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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Indie Comics, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 155
26. Webcomic alert: HOLLOW part I by Sam Alden

Sam Alden has just posted the first part of a longer story called HOLLOW part I—it’s a digital version of a comic he had print copies of for sale at TCAF. It’s interesting to see him developing an almost animated style for this—like reading storyboards as comics.

I shuddered when I read that panel.

Speaking of Alden, some glowing reviews for his work. Tom Murphy reviews Wicked Chicken Queen for Broken Frontier:

Like a strange lysergic Richard Scarry book, each page is filled with little vignettes of how this weird little island society works. Even the island itself is a protean organic landscape. (Click to enlarge) In addition, the apparent simplicity of the narrative masks a rich metaphorical resonance that invites multiple readings to get to the heart of what Alden is saying about history, power and society.

And Rob Kirby on It Never Happened Again in TCJ:

The two stories featured in It Never Happened Again display Alden’s impressive strengths as a visual storyteller. They feature completely different settings and characters, but have in common protagonists in search of things ineffable—perhaps unattainable. Each story casts its own strange sort of spell, making for a very strong debut book.

1 Comments on Webcomic alert: HOLLOW part I by Sam Alden, last added: 5/25/2014
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27. Quick TCAF 2014 thoughts

While waiting for my Porter Airlines flight at Billy Batson Airport, I thought I’d dash off a thought or two.

• It was an amazing show, with creators from more countries than ever before — 21 according to director Chris Butcher. Attendance was up, books were flying off the tables—85 copies of Andre the Giant on Saturday alone—and there were more programming tracks and more offsites than ever.

• The Jiraya sweatshirt from Massive modeled above by Spike Trotman was THE fashion statement of the snow. So many people were wearing it by the Sunday night after party that there should have been a group shot. Gachimuchi sweatshirts are the Slave Leia of TCAF.

• I think we’re way past the time when there is a “book of the show” but many people seemed to be talking about THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki and it sold out on Saturday.

• I literally could not get near the Peow booth anytime I tried, and they had sold out of most of their books by the end of the show.

• The offsite Comics v Games /Bit Bazaar event was another success with 3000 people attending.

• If you were paying attention, this was obviously the “year of the woman” at TCAF, but it was only alluded to. That said, girl cartoonists, girl comics, girl readers, and girl power far overwhelmed any other trend at the show.

• For every up and comer making a hesitant yet glowing debut, there were some returning warriors like Nick Bertozzi and Nick Gurewitch. It’s not that the Nicks have been idle, they have just been doing other things.

• Programming that I was at went off very well overall. I was shocked that we filled the 50-seater room for “Comics Criticism” — given the chatty nature of the panelists it could have gone on hours and hours. I recorded it and should have the audio online later this week.

• The manga-ka seemed to be having a great time. I saw Est Em ant the two woman team of Akira Himekawa all over the place taking pictures and smiling. Hideaki Anno was ther eon the d-low with wife Moyoco Anno and seemed to have a great time as well.

• Everyone was smiling.

• They’re calling my flight! I hope Deb remembered to take the Momofuko pork out of the fridge!

6 Comments on Quick TCAF 2014 thoughts, last added: 5/13/2014
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28. Review: Some Picks from the Spring Oily Bundle

Print by Antoine Cosse

Print by Antoine Cosse

It’s hard to convince me to not contribute to the growing number of small press comic subscriptions–every season there seems to be even more great material I want to get my hands onto, and it’s a rather addicting cycle of excitement whenever there’s a new package at my door. Oily has proven to be an exceptionally versatile publisher with their subscriptions—the form of their pocket-size, digestible mini-comics has parlayed a habit-forming nature in their readership that stays true to the internal logic of comics. Series like Melissa Mendes’s Lou and Charles Forsman’s TEOTFW have hooked many a fan in, including myself, allowing a sense of gratification and appreciation that hasn’t always been as accessible in indie comics. There is something quite rewarding about receiving an Oily bundle; the mini-comics are neighborly crafted and packaged to make you feel welcome from the outset.


This season’s Spring Oily Bundle, a limited 200 count batch, featured 9 different mini-comics along with additional prints and art from the stylish roster of Oily cartoonists. Mixing a touch of the familiar and the new, this was an impressionably refreshing stack of work, demonstrating the inarguable benefits of reading comics in their printed format.

Noah Van Sciver's The Lizard Laughed

Noah Van Sciver’s The Lizard Laughed

The first of the loot is Noah Van Sciver’s new minicomic, The Lizard Laughed. Beginning with a quote from Martin Sheen’s 2012 shared memoir with son Emilio Estevez, Along the Way, Sciver sets up this father-and-son narrative, contorted through his trademark doom-and-gloom thematic craftship. While the recognizable tropes of bleakness and brooding malaise are definitely present, Sciver is able to input some very quiet and reflective moments within this short piece that make it surprisingly satisfying.

Harvey is the deadbeat, stoner dad who gets an unexpected visit from the son he abandoned so many years ago. Although supposedly complacent with his role as an absent father, Harvey endeavors to enact what he believes is fatherly action to Nathan, offering affection through engaging in conversation and artistic similarity, and even planning a joint rendezvous, the time-honored tradition of a father-and-son hike. Harvey’s tragic, cumbersome attempt to fill in a paternal guise is apparent at every moment of the two’s interaction, and the emotional machismo on display is unwieldy.

The ending is no surprise, and there’s a sense of crushing disappointment for both father and son. While Harvey is sure to continue in his cyclical inability to truly connect with another person, Nathan walks away from revenge, and in a way comes to grips with understanding, even in disconnect, why Harvey is the way he is. It would be flawed to associate this comic as another father-and-son narrative, the cringe-worthy air between Harvey and Nathan actually sheds light on Sciver’s creative ability to ride that line between empathy and ridicule. There’s not a lot of people, let alone cartoonists, who can exhibit the gnarled grace that Sciver does with a character like Harvey, someone who is incredulously unlikeable and irrationally mulish to boot.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 11.49.10 AM

Sciver pacifies the overarching tension with Harvey’s meandering tales of playful, fantastical adventures with dangerous historic sites and imaginative recounts of mystical creatures. It’s in these stories that Harvey seems the most in touch with life, his childish sensibility drawn with a touch of humor. He is swallowed by the fantasy of his surroundings, and it’s never more clear how misguided and detached from reality he genuinely is, a palpable actuality that Nathan plainly sees.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 11.59

I’m unsure if Sciver meant to comment on or parody the Sheen memoir Along the Way (something tells me neither Sheen nor Estevez wouldn’t be able to connect that sad, self-deprecating psyche in quite the same way), and The Lizard Laugh is anything but a Hollywood memoir. Sciver succeeds yet again in creating a narrative that turns the focus inward; to our own shortcomings that we reject by fluffing up our own perception of wisdom, and the choice Nathan makes that allows Harvey to retain some dignity, to not be small and nothing.


Crash Trash, an uber little comic from French cartoonist Olive Booger, is a streamlined reworking of his style’s drippy, color-saturated, hysteric scratchiness as seen in Kuš! And his graphic novel, I Like Short Songs. While superficially shrunken down to a 4” by 2.25” mini-mini-comic, Crash Trash packs a whole lot of trippy detail in the comic’s anthropologic recounting of the rise and fall of a fictional 1980s gang called the Trash Boys, along with the antics and lawlessness of their home base, the district of Crashtown.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 11.59.11 AM

It’s at first a little jarring to see such a small comic flushed with a heavy hand of text—almost every panel is scrawled with as much space filled with script as it is image. There is no dialogue, only narration and a smattering of effects, thereby pacing the comic quite cinematically, as panel transitions move from pull back shots of the Trash Boys to close-ups of a fallen comb or cross-cutting to a colossal punt by enemy gang, the Mega Dogs. At first glance, it may seem Olive was restricted by size in the type of details he could use to fill in details, yet his histrionic prose amplifies the limited visual space, resisting an urge to rapidly read the comic. There’s a rhythmic cleverness in the way the comic moves, an ebbing and tiding in the momentum as well as in the elevation of dramatic moments. The story is neither bounded with innovation, so when particular key words are bolded, it aids in setting the scene because you’re most likely able to attribute certain visual cues.

What I’ve said so far shouldn’t discount Oliver’s artistic aspiration; his style is still largely tangible even when stripped down to its red and black risographed print. His previous work harkens a definite Charles Burns influence with the thick, oil paint execution and thematics resonating with the sordid darkness of a city’s underbelly. Crash Trash is situated with the aesthetics of raw, punk desperation of his preceding I Like Short Songs but the simplicity in his line work has taken a new mode, less garish and more nuanced. It’s very impressive to see his art pulsate even with the oppressively tight margins of space.


A lot has been said about Melissa Mendes’s Lou, the seventeen issue long pillar amongst the Oily lineup. This newest addition, titled A Very Special Lou, marks a revisiting to the series which ended in August 2013, and a warm return it proves to be. Like a childhood friend or long unseen family member, A Very Special Lou is an entirely new narrative that retains its delightful, underlying spirit of kindred nostalgia.


One of the reasons I really took to this particular issue was how it gently touched on the omnipresence of fandom for professional wrestling. I’ve always been comfortable broadcasting myself as a fan of comics, and more recently I’ve come clean as a fan of professional wrestling. Fans of comics and professional wrestling share a long, complex history of facing ridicule for following such a denigrated form of entertainment—wrestlers and superheroes are arguably a form of con-job, deemed “fake” by those who choose to stand by higher media forms, be it athletics or literary elitists. However, criticisms aside, fans of wrestling and comics share a distinctly unique concept of play, where we consume media in a way that extends the narrative fluidly, defying rigid roles between the identities of producers and consumers.

A Very Special Lou functions both as a piece about being an admirer of comics as well as wrestling through the domestic lens of childhood imagination. Referencing wrestlers like King Kong Bundy and Hulk Hogan through 6-year-old John’s fannish fascination and how it’s lived through his family, Mendes yet again accesses the real emotions that we feel as charismatic kids and continue to feel today. Through the entire Lou serialization, Mendes almost effortlessly lets the reader dip into points of their own life, spurring even the most dormant, forgotten affections.


The Lou Series all laid out

Stay up to date with all the Oily greatness by browsing the Oily Comics website.

