Top Shelf Productions, founded in 1997, was there early on to contribute to the rise of graphic novels in the United States with such trailblazing titles as Blankets by Craig Thompson and From Hell by Eddie Campbell. When you think of Top Shelf, you think of quality, style, and reliability. Top Shelf was started by Brett Warnock and Chris Staros. When Top Shelf joined IDW as an imprint, Staros stayed on and Warnock retired. Well, Mr. Warnock is back with Kitchen Table Magazine, a food and wellness magazine, that taps into his extensive background as a publisher and art director. To learn more, check out the Kickstarter campaign, active until December 26, 2018, in support of a subscription drive right here.
Kitchen Table illustration by Jim Mahfood
Here’s a few words from Kitchen Table to best describe this new print and digital magazine:
KITCHEN TABLE MAGAZINE is a new print and digital publication that connects adventurous souls, curious cooks, and enthusiastic eaters with talented writers, artists, cartoonists, and photographers who explore not only the how-to’s of cooking, but the whys of eating. We’re at the trailhead of adventure, and would love to have you along every step of the way.
Brett Warnock indulging his passion at a local food truck in Portland, Oregon
We all eat. We all have our particular tastes and interests. Follow Kitchen Table to get a crisp, quirky, and unique perspective. Kitchen Table will share with you a lifelong passion, cultivated in the Pacific Northwest, to keep it fresh, sustainable, and just a little bit weird for good measure. Given Warnock’s special connection to comics, you’ll definitely find a good dose of illustrations here along with excellent writing, photography and design. Visit the Kickstarter campaign in support of a most welcome addition in helping you choose items related to food and overall wellness.
Andrea Tsurumi is a cartoonist with an unusual preoccupation with poodles, bras, swimming pools, and various comfort foods like cake, pie, ice cream, and Ramen noodles. This all adds up to a lot of fun for readers. You can enjoy her highly inventive work in her new book, a collection of comics, “Why Would You Do That?” published by Hic & Hoc Publications.
Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
A good rule of thumb for life in general is to go with your first thought. Sure, that could get you into trouble but still. Let’s focus in terms of creativity, okay? You can think of what Tsurumi does as akin to improvisational jazz or comedy improv. Consider a page entitled, “Ghost Bra,” about a bra that, when you least expect it, creeps up on you and provides…support. Not the sort of thing you overthink from the get-go. No, you let that impulse about a haunting bra fly.
An usual obsession with poodles
Other segments take an initial thought and refine it, mine it for all its worth, such as Tsurumi’s examination of poodles. We discover that poodles are far more than man’s best friend. That would hardly cover their accomplishments over the ages. However, there is only so far such a brilliant creature can go with such a bizarre haircut that leaves it wide open to ridicule! As Tsurumi does throughout, the artwork here has an elegant light touch. It is not too light either. There is an organic quality to it. Tsurumi is happy to add as much detail as needed. But, even with her crosshatching, in the end, she maintains a crisp line and a pleasing clarity.
Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? with Gelato
Andrea Tsurumi has honed a great dexterity with words and pictures. No doubt, fortified with an essential confidence and drive, Tsurumi has reached an undeniable level of mastery. Her comics appear to breathe naturally as if entities onto themselves. Her work is immersive in the best sense of the word as you get lost in it as you would a compelling piece of performance art. That’s how I felt reading her piece, “Do You Know How to Eat Ramen?” Sounds like something you might catch at an experimental theater doesn’t it? Well, it would definitely make for quite a show. We begin with a lively recitation of ingredients which includes “the part that lives inside you that has gotten small and scared.”
Gelato and WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
I also love Tsurumi’s observations on swimming pools. I can well imagine her wading in with a bunch of strangers and immediately aghast and bewildered. Swimming pools, in Tsurumi’s world are a lot of things, the least of which is a place for swimming. They are an odd place of ritual such as parents teaching their children, and anyone else caught in their crosshairs, about mortality. For someone fascinated by odd shapes, sounds, and the overall human condition, Tsurumi knows how to make the most of wherever she happens to find herself. This collection proves to be an excellent guidebook into her adventures.
Lastly, I would like to add that I recommend a nice slice of pie or perhaps some ice cream, or gelato, while you read this book. I enjoyed reading and reviewing it while visiting Fainting Goat Gelato in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. I was quite taken with the stracciatella.
“Why Would You Do That?” is a 60-page black & white trade paperback available now though Hic & Hoc Publications.
“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” I sighed, caught in a thoughtful moment. I’d been reading “Rikki,” a delightful new graphic novel about a certain famous mongoose published by Karate Petshop.
