August 30, 2007 / More →
My friend Gary Butler who writes the comics column Blood in Four Colors for the horror magazine Rue Morgue) wrote this to me last week regarding Matt Kindt's new book Super Spy:
"Good god, man, what a masterpiece. I already sensed the absolute brilliance of a writer/artist at the top of his game when I read (and loved) the advance pdf version but !!WOW!! what a difference a physical book makes. The hell with espionage…Super Spy is quite simply a note-perfect argument for why print must not die.
"To the story/art: I reread the book last night (first 'physical' reading, though) and ONCE AGAIN tonight. This has shit-all to do with our friendship…this is about top-level comics that demand extra attention without draping themselves in pretentiousness.
"No doubt, I didn't 'get' the whole story on the first read (well, nor the second; I ain't as sharp as I once was, and I've probably been pistol-whipped a few times more than I care to admit), but the best part about Super Spy is that Klindt neither wants nor NEEDS readers to 'get' it completely on the first pass. Other (lesser) creators brimming in pretense want (in fact NEED) the same thing, but it's all about self-validation for them, which is the wrong reason, even if it's subconscious. Klindt wants…yes, NEEDS…nothing more than for the reader to have as much fun as he's having; what a saint.
"As to my point about the 'physical': RAMMED home within the first few pages, the minute the 'distress' treatment kicked in. Sure, it was there on the pdf, but there's no comparison. What a superb idea, making each individual reader feel a part of the spy network by putting pages-that-have-been-through-hell in their hands. They must know someone connected to get so far! Seriously: a beyond-effective, subtle touch.
"Where does this book need to get reviewed in order to be considered Eisner-worthy? (Don't tell me them judges make up their minds sans media credit.) You should targeting the big guns with this one, because the second read made me realize that it wasn't just brilliant fun…it was just brilliant."
• Dave K has some new comics up on his website. Please note the new URL:
• James Kochalka's book, Squirrelly Gray, was just released by Random House. He made an animated "trailer" for the book, with his own voice doing the narration and voices. (And a little piece of instrumental music from his old rock opera Carrot Boy the Beautiful as the background music.)
August 25, 2007 / More →
• Oh, and did i mention how much TCAF rocks the f*cking house! I met so many cool people, partied my ass off, and had a successful business trip. Kudos to ALL involved, especially superman Chris Butcher, who makes it all happen. I met J Bone, Michael Cho (Holy Mary Jesus Buddha this guy can draw like a MoFo), Willow Dawson (see below), volunteer Caryle (hit by a car while riding his bike during the convention), who ended up being something of an assistant throughout the weekend, and girl-duo supreme Amanda & Victoria, two hilarious volunteers who had me in tears. So much more... great dinners with Jeffrey Brown and Jeff Lemire and Jeff's delightful wife, much late-nite geeking out on super-heroes and music and politics and scotch with my pal Gary Butler. Besides dropping some of the weekend's take at The Beguling (the best comics shop i've ever been to) i also checked out a pretty new store called The Labyrinth (on Mike Huddleston's recommendation), which specializes in books on Animation, Illustration, Anime Art, Graffiti, Life Drawing, Sketchbooks, French Bandes Dessine, Concept Art, etc... fine shop. Good stuff, and they have a blog too. Who else did i talk with over the weekend?... Jim Rugg, Paul Gravett, Dan & Katie from Green Brain Comics and so many more.
I still had unread piles of comics, mini-comics and graphic novels from San Diego before i left for Toronto and now i'm treading water while my basement office fills with yet-to-read books. Yeesh. (Content for future blog updates, i suppose, eh?)
• Met a guy there named Aaron Navrady who did this fabulous hockey page.
• Also met Willow Dawson, who gave me the Find Of The Show for me. It's a small, folded, painted full-color booklet, and it's a gem. Really really wonderful work, and an big empowerment ride for girls.
• Meanwhile, there's yet more new comics on our website, this one by Felix Tannenbaum. Check it out.
• And yet another Top Shelf alum, Josh Simmons has an art show coming up at David Youngblood's tiny but tight gallery, The Pony Club.
"STEAK & BEER: 10 Years of Comics, Paintings, Music and Porn by Josh Simmons
The Pony Club Gallery is proud to present a retrospective of comics and art from alternative cartoonist and journeyman, though currently Portland based, Josh Simmons. While comic centric, the show includes paintings, photography and video ranging from the viciously satirical to the embarrassingly autobiographical to the sickening pornographic and to the gut-fuckingly hilarious. Starting 10 years ago with the early, long out of print mini-comics, Lick and Twitch-Happy. Traveling on, to the Top Self publications Cirkus New Orleans and the mini-series Happy, which documents his time performing with a sex circus, the End Of The World Cirkus/Know Nothing Family Zirkus Sideshow. And onto the current horror graphic novella, House, published by the prestigious Fantagraphics Books. Dotted throughout with a smattering of his cartoons-fucking-flesh-people from the ten-issue photo comic, All About Fucking and the bootleg Batman comic, which DC Comics would most likely never care to see the light of day. Drawings and comic pages will hang side by side with other works that reflect the artist’s life during his many travels and experiences."
First Thursday, September 6, 2007 6:00-10:00pm. Pony Club. 625 NW Everett St #105. Portland, OR 97209. (503) 334-7658. The show runs through October 2, 2007.
• Joe Keatinge from Image scored me a most excellent and unexpected book, called Intersections, that may have slipped under the radar. It's a back & forth jam book by Duncan Fegredo and Sean Philips, two MASTERS in contemporary comics. A visual and conceptual tour de force.
• Hey, Bartender reader Domen Finzar from Slovenia sent me this fun link; an ongoing project featuring alternative cartoonists doing interpretations of Spider-Man. He's looking for contributions folks.
•Â Finally, here's some miscellaneous images i've had on queue to post.
Old Man Briefcase, by Tom K. (Who i also chatted up at TCAF, in addition to his table-mate, the affable Jon Lewis.) Tom graciously gifted this original art to me, after i'd been drooling over it back during APE
August 16, 2007 / More →
The new issue of Clutter magazine is out, and it has a beautiful 3-page feature spread on our good pal Bwana Spoons, of Grass Hut. Bwana's work is positively dreamy, and it's wonderful to see him finally starting to get the props he deserves. Whoo hoo!
• i received an excellent, unsolicited comic book in my po box a few weeks ago, called Into the Dust. It's issue #1 of a 12-issue, full-color series, and it's excellent. You can learn more at Into the Dust.
• I've been remiss as of late in updating this thing... and if there are any readers out there waiting with baited breath, my apologies. That said, there are countless blogs far superior to this one that update daily or close to.
• There's so many nifty comics and books i've picked up as late. I'm still catching up from some of the items i picked up at MoCCA, let alone San Diego. And now i'm leaving on Friday for TCAF (Toronto) where it's certain i'll be getting even more cool swag. As i've said before, i simply don't have time to write lengthy reviews. Needless to say, if you read it hear on Hey, Bartender, unless otherwise noted, it means i really dig it, and endorse seeking it out.
