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…
For me, and maybe you too, I find “alternative comics” to remain a useful and relevant term (more on that here). However, a light bulb did go off above my head, just like in the comics, when I had to admit that surely there is an argument to be made that, just like “underground comics” bring to mind the ’60s, so too this term can be associated with a certain era. However, I hope we can still hold on to this term for some time to come since it’s so darn useful. What else do we have that is a perfect counterpoint to “superhero comics”? Time will tell. And that’s what this anthology is all about, an attempt to give the times a good reading.
A decade after The New York Times Magazine ran a feature on the emergence of “literary comics,” we continue to navigate through the currents and crosscurrents of the comics medium. Best American Comics is an essential resource as we make sense of the unfolding landscape. We are in good hands with new series editor Bill Kartalopoulos and this year’s guest editor, Scott McCloud. And, of course, this series is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a leader in educational resources.
“One of the great things about Best American Comics is that it can be a real direct channel between the entire comics scene and a general reader because it has that wide distribution in bookstores and libraries while maintaining a very free and open editorial policy.” — Bill Kartalopoulos
My goal for this interview is to give you a good picture of the thinking behind a volume of BAC. I even ask Bill if he can guide us along the selection process at BAC with the arrival of a hypothetical graphic novel. Let’s say this book called “The Owl,” by a complete unknown cartoonist, arrives at his office at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. What happens next?
You can hear the whole podcast interview by clicking the link below: