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2010’s Best Comics and Graphic Novels

We’re sorry, but 2010 has been a dreary slog (Tea Party, anyone?), which is reflected in just about every graphic narrative that moved us this year. But we won’t let darkness visible obscure the intense artistry found in our picks of 2010’s best comics and other illustrated provocations.

For starters, we now know what 1930s anti-Nazi collagist John Heartfield would have done with the physiognomies of Hitler and Goebbels if only he’d had Photoshop. In Repuglicans (Boom Studios, 128 pp., $14.99), Pete Von Sholly brings every right-wing potentate from Newt to Sarah to undead life with bloated, pustular flesh, frothing fangs, black-oil eyes, and other colorful grotesqueries. Steve Tatham’s pithy commentary confirms that the policies of these demagogues are every bit as monstrous as their portraits.

Even more horrifying, Danzig Baldaev’s Drawings From the Gulag (Fuel, 240 pp., $32.95) documents the phantasmagorical evil of the Soviet prison system. Female “enemies of the people” were thrown into cells to be gang-raped by thieves and murderers; children of imprisoned dissidents were given a “ticket to a happy childhood”—a euphemism for a bullet to the head. One prisoner lamented that “a human being survives by his ability to forget,” but Baldaev (1925–2005), who served as a camp guard and risked his own freedom to create these unflinching, painstakingly crosshatched scenes, knew that forgetting only allows such horrors to be repeated.

The Sinister Truth: MK Ultra (Pop Industries, 102 pp., $11.95) exposes our own government’s nefarious experiments with mind control and the CIA’s 638 different plots to kill Castro (and you thought it was only exploding cigars). Jason Ciaccia’s tale of LSD-crazed assassins would seem ridiculously hyperbolic if it weren’t derived from the CIA’s own files. With nods to Grosz, Bacon, and Steadman, Aaron Norhanian’s fervid ink drawings propel this witty hybrid of underground comix and the History channel right over the top.

Another aspect of America’s id gets probed in The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! (Abrams, 304 pp., $29.95). Jim Trombetta’s exuberant prose posits that postwar visions of atomic Armageddon, combined with rebellion against the era’s social constipation, inspired paroxysms of four-color mayhem. Bluenoses all around the country held comic books up as examples not only of why Johnny couldn’t read but also why he was out raping, robbing, and killing. Copious color reproductions highlight the lucid lunacy of Basil Wolverton, the proto-psychedelia of L.B. Cole, and other inspired craftsmen of the macabre.

By 1955, Congressional pressure had driven horror comics out of business, but in less than a decade Creepy and Eerie magazines resurrected the genre like some reanimated corpse seeking revenge on its own murderer. Darkhorse’s striking reprints (currently at 13 hardcover volumes, $49.95 each) reveal such industry giants as Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Jerry Grandenetti, and Alex Toth using ink wash, crosshatching, and swathes of Zip-a-tone to lend their murderers and monsters convincing presence. These always entertaining, occasionally brilliant stories — see Archie Goodwin and Steve Ditko’s kaleidoscopic time shifts in “Collector’s Edition” (Creepy Vol. 2) — gain force from the lithe black-and-white layouts.

Meanwhile, contemporary horror keeps coming at us like a zombie tsunami. Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone (Sparkplug, 40 pp., $6) features ardent line drawings of wan figures that might have escaped from an Elizabeth Peyton painting. This unearthly collision of witchcraft, gruesome love, and pathetic death dissipates into a truly poignant climax.

Equally absorbing, Charles Burns’s X’ed Out (Pantheon, 56 pp., $19.95) takes his obsession with the mating habits of teenagers to otherworldly planes. Burns allies luxuriant brushwork with an inspired palette that illuminates boho parties and mutant dystopias with equal conviction.

King of the Flies: 1. Hallorave (Fantagraphics, 64 pp., $18.99) manages to combine dystopia and partying in one particularly morose suburban nabe. Artist Pascal “Mezzo” Mesenburg’s crisp scenes of druggy costume soirées and bowling-alley liaisons deftly complement writer Michel Pirus’s slyly interlocking tales of depraved jollies in suburbia.

