August 11, 2009 / More →
• Eddie Campbell has a dedicated link for all things Alec.
• So-many-cool-new-books/minis/comics/etc-no-time-for-lengthy-reviews: San Diego edition.
- J. Chris' Fat Pack. Wow, what a stellar gift this was, from the enormously talented J. Chris Campbell. Comics, zines, buttons, wooden tokens, fiction, trading cards... you name it, it's here and it is awesome.
- Atom-Bomb Bikini, by Robert Ullman. Rob draws the sexiest girls in comics. Hands-down my favorite, anyway.
- Fluke 20009 Anthology, from Wide Awake Press. (Gifted to me by J. Chris Campbell.) A swell all-around anthology showcasing a lot of talented cartoonists you've probably never heard of. So check it out. Brad McGinty's strip pretty much blows my mind. Superb cartooning. You can read it here.
To learn more watch this, Making of the FLUKE 2009 anthology movie!!
- The Ancient Age, Wide Awake Press. (Also from J. Chris.) Yet another bitchin' anthology well worth your time.
- From "the other" Bud Plant, rare comics dealer i picked up an old education book called Meet The North American Indians (Random House, 1965). Fully illustrated by the great Jack Davis. Unbelievably choice stuff. I only wish i could have purchased the other Davis history book on Teddy Rosevelt and one (can't remember the title) by another favorite, John Severin.
- Scott Morse's Red Window publishing label does very few books in a year, but they are all worth having. And this summer, he follows last year's stunning Ancient Book of Myth and War, with the exquisite Ancient Book of Sex and Science. It's by the same four genius artists who happen to work at Pixar, Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, and Nate Wragg. I can not recommend this book highly enough. Get it now because it won't last long.
Every one of these four powerhouse artists deserve their own, feature-length, lush coffee-table art books. Some day?...
- Major haul from John Flesk's super high-end outfit Flesk Publications. With a slow and steady release schedule, Flesk has in short order become one of the more important archival comic strip / artist monograph publishers in this new Golden Age of reprints. This time around: Mark Schultz Various Drawings #3 & 4; Al Williamson's Flash Gordon; Major Thrill's Adventure Book, by Gary Gianni; The Prince Valiant Page (Gianni); and William Stout's Prehistoric Life Murals. This company has nary a single dud in its entire line.
August 4, 2009 / More →
In spite of cries about how we're losing the comics-end of things to the big film studios and the industry is on it's death bed, and the sky is falling, Top Shelf did positively o.k. and i personally had an absolute blast. The Eisner's specifically were truly awesome. I sat at the Top Shelf table with our man Leigh Walton, cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, long time friend and embedded comics journalist Heidi MacDonald, Nate Powell (who was nominated for no less than three awards) and his swell parents. AND, while i was making trips to the hotel bar for new frequent rounds of cocktails, i had a nice chat with industry legend Jim Shooter. AND, after Nate won the most prestigious award in the comics medium (the Eisner for Best Original Graphic Novel) for his book Swallow Me Whole, Nate's mom officially adopted me!! Oh, and for dinner before the ceremony i supped at a restaurant called the Yardhouse, which had 113 beers on draught!! Heeaavven. Post-Eisner's chatting with Denis Kitchen, Tom Devlin, Josh Dysart, Schreck and so many many more. Truly a beautiful evening.
Also had a swell time at Jah Furrie's party, co-hosted (i think) by Devil's Due. Hanging with Staros and Patrick Jodoin, watching Jim Mahfood, Scott Morse and Mike Huddleston rocking out live-art jams while Paul Pope was spinning records. Yeah. Catching up with pals like Henry Chamberlin and Jen Daydreamer, and Douglas (Oni) Sherwood and Kiel Phegley. Then, discovering the secret room back behind the separate downstairs club.
• Moving on, Eddie Campbell (who we really missed in San Diego) recently wrote in with his itinerary for the next few months.
"...this has come about very quickly. Trip to italy for the Lucca festival, at the expense of my publisher there.
"This is nuts, but i've just discovered i've got three books out at once, final volume of Bacchus due in August from Edizioni BD, Black Diamond which has just turned up from Magic Press, and unknown to me, Disease of Language has been out since march or April. Add to that the perennial From Hell...
