|Down with OPP*: Johnny 23|
|Written by janice headley | Filed under Fantagraphics Bookstore, Down with OPP, Charles Burns||24 Jan 2011 2:24 PM|
** Yeah, You Know Me.
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* Other People's Publications
** Yeah, You Know Me.
"What the hell is this?"
Working at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, I hear this question a lot, but I especially get it in reference to this week's spotlight title: Johnny 23 by Charles Burns.
If you were one of the fans crushed in the crowd when Charles Burns visited the store back in November, then hopefully you caught his discussion about the similarities in his latest novel X'ed Out and Hergé's classic The Adventures of Tintin. (Ken Parille has a great run-down on those similarities on The Comics Journal blog here.)
And in a nod to the bootleg Hergé titles that float around, Burns has created his own "bootleg" of X'ed Out, re-arranging the panels and adding brand-new artwork to create Johnny 23. French publisher Le Dernier Cri printed only a few thousand copies of this one, and from what I understand, it ain't getting reprinted, so you should get yours now.
Oh, and did I mention it's written in ALIEN? 'Cause... yeah. And Burns has said, it's not a translation of the text from X'ed Out. Apparently, there are keys online somewhere, or maybe you can send some cereal box proof-of-purchases and get a decoder ring. But just think, once you learn the language, won't that look impressive on future job resumes for our eventual alien overlords?
* Other People's Publications
"Down with OPP" spotlights excellent titles from other publishers that you can find at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. And this week, I present to you Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis (Drawn & Quarterly).
This week's column ain't exactly for the ladies. I'm sure we all bought this book when it first came out, gleefully pouring over this collection of sketchbook drawings that Davis did from 2004 to 2010. Some of these stories were originally published online in a monthly column she did for Tablet magazine, but they were new to me.
No, this column is for the fellas. I see you walking by our tables of new releases, your eyes darting across the covers, and some of you seem to flinch at the exuberantly girlish cover here. Really? It makes me wanna hit you in the face with this book, and it's a $24.95 hardcover, so it's gonna sting. How's THAT for being a woman?
Davis has a wonderful drawing style, somewhere between the frame-eschewing style of Ellen Forney (and with all the similar tiny anecdotal notes!) and the energetic spirit of Julie Doucet. Some drawings are slapdash pencil sketches, while others are beautifully watercolored, with exquisite attention to floor tiles, curtains, and book spines.
And, sure, some of you boys aren't gonna appreciate the awesome way she draws clothes and hairstyles as much as I do (I reaaaally appreciate it), but there's so much more about this book to enjoy. Maybe you went to Fat Camp, too. Maybe you'll agree with her opinions on R. Crumb's The Book of Genesis. Maybe you can relate to her Jewish upbringing. And actually, as a woman, I couldn't relate to any of that, but I still enjoyed this book. Look, I don't pee in jars, but I still enjoyed reading Peepshow!
So, be a man, and get Make Me a Woman.
We've also got another Davis book in stock, Spaniel Rage #1 (Buenaventura Press). It, too, is a collection of diary comics and sketchbook drawings, but from 2003 to 2004. And it's softcover, so I won't hit you with it.
[Um, and that "Cheri" t-shirt on the cover of Spaniel Rage? Well, it pops-up again in Make Me a Woman, in a scene where she's drawing with Gabrielle Bell and Michel Gondry -- Yeah, don't think I didn't notice!!!]
Both Make Me a Woman and Spaniel Rage #1 are currently in stock at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street in Seattle's Georgetown district. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone: (206) 658-0110. See you soon!
* Other People's Publications
We're introducing a new column to the FLOG this year, spotlighting some excellent titles from other publishers that you can find at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery! (And spotlighting my dorky predilection for song titles from the 90's.)
Subtitled "Comics From Bangkok to Belgrade," Gazeta, Vol. 1 debuts its series with a collection of artists from places I've never heard of. (Zagreb? Tampere? I need to get out more.)
