My very first Comic-Con International at San Diego was rather fan-freakin'-tastic. It is easier than people make it out to be but I imagine that if it started on TUESDAY night instead of Wednesday, we all would have died. This pictures are my con pictures so if that are mostly different than our previous CCI photo diaries. The caveat train is pulling away from the station!
Wednesday: I showed up the morning times with PR Director Jacq Cohen and our co-workers, Mike Baehr and Janice Headley had the table set UP! Aside from our many new releases we were thrilled to have new Love and Rockets shirts available. Here is the Fanta-crew dressed in all but that one with all those dirty words on it. Soak it in, that's the one time you'll ever see Gary Groth with his shirt untucked.
Oni Press and SCAD teacher Chris Schweizer immediately came over to look at his favorite cartoonist, Jason. Everyone will be sportin' a Schweizer nose-tupee next year, just you watch.
Then we caught Eddie Campbell reading our Prince Valiant while at the Top Shelf booth but once again, who could blame him?!
Speaking of Top Shelf, we spent most of the week occasionally locking gazes these lovely gents. Director of Digital, Chris Ross, and cartoonist of Cleveland, Joseph Remnant.
That night, Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon, CBR's Kiel Phegley, International Freelancer Douglas Wolk and Fantagraphics' Jacq Cohen and I posed for a bunch of photos and examined gorgeous work at the CBLDF fundraiser.
. . . Until the BOSS showed up. Then we took Gary Groth and heir-to-the-throne Conrad to the Tri!ckster spot on J avenue to browse their books (our own event to happen on Friday night)
Friday: Two of the funniest men in comics, Steven Weissman and Johnny Ryan (creators of Chocolate Cheeks and Prison Pit respectively) chat up Jacq and Janice.
Gary Panter's Dal Tokyo finally came out for this show. Jon Chad's Leo Geo from Roaring Brook is a similar trim shape. They are perfect for the collector of art objects with really, really deep bookshelves. Trim de jour!
This photo COMPLETELY encapsulates the family aspect of not only Fantagraphics but most comic companies. Gary Groth watches, eats and even signs some of Gilbert Shelton's Fabulous Furry Freak books.
The Hernandez Brothers continued to work hard interviewed by MTV (below), Entertainment Weekly, MultiShow Brazil and many other news outlets.
For the Tr!ckster event parties, we co-sponsored a queer-themed drink and draw party to coincide with our new queer comics anthology called No Straight Lines. Check out this big sexy bear!
Drag Queens Dolly Disco and Grace Towers posed in the best Michael Jackson-Circus of the Damned leotards and put all us ladies to shame.
Jacq and I ran as fast as our heels could take us to the Eisners, saw Mickey Mouse Vol. 1 and 2 be awarded for Best Archival Collection/Print in comic strips! Eddie Campbell and Andrew Aydin tried to steal me away but no siren song is as sweet as Fantagraphics.
Saturday: No worse for the wear, Jacq Cohen and I adhered to my STRICT 5-2-1 rule. 5 hours of sleep, 2 meals a day and 1 shower to maintain humanity at cons. Jacq added 2 sets of clothes and I admit, it pays off. (And you like that OLD SCHOOL equipment? I'm trying to refit the credit card slider into a denim fanny pack . . . maybe for SPX)
Meanwhile, Drawn and Quarterly upped their dress game with full-on bow ties for Tom Devlin from Beguiling owner Peter Birkemoe. We were a bit jealous.
The Hernandez Brothers continued their BREAKNECK pace of signing books and getting visits from artists like Joe Keatinge, Matt Fraction and Bongo Comics' editor Chris Duffy!
While it may seem like you have seen a hundred Hopeys at comic cons (or dated a hundred Hopeys -- Jacq Cohen), this is the first cosplay the Hernandez Brothers have seen in thirty years of comics. Thank you, Dawn, for your Boot Angel get-up!
