We were thrilled to have Patton Oswalt (the Funniest Comedian in America -- I said it) provide the introduction to Ivan Brunetti's latest gag cartoon collection Ho!, and now Ivan returns the favor by providing the Chick tract-inspired cover art for Patton's new DVD/album My Weakness Is Strong. More info on Patton's website; hat tip to Robin of Inkstuds for pointing it out on his Twitter feed. Isn't it great when great things get together?
As a Comic Book Salesman at this year's Comic-Con it was impossible not to feel the crushing presence of the latest and greatest bullshit Hollywood and beyond had to offer and I'm not sure why. Why did this year feel any different from last year, or the year before? Maybe I've gone to one-too-many Comic-Cons thus forcing me into a downward spiral of delusion and dread? Or maybe the mainstream acceptance sought by the comics industry at large is really a Trojan Horse? Regardless the cause, there were far too many injustices committed at this year's Comic-Con and yes I will be pressing charges in future Flog posts.
On the other hand, as a Long Box Cretin this year's Comic-Con was unquestionably winsome! Thanks to the lack of Back Issue Fiends I had plenty of elbow room to find great deals (Herbie #12 for $2 are you crazy!?!) and the lack of competition for elusive issues of weird olde comics was a very welcomed change.
A quiet day for Online Commentary & Diversions in the wake of Comic-Con:
• Review: "...A Mess of Everything surprised me. It turned out to be quite worthy: funny, insightful, and at times, moving. It’s not a revolutionary book — it doesn’t stretch or redefine the bounds of its genre — but [Miss] Lasko-Gross reminded me that the beauty of her chosen genre is that everyone’s story is, in fact, different and unique. If the author is a skilled storyteller, it’s as good as a reason as any to read yet another graphic novel about growing up, even if you’ve already read many." - Jillian Steinhauer, The Daily Cross Hatch
Gary Groth just emailed me some copy regarding the forthcoming 300th issue of The Comics Journal and I simply want to run it verbatim, because it sounds pretty damn great:
We paired established, influential creators with rising stars and asked them to talk about the changes the comics medium has been going through during the eventful 33 years of the Journal's existence. Among the intergenerational dialogues to be overheard: alt wiz Kevin Huizenga and reigning Maus king Art Spiegelman; the most convention-shattering cartoonist/publishers of their respective hemispheres Kramers Ergot's Sammy Harkham and L'Association's Jean-Christophe Menu; celebrated Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons and award-winning All-Star Superman artist Frank Quitely; Asterios Polyp comeback auteur David Mazzucchelli and Bottomless Belly Button breakthrough auteur Dash Shaw; acclaimed Fun Home author Alison Bechdel and award-winning Slow Storm creator Danica Novgorodoff; Martin Luther King chronicler Ho Che Anderson and American Flagg creator Howard Chaykin; legendary writer/editor Denny O'Neil and fan-favorite indy and Iron Man writer Matt Fraction; indy comics publisher/cartoonist/musician Zak Sally and Love & Rockets co-creator Jaime Hernandez; inflammatory muckraker Ted Rall and editorial cartoonist Matt Bors; super-popular Zits! cartoonist Jim Borgman and newly syndicated Knight Life stripper Keith Knight; and Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai and Crogan's Vengeance author Chris Schweizer.
And that's not even mentioning all the other stuff in the mag. Whoa! This should be out by Oct. or so.
"COMICS SAVANTS" EXHIBITION OPENING AUGUST 8 -- FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKSTORE & GALLERY CELEBRATES SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE CARTOONISTS
July 29, 2009 - SEATTLE, WA. Since relocating to Seattle from Southern California 20 years ago, Fantagraphics Books has remained committed to nurturing and promoting the diverse practitioners of alternative comics in the Northwest. The country's most successful purveyor of challenging comics routinely employs local cartoonists and publishes the work of regional artists which has contributed to Seattle's international reputation as the unrivaled center of alternative comics. To celebrate this association, Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery presents "Comics Savants: A Survey of Seattle Alternative Cartoonists" opening Saturday, August 8.
This exhibition will feature over a dozen emerging and established artists, including many of the most accomplished cartoonists in the alternative movement. Among them: Peter Bagge, who coined the term "alternative comics" in 1990 and as the highly-regarded creator of the phenomenal Hate comic book series attracted dozens of young cartoonists to the city during the 90s decade; Seattle native Charles Burns, whose teen years are fictionalized in his amazing graphic novel Black Hole, soon to be a motion picture directed by David Fincher; Visionary artist Jim Woodring, one of only a handful of cartoonists to be embraced by the fine art world, having been awarded the United States Artist Fellowship in 2007 and a 2009 Art Trust Washington State Artists Fellowship, who will exhibit work from his forthcoming graphic novel Weathercraft; Ellen Forney, whose collaboration with local author Sherman Alexie won the prestigious 2008 National Book Award; David Lasky, who will exhibit pages from his collaboration with Seattle writer Chris Esty "The Last Testament" from Hotwire #2; Second wave Seattle alternative cartoonist Megan Kelso; emerging artist Eroyn Franklin, who will exhibit hand cut pages from her Xeric award winning graphic novel Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory; current and former Fantagraphics Books staffers Jim Blanchard, Roberta Gregory, Patrick Moriarity; Ted Jouflas; Jason T. Miles and Eric Reynolds.
