10: Mind the Gutter

Ben OwenTom talks with blogger and comics aficionado Ben Owen about alternative comics.

The whole episode is a critically-informed love-fest for comics, really, in which Ben praises the formal insights of Scott McLoud, the superhuman drawing of Jaime Hernandez, Lynda Barry’s commitment to emotional truth, and Joe Sacco’s respect for the integrity of individual stories.


Listen to Episode 10 Episode 10: Mind the Gutter

Image Gallery

 View imagesimage #2 image #3image #4image #5image #6 image #7image #8image #9of the comics discussed in this episode.

About Our Guest

Ben grew up partly in Oxford, England and partly in Newton, Massachusetts. He got his BA from Vassar College in 2002, and has since worked in the Boston area as an administrator for a couple of non-profits, one of them tiny, the other vast.  

He is a frequent contributor to Parabasis, an online journal of culture and politics, and in the fall will enter the Ph.D. program in English at Ohio State University, where he hopes to turn his love of comics into a career, or at least a long and entertaining diversion.

Music in This Episode

Intro: “The Remainder,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.

Intermission: “Your Contemporaries,” The Lindsay from the album Dragged Out.

Outro: “Enough,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.

Comic Artists

Los Bros Hernandez and Love & Rockets

Love and RocketsDiving into Love & Rockets can be intimidating at first, but you can find helpful guides to the series from The Onion’s A.V. Club Gateway to Geekery, Comic Books Resources’ Comics College: Los Bros Hernandez, and Fantagraphic’s How to Read Love & Rockets

And check out The Metaverse for an extensive list of Love & Rockets links (to chronologies, character lists, reviews, and interviews with the Hernandez brothers).

Lynda Barry

Lynda BarryYou can find a short biography of cartoonist, painter, writer, and illustrator Lynda Barry at the Drawn & Quarterly site.  Barry also maintains her own site, Marlys Magazine, featuring a blog, images, interviews and a bibliography.

There are a number of great interviews with Barry online.  Um, so, here are some:  from The A.V. Club, The New York Times, and Salon.  

Joe Sacco

Joe SaccoDrawn & Quarterly also provides a short biography of comics journalist Joe Sacco. 

You can find interviews with Sacco online by January Magazine (2003), The BBC (2004), The Comics Reporter (2007), and Al Jazeera English (2010).

His work has been covered by The Guardian (2003) and The Los Angeles Times (2010) and his latest book, Footnotes in Gaza, was reviewed in The New York Times.

Other Resources

Blogs & Online Magazines

Comics Journal. An award-winning magazine that features a mix of industry news, commentary, professional interviews, classic comics sections and reviews of current work.

The Hooded Utilitarian.  Comics blog featuring, in the words of its editors: “long meandering essays on Wonder Woman and gender; enthusiastic manporn reviews; chronicles of a quest for mainstream titles that do not suck; musings on the original art market in comics.; your irritatingly named roundtables;music downloads no one listens to, occasional Thai pop videos, and goodness knows what else.”

Comics Comics. Comics Comics is a web blog and occasional print magazine devoted to comics. It is edited by Tim Hodler, Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro. Contributing writers include Jeet Heer, Dash Shaw and Jason Miles. 

Edited by comics scholar Jared Gardner, GutterGeek 2.0, “seeks to open [a] space, where graphic narratives can be discussed honestly—independent of the culture of celebrity or the cult of hagiography that tends to gather around the most middling comics creator.”

The Comics Reporter, written by Tom Spurgeon, former editor of Comics Journal, offers broad ranging news on all aspects of comics.

Comics Research

Comics Research Bibliography. Maintained by John Bullough and Mike Rhode. A large and useful collection of references from both academic journals and popular magazines, now searchable.

ComicsResearch.org. Annotated bibliography covering book-length works about comic books and comic strips, from “fannish” histories to academic monographs, providing detailed information and guidance on further research.

Books discussed in this episode

Barry, Lynda. 1999. The Freddie stories. Seattle: Sasquatch Books.

Hernandez, Jaime. 2004. LOCAS: the Maggie and Hopey stories. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics.

McCloud, Scott. 1994. Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: Harper Perennial.

Sacco, Joe. 2005. War’s end: profiles from Bosnia, 1995-1996. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly.

More Books

Aldama, Frederick Luis. 2009. Your brain on Latino comics: from Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Carrier, David. 2000. The aesthetics of comics. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Harvey, Robert C. 1996. The art of the comic book: an aesthetic history. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Hatfield, Charles. 2005. Alternative comics: an emerging literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Nolan, Michelle. 2008. Love on the racks: a history of American romance comics. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Pustz, Matthew. 1999. Comic book culture fanboys and true believers. Jackson, Miss: University Press of Mississippi.

Robbins, Trina. 1999. From girls to grrrlz: a history of [women’s] comics from teens to zines. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Saraceni, Mario. 2003. The language of comics. London: Routledge.

Skinn, Dez. 2004. Comix: the underground revolution. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.

Versaci, Rocco. 2007. This book contains graphic language: comics as literature. New York: Continuum.


Lots of Fun, Thanks!

This was a really fun segment, thanks to both of you. I am a big fan of Love and Rockets and early MAD, so I'm always glad to hear Harvey Kurtzman and Jaime Hernandez get their due.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

All original content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License.