My year in writing: 2017

dominic umile comics writing 2017

In 2017, I wrote about comics or other things at the Chicago Reader, Hyperallergic, and here at my site. For writing opportunities at your publication, I can be reached at dominic.umile@gmail, and more clips of my work are here.


In January, my review of Emil Ferris’s striking debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics Books) ran in print and online at the Chicago Reader. Ferris’s big book is garnering all kinds of end-year accolades and with good reason.


In 2017, I had a fair amount of longform writing get published at Brooklyn, New York-based arts and culture magazine Hyperallergic, where I’ve been writing about comics for the past few years.

In March, I wrote about the poignant and moving autobiographical work from Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (Abrams ComicArts), which is the product of countless hours of interviews, transcription, drawing, and a crucial exploration of the refugee experience. Also in March, I wrote a very long piece about 1950s-era horror comics and the concerted effort to censor them at the time. There’s discussion of two archival collections in there somewhere—Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s (Fantagraphics Books) and a retrospective of Jay Disbrow’s comics (Yoe Books). Disbrow passed away in May of 2017.

In June, I wrote about a new horror comic called Winnebago Graveyard, which isn’t for the faint of heart—it’s a miniseries from Image Comics that manages to feature prominently carnivals, cults, and California, all over the course of four issues. See more of artist Alison Sampson’s contributions to the series at her site.

I liked Something City, Ellice Weaver’s debut collection of interconnected comics stories for Avery Hill Publishing. Hyperallergic published my piece on that book in July.

My late-summer piece on new comics from Jeff Lemire—a big graphic novel called Roughneck (Gallery 13) and the Image series Royal City—also runs a bit long but there is a lot to explore in these two domestic dramas.

dominic umile comics writing 2017

Julia Wertz’s Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers) was years in the making. In October, I wrote about Wertz’s comics, fastidious drawings, and pages of nonfiction writing about NYC. Buy her art here.

In early December, I wrote about the first volume of a series that Fantagraphics is producing on underground comix legend Spain Rodriguez (compiled and heavily researched by Patrick Rosenkranz). There’s a lot to say about the innovative work of Rodriguez — see this fascinating 1998-era interview with Fantagraphics’/The Comics Journal‘s Gary Groth as well as Rosenkranz’s Rebel Visions history.

In his talk with Groth, Rodriguez discusses New York city in the 1960s, the politics that played a part in his work, an interest in The Wild One film, EC’s controversial comics, and having never missed an issue of The Fantastic Four back in its infancy. While Rodriguez’s comix were built out of his life experiences and politically charged concepts, there is a visible influence of mainstream comics in the fantastical illustrations of the action and superhero overtones that populate strips like Trashman. The artist dropped out of art school, threw punches alongside friends in a Buffalo, New York motorcycle gang he joined, and got deeply involved in leftist politics in mid-1960s Manhattan, where his venturesome strips ran in one of America’s first underground newspapers, The East Village Other. My piece on Street Fighting Men: Spain Vol. 1 and trying to get past Rodriguez’s frequently sexist depictions of women is up at Hyperallergic.


“Minor at Heart” is the blog part of this newly overhauled website of mine. Here’s a handful of posts I wrote here in 2017:

In April, I wrote here about Kristen Radtke’s debut graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This (Pantheon Books), which partly functions as a travelogue and examination of how each of us interact within a space.

I wrote short passages on two art shows I caught this year: Raymond Pettibon’s overwhelming exhibit at the New Museum and a big show of drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, which includes everything from nightmarish charcoal works of Odilon Redon to the seemingly dashed-off illustrated letters from Vincent Van Gogh.

The New York Times brought comics back to the Sunday newspaper in June—sort of. The NYT magazine’s all-comics issue featured Tillie Walden, Bianca Bagnarelli, and more. I wrote a long post about my impressions of the project.

dominic umile comics writing 2017

Painter and illustrator Charley Harper died ten years ago this past summer. My partner Shannon loves his work—she brought the enormous treasury Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life (Ammo Books) into our lives years ago, and it’s extraordinary. I wrote about Harper’s art, particularly his playful covers for Ford Times magazine, back in September.

My post on recent comics from New York-based cartoonist Summer Pierre went up in October. The newest issue in her Paper Pencil Life series is loaded with autobio comics and marvelous free-standing illustrations. It’s available from her Etsy store.

Finally, I took a look at graphic design legend Seymour Chwast’s new illustrated book on the world’s wars from Seven Stories press.

Image © 2017 Jeff Lemire (Royal City, Image Comics). Image © 2017 Julia Wertz (Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, Hachette Book Group, Inc.). Image © Charley Harper.