Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
The Last Lonely Saturday, by Uptight and The Clouds Above cartoonist Jordan Crane, is one of my favorite comics of all time. Why? You can find out if you read the entire beautifully bittersweet story online at Crane’s webcomics portal, What Things Do.
It’ll only take a minute or two. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
There now. Need a hankie? I figured. The story of an elderly man bringing flowers to his beloved, The Last Lonely Saturday is where I first discovered Crane’s impeccably cartoony character designs and near-wordless storytelling chops, as well as his knack for teasing both the darkness and the light out of issues of love and loss. And now the comic has been adapted into a live-action short film by director Seth Craven. The movie premieres as part of the HollyShorts Film Festival at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on August 12 at 5pm. Get ready to be heartbroken.
If you’ve seen Jordan Crane’s elegant webcomics hub What Things Do — or better still, if you’re one of the lucky few who have a copy of his hand-silkscreened, die-cut, three-books-in-one anthology NON #5 — you know that the cartoonist behind Uptight and The Clouds Above is one of comics’ best designers. But I think that with Keep Our Secrets, his new comics-style children’s book for McSweeney’s kids’ imprint McMullens, the man has truly outdone himself. This sucker is partially printed in heat-sensitive, color-changing black ink that disappears when touched to reveal a picture hidden underneath. Check it out in the video above, as two adorable tykes help demonstrate. If I were a little kid, I think being able to touch a book and suddenly see hidden stuff appear — like an accordion stuffed with cats, say, or a guy with banana hands under his gloves — would be something close to magic.
In the immortal words of that slowed-down Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson pizza-making video, when does a dream become a nightmare? This is the question addressed by justly celebrated young cartoonist Michael DeForge, in the context of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man no less, in his cheerfully unauthorized, thoroughly unpleasant Spider-Man comic “Peter’s Muscle,” which you can now read online in its entirety at Jordan Crane’s webcomics portal What Things Do. Spinning out of the infamous (and in-continuity!) relationship between Aunt May and Doctor Octopus, the story finds the Wall-Crawler recounting a disturbing dream that starts with finding a face underneath a membranous sidewalk and somehow only gets more uncomfortably intimate from there. With any luck, a full-color edition of this strip will anchor a future Strange Tales installment, but for now, this will more than suffice.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item.
This week is a busy week for me -– I count 13 single issues I’d buy if I was a rich man, but with only $15 I’d narrow it down to four things. DMZ #62 (DC/Vertigo $2.99) looks to be really amping up the series for it’s final year. I’ve enjoyed this series’ long run, and the way he’s built up this world only to tear it down seems amazing. Second in my bag would be the closest thing to a modern Moebius at Marvel, Shield #6 (Marvel $2.99). This secret history of the Marvel U has been really eye-opening, and Hickman’s bold reach really takes some big brass ones. This in line would be Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force #5 (Marvel $3.99). Remender’s done some solid modern-work while trying to not be outshone by Jerome Opena’s star-turn, but in this issue it’s got guest art by Esad Ribic. Ribic’s work has always carried this sense of gravitas without being stuffy like some painters, and I’m interested to see how he does these visceral heroes. Last up would be Brightest Day #20. On paper, a book with a league of b-list heroes seems like a non-starter, but I really like what the team have done on this, especially the Martian Manhunter and Firestorm threads.
Wow: Cold Heat cartoonist and Comics Comics blogger Frank Santoro went to Los Angeles, and all he got was this wondrous photo of him and a gaggle of the greatest alternative comics creators on the West Coast. From left to right, you’re looking at Johnny Ryan (Prison Pit, Angry Youth Comix), Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Ron Regé Jr. (Yeast Hoist, Against Pain), Jordan Crane (Uptight, What Things Do), Sammy Harkham (Crickets, Kramers Ergot), and Santoro. I haven’t seen this kind of star power packed into one picture since Crumb, Ware, Clowes, Tomine, and Buenaventura straddled the cliffs of France like comic-book colossi.
To see what Tony, Johnny and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click the link below.
