It’s 2013, and headlines reading “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore” have been cliched for about 25 years. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a classic, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is widely read and widely taught. The late Harvey Pekar’s name is, if not a household name, as close to one as those of most prose authors get in America. Thanks to Joe Sacco and Alison Bechdel and Jeffrey Brown and John Porcellino and Joe Matt and Chester Brown and dozens of other cartoonists, journalism, autobiography and memoir are successful, respected, even commonplace genres for the graphic novel, which, it’s worth highlighting, is a term that exists now.
In fact, autobiographical graphic novels are so mainstream that Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It reads like an outlier — a subversive, transgressive reversion to the good old bad days of comics. Her new memoir, with its fictive premise, is differentiated from most in the genre by the prominent inclusion of elements from the medium’s trashy superhero and humor past. Its protagonist wears a skin-tight bodysuit, she travels through time in a big, goofy time machine that goes ZIPPITY ZAP, and there’s a sixth-grade lunch period’s worth of scatalogical humor.
Despite the embrace of the low-brow aspects of comics history — We Can Fix It looks and reads like an autobiographical comic book, not an autobiographical graphic novel — Fink’s new work ultimately ends up in the same thoughtful, dramatic, epiphany-having place that the slicker, more obviously literature-focused comics works do. This is a very funny comic book that is functions as an effective piss-take on the autobio genre while, remarkably enough, simultaneously being one hell of an autobiography.
Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
Politics | Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean has apologized for calling Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel,” but contends the author and comics writer should return the $45,000 fee he received in May 2010 for speaking at the Stillwater, Minn., library (Gaiman donated the money, minus agents fees, to charity). Dean’s original remarks were made during a discussion of how the state’s tax-generated Legacy funds for the arts are spent. He was quoted as saying that Gaiman, “who I hate,” is a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
Now, however, the Republican lawmaker has dialed back the rhetoric while standing by his underlying criticism. “My mom is staying with us right now,” he tells Minnesota Public Radio. My wife’s out of town, and she was very angry this morning and always taught me to not be a name caller. And I shouldn’t have done it, and I apologize.”
Gaiman, who responded to Dean’s initial comments early Wednesday on Twitter, has since expanded on his remarks on his website, writing in part, “I don’t like the idea that a politician is telling people that charging a market wage for their services is stealing.” [Minnesota Public Radio, Underwire]
Comics | A psychologist has been brought in to a Houston elementary school after a group of fourth-graders created a comic book allegedly depicting them holding a gun to the head of one of their classmates. [My Fox Houston]
At least one constructive thing came out of Jess Fink‘s latest battle with copyright thieves, I became aware that her new “erotic, robotic” book, Chester 5000, was set to be released this May from Top Shelf. Be advised (if the erotic adjective was not clear enough) that as beautiful as I find Fink’s work, a good majority of it is NSFW, so be aware of that before clicking any links (though in Top Shelf’s defense, its five-page preview carries nothing too erotically risque [though proceed with caution if you're at the office reading this]). Mindful of the fast approaching release date, I emailed some questions to Fink this past week. Here’s the official Top Shelf description of the book: “1885: an age of industrial revolution and sexual frustration. Pricilla is a woman with needs, and her inventor husband Robert is a little too busy with his experiments to keep her fully satisfied. Science to the rescue! With a few gears and springs, the proper appendages, a little lubrication, and a lot of love, Chester 5000 is born! He’s the perfect tool for the job… but what if Chester is more than just a machine? What are the consequences of trying to engineer love?” We also discuss her other Top Shelf book, We Can Fix It!, as well the stress of battling the copyright crooks.
Tim O’Shea: Chester 5000 is definitely erotically charged, but I think you’re also enamored of working diagrams into your stories (Extendo Limbus, for example). Where does your love of things mechanical and diagrams begin?
Jess Fink: I really love mechanical drawings from the 1800′s. Or even just product drawings from adds and catalogs. After photography was invented it was still much cheaper to hire artists to draw your products so we get these lovely, detailed little drawings of just about anything you can imagine. The diagrams in Chester were partly inspired by these. You can find a great deal of reference for Victorian items in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
At their spotlight panel today, the folks at alternative comics publisher Top Shelf talked about a metric ton of titles they’ve got coming down the pipeline. None are more intriguing to me than the work of Jess Fink, a newcomer to the Top Shelf stable best known for her erotic steampunk-porn webcomic Chester 5000 XYV. Top Shelf is releasing a Chester collection in December — quite a stocking stuffer for that special someone! — and following it with another book from Fink called We Can Fix It!, which combines memoir and science fiction and promises to be on the sexy side as well. Fink, who’s also working on a new website for her personal comics and a one-shot featuring the band Mindless Self Indulgence for Image, took time out from turning people on to tackle our questions about her relationship with Top Shelf, sex, science fiction and more.
So how did a nice girl like you get mixed up with a dirty comic like Chester 5000 XYV?
Ha, who are you calling nice? And girl? And Jess? Oh wait, that is me. I’ve been drawing dirty things for a loooong time, longer than I’ve been comfortable telling people I draw dirty things so it’s more like how did this nice comic get mixed up with a dirty person like me? If we want to talk about inspiration I think a lot of it came from the Tijuana Bibles which were these tiny porn comics made in the 20′s-40′s. Before porn was legal to sell guys used to sell these little black and white books on the street. When I found out about them I became obsessed and I knew I’d have to make some of my own.
I’ve been collecting David Bowie sketches from comics artists at shows and cons since MoCCA 2007. What can I say? He’s my favorite superhero. In that time I’ve amassed drawings of the chameleonic musician from 97 different artists, and adding to the collection is always a high priority for me at every show. I had exceptionally good luck at this year’s MoCCA — you better hang on to yourself as we flip through this year’s haul!
Niklas Asker (above): Oh man, look at that, just look at it. How can a sketch be shiny? Niklas Asker pulled it off with maybe the most elegant and sexy Bowie of the batch–no surprise, if you’ve seen his graphic novel Second Thoughts.
She’s best known as the writer/artist behind the deliciously dirty, very NSFW webcomic Chester 5000 XYV. But Jess Fink is apparently quite crafty as well — she took this gorgeous illustration of David Bowie’s short-lived glam-pirate look and turned it into a pair earrings she gave a friend for Christmas. Click here to see the jaunty jewelry in its finished form.
I just have two questions: 1) How can I get Fink into my David Bowie sketchbook? and 2) Where can I get a pair of those earrings?