Tag Archives: globe and mail

Who is Daniel Clowes?

Following the Daniel Clowes comic talk that kicked off the 2010 Toronto Comic Arts Festival last Friday evening, a friend and I debated whether or not we liked the man over pints.

We’d just listened through an hour of the Oscar nominee and National Post writer Mark Medley talked at length about his start in comics, his inspirations, his early work for Cracked magazine, the experiences Ghost World have brought him, and the making of Wilson (Drawn + Quarterly), his newest graphic novel – the first in five years.

He was entertaining and funny for the most part, but some of  his answers – especially those responding to audience questions – came off as a bit too cool and dismissive. It was this “Yeah, whatever” attitude that had us wondering whether Clowes deliberately cultivated this affected loner persona, detached from regular folk and the trends that consumer them.

Or was this a symptom of it being Clowes’s first public appearance in six years as he kicks off a nine-city promo tour for Wilson?

Or could it simply be the honest reaction of a painfully shy individual, someone reportedly so uncomfortable with all the attention focused on him that he goes private with him email and contact information?

His answer to the iPad and comics question was, loosely, “We [artists] will get screwed somehow, we always do.” I also felt a little bad for the audience member – and young, nervous fan – who asked for Clowes’s reaction to being studied in university classrooms alongside Will Eisner and Art Spiegleman. Loosely ‘It sure sells a lot of copies!’ may have sounded funny in his head, but rolling off his lips it came across as dismissive. The audience would have appreciated a little more thoughtful response. Again, though, one might chalk that up to nerves. Who wouldn’t be sitting in front of a room filled with hundreds of strangers?

But it brought up the question of why people and fans feel compelled to want to like the artists whose music, films and writing they admire. (Admittedly, we’re a few pints in at this point, but we’re having fun.) I mean, as much as Joss Whedon groupies love the work, they adore the man who can do no wrong.

Here’s a short clip for an upcoming documentary on Warren Ellis. I don’t find him a very likeable fellow. He’s an intense and a deep thinker, and an apparent chain smoker and heavy drinker (at least the clip suggests that). But he sums up exactly why I like reading his books, mostly the original creations like Fell and Supergod and Global Frequency, but the occasional story of heroes in spandex as well.

Art should challenge the audience – sometimes intellectually, sometimes emotionally. A good artist needs to be slightly disassociated from society to reflect and comment on it successfully.

Back to Clowes, I’ve only read Ice Haven once, though I’ve seen Ghost World, and deserves a second read by now. I recall it made me uncomfortable in a slightly more grimy and less funny way than Curb Your Enthusiasm achieves. I fully expect Wilson to be equally unsettling.

If you’re on the hunt for some Clowes content, last week’s Eye Weekly cover story shines spotlight on the artist. The piece seems a tad gushing after hearing the man speak.

Globe and Mail review of Wilson offers a decent synopsis of the graphic novel. The print edition features an interesting panel-by-panel annotation by Clowes of the page from Wilson that’s featured at the link if you can track it down.

Finally some pictures from the event.

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Filed under Comics - General, Events, Toronto comic info

Gallery news and book reviews

Globe and Mail reviews Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix (Abrams ComicArts). It mentions this book is part of a travelling exhibit, but the only information I was able to find about that is a show in Madison, Wisconsin.

I learned that, while he was still running Marvel, Stan Lee attempted to expose underground comic artists to the mainstream with a series titled Comix Book. The experiment lasted only five issues.

I really dig the way the writer ends the review, especially the choice of the word  freedom rather than escape to describe what these books meant to their readers:

“It’s a bit weird to separate the parts from whole, but it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really work except for the most rabid fans of the genre and the artists themselves. What does matters is that the book is a reminder of the fun those comix provided in their heyday – and of the blow they struck for kids who got to read what looked like a comic book but felt like freedom.”

You can check out a short slideshow from the book if you click on The Gallery tab at the link. It includes the cover from a 1977 issue of Slow Death that wades into the Canadian seal hunt debate.

Meanwhile, Toronto Star reviews Prayer Requested (Drawn & Quarterly), by Christian Northeast.  This book includes a series of images by the artist who collects found prayer cards and illustrates them using a wide variety of techniques. “A surrealistic hoot that both mock the often pathetic desperation of those seeking assistance in obtaining divine intervention…while being curiously respectful of their efforts.” If you visit the preview section on his artist page, you can see 11 pages from the book. Interesting stuff.

