Category Archives: Indie

Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA) Debuts a Comic Arts Festival

Comic Arts Los Angeles at Think Tank Gallery

Comic Arts Los Angeles at Think Tank Gallery

Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA), a new comic arts festival in Los Angeles, took place this last Saturday, December 6, in a walk-up art gallery, Think Tank Gallery. This is the first major comic arts festival of its kind in the second largest city in the United States, taking its place alongside such notable comic arts festivals as MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York City, Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and Short Run in Seattle, Washington.

Located in a part of the city tucked near Gallery Row and the Arts District, the actual site is amid a dazzling display of predominantly Mexican businesses, both storefront and street vendors. One banner atop the entrance and staff for the event lead you in. And so you climb the stairs and you are instantly transported to a world of indie comics. As Jen Wang, one of the founders of CALA, said in a panel discussion at the event, “When it comes to breaking into comics, you just make them and you’ve broken in.” In that spirit, you come to this event which is a mix of creators relatively new to breaking into comics along with many seasoned indie veterans attached to various publishers.

CALA-Think-Tank-Gallery

When it come to breaking into comics, while it may seem simple enough, there are a myriad of approaches, motivations, and sensibilities. I can tell you from my vantage point, as someone who has broken in, that there is and there is not a typical cartoonist profile. Referring back to this panel from the show, the last panel of the day in fact, Wang led a discussion on how to sustain a life in comics. Among the comments made, Ron Regé Jr. spoke to the fact that he never ever expected to make a dime off of his comics. And that pretty much says it all in one fell swoop because there are always cartoonists ready to make money from their work right along with others who don’t focus on demographics and the like.

Comic Arts Los Angeles

Comic Arts Los Angeles

A comic arts festival like CALA focuses on the more unusual and offbeat type of comics that are more prone to taking risks with the market. You will see table after table of minicomics and professionally bound books on a multitude of subjects and themes. There are no superhero comics, per se. In this context, a superhero theme is possible but most likely in a ironic tone. The overriding theme is personal and artistic. Of course, major publishers of comic books are hip to what the alternative comics crowd are up to and will collaborate with them from time to time. For some years now, major publishers have been publishing the best that emerges from self-published cartoonists. So, in a sense, the indie cartoonists are akin to stand-up comedians who may get picked up by a network. However, it’s complicated. Some cartoonists try to capitalize on trends, others follow their own muse. Ultimately, it’s quality work that wins out and transcends all these issues.

Ellen T. Crenshaw and "Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750"

Ellen T. Crenshaw and “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750″

I was speaking with cartoonist Ellen T. Crenshaw who is a fitting example of a professional cartoonist/illustrator with an independent sensibility. Take a look at her work and you see an engaging style. She was pleased to see a great turn-out for CALA. In her experience with the Boston comics scene, it can be very rough for the first year of a comic arts festival. But CALA came out strong right out of the gate. Taking a closer look at Crenshaw’s work, it’s a successful combination of a clean and polished approach married to offbeat content. I picked up a hilarious and sweet minicomic of hers, “The Woodsman and the Bear,” that follows a bear who has fallen in love with a lumberjack. That will give you some indication of her vision. For something more challenging, there’s “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750,” published by Fulcrum Publishing, that provides stories about Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books.

Farel Dalrymple and "The Wrenchies"

Farel Dalrymple and “The Wrenchies”

You could sense the energy in the crowds. I spoke with a number of friends in the comics community and everyone was all smiles. It’s just a matter of diving in and checking out various tables. Each creator is there in support of their most recent work along with their other titles. For instance, there was Farel Dalrymple in support of his graphic novel, “The Wrenchies,” published by First Second Books.

MariNaomi and "Dragon's Breath"

MariNaomi and “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories”

MariNaomi was there in support of “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories,” published jointly by 2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books.

Yumi Sakugawa

Yumi Sakugawa and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl”

Another favorite is certainly Yumi Sakugawa and she was there in support of “Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe,” published by Adams Media and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl,” published by Sparkplug Books.

Rounding out my coverage of CALA, I spoke with Jen Wang, one of the organizers and the illustrator of one of my favorite recent graphic novels, “In Real Life,” published by First Second Books. She was definitely excited about how well CALA was doing.

And, just to top it all off, I spoke with cartoonist and renowned comics historian Scott McCloud and got his take on the event. He was quite pleased to say the least.