In addition to the display of original artworks, an eclectic array of comics and graphic novels by exhibiting artists will be available. Many featured artists will attend the opening reception of Saturday, August 8 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) only minutes south of downtown. This event coincides with the colorful Georgetown Second Saturday Art Attack featuring exciting visual and performing arts presentations in close proximity throughout the historic artists' enclave.
COMICS SAVANTS: A Survey of Seattle Alternative Cartoonists
Peter Bagge, Jim Blanchard, Charles Burns, Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, Ted Jouflas, Megan Kelso, David Lasky, Jason T. Miles, Patrick Moriarity, Eric Reynolds, Jim Woodring, and introducing Eroyn Franklin.
Opening reception Saturday, August 8, 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Exhibition continues through September 9, 2009
Join us on Saturday, August 22 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM for the publication party of Eroyn Franklin's Xeric award wining comic Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) Seattle, WA 98108 206.658.0110 Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM
• Comic-Con: Looks like Kelly Kilmer scored a bunch of great stuff at our booth on Sunday
• Review: "The first four issues of Michael Kupperman's awesome comedy comics zine Tales Designed to Thrizzle have been collected into a single hardcover volume that is a superdense wad of funny, surreal, bent humor... This is weird, funny, Subgenius-esque toilet reading that will keep you very regular." - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Thomas Ott's Dead End, & Tales of Error, (Fantagraphics Books) - This Swiss artist's comics are a moody blend of irony, horror and silence. (Most of his stories have no dialogue or captions.) The stark black-and-white pages - thanks to Ott's use of scratchboard - bring to mind such German Expressionist films as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Like those films, Ott knows how to build suspense and maintain a sense of looming dread as each story reaches its foregone and tragic ending." - Steven Kwan, "Your new textbooks: Comics you need to read," University of Arizona Daily Wildcat
• Review: "The key to [Mome]'s continued success has been flexibility regarding its mission. It's still a place where young artists are sought out and spotlighted... It's also a place where key foreign comics can find a home... Lastly, it's a place where great American cartoonists can publish their short stories... This variety of approaches... positions it as a sort of descendant of Weirdo and RAW. It may not represent the absolute cutting edge of comics the way that Kramer's Ergot does, but it's still the widest available survey of alt-comics in publication and will be increasingly valuable in that regard as it continues to evolve." - Rob Clough
• Preview: The Comics Reporter reports: "I saw John Pham briefly at his studio on Monday. He's a little bit late -- although nowhere near comics-late -- with the second issue of his Sublife series from Fantagraphics, and the original art he showed me was really, really pretty."
• Plug: Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder hypes The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, relating the following: "Tim Biskup told me the the first time he saw Flora's work (when he was in a used record store) he felt his brain rewiring on the spot, forever changing his approach to art."
• Plugs: Jog looks at some of our new releases arriving in comic shops today
• Plugs: "If you picked up I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! and delighted in the surreal mayhem therein (and who didn’t) you’re going to have to grab a copy of You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! to make your life complete... It’s completely insane and very funny and will probably encourage you to indulge in a spot of unnecessary exclamation pointing... The Summer 2009 edition of MOME has arrived and, as usual, it's packed... Sergio Ponchione's Grotesque #3... is one of those lovely-looking Ignatz books... If you're a fan of weird Lynchian fantasy you should definitely check it out." - Gosh! Comics Blog
• Plugs: "The Complete Crumb Comics, Vol. 9...: Classic Crumb from 1972 and ‘73, reprinted once again. Lots of great politically incorrect material, including Crumb's assault (of sorts) on feminism. All in good fun, of course... The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 12: 1973-1974...: This one contains what I sincerely think is one of the greatest extended stories in the history of comics, where Charlie Brown starts seeing baseballs everywhere and gets a baseball-shaped rash on the back of his head. Hopefully you're buying the whole series, but if you only want one volume, I'd suggest this one. If you want more, though, you can buy the box set with Vol. 11 included... Mome, Vol. 15 (Summer 2009): ...[T]his one looks intriguing if only because it features both the debut of up-and-coming artist T. Edward Bak and a 16-page story by the Spanish artist Max, who we don't nearly get enough of in these parts." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
I've seen a few bloggers link to my comicon post yesterday and say it's a huge red flag for the future of indie comics at the con. Re-reading my post, it probably sounds more dire than it could have. We actually had a pretty successful show. Not our best ever, but a solid one. I think last year was our most successful ever, and you simply can't repeat that every year. I had been steeling myself in advance for a major downturn this year given the economy and it simply didn't happen. We saw a minor dip, and although the economy likely played a small part in that, it was nothing like I was prepared for.