- The Art of Luca Tieri: a beautiful sketchbook by the self-titled Italian cartoonist, published by The Department of Art and Power. Gorgeous stuff in the now-ubiquitous "animated" style popularized in recent times by the likes of Bruce Timm. The content skews less towards men-in-tights though, and more towards indy culture. Great stuff.
- Everybody Takes a Turn, by Vincent (King Mini) Stall. Yet another superior "mini" comic, stock with a separate screenprinted case, this story is like a dreamy mushroom trip … a little hard to follow at times, but the ride is the important thing, not the destination. And like the rest of the known world, he has a killer new blog, always worth a peek.
- Injury, by Ted May. Hopefully but the first of many many more issues by one of today's most criminally underappreciated cartoonists of my generation. Ted May's work might not provide insightful observations on the human condition, and that's o.k. Because what he does provide is pure F.U.N. Published by Buenaventura Press.
- Ratatouille: Little Golden Book. I still have yet to see this film (heck, i just in the last several weeks watched Cars for the first time... and Cfunk LOVES that one), but Scott Morse scored this for me from the Pixar studios, and it's a gem. Those folks at Pixar well and truly "get it." I'm not sure how many stores carry this little treasure, but i found it at Amazon.
- Multiple Warheads, by Brandon Graham. Holy good lord in heaven above, this is one stunning book. I'll be honest, Brandon's early work was, well... developmental. But this sucker … published by Oni Press … is outstanding. If i had to define it, i'd call it a cross between new kid (and Brandon's pal) Corey Lewis and old-school ink-stud Paul Pope. And like both mentioned cartoonists, where plot and story may be lacking, the shear vision and execution more than makes up for this. In a word, "WOW!"
- Amelia's Magazine #7. This British hipster/lifestyle publication rivals any and all of my favorite domestic mags (such as Flaunt, Mass Appeal, Swindle, Giant Robot, Beautiful Decay, Vapors, etc.). I can't tell you whether it's widely available here in the U.S., but i've been finding it at my local Barnes & Nobel.
(Hey, i'd buy it at a local independent bookseller, but truth be known, they in Portland simply don't have the wherewithal to carry it... a real bitch of mine these days. You always hear about the indies complaining about the chains, and yet i rarely see the indies stocking anything but the most common books on the market, instead of those offbeat rare oddities that readers will not find at the chains.)
• "THE LAND OF BROKEN HEARTS": A RARE EXHIBITION OF ARTWORK BY AL COLUMBIA
Floating World Comics presents a rare and exclusive opportunity to view new work by the acclaimed and elusive artist Al Columbia. September’s first Thursday will see the debut of “THE LAND OF BROKEN HEARTS,” marking the first public exhibition and appearance by the enigmatic artist in over a decade. The exhibition will feature a large collection of limited edition prints, original artwork, handmade books, and other ephemera from his Orange Sunshine Company, much of it created especially for this show. The artist will also participate in an informal Q&A during the event.
"THE LAND OF BROKEN HEARTS" is a new series of illustrations that serves as a preview for a new collection of work that Columbia will release in 2008 from Seattle’s Fantagraphics Books. Floating World will have all of Columbia’s published works to date on hand at the event, including The Biologic Show, Blab!, Mome, and Zero Zero.
The opening night reception will be documented on film by Kevin Belli, a Boston filmmaker who has been creating the documentary "Whatever Happened to Al Columbia?" over the last four years.
• And i'm off to Toronto for TCAF. Lordy i'm looking forward to this show. If it's half as much fun as the one two years ago, i'm in for a blast! I'm staying with my good buddy Gary Butler, the comics columnist (Blood in Four Colors) for the seminal horror magazine Rue Morgue.
August 13, 2007 / More →
August 9, 2007 / More →
Holy god, a couple nights ago i was surfing through cable tv for some background noise laying out Jeff Lemire's new book, when i stumbled across some young blond woman on PBS, on-stage playing guitar and singing up a storm. I was instantly impressed with this girl's pipes. And her song-writing as well. So i jumped online to find out who this was, and lo and behold it's Jewel.
I suppose that shows my age, maybe? I'd heard this name for years, naive and without a clue who it was. In fact, my presumption was that this was more likely than not just another poseur, hand-created by some slimy producer. But no, whether you like her or not, Jewel is the real deal. The last few songs of her set were with a small orchestra, her singing a cappella, and i literally had shivers running down my spine. Wow. Wow. Wow.
A quick search reveals that the television program was called Soundstage, and this episode was Jewel From the Rialto Square Theatre.
• We finally have some new comics up on our website, and they are awesome. In a more realistic manner we have the fine stylings and deep subject matter of Gabriel Frizzera, with the story "Heavy Metal Heart." Then on the opposite end of the spectrum stylistically, yet no less incredible, are some surreal comics in the art-brut school by Bart (Aardbart) Johnson.
• Here's a pic of me sandwiched by my two of oldest pals in comics, Garret Izumi and Steve Lafler. We were out for cocktails that night (me…drinking mango mojitos), followed up by some activity out behind, well... never mind. (Photo by Garret!)
• Some cool books i picked up at San Diego. (Who knows when i'll have the time to read 'em... but even at a glance they look sweet.)
- Chance in Hell, by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
- Percy Gloom, by Cathy Malkasian (Fantagraphics)
- Mean, by Steven Weissman, reprinting his earliest awesome self-published comic books (Fantagraphics) This is one of very very few comics, where the sheer delightful energy of Ribs!' self-published floppies are so damn cool, i'll keep both the original comics as well as the trade paperback collecting them.
- Scrap Mettle, an art book about Scott Morse, designed by Chris Pitzer. Thanks, Scott! (Image) Wow! What an amazing collection of work by Mr Morse. Pen & ink, color work, washes, etc.
- Kent Williams, a stunning monograph, gifted to me…thanks Johnnie! (ASFA) Brilliant. The guy is a master.
- Comic Art #9, edited by Todd Hignite, designed by Jonathan Bennett (Buenaventura) This deluxe magazine is so good that it rivals Craig Yoe's seminal ARF! Chock full of high-carb comics calories, with fabulous contributors, contents, and a seriously lush design sensibility... kudos to Mr Hignite and Mr Bennett, and thanks to Mr Buenaventura for publishing it.
- Pulphope, by Paul Pope and Chris Pitzer (AdHouse) I picked this baby up at Floating World here in Portland. Two words come to mind. Eye. Candy. This is a real gem, and the world is a much better place with this book now in print. Get one while you can.
- Fleet Street Scandal, by Kevin Dart and Chris Turnham (self-published) Easily some of the most exciting new talent for me in years. While they each have very unique styles and concerns, they are at the same time very compatible as a team. I love the mix of sweet design skills and luscious chops. These are two to watch out for.
