Tag Archives: Books

Review: ‘The Puma Blues: The Complete Saga in One Volume’

The Puma Blues Murphy Zulli Dover

The Puma Blues is essential reading. And now, after being out of print for nearly 25 years, here is this beautiful definitive collection of the ecological thriller published by Dover Publications.

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Look out for those flying manta rays!

Now, you know what manta rays are, don’t you? They are those large flat-bodied fish, black on top, white underneath, with a long thin tail, a big mouth, and those fleshy horns. Ech! How about a swarm of them flying above your head? There are many beautifully rendered pages of such things in the legendary comic book series, The Puma Blues, written by Stephen Murphy, and drawn by Michael Zulli, first released starting in 1986 and now with a definitive collected hardcover published by Dover Publications. It is safe to say that there’s nothing quite like it.

The Puma Blues Gavia Immer

With its driven protagonist, conspiracy theories, and philosophical musings, The Puma Blues held its own with other ambitious works of the time like, Watchmen. It is both a thriller and a weird mystical journey for our hero, Gavia Immer. Sort of like Special Agent Mulder, Immer is a government agent tasked with investigating a myriad of ecological anomalies, like flying manta rays. Set in the not-too-distant future, Immer is equipped with a transducer gun able to transport endangered wildlife from their natural habitats to government facilities.

The Puma Blues-Dover-2015

Weighing in at 560 pages, this hardcover is aimed to please. Among its extras, is a 40-page epilogue written by the original creators. This work is in the tradition of some the greatest graphic novels and has made the short list of many critics. It will bring to mind Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, and Dave Sim, who happens to provide the Introduction. Another great, Stephen R. Bissette provides the Afterword.

For more details, be sure to visit our friends at Dover Publications right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dover Publications, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review: WILDFLOWER by Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore Wildflower

When writing a book about your life, it’s easy to fall into having the last laugh. With her book, “Wildflower,” Drew Barrymore has chosen to write a book full of laughter, joy, and wise observations. If a book like this seems too idealistic, all one needs to do is dive in and read it and find an authentic voice.

Ever since spending many hours basking in the glow of the last days of a bookstore that focused on cinema, I gained a fuller appreciation of the celebrity autobiography. After you’ve taken the time to study a number of these titles, you just can’t make generalizations. Often, these works are remarkably insightful. You can only take them one at a time. In the case of Drew Barrymore, she consistently writes honestly and vividly. You can hear her unique voice on every page and it’s a story you’ll find refreshingly modest.

There are a number of fascinating moments that come to mind: Drew’s experience in Africa and how she connected that to learning how to heal her relationship with childhood and children.; her frankness about her relationship with her parents and how she learned to create boundaries; and her recollections of growing up in West Hollywood and how she cherished the little touches of nature, especially the bougainvilleas, amid urban life.

With a great sense of irreverence, coupled with a natural spirituality, this is one book by a celebrity, one very unconventional celebrity, that will win you over.

“Wildflower” is a 288-page hardcover published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

If you are in Seattle this weekend, Drew Barrymore will be reading from “Wildflower” at the Center for Spiritual Living as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures series.


Filed under Books


You are NOT your thoughts.

You are NOT your thoughts.

Do you like to write lists of goals you’ve set for yourself or give yourself little private pep talks? Of course, you do! We have plenty of bad energy out there to navigate through. A lot of us out there have already picked up on the benefits of self-help, particularly meditation. Yumi Sakugawa has a new book, “There is No Right Way to Meditate and Other Lessons,” published by Adams Media. Here, she provides a highly accessible, and quite invigorating, look at a peaceful world full of peaceful people.


It all began with an epiphany that Yumi had when she was 23-years-old and feeling very blue. She came to the realization that she was NOT her thoughts. She certainly wasn’t her negative thoughts. It is a simple enough concept and yet it is also a very powerful concept. This is a book that gently, and soothingly, offers observations on how to avoid negativity and gain a better sense of balance.