Our store manager/curator Larry Reid recommended this one to me, pointing out the cover by the great Ron Regé , Jr. (who, speaking of 90's music, I discovered "back in the day" through the amazing band The Swirlies).
Admittedly, two of my favorite pieces come from the more well-known artists, Dylan Horrocks (whose story "Cornucopia" is so sweet, I may have swooned), and the aforemention Regé. Regé's piece is one of the longer ones in the collection, and was inspired by the writings of P.B. Randolph (the, uh, founder of "sex magic"!), and the teachings of Neville Goddard. Even though he didn't write the philosophies himself, the story is pure uplifting, transcendent Regé.
I may have swooned again.
The collection also introduced me to some artists I was unfamiliar with, including Portugese artist André Lemos, whose stark drawing style reminded me of our own Jason T. Miles, and the beautiful, haunting pencil drawings of Amanda Vähämäki, whose name has three umlauts, so clearly she's hardcore!
Gazeta, Vol. 1 is currently in stock at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street in Seattle's Georgetown district. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone: (206) 658-0110. See you soon!
As some people know, I divide my time between Fantagraphics and non-profit radio station, KEXP, and yesterday, my worlds collided when my boss (the other one) played this on the radio: “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” by Memphis whiskey-rock* band Lucero (off their most recent-release 1372 Overton Park).
I caught the chorus -- "Maggie the mechanic, punk rock girl, lonely saint" -- and immediately bolted up in my chair. It's not the first time Love & Rockets has inspired a band, and I'm certain it won't be the last.
[* Yeah, I don't know what that is either. ]
And while on the topic of comic book inspiration in music, I wanted to direct you to the latest release from Dew-Claw, a solo project from Stephen Hunking, former guitarist for the excellent band Hypnolovewheel. The first track on his new EP, Holiday Compression, was inspired by noneother than the book Weathercraft by Jim Woodring. Wanna check it out? You can download it FOR FREE!
Now I'm kind-of obsessed with finding more songs inspired by Fantagraphics books. There's "Ghost World" by Aimee Mann. "Buddy Bradley" by Adam Green (formerly of the Moldy Peaches). Have Gwar written a song about Prison Pit yet?
These Giant Robot Post-It Shows are always drool-enducing, but this year's show enduces an even bigger slobbery accumulation because it's curated by the great Esther Pearl Watson, and her equally-rad spouse Mark Todd.
If you've somehow missed Post-It Shows 1 through 5, basically these shows collect tiny 3X3" masterpieces on a Post-It note from an array of awesome artists. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, and cash-and-carry, so hit the ATM on the way to GR2, and maybe bring some cardboard to sandwich your Post-It, if you're fussy about those kinds of things. (I am.) Oh, and did I mention that each Post-It is only $20 BUCKS??? 'Cause, yeah.
It's no surprise that Esther and Mark have collected a calvacade of rad comic artists, including our own: Andrice Arp, Jeffrey Brown, Lilli Carre, Martin Cendreda, Dave Cooper, Jordan Crane, John Cuneo, Eleanor Davis, Jaime Hernandez, Jason T Miles, Anders Nilsen, Jeremy Tinder, Jon Vermilyea, and Steven Weissman. And there's tons of other artists in the show, as you can probably tell from all the fine print in that graphic above. (Yeah, $20 bucks for an original Matt Groening?? Get there early, folks.)
Here's a sneak peek at some of the post-its from our fine artists:
[ clockwise from the top left: Jon Vermilyea, Andrice Arp, Lilli Carre, and Jeremy Tinder ]
Post-It Show 6 at GR2 (2062 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025) runs from December 11 - January 12, 2011, with an opening reception featuring many of the artists taking place from 6:30 - 10:00 pm this Saturday, December 11. I mentioned each Post-It was only $20 right? You're welcome.
As Eric already reported here on the FLOG, the world recently lost a great man, Sub Pop Records employee Andy Kotowicz.
