• 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
• Review: "Macherot’s animals are cute and full of character, from the porcupine sheriff to the cigar-smoking, shop-keeping bird. Visually they resemble Walt Kelly’s Pogo, with backgrounds that will look familiar to anybody who ever watched The Smurfs cartoon.... There might be more slapstick than the average post-elementary school reader can appreciate, but the adorable art, amiable characters, and a thrilling late-story air battle will keep you interested until the end. Best of all are the brief glimpses at domestic country mouse mundanity, like Sibyl-Anne’s love for baking pies and the aside where she and Boomer talk about how nice a certain table and its parasol are." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "This series [Wandering Son] is beautiful, perfectly capturing that time at the age of 10 or 11 where naivety and confusion meet in the formative years of your young identity. Where androgyny is a fine thing, defined by its ambiguity and as distinct as any sex." – Tom Rosin, Page 45
• Review: "The Willie and Joe cartoons and characters are some of the most enduring and honest symbols of all military history.... Alternating trenchant cynicism, moral outrage, gallows humour, absurdist observation, shared miseries, staggering sentimentality and the total shock and awe of still being alive every morning, this cartoon catalogue of the Last Just War [Willie & Joe: The WWII Years] is a truly breathtaking collection that no fan, art-lover, historian or humanitarian can afford to miss. …And it will make you cry and laugh out loud too." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "...[Willie & Joe: Back Home] features some of the most powerful assaults on the appalling edifice of post-war America ever seen. The artist’s castigating observations on how a society treats returning soldiers are as pertinent now as they ever were; the pressures on families and children even more so; whilst his exposure of armchair strategists, politicians and businessmen seeking to exploit wars for gain and how quickly allies can become enemies are tragically more relevant than any rational person could wish. ...[W]e have here a magnificent example of passion and creativity used as a weapon of social change and a work of art every citizen should be exposed to, because these are aspects of humanity that we seem unable to outgrow." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Visually, Tyler's style is unique in the comics world.... The scrapbook design of [You'll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage] is just one of many remarkable decorative touches she adds. Color is tremendously important both in a narrative sense (identifying key times and characters) and an emotional sense (modulating feelings felt on a page in an expressive style). The complexity of her page design (changing formats on an almost page-to-page basis) is brought to earth by the simplicity of her character design. The result is what feels like an ornate, powerful and cohesive sketchbook/journal.... Most impressively, Tyler manages to bring a static kind of craft (a sketchbook) to life with panels that crackle with energy and movement. There are no easy outs or answers in Tyler's attempts to create, maintain and understand connections with her loved ones..." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Essay:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon on Jaime Hernandez's The Death of Speedy, written for Team Cul de Sac's Favorites zine: "Hernandez's evocation of that fragile period between school and adulthood, that extended moment where every single lustful entanglement, unwise friendship, afternoon spent drinking outside, nighttime spent cruising are acts of life-affirming rebellion, is as lovely and generous and kind as anything ever depicted in the comics form."
• Commentary: "It could be seen as frustrating that I've still got five years to wait to complete the Peanuts collection, ...but in some ways it's nice. If they came out more quickly, there would be more of a feeling of urgency about ploughing through the strips, whereas I'm able to take a more leisurely approach, reading bits here and there. After all, they were only really meant to be read once a day. I don't buy many books these days, preferring to download them to my Kindle, but these books are definitely going to be a part of my life for as long as they'll last (or as long as I'll last, whichever comes first) and I do look forward to seeing 50 years of Schulz magic lined up on my shelves. I just need to work out where I'll put them all... Such is the life of a completist!" – James Ellaby, Lullabies from a Giant Golden Radio
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines a page from Ganges #2: "Kevin Huizenga is one of the cartoonists whose work addresses comics’ conflict between the abstract and the literal most frequently and interestingly. Huizenga’s attempts at using comics to mimic the visual effect of video games are especially notable: rather than creating the simulacrum of reality that the vast majority of comics do, what is brought forth instead is a simulacrum of a simulacrum, a copy of a copy, something already abstract abstracted further, its ties to reality stressed and stretched about as close to the breaking point as they can go."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater wraps up his 4-part conversation with Mome editor Eric Reynolds: "I think Mome actually got better as I actively stopped worrying about who the readership might be, and actively indulged my own interests.... I think that began to happen as early as the fifth or sixth issue. And I think, by the end of it — you can point to a lot of things that we probably would have leaned against publishing at the beginning."