“Rikki Who?” asked my friend, Roy, who had joined me for lunch at Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
“Oh, you know, the whole Rudyard Kipling thing! Hoo-ha, out in the jungle!”
“Hoo-ha, you say?”
I wanted to give Roy the benefit of the doubt. The surroundings were so nice. We were both famished. Roy, I knew to be a literary sort. He was pulling my leg or he just wasn’t paying attention.
Fishing lures on display at Steelhead Diner
“Okay, so there’s a reboot to ‘The Jungle Book’ that just came out starring Bill Murray. That’s by Rudyard Kipling.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Yes, I know who Rudyard Kipling is! He wrote ‘The Jungle Book’ and he also happened to write that Rikki book. I loved his novel, ‘The Man Who Would Be King.'”
Roy had little patience just before lunch. But he was perking up. He couldn’t help noticing I had been reading a book just before he showed up. I was still holding on to it.
“That Rikki book, is that what you were reading?”
Cover art for RIKKI #1 by Christine Knopp
“Indeed. Oddly enough, that’s the title, simply, “Rikki.” It’s a graphic novel adaptation of the original story by you-know-who.”
“Yes, this book is a delightful comics version, as I was saying, written by Norm Harper and illustrated by Matthew Foltz-Gray.”
I proceeded to let him leaf through the book.
“Quite good! It has a very whimsical quality. Very animated.”
“My thoughts exactly! I think it would be fun for any age.”
“Well, sure. I know my little nephew would love it.”
Flash Fried Alaskan Rockfish Tacos
And with that we commenced to unwind. I find that, when in doubt, a Mimosa will help smooth things out. And then the Flash Fried Alaskan Rockfish Tacos were just what I was looking for.
“Rikki” is an engaging retelling of one of Kipling’s tales from “The Jungle Book.” Given the beloved adaptation by Chuck Jones, both Harper and Foltz-Gray find interesting ways to make the story their own. You’ll find additional characters and plot that add a contemporary dynamic to this otherwise faithful rendition. You’ll also find a distinctive and playful style to the artwork. Bonus features include supplemental artwork and the original Kipling short story.
“Rikki” is a 172-page full-color trade paperback published by Karate Petshop.
This is a review of the comic, “Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, published by California Clap. That is mostly what we will be discussing here. However, I will bring up a few other related things. First off, I set out to write this review while I waited to see an old friend who had just gotten his nipples pierced. He’s a fairly average guy, maybe not the type to do this. But, hey, to each his own. That brings me to a theme I was working with for this review: seeing the familiar within the unfamiliar. So, here I was waiting. I began to imagine getting my own nipples pierced–or at least just one. But I keep thinking there will be issues with airport security. I know for a fact that the SEATAC TSA is prone to fumbling about. So, imagine me sporting nipple jewelry for TSA to have to process. These folks don’t process very well.
Batman and Amity
Anyway, let us proceed. Batman. Now, there’s a subject for you. Most of us out there can easily hook into Batman. What David Enos has done is play with that familiarity. His Batman taps into arguably the most accessible version, the Adam West model. The Enos Batman is a no-nonsense guy with little room for drama. The big case he’s on in this story is familiar enough too: a search for a long lost love. It’s the sort of plot that can easily be deadened by a too obvious treatment. Enos is having fun with these tropes by taking everything right up to the edge of the banal. He throws in some light humor and sets this whimsical Batman off on a surreal landscape, a mashup of grim, dark, and camp.
Reading BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS
It is a rite of passage for any cartoonist to create their take on superheroes. There is a divide that will always exist between independent cartoonists and the world of mainstream genre. There is little crossover but, when it happens, it is something to study on a case by case basis. When it does happen, the big two comics publishers have found interesting ways to work with relatively indie creators. It’s pretty simple, the most popular superheroes are mega-franchises. Not just anyone is going to be handed the keys to the Batmobile. The mistake is when an indie cartoonist dismisses genre comics out of hand. As David Enos demonstrates here, there are endless possibilities to work with genre, subversive or otherwise. DC Comics and Marvel can always learn something new from alternative cartoonists.
Writing About BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS
It is a lot of fun to watch this banal Batman recalling the bittersweet days of his marriage to a pretty young woman named, Amity. Understandably, this is not a character from Batman canon. But she does make for a suitable match in the spirit of Silver St. Cloud. Amity is younger and more prone to pouting than anything else. She just wishes that Batman made more time for her and that they had more of a normal life together. Ah, isn’t that always the way with these sort of relationships? Enos deftly pulls the strings on what seems like a merely juvenile plot that unfolds into a dreamy and disturbing narrative, more like HBO’s “True Detective” but also hinting at the sinister origins of Batman going back to his debut in “Detective Comics” in 1939. There was always something weird about Batman. That’s what makes him interesting. David Enos celebrates that weirdness in this comic.