No one, however, can transform the workaday into existentially bleak page-turners like Chris Ware. His tales of myopic relationships and enervated dreams shimmer with eloquent graphics, precisely tuned dialogue, and perfect-pitch body language. In Lint, Acme Novelty Library Vol. 20 (Drawn & Quarterly, 72 pp., $23.95), we see parents’ faces slowly come into focus through their baby’s eyes, watch the young Jordan Lint grow into an adult-scaled world, then follow his punctured ambitions and bumptious middle-aged affairs to the moment when everything contracts back down to that first dot of consciousness. Astonishing.

Also dazzling, Dirty Baby (Prestel, 160 pp., $125.00) begins with Ed Ruscha’s paintings of blurrily silhouetted sailing ships and foreboding tract homes overlaid with white bars implying censored phrases. Each of these mysterious images is counterpointed by David Breskin’s witty poetry (derived from such Ruscha titles as “Be Cautious Else We Be Bangin’ on You”). Rather than explicate the pictures, the poems seek to metaphorically fill the blank areas with fresh interpretations. Nels Cline’s clashing musical harmonies (included on four inset audio CDs) further stitch poetry and canvas together into a mordantly funny, amorphously beautiful genre Frankenstein.

But if you’re looking for the current gold standard in straight-up comic-book artistry, Darwyn Cooke is your man. The Outfit (IDW, 160 pp., $24.99), like last year’s The Hunter, sets one of Donald Westlake’s crime thrillers against Rat Pack–era backdrops, where antihero Parker wages a profitable war on syndicate bosses who want him dead. Westlake’s cynical characterizations — a thrill-seeking society girl pouts when a would-be hitman confesses before he can be tortured — merge with Cooke’s diverse layouts and visceral figures to keep the plot burning rubber from wire to wire.

DC Comics Superman Vs Muhammad Ali

Neal Adams set equally high standards in the 1960s and ’70s with masterful renditions of characters as disparate as Jerry Lewis, Deadman, and Batman. In 1978, Adams, along with the virtuoso writer Denny O’Neil,  yanked out all the stops to portray that era’s most incandescent personality in Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. DC has reprinted the original oversize comic in a lavish facsimile edition (80 pp., $39.99) that provides a nostalgic respite from our current national malaise. The plot opens in the ghetto as the Champ plays hoops with a multiracial gaggle of kids, but it’s not long before an alien armada arrives to lay waste to Earth. Things get progressively wiggier as Supes and The Greatest take their lumps in the ring against the humongous invaders; Adams’s hyperkinetic action sequences are barely contained by the page margins. The book closes on a poster-size spread as the two heroes shake hands after truth, justice, and superior fisticuffs have straightened those freakin’ aliens right out.

So maybe there’s hope for the American way, after all.

¶ Web Extra!

And here are a few online bonus items to round out our admittedly idiosyncratic baker’s dozen of the year’s best:

Simon and Schuster’s new “Pulp History” line digs into America’s seamy past, with Devil Dog (160 pp., $19.99). U.S. Marine Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940) fought bravely against Germans, Chinese, Nicaraguans, and anyone else he was pointed at before writing an exposé entitled “War Is a Racket.” David Talbot chronicles Butler’s shift from self-described “muscle man for Big Business” to supporter (and, by some accounts, savior) of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, while comix luminary Spain Rodriguez provides flamboyant illustrations to complement archival photographs, period posters, and news clippings.

Amping up tropes from The Stand, The Road Warrior, and other post-apocalyptic jaunts, Jeff Lemire’s ongoing Sweet Tooth (Vertigo, vol. 1, 128 pp., $9.99, vol. 2, 144 pp., $12.99) envisions a ravaged world populated by roving gangs tracking down hybrid human-animal babies in order to determine the cause of a global plague. Gus is a sweet-tempered, doe-eyed tyke with antlers growing from his head; when his religious-fanatic father dies, Gus travels with a former NHL brawler who, in exchange for his dead wife’s corpse, trades the kid to a militia performing experiments on the new breed of children. Lemire’s disheveled line work, somber palette, and angular black silhouettes keep this surprisingly touching story entirely believable.

