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Years ago, my first taste of independent comics came via Matt Howarth‘s Those Annoying Post Bros. And since then, I’ve always found myself attracted to Howarth’s visual style. So when my pal, AdHouse big chief Chris Pitzer, offered me a chance to email interview Howarth, regarding his new book The Downsized (set to be released in March) I was borderline giddy. This is an interview where I went in thinking I had done an adequate amount of research about Howarth’s career, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a hell of a lot I did not know about. After reading the interview, be sure to check out the seven-page preview of the 80-page book (described as “A parent’s 50th wedding anniversary gives old friends a reason to reunite and take stock of their lives.“). My thanks to Howarth for tolerating some of my ignorance to make for a solid examination of his creative interests.
Tim O’Shea: My first question is not uniquely about The Downsized, per se–but rather your work as a whole. How did you come upon the way you draw people’s hairstyles? No one else (with the possible exception of Art Adams) draw hair in quite the unique way that you do (and I mean that as a compliment).
Matt Howarth: Years ago a friend remarked how weird my characters’ hair was, forcing me to analyze why. I’m afraid the reason is more a limitation on my part than any stylistic choice. I’ve never been very adept with a brush; technical pens are my preferred instrument because they afford me more control over the lines. So instead of inking hair with supple brush strokes, I resort to dotted lines. As far as the overall shape of my characters’ hairdos, I don’t perceive hair as a collection of strands but as a mass, not unlike a piece of cloth draped atop someone’s head. All rationalization aside, I’m afraid I draw hair the way I do because that’s just the way it comes out.
Adam Hines’ Duncan the Wonder Dog has done pretty well — a little too well, as it turns out. The first printing has sold out, and the second won’t be ready until later this spring. So Hines did the logical thing and took the digital road, but in this case, it’s the road less taken: Rather than go with a comics app like comiXology, he is releasing Duncan in downloadable form via MyDigitalComics.com. MyDigitalComics allows users to either download comics in PDF or CBZ format or keep them in the cloud and read them via an online web viewer.
Chris Pitzer of AdHouse, which publishes the print version of the book, talked to Laura Hudson of Comics Alliance about the decision to publish the graphic novel via MyDigitalComics rather than comiXology. One factor was that comiXology needed to reformat the files for mobile devices like the iPhone, which neither party wanted to do. On the other hand, since the files were already in digital form, no prep was needed to sell them as PDF or CBZ downloads, so the digital cost is lower than print.
And if you want to view it for free, take a look at Adam’s blog, because hard as it is to believe, all of Show One is up there now. So why pay for a download? Because unlike a PDF, the web isn’t forever — Hines plans to take Duncan back offline in March.
Need to know more? Publishers Weekly reviewed Duncan this week.
If you’re looking for a company that started and ended strong 2010, look no further than AdHouse Books, the independent company that’s published books by Joshua Cotter, Paul Pope and James Jean, among others. Although they aren’t the kind of company that puts out a huge amount of books, they are one you can always count on to put out something interesting.
As for those bookends for the year, AdHouse kicked off 2010 with the release of Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg, and ended it with Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines, which landed at the top of some folks‘ best comics of the year lists. (Including my own; it came in at No. 16 on CBR’s list for 2010).
I spoke with AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer about the previous year, the above two books, their new AdDistro initiative and what they have coming up for 2011. My thanks to Chris for sending over a lot of cool art to show you as well.
JK: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us today, Chris. I thought we could start off talking about 2010, and in particular some the bigger projects you put out.Let’s start with something that seems like it came out a long time ago, Afrodisiac. It seemed to garner a lot of attention when it came out in January.
Chris: Thanks for the interest in AdHouse, JKP! I dig what the Robot 6 blog does, so I appreciate the opportunity to chat about this stuff. In regards to Afrodisiac, it was an HONOR to work with Jim and Brian on that. We’ve been “dancing” around the topic of publishing it for years, and it was nice to finally have it happen. Yeah, it feels like so long ago, doesn’t it?
The great cartoonist Josh Cotter, whose book Driven by Lemons ranked sixth on CBR’s list of the Best Comics of 2009, is in a bad way. AdHouse Books publisher Chris Pitzer reports that Cotter’s neighbor’s apartment recently caught fire, and the flames spread to the apartment Cotter shares with his girlfriend and their cats. Fortunately no one (two-legged or four-legged) was hurt, and the property damage could have been much worse. But with no renters’ insurance, and with the costs of clean-up and storage for all their stuff while they figure out their next move, Cotter is in the midst of a financial crisis.