August 5, 2007 / More →
Shark Week is wrapping up on The Discovery Channel, and all i can mutter is "whew!!" If this were Shark Month, or god forbid, Shark Year, my life would effectively be over. Done. I can't get enough of these magnificent animals.
If you dig sharks…and even if you think you don't…some of the programs i've been attached to this last several days have been insanely, impossibly amazing to watch. Hello, have you EVER seen the Great Whites in Southern Africa BREACH when they snatch seals from the surface?! Wow. There's lots of great clips on YouTube.
(This is from Amos Nachoum at Big Animals.)
Or how about the two different guys who were getting snuggly with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks? One of whom was putting Tiger Sharks in a state of "tonic immobility," effectively rendering the shark nicknamed "Man-eater" completely homeless. The other one free-swimming (sans scuba gear) with both Tigers and Whites.
Too cool for words. Sharks have been tragically misunderstood, and are being killed off at a staggering pace. This type of mind-bending research is integral a better understanding of these perfect predators, and their effective conservation.
•Â And just so there's some comics content, here's a few beautiful watercolors by my ComicCon roommate, and creator of Korgi, Christian Slade. He made these during his trip to San Diego.
August 3, 2007 / More →
• Hey Top Shelfers (Shelf Toppers? Shelfheads?), here's a post from the battlefield a few days ago, courtesy of New Guy Leigh Walton...
I'm blogging to you now from sunny San Diego, where the weather is gorgeous, the crowds are endless, and the costumes are uncomfortable (Gorgo
from 300? Really?). And, of course, there's comics everywhere. Yes, it's the comic world's Christmas, Vegas, and Senior Prom all in one, the San Diego Comic Con International.
Top Shelf's booth is an island of sanity in the sea of madness. It's my first time at the show, and I'm staying here in the Top Shelf Zone as much as possible. As much as the big story seems to be the convention's immense size (this year being even bigger than usual), I've been glad to discover that it's not overwhelming. We've got a constant stream of folks coming by the booth, so I never lack for new folks to talk to -- but that's just it; the traffic in this part of the hall is mild enough that I can actually carry on a conversation with everyone who comes by. Over in the big TV/movie/game/sculpture pavilions, good luck finding space to breathe, let alone get to know somebody.
That's been the real treat for me -- the interaction. I've never been in such a great social environment as this, with a never-ending army of happy and excited con-goers coming up to me and asking about these books that I love. And these aren't smelly basement-dwellers in bulging Klingon armor; they are, without exception, bright, friendly, very cool folks of all shapes and sizes who love stories and pictures and that magical picture/story Reese's cup we call comics. Some of them are long-term Top Shelf fans eager to pick up the latest wave of books from this season; others have never read our stuff but have heard good things about us or are simply drawn to the style of one book or another. We've passed out countless copies of our huge FREE sampler book and then watched those same folks come back the next day, eager to buy! Top Shelf has always been about creating a genuine relationship with our fans, and I think we've made a bunch of new friends this week, the same way we always do -- one at a time.
But Top Shelf is not the only game in town! Behold, I have been to the San Diego Comic Con, and I have seen great wonders:
I have seen a grown man changing the diaper on a baby in a Wookiee costume (the baby, not the man). I have concluded that the Sci-Fi Channel has soaked their promotional flyers in LSD, because they sure did spend a million dollars on a several-acre amorphous blob of silver plastic illuminated by fifty computer-guided party lasers -- it helpfully curves up from the floor to form nooks in which to lie back and gaze at the psychedelic display.
I have seen guys in white robes walking around wearing backpacks which emitted both hip-hop tunes and videoscreens on poles. I have seen a movie display several dozen feet tall where the name of the movie was conveniently obscured by the giant sign saying "PROMOTIONAL GIVEAWAY TOKENS REDEEMED HERE." I once found my path blocked by a mob of a hundred people, who (I soon realized) had gathered to stare at an amputee booth babe with an M-16 for a leg. Meanwhile I was able to walk right up to Tom Scioli's table and tell him how much his artwork blows me away on the incomparable GÃ˜DLAND. Then I turned around and bumped into a dude staring at a painting of Jean-Luc Picard that was so reverent that I think Leo III rolled over in his grave complaining of idolatry.
Update: the Sci-Fi Space Rave theory is confirmed - a staffer just came around and distributed ring pops.
Check back later for a panel report from "The Many Faces of the Graphic Novel," including FOUR different Top Shelf creators!
Peace, love, and visual narrative,
August 2, 2007 / More →
It's so nice to sleep more than six hours in a night, in my own bed, and not wake up hung over to the gods. It's over... San Diego ComicCon was, as ever, an overwhelming morass of comics geeks, costumed freaks, star-fuckers and pop-culture thrill seekers. And while i was perpetually exhausted, i loved every minute of it.
For some very odd reason i can't pinpoint, the floor seemed less crowded than in years past, and yet our gross receipts reflected much more. Also, i felt like the vibe amongst the like-minded vendors in our little corner of the floor was overall fabulous. I heard much lip-service to the problems inherent in this show, but smiling faces belied the disgruntlement.
Intern Leigh Walton impressed my partners Chris and Rob. So much so in fact, that we hired him on the spot. Leigh will start part-time doing publicity and marketing. (Look for an official press release soon.) He's also doing a guest-blog on "Hey, Bartender" later tonight.
The Eisners were less painful than in years past, even though we didn't win any awards. (Renee French was awarded last weekend however, with an Inkpot Award for achievement in comics.)
I love seeing so many old friends, and meeting new ones, although it's hard to get in more than a short conversation here or there.
The CBLDF party was my favorite party this year, hands down.
My intern from last year, Jacquelene Cohen, who now works at Dark Horse, was assigned to be the "handler" for Joss Whedon!! ARRGGGHHH!! I'm so jealous! I'm a total Whedon-head. Moreover, I'M the one who turned Jacq onto Buffy and Firefly!! Anyway, kudos to Jacq.
I haven't had time to read many con reports, but i really enjoyed Steven Grant's "Permanent Damage" column over at CBR, and of course, the phenomenal reporting and commentary by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter.
Brain is still fried...
• First Thursday is back tonight at Floating World Comics here in Portland, featuring spaz-rock cartoonists Corey Lewis and Brandon Graham. 20 NW 5th Avenue, (downtown, right off of Burnside), from 6 - 10:00 p.m. Should be fun. These guys can draw like muthas.
• Jeff Lemire is a cool guy. I love his comics and i love his terrific blog! How awesome are these drawings he made for San Diego!
• Chris Duffy, the mastermind bending the minds of our youth with the work of indy cartoonists in the Nickelodeon Magazine's Comics section, is the subject of an interview with Brian Heater over at The Daily Cross Hatch.