Our own Zak Sally used to be in a band on that label, Low, and to help raise money for the Andy Kotowicz Family Foundation, he's auctioning off this beautiful original work of art on eBay. I'll let him explain it:
this is zak sally: what we have here is the original art for a flyer i did while i was in the band Low; copied this image on nice paper and sent it to all the promoters on some long-ass national tour that i can't remember which one now (maybe Songs For a Dead Pilot or Secret Name?). anyway, it's about 11x 17 image area, pen and ink (but you can see the non-repro blue pencil underneath) one corner where i overpasted is coming up but i'll glue that down for FREE. i wanted it to look like wallpaper and it looks like wallpaper but it's not it's a real live drawing. comics fans-- there's some lightly pencilled page on the back of the drawing called "Pig in: Shit." that i have no recollection whatsoever of drawing.
100% of the sale will go to the Andy Kotowicz family fund, so bid often and high.
Look, I can't lie: the first time I visited Los Angeles, I psyched myself out with mental images of women with crazy plastic surgery, carrying little chihuahua dogs in purses that cost more than my car. But, normal people who did not O.D. on re-reruns of "Beverly Hills, 90210" know that L.A. actually has an amazing culture of wonderful un-Botox®'d artists.
And acclaimed indie director Lance Bangs captured that scene in his 2009 documentary Family Portrait, a film centered around the great Family Bookstore, and the people behind the counter, like Sammy Harkham and David Kramer.
Sure, you can watch the entire documentary online, or if you're lucky enough to live in Portland, you can head over to the Whitsell Auditorium at the Portland Art Museum this coming Sunday, September 26th at 7:00 pm, as Bangs himself will screen the film, along with three others that have nothing to do with comic books.
[You guys have no idea how long I've been waiting to use this FLOG post title...]
As we previously mentioned, our own Michael Kupperman is up to some sexy literary shenanigans this fall with illustrations in the The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex by Kristen Schaal & Rich Blomquist, and as a contributing writer to Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.
If you can handle the sexy, he's doing some events for those books!
Thursday, September 23
686 Fulton Street
Hosted by: Bob Powers, Jason Reich, and Scott Jacobson with special guests:
• Michael Kupperman, author of Tales Designed To Thrizzle series
• The Association for the Betterment of Sex (Mike Sacks, Scott Jacobson, Todd Levin, Ted Travelstead, Jason Roeder)
• Allison Silverman, former executive producer of "The Colbert Report"
• Jessi Klein, stand-up and star of Comedy Central's "Michael And Michael Have Issues"
Wednesday, October 6
Cobb's Comedy Club
915 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA
Hosted by: Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal with special guests:
• illustrator Michael Kupperman
• Scott Jacobson and Todd Levin, co-authors of Sex: Our Bodies Our Junk
Well, you can read the graphic: After six wonderful years in the East Village, Giant Robot New York are closing their brightly-colored doors, and now's a great chance to pick up some of our titles at 40% off in their store, and snag some other great deals, too.
We here at Fantagraphics are sad to see this wonderful shop and gallery go. Over the years, GRNY has hosted some great events featuring our artists, most recently, Paul Hornschemeier, during his tour with Jay Ryan. We've also been excited to have our artists featured in their exhibits, like the "Free Ice Cream Day" show back in 2007, which included original artwork from MOME artists like Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown, and R. Kikuo Johnson.
And on a personal note, I'm sad to see GRNY go, because during my impoverished residence in New York, it was one of my favorite escapes: a place to see wonderful, inspiring exhibits (for free!), and peruse a well-curated selection of really rad merchandise. (Hey, are those Kozyndan sneakers still there? Size 6.5 right here, friends.)
Snuggle up, 'cause here comes part two in our new column Under the Covers, where we chat with the great Gilbert Hernandez of Love & Rockets about his experience working with musician Kristin Hersh on the cover to the 1996 Throwing Muses album Limbo, and most recently, the cover to Kristin's memoir Rat Girl, out now from Penguin.
[Ed. note: part one of this interview can be found here.]
Inside folded-out CD art for Limbo
Janice: Can you remember all the way back to the first time Kristin approached you to do the album cover for Throwing Muses' Limbo?
Gilbert: I don't remember who contacted me first, or how it actually began. I just go as far back as me in her rented apartment with her husband and her son Ryder, who was just a toddler. And we had Thai food. And I just remember it was a really pleasant experience. I thought she was really down-to-earth, and fun to talk to. It was a really nice, laid-back time.
Janice: Kristin says she was completely prepared to talk you into it, and you were game from the get-go?
Gilbert: Oh, sure. I try to do work like that with people who already have a good reputation, and she already had a strong reputation as a serious artist. I just kinda thought it might be fun. I was also flattered that someone asked me to do an album cover.
Janice: I'm sure it wasn't the first time, right?
Gilbert: It may have been. I'm just not a designer. People always think of me as a writer. Of course, it was grueling. Once I start doing something for somebody else, no matter how simple it is, self-doubt mounts. It turned out fine.
Janice: What was the process like? Did you have any input from the band or the label? Were you just given free reign?
Gilbert: It was pretty much free reign. Kristin just said she liked my Palomar work, so, she wanted something Palomar-esque. I thought, this is great since this is something that I already do! So, I worked something out on that. Of course, once I sent it, I thought, “Oh, this is something they're not going to like,” but she seemed to be okay with it.
CD single from Limbo
Janice: She mentioned you sent a couple of different sketches. The one of the tour bus, which is on the inside of the CD booklet, the girl jumping rope, which was used for the “Ruthie's Knocking” single... [ Ed. note: as I mentioned yesterday, I was wrong -- it was used for the "Freeloader" single. ] Were you surprised that they chose the portrait of the man's face for the cover?
Gilbert: I think that was meant to be the cover. I think she said, the record company wants a bold image. I thought, “Yeah, they're really gonna want this old farmer guy on the cover.” Sure enough, they did!
Janice: So, who is that man? He's an old farmer to you?
Gilbert: He's one of the old folks from the town. Where I grew up, and what I've done in my Palomar stories, is I've always involved older people. They still have a presence in the town and in the characters' lives, because that's how it was for me growing up. It was very integrated. I just decided, y'know, people might be expecting cheesecake from me, so I'll go the opposite.
Janice: So, the expression on his face... How would you describe his emotional state?
Gilbert: Oh jeez, boy. Y'know, I never considered that. I just drew a guy who's seen a lot of life. That's pretty much it.
Janice: When I first bought the album, I was just a teenager, and so I thought he was kinda scary and creepy-looking. And now that I'm older and I look at the album, it's like he actually looks more sad.
Gilbert: What happens to a lot of young people, especially in this country, is they dismiss or goof on old people, because there's only two alternatives to getting old: you get old, just like them, or you die before that. And a lot of people don't want to have to deal with that, so they just kinda categorize old people as frightening or foolish, because they're afraid that's what they're going to become. The alternative is death. I think it's in the back of young people's minds. It's not a daily concern.
Janice: That's interesting. It kind-of lends itself to alternative music or alternative comics. People don't give it the respect that it deserves.
Gilbert: There's so much freedom in it. That's why I've always kind-of stuck to it, and defended doing comics, from a point-of-view of self-expression, 'cause there's so much freedom in that. If you really want to be honest, you have a place for it. If you really want to tell something that has deeper meaning, you can do it.
Janice: That's part of what makes you and Kristin such a perfect fit!
Gilbert: Yeah, I thought it was!
Janice: So, later down the road, when she came to you to do the cover for Rat Girl, there was probably no hesitation.
Gilbert: At first I was a little hesitant, because she was going through a publisher, and... you gotta deal with Art Directors. Let's put it this way, Art Directors at Fantagraphics are a breeze. It's tough, even at small publishing companies, you tend to jump through hoops a lot. And I'm not a very good hoop jumper. I don't take direction very easily. So, I was hesitant at first because of that reason. But for the fact Kristin asked me, and it was her story, I thought, I can't pass that up. Like I said, it's something with meaning. I was happy to jump aboard.
Janice: So, sort of similar, were you given direction, or were you given free-reign?
