Category Archives: Zines

Book Review: WHY COMICS? by Hillary Chute

WHY COMICS? by Hillary Chute

“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere,” by Hillary Chute, published by HarperCollins, is a highly informative, accessible, and delightful look at the evolution of comics, with the primary focus on American comics. As the title suggests, what used to be strictly an underground thing has now emerged virtually everywhere. Chute’s goal is to unpack that phenomenon. She goes about it with great enthusiasm and clearly makes a significant contribution to the ongoing writing about comics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in pop culture, comics, and art in general.

Zap Comix #1, 1968

Okay, so comics are everywhere. Who, for instance, are the characters gracing the cover to this book? Chute, a natural teacher, is so glad you asked. She will come right out and tell you who and then explain the interconnections. First of all, this is Maggie and Hopey, lead characters in what is understood by many to be the greatest ongoing comic of them all, “Love and Rockets,” by the Hernandez Brothers. Where did this comic come from? How does it fit in with other comics? Why is this comic significant? Ah, for that matter, you may shout out, “Why Comics?!” Chute is happy to answer all your questions and much more. Well, this comic is part of a second wave of underground comics in the ’80s. And this comic is a response to a lot of things, including a lack of diversity in mainstream comics. But, before that, there was the original wave of underground comics in the Sixties led by R. Crumb and his Zap Comix. And, as many a conversation on the comics convention floor on zines and mini-comics will attest, even today’s superhero comics genre all began as indie comics by two teenagers, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Page excerpt from Art Spiegelman’s MAUS

Chute’s search for patterns in the making of comics leads her to some of the most celebrated trailblazers, notably Art Spiegelman. Chute was the associate editor of “MetaMaus,” the definitive companion to Spiegelman’s “Maus,” and she has a great deal of insight to share. Chute guides the reader from Spiegelman, in his youth in San Francisco to his subsequent work in earnest. It was in 1972 that Justin Green, author of the first autobio comic, “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” invited Spiegelman to contribute to a comics anthology. The only stipulation was that the work had to feature anthropomorphic animal characters. And so began Spiegelman’s first steps toward the work in comics most people are aware of, “Maus.” Chute then follows Spiegelman’s progress as he reaches great heights of creativity. Here below, Chute describes how Spiegelman plays with the fluidity of time:

“Spiegelman creates a physical connection between panels set in the past and panels set in the present, linking them, as in panels in which Art’s cigarette smoke is figured as the smoke coming out of an Auschwitz crematorium chimney directly below it on the page. But in others, he exploits the language of comics–the convention that each panel represents a distinct moment of time–to make two different time periods literally intertwine. We see this in the striking page in which Vladek, Art, and Françoise–herself a character in ‘Maus’–converse in the Catskills during a summer visit to Vladek’s bungalow. On their way to the supermarket in the car, Art changes the topic from his stepmother, Mala, to Auschwitz, asking his father about a prisoner revolt. The last panel of the page, in which Vladek describes its fallout, is its largest: as the family car weaves through dense rural roads, the legs of four Jewish girls hanged in Auschwitz after the revolt–witnessed firsthand by Vladek–suddenly appear dangling from the trees. The 1940s and the ’70s collapse, as Spiegelman shows, wordlessly, how the traumatic past lives on in the present.”

Page excerpt from Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS

Much in the same way that the 1951 landmark coming-of-age novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, became the template for aspiring young novelists, so too did “Maus” serve as a guide for cartoonists on the rise. Observe how Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” first published in 2000, follows a similar format and technique as Spiegelman’s landmark work. Certainly, Satrapi’s work is wonderfully original. That said, it does follow certain style and content choices first established by leading artists such as Spiegelman. Chute is not making this particular argument but she does lay out the characteristics of what has become accepted in a work by an independent cartoonist: the work is honest, personal, and usually autobiographical; the work is all done by hand, including the borders and lettering, with a less polished finish than mainstream comics; and the work is usually done by one person. In that sense, Satrapi is following in a tradition begun by such artists as Crumb and Spiegelman.

