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 time around we’re looking at one of the bright stars in the firmament of Eurocomics, Jacques Tardi.
Happy Father’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Today’s guests are two of the contributors to Skullkickers #18, which features several “Tavern Tales” short stories by different creative teams. Joining us today are Charles Soule of 27, Strange Attractors and Strongman fame, and Aubrey Sitterson, winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’s also the writer of Gear Monkey for Double Feature Comics and community manager for WWE Games.
To see what Charles, Aubrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
On the hard-charging TCJ.com, cartoonist/commentator Michel Fiffe recently wrote a piece looking at the unique comics format of one-creator anthologies. He delves into the origin of the format in the underground comix movement of the 1960s all the way to modern success stories like Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. What he finds is just how rare the laser-like focus needed to create these works are, and how even successful ones have trouble keeping up with the success of their creators.
“It’s a publishing sensibility that may have had its moment in the sun decades ago, but it’s never really been a dominant point of interest for cartoonists,” Fiffe explains in his introduction. “That’s not surprising; carrying the weight of multiple narratives issue after issue is not particularly alluring to those who just want to draw cool stuff for a page rate, or for those who just want to tell their stories one book at a time.”
To clarify, one-creator anthologies are series in which one creator writes and draws all the stories. It’s related but distinct from one-creator series that carry one over-arching narrative like Jeff Smith’s Bone or Brandon Graham’s King City in that it’s a collection of short stories with little or no connective tissue besides the common hand that creates it.
Vertigo has produced a number of one-shots that harken back to various DC anthologies of yesterday, dusting off titles like Strange Adventures and The Unexpected and giving them a modern Vertigo flavor. The latest is Mystery in Space, which includes sci-fi stories by creators like Mike Allred, Kyle Baker, Ann Nocenti, Ming Doyle, Andy Diggle, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Ramón F. Bachs and many more.
Like most anthologies, there are hits and misses. Here are some overall opinions on the collection; if you’re curious what people thought about each individual story, I recommend heading over to the reviews by Multiversity Comics, Martin Gray or Comics Bulletin.
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: “Mystery in Space #1 has a beautiful cover by Ryan Sook, evoking celestial wonder. As for the rest of the book, the only wonder is that someone thought it was fit to publish as a $7.99, 80pp giant. For while the revived Silver Age one-off hosts a few decently written and drawn stories with an intriguing idea or two, much of the material proved a slog to get through.”
Jason Clyna, Broken Frontier: “Vertigo’s new Mystery in Space anthology is so much more than a loose collection of stories. Several of these unconnected tales boggle the mind, break the laws of physics, and challenge humanity’s concept of reality. Over the course of more than 70 consistently gorgeous pages, Duane Swierczynski, Michael Allred, Andy Diggle, and many more tell their own short stories that will satisfy fans of both science fiction and quality storytelling.”
You can take the guy out of the anthology, but you can’t take the anthology out of the guy … or something like that.
Before writing Hell Yeah and Glory, Joe Keatinge not only worked for Image Comics as their PR guy, but also co-edited (with Mark Andrew Smith) the anthology series PopGun.
“Working at Image Comics, I got exposed to a huge amount of amazing new talent,” Keatinge said on his blog. “PopGun was born out of wanting to give this talent a place to start. From there, editing and project management became something of an itch I loved to scratch.”
In order to keep scratching that itch, Keatinge is adding back-up features to Hell Yeah, starting with a comic called “Baby Girl” by artist David Hahn and written by The ThreeOneFive collective. “This is an invite-only series of creator-owned shorts by cartoonists, artists and writers I think either are or will someday be a way big deal,” Keatinge said. “I’ve been lucky to have a good amount of success in comics, in good part because of help I’ve had along the way, and I think it’s really, really important and essential to pay that forward.”
In addition, Keatinge says he’ll start running one-page “Tiger Lawyer” comics by Ryan Ferrier. “I got to read the comic and was really impressed by how unique, hilarious and interesting it was. Good times. I immediately asked writer Ryan Ferrier if he was cool with doing one-pagers. I was very happy when he said yes,” Keatinge said.
“Baby Girl” will run through Hell Yeah #3-5, while the Tiger Lawyer one-pagers debut in Hell Yeah #4.
