INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Zak Sally’s Recidivist IV was one of the most difficult comics I’ve ever read. I don’t mean that in an aesthetic or emotional or abstract sense. I mean it was physically difficult to read, as I frequently had to hold the comic at odd angles, or directly up against sunlight to be able to read certain sentences.
That’s entirely intentional. Sally uses bright metallic inks, intricate, overlapping patterns and more to make the type difficult to discern, if not as downright enigmatic as the accompanying images. Containing short stories (although they feel more like essays or simple declarations at times) about characters at life-altering crossroads, and accompanied with a CD of drone music, Recidivist IV is generally what you thinks of when you hear the phrase “a challenging work.” As he noted on his blog, it certainly isn’t a “passive, easy reading experience.”
It might also be one of the best comics of 2014, smart and elegant and breathtaking, a comic that forces you to engage with it but rewards you with its tightrope act as the reading experience and the content cohere into a breathtaking whole.
Passings | Brian Jacoby, owner of the Tallahassee, Florida, comic shop Secret Headquarters and a well-known presence on Twitter and comics discussion boards, died suddenly on Thanksgiving. The news was first released in a tweet from the store. His memorial service will be held Tuesday. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | Bob Staake’s New Yorker cover showing a broken Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a commentary on the events in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, received a lot of attention just before Thanksgiving — and even more when it got around that syndicated cartoonist R.J. Matson had drawn a similar cartoon in August. Matson brushes that aside, however, pointing out that editorial cartoonists often come up with similar visuals: “Finding a good joke is like solving a puzzle and very often there is one very best solution to the puzzle. Any cartoonist worth his salt would kick himself or herself for not finding that solution.” And when five cartoonists do it on the same day, he said, “we call it a Yahtzee.” [The Washington Post]
Digital comics | Jason Snell uses Comic-Con International as an opportunity to take a snapshot of digital comics in “an era of experimentation,” and hones in on Madefire, the convention’s embrace of technology, comiXology and the growing popularity of the digital-first model. “Digital has made us rethink how we fulfill books into the [print] retail market,” Chris Ross, Top Shelf’s director of digital publishing, said during a panel. [TechHive]
Legal | The Attorney-Generals Chambers of Singapore has charged cartoonist Leslie Chew (the pen name of Chew Peng Ee) with contempt of court because of four cartoons posted on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. A hearing on the charges, which could result in jail time and fines, will be held on Aug. 12. Chew’s attorney M. Ravi said in a phone interview, “Our judiciary is not like fragile flowers to be offended easily by such criticism. We have full faith in the impartiality and independence of our judiciary.” [Bloomberg News]
Zak Sally’s announcement that his latest Sammy the Mouse book is ready for purchase also includes some commentary about his experience with publishing the first book himself:
printing it was a nightmare. at the end of that process, i had to face the fact that the 5 months of frustration and banging my head against the wall of the “steep learning curve of being an offset printer” was all time taken away from the primary goal, which is MAKING the COMICS. and it was too much; both the time and the frustration.
This volume will be published by Uncivilized Books, which spares Sally the hassle of getting it printed while allowing him to sell it directly to consumers, which is the part he likes about self-publishing.
It’s a point that anyone considering funding their next book through Kickstarter would do well to consider. It has always seemed illogical to me to have every creator handling their own print run of 5,000 books individually — for one thing, not everyone is good at it, as Sally can attest. Beyond that, though, one of the most valuable functions a publisher can serve is streamlining the less creative parts of the process. Book production is a tricky business, and publishers have experienced people who know how to navigate the fairly technical process; a creator taking a book to the printer for the first time is likely to make mistakes and waste a lot of time. What’s more, an individual creator is never going to be able to negotiate a better price than a publisher who sends a continuous stream of business to the printer.
“I think Marvel Comics should pay for the Jack Kirby Museum. They should fund the thing in its entirety, right now – and not a temporary, pop-up (which would still be awesome), but a permanent, brick and mortar space. what is that – 10, 20 million bucks to do it right? that’s a drop in the bucket. and all profit from the museum in perpetuity could go to the Kirby estate.”
