As we were preparing for the art show, I thought it'd be fun to chat with the organizers of Short Run -- that would be, Martine Workman , Kelly Froh, Jenny Gialenes, Eroyn Franklin -- about the inaugural event:
So, how did the idea of Short Run come together?
Martine: I've been going to comics events since 2004, even though I don't really make comics. I always wanted to attend an event that welcomed all sorts of makers and small publishers of comics, writing, poetry, zines, and artist books. Last year Eroyn saw my work and contacted me out of the blue since we were both publishing our own books in Seattle. Our friendship grew out of conversations about self publishing, art, craftsmanship, and wanting to create a community for ourselves. Around this time, Profanity Hill was up and running for a bit, and it was exciting and surprising to see so much local work being made. After talking to my pal Jenny, who works in literary event promotion and moonlights as a zinester, it seemed possible to bring the self publishers of our region together by organizing a small press fest! She came up with the name -- which I love! -- and agreed to help coordinate the event. Kelly, a true blue mini-comix maker and fantastic organizer, joined us soon after and rounded out the group. We've had a lot of fun and I feel really lucky we work so well together as a team.
Jenny: The first night Martine and I spoke about Short Run, we were talking about the need for this kind of event - I had just come back from SF Zine Fest and felt like I found my mission in life. There was this sense of community there that I had only seen small glimpses of in Seattle.
What do you see as the main focus of Short Run?
Eroyn: Short Run hopes to extend Seattle's exposure to the small press world that exists within and around it. We want to expand the audience for small press work and let artists engage directly with the people who like what they do. Short Run will build on the small press community that we do have and foster communication between artists who work in different mediums and styles. As a group we don't commit to any particular medium or aesthetic -- we are not a comic-con or a craft fair or a zine festival but we encompass aspects of all of these because we think they can all be engaging.
How do you define what is "small press" to you?
Kelly: Small press, in regards to what you will see at Short Run, are hand-made, self-published, “short run” art books, comics, zines, and literary works. You’re going to see a lot of work that has been photocopied, screen-printed, side-stitched, glued, covered in gold leaf, stencil-cut, and folded in ways you can’t conceive of! Many of the artists and writers have had one or more of their books “professionally” published, or hope to some day, but Short Run’s heart is the home made.
Even though Fantagraphics won't have a table, several of our artists will be in attendance... like Megan Kelso! How did you get Megan involved?
Kelly: We are totally excited that Michael Dowers will be at Short Run! We don’t think mini-comix ever went away, but the people creating them scattered and many new comic artists were not aware of any kind of “scene”. Seattle does not have a Fallout Comix anymore, or a Confounded Books, or even a Pilot Books. Besides a few dusty spin racks, there is no physical hub for selling and sharing mini-comics. There are lone creators and drawing groups all over Seattle that meet on different nights in difference places, and mini-comics are being made.
Eroyn: The capability to self publish is more attainable than ever and people are definitely taking advantage of new technologies and affordable printing to produce great work.
Eroyn: Along with these stores and a few independent distros like Jason T. Miles’ Profanity Hill, we hope to help foster underground press in Seattle.
And, finally, what sort of future do you guys envision for Short Run? Do you hope to keep it small and local? Or will it eventually be the Seattle-version of an APE or Stumptown?
Jenny: I would like to see Short Run grow into itself organically. Big is not necessarily better - unless there is a solid community there providing the support. It's the difference between a stadium concert and going to see a local band at your favorite club - both have equal measure, they are just two very different experiences.
Kelly: It was our experiences at these larger festivals that helped us to decide what we did and didn’t want to be. We want to always be free to the public, and we want to always have low cost tables. Being local was really important to us as well, and one aim of Short Run was to draw out first-time tablers and try to reach people who had maybe shied away from other larger conventions. Looking over our exhibitor list, you will see that we have a lot of exhibitors from Portland. We can learn a lot from the comics community that they have built but Seattle has its own history of alternative cartoonists, and we need to grow from there. Short Run not only has a few of these “legends” of small press in attendance, but we have a ton of more obscure artists and writers, not only from comics, but from zines, animation, and the literary world. It’s a great showcase of artists and writers and we are really excited to share Short Run with Seattle!