Yumi maintains a lighthearted tone throughout with her prose and whimsical artwork. For instance, she suggests that you get lost in the woods so your bad mood doesn’t know where to find you. It’s not too lighthearted. It’s just right. These are mind over mind exercises. So, the humor needs to ring true. The inner world won’t respond to a mere joke.

There’s such a genuine expression of joy and reassurance here that you’ll find it irresistible. No right nor wrong. No irony. Just a goal of self-love. Perchance to dream. Ah, dreams are a serious business. The mind demands convincing. Yumi will do this by presenting the reader with a rock. The rock is heavy. Anxiety is heavy. However, once you start to feel the rock’s ridges, it begins to feel less heavy. Yumi invites you to desire a better life without thinking too hard about it. Enjoy the now. That is exactly where you need to be.

“There is No Right Way to Meditate and Other Lessons” is a 160-page hardcover and is published by Adams Media. You can also find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Adams Media, Comics, Health, Wellness, Yumi Sakugawa

Review: TRASHED by Derf Backderf


We think a lot about garbage here in Seattle. We’ve been ahead of the curve for many years. We separate our garbage from common garbage (non-food), compost (food), and recycling (very specific categories). I know that some Seattleites find utter joy in thoroughly washing their recyclables. And, lately, the City of Seattle has demanded more by showing no mercy and fining homeowners who dare to mix food in with their common everyday garbage!

To read TRASHED, the new graphic novel by Derf Backderf, this whole business of garbage is not so complicated. The real solution would be to use less! But I get ahead of myself. In this book, you see the very human element to garbage from the viewpoint of a bunch of young guys just starting out in life…as garbage collectors.


Derf Backderf has a style and tone to his storytelling that brings you right in. You might not necessarily want to be brought in to some of the content he’s involved with but, all the same, there you are. From his comic strip that examined Cleveland urban life to his previous recollections of Jeffrey Dahmer, Backderf presents the grim, the gritty, and the unvarnished truth. For his new graphic novel, he does something that may inspire other cartoonists to follow suit in their own way.

He revisits some experiences from his youth and brings these old characters up to present day with contemporary commentary. Backderf created comics based upon his year (1979-80) as a sanitation worker. In 2010, he took those old characters and, like ageless Archie comics characters, placed them in a present day setting for a webcomic. That project evolved into this current graphic novel.


Backderf gently nudges along the idea that we’re all such disgusting slobs. Maybe not all of the time but no one gets completely away. And there are plenty of oddball characters that Backderf observes on his rounds who shouldn’t get away with anything like the unscrupulous dog catcher that terrorizes all the neighborhood pets. And then there’s all the people leaving out inappropriate items like a stove and a car engine block. Seriously? Yes, people have no shame.


Knee-deep, and sometimes up to his eyeballs, in garbage, our main character prevails. He survives his year as a garbage collector. And, now, all these years later, we get the complete story in this funny, insightful, and beautifully rendered book.

TRASHED is a 256-page hardcover, published by Abrams ComicArts, available as of November 3, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Abrams ComicArts, Comics, Derf Backderf, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Short Run 2015: Debut of GEORGE’S RUN #1

First issue of George's Run to debut at Short Run

First issue of George’s Run to debut at Short Run

For all of us in the comics community, whether creators or fans, it is time once again for the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival. There’s a nice write-up about it in the local alt-weekly, The Stranger, that you can check out here. Among a splendid array of comics that you will have a chance to choose from, I humbly add something I am working on. This is the first installment to a full-length work. It’s called, “George’s Run,” and it’s about the life and times of science fiction writer George Clayton Johnson. I am still in the process of weaving the narrative but this is a perfect time to share some of what I’ve put together thus far. If you happen to go to Short Run, you’ll have a chance to buy a copy of this 24-page comic. You can find me at the Short Run tables under the name, Comics Grinder Press.

Short Run Comix & Arts Festival takes place this Halloween: Saturday, October 31, in Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center from 11 am to 6 pm.