While set in the here and now, A God Somewhere (Wildstorm, 200 pp., $24.99) climaxes with apocalyptic slaughter, as tales of gods generally do. John Arcudi’s grim narrative of delivery-man Eric Forster’s accidental ascent to omnipotence is bolstered by Peter Snejbjerg’s expressionist violence and overt visual references to such classical compositions as Michelangelo’s Christ the Judge, from the Sistine Chapel. Families, generals, and presidents suffer as Forster’s good intentions are outstripped by the power his ego can’t contain. His dearest friend, wishing that the chain of events leading to widespread carnage had somehow been different, finally despairs, “There is no ‘if.’ There is only ‘is.’ ”

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A Selection of Recent Books on Same-Sex Marriage

Blessing Same-Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage

By Mark D. Jordan

University Of Chicago Press, 2005

The Complete Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings

By K.C. David

St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne, 2005

The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Weddings

By Tess Ayers And Paul Brown

Alyson, 1999

Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony

By David Toussaint With Heather Leo

Ballantine, 2004

Gay Marriage: Why it is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America

By Jonathan Rauch

Henry Holt, 2004

I Do/I Don’t: Queers on Marriage

Edited By Greg Wharton And Ian Philips

Suspect Thoughts Press, 2004

Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution

By Evan Gerstmann

Cambridge University Press, 2003

Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: Focus on the Facts

By Sean Cahill

Lexington, 2004

Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry

By Evan Wolfson

Simon & Schuster, 2004

Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate

By George Chauncey

Basic, 2004

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Good Mourning America: Presidential Assassination Folklore

Despite the morbid topic of her new book Assassination Vacation (Simon & Schuster, April), Sarah Vowell is having a really good time. For Vowell, the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley offer an irresistible bounty, with “so many good stories hiding inside their lore.” A self-proclaimed “nice girl,” Vowell is “fascinated by egomaniacs, not just the self-absorbed weirdos who kill presidents, but also the self-absorbed weirdos who run for president.” “Totem poles, mummies, religious cults, [and] Herman Melville” are just some of the bizarre artifacts that crop up in her travels from one assassination site to the next.

This American Life personality Vowell is engaging her showbiz side by recording the audio version of Assassination. Celebrity guests include Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Stephen King, and Tony Kushner, who talks about “things like ejaculatory crisis.”

In the opening chapter, a stream of murderers and their presidential victims sing and dance in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins, which Vowell attends as part of her research. The antithesis of a serious historian, Vowell “can’t stand staying in frilly rooms with a jillion throw pillows but no TV.” Her book is as much a travelogue replete with breaks for grits as it is legitimate historiography. Vowell’s wit never abandons us to the potentially oppressive subject matter; she considers it her duty “not to be a total drag” while helping us understand these presidents’ lives and untimely deaths.

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Paths From Mind to Body

From the boys (Lou Schuler with Jeff Volek, R.D., Ph.D., Michael Mejia, and Adam Campbell) who bring us that least read of dental office magazines, Men’s Health, comes The Testosterone Advantage Plan (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 312 pp., $13), an Atkins diet and exercise update angled at men stiffed by office life, the “functionally worthless” Food Guide Pyramid, and aerobic exercise. Their salvation? Testosterone, via weight lifting and unsaturated fatty foods.

In the authors’ own, unabridged words, the sentences reordered according to their ‘roid rage logic: We’re giving you back your manhood. First of all, we’re telling you man-to-man that your instincts are on target: The reason that you want to look a certain way is that you’re supposed to look that way. The exercises here are the weight-room classics. Are there other paths to the same destination? Perhaps. Ours is just the straightest one we know of. Equally important, our talk is straight too. Kinda sorta. Last but never least, you’ll reap more MONEY and SEX. You know from experience that your wife is constantly trying to get you to eat “better,” to attempt to follow the nutrition establishment’s guidelines. (And once again, we don’t mean to sound like conspiracy theorists, but studies on the equivalent female hormone, estrogen, abound.) Frankly, we’re angry about all this. Warn the women and children: The juice is loose. —Nick Catucci


From the Hottentot Venus all the way to “Baby Got Back” and the J.Lo booty brouhaha, the black female form has been scrutinized, objectified, and ultimately dehumanized by a society that used it for its own purposes, whether work, procreation, sexual pleasure, or novelty. Even attempts to celebrate the beauty of non-European women at times border on fetishism. The essays featured in Kimberly Wallace-Sanders’s Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture (University of Michigan Press, 350 pp., $24.95) masterfully explore the painful history behind the American fascination with the black female form in history, art, literature, and science, as well as the nebulous place it holds within current feminist discourse.