Think Tank Gallery proved to be a great venue for CALA. With about 70 creators, the space afforded enough room to mix and mingle. Around the corner, there were panel discussions throughout the event. In the end, the reader, the potential buyer of said comix, indie comics, alternative comics, had much to choose from in a delightful setting. We all look forward to this being the start of a new comics tradition in LA.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, CALA, Comic Arts Festivals, Comic Arts Los Angeles, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, Jen Wang, Los Angeles, Minicomics, Scott McCloud, Short Run

Movie Review: ‘Root Hog or Die: A Film About John Porcellino and King-Cat Comics’

Roothog-or-Die-John-Porcellino

We learn a lot from Dan Stafford’s documentary on cartoonist John Porcellino. “Root Hog or Die” provides us with some basic truths that resonate as we explore the life of someone both unique and, by his own account, just an average guy trying to make a life. The whole point here is to embrace the average. As Porcellino states at one point, he’s concerned to see an erosion of “the middle ground, when a person can live without an elaborate ambition and yet not be sleeping by some dumpster.”

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, Documentaries, Drawn and Quarterly, Independent Comics, Indie, John Porecellino, King-Cat Comics and Stories, Movie Reviews, movies, Underground Comics

Book Launch at Sorrento Hotel for ‘A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories’

David Lasky and Henry Chamberlain enjoy a hearty laugh at the Sorrento Hotel, 8 November 2014. What was so funny? Perhaps it was Henry's best joke ever!

David Lasky and Henry Chamberlain enjoy a hearty laugh at the Sorrento Hotel, 8 November 2014. What was so funny? Perhaps it was Henry’s best joke ever!

Let the word go out, loud and clear, that the graphic novel, “A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories” has officially launched! There was an intimate gathering at the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, this Saturday, November 8, to celebrate the launch of Henry Chamberlain’s new book, a collection of some of his best work in comics. Do you like scary stories? Apparently many of you out there do. Well, this book has got you covered. Perhaps you like humor? Or a tour de force coming-of-age tale. Again, you’re covered. Covered. Covered. Covered. This book is your best bet as a gift for the holidays! Get it here.

Henry Chamberlain with a copy of A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories at the Sorrento Hotel

Henry Chamberlain with a copy of A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories at the Sorrento Hotel.

The Sorrento Hotel is truly a unique destination. If you’re staying the night, you are in for a treat. But, you can also stop by for an exceptional cocktail, fine dining, and some excellent pastimes, such as live music in the legendary Fireside Room. It was my pleasure to act as host as some friends gathered to help me launch my new book.

It is only fitting to have a book launch at the Sorrento Hotel as this is the setting for the title story in the book. I created this story when I stayed at the Sorrento Hotel to conduct one of my 24-hour comics experiments. The story that resulted is a spooky little gem involving a couple with supernatural abilities and a lot of issues to resolve. Since then, I have come to rely upon the Sorrento as an old friend that you can always trust to serve you well.

Pat Moriarity and Henry Chamberlain at the Sorrento Hotel, 8 November 2014.

Pat Moriarity and Henry Chamberlain at the Sorrento Hotel, 8 November 2014.

Truth be told, creating a work is only half the battle. The other half is promoting the work. Often, the biggest hurdle to jump is competing with all the distractions of life. And the most important thing to always remember is that the book’s creator must always remain that book’s most steadfast and loyal fan. People will come around. If the book is worth it, well, its creator will have never left its side.
Find out more here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, David Lasky, graphic novels, Henry Chamberlain, Independent Comics, Indie, Pat Moriarity, Seattle, Sorrento Hotel

Interview: Missy Suicide and SuicideGirls: Blackheart Burlesque Tour

SuicideGirls-Blackheart-Burlesque-2014

Missy Suicide, the co-founder of SuicideGirls, has seen her venture grow by leaps and bounds to become a part of the pop culture. It all began as what seemed like a lark in 2001 to become a new generation’s answer to Playboy Magazine. If you are into alternative beauty, then SuicideGirls answers that call. In my interview, Missy speaks to what SuicideGirls is all about. For anyone who wonders if SG has its comics cred in order, I would direct you to the SG website and check out the online community discussions. Everything from vegan cooking to manga is up for grabs. You will also want to check out the latest SG book, “Geekology,” which you can find here.