To see what Jessica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Their fifth issue will feature lampoons of Dungeons & Dragons, Game of Thrones and Lord of The Rings, with contributions from Tony Millionaire, Zach Weiner and Scott Gairdner, among others.
Check out the cover after the jump.
I don’t know who to blame for the current revival of popular interest in fairy tales and fables. It’s probably Shrek that got popular audiences thinking about those stories again, but for me and a lot of other comics fans, it will always be Bill Willingham’s fault. Maybe “fault” isn’t the right word, because though there’s a lot of fairy tale crap coming out (looking at you, Mirror Mirror), discerning audiences can pick through the bad stuff and sample some great adaptations of stories that are the very definition of “timeless.” I’m all for that.
One promising new book is Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales, an anthology by several webcomics creators. Edited by Kel McDonald (Sorcery 101), the 200-page book features stories by McDonald, Kory Bing (Skin Deep), Jose Pimenta (From Scratch), Mary Cagle (Kiwi Blitz), KC Green (Gun Show), Kate Ashwin (Widdershins), Katie and Shaggy Shanahan (Silly Kingdom), and Lin Visel (The Chipperwhale). The stories include familiar favorites like “Puss in Boots” and “Rapunzel” as well as less-known tales like “The Singing Bone” and “Tatterhood.” It was some sample pages by the Shanahans that sold me on it (see a snippet below) and now I’m looking forward to checking out the rest.
Do you enjoy all the recent fairy tale adaptations or are you tired of them? If you’re picking and choosing, which are worthwhile and which need to be hidden beneath a troll-infested bridge?
As announced at WonderCon, Steve Niles and Matt Pizzolo have teamed up with Epitaph Records to distribute creator-owned comics. That enterprise now has a name, Black Mask Studios, and its first project–Occupy Comics, the activism-inspired charity anthology and successful Kickstarter project that Pizzolo headed up.
“Initially I was hoping we could partner with a publisher or retailer to work with us on distribution, but we weren’t happy with any of the deals we were offered,” said Pizzolo on the project’s Kickstarter site. “So instead I decided to invent a solution we’d be happy with, and it wound up seeming like a pretty cool way to support comics creators in general. It’s called Black Mask Studios and you can read more about it over at Wired.”
Occupy Comics is planned for release in late 2012, and will include contributions from Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Mike Allred, Shannon Wheeler, Eric Drooker, Ryan Ottley, Darick Robertson, J.M. DeMatteis, Joseph Michael Linsner, Douglas Rushkoff, Ben Templesmith, Amanda Palmer and many more. Ales Kot and Tyler Crook are teaming on a story called “Citizen Journalist” (above); check out more artwork from the anthology over at Wired.com.
Earlier this week I posted about Becky Cloonan’s upcoming minicomic The Mire being available for pre-order, but those looking for more immediate gratification can find a complete short story from the Conan and Demo artist on the Heartbreak: Just Friends site.
Jonathan Rivera and Nick DeStefano are putting together an anthology of “the world’s greatest anti-romance comics,” and one of the stories in it is by Cloonan. And for Valentine’s Day, they posted her entire story, “1989,” an autobiographical tale set in the fourth grade.
Joining Rivera, DeStafano and Cloonan in the pages of Heartbreak: Just Friends are Vasilis Lolos, Star St. Germain, Liz Baillie, James Euringer and newcomer Lacey Whelan, so this sounds like something that’ll be worth your money once it is published in March. You can find more details on the book here.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
It had to happen; I’m so uninspired by this week’s offerings, I’d skip the $15 altogether and go straight for the $30 option, which I’d spend on the Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis Premiere Edition Vol. 1 HC (Marvel, $24.99); I ended up skipping out on the single issues after #3 because of the price, but I enjoyed it enough that I’d happily pick up the collection.
If I were looking to splurge even more than that, there’s also the Spider-Man: Spider-Island Companion HC (Marvel, $39.99), which gives me a chance to catch up on the peripheral titles from the recent event; I picked up the Spider-Girl series, but missed out on the well-reviewed Cloak and Dagger and other books.
You know who is getting a lot of my money this week? Abrams, that’s who: I’m going two for two on their releases this week.
