Interview: Jay Lynch Pt. 3 [of 3]

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[Art by Frank Cammuso]

Before his reinventing himself as a children’s book author through Toon Book properties like Otto’s Orange Day with Frank Cammuso and the Dean Haspiel collaboration, Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever, Jay Lynch was a driving force in the Chicago’s underground comics movement of the early-70s, publishing Bijou Funnies, which brought the comics world pioneering works by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, and, of course, Lynch himself.

In the interim years, Lynch has worked on a wide range of projects, both comics and not, including the Spiegelman-created Wacky Packages series for Topps, and its successor, The Garbage Pail Kids. The artist also contributed to Mad, shortly after the return of counter-culture cartooning legend, Harvey Kurtzman.

In this final part of out interview with Lynch, we discuss working on Mad, whether today’s children’s books are a bit too safe these days, and the battle to stay afloat financially.

[Part One] [Part Two]
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Interview: Jay Lynch Pt. 2 [of 3]

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His latest work, a collaboration with Act-I-Vater, Dean Haspiel, is hardly Jay Lynch’s first foray into the world of children’s entertainment. The book, Mo & Jo Fighting Together Forever, is Lynch’s second for Francoise Mouly’s Toon Books imprint. It’s also the latest in a long line of output aimed at children, including Garbage Pail Kids packs, My Little Pony sticker books, and lyrics for kids songs—a far cry from the latter day output of many of his late-60s underground comics contemporaries.

In this second part of our interview with the artist, we discuss the state of children’s books, X-men’s sales figures, and why his days drawing Duckman comics will also make him think of OJ.

[Part One]

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Interview: Jay Lynch Pt. 1

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Jay Lynch was there at the beginning. As the head of Bijou Funnies, he published some of the most significant underground pioneers of the late-60s, including folks like Robert Crumb, Skip Williamson, Art Spiegelman, and Justin Green, while gaining notoriety in his own right as an artist in his own right, thanks to titles like Nard ‘n’ Pat.

With that in mind, the context for our conversation feels a touch strange. When I call him at his home in upstate New York, the artist is eager to speak about his latest work, Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever, a collaboration with Act-I-Vate artist, Dean Haspiel. It’s Lynch’s second book for young children under the Toon Books umbrella.

The connection between Lynch’s early career and his current children’s work is rather rather easily unpacked, however. Toon Books head (and New Yorker art director) Francoise Mouly approached Lynch to join the fold of her soon-to-be launched publishing house three years ago. The collaboration eventually resulted in Otto’s Orange Day, release by the company, earlier this year.

But Otto was hardly Lynch’s first work for children, the artist having spent a significant portion of his career working on contract for Topps—works like Wacky Packs and The Garbage Pail Kids—alongside fellow underground legend (and Mouly’s husband), Art Spiegelman.

We spoke to Lynch about Spiegelman, superheroes, and his days spent slaving away at in the My Little Pony mines.

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Interview: Jews and American Comics Editor, Paul Buhle

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Released earlier this week by The New Press, Brown professor Paul Buhle’s Jews in American Comics could have easily been yet another rehash of a long line of academic treatises on the subject of Jewish-American involvement in the creation of the superhero, most recently exemplified by Danny Fingeroth’s Superman Disguised as Clark Kent.

Fortunately for us, however, Buhle considers himself something of a peer to artists like Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. A spiritual descendant of Harvey Kurtzman and his ilk, the realm of capes and tights never really did all that much for the author.

Instead, the book maps the role of Jewish creators from the early days of syndicated comics through the innovations brought forth by EC/MAD, and ultimately through the explosion of the underground and its subsequent repercussions.

For a more complete review of the book, check the most recent issue of The New York Press. After the jump you’ll find a full—if short—interview conducted with Buhle for the publication.

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Where Demented Wented Book Release

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Where Demented Wented Book Release
Desert Island Comics, Brooklyn, NY 8/8/08

[Gary Panter, Bill Griffith]

[More photos available on our Flickr page.]

[More videos on our YouTube page.]

“This is the largest crowd that Rory’s ever had,” laughed Bill Griffith, only half-jokingly. Desert Island Comics was packed Friday night, in joint celebration of Fantagraphics’ upcoming Rory Hayes anthology, Where Demented Wented and a posthumous celebration of the artist’s 59th birthday. The owners Brooklyn-based shop had diligently swept all of the store’s waste-high shelves into the its remotest corner, but the space was still standing room-only, at best.

