Support American Political Cartooning

The Toonseum, Pittsburgh’s non-profit cartoon art museum has a new project that you folks might fancy.

The Toonseum and Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Editorial Cartoonist, are looking to make a documentary that takes a look behind the curtain of political cartooning in America’s current presidential race. The documentary hopes to send Rogers to cover the juicy details of the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Journalism as we know it is changing dramatically. Newspapers are struggling to stay alive. Editorial cartoonists have suffered along with them, sometimes being the first to be let go when a company downsizes. I hope this mini-documentary, aside from giving a humorus look behind the curtain of our political process, will help show how cartooning and newspaper journalism are still an important part of our collective dialogue.

– Rob Rogers

 Check out the Indiegogo campaign here and support this rad little project, if you can.

At the time of this posting, they’re already halfway there, which means that your contributions can help bring in the funding of this project into the homestretch.


Copacetic’s 2nd Anniversary Celebration

When’s the last time you stopped by Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics? Has it been too long? Well, this weekend might be the weekend to change that. For two days you can celebrate by emptying your wallet and filling your backpacks and handbags with comics and artbooks galore at the 2nd Anniversary Celebreation of Copacetic’s location in Polish Hill. There’ll be sale prices on the raddest of the rad, so it’s certainly not something to miss out on.

If you’ve never been to Copacetic and you’re a comics fan within a reasonable distance from Pittsburgh, you should consider a weekend trip and check out the Stephan Pastis talk and exhibit opening at the Toonseum.

And if you’ve never bought a comic, here’s your chance! Start with the best for unimaginably cheap prices!

Who knows you might meet that special someone… Just imagine it: Both of you reaching for that fancy Fantagraphics collection of Alex Toth at the same time. Obviously it’s destiny, so you better decide the way you’ll spend the rest of your lives reading comics together over a coffee at Lili Coffee Shop below Copacetic…

There’ll be specials on back issues, odds and ends, giveaways and promotional premiums to no end.

While you’re there, why not take a dip into one of the best stocks of minicomics in the United States? That’s why you’re there right? Of course, then there’s the re-issues of the Incal and Dan Zettwoch’s new release, Birdseye Bristoe that you’ll be ogling over. Check out the nitty gritty details on Copacetic’s page.

Obviously, I’ll be there putting my dirty hands on everything in the shop. Sorry, Bill.


Oh and on an unrelated note, if you haven’t checked out James Stokoe’s Orc Stain and you like gritty, thrilling, gruesome and sensual adventures, you should get on that. It’s JUICY. 

This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny

This article originally appeared in CMU’s school Newspaper, the Tartan.

Jim Rugg is a Pittsburgh comics powerhouse. His contributions to the vitality of the comic scene have included mini-comics, self-publishing, and creator-owned work with independent publishers. It’s no wonder the ToonSeum is honoring the contemporary cartoonist and working artist through the month of May with its exhibit, This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny.

This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny features Rugg’s well-known work on Street Angel and Afrodisiac as well as new and seldom-seen pieces. This is Rugg’s first solo exhibition and a first for the ToonSeum, as the exhibition reflects the more adult sensibilities of the comic world. Most of the pieces exhibited are recent, shorter pieces originally made for anthologies and newspapers, dating from after the completion of Afrodisiac. Much of the pieces are directly inspired by original production art of the 20th century, the often-discarded line art that was produced for the sake of reproduction.

While it’s safe to say that the idea of comics in fine art galleries has found its place in contemporary art criticism, it is still unclear how a viewer is intended to engage with comics in a gallery environment: whether one is supposed to pay respect from a distance or inspect the minutiae in search of the human touch. While both are valid approaches, they go against the cognitive escape afforded by the traditional private experience associated with comics.

As such, contemporary artists are asked to present their work either as fine art or as comics. It seems that they must determine whether the focus will be on the art or the narrative. When facing this dilemma, artists feel they must choose. In This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny, Rugg bravely provides solutions to this forced dichotomy.

Rugg approaches the puzzle of exhibiting comics in a museum by creating art specifically for the gallery environment. By drawing single large panels, the comics fit within the traditional framework of a painting, and by allowing his panels to feature characters drawn at different sizes, he can create an unparalleled sense of depth. As a viewer gets closer, smaller details make themselves apparent.

A noticeable example of this practice is Rugg’s use of word balloons of different sizes within individual panels. The word bubbles’ varying sizes invite the viewers to get closer, if they want to read the text. In this way, Rugg consciously designs his work so the audience engages with it in the gallery space and so the work can confidently straddle the seeming divide between comics and fine art.

It’s important to note that while it’s safe to label Rugg as a pop artist, his work does not exhibit the intrinsic post-modern detachedness of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein’s mid-20th century work. His work has real heart. As he describes on his website, Rugg seeks to “reconcile pop culture’s adventurous promise with the realities of the world around [him]” and he “[uses] the style and visual vocabulary of cartoons to question and lampoon consumer culture.”