As a historical document, Skin Deep makes for a fascinating and sometimes horrifying read: Descriptions of the Hottentot Venus (complete with a photo of her preserved genitalia) by the doctors who examined her both in life and in death chill to the bone, as do mug-shot-like photos of topless slave women, their clothing unceremoniously pulled down to reveal their bare breasts. The collection stumbles, however, in its examination of present-day representations—how a group of African American female academics can gloss over the current and constant objectification of the female body in hip-hop is beyond me. All in all, however, the mere presence of these essays serves to do what history, unfortunately, has not: rescue the black female form from “other” status, and to celebrate it as unique, strong, and, above all, beautiful. —Chanel Lee


Growing up, I had to be way beyond sick to stay home from school and damn near dead before my mom would take me to see a doctor. I carry that attitude with me to this day. In college, I went to class for a week with a full-blown sinus infection, and I once hobbled in to work on a sprained ankle. I was so busy trying to take care of business that I didn’t have time—or wouldn’t take the time—to take care of myself. If unchecked, that tendency can be deadly: African American women often die from curable or manageable conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer due to medical neglect. In their new Blessed Health: The African American Women’s Guide to Physical and Spiritual Well-Being (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 432 pp., $14), Dr. Melody McCloud and Angela Ebron seek to cure both problems by giving readers “prescriptions for the soul,” opportunities to “take time to take stock” of their physical and spiritual lives, and ways to combat illness from a religious perspective. However, this is no simple self-help panacea: Blessed Health arms readers with medical facts and statistics and tools with which to face hard truths about themselves and their lifestyles. Noting the lamentable fact that we’re often the first ones in church or on our knees when crisis strikes but usually the last ones in a doctor’s office to avert it, the book makes clear that God helps those who help themselves. Now that’s chicken soup for the body and soul. —C.L.


Finding god(s) at twentysomething can seem like an impossible mission. Religion is beyond passé, and who has time for spirituality in a city that never sleeps? Yet for many it’s an issue that needs to be resolved. Angela Watrous’s Bare Your Soul (Seal Press, 320 pp., $16.95) compiles 25 stories of contemporary women struggling to find their place within or without the spiritual world, from a bi-curious Christian attempting to reconcile her religious beliefs with her liberal politics and taboo sexuality to an atheist watching her father die and finding peace in her own secular ways of dealing with his passing.

My grandmother told me never to bring up issues of religion or politics in mixed company. Although the memoirs in Bare Your Soul are not always well written, they tackle issues all too frequently overlooked. What is faith, and how do present-day women go about reordering archaic rituals of religion into a format relevant and fulfilling in their own lives? The book breaks the silence around spirituality and religion that exists in our generation. —Sarah Donnelly


Americans have searched for the perfect diet for decades. Yet many of us still waddle around bingeing and purging and about 60 percent of us are clinically overweight, perhaps because we have been dieting in all the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons. Rhio’s Hooked on Raw (Beso Entertainment, 352 pp., $29.95) reveals the newest—or oldest—diet. Unlike other diets on the market, her “Raw Energy Food Lifestyle” does not tackle the problem of our expanding waistlines but reorients our relationship to food and in turn our relationship to the earth. It essentially takes the vegan lifestyle a step further, restricting not only the consumption of animal products but also the cooking or heating of food in any manner. Providing explanations, definitions, scientific studies, recipes, and directions for implementing lifestyle change, Rhio claims the diet has beneficial effects on mood, heath, and overall ability to perform. Although it’s hard to take advice from a woman who admits she was spurred into vegetarianism after being tricked into eating her pet turtle, the diet makes quite a bit of sense. If you need any further motivation, take a look at Demi Moore, who is raw all the way and looks great. —S.D.


In The Art of Yoga (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 192 pp., $40), Sharon Gannon and David Life, founders of Jivamukti Yoga, write “Yoga is a portable art form.” Inspired by their “living liberated” approach, this collection features 150 photographs by Martin Brading printed on museum-quality paper. Gannon and Life twist, bend, contort, and stretch themselves into more than 100 advanced asanas, or postures, to demonstrate the physical and spiritual acrobatics of the Jivamukti method, a favorite among celebrities like Madonna and Sting. They also provide Sanskrit translations and kernels of wisdom along the way.