"... anyway, from there to London where i have a signing at Gosh on Saturday, November 7, and an interview at The ICA in the evening as part of Paul Gravett's Comica Festival."
• And speaking of Eddie Campbell's Alec, we recently printed a fancy little promotional chapbook at Portland indy powerhouse printer Pinball Publishing, and they gave the booklet a showcase on their blog! Check it out. If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org i'll send ya one.
• Here's a terrific essay by Frank Santoro on the Comics Comics site. Tastey food for thought.
• Inkstuds has a Renee French Playlist (Mix Tape). Tres chic.
• How cool is this ad Grant Reynold's made for the next issue of Diamond Previews, which will be listing his awesome book Comic Diorama.
• Comic soon: My list of San Diego loot. My months-late scene report from Sweden. (Seriously. It's entirely written. I just need to start a Flickr account so i can post the massive amount of photos i took.)
July 17, 2009 / More →
• Gregory Benton sent me the links-of-the-year. Part of a group show at GRNY called Dime Bag 3, Gregory writes, "Each artist was given a 3x3 inch baggie to do art in. I wanted to give a nod to the original notion of the bag's meaning, so I filled the bags with nice green rocks found at the beach & made labels for the flavors."
• So-many-cool-new-books/minis/comics/etc-no-time-for-lengthy-reviews Episode #69
If it appears here, it has my absolute stamp of approval. And i do recommend at least checking this stuff out.
- Comics retailer and convention organizer Dustin Harbin can now officially add "kick-ass cartoonists" to his resume. I just read issue #2 of his mini-comic Dharbin, and Zounds!, this guy has the goods. Kind of like a hillbilly Ivan Brunetti / Steven (Ribs!) Weissman / Charles Schultz love child. His comics can be purchased at DHARBIN.
- One year later, i finally pulled volume 3 of You Ain't No Dancer out of my massive to-read pile. Snuggled inside a righteous wraparound cover by Kazimir Strzepek, this choice anthology took a literal giant leap forward since the first two volumes, quadrupling in size and girth. It's got some misses, but plenty of hits, including standouts by the aforementioned Kazimir, Lucy Knisley, Ken Dahl, Phil McAndrew, Patrick Murphy, Dalton Webb, and Grant Reynolds.
• If you're not reading Emi Town, you should be.
• So i'm reading last weeks Entertainment Weekly, they're talking tv with the Television Must List, and asking celebs what's on their "must list"... Stephen Meyer (Bill on True Blood) called out my awesome friend and writer Willy Vlautin and his novel The Motel Life. That's pretty cool. (And BTW... The Motel Life is fucking outstanding literature, with cover art and illustrations by Nate Beaty. Very highly recommended.)
• Feast on this spiffy trailer for Rich Koslowski's Três Dedos: Um Escândalo Animado. That is, his Spanish translation of Three Fingers, by the publisher Gal Editora.
July 10, 2009 / More →
Welcome to Forest Island. A book about the artwork of Bwana Spoons, published by Top Shelf.
Portland Release Party: July 11, 6-9pm
Book Signing, Pencil Fighting, Fart Knocking!!!
Grass Hut, 811 E. Burnside, Portland, Oregon.
Bwana Spoons has been making art, zines, comics, toys, shoes, t-shirts, cards, and pretty much anything you could imagine for a long long time. He's inspired a lot of us art-makers to take things to the next level. It's been a long time coming, but now he's got a book "Welcome to Forest Island". It's pretty awesome and you should totally have is in your library of eye candy
• Here a fun link to Kevin Cannon on KFAI Radio, featuring snippets of his book Far Arden in radioplay form.
July 2, 2009 / More →
• An art show of new work by my long-time pal Garret Izumi? Count me in! This is tonight here in Portland.
• Meanwhile, Will Dinski is serializing his new work-in-progress "Covered In Confusion" on his website. (And keep your eyes peeled in early 2010 for his Top Shelf debut Finger Prints.) Will's comics are amazing, as well a world class designer and one of the medium's foremost practitioners of exquisite hand-crafted comics and mini-comics.
• Comics historian Craig Yoe has launched a new site dedicated to his hella cool release Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster. I can't overstate how delicious this book is.