• I picked up a boatload of fanboy items at the show, including a couple back issues of the great great in-house fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics, an old old issue of Rocket Blast Comics Collector (which Scott McCloud informed included on his second ever published work, in an article written by Kurt Busiek), a super-funny issue of the wonderful (Fred) Hembeck comic magazine, and the newest issue of revived EC fanzine, Squa Tront.
I'll make a more comprehensive list of neat stuff as soon as i'm a little more caught up.
July 24, 2007 / More →
So i just received a package with the BRAND NEW Fall 2007 Season of books from First Second (thanks, Gina!!) and it's a doozy! An amazing line-up featuring Johann Sfar, Lat, Sarah Varon, Gipi, and the long-awaited Laika, by Nick Abadzis. WOW!
They'll be set up at booth 1635 in San Diego. All of these books are worth picking up. This has to be there most solid season to date. Under the sharp editorial guidance of Mark Siegel, First Second continues to impress. Kudos.
Meanwhile, Top Shelf will also be pimping our wares at San Diego in full-force. Chris and myself will continue our 10th Anniversary Celebration with a dozen cartoonists in attendance … all available to sign their new releases. Also, Renee French is no less than an honored guest of the con, and will be appearing on two panels.
On Thursday from 12:30 - 2:00 Renee will be on the panel titled The Many Faces of the Graphic Novel, along with fellow Top Shelfers Andy Runton and Jeffrey Brown. Saturday, from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. is the Renee French Spotlight panel, in a conversation with Dan Nadel of Picture Box Inc.
Featured authors this year include:
Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots)
Renee French (Micrographica)
Matt Kindt (Super Spy)
Jeff Lemire (Tales from the Farm)
Andy Hartzell (Fox Bunny Funny)
Jeremy Tinder (Black Ghost Apple Factory)
Christian Slade (Korgi)
Andy Runton (Owly)
Robert Venditti (The Surrogates)
David Yurkovich (Death by Chocolate)
Jose Villarrubia (The Mirror of Love)
& last but definitely not least:
Eddie Campbell (Fate of the Artist)
July 19, 2007 / More →
• O.k. so i saw Spider-Man 3 a couple nights ago, and while i seem to be bucking the trend here, i'm going to come out and say that i LOVED it!! I won't argue about some of the details that were critically reviewed … where DID the Venom alien come from?; the Flint Marko character could have used more devolpment; yeah, "dark" Peter Parker was pretty freaking dorky; maybe there were too many storylines... But i feel that the genius of Sam Raimi and the heart of the story were right in harmony with my own personal Spider-Man. Slice out the song & dance routine (even though the story WAS being told marvelously here), and you've got one hell of a kick-ass action flick.
And i'm a guy no less, who always HATED Venom. It was so way far after my time. (Same with Big Wheels AND Transformers.) But as a vehicle to bring out the Dark Side of the Force in Petey, it served its purpose deftly.
So sue me! Viva Spidey!!
• James Kochalka:
"Here's some paintings I did while I was at Monhegan Island in Maine. You can't go anywhere without running into someone doing 'plein air' painting, so I joined in the fun. It's been an artist's colony for over a century I believe, and most of the important early american landscape painters worked there."
Beautiful work, James!
• My good friend Steve Ryan did the color painting of Alex Robinson's cover drawing for his forthcoming fantasy book, Lower Regions. Steve has been featured now in four issues of Heavy Metal, and i KNEW he'd be perfect for this gig. My inner fanboy is absolutely in love with this artwork!
• Jason Little and Myla Goldberg have made an addition to the family, along with little Zelie... introducing Kestrel Xesca Goldberg Little.
• Sarah Morean reviews Jeremy Tinder's new mini-comic at The Daily Cross-Hatch.
• The new Funbook is ready! The release party will be the 8th of August at Holocene. Show Me the Pink is headlining (their last show ever!). Old Growth, Here Comes a Big Black Cloud, and Mustaphamond will also be playing. There will be giant posters to color with crayons galore. It will be also serve as a fundraiser for the genocide intervention fund.
The Portland Funbook #2 is 80 pages of coloring & activities from over 60 of Portland's best artists. Each issue will contain: an 80 page book with contributions from 60+ local artists, a 7" vinyl record with 12 one-minute songs from local musicians, 4 stickers, 1 temporary tattoo, and two 1" buttons and. Each book costs $5. $1 from each purchase will go to The Genocide Intervention Network.
• Finally, though i simply don't have the time to give these a proper review, the following new books in the collection come highly recommended.
The Rise and Fall of Yip the Wonder Dog, by Andy (Fox Bunny Funny) Hartzell. I found this at local comics & coffee shop Guapo. It's a delightful, wordless mini-comic with a tasty screenprinted cover, and published by Global Hobo.
Breaking Up, illustrated by Christine Norrie. Admittedly, i've yet to read this book yet (written by Aimee Friedman, published by the Scholastic imprint Graphix), but Christine's artwork is literally stunning! Wow. In the league of today's best female cartoonists, like Carla Speed McNeil and Colleen Coover, Christine is really really really one to watch.
Strapazin #87. The new issue of the brilliant Swiss comics magazine Strapazin arrived in my po box last week. I'd give my left pinky finger for this to be released (in English) to a wider North American audience. if you've ever wondered what the rest of the world's comics look like at their best, look no further than this.
The Chronicles of Conan volume 12. To a 14 year old, wimpy-assed Brett, coming off of his "fat" years, discovering first the pulpy paperbacks and then the Marvel comics featuring Conan the Barbarian, this escapist fantasy was a salve on my tender ego. Dark Horse has been reprinting the entire Marvel run, beginning with the early Barry Windsor-Smith issues, and up through the brilliant John Buscema stuff. For my tastes, Buscema is as much THE Conan artist as Frazetta. His work on this title was sublime. And with this 12th volume, they bring my nostalgic run to a close, since after the epic Belit: Queen of the Black Coast saga, the comic's quality control quickly plummeted. But holy shit, these 12 books Dark Horse has done are sweet. The coloring is as good as it gets, and as far as i'm concerned (no offense to any of the creators involved), the new Conan comics don't hold a candle to this stuff. Thanks to Jeremy Barlow at Dark Horse for hooking me up.
The Art of BONE. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I really didn't imagine that the "art of" book for Bone would be anything special. Especially help up to the incredible Art of Hellboy and Art of Will Eisner books, also helmed by Diana Schutz (and designed by Cary Grazzini) at Dark Horse. I was so wrong. This is a masterpiece edition, and the perfect coda to the sweeping saga of Bone. Simply outstanding. Diana, i really owe you one.
July 14, 2007 / More →
is a total stud. I just watched tonight's episode of Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS, and it was an inspiration. At issue, "Tough Talk on Impeachment." Guests were Bruce Fein, a nationally and internationally recognized expert on Constitutional law, and John Nichols, author and political journalist who's been writing the "Online Beat" for The Nation magazine since 1999.
Consider, a host of attacks on the very constitution itself, from executive privilege and signing statements to extraordinary rendition, from the Plame leak to the suspension of Habeas Corpus and unwarranted SPYING on U.S citizens!!