Jaime Hernandez and cartoonist Ed Piskor talked shop.
Almost had a heart attack when we saw this. I'm not ruining anyone's day by saying over 50% of our books are not for kids so it is sometimes surprising to see them pouring over Peanuts or Uncle Scrooge Comics (especially when The Furry Trap is TEN feet away)
BOOM! designer and fellow Center for Cartoon Studies alum, Carol Thomspon, laid her hands on our sweet trans-manga Wandering Son and couldn't let go.
So that's the whole she-bang! Thank you to the CCI organizers and all the people who helped out, bought comics, asked questions and brought me coffee. See you next year!
Larry's brief tribute has emboldened me to talk a little bit about Dylan Williams. I'd been reluctant to say anything here about Dylan's passing since my personal contact with him has been almost entirely as a customer of Sparkplug. I mostly know Dylan through people I work with who were close to him, and through his work as a publisher, which stands on its own as a tribute to his integrity, ethics, and love of the art form. Even knowing him second-hand I can't think of anyone I admire and respect more in this crazy business. The guy was a paragon and an inspiration. Selfishly, I'm sad that I won't be able to enjoy the fruits of his labors to come. For a guy who poured so much into his work, I can't think of a better memorial than the wonderful Sparkplug books and comics on bookshelves around the world, including mine.
As many have pointed out, the efforts to raise funds to cover Dylan's medical expenses are still ongoing. Buy books and art to help out.
Cartoonist and comic book publisher Dylan Williams lost his battle with cancer on Saturday. The alternative comix community lost an effective and passionate advocate. Many Fantagraphics staff members feel the painful loss of a close friend. All of us at Fantagraphics offer Dylan's family and many friends our sincere condolences. We encourage you to visit the Sparkplug Comic Books website and order their wonderful comix in tribute.
• Review: "In this Golden Age of Comic Strip Reprints, Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse was, I had long assumed, the one that had gotten away.... It should go without saying that Fantagraphics has done their usual stellar job in regards to editorial presentation... and design... In addition to over two and a half year's worth of the strip, the book contains an impressive amount of introductory material and contextual essays... There are other neat bonus features, such as cover images from foreign editions collecting storylines from the strip. As for the comics themselves, they entertain on a couple of levels. First, it should be of interest to comics fans as one of the Great Comic Strips Of All Time.... The comic strip should also be of great interest to Disney aficionados, as it represents one of the earliest transitions of the animated characters into another medium..." – Patrick Markfort, Articulate Nerd
• Review: "This is a comic book that feels like a video nasty. Its characters could well have been discovered from drawings scratched into school desks, its plot may well have been cribbed from the insane diary of a 9 year old. But that is what makes the 2 volumes of Prison Pit (published to date) so brilliant and unique. Writer/Artist Johnny Ryan has taken all those dreams, that desensitisation to violence, and our eagerness to doodle the grotesque, and turned it into a full ongoing epic.... Prison Pit is insane; it is a title that simply shouldn’t exist outside of a teenager’s head. But it does, and it’s brilliant. A forgotten level of comedic violence, an absence of exposition and dialogue that all reduces down into a paste of pure barbaric fun." – Kevin Scully, Comicsphere
10:00-11:00 Publishing Comics— Four publishers—Matt Gagnon (BOOM!), Gary Groth (Fantagraphics), Dallas Middaugh (Del Rey Manga), and Mark Siegel (First Second Books) -- each from a different part of the comics industry, discuss what's involved in running a publishing company and in creating and fostering a unique comics ideology. Moderated by Graeme McMillan (Techland). Room 8
10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Moto Hagio— Comic-Con special guest Moto Hagio is considered to be the mother of shōjo (young girl) manga. Her large body of work is renowned the world over, and Fantagraphics Books is publishing a new collection of her short stories, Drunken Dreams. Celebrate her first-ever visit to the U.S. at this special Q&A session, moderated by Matt Thorn, associate professor in the department of manga production at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. (Thorn decided to translate shōjo manga into English after reading Thomas no Shinzō by Moto Hagio in the mid-1980s). Room 5AB
12:00-1:00 Spotlight on C. Tyler— Comic-Con special guest C. Tyler is known for her personal brand of storytelling. Her latest book, You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man chronicles the story of her father's life during World War II and interweaves it with her own story. Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth interviews Tyler about her work. Room 4
