It is a great honor to present to you an interview with Brett Warnock, the publisher/editor-in-chief of Kitchen Table Magazine. I’ve known Brett for many years going back to his time at Top Shelf Productions, the comics publisher that he co-founded with Chris Staros. Brett is one of the brightest, kindest, and most modest of people I’ve had the pleasure to know. When I say that Kitchen Table Magazine is something truly special it is based upon the fact that I’ve seen time and time again the results in the form of numerous award-winning titles from the meticulous attention to detail from Brett and his creative team.
“Minburi Chronicles” by Justin Dawes
The focus of this interview is the current second issue, The Market Issue, which tackles the subject of how and where you get your food. Whether you like to frequent upscale grocery stores or more affordable outlets, you can’t avoid dealing with the fact that there are numerous factors at play as to how your food ultimately reaches you. Some of the features in the magazine specifically look at how to shorten the path from farm to table. Other features look at the numerous venues available to us as we go about finding our food each day.
From Issue 1: “How to Eat a Lobster” by Jackie Maloney
This is a magazine that will be of interest not only to foodies but to anyone interested in community, the environment, and sustainability. Here you will find a magazine with more visual content, more in depth articles, and a certain quirky outlook, based out of Portland, thinking locally, acting globally.
Don’t underestimate the power of that which can unite and that which we share in common. We all want family, friends and community, right? We all want good health. We all want to be inspired. So, here’s a list of that which can unite us and that which most, if not all of us, have in common one way or another as the USA celebrates the 4th of July in 2019:
Plants: Trending now in a big way are plants! Opening a boutique shop? Consider plants. Plants have become the new hot item to post on your Instagram.
Gardening: Right along with plants, think gardening. The farm to table movement has taken root all over by now!
Pets: Pets are beloved in the USA. Movies have been dedicated to pets. People carry them in baby carriages and dress them up in outfits. You can’t walk for long without spotting a dog and human strolling together.
Family: Blood is thicker than water, as they say, and there are all kinds of family. Office family. Step-family. Bi-racial family. Adopted family. You need your family!
Health and Fitness: Cross-Fit. Vegan. Carnivore. Weight Watchers. Noom. Fitbit. Paleo. Keto. Watch your step and buyer beware. But, whatever you do, stay active!
Pizza: Dominos. Grocery store bought. Wood-fired. But let’s get serious, you really want a New York slice!
Comics: Now, more than ever, comics has the power to entertain, to inform, to be inclusive and to inspire. Beyond the superhero genre, comics can take on any subject in a variety of formats and styles.
Movies: No doubt, we all have of favorites. Superhero movies are still going strong and, if the trend holds out, there is still much more to explore. The actual comics, ironically, are not nearly as popular.
Home Entertainment: Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. HBO. There’s a lifetime of new entertainment no further away than your couch and, in 2019, we’re still in a golden age.
Music: We round it out with perhaps the best way to unite people: the power of music! Yes, music can help create goodwill and send you soaring to new heights.
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.
BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA is a four-part comic published by KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios. It is written by fantasy author Sam Sykes (Aeons’ Gate) and drawn by Selina Espiritu. It is a very strange comic that deftly defies logic. And kids will love it.
The whole thing is refreshingly odd. We begin with a family gathered in a boardroom. The patriarch, a celebrity restaurant magnate, lays out his plans for the future of his business. The father has been suffering from an illness and does not have long to live. His plan is to have all his heirs, his 15 sons and one daughter, compete in a winner-take-all restaurant contest.
BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1
The one daughter, as the title clues us in, is Brianna. The biggest challenge for Brianna, according to this story, is Brianna. Well, her insecurities. Okay, that could make sense. And then our story keeps getting weird. Everyone in the contest must find a city in which to launch their restaurant competing in the contest. There had not been any prior hint of the supernatural but now it turns out that the only place that Brianna can find on her budget is Monster City, which is populated by real monsters. But, as I say, kids will eat this up.
BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1
But even a kid might scratch his head just a little as our plot unfolds. No need to scratch too hard but just a little. Turns out that, once Brianna arrives in Monster City, Suzan, a surly monster, wants to work for Brianna. She has no particular interest in the restaurant business, or in human food, but she forces her way into a job. She’s a monster and she does not eat human food. Nor do any of the other monsters in town. But Brianna is such a good cook that maybe she can lure monsters to her restaurant. Silly, yes. But, I got to say, it is refreshingly odd. The artwork by Selina Espiritu is joyful and delightful. The colors by Sarah Stern give everything that extra pop.
BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1 is published by KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios and is available as of March 1, 2017.
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.
