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 | The Guy Davis short story “The Phototaker” has been removed from the 2012 Eisner Awards ballot after it was determined to be ineligible. “The ‘Phototaker’ Eisner nomination was a mix up,” Davis wrote on Twitter. ” Jackie Estrada messaged me after I posted asking about the original English version, which came out in Metal Hurlant #9 (2003). So it’s not eligible for the 2012 Eisner nomination and has been removed. Thanks for all the congratulations yesterday, but I’m happy to clear this up and have it removed from the running.” [Eisner Awards]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham respond to March’s direct-market sales estimates, which saw Marvel claim three of the Top 10 spots after a February shutout. “We are pleased that we gained share, and we never expected that we would hold ten out of ten at the top of the chart for ever,” Wayne said. “I think it is better for the business if everybody is firing on all cylinders, that our competitors are doing interesting things, and we are doing interesting things. It keeps everybody on their toes and it keeps enthusiasm in the readership. The retailers remain involved wanting to make sure that they have enough of everything. I think it’s a good thing all around.” [ICv2.com]
The Los Angeles Times Book Prize judges have released their list of finalists for the 2011 prizes, and here are the five nominees for best graphic novel:
- I Will Bite You! And Other Stories, by Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres)
- Celluloid, by Dave McKean (Fantagraphics)
- Finder: Voice, by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
- Congress of the Animals, by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
- Garden, by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
This is only the third year that there has been a graphic novel category, and it’s worth noting that this is the second time one of Jim Woodring’s books has been a finalist; last year it was Weathercraft. Also, while the selection is quite eclectic, five out of the 15 nominees in the past three years have been from Fantagraphics, which gives an inkling of the judges’ tastes.
I suppose on a certain level running through all the loot you nabbed at this or that convention seems a bit like bragging, even if the intention is merely to say, “Hey, here’s some cool comics you should check out.” That being said, it seems like a while since anyone’s done one of those “here’s the stuff I bought” posts, so I thought I’d run down some of the more interesting-looking books I nabbed at SPX this past weekend. Forgive me.
The Body of Work by Kevin Huizenga. In addition to promoting the release of Ganges #4, Huizenga had a couple of mini-comics for sale as well. This one features some of the comics he’s been posting online like Postcard from Fielder.
Garden (2011), page 12. Yuichi Yokoyama.
(remember, manga means read right to left)
Saying Yuichi Yokoyama is the best artist of environmental processes that comics have going is a bit like saying somebody is the best right fielder the nation of Switzerland has going: it isn’t really something we’ve got a lot of. Even with the increasing prominence of landscape drawings in American comics — I’d guess it’s a combined effect of the art-comix revolution, which put sequential pages on the same level as fine-art paintings for the first time, and the translated manga boom, which introduced many a stateside reader to the more landscape-heavy Japanese comics tradition — the emphasis I see is surprisingly foreign to the comics medium. In both American and Japanese cartooning, most landscape scenes seem mainly concerned with using the form to put forth a panorama of images, a bouquet of still shots. That’s fine, but it misses a potential that this Yuichi Yokoyama page taps deep into.
What simple landscape drawing misses in its depiction of environments is that the world is a living place, a constantly unfolding process rather than a fixed background. Traditional, single-image landscape painting can’t really be called on to depict that process since it’s only single images; but comics can, and yet it does so rarely. That’s the purest, most transcendent aspect of Yokoyama’s strangely literalist manga: he draws the living world, and he uses the comics form to do it. In Yokoyama, environmental forces perform the role of “characters” with regularity, propelling sequence with the development that their very existence entails. Here, more typical characters drop out entirely and the page fixes around an unusual type of interaction for comics: not that of living things, but of the natural and man-made worlds. And still, it’s as dynamic and recognizable a “short story” as any tracking of human movement through space or conversation, a beginning, middle, and end in five panels.
by Yuichi Yokoyama
Picturebox, 320 pages, $24.95.
It might seem odd at first glance to describe Yuichi Yokoyama’s work as dynamic, given his minimalist, antiseptic style that edges ever so closely to outright abstraction without ever crossing the line. Yet a close inspection of his work, particularly his latest book, Garden, shows what an utterly apt adjective it is. Nothing of significance ever happens in Yokoyama’s world, at least not in the sense we think of it when talking about narrative. There’s precious little plot per se, no threats or crisis, and no character development to speak of. Yet everything is in constant motion, in constant flux, if not already transforming then ready to be transformed into something else or at least be moved about. No one stands still in Garden, and their actions are depicting in tight close ups, off-kilter worm’s-eye-views or panoramic vistas. He’s Jack Kirby without the bombast or violence.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15 this week, I’d immediately go for Flashpoint #1 (DC Comics, $3.99) – I am very, very unsure about the number of tie-ins DC are pushing out for the new crossover event, but with Geoff Johns in charge, I’m suspecting that the main book will be worth a look at least. I’d also grab the relaunched GI Joe #1 (IDW, $3.99), if only to follow up on the “Cobra Civil War” storyline that I admit has completely caught my attention unexpectedly. Curiosity would also get me to pick up both Moriarty #1 (Image, $2.99) and Total Recall #1 (Dynamite, $1.99), two new launches that will hopefully take familiar ideas and characters in directions I wouldn’t expect…
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.)
It’s not exactly Mickey Mouse buying Spider-Man, but it’s fascinating news nonetheless: Indie publisher PictureBox Inc. will be selling digital versions of its comics and graphic novels through the iPhone comics app Panelfly. Available titles include C.F.’s Powr Mastrs Vols. 1 & 2, Frank Santoro’s Storeyville, Lauren Weinstein’s The Goddess of War #1, and Yuichi Yokoyama’s Travel. Panelfly‘s other publishers include indie outfits NBM and SLG.
That even PictureBox — the artiest of the artcomix publishers, known for envelope-pushing material, extremely high production values, and a publishing line that straddles the comics and fine-art worlds — is going digital says a whole lot about the industry’s perceived need to get a foot in that particular door, not to mention about PictureBox’s willingness to seek out an audience outside of the traditional art/alt/underground comics venues.