Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Before Strange Tales, before Bizarro, before those pages in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up that Craig Thompson drew, before the past decade’s worth of alternative comics artists taking a crack at the spandex set, there was Coober Skeber 2. Published by Tom Devlin, who would go on to launch the hugely influential (if never quite financially successful) Highwater Books imprint, this anthology’s so-called “Marvel Benefit Issue” contained a galaxy of altcomix stars both famous (that’s a Seth cover above) and obscure taking on the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe.
The book hit an unsuspecting Comic-Con International in 1997, as the ailing comics giant was cape-deep in bankruptcy. And though the “benefit” angle was dubious, since the book was handed out for free, the impact on readers who’d never seen the likes of future underground legends like Mat Brinkman or Ron Regé Jr. before, let alone working with characters like Spider-Man, was substantial.
The good folks at Comics Comics have posted the story behind the book. Here’s a snippet:
Check out Seth’s latest illustration project, the cover to Criterion Collection’s edition of the classic Leo McCarey film Make Way for Tomorrow. I would imagine the interior booklet is just as superbly designed.
Man, that’s a knockout, huh? Feast your eyes on George Sprott author (and all-around Dapper Dan) Seth’s design for Nancy, Vol. 2, the forthcoming installment of Drawn & Quarterly’s gorgeous John Stanley Library.
The image hails from this post by D&Q’s Rebecca Rosen, which you really ought to read if the cult of Nancy has been a bit inscrutable to you like it has been to me. Just for example, the above image is a Seth drawing … which graces a book containing the adventures of a character created by, and best known through the work of, Ernie Bushmiller … but D&Q’s Nancy books collect John Stanley’s run on the character from her comic books, as opposed to Bushmiller’s newspaper strips … but those books were actually drawn by Dan Gormley, working off Stanley’s storyboard-format scripts. Phew! And then there’s the role that Mark Newgarden’s abstractified tribute to Bushmiller’s Nancy, “Love’s Savage Fury,” played in the character’s popularity with cartoonists…and ditto Newgarden and Paul Karasik’s landmark essay “How to Read Nancy” … ah, let Rebecca explain it to you, and why it all matters.
Lately, acclaimed cartoonist Seth has mostly been busy delighting us with his designs for Drawn & Quarterly’s John Stanley Library. But with Halloween only a day away, the artist behind George Sprott and Wimbledon Green has decided to spook us instead. Seth has provided illustrations for a series of New York City ghost stories, reported by writer Lizzy Ratner in The New York Times. Created in ghostly blue and white, they’re like the artiest, most tastefully drawn episode of Ghost Hunters ever.
(Via Peggy Burns at the D&Q blog.)
The nattily dressed cartoonist talks about Doug Wright and his own book, George Sprott in this interview for Q TV. Is it just me or should Steve Buscemi play Seth in the great alt-comix biopic?
Cartoonist Seth has designed a float for the Niagara Wine Festival Parade featuring the Wine King of Dominion City, a fictional city created by the Canadian artist. Details on where and when you can see it in the Niagara area can be found at the link.
Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger, critic, Comics Comics editor and expectant dad Tim Hodler. To find out what Mr. Hodler and the rest of us are reading this week, click on the link below. And be sure to let us know what you’re currently reading in the comments section.
George Sprott: 1894-1975
Drawn and Quarterly, 96 pages, $24.95.
My father in law passed away earlier this year. He was born in 1929, the son of immigrants, a first-generation American. I often wonder what it was like for him, watching his parents’ culture and way of life fade away as he grew up and then watching his own culture and everything he spent his adulthood embracing all but completely eradicated as he passed into old age.
That may be the great curse of the 20th century. Technology and the world has changed so rapidly that we often had little time to turn around and miss whatever was behind us before it got steamrolled over to make room for the new mini-mall. Not that there weren’t things that needed paving over, mind you, just that we rarely had time to reflect.
Welcome to What Are You Reading. Our special guest this week is PictureBox publisher, Art Out of Time author and all-around top dog Dan Nadel.
Remember, we want to know what you’re reading as well, so feel free to share what comics you’ve been enjoying (or haven’t as the case may be) in the comments section.
And now, here what we’re reading …
Continuing our occasional series looking at how small press and indie comics publishers are weathering the downturn in the economy, not to mention Diamond’s recent policy changes, today we’re talking with Drawn and Quarterly’s Associate Publisher Peggy Burns.
D&Q rather unintentionally became regarded as one of the first martyrs of Diamond’s new cut-off policy when two of their serialized comics, Sammy Harkham’s Crickets and Kevin Huizenga’s Or Else, were cancelled. The fact that said cancellations were due to the separate decisions of the artists themselves and not the publisher or Diamond didn’t matter much at the time; its close proximity seemed to have a direct cause and effect.
I was curious as to what Burns had to say about that matter and the industry climate in general, since she’s one of the most intelligent and candid people working behind the scenes in comics today. She didn’t disappoint and I’d like to thank her for taking the time to respond to the plethora of questions I emailed her.
I don’t really want to get into a numbers game with our authors whose comics fell below or near the Diamond minimum. Obviously, the titles (Or Else, Lucky, Crickets) that have been announced as ending in their pamphlet form hovered around the minimum, though the conversation with Or Else happened before the minimum news. Ending a series is not something we want to do. The artist wanted to tell their story in this form, and we have the job of telling this form is no longer viable. It’s not an easy decision and wasn’t fun to do.
Jeet Heer is a critic and scholar who makes me realize I’m incredibly ignorant of the comics medium on so many levels. Therefore when I had the opportunity to interview him recently, to say I was intimidated (even though it was via the comfort of email) is an understatement. We covered a great deal of ground in our email exchange, but it is so diverse while at the same time succinct, I have opted to split the interview into two parts. The second part (found here) focuses on Heer’s collaboration with Kent Worcester. My thanks to Heer for his time and thoughts.
Tim O’Shea: What is the labor breakdown between you, Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros in terms of editing the collections of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley? Who handles what on the projects?
Jeet Heer: I see the Walt and Skeezix books as truly collaborative efforts. With each volume, Chris Ware and I make a trip out to see Frank King’s family, collect material and decide what the theme is going to be. I try to shape my writing around the visual material: thus in volume 3, we had a lot of photos of Gasoline Alley toys and merchandizing, thanks in large part to Chris’s efforts as a collector. See those photos inspired me to write about King’s ability to spin off merchandizing based on is characters. Chris Oliveros, of course, handles the production end of things, which is a big part of the book’s appeal (and a big reason why Drawn and Quarterly books are so treasured). I’m less involved in the production decision, but I often eavesdrop as an interested observer and it’s fascinating to listen to the two Chrises talk about paper stock, the size of books, the color scheme of the covers and other details. For both Ware and Oliveros, book making is truly an art. This is important to bear in mind because until recently, book production wasn’t a big part of comics: most comic strip collection and comic books were shoddily put together. To be sure, there were exceptions like the Barnaby books of the 1940s, or Walt Kelly’s warm and inviting Pogo paperbacks of the 1950s. But the real revolution in comics came in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to four people: Francoise Mouly, Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, and Chris Oliveros. The four really taught us that to do justice to comics as a visual form, the book design had to be specifically tailored to show the art in the best light.