Gilbert: I think I asked both the Art Director and Kristin what they want on the cover. They said, basically her face on the cover, but as a cartoon. We went through a few stages. A lot of the ones I did were of her smiling, looking at the reader smiling, but it doesn't reflect how she's feeling in a lot parts of the book. So, I did a slapdash of her looking to the side, with a wary look in her eyes. And both the Art Director and Kristin said that's the one, that's the one. And I refined it over and over until it finally came out.
Janice: Kristin mentioned there's a version where she had great luscious lips...
Gilbert: Oh, that's right! I tend to do that when I draw somebody for real. I tend to idealize them a little bit. It's just a habit. A little bit more pert to the nose, a little bit more fullness to the lips, large eyes, y'know. It's just cartooning. And it tends to please people, so I just automatically went that way. And she thought, “Oh, nice drawing, but it's not me!”
Janice: Were you allowed to read the book before you began the art?
Gilbert: I read parts of it. I don't like to read a book, or listen to the music, when I'm working on the thing I'm doing. I just like to have free reign, and have the person describe to me what they like, and come up with something that way. 'Cause I tend to get clogged. If I read the book, then I'm like, “Well, now there's too many ideas.” I can't have too many ideas. If you read the book ahead of time, if you listen to the music ahead of time, then you're like, now I have a bounty of ideas. I have an overactive imagination, so when it's tapped... [ laughing ]. So, I try to close the faucet with that kind-of job, because I tend to complicate things.
Janice: Kristin mentioned one the reasons she wanted a “comic book”-style cover is because the book has lots of imagery in it. So, maybe it's a good thing you didn't read it first. She would've filled your head with all these images!
Gilbert: Exactly. I would've walked away and been like, “Ohh boy...”
Janice: What about the color choices? Was it your idea to have the blue halo effect around her?
Gilbert: No, I think the Art Director came up with that to make it pop. I would've done that anyway, but I didn't know they were doing a black cover.
Janice: It's interesting knowing that the period in her life that she was writing about was such a dark time, so I was wondering, is that reflected in the art?
Gilbert: I think so. You want to grab your audience, and people who might not have looked at it before. They see the words “Rat Girl” and they see this cover and they think, “Oh, what's this?”
Janice: “This is something I could relate to.”
Gilbert: So, that's a good thing. I know from an artist's point-of-view, it's a little awkward, but really it's very important.
Janice: It's so tricky, isn't it, because on one hand, you gotta think about marketing, but on the other hand, you have to take into consideration the artistic integrity of the product. Did you experience that with Limbo?
Gilbert: How so?
Janice: Well, I don't mean this to sound disparaging at all, but did the record label say, “You can't have an elderly person on the cover! That'll never sell!”
Gilbert: I didn't get that, but Kristin might have. You know, I'm trying to think back to it, and I can't remember why I did an old farmer guy. I guess I was just so deeply emerged in Palomar, and I think Kristin really wanted that. Let's make Palomar what it is, and that was one of the things, and she was pleased with that.
Janice: I like the idea of maybe Limbo being a place, like Palomar, where all these characters are residing.
Gilbert: That could work. Another thing is, as much as we want to define what's on the cover, we also wanted to leave it up to projection. For the readers to project. That's so important, especially for young readers. They love to read about themselves. So, if you can grab them with a cover, they see this young woman and think, “That's me!” And then they read it, and say, “Yeah, that's me alright.” So, it's all good.
Janice: Do you feel that's true for your books as well?
Gilbert: I think, yeah, in the early days. Especially with Jaime's work because it's a direct bullet to young people living this lifestyle, and we grabbed on to it right away. It was still relatively new back then in the 80's, starting in the late 70's. We thought it was already over. We were old men doing this. Jaime was all of 21 years old. I was 25 when Palomar came out, whoa. [ laughing ] “I'm gettin' too old for this!” But luckily, we found an audience. Somehow, people wanted to read it.
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The Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale St., Seattle WA 98108. Tel: 206-658-0110.
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