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The news spread rather rapidly over the comics blogs this week that Dylan Williams, cartoonist and publisher of Sparkplug Comic Books, is seriously ill and in need of financial aid (i.e. please purchase some Sparkplug books).
Though they arguably haven’t always gotten as much attention as PictureBox or Drawn & Quarterly, Sparkplug has been one of the most interesting small press publishers in recent years, releasing challenging, striking work from many new and up and coming cartoonists.
Lots of people are making recommendations on what to get, but if you’re on the fence about purchasing something from the Sparkplug shop, or just plain don’t know what book to buy, I thought I’d add my own two cents with a short run down of some of my own personal favorites.
Critic Rob Clough reports that Dylan Williams, the publisher of the idiosyncratic small-press outfit Sparkplug Comic Books, is dealing with a serious health crisis. And as with many problems involving people who’ve dedicated their lives to this art form, there’s a win-win solution: You can help support Dylan financially simply by buying some of Sparkplug’s awesome comic books.
Which ones, you ask? Good question! My first and foremost recommendation would be John Hankiewicz’s Asthma, one of the very best comics by anyone since the turn of the millennium — a cutting, haunting masterpiece of image-making and image-juxtaposing that’s one of the rare instances where calling it “comics as poetry” doesn’t make you feel like an idiot. There’s also Chris Cilla’s The Heavy Hand, a funny, foul-mouthed and strange science-fiction comic, or Inkweed by Chris Wright, a stunningly well-written short story collection about Muppet-like monsters in very human struggles.
Williams does important work with Sparkplug, putting out work of sparkling intelligence, with visuals that run the risk of not having a built-in audience for them. By publishing what he publishes he seeks to create that audience. That takes guts, putting your money where your mind is like that, and Dylan deserves to be rewarded for it, in sickness or in health. Right now, it’s in sickness, which makes buying his books an even better idea.
Ever stumble across a comics treasure trove when you least expected it?
The other day I was looking around for the websites of artists associated with the late, lamented Buenaventura Press when I clicked a random link USSCatastrophe, the site of cartoonist Kevin Huizenga. Suddenly I found myself looking at a hidden repository of out-of-print comics by an astonishing range of cartoonists from throughout the history of the medium. An entire book of dog cartoons by Barnaby artist Crockett Johnson … early minicomics by two of my favorite altcomix artists, Dave Kiersh and John Hankiewicz … crazy-gorgeous strips and cartoons by C.C. Beck, Abner Dean, and Garret Price … links to, samples from, and miniature reviews of dozens more titles … sure, some of the links are broken — it’s been years since the stuff was updated, it seems — but what’s there is more than enough to keep me blissed out on hidden gems for hours on end.
Have you ever wandered into a similar motherlode of comics goodness online? Superheroes or scanned minicomics, a killer collection of original art or a webcomic you never knew existed, a site full of classic strips or a gallery of stunning covers — whatever it is, post your links in the comments. Face it, tiger — you’ve just helped thousands of readers kill an afternoon!