Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Sho Murase 1969 - 2022

Comic book and manga artist Sho Murase, whose distinctive graphic style merged western European art Asian sensibilities, passed away from complications of kidney failure on August 12, 2022. 

She was an in demand graphic artist, and her client list reflected her worldwide appeal. DC Comics, Marvel, PaperCutz, Disney and many others worked with her.

From her Facebook page:

A Special Message About Sho Murase

It is with a heavy heart that we bring you this message about the passing of our dear friend Sho. Last Friday August 12, Sho passed away in her sleep after a long battle dealing with kidney failure. For the last few years Sho dealt with difficult health complications and now she can finally rest in peace.

For those of us that knew her and followed her career, there are many gifts Sho left us. Her unique art style and creativity lives on for us to study and admire with the body of artwork she created.

For those that knew Sho personally, she gave us the gift of her loving kindness, generosity, and selflessness. Her presence was a very special gift and will be remembered fondly by those who were close to her.

In the past you may have been a supporter of Sho and donated to her cause. We are not taking donations at this time but we ask that you hold Sho in your thoughts and prayers.

A memorial is being organized and we will follow up with an announcement once the dates are confirmed.

In regards to any recent or outstanding artwork inquiries, we will go through each inquiry shortly. The custody of Sho’s artwork has been passed to the beneficiaries. At an appropriate time we will address any future artwork requests.

In loving memory of Sho.

You will be missed.


Now, back in 2006, I was co-curator (with the great Stan Goldberg) of a large gallery show of cartoon art in Great Neck, Long Island. It was a tremendous show with lots of original art. The title of the exhibit was "This Inking Life." I really wanted to have a lot of different kinds of comic art represented. Through Jim Salicrup, I was successful in having an original Murase piece of art for the show. I remember she mailed it from her home in San Fransisco. We communicated via email and I bought a copy of her book "Me2" thinking that one day I would meet her in person and ask her to sign it. She was very gracious and self-effacing. Such a talent!


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Garden As of Mid-August

It's been a dry and hot summer, which has been good for some (tomatoes) and bad for others (people).


Above: the zinnias make the hummingbirds very happy.

The Queen Anne's Lace, in the foreground, was just an accident. In the back, the raised bed, has a tomato plant, some Asian peppers and a soon-to-be-depleted cucumber plant.

The tomatoes are nearing the end now. But my oh my how lovely and red they are.

This sad bed has a half dozen green pepper plants that were, on July 5th, eaten by deer but miraculously returned and are now bearing cute little peppers. The rest of the bed used to have squash, but the squash was destroyed by the squash borer worm. One lonely squash lived (upper left). I planted some watermelons, and those are the vines in the middle. They are too little to actually yield a proper watermelon.

This final box had all of its squash plants destroyed by those borers, so I took the weed cloth and straw off and turned the soil. The box is in need of repair (upper left). I may either refresh the box with some manure and/or plant some winter rye.

The next couple of weeks will see the last of the tomatoes. These are all different kinds.

Baby watermelon.

Little green peppers.

Asian peppers. I don't know much about these, but I think they are ready to be picked.

 Lovely zinnias.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Jean-Jacques Sempé 1932 - 2022

Jean-Jacques Sempé, who is best known for his illustrations for the Little Nicolas series of books with writer René Goscinny, died peacefully on August 11, 2022, at the age of 89. 

 Photo: © AFP


From Lambiek Comiclopedia:

Jean-Jacques Sempé was a French cartoonist and illustrator, whose crowded cartoon panels gave gentle commentary on the absurdity and banality of everyday city life. Since the 1950s, his drawings – including sequential ones – have appeared in publications throughout France, including Sud-Ouest Dimanche, Ici Paris and Paris Match…Together with writer René Goscinny, Sempé created the charming adventures of ‘Le Petit Nicolas’ (‘Little Nicolas’, 1954-1965) – originally as a comic strip, then as an illustrated text feature – starring a Parisian school boy telling about his everyday life.

Besides magazine cartoons, Jean-Jacques Sempé also illustrated posters, advertisements, postcards and stickers, as well as books … Following the success of ‘Le Petit Nicolas’, publisher Denoël has also released over 25 book collections with Sempé cartoons, starting with ‘Rien N’est Simple’ (1962), ‘Tout Se Complique’ (1963) and ‘Sauve Qui Peut’ (1964).


The Daily Cartoonist has much more here.  

As for me, Sempé was a master and there was so much life in his inkline. He was so renowned that (so I have heard) you could have just mailed him a fan letter addressed to "Sempé, Paris, France" and it would reach the master cartoonist, no problem. 

Here are a few of his many, many cartoons.


Above: the back cover to CARTOONS THE FRENCH WAY with a wordless Sempé gag.

Here are some of his cartoons from the 1955 paperback CARTOONS THE FRENCH WAY .

