Monday, 30 August 2010

David Brent, Brian Wilson & Harvey Pekar: an Interview with Joseph Remnant

So far, 2010 has been a good year for the humble floppy comic book. Superseded in profitability by the graphic novel a number of years ago, a diffuse yet committed new wave of cartoonists are revisiting the format, taking advantage of its unique potentials to engage readers. As creators like Michael DeForge and Noah Van Sciver have shown, there’s still plenty of life left in the old dog yet, and some of the best material in the industry right now is happening outside of stitched-spines and hardcovers.

Further aiding the cause is Joseph Remnant, the 28 year old creator best known for his collaborations with revered comics legend Harvey Pekar via Smith Magazine’s Pekar Project. Self-publishing his own Blindspot earlier this year, the comic is an illuminating look into the creative voice behind the earthy Crumb-influenced visuals that many of us are familiar with. Comedic in tone, with a healthy-dose of self-deprecation, it’s a mixture of fiction, biography and, at points, both pretending to be the other.

We’re big fans of Blindspot, so we invited Joseph to talk to us about the inspirations and decisions behind it, as well as his upcoming project: Pekar’s posthumous graphic novel Cleveland, which work began on before the American Splendor scribe passed away. Read on for talk of the comics, along with his thoughts on the pamphlet format, his relationship with Pekar, and his appreciation of the original BBC version of The Office and The Beach Boys. Sound like a blast? It absolutely is. 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Review: Blackbird, Pierre Maurel (self-published, 2008-ongoing)

Pierre Maurel | A5, black & white | €3.50 per issue | Ongoing

The thing about self-publishing is that for every great comic, there’s one thousand illegible pieces of trash that make you wish you hadn’t started drinking before attending your local mini-comics festival with your wallet. However, when you find those few exceptional pieces of Xeroxed work, it all feels worth it and acts as a prudent reminder that some of the best creative work is done outside of the radar – and  control – of the publishing industry.

A celebration of DIY publishing in form, distribution and content, Pierre Maurel’s unofficially-titled Blackbird (the covers themselves appearing without name) is one of our favourite ongoing comics of the moment. With several published works under his belt (two of which appearing in the sélection officielle at Angoulême in 2007 and 2009) the French writer/ artist  decided to take advantage of the possibilities and freedom of working outside of a publisher.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Misc: Good Grief! Subscription Service!

When our good friend David Bailey of excellent Manchester-based small press shop Good Grief! emailed to tell us about his new subscription service, we knew we had to write about it immediately. Just like National Geographic, only much cooler, the store is now offering to send the latest, rarest and best mini-comics from around the world straight to your home on a monthly basis.

The five bonus-laden plans are all appropriately named with Schultzian (yes, I'm petitioning that to become an officially accepted term) names, starting at the one month Woodstock subscription (£15), transitioning through  The Linus, The Snoopy and The Charlie Brown before arriving at the lavish Ludwig Van Beethoven package. Coming with enough goodies to force Santa Claus out of business, stuff like posters; T-shirts; CDs; tote bags and more fill out the awesome packages. Customers can even receive A BIRTHDAY CARD, depending on the plan they choose. What more could you want? You can see all the details here, on the Good Grielf! blog.

Don't be shy, send David an email, or order directly here. Tell him we sent you!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Review: The Comics of Sam Spina (self-published, 2010)

How many comics’ “about the author” sections can you think of that feature their creator being carried by an anthropomorphic hammerhead shark? I can think of just one: Sharker The Forgotten:  The Story of Sean Kerr by Sam Spina, one of the many charming (and just a little bit bizarre) mini-comics the Denver-based cartoonist sent our way recently.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Social Creatures Who Crave Recognition: an Interview with Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham embodies the possibilities open to comics creators in today's digital cultural landscape. Self-publishing his Psychiatric Tales strips online, years after their initial creation, they took off like wildfire, receiving coverage from all manner of comic and non-comic sources.  Finding a complete  - and eager - audience for his attitude-debunking series of stories from his time as a healthcare assistant/ psychiatric nursing student, this exposure has now led him directly to independent and mainstream publishers.  

Collected and published by UK independent Blank Slate Books, the book has gone on to receive yet more positive coverage from the likes of the BBC and The Observer. With the book currently in the process of working its way to the US officially via Bloomsbury, we invited Darryl to talk a little about the book, his success, his upcoming work and how he's inspired by the "five decades of stuff" in his head.

