The latest issue of John Lent's most excellent ongoing (seven years!) International Journal of Comic Art just arrived, and has brightened the past day or so. John is among our premiere comics scholars, and his publication remains one of the finest in the field, always chock-full of fascinating reading.
This latest volume (and they are hefty paperbacks, clocking in over 400 pages per issue) has a number of highlights, including R.C. Harvey's autobiographical overview, the latest installment in the publication's ongoing Pioneers of Comic Art Scholarship series, detailing the lives and labors of the first generation of comics historians, archivists, and academics. This has been an endeavor of international scope, so what editor Lent has incrementally constructed is an autobiography of the entire study of comics as an artform, person by person.
But the focus, as always, is the medium itself, its creators, case histories and/or studies defined by thematic links, historical periods, or the parameters of individual artists, communities, or even stories (as in this issue's analysis of the EC Haunt of Fear story "The Prude"). My personal favorites thus far this issue are Louise C. Larsen's chronicle of Dutch cartoonist Hans Bendix and his editorial cartoons savaging the growth of Hitler and the Third Reich, concluding with Bendix's destruction of his own originals to prepare for the Gestapo's investigation of his home after the occupation of Denmark (the Nazi Nordische Gesellschaft subsequently requested he work for their propoganda division, "promising him syndication everywhere within the Third Reich"! Bendix asked for some time to think about it, and fled to the US). The other fave is Chris Murray's ode to the indy comics efforts of Scotland's Douglas Noble: the complete repro of Noble's chilling little gem "Gash Meat" (pp. 297-310) is worth the price of admission this go around.
Thomas Alan Holmes further sweetens the pot with a sterling article on Warren Ellis's unpublished Hellblazer Columbine-inspired script "Shoot" (which would have appeared in #161 of Hellblazer, had DC not decided to literally "skirt the issue"). Holmes provides a detailed synopsis and analysis before rightfully placing this online artifact in the context of DC's other recent acts of self-censorship (unless it's been shut down in the interim, Ellis's "Shoot" can be read
[Note: sadly, the link isn't working -- see comments, below.]
This practice has been institutionalized at DC since the debacle over Swamp Thing #88, and Holmes concludes that "DC's editorial policy has led to the pulping of seemingly controversial comics and the inordinate delay of others... These editorial policies have also contributed to underground circulation of the material... Ironically, through these editorial decisions, a small part of the world's largest media conglomerate in the world has invited more analysis of its workings. This independent study helps us avoid the dampers of passive media consumption."
You'd think they'd see a marketing opportunity when it so blatantly presents itself (and expands with such regularity). C'mon, DC, swallow some of that corporate pride -- there's a buck to be made here. A DC/Vertigo unexpurgated collection of the complete censored works would be one hell of a book (and/or series), presentable in whatever state they were censored in (whether completed, a'la Jean 'Moebius' Giraud's hilarious Batman, or the Ellis/Phil Jimmenez (art) Hellblazer #161, or in fragmentary form, a'la the Rick Veitch script/Michael Zulli pencils/partial Tom Sutton inks of Swamp Thing #88). It would be a certain best-seller!
In any case, John Lent's fine International Journal of Comic Art is deserving of your attention. I subscribe for $30 US per year (two issues, and well worth it), institutional rate is $40 per year; send check or international money order to John Lent payable to John Lent/IJOCA to:
John A. Lent
669 Ferne Blvd.
Drexel Hill, PA 19026
If you're too lazy to do that, click