• Review: "Graphic novelist Richard Sala cures the zombie apocalypse malaise with a new book that takes the basic set-up of those tales and turns it into an artsy, comical, downright weird exercise in terror that brings together several slices of the horror genre... into something modern and surprising. Equally, Sala’s art style helps the story ride high -- his dark cartoons manage to suck you into the narrative while still highlighting the meta quality of the story. This is a story about horror as much as it is a horror story, examining the themes that draw us into these stories as much as they are utilized by authors to comment on the real world. Somewhere between those two intentions lies The Hidden, a modernist horror tale that acts like the zombies it evokes, cannibalizing the genres from which it sprang and spewing out something new from those entrails." – John Seven, North Adams Transcript
• Review: "The stories [in The Frank Book] are fantastical, phantasmagorical fables full of transmogrification, mostly silent so that you can bring to them what you will and interpret them as you like, and if you were to sit down with someone else and discuss any given piece you’d find it very revealing – both of yourself and of your friend. I often describe them as 'mind-altering, yet legal.' Enlightening too, as I say.... [Jim Woodring] is a visionary, a veritable shaman with a love of Persian architecture and that rare ability to communicate wisdom — and folly (umm, yes, mostly folly!) — with skill. As a visual craftsman he totally floors me, his wrinkled-line textures placed just-so, leaving each panel on the page a perfect composition. A beautiful, beautiful book." – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Interview:Comics Bulletin's Jason Sacks talks to Gahan Wilson about his new collection of Nuts: "The thing that inspired me and put me on the kids' side, kept moving me along on it, was that the grownups -- and more grownups do it wrong than right -- that they don't understand how complicated that little rascal is. How much they're taking in. How alive they are. How much they apprehend. And how seriously they take it. They are astoundingly alive with bad things and good things."
• Interview: Hanna Brooks Olsen of Seattlest talks with Megan Kelso about her upcoming presentation at Richard Hugo House this Friday: "I'm using a series of rotating images on a loop. Unlike when you're reading a comic by yourself, where you can go back and re-read a panel or flip back a page (if someone's reading aloud), suddenly it's going by, almost like a film, and you don't control the page. And I think that that control is what people love about comics. You get to entirely control that space. A lot of the things that are magical about reading comics on a page are lost when they're performed live."
It's the first of four Hugo Literary Series evenings, with Megan joined by National Book Award-winning novelist and philosopher Charles Johnson, and queer spoken word luminary Tara Hardy, with music presented by David Nixon from the band "Awesome."
Together, they'll be exploring the theme of "The Haves and the Have Nots," and you can join them starting at 7:30 PM at the Richard Hugo House [ 1634 11th Avenue, Seattle ]. Both series passes and individual tickets are available.
