Awards | Sammy Harkham’s Everything Together: Collected Stories, published by PictureBox, won the 33rd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prize for graphic novels/comics. The Los Angeles Times also profiles Harkham as “a significant voice on the L.A. cultural scene.” [Los Angeles Times Book Prizes]
Awards | Now that their work is done, the Eisner Award judges share their experiences and the insights they have gleaned from six months of reading as much of last year’s’ graphic novel output as possible — and four days of deliberations. [Comic-Con International]
Creators | Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi) interviews the French creator Blutch, whose So Long, Silver Screen will be released soon by PictureBox. [BoingBoing]
Note: My schedule has been all goofy lately which means I haven’t been able to post on a regular weekly basis or contribute to Cheat Sheet or What Are You Reading in the manner I’d like to. I know: Wah, wah, wah.
Meanwhile, the books keep piling up. And piling up.
So, in an effort to assuage my guilt, I attempted to run through some of the titles I’ve received in the mail in the past few months. Warning: I might do this again. I might not. I’m mercurial.
You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)
As appreciative as I am that we live in an era when cartoonists are encouraged to, and do, create lengthy, thoughtful, multi-layered stories, there’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of a gag strip – the fleeting joy that a really short, well-constructed joke can provide. I didn’t realize how much I missed that sort of thing until I read You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, a collection of short strips that cartoonist Tom Gauld did for The Guardian. The bulk of the strips play upon classic stories, genre fiction or publishing in general. Gauld’s jokes are are silly enough and play upon familiar cliches well enough to make the reader feel smart even if you haven’t read, say, Zola’s “Germinal.” His minimalist, silhouetted style helps get the joke across as well. He’s also rather fond of diagrams and maps, which puts him in good company with folks like New Yorker cartoonists Roz Chast and Jack Ziegler I didn’t care much for Gauld’s last book, Goliath, which I thought milked a rather weak joke (gosh, the Biblical Goliath was actually a really nice guy!) but Jetpack had me frequently laughing out loud in the way that only my favorite comic strips do. Comics need more of this sort of “get in, get out quick” work right now and I’m happy that Gauld is here to fill that void.
Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]
Creators | John Layman, who’s writing the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]
Love it or hate it, manga has revolutionized American comics by bringing in new readers, new genres and new creators. Sometimes the influences are obvious, as in the manga-style graphic novels of Svetlana Chmakova or Laurianne Uy, and sometimes they are less so; many artists who don’t work in what we think of as the “manga style” have adopted storytelling, paneling and pacing techniques from Japanese comics.
What we forget, because manga still seem so exotic and foreign, is that the influence went the other way, too, and that’s the underlying premise of a fascinating new line of manga scholar Ryan Holmberg is editing for PictureBox. Titled Ten-Cent Manga, it will showcase manga that explore “that mysterious underground country between Japanese and American popular culture.” Even the name suggests a pulpy sensibility that is straight out of the American mass market of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
One of the highlights in Picturebox’s 2013 schedule is the release of So Long, Silver Screen, the first major release by the French artist Blutch, a.k.a. Christian Hincker, in North America. Although he’s one of the most important European cartoonists of the past 20 years or so (his work has greatly influenced such artists as Craig Thompson and Jessica Abel, just to name a few), Blutch’s work has strangely remained unreleased in the United States until now.
As the title suggests, So Long, Silver Screen is Blutch’s ode to the magic of the cinema. I’ll let the Picturebox press release take it from there:
What are the movies? What effect do they have on us? Why do we love them so much? Blutch addresses all these questions in a series of interlocking short comics that move between scholarly history, romantic theory and ribald vignettes, featuring a motley cast of actors and topics including Burt Lancaster, Jean-Luc Godard, Luchino Visconti, Claudia Cardinale, Tarzan, and Michel Piccoli. As much a visual essay as it is graphic novel, a daydream and a fantastic meditation on the other art of telling stories with images, So Long, Silver Screen is a new height for an uncontested master of contemporary cartooning.
The highly influential and award-winning French cartoonist Blutch has published over a dozen books since his 1988 comic debut in the legendary avant-garde magazine Fluide Glacial. His titles include Mitchum, Peplum, and Le Petit Christian. His illustrations appear in Libération, The New Yorker and Les Inrockuptibles. So Long, Silver Screen is his first full-length work to be published in English.
Translated by Edward Gauvin and sporting a cover design by David Mazzucchelli, the graphic novel will be available in stores in April. See a 10-page preview below.
Continuing our look at various small press publishers plans for the new year, today i thought we’d take a few moments to delve into Picturebox’s latest catalog. Join me, won’t you?
One of the more interesting, art-focused and idiosyncratic comic conventions around, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, will take place this weekend.
