Monthly Archives: July 2009

Return To MacDoodle Street

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It is easy to exaggerate the importance of work that was formative to your own, and for that reason I have resisted calling Mark Alan Stamaty’s MacDoodle Street a “forgotten masterpiece.” Revisiting the work, 25 years after my first encounter with it, I now realize that resistance is futile.

MacDoodle Street was a weekly comic that began in the Village Voice in 1978 and was collected in book form in 1980. I stumbled upon a remaindered copy in the bargain bin of my university bookstore around 1985 during my sophomore year of college. Despite my love of cartooning I was aware of little else than superhero, Archie, and contemporary newspaper comics. When I considered my future in comics it was hard to picture, given my interests and skill set, where I fit in.

I had never seen anything like MacDoodle Street before. I was both thrilled and puzzled by it. The strips nominal center was Malcolm Frazzle, a poet dishwasher whose attempt to follow his muse and write his poems (and later save the world) is interrupted by the Conservative Liberation Front, genetically altered dish-washing monkeys, and other various plot digressions all a result of Stamaty’s own anarchical tendencies.

Weaned on the slick surfaces of Marvel comics, the art struck me as crude— an obsessive scrawl that invaded the page, a la Marc Bell, filling it with inventive and inspired doodles. Stamaty’s also crammed his strips with fastidious cross hatching and stippling, collaged photos, small paintings made by his characters, caricatures (Howard Cosell, Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, etc), and even a dental x-ray. Stamaty was ready to do whatever it to took to keep up with the torrent of ideas, characters, asides, and metaphors that were pouring out of him. I imagined Stamaty as a crazy street person, manically wandering the streets of Greenwich Village muttering and laughing to himself, hearing a thousand voices only half of which emanated from the crowded streets.

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I have never read a comic strip that was this much alive. Stamaty comes at the reader in so many directions at once. It’s as if a classic adventure strip was fending off a Dada invasion while the battlefield (comics’ formal conventions) does somersaults as an ever-changing cast of broadcasters comment on the action. It often feels like Stamaty is barely in control of the strip— like a parade marshal who could be trampled at any moment by the odd and untamed menagerie that follows him. It’s a funny and thrilling spectacle that has more than a whiff of danger.

Jules Feiffer compared the strip to Thomas Pynchon and S.J. Perelman and the collection’s cover calls MacDoodle Street a “comic strip novel.” This isn’t a publisher’s hyperbole. Stamaty was in love with a certain kind of absurdist novel and his goal was to write one himself. It was very important to him that the word “novel” be on the cover of the book. Whatever one calls Stamaty’s work it is a singular vision that belongs to no school but his own. I’m a fan of his kids’ books and Washingtoon strips, but MacDoodle Street is by far Stamaty’s most inventive and inspiring work.

— James Sturm

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Schulz Library Style

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CCS has designed some stylish Schulz Library merchandise (modeled above by our summer interns Caitlin McGurk and Michel Valdez). Our classic logo is featured on t-shirts of all sized, from kids shirts to ladies fashion tees.

But that’s not all! We also have sturdy tote bags, designed for hauling heavy library books.

Support CCS and look good too! You can purchase these items in White River Junction at The Grape Vine Gift Shoppe (formerly Coolidge Cards). If you’re not local, but you’d like to purchase a shirt or a bag, give me an email!

– Robyn Chapman

Manga High Treasure

Treasure at Create Comics 2009

Treasure & Manga High: Literacy, Identity, and Coming of Age in an Urban High School 

Manga High: Literacy, Identity, and Coming of Age in an Urban High School is a summary of a four-year comics literacy research project of Dr. Michael Bitz. It explores the convergence of literacy, creativity, social development, and personal identity, of students coming of age. Bitz tracked students from his afterschool Comic Book Project (CBP), a literacy program that harnesses the power of making comics and learning. The school, Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, at the time the study began, was one of New York City’s largest high schools with 2,600 students enrolled. Bitz’s goal is to illustrate how creating comic art gets at every major literacy skill.

Naturally I was curious read Manga High, it recognizes the experience here at CCS summer workshops as improving the student’s confidence and overall outlook. The Center for Cartoon Studies partners with the Comic Book Project to award summer Create Comics workshop scholarships. 

Manga High is an informative book with compelling testimonial from both students and teachers. It includes a portfolio of several examples of student work, embedded in dedicated chapters. One of the students, Treasure, is here now attending CCS’s Create Comics workshop! I just confirmed with her, that in fact she is the same Treasure  (chapter 12) of Manga High. When I approached her with the book, she was embarrassed and felt the work featured doesn’t really reflect her current skills and talent. A student sitting next to her said we NEED Treasure in this class. She blushed, but I think recognizes her contributions, talent, and enthusiasm.

I took the photo above yesterday of the project she’s working on while here at CCS. Keith, another CBP and CCS student, is also featured in Manga High. Both really have made an impression in the class, worked hard, and took full advantage of the experience.