— Sammy the Mouse creator Zak Sally, offering an intriguing suggestion on what Marvel could do to pay its considerable debt to Jack Kirby. Sally goes on to say: “I actually believe that, framed in a less rant-fueled, angry setting, a campaign to get Marvel (and Kirby did no small amount of work/ creation for DC, either) to pony up for the museum is a pretty damn good idea, and I would urge saner, more reasonable minds who agree with this idea to put it forth in whatever way they deem fit.” I actually think this is a pretty good idea, too. Donating a considerable sum or outright paying for the museum would go a long way towards generating considerable goodwill and acknowledge Kirby’s considerable contribution to the company without having to outright pay the family or (I suspect) suggest any possibility of Kirby’s estate having a legitimate claim to the characters’ copyright.
Conventions | ReedPOP has officially announced it will fold the New York Anime Festival into New York Comic Con, rather than continue them as separate events held at the same location. “This move has nothing to do with our loyalty or commitment to the anime community and everything to do with the growth and identity of New York Comic Con as a leading pop culture event,” ReedPOP’s Lance Fensterman said in a statement. “NYCC embraces all elements of the pop culture world, including anime, and we have evolved to a point where the existence of NYAF outside our universe is almost a contradiction. We will be better able to serve the anime community from within the NYCC infra-structure rather than have a show which is separate and which will always be dwarfed by everything that New York Comic Con represents and is.” [press release]
Passings | Cartoonist Jim Unger, whose one-panel comic Herman served as an inspiration for Gary Larson’s The Far Side, passed away Monday at his home in British Columbia. He was 75. The comic appeared in about 600 newspapers worldwide from 1974 until Unger’s retirement in 1992. [The Daily Cartoonist]
I was first introduced to Zak Sally’s work via Recidivist, his collection of short stories, which knocked my proverbial socks off. I remember in particular being struck by his gravitas and willingness to poke at uncomfortable and dark places, not to mention his pitch-black sense of humor.
Sally has only gotten better since then, a fact most easily verified by his work on Sammy the Mouse, an ongoing, ostensibly funny-animal story that was initially serialized as part of Fantagraphics’ Ignatz series.
Now Sally has collected those three Ignatz issues and collected them into a smaller trade paperback, published via his own imprint, La Mano 21. In the true D.I.Y. spirit, Sally didn’t just stop there, but went on to even print the comic himself, using a 2-color press he bought.
I recently talked to Sally over email about the new Sammy collection, his decision to become a printer as well as a publisher and how his experience as a musician (he was a member of the band Low and recently released a solo album) informs his work as a cartoonist. I was touched and gratified by his candor and thoughtfulness, not to mention his willingness to answer my prickly, annoyingly personal questions with honesty and aplomb.
I wanted to start by asking you about your decision to not only publish the book yourself but print it as well. How did you get ahold of a printing press?
Well, in 2004 someone told me about one that’s been sitting in a basement here in Minneapolis, and it was going for $250. at that point in my life, it seemed like an idea worth trying, and a natural extension of doing zines/ self publishing etc. and the price was certainly right. Six years later i found a newer model, with 2-color capabilities, for $500. I sold my old press and quickly found out why the new one had gone for so cheap.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop 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.
It’s not even a fifth week, but I find myself curiously distanced from this week’s releases for some reason. Outside of some books I’ve been reading for awhile, there’s little to really catch my eye, so if I had $15, I’d likely find myself buying Dark Horse Presents #10 (Dark Horse, $7.99) and Memorial #4 (IDW, $3.99), and being quite happy with those two books.
If I had $30, I might go back to Justice League with #7 (DC, $3.99); I wasn’t entirely convinced by the opening arc, but I found myself enjoying the Pandora back-up in #6 enough that I found myself more curious about sticking around than I would’ve expected. I’d also grab Legion of Super-Heroes #7 (DC, $2.99), another book I’ve found myself liking more than I initially thought, as well as Thunderbolts #171 (Marvel, $2.99) for one of the few, final times before it becomes a part of the Avengers family.
Splurging, oddly, is a much easier choice for me than what I’d get in single issues: Avengers: West Coast Avengers – Lost In Space-Time (Marvel, $34.99) collects some of the first issues of West Coast Avengers that I read way back when, launching a love affair with Steve Englehart’s writing that continues to this day. Those original issues are long since lost to history (Somewhat fittingly, considering the time travel subject matter), so this will be a welcome nostalgia trip for me.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. Today our guest is cartoonist, musician and publisher Zak Sally. Sally is known outside comics circles as the former bassist for the band Low, but inside comic circles, he’s known for great books like Like A Dog and the Ignatz series Sammy the Mouse, the collected version of which Sally will be releasing any day now from his own La Mano 21 press.
To see what Sally and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click on the link below.