(Image Credits: http://melissammmendes.tumblr.com, http://snakeoily.tumblr.com)

3 Comments on Review: Some Picks from the Spring Oily Bundle, last added: 4/20/2014
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29. Brooklyn’s Grand Comics Festival Returns June 7th

Grand Comics Festival 2014

The Grand Comics Festival 2014 a small but very friendly comics show is returning this June, although slimmed down to one day. Exhibitors include Sam Hendersn, Nick Bertozzi and organizer Pat Dorian. Admission is free, and there is the best sandwich shop ever around the corner.

Saturday, June 7th
Bird River Studio
343 Grand St. (marcy + havemeyer)
Brooklyn, New York.

2 Comments on Brooklyn’s Grand Comics Festival Returns June 7th, last added: 4/22/2014
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30. AdHouse books is having a sale!

There’s a great warehouse sale going on at AdHouse Books:

It’s been a few years since we had a SALE, so I thought we’d make some AdSelections available again. Also, we have a fair amount of inventory coming to the warehouse this season, so we need to make room. Any order of $40 or more will get free shipping via a paypal refund. Just remind me when you place your order. (Also, feel free to add any non-sale items from our regular catalog to your order. We’d love to put them on sale, too, but we don’t have the inventory to do so.)

AdHouse specializes in books that are attractive and daring but accessible as well. A few suggestions/perennials:


by Boulet.
Amazing 24-hour comic by one of the boldest cartoonists working.


Pope Hats #3
by Ethan Rilly.
MULTIPLE award winning comic that picks up where the great comcis of the 90s like Optic Nerve and Love and Rockets let off.


Centifolia Volume 1
by Stuart Immonen.
Hello? Stuart Immonen. There’s a second volume as well.


Driven by Lemons
by Joshua Cotter.
Like all of Cotters books, this is difficult but ultimately rewarding.


Duncan the Wonder Dog
by Adam Hines.
Winner of the LA Times Graphic Novel Prize. The first in a planned 9-volume tale, this is anough to stand by itself exploring a world where animals can talk.

0 Comments on AdHouse books is having a sale! as of 4/29/2014 3:29:00 PM
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31. Preview: Subcultures: A Comics Anthology

Comics anthologies are generally a good thing, but in my personal preferences, I like ones that are on a tightly focused topic better than “here are a lot of great comics by great people!” That’s just me, you can like what you want,. Thus I was intrigued when I heard about the upcoming Subcultures: A Comics Anthology, which is being edited by Whit Taylor and published by Ninth Art Press. The above is a promo not a cover, but it’s a strong creative line-up to explore one of my favorite ideas: the many many groups that humans arrange themselves in based around shared interests. It’s also a reminder of a theory that I’ve come up with after years and years of studying different eddies of obsession. In fact, we’ll call it MacDonald’s Theorem: It’s not the material which creates the personality, but a certain type of personality that is drawn to the material. That’s why certain types of people like Star Trek: TNG and certain types like Star Trek: TOS. Magic the Gathering has gathered a certain type of can, while Swedish heavy metal has another.

Anyway, this anthology sounds interesting! The Ninth Art website has been running a few preview pages. Here’s one by Alex Robinson about comic-cons and one by Dave Ortega about pochos.

Subcultures is coming out this fall.

Con-Artist-p-1-border-reduced.jpg DaveOrtegaPocho-1-smaller.jpg


2 Comments on Preview: Subcultures: A Comics Anthology, last added: 5/8/2014
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32. Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES

Here’s your chance to fund Jim Calafiore’s solo project and write or draw a horror story for Alice Cooper. There’s even something for the comic book-golfers in this one.

crooks 1 300x176 Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES

Calafiore is trying to raise $12,000 to print vol.1 tpb of CROOKS & NANNIES. For the last two years Jim has been posting these hilarious weekly strips on his website. One of the big selling points for LEAVING MEGALOPOIS was Calafiore’s limited sketch rewards. You’re in luck if you missed out last time because original pen and inks character sketches are only going for $50-$150. The backers are asked to vote from three possible covers after they have pledge. I think this is a great way to get your supporter more involve with the process.

crooks 2 300x176 Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES

At the moment the project is only less then $2,000 left to goal. Jim told me about this project at New York con and I’m glad he has finally followed through with a well thought out project and bat-shit crazy project video to boot. During the promo video Jim gives a moving speech about the power and importance of Kickstarter to independent comic book creators while a man stands behind him, holding a spatula and basketball, and wearing a white meth-cooker-jumpsuit and a welding mask. If that doesn’t give you day-mares then fast-forward to minute 2:13 and check out Jimmy topless and a scuba mask.

If you’re on the fence about contributing because you haven’t released your copy of LEAVING MEGALOPOLOIS, then this might change your mind:

TO MEGALOPOLIS BACKERS:  No worries. These strips are already all done, so this project will take almost no time away from work on that project.


b073a16fa8b105eb3da59ca9f975ae26 large 300x177 Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIESGrammy Award-winning rocker Alice Cooper is still  making music, touring the world and performing at his old age. He DJ’s from Sunday to Thursdays on a syndicated radio show called, “Nights with Alice Cooper.” He also owns a famous bar/restaurant that’s connected to Chase Stadium in the heart of down town Phoenix called Alice Cooperstown. Now he wants to break in to comics and start a television show called Uncle Alice Presents.


This is not some hoary tribute to EC Comics. Sure, it’s a comic book anthology horror series, graphic novel, and, if you demand it, a television series, but all comparisons end there. Unlike your mommy’s quaint horror comics of yore, UNCLE ALICE PRESENTS is the one and only horror series brought to you by and featuring the visionary maestro of shock rock himself, ALICE COOPER. That’s right, Alice freakin’ Cooper!

Created by Tom Sheppard (co-creator of and show runner for The High Fructose Adventures of the Annoying Orange), join us on this epic adventure to publish all twelve comic book issues of UNCLE ALICE PRESENTS, along with the compilation graphic novel, and hopefully the television pilot. We’ll even let one lucky backer come up with the idea for one of the comic books!

de6c587a2754374456f8fb7e81433624 large 300x168 Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES

Joining a Kickstarter anthology has been a good way to get up-and-comers to get their feet wet. It’s also a good way to get content from lesser known creators on the cheap. Here’s where you die-hard Alice Cooper fans/professional cartoonist come in to play:


Every backer who pledges $10 or more will have the opportunity to submit one idea for the chance to have it turned into an issue of UNCLE ALICE. The story must be tellable in a 24-page comic book, be fun, and fit with the theme of the series. Once a pledge has been made, the concept can be submitted to submissions@unclealicepresents.com. Please make sure your submissions are in accordance with the rules.

All ideas must be submitted by the end of the campaign, at which point the creative team will pick ten finalists. From May 15th to 25th, each backer will be able to cast a single vote for their favorite of the top ten stories. The winning concept will be turned into an issue of the comic, written by Tom Sheppard, and the winner will receive a co-story credit on that issue.

cfc97c15215d83d102b07b69a46a3ae9 large 197x300 Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES

Alice Cooper Trivia: not only is he a right-winger that simulates decapitation on stage, he’s a big time golfer. This has to be one of the best rewards in Kickstarter history. Pledge $10,000 and play round of golf with Uncle Alice himself — at a Phoenix course of his choice — and get a signed copy of his book Golf Monster. The project has less than 17 days to raise $174,689, but of course anything is possible with crowd funding.

On the next Kick-Watcher: I’m going to highlight Jason Coffee’s Warhawks and whatever you think is worth mentioning. Tweet me your projects or send a link to kick (dot) watcher at gmail (dot) com and include a press release and links. I also accept bags of cash.

Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn a weekly webcomic. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies.  He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat.  You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas.

0 Comments on Kickwatcher: Uncle Alice Presents and CROOKS & NANNIES as of 4/1/2013 2:33:00 PM
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33. Should we even try to give indie comics a wider cultural context?

This is the golden era of indie comic, artistically and even financially, at least in term of the number of publishers, CAFs and cartoonists who wake up every day excited to be cartooning. It’s a movement that is aesthetically and formally as exciting as anything else going on out there.

All of which makes the Jason Karns Kerfuffle all the more unusual. Indie comics circles don’t have kerfuffles—defined as in depth analysis of the social, racial or gender-based meaning of a certain comic or statement. Those are for nasty old mainstream comics. In case you missed it (and you probably did) it started when Frank Santoro, the cartoonist, comics educator and archivist, posted a thing called New Small Press Comics over at The Comics Journal. As he often does, Santoro just took pictures of comics he liked. Santoro is a comics liker, and if you’ve ever been with him while he goes through an old long box full of old weird comics, you know he is the Nicola Tesla of comics liking, exploring bold new vistas on a daily basis where few can hope to go. This time out Santoro praised the work of Marc Bell—just about everyone likes Marc Bell’s weirdo humor comics, right?– and Jason Karns who, among other books, does a comic called Fukitor which looks like this:

If anything, this reminded me of a somehow more life affirming version of those torture covers everyone was appalled by the other day. If struck me that Fukitor was firmly in the same camp as the Cannibal Corpse stuff everyone told me was fun loving and adorable, and I was maybe going to mention this, but then it really didn’t interest me that much so I didn’t.

The comments on that post at TCJ quickly turned negative however, as people pointed out how racist the book was—Karns’ hero goes around squashing mostly brown people who are portrayed as terrorists. I’d throw in “jingoistic” as a description as well. Oh and misogynist but isn’t everything. The book’s defenders lauded it as edgy and daring, while others suggested that racism and misogyny aren’t all that edgy and daring. Santoro actually backed away from the book pretty quickly—it’s obvious that Karns is one of those energetic and imaginative artists who has so far chosen to work in the gross out genre—and Santoro was responding to the energy not the content. Karns himself eventually showed up in the comments to stand up for his right to be “subversive.”

This was a very, very rare example of the indie comics “community” getting into a Kerfuffle—I mean, of course the Comics Journal/Hooded Utilitarian axis loves arguing, but it’s rarely about anything that bears any connection to the real world, as far as I can make out. Darryl Ayo delivered the best slap down in the comments:

For something to be subversive it needs to both mimic and undermine the societal power structure. The society of the Western world is invariably white dominance and anti-brown. To be truly subversive against that power structure, a work of art would be clinging closely to that as well as poking holes in the structural integrity of the white power structure. Since nothing that we can see here in “Fukitor” does anything to undermine white power while it makes a big show of making sport of nonwhite people, it literally just is what it looks like.