2:00-3:00 Graphic Novels: The Personal Touch— You know when you read it: that certain something that sticks out in a graphic novel. It's the personal touch, a work that draws on the life of the creator or the people around him or her. Call the work autobiographical, call it reality—many times it results in truly personal and inspiring comics. Comics creator and journalist Shaenon Garrity (Narbonic, Skin Horse) talks to Comic-Con special guests Gabrielle Bell (Cecil & Jordan in New York), Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), Vanessa Davis (Make Me a Woman), Larry Marder (Beanworld), Jillian Tamaki (Skim), and C. Tyler (You'll Never Know Book 1: A Good and Decent Man) about their very personal work. Room 4
2:00-3:00 Peanuts Turns 60— On October 2, 1950 the Peanuts comic strip launched in seven American newspapers. Little did anyone know the impact this comic strip would have around the world for decades to come. Nearly 60 years later, Peanuts appears in over 2,200 newspapers, in 75 countries and 21 languages. The animated specials have become a seasonal tradition and thousands of consumer products are available in every country around the world. Moderator Jerry Beck (animation historian/cartoon producer/consulting producer to Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney), Comic-Con special guest Jeannie Schulz (widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz), Paige Braddock (creative director of Charles M. Schulz's studio in Santa Rosa), Andy Beall (fix animation lead for Ratatouille, Wall-E, UP), Stephan Pastis (creator of Pearls Before Swine), and Marge Dean (general manager, W!ldbrain Animation Studios), present an in-depth foray into the work of Charles M. Schulz and what new things fans can look out for from Peanuts. Warner Premiere is joining the celebration with a sneak peek of something all new from Peanuts that fans won't want to miss. Room 25ABC
3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Émile Bravo— Eisner Award 2010 nominee -- three nominations for My mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill (Fanfare/Ponent Mon) -- and Comic-Con special guest Émile Bravo makes an illustrated presentation: "Graphic Writing, Comics as Calligraphy," with Michele Foschini (BAO Publishing, Italy) and Stephen Vrattos (Captain Gravity; www.heroesinmycloset.com), followed by a Q&A. Room 4
3:30-4:30 Comics Design— How do pages of art become a book? Six designers -- Mark Chiarello (DC Comics), Adam Grano (Fantagraphics), Chip Kidd (Random House), Fawn Lau (VIZ), Mark Siegel (First Second Books), and Keith Wood (Oni Press)—discuss what's involved in the process of comics design, and the importance of design to a book's critical and consumer reception. Moderated by Chris Butcher (The Beguiling). Room 26AB
Presidents Day does not stop the Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "In Hernandez’s hands, [The Troublemakers] unspools on the page like a Russ Meyer production, from the in-your-face nudity, right down to the cartoony violence played for laughs. ...[I]t sure is fun." — Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Review: "Even if I finally accepted that [Sublife Vol. 2] did not answer any of my questions from the first volume... I still admired the growth in Pham’s work on display between the two volumes. Volume 2 shows a terrific range, beginning a Clowes-like opening series of strips about a murderous blogger with an under-read blog that shows a biting wit not on display in the first volume. The tour de force of the volume is the second piece, which picks up (for those paying incredibly scrupulous attention) on a deep space adventure from the inside covers of Volume 1. Here Pham lets his instincts for architectural design sense take off in a trippy sequence that is pure pleasure to look at. ... In some ways — in many ways actually — the first two volumes of Sublife evoke memories of the early volumes of Acme Novelty Warehouse [sic]. And that could be a very good thing." – Jared Gardner, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...I am delighted to report that The Great Anti-War Cartoons offers an impressive showcase of political cartooning. Many of its contributors have never had their work reprinted with as much care. Even the most well-informed reader will stumble across pieces they have never seen or names they have never heard of." – Kent Worcester, The Comics Journal
• Review: "[There are] ...a number of strong stories to be found here [in Mome Vol. 17], and a number of rewards to be gained by those who were following serials like Paul Hornschemeier’s 'Life With Mr. Dangerous' or the second chapters of the stories done by Renee French and Ted Stearn." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Interview:Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s editor Michael Dowers talks to Robot 6's Tim O'Shea: "I want people to see that if you believe in something hard enough and never give up that you can get somewhere in life. Here is a group of creative types who couldn’t take no for an answer and made their own world of comics."
