Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) is one of the newest comics art festivals, founded in 2015 by Bone cartoonist Jeff Smith and comics journalist Tom Spurgeon. If you are in the Columbus area and your passion is comics and graphic novels, then CXC is for you. The “backbone” of the four-day CXC is this weekend’s Expo and Book Fair which brings together 135 comics-makers on the second floor of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library.
Comic books. Mini-comics. Graphic Novels. That is the main focus. Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is free to the public. It is a distinguished event featuring impeccable talent like Katie Skelly, Derf Backderf, Nate Powell, Zack Soto, Gemma Correll and publishers like Fantagraphics and Silver Sprocket.
The festival takes place at various locations in the University and Discovery Districts, including buildings on the Ohio State University campus, the Main Library, the Columbus College of Art & Design and the Columbus Museum of Art.
“For Better or For Worse” cartoonist Lynn Johnston (Ron Bull/Toronto Star/Getty Images)
This year’s main speaker is “For Better or For Worse” cartoonist Lynn Johnston, appearing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 28th, at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Also on the docket is a jammed-packed schedule of talks and panels, screenings, exhibitions and networking. Make sure to hit up the after-parties on Friday at Brewcadia (467 N. High St.) and Sunday at Pins Mechanical Company (141 N. 4th St.)
For more details, visit Cartoon Crossroads Columbus right here.
“The Best American Comics 2013” pops out at you with we-mean-business cover art by Kate Beaton and zips right to it. I interviewed this year’s editor, Jeff Smith (read here). As he explained, he was looking for singular talent, whether new or established, “A story someone really needs to tell.” He took care with placement so that elements from one work flow into the next and compliment each other.
Smith starts with Alison Bechdel’s “Mirror,” an autobiographical piece about mother/daughter dynamics; and he ends with Paul Pope’s “1969,” a quirky inside look at the first human landing on the moon. These two works by cartoonist heavyweights anchor the top and bottom. In between, other top contenders lend a hand, like an excerpt from Craig Thompson’s “Habibi.”
Sophie Goldstein’s “The Good Wife”
There are many new rising stars that get to sparkle amid the well know cartoonists. One such talent is Sophie Goldstein. Her work is placed right before Craig Thompson’s. The connection between the two is the focus on the female main character. In Goldstein’s “The Good Wife,” we view a woman who denies herself well beyond her limits in order to please her husband. That story gives way to Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” an excerpt from “Habibi.”
Craig Thompson’s “70 Nights of Pleasure,” excerpt from “Habibi”
Again, we have a woman pushing her limits to satisfy one man. The artwork, and the narrative structure, for each of these pieces is quite different. Goldstein’s style is basic. Thompson’s style is ornate. However, both present confident, mature work. That’s saying a lot since Thompson is a seasoned veteran and Goldstein is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies.
If you’re looking for a cut-to-the-chase short list on the best comics in America, then this 400-page trade paperback is your book. There are 30 works featured here and they are all gems. This book is in full color. “The Best American Comics 2013” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available here.
It is an honor to get to interview master cartoonist Jeff Smith, creator of the landmark comics series, “Bone.” There are many subjects to cover with such a giant in comics. For this interview, we focus on the recent release of the collected hardcover edition of his sci-fi noir work, “RASL,” (reviewed here) and his role as guest editor of the just released “The Best American Comics 2013,” anthology (reviewed here).
In this interview, we get down to what matters most, those things that cause a spark in childhood and lead the way for a lifetime. The spark I am thinking of is when a 9-year-old Jeff was quite impressed by a animated feature he saw on TV, “The Pogo Special Birthday Special.” Already, the title of such a show hints at something offbeat. It was the only time that Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” was to be animated and that was by yet another legend, Chuck Jones. The very next day, Jeff received a collection of “Pogo” comics from a classmate. That got Jeff to thinking and set him on his life’s path.
We chat about Nikola Tesla, the offbeat superstar of science in many circles today. He figures large in “RASL.”
From “Best American Comics 2013”: Jesse Jacobs’s “The Divine Manifestation of a Singular Impulse,” excerpt from “By This Shall You Know Him”
And we take a quick tour of “The Best American Comics 2013.” To be fair, Jeff did not have his copy with him so we only discuss some highlights to the book. Suffice it to say, what we do cover gives you a sense of what Jeff was looking for as he made his selections. And while he loves each piece in the book, he does speak fondly of Jesse Jacobs. Smith’s art is far more detailed and realistic, in comparison to Jacobs’s, but it’s clear that they share a similar fanciful sensibility.
You can listen to the full interview by clicking just below:
Nikola Tesla, the man that Thomas Edison viciously attempted to discredit, has emerged from the fringes and regained his role as the top wizard in the public’s mind. Among the new crop of science fiction that he’s inspired, there is Jeff Smith’s remarkable new graphic novel, “RASL.” Originally a comic book series, starting in 2008, this hardcover collected work goes a long way in stoking the fires of popular imagination.
“RASL,” which stands for “Romance At the Speed of Light,” is a multi-layered roller coaster of a story. Our hero, or anti-hero, goes by the nickname of “Rasl” and, in our first look at him, he appears to be little more than a thief, although a highly unusual and sophisticated one. We see him hang off a high-rise ledge, pop into a penthouse apartment, and make away with an original Picasso. He fights off a lizard-faced man. And he escapes by being zapped by a turbojet contraption. Yeah, then things really go nuts.
Rasl, it turns out, is far more than the coolest thief ever. He’s Dr. Robert Johnson, a genius-level scientist who has gotten a little too close to the military industrial complex. The good doctor knows too much and is left burdened with figuring out what to do with this special knowledge. Much like all of humanity has been burdened since the atomic genie was let out of the bottle, something else is on the horizon to threaten everyone–but this one is not going to fit in any silo.
In matters of life and death, all bets are off and anything can happen. Smith plays quite well with this sort of high-octane tension. It’s a “North by Northwest” kind of pacing mixed in with a doomsday scenario that cleverly unleashes many a favorite sci-fi theme. You get the Philadelphia Experiment mashed with the Tunguska Event. And you most assuredly get a close look at the world of Nikola Tesla. It is Tesla technology, after all, that allows Rasl to “drift” through dimensions.
What keeps this narrative grounded is Rasl and the circle of characters he interacts with on his journey. There are two women, for instance, that are key to helping him maintain his sanity, let alone complete his mission. There is Annie, who only really knows Rasl as a bushy-haired hoodlum. And there’s Maya, who only really knows Rob, the great man of science. She also happens to know Rob as her lover. Too bad she’s also married to Rob’s lab partner, Miles. Between the two of them, Miles and Rob can provide the greatest scientific breakthrough in ages–if only it were that easy and morally unambiguous.
Drawn in a very clean and animated way, “RASL” is a joy to behold. The characters are all very compelling and the storytelling is immersive. It is perfectly tuned which is what makes what unfolds all the more captivating. Rasl must not only deal with what to do to potentially save the planet. He must confront what it means to exist in the first place. Not only that, given the magnitude of this misadventure, the very notion of reality is explored, just like it is in any good work of science fiction. What makes Smith’s tale special is his thoughtful selection of what to bring to the table.
“RASL” is published by Cartoon Books, available now, and you can check it out here.