Before her comics were serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (“Watergate Sue,” 2007) or released by Fantagraphics Books (Artichoke Tales, 2010), Megan Kelso was a classic DIY cartoonist/publisher, who crafted and self-published her popular minicomic Girlhero from 1991 to 1996.
Queen of the Black Black, which collects these early Girlhero strips (as well as a few from other sources) and was originally published in a limited edition 12 years ago (now long out of print), provides an engrossing chronicle of an ambitious young cartoonist carefully developing her own unique style and approach.
In this volume, Kelso scrutinizes bicycle messengers, venereal diseases, infidelity, unwanted pregnancies, temporary work assignments, family reunions, and classroom daydreams in subtle and unexpected manners, setting herself technical challenges such as depicting music in comics (the virtuoso “The Daddy Mask,” with its sensuous gray swirls of sound on the page), integrating lettering into artwork in creative ways, and generally working her way toward what would become her mature style.
The title story, “Queen of the Black Black,” rendered in lush gray tones, explores the fraught relationship between the ageing, demanding queen of a fairy-tale realm and a hornblower whom she takes under her wing.
There is even a vintage “Artichoke Tale,” predating Kelso recently released graphic novel by a decade and a half. (“I am planning to do a whole book of artichoke tales in the future,” she wrote presciently in her original story notes.)
Queen of the Black Black shows the first flowering (or sprouting) of a major cartooning talent, and its return to print (fully redesigned) is welcome news for the many readers delighted by Kelso’s subsequent graphic novels.
Download a 13-page PDF excerpt (<1 MB) with two complete stories.
Olympia, WA is a city well-known for its DIY ethos, so it's perfect that the guest of honor at this year's Olympia Comics Festival is Megan Kelso, an artist who self-published her influential mini-comic Girlhero throughout the '90s.
And, it's also appropriate that we will be debuting the reissue of her collection Queen of the Black Black at the festival! YES!
Queen of the Black Black compiles Megan's early Girlhero strips, along with a few other things, into a wonderful redesigned volume. The original limited edition pressing of this came out nearly a decade ago and has been long, gone, out-of-print, people. On a personal note, I'm just overjoyed that Fantagraphics is getting to reprint it. This is a book that NEEDS to be out there.
And there are so many opportunities to hear more about it, and all her books, from Ms. Kelso herself, this Saturday, May 21st!
Not only will Megan be there, but Mome artist (and another DIY champion herself) Andrice Arp will be at the festival. I'm waiting for Olympia to explode from the awesome when Andrice and Megan do their panel.
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM // Capitol Theater [206 5th Ave. SW] Introduction and live music by Spiritual Successor(us) Interview with Paul Chadwick Rick Perry presents a classic animated short Super Fun Contest Interview with Megan Kelso Stand-up comedian Morgan Picton makes comics funny again Why Not Do Some Improv About Comics? Interview with Larry Gonick Unintentionally Funny Comics Closing Remarks
We're a little late in reporting this exciting news: Megan Kelso has been announced as a special guest at the Olympia Comics Festival in our state capitol of Olympia, WA! Olympia, of course, has a storied history as a mecca of zine publishing and indie culture, so we can't imagine a better fit. The festival takes place on Saturday, May 21, and we are currently hustling production of the new edition of Queen of the Black Black along in the hope of premiering it at the show. Stay tuned and mark your calendars!
Fantagraphics staffers Eric Buckler, Gavin Lees, and an appearance from head honcho Gary Groth!
Thanks to everyone who visited the Fantagraphics booth at the 9th Annual Emerald City Comicon! It was great to see everyone there, and we hope you're enjoying the books you bought from us!
We sold out of Prison Pit, Vol. 1 and Werewolves of Montpelier pretty quickly -- which I think is awesome and hilarious for this mostly mainstream show. Is Cannibal Fuckface the next great superhero? Clearly, yes.
We hope you all enjoyed getting your books signed by our artists Peter Bagge and Megan Kelso, and editor Jacques Boyreau, seen above talking "grindhouse" with some ComiCon attendees. Thanks to them for spending time with us at our booth that weekend!
And thanks so much to the Fantagraphics staffers who manned the table. I wanna send out an extra-special thanks to the latest member of the Fantagraphics team, Ian Burns, for working all three days of the con! (Congratulations on the promotion from intern to Customer Service Representative!)
