PictureBox may be the only comic book publisher to win a Grammy Award, as Dan Nadel helped design the packaging for Wilco’s 2004 album A Ghost is Born. What might be more remarkable is that despite such a high-profile achievement, it isn’t likely to be how the small yet innovative comics house will be remembered when it closes at the end of year. Instead, at least in comics circles, PictureBox will be remembered for somehow capturing and releasing a mercurial yet eye-catching merger of music and imagery that manifested as graphic novels, art books and magazines.
For all intents and purposes, PictureBox is Nadel. He’s an accomplished editor, designer, publisher and curator of “visual culture,” as he describes it. “Each project comes from my own tastes and relationships, and are rooted in what I believe in,” he wrote on the PictureBox website. “Since it’s just me running this thing, you’re pretty much seeing me through those books and this site.” Looking through the PictureBox catalog proves that to be true. It’s like walking into the house of the kid down the street who had a collection of comics you never heard of but instantly wished you had. Where did he find these people, these mad geniuses? Maybe if I read everything, I’ll understand.
Last weekend I went to Comic Arts Brooklyn. I bought a lot of comics. Here are six that I think are really good, and I think you should try to find as well.
If you’re attending the Alternative Press Expo this weekend in San Francisco, be sure to check out table 523, which will be the temporary home of Rina Ayuyang’s Yam Books. The publisher will be debuting the latest haunting-yet-mesmerizing book by cartoonist Renee French, Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat.
As the press release states, Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat is “a stunning vignette full of rich imagery and comics hi-jinx that tells the tale of Renee’s favorite bulbous aquatic hero, Hagelbarger, in a perilous adventure with his pals Tiffo and Hap, battling that villainous goat.” No doubt it will be equal parts adorable and frightening.
Check out the full cover below. The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, runs Oct. 12-13 at the Concourse in San Francisco.
If you love the unique books that Top Shelf publishes, Friday is the last day to take advantage of its once-a-year massive $3 sale. The sale is great for two reasons, you can acquire many of Top Shelf’s new offerings at a 50 percent discount — while also helping the independent publisher to “raise funds to ‘kick start’ a full rollout for next year.”
Some of the Top Shelf offerings to consider in the 50 percent debut category, include:
- March (Book One) by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (which Chris Mautner reviewed in August)
- A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown (which I interviewed him about in July)
- God is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler (the authors also chatted with me in July about it)
There are other books to be had at even less than 50 percent, of course, including:
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Comic Book Creator #1 (TwoMorrows, $8.95): I still fondly remember the now-defunct Comic Book Artist magazine from years ago, and now the creator of that magazine, Jon Cooke returns with a new 80-page offering to take its place. With a first issue filled with Jack Kirby, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, this is a must-read for me.
Mark Waid’s The Green Hornet #1 (Dynamite, $3.99): Waid has been having a career renaissance, in terms of recognition at least, and that led to getting his name on the title of this new revamp of Dynamite’s Green Hornet line (art is by Daniel Indero). I dig the creator, I dig the character, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when the two collide.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics HC (Fantagraphics, $35.00): I’ve been looking forward to this one since I first heard about it. Blake Bell looks at the non-comics material being published by the company that would one day become Marvel Comics, including pulp and girlie mag work by Jack Kirby, Bill Everett and Dan DeCarlo. It’s like the perfect companion for Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story!
Star Wars: Legacy — Prisoner of the Floating World #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99): As if the Brian Wood series wasn’t enough to get me back into Star Wars comics, now we get a new series from the Planet of the Apes team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman? If these are the final days of Dark Horse’s Star Wars license as many are rumoring, then they’re definitely going out with a bang.
Wake Up, Percy Gloom HC (Fantagraphics, $24.99): I fell madly in love with Cathy Malkasian’s beautiful Percy Gloom graphic novel a few years back, which was as beautiful as it was unexpected, so there is little to no way that I am not eagerly anticipating this follow-up. For those who like gorgeously-illustrated, melancholy and touching books: This is for you.
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?
I don’t know how I missed this, but Renee French (The Ticking, H Day) has an all-ages book coming from TOON. It’s called Barry’s Best Buddy, and that’s all I’ve been able to find out about it — except of course for these great preview images courtesy of the Blown Covers blog. It’s a different style for French, but it’s as delightfully weird as all her stuff and something to look forward to. It’s scheduled for spring release.
Earlier this month we showcased comics-as-cookbooks, and now we find on Kickstarter a veritable buffet of comics for the foodies among us. Organized by cartoonist/small press publisher J.T. Yost, Digestate is a taster’s choice of stories by 50-plus cartoonists chronicling their own food tastes.
“Each artist has approached the theme in a manner exclusive to their own personality,” Yost says on the project’s Kickstarter page. “There are some autobiographical comics (both funny and heart-wrenching), some fictional comics, some akin to an essay and others that defy categorization altogether.”
The line-up is a “Who’s Who” of cartoonists, with everyone from Renee French and Marc Bell to James Kochalka and Alex Robinson to Keith Knight and Berkeley Breathed. On the Kickstarter page there are several of the stories to be included in the print publication, including the excellent “Bacon Vs. Asparagus with Oscar” by Jeffrey Brown, which is at the bottom of this post.
Digestate is nearly half-way to its$4,500 goal with 30 days remaining in the fundraising campaign. Compared with recent Kickstarter comics drives, $4,500 seems like a relatively small amount but Yost doesn’t say what the money specifically will be going for. Regardless, remember to tip your server!