THINK about just this short list of transgressions (and there are many MANY more), and the implications they hold. By Bush's self-proclaimed rule, he could, for reasons of his own, label YOU an enemy combatant, kidnap you from your home, spirit you away with a hood over your head to an unknown secret location on the other side of the globe, with no communication to or from anyone else … let alone a lawyer … and then set about torturing you.
THIS is constitutional? What gives? Or how about Bush's recent commutation of Scooter Libby followed by his subsequent order to Harriet Myers to spurn congress and NOT respond to a congressional subpoena, because he declares the authority not to? Our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves. Hello, impeachment!
I worry about what kind of neo-fascist state my almost 3-year old kid might grown up in, if this behavior doesn't change... it truly frightens me. John Nichols said it well, when comparing the people of the U.S. to those of the Roman Empire and its state of mind which led to its collapse, by pointing out the difference between those who CHOOSE to live like good little subjects, not paying attention to the matters of state, letting themselves be entertained to death, with those who choose to live with a strong sense of civic duty, and demand responsibility of their elected leaders. Man, what's going on right now burns me so much! Too bad the corporate owned media refuse to fulfill their obligation as the Fourth Estate, and to hold our leaders accountable for their actions in the press, else more citizens might be as peeved as i am.
It's been i think over a year, when the Republican-controlled Congress fuc*ed over PBS and Bill Moyer's brilliant program called NOW was cut in half, since he left the show itself and the spotlight, seemingly dispirited. Well Bill is back, and it's a better world for it. Check out the weblink for this particular episode and educate yourself. Then call or write your congressional leaders and demand action, that they uphold their duty and protect our laws and Constitution from a derelict Executive branch, as they were sworn into office to do.
• O.k., now that i'm down from the soapbox, here's some not so uplifting news making the rounds on the blogosphere... Comics are broken! No, comics aren't broken at all … the BUSINESS of comics is broken. This is the sentiment with the recent announcement that Cold Cut Distributors are selling their company. This does indeed suck. I've known and worked with Mark Thompson for over a decade. He will be missed.
And, like Slave Labor publisher Dan Vado (as read on The Comics Reporter), i have to admit to being somewhat cynical about all the hoopla and hype that the new graphic novel model in the book trade, coupled with a "healthier" direct market are indicators of stability across the board. When in fact my experience would seem to indicate that the glut of Marvel and DC titles currently flooding the market, as well as an overabundance of weak comics everywhere else has created a situation where it's really very difficult to get much support from the retail community for indy comics, except for only the biggest A-List books in a given season. (And certainly not entirely via the fault of the retailers themselves, what with non-returnable sales [in the direct market] understandably inhibiting a willingness to take risks on new titles, creators, or publishers.)
Granted, there are more excellent comics coming out now than maybe in the history of the medium, at least in North America. But with so many hundreds of books in print, the ratio against the good stuff is by orders or magnitude.
Yeah, a precarious state we find ourselves in. I wish there were some answers. Clearly there needs to be more efficient methods of both retail and distribution. I love what i do, so i want a healthy marketplace. And God only knows, i'm NOT a believer in comics' sole future domain being online. I want to hold a book in my hands, feeling its pulpy goodness, the smell of ink on my fingers. And those are the kind of books i want to publish.
• JULY SUPER SPY!
Tonight was the Super Secret Spy Art Exhibit at Subterranean Books. Wish i could have been there.
Matt Kindt’s newest art show ENIGMA MACHINE opened tonight … and was also a book release party to celebrate the release of his new book Super Spy. The show will run through September 9th.
Here’s what early reviews of Super Spy are saying:
“...one of the best comics I’ve read.”
“...invokes the feelings after reading Speigelman’s MAUS.”
“These spy stories are filled with pathos and longing -- Amelié meets Alfred Hitchcock in comics form. It transcends traditional spy fiction.”
• I've got a bunch of nifty books i want to mention, but i'd rather get even this short update uploaded. So stay tuned for some really cool books.
July 9, 2007 / More →
by Lode Devroe! Today 8 July 1947:
RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region!
• The Center for Cartoon Arts has graduated its first class. This is great news.
James Sturm's press release:
The Center for Cartoon Studies graduated it's first class in May so what better time for one of my infrequent updates. As the school takes on a life of its own it has been increasingly difficult to write updates. At one point I felt like a new parent: I could wrap my arms around the school and understand its simple needs. I could show pictures and write about everything the baby was up to. The school, now a toddler, is stomping all over the place, in nine different directions at once and is kicking up a lot of dust (and still leaving me sleep deprived)!
So without further ado (or strained metaphor) here's a brief update:
Graduation: After two years of hard work, the pioneering class of eighteen "seniors", graduated on May 19! Parents and loved ones came to White River Junction from all corners of the country to celebrate the graduates' achievements. One highlight of the spirited and emotionally charged day was the great Patrick McDonnell's commencement speech. Patrick's comic strip Mutts is a true gem (and so too, not surprisingly, is Patrick and his wife Karen).
I Know Joe Kimpel: This site was created by CCS alumni Adam Staffaroni and Emily Wieja to showcase (and sell) the great work produced by CCSers. If you are curious to see what this next generation of cartoonists is making check it out.
CCS Now Offers Master of Fine Arts Degrees: This is huge for the school. Huge. Here's the skinny.
Summer Workshops: Beginning Monday July 9th, our third summer offering workshops for ages 16 and up. A second week (beginning July 16) was added due to demand. Participants came from as far away as England, San Diego, and Texas. There are a few spaces left if you or someone you know is interested. They are a lot of fun.
CCS, The Movie: Extremely talented documentary filmmaker Tara Wray's next project: CCS and White River Junction. Check out the trailer featuring CCS students, faculty member Steve Bissette, Art Spiegelman, and yours truly.
CCS Book Projects: CCS is involved in various publishing projects including working with Norton in redesigning Will Eisner's landmark instructional books. CCS's first book with Hyperion Books for Children, Houdini, The Handcuff King, by Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi is out in stores and is receiving rave reviews. The next book in the series, Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow, by myself and Rich Tommaso, will be released in December. The third book in the series will be Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino. The Houdini book can be ordered through Amazon. You can get a great read and support the school in one fell swoop.
Greeting Cards: CCS student work will be featured in a line of greeting cards next summer produced by Sunrise Greetings (an independent subsidiary of Hallmark Card). It was great working with Sunrise… the students sold lots of work and the cards look great.
Looking Forward: Next fall CCS is honored to have Jason Lutes as visiting faculty. Jason is the cartoonist responsible for the amazing graphic novels Jar of Fools and Berlin. Other guests will include Lynda Barry, Drew Weing, Eleanor Davis, Alison Bechdel, and Gary Trudeau. And that is just for the fall! And also in WRJ this year will be CCS's third Fellow, T. Edward Bak. Thanks to the LEF Foundation for keeping our fellowship program rolling along!
