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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.


Graeme McMillan

It’s a weird week for new releases, with everyone but Marvel taking it easy and pulling back on massive hauls in order to give our wallets a nice holiday break (unless you’re a Marvel completest, in which case, yowza. Look out). That said, if I had $15, I’d put it towards the special 200th issue of What If? ($4.99), the first issue of event tie-in Chaos War: X-Men ($3.99) because I’m curious how Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson handle Marvel’s version of Blackest Night, and the second issue of Scott Snyder and Jock’s Detective Comics run (#872, $3.99), because I was really happily surprised by how much I enjoyed the first.

If I had $30, I’d put Chaos War and What If? back on the shelf, and get Emitown ($24.99) instead. I’ve heard really great things about this print collection of Emi Lenox’s autobio webcomic, and I like the idea of seeing 2011 in by discovering a new cartoonist to love.

Splurging, I’d go back to Marvel, with the brand new Ka-Zar collection by Mark Waid and Andy Kubert ($19.99). I missed out on this series back in the 1990s, but as a fan of both fish-out-of-water stories and Mark Waid stories, something tells me that this might be right up my street.

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SDCC ’10 | Top Shelf gets naughty with Jess Fink

chester_5000xyv_cover_lgAt their spotlight panel today, the folks at alternative comics publisher Top Shelf talked about a metric ton of titles they’ve got coming down the pipeline. None are more intriguing to me than the work of Jess Fink, a newcomer to the Top Shelf stable best known for her erotic steampunk-porn webcomic Chester 5000 XYV. Top Shelf is releasing a Chester collection in December — quite a stocking stuffer for that special someone! — and following it with another book from Fink called We Can Fix It!, which combines memoir and science fiction and promises to be on the sexy side as well. Fink, who’s also working on a new website for her personal comics and a one-shot featuring the band Mindless Self Indulgence for Image, took time out from turning people on to tackle our questions about her relationship with Top Shelf, sex, science fiction and more.

So how did a nice girl like you get mixed up with a dirty comic like Chester 5000 XYV?

Ha, who are you calling nice? And girl? And Jess? Oh wait, that is me. I’ve been drawing dirty things for a loooong time, longer than I’ve been comfortable telling people I draw dirty things so it’s more like how did this nice comic get mixed up with a dirty person like me? If we want to talk about inspiration I think a lot of it came from the Tijuana Bibles which were these tiny porn comics made in the 20’s-40’s. Before porn was legal to sell guys used to sell these little black and white books on the street. When I found out about them I became obsessed and I knew I’d have to make some of my own.

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SDCC ’10 | A womanly chat with Vanessa Davis

Make Me A Woman

Make Me A Woman

One of the more notable indie books debuting at the San Diego show this week is Vanessa Davis‘ latest book, Make Me A Woman, published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Ever since she made made her debut in anthologies like True Porn and Kramer’s Ergot, Davis’ work has exuded a warmth, humor, and sense of style that few of her compatriots can match, a fact only underscored by her 2005 book, Spaniel Rage, published by the late, lamented Buenaventura Press.

It’s been far too long since we’ve had a new book from her, but Make Me A Woman is thankfully worth the wait. Lest the title fool you into thinking the book is some saucy romp, let me be quick to dash some cold water on your overheated imagination. Mostly containing stories originally serialized in Tablet magazine, as well as some sketchbook strips and other material, the book explores how her relationship towards her family, friends, religion and self-image has changed as she’s matured. Along the way she talks about her experiences at fat camp, her feelings towards Robert Crumb’s Genesis adaptation and why she’d still like a present for Hanukkah.

I chatted with Davis over email last week about her new book and how she broke into comics. It was a genuine pleasure and I hope I don’t have to wait another five years for the opportunity to talk about her work with her again.

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The future of John Porcellino

from "Map of My Heart" by John Porcellino

from "Map of My Heart" by John Porcellino

If you dig minimalist minicomics, then go ahead and climb aboard the CBR mothership for an interview with King-Cat impresario John Porcellino by Alex Dueben. In addition to some impressively direct questions about working with an outside publisher (Drawn & Quarterly) and putting together a collection — both of which, after all, are outside the legendary self-publisher’s wheelhouse — Dueben draws out some interesting info about Porcellino’s future projects:

Is the plan or the hope for D&Q to publish a collected edition of the comic every few years like this?

Yes, the next collection will be called “From Lone Mountain” and will contain material from King-Cat issues 62- 68 or so. We plan on beginning to intersperse the release of the collections with books of all-new material as well.


