• Review: "...[The Search for Smilin' Ed] closely resembles a bad acid trip I had several years back while watching Howdy Doody, old Fleischer cartoons and listening to Art Bell on Coast to Coast AM..., and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. But it comes together in a grand and epic fashion, telling a tale that showcases a vintage psychedelic style in terms of both narrative and art. ... The story is alternately hilarious and mildly disturbing in a Philip K. Dick sort of way. ... It’s a hilariously disturbed delight for the eyes and an enjoyable piece of work from a legend in the field." – Chad Derdowski, Mania
• Review: "It’s the experimentation of the work found within (and without) The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD, which excites me the most. This is the work of a young artist who is playing with arrangement of panel, with color and form, and coming up with his own thing. ... There's lots to appreciate in this collection of avant garde comics." – Christopher Irving, Graphic NYC
As so often happens with good intentions, I realize I'm quickly running out of steam when it comes to doing a big blog post about my week on the east coast for the MoCCA Festival and a trip to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT. I came back with more minis and other comics than I have from any trip in years, so the idea of highlighting the highlights has proven to be too daunting.
One thing that strikes me after attending MoCCA, and being given so many decent submissions, and see much of the work on display, is that maybe for the first time I can think of, there really is more good work being created than established publishers like Fanta, D&Q, Top Shelf, etc. can publish. I see so much good work that even ten years ago we probably would have published but just don't have room for these days. It's remarkable.
I had a great time at MoCCA, hanging with my coworkers Mike Baehr, Jacq Cohen and Janice Headley, as well as old comics pals like Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Frank Santoro, Dan Nadel, Todd Hignite and Peggy Burns. It was my first MoCCA in a few years and I thought everything was run very smoothly; the show was unequivocally a success for us, it was possibly the best-ever non-Comic-Con weekend we've ever had at a show, actually. So that was nice. I got some great sketches for my daughter's sketchbook, including contributions from Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth! There's about 87 years separating Mr. Jaffee and my daughter, so that was particularly special for me.
But the real highlight of my trip came after MoCCA, when I took the Dartmouth coach from Manhattan up to sleepy Vermont and this most unlikely Shangri-La:
Myself, critic Douglas Wolk, D&Q Publisher Chris Oliveros, Scholastic Books Creative Director David Saylor, and First Second Books Art Director Colleen AF Venable were all invited to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT for the school's annual "industry day." The school, founded by James Sturm about four years ago, pretty much owns White River Junction. Students seem to staff everything in town, and signs of comics exist everywhere. It really is a strangely idyllic place for a cartoonist. I felt at home and loved the town and the school. Here's a blurry pic of Douglas Wolk in the awesome Charles M. Schulz comics library, which I wanted to spend the night in:
I don't have the stamina to really write up the highlights from my three days in WRJ, but I couldn't have had a better time. Our hosts -- the aforementioned Mr. Sturm and CCS President and co-founder Michelle Ollie and CCS Secret Weapon Robyn Chapman -- were wonderfully gracious hosts and clearly have created something special in WRJ. I've been to a few other schools that offer curriculums in cartooning, and hands-down, the quality of work coming out of CCS was the best I've ever seen. Very little work derivative of the dominant genres in comics -- namely, manga and superheroes -- and instead a focus on personal expression and style with little regard for learning what it takes to be a "commercial" artist. We all did portfolio reviews one afternoon and I was frankly dreading it a bit but found myself thoroughly enjoying it.
There were other students I could single out but it's been a week since I got back and if I don't cut this short now I'll never finish it. But thanks to everyone who helped show me a good time in Vermont. It was even worth almost not making it home at all.
One of the highlights of The Search for Smilin' Ed (aside from the story and artwork, of course) is the full-color two-way foldout illustration of the Kim Deitch Universe, with an annotated guide in the back of the book. We thought it might be nice to give people an advance opportunity to explore this amazing illustration and familiarize themselves with Deitch's mind-bogglingly rich and complex world. Click the images above to open big honking JPGs in a new browser window (they're large files, so please be patient while they download). Here's what the foldout looks like in person:
Rustic Georgetown lights up on May 8 with the monthly Second Saturday Art Attack and annual Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival. The neighborhood will be invaded by hordes of art and film aficionados for a festive evening of avant garde entertainment. The Georgetown Art Attack is intended to increase public awareness of the historic industrial arts corridor and generate sentiment towards preserving this enchanting civic asset. Each month the creative enterprises in Georgetown present diverse visual and performing arts, and many resident artists open their studios to the general public.
Among the highlights of the May 8 Georgetown Art Attack: “Into the May Woods,” new works by Mark LaFalce, Claire Brown, and Deborah Stachwic with pottery by Pamela Hathaway at Mark LaFalce Painting Works; “Tales Designed to Thrizzle,” a book signing and exhibition of original comics and animation by Michael Kupperman at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery; a “Spring Cleaning Sale” at KrabJabStudio; “Rusty Junk in Waves of Grain,” a photography exhibition of forgotten beauty along Washington State’s back roads by Todd Kalamar at Frida.
