Welcome to the first C-List of the new year. Kicking 2012 off with a round-up of comics-related links from across Canada and beyond.
Item! First things first. Kevin Boyd reports at the Shuster Awards blog that venerable Toronto retailer Dragon Lady Comics is scheduled to close at the end of January. Founded by John Biernat in 1979, Dragon Lady Comics and Paper Nostalgia has long been a fixture in the Canadian comics landscape. One of the earliest extant shops in the country, and an early participant in the nascent Direct Market, Dragon Lady was also a comics publisher, known for its reprints of classic comic strips under the Dragon Lady Press imprimatur. Named for the character in Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, and drawing on the shop’s collection of old comics and newsprint, DLP focused on adventure strips, publishing 50 issues and 12 titles including several genre-oriented anthology titles as well as magazines devoted to Alley Oop, Buz Sawyer, Johnny Hazard, Red Ryder, and Wash Tubbs; the most significant of these being the 1987 edition of Alex Toth’s Bravo for Adventure. The publications grew out of a monthly newsletter edited by Dave Darrigo, The Dragon Lady Dispatch, which itself was an early outlet for cartoonists like Chester Brown. Beyond its strip reprints, the shop had an international reputation as a source for magazines and other forms of print ephemera. The store moved from its original Queen Street location to 609 College St West over two decades ago.
Item! East Coast Comics Retail: Robert Haines also has news about other Canadian retailers in his latest report for the Shusters blog, including info about store closures.
Item! British artist Ronald Searle has died. Searle pioneered the scratchy, ink-splattered line later popularized by Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe. The most well-known characters from his vast career were the girls of St. Trinian’s school but he was also well-known as a gag cartoonist for U.S. and UK publications, for a popular series of cat books, for his cartoon reportage, and for his animation work. A giant of cartooning, Searle was survivor of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in World War II, and his record of his internment was published as Ronald Searle: To the Kwai and Back, War Drawings 1939-1945.
Item! I read two interviews yesterday that took several hours of off-and-on plodding to process but I feel they were worth it. First, Tom Spurgeon posted an interview with Steve Bissette, the one-time Swamp Thing artist and Taboo publisher who now teaches at James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. As Bissette admits late in the interview, he has no problem writing reams and reams on any subject he sets his mind to, so it’s a long talk, but one I really got into despite my initial disinterest. Bissette is such a fount of knowledge about comics history, especially the period he lived through. Lots of fascinating stuff in there about what he teaches at CCS, Maus, the ongoing Marvel Boycott over Jack Kirby’s treatment and fan entitlement, and the current comics climate. Elsehwere, Frank Santoro indulges in a little 80s-90s nostalgia with a history of the Motorbooty zine. My memory of the few issues of that magazine I read at the time was that it was full of bands I never heard of and could not get into, a few cartoonists I was mildly interested in, and cynical, hipper-than-thou, hair-splitting satire the point of which was largely obscure to me. But Santoro makes the case for the publication as something of a cultural touchstone or roadsign of the times. It does read like a sort of National Lampoon of the grunge era, and its post-Underground, post-Punk graphic and musical aesthetic are certainly a time-capsule of that pre-internet tribalism. Worth checking out, especially because we don’t have to rely on vague memories since Santoro posts a ton of articles and comics from Motorbooty to illustrate his point.