Psychiatric Tales is receiving some very kind words from the mainstream press as well as bloggers outside of the comics field. What are your thoughts on this reaction? Has it surprised you?

This may sound ungrateful, but I've struggled to get recognition for so long that I have a general feeling of anticlimax about most of the coverage I've garnered. I'm still scraping a living working with elderly people who suffer from dementia, and this work grounds me in reality. There's not much chance of it going to my head. I've had very positive reviews in The Observer (Graphic Novel of the Month) and The Times Literary Supplement, but I tend to take a downbeat view of these things. The reality of it is that until I can get to a point when I'm financially secure enough to work exclusively on cartooning, then I'm not going to be impressed by anything I do. There's much work still to be done. What has has surprised me is the response to the work I've done since completing Psychiatric Tales. The science stories I've put online have generated enormous interest, both for for and against. I took on some very controversial issues, such as the MMR vaccination scandal, homeopathy, and the myth of NASA's Moon Hoax. The science blogging community have embraced this new work, but those invested in the anti-vaccination mythology, pseudo-medical science, and conspiracies, have really hated them. The emails I've received have reflected these two views.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Art, Books & Connecting People : an Interview with Anne Koyama

Britt Wilson's take on Koyama Press' "Kickass Annie" logo.

It's not hard to see why Anne Koyama is one of the most beloved people in independent comics and art publishing. Setting up Toronto-based Koyama Press in 2007, she’s gone on to build an acclaimed catalogue of art and comic publications with impeccable taste and a barometer-like sense for upcoming talent. Aiding upcoming artists and creators by financing books, distribution and travel costs, her publishing rap-sheet reads like a Who’s Who of exciting, unique creators in comics and art today.

A Jill of all trades, Anne worked as a producer in documentaries, feature films and commercials, a set painter (for the Canadian National Ballet & Opera) and even a voluntary probation officer before founding Koyama Press in 2007. Re-evaluating her outlook following risky surgery to combat a life-threatening brain aneurism, she states that “I looked at what I love, and that turned out to be art, books and connecting people”.

Officially beginning with her selling her car to finance a book with Trio Magnus, Anne’s managed to maintain forward momentum even without wheels, producing books, zines, comics, prints, t-shirts and a whole lot more. Read on to learn more about Koyama Press, Annie's background, thoughts on digital publishing vs traditional as well as a whole bunch of awesome upcoming projects we can’t wait to get our grubby hands on.

Koyama Press is a very atypical publisher, in that your primary focus is enabling creators to reach a greater audience via project funding. How would you describe your publishing ethos?

Funding for the arts in Canada seems to shrink each year despite all the talent we have here. So I try to promote emerging visual artists and give them a product with which to generate a little income.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Heeby Jeeby Comix Interview Part 3

For those just joining us, the good news is that this week the blog has been dedicated to the amazing  Heeby Jeeby Comix; the bad news is that today is the last entry in our three-part interviews with the four super-animate minds behind it: Bob Flynn, Dan Moynihan, Chris Houghton and David DeGrand. Fear not,  fashionable latecomers, as here are links to part one and part two of this fun and insightful discussion.

Following the collective voice of frustration regarding the “all ages” label on Wednesday, we thought we’d end the interview on a high note, getting down to the fun stuff and discussing the direct influences behind the comic. As could be expected of a group with such diverse styles, a lot of names pop up and everyone from Roald Dhal to SpongeBob Squarepants is mentioned. Read on for those, their thoughts on Bill Watterson’s evergreen Calvin & Hobbes, and what to expect next from them. Also, we conclude on one of the most important questions of all time. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Heeby Jeeby Comix Interview Part 2

The very first time I read Heeby Jeeby Comix, I couldn't help but be reminded of the feeling of reading MAD Magazine as a pre-adolescent. I have a distinct memory of the heady mixture of physical humour and gross jokes combining with the sarcasm and satire creating an exciting sensation that, as a reader, I was being treated as an equal. If there's one word to describe both MAD and Heeby Jeeby, it's definitely "inclusive", a quality that makes both all the better for it.

