October, when kingdoms rise, and kingdoms fall, but Online Commentary & Diversions goes on and on:
• Review: "If the world of alt-comics feels appealing but intimidatingly vast (what doesn’t these days), MOME is the perfect place to start. ... The volume is thick, slick and printed in what looks like Technicolor. An anthology is only as good as the sensibilities of those who compile it, of course, so it’s worth noting that a subscription of MOME equals four issues per year of work culled from the depths by an outfit that not only has keen vision in such matters, but also a stake in finding the very best. What’s not to trust?" – Molly Young, We Love You So
• Review: "...[Locas II,] the latest collected chunk of the (mis)adventures of locas Maggie and Hopey (and the occasional 'loco,' like Ray, the consort of sexy Frogmouth -- does it seem like a good soap opera yet? -- and their sprawling, recurring cast of compelling, sometimes hard-to-figure supporting characters) all brought me squarely back to Los Angeles. In the 80s. ... But returning to L&R, even sporadically, isn't simply an exercise in nostalgia. ...[W]hat's ultimately compelling about the L&R saga is the way the characters change over the years. ... So it's not just a [madeleine] cookie from our past, but something still fairly warm from the oven." – Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Review: "There is such a relentlessly fervid, even crazed, sheen to all [Fletcher Hanks's] work, that you can't look away. ... Hanks seemed nearly demon-driven in these stories of constant fighting, killing, betrayal and revenge. The panels are often cramped, and the color schemes are nearly incandescent, and you're not sure whether to liken the rawness of it all -- elastic, rubber-boned physiognomies included -- to listening to a record by Fear, circa 1980, or watching a half-dressed man shouting on the corner." – Mark London Williams, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica (same link as above)
• Review: "Tardi's intricate, cartoony, and beautiful art perfectly expresses Forest's ideas and words. The humorous You Are There masterfully satirizes French society and politics unlike any comic before or since." – Rick Klaw, The SF Site: Nexus Graphica
• Plug: "It always amazes me how [Kevin] Huizenga can take everyday moments, like, in [Ganges #3], trying to get to sleep, and turn them into extravagant, elaborate displays of cartooning genius." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: At Comic Book Galaxy, Alan David Doane poses 5 questions to our favorite Associate Publisher, Eric Reynolds
• Profile: "Comics creator Hans Rickheit's new graphic novel, The Squirrel Machine, is a stylish and surreal tale of brothers dabbling in the forbidden unknown. ... He lives in Philadelphia, but his work pulls from the style and antiquity of 19th Century New England. 'The objects, places, and people from that time period in New England grabbed my imagination," Rickheit says. 'I find them visually more interesting than modern trappings, modern buildings. And they're more fun to draw, because they're just so ornate.'" – John Seven, Worcester Magazine
• Review: "For my money, [Joe] Daly is hilarious, with an ear for great dialog, a nice feel for the way characters and convertibles glide across the landscape of the comic page, and a zest for uniquely convoluted plots [in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book]."- Steve Duin, The Oregonian
• Review: "Previous assemblages of [Prince] Valiant being out of print, Fantagraphics, a leader in the field, has stepped forward with gloriously restored art reproduced in generous dimensions and abetted by the essays of experts. This initial volume... demonstrates just why Valiant continues to burn so brightly... Simultaneously nostalgic and eternal, Hal Foster's populist masterwork deserves this accessible enshrinement." - Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "I dont think I’ve ever read anything like Low Moon by Jason and I mean that in a good way... Low Moon has a brilliant almost tightrope deadpan mix of sad and funny... Jason is capable of stories with heart like no other; particularly stories with an aura of heartrending and heartbreak. Low Moon might be the second most melancholy book that I’ve read over the past year... Low Moon by Jason continues to push the medium forward and confound readers expectations with brilliant stories that defy categorization." - Brian Lindenmuth, BSCreview
Is July really over already? Hoo-ee, time sure flies when you're compiling Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Based on his research, interviews, and personal experiences in Palastinian Occupied Territories in 1991 and 92, [Joe Sacco]'s comic [Palestine] takes you there and gives you a first-hand account of the atrocities and suffering in the conflict with Israel. He gives you a close up visual rendering of the physical and emotional conditions of the people, who struggle daily for survival... Sacco has rendered the terrible conditions of life into a compelling and sympathetic artistic documentary. It is sad, but most good stories are sad... What’s better, his drawing is detailed and realistic, very approachable and interesting." - American in Auckland
• Review: "Either you think Michael Kupperman's stuff is hilarious or you don't. And if you don't, well, that's sad, because you suck and you have no friends... Kupperman has created a world with its own humor/"Dadaist" vibe, as he puts it in one meta-strip, and no critical breakdown can really relate its LOL-charm... Much of the charm resides in his art, heavily hatched, shadowed, stippled, and Benday-dotted in an old-fashioned style. He slams the retro up against his postmodern wisecracks, and it works nearly every time... This new omnibus of all four of his can't-miss gems from Fantagraphics not only makes it easy to get his out-of-print stuff, it's the only way to go—that's because the reprints are in color for the first time, and it just looks really nice." - Byron Kerman, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "The Wolverton Bible is a collection of drawings that Basil Wolverton did for Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. I've been hoping for a collection of these drawings for ages... What a great collection. The drawings are nicely printed, very black, on nice white paper... The book is sturdy and feels good... This is a windfall. It's a wonderful additon to any art collection." - Garth Danielson, Primitive Screwheads
• Interview: "[Craig] Yoe revels in the hidden histories of comics, and not just because they’re money at the movies. In Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers, published by Fantagraphics earlier this year, the historian has helped uncover one of comics’ left-field treasures. 'Boody’s comics could survive a nuclear holocaust,' Yoe wisecracked. 'Silliness, sex and surrealism. Why can’t all so-called comic books be like this?'" - Scott Thill, Wired
• Things to see: Tom Kaczynski draws Zak Sally (and reports from the release party for Zak's new album Fear of Song)
• Comic-Con/Things to see: Rickey Purdin's Watchmen con sketchbook filled up with FBI artists (Johnny Ryan, Esther Pearl Watson, Jordan Crane) and friends (Mark Todd, Sammy Harkham & more) at San Diego (via Sean T. Collins)
Start yer plannin'! These are all subject to last-minute change; we'll try to give advance notice of any changes if we can. We'll have more MoCCA-related announcements in the coming days so stay tuned.
The selection committee for BANR consists of a handful of high school students who help Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading series. The collection, published annually by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications. The students have a blog where they post their notes on the stories considered and accepted, and here's the entry on "Hair Types," which is quite funny. I think panelist Sophia sums it up best when she says, "I think it's not supposed to make that much sense but you can make a lot of sense out of it. Does that make sense?"
Available today: Volume 1 of The Cloudy Collection, a folio of 7 letterpress prints by Steven Weissman (above), Tom Kaczynski (below) and 5 other sooperstar illustrators. Fantastic looking, love that colorway, and only $35! Buy it unless you're poor or hate excellent things.
Above: Me with my trusty MOMEntum tour guide. "And here we have the work of French master, David B."
So this past weekend I had the extreme good fortune of visiting the great city of Minneapolis for the opening of MOMEntum, a retrospective exhibition of the first 15 issues of MOME at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. The exhibition was the brainchild of MOME contributor and MCAD faculty member Zak Sally and his colleague, Barbara Schulz, who invited me to curate an exhibition of what I considered to be the cream of MOME's crop. Here's some scenes from the show:
The show was a raging success and I spent all of Friday at MCAD engaged in a variety of activities. We started the day with lunch and a quick tour of the facilities, including a look at both the MOME show and a student show that was also opening that night. I was immediately struck by the high level of craft that permeated all of the student work - clearly the students were learning something at MCAD. None of the most common (and easiest to avoid) mistakes that young cartoonists make in comics - poor lettering, unclear panel-to-panel transitions, lazy panel bordering, etc. - were on display. There was a fundamental clarity to all of the work that you rarely see in the work of 20-year-olds. I was impressed from the get-go, and only moreso as the day went on.
In the afternoon, I gave a powerpoint lecture to the students. This was the most challenging part of the trip for me; I'd never spoken to such a large captive audience of young cartoonists and wasn't sure what to expect. I talked about how much the landscape has changed for aspiring cartoonists entering the professional world from when I began working in comics professionally about 15 years ago, for better and for worse, and how I saw MOME fitting into that landscape. It was a potentially unseemly blend of art and commerce that seemed to go over fairly well, or so everyone told me. I have no doubt that even if I had dropped my drawers and did my business on stage, these kind-hearted Midwesterners would have still complimented me and thanked me for my time.
After the lecture, I sat in on one of Barbara Schulz's afternoon comics classes and did an impromptu portfolio review... for three hours. To be honest, this could have been the most grueling, painful thing I've ever done in my life if not for the fact that, hey, these kids aren't bad at all. Giving a face-to-face portfolio review is incredibly awkward if you have nothing sincerely constructive to say. So it was not without some apprehension that I waded into the first review. But by the end, I was cruising, these kids made my job easy. None were perfect, but all had something uniquely going for them that was easy to sink my teeth into and use as a springboard for a larger conversation about strengths and weaknesses. I think I got as much out of it as they did.