• Profiles: Following the news that the Xeric Foundation is discontinuing its publishing grants, the writers of Robot 6 spotlight some of their favorite past grant recipients, including Megan Kelso and John Kerschbaum
• Awards:The Oregonian's Steve Duin congratulates his Oil & Water collaborator Shannon Wheeler on Wheeler's Eisner Award win last weekend
Publishers Weekly just posted their comics reviews for July and we thought they'd make a nice post all on their own. Excerpts follow:
Celluloid by Dave McKean: "McKean’s ability to master many artistic styles and use them to present an ever-changing surreal visual narrative is on full display.... The work has a dreamlike quality throughout, sometimes confusing, sometimes nightmarish, sometimes bizarre, as shapes and people meld and twist into one another. Nothing is ever really explained or resolved, putting the burden on reader to take their own meaning away from the night’s events."
Queen of the Black Black by Megan Kelso: "This long-out-of-print collection of short stories by Kelso is an intriguing and evocative look into her early work, quiet little tales filled with realistic emotion and more than a little narrative ambiguity.... Kelso’s art is simple and somewhat 'cartoony,' but the style meshes perfectly with the book’s thoughtful narrative qualities. Kelso’s strength is a gentle understanding of the various undercurrents of longing and memory that motivate us, and these stories show that in abundance."
Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason & Fabien Vehlmann: "Jason and Vehlmann’s story of a young girl seeking the help of pirates to track down her lost father mixes elements of grim family drama with light and dark comedy to create an engrossing story that keeps readers surprised with sudden twists in both plot and mood.... Jason’s characteristic style of animal people with minimal expressions conveys a surprisingly wide array of emotions, even when one wears a hangman’s hood showing only eye holes and a thin mouth. Short and yet complex, it’s a strong story with unexpected laughs."
Willie & Joe: Back Home by Bill Mauldin: "This time capsule is the second collection of Mauldin’s cartoons from Fantagraphics, this time covering the post-World War II period of 1945-1946.... The linework and chiaroscuro are amazing... Editor Todd DePastino’s introduction, covering key events in Mauldin’s life during the creation of these cartoons, is essential to comprehending some of the content, but other cartoons — such as those featuring forgotten veterans, lying politicians, or creeping consumerism—are universal."
This interview with Megan Kelsowas conducted via email by editorial intern Hans Anderson, and proofread by Kristy Valenti. Thanks to all! Megan Kelso appears at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery tomorrow (Saturday, July 9, 2011) for the opening of The Quiet Rrriot, an art exhibit featuring Kelso, Stella Marrs and Nikki McClure. – Ed.
Megan Kelso’s career spans the ’90s to the present. In that timespan she has grown into a highly adept artist and storyteller. Her Ignatz Award-winning Artichoke Tales tackles the themes of power, feminism and the relationships that define our daily lives. In the early 2000s, she also spent time in New York, publishing her serialized strip Watergate Sue in The New York Times Magazine.
Kelso’s latest release from Fantagraphics is a reprint of her Queen of the Black Black anthology, originally published in 1998. This book collects stories self-published from her zine Girlhero, which was written and drawn by Kelso between 1993 and 1998 in her hometown of Seattle. In this interview, which serves as a snapshot of early ’90s self-publishing, Kelso discusses her influences, her Xeric Award, and her development as a cartoonist. — Hans Anderson
HANS ANDERSON: When and where were you born?
MEGAN KELSO: 1968: Seattle, Wash.
ANDERSON: Where did you spend most of your early life?
KELSO: Seattle, Wash.
ANDERSON: Did you have any siblings?
KELSO: One sister: two-and-a-half years older than me.
ANDERSON: What did your parents do?
KELSO: My father was an urban planner, and my mother was a college registrar. Both are retired.
ANDERSON: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is an anthology of short strips, self-published as the serial minicomic (zine?) Girlhero?
Girlhero #1 (July 1993)
KELSO: Yes, mostly. “Whistle and Queenie” was never in Girlhero. It was for an issue of Dark Horse Presents, and there are two stories that I did specifically for the book, “Queen of the Black Black” and “The Daddy Mask.”
ANDERSON: What years were you publishing Girlhero?
ANDERSON: How old were you when you started drawing these strips?
ANDERSON: How old were you when you stopped publishing Girlhero?
ANDERSON: Where did you go to school?
KELSO: I went to public school here in Seattle with a couple years of private school in the middle. I started college at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but dropped out and finished my BA at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.
