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Jules Feiffer’s new career

Paul Morton writes at the Los Angeles Review of Books about the “new career” that veteran cartoonist Jules Feiffer has embarked upon—that of a graphic novelist:

(W)hen it came time for Feiffer to sit down and write his own graphic novels, he ended up looking back, as always, to his old heroes Eisner and Milton Caniff, as well as to the classics of film noir. He studied their canted angles, their fast-paced compositions, their energetic narratives. His Micron pen allowed him to imitate the brush strokes of Golden Age comics, to depict fist fights and car chases with immediacy. In his trilogy, Feiffer experiments with often bizarre compositions: a single panel contains the same figure at a bar in three separate moments, all to depict what must be just a minute or so of conversation. He ended up producing books that, rough and sometimes hilarious, meditate on the use of violence in the comics medium and the threat of violence in the United States.

I recommend the whole piece, as it isn’t so much a consideration of The Ghost Script–Feiffer’s third installment in his trilogy of noir graphic novels—as it is a chance for Morton to discuss reading Feiffer at novel-length versus the strip form he’s published forever as well as the artist’s voice, which is rife with “leftist rage while remaining brutally critical of leftist hypocrisy.”

jules feiffer paul morton comics

Earlier this year, Morton wrote extensively at Los Angeles Review of Books about the relationship that Feiffer had with Hugh Hefner when he was contributing strips and sometimes fiction or longform comics to Playboy while in his 20s. When Morton interviewed Feiffer for Bookslut in 2009, they talked about Hefner’s very closely editing him at Playboy and the fact that Feiffer was “against everything that Hugh Hefner stood for in that magazine.” Feiffer:

“(Hefner) didn’t try to shape me to the demands of his publication as every publication except for the Voice generally did. Whether you were working for Esquire or Harper’s or the Atlantic or The New Yorker they wanted you to be like them, with their sensibility. Hefner, when he sent me back notes, he sent me back richly-detailed notes, panel-by-panel breakdowns of what he liked and what he didn’t like. And it was never to change my point-of-view to his or to the magazine’s. But it was to make my argument stronger by strengthening what he thought was a weakness. And in many cases he was right. 

Morton’s latest essay on Feiffer is at LARB.

Image from Kill My Mother. © 2014 Jules Feiffer for Liveright Publishing Corporation.