I hope my illustrious colleague Brigid Alverson doesn’t mind me elbowing my way into her regular webcomics spotlight, but with the announcement the other day that Brian Chippendale is placing his eye-popping, rib-tickling webcomic Puke Force on hiatus for a few months, I simply had to point everyone in the strip’s direction.
Chippendale, the cartoonist behind last year’s acclaimed doorstop of an action-buddy-scifi comedy If ‘n Oof, is a co-founder of the influential Providence art/comics/printmaking/music/etc. collective Fort Thunder and the drummer for the band Lightning Bolt (which if you’re not familiar with it is sort of like if noise violation citations from your local law enforcement authority had an elemental, like how plants have Swamp Thing). His comics are famous/infamous for their “snake-style” layout: You read each page one row at a time, first from left to right, and then from right to left, and so on, zigzagging back and forth like a snake and allowing him to draw you through his complex physical environments with ease and choreograph action and slapstick alike with precision timing. Chippendale’s art is rough-edged and hyperdense, his characters look like little mutant and monster refugees from your favorite forgotten action-figure line, and his wild-and-wooly sci-fi stories may seem simply crazy or goofy at first glance, but in truth deal with the political, emotional, and philosophical ramifications of urban life today with sophistication and laugh-out-loud wit. Puke Force is no exception: In its installments you’ll find sardonically hilarious takes on everything from Twitter to terrorism. Best of all, you can catch up on all six months’ worth of material on the PictureBox site and be ready for Chippendale’s triumphant return in late summer/early fall. I know the visuals and layouts can be challenging, if not headache-inducing, at first, but stick with it and you’ll experience a truly singular comics sensation.
The taxman cometh, and that, says publisher Dan Nadel, is why boutique comics publisher PictureBox Inc. is having a 30% off sale for the rest of April. In addition to acclaimed comics like Renee French’s H Day, CF’s Powr Mastrs, and Brian Chippendale’s If n’ Oof and various art prints and music projects by their affiliated cartoonists, PictureBox also offers everything their book about the album art of legendary Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin designers Hipgnosis to a vinyl statue of Beat icon Allen Ginsberg designed by Sof’Boy creator Archer Prewitt. If you can’t find something to buy, that’s on you, man.
It’s always a good sign, and a rare blessing, when you close a comic and say to yourself, “Well, I’ve certainly never seen anything like that before.” Such was my reaction to Garden, the upcoming PictureBox graphic novel from acclaimed manga artist Yuichi Yokoyama (currently in Previews for a May 4 release; Diamond code MAR111221). Sure, this is the same guy who made guys throwing books at one another as exciting a fight scene as anything out of Kill Bill in his collection New Engineering. It’s the same guy who made a bunch of dudes taking a ride on the train as thrilling as Jack Kirby drawing someone hijacking the Moebius Chair and going on a joyride through Apokalips in his book Travel. But Garden takes Yokoyama’s unique combination of deadpan characters, robotically clean lines, zany costumes, epic sets and scenery, and hyper-caffeinated action to a whole new level. It’s like a magical mental amusement park.
The plot of Garden is pure simplicity: A crowd of would-be sightseers (all wearing costumes and headgear that make them look like a lost Kinnikuman toyline) sneak into a sprawling “garden” filled with inexplicable, incredible sights and structures, from a river of rubber balls and a forest filled with disassembled cars to mountains made of glass and a massive hallway filled with floating bubbles. The endlessly chatty characters slowly walk, climb, swing, float, and otherwise make their way through the environments and obstacles, constantly narrating as they go. (“Now what could this be?” “It’s a field of boulders.” “All the boulders have ladders on them.” “Let’s climb it.”) By explaining exactly what’s happening at all times, the little explorers make following Yokoyama’s often kaleidoscopic art a breeze, freeing you to simply marvel at the sheer scale and scope of his imagination (and chuckle at the the crazy stuff the characters encounter). The overall effect is like being strapped in for a ride through some Bizarro Disney World where every single attraction is as colossal and otherworldly as the big Spaceship Earth golfball, as fast as Space Mountain, and as dizzying as the Mad Tea Party.