Robot 666 | Take aim at The Walking Dead with Jordan Crane, Lisa Hanawalt, Johnny Ryan, and Jon Vermilyea
Whoa. These are pretty much the last official promotional items I ever expected to see, but man am I ever glad I’m seeing them: Alternative-comics creators Jordan Crane, Lisa Hanawalt, Johnny Ryan, and Jon Vermilyea have each created a Walking Dead print. Made to look like shooting-range practice targets, the prints tie in with Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and Tony Moore)’s series, the television adaptation of which will make its debut on AMC this Halloween. Each print is signed by the artist and by Kirkman himself, emblazoned with the “Grant County, Georgia Law Enforcement and Public Safety” logo, limited to a run of 100, and priced to sell at $40. Best of all, each artist worked in his or her own inimitable style: Crane’s features linework so impeccable it actually becomes somewhat menacing itself, Ryan’s is spectacularly gross and upsetting, Vermilyea’s is a riot of squiggly detail, and Hanawalt’s has a cat’s head instead of a human’s.
The prints were curated by L.A.’s Secret Headquarters. Click here to see them all and buy them, but remember: If you end up using them for target practice, headshots only!
(Hat tip: David Paggi)
Robot 6 readers seemingly can’t get enough links to cartoonist Jordan Crane’s hugely impressive webcomics portal What Things Do. Fortunately, Crane’s served up a spooky snippet of all-ages adventure that’s perfect for Robot 666. Discover “Dark Day,” the latest chapter in the saga of Simon and Jack, the schoolboy and giant cat who starred in Crane’s beloved The Clouds Above. Warning: Here be monsters!
“5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics.” Strictly by the numbers — taken from the Editor’s Notes that kick off Mome Vol. 20: Fall 2010, on sale this month — Fantagraphics’ signature anthology is a force to be reckoned with. Launched in 2005 with the intention of providing a regular home for new work by promising young cartoonists like Gabrielle Bell, Jeffrey Brown, Anders Nilsen, Paul Hornschemeier, and Sophie Crumb, it rapidly evolved into something else, something arguably more: a showcase for alternative comics of nearly every style and stripe. During its five-year history, Mome‘s diverse accomplishments have included publishing work from European greats like David B. and Lewis Trondheim, serializing Tim Hensley’s acclaimed graphic novel Wally Gropius, reintroducing Al Columbia to the comics scene prior to the release of his landmark Pim & Francie, giving Dash Shaw yet another forum for his experimental take on science fiction, providing an unlikely venue for underground legend Gilbert Shelton, showcasing up-and-comers like Jon Vermilyea and Nate Neal…and, like all anthologies, starting a good deal of debate over which contributors were any good at all. With its like-clockwork quarterly schedule, Mome is a go-to destination for finding out what’s going on at comics’ cutting edge.
Presiding over all this has been editor Eric Reynolds, who inherited full control of the anthology from original co-editor and co-publisher Gary Groth. When last I spoke to Reynolds about Mome in October of 2007, he was prepping Vol. 10, which sported a new look, new work from Columbia, and the second half of a story by altcomix titan Jim Woodring. Three years and ten issues later, the series has gotten a full-on makeover from designer Adam Grano, and is in the midst of some of its most challenging work ever from Shaw, Josh Simmons, Derek Van Gieson and more. What has changed, what has remained constant, and what lies in store? Reynolds spoke with Robot 6 about all this and more in a fifth-anniversary interview.
If I’d ask you five years ago to describe what Mome Vol. 20 would look like, what would you have said?
I would’ve said there’s no way this thing’s going to last 20 issues. Really, I’m sure I would have had no other answer.
Well, this is an unexpected delight: Jin & Jam #1, Hellen Jo’s auspicious 2008 Sparkplug debut, is now available online in its entirety at Jordan Crane’s indispensable webcomics portal What Things Do. Part Maggie & Hopey, part Tekkon Kinkreet, it’s the story of two teenage troublemakers and, well, the trouble they make, drawn with a really memorably rubbery and kinetic line by Jo.