The bulk of festival will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The show has expanded considerably, however, to include a number of other events, including gallery shows and a film festival.
It’s been two years since I last interviewed Renée French, but the release in September of Bjornstrand from PictureBox provided a terrific excuse to catch up with her again. In addition to chatting about the limited-edition signed and numbered risograph novella, French explained how the release was part of a larger project as well as how it related to her ongoing (NSFW) webcomic at Study Group, Baby Bjornstrand.
Tim O’Shea: Are you more flattered or bewildered when some folks compare your work to David Lynch’s films (see Brian Warmoth’s recent review)?
Renée French: Oh, I’m flattered. Lynch is at the top of my list of favorite directors, and seeing Eraserhead for the first time in college was incredibly important to the way I made stuff at the time.
To ask the question that Tom Spurgeon meant to ask: Is this project named after Gunnar Bjornstrand?
Ha! Do I have to answer that?
“There’s a kind of comic I want to see and it doesn’t exist, so I’m going to make it”: Sammy Harkham on Kramers Ergot 8
“You can tell I’m still making sense of it myself.” So says Sammy Harkham of the eighth volume of his landmark anthology series, Kramers Ergot, at one point during our lengthy conversation about the book. And indeed, Harkham’s side conversation is characterized by strategic pauses, halves of sentences that trail off and are abandoned as Harkham retreats, rethinks, and rearticulates. Despite his ebullient cadence – Harkham’s as great a talker as he is a tweeter – it’s quite clear that the amount of thought he put into this comparatively slim and quiet volume of his once-overflowing and raucous art-comics anthology is nearly overpowering.
So is the collection itself. Despite featuring a much smaller roster than previous volumes in the series, and despite a much less “noisy” visual aesthetic than that which has characterized the series since its phone book-sized fourth volume caused a sensation upon its release at the MoCCA Festival in 2003, Kramers Ergot 8 has an intensity that’s tough to shake. Contributors like C.F. (aka Christopher Forgues) and Chris Cilla craft uncomfortable but undeniably erotic sex scenes, which sit next to grim science-fiction parables from Gary Panter and Kevin Huizenga and gruesome horror tragedies by Johnny Ryan and Harkham himself. Fine artists Robert Beatty and Takeshi Murata contribute pieces as visually vibrant as the stories of crime and desire from Gabrielle Bell and the team of Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw are bleak. A cheekily provocative introductory essay from musician Ian Svenonius and a massive selection of racy reprinted Oh, Wicked Wanda! comics from the pages of Penthouse prove perplexing – but it’s a good perplexing, because it forces the reader to consider just how fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effective the rest of the volume is at discomfiting them.
With the book on its way to stores from PictureBox Inc. in a couple of weeks, Harkham took an hour before picking his two older kids up at school to talk about this very personal project. We started off talking about our respective babies; fitting, then, that by the end of the interview a fascinating picture emerged of what Harkham wanted Kramers 8 to be that proved every pause along the way was a pregnant one.
Sean T. Collins: Kramers Ergot 8 debuted at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December, but your third baby debuted not long before that. That had to be a challenge.
Sammy Harkham: Knowing the baby’s coming, you work knowing that when that baby comes, things are gonna shut down. The book only got finished mid-September, and then the baby came. It was funny, because I drew my comic [for the anthology] when the book was done, basically. I thought, “I’ll do a simple issue of Kramers, I’ll do a story for it, and then I’ll get back to Crickets.” But editing, for me, is like working on my own book, as if it’s fully just me. I’m thinking about it day and night, and it’s hard for me to then think of a story within that if I don’t already have one that I’m working on. So at a certain point I decided I’m not going to be in the book. Then it was clear I needed to be in the book, because I wanted a very particular kind of story in it [laughs]. “I guess I’m gonna have to do it.” It was a flurry of activity August into September, then it was done, then the book was done, and then I was just…breathing, you know? But I felt like, “Oh man, I really should be working right now before the baby comes.” But since the baby came I’ve still been doing stuff. You know what it’s like: a lot of tricky hours, and getting used to weird working habits. You work for five minutes, but you try to make it a good five minutes. You try to break it up. And I try not to lose my temper. I get resentful of the people around me when they’re asking for my help and I’m in the middle of something. [Laughs] If I’m in the middle of writing or drawing something, I wanna finish the thought. So I’ve got to think of those Dalai Lama tweets I read earlier in the day. [Laughs] You’ve got to get into the headspace where you’re malleable in that way, you’re flexible.
