Robot 6

The end of Buenaventura Press: a reaction round-up

(L-R) Robert Crumb, Kramers Ergot 7 contributors Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine, and publisher Alvin Buenaventura; photo by Melissa P. Coats

(L-R) Robert Crumb, Kramers Ergot 7 contributors Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine, and publisher Alvin Buenaventura; photo by Melissa P. Coats

On Friday, publisher Alvin Buenaventura announced he had shut down his imprint Buenaventura Press as of this past January, due to a single knockout legal/financial blow. Publicly available details are few, in keeping with the private way the move has been handled for the past six months. But comics creators and critics en masse are mourning BP’s demise and reading the tea leaves as to where its publisher, artists, and entire brand of comics will land.

Robot 6 reached out to several of the artists published by Buenaventura, as well as a few of his fellow publishers, for their reaction:

Working with Alvin over the years has been really amazing. He has introduced me to a lot of magical and influential artists and hooked me up with tons of inspiring and perverted books. His place has awesome shit scattered all over- mountains of crazy books, toys, memorabilia, gigantic figures, artwork- it’s like a bomb went off. Now that he’ll be taking a break from the business we’ll finally have more time to play Rock Band and trip out on weird TV shows.

–Matt Furie, writer/artist, Boy’s Club

Alvin has a sixth sense for Things That Are Good, and he knows exactly how to present those Things so that they are even Gooder. I don’t understand how he does it, but it’s one of the many reasons why working with him has been such an extraordinary privilege.

–Lisa Hanawalt, writer/artist, I Want You

I really liked working with Alvin. Being part of the whole Buenaventura press thing I felt like I was part of a whole new comics movement. It was all very exciting. It’s really fucking depressing that it’s all over. I don’t even like to think about it.

–Johnny Ryan, writer/artist, The Comic Book Holocaust and The Klassic Komix Klub

It saddens me to hear that Buenaventura Press has closed their doors.
They were a juggernaut of alt comix and art book production. I hope that
Alvin keeps a hand, or ear, or head in the biz and that all of us might
benefit from it. Thanks for all the great work.

–Chris Pitzer, publisher, AdHouse Books

I’ve known Alvin since well before he was a publisher, when he was just a guy that I would sell a lot of comics to at every west coast comic convention. Except he (and his wife, Carleen) were different. I would see them *every* time, and Alvin would buy a giant pile of books that almost exactly dovetailed with my own personal taste. You notice these things, when a guy comes to like every Rick Altergott signing you have. I don’t even remember when it happened, honestly, but at some point he became a friend, and eventually a “colleague,” and ultimately a publisher that I truly admired (this is a very select group in the comics world). His list was impeccable and he’ll have a place in history for things like Kramer’s 7 and Jack Survives. He also has introduced me to some outstanding cartoonists like Lisa Hanawalt and Matt Furie. Basically, he is a man of exceptional taste, and knowing that Buenaventura Press won’t exist anymore is a real drag, because what he did excited me. But I also know he’s not really going anywhere and will continue to have a hand in good shit. Recently, he helped Tim Hensley and myself pick the best possible paper and package for Wally Gropius. It had nothing to do with Buenaventura Press, but he helped make that one of my favorite books of all time. Thank you, Alvin.

–Eric Reynolds, associate publisher, Fantagraphics

What i liked about what Alvin was doing, and indeed, something i was jealous of, was that he had a fondness for screenprinting and true “small press” aesthetics. Prints, posters, little saddle-stitch mini-comics, etc. This is how i got my own start, but Buenaventura did it so much better. Also, BP was very good at digging up new talent and springing it on an unsuspecting world. One of my favorite new comics to come along in the last decade were the issues he put out of Matt Furie’s Boy’s Club. Bummer.

–Brett Warnock, co-publisher, Top Shelf Productions

Cartoonists and commentators around the web also weighed in on the closing. On his blog, Ted May, who published his series Injury Comics through BP, eyed the future for both Buenaventura and his own series:

Knowing Alvin, I’m sure this won’t keep him from doing more awesome work whatever that ends up being.

I’ve got three stories in progress for the next issue(s) of Injury (working with Jason, Mike and Jeff). I’ll release that stuff in one form or another once we get it wrapped up.