• Gareth Brookes from Appalling Nonsense recently gifted me a trio of stellar books: The Manly Boys Annual, a very creative, very witty and VERY British two-man anthology; The Banal Pig Landscape Anthology, a truly exquisite collection of comics; and J. Homersham's Musetopia, a series of delightful one-panel gags. Cheers!
• So-many-cool-new-books/minis/comics/etc-no-time-for-lengthy-reviews Episode #44
If it appears here, it has my absolute stamp of approval. And i do recommend at least checking this stuff out.
- Birds in the City: Exploring the Wildlife of Crissy Field. One of comics' finest naturalists Tammy Stellanova delivers another gorgeous comic. In an ideal world kids would be reading her comics in classrooms across the nation.
- Paper Cutter #10. Editor Greg Means of Tugboat Press continues his choice run of the best comics anthology running. This issue features new work by Damien Jay, Jesse Reklaw, and Minty Lewis.
- James Hindle continues to produce little mini-comic gems. His new Come Back might be his best work to date. Terrific chops and storytelling, and as always, a bittersweet and effecting story. I'm a BIG fan of his work, and you should be too! (Note, this image is not from said comic. I just pulled it off his site because it's pretty sweet.)
- Matinée, by the lovely Christine Norrie. This lush little mini combines two great things: Christine's beautiful artwork interpreting classic Hollywood films.
- The Girls' Guide to Rocking, published by Workman. Not comics. It is just what it says it is, with the subtitle, "How to Start a Band and Get Rolling to Rock Stardom." This baby rocks, chock full of useful information, from setting up a practice space, to song structure, to booking and promoting. Very very cool!
- Taddle Creek is an anthology of Toronto-based artists i picked up at TCAF. It's strong all around, but three pieces really rocked, by Michael (we can never see enough of his comics) Cho, J. Bone (set loose with an outstanding digitally-rendered wordless comic, and Fiona (i didn't even know she was still making comics) Smyth. A very very fine comic worth looking for. I'm not sure where it's available, but i'd wager it can be procured at Toronto's epic comics shop The Beguiling.
• And speaking of TCAF, here's a few snaps i took while i was in Toronto.
- Two great portraits by the aforementioned Michael Cho. I think these were originals, painted on a wooden sandwich board for Pages bookstore.
June 30, 2009 / More →
<Alec: The Years Have Pants has left the building. It is en route to the printer as i type this, and fer f*cks sake, if there are only a small handful of must-have books of the year, this is one of them. Some of the most important, intelligent and human autobiographical fiction to ever see print. No less than 640 pages of comics goodness, all resting under sublime covers (softcover AND hardcover) designed by Eric Skillman.
Like i said. Must. Have.
• So-many-cool-new-books/minis/comics/etc-no-time-for-lengthy-reviews Episode #43
If it appears here, it has my absolute stamp of approval. And i do recommend at least checking this stuff out.
- Re-read Rafael Navarro's brilliant Sonambulo: Sleep of the Just, since it came out eight years ago. It has aged exceptionally well. A luchador detective crime noir thriller. Oh, and the hero Sonambulo never sleeps, instead catching everyone else's dreams.
- Finally read Andi Watson's wonderful family story titled Little Star. (Oni Press.) Three years late, but worth the wait. Andi's evolution as a storyteller and as an artist over the years is incredible.
- Cold Heat Special #3, by Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw. Whoa! The stuff mini-comics legends are born of.
- Eyes Move Rapid, by Michael Noonan (Top Shelf neighbor at TCAF). Trippy, cool, beautifully drawn mini-comic.
- Trubble Club III. The gang-bang of comics jams, this awesome mini proves wrong the rule that jam comics by nature suck butt. The art alone is worth the price of admission, but these short little ditties actually deliver.
- Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy! [On Autobiographical Graphic Novels and Why They are so Jewy], by Miriam Libicki. I've been a real big fan of Miriam's drawn essays chronicling her time spent in the Israeli army, but this is a smart and entertaining departure. Originally made for and featured in The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches.
- Monkey Island. Self-published by Matt Rota. Good gods this guy can draw. Seriously, check out his site and feast your eyes.
June 25, 2009 / More →
Item #1. The Art of Harvey Kurtzman. By Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle. Published by Abrams. Editor Charlie Kochman. A stunning addition to the growing number of vital comics-creator monographs. Hats off to all involved.
Item #2. The work of Grant Reynolds. This guy rocks and keeps getting better. Watch for his Top Shelf debut, Comic Diorama, this Fall.