• Review: "It’s probably not fair to expect Hernandez to issue another creative virtuoso like Palomar, but in the pages of Luba, he comes closer than might be expected. ... Although Luba doesn’t hit as hard as Palomar, it remains a compelling portrait of family in all its messy glory. Alternately sexy and vulgar, beautiful and mean, optimistic and intolerant, Luba and her family encompass all the ugliness and amazement that comes with being part of the human entity." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Profile: "Cartoonist Bill Mauldin was a genius at bringing the experiences of World War II home to the moms and dads, kids, wives or girlfriends of the GIs on the front lines in a very human way. ... To my knowledge, none of our wars since has produced a chronicler anywhere near the greatness of Mauldin." – Wesley G. Hughes, San Bernadino County Sun (via Newsarama)
• Video: A massive Peanuts ice sculpture depicting A Charlie Brown Christmas is being constructed in Nashville; The Daily Cartoonist has the PR and a promo video featuring members of the Schulz family
• Industry: Our own Eric Reynolds takes part in a roundtable on the topic of "Comics in the Age of Digital Piracy" at Graphic Novel Reporter
Holy smokes, there's no shortage of Online Commentary & Diversions today:
• Review: "...Prison Pit... is nothing less than a continuous, no-holds barred, violent assault on the eyes. It is literally one god damned, bloody fight scene after another... The book's genius lies in Ryan's sheer nerve and imagination in setting up these battles; he constantly ups the ante in the most bizarre and inventive ways possible. ... Ryan's love of body functions goes into full gonzo mode here. ...you've got a book where body horror extends far beyond the repulsive into the truly sublime and inspired. ... Despite the gore, or perhaps, because of it, Prison Pit is a fantastic, accomplished work." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Page after page [of The Squirrel Machine] features one of the brothers traversing through some odd, off-kilter landscape, either out in the woods, or, more often, in their home. Between the floorboards and walls seem to exist an endless array of paths and rooms, each cluttered with an endless array of junk, machines and the occasional disturbing, inexplicable oddity. The end result resembles more of an old-style adventure video game than a comic. It's Myst, directed by David Cronenberg." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6 (same link as above)
• Review: "Perhaps what makes West Coast Blues so captivating is how well it highlights the similarities between film and comics, while simultaneously showcasing its own unique ability as a graphic novel to capture the noir aesthetic through word and image. ... Not unlike many noir films, West Coast Blues is replete with car chases, hit-men, drinking, guns, and the occasional salacious scene. All of this is set in Tardi’s straightforward drawing style which is a good fit for the almost matter-of-fact, unsentimental manner in which violence, sex, and life in general are met with during the course of the book." – Sara Cole, PopMatters
• Review: "Most comic strips today, especially those that are humor strips, often avoid topical subjects. Schulz embraced the topics of the era. They may date the strip, but it never leaves them outdated. ... Schulz was also not afraid to carry on-going storylines for several days or in some cases, even a couple of weeks. ... [The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 ] also features all the favorite subjects like Linus’ annual wait for the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’s trip to Summer camp, and Sally’s letters to Santa Claus. This is why Peanuts is the greatest strip ever!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Jason seems to delight in building firm plots, only to swiftly tug them out of sync. The resulting offbeat dynamic is punctuated with deadpan verbal, narrative and graphic punch lines, which pin the stories down at the same time that they suggest grander meanings. 'Where am I?' asks a prisoner. 'I think I'll do some gardening,' says a murdered man. 'Which way?' a son asks his father in 'You Are Here' — the heartrending emotional core of the collection [Low Moon] — as they search for his mother on a barren planet. Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book." – Becky Ferreira, The L Magazine
• Interview: Jason speaks frankly about Low Moon with Becky Ferreira of The L Magazine (different link than above): "Low Moon, the story, wasn't long enough for a book of its own, so I had to include some other stories to fill it out. They were just ideas for shorter stories I had lying around. There wasn't meant to be any thematic unity. Death, I guess, is a repeating theme. People die a lot."