Pork Chops & Eggs at Coastal Kitchen
I also have to say here that I had a wonderful meal at my venue for writing this review. If you’re in Seattle, you definitely want to visit Coastal Kitchen in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I had a delectable dish, Pork Chops and Eggs topped with an out of this world house Romesco sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. And, in a funny way, that sort of ties in with my theme: take a familiar meat and potatoes subject and give it a spicy twist!
“Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, is a 32-page full-color comic. You can find it at California Clap right here.
If you are visiting Seattle, then the perfect place to start your adventure is at Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I had the privilege of having Hotel Hotel host my 24-Hour Comics Day drawing marathon this past weekend. Under these special circumstances, I found myself with the opportunity to review the hostel and share with you my observations. The hostel is for visitors outside of Seattle. For Seattle locals, there is the PizzaBar located adjacent to the hostel. If you are in Fremont, you will find it as it commands a prime spot within a building that is also home to other local favorite boutiques and shops.
Nancy, co-owner of the Hotel Hotel Hostel with her husband, Lee
Nancy, co-owner of the hostel with her husband, Lee, was a great guide and hostess. I witnessed her firsthand joking and making everyone feel welcome. She has a gift for meeting each task with grace and a friendly smile. Both Lee and Nancy love to travel and meet new people so they are a natural together in their hostel business.
Hotel Hotel is what you would call a boutique hostel in that it has gone that extra mile to create a welcoming and comfortable environment. Many hostels can be found in that category. It’s just a way of saying that you’re in very good hands.
Private room with bath
Hotel Hotel is, at the end of the day, a hostel which means it’s affordable, centrally located, and convenient for the traveller not only on a budget but with an eye for something different.
Hotel Hotel Computer Station
Keep in mind that location is everything. If you choose Hotel Hotel, you are in a very fun and active area. You could spend your whole time just in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. You are also right next to a fast and easy bus ride into Seattle.
I had a private room and bath and it is a spacious space with an upbeat and stylish layout: leather couch, king bed, nightstands, added lights, chair with ottoman, bookcase, fresh towels. All in all, it has the nice look and feel of a boutique hotel room.
I found the recreation room and kitchen to be ample and easily accessible. Along with the free Wi-Fi, you’ll notice that, at the stairs in a commons area, there is one tablet available for the use of guests. That can come in very handy and it is not something you can expect at just any hostel.
And what a nice complimentary breakfast all spread out for guests to enjoy! A great way to start the day.
How about that Fremont Troll?
Another great feature that Hotel Hotel offers its guests is a free walking tour of the Fremont neighborhood. It is your chance to have Megan, who is in charge of tours, to give you an in depth look at what was once a logging town that went on to become “the center of the universe.” There’s a lot to this story with plenty of local scenery, art, and landmarks to provide a fascinating journey. Have you wondered about Fremont’s curiously offbeat fixtures like those naked cyclists, or that huge statue of Vladimir Lenin? Or how about the Fremont Troll? Well, find out on this tour.
Ah, and getting back to the PizzaBar. This is a relatively new addition to Hotel Hotel and it’s a fun addition to Fremont’s night life. It is a perfect spot to settle in with friends, have some pizza and beer, play a game of pool, and check out whatever else is going on: a movie, a Seahawks game, a special open mic event.
Pizza at HotelHotel PizzaBar!
As an avid traveller and adventurer, I was very impressed with the quality and care that Hotel Hotel provides. It is part of City Hostel Seattle, located in downtown Seattle. Both hostels are perfect places to stay and start your own Seattle adventure.
Denny’s Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger
FANTASTIC FOUR arrives in theaters on August 7th and Denny’s is part of the action. Comics Grinder heard the call and went over to try out Denny’s new “Slamtastic 4” menu. For a limited time, you have these superhero-inspired items to choose from:
Human Torch Skillet
A hearty breakfast sausage with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, jalapeños and freshly made pico de gallo served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with new spicy five pepper sauce, Pepper Jack queso and two eggs cooked to order.
Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette
Delicious omelette stuffed with melted Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh spinach, diced bacon, onions and mushrooms tossed in a blend of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Topped with diced tomatoes and served with hash browns and your choice of bread.