Item #3. Squink, dessin de dave mckean. A new book of mind-boggling drawings (NO digital manipulation!) published in conjunction with the always classy Allen Spiegle Fine Arts. No really, this is one of the most beautiful books i've seen in years. Get it while you can, McKean lovers.
Item #4. The work of Dan Archer. Center for Cartoon Studies student. Edgy political comics. Still a little rough around the edges, but great stuff that should be seen, especially in the socio-political blogospere. I expect big things.
- Some promotional art for Kevin Cannon's Far Arden, which will be used in conjunction with Things From Another World.
- And more from the pesky CCS (Center for Cartoon Studies) kids, given to me for giving them a sliver of our more-than-needed table space at TCAF a few weeks back. Thanks to Penina Gal, Josh Rosen, and Nick Patten.
• Yeesh, just went through the brand new Previews. Good gods, there's so much crap. Sigh... Oh well, easy on the ol' pocketbook, right? A few items do command attention, however, besides of course our own Alec: The Years Have Pants, Eddie Campbell's magnum opus in one giant edition.
Anyway, you could do worse than to pre-order the following books with your favorite local retailer:
- Page 182. Driven by Lemons, by Josh Cotter. (AdHouse Books) I've seen pages from this book, and it's fucking awesome.
- Page 204. Masterpiece Comics, by the brilliant R. Sikoryak. (D & Q) The title is not hyperbole... it's really really amazing comics.
• Finally, we got a little shout out from Max Estes in Norway. Hi Max!
June 24, 2009 / More →
[From a Grass Hut press release]
Portland is a river city; many of us lay our eyes daily upon the mighty Willamette and Columbia rivers. Yet, deep below the city’s surface runs another river, one that few have heard of and even fewer have seen. It’s a mysterious body of water that some say has the power to heal the sick, to make the old young again, to give the impotent a boner. It’s a magical place known as Zine River.
Another well-kept secret: the IPRC has a secret passageway to this amazing river of creativity. Our fearless Membership Coordinator Lori D has been down there for months, paddling the Zine River on a homemade raft, seeking out underground artists and zinesters to take part in this special benefit
art show. Join us for the opening reception on Friday June 26th at 7pm, and take your own wild ride down the Zine River.
A Benefit Art Show for the Independent Publishing Resource Center
Grass Hut Gallery
811 East Burnside Portland, OR 97214
Opening Reception: Friday June 26, 2009 at 7-10pm
The show will be up in the gallery until June 29th and online until August 2nd.
Featuring artwork and zines by Chris Johanson, Thomas Campbell, Lori D, Nicole J. Georges, Gabriel Liston, Theo Ellsworth, Dan Gilsdorf, Travis Millard, Mel Kadel, Megan Whitmarsh, Leif Goldberg, Keegan Wenkman, Scrappers, Sammy Harkham, Chris Duncan, Thom Lessner, Elizabeth Haidle and E*Rock.
June 24, 2009 / More →
Damn, if i was in New York next month i'd attend this fo sho!!
Join Mike Dawson (Ace-Face, Freddie & Me), Alex Robinson (Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Box Office Poison), and John Kerschbaum (Petey & Pussy, The Wiggly Reader) for casual comic-book conversation and Sunday brunch at Bergen Street Comics.
Blue Sky Muffins and Mimosas to be served. Child, pet, and Nerd friendly.
Sunday, July 12th
12pm - 3pm
Bergen Street Comics
470 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
June 12, 2009 / More →
Here are some nifty sounding items of interest from my email in-box:
• Mike (Freddie & Me) Dawson and Alex (Too Cool) Robinson have started a new podcast called The Ink Panthers Show. "In each half-hour episode, Mike and Alex discuss the important issues of the day, including troublesome neighbors, Billy Joel, bike riding in Prospect Park, and news-radio."
Count ME in!
And these are just preliminary drawings for an upcoming show at L.A.'s Secret Headquarters' show of Jeremy's Cartoon Jumbles, which opens July 3. Secret Headquarters is located at 3817 W. Sunset Boulevard.
• Vertigo has released some sneak peek art for Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth at the new Vertigo blog, colored by our pal Jose Villarrubia. I saw some of the originals for this in Jeff's luxurious studio, and i can't wait to read it!!
