Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
“5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics.” Strictly by the numbers — taken from the Editor’s Notes that kick off Mome Vol. 20: Fall 2010, on sale this month — Fantagraphics’ signature anthology is a force to be reckoned with. Launched in 2005 with the intention of providing a regular home for new work by promising young cartoonists like Gabrielle Bell, Jeffrey Brown, Anders Nilsen, Paul Hornschemeier, and Sophie Crumb, it rapidly evolved into something else, something arguably more: a showcase for alternative comics of nearly every style and stripe. During its five-year history, Mome‘s diverse accomplishments have included publishing work from European greats like David B. and Lewis Trondheim, serializing Tim Hensley’s acclaimed graphic novel Wally Gropius, reintroducing Al Columbia to the comics scene prior to the release of his landmark Pim & Francie, giving Dash Shaw yet another forum for his experimental take on science fiction, providing an unlikely venue for underground legend Gilbert Shelton, showcasing up-and-comers like Jon Vermilyea and Nate Neal…and, like all anthologies, starting a good deal of debate over which contributors were any good at all. With its like-clockwork quarterly schedule, Mome is a go-to destination for finding out what’s going on at comics’ cutting edge.
Presiding over all this has been editor Eric Reynolds, who inherited full control of the anthology from original co-editor and co-publisher Gary Groth. When last I spoke to Reynolds about Mome in October of 2007, he was prepping Vol. 10, which sported a new look, new work from Columbia, and the second half of a story by altcomix titan Jim Woodring. Three years and ten issues later, the series has gotten a full-on makeover from designer Adam Grano, and is in the midst of some of its most challenging work ever from Shaw, Josh Simmons, Derek Van Gieson and more. What has changed, what has remained constant, and what lies in store? Reynolds spoke with Robot 6 about all this and more in a fifth-anniversary interview.
If I’d ask you five years ago to describe what Mome Vol. 20 would look like, what would you have said?
I would’ve said there’s no way this thing’s going to last 20 issues. Really, I’m sure I would have had no other answer.
Passings | Writer Peter O’Donnell, creator of the Modesty Blaise comic strip, died May 3 at age 90. Steve Holland notes that although the prolific novelist suffered from Parkinson’s disease, he “kept in touch with fans and continued to pen introductions for Titan’s Modesty reprints.”
Born in south London on April 11, 1920, O’Donnell wrote such adventure strips as the long-running adaptation of the James Bond novel Dr. No, Garth, and Romeo Brown before being asked in 1962 to create a new character for the Daily Express. He came up with Modesty Blaise, whose catsuit-wearing heroine fought villainy with the help of her right-hand man Willie Garvin. The strip was quickly picked up by the Evening Standard, and ran from May 1963 to July 2002.
A pair of off-the-beaten-path comics have surfaced over the past few days that are perfect for readers who like their comics with a pop-cultural flair. First up, there’s Henry & Glenn Forever, a collection of romantic one-panel gags starring those famous star-crossed lovers, Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. If you’ve ever wanted to know how the lead singers of Black Flag and the Misfits would maintain a relationship in the face of interference from their Satan-worshipping next-door neighbors Darryl Hall and John Oates, now’s your chance. Henry & Glenn Forever comes to us from Igloo Tornado, a collective consisting of The Blot‘s Tom Neely and his artistic compatriots Gin Stevens, Scott Nobles, and Levon Jihanian, and it’s available for $4 from Microcosm.
Bodyworld and Bottomless Belly Button creator Dash Shaw will appear at Isotope Comics in San Francisco on Tuesday … here are the details:
Come celebrate Dash Shaw’s new darkly-exhilarating, mind-altering, genre-expanding graphic novel BODYWORLD at the Isotope on April 27, 2010, 7-11 p.m.
BODYWORLD presents a dystopian future in which the Hunter S. Thompson of botanists, Professor Paulie Panther, descends on the bucolic Boney Borough to research a newly discovered psychedelic alien plant that induces telepathic body-swaps when smoked. Shaw, the well-known comics visionary behind BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, THE UNCLOTHED MAN, and MOTHER’S MOUTH, bends the genre even further this time as his art dives head-first into the psychotropic experiences of his characters. Neither his characters, nor the reader will come out the same.
Come take the head-trip that is BODYWORLD with us!
Tune in and Turn on with Dash Shaw @ the Isotope
Tuesday, April 27th
21 and over please.
Never a cover.
“Postcard from Fielder 2″ by Kevin Huizenga
“The Miracle” by Johnny Ryan
In addition to his new book, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., Dash Shaw also produced a tie-in animated story for the IFC channel. That cartoon, about a spy who goes undercover as an android art model, is now available online in four parts, including an extra fifth video where Shaw and his co-creators talk about the project. The first episode is above. Enjoy. (Note: As someone pointed out in the comments, the video contains nudity and thus may be NSFW, depending upon where you W.)
For more on Shaw, see my interview with him from earlier this month.
There’s been a number of noteworthy indie cartoonists who have come to prominence in the past 10 years, but certainly one of the most interesting and significant has got to be Dash Shaw. Having slowly garnered a bit of attention and acclaim with works like Goddess Head and The Mother’s Mouth, he officially declared himself an artist of no small importance with the 2008 release of the doorstop-sized Bottomless Belly Button. He followed that up with the even more impressive Webcomic BodyWorld, which will be collected and published by Pantheon early next year.
In the meantime, he’s got a new book coming out from Fantagraphics, entitled The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century, which collects a number of short stories he did for the the quarterly Mome anthology, as well as some storyboards and drawings for an animation project he did for IFC, which should debut soon as well.
I talked with Shaw over email about the new book, the challenge of moving BodyWorld from Web to print and his influences and upcoming projects. He proved to be as gracious and thoughtful over the Internet as he had been in person and I’d like to thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk.
Every so often a co-worker, family member or acquaintance will look at me blankly when I talk about my hobby/obsession and say to me “Wait, you mean they make comics for adults now?”
It’s a stubborn reminder that, despite the seeming advances being made every week in mainstream media (hey, did you see that Tatsumi review in the New York Times?) most folks are unware of the strides that have been made over the past 30 years and have little regard for the medium beyond something that can eventually get made into a movie starring Christian Bale.
Still there are pockets of encouragement, most notably in the upper echelons of higher learning, where you may find librarians, teachers and college professors that are not-so-secret cheerleaders for the sequential art form.
Case in point: Last week I was back at my old alma mater Franklin and Marshall College for their ninth annual Emerging Writers Festival. I hadn’t heard of the yearly event up till now, but I had a particular interest in checking out this one as one of the invited artists was none other than Dash Shaw, author of last year’s acclaimed Bottomless Belly Button and just got an Eisner nomination for his excellent Webcomic BodyWorld.
As for those upcoming projects, Dash’s slate is full. “I’ve finished BodyWorld, even though it’s still being serialized. So now I’m working on a new project, a murder-mystery comic, called ‘Torture Hospital.’ I did a short story with that name in 2005, but it doesn’t have anything to do with that. I’m just using the title again. This time is the most exciting time for me- starting something. I often have incredibly nerdy dreams of flipping through amazing comics and of course I wake up and they’re gone. How do you get one of these comics into the real world? Ha ha. I keep trying and failing but Hospital might be it. I have to think that, anyway.”