UPM book about R. Crumb in Museums

I was happy to hear that The Comics of R. Crumb: Underground in the Art Museum has been submitted to the University Press of Mississippi by the Editor, Daniel Worden. It looks to be a great collection of different views on the way Crumb is represented in exhibitions.

My own contribution, Viewing Crumb: Representations of R. Crumb in Art Museums, discusses what role Crumb plays in contemporary art and in a wide range of museum exhibitions, such as High & Low (MoMA, 1990), Masters of American Comics (Hammer & MoCA LA, 2005), Compass in Hand: Selections from the Judith Rothschild Contemporary Drawings Collection (MoMA, 2009), The Phonus Balonus Show of Really Heavy Stuff (Corcoran Museum, 1969) Underground Classics (Chazen Museum, 2009), and Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb (Seattle Art Museum, 2016). The chapter also explores Crumb’s influence on contemporary feminist artists both negative (Trina Robbins) and positive (British feminists Margaret Harrison and Rebecca Warren).

R. Crumb.  God Wants me to Draw . Ink drawing on placemat. (2003). Collection of MoMA. Displayed with a Fritz the Cat book cover in the exhibition  Compass in Hand:Selections from the Judith Rothschild Contemporary Drawings Collection  .

R. Crumb. God Wants me to Draw. Ink drawing on placemat. (2003). Collection of MoMA. Displayed with a Fritz the Cat book cover in the exhibition Compass in Hand:Selections from the Judith Rothschild Contemporary Drawings Collection .

In July I will be participating in a roundtable discuss of this book at the Comics Studies Society’s annual conference at Ryerson University in Toronto, July 25 -28. I look forward to a wide ranging discussion with my fellow contributors to this volume.

Art & Museums draw a crowd at SDCF and Comic-Con Museum

Kim Munson, Adam Smith, Rob Salkowitz, and Mark Schultz on the Splashing Ink on Museum Walls panel at San Diego Comics Fest, March 2019. Photo by Eunice Verstegen.

Kim Munson, Adam Smith, Rob Salkowitz, and Mark Schultz on the Splashing Ink on Museum Walls panel at San Diego Comics Fest, March 2019. Photo by Eunice Verstegen.

The Museum Panel

Had a great time at San Diego Comic Fest this year. Our panel Splashing Ink on Museum Walls with Rob Salkowitz (moderator), cartoonist/illustrator Mark Schultz, SDCC Museum Executive Director Adam Smith, and myself was well-attended. We had a great discussion on several topics. After a brief intro, Rob led a discussion of recent shows that combined old master fine art and comics, like Botticelli and graphic novelist Karl Stevens in Botticelli: Heroines + Heroes at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston).

We had a lengthy conversation about the issue of narrative, and different techniques used by artists and curators to display art and still pay attention to the storytelling function of comics. This was a special concern of Mark’s as his books contain complex stories. We talked about shows that display entire books, like Speigelman’s Co-Mix and Crumb’s Genesis, as well as shows that focused on shorter stories, covers, and a sequence of pages that show a story arc within a larger story.

Adam talked a bit about how the museum is developing and his excitement about having the museum’s first official opening night party for Cover Story just two nights prior to the panel (photos below). He also spoke about about the museum’s experiments with the concept of fan sourced exhibits, and about the strong grassroots support the museum is getting.

I talked a bit about history. Although we had a agreed to talk mostly about recent shows from the last five or six years, I made a quick detour into the 1930s and 40s, because people still think of comics shows as a new thing that has just appeared over the last decade. I also talked about the importance of seeing the original artwork with all the notes and marking for the viewing audience and for other artists.

In audience questions, one audience member accused us of dismissing the important MOMA show High & Low, which eventually led to Masters of American Comics, which was organized in response. The panel touched on it briefly. To me, High & Low and Masters are part of a two decade story that is hard to tell in a couple of sentences (I dedicate an entire section of my book to the dialog between these two shows).

Another audience member wondered if there had ever been a show of pop art style photographic blow-ups of comics panels. I told him that this was tried back in 1967 at the Louvre and no one has done a show exclusively of blow-ups since. Bande dessinee et figuration narrative , was organized by SOCCERLID, group of French intellectuals who loved American comics of the 30s and 40s, They used pop art style blow-ups of comics panels (Caniff, Hogarth, etc) in response to the comics based paintings of Roy Lichtenstein, whom they despised. After the show closed in Paris, it toured to several European capitals in the late 1960s. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London originally planned to have this show, but opted instead to assemble an exhibit of original art. By the mid-1970s, museums, curators, and artists decided that the blow-ups were inauthentic, were kind of insulting (a different way of turning comics into Pop Art), and missed all the elements that made comics unique, like layout and narrative. Audiences valued the aura of authenticity seen in the originals and they appreciated learning about the creative process through all the markings, white-out and other notations. Many shows use blow-ups to show detail or as a design element, but no one has ever done a show of nothing but Pop Art style blow-ups since. Even Masters of American Comics, which specifically focused on visual form, did not do this.