• Finally, my old college professor and good friend Ken O'Connell sent along this information and call for submissions for the Superhero Comic Conference and exhibit at (my alma mater) University of Oregon. He and Ben Saunders in the Lit Department have been championing graphic novels for years now. I've seen lectures by Scott McCloud and art spiegleman down is fair Eugene, and you can bet your bottom dollar i'll be down for this event! Unfortunately, the deadline for submissions is in three days.
Full press release:
UNDERSTANDING SUPERHEROES: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY CONFERENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
Location: The University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Dates: October 23-24, 2009
“Understanding Superheroes” is conceived as an interdisciplinary multi-media event, held in conjunction with a simultaneous exhibition of original comic art at the UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
This exhibition, “Faster Than A Speeding Bullet,” will feature over 150 pages of original superhero comic art from the 1940s to the present, with examples of key works by many major creators in the industry, including Neal Adams, Mike Allred, C C Beck, Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Bill Everett, Lou Fine, Ramona Fradon, Dave Gibbons, Don Heck, Carmine Infantino, J G Jones, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Frank Miller, Joe Orlando, George Perez, H G Peter, Mac Raboy, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Marie Severin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Matt Wagner, and Berni Wrightson.
Keynote Speakers include Danny Fingeroth (author of Superheroes On The Couch and Disguised As Clark Kent) and Charles Hatfield (author of Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature).
Guests Panelists include Kurt Busiek (author of numerous Superhero titles for Marvel and DC, and creator of the award-winning Astro City series), Greg Rucka (co-creator of Gotham Central, White Out, Queen & Country, and many projects for Marvel and DC), and Gail Simone (writer on Marvel’s Deadpool, DC’s Birds of Prey, co-creator of Welcome To Tranquility for Wildstorm, and current Wonder Woman scribe)!
Other guests TBA.
We invite 1-2 page proposals for 20-30 minute conference papers considering the implications of superhero fantasies for our understanding of such diverse topics as gender identity, queerness, theological yearning, and nationalist politics. We also welcome appreciative discussions of superhero comics as significant aesthetic achievements — particularly insofar as those discussions contribute to the ongoing project within contemporary Comics Studies, to map the unique conventions of the comic art form. Above all, we are interested in sophisticated, lucidly written analyses that utilize the conceptual tools and hermeneutic lenses of contemporary literary and cultural theory.
It is our hope that this conference will help all participants, student and professional, skeptic and fan, to understand the extraordinary imaginative appeal of the costumed adventurer — an appeal that overlaps significant distinctions of age, gender, nation, and culture, and which no amount of silliness or cynicism seems quite able to dispel.
Please address queries and submit proposals via email to Ben Saunders, Associate Professor, Department of English by Monday, June 15th, 2009. (Email address: email@example.com )
June 11, 2009 / More →
After nine grueling weeks of travel (and having a smashingly fun time, mind you), i'm back from a dizzyingly awesome trip to New York (in part for MoCCA) and in the commander's chair at Chez Brett, and buckling down to work. First up on the agenda is closing in on putting Eddie Campbell's sublime masterpiece Alec: The Years Have Pants to bed, and off to the printer. This massive tome will truly be one for the ages.
• Moving right along, let's turn back the clock to mid-April, and revisit my trip to Industry Day at the Center for Cartoon Studies. In addition to a brief Powerpoint presentation about myself and how i got into comics, the attending pros and myself went on to do a smattering of portfolio reviews. Sadly, it's not all so fresh in my fevered brain anymore, but i did want to mention some of the work that do recall, including that of Mo Oh, Nicholas Patten, Penina Gal, Jose-Luis Olivares, Josh Rosen, Brandon Elston, Steve Seck, and Keny Widjaja. (Oh man, that seems like a million years ago.)
I also came home with lots of killer mini-comics, including some by the folks i just mentioned, and some by former students of CCS. A few things rocked my world. The work of Jon Chad is pretty freaking amazing. His in-progress Bikeman will turn some heads if & when it's completed. (And issue #2 was snuck into my bag at MoCCA when i wasn't looking... THANKS, whomever that was!) Not content with straight linear narrative, Chad plays the formal card to terrific effect with the mini-comics Whaletowne and Leo Geo Acquires Ancient Knowledge.