If I had $15, I’d keep it all-ages, with their Explorer: Mystery Box anthology, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, who was also responsible for the Flight anthologies, so you know the talent lineup will be stellar. At $10.95, the paperback edition won’t break the bank, and it’s a good deal for 128 pages of full-color comics. That leaves just enough for issue #5 of Roger Langridge’s Snarked ($3.99).
If I had $30, I’d put Snarked back on the shelf and pick up another Abrams book with a more adult subject: My Friend Dahmer ($17.95 for the paperback). Derf Backderf went to school with Jeffrey Dahmer; one grew up to be a cartoonist, one became a serial killer. I’m always interested in how people evolve, and by all accounts, Backder’s story of the young Dahmer is fascinating.
Splurge: A big pile of manga! This is Viz’s big release week for comics stores, and they have a lot of worthy titles: Vol. 19 of Naoki Urasawa’s outstanding 20th Century Boys, vol. 6 of the lovely pseudo-historical shoujo drama The Story of Saiunkoku ($9.99), vol. 9 of the I-want-to-be-a-mangaka drama Bakuman ($9.99), and the first volume of a new series about a sassy girl in a new school, The Devil and Her Love Song ($9.99). There are some weeks when I can barely figure out how to spend any money at all, but between Abrams and Viz and BOOM!, this week really does bring an embarrassment of riches.
It must be close to the time of the month that DC Comics releases their solicitations, as yesterday the company revealed a bunch of artistic changes to their May titles and today Vertigo posted several covers for their “new” May books. (Does this new wave of Vertigo books have a name, BTW? “The New 4″ doesn’t have the same ring to it that the “New 52″ has, but it does feel like they’re trying to push it as its own “thing.”)
Kevin posted previously about the Fairest #3 cover by Adam Hughes, and you can find the full covers for Saucer Country #3, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #3 and The New Deadwardians #3 after the jump.
But wait–there’s more!
DC Comics gave Blastr details and a Mike Allred variant cover for an anthology book coming in May, Mystery in Space. You might remember their previous anthologies, The Unexpected and Strange Adventures, which respectively contained previews of Dominique Laveau and Spaceman in addition to other short stories by a variety of creators. No word yet if this one will provide a first look at a new series, but the creative line-up is impressive. It will contain stories written and drawn by Paul Pope and Mike Allred, as well as new stuff from science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor and Michael Wm. Kaluta, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara, Ann Nocenti, Fred Harper, Andy Diggle, Davide Gianfelice, Steve Orlando, Francesco Trifogli, Ming Doyle and more. The regular cover will be drawn by Ryan Sook.
“There’s a kind of comic I want to see and it doesn’t exist, so I’m going to make it”: Sammy Harkham on Kramers Ergot 8
“You can tell I’m still making sense of it myself.” So says Sammy Harkham of the eighth volume of his landmark anthology series, Kramers Ergot, at one point during our lengthy conversation about the book. And indeed, Harkham’s side conversation is characterized by strategic pauses, halves of sentences that trail off and are abandoned as Harkham retreats, rethinks, and rearticulates. Despite his ebullient cadence – Harkham’s as great a talker as he is a tweeter – it’s quite clear that the amount of thought he put into this comparatively slim and quiet volume of his once-overflowing and raucous art-comics anthology is nearly overpowering.
So is the collection itself. Despite featuring a much smaller roster than previous volumes in the series, and despite a much less “noisy” visual aesthetic than that which has characterized the series since its phone book-sized fourth volume caused a sensation upon its release at the MoCCA Festival in 2003, Kramers Ergot 8 has an intensity that’s tough to shake. Contributors like C.F. (aka Christopher Forgues) and Chris Cilla craft uncomfortable but undeniably erotic sex scenes, which sit next to grim science-fiction parables from Gary Panter and Kevin Huizenga and gruesome horror tragedies by Johnny Ryan and Harkham himself. Fine artists Robert Beatty and Takeshi Murata contribute pieces as visually vibrant as the stories of crime and desire from Gabrielle Bell and the team of Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw are bleak. A cheekily provocative introductory essay from musician Ian Svenonius and a massive selection of racy reprinted Oh, Wicked Wanda! comics from the pages of Penthouse prove perplexing – but it’s a good perplexing, because it forces the reader to consider just how fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effective the rest of the volume is at discomfiting them.