Belle & Wissell, 9lb Hammer, Seattle Drum School, Via Tribunali, and The Stables play host to the 5th annual Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival (GS8). The Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival is a community based event dedicated to the creation and sharing of un-juried, amateur super 8 films, with the goal of promoting individual creativity and community understanding. Over 40 three-minute single reel films, edited in-camera, will be screened throughout the day. GS8 programs will be available at All City Coffee.
The Georgetown Second Saturday Art Attack is a monthly promotion of the Georgetown Merchants’ Association (GMA). For a map and list of participants please visit: www.georgetownartattack.com. For a screening schedule and other information on the Georgetown Super 8 Film Festival, see: www.georgetownsuper8.com.
Saturday, May 1 marks the 9th installment of Free Comic Book Day. This annual promotion is intended to expose new readers to the medium and acknowledge loyal patrons with a free comic book produced especially for the occasion. Over 30 books in a variety of genres were produced for Free Comic Book Day this year.
Fantagraphics Books’ contribution to Free Comic Book Day is a delightful comic by Jim Woodring sure to appeal to readers of all ages. WEATHERCRAFT and Other Unusual Stories showcases Woodring’s visionary approach to cartooning. Included is an excerpt from Jim’s forthcoming full-length WEATHERCRAFT graphic novel, a Woodring character guide, artworks rendered in his singular style, and other features. Yours for the asking at your local participating comic book retailer.
Jim Woodring himself will appear at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle on Free Comic Book Day from noon to 1:00 PM to pass out complimentary copies. We’ll also have a supply of Drawn & Quarterly’s free comic book YOW! featuring John Stanley stories from Nancy, Melvin Monster and 13 Going on 18. You’ll have one last chance to view the stunning exhibition of original art by Gilbert Hernandez and peruse a bevy of beautiful new books from the world’s greatest cartoonists. See you then.
Northwesterners unite! Fantagraphics will be heading down I-5 tomorrow to take part in the Pacific Northwest's premiere art comics event, The Stumptown Comics Fest! Staffers Jacq Cohen and Tony Remple -- both former Oregonians -- will be on hand all weekend to answer your questions and sell you some books. We'll have a few new releases on hand as well as signings with Dame Darcy and T. Edward Bak (MOME). Also, our own Jason T. Miles will also be in town for the show, pimping his Northwest-centric zine concern, Profanity Hill. Come check it out!
Originally created in 1997 and 1998 for the underground anthology Zero Zero, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is the latest of Kim Deitch’s graphic novels to showcase his obsessive burrowing into the nooks and crannies of vintage American popular culture.
Where Boulevard of Broken Dreams focused on the earliest days of the animation industry, Alias the Cat delved into the history of comic strips, and “Molly O’Dare” (collected in Shadowland) concerned vintage movie serials, The Search for Smilin’ Ed explores the wacky world of children’s TV shows.
Launched on his latest investigation by a remark from his brother about a shared childhood favorite (“Y’know, I heard that when Smilin’ Ed died... his body was NEVER found!”), Deitch begins to uncover some truly amazing things about the kiddie-show host and his malevolent sidekick, Froggy the Gremlin. Meanwhile, Deitch’s muse and nemesis Waldo the Cat abandons Deitch to hang out with some demon buddies, and soon both Waldo and Deitch are closing in on the mysteries of Smilin’ Ed and Froggy.
Ranging across the entire 20th century, replete with flashbacks, stories within stories, and guest appearances from other Deitch regulars, The Search for Smilin’ Ed is a narrative whirligig that shows Deitch at his wildest and woolliest. For those whose heads have started to spin at the complexity of Deitch's mythology, we've included a full-color two-way fold-out guide to "The Kim Deitch Universe," and Deitch scholar Bill Kartalopoulos offers a lengthy essay on the ins and outs of this ever-evolving, ever-expanding world where fantasy, reality, and satire combine, clash, and are sometimes downright indistinguishable.
Bonus! Deitch has also created a brand new story starring Waldo in his 21st century post-Alias the Cat state of domestic bliss, stumbling across an army of (French-) talking beavers. Of course, there’s a story behind that...
“Kim Deitch has created a private world as fully realized in its own way as Faulkner’s. He’s an American original, a spinner of yarns whose beautifully structured pages and intricate plots conjure up a haunting and haunted American past.” – Art Spiegelman
• Review: "Ultimately, ...despite the refreshing sexual frankness that Hernandez proceeds with, there is much sadness and heartbreak throughout [High Soft Lisp]. ...[O]ne wonders if the lingering bittersweetness at the end makes more sense in middle age, than it would in youth... Good stuff, of course." – Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Profile:NBC New York's Courtney Humiston reports from Dash Shaw & Frank Santoro's discussion at NYC's McNally Jackson bookstore a couple of days ago: "The two artists discussed the creative process: 'photo references are for suckers,' says Santoro; why Japanese comics are better: 'I like that the drawings are sh---y,' says Shaw. 'They care more about telling the story than how to draw eyes'; and why even the old ladies in France love comic books: 'It's weird that [at conventions in Europe] not everyone has tattoos,' says Santoro."
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