For more details, be sure to visit our friends at Short Run right here.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, George Clayton Johnson, Independent Comics, Indie, mini-comics, Minicomics, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Seattle, Self-Published, Short Run

Review: ‘Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist’ by Bill Griffith

Searching through the past: the true story of Barbara Griffith emerges

Searching through the past: the true story of Barbara Griffith emerges

As if drawn with invisible ink, there are mountains of comics from yesteryear that, even if popular in their day, will never be read again. But once upon a time, cartoonists were bona fide celebrities. Today, of course, everything has splintered off. But we still have some of the good stuff that harkens back to a golden age. We have Bill Griffith’s legendary comic strip, Zippy the Pinhead. Mr. Griffith is an expert on comics many times over and a masterful storyteller. He takes all that and gives us his first long-form graphic story, “Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist.”

Cartoonist Bill Griffith channels Cartoonist Lawrence Lariar

Cartoonist Bill Griffith channels Cartoonist Lawrence Lariar

Griffith navigates us through the often murky world of pop culture’s past and puts it into unique context. The past easily holds onto its secrets all too often because no one bothers to ever try to pry them open. This is a book about prying open the past and revealing the most intriguing secrets, family secrets. Much in the spirit of Griffith’s surreal Zippy the Pinhead, the mundane here collides with the supposedly more colorful world of mass media. Add to that, a decidedly offbeat look at the world. I swear, I found Zippy creeping up when you least expected it. For instance, there’s a scene in a diner between Bill and his uncle, Al, and Al says, “You know what’s coming back?” Bill asks, “Salisbury steak?” “No,” Al says, “morse code!”

The K & W Cafeteria in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The K & W Cafeteria in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Check out the page above that I just made reference to with the morse code comment. Ah, such a thing of beauty! A perfect example of the Bill Griffith sensibility and I’m sort of just picking a page at random. It speaks to the very best spirit of underground comix which Bill Griffith came from. It articulates a worldview of someone finely tuned in to his feelings and observations. It is a very relatable view since we all feel we’re tuned in to the world around us. The idea is to create an expression of what one sees that touches on all the details of the moment and evokes a stream-of-consciousness. We see Griffith reacting to a quaint world of yesteryear still alive in the here and now. It’s a world where you can expect to order three different kinds of macaroni & cheese. Of course, the actual K&W Cafeteria doesn’t think of itself as out-of-date. It offers free Wi-Fi, after all. But, from Griffith’s perspective, it is a strange world to marvel over and that’s what we’re looking for!


You can imagine that Bill Griffith’s mother might have pretended she was writing with invisible ink in order to be as revealing as she was in her journals and related work. Whatever the case, we hear her loud in clear in this exploration of her inner life. Griffith synthesizes various artifacts to find a greater truth. When you go hunting for answers like this, you’re liable to get lost in your own issues with your parents. Griffith is no different in this regard. He is just like any of us trying to deal with the past and that is an excellent hook for readers. What makes this story extraordinary is that Bill Griffith has definitely met his match with his mother who gives his storytelling skills a run for their money. If truth is stranger than fiction, then this must be one hell of an example of that. It boggled the mind of Bill Griffith, one of the great mind-bogglers in comics.

“Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist” is a 208-page black & white hardcover published by Fantagraphics Books. For more details, and to order, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Books right here.


Filed under Bill Griffith, Comics, Comix, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Underground Comics, Zippy the Pinhead

Book Review: ‘H8 Society – How An Atomic Fart Saved the World’


Transmedia, content that includes more than traditional text and illustrations, is still so new. Basically, it is storytelling on multiple platforms: there’s not only a book but there is video, music, games, social media, and so on. I feel it’s going to take a number of years before the novelty wears off and things integrate more naturally, if they ever do. Take this latest hybrid of book, music, and social media: “H8 Society – How An Atomic Fart Saved the World.” It does not take on the whole transmedia spectrum but it is in the same ballpark. The intent is to bring in young readers and it is designed to be ideally read on a smartphone.