Passings | Artist Sid Couchey, an illustrator who brought many a Little Lotta story to life during the halcyon days of Harvey Comics, passed away March 111. He was 92. Couchey’s long career stretched from serving as an assistant to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster to steady if uncredited work in a number of comics during the 1950s, Harvey in the 1960s and 1970s, and a whole second career as a local-interest cartoonist, drawing comics about Champy, Lake Champlain’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster. He also may have been the first artist to embed a real-life marriage proposal in a comic. [Press-Republican, via The Comics Reporter]
Creators | Heidi MacDonald talks to Brian K. Vaughan about Saga, his general absence from social media, and jumping from Marvel and DC to Image: “I think at the end of the day I really believe in creator owned books, I wanted to do a book that the artist and I could own and control outright and as much as I loved the other companies I worked for in the past, I feel that Image is one of the few companies left that I would consider having a real creator owned contract.” [The Beat]
As a longtime admirer of H Day cartoonist Renee French’s delicate pencil art, and the frequently disturbing things she uses that delicate pencil art to portray, I’d been a bit dismayed by her Blogspot blog‘s radio silence this autumn. For several years she’d been posting art on a daily basis — what happened? Well, she appears to have switched over to her previously little used Posterous site, as I discovered this weekend. Add it to your RSS reader and your flow of French will remain largely uninterrupted.
Hello and welcome to a special “birthday bash” edition of our weekly “What Are You Reading” feature, where the Robot 6 crew talks about what books we’ve read recently. Usually we invite a special guest to share what they’ve been reading, but since today isn’t just an ordinary day for us, we thought we’d invite a whole bunch of special guests to help us out — our friends and colleagues from Comic Book Resources, Spinoff and Comics Should Be Good!
To see what everyone has been reading, click below …
Today Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson did something that some consider too revealing even in this socially networked, airport x-ray’d age: She posted 20 movies from her Netflix “Watch Instantly” queue. Like anyone else’s, it’s a motley crew of movies made possible by a massive library of films and the power to watch any of them at any time with a few clicks of a mouse — a blend of “comfort food” you want access to at all times, unwatched stuff you’re dying to see at the next available opportunity, major investments of time or energy you haven’t been prepared to make just yet, “eat your vegetables” fare you know you ought to watch eventually, and goofy guilty pleasures you’re simply tickled to be able to watch whenever you feel like it.
This got me thinking. I know there are any number of logistical and financial reasons why such a thing doesn’t exist for comics. But we comics readers are an imaginative bunch, no? And today I choose to imagine a world where I can load up pretty much any book I can think of and read to my heart’s content. So here’s what my imaginary “Read Instantly” queue would look like, circa today. Check it out, then let us know what’s on your queue in the comments!
Publishing | No comic cracked the 100,000-copy mark in the direct market in October, with the top title, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force #1, selling an estimated 96,500 copies. Diamond’s graphic novel chart was led by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One hardcover, which sold more than 16,000 copies. Retail news and analysis site ICv2.com notes that was the best number for a graphic novel since new volumes of Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead shipped in July. The website also pursues John Jackson Miller’s recent analysis of comics that don’t make it into Diamond’s Top 300, concluding: “Sales below the Top 300 may be growing in importance, but when we look at a fairly long period (10 months) either they aren’t big enough in the aggregate to make much difference, or their sales are changing at about the same rate as the Top 300’s. If anything, looking at year to date numbers, sales on titles below the Top 300 are shrinking faster than sales in the Top 300, at least in periodical comics.”
Conventions | Wizard Entertainment has announced its acquisition of Central Canada Comic Con in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Johanna Draper Carlson also picks up on rumors that the company is adding Mid-Ohio-Con to its growing stable. [press release, Comics Worth Reading]
I’ve still got plenty to say about the Alternative Press Expo, which wrapped up today, but for now I thought I’d share a few photos …
It was beautiful yet windy day in San Francisco yesterday as I headed to San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo. I got there a bit later than I’d hoped, due to a quick pit stop in Mountain View that turned into a traffic nightmare. The lot behind the Concourse was already full by the time I arrived, a hint of the crowds that had gathered inside. And inside, everything was different. The layout of the floor was basically flipped, so what used to be the back of the building was now the front of the building. They also had part of their programming slate, the comic workshops, out in an open area up on one of the landings, which I thought worked nicely.
My first stop was the Writers Old Fashioned booth, where I said hello to Jason McNamara, Storm, Matt Silady, Stephenny Godfrey, Emily Stackhouse, Josh Richardson, Danger Bob and the rest of the crew. They were sporting some new eye-catching banners. I also met Greg Hinkle, who worked with several of the WOF crew on a new horror comic called Parasomnia, which they had at the show … and which you’ll be able to see right here on Robot 6 the week of Halloween. I picked up copies Storm’s second Princess Witch Boy and Godfrey’s award-winning Panorama, and Stackhouse showed me her artwork from her next comic, Miner’s Mutiny, which she should have soon.
AdHouse Books returned to APE this year, bringing Adam Hines and his book Duncan the Wonder Dog. I picked up a copy; it’s a huge and mammoth volume that I’m looking forward to reading. I also have to give props to the folks at the Devastator table, whose excitement was infectious. I picked up the first volume and bought a subscription for the next three.
After an engaging spotlight panel, Daniel Clowes was signing at the Drawn and Quarterly booth, drawing a huge line of folks with everything from issues of Lloyd Llewellyn to his latest, Wilson, for him to sign. Renee French was close by, signing her latest, H-Day; we talked briefly about blogging (check out her always interesting sketch blog here).
It looks like rain today, so I should probably start making my way to the Concourse to see if I can get a better parking space …