"Gotham's" Cory Michael Smith Savors the Arrival of the Riddler
More than a year ago, James Harvey took Ryan Humphrey’s idea of a Simpsons/Akira mashup and ran with it, launching an ambitious jam project in which artists — 768 in all — would recreate every page from Katsuhiro Otomo’s pioneering cyberpunk epic using characters from Matt Groening’s beloved animated series. That’s the story of Batkira, a sprawling, loving tribute to both creators that received its own gallery show last month at Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon.
It happens every year: Despite the best efforts of authors, publishers and publicists, there are smart, funny and downright entertaining comics that fail to get their proper due. It’s a truth made more manifest every year as production and publishing costs are lowered and more and more people find ways of getting their work on print or online.
So once again I’ve put together a list of some books I thought could have used a bit more love, at least in terms of coverage if not also sales (though usually it’s both). These aren’t necessarily the best books of the past year – I’m not sure I’d swap any of them out for my own top 10 list – they’re just really good comics that didn’t seem to get enough attention. Let me know what you’d add to the list in the comments section below.
Although not as well-known in the United States as Jack Kirby or Stan Lee, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius are vaunted names for knowledgeable comics fans, no matter which side of the Atlantic you live on. And now Portland, Oregon’s Floating World Comics is hosting an exhibit in February paying homage to the duo’s groundbreaking sci-fi graphic novel The Incal.
Titled “As Above So Below,” this gallery-style exhibition will feature homages to The Incal by more than 20 illustrators and fine artists as collected by blogger Ian MacEwan. Participating artists include Killian Eng (who did the poster at right), Ari Bach, A.T. Pratt, Brett Cook, Chase Van Weerdhuizen, Dave Taylor, Duncan Gist, Gil Agudin, John Thomason, Kara Frame, Luis Bañuelos, Orion, Matt Horak, Nic Williams, Nickolej Villiger, Nicolas Delort, Ricardo García Hernanz, Ruth Knight, Sloane Leong, Spencer Hawkes and Wren McDonald.
This exhibit began its life when MacEwan put out a call on his tumblr Quenched Consciousness for artists to redraw a single panel from The Incal.
Once and a while a comic drops in my inbox that carries some distinct element that snags my interest. LP, by writer Curt Pires and artist Ramon Villalobos, focuses on the life of a musician named F and the LP he possesses, which has unique qualities — far more unique than your average round piece of vinyl. The comic, which Pires is self-distributing, debuts Sept. 26 (it received a pre-release endorsement from guest Ed Brisson in this week’s What Are You Reading?”). In anticipation of its release, Pires took some time to answer my questions regarding his new collaboration with Villalobos — as well as to give me a chance to discuss music a smidge (something I always love to do).
Tim O’Shea: LP centers on a vinyl record (aka LP) — could this story have ever worked for you if it had centered around a CD or an MP3 player?
Curt Pires: I definitely think this story only works on vinyl. There’s something romantic about vinyl — something tactile. Something that you don’t really get with CDs or MP3s. I think a lot of my thoughts as towards this are sort of folded into the story. Sometimes intentionally — other times maybe not so much.
Did you have the story already written when you teamed with Ramon Villalobos, or did you construct the story with his art style in mind?
I had the full script written by the time Ramon had hoped on board to draw the book. I was definitely looking for someone with a bit more of European clean line style to draw this book. I’m a huge fan of this style of art. So Ramon’s sort of Darrow/Grampa/Quitely-influenced style was perfect for this book.
Comic creators are known to sometimes hold release parties in support of their books, but writer Jamie S. Rich is doing three — and doing them all in one day, and all in one town.
Coinciding with today’s debut of his new series It Girl & The Atomics, Rich is holding signings at three Portland, Oregon-area comic shops: From 2 to 7 p.m. (and possibly a little bit later), he’ll criss-cross PDX for events at Floating World Comics, Bridge City Comics and Cosmic Monkey Comics.
“I wanted to do something different,” Rich said in a press release. “I could have picked one store and had a standard release party, but instead I decided to go more guerrilla. I chose three shops in different parts of town and mapped out a way to hit them all before closing time.”
Portland has become a de facto comics mecca, second only to New York City as a hotbed of American comic creators and publishers. Rich himself is a long-time resident, having worked as an editor at two area comic publishers, Dark Horse and Oni Press.
Years into a full-time writing career, Rich has become a staple in the comics community in the Rose City. If you’re interested in crossing paths with Rich today at one of the three comic stores he’s attending, contact the stories for approximate times.