Fortunately, there’s two ways you can help, and both involve getting truly awesome comics and art in return. First, you can buy things from Cotter’s website — not just his magnificent graphic novels Skyscrapers of the Midwest and Driven by Lemons, but limited edition minicomics, prints, original pages from his books, and much more.
Second, AdHouse is donating 100% of the proceeds from sales of any of Josh’s stuff directly to Josh for the next three weeks. If you ever wanted to check out the work of one of the best cartoonists of his generation, there’s never been a better time.
Some cool comics just got a lot easier to get your hands on. Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books — the stalwart and stunningly designed publishing imprint behind the likes of Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac, Josh Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest and Driven by Lemons, James Jean’s Process Recess art books, and Pulphope: The Art of Paul Pope — today announced the creation of AdDistro, a new distribution effort that will make comics from small publishers and self-publishers available for purchase through AdHouse proper. The first three additions to the roster are London-based Nobrow Press, Canada’s Koyama Press, and creator Malachi Ward. Pitzer’s got quite an eye for quality, so if you’ve enjoyed AdHouse offerings in the past, I’m sure these newcomers are well worth a look. Might I suggest starting with Michael DeForge’s excellent, award-winning Lose series from Koyama?
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
Regular readers of Robot 6 will not be surprised to read we’re fans of Jim Rugg‘s work. Rugg and I recently did an email interview regarding his latest collaboration with Brian Maruca, Afrodisiac (AdHouse). The book is described here as: “Inspired by the blaxploitation films of the 1970s and classic superhero comics, the Afrodisiac collects art and comics starring the original super badass and featuring cool cars, sexy women, scary monsters, self-righteous superheroes, corrupt cops, aliens, Dracula, Richard Nixon.” Any interview so deeply focused on an unforgettable independent work of this caliber is a blast–partially also thanks to the wacky turns our discussion takes, including into the realm of Wolverine. My thanks to Rugg for his time and to longtime pal of mine (as well as a great publisher), AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer, for his assistance in arranging the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Before getting into the guts of the book, one quick question on the back cover. Who had the idea to do the female silhouette glaze (or what would it be called) on the back cover?
Jim Rugg: It’s called a spot varnish, son. When we figured out the front cover design, Chris Pitzer (Adhouse Books publisher and all-around awesome design guru) suggested a spot varnish for the glasses. That sounded great to me. So I wanted to take advantage of the spot varnish on the back too. But the illustration on the back didn’t really lend itself to the same treatment as the front. I wasn’t sure the back cover effect would work, but figured it was the back cover. Give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out.
This November, writer Vito Delsante‘s collaboration with artist Rachel Freire, FCHS: Volume 1, will be released by AdHouse (Diamond Order Code: SEP09 0568). As described at the AdHouse site: “Do you remember high school? All the fun and trouble you used to get into? All of the sex, sports and alcohol that was your Senior year? It’s time to go back! Join Hector, Kennedy, Jules and the whole gang at FCHS as they begin their last year of high school. Will they be ready for ‘the real world’ when it’s all over? Will they all make it? Archie meets 90210.” Delsante, who has written for a number of publishers (including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster), was kind enough to do an email interview with me. In addition to discussing FCHS, we discuss his experience working at Jim Hanley’s Universe, as well as some of his other upcoming projects.
Tim O’Shea: FCHS got its start at the Chemistry Set, how did the publishing arrangement with AdHouse come about?
Vito Delsante: A mini comic. Seriously! Rachel and I attended MoCCA two years ago and at that point, we had about 21 strips on the site that we turned into seven 3-tier pages. We were handing them out to just about anyone who was interested, with the thought that we’d bring some traffic back to Chem Set. Chris [Pitzer, AdHouse Books publisher] got one and a few weeks later, right before Comic Con Intl., he e-mailed us and asked if we were interested in doing a book. I think, in the back of my head, I was hoping to get a few publishers interested in FCHS, but when Chris offered, we jumped at it. Rachel and I are big fans of AdHouse, and to be a member of that family is a very good feeling.