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
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.
Every year when much of the staff heads down to San Diego, there are always a few poor souls who have to stay behind and (theoretically) hold down the fort, answer phones, get books out the door to printers, etc. But how much work really gets done? This year we installed hidden cameras and decided to monitor the emails of those who stuck around. It's not pretty:
If you see a sudden surge in sloppily produced books from Fanta in about three months, you'll know it was because the entire art dept (including Adam Grano, above) worked drunk during Comicon (side note: this also explains much of our output from about 1994-1999).
Anyone who thinks they spoke to Gary Groth on the office phone last week and wondered why he was slurring his words and going on and on about the ninja turtles might want to call back this week. Anyone who needs to speak to Jacob Covey soon might want to try the unemployment office.
I have no idea what's going on here but it clearly involves a level of frivolity not tolerated in the office. Jenny Catchings and Eric Buckler, start updating your resumés immediately.
Here's TCJ Editor Michael Dean looking into the security cam just before getting up to cover the lens with what appeared to be whipped cream; I don't even want to know what happened next and neither do you.
I intercepted this missive from Grano's email account with the subject header "backyard cosplay NOW".
Note to Kim: next time you leave town, lock the door to your office.
Between Mike Baehr's excellent tweeting all weekend, and Mike and Jason Miles' most excellent collection of photos from the weekend (which I'm sure you'll be seeing as the week unfolds), I don't feel compelled to write a proper con "report" but I do have a few observations. Although we had a good show and I personally had a pretty good time, this was the first year I felt the weight of Hollywood's cult of celebrity encroaching not only on the exhibit hall but also the sales of at least the independent publisher area we inhabited. The pre-show hype of advance ticket sellouts and hotel unavailability seems to have scared off a lot of the more casual comic book fans, many of whom I believe are the type who support publishers like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, Buenaventura, Sparkplug, Last Gasp, etc. Instead, you have more advance four-day passes being sold, leaving fewer available tickets for people who work Thursday and Friday and simply want to come down Saturday to do some shopping. Twilight and Avatar fans are a more rabid fan base, willing to tolerate massive lines that que up many hours in advance with no promise of even getting into events. Saturday's Hollywood programming clearly affected the exhibit hall floor, making for the slowest day of all for us on what is traditionally by far the busiest day of sales. I don't see this trend abating any time soon, and the result may well be a scaled-down presence for us next year. I like San Diego, and have thought prior to this year that all the myriad types of fans and exhibitors could coexist peacefully, but the only real way I can see for smaller press publishers to remain a viable presence in future years if these trends continue is to have the show move to somewhere that can accommodate more people, like Los Angeles, where sales of four-day passes wouldn't encroach on those who simply want to come down for a day or two and do some shopping. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all doom and gloom by any means; we did well despite the oddly slow Saturday, thanks in part to a surprisingly robust Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. But amongst virtually all of the retail and publishing exhibitors I talked to, there were some remarkably consistent and potentially alarming trends that could carry over to future years. There were noticeably fewer back issues dealers this year, and many reduced presences from traditional con stalwarts like Bud Plant. Personally, this disappoints me and doesn't bode well for the comics at Comicon. Many alternative cartoonists are passing over the show and focusing on events like MoCCA, SPX and APE, and it's not hard to understand why; you have to get your ducks in a row so far in advance to even attend Comicon that it's simply easier to focus on those other, smaller, more arts-friendly shows. They're also considerably less expensive to attend.
That said, it was simply awesome to see the wonderful response to a few of our new books, especially Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan and the second volume of Love & Rockets New Stories, our two bestsellers on the floor, as well as things like Prince Valiant, Humbug, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation, The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit, and The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly. And to see folks like Jeff Smith, Matt Groening, Ray Bradbury, Joe Hill, James Urbaniak, Craig McCracken, and many others come over and wax enthusiastically about your books.
My camera died on Friday, before I even got started with pics, and I forgot my charger, so here's a very brief photo essay of Thursday and Friday:
Zuniga and Ajax run security at the Fanta booth. Fuck Lou Ferrigno, these are the guys you don't want to see angry.
'Beto and Naty Hernandez sign at the booth. A new comic every year by Naty has become one of the highlights of Comicon for me.
Ray Bradbury poses for a pic with our own Gary Groth and Monte Schulz. Mr. Bradbury stopped by to pick up copies of Schulz's new novel, This Side of Jordan, as well as the new Prince Valiant Vol. 1 by Hal Foster. Very cool.
Speaking of Monte, here he is, seeing his finished book for the first time. A happy camper.
Paul Hornschemeier carries the weight of Comicon on his shoulders.
Johnny Ryan is tired after signing many, many copies of Prison Pit.
Jordan Crane, Steven Weissman, and Esther Pearl Watson are always a welcome and calming presence at Comicon.
C. TYLER SIGNS YOU'LL NEVER KNOW AT HISTORIC ERNIE PYLE HOME IN DANA, INDIANA AUGUST 6-8
Ernie Pyle Firemen's Festival, August 6, 7 & 8, 2009.
Ernie Pyle was a newspaper writer and War Correspondent both in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. His folksy, personal writings about combat soldiers were very popular and won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Sadly, he was killed that same year on the front near Okinawa.
Pyle was born and raised in Dana, Indiana. His home was designated a state historic site in 1976 and each year the town celebrates with an annual festival.
This year, C. Tyler will be there on the porch of the Pyle home with her Dad, C. W. Tyler, to sign copies of the remarkable book she wrote and illustrated about him "You'll Never Know, Book I: A Good & Decent Man." Read the NY Times review HERE.
This is a real hometown festival with fun for all. Other events scheduled are:
Thursday August 6: Free ham & beans Friday August 7: Chicken & noodles (sponsored by the ladies aux) Saturday August 8: Jonah Fish Fry starting at noon. Parade starts at 6 pm Also: car show, poker run, flea markets etc.
The historic home is located at the corner of Briarwood and Maple, just over the tracks as you head north into town. Ms. Tyler and her Dad will be on the side porch facing Maple Street, not Briarwood or the Quonset huts. Plenty of Parking is available.
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