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Filed under Comics, Geeks, Indie, Suicide Girls, SuicideGirls, Tattoos

Interview: Bill Kartalopoulos and THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2014

Bill-Kartalopoulos-Best-American-Comics

It is a pleasure to chat about comics, especially with someone as well-versed on the subject as Bill Kartalopoulos. For this interview, the occasion is the 2014 volume of “The Best American Comics,” which Bill takes over as the new series editor. I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the term, “alternative comics,” since he led an interesting panel discussion on that topic at SPX back in 2012 entitled, “Life After Alternative Comics.” This was a way to frame the conversation.

Bill Kartalopoulos is a great observer of, and participant in, today’s comics scene. Part of his impressive resume includes being the program coordinator for the Small Press Expo as well as the program director for the MoCCA Arts Festival. Both of these events are essential barometers of prevailing trends. So, if Bill suggests that alternative comics are dead, I listen. Of course, he doesn’t really suggest that, at least not as you might think. But, let me continue…

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Art Spiegelman, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Independent Comics, Indie, MoCCA Arts Festival, New York City, SPX, The Best American Comics

Review: BOOBAGE by Monica Gallagher

Boobage-Monica-Gallagher-2013

“Boobage,” is a mini-comic by Monica Gallager that covers, or unveils, a very personal preoccupation with a lot of wit and humor. So, what do you instantly think of when you put such greats together as Kate Hudson, Clare Danes, Gwen Stefani, and Bridget Fonda? The one thing that Gallager used to have trouble with was their (and her own) relatively small breasts, or “tits.” It’s okay, she says “tits” a lot. Gallagher isn’t afraid to tackle the tit issue, large or small. This won’t really be of interest to those who objectify and sexualize but it may give them some pause. Hey Jimmy, or whoever, those hooters you salivate over belong to a real human being.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Comix, Comixology, Comixology Submit, Independent Comics, Indie, mini-comics, Monica Gallagher, Self-Esteem, Sex, Sexuality, Women

SHORT RUN SMALL PRESS FEST IN SEATTLE: EVENTS SCHEDULE FOR NOVEMBER 1-30, 2013

Short-Run-Small-Press-Fest

“Short Run” is a gathering of small press in Seattle with some added attractions this year. There’s the main event, the Short Run Small Press Festival at Washington Hall on Saturday, November 30, 2013. But, for those who want more, there’s plenty more starting with an event on November 1. Check out the Short Run website for details here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics News, David Lasky, Eroyn Franklin, Independent Comics, Indie, Jim Woodring, Kelly Froh, Micropublishing, mini-comics, Minicomics, Seattle, Self-Published, Short Run Small Press Fest, Small Press, Underground Comics, Zines

Interview: MATTHEW JOHNSON Director of THE DIRTIES

The-Dirties-Matt-Johnson-Kevin-Smith-2013

Matthew Johnson is the director, co-writer, and starring actor in a film not without its controversy, “The Dirties.” It is a film about a school shooting which makes it vulnerable from the start. However, it navigates its subject with a level of self-awareness that gives it a sense of honesty. In other words, this is not a movie out to make a fast buck. What keeps it real is Matthew Johnson.

It is Columbine that springs to mind when Johnson is asked about what compelled the making of this movie. It is the issue that he had to confront when he was in high school. How do you address that horror, and all the others before and since, and avoid preaching in favor of making of art? What this movie does is use the dynamic of a documentary for all its worth.

Instead of the old traditional Hollywood route, and its hyperreality, “The Dirties” uses the found footage genre to tell a simple and direct story about bullying and school violence. A balance is struck between incorporating actual high school students and schools with the actors. The result is understated, down-to-earth, and very believable.

Matt (Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) are two misfits struggling to survive high school. Maybe they will find satisfying revenge from their bullies through their film project. Early on, we peg Matt as the overzealous one and Owen as the passive follower. We already know that this will not end well and that it is most likely going to focus on Matt. What will be Matt’s breaking point? As Johnson points out, “The Dirties” begins where most stories like this end. We actually get to learn something about the Matt character.

The following interview took place October 11, 2013. Matthew talks about the complex issue of bullies, the sweet pursuit of obscure references, Lena Dunham, mumblecore, Quentin Tarantino, Sacha Baron Cohen, and a glimpse of what lies ahead. As for what lies ahead, that seems a quite proper place for a young talent in search of the truth.

Click below for the podcast interview:

Phase 4 and the Kevin Smith Movie Club are proud to present THE DIRTIES. Winner of the 2013 Slamdance Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Film.

Visit THE DIRTIES website here.

Synopsis: When two best friends team up to film a comedy about getting revenge on bullies, the exercise takes a devastating turn when one of them begins to think of it as more than a joke.