Courtesy of PictureBox, Robot 6 is pleased to present this exclusive eight-page preview of Garden, and an interview with Yokoyama about the book, in which the cartoonist gives us some fascinating answers — about his love for the collision between the natural and artificial, his goal in including all that dialogue, and why size matters — and raises just as many compelling questions.
(Special thanks to Dan Nadel and Yu Marooka for their help in facilitating and translating this interview respectively.)
The Comics Journal, a venerable, influential and controversial mainstay of comics journalism that had developed an air of the walking wounded in recent years, has radically revamped and relaunched its online presence. Its new editors are Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler, best known as the minds behind Comics Comics magazine and, in Nadel’s case, the art-comics publisher PictureBox Inc.
The print version of the Journal will continue to be helmed by founding editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth, acting in a more hands-on capacity as of the forthcoming Issue #301 than he has in years, by the sound of it. Kristy Valenti serves as editorial coordinator. Contributors to the new TCJ.com include Frank Santoro, Jeet Heer, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Ken Parille, Ryan Holmberg, Rob Clough, Richard Gehr, R.C. Harvey, R. Fiore, Vanessa Davis, Bob Levin, Patrick Rosenkranz, Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, Jason T. Miles, Andrew Leland, Naomi Fry, Jesse Pearson, Tom De Haven, Shaenon Garrity, Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and Hillary Chute. On a Robot 6-related note, my colleague Chris Mautner and I will also be contributing.
A look at the new site reveals a multifaceted approach, with reviews, columns, interviews, lengthy features and essays (the current lead feature is a look at the legacy of, and turmoil surrounding, Frank Frazetta by writer Bob Levin), an events calendar, selected highlights from the magazine’s archives, and more. The biggest news, perhaps, is that Hodler and Nadel plan to have literally the entire 300-issue Comics Journal archive scanned and posted online by the end of this year and made available in its entirety to the print magazine’s subscribers. Click here for Hodler and Nadel’s welcome letter, in which they explain some of the changes and reveal a bit of what’s ahead. (And click here for their farewell letter to Comics Comics.)
Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.
To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.
Like you, I’m all a-twitter about the release of those Carl Barks books from Fantagraphics later this year. (you are a-twitter, aren’t you?) Not to mention Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, Chester Brown’s Paying for It and that Grant Morrison Multiversity mini-series. And, hey, maybe we’ll even see the first volume of Pogo! Yep, by any yardstick, it seems like 2011 promises to be another year of really great releases.
But, even beyond the big-name titles and huge company crossovers, there are a number of comics and graphic novels arriving in stores this year that warrant further attention. They may have not have garnered much of your notice, since they’re not attached to a well-known creator or license or come from overseas. Here then, are six such books, all due this year, all of which I’m willing to bet good money aren’t on your radar, but should be. As usual, be sure to note any books you’re excited about but haven’t generated much buzz yet in the comments section.
1) The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre. This is the first American collection of Schrauwen’s work and I’m really excited to see him reach a potentially wider audience. Actually, I’m just excited to read more of an artist I’ve only been able to catch in dribs and drabs.
I tweeted it after I got back home the night of the show and I stand by it now: Book for book and creator for creator, the second annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival was the best comic convention I’ve ever attended. I’m not sure I can articulate exactly why — certainly not in a comprehensive fashion, as I was in and out of the day-long show within three hours and didn’t even attend any of the programming (though I could see it was pretty much standing room only from my vantage point by the hot dog stand that provided grub for the attendees). I’m sure people who stayed longer, participated more, and took advantage of all the show’s ancillary events could paint you a bigger and better picture. But from my admittedly narrow perspective, it came down to a sense of…well, of giddiness — that’s the best way I can put it. Pretty much everyone I saw or spoke with at the show seemed head-over-heels happy, not because of proximity to cool parties or big-money media extravaganzas, but because of proximity to comics — tons and tons of unusual, gutsy, great comics.