Rather than communicating solely through abstract notions of color, line, and form, Rugg expresses his visions and communicates in the language of our collective, mass media-constructed childhood memories. That image language is his pop. Rugg uses comic tropes in unexpected ways: narratives advanced through fragments, covers for nonexistent stories, or sketched splash pages.

“I live in a complex world of race and gender roles, politics and religion, suburban isolation and the confusion of middle age,” reads Rugg’s artist statement on his website. “In my artwork, I bring these realities to bear on the once-safe world of escapist entertainment and attempt to understand the values of the world around me through India ink, steel pen nibs, sable-hair brushes, and pixels.”

His work is on exhibit through May 6th. If you’re in downtown Pittsburgh for the Spring Gallery crawl, do stop by the ToonSeum and give his art a chunk of your time.

The First ToonSeum MiniCon: April 2012

jazz and soul. my little nook.bustlingChris and AnnaA great turnoutPaulette Poullet: the only Puerto-Rican Cartoonist in Pittsburgh?Jared Catherine promotes his incrediman stories
Dave Wachter chats with RachelThe CMU crew. Andy Scott of AndromedaDSC_7443Scott HedlundDoodlin' the night away
Jeremy BaumThe reading cornerVirginia and Rachel talking shopMe cueing up some music from the WRCT archivesDan GreenwaldShawn Atkins and Nick Marino
Barry LinckNick MarinoJason, Natalie and JimDan repping the Cyberpunk ApocalypseTom Scioli in battle modeTomasz and Kate providing nourishment

The ToonSeum MiniCon 2012-04-06, a set on Flickr.

As promised, here are some photos from the event.

Eisner at the ToonSeum

As odd as it may seem, Pittsburghers can find a slice of the Big Apple in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh until May 27.

This is because the ToonSeum, Pittsburgh’s museum of cartoon and comics art, is currently presenting Will Eisner’s New York, a rare collection of original works by legendary comics pioneer Will Eisner. The exhibit chronicles the artist’s informal history of the city that shaped many of his illustrated masterpieces. Simultaneously personal and universal, Eisner’s depiction of New York City captures the nuance that the greatest of biographers are capable of.

The exhibition is curated by cartoonist and critic Denis Kitchen along with comic book writer and editor Danny Fingeroth; it is presented in partnership with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York (MoCCA). MoCCA had originally organized an Eisner retrospective in 2005, soon after Eisner passed away at the age of 88. Many of the pieces are from this restrospective. The ToonSeum’s display of Will Eisner’s New York is the first time that this particular collection of New York oriented work has been shown outside of New York City.

Considered one of the most important contributors to the development of the artistic medium of comics, Eisner was best known for his leading role in establishing the graphic novel as a form of literature with his book A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories. In this work and the subsequent works he created during the ’80s and ’90s, Eisner explored the communicative depths of the medium and laid down a framework for generations of aspiring cartoonists.

Will Eisner’s New York allows audiences to explore the artist’s most intriguing element, the ever-changing landscape of New York City. The exhibit includes over 50 original works spanning Eisner’s 70-year career, each capturing a glimpse of the city’s beauty and squalor. Dense but not overwhelming, the exhibit allows visitors to fully experience the city from pre-Depression to modernity. From immigrant ghettos to claustrophobic subways, dirty alleyways to towering rooftops, ramshackle tenements to grandiose bridges, Will Eisner’s New York reveals the artist’s powers of observation and empathy and, above all, the brilliance of his pen.

An exhibit like this makes it possible for visitors to lean forward and peer at the original drawings and, in so doing, increase their appreciation of Eisner’s art. Getting close to the original drawings, and to such a broad array of them, reinforces the notion of Eisner as a master of this 20th-century art form.

The ToonSeum’s main gallery houses the exhibition and displays it in a concentrated yet uncluttered fashion. A lively jazz soundtrack with pieces by the likes of Duke Ellington, Cannonball Adderley, and Cab Calloway accompanies the exhibit and adds the energy of New York to the halls of the ToonSeum.

Small details in the exhibit like a light post, a fire hydrant, and a manhole cover make for nice touches that embellish the exhibition. These details invite visitors to experience the work viscerally, on their own terms, and to develop their own relationship with the master’s work and with the city of New York.


A look at the Toonseum

Check out this look at the Toonseum.

If you’re in Pittsburgh any time soon, be sure to visit!

Take a peek: Toonseum Frameshop

Now that the Toonseum has expanded it has begun to move into its new space.

Two weeks ago I helped organize and stock the Frameshop, This new space is a vast improvement. Now a good, clean and quiet work space is always available.


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