Sempé was in his early 20s when he drew these cartoons.


Best known today for his New Yorker covers, his depictions of Paris life are seminal. The New York Times, in this 2006 article, has called his work quintessentially French:

"His precise, elegant drawings are often set in a Paris that even Parisians dream of: a city of mansard roofs, high windows and wrought-iron balconies, where all the cars still look like Deux-Chevaux or 1950s Citroëns. Dwarfed by their surroundings, his figures - smallish men, balding, a little portly, with big noses and tidy little mustaches, their double-chinned, nicely coiffed wives in polka-dot frocks - are French Everymen, dignified and put upon at the same time. They nevertheless speak to the international human plight: the Thurberian power struggle between men and women, the daily need to keep up appearances, the unending cycle of tiny victories and middle-size defeats."

The composition, the rain, the look on the peoples' faces: all so well done, so seemingly effortless.

I like the look on her face.

Yeah, nude models really do get bored. And cold.

In the above gatefold, you can see his attention to a real sense of place.

"I showed her! I didn't touch a dish for two months!"

Above: clicking to enlarge will show you how good the composition is on this. At first glance, the squiggly, curly-cue line was, I thought, part of the store window -- but within a second, I discovered the gag.

A typical gag: a city scene with complex, busy ink work with a clear layout of who to watch to understand the gag.


Phaidon Press published a number of Sempé's works. Phaidon maintains a blog, The Nicholas Club, named for the title character in a series of children's books by Goscinny and Sempé.

Again, the reason that so many cartoons are wordless is because you don't have to know French to "get" them. Selling cartoons is Europe is easier when no words are used. And that's pretty hard to do!

Above a lovely, dry gag line. At first, I didn't see him amongst the dancing natives!

More links:

Christopher Wheeler shares photos of Sempé memorabilia (which is where I took the above image).

Read Yourself Raw profile.

Mike Lynch Cartoons blog (Yes, you're soaking in it now!) has more on French cartoon books here.


Above from the hardcover collection of cartoons IN FRANCE NOTHING IS SIMPLE by Jean-Jacques Sempé. Copyright 1964 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

And now a series of drawings by Jean-Jacques Sempé for CHARLIE MENSUEL No. 104 September 1977.

Before CHARLIE HEBDO ("Charlie Weekly"), it was CHARLIE MENSUEL ("Charlie Monthly").

Here's the front and back covers, and an interior cartoon sequence by Jean-Jacques Sempé from issue number 104, September 1977.

This cartoon is a portrait of men and women through the decades. It works like a cartoon and reads like a lovely short story. You may want to open these scans onto a new page so you can really enjoy all of the wonderful drawing.

The back cover:

Francis Marmande in Le Monde:

“Sempé was a cartoonist. But more than just a cartoonist. He was able to analyze, to make people laugh, excite them, show them what they had never seen before and change the way they look at things. He captured the language of the age, recorded its images and offered as much food for thought as Georges Perec (Things), Pierre Bourdieu (Distinction) and Roland Barthes (Mythologies). With a bonus burst of laughter. He had a certain touch, a sense of 'reported conversation' above and beyond the best satires. He was the philosopher of cartoonists.”
ComicsBeat has a wonderful bio of him and many kind words from colleagues and fans (which is where I got the above quote).


Friday, August 12, 2022

From The Comics Journal: The First Japanese Manga Spider-Man: Supaidāman



From The Comics Journal:

We are pleased and excited to bring you something very special today: a 1995 essay by Ono Kōsei, one of the founders of American comic book fandom in Japan, reflecting upon his role in the making of the dark and startling 1970-71 Spider-Man manga series by Ikegami Ryōichi, a Garo contributor later famous for works like Crying Freeman and Sanctuary. This piece sheds a lot of light on one of the most striking chapters in manga and Marvel history. Translated by Jon Holt & Saki Hirozane. Don’t miss it!!

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Raymond Briggs 1934 - 2022


Raymond Briggs in his studio at home in Sussex. Photo from The Times by EYEVINE.


Award winning cartoonist and one of the early creators of the graphic novel genre, Raymond Briggs, passed away on August 10th. He was 88. The cause of death was pneumonia.

ABC News:

"Briggs' family said he died Tuesday, and thanked staff at Royal Sussex County Hospital, near his home in southern England, “for their kind and thoughtful care of Raymond in his final weeks.”

Creator of the dark nuclear war graphic novel When The Wind Blows, he was best known for The Snowman (1978) which was tuned into an animated special four years later and is now a British Christmas tradition.  