Perhaps I liked this best since it mirror sentiments of my own. But anyway, the kerfuffle played itself out over the next few days. Santoro apologized. Karns climbed up a ladder into his getaway helicopter gloating,

Update – 9/2/13 – Orders have gone waaayyy up since some people starting bitching about this imagery. Thank you. Please, keep bitching.

Tom Spurgeon stepped all into it in a piece that ran several hundred words without actually mentioning the name of the cartoonist he was talking about, but averring:

I don’t know the work of the cartoonist in question, certainly not well enough to lower the boom with a racism charge.

And that got the kerfuffle going all over again! Because when you draw or write things that are racist…well, they are…racist. Darryl Ayo wrote again

There is no need to read a lot of someone’s work to determine if a particular project is racist. As a culture, we are past the era of equating “racism” with a boogeyman, an allegiance to a specific codified group that exists simply to hate people based on race.

….[snip].Jason Karns got exactly what he wanted. He got to be the renegade bad boy for a day, beholden to nobody’s wishes, offending without a care toward the offended. All in all, it was a good day for Mr. Karns. The rest of us were treated to yet another reminder of how Middle Eastern people can be casually dehumanized and how much of society’s dreams and fantasies involve brown people being reduced to mindless beasts, fit for slaughter. Good times.

And David Brothers, also weighed in.

Here’s what happened: someone posts a comic and reviews it. Someone else asks if it’s satirical or what, because it looks pretty racist. The creator of the comic rolls in, asks if people are censors, the pc police, and all this other nonsense. Cartoons aren’t real so who cares, you’re the real racists anyway, and a bunch of other idiot arguments. His cronies roll in, talking about how soft and cowardly the question-askers are.

Other people, myself included, point out that naw, this comic actually is racist, and if you’re riffing on something else that’s racist, you’re still using racist elements! Other people talk about how discussing the racism of something isn’t requesting a ban, and if your transgressive work is just replicating the same lazy ideas that transgressive works were doing 40 years ago, maybe your work is part of the status quo, not transgression.

I found all of this reaction very interesting. As I noted before, in the torture covers discussion, no one really disagreed about anything. There was much more dissension in the Karns Kerfuffle, probably because Karns himself came by to defend the work and that Organized The Protest. The overall reaction also made me proud to live in a country where depictions of members of a geographical group—one which we were at war with a few years ago and may be at war with in a few days— can still be actively and widely labelled as racist. Maybe we have improved as a society a bit since this happened:

Perhaps the most striking thing to me, however, was how little indie/art/literary whatever you want to call them comics are put in any kind of larger cultural context. It seem that that is left for the superheroes. Len Wein, Gerry Conway and Todd McFarlane were roundly vilified for saying that superhero comics—or the “mainstream” as they quaintly called it—didn’t have to have a subtext. “The comics follow society. They don’t lead society,” Conway was quoted as saying, which was kind of a tossed off statement, but sounded really wrong.

Laura Sneddon [who writes for this site] examined this whole idea in a piece called How Comics Got Political, quite rightly pointing out that

One of the historical roots of modern comics is of course the political cartooning of the early newspapers; the mechanical reproduction of images finally allowing art to be consumed by the masses rather than the privileged few, with cartoonists leaping at the chance to communicate complex political situations via their deceptively simple form. 

The idea of comics as a political tool is not without its controversies, from grumbles amongst novelists to riots over religious icon portrayals. Any fan of superhero comics can tell you that comics don’t have to be overtly political, but the recent insistence by creator Todd McFarlane that historically no comic book that has worked has been “trying to get across a message” was largely met by the rolling of eyes.

In the rest of the piece, Sneddon goes on to discuss the level of engagement with politics in their work with Stephen Collins, Joe Sacco, Paul Cornell and Grant Morrison. Obviously, Sacco’s work is some of the most valuable and powerful journalistic work being done in any medium, but’s notable that writers like Cornell and Morrison, who mostly write genre comics, are constantly being asked about the bigger meaning in their work, or claiming that it has a bigger meaning, a claim which a lot of people in the indie comics community would also scoff at.

And yet, it does seem that indie comics and cartoonists are rarely examined in a larger contextual way. This is possibly because the content involves a lot of what some call introspection, and others emo shoegazing—even the greatest one—and maybe because this kind of analysis if of a secondary interest of most of those creating and consuming indie comics? And to be fair, a lot of indie comics are created by an ethnically homogenous groups of suburban white kids. When they stray too far away from writing what they know, as Craig Thompson did with Habibi, the results aren’t awesome. Even a work as great as Building Stories is a personal story—on a most simplistic level, it’s telling us that it’s better to have a happy marriage than lie in bed every night wondering if you should kill yourself.

BTW, I’m not advocating for change here—like I said in the beginning, indie comics now exist in a wonderland where personal expression is the biggest concern, and that’s a beautiful, priceless thing that will eventually lead to even more powerful works. If I were to peg a second interest in art comics at the moment, it would probably be formalism. Critics like Santoro are most excited by the immediate emotional impact of comics art, up to and including printing techniques, an attitude that stems from the fine arts background of a lot of comics commentators and publishers, as well as being the primary focus of Ware and his admirers. (Mathias Wivel’s essay on Habibi quickly shifts from examining its politics to criticizing its inking technique.) And this isn’t in any sense wrong—there is ALREADY a huge tradition of comics, as Sneddon suggests, that deals with politics, subversion and radical ideas and they are rolling right along in various formats.

Still, I’m wondering if this riot of esthetic choices is ever going to be nailed down a bit more. As the world of comics explodes, I find myself lacking the critical background to even comprehend it sometimes. This was brought home to me the other day at my other job, when I was editing a review of Anya Davidson’s School Spirits. I had assigned a review of the book to one of my Publishers Weekly reviewers (who are anonymous by design) but when I got the review back it was pretty clear that he didn’t get the book at all, even though he liked it. As I read the book and struggled to bring the review more in line with useful analysis, I realized that I wasn’t even sure where to begin.


The book is published by Picturebox, which goes heavy into the fine-art formalism school I’ve been talking about—publisher Dan Nadel also co-edits The Comics Journal website, and published Santoro, so there’s an axis emerging there. Davidson contributed to Kramer’s Ergot so there’s another axis there. The Picturebox website describes School Spirits as “Beavis and Butthead meets James Joyce’s Ulysses,” which sounds promising and yet could be applied to almost anything, since Beavis and Butthead and James Joyce between them encompass most of 20th century art and literature. Davidson isn’t a cartoonist I’m particular familiar with, although I find her work fun to look at. Her narrative is dreamlike in its non sequiturs, but the art is more like, well maybe Johnny Ryan by way of Gary Panter if they met up at a tiki bar. It definitely approaches the “New Narrative” style that people were talking about in regards to things like Kazimir Strzepek and C.F. a few years ago. (That isn’t actually what it was called, but there is no “Guide to the Schools of Indie COmics” entry on Wikipedia.)

The failing I’m flailing around with above is all mine and not Davidson’s—I’m sure it doesn’t matter if she considers herself in the “new narrative” school or the “Kramer’s Ergot School” or the Chicago School, or whatever. She’s uniquely her own thing, and if that’s a detriment for someone writing a short review for a trade publication, it’s a virtue in every other arena. The most energizing thing about comics these days is you don’t have to be in any school. Each and every gem of a comic seems to exist in its own, infinite, contextless universe. This is also a product of the extreme hybridization of all forms as well. The “international style” of comics that is gaining ground in the actual mainstream (libraries and books) is one that draws equally from America, European and Manga influences, and the internet insists we mash everything up all at once all the time. Context seems to have less and less inherent value against this backdrop where immediate emotional resonance is the currency. Perhaps it’s this very quality that makes comics one of the most vibrant and relatable mediums of the day.


15 Comments on Should we even try to give indie comics a wider cultural context?, last added: 9/6/2013
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34. Z2 Comics relaunches with Pope and Haspiel

This week’s edition of PW Comics World contains news of a newish publishing company: Z2 Comics, formerly Zip Comics, which put out the Eisner-nominated Cleveland by Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant last year. It’s headed up by Josh Frankel and the first two projects will be a new edition of Paul Pope’s long out of print Escapo comic, and a collection of Dean Haspiel’s webcomics, Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Book.

Frankel told PW he wanted “a new start” and decided to rename and rebrand the company. “Our focus will be eclectic,” Frankel said, “We want to publish books that make money but also publish genre works that feature fine storytelling and great hardcover production.” Frankel said that he’s a fan of books by publishers like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Image, and Drawn & Quarterly, “and while I like some superheroes, I like indie-focused books and those publishers are my inspiration.”

Log-rolling alert: Josh is a good Beat pal and occasional traveling companion. He’s a savvy young man, and from what we hear, he has some big and innovative plans on the horizon.


2 Comments on Z2 Comics relaunches with Pope and Haspiel, last added: 9/12/2013
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35. The Beat Podcasts! – Heidi interviews Jeff Smith!


Straight from the offices of Publishers Weekly, it’s More to Come! Your podcast source of comics news and discussion starring The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In a More To Come interview special episode,  Heidi talks with acclaimed indie comics creator Jeff Smith about his Eisner-winning kids’ fantasy epic Bone, his adult sci-fi tale RASL, the advantages and difficulties of being your own publisher, his new Paleolithic webcomic Tuki Save The Humans and much, much more on this episode of Publishers Weekly’s graphic novel podcast. in this podcast from PW Comics World.


Now tune in Fridays at our new, new time for our regularly scheduled podcast!

Stream this episode and catch up with our previous podcasts through the Publishers Weekly website or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

1 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! – Heidi interviews Jeff Smith!, last added: 9/13/2013
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36. The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: Dean Haspiel Interview Special


Straight from the offices of Publishers Weekly, it’s More to Come! Your podcast source of comics news and discussion starring The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s interview special, Publisher’s Weekly’s Calvin Reid interviews indie comics master Dean Haspiel about his beginnings as well as his latest work, including The Fox from Archie Comics and Fear, My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience from new publisher Z2 Comics. Haspiel, known for his work on such books as “The Quitter” with Harvey Pekar and “The Alcoholic” with Jonathan Ames is also a co-founder of the web comics collective Act-I-Vate. All that and more on PW Comics World’s More To Come podcast.