• Interview: Tommy Hill of the Columbia Daily Spectator talks to The Comics Journal assistant editor Kristy Valenti about comics criticism and The Importance of Comics: "I teach my interns that nobody cares about them and their feelings and their dog when they were 8; while their experience and perspective is valuable, it’s just a jumping off point to get at bigger things."
• Plug: "You Are There...: More beautiful Jacques Tardi, a seminal work in comics for adults in the French-language market and a first-paragraph mention work for both Tardi and writer Jean-Claude Forest." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Plug: "[You Are There] is a strange, wordy, spicy satire, seeing a man struggle to live on the walls surrounding land stolen from him; maybe it's best to see for yourself." - Joe McCulloch, Jog - The Blog (read the rest of his blurb for some interesting background info on the book)
Here's a public service announcement on behalf of an enduring member of the comics biz. Bob Beerbohm's been selling old comics since 1966 when he was still a teenager and, in 1973, opened the first Comics & Comix store (with partner Bud Plant) in San Francisco. Comics & Comix became a chain in the bay area, one of the earliest comic book stores in the then-inchoate direct sales market. Since then, Bob's continued to sell vintage comics from the '40s, '50s, and '60s, Big Litle Books, and original art, has become something of an amateur comics historian whose scholarly essays appear in every Overstreet Price Guide — there's a lot of fascinating, arcane comics history rattling around in his brain that he keeps threatening to put into a book. This won't happen unless he can solve his medical problems.
Bob could be a poster child for our pathologically dysfunctional and systemically cruel and capricious health care system. He was in a serious car accident while leaving the 1973 Houston Comicon and, as a result, he's worn all the cartilage from his hip joints, which means that when he walks, his hips are grinding bone on bone. Naturally, his health insurance company dropped him as soon as he complained about this because, they said, it constituted a "previously undisclosed condition," and they wouldn't cover the operation he now desperately needs. So, the bottom line is that he's in continuous pain, can barely get around on crutches, can no longer do all the physical labor that his business requires (like lifting and carrying boxes of comics), is broke, and needs you to buy some comics from him so he can afford the $18,000 it'll cost him in cold hard cash for this operation. If we lived in a better world, America's generous socialistic health care would give him the operation he needs, or, at the very least, some rich patron would come forward and write him a check. We do not live in that world, and he needs all the help he can get.
You can visit his ebay store at http://stores.ebay.com/BLB-COMICS, or his website at www.BLBcomics.com. You can even call him: (402) 727-4071. In fact, Bob's a chatterbox. Call him up and offer to pay him to talk comics history by the minute — you could spend your money more frivolously.
I know what's up with Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds since he sits right across the room from me (his nifty new job title didn't come with its own office), but for the rest of you, Publishers Weekly's Heidi MacDonald grills him about past, present and future, with first glimpses at some of his upcoming editorial projects. It's a must-read for Fanta loyalists and industry observers.