This is a young adult book which has an overall upbeat and dynamic vibe to it so there’s some real potential there to attract new readers. This is a sci-fi adventure of sorts that is meant to appeal to teens. That is absolutely the demographic that is being targeted. It is clearly stated in the title, and not just the idea of farts. The idea of haters is pretty obvious. A lot of buttons are pushed, including all the usual suspects of sex, drugs, and race. The story begins with a satire on a jihadist which is odd at best. There are also scenes you can call sexist at best.

The press release describes this book as “a first-of-its-kind ‘extreme reading experience’ that marries music, graphics, and literature to tell an unforgettable story about an apocalyptic American dream.” Much more to the point, this is light entertainment or contemporary pulp fiction. It is not literature. It’s just light stuff featuring popular music. This book is sort of a contemporary version of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon singing in “Beach Blanket Bingo.”

An illustration by Bill Sienkiewicz in "H8 Society"

An illustration by Bill Sienkiewicz in “H8 Society”

Something that is strongly in its favor is that the book is punctuated with vivid artwork by master illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz of DC and Marvel Comics fame. And the music peppered throughout this story is an impressive collection of twenty-six indie songs (curated from over 4,000 ReverbNation submissions). You’ll be reading along for a while and then have the option to play a song that sort of goes with the narrative. For instance, Boomer and the gang are right in the middle of an exciting scene. To add to that reading, you may want to listen to Valora’s “Extreme.”

While you read "H8 Society" on your smartphone, you can listen to songs like Valora's "Extreme."

While you read “H8 Society” on your smartphone, you can listen to songs like Valora’s “Extreme.”

The story is a caper involving two rival teen gangs who must confront a global network bent on taking over the world through mind control. It’s not the most cutting-edge scenario but it gets the job done and proves to be as entertaining as any light sitcom you might stumble upon. The choice of music is fun and that’s probably the most intriguing thing about this project. From time to time, a reader, immersed in his or her own reader’s world, is open to supplemental material. If you get that right choice of song, it can have a very moving and lasting effect upon a reader and actually enhance the reading experience.

First, you need a worthwhile reading experience before you can enhance it. In the case of this book, it is what it is: a simple caper story. And maybe that’s just what some readers will want during a commute. One caveat, the creators of this book go by the name of 2Dans. They are two former MTV executives which adds to the sense of this being more of a packaged deal and less of something to take too seriously. But then, atomic farts were never meant to be taken seriously, right? Find out how you can access this book for free by visiting the official book site here.

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Filed under 2Dans, Bill Sienkiewicz, Book Reviews, Books, Mark Z. Danielewski, Marketing, MTV, Music, Transmedia

Review: ‘Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with Their Creators’ by Matt Sainsbury


With holiday shopping fast upon us, Comics Grinder is ready to start making some holiday gift suggestions. Let’s start with this beautiful book, “Game Art,” published by No Starch Press, a collection of interviews with 40 top video game designers including page after page of eye-popping video game art. And, yes, this is art. You’ll find a wide variety of gorgeous work that would be suitable for framing. This is easily the perfect gift for virtually anyone. Here are some samples:

From "Fatal Frame 4"

From “Fatal Frame II” (Koei Tecmo Games)

From "Fairy Fencer F"

From “Fairy Fencer F” (Compile Heart)

From "Never Alone"

From “Never Alone” (E-Line Media)

From "Gamebook Adventures"

From “Gamebook Adventures” (Joshua Wright)

“Game Art” presents awesome game art that will inspire gamers and aspiring designers alike. Featuring major studios like Square Enix, Bioware, and Ubisoft as well as independents like Tale of Tales and E-Line Media, “Game Art” explores and celebrates the creative process that turns a video game into art. For more details, visit our friends at No Starch Press. You can also find “Game Art” over at Amazon right here.