Over on the CBR mothership, Tim Callahan takes a close look at two books sure to be shortlisted for Best of 2010 honors in another month or two: CF’s Powr Mastrs 3 and Brian Chippendale’s If ‘n Oof, both from PictureBox Inc. Tim argues that the two books’ combination of sci-fi/fantasy trappings with the oblique storytelling techniques and challenging visuals of art-comics create the same sense of wonder and discovery that comics held for him as a kid. Here he is on Power Mastrs:
Like the characters he chronicles in If ‘n Oof, his new book from PictureBox Inc., Brian Chippendale is prone to wandering. He just returned to his home base of Providence last week following a tour with his acclaimed two-man music group Lightning Bolt, whose sound can be best described as “What if Thor’s hammer and Loki’s helmet formed a band?” He’s also gearing up to hit the road again in another couple of weeks for a brief cross-country book tour with fellow PictureBox cartoonist CF.
But it’s Chippendale’s artistic travels that interest me the most. Each new Chippendale book feels like an experience miles removed from its predecessor. Maggots is a tiny softcover with incredibly dense pages, drawn on top of a Japanese book catalog so that even the white spaces are filled with visual noise. Ninja is a gigantic hardcover with a smoother approach to Chippendale’s trademark “snake-style” layout — you read the first row of panels on a page from left to right, then hop down to the next row and read that one from left to right, then down another level from right to left, and so on back and forth — and a healthy dose of comics he drew as a kid thrown in. If ‘n Oof is a doorstop-sized softcover in manga dimensions in which every page is a splash page or part of a spread. And while all three share Chippendale’s unmistakable rough-hewn line and love of sci-fi, fantasy, and action — an approach forged in the hallowed halls of the late great Fort Thunder collective, alongside artists like Mat Brinkman and Brian Ralph — If ‘n Oof‘s buddy-movie storyline of two lovable creatures battling their way through a wasteland in search of home (and snacks) is the artist’s most accessible work to date. Robot 6 managed to get Chippendale to settle down long enough to talk to us about the new book, how it stacks up against his new webcomic Puke Force, and the tantalizing possibility that as far as If and Oof’s world is concerned, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
There’s a horrific beauty to the art of Renée French. With her most recent work, H Day (published by Picturebox and set to ship on October 15), the beauty is built on pain, given that the book’s creation was partially fueled by French’s struggles with migraines. The last graphic novel that both challenged and engaged me in such a manner as H Day did is likely Joshua Cotter‘s Driven by Lemons. I’ve been interviewing French for a number of years, and I never tire of discussing her craft with her. Back when I last interviewed her, we briefly discussed a (then upcoming) project, Towcester Lodge, and I was glad to find out the fate of that project (as well as how H Day grew out of that creative effort). French is one of the special guests at this weekend’s APE 2010. My thanks to French for her time, and to Robot6 6′s own Sean T. Collins as well as Picturebox’s Dan Nadel for helping make the interview happen.
Tim O’Shea: How early in the development of H Day did you realize the bed scenes would play such a pivotal part?
Renée French: I’d been doing line drawings and diagrams of the inside of heads, sort of diagrams of the pain that comes with a migraine, and once I decided to try to draw the stuff I visualize when I’ve got a headache, (the city drawings) the diagrams progressed into the sequence that is in the book (the bed drawings). How confusing is that?
As is my wont, I made the one-day (the one day being Saturday) trek to Bethesda, Md., along with Joe “Jog” McCulloch for the annual Small Press Expo. Perhaps the Earth’s rotation is spinning ever faster, but this year’s show seemed a bit of a blur to me, even by previous years’ standards. Before I had a chance to say “Sorry, I’m tapped out and can’t buy your mini-comic,” it was after 6 p.m. and time to go home. Fortunately I took some pictures to help my fading memory keep the show alive in my tumescent brain. Or at least, I tried to take some pictures.
Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading. With JK Parkin in the midst of San Diego Comic-Con madness, I’m taking over the WAYR duties for this week. Our guest this week is blogger, noteworthy critic and Newsarama contributor Matt Seneca.
