I am a great supporter of alternative comics and the pursuit of excellence in the comics medium. That means sometimes taking a ruler and wrapping the knuckles of a cartoonist during a bit of constructive criticism. And it means celebrating a work when everything goes right as it does in Hobo Mom, by Charles Forsman and Max de Radiguès, published by Fantagraphics. Hobo Mom gets it right by pursuing a line of specificity to its logical conclusion. Just like a finely-executed novel or painting, all the elements fit into place at a resounding level of precision.
This is the story of a woman who can’t settle down. The open road is in her blood and she is willing to pay the price for her unconventional freedom. Charles Forsman presents his most disciplined artwork to date in seamless collaboration with the script by Max de Radiguès. The pacing is impeccable as you follow one extended scene after another. It’s magical how Forsman and de Radiguès balance so much in a relatively short work. At 62 pages, you need to be prepared to pare down to the essentials in order to give the narrative a natural flow. This is undoubtedly achieved as the reader gets a rich experience within a tight framework. Everything needs to count, down to every panel, ever facial expression, every pause. You need to know what to linger on and when to move on.
Page excerpt from HOBO MOM
Take the first four pages. The first page begins with a big panel that depicts an inviting breakfast being prepared on a skillet taking up half the available space. The next four panels convey a happy relationship between father and daughter, a stable domestic scene. With that established, the next three pages have the luxury of lingering over this happy home: dad goes off to work; daughter tidies up; daughter begins her day; daughter finds comfort in the company of a family pet. Now, we’re ready to move on to what is going on with the absent mother. A rhythm has been set up allowing for the alternating of scenes and characters. Will the hobo mom reconnect with her family or is it just not possible? Here is a book that asks the right questions and lets the reader step in. This book is a prime example of what it possible in the comics medium.
Hobo Mom is a 64-page duotone hardcover, published by Fantagraphics.
Lawns, by Alex Nall, published by Kilgore Books, is a small graphic novel that, to my reading, is essentially a parable about the consequences of turning someone into a scapegoat. No one likes Roger. Neighbors condemn him for his unkempt lawn and for his unleashed dog. It seems like a manageable problem but definitely not in this small town. Roger is the town’s Boo Radley. Nall has put together a narrative that follows the election of the town’s mayor. Chuck is running undisputed. However, Carl, a disgruntled and unsavory sort, has mounted a write-in campaign for himself. Oddly enough, Carl makes a few good points but he’s pathetically unqualified. Poor Roger falls somewhere in the middle as a convenient distraction. Overall, I think the story would have been better off had Roger, already having inspired the town’s ire, had been the sole issue in the town’s election. That said, this is an ambitious undertaking and Nall deserves credit.
Page excerpt from LAWNS
A hallmark of many a work of alt-comics is that it is all done by hand and basically retains an organic vibe. Nall is certainly aware of that and appears to revel in it. My only quibble is that the drawing, at times, falls short on clarity and consistency. I’m not saying the rendering needs to be worked over in some elaborate way. If you take a look at Charles Forsman’s Hobo Mom, this is quite a compelling short graphic novel, only 62 pages, done in a relatively simple style. Nall seems to want to vary how he depicts the main character, Roger, but the way he goes about it has the potential to lose the reader. And, towards the end, there are some scenes that are a bit rushed. This is not to say that Nall should ever consider losing his expressive line. I do prefer a more sketchy line than one that is way too polished. Sometimes, you just go where you need to go as a cartoonist and let your expressive line evolve as you evolve. I am certainly curious to see what Mr. Nall does next since he’s clearly hungry for a challenge and he’s a capable cartoonist.
Lawns is a 108-page trade paperback, b&w, published by Kilgore Books.
Some more gaming news which is so perfect since part of this news involves my hometown of Seattle. Okay, the following news may very well pertain to you!
PAX West, PAX Unplugged 2019 Dates Announced
Unplugged Badges Go on Sale May 9, West Badges Later this Month
SEATTLE, Wash. – May 1, 2019 –PAX Unplugged takes over the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia Dec. 6 – 8, 2019 and PAX West returns to Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. Show organizers ReedPOP and Penny Arcade will make PAX Unplugged 2019 badges and exclusive pre-sale merchandise available for purchase beginning May 9. PAX West 2019 badge sales will be available later in the month.
This year’s PAX events have hosted the announcements of numerous highly-anticipated games, including Borderlands 3, Jackbox Party Pack 6, SNK’s Samurai Shodown collection, and more. PAX Unplugged and PAX West will also present a number of surprises allowing gamers to hear about, see, and play new games and other projects before anyone else.
In 2019, PAX Unplugged will once again welcome tens of thousands of tabletop enthusiasts to Philadelphia. Now in its third incarnation, PAX Unplugged will expand with a larger expo hall to accommodate even more of the top names in board, card, and pen-and-paper gaming showing off classic games, new expansions, and exciting unreleased titles. Attendees joining the fun can also expect an epic slate of events featuring enlightening talks with creators, live tabletop gaming shows, and more at what will be the 50th show in PAX’s storied history.