A student himself, British photographer Brading captures the harmony and poise of each asana, illustrating the body’s dynamic form. Not to be missed: Life executing King Pigeon in blazer and dress slacks. Gannon performing a back bend, one leg fully extended . . . while wearing stilettos. Browse it before a yoga session or for inspiration after a long hiatus from practice. With introductory words by Ravi Shankar and daughter Anoushka, here the impact of Jivamukti is evident across generations and art forms. —Paul W. Morris


Jonathan Sharp’s Divining Your Dreams (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 389 pp., $16) bills itself as a “bedside companion” for spiritually instructive kabbalistic dream interpretation, but as a reference guide it is frustrating at best. You’re supposed to condense your dream to one of 850 symbols or dream titles, listed alphabetically. Sharp looks at the history and mythology surrounding each symbol and focuses on one aspect of its significance (for instance: Fat is a sign of prosperity, not sinful indulgence). He then translates the dream title into Hebrew and analyzes its numerology in order to locate it on the Tree of Life, the network of 10 Sefirot (forces, roughly) and the 32 paths connecting them that forms the kabbalistic universe. (The introduction explains the Sefirot but skips the rest.) Finally, Sharp interprets the symbol’s spiritual instructions. No symbol dictionary can be totally exhaustive, but “tithe” apparently merits an entry while “bicycle” does not. Even if your dream does correspond to one of the chosen symbols, there is neither an index nor a table of contents to help you find it. Sharp’s interpretations tend to be narrow and his instructions overly generalized, so the book is most insightful as a collection of brief musings on the numerology of a catalog of Hebrew words. —Odile Joly

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Mighty McSweeney’s

It’s common in the magazine business to see talented editorial folks get jobs at glossy corporate pubs once their underfunded labors of love finally go down the drain. But even the most jaded media observers were surprised when David Eggers became an editor at Esquire in the wake of the much bemoaned demise of Might magazine a few years back. With Eggers and friends at the helm, Might had taken on every brand of poseur and pretender that American culture has to offer.

So it came as less of a shock when Eggers resigned in September. As he prepared to jump ship, Eggers scored a book deal from Simon & Schuster, so, as he puts it, he’d have “a way to pay rent.” Collecting a book advance, it seems, prompted Eggers to conceive of a new publication, one that wouldn’t be nearly as contemporary as Might and wouldn’t even be, technically, a magazine, lacking as it would regular departments, features, and columns (not to mention pictures and artwork).

The result is McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, a journal that comprises killed articles and odd, obliquely humorous experiments culled from Eggers’s circle of former Might cronies, as well as from a few A-list scribes like Rick Moody and David Foster Wallace (none of whom get paid). Some of Might‘s more devout followers report being disappointed at the lack of current, media-centric editorial in McSweeney’s— especially in its just published second issue— but Eggers says they’ll have to get over it. Or at least go to the Web site.

Because there’s obviously a Web site, as there always is these days. Even if you’re Eggers, alone in a Brooklyn apartment in your underwear, producing the site on a six-year-old computer with one free megabyte of memory (which is either very refreshing or unfortunately reminiscent of 1995). Eggers originally saw the Web as a cheap and timely way to publish sarcastic, ephemeral rants about pop culture and the media. Indeed, one of the site’s biggest draws is a serialized feature called The Service Industry, in which the editor and other unnamed guest authors eviscerate just the sort of people that Eggers worked for at Esquire.

But just as The Service Industry started winning over readers and attracting more site traffic— and subscriptions to the journal— Eggers’s interest waned. Barely any new episodes have been posted in recent weeks, a situation the editor is loath to remedy (though he admits a few more are in the works). “People were livid when we stopped doing as much of that,” Eggers says. “But my worst fear of all is that it become repetitive.” Instead, he posted the first installment of a three-part, 5000-word interview with an epidemiologist specializing in viruses transmitted by bugs. Visit the site (mcsweeneys.com) while you can, because it’s hard to know what you’ll find the next time you look. Which for Eggers is precisely the point.

 

Village Voice: You’ve just published the second issue of McSweeney’s. How does it compare with the first issue?

David Eggers: The quarterly is a weird, esoteric thing. I wanted the new issue to have a lot of hardcore science stuff. There’s a fascinating interview with a mathematician that I modeled after The Paris Review interviews— it looks
exactly the same. There’s also a piece positing that Supreme Court decisions are actually decided on the basketball court. It runs about 14 pages, with diagrams. It takes a certain kind of reader to invest that much time in a lengthy piece of comic fiction or satire.