With the book on its way to stores from PictureBox Inc. in a couple of weeks, Harkham took an hour before picking his two older kids up at school to talk about this very personal project. We started off talking about our respective babies; fitting, then, that by the end of the interview a fascinating picture emerged of what Harkham wanted Kramers 8 to be that proved every pause along the way was a pregnant one.
Sean T. Collins: Kramers Ergot 8 debuted at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December, but your third baby debuted not long before that. That had to be a challenge.
Sammy Harkham: Knowing the baby’s coming, you work knowing that when that baby comes, things are gonna shut down. The book only got finished mid-September, and then the baby came. It was funny, because I drew my comic [for the anthology] when the book was done, basically. I thought, “I’ll do a simple issue of Kramers, I’ll do a story for it, and then I’ll get back to Crickets.” But editing, for me, is like working on my own book, as if it’s fully just me. I’m thinking about it day and night, and it’s hard for me to then think of a story within that if I don’t already have one that I’m working on. So at a certain point I decided I’m not going to be in the book. Then it was clear I needed to be in the book, because I wanted a very particular kind of story in it [laughs]. “I guess I’m gonna have to do it.” It was a flurry of activity August into September, then it was done, then the book was done, and then I was just…breathing, you know? But I felt like, “Oh man, I really should be working right now before the baby comes.” But since the baby came I’ve still been doing stuff. You know what it’s like: a lot of tricky hours, and getting used to weird working habits. You work for five minutes, but you try to make it a good five minutes. You try to break it up. And I try not to lose my temper. I get resentful of the people around me when they’re asking for my help and I’m in the middle of something. [Laughs] If I’m in the middle of writing or drawing something, I wanna finish the thought. So I’ve got to think of those Dalai Lama tweets I read earlier in the day. [Laughs] You’ve got to get into the headspace where you’re malleable in that way, you’re flexible.
But Kramers was late this year. Nadel wanted it in July, but I’ve never been able to deliver that book on time, never. This one was particularly hard because there were so few contributors, so I couldn’t lose anybody without it affecting the whole thing. Whereas in previous issues there are so many people that unless it’s a really big strip – it’s a shame to lose anything, you don’t want to lose anything, but you can. You can lose a one- or two-pager. But with this, if CF is running late, there’s nothing we can do. I told [PictureBox Publisher Dan] Nadel that up front: “I hope to get the book done on time, but if Panter’s not ready, if Christopher’s not ready, if any of these people aren’t ready, we can’t do anything.” [Laughs] We’re at the mercy of them, really.
Although the Mouse Guard series is David Petersen’s sandbox, he has been known to let others in to play with his toys. For instance, the first Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard series featured stories by Ted Naifeh, Gene Ha, Jeremy Bastian and many others.
We know that a second volume of the anthology series is in the works, and it looks like one of the contributors will be Stan Sakai, who shares one of his pages on his LiveJournal. Sakai of course has been doing Usagi Yojimbo for decades now, so it isn’t surprising to see him drawing anthropomorphic characters, but it is a rare treat to see his work in color (beyond the Usagi covers, of course, and the occasional graphic novel or anthology submission).
This year was not only a challenging one for artist Steve Rude, but it also marked the 30th anniversary of his and Mike Baron’s Nexus. So it’s great that it is ending with a bit of good news for the artist — Dark Horse Comics announced this week that the Eisner Award-winning duo will bring their popular creation back to comics next May in Dark Horse Presents #12.
“Nexus has never been a stranger to different publishers. Last seen under the Rude Dude banner in 2009, Nexus has stayed in limbo, never quite knowing when to return, or if he ever would return. Things come together in strange ways. With the backing of Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics, Nexus will return to comics,” Rude said in a press release. “We especially look forward to the response of Nexus’s devoted fans, and thank them for the wonderful support and encouragement they’ve given us since the book’s debut in 1981!”
Nexus was first published in 1981 by Capital Comics. Since then, it’s been published by First Comics, Dark Horse and Rude’s own Rude Dude Productions. Dark Horse has collected most of the material in several archive editions.