Always interested in the medium of comics to tell stories, he talked about encountering the disdain for the medium when applying to art school in this 2004 Guardian interview:

"'I never thought about being a gold-framed gallery artist and was only pushed into painting when I went to art school. I went there wanting to do cartoons.' Briggs remembers the interviewer at Wimbledon College of Art nearly exploding when he expressed this ambition. 'He went purple in the face and said, ‘Good God, is that all you want!’ It really was the lowest of the low and so I started to paint because when you’re only 15 and the big man with a beard tells you what to do, you generally do it.'"


"Among his many, many achievements, he was one of the first people in the UK to foresee the maturity of the comic book form and inaugurate the graphic novel – alongside the efforts of Posy Simmonds‘ newspaper-serialised comic novel work, and Bryan Talbot’s efforts of a mature comic novel with Luthor Arkwright in the UK independent press and underground comic scenes.

"Explorations of more mature material – whilst retaining the open charm of his earlier work – began with Gentleman Jim (1980), about the life of a toilet cleaner with a wild imagination and then developed further with his standout cold-war graphic novel When the Wind Blows (1982) about a retired couple trying to survive the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Both of these books could be regarded as among the first of what has since become a wave of graphic novels to be published in the UK.

"When the Wind Blows proved to be both controversial and influential. In 1986 it was adapted into a chilling animated film, directed by Jimmy Murakami and starring Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills, and was met with wide critical acclaim."

 The Hollywood Reporter:

"He is survived by his step-children and step-grandchildren, who said in a statement that he 'will be deeply missed.'

"'We know that Raymond’s books were loved by and touched millions of people around the world, who will be sad to hear this news,' they added. 'Drawings from fans — especially children’s drawings — inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond, and pinned up on the wall of his studio.'"

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Sid Jacobson 1929 - 2022

Veteran comics editor and writer Sid Jacobson passed away. He was 92.

The New York Times:

Sid Jacobson, a veteran comic book writer and editor whose work took him from the opulent, fanciful world of Richie Rich to the real-life terrorist attacks of 9/11, died on July 23 in San Francisco. He was 92.

His death, in hospice, was caused by a stroke following a case of the coronavirus, his family said in a statement.

From 1952 to 1982, when the company went out of business, Mr. Jacobson was a writer and editor at Harvey Comics in New York, which published the adventures of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich and Wendy the Good Little Witch, as well as crime, horror and romance comics.

At Harvey he met the artist Ernie Colón, who became a frequent collaborator. “Wherever I worked as an editor, I always hired him,” Mr. Jacobson said in an interview after Mr. Colón’s death in 2019. “We were very close. We were like brothers.”

The two teamed up to tell a graphic-novel version of the 9/11 Commission’s report, which examined the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The report, the result of a government study headed by Thomas H. Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, became a best seller, if a dense one, in 2004. So did “9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation,” published in 2006. Mr. Jacobson called the effort “graphic journalism.”

The Daily Cartoonist:

As a Harvey Comics editor from 1952 to 1982 Sid was part of the gradual transition from the adventure, horror, and comic strip books that was the company’s focus in the 1940s and 1950s to the Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Sad Sack output that defined the company in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1980s Sid became the executive editor of Marvel’s faux-Harvey brand Star Comics after Marvel Comics’ effort to buy Harvey properties fell through and Harvey shut down operations the first time. Sid hired many Harvey creators (Warren Kremer, Len Herman, Howie Post, +) for the Star comics.


A prolific freelancer, he was also a lyricist. His son wrote:

In the late 50's he began writing lyrics to songs. Seth once asked him how he started and he said, "I thought I could do it." And that was him. Not afraid to try and fail. He would see how it went. Well, he has about 100 published torch and love songs (circa late '50s and '60s ("The End", "Warm", "Don't Pity Me") and novelty songs ("Yogi", "The Yen Yet Song" and my personal favorite, "Dr. Poop"). He wrote comedy records performed by folks such as Sandy Baron (both for Sick Magazine -- "Why not Mad?" I once asked. "Mad didn't pay enough!" he told me). He wrote the lyrics to a collection of folk songs about New York City, "The Citizens Sing About a City of People". In the 50's he invested in Loraine Hansbury's original production of "Raisin in the Sun" ("she was a gem who died way too young," he once said). He even invented a board game "Chairman of the Board", but we have not yet located a copy. 


The Comics Journal

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Author David McCullough 1933 - 2022


Not my photo. A 2012 Associated Press photo of author David McCullough from the Academy of Achievement


David McCullough died yesterday at the age of 89.

Very sad news. Like so many, I read a number of his books.

I met him briefly on the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the late 1990s or so. He was with a small group of people and he caught my eye. Is that David McCullough? I was wondering. He must have seen me looking at him. He walked up to me and, smiling, asked if I would take a photo with the group. He handed me a camera and I took a picture of him and his entourage. He thanked me as I handed the camera back and I said something like, “Oh, sure” and smiled back. I regret I didn’t whack up the nerve to tell him I was a fan.