Former student and White River Junction resident Joseph Lambert continues to impress, with I Will Bite You. Also a former student, Colleen Frakes' Tragic Relief won a Xeric Grant, and is worth your time. (I got her awesome book Woman King, too, but in mini-comic form only. I saw at MoCCA that it's out now as an a beautifully designed "real" book.) Chuck McBuck's bonus! was quite fun. I really enjoyed Melissa Mendes' Freddy Figures It Out and Jen Vaugn's My Lady.
The class also made a super cool jam comic, patterned loosely on 50s-era horror comics, called Dark Tomb of Dread.
Much more to come, including a peek back at some loot picked up at Stumptown Comics Fest and TCAF, the Swedish scene and more... but for now, it's bed time.
May 30, 2009 / More →
That is correct, the genius cartoonist and author of Top Shelf masterpiece editions Van Helsing's Night off and Lone Racer will be in conversation with Mark Newgarden, moderated by Mark Nevins. The topic — What is "Funny" Anyway? (Info below the fold.)
AND Mahler has a brand new book available from Top Shelf! It's titled SPAM, and is a collection of comics made from miscellaneous spam messages acquired in his email in-box. Amazing work as always. We've only got a limited number of these trick 2-color hardcovers in stock, so ya better get 'em while they're hot!
Rock star book-designer Jacob Covey recently wrote an appreciation of Mahler's work over at the Fantagraphics blog, Flog, which is worth your time.
Seriously people, if you haven't read his work before, now is the time to do so. In fact, if you order now and buy both Van Helsing's Night Off and Lone Racer, we'll shave $6 off the cover price for the pair. Just make a note that Brett said so on the Hey Bartender blog.
Oh, and i can't forget one of my favorite Mahler comics of all time, the epic boxing story "TNT" in Top Shelf Asks The Big Questions.
• From the Press Release...
THE AUSTRIAN CULTURAL FORUM NEW YORK
PRESENTS: WEDNESDAY JUN 3, 6:30 PM
WHAT IS "FUNNY," ANYWAY?
A Comics Conversation with Cartoonists Nicolas Mahler (Vienna) and Mark Newgarden (NYC). Moderated by Mark David Nevins.
Austrian Cultural Forum NY, 11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022 (between 5th and Madison avenues)
Free Admission. Reservations necessary. Call (212) 319 5300 ext. 222 or e-mail reservations@ acfny.org
Over the last several years, comics and graphic novels have hit "the mainstream" -- not just in Hollywood (which currently has a fascination with superheroes) but among the intellectual set as well. University presses are publishing monographs on classic and avant-garde cartoonists; THE NEW YORK TIMES runs a long-form comics narrative in its weekly Magazine; and graphic novels have gained credibility on the college campus and in the hipster coffee shop.
The Austrian Cultural Forum is pleased to present an evening of conversation with two of comics' rising "alternative" cartoonists, Nicolas Mahler and Mark Newgarden. While the work of these two artists is visually quite different, they share a similar bizarre sense of humor, an ability to capture (and lampoon) the absurd nuances of daily life, and a comics style that often humorously captures what all of us think but don't dare say.
Join us for a lively and visually rich conversation with Nicolas and Mark, in which we will explore how comics work, the marketplaces for graphic humor, where these cartoonists get their ideas, and, yes, the answer to that eternal question, "What is 'Funny'?"
NICOLAS MAHLER was born in 1969 in Vienna, Austria, where he resides to this day. As unique as he is prolific, Mahler's distinct minimalist style appears in Austrian, German, and Swiss newspapers and magazines. Over the last 10 years he has written and illustrated over 30 books which have been published in various languages around the world. His primary publishers include L'Association (France), Top Shelf (U.S.), La Pasteque (Canada), Edition Moderne (Switzerland) , and Reprodukt (Germany). In 2006 and 2008 he won the "Max und Moritz Award" for best German-language comic. His comic series FLASCHKO has been adapted as a series of animated shorts, and his book KRATCHOVIL was turned into a puppet show by a Swiss troupe, and is currently touring Switzerland, Austria, and France.
