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.
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.
Lucy Knisley is a wonderfully observant cartoonist. There wasn’t anything quite like her comics journal, “French Milk,” when it was first published in 2007, and it has grown in stature ever since. It’s a fun read, first of all. It’s also a gentle push forward in what the comics medium is capable of. Knisley has created a number of other works with that same personal quality. Her more recent notable work is “Relish,” published by First Second in 2013. In this work, the narrative is tighter and the drawing more refined in keeping with the book’s structured theme. For this interview, there is some comparison of these two works and some thoughts on what lies ahead for comics.
We begin with thoughts on M.F. Fisher, a master at storytelling that made a fine mix of memoir and writing on food. Fisher’s first published book was “Serve it Forth,” in 1937. And, like the title implies, the pages within contain words that express an uncanny zest for life, and food. Nowadays, it seems like we’re all foodies. But only a few can claim to be standard-bearers to Fisher to any degree. I started thinking about that in terms of what Knisley is doing and that is where our conversation takes off.
You can find out more about Lucy Knisley by visiting her site here as well as visiting our friends at First Second Books right here.
Any number of people, places, and things stick in our memory and we wonder sometimes what it all means. In Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new graphic novel, “Seconds,” we have a character, Katie, who wonders and wishes about her life constantly. She’s 29-years-old and on the brink of something new in her life but she’s very uncertain about the future. And then, one fateful night, a little goblin girl sits atop her dresser offering some relief from all her worries.
Editor’s Note: While any place of quality is welcome in the Ballard hub, we have a soft spot for any business that finds a way to authentically integrate itself within the culture. The Noble Fir is a fine example of thinking locally. It is a tavern with an eye, a mind, and a heart, to being part of the community. You’re looking for something unique and refreshing? You want to feel like you’re really still in Ballard? Then visit The Noble Fir.
Maybe a place like The Noble Fir would have seemed just a bit too luxurious in the past. Maybe. But then again, Seattle has maintained a long love affair with microbrewies and can boast at having some of the best in the world.
Why not have that level of excellence, and even elegance, amid the industrial and mechanical fixtures of old Ballard?
What we all wish to avoid is The Planet Hollywood treatment. If a place has no real connection to anywhere, then it contributes to diminishing that place. Not to put down Planet Hollywood but I think you know what I mean. So, yeah, The Noble Fir, and other fine establishments like it, are what we want to see: something that enhances the character of Ballard and actually fits.
These sort of ponderings take time but we have plenty of that. And, once a good mood is set, perhaps with a fine ale, in a good place, we can settle in and find all sorts of stories to tell.
Editor’s Note: Marshall McLuhan is gaining ground, much like Nikola Tesla, as a hero from the past speaking for today. He would certainly have something to say about the hotspot that is today’s Ballard, a far cry from the sleepy little hamlet that it once was. McLuhan was sensitive to such things as the character and identity of a place.
Has Ballard lost something? Well, it’s always been under development, that’s one way of looking at it. Consider the last panel in this comic. You see what was once a grand old fire station. It was converted into one of Ballard’s leading restaurants, The Hi-Life, long before the arrival of all the other new hotspots that make up the new Ballard. It’s certainly a great place and enhances the whole area. All you have to do is try their famously good fried chicken to know they belong right where they are.
And so it begins, a look at Ballard, the cutting edge scene for foodies and hipsters in the midst of a mellow blue-collar world. We begin with a 24-hour adventure in search of the very soul of Ballard.
Photo by Zachariah Bryan, Ballard News-Tribune
Yours truly made the local paper, The Ballard News-Tribune. The story was published online this week (which you can read here) and the print edition of Westside Weekly came out today, Friday, October 11, 2013.
J.T. Yost is a very talented cartoonist who recently put together a unique comics anthology about food and eating, “Digestate.” He is a down-to-earth guy concerned with just making good work. Yost is a fine example of the patient artist exploring the process of making art. In his series, “Losers Weepers,” he takes found bits of notes and letters and combines them into a comics narrative. In our interview, J.T. confides that it’s just not as easy now to find written bits of things. However, his series continues at least for one more chapter. You can read a review here. “Digestate” grew out of a similar natural process. J.T. says that the idea for the anthology began with the fact that he’s vegan and he began to realize there are a lot of other vegan cartoonists, “a subculture within a subculture.”
Something Big by Victor Kerlow
Blammo #7 by Noah Van Sciver
J.T. runs his own micro-publishing house and distributor, Birdcage Bottom Books, which you can visit here. You can find, “Digestate,” other works by J.T. Yost, as well as other exciting comics talent like Victor Kerlow, a regular contributor to “The New Yorker,” and Noah Van Sciver, the author of the highly acclaimed debut graphic novel, “The Hypo.” And you can check out J.T. Yost’s professional site here.
