Earlier this month as a part of our big birthday bash celebration, Sean T. Collins spoke to the Press Gang–Jason Leivian, Zack Soto and François Vigneault–about their upcoming projects, including a new webcomics portal that we were able to preview some of the artwork from in the interview.
And as of this past week, the portal has gone live, featuring a bunch of new webcomics, including:
- Danger Country by Levon Jihanian
- The Mourning Star: Klive’s Story by Kazimir Strzepek
- The Yankee by Jason Leivian and Ian MacEwan
- The Lone Wolf by Jennifer Parks
- Titan by Francois Vigneault
- It Will All Hurt by Farel Dalrymple
According to a post on their blog, this is just the start–Michael Deforge will contribute complete short stories every six weeks or so, Zack Soto’s Secret Voice starts Feb. 3, and yet-to-be-announced contributions are coming from Malachi Ward, Tom Neely and more.
“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.
Greg Pak‘s Afterword tribute to Bill Mantlo in the final issue of his Hulk run (The Incredible Hulks 635) genuinely gave me pause (and as I said as much in that week’s WAYR). Then last week when Kevin Melrose made us aware of LifeHealthPro/Bill Coffin‘s devastating profile of Bill Mantlo’s life since 1992, which clearly struck a chord with many Robot 6 readers. Once I saw Pak’s comment in the thread, I realized I wanted to talk to Pak about Mantlo. While I have long respected Pak as a writer, his decision to set up a donations page for Bill Mantlo’s care is the reason why I admire him. My thanks to Pak for the interview and for scanning the cover to the actual copy of his first Bill Mantlo comic (Micronauts 3), which we get to discuss also.
Tim O’Shea: At what point in your run on the Hulk did you realize that you wanted to write the Afterword, partially about Bill Mantlo?
Greg Pak: I’d cited Bill Mantlo as a big influence many times over the years in press and publicity for my various Hulk storylines. So it was a natural for me to focus on him in the afterward to Incredible Hulks #635. And it was a huge pleasure to be able to formally dedicate the run to Mantlo on that final page.
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