Panel excerpt from Chris Ware’s BUILDING STORIES

Another cartoonist who looms larger in Chute’s book is Chris Ware–and for good reason. The history of American comics is essentially Winsor McCay leading the start and Chris Ware leading the current state of affairs. And it is both of these cartoonists, and so many others in between, who seem to share Ware’s tragicomic point of view of being “well-appointed and feeling lonely.” Cartoonists are something of exotic birds to begin with–whether or not the public notices. But to really make one’s mark in comics, to resonate with critics and fans alike, is quite an achievement. One achieved by such cartoonists as Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and Gary Panter–all of whom would get their big breaks by appearing in Raw magazine, a comics anthology led by Art Spiegelman.

Gary Panter cover for Raw #2.1, 1989

Chute organzies her narrative within categories such as “Why Disaster?” and “Why Sex?” Each chapter category acts as an umbrella that covers a certain facet of comics. In the chapter, “Why Punk?” Chute describes the rise of two friends deeply involved with the punk movement: Matt Groening and Gary Panter, along with other relevant artists like Raymond Pettibon. As for Groening and Panter, they held to their punk ideals while also driven to succeed–“The Simpsons” for Groening; “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” for Panter. Chute makes sure to point out that Bart Simpson–the cartoon character everyone thinks they know–is, in fact, a sly reference (right down to the jaggedy crewcut) to Panter’s underground hero, Jimbo, the antithesis of the mainstream. And, as Chute’s title declares, comics have gone from the underground to everywhere in more ways than one.

Matt Groening holds up Bart Simpson and Gary Panter’s Jimbo

“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere” is a 464-page hardcover published by HarperCollins. For more details, visit HarperCollins right here.

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Art Spiegelman, Book Reviews, Comics, graphic novels, Hillary Chute, Maus, mini-comics, pop culture, Underground Comics, Zines

Review: SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

A wretched staleness in the air. Lost souls strewn about. And it’s all played up for laughs! Welcome to the wonderful world of cartoonist Tom Van Deusen. I really admire Tom’s style, in person and in his comics. Tom is a very likable and professional gent. So, it’s a unique treat to then read his comics featuring Tom’s vile and hateful alter ego. I reviewed a couple of issues of his Scorched Earth comics. You can read that here. This new collection, published by Kilgore Books, that came out this year simply goes by the same running title and contains a fine mix of old and new material. You will want to seek this out.

Tom Van Deusen’s aim is to satirize the oily underbelly of hipsterdom with a neo-underground sensibility. His characters traffic in a Robert Crumb-like netherworld where hedonism and arrogance commingle. Like Crumb, Van Deusen is both fascinated and repulsed by the hipster zeitgeist. Van Deusen’s alter ego, Tom, struggles to connect with a woman who is willing to sleep with anyone…except him. She’ll even sleep with his doppelgänger but not the original. Tom can’t even get a handle on the e-cigarette craze that all the “cool kids” have latched onto. For Tom, vaping does not involve a slim little gadget delivering dramatic puffs of vapor. No, for Tom, it involves a monstrous contraption that looks like an iron lung.

Hanging out at Glo's Diner

Hanging out at Glo’s Diner

One of the best bits in the book takes place at Glo’s Diner, located in what is the Capitol Hill district of Seattle, a densely populated area and a counterculture mecca. I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner for five years and presented work from local cartoonists including David Lasky, Ellen Forney, Jennifer Daydreamer, Farel Dalrymple, and myself. It is a small space. The food is okay. But there is something about that peculiar little oily spoon that reads authentic. It’s great to see a cartoonist of Van Deusen’s caliber pick up on that. He takes his time to capture the place’s true dimensions and spirit.

