James Kochalka Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is small but mighty. On Saturday and Sunday, the show will take over the second floor of Lesley University’s University Hall, better known to locals as the Porter Exchange. Admission is free, and the roster includes a mix of local creators, aspiring artists just out of school, and some big names, including special guests James Kochalka, Emily Carroll, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman and Box Brown.
We talked with one of the organizers, Dan Mazur (a comics creator and publisher in his own right), about the challenges of running a small indie-comics show in general and the unique qualities of MICE in particular.
Brigid Alverson: What is the focus of MICE, and how is it different from other comics festivals?
Dan Mazur: MICE is an independent/alternative comics show, in the vein of larger shows like SPX, MoCCA Fest and APE, and others like TECAF, CAKE, MECAF. … So it differs from the mainstream comic cons for its lack of superheroes, cosplay, etc., and for the preponderance of minicomics. But for those familiar with the alternative scene, I guess we do have more of a focus (though not exclusive) on a local comics scene, and also on kid-friendly material and activities, to a degree.
Digital comics | Jeff Gomez examines the implications of Amazon’s planned acquisition of comiXology, opining that it will give comics a wider reach but also force publishers of superhero fare to broaden their appeal beyond the core demographic: “The books will now be exposed to millions of newcomers, so it will behoove major publishers to make their stories more female-friendly, streamlined, and accessible. With comiXology’s new aim to make ‘every person on the planet a comics fan,’ publishers will need to consider new genres, greater variety, and more varied age groups.” [Business Insider]
Digital comics | ComiXology will continue to offer its Digital Storefronts for retailers, and it will not allow Amazon to target users of its Pull List service with its own offers, according to spokesman Chip Mosher. Also, no changes are planned to comiXology’s other retailer tools. [ICv2]
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, have arrested 24-year-old Adam Radigan and charged him in the Monday-morning robbery of a comic store employee. The robbery occurred in the parking lot as the employee walked out of the Fantasy Shop with a bank bag that contained $26 in coins. The suspect allegedly indicated he had a gun and demanded the bag; after the employee handed it over, fled on foot. Nearby schools were briefly locked down after the incident. [The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KDSK]
Comics | “Seattle and the Northwest have carved a lasting niche in the comics world by applying the same traits to cartoons that we apply to music — lo-fi, provocative and introspective. Our comics are often funny as in peculiar, not necessarily funny as in laugh-out-loud, our heroes bumbling rather than swashbuckling”: Tyrone Beason looks at Seattle’s thriving alt-comics scene, and talks with Peter Bagge, Ellen Forney, Tom Van Deusen and the organizers of the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival. [The Seattle Times]
Edward Koren, well known for his cartoons, covers and illustrations for The New Yorker, will be honored Feb. 27 as Vermont’s second cartoonist laureate. Burlington resident James Kochalka was the first.
A New York City native, Koren lives with his family in Brookfield, Vermont, where he has served as a volunteer firefighter for 24 years. Beyond his more than 1,000 cartoons for The New Yorker, he has contributed to such publications as The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ, The Nation and Esquire. Koren has also illustrated numerous books.
“The great imaginative artists, comic or seriocomic (what other kinds are there?), are great at least in part because they create a world: Baldwin’s Harlem, Faulkner’s hamlet, Chekhov’s dachas,” The New Yorker Editor David Remnick said in a statement. “Ed Koren not only created a world — the Koren worlds are both urban and Vermontian, but all Koren — he also created creatures, part human, part fantastical, to represent and give voice to all of our anxieties, joys, and craziness. Long live Ed Koren, his world and his creatures!”
Following his recognition Feb. 27 on the floor of the State House, Koren will begin his three-year term with a public lecture at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction. Vermont is the only state that appoints a cartoonist laureate.
If you love the unique books that Top Shelf publishes, Friday is the last day to take advantage of its once-a-year massive $3 sale. The sale is great for two reasons, you can acquire many of Top Shelf’s new offerings at a 50 percent discount — while also helping the independent publisher to “raise funds to ‘kick start’ a full rollout for next year.”
Some of the Top Shelf offerings to consider in the 50 percent debut category, include:
- March (Book One) by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (which Chris Mautner reviewed in August)
- A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown (which I interviewed him about in July)
- God is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler (the authors also chatted with me in July about it)
There are other books to be had at even less than 50 percent, of course, including:
Alternative Comics, the publisher of alternative comics, is back in business, with two big releases of note this month: Failure, a collection of Karl Stevens’ remarkably illustrated comic strips from the Boston Phoenix, and Alternative Comics #4, the latest installment of its showcase anthology (the first three issues were released as Free Comic Book Day giveaways, with the third issue shipping way back in 2005).
The new iteration isn’t free (in fact, it’s a $5.99, 48-page book), and it’s not coming out on Free Comic Book Day, but it is bigger, newer and perhaps even improved. To find that out, we’ll have to take a closer look at this book, edited by Marc Arsenault and featuring a lovely cover by Mike Bertino.
Here then, are a few words about every single story in Alternative Comics #4:
“Talent Goes In” by Sam Alden
This is a four-panel, inside-front-cover strip by Alden, which amounts to little more than a picture poem. It’s not terribly profound or even substantial but that’s okay, it’s only the inside front cover. Alden has a better strip later in the book.
When comics entrepreneur Marc Arsenault announced almost a year ago that he had bought defunct Alternative Comics in order to relaunch the publisher, a lot of fans (me included) were thrilled. Under founder Jeff Mason, Alternative introduced readers to creators like Graham Annable, Brandon Graham, James Kochalka, Ed Brubaker, Scott Campbell (of Great Movie Showdowns fame), Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. So with Alternative and comiXology announcing today that the publisher’s catalog is becoming available digitally on the app, I was eager to talk to Arsenault about their plans.