Griffith’s bafflement at the matter was palatable. After all, Hayes was never really recognized in his lifetime, whatever minor fame he achieved paling in comparison to habitually lauded peers like Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson. Posthumous fame hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, either. For all intents and purposes, the newly-issued Fantagraphics volume is the first widely available anthology of Hayes’s work.

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Interview: Ralph Bakshi Pt. 4 [of 4]

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Ralph Bakshi is one of those rare artists who possesses a personality ever bit as colorful as the characters he creates. It’s no surprise then, that the man fit in perfectly amongst the Ren & Stimpy cast, when John Kricfalusi asked him to voice a part in his 2003 sequel to Fire Dogs.

That inspired partnership was also a happy reminder of the fact that, in spite of the animator’s remarkable ability to maintain a four-decade old grudge with a certain prominent underground cartoonist, Bakshi has long been a supporter of many of his talented peers.

In this final part of our hour-long interview with Bakshi, we discuss the artist’s favorite contemporary cartoonists and animator, and let him get off a few more shots against that aforementioned fellow counter-cultural icon.

[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three]
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Interview: Ralph Bakshi Pt. 3

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Ralph Bakshi has never been one for self-censorship, a fact that has readily manifest itself his work, resulting in some of the most ground-breaking and uncompromising films of the 20th century, animated or otherwise. As we discovered in our face-to-face conversation with the 69-year-old Brooklynite, such unfettered expression has a tendency to manifest itself in some of Bakshi’s professional relationships, as well.

The mention of underground cartoonist, Robert Crumb, for example, who created the title character for Bakshi’s 1972 film Fritz the Cat, was more than enough to launch the animator into a bare-knuckled diatribe against the artist—one which carriers over well into the third part of this interview.

It’s this same lack of creative compromise that has lead, for better or worse, to Bakshi’s inability to recapture the scale of success that defined Fritz, largely relegating the animator to the status of cult hero.

In this third part, Bakshi happily explains why he initially abandoned the mainstream and never looked back.

[Part One]
[Part Two]

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Interview: Ralph Bakshi Pt. 2

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Released in 1972, Ralph Bakshi still considers Fritz the Cat to be the major turning point in his career, the breakthrough film that helped the animator make the blind leap from the Heckle and Jeckle cartoons of his early career at TerryToons to gritty urban underground work like Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, which, to this day, are largely considered Bakshi’s masterpieces.

Adapted from a series of Robert Crumb strips, Fritz the Cat became the first animated film to be tagged with an X Rating, courtesy of the MPAA. Despite, or more likely because of this, the film also did gangbusters, becoming the first animated film to rack up more than $100 million at the box office.

In the wake of the film’s release, Crumb made public his aggressive disdain for the adaptation well-known, going so far as to file a suit to have his name removed from its credits and later killing off his reluctant Hollywood star in a subsequent strip.

Bakshi, for the record, would like it known that the feeling is mutual. As our conversation transitions from questions about his own jump from kids cartoons to the topic of Fritz’s subversive nature (or, to a degree, he might argue, lack thereof), Bakshi’s own feelings about Crumb quickly take the reigns of the conversation, along with a commentary how the press has long opted to report Crumb’s feelings on the matter while neglecting his own. And while, despite a bit of finger pointing at me on Bakshi’s part (referring to said press as a collective “you”), I can’t honestly take an credit for this perceived lopsided account (though, for the record, at the top of the interview I did mention Crumb’s name amongst a list of cartoonists whose work I admire).

That said, it’s hard to argue with Bakshi’s assessment that the press have been far more eager to print Crumb’s opinions on the subject than his own. The matter is certainly not due to a lack of passion on Bakshi’s part. A few months shy of 70, the animator is still more than happy to let his feelings be known, with a force that, to be totally honest, is a little frightening when sitting a few feet away.

I agree to print his opinions on the matter during the conversation, and to break some of the tension, I make some off-handed joke about having momentarily lost control of my bladder in the face of the fury that’s still alive and well in the heart of the Brooklyn animator,

Bakshi pauses for a moment and then smiles, “I like him.”

[Part One].

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