How is McSweeney’s different from Might?

McSweeney’s has less edge. At Might we were sneering, and everything had this gnashing tone— because we were angry. McSweeney’s is more banal. It’s the same reason I can only read Suck once every few weeks, because it’s like having someone shouting in your ear.

How many subscribers do you have?

Over 500, which to me is an unbelievable number. It took five people three and a half hours to get the mailing together. And it’s taken me four days to mail them out. We filled up the blue mailboxes in front of the pizza place to the point where you couldn’t get them open, and this woman came up behind us and couldn’t get her letter in. And she was just livid.

You also put up a Web site. Why?

I get really itchy if I don’t have somewhere to publish things. I have all these friends with no forum for their weird satire and exercises, so we use the Web to put up reactive things in a timely way. The beauty of the Web site is that we’re not answering to anybody. Early on, some people who hook up alterna Web sites with advertising came calling, but I’m not interested in any of that. There will never be any money exchanged in connection with the McSweeney’s Web site.

Do you have any interest in making the site more interactive?

I’ve never found chat groups that interesting. I’m not even a huge Web reader, though I think The Onion is the best use of the English language in my lifetime. But my computer is from 1990 and I have a really slow Web connection. I might do all that stuff if it didn’t take any time. But the idea is not to spend too much time on this stuff.

But don’t the quarterly and the site take up a good deal of your time?

Oh God, no. Not even remotely. With the quarterly, it’s three weeks of intense work. With the Web— and I don’t mean this to sound glib— it’s about a half hour a day, unless I’m writing something. I don’t do much editing. If people send me stuff and it’s good, I just put it up. If it isn’t, I just send it back.

If McSweeney’s doesn’t take up that much time, what have you been doing since quitting Esquire?

Well, I quit to write a book. A semiautobiographical, nonfiction novel. I’m designing the book and have total control over all the packaging. I’m even inputting the corrections.

Are you reluctant to do the publicity that Simon & Schuster will ask of you?

I don’t mind going out and meeting people who buy it. At Might we had parties every month or so and invited the local subscribers. But if I have to read, I’m not sure that would work out. I’m not such a great reader. Maybe we could have pool parties instead of readings.

Would you have bailed on Esquire even if you didn’t get a book deal? It was clearly not your cup of tea.

I’m not sure how long I could’ve lasted there. Obviously, I think there are a lot of things wrong with most glossy magazines. It’s an unfortunate clash between a crass, commercial enterprise and some wonderfully creative people who want to create art, or the closest thing to it under the circumstances. It’s so rare for someone who writes passionately about something late at night in their apartment to ever really find the right reader.

Didn’t the Web help those people out?

For so many years I was such a skeptic about the Web. But it’s a truly beautiful medium. You can retain a level of purity that you can’t achieve almost anywhere else. No distributors, no people to pay off, no grocery stores, or all the other stuff that goes on with large-circulation magazines— all of which is so depressing that I can’t even think about it.

Isn’t the Web in danger of getting too commercial itself?

Maybe. Salon is trying to make it as a commercial enterprise. People criticize them for having too [many articles about] sex, and [for] the whole Henry Hyde thing. But I don’t think there’s a move they’ve made that I wouldn’t have made in the same situation. They just have so many people to answer to, so many people have pumped money into it, so many
employees— that sort of thing doesn’t intrigue me as much anymore.

Do you ever wish Might were still around?

I don’t think things like that are supposed to last. If it were still around, I think I’d be really depressed and bored and lifeless. In my heart, I knew it would never be a way to pay the rent. Back in San Francisco, once Dave Moodie and I had done the mind-numbing graphic design work that paid the bills, we’d work until two or three in the morning on Might— even if we
didn’t have to. It was like an endurance contest, and whoever left first was a kind of traitor. There was a lot of peer pressure. A few people dropped out. They said, “You guys are morons.” And they were right.

How are things different now?

I do as much as I can do well. I’ve tried to
lower people’s expectations. We might not put something new up on the site every day; it might not always be humor. But this is why I’m home in my underwear. So I don’t have to answer to this feeling of obligation, to deadlines or what the audience expects. I don’t think that has any place in the artistic process. I try not to be contemptuous of readers, who I very much appreciate. But I have no interest in meeting expectations. I’d much rather confound them.