The most-attended gaming event on the West Coast, PAX West is a four-day celebration of gaming culture. PAX West is anchored by massive exhibition halls where attendees have the opportunity to see hundreds of game studios ranging from indie teams to major publishers showcasing new and upcoming titles – many of which are publicly playable for the first time.
On the show floor, PAX West goers can enjoy the PAX Arena, which hosts competitions featuring renowned esports players as well as stars from YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer in the Stream Stars tournament. Fans will also have chances to meet with many of their favorite content creators in autograph signing sessions, engage with industry luminaries in panels, attend concerts, and savor other amazing attractions throughout downtown Seattle.
“When we came up with all this, I don’t think we could ever have imagined putting on 50 of these events and counting,” said Jerry Holkins, co-founder, PAX and Penny Arcade. “We can’t wait to welcome the gaming community to our home in Seattle this summer, and to our Winter Lair in Philadelphia this December. We hope you’ll be able to join us.”
The international lineup of PAX shows (West, East, South, Aus, Dev, and Unplugged), produced by ReedPOP in conjunction with Penny Arcade, comprise some of the world’s largest gaming festivals. PAX events connect the industry’s greatest creative minds from across the worlds of both video and tabletop gaming, directly to passionate audiences.
PAX or Penny Arcade Expo is a festival for gamers to celebrate gaming culture. First held in Seattle in 2004, PAX has nearly doubled in size each successive year, with PAX Prime 2014 selling out of tickets in a matter of minutes. Connecting the world’s leading game publishers with their most avid and influential fans, PAX expanded with a second show in Boston in 2010 and a third in San Antonio in 2015, making it the three largest gaming shows in North America. The first international PAX was held in Melbourne, Australia in 2013. In 2017, Penny Arcade established PAX Unplugged, its first tabletop focused show, held in Philadelphia.
ReedPOP is a boutique group within Reed Exhibitions exclusively devoted to organizing events, launching and acquiring new shows, and partnering with premium brands in the pop culture world. ReedPOP is dedicated to celebrations of popular culture throughout the globe that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences. The ReedPOP portfolio includes: New York Comic Con (NYCC), Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) West, East, South, Australia and Unplugged, Emerald City Comicon (ECCC), BookCon, BookExpo, Oz Comic-Con, Comic Con India, Paris Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, ComplexCon and more. The staff at ReedPOP is a fan-based group of professionals uniquely qualified to serve those with whom they share a common passion. ReedPOP is focused on bringing its expertise and knowledge to world communities in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, India, and Australia.
Penny Arcade is a web comic focused on video games and video game culture, written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. With over 3.5 million readers, it is the most popular and longest running gaming web comic online. Penny Arcade is also responsible for the Child’s Play Charity, the Penny Arcade gaming expos (PAX) in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Melbourne, multiple video games based on the brand, and multiple online video series.
Here’s one for all the gamers: Are you a fan of D&D and do you enjoy the antics of the popular webcomic, Penny Arcade? Okay, the answer is clearly yes and the press release below is for you. If you are not familiar with Acquisitions Incorporated, then learn about a very special 224-page Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook:
Acquisitions Incorporated, the official third-party Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook from Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast, brings hilarious fantasy antics straight to players’ homes June 18.
Acquisitions Incorporated is based on the (in)famous D&D campaign popular on Twitch and at PAX events featuring PAX and Penny Arcade’s cofounders, a cast of celebrity guests, and D&D Lead Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford as DM.
Pax West 2018
For the past decade, the renowned retrieval company known as Acquisitions Incorporated has shared their (mis)adventures with hundreds of thousands of attendees at PAX and viewers on Twitch. Dungeon Master Jeremy Crawford (Lead Rules Designer of Dungeons & Dragons) does his best to shepherd the mischief of Penny Arcade and PAX co-founders Jerry Holkins (Omin Dran, Cleric) and Mike Krahulik (Jim Darkmagic, Wizard) as well as a rotating cast of celebrity guests including author Patrick Rothfuss (Viari, Rogue) and gaming icon Morgan Webb (Môrgæn, Ranger).
Now, with the 224-page sourcebook, Dungeon Masters and players alike can experience the uproarious exploits of Acquisitions Incorporated in their own game. New spells, a new race, and introducing character positions mean it’s easier than ever to join the company and take part of this universe. Want to jump in headfirst? The book also includes an adventure module so players can get started right away.
Obviator by Aviv Or
“Being able to give back to the game that I’ve been playing most of my life is incredible,” said Jerry Holkins, co-founder of Penny Arcade. “I can’t wait for players to join my friends and I in Acquisitions Incorporated, not just because it’s a book and a world we’re very proud of, but also because my character gets a cut of their earnings.”
