Failure (Alternative Comics): Faithful readers of ROBOT 6 may recall the name of cartoonist Karl Stevens from a fall 2012 story about his Boston Phoenix strip Failure being canceled after an installment referred to Bud Light — one of the paper’s advertisers — as “diluted horse piss.” The Phoenix denied this at the time, and, coincidentally, several months later ceased publication all together (after a brief time in which it was split into five different newspapers with five different editors — Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik — until Cyclops assumed control over all five papers and it took the combined might of all of the Avengers to stop him … there’s a comic book joke for you!).
While that history may not be particularly relevant to readers, Stevens covers his side of the incident in his introduction to the Failure collection, which packages the final installments of his strip — right up to, and a few past, the “horse piss” one — into 150 pages of gorgeously drawn material.
What is important is that this is some great work, of the must-read variety. Failure, at this point in its existence, had become a sort of slice-of-life strip, with one to four panels devoted to anecdotes from his own life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, funny things his friends said or funny things he overheard. There are, additionally, plenty of flights of fancy starring his descendant in the far-flung future, and recurring characters like Bongbot, a time-traveling robot bong, and Pope Cat, a cat who is also the pope (if I’ve got that right).
What keeps Failure from being as mundane as you might imagine it, based on how I just described its premise, is what an incredible artist Stevens is. He works in a lush, highly detailed, representational style, as if he were drawing portraits rather than cartoons. Check this out:
When comics entrepreneur Marc Arsenault announced almost a year ago that he had bought defunct Alternative Comics in order to relaunch the publisher, a lot of fans (me included) were thrilled. Under founder Jeff Mason, Alternative introduced readers to creators like Graham Annable, Brandon Graham, James Kochalka, Ed Brubaker, Scott Campbell (of Great Movie Showdowns fame), Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. So with Alternative and comiXology announcing today that the publisher’s catalog is becoming available digitally on the app, I was eager to talk to Arsenault about their plans.
Michael May: For those who don’t know you, what’s your background in comics?
Marc Arsenault: Wow. Where to begin? I’ve been a pretty behind-the-scenes guy for most of my time in comics, but this year I’ve hit the quarter century mark for working in them.
I figured out that I wanted to make comics somewhere around eighth grade when I discovered RAW, Warrior and Heavy Metal. When I found out about the comics program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) my path was clear. I didn’t even apply to any other schools. I got to study with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Orlando, David Sandlin, Jerry Moriarity, Marshall Arisman and the very influential Jack Potter.
That experience was very relevant to Alternative Comics’ past and present because it was there that I met Sam Henderson and Tom Hart. I shared a studio space with Tom, and he and Sam had started an off-campus comics anthology called Tuna Casserole. By the fifth issue I became co-editor and we founded the first incarnation of my company Wow Cool. I ended up becoming an illustrator instead of a cartoonist, and did that freelance on and off up until about a decade ago.
Everyone knows about Zap, Arcade, Raw, Weirdo, Mome, Paper Rad and Kramer’s Ergot. Even lesser lights like Taboo, Twisted Sisters, the SPX anthology and even (gulp) Heavy Metal have all gotten their due at one time or another. But then there are those anthologies that, for whatever reason, never seem to resonate with readers despite containing a host of high quality contributions. Below the jump are six anthologies I don’t think have fully gotten their due. Be sure to let me know what your picks are in the comments section.
Ryan Sands recently revived his alt-comics blog Same Hat, and he has a nice post up at the moment of self-published zines that use the two-color Risograph process.
Risograph is a digital printing technology that allows artists to get similar results to offset printing at a much lower price, and by using interchangeable drums, they can print more than one color. This is a very different look from standard four-color printing, though, as the colors stand on their own rather than combining to form a number of other colors; in work like this, the initial color choices really define the look. Sands, who also publishes the Electric Ant zine, has his own Risograph printing business.
If you like these, the Same Hat page has a list of links to the artists’ sites as well as to the website of Dosei magazine (all in Japanese), where these pages were published.
And for an American example, check out Hannah K. Lee’s Shoes Over Bills, which is printed by Sands.
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
This month we’re taking a look at one of the most significant cartoonists to come out of the indie scene of the 1990s, Gabrielle Bell.