Full page excerpt from SCORCHED EARTH

Full page excerpt from SCORCHED EARTH

The not so sweet young things remain out of reach for sad sack Tom. He remains on the fringes of the fashionable fringe element. The beauty of it all is that Van Deusen dares to keep vigil, take notes, and then pile it all into a blender and create some very funny comics.

Visit Tom here, find his comics at Poochie Press right here and find this recent collection of SCORCHED EARTH at Kilgore Books & Comics right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, Hipsters, Kilgore Books, mini-comics, Minicomics, Robert Crumb, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen, Underground Comics, Zines

Review: MELT-THOLOGY #15, a Meltdown Comix Jam

MELT-THOLOGY #15, a Meltdown Comix Jam

MELT-THOLOGY #15, a Meltdown Comix Jam

I love a good comix jam, either as a group, a pair, or solo. Each has its own dynamic. While the work could remain private, the comix jam is basically going on with the assumption that you are putting yourself out there. If I do a 24-hour comics jam all by myself, I do it with the incentive that I’m going to show it. When in a group, you have that added delicious tension of rivalry mixed with a sense of community. As a pair, it can be like a sexy game of chess, the back and forth motion exploding into an exquisite corpse.

Pages from Lady Beaver & Steve Waldinger (L) and Meesimo (R)

Pages from Lady Beaver & Steve Waldinger (L) and Meesimo (R)

I’ve been looking over a recent issue of a groovy comix jam anthology, MELT-THOLOGY, that comes out monthly by Meltdown Comics. Here you will find a bit of everything: loopy stuff like the work of Austin James with his vulvic form sampling various phallic forms; or quirky domestic observation like the work of Joan Varitek with her hurried mom desperately trying to keep up with her baby’s progress through pics stored on a smartphone.

"Spider Bouncer" by Mike Levine & Evan Lewis

“Spider Bouncer” by Mike Levine & Evan Lewis

Basically, with this format, each participant gets one page and that can be used for a one-panel gag, an illustration, or a multi-panel. A one-panel gag can be the most daunting as the odds are against success. Matt Elkins does a good job with a cyclops wearing one eyeglass and being called a “two-eyes” by some callous fools. Cory Fuller‘s illustration of two kids hanging out has a nice fun vibe. And “Spider Bouncer,” by Mike Levine and Evan Lewis, is a tight, well-paced, and spot on multi-panel.

If you’re a local cartoonist, you’ll definitely want to check this out and give it a try. It is held on the third Tuesday of each month. For more details, visit our friends at Meltdown Comics right here.

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Filed under Art, Comics, Comix Jams, Meltdown Comics, Minicomics, Zines

SHORT RUN 2014: John Porcellino, Guest of Honor; Main Event is November 15 at Washington Hall in Seattle

Short-Run-Comix-Arts-Festival-2014

Short Run, a showcase of small press cartoonists, is back for another year of festivities and a comix and arts festival, at Washington Hall on November 15 here in Seattle. On that date, nearly 200 cartoonists, publishers, zinesters, authors, and animators will be gathered to sell their works and celebrate the world of independent and emerging artists. The full schedule of events will include a mural painted in the Central District by South African artist Jean De Wet, art shows at Joe Bar and the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, and readings, screenings, and panels across Seattle.

John Porcellino, known for his self-published memoir comic, King-Cat Comics and Stories, will be the guest of honor. This year is special as it marks the 25th anniversary of King-Cat Comics and Stories as well as sees the release of a new book, “The Hospital Suite,” published by Drawn & Quarterly (read my review here). And there is a new documentary on his life and work, “Root Hog or Die” (read my review here). There will be a screening of this documentary with Porcellino and director Dan Stafford in attendance at Central Cinema on Sunday, November 16th.