Congratulations: To Sam Gaskin and Alexis Frederick-Frost, two members of CCS first class who won the prestigious Xeric Award to publish their own comic. Tp the CCS's Sundays' crew for producing Sundays, a beautiful anthology that was one of the "buzz books" of New York City's MoCCA Comics Festival ( all these books available through Joe Kimpel). To fellow Vermont cartoonist and CCS visiting artist Alison Bechdel, on the success of her amazing memoir Fun Home. And Congrads to Phineas Roy Ollie, CCS managing director Michelle Ollie's new son who came early, in time to witness the CCS graduation.
• There's some great stuff in the current Diamond Previews catalog (although thankfully less than normal), including the following items i'll keep my eyes open for.
… Sunday Press (the guy who did that mammoth and gorgeous Little Nemo book) is releasing volume one of the oversized Gasoline Alley Sundays, in full color. It's called Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, and makes a perfect companion the series Drawn & Quarterly is producing with the b&w dailies.
… And original Goon graphic novel by Eric Powell (from Dark Horse), is on its way, title Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker. Eric is one of the most outstanding cartoonists in a field overflowing with fine creators. And The Goon is just wild campy fun.
… The Completely Mad Don Martin, from Running Press. Whoo hoo! My god i loved Don Martin's comics in the pages of MAD when i was growing up. This looks to be a set not unlike the beautiful slipcased Farside and Calvin & Hobbes collections Andrews McMeel issued a few years ago. And if memory serves correct, this will be the first in a series collecting work by the second generation of Mad creators. (The generation i grew up on, including the great Sergio Aragones and Al Jafee.) Man, imagine the entirety of Sergio brilliant Mad Marginals!
… Finally, the long awaited Jack Kirby biography which Mark Evanier has been working on forever. Titled Kirby: King of Comics, this is perfectly timed to appear alongside the way overdue deluxe Kirby collections making the rounds these days.
• Gregory Benton sent a follow-up email (with pictures) of the following show at Space 1026, SCAB ON MY BRAIN!, which opened last Friday, July 6.
Space 1026 presents "Scab On My Brain!"Â, a group exhibition curated by New York artist Jordin Isip. This assembled group of twelve artists use their own unique and personal visual vocabulary to create figurative narratives that are both allegorical and psychological. In some works humans can be beastial, weak, imperfect, and vulnerable as they journey through imagined lands, in others, the protagonists may be quietly heroic in seemingly mundane and everyday environments. But whether these images (drawings, paintings, silkscreens, and sculpture) are multi-layered, oozing, cacophonous, and hyperbolic or understated, minimal, reserved and poetic we are compelled to enter realms devised by artists with distinct sensibilities.
Jordan Awan, Gregory Benton, Kiersten Essenpreis, Jordin Isip, Aya Kakeda and Liz Lee are based in New York City.While Carl Dunn and Evah Fan also have strong New York roots they now live in Providence and Los Angeles respectively. Mariano Ching and Louie Cordero live in the Philippines, James Kirkpatrick in Canada, and Nate Williams in Argentina. Space 1026 presents "Scab On My Brain!"Â, a group exhibition curated by New York artist Jordin Isip. This assembled group of twelve artists use their own unique and personal visual vocabulary to create figurative narratives that are both allegorical and psychological. In some works humans can be beastial, weak, imperfect, and vulnerable as they journey through imagined lands, in others, the protagonists may be quietly heroic in seemingly mundane and everyday environments. But whether these images (drawings, paintings, silkscreens, and sculpture) are multi-layered, oozing, cacophonous, and hyperbolic or understated, minimal, reserved and poetic we are compelled to enter realms devised by artists with distinct sensibilities.
Louie Cordero, "Horns, Strings and Harmony", 14" x 11", ink on paper
Here are more pics from the show. (Thanks, Gregory.)
• Nick Abadzis has started a new blog.
• Jim (JH) Williams sent me a link to a fab new multi-artist website called Naked Fat Rave. Check it out!
• Master letterer/designer Todd Klein has a new website.
July 1, 2007 / More →
new record by Queens of the Stone Age, titled Era Vulgaris. If you like your rock fuzzy, guitar-heavy, hook-laden and a little dissonant, then these cats have produced yet another gem just for you.
• MoCCA was, as per usual, a mad crazy aweome comics show. How could it not, taking place as it does in New York City. Any reason to "have" to go to New York is a good one.
I stayed again with Gregory Benton and his lovely lady Florence, in their swank apartment on the Upper West Side. Many many thanks to them both. Lots of beer drinking, soccer watching and good eating to be had. I made trips to St. Mark's Books, Forbidden Planet, more pubs and clubs than i can count, a league soccer match, and of course, the convention itself. I also spent some time getting to hang out with the affable Jeff Lemire, who stayed out a couple nights at Gregory's too. I'll tell you, this Canuck can throw down some serious pints!!
The show kicked ass, but the highlight of the weekend had to be our 10-Year Anniversary party at Gstaadt. We had an amazing cake made by some famous NYC pastry chef (anybody know who this guy is?), an open bar, and a large catered food spread. Piles of thanks to Kristen and Eliza for their hard work getting the whole thing together. At one point the joint was so jumpin' (and roasting hot) that people were spilling out onto the streets. The venue was amazing, the bartenders all hot, and the cocktails delicious.
I wish we could do this every year, but … OUCH! … that bar tab was a doozy!!
One fabulous score of MANY at the show was Craig Yoe's choice Life is Short, ARF is Long special edition, a VERY vertical, short run (50 copies) comic featuring art and comics drawn in the same proportion. The little masterpiece measures roughly 5" wide x 14" tall. Viva l'ARF!
Craig also has a great slide show of pics from MoCCA, on his ARF! blog. Funny and smart captions too.
• Before heading home, i travelled north to Montreal for two nights and three days to visit my pal Patrick Jodoin. (Who's bald head some readers might recognize from the convention circuit in his alter-ego as the rep for Lebonfon Printing.) We tooled around for two days by bicycle, and wow, what a gorgeous city. The old World's Fair Expo Center, Old Quebec, churches, restaurants, Mount Royal, and so much more.
I scored some great French comics (by Gipi, Blutch, and Frederick Peeters) at a small bookstore chain called Librarie Renauld-Bray. I would have loaded up with so much more, had i only the room to carry it. Thank the gods there's no store like this in Portland.
Like Vancouver B.C. and Toronto, the streets were clean, the people were friendly, and with half the city speaking French, Montreal was even so much more European in flavor. (And the way the girls talk... ooh la la.)
Not surprisingly, we drank like fish every night, and traded publishing industry war stories.
On my last day we had the honor of visiting the Drawn & Quarterly offices, and then were treated to lunch by them, eating a yummy Indian meal with Chris (Oliveros), Tom (Devlin), Rebecca (Rosen), Jessica (Campbell), and their intern (from the CCS) Alexis Frederick Frost. D&Q is one of the handful of very key influences that inspired me to become a comics publisher, so this was pretty big to get to visit the headquarters.
• Cute podcast review at Pulp Secret of three recent Top Shelf books, with some fun little skits thrown in. Good editing as well.
• Went out with Steve Lafler to go see a late-nite showing of Hot Fuzz at the Laurelhurst Theater. With Shaun of the Dead in their cap also, it's clear now that the auteur team of (director / co-writer) Edgar Wright and (co-writer / actor) Simon Pegg just "get it."
On the surface the plot is a simple buddy movie / crime procedural / mystery / dark comedy / thriller. What's that?! Like Shaun, Hot Fuzz is a perfectly blended mish-mash of every two-bit genre to ever hit the big screen. Combining bits & pieces straight from (and in loving homage to) classics like Sergio Leone, Rosemary's Baby, Sam Raimi, Helter Skelter, John Woo, L.A. Confidential, Michael Bay, splatter-horror .... whew. It also has a meta-take on Bad Boys II and Point Break thrown in for maximum comedic effect, with a truly perfect scene. All the while there remained an absolute commitment to giving this film its own unique identity.
This on-fire duo have wrestled the mantle of over-the-top genre pastiche from former master Quentin Tarantino's limp hands. (Who's half of the recent Grindhouse was more boring than a fucking Golden Girls marathon … scenes featuring Kurt Russel as Stuntman Mike notwithstanding.)
In the end, what makes these two films so special, are the themes of friendship, honor, and heart, which go mostly ignored by so much of today's "entertainment."
• It's official … my two-pronged hoops fantasy has come to fruition!! We drafted big-man Greg Oden AND dumped over-paid slacker Zach Randolph, both on the same night! Whoo hoo!
• A nifty zine/comic floated my way this week via the Big Pond, and it rocks. Gareth Brookes from London created Mediocralypse. It's an old-school type of effort like i used to read, in that it stretches the boundaries of what you can attempt in a low print-run mini, that you can't maybe with big expensive books. Very much a zine at heart and form.
The chops are great in here too. Everything is really quite nicely drawn.
Check out his website Appalling Nonsense for more info.
This art here is part of Gareth's contribution to a hit or miss anthology called Banal Pig. His strip is beautiful, and reminds me of Jeff Zenick's work.
•Â If you're in Portland this Thursday evening, swing by Floating World Comics for the co-book signing with Jeremy Tinder (for his Top Shelf floppy comic called Black Ghost Apple Factory) and Douglas Wolk, for his book Reading Comics.
I'll be there kind of early, because i'll have the kid with me!
June 21, 2007 / More →
Dan Sinker, he who is Punk Planet, sent out a mass email announcing the last issue of this seminal magazine, which eventually fell victim the ruthless powers-that-be (new postal mass-mailing regulations, anybody?) which seek to kill the independent voice.
Punk Planet was, in my book, one of the greatest magazines ever. It covered basically any and all categories of independent entertainment, from music and film to literature and comics. More importantly, PP was also a champion cultural journal which discussed the politics of the day in informed and impassioned essays, articles, and what have you. Kudos to Dan, and all of the folks involved, on a stellar run.
The good news is that PP will continue on as a web magazine, as well as publishing the occasional book.
Recent PP editor and long-time comics head Anne Elizabeth Moore will be floating around with the end of the print mag, taking a break doing not much of anything, and i for one can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!
• Nick Bertozzi is a cartoonist who for some reason doesn't get the props he deserves. One of the brightest talents working today, he's well-loved by industry insiders and critics alike, and i can only hope that with two high-profile books of his out right now, The Salon and The Handcuff King (about Harry Houdini), the general readership for fine comics catches up with the Joneses.
• Volume one of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus line has arrived, and it is awesome!! There's a bit of a debate over at the Marvel Masterworks message boards, about the paper stock used. Normally, most of Marvel and DCs expensive (and luxurious) archival books are printed on high-end, acid-free offset paper. For the price paid for many of these (some topping a hundred bucks), this is not an unreasonable demand. For whatever reason though, DC chose to print these Fourth World books on what appears to be a high-grade newsprint. Yikes! That said, besides that we're looking at $50 for an almost 400-page, hard cover, full-color book, i can't imagine this looking any cooler. Kirby's shit simply sings on a newsprint printed page (which i'm almost certain he planned for at the time he was creating this stuff), what with his chunky art and patented Kirby Crackle.
The design on this book is stellar. (Although sadly, not credited.) Riffing on the school of big, splashy uber-design which Chip Kidd has made so popular (though by no means invented), i have to say, i'm in love with this. I read those crappy b&w editions of the Fourth World DC put out a few years ago, and while i loved the material, the presentation sucked. Plus, with this new reprint project, the stories (represented over four different titles) are being presented in the order of publication, exactly as they were rolling fresh out of the brilliant mind of King Kirby, arguably at the zenith of his powers.
Seriously, i haven't been this excited for a book since the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus. If you like super-hero comics, this is truly a "must-have" item.
•Â Slow new-comics-day today... only picked up two books, and they couldn't possibly be more different …Â oversized HC Ultimate Fantastic Four vol. 3 (over-the-top widescreen action fare) and manga masterpiece, Yotsuba&! vol. 4 (cute cute cute).
• I'm outta here.... off to New York City for MoCCA, followed by my first ever trip to Montreal. See you next week.
* And finally, a call to arms, from Comic Book Legal Defense Fun Executive Director, Charles Brownstein:
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urgently needs your help. This August, the long-running case of Georgia v. Gordon Lee will finally go to trial, with court costs expected to hit $20,000.
For nearly three years the Fund has defended Georgia retailer Gordon Lee, seeing him through multiple arraignments and procedures, and racking up $80,000 in legal bills. The charges stem from a Halloween 2004 incident in which Lee handed out, among other free comics, an anthology featuring an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon. The segment depicted a historically accurate meeting between 20th Century art icons Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, the latter depicted in the nude. It was a harmless sequence, no more explicit than the nudity displayed in the award winning Watchmen. Yet because the title found its way into the hands of a minor, Floyd County prosecutors hit Lee with two felony counts and five misdemeanors. The Fund eventually knocked out most of the charges, but must now defeat the two remaining misdemeanor counts of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material, each carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
The case is slated to go to trial the week of August 13. We urgently need your support in order to wage the best defense possible against these remaining charges, and that means raising the $20,000 that the trial is expected to cost. Here's how you can help:
Make A Monetary Donation: Every dollar counts, so please visit the cbldf.org and make a tax-deductible contribution today. As a thank-you for making a donation of $30 or more, the Fund will give you a brand new t-shirt displaying the text of the First Amendment in the shape of an American flag. Show your commitment to free speech, and your support for this very important case.
