SDCC 2018: Museums Make a Splash

The  Splashing Ink on Museum Walls  panel (L to R): Rob Salkowitz, Kim Munson, Ann Nocenti, Adam Smith, and Emil Ferris. 7/19/2018. Photo by Jamie Coville.

The Splashing Ink on Museum Walls panel (L to R): Rob Salkowitz, Kim Munson, Ann Nocenti, Adam Smith, and Emil Ferris. 7/19/2018. Photo by Jamie Coville.

At 4:00 on the first full day of San Diego Comic-Con, the five of us had a wide-ranging discussion about art, museums, and their importance before a full house in Room 29. Rob Salkowitz (Forbes, ICv2), the moderator and organizer, began the discussion with a reminiscence of seeing R. Crumb's Genesis at the Seattle Art Museum and how amazing it was to see the drawings of a comic artist displayed with art by Rembrandt, Durer, and Picasso as contextual ancestors. Rob wrote about this show in his essay "Splashing Ink on Museum Walls: How Comic Art is Conquering Galleries, Museums, and Public Spaces" which is included in the second issue of IDW's new hardcover art magazine Full Bleed. (I am also reprinting it in my book). The discussion touched on many topics, like the importance of narrative to exhibits of comics and different exhibit strategies.  We talked about the influence exhibits have on artists viewing the work. Plans for the new SDCC Museum were discussed.

Specifically, I gave a capsule run-down on the history of exhibits of comic art from 1930 up to the 2005 show Masters of American Comics. Ann Nocenti is one of the organizers of the epic Marvel: Universe of Comics show currently on view at MoPop in Seattle. She described some of the strategies curators used to draw attention to original comic art within a very large, busy show stuffed with props, costumes, and characters from the Marvel movies. Emil Ferris, who would win 3 Eisners for My Favorite Thing is Monsters the next evening, spoke of how the masterpieces in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago were an important part of her life and her book.

Adam Smith, making his first appearance as the Executive Director of the newly announced San Diego Comic-Con Museum, told us of CCI's plans for the museum which assumed the 37-year lease of the former San Diego Hall of Champions. The museum will not be a collecting institution. It will be a museum of pop culture celebrating all of the passionate constituencies that made SDCC the phenomenon it is. They plan on 3 large galleries for temporary exhibits, a cafe, and retail space. The full third floor will be an education center and galleries dedicated to comic art. They are currently in the fundraising stage and need to raise $35 MIL to remodel the existing space. Smith hopes to announce the opening date next year at SDCC's 50th Anniversary convention. If all goes to plan, the museum might open in 2022. Here's a promotional video about the museum project:

It was a spirited discussion and the audience seemed enthusiastic about the museum and about the topic of exhibitions in general. I hope the continued normalizing of comic art in museum exhibits will bring more recognition to artists and more opportunities for museums, scholars, curators, and art historians to explore and understand this important art form. 

Listen to our discussion, archived on the Jamie Coville Experience. Selected by Heidi McDonald of The Beat as one of the top 17 comics history panels at SDCC (it's quite a list).

 

Kim at SDCC 2018

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I am happy to say that I am returning to San Diego Comic Con with the Thursday afternoon panel Splashing Ink on Museum Walls: "Do comics belong in museums? Lots of major art and cultural institutions seem to think so, with ambitious new shows and comic art museums springing up everywhere, including one spearheaded by Comic-Con itself. Artist/writer Emil Ferris (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters), Kim Munson (editor, From Comics to Frames: Comic Art in Museums), writer/editor and exhibition consultant Ann Nocenti, and SDCC museum director Adam Smith converse about the future of comics on display, moderated by Rob Salkowitz (Forbes, Full Bleed). http://sched.co/FQnu

Dwayne McDuffie on Black Panther, 1992

Prior to working on my current book project, From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums, I wrote an essay about the founding of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco by Malcolm Whyte. The essay also covered the first 10 years or so of the museum's exhibition history while Whyte was still directly involved with the museum and its choice of exhibits. In 1992, they did 3 fascinating and well-received exhibits back to back: Broad Humor: Art of Women Cartoonists, Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase (toured), and Visions of the Floating World (manga & anime). 