We were all grateful to the audience, who were intellectually engaged and curious throughout the panel.

Barbara “Willy” Mendes, Mark Bode, and Trina Robbins hold up copies of the “East Village Other” during the “Gothic Blimp Works” panel.

Barbara “Willy” Mendes, Mark Bode, and Trina Robbins hold up copies of the “East Village Other” during the “Gothic Blimp Works” panel.

Other Great Panels!

All attendees I spoke with were impressed with the selection of panels scheduled, as well as a robust dealer room and artist’s alley. I particularly enjoyed Urban Geography and Comics, led by Dr. Lisa Chaddock; The Beginnings of Modern Mythology, Pop Culture and Modern Superheroes and Villains an overview by David Lemmo; The 1950s Made Kurtzman MAD with Michael Dooley and Bill Schelly; Pioneers of Comix with Mary Gleener, Lee Marrs, Willy Mendes, and Trina Robbins; Ditko: An Arlen Schumer VisuaLecture; Mary Fleener’s First Graphic Novel “Billy the Bee” (one of my favorite panels) with Fleener, Mark Habegger, and James Nieh, PhD (a bee specialist); a special remembrance of Batton Lash, a pillar of SDCC, who was lost to us earlier this year, with Anina Bennett, Jackie Estrada, Mark Evenier, Paul Guinan, Rob Salkowitz, Artlen Schumer, and Scott Shaw!; Comics, Space Travels, to the Moon & Beyond with Michael Dooley and Benjamin Dickow; and spotlights on Vaughn Bode, Willy Mendes, and Mark Schultz. I wish I could have cloned myself to get to more!

Cover Story at the San Diego Comic-Con Museum

2019 marks 50 years of SDCC, making it the longest continuously run comics and pop culture convention in North America. This show displayed sketches, paintings, and finished versions for yearly souvenir books pulled from Comic-Con’s archives and private collections. The opening night party, open to Charter Members, included an Eisner Week panel in the Museum’s theatre with Jackie Estrada, IDW’s Scott Dunbier, moderated by Charles Brownstein of CBLDF. Aside from the theatre and the gallery set up for Cover Story, the museum is a cavernous, three story space awaiting a top to bottom remodel.

New Plat/Gold Comics Collection at SFSU Library

When I was writing my thesis for my MA at San Francisco State University in 2008, I actually had to bring in a selection of current scholarship to persuade my committee that comics were a real thing. I’m happy to say that times have changed, and they have added a minor in Comics Studies led by Eisner winner Nick Sousanis https://humanitiesliberalstudies.sfsu.edu/minor-comics-studies

Further, the SFSU Library is the recipient of a fascinating collection of Platinum and Golden Age comics from the first Superman comic (1939) to 1952, with an emphasis on adventure, war, and kid’s comics. These are all reader copies. Superman #1 for instance, is intact and fully readable but it’s missing the front cover. I can’t wait to see students handling these comics with white gloves.

I welcome this great new resource and hope to use it in future projects. The graphic was from the reception, but the collection can be viewed any weekday from 1-5 in the Library’s Special Collections Reading Room #460.

archive reception poster.jpg



SD Comics Fest and Eisner Week Event

3/6 in San Diego, Balboa Park; SD Comics Fest 3/7 - 10.

3/6 in San Diego, Balboa Park; SD Comics Fest 3/7 - 10.

I’m headed to San Diego Comics Fest to visit with friends and participate on a panel about comic art and museums:

Splashing Ink On Museum Walls: Comic Art on Display

Saturday, Mar 9, 2019, 3:00 PM (Palm B)

Comic art and comics are finally being recognized as worthy of display in galleries and museums. What are the best ways to present it to the public? How are new facilities like the Comic-Con Museum approaching their mission of education and entertainment? What does it mean for artists and the medium?

Join Comic-Con Museum Director Adam Smith, author/scholar Kim Munson, and award-winning artist Mark Schultz for a wide-ranging exploration of the issues, moderated by Rob Salkowitz. Here’s link to their site: https://www.sdcomicfest.org/

I’m looking forward to hearing from Adam how the San Diego Comic-Con Museum project is progressing. Weds night 3/6, the museum is organizing an Eisner Week event, which I will be attending:

Cover Story: The Art of Comic-Con 50 
Exhibit Opening Reception

March 6, 2019 6pm – 9pm
Future Home of the Comic-Con Museum 
2131 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park | San Diego, California 92101

“Cover Story: The Art of Comic-Con 50,” is a new exhibition at the future home of the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park. Explore the past 50 years of Comic-Con covers through striking examples of original art and process pieces that explore the creation of a cover, from thumbnail sketches to finished pencil and ink art to fully-colored finished pieces. Drawing from Comic-Con’s archives, the exhibition celebrates art as an integral tool in promoting the organization’s mission of creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms. The exhibition includes pieces from talent as diverse as Jack Kirby, Bruce Timm, Dave McKean, Moebius and Steranko.