The full schedule and press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, Comix, King-Cat Comics and Stories, Micropublishing, mini-comics, Minicomics, Seattle, Short Run, Short Run Small Press Fest, Small Press, Zines

Review: THE HOSPITAL SUITE by John Porcellino

John-Porcellino-The-Hospital-Suite

John Porcellino has a remarkable thing with his ongoing self-published zine, “King-Cat Comics and Stories.” This is a zine, and mini-comic, that has been around for 25 years. King-Cat dates back to 1989 and, in all that time, John P has shared his life with his readers. For his new book, “The Hospital Suite,” published by Drawn and Quarterly, he focuses on one aspect of his life and turns his personal journey into a universal one.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, Drawn and Quarterly, John Porecellino, mini-comics, Self-Published, Short Run, Small Press, Small Press Expo, Spit and a Half, Zines

Interview: Joel Craig on Being An Actor, Nurse, and Cartoonist

Joel-Craig-Actor-Cartoonist

Joel Craig loves a challenge. He is pursuing three of them: acting, nursing, and cartooning. Yes, if you’re serious about each of these professions, they can all take a lot out of you. And they can all definitely give back to you. WELCOME TO NURSING HELL0, Joel Craig’s recently released graphic memoir, is a very funny and insightful collection of comics. You can read my review here. He’s in the thick of it, living and working in Los Angeles and navigating a busy life.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Cartoonists, Comics, Interviews, Microcosm Publishing, Micropublishing, mini-comics, Publishing, Zines

HOW WE CONNECT: A Review of ‘Welcome To Nursing HELLo’ by Joel Craig

Welcome-To-Nursing-Hello-Joel-Craig

How do we connect? We do it, or try to do it, in a variety a ways. It’s not always easy but it’s far better than its opposite, to disconnect. I aspire to connect with you. I make this preface because I am genuinely inspired by my latest subject for review, Joel Craig’s graphic memoir, WELCOME TO NURSING HELLo.

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Filed under Autobio Comics, Autobiography, Comics, Comics Reviews, Gay, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, LGBT, mini-comics, Zines

Puck Magazine aPUCKalypse CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN!

Puck-Magazine-Apuckalypse-2013

Puck Magazine, an impressive collection of some of the leading comix artists and much more, launches its crowd funding campaign today. This is truly an international collection. If you are a fan of offbeat humor and you’d like a taste of it from around the world, then this is for you. Join the campaign here. It runs from November 26, 2013 thru January 4, 2014.

What follows is an informative essay on the Apocalypse, the history of alternative comics, and how that relates to Puck Magazine:

Welcome to the Apocalypse

Historically speaking, the Apocalypse is always now. By that I mean that at every period in human history, someone somewhere was certain that the world was about to end. Whether it was the author of the Biblical “Book of Revelation” (or “Revelation to John”) — surely one of the most mischievous tracts ever written — or some Vedic bard predicting the Kali Yuga, or urban street corner prophets ranting that “The End is Nigh,” the human imagination has repeatedly fixated on the end of the universe and the end of life as we know it.

It is not difficult to figure out why this is. At some undetermined point in time, for each of us, the universe will end. Death awaits us all, whether in a sudden accident or heart attack, or in a long lingering illness. That this is so seems like a monstrous joke, and so we repress the thought or, for many of us, we project it upon the world at large, finding solace in the thought that if we must die, so must everyone else, preferably all at the same time.

And yet, life goes on. Every prophecy of the End Times is, in some sense, a false prophecy. Predicted dates come and go, and true believers’ expectations fizzle out, only to be succeeded by new expectations which will eventually fizzle out as well.

Much of this apocalyptic fervor has been driven by religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, which share similar scenarios of a Final Judgment. But there are no lack of secular apocalypses to choose from: catastrophic climate change, nuclear war, the end of Capitalism (a particularly elusive apocalypse), an impending police state, and the list goes on.

All of which brings us to the volume you hold in your hands, a smorgasboard of personal apocalypses conjured up by a stellar crew of cartoonists from around the world. For most comic artists, apocalypse looms as the rent comes due at the end of each month, so this theme was one that the assembled artists could really get their teeth into. As you will discover, some took the challenge lightly, producing humorous strips (including the inevitable Mother In Law joke), while others dove into full-fledged horror and paranoia.