After seeing the excellent Marvel film Black Panther this weekend, I was reminded of this essay Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011) wrote for the Black Ink catalog about how much Black Panther meant to him. Here is the text of his essay:


“Our Heroes: African-American Artists and Images in the American Comic Book” by Dwayne McDuffie, originally published in the exhibition catalog Black Ink: African American Cartoonists Showcase, Cartoon Art Museum San Francisco, February 5 – May 16, 1992

Alan Thompkins interrupted my one-on-none backyard basketball game with some important news. “The Hulk is gonna fight Thor. It’s supposed to be out already.”

If Alan said so, it must be true. He knew more about comic books than anybody in the whole neighborhood. Even though my interest in the subject was a good less fanatical than Alan’s, this was definitely worth checking out. Much of our rapidly-dwindling summer vacation had been spent in heated arguments over who would emerge victorious from such a contest. I was quite certain the Incredible Hulk would have no problem waxing a little guy who wore a cape and feathers in his hat. Alan, however, favored Thor, citing the Asgardian’s mighty hammer and mystical control over the weather as decisive factors. Maybe so, but then, Alan also preferred Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali.

In any case, the solution to our debate was suddenly at hand. Only one obstacle remained in our way. Lindsay Drugs, the “good comic store,” was over three miles from my house and I was expressly forbidden from going there. I concocted a clever story to cover my illicit tracks, “I’m going over to Alan’s, okay?”

Mom went for it.

Alan and I hopped on our bikes and made the long ride. It was 1973. We were both eleven years old.

We ran into the drug store and scanned the comic racks. The Hulk vs. Thor comic was nowhere to be found. We were greatly disappointed. Alan consoled himself with a bag of “Gold Rush” bubble gum. I had twenty cents burning a hole in my pocket and was determined to buy a comic book. I’m very glad I did.

The comic book was Jungle Action #7, featuring a superhero I’d never heard of called The Black Panther, but then, I’d never heard of the Black Panther political party either. And the irony of a black character being the lead in a book called Jungle Action escaped me completely. What didn’t escape me was the powerful sense of dignity that the characters in this book possessed. I was instantly and hopelessly hooked.

It wasn’t that The Black Panther was the first black character I’d seen in comics. Blacks had occasionally appeared in crowd scenes and as supporting characters long before (the Panther himself first appeared as a supporting character in The Fantastic Four). One black character even had his own book. Marvel’s Luke Cage, Hero for Hire had been running for over a year when I first discovered the Panther. But I never connected with Cage, a super-strong “angry black man” who wore chains around his waist, didn’t seem particularly bright, and spoke in a bizarre version of “street slang” that didn’t even remotely resemble the speech of any black people I knew. Spider-Man made sense to me. Cage? I just couldn’t relate.

In those days, when black people weren’t busy being angry, they appeared either as faithful sidekicks, or worse, helpless victims who begged the white superheroes to rescue them. The Black Panther was nobody’s sidekick and if there was any rescuing to do, he’d take care of it himself, thank you. Moreover, the Black Panther was king of a mythical African country where black people were visible in every position in society, soldier, doctor, philosopher, street sweeper, ambassador – suddenly everything was possible. In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.

In 1972, there were very few black people involved in the creation of the black images that occasionally graced the pages of comic books. In those days we were dependant on white creators to represent us. As noted about, some of them did remarkably well. Most did not.

Today, the responsibility for African-American images lies with us. If there’s any rescuing to do, we’ll take care of it ourselves, thank you. As African-American artists enter the industry in ever-increasing numbers, our dependence on whites for how we are depicted diminishes accordingly. The relatively new phenomenon of creator-owned and self-published comics further consolidates our control over how we will be portrayed. Nor is our output limited merely to African-American images. We’ve demonstrated our ability to communicate artistically concerning the whole of human experience.

When I talk about “Our Heroes,” I don’t mean The Black Panther, Brotherman, and Deathlok. Our Heroes are the growing numbers of African-American comic book creators who, each in their own way, open our eyes to the multiplicity of the African-American experience.