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the PublishersWeekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

1 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: Dean Haspiel Interview Special, last added: 3/7/2014
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37. Review: The Nonadult Delight of Miss Hennipin

cover_originalThe idea for Miss Hennipin, a new release from Sonatina’s Andy Douglas Day, began as a summer day’s unassuming illustrative dalliance and briskly developed into Day’s main creative output. Now fully realized into a loaded 164 page, color-filled book, Miss Hennipin is another supplement to the diverse and teeming indie comics milieu, upholding the kind of innovative enthusiasm that creators like Austin English, CF, and Jason Overby cranked out during the initial influx of “new minimalism” comics. Similar to his previous comic, Chauncey, Day constructs an omnibus of vignettes detailing the life of its eccentric and cantankerous title character and her mask-donning moppet Mokumbo. It’s a cureless attempt to cipher any direct path of meaning or narrative from Miss Hennipin, and I might go as far to say pushing to do so takes away from what the comic sagaciously thrives in. Purely expressive and endearingly strange, Miss Hennipin is an abstract sketch not meant to be unraveled.


The backdrop for all the freewheeling mayhem is Day’s peculiar illustrative style. Constantly deviating from being hand drawn in ink, watercolor, crayon, and pen, along with a fluctuation of paper type, Day captures an unadulterated preciousness of the page. The pencil drawings are at times crude and bizarre or slightly caricature but overall highly gestural and communicative, allowing the viewer to emphatically warm up to the eccentric and whimsical figures. I also really took to Day’s coloring–infused sporadically within the mainly black and white makeup, the splashes of color work as an embedded metonym, subtly bringing touches of vitality to the settings and breathing a zest to the contours of Miss Hennipin’s hair. Just as his materials wavers, so do his renderings of the many characters in Miss Hennipin. While it’s easy to recognize the defining features of Mokumbo’s geometric mask or Miss Hennipin’s exaggerated cat eyes and many hairstyles, there is an unmistakeable spontaneity in the way Day slightly modifies his drawings from page to page. You can almost sense the compulsion behind the lines, a kind of graphic improvisation, as if Day handed you each individual comic as he completed it. It’s this immersion with Day’s creative impulses that give Miss Hennipin the weight of its intimacy, as a book that shifts and varies much like the every-changing nature a growing artist.

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The greatest joy in reading Miss Hennipin is how Day strives, above all else, to convey a pure essence of the nonadult. I specifically choose the word ‘nonadult’ over childlike or juvenile because it conveys the most adequate impression of the work. I also don’t mean to say that Miss Hennipin is too simplistic in regards to the scribbly illustrations or too innocent in its curious diction—I prefer to consider the work as pushing against constraints of a fixed field of meaning, in which verbal and visual means work together in an expressive combination. In order to enjoy the humor and creative looseness, I had to let go of trying to obsess over aligning each page in a larger, familiar narrative sequence (something that’s immensely hard to do for someone who loves narrative structure). Miss Hennipin is simultaneously a book of stories and a book of not stories.


Part of the pleasure of Day’s work lies in reconnecting with the childlike sensibility, welcoming the delightful pretense that nothing absurd is going on at all. Both the title character, Miss Hennipin, as well as Mokumbo, occupy a distinctive space in being neither a fully realized adult or naivete, invoking disturbing collisions between lurking juvenile desires and displaced adult longings. “The Religious Phase,” a story where Miss Hennipin drunkenly rages to God about being a perfect creation thanks to herself, encapsulates Day’s ability to depict his characters as flawed, scandalous, and lewd yet always remaining comical. Every vignette seems like a charade of classical children’s storybooks, where character roles are disconcertingly warped and any semblance of an allegorical lesson is completely quashed. There are many times where the text works in code, not to unleash any ultimate significations, but rather in a way that operates like the adult secret language latent in clever cartoons for kids. The accompanying soundtrack for Miss Hennipin, likewise created by Day, is titled “bubblegum buisness,” an otherwise innocuous phrase but really is Miss Hennipin’s code-word for sex.


I first took notice of the expressive and additive effects of a complementary soundtrack with Brendan Leach’s Iron Bound—the limited flexi-disc record by the official work’s band The Newark Wanderers. The book and music worked to inform each other, the sounds drew from influences ranging from Japanese gangster films to Phil Spector, amounting in an elevated and active multimedia experience. Miss Hennipin‘s soundtrack is an endearing mix of lo-fi, distorted tones and saccharine guitar, harmonizing smoothly with the comic’s display of sparse and fleshed out art and narrative. It’s unclear if the titles are meant to represent certain breaks in the book, yet many of the 16 tracks do serve to usher an evocation of certain places and moments. One the album’s longer tracks, “One-Eyed Creeper Man who lives in Sand” is surprisingly catchy in addition to nabbing the amusing creepiness of Mokumbo’s silence or the alphabet Counts wiggling in the manor’s crevices.


Miss Hennipin is published by San Francisco’s Sonatina, a dynamic indie label that has been releasing a number of boundary pushing experimental comics from the likes of Aidan Koch and Jason Overby, and Day’s newest release is a notable addition to their roster of cartoonists that continually pursue stylistic ricks. You can pick up Miss Hennipin at the Sonatina website, and if you happen to find yourself in San Francisco come April 4th, Day is hosting a release party featuring a number of other comic-related activities.

1 Comments on Review: The Nonadult Delight of Miss Hennipin, last added: 3/13/2014
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38. Thought Bubble announces curation and more changes to accomodate growth

Thought Bubble in Leeds, UK—to be held November 9-15th this year—has rapidly gained an international reputation as one of the finest comic arts festivals out there. With a fantastic guest list and a friendly vibe, it’s on many people’s must-do list now. But with popularity comes growing pains. The show has just announced a bunch of changes including a move to curation for exhibitors, a higher fee for tables, and charging for tickets to a Saturday night party. The show has rapidly outgrown its venue, and a third hall used in 2013 is no longer available. So…something had to give, as they explain.

So where do we go from here? For the last four months we’ve been hard at work trying to find a suitable space to hold the ever-growing festival. There’s no single venue big enough in Leeds at the current time, so there are only two options available to us – to leave Leeds and, in turn, all our amazing local partners and sponsors, or, alternatively, to build our own venue! The idea of leaving Leeds is a last resort to us, as we love this city, and everything that it’s brought to the festival. Without our partners, like Leeds City Council, Leeds and Bradford Libraries, and Leeds International Film Festival, Thought Bubble would change entirely and we just can’t have that. We love Leeds too much, so we’re going to do everything we can to stay here.

So, for 2014′s Thought Bubble, the convention will stay at Clarence Dock, and will utilise New Dock Hall and Royal Armouries Hall as with previous years, but in addition to those halls, we are going to be building a state-of-the-art hard-shell marquee in the main square as a third hall. We think that this new space will make the convention better than ever, but, as you can imagine, it is very expensive to build and install.

Zainab Akhtar has some excellent commentary here. Comics are too darned popular!

1 Comments on Thought Bubble announces curation and more changes to accomodate growth, last added: 3/25/2014
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39. The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: MoCCA Fest 2014


Straight from the offices of Publishers Weekly, it’s More to Come! Your podcast source of comics news and discussion starring The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast the More to Come Crew – Heidi “The Beat” MacDonald, Calvin Reid and Kate Fitzsimons – discuss this year’s MoCCA Arts Fest and Emerald City Comic Con – with interviews from the MoCCA floor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, new comics to screen deals including Federal Bureau of Physics and Sinister Six and more on PW Comics World’s More To Come.

Now tune in Fridays for our regularly scheduled podcast!

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the PublishersWeekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

1 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: MoCCA Fest 2014, last added: 4/12/2014
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Photocomix are strange creatures. They look like a hybrid of a photography medium and a comics format, and when you spot them in the wild you’re never sure whether they arose as some part of a natural evolutionary process in art or if they were the result of some kind of misguided experiment, maybe even one gone wrong. That reaction’s been shaped by encountering low-quality work with vague pretensions at humor, or perhaps offering some behind the scenes reveals about the comics making process. Frozen, melodramatic poses and cheesy dialogue are par for the course. And so, if a reader spots photocomix roaming free online or in a shop, they approach with caution and refuse to get their hopes up regarding quality.


Then there’s FORCEFIELD FOTOCOMIX, which makes you feel guilty for all of that instinctual caution and pre-emptive wariness. It gives you what no one really dares expect or demand from photocomix, a team of seriously talented individuals on a mission to exploit the full potential of the medium. To do this, they decide to spin this collection of comics into a number of genres, covering all the bases and it’s as if they are illustrating future directions for photocomix.

The man behind the camera, someone whose work has defined “serious” photography of the cultural zeitgeist in the past decade and then some, is Seth Kushner, the co-creator of the celebration of comics tradition LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS with Christopher Irving. Kushner’s photo portraits of comics creators in LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS have garnered so much attention that they’ve been scavenged by internet sites repeatedly and Neil Gaiman even chose to use Kushner’s portrait of him as his new dust-jacket image. He’s been working on photocomix for some time now, creating a CulturePOP series for the digital arts salon TRIP CITY, profiling real lives in comics format from author Jonathan Ames to adult film star Stoya, but FORCEFIELD is a departure into the realm of total composition in fictional realities.

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During an informal conversation at Hang Dai Studios, where Kushner keeps a tidy computer work station flanked by a few vinyl and action figures, he revealed some of the process behind his striking cover to FORCE FIELD. He staged a full-on photo-shoot to capture the images in his mind by engaging actress Zoe Sloan, as well as a costume designer and a makeup artist, to create a Barbarella homage fused with a direct design reference to a Jim Steranko cover of BLADE RUNNER from Marvel Comics. The Steranko cover, which uses multiple color reduplications of the hero pointing a gun, inspired Kushner to pose Sloan holding, instead, a Super 8 camera in retro style. The metaphor’s impressive: Kushner’s camera is a loaded weapon at the center of the strange narratives contained in FORCEFIELD, capable of directing the reader’s experience, and by using a Super 8 video camera rather than simply a camera, he’s suggesting the role of storytelling.