Filed under Art, Art books, Games, Illustration, No Starch Press, Video Game Art, Video Games

GE Retro Comics Come Back to Life as New Stories on Wattpad

Cover from General Electric educational comic book from 1957

Cover from General Electric educational comic book from 1957

In the 1950-60s, General Electric published Adventures in Science, a series of comic books that ignited a love of science and engineering in a new generation. Now, GE is bringing this spirit back to life on, Wattpad, the social network for stories. Wattpad has invited six of the app’s most popular writers to author a science-fiction story inspired by the six old-school comic book covers GE dug up from decades ago. The stories will be released exclusively on Wattpad this October and are based on the real work of GE scientists.

This is such a goofy, cool, and intriguing idea. It will definitely be interesting to see what stories result from this project. Take a look at Wattpad and you’ll see how you can also take part in a wide variety of writing contests and connect to a most compelling community of people just like you, seeking to express their creativity and celebrate imagination: the world of readers and writers.


Filed under Comics, Community, General Electric, Social Media, Wattpad, writers, writing

Interview: Jonathan Lethem and THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in Introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem is the author of nine novels, including “Gun, with Occasional Music,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Fortress of Solitude,” and most recently, “Dissident Gardens.” He is this year’s editor for the annual, “Best American Comics.” Lethem’s 2003 novel, “The Fortress of Solitude,” famously references superhero comics. In 2007-2008, Marvel Comics published a ten-issue comic book collaboration between Lethem and artist Farel Dalrymple. It was a revisiting of one of the most unlikely of superheroes from the 1970s, “Omega the Unknown.” In 2013, Lethem collaborated with artist Raymond Pettibon as part of a collection of the artist’s work.

In my review of Best American Comics 2015, I speak to this year’s focus on comics as art. Series editor Bill Kartalopoulos brought in the idea of including Raymond Pettibon and it’s an exciting move toward further establishing comics as an art form in its own right. It would seem to many of us that such an assertion is no longer necessary. But every bit helps to make known to all readers the endless possibilities for comics. In my interview, we talk about Pettibon and his place in both the art world and the comics world. And we take a closer look at what comics are all about in the first place.

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: I was reading over an interview you gave in 2008 and I wanted to quote a little from it. You said: “What I do in book after book after book is smash together — as urgently and as adamantly as I can — things that feel verifiably real everyday: textures, stuff of the prosaic and dreamlike material.” Is that the spirit in which you took on your editorship of this year’s Best American Comics?

JONATHAN LETHEM: That’s a great question. I like that quote. I don’t always love hearing myself read back to me but that one stands up. It sounds like what I feel that I do. Of course, I didn’t think of the editorship as having to reflect my aesthetic as though this were like a novel I was writing. You know, it extends from my position as a member of the audience, as a fan, as a responder, of other people’s work.

I’ve always seen a lot of continuity between the reader and the writer. There’s something in between like a member of the bookstore staff putting together a display, or a deejay setting up a set, or that overused term, “curator.” Helplessly, I’m grabbing at things that interest me and pushing them up against each other to make interesting vibrations between them. So, I guess it is like that quote. It is similar. The book ended up including things that are surreal, or magical, or fantastical, along with stuff of grubby ordinary life.

HC: This is your own personal journey through comics. I’m thinking of what Bill Kartalopoulos, the series editor, had said about this year’s edition being less of a survey than last year’s. I suppose each editor is going to bring different things to the next volume. This is your own take on the current scene in comics.

JL: Bill was tremendous about handing me a lot of rope. Obviously, he’s immersed in a field in a way, on a year to year basis, that I could never dream of being. He was brilliant in getting me up to speed and informing me of context. He was a pair of super-binoculars. He also wanted the book to be mine and not lead the horse to water too often. He said he wasn’t passing along anything he wasn’t interested in but that it was going to be too much and that I would need to carve out a vision from all this stuff. He was a great sounding board. He helped guide me to my decisions. For a while, I was floundering around. It’s overwhelming. The field is so huge and so hyper-kinetic in the kinds of energy and ambition being expressed.

HC: So, going through that mountain of books, impressed upon you the enormity of possibilities for comics.