Invisible Woman Slam
Two buttermilk pancakes cooked with blueberries, topped with fresh strawberries, banana slices and drizzled with a clear citrus glaze. Served with two eggs cooked to order, two bacon strips or two sausage links and hash browns.
The Thing Burger
Hand-pressed beef patty topped with crispy hash browns, an egg cooked to order, Cheddar cheese, two crispy bacon strips and punch-packing Thing sauce. Served on a Cheddar bun with a side of wavy-cut French fries.
Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District
I decided to test out a couple of these items: Invisible Woman Slam and The Thing Burger. I chose the Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District. This proved to be an excellent choice. My waitress was gracious and attentive. The whole place has a perfect vintage charm to it. I got a booth and contemplated the view. Sure, this is an industrial district so it’s a pretty pared-down scene but it has a nice blue collar vibe. People were enjoying conversation. The pace was quick and upbeat.
My drawing while at Denny’s of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger
So, it all began on a beautiful morning with thoughts of the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. As the official synopsis states, we’ve got “four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways.” Looks like we’re going for an in-depth origin story. Perfect daydreaming for a cartoonist such as myself in a diner I admire. So, I kicked back for a few minutes, mind relaxed, and drew The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger.
The Thing Burger
With a pleasing dining experience to savor, ah, we can conquer the world. The Thing Burger! Yes, a lot would depend upon the “punch-packing Thing sauce” and it delivered! It proved to be a great complement to the tasty hand-pressed beef patty.
Invisible Woman Slam
And the Invisible Woman Slam was utterly delightful. Truly good pancakes, nice and hot off the grill. Who doesn’t enjoy a classic breakfast, am I right? Hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage! Well, Denny’s is indeed America’s diner. I had a great time and look forward to my next visit, and the one after that. It’s also easy to get to thanks to Seattle’s light rail system so I have no complaints at all.
Be sure to visit Denny’s whenever the mood strikes you and check out their current featured Slamtastic 4 menu. For more details, visit our friends at Denny’s right here.
Lucy Knisley snatches from the ether bits of ephemeral conversation and other momentary pleasures to present to us, “An Age of License,” her latest travelogue graphic novel. We are swept up by a whirlwind European adventure as we follow Knisley on an all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime in September of 2011. As opportunities arise, one must try to choose wisely. And so we see how Knisley fares, after some pre-travel jitters (it happens to the best of us) and she is off and running. Knisley has a clean line in the service of a direct and crisp narrative. It is a pleasure to see her continue to evolve as an autobiographical artist.
FAT, SICK, AND NEARLY DEAD, a documentary about what happens when a rich guy discovers he’s gone to the buffet way too often and put his life at risk, came out in 2010 and I totally missed it. In 2010, I also missed PASSION PLAY, starring Bill Murray and Megan Fox so, of the two, I’d be more inclined to catch up on that one. But there was something about this documentary that seemed like an offbeat take on Morgan Spurlock’s SUPER SIZE ME that I couldn’t resist. This is a person who has the means to indulge in a quest. The question is whether or not you should come along. Continue reading →
Eating disorders are not often the subject of comics. This comic by Khale McHurst is quite compelling. “I Do Not Have An Eating Disorder,” which you can read here, follows the author on her journey of dealing with her eating disorder. There is the denial. And there are the facts. Ms. McHurst does a beautiful job of expressing how difficult it is to reconcile the two. But she knows that the truth shall set you free and she depicts how she goes about finding the truth.
Khale McHurst knows that she has an eating disorder and she also knows that she can convince herself otherwise. It is a very tricky place to be. You can be educated about nutrition in theory but then you need to follow through in practice. What McHurst really gets is that each eating disorder is unique and there is common ground as well. Words can sometimes feel like they are inadequate somehow to fully describe what’s going on and yet words must be found and spoken. With comics, there’s also pictures. This is one of those instances where comics prove their mettle. With McHurst’s comics, you gain a unique insight and find a successful way to relate and it happens bit by bit. Each installment is a new revelation, a message in a bottle, an attempt to connect with others and with oneself. Like an ongoing conversation that you have with someone close, that is picked up and expanded upon with each new visit, so her comics take this or that thought and build upon them as you read page after page.
What is an eating disorder? Essentially, it is someone who is engaging in disordered thinking when it comes to food. Instead of thinking of food in terms of nutrition and appetite, a person is thinking of food in terms of how that person thinks of themselves and how they look. That would be it, in general, with a multitude of personal distinctions. It’s a very personal thing but also a thing that wants to be shared. No one wants to hold on to such a secret if they can find a way out. For Ms. McHurst, part of that way out is her comics.