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Kushner’s increasingly open these days to revealing the process behind his work to generate enthusiasm for the forms themselves and encourage others to experiment, as evinced by his recent contribution to TRIP CITY, a blow-by-blow narrative of the steps by which the first comic in the collection, “The Hall of Just Us”, called “Anatomy of a Photocomic”. The story, co-scripted by Emmy Award winning artist Dean Haspiel, led to its own formal photoshoot at the recently hurricane decimated by increasingly resilient Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook. Kushner and Haspiel set about “casting the roles, as we would for a film”, says Kushner, and the co-creators drafted full layouts for the comic before shooting, giving them a “map to follow”.


They created the comic shot for shot, a tale of three “miscreants”, superheroes in a bar chasing a super-powered lady’s attentions, “The Tarot”. After the shoot, time-consuming photo-shopping and comics construction added text, word balloons, and special effects. But all of this description only hints at the visual impact of “The Hall of Just Us”. It’s all about mood, created from strongly color-themed lighting (the pink, blue, and yellow of the cover’s design), and about the off-beat simple hero costumes straight off of Mego action figures or the BATMAN television show of the ‘60’s.


While the heroes posture and ratchet up the bombast, The Tarot figure, portrayed by model and artist Katelan Foisy, brings an eerie presence and substance to the narrative. She can see the future “sometimes”  and sees the other heroes as Tarot figures, commenting “There’s the path you can take or the road you can make”, but she’s really calmly waiting for her “date” known as Señor Amore, portrayed by Haspiel. This is certainly the “romance” genre promised by the cover as one narrative alternative, but it leaves room for reader-interpretation. Superheroes with super powers are still hanging out in a bar, looking for love, for one thing.


“Spiders Everywhere” provides the “horror” also promised by the cover, and again homage to genre comics and films is evident. The narrative and premises are simple- horrific waves of spiders taking over the world, but Kushner plays to the strengths of the photocomix medium by conveying frantic movements and moments of psychological realization in cinematic style.

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“Understanding Photocomix”, a visual walk through Kushner’s history with photography and photocomix, which first appeared in American Photo Magazine, supplies the metadata on the very form in which its composed. It also forms a clever narrative bridge between the first chapters of FORCEFIELD and its follow up chapter COMPLEX, by explaining Kushner’s increasing drive to push the boundaries of photocomix in a “full fictionalized graphic novel” that he’d “direct like a movie using actors and locations”. In many ways, FORCEFIELD is the herald of that process, and it’s Volume number “.01” suggests that it’s a forerunner of bigger things to come.


The story COMPLEX: “Luv_Underscores_U”, kicking off Kushner’s work on his dream project of the COMPLEX graphic novel, first appeared in Jimmy Palmiotti’s CREATOR OWNED HEROES #7 alongside Kushner and Irving’s ongoing profiles of indie comics creators (a follow-up project to LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS). It’s a lavishly shot and designed comic which plunges into science-fiction BLADE RUNNER style, another link to FORCEFIELD’s cover image. It constructs multiple virtual realities visually with ethereal attention to detail and emphasizes a governing psychological perspective, a central character keeping all these virtual worlds in motion for the reader. This isn’t far from the role of the camera itself seeming to direct the reader, perhaps FORCEFIELD’s hypothetical Super 8 on the cover itself.


The final chapter of FORCEFIELD, a never before published noir tale, “The Perfect Woman” appears in uncharacteristic emphasis on black and white tones, with hints of color. Kushner’s photography is known for its psychedelic presentation of color through light effects, but also for his more sepulchral, moody hues in portraiture. Here he does with black what he often does with a solid color, making it a rich compositional basis into which he incises featured characters and settings. Like a compelling dime store novel rich with noir tropes, the story pursues an elusive lady in a cityscape from the visual perspective of a narrator. Kushner’s locations for this shoot were clearly exacting, capturing a city of the 1930’s complete with architectural detail. But the reader should have expected that this is a collection of stories with an expicit BLADE RUNNER homage and technology and perception may play as strong a role as the romance of pursuit.This is the “mystery” genre, completing the triad of color themes and pulp homage.


To add to the total design package that is FORCEFIELD FOTOCOMIX, it’s also presented in slick prestige magazine format with card covers, suggesting that photocomix can find their own effective dimensions for publication, in this case somewhere between a traditional comic and a traditional large-format photobook. But the format also speaks to Kushner’s consistent, passionate attention to detail throughout the collection which seems to constantly remind the reader of his fundamental belief in the art behind the form. The photocomix in FORCEFIELD are visually riveting, one might even say mind-altering, but the stories are also expansive, creating strange pocket universes with their own sets of rules and assumptions. Exploring them is part of the intrigue. Seeing FORCEFIELD in the wild is bound to make an impact on our assumptions about what photocomix have been, and more importantly, what they can be as a narrative medium in their own right. Kushner was inspired by comics, photography, and films to launch this project.  In the future, creators might well be saying that they were inspired by FORCEFIELD to take photocomix in equally surprising and mesmerizing directions.

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[Kushner answers, "What's the coolest item in your collection?" for Hanzarai.com]

FORCEFIELD FOTOCOMIX Vol.01 will be available for physical sale for the first time at the upcoming Asbury Park Comic Con March 30th, but the limited edition is already available for order through Kushner’s etsy shop.


Title: Seth Kushner’s FORCEFIELD FOTOCOMIX Vol.01/Publisher: Self-Published/Creative Team: Photographer, Seth Kushner/ Design, Seth Kushner and Dean Haspiel/ Writers, Seth Kushner, Dean Haspiel, Chris Miskiewicz/ Edits by Dean Haspiel


Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.



2 Comments on REVIEW: ‘Shoot This’, FORCEFIELD FOTOCOMIX, #.01, last added: 3/25/2013
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41. MEGA-INTERVIEW: Cliff Galbraith on the Meteoric Rise of the Asbury Park Comicon

If you’ve been following the history of the Asbury Park Comicon, which opened only a year ago in March of 2012, you know it’s been a strange, yet rather astonishing ride, but imagine how much stranger it must be for founder and indie comics creator Cliff Galbraith. What started in a bowling alley turned music venue and local hangout, Asbury Lanes, has become a major testament to demand for Comic Cons in New Jersey, and also a statement about the desires and tastes of con-goers who have relished the indie vibe of Galbraith’s brainchild. After a highly successful second Con in September of 2012, Galbraith announced that the Con would move to the much larger and even more historic venue of Asbury Park Convention Hall for its third event on March 30th 2013.

Then Superstorm Sandy struck, devastating the seaside town of Asbury Park, leaving the future of the Con in question. Against some difficult odds, the Con forged ahead, and Galbraith faced another kind of storm- media frenzy- over the upcoming Con. It’s fair to say that his phone has been ringing off the hook as local press as well as The New York Times have been trying to get the scoop on what looks to be a growing New Jersey institution as Asbury Park Comicon nears its biggest event yet. Dozens of prominent guests will be flanking this full-blown gala of a Con, and the Con will also be featuring panels and contests. Galbraith hasn’t had a moment’s rest since all this started more than a year ago, and he finished up several other interviews just in time to answer some questions about all this Con madness, and how it fits into his own life, for The Beat.

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Hannah Means-Shannon: Can you remember the moment when the idea for starting a Comic Con in New Jersey first occurred to you? How wild did the idea seem at the time?

Cliff Galbraith: Maybe I’ve always wanted to run my own con. I’ve been to enough of them over the last few decades. A lot of them were pretty shabby. Customer service was pretty awful. I’ve been to cons where the promoter never came around and so much as said hello or how’s it going. Some were downright rude or deceitful.

On a Sunday in the summer of 2011, I stopped into the bowling alley/rock club Asbury Lanes — they were having a little record fair in there. I knew a few of my friends would be there selling and buying records or drinking beers so I figured I’d get away from my drawing table for the afternoon and see what was happening. My friend and neighbor Robert Bruce was selling an assortment of rare rock and jazz records and some underground comix. I remember looking at someone rooting through a white box of records, and I turned to Rob and I said “Where else have I seen somebody doing that? Reminds me of people at a comic convention digging through long boxes.” We laughed, but I walked around a bit and I kept thinking about it. If they could sell records in this place, why not comics? My friend Jenn Hampton was the manager, so I asked her if we could have a comic con at the Lanes. Nine months later we had the first Asbury Park Comicon.

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HM-S: What’s the strangest task you’ve ever had to do in order to get a Con running or keeping it on track?

CG: Partner with Rob Bruce! We’re friends, but business-wise we’re been very independent, lone wolves. But it’s been a great experience and there’s absolutely no way I could’ve done all of this or come up with all the solutions on my own. It’s been Cliff and Rob’s Excellent Adventure.

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[Rob Bruce and Cliff Galbraith]

HM-S: Why Asbury as a location for the Con? 

CG: People launch cons in New Jersey all the time. Some have been going on for years, but they don’t grow. I think the secret ingredient in throwing a Con is location — pick a fun destination. That’s really what set San Diego up for success early on. Who didn’t want to go somewhere with beautiful weather with plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels, a beach? That’s enticing.

So there needs to be something other than the Con once you walk outside. That’s my standard. I don’t want to go to some Con near an airport or far away from everything. I don’t want to go to some little hotel hermetically sealed in away from the world. Lots of Cons are downright depressing. They have no personality. Just putting a bunch of artists and dealers in a room and charging admission doesn’t make it fun.

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[The Asbury Park Boardwalk at dusk]

HM-S: What were reactions like to the first Con at Asbury Lanes?
CG: Everyone had a great time. Most people sold lots of books. I was stunned. I just wanted to put on a little event and not screw up, just have a fun day. But the venue was a real hit. The exhibitors who’d never been to Asbury Park, who’d never been to Asbury Lanes fell in love with it. I’m spoiled, the Lanes are part of my world, but it’s really a cool old place. And there’s a bar. We played old punk tunes and Serge Gainsbourg, Nelson Riddle, soul, and stoner rock. It was more like a party — with comics.

HM-S: What obstacles did you face launching that first Con at the Lanes?
CG: It’s always tough at first to get someone with a name to attract fans. I think the first guy I called was Evan Dorkin. I always dug his work, and I’d known him for years — but more importantly he was someone who would get what I was trying to do. Evan and Sarah Dyer jumped right in. Then they told Steph Buscema. Jamal Igle was another old friend, so I contacted him early on. Those guys trusted me — that was important. But getting talent can be tough early on. Then there’s talent that doesn’t show up, there are flakes in this business and it just goes with the territory.