Following on from Monday's talk of the challenges - or lack thereof - of producing comics that both children and adults can enjoy, we were very interested to ask the for the team's thoughts on two of the most troublesome words in comic marketing today - the dreaded "all ages" label. Read on for these, as well as contemplation of the failings of child-specific entertainment, the importance of respecting young readers and the mechanics of monster design.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the "all ages" label. Frustrating for creators and fans is the perception that the tag is synonymous with "just for children". What are your thoughts on this tricky subject? 

Dan Moynihan: Well, I think phrases such as "all ages" and "fun for the whole family" are such a turn-off because they get applied to so many things that have been misguidedly dumbed-down and are really just for young children. But I often find the best entertainment to be something that can truly be enjoyed by all ages.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Heeby Jeeby Comix Interview Part 1

Kicking off Heeby Jeeby Comix week here at the blog is the first part of our three-part interview with the fab four behind the first issue: David DeGrand, Bob Flynn, Chris Houghton and Dan Moynihan. One of the most exciting projects to come out of the indie/ small-press scene this year, it's a very welcome reminder of the comic book at its purest. Fun, hyper-animate, and sometimes even a little strange, it's the kind of work that's sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers, young or old. We love it.

Today, the Heeby Jeeby gang 
detail the origins of the project, discuss the merits and influence of Nickelodeon Magazine,  the challenges of producing comics for both children and adults, and how they might still be big kids at heart. 

What's the secret origin story of Heeby Jeeby Comix? What were your aims when planning to publish your own "all ages" comic?

Bob Flynn: Chris should weigh in on this one, but as I remember it, Heeby Jeeby started with a phone call with Chris. We were talking comics—somehow we got on the tangent that a lot of comics being made now are for mature audiences. Most of what I read details serious-to-mundane topics and a range of life experience scenarios, told by people in their twenties and thirties for people in their 20s and 30s. Some of these comics are truly amazing, don't get me wrong. But the industry is overrun by them.

Featured Creators: Heeby Jeeby Comix

As soon as we caught wind of Bob Flynn, Chris Houghton, David DeGrand and Dan Moynihan's awesome Heeby Jeeby Comix, we just knew we had to cover it on the blog. Interlocking talents like some kind of cartooning Voltron, they've joined forces to create one of the year's most exciting independent/ small-press projects - and it just so happens to be designed as much for kids as for adults (fully grown kids, if you prefer).

We love the comic so much, that we're dedicating a whole week to interviewing the brains (and other assorted viscera) behind it. Challenging preconceptions of what it means to be an "all-ages" comic, Heeby Jeeby Comix is full to the brim with unpatronising, classic cartoon strips that throw silly concepts such as "age" out the window entirely, appealing as much to the reader's funny-bone as they do their intelligence.

Part one of the mammoth interview sees the Heeby Jeeby quartet detail the origins of the project, discuss the merits and influence of much-missed Nickelodeon (latterly Nick) Magazine, and the challenges of producing comics with cross-generational appeal.

Part two and three to come! Be sure to follow us on Twitter or 'like' us on Facebook for updates as they happen (how's that for a plug?). Don't miss it.

Let Heeby Jeeby Week commence!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Big Dudes with Big Noses: an Interview with Drew Weing

One of the most visually breathtaking comics we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, you might be surprised to learn that Drew Weing’s original intentions for Set to Sea were for it to be a casually-minded side-project in which he could (in his own words) “knock out one panel every day”. The story of a gargantuan poet - whose nautical dreams turn to nightmares after he's shanghaied into labour aboard a merchant ship - originally appeared on Weing's website, and has just received a much-deserved (and rather handsome) hardcover release via Fantagraphics.

With this hyper-detailed graphic novel debut under his belt, we invited Drew to talk a little about the comic, his process, his work with his equally-talented wife Eleanor Davis, and traditional maritime baking. So, batten down the hatches, splice the mainbrace (and other such terms we don't really understand), and read on to adventure!

The world of the comic feels pretty dense, and the amount of detail, both nautical and in terms of your artwork is staggering. What inspired you to write this kind of story?

Believe it or not, I had the idea that I could knock out one panel every day - just a low-pressure side project while I worked on other things!  I'd done some similar exercises in a class with James Sturm at SCAD. I think by panel 5 or so they were taking more than a day to finish. When I started researching ships and pinning down the story's era in time, the detail level increased even more. It's become obvious to me over the years that I'm completely incapable of dashing off a project.