But Kramers was late this year. Nadel wanted it in July, but I’ve never been able to deliver that book on time, never. This one was particularly hard because there were so few contributors, so I couldn’t lose anybody without it affecting the whole thing. Whereas in previous issues there are so many people that unless it’s a really big strip – it’s a shame to lose anything, you don’t want to lose anything, but you can. You can lose a one- or two-pager. But with this, if CF is running late, there’s nothing we can do. I told [PictureBox Publisher Dan] Nadel that up front: “I hope to get the book done on time, but if Panter’s not ready, if Christopher’s not ready, if any of these people aren’t ready, we can’t do anything.” [Laughs] We’re at the mercy of them, really.
Missed out on the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival? Want to check out new comics, zines, and prints from some of the show’s buzziest attendees and exhibitors? BCGF co-organizer PictureBox Inc. has you covered. Dan Nadel’s brainchild has stocked its online store with new books and art from a who’s who of folks at the show, including Frank Santoro, Anya Davidson, Matthew Thurber, CF, Sammy Harkham, and Leif Goldberg, and the anthologies Mould Map 2 (edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler) and Weird (edited by Noel Freibert) from Landfill Editions and Closed Caption Comics respectively. Stuff your stockings, artcomics fans.
Photo time once again! I had a marvelous time this past Saturday at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival and thought I’d share some pictures I snapped of the proceedings during my brief time there. Click on the jump link to see the whole shebang.
From noon to 9 p.m. tomorrow the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival (or BCGF as it’s more commonly known) will take place at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 275 North 8th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The show, curated by Picturebox, Desert Island and Bill Kartalopolous, has very quickly built up a reputation as being one of the “must-attend” indie shows on the East Coast, and this year promises to be the the most impressive and largest show yet with a murderer’s row of top-flight guests and expanded exhibitors list debuting some killer-looking books. Best of all, the show is free to attend, so
Click on the link below to read a run-down of who will be debuting what, when and where:
The featured guests for the third annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival have been announced, and whoo boy, it’s quite a line-up. And it runs the gamut, too: MAD Magazine legend Jack Davis, book-design kingpin Chip Kidd, The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner, Asterios Polyp/Batman Year One artist David Mazzucchelli, Providence artcomix vets CF and Brian Ralph, grossout-humor queen Lisa Hanawalt, and minicomics patriarch John Porcellino. An opportunity to encounter Gloeckner live and in person is not to be squandered, folks, and that’s just for starters.
Organized by publisher PictureBox Inc., retailer Desert Island, and scholar Bill Kartalopoulos, this year’s BCGF will take place on Saturday, December 3 from noon to nine at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with programming hosted at the nearby Union Pool. If the last two years are any indication, it’s the alternative comics show to beat.
Okay, not exactly — they’ll be shipped from Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics. But still, the source of this secret stash of Frank Santoro’s long-out-of-print newspaper-format comic about a young man’s journey through the down-and-out America of the early 20th century was a long-forgotten box found in his dad’s house.
“All the others were destroyed in the fire at my mom’s house. No joke,” Santoro writes of the discovery.
So once this box is gone, so too is your opportunity to read a pretty stunning comic in its original format. Santoro’s visual shifts between realism and impressionism, and what they say about his protagonist Will’s tormented mental state, are a master class in establishing and controlling tone in comics. Order now, but if you miss out, don’t worry — you can always spring for the hardcover edition from PictureBox.
It can be hard to describe Matthew Thurber‘s comics. Certain phrases like surreal, absurd and dream-like get thrown around a lot and while they’re all true, it doesn’t accurately capture the free-form playfulness of his work or the way he manages to make his work both bizarre and accessible at the same time.
His latest book 1-800-MICE, now available in stores via Picturebox, is his longest narrative yet. An epic tale set in the imaginary town of Volcano Park, the book juggles a rather large cast of characters and their competing subplots as various political and social groups strive for dominance in the town, not realizing that their actions may result in their own destruction. If that sounds rather grim, rest assured the book remains delightfully nonsensical and silly (in the best sense of the word), full of concepts like bagpipes that also serve as teleporters or rocket ships that run on urine. It’s off-kilter and disarming but never falls apart and is a surprisingly straightforward and easy-to-follow read. In short, it’s pretty great.
I talked to Thurber over the phone from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., about the new book and the challenges of doing a longer and more involved narrative:
Give me a bit of biographical background about yourself. Have you always been interested in making comics?
I was always interested in anything with a narrative. When I was a kid I made movies and comic books with my friends. My friends Tom and Jeff had this series called The Killer Pigs. It was a sci-fi story. This was when I 10. They were making comics and I imitated them but I was also interested in making more professional versions of the Killer Pigs. I’d put a little Marvel Comics symbol in the upper left hand corner. My background was being into Dungeons and Dragons and comics, making videos with my friends and reading all kinds of books.