And another extra-special thanks goes to The Comics Journal contributor Gavin Lees who was a welcome weekend-long surprise addition to the team, along with his intergalactic-sweetie Heather (who got to meet Shatner!!!).
The issue also includes the reviews excerpted below:
The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi: "A strong Jules Verne flavor dominates the story’s stew of mystery farce and sci-fi adventure, from the ship named the Jules Vernez to the assortment of just-plausibly-outlandish vehicles and deep-sea mechanical apparatuses. But the real fun comes from marveling at it all in Tardi’s expansive, ice-blasted scratchboard tableaus that feature one breath-stealing scene after another, all the way through to the cheerfully villainous finale. A devious bit of far-fetched fun." – Ian Chipman
Freeway by Mark Kalesniko: "Kalesniko reprises his alter ego, Alex Kalienka, for his most ambitious and accomplished graphic novel yet. [...] Although Kalesniko’s formal storytelling devices, particularly his deft panel arrangements and intelligent compositions, are largely responsible for Freeway’s impressive effectiveness, it’s his distinctive and delicate drawing style that supplies the emotional component, best displayed in the economical character design and in the painstakingly researched, lovingly depicted scenes of a bygone Los Angeles." – Gordon Flagg (Starred Review)
Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti: "Obviously but never verbally a parable of Christian redemption, Piersanti’s story becomes extremely compelling in Mattotti’s hands. ...[H]is swirling realization of atmosphere, the protagonist’s states of mind, and human figures conjures the raw power and compassion of such great Italian neorealist films as Bicycle Thieves and La Strada." – Ray Olson
Get your book signed by Megan Kelso! // Pic taken at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
The 9th Annual Emerald City Comicon is just days away, Friday, March 4th - Sunday, March 6th at the Washington State Convention Center, and Fantagraphics is thrilled to represent the finest in alternative comics!
Oh, and you know what else we'll have? The acclaimed Artichoke Tales and The Squirrel Mother, and on Sunday, March 6th from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, the Ignatz Award-winning artist Megan Kelso will be signing at our booth, space #808!
Jacques Boyreau, editor and cultural historian of the book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box, a celebration of some of the most louche, decadent, minimo-pervo artwork to ever grace a VHS box. Boyreau will be signing, and showing footage from Portable Grindhouse films, at our table on Friday, March 4th from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
Megan Kelso, Ignatz Award-winning artist who has returned to Seattle after a period in New York, where she published a weekly comic strip in The New York Times magazine. Kelso will be signing copies of her acclaimed novel Artichoke Tales, and other titles, on Sunday, March 6th from 2:00 to 4:00 pm.
Fantagraphics & Top Shelf Presents: Con Artists, the Emerald City Comic-Con After-Party
Performers include: Can You Imagine?: featuring Peter Bagge, and legendary local producer/musician Steve Fisk The Rheas: fronted by Eric Reynolds, Associate Publisher at Fantagraphics Matthew Southworth: frontman for The Capillaries, and co-creator of the comic Stumptown
DJ'ing between sets will be DJ Janice, aka Janice Headley, Events Coordinator/Publicist for Fantagraphics (and Programming Assistant at Seattle radio station KEXP).