JL: Yeah, I really did feel that. I guess that my selections reflect a kind of a sense of wanting to force the reader to experience, in some ways, the same exciting calamity of possibilities that I experienced. I wanted to reproduce the sensation of “What the hell is this?” Comics are so many different things right now: so vibrant, so many chances are being taken, so many fantastic experiments are being conducted. I started to think that this wasn’t just one thing. It’s a gigantic art form with brilliant juxtapositions and perplexities encompassed within.

Excerpt from "No Tears, No Sorrow," by Eleanor Davis

Excerpt from “No Tears, No Sorrow,” by Eleanor Davis

HC: Looking at this year’s Best American Comics selections that you made, it runs the gamut from a more straightforward approach, like Eleanor Davis, to a more unconventional approach, like Henrietta Valium. And it’s all comics. I think you did something very significant this year by, in a natural way, bringing forward the understanding that comics is an art form. Now, one of my pet peeves, and you may agree, is when a gallery or museum labels something as only “comics-related” when, in fact, it is a work of comics, pure and simple.

JL: Yeah.

HC: And here you have Raymond Pettibon’s work on the cover of this year’s Best American Comics.

JL: Somehow, I got in there very early and that was a piece of good luck. A little feeler that series editor Bill Kartalopoulos put forward was that he had spotted this recent work of Pettibon’s and he sort of dared me to agree with him that it really was comics, just like you say. I was the right recipient for that little piece of provocation. I was already a big Pettibon fan. I wrote something for him, so we had collaborated on that a few years ago. The results were published in The Believer. And that was a comic. I thought of it explicitly as four panels. I wrote for him a four-panel really bizarre and over-loaded comic to do. Raymond being Raymond, took that into even stranger directions. When Bill asked what I would think of Pettibon’s work in a comics context, I was absolutely on board. As an opening exchange, I think it set the ground for how the rest of the book was going to feel to us, that we’d agreed to this slightly audacious definition of comics. And then it comes first circle with the invitation to Raymond to be the cover artist and his agreeing to do it.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon's "The Credits Rolled," 2013.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon’s “The Credits Rolled,” 2013.

HC: When I was reading this year’s Best American Comics in a cafe the other day, a barista made that “What the hell is this?” comment. And it was in a very supportive tone as he was very familiar with Pettibon’s work. This would be interesting: What can you tell us about Raymond Pettibon? How does he see himself within a comics context?

JL: I have met him a handful of times. And I would say that he is dodgy in the extreme, with a great disinterest in facing questions like that directly. But his work is eloquent. His work incorporates giant chunks of response to comics as one of the key American vernacular visual languages. Along with film, the covers of pulp paperbacks, and tabloid photography, his work devours comics as a source. You have images of Superman, you have hints of Krazy Kat. There’s that Vavoom character from Little Lulu. I think, to him, it’s a question that is too obvious for him to engage in. And here is where I’d feel a lot of native sympathy myself in terms of my own writing and how it engages with comics as a zone of vitality and American language all its own. Comics just begs to be responded to by other art forms. So, what the Pop artists did, by grabbing onto that comics energy, is akin to other artists, like Philip Guston, or Raymond Pettibon. What I’ve humbly tried to do a couple of times in my writing is that, somehow make literary prose just to the tune to the energy that you find in a comic book or a comic strip panel. I think it’s a natural response. You see that today among artists, an understanding that comics are crucial, alive, and part of the American cultural stratum.

HC: You see all sorts of creative people fascinated by comics narrative. You teach creative writing. Do you suggest comics to your students?

JL: I have done that and I also have dealt with some independent study students or thesis writers working on the subject of graphic novels. I haven’t yet assigned a comic as a text in a seminar class but you’re making me think that I ought to do that. It doesn’t seem out of reach to me. My seminars have included film assignments in the past so it would be completely of a piece with that.

HC: I want to reassure everyone that this is not simply a survey, although it is in some sense. It’s definitely a wonderful guide to what’s been going on in comics in the last year or so.