Our Heroes appearing in the Black Ink exhibit include: [inset images: Gil Ashby (The Laziest Secretary in the World, Hellraiser); Reggie Byers (Robotech, Shuriken, Jam Quacky); Denys Cowan (Deathlok, Punisher: War Zone, Batman, The Question, Prince, The Spook); Michael Davis-Lawerence (ETC, The Freedom Project, Shado); Matt Baker (Hooks Devlin); Grass Green (The Devil You Say); Shepherd Hendrix (Mile Up, Swamp Thing); Seitu Hayden (Tales from the Heart, the Marion Berry Game); Roland Laird (MC Squared); Milton Knight (Slug ‘n Ginger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles);  Turtel Onli (NOG, Future Funk); David, Guy, and Jason Sims (Brotherman); Dwayne Turner (Black Panther).]

The Black Ink exhibit barely skims the surface of the deep pool of African-American talent in the comic industry today. The artists who are included represent merely a small sampling of the staggering breadth and ability of African-American contributors to the form.

~ Dwayne McDuffie writes the adventures of the African-American superheroes Deathlok and Captain Marvel, as well as Double Dragon, Back to the Future, Damage Control, The Demon, and Ultra Man. In the fall of 1973, he and Alan finally got their hands on a copy of the Hulk vs. Thor comic book. It was a tie. ~


Black Ink also toured to the San Francisco International Airport (93), and to the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Florida (94). In the catalog, the title is Black Ink: Black Cartoonist Showcase, for the Florida show this was changed to Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase. I do not know which title SFO used. This catalog had no formal checklist. Artists included are: Ollie Harrington; Chester Commodore;  Leslie Rodgers; Fred B. Watson; Bobby Thomas; E. Simms Campbell; Tom Feelings; Morrie Turner; Brumsic Brandon Jr.;  Seitu Hayden; Yaounde Olu; Ray Billingsley; Steven Bentley; Robb Armstrong; Barbara Brandon; Hazel Henigan; Greg Harris; Darnell Towns; Rick Rogers; Jonathan Smith; Walt Carr; Len Bethel; Al Dree; Ron “Stozo” Edwards; Prof. I.B. Gitten’ Downe; Edwina Owens; Pedro Bell; Overton Lloyd; Cortez McCoy; Gil Ashby;  Reggie Byers; Denys Cowan; Michael Davis-Lawrence; Matt Baker; Grass Green; Shepherd Hendrix; Roland Laird; Elihu Bey; Milton Knight; Turtel Onli; David & Jason Sims; Dwayne Turner; Craig Rex Perry; Leo Sullivan; Louis Scarborough Jr.; Byron Vaughns; Leonard Robinson; Jackie Ormes (who had a special spotlight section).

Art Spiegelman's Co-Mix in Toronto

In support of my upcoming book From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums, I'm posting some exhibition photos and checklists as additional reference material.

To flesh out my interview with Art Spiegelman, I've assembled photos I took of his retrospective exhibition Co-Mix at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) in January of 2015. I apologize for the quality of these shots, they were intended only to document the show. There is also a rough floor plan. They are posted in order as I walked through the galleries.

Carol Tyler's Pages & Progress

In my upcoming book, From Panels to Frames: Comics Art and Museums, I am including an interview with Carol Tyler about the very tactile, personal art installations she created based on her multi-Eisner nominated You’ll Never Know graphic novel trilogy, and Soldier’s Heart - the Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: a Daughter’s Memoir (Fantagraphics), the 2015 book that collects them all together. Her quest to make sense of life’s challenges and her family relationships (parents, husband, and daughter) is both intensely personal and universal for anyone that has ever tried to figure out a difficult relationship. 

Here I am collecting Carol's video, exhibition photos, and other information about her exhibitions. Pages and Progress (video and slides below) was presented at the  University of Cincinnati at DAAP Galleries, Meyers Gallery, February-March, 2016).

Many shows by artists known for comics have become “museumified,” with everything perfectly framed and starkly presented in the Alfred Barr/Museum of Modern Art tradition. Tyler’s installations are very different, distinctly apart from the antiseptic feeling of the white cube. Her graphic style, crammed with detail and drawn in a limited palette of warm tones, is reflected in the design of the exhibition. She invites us in to look at the flotsam of her life and art. Her down to Earth mid-western quality is reflected in a room of drawings fluttering gently on a clothesline, and a second gallery filled with objects like her father’s woodworking tools, toys, memorabilia, and other props that Tyler crafted herself as signs of her process and emotional state. 

In the photos below, you can see some of these handmade props, such as the “table of tears” (a table covered with glass fragments wet with “tears” from a tube feeder on the wall) and the “egometer” where Tyler’s own face appears and disappears like a window shade. There are also self-portraits and thorn sculptures from a later show, Cincinnati Five.

In July 2018, Tyler has created 6 elegant mini-sculptures from the thorns of her honey locust tree and other materials from her farmhouse. If you are interested in purchasing one of these pieces, please contact her directly at cmxmakr@gmail.com.

"American Cartooning" Artist List

In support of my new book From Panels to Frames: Comics Art in Museums (coming out in 2018), I'm going to be posting some checklists and exhibition photos. The first of these is the artist list for the 1951 show American Cartooning, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) May 11 - June 10. 

The show brochure includes a paragraph about the show's purpose: "This exhibition was planned, in cooperation with the National Cartoonists' Society, to illustrate the art of the American professional cartoonist in our time. Members of the Society, together with other cartoonists, were invited to submit several original drawings to a committee of selection composed of representatives of the Metropolitan Museum and the Society. Those drawings were chosen which, in the opinion of the committee, best represented each artist's work, and at the same time provided a broad picture of contemporary cartooning in this country."

I have not found many photos of this show. Here, for scholarly purposes only, is a clipping from the Colorado Springs (CO) Free Press, showing the Mondrian style grid display. Otto Soglow was the Chair of the NCS committee that organized the exhibit.

I have not found many photos of this show. Here, for scholarly purposes only, is a clipping from the Colorado Springs (CO) Free Press, showing the Mondrian style grid display. Otto Soglow was the Chair of the NCS committee that organized the exhibit.

The NCS wanted to include at least one piece from all members who submitted work, plus some classics (such as McCay, Herriman) and a few drawings from the Met's collection. The drawings, over 200 of them, were displayed unframed, lined up in a grid inspired by Mondrian (a concept mentioned in NCS correspondence). The exhibit followed the nation-wide publicity the NCS received during the US Saving Bond Tour in 1949, a multi-city cross-country tour for the US Treasury Department that kicked off with NCS members sketching President Truman at the White House and included a touring exhibition on comics history that started at the Library of Congress.

The Met show was planned to run over the summer but was cut short by a large remodeling project at the museum. My book includes details of the many reviews, which were mixed (the NCS wanted a neutral representation of everyone's work and the critics wanted the Met's curators to take more of a hand in the selection), info about how this show came together, and its effect on future exhibitions of comic art.