I found myself in Los Angeles these last few days of February for a number of reasons. Let me put it to you this way, I was there as much to enjoy a day long visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as I was for anything else. And, of course, I devoted a chunk of time to the Oscars. Here is the key to a lot in life: keep an open mind. Now, when it comes to entertainment, the more flexible you are, the better. I keep things to a broad spectrum, from the intellectual to the spectacle. That said, I’ll share with you some observations from this last visit. In the end, we can explore the idea of what it is to be entertained.
The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, Los Angeles
Seattle is my home base. It is in this relatively small, yet bustling, city that various forms of entertainment are created by some very talented individuals in music, film, fiction, comics, and so on. And then there are just as many, perhaps even more, individuals involved in commenting on all this creative work. That’s something I am very sensitive to as I am both a creator and a commentator. Let’s just say I appreciate when the air has gotten too thick. Sometimes, you just want some frog legs at The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, which I definitely enjoyed. And, to be sure, the level of discourse at tables was quick, smart, and unpretentious. If I say I am going to talk to you about the true meaning of fiction or entertainment, it’s in the spirit of an open discussion without the pretense. Please, we have too much of that.
Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” at LACMA
It’s all about going from the specific to the general. Take the time to give one particular subject its due, focus on that, consider its merits, and then reap the rewards of entertainment and insight. I will compare for you two events in Hollywood that are closely related: a tribute to screenwriter George Clayton Johnson at the American Cinematheque this last Friday; and then some observations on the Oscars this last Sunday. I really wasn’t planning on doing this. I want to keep it light but offer you a few ideas. The best thing I can do is jump right in with some observations beginning with the tribute. Here, I want to make clear that much depends upon your understanding and knowledge.
George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood
If such things as the literary background of The Twilight Zone are new to you, then perhaps this will spark interest. I know a great deal about this subject, particularly the writers known as, The Group, from which much of this springs from. George Clayton Johnson was a key member of The Group. He had within his power the ability to write some of the most compelling magical realism. That’s important because, despite the many disadvantages he had in life, he was a writer with not only a vision but a determination. George went on to create some of the most iconic and beloved episodes of The Twilight Zone which is the gold standard for what can be done when melding the art forms of fiction and television. Don’t let yourself think that Masterpiece Theater holds the key. That is too obvious a venue. Actually, it is within The Twilight Zone, at its best, that you will find much that is stimulating and intriguing with great literary merit.
George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood
So, here you have this very special individual, George Clayton Johnson, who understood better than most, the fundamental inner workings of fiction. He took his insight, skill, and hard work and did what he did with it. He primarily wrote for television. All of his work on The Twilight Zone is remarkable. This led to him writing the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast. Among other TV work, he wrote an exceptional episode of Kung Fu where the main character experiences a flashforward, as opposed to a flashback, to help him save his life. And, to cap it all off, George and William F. Nolan wrote the classic dystopian novel, Logan’s Run. Beyond those achievements, it is George’s life story that is inspiring. He was close friends with such greats as Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon. George was simply a man who loved to keep it simple: write what you believe in, give back to the community, love thy neighbor. The outpouring of love and admiration for George at this tribute was very moving. I had the opportunity to get to know George. I can fully understand how bright his light shines.
Chris Rock tells it like it is at the Oscars.
A couple of nights later, lo and behold, it’s the Oscars. Now, mind you, I did not have any set plans. How I wish my Comics Grinder credentials would have gotten me a press pass. Perhaps they would had I pursued it. I’ll tell you something, I am a keen observer and a friendly interviewer. I can easily adapt to any situation. This segues to what I did for Oscars night. Due to a few things going on that night, I found myself outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Let me back track a bit, a buddy of mine suggested that as a great spot to maybe see something going on. In fact, the plan was to meet up with him. I show up and, yes, it is a great spot, right on the corner of Orange and Hollywood overlooking that whole block of Madame Tussauds, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Dolby Theatre.
25 Degrees at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Well, on that corner are a bunch of onlookers, of course. Shades of “The Day of the Locust.” I mingled for a bit. No one knows exactly what to expect, if anything. I then made my way into the Hollywood Roosevelt and 25 Degrees, one of the hotel’s seven bars. 25 Degrees is known for its gourmet burgers and onion rings, which I fell in love with. I patiently waited for a cozy table overlooking the bar and two big screen TVs broadcasting the Oscars. Chris Rock was doing his monologue. I saw any number of what appeared to be otherwise jaded industry folk carefully listening and giving way to outbursts of laughter. Just as I was assured by my hostess that I could have the table, this one lady sat down at that very same table. The hostess explained to her that I had already been given that table but I said it was alright. Sure, it’s the Oscars, I’ll share the table. Well, it was definitely for the best. The lady turned out to be an executive with a Mexican network. We ended up chatting about the decline of culture in general and the disturbing rise of Donald Trump.