Penny Arcade is a webcomic focused on video games and video game culture, written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. With over 3.5 million readers, it is the most popular and longest-running gaming webcomic online. Penny Arcade is also responsible for the Child’s Play Charity, the Penny Arcade gaming expos (PAX) in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Melbourne, multiple video games based on the brand, and multiple online video series.
Today, Barr testified/spun before Congress. A perfect example: Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Attorney General William Barr what is it about Trump ordering his White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller (as well as demanding that McGahn lie that Trump had ever asked to fire Mueller) that is not obstruction of justice. Barr’s response was to spin a picture of Trump, with his brilliant legal mind, requesting a closer look at Mueller’s conflict of interest; and Trump never outright made such a crude demand as saying, “Fire Mueller!” Huh? Which is more likely, that Trump was simply expressing a legal opinion or that he barked out what he wanted? Feinstein followed up with the question: “So, what was the conflict of interest?” Barr never ever answered that question! He proceeded to tap dance byway of speaking on legal theory to run out the clock. And that is just one example of Barr’s technique. Don’t expect Don McGahn to ever get a chance to testify himself. If he does, that would be well worth seeing.
I juggle a lot of things. I read a lot of comics, I work on my own comics, and sometimes I’ll get into a zone as I read a comic and not even think of the intended readership. I kid you not, I will read comics that are probably most likely meant for a younger reader and think nothing of it as it fully resonates with me as an adult. That is the case with the current book on my radar, I Was Their American Dream, a graphic memoir by Malaka Gharib, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House. This is a delightful read that falls neatly into an all ages category. I sincerely believe that an adult would enjoy this book just as much as a middle school student. With a sincere approach, this graphic memoir will bring to mind Persepolis but it is absolutely on its own quirky wavelength.
This is an immigrant’s story. And I don’t think we will ever have enough of these kind of stories as each is different and unique in its own way. In an ideal world, I think we would all tell our stories of growing up in some sort of graphic memoir. That said, a book like this does not write itself either. Ms. Gharib presents a wonderfully easygoing narrative that makes it all look easy: very conversational prose with an inviting simple and direct drawing style.
Page excerpt from I Was Their American Dream
We are invited to join Gharib in a tale that takes us to the Philippines (mom’s side of family), to Egypt (dad’s side of family), and then makes it way to California. But our journey has only begun. Malaka Gharib comes of age as a mixed race child in a strange land–but things don’t have to be so strange with a little bit of heart, courage, and a wonderful sense of humor. This absolutely speaks to me as a mixed race person. In my case: Anglo on my dad’s side; Mexican on my mom’s side. Gharib has so much to say that anyone can relate to. For example, Gharib brings up the classic question people like to ask someone of mixed race: “What Are You?” It is a question that depends so much on context and tone. It can come from legitimate heart-felt curiosity. It can also be perceived as adding up to an insult or slight. “What Are You?” Indeed. Now, there’s quite a loaded question.
Given the overall tone to this book, how Ms. Gharib is writing with an intended younger readership, I think it’s still valid to say this is fun for any age. As, I’m sure Gharib would agree, there’s something about the quirky content that fits in so well with alternative comics. It’s no surprise to me to find here in her book that Gharib shares numerous happy memories of being involved in the alt-comics/zine scene. That activity has led to Gharib becoming an artist and journalist at NPR. She is the founder of The Runcible Spoon food zine and the cofounder of the D.C. Art Book Fair. That DIY/indie community gets in your blood and can guide, encourage, and inform an artist’s work for a lifetime. It can result in compelling work like this book!
Page excerpt from I Was Their American Dream
I Was Their American Dream is a 160-page trade paperback, fully illustrated, published by Clarkson Potter and available as of April 30, 2019. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Penguin Random House here.
With all due respect to any comics scholars who might in the least have any problem with the term, “alternative comics,” let me direct you to a close reading of a new book that covers this very subject and then some, The Book of Weirdo, edited by Jon B. Cooke, and published by Last Gasp Books. Now, if I’d been a precocious and enterprising enough youngster, I might have very well have hopped on the Weirdo bandwagon early on and had my own comics appear within their pages but it was a little bit before my time. That said, what sprung, or solidified, from that time of production (1981 – 1993) is what has been, and continues to be and always will be, known as alternative comics. Alternative to what? Well, obviously, an alternative to the typical mainstream superhero genre just as underground comix was an alternative in the sixties and Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD magazine was an alternative in the early fifties. Today, to simply say, “alternative comics,” remains incredibly useful in navigating the vast comics landscape. Think of it as the distinction between a fine artist (indie cartoonist) and an illustrator (business-oriented/corporate). An artist can travel to both worlds but, don’t forget, that means there are two distinct worlds. Alright then, now let’s take a deep dive into the pages of The Book of Weirdo.