Here are the 239 artists, in alphabetical order as published in the Met's brochure: Jay Allan; F. O. Alexander; Clarence C. Allen; Colin Allen; Carl Anderson; Alfred Andriola; Emidio (Mike) Angelo; Gus Arriola; Edd Ashe, Jr. - Mickey Bach; Ray W. Bailey; Perry Barlow; James D. Barstow; C.D. Batchelor; Frank H. Beck; Janice Berenstain; Stanley Berenstain; Walter Berndt; Michael Berry; Jame T. (Jim) Berryman; Jim Bettersworth; Charles B. Biro; Daniel Bishop; Wally Bishop; Merrill Blosser; Henry Boltinoff; Wayne D. Boring; Dave Breger; Morrie Brickman; Clare Briggs; Bo Brown; Ernie Bushmiller - Milton Caniff; Irwin Caplin; Al Capp; Mel Casson; Sam Cobean; Roland Rae Coe; Fred Cooper; Gibson M. (Gib) Crockett; Percy Crosby; Herbert E. Crowley; Matt Curzon; Otho Cushing - Gregory D'Alessio (NCS Secretary); Phil Davis; Chon Day' Abner Dean; Billy de Beck; William de la Torre; Harry Arthur Devlin; Anthony Louis (Tony) Di Preta; Walt Disney; Walt Ditzen; Ed Dodd; T. T. (Tad) Dorgan; Stephen Anthony Douglas; Daniel B. Dowling; Frances (Edwina) Dumm; Courtney Dunkel; Bob Dunn; Bill Dyer - Carl Ed; Gus Edson; L.G. Edwards; Will Eisner; Lee Elias; Frank Engli; Eric Ericson; Ray Stevens, Sr. - Jo Fisher; Dudley Fisher; Hammond E (Ham) Fisher; Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick; Don Flowers; Frank Fogarty; Vic Forsythe; Harold R. Foster; Gil Fox; Ving Fuller - Tom Gill; Frank Godwin; Reuben Lucius (Rube) Goldberg (Past President/NCS committee member); Ray Gotto; Chester Gould; Mel Graff; William Karr (Bill) Graham; Harold Gray; Milt Gross; Chad Grothkopf; Carl Grubert - Harry Hanan; Lou Hanlon; Fred Harman; Irwin Hasen; Jimmy Hatlo; George Herriman; Ned Hilton; Burne Hogarth; Bill Holman; Hugh M. Hutton - Jay Irving - Burris Jenkins, Jr.; Ferd Johnson; Roy B. Justus - Bob Kane; Al Kaufman; Jeff Keate; Reamer Keller; Ted Key; Frank O. King; Rollin Kirby; Ken Kling; Karl Kae Knecht; Clayton Knight; A. Kovarkey; Robert (Bob Kay) Kuwahara - Clyde Lamb; Fred Lasswell; George Lichty; Marty Links; Tom Little; Scott Long; Martin Lowenstein; Gustav Lundberg - H. A. Mac Gill; Stan Mac Govern; Bill Mac Lean; Neyer Mael; Gus Mager; Reg Manning; Jack Markow; Ernest Marquez; Charles E. (Cem) Martin; Fran Matera; Rex Maxon; Winsor McCay; Darrell McClure; Wilson McCoy; MC Cuthcheon; Elmer R. Messner; McGowan Miller; Tarpe Mills; R. B. Modell; Bob Montana; Edward MdDowell (Ed) Moore; John (Milt) Morris; Carl Louis Mortison; Zack Mosley; Willard Mullin - Fed Neher; John Norment; Paul Norris; Irving Novick - Robert Stanley (Bob) Oksner; F. Opper; R. F. Outcault; William Overgard; Frank Owen - Grover Page; Gladys Parker; David (Pascal) Pascolsca; Russell Patterson; Bill Pause; John Pierotti; Alfred John Plastino; Al Posen; T. E. Powers; Garrett Price - Connie Rasinski; Hal Rasmusson; Alex Raymond (NCS President); Gardner Rea; Rranciscc Xavier (FOXO) Reardon; Ed Reed; Paul Reinman; Laurence (Larry) Reynolds; Mischa Richter; Frank Robbins; Carl Rose; Hy Rosen; Michael J. (Mike) Roy; John Arthur Ruge; D. D. Russell; Rod Ruth - Jose Luis Slinas; William Sandeson; Leonard Sansone; Robert D. Scholnki;  Lew Sayre Schwartz; Fred O. Seibel' Irma Selz; Claude Shafter; George Shellhase; Barbara Shermund; Vaughn Shoemaker; Erle B. Slack; Dorman H. Smith; George Smith; Otto Soglow (committe chair); Howard Spraber; AndrewSprague; John Spranger; Stanley Stamaty; Russell Stamm; Ralph Stein; Cliff Sterrett; J. Striebel; T. S. Sullivant; V. A. Svoboda; Swinnerton - Hilda Terry; Paul H. Terry; Barney Tobey; Buford Tune; Leslie Turner - Philip Albert (Flip) Uzanas - Charles A. Voight - Mort Walker; Dow Walling; Jerry Walter; Linda Walter; L. D. Warren; Coulton Waugh; Morris Weiss (Wes Morse); Peter Wells; Elmer Wexler; Bert Whitman; Frank H. Willard; J. R. Williams; Dick Wingert; Basil Wolverton; George Wunder - Richard Yardley; Chic Young - Bill Zaboly; Eugene (Zim) Zimmerman.