Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
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.
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]
The winner will be announced April 19. This is the fourth year that graphic novels have been included, and not surprisingly, given that this is a book award, the selections generally have an artistic/literary bent.
Unlike the Eisners, the LA Times awards do not accept nominations from the field; the three judges in each category are responsible for making the selections. Unlike the Eisners and other comics awards, the LA Times doesn’t make a big deal over who the judges are; I couldn’t find a list anywhere, although past judges get a mention here and there.
Anyway, given that any set of awards nominations is really just a starting point for discussion, feel free to comment on what books should — and shouldn’t — have made the shortlist.
Legal | Both Warner Bros. and automobile customizer Mark Towle have filed for summary judgment in the studio’s 2011 copyright-infringement lawsuit against Towle, whose Gotham Garage sold several replicas of the Batmobile. Warner, the parent company of DC Comics, claims the design of the Batmobile is its intellectual property, while Towle argues that copyright law does not regard a “useful object,” such as a car, as a sculptural work and therefore the design can’t be copyrighted. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Crime | Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, are investigating the theft of 600 X-Men comics, dating back to the 1970s, from the communal storage area of an apartment building. [Journal Star]
“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.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Fantagraphics’ Marketing Director Mike Baehr, who runs their indispensable company blog, Flog!, among other duties.
To see what Mike and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
The nominees for the 2011 Ignatz Awards have been announced on the website for the Small Press Expo. Awarded every year at SPX and named after the brick-throwing mouse from Krazy Kat, the Ignatzes are selected by an anonymous jury of five creators and voted on by attendees of the show. There’s nothing in comics quite like lugging around the actual, honest-to-god bricks awarded as trophies to the winners.
This year, cartoonists Michael DeForge, Edie Fake, and Sammy Harkham top the list of nominees with three nods apiece. DeForge’s Lose, the third issue of which was released this year by Koyama Press, earned him nominations for Outstanding Artist, Outstanding Series, and Outstanding Comic. Fake received an Outstanding Artist nomination for his Secret Acres graphic novel Gaylord Phoenix, which is also up for Outstanding Graphic Novel, while the the fifth issue of the series collected in the GN earned an Outstanding Mini-Comic nod. Harkham’s self-published Crickets is up for Outstanding Series thanks to its third issue, which is nominated for Outstanding Comic and contains “Blood of the Virgin,” nominated for Outstanding Story.
On the publishing side, Fantagraphics leads the pack with five nominations, split between Joe Daly (Outstanding Series, Dungeon Quest), Joyce Farmer (Outstanding Graphic Novel, Special Exits), Jaime Hernandez (Outstanding Story, “Browntown,” from Love and Rockets: New Stories #3), and Carol Tyler (Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Graphic Novel, You’ll Never Know, Vol. 2: Collateral Damage).
Secret Acres and Sparkplug tie for the silver with four nominations each. Secret Acres boasts the two nods for Fake’s Gaylord Phoenix graphic novel, plus another two for Joe Lambert’s I Will Bite You (Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Anthology or Collection). Sparkplug was tapped for editor Annie Murphy’s Gay Genius (Outstanding Anthology or Collection), Elijah Brubaker’s Reich (Outstanding Series), Dunja Jankovic’s Habitat #2 (Outstanding Comic), and Chris Cilla’s The Heavy Hand (Outstanding Graphic Novel).
Not to tip my own hand here, but as with the Harveys, it’s refreshing to see that Hernandez’s “Browntown” and Chris Ware’s Lint, arguably two of the best comics of all time, are nominated in the relevant categories for best comics of the year. You’d think you could take that for granted, but you’d be surprised! Moreover, DeForge, Fake, and Harkham’s books really are excellent, and Fantagraphics, Secret Acres, and Sparkplug are high-quality, gutsy publishers. Not a lot to be unhappy about with this list!
Hosted by cartoonist Dustin Harbin, the Ignatz Awards gala will take place on Saturday, September 10 at SPX in Bethesda, Maryland. See the entire slate of nominees after the jump.
Looks like the mother of all post-millennial art/alt-comix anthologies is about to get a makeover. Last Thursday, editor Sammy Harkham and publisher Dan Nadel of PictureBox Inc. announced the November 2011 release of Kramers Ergot 8, the latest installment in Harkham’s “this is why the word ‘seminal’ exists” anthology series. According to Harkham and Nadel, the new volume will mark a break from the four previous, sprawling, all but physically intimidating collections — a smaller, more focused effort, featuring longer 16-24-page stories from about a dozen creators, working with the same aesthetic end in mind instead of the potpourri of approaches evident in earlier volumes. The line-up includes Harkham, cover designer Robert Beatty, Gary Panter, Gabrielle Bell, C.F., Kevin Huizenga, Ben Jones, Jason T. Miles, Leon Sadler, Johnny Ryan, Frank Santoro & Dash Shaw, Anya Davidson, Ron Rege Jr., Ron Embleton & Frederic Mullally.
its a strange thing when the most visually exciting sequence in a chester brown book are of his dick being inspected. not bad, mind you. I think chester brown has a big dick. he keeps saying it’s six inches, but girls keep saying “ow”, so he’s measuring wrong.
–Via Twitter, Sammy Harkham, editor of Kramers Ergot and author of Crickets, asks the hard questions (sorry) about Chester Brown’s new memoir about his life as a patron of prostitutes, Paying For It. I’m enjoying Fear Itself and Flashpoint just fine, but as far as summer buzz books go, they sure don’t spark conversations like this.
On a more serious tip (sorry!), Harkham also echoes an observation I myself had about the book. I won’t spoil it lest I call down the wrath of Drawn & Quarterly (although Harkham does spill the beans in his tweet, so be warned, I guess?), but by far the most interesting aspect of his relationship with prostitutes, one that pretty much turns everything else in the book on its ear, is crammed into the final few pages and barely dealt with at all. “To me, that’s where the book should start,” says Harkham. “That’s a book.”
Have you read it? What did you think?
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.
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.
Programming Director Bill Kartalopoulos has released the programming schedule for the upcoming 2nd annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, taking place on Saturday, Dec. 4 in Williamsburg, and it’s a doozy. Lynda Barry & Charles Burns and Françoise Mouly & Sammy Harkham will be paired off in panels that are perhaps the highlight of the show, while other spotlighted cartoonists include Golden Age artist Irwin Hasen (in conversation with Paul Pope, Evan Dorkin, and Dan Nadel) and Big Questions author Anders Nilsen, who drew the still-awesome poster you see above.
Check out the full schedule in the BCGF press release after the jump.
That’s pretty much all I got, folks. According to a post on the blog for Harkham’s L.A. book and music store Family, Crickets #3 is “happening soon.” That appears to be the cover up above.
Around this time last year, Harkham announced the cancellation of the series, then published by Drawn & Quarterly, due to Diamond’s new minimum-order thresholds. At the time, the Kramers Ergot editor and cartoonist said the third issue “will come out in some DYI form in the next couple months.” I think I speak for all of us when I say better late than never!