
Item! My local shop, The Dragon in Guelph, has posted a top ten list of their best-selling graphic novels from 2010. There’s no permalink to the list but you can scroll down the newsletter to see the comments. Besides series Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim and Chew, the top books were: Two Generals, Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale, Kick Ass, Fables vol.14, Jellaby vol.1, All Star Superman vol.1, Shadoweyes vol.1, Mouse Guard vol.1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight vol.7, and Blacksad.
Item! Is Canadian art criticism, and for that matter, Canadian comics criticism, too full of boosterism, nepotism, and clubbiness? Read this excellent article in the Ryerson review of Journalism, one of our best magazines. (Oops, too boosterish.) Here on the C-List, I try to promote new books and aspects of the culture I enjoy. I try to be thorough, giving notice to anyone who sends a press release or even tweets about something, but I have biases. As for reviews and their paucity here: for myself, sometimes I feel there are not enough comics published in this country that actually engage me to the extent that I feel I can devote a couple hours to writing a review that is more than a press release regurgitated. I try not to formally review things from people I actually know or are friends with, or things which I can do little more than gush over, or disappointing books from people I like generally, which considerably shrinks the potential pool of material. Nor do I really feel like spending time on stuff that I hate or that bores me or that actively insults my admittedly meagre intelligence. For instance, I’ve kind of felt guilty that Penguin Books sent me the Vlad the Impaler graphic novel and the Seymour Chwast Dante book and I didn’t review them. But why should I feel bad? Both books were crappy. And they weren’t even Canadian (so who cares if I slag them?). Hence, this list of links and the irregular “New Books” post. Trying to keep readers informed and maybe subtly influence taste and reading habits, without lots of carping and half-baked critiques, or shooting fish in a barrel. Just bullshit? Take it as a statement of journalistic ethics and intent.
Item! John Martz is one of the latest round of winners of the Xeric Grant, the awards given out by the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to help cartoonists professionally self-publish their comics. He will be producing a new version of his Heaven All Day mini for TCAF.
Item! Maclean’s Magazine writer Claire Ward profiles the Kill Shakespeare creators and gets some feedback from academia.
Item! This is the first city-specific press I’ve seen surrounding the Stan Lee hockey superhero mascots. Calgary’s “The Flame” premiered at recent game against Edmonton (you guessed it: “The Oiler”). Apparently one mascot per day is being revealed until the end of the month. I suspect parodies abound. Here’s ateaser poster.
Item! Jeff Lemire will be at the D+Q bookstore in Montreal a week from today.