What first comes to mind about this book is the familiar format of a yearbook or an in depth documentary. The idea here is to collect and document and interview as much as possible. Cooke has extended interviews with all the major players including founder and editor Robert Crumb and his successor, Peter Bagge. Cooke also has profiles and interviews with just about everyone who ever contributed to the magazine with such notable figures as Dennis Eichhorn, Frank Stack, Pat Moriarity, and Michael Dougan. In fact, I am quite familiar with Mr. Cooke’s methods as I did get to contribute some comics to another of his projects, a tribute to Will Eisner for Comic Book Artist back in 2005. So, what you end up getting in one of these Jon B. Cooke tributes is a treasure trove of observations and a storehouse of information. That all proves essential as we track the journey of Weirdo from San Francisco to Seattle. Once Peter Bagge took over as editor, he took operations up to Seattle, which resulted in some extraordinary comics cross-polination that continues to reverberate to this very day. It has contributed to a hotbed of alt-comics activity in Seattle that connects everything from Fantagraphics to the Dune cartoonist gatherings to the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival.
Alternative Comics – The Seattle Connection
Ironically, given all the time and effort that Mr. Cooke has put into this tribute, he doesn’t always get the most fully cooperative interview subjects, with his main subject, Robert Crumb often proving to be the most contrarian person to interview. But that’s what everyone loves about Crumb, right? He’s not an easy person to pigeonhole. He’s not smooth as silk with slick answers. The beauty of what Cooke does is to keep asking questions and remain open to the answers. That brings me back to the notion of more fully understanding what alternative comics are about. I bring this subject up a lot and I find that, ultimately, alternative comics are alive and well and they emerged from what underground comix set in motion. This is clearly something that fascinates Cooke too and he goes about unpacking the subject as much as he can in this book. For example, he poses the question to Crumb. He asks, “Do you see Weirdo as having helped to launch the alternative comics that came after it?” To which Crumb, at first put off, ends up giving an interesting answer: “I don’t know. Again, it’s a rhetorical question. It’s hard to say whether that would have happened anyway. To me, it was going to happen one way or the other, whether I was there or not, alternative comics was an inevitable thing, y’know? It’s such a part of American culture and comics, and then, all these people who grew up with comics, they were bound to start producing some kind of…And also, as comics lost their importance as a kid’s medium, being replaced by electronic media like TV and video games and all that stuff, it became more of an art medium of self-expression. It was inevitable.”
So, to be clear, I am telling you that alternative comics are a very real thing. Anyone who is tentative about it is somehow missing the big picture. And, again, I say this with all due respect. Certain folks go into comics and graphic novels these days as more of a stripped-down strategy to succeed in a corporate career. Other folks go into comics and graphic novels solely to explore the possibility of the art form. Those are two very, very, very distinct worlds. And, yes, there is overlap. Some alternative cartoonists manage to crossover to mainstream work. But that certainly doesn’t negate the fact that they come from the alt-comics world. It’s a whole way of looking at comics as art. Now, Weirdo was definitely part of that in its own particular way. At the very same time that Weirdo was active, there was also RAW magazine run by Art Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly. Here’s where it gets very interesting and sort of funny. Crumb was like Groucho Marx or Woody Allen when it came to preferring straightforward plain speaking. For Crumb, RAW took itself way too seriously. Both Weirdo and RAW were covering similar ground and, in fact, shared some of the same cartoonists. While RAW positioned itself as an art journal, Weirdo was more unabashed and irreverent. A little behind-the-scenes feud was brewing after Spiegelman made some disparaging remark about Weirdo. Crumb had hoped to bring it out into the open and even pursue a mock feud but Speigelman would have nothing to do with it. Whatever their differences, both RAW and Weirdo contributed to the alternative comics scene that continues onward in numerous anthologies, more than at any other time, including Kramers Ergot. While Crumb, himself, might shrug it off, Weirdo can be included as one of the landmarks along the way to today’s alt-comics.
Ron Turner and Last Gasp
The Book of Weirdo is a stunningly beautiful book, an essential guide to understanding the various veins connecting underground comix and today’s burgeoning alternative comics.
The Book of Weirdo: A Retrospective of R. Crumb’s Legendary Humor Comics Anthology, is a beautiful 288-page hardcover, fully illustrated, available as of May 1, 2019, published by Last Gasp Books.
If you’re a Marvel Comics fan, or just about anyone game for some fun entertainment, it is hard to resist heading out to see the latest, and final, Avengers movie as we’ve come to know them. Last? Hey, it isn’t called Endgame for nothing! Now, let’s be honest, the Marvel franchise’s ideal audience, those most susceptible to having a mind-blowing experience from this movie, are way younger than my average reader. It’s kids who most love and most relate to this–as well it should be. Sure, without a heck of a lot of mature and professional adults, there would be no Marvel franchise but, at its heart, this is primarily kid-friendly fare. That said, there’s no shame in being a kid at heart and I definitely found that to be the case last night. What’s more, fueled by the Disney-Marvel powerhouse of pop storytelling, what is essentially magnificent entertainment excess manages to strike enough chords to not only satisfy hard-core fans but also those looking for some humanity with their popcorn. In fact, Marvel has proven time and time again to have a golden touch when it comes to character development.