One thing I neglected to mention yesterday was that any talk of "downsizing" has as much to do with the increased costs of attending the show from year to year as our actual sales at the show. Every year, booth prices are raised, and with a waiting list of exhibitors that probably stretches as long as the lines for any of this year's Twilight panels, there's little incentive for Comicon to keep booth prices down, and I understand that and don't expect them to keep costs down for Fantagraphics' or anyone's sake if they don't need to.
Throughout most of the 1990s, Fantagraphics had eight booths at the con. Some time around the turn of the century, we cut that down to four due to the increase in booth prices. We also started to more tightly track sales, enabling us to prepare a better inventory, and reconfigure the space in such a way that allowed us to reduce our booth space by 50% without reducing the amount of inventory proportionally -- it was probably something closer to 25%, and the things we didn't bring were things we weren't really selling much of anyway. In doing so, we improved our bottom-line considerably. So we might talk about doing something similar next year, perhaps going down to three spaces instead of four, but it would be a minimal difference, and one that most attendees probably wouldn't even notice.
Why am I talking about this? I'm not sure, except that I think it's healthy to have some honest talk about how this year's show went, and what it means for the future, instead of hearing everyone jostle for position in the hype machine and meaninglessly declare the show a raging success ("bigger and better still!"). I know that this was the first year where I spoke to many of my peers in the small press who openly wondered whether they could afford to exhibit next year. This included publishers, artists, and retailers. I also noticed appreciably fewer cartoonists that I admire attending the show this year, simply due to hype surrounding the show's sellout status, hotel occupancy, and the fact that you have to register further and further in advance.
One suggestion that Tom Spurgeon made this morning that I wholeheartedly agree with is the idea to fold Artist's Alley back over to the North side of the convention hall, near the small press area we inhabit. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Having Artist's Alley at the opposite end of the floor makes little sense, especially when so many of the small press stands are essentially self-published artists. If you buy a 10' x 10' space, you are put in the north end with the rest of the comics. If you simply buy a table, you're in the south end near the toys (I think -- I actually never even remotely made it down that far on the floor). It's an arbitrary distinction that means many attendees completely miss one area or the other. When they moved Artists Alley a couple of years back, the Hernandez Brothers had a table. They ended up virtually abandoning it all weekend because it was so far away from Fantagraphics and its ilk; no one knew they were there.
• Plug: Certain Fantagraphics employees will be excited to learn that Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh is a fan of Daniel Clowes and Eightball, as revealed in Brian Heater's interview at The Daily Cross Hatch
• Plug: "You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!, the second and final collection of Fletcher Hanks’ Golden Age superhero and adventure comics work, ...is a bunch more bat-shit insane weirdness and violence. Paired with I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets!, You Shall Die will comprise a complete collection of Hanks’ small but potent body of work." - J. Caleb Mozzocco, Newsarama
• Plug: "Collecting the remainder of material (at least that we know of) by early Golden Age artist Fletcher Hanks, [You Shall Die by Your Own] Evil Creation is pretty much a must-buy for anyone who picked up and enjoyed the first volume, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug: "Both books are really good: Sala’s Delphine is the one that will probably get the most attention since he’s the better known cartoonist, but you really should take the time to track down Sergio Ponchione’s Grotesque. It’s a surreal charmer." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Plug: "I’m always curious as to what other countries get up to, comics-wise, so I’m a bit eager to check out this collection of Danish comics [From Wonderland with Love]. A quick thumb-through suggests a wide swath of styles." - Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
Ace Hal Foster biographer Brian M. Kane (author of the forthcoming Definitive Prince Valiant Companion from Fantagraphics) just pointed out a fascinating fact to us: The Syndicate color proofs that we are using for the first time for our brand new edition of Prince Valiant have yielded at least one instance of a page that was originally toned down (presumably by the Syndicate) and has, in the 71 years since then, never been printed in Foster's original, unexpurgated, slightly more bloodthirsty version! Compare and contrast these two versions of page 50: While panel 3 is essentially the same in terms of narrative content (albeit described in a grislier fashion), panels 6 and 7 were changed from a more-or-less accidental oops-there-he-goes death to a Mister A-style execution by a wise-cracking Valiant. We like this version better ourselves! (Click the thumbnail images below to view larger versions of each page.)
We'll keep Valiant fans apprised if any more such changes come to light!
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