As one of the benefits of being a Charter Member of the Comic-Con Museum, you will have an opportunity to view this exhibit ahead of the general public, at the Museum’s first ever Exhibit Opening Reception from 6pm – 9pm, March 6, 2019.

8pm Special Program: Will Eisner & The Spirit of Service

In the Comic-Con Museum Theater

In addition to the opportunity to view Cover Story: The Art of Comic-Con 50, the Museum will also be hosting a special panel discussion honoring Will Eisner on what would have been his 102nd Birthday. The panel will take a focused look at Eisner’s life and work, while evaluating his commitment to education, military service, and professional development.

Update on "From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums"

Around Thanksgiving 2018, I resubmitted a new draft of my upcoming book for University Press of Mississippi about the history, controversies, and trends in exhibits of comic art in art museums and university galleries between 1930 to the present. Over the summer, I got very positive peer reviews that also pointed out some gaps, and the Press decided to change the book’s format from a black & white reader to a full color art book. Because of this, I added some new essays, sourced lots of exhibition photos, and rewrote all of my section intros. Whew…

I am so grateful to the many helpful and enthusiastic contributors to this book. Definitely a labor of love! The text is about 50/50 new/totally revised or old/reprinted material. Here’s the current table of contents:

Foreword: Dr. Tom Inge

Foundations: Comic Art in Museums

Comic Art in Museums: An Overview: Denis Kitchen

Substance and Shadow: the Art of the Cartoon: Brian Walker

Permanent Ink: Comic Book and Comic-Strip Art as Aesthetic Object & Afterthoughts on Permanent Ink: Andrei Molotiu

Pioneers: Comic Art Exhibitions 1930 - 1967

The Evolution of Comic Art Exhibitions 1934-1951: Kim Munson

Narrative Illustration: the Story of the Comics: M. C. Gaines

The First International: ‘L Exposicao Internacional de Historias em Quadrinhos’: Alvaro de Moya

‘Bande dessinee et figuration narrative’: la contribution de Pierre Couperie: Antoine Sausverd (translated by Dr. Ann Miller)

The Renewed Focus on Comics as Art After 1970

The Comic Stripped and Ash Canned: a Review Essay: Albert Boime

Exhibitions at the Museum of Cartoon Art: A Personal Recollection & List of Exhibitions at the Museum of Cartoon Art: Brian Walker

Mort Walker, Historian: Cullen Murphy

Review/Art: Cartoon Masters - Cartoonists Finally Get Some Respect: Kenneth Baker

Comics, Community, and the Toonseum: an Interview with Joe Wos: Kim Munson

Expanding Views of Comic Art: Topics and Display

Northern Ink: Misfit Lit in Minneapolis: Diana Green

Our Heroes: African-American Artists and Images in the American Comic Book: Dwayne McDuffie

Deviating from ‘Art’: Japanese Manga Exhibitions 1990-2015: Jaqueline Berndt

The Glimmering Glow of Comic Art Amidst the Blinding Glitter of the United Arab Emirates: John A. Lent

Hypercomics: The Shape of Comics to Come: Paul Gravett

Sequential Titillation: Comics Stripped at the Museum of Sex, New York: Craig Yoe

Masters of High and Low: Exhibitions in Dialogue

Comic Connoisseurs: David Deicher

Comics as Art Criticism: The Cartoons of Jonah Kinigstein: Karen Green & Kim Munson

High Way Robbery & My Way Along the Highway: Michael Dooley

High Art Lowdown: This Review is Not Sponsored by AT&T: Art Spiegelman

How Low Can You Go?: John Carlin

Cracking the Comics Canon: Leslie Jones

An uneasy accord: L.A. museums open their walls to comics as true works of art. Is it long overdue, still an odd mix, or simply inviting cartoonists to a party they may not want to attend: Scott Timberg

Here are the Great Women Comic Artists of the United States: Trina Robbins

Remasters of American Comics: Sequential art as new media in the transformative museum context: Damian Duffy

Personal Statements: Exhibitions about Individual Artists

After ‘Masters’: Interview with Gary Panter: Kim Munson

Splashing Ink on Museum Walls: How Comic Art is Conquering Galleries, Museums, and Public Spaces: Rob Salkowitz

In Our Own Image, After Our Likeness: Charles Hatfield

Showing Pages and Progress: Interview with Carol Tyler: Kim Munson

Curating Comics Canons: Daniel Clowes and Art Spiegelman’s Private Museums: Benoit Crucifix

‘Co-Mix’ and Exhibitions: Interview with Art Spiegelman: Kim Munson

Introduction to ‘Comic Book Apocalypse: The Art of Jack Kirby’: Charles Hatfield

Jack Kirby at Cal State Northridge: Doug Harvey

Genius in a Box: Alexi Worth

These essays will be accompanied by over 75 images. Book expected in 2020.