A new Hulk among the interesting tweaks in new and final Avengers flick.
Without an end, we can’t fully appreciate the whole. With a satisfying and well constructed ending, we can often forgive any shortcomings along the way and we can take a satisfying pause before the next big thing. That’s how it works for regular comic book readers as they follow a certain story arc through a series of issues to its end. And that is what regular moviegoers have come to see ever since the current Marvel Comics franchise has been in existence. This Avengers movie rounds out a ten-year reign for Marvel Comics on the big screen. Never before has a mainstream audience been provided with so much of the narrative, full of all the nerdy and arcane details, that was once the sole domain of the comic book reading experience. Even the relatively obscure animated features based on comics books did not go as deep. All that said, with this Avengers movie, a mass audience gets to experience the bittersweet sting of finality. Yes, it should be no spoiler here, some stuff happens in this movie that is very, very final.
Among the very nerdy but usually quite delightful things you find in this movie that is a staple of comic books is something that subverts your expectations. The best example of that is what happens to The Hulk. It is right in the spirit of Marvel’s traditionally dry humor. The Hulk is no longer the aggressive out-of-control brute we’re so familiar with. Nope, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has been tinkering with his perpetual recipe for disaster and has managed to combine the best of both worlds! Now, he’s turned himself into a hybrid: the enormous strength of The Hulk has morphed with the brilliant mind of Bruce Banner! He’s now a kinder and gentler Hulk who can now discern what is the most efficient way to dispatch of a supervillain without wreaking havoc in his wake each and every time. There’s also a very funny makeover going on with Thor but I will let you find out about that on your own.
Again, the big takeaway here is that all things must come to an end–well, at least, for now. Avengers: Endgame, the fourth and final Avengers superhero movie, is the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which launched in 2008 with Iron Man. Those films have now eclipsed $19 billion in worldwide box office. The timing to bring the Avengers leg of the franchise as we’ve known it to a close could not be any better. We’ve had some true heroes here among actors, everyone from Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper to Josh Brolin. Box office records for Avengers: Endgame show a stunning $350 million in North America and $1.2 billion worldwide. It could not have been planned ahead for any better. If all the time and effort involved in getting this franchise right was used for something else, well, the results would likely be just as stunning. You can fill in the blank however you please. A cure for… Or and end to… Now, that’s a mind-blowing proposition.
Excitement is in the air as nominees are rejoicing over being part of this year’s Eisner Awards for Comics Excellence. The Eisner is the equivalent to The Oscar in the comics industry. The awards are presented every year at Comic-Con International: San Diego. This year’s ceremony is Friday, July 19, 2019. The official list has just been released and you can see it here or just look down below. A good amount of alternative comics and big publishers made the list with a big lead for Image Comics and D.C. Comics. As noted above, Alex de Campi received multiple nominations, as did Tom King.
Noah Van Sciver
Judges for this year are comics journalist Chris Arrant (Newsarama), academic/author Jared Gardner (Ohio State University), librarian Traci Glass (Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Oregon), retailer Jenn Haines (The Dragon, Guelph and Milton, Ontario, Canada), reviewer Steven Howearth (Pop Culture Maven), and comics creator Jimmie Robinson (CyberZone, Amanda & Gunn, Bomb Girl).
The official SDCC statement follows:
Image and DC received the most nominations: Image with 19 (plus 11 shared), and DC with 17 (plus 7 shared). Image swept the Best New Series category, with all six nominees (including Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s Isola, up for 2 other categories as well). Also strong for Image are Steven Seagle’s Get Naked anthology (3 nominations), Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (2 nominations), and the Alex de Campi–edited Twisted Romance (2 nominations plus 1 shared). For DC, Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle is up for 4 nods, Eternity Girl has 2 nominations plus 1 shared, MAD and Exit Stage Left have 2, and Batman is nominated in Best Continuing Series plus several shared categories.
Other publishers with multiple nominations include IDW (10 plus 2 shared), Lion Forge (10), First Second (9 plus 1 shared), Marvel (7 plus 5 shared), Dark Horse (7 plus 3 shared), BOOM!(5 plus 1 shared), Drawn & Quarterly (5), and Gallery 13 (3 plus 2 shared). Six companies had 3 nominees: Beehive Books, Ohio State University Press, TwoMorrows, VIZ Media, and WEBTOON. Eight companies have 2 nominations each, and another 30 companies or individuals have 1 nomination each.
In addition to Isola, Mister Miracle, and Get Naked, titles with the most nominations include two books from Lion Forge/Magnetic Press, with 3 each: Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval (Best Publication for Teens, Best Writer/Artist, Best Painter) and A Sea of Love by Wilfrid Lupano and Grégory Panaccione (Best U.S. Edition of International Material, Best Painter, and Best Publication Design).