Over at Arthur Magazine, retailer Jason Leivian of Portland’s Floating World Comics noted the publisher’s influence, including on his own career:

Without Buenaventura Press it’s possible I wouldn’t have been inspired to start Floating World Comics….It’s the Velvet Underground effect. Their books have inspired new comic scenes all over the world.

The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald praised BP’s high production values and eye for quality, which she argues makes the closure even more troubling:

Looking beyond the obvious loss of a great publisher, it’s a bit disturbing that, quite simply, arguably the finest boutique comics publisher in America went out of business five months ago and…no one noticed. Buenaventura had announced something of a hiatus back at the end of 2009 so perhaps people were waiting for the comeback, which never came.

The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon noted Buenventura’s dual role as a publisher of both comics and prints:

It’s not that this was unexpected — BP’s quiet withdrawal from the comics industry over the last nine months has been the source of a lot of discussion in certain comics circles — but it’s still very sad because of the overall quality of their offerings, ranging from exquisite prints like the above work from Marc Bell to books like last year’s great Jerry Moriarty collection.

Though it’s hard to parse Young Lions cartoonist Blaise Larmee’s deadpan tone, his post on the impact of BP’s closure on the artcomics scene led to interesting comments from a several of its practitioners on the future of the form. Here’s Tom Neely (The Blot):

self publish. small is beautiful. stay within your means. keep yr dayjob. make comics forever.

Tim Hensley (Wally Gropius, Kramers Ergot 7):

I think Kramers 7 may have done Alvin in, but I think dealing with the printer more than the reception of the book was the problem.
It depresses me that it confirms the opinions of many still eager to abscribe nothing more than hubris to the whole endeavor, but there it is…

Frank Santoro (Cold Heat, Kramers Ergot 7):

“Will young creators find themselves accepted or adrift within this territory?”

Adrift. Start swimming. Art Comics are going to be remembered like Undergrounds. It’s already happening if you ask me.

Start working on that romantic comedy yaoi webcomic! At least you’ll get reviewed on TCJ.com

Santoro also reveals that Kramers Ergot 8 was intended to be a year-long series of 32-page magazine-sized monthly installments featuring two artists per issue. “It might still happen,” he notes, before adding that he was never paid for his work in issue 7.

Perhaps the best response to the news came from the Beguiling retailer and TCAF organizer Chris Butcher:

I don’t want to turn this into a polemic or anything, I’m not trying to guilt or badger you into giving up your money, but I know more than anything how easy it is to get swept along in the day-to-day-discussion of comics, the bullshit Blackest-Night-Siege-Heroic-Age-Brightest-Day nonsense is fun because you can be a part of the conversation online about how terrible it all is, but when it comes to spending money on good books that don’t get as much discussion–but are going to hold up on your shelves and in your comic boxes a helluva lot better down the road–it really is worth your time and effort to check out some of the smaller and boutique publishers out there, because they’re often doing amazing stuff.

And I’m not setting this up as a mainstream versus indie debate–that’s fucking stupid. That’s over. This is about buying comics you like versus buying comics you don’t. And there are a lot of great books out there getting left out of the discussion that are great, that are worth your time.

Butcher goes on to list 18 small publishers putting out excellent work, and recommends several favorite books for each of them. If you’re going to take anything away from this story, make it this shopping list.

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Comments

5 Comments

That’s an amazing picture, I wonder what circumstances brought of them together. Also, this is the most depressing entry on Robot 6 ever.

word on the Wally Gropius paper, that shit smelled GOOD

Yes, Alvin sent me paper samples and spine and headband cloth from the printer and gave me all kinds of helpful advice preparing my book. He’s a meticulous and temperamental guy about comics, and that’s why BP was great.

Someone give him a job already.

Sean T. Collins

June 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Mike, that photo–which is like a living altcomix Mount Rushmore–is by Melissa B. Coats and is from BP’s trip to France in 2009. More here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/buenaventurasdcc/sets/72157613642545499/

I will adjust the caption info to reflect Coats’s role as the photographer.

Tim, that’s very cool to hear.

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