“And there came a day, a day unlike any other…” Comics is rife with stories of team-ups and alliances formed to solve problems beyond any one member and advance the common good. Such is the story of Press Gang, one of the most intriguing small-press outlets to emerge in the year gone by. Comprising Portland retailer Jason Leivian’s Floating World Comics imprint, cartoonist and editor Zack Soto’s Study Group Comic Books and Elfworld editor François Vigneault’s publishing house Family Style, Press Gang is described on its website simply as “like-minded publishers/packagers banding together.”
Each of its individual members has taken a forward-thinking approach to the work they put out: Leivian’s excellent store has a bold art/comics “house anthology,” the cheekily titled Diamond Comics; Soto teamed with former Comics Journal editor Milo George (with an assist by Bodega Books publisher Randy Chang) to transform his long-running artcomix anthology Studygroup12 into the promising comics/criticism hybrid Study Group Magazine; and Vigneault rescued Elfworld from languishing on original editor Jeffrey Brown’s to-do list, becoming a pioneer of the seemingly ever-widening crossover between alternative comics and fantasy adventures. Any alliance between these three is worth watching very closely.
So to celebrate Robot 6’s third anniversary, I got in touch with each member of the Press Gang triumvirate to ask about the past, present and future of the Gang and their places in it. The big news here is that Soto’s Study Group Comic Books will be absorbing Chang’s Bodega Books now that Chang has officially closed up shop, and will publish Kazimir Strzepek’s highly acclaimed fantasy saga The Mourning Star from now on. And check out oodles of exclusive preview pages from Elfworld #3 and Study Group’s forthcoming sg12.com webcomics portal, launching Jan. 16. But beyond that, there’s Shonen Jump-style phonebook anthologies, the return of old favorites after long hiatuses and, quite literally, magic…
Sean T. Collins: Beyond the fact that Zack works at Jason’s comic shop, Floating World, I know very very little about the origin of Press Gang. How did the three of you hook up?
Zack Soto: I’ve been friends with both Jason and François for several years now. I know François from tabling at APE over the years, and he moved to Portland in the last year or so. Since then, we’ve become pretty good buddies and talk out our projects with each other quite a bit. Jason I’ve known since he opened Floating World, more or less. I went to check out the shop in its first, extremely tiny, space. We’ve been friends ever since, and I guess a year or more ago I started working there a day or two a week. Last year we co-published Studygroup12 #4. I probably talk with these two guys about my crazy ideas and frustrations, and listen to them talk out their ideas, more than any other people besides my wife.
Press Gang came about initially from François and I talking about our various goals as small publishers. We both basically had the same ideas about strength in numbers and what that could mean. Promotionally, it’s as simple as being able to group together some like-minded publisher/packagers at more or less the same level of the industry and bringing all of our small followings to one point. Logistically, one of the obvious strengths is being able to send one or two people to represent the group at a convention and save money. Another benefit is when we have particular skills like silkscreening or risographing or what have you, we give each other sweet deals in our areas of production expertise.
We’re basically modeling ourselves after the Wu-Tang Clan. I like to flatter myself into thinking I’m the GZA but Jason keeps telling me I’m ODB, so oh well.
King City cartoonist Brandon Graham dropped this beauty on twitpic the other day — it’s a lovely tribute to Craig Thompson’s Middle Eastern epic Habibi, centered on the book’s female lead Dodola. It’s funny: I never would have thought there’d be much visual kinship between Thompson’s lush brushwork and Graham’s thin lines, but both artists have a curvilenear sweep to their work that turns out to make their styles mesh beautifully. And obviously, Graham can pack in the Thompson-esque ornamentation like whoa.
The best thing about the illustration is that no matter what you like about it, you can find more of that thing someplace online today:
Portland retailer Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics has announced that his store will be holding a benefit sale for Dylan Williams, the ailing head of independent publisher Sparkplug Comic Books. 100% of the proceeds generated at the store on Monday, August 29 and Tuesday, August 30 will be donated to pay for the medical care of the gravely ill Williams, who has no health insurance.
In addition, Leivian is organizing a benefit art show to raise additional money for Williams’s medical expenses, with a theme of Phillip K. Dick book covers. Leivian says he plans to post the contributing artists’ pieces on a dedicated blog, sell the originals on eBay, and sell prints of the contributions online, at retailers, and at cons like SPX and APE. Full details on this will be available Monday.
And remember, if you don’t live in Portland or aren’t in the market for original art, you can simply stop by Sparkplug’s online store and buy anything you like. (I suggested a few titles to start with the other day.)
The full press release on the benefit sale at Floating World is after the jump.
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