The workshop experience here in Vermont extends beyond making comics. It offers an exchange of  cultural credits. Having moved from a big city to a small town a few years ago, I can relate to the shock these students must have felt when they stepped off the train, and entered this small town setting. Green hills, fresh air, quietness, fashionless, brandless…foreign, entirely new literacy of people and culture to absorb.

Thanks Michael! We’re grateful for all your work.

– Ollie 

 

About Dr. Michael Bitz, EdD
Bitz is the founder of the Comic Book Project and cofounder of the Youth Music Exchange. Bitz has served as faculty at Teachers College, and Columbia University. The first recipient of the Educational Entrepreneurship Fellowship at Mind Trust in Indianapolis, he received the Distinguished Alumni Early Career Award from Teachers College at Columbia University.

The Comic Book Project
http://www.comicbookproject.org/

Harvard Education Press:
http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/100/MangaHigh

Nicolas

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Nicolas is a book by Pascal Girard.  Drawn and Quarterly recently donated a copy to our library.  A few months ago I went up to Montreal and picked this book up at the D & Q store.  I read it in about 10 minutes and then read it over and over again every night for a week(exaggerating).  Reasons why i love it.  It can make someone cry using such a small amount of lines.  It’s about Girard’s little brother who passed away from a bad disease when they were very little.  I have tingles up my back just thinking about this book.  It’s deceptively simple looking and you may ignore it on the shelf if you weren’t reading this.  It’s a good thing that you are reading this though.  Here.  I’ll open the pages for you.

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Now wasn’t that splendid?

I tried to draw like Girard for a few weeks after reading this book.  I get irritated when this happens but I think I learned a lot about cartooning.  Girard has a gift for simplifying objects(especially people) that just makes me shiver.  He had a wonderful blog where he posts work form his sketchbook and stuff he is working on, including something about Bigfoot.  Thanks you for this book Mr. Girard.     — Chuck McBuck

Remembering Pendarvis

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I recently learned that Bob Pendarvis, the co-founder of Savannah College of Art and Design’s Sequential Art Department was let go. I taught alongside Bob from 1997-2000. SCAD’s sequential art department has had a significant impact on American cartooning. I hope Bob is recognized for his accomplishments as an educator and for the hundreds of students he inspired and outraged.

Bob left quite an impression. He looked like Benny Hill and often dressed like Hello Kitty. The Bob I knew was by turns impulsive, childish, combative, candid, and generous. He was, however, always passionate and despite a goofball facade, exceptionally bright and perceptive. Bob was also an inspired cartoonist. When I left SCAD, Bob gave me a going away present: a sketchbook that contained a hilarious and heartfelt story featuring caricatures of the entire sequential art faculty. I think he whipped it out in an hour. There are few books I treasure as much as this one. It takes me back in time and reminds me of the most magical side of a difficult and talented colleague. Good luck going forward, Bob.
— James Sturm

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all images by Bob Pendarvis!

A Nancy Up My Sleeve

Recently, James Sturm donated his own homemade Nancy deck to the Schulz Library . A hundred or so of Nancy panels by Ernie Bushmiller that may be used for Five-Card Nancy. You hand out a pile of say, five, cards to two-five players or teams. Provide the teams with a sheet numbering 1-6, each number corresponding to the Scott McCloud panel-to-panel transitions. Rolling a 1 is a moment to moment, a 2 is action to action, and so on. Lay down a random card for each team that functions as the first panel, have them roll the die and lay down a card that makes sense with the die number and in sequence with the previous panel(s). If there is no card that makes sense in your hand, you can return one card to the bottom of the deck and take a new one from the top. The strip ends when you/your team decides the gag has ended.

Kids from my cartooning class at the craft center play Five-Card Nancy.

I played it by myself and here is my strip: Can you figure out my panel to panel transitions?

Want to play yourself? Go to your local library, photograph panels from Nancy and get to work on your own deck!

-Jen Vaughn

New York City, Zines and Samizdat!

Last weekend CCS went to the first-ever NYC Zine Fest. Held in the Brooklyn Lyceum, the event hosted a variety of self-publishers (including zinesters, cartoonists, poets, and book artists).

I was impressed by the quality and range of work on display. The highlight of the trip was meeting Esther K. Smith and being introduced to her fabulous book, How To Make Books.

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I gave a presentation at the festival titled A Century of Self-Publishing: Zines and Mini-Comics, 1900 – Present. During my presentation I touched on a type of self-publishing I think is incredibly interesting – samizdat.

Samizdat it Russian for “self published”. It was a type of underground literature, written and distributed in secret, in the Soviet Union during the post Stalin era. Through samizdat opponents of the government where able share news and ideas. Publishing samizdat was not only dangerous but difficult, as all printing presses, copy machines and even typewriters were under government control. Some methods of reproduction included using carbon paper, typewriters or copying text by hand. Samizdat was often a single page of text, rather than a bound book. This inconspicuous format could be easily hidden.

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This is my favorite example of Samizdat: a copy of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, published in this tiny format, which could be concealed in a pocket.

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– Robyn Chapman