Find out what Matt’s been reading (he’s got a long list), and be sure to include your own current reading list, after the jump …
Did you see that first still of Thor, Odin, and Loki from Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming Thor movie and think it needed more Kirby Krackle or Walt Simonson Psychedelia? You’re not alone. Dan Nadel, head of the art/comics publisher PictureBox and editor of their house mag Comics Comics, lamented what he perceived to be the costumes’ conservative superhero-movie style, as opposed to Kirby’s “mind-bendingly intricate mythological armor and sets with a nearly psychedelic color palette.” And dammit, he’s gonna do something about it!
Nadel will award the first-ever “Know Prize” to the person who best recolors the image. If you wield Photoshop like Mjolnir, give the Asgardian Royal Family a Rainbow Bridge makeover and send the results to knowprize (at) comicscomicsmag (dot) com (72dpi RGB jpegs only, please) by midnight tomorrow, Wednesday, July 21. The winner will receive a Thor comic hand-selected from the infamous collection of cartoonist Frank Santoro, plus the satisfaction of knowing that he/she be worthy. That deadline’s approaching faster than Ragnarok, so get ye cracking!
Having introduced the comics-reading public to such obscure or long-forgotten creators as Herbert Crowley, Fletcher Hanks and Walter Quermann in his seminal book Art Out of Time, editor and publisher Dan Nadel opted to try something a little different for his sequel, the recently published Art in Time.
While the new book, like its predecessor, does feature a number of barely-known or long-forgotten golden age and underground cartoonists (Sam Glanzman, John Thompson), it also offers a new look at some familiar and in some cases already well regarded figures, in the hopes of either giving scholars and fans a chance to reconsider their artistic abilities (as in the case of Mort Meskin and Pat Boyette) or re-examine their work in a new light via previously unregarded material (John Stanley, Archie artist Harry Lucey, Wonder Woman artist H.G. Peter)
I had the opportunity to talk with Nadel over email about the book and its rather specific goals recently. Though he was in the midst of celebrating all things Jack Kirbyish at the Fumetto Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, he was kind enough to take the time to offer some thoughtful, considered responses to my flailing questions, for which I am ever grateful.
How did Art in Time develop and did it change at all in conception as you worked on it?
The first idea was actually to take well known artists like Kirby, Ditko, Everett, et al and show their lesser known work. This became a little less interesting as the reprint boom took hold. By less interesting I mean not necessary. I tend to think of books as being necessary or not necessary. And then, when necessary, as being well done and useful, or badly done and destructive. Anyhow, as an outgrowth of my publishing activities, and as a kind of strategy of moving away from any perceptions about Art Out of Time, I began to look at adventure comics a lot, particularly crime stuff like Pete Morisi and Harry Lucey. And then I thought of the underground stuff I like and realized (again — maybe I’d forgotten? I don’t know.) that what drives my “scholarly” (or whatever) interests was pretty much the same as what drives my publishing interest, i.e. in my head CF and Bill Everett are pretty much on the same playing field. So I latched onto the broad idea of “genre” comics and then went a little micro and focused on an idea of “adventure” that can include gumshoes and psychonauts and utopians. Then I really dug in and had some fun.
Brian Chippendale is a just-plain interesting cat. He’s a co-founder of Providence, Rhode Island’s hugely influential art/comics/music/madness collective Fort Thunder, he’s the drummer in the insanely intense punk/metal/noise band Lightning Bolt, and just for fun he writes a blog about Marvel Comics.
Now he’s talking to NPR station WRNI about the whole shmear. Listen to the interview for details on his 800-page (!) upcoming sci-fi graphic novel If n’ Oof for PictureBox Inc., his experiences being evicted from multiple residences by the city of Providence, his drumming style, the pitfalls of political comics, the faded glory of the “mill scene” in which artists lived and worked in abandoned industrial buildings, and more. And be sure to check out the bonus video below, in which Chippendale shows off some gorgeously dense If n’ Oof pages.