Incidentally, you’ve all put What Things Do in your RSS readers, right? With a lineup of creators that includes Jo, Crane, Gabrielle Bell, Abner Dean, Sammy Harkham, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, Ted May, John Porcellino, Ron Regé Jr., Steve Weissman, and Dan Zettwoch, how could you not?
What does it take to make a story just right for some creators? As revealed in this interview with Megan Kelso, with her latest book, Artichoke Tales (released by Fantagraphics a few months ago and praised by Brigid just yesterday)–it took 10 years. Not every storyteller takes the time to indulge my questions in the manner that Kelso did, an effort for which I’m extremely grateful. Here’s the scoop on the book: “Artichoke Tales is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso’s visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic. This is Kelso’s first new work in four years; the widespread critical reception of her previous work makes Artichoke Tales one of the most eagerly anticipated graphic novels of 2010.” Fun aside, in clarifying a detail about this interview, I learned that Kelso created a iGoogle theme, which can be accessed here. One last item, Fantagraphics posted a 16-page preview here.
Tim O’Shea: Creating Artichoke Tales represented more than six years of your creative life–can you describe how relieving (or what emotion you felt) when you finished the tale?
Megan Kelso: Truth be told, it was more like a ten year project. I think for some reason my publisher wanted to down play how friggin’ long it took me to finish this book. It was very protracted because I took a lot of breaks to do other things; freelance work, a wedding, moving, having a baby, moving again. I actually finished pencilling the last two chapters in 2005, which is really the heart of the creative work. I pushed myself on that because I wanted to be done with the storytelling part of it before I was pregnant. But then the final denoument, the inking, the computer shading, the corrections – I didn’t begin that work until two and a half years later. It was kind of excruciating doing all the final work on the book after it had been completely drawn – I think because the urgency and excitement of getting the story out was over. Then it was just drudge work. I finally finished all the work just before Thanksgiving of 2009 and I was 100% thrilled and happy about it for months. The let-down, “nothing left but doubt” part of finishing a huge project did not set in until I recently saw it in printed form. I am totally happy with how the printing and production came out, but even still, there’s a bit of a void. I think I’m fending off a bit of a mid-life crisis.
The best webcomics site on the Internet has once again expanded its altcomix all-star roster: Gabrielle Bell’s strip “Manifestation” — about her doomed (and entirely fictional) comics adaptation of Valerie “I Shot Andy Warhol” Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto — is now available for your free reading pleasure at cartoonist and designer Jordan Crane’s online comics clearinghouse What Things Do. In addition to Bell and Crane, the site boasts comics by Sammy Harkham, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, Ted May, John Porcellino, Ron Regé Jr., Steve Weissman, and Dan Zettwoch, as well as mid-century illustrator Abner Dean. Click on over and kill an hour or two.
To paraphrase Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos, EFF George A. Romero*–Jordan Crane just took him to zombie school.
The master cartoonist, designer and printmaker behind Uptight, The Clouds Above, NON and the webcomics collective What Things Do has just unveiled the zombie-tastic print above, titled “Consciousness of Lack.” Printed and signed by Crane himself, the piece costs $80 and can be purchased at his website.
The undead are well worth a few dead presidents, no?
The Internet is filled with comics riches, and What Things Do, the corner of the Internet run by cartoonist/designer Jordan Crane, contains plenty of them. It’s filled to bursting with new and old comics by the likes of Crane himself, Jaime Hernandez, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Ted May, John Porcellino, Dan Zettwoch, and Steve Weissman. But for me, the big discovery at the site is the work of Abner Dean, a New Yorker and Esquire cartoonist who specialized in anxiety-dream images of (anatomically incorrect) naked people is satirically absurd situations. What Things Do is reprinting the 1947 Dean collection What Am I Doing Here?, and the bounty is rather astonishing — the strength of both the images Dean concocts and his execution of them all but bowls me over. I’ve never seen its like, though if you’ve ever seen Matt Groening’s Life in Hell, you’ve seen a kindred spirit at the very least. The shrunken-down image above truly doesn’t do justice to seeing Dean’s stuff in its full-sized, screen-spanning glory, so click on over and check it out!