Director: Matt Johnson
Starring: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams
Screenplay: Matt Johnson, Evan Morgan

Available In Theaters and On Demand as of October 4, 2013

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Filed under Independent Film, Indie, Interviews, mumblecore

Interview: Director Roger Sewhcomar and ‘Do You Like My Basement?’

Director Roger Sewhcomar, with Devon Talbott and Charlie Floyd, in DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Director Roger Sewhcomar, with Devon Talbott and Charlie Floyd, on set of DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Roger Sewhcomar has crafted a devilishly good horror movie, both chilling and satirical. If you’re in New York City, be sure to catch it at the NewFilmmakers Short Film program on May 29. You can find details here. And, of course, there’s more to come as the film moves on to other venues and branches out into new web content.

Karlheinz Böhm, as Mark Lewis, in PEEPING TOM

Karlheinz Böhm, as Mark Lewis, in PEEPING TOM

If you’re a film buff, you may find yourself comparing “Do You Like My Basement?” to classic horror, especially, “Peeping Tom,” considering both main characters, Stanley Farmer, and Mark Lewis, respectively, are deranged filmmakers. They are up to their gills in toxic psychosis. “Peeping Tom,” although now considered a masterpiece, did not go over so well in 1960 and its director, Michael Powell, paid a heavy price as he was thoroughly drummed out of the business by harsh critics. “Do You Like My Basement?” has a much brighter future ahead of it, not only by comparison, but for being quite a gem. Director Roger Sewhcomar provides just the sort of horror that goes beyond expectations, and meets the contemporary taste for suspense.

Charlie Floyd on set of DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Charlie Floyd on set of DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

A production such as this has its share of unsung heroes, those that go the extra mile but may go unseen. Ironically, the main character to this film, Stanley Farmer, is never quite seen. However, there is no mistaking the presence of actor Charlie Floyd. In fact, he’s always there. Once you hear his voice, you won’t mistake it. Mr. Floyd leads a strong cast in this remarkable mix of horror, satire, and dark comedy.

It was a pleasure to get to chat with director Roger Sewhcomar. We go over his influences, what it takes to make a movie, and what lies ahead for “Do You like My Basement?” Click below. Enjoy.

Visit the “Do You Like My Basement?” website here.

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Filed under Horror, Independent Film, Indie, Interviews, Kickstarter, movies

Stumptown Comics Fest Review: UNKNOWN ORIGINS & UNTIMELY ENDS Anthology

Unknown-Origins-Emi-Gennis-2013

“Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries,” is a comics anthology, edited by Emi Gennis. As comics anthologies go, this one knocks it out of the park. It is consistently good, full of satisfying surprises, and it’s as if all the contributors gathered together, held hands, and zoned into something awesome. This is not always the case but it sure is here. The theme is true to its title in every way.

"The Lead Masks" by J.T. Yost

“The Lead Masks” by J.T. Yost

Organized into two subcategories of the strange and spooky, one group of cartoonists take on the subject of “Unknown Origins” while the other takes on the subject of “Untimely Ends.” What sets this book up there with the best anthologies is how dedicated everyone is to all the details. So, how did this man come to die without any ID and an eerie connection to the book of poetry, “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám”? That’s the opener, “The Unknown Man of Somerton Beach,” by Nikki DeSautelle, that lets us know right away that we’re in good hands. Drawn in a strikingly spare style, it leads you into the next story, an environmental mystery, “Goo,” by Jason Bradshaw, and then an urban myth, “The Monster with 21 Faces,” by Aaron Whitaker. And so on, one style of cartooning blending into the next, all held together by a unified vision.

"Aokigahara Forest" by Jenn Woodall

“Aokigahara Forest” by Jenn Woodall

This is first comics anthology for Hic & Hoc Publications and we certainly look forward to many more.

"The Dyatlov Pass Incident" by Emi Gennis

“The Dyatlov Pass Incident” by Emi Gennis

The anthology showcases 34 cartoonists, all working at their full potential.

"Dark Forces" by Lizz Lunney

“Dark Forces” by Lizz Lunney

Good work, Emi Gennis, on editing this remarkable anthology. Visit Emi’s website here.

“Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries” released on April 23 at Floating World Comics. The party continues at Stumptown Comics Fest this weekend, April 27-28. It’s a wonderful example of what you’ll find at this gem of a gathering of comics talent. If you’re in PDX, you will want to go. I’ll see you there. Visit the Stumptown Comics Fest website here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, PDX, Portland, Stumptown Comics Fest