In addition to your “King Cat” work, you have a graphic novel coming out from Drawn and Quarterly next spring, “The Hospital Suite.” I don’t know how much you want to say about or where you are in finishing it…

It’s one of those “all-new” books I mentioned earlier – my experiences from 1997-98, when I was very ill. That period was the hinge of my life thus far, and when I look back, things are clearly divided into Pre-Illness and Post-Illness. The story has been written for a while now, I just need to draw it.

I think we probably all have events in our lives that divide everything else into Pre and Post; seeing a self-observer as astute as Porcellino tackle his big dividing-line event should be absolutely fascinating.

Clash of the autobio titans: Harvey Pekar & Alison Bechdel at UCLA

Alison Bechdel by Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar by R. Crumb

Alison Bechdel by Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar by R. Crumb

Fun Home‘s Alison Bechdel and American Splendor‘s Harvey Pekar can be ranked alongside Persepolis‘s Marjane Satrapi and Maus‘s Art Spiegelman (to the extent Maus is autobiographical) as the cartoonists whose autobiographical comics have made the biggest splash in the larger pop-cultural pond. So it must have been a real treat to hear the pair talk about their comics, their lives, and the intersection of the two at UCLA last Friday. Fortunately, CBR’s Tom Gastall was there to tell us all about it today. In addition to talking about process and success, Bechdel and Pekar tease their next projects — Bechdel’s working on a memoir about the making of Fun Home, while Pekar’s got a political work called “How I Lost My Faith in Israel” on the horizon. Should be plenty of grist for discussion. Go read!

Everyone’s A Critic: A round-up of comic-related reviews and thinkpieces

Dave Stevens: Brush with Passion

Dave Stevens: Brush with Passion

* Dan Nadel reviews the Dave Stevens bio Brush With Greatness and in the process comments on Stevens’ work as well: “Stevens made a conscious choice to marginalize himself, to live within the bubble of fandom. He was a willful anachronism, frustrated by his chosen intellectual and artistic world but unable or unwilling to see beyond it.”

* A la Casey Kasem, Tom Spurgeon counts down (or really, up) the top 10 best comic series of all time. Quick, before you click on the link: can you guess what number one is based on this quote? “Three generations of American adults not only read some excellent comics in this magazine, they saw a great deal of an age-stratified pop culture through its lenses.”

* Speaking on Radio Canada International, novelist Miguel Syjuco offered an early (and, I think, first) review of Seth’s new book, George Sprott (click on the first part of the program link. It’s around the 12-minute mark).

* Steve Duin (who really, you should be reading regularly) has some nice things to say about Fantagraphics’ new collection of Nell Brinkley cartoons.

* The Jog/Tucker Stone review rundown of DC/Humanoids titles continues. For those keeping score they just finished talking about Enki Bilal.

* Graeme McMillan eviscerates that second half of Neil Gaiman’s two-part Batman story.

* Shaenon K. Garrity writers about her trip to Japan and how exactly she ended up there.

* Rob Clough reviews Miss Lasko-Gross’ A Mess of Everything.

* Derik Badman continues his look at Tezuka’s Phoenix series with a look at Volume 8.

* Kinukitty gets global with her yaoi coverage by looking at In the End, a German-made manga.

Robot reviews: Funny, Misshapen Body and Sulk

Funny, Misshapen Body

Funny, Misshapen Body

Funny Misshapen Body
by Jeffrey Brown
Touchstone Books, 320 pages. $16

Sulk Vol. 1 & 2
by Jeffrey Brown
Top Shelf Productions, $7 each.

Jeffrey’s Brown’s latest memoir, Funny Misshapen Body, is a departure from his past autobiographical work. It’s a lot more straightforward, for one thing, even though it’s divided into a series of short vignettes and goes back and forth in time. A large part of that is due to the fact that he employs a first-person narration throughout the book that he’s avoided up till now. Perhaps that’s why this is one of his most assured and confident works to date. As much as I enjoyed Little Things, his last book for Touchstone, I think Body is a stronger work, perhaps because it’s more direct.

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Robot reviews: These stories are totally true

American Elf Book Three

American Elf Book Three

Ah, the autobiographical comic. Is there a genre more maligned and misunderstood. Apart from superhero comics I mean.

It’s a genre that tends to get lumped together as “too much of the same thing,” a criticism I really don’t agree with. Two recent autobiographical diary comics — Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome by Lewis Trondheim and American Elf Book Three by James Kochalka —  for example are very similar in execution and style (both are diary comics) but very different in what they reveal and the ways they present themselves to the reader.

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