Speaking of Drawn & Quarterly, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art titled Pulp Fiction includes two D+Q artists: Marc Bell and Peter Thompson. A snippet from the blurb about the exhibit:

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Canadian art scene was radically altered. Artists acted to create networks, events, spaces and publications that allowed them to work, showcase and be seen. Their strength and ultimate success lay in their ability to tap into the media, to self-organize and to create strong national affiliations that enabled a entirely new structure to be realized through the formation of artist-run centres, video distribution centres and new publications dedicated to Canadian art. These new organizations created a parallel system for Canadian art that worked in tandem with Canada’s national and regional museums and commercial art galleries.

Pulp Fiction brings together a group of fourteen artists from across Canada as a means of examining this phenomenon of art practice. Because the work bypasses the space, systems and many of the concerns of Canada’s established institutions, it may appear to be a misfit within the traditional confines of the museum. And yet, if one embraces the idea that museums and galleries must be a place that observe, document and make history, reflecting art practice in all of its varied forms, then at some point in the evolution of this new way of practicing the work must surely have a place within the institution. Here, Pulp Fiction serves as an example of an important culture that has firmly established itself on the international market and glibly persists despite the museum.

There is more information about show dates and museum location on the MOCCA site. I’ll try to convince a co-worker to play hooky with me one sunny afternoon, and we’ll do the gallery followed by a patio pitstop.

Finally, as we’re talking about galleries and museums, I came across this post on Rich Johnston’s Bleedingcool.com. Apparently Angoulème, France hosts the world’s largest comic book convention. I’ve never heard of it, but I don’t know much about the convention world. According to Johnston, they’ve now opened Le Musée De La Bande Dessinée, a new home for the “largest public collection of comic books and original comic book artwork in the world.” Time to book a holiday.

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Filed under Comic Reviews, Comics - General

Toronto “bike wars” debate rages

The latest dispatch from the battle on Toronto’s streets between cyclists and cars comes to us courtesy of Lisa Rochon in the Saturday edition of The Globe and Mail. This ongoing tension has been alternately referred to as “bike wars” and “war on the car” – depending on your perspective on the issue, I would guess. If you’ve not read any of the debate so far, check out Shawn Micallef’s take. It’s a good starting point with some links to articles from The Star and NOW. (Adding to Micallef’s piece: I’ve driven on Eastern Avenue down by the Beach before and after the bike lane introduction. Frankly, traffic moves better now. The new turning lanes have improved flow. And there’s no more lane changing by drivers which was the main cause of traffic backing up before the bike lanes were installed.)

Rochon looks at Copenhagen’s bike system to back up here argument that Toronto City Hall isn’t doing nearly enough for cycling culture in the city despite their proclamation otherwise. She outlines many of the initiatives undertaken by the city, including an entire department under the transportation portfolio tasked with managing a $15M budget for cycling projects.  Matthew Blackett wrote about the same for The Toronto Star and Spacing website back in May. The timing of Rochon’s piece coincides with the city’s bike saftey blitz week.

And for those who enjoy reading about policy setting on cycling issues, you’ll find a short report here on Bike Summit 2009, described as a day-long conference on cycling policy co-hosted by the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) and the Clean Air Partnership. The article highlights four suggestions proposed by a speaker from the Netherlands to make cycling more accessible in the city.

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Toronto Bicycle Station grand opening

Because my bike is still being repaired, I took the transit to work today and stumbled upon the grand opening of the Bicycle Station at Union Station and got myself a free copy of Toronto’s newest cycling magazine, Dandyhorse (thank you Cheryl Stevens).

It’s located in The Teamway, which is the pedestrian tunnel running along York St. at Front. In a room that looks like it might previously have been a utility or storage room of some sort, the city has installed nearly 200 bike parking spaces. Here’s a link to more information and a map – click on the PDF brochure. (You may need to load/refresh the page once or twice – it broke for me when I first loaded it up.)

I don’t know if this is intended for Go commuters who leave their bikes in Toronto overnight or else bring them into the city on the train as a more secure option to locking it up at the suburban Go stations, but it’s a pretty cool idea. According to the staff member I spoke with, there are still locker spots available.

The city also has a cycling newsletter, Cyclometer.

Other cycling news:

It’s official, Bikes win in Jarvis overhaul reports The Toronto Star. But Miller’s ‘war on the car’ will haunt him, say opponents (Globe and Mail) – pretty much the usual suspects speaking out against the plan.

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