Con Artists: Emerald City Comic-Con Afterparty Sponsored by Fantagraphics Books & Top Shelf Productions Saturday, March 5th, 2011 at 9:00 pm Jewel Box Theater at The Rendezvous 2322 2nd Avenue in Belltown Admission $5 (General Public) FREE with Emerald City Comic-Con badge 21 and over with ID
Emerald City Comic-Con March 4th - 6th, 2011 Washington State Convention Center http://www.emeraldcitycomicon.com/ Friday: 2:00pm - 8:00pm Saturday: 10:00am - 7:00pm Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from Publishers Weekly, John Porcellino and other sources:
• List:Publishers Weekly Comics Week posts the results of their Fifth Annual Critics Poll, with 5 of our titles placing with 2 votes each (and a bunch of honorable mentions):
"Castle Waiting Volume 2by Linda Medley... The simplest actions — moving into another room, raising a child — are enlivened by being placed in an exceptionally illustrated fantasy environment, full of unusual outcasts who've formed a family. The cast is immensely appealing, both visually and through well-written dialogue. [...] Always a pleasurable read underlined by a genius level of artistic skill." – Johanna Draper Carlson
"A Drunken Dream, Moto Hagio [...] Beautiful, gripping and delightfully weird, reading this book you can see her fingerprints all over shojo manga as we know it. At the same time it works as a solid refutation of the old canard that shojo is nothing but sparkly 14 year-olds with love-angst and magical powers." – Kate Fitzsimons
"High Soft Lisp, Gilbert Hernandez... Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez is one of the loopier characters from Hernandez's expansive Love and Rockets universe, but her ditzy, oversexed antics are peppered with poignant moments of loneliness and longing. As always, Hernandez sticks a beating heart at the center of his raunchy pulp adventures." – Jason Persse
"Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, The Hernandez Brothers... Los Bros. Hernandez show they are still at the peak of their cartooning form. In 'Browntown' Jaime mines family history, cruelty and the hinted-at pasts of his well known cast for an unforgettable story of innocence lost." – Heidi MacDonald
"Weathercraft, Jim Woodring... Jim Woodring first hit his bullseye so long ago, and has been splitting his own arrow right down the middle so many times, that he's easy to take for granted. Don't. Weathercraft is a magnificent and slightly wicked little book: a whimsical farce about some of the nastiest, darkest metaphysical stuff there is, a banquet for the eyes that starts growing tendrils once it's inside you." – Douglas Wolk
• List: Also at Publishers Weekly, Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is selected by Kai-Ming Cha for Critic's Picks: Manga in 2010: "Most of shojo manga today are derivative of Hagio and her contemporaries — and pale in comparison. This collection of stories takes from the oeuvre of Hagio, one of the first in a pioneering generation of manga to be created by women."
• List:John Porcellino's Favorite Comics of 2010 include some of our older books:
"Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1939-41 ... What happens when you throw a bunch of sometimes-talented, always-desperate cartoonists in a room and force them to churn out page after page after page of comics at a deviously inhuman rate? [...] Oh my Lord. This sooper-fun and enjoyably bizarre collection of early 'Pre-Code' superhero comics features work by Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Will Eisner, Fletcher Hanks, and Jack Cole, among many more lesser-known artists..."
"Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane... [Lane's] excellent, down and out, Beat-inspired tales of post-war/modern day America are unique to the form, and his grappling with what he calls the 'Great American Mythological Drama' yields some of the most literate, stark, and surreal comics I've ever read. [...] Great book."
"Where Demented Wented: the Art and Comics of Rory Hayes... The comics themselves, though undeniably crude in the early years, have a rock solid EC-inspired prose style, which when combined with the brutal/cute drawings makes for some compelling reading. As time goes on, Hayes' imagery becomes more and more refined, and there are pages in here that are just simply beautiful. A real surprise, and a book that kept me thinking for days afterward."
"Caricature by Dan Clowes... Reading [these stories], I was immediately taken back to the good old glory days of Alternative American Comics. I remember reading stories like 'Immortal, Invisible' and 'Blue Italian Shit' with my jaw hanging open... you could feel the boundaries of comics expanding with each panel. These particular comics remain some of my favorites of all time."
• Review: "The story itself is absolutely insane. [...] There's no real rhyme or reason to the proceedings, and that's a big part of the fun. You don't know what outrageous scenario will greet you at the end of the next page. [...] Millionaire keeps his foot on the gas and writes with the spirit of Chuck Jones and the rest of Termite Terrace lurking in his pen. [...] If you're looking for madcap action, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird should be right up your alley. It certainly was for me." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Plug: Illustrator Eric Orchard shares his love for the work of Jaime Hernandez: "There's an unbelievable charm to his characters and an intoxicating rhythm to his panels. They are some of the best, most enjoyable comics to come out in the last thirty years."
• Anecdote: At Gapers Block, Ruthie Kott presents a funny story told to her by Paul Hornschemeier: "On two separate occasions I've had people argue with me that I am not me. There is apparently some existential comedian writing the script of my life for moments like these..." (Via Robot 6)
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part two) includes input from Megan Kelso and Shaenon Garrity calling our publication of Moto Hagio "the biggest story in comics in 2010"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from ICv2, Augie De Blieck Jr. at Comic Book Resources, and Graeme McMillan at Robot 6