Michael May: For those who don’t know you, what’s your background in comics?
Marc Arsenault: Wow. Where to begin? I’ve been a pretty behind-the-scenes guy for most of my time in comics, but this year I’ve hit the quarter century mark for working in them.
I figured out that I wanted to make comics somewhere around eighth grade when I discovered RAW, Warrior and Heavy Metal. When I found out about the comics program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) my path was clear. I didn’t even apply to any other schools. I got to study with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Orlando, David Sandlin, Jerry Moriarity, Marshall Arisman and the very influential Jack Potter.
That experience was very relevant to Alternative Comics’ past and present because it was there that I met Sam Henderson and Tom Hart. I shared a studio space with Tom, and he and Sam had started an off-campus comics anthology called Tuna Casserole. By the fifth issue I became co-editor and we founded the first incarnation of my company Wow Cool. I ended up becoming an illustrator instead of a cartoonist, and did that freelance on and off up until about a decade ago.
While the whole rest of the world, it seems, is experimenting with digital comics, Box Brown has been going the opposite direction, publishing indie print comics through his own Retrofit Comics. I talked to him when he was launching the first season of Retrofit Comics, in fall 2011, and now that he’s back for a second round, I thought it would be a good time to ask him what he learned from the first iteration and what he will be doing differently this time.
Robot 6: What did you learn from your first year as the publisher of Retrofit Comics?
Box Brown: I think I spread myself too thin. I released 17 comics in about 18 months while working on a graphic novel of my own and I was working too hard. I wasn’t able to give each release the attention it deserved. Also, I learned a lot about “seasons” in the retail world. Stuff slows down a lot in the Summer. And, I think I also learned that people actually wanted a comic from Box Brown the cartoonist as well. Publishing your own work until a brand like this is kind of a weird feeling. I think I was uncomfortable with it for a while, but I’ve learned to say “fuck it”
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
On Dec. 31, James Kochalka ended his 14-year run on his diary comic American Elf, but others have taken up the baton, at least temporarily: A number of webcomics artists have created homages to the strip, and Kochalka is re-posting them on his Tumblr.
They include comics more or less in the style of American Elf by Lewis Trondheim, Superf*ckers director Fran Krause and a host of others, expressing a range of emotions from grief to gratitude. Also included in the tributes is a giant picture of every American Elf strip and another that averages the 14 years’ worth of the strips to produce an “eigencomic.”
It’s really interesting to look through them and see how a single (albeit long) comic inspired such a range of responses — and how much people seem to enjoy drawing themselves in Kochalka’s unmistakable style. And, as Kochalka remarks on one of the posts, “Quitting American Elf has kind of been like being able to die and go to my own wake!”
Never fear, Kochalkaholics: James is busily making other comics, and Top Shelf is prepping the fifth volume of American Elf for its digital release.
Creators | Michael Cavna talks to cartoonist Richard Thompson in-depth about his Parkinson’s disease, its effect on his cartooning, and the brain surgery he had this year to combat it, and shows the cartoon Thompson drew during the surgery. The story includes an update on how Thompson has been doing since the surgery and interviews with other cartoonists, including a rare comment from Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, about Thompson’s work and his struggle against the illness. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons mocking Mohammed, has released a comic-book biography of the Muslim prophet. Editor Stephane Charbonnier, who has lived under police protection since the magazine first published the cartoons, says the biography is a properly researched educational work edited by Muslims: “I don’t think higher Muslim minds could find anything inappropriate.” [AFP]
After 14 years, and more than 3,500 cartoons, James Kochalka is bringing his diary comic American Elf to an end. Since October 1998, Kochalka has been chronicling small slices of his daily life in short comics, seldom longer than four panels, and if you read the comic, you already know he has mixed feelings about ending it.
Of course, Kochalka has plenty still going on, including the animated version of his comic SuperF*ckers, plus teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, playing rock music and being the Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont. He’s going to keep the American Elf site live, and of course, you can get the collected editions from Top Shelf (and digitally via comiXology).
Keeping a diary comic for 14 years is a singular achievement, so we asked Kochalka to talk a bit about the experience of creating — and living — American Elf.
SuperF*ckers made its animated debut today on the Cartoon Hangover site. Based on the comics by James Kochalka published several years ago by Top Shelf, it features, as Kevin noted earlier this week, “teen superheroes doing, and saying, bad and occasionally disgusting things.” And some very funny things.
A censored version of the first episode can be found below, and you can watch the uncensored version on YouTube. Neither one of them are really safe for work, though, so put your headphones on before watching.
In addition, once you’ve enjoyed the cartoon, you can buy the merch … WeLoveFine has a whole Cartoon Hangover section on their site now, featuring the SuperF*cker characters, and to celebrate the show’s premiere, the above shirt featuring Ultra Richard is their deal of the day. They’ve also got one featuring Jack Krak that’s tied to the first episode. You can find images of some of them below.
Awards | Were women underrepresented in the first British Comic Awards? With three women and 13 men on the shortlist, some argue they were; Laura Sneddon follows the discussion, including those making that claim and those who responded. [The New Statesman]
Best of the year | Paste magazine lists its 10 best comics of the year, including Hawkeye, Saga and Building Stories. [Paste]
Best of the year | Rachel Cooke focuses on British graphic novels, although a few outsiders creep in as well, for her list of the best graphic novels of 2012. [The Guardian]