The biggest shock was that two months before our first Con, Asbury Lanes was sold. I know it sounds crazy, but I never got a written contract. I made a deal with my friend who was the manager. At one point, she didn’t know if she was going to still have a job or whether the new owners would honor our deal or want more money. It was scary, because this was our first time and if we screwed this up nobody would ever trust us again. It all worked out and it was a great day.

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[APCC at the Asbury Lanes]

HM-S: What’s your personal philosophy behind Comic Cons?
CG: Don’t be boring. Don’t be predictable. Don’t call yourself a Comic Con and fill the bill with wrestlers, actors, and other people who have nothing to do with comics. Respect and honors those who make comics, especially those who came before us. I see a lot of bullshit at cons and I just don’t get it. If somebody wants an autograph of somebody from Twilight or some guy who played a storm trooper 30 years ago — that’s their business, but it really has nothing to do with comics. It detracts and devalues comics as something that is supposed to be celebrated. My feeling is if you’re not here for the comics then shove off. Go to a horror con, go to a sci-fi con.

 HM-S: Why do you think we need Comic Cons, as a society?

CG: When my parents were kids the big thing was the circus coming to town. That’s disappeared, and now we have the Comic Con coming to town. Look at every city — there’s a con everywhere. People love it — its like Woodstock, Lollapalooza, county fair, chili cook-offs, boat shows, car shows, record fairs, film festivals, people want to get together with those who share their passion. They want to spend a day with their kids, meet new friends, make a discovery. It’s an amazing social phenomenon, and it’s in its infancy.

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HM-S: What did you grow up reading? Any favorite comics or characters?
CG: My mom grew up in a candy store in Newark, N.J., and she spent her time drawing pictures of movie stars from magazines that were on the newsstand. She also loved comics. She introduced me to Superman when I was about four years old. She also taught me to draw. She got me a subscription to SUPERBOY and I looked forward to those comics every month. Then one day when I was getting a haircut, I picked up a copy of FANTASTIC FOUR that was in the barber shop — this was around 1965. The Kirby art kind of creeped me out at first, but I was fascinated. Joe Kubert’s HAWKMAN was a favorite. Of course BATMAN. CREEPY, EERIE, FAMOUS MONSTERS and hot rod magazines with stuff by Ed Roth and George Barris. I also read a lot of science fiction — it was a pretty classic age with Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and I read Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes after seeing the movie. I graduated from super heroes to MAD. Then National Lampoon. At some point I found some underground comix in a head shop in Menlo Park, N.J. — they blew my teenage mind. Then Heavy Metal Magazine and Punk Magazine completed the process of completely warping my mind.

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HM-S: What are your biggest influences as a comics creator?
CG: More of MAD than I used to acknowledge. I think it was an early influence in the way I saw a lot of stupid things in society. It was much tougher on politicians and corporations back in the 60′s and 70′s. I would try to draw like Mort Drucker when I was a kid. Kirby is an influence when I’m feeling lazy, when I think I’ve done enough — I think about the amount of work he put out in a day and I’m embarrassed. He keeps me going back to do a bit more before turning out the lights. I love Moebius. Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corben, Crumb, Rick Griffin, Jack Davis. I go back to Will Eisner when I get stuck on a drawing that’s not working — I’m still learning from looking at his drawings, I get answers from his panels. But when I created Partyasaurus, Beachasaurus, and all the Saurus characters back in the 80′s, I did some sort of R.O. Bleckman thing with the wiggly, broken lines. It was very successful, but I never revisited that style again.

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HM-S:  It’s been a winding road for you career-wise. How does Con creating fit into your life, looking back?

CG:  I came back to comics after ten years — at one point I was in really bad shape with Lyme disease, but that’s a whole other story. I started making RAT BASTARD comics again, just selling them at cons. I didn’t even go through Diamond — I just wanted to put something out and do some cons. Then I started working with my wife on UNBEARABLE, a totally different style but a lot of fun to draw. I was finally getting back into it, making comics. I had a few issues written I was drawing consistently and then this damn Asbury Park Comicon came along. The first one wasn’t too bad, but now with a much bigger venue, more guests, more exhibitors, ads, making a TV commercial, doing interviews with newspapers, and building a website, designing posters, it became a full time job. I didn’t realize it at first, but I sacrificed my art to build the Con. Which is okay, since April 1st I’m back at the drawing board and making comics again.

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HM-S: Asbury Park was pretty hard hit by Superstorm Sandy. What was your own experience of the storm like?

CG: The other day I found pictures of my wife Judie and I at Convention Hall on the balcony making silly faces trying to stand up against the wind the day before the storm. I felt embarrassed that we were joking about it and twenty-four hours later there would be so much devastation. We could’ve have known, but I couldn’t look at those pictures. The fact that Convention Hall is still standing is amazing, but it did sustain a lot of damage.

My own experience with the storm was terror. There’s three giant pine trees in my yard that I was certain would crush us in the night. I felt like the roof on our house would be torn off any minute the whole time. We had no power for two weeks. We tried to stay in our home and tough it out with no power. I could draw during daylight. We had little parties with the neighbors and pooled our resources.  After 7 or 8 days, it got too tough. It was cold. There wasn’t much to do once the sun went down.  We had to go stay with my parents. But after a few days, I felt like I should be putting Led Zeppelin posters up in the basement — in other words, I felt like I was a teenager again. My parents were great about it, but you really can’t go back and live with your parents.

We were fortunate — we got to go back to our house and it was like nothing had happened other than we had to restock our refrigerator. But only two miles east of us looked like an A-bomb had been dropped. A lot of our friends suffered from that storm. We’ll be doing several things at Asbury Park Comicon to raise money for some of the nonprofits in our area and keep the focus on Sandy victims.

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[The Asbury Convention Hall, site of APCC 2013]

HM-S: Were you afraid that damage from Superstorm Sandy might put the kaibosh on Asbury Park Comicon this year?

CG: It actually did. The building was going to be closed down by the city or something. We were told we needed to start thinking about an alternate site. It got pretty bleak. We looked into moving the con to Monmouth Racetrack, or one of the schools in Red Bank. We were desperate.  And then I got a call late one night and they told me we were back in Convention Hall.

HM-S: What’s going on with Asbury Convention Hall? I hear it may not host events in the future after May.

CG: It’s an old building. It’s taken a beating. It had issues before the storm. So now it’s just better to shut down completely and get everything done once and for all. May 1st, it will be shuttered. We may be one of the last events there. This is a big thing for us to throw a con there — we grew up walking through the Grand Arcade from the boardwalk. I saw The Clash there, boxing, roller derby. To see our event on that marquee is like a dream come true — and it almost didn’t happen.

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[Asbury Park Press covers COMIC BOOK MEN and Galbraith's upcoming Con]

HM-S: What’s up for Asbury Con in the future? Is it going to become an even bigger Jersey Con?

CG: We’ll know in a few weeks what the renovation schedule is for Convention Hall. We’d like to announce the dates for 2014 at this the con next week, but I don’t know if that’s quite possible by March 30th. But we’d like to move to late April and do a two day Con. The Berkley Hotel has a series of ballrooms — it’s like The Shining in there. I spoke to them last week. I’d like to keep this show in Asbury Park. Again, it’s the location that really makes a Con special. We’re planning on including more venues, galleries, etc. in the Con. Maybe a cosplay parade on the boardwalk. Put some of the bigger panels in the Paramount Theater.

We also have another big Con in the works for June 2014, but we haven’t finalized the date or exact venue. We’ve floated the ideas with a few comic industry people and we’ve gotten good feedback. The location will surprise a lot of people at first, but it makes sense geographically.

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[Poster art for APCC#2 in 2012]

HM-S:  What changes had to be made in the planning process of the con to move it from Asbury Lanes to the Convention Hall this time?
CG: Besides the amount of time Rob and I had to put into it, I’d say the next thing would be the amount of money it takes to launch an event this size. People have no idea what goes into a show like this. Now we’re into things like insurance, security, lighting, sound systems, putting guests in hotels, meals, travel, advertising — the expenses pile up quickly. This is no longer a fun little get-together at the Asbury Lanes with some comics and a few beers, this is a serious business venture.

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[Memorable image from APCC #2 in 2012 with Evan Dorkin, Cliff Galbraith, Dean Haspiel, and Larry Hama]

The most important thing I’ve learned about running a show this size is we can’t do it on our own. We had a lot of help. Guys like Danny Fingeroth, Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner, Chris Irving, Mark Mazz, Dave Ryan, all got us guests that we never would’ve gotten on our own. Eric Grissom built us a great website. Stu Wexler made a TV commercial — and nobody asked for anything in return. Mike [Zapcic] and Ming [Chen] from Comic Book Men have been promoting us for months on their podcast. The people who run Convention Hall have been amazing. They all just want us to succeed — we’ve got some great friends in our corner. We’ve also got some great guests: Al Jaffee, Herb Trimpe, John Holmstrom, Bob Camp, Don McGregor, Jamal Igle, Jay Lynch, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Mark Morales, Stephanie Buscema, and Batman producer Michael Uslan. Then there’s a whole indie crew like Box Brown, Josh Bayer, Mike Dawson, Steve Mannion, and lots of others.

I’m really fortunate to be able to do this. To have gotten my health back, to be making comics again and to put on events with so many remarkable people. Sure it’s a lot of work, but I’m having the time of my life!

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HM-S: Cliff, I don’t know how you found the time to give us such a detailed insight into your own personal journey envisoning the Asbury Park Comicon with only a few days to go until the biggest APCC yet. But we appreciate your willingness to talk about it so openly and thanks for bringing a Con of this caliber to New Jersey. 

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Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.







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42. On the Scene: NIGHT JOB Salon Gets Personal

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On March 21st 2013 at the Union Hall bar, restaurant, and music venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, comics creator and TRIP CITY co-curator Dean Haspiel and comedian/actress Katharine Heller launched what may be the first of several salon events featuring comics, comedy, prose, and musical performances entitled “NIGHT JOB”. Though it was a new venture, neither Haspiel nor Heller are strangers to the stage. They were joined by stand-up comedian and writer Molly Knefel of the internet radio show RADIO DISPATCH, indie cartoonist Meghan Turbitt, author Reverend Jen of the long-running “Rev Jen’s Anti-Slam” performance event. Also performing were political satirist and stand-up comedian Angry Bob, and the music group Two Beards One Heart, including  Jeffrey Burandt (aka Jef UK of Americans UK), and Peter Boiko, supported by John Mathias and John Thomas Robinette III.