I've always been a bit cynical about the ability to teach comics. But in the wake of schools like CCS, SCAD, and MCAD, and coming out of last weekend, I am fully prepared to admit that this might be my own cross to bear having come from a time when there were virtually no accredited academic institutions that acknowledged comics as an artform or anything other than a strange bastard child of the illustration field. Yet here at MCAD, I had fine art professors coming up to me and thanking me for putting the show together and telling me how excited they were to talk about the work with their students. I'm not sure anyone under the age of 30 can appreciate how unusual it would have been throughout much of the last century for a Fine Art department at a serious art school to treat comics as a legitimate form of expression, what with all of that nasty representational imagery getting in the way of pure-hearted, abstract expressionism. Yet here I was, in Minneapolis, a guest of the school and being asked to do just that.
The MOME show opening that night was a blast. MOME contributors Tom Kaczynski (pictured above with his mother!), Zak Sally (pictured above with his son and father -- it was a family affair!) and Nathan Neal were all in attendance, as was most of the Minneapolis comics scene, including Will Dinski, Sarah Morean, Brett Von Schlosser, and the notorious Mr. Mike, Mayor of Mt. Holly, MN. After the event, a bunch of us (including our old pal Eric Lorberer, proprietor of the excellent book review, Rain Taxi) headed over to the great Big Brain Comics to get our geek on and rendezvous with proprietor Michael Drivas. Big Brain is, hands-down, one of the finest comic shops I've ever been to, and my only regret is that I visited it after spending 11 exhausting hours at MCAD. I was literally too tired to shop, coveting beer and food more than comics by that point, although I still managed to almost unconsciously bring a small pile of goods to the counter, including the latest issue of Found magazine, which I literally had gone to about six different locations in Seattle to search out, only to find in about 30 seconds within Big Brain. Every city in America needs a Michael Drivas.
After Big Brain, we headed next door to Grumpy's, the Minneapolis institution owned by longtime friend of Fanta Tom Hazelmeyer, also the founder of Amphetamine Reptile records and perhaps better known to old school comic fans as the guy that made all of those cartoonist Zippo lighters back in the 1990s. The beer flowed and by the end of the night, even this urbane, sophisticated group of serious ah-teests were reduced to talking about -- what else? -- the Watchmen movie, of course, even though none of us had seen it. But this was not before Tom K and I made our case to Zak Sally and (I think) persuaded him to go rent the one, true great genre film classic of the last decade-plus: Starship Troopers.
And with thoughts of art comics and Paul Verhoeven still racing through my brain, I called it a day.
Saturday was our day to sightsee, and we spent the first half of the day at the Walker Art Center. We lucked out and happened to hit the museum on Free First Saturday, where this Sara Varon display greeted us right inside the front door:
I'll leave my critique of the Walker for another time. I liked some of it, disliked a lot of it. There's something wrong when the Lichtenstein starts looking better and better as the day wears on (and if you didn't think that was possible, try again after looking at one serious portrait of Kurt Cobain after another for an hour), while other installations made me think I'd inadvertently taken a left turn into an Ikea. I know, I am a sad dilettante who believes comics should be respected. That said, I found the Joseph Beuys exhibition surprisingly affecting and beautiful, totally contrary to what I expected going in, and would have loved to have absorbed more of it if not for the fact that my eight-month-old daughter really liked the acoustics in that room, necessitating a hasty exit. While waiting for an elevator, I noticed this peculiar typo in a stairwell:
Is the modern art world turning into the Modern Arf world? Speaking of which, one of my favorite parts of the Walker was actually the gift/book shop, where I was pleased to see Fantagraphics well-represented. It was particularly cool to see Jacob Covey and Adam Grano's designs alongside so many great art books:
Adam attended MCAD for a little less than two years and I'm guessing that young MCAD Adam would have been pretty thrilled to know that in a few short years he'd be able to find his work in the Walker.
The highlight of the trip, however, came after MCAD, and after the Walker, and that was our tour of the grim and gritty La Mano offices, courtesy La Mano El Jefe, Zak Sally (after an absolute kick-ass lunch at Brasa, which singlehandedly made me consider moving to MN). Zak gave us the V.I.P. tour, showing us the La Mano printing press, as well as his art studio, where much of the forthcoming Sammy the Mouse #3 hangs on the wall. There are few things in life more enjoyable to me than seeing where an artist I admire does what he does, and La Mano was no disappointment. Here's a few pics:
And that's about all I got. Aside from the fact that Minneapolis was clearly settled centuries ago on a gorgeous spring or fall day with little regard for how the rest of the seasons might pan out, I could live there and look forward to returning. Oh, and to bring things full-circle, this was one of the last things we saw in Minneapolis before boarding our plane back to Seattle: