Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Best Comics Are Still to be Made: an Interview with Tommi Musturi (Part Two)

Seven year-old Tommi Musturi, by seven year-old Tommi Musturi.

Whilst it may seem irreverent to some, Tommi Musturi is a creator who believes in the yet-untapped potentials of the comic form. As illustrated by the quote that we chose to head this interview with, his firm belief is that, given that the comic form, as we know it, is still very young, it is still developing. This perspective  can be seen in Tommi's own work, which, whilst rooted in his own influences from comic history past and present, is very much personal in terms of the creative impetus behind it.

Below you will find the concluding part of our interview with the man himself, featuring more talk about his views on comic books, his time creating graphics and print art within 1980s/1990s demoscene culture, how zines led him towards cartooning, and much more. Any interview that include talk Commodore 64s and R. Crumb have got to be worthwhile, right? Click here to read part one.

What attracts you to comics?

There are three things I've always mentioned: the first is the fact that comics are relatively easy to produce - you just need paper and something to draw with. It's only you who decides what happens on paper. This makes comics quite a pure way to express yourself as there's no one else to influence the work, not even money (at least in Finland). Ideally, you can do what you want. If you do it well, the result will be something unique. Of course this can be seen from the opposite, also; in the end you're responsible for everything. That should be taken as an adventure though.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Best Comics Are Still to be Made: an Interview with Tommi Musturi (Part One)

Way back in the halcyon days of January 2010, before we'd even dreamed of having an audience for Avoid the Future, we officially began our comic blogging lives with a review of Tommi Musturi's Walking with Samuel. So taken by it were we, that, in retrospect, it seems fair to say there would be no ATF without this book. When Judith and I stumbled upon it - tucked casually away beneath eye-level at the comic shop during the big Angouleme 2010 promotional push - it instantly reaffirmed our love of comic books, and art in general. 

So, you'll understand that we reacted with a certain level of uncontrollable glee when the Finnish creator recently agreed to talk to us about his work, his relationship with comics, as well as his projects past and present. Split into two parts, today's interview focuses on the immediate - Musturi's two fantastic ongoing comic series: Samuel and The Books of Hope. Detailing the inspiration and process behind these books, he also delves deeper, giving us an introduction into his history as an artist and a glimpse at his ideosyncratic creative outlook.

In Walking with Samuel, you create a fine between expressiveness and ambiguity. Consequently, Samuel becomes a very identifiable figure even though the reader knows very little about the specifics of his character. What were your intentions when creating him and the book?

The actual character, Samuel, was born in my sketchbooks a few years ago. I just wanted to draw a very simple figure without any expressions on its face and then try to express different emotions through it.

Later on, I spent two months in Benin, Togo, and Ghana in West Africa, and drew a lot more "free" drawings in my sketchbooks. These all came out with a very clean line and started to look like the environment Samuel could live in. I lived by the ocean for most of my time there and spent lots of time just walking around by the shoreline. The local nature and its forms made a big impression on me, which then appeared in my drawings. So, I made a 6-page short story with Samuel walking through these forms and in the end basically just "not giving a shit" about so-called "western civilization". That seemed a good statement to start working on more, so I sketched ten more episodes in Africa and drew them back home in Finland.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Review: Prison Pit: Book Two, Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics, 2010)

 Johnny Ryan | 16.5 x 21.6 cm, black & white | $12.99 | Out Now

Released last year, Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit: Book One was the kind of offensive, polarising piece of trash that readers either embraced like a lovable, albeit rotting, puppy carcass or bolted from in aghast terror. Both camps will feel vindicated then, that Prison Pit: Book Two returns with just as much phallic, alien grappling gore as the original, if not more. I, for one, am content to let the book slam its bloody, jagged-nailed middle finger through my corneas all over again.

It’s hard to write valuable criticism when the author himself states the purpose of the work is that he “wanted to do a book about monster-men beating the shit out of each other.”, asserting that “There’s no real subtext to it. It’s about the fighting.” (taken from’s interview). Like the fat kid who introduces himself as such,  Ryan has beaten reviewers to the punch, placing his book firmly beyond the standard methods of appraisal by declaring outright that it’s not meant to be a valuable book, rather, a fun one. There are no great truths embedded between its panels – unless you count the universal funniness of genitals, monster genitals and robot genitals – just good, old fashioned, mindless action. Who needs Asterios Polyp when the central narrative movement of this comic is a mission titled "Operation Rape Ladydactyl"? Not me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Review: Supertalk Issues 1 & 2 (Bird Cage Bottom, 2010)

Anthology | 20 x 25cm, black & white | $5 per issue | Out Now

A warm fuzzy tingling extends itself throughout my stomach lining each time a new issue-based anthology comic arrives at HQ. Far from being as perverse as it sounds; my fondness for this kind of publication is inextricably tied to my development as a young comic reader. Starting from my first, tentative steps across the pages of The Beano and The Dandy on the sofa with my father, to my agonisingly mercurial teenage years reading Dark Horse Presents and Zero Zero, there's something about the format of a short succession of stories that I’ll always hold dear to me.

Because of this, the central pleasure of anthologies for me is discovery: discovery of new creators, new styles, and new or revisited potentials of the form. So, it’s with much appreciation that I thank Birdcage Bottom Books head honcho (and creator of the excellent Old Man Winter and Other Stories) J. T. Yost for sending the first two issues of Supertalk our way. "Cobbled together by commission", and featuring so many ultra-talented "beneath the radar" creators to make you worry that an invasion of comic awesomeness might occur, it's definitely one of the most exciting anthologies I’ve read in a long while.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Misc: Noah Van Sciver, as interviewed by Dan Stafford

Found completely by accident the other day, here's one of our absolute favourite creators and friend-of-ATF, Noah Van Sciver being interviewed by Dan Stafford, co-owner of Kilgore Books. With Noah in the running for an Ignatz award for Outstanding Comic this weekend at SPX (for the truly outstanding Blammo #6), it seemed like the perfect time to hijack this material for promotion on the blog.

After you finish watching it, be sure to check out our very own interview with Noah, conducted a few months back. We need love too, you know!

Finally, if you're attending SPX, remember that it's your duty to vote! After all, who doesn't prefer cartoonists to politicians? Also, be sure to visit the Kilgore Books website and order your very own copy of Blammo. In fact, why not do both?

Idiocy is Genius: an Interview with James Kochalka

James Kochalka really needs no introduction, does he? Chances are if you like comics and have had an internet connection at some point within the last eight years, you're bound to have encountered his daily American Elf diary strip. Starting his career in the mid-Nineties, he's since gone on to achieve massive popularity and acclaim with a wide selection of books and comics that, whilst diverse, all carry the same unmistakable Kochalka-ness.

Following his recent successes with Top Shelf comes the fearsomely-named Dragon Puncher. Part cartoon, part photo-montage, this action-packed story of a cat in a battle suit features a very special cast. The cartoonist himself, his eldest son, and pet cat take centre stage in this carefree all-ages tale of the joy of beating good for nothin' dragons up

Heartlessly stealing some of his time at the beginning of the week, we interviewed James about the origins of Dragon Puncher, his upcoming video game/ graphic novel Glorkian Warrior, and more. Read on for discussion of those, music, why he doesn't like to be called "prolific", and the chances of American Elf ending sooner than you might think. 

Dragon Puncher, wow. Although you’re all credited as playing roles at the conclusion of the book, essentially you have your cat and son teaming up to beat you silly. What inspired you create this this brutal work of near-patricide?

I started with the idea of a cat in a battle suit. I did one short comic about these characters for a McSweeny's book of short stories for kids.  But it wasn't named Dragon Puncher, and there wasn't a dragon in it. Then I wrote a song called Dragon Puncher, and decided the title was so good that I better write a book with the same title.