The creator with the most nominations is Tom King with 5: Best Short Story (from DC’s Swamp Thing Winter Special), Best Continuing Series (Batman), Best Limited Series (Mister Miracle), Best Graphic Album–Reprint (The Vision hardcover), and Best Writer. Two creators have 4 nominations each: Alex de Campi (Best Graphic Album–New: Bad Girls, Best Anthology: Twisted Romance, Best Writer, Best Letterer) and Jeff Lemire (Best Single Issue: Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise, Best Continuing Series: Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Best New Series: Gideon Falls, Best Writer). Creators with 3 nominations are Karl Kerschl (Best New Series, Best Penciller/Inker, Best Cover Artist for Isola), Grégory Panaccione (Best U.S. Edition of International Material, Best Painter, and Best Publication Design for A Sea of Love), and Tony Sandoval (Best Publication for Teens, Best Writer/Artist, Best Painter for Watersnakes).
Eleven individuals are nominated for 2 Eisners: John Allison, Emily Carroll, Nick Drnaso, Mitch Gerads, Sonny Liew, Carolyn Nowak, Sean Phillips, Nate Powell, Mark Russell, Noah van Sciver, and Jen Wang.
Voting for the awards is held online, and the ballot will be available at www.eisnervote.com. All professionals in the comic book industry are eligible to vote. The deadline for voting is June 14. The results of the voting will be announced in a gala awards ceremony on the evening of Friday, July 19 at a gala awards ceremony at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. Jackie Estrada is the Eisner Awards Administrator.
Best Short Story
“Get Naked in Barcelona,” by Steven T. Seagle and Emei Olivia Burrell, in Get Naked (Image)
“The Ghastlygun Tinies,” by Matt Cohen and Marc Palm, in MAD magazine #4 (DC)
“Here I Am,” by Shaun Tan, in I Feel Machine (SelfMadeHero)
Matt Hollingsworth, Batman: White Knight (DC): Seven to Eternity, Wytches (Image)
Matt Wilson, Black Cloud, Paper Girls, The Wicked + The Divine (Image); The Mighty Thor, Runaways (Marvel)
David Aja, Seeds (Berger Books/Dark Horse)
Jim Campbell, Breathless, Calexit, Gravetrancers,Snap Flash Hustle,Survival Fetish, The Wilds (Black Mask); Abbott, Alice: Dream to Dream, Black Badge,Clueless, Coda, Fence, Firefly, Giant Days, Grass Kings,Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, Low Road West, Sparrowhawk (BOOM); Angelic (Image); Wasted Space (Vault)
Alex de Campi, Bad Girls (Gallery 13); Twisted Romance (Image)
Jared Fletcher, Batman: Damned (DC); The Gravediggers Union, Moonshine, Paper Girls, Southern Bastards (Image)
Todd Klein— Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald (Dark Horse); Batman: White Night (DC); Eternity Girl, Books of Magic (Vertigo/DC); The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest (Top Shelf/IDW)
Karen Green at Butler Library, Columbia University
I was recently in New York and had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Green, the Curator for Comics and Cartoons for the Columbia University Libraries which collect both graphic novels for the circulating collection in the Butler Library stacks and also creator archives in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The interview was a great treat and I share it with you here. Afterwards, I got a chance to go on my own and explore the stacks at Butler Library. The vast collection that Karen Green has helped to put together really lends itself to this sort of intimate hands-on exploration in real time and students in all disciplines are welcome to come explore for themselves. For more information, on Comics in the Columbia Libraries, go right here. I include here some photos of some of my discoveries exploring the stacks.
Butler Library at Columbia University
The Columbia University Libraries collect both graphic novels for the circulating collection in the Butler Library stacks and also creator archives in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The circulating collection launched in 2005, when the libraries held three titles, and by the end of 2015 the collection featured roughly 10,000 titles in over two dozen languages. The archival collections, which already contained disparate comics holdings, launched in earnest in 2011, with the acquisition of writer Chris Claremont‘s papers.
Remaking the World, at Columbia University, Kempner Gallery
The circulating holdings contain a diverse collection, with mainstream and alternative titles, archival reprints, independent comics, Kickstarter projects, and other content. These materials have been used in courses from East Asian Languages and Cultures, to English and Comparative Literature, to Narrative Medicine, and have been featured in the American Studies course “The American Graphic Novel.” Students have used the collection for term papers, senior theses, and M.A. essays.
Out of the Depths (sinking of RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915) by Oscar Edward Cesare, pen and ink on board.
We had a brief and informal chat after Karen provided me with a tour of the comics collection in Butler Library. Back at her office, Karen shared with me a syllabus for an upcoming summer class she will be teaching. The proposed reading list and schedule includes Doctor Fate, with guest speaker Paul Levitz; All the Answers, with guest speaker Michael Kupperman; Bad Girls, with guest speaker Alex De Campi; and Prince of Cats, with guest speaker Ronald Wimberly.
The Suffrage Amendment, Another Dark Alley to go Through! by Kenneth Russell Chamberlain (1891-1984), pen and ink on board.
Lastly, just to demonstrate how easy it is to roll into a tangent when you’re surrounded by such treasures, I couldn’t help but spend some time observing the current show in Kempner Gallery at Butler Library. It is entitled, Remaking the World, and it relates to important issues after World War I. I happen to have rested my eyes on a political cartoon on women’s suffrage in the United States. The cartoonist is Kenneth Russell Chamberlain. Any relation to me? Well, I’m not sure. I don’t think so but I’ll have to see to make sure. Even more uncanny to my possible connection is just how relevant the cartoon is today! We’ve made so much progress but we certainly have great challenges still ahead of us to say the least.
HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Please share with us how the Comics and Cartoon collection came about at Columbia.
KAREN GREEN: It was 2005. I had just rediscovered graphic novels after a 12-year hiatus and was frantically buying graphic novels to feed my fascination with what was going on. I hit up against the wall of a librarian’s salary and thought about how nice it would be to check out these graphic novels from my library. However, at that time, we only had three graphic novels: Maus, Persepolis, and Palestine. We had Maus because every library has Maus. We had Persepolis and Palestine because Edward Said, the great scholar of Orientalism, taught here and those titles were on his reading lists. So, I thought about ways to frame a proposal for graphic novels. I brought together the stakeholders who I thought would be most interested: our American Studies librarian, our Graphic Arts librarian, and our Fine Arts librarian. And I developed a three-fold argument. The first prong was: this is a field, a medium, that is getting increasing academic and critical acceptance. I was able to show them articles from peer-reviewed academic journals along with The New York Times and The New Yorker. The second prong: Columbia has a film school and a film studies program. Already in 2005, the connection between film and comics was pretty strong and obviously only stronger now. It made sense for those students to have access to this raw material. And the third prong was a little bit more sentimental. Columbia’s full name is Columbia University in the City of New York. New York City is where American comics were born. No academic institution in New York was systematically collecting comics in any form. So, I thought that these two New York City institutions, comics and Columbia, could profitably form a partnership and that we could be the place for these things to be collected in. I presented this argument to a group of my colleagues and they agreed and provided some funds. It was a small budget to start with and it’s a lot more now.
Why do you think it took so long for a comics collection to become part of Columbia?
I think, for the most part, in universities, libraries respond to the curriculum. In this case, I was creating a demand for the curriculum. My feeling was that this is an important area. I was getting to know more and more people who were scholars in this field of comics studies. I felt that if I built a collection and it started getting noticed by faculty and grad students, then coursework and research and learning would follow–and that has turned out to be the case.
Having this vast collection, do you see patterns in the graphic novels that you’re looking at?
What’s interesting in the medium is that the big genre in comics is really the same as the big genre in prose which is memoir. I teach a summer course…it used to be called “Comics as Literature,” which I inherited. I don’t teach it as literature since I see comics as a primarily visual medium. I teach it as “How to Read Comics” or “How to Read This Comics Language.” And, I was trying to teach it by genre as a nod to the English Department and, one year, one of my students pointed out that although I had varied subjects (journalism, war stories, social activism), they all turned out to be memoirs! I try now to very consciously make the reading list more diverse so that we have memoir, reportage, fiction, history, and biography.
I think the natural inclination for the creator is to do memoir. So they end up needing to make a concerted effort to break free from that.
Write what you know and what do you know better than yourself!
Even if you’re not writing about yourself, you end up writing about yourself.
What do you think is the typical young person’s approach to comics?
The course that I teach in the summer is mostly taken by our students in our School of General Studies, which is a school for returning students. They are not required to take as many of the courses as Columbia’s core curriculum. My course serves as a substitute for the foundational great literature course, Literature Humanities. Many of my students have never read comics or don’t know anything more than newspaper comic strips, if that. There’s another course that is taught here every other year, The American Graphic Novel. It is co-taught by one of our tenured faculty, Jeremy Dauber with Paul Levitz, the former president of D.C. Comics. That course gets huge enrollment from all the undergraduate schools and from some grad students. Jeremy and Paul go around on the first day of class and ask their students about their experience with comics. Maybe ten percent are dedicated comics fans. And, from that group, when asked what got them interested, they usually cite Batman: The Animated Series. I get a lot of students who tell me their gateway drug was Calvin and Hobbes. But I don’t get a lot of students who know the medium well and are reading longer more complex stories.
Let me see if I can get this question right. I’m wondering what you think makes for the ideal comics creator. I believe it is often a lone artist-writer. However, even when you have a writer and artist collaborating, ideally you would have both of them equally immersed in the literary and visual arts. That leads me to the definition of an alternative comics creator. How would you define that role?