Join The CBLDF: Now is the time to join or renew your membership in the Fund. Your member dollars provide the baseline of support that we need to perform our casework, and defend your right to buy whatever comics you wish. If you join now with a basic membership of $25 you will receive a CBLDF Member Card, featuring new Groo art by the one-and-only Sergio Aragones, as well as a subscription to our news publication Busted!, and special admission to CBLDF events across the country. If you join at a level of $100 or more, you will also receive one of the new First Amendment t-shirts.
Donate Original Art & Collectibles: With summer conventions upon us, the Fund needs original art, high-grade comics, and other collectible items to make the most of our summer auctions. Please e-mail email@example.com for more information about how to donate to our auctions, or with a description of your intended donation. If your donation is accepted for our summer auctions, you will receive a letter of acknowledgment and a 2007 membership. To ensure that your donation is received safely, please do not send physical items until accepted by the CBLDF.
With Gordon Lee's freedom in the balance, the CBLDF needs everyone who values Free Expression in comic books to do his or her part to support this very important case. Please visit www.cbldf.org and make your contribution today.
June 16, 2007 / More →
I must say that i echo Alan's thoughts here as if they were my own. The dismal failure of 90% of the comics shop owner/managers to provide comics to a wider audience is mind-boggling to me. I won't say retailing is easy, by any means, but neither is it a rocket science.
So many times i've visited stores in new cities, with nary an art-comic on their shelves, where the dork behind the counter says, "Well, they don't sell." Duh, dude!! If you don't have them, people can't buy them! I'm not talking about somewhere in the middle of Kansas, i'm talking about super liberal college campuses (like where i went to school in Eugene, OR), where alternative comics would thrive.
One time, i checked back on a store who had purchased some comics from me at our standard wholesale discount, to see if they needed a restock. Sure enough, the comics had sold, but when i asked if he'd like more, he mumbled, "Thank god those are gone," as if he'd finally rid his store of a flea-infested stray dog. He MADE MONEY on my comics, but acted as if i were putting him in a bind. What the fu*k!@?
And sadly, in as much i think Diamond runs a very tight, friendly, and professional ship, i'd also agree that they aren't doing much by way of educating the retail community, or providing tools to help stock for a broader audience. They too cater solely to the men-in-tights and event cross-overs crowd, for short term benefit at the expense of long-term health. (And let's not get started on Previews.) Like David, i wonder if (direct market) Diamond, and by extension Marvel and DC … in targeting and serving mainly aging fanboys … won't eventually feel the pinch of this short-sighted thinking, and see the number of in-store consumers, as well the number of direct-market comic shops continue to dwindle, even as graphic novel sections in the book trade swell, in response to the most diverse and hungry real-world audience as the industry has ever seen.
It's somewhat hard to believe, but having polled other indy publishers, we've come to the conclusion that "maybe" 250 comics shops in North America represent 90% of our direct market sales. There's possibly 3,500 comics shops (or some weak iteration thereof, in the form of a baseball card store here or a hobby & games store there), and it's difficult not to wonder, and dream "what if?" even half of these shops truly knew the scope of PROFITS to be made in the emerging market for non-spandex comics? What would happen? Are you high? Our bottom line would quintuple! Our books would break-even right out of the gate... gasp, we could afford to nurture our talent for what they really deserve, improve production values, attend more international comics festivals, .... ah, the list goes on.
(Dream on, Brett.)
• Here's one for the "formalist geeks" in comics... Tom Hart writes in a recent email:
"Having recently seen Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, I found myself excited and inspired by the challenges and compelling dialogue that develops between the two artists. So I have asked formalist and friend Matt Madden to challenge me with 5 similar obstructions for my daily Hutch Owen comic strip that runs in two papers, in New York City and Boston.
"Bear in mind I create one of these a day, and they have to be printed at about 6 inches across, but aside from that, I've asked Matt to force me to upend my own patterns.
"Matt offered the first 'obstruction' this weekend and I've probably already failed it, but it's been posted at the address below.
"You can track the entire project (it will probably last a full week more) here and then see it in print the following week in the newspaper or online.
"Feel free to watch me flail around desperately."
From the press release:
Grant Morrison redefined comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s from his trailblazing creation of ZENITH, through his metatextual innovations on ANIMAL MAN, to his Dadaist super-heroics in DOOM PATROL. Along the way, he explored the Batman mythos with his multilayered masterpiece ARKHAM ASYLUM and the literary GOTHIC storyline.
According to the book's author, Timothy Callahan, "the book explores the unifying themes of Morrison's early work, providing a close analysis of stylistic and structural techniques..."
Grant Morrison: The Early Years examines five of Morrison's works in detail, using plain language to open up Morrison's sometimes difficult texts and expands the reader's appreciation of their significance, creating a study accessible to both Grant Morrison aficionados and those new to his work. An extended interview with Morrison on his early career rounds out the volume.
Brett says: Whoo hoo! I'll definitely be checking out this baby! I'm a huge fan.
Pirooz is the author of the graphic novels GOLDEN ASHTRAY and WHY DO MEN DO STUPID THINGS FOR ASS?. He makes music with THE SLIPSHOD SWINGERS. His blog is called SHIKOW. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.
• The art from James Kochalka's Little Paintings 2 show at Giant Robot SF is now up for sale online.
• Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes do a fun online comic strip set in a public library, called Unshelved. They recently did this excellent strip about Owly as part of their Book Club, which promotes books within the actual strip! Thanks to Jim Demonakos for the tip.
As well a picture of his booth at the Windsor Art Show, and the 5' x 9' painting he did of some of the characters from Ghost Stories (the follow-up to Tales From The Farm, and the second book in the Essex County trilogy).
This is a great example of a cartoonist who understands the value and import of getting out there, and getting his work to the people. Like the old adage says, one fan at a time.
Finally, i finally found some time to read the new anthology Syncopated Vol. 3, edited by Brendan Burford, and i must say it's a delight. I've always been a sucker for well-told historical comics, and this book (Burford's stated goal is especially in providing first-person accounts) succeeds admirably. I actually enjoyed virtually every strip, but there were a few stand-outs. First, yet more from the brilliant mind of Nick Bertozzi. He's been doing more and more material like this, and i LOVE IT! (Nick, looking for a publisher to collect all of these?) Greg Cook turns in more elegant, understated and sublime cartooning. And youngster Jim Campbell provides my favorite strip in the book, with a rollicking story about a young Teddy Roosevelt.
I think i read that Brendan will be at MoCCA next weekend, so i'll have to pick up a copy of issue #2, which sports this gorgeous cover.
Reading Syncopated inspired me to dig up two bookmarks i had buried here on my desktop, essays that Tom Spurgeon had written, one about the death of King Features head-honcho Jay Kennedy, and the second about a wunderkid whom Kennedy had groomed to succeed him if and when the time came, named Brendan Bruford. Impressive. This young man seems to have a bright future ahead of him, and i wish him the best of luck.
Thanks to Tom for two fine essays.