In this interview, we talk about the comics anthology, “Digestate,” which you can read a review of here. And we talk a bit about Alex Robinson’s contribution dealing with his eating disorder. You can read the recent Comics Grinder interview with Alex here. J.T. talks about the Kickstarter campaign for “Digestate,” his feelings about living in NYC, and comics in general.
CI VEDIAMO by Hazel Newlevant
Towards the end of our interview, we talked about the future of comics which inevitably led to the great print verus digital debate. J.T. spoke to his love of hand-made mini-comics that make their unique case for print. He then mentioned a favorite cartoonist, Hazel Newlevant, who can be found at Birdcage Bottom Books. Her work incorporates overlays and die cuts which can only be achieved through print. Her mini-comic, "Ci Vediamo," is printed on vellum which allows for images to be created when one page is layed over another. Viva print!
You can listen to the Comics Grinder podcast interview with J.T. Yost here:
“DIGESTATE” is a 288-page food and eating anthology, a veritable cornucopia of cartooning talent. You have fan favorites like Alex Robinson, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Marc Bell, Sam Henderson, and James Kochalka, just to name a few. There are 54 contributors in all and it is edited by J.T. Yost. It is great to see a food theme for a comics anthology and to see it done so well.
Even when food seems to be just food, something to eat when you’re hungry, there is likely a story behind it, something to give it complexity. Cartoonists tend to be complicated too. So, it makes sense to mix the two together. Among a multitude of outlooks on food in this book, the one that stands out is from Alex Robinson who admits to having an eating disorder. Just like a true blue cartoonist, he lets the world at large know about his condition through a comics anthology. Mr. Robinson is one of those cartoonists who has succeeded in making an impression in the world with his best selling works, notably, “Box Office Poison.” Of course, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks when it comes to personal issues. And there’s certainly no shame or stigma to having an eating disorder. Mr. Robinson chose to share that part of his life with readers and that’s what matters. It is a very generous piece that provides insights into eating disorders that you may not know about.
Let’s consider this some more. Buried within this anthology is a significant admission from an important cartoonist, an important member of the pop culture. It is really a big deal as the issue of eating disorders continues to get short shrift in the media. It is like it is something from another planet for your average reader. We are another generation or two away from any real collective understanding on this issue. In Mr. Robinson’s case, the struggle for him is to get beyond eating comfort foods from childhood, such as peanut butter. In his piece, “That Peanut Butter Kid!” Mr. Robinson states that he believes his condition is a result of having suffered sexual abuse as a child. However, he continues to make progress in finding new foods to eat. With the support of his wife, he is eating more healthy foods. If this isn’t a theme for a book, I don’t know what is.
It seems like problems begin to stir when we think too much about food, turn it into something else than food, turn it into something symbolic instead of a means to an end. Ideally, humans want to look out for themselves and provide all the things they need to keep body and soul together. But what do us humans do? We can complicate things. We can be educated about nutrition but, for any number of reasons, we can take another road. Our saving grace is that humans tend to want to improve themselves more that they tend to want to hurt themselves. And we all have our own ideas on how to improve ourselves which range from the sensible to the self-righteous. Such is life. Let’s take a closer look at some samples from this intriguing book.
In the down to basics category, there is “Caveman Eat,” by Jeff Zwirek, which is an exquisitely rendered silent comic about a caveman hunter. This 8-pager, two panels per page, plays out like a nice piece of animation. Zwirke’s composition and line is very clean and his humor is spot on.
For something light and fun that might whet your appetite, there’s, “So Brisk,” written by Jonathan Baylis, known for his comic, “So…Buttons,” and drawn by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg. It’s nicely paced and holds the secret ingredient for making a tasty brisk.
Cartoonists often find themselves taking on the role of the canary in the coal mine. J.T. Yost does an impressive job of providing the facts about the meat industry with illustrations that strike the right balance between restraint and urgency.
Keith Knight‘s one-pager, “My (Hammy) Vice,” is a very funny ode to bacon.
Cartoonists are also prone to be subversive. Even your most passive cartoonist can be a powder keg ready to blow. So, there’s some stuff here that pushes the envelope. Your best bet on that front is Noah Van Sciver‘s 3-pager, “3 Bowls of Rasin Bran,” which, as the title implies, is about when things go decidedly south.
And in the simply cute category, Victor Kerlow‘s “Rat Boy” follows a little rat as it forages for dinner.
“Digestate” is a handsome trade paperback, 8.25″ x 10.75″, published by Birdcage Bottom Books. Cover art, with more of her comics inside, is by Cha. This is truly like a cartoonist phone book, a Who’s Who of comics talent. “Digestate” ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and will stand as a shining example of what Kickstarter can help bring about. You can own your very own copy for only $19.95 at Birdcage Bottom Books.