JL: I hope so.

HC: I love how you keep an irreverent tone. It’s respectful but fun. I mean, your introduction is a comic and it’s hilarious. I love the character you created, even though you say it’s derivative.

JL: Well, most good characters are derivative. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

HC: One thing I recall from creative writing class is to avoid being portentous. And I believe that most good comics have a lightness to them. They can be anything but they need to strike a good balance, and avoid being portentous.

JL: I’m with you on that. Ironically, the portentousness that I mostly shied away from was largely found in the mainstream superhero comics–which I couldn’t quite relate to. For the present crop, I wasn’t clicking with it. Often, this is because there is a slightly artificial heaviness to them. It’s sort of a role reversal from grown-up stuff being found among the underground and graphic novels and the funny books being there for kids. But, actually, the mainstream comic book companies are producing a lot of very jacked-up grim stuff. And, as you say, some of the most sophisticated or beguiling suggestive work that you can come across includes a certain levity or a sense of the absurd. Some frivolity is in the mix.

HC: Let’s consider some of the work included here. One that quickly comes to mind is Megan Kelso.

JL: Yeah, Megan Kelso was a great discovery. She’s so sly. It appears to be very straightforward work but the degree of compression, the way she can do so much with such a small number of pages, is very, very literary in fact.

From Julia Gfrörer's "Palm Ash"

From Julia Gfrörer’s “Palm Ash”

HC: Another intriguing selection is Julia Gfrörer.

JL: That’s another intricate and evocative piece. That was a total discovery for me. I hadn’t come across her work anywhere before.

HC: I’m familiar with her work. She’s definitely on the rise.

JL: Well, she should be.

HC: It’s nice that it was printed in the book on green paper.

JL: Yes, it was a pamphlet on green paper. One of the interesting things about work like this is that it has the quality of being an artifact. Some other works in the book were either bigger or smaller than the anthology pages. Or would be silkscreened or some other printing process. It’s only an approximation to the original when we fit it into the anthology format.

HC: What would you say about your readership?

JL: More than usual, I’m on the edge of my seat to meet my readership. I know the sense of being stakeholders the comics audience has. I wonder about how they will respond and probably argue with this book in certain ways. I’m really interested in what will come out of that and what I’ll learn. I think it was crucial to feel that I was being dropped into a universe and trying to do justice to this last year. It was like a flashbulb strobe image of the landscape. My volume was one in a conversation. It was instructive to study the last few years of the volumes and see the different kind of statements that people are making with the editor’s position and the different senses you get of what the competition in the field feels like at any given moment.

HC: I wonder if cartoonists see it as a contest. I tend to think that they’ll appreciate that this volume is, like you say, part of a conversation.

JL: Well, you know, everyone who makes things is waiting for that gold star. It’s a neat job to be able to give out the gold stars once in a while. You also want to let people know that there were hundreds of submissions that were clamoring and knocking on the door to be included. In some cases, the selections were determined upon what went together in making a book out of it all, making it all flow, and making it all interesting in context. There are some pieces that I fell in love with that didn’t make it into the book.

HC: It must be great when you make these connections while putting the book together, like the two pieces with a Wonder Woman theme, one by R. Sikoryak and the other by Diane Obomsawin.

JL: There was going to be a third Wonder Woman piece, by Ron Regé Jr., but lawyers stepped in and squelched it. I was trying to give as much of a glimpse into Wonder Woman as possible especially since there had been a couple of nonfiction books on Wonder Woman in that same year.

HC: And you ran into difficulty with getting a work in by Steve Ditko.

JL: That one went down to the wire. And it led us nowhere. So, somewhere, out there, there’s a compendium worthy of Steve Ditko.

HC: Well, God bless him. Thank you for your time, Jonathan.

JL: Thank you, Henry.

You can listen to the podcast interview by clicking below:

“The Best American Comics 2015” is a 400-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available as of October 6, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Anthologies, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Interviews, Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Pettibon, The Best American Comics