Ms. McHurst’s drawing style is very inviting. With her gentle and caring approach, it is easy to relate to. This is a subject that really needs different vantage points. She does very well with her depiction of the metaphorical eating disorder voice, or voices, that lure one down the wrong path. It may prove helpful for someone with an eating disorder who was looking for another way to consider that concept. And, then, just the journal style approach itself is very engaging and informative. As we keep reading, we find other perspectives such as McHurts’s lover, who is not afraid to tell the truth; and McHurst’s nutritionist, who is always helpful and supportive. What McHurst makes clear is that we all need to speak our mind, when we’re ready, and we all value and cherish support. This is a very worthwhile comic that will educate and inspire.
“DIGESTATE” is a 288-page food and eating anthology, a veritable cornucopia of cartooning talent. You have fan favorites like Alex Robinson, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Marc Bell, Sam Henderson, and James Kochalka, just to name a few. There are 54 contributors in all and it is edited by J.T. Yost. It is great to see a food theme for a comics anthology and to see it done so well.
Even when food seems to be just food, something to eat when you’re hungry, there is likely a story behind it, something to give it complexity. Cartoonists tend to be complicated too. So, it makes sense to mix the two together. Among a multitude of outlooks on food in this book, the one that stands out is from Alex Robinson who admits to having an eating disorder. Just like a true blue cartoonist, he lets the world at large know about his condition through a comics anthology. Mr. Robinson is one of those cartoonists who has succeeded in making an impression in the world with his best selling works, notably, “Box Office Poison.” Of course, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks when it comes to personal issues. And there’s certainly no shame or stigma to having an eating disorder. Mr. Robinson chose to share that part of his life with readers and that’s what matters. It is a very generous piece that provides insights into eating disorders that you may not know about.
Let’s consider this some more. Buried within this anthology is a significant admission from an important cartoonist, an important member of the pop culture. It is really a big deal as the issue of eating disorders continues to get short shrift in the media. It is like it is something from another planet for your average reader. We are another generation or two away from any real collective understanding on this issue. In Mr. Robinson’s case, the struggle for him is to get beyond eating comfort foods from childhood, such as peanut butter. In his piece, “That Peanut Butter Kid!” Mr. Robinson states that he believes his condition is a result of having suffered sexual abuse as a child. However, he continues to make progress in finding new foods to eat. With the support of his wife, he is eating more healthy foods. If this isn’t a theme for a book, I don’t know what is.
It seems like problems begin to stir when we think too much about food, turn it into something else than food, turn it into something symbolic instead of a means to an end. Ideally, humans want to look out for themselves and provide all the things they need to keep body and soul together. But what do us humans do? We can complicate things. We can be educated about nutrition but, for any number of reasons, we can take another road. Our saving grace is that humans tend to want to improve themselves more that they tend to want to hurt themselves. And we all have our own ideas on how to improve ourselves which range from the sensible to the self-righteous. Such is life. Let’s take a closer look at some samples from this intriguing book.
In the down to basics category, there is “Caveman Eat,” by Jeff Zwirek, which is an exquisitely rendered silent comic about a caveman hunter. This 8-pager, two panels per page, plays out like a nice piece of animation. Zwirke’s composition and line is very clean and his humor is spot on.
For something light and fun that might whet your appetite, there’s, “So Brisk,” written by Jonathan Baylis, known for his comic, “So…Buttons,” and drawn by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg. It’s nicely paced and holds the secret ingredient for making a tasty brisk.
Cartoonists often find themselves taking on the role of the canary in the coal mine. J.T. Yost does an impressive job of providing the facts about the meat industry with illustrations that strike the right balance between restraint and urgency.
Keith Knight‘s one-pager, “My (Hammy) Vice,” is a very funny ode to bacon.
Cartoonists are also prone to be subversive. Even your most passive cartoonist can be a powder keg ready to blow. So, there’s some stuff here that pushes the envelope. Your best bet on that front is Noah Van Sciver‘s 3-pager, “3 Bowls of Rasin Bran,” which, as the title implies, is about when things go decidedly south.
And in the simply cute category, Victor Kerlow‘s “Rat Boy” follows a little rat as it forages for dinner.
“Digestate” is a handsome trade paperback, 8.25″ x 10.75″, published by Birdcage Bottom Books. Cover art, with more of her comics inside, is by Cha. This is truly like a cartoonist phone book, a Who’s Who of comics talent. “Digestate” ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and will stand as a shining example of what Kickstarter can help bring about. You can own your very own copy for only $19.95 at Birdcage Bottom Books.