Our own Ian Burns has joined me in the exclusive "Theme Sketchbook of Frank Oz Puppet Characters Club" with his own super-impressive book of Animal from The Muppet Show (my personal second-favorite member of The Electric Mayhem, after Zoot), which is giving my Yoda collection a serious run for its money. Here are some Fantagraphics-relevant entries as posted by Ian on the Versus the Moon blog (where he posts 2 new ones a week, so keep checking back):
• List: At his High-Low blog Rob Clough posts his belated Top 50 Books of 2010 list, with Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales at #1, 4 of our books in the top 5, 5 in the top 10, 8 in the top 20, and 14 overall in the top 50 — it's a long but worthwhile read
• Review: "Calling Congress of the Animals recommended reading is a bit misleading. It’s definitely recommended, but it doesn’t technically involve reading. The entire book doesn’t feature a single word bubble. The only words are on the book jacket. What this is is a story told entirely through pictures — delightful pictures at that.... This was really an entertaining book. It was visually different from anything I’ve ever seen in a comic, the story was unique, and some parts were laugh out loud funny..." – Corey Pung, Panel Discussions (via Americaware)
• Review: "...Skin Deep by Charles Burns... [is a] true masterpiece in which Burns returns to choose the mechanisms and the language of grade-B horror films, crime fiction, pulp, the aesthetics of the 50's and Robert Crumb's comics to make a harsh social criticism.... Stories in which Burns continues to explore the darkest corners of the human condition while keeping us on edge vignette to vignette." – Jesús Jiménez, Radio y Televisión Española (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "...[T]he adventures of a group of twenty-something New York residents, like Friends but with ethnic variation and far more realistic apartments, and, you know, actual problems. The characters of Beg the Question are surrounded by ugliness and idiocy in one of the most complicated cities in the world, yet they are decent human beings who support each other. It’s not supposed to be autobiographical, but you can tell that Fingerman has lived through many of the situations and knows the characters well." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Commentary: "So I just finished reading Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982, and... the vast majority of this book was new to me, having not read previous reprintings of the strips from this period (as opposed to the near-memorization of the reprint books from the late ’70s and earlier). One of the great new features of this particular reprint series, aside from, y’know, the whole completeness of the strips reprints and all, is the index in each volume." – Mike Sterling, Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin
• Plug: "Walt Kelly’s Pogo is one of the greatest comic strips I’ve ever read. It’s simply brilliant; quaint and sweet on the surface but deeper readings reveals layers of very smart political and social satire. And as you can clearly see, Walt Kelly’s artwork is magnificent.... Fantagraphics are presenting the entire strip, including the beautiful full colour Sunday strips for the very first time, in a series of 12 hardcover volumes that reprint approximately 2 years worth of material at a time. I guarantee that if you get Volume 1, you’ll be signing up for the remaining 11." – Richard Cowdry, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Review: "The harmony of words and illustration strengthen Kelso’s voice as a narrator of stories that appeal to women of all ages.... This collection of short stories is a fantastic starting point for those of you who still view comics as Marvel/DC, or as ‘kiddie’ entertainment. (Shame!!) While playing with fantasy elements we all loved reading as little kids, Kelso incorporates today’s real life issues — STDs, pregnancy, being broke, infidelity — into her comics. Raw, yet refined, Queen of the Black Black is an enjoyable, meaty read that left me pumped to experiment with my own comics style." – Erina Davidson, Bust
• Review: "The book itself is stunning.... Fantagraphics is well-known for their quality book projects and this may be one of their best yet.... The Mickey Mouse strip itself is a hoot — especially in these early days. Mickey’s a feisty little guy in the strips, more so than in most of his animated appearances. He frequently packs heat (gasp!), knows all kinds of dirty tricks, and isn’t afraid to get into some real fisticuffs.... Even if you don’t care much for Mickey or the whole Disney mouse machine, this book should be on your bookshelf just for the slice of 1930s Depression-era Americana and the amazing joy of Mickey’s flinty 'can-do' attitude.... Watch for this wonderful series to do very well in various comics awards next year. This is important stuff." – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "There's still an agreeable edge to the series at this point [The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980] — Peppermint Patty's resigned acceptance to a life of D-minuses is really kind of savage — but Charles Schulz was relaxed enough to enjoy a few in-jokes and celebrity shout-outs to the likes of Bill Mauldin and various tennis stars.... Each time that Schulz started one of his longer, weirder stories..., readers will find themselves wondering how in the world he resolved it. He succeeded every single time." – Grant Goggans, The Hipster Dad's Bookshelf (via Spurge)
• Review: "Like crisps, chocolate and bad puns; once you get the taste of Robert Crumb on your palate, it’s almost impossible to shift the craving for more. Here’s another re-released edition [Vol. 13] from the superb and multi-award winning Complete Crumb Comics series that will tickle the bad-taste-buds of discerning comics cognoscenti and is bound to make a whole new generation of fans among the cool kids..." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Scene/Plug:Comic Book Resources' Sonia Harris shares a charming Hernandez Bros. anecdote from Comic-Con and plugs the new Love and Rockets: "I won’t spoil it for you, but I can tell you that it is even better than the 3 that have come before it (and they were fantastic.) Seriously, Love and Rockets is just getting better and better."