The idea of casting myself as the dragon was probably based on the fact that my boys love to wrestle me.  Don't all boys love to wrestle their dads?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

5 Reasons to Read AX Alternative Manga (Top Shelf, 2010)

Sean Michael Wilson (Editor) | 16.5 x 21.6cm, black & white | $29.95 | Out Now

A world away from countless high-concept, low-intelligence titles that litter your local comic shop's manga section, AX Alternative Manga is the latest of several very welcome efforts from a variety of publishers to showcase the wealth of Japanese comics that exists below the mainstream. A descendent of the seminal Garo, AX magazine has been regularly collecting inspired comics outside of the mainstream for approximately a decade, and it's a real treat to finally get hold of some of them in English.

Compiled by AX editor Mitsuhiro Asakawa and edited by Sean Michael Wilson, it's an appropriately imperfect introduction to alternative manga/ gekiga. Rather than simply laying down a few quality, easily-marketable stories, the team behind the book have plunged their hands deep into a barrel of comics, pulling out huge fistfuls of content for readers. Offering a privileged peek into the seedy underbelly of Japan’s diverse comic culture, it wasn’t hard to come up with five reasons why you should absolutely check the book out.

"Grandfather of gekiga", Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s perfectly-constructed vignette, "Love's Bride", about a loser who turns to bestiality following a disastrous attempt at romance. Brilliant in its creation of a simultaneous sympathy and gut-churning disgust for the protagonist

Monday, 6 September 2010

Talent Alert: Nick Edwards

A section of Edwards' "Xanthorp and the Missing Brain by Jank Trevis", inspired by the glorious Sci-Fi paperback covers of yesteryear. 

Fashionably late to the party as always, we have to thank the Twitter feeds of Deb Aoki and Chris Eliopoulos for bringing Nick Edwards' mind-blowing Team Dynamite Lazer Beam Livejournal account to our attention. If you can't already tell by the above picture, it's possibly the most excellent collection of super-cool stuff you're likely to see anywhere.

Springing into action immediately, we sent a crack-squad of investigators (we just emailed him) to find out more about the guy behind such brilliance. Winner of the UK Professional Cartoonists' Organisation's 2009 Young Cartoonist of the Year award, the 19 year old creator has already chalked up some pretty impressive credits, not least for working on character design for Disney TV and appearing in Image's Popgun anthology.

Edwards' upcoming project "Dinopopolous": 
"a dinosaur-treasure-adventure-mystery comic also known as 'Jurassic Pulp'"

In his own words: "My favourite things to draw are dinosaurs, complicated machines, stupid expressions, some sort of laser or special effect, swords, skulls, maps, monsters, aliens, spaceships and ripped sci-fi owl-men and my two family cats.". Sounds like our kind of guy.

If you haven't already got a copy, make sure you hunt down Image Comics' Popgun volume four to read a 6-page story from the man himself. Rest assured, we've fallen head-over-heels in love with his work and we're already piling the pressure on him to let us cover his future comics on the blog. That's an awesome threat as well as a promise.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Breakfast at Kimimura's: an Interview with Kevin Church & T.J. Kirsch

Wasting no time in the name of comics journalism, we totally shoehorned She Died in Terrebonne creators Kevin Church and TJ Kirsch into starting our transatlantic interview whilst they were still eating their breakfasts. Their comic, She Died in Terrebonne, is far more glamorous though. Developing a cult following on Church’s own Agreeable Comics website, it’s a classic crime mystery which sees Sam Kimimura, a private eye, get caught up in a small town plot when the girl he’s tasked with bringing home ends up murdered. Not so much a page-turner, as a carpel tunnel-inducing webpage-clicker, it’s one of the best handled episodic mysteries on or off the internet.

Just coming to the end of its year-spanning story now, it’s the perfect time to devour the incredibly well-paced story whole if you haven’t already succumbed to its charms. We already have, and seized the opportunity to talk to its creators before it officially concludes. What resulted was a great interview that references everything from Kurosawa to Clowes, and gives a great insight into their relationship as a team, as well as what readers can expect to see from them when Terrebonne concludes. And, just in case you’re interested, Kevin was eating Cornflakes, and T.J. was chowing down on Cinnamon Chex.

A simple question to begin with: how did the two of you meet?

Church: TJ was stalking me. He actually walked up and said "Hi, I stalk you." Or something. That's all I remember before the chloroform.