The result is a well-balanced collection of unique visions that you will not find anywhere else. The locations change from strip to strip, usually manifesting the apocalypse in the artists’ own locales. If you’ve ever dreamed of making an Around the World Tour, but know you never will, this volume is a suitable substitute, albeit with rather more demons, cannibals, black holes, and Avenging Angels than you would likely encounter in hopping from country to country.

Sadly, I am told that this is likely the last PUCK volume for years to come, so it represents an apocalypse of sorts for the whole PUCK enterprise. PUCK’s staff has beat all odds in uniting cartoonists from numerous countries in its group projects that are done for the love of free and uncensored cartooning.

The Underground Comix movement was launched in the U.S. during the Sixties and spread its influence to England, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Italy (among others), in the following decades. PUCK has been one of the most energetic recent manifestations of the underground impulse and Ivan and the rest of the PUCK gang deserve a round of applause for keeping the torch held high.

The Apocalypse is always now. Enjoy it while you can.

–Jay Kinney

Jay Kinney was a participant in the Underground Comix movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He edited and co-edited Young Lust, Occult Laff-Parade, Cover-up Lowdown, and Anarchy Comics, and contributed to many others.

He has since been a magazine publisher, book author, and antiquarian bookseller. Recently published is: Anarchy Comics: the Complete Collection (PM Press), a retrospective anthology of the hard-to-find four originals issues, plus never before published strips and sketchbook pages.

Caption for Mavrides-Kinney Armageddon panels…

The “End Times” erupt in “Armageddon Outtahere” by Paul Mavrides and Jay Kinney in Anarchy Comics #4. This story and all others from the comic series can be found in Anarchy Comics: the Complete Collection (PM Press).

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, Comics Anthologies, Comics News, Comix, Crowdfunding, Zines

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

SHORT RUN: Seattle Indie Comics and the Start of a New Seattle Tradition

Curators Eroyn Franklin and Kelly Froh, pictured above, did it again with the second annual Short Run Small Press Fest. Held at The Vera Project in Seattle Center, Small Run was an awesome gathering of artists and writers: comics, zines art books, animation, independent talent from the Northwest that you just know is good. What follows is a sampling of what Short Run was like this year.

As a cartoonist, I definitely felt at home with this crowd. The Vera Project is a cozy venue for this event providing an intimate yet ample space, the size of a higher end club or restaurant. At times, it got a bit crowded but nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve gone to any convention-type setting. Here, you’re talking a laid back vibe that will see you through very nicely.

For me, Short Run already is quintessential Seattle, bringing together the unique creative spirit of this area. It is on track to becoming a new Seattle tradition.

Randy Wood, pictured above, was one of a number of stellar talent at Short Run this year. Here he is showing off one of his collected books of his “Kitties!” comic strip.

Here is a copy of “The Intruder,” a free newspaper full of local comics talent.

Stefan Gruber was here this year, along with other animators. This is a flipbook of his entitled, “Tiger Wave,” based on a dream. Check out Mr. Gruber and Seattle Experimental Animation Team.

Breanne Boland has a new comic out, “Drawing Bitchface,” a guide on how to make the most of putting on a proper, “bitchface.”

Aron Nels Steinke had his new collection out, “Big Plans,” published by Bridge City Comics. “Mr. Fox” is one of his self-published gems.

The Vera Project is a fascinating place with much to offer like its silkscreen classes and use of its silkscreen studio! Here is Eric Carnell, who helps to keep things moving along at The Vera Project’s silkscreen studio.

Cartoonist Nicole Georges provides much needed advice.

A great time had by all. See you next year at Short Run.

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Filed under Art books, Comics, Comix, Eroyn Franklin, Indie, Kelly Froh, Seattle, Short Run Small Press Fest, Zines