ANDERSON: In many ways, this book is a snapshot of youth culture, in Seattle and elsewhere, in the mid-1990s. What were you drawing your subject matter from?
KELSO: I went to college in Olympia, Wash., which at the time was exploding with bands, zines and really amazing, ambitious art projects: people started galleries; organized music festivals; film festivals; elaborate art installations. People just went out and started these things, not really knowing how, but figuring it out along the way. Because it was a college town, a lot of this work was informed by what we were all studying in college: feminist theory, labor politics, postmodern theory. I started my comic Girlhero because I wanted to be a part of this explosion going on around me. The stories in Queen of the Black Black were not literally autobiographical, but I definitely drew from my life, my work, sex and relationship experiences, my dreams and memories. I was learning to draw comics in these stories, so many of them were kind of like challenges I set for myself — can I learn to draw a convincing bicycle? Can I pull off setting a story in the past?
ANDERSON: The book Queen of the Black Black takes its title from a short story in the middle of the book about a depraved old artist disillusioning a young one. Why did you choose to take your title from this comic?
KELSO: Depraved?! That seems a little strong! I think of her more as old, tired and a bit bitter and cynical. I have always been interested in power relationships: between women, mothers and daughters, teachers and students, babysitters and babysat, employers and employees. I think I’m fascinated by this because, while between women, the classic male/female power dynamic has been eliminated, other more mysterious power dynamics are still at work and are harder to pin down. The title, “Queen of the Black Black,” is from a poem written by the sculptor, Louise Nevelson, who is, in part, the inspiration for the Queen character in that story.
ANDERSON: Who were your artistic influences before and during the creation of these strips?
KELSO: I did not grow up reading comics very much, and when I did (Peanuts, Archie), I didn’t give them much thought. So as a drawer and a beginning cartoonist, I was much more influenced by book illustrators: Maurice Sendak, Doctor Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Tove Jansson, Ludwig Bemelmans, Arnold Lobel, Garth Williams.
I think the work of Julie Doucet’s is what really made me want to try making comics. Once I moved back to Seattle and started meeting other cartoonists, I learned a lot from my peers: Jason Lutes, James Sturm, Ed Brubaker, Jon Lewis, Tom Hart, Jennifer Daydreamer, David Lasky. We actually had a comics working group for a while and shared work, did critiques and helped each other problem solve. Later, I met more cartoonists who[se] work influenced me a lot — Ron Regé and Brian Ralph, who I mentioned earlier. Also, Marc Bell and Lauren Weinstein’s work had a big impact on me.
Nikki and Megan were in the same year at the infamous Evergreen State College, and you can see the Olympia-influence in both of their work. Nikki's artwork graced the covers of releases from local labels K Records, Kill Rock Stars, and Yo Yo Recordings. She even did set design for the rock opera "The Tranfused." The program credits read like a Who's-Who of Oly artists:
Click here for a larger version on our Flickr page
By the way, look who played the role of "Corpse XY"!
Click here for a larger version on our Flickr page
Nikki also produced zines in the '90s, such as Super Secret and The Great Chicken Escape.
You can get a better sense of Nikki's signature style in The Great Chicken Escape: intricate scenes that she depicts using an X-acto knife and black and white paper. Her images capture the beauty of Northwest nature, in painstakingly-crafted silhouettes.
Nowadays, her work adorns journals and calendars, t-shirts and tote bags. But you can see where it all began this Saturday at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery! We'll have some of Nikki's originals on display, alongside originals from Megan and Stella. Plus, Megan and Nikki will give a brief talk at 7:00 pm, discussing the lasting legacy of Riot Grrrls, before their signing!
The Quiet Rrriot: Visual Artists from the Riot Grrrl movement by Megan Kelso, Nikki McClure, Stella Marrs
Opening Saturday, July 9th from 6:00 to 9:00 PM Artists talk with Megan Kelso and Nikki McClure at 7:00 PM, followed by a book signing. Exhibition continues through August 31, 2011
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 This event is free and all ages
Kelso and McClure will discuss their work in the context of Olympia’s Riot Grrrl movement at 7:00 PM, followed by a book signing and reception. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S, Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) in the heart of Seattle’s historic Georgetown arts community. Phone 206.658.0110. The event on Saturday evening coincides with the colorful Georgetown Art Attack featuring visual and performing arts presentations throughout the neighborhood. Don’t miss it.