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[Haspiel and Heller host the salon]

Though the salon opened to a full basement venue, audience members probably didn’t know quite what to expect from NIGHT JOB, however they might have known some of the performers by reputation. The term “salon” often implies multiple genres in the mix, and NIGHT JOB presented quite a range. Though each of these types of performance have the potential to be very entertaining on their own, it’s a challenge to combine them and create a sense of a cohesive event that, collectively, develops its own personality. NIGHT JOB found its way by emphasizing the raw power of very personal content from its salon members.

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[Molly Knefel]

Knefel opened with a stand-up routine spoofing the “war on women” in congress last autumn, pointing out that a “war on anuses” would have had even the most conservative public official scrambling to sign up in protest. Her rapid-fire delivery and observational humor had the audience engaged from the outset, but her sense of personal commitment to the subject matter as a thinking person translating impressions of a bizarre world set the tone for the evening.

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[Katharine Heller]

Heller read a selection from her recent project featuring “erotica” geared toward Republican sensibilities, “Tickle the Elephant”, and ingenious attempt to get inside the minds of what appeals to conservative women particularly. Turning the lingo of the senate floor and government catchphrases into turn-ons relentlessly, Heller narrated from the perspective of a conservative seduced by liberalism into a sexual common ground. Heller revealed a rather in-depth knowledge of politics on both sides of the party schism in her artistry, and in her mix of satire and humor, suggested dialogue is possible even in the most heated debates.

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[A Turbitt comic panel]

Turbitt presented and performed a wide range of indie comix that appear online, increasingly irreverent to social taboos, particular in expressing women’s lives. From bathroom scenes of an intimate nature to things that most people find adorable but only annoy her, she pushed the envelope on expression and used the comic-panel reveal for shock-value. Her autobio approach struck many of the same chords as Knefel and Heller’s performances, bringing out the sense that discussing deeply personal subjects is still one of the most direct ways to reach an audience, who may be surprised to find out how much they have in common with the stories they hear and see.

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[Meghan Turbitt]

Haspiel’s comix performance of “Awful George” from his series STREET CODE took the audience deep inside the strangeness, and the horror of urban stories, reflecting his own autobiographical reaction to witnessing a make-shift attempt to save a hoard of cats that had been wilfully neglected in an apartment, only to be topped by the discovery of a mummified corpse, begging the question, “How do you deal with these kind of realities?”

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["Awful George" panel by Haspiel]

The answer from Haspiel is clearly “by expressing them and reaching out to readers”. His debut performance of a newly created Tommy Rocket comic, a spin-off from his BILLY DOGMA web comix, spoke to the twisted aspects of love, and the realities of failure and regret. Haspiel never pulls any punches in his comics, autobio or not, and these hammered home the role of authenticity in performance; getting up in front of a crowd to read your comics demands a kind of soul-baring stance that hits home for the audience.

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[Dean Haspiel]

Reverend Jen took soul baring to a whole new level by reading from her unpublished novel, memoirs of her life as a prostitute attempting to support her artistic endeavors as a painter. She’s known for her extreme honesty during readings, and her narrative plumbed the depths of tragedy and suffering possible in what seems like an everyday world. Her description of images, as well as emotions, made for a stellar performance of prose. Rev Jen’s motivation in performing, to “get stuff out” of oneself actually also served the function of engaging the audience emotionally and reminding them, perhaps, of human resilience along the way.

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[Rev Jen]

Angry Bob, true to his moniker, took on the role of voicing, like Knefel, Heller, and Turbitt, many of the things that people think, but don’t say out loud for fear of being ostracized as freakish. The truth, of course, is that they are not alone and everyone is wonder what’s considered “acceptable” to think or say in social settings. He described himself as someone “rooting through the garbage for shiny objects” like a racoon or other scavenger, and the objects he held up for inspection at NIGHT JOB were the ludicrous aspects of Reality TV, the curse of failed opportunities, and the general rage-inducing capabilities of young children, particularly in public. Angry Bob’s signature delivery, a high-octane rant that frequently addresses audience members directly, had their equally signature outcome: inspiring absolute hilarity at NIGHT JOB.

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[Angry Bob]

The evening’s performances closed with the strikingly independent tones of Two Beards One Heart which also managed to match the ambiance of the previous salon members’ presentations. Not just in musical composition, whose sounds were so original as to suggest that the “personal” can be evoked as equally in sound as in words and images, but also in lyrics, Two Beards managed to create their own singular message.

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[Two Beards One Heart]

Their first song illustrated rising angst through lyrics despite its melodic construction, while the second contrasted the poetic, upbeat aspects of love with bigger realities and banal conflicts. Burandt’s vocals, far from predictable, were particularly engaging, and contributed to a sense of individualistic expression of life’s perplexing highs and lows.

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[Jeffrey Burandt]

One of the most winning aspects of NIGHT JOB, aside from his cohesion as a salon of the personal made public, was the fact that Haspiel asked, repeatedly, if anyone else would like to perform their work, friend or stranger alike. It suggested an open-door to artists of any genre who also had something to share. The tone of the evening, celebrating unique perspectives with communal implications, was as well suited to comics as music and comedy.

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[Haspiel delivers an open invitation]

Setting comics alongside other genres in performance is not a new practice, but it’s becoming increasingly popular, perhaps because of the rise of self-publishing and internet sharing of creative work.  As comics find their footing among other artistic modes, it’s appropriate to start asking what comics have in common with other formats of expression, and what makes them particularly powerful for self-expression. NIGHT JOB did an excellent job of illustrating the point. Performance art forms are about a meeting of minds between the performer and the audience, and many genres already push the boundaries of inter-personal communication, comics included.

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Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.








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43. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Corinne Mucha

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If you’ve been following my haphazard writing at all, you know of my love for Corinne Mucha, aka the undisputed Queen of Mini-Comics. Mucha has only one longer format ‘graphic novel’ to her name (Freshman Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions  Revelations and Other Nonsense aimed more at the teen and young adult market) and whilst it’s good, her mini-comics are where her talent is really and truly on show.

She won an Ignatz award last year for her Retrofit comic, The Monkey in the Basement and Other Delusions, but I personally believe My Every Single Thought to be her best work, where she deftly explores what being a single woman means -to single and non-single women, to men, to society, the expectations and connotations it carries as a label, and combining, as always, humour and whimsy with deeper, more reflective thoughts.

Here’s a bit more on her abilities from a piece I wrote over at FPI last year:

‘Mucha packs so much into these pages, pictures brimming off the edges and words, words, everywhere (an unfashionable and dying art in comics), that you never feel you’ve read anything other than a full, dense and enriching narrative. Her shining quality is her ability to combine irreverent humour with more serious ruminations in a manner that’s honest and contemplative without being overly earnest or preachy. Her mini-comics are one of the best uses of the format I’ve come across, her narratives layered and rewarding.’

You can find her website here and buy her fantastic mini-comics here.

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44. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Dre Grigoropol

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Dre Grigoropol has contributed to several anthologies and ‘zines, and works as an illustrator, cartoonist, and blogger. Her blogging work can often be seen addressing feminism and pop culture topics at Bust Magazine. Her latest long term project, DEE’S DREAM (pictured above) features the bohemian life of a young poet and rocker, and in particular the myriad complications of her romantic entanglements. A print version of the first episode of DEE’S DREAM, “Cosmic Wombat House” is currently available in self-published mini form. Dre’s style is versatile but always shows an appealing homage to manga lines. Her inking is particularly striking, as she moves between varying line widths for emotional effect. Aside from producing her comics and blogging, she’s also a rather astonishing body paint artist for cosplay contests and takes part in many indie comics shows in the mid-Atlantic region.

[*Disclaimer: you might well see Grigoropol's occasional reports about indie comix events featured right here on the Beat!]



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45. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Jane Mai

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Ah, Jane Mai, she who I am a little bit in love with. I think a lot of people were a little surprised by Mai’s first book release, Sunday In The Park With Boys, from Koyama Press late last year: finding the subject matter of mental quicksand, psychological cages and depression was largely at odds with the work she had produced til date. Yes, her comics can be cute and culturally referential, but that’s Mai’s forte: she can go from whimsy and rainbows to stuff that’s atmospheric and unsettling, often mixing the two for acerbic and biting commentary.

And she doesn’t do it through writing alone -compare the images above and below for example, and observe how the change in art style contributes to the feel and emotion of the narrative at hand. So yes, Mai is pretty damn talented, and while I’ll check out anything she makes, I particularly hope she produces more long form comics that continue to explore her interests and capabilities in as fruitful a manner as her current output.

Aside: I love how Mai draws on coloured backgrounds (the choice of colour usually reflects the tone of the piece)- I’m sure other artists do this too, but I associate it only with her and it’s very fitting somehow.

You can find Mai’s website here, and buy her work here.

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46. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Julia Gfrorer

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About a month ago, Steve asked me who my favourite comic creators were, and horrible as I am at answering on the spot questions, I did manage to provide him with one name: Julia Gfrorer. If you follow mainstream comics, your most beloved authors put out work regularly, but at indie central, you get a mini-comic or a book a year, with perhaps a few contributions to anthologies. Despite this, Gfrorer’s work is consistently excellent, featuring themes of myth, folk lore, mysticism and spirituality, coupled with her fine-lined, evocative art.

She also manages the seemingly possible: discussing sex in a way that’s interesting, sexy, varying degrees of disturbing, and all disgusting fluids at the same time: her work is never patronising or affected. Her excellent first longer length comic, Black is the Colour, is due to be published by Fantagraphics in autumn, and you can currently read it in full over at the Study Group Comics site, and hopefully that should be enough to convince you to pick up a print copy when it’s out!

Here’s a sneak peek from an upcoming interview with The Beat, where Gfrorer talks about how she ‘got into comics’:

‘When I moved to Portland in 2007, I had just made a mini called “How Life Became Unbearable,” about Saint Francis of Assisi. I took it to Pony Club Gallery to consign it, and that was how I met Dylan Williams, who was a member then. Around the same time, I was in a show at Launch Pad Gallery, and I was doodling a little comic at the opening, and Sean Christensen zeroed in on me like I had flashed the comix beacon. So those guys were my first friends in my new city, and they introduced me to their friends and encouraged me to be part of their projects, so before I knew it comics were my whole world.’