MARK NEWGARDEN has worked as a concoctor of novelties (Garbage Pail Kids), graphic artist (from RAW magazine to THE NEW YORK TIMES), and writer for TV, film, and multimedia projects (from Microsoft to Cartoon Network), among various and sundry careers. His work has also graced such venues as the Smithsonian Institute, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Brooklyn Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the ICA in London. He is the author of CHEAP LAFFS, a picture history of novelty item from Abrams, and WE ALL DIE ALONE, a collection of his comics and humor from Fantagraphics Books. His first children's book BOW-WOW BUGS A BUG (with Megan Montague Cash) was released in June 2007 from Harcourt, won the Society of Illustrators Gold Prize for that year, and has spawned a series of 6 additional "Bow-Wow" titles . . . and counting!
MARK DAVID NEVINS is an aficionado of graphic narrative and comics from around the world, and he occasionally puts pen to paper to write about his passion for the unique art that marries words and pictures. Years ago he took his Ph.D. in Literature from Harvard, and he now lives in NYC, where he is a management consultant by day. He is the American Correspondent for the renowned Swiss comics periodical STRAPAZIN, and sits on Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Conference (ICAF) as well as the Editorial Board of THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMIC ART (IJOCA). In addition to essays and critical reviews, he has published several translations of comics from French and German. He has traveled, worked, and taught in more than 60 countries around the world.
May 23, 2009 / More →
Three cheers for intern Emi Lenox, who kick-started this blog after waaaaay too long. I will stand by my word and do recaps of my trips to Vermont and Sweden. Soon.
And make sure to check out our new running feature strip on Top Shelf 2.0, Bob & Ivan!
Bob & Ivan is the brain child of Philip Witte and John Littleboy. I asked Phil if he could give us some background on Bob & Ivan... read on.
"'Bob and Ivan' was conceived in a sleeping car of an Amtrak train heading to San Francisco from Santa Barbara on a rainy December evening. The concept of a regular guy struggling with his nasty parasitic twin emerged from Phil Witte’s subconscious, tweaked by a memory of a 'Ripley’s Believe or Not' illustration of a man, possibly from India, from whose stomach dangled vestigial arms and a torso. It was a grotesque image. Yet, the man was smiling. He seemed to be a man of good humor, not at all bothered by this mass of half-formed protoplasm spilling from his person.
"Later, while perusing a book about freaks, Phil saw a Victorian era photograph of a man and his parasitic twin, possibly the same couple that Ripley had chronicled. The accompanying text suggested that the man found his twin thing amusing, like a puppet. His clothes were neatly tailored to accommodate his twin. He even named the thing.
"A real parasitic twin, unlike conjoined twins, is not a sentient being. With a little stretch of the imagination, it could be. Phil did some preliminary sketches, got his young daughter’s approval, and filed Bob and Ivan away.
"Phil had a collection of cartoons that he started drawing at age eight. He sold his first cartoon when he was 13. Resting on this single laurel, Phil took the next 33 years off to pursue other interests, including kickball, high school, Princeton University, a year teaching English in Bangkok, freelance journalism, writing jokebooks, and getting his law degree from the University of Chicago, before returning to cartooning. He also collaborated as a writer of gags for syndicated cartoonists.
"For 'Bob and Ivan' to work, Phil needed an artist better than he. Enter John Littleboy. John has made his living as a professional artist since graduating from Stanford in the late 1970s. His paintings have been displayed in galleries from New York to Morocco. Phil and John became friends after Phil represented John successfully in a lawsuit involving one of his commissioned paintings.
"Phil gave John a basic sense of the characters, wrote the dialogue and made suggestions, but the images are the product of John’s imagination. 'John added a lot of artistic detail that I would not have even thought of,' Phil said. One practical problem was depicting two characters interacting when one is always directly below the other.
"Funny/creepy art is something John has perfected. His 'Bag of Bones' playing cards depict comically horrifying images, but nothing that would scare a child of normal sensibilities. Kids seem to like the look of 'Bob and Ivan.' But then, kids like freaky stuff.
"Bob is insecure and knows it. Ivan masks his insecurities in a show of braggadocio, would-be womanizing, and sarcasm. Of course, Bob and Ivan might actually be the same person.
"Emily is the attractive woman that Bob longs for. She’s blind, but probably has the situation figured out. Ivan resents her and wants Bob to himself. Their mother inexplicably favors Ivan over Bob.
"Life is complicated. Families are odd. 'Bob and Ivan' is, in that sense, normal."