Comics Lowdown: RIP James Vance

The man who finished ‘Omaha the Cat Dancer’ passes away, Frank Quitely finally gets that degree, and more.

James Vance

Passings: James Vance, the author (with artist Dan Burr) of the graphic novels Kings in Disguise and On the Ropes, died on June 5 at the age of 64. Kings in Disguise was first published as a limited series by Kitchen Sink Press in 1988 and in 1989 won the Eisner and Harvey awards for Best New Series, and the first issue won the Eisner for Best Single Issue. W.W. Norton published a collected edition in 2006, with an introduction by Alan Moore. The sequel, On the Ropes, was published by Norton in 2013. Vance was married to Omaha the Cat Dancer writer Kate Worley from 1994 to 2004, and many years later he collaborated with Omaha artist Reed Waller to complete the story, which was left unfinished at Worley’s death; it was published in 2013. Vance, who was also a playwright, talked about his work with Alex Dueben at CBR in 2013. His illness and death leaves his family in a difficult financial situation, so a GoFundMe has been set up to help.

Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman

That’s DOCTOR Quitely to You! Glasgow University awarded artist Frank Quitely a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree this week. An accomplished artist whose work includes All-Star Superman, Flex Mentallo, and Jupiter’s Legacy, Quitely enrolled in Glasgow School of Art when he was a teenager but didn’t graduate: “As it happened, I got chucked out of art school for not doing enough work,” he says. “So this degree is my first degree.”

Interviews and Profiles

Skin in the Game: Graham Chaffee talks about his new graphic novel, To Have & To Hold, which was published by Fantagraphics last month. To Have & To Hold is a noir heist story set in the early 1960s, with the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop. Chaffee talks about his storytelling style, the little allusions he sneaks in, and how his full-time job as a tattoo artist impacts his style:

Tattooing is restrictive to my work as a comics artist. I am so used to crafting these clean designs with recognized protocols for outline, shading, and color, that it’s hard to switch gears and loosen up as a draughtsman. I fear my comics are more controlled and uptight than I’d like them to be. I’m no Ware or Burns, but I’d like to be even less so: looser, more expressive, more Julie Doucet!

Local Hero: Artist Wally Wood, who would have been 90 years old this year, is getting a birthday party in his home town of Menahga, Minnesota. The Menahga Historical Museum, which has a permanent exhibit of his work on display, will hold the party to celebrate Wood, who was an artist for EC Comics and the early MAD Magazine and is regarded by many as one of the best artists in the history of the comics medium.

The Biz: Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada does a 3×3 interview at ICv2, in which he discusses three things he feels he has done right, three he has done wrong, and what else he learned.

Reviews, Roundups, and Commentary

A splash page from ‘Lead Private Eye, Momoko’ by Mitsuaki Suzuki

Better than the God of Manga? Manga scholar Matt Thorn takes a look at some shoujo manga magazines from the late 1950s and early 1960s, which carried stories by Osamu Tezuka and other artists, and in some cases is more impressed by the other artists’ work.

Scholarly Matters: On NPR’s Fresh Air radio show, comics scholar A. David Lewis discusses discusses the history of Muslim comics characters, from the 1944 character Kismet to today’s Ms. Marvel.

Locked Up: Michael Cavna’s writes that Guy Delisle’s Hostage is an immersive experience, which is a tribute to the Delisle’s powerful storytelling if not exactly a selling point:

What Delisle so brilliantly conveys here is the sensory experience of a life reduced to a room — and the effects on the brain when captivity lacks even the scheduled certainty of institutional incarceration. This is a highly confined purgatory that, without strength or will or hope, can become an emotional hell.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Joe Gordon reviews A Castle in England (Nobrow Press). Writer Jamie Rhodes spent some time living in an actual castle, and he wrote five short stories, each illustrated by a different artist and each set in a different period of the castle’s history.

Future Reading: At ICv2, I rounded up recently announced titles from First Second and Koyama Press.

The Biz

Comics and Coffee: Three black comics professionals talk about their work on NPR’s Code Switch podcast: Ariell Johnson, proprietor of the Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia; publisher C. Spike Trotman (Iron Circus Comics); and writer and artist Ronald Wimberly, who has worked for Marvel and DC as well as doing creator-owned titles such as Prince of Cats.

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