For those of us who live in Seattle, the exhibit will be up for one more month, ending on August 31st. But for those of you not in the area, here are some pics from our opening night, with artists Megan Kelso and Nikki McClure in attendance!
Here's Megan signing copies of her latest release Queen of the Black Black, a collection of work from her influential self-published comix zine, Girlhero. I know I won't shut up about how great this book is, but seriously, it rules. It may have been borne from the 90's Riot Grrrl scene, but the stories inside are timeless.
And at the register, you may recognize Russ Battaglia from the legendary-but-now-defunct Fallout Records! When I was going through Megan's zine collection, I'd keep seeing Fallout ads in the backs of zines, usually illustrated by Peter Bagge!
And here's a display of Megan's aforementioned zine collection! We've got detail shots over at the Fantgraphics Flickr page, and if you've got any interest in the history of Riot Grrl zines, you'll definitely want to checkitout.
We were honored to be joined by artist Nikki McClure, who made the trip from Olympia for the day. (That's her, center, in the white shirt, talking with friends and fans.)
She and Megan sat down for an inspiring and educational discussion of the DIY scene in Olympia, and how the Riot Grrrl scene helped propel their own creative projects. You can now watch the entire discussion below (or on YouTube here)! (Apologies in advance for the sound quality.)
• Review: "...I’ll admit it: I did not expect to read a Frank book whose final panel made me go 'Awwww!' ...[T]he journey [in Congress of the Animals] takes Frank so far afield that at some point (probably when he gets lost at sea and washes up on some distant shore) he ends up outside the Unifactor’s confines. New information can now enter his world... And at that point all hell breaks loose…which in a Frank comic is to say it doesn’t break loose at all." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "I don't think I'll ever stop marveling at the amazing artwork [Woodring] fills his books with. It contains some of the most solid and tangible representations of fantastical objects and events I've ever seen, along with a deeply unsettling atmosphere, something that either creeps me out or turns my stomach to look at it. There's something about the plantlike growths on animal creatures, the gaping orifices, and the plentiful eyeballs that, while obviously unnatural, goes a step further into a visceral gut-punch, somehow keying into a subconscious urge to look away. This aspect of the work has been present in other Frank stories I've seen, but Woodring seems to crank it up to near-unbearable levels [in Congress of the Animals]..." – Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
• Review: "I recently read the first volume of Jules Feiffer's collected Village Voice comic strips [Explainers], from the 1950s and early 1960s. Reading ten years' worth of weekly strips in a few days probably wasn't the best idea, but I was still amazed at how well Feiffer's early work has aged. Not just the stuff about relationships, but the stuff about politics still works. I guess that's not surprising, since relationships and politics haven't changed much in fifty years." – This Is So Gay
• Scene:Comic Book Resources' Sonia Harris recaps the Love and Rockets anniversary panel at Comic-Con, and in plugging the article (and commenting on Gilbert's revelations) at CBR's Robot 6 Sean T. Collins calls it "pure L&R-nerd heaven for a whole bunch of reasons," which is 100% accurate
• Interview:Bust Magazine's Erina Davidson has a Q&A session with Megan Kelso: "I try not to fall into the trap of thinking something is interesting simply because 'it happened to ME.' Personal memories and experiences are wonderful catalysts, and I think essential to making work seem believable and relatable, but they are rarely enough. One needs also to do some embroidery."
• Interview (Audio): Our Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds appeared on Ed Wenck's program on Indianapolis news radio station WIBC to talk about our forthcoming EC Comics and ZAP Comix reprint projects — listen to the segment here