You can find her site here and buy her work here

Julia Gfrörer Black Is The Color 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Julia Gfrorer

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47. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Andrea Tsurumi

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Andrea Tsurumi is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist working on a number of platforms. She’s a Harvard graduate currently pursuing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts, but in the meantime her work has been published by Penguin Books and The New York Times. Her long work DANCE PARTY (featured above) appears on her  website, and shorter comics work YAKITORI can also be found there. She also contributes, with Keren Katz, to the site UNCANNY EATING, documenting the metamorphic and bizarre qualities of food across cultures. Recently, she’s also started blogging about comics events for THE RUMPUS. Tsurumi’s style is innovative and expansive, taking in the bizarre and grotesque while infusing them with a sense of humor. Her panel designs often break the frame and expand into full page spreads populated with active figures and mysterious vistas. She draws influence from film, pop culture, and the world of illustration and has a lot in common with a multicultural weird tales tradition in her art.



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48. 24 Hours of Women’s Cartooning: Sarah Glidden

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My first experience with Sarah Glidden’s work was via her debut, How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (published by, of all people, DC Vertigo!). That book saw Glidden take the ‘Birthright Tour,’ an Israeli government funded initiative  traversing through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Masada and other places, where she constantly finds a conflict between her pre-conceived notions and what she’s experiencing, and you can’t help but feel an affinity for her as she attempts to navigate knotty political and personal waters.

She has since been making political, informative comics for various online platforms- Cartoon Movement, the Jewish Quarterly and Symbolia Magazine amongst others. This is going to sound incredibly stupid, but I find it very difficult to engage with long prose non-fiction texts, so I’m glad to see the slow expansion of the same genre in comics, and so I really appreciate Glidden’s presence in comics, and her smart, thoughtful, and clear take on things.

I was very pleased to hear, then, of Drawn and Quarterly’s announcement at the beginning of this year, regarding the publishing of her second book, Rolling Blackouts (due for release in 2014), another graphic journalism work which finds Glidden following reporters in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

You can find Glidden’s website here and buy her work here.

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49. 24 Hours of Women Cartoonists: Jess Ruliffson

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Jess Ruliffson is an illustrator and non-fiction graphic novelist, increasingly wearing the hat of a comics-medium journalist. She’s working on a graphic novel based on interviews with veterans of the war in Iraq and conflicts in Afghanistan for the Joe Bonham Project, giving wounded vets a chance to tell their own stories of trauma and resilience (as seen above). Ruliffson took part in the Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency in October 2012 and became one of the founding members of Studio YOLO, a confederacy of artists who pose monthly comics-drawing challenges. Her art work is heavily based on realism in line-drawing, but also possesses a unique stillness and reflective quality suited to personal narratives, either her own or drawn from shared stories. You can view her ongoing work at both her website and blogspot.



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50. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, Valiant

ComiXology’s Chip Mosher of Marketing and PR moderated a panel with Jeremy Atkins of Dark Horse, Dirk Wood of IDW, Mel Caylo of Archaia, and addition Hunter Gorinson of Valiant Comics with the goal of sharing tips and pro experience with indie creators and future marketers on Friday, March 29th at WonderCon. The result was quite an entertaining panel featuring their professional blunders and secret discoveries about he ins and outs of comics promotion.

mbrittany gorinson mosher 300x160 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantMosher started out by asking for the embarrassing stories each had accrued in their work experience, “professional blunders” that contained teachable moments. Atkins admitted to the cringeworthy common mishap of hitting “reply all” on an email and copying a person specifically to be excluded from a conversation, with plenty of sympathetic groans from the audience. Mosher’s own tale of woe was equally relatable, reading an e-mail from Emerald City Con and then forgetting to reply afterward, thereby losing booth space for BOOM that year. Wood was more circumspect about his failures, noting that “25% of marketing is what I would call blunders” that can lead either to success or to a “thud”, and that he finds it impossible to tell which will happen in some circumstances. Persistence, he advised, is the key to forge ahead despite an unpredictable market.

Caylo dredged up his own worst moments with a story of “drunk tweeting” from the wrong account, declaring his love for someone, a tweet that remained up on a company account overnight whereas Gorinson stuck to the ever-present bugaboo of typos in press releases regardless of how many times the releases are checked before sending them out. Wood’s observation that some blunders can have positive results prompted the panel to consider whether they had similar lucky moments. Wood, particularly, “stumbled into successes” by having random, unlikely ideas for promotion like sending Godzilla costumed promo agents to “smash” stores, something that met with great success. The panel quickly turned interactive, fielding questions from the floor, and the first question, probably also the first on everyone’s mind, was how to run PR and marketing strategies on a shoe-string budget.

mbrittany caylo gorinson 300x142 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantMosher wittily commented, “This guy thinks that we have budgets” to his fellow panellists before Caylo took up the question with what became perhaps the strongest message of the panel event: “It’s all about relationships”. He suggested that those seeking press for comics go to shows, have e-mail conversations that are “not always pitching”, so that it’s easier when you do want to ask a favor to bring it up. He also added that “offer giveaways” on sites that increase “cross-promotion” are a very smart move. Atkins, who was particularly earnest and animated throughout the panel suggested that Twitter is a major player in promotion for building and continuing to cultivate professional relationships, including the retail industry in your list of contacts. Wood spoke to the indie creator’s situation trying to get books distributed. “Nothing speaks louder than a consignment situation”, he said, and pointed out that Top Shelf started through delivering consignment issues to comic shops, “giving books” to shops and allowing them to sell them rather than seeking solicitation. This involves “relentless beating of the pavement” since there is “no replacing grassroots”.

Atkins used this idea to springboard into a gambling metaphor: “In gambling and in life, you only win when you can afford to lose”. You shouldn’t expect return immediately, he warned, but trying different approaches and continuing to do so as long as possible is key. Mosher had strong feelings on the subject, reflecting on the example of a student protester who brough the New York Stock Exchange to a standstill by busking for dollar bills all day, then throwing a hundred bills onto the exchange floor. It was the perfect example, for Mosher, of “getting attention at low cost” and using the least resources to garner the “biggest impact”.

mbrittany atkins wood 1 300x159 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantGorinson focused on knowing your material and audience to get attention. Knowing the pitch well, and the many angles from which it might be interpreted, breaking out of narrow genre definitions, for instance, may win the day. He recommended top comics news sites as vehicles for spreading the word, as well as working “with anyone and everyone”, including small blog sites. Mosher’s experience at BOOM confirmed this premise. Starting out publishing only 4 to 7 books a month, he scoured blogs, put people in press lists, and sent them PDF review copies in an era before most comics companies were using PDFs in this way, and thereby grew a press list of 400 contacts.

Wood added that looking at comparable publishers and types of titles to the comic you are trying to circulate is a good starting point, looking to see how and where they are doing their marketing and focus your attack in that way. A common pitfall the panellists all agreed on is when creators send a pitch to a company for a comic series that’s a 12 issue proposal or longer. Companies aren’t willing to take the risk, they advised, and a 3-4 issue format is much more appealing at the outset of a project.

A follow up question from the audience regarded strategies to capitalize on the rash of superhero movies and growing movie fans who might never have read a comic. Several panellists felt that there’s no one single approach to bring film fans into comics, but a more surefire method is to “start them young”, reaching young readers with comics visual literacy. Mosher agreed, stating that there are more kids comics today than in the past decade, and comics continue to have unique qualities of storytelling that continue to appeal as a child grows up reading them. Gorinson added that Free Comic Book Day is an excellent opportunity to “get into as many shops as possible” and reach new, young readers. Mosher and Caylo both returned to the subject of cross promotion between films, tv, and comics, like the inclusion of ashcan comics in dvd box sets to show fans what comics alternatives are available for their favorite products.

mbrittany small press alley 300x180 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantA direct marketing question from the floor focused on the similarities or differences between selling comics and other products, like household items. Atkins felt there was very little difference at all, except that it’s more possible in comics to “know who that person is” you are targeting since “They are me, or some version of me”, as a comics fan. He continued with some other salient advice, such as “You have to believe in what you’re selling” and believe that you are “one of the best advocates for it”. Gorinson felt that marketing comics is different from marketing other consumer products because he often feels an “obligation” to live up to the quality of the work he’s promoting in his own efforts.

Gorinson and Atkins also suggested doing some research into major news sites to find out who on staff might be a comics fan, “finding” that contact, or locating dedicated geek blogging attached to news sites. Atkins and Mosher commented that using social media makes reaching out to news writers more and more direct. Mosher admitted that not everyone may have the desire or “skill set” to promote their comics properly despite attempts, and in that case, he advised, you should find a friend who thrives on that kind of work and collaborate on promotion.

The final big topic addressed by the panel, and one which inspired some lively reactions from the speakers, was the use of transmedia and multiple media formats to draw attention to comics. Caylo said that it’s all about “synergy” between comics, films, and related video games, based on his work at Archaia. Atkins clarified, however, that adding transmedia content to promote comics, such as an app or video game should still be “meaningful to the overall story.

mbrittany artist alley 300x256 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantI posed a last question to the panel before it came to a close, wondering what the biggest pros and cons are to using social media as a promotional tool. Gorinson replied that you have to be “clever” in different ways to use social media properly for this purpose, while Mosher commented simply, but with some emotion, “Trolls!” as his biggest con. Caylo was the most personally engaged by the question and gave the following run down: social media’s benefits are “accessibility” and the quickness and “ease” of getting the word out about your product, especially when doing it for free. The “dangers”, however, are that “You are open to trolls and people who want to bait you”. “Ignore them”, he recommended, since once they “engage” you, they’ve “got you”. Block them if necessary, and learn to take “the bad with the good” when it comes to social media.

The panel was surprisingly lively, with all the panellists more than willing to share from their personal struggles to find the golden balance when it comes to marketing with limited budgets, and each expressed an obvious commitment to the survival and growth of worthy comics through good strategies and trying innovative methods to see what works for each book and each particular situation. Building personal relationships, watching out for the wrong kind of blunders, and learning from them when they occur, were paramount for these indie publishing marketers.


Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.




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