Behind the scenes at the Oscars
It always comes down to the coveted issues of time and space. That table had a fixed value of one hour. You could not stay at that table beyond an hour. I sweet talked my hostess into letting me begin a new hour given that I had to share it. In the meantime, my new friend, the Mexican TV executive, had hoped that I could hold on to the table as she had wanted to return after a while. Well, there must have been a lot of discussion in the back. At first, yes, I could keep the table if I ordered more food. After having the delicious Patty Melt, and a half jug of Pinot Noir, I opted to start with a Dark and Stormy. Later, the supervisor negotiates with me. It turns out that the table really needs to be relinquished. If I am alright with moving to the bar, he will treat me to another drink. Well, that’s fine with me. And, well appreciated too!
Behind the scenes at the Oscars
We always hear the long-running jokes about the Oscars being too long. The crowd that night enjoyed every minute of it and would have been happy to see more. The high points were the Chris Rock monologue, the announcement for Best Actor to Leonardo DiCaprio, and the announcement for Best Picture to “Spotlight.” In between, and throughout, careful attention was given to each category. I ended up chatting a bit with other patrons at the bar. The consensus seemed to be that this was one of the best Oscars. I certainly found myself in a perfect setting. The bar, with its old-school charm, was impeccable.
Here I am in front of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood.
One Oscar tradition never fails to move me. That’s when a tribute is given to notable members of the Academy who had passed away in the previous year. I was certain that George Clayton Johnson would receive a mention. While he wrote primarily for television, he also co-wrote the story that was the basis for “Ocean’s Eleven” and he also co-wrote an Academy Award nominated animated feature with Ray Bradbury, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.” But he did not get his mention. That left a sad note hanging in the air. But it was still grand to be at the Hollywood Roosevelt on Oscar night. I can tell you, I can share with you, the fact that both nights, the tribute to George and Oscar night, were both magical. George is still remembered and people will enjoy his work whether they realize he wrote it or not. George will always be part of that magic that people seek out whether they know it or not.
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.
This is one of the most beautiful educational graphic novels I’ve seen this year. And what a subject, beer! It’s a long title but worth it: “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution.” Inspired, I chatted about the book with my old friend, Roy, at a local pub, Ballard’s own Stoup Brewing, while I went about preparing for this review. “Roy,” I said, ” I am always grateful that, in Seattle, you can literally walk out the door of one’s home and be within walking distance of a first-rate pub.” “Indeed, and Stoup is such an inviting place,” Roy observed. “Ah, to sit back and marvel over all the great things about beer. That’s the life!”
Stoup Brewing in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle
You had me at beer. What “The Comic Book Story of Beer” does is provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about beer in a pleasing full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel. We begin with a young man bumbling along tasked with getting beer for a special occasion. Once inside an upscale specialty supermarket, he is lost among all the microbrew options. A helpful store employee pops in and conveniently begins our story. From then on, we are on a rollercoaster of information, often colorful and intriguing.
How did beer play an important role in everything from the rise and fall of Ancient Rome, the Dark Ages, the Age of Exploration, the spread of capitalism, and the Reformation? Well, without fear of overstatement, beer is something of a wonder drink. In this clear and concise narrative, Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith weave a most compelling narrative on the health benefits and motivating powers of beer as well as guide you through beer’s robust history. It’s really an exciting story that finds a perfect home within comics.
This book does yeoman service in the name of presenting information in an accessible manner. I really admire the artwork of artist Aaron McConnell. I had the pleasure of reviewing his artwork for “The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation,” also with writer Jonathan Hennessey, which you can read here. For this book on beer, McConnell masterfully brings to life abstract subjects like pasteurization, “original gravity,” and “lagering.”
Co-writer Mike Smith adds another layer of authenticity as the beer expert that won over Jonathan Hennessy to the idea of writing a beer book in the first place. It all began when Mike gave Jonathan a tour of Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The wealth of information that Mike shared with Jonathan was just too good to pass up. It makes its way into a book that will win you over with its insider insight. For example, our main story is paused by intriguing beer profiles like the one on Belgian Wit and how it was single-handedly saved by a milkman from Flanders. No doubt, this is a pleasing book to behold and easily makes for the perfect gift for anyone into comics and/or beer.
THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF BEER is a 180-page trade paperback published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of September 22nd. You can find it at Amazon right here.