Well, that would be anyone who is not working in mainstream superhero stories. What a broad category that is: from Lynda Barry, to Derf, to Ronald Wimberly. The certain notion of mainstream being the Big Two (Marvel and D.C.) with maybe Dark Horse and Image, although those two have creator owned work, to call that the mainstream (doesn’t take into account) the dozens of other publishers bringing out material, in addition to the Big Two. Every year, I buy a lot more non-superhero material than superhero material and not because I’m discriminating against it but because there’s a lot of stuff out there from all sorts of publishers, not just dedicated comics publishers. You have traditional publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Viking. You have academic presses that are publishing graphic novels, not just scholarship on graphic novels. So, I think “alternative” is becoming less of a useful term. I just call everyone “comics creators.” I try not to put them in pigeon holes. You have people like Dean Haspiel who do superhero material and who do their own stuff. You’ve got Kelly Sue DeConnick, who does superhero stuff and her own stuff. Those categories aren’t as useful since the field has become so broad and diverse. They’re just creators.
I don’t mean to digress but I do think it’s a certain mindset. You get someone like a Dean Haspiel and the Big Two want that certain flavor, a very specific way of seeing that comes from an indie cartoonist, that certain way of creating comics that comes from an alternative comics world. Then you consider that MoCCA, and other comics art festivals, are focusing only on alt-comics.
While something like Comic Con in San Diego is primarily about big money, the Big Two, and Hollywood.
But Comic Con in San Diego has a huge small press presence.
That’s true, they’re able to embrace everything.
You take a look at their Eisner Awards and they’re dominated by so-called “alternative” creators. But, take a look at Paul Levitz, “Mr. D.C. Comics,” who has written two graphic novels for Dark Horse and he’s working with two other smaller publishers…and it’s creator-owned stuff. Sonny Liew, Paul’s collaborator on Doctor Fate, he does work for D.C. and he does his own stuff: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which won three Eisners. I just think that the alt-comics distinction has gotten so blurry. I think it’s a good thing to have creators dip their toes in different areas.
Well, I love that there’s a lot of gray area.
Yes! I love gray!
What graphic novels are popping up on your radar right now?
That brings me to my summer course and its reading list. For starters, I have Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics right along with How To Read Nancy. We begin with wordless comics: Peter Kuper’s Sticks and Stones; and Eric Drooker’s Flood! I really enjoyed reading Black as Fuck. They’ll be reading that along with Ms. Marvel. Junji Ito’s horror comics are just mind-blowing. Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu brings takes his horror sensibility over to a story about his cats. Because I love European comics, I’m going to have them read (Dillies & Hautière’s) Abelard. There’s also Michael Kupperman’s All the Answers matched with David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. I also have Fun Home and possibly My Favorite Thing is Monsters if we have time. We have Bad Girls by Alex De Campi and Victor Santos. There’s also My Friend Dammer and The Fifth Beatle. And I always end with Ronald Wimberly’s Prince of Cats. I try to get as many titles as I can in as many styles, genres and traditions. It can be disconcerting, if you’ve only read American comics to suddenly be reading manga so we go over how to read it and all the visual cues. Let’s see, what else am I reading. I just read David Small’s Home After Dark which I really loved. Black as Fuck, I think the art is beautiful. It’s a story about what the world would be like if only black people had super powers. In the past, we’ve read Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. Watchmen. Dark Knight. Those two because they’re been so influential. We’ve also read early Action Comics, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man. I kept coming back to Dark Knight because we’re so much living in Frank Miller’s world now where superheroes are concerned. But this year I’m going lighter as I focus on Doctor Fate and Ms. Marvel because I’m ready to get out of the dark.
Yeah, we’ve been in the dark for too long. It runs in cycles.
Nothing against it. The dark books are great to teach but it’s good to mix it up.
We’re in a golden age of acknowledgment of comics and graphic novels. Do you think we’ve reached the ideal level or is there still room to grow with more and more people aware of and talking about graphic novels?
I think there’s still a lot of room to grow. There was a tweet the other day about an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles who won’t allow graphic novels in his classroom which led one of his students to bring in her own graphic novels to lend out to her classmates. It’s so strange to me that there are still educators who are resistant to graphic novels. Comics have won national book awards. What it is that still needs to happen for comics to be accepted as part of our cultural landscape I honestly don’t know. Four cartoonists have won MacArthur Genius Awards. What needs to still happen, I just don’t know. But there’s definitely room to grow to achieve as broad an acceptance for comics as there is for film, fiction, and any other other art form.
We will leave it there. Thank you so much, Karen.
You’re very welcome, Henry.
That concludes my interview. I want to thank Karen Green for taking the time and sharing her thoughts on graphic novels in general and in an academic setting. Thanks to Karen, she set things in motion and, with the help from like-minded